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Foreword They are the ones who die strangely, at a very wrong time or with no reasonable explanation. Illness or not, accident or not, they were too alive to die. They were the daughter or son, not the aged parent. Or they were the young father, so vital and present, a legend of life itself to us, and we were only children. This is the case in Austin Ratner's powerful Editors' Prize-winning story about a young man haunted by the memory of his father, a magnetic young medical student who suffered a rare form of cancer and died ridiculously young. Or take Ann Joslin Williams' poignant "Wishbones," told in the voice of a young girl trying to make sense of her father's fatal accident while at the same time battling against her grief-crazed mother's death wish. They are the past, come back to remind us we are never truly free of it, no matter what we do. At night they phone to remind us of that crazy time and to tell us that our newfound "freedom" is a tentative choice, a swimming against the current. They are still there, where we left them, calling us back, as in Judy Troy's tale of a lover far gone in booze and hard living. Or sometimes they are less another person than a story—past events in our lives that we can't let go of for so long that inside us, they develop their own logic and become something different : an explanation, a rationale, almost a secret cause. We see ourselves in that locked room, or abandoned by that lover, or mistreated by that parent, as in Willa Rabinovitch's story "Naked Man," and the event becomes a kind ofparable of our suffering. Yet we can't help but wonder how connected to reality our parable is, and part of our haunting is the fear that the story itself has become the impediment, and that in proportion to how much time we live in the bottomless world of shouldn't-have and might-have-been, our suffering increases. E. J. Levy's "Rat Choice" is also about a woman dealing with a parent . She is haunted by a father's destructive behavior and her own recent jilting. How can one explain certain human choices, she wonders . And can love be explained rationally, or are there certain things that just don't make sense? These hauntings—do we need them, as is often said? Do we really need our ghosts? I don't know, but I suspect that whether we need them or not we will have them, in the same way that we have certain other things: our own imminent death, our imperfect knowledge of the world. We look for signs of God and of certainty. In "Richard Mather Aboard the James, 1635," from Martin Scott's Larry Levis Prize-winning group of poems, the troubled speaker, a man at once sensual and puritanical, desperately seeks the presence of God in the butchered body of a dolphin . Irish poet Kerrie Hardie meditates, among other things, on the strange simplicity of dying. In her stunning poem "Sheep Fair Day," she instructs God in the ways of the world, including its casual cruelty. She accidentally pours hot tea on her hand. "This is pain," she tells her pupil for the day. "There'll be more." Poet David Tucker's newsroom poems (Tucker is a newspaper editor by profession) reveal a mind haunted not so much by the world's cruelty as by its terrible insufficiency to our needs. We are haunted by the invisible, the unknown—what we can't see or predict. We are haunted, as are the heroes and heroines of the old gothic thrillers, by labyrinths of the castle and of our minds. In a gothic tale, one imagined terror lurks behind another, behind another; something hideous inhabits this place. In such stories, the dénouement is usually mundane. The real monster or madwoman in the attic, finally seen, is less frightening than our own enduring fear of death and the unknown. Danielle Ofri's Editors' Prize-winning essay, "Merced," describes being confronted by both...


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