- The Unexpected
The morning after Britain's general election, as Boris Johnson is elected prime minister, I work at an antique schoolhouse desk in a Victorian house in the Midlands. At the old desk, I lose track of time, writing notes for essays I'm researching. A painting I saw at Charlecote Park, the details of a small chapel in Warwick, the water rising in almost every place I visit.
At the old desk, it almost seems like I'm living someone else's life: here I am halfway across the world from my apartment in Miami, where the days are scorching even in December, where the water is also rising.
At the old desk, I am witness, spectator. Another election, another morning after, everyone watching an old horror movie, everyone hopeful, and I'm the only one not surprised by its awful ending.
I didn't have a theme in mind as I selected the pieces for this issue. I wanted to lose myself, to be pulled from my desk into someone else's life. I wanted to be surprised. And I was.
The pieces that make up this issue are all very different, but each one is remarkable in its own right. In "Proverbs," Gabriel Louis's subtle, lyrical story, dogs roam the streets of post-earthquake Haiti. The story moves softly, quietly, the disaster's aftereffects felt by people who are trying to live, work, eat. Joseph Earl Thomas's "Cold War Kirby" surprises with its irony, its humor culminating in heartbreak. In Rebecca Nison's "The Unwilding," a young girl plots to free her twin brother from a cage where he's lived his entire life. Latoya Watkins's "Sweat" is surging with tension, as an unhappy marriage comes to an end and our protagonist makes a decision that could change her fate. In "The Last Afternoon," Laurie Thomas's ominous portrayal of a life-altering predatory relationship between a young girl and a man, the language [End Page 12] vibrates. "[T]hey became heat waves of their former selves," Thomas writes. And later, beauty even in the most unrefined moments: "Clarence pulled from the far reaches of his throat and spat for the horizon."
At that old desk, I read and reread Lars Horn's "With the Moths' Eyes," a lyric essay made up of prose poems, each image striking, unsettling: "The boy who cannot speak is on an operating table; an eel is removed from his body and transferred to a kidney dish." The essay brings together art, mythology, the history of medicine, the natural world, to speak to something larger, as we consider illness and the body, movement and stillness, the author confined to a bed for six months. Each of the prose poems that make up this lyric essay is astonishing.
And maybe that's what all these pieces have in common. Each of these pieces holds something strange and moving and unexpected, either language or imagery or premise. Each of them makes me consider being in the world when the world is a little off—unhinged. [End Page 13]