Living in the South and working in the service industry means I spend a lot of my time engaged in small talk, usually about the weather. Where I live, October means the trees are just revealing a tincture of fall on their outer leaves, dashes of caramel and ochre on highway shoulders. It means last week I wore a sweater for the first time since March, and yesterday I commented that a customer, a young banker, had transitioned over to his fall sport coats. The coffee shop where I work offers a fall spice latte—which we held off until the first day of fall, out of principle.
Whether intentionally or not, Issue 23 of The Adroit Journal also features some seasonally-appropriate moments. Crows feature prominently in two poems. In “Eleven,” a beautiful and delicate investigation of childhood innocence, Ösel Jessica Plante writes:
…my days were stopped like crows along the highway
waiting to shop the carcass at their leisure after the engine
of travel had ceased, to be alone with that picture
of death, and to eat it in peace…
Luther Hughes’ “You’ll Never Love Me” begins:
Sometimes I admire the way the scrimmage between crows
for scraps of carrion tossed to the dumpster sounds. It’s not something
I often hear these days. Nobody is to shame for that. Without shame, the ability
to foster guilt, am I still considered human?
These poems speak to one another as well as to the nature of this season, which often brings to mind our own mortality, and that of our delicate surroundings. It is, indeed, a “season of car wrecks and continual blood flow // to our sex organs…my face painted / as a corpse,” as described in Brian Clifton’s “Derailed On the Way To a Halloween Party.”
No piece of writing, however, exists in a vacuum—nor should it.
Good writing is conscious of the time and place of its creation, speaking or responding to an outside world or inner conflict. Great writing, by extension, can resonate across time and place, helping the reader see the speaker’s world, while still informing the present.
We live in a world where our bodies, our very being, can feel constantly under threat. “Safety, what is that?” Nghiem Tran asks in “The Nectar of Caution.”
Recent political actions have changed the way many Americans view the future of their healthcare, and now the right for all women to access sexual and reproductive care has been called into question. As many players in the NFL join Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police-on-civilian violence, we find silent and nonviolent protest being called inappropriate, disrespectful, un-American—while open antagonizing of protestors is given implicit approval.
In M’Bilia Meekers’ “Ars Poetica”, we see this antagonizing—this silencing, this erasure—in subtler terms:
That school is a luxury apartment building now
and all the new tenants are white people
from Massachusetts. There is no moral to this.
Indeed, in many cases of injustice, there is no moral, and people rarely talk about it. Perhaps that’s a function of convenience, of privilege. That’s the problem with the small talk I’m limited to with the customers who come through my shop—it’s all small talk. We don’t take the time to talk about anything of consequence. The one-year anniversary of Keith Lamont Scott’s death at the hand of a Charlotte-Mecklenberg police officer came and went, and nothing was said—even though I’d spent all day just a couple blocks from the site of the protests and riots which followed Scott’s death. On October 1st, fifty-eight people were killed by a gunman in Las Vegas, and the next morning no one talked about gun control, civilian access to dangerous weapons, or domestic terrorism. The only customer who talked about the shooting at all did so because I brought it up. Otherwise, small talk. The weather. It’s so hot out.
Issue 23 features many pieces which tackle, as good writing should, such timely and timeless issues as love and loss, traumas, race, otherness, and childhood reflected upon by the adult self. Most importantly, these pieces approach these issues head-on. Take a moment with Issue 23, enter the worlds these writers have created for us.
* * *
Jim Whiteside is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, is a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellow, and has been awarded a Tennessee Williams scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His recent poems have appeared in such journals as the Southern Review, the Indiana Review, the Kenyon Review Online, Poetry Northwest, and Salt Hill, as winner of the Philip Booth Poetry Prize. Originally from Cookeville, Tennessee, he works as a barista in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Next (Nabila Lovelace) >
< Previous (Ackeem Salmon)