Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: Silver

Jason McCall’s Silver hauntingly pulls the gods and giants of Norse mythology into modern-day Alabama, where the glow of Thor’s lightning starkly illuminates a landscape brimming with the impossibilities of religion, the ghosts of addiction, and the dark legacy of the Middle Passage. The clashing of these historical contexts is skillfully gathered in McCall’s hand and channeled through a perspective which at once hints at universal truths and reveals an intimately personal understanding of life. The poetry shared here can draw laughter and provoke thoughts just as easily as it can send ice stippling beneath the skin. There are moments of unashamed, unabashed honesty:

            “I’ve traded your trinity for the Gospel
            of the Flaming Sword. My father
            is Loki, the god of hustle,
            of slipping out of the master’s chains.
            My sons are Hati and Skoll, and they will swallow 
            every sun and moon until the world is as dark
            as the skin of my fathers.”
                        (from “Black Boy Dresses as Fenrir for Halloween”)

There are instances where determination mixes with the sadness of unrealized dreams:

            “…I keep trying to catch the gods and hold
            them, even though it always ends
            with me choking on their bones
            and spitting them back up into heaven.”
                        (from “Layers”)

And there are moments when reality flashes its teeth and reveals its true, unchanging colors:

            “If you wake up and I’m gone,
            the sun won’t notice; it won’t
            shed a ray in remembrance of me.
            The wind won’t feel any different
            when it touches my favorite part of you.
            The shadows will just be one less infinite.”
                        (from “Cycles”)

             But what makes Silver burrow so close to the human heart is the all-too-mortal nature of the Norse gods. These are not all-powerful beings who watch  over mankind’s affairs, but finite stayings against the inevitable, icy darkness—temporary guardians, skin-and-gut creatures who not only accept their downfall, but who wearily embrace it:

            “For the first time, I couldn’t sniff
tomorrow. I ran to Odin; he should have had an answer,
but when I found him he shouted
“Finally!” and raced down my throat.
            (from “Fenrir Explains”) 

Where does this leave us, when even the gods can’t stand to exist a moment longer? There is a soulfulness here, a waiting spirit of humanness—that of the underdog, the shadowy second, the has-been, the never-been, of he who hoists the silver trophy at the end of the race—which proclaims that golden, divine perfection is impossible, that maybe the mighty gates of Valhalla, Heaven, and even Hell were made of cardboard all along. Ultimately, when everything is laid interminably on the line, our heroes may abandon us, the gods may bow to eternal twilight, and wolves and ice may tear the world apart. Everything is inevitable, but it is up to us to stand as straight, as strong, and as true as we can. With Silver, Jason McCall has made such a stand.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Volume I. Issue IX.

The Ides of March
February 15, 2012 

February 15, 1898: 
The USS Maine explodes 
in Havana Harbor. 
The Spanish-American War begins. 

 A QUICK NOTE: The usual river of submissions was somewhat dry this month, so a new rule has been instated: when the number of eligible submissions is less than the hoped-for 15, then roughly half of those eligible submissions will see publication here (we'd like to publish all of them, but we've got to keep it somewhat competitive!). 

Featured in this issue, pared down from eight eligible submissions: 

Jerome Brooke: 
    ---"Fighting Squares"  
Linda Crate 


"Fighting Squares" 
---Jerome Brooke 

Attack like the horned beast, warriors on the right, 
Men without fear, 
Horns that thrust right and left, then forward to centre, 
Forward now with the spear. 

Feet without shoes, on the African veldt, cries of war, 
Death to all nears. 
Day of fury, men without hope, Impis attack, 
Washing of the spears. 

Bayonets on the ready, volleys ring out, 
Troops reload. 
Spears are cast, the red line wavers, now in fighting squares; 
so it was told. 


---Linda Crate 

she laid in the middle of 
where a question began 
and a secret was undone, 
but she lived in the realm 
of neither, she let emotions 
rule her, was as mercurial 
as the moon; she was not 
well renowned for her 
mercy, when one of her 
own was attacked she 
turned her into a wild bear-- 
if this is the gods' way of 
showing mercy, just let me 
endure the blade of life. 


---Linda Crate 

ironic name, since it
means pride of hera--
she tried to kill you,
she hated you; I wonder
why she didn't abhor
her husband more for
his many affairs with
mortals; while of all
his children it was you
that she hated most,
maybe because your 
mother insulted her by
giving you your name.


Picture source: