Editors’ Note for Issue 3

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 3:

“Anxiety can either cripple or drive you.

It can drag you down like a stone, trapping you on the murky psychic riverbed to choke on seaweed and self-critique. It can be the palm that holds you underwater, screaming bubbles and scratching at the invisible force. It is the sound in the distance, the figure in the dark, the uncertainty of the answer to a difficult question. It is the thing that stops you from enjoying any taste of success by planting the thought of a more satisfying success just ahead yet unseen. It is FOMO and the neighborhood watch and small town racism and narrow-mindedness in all forms. It is the smoke break and the bitten-up fingertips and standing on the back porch at 4 am.

It can also be the motivation that forces you back to the surface, making you flap your arms until you figure out how to turn slapping hands into a doggy paddle into smooth strokes propelling you for as long as your mind muscles allow. Anxiety can feed off fear, turn frustration into fuel. It can be the foundation for great innovations, inspired music, transcendent literature. It is that thing that must be alleviated through expression, the need to take some internal pressure and spit it out into the world so that somebody else can chew on the idea for a while. It is the desire to find solutions.

The tricky conundrum is that anxiety can also suppress that expression, trapping everything inside your skull. What if what I think is stupid? What if what I made isn’t good? What if what I did isn’t important? What if people laugh in my face? What if they laugh behind my back? What if they laugh in the comments? What if nobody cares at all? Anxiety can be completely paralyzing to creativity, killing all motivation before the process has even begun. The effect can be especially fatal if the primary motivation is to create something impressive or cool in the eyes of others instead of trying to give a voice to that gnawing thought in your frontal lobe.

The real trap is allowing anxiety to breed off itself, choosing activities and developing habits that perpetuate rather than alleviate that stress weighing on your brain and strengthening that pressure pushing down from a place unseen. This seems to be the elemental basis for addiction, whether it be to drugs or beauty or success or anything else. They all appear born of the idea that acquisition or achievement of some formless, yet theoretically attainable, thing will take away the “bad stuff” i.e. the generalized anxiety associated with just being alive.

The catch of course is that if a little is good, then more must be better. And so we overdose. We want so desperately to relieve that near constant anxiety associated with not feeling good that we cease to even let the uncertainty enter our lives by developing habitual coping mechanisms. We get high. We apply makeup. We work to exhaustion. We check our phones incessantly, hoping for communication from a friend/acquaintance/news source/etc. We make sure the boogiemen of doubt and depression don’t creep into our minds by making sure every crevice is filled with entertainment or consumption or communication. We are constantly doing regardless of what is being done. Some may say we do these things to feel good, but it seems more likely we do them to not feel so bad. And there is a difference.

This magazine itself probably started as a way to relieve some anxieties we hadn’t wanted to face yet. Anxieties about achievement and value and creativity and success and death. The fear that we were just floating through life thoughtlessly, consuming without creating and, thus, feeling empty and unsatisfied. A looming uneasiness that we were stagnant, being pushed in directions we didn’t want to go because we were ourselves directionless. Neither of us had dreams of starting a literary magazine. This isn’t a career move or a resume builder. This isn’t about social capital or appearing intelligent to our peers. This isn’t self-worship. This is two lost people on a park bench. This is sure why not. This is screaming into the void.  This is the need to do something.

The pieces of writing included in this issue are great examples of why we chose literature as our something rather than another medium. They make us feel connected to the authors, the world around us, and ourselves. They are nuanced and subtle yet moving, just as the more vivid parts of life often are. They relieve some of our own existential anxieties by giving us proof that people are finding ways to live despite the ever-present pressures. They inspire us to try and do the same.

Above all, they make us feel human and unalone. We hope they do the same for you.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Chicago/Nashville, October 2015″

Sobotka Issue 3 Editors' Note

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Lexi Jackson’s “Earthquake Lungs”

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The following is an excerpt from Lexi Jackson’s story “Earthquake Lungs” forthcoming in Issue 3.

“I can only imagine what was going on in his head. A loud roar like a train moving past, on and on and on and on until his head hurt? Or utter silence, as if he’d been ejected into space with no helmet? A string of if-only’s he was trying to walk through but each word catching him like thorns on wild rosebushes, tearing his clothes, scratching his ankles, piercing the very fabric of his being? Didn’t I love him enough?”

Jackson’s piece focuses on the fallout for friends and family after a suicide. With its straight forwardness and stark prose, the story captures beautifully the suffocating questions and confusion that surround loved ones left behind. Find the complete work in Issue 3.

Lexi Jackson Earthquake Lungs

Editors’ Note for Issue 2

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The following is the full Editors’ Note for Issue 2:

“At the time this note is being written, spring has officially sprung.

As the sun begins to hang a bit longer in the sky each evening, melting the snow and seasonal depression into the softening earth, we again find ourselves tempted out of our apartments, houses, and other human habitats back into the world, moving among and around each other on city streets and country roads like ants in sidewalk cracks.

It’s been a long winter since we published our first issue, characteristically cold and grey, with plenty of time spent looking at the skeletons of trees through thick panes of glass. After months of struggling against the stir crazy, alone in our apartments in separate cities, this spring seems to serve as the type of rebirth for the two of us that it so commonly does in literature. Whether it’s the sounds of life floating in through an open window, the relief a warm weekend provides from the pressures of full-time employment, or the vitality that comes from soaking up some Vitamin D, this season teems with a sense of rediscovery and renewal that is much welcome after the duotone days of winter. We want to be back out among the other ants in our shorts and sunglasses, gathering around barbeques, back alleys, and bonfires.

It is often in these moments of human convergence and conversation that we find meaning. Not the type of meaning that comes from buying a new t-shirt or double-tapping a phone screen. The type of meaning that makes you stop looking and actually see the people around you, to move past the point of distant empathy to that of dirty, direct connection.

Curating that connection can sometimes be difficult because it can remind us of one the most basic yet buried understandings that we have as sentient animals: we as individuals are not special. We do not have Ultimate Purpose. We are not “chosen” in any celestial sense. Our lives do not inherently possess any more value than that of the dogs at our feet or the trees on our lawn. We will exist, just as the leaves on that oak, for a limited time, branching out, becoming strong, supple yet green with youth. And just as variation in nature, both inherent and external, transforms each leaf as it ages, we too take on a reddish hue or tones of yellow until finally we fall down among the others to be raked and bagged into a twenty gallon black garbage bag. The universe will not be deeply affected by our Instagram posts or our new haircuts. We are not important to the gas on a planet revolving around a distant star.

This should not depress us.

Our inherent insignificance in relation to the whole of the never-ending blackness that surrounds us is OK. Just because we haven’t been delicately painted into the scene by an Almighty artist does not mean that the piece does not possess beauty or, at very least, the possibility of such. Once we realize that our actions and reactions are not part of a predetermined final product, designed and developed towards some Higher Purpose, we are free to be inspired to pick up the brush and use our experiential palette to add a bit of our own color to the small world constantly being reworked around us. The pleasure cannot come from our product, since it will undoubtedly be amended or painted over by the next person. It is possible, however, to take pride in the idea that our addition to the mural in our tiny spinning corner of the universe may inspire a fellow or future human to connect with our experience and create their own mark alongside ours, unified yet unique.

The authors featured on the following pages used their palettes to produce pieces that vary in style and substance, but their coalescence lies in the fact that they provide distinct and deft voices to a literary conversation without end. The stories, poems, and essay included in this issue all made us feel as though we were gaining perspective into another person’s creation or conceptualization of meaning; thus, the compilation and facilitation of conversation between these works helped us construct meaning for ourselves through the minds of others.

We thank you for choosing to spend some money and time on this collection of written words. We’d like to remind you that you likely won’t find your purpose in a cereal box, your bank account, or a bottle, but you might just find it in a conversation with a friend, whether across a bonfire or in the pages of a book.

As always, we hope this makes you feel human and unalone.

Kathy Klimentowski/Nick Rossi
Urbana/Nashville, March 2015″

We send our sincerest thanks to everyone involved in the making of this magazine, whether directly or indirectly. The submissions, support, and encouragement we have received through this project has truly inspired us. We hope Issue 2 can return the favor soon. Thank you.

Editor's Note Issue 2

Fading Flame

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A piece of Cynthia Reed’s short story, “Crosswords,” reads,

“It wears him out. He’s resolved to ignore the smell of her hair when she wakes him to rub her back in the night. Acquiescence makes life sadder, but quieter, he’s decided. Frances is not capable of managing her own medication but, in his perpetual state of near-exhaustion, he insists to their children that he’s only trying to allow their mother to be independent, to maintain her dignity. In reality, he’s grasping at respite without the ignominy of speaking its name.”

Reed’s story provides a window into the daily life of an aging man dealing with his wife’s dementia from a perspective poignant in its simplicity and sincerity. Find the full piece of fiction in Issue 2.

Photo Credit: Brian Aydemir
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/kitby/5175594682/)

Cynthia Reed Sobotka

Ashen Land

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One of the two poems of Peycho Kanev’s that we will be publishing titled “Darkness” reads,

“Relentless sun, crystal clear blue skies,
silence and foreshadowing.
Thousands of miles of wasted land,
thousands of sheep dying from hunger.

And the shepherd stands there,
without moving a muscle, like a scarecrow,
nodding his head and swaying slightly
in the gentle wind.”

In Peycho’s short yet vivid poem, he presents us a sharp juxtaposition of opposites. Contrasting a placid landscape with the barrenness it represents, Kanev alludes to the human race’s unwillingness to assume responsibility for or take action against the impending destruction of our world.

Check out this poem and a second one of Peycho’s titled “The Analyst” in our forthcoming issue!

Photo Credit: Nathan Timmel
(http://nathantimmel.com/2013/the-disintegration-of-good/)

Kanev

The Fiery Pits of Profit

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An excerpt from Daniel Pujol’s poem “The Pope’s in China and You’re in Hell” reads,

“When I think about the Devil. And how he’s apparently still restrained by God.

I think about this guy.

He’s not doing anything illegal, but he’s tweaked it just enough.

Just enough to not get in trouble.

That reconciles the whole Abrahamic game board for me. The Devil is like a moral technocrat. An offshore bank account for the soul. Some kind of divine tax shelter.

Make them take what you should give. And just bend the world like a dry noodle.

He really is in the details. Not throned in Hell. He’s emailing in the bathroom, right now, articulating the cusp of not-illegal pleasures, gains, and acquisitions.”

In this poem, Daniel approaches morality with mathematics, imagining the Devil as a business savvy sleazeball rather than some sort of intangible Evil force and, in the process, secularizes sin in a way that emphasizes the role of personal agency as it relates to righteousness and resisting the temptation exploit Lucifer’s moral loopholes. Find the full poem in Issue 2.

Photo Credit: Ingrid D.
(http://road-tripping-europe.com/blog/2014/06/weekly-photo-challenge-extra-extra/)

Pujol Pic

A Bundle of Truth

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A section from Sydney Pacione’s poem “Gospel Truth” reads,

“We believe in one God the Father the Almighty
maker of the pizza bagel served every 3rd Friday at lunch
of all that is seen and unseen like the confiscated Rosie the Riveter button.
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ the only son of God
eternally looking down on you from the carved wooden cross in the entry way
God from God
Light from Light
broken nose from broken nose
begotten not made like the stolen Polly Pocket in Adeena’s bag.
Through him all things were made.”

In her poem, Sydney rewrites part of the Gospel and Nicene Creed, aspects of Catholic mass, and by doing so, places the reader right in the middle of the Catholic school experience. By shedding light onto the way children were treated we catch a glimpse of what was valued by this particular education system and how skewed and oppressive these methods of teaching were. Catch the entire piece in Issue 2!

Photo Credit: Donny Tidmore
(https://www.flickr.com/photos/mynamesdonny/10863224953/)

Pacione Gospel Truth