I am a meticulous list-maker. I find our corner mega-grocery store disorienting, so in preparation, I map out my path through the aisles by what I need: veggies, coffee, bread, cheese, etc. More often than not, I leave the list in the car’s cup-holder and am left juggling cartons, trying to remember what brought me to the store in the first place. I insist on shopping without a cart or basket because I want to move unencumbered through the other aimless shoppers. What ends up happening is I drop an onion, and then when I bend over to fetch it, I lose my coffee beans. It’s hard to get a grip, and yet I never embarrass myself enough to prevent myself from conducting the same circus act the following week.
This scenario reminds me of a few lines from Stephen Dunn’s "The Snowmass Cycle" where he writes:
To be without some of the things
you want, a wise man said,
is an indispensable part of happiness.
Note that Dunn is not saying he is the wise man. No. He’s the poet-messenger. He is the voice reminding himself and readers of something we all suspect, but then forget. Such as when I return from the grocery store and realize I’ve forgotten to buy milk. Again.
Loss, regret, absence: these themes play a dominant role in the current issue of Blood Orange Review. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I am. I think the selection has less to do with editorial mindset than with a subterranean swell, a collective unconscious, the likes of which inspire David Warren, this issue’s featured artist. As an editor, it’s sometimes eerie to read the works of strangers and feel like you’re eavesdropping on part of a single conversation.
However, this issue is no morose dinner party; these writers are not in a funk. Though they might write of failed relationships, aging, and grief, they do so through the filter of humor, philosophy, religious imagery, culinary arts, nature, technology, and music. Everything they touch and everything that touches them becomes material to be converted into language and meaning.
Take, for example, these few lines from Kit Kennedy’s poem "Rue" that take place while the speaker is preparing a meal:
how my finger recoils
from a drop of juice
almost imperceptible the cut
Arthur Saltzman’s tongue-in-cheek essay describes the work of the foley artist as an elaborate metaphor for the inefficiencies and necessities of language:
Instead of resorting to words, one could indicate that he burned with desire by slowly compressing a bag of Doritos to imply the fire. Anxiety could be identified by the twisting of fresh celery. Grief could be a saturated Sunday Times slopped repeatedly against the mattress. Existential doubt could sound in the crush of cellos beneath a steamroller, while despair is the noise made by a single stone dropped down a well.
Aleah Sato’s ars poetica "What This Poem Will Do" addresses the theme of regret directly and how poetry can transform it:
[The poem]’s not a one night stand
but the one night stand you missed
and regret missing.
As the main character in Wayne Scheer’s short story "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" says, "You want to know the truth? This will always hurt." Living, that is.
I turn to good writing and return to it for the ways it churns the raw materials of the human experience and makes them new and useful. Happiness, as Stephen Dun reports, requires that we not only not have everything we need, but be aware of it. Poets and writers are part of the process of recalling experience from the brink of forgetfulness. The work collected in this issue shows the power and reward that comes from confronting loss.
As we compiled this issue, I was reminded of Rene Magritte’s painting, "L’Empire des Lumieres" and thinking about how it is the quality of the blue in the sky juxtaposed against a dark evening lit home that illustrates a dreamlike realm. It takes a few moments to realize just what exactly is unusual about the image in the painting. Magritte’s paintings seem to articulate the same sentiment: this is all a dream.
I remember sitting in Mr. Landry’s junior year AP English Literature class in high school, and staring at a poster on the wall with Edgar Allan Poe’s quote: "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." I wanted to understand what he meant, and felt like I could only just begin to comprehend it. So many years later, I can still return to this quote and comprehend it in some new way: sometimes it is the way a stranger on the street says good morning and mysteriously tells me he’ll see me tonight. Do I know him? I wonder. Is there somewhere I should be tonight? And what will he and I be doing this evening? Suddenly, it feels like I have a doppelganger wandering nearby, living an alternative life, and for a moment, I can witness it.
For me, the pieces in this latest issue of Blood Orange Review offer compelling hints at dream consciousness. The writing offers glimpses of lucidity and alternative reality-which often dawns as subtly as Magritte’s dream of blue sky.
Return to Volume 2.3