My days revolve around concessions. A mother of two, I am a wife in the morning and at night, a writer when the house is still, an editor in the stolen moments between. Often I feel like none of these. Flimsy titles bend easily, yield to baser truths: nose wiper, laundress, endless procrastinator, hack. The slightest thing can trigger the slip (a child’s cold, a petty fight, Snooki’s book mania, a rejection note) and just like that, deadlines get extended, dinners spill from a box, school snacks are forgotten, and stories remain unwritten, as the gaps between who I am and who I think I am and who I would like to be widen and crack under the constant weight of compromise. —sl
I work as a community organizer in Ohio where public schools are underfunded; our students fail at alarming rates. 65% are not proficient in reading at grade four; we construct new prisons based on fourth grade proficiency rates. The statistics are far worse for children of color. Prisons thrive while our schools flounder. Our organizing grant has run out. We’re failing our children by refusing to invest in their future. I also serve as a pastor at a small progressive church that practices extravagant hospitality, supports marriage equality, and attempts to feed the hungry. We offer a service of healing and wholeness for those who feel broken by life. I’m the perfect person to serve as pastor to this flock because I am broken in so many places the light cannot help but shine through. I’ve accommodated my life to failure but every day I vow to fail better. —gp
We are not unique. Sure, mothers rapidly learn this business, and pastors understand it better than most, but all of us, in every relationship – parental, professional, collegial, collaborative, and of course, romantic – accommodate, make small adjustments to our own agendas to allow room for others. It is essential if we want to be part of the world. Like everything else, however, it requires a fine balance. The scales often tip. A theme is born.
The work we selected for this issue explores what happens as a result of that slow steady build, how lives are worn, the fallout. Dani Shapiro examines the devastating accrual of little things from the standpoint of a new mother, while Karen Pittelman strikes at the heart of it in a poem to be read and re-read aloud: “We are learning to make fire/but the problem is now/it must be preserved.” Jim Robison creates a wall of sound and captures an era. Mary Gaitskill invites us directly into a family of choices—who has made whom? Andy Plattner shows us two men about to cross swords over a woman. Kim Chinquee’s unmistakable voice is barely inflected but still hits all the right notes. Jonas Moody presents the news from Iceland, while Ann Bogle taps the theme in both content and form, fitting her tangled tale to carefully measured paragraphs. Story after story, our hearts are opened by writers we admire and their words that stay with us, necessary, every one.
We offer this issue with thanks to all who sent their work our way.
Sara Lippmann & Gary Percesepe