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Leilani Hall


We understand foreignness in the way we understand what we are not—through the context of negation. It is a metaphor for estrangement, exile, separation, the unknown, the distant, the other. Which one of these things does not belong? Which one of these things is not like the other? Foreignness engages a kind of code that may very well never be fully deciphered, a kind of impervious puzzle to which we are not given all of the pieces, much less the directions.

Reading for this issue, I was delighted as I reeled through the strange, the exotic, the obscure. Thank you for the many journeys, the scraps of oddities packaged lovingly on the cyberpony and sent with a whip to the ass: A blind handyman undone by a flip of the switch. Queer Cubed: Gay Brit posing as an American in Russia. Phony self-help author looking for grief in all the wrong places. A cantankerous tapeworm befriended and mourned. Trips to the First World, Third World, and, for one woman trying out bisexuality, the Girls’ World.

The following interview, essays, stories, and poems attempt to charter those places and moments of the foreign:

Kieron Devlin talks with renowned Arab-American writer Rabih Alameddine about method, style, gender, and the cross-cultural dilemma.

Sandra Kolankiewicz explores predators and prey—and consequent hunger—in a New Age triangle of characters. The inexplicable chasm between people arises as territory yet unrevealed for this longing narrator who attempts to make connections in a Men’s Group.

Jeff Parker indulges in the study of the grotesque at the junction of human disabilities, an unruly group of high school students, and a crew of frenzied squirrels. There’s a comical one-man shoot-out, kidnapped ducks, and a strange girl who provides much-needed comfort.

Diana Griego Erwin takes a break from her Pulitzer Prize winning news desk to offer us this cross-cultural story of the family outsider. The boundaries between English and Spanish collapse and cousin and sister sound off against the backdrop of a Mexican-American home.

Chris DeBolt grew up between the United States and Germany in a military family. In his essay, Chris writes about coming of age in the Cold War. Bombs, anti-war protests, a devoted girlfriend, and a mother who has the first word on truth all seem strangely distant and unfamiliar in an already foreign land.

Jim Hazard takes us into Aunt Lucy and Uncle Lymon’s basement where mapping maleness begins on a concrete floor bejeweled with chicken heads and plucked feathers.

Mary Gannon is in a kind of ‘land of the lost’ while re-establishing life with her father after her mother’s death. In the flashy and pulsing casinos of Las Vegas, Mary negotiates the odds of life and the landscape of a life well-lived.

Coming from a background in science, Pat Madden navigates faith and the metaphysical in suffering at home and abroad. He speaks with a yearning insistence to understand what remains in the absence of formula.

Evelyn Posamentier’s poem, set on a train bound for Mongolia, may be read with a stitched brow at the loss of place and time, at the kind of isolation travel illicits.

Maria Proitsaki crosses culture and language. Originally from Greece, she is completing her Ph.D. in English at Göteborg University, Sweden. Her poem investigates the feeling of exile between home and country, outsider and insider.

Lisa Katz translates a poem from the Hebrew by Agi Mishol. In evocation to the muses, foreignness is found in the goddesses themselves—their inexplicable connection to old women in Kandahar, the hunger of swollen-bellied children, the decay of people and city.

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