"This storm will not break our spirit. We are in this together and we will rebuild even greater together after." --Sylvester Turner
"If we have learned anything, it is how the current can bend us back to human." --Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton
"When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's about." --Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
As we sit down to write this letter, parts of Houston are submerged and our city is in crisis. Native Houstonians or not, we all feel strongly that this is our home. Beautiful, sprawling, and full of grit. It's unmooring--Houston dominating the news, images of our neighbors wading flooded streets, familiar haunts swallowed by murky water. Families crouch, stranded, on their roofs. Children float in plastic tubs. Ruined furniture, carpets, and keepsakes are heaped high. Loss pervades the city. And yet, a picture of an angry cat goes viral, and anything branded with a Dallas Cowboys logo has been left on otherwise empty grocery store shelves. Houston is a city with a sense of humor and deep empathy. We feel great pride that so many Houstonians were ready and willing to help their neighbors. It is a landscape that seems touched by both apocalypse and sublime human resilience. The world teeters, and yet here we are.
A thread of apocalypse runs through this issue. Apocalypse means a stripping away. Exposing our roughest, most honest humanity. It is the edge between resignation and action. C Pam Zhang's fiction inhabits a world where healthy babies are, for most women, a wistful memory. She evokes the tragic instinctual love of animals in end times: "The animals knew Why? without How? what it meant to protect their young, love them with a fierce and unflinching love in these, the last days of the world." Cynthia Cruz quietly follows Melancholia's main character, Justine, (the deadly rogue planet looming, unacknowledged, off-page), through lines of poetry, "moving through rooms and rooms of the mansion like endless / rooms of memory." Writers like sam sax stare into the abyss, dare it to blink: "apocalypse means / a veil lifting." And t'ai freedom ford ignites the page with "a bouquet of flames for history's rotisserie."
But there is another, stronger strain throughout the issue, one of resilience. Everywhere you look, language comes together in a resistance. Anita Endrezze tells us that "Moon crosses the river / without any papers," cloaking the immigrant in noble moonlight. Ellen Doré Watson writes, "looking for a word, I've stepped into a boat." Even as difficulties may overwhelm us, Molly Brodak issues the vital reminder that "You would think nothing matters after the collapse. / Everything matters much, much more."
The artwork and creative art writing in this issue possess a sense of becoming, of meaningful experience. They navigate identity, personal and cultural, in churches and dense urban landscapes, on road trips, and through creative choreography, clutching charcoal between toes and putting it to paper, dancing. In her essay, "Fabiola," Lauren Moya Fords finds literal and figurative clarity on the kneeler of an empty church. She weaves together art and spirituality. In "Monumental Gestures," Chelsea Weathers pushes back against stereotype and tradition, shedding light on a body of work more representative of the true South, a region grappling with its history and fractured sense of self. Although completed prio to the events at Charlottesville, Weathers' work now stands in stark relief against toppled Confederate monuments, casts a shadow of interrogation over those that remain.
And as Houston begins to dry out and news of other crises loom, we look to our neighbors around the globe. We begin our difficult work, again and again. We continue to render the aftermath of disaster. We continue to build and rebuild. This issue is full of defiance and pleasure, hope and healing. "We won't be afraid. / We'll leave the end / to others. We'll begin," Paola Loreto declares.
Luisa Muradyan Tannahill, Editor Michele Nereim, Managing Editor Georgia Pearle, Digital Editor Rachel Cook, Art Lies Editor