apt: Issue 3 is deftly curated, gathering stories and poems to reflect and echo one another. The editors—Carissa Halston, Randolph Pfaff, J.F. Lynch, and Robin E. Mørk—refer to them as neighbors, and indeed they are strong individuals living in a community defined by yearning. There is yearning for connection to others, to life, to one’s own body, and it is palpable. An essential loneliness unites this issue.
The language throughout apt: Issue 3 is lush and gorgeous. Transitions are effortless. Some stories utilize a traditional narrative while others are more conceptual, like “Ritual Before Sleep,” by Amy Schulz, in which Eliza’s frustration, curiosity, desire, every part of her, is literally tidied away; and “Additional Tenses You Should Know” by Sue Allison, which uses a grammar lesson to study our relationship with the past.
In Delaney Nolan’s story “Evacuation Route,” neighbors briefly become lovers. The narrator admires Gleason’s protests against the destruction of wetlands. She’s not unlike a tarred pelican, longing to fly but unable. She wants to jump a train, as Gleason’s friends do. She romanticizes the unfamiliar. She wants Gleason to be her “evacuation route,” but he can’t, or won’t. Afterwards, she says,
“For weeks, my hands felt like orange blossoms, picked up carefully and carefully dropped.” (p.19)
The loneliness of superficial relationships is also featured in Alexis Pope’s “I am a housefly and I am sweet relish and I am your favorite flavor of gummy candy”:
“…When I take
my clothes off it’s not always sexy. I am sometimes
completely unsexy and that is good sometimes.
We never got unsexy together.” (p.78)
In “Irreconcilable Differences,” by Nicolette Kittinger, a wife struggles to understand her Husband the Artist, a survivor of rape and relapsed drug addict. She feels estranged from him, realizing, “I don’t get his art. I don’t like his art.” (p.113) She’s a writer at a loss for her own stories, appropriating his:
“I stole your life and you don’t even care, I want to scream at him, but his Wife the Writer is too stubborn, too sure that his life is better off as her material, her plaything; that only she knows how to tell his story, that only she knows how it ends.” (p.121)
Multiple pieces by some contributors enhance the cohesion of apt: Issue 3. The poems of Christian Anton Gerard are linked by the character Wilmot. In “Wilmot Summons His Grandfather’s Ghost,” he’s at his Norwegian grandfather’s grave, desperate to find links between generations:
“…Whistle a tune so I can know
how to carry your name.” (p.68)
In “Do You Have Anything of His? Stella Said,” Wilmot considers how we keep stories:
“Sometimes we make soup and
the soup is like a quilt, secret
stitched recipes. Quilts tell stories.
So do genes…” (p.69)
The title character in Katherine Blaine Hurley’s “Jessica Green Takes Flight” is motherless and unusually small. She worries her father by writing angry letters to invisible people and standing on the roof, from which she once jumped. But more than escape, she wants to belong:
“It wasn’t just that some little girl could take flight above the houses and the school and the mall and the bed where her mother used to sleep and the bullies and the boy in high school who lived next door and kept touching her on the jeans she never liked to wear anymore. It’s not that she was crazy. It’s that the whole Earth was flying…And if everything was flying, so was she.” (p.38-39)
“And Something Else,” by Mary Kate Flannery, addresses the most expansive longing—to know life—and the most personal, to be physically whole. A girl is pulled from the ocean following a devastating shark attack. Her leg is gone and she’s bleeding out. As bystanders apply towels and pressure to the wound,
“[The lifeguard’s] voice was a roaring thing they could trust. And their hands stayed right there with hers, overlapping hers and each other’s, sticky with blood and itchy with sand and now the warmest parts of their bodies, because the wound was a warm and pulsing thing. The wound was the most alive thing they had ever touched, and they would keep their hands there for longer than they needed to.” (p.88)
A body, torn apart, unites them. It confronts them with life. The girl’s story becomes theirs. Perhaps we cannot be each other’s “evacuation routes.” We cannot always save each other, but we can try. Trying, the world draws closer.
The wish to feel at home in our bodies rounds out apt: Issue 3. In Anne Marie Rooney’s “Earthwork and Spider,” a woman’s somewhat disconnected relationship with her body is explored:
“Of course I am a woman and my legs are like pages which you read until they close. But they will never close.” (p.136)
When a fungus appears, she knows she must embrace the ugliness, embrace disgust as she formerly embraced pleasure. To reject any part of herself is to reject life.
The title of Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s “Two Fighting Fists” refers to the size of an adult human heart and sets the aggressive tone of this narrator’s disharmony with her body. Suffering heart palpitations, she’s told her own anxiety is the cause. But she doesn’t feel she has control:
“My heart, it seems, has its own mind, is set to rush when I least expect, to go pounding in some unidentified direction while I’m stuck fluttering my fingers over where I think it should be, somewhere to the left.” (p.141)
In the end, her heart remains a stranger. There is division between her body and self. What hope of connection with others or the world, if we’re not at home in our bodies?
The contributors to apt: Issue 3 are wise, delivering questions, not answers. Each piece is fresh and inventive. There are sentences and stanzas to savor and thematic patterns to contemplate. Thoughtfully arranged as they are by the editors, the reader is treated to a singular experience.
Susan Rukeyser writes stories because she can’t stop. Believe it, she’s tried. Most of them are fiction. Her work appears in The View from Here, Necessary Fiction, PANK, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Mom Egg, Atticus Review and elsewhere. She won the Hippocampus 2011 Contest for Creative Non-Fiction. She explains herself here: www.susanrukeyser.com and sporadically posts book reviews to Goodreads.