Nico Alvarado-Greenwood

Dear Nate,

 

I like to begin letters

with weather.  Today:

weird.  Breathing was

kind of a chore in

this faintly soggy

air, nothing I’m sure like

what you get down

south but crummy enough

for me.  Colorless

sun etc.  The sky all

diffuse and almost without

any texture.  Shirt sticking

a little to my skin, I

went into the afternoon

with pointless coffee

and nursing old gripes.  Now,

today is yesterday, and

the new today is better,

weather-wise.  With

baguette, cheddar, glass

of water I’m happy.  Out

my window the never-to-be-

identified tree shakes

its tiny red flowers

in the wind.  I should be

working but this is

more funner.  Bishop in

a letter somwehre says

writers like to write

letters because it gives

the feeling of working

without the actual work.

Or something like that.

Anyway amen.  I grow

dull.  Thank you for the

generous response to

the press.  I like

to think we’re all in it

together, and so, clearly,

do you, which is a comfort

and a quickening.  Speaking

of in it, I’ll be in

Monday for 24 hours tomorrow

which reminds me I love

those little Mondays on

The Duplications and am

wondering when the chapbook

comes out or if it (Monday,

Monday I mean) has already.

Let a brother know, yeah?

You’re good.  And I hope

you’re well.  The air here

just got so still.

 

Nico

Richard Meier

These poems are from a new manuscript, Little Prose in Poems. The manuscript is comprised of 57 prose poems, written in the several years after my last book, Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar, as a revolt against the line, a sudden lack of feeling for the line, a falling out of love with the line, the desire to see what was hidden by the line, and a revision for the sentence, the paragraph, the page, the building, the structure, the space. The first, though no longer the first in the book, was written during my reading of Francis Ponge’s amazing The Making ofLe Pre, which reproduces exactly his notes toward the poem Le Pre, alongside a translated type-written transcription of the notes. That meadow and that thinking toward are both sources for the form, as was his situation, looking at a strip of meadow bounded by roads, power lines, the built world. A bit later (hence the title) and having written more poems, I thought of writing 50 prose poems as an imaginary completion, an echo or a shadow, of Baudelaire’s planned 100; a project after the fact or in response to the fact of the poems emergence. The poems were inflected by lots of other things along the way, and reaching the margin was the only restriction I consistently found, against which ongoingness each poem sought its end.

 

 

 

Is it a new thing or an old thing you are doing? Is it new or old? Is it a thing? Do the voices of people who are dead heard while writing make those people alive or does it make them dead and ghosts or alive, as I believed, and ghosts, the doubles of anyone alive or dead who are alive by being in the ear of one who loved them by allowing them into the ear or by finding them in the ear and loving them there and leaving them there but not keeping them there? And the same follows for the people who are alive, the ear being a place (a place is an orifice, the part of a thing that isn’t there that allows someone, in combination with what is there, to be in it) where love crosses the border and where thought crosses the border and touches via the air the ear and makes something happen: a vibration. The leaves of the ivy are harder than you think. The click is like that of the thin bamboo fingers strung on wires to make a knuckled curtain that separates the apartment into front and back or public and private or waking and sleeping on which a woman has been painted (black hair, pink flowers, brown skin, grass skirt) bit by bit in the grid of cylinders or all at once, held in place in process before being allowed to circulate in the mercurial breezes off the lake; a relic of the apartment and a fading image of the “island dancer,” though here she sits with her legs beneath her and to one side, leaning on one arm, pensive and triangular, like the bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, or lunch in the grass — though he at the desk has a shirt but no pants — and visible only from a distance, one version of which flowers when he looks over his shoulder, away from the book. In both cases it’s a sound that despite repeated hearings (6 weeks in, what is the wind trying to do? It is trying to turn itself around and blow cool air into the apartment) one turns to look at or asks, what is it? And it’s a little uncanny to see the trembling green leaves from which one hears the clicking and to see the figure in the clicking bamboo and to see the pensive figure in the clicking bamboo swaying the odds of manifestation.



They actually had seemed like repetitive physical actions when I met them coming down the street, each of us in one of those pools of light that show by their ragged edges the nature of the place entered. When they passed, as a valley describes the water in land, though none of it remains, first or individual impressions followed to my strangely moving feet, whose motions were as sweeping and divorced, from what I knew and where I went, as the arc of headlights crossing the ceiling above me as I lie in bed are from the cars passing muffled by the night breeze through the street, and how much more so from the figure in the bed, so little was their motion mine, so vividly perceived, including the space between, in which the facets of the flat sidewalk shone, split, and bubbled, and the black strip between quivering autumn leaves, moment by moment, gave way or invaded. Everything was OK only in that sense of a timeless neither-for-nor-againstness cradled, or was it cabled, by the spinning, yellow from the front, the rear and the sides. Is non-action truly the greater of the two, admiring the contempt in the turn, identical to the one that activates the figure in statues spun off from antiquity, to watch the going away of a demonic police car? And when I pointed it out to her (my guide or reason) to remember them, days later, when she read the phrase (as she once had someone look over his rows and columns) to say each affect of each individual differs from the affect of another as much as the essence of one from the essence of another. And do you think the essences differ, she added, chin nearing her shoulder, and when we leave, the shadow will remain here with them? A t-shirt to change into at the entrance to the center had put asunder the signs and colors in favor of a change in signs and colors, the signs and colors of the place come into, a change in ownership that will cease to know us, and by which we must, in those parts and these, be known.



The happiness of the group has always been revealed in its exclusion of you, the only individual in the room, to whom even I, your creator, won’t deign to speak. In response, the lonely interlocutor made a sweater out of a cotton ball, and put it in this pocket for later, where, pinned to the bulletin board, it has begun to resemble a cloud through which the moon shines, in the form of the marbled orb that was made to harden around the buried pin holding in place, as you had long suspected, that which, but for this function, would have obscured it. To this we have consigned that still small and unsigned voice, whom we answer as and play so lightly, with such pleasure, in the privacy of our room, where the bulletins, like the little strip of lake visible from one corner of the bed, which is itself visible from the desk, have been issued from the right hand to the left, the one in the pocket of Nadar’s Baudelaire below Greff’s hand-tinted Louvre, and the one in the loom where Ariadne spins her songs, and is it only by that conscription (yes) we can be here. There is no season longer than the summer, while you weep among the crowd of pleasure-seekers, though we, in this Plutonic dialogue, move along.



Things that move through space include words. A calculus. I know where you are but you can’t be reached. Things follow like shadows in the shadow of the hand when the light is from the right, from the morning, from the lake, as later they will, still above the orange velvet of the chair, chase the same sad how without fear of catching or hope of being caught. What are you thinking? I fall, I find it in memory. By a thunderclap I am awake. The system I imagined brings tears to my eyes by its existence in the shade we walked on, that sat up suddenly and began to speak. The inability to live without any one of you three little pigs, city bridge, triangle of children in the crabgrass running, having forgotten motion, led me to the thicket of questions through the small picket line at the Hotel Congress and onto that shining path the urge to follow can eye for awhile without sinking, through sails and breakwaters to the undulating horizon of fire and water describing neither the house of mourning nor the house of mirth but the first time what you had written turned against you and convinced you you were with it, opposite figure, your ancient double poking through the bins, briefly ahead of you on the shifting path, on which the only order is, turn back, turn back, as the sound of drums in the public park multiplies the crowd of sails into a din, and again I doubted within.

Contributors

*Editorial thanks to Tuscadero, Weakerthans, Silversun Pickups & Jurrasic 5 for their help in putting this issue together.

Nico Alvarado-Greenwood publishes Weather Press chapbooks.

Cynthia Arrieu-King’s poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Good Foot, Diagram, Court Green, New Orleans Review, etc. and her chapbook The Small Anything City is available from Dream Horse Press. “Je Est Un Autre” means “I is an Other” and is a line from Rimbaud.

Scott Bade’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Dirty Napkin, Eleventh Muse, Blue Earth Review, Poetry International, and New Hampshire Review. He lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with his wife Lori and sons August and Stuart. Eclipse was inspired by the Mari Mahr photo works found in her series “A Few Days in Geneva.”

Cara Benson edits Sous Rature (www.necessetics.com/sousrature.html).Two poem books, (made) and Protean Parade,are forthcoming from BookThug and Black Radish respectively. Other work includes: “Quantum Chaos and Poems: A Manifest(o)ation” (BookThug), Belladonna Elders Series #7 with Anne Waldman and Jayne Cortez (Belladonna), “UP” (Dusie), and “Spell/ing ( ) Bound” with Kai Fierle-Hedrick and Kathrin Schaeppi (ellectrique press). Benson edited the interdisciplinary book Predictions forthcoming from Chain. She teaches poetry in a NY State Prison.

Erica Bernheim was born in New Jersey and grew up in Ohio and Italy. She holds a B.A. from Miami University, an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, Bridge, The Iowa Review, Boston Review, Court Green and Volt, among others. Her chapbook, Between the Room and the City is available from H_NGM_N B__KS. Erica is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Florida Southern College, where she teaches writing and contemporary literature.

Jason Bredle is the author of two books and one chapbook of poetry. A new chapbook, Class Project, is forthcoming from Publishing Genius. He lives in Chicago.

Paula Cisewski is the author of two poetry books: Upon Arrival (Black Ocean, 2006) and Ghost Fargo (selected by Franz Wright for the 2008 Nightboat Prize and forthcoming in spring 2010) and three chapbooks: Two Museums (MaCaHu Press 2009), Or Else What Asked the Flame (w/Mathias Svalina, Scantily Clad 2008), and How Birds Work (Fuori Editions, 2002). She lives in Minneapolis.

Nina Corwin is the author of Conversations With Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints. Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize, her work appears or is forthcoming in ACM, BlazeVOX, Forklift OH, Hotel Amerika, New Ohio Review, Southern Poetry and William & Mary Reviews. Psychotherapist in daylight hours, she has twice served as guest editor for Fifth Wednesday Journal.

Jordan Davis was born in New York City, where he works and lives with his wife, Alison Stine Davis, and his son James. Recent poems are forthcoming in Cab/Net, Bird Dog, Cannibal, and Magazine Cypress.

Jessica Dessner’s work has appeared in Sal Mimeo, La Petite Zine, and The Invisible Stitch. Her chapbook, Wit’s End with Bric-a-Brac was published in 2006 by Green Zone. A retired dancer and choreographer, she completed the New School’s MFA program for poetry in 2008. She also draws:http://asthmatickitty.com/music.php?releaseID=1068.

Bill Dunlap is a visual artist, writer, and musician who is currently studying forestry. His online home is here: www.billdunlap.com

John Duvernoy was born in America in the Seventies. Unlock the Clockcase published his chapbook ‘Razor Love’ in 2006. Work can be found on-line at Octopus, horesless review, Kulture Vulture, among others.

John W. Evans’s poems appear in Boston Review, Best New Poets 2006, Northwest Review, Nimrod, Poetry East, RHINO, 5AM, and other publications. He writes a blog at http://howtolikeit.blogspot.com

John Findura was born in Paterson and still lives and teaches in Northern New Jersey. His poetry and criticism appear in journals such as Mid-American Review, Verse, Fugue, GlitterPony, Fourteen Hills, The Agriculture Reader and Rain Taxi, among others. He holds an MFA from The New School.

Richard Froude is the author of Tarnished Mirrors (Muffled Cry) and The Margaret Thatcher Trilogy (Catfish). Another chapbook is on its way from Minus House Press. Recent writing is published or forthcoming in a number of journals like Word for Word, The Diagram, No Tell Motel and Parcel. He lives in Denver.

Carmen Gimenez Smith teaches creative writing at New Mexico State University’s MFA program. Her first book, ODALISQUE IN PIECES, will be published by University of Arizona Press this fall. She is editor of PUERTO DEL SOL and publisher of Noemi Press.

Andrew Grace is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Sections of Sancta are forthcoming in LIT, Gulf Stream, Washington Square, Mid-American Review, 580 Split and Seattle Review and he has other work forthcoming in Another Chicago Magazine and TYPO. His second book Shadeland recently won the 2008 Ohio State University Press / The Journal Award for Poetry.

Matt Hart’s second book, YOU ARE MIST, is forthcoming from MOOR Books. He lives in Cincinnati where he edits Forklift Ohio: A Journal of Poetry, cooking & Light Industrial Safety.

Steve Healey is author of Earthling. His second book of poems is forthcoming from Coffee House Press in 2010. New and forthcoming poems can be found in Boston Review, Forklift Ohio, and Jubilat.

Christopher Higgs is author of the chapbook Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously (Publishing Genius Press, 2009). He curates the online arts journal Bright Stupid Confetti.

A D Jameson is a writer, video artist, and performer. “Shaggy Creatures” is from his prose collection “Amazing Adult Fantasy,” forthcoming in 2010 from Mutable Sound. His fiction has appeared in The Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, elimae, alice blue review, and various other journals. Adam is currently working on his second novel.

Michael Jauchen teaches at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire. Some of his work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Santa Monica Review, Knock, and Sentence.

Paul Jenkins grew up in Iowa and now lives in western Massachusetts, where he currently teaches poetry writing at Hampshire College and tries to convince his students that they need, not just finesse, but subject matter. His three books of poems are Forget the Sky (L’Epervier), Radio Tooth, and Six Small Fires (both from Four Way Books). He has also published a social/economic history of Greenfield, Massachusetts. For twenty-six years he served as poetry editor of the Massachusetts Review. Individual poems of his have appeared in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, Paris Review, Agni, and numerous other places, including a handful of anthologies. A new manuscript of poems is about to begin hunting for a publisher.

Aaron Kiely’s book of poetry, The Best of My Love, was published by Ugly Duckling Presse.

Amy King is the author ofI’m the Man Who Loves YouandAntidotes for an Alibi, both from Blazevox Books,The People Instruments(Pavement Saw Press),Kiss Me With the Mouth of Your Country(Dusie Press), and forthcoming,Slaves to Do These ThingsandI Want to Make You Safe. Amy edits theBuffalo Poetics List, moderates theWomen’s Poetry Listserv(WOMPO) and theGoodreads Poetry! Group, and teaches English and Creative Writing atSUNY Nassau Community College. For information on the reading series Amy co-curates, visitThe Stain of Poetry: A Reading Seriesblog for more.

Becca Klaver is a founding editor of Switchback Books, a PhD candidate in Literatures in English at Rutgers University, and the author of the chapbook Inside a Red Corvette: A 90s Mix Tape (greying ghost press, 2009). Her first full-length collection, Los Angeles Liminal, is forthcoming from Kore Press.

Eric Kocher will be attending the MFA program at the University of Houston in the fall. His work has appeared in Pebble Lake Review and McSweeney’s, as well as a poem forthcoming in Rattle. He currently lives on Long Island where he works in a bookstore and brews his own beer.

Ben Kopel was born and raised in Baton Rouge and holds degrees from Louisiana State University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems have recently appeared in Forklift: Ohio, Makeout Creek, The Agriculture Reader, and are forthcoming in Sixth Finch. He is currently continuing his studies at UMASS Amherst and will be making his onscreen debut this Fall, sitting on top of a washing machine, in the notnostrums* movie “If You Think Of It.”

Gregory Lawless is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Masters of Humanities program and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. His poems have appeared in Contrary, nth position, La Petite Zine, Stride, and Sundress’s “Best of the Net 2007.” He teaches English at Suffolk University in Boston and lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Lauren Levin is from New Orleans and lives in Oakland. Her poems can be found in Coconut, GutCult, MiPOesias, Mirage #4/Period(ical), Shampoo, the tiny, Try, Typo and Word For/Word. A chapbook, In
Fortune, written with Jared Stanley and Catherine Theis, appeared in Dusie. A new chapbook is forthcoming from Boxwood Editions. She edits the magazine Mrs. Maybe with Jared and Catherine Meng.

B.J. Love is an ex-Iowan living in Chicago. He enjoys reading bus schedules and chasing fire engines. His work can also be seen/heard in DIAGRAM, lament, The Daily Palette & over the telephone, if he is particularly excited about it. He drives a ’99 Pontiac Grand Prix with expired tags just for the thrill of it. He also got a Master’s Degree in English for exactly the same reason.

Tony Mancus lives in Sunnyside, NY. He works a lot but enjoys not working. His life is full of paper. His poems have appeared or will appear in places like Cue, 42opus, The Cream City Review, Memorious and elsewhere.

Chris Martin is the author of American Music and The Small Dance. He is only the lead singer of Coldplay if that will encourage you to create a fanzine about his books. He is the editor of Puppy Flowers and lives in the servant’s quarters of a Brooklyn brownstone.

Anthony McCann is the author of Moongarden (Wave Books, 2006) and Father of Noise (Fence Books, 2003). He is also one of the authors, along with Joshua Beckman and Matthew Rohrer, of Gentle Reader!, a collection of erasures of the English Romantics. He lives in Los Angeles.

Richard Meier is the author of Terrain Vague and Shelley Gave Jane a Guitar. He lives in Chicago and is writer-in-residence at Carthage College.

Pete Miller lives in Seattle with his wife and daughter. His poems have recently appeared in Superstition Review and BlazeVox, and are forthcoming in Strange New Egg and Radiant Turnstile.
JoAnna Novak is from the suburbs of Chicago. Her work has recently appeared in Quick Fiction, DIAGRAM, Critiphoria, and Pindeldyboz.

Alexis Orgera lives in a beach shack in southern California. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Bat City Review, DIAGRAM, Forklift, Ohio, Green Mountains Review, Gulf Coast, In Posse Review, jubilat, The Rialto, and others. She likes to walk her old dog.

Nikki Painter is an artist who can help us find an explosion of rainbows in a geometric hell, who knows the romance of lakes & trees can still be found in a world overrun by strip malls & pavement.

Christopher Rizzo is a writer and publisher who lives in Albany, New York. Over the years, his work has appeared in Art New England, The Cultural Society, Cannibal, Dusie, Effing Magazine, Process, and Spell among many other publications, both in print and online. He is the author of a number of poetry collections, most recently Supposed to Sound (Ungovernable Press, 2008) and Playing the Amplitudes (BlazeVox Books, 2008). In 2009, Greying Ghost Press rereleased his short sequence Naturalistless. Forthcoming is a new Boat Train chapbook, Tmēsis / In Other Words Continuing. He is the founder and editor of Anchorite Press and currently a University at Albany doctoral candidate in English.

Broc Rossell is a poet from California, born in Los Angeles and living in San Francisco. His email address is brocrossell@gmail.com.

Brandon Shimoda was born in Yellow Picnic, USA. Julia Cohen was born. They have collab-poems coming out in the Raleigh Quarterly and Cannibal, amongst others.

Rachel M. Simon’s chapbook, Marginal Road was published in 2009 by Hollyridge Press. Her first book of poems, Theory of Orange, won the Transcontinental Prize from Pavement Saw Press. She teaches gender studies, film and writing at SUNY Purchase College, Sarah Lawrence College and the Marymount Manhattan College program at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. She lives in Yonkers, NY.

Jeff Simpson is a student at Oklahoma State University, where he is pursuing an MFA in poetry and works as an editorial assistant for the Cimarron Review. In 2008, he was selected as a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry. His poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Lumina, Copper Nickel, Main Street Rag, Gulf Stream, and Nimrod.

Mathias Svalina is a co-editor of Octopus Magazine & Books. He is the author of numerous chapbooks & collaboratively written chapbooks. His first book, Destruction Myth, is forthcoming from the CSU Poetry
Center.

Chad Sweeney co-edits Parthenon West Review with David Holler. He is the author of An Architecture (BlazeVox, 2007) and Arranging the Blaze (Anhinga, 2009), as well as the chapbook A Mirror to Shatter the Hammer (Tarpaulin Sky, 2006). Recent work appeared in Colorado Review, New American Writing, Denver Qtly, Coconut, Forklift, Verse, Interim, Electronic Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, the Tiny, and Barrow Street. He is poet-in-residence at the San Francisco School of the Arts.

Robert Whiteside was born in Buffalo, NY, the rust belt capital of America, & just returned from a short jaunt living in Rhode Island, & is glad to be back to that desolate ill-mentioned catastrophe.

Joseph P. Wood is the author two chapbooks, In What I Have Done & Failed to Do (Elixir) and Travel Writing (Scantily Clad Press). His first full book of poems I & We (CustomWords) is forthcoming in Fall 2010. New poems can be found in BOMB, Poetry London, New Delta Review, Passages North, Drunken Boat, Typo, among other. He serves as editor for Slash Pine Press and Slash Pine Poetry Festival. Find out more at www.slashpinepress.blogspot.com .

John Dermot Woods draws comics and writes stories in Brooklyn, NY. He is the author of the image-text novel The Complete Collection of people, places & things (BlazeVOX Books) and the forthcoming comic chapbook The Remains (Doublecross Press). He organizes the online reading series Apostrophe Cast (www.apostrophecast.com), edits the arts quarterly Action,Yes (www.actionyes.org)and is a professor of English at Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY. More information about his work is available at www.johndermotwoods.com.

Jon Woodward’s second book of poems, Rain, was published by Wave Books in 2006. He currently lives in Boston and works at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. More info and poems is/are at jonwoodward.net.

 

Brandon Shimoda & Julia Cohen

WHEN YOU SPOT THE SHORE, THE PALM


proves angry. When you spot the palm
moving the scripture of black flies

the shore carries the shore

to you and your injury. When you

cut the world we are in
the same world for a moment crawls
into each leg’s stronghold,
breaks the tendon
the hull

Ships on land
sleep like turkeys in trees. When I blow north
they scatter across the treehouse
knock the lantern over. Lobes
from a sacrificial branch

When I
stir the golden wattle
in the white pot
husks burn harder than I do. Black
flies coagulate and burn
to the wrist

I release the scripture from your skin
climb into my branches
the solar plexus of a small child

Ear lobes covered in flies
the mouth is still wet, whatever
sand coughs on the shore
there is more in the hair
of a five year old

Blood steadying in the crown, when

you hear a guttural in the sand, a nest
of diamantine eggs, a ripe forelimb
tripping the drift, bend

down for I am gaining sky, resistant, hardened
over me and I am under a crown
of prayer-like atoms

A person cannot be
a stronghold but a child
can— you re-name what you injure

better, worse, or accurate? Cloud-friction is
a Velcro sound





THE MASTER BRANCH

melting

into a palette

tugged over the ditch

 

The spool is confused

the spool

 

withstanding its use

 

to pin

the children

 

elevated

as tugboats the shore

 

cannot feel the sea

 

no

no, not at all



Michael Jauchen on Shane Jones

Light Boxes
Author: Shane Jones
Publisher: Publishing Genius Press
Price: $14.95

When I was living in Chicago as a college student, the onslaught of winter brought with it a new, shocking unhappiness every year. Everyone who once was friendly migrated inside to hunker down and get grumpier. Any woman I was remotely interested in would put on seven thick wool sweaters that would make her breasts all but disappear. So much time wasted spent wandering from dark room to dark room mumbling words like flu and strep and NyQuil.

One of the things I realized during this time was that the worst part of a northern winter never came when I expected it to; it never came in December or January when everyone was already singing about snow. Without doubt, winter’s coldest time, its most depressing moments, came in February, when the snow and ice had been collecting for months in sharp, grimy piles by the side of the road. The coldest season was Almost-Spring, as the promise of warmer weather hovered so closely, but still remained locked away behind a constant sky of low, gray clouds. Really all you could do was marvel at your malaise, lace up your boots, and get ready one more time to dig your car out of the snow.

Shane Jones’s new novel, Light Boxes, his first, literalizes this feeling of endless winter and uses it as a launching point for a lighthearted fable about resilience in the face of inexplicable and unrelenting meanness. The month of February is a disgruntled god who lives in the clouds and rains his endless gray on the town below him. As the shortest month of the year stretches into the hundreds of days, the townspeople, a collective of balloonists, are forced to face one tragedy after the next: citizens frozen to death in the streets, a rash of child kidnappings, an onslaught of mold, and the outlawing of any kind of flight.

Told in a series of very short, prose-poetic chapters, Light Boxes is a polyphonic novel, and we’re able to see the effects of February’s tyranny through the eyes of numerous people in the town: the jovial sap collector Caldor Clemens, the bird-masked members of the resistance movement, and a professor who invents light boxes in the hopes of simulating summer.

At the center of this chorus of voices, though, stands the figure of Thaddeus Lowe, husband to Selah and father to Bianca. After his daughter is kidnapped, her empty bed nothing more than a “mound of snow and teeth,” Thaddeus takes charge of the resistance effort against February, a decision that ultimately leads to more tragedy and a hero’s revenge quest against protean forces that’s reminiscent of something out of The Faerie Queene.

Thaddeus is sincere and sensitive and smart and full of fatherly good intentions, and his monologues are the best writing in the book. This is especially true when he talks about the better life he wishes he could provide for his wife and daughter, sporadic lyrical tangents where Thaddeus’s desires thrum with affection and true warmth and just the right amount of implausibility:


“I closed my eyes. I imagined Selah and Bianca in a canoe so narrow they had to lie down with their arms folded on their stomachs, their heads at opposite ends, their toes touching. I dreamed two miniature suns. I set one each upon their foreheads. I dreamed a waterfall and a calm lake of my arms below to catch them.”

Taken by February through an escalating series of sufferings and never once offered a substantive explanation for them, Thaddeus Lowe is a bit like Job. His pain brings up the question of why bad things have to happen at all, and his ultimate response, as a man who tries to convince himself and the town that “everything won’t end in death,” is a reminder of how one can confront the cruelty that so often seems part and parcel of the planet’s hard-wiring.

Despite the family tragedy at the novel’s heart, though, Light Boxes is ultimately a fable, a fairy tale, a bedtime story. And because of that, we want it to fulfill certain expectations. Ogres should be ogres, princesses should be beautiful, and endings should be happy. Jones knows this and doesn’t neglect to populate his world with cottages, mint teas, balloons, forests, flickering fires, and the underlying sense that everything will turn out happily by the end.

And like the great contemporary practitioners of the fairy tale—Kate Bernheimer, Lily Hoang, Rikki Ducornet—Jones also has a fantastic eye for the detail of fairy tale, a narrative adroitness that brings together seemingly banal objects and grants them a certain type of cumulative magic. As Thaddeus walks into town one day, he notes, “The air was cold and smelled like apples. I saw a fox sitting on a mailbox. He had duck feathers in his mouth” (46). Or earlier, he tells us about Selah’s soothing bedtime stories: “When Bianca wakes up screaming against February, Selah picks her up and holds her and tells Bianca to think of cloudless skies, a moose letting her hang by one hand from his nose” (23). Again and again in this novel we see Jones’s uncanny sense of cutting the detail off at just the right time. This gives Light Boxes a Calvino-esque quickness and ultimately makes it a narrative world that, in spite of the darkness and tragedy at its center, proceeds with lightness and speed and the spring of the author’s whimsical imagination.

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