March 21, 2022 by The Citron Review
Welcome to Creative Nonfiction for Spring 2022! Co-editor Charlotte Hamrick and I were awestruck by the Citron submissions we received and in celebration of this CNF literary feast, have included eight selections in this issue.
Before a brutal war began in Ukraine a few weeks ago we had assembled these pieces, many of which concern themselves with the trauma of violence and the trauma of absence, what it’s like to lose places and loved ones, and how we make it after losing parts of ourselves. This work exemplifies the writer as question-asker, sense-maker, risk-taker, and how courage and self-reflection create stunning creative nonfiction.
In “The Art of Brutalism,” Amy Cipolla Barnes describes being at the scene of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. She gathers together the images she has long held inside to tell her story cinematically, with the perspective of one seared by memory. She writes, “We – the passengers and my sister and I – all stare at this concrete federal leviathan, watching it still rippling a bit like a cartoon image or a fruit-scented Jell-o mold, ripped open at its heart. Stapled papers and staples and left-behind cardigans and briefcases tossed by bomb winds still flutter in the street. The bus drives over them like a gigantic paperweight that can’t quite catch everything.”
While the physical tears through structures, emotional damage can course through a family years later as can guilt, which is what James Morena contends with in “Like a Little Beach”. He writes, “We threw grammar grenades. Word bombs. Wounding Mother with shrapnel from sentence fragments. Father built a wall with his fists, preventing Cindy and me from learning Tagalog.” The mother as compass and the loss of her is fresh for Amy Lyons in “Memories from a Handful of Months After My Mother Died”. A selection of events and objects have become what she has in place of her mom and she lists them, writing. “War; penny Poker; Slap Jack; candlepin bowling; a teacher physically removing me from my father’s side as I wailed I won’t go day one of fourth grade.”
How our days fill up with the unexceptional, the way we move through the world, appears to transform into the profound for Kristian O’Hare in “Something About this Silence Feels Holy.” He writes, “As I turn onto Church Street, an empty streetcar follows the routine of stopping and opening its doors to no one. Puddles shimmer pale gold halo of streetlights. Hush of a distant car, and silence”. And, almost without searching, he discovers communion with a stranger.
In “Unfathomable” Pavle Radonic finds a kind of communion in reflecting on what we have all faced in recent years and in bearing witness to one particular loss. “Relentless waves lapping under our feet below the pier stretched out into wide, immeasurable distance, the volume of water holding the dome above difficult to comprehend,” he writes, inviting the reader into his almost trancelike rumination.
Shifra Sharlin also ruminates in “Busted” but on the noise of other people and how their opinions about her body disturb her sense of privacy. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she shares how disquieting it can be to face her new shape when others have something to say about it. “The people who shocked me,” she writes, “were the ones who accepted my decision not to replace my breast for reasons that showed they had also thought about my breasts.”
What we see and what we don’t, the known and the unknown, are equally present in Luke Larkin’s “Hunter”. A story as much about life as what comes afterward, Larkin begins, “My grandmother showed me her ghost once. We were sitting on the porch of the house she’d die in and she was smoking a cigarette that’d kill her not a year later, though at the time I didn’t think much of anything could kill her.”
And Michael Fallon drops the reader into his world from line one of “The Serpent,” all but daring us to try and look away. He writes, “I sat in a green plastic chair on our brick patio, sipping a glass of white wine among my tall d, my huge reddish coleus, and my day-glow pink begonias when they came tumbling out of the sky and dropped–a blur of silver-gray motion on the red brick at my feet.” Thus begins a story about visceral destruction, enduring loss, and survival, which feels like so much of what creative nonfiction is about, especially this season, especially now.
Charlotte Hamrick and I are proud to bring you these selections which caught us off guard, sometimes left us breathless, and had us nodding in recognition. We are grateful to have the opportunity to read such fine work and so pleased to share this issue’s creative nonfiction with you.
With best wishes for your health and safety,
Creative Nonfiction Editor
The Citron Review