Letter from the Editor (23)

by Randall Brown December 15, 2008

Some years, around this time, I feel a sense of an ending, and then there are other years, like this one, when December feels more like a beginning—a new morning—like one evoked by Maya Angelou in some long ago time: “Lift up your hearts / Each new hour holds new chances / For a new beginning. / Do not be wedded forever / To fear, yoked eternally /To brutishness.”

Within this issue of SmokeLong Quarterly, twenty-one beginnings await you. They might startle you with the familiar transformed into transcendence—”The sun refuses to begin” (Sherrie Flick’s “Shadows”)—the ordinary made into else: “We were looking at the remains of a broken well when my nose started to bleed” (Kuzhali Manickavel “The Society for the Preservation of Everything”).

They grab for your attention, as in Barry Graham’s “Caved In”: “Steven wove a small scourge from the branches of a weeping willow and whipped his little sister while she searched the sidewalk on all fours for enough cigarette butts to resurrect a whole.”

They arrive as archetypes, infused with the stuff of dreams—”The highway stretched behind me toward things I couldn’t remember” (Terry Ehret’s “The Head Fields)—and they begin in paradox: “In bed at night, hearing the last conversations on the street, I’m still moving with the train cars” (Lydia Copeland’s “The Sway of Trains). I’m drawn to that oxymoron of still moving, of the “last” set off by the something that still moves, of the long ago sense of train cars.

Larry Fondation’s story begins with a simple enough question, “Hey, heroin girl! What’s up?” Stefanie Freele’s with the fairy-tale mystery of a name. And Liane LeMaster’s with “an alien the size of a child with a pointed yellow face and large eyes.” I love that moment when, as reader, I begin, uncertain, wanting something yet to be realized, a desire that has yet to be evoked, a need for ending I didn’t know I had.

Most all, I love the way these stories just begin: “This boy I admired and pitied had the courage or stupidity I’m not sure which, to come onto our Indian Reservation, walk up to my door, and try to sell me a 70lb sack of potatoes saying he represented the Idaho Rotary Club, and right away I knew I had a problem.” (Spenser Wise’s “Potatoes”).

I never lose the wonder of a story’s beginning, out of the blue air, and then finding its way here. I am thrilled that we at SLQ have found these stories and writers—and that we have found you, reading us. I still remember how Maya Angelou’s poem ended, don’t you? “Look into your sister’s eyes, and into your brother’s face, your country, and say simply, very simply, with hope, Good morning.” Please, begin (again).

Good morning,

Randall Brown
Lead Editor, SmokeLong Quarterly

December 15, 2008

About the Author:

Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print. He earned his MFA at Vermont College.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.