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When each fall comes, I fall in lines

Presenting our Fall 2020 Issue

When each fall comes, I fall in lines
across the field. Crows pick me out
of food for weeks. Photographs
of then are lost (I tell myself
they're lost). Bare, at the mirror,
I still don't see a man, I see
what could still be lost, what kept.
Owls cry, leave darkness on my tongue.

—excerpt from "Confessions of a Former Scarecrow," by José Angel Araguz, Prairie Schooner, Vol. 94, Issue 3, Fall 2020

The Harvest Moon rose last week, filtering a full brightness through autumn air awash with allergies, all the dust the combines are stirring up in the fields, and our Fall issue entered into this season of plenty and planning, of cultivating gratefulness and taking stock, of storing away for winter the things that will get us through darkening days to come. In "Confessions of a Former Scarecrow" in our new Fall Issue, José Angel Araguz captures the duality of the season, a mindfulness of the fruits of labor and its costs—indeed "what could still be lost," and yet, he turns the line, "what kept."

The issue opens with a new poem from Dorianne Laux, "Is Anyone Missing Him?" which follows a boy and his skateboard out into a world newly quieted, and all the more disquieting for it. "The city was once his playground," Laux writes. "Now/ it's a ghost town, the virus closing each door."

In "Family Tree," a short story by Kim Coleman Foote, "The doorbell rings across the room and you wonder who it is. Folks stopped coming by just after the funeral, when your women-friends huddled by the stove with you, trying to tell you things was gone be all right." Loss looms in Marija Stajic's story "Roses and Vines," too: "My father walked back inside, tired of grief, tired of people telling him how sorry they were, tired of the priest telling him God had his reasons." In Chika Onyenezi's "The House of a Thousand Voices," it is the house itself that speaks, according to the old man, in the voices of ancestors who "travel in between the world of the living and the dead. He said it was as if this life and the afterlife have a lot in common." The family in Janika Oza's "Rajni" negotiates change and sacrifice while sitting in a living room where Rajni understands her family is "trying to grand her a second life." In "Without Pity" by Stephanie C. Trott, Hatch and his friends have been watching the days grow long, "had been waiting for the weather to freeze and last week it finally had." That's when Bobby shows up with a pair of hockey skates and a can of Crisco. And in Blair Hurley's "Hockey Girls," "These are field hockey girls. They have good grades and good lungs. They are permitted to compete with other high schools in the Boston area; but that permission is on a knife edge of good behavior." Later, as "they rack up another win, "the coach is getting nervous now, wondering how far this town with its stony churches and white colonial houses will really let them go."
In her essay "God Bless the Child That's Got Her Own," Jasmine V. Bailey considers self-sufficiency and the stories we tell about and for ourselves: "So much about a woman alone is not understandable to people, especially men." R. Tiara Malone and Christina Cooke, too, take on storytelling and family. Malone opens her essay with the revelation that she snuck through her sister's things: "that time u wore enyce kinda changed my life" opens her essay: "this may come 2 late 2 b meaningful, but, i used 2 sneak thru ur drawers n read all ur letters... i promised myself 2 1 day write with the same reckless abandon." Cooke, in "Cyaa Look Back," has begun visiting her grandmother—"at first once a week and then for days at a time, to give us the chance to discover each other and to find out what went wrong. Why did I never come to know her? Why are we so uneasy? What's the unspoken thing that's kept us apart?Molly Gaudry's "Naked as the Day I Was Born" considers the meaning of origins, possibilities for connection, and takes a hard look in the mirror. "I see a thirty-eight-year-old woman," Gaudry writes, "whose reflection no longer startles her, who has realized by now that she is not white and that she looks Asian. She has no idea what it means to look Asian." Catina Bacote's essay "A World of Tangled Vines, Falling Berries, Bruised Grapes, Rough Rinds, and Ripening Flesh" delivers on its title.
The poems offer a plentiful yield of sacrifice and surprise, too. "How could they have known," asks Sarah Crossland, in "The Grief Work," "that saw and saga / were once one word, that the tales we tell / are, in a sense, a cutting?" John Sibley Williams in "Sycamores" has something to say of work, as well: "Dying two hundred times / with as many rebirths / sounds like a lot of work". In "Second Eclogue of the Vegetable Garden," John Kinsella shows us a gardener "Watering ancient seeds that will never appear / with the little water available... / ... and I have / a hunch a premonition a strong feeling a hope / that this will be a eureka moment against / the evisceration the drying the emptying-out / of life over time." The issue also features new poems from Anna JourneyColin ChannerMartha Rhodes, Marilyn Hacker, Daneen WardropHannah Baker SaltmarshTheodora ZiolkowskiKareem TayyarJoannie StangelandJesse HolthTracy RyanA. MolotkovJoshua AckermanKaren An-Hwei Lee, and Athena Kildegaard.
Hannah Cobb reviews Brooke Matson's In Accelerated Silence (Milkweed), winner of the 2019 Jake Adam York Prize, in which "Objects trigger memories, which lead teh speaker into deeper communion—and deeper confrontation—with the world." Shannon Wolf takes a look at Marcia Trahan's Mercy: A Memoir of Medical Trauma and True Crime Obsession (Barrelhouse). "Throughout," Wolf writes, "Trahan's thought-provoking reflections on the links between violence and clinical practices are surprising but deeply satisfying. The subject matter is dark, but in writing toward her own fear, Trahan has, in Mercy, opened the curtains to let the light back into the room." John Yohe considers Natalie Diaz's Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf)—a 2020 National Book Award Finalist.
You can order the new fall issue here. If all this sounds good and you trust us to put together four issues a year that are just as compelling, why not subscribe to a full year of Prairie Schooner? In addition to the new Fall Issue, subscribers can look forward to our winter issue in December and support us on into 2021—when we'll celebrate our 95th birthday.
It is a season of uncertainty and gratefulness, too—and we're grateful to you for reading and supporting Prairie Schooner.


—Ashley Strosnider, Managing Editor