Editors’ Letter: A New Season of Hauntings

Like many, we have the tendency to build the coming of a New Year momentous. Since we’ve known one another, we created a tradition of reading tarot cards on New Year’s Eve, sifting for some vague answer to the mysteries of existence and career and love, hoping the universe will reveal a theme for the coming year that we’re otherwise blind to. At midnight, we pass together through the seam between years, one branch of time sprouting into the next, and looking ahead we can almost glimpse the outline-echo of our future selves—surely selves that have learned and healed from the hard-hammered lessons of the previous year, selves more accomplished, more empathetic, more creative, universally beloved. Selves who cook healthy vegan meals for fun and take care of our bodies because we genuinely love ourselves and want to, and not because some small, ugly part of us was told it’s the only path to a happiness that surely awaits, tall and open-armed and smelling of flannel and pine, offering us lifelong adoration, infinite book deals, good hair, and a puppy.

Some part of us, of all of us, knows a looping in the calendar won’t make our lives different. But birthed like renewal the New Year comes clean to us and we, almost raw, almost too stripped of color, make plans to release the valve of strain we’ve collected in the bones of our bodies, the creaky joints and fattened cheeks. We make plans and we revise old plans and we plan for the blaze. But we quickly begin to grow graphite in our revival, our former selves so tightly bound to the bodies that hold them, the whistle of each life containing so many hauntings. As graduate students and restless travelers, we know what it’s like to leave a multitude of lives behind, saying goodbye to cities and friends and selves. We know what it’s like for those ghosts to follow across state lines, shuffling their old hauntings into clean new landscapes.

In the fall fervor of our separate-lived lives, we spent a lot of time discussing how similar our trajectories, though disconnected by miles, had become: the phantom of a not-quite-romance aching in each of our vessel hearts, the aliveness of need ill-defined but forever pulsing, the burden of trying so hard to be someone whose choices know some semblance of healthy control, whose days might have turned out differently. One of us was learning how to tend the overgrown, sentient wildness of Florida, and the other seeking peace in the blank, bleached expanse of Ohio, but we equally stumbled upon our fair share of unexpected ghosts. Hauntings came to us in new forms—in the frantic tipsy animal passion of a cemetery at night and in the echoes of familiar, forgotten flesh that bruises. We built our bodies soft and hoped the warmth of our burdened hearts might seep and spread like syrup through the rest of us, to keep us alive for another winter.

We agreed that in Ohio there are no closed caskets and in Florida there are no caskets at all, but somehow we came to terms with changing, with losing, with leaving behind. In the smoke swirl and shimmer of a brand new year, together we washed up on a foggy beach, misty-eyed phantoms, knowing there are so many ways to be haunted, and that sometimes, unexpectedly, you are the ghost.

As with every reading period, we wait for the organic materialization of a collective theme to show itself to us and wild our eyes open; the pattern continued this fall as we began reading for Issue Four. It can be hard as a reader, and even as an editor, to know the difference between finding in the work what we need and finding work itself that is needed, but in this issue these two truths coalesce. In this issue, the ache of humanity’s cohabitation with the past, unknown, untold, screams decibels, gentle and piercing enough to strangle the breath right out of you.

We are lonely as humans, but we are not alone, not ever, when all around us are whispers of careless pasts, of selves still lingering. How many times have you roamed the street horny and desperate for the echo of footsteps around you to be someone’s other than your own? How many times have you replayed words breathed close in a tender-salted moment of connection, fleeting toward evaporation even as you listened? How many traces of our families whisper through our own blood? How many shadows of mountains and small towns and city blocks linger on our skin? Within each of us hauntings exist, human and wounded in all their glory. The scars of our brightest griefs and joys become nothing but archaic decoration.

This is why we present to you, in all the glimmering newness of the year, a collection of literary hauntings that we hope will spur a radiance in our collective present. Though we hope you’re on the way to discovering the name of every ghost wrestling around within you, if you haven’t yet, or you simply aren’t ready, sit with us and read. We are all a little haunted between the seams. We are here to listen to the shadows who remain singing.

Lena & Erin
Editors & Co-Founders