Sarah M. Sala
This issue of Bellevue Literary Review is devoted to the theme of “taking care.” It went to press as hundreds of millions endured extreme heat, floods, wildfires, and dangerous air quality. Three years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to redefine what “taking care” means for us as individuals but also as an interdependent collective. In this issue of BLR, you’ll read a variety of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction that explore the many facets of caregiving and how we care for one another, for ourselves, and for the world.
In the essay “Revisions,” Eric Raymond reveals the complexities of caring for a terminal spouse in the wake of their stolen future. In Joy Guo’s story “Relative Distance,” the role of caretaker evolves, shifting between an elderly uncle and his teenage nephew as the uncle’s memory goes “sieving away.” For Jason Baum’s protagonist in the story “Rocket,” taking care means blasting yourself into space to “drift in orbit for a year or so and get some real clean time” from a meth addiction. Taking care is as nuanced as it is varied.
Exactly twenty years after BLR published two of Richard Blanco’s early poems, we are thrilled to publish “For the Homeland of My Body,” the title poem of his newest collection, wherein he renders the gorgeous autoethnography of caring for “all the places” he’s “ever loved, or lost, or have yet to find and to lose.” Caretaking also sparks reflection on one’s mortality in Jennifer L. Freed’s “At the Cardiologist’s Office”: “And then I am looking at my mother’s hands/ on her lap as she sits on the exam table./ I am thinking of her age, her body, her brain/ breaking away from her.” Poet Jennifer Franklin offers us more perspectives on caregiving in her review of a book of poetry by caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients.
As a poetry editor, one of my favorite things is encountering a poem that surprises me, deeply resonates, or upends my existing knowledge of a subject. This issue of BLR, however, will be my last. It’s been a privilege to curate BLR’s poetry for the past five years in collaboration with my editor-colleagues Jen Hyde, Omotara James, Saleem Hue Penny, and Abba Belgrave, as well as the larger BLR masthead. I particularly want to acknowledge Stacy Bodziak, managing editor, for her dauntless support in materializing each issue. I’m grateful to these editors for sharpening my own editing faculties, but also for reminding me how much we miss when we see the world only from a single perspective. I remain thankful for the excuse to gather to discuss poetry in the margins of our busy weeks. It feels somehow fitting that my last issue with BLR turns out to be on the theme of “taking care.” As a chronic migraineur myself, the unpredictable nature of illness forces me to learn again and again how mindfully we must tend our health.
It’s rare as a literary magazine editor to work as closely with authors as we do at BLR. The intimacy of our conversations over the years, whether about editing, writing careers, or life in general, affirms that we know each other more than we suspect. So, I really hope that all of you take care. Savor your favorite foods. Read for pleasure. Take the afternoon off to catch up with friends. Carve time out for daydreaming. Or linger in the garden.
We hope this special issue of BLR offers you some creative reflections on the act of taking care. We also want to acknowledge AARP—an organization ardently supportive of caregivers—for its support of this issue of BLR. And we want to acknowledge you, our readers, for being part of this dialogue with us.