"Still Life" by Marpessa Dawn Outlaw
I love browsing through old issues of BLR, rediscovering and re-appreciating the multifarious voices and viewpoints we’ve published. One of my favorite stories appeared in our very first issue: “Still Life” by the late Marpessa Dawn Outlaw. This is an emotionally complex, deftly written narrative about sex, death, illness, love, identity, family dynamics, staying still, and moving on. There is enough thematic resonance here for a novel – which I wish this gifted author had left with us – yet the associative drift of lovers and incidents is held together by the savvy voice of the semi-self-reflective narrator. She is smart, aware of herself to an extent, but, also, caught in a maze of grief, guilt, fear, remorse, and a barely acknowledged need for intimacy. Stilled by tragedy, Gwen reflects: “Love did nothing more than arrest you where you stood while the world moved on, caused regret that could not be unlived, and pain you could have lived well without.” The story is propelled by this narrative voice and delivers meaning through intimation and juxtaposition –and a movingly ambiguous ending.
“To See How the Snow Blanketed the Trees” by Cory Brown
Perhaps it’s just the mention of geese in this poem that puts me in mind of Mary Oliver – but the quiet lyricism of this assured, reflective voice brings, like Oliver, a majesty to evanescent human lives. Brown gently lulls us into recognition of the trick of the light we all must use to disavow our own impending ends.