The 2018 issue of The Poetry Porch features a drawing by Katherine Jackson on the cover, in which Chinese characters resemble houses on a landscape of hills and valleys, with some dwellings sheltered horizontally in a hollow and others perched vertically on the side of a cliff. But as the title suggests, the surface isn’t land, it’s water. “Wolf-Tiger-Sea-Swallow-Us” conveys the peril of its subject, and while syntactically awkward, the computer generated sentence has an immediate appeal that Jackson wanted to put to use. She writes, “The drawings depict twenty-four undocumented Chinese workers who drowned in 2004 while harvesting cockles in England’s Morecamb Bay.” The lettered characters of their cries resemble houses with walls and roofs, windows, even porches, from which the workers are calling to their distant families to be rescued. In their utterances we remember them.
The poetry and prose that is collected here is concerned with preserving such utterances. These digital pages give voice to individuals who speak of communities where they reside but do not comfortably belong. They might not be in danger of drowning, like those featured in the illustration, but they are involved in struggles that require treading water vigorously. The narrator in Hansen’s poem observes the fragile plight of the small kangaroo-like macropad, the “Quokka,” who might approach humans out of curiosity, but who will die of thirst from human food. Watson’s poem “Her Mother’s Face” explores the history of her family’s multi-racial identity and the effects it will surely have on her daughter. Doreski’s tourist “In The Low Countries” returns to a former battlefield in Europe and, with the current owner of the land, reflects on what happened there decades ago. Kirk’s “In the Future Library” speculates on the sociological role libraries will offer to those patrons who do not have time for books and research, but who enter out of need for an immediate solution to a problem. Fein’s narrator loves his dictionary, its pages and bindings tattered and worn, the way he might love a disintegrating body. Ted Richer’s story “Will You Dance with Me, Mary?” explores the desire for married love between a Jewish boy and a Catholic girl and the dialogues that result in their pursuit of a future together. Marge Piercy emphasizes delight in the unexpected in her poem “A bush of surprises,” which suggests that, with the late spring blossoming of a previously dormant tree, “it’s never too late / to wake up and give to the world / whatever you’ve got to deliver.”
On this optimistic note, we invite you to read and savor the poetry and prose posted during this difficult year, where neighbors seem so close in proximity yet distant in inclination and need.