Beautiful tension. That’s the phrase I’d use to unite the work in Bluestem’s online December issue. In Mary Moycik’s short story, “Mark Slate’s Family Vacation,” she writes: “Mrs. Slate lit a cigarette. The smoke curled for a brief moment before the wind sucked it away. ‘Maybe you’re just afraid I’ll meet someone who doesn’t stuff sausages for a living.’”  It’s a family story in a less than ideal situation. In James Kincaid’s story, he creates tension exclusively through dialogue while J.T. Townley does so with this opening line: “So, it’s not like we kidnapped her exactly.”

Poet Marcus Bales takes a Shakespearean approach to dealing with frustrating neighborhood kids, writing: “To yell, or not to yell—that is the question.” Elsewhere, Sandra Meek writes, “If the seatbelt sign / illuminates; if cabin visibility is reduced to a flash-fire reel / of your own membered history, the bag will / not inflate, though / all who have remained fully / in the fully upright position will be gathered beyond”. Other poets in this issue include Martin Ott, Rachel Kennedy, and Robin Richstone.

Memoirist Penny Guisinger begins her excerpt subtitled “Marriage” with this evocative opening: “My wife catches porcupines with the trash can and the lid the way you or I catch spiders with a glass and a piece of paper.” Read the excerpt plus other essays by  Jacqueline Doyle, Lynn Houston, and Jordan Wiklund.

Art editor Alan Pocaro provides us with not only some arresting paintings by Chris Smith, but also interviews the artist to give our readers a sense of the artist’s goals and ambitions.

Plus, Sophie Grimes reviews Jordan Zandi’s debut book Solarium.


Charlotte Pence
Interim Editor