The other is a fixture in every community. Both desirable and threatening in their strangeness, the others, whoever they might be, stand in opposition to the status quo. We define ourselves against their inscrutable, endlessly adaptable figures. And isn’t the other so often the unwilling linchpin of the community? Without the other, who would unite us in mutual fear, envy, pity, pride, disgust, and desire? As I see it, both short story selections in this issue celebrate the other.
In Brad Minnick’s “The Groundskeeper and the Seven Lawnmowers,” neighbors trade gossip about the oddball down the street. It is only until their other is missing that they realize exactly what they have lost. Samruddhi Ghodgaonkar’s “The Demigod” imagines the inner life of a Hijra. Both drawn to and repulsed by what they refuse to understand, the narrator’s community rejects her right to selfhood. The best literature asks us to question our own motives, beliefs, and systems of empathy. Who do we exclude? Why? What do we seek to gain—bliss by way of ignorance? safety in numbers? the upper hand?
I serve as prose editor for Inklette, and my lifelong discomfort with poetry speaks to my own readiness to avoid the other—the unfamiliar, the untamable. I tell myself that I love language in all its forms. If that is true, why have I turned my back on poetry for so long? I have finally decided to embrace my discomfort and give reading poetry a whirl. (Writing my own poetry is, as of right now, still out of reach…)
When it comes to poetry, I am a child again—curious and afraid, exposed and highly receptive. I struggle to analyze stanzas and find that my experience is almost entirely sensual. In the face of a stunning poem, I am mute. Deprived of my usual intellectual pussyfooting, my capacity to embody language emerges. While reading Rose Nagle’s “Alton Bay Villanelle,” I feel the “thwack of wood duck’s striated tail” like a wet slap against my forearm. And when I read how the “toads sing with puffy glands,” it’s as if the lymph flanking my throat swells in recognition. henry 7. reneau’s poem “the wreck(on)ing ball blue(s)” beats like a battle cry in my ears: a “megawatt sensory thrum.” My mouth twitches with the desire to read it out loud, or just shout something wordless.
Writing this editor’s note, I am reminded of the importance of curious and inclusive literary communities like Inklette. Thank you to each and every contributor and reader for taking part!