The Summer issue of always-delightful Corium was released Tuesday, and what a treat to find that Ravi Mangla is guest editor for this issue, what a complement to Lauren Becker’s exquisite collecting skills! Ravi is no stranger to the Vouched website or to our hearts, and he’s put together such a collection of smart and meloncholy bits of literary fireworks that you will read on with a building fever! You will read on with gusto! You’ll hope for more of the same and you’ll delight in not finding it. What’s more, he has arranged the issue in reverse alphabetical order, because Ravi Mangla is endlessly charming.
Inside is a solid set of stories and poetry that will tickle your bones in their most comfortable, knobbiest places, unpeel you like fifty heads of lettuce. They’ll scratch something underneath your bored cartilage, excite that basal ganglia nosegay of memory, make you want to get up and walk around with these words.
Look, for example, at a few lines of James Westoff’s “Dog Farm,” which starts you right out with a funny heartbeat and keeps surprising you along:
At one point, my father estimated we had over six hundred dogs.
We never talked about why. We usually just talked about how we could get more dogs. It was this thing in my family, our mission. Every morning at breakfast each went over his or her plan for that day. Here’s how I’m going to get some dogs.
Then there’s the painted beauty of Ashley Farmer’s stories, which remind me of a lovely Soviet ruin-porn website I’ve been frequenting, minus the social guilt. Just look at “Happy Hour,” printed here in its entirety:
In the city I find more city. Deer vault from parking structure to parking structure. When I jangle my keys they tremble near concrete beams. It is so wild when the building shakes. I use my arms to protect myself. I avoid mirrors, filing cabinets, windows. In an emergency, the carpet beneath my desk becomes desert. I sift it for miles and I sweat through my jacket like an animal. My shoes are crammed with sand.
One day a train parked in the lobby, an accidental renovation of smoke and glass and crushed black granite. My neighbor stepped from the train. He stepped through shards of his reflection then through mine, his face alive and tan. Happy hour began happening at the nearest outdoor assembly points, but who was smiling? Then the girders and skylights assembled again. They began their slow repair, just like us. Then neared repair. Nearer and nearer. Repairing.
Or maybe read these lines taken from Jim Ruland’s very short fiction “[Not] [So] [Long] [Ago]”
The forest is so beautiful.
It is old and the trees soar and the soil ticks with blood.
There are birds and then… something else.
It starts as a whine and grows louder and louder until the barely audible complaint transforms into a thunderous howl that shatters the silence.
[A] [ ] [ ] [ ] [train.]
In a quiet forest, you can hear them coming from a long way away.
Those who were killed here came in trains.
The poetry section too will tickle your enamel and your armhairs, will make you want to bend with the poets, bend into letters. Read “If I Were a Jackknife,” by San Francisco local Laura E. Davis, and you’ll see what I mean:
I’d have a slipjoint.
Put just the right pressure
on my back & I’d bend. The world
would be less circular, less filled
with old hymns. People could look through
the space my head took up in front of them
in the movie theater. But you wouldn’t
pin me against the back wall
credits rolling, hands on my ribs.
No ribs left. Just that slipjoint. My blade
would always be big enough
to fit back into my own handle.
I wouldn’t say this. I’d have
an awl or a can opener & I’d bend
half-wise, away from other sharp things.
That much would stay the same.
Don’t stop here, by any means. Wander around this issue, try it on like an endless set of footie pajamas that doubles as a fifty-person tent, that triples as an overgrown amusement park, painted all around with strange faces.