Yesterday, Peach published “I used to skate.” and “On Love and Gas Station Parking Lots” by Michael O’Ryan. Both poems focus in on the brutally mundane activities and longings of perpetual adolescence. O’Ryan’s words express a notion to explore something greater or more profound than that which has been provided by the flat gray suburban environment, scabbed knees, and out of town buses that will never arrive. These are parking lot kids yearning for transcendence, “There’s a certain level of masochism / involved in the process of learning / how to kickflip. There’s a certain level / of sadism involved in the process / of someone else caring about you.”
Last Friday on Peach, we featured “The Accidental Invention of Wallpaper,” a new poem by Chloe Bryan. Bryan evokes a vague, creeping sense of the surreal in her language, as if something important and perilous has been forgotten along the corners of an everyday experience. “A bull has escaped in Queens, he’s trotting down Archer Avenue / and taking breaks in yards. Reporting this is easy: you just wait / for it to die. I pick up a cheeseburger from the red awning down the street. / That I am eating this meat is not lost on me.” The re-occurring food imagery and the delicately strange story suggested by the poem’s title lend the entire piece a nagging notion of a quiet anxiety you know deep down will not come to pass.
The Girlfriend Game
By Nick Antosca (short fiction)
Word Riot Inc., 176 pages
The Girlfriend Game is a collection exploring the human fear of endings. Antosca’s stories present scenarios of deep loss. People have passed away, sometimes through the most horrible of circumstances. Lifelong ambitions have fizzled out and relationships have soured. In these most vulnerable moments, eerie and dreamlike possibilites are able to take over the characters lives, oftentimes in ways that magnify the personal horrors that have befallen them. “Mammals” finds the tiny bits of joy and hope in a man’s life leading him into unspeakable circumstances. “Rat Beast” is a nauseating fever dream in which clinical depression literally robs the narrator’s brother of his humanity. The title story finds a young couple’s favorite bar trick taken to its most destructive conclusion, irrevocably shifting the dynamic of their relationship forever.
The Girlfriend Game is not a book about hope. The narrator of the aforementioned “Rat Beast” describes the encroaching shadow of his condition as “I just all at once staggered under the weight of a heavy unhappiness that seemed to come out of walls and ceilings and wrap itself around me. People’s faces looked like masks carved out of old knotted wood. They seemed not to have eyes unless I looked very closely. I saw shadows everywhere that didn’t exist, and I thought thoughts like; WHAT’S THE POINT and IS LIVING LIFE WORTH HAVING TO BE ALIVE?” This is a bleak landscape that only becomes bleaker as Antosca pulls at the seams of reality. At the very least, however, there is the knowledge of hitting rock bottom, of staring the long suspected worst possible scenario in the eye, and for a lucky few of the survivors, the sense of a new beginning.
“Peach Picks” is a column of literary news and recommendations written by the editors of Peach Mag, an online literary magazine based in Buffalo. For inquiries, contact the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.