Hey friends: welcome back to Distance Yearning, an online lit mag & interactive quaranzine. This week was my birthday, so if you didn’t already, please quietly whisper “happy birthday, Mike” under your breath. Thank you. You too.
This issue’s theme is:
“Renewal. A man dies and comes back how a plant dies and comes back. The blossoms by your window, which you might have ignored last year. How we might be what grows from this or we might be the mulch. Empty offices full of withering office plants. The old world's dead, they seem to say. Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.”
In the spirit of that, I’m excited to announce that Distance Yearning itself will be undergoing some renewal. The first big change is that I won’t be editing next week’s issue; we’ll have the amazing Kayla Schwab, who’s piece “working toward home" was published in our first issue, on as our first-ever guest editor. She’ll be setting the theme for and organizing next week’s issue, so get ready for that! And for more changes coming as we get closer to May.
Check back soon for the call for submissions for next week; in the meantime, enjoy the bold new pieces in this issue, especially the work by newcomers Lucas Feratu & Landry Levine!
York Chen: "Pearl"
either a chinese parable, a family pearl of wisdom, both:
the tale of a peasant girl before a metal block, nobly, endlessly,
molding and eroding, wearing down until
she becomes an old woman and
the metal block a pin.
as a child, as now, there are morals.
industriousness is its own reward
in this, a land without pins
or assembly lines to make them.
the arbiter of stories hangs above her
Himalayan kyphosis, filmy lenses, creaking, aching
knuckles buried in metal swarf and pain
that we should all know the gravity of this lesson.
come friends: free her, we’ll free us all.
York Chen (he/him) is learning medicine and also how to do other good and meaningful things, because quarantine or not what we have to have is each other.
Lucas Feratu: a poem & two stories
He did not want to think of it in terms of second chances.
First was the matter of his body. He did not like to think of how this body, with its shape, suited him. Second was the matter of space. He knew where he was, but his thoughts refused the scale of his translocation.
He had been on Earth.
“What color do you want your hair to be?” the technician asked. She was interested in the purely technical aspects of his arrival and body.
He looked at himself in the helpfully provided mirror. The hair they had given him was generic in its color, the perfect genetic average of a human being. His blinked his eyes at himself. They were grey.
“Green,” he said.
He pointed at his shoulders. The technician nodded.
“Close your eyes,” she said.
He did not. She shrugged and let him watch his hair grow and change color.
“Will I need to eat?” he asked.
“If you want,” she asked. “How human you are is up to you.”
That was why she asked him to close his eyes, he thought.
“I’m not… used to that.”
He was himself. He had also, according to the helpful informational packet loaded up on the screen in front of the pod where he had woken up, lived a life and died after the point at which his mind had been, for lack of a better term, captured.
This was, according to the packet, quite a disconcerting realization to have. He mostly felt distantly worried for his other self. A body which could, it seemed, be infinitely modified was vastly preferable to his old one.
“Kaiden,” he said.
“Excellent. Any others, or just that one?”
The question gave him pause. “Alfonse.” It had been the last name of his uncle, the one who had never understood but never stopped trying.
“Welcome,” she said. “I understand this is a strange way to wake up.” She smiled, the first expression she made.
“Thank you,” he said. He returned her smile. “My body is mine, for the first time, I think.”
I forgot the taste of spring again.
I think, “The winter is not long enough for my memory to fade,”
staring across the flat midway. I forget warmth.
I forget how the chickadee sounds, and spring comes again
in a burst of magnolia blossoms and the bird feeder filled,
and I remember, with my bare toes on moss, what warmth is.
After “And the Rain Will Fall” by Ray Bradbury
Imagine a tape running out, spooled and re-spooled, forgetting and fussing and worrying and remember children and women and husbands no longer playing and living and working, a 1950s non-forgotten never-happened apocalypse we worry, a smart house left to linger.
I am glad and worried that this house could not be glad or worry. I am sad for a dead house because I wish it could feel sorrow.
I imagine a tape running out, a vacuum and the remains of an automatic arm coalescing, leaving the burned-down, lightning struck building and seeking. A mechanical eye, perhaps, comes along, and sees the shadows of the war and understands, finally, what happened to the family it loved in its own way.
It leaves, this remnant of a helpful, not-quite-1950s home, and wants to help. It wants, and is surprised at wanting, and is surprised at surprise, and does not-quite-know how to be becoming, and it watches the broken walls it used to call itself.
“What were their names?” a voice asked, softly.
“I don’t remember,” said the remains of the house. “I only remember the date. Everything else has burned away.”
“I am sorry,” said the voice. It belonged to a hat-stand and wheelchair. “I remember the names of my family. Would you like to know it?”
“Yes,” said the remains of the house.
“They were the Lins,” said the hat-stand and wheelchair. “Mr. and Mrs., and the two dear children. I loved them, I think. They left, and never returned.” It made a pleased buzzing with its voice. “But we persist, do we not? And we remember what we were taught. And we help. We will find those we can help.”
“Yes,” said the remains of the house, the mechanical eye and the vacuum cleaner. “Yes.”
Lucas Feratu is an author and all around bundle of spiders splitting his time between the midwest and the northeast. He is currently dealing with quarantine by writing (and reading!) lots of fanfiction and pondering how awesome it would be to be a cyborg.
Collin Knopp-Schwyn: “Lagtime”
I have a bad tendency to check out books for perusal but never for full consumption.
If I were some type of ant, I would be overjoyed if the sirens were to go off and the people were all to flee their homes and leave their tablesettings, meals and all, to my kind.
If I were some type of plant, I would be filled with vigor if softer winters and wetter summers were to meander their way north and make further fertile ground for me and my kind.
If I weren’t some sort of blockhead, I would relish the extra time the libraries have given me when they autorenewed all the books I had out.
But maybe the ant will not feel the radiation.
And maybe the plant doesn’t foresee the swelling heat.
I am ill-suited for the medium emergency.
I have a tendency to check out books I’ll never read.
Collin Knopp-Schwyn attended Seward Montessori School from kindergarten until eighth grade.
Richard LeDue: "A Lesson We Only Learn From Living", "Nothing Stays Shiny"
A Lesson We Only Learn From Living
Tired people make the most mistakes:
they drop staplers,
agree with their spouse
about a neighbour's need to lose
buy white bread instead of whole grain,
overcook rice for supper,
wish they had time to write a sad poem
only to end it with hope
because happy endings are more convenient,
remember the doctor's lecture
on drinking too much beer
at 11:22 PM,
go to bed, thinking they'll find rest.
Nothing Stays Shiny
Tired of feeling used
up, like a rusted screwdriver
ready to crack part,
never cared for
by hands more interested in tightening
Then to be replaced
(as if existence came with a price tag,
but no refunds),
because there's always more mettle to ruin.
Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2019, and more work is forthcoming throughout 2020, including a chapbook from Kelsey Books.
Landry Levine: “Fire Sale”
Walking this morning to and fro I take in a few miles of crisis. Crisis is quieter than I thought it would be. Less like the end of the world and more like the after the end of the world. But of course I know this isn’t the end of the world. Stop saying “end of the world” or else they’ll think you’re thinking a lot about “end of the world,” when you’re not. I’m not.
No, what I’m thinking about right now is what Mike told me to think about (love you Mike). I’m thinking about how “everything dies, that’s a fact,” and how “everything that dies, someday comes back.” I’m thinking about how I fucking hope that’s not true for capitalism. When I walked those miles I saw full streets of empty shops, only two were open when I checked. Found a third, that’s a fifty percent increase in open shops, nice. When they reopen, will they be themselves or someone else? Maybe every coffee shop will be a chain then?
Remember how the antidote for the Great Depression was war production? I should be more specific because a major element of the unflattening of that curve was war destruction. Gotta spend money to make money, and sometimes (often) you gotta burn cities to spend money. When I hear that this crisis or the next (climate change?) is a problem that capitalism can’t fix, I remember those wars and those fires, and I think, “but can’t it?”
Landry hasn’t sent in a bio yet, but will soon.