Letter from the Editor

Photo by Maeve Holler

Dear Reader,

Today, we release the sixth issue of Sinking City. It is the first day of the Fall 2019 semester at the University of Miami and the sky is teeming with a thick humidity only known as August to South Floridians. The air is wet & dense & impenetrable.

For us in Miami, today marks the end of the eternal summer. Perhaps for The Girl Caught in a Landslide, today is merely a Monday where she is remembered again as out-of-place and subterranean. Or perhaps she, like many of us, is being Rapunzeled, over & over again.

Today, the Queen of the Sunken City is resurrected in flashes of yellow. For her, today may be a tool of re-imagination. A way of knowing The Broken Parts are only a blurry recollection of yesterday. And perhaps, while she flares in between space & time, the Queen rides slow on a ’77 Alva, Megamillions ticket in hand.

In Sinking City’s sixth issue, 11 writers, poets, and artists explore the mechanisms of today, tomorrow, and yesterday. They question the validity of reality and expand with futurism into possibility. Like our previous Managing Editor Stephanie Lane Sutton wrote about issue five, while Sinking City is directly dedicated to bringing attention to climate change and environmental issues, “these pieces are less about the environment itself & more about the challenges of intersecting identities during our historical moment.”

I am encouraged by these pieces to consider a universe beyond the challenges at hand. These writers and artists expand the concept of probability tenfold. And, sitting in the high morning sun of Miami, watching the pregnant rain clouds flit by, I know that the work in this issue is much needed, and will continue to generate new meaning over time, sight unseen. As Alina Stefanescu writes, “If you watch a plant, it won’t grow.”

On behalf of the MFA program at the University of Miami, I am honored to welcome you to this realm. And whatever today means for you, wherever you are, I hope these pieces grow alongside you—no matter what storm, or lack thereof, you are facing.

Sincerely,

Maeve Holler

Managing Editor, Sinking City

Galatic Energy, Sea Life

by Sandy Coomer

Sandy Coomer is an artist and poet living in Brentwood, TN. Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies and she is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection titled Available Light (Iris Press). Her art has been featured in local art shows and exhibits, and has been published in journals such as Lunch Ticket, Gravel, The Wire’s Dream Magazine, Up the Staircase, Taxicab, Spider Mirror and The Magnolia Review, among others. Sandy is currently the director of Rockvale Writers’ Colony in College Grove, TN.

Three Translations of Jacques Viau Renaud

Sendero

by Jacques Jacques Viau Renaud

Sendero retorcido de dolor
mordido por la sangre
y botas que envenenan.
Sendero fecundado de cruces,
de cielos ausentes
y de esqueletos de árboles
en coloquio con la muerte.
Con la muerte que cicatriza llagas
llagas abiertas
para mi solo
por mi solo
para el hombre
por los hombres.
Sendero que huye de la urbe
ebrio de humo y de alchoholes
dilatados de ausencias
espera…
Sendero de abortada presencia
de horizontes
siempre viejos
mordido
por la sangre
y botas sordas
al gritos de la tierra.

Path

translated by Ariel Francisco

Path twisted by pain
bitten by blood
and poisonous boots.
Path fertile with crosses
of absent heavens
and skeletal trees
in colloquium with death.
With a death that scars over sores
open sores
only for me
for man
for mankind.
Path that flees the city
drunk on smoke and silences
where the drunk whore of liquor
dilates absences
wait—
Path of aborted presences
of horizons
always old
bitten
by the blood
and deaf boots
to the howls of the earth.

Estoy Tranando de Hablaros de mi Patria

by Jacques Viau Renaud

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
aquella que comienza a deslizarse
allá donde crecen las guazabaras,
las cayenas fragiles,
los cantaros sedientos y polvorientos,
la yerba rara,
amarillenta,
solitaria lanza midiendo el corazón de mi Isla.

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
desde aqui,
desde mi guarida salina,
desde Santo Domingo,
quizas os hable de ambas:
son dos terrones complementarios
puntos cardinales de mi tristeza
caidos de la rosa de los vientos
como amantes cuyo abrazo se rompieran.

ESTOY tratando de hablaros de mi patria,
de su prole de montes y altibajos,
de planicies soñolientas,
donde ha mucho parieron ríos:
muchedumbre de cristales apiñados en las hondonadas.

MI PATRIA
es una tierra elevada
de dilatados herbazales y doradas mazorcas
que cruzan los mares y se van muy lejos
mientras los hombres del monte y la llanura
se dilatan hambrientos.

Es una tierra con muchos montes pelados,
sonoros rios de apaciguada fauna
y violentos vegetales…

CRUJE mi patria al parir
y sus proles se reducen
y parecen hojas desprendidas
confundiéndose en los bosques con la magra corteza de los
arboles.

ALLI, aprisionada entre dos brazos de arcilla,
roca y piedra,
duerme una ciudad que huele a muerto,
a caña madura,
a virgen alcohol terrosa
como resina de nudosas raíces destacadas.

ES UNA ciudad de calles sin nombres
y atajos de espanto,
habitada hasta en las grietas,
en las cloacas,
quedamente recorrida por las ratas y los murciélagos.

ES UNA ciudad de muchas proles numerosas,
de millares de niños que nunca crecieron,
que nunca supieron el color de los faroles
ni del alba con pan y sin lágrimas,
de niños que maduraron las tumbas,
la tierra apisonada adornada de girasoles,
y la luz de las pupilas ciegas.

ALLI he nacido,
de alli parti atado a la sangre,
solo, después de los años,
descubrí en mi pecho la mancha roja,
entonces aprendí a leer en las hojas,
a hablar con la tierra
y a callar cuando ella reconstruía la historia
de los muchos muertos que la sustentan,
de la sangre que alimentó sus frutas,
del llanto que sostuvo la precocidad de sus montes.

MUCHO tiempo ha transcurrido desde que parti,
nada ha cambiado,
siguen los ismos montes pelados,
la misma vegetación de vegetales y girasoles,
de cafetales oscuros y pastizales estrellados,
solo el hambre ha crecido,
ya no hay lugar en los cementerios
ni en mi Isla patrias,
solo dimensiones de tierra y harapo,
de muertos desencajados en el vientre del barro.

ASI es mi patria,
prolongación del Santo Domingo que llora,
asi es mi guarida,
prolongación del grito que recorre los montes,
los caminitos,
los bosques,
desde el otro lado de la sangre,
desde la mole de San Nicolás,
hasta la frente de cristal salobre
y esqueletos de peces mudos amontonados sobre la playa
creciendo y haciéndose montañas
entre redes hambrientas y ahumados pescadores.
Allí los muertos se hacen peces hermosos,
algas extensas, musgo silencioso,
o acantilado de rumores que la noche protege.

HE QUERIDO hablaros de mi patria,
de mis dos patrias,
de mi Isla
que ha mucho dividieron los hombres
allí donde se aparearon crear un río.

I am Trying to Tell You about My Homeland

translated by Ariel Francisco

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
the one that begins to slip
there where the guasabara trees grow,
the fragile peppers,
the thirsty dust covered pitchers,
the yellowish
strange grass,
lonely spear measuring the heart of my island.

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
from here,
from my saline lair,
from Santo Domingo,
maybe I’ll speak of both:
they’re two complimentary mounds
cardinal points of my sadness
fallen from the wind’s rose
like lovers breaking their embrace.

I’m trying to tell you about my homeland,
of her children, her peaks and valleys,
her sleepy plains
where countless rivers are born:
crowds of crystals huddled in the hollows.

My homeland
is a plateau
of betrayed herbs and golden corn
that cross the seas to go far off
while the people of the mountains and plains
grow with hunger.

It’s a land of many bare mountains,
loud rivers of cheerful wildlife
and violent flora.

My homeland cracked giving birth
and her children wither
and look like dying leaves
confusing themselves in the forest of thin barked trees.

There, imprisoned between two clay arms,
rock and stone,
sleeps a city that smells of death,
of sugarcane,
an earthly virgen liquor
like the resin of great gnarled roots.

It’s a city of nameless streets
and ghostly alleys
even the cracks are inhabited,
even the sewers,
quietly traversed by rats and bats.

It’s a city full of countless children,
of countless children that never grow up,
that never learned the colors of lanterns
or the dawn, with bread and without tears,
of children who ripen in tombs,
the tamped ground adorned with sunflowers,
and the light of blind eyes.

Here, I was born,
from there I left, tied to the blood,
alone, after years,
I found the red stain inside me,
and then learned to read the leaves,
to speak with the earth
and quiet when she reconstructs the history
of the many dead that sustain her,
of the blood that fed her fruits,
the screams that sustained her precocious mountains.

So much time has passed since I left,
nothing has changed
those same bald mountains go on,
the same vegetation of vegetables and sunflowers,
the same dark coffee fields and starry pastures,
only hunger has grown,
there’s no more room in the cemeteries
or in the crying eyes
or in my island homeland,
only dimensions of dirt and rags,
of the dead unhinged by the wind from the mud.

This is my homeland,
an extension of Santo Domingo crying,
this is my haunt,
extension of the cry echoing from the mountains,
the paths,
the forests,
from the other side of the blood,
from the mole of Saint Nicholas,
to the face of the brackish crystal
and the bones of deaf fish piled on the beach
making and becoming mountains
between hungry nets and smoked fisherman.
Here the dead turn into handsome fish,
covered in algae, silent moss,
or cliffs of rumors protected by the night.

I’ve been trying to tell you about my homeland,
of my homelands,
of my island
that has long divided man
there where they came together to create a river.

LA LLUVIA

by Jacques Viau Renaud

La lluvia se abría sobre el pavimento
dibujando.
Ociosas prostitutas
semiescondidas
se guarecian
esperando algun tonto beodo
que vierta en sus enganchados encantos
su semanal hambre aguantada
de agrio sudor infecundo
de mujer que se rompe las uñas y los dedos
de niños que aguardan el plato siempre lejano
el postre extrañisimo.

La vida transcurria
los focos de los automóviles
asediaban las calles de impúdicas visiones.
La voracidad babeante de los callejones oscuros
abría orificios en la carne del hombre.

Los guardias
y sus fusiles
la policia y sus garrotes
el espia y su largo oído
anunciaban el estallido
anunciaban la muerte sobre las espaldas de la lluvia.
Finamente cayendo
como lianas transparentes y quebradizas
que dejan entre sí estrechas compuertas
por donde el aire se escapa seco
en esta noche de caluroso diciembre
abierto a la sangre
como una migaja abandonada en un puñado de hambre.

La vida transcurria.
Los guardias
y las prostitutas se hacían señas
y pronto las palabras no eran más que recuerdo.
Los niños
cubrían sus cuerpecitos con sus manos
pequeñitas
expuestos a la lujuria del tiempo.

Los grandes señores
codeando la noche cambiaban de ropaje
para extirpar de la infancia
la honradez todavía incipiente de los arrabales.

Los callejones aullaban un sucio espanto.
La noche se deshacía
se alejaban las estrellas
las prostitutas
cansadas
bostezando se marchaban,
mientras que un niño limpiabotas
empujaba las pocas puertas que del amor quedaban.

Diciembre con dias sangrientos
y dilatados
empapados de savia rebelde
arrancada del pueblo como raíces
que van limpiando las mugrientas edades pasadas
levantando la vida.

The Rain

translated by Ariel Francisco

The rain opens over the pavement,
drawing.
Idle prostitutes
half hidden
protecting themselves
waiting for some drunk idiot
to empty into their charmed hooks
holding in that weekly hunger
of sour sterile sweat
of women that break their nails and fingers
of children that await that far off plate
the strange dessert.

Life goes on
the car headlights
besiege the streets with lewd visions.
The drooling veracity of dark alleys
opens holes in the body of man.

The guards
and their rifles
the cops and their clubs
the spies and their long hatred
announcing the blood
announcing the outbreak
announcing the dead on the back of the rain.
Falling finely
like transparent and brittle vines
leaving narrow gates between them
where the dry air escapes
in this hot December night
open to the blood
like an abandoned crumb in a handful of hunger.

Life goes on.
The guards
and prostitutes signal each other
and soon words will only be memories.
The children
cover their small bodies with their hands
tiny
exposed to the lust of time.

The large men
hustling through the night change clothes
to remove their childhood
honor still incipient in the suburbs.

The alleys howl a dirty ghost.
Night comes undone
the stars back away
the women
tired
yawning, they march,
meanwhile a shoeshine kid
pushes the few doors left by love.

December of bloody
and dilated days
soaked with the sap of rebellion
pulled from the people like roots
that clean the grim past
lifting up life.

Letter from the Editor

It is the night before the fifth issue of Sinking City is released & there is a rip current warning in effect. It’s mid-February & I can’t remember the last time I touched the ocean.

In the Arabian peninsula, Jabal Al-taweel freezes & thaws as it stretches to the sky. In Cape Cod, the temperature skirts above & below freezing, turning snow to slurry before freezing to the ground.

In Marquette, Michigan, where Krys Malcolm Belc lives, there is currently a blizzard. The National Weather Radar shows a light-blue storm, shaped like a semi-colon, spanning the entire width of the Upper Peninsula.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of Lake Michigan, Chicago barely thaws from last month’s polar vortex. A light snow is falling on Cermak & California as commuters wait for the 21 Bus to take them East or West.

In Southern Louisiana, rain clouds will withdraw, only to circle back & rain again by midnight tonight.

Today in Beijing, the temperature is -5 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, in Bogotá, the humid air hangs at a balmy 13°C. In Emperatriz Ung’s poems, dishes break like blossoms under the heel & fuse together again.

This year, the ground hog did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring. In his 132 year history, Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow has evaded him only 19 of times; 5 of those instances occurred since 2007. A February 7th report stated that the past 5 years have been the hottest in the history of recorded weather.

In Sinking City’s fifth issue, 19 poets, writers, & artists show what it means to live in a world teetering on apocalypse. It’s the first issue produced by a second generation of editors, & we’ve sought to honor & expand this magazine’s founding mission. Often, these pieces are less about the environment itself, & more about the challenges of intersecting identities during our historical moment.

In the morning, Coral Gables will be doused with rain as we graduate students assume our day-to-day positions as teaching assistants, administrators, & scholars. I will sweat inside my navy-blue raincoat & attempt (unsuccessfully) to leap over growing puddles in my bright pink Converse sneakers. Meanwhile, my family in the midwest will prepare for lake effect snow, & wait for me to crack a joke about how I’m never moving back. We’ll all laugh. Then I’ll remember the approaching hurricane season. I’ll remembering that Miami Beach will be entirely under water by the time my future children are old enough for college.

As I prepare to release the fifth issue of Sinking City into the world, I find myself meditating on the words of recently departed Mary Oliver: Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination. Through the process of compiling this issue, I have found myself pausing, again & again, to linger on the images & stories of these 19 contributors. Again & again, I am transported by their work, to new places & new perspectives.

When the storm clears again, I will fix my gaze on the sky & wait to see what new birds will pass by in their migration. I often wonder if lifelong Floridians have grown used to the sight of them, the way that I, in my final year at the University of Miami, no longer feel a pang of sublimity at the sight of a royal poinciana arcing across the road.

Where ever you are, in your own late winter, on behalf of the MFA program at the University of Miami, it is my honor to offer you these worlds of imagination.

Signed,

Stephanie Lane Sutton
Managing Editor, Sinking City