“I did not want to be a girl,” writes Jari Bradley in “Flowers of the Field,” which opens the poetry section of this 20th issue of Hot Metal Bridge. The poems in this issue of Hot Metal Bridge write into and out of bodily experiences of being in a world where bodies are policed, marked, and defined by expectations surrounding race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, religion, class, and so on. Bradley goes on, in “Catfish: Caught,” to give us a prayer that I think can guide us through the rest of the issue: “I pray this time the hook be gentle.” Nancy Huang’s “Kate with the Heart-Shaped Shades” continues this troubling of girlhood through emphasizing its performative nature, writing, “I pick up the phone & say yes / it’s me. I am the girl / in that video.” Luther Hughes’ “homo sapien” depicts and enacts a ritual of re-entering the body through viscerality: “i spat blood in the sink to remind myself / i’m more than an entrance.” From here, Mah-ro Khan’s “Reclaiming skies” zooms out to ask what happens to the bodies of the dead, the bodies of those killed by war: “when will my people / cease to be the shards of a vase called empire?” Through a rhythmic litany, Emily O’Neill’s “not because you have to” considers the way memory lives in the body: “the nose, a memory organ.” In another kind of litany, Bonita Lee Penn’s “Rosary Prayers” creates a fractured vernacular of black womanhood, a language that crackles and speaks between the cracks: “If basics, held jobs. Mothers, so many, on knees. Arched hearts.” And Noel Quiñones “on my (father’s) queerness” considers the nested, connected nature of queer bodies: “I want / to know why his throat / leads to my father’s, my nails god / what a landscape of transitions.” Closing out the issue, Michael Torres’ “Suspended from School, the Pachucho’s Grandson Watches Happy Days While His Homie Fulfills Prophecy” confronts and celebrates the “prophecy” of the lives of brown boys in contrast to their white counterparts: “All my heroes are my homeboys / who move through the impermanence of their day.”
I’m grateful for this “landscape of transitions” and “gentle” “hook(s).” I hope that you enjoy reading.