review by emily crawford (susquehanna university ’15) and jessica gilchrist (susquehanna university ’15)
The 2011 issue of Bucknell University’s Fire and Ice follows mourners as they cope with life after the deaths of loved ones. In her poem, “still,” Lauren Krichilsky writes about a young mother struggling to understand how the world can go on, while she remains thinking only of her stillborn child. The speaker sees the stillborn everywhere, saying, “my baby will be a votive / candle in every church / i visit. i see her among / shipwreck survivors.” These lines show her desperation to understand her daughter’s death as a tragedy that was out of her control. The death of her child has changed her so deeply that she can no longer look at herself the same way. The fragmented structure of the poem beautifully illustrates the pain of knowing that there was nothing she could have done to prevent her child’s death, making “still” stand out as one of the most evocative poems on grief in the journal.
While “still” offers a firsthand account, in “Bereavement” by Dan Haney, the speaker watches how his grandfather’s death has changed his grandmother and morphed his own views of living. Haney writes, “My grandmother would bake me cookies I did not want to eat / And put them in a ceramic jar she always forgot to clean / But she never could remember my name,” an observation that his grandmother has distanced herself from him so much that she cannot remember who he is. While at first it seems like his grandmother is deprived of emotional attachments due to the loss of her husband, the speaker spends the rest of the poem contemplating if the detachment serves as protection. It strikes a chord within the speaker as he begins to question his own attachments to the living, wondering if love is worth the pain of losing it someday. The emotional journey leaves the reader feeling heavy with the thought of what the toll of attachment truly is.
While the poems deal with a figurative contrast, the literal barrier formed by Apartheid in Jessica Domsky’s short story, “Two Worlds,” is broken when two characters bond over their anguish. When Annabelle Thompson—a young, white American working to change the unfair social structure in South Africa—is brutally killed, her mother travels to witness the trial. She becomes acquainted with Lesedi, the younger brother of Annabelle’s killer. Ms. Thompson surprises herself by immediately connecting with the boy and realizing how, much like her, he has allowed the grief of losing a loved one to overtake his life. Ms. Thompson advises Lesedi to make the most of his life, because, “You are not only living for yourself anymore, you are living for your brother. And Annabelle, too. They would want you to live for your people, for the thousands that have died for freedom.” This is a turning point in the story, as readers later see how Ms. Thompson becomes a mother figure to Lesedi.
The artwork in this issue represents death as darkness by pairing scenes familiar to the viewer with darkness, as portrayed by the smoker in “Lighting Up” by Courtney Weitzer. In this painting, a man surrounded by darkness lights a cigarette so that his face is illuminated. The burning end of the cigarette is a burst of light in the center of a dark canvas. The image works as a metaphor for the written works collected in this issue of Fire and Ice: the idea that something commonplace that all are confronted with, like tragedy, can serve to color life in a unique way.