COVER ART BY IZZY LAWRENCE
From the Editor
I read somewhere that babies born in lockdown must think their family are the only people who exist. It is as though we are being consumed by loneliness – all of us either untouched or afraid. There is no art that could cure the unimaginable loss of the past year. But in this space of shared visions, let the sun peek out at the edge of the sea, let yourself imagine that better days are possible (or even, inevitable).
This issue consists of poetry, essays, stories and art which looks at different things, in very different ways, but there is an intimate and obstinate thread running through it. All of the pieces come alive in the act of looking, in the careful and loving attention with which they observe. This observation could be of a dream, a state of mind, a ceiling, an era, a self – it doesn’t matter. The quality of vision transcends the object of its perusal. American artist, Roy Lichtenstein once said: “Art doesn’t transform. It just plain forms.” How magical, how rare – to see things as they are. I hope this issue makes you feel like a lockdown baby, finally seeing the world as it once was – eyes wide open, stunned by the grace of it all, thinking “Oh God, I didn’t know it could be like this.”
In times of crisis, says Frank O’Hara, we must all decide again and again whom we love. I would add to this: in times of crisis, we must all decide again and again where to look. But in the end, I think the two might be the same thing. In this issue, let us look at, and love, one another. And let that, for a brief moment, be enough.
The ceiling, it turns out, is trying really hard not to eavesdrop. It was a Tuesday afternoon when it happened. I — for no reason I could imagine — slid straight off a square of brown suede couch and planted myself flat on the carpet, face up. Maybe I wanted to see the world upended. Maybe the heat was just getting to me.
Miss Mamta’s house felt small in spite of the big windows overlooking the sea. The sun was hanging ripe and heavy over the cityscape, about to drop into the water. Ruhi sat in the living room, ankles pressed tightly together, waiting for Miss Mamta to come out of the shower. She wiped her palms on her skirt. The walls of the house seemed to beg for some breathing space.
I have attended three funerals in my life. This feels like a prophetic number, but also a reminder of grace – a blessing, to be able to count loss on one hand.The first was for a woman I barely knew, a relative I saw on Eid mornings. The only memory I have of her is a house with mossy vines growing on the balcony, the smell of spices wafting out of an over-crowded kitchen.