Get In And Toss the Gun in Back

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Mauro Gallardo is a writer and ukulelist living in Monterrey, Mexico, and recently completed his first novel, I Liked You Better When You Were A Junkie.

In Gallardo’s short story in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue, “Get In and Toss the Gun in Back,” translated by ZYZZVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, we encounter a narrator who relies on good humor and quick thinking to deal with the mayhem that has come to define his city. (Monterrey is Mexico’s third largest city and one of the hardest hit by the ongoing drug war.) Coming back from a disastrous date, he diverts a carjacking into something like a joyride. Funny and surprising, Gallardo’s story could be viewed as one young man’s way of staying human amid a wretched situation.

The following is an excerpt from his story.

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In a Way That Satiates

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The writing on Mexico’s drug war in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue featured some harrowing pieces of reportage by young authors and journalists Diego Enrique Osorno and Marcela Turati. (You can read their pieces in full here and here.) But it also featured impressive pieces of fiction, such as this short story by the internationally-acclaimed Mexican author Daniel Sada (1953-2011).

Translated by Katherine Silver, “In a Way That Satiates” tells of a narco-party that goes sideways when three heads are discovered in an ice chest otherwise full of beer. It’s a striking piece of fiction, both funny (“At first the drinks were cola sodas: Coca and Pepsi, each according to his preference, but then they brought out the Fantas, Mirindas, and Orange Crushes. Not a lot of diversity, one might say.”) and sinister (“Female wake-weeping that waned with time, it had to; especially because the mental always ends up defeating the sentimental. That’s the way of the world.”).

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On the Drug War in Mexico: An Introduction

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From mid-August through mid-September, the Caravan for Peace will wend its way across the United States, having started in San Diego and eventually arriving at Washington, D.C.  Part of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, an organization in Mexico “dedicated to giving voice to the families of victims of [the drug war] and to publicizing the real costs of this war,” the MPJD believes “it is the Mexican government’s responsibility to provide justice and reparations” to the thousands upon thousands of victims of the drug war and is doing what it can to hold that government accountable.

The Caravan for Peace seeks the same from the United States, and will be traveling the country, meeting with various folks and organizations that agree several urgent issues must be addressed here, too, to help end the chaos. They are “the need to stop gun trafficking; the need to debate alternatives to drug prohibition; the need for better tools to combat money laundering; and the need to promote bilateral cooperation in human rights and human security in two priority areas: promotion of civil society and safety, as well as protection and safety for migrants.”

With that in mind, this month ZYZZYVA will run excerpts from our section on the drug war in the Spring 2012 issue. (The section is available as an ebook, too, from Byliner.) We begin with journalist and author John Gilber‘s introductory essay, presented in full. Gibler’s essay gives context to the various works appearing in the section (a couple of which he also translated). Published in April, the themes of the essay still hold true (though you can read an update to the essay here.) The statistics are grim, but they do not occlude the fact that there are valiant people–among them, poets, writers, and artists–peacefully seeking a change.

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The Sasquatch Poems

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In ZYZZYVA’s Summer 1996 issue, there appeared a long poem on an unusual topic by Sherman Alexie, whose work had already appeared in Issues No. 26 and 39. (His eighth book, the novel “Indian Killers,” would be published by Grove/Atlantic that fall.)

Despite its seemingly jokey title, “The Sasquatch Poems” is anything but. Humorous, yes, but also a sharp consideration of the cultural presumptions behind the dismissal of the Pacific Northwest’s creature of legend. As the poem’s speaker suggests, “Indians can only be proven superstitious/ if non-Indians are proved to be without superstition.”

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East of the 5, South of the 10

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In its Fall 2005 issue, ZYZZYVA published a short story by Margaret Weatherford titled “East of the 5, South of the 10.” The tale–a witty and wised-up L.A. story in which Zeus and Hades have divvied up the Southland between them–marked her first time in print. Margaret Weatherford, born in 1966, died of cancer on March 30.

Along with her story in ZYZZYVA, she was also published in Paris Review Daily and in Little Star. The following is Ms. Weatherford’s story, in its entirety, from our Fall 2005 issue.

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Final Letter from a Crossing Guard

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Patrick McGinty, who was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a graduate assistant in the MFA program at Portland State University. His story “Final Letter from a Crossing Guard,” published in ZYZZYVA’s Winter ’11 issue, marks his first time in print.

A dark but humorous missive from a mother at the end of her rope, “Final Letter” does carry emotional heft, despite the narrator’s occupation, which could lend itself to easy ridicule but doesn’t here. The following is an excerpt from McGinty’s story.

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Terra Incognita

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Melina Draper is a poet living in Fairbanks, Alaska. Her most recent book is Lugar de Origen–Place of Origin (Oyster River Press), a bilingual book of poetry co-written with Elena Lafert.

“Terra Incognita” is one of her two poems published in ZYZZYVA’s Winter ’11 issue. Both poems take Charles Darwin’s travels through Argentina in the 19th century as their theme. In “Terra,” as Darwin uncovers fossils in a place that “quaffed blood, ingested gristle, guts, and bone,” it’s hard not to think of Los Desaparecidos, the thousands upon thousands of people who “disappeared” during Argentina’s so-called Dirty War of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

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The Bull

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Josh DuBose, who lives in North Hollywood, is an actor and and a writer, as well as the owner/operator of a small transcription firm catering to entertainment journalists. His story “The Bull,” published in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter ’11 issue, is his first work to appear in print.

A riff on the Ugly American, “The Bull” details a honeymoon destined to go wrong. Bawdy but thoughtful, the story ultimately goes to a surprising place, playing the narrator’s laugh-out-loud misadventures against a yearning he can’t quite define. The following is an excerpt.

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The Winning Crowd

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The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andrew Carnegie Medal, and PEN Center West Best Book Award, Gary Soto is the author of thirty-five books. His most recent are the e-novel When Dad Came Back (University Press of New England) and the YA story collection Hey 13! (Holiday House).

“The Winning Crowd,” his nonfiction piece in ZYZZYVA‘s Winter 2011 issue, is Soto’s account of attending a 49ers game (pre-Harbaugh era) with a friend, arriving at the stadium dressed “to the nines.” Funny and sinister, the piece could be read as a straight-ahead story of civility and elegance stirring the wrath of slovenly, crude sports fans. (As anybody who attended games at Candlestick Park last season could tell you, there was plenty of uncivil behavior at Niners games.) But it also works as a broader tale of how signs of culture and style can upset the very community you consider yourself part of.  The following is an excerpt.

Soto reads with Faith Gardner and Blossom Plum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley.

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Bile

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Christine Lee Zilka‘s story, “Bile,” appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of ZYZZYVA. Written from the point of view of the youngest of two children living in Pasadena, the story examines the passing of bitterness from one generation to another, as a Korean father bred on battle forces his children to appreciate his harder life growing up through war. Zilka portrays through a first-generation American family how the culture of war —the “ancestral fear” that chases a new age — cannot be properly digested.

“Bile” is framed by the ritualistic tasting of a gall bladder, something the father procured from a trapped bear. The narrator witnesses her brother, Eugene, being forced to lick the bladder, saying, “I can only tell you the before and the after, because I did not watch them feed Eugene the bile.”

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The Three Sisters

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Christopher Warden’s story, which ran in the Fall 1989 issue of ZYZZYVA, is perceived in a childlike imagination, where the violent reality of adulthood is rejected in favor of dream, where physical boundaries are first explored and adult consequences (mortality, discipline) seem like the afterlife. “The Three Sisters” is about a nine-year-old boy, a sort of Peter Pan figure, visiting in the night three young sisters who take form with specific folk-like characteristics (enchanted hair, teeth that talk — not to mention the jealously among them). The storytelling here, brief and openhearted, conceives the real world as if in a dream: every object carries the possibility of intensity and drama: “He walked out into the water. There were sandbars going out a long way. The boy pretended they were islands, and he walked from island to island looking for the three sisters.”

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poem beginning in no and ending in yes

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Octavio Paz wrote that a poem’s meaning is derived from its form, that every form “produces its own idea, its own vision of the world.” This is interesting, especially, when we consider poems that experiment with layout on the page. Take, for example, the late Lucille Clifton’s piece titled, “poem beginning in no and ending in yes,” originally published in ZYZZYVA’s 1989 summer issue. (Clifton was teaching at the University of California at Santa Cruz at the time.) In the poem, Clifton memorializes 13-year-old Hector Peterson (the first child killed in the Soweto riot of 1976). She doesn’t use punctuation or capitalization, but the reader does not feel disoriented or lost. The poem is framed too effectively (as the title suggests, beginning the poem with “no” and concluding with “yes”). The images and message are able to burn “into the most amazing science,” as Clifton puts it.

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