From the Editor

This week, I’ve been blessed. It was my first mass, and I was enjoying the pageantry of the Catholic Church from the safe distance of the back pew. How plainly was I an outsider in this place—my hand didn’t go up in the sign of the cross, my knees felt strange on the praying bench, no sound came from my mouth in response to the father. This, good people, is what happens when you’re raised a non-practicing Jew and you send your child to Catholic School. But my son had a speaking part in this “play” and I’d be damned if I was going to miss it.

As we neared the part when you go up to receive the communion blessing, another mom, who undoubtedly noticed my out-of-placeness, leaned over and whispered, “You can go up too. Just cross your arms over your chest.” The writer in me thrilled. It was perhaps the writer that got up and followed the others. The human in me…well, have you ever been in the audience, watching a play, and suddenly found yourself on stage?

When it was my turn, I crossed my arms as instructed and immediately felt child-small. Father’s face seemed suddenly full of light. He was larger than life. His eyes held me as he spoke the blessing, the words of which are lost to my memory, and when he touched my forehead, I felt a warmth shoot through my body and settle in my core.

If I didn’t have a part to play, I might’ve just stood there stunned, but I followed the others back to our seats. When the mass was over, I rushed to my car and lost it epically.

This has stayed with me, as you might imagine. It reminded me that our job as creative people is to remain open, no matter how beautiful or broken the world. But how painfully hard it is to live so open! Our instinct is to protect ourselves, to close our eyes, cover our ears, tune out.

Were I to go back to mass or dare another blessing, I wouldn’t feel the same way, because I’d have shielded myself. It is too hard to feel so much. And yet, it is precisely this, feeling so much, that we can bring to the world.

It took this issue of Bracken so long to be born because we were waiting for bare-hearted creators to bring the woods and the wild to the page for you to enter and get gloriously lost.

The character on the cover got lost picking blueberries in the woods in 1894. The artist, Patty Grazini, is “drawn to the peculiarity of certain women, and their fleeting narratives and lives.” Another visual artist, Bathsheba Veghte, brings us creatures who know some things we have likely forgotten. “The Girl with the Flower Crown” by Amanda Greive throws her head back to receive an ancient blessing.

In “Wild Ones,” Vanessa Fogg’s revisiting of the myth of the Wild Hunt, being open to the wild is both glorious and costly. In “The Bridge” by Yukyan Lam, keeping your eyes open is not enough if your mouth stays closed.  In Jenifer Lawrence’s “Just When You Think You Know Everything,” the wild comes crushing into your life, changing everything. Bucket Siler’s “Fever” is full of love for the unlikely recipient, and “Random Advice for a Stranger About to Walk into the Deep Dark Woods (Alone) Wearing Red” by HL Fullerton is something to keep in your pocket on solitary autumn walks.

Our Poetry Editor, Jed Myers, without whom this issue wouldn’t have been born, talks about our poetry selections in his own letter. I want to add that this issue’s poetry section is particularly luscious. You’d do well to wander down its labyrinths, marvel at its family of selkies, and sit at dusk on its lake of dreams. And no matter how lost or root-bound you might become, know that you can always get up and leave.

I hope that for you something in this issue might for a moment seem to fill with light, become larger than life, and give you the blessing to go on and create.

Erin and Vanessa, thank you for lending your eyes and hearts. 

Ronda Broatch writes, in “I Want to Tell You,” “how we covered our eyes / to keep our souls from wandering.” May Bracken encourage you to keep your eyes open and let your soul wander!

Alina Rios