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Tahoma Literary Review 22
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Tahoma is a font, a domotics device, the name for a baby, a mountain (aka Mount Rainier), and a city in Washington state. For the purposes of this review, it is also the literary journal where my short story “Spoons” found its home.

This review is, however, not about my story (though I hope you’ll read it and maybe even like it). This review is about how poetry, fiction, and nonfiction play in issue no. 12 of the Tahoma Literary Review.

Playing with Form

Issue 22 opens with a poem. There is no other way to talk about this work than to reproduce it in its entirety. The title is “Nine Drops of Turpentine.”

Dear Daughter,

If a time comes where there is no other
way / if you find that the world has turned
bitter as nine mugwort / if you suspect
that your blood will sour should you begin
to produce drops of milk / if in the moment
the pit of your turpentine stomach chokes
the soft night of your throat / if you
want to preserve the sweet valley of flesh
in between your evergreen legs / if
I’m not there to knit the bones of your hips
back together with my teaspoon hands / if
you are alone but do not want to be,
like the final elm in a forest of sugar
felled lovers / if there is no friend
to steady your bulging branches, to whisper
you still / if you reach for me and find me
empty or nine days gone, save yourself,
life will come back through if it needs to.

Alafia Nicole Sessions, ”Nine Drops of Turpentine” in Tahoma Literary Review, Issue 22 (Mar 2022)

In her contributor notes, Sessions tells us that this poem was written once Texas banned abortion after week six. She asked herself a question on many of our minds since the leak of the Supreme Court decision to undo Roe v Wade. What I would say to my young daughter when she is of reproductive age? Nine drops of turpentine is a homegrown recipe to rid dogs of unwanted pregnancies. A message in a bottle for these dystopian times.

Playing with Numbers

On a slightly lighter note, Tahoma Literary Review offers “The Ice Cave” by Gabriela Denise Frank. This nonfiction work features a woman on the edge of burnout. Would an adventurous holiday in Iceland fix whatever is broken?

1. The morning of my forty-fifth birthday, I decided to quit my job. Not immediately, but soon.

10. My husband had been begging me to quit. Michael had a heart attack at my age; he didn’t want the same to happen to me. He wanted me to be happy, to finish writing my novel.

-7. The idea of torching the prison of my life made me feel buzzed.

154. Of my many misapprehensions, this was a minor one.

Gabriela Denise Frank, ”The Ice Cave”

This is not me randomly selecting sections from “The Ice Cave.” Having worked on this essay for years, Frank reached the point of desperation. She numbered her sections, cut them into strips, then tossed the lot into the air. It turns out, breaking up the chronology set the essay free.

Playing with Time

Flash is all about time. Usually defined as a piece less than 1000 words long, flash can manipulate time in numerous ways. For example, a single moment can explode into an incident heavy with symbolic weight.

This is the effect of “Rerock” on me. It depicts a tender moment between father and son. Ray is the father. I’m guessing the son to be six or seven. Old enough to do the math.

“Four parts to one part baking soda. Too much cut, that’s another way to burn your shit. We gone start with four grams. So, how much cut we need?”

”One gram,” the boy replied.

David Simmons, “Rerock”

This son has been schooled to know the meaning of water soluble and bioavailability. To never answer a question with a question in his voice. Ray and son are cooking cocaine to turn it back into a rock that can be recut and sold. Dear old dad says to little junior, “I’m just tryin’ to give you a skill. If something happens to me, you won’t be lost.”

There’s so much more to enjoy in this issue of the Tahoma Literary Review. The lovely essay by Kelly Grogan, “This Tiny Enormous Life,” on losing a pet to coyotes; an elegaic homage to “The Teacher” by Monica Mische; more Iceland in Andrea Lewis’ short story “Ragnarok;” and a lovely, creepy poem “Trick or Treat” by Rita Mae Reese.

Some of these great works (like “Rerock”) can be read on the Excerpts page of the Tahoma Literary Review website. The similarly brilliant flash nonfiction essay by Susan L. Leary, “There Will Be More Sunrises” is also online. Starting August 1, you’ll find my story “Spoons” there, too.

29 May 2022 | Karen Kao