Started to say. Began to chuckle. Proceeded to enter.

I’ve taught writing workshops, and I’ve participated in them, and the rule has been the same no matter where I’ve sat: writers must avoid the dreaded in-between states. Because a reader can’t easily imagine starting, beginning, proceeding. So:

Said. Chuckled. Entered.

Much better.

For some reason, however, it is easier to imagine characters in in-between states: the dying, the dreamy, the threshold-crossers.

In “Half a World Away,” the reader, too, is in a state of flux—of not quite realizing what’s happening at first. (And that’s not just because of the charming Irish-isms that Darragh McManus has injected into this American journal.) The characters in the story bleed onto the page, their voices distinct and comforting, and this manages to safely carry a reader to a place of understanding. This story brought back memories of too many close calls on O’Connell Street, the double-decker buses taking sharp corners more quickly than I could cross the street. The story has a sweetness to it, but not a sappiness, and also—if you choose to read it this way—a message of humanitarian mercy.

Mercy? No. Not for the character in Meg Sefton’s “A Woman Rides a Train,” whose identity is in the air, up for grabs, built by others’ eyes. There is nothing merciful about this inexorable trap that smart, aware women unwittingly find ourselves in—the trap we rarely admit can snag us if we don’t pay careful attention: men look at us, and we exist, but that same male gaze is a thief. When men don’t look, are we even there? Objectification can reassure us of an invented identity, one created by the objectification in the first place, and the loss of it equals loss of self, or alternately, rebirth. This story is deceptively simple–dense with subtext, including the title. Sefton renders it extraordinarily well, giving room for these connotations to swim in the hole where the character “became no one and everyone, both at once.”

Gary Percesepe’s “Falling” sends us winding through the airspace of a dream, a love-dream that tingles with love-zeal, a whole-body detumescense that, fingers crossed, is not at all a coming-down. The last lines are especially fiery, asking a question to which I reply, Yes.

So, please: don’t start to read: Read.

Photo Source: City Pictures