By Larry Wormington, Peauxdunque Review Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Bonjour, tout le monde. J’ai plaisir que de vous présente le numéro 9 du Peauxdunque Review. That was exhausting, by the way. Just presenting one, basic sentence in French took 120% of my college prerequisite language prowess (clearly) and a proof-read et le total structural edit by my tri-lingual, super spouse. She’s quite the human, my Khaleesi: lawyer, nurse, scuba-diver, head-turner, heart-stopper and -stealer, breathtaking ballroom dancer, mother of four high-flying, fire-breathing, world-conquering, yet somehow-benevolent dragons, and spouse to this addled idealist—an ame damnee undeserving of her catharsis. During one of our many family treks to witness some hidden waterfall, traverse some roiling river, or stand at the foot, or head, of some mysterious monolith, my children and I stop, hands-on-knees, praying for respite—hundreds of feet behind our private Brahma and her all-but-visible wings and boundless endurance—gaze upward, and inevitably blubber, “She’s … not … human … is she?” I always nod, breathe deeply, and respond, “True, but when we live past 100, we’ll have her to thank.”

Time: it’s that one wicked snitch we chase, but never catch. But, to steal, brand, and butcher an oft-shared witticism, it’s not about catching time, it’s about the chase. My Khaleesi may not know this, for I’m convinced she believes she will yet find Jupiter’s pool and stand naked and anew on the other side, beckoning I follow—what an intoxicating image. But life doesn’t work that way, my lovelies, and so I thank the Gods, the old and the new, every day, that I have my One, embodied totem, to remind me of what’s most precious, and fleeting.

Late, yes, we are so so late. There’s sand in my eyes, rocks in my pockets, and concrete blocks where my hands should be. I blame you, of course, for blaming myself is just too spot on. Here’s the part in my text where I would put the wink emoji, and the moment where everyone under 30 that still bothers to text me back, a.k.a. my kids, would show a friend, roll their eyes, but not return that emoji, because … “Dude, your dad is so old,” and send me a meme of congressional committee members asking tech geniuses to explain algorithms, or Kid Rock blasting Bud Light cans with a shotgun, ironically, of course, although not to him, sadly. So, yes, this issue is late. I am old. My wife is an advanced life form, whom I adore. My kids think I am even older, yet somehow still love me. I stare at my watch more and more. And our world is splitting in two. So, let’s just move on.

I’m always surprised, and then surprised that I’m surprised at all, when I reach inside my head to cog together where I am in this body and this time, and find how much of that state of my state resembles, mirrors, hell … even downright stares me right back down, in the wistful, wanting gravitas contained herein. I’m one of those folks who doesn’t want to hear about the movie beforehand. Sure, I watch the trailer. I see the clips. I get excited. But don’t walk up to me and tell me this is the movie of the century, that I’ll never be the same. You simply cannot lay that on me. And you don’t get to feel something that big for me. That’s my right, as a creative, to experience on my own, in my own time. Sure, I imbibe your poems, vet your stories, cry and laugh at your real-life experiences, and absorb your slap-dash brilliance throughout the process, but I consume it all in tapas—a beautiful bite here, a shot of colored liquor there, but never all together. Never until the gathering. I wait. I wait for our genre editors to work and whittle. I have my say along the way, as well, sure, but this is no tiny brass band; it’s an orchestra. And until our managing editor and maestro, Tad Bartlett, assembles all those chosen words, ordering and layering them, adding that pièce de resistance, there is no movie to see, no book to read, no real, living, breathing Peauxdunque Review to experience.

Now’s the time when I hear Brother Tad saying, is he about to blame me for how late this issue is? That son-of-a … But no. Breathe, Tad. The blame is squarely on me. The only reason I bring up our process, even while having a little fun with Tad along the way, is to draw attention to the tireless work that Tad, Emily, April, Chris, J.Ed, Susan, and all our delightfully diligent Peauxdunque Writers Alliance readers do to bring you each issue. Creating a literary journal is a true labor of love, as are the sacrifices our contributors make to bring their art into a world that sorely needs it, now more than ever.

Okay, I’ve given all the creatives a big, chef’s kiss, now to get back on-point. I’ll be completely honest; the team got their work done and hit their marks. I did not. Now, could I have pulled out a generic introduction and sent this thing to the printer weeks back? Yes. I could have literally mailed this thing in, if you count e-mail as mail, that is. But, I had seen the outtakes, screened parts of the movie, helped leave some clips on the cutting room floor. I knew this movie was going to move people, and I just couldn’t let it go out into the world without experiencing it all, several times, to give it the due it deserves. And to return to that opening paragraph about my family, my kids, my Khaleesi, and the chase, all I can say is that I had some rather large personal debts to settle first, and time is a heartless bastard I couldn’t let deprive me of my chance to do so.

Now I will attempt to attach the second strand of thought from which I started and so Larry-ly meandered away: how your poems, stories, and images somehow magically find me, and pull me back, however far I roam. It begins immediately, as it so often does, with our first piece in this collection, “A Distraction,” by Jen Mediano, which, for me, was just one more, much needed slap to find the moment, and immerse myself there, lest I, too, end up just someone else’s lost, forgotten friend whose end was unknown, and un-mourned. Kel, the main character says, “But my attention, like water into dusty cracks, always finds vulnerable openings. I steal parking spots and crash weddings. I enter through unlatched screen doors and side entrances. I get seats on standing-room-only trains.” Kel lives. Kel obliterates barriers, or ignores them entirely. There’s so much more going on here, too, about societal expectations and the satisfying, matter-of-fact rejection of traditional, BS power dynamics—all accomplished in a short flash piece. Powerful stuff, Jen. Our second piece, and first poem, “Zero Gravity,” by Kendall Dunkelberg, really hits at the heart of what I’ve been wrestling with, and how, most recently, I’ve changed my life to try and kick over all the stones, lest we leave anyone we cherish blind to that fact, or in any doubt, should our tomorrows become theirs alone. My favorite lines, the ones I felt for their duality of existence were, “So, facing the prospect of mortality, ours or our beloved’s, the body’s inevitable decline to decomposition, we can but pray to rein in free fall. Pray grief’s dark mountain not cast its shadow long into this bright valley; pray the sun may rise again after this endless night of rain, in free fall.” Thanks, Kendall, for splitting open the vein that is our shared inevitability. The world needs to embrace the thread instead of trying so hard to pull it apart.

We switch gears somewhat with our next piece, “Cochise,” by S.C. Ferguson. The poetry of jazz is on full display here, in a smooth, sweet narrative flow that would make James Baldwin proud. As artists, we all wrestle with the immutable force—the impetus, the muse—and how the resulting product of our endeavors is measured here, in Currencyworld. This following exchange with Camp, our main character, and his girlfriend, is a perfect illustration of an all-too familiar struggle:

“You know the library on Napoleon? The children’s library?”

“You were playing for kids?”


“Why kids?”

“That’s not important. What’s important is the music. And the music was incredible.”

And then later, this exchange, showing how, even in praise, we cannot hear, too deafened by our perceived faults:

“She stood before me, beaming. I might almost have been speaking to my mother or an aunt, relentless in her blindness to my faults. She knew nothing of this music, but I wanted to collapse, to fall and clutch her ankles and to beg for understanding. What is this if not failure? I’d have asked. What do I do who have failed so completely?”

Ferguson forces us to ask, what if this is it? All the recognition we get for our “talent”? The doe-eyed sing-song of children and the kind words and nods of those we perceive as oblivious? Who will notice or care what it takes to give what we have? Our answer, our forced, yet necessary mantra, MUST be: Kids, adults, dark stages, sparsely-populated reading/music rooms, and audiences of one all matter. We speak, we sing, we chant, we move, we paint, we play, we sculpt, we create—pull voices, tones, and images from the ether. We are the conduit to that other place. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. Who decides the worth? We—the messengers. For what swims beyond these shores, who can say? But in your words, and in my own thoughts, I sense the great certainty of an end, and beyond that, some prayer of renewal. We see this in so many of our works this issue, as with “Training bra, not so much violet,” by Amanda Dettmann, as our poet laments,

“Today, I am my father in blue hospital gown Unsupportive cloth in an invented environment. Aye, there’s the rub. How holy spirit … Handled its hot mess and offered the plastic water cup to me … like locker room laugher, a promise that we all have hidden children … or too many eggs in our fridge.”

Perhaps no other work in this issue represents the ubiquitous struggles of mortality better than that of our first-ever translated work, “Pages from a Wartime Diary,” written by Karineh Arutyunova and so caringly translated by Lena Mandel. Somehow, in the midst of an experience most of us could neither fathom nor survive, Karineh Arutyunova reaches out to us and pulls all our meanderings on life, death, who we are, why we are here, and the worth of what we create together in passage after passage. Here though, is my favorite:

“Sure, in a war one has no time for romance or nightingales’ trills. Although it is exactly romance and nightingales’ trills that are absolutely necessary, a veritable lifeline in a world of black and white. All shades and hues are gone. One is either a hero or a monster. If you are not with us, you are—without a doubt—against us. Everyone just holds onto whatever they have.”

Should you ever wonder, yet again, why reaching out into the static fray is both necessary and, for all of us, inevitable, read all of Karineh’s inspiration, born of interminable brutality and loss. There’s so much more here, my friends—line after line from poems and stories that will move yet devour, inspire yet devastate … in all the ways that matter. I’m sorry I can’t share my favorites from each one; for that, you, too, will have to read the tome in its entirety. I do feel, however, that I must end with the words of the late poet, Frank Stanford, brought back to us in the mesmerizing creative non-fiction work, “Some River or Another,” by Eric Luckey. Frank’s words are in italics. Eric’s blended hues follow in quotations.

There is a stranger

You see more and more of

Every year, he is silt in the riverbed

And the water tables of your mystery

Rise to their final levels

“Daniel and I walked upstream along the beach and dove out into the water, giving our bodies to the river, and letting the current carry us downstream over and over again.”

“…it was about what water and time had done to us, too.”

Hopefully, you will read on, and allow the blood and water of this issue to flow over and through you, too. Time is fleeting, yes, but you are here. I am here. And these words, either written this year, or hundreds prior, live on. So, open up the rivers of your mind and let the words gush forth. There are hungry crevices yet to fill.

I’d like to thank all our contributors, whether they’re mentioned above or not, for informing and guiding my thoughts on Issue 9. Your work lives on.

Larry Wormington
Peauxdunque Review

Larry Wormington is a Dallas-based fiction writer who grew up in the piney woods of East Texas. He received his MFA from the University of New Orleans and his BA from the University of North Texas. His stories have appeared in Redivider, Elm Leaves Journal, Harpur Palate, and the fiction anthology Monday Nights, among others. He is a Marine veteran and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. Professionally, he works as a technical writer and runs several small businesses in the greater Dallas area – the rest he saves for his Khaleesi and their four incredible children.