Foreword


War stories are not only the stories of soldiers and combat, although these are plentiful. Our intention in this issue of the Bellevue Literary Review is to encompass work about a broad spectrum of people affected by war in a myriad of ways, in many places and times. Together, we hope they afford some sense of overview and invite thoughtful consideration of war, and especially—as the title of our theme suggests—its ramifications.

We offer work about soldiering’s discipline, costs, fears, and dilemmas. In the story “Outpost” by Adam Padgett, a soldier in the Korean War is ordered, for the first time, to kill. In “Quartering,” poet Seema Reza suggests, “When the soldier knocks on your door…let him enter.” He will begin to “tell you stories in which violence is the setting, not the point…”

“Like most combat veterans,” Frank Walters writes in the essay “The Wave that Tears at Us,” “I find myself in a complicated relationship with the past. The desire to move on and forget rubs against memory, and the abrasions sometimes get raw.” In the magnificent story by R.T. Jamison, “Trees and Other Things We Might See from the Parade Grounds,” a vet sustains himself on the “[l]ies we tell ourselves and others.” Fleda Brown’s poem “Lesson” states that there is “No limit to what’s been cut out to save ourselves.”

The toll that absence and loss takes on families, the skewed reasons people go to war, and the hand that fate plays permeate these pages. “Tug-o-War” by Brenda Jernigan depicts the terrible sorrow of a mother whose late-life and only child joined up and was killed: “He kept saying, ‘It’s for Daddy.’ Like we was fighting cancer over there in Iraq.” In “Flat Mommy,” by Shawne Steiger, a child tells about the substitution of a cardboard cutout for his deployed mother: “Flat Mommy…stays right where we put her no matter what.”

The moral injury suffered by veterans and citizens alike is replete throughout these pages. In the story “Horse, Hiroshima” by Chris Edwards-Pritchard, the atom bomb’s inventors gaze out a blown-out window in Hiroshima. “We’re all murderers here,” one observes. His colleague replies, “We are physicists.” Born in one of Iran’s most notorious jails after the revolution, Sahar Delijani in “Carrying History” speaks of “…the solitude that befalls a people when they are betrayed and abandoned. It is solitude of unimaginable enormity.” In “Obligation,” Leopold Szor describes inconceivable horror in Poland’s Janowska extermination camp, and his miraculous escape. “Survival confers no special status,” he says. How can these wounded endure? What do they conclude, then? And we ourselves?”

The indirect reach of war occurs in several stories, most notably in the beautiful tale “The First of Master Yo’s Grand Adventures” by Vickie Fang. Amanda Newell’s poem “Recommendation” and Dan Nemes’ story “Bridge at Remagen” address the responsibility ordinary citizens bear for perpetrating and glorifying war.

Several pieces are directly concerned with reconciliation, particularly “In the Presence of My Enemy” by poet Chard de Niord and “Remainder,” a story by Spencer Hyde, in which a man spends decades clearing munitions after WWII. In “Salmanovitch’s Assignment,” an Israeli psychiatrist renowned for his work on PTSD searches for his son in Nepal, who is suffering from grief and guilt after being at war with Hamas, and in so doing the father must face his own superficiality and facile notions. In “Stray” by Ron Riekki, a veteran discloses to her ambulance-driving partner how she became blind in one eye: her stunning revelation serves both as an offering and as evidence of our inseparable humanity.

In Normandy, I once saw the famous 230-foot long medieval Bayeaux Tapestry, a gorgeously embroidered depiction of the Norman Invasion of England in 1066. Later the same day, at the nearby Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy, I viewed a photography exhibit documenting D-Day, June 6, 1944. Though nearly 900 years apart, they told essentially the same story: of preparing, engaging, and triumphing in combat.

The history of war may be largely written by the victors, but the ramifications of war know no such bounds.


Suzanne McConnell
Fiction Editor