12.2 | Dear Readers

Dear Readers,

Another semester come and gone in the blink of an eye! A final one, for some of us. It feels as though we were just saying hello, and here we are months later, with more stories, more poems, more art—for you, reader.

Managing editors of the past have remarked on how the journal and its inhabitants have made us consider the passage of time, the moving trajectory of our lives, the moments that stick with us and allow us to reflect on the past. This issue does just that. The magic, though, is the different ways in which we look back. Fondly? In abject horror or embarrassment? Enamored by hazy romanticization of the memory? Wondering what we would’ve done differently?

In Martin Dolan’s story “Shelter,” we have an evanescent view of a long drive home from a funeral. The three boys are in shock, each thinking of life and death, their existence connected and complicated. Aidan “does cosmic calculations in his head,” struggling with the thought that perhaps he’d tempted his mortality too eagerly before. Max, in the backseat, can’t shake the image of the man he once briefly knew, placed in a coffin and made up for grieving family. He can’t even stomach the glimpses of himself in the rear-view mirror. Chris, our driver, is forced to think of the present, of the road, but he can’t help but to think of family. He considers how his own family may shrink over time, and fears the position of having to “shake hands at the wake [and let] his friends watch him grieve in real time.” They take a much needed rest at Lorena’s diner, where Lorena and Oscar, on another terribly slow shift, watch them with sympathetic eyes. The piece asks us to slow down, to allow ourselves to be sad and maybe dwell on the past, because sometimes, that’s what the body needs. The five of them share the space, watching each other, because at the end of the day, “all they can do is eat, rest, and be together.”

Madolley Donzo’s poem “Thanksgiving Conversations,” follows a young woman, drinking to make it through an unbearable holiday with family. The speaker agonizes over what she knows will be difficult conversations. Donzo’s dynamic use of white space and line breaks (like our favorite, most ominous line, “Dinner’s over / but—”) invite us to share the speaker’s struggle; the overwhelming, chaotic, fragmented moments come through with palpable discomfort. “Watershed/Waterspout” by Kirry Kaufer also explores complicated relationships and how perception may change over time. This poem makes its impact with vivid and bizarre imagery. The intense contemplations presented are written in an unceremonious yet evocative way: “He once said, there ain’t no devil, / Only a god when he’s drunk.” The matter-of-fact voice of this poem’s speaker was comforting in the most uncanny way.

Brianna Gamble’s essay “Elderberry Wine” envelopes the reader in a nostalgia both comforting and painful. Gamble demonstrates how seemingly small details can open the floodgates for old memories to come rushing back—with the mention of honey the narrator is transported, “like a dreamer remembering the waking world.” Her grandfather returns to her in misty fragmented pieces. When brought to the surface through sensory experiences, memory is often something we try to rein in. Gamble captures this intensity with artful language, reaching across time and space. She writes, “laughter bubbles out of my belly, across the years, to ring the cracked bell of my heart. And here, now, I am laughing again, and the sun is reaching across two decades of hurt to warm me.”

And here, now, we part ways with Gandy Dancer. Complications and loss are a part of life, but so too is all the love, joy, and laughter. These thoughtful and resonant stories, poems, and art pieces demonstrate what it means to be human—and unite us in that fact. We couldn’t think of a better way to send off our college careers than producing and sharing this issue. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did making it—we will carry the memories we’ve made here far into the future, knowing that they will return to us in the most unexpected and beautiful ways. Thank you to everyone that contributed to Gandy Dancer, 12.2.

Signing off,

Lili Gourley, Jess Marinaro, and Sara Wilkins