My neighbor at my childhood home was a mechanic. He and I used to race on Ripsticks up our long shared driveway in the afternoons after school. Whenever I saw the light on and the garage door open to his shop, however, I’d throw my bookbag down and book it over to watch him tinker with a metal conglomeration in the hood of a car. I was truly in it to rifle through the tall, red, Craftsman toolbox he had. Wrenches’ sizes in those large cases were and are still fascinating to me. I’d eventually wander to the back of the shop where his old racecar was, with the little toy monkey hanging from the side-door. I’d ask my dad why Mike didn’t race anymore and why the car rotted away in the back if he’d never drive it again. My dad would always explain, it needed too many new parts, not like the quicker adjustments that the cars Mike worked with inside the shop needed. Eventually the earth around the car would recalibrate as well, consuming the car with wild morning glory vines, and sun-bleaching the little side-door monkey.
My grandfather also has a red-tool box in his shop; this box, however, has a picture of him and my late grandmother taped to it. When we were kids, my cousins and I once took that picture and taped it to his mirror in his bedroom after our parents ranted a bit about his girlfriend after my grandma passed—as if he needed a reminder of the wife and the mother of his two daughters, the woman he had lost not even eight years prior. Our moms had trouble adjusting to this new woman trying to place herself (and the family she brought with her) into our lives. I recently heard a story from my aunt that my grandpa used to go to sleep sobbing into the pillow on my grandma’s side of the bed just to smell her again the first few nights after her death—adjusting to absence.
Our lives are constant varying forms of adjustment—the theme of this cycle. The past two years have certainly emphasized this truth. Sadie Randall captures this beautifully in the opening lines of “cycles of beginnings” as she writes, “Everything takes time. whether it be a short amount or the entirety of your existence. and now we enter a space where no matter how much practice we give ourselves we still feel unprepared.”
Chloe Lyda’s “Pulling Teeth, No Novacaine” explores the physical manifestations of mentally adjusting to being back in person at school, alongside the never-ending changes of figuring out how to be “happy all the time and not just sometimes.” Eryn Rhodes illuminates the hard truths of college life and our absences of genuine, comfortable connections with those around us in the beautiful piece “To Walk Alone.” Emma Keller writes on the painful adjustment of reclaiming space and not feeling at home where she lives, as she reflects on living on the Lawn as a woman of color in “Wanted: A Home Without Hesitancy.”
Moon Zaman takes a look through the “museum” of her life, uncovering the guilt, sorrow, and exhilaration of growing into her true self, in “Exorcism.” Andi Sink offers another way of seeing inside oneself and connecting to past identities in her poem “SKIN.” In their poem, “Those We Left and Long to Know,” Mesina connects to their ancestors’ traditions concerning bodies and skin. Addie Gilligan reflects on the adjustments required (or more importantly the particular lack of adjustment) necessary after parting with those who were once loved very differently in “July 25, 2021.”
Kexuan Liu considers how one’s relationship with first-person writing is in constant adjustment to shame in the philosophical “Writing Naked.” In “Follow My Gaze,” Pasha McGuigan places us in the space of watching and being watched (that cat!) while looking inside of oneself. Alongside these deep inquiries, Juliana Callen offers fiction that addresses growth and loss, through the quietly sad-funny story of a tomato plant and its gardener, in “My Second Failed Harvest (I Call it Progress).”
Special thanks to the wonderful Cady Rombach for helping me through my own adjustments as editor this cycle and for heading the incredible freelance team. I’m not sure I would’ve made it through last year the same Lexi if it hadn’t been for the beautiful, genuine, comfortable Iris team you led, your support editorially, and your care as a friend.