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Front Cover by Jacqueline De Jong
War 1914-1918, detail, 2013. Pastel and charcoal on paper.

Courtesy of the artist and Château Shatto, Los Angeles

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Volume 58, Issue 1

DO PEOPLE CHANGE? The team of rivals currently competing for attention in my brain was consulted on this question long ago, but the jury’s still out. On the one hand, from the early origins of Ayuvedic medicine to today, some psychologists have believed that basic temperament tends to remain unchanged, even in the worst of times: optimists in concentration camps still look on the sunny side, sour-minded cynics winning Nobel Prizes doubt their efforts have done any good, etc., etc. On the other hand, already in 1944, H.G. Wells penned a paper on the “illusion of personality,” arguing that the very idea of individuality (with its root meaning of indivisibility) was simply a “biologically convenient delusion.” Moreover, given the mess we’ve made of this planet (which may already be beyond repair), the very question may soon be moot. Better to focus on changing behavior, not feelings; if we don’t fix the former, the latter don’t matter.

One thing, thus, does seem certain: we don’t get to choose our circumstances. Whether when they change we change may not even be a logical question: if Marx was right, they are us. What storytellers do, in response, is weave meaning from the warp of events crossed by characters. And, as it turns out, this issue of the Massachusetts Review is packed with authors bringing to the page events that can only be described as (if you’ll pardon the expression) life changing. After a pair of Chase Twichell poems, composed in the key of no, we begin with a meditation by Vince Granata on forgiveness—though the actions prompting his essay are intimate, violent, and perhaps unforgivable. With the exception of Aleksandar Hemon’s “Aquarium,” I can recall no other work of nonfiction that seems so simultaneously beautiful and impossible to imagine writing. Elsewhere, with his typical mix of surrealism and science, Daniele Del Giudice’s short fiction (ably translated by Anne Milano Appel), “Shipwreck with Painting,” takes the crossing between art and catastrophe as its point of origin. And, oddly enough, both Edie Meidav’s “The Christian Girl” and Mhani Alaoui in “Anna’s House” find that origins themselves point toward catastrophe—inevitably so, insofar and as long as our deepest sense of community remains based on exclusion. Yet not all is darkness, we promise: age brings wisdom to the strictures of doctrine in Teresa Svoboda’s story “Mennonite Forest,” as it does to the ruptures of history, in Philip Metres’s remembrance of the poet Yunna Morits, and hers of Russias past. Two talented young writers close this number: Jeannie Tseng paints a protagonist bending under pressure, refusing to let ugly facts destroy her beautiful theory, and Steffan Hruby reworks one of Hemingway’s most roasted chestnuts, giving it a surprising new glaze. Behind all such changes, the wail of Gerald Stern’s horn player can be heard—as Stern makes clear, a displaced person doesn’t even have to move, not when history pulls the rug out.

Perhaps Ionesco put it best (in Donald M. Allen’s translation): after all, “I can buy a pocketknife for my brother, but you can't buy Ireland for your grandfather.” In reflecting on change, confronted with its (im)possibility, we would do well to return to the Situationists and their reflections on psychogeography. The life and art of Jacqueline de Jong, which began in WWII, moving in and through the activism of the CoBrA group as well as the Situationist sixties, before deciding that cultiver son jardin was art for the twenty-first century, will thus surely be instructive. Wandering through these pages, just as I have, and simply following what you find, who knows what might happen? Change must be systematically explored.



A River in Egypt

By Chase Twichell


What The Tree Said

By Chase Twichell


Why I Get Lost

By Vince Granata



By Gerald Stern


The Christian Girl

By Edie Meidav


Mennonite Forest

By Terese Svoboda



By Doug Ramspeck



By Owen McLeod


Shipwreck with Painting

By Daniele Del Giudice, Translated by Anne Milano Appel


Shipwreck with Painting

Anne Milano Appel



By Laura McCullough


The American Dream Writes to Orpheus

By Cynthia Dewi Oka



By Joy Ladin



By Jacqueline de Jong



By David Zellnik


Of No Consequence

By William Fargason



By Tom Cantwell



By Ruth Madievsky



By Ruth Madievsky



By Matthew Westbrook


Anna's House

By Mhani Alaoui


Subject: Subject

By Ben Dolan


Zero Gravity

By Peter Leight


This is Autumn, My Dear. Talking with Yunna Morits

By Philip Metres



By Adam Dressler


The Unprotected Females of the Women's Rest Tour Association

By Jodie Noel Vinson


What They Were

By Jane Gillette



By Casey FitzSimons



By L. A. Johnson


Data Driven

By Jeannie Tseng


The Short Happy Life

By Steffan Hruby


paper cone

By Ulrike Draesner


paper cone

By Bernadette Geyer

Table of Contents


A River in Egypt and What the Trees Said,
  two poems by Chase Twichell

Why I Get Lost, an essay by Vince Granata

Silence, a poem by Gerald Stern

The Christian Girl, a story by Edie Meidav

Mennonite Forest, a story by Terese Svoboda

Blur, a poem by Doug Ramspeck

Igloo, a poem by Owen McLeod

Shipwreck with Painting, a story by Daniele Del Giudice,
  translated by Anne Milano Appel

Feed, a poem by Laura McCullough

The American Dream Writes to Orpheus, a poem by Cynthia Dewi Oka

Flourishing, a poem by Joy Ladin

Art by Jacqueline De Jong

Oranges, a story by David Zellnik

Of No Consequence, a poem by William Fargason

Runner, a story by Tom Cantwell

Deconstruct and Peanuts, two poems by Ruth Madievsky

Godsblood, a poem by Matthew Westbrook

Anna’s House, a story by Mhani Alaoui

Subject: Subject, an essay by Ben Dolan

Zero Gravity, a poem by Peter Leight

This is Autumn, My Dear. Talking with Yunna Morits, an essay by Philip Metres

Nocturne, a poem by Adam Dressler

The Unprotected Females of the Women’s
  Rest Tour Association, an essay by Jodie Noel Vinson

What They Were, a story by Jane Gillette

Music, a poem by Casey FitzSimons

Auroras, a poem by L.A. Johnson

Data Driven, a story by Jeannie Tseng

The Short Happy Life, a story by Steffan Hruby

paper cone, a poem by Ulrike Draesner, translated by Bernadette Geyer

Notes on Contributors


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