“Poison is in everything, and nothing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” So said Paracelsus, the sixteenth-century Swiss physician credited with creating laudanum. In our toxic times, it seems as if there are very few remedies and that all is, indeed, poisonous. What, then, must writers do? Come up with remedies? Use the poison to cleanse, to heal, or simply to attack what is attacking us? Poets like Hadara Bar-Nadav use fragments—“grammar / broken along the way”—to try to manage the poison. While Deb Olin Unferth sends a poison pen to Marie Kondo and her Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: “I ask you, is there any image more gross than an upper-middle-class American standing over their possessions and imagining that everything in view wants to serve them? That’s some evil shit.” Melissa Febos, in her powerful essay “Intrusions,” confronts the toxic male gaze. In Jonathan Durbin’s disturbing futuristic story, “Sisters,” Brooklyn is overrun by deadly weeds, and in Katie Coyle’s darkly comic story, “The Little Guy,” an unseen creature hides in the walls of a woman’s house. Warning: this issue may make you itch and squirm, and could uncomfortably elevate your heartbeat, but also may make you see anew and may even bring unexpected feelings of euphoria. Consume responsibly and with caution. Or not.
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