Holly Rose Review’s Issue Three, the Wonder issue, opens with the photo of a spectacular tattoo, a remarkably colorful peacock inked by Michael Kozlenko cleverly eyeing the viewer as if to say: “What you looking at?” And indeed, I wondered what I was going to see in the pages to come, hoping I would not be disappointed. I was not. The next page revealed “Metus Orbis,” oil on canvas by Aaron Zimmerman. I could not tell if the peaks were mountains or the soft heads and flowing hair of goddesses waiting out a storm. Delightfully fanciful, the image made me think of that surrealistic moment one feels on the edge of waking when the dream world and real life intersect, lighting everything with surprise.
Inside the issue, the tattoos range from what looks to me like the moment of creation, creatures springing full-grown from the soft earth of the skin as in Rich Bustamante‘s work, to the impossible mermaid in Jason Wainwright‘s art. I wished I had the courage to let someone needle such worlds into my skin; the wings etched on the back of yet another person seem nearly real, the face of the woman in Sean Herman‘s art mysterious and compelling.
Of course, the tattoos are only half of the wonder of this issue. The poetry is also astonishing, given how many of them walk that fine line between psalm and bitterness, all of them surreal in the way that only metaphor can explain. Dorianne Laux’s poem “Wonder,” written specifically for this issue serves as the backbone of the journal. Every word leads the reader into a strange place, familiar yet not, like a dreamscape where you are not falling, but flying. The sky becomes a tattoo becomes a bird. The accompanying art is a tree that is as strange as ink and skin can make it: curving along the canvas of the skin in a wonderfully twisted way, the colors vibrant and alive.
The other poems in the issue continue the idea of wonder, like Eugenia Hepworth Petty’s “The Bird” and its focus on life and death and the delicate moment of childhood when one learns how terribly the two are connected. Or Christine Hamm’s “The Mermaid of September Cove” which explains clearly the gritty reality of that imaginary creature, how working for a living in a tank of water could still touch the lives of so many in a way that is more tangible than myth. Erika Moya’s poem, “Chassure ” details the odd intimacy of flesh and scent, using the sensuality of making love to spring into the larger world of memory. Raina León’s “Face” is even more fractured than the rest, each numbered stanza its own piece of the whole, discrete images of the body that are connected only because we know how important and necessary our faces are to each other.
However, my favorite poem of this issue is Joseph Millar’s “Skin.” Cengiz Eyvazov’s tattoo shows the bliss of sharp objects, a woman both captured and set free by the shackles and spikes decorating her body. The poem explains why this is possible, how the pain of such piercings leads to transcendence. At first the imagery is nearly unbearable, “one-inch ebony dowel/stretching the hole in his earlobe” and “mute/dreadlocked carcass.” But one must give in to the poem as one gives into pain, and in the end, adrenaline lights “the body’s soft candle” in a way that makes perfect sense. It’s been years since I remembered this and now I almost want to get another piercing after reading this poem.
The issue ends with Siimon Petkovich’s fractured words, the very disarray of the lines serving as a visual explanation for the tattoo by Jason Wainwright: a huge orange sky and ocean, waves crashing like flowers against the skin. This is what it feels like to gallop into the world, the poem seems to say, the idea too active to keep words together. Instead, Siimon makes every letter dance into pieces on the page. After reading this issue, I can do no less.