The full-length novel, the novella, the long short, short-short and flash fiction – each of these forms has an army of sites, zines and advocates. But what of the vignette – that form outside of structure and plot, wherein the focus is on a particular mood, an object or setting. The foremost champions here are Vine Leaves Press who, alongside their literary journal, have opened up space to writers in this niche:
We all want that live sex raw wing tipped boots centre of that raised ring. We all want that tattooed eagle braless clawing at our brain until blastoff.
You wanted to fly, you wanted to spear fish, you wanted manliness and the spider perched inside your jaw.
We want those moments back that get moments back that remind us that we are never going to get those moments back.
The Garage? Just Torch It. by Dylan D. Debelis is a collection of fifty-odd pieces published by Vine Leaves – a smorgasbord of shards, each reflecting some glint of a lost childhood. The coupling between the pieces are loose, moving from small town to big city, from memory to present day, and forever changing protagonist. But the threads that bind – fear and loss – are palpable:
You think you recognise the scene
As teenagers drinking Gin from a Gatorade bottle
But they are praying I think, in their own way,
For their brothers to return from war.
Reading this collection is akin to watching snippets from a dozen classic movies: you’re dropped in at some random point, you’re never quite sure what is going on (especially with the regular context-switch), but the draw on your attention is instant. For despite the esoterica of much of the North American setting, the subject matter – the oft-discomfort of being grown-up, and that recognition that the protection of childhood has gone for good – is universal:
I was the littlest little league player in Concord.
My father would drive me and we would drink root beer.
I remember his belches better than his voice.
Because he probably died today
And yesterday, the day before
Was the first of spring, but he was dying there too.
The opaqueness of poetic form is ever present here, and there is challenge (and not a little fun) in unpacking meaning. But the real beauty of this work is its difference – in the lack of a traditional story arc; in the countless fragments of lives served up, within which we see pieces of ourselves.
Any Cop?: The more one veers off-piste and into works published by independent and small presses, the more one is bored by the road more frequently travelled.