This content was published: May 4, 2020. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.

Sneak Peak at Alchemy 2020

Van Wheeler

Alchemy 1The Alchemy Editorial Team is hard at work building a book for you. We’re compiling poems, short stories, nonfiction, and a range of art for your edification and enjoyment. We hope this teaser sample gets you excited about the Alchemy Online Reading we will invite you to at the end of the Spring term. Keep an eye out for the announcement when Alchemy is released online, and then again when it’s eventually printed (pandemic permitting) and available on Sylvania Campus.

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[an excerpt from]

This Is Not The New Normal

Gretchen Miner

This. Is. Not. The New Normal.

I want to scream every time I hear the phrase “The New Normal”. Nothing is normal about right now. It is most definitely not soothing to prescribe normalcy to this situation we are in. Everything is shifting with each new revelation, whether scientific or fear-based. We are in constant flux every few hours—fuck, every few minutes. We don’t even know what sources to trust or where to get adequate information to survive. Or stay employed, or insured, or sane…

There is nothing normal about this. There is nothing even constant, or consistent. In this pandemic.

There’s all these phrases that have been on repeat. “In these trying times….” or some iteration of that platitude. We’re all in this together. Screw that! This has put the world’s largest magnifying glass on the fact that we are all having incredibly disparate experiences currently. Some are working 24/7. Some are at home 24/7. Some are at risk 24/7. Some are so used to being alone and fending for themselves that there is less risk. But there is fear. And as far as together goes, we don’t even all have toilet paper. Who the hell would have thought people would be so selfish as to hoard what you need when you shit? Don’t even get me started on how health insurance is connected to your job when unemployment is at an all-time high in this country.

All these ideas about the collective experience have driven me to pay more attention to the specific words we use to communicate. How words impact us, the power they have, and how we can best communicate with each other. While it is crucial to reach out, it is as important what we say as it is how we say it. Empathy is as important as it is challenging.

To that effect, I’ve come up with a brief list of words that may be best to avoid, think strongly about, or fully lean into with the current situation in mind.

Words not to use:

should, normal, normalize, shame

Use caution with:

fear, judgement, anger

Perhaps incorporate these words instead:

structure, routine, coping, strategy, emotion, feeling, valid

In the case of “should” I’m referring primarily to suggestions of what we “should” be doing with all this time “we” have now, not the ever-important edict we should wash our hands more frequently, and other public health proclamations. Please follow those!

It’s worth noting that people could use an extra dose of compassion as we face new challenges each day. Empathy isn’t always accessible– as we struggle to secure our own oxygen masks on this flight, but let’s strive for this whenever possible. Now is the time to give others the benefit of the doubt, and respond in kind with our own actions. It’s important to realize that we aren’t all in the same collective boat, and not everyone is just dealing with new experiences staying at home, or working from home. Some of us have lost jobs, some of us are unsure if we’ll have a job or business to return to, and there are varying levels of health and insurance concerns that should be honored when communicating with your fellow humans (i.e.: not everyone is able to pick up a new language, disinfect their house, produce enough PPE for your local hospital on your own, or be another form of sideline superheroes). It may take all of ones wherewithal to just not freak the fuck out.

I cried for the first time today. The first time since we began this isolatory process called Social Distancing. Aggressive Social Distancing. It’s been two weeks. For me, my husband Hal, and our 13-year-old dog. I am tuned in to the fact I am well positioned to “weather this storm.” We live in a house where we can work from home, do remote schooling and I regularly buy food and supplies so we have a few weeks on hand at most moments. We were out of toilet paper but thankfully that was rectified quickly at our neighborhood store. Grateful doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about all of that. But there are other emotions right now. Yesterday was anger. Today is an overwhelming sadness that started at 2:30 in the morning as I activated my ocean/wave sounds sleep cast to drown out the fearsome thoughts clouding my mind and pushing the possibility of sleep further out into the morning, if at all.


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Carl Boon

In the neighborhood
where I met boyhood,
where it adorned me
with monarch butterflies
and sun-tea on stoops
and teenagers blatantly
kissing the wind,
the bikes are quiet now.
Imagine all that chrome
resisting oxygen, all those
garages, slim rhombuses
of sun through slim windows.
Imagine those abundant
ways through the park
around parked cars,
that imaginary tunnel
our friends believed in,
1983, when the world
was black and white
and mostly good because
we weren’t the Soviets.
So much is lost now,
so much meant to be is gone—
the redbuds, the meandering
plum, the crabapple. Only
children see them, unused
to our need to be elsewhere.

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