While preparing this issue of TSR, a number of our staff moved house—some several hours’ drive away, some to the other side of town. Others have spent time away for work, family, holidays. I’ve been living far from the place I think of as my home, and in recent months have hosted family and friends for long visits, in an effort to make this life into my life. Loved ones and I have spent this time talking about mutual friends (and enemies), cooking for each other and watching each other eat. 

Lia Dewey Morgan opens our SPICE issue with a suite of poems of broad historical sweep, and deep personal punctuation. These poems trace exploitation of land and labour under empire, family, generosity, and love. They show us a speaker crying in the kitchen: ‘I / hold onto the countertop slipping open / into the wide, shining saucepan.’ 

Where Morgan offers a ‘poem I cannot write yet’, Brian Obiri-Asare traces the gaps in a conversation that takes place on a call between Ghana and somewhere on this continent: ‘this dust and sizzle place / sapping forever questions / like how we build / that community thing / here?’ Obiri-Asare’s work buzzes with cockatoo screeches, and with the dream of something that the poem’s own words can only reach for. Kerri Shying’s ‘thank you for the photos’ senses distance acutely, too, taking aim at a supposedly ‘post-pandemic’ social life, ‘with me / us / the weekly dead / sat here like warts on pumpkins / ruining the normal.’ 

Edmario Lesi’s ‘Tableau’ is set in the conspicuously temporary home of its protagonist, and of the makeshift family he’s built there. In this deftly told story, people need each other, and fail each other too. ‘Tableau’ is illustrated by Mia Guerrieri, who stages the scene of the story and places the text itself as an object within it.

In Tayla Colley’s comic ‘Hot Goss’, two friends find the home-, love-, and sex-lives of their mutuals too hot to handle. Dominic Symes shares ‘my hot girl summer’, dropping us into a season of absolute scenes with an immediacy that turns on the point of the colon.

In ‘Zugzwang’, Daniel Ray’s teenage narrator offers surprising—and surprisingly perfect—descriptions of the sky, a new highway development, and the surface of water in evening light. Through his early sexual experiences, Ray’s speaker also encounters something harder to understand, or even to describe. In an expansive literary essay, Donnalyn Xu also reflects on teenage experience. Analysing poems, works of visual art, and Tumblr posts, Xu encounters the difficulty of writing about girlhood: an exercise laden inevitably with glamour and shame in equal helpings. 

Ella Ballhausen’s cover for this issue sets us gathered around a campfire, putting the kettle(s) on. Spending time with these works, and gathering with the TSR team to read them together, has been a kind of homemaking. I think sometimes ‘spice’ is placed opposite ‘substance’ in popular imagination, positioned as a little sprinkle on top. A counter-proposal: the ‘spice’ of writing and making art, and of engaging as audience members with these things, alone and together, is the thing that makes these lives into our lives. Lawdenmarc Decamora closes this issue with a speaker who is ‘not dying as I am the same boy my mother used to kiss’. We hope you find nourishment in this issue.

Erin McFadyen
Deputy Editor