When we lose someone who is central to our lives, it can feel like the air has been sucked from the room. Our lungs creak wider and wider as we work to fill ourselves up again. After the chaos of funerals – of black dresses and suits and obituaries and flowers and speeches and condolences – we still have to return. We enter rooms where loved ones once stood, spoke, laughed, and cried. We encounter spaces filled with their belongings, those familiar and unfamiliar to us. A forgotten water glass, library books, chairs molded to the line of their back, an expired passport, forgotten photo albums, crease-worn maps, a receipt from last week’s dinner, occasion dresses and nearly worn out shoes, an old rocking horse, a three-fold vanity mirror, a lipstick used twice, a picnic basket with tiny plates and wine glasses, a violin with stiff strings, a pillow scented of them. Sometimes these spaces still manage to feel empty. Other times, these absences are so great, so overwhelming, they become a being themselves, filling the room with such heavy awareness of gone.

In the book Sula, Toni Morrison writes, “Every now and then she looked around for tangible evidence of his ever having been there. Where were the butterflies? the blueberries? the whistling reed? She could find nothing, for he had left nothing but his stunning absence. An absence so decorative, so ornate, it was difficult for her to understand how she had ever endured, without falling dead or being consumed, his magnificent presence.”

The absence in this issue is palpable. It is its own being. It is the result of loss, both physical and emotional. It is the end of relationships, of understandings, and of people close and far. It is a room filled with the smoke of candles just gone out. And while this issue swells with the heaviness of grief, it still reminds us of the richness that comes with absence. Of the way that presence can remain in the air like a taste on your tongue, holding on long after you’ve swallowed. We hope you enjoy the richness of the stories and people in this issue, that it brings you the same fullness that it has brought us. Most importantly, we hope it reminds you that absence can be a presence itself, just as important as any other.

With warmth, 

Hannah Newman & Jesse Ewing-Frable
Sweet Tree Review 


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