It’s that time of the year again, when the days are short, the nights are long, and the weeks swirl around us in a flurry of gifts and gatherings. For all of its festive merriment, however, this is a season ineluctably tinged with the melancholy of moving on. Perhaps it’s the precarity of being situated on the threshold of change, a locus of unsettling synchronicity that tugs us back into recent history even as it propels us towards exciting possibilities. Perhaps it’s the desire to hold on to fragments of the past that slip and slide out of our grasp. All beginnings are predicated on endings, and the new year is no exception.
In the spirit of recollection, we have carefully assembled an array of pieces that dwell on what lingers after loss, and have preserved them in the exquisite receptacle that is this second issue on Relics. Our first section, ‘Invocations’, sets us off on this journey by attuning us to relics of the mind. ‘What matters here is thought, is now, is dreams’, Daniel Mountain writes in the opening poem – and indeed, such wistfulness proves resilient in retrieving vestiges of the past. In Kellie Brown’s essay, we rediscover ‘an inner child who still believes in the existence of sprites, fairies, and gnomes’; in Rebecca Dempsey’s tale, we encounter a figment of the imagination flowing with ‘tendrils of possibility beyond these meagre words’; and in Aletia Shaw’s poem, we ‘tease apart fragile layers of history’ to summon ‘those who came before – lonesome pilgrims’ who come to be close companions. Ephemeral in their existence yet palpable in their enduring presence, these memories resist eradication, instead embedding themselves within our individual and collective consciousness.
Such abstraction becomes manifestly concrete in our next section, ‘Artefacts’, wherein physical remnants leave tactile imprints upon those that handle them. Julia Biggs commences this catalogue with an unusual ‘bracelet [that] reifies an eternal intimacy’ by ‘Curling around the body’ and having ‘contact with the skin’ – a rapport between people and things that Benjamin Bridson takes up in a poem where objects become nearly contiguous with the self upon being pinched ‘Between the fingertips’ and rolled ‘Between the teeth’. The force of these relics, however, speaks not just of affinities, but also of anxieties: as Charlotte Bunney illustrates, our ‘unforgivable exasperation to survive’ compels us to coagulate things ‘which need not linger here’. ‘Preservation costs us dear’, Jane Zwart tells us, protracting pain just as much as it does hope – perhaps it is better, after all, to have ‘no immortal quarter’.
Yet, once activated by belief, relics take on a life for themselves. Our final section, ‘Becomings’, disassembles these tributes to our past, only to find that their affective power is in no way diminished by their unravelling. As Kathleen Keenan writes, ‘we want to say, things last all the time’, but instead realise that they evolve organically as ‘a possibility blooming and fading’. In fact, much like the sympathetic owl of Katie Holloway’s piece, relics swoop in and engage us with such dynamic reciprocity that we would have ‘never once thought – ghost’. Indeed, far from being objects of lifeless inertia, they grow into seeds of a living inheritance: Aarik Danielsen captures this process in an interview with the poet Joseph Fasano, which discusses how the endeavour of ‘chronicling what has been’ can simultaneously be a ‘gesturing toward the as-yet-untouched better’. As co-creators in this pursuit, you – the reader – are the crucial audience that unlocks and generates this ‘place where form and freedom are the same’, a provisional zone of becoming that the soundwaves of Bedroom’s music throughout this issue lyrically evokes. With the series of imperatives in Aaron Lelito’s concluding poem, we are thus compelled to ‘cultivate’, ‘to walk by’, ‘to sit’, ‘to bless’ – to be with what remains, as they form the fertile ‘ground upon which / our bared breaking rests’.
Relics, then, are not just synecdochic signifiers of the past, but living conduits that continue to evolve in the present. Their stillness is but condensed motion: they cohere the mundane and the metaphysical, the sacred and the secular, in a timeless microcosm of continuities. Summoning, examining, and reanimating these traces of our remains, Relics is an issue that invites you to step in and dwell within the miraculous existence of things once lost, now found, for you to rediscover.