Ever since first discovering the magazine Sybil’s Garage in 2005 after being shown it by Kris Dikeman, I’ve loved the small press magazine produced by Matt Kressel of Senses Five Press. The magazine’s steady climb in quality moves to upward from an already pretty high starting point, and this issue shows the trend continuing. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the magazine has published my work in past issues, which surely contributes to my fondness for it.
The production quality is always high, and No. 6 is no exception. Interspersed among a wide variety of fiction, poetry, and an interview with Paul Tremblay are bits of a story told by a future version of the magazine.
Highlights of the fiction include “Come the Cold,” by Eric Del Carlo, which meditates on race and Otherness in a post-Apocalyptic world where the Apocalypse has been very gentle, yet very firm:
But what will we glimpse of the world they shall make of the cultural bones we leave behind? Will they parallel out systems of government or choose a single one from among our methods. I doubt this. Politics and statecraft are innately irrational. Will they duplicate our courts? Will they even have crime? We can’t tell much yet, ghettoized and marginalized from our society as they are. Anthropologically they’re a tough study. They go through the motions of our old world ways; but more than anything they exude a sense of waiting — a sedate, calculated, unflappable waiting, all of them.
Keffy R. M. Kehrli’s “Machine Washable” is a brief and funny story of college student Krystin’s trials with a zombie, told through communications with her mother, while Genevieve Valentine shows her usual deft hand with prose in her ghost story, “The Drink of Fine Gentlemen Everywhere.”
Paul Jessup yields up a fabulous and surreal adventure, “Heaven’s Fire,” told with a graceful freneticism:
Her arms moved as she shook violently, her eyes flipping open, spasming. Jazz turned the knobs another direction, muttering something beneath his breath, tried to focus harder, his knuckles white, his eyebrow twitching. She sat up, gasping for ait, holding her stomach and close to screaming, tears rolling down her face as butterflies flew out of her mouth. They flapped in the air for a moment, and then dissipated like colored smoke.
Day of the Mayfly, by Autumn Canter, is lyrical and compelling:
It’s been a year. A year wrapped up in roots with a bed of rock and mud. A year since her mother screamed her out into the hole, covered her up with her feet, and died bent over her knees. A year dreaming seasons and things she couldn’t know. One year only, living on tree sap and ground water. One year, another, and on.
Jason Heller’s “The Raincaller” is, like several other pieces in the magazine, a love story. Sybil’s is fond of having stories that set off strange resonances with each other, and “The Raincaller” benefits from its juxtaposition with the Jessup story as well as the transformations occurring on other pages. Similalry, Sean Markey’s “Waiting for the Green Woman” echoes against Canter’s piece, “Mother’s Garden” by Rumjhum Biswas, and Liz Bourke’s poem, “The Girl” almost eerily.
Outstanding poems include words from J.E. Stanley and Sonya Taafe. The magazine finishes with Stephanie Campisi’s “Drinking Black Coffee at the Jasper Grey Cafe,” a place both inviting and umheimlich at the same time, much like the magazine at its best:
The cafe that you should never visit is famous for its perfect coffee, ground with mortar and pestle before you and brewed in an enormous old-fashioned espresso maker that bubbles the boiling liquid up through a spout until it fountains down and around, beautifully and precisely heated, and is then poured with an elegant turn of the wrist, where its subtle froth frills aginst the side of the thick, glazed cups, the type that has feet at the bottom, the type that is the hybrid child of a wine glass and mug; the froth licks the side of the cups like the lapping of the ocean.