The very idea of origins seems fraught these days. The men marching in white polos in Charlottesville two summers ago were defending one concept of origins, a supremacist one. Meanwhile, the literary community, among other communities, is trying—failing often, but trying—to welcome stories that are rooted in unacknowledged or ignored origins. Worldwide, migrants from the global south are told to turn around, as local conflict, a globalized economy and climate change (Summer 2018) push them outwards.

While we don’t want this web edition of Ninth Letter to see origins strictly through the lens of conflict, the writers included here feel very conflicted nonetheless. From refugee cities like Mae La; to work worn palms in hometowns; to the scales and stations of sexuality; to getting overwhelmed in Home Depot; to the masks of superheroes and also the disembodied voices of should-be heroes: we seem conflicted about where and who we come from. Family stories, here, are imbued both with lies but also with necessary fictions and lore, while houses are haunted (Winter 2019) by ephemera and unfulfilled plans. One character, when welcomed home from war, finds that war has made a home of them.

We worried that an origins-themed issue would risk nostalgia, or entitlement to the past, but these authors resist making genesis into paradise. You will find, instead, the fallibility of memory and story, imperfect homecomings, and above all, challenges to received notions of origins. Thank you to these writers for looking back but not moving backwards. And thank you to our team of student editors for piecing together a larger, more complex origins story of these smaller ones. And thank you reader, thank you for looking over your shoulder with us



Waiting for Help at Home Depot – Sara Baxter (poetry)

Two Poems – Danielle Dubrasky (poetry)

After Mae La – Johann Sarna (poetry)

Revision, June 27 – Cullen Whisenhunt (poetry)

The Death of the Waynes – Alyse Knorr (poetry)

Frozone’s Bride – Len Lawson (poetry)

new jersey dirt – Kailey Tedesco (poetry)

Drawbridge – Rachel J. Bennett (poetry)

Sugar Bath – Harris Lahti (fiction)

Welcome Back – Jessica Staricka (fiction)

Where Are You on the Kinsey Scale? – GE Gilbert (creative nonfiction)

Dimples – Demi Anter (creative nonfiction)

Two Truths and a Lie – Kristine Langley Mahler (creative nonfiction)


Zachariah McVicker

Editorial Assistants

Emma Basdeckis, Sullivan Brawn, Cameron Byrum Rambert, Amanda Dewey, Fredesminda Ebes, Jessica Hougsted,  Nicauly Martinez, Holly Miller, Daniel Oster, Sarah Patrick,  Katie Powers, Dust Regibeau, Shreya Vardhan, Ethan Waldoch, Denee Webster, Holly Zylo