We are proud to present the 2016 Fall Issue of Populi Magazine. The stories, cultural explorations, and creative musings ahead exalt the triumphant spirit of mankind, particularly as it is lived here in Oxford, MS.
Published biannually since 2015 by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale at the University of Mississippi, Populi Magazine seeks to elevate the level of discourse in our community and curate the talents and thoughts of our fellow Oxonians. This issue begins with a contemplative essay that considers the day white Confederate sympathizers marched through the city's square in honor of a black man. Jon Luke uses this image to divulge the necessity - and considerable lack - of nuance in political, and even daily conversation. Later, a diagnosis made in a Mississippi strip mall compels Katherine Waldrop to adopt a dog, Wesley Craft confronts tragedy in the most innocent of faces, and a soldier burns a letter from home in Evan Massey's newest short story. The mix of critical thought, artful recollection, and cultural inquiry presented below reflects a semester of discourse here in Oxford.
We'd like to give special thanks to Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez and the many brilliant contributors, without whom that discourse could not occur. And without further ado, we invite you to enjoy Populi Magazine.
A black Confederate sympathizer, and the crucial value of nuance in social discourse
...As Mr. Faulkner never quite said, “To understand the world, one must first understand a place like Mississippi.” But whoever attributed that quote to the worst postman Oxford ever had would have done better with “to understand the complexity of society, you must first understand a people as complex as Mississippians.” But understanding the complexity of others can be difficult.
As humans, our most valuable inheritance is conversation. It is our ability to participate in conversation with one another that separates the human from the animal and the civilized man from the barbarian. “Indeed,” Michael Oakeshott notes, “it seems not improbable that it was the engagement in this conversation that gave us our present appearance, man being descended from a race of apes who sat in talk so long and so late that they wore out their tails.”
It is not just the quality of education, the intelligent professors, or the beautiful architecture that form the character of this University. It is the land itself that every other trait rests upon. For Ole Miss “is a place of authentic Ghosts,” (Morris 251) and the haunting heart of the land is the Grove, which constantly echoes back to us the condition of Ole Miss’s own heart.
Though the land that forms the Grove has existed for countless years, the University currently utilizes the landscaping layout designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, also known as the “father of American landscape and architecture” (Newsom). Olmsted’s imagination touched numerous American landscapes, his most noteworthy achievement being New York’s Central Park created in 1857...
“Let there be light and those who cannot see it, those who refuse it and those who prosper by it. Let there be fire and water to quench it, life and a means by which to take it. Let there be those with no legs who may bend the ear of the many-footed, those reposing in the orchard who may not partake in its bounty. Let there be transience, the passage of Time and rememory, the will to defy It. And let there be a boy in recess, auburn-haired and wood chips stuck to his knees; let him remember his falling, not to mistake the ground for air again. For these are the separations I intend!” Then He closed His leather notebook, returned His pen to its proper pocket, made Himself a sweet tea and played Al Green until, head nodding, He fell suddenly asleep.
A diagnosis in a Mississippi strip mall calls for woman's best friend
My mother was driving and I was counting telephone wires with a little red dachshund in my lap. I paired them off by twos with a click of my teeth and no one had to know. Click by click by click and we were all safe. It never mattered how cautious she was. Seat belts were no guarantee. I trained myself to ignore the thoughts in my head, the fear, the demands to jump. Just count the wires and if the wires weren’t there, count something else. Always be counting, always by twos.
Her car smelled like home - nothing distinct but always familiar. I imagined my house smelled like fabric softener and dachshunds, but the intimacy of her CRV created a concentration of Mom. It should have comforted me. Mothers are protectors, but no one was protecting her. So I counted. I counted and stayed in the car... It should have comforted me. Mothers are protectors, but no one was protecting her. So I counted. I counted and stayed in the car...
An analysis of the internal strife that plagued Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War
...Anxiety over the economic well-being of family at home, lack of adequate food supply, and distrust for the government left Confederate troops feeling that “if [they were to be] defeated, it will be by the people at home” (Williams 91).
While the Confederate States faced economic instability throughout the war, the United States struggled to produce a unified force following the introduction of emancipation as a potential goal of the Civil War. With desertion rates up and volunteer rates down, Lincoln signed a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and thus aligned the preservation of the Union with the abolition of slavery (Williams 110). When Lincoln issued the proclamation in September 1862, Union soldiers began “deserting in droves"...
Sundays, too, the pack would arrive early and reveal their backs in the verdant heat, then with ungloved hands that thrust and decapitated in their dance made tangled limbs tumble. I thanked them so much. I’d bake and hear the neighboring drone, sizzle. When the line was dead, he’d call, and promptly I would leap and fan, fearing the chronic fumings of that room,
Mumbling distantly to him, Midas, who will drive out the Others and will soil my good name as well. What does he know, what does he know of gilded and lonely Oval Offices?
Glimpses of the natural wonder found in San Pedro de Atacama
In San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, you cannot help but realize the extent to which regions populated by humans are separated from the rest of world. There is hardly anything bridging the two together except for a few road signs and people with cameras. Wandering through regions nearly untouched by human civilization, I gained a new appreciation for the simple pleasures that the world has to offer - experiences and lessons that cannot be found in electronic screens or bustling cities.
Two soldiers await the end of war, a letter is written, another is burned
They took guard outside of their camp and built a small fire to try to keep warm during the night. The fighting had died down and the gun shots in the distance began to cease. One of the soldiers pulled out a cigarette and lit it with the fire. Both of them sat on the ground, leaning on fallen trees with their legs sprawled. It felt good to sit after a long march. The youngest of the soldiers had untied his boots. Their rifles were laid across their laps.
Both soldiers were part of the same company, but did not know each other. The youngest was from a small town in the Midwest and the other was from somewhere in the South. A box of rations sat in between them. The younger one was hungry. He wrestled his hand in the box every 15 minutes. The other soldier only sat there and smoked and watched...
Aurulent sunlight slips past the brick buildings and casts jagged edges on the pavement by the wilting periwinkles which are once again weakly greeting the winter.
And framed by a golden haze stands a young boy, two feet tall, grinning because, “Give me a big smile,” his mom says with a Polaroid gripped in her hands and a scarf wrapped tightly to fight off the cold.
And looking through the camera’s lens the mother frames a shot of her 4 year-old son, with his dark curls and onyx eyes gleaming. She positions him in the shadow of a statue, a man who, in 1962, walked through those jagged edges.
Then light blazes briefly—And frozen I stand a silent intrusion, wondering about the weight of a photograph… wishing periwinkles were not forced to face this insensate chill
"Common Ground: The sun will rise again. Indeed it does for everyone." photograph by Martha Grace Mize
A student tutoring middle schoolers in northern Mississippi arrives one day to tragic circumstances and leaves with renewed purpose
...While I was waiting for one of my students to come see me, readying material to help him learn the most basic rules of reading, the principal of BMS came to speak to me. He had bad news about this student.
Two days earlier when my student got home from school, he learned that his eighteen-year old first-cousin was shot four times in the chest at random. Murdered. The next day at a memorial service for the cousin, my student was standing outside, mourning with his other family members. Seemingly out of nowhere, an unknown car pulled up to the memorial. A man got out, pointed a gun a my student, and threatened to kill him too. The man shot three times straight up into the air and drove off....
When the Sands of Time billow across the hills and twilight blossoms in the horizon like a flower opening for the sun, you shall know Him. He will come to shed light on the world and cast away all fears. He will look upon thee with eyes filled with Hope and Salvation. Blessed be the One who can look upon His face and know Him in life and death. Only then shall it be known to you, when He turns his head towards the horizon, and the Sun dawns a new day. The answers to Life.
A young writer confronts the permanence of ink on paper in her endeavor to answer a most difficult question.
In the ninth grade, ink crept under my fingernails for the first time. In creative writing class, I wrote the first words in my journal on the topic--What makes life worth living? That night, I sat at my desk, turning over the inky thoughts in my head as I stared at dark walls. ‘We are told to have faith in a world that is against us, that doesn’t see us at all. We’re invisible to everyone--no one even hears us, not the ones we love the most.’ Instead of thinking of all the beautiful things this life had to offer, like my peers, I found myself writing against it. Because what could possibly be beautiful about knowing that this life was only temporary and that you may not have a beautiful ending like the ones in fairy tales?
Like ink gliding on paper, I attempted to bleed everything that kept me up at night in my notebook, all the things I couldn’t dare confess to my family, nor anyone else--much less, myself. I ended up with simple sentences, jumbled together with dependent clauses that didn’t give way to my deep emotions or feelings...
Throughout our lives people, conversations, and events leave a mark on us eternally. As time passes, we hold on to these little moments with emotions that range from passion, uneasiness, tension, grief, resentment, and nostalgia. Three distinct relationships are featured in this exhibition conveying romantic, family, and the relationships we have with ourselves. Using these three categories, I investigated the ways in which relationships ultimately shape our identities and who we become.