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Night shrouds, but also illuminates. It is a time of meditation and celebration, but also of madness and grief. Nighttime is marked by loss and soul-searching, sweet dreams and grisly nightmares. Whether under a full moon or new, the night is a time of prayer and murder, of love, hate, and epiphany. A cascade of contradictories, night is sometimes restful, sometimes restive. Dread, loneliness, and dislocation are often intensified in the darkness of night, but the mind may also be set free during the hours in which Edgar Allan Poe’s “sable divinity” reigns. Whether awake or asleep, we spend half our lives during the night, lives that are often very different during the day.
In this Nocturnals issue of Conjunctions, readers will encounter the fearful monster of Kowloon, which, like many such monsters, relies on the dauntless imaginations of children in order to continue to exist. In a debut story, we follow the fates of three men on a hallucinatory journey into the snowy pitch-dark night of the soul. Like werewolves and vampires, ghosts are classic—chimerical?—denizens of the night, and they too haunt these pages. Purgatory can be found here, along with alternative universes, an East Village bar that doubles as a portal to another life, and a personal chronicle of a visit to Burning Man in Black Rock Desert. The nightbird Nycticorax is invoked in this issue, as are musical nocturnes, night thoughts at solstice, wheeling galaxies, and the cosmos itself. The pioneering nocturnal photography of George Shiras is celebrated in these pages, even as the dichotomous world of night versus day in equatorial Uganda is observed by an ethnographic eye.
In order to sustain her life, Scheherazade spun her stories for a thousand and one nights. In a spirit that recognizes how vital it is to voice our own stories, these fictions, poems, essays, and memoirs in Nocturnals address the myriad ways in which the night, from dusk to daybreak, is central to our experience of life.
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The Bar at Twilight
Nineteenth-Century Nights and Nocturnal Lights
As Mica Means Crumb, and Galaxy, Milk
Psi, Phi, Omega
Ship of State
The House at the End of the Night
George Shiras: The Heart Is the Dark
Nights in the Asyntactical World
The Blue Hour
Four Night Poems
Saving the Monster of Kowloon
Your Wilderness Is Not Permanent
Cosmos, A Nocturne
A Scribe from the Double-House of Life