I’m here alone at the office. How I love this place — its shabbiness and elegance; the cut-velvet sofa with the battered springs and straw stuffing falling out like hair; the hiss and sputter of the gas heaters; the lamp on my desk with its reminders (“Truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.”) and talismans — jewelled bird and sacred feather and bell and shells; the ink on the floor where the press used to be when we printed the magazine here and collated it by hand and night after night my muscles and pride would be worn down by the repetitive, mindless shuffle, no longer smitten with myself as hero, just wanting to get it done; benefit posters for Ram Dass and Patricia Sun, and the unmistakable presence — sweet as the air on a spring day, with the windows open to the Rosemary Street traffic — of our other allies, seen and unseen.
Sometimes THE SUN gets confused (even by me) with my own voice, but it’s many voices — everyone who reads it and says to a friend, “Look at this”; everyone who works here; everyone who stops by 412 West Rosemary and is drawn — or draws someone here into — a conversation, a touching, a mingling of essences that has as much to do with the flavor of these pages as the words printed on them. Walk through the door, and feel the straining, hopeful heart of this magazine, this building, this ancient spirit, THE SUN. Cigarette smoke and smokey imaginations — it’s a train ride through the tunnel of the world. That’s me, tooting the whistle and waving. Jacquie’s the dark-eyed one processing subscriptions, with the bizarre sculptures by her desk — a plaster bird buried in plastic grass, with a cookie-cutter tombstone and, on the wall, a flowered pocketbook giving birth to a doll. What does it mean? What does it mean that she, and William and Laura and Howard and Paul and Elizabeth work here without pay? William, our circulation manager, is in tears, adjusting to his new contact lenses; his heart is always moist, a poet’s heart. Laura looks up from setting type, her long, braided hair falling down her back. That’s Howard’s picture on the wall, clipped from the Durham Sun — “a part-time writer for THE SUN magazine and a full-time magician” — but the picture makes him look like Rasputin, and Howard is no mad monk, not yet anyway. Paul looks like a punk rocker, someone you’d expect to find flipping through the albums at the Record Bar all day, except when he’s not in school or flipping burgers at work he’s here, sweeping the floor and reading manuscripts. Elizabeth is rarely here; she works in her cabin in the woods, but her spirit permeates THE SUN.
And there’s you. I don’t know you, or do I? You’ve sent a poem I took a long time deciding about; or a letter that made me whoop and call out to the others, “Look at this”; you walked by 412 West Rosemary without stopping; you never heard of Chapel Hill until now. You’ve just finished the dishes, or put your son to bed. The light streams from you — a thousand rays, in all directions. Do you see it? You don’t see me, but here we are. I’m through the door; your ancient spirit called to me; now we open doors together.
I need your help opening a door that leads to self-sufficiency for THE SUN. The magazine is a publishing miracle, sustained for eight years by the creative and financial generosity of its friends, and the magazine is a business. I bask in the grace, and I worry. There isn’t enough money to pay the bills. We raised the subscription price last fall, but the problem is there aren’t enough subscribers. If everyone reading this gave one gift subscription, we’d have twice as many subscribers and I could pay the printer and the telephone company and the people who work here — they deserve it — and, most importantly, stop worrying whether each issue may be our last.
I love THE SUN and if you’ve read this far, you do too. Love guides me to say this; let love guide you.