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Spring 2019 • 1


Mission Statement American Literary Magazine, affectionately known as AmLit, is American University’s literary and creative arts magazine. Run entirely by students, AmLit is published twice a year at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. Striving to showcase the best student writing and visual art within the campus community, both undergraduate and graduate, AmLit contains poetry, prose, art, and photography submitted by the student population. AmLit selects content based on an anonymous review process, giving each staff member an equal vote for each piece submitted. The Editors-in-Chief and genre editors decide any discrepancies in the democratic voting process. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.

Acknowledgements As AmLit grows a wee bit older, we are grateful for everyone who stayed with us as we grew with it. It would not be possible without the support of our community, the dedication and patience of our Student Media advisor, Chris Young, and everyone who worked incredibly hard on the magazine. AU’s artistic faculty constantly inspires us, and we are ever-so grateful for their support. Thank you to all of our best-in-show judges: Professor Kyle Hackett, Professor Antonio McAfee, and Professor Rachel Snyder. We can’t forget the support of our faculty advisor Linda Voris. Thank you for being our best and biggest advocates. More specifically, we are honored to feature the work of Shaun Schroth for our faculty contribution (and cover model). Inside and outside of the classroom, Shaun inspires, guides, and uplifts his students and we are honored to showcase his talents this semester. A thousand thank-yous to Heritage Printing, for your kindness, generosity, and willingness to understand the chaotic life of a student. We value our partnership deeply and hope to maintain it for many mags to come. Next, we would be nothing without the unyielding dedication and hard work from our executive board. Thank you for all the rounds of two truths and a lie, k-pop dance breaks, and nights of laughter. We’ll never be able to convey how grateful we are for you. This goes for all of our assistants as well; we are constantly in awe of your initiative, creativity, and versatility. To our design and copy team, thank you for taking the incredible words and creations of AU students and hand-crafting them into 112 beautiful pages. We wish we could thank every single person who makes AmLit what it is. Thank you to our general staff for the fun ice cream socials, rounds of where-the-wind-blows, and endless enthusiasm. Thank you to our idols and mentors, Sydney Hamilton and Amanda Hodes, who were always on standby to answer our questions, impart advice, and remind us of the decades of Editors-in-Chief that believed in the past, present, and future of AmLit. We are so grateful for all of you.

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January Drips Amanda Book 4 • American Literary Magazine


Letter from the Editors to our dear current and future amfam, hello! we are the new kids! we welcome you to our little corner of campus, whether you’re a veteran amlitter or a fresh face, where we always promise warm conversations, party games, and extra sprinkles in the fridge. thank you for joining us on this journey that has been the spring 2019 edition of amlit. we hope that you can find yourselves within its pages, uncover shared experiences in its letters, and discover laughter in every dot. we would not exist without your middle-of-the-night bursts of creativity or your review session roses-and-thorns. for as much as we’ve learned about you, we thought you might like to know a little about us:

izzy animates shoes. emaan dances to the princess and the frog soundtrack. emaan likes math. izzy likes typography. izzy gets ice cream for the person she loves, emaan gets herself ice cream because self-love. emaan wears dirty converse and izzy wears shiny doc martens. izzy makes to-do lists in her lil gold notebook, emaan doesn’t make lists.

but we both do art! we love the burrito of amlit and every lil pinto bean in it! we sometimes don’t know what we’re doing we are the new kids but everyone already invited us to sit with them during lunch and for that, we are very grateful. love, emaan & izzy

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Prose

content warning

a foggy night 001• Matt Francisco • 10 a foggy night 002 • Matt Francisco • 11 apartments for sale • Jordan Redd • 44 at midnight • Matt Francisco • 79 ballet in the sky • Gabrielle Michel • 15 before • Jordan McCormack • 88 Blisskers • Mercy Griffith • 67 chaos & knowledge • Stephanie Mirah • 73 collider • Wesley Dankwa • 62 Descendants • Mercy Griffith • 93 don’t lie • Alice Bershtein • 47 Dug In • Amanda Book • 75 fall • Rebecca Sakaguchi • 25 Growth • Noah Stevens • 53 Hana Lani • Rachel Burger • 34 Harbour • Pak Go Chow • 49 hook eye • Alice Bershtein • 31 I’ll Drink Till My Spit… • Zander Velleca • 99 It’s Either The Pool… • Zander Velleca • 86 January Drips • Amanda Book • 4 Kinsky Palace • Jordan Redd • 105 laundry day • Dana Stevenson • 28 Light Touch • Amanda Book • 60 Malibu Pelicans • Danielle Korzhenyak • 63 Neuengamme in Spring • Devon Wiensch • 43 Peanut Butter and Jellies • Gabby Liles • 69

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A Tasting of Grief • Charlotte Faust • 46 A Top Ten List • Charlotte Faust • 66 down to earth • Emaan Khan • 61 Dear Protagonist • Brianna Bytner • 64 Dragon Tastebuds • Mercy Griffith • 38 Green sea • Alice Bershtein • 80 home • Elizabeth Edwards • 14 Hot Breath • Jacob Weil • 102 July in the Early Evening • Jen Stoughton • 20 Without a Head • Stephanie Mirah • 101

Table of Contents porch pirates • Devon Wiensch • 19 Prairie Mauu • Rachel Burger • 56 Reminder that I Love You • Amanda Book • 12 she doesn’t live here… • Rebecca Sakaguchi • 17 Smile and Stare • Gabrielle Michel • 50 Stratus submerged horizon • Rachel Burger • 9 the sun finds a muse • Sarah Ross • 18 Thor’s Playground • Gabby Liles • 37 Tram 17 • Jordan Redd • 83 Untitled • Sreenidhi Kotipalli • 36 Untitled • Sreenidhi Kotipalli • 52 Untitled • Sreenidhi Kotipalli • 81 Untitled • Sreenidhi Kotipalli • 94 Untitled • Sreenidhi Kotipalli • 103 when it’s over • Matt Francisco • 55 Your Parents Don’t… • Zander Velleca • 59 zare ulice • Jordan Redd • 85 4to3 • Pak Gi Chow • 71 60 years of love • Danielle Korzhenyak • 76

Photo


Poetry A Letter from Vincent… • Amanda Hodes • 104 A Poem Dedicated to… • Noah Stevens • 35 A Poem for The Girls…• Amanda Book • 45 Amen • Anonymous • 88 Aquí, poema • Diana Guzmán • 51 Asian Glow • Aaron Chung • 70 Because • Gracie Donovan • 106 Before Breakfast • Riddhi Setty • 68 Breathing Underwater • Grace Hasson • 84 Burial Ground • Aaron Chung • 8 butterflies • Jéla Lewter • 78 Chocolate • Grace Hasson • 98 city of deadbeats • Wesley Dankwa • 16 Contagious • Maggie Mahoney • 104 crocs • Stephanie Mirah • 56 Essential Truths… • Niccolo Becht • 92 figure 8 • Wesley Dankwa • 40 freebasing cocaine… • James Skiest • 62 Haven • Mackenzie Murray • 40 improper haiku • Stephanie Mirah • 77 If David Foster Wallace… • Niccolo Becht • 95 Intim[idating]acy • Jéla Lewter • 30 Languages of Faith • Samantha Monteith • 24 Loud • Alice Bershtein • 90 mama • Emaan Khan• 89 Matchsticks • Mackenzie Murray • 84 Mother’s Day • Noah Stevens • 26

2016 Clinton Campaign… • Bryan McGinnis • 41 California 2018 “wild” fire • Nohea Shozen • 100 cast a spell • Jenn Gaudio • 65 desire series • Jenn Gaudio • 33 Femmes de Renaissance • Rachel Burger • 91 Internalized • Mackenzie Murray • 72 Refined in Barbados • Rachel Burger • 97 roasted • Jenn Gaudio • 101 specter • Mackenzie Murray • 48 taco doggo • Jenn Gaudio • 33 the hub • Caleb Gleit • 82 timelapse • Rachel Burger • 87 tranquil • Jenn Gaudio • 42 When I Remember • Mackenzie Murray • 27 Wonder • Sarah Maraschky • 32

my very own alphabet • Sheer Figman • 33 ode to cum • James Skiest • 53 Our Mother’s Rosary • Alesha Butler • 74 Park County, WY • Cam Diagonale • 96 Reverse Palm Reading… • Cam Diagonale • 29 self care • Rin Ryan • 68 Slant • Aaron Chung • 45 Sunscald • Noah Stevens • 42 Teaching Obeisance • Aaron Chung • 54 The Fence • Max Lustig • 13 The If Statements • Amanda Hodes • 57 The Summer of 2000 • Cam Diagonale • 77 Thirst • Mackenzie Murray • 35 twitch • Emaan Khan • 57 untitled • James Skiest • 30 Wednesday • Noah Stevens • 78 wells • anonymous • 58 Wilshire Blvd • Aaron Chung • 58

Art

Spring 2019 • 7


Burial Ground Aaron Chung

In Mokpo, my dad took me to his ancestral plot near the house where he grew up on land that he no longer owned. I couldn’t understand it. On top of a hill guarded by a lake of grass hunched over the small mounds surrounded by plants that grew as tall as the men in his family. A stone pylon rose up out of the hill and added our family name to the rain and the rice fields. I couldn’t understand it. The moss lay on it like tears. My dad watched silently. He kept his distance. I could’ve jumped through the brush the thickets and the thorns— taking my own blood over my own blood. I could’ve said Grandfather, it’s me, your grandson the way I do with my other grandparents. From halfway across the world But he couldn’t understand it.

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Status submerged horizon Rachel Burger

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a foggy night 001 Matt Francisco

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a foggy night 002 Matt Francisco

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Reminder that I Love You Amanda Book

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The Fence Matt Lustig

I spy with my little eye On souls with spikes and lines and tribes, Skulls drilled and drank like wine, Sound asleep and petrified. A stick, a stone, a scarred face puzzled, A stock, a scope, a burnt grey muzzle. In dreams they wait, they stare, they cry, Their sentence lost in a story of lies. Iron lions daunt these halls And forge their cage with iron claws. This cage of mine can’t crack with spoons Nor knives nor forks nor impending doom, Nor keyrings strung to holstered hips Nor beating more men, nor the crack of my whip. I look down to men once giant, And suits that murdered their defiance. Left with dirt and blackened water Their children wonder where’s my father? What’s to stop silver souls with nothing to prove? What’s to creep and crawl up to the top of the noose? What’s the last misplaced size on their velcro shoes? Where do they go once done their time? I can end the malice, the joke, the crime! I am the gun, the wall, I am the fence, I am the juggernaut, the shield, the lance! But no. I sit. I wait. I cry. I do nothing else but aim and die. There’s another type of life behind bars So kindle the flames lining stripes and stars.

Spring 2019 • 13


home Elizabeth Edwards

I watch as each pair of feet, distinct in weight and pace, traipse through. A girl, no older that four, runs through the halls in search of nooks to hide in, places she can disappear when she wants. Her brother squirms in the arms of his father, reaching for the lamp that the stagers so meticulously adjusted before the open house. It was strange to witness the rearranging of the photos on the walls, and the furniture in the rooms. By the end of the staging, a part of me had shifted. The way the rooms were laid out, lived in, left after the children moved out and Rose died; it was a part of me that I didn’t want to change. Young couples enter and I imagine them loving and living here, as my family had. A middle-aged couple takes great interest in the fireplace, where Rose spent many hours drawing, sometimes after the children had gone to bed; sometimes with the sounds of them playing in the yard rivaling the sharp crackle of the flames. No one at the open house notices my watching, although I’m sure they wouldn’t blame me. As the beholder of all the memories of the past fifty years, I deserve to see the next occupants. Rose would have agreed. She loved me from the moment she laid eyes on me. Sam took longer to come around, but Sam loved Rose much more than Rose loved me. So, he forgave me for my small study and lack of space for his workshop. But he, too, loved the fireplace. He prayed there before Julia’s birth, and Jimmy’s two years later, and Lydia’s three years after that. He fell in love again and again within my walls, under my roof, and in my backyard. He patched up skinned knees on my front steps and sliced apples for his grandchildren on my kitchen floor. He built a home out of me, with the help of Rose, and their children, and their children’s children.

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Now I watch as Sam witnesses these new feet patter through my halls. He grapples futilely with the lump in his throat. Rose is preserved in every part of me, from the paintings on the walls to the flowers in the garden, but nowhere as perfectly as in Sam’s memory and love for her, which he will take with him when he moves. He’ll leave me behind, with my third step that creaks, and my basement that floods, and my windows that allow the sun to coax you awake before you’re ready; and he’ll miss all of those things, but the largest pang in his heart is for Rose. He knows that she will make sure my new family takes care of me and adds to the memories stored in the cracks of my floorboards, the chips in my paint, and the echo of footsteps, which, like the symphony of newcomers today, have long disappeared from the air, but are forever ingrained in me.


ballet in the sky Gabrielle Michelle

Spring 2019 • 15


city of deadbeats Wesley Dankwa

Do you have a minute? That is all it takes in this city of deadbeats. Where it is impossible for the withered autumn leaf to fall too far from the tree. Do you think i want to fall freely into the sewers where the arms of darkness cannot find me? Shoot me down or bite my limbs off body, i’m walking evidence that all cops are bloody. i’m a yes man, a follower. One of the geese? Or one of the sheep? Shot down by a hunter, at the very least i can fly in my slumber.

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she doesn’t live here anymore Rebecca Sakaguchi

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the sun finds a muse Sarah Ross

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porch pirates Wesley Dankwa

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Best in Show Prose

July in the Early Evening Jen Stoughton CW: harm

There’s something to sunsets seen from a rooftop. They’re somehow redder, bruise-like, more summery than those seen from street level. There’s a breathless quality to them, too, like they suck the air from the top of the atmosphere and spread specks of stars in its place. The air below is softer, cloudy with everyone’s breath pushed up against each other’s and muffled as if under a blanket. Up here it’s still, and clear, and aching. I’ve been up here with Joan a couple of times, and I’ve come to understand how addicting the tall twilight air can be. And how dangerous. Not for the reasons my mama warns me I shouldn’t be up there, like I’ll catch my wintry death or my nice new skirt will get soiled. It’s because the air is so aching-clear and still that it holds an edge, high-altitude sharp. If you move the wrong way, you can cut yourself open. The sky itself holds you still in its fist. Still like Joan. Restless Joan Harris, caffeine in human form Joan Harris, physically-couldn’t-sit-still-if-her-lifedepended-on-it Joan Harris, sitting there at the edge of the roof with her feet dangling into the thick light below. The wind toys at her short hair, but otherwise she seems frozen in time. Joan stares at the sun, maybe going blind. I stare at Joan, maybe going blind. I feel like I should look away. We came up here—well, Joan grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me up, more like—because Joan read somewhere that summer solstice sunsets are the most breathtaking of all, and she decided we needed the best view in the city to appreciate it properly. I should stop looking at Joan and determine for myself if it’s any true. I should look at the sky. City skies aren’t beautiful. They’re half blocked by steel and concrete, half clogged with smoke and life 20 • American Literary Magazine

and dirt. I don’t see what all the birds are so fussed about. Sometimes I wonder if the sky has actually been scraped up by the buildings—even on clear blue days there’s something broken about it, scarred. Breaks and scars aren’t beautiful. I’ve been to museums; I took art history; I’ve seen the way the paint blends smoothly into itself, seen the gold and the green of nature and how the softness of people is lovingly rendered. I’ve seen the marble statues, chipped at until sharp edges run together like satin, or silk, or skin. Those are artworks—masterpieces because they’re flat, and calm, and quiet. Especially the women; they’re all serene, almost asleep. Mama always told me that good girls kept their hands folded, ankles crossed, mouths shut. Even though Venus was completely nude, looking at her made me think of that. Eyes down, lips sealed. Pretty. My art teacher loved the Romantic paintings, where the people looked just as noble and perfect as the landscapes behind them. She went on and on about how much passion they showed, how much life and movement each image held. All I saw was their silence. If Joan weren’t Joan, she’d look a little like some of those paintings now. With the sky behind her fading into all sorts of colors and her head outlined by the setting sun, she could almost be any of those nobly perfect heroes frozen in her moment of triumph. Like she’s pressed up against glass between one breath and the next, heart beating into canvas. Beautiful. But breaks and scars aren’t beautiful. Joan’s got scars like the night’s got constellations. The sun’s moved a bit, so now I can make out the one by her ear, the one slashing through her eyebrow. My eyes want to trace where I know others lay—sluggishly


crawling across a hipbone, darting across broad shoulders, ripping into her knee—but at the same time, my eyes don’t really want to leave her face. It’s always been easy for me to rest my gaze there. Maybe I’ll start wearing grooves with my stares, I think. Maybe I already have. Maybe I’ll get to leave a mark on Joan Harris. But marks and blemishes aren’t beautiful. But Joan is anyway. Joan’s sunset-beautiful, breathless and sharp and bruise-purple-red. She takes peace and quiet between her teeth and cracks them like sunflower seeds, spitting them off the roof with a crooked grin. She lets her trousered legs splay open and her cackle echo in her wide-open mouth. She’s wild, is what she is, and joyous with it. She’s— She’s looking at me, now, while I’m still looking at her. A breeze picks at her hair again but the space between us stands still. “Whatcha doin’ over there?” she calls to me, almost casual, nearly hoarse. Who knows how long we’ve been sitting here in the silence she’s just broken. “Painting you with my eyes,” I reply without thinking.

I can’t think around her, sometimes. “With words.” And the sun sets again in Joan’s eyes just then, flares gold. “Do I make a pretty picture?” Pretty dumb, that’s for sure is the teasing reply on the tip of my tongue, the one I’d give on the ground, but I swallow it. “You’re too much to be a picture,” is what comes out, true and all the more painful for it. “You can’t be captured in just two dimensions.” “That sounds like a confession,” Joan says in warning. I know we’re on the edge of this. This this that’s dangerous and difficult and only has a slim chance of leaving either of us happy. But the rooftop air is sharp in my lungs and the light is fading and Joan is beautiful. “Maybe it is,” I say. Joan’s got a scar that cuts through her bottom lip. It tastes like a promise.

“She takes peace and quiet between her teeth and cracks them like sunflower seeds...”

Spring 2019 • 21


desire series Jenn Gaudio

CW: sexual assault Artists Statement: This series titled “Desire” encapsulates the trials and tribulations of women rape survivors and combating societal ideals of lust and “desire” of women. The artist interviewed men and women within the AU community, where most had an unwanted experience in their lifetime. The moments portrayed are of fragility and triumph. These images can be aligned and re-positioned to tell a number of stories, and start a conversation. 22 • American Literary Magazine


Spring 2019 • 23


Languages of Faith Samantha Monteith

Like whispers on waves, Like the mist o’er great shores, My tongue flicks and twists, Winding truths & myths, To see what is worthy, & what is worth fighting for.

I speak the language of Siddhartha, The golden bodies glowing, The flowers twisted in offering, Colors splashed together, A kaleidoscope of peace and rest, In which we lose desire.

I speak the language of the gods, The delight of blood on fresh grass, The blanket of snow upon which crows, Sing of Valhalla & tell the tales That have not yet come to pass.

I speak the language of Ra, The morning glory of the world, Dancing in the sunlight of conquest Like pliant reeds upon the Nile, Planning wrath, war & fire While coddling the flooding banks.

I speak the language of Jesus, The cross, the truth, the light The way in which we love Our neighbors and hate ourselves, For our sins have blocked the rising son. I speak the language of science, The steel cold reason that razes Through ancient lies and our ashen bodies, That logic which imbues us with Sharp tools to discern fact from fiction.

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I speak the language of the mystics, Chanting of mantras to wild spirits That wander the universe in forms unknown, That reside in trees, and waterfalls, great canyons. For the pulse that beats in the molten core of earth Writes destiny & divinity upon us all.


fall

Rebecca Sakaguchi

Spring 2019 • 25


Mother’s Day Noah Stevens

I. I see you in a photograph, pregnant with your first son­­— pregnant with me, I move in you — you’re young I see you in the first house I can remember, pregnant with your second son— pregnant with my brother, we’re alone, I’m younger than you —you’re young I see you in an apartment I can’t— I won’t— imagine, pregnant with your third son— pregnant with your third son, I don’t know where you are, I’m older than you now— you’re young II I can’t tell the difference between love and rage (both are blind) You blurred the lines and didn’t bother to redraw them before you took off What is love and what is rage when it all comes from the same place? (a closed heart

and a clenched fist)

Suddenly I understand the intensity of those emotions Because when we speak on the phone for the first time after you’ve gone My love feels like rage feels like sorrow sweetness emptiness loneliness longing summer autumn winter spring elementary middle and high school never knowing what to say seventeen years of my life I spent waiting for you to love me III I know where I come from: I was not born in the love of god but in the teenage desperation of two people who had no idea what it meant ot love or be loved the way they needed to be I was born in the desert on a Friday and I will die in the desert on a Friday and on both days you will still be the most beautiful womn I have ever seen and I will still love you in the strange way that I have taught myself to — through gritted teeth and tears

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I know we are both alone: this is a love letter to you and you will never read it this is a love letter to you and it will haunt you until you are dead this is a love letter to you and I am the best mistake you ever made this is a love letter to you and that is the hardest part I know where I will have to go: one day the brother i do not know will call me he’ll explain you have died and you loved me through everything I will thank him and then I will cry and at last it will be over.

When I Remember Mackenzie Murray

Spring 2019 • 27


laundry day Dana Stevenson

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Reverse Palm Reading for My Cracked Phone Screen Cam Diagonale

In high school I made a lot of lists, in notebooks, the backs of Whole Foods receipts, in the notes app on my phone: (Things Books that changed my life To-Do (to-do, To-do, to-do) Ben & Jerry’s Flavors I wanna try) There was always ink on the side of my hand; I could never gracefully cap a pen, my fingers forever marked with color from the precious felt tips I used to annotate my APUSH readings. There was always time for beer glasses of iced coffee and evening jogs and Saturdays in Chapel Hill. All those afternoons tripping over themselves, spilling forward like jelly from an egg spoon. In high school I made a lot of mistakes and I repent: for hitting that car in the mall parking lot and driving away. For spurning my mom’s flaxseed cookies. For my phone, repeatedly dropped. And most of all, for the boy who sat next to me at graduation— he drowned in a pedal boat accident last spring.

I don’t think I ever said two words to him.

Spring 2019 • 29


untitled James Skiest

it persists unlike anything else raw, untamed passion fuels life through it, we find love that is blind and unable to recognize a cold, uncaring face staring back i may never receive an answer but i wait in hope regardless day after day that the stone face i once knew will requite my magic the golem reanimates although it is scripted in the torah you have always kept things unorthodox the golem no longer serves and we find the love we deserve until then it persists

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Intim[idating]acy Jéla Lewter Intim[idating]acy   he inserts a quarter  into the claw machine.  it l i g h ts up  yellow & red.  he takes hold   of the joystick,  but the controls   are stiff, unyielding.  inserts another quarter,  this time moving  slowly, gently   and watches the   horizontal glide   of the claw.  the drop down  lower.  lower.  lower.  too far. too fast.   too much. too real.  misses the prize by centimeters  the claw machine can keep listing  off excuses,  but it’s not  The boy’s  fault. 


hook eye Alice Bershtein

Spring 2019 • 31


Wonder Sarah Maraschky

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my very own alphabet Sheer Figman

hi here’s the track list for an album that i’m going to write one day it’s called “my very own alphabet” a – alleviate b – boots c – code d – dream e – everyone, everywhere f – federal g – glass h – hazelnut i – ignite j – jaguar k – killer l – linger m – moon n – nonsense o – older p – philosopher song q – questions r – roof s – seventeen t – thumbs u – umbrella v – venus or venezuela w – watch x – xacto y – yellow z – zoom

Taco Doggo Jenn Gaudio Spring 2019 • 33


Hana Lani

Rachel Burger

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A Poem Dedicated to the Poet Noah Stevens

for now, this— an admiration of every tree, of every leaf—love for each blade of grass, for a thousand petals on a hundred flowers. i am still in love with everything around me— teeth crowded in the grinning mouths of friends, talking on the phone and eating dinner and clarissa’s sweater and jack’s new shoes. i am growing— finally, graciously growing and spreading up towards the sun, meeting myself where i am and meeting you where you ought to be met.

Thirst

Mackenzie Murray

You hear the footfalls first. They’re quiet. They’re quick. They’re trying to keep pace with you. Four yards behind your back, consistent. A specter content to fill their lungs with the same damp air that left yours four yards ago. The sound shifts. Three yards at most. Two. They’re closer. The heavy tick, distinctive, the fleeting pressure of his shoes audibly resound upon the dry pavement they push against. The pavement is dry. The linen snaps. His shirt sleeve, his thirst, his reach. Your neck within a snap— “I didn’t say you could touch me.” Spring 2019 • 35


Untitled Sreenidhi Kotipalli

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Thor’s Playground Gabriella Liles

Spring 2019 • 37


Dragon Tastebuds Mercy Griffith

Did you know that the flavors from a single bite of food can evoke more memories than a thousand images? I learned this after conducting a detailed research study a couple days ago. Unfortunately, the sample size of the study was 1 and the p-value was 0.5, so the science community did not recognize it as valid research, but I sure do. I have a theory that tastebuds are really just memory pods, itching to burst like an agitated hornets nest. And there are certain foods that really set them off. Some of these foods you can predict, like that watery greenbean casserole Auntie Marge brought to every gathering, a physical representation of family dysfunction at its finest. Even the scent of that one will shove you along memory lane. Or perhaps it’s that grape slushy you upchucked on the tilt-a-whirl in front of your middle school crush. But these flavors sting in a good-natured way, pricking your pride or reminding you that the utopic family you’ve conjured up doesn’t actually exist. Your tastebud memory pods don’t release too much venom when they encounter greenbean casseroles or grape slushies—just enough to cause some minor discomfort. But there are other foods that like to poke at your tastebuds as if taunting a sleeping dragon. Sometimes your tastebuds continue sleeping, and you can eat your popcorn and your buff-chick dip without a care in the world. Other times, you awaken the mighty dragon and he wreaks havoc on your mind, roaring fiery memories into your cerebrum. All from a simple bite of a simple food. The issue with these foods is that you never know when they’re going to erupt your mouth memories. For example, take me at an ice cream parlor two weeks ago buying the usual: one scoop caramel, one scoop coffee, 38 • American Literary Magazine

one minute later and I’ve wolfed it down. Perfect. Take me two nights ago, this time alone in my apartment, but sticking to the routine—one scoop caramel, one scoop coffee—the difference only in the price. (Which, now that I think about it, should’ve appeased my little tastebud friends, because every part of my body is affected by my lack of money, but I digress). Anyway, one scoop caramel, one scoop coffee, one bite later, and my goodness it’s madness. It’s like a mobile home traveling the speed of a jetliner crashed into the tallest skyscraper ever which promptly toppled onto me, crushing me beneath the weight of a million memories and all I can hear is his laugh, the joyful kind of a child being tickled. My ice cream cone is on the ground of the parking lot and he is trying to scoop it up with the keys to his car. He motions to lick it off the cement and I squeal in delighted opposition. Ah! Stopppp, I was getting full anyway. (False, I was just getting to the good part where you get to suck the ice cream out the bottom of the cone). But, before I know it, I kneel down next to him, and we’re in the Oklahoma salt flats, both licking the ground, that Midwest wind whipping my hair out of my ponytail, cheering on our senses of adventure. We stick our tongues to the earth, letting the thousand year-old saltiness peck at our mouths. The salty scent of the burger joint clings to our clothes, and I slather my french fries in ketchup and smear sauce across my cheeks as I bite into a bacon cheeseburger. He’s laughing because I look ridiculous. I’m laughing because I love him and I love burgers. We’re both laughing as the Spongebob references fly across the table set with


“I guarantee you any food would sting like hell if it hit the right tastebud memory pods.”

pancakes, bacon, and bagels—the classic breakfast for dinner. I sit back for a moment, taking it all in, as my favorite people in the world guffaw over a cartoon that clearly has more meaning than I ever realized. I am thankful for that day, strolling along the pier, complete with a caramel apple and a timelapse of the sunset. He shows me the different constellations and I taste salt as it sprays off the waves. He hugs me tight because I’m a bit chilly, wearing a yellow t-shirt I got from a college I didn’t attend. It’s funny how college changes people. I’m too tired to cry, but I do it anyway, pressing my face into my pillow, praying my worst fears will not be so. We’re growing apart. I just don’t see how our lives could align, you know? We want different things. We’re not together anymore, for two months to be exact. I’m on the floor of my bedroom with the hospital results on my computer screen. It’s a wonder my Mac still works with the tears that are splashing onto the keyboard. I want to call him...he’d know what to say. I’m so alone. I wish I could

what he’s thinking. I tell my therapist, perched on his gray couch like an aged woman who has actual issues to deal with. I feel silly bringing him up. It’s been almost a year. But I guess I have that damned coffee and caramel ice cream to blame. And homemade monkey bread. And six-bean salad. And hot dogs. And barbeque potato chips. And...well...we were together for so long I guarantee you any food would sting like hell if it hit the right tastebud memory pods. And before you know it I’ll be pushed straight onto that twisty reminiscing road, spiraling through the past like they do in the Phil of the Future theme song (throwback to early 2000s Disney...at least that doesn’t remind me of him). I’m going to write a letter to the science journal that rejected my research study. Actually, I might modify my study: the flavors from a single bite of food can evoke more memories than a *million images. Seems accurate to me. I mean, based on my experience.

redirect my thoughts more efficiently. It’s been five months now, and his mother sent me chocolate covered strawberries for my birthday. I share them with my roommate, but she doesn’t like strawberries, so I eat all of them that night, choking on the sweetness. My stomach hurts when I read the news. Some things are just bigger than us. I text him. I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m praying for you, I’m here if you need to talk. He thanks me, but stays distant. I wonder

Spring 2019 • 39


figure 8

Wesley Dankwa These are the things, That ruin the week. You can see it in the eyes, the color of capricious skies, was there no recollection? Forget it—never again. See it in the voices assorted mess of sounds they linger and you linger. Another day: noise, noise, noise. See it in the silence bouncing off the walls soundless like time again, stealing weeks, days, years until you have no more time to kill. To think, these were the things, things that would ruin the weak.

Haven Mackenzie Murray When they came, I sunk a sigil beneath my skin, just above the breast bone braced against the boards they stood behind. I heard them, the strangers— racking their nails deftly across my door cutting a curse into the wood When they came, my home succumbed to conjured storm, the city that sealed my wounds with its skyline and sharpened my teeth with its maelstrom, damp with accelerant. I pitied them, the strangers— misunderstanding the woman they decided to test. I stood there willing to burn my haven to the ground if it meant saving it from them. 40 • American Literary Magazine


2016 Clinton Campaign Stickers Bryan McGinnis

Spring 2019 • 41


Sunscald Noah Stevens

i walk into the garden. Charlotte is already there, crouched, cradling a tomato. i can see a bright white spot spreading south on its outer skin. twelve tiny hills interrupt the plain of her back. my fingers trace a soft, lonely valley. she says nothing. too much sun, i tell her. she knows. some on the vine are salvageable, shaded from the sun’s scorch. in our grief, we will let them rot.

tranquil Jenn Gaudio 42 • American Literary Magazine


Neuengamme in Spring Devon Wiensch

Spring 2019 • 43


apartments for sale Jordan Redd

44 • American Literary Magazine


Slant

after Suji Kwock Kim Aaron Chung

If the angle of an eye is all that they see advise them to get their vision checked. I’m not a confrontational person— I’m laid back like the palm trees lining 6th street gently more lean-ient with age. Some people claim to feel the city sinking beneath their feet. I call it their endless existential crisis. Endless like roots that run deeper than faults, how we beg scrap scrape dance for water and always find a way. I think of halmonees with their backs curved as if the gravity of stars and tiger stripes became too much to bear. I think of the air, suffocating with promises of “all-you-can-eat,” smog, weed— the steel towers with their slanted gaze toward the heavens where the sun nods lazily like a buoy.

A Poem for The Girls Who Have Loved Me Amanda Book

Jagged lights follow us into the street as our soft words bud into bloodroots and then weeping willows. You teach me how to put in a tampon and I teach you how to crack your knuckles into mine. The city learns to adjust to the pace you walk, and I do too. We discover that unmistakable, irreplaceable teenage girl love that wraps you up and spits you out with a knife tucked into your hip and bitch stitched into your cheeks. We dance through eclipsed air, scarlet-eyed, half-mooned hyphens we can’t get out of our backs— and all that matters is that I have a hand to hold. Spring 2019 • 45


A Tasting of Grief

As Told in Four Wonderances Charlotte Faust

I am different now. Left here in the echo of death, I am suspended in a new kind of missing. A kind of missing which deals in lifetimes. In a mental confrontation with loss, the hurt naturally entwined in losing and missing the lost one and wanting to see them again is expected. The unexpected lies in real confrontation with loss. Here, I find the hurt of losing who I used to be, in missing that old self, wishing they were still here as well. Here, in the echo of death, I am different.

Here, in the absence of the dead, I am caught up in what I inadvertently choose to remember about them. By what makes me think of them. By what reminds me of them. I find that sunflowers encompass all of those. Death echoing around me, I escape in my mind to a field of sunflowers. Yet, I am betrayed once more by my tainted memories. I become encompassed by all the memories that never were. All the moments that are not there. I begin to wonder why I am ever alone. I cannot imagine not being alone.

A wonderance races through my mind of how those in the echo of death manage to breathe. It feels unsteady, unnatural, untrue. It feels as though the death that occurred is not receiving the proper recognition. An echo should be a scream. It feels as though breathing, an undeniable act of life, should be harder. Instead, breathing continues to be an involuntary reflex, and life gets harder. I am tainted by loss. I am left with fault lines. More than just myself, my memories have been tainted with this loss too. I find myself tugging on the sleeve of how it used to be. A new wonderance escapes my mind. I wonder at why and how we feel what we feel and what we can and cannot do about that. Are there others out there in this echo too?

I am struck with a third wonderance. Must I be alone because my memories are exclusively mine? They live exclusively in my mind either because the other members of my memories exist no longer or because they remember differently than me. Must I be left alone to confront these moments that only I have lived through? Given that, I wonder at the effects of this exercise. Will grief taste the same to you as it does to me? How different does grief taste when it is not your own grief you are tasting? In either case, here in the echo of death, I write down what I can. Here in the echo of death, that makes it feel less lonely. At last I wonder if that is what grieving is: a slow crawl toward feeling less lonely.

“Are there others out there in this echo too?�

46 • American Literary Magazine


don’t lie Alice Bershtein

Spring 2019 • 47


Specter Mackenzie Murray

48 • American Literary Magazine


Harbour Pak Go Chow

Spring 2019 • 49


Smile and Stare Gabrielle Michel

50 • American Literary Magazine


Aquí, poema Diana Guzman Estoy aquí, viviendo mi vida, y de momento me da tu olor, golpeándome instantáneamente en la cara. Se me eriza la piel, pero es fucking cruel, la injusticia de hacerme creer que estas allí, cuando yo se muy bien que ya sufrí, por esta misma mierda, una y otra vez, pero siempre revivo este momento. Y ya de nuevo no encuentro mi aliento. Olvido respirar, como si coincidir contigo, fuera mas importante que ocupar, el oxígeno que exasperada trato de inhalar, con miedo a que te pierdo, pero eso ya ocurrió ¿no? Así que no se en que pienso. De momento abro la boca y comienzo a respirar, pero al segundo todo me vuelve a dar. Y me doy cuenta, que tu memoria nunca se borrará, aunque te trate de olvidar. Me molesto contigo por tu ignorancia, y conmigo por dejarme utilizar, dentro de algo que sabía que iba a terminar mal. Estoy aquí, y se que me lo merezco, por no ver las advertencias que me diste, mientras ese beso proclamaba mi muerte, ese dia en la estación. Donde me devolviste a la vida, en la que sabes muy bien que finjo.

Así que no se que espero, viviendo en el pasado y recordando tu memoria, mientras tu olvidas nuestra historia. Así que en esta vida finjo no perderte, no conocerte, no olerte, no verte, no besarte bajo la luna, o conversar frente al mar, cantar en el carro mientras me sobas el pelo, o por primera vez ver tu ojos caramelo. En esta vida finjo no amarte, porque quiero borrarte, pero no quiero fallarte. Así que no se como finalmente mandarte pal carajo, pero no te preocupes, ya mismo lo hago. No te voy a mentir, se me ha hecho difícil vivir. Pero estoy aquí, y se que me lo merezco, pero no me arrepiento. Porque así de mucho te ame y así de mucho siempre lo haré. De momento abro la boca y comienzo a respirar, porque se que poco a poco lo voy a lograr. Estoy aquí, viviendo mi vida, no se si feliz, pero al menos, tú, no estas aquí.

Porque ese día sabias que todo terminaría, y no dijiste nada por cobarde, y no hice nada por no abandonarte, pero eso ya ocurrió ¿no? Spring 2019 • 51


Untitled

Sreenidhi Kotipalli

52 • American Literary Magazine


ode to cum James Skiest

last week i wore my favorite coat despite the big stain on it i told everyone it was toothpaste but it was not it was cum

Growth

Noah Stevens

Spring 2019 • 53


Teaching Obeisance Aaron Chung Some lines you can never cross. Where are you from? I choke every time someone asks me this. Is it okay if I leave that question hanged? Is it okay if I leave that line on the form alone? 네 알겠습니다. Yes, I understand. My parents pulled these words out of me when I talked back, approached a line I could never cross. Of all the things they could give me, they gave me the last word. The Koreans eventually got the last word when the Japanese occupation ended, drawing a line through the centuries-old history of subjugation. But my granddad still knew his Japanese name better than his birth name— his Japanese tongue refused to relocate. 네 알겠습니다. Yes, I understand. He says in Japanese. For decades after, he was fluent in silence. When he was alive, all I did was listen. Listen to those raised voices, whose tongues are not their own. Granddad, this year I wrote my 38th parallel. I signed and agreed to a full disclosure all the things eating away inside of me that I didn’t have the Panmunjom to tell the world. That I was too afraid to cross that line. That I could only say 네 알겠습니다. Yes, I understand through gritted teeth.

54 • American Literary Magazine


when it’s over Matt Francisco

Spring 2019 • 55


crocs Stephanie Mirah if i met my Fate at a party, i’d tell her i liked her shoes (even if they were crocs) hoping she’d take that into consideration.

Prairie Mauu Rachel Burger

56 • American Literary Magazine


The If Statements Amanda Hodes

var self-worth, yellowed moon; var bosomed song, dark maroon; function setup() { //what would happen if } function draw() { if (self-worth ==0) { yellowed moon.split([1], 2, 3); //mollusked spine, a soft curled line } var better = analyzer.get(); log(better); //the things that get reduced //or lost, the eroding edges smooth(); else if (self worth ==!0) { translate(better); //still here } }

twitch Emaan Khan my most favorite part was when his butterfly lashes curled under puddle of black dilating just a small flutter but it sent me away the rest of his face remained still his stubble quivered, and the dark wreath around his head made me dizzy this is the heartbeat i remember the most near the window with my muslin curtains pressed up against hard fabric, wishing i could close my eyes for longer so i didn’t have to see him twitch

Spring 2019 • 57


Wilshire Blvd Aaron Chung By the time they build the purple line, LA will be 70 feet underwater. The wildfires have been cancelled. I’ll be riding the newly-built subway from La Brea to Western and still be able to see the homeless man sleeping outside of the Korean BBQ restaurant. I’ve learned that it’s worse to build one’s hopes and abandon them than to not have any hope at all. Before the purple line was even a pipe dream we had the 2002 World Cup. I was too young to be a real fan, but I looked on in awe at my extended extended extended family reunion. We all wore the same “Be The Reds” shirts and the same grins: smiles so radiant our eyes disappeared in the half-moons. The day before the semifinal round I watched my cousin lean out of the car window and wave a ***taegukki.*** The car horns behind us became a full brass section symphony, a song that never left my ears but never reached its crescendo.

58 • American Literary Magazine

CW: substance abuse

wells

Anonymous wells of deep blue and mossy green tinged with tendrils of bloodshot cornea. he gasps for breath, and the wells grow larger. cracked teeth clank against glass bottle; eruptions of bloody spittle settle on the kitchen floor. lines in his forehead crease and uncrease and crease again as the wells begin to overflow; the pesky moss, wielding itself between the hard pressed stone shines brighter than ever in the refrigerator light.


Best in Show Photography

Your Parents Don’t Know What Patience Is Zander Velleca

Spring 2019 • 59


Light Touch Amanda Book

60 • American Literary Magazine


down to earth Emaan Khan CW: eating disorders

the beginning chords of my favorite song chime too loudly. they hurt. did you think your feet had been bound, it asks? i think i did. i put and put and put one foot after another down massachusetts avenue. i knew the cross-sections of d.c. so well, how j street sits next to that one trader joes and where runners shave off their nikes. my vans followed the deep holes in the ground i’ve paved for the last month. at target, i shiver walk past the frozen peas and yoga moms. my shaking and shivering and fast-heart-beating, all for diet coke. my sour, aspartame-filled, hollow cans of relief. my breakfast, lunch, and dinner. i fumble back on the street, seeing the slowly blinking, slightly chilled eyes of people whose eyes flash in fear. no, jealousy, i think i reach the wall art in front of the bethesda metro station. i glance down at the esca lators, looking at the relief i could give myself, the air i could breathe. i refuse. i walk 4 miles back to the tawny buildings on east campus. with each step i kept wondering if that would be the last one. my fitbit kept sliding off my wrists, so i had to tape it to keep it on. after i got back to my room, curling up in my jersey sheets, i looked at it’s blue screen. 14,000 steps. seriously? that's all? -

so i go back to whole foods. i can get the 10 oz packet of strawberries, that’s enough to keep me going. i can do this. i sat outside next to panera, people trying not to look at me while staring into their bread bowls. i stared at them. glistening, wet, pebbled strawberries, squished together in plastic. i carefully remove the top, and slowly sink my front two teeth into the tip of one. i chew slowly, eating tiny bites. my stomach roared. my mind screamed. i couldn’t do it anymore. i chewed frantically, almost choking on them there, i did it. now, breathe, breathe. walk back to the bus stop, you can do it. my eyes hurt from the dark spots, they stayed even when i shook my head. i could not. i can not. i walked back to the stone ledge and the potted plant, trying to sit. eyes blurry, chest convulsing, legs burning, head spinning. and i fell down to earth. there on the ground in front of the AU bus. concrete, my jansport under my head. has she gone? my stomach folded itself and everyone around me could see it. it felt like i was underwater for too long, but not long enough. i shook, the converse and bean boots walking past me, unconcerned with my framework, little bag of bones, in my warriors sweater and my jack skellington face, down to earth is she gone?

i don’t want to step on it. i don’t. but i do. it is fresh and cold under my feet. 73 pounds. i really tried to get better. for my mama’s tears, for my dad’s pacing back and forth, his 3000 mile rescue mission. Spring 2019 • 61


collider

Wesley Dankwa

freebasing cocaine: a terse composition James Skiest

cocaine overflows and swells the room with pain, the nose inhales the smell of doom out of two snow-capped nose holes warm liquid crimson dripped right in two my soul snapped, grows the toll, and livid vision slipped 62 • American Literary Magazine


Malibu Pelicans Danielle Korzhenyak

Spring 2019 • 63


Dear Protagonist Brianna Bytner

Now it is time for you to leave my mind and travel to the world I must trap you in. You aren’t afraid yet. You don’t even know your name. But you will soon. I will drop you inside a home and chain your papier-mâchéd past to your ankles. The other characters may suffocate you. One will push you down. One will offer you kindness. One will make you fall in love. And all will break your heart and your trust. But that is okay. They’ll make you better. You’ll need some provisions for the journey, so I’ll give you this backpack. In it are weights. Mascara, a secret, and a cellphone, to name a few. They’ll be heavy. After all, you’ll be carrying two burdens. But they’re all you have to survive. Everyday you’ll be scorched by fires that can’t help but get in your way. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find an easier path. Just know that I send you through the flames with love. Know that you must burn and heal different from the way I did, so that people can understand. One last warning. There is no happy ending. But trust me, you don’t want one. Instead, I’ll write a sequel. There you can do whatever you want. There you have hope. The clock is ticking, dear. We’re on borrowed time, so let’s start with chapter one. Once upon a time…

64 • American Literary Magazine


cast a spell Jenn Gaudio

Spring 2019 • 65


A Top Ten List Charlotte Faust

10. The first few notes of anybody’s favorite song. 9. Candlelight.

nature or any similarly grand concept; it’s just a study in who a person really is. So to continue this study in who I really am,

8. Ivy-covered walls.

4. Thunder.

You can tell a lot about a person by a list of their top ten favorite things, not so much because of the things themselves, but because of the whys that sit behind these things. I love the first few notes of anybody’s favorite song because they signify a beautiful beginning. I love candlelight because the shadows it throws dance across empty air in a way nothing else can. I love ivy-covered walls because there’s always something hiding underneath.

Because it is a fear I have long gotten over.

7. The album Hunky Dory by David Bowie. Because of everything it does in me. 6. White curtains fluttering in the breeze from an open window on a sunny day. Because there’s nothing in the world more free than wind and sunlight. 5. Clouds. Because despite the phrase “the sky’s the limit,” the sky has no visible depth to it without clouds; without clouds it is impossible to see how far one can truly go. You see, every story has a backstory. For every beginning, there is an ending that came before. Not every ending must be known to understand the beginning that follows; however, such knowledge can lead to an unprecedented understanding of another human being. Understanding people’s whys isn’t a study in human 66 • American Literary Magazine

3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Because everybody needs to be like Holly Golightly sometimes. 2. Sunflowers. Because one year my great-grandmother decided to plant 50 acres of sunflowers on her farm just because she could, and the resulting photograph of her in a great expanse of yellow is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. But most of all, 1. The words “and then” Because they hold within their combined seven letters an overture to something wonderful. They hold the promise of a million anythings which could happen next.


blisskers

Mercy Griffith

Spring 2019 • 67


self care Rin Ryan to the suffering, the volatile, those picking up the pieces of a broken heart, i can tell you nothing but this; keep going. it will hurt less. you will wake up tomorrow morning and it will hurt less. you will make your coffee and eat your breakfast and it will hurt less. you will take care of your tasks for the day and it will hurt less. and when night comes, you may rest your head on the pillow and trust that tomorrow, it will hurt less. keep going. take your medication and brush your hair and it will hurt less. be on time to work and make your bed and it will hurt less. smile at babies even if you think they’re little piss machines, vectors of disease and tears, and it will hurt less. remember that once upon a time you too were a little piss machine, a vector of disease and tears, and it will hurt less. try not to be too jealous of the babies, and it will hurt less. keep going. delete the playlists you cry to and it will hurt less. take breaths so deep your lungs ache and scream and let them out all at once and it will hurt less. feel nature’s whims on your skin and the throb of your heart in your throat and the gentle brush of a puppy’s fur on your fingers and it will hurt less. eat full meals and ignore the little demon of hate in the back of your mind, blast taylor swift to drown out the thoughts beguiling you to harm yourself and buy yourself lattes with extra fancy oat-milk and listen to christmas music year round and wear neon colored sweaters and Tomorrow it will hurt less.

(6 impossible things) Before Breakfast Riddhi Setty

I woke up at 6:23 am with the birds chirping and a haze of sunlight revealing dancing dust. I got out of bed, put on my workout gear and did yoga. I could touch my toes. The universe opened up its arms and engulfed me in them, stroking my hair and whispering its secrets in my ear. I winged my eyeliner perfectly. I matched Beyoncé note for note as we belted out “Drunk in Love” in unison. I looked in the mirror and told myself I loved me. I meant it. At 8:32 am, I ate breakfast.

68 • American Literary Magazine


Peanut Butter and Jellies Gabrielle Liles

Spring 2019 • 69


Asian Glow

after David Tomas Martinez Aaron Chung Asian Glow after David Tomas Martinez Look at how the eerie green tint radiates with brutal honesty. To enjoy properly,

hold it upside down, shake, hitting the bottom with elbow or fist violent rituals

free what is trapped.

The liquid inside is clear, odorless. Disguised as water. No, this is our water. Our family history flows like soju into glass. Clear, odorless. We hide no secrets. No, I’m not fucked up, I just look like this. Keep it flowing, I say in my grandfather’s voice. Cold in my hand, warm in my throat. Brings color to my cheeks. dead

Brings the

back to life.

Grandfather died of liver failure.

Dad’s first job in America was as a liquor store supplier. My migraines recreate hangovers. Addiction flows through our blood. We look for ways to escape .

They say Asian people lack the enzyme to break down alcohol. But I break down a lot. flowing. When my head on temple doors.

70 • American Literary Magazine

throbs,

knuckles This is my ritual.

Keep it

pound


4to3 Pak Gi Chow

Spring 2019 • 71


Internalized

Mackenzie Murray

72 • American Literary Magazine


chaos & knowledge Stephanie Mirah

Spring 2019 • 73


Our Mother’s Rosary Alesha Butler

Áve María, grátia pléna— One. womb to our mother’s shaking hands. my birthright was to love you, she says this family is sugarcane suckers, a generation of plantation house birthing suites passed down like wedding rings, brass, and sour tasting marriage to marriage, home is only where i can hold you and you feel safe Two. womb to our mother is weeping again. does she know we can see her this time? it’s not so bad, it’s not so much worse, see, see this one says goodnight and leaves, see this one doesn’t scream see? why is she still crying? Three. womb to our mother, our father. the ideal family is two point five children the half is just for pleasantries, you don’t have to make yourself smaller, my child Four. womb to our mother, full of grace. you were born on a saturday a day for buttered pancakes with fresh maple syrup you get from some store down on blossom street and it’s Too Sweet but you don’t make That Face on saturday so it’s almost okay Five. womb to tomb, darling, she says, my mama didn’t hold me enough but i learned how to choke the life out of my eyes anyway, and anyway, my hands are big enough for the both of us pray for me before bed, before your wedding, before you leave me in the same house i left my mama in to rot away i’ll pray you never feel this way Ámen.

74 • American Literary Magazine


Dug In Amanda Book

Spring 2019 • 75


60 years of love Danielle Korzhenyak

76 • American Literary Magazine


The Summer of 2000 Cam Diagonale was two summers before Papa died, and the summer the swimming dock at Grandma’s lakehouse came unmoored and marooned itself on the rocks near her blueberry bushes. It was the summer that my dad put me down for a nap without knowledge of the wasp, obscured by the linen curtain, my earliest memory one of quaking terror as I trembled under the sheets listening to its panicked flutter with sweat matting my stringy bangs. I was two. It was the summer of my second birthday party, and I cried when everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” too many faces staring at me, timid in my highchair, electric blue buttercream frosting smeared on my cheeks and my arms outstretched toward Mom.

Improper Haiku Stephanie Mirah abracadabra! oversimplification, extravaganza.

Spring 2019 • 77


Best in Show Poetry

Wednesday Noah Stevens

Up in our room, the window is open. Anne comes in and shuts it. I was letting the sky in, I say. That mean thing? She asks. We don’t need it. She tells me we should paint the room yellow. Tonight? I say. Tonight, She says. Anne rolls over on the bed. Annie, I say. I’d have to catch the bus to buy the yellow paint.

78 • American Literary Magazine

butterflies Jéla Lewter

if butterflies are part of the body’s fight or flight response, then love must truly be a terrifying thing. must be that butterfly effect but would that not make you the butterfly? the flap of your wings, causing catastrophe inside of me. how can a flutter upset me so much? i want to rip off your patterned wings pluck each leg from your thorax. one by one they fall, floating in the acids of my stomach, till you can’t even crawl and then i will be at peace.


at midnight Matt Francisco

Spring 2019 • 79


Green Sea Alice Bershtein

Drop, Fizz, Bloom Taking baths in your childhood tub is an oddly reflective experience. You watch yourself grow and change over time, the way you take up space shifting while the porcelain stays the same. When I was too small to take a big-girl bath, my mom would use a big soup pot. I was a tiny baby, so she would fill the pot with water and stick it in the empty bathtub, preventing me from splashing around and getting everything wet. I remember feeling like the main ingredient in a stew or Gretel being cooked by the wicked witch. Baths are supposed to be relaxing. They are lauded as self-care. But how can you not pass judgment on yourself the whole time? Even a bath bomb cannot mask the cramped feeling, the feet sticking out at the end, the rolls of your tummy peeking out through waves of green. I used to feel like a little fish in the bathtub. It was always big and deep with so many crevices and caves to explore and breathing contests to hold alone. Now, I am a continent. I am islands and countries and whirlpools within stormy seas. The valleys grow and recede with the tide of my breath. In, out. In, out. I watch the shimmering green flow away from my belly button, and the mountains grow. As the river fills back up, mountains recede to hills. My stomach is fully submerged; I hold my breath. I am a little girl again. But it cannot stay. I exhale. The land grows from the sea and the water ripples. My pale skin brings new life to an ocean of mica and cypress oil. 80 • American Literary Magazine


Untitled Sreenidhi Kotipalli

Spring 2019 • 81


Best in Show Art

The Hub Caleb Gleit 82 • American Literary Magazine


Tram 17 Jordan Redd

Spring 2019 • 83


Matchsticks

Mackenzie Murray some men sate themselves with cigarettes some men tether women to pyres some men prefer women as corpses they swear their light more reliable than matchsticks they swear their smoke sweeter smelling some men are wicked some women are witches some men are more wicked than the witches they burn. but witches light cigarettes without such ritual and women aren’t obliged to sate men if a man is incapable of lighting a cigarette without a pyre he shouldn’t be smoking

Breathing Underwater Grace Hasson With each poem I share a tiny trickle of the ocean within me And I spend my time thinking About the people I want to share my world with I’ll spend my life searching for the one Who wants to swim my seas, Breathe the salt in my air, Crash into me like a wave. But I’m so afraid of the truth that I’ll Never find anyone I can share everything with That the only one who can tread water Inside my head is me And on some days Even I drown.

84 • American Literary Magazine


zara ulice Jordan Redd

Spring 2019 • 85


It's Either The Pool Or The Coaster, Kid Zander Velleca

86 • American Literary Magazine


timelapse Rachel Burger

Spring 2019 • 87


Amen anonymous If there’s a word for this holy hallelujah that’s drilling a hole in my heart I don’t speak the right language to find it I’ve fingered at rosaries and tongued at prayers And all I find are empty words and plastic beads I think wine would turn to water on my tongue, I could get drunk on salvation My body has such a low tolerance for tender touch.

88 • American Literary Magazine


Best in Show Poetry

Mama

Emaan Khan i think i know what life is like for mama she is head thrown back laugh fur filled hands and big, whole smile, i wonder what bloomed her silence, the so much underneath non­action verbs and wool blend blazers, she has cherry nails that cup little blossoms puts them in my palm and folds over my fingers hands that swivel the wilted, growing poppy seeds and raking the “mom, can you”s into small heaps, smearing mortar and veneer with an empty space and two diet cokes she builds with a bad back, ash stuck in between her fingers striding truck paths and dirt clouds stepping in wet cement and on weeds she stops every third step for a small rest, letting me run far past smiling still, a crevice in her forehead always she is there on 3rd step, soft black hair and olay skin making it okay face and hand of purple poppy mallow, waving with ashen fingers

before Jordan McCormack

Spring 2019 • 89


Loud

Alice Bershtein Lions leap and gazelles snarl and the mountains and hills skip backwards and the sky opens up and shouts: “What does it mean! What does it mean!” My mouth opens up and all you can hear is “outsider”. Always, all you can hear is “outsider”. Always the outsider. And I sew my mouth closed but my lips tear through the string and I yell: “What does it mean! What does it mean!” I tie my mouth shut, this time with wire but still my lips burst through the metal, ripping it from my gums, screaming: “What does it mean! What does it mean!” And all you ever hear is “outsider”. Always the outsider. I cover my face with my hands to stifle the sound and still it echoes through: “Outsider. Outsider. Outsider.” I ask the questions. I keep on asking questions. Question. Question. Question. “Shut up. Shut up and sit down.” It’s what I say to myself when the string doesn’t work and the wire doesn’t work and my hands don’t work and yet here I still am. Yelling. Shouting. Screaming. Talking. Talking. Talking. Asking. Even now, I whisper: “what does it mean? what does it mean?” All I can do is ask.

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Femmes de Renaissance Rachel Burger

Spring 2019 • 91


Essential Truths, as (re)discovered and on the way to Lincoln Peak, Warren, VT Niccolo Becht

I’m on the move again Jerseysliding with an unvelcroed E-Z Pass slammed to the windshield by hand. Billy Squier or equivalent anthems blare loud as fuck, and we break 90 over the bridge to the Green State. It is beyond cold atop the mountain, but I have stolen God’s eyes, and for a glittering blink I can see years stretch out from picturebook treetops to water I can’t name. But wind picks up, and clouds draw in. I slide down fake snow, spit frozen to my cheeks.

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Descendants Mercy Griffith

Spring 2019 • 93


Untitled Sreenidhi Kotipalli

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Best in Show Poetry

If David Foster Wallace fought Billy Collins, this is what it would sound like. Niccolo Becht

If David Foster Wallace fought Billy Collins, this is what it would sound like. If I had to choose some fundamental difference by which to separate two distinct sects of the human animal, I would choose the spoken pronunciation of the pictorial heart on dry-cleaner hangers, i.e. “We Our Customers” where some voice the visually apparent “heart” and others translate almost by instinct its implicit meaning (“love”). “Heart”-ers, I posit, think visually organize perfect geometry and chart their courses with the cartographer’s flowing stillness. While “love”-ers speak in symbols and self-reference where the thing can only exist within the context of some greater, better-established Thing. And are inherently attenuated to the postmodern landscape as governed by nostalgia and where invention only stands with the prefix “Re-” (I should say that I read “heart” aloud.) But then again perhaps it means nothing; I am overanalyzing, drawing lines where I hope they will appear. I say

as I chew my phallic cigar.

Spring 2019 • 95


Park County, WY1 Cam Diagonale

A farmer awakens to a death, the funerary bleats of his cattle piercing dawn’s muted din, another one of their own taken in the night. The sunrise is slow, as if also in mourning, yellowed yolk oozing down the face of Sheep Mountain. His wife fixes him a cup of coffee and his toast, her face tired, her small hands reaching for his, cracked and hardened. Touching the half moon cut on his knuckle she whispers, “maybe we were never cut out for this life out West.” But he won’t consider this a failure; there is work to be done, a mess to clean, the slashed throat of a slain calf having stained sand, turning desert rocks to rubies. The others stir, restless in their collective defenselessness, umber eyes rolling back into skulls, herd mentality manifesting unbridled fear. How to accept the necessity of this terror, how to reconcile loss with regrowth? Standing over the bloodied ground, this hard earth, he tries to make sense of sublime, his hands clasped against his chest as if to corral his dull ache, listening for Yellowstone howls, and watching as the weak, watery light of morning becomes a stark blue.

In 1995, grey wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and areas of Idaho in an effort to rehabilitate the fragile ecosystem that had been damaged by rampant elk populations. Since then, there have been hundreds of confirmed incidents of livestock depredation. While the majority of wolves ignore livestock entirely, a few wolves or wolf packs will become chronic livestock hunters. 1

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Refined in Barbados Rachel Burger

Spring 2019 • 97


Chocolate Grace Hasson

The scent of chamomile and honey grace the air. Steaming mug beside three chocolates, all wrapped in red. My insides feel raw, like I swallowed something cold and undercooked. I take a chocolate into my palm, and it is decorated with blood. I hope the sweet taste lingers, hope it helps with the emptiness. I unwrap the red to reveal warm chocolate, melting onto my fingertips— Some people think sweetness can make up for everything, But I’ve never been much of a believer. I drop the chocolates in the tea one by one by one. Soon three red wrappers tangle together, blood spatters on the table, And the chocolates melt into one mass in the tea. I’m bored of the chocolates and what I’m missing out on. Thinking about scalding myself with the tea for being wasteful. The chocolate, ruined, and the tea: Cold as raw fish, hidden inside the ceramic walls So that you only know the drink is ruined if you take a sip. Wash the chocolate stains from the bottom, Maybe the bathroom sink will smell of chocolate after it all— Or maybe soap and cold water will overcome everything. Rinse and repeat, I say. Let the warmth come and go And maybe someday I’ll eat the chocolates, Rather than letting them sink and stain the bottom.

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I'll Drink Till My Spit Gets Thick Zander Velleca

Spring 2019 • 99


California 2018 “wild” fire Nohea Shozen

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Without a Head Stephanie Mirah

I’m not sure where he went. It’s been longer than usual this time. He typically only walks for fifteen. No, he probably won’t mind you’re over. I am his personal assistant. My mom said I needed a summer job, and he pays 14 bucks an hour. So, here I am I guess. This is where he works. That is a disassembled bobble-head and then this is his desktop computer and this, in my hands, is a peanut butter and fluff sandwich. See how it’s oozing from its cut? That’s because he loves extra fluff. I tell him that maybe I should cut back on the fluff or replace it with something healthier like jelly. But, I should have known. Jelly made that grown man curt.

popping off the head and plopping into a can I took out weeks ago. Don’t know why he kept the body. I don’t ask. Oh no, his sandwich is melting. Almost as bad as his mind. All over everywhere. I’ll have to make another. Between us, he hasn’t published in over a month. The heads are getting mad. I bet if he could, he would stick his thumb underneath their necks and pop them off, too. But writers have rules and fluff is better than jelly and he has to be careful. He wouldn’t want sticky keys now.

The first time I was here, I made the wrong sandwich. Smeared jelly on the bread, and he only offered me a huff when I gave it to him. No words. Just a breath and a forceful shove of the plate back into my hands. I got the hang of it, though. Found the fluff in the cabinet behind the canned ham and baked beans. Learned to make it right all on my own. He types slower than his mind. That’s why he isn’t here. He never laughs at my jokes about it. “Better slow that mind down before it accidentally medals in speed skating,” I say while he sits slumped with his head in his hands. He huffs at jokes like that. I know they’re funny. He goes on a lot of walks to “re-center.” Like he is now. And then I am left waiting with his food. Yeah, I haven’t figured out why he hasn’t gotten rid of the whole thing, yet. Only the body of it remains. He claimed the eyes were “too real,” and he didn’t want it watching while he wrote. I tried to remind him that it was a gift and that it is rare for bobble-heads to be bugged with recording devices. But there he went,

Roasted Jenn Gaudio Spring 2019 • 101


Hot Breath Jacob Weil

There was a boy in Sarah’s class who she thought about sometimes. He was strong and clean, and she saw him beating someone outside their school. He held the man by the waist with one arm and punched him in the chest until he stopped resisting. He then deposited the other man on the ground and walked away. The boy walked by her, and she pretended to watch the other boy’s chest breathe, which she eventually picked up in earnest. Later that day the boy waited outside school for Sarah to get out of class. He waited for 20 minutes. He saw her and asked her to dinner. She said yes and cancelled the plans she had with her mother. Her mother watched the lasagna cook in the oven. Sarah and the boy walked to the boy’s mother’s house and didn’t talk mostly. Sarah began to smoke a cigarette but stopped once the boy gave her a weird look. “I’m trying to quit, anyway,” Sarah said.

“Why?” the boy responded. Sarah shrugged and fell quiet. Mostly, she watched him kick stones down the street. When they reached the boy’s mother’s house, he rang the doorbell, and they heard it ring through the house. They waited until his mother opened the door, who motioned with her fingers to come in. “Go to the kitchen and sit down,” she said. They did as they were told. The mother had made what looked like a veritable banquet, with a fat duck roast on the table and a cornucopia filled with fruits beside it. Sarah sat next to the boy and looked at all the Christmas lights that had been strewn across the walls. He reached for her hand and held it tightly. Their hands were sweaty, which was partially due to the kitchen’s humidity. White beads of sweat hung on the mother’s brow, which occasionally dripped into the soup she was cooking. “This is Sarah,” the boy said.

"Her mother watched the lasagna cook in the oven."

His mother watched Sarah for a moment before saying, “Yes I know.” The boy’s mother took up space and had the gravitational pull of a garbage disposal, so when she sat down, the boy went to sit next to her, wiping the girl’s sweat off in the process. The food was flavorless and a bit cold as if it had been prepared the day before and sat waiting. Sarah watched the boy eat, and his mother watched the boy eat. It was clear that he had grown methodical in the task. After a long time of this the boy stopped to breath, so his mother hit him in the back of the head with a pan. Sarah watched his chest heave on the ground. End.

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Untitled Sreenidhi Kotipalli

Spring 2019 • 103


A Letter From Vincent to Theo van Gogh Amanda Hodes

Antwerp stretches like an acre of wet soil across the horizon. The sheep move in herds over hills, ragweed puffs blown astray by the wind. Inside, I sink into the wooden chair and imagine Siberdt’s demonstration: stringy ligaments of muscle taut against thick gobs of fat— Theo, sometimes I wonder what lies beneath this crust and mantle of earth. If the farmer tilled his acre to its red, pulsing core, what would be found? Surely you know what I mean by this. The cuttlefish sits boiling in the pot as I write, and beneath its scales, a bivalve heart drains from raw carmine to blue-gray. In fact, this whole world is floating thinly in an amniotic sack of blue-gray, as the storm quells and the sheep are spreading back out across ryegrass. I think of painting it, pressing the brush to stretched canvas and sprawling out across the drawing plank. But these days I am tired: What I wouldn’t give for a starling to perch on my windowsill, a patch of color! I know I need money but brother, I want to see the stars, like yellow impasto clotting, and the earth, finally, scraped bare.

Contagious

Maggie Mahoney Winter creeps into the lines of our lips before breath spins outside air into cotton. Spit settles there, blanketing the surface with chapped flesh— a fresh snowfall. Our bare hands huddle cold and close. My muscles trace half moons at the creases of your palms, bony fingers stir your sleepy blood. Deposit kisses on twin cheeks and beneath my ruddy nose. You’ll get sick, elbow prods hip. Your tongue doesn’t seem to mind.

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Kinsky Palace Jordan Redd

Spring 2019 • 105


Because Gracie Donovan

I remember most vividly the taste of peanut butter on my tongue, like I hadn’t tasted it for months. Because I hadn’t. I spent weeks afterwards trying to find that peanut butter. The peanut butter that I called perfect. It wasn’t chunky, and it wasn’t smooth, and I couldn’t remember exactly what it tasted like. All I knew was that it tasted as if it was my very first meal, and that I had been starving myself for months. Because I had been. The look on my grandmother’s face as she walked into the room. Like she couldn’t quite understand why I was so sick, but it made her sad anyway. She tried to feed me her zucchini bread, because she knew how much I loved it. She tried to hold my hand, but I felt I couldn’t look at her. Because if I met her eyes, those big brown eyes, I’d see the look upon her face. The look I wanted desperately to ignore. She looked at me like I was all bones, like I was wasting away, like I was sick. Because I was. I could hardly stand on my own two feet. The nurses had to help me. Everyday waking up to their prodding hands at 6am. Hauling me to my feet so they could watch me pee, measure it out,

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and push me onto their scale. They treated me like I was crazy. Like I was a danger to myself. Like I was threatening my life, close to death, with a knife against my throat. They treated me like I had intentionally deprived myself of what I needed, the things I needed to survive. Because I did.


Faculty Contribution

DCA From East Potomac Park 2/2/18 Shaun Schroth

Artists Statement: An exploratory night/long exposure session with students from COMM-478. This is an image from the first of three locations that evening. This setting, being the darkest location, provided a great opportunity to demonstrate how to utilize a spot meter and how to intentionally deviate from the meter reading.

Medium: Kodak E100 4x5 Film Spring 2019 • 107


Bios Aaron Chung is an LA-based Korean American poet by way of the planet Asia.

Alice Bershtein is the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.

Amanda Book is that girl u saw picking her wedgie on the quad.

Amanda Hodes likes neither Piña Coladas nor

dancing nor rain. She does, however, like AmLit :-)

Brianna Bytner loves all things magical. Bryan W. McGinnis is more rejected from this magazine than accepted. Cool.

Caleb Gleit is a sucker for good design and

house music. Also, please hire him – he’s desperate, and definitely not talking in the third person to seem more important than he is.

Cam Diagonale dreams of owning a kumquat tree.

Charlotte Faust is the main character in a period drama and you’re all just living in it.

as well as a Marketing minor from the Kogod School of Business. Her passion for reading and writing lead her to create a blog called Am(arte) a Solas, where she can inspire others in the same way others have inspired her. She also enjoys brunches and beach days with her family and friends.

Elizabeth Edwards is junior at AU who loves

writing, warm weather, iced coffee, and her dog.

Emaan Khan is the thumper to your bambi. Gabby Liles there is someone out there with the same genetic code as me.

Gabrielle Michel will always believe that Wall-E is a cinematic masterpiece.

Gracie Donovan wants to be a novelist. Jacob Weil is a sophomore and literature major with a focus in creative writing. This piece was written while the creator was experimenting with minimalism.

James Skiest is currently a human, but he

shower window.

aspires to one day be a fungus. As of now, he is only a fun guy. He is at least hundreds of minutes old and experiences a range of emotions, from melancholy to joviality to dubiety, probably. He is a poet, an actor, and his mind is quite quixotic. Last week, James ate a lot of salad with ranch dressing.

Danielle Korzhenyak is a quirky, denim loving

Jéla Lewter is a better writer than speaker and

Chloe K. Li wishes she was an orca because life would probably be easier.

Dana Stevenson took her photo out of a

Gemini with a heart of gold

Devon Wiensch thinks snakes are pretty dang cool.

Diana Guzmán is a second year from San

Juan, Puerto Rico pursuing a BA in Communications Studies from the School of Communication, 108 • American Literary Magazine

it shows if you’ve ever had a conversation with me.

Jen Stoughton is living on East Campus next

year and refuses to shut up about it. She’s gonna have a PRIVATE bathroom!

Jordan McCormack “loves” “life”


Jordan Redd is studying abroad in Prague.

Some of the things she misses most are dunkin donuts, amlit, her pets, and her friends & family (the order is not important).

Mackenzie Murray would rather be looked

Riddhi Setty can eat her weight in chocolate and is a cool cat except she’s not cool or a cat person.

Rin Ryan is a sophomore Literature student who

into than looked at.

writes poetry during math class and does math homework during poetry class.

Maggie Mahoney is living on a London diet

Samantha Monteith is a Charlestonian snob

Matt Francisco “loves a good shadow.”

Sarah Maraschky misses her dog and wants

of tea and scones and missing AmLit from across the ocean!

Mercy Griffith is really, really grateful :’) Niccolo Bechtler is actually three children

sitting on each others’ shoulders underneath a long coat, but no one has noticed yet. Some days he wears a hat, but he usually doesn’t.

Noah Stevens gave up his dream of becoming a rodeo clown to write poems.

Nohealani also known as Nono or Noheyyyy by

who found her way there and back again but still hasn’t found what she’s looking for. to go home.

Sarah Ross loves drinking coffee with soft dog on lap.

Sheer Figman is 64 inches tall. According to

Google, that makes her 162.56 centimeters tall. According to her, that makes her very small. Maybe one day she will accept the fact that she will not grow to be any taller. Her art makes her feel taller. 5’5”, maybe?

her friends, is a frequent fake yogi at corepower in addition to a wanna-be environmentalist.

Stephanie Mirah writes most of her best work

Pak Gi Chow is staying off topic.

Wesley Dankwa Wesley D? Everybody knows

Rachel Burger is an avid @doggosdoingthings follower, typically found where there’s coffee and sky lights.

in the Notes app on her iPhone 6. Wesley D.

Zander Velleca I take pictures of the situations I want.

Rana Attia dreams her biggest dreams amid her worst nightmares.

Rebecca Sakaguchi is a flat cake, often thin and round, prepared from a starch-based batter that may contain eggs, milk and butter and cooked on a hot surface such as a griddle or frying pan, often frying with oil or butter.

Spring 2019 • 109


Masthead Editors-in-Chief Izzy Capodanno Emaan Khan

Creative Directors Rebecca Sakaguchi Fabiola Vega

Poetry Editors

Brendan Sakosits Riddhi Setty

Poetry Assistants

Sarah Maraschky

Emily Coneybeare Marissa Zupancic Aubrey Byrum Grace Hasson

Design & Copy Assistants

Prose Editors

Copy Editor

Kaitlin Caffrey Emma Busch Skylar Smith Caleb Gleit Lily Spiro

Art Editors

Rachel Burger Sheer Figman

Art Assistants

Clarissa Cheung Ava Morollo

Photo/Film Editors Gabby Liles Rana Attia

Photo/Film Assistants Diana Rivera Josie Filaski Max Laro

110 โ€ข American Literary Magazine

Mercy Griffith Henri Brink

Prose Assistants

Hannah Ruth Wellons Kristen Batstone Stephanie Mirah

Blog Editors

Diana Guzmรกn Brianna Bytner

Blog Assistants Gillian Emmens Morgan Bluma Julia Maniccia Anna Moore


American Literary Magazine Mary Graydon Center 248 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, D.C. 20016

112 • American Literary Magazine

Profile for AmLit

AmLit Spring 2019  

AmLit Spring 2019  

Profile for amlit

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