AmLit Spring 2017

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spring 2017

spring 2017 |


02 | american literary magazine

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, AmLit contains poetry, prose, photography, film, and art submitted by the student population, both undergraduates and graduates. 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 Within the pages of AmLit, we hope you can feel the love that our community gives and receives. We feel is is imperative to acknowledge so many of the people that give the magazine that feeling. We would like to thank our faculty contributor, Professor Naoko Wowsugi for her piece “The Laboratory of Forgetting.” The talent our faculty shares with us consistently inspires so much of our own work. This magazine also could not exist without the careful guidance, inspiration, kindness, and pep talks from our faculty advisor Linda Voris. Our design staff work tirelessly to create the perfect frame to showcase AU’s student art and literature. For her selfless work we must thank design editor, Claire Osborn, and her assistants Kiran Ahluwalia, Izzy Capodanno, Caleb Gleit, Ashfia Khan, and Elspeth Reilly. Many thanks to our friend and photo editor Hannah Solus for the beautiful cover of this semester’s issue. Thanks to our fellow student media board members for their support and friendship, and thanks to past EIC Mikala for being there when the going got tough and for believing in us through it all. Jim Briggs of Printing Images has also been with us every step of the way. Thank you Jim for answering our frantic emails, putting up with our ever changing deadlines, and giving us a timeless magazine that we are so lucky to call our own. We need to recognize our Best-in-Show judges: Patrick Flynn, David Keplinger, Keith Leonard, Leena Jayaswal, and Naoko Wowsugi. You have taken time out of your already busy schedules to evaluate our work. Your unending support is what keeps us going. Thank you for always having open minds and open office hours. We look forward to working with you all again in the future. Last, but absolutely not least, we must thank our wonderful advisor, Chris Young. After trying to navigate the waters without an advisor our first few weeks, we were so grateful when you took the position. Since the day you began at AU, you have been so eager to learn about our publication and our staff, and have consistently offered wisdom and advice when you could tell we needed it the most. Not to mention the fact that your salt lamp has been one of the best additions to the office we could have ever asked for. Chris, thank you for everything. Thank you, everyone. We wouldn’t be here without you.

spring 2017 |



Maya Simkin artist’s statement A photo of my best friend’s knees, a found note to “Bill,” office stickers, a receipt from when my parents went to Helsinki, a corner of an Alma Thomas print, paint.

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Dear Readers, Wow, I can’t believe my time as Editor-in-Chief is coming to a close. Although saying goodbye to my staff will be extremely tough, I am thrilled to have this magazine to mark our time together. I hope you can see all the love poured into this issue. It is my honor to present Volume 90 of AmLit. It’s difficult for me to write these letters. This magazine and this community have been my life since freshman year, and it feels impossible to articulate what the Editor-in-Chief position means to me. So, I’ve spent over half an hour reading through past Letters from the Editors for some inspiration. I found that almost every past leader has dwelled on one thing: growth. It’s not a cliche—our growth each year is a result of the creative fervor that defines our community. I think, now more than ever, students on campus are turning to the arts for guidance and strength, and our staff is always eager to welcome more people into our family. I am thrilled to have met so many new, wonderful people this year who I can truly call my friends. Your passion for the magazine is what inspired me to keep growing the organization all year. I hope (okay let’s face it—I KNOW) that AmLit will continue to be your home for the rest of your time at AU. We have also collaborated with more organizations this year than ever before, from other arts organizations, like the Creative Writers Club and Speak Fresh, to ones that focus specifically on lifting up the voices of marginalized communities, such as The Blackprint and Queers and Allies. I want to thank all the other leaders I worked with over the course of this year. What you have taught myself and my staff is invaluable. I know that, together, we have set a precedent for future student leaders in all organizations to communicate, collaborate, and help each other grow. Now, without further ado, please explore our magazine. Take your time on every page. I can assure you that each piece contains innumerable moments of beauty and insight. Love,

Emma Bartley Editor-in-Chief

spring 2017 |


Poetry Art bill | maya simkin | 2 a night out | claire osborn | 6 a father’s prayer | kiran ahluwalia | 10 never finished growing | carly thaw | 36 okay cactus | claire osborn | 51 jaundice | maya simkin | 54 nothing yet | jonathan murray | 59 overboard | janella pollock | 68 indra | beth lilly | 69 man of the year | jonathan murray | 86 bindfolded | hannah eliasoph | 94 a scan of a graphite, charcoal, and sumi rendering of a photographic portrait of kimiko kitagaki (taken by dorothea lange and titled “guarding the baggage, oakland, 1942”) on black-felt-mounted grid paper; or ; “no.” | luke palermo | 95 ways of seeing two | amanda hodes | 99 laboratory for forgetting | naoko wowsugi | 108 christmas | maya simkin | 115

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an gorta mór | thomas pool | 7 god willing | brendan bense | 11 ill-prepared | eli humphrey | 12 what happens when you pitch a tent in the desert | amanda hodes | 14 was supposed to end | camryn diagonale | 16 twice i walked with dinosaurs | camryn diagonale | 23 an unfinished sonnet | roger ahlstrom | 24 holly trees | emma bartley | 26 we hung out the night the world a moon in a halo of light in a painting by gerhard richter | molly mcginnis | 32 a thank you to the bee for my therapy session | tyler perry | 35 i used to hold my breath in cemetaries | elspeth reily | 37 one day | amanda hodes | 38 at a party, late january | laura thompson | 40 photograph of a favela | daniel ginsburg | 48 riyadh, 2000 | molly mcginnis | 52 the morning of the nuclear war | thomas pool | 55 the magician’s hat | daniel ginsburg | 56 the backyard then | emma bartley | 71 origin story b. omaha, ne 1994 | mikala rempe | 73 mom/american art museum | riley o’connell | 74 for iris, who realized she no longer needs to be a spy | molly mcginnis | 106 roadrunner hotel | melissa scholes young | 110

mission statement | 1 acknowledgments | 1 letter from the editor | 3 contributor biographies | 112 masthead | 114


north | scott mullins | 8 rubatosis | amanda luthy | 13 valley | andrew yianne | 15 where we grew up | kyle mendelsohn | 17 stained glass window | meghan nash | 21 bertha’s allergic | meghan nash | 22 croatian summer scene | philipp ebner von eschenbach | 25 woman’s touch | anna moneymaker | 27 tires on the way | hannah solus | 33 two o’clock shadow | hannah solus | 34 cracked | casey kaufman | 41 friendos | casey kaufman | 45 the fold | scott mullins | 46 shot the wrong bridge | janella pollock | 47 lost boys | jaclyn mercia | 49 purple freedom | casey kaufman | 53 tuesday afternoon | kyle mendelsohn | 60 beach house | mercy griffith | 61 grandmother’s house | meghan nash | 63 focus | matthew francisco | 67 overboard | janella pollock | 68 homestay | scott mullins | 70 window watch | hannah solus | 72 i’m here, i’m here | jacyln mercia | 75 attention | brian chaidez | 77 genetic | janella pollock | 81 chicago classics 001 | brian chaidez | 82 grandfather, an old man | george gu | 83 lava flow | makenzie gold quirós | 85 morning hallway | hannah solus | 88 light before sam wakes up | hannah solus | 89 homesick | meghan nash | 93 mama come home | scott mullins | 97 blue umbrellas | kate mccarthy | 98 future | andrew yianne | 104 salt of the earth | jacyln mercia | 107


stucco/sufaid | emaan khan | 9 sour milk | hannah solus | 18 rapturo lepidoptera | tova seltzer | 28 big thighs, nj | thomas pool | 42 baby glock | elspeth reiley | 50 ueno | eli huphrey | 58 with eyes that howl | sydney hamilton | 62 daisy chains | olivia smith-elnaggar | 76 explaining the death of salvador allende to the recently thawed | eli humphrey | 84 blue | elizabeth edwards | 90 far away from here | mercy griffith | 96 therapy | ciera burch | 103

Film beautiful dreams | jj blake | 31 car | michael bollinger | 87

spring 2017 |


Claire Osborn a reaction to the pulse nightclub shooting

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A Night Out

artist’s statement

An Gorta Mรณr

Thomas Pool

She is just fifteen, with knuckles bloody, bruised and pulped courtesy of Sister Margaret for forgetting the histories of An Gorta Mรณr, swaying in the disco while blood drips from the tips of her fingers onto the dance hall floor. Ziggy Stardust, and all of his spiders from Mars, tangle webs to keep her from catching stray bullets and bombs. IRA boys with red freckles bleed red blood which drips from the tips of Shankill knives just as salt water does from eyes of mothers deprived of motherhood. Just as the rain falls on a carved up country of clovers. She is just twenty-eight with a neon pink bob and a pocket James Joyce on a flying tin famine ship away from her own An Gorta Mรณr.

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North 8 | american literary magazine

Scott Mullins

Stucco/Sufaid My stork was white. She was half-witted, selective- but she knew what she was doing. She dropped me, watched me tumble. I fell into the dirt. She prickled at my whimpers. I rolled, and rolled, and rolled. I looked down, saw my grimy palms, saw the dirt, and saw no difference. This place was hot. An aggressive, piquant scent languidly traveled through the air. It was the wet, spicy heat that yanked you, and poured itself into the willing apertures. That’s how you got your yellow, my Nani told me. It was bright crimson and green flags. It was running under the towels hung on the laundry string. It was long, thick, oily hair that hung beneath my dark thighs. The strands swayed back and forth, getting caught in my knees. It was the pretty, charcoal drawings- billowing swirls, curves, edges- on my wrists. Petite chests, wide hips that you would balance on. Velvety cheeks, covered in tiny hairs, that you could reach up and grab. The ground was hot earth, our feet were colored brown.

Emaan Khan

I was yellow undertones and long legs. I was all “hello” and no “assalamualaikum”. I wished to claw away at my brownness, peeling off every mahogany layer. I would dip them into warm, yellow light, and slowly glue them back on. Praying for them to pale. I did cartwheels, breaking off my fingers. I longed for them to grow back, unpigmented. I shrugged out of my dark carcass. I stepped into my new skin. My casing did not last. I could feel the cracks forming on my skin, as the pale beams gripped the downy hairs on my fingers, and scattered to my thick eyebrows. The brown peeked up from under the cracks, punching through the fragile crystalware. The sun beat through my skin. I was all “Kya haal hey, para jee?” and aloo keema with paratha. But I did not want to be. I was the, “you’re too dark to do theatre” and the “so, where are you really from?” But I did not want to be.

My stork knew what to do. Run, she encouraged.

My stork was cunning. She planned all of this.

I ran, the dusty air covering my fragile casing. I saw beads dangled from widow’s peaks, men with firearms. Desperate eyes and bright rows of pearls stood out among the dark complexions. She said I had to come back, so I did. Buckets of lukewarm water covered my hair and ears, as she scrubbed the caking off my feet. My naked, skinny legs pressed against the stone. I cocked my head.

Soorajh, she would whisper to me. She kept rolling me through the dirt, wondering when my brown would be too brown. My casing fooled me. So, I kept rolling. I keep rolling.

Nani, how did you get your yellow? Her cheeks crumpled. She smiled her beaten smile at me, the familiar crater appearing in the middle of her unyielding brows.

spring 2017 |


A Father’s Prayer

Kiran Ahluwalia artist’s statement SGGS 727: How handsome is your turban, and how sweet your speech.

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God Willing

Brendan Bense

A woman in a hijab cries into her black purse. Wet wailing sobs, but between breaths: inshallah, inshallah, like it was a call to god through a conch shell. These are the last moments of her story. We will not see how her brother lost his legs in a car bomb at age twelve, or three years later her mother gutted like a pig by her own drunk father. How easily these details hide or operate in the shadows of our existence: granules of her life tucked in uneasy chasms of memory like the last we found her in. What will we call this chapter? Inshallah, inshallah, God willing, there will be an answer.

spring 2017 |


Ill-Prepared Gordon shaves for the first time in three weeks because his facial hair never comes in quite like he wants. As he scrapes the last of his beard off, a fly lands on his shoulder momentarily. For the rest of the day, Gordon compulsively washes his hands. Gordon read somewhere that Pope Gregory IX associated cats with Satan worship and ordered thousands of them exterminated. Soon after, rats bearing the Black Death arrived in Europe. He runs into a writer he likes at a café. Gordon asks him if a fly has ever landed on him in the bathroom before, but the writer ignores him and points to a waitress. “That waitress over there hates me. But that’s just fine because I hate her right back.” The writer has a full beard. Last night, Gordon dreamt that he was in a hotel room trying to fit himself inside a large briefcase, folding his arms like the sleeves of a shirt. There is a dead cat on the bus stop bench beside Gordon, but he pretends not to notice. A well-dressed man carrying a large briefcase approaches, pointing at the cat. Gordon says it’s not his. The man glances around furtively before he picks up the cat by the tail and slips it into his briefcase. The bus is running late.

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Eli Humphrey


Amanda Luthy

spring 2017 |


What happens when you pitch a tent in the desert

You are phosphorus, you are calcium, chalky white flour that wrinkles into the lines of my palms, which split open like canyons so that the fortune tellers lift their shrouds and stare into my eyes. You have seen life with these hands. I make kaleidoscopes of desert landscapes, raising my knuckled fist up to my eye and watch the ragweed puffs disperse against blood-red plateaus. In the corner, your white elbow is crouching in the frame. You never mind the heat, or brown sugar beneath nails, never pick at things like I do. Instead, your low voice laughs when I whisper: your white elbow is in the frame. But you disperse in whole chunks like cake crumbling softly, no longer coating the cracks. The smell of linseed oil follows me home, where I wash my hands rosacea red, until poppies dot the sun-bleached soil: a sudden fling in Nevada. White flour and sweat salt coagulate quickly in unfurled fists, fanning my fingers open, waiting. Open then closed.

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Amanda Hodes

spring 2017 |



Andrew yianne

We Hung out the Night the World was Supposed to End Despite our impending doom, there was a half-hearted attempt at making a gingerbread house, followed by a suggestion to watch the final Twilight movie. Nobody really knew of any logical pre-apocalypse activities. After dark, you and I walked the length of the golf course behind your house. Jokingly, I recited all of the things in this life that I find lovely: the sticky smell of a beach at low tide, dried toothpaste on bathroom sink marble, picture frames with nothing in them yet. Later, I got too hot under my fleece blanket and fell asleep on the couch. You didn’t wake me, even though the world outside was due to implode; to swell up and then burst, like sparks on July asphalt. Moonlight cut through the cracks between the wall and the curtains. Somewhere, a star probably died. I didn’t feel it and neither did you.

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Camryn Diagonale

best in show photography

Where We Grew Up

Kyle Mendelsohn spring 2017 |


Sour Milk Tara wakes to dim shadows, disoriented after falling asleep to sun squares on the couch. She regrets the nap. She pulls a too-short knit blanket over her shoulders and tucks her knees in. It doesn’t make her warmer. It’s still the in-between weather outside, before the building switches over to heat. She moans. The chill of the hardwood floor shocks her step into a tip-toe as she gets up to turn on the kitchen light.

Hannah Solus family. She calls back anyway. The line only rings for one beat before the same voice picks up. “Hello?” “Hi, this is Tara.” “Who–oh, great, wow, that was fast!” “Yeah, well––”

Tara clutches her sides with crossed arms and tense shoulders, squinting in the fluorescents. Meghan left her half-eaten pile of undercooked rice on the counter. At least it’s doused in soy sauce today and not barbeque. Tara just stares at it, mostly out of grogginess, but also because she hates it. She cracks open the fridge, setting herself up for a subtle, “fuck you–”an almost-empty carton of milk, half of a lemon, a block of cheddar, and Meghan’s leftover, uncovered, canned tomato soup. Tara rubs her face and clicks the door shut. She silences the buzzing overhead light, and plops back onto the couch.

“So would you be able to start tomorrow?”

Her phone begins to glow within the folds of the blanket. She doesn’t know the number. It vibrates in her hand. They leave a voicemail. “Hi, Tara, this is Heather Harkins. I’m calling to let you know that I got your request from Extra Hand, and you seem like the perfect fit for us. We need someone to start right away, like, tomorrow. I know it’s short notice, but give me a call back when you can. Look forward to hearing from you. Bye.”

Tara rubs her forehead and smirks to herself. “That’s okay, don’t worry...yeah, I can be there at 9.”

Tara picks at the skin around her nail as she listens, confused. She doesn’t remember sending a request to Heather’s

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“I mean––” “We’d probably need someone by 9, Zoe has to be at work around 9:30.” “Zoe?” “Yes, I’m sorry, my wife, she leaves around 9:15. I’ll already be gone. This is Heather by the way, I’m sorry. It’s been a chaotic evening. I promise I’m not always all over the place like this.”

“Oh, fuck, that’s fantastic––excuse my French,” Heather’s laugh is muffled through the earpiece. “Cool, uh...where do you live?” “Right, shit, of course, I’m going to text you and I’ll also give you Zoe’s number. Like I said, she’ll be here, and she can give you a quick run-through of the routine with Nora. She’s only five months, so there’s really not much to it.”

“Alright...well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow––or, not you, but your wife.” “Right, yes, perfect. This is great, I can’t thank you enough. Talk soo––” The line cuts off. Tara scratches the back of her head and looks around the quiet room, the only sound being a few clicks from nowhere and a twitch in the walls. She gets up and peers down the hallway. Meghan’s door is shut. Yellow light seeps from the cracks. She’s not home, she just never turns her lights off. Sun pours through the window and onto Tara’s pale skin, illuminating small bumps on her forehead and extra blonde hairs above her eyebrows. She startles herself, realizing she never set an alarm. It’s only 8:00. It’ll take twenty minutes to get to Heather’s. There’s a strange whirring in her stomach, partly from hunger, partly from the lack of planning that went into today. She washes off the excess sleep from yesterday and puts on a navy blue sweater she got from the men’s section of the church thrift shop. It’s loose, but it’s cashmere––not too frumpy. Outside is warmer than expected. The orange leaves lied. Tara worries that the walk will make her face look shiny and her back all sweaty. It does. Heather lives in a neighborhood closer to the university, on a street encased in thicker, more permanent-looking trees. It doesn’t feel like the city. The house is white, in every sense of the word. It looks like it should be on the set of Gilmore Girls. There’s a small wooden panel above the front door. It reads, “Girls Only,” painted in light blue, a red heart on either side. Tara rings the doorbell. It doesn’t sound as old and echoey as she expected. Zoe answers right away, as if she was standing there, waiting. “Hi! You must be Tara! Come in!” Zoe wears a fitted, black and white t-shirt shirt with thin stripes. It’s tucked into skinny, expensive-looking jeans. Her hair is cropped and strawberry blonde. She has the body of a green juice-drinking, Equinox going, quinoa chip-snacking woman in her mid-forties. Tara locates the stress hiding in grayish shadows beneath her green eyes. Zoe shows her around the downstairs, apologizing for the mess. Tara searches the floor for shoes or clothes or toys or magazines, but all she sees is gleaming dark wood. The walls are creamy and lined with black and white photos of cities around the world. The living room has a metal coffee table with mossy plants and candles that have never been lit. The couch is black leather, a rust colored throw draping off the side and falling a little onto the floor––maybe that’s what

they consider messy. The kitchen has old, charming cabinets. A big wooden is island topped with succulents, a glass pitcher of water, and lined with metal stools painted bright yellow. The fridge has a dimmed glass door, previewing what resembles a garden inside. Tara thinks about how awful that would be in her kitchen. Zoe points out three bottles of breastmilk and formula to feed Nora throughout the day. “Where is she?” “Oh, she’s upstairs in her crib. It’s still her morning nap. She’ll probably wake up shortly after I leave.” “Is there a baby monitor you want me to use?” “No, we don’t really use can hear everything in this house.” Tara questions this, expecting one of those little display screens that shows the baby looking like a fuzzy mound on a sonogram. “Nora is an easy girl, you shouldn’t have any issues––shit,” Zoe looks at her watch. It’s thin and brown. Her wrists are tiny. “I’ve gotta bolt. Text me if you need anything. Thanks again for coming on such short notice.” Zoe rushes out, slamming the door a little too hard. Tara listens for crying to start upstairs. Nothing but ticks in the floorboards, a quiet hum in the air––the house’s sigh when nobody’s there. Tara walks up the stairs with hesitation, as if she’s doing something wrong. She’s a stranger in this home. Nora’s door is shut completely. Tara doesn’t want to wake her. She just wants to see the baby, make sure it’s actually there. The door has a tight hinge, and takes an extra push to open. The room hits her with a cool burst of sweet-smelling, chilly air. The walls are milky. A quilt hangs on one wall with washed-out pastel patches. There’s a vintage poster of The Giving Tree above the crib, framed in gray wood. Nora lays motionless inside white bars. Tara hovers over the baby. Her hair is wispy and orange. Tara wonders if she came from Zoe’s egg. The sheets have thin gray stripes. She wonders what Heather looks like. Without warning, Nora’s eyes open to the ceiling, revealing big irises that haven’t decided what color to be yet. They shift over to Tara. “Hi, Nora.” Tara reaches her hand into the crib, placing it on the baby’s chest. Nora remains calm, unblinking. Her skin looks like it’s been poured onto her face. “You’re okay...I’m Tara…” The baby begins to rub her nose with a tiny fist. The sudden motion startles Tara. She gently

spring 2017 |


places two hands under Nora’s back, moving one slightly up to catch the back of her neck as she lifts the small body. She checks the diaper. It’s dry. Tara smiles and whispers to Nora. “I like you...are you real?” They lock eyes. Nora pushes her face into Tara’s chest. “Are you lonely?” Tara brings her to the kitchen and pulls out the bottle labeled #1. They sit on the leather couch together while Nora eats. She sucks and pauses every half minute to rest her mouth. Tara just watches. She wonders what it would feel like if Nora was her own. Hours pass, but it doesn’t feel that long. The baby falls asleep on top of Tara. Suddenly, her pockets begin to vibrate. She pulls her phone out, shifting only slightly. “Hello?” “Hi, Tara, it’s Heather.” Her voice sounds much more calm than before. There’s a low raspiness to it. “Oh, hi!” “I’m just calling to check in. How’s Nora? Is everything working out?” “Yeah, everything’s great. Your baby is perfect, it’s actually kind of strange.” Heather laughs on the other end. “I’m glad you two are getting along, I knew she wouldn’t be much trouble...hey, can I ask you something?” “Sure, of course––” “I need you to meet me at the train station.” “What?” “I’m sorry, I know it sounds weird. My plans have changed and I’m not going to be able to make it to the house before Zoe.” “What about Nora?” “You’re going to bring her.” Heather tells Tara where to find the stroller. She only needs to walk a few blocks into town, but she has to leave now. There’s a diaper bag prepared in the bedroom. There’s a whirring in Tara’s stomach. She looks down at Nora, “Is this okay?” The baby has no reaction, still sleeping. She gets up and follows Heather’s instructions, locking the door behind her. The air outside has cooled, the sun rests lower in the sky. Tara tucks a small blanket around Nora, taking a good look at her face for a moment. She gets a text from Heather. She’s already there, parked in the lot. Tara

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tries to picture Heather’s face, but all her mind conjures up is a black leather jacket. The walk feels too short, the station appears too quickly. Tara doesn’t need to look for Heather. A woman is already walking towards her, waving. She has long, blonde hair. Her eyebrows are strong for the slim shape of her face. She wears a light denim jacket and tight maroon pants. “Hi, thanks so much for coming here so quickly.” “No problem...everything is okay, right?” “Oh, yeah, everything is great. The train is coming in ten minutes, that’s all.” Tara gives a shy smile. Heather laughs. “Oh, you look so anxious! Listen, don’t be. I’m sorry for the mix up––hey, do you have the house key?” Tara hands her the key, nervous it will be sticky from her sweaty palms. “Awesome, thank you so much––” Heather looks her in the eye. “You’re very beautiful, there’s something familiar about your face….can’t put my finger on it.” Tara goes pink and awkward, scratching the back of her head. Heather has to leave. She swings the stroller around and turns around to thank Tara again. It feels like a business transaction. Tara thinks about how she never said goodbye to Nora. She tries to picture her face again, but she only sees the creamy walls of the house. Her insides churn. She watches Heather lift the stroller up onto the platform, standing by bags she must’ve placed up there before. A rumbling crescendos and sighs, blasting its arrival. The dull tone of the train goes off and the doors open. They’re there until they’re gone. The sky grows dim, the ground shadowy, without warning.

Stained Glass Window

Meghan Nash

spring 2017 |


Bertha’s Allergic 22 | american literary magazine

Meghan Nash

Twice I Walked with Dinosaurs

Camryn Diagonale

One summer, we found a dead baby shark washed up on the beach, cut it open with a dinner knife from the house, and performed an outdoor autopsy. As we marveled at its miniature anatomy, reveled in the smallness of each little organ, seagulls circled overhead. The ocean was quiet, barely making waves. It kept vigil for its tiny casualty. The spring prior, an alligator wandered onto the beach during my uncle’s second wedding. It was far enough away to merit an absence of fear, but nobody took photos or said a word—we just stared as it settled itself in the surf, hoping to be cleansed.

spring 2017 |


An Unfinished Sonnet

Roger Ahlstrom

Dust incarnate, gasps with creation’s smack, of life’s sound echoes, bounds digging deep grooves. Rivers cross, stripping bare the earthen back of hills, as trees stand crucified, breeze moves over the deep which divides light and dark of fallen angels and heavenly scorn to times before divine story’s first, Hark! And apple sins redeem’d by crown of thorn in the side of Damascene messenger. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. All death’s questions and life’s answers all lost in chaotic infinity. And the moral is—

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Croatian Summer Scene

Philipp Ebner Von Eschenbach

spring 2017 |


Holly Trees We were small enough to stand and not get pricked by the leaves. So, in the thin, green tunnel at the base of the holly trees, Maggie and I made our own home. All day was a hunt for food gathering smooth potato sized stones and meaty pieces of mulch. Sometimes, while we sat there cooking side by side in the dirt, I wondered if we were married. And I thought she caught me once—snapping her neck around, eyes widening, startled. She squealed, Emma? But she was pointing at the muscular, hairy legs outside the trees’ small opening. Emma, who is knocking on our front door?

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Emma Bartley

Woman’s Touch

Anna Moneymaker spring 2017 |


best in show prose

Rapturo Lepidoptera Some churches insist dogs don’t go to heaven, and after what I’ve seen this month I think they may be right—not because dogs don’t have souls but because maybe human heaven isn’t where they want to go. After what happened with the moths, all bets are off. It was a disappointment none of the major religions were ready for. There have been debates for millennia about how the messianic age will come, of course, and more theories than people to believe them all, but I don’t think anyone was expecting such a colossal false alarm. The moths weren’t even part of it at the beginning. It started with the orange sky. It was a Friday in mid-May and everything was normal and blue when we woke up, but by 4 p.m., it was weirdly dark out and there was an undeniable orange tinge to the sky. When night came it was hard to tell anymore, but the next morning it was even more noticeable. It looked like a cup of that fizzy powder you dissolve in water to boost your Vitamin C. Everyone was a little freaked out, but meteorologists thought there was probably just a lot of dust in the atmosphere refracting light strangely, like a round-the-clock sunset. It hadn’t rained in awhile. But when it did rain, things only got stranger. It started so suddenly that it wasn’t in the forecasts, it didn’t emerge from any typical weather patterns, like warm fronts from Mexico hitting cold fronts from Maine or whatever. The storm just sort of materialized Monday morning, gray clouds rolling in from all directions and dropping big heavy

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Tova Seltzer sheets of water on us. It was so relentless that the storm drains were overwhelmed by the first evening. By the end of the week, most of the public schools actually cancelled classes because too many roads were flooded for the school buses to make the rounds. And the sky didn’t stop looking orange. It was darker and cloudier, so it wasn’t as vivid, more like a cup somebody was rinsing their paintbrush in while blending orange and gray. The freakiest part was the lightning. It came down in huge white zigzags like a kid would draw, and with every zig, the ground shook. Sometimes there was a rumbling boom, sometimes it was quiet, but always the shaking. It wasn’t bad like a real earthquake, but it got people talking. Actually, a few of the usual crazies had been talking ever since the orange sky thing started, but when the earth-shaking lightning came on the scene, TV stations started giving them airtime. Everybody had a different Bible verse or ancient Babylonian scroll or message supernaturally burnt into their toast, but they all had the same idea: maybe this was it. The apocalypse, the end of days, the rapture. I know, how many times have we heard that one? But you have to understand; it’s a lot harder to ignore hysterical preachers when the sky is orange and lost flip-flops and broken tree limbs are floating down the river that used to be your street, and your walls are rattling from heavenly lightning bolts. We went out on our porches to watch, and the evangelists on the radio seemed like the only possible fitting

soundtrack to it all. My friends and I were never the type to get spooked by that stuff, even jokingly. We couldn’t help but listen. I think it was around then that we first started noticing the moths. They came out of the bushes and trees and flew around in circles, like tiny leaves kicked up by the wind. Some of them were circling around porch or street lights. Others were aimless, pitching from side to side, lurching toward the street. It was amazing they could even stay aloft under the weight of all that rain. It was mostly little brown or gray ones at first, the kind you see in your kitchen, but soon other kinds mixed in too, all together as if they didn’t know they were different: downy-looking white moths, orange moths with black spots, and every now and then those huge translucent green moths, those luna moths. Those are my favorites. Well, they were my favorites in the short time between before I ever thought about them and after. It was the light that really got people excited. After five days of the storm, on Saturday morning, it was just over. The sky cleared up, and even the orange was gone. It started to seem like someone was slowly pushing the sun’s dimmer switch up higher and higher. It wasn’t hot—it was perfectly cool and balmy—but everything was bathed in the glow. It lit the trees up emerald and threw little dapples of rainbow all over the place. Even though it wasn’t hot, shingles started melting, and windshield wipers, and steam rose up from the streets. All the flooding disappeared, even the mud, and new grass started shooting up in the patches that had been washed bare. The preachers had a field day with the fact that it was happening on a Saturday morning. It’s the Sabbath, they said, the original Jewish Sabbath. It’s the end of the flood. We’ve been tested. We’ve been cleansed. Now the judgment. Now the messiah. It had been all Christian bunker-dwellers in the early days, but fanatics from other religions started coming out of the woodwork too. I think they may have thought, given the circumstances, it was too risky to miss the big chance to call it. I mean, I said it looked like the sun was getting turned up, but to be honest, the light didn’t look like it was coming from the sun. The sky was glowing so bright you couldn’t even tell where the sun was. It was all around us. And then there were the moths, more showing up every minute. Their shadows flickering on the grass seemed like the only shadows left on earth. Animals always know, people were saying. Animals sense these things before we do. They must be trying to tell us something. People came out to sit on their lawns and pray. We were all

praying, even me, in my head. Like I said, it seemed like a dumb gamble not to at this point. The moths were so thick in the air they bumped into your arms and face, their fragile wings leaving flecks of dusty residue. They were all cascading up with the wind, towards the sky; it looked like they were daring themselves to fly higher, but they kept turning around and circling back down. A few times I almost swore I could see their wispy antennae flatten back against their narrow bodies like scared cat ears. Sometimes one would get really brave and leave the throng, get all the way up past roof height. But even those came back down. We spent all of Saturday morning that way. A bunch of my friends walked to my house, some of them from miles away. I’m not sure why they didn’t drive. We were all so dazed. We didn’t even talk. We just sat in the grass, trying not to swallow moths, and watched the rainbows flash against our hands and feet. And then we saw it. In the sky. It came from the horizon and soared over us, so slowly, like the Goodyear blimp or something. But it wasn’t. It was… well, I can’t properly describe it, not if I had all my life to try, but essentially... it was a moth. A moth so big it filled most of the sky above us and should have blocked out the sun, but instead made everything brighter and brighter until our eyes watered and we had to throw our faces down into the grass because it felt like they were melting off our skulls. (I’m still grateful they didn’t.) I only remember a glimpse, but its body was like a kaleidoscope, its scales constantly flashing and shifting in every color imaginable, and patterns too, dots and stripes and starbursts wafting across the feathery undersides of its wings like weather. People started screaming and crying and you could hear the praying all around you, coming through radios and out of houses, just everywhere. My friends and I were totally quiet. I think I was just thinking, please let it be fast. Please let it be fast. I lived a pretty good life, but in that moment I was convinced it was all over for me. I could feel the power of it, just the sheer power. I thought if it didn’t intentionally strike me into hell or whatever, I might still die from the power. From the light. I was asking it for forgiveness, for mercy. I felt sure it was looking right into my thoughts, evaluating me. Had it been watching me all my life? What did it want from me? I held perfectly still, I had fistfuls of grass. I was breathing in the grassy smell. There was one moment, after it had passed directly over us, that I was able to turn my head an inch or two and squint around me. The moths (the small normal ones) were

spring 2017 |


floating towards the sky. It looked effortless—not like before. The big ones and little ones and brown ones and gray ones and green ones; they were all relaxed and rising up towards the light. And this time they didn’t chicken out or fall back down. They kept going and going, until I couldn’t see them anymore and I had to shut my eyes again. Afterward, we found out people saw the godly moth in every continent. Even people up in the Arctic and down in Antarctica saw it pass over them, from horizon to horizon, slowly, silently. It flew from the South Pole up past South America, and then spiraled up and around the Earth until it got to the top and disappeared somewhere around the North Pole—well, no one saw it disappear, but that’s the last place it was spotted. This all happened within two or three minutes. And around the world, the moths—all of them—rose up towards it en masse and disappeared into the light.

of Human God, or if not a deity of our very own, at least one that will forgive our ignorance and let us tag along? Maybe, some people are positing, the moths were just better than us. Whatever it was that kept the collective moth spirit impure, they must have worked it out. Maybe we can still join them if we get our act together. The International Church of the Divine Moth already has a website and a board of directors. I guess that’s the smartest move, considering everything. Maybe it’s willful species egotism to do anything else. “Do we really have room to be mad?” one of my friends said when we got drinks later that week. “When in our plans for the human rapture have we ever mentioned inviting the moths?” I couldn’t argue there.

They didn’t bother formally cancelling work or school on Monday. Nobody went, or on Tuesday either. We were all just waiting. Well, some people went crazy—like throwing chairs through department store windows and climbing naked up cell towers and burning cash in big heaps on the sidewalk crazy. And most of the rest of the world was in services, hastily arranged in parks or gymnasiums or living rooms once the sanctuaries filled up; praying up a sweat, making up for every weekday mass or day of Ramadan fasting or second cousin’s bat mitzvah they had ever been fool enough to skip. But then there were people like me, sitting in our houses with our friends and family, listening to the radio and playing cards and eating Kraft macaroni and cheese and waiting. What happened was this: It got a little cooler, then a few degrees warmer. Work crews started cleaning up the damage and debris left behind by the flood and the riots. Ecologists started studying the hell out of how ecosystems would be affected by the planet’s new total absence of moths. And we went back to our lives. Because the fact is, Moth God came for the moths. It wasn’t interested in us. Not even the ones of us who recycle and volunteer at soup kitchens. I don’t think theologians have even been able to start unpacking the debacle yet. There are too many questions to know where to begin. Like, does this bode well or badly for us? Have we been left behind altogether, or is the fact that Moth God exists an encouraging sign that there’s still hope

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artist’s statement A surreal, apocalyptic dreamscape that uses 1960s fashion icon, Twiggy, as its vehicle into the subconscious. Includes an original sound-art piece featuring re-cut interviews with scientist Michio Kaku as an omniscient guide. All found footage manipulated, repurposed, and edited in Adobe Premiere. “What is your dream?

best in show film

Beautiful Dreams

JJ Blake spring 2017 |


A Moon in a Halo of Light in a Painting by Gerhard Richter Once, my sister opened a palette of brown eyeshadow into the sink and the porcelain became as cratered and mosaic as the moon. We stood there and guarded our work, saving it. On earth, there are myths that a life can somehow be lived incorrectly, but if you have ever been to the Sawtooth Mountains you will understand how in space there is no direction, no better way to interpret a dimension than from wherever you believe you begin.

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Molly McGinnis

Tires on the Way

Hannah Solus

spring 2017 |


Two O’Clock Shadow

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Hannah Solus

A thank you to the bee for my therapy session

Tyler Perry

I wonder if bees do victory laps but I don’t want to pry. I wonder if bees do victory laps when their job gets done after the spring and summer before they die and if they die or just sleeping. I probably do a victory lap every day every time I avoid a bee, give my mother another day when I don’t think about death. I cling to summer my victory lap the same way the bee clings to that flower on this rare October day teasing me with soft heat and sticky feet, mine from sweat, the bee’s for suction both to survive. Lingering these 70 degree days little victory laps go quickly and soon I’ll want a flower. I’ll feel cold first in my fingers. I wonder if the bee has protection against the cold, mechanized for survival, while I need gloves. I wonder how the bee feels cold Does it shiver or thrive, enjoying honey during holidays, hives gently buzzing as summer flees us to freeze. I’ve seen a hive lose to Winter and I hope this bee wins but I wonder if it’s scared and how cold was made death and how death was made death. And I’m not death scared I’m dying scared because I’ve been frozen before. And I have no beautiful words about survival so go watch the bees somehow victorious in October.

spring 2017 |


Never Finished Growing 36 | american literary magazine

Carly Thaw

I Used to Hold my Breath in Cemetaries

Elspeth Reily

A farm down the road offers hayrides when the leaves start to turn and the moon is rusting. When I was younger I’d swing my legs, the backs of my thighs scratched by hay, kettle corn clumping under my molars as I tongued the kernels lodged beneath my gums. The hay still scratches, but I don’t eat kettle corn it’s too sweet and my legs don’t swing they’re too long. My toes till the earth as the tractor shuttles us through the wispy fields of shucked corn and cricket noise. Gravestones and tree stumps look similar in the dark but the granite glints in orange light. There are ghosts in the graveyard and if I inhale deep enough I’ll breathe them in and they’ll rest in the pocket of my lungs for just a moment. One day, I’ll be buried six feet under with unfamiliar worms threading themselves through my hair like mama used to do with her fingers I’ll be the cold chill in the air, hiding behind my headstone, missing scratched legs and gritty teeth, hoping someone inhales me and that the moment lingers

spring 2017 |


One Day

Amanda Hodes

Part I: Lydia Ivanovna was the true villain in Anna Karenina, You tell me out of the corner of your eye. I shift my left foot slightly, so that it isn’t pointing towards you. Yes, she was in love with everyone, my foot says. But I turn my gaze from the doorway to look at your face. You aren’t smiling anymore. I don’t know. Your eyebrows raise, and you sigh in my direction. I worry about looking too animated in your presence. My frown says, but she really thought she loved him. Even the worst parasites need a host. Suddenly, some stranger walks between us. I worry about my independence sometimes. The moment dissipates.

Part II: There are days when I think I am incapable of love

I am in love with you. you tell me

and I sit by you quietly and you look at me questioningly, and I wonder: I don’t understand why I am the way I am so confused by you, is not normal. It isn’t right.

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Part III: When he reemerges from the fog there are windshield wipers on his eyelids, and he nods his head in tune to the radio. He starts the speech: Did you know that in 1984 there were 8000 migrant workers in New Mexico? I say that I did not, but that the yellow median has peeled off his nostrils, both left and right. There is laughter on the late-night radio show, so we don’t have to say a word. One word and suddenly he peels the rim of the steering wheel off like snakeskin shrugging with the violence of a snake choking and squirming out of its own maw, he doesn’t know where to go. Until the radio station cuts out and reenters after the tunnel with soft rock that my dad used to listen to sometimes. I get worried about him, but, lo, he has dislodged the coin and swallowed it, too. Every time we hit a bump our stomachs clink like pennies pitched down wishing wells.

spring 2017 |


At a Party, Late january

Laura Thompson

A deer in headlights does not tremble in the face of death, it holds still as if surprised by this affront to her path—a car, though the deer doesn’t know that. Limbs stay straight, locked, frozen by joints but leaning, to flee or strike down on hard pavement. Onlookers shake their heads, that deer should have known it did not belong there, to stay off the roads and away from the lights. As though this is a lesson the mother passes on to the child when they search for food that will give them grace through the winter whites, as though the macadam with its yellow stripes was some obvious threat and not just another open space to fill. It is 11 p.m. and I do not hesitate to walk into the door and into this crowd of people, brushing against my arm and leaving hints of their sweat on my skin, and I cannot help but wonder if the foreignness of the scent distances me from myself. I fall into a red chair that is blurred, a red mound that envelopes me, red chair, red rug, red solo cup crinkling in my hand when I grip it too tightly for fear of spilling its peach-colored fluid. My throat is burning and I take a sip and my throat is burning more, and the man next to me smiles as if this burning is an experience we are sharing. But only he knows the next steps, and I am looking at him and he looks through me, and I think, big eyes like headlights, what a gentleman, what white teeth, I wonder what his favorite book is, I wonder if he has a favorite book, what a funny twinkle in his eyes— Consider that humans have a fight or flight response, consider that sometimes flying is freezing, consider that sometimes ice is better than fire, or easier, or at least that it is important to know better and stay out of dangerous places. That the electricity vibrating against skin, that the dampness on your back that allows your blouse to cling to your back as a kind of cold security is not the warm embrace you were thinking of when you put on a fresh coat of lipstick three hours ago. And maybe the corner of the living room where you melted into the threadbare red couch and tried to memorize how many cracks in the white paint were visible from across the room was not the means of comfort you sought, a salvation from the fresh snow outside turning your skin from beige to blue, was instead a small spotlight illuminating your face, your muscles still lax and legs draped over the edge of the couch and kicking at the cracks in the floorboards, drink in hand.

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Casey Kaufman spring 2017 |


Big Thighs,NJ*

*title borrowed From a Low Cut Connie song of the same name

The freighters in Elizabeth shine like Christmas trees while the refineries pump sulfur into the air and remind Connor of the first time he smelled a rotten egg. Shipping containers are stacked ten high and thirty across, so from a distance they’re often mistaken for hills. Kias, Fords, and Toyotas sit in lots the size of four football fields, and the whole city is illuminated by dim yellow light, as if it were a sick old man—hacking up phlegm but never bothering to stop and spit. The turnpike splits the airport and the seaport. The whole night is yellow. Manhattan lights shine through the haze to dance on the bay. Connor feels like the city is looking down on them, wishing or pretending it doesn’t see what lies across the Hudson; hillsides of Maersk and Hanjin, and Toyota tall grass, all waiting to be sold in Stamford or bought in supermarkets in Binghamton or Akron or some other thoroughly middle America. “You know they found lead in the water in Newark right?” “Yeah,” Connor still stares out the window of Bill’s olive green Saab, “I heard something about that.” There is no one on the garden state this late, except those unlucky few who had cheap flights at 2 or 3am. “Sorry I missed the exit man, it’s pretty late,” Bill gives Connor his big toothy grin, “and I’m still a little high.” Connor smiles, “Got any more?” “Nah, well yeah, but we won’t get home for another 20 minutes now and I gotta take my brother to the doctor at eight. Tomorrow night though, for sure.” The house is dark and Connor creeps up the stairs the same way he had in high school when he was shitfaced off three shots. He sighs and crumples up the bus ticket, shoots for the wastepaper basket and misses. He will see his family in the morning, better not to wake anyone up now; he takes off his clothes, falls asleep with the window open and sinks into the hot July night.

Thomas Pool

WFUV is playing Jefferson Airplane on the little kitchen radio. Connor is thinking about how great it is to get high to White Rabbit when his mother appears in the kitchen doorway. “Anything left?” “Not for boys who sleep till half-past noon,” her Irish accent is particularly sharp this morning. She walks over and gives him a hug. “I missed you Ma,” he says while still hugging her, “I just needed time to figure stuff out before coming back.” “You’re feeling better then?” she is still hugging him. “A bit, yeah.” There are Yeats poems with pressed flowers in picture frames throughout the house. He reminds her of home, of Ireland, Connor thinks; he couldn’t think of anything in his apartment that he had to remind him of his home. There was a painting of small deer standing in a snow-covered field that hung outside of Connor’s bedroom since before he could speak. He asks his mom if he can take it back down to D.C. in August. She says of course. Connor’s dad is out in the backyard tossing the ball for their dog, a border collie named Copernicus, Copper for short. Connor’s parents are scientists; they got to name the dog. “Hey, dude,” his Dad is still a hippy buried deep down under a mortgage, two kids, and a corporate job (Connor’s mom never sold-out, she still teaches at the University). “Hey, yourself,” the dog forgets about the worn brown tennis ball and runs over to Connor. “Hey Copper, I missed you, boy,” the dog rolled around on its back and kicks its legs like it was undergoing an exorcism. Connor laughed. “Hey, could you help me haul out some of this junk in the garage, bulk-garbage day is tomorrow?”

“Yeah sure,” Connor and his dad walks into the garage-- it’s at least ten degrees hotter in there-- “you were just waiting Connor wakes up late that morning to the smell of pancakes for me to come home to do this weren’t you?” his dad just but there are none left in the kitchen besides the sweet smell. smiles and chuckles.

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“What about the rest of the yard? You need me to clean that too?” “No,” his dad had to puts down the broken table he was carrying—he is getting old, “It’ll be fine.” “What? You’re joking right?” Connor says, genuinely shocked. Connor’s father was a firm believer in a Norman Rockwell front-lawn, which Connor always had to bear the brunt of the responsibility of maintaining as “respectable.” Needless to say, the front-lawn was the source of some major teenage angst. “I have practically built my entire personality in opposition to your anal attention to the lawn, and now you don’t care? Now?” “If you want to tidy it up be my guest, but I pay Randy’s son to take care of the yard now. You wouldn’t believe how much that kid has grown; he’s gonna be in high school this fall.” His dad drops the table on the curb and wipes his hands on his shorts. “I’m too old to keep doing this shit.” “Man, you’re real cynical now aren’t you?” His dad just laughs and walks back up the driveway. Connor stands at the edge of the driveway and their street. There was a tan cassette tape that had melted into the asphalt decades ago, probably on a hot July day like this one. It had been there since before they moved to Cranetown, and it would be there long after they had all gone. His dad is getting old. His parents hadn’t told him when his dad was admitted to the ER for heart palpitations a month ago. He is suddenly filled with a sensation he had never felt before, staring at that cassette tape. He wants to have kids before his dad dies; he wants his kids to have a grandfather. Connor couldn’t imagine even trying to raise his own kids without his parents to help him. He was named after his own grandfather who died a day after he was born; a fax of Connor was one of the last things he ever saw. Connor doesn’t want that. He walks back up the driveway to toss the ball for the dog.

One pill makes you larger And one pill makes you small Connor coughs and wheezes but still takes another hit from the joint. Bill and Ilana just laugh, Ilana turns up the speakers, none of them care if they wake the neighbors. And if you go chasing rabbits

And you know you’re going to fall “God damn,” Bill is leaning back into the lawn chair and looking up at the half-dozen stars visible in the orange-blue night sky, “our parents had the best music to get high to, good choice Connor.” Ilana is rolling another joint and looking over at Connor, “You’ve changed. Not a lot, but a bit, enough to notice.” “Yeah I guess, I just needed to change after everything this spring,” Connor’s long hair and beard are gone and his undercut and chin still catch him by surprise in the mirror, “I mean, it just doesn’t feel right to stay the same.” “I’m not just talking about a haircut,” she exhales the smoke out of her nostrils, “you walk different, eat different, think different.” Connor takes the fresh joint from her pale fingers without looking up, “Bella taught you how to roll them, just like this.” Ilana shifts in her seat, Bill sits up and puts his hands on his knees. No one speaks and Connor doesn’t light the joint, just stares at it. When logic and proportion Have fallen sloppy dead Connor lights the joint, inhales and holds it in for as long as he can. And the White Knight is talking backwards And the Red Queen’s off with her head Remember what the dormouse said “I miss her.” Feed your head Feed your head

“We all miss her,” Ilana watches the roach burn away on the patio table; she didn’t want to look at either of them. “Fuck, this got depressing, I’m gonna go take a piss,” Bill gets up to leave and mutters something about a “wasted life.” As he says this, Connor hears. “What the fuck did you just say?” “Nothing man, I just wanna take a piss” “No, what did you say about a wasted life? You think Bella

spring 2017 |


wasted her life? Huh?” Connor stands now, Bill still halfway to the back door, unmoving. “How many times? How many times did we stage an intervention for her? Connor, I loved her as much as you did, but she wouldn’t get help, she wouldn’t listen to us.” “She was a fucking addict, you dick. She couldn’t stop. She couldn’t make it through the goddamn day without shooting up, but she was our friend, how the fuck can you say she wasted her life? She loved you, she loved all of us.” “Then how could she let herself hurt us like this?” Bill breaks down, right here in the backyard halfway to the back door, his shoulders shaking up and down and his tears early dew on the grass. Ilana goes over to hug him. She held the back of his head and brought it to rest in the crux of her neck,as her other hand ran up and down the ridge of his spine. Connor stands there, watching, unsure of what to say, unsure of what to do. “Bill, I’m sorry, fuck—I—I’m sorry okay, just come sit back down, come on.” “I will, I will, just let me take a piss first okay,” he wipes the tears out of his beard. “Sure,” Connor sits back down and rubs the back of his neck. Ilana sits back down too; she doesn’t look up at him. “I’m going west.” Ilana looks at her hands, “don’t tell Bill, he’d feel guilty or whatever and try to come find me.” “West? Like Kerouac or something?” Connor was hoping to get at least a thin grin out of her, he doesn’t. “Something like that. I’m tired of grey New Jersey towns,” Ilana still wouldn’t look up but she could feel Connor trying to meet her eyes, “lately I’ve been dreaming of hot and dry, brown and red clays and dirt of the southwest. I’ve never been, but I hope it’s hot and brown and dry and red.” “As every dejected American has done before you, now it is your turn to venture west my friend,” his joke landed this time. Ilana exhaled sharply out of her nose and grinned. She met his eyes. Bill came back outside with six-pack in hand. “What’re y’all talking about?” he was feeling much better. “Kerouac.”

Connor wakes up to a bright August morning with the AC on and the windows shut so it couldn’t get in. It’s already a

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quarter past six; he’s going to be late if he doesn’t get going. There was no breakfast waiting for him, he is the first one to wake up. His car was falling apart. It rattled severely every time it hit even the smallest bump. He listens to WFUV all the way down to the shore, the CDs that he, Bill, Bella, and Ilana had all burned in high school were scratched and worn down; they could barely play a single song on each of them. He wonders how Ilana is doing. She wouldn’t return his calls but he and Bill got a postcard from her the other week. The picture on the front was of the memorial to the first Atomic bomb test in New Mexico. Connor works at a bike rental stand down in Sandy Hook, besides waking up early and having to drive an hour and half to work, Connor thought, it’s a pretty good summer gig. The lowlands, the towns around the shore, are the forgotten America, Connor thought to himself, on every abandoned storefront and chop shop there was Trump graffiti or a swastika. On one front lawn there is even a rude effigy of Hillary Clinton. He was almost there. It’s a quarter to eight and he is cutting it close. At a red light next to an abandoned strip mall, Connor saw a pickup truck sitting in the empty lot. There were two teenagers, one boy and one girl, sitting in the bed of the truck, their heads were pressed together. Connor thinks they are crying. The third teen, a boy with pimples, sat on pavement poking at a broken bottle, he wasn’t looking up at the other two. Must’ve been a hell of a long night, Connor thought, he resisted the urge to drive over and tell them that they would make it through whatever it was. He just kept driving to work. A storm was coming in from the Atlantic, so Connor was able to close up and head home early. Maybe Bill would want to see a movie or something tonight? Connor turned up the radio and headed back home, they were doing a Springsteen tribute this afternoon. On his way out of the town he always noticed this billboard for a gym. It had a man with outrageously large muscles and a bright orange tan, and a rail-thin woman with an equally orange tan. The sign was funny to Connor, because they had capitalized where they shouldn’t have and put a comma where it shouldn’t be. Say goodbye to Big Thighs, NJ! As if Big Thighs was a real place. Connor hoped that if it was, that there wouldn’t be a

single needle in the whole town. Up next is Atlantic City off of the Nebraska album; you’re listening to WFUV! He merged onto the parkway, heading north. Would Bella still be alive if she lived in Big Thighs? He put his foot a little harder on the gas. Everything dies, baby that’s a fact


It’s over, that part of my life is over forever, Connor thought. Ilana was gone and Bill would probably leave soon too. He keeps talking about joining the Peace Corps; he doesn’t want to be here anymore. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back Connor didn’t want to come back, but he sure as hell didn’t want to be in D.C. He didn’t know where he was going to go.

casesy kaufman spring 2017 |


The Fold 46 | american literary magazine

Scott Mullins

Shot the Wrong Bridge

Janella Pollock

spring 2017 |


Photograph of a Favela Focus on Florinda, brow furrowed and bruised, her eyes well up like open sewers after heavy rains. Creases in her ashen cheeks, shadows beneath her eyes— a child with a weary woman’s face. Lucinda stares at Florinda’s frown that arcs like a gull’s wings on the raw umber horizan. The sisters share brown hair, disheveled as an overgrown garden, obscuring Lucinda’s profile. She bites down on her thumb. Florinda, in her soiled white dress, reaches for a hug or trembles. Behind

the girls, a washed out boy, arms thin as pick-up sticks, gazes past. Dusty rays of light from unseen apertures cast down on him.

At that moment, the flash bursts. Children left alone in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. The boy then watches the outsider close the legs of his tripod, pack away his lenses.

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DAniel Ginsberg

Lost Boys

Jacyln Mercia spring 2017 |


Baby Glock Summer in Utah was always parched, and I spent my days in cutoff shorts that my brother had outgrown. The seams were frayed, and they hung loose around my waist. But the pockets were big enough to hold a can of beer, which I sometimes snuck out of the icebox when Dad wasn’t looking. I was home alone a lot. Dad worked the graveyard shift at the local everything store, and my brother had recently started a bartending position in the town over. I delivered papers around the neighborhood, but that only kept me busy for a few hours in the early morning. Everyone was asleep during the day and gone at night. I spent most of my time on the deck. We built it the past summer and it was already bleached under the harsh sun. The wood splintered when I dragged my chair to my preferred spot, tucked under the shade of the paisley awning. The thinning fabric stretched from the roof and hung low. It covered exactly half of the deck, so the wood had faded until it looked just like one of those black and white cookies that my mother used to bring us from New York City. It was my birthday the day before, and I turned sixteen. My brother woke up in the late afternoon to give me seventeen punches (you always get an extra for the upcoming year) and to gift me his old gun. He had received it from our grandfather when he turned sixteen, and since he got a new one this year, he figured I could have it. It was a baby glock which my father called a woman’s gun but I knew that no gun was a woman’s gun, and so I figured my Dad was upset that Grandfather never gave him any gifts. It was the first rainfall in months. The lawn was a mess of dead grass and thickening mud as grey rain fell from the grey sky. Every few minutes, thunder rumbled from the clouds. Earlier, I had lined up some empty cans along our fence and practiced my aim whenever the thunder clapped, to mask the sound of my gun. I had yet to hit one when I saw a black lump scurry out from the underbelly of our deck.

50 | american literary magazine

Elspeth Reilly

Fat raindrops fell on its small body as it cut a winding, muddy path down the middle of our lawn. Thick night crawlers had emerged from the earth and they curled and uncurled their pink bodies in the cool of the rain. The rat tore its teeth into the fat of a worm, and I watched from our deck as the rain trickled down the goosebumps on my arms. The gun was light in my hands and as the thunder clapped, I aimed for the tuna tin and missed my shot. The rat was making a mess of the worms; it left them scattered like bits of yarn pilled from old sweaters. The deep brown of the mud was speckled with bruises of worm parts. And the cans had begun to topple from the rising wind. It was my first day as a man, and I had yet to shoot anything. The sky was darkening and I knew my brother and father would be awake shortly—if they hadn’t already been woken by the storm. I thought of the soft purple forming on my arm underneath the sleeve of my striped shirt, and I raised the baby glock and aimed at the small body of the black lump. I didn’t wait for the thunder to clap and the loudness of the shot hurt my eardrums. My bullet struck the rat completely. It was chunkier than I would’ve imagined. It splattered across the wet mud, tomato-y chunks like the canned kind we use in our pasta sauce, the tail still nearly intact. It must’ve had some life in it still because it curled and uncurled like the worms it lay near. The rain was heavy though, and the mud was becoming soupy, so the blood and parts began to sink into the sludge not too soon after. I wondered if there were any beers in the icebox.

Okay Cactus

Claire Osborn spring 2017 |


Riyadh, 2000 House that dreams it is a house and wakes up a villa, staring through mirrored glasses across the Persian Gulf. House with sand roses and cumin, water filters, screaming red fire ants. Their castles the first to go; like violence predicting its own arrival. House full of fire ants. I can call it an embassy and almost be telling the truth. The geckos operatic in the ceiling, the way the sand cat must have looked, her stomach spread across the warm patio tiles, her eyes pressed firmly shut. The house all heat, that heard the word “war� only when a child mispronounced it and stopped, forefinger stalled in the copy of Arab News until her father read it back to her. House that was a sun-spoke in a compound in the desert. One day a woman would draw the design from a satellite image, weld it into a charm for a hot bronze necklace and squinting, turn it over in her hand.

best in show poetry

52 | american literary magazine

Molly McGinnis

Purple Freedom

CASEY KAUFMAN spring 2017 |



Maya Simkin

artist’s statement A photo my boss printed during an event to prove to me that he knows Yayoi Kusama, parts of a van Gogh print, scraps of notebook paper, other photographs, paint

54 | american literary magazine

The Morning of the Nuclear War

Thomas Pool

I make you breakfast and the smell of blueberry pancakes greets you good morning. Still only half awake you kiss me with eyes closed and mute the screaming Byzantine Kings on CNN. Sticky fingers are licked clean before pushing the button and changing the channel to NatGeo. Let’s go to the Grand Canyon you say while my crooked fingers comb your dark brown hair. My mother turns 57 tomorrow and I need to mail her present expedited shipping. I don’t want to go, you look perfect don’t you move an inch. Your lips taste like syrup. I’ll be right back.

spring 2017 |


The Magician’s Hat I biked downhill on Bristol Avenue, stretching my legs over the handlebars of my three-speed letting gravity carry me, wheels spinning, pedals still. Bristol had few driveways— parked cars lined the street. With the wind tousling my hair, I steered through that narrow space. I passed the sun-yellow Mancini home, with its striped, ‘60s awnings and pictured their teenage boy body-surfing, not seeing the rising sand through the murky green waves, thrown onto the seafloor by the cyclical tide, not feeling the foamy water pouring over his contorted body not feeling anything. I pulled my legs off of the handlebars, placed them firmly on my pedals, glanced at Mr. Sagman’s narrow house. He loved his blue Corvette, but never seemed to drive it; I did not understand that kind of love. He had a sharp, black mustache, wore coarse leather jackets. His roughness scared me, but I might have been too sensitive. I coasted downward, passing Mrs. Stone’s quiet house. Aptly named, she seemed gray and chiseled like a statue. When I was a little boy, she put a silver dollar in my hand; that’s when my mom taught me to say thank you.

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Daniel Ginsburg

At the bottom of Bristol, through the woods, there was a playground called “The Project.” It was mysterious, indefinable as a three-dimensional Dr. Seuss book: with winding stairs and improbable angles, narrow tunnels, and surprising turns, hiding places where your parents could not find you, an amphitheater for small feet, as if it were built by the Incas. I could spend hours there without noticing that the sun had dropped low, telling me it was time to go. Back then, your parents—not consumed by fear— would let you explore the world alone, and fear had not crept up behind you, placing its frigid fingers on your shoulders. A bully lived near the bottom of Bristol. I forgot his name; he was older, bigger, faster. Once, at twilight, he rode suddenly beside me, cut me off, caused me to crash into a chain-link fence. I cried, but not because I was hurt; then he let me go. As darkness swallowed everything I rode uphill, my legs pumping, my open mouth inhaling the cold night air. I leapt off my bike, ran toward the comforting porch light of my small brick house, thinking that each day was like a magic trick: the magician reaches into his black, stovepipe hat, and you can never know what he will pull out.

spring 2017 |


Ueno In 1943, American bombers began to threaten Japanese skies. At the time, Tokyo’s oldest zoo held thousands of animals captured throughout the empire and abroad. The Japanese army became aware of the unique security hazard posed by the massive collection. Officials worried that, in the event of intensified air-raids, zoo enclosures would sustain damages that could free potentially dangerous animals, spreading further chaos in a city under fire. The army ordered all large, venomous, or otherwise dangerous zoo animals terminated. When the keepers refused to comply, a group of soldiers was sent to administer the poison. Their fingers were clumsy, accustomed to triggers, not syringe plungers. Mild guilt played a part. But it’s for the people, for the city, for the war, for something or other. The guilt remained mild until they ran out of poison. No zoo carries the means to exterminate its entire collection. Fortunately, the four young soldiers had brought their rifles. Now, the key was the economic administration of bullets. The monkeys made it difficult, swinging around their cage and letting loose anticipatory screams. It took five minutes. The four of them lined up outside the tiger enclosure, shouldering rifles and waiting for the beast’s low growl to unfold into a roar. They wanted to let it voice its discontent beforehand. No roar came as the tiger paced back and forth, looking each man in the eyes. I heard the monkeys, it said. You won’t get any of that from me. The officer fired first, the others joining reluctantly until the tiger stopped twitching on the cement. The youngest soldier couldn’t keep his hands still. You’re wasting my bullets, the officer said, taking his gun and

58 | american literary magazine

Eli Humphrey dividing up his cartridges. The boy went to look at the dead cat. He’d come here with his father once, seen the same tiger. He wondered which of the bloody holes in its hide were his handiwork. They all look the same, he thought. Might as well be all of them. The officer and the others mqwade their way to the last cage, home to two hulking Indian elephants. Rifles up, safeties off, gunfire. The elephants groaned, but didn’t fall. Two more barrages. The bullets were gone but the elephants were not. Not quite. Kill them now, the keeper said. It will take hours this way. The officer shrugged and dropped his flaccid firearm, gesturing for his soldiers to follow him back to the barracks. The keeper waited, and it did take hours. By the time the air-raids did reach Tokyo, the zoo was emptied of its dangerous residents. Plenty of room. The army placed a captured air force pilot on display in the vacant tiger’s cage, naked and shivering in the rain. At first, the man was shy, curled in a humiliated ball in the corner of his enclosure. On the third day, he stood. On the fourth, he scratched the words “You Missed” into the wall with a stone. On the fifth, he began to pace behind the bars, meeting the gaze of every passerby that would look. He would snarl and sneer, but never speak.

best in show art

Nothing Yet

Jonathan Murray spring 2017 |


Tuesday Afternoon

60 | american literary magazine

Kyle Mendelsohn

Beach House

Mercy Griffith

spring 2017 |


With Eyes That Howl I write this story because it demands to be written. I believe that is the purpose behind every great literary piece: there are just stories that demand to be written and which no reins have the power of restraining. This particular one has scratched at what remains of my weary soul for long enough. I must set it free. However, I should state my reasons for holding this tale silently within my own walls. Firstly, it is unbelievable, inconceivable, and truly unbearable. I remember with great clarity my futile attempts of re-telling this unfathomable tale the morning after it occurred. As you can expect, I was met with great opposition. I found a believer in no one, not even in those who-- I’m getting ahead of myself. Even now, I don’t expect anyone to believe this very true tale. Yet, the trust of others in my truths matters not to me anymore. As I said before, I’m only writing this because I have to. It wants to be written and no longer shall I reject its wishes. My second hesitation was that others may find themselves in my predicament after indulging in this wretched account. That is, you may find yourself haunted by these words for some time. Somehow, the memory of it will always lay by your side at night, clinging to you like how a smothering spouse holds onto their beloved and sucks the warmth from their veins, leaving them cold and apathetic. It slithers up to your ear and whispers to a place so far within the depth of your being. It stays. It will always stay. I must set it free but it will always find its way back into my bed. I fear it will soon make a home in yours.

Sometime around the tail-end of May, I was traveling to my sister Rose’s home in the country. All year long she had been badgering me for a visit. “Oh, you really should see the home David and I have here,” she’d start, “There’s great space in every room and Susan and I have spent some time setting everything up ever so nicely. You must see the parlor--oh, the parlor is just lovely! And David has the most wonderful study with a great library and a mahogany writing desk. Even the nursery is just beautiful! The wallpaper is just the rosiest shade of pink I’ve ever seen. Please say you’ll come!” Often, I’d lament that as much as I would love to pay a visit,

62 | american literary magazine

Sydney Hamilton

Grandmother’s House

Meghan Nash spring 2017 |


there was just far too much work to be done here at home. My whole living depended on writing enough stories for the city paper each week. We couldn’t all be as lucky as her and marry into a wealthy family. That complaint, of course, I kept to myself. More than that, packing up my things and going anywhere is always such a laborious task. However, with enough money saved up and a fair amount of love in my heart for dear Rose, with her hair as soft as a rose petal, I finally made up my mind to come see her family and this “absolutely lovely” home of theirs.

to Madrid and New Delhi. He hadn’t said much since my arrival but that was his nature. He’d always been such a quiet man from the very day our family met him. A pensive soul, always suspiciously looking about even the most familiar environments. His eyelids fluttered so curiously as he paid close attention to the opera record playing in the living room.

The train ride to the part of the country where Rose resides provided a most heart-pounding scenic route. Lush fields of lavender stretched out beyond the naked eye’s line of sight and the ebony mountains dusted in a white veil as they reach towards the heavens with all their might. However, I soon gave into the weight hanging on my eyelids and slept through the rest of the magnificent journey.

I’m afraid this is when most peculiar things begin to happen. There I laid nearly drifting off to sleep when the most chilling noise charged into my ear. Even now, it’s quite difficult to explain that horrific sound. It was something like a wail, a most nauseating screech. Now, the most haunting part is how it sounded nothing like a human and yet not all like an animal, either. It sounded like something all too unlike anything of this world. My Lord, it was horrifying, though. It went for so long that my brain nearly went numb. Finally, it stopped. In an instance, I slipped from my bed and walked into the hall. There was nothing and no one. Neither my sister nor David had come to see what the matter was. There was just a long, dark hall and the frigid night air that blew from one open window.

How peculiar it was to be in the backseat of cab as it drove up that winding road that led straight to my sister’s house. The driver seemed to think it was quite the honor. “I’ve never been up this way before. Folks with this kind of money usually have fancy cars of their own. How did you come to know these people?” “Blood,” I told him.

It had been a long day of travel and simply existing, so after a nightcap--or rather a few--I promptly laid down in the bed that was made for me in the guest room. I daresay I felt quite important sleeping in such a large room. My bedroom at home barely allows for anything to survive in there and so I wake to the pain of my head crammed against the desk.

That morning, I met my sister for breakfast in the parlor. It was quite warm in there with the way the sunlight illuminated the yellow room. Yet, to focus on anything else but last night’s events seemed nearly impossible.

My dear Rose welcomed me with such open arms. Her eyes were nearly overflowing with tears at the sight of me.

“Dear Rose, did you not hear that sound last night?”

“I haven’t seen you in years! It has been far too long! Now, make haste. I must show you around the house.”

She lifted one eyebrow as she looked towards me while laying spread on a muffin. “I’m not sure I understand. What sound do you speak of?”

And show me she did. Her dainty hand wrapped around my wrist and pulled me from one room to the next. I couldn’t lie; it was a very lovely home. The rooms had so much space and color in them and not to mention expensive antiques which made me all the more anxious. It was so different from our quaint childhood home that was barely big enough for the five of us. It was a sign of the times as well as a clear reflection of reality. Oh, and what a splendid dinner that was prepared for us: roasted lamb that had been marinated in an assortment of spices and steamed vegetables as well as a variety of colorful rice-- all these things David had brought back from his trips

64 | american literary magazine

“Well, last night as I was nearly asleep, I heard the most atrocious sound coming from somewhere either in or near these very walls.” “Is that so?” she asked, as her eyes widened with my every word. “Yes, it is! And it was so alarming that I was more mesmerized than afraid. I could barely move, my body felt frozen stiff!” It was then that she began to laugh, quite hard I should add, and said, “Oh dear, I should have told you this. Well, you see, the baby has some very powerful lungs. Yes, I believe she

gets it from her father. Last night, she was just screaming like a us I followed them through the rest of the woods until they banshee before I calmed her down.” reached a small building almost like a barn. It was then that the wail stopped and each member of the group came back to “Oh, but dear sister, no man nor beast and certainly not a child consciousness. They began to look at each other in bewildercould emit a sound like the one I heard. I’m telling you, it…” ment and trying to understand what led these select few here. “And I’m telling you that my darling babe is quite the siren. I should say now that after reading this next part…there is Just as well, you aren’t very used to being around children anytruly no turning back. It is from here that the horror truly ways. I’ve been around little babies my whole life and I say, begins. they certainly can wail when they so please.” And with that she smiled sweetly, her face looking towards the window that ran over with sunshine It was then that the most disturbing thing occurred. Just as the people began to turn back, one man froze in his place. He struggled as his feet seemed to remain planted firmly in I had spent the day strolling through the gardens with my sister the ground like he had been nailed there.The rest watched and later we headed towards the town. How picturesque that on with fright in their eyes and he began to scream until his whole place was; much like a Renoir painting. Rosy-cheeked throat went sore. Then as if by some almighty power his body women in satin and lace and men with wide brimmed hats and began to levitate in the air like an apparition and in a swift wider smiles. I walked around the market while Rose talked to movement he was soundly dropped back to the earth and a few people. She had even baked little pies to give them. At then was dragged into the barn by the same invisible force. some times, it was all a little too happy for me. I suppose that It is here that I must tell you there is nothing like that sound I hadn’t been exposed to such jovialness in far too long. That, one makes while in the most excruciating pain right before and the fact that my mind wouldn’t let go of the haunting an untimely death. That of which pushes through lungs with scream. It soon came time again for me to rest my head and I the most intense force and is reserved solely for a thing most shall say that there was now a certain anxiety that quivered my unfortunate that even the human mind with its superpower of the imagination, can never truly recreate. This terror inheart. Nevertheless, I laid down and closed my eyes. tensified as people ran for their lives, only to be dropped to And then it screamed. I couldn’t tell if the sound was even loud- the ground and dragged to the same fate as they dug their er this time but my blood ran just as cold as before. However, fingers into the ground trying for one last time to live. All I would not be tied down this time. With all the strength that their screams tangled together like vines until each cry for my body could muster, I walked out into the hall. The scream help, each beg for mercy, each heart-breaking howl became still ran clear and once again, no one else was awake. The same incomprehensible and the night fell silent. The sounds they tall window was open and so I climbed out of it. The shriek made made that night continue to find me in nights when had such a surrounding sound to it that to identify where it I am most alone. I stood behind that tree with my breath was coming from would take great effort. Yet, I followed the stuck in my throat and my heart bursting from my chest. I garden path and walked out barefoot into the direction that heard something rush through the leaves and when I turned, I could best determine the source was coming from. In a few the only thing I could make sense of was a bright pair of steps, the wail had gotten greater and I was now nearing a for- eyes now gone somewhere in the night. They pierced at my est. I waddled through the tangled trees and woods as the skin soul like daggers and a chill eased down my spine in a most of my foot was poked and stabbed by the prickly ground. The disgusting manner. I stared at the front door of that slaughmoonlight served as a lantern and it made a way for me. And terhouse. Blood trailed out from the space under the door while the scream was still going, I heard something else. It was and next to it an open palm. footsteps, many footsteps. I quickly crouched down behind a large tree and peeked from behind. To my utmost horror, an entire group of people, at least 6, were walking in the same direction. However, that wasn’t what terrified me. What terrified I wanted to leave. I could not stay in this house another night. me was the look in their eyes. A kind of emptiness and it was Whatever was out there would surely come again and I didn’t as though their souls were no longer their own. While their want to be here when it did. Yet, I faltered. I stared at Rose bodies remained intact, they behaved like mindless shells…all from across the room as she bounced her baby girl on her lap. heading towards the scream. With enough distance between They shared the same full lipped smile. The whole

spring 2017 |


house beamed with delight. It seemed that I might be unhappy anywhere but at least she could be happy here. I gazed upon my reflection in a silver spoon. Those eyes. They were like blood diamonds in that dark night. And they flew by so fast. Everything went by so fast but those blood-curdling screams made it feel like an eternity; strange that such pain could end so quickly and yet go on forever. Rose had gone out later to run some errands. She came back in with tears learning that a great many of her friends of whom she had seen yesterday were reported missing. I tried to comfort her but I felt that my heart had been paralyzed. Those screams played like a broken record. I saw such emotion in her blue irises. Nights passed and the scream never came. I lied awake waiting still.

The shock had passed somewhat but the memory was still too fresh. Tonight would be the end of my visit. There was work to be done at home. It saddened Rose so much that I couldn’t stay longer. “Oh, please, just a little longer. I’m sure your job wouldn’t mind it. If this is about money, David and I can…” I shook my head. “No, not on my life. I won’t allow it. Besides, I like my job. I’m a journalist; I get to make a living off of storytelling. I quite enjoy it, if you must know. Plus, I’ll be back before you know it.” She barely accepted this reply but accepted it nonetheless. So, we spent one more day shopping and greeting people. She delivered small cakes today; she was quite proud of them too since she had allowed no one to help her in making them. A glint hit my eyes and an image from my memory reached out. Those bright eyes in the night.

I would have no peace of mind until I saw them again. That creature carried its soul in its eyes. Its existence and its demise lived in those shining eyes. I stared at the ceiling in my dark room silently praying to hear it again. I could not face that horror again but I had to see the face behind those eyes. And like the devil, it appeared. The holler had returned and I sprang from my bed. As fast as my feet could manage, I slipped through the window and began to run. If a group was coming it would be awhile before they reached the house. They tended to walk slowly like the dead but their undertaker was fast. I had to be even faster. My skin burned and bled

66 | american literary magazine

from being consistently scraped up by the twigs and branches. My feet got tangled in the forest floor but I held on to tree trunks like stair railings. The scream stopped. I was too late. Then, a gust of wind went by me. I turned in the direction it blew and met the eyes. Shining and bright like blood diamonds. In an instant, my body had regained its strength and I began pounding through the messy woods with such ferocity. The creature was so fast that the wind behind it was almost visible like a trail and so I followed. The two of us ran through the woods like hungry wildebeests chasing a prey. At this point, I believe it had forgotten about its feeding. I had distracted it. Was it scared? Were we competing somehow? Did it think we were the same? Did it think I was stronger? I was running on pure determination by now and my body was beginning to ache, nevermind my bloody feet. I had gotten close to it, dangerously close even. Running around would be endless and futile now. I ran back a bit and pressing on the balls of my feet, using every muscle in my body, I pounced forward and landed on the evil thing. It writhed and howled under me, though I truly caused it no pain. In fact, I came to remember again how demonic and harmful it would be to me. Yet, I straddled its back and pressed its head down under my hands and pulled at its hair. Its long, blonde hair that was as soft as a rose petal. And when I released it from my clutches, it got up and turned to face me. How brightly those eyes shined on my dear sister Rose’s face.

This concludes my miserable tale. You may never believe that the events that occurred are in fact true and that is fine. Though, I must simply state again: I write this story because it demands to be written. I must set it free.


Matthew Francisco spring 2017 |


Overboard 68 | american literary magazine

Janella Pollock


beth Lilly

spring 2017 |


Home Stay

70 | american literary magazine

Scott Mullins

The Backyard Then

Emma Bartley

It used to feel too big and mostly abandoned, leftover land between neighboring cul-de-sacs and the elementary school. Still, I would visit its few humble stations— the cracked stump by the fence always crawling with ants. The narrow space behind the garage lined with unused slate, just standing there waiting for my parents’ hands. Then there was the shady dirt under the old maple tree where I read, cradled or sinking between dying tentacle roots. Was there ever any glory there? I can remember a few humid evenings through the crack of the back door. Twilight hanging like a velvet curtain, the thinning pine trees at least only silhouettes. My parents would be at the top of the empty hill sitting at the rusty, wrought iron table, in an orb of orange candlelight. I knew they were eating artichoke with hot butter, scraping off the meat of the leaves with their teeth and just casting the rest away.

spring 2017 |


Window Watch 72 | american literary magazine

Hannah Solus

Origin Story b. Omaha, Ne 1994

Mikala Rempe

You were born on a Saturday during snow and the Army-Navy game. And your (young) mother watched football through the whole delivery. The nurses glared at your (young) father disapprovingly—thinking it was his idea. He was a butcher. So much of your livelihood depended on sharpness, blood and flesh. On the days where you think you don’t know much, you remind yourself At least I know how to make a good steak dinner—blindfolded probably. You meet a man. He comes from a place where the public schools are good. It snows where he is from too. You ask him about the land where his parents are from, and fall asleep hearing him talk about the tall pines in Maine and how fat the trunks look in Massachusetts after all the leaves fall. You don’t care about trees at all, and don’t know how to tell him. You’re more of a soil girl yourself. Your family used to bet on how many deer and turkeys you would see in the field on the way to Church each week. You don’t go anymore. You buy lemons and mushrooms and meat at Whole Foods and love it because your parents wouldn’t. There is a poorly developed picture from your childhood. In it your toddler-self sits in the family garden eating raw snap peas you stole off the vine. When you were young and thought about dying young you knew this was where you wanted to be buried— even though your family didn’t own the land anymore. Or any land at all. You never knew you grew up poor until you were grown. And now it’s all you think about when the vast emptiness of Nebraska spreads out underneath you flying home.

spring 2017 |


Mom/American Art Museum Conceived after death a stately stone erect and concealing presides over room steeping in fossils from minds long dead or surely near it the shrouded figure opens your eyes A state of nirvana the widest in the city that’s what it means you stop in place and peer at your past through fresh eyes and visions of thirst And now I see you as one cloaked in impenetrable stone not joy nor sorrow just between and now you’re the greatest in the city here I see the sea behind your eyes not raging but ripping forward and you float above glass always reflecting you in retrograde begging one foot to miss air and sink to bloodthirsty tongues

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Riley O’Connell

I’m Here, I’m Here

Jaclyn Mercia spring 2017 |


Daisy Chains

Winifred returned to the porch and handed Grand Faye a fistful of daisies and a feather tucked under her pinkie finger. Grand Faye held her hand out and barely seemed to look at what was deposited there, so locked upon Winnie’s own eyes was she. “You sure you want these?” she asked in that level, challenging voice she used when she was teaching a lesson. Winnie let the question roll off of her shoulders. “They’re what I wanted to pick.” After a moment more of this staring, Grand Faye nodded slowly and put the flowers on her side table, next to a cool mug of tea. Into this, she flicked the feather. The young woman smiled, despite herself, and sat on the wooden porch, leaning back so that her head was between her grandmother’s knees. She tilted her head slightly, resting against the one on her left, and she took a deep breath.

76 | american literary magazine

Olivia Smith-Elnaggar

Grand Faye would braid hair for free and tell stories as she did so, but only if you brought her something to weave into the hair. It seemed like a good deal, especially to christen her return home. As the breath rolled over her lips, honeysuckle-scented from her wanton feasting of five minutes ago, a fish disturbed the surface of the lake. As if she had blown them into being, ripples issued out across the green surface, traveling quickly across until Winnie couldn’t see them anymore. The wood was warm beneath her bare, crisscrossed legs, and the southern heat and humidity teased sweat from her pores. She wished she’d brought some tea of her own—anything to wash down the hot stickiness of the honeysuckle nectar. “Child, where’d you find the feather?” Grand Faye asked. She was parting Winnie’s hair into sections, her grip firm, but not


Brian Chaidez

spring 2017 |



“What’d you use to wash it?” Grand Faye asked, still gruff.

Winnie hummed, retracing her steps. She’d gone bare-legged through tall, yellow grass, been briefly showered with dappled light from the dripping of peridot-leafed trees, and stained the bottoms of her feet with fresh, pungent mud from the lakeside.

“My normal shampoo, but Ma made me the egg mix beforehand.”

“Maybe half a mile outside the gate, just a little way away from the path.”

“Hmph. Tea tree dries you out.”

“ “Of course not.”

“Not much. A little peppermint and tea tree oil.”

“Well, what compelled you to go there?” Grand Faye asked with her customary gruffness. “I saw something move there as I drove down the path, and I wanted to go back and see what it was.” Grand Faye didn’t ask what it was, so Winnie went on, “It wasn’t there, of course.”

“Hmph.” Winnie smiled. “And after?”

“Yeah, but I like how it smells. And I went for a walk right afterward.” “Sweat and sunshine don’t fix everything, Winifred.” “Yes, ma’am.”

A frog’s song chirped alone in the lazy quiet. They could hear it plop into the water. “You know what the daisy stands for, don’t you, child?” Grand

if you could catch fever from bitterness, he did.

They were quiet for a while. Grand Faye had her own oil mixture, and it was slathered over her hands as she chose the first section of Winnie’s hair, near the nape of her neck. It smelled strongly like licorice and almonds and reminded Winnie of her kitchen. Grand Faye, her mother, and every other black woman in town told her that she had lovely, thick hair. Well, when she was little, she’d thought, “You don’t need to deal with it; that’s why you say so.” Children don’t think of their grandmother’s childhood hairstyles or realities like that, but now she wondered who had done Grand Faye’s hair. Had she sat on this very porch and winced silently as some matron of the past pulled her head in different directions? Was it the same deep black, streaked with sun-dyed red? Had it also been prone to snags and snarls when loose? Was it kinky, or curly? Now, freshly turned 18 and on the cusp of much more responsibility, Winnie wanted to know everything about the woman she called Grandy.

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Faye’s voice was quieter than before. Her fingers were traveling nimbly like a spider’s legs, making the first tight braid. She entwined the last few strands with the stem of the daisy, so that it hung in the middle of Winnie’s back. “Daisies for a death,” Winnie recited dutifully.

The frog was chirping again, all alone. Grand Faye moved to the next braid. Winnie frowned, listening to the plip of the water again as the frog went in. By now, clouds had gathered over the lake, burgeoning and thick with water, turning the sky bruisy colors. “I reared you to be bold,” said Grand Faye. The joints in her hands snapped for a moment, but never wavered in their steady movement. “I brought you up to expect hardship and—hmm—hold your head high.” Winnie tilted her head up. “And here you are making bold choices,” Grand Faye went on,

with a wheeze, maybe a laugh. “I try not to worry, but the great fall from great heights.” “That’s why we stay rooted,” Winnie said. “You taught me that, too.” “Hmph.” When the lake water lapped against the bank, it looked viscous and dark green, slimy. It changed color, like eyes do: gray when stormy, blue on cloudless days, green in the deep afternoon. As a child, Winnie had thought it would predict the weather, tell her secrets, divulge a Lady like in the tales of King Arthur. The first time she’d told Grand Faye that, she’d sent her into a fit of giggles, the like of which she had never seen again. “A Lady of the Lake,” she’d said. “Well, you won’t be like her, in any case. You were never going to be like her.” Grand Faye worked at the middle of her head now. The new braids were warm and sweet-smelling against Winnie’s shoulders. “Ed taught me about being rooted,” Grand Faye said softly. She never murmured, but articulated perfectly, even at her quietest. Winnie waited for more, but it didn’t come. The frog chirp pierced the quiet again. “He was a man like no other.” “What do you mean?” Winnie thought of the photo of the dark, smiling man on Grand Faye’s side table. He wore a broad hat, and though his smile was warm and wide, Winnie always got the impression that he looked nervous. In the past, she had thought that the nerves came from being with a woman like Grandy. Grand Faye sighed, and her voice was bitter again when she said, “A man is a thing with a penis and a sense of responsibility.” Winnie snorted. “Okay.” “Ed had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he bore it honorably. A king among men.” Winnie waited for her to go on, but Grand Faye clicked her tongue and undid a braid against the side of her head. Winnie tried to shift her weight on the hot patio, feeling a splinter, maybe two, pressing into her thigh. When would the story come? Plip! “How did he teach you about being rooted?” she managed, grimacing as she encountered some resistance.

“With this farm.” Grand Faye appeared to have used up all of the daisies. There wouldn’t be much time left. “Ed and I lived in this town all our lives. His grandparents tilled these fields, and I was 19 when I got my hands in the dirt here. “Ed never had any sisters, so his mother was happy to have me. She didn’t know what I was, but she knew a few of the basics.” Winnie interjected, “Like what?” “She knew not to mess with the forest, for one. If ever they killed, they put something back, paid homage, used the body. Sewing. I think she had Indian blood…” “Grandy…” “Shush, I’m thinking. But she knew about blood, that lady.” The young woman turned around, hands on Grand Faye’s knees, eyes wide. “Blood magic?” “Yes, I declare. And she passed what she knew to Ed. Now turn around. I’m nearly done.” Blood magic was one that Grand Faye rarely ever spoke about when she was training Winnie. She’d said that it was deep and powerful, and not worth messing with, if you could help it. For it to arise now in conversation, Winnie thought something weighty must be on Grand Faye’s mind. At the very mention of it, Winnie felt hairs stand all over her arms. The very air was electric, and a coppery taste filled her mouth. Coincidence? Overreaction? She thought not. Still, Winnie turned around, listening to her heart thumping thickly, to the creak of the unseen frog’s song. Grand Faye proceeded with her braiding as if she had not been interrupted at all. “Well, she taught me much of what I’m teaching you, and she was a good momma to me. To both of us.” Grand Faye sighed. “After she passed, the land knew it. A minor drought came over the county—just enough to make the lake seem to evaporate away. The animals got restless and aggravated; when they weren’t too thirsty, they were afraid of bobcats and coyotes. We couldn’t soothe them. It was like they didn’t understand the same language anymore.” Plip. “One day, it hit 106 degrees, and Ed was out on his horse, the same horse he’d been riding half his life, since before he married me. I was looking out the window at him wearing his foolish sunhat. The grass was tall.” Again, Grand Faye’s voice dipped low and quiet, like she was reaching into a deep, cool well for the memory. “Sometimes I think I see him out the

spring 2017 |


kitchen window, on that fine brown horse, turning to smile with that wide sunhat, and that fool’s grin.”

how that face haunted this place, as much as it fed it. “Thank you, Grandy.”

Winnie, trying to think of a way to show that she understood, rested her hand on Grand Faye’s slippered foot. The sun was shining on a steep slant against the little, grey jetty that extended into the green water. Winnie thought she could see the frog now, small and striped.

The older woman put her hands on Winnie’s shoulders, tapping her lightly. “Go look at it. Let me know if you like it.”

“A coyote was in that tall grass. I suppose they surprised him. The horse spooked, and Ed fell. Then that horse ran over him in its haste. “Ed told me that he heard the coyote, whimpering as it moved through the grass. He told me he thought it would come bite his throat, but it didn’t. When I ran out to him, he told me to get the horse first.” At this, Grand Faye exhaled: a snort, or a chuckle, or plain disapproval. Winnie didn’t dare turn to look. “That horse broke both his legs. One was fractured, and he could stand on it after a long while. The other knee was shattered, ruined. Hmm. Head up, child.” Winnie heard the gentle sop sound that came not from the lake, but from Grand Faye’s mug of tea. Two drops of amber liquid sprinkled the porch, just next to Winnie. She straightened, as she was told, only now realizing that she had been tensed, curved around her diaphragm as if for heat on this summer day. “Without work, without that responsibility, Ed wasn’t the man he used to be. He seemed nearly mad when he lay in bed for so long. Like the animals, song, books, the paper, drawing—nothing soothed him. If you could catch fever from bitterness, he did.” She paused, halfway along a braid. “I say bitterness, but he was worried about me, too.” “You’re no milksop,” Winnie whispered, echoing a phrase she had heard dozens of times in her youth on this farm. “Damn straight. But I couldn’t hold this farm together alone. The very dirt was fighting us, along with the animals. So he remembered something his Indian mother told him.” Plip. “His plan, terrible as it was, made sense. Ed cut his wrists with his favorite razor, and plunged into the lake.” A small weight joined the others on Winnie’s back. “There,” Grand Faye said, sighing. “Done. I think it is a fitting headdress for a new Head Witch.” Winnie almost chuckled, though she found her throat a bit tight. She thought of that photograph on the side table, and

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Winnie swallowed, threw a grateful smile on her face as she turned to look at Grand Faye. In her chair, Grand Faye was no woman of small stature; she sat in it as if it were a throne, and she smiled at Winnie, the small, stingy smile she’d always had. “I’ll be right back,” Winnie murmured, and she turned and trotted barefoot through the grass to the lakeside. “Stop mumbling,” Grand Faye called after her. “And I meant the bathroom mirror, Winifred!” “I know!” she called back. As she moved across the jetty, Winnie saw the frog jump down into the water, though she couldn’t remember having seen it return to this spot. At the edge, she knelt and looked down at her reflection in that deep, murky water. What she saw was a brown, round face, framed by dozens of thick black braids, some of them appearing red in that late afternoon sun. The white and yellow owl feather in the one at the very front of her mane rippled, either due to the water or the slight breeze that was returning. She saw the blood of a giving Pamunkey man, and of a stubborn black woman, and many others besides—her mother’s nose, her father’s lips. She also thought she saw a frog and a few fish swimming where the water was shallow. She had a lot to do in the months—no years—coming up. Winnie thought she would have to ask Grand Faye what a woman was, next.


Janella Pollock

spring 2017 |


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Chicago Classics 001

Brian Chaidez

Grandfather, An Old Man

George Gu

spring 2017 |


Explaining the Death of Salvador Allende to the Recently Thawed In South America, there is a country called Chile. A country is a portion of land with its own government contained within political borders. Borders are the divisions between places. Sometimes they are imaginary (yes, they’re still real), but sometimes they are a wall or a fence. A fence is a weak barrier used to hinder free passage. Besides people, they are often used to contain livestock such as cattle. Cattle are large, domesticated mammals of the subfamily Bovinae. Female cattle (called cows) weigh approximately 1600 pounds and produce milk, which is consumed by young cattle (called calves) as well as many humans.

Eli Humphrey

When Chile became independent, Chileans were able to pick their own presidents. Presidents are kings who are usually chosen by the country they rule instead of God. Presidents, unlike kings, can be female. In 1970, the Chileans picked a doctor named Salvador Allende to be their president. A doctor is a human being who makes sick human beings feel better. Allende was also a socialist. Socialists are human beings who believe that things like land and production should be owned by society.

I don’t know why, they just do.

Society is all the human beings who live together.

Male cattle (called bulls) weigh approximately 2400 pounds. They do not produce milk. Bulls are captured and used for arena entertainment by humans called Spaniards.

In 1972, Allende gave Chile’s copper mines to society.

Spaniards are humans from the country Spain. They speak Spanish (a Romance language originating in Castile), eat cattle meat, enjoy Flamenco music, and play soccer. Their king is named Filipe VI.

Copper is a red-brown metal with extremely high thermal and electrical conductivity. Copper is used in the production of pipes, electrical wires, motors, buildings, and medicines. In Spain, copper is predominantly mined at Rio Tinto in Andalucia. The largest copper mine in the world (called Chuquicamata) is in Chile.

A king is the male ruler of a country. Kings sit in ornate chairs called thrones and wear golden hats called crowns so that people know they are kings.

When Allende gave Chile’s copper to society, Richard Nixon was the president of a country called the United States of America.

He is the king because God says he is.

The United States of America is a capitalist country in North America.

We do not have time for that. In 1540— 1540 is the date designating the number of times the planet had revolved around the sun since the crucifixion of a man in a country called Palestine. The king of Spain was named Philip. He told a human being named Pedro de Valdivia to conquer Chile, a country in South America. Chile was part of Spain until 1818, when it became independent. Independence is the state of being free from the direct control of anyone else.

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Capitalists are human beings who believe that things like land and production and copper should be owned by they themselves. Richard Nixon gave money to a human being named Augusto Pinochet, who paid the Chilean army to attack the building in which Salvador Allende worked. An army is a large group of human beings who use weapons to kill other human beings. Rather than be killed by the army, Allende committed suicide.

Suicide is the act of killing oneself. According to Evangelium Vitae 66, suicide is a sin (a very bad thing for which one is punished) in the Catholic religion. Salvador Allende was a Catholic. The Catholic religion was created by a human being named Peter two thousand years ago. Peter was a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth. A disciple is a student.

Lava Flow

Makenzie Gold Quirรณs spring 2017 |


Man of the Year

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Jonathan Murray


michael bollinger

artist’s statement

This was a crazy idea i thought of during halloween of 2016. I really enjoy the headless horsemen stories and tried come up with a way to incorporate the famous tale for a modern day thriller. As a result, this project came into existence and it wouldn’t have made it off the ground without the help of zach rutchkin, sarah joyner, samad arouna, and lauren rappaport.

spring 2017 |


Hannah Solus

Morning Hallway 88 | american literary magazine

Light Before Sam Wakes Up

Hannah Solus

spring 2017 |


Blue It’s always been a mystery to me why blue is associated with sorrow. Maybe that’s why it’s my favorite color, but I don’t think so. I think it’s because some of the best things in this world are blue. Blue is the ocean, the sky, the best flavor of a snow cone, a sapphire, the color that deepens the sunset. I don’t think you ever loved blue as much as I do. You had your own colors, and they didn’t mix well with mine. It took me a long time to realize that. The night you left was the night I realized I did not need you. You slammed the door and walked out with a casual stride, as nonchalantly as if you had just come by to say hello, not come by to say goodbye for good, or for a while at least. I play the memory back in my head even now, months later. I realized that night, in the back of my mind, that I didn’t need you. Why would I need you? I knew it that moment, yet it simmered in my subconscious like water boiling on a stove, gradually bubbling over until the idea consumed every thought. I didn’t need you. I don’t need you now and I didn’t need you then. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it. In that moment, I was devastated, I thought I couldn’t survive without you, because your presence was all I had known

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Elizabeth Edwards for a long time. As toxic as you were, I didn’t want to give you up. You clung to me like a parasite, and I thought you were meant to be there, but you weren’t. And even though you weren’t a good one, you were home. I remember the first time I realized that we were one, inseparable. No one else even knew you were there, but I did. You followed me like a shadow, more than a shadow. You followed me like the sun itself, clinging to my skin on the sunny days like sweat. When the clouds came, at first it was a relief, but then I realized that you were the one who brought them. The doctors with their white coats and antiseptic smells tried to help me get past you, they tried to prescribe something to make my feelings disappear, but that wasn’t enough. I think maybe a part of me didn’t want to let you go, although every chemical in those pills the doctor gave me tried to pry you away. You were strong, and once I thought you were stronger than me. My mother noticed the change in me first. Mothers are like that, I guess. “Feeling blue?” she asked, plopping herself on my bed where I lay on my stomach, head propped up by my

folded arms so I could gaze out of the window. I just shook my head, because blue couldn’t possibly describe what I was feeling because of you. “Oh, sweetie, it’s alright,” mom murmured, rubbing my back, “whatever’s got you feeling this way will pass.” I wish she had been right, but you didn’t pass. You stayed with me for far too long. That night last summer when we sat, just the two of us in the prickly grass, looking up at the sky was when the thought first began to form in my mind. The sky was dark, but the stars were being smothered by clouds, like charcoal smudged over a diamond. I didn’t say it out loud at the time, but the clouds encroaching on the stars’ light reminded me of you. It was the first time I associated you with the negative and it wouldn’t be the last. I went home after that night and got in the shower to scrub myself clean of you. But how can you scrub away something ingrained so deeply into your life? I stood under the hot water until I couldn’t feel my skin and even as the stream ran cold I stood there shivering. There was something oddly satisfying about being in control of my own discomfort for once. I stepped out of the shower and stood naked in front of the full length mirror. There was a voice in the back of my head that whispered, “You are worthless.” I didn’t realize until much later that it was yours. The face looking back at me had deep circles under her eyes, and a sad, sunken look. My skin was stretched tautly across the sharp bones of my face in a way that suggested one too many missed meals, because I couldn’t even bear to pull myself out of bed for food. That’s what you did to me. One day I went for a run to clear my head. It was January, but not cold enough to keep me inside, although that was your job most of the time. But that day in January was a good day. You loosened your grip on me just a little bit, enough for me to pull myself out of bed, and lace up my running shoes that hadn’t been worn in months. The chill of the afternoon hung in the air as I ran, but the adrenaline rushing through my veins kept me warm. I had planned on just running to the cathedral that was a few miles down and back, but when I got there the bells were ringing. They were faint from afar, perhaps more beautiful that way, and alluring. They drew me in, so I stopped running and wandered up to the enormous church, walking around the circumference until I reached the adjacent garden. The flowers were all dead, but it was still peaceful and quite lovely to walk through. The green hedges still framed the view of the colossal Italian architecture, and the vacant flower beds made it easy to imagine how beautiful

the garden would be in the spring. I kept walking without really thinking about where I was going. The bare branches of the trees in the garden looked like skeletons, and I remember thinking, Why do things have to die in the winter? And then for some reason I thought of you. The chiming of the bells commanded me to sit down on one of the wooden benches and let myself drown in the sound of them, yet I was still thinking of you. Then, the bells halted abruptly, as if the song had been split in two. Now that I felt it, the silence was welcome. The absence of the bells left room for the birds and the wind and children’s voices from somewhere beyond my view. Then, without warning they began to ring again, exactly as they had left off, as if they’d never stopped. They were less beautiful the second time, after hearing the beauty of the quiet. Now they were monotonous, clanging out the same melody over and over, and they were louder somehow, almost abrasive to my ears. I wanted them to stop, I wanted the quiet again. They were like you, the bells. Wanted, comfortable, beautiful, enchanting at first; but it wasn’t until they were gone that I realized I didn’t want them after all. Once they were back I just wanted them to go away. The almost tangible gap in the noise when they stopped was reminiscent of you. Even when they weren’t there, I felt them. They were overwhelming, and heavy, pressing against my chest, pounding in my ears, over and over and over, and then gone. And then there was a feeling of coming up for air after being held underwater for too long. There was sun and the chirping of birds and calm. That’s all I needed that day, calm. That’s what I have now, until you come back again and I am forced to push you away. After a few more minutes of quiet, the bells began again, but this time, instead of waiting for the silence to return, I got up and walked away. I left them behind and didn’t look back. After that day at the cathedral, I began to feel the strength to fight you off. I guess that day was when I realized that I could control you. Although I had help from the meds and the therapy and my family, it was me that banished you. At first it was strange, as if something was missing. Then I realized that what was missing was the enormous weight I had carried. It had settled there with you for so long that I had convinced myself it was a comfortable pressure. Only when it was gone, when you were gone, did I understand that the weight was you. You won’t ever be gone for good, I know that. But the worst of you has come and gone, and I now know that I am stronger than you. The color has returned to my cheeks, the

spring 2017 |


brightness to my eyes, the lightness in my chest. One day you’ll come back and press on me again and drain my energy and keep me in bed. But for now, you are gone because I am stronger than you. For now, I have myself and that is all I need. Now I am perched on the same grassy hill from that first night under the stars, nearly a year later. I watch the sunset and wonder how a ball of fire can sit up there, singeing the atmosphere, but I find it impossible to fathom its existence. The pinks and oranges explode across the sky, but I am drawn to the blue that permeates the atmosphere, underscoring every streak of peach and salmon flecking the dusk. I sit quietly as night falls, spreading across the sky like ink on a blank page. Midnight blue drips down the page towards the watercolor sun streaks. Watching the sun lower in the sky doesn’t make sense, just like you didn’t make sense. Although I know much more now, there are still things that I don’t understand, like how you could be a part of my life for so long and just vanish like the moon from the sky overnight as we sleep. But tonight, I don’t sleep. I stay awake long enough to see the dew kiss the blades of grass beneath my legs. As sleep evades me, I wait and watch until day breaks, sending ripples of light into the morning as the sun rises. And gradually it makes sense, granting me the same feeling of closure you find in remembering the content of a dream when at first it had escaped you. I close my eyes and let the warmth of the sun wash over me and evaporate every memory of you as it rises. Although my eyes are scrunched shut, a blinding light brushes against my eyelids, and I can feel the azure sky being drawn up by the dawning sun, vast and beautiful and blue.

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Meghan Nash

spring 2017 |


artist’s statement This piece is made with ink and cut linoleum. I hope to encourage a constant exploration of learning through my work. The willingness to seek, and continuously learn is one of the most powerful things we can do.

Blindfolded 94 | american literary magazine

hannah eliasoph

A Scan of a Graphite, Charcoal, and Sumi Rendering of a Photographic Portrait of Kimiko Kitagaki (Taken by Dorothea Lange and Titled “Guarding the Baggage, Oakland, 1942”) on Black-Felt-Mounted Grid Paper; or ; “No.”

Luke Palermo

artist’s statement Shadows necessarily exist as part of a binary system, in constant conversation with their body much like fire they can be easily observed but are merely the visible effects of a separate process. However, in the event of an instantaneous release of a tremendous amount of radiation, shadows become independent entities and exist beyond their physical counterpart. Unfortunately, separated from their process, these shadows can do little except unintentionally serve as a marker of the body that it once called home, the body it can no longer find. In 1975 Dorothea Lange took a photo of a shadow where a body once existed. 75 years later I look at it and start crying.

spring 2017 |


Far Away From Here

One time I saw a white person and she told me my teeth were so white. It made me wonder if white people can only see what is white on other people. Because she did not tell me she liked my shirt even though it was my own and I didn’t have to share it with Isaac. I saw the same white person at the village meeting. We always meet underneath the tree to protect us from the sun, but she was not in the shade and Isaac snickered at her, but I held my tongue because Mama tells me to be nice to the white people. Mama also tells me not to stare, but I couldn’t help myself. The white person had a camera around her neck and she was always using it. At first I didn’t know what it was, but Isaac told me because he’s older and smarter. The white person saw me staring and walked over to me. She tried to talk to me but I could not understand her. I shrugged my shoulders as I usually do but she kept saying the same thing over again. I kept shrugging my shoulders and then she talked louder but I still didn’t know what she was saying. I saw Isaac looking at me and I knew I should walk away. But the white person was holding the camera out to me, trying to show me the tiny screen. She wanted me to look at the pictures she had taken. I didn’t understand because they were just photographs of nududu that Mama buys in the market and the house Uncle Valentin lives in. The white woman even had a photograph of Mancala beads in the dirt. I told her that I had seen all of these things before, but she didn’t understand me. I didn’t talk louder and I walked away before Isaac could scold me. That night I dreamed about cameras that took pictures of things they didn’t need to take pictures of. I dreamed of a white person telling me I had white teeth and so I ran outside and put handfuls of dirt in my mouth so no one would ever tell me I had white teeth again. But no matter how much dirt I put in my mouth, my teeth still glowed white like the light

96 | american literary magazine

Mercy Griffith

on the white person’s camera. I woke up with pebbles in my gums, choking on all that white. The next day, though, the white person was gone. She had taken her camera with her and I wondered if she had even tasted the apapransa Mama made or if it just existed for her on that tiny screen. Isaac said he was glad that the white person left but I didn’t know if I agreed. She had a nice smile that kept the bad guys away in my head. Mama says that the bad guys aren’t just in my head and they are everywhere. She says the white people are bad guys but they also keep the bad guys away. I asked her if that meant they kept themselves away but she just looked at the ceiling and said that there was a hole in the roof but she’s known about that hole since Papa left. I told her the hole was in my head and she said maybe it was in her heart and I felt scared that the white woman left. The white woman still visited me in my dreams long after she left, but she was far away from here when the bad guys came. It was dark when they gripped my wrists and I looked for Isaac, but the bad guys only wanted the children. They dragged me through the clay and scraped holes in my heart as I thought about the hole in the ceiling and shouted for Papa because Mama had a hole in her head. I wondered if the white woman would have taken a picture of this, but I knew that a white woman would never see something like this and I cried because I couldn’t trade my white teeth for white skin.

Mama Come Home

Scott Mullins spring 2017 |


Blue Umbrellas

Kate McCarthy

artist’s statement “Ways of Seeing Two”: Page 52 of John Berger’s text Ways of Seeing blotted out and edited with black sharpie, then photocopied.

98 | american literary magazine

spring 2017 |


Ways of Seeing Two Amanda Hodes


“You get in that truck and they make you think you’re crazy.” That was the word on the street. That, or it did make you crazy. But Tasha was already crazy, or at least she felt crazy, so she really had nothing to lose. She marched right up to the truck—colorful like the Bloodmobile for the Children’s Hospital and parked on the corner by the police station, it was no wonder everyone steered clear of it—and knocked on the door. The Mobile Health Clinic had taken to the streets of Camden as part of a new government initiative to ‘lift up’ the inner cities. It was the same one that had put a cop or two near every corner store and stationed cop cars with tinted windows at the gas stations that moonlit as shoot-out spots on the weekends. Rumor was that the cars were plants to warn people off, and Jackson Reyes had taken a baseball bat to the front windshield of the one on 38th to find out. He’d walked back to his friends cocky and grinning and without a chest pumped full of bullets, so that had settled that. But the clinic-on-wheels, as it was referred to, was different. The old men who played cards on a fold up table outside the strip mall whispered that it kidnapped people for sterilization while the young women in the hair salon gossiped about it being a mobile abortion clinic. The hospital sent out a flyer to dispel the rumors but it only added fuel to the fire and put words in the mouths of the people who spread them. The mobile clinic became a nightmare, a thing people who were “sick in the head” got carted away in, all tied up and locked down and drugged to high heaven. But when the door opened, no one yanked Tasha inside. Instead, a white woman with hair blonde everywhere but at the roots stuck her head out and beamed like Tasha was her winning lottery ticket. “Hi! Welcome! Please, come in!” Her very voice was an exclamation point and Tasha could feel a headache beginning. She must have been the first person the scrub-clad woman had seen all week. “You’re the first person I’ve seen all day,” the woman admitted.

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Ciera Burch

“Maybe all week.” Bingo. “Unless you count that group of kids playing ding dong ditch. Oh!” She startled suddenly. “Where are my manners? Please, take a seat. I’m Alison.” She gestured toward a row of plastic seats that spanned both sides of the cramped bus. “Tasha.” She perched on the edge of the closest seat. “I’m here to listen to whatever agenda you’re trying to push on us.” Therapy. It might as well have been a cuss word for how her family stared at her when she brought it up as she passed the mashed potatoes. “For what?” Her brother, Sean, asked. “What d’you—he paused as a series of sirens raced past the window, filling the house with the familiar soundtrack before they faded and he picked back up —need therapy for? Payin’ someone to listen to you talk.” He snorted. “Give me twenty bucks and I’ll pretend to listen.” “We can’t afford it, Tasha,” her mother said curtly. Conversations with her mother were open and close; she said one thing and her mother countered with a response designed to shut the conversation down. No one asked for anything more than once because the answer that was given the first time never changed. “It’s free, Mom,” “Nothing’s free.” “It is.” Tasha didn’t know why she was pushing back, why she didn’t just let it drop like she let everything else drop. Maybe she was tired. “The white girl in the truck said you answer some questions. That’s it.” Her mother set down her cutlery and looked at her daughter. “What kinda questions?” Annoyance fought exhaustion for a spot on her face. She’d worked an 18 hour shift and if Tasha was smart she would stop talking. She didn’t. “I don’t know. Questions about why I’m crazy, probably. Guess they wanna be sure before they waste anybody’s time talking to me.” “You ain’t crazy.” Though her grandmother’s voice was raspy,

it was anything but soft. “Touched in the head, maybe, but you wouldn’t be the first in the family. You’re just fine, Tasha, baby.” Except that she wasn’t. It was a sweet sentiment, a reassuring thought, but it wasn’t at all true. “Forget it,” Tasha said as she shoved her chair away from the table. All eyes focused on her and she winced under the weight of them. “Doesn’t matter anyway.” “You better finish that food,” her mother said. “Not hungry.” “Put it in the fridge and eat it tomorrow, then. You know we don’t waste food around here.”

“It’s nothing but reparations,” Sheena said as they walked to the corner store the next day. The topic of conversation had shifted from the new graffiti by the Portuguese bakery to the mobile clinic and the free therapy it promised. “Reparations?” Tasha echoed. “Yeah. Who do you think it is that drives us crazy in the first place? Makes us feel all bad? These white people and their society. They don’t even try to act like it’s for us. All you ever see anywhere—on billboards, on TV, in magazines—is white people. They even got us with separate aisles at the store for everything! Hair, food, books. You’d think there was more of them than there is of us.” “Aren’t there?” Sheena rolled her eyes and shook her head, the firm shape of her afro staying in place. She hasn’t had her hair straightened in two years, the entire length of her pan-African phase so far. Tasha had called it a phase once to her face and had gotten harshly corrected: “Since when is connecting with my roots a phase?” Tasha learned to tolerate it in silence then, wondering if she had the courage, or the brashness, to follow in Sheena’s footsteps. If she did, would she like the new Black Power version of herself? Liking herself had never been a thing she’d been heavily invested in to begin with. But would assertion of her blackness make up for the thoughts of inferiority constantly taking shape in her head, or would it make them worse? And who did she feel inferior to anyway? “Come on, Tasha,” Sheena said, with all the weary disappointment of a parent, “you can’t be black and not know this stuff. Brown people, not just black people, will rule the

world someday. Stay woke.” Tasha didn’t have enough energy to stay woke, mental or otherwise. Not when she couldn’t even stay happy. She didn’t have the time to wage a war against society when she was already waging one against herself. She murmured something unintelligible and hoped that Sheena took it as agreement. “So you think I should go?” Tasha asked later, while they sat on the front step of Sheena’s granddad’s house sharing a bag of $0.99 chips and long ropes of black and red licorice. “Yeah. It’s free, right?” she nodded. “And you need it?” Tasha nodded again. “So, go. They owe you.” Tasha struggled to hide her surprise. “Really? No ‘black people don’t go to therapy?’ Or ‘what’s some white person going to tell you about how you feel?’” “No. Black folks should be the main ones in therapy. Well,” she munched on a chip and chewed it thoughtfully, “maybe you’ve got a point about the second part. Is the shrink white?” “I dunno.” “I guess you better find out, then. If she is, they might try to use you as part of some damn study on kids in the hood.” “This is East Camden, Sheen. Practically Pennsauken.” Sheena snorted. “So? It’s all the same to them. Hell, anywhere with more black faces than white ones is the hood. Until they come in and park some $25 a cup coffee spot next to the corner store and a bunch of white guys in skinny jeans show up.” Tasha stood, brushing crumbs off of her own skinny jeans. “You’re impossible.” “I’m right. Haven’t you heard of gentrification?” “Everything doesn’t have be to ‘us vs them’ all the time. It’s draining.” It was. It left Tasha with a hollow feeling in her gut that matched the hollowness in her chest. Soon her entire body would be hollowed out like a pumpkin, a forced smiled permanently etched onto her face for decoration. “It is draining,” Sheena agreed. “But it’s life. It’s reality. Maybe the therapy will pull you out of your own head and help you realize that.”

Tasha called the mobile clinic on a day when things were unbearable. With an oddly still hand, despite the trembling of the rest of her body, she dialed the numbers on the business

spring 2017 |


card and asked for Alison. The voice on the other end was chipper, almost overtly so, while she put Tasha on hold. Violins played in Tasha’s ears, doing nothing to soothe her nerves, and she was about to hang up when another voice, more moderate in its audible emotions, answered. “Thank you for calling, this is Alison. How can I help you?” “I want to make an appointment,” Tasha blurted out. “With a therapist. A free one,” she clarified further. “Of course. And who did you have in mind?” “Who?” she repeated. You got what you paid for, after all, and she had expected some young, over-worked therapist with a few dozen patients and a list of generic questions. She hadn’t expected a choice. “Yes. If you go on our website there is a list of potential therapists and their credentials for you to browse through. Would you like me to give you the website?” “Yeah. I mean, yes. Please.” Tasha scribbled down the website and had barely hung up before she logged on. She scrolled down the screen of her laptop and looked over the handful of therapists available to her. She glanced over at her closed door, took a breath, and clicked on the bio of the only brown face in the bunch: Jackie Lanyer. She had surprisingly red glasses. It was one of the first things Tasha noticed: the glasses and the shrewd, sad eyes behind them. She only skimmed her biography— University of Pennsylvania; PhD—and then she pressed redial and made an appointment as soon as possible: at noon? No, I have class. Four? That’s soon. I mean, good. That’s good. Yes, four tomorrow; perfect. And despite the scheduled promise of help, or potential help, things still felt unbearable. It was almost funny how depressed she was, like she had a frowning cartoon storm cloud over her head. She felt the depression in her body like a deep ache; a twinge in her lower back, a painful buzz in her head, even the fatigued heaviness of her eyes. She laughed at herself and when she felt the trickle of tears, she didn’t bother wiping them away.

“It’s not always sudden.” There are times when it’s gradual, when Tasha can feel it coming on, like a bad headache or a cold. It takes its time, meandering, letting her enjoy most of her day or week or month, but she’s always conscious of it at the edge of her life. It casts

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a faint shadow if she laughs a little too hard at something or catches herself smiling in some reflective surface. Sometimes it feels like karma, retaliation for her happiness: Why should she get to be happy? Why her? What has she done to deserve it? But when it hits there’s always a moment of shock, of pure surprise as if this is a new neighbor at the door that she should greet but has woefully underprepared for. There’s the moment of transition—a soft oh as her body startles (but doesn’t recoil; it knows better than to fight back by now) and then accepts it. It settles over her mind like a fog, or like a blanket, tucking it in, preparing it for the worst, and then it becomes her mind. By then it’s almost a relief, like the act of finally throwing up after dealing with constant nausea. Sometimes, when that depression-nausea is bad enough, she does things to provoke it. She turns on the news and listens to all the terrible things happening around the world to other people, other people who deserve to be happy more than she does. Car crashes. War and explosions and fleeing refugees. Natural disasters. Officer found not found guilty in shooting death of... That always does the trick. The depression comes easily then. “Can you elaborate on that?” Dr. Lanyer asked. It was her second question and their first session. It felt like a class and Tasha was sure she was already failing. She’d walked into the mobile clinic—it had a small, cramped impersonal office just opposite the main waiting room where, surprisingly, a couple of people were sitting—and had just started talking. She didn’t introduce herself or wait for the therapist to do the same. I can’t stop being sad, she’d said. And then, It comes out of nowhere. But that wasn’t true, of course. No, she’d needed to correct herself. It didn’t always come from nowhere. It wasn’t always sudden. And now she needed to elaborate. “It’s like…there’s a chair in a cemetery.” Tasha began tentatively and wiped a stray dark hair out of her mouth. Unlike Sheena’s, her hair was straightened. “No, maybe not a chair. It’s a bench. Yeah. A bench. And it’s just for me; it has my name on it. No one ever goes there, so it’s real quiet. It’s sad. And the sadness that’s there becomes my sadness and I don’t want it, but I sit on the bench anyway. Where else would I sit? It’s my bench. But when I sit, I can’t seem to get up. Hours can go by or days or weeks and I can’t move. Outside of the cemetery, people move. Things go on without

“It’s comfortable.” Dr. Lanyer offered up the word and Tasha paused. She thought. “Yes. Yes, it’s comfortable.” She’d learned to find comfort in it over time, at least. “And what about happiness? Does that feel comfortable, too? Or does that strike a…false note in comparison?” The therapist’s voice was light and she kept her eyes fixed just as lightly on Tasha even as she scribbled in her notebook. No, not scribbled. Her wrist motions were careful and deliberate. She probably had perfect handwriting.

“It...That’s the problem. I don’t know. The depression exists now and whatever happiness I know is in the past, or in the future. I can think about when I’ve been happy but I can’t

They were out of time. She turned back to Tasha with an expression of pained regret but all Tasha felt was relief. She could leave and never come back. She could leave this woman with jumbled knowledge of herself and a poor first impression. She could leave and…what? She wasn’t leaving her depression behind with her. No, that was hers. It’d have to come with her.

me, around me, but it’s like I’m glued to the damn bench. Sometimes I hate it. But sometimes…sometimes I don’t ever want to move.”

“We’re out of time,” Dr. Lanyer said, rather unnecessarily. “But I would like to ask you to do me a favor, if you’re up for it.” “What?”

“I want you to keep a journal about how you’re feeling. Writing can be easier than talking for some people and you might find that you’re one of them.”

The names changed but the sentiments didn’t remember what it actually feels like to be happy. Even in my memories I’m not happy, I’m just almost happy. And that’s different.”

Tasha sighed again and shook her head. She wasn’t good at this—at explaining herself. She wasn’t good at therapy. She gave too much of herself away or nothing away. There was no medium amount of sharing; she was meant to keep a part of herself safe and instead she’d bared her mind for this therapist, this stranger, to see. She wanted to know if her mind was up to par; she wanted Jackie Lanyer’s approval. “Does that make sense?” She asked.

“Does it make sense to you?” Dr. Lanyer countered and then, on seeing Tasha’s expression, added, “It doesn’t matter if it makes sense to me, as long as you know what you mean by it.” “I don’t know,” Tasha said. She didn’t know much. “How about we start from the beginning, then? Do you know what—” The rage of a phone alarm startled them both and for the first time during the session, Dr. Lanyer glanced at her phone.

“So…homework?” As if she didn’t have enough of that.

“In a way. You wouldn’t need to show it to me if you didn’t want to and I wouldn’t be giving you a grade, of course, but I feel that it might be beneficial. You don’t have to commit now, but I’d like you to think about it.”

Tasha shrugged. She was already standing, her hand on the door knob. The words she’d spoken felt tangible, as if they were crowding her, taking up space in the room, and she needed to leave. “Yeah, okay. I’ll think about it.” Dr. Lanyer nodded and for the first time that session, she smiled. “I hope to see you next week, Tasha.” Tasha didn’t give her a definite answer; she only nodded and ducked out the door.

She cut through the alley to get to her mom’s job. The graffiti on the wall of the old paper factory was an illegal obituary; half-hidden beneath gang proclamations and random airbrushed signs were a number of RIP DAD and RIP TYRONE. The names changed but the sentiments didn’t and for people with no other outlets for grief, the public wall spring 2017 |


Future 104 | american literary magazine

Andrew Yianne

served as the blank pages of a journal in which they recorded the community’s losses. A journal, Dr. Lanyer had said. She wasn’t going to do that. She understood her feelings well enough without writing them out, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the feelings existed and that they existed more and more often. Tasha rounded the corner and stopped. Standing beneath a GRAND OPENING banner outside of what had been a Chinese food place barely four weeks before was a white girl with hair as red as flame in the sun and honest-to-God freckles. The cup of the iced coffee she sipped on bore the same name as the building behind her: Grind ‘Em Up Coffee Bar. Tasha shook her head. She blinked. A coffee bar. What even was that? Tasha heard Sheena’s voice in her head like a pro-Black conscience and she felt the slow simmer of anger in her veins.

“What about seeing the young woman made you upset?” Tasha had decided to go back to the mobile clinic and the sad, shrewd therapist. She didn’t have anywhere else to go, after all, and few other people to talk to.

impression of sadness. “My job is to listen to you and to help you engage more deeply with your thoughts in the hope that sharing them will make you feel better.” But you’re not listening, Tasha wanted to say. No one listened. “Gentrification,” she blurted out. It was the only word her brain could pin down—a more generalized word for her personal anger. And then, quieter, softer, smaller, “It’s something else they’re taking away.” “Something else?” Dr. Lanyer prompted. But Tasha couldn’t explain because she didn’t know. She just felt. And there were never any words to express those feelings to other people. Talk quietly, worry loudly: it was her brain’s motto. “I just mean…” she began. She didn’t know what she meant. Her anger was stupid. She didn’t have any sort of attachment to the Chinese food place that the coffee bar had replaced because there were a dozen identical ones on every corner. But it was the principle of the thing; the violation of it. “I just mean,” she tried again, “that I’m really tired.”

“The white girl,” she corrected. “And it didn’t make me upset. I’m always upset. It—she—made me angry.” Anger wasn’t an emotion Tasha was familiar with. It was as though it had erased everything else she’d carefully penciled into her brain and scrawled itself over and over in bright red sharpie on every line, filling up every row so that the only place depression fit was in the margins, like a series of poorly drawn doodles. “Why?” “She shouldn’t have been there. That place shouldn’t have been there.” “Why not?” “Stop asking me that. Say something else, something that doesn’t start with ‘why’. Isn’t that your job, to talk, to say things that make me feel better?” Tasha snapped. She never snapped. Not usually. She took careful care to make sure she kept every inflection out of her voice but now everything was making her angry. She felt like a suicide bomber, like if her anger reached a certain level she was going to explode and take everyone else with her. And then she felt guilty for thinking that, but the rage swallowed the guilt until there was nothing in her mind but rage and a vague

spring 2017 |


For Iris, Who Realized She No Longer Needs to be a Spy You could have loved secrets as platinum hallways and missile designs. Secrets as a careful handshake, a sleight of caring hand. Could have clasped the years together and disappeared at 4 a.m., given your scarves to the security guard, taken only an orange from the bowl in the lobby. Waited on the curb as all your secrets opened like night-blooming jasmine, beckoning you in. You asked them to hide you so that you could survive, your life a fighter jet glimmer on an August lake, a sunshine dot in eyelashes, bluegills scattered and dreaming in the Pentagon fountain. You never answer any questions and this has kicked you out of orbit and you miss your friends. Miss unlocked vaults and lying in the grass under rockets every night, waiting for the rush of the passenger plane to sweep down too close to the field, lifting us up— You explain your mistakes, your misplaced impulses. The power was never in closing your eyes again and again and again. So yes, there are other earths and other suns. The same bowl of cereal being eaten, just by someone else. Love stories spinning out into streaks of ice and music on the shore. We wish for a future that nods and keeps walking but instead the world looks and looks. You stayed because you were afraid but hoped to meet its eyes.

106 | american literary magazine

Molly McGinnis

Salt of the Earth

Jaclyn Mercia spring 2017 |


laboratory for forgetting faculty contribution

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Naoko Wowsugi

spring 2017 |


Roadrunner Hotel faculty contribution

If you and I are ever fugitives, village pariahs fleeing the law, let’s meet here in Goias, Brazil the Pousadas dos Sereimes: Roadrunner Hotel fourth bungalow from the left here, where life flowed over sides of the valley bringing all night drum beat from Pirenópolis below here, where in afternoons fresh from naps we strolled village shops outdoor markets watched artists perch easels on cobblestone stray dogs huddled under parked cars I bought miniature jewelry boxes molded from dried orange peels leaves and beads pressed into the still damp rinds here, when I buried my nose inside the box my mind worked for the fist time in a foreign tongue I inhaled citrus: laranges here, where wild horses ran in the pasture beside our breakfast table backs gleaming with sweat while we ate butter slathered slices of coconut bread cafezinhos cloudy with milk plum yogurt made by the innkeeper’s wife

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Melissa Scholes Young

where in our room, 4-C, a concrete box with two wide windows eyes shuttered in blue wood a woman fluttering her lids blinking through the night while we hung in a single hammock on the porch our bodies aligned reading poetry in Portuguese reading tour books proposing travels you knew I’d say yes to again and again and later, while a storm brewed in the valley below thunder claps, lightning cracks, downpour threatened our mountain from within here, where we took lukewarm showers water fed through an electric heater’s exposed wires, tightly wound metallic coils 220 volts above our heads that sizzled and popped when you plugged them into the wall while I stood naked waiting to be warmed worrying that the storm raging in the distance might reach our refuge

spring 2017 |


Biographies kiran ahluwalia is an international studies major and usually

daniel ginsburg is currently pursuing a master of fine arts in

major at au.

creative writing at american university. his english translations of hebrew poetry by israeli poet shira stav appeared in the winter 2016 issue of pleiades: literature in context (vol. 37, issue 1). he is writing his first book of poetry as his master’s thesis. he holds a bachelor of arts in print journalism from american university and a juris doctor from the university of maryland.

jj blake was born and raised. she is a senior film & media

makenzie gold quirÓs is a freshman cleg major who just

arts major and creative writing minor from the seacoast of new hampshire, and a member of the rude mechanicals. jj is just happy to be here.

likes to dabble in photography when the kodak moment is too good to pass up. this photo was taken at the valley of fires in central new mexico.

michael bollinger i am a film and media arts student at

mercy griffith sweet potatoes are underrated and internships

will get her lefts and rights wrong.

emma bartley has learned that you die in your own arms. brendan bense is a senior literature and religious studies

american university from baltimore maryland. filmmaking is always something that i have viewed as being the combinations of all forms of art in one medium. i consider my work successful if it inspires or incites emotion with the audience and this quality that films can have is something that i hope to perfect as a filmmaking.

ciera burch is a writing and history obsessed college senior and hamilton is my life.

brian chaidez donut eater and dog petter. camryn diagonale firmly believes that your jazz should always be smooth, but your peanut butter should never be smooth.

philipp ebner von eschenbach yes, even an evil capitalist

are overrated.

george gu is living in the liminal space between memes and dreams.

sydney hamilton loves shrimp fried rice, floor-to-ceiling windows, and anything starring amanda bynes.

amanda hodes is probably napping, if we’re being honest here.

eli humphrey is a freshman studying history and literature.

when he can’t be found watching movies or reading, he’s outside in the cold waiting for the fire alarm to stop.

emaan khan is a mickey-shaped treat aficionado

kogod kid like me appreciates art.

beth lilly is just coastin’ with the motion of the ocean.

elizabeth edwards wishes she were better at writing bios.

amanda luthy take-out connoisseur; social justice worrier;

hannah eliasoph is practicing the art of decision making



conor macvarish pwease no steppy.

matthew francisco is a freshman studying both audio

kay chu mccarthy is probably someone you forgot you

production and film & media arts. he loves producing music, creating films, shooting photos, and doing way too many things at the same time.

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already met.

molly mcginnis is fully aware of the fact that this

is her last semester with amlit. however, her love for amlit and the lit department will continue to haunt au long after she leaves. post-grad, she plans to keep writing, googling stuff and calling it “investigative research,” and staring into the void. her poem, “moon in a halo of light…” first appeared in hobart.

kyle mendelsohn let’s all go around and admit something!! jaclyn merica

my art stems from a sentimental place i can never return to

anna moneymaker is a film and media arts student, with a

minor in international studies. i enjoy concerts and long walks in d.c.

scott mullins is late. jonathan murray is still hating, still spewing garbage, still

elspeth reilly was last seen asleep in a fairy ring. mikala rempe wants you all to know exactly what you did

to her. she’ll be falling asleep into a plate of tacos until further notice.

carolyn schneider wants to know if you’ve seen the vine where...

tova seltzer is in spain this semester, and you probably

thought you were safe from her. you gave the guards a vacation, you turned off the electric fence. you fool!

maya simkin heard an embarrassing story about you the other day (but still thinks you’re alright).

olivia smith-elnaggar is a self-proclaimed misfit and mutt,

especially now that she is a writer-turned-psychology student in the ma program. she attempts to write in a number of genres and currently writes for 3 halves games on the work-in-progress, eons lost.

having fun.

hannah solus every dog is my therapy.

meghan nash is collecting melted-down clown candles.

carly thaw class of 2018, is a graphic design major from

riley o’connell is a junior creative writing major whose major activities include sighing, sinning, and guinness.

claire osborn

charleston, wv. she loves doing illustrations of creepy-looking people with no faces.

l thompson spends her time thinking about ghosts, getting

likes: arid climates, large dogs, and at least 8 hours of sleep; dislikes: comic sans.

emotionally invested in video games, and worrying about her cat, aramis.

luke palermo appears to be the japanese expression of a

andrew yianne is an ir major in sis and if he’s not outside

historical pan-asiatic solar goddess. she is seen as the goddess of the sun, but also of the universe.

taking shots, he’s probably on instagram or at a coffee shop somewhere.

tyler perry implores you to discover the power of a balanced

naoko wowsugi is a professional lecturer in the department


janella polack leaves her stupid comments in her pocket. thomas pool lived up to his promise in his last bio and is never coming back to america.

of art.

MeLissa young is a professional lecturer in the department of literature. her work has been published in the atlantic, washington post, ploughshares, narrative, poets and writers, brain, child, huffington post, poet lore, and other literary journals.

spring 2017 |


Masthead editor in chief Emma Bartley

prose editors Mercy Griffith Laura Thompson

assistant prose editors Julia Buyak Andrew Levy

poetry editors Molly McGinnis Carolyn Schneider

assistant poetry editors Laurel Clark Cordilia James

photography editors Kyle Mendelsohn Hannah Solus

assistant photography editors Claire Dennis Jordan Redd

art editors

Amanda Hodes Maya Simkin

assistant art editors Camryn Diagonale Sophia Salganicoff

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film editors

Ian MacMillan Conor MacVarish

assistant film editors Thomas Edwards Eli Humphrey

copy editors Mikala Rempe Tessa Stewart

assitant copy editors Elizabeth Edwards Brooke Olsen

design editor Claire Osborn

design team

Kiran Ahluwalia Isabel Capodanno Caleb Gleit Ashfia Khan Elspeth Reilly

blog editors Maya Acharya Tyler Perry

blog staff

Brian Chaidez Sonikka Loganathan Maggie Mahoney Maeve Pond

general staff

Rachel Bassell Amanda Book Eleanor Dacier Grace Diehl Alex Downing Philipp Ebner von Eschenbach Samantha Gies Sydney Hamilton Daniel Jenks Emaan Khan Heather Lilia Beth Lilly Elizabeth Magill Luke Palermo Arden Tully Nora Turner Jacob Wallace


Maya Simkin spring 2017 |


American Literary Magazine 116 | american literary magazine

Mary Gradon Center 248 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW Washington, DC 20016

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