” “ SPRING 2014
(GLWRUV 1RWH Dear Reader, We are delighted to present to you the Volume 84, Spring Issue of AmLit Magazine. This semester’s issue is the result of many caring, laboring hands. Despite how proud we are of the end result, this Editors’ Note is bittersweet. This is the last AmLit magazine we will publish as graduation looms only a few short days ahead, nudging us and many incredible staff members out into “real” life. As this is the last statement we will ever write as AmLit Editors-in-Chief, we must formally say thank you for all that AmLit has brought us, from our book club meetings and cornbread-filled prose brunches, to the lifelong friends we have met and the new generation of (Am-dorable) staffers and talented contributors.
COVER PHOTO BY AJARI ON FLICKR: HTTPS://WWW.FLICKR.COM/PHOTOS/AJARI/8854757736
Instead of dwelling on the sadness we feel leaving the publication that allowed us to flex our creativity and to co-manage a group of the most talented individuals, we are forever grateful to have been given this opportunity. Despite our heavy hearts, we feel nothing but excitement for the future of this magazine. Our time spent at AmLit was phenomenal, absurd, challenging, and far too brief. Now, we pass it on to the next Editors-in-Chief to make their mark. AmLit as a magazine, as a community, and as a standard of artistic student excellence will only continue to grow. This constant cycle gives AmLit its beauty, a strength in its refusal to stagnate and diminish. As long as there are American University students who cannot shake that incessant, inexplicable urge to draw, to write, to paint, to film, and to create, AmLit will exist and regrow each new year, as it has done for the past 37 years. Every issue of AmLit remains vibrant and alive, enticing you, dear reader, with every stroke of color and impassioned line of prose. To our future Editors-in-Chief, staff, and Editorial board, we are so proud and excited for you all. We wish you nothing but the best in exploring all that AmLit has to offer. It’s been real. x,
Sam Falewée & Michelle Merica Co-Editors-in-Chief
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' H S W K R I ) H H O HALEY SEMIAN
M I S S I O N S TAT E M E N T + P O L I C Y American Literary Magazine, commonly known as AmLit, is American Universityâ€™s literary magazine and creative arts outlet. AmLit is a student-run organization that publishes twice a year at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters. Striving to publish the best student writing and visual art within the campus community, AmLit is comprised of poetry, prose, photography, film, and art submitted by the student population, including undergraduates and graduates. AmLit selects content based on an anonymous review process, giving each staff member an equal vote for each piece submitted. Any discrepancies in the democratic voting process are decided by the Editors-in-Chief and genre editors. All copyrights revert to the artists upon publication, unless otherwise noted.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS It is impossible for us to begin to write any acknowledgement without thanking our staff. This issue is unique because it consists of many seniors who will soon be graduating. Our time together has been filled with joy and will forever be engraved in our hearts. Thank you for your refined insight, dedication, endless talent, and, above all, your friendship. We also especially must thank our trusted advisor, Adell Crowe. Your dedication to our publication, along with the other media organizations you judiciously spearhead, is downright inspiring. Your valued opinion, wisdom, and friendly way about you is a delight to work with. Thank you for being a much needed confidant, a constant support, and the perfect office mate. We appreciate that, with every piece of advice and guidance you offer, there is always a piece of candy to go along with it. We would also like to thank our Content Advisor K. Tyler Christensen for providing us with his cultivated expertise. Your highly esteemed opinion helps this publication to consistently showcase the best in American Universityâ€™s creative arts. Next, we must thank the man who has printed AmLit for the past 15 years, Jim Briggs of Printing Images. To work with you has been an honored tradition. Thank you for your support and endless patience. It has been a joy getting to know you, and we hope you can take your very much deserved vacation to Alaska in the near future. Finally, we must gratefully recognize our Best in Show judges: Naoko Wowsugi, Linda Voris, Lily Wong, Andy Holtin, and Leena Jayaswal. Some of you have promoted AmLit on the doors of your offices, encouraged new students to participate, and acted as our strongest advocates year after year, while for others this is your first time being involved in AmLit. We respectfully thank you for your time to our publication.
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$UW )LOP 3KRWR
7D E O H R I &RQWHQWV
6 GRAPHITE ON PAPER Elise Polentes
EDITORS’ NOTE Sam Falewée + Michelle Merica
3 SUBMISSION POLICY + ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 62 BIOGRAPHIES 64 STAFF 67 SPONSORS
12 DOES THIS CHROMA MAKE ME LOOK FAT? Natalie Tarasar Best in Show Art 41 WADE Rachel Ternes
10 SHAME Robert Orlowski
42 SOLAR PANEL Natalie Tarasar
20 MICHAEL’S JAR OF NOTHING Ben Nigh Best in Show Film
51 WAIT Rachel Ternes
52 KALEIDOSCOPE WAVES Natalie Tarasar 55 BRANCHES Rachel Ternes 60 CREW II Tim Doud Faculty Contributor
45 UNTITLED Roger Hayn
2 DEPTH OF FEEL Haley Semian 9 WINDOW SILL Haley Semian Best in Show Photography 15 CRANE Evan Mills 16 NATIONAL MALL Abbey Butner
61 ANNIE, ELLEN, HELEN Tim Doud Faculty Contributor
19 SMILE Stephanie Fieseher
63 RAYMOND Natalie Tarasar
22 ARE MY FAVORITE BANDS Lindsay Maizland
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14 MY FUNNY VALENTINE Michaela Cowgill 17 MĀYĀ Austine Model
25 HOLDING ONTO THE PAST Robert Orlowski
18 LUNE Michaela Cowgill
26 THE OPERA HOUSE Krystal Pratt 28 UNTITLED Ariel Neumann
31 MEMORIES FROM HOME 8 Robert Orlowski
32 CRYSTALLIZATION Haley Semian
21 ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON Michelle Merica 23 MOLAR DREAM Lindsey Newman
24 ON A FIRST DATE IN COLLEGE Mikala Rempe
34 LITTLE BRANCH Krystal Pratt
27 RE: BACKSTROKE Michaela Cowgill Best in Show Poetry
37 HORIZONTAL Haley Semian
29 SOFT INSURGENCIES Jess Nesbitt
38 CITY LIFE Krystal Pratt
44 BOYS OF THE COMPLEXO DO ALEMÃO Ana Santos 47 AMELIA Alexandra Korba 48 ROCINHA Ana Santos
57 BRIDAL JEWELRY Lindsay Maizland 58 UNDER Tiffany Wong
65 THE CURIOUS PENGUIN Elissa Title 66 BLUE MOUNTAINS CLOUDS Ariel Neumann 68 UNTITLED Haley Semian
UNTITLED Mikala Rempe
8 IN YOUR KITCHEN Michaela Cowgill 11 MEASUREMENTS OF MEANING Austine Model 13 TRUE ACCOUNT OF ANOTHER SHITTY POETRY READING Jess Nesbitt
33 DREAM #4 Molly McGinnis 35 MARBLES Lindsey Newman 39 DREAM #737 Molly McGinnis 40 A DEATH IN THE FAMILY Melanie Germond
43 AMERICAN INFLORESCENCE Pamela Huber 50 SOBRIETY POEM NO. 1 Jess Nesbitt 53 THE MIDLIFE CRISIS Tiffany Wong 56 KATE CHOPIN, A DIPTYCH Julia Irion Martins
30 I AM TRYING TO FACILITATE A CONVERSATION Brendan Williams-Childs Best in Show Prose 36 TRANSLOCATION Brendan Williams-Childs 46 EXPEDITIONARY FORCES Brendan Williams-Childs 54 EARLY ONSET Mikala Rempe
59 TRIPTYCH Lindsey Newman
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* U D S K L W H R Q 3 D S H U ELISE POLENTES 12” x 18” | graphite on drawing paper
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8 Q W L W O H G MIKALA REMPE When you draw my portrait, I hope you think of the wings, birds landing home First meet me rigid and straight-edged Then paint my curves slowly, methodically, rhythmically Pulling a rolled joint from the valley between them, I hope you cherish the way your mouth wraps around your teeth Each time you say my name Like Iâ€™m a secret youâ€™re keeping I am the middle of the nightmare, The end of the mayhem, And the beginning of the mourning All at the same time -The autobiography of the letter m
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, Q < R X U . L W F K H Q MICHAELA COWGILL A rectangle of glass is all sunset, a pink blur sliced by black branches. I am rooted and cut by this, by loving you. Nothing more true than the earthâ€™s pivot and you stacking plates in my best wool socks.
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BEST IN SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY
H AY L E Y S E M I A N
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0 H D V X U H P H Q W V R I 0 H D Q L Q J AUSTINE MODEL
Felt-tipped words rush over silver-soaked stones; alcohol drips from your tongue, lacquered in liquor, spilling kisses like running water pooled over porcelain, turned cold, and cupped in my knuckled palms stopping time like an hourglass turned on its sideâ€” half-full. But measurements of meaning are like eclipses you should only see through cardboard holes (never look directly into my eyes) made by tired teacher hands and eight year olds.
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BEST IN SHOW ART
18” x 24” | Conté crayon
' R H V W K L V & K U R P D 0 D N H 0 H /RRN)DW" N ATA L I E TA R A S A R
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7U X H $ F F R X Q W R I $ Q R W K H U 6 K L W W \ 3 R H W U \ 5 H D G L Q J JESS NESBITT
Tuesday night I’ve read A Woman Like Me 18 times. Now I let an old cigarette go. I lit my house on fire at 12, At 6 I split my head into waves, Worming up against the carpet on the floor Of a Revolutionary Poetics conference So vapidly absent of women? Tuesday night it’s sweaty I lick my palms and twist my eyes To the sky full of gloomy visionaries: A litany of white men chanting NEGATIVE CAPABILITY Vis-à-vis me? I run my tongue Over teeth and I bleed into all the wrong sleeves. Tuesday night Have I read Enough Myles now? On the back porch Of my orange-burnt house, its yellows Pulling something sexy through the trees Right to me. I swell like a Wednesday Saturated by lust, a poignant sun Speaking to men at Fire Island, a sun I can never seem to find.
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0 \ ) X Q Q \ 9D O H Q W L Q H MICHAELA COWGILL Just an oriental rug left, that wing chair you donâ€™t want anymore and eight glass beer bottles lining the window. They are turned, turning amber in the sun. I think I may be glass. (I remember being full of something once.) I help you roll up the rug, as if it were a picnic blanket and we just wanted to go home. A migration comes next, on ribbons of cement unfurled westward. Are you listening to Frank Sinatra? I come back for the bottles, and put cut flowers in them; point their petaled faces to the noisy street.
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0 D \ D AUSTINE MODEL
The moon’s teeth bit into my ears filling them with seawater spilling in waves over
standing in for Atlas, I stretched into the universe my veins pumped cosmic stuff out of my eyes when I looked at you in the middle of the street—at midnight, underneath the green light, standing on your tiptoes reaching for fireflies you couldn’t catch with your hands. You opened your mouth & they flew in one-by-one & your blood began to glow: our bodies swam through the stratosphere while we watched ourselves.
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/ X Q H MICHAELA COWGILL It’s a man’s face we think. The oceans are moved by it, the crane’s legs stretched long from carrying a rabbit to its silver cheek. But Monsieur Petit talks to a ghost satellite, a second rock looped and spun, his little one. In a dream he is visited by a chunk of sky and wakes up alone, caught and washed in moonlight; reeling.
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BEST IN SHOW FILM
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2 Q D 6 X Q G D \ $ I W H U Q R R Q MICHELLE MERICA By the window where Nell grows her daises. Their hair can make the dusted sunlight spray lime. But now, it’s hot and the blinds stay down. We peeked at the blue-denim couple selling churros on the corner. Afterward, Bobby and me held the daisies under our chins to see who liked butter more. Me, I had the plump yellow circle. We heard Christmas music from Nell’s bedroom. She’s changed the wall color again, but this time she went back to blue. It’s so hot out.
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L I N D S AY M A I Z L A N D
0 R O D U ' U H D P LINDSEY NEWMAN You pressed it into my palm with the possibility of polished weight, the licorice-lined molars you plucked from the depths of your gaping mouth. You traced the wrinkles with jaw jewels, onyx-purple fortunes, a new life line. You watched when I overturned my hand, as split teeth scattered the linoleum, a constellation of shards.
Italicized lines borrowed from: Kelsey, Karla. â€œIn Syllable I.â€? Gulf Coast, October 2009, 225.
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2 Q D ) L U V W ' D W H L Q & R O O H J H MIKALA REMPE I told him I was from Nebraska. I wish I would have lied. Told him I spent nineteen years clawing At the womb of this surrogate mother of a city Told him Midwest soil caked and dried Under my nails like scorched earth Told him I pulled up emaciated roots from this border town And used them as routes out Told him the look on my mother’s face wishing me home Sits albatross-heavy around my neck Told him no one understands I have a different body there, Skin hanging off bone like a curtain of burdens Told him I was from California Or some city that smells like second chances Told him my city is only pretty when it snows Because it tricks you into thinking it’s pure, Tricks you into thinking it’s home.
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+ R O G L Q J 2 Q W R 7 K H 3 D V W ROBERT ORLOWSKI
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K R Y S TA L P R AT T
BEST IN SHOW POETRY
5H%DFNVWURNH MICHAELA COWGILL A boy falls into the Northwood lake. Everything is on fire and blue; all the wax melted off his wings. Upside down, on his back, thrashing and raking the blue. He looks like someone I know. One arm rising up into the cotton sheet of the sky and the other swinging down to grab thick mud. Waving to the red-throated loon above and loving the brook trout with their smooth bellies below. He almost looks happy. I call out to him again and again.
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6 R I W , Q V X U J H Q F L H V JESS NESBITT 1. Allons-y: let’s go wildly into the dark and bomb another country into space. I’m nauseous to read another story to grasp the folds of melancholia in another six-year-old’s brown skin. Did you see Vanessa “Libertad” Garcia posted her suicide note in the winding dawn hours in the spirit of the modern age I bet she said I now do slice my wrists and bubbled the most auspicious red. I had never read one of those before it made me feel so gross and nobody will tell me how I should feel. Better? 2. Joan Mitchell to Elaine de Kooning, after being asked Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? Elaine, let’s get the hell out of here. 3. It was nice of you to loan me that discolored book on barebacking. Are you saying you want to rub against me without a filmy sheet of plastic between us? I loathe you only coming on to me after we’ve both had a beer in the basement of a closing museum. I was so sweaty, so underwhelmed I walked the whole way home afterward biting at the corners of my mouth. I could loan you Black Orpheus or Bataille and send you mixed messages too. 4. Tonight I made the express effort to fall back in love with Anne Sexton. I wrote poems for her in my kitchen joking at the stove and then swiftly falling deep and darkly into myself. When I was twelve I sat for the first time in a bathtub full of my blood, words flooding from between my legs. Sanguinary sanctuary I swear I will contain (contain: late 13c. old French: to hold together, to close) finally this body this blood this self. I break out of my body this way / an annoying miracle. 5. Don’t be foolish. I can’t stay in love with you. I want your pussy your “fur heart” your actual gross heart and then too the back of your neck. I could ask you to come over now but I look so stupid when I want you here. Whether or not that is the truth I can’t stop thinking about the time we fucked through the entirety of that Dodos album: you glowing from above me as I sink lower into the foggy yellow picture of that moment.
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BEST IN SHOW PROSE
, $ P 7U \ L Q J W R ) D F L O L W D W H D & R Q Y H U V D W L R Q BRENDAN WILLIAMS-CHILDS
I said I was sorry.
ii When I was sick was when it all went to hell. Because then I was sick and you were sick and we couldn’t take care of each other. We were just useless, stupid lugs lying around on the floor and occasionally puking. Except we were hundreds of miles apart and neither of us was actually puking. Let me have this metaphor. Let me have something. I never visited you in the hospital because you were too far away. I was too far away. We were too far away from each other. That’s the formula, the syntax of how we’re going to speak about it. You. Me. Us. I love you most. I love you most. We love each other the most. I was good at formulas. Ask me the quadratic. You, me, us. You were sick, I was sick, we were sick, you were five hundred miles away, I was seven hundred miles away, we were more than a thousand miles apart. “There is something wrong with you.” There is something wrong with you. iii It was dark, and I was sitting in the living room of your parents’ house looking out the windows at the suburb where you grew up. There were all these pictures of you and your sisters on the mantel above the fireplace, and three copies of the Bible, and a collection of The Western canon from the 1960s bound up all nicely in gold and red. Your parents were filthy fucking rich. You were filthy fucking rich, and I was staring into the void while you were in the kitchen, and the void wasn’t just staring back. The void was crawling toward me on broken legs, screaming in my face, reaching for my collar. The sky had split open and sucked up all the stars. Your suburb was so damn dark, and it was starting to push against the window, threatening to crash into the room, to stain the floral pattern of your mother’s sofa. You were putting your hands on my face, your hands still wet from washing dishes, your hands small and cold, asking me over and over what was wrong, why was I screaming, why was I crying, what the hell, Christopher? Babe, are you okay? And I didn’t even know I was screaming, but I was and I was trying to explain that there was a vast blackness coming for all of us, that it wasn’t death it was something beyond that, that we were going to go away and I was never going to see you again and I was so, so frightened and we were going to die covered in tar, that if anyone survived they would find our bodies preserved like saber-toothed cats. We were going to be nothing and all you could do was pull me upstairs to the bed you had slept in as a child and take your shirt off and tell me to calm down and I just couldn’t because I was having a psychotic breakdown and did not want to have sex, actually, and you just kept stroking the side of my face until I came back to my body and realized that I had frightened your dog and you said, “You have to promise to see someone. This isn’t normal.” “Yeah,” I said, which was a stupid, obvious thing to say. And when I got back to the university, I lied on the psychological profile and didn’t tell the psychologist any of this and still got charged twenty bucks for the consultation. What I said was, “Sometimes I get nervous,” and she said that this was probably an issue for the learning center. Maybe I just needed to learn to manage my time better. iv I’m not going to be that asshole who defines our relationship with Oxford English Dictionary quotes. I am just going to say that Wikipedia says that the central concept of toxicity is that the effects are dose-dependent. And I am going to say that I learned about the LD50 in high school. And I am going to say that I probably should have known better. I can say with absolute certainty that you loved me. I can say with absolute certainty you were the crazy one. You. Okay so you were bleeding, okay so I was mad, okay so you were scared, okay so maybe I was drunk, okay so maybe you were too, okay so maybe I shouldn’t have, and okay maybe you shouldn’t have, and okay look we can argue this all day long, okay so let’s just call it good, okay so let’s just split the difference. v If there was really something wrong with me the way you thought there was, you would have accepted my apology. ky
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0 H P R U L H V ) U R P + R P H ROBERT ORLOWSKI
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' U H D P M O L LY M C G I N N I S The unreliable narrator saves worlds, but her relatives wonâ€™t call her by name. I tell her she is licensed to tell my story if she wants, and whatever comes after that. She measures out starlight in milligrams, forgets how much to take. But anyone who tap dances during a media blackout, or teaches herself military history and forgiveness in small doses is fine by me. Her sadness settles around the house. I touch it and try to leave fingerprints.
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K R Y S TA L P R AT T
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0DUEOHV LINDSEY NEWMAN You shook the tree, the white bark chipping, littering the grass, sheets of white damage, the shredded, incriminating proof. You knew they would laugh, tease, the scraggly boys spitting dares. You loosened the prize: three pale eggs, cracked, spilling out, marbles full of life. The boys slap your shoulder, shout with triumph, but your eyes stay on the strange pink insides staining the grass.
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7U D Q V O R F D W L R Q BRENDAN WILLIAMS-CHILDS SOMETIMES HE MEETS people from far away, places like New Mexico or Montana, and they just laugh when he says, “I grew up in a rural area.” Because to men who started shooting deer at fourteen, who were joyriding in total darkness in their fathers’ stolen pickup trucks to locations that didn’t even exist, because nothing exists out there, Ohio was practically suburban. To men who came from ranching families, the farm was insufficiently far enough removed. A single plot of land couldn’t possibly exist under the same vast and empty sky. Originally, he lived in cities. Akron, Cleveland, Cincinnati. But as the emotional sprawl of the family began, so did the physical migration. He was seven and hiding in cabinets in apartments and then eight and running his hands over grain, walking down highways, his mother swearing never to go back, never to get within fifty miles of his father. His father got within fifty miles of them, though. Then he was twelve and sitting in an “urban youth community gardening project,” given a shovel and a pack of seeds, and then fourteen and wanted by the state for having left, standing alone in three hundred acres of corn while the crickets droned so heavily that the noise threatened to burst his eardrums as he held firm in the irrigated dirt, his shoes sinking into topsoil and the muggy air lifting off into darkness like a rocket, leaving nothing but the dust that might have been stars, but he wasn’t entirely sure that he had ever seen real stars before. It was a nice place to be fostered, reports said. A small town with a strong agricultural heritage. In theory, the community was close. But he estimated that it would take them at least three days to find his body if he lay down in the Budzik family field and shot himself. It wouldn’t even be them, it would be Charger, the dog. In theory, the dog is an extension of a family. Or so it’s been said. So he’s heard. And then he is in the Northeast Corridor, and everyone around him is tugging at their collars and rolling their eyes and talking about the heat, the same kind of swampy, visceral heat that he spent years in. But telling a politician or a businessman to look on the bright side is pointless. There is no bright side in this world, and he hasn’t got the same certainty that Mother had. Look on the bright side, she would say, so sure that there was a side, somewhere, that shone like the steel that tipped her boots, that he could see a distortion of his reflection in. Supposedly, everyone comes from somewhere else in the city, and some of them come from where he remembers, but he chokes on trying to explain what Ohio is to people who are from Ohio, who know a state that is not the state that he knows, who live in a different Ohio than his. Here is the thing about the Midwest— there are so many midwests. ky
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K R Y S TA L P R AT T
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' U H D P M O L LY M C G I N N I S In my favorite dream, we are standing on a street in Manhattan. The traffic light, cinched red lips. It is 1975, twenty years before we were born, a few months after the war. Every windshield is cloudless and full of trees. Someone has just painted STOP in fresh yellow letters on the pavement, reaching out like flashlight beams toward a vanishing point where two towers rise. But we are not looking at them -you are watching a man shave out on his balcony, I am drinking orange juice waiting for the light to change.
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$ ' H D W K L Q W K H ) D P L O \ MELANIE GERMOND
Rust (n.): A coating on metal developed from A process of corrosion or deterioration. Example: I tasted the rust in my blood when I heard you swallowing tears, explaining why He had to go. My head hit the bathroom floor Gasping for oxygen to feed the tides of iron Veins bubbling with everything I’d learned was true In high school chemistry labs. Example: The car I was supposed to inherit, Left junked in my grandparents’ driveway. Grandpa sealed the windows in the rainy season, Leaving an inch of mold on the leather seats. It is an old Mercedes model, kept busy watching The overgrown yard toward the final resting place Of two loyal friends. Fifty years of family history Stain the walls of our nuclear ranch home Entrenched on an eroding hill. Our collective triumphs and failures Recorded in the ivy that advances daily -- An invasive species, according to my father. Metal retreats from the blooming orange oxide. You can’t leave something in this air And expect it to remain uneaten. Here, a mushroom will feast and prosper An hour after the carcass is cold. Science needs better terms to describe The molecular change incurred through loss.
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:D G H
9” x 12” | oil on canvas paper
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$PHULFDQ,QIORUHVFHQFH PA M E L A H U B E R The yellow bloom blisters the air awash in morning, shivering in the quivering breeze. This grand stalk that once burst through the earth grows crooked with age, its back bending under the weight of the wise, of summer, of the knowledge of picked fruits. God lies in the sunflower’s eye, but we still pick at his rods and cones, salt them, feed them to birds, suck them, munch them, spit out their broken shells into the broken sky, wondering when it’ll heal.
6 R O D U 3 D Q H O N ATA L I E TA R A S A R 18” x 24” | hard pastels
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% R \ V R I W K H & R P S O H [ R G R $ O H P Ð R ANA SANTOS
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R O G E R H AY N
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( [ S H G L W L R Q D U \ ) R U F H V BRENDAN WILLIAMS-CHILDS
NICK SMELLS LIKE cow shit. His shoes are caked in it up to the ends of his jeans. He can’t smoke enough on his fifteen minute breaks to get the smell out of his nose, his mouth. The shit permeates everything. He ought to be used to it, but there’s chemicals in it and they burn the lining of his nostrils. Fifteen years and still not used to it. The shit and the screaming. No. Not screaming. Cows don’t scream. They make a noise somewhere in the bottom of their fourth stomach that oozes out of their body like bile. Like shit. Nick adjusts his mask and adjusts the machine and closes his eyes when the solid metal rod emerges from the barrel like a scorpion striking, shattering the skull, and halving the brain of the stupid, screaming, shitting thing in front of him. It stands totally paralyzed, spit leaking from its lips, snot dripping from its nose. Nick doesn’t look it in the eyes. Above him, the whistle blows, a shriek loud enough to be heard over the radio and constant chatter from the butchers’ section. Nick’s shift, the execution, is a single-staffed position. “Hey, Nick,” Manuel shouts, approaching with a wide grin, already capless, his hands pale and sweaty from his latex gloves. His accent is sharp. “Heey, Neek.” Neek. Nick, gringo numero uno. And no matter how many times Nick tries to tell the kid that he understands, Manuel only speaks in English to him. “You going to the info session?” “The hell I’d do that for?” Nick asks, taking his mask off, gasping for air as David punches in, pulls his gloves on, and picks up the knocking gun. “Innovations in Martian Food Sourcing,” David says, quoting the pamphlets left strewn around the break room the week before, his accent as sharp as Manuel’s, leaning over the edge to pop a bolt into the head of the next cow on the conveyer belt. David lost his sense of smell in his infancy. He is lean and leathery and doesn’t smoke and doesn’t wear
a mask when putting the animals down. “It’s the future.” David, he looks each of the stupid beasts head-on, as much as he can, when he shoots them. Nick admires him for it. Can’t compare with the ethics. “The hell it is,” Nick says, not watching as David works. “That’s the same shit they been saying since they got folks on the moon.” “You weren’t even alive then,” Manuel says, rolling his eyes hugely as he fumbles in his pocket for a cigarette and holds the door open. Nick walks ahead, trying not to breathe through his nose, but the stink stings his tongue, burns the back of his throat. “My grandpa was,” Nick replies, “when they were tryin’ to bring corn to the moon.” He can remember his grandfather’s corpse, how black his hands had been, how white his nails were, save for the dusty, grey dirt below them. Earth, Nick’s father had called it, look at the earth under his nails. But it wasn’t funny because his father was dead, and it wasn’t really ironic, either, and the corpse’s face had been covered in a black bag that was sealed around the neck, presumably because, while the plum-dark pigmentation that occurred from sudden de-stabilization on the Moon was acceptable for extremities, it was shameful to show the head of a man when it was such an ugly, unnatural color. “Soil wasn’t good there,” Manuel says, shaking his head, dragging Nick through the break room, pulling his boots off and slipping into sandals, his feet pale and wide. “I read about it. It’s different on Mars. You know that.” “The hell it is,” Nick repeats, hanging his apron on the hook in his locker. It lies limp. It doesn’t fight back. He can hear the screaming from the other side of the wall. Not screaming. They aren’t people. “I’m telling you, it ain’t no different anywhere.” Manuel looks offended. All the reading he’s done, after all. He’s searched through history books at the public library, talked to the old folks in town. He’s made it his mission. For a boy who didn’t graduate
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from the 140-student high school in the only town in a twenty-six mile radius, he is certainly determined to learn. “No difference anywhere? Our resident existentialist.” Danver is sneering from the doorway that separates the entry hallway from the break room. His shirt is splattered with blood and unbuttoned, his muscles wound as tightly as a spring coil, pressing against his skin with the force of the bolt-gun shot. Danver. Not Denver. Danver, short for Daniel Everly, compressed because it’s not like anybody can say Daniel right around here anyway. He thinks he’s smart because he got bored in prison and read half the dictionary. His vocabulary is impressive up until he reaches words that start with “M,” at which point he is reduced to the same flatland insults as the rest of his co-workers. “Our resident jackass,” Nick replies, under his breath. He tries not to tangle with convicts or offal sorters, men who get their hands in guts and enjoy it. “You going to the info session?” Manuel asks, grinning. Manuel is always grinning, it seems. Nick can’t remember seeing the boy without a smile. That’s the ridiculous persistence of youth, the confidence of a seventeen-year-old set on going to space. Danver nods, lights a cigarette and approaches them, his hands shaking and stained in blood. His fingers aren’t supposed to be ruddy red, aren’t supposed to be cracked and worn and colored. All butchers are supposed to wear gloves. But they’re also supposed to complete a full shift, and Nick has never known Danver to work a full eight hours. “Of course I am,” he says, returning the smile. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” “But you’d leave the world on account of it,” Nick says, this time loud enough to be heard. “Hell yeah I would,” Danver says, puffing smoke in Nick’s face. It’s supposed to be an insult, but smells better than the stale air of the break room. “I’m sick of this shit.”
“There are better ways to leave a job than to go to Mars and do the same work you’ve been doin’ here,” Nick says, standing up and grabbing his hat. “I hear they’re looking for wind farmers up north.” “Yeah,” Danver laughs, “because I’d want to go live in a man-camp and hook up wires for a living in Montana.” He stresses the word, making a face like he’s just bitten into something rotten. Like the arrogant son-ofa-bitch isn’t from Nevada. “Hey, you got a car, right?” Manuel asks, extinguishing his own cigarette under his sandals. “You wanna pick me up tonight?” “Only if Nick agrees to come,” Danver says, fixing Nick with a smile that says crush this kid’s dreams, you sick bastard and knows that it’s not going to happen. “Getting out once in a while is good for old men, right?” Nick shrugs, “Fine.” What the hell’s the difference? He’s not going to put his name on any lists. He’s not going to let any of the recruiters look him in the eye. He swears this to himself and puts his hat on while Manuel slaps his back and thanks him in Spanish. THE RECRUITER LOOKS THE same as the one Nick met twenty years ago. In a dark red uniform, holding his bright white hat to his chest while explaining the benefits and risks of a space mission, the recruiter may as well have stepped out of a poster from any time in the past fifty years. Even before the Sovereign Colonies Initiative reached Mars, even before they had to terraform and purify the planet, they dressed in colors suited to their ambitions. Nick can almost respect them for it. But the way they look at Manuel makes him nervous. The lights of the college’s auditorium shine bright on the recruiter, his handsome gold buttons gleaming, his shoes clearly newly polished. Danver drove Nick and Manuel for forty-five minutes to get them all here, and Nick wishes that the truck had just broken down halfway. Hidden in the darkness of the audience, Nick can see the way the recruiter eyes out Manuel, seeks out young blood. “The hell’s your problem anyway?” Danver asks, standing next to Nick in the back, both pressed against the wall, smoking despite the signs that strictly command them not to, in both English and Spanish. »
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“I been there,” Nick says, not looking away from Manuel’s hand as it continues to rise and fall. He has so many questions. Stupid damn kid. “When I was twenty. Went to go help settle. Clear my debts with the Service.” “Well, you came back in one piece, didn’t you?” Danver doesn’t have the courtesy to act surprised. It’s likely not new information to him, though Nick never assumes. “You ever been up there?” “Not yet,” Danver says, shooting a glare at a woman in the back seats who turns in her chair and motions for the men to quiet their conversations. “Fuck you, lady, we’re having an important discussion here.”
“Jesus…” Nick covers his face with his hat and drops his cigarette on the floor, stomping it out with the heel of his shit-crusted boot. “Let’s just go outside.” The summer air is warm on their faces and Danver pulls himself in to the bed of his truck, nestles up against the back of the cab and takes a deep drag on his cigarette, reducing it to ash. “I’m going to, though. Adventure. Change of scenery. New job, you know.” “You can’t go outside,” Nick says, sitting on the edge of the flatbed, his feet dangling over the side, knocking against the tire in a dull, repetitive rhythm the way it gets to be at work. “If ’n you go outside, you’re liable to get into danger.”
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“Armed and enraged natives?” Danver asks, laughing hugely, until he sees that Nick isn’t so much as half-smiling. “Shit. I didn’t think the stories were true.” “About Martians? They ain’t.” Nick lies back on the metal and looks up at the stars, tracing the constellations with his fingertips. There are no Martians. There are no space slugs. There are no diseases that turn a man’s skin to stone. There are no beautiful women waiting. There is only an ocean of emptiness on all sides, threatening to suck the life out of everything around it, and Nick struggles to find the words, to break it down properly. “There’s no hope out there, though. The ground’s poison.”
It had been the hunger that was overwhelming. The hunger and the darkness. No amount of artificial sunlight could repair the situation. The forces and their charges had withered under the force of it. Reports of cannibalism from the first mission had been grotesque. Reports of madness from the second mission had been horrific. Reports of suicide from the third mission had been disheartening. But the fourth time would be the charm. That’s what the men in dark red uniforms had told Nick, barely nineteen and fresh in The Service. And Nick, never the best at math, had believed the odds in his favor. Nick, never the best at math, could still count to five, the number of colonists he had to put down. The number of colonists screaming at the blackness, sick from toxins in the soil that had infected the wheat, the front of their brains gone to rot. You are making a difference, making the planet safe and habitable the recruiters had said. You are the first line of defense and offense in this expedition. “Well,” Danver says, popping his knuckles and shrugging, the dismissal of a man young enough to believe in the best, and old enough to temper the best with rationalizations, “it’s been, what, twenty years since you were there?” “Twenty-three.” “Nobody’s getting Mad Martian disease anymore.” “Fluoroquinolone-ethonol poisoning,” Nick says. The doctor had called it “blood poisoning,” but the doctor had been the third to go. Fluoroquinolone-ethonol poisoning is what the newspapers called it when they ran their headlines: FOURTH EXPEDITION MARKED BY TRAGEDY. “I get it, I get it,” Danver laughs, looking up at the sky with him. “You’ve seen some shit. That’s rough. But the rest of us don’t have to play along with your long-suffering.” “Go to Mars, for all I care,” Nick says, closing his eyes while the applause from the auditorium comes leaking into the parking lot. He moves his fingertips lazily in the air, tracing empty shapes, circling a distant, glowing planet and reaching beyond into the navy blue of the evening. MANUEL’S REPLACEMENT IS a woman named Sierra. She is broad-shouldered and wide-hipped, solidly built, and strong
enough to lift a sizable portion of the cow up while the rest of the butchers’ line strings the animal by its foot, sends it down Danver’s way, or what used to be Danver’s way. Sierra doesn’t smile often. She is silent at lunch, silent in the break room, and she doesn’t smoke. She has dark eyes and watches Nick curiously, as though he is a foreign object, like the concept of his existence is alien to her. “Do you want something?” he asks, finally, during a lunch break. She’s been working at the slaughterhouse for a month and hasn’t said so much as a word, just stared, unblinking. She’s been taking her lunches at the same time he has. She always eats a peanut butter sandwich and two prickly pears. “No,” she says, “I just…” She hesitates, slices into the skin of the pear with her pocket knife. “Were you in the Fourth Expedition?” The library in the town next to the slaughterhouse is two rooms, built in an old house that nobody wanted anymore, restored by some philanthropist from Houston. It has mostly books in Spanish and the assorted magazine. What little history it has is confined to encyclopedias and periodicals about the Texas Revolution. Somehow, Nick reasons, this girl has found one of the old newspapers lying around. The town likes to “commemorate its heroes.” There is a plaque on the high school entryway proudly proclaiming that at least one politician from the last fifty years attended. Nick has seen the paper with his picture in it. He has seen it more recently than he would have liked to have seen it, making sure that Manuel didn’t see it. Five years ago, when the reporters tracked him down, he was working in the butchers’ section. The newspapermen were from New York. They had made it their mission to locate the surviving members of the expeditions. They asked damn fool questions, and the story ran on the front page, featuring Nick in his latex gloves, his bloodied cap, his piss stained shoes. AFTER ADVENTURE: OBSCURITY. Nick hated the headline. It wasn’t an adventure. It was service. But the paper had caused some alarm in the Northeast, apparently. Somebody wanted to “correct the situation.” Offered Nick money, a place to live. He had turned it down and never took another call from them.
Sierra is blinking more rapidly now. “I heard,” she says, her voice very quiet, “that the colonists turned on each other. Is that true?” “No,” Nick says, his face straight as he lies. “It was the Martians. I don’t know what kinda papers you’ve been reading, but they only send the best up there. Not people who act like damn animals.” “So there are Martians,” Sierra whispers, sounding delighted, though still unsmiling. “I knew it.” “The boy who worked here before you, you know,” Nick says, standing up and closing his lunchbox, “he’s out there now. On his way, probably. He’ll have to fight ‘em off. It ain’t done out there, no matter what they say.” “What do they look like? The Martians?” Nick pauses for a moment, trying to think what the hell a Martian would look like, what kind of thing would be able to survive independently on such a godforsaken wasteland. “Like coyotes,” he says, finally. “Like they got out in the ridges around town. They look like coyotes.” She is left with her prickly pear, pressing the blade so deeply into it that it threatens to split the fruit in half while Nick sets his lunchbox back in his locker and returns to work. The sound of the radio from the butchers’ section drones in his ears like wind. The weight of the bolt gun suddenly seems immense and his hands too small, unable to keep a firm grasp. He may float away. Some of them did. Some of them released themselves from the compounds and simply drifted into the void. The cow on the line has big, dark eyes, like black holes. The Distant Expeditions had to worry about black holes. It was in their guidelines. They had to steer themselves and their colonists away from the gaping, starving rip in space that wanted to devour them. Nick looks the cow straight on and it screams, disoriented until the bolt cracks its skull. Outside, the sun is reaching beyond its highest point. The cattle in their pens are bawling, stepping forward, pushing through their waste in terror. Nick closes his eyes, imagines a constellation, the froth on the lips of a man screaming in confusion, a discolored corpse, a yawning emptiness. He takes a deep breath. Everything still smells like shit. ky
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6REULHW\3RHP1R JESS NESBITT for Dena I read your poem first as an ode to my mouth, curvatures, slick & wily stretching in the warm, warm light lately I keep finding pink, silvery moons and waking up with slivers in my mouth, blood sealing gaps between my sheeny teeth where’s my silicone replica of Eileen Myles’ fist? At the very least a replica of a hazy city-shaped mouth? a dead bird’s small skull still one eye full? I read your poem. We need to talk I saw your father’s death on the telephone today, green jeans puking gently on the white dog, bubbling liver, expansive & overwhelmed empty ½ gallon Aristocrat vodka, empty ½ gallon isopropyl alcohol I heard your father die swiftly from afar, an unbearable mortuary silence floating in from the backyard, your mom hovering above, searching for another empty ½ gallon Aristocrat vodka empty ½ gallon isopropyl alcohol I read your poem. A visage of my death collapsing in the hazy dawn light
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9” x 12” | oil on canvas paper
:D L W
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. D O H L G R V F R S H :D Y H V
20” x 28” | pen and ink patterns, Xerox duplicates, hard and soft pastels
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N ATA L I E TA R A S A R
7KH0LGOLIH&ULVLV TIFFANY WONG And I wonder who Held his hand as ink touched skin And he winced in pain. The coy mermaid knew The fish twisting up his arm, Only a prelude.
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(DUO\2QVHW MIKALA REMPE I’ve always thought my dad was one in a million. It turns out he’s one in 200,000. One, in a myriad of cognitive tests in the pursuit of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, asks the patient to count backwards from 100, from memory, by sevens. 100- The stunted number I clenched so fiercely to my second-grade chest. In all my white knuckled excitement, the first time you forgot me. I fell asleep cradling a math test as a safety blanket. That night you railed, clawed at my existence, told my mother you didn’t know who I was. You couldn’t recognize me. I didn’t yet recognize this disease. 93- You accidentally dated a check with this year in 2007. The cashier didn’t know how to tell you. Mom charged it to the card, and my infant sister sat in the grocery cart without any idea of the unfurling man that had helped create her. 86- In this year Ronald Reagan was president. A heartbeat after I blew out the candles on my 18th birthday cake, you told me that if I wanted to continue to live in your house, I needed to register to vote to re-elect Reagan. I assumed you were poking fun at my liberalism, but with time I saw into your cranium. The way your brain seized with mutiny, and remained chained to the past. The way your life flew away like blackbirds from every opening in your skull. 79- The atomic number of Gold on the periodic table. Some days, I wonder if you would forget the vows you promised my mother if you didn’t wear their reminder on your finger. 72- The number of hours in three days. The longest you’ve ever gone without the slightest mental lapse. 65- Fifteen years older than you are today. The age at which it is acceptable to start having this disease. 58- The minimum wind speed in miles per hour needed to issue a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. I’ve created the wind patterns with my scream. Turned blue in the face. Numbed my mind in solidarity, because I can’t help the way that yours is softening. 51- The number of paces from the front door to the mailbox and back. The largest span of time I am willing to leave you alone. 44- The jersey numbers of both Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson. I still remember the way your face twisted like a wild pitch when you saw a curve ball and couldn’t remember what to call it. When you held the white leather sphere laced with red crisscrosses, and still couldn’t remember the name for your favorite sport. 37- Thousand. The number of people in our state also living with this silent thief. 30- Judas betrayed Christ for this many pieces of silver. I don’t know what my family did to deserve such betrayal from God. 23- The seconds it takes for your blood to circulate one pass through your entire body. Now I understand how this disease has been so quick to kill. 16- The number of chess pieces given to each player. I’d play with you to keep your mind nimble, but you can’t remember how to teach me. 9- In Greek mythology, the number of days that pass when an anvil drops from heaven to earth. Another 9 pass while the anvil falls to the underworld. A total of 18. Today I am 18 years old. 2- The number of weeks I survived in college before I started to wonder if you would still remember me when I came home for Thanksgiving. ky
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9” x 12” | oil on canvas paper
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. D W H & K R S L Q D'LSW\FK JULIA IRION MARTINS i. she zips it up tight on her waist, tight on her chest: restreindre fasten that clasp, gold. lock it, lock you. mademoiselle. no, Madame, donâ€™t sink so far so deep into that chaise ii. she pulls it over a dark gown (itâ€™s full of light) aspirer madame, no, Mademoiselle, she never fell! not far not deep not into that
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L I N D S AY M A I Z L A N D
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7U L S W \ F K LINDSEY NEWMAN Our legs slice through the violet water as we tread in the ocean. My eyes are fixed on your collarbone just peaking above the surface. “This will never work unless we speak the same language,” you finally say, brown eyes piercing me as I am pulled under. A river full of furniture glows a gradient of red. The beet-colored sun flashes behind my eyelids with each blink. A dresser, bookshelf, desk chair leave bruises as they float into me, when you inform me, “This is all your fault.” With tiny plastic gavels, our friends play Break the Ice while you and I lounge on the couch. Morning floods into the living room. Their gavels fall, cracking the blocks. The constant tapping jars me. Anticipation for your voice wells up when everything whites out, but you say nothing.
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14" x 14" | oil on linen
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62" x 58" | oil on linen
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%LRJUDSKLHV ABBEY BUTNER is a biochemistry major from Franklin, Tennessee, who has a passion for both science and photography. MICHAELA COWGILL is fluent in Welsh corgi and recommends avocado on everything.
ARIEL NEUMANN is a graduating senior with a passion for travel, reading, cooking, and animals! She cannot wait to begin photographing her post-grad adventures. LINDSEY NEWMAN thinks young Anton Chekhov was smokin’.
TIM DOUD was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated from Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri with a B.S. in Painting and Drawing and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing.
BEN NIGH is otherwise known as the Minister of Pain and/or the Creator of Spawncore. You will learn to love the pain.
STEPHANIE FIESEHER is a 3rd-year graphic design student who also dabbles in writing and photography. In her spare time, she can be found playing Minesweeper. A lot.
ELISE POLENTES is a junior at AU who loves repping the AU Dirty Ladies and WVAU. She likes sports, nature, piano, books, dancing, and the ocean!
MELANIE GERMOND once drank holy water from a Russian monastery and has been waiting for superpowers ever since.
KRYSTAL PRATT is a master procrastinator who enjoys long naps and binges on Netflix.
ROGER HAYN was once stabbed in the back with a pair of scissors by his (former) best friend.
MIKALA REMPE believes in an afterlife, and it includes a critically acclaimed second season of Freaks and Geeks.
PAMELA HUBER spent a month in Brooklyn one night. She’s all feathers and cream and wants to be a lovely other dinosaur with you. She applauds your pop culture proficiency.
ANA SANTOS is a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar at American University and a senior in the School of International Service. She studied abroad in Brazil during the Fall 2013 semester.
LINDSAY MAIZLAND spent her spring break in Istanbul and has eaten McDonald’s in nine different countries.
HALEY SEMIAN largely identifies herself based on her idols: Chelsea Handler, Daria, Lena Dunham, Coco Peru, and Anthony Bourdain.
JULIA IRION MARTINS understands that not everyone can see the humor in Silence of the Lambs. MOLLY MCGINNIS is a double major in Coffee and X-Files, with a minor in Losing Her Mind. MICHELLE MERICA should never be left alone with your food. EVAN MILLS is from Maryland and is a Film Major. He makes the best breakfast sandwiches. JESS NESBITT: “Have you ever said a thing inside your brain and then sent it to your hand to move a pencil to write it into symbols on a page on a paper which used to be a tree, and then you use your eyes to translate those symbols back into the thing you just said only inches away in your brain and re-said it with your mouth into an ear? Whose ear was it?”
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ROBERT ORLOWSKI likes dogs.
NATALIE TARASAR is not in Colorado anymore, and is struggling to navigate the cataclysm of Washington, D.C. by referencing works of Lewis Caroll, Douglas Adams, and Tim Burton in relapsing episodes of metacognition. RACHEL TERNES is a junior studying psychology, French, and art. She loves lots of things, particularly painting. BRENDAN WILLIAMS-CHILDS believes in synergizing hipster literary fiction and sci-fi into one genre. For fun and for profit. TIFFANY KA-LYNN WONG carried a watermelon. She carried a watermelon?
48” x 26” | hard pastels on mounted paper, acrylic on mounted canvas
N ATA L I E TA R A S A R
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6WDII EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Sam Falewée Michelle Merica DESIGN EDITOR Emma Gray ASSISTANT DESIGN EDITORS Angie Cook Stephanie Fieseher COPY EDITORS Iz Altman Lindsey Newman ART EDITORS Julia Martins Tiffany Wong ASSISTANT ART EDITOR Natalie Tarasar FILM EDITORS Jack Chappen Molly Harbage ASSISTANT FILM EDITORS Kathleen Escarcha Janella Pollack PHOTOGRAPHY EDITORS Casey Simmons Brendan Williams-Childs ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHY EDITORS Emily Blau Sarah Shelton POETRY EDITORS Emma Bartley Mikala Rempe ASSISTANT POETRY EDITOR Michaela Cowgill
PROSE EDITORS Elaina Hundley Mike Wang ASSISTANT PROSE EDITORS Marisa Fein Haleigh Francis PR/MARKETING Jordan-Marie Smith PR/MARKETING ASSISTANT Bryana Braxton BLOG EDITOR Nolan Miller ASSISTANT BLOG EDITORS Pamela Huber Mia Saidel SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR Lilly McGee SOCIAL MEDIA ASSISTANTS Vera Hanson Yelim Lee GENERAL STAFF Radhika Handa Arianna Kiriakos Jacqueline Litwin Kat Lukes Alex O’Donnell Robert Orlowski Mariatu Santiago Elle Smiley Hannah Stewart Anna Zipkin
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A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO OUR DONORS WHO MADE THIS MAGAZINE POSSIBLE: George and Doree Dickerson Mike Benjamin Diane Dickerson Larry Smith Carlos and Cynthia Irion Martins Tom Byington Kathy Falewee Diane Wayman Theodore Chappen Dan Merica Cory Newman Emily and Ryan McGee Florence Gubanc Bruce and KC Graves Julia Irion Martins Elaina Hundley Mattea Falk Meera Nathan Annie Buller Dayna Hansberger Julianna Twiggs Edman Urias AmLit would also like to thank our fellow Student Media Board organizations, The American Word and AWOL for collaborating with us. We are continually impressed by your dedication and consider ourselves fortunate to be associated with your excellence.
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$PHULFDQ/LWHUDU\0DJD]LQH American University, MGC 248 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20016 amlitmag.com
American Literary (AmLit), AU's student-run creative magazine, is published twice a year and is comprised of poetry, short prose, photos, ar...