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The American Literary Magazine, or AmLit, is American University’s bi-annual publication of art, prose, photography, and poetry. We are an organization of students that come together each semester to share our love for the creative arts, host events, and design our publication. Our review process is anonymous and democratic, with genre editors leading open discussions. All copyrights belong to the artists.
Every soul who showed up to a review session on a Saturday morning (or any day, but especially those days) to do T-poses for prose with us in a windowless room in MGC, you are our heroes. This magazine couldn’t happen without the thought and care all of you brought to analyzing the work our peers submitted. Thank you to our contributers who have bared their souls with us on these pages. Sharing your work isn’t easy. You are all brave. To our editorial board, assistants, and design team, we love and appreciate you more than words can express. Thank you design team for holding Jordan’s sanity together when she feared she might have lost it. A huge thank you to Maren Valenti, Chander Puri, & Abdul Rehman for designing the lovely celestial cover art and inner fold pages. Lastly, but not leastly, we would like to extend our greatest thanks to Roderick Wilson, this past semesters student media advisor, and the student media board co-chairs for being our guide through our first semester as leaders of this organization.
by Jordan Redd
4 / American Literary Magazine
120 mm color film
Letter from the Editors Welcome to our book of spells! We would like to start off by thanking each and every one of you for being a part of this journey. Each of the pieces you will find in this book are like a spell that brings the magic of AmLit to life. This edition of AmLit is home to the work of remarkably talented AU students. From breathtaking prose, to sonic poetry, bewitching photographs and captivating artâ€” we are blown away by our peers. AmLit is and always has been a creative outlet for both our readers and our contributors to share their work and with it a part of themselves. Thank you for trusting us to put your work out there, we promise to treat it with the care and celebration it deserves. As a team, we had to overcome the task of working remotely through technical difficulties and opposing time zones to conjure this magazine into reality. It was worth all the extra effort to honor our peerâ€™s spellbinding content. This magazine is exceptionally important to us and to so many members of our community. There was no way we were giving up on it. We hope that our readers are safe and healthy, and that they can still enjoy AmLit over the internet. We also hope that our graduating seniors who lost valuable time at their school and within our community can take solace in the one thing we can still work to offer you now: a book full of memories, heart, and magic. Putting this magazine together has been a labor of love. Seeing your lovely faces, whether in person or on our screens has kept us going during these strange and uncertain times. AmLit will always have a special place in our hearts. When we move away from AU, we leave behind a piece of ourselves and our love in these pages. So please, snuggle in your blanket fort, grab your favorite beverage, and flip through our Spring 2020 edition with us. Love forever and always, Riddhi and Jordan Editors-in-Chief
Spring 2020 / 5
table of contents
Badlands Bison / Daniel Jenks / 121 Faces / James Skeist / 89 I Know Everything Now (Mostly) / Amanda Book / 35 If Only / Caleb Gleit / 94 A Day Poorly Remembered / Katie Meyerson / 117 Little Worms Bask In the Sun / Amanda Book / 25 Page 16 / Alexander Velleca / 81 Peach Dream / Amanda Book / 51 Untitled / Breanna Hill / 111 Untitled / James Skeist / 112 Woman Smoking / MacKenzie Curtin / 103 You Melt Me / Piper Hamm / 71
21 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes / In My Head / Riddhi Setty / 42 Kimberly Rodriguez / 48-49 Int. My Head - Day / Jordan Redd / 34 A Diabetic King / Jubilee Witte / 81 Late / Samantha Monteith / 44 A Memory in West Baltimore / Sofia Dean / 54 Love, Right / Emaan Khan / 93 A Tree to Call Home / Kimberly Rodriguez / 20 Macomb / Cam Diagonale / 46 Aftertaste / Maggie Mahoney / 77 Mangia / Peyton Bigora / 86-87 Amare / Jennifer Stoughton / 51 Milk Teeth / Annie Przypyszny / 62 America’s Baby / Maya Rodriguez / 113 Nap / Cam Diagonale / 91 Anomaly / Sky Witley / 74 One Day I’ll Pin My Love Up On the Fridge / April’s Garden / Amanda Book / 33 Jennifer Stoughton / 15 August / Caroline Routh / 59 Piano / Maya Rodriguez / 94 Bullets for Global Peace / Jubilee Witte / 103 Quick Spin and Dry / Emaan Khan / 53 Butterfly / Sofia Dean / 12 Room / Sky Witley / 101 Caller #12 / Jubilee Witte / 110 Seeing Jupiter With the Naked Eye / Coinhabitants / Phoebe McAlevey / 24 Cam Diagonale / 78 Cold Mornings in Western New York / Phoebe Sin City / Mursal Habibzai / 111 McAlevey / 80 Spanish is an Encrypted Code by Kimberly Dupont / Isabella Igbanugo / 60-61 Rodriguez / 28-29 Enveloping / Maggie Mahoney / 70 Sunflowers / Katie Meyerson / 11 Family Tree / Shelby Rose / 98 The Apple Butter Family /Kellam Schmudde / 79 Femalium - Her ‘Little Helpers’ / The Color Orange / Annie Przypyszny / 37 August Barham / 88 The Hare / Phoebe McAlevey / 35 Finding the Joy / Annie Przypyszny / 31 Forethoughts: Roll Call and Judgement Day / Jubilee The Women Who Live in My Grandmother’s Garden / McKenzie Beard / 8-9 Witt / 90 Ghosts of Market Street / Samantha Monteith / 69 Victory Garden / Cam Diagonale / 23 Waiting Period / Rachel Black / 84 Her by James Skiest / 92 Washed Away / Sofia Dean / 43 I Was Given Permission / Annie Przypyszny / 45 Weed Money / Cam Diagonale / 107 I Was Never Into Poetry / Emma Lovato / 30 White People / Maya Rodriguez / 63 Images For Taking / Jacob Weil / 99 You Spent the Night in the National Cathedral / Emma Lovato / 95-97 6 / American Literary Magazine
Pro s e
Backyard Bluegrass / Emaan Khan / 116 Childhood / Gracie Donovan / 104-105 Daylight Savings, and Other Heartbreaks / Jennifer Stoughton / 27 Degrees of Separation / Charlotte Faust / 38 Imagine / Emma Lovato / 50 Inner Monologue to You / Charlotte Faust / 102 Isla Nebular as a State of Mind / Marissa Zupancic / 112-115 It’s 2 A.M. / Emma Lovato / 106 Kitchen Tables / Emma Lovato / 64-65 Not a Charity / Owen Boice / 82-83 Purpose / Karan Bacrabail Tekwani / 40-41 Self-Medication (Truncated) / Robert Sanford /122-123 She Won’t Remember This / Gracie Donovan / 56-57 Sugar Coated / Jordan Redd / 16-17 The Bay Stood Still / Avishai Zinder / 120-121 Thoughts in and On the City / Sofia Dean / 73
Adrift / Jordan Redd Afterwards / Amanda Book / 42 Angel Oak / Maxwell Laro / 21 Can You Hear Me / Sami Pye / 39 Contact Sheet Time Loop / Jordan Redd / 26 Cruise Ship In a Bottle / Maxwell Laro / 55 Cuddle Up For One / Simon Tobler / 72 Dauntless / Gabrielle Michel / 100 Dupont Faces / McKenzie Beard / 108-109 Ephemeral / Jordan Redd / 4 Expired / Jordan Redd / 14 Fixed / Amanda Book / 47 Guarding the King / Wesley Dankwa / 61 Hello, World / Gabrielle Michel / 22 Temporary Backyard / Jordan Redd / 13 The Return by Gabrielle Michel / 36 V. by Emily Park / 93 Venetian Fog / Gabrielle Bremer / 44 Wrinkles / Caroline Routh / 75
Horsetooth Reservoir / Emma Lovato / 76 How to Adopt a Turtle / Amanda Book / 29 I Don’t Wear Flannels But I Still Like Girls / Jordan Redd / 66-68 Monceau / Amanda Book / 32 Our Distance Grows / Wesley Dankwa / 58 Praying / Gabrielle Bremer / 90 Progression / Daniel Jenks / 79 Protection / Gabrielle Bremer / 31 Rearview Blue / Rachel Burger / 99 Row Boat / Gabrielle Bremer / 62 Social Anxiety Disorder is Often Confused With Shyness / Sami Pye / 85 Spiritual / Gabrielle Michel / 10
Spring 2020 / 7
American Literary Magazine / 8
The Women Who Live In My Grandmother’s Garden
by McKenzie Beard
There is a fat cat that lives on the roof of the shed. She flicks her tail and watches the cooing pigeons Who strut down the garden path pretending that they aren’t the rats of the sky In their minds they are pheasants In their hearts they are quails. And though I’ve never seen it, she must have caught a few Batted one of their bodies in between her paws The same way she leaves brown field mice on the welcome mat Necks twisted Never a single drop of blood As if to say: See, I told you ugly things don’t always have to hurt. We used to peel back the aluminum lids of tuna cans Shout ‘meows’ to her from below Never once did she venture from her perch in the daylight I suppose it’s easier to stay above it all To keep others afraid, but never close.
There are a pair of ravens who live in the thicket of the hedge. They have eyes shiny like black buttons, and beaks that crush walnut shells in two Their bodies blot out the sun as they swoop down into the garden A flock of them is called a murder, my mother says My father tells me they mate for life. I swear they have accents The barrel breasted one a southern drawl, with deep rumbling caws The smaller one clicks her tongue like a Jewish woman from Queens We close the windows in the afternoon Just to quiet their marital squabbling Squawking: and why don’t you ever tell me I’m pretty anymore? I found their nest when I was small Loose cotton strands from the clothes line, twigs from my grandfather’s rose bush Bread crumbs stockpiled But the chick never comes I wonder if they too bicker over missed chances from when they were young.
Spring 2020 / 9 There are thick pink worms that squirm below the surface Who spend their afternoons soaking in mud baths Scrubbing their skin with coffee grounds from the compost bin The same kind that is packaged and sold In overpriced beauty sections at Urban Outfitters And just like the teenage girls they are so similar to With strict beauty regimens and poor vision of themselves I have never seen one of them alone Instead they are huddled around one another Like gaggles of giggling girls in the women’s restroom Reminding us: there is safety in numbers. But when the rain comes They throw disco parties on the concrete Wiggling to the beat of the droplets I wonder if they too need an excuse to forget for a moment How dangerous it is to feel beautiful and seen at all. There is a spider who lives on the lip of the well. She is chestnut brown with hairy long legs If she were a woman, I imagine she’d wax them Carry her knitting needles in a tote bag Only eat from the vegetarian section at Whole Foods. There are cliques of bees who watch her weave webs Buzzing taunts in her ears like chatty teenage girls around the lunchroom table But they always swarm the hive when the rain comes I wonder if she ever gets tired of it Of creating something only for it to be washed away Of crying: can’t you see, there is beauty here too. The gardener tells her if she were human she could have spun macrame Maybe in another life she wouldn’t be trapped in a body so repulsive I laugh at him Say that she knows this isn’t true The same way that all women do.
10 / American Literary Magazine
by Gabrielle Michel
by Katherine Meyerson
Take me to where the sunflowers grow. Where the sun sets and rises only when we want it to. Where the air tastes like honeysuckle upon our lips. Take me to where the sky is yellow and full of life. Where the ground seems to radiate energy through our toes. Where the waves of grass are gems in the sunlight. Take me to where the bees dance around us, fuzzy and golden. Where the rains come to remind us that we are alive. Where the sunflowers bend and shift in the wind.
Spring 2020 / 11
by Sofia Dean
My wings are going to crumble, My wings are going to dissolve. Iâ€™ve seen new fingers everyday, yet I float through this air, forgotten. Iâ€™m afraid I can no longer flutter. My wings are going to crumble, My wings are going to dissolve. The nectar has dried up, but even so, consumption has consumed me and I have gotten fat. Nutrients no longer matter. The fear that I will no longer flutter has held me captive, tucked between two rocks. I hope that no new fingers find me. Good thing my wings have faded, and I pale in comparison to the Monarch. What used to be two masterpieces for capes, are now, Soot.
12 / American Literary Magazine
by Jordan Redd
35mm color film, disposable camera
Spring 2020 / 13
14 / American Literary Magazine
35mm expired color slide film
by Jordan Redd
Spring 2020 / 15
One day I'll pin my love up on the fridge
by Jennifer Stoughton
One day I’ll pin my love up on the fridge, next to grocery lists and postcards, where it can hang in all its ordinarity. Some day I’ll be able to hang it from the rafters, let it ripple in the drafts, tickle my face in lilac and pink because I like to think my love stains everything soft and pastel. One day I’ll meet a girl and I’ll wrap my love around her neck like a scarf and she’ll comb hers through my hair and we’ll hold hands as we walk out into the November chill washed in warm that glows us red and wear our devotion for the world to see. I’ll knit my love into a pair of mittens and help my child put them on, smooth their hair, send them to school with a kiss on the cheek and my heart in their hands. Some day other people will carry my vitals and I’ll never feel scared or incomplete and I won’t feel the need to wring every drop of unloved love into words I’ll never say. Some day I’ll be free to love and love and love free and open until my heart can’t love anymore, and she’ll love me right back until we love ourselves into oblivion.
by Jordan Redd
Her hair smelled like lavender and her lips tasted like lemonade. Sweet and waxy and sour. That was what loving her was like. Every day after school we’d take our bikes to the pond hidden by the woods. I haven’t been to that pond in a long time. At least not physically. “Did you miss me?” and there she was. Riding her light blue bike down the small hill that led to the bank of the pond, smiling brightly, her pink hair falling in ringlets past her shoulders. I sat on a rock with a bag of hard strawberry candies, the kind with something gooey in the middle, and she parked her bike by the tree and kissed me before taking one for herself. Impatient, I bit until I tasted thick gel. The sky was a cloudless pastel and the pond was shimmering in the early afternoon light. A dragonfly danced across the surface, it’s wings like thin sugar glass. And if it wasn’t for my alarm, slicing through my subconscious, I’d have leaned over and kissed her again, tasting strawberry lemonade. “Poppy, aren’t you late for work?” my mother peered at me from behind the kitchen counter. “Only a little. I overslept.” The truth was I got fired. I stopped going. So instead of work I stayed at the only diner we never went to together for the duration of my shift. I ordered eggs over easy, rye toast, green tea, and watched the sun glint onto the metal napkin dispenser. My waitress filled my mug with hot water and left a honey jar on the table. When she was gone I took it and filled my spoon, tipped it over on my tongue, and held it there.
16 / American Literary Magazine
School was generally shit. People treated me like I might break. Or they avoided me. I drifted in and out of rooms. At a certain point, I leaned in heavily to the idea they had of me: something shattered, wallowing. I slept in every class. It’s just a really slow blink, I thought lazily as my eyes lingered closed. Her hair was pulled into an elaborate up-do. Live butterflies decorated her braids, their blue wings dusted in glitter. We were sitting at a tea table in the middle of a garden. Lily poured herself tea from a gold-trimmed porcelain pot. Soft light emulated from her skirt and gleamed in a halo around her. “You know I don’t want to be with anyone else, right?” “Of course,” she sat up perfectly straight, her voice over-sweetened. She took my hand in hers and stood, pulling me up with her. She swept me into a clearing surrounded by white roses and wrapped my hands around her waist, “will you dance with me?” I tried to lead her in a simple slow dance. Her giggles at my clumsy steps sounded like music and when I twirled her, the butterflies in her hair took flight. Later, we sat curled up under a velvet blanket on a bench swing. A sleeping white bunny rested on our laps, its chest rising and falling with deep breaths. “When do you think you’ll stop visiting me?”
“Why would I ever do that?” “You don’t want to move on?” “I don’t need to move on, you’re right here.” “Poppy, I’m not her. You know that.” The bunny stirred and opened its eyes. It watched us curiously. She wiped at the blooming tears clinging to my waterline. “I love you.” “I know. I’m sure she loved you too. She told you, once, didn’t she?” A voice drifted over the stone wall of the garden. It sounded vaguely like it was calling my name. I filled my lungs with the aroma of roses. I took one last look at the way her pink locks brushed her shoulder and tickled her collarbone, before I was in the classroom again, my brother, Tom, shaking me violently despite my mumbled protests. “You already slept through the rest of your classes. Do you want a ride home, or do you want to spend the night here?” Tom’s car had leather seats and a mini-cassette player. It was neat. He pulled out of the school parking lot onto the main road. “You can still probably pull the grieving card.” “It’s been a month.” “And are you okay?” “No. But it feels like everyone expects me to be.” Tom tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, “I don’t. You two were attached at the hip, and I miss her too.” I rolled my window down to feel the passing breeze. I didn’t want him to tell me how hard it must be. I didn’t want to be reminded that we were inseparable. We weren’t. Someone did it.
“Why didn’t you go to her vigil?” “Because I didn’t want to think of her like that.” “Like what?” I laid in bed staring at the ceiling, afraid to close my eyes. I didn’t know how to not lucid dream. I didn’t know how to lucid dream without her there. Eventually, I got up and found the shoebox in my closet. I pulled out the stacks of our photo booth photos and polaroids. In one she’s kissing me on the cheek in a pink shimmery sweater. We’re in our couples Halloween costumes, she the cat and I the mouse. She’s staring into the lens of the camera, in her purple woolen coat, smiling next to the ice-skating rink. I remember that in the corner of the shoebox I’d kept our fluorescent wristbands. The writing on them promised that we wouldn’t sue the rink if we fell. I touched the wrinkled wax paper. A vessel of the past. There were things I’d forgotten in this pile that I’d overwritten. Maybe tomorrow I’d take a walk to the pond. I could skip rocks and eat strawberry hard candy and think of a future beyond high school. Maybe tonight I’d dream of the future. What I would be if I could be anything.
summer in pieces
by Amanda Book
18 / American Literary Magazine
Spring 2020 / 19
A Tree to call Home by Mama was picking mangos, drinking the white sweet milk, as stems were broken from the undeveloped.
While Jorge swung feet cracked, peeled dead skin like oranges Black smudges and cuts that never healed Un trabajador. Luis was picking banana leaves, Olives were ripe in the middle, meat was soft and moist Tamales. Dressed in plaid of lumberjacks and glossy heels, Aaron was sitting, holding Catherine and Heathcliff. Meagan, Face with ferocity, calmly tossing a ball into the air. a Scholar Athlete on home base. Starlight seeped through the leaves, The moon was hiding from me. Just leaves rustling, And the beetles scrambling to sleep. All have gone now, the question is which will allow me to see the stars and moon better?
20 / American Literary Magazine
by Maxwell Laro
by Gabrielle Michel
Victory Garden by Cam Diagonale A rabbit got into the tomatoes last night, leaving the gutted ruins sagging in punctured skins. The tall stalks from which they sprouted droop in their absence, saturated with morning dew and sorrow. When I pick up the half-eaten corpses, hot red juice stains the edge of my shirt and dirt cakes my fingernails. Later, I will find a seed baked onto the back of my hand. But first I fling the tomatoes over the fence and into the woods. Some other small animal will find these sacred spoils.
Spring 2020 / 23
by Phoebe McAlevey
unpopped kernels linger in a week-old bowl former presidents degasâ€™ ballerinas and idahoan corn fill the fridge door kettle and nespresso, rest side by side two speakers one blares heavy music the other, news from a british accent maps, the world, u.k., alps, d.c. eggs going bad in the fridge a giant pot of curry which I made with greater ambitions dairy-free ice cream, his phish food, mine almond milk, ours succulents, cacti, air crisper plant line the window textbooks and novels pages: dog eared, tabbed, annotated pad the bookshelves photos of friends and family line the wall some mine, some his and we sleep in the dark, coolness of our room
24 / American Literary Magazine
little worms bask in the Sun
by Amanda Book
Spring 2020 / 25
Contact Sheet Time loop
Scanogram of negatives from the past 7 years of my life, interspliced.
26 / American Literary Magazine
by Jordan Redd
Daylight Savings, And Other Heartbreaks
by Jennifer Stoughton
I’m not ready to let go of this autumn. This golden light-filled afternoon that streams through perfectly ripened sunset leaves on a crisp smokewood breeze—I’m not ready to get its taste out of my mouth. I want the popcorn kernel shreds of the smell of the earth to stay wedged between my teeth, to keep poking my gums. I don’t want to leave. I think it’s because I’ve felt lonely since August. Since before then, really, but in the summer you brought my evenings to me. You showed me how many colors there were between blue and black, lingering on the infinite shades of red. Somehow the sky never quite matched your hair. I can count on one hand the evenings I’ve had since I got back to school. I wish you’d been here. You had an autumn, too, just not the same one as me; you had an autumn to the left of mine. While mine stood sharp-still, yours cascaded around you. Tangled your hair bronze and dying, but dying in the way that celebrates the life that’s reached the finish line. What do you call the opposite of a housewarming party, held in a hollow carcass of a building, where you celebrate the fact that you’ve finally moved on out? I don’t want to leave. Because while I’m here, while I wait under this tree and watch the crows usher in the twilight, there’s still the chance you could meet me. You’ll have to hurry, though—afternoon shifts right into night nowadays. Here, under this tree, the wind takes a turn for the bitter. Gold begins freezing to black. But I refuse to pull out my winter coat. I saw you bundled up in yours the other day. The oversized one, you know? The one that’s green like Wrigley’s chewing gum. You know, you’re the reason high school winters tasted like spearmint. I’ve never told you that. You also wore the scarf I knit for you. You don’t know what’s knitted into it. Or maybe I just choose to think you don’t know, because I can’t stand the thought of you knowing, not saying anything, and continuing to wrap it around your neck. In the 50’s girls would wear their hair bows different ways to mean different things. On the left: going steady. In the back: not interested. Right on top: out looking for a man. I don’t know what I hate more—the possibility of you talking to me in code, or the risk of me reading too far into something again. I lied, earlier, kind of. I don’t own a winter coat anymore. I had one for years, a nice black peacoat, lined and thick. But I wore it to shreds. You know the one I’m talking about. The one with the hole in the pocket. Did your Decembers ever taste like licorice? Olives? Burnt toast? I don’t want to buy a new one. I’m not ready yet. Night seeps in from horizon to horizon. It’s a moonless one, and the sky seems bigger for it. Cold rattles the bare branches above my head. I stick my tongue out into empty air. It goes numb. Maybe next year our calendars will line up.
Spanish is an encrypted code
by Kimberly Rodriguez
Es posible que no entenderás esto y creo Que será mejor así. Es un código difícil de entender si no eres Familiar con sus reglas de gramática, Síntesis, y su alfabeto. Solo pocos podrán entender Su poder y complejidad relacionado con el sentimiento humano Los pocos que entienden este lenguaje Lo utilizan para comunicar y hacer promesas De las estrellas, el mar, la luna, El sol, las nubes, el cielo El universo completo con galaxias – Lo mas allá. En escuelas de mi país, Esta escrito en cartas Cortado en la madera de los escritorios Con un corazoncito al fin. Este pintado en las paredes de las ciudades. No lo ves tan hablado aquí en Los Estados Pero en mi país, Casi todos lo entienden Porque así crecimos Con los sentimientos mano en mano con papel y una pluma Y al escuchar nuestros papas cantando Por las mañanas. Hasta los canarios vienen a la casa para escuchar sus hermosas letras. En nuestra soledad, Ese lenguaje es nuestro mejor amigo Dándonos las palabras en nuestras bocas Cuando nuestras voces esta temblando de miedo En la esquina oscura de nuestras gargantas.
28 / American Literary Magazine
Es nuestro Braille, Cuando nos cegamos de los ojos y Necesitamos otra manera en caminar. Es mi santuario, Donde puedo encontrar paz En mis palabras y manera de expresiรณn De hablar de mis sentimientos sin sentirme Que es un pecado ante los ojos de Dios De la sociedad.
How to adopt a turtle by Amanda Book
I was never into poetry i was never into poetry. i wasn’t good at writing it, i wasn’t good at understanding it.
by Emma Lovato
and trying to figure all of this out is like staring at an instagram post of a white background with words in serif font, knowing you might never “get it”. a thing to be figured out, a thing to be understood. she’s too calculated to be free verse, too chaotic to rhyme every other line of a limerick, wrote too much to be a haiku, maybe a sonnet if i knew how to write one. maybe a poem that looks like handwriting: thoughtful, careful, clear. letters that don’t connect to each other, rushed with the ghosting from gel ink and a left hand. maybe if i can’t understand this, i’ll start trying to understand poetry.
30 / American Literary Magazine
FINDING THE JOY:
by Annie Przypyszny
They’re the words stitched onto burlap by my Gram. At least I think it’s burlap—I never learned to sew. Finding The Joy. The words surround a daisy, yellow eye in a puddle of white petals like a cooked egg. A bit sloppy, but what do I know (I never learned how to sew). Finding Joy. My Mom won the best-dressed superlative in high school. She sewed her own clothes. I never. They each make needlework pillows, patterned paisley and rabbits and such. Finding Joy Finding Joy. I tried to learn. The thimble froze my finger with its cold metal mouth. What A Joy. What Joy? No third Fate to cut the thread.
by Gabrielle Bremer
Spring 2020 / 31
by Amanda Book
by Amanda Book
An odd kind of ruins. Not entirely disjointed, more like relics planted into strawberry seeds. The back gate hangs open, like a question. A cavern dips into the lawn, where embers may warm your toes, or melt your shoe. Today, mud sinks into the grass where a hickory once stood, and my brother tells me about our childhood as though it’s a religious text— buried in the dirt, where we search for artifacts to prove our faith. But sometimes grass dissolves into stone and welds into unfamiliar shapes. Sometimes it becomes so muddled with plaster and sand, you can’t remember where it came from. Sometimes time shifts with memories and a little brown dog might escape through the fence that still sways wide. And maybe we’ll never see him again. But for now, sweet syrup drips down my chin, as I pick peaches from my mother’s garden, where we might sit together, and you might believe me. About the hickory tree.
Spring 2020 / 33
Int. My Head - Day
by Jordan Redd
INT. MY HEAD - DAY (IT’S ALWAYS DAY) YOU (20), tangled curls and coffee breath, find excuses to touch. My skin simmers. ME At night I try not to think of you. YOU Try? ME But I do, I do I dream a dream within a dream. Our bodies unfurling to reach the other. Soft touch and shampoo scent. The way your hair presses to my nose. You are an endless compile of girls I’ve seen and read. I am the best version of myself and you call me YOU Ethereal, Ephemeral, Beautiful And say things like YOU (CONT’D) I’ve always wanted you Duvet covers dip to the crescent of you and when we connect my being lets out a long held breath
34 / American Literary Magazine
I know everything now (mostly) by Amanda Book
The rabbit presses back her ears, sniffing at the violet sky fading to darkness in these russet hills. She hops, then waits, watching the last strong leaf on the maple tree flutter to the crumbling dirt. Crunching under her paw dissolving into the ground she waits for their triumphant return next year.
Spring 2020 / 35
36 / American Literary Magazine
by Gabrielle Michel
THE COLOR ORANGE Like a campfire it snaps, Grinning hue, striped across Sun-motherâ€™s brow. Generous toward tulip bulb And lava flow, tabby-cats Skip to its music, tra-la-la. Two hands slap together In prayer and orange sparks sizzle, Zealotry adorned with zest. Honey in a different light, Bee-keen in a shriek of tea, I am grateful for her pulp And having ginger babies, Orange of the forge, Who can weld you Such a happy weapon.
by Annie Przypyszny
Degrees of Separation
by Charlotte Faust
Last night I dreamt of the blue-green sky. My grandmother used to say that the sky likes to tell you about itself with its colors. Sitting on the back stoop wringing the work of the day out of her hands as the hot wind blew she would talk on about the blue sky, bright and long. The green sky, coming in fast with the storm. The yellow sky, breaking the day. The pink sky, wishing the world away. I am sitting on a train under Washington; I am going home. It takes one long walk or one bus ride, at least two trains, and one car ride (one and a half hours). These are the time zones hewn into traintracks that I must cross to find my way to the place I came from. From deep under the ground, I can’t tell what color the sky is. Last night, in my bed far from that back porch stoop and the hot winds that filled up my childhood, I dreamt of the blue-green sky. Searching through my memories, shifting around the ones that I had set aside, looking for an answer, I could not find what the sky was trying to tell us when it was colored in this shade of green and blue. My grandmother would have known, I’m sure. Now in this metro car running under the city, I cannot ask her. I am standing on my block in London waiting for a car; I am going home. It takes one car ride, one train, one flight, one layover, another flight, another car ride (thirteen hours). These are the universes I must traverse to get to the place I call home. As the plane pulls out, it starts raining in London one last time. Once, sitting on the back stoop, my Grandmother began to sing, unprompted. When I asked her why, she responded without even a glance in my direction, “the birds are beginning to tire dear, it’s time we sing for them now.” The sky was fading into indigo as the final rays of sun dipped below the horizon. I am sitting in a car with my mother driving on the KS-2 highway; I am going home. It takes one car ride, one train, one flight, one layover, another flight, another car ride (the same process as from Londonbut only about three hours). This is a standard event, done every summer, until forever. Moments after the plane took off, the plane passed above the clouds and the rain of London was gone once more. Landing in Washington all those hours later, the ground was dry and the gray sky I had become so used to was nowhere to be seen, her bluer sister had come to take her place.
38 / American Literary Magazine
Can You Hear Me? by Sami Pye
Spring 2020 / 39
by Karan Bacrabail Tekwani
A white, porcelain tub floats upon an emerald river covered in white petals. The tips of their petals curl towards the rising moon, a blue-white tide tempted skyward by the pearls of a clear night sky. Within the lonely tub, a statue bathes. The perfumed waters of the tub lap gently against his skin, smooth as polished marble and black as space. The lengthy lashes of his eyes curl lightly upon their lids, peacefully shut. He inhales. He exhales. He drifts upon his floral tide. A gentle wind carries the tub across the river, its occupant unworried and aloof, so proper of proportion that he appears carved from stone. Inconceivably perfect. Trees reach for the heavens from beneath the surface of the river, their deepbarked branches shaking loose white blossoms upon the water below. A few of them fall within the tub, landing gingerly upon the manâ€™s iridescent, onyx skin. He opens his eyes as they do, a pair of piercing, pallid pearls drinking in the sights that meet them. The amorphous, pink clouds above him stark against the failing orange of evening, and the faint silver-violet of a feeble moon. The songs of birds and bugs buzz within his ears, strangely harmonic in their discord. They bring a smile to his weary face, slight though it may be. It is wiped from his cheeks suddenly, as the tub runs aground, now beached upon a bed of cream-colored sand. Rising from his porcelain pontoon, he sets his tender feet upon the sand. Upon his fingers lie bands of chrome, thin layers of stardust and spirit wrapped lovingly across his lanky frame. His wrists bear similar bangles, as his collarbone does similar chains. They sing to him as he walks, softly. He plucks a washed-up clam from the sand, prying it open with ease, and within its mantle lay a pearl, unlike any other. It was golden and bright, and curled in the semblance of a hand closed tightly in a fist. He pries it from the crusty mollusk, dropping its carcass back to the sand. His spritely, white eyes entranced upon the grasping pearl, the man draws a chain from his neck, weaving into it the golden, grasping pearl. He wraps it around his left hand, a protective charm of sorts, before squaring his frame against the sand flats before him.
40 / American Literary Magazine
A vast expanse of cream dunes lay sprawled before his eyes, bereft of any signs of life or civilization. Not so much as a blade of rotten grass graced its unholy emptiness, save for the jagged stump of a tree. From its core protruded a blade, a monolithic slab of silver and steel. A shimmering contradiction so large and lithe, it looked as though it could cut the very stars from the sky. Fueled purely by instinct, the man reaches an arm out towards it, and it seems to shine even brighter. He wraps his fingers around its hilt, and feels his body swell with a power beyond the confines of his otherworldly imagination. He feels immovable. Implacable. Powerful. And beneath the surface of the bladeâ€™s imparted strength, the man feels the pull of purpose. Beneath that, however, he feels.... fear. Pain. A maelstrom of darkness and grit, cloying at the strings of his heart like ticks on the hide of a dog. Every fiber of his being screams at him to release his grip on the hilt of the sword, yet he does not. He steels his body against this deluge of soul- bound thorns, and waits for it to pass. And it does. He turns his gaze to the path before him. It is unclear, both blessed by satisfaction and stained by strife. He looks back at the path behind him. A simple path through a forest caught in perpetual summer, his porcelain tub at its end. He turns his back to his porcelain tub, and pulls the blade from its stump. He has drifted for long enough.
Spring 2020 / 41
In my head
I live inside my head a lot, mostly because it never shuts the door on me. It always welcomes me in, a hot cup of tea and an ever growing plate of unresolved issues waiting at the table. I chew and I chew, and I chew until I choke. I gasp as I feel the air knocked out of me, problem after problem stuck in my throat, Forcing themselves back up, screaming to get out of my mouth. The plate only ever gets heavier. I fantasize about breaking it, Watching it shatter into a million little pieces. I am too afraid. Not because of what will happen when it breaks, But because I know I will want to put it back together. So I sit there at the table, And I chew.
by Amanda Book
by Sofia Dean
My body is a rhythmic river Embedded by the beats of my many-great grandmothers. A fluid tomb, if you will. Secrets and flaws run through me, Yet amongst my tranquility and content, Some settlers on the bank decide to take their stake. And as soon as I break down my dam, They tell me they are drowning, and that the water fills up their lungs too fast. They tell me they canâ€™t swim. Strange, as I caught them cavorting in a nearby reservoir. In a body, that mocks my fluidity. A body, that steals from the rivers and oceans That have already been stolen from. It wonâ€™t be mocked for how it overflows, for how its mouth bubbles and roars. I thought you said I was too savage to explore. But the bubbles are only there on its accord. The brownness, washed away when the angels Start to cry. And they are crying for its costume, Not for my existence, Which cannot be washed away.
Spring 2020 / 43
If all the Earth is falling forward into grace, Why am I not plunging headfirst along with it? As they dance like sweet spring tides, Why do I yet reside washed upon pebbled shores? Carrying each other in pink buckets of velvet embraces, Why is it that I must forge myself from iron alone? When the fervor of young hearts pulses in fibers and fingers slide through melting days, Why am I only set aflame by embers and flashes of unbottled progress and change? If the greatest whisper of the human heart is to be anotherâ€™s sole paramour, Why do I rest in unfolded blossoms, still hoping to awaken under the ever rising red sun?
by Gabrielle Bremer
I WAS GIVEN PERMISSION Let the rubble tumble from Your arms.
by Annie Przypyszny
Draw circles over Where your heart Might be. Enjoy the taste Of toothpaste And tea. Acknowledge The wasp, greet The swarm. Slump when you must, crumple when Need be. Accept each color As the color that You see. Let a dreadful Feeling feel Fleece-warm.
Spring 2020 / 45
by Cam Diagonale
I am charting the voyage to your warm apartment with perfume drying on my neck and fists clenched in my pockets against the stinging air. The hedge maples have shed their waxy leaves, soft golden pools that spill over the curb and onto the asphalt. I think about diving in, but instead I kick my way through them. It is the time of year when side streets become temples of brilliant color, yellow light leaking from windows and porches festooned with fat pumpkins. I drink it in on my cold walk and think about all of the questions I want to ask you tonight, like When you lived in the southern hemisphere, did you notice the different constellations? Did the unfamiliar sky sear a hole through your heart or did you want to launch yourself into it and hang there forever? But when I arrive we collapse into each other, our binary star burning bright from perpetual eclipse; From your window, the single vein of orange street lamps that runs up Macomb.
46 / American Literary Magazine
by Amanda Book
21 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes
(Inspired by Doc Luben’s “14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes) by Kimberly Rodriguez
1. Please just hear me out. 2. I wish there was another way I could confess this. 3. I got your grande café latte with 2% milk and sugar. I left it over the counter in the kitchen. It should still be hot by now. 4. I wish I could tell you directly how I feel but the brain has this weird way of screwing up your words like it’s this crushing ice dispenser, stumbling harder and harder as the chunks gather behind your lips. That’s why I guess it’s just better to keep quiet. 5. I feel like I’m going more insane the more I think. 6. Tell me how I can be better. For you. For anyone. 7. I know you won’t hear me out, but this paper will be you. Writing my feelings out on this paper smooth like your skin that will absorb it and ink it to remind you that I will always love you. 8. I wonder if this is what you’ve always wanted. 9. Your smile is what I need to remind myself that everything will be okay. 10. I know you’re not a “school” person, but I remember the time you got a 96 on your final exam on data analysis and I got a 58. I’ve never felt so relieved and happy to see you succeed while I’m here in the advisor’s office, waiting for the question mark on my future to be answered. I remember you texted me saying “Maybe us going out to the liquor store and you drinking that peach vodka wasn’t the best idea.” Maybe this isn’t either but it’s all I got. 11. When I was growing up, my father always said I am just like my mother. My uncles always said the same thing – but there was this disgust and shame in the air like it was this horrid contamination they didn’t want to taint their masculinity. And I never understood why they said that until the day I left the psychiatric ward and my mother apologized. Not only because for my entire life she has basically called me “insane” when I was depressed, but because I inherited her big heart. She told me, “Mija, I’m sorry that I passed on to you un corazon sensible that loves even during the times that love is gone. That you will continue bleeding for the people who don’t have the goodness in their hearts to clean the mess and make sure that you don’t die. I’m sorry that I gave you my broken pieces.” Now I know why she never divorced my father. 12. I mean it when I say, “I would do anything for you.” 13. I was that little girl who hid behind my parents’ legs. I was that little girl who found solace in darkness because it is silent. A little girl who finds comfort in the silence because it is this blanket that hugs her, telling her that if she stays quiet, her words won’t hurt or scare away anyone. 14. I’m afraid that I’ll scare you away. Whenever I open up about my personal battles, people turn the opposite way.
48 / American Literary Magazine
They distance themselves from me like my mind is plagued by parasites thinking that this insanity is slowly eating away from me. My emotions are oceans raging within the depths that it unleashes tsunamis upon the ones I love thinking they would appreciate my strength and rawness, but my currents are too strong that it pushes them further …and further…. into the calmer waters.
They don’t even want to go out there to the island I’m
stranded on to make sure I’m okay.
15. You would think that this is easy to write especially after you’ve been concealing so much for so long. 16. I don’t know if you think I’m homeless. My hair ruffled up like my morning blankets, my clothes worn as if my laundry basket is all full, except I don’t have blankets or laundry baskets. I mean, I’ve been locked out of my apartment for weeks. I couldn’t afford rent. I’ve been thinking about making a home out of yours, but you said you didn’t like when others rearranged your furniture. But my mind lets me stay in, free of rent, even though it knows that it makes a really bad roommate. 17. I’ve written so many versions of this wondering if I’m saying the right words or if I should suffer and do it in silence. 18. I finally had the courage to buy the black dress. But I never had the chance to wear it out somewhere. I left it on the bed, hoping you can at least imagine how beautiful I would’ve looked in it. 19. When my grandmother was still alive, I would come back from school crying since the girls would bully me for my Spanish family name. Whenever I went into her arms, she would caress my hair and hold me tight while she prayed to God to give me strength to endure. Every time you came to me about your bad days, I prayed for you to have the strength I never had I hope you don’t think I’m crazy after you’re done reading this. Let me thank you. Because of you, I think I was able to find the words I was looking for a long time.
by Emma Lovato
Imagine: You're driving southeast down Smoky Hill Road. This street takes you to your aunt and uncle's house, past your high school football stadium. You've driven down this road that extends into farmland and back roads with a best friend and two lovers late at night. The lump in your throat arrives on a Thursday. You want to tell your parents to pull over so that you can throw up, but you've been through this before. It won't help. You could throw up on the side of that road for days and the lump in your throat still won't leave. Imagine: You sit in your childhood bedroom. The same side of the bed you've always slept in. Afternoon light pours in. Everything is still except for your hand moving quick across a page of a notebook you now share. Not too quick, you think to yourself. Keep your handwriting careful and legible even when your thoughts move too fast. Downstairs there's a football game on. You hear your mother's quiet laugh at something your stepfather said. You don't have to leave your room to know exactly how they're seated in the living room. Her on the left, him on the right. Sweet tea in a mason jar between them. If you could paint, you'd do a study on this house right now. Objects on your desk: Fake plants, a wine glass, and an empty coffee cup. Chapstick. Sunglasses and a yellow beanie that doesn't belong to you. Dead flowers. Your living room: Fake Christmas tree (added to the list of unfamiliar things; it was picked up and decorated without you, you miss the colored lights), the same couch, family seating order exactly the same, same TV shows on the DVR. The lump in your throat doesn't leave. Imagine: You pack up and leave your winter break a week earlier than you were supposed to. This town suffocates you. You need biting cold, a wind chill so frigid that if you cry the tears would freeze to your face. You need to beg your city for forgiveness and hope that it rebuilds you the way it has before. You need a break from chaos. An empty bed in a room too small to contain you. You need to get so busy that who you are and what you feel shrinks in comparison. You don't have time to think. You don't have time, you don't have time, you don't have time. For every time you thought that 2,000 miles was too far, you have to pray that it will be far enough. Imagine: You tell your mom everything. You apologize for leaving early, you regret it more than she knows. It's not her fault. You chicken out. You won't tell her everything, certain names and places just won't be mentioned again, and she'll figure out the pieces eventually. You missed your friends, you say. You needed to get a head start on readings, so you don't fall behind like last semester. But what you really think is that if you told her what really happened, she'd just be disappointed. You promise to call her more once you feel better. Once you stop crying out of homesickness, or heartbreak, the desperate search for a life that you can't get back, or whatever name you hope to give it. Once you label, categorize, compartmentalize. Once you stop missing late night phone calls and you stop writing letters. You will call her more.
50 / American Literary Magazine
by Amanda Book
by Jennifer Stoughton
i wanna love until my heart rots i want my soul spoiled with overripe too-sweet mushy love that lingers in the back of your mouth for hours pungent fragrance you can see wisp out of the corners of a smile i wanna wear kiss-smeared lipstick like a tattoo across my face and let my hair get caught in its stickiness so i keep remembering itâ€™s there
Spring 2020 / 51
Swept by Jordan Redd 120mm film
quick spin and dry
a short imitation of “a step away from them” by Frank O’Hara by Emaan Khan Khala told me it’s time for a bath, but I run away from her, insisting on keeping the echoing earth in my toes. She grabs my waist, pulling me past Abdul Faatah’s hovel and his sweet samosa and green chutney grill and he smiles, forming that crease in his leathery forehead. He hails us over but that tawny woman he calls his wife swats the back of his head, sending that sweet dust onto the clotheslines of saris. Aunties thump their pulsing foreheads, wiping the sweat from beneath their braids. So I drag my toes in the sidewalk but Khala pulls me past the kitchen, through the heat of the clay oven. My father laughs from his study as she shoves me in the tile tub, pouring buckets of cricket-colored water. Father calls for her, so I sneak over the tub And then, I fling myself out back through the towel strings and into the rain. Rain in Rawalpindi is a sacred occasion for muddy children, one where soul spreads through our toes running with water on cheeks, flooding past that bare-boned dog and then we almost squash Elder Shahzeb, so he hits us with his walking stick and we stop.
Spring 2020 / 53
A Memory in West Baltimore by Sofia Dean I have a distinct memory. I think I was about the age of three, sitting in the drugstore parking lot. Wondering, why were we in this eldritch spot? Bubblegum man had two types of candy, one for her and one for me. The rest gets kind of hazy. Freud would call it repression maybe. But I think she held a syringe to her arm; I never grasped this act of self-harm. Or maybe it was self-healing. What made her feel such burdenous feeling? Drugs and mental health are not where Iâ€™m irreverent, but how come with a parent it feels so different? Perhaps what a 3-year-old had to levy is to this day, just too damn heavy.
54 / American Literary Magazine
Cruise Ship in a Bottle
by Maxwell Laro
She Won't Remember This
by Gracie Donovan
The waiting room is a blinding white. I can hardly keep my eyes open, so I lean my head back against the couch and shut them. Even with them closed, I can see the fluorescent white, it sneaks beneath my closed eyelids like the sun at midday. Im wrapped up in one of our throw blankets from home, legs on your lap and head on the arm of the couch. You are rubbing my legs gently, to soothe me, to calm me down. I have been vibrating with barely concealed fear for days, ever since you told me that we would begoing to the doctor on Thursday. “Marie?” the nurse calls out my name, too loud for four o’clock in the morning. You nudge my legs and I shuffle awkwardly to my feet, wrapping the blanket tight around me as I face the nurse. She gestures for me to follow and I look back at you. “Mom can come too,” the nurse says much too loudly. We trail behind her as she leads us through the white double doors. The blanket drags gently on the ground and you pick it up, as if it’s the train of a wedding dress and I the child bride. In my pre op room everything is a mess of wires and lights. I shut my eyes against their brightness as I scoot onto the bed. The nurse hands you a hospital gown and you help take off my pajamas. My seven year old body is exposed to the world for all of fifteen seconds before you are covering it up again, wrapping the hospital gown around me like robe. The nurses are talking in soft soothing voices now but I can tell that my fear is still palpable by the look in your eyes. You watch me gently, and coo at me softly. A nurse comes into the room and takes an I.V. kit from the cupboard. Suddenly I am vibrating again. “I won’t, I won’t, I won’t,” I say, as eloquently as a second grader can. You brush my hair from my forehead and whisper, “I know, baby. I know.” But the nurses poke me anyway and you hold my hand when they have to hold me down, my legs kicking out at their stomachs and chest heaving as I scream. “She won’t remember this,” the doctor tells you. When the needle is settled in my arm with a piece of tape holding it there, the nurses begin to push my bed down the hallway. I crane my head back so I can keep my eyes on you and for a moment you are hard to find. They have given you scrubs to wear so that you can come into the operating room. You blend in with the nurses. But I pick you out soon enough, the curly hair sticking out from underneath your scrub cap gives you away.
I will, I will, I will, Ithink to myself.
56 / American Literary Magazine
The operating room is cold, and they let you put the throw blanket back on top of me. Before your hands can reach to tuck me in I grab them tightly and won’t let go. “I want to talk to my mom. Can I talk to my mom?” I say to a room full of nurses. They smile and tell me, o f course sweetie.“Alone,” I say. They don’t seem to want to challenge me. That’s one perk of being a sick kid, no one wants to fight with you. So they file out, white coats fluttering behind them like flower petals. You watch them go, tight-lipped and pale faced. When you turn to me there are tears rumbling like storm clouds in your eyes. You already know what I’m going to say. I say it anyway.
“Please, mommy,” I beg. “Take me home?”
Your rub my arm, carefully straying away from the needle poking out of it. For a few moments it is just us. A mother and daughter in a room bathed in white. I wait for you to cave, for you to finally let things go my way, for you to call the nurses in and demand they set us free. You don’t. And soon the nurses are walking back into the room with the doctor in tow. “Ready to get started?” The doctor says in her kid-friendly voice. They shuffle you aside so that you won’t get in the way, but I reach out for you. “It’s okay,” a nurse says, “you’ll see your mom soon, right after a quick nap.” But I know what that means, I know what they’re about to do. “Mommy,” I cry out. You’ve already been pushed back against the wall behind machines and nurses, doctors and needles. A sea of medicine keeps us apart. The nurse starts to push an oxygen mask against my face and I flinch away, hard.
“It’s almost over,” she tells me, “you’ll be asleep soon.”
I push with all my might against her arms as she places the oxygen mask back on my face. I can’t move her, I’m not strong enough. My eyes find you as I begin to fall asleep, black seeping into the edges of my vision. You are watching me, hand pressed against your mouth like you’re going to be sick. “She won’t remember this,” the doctor says to you. But I do.
Spring 2020 / 57
Our Distance Grows
by Wesley Dankwa
58 / American Literary Magazine
by Caroline Routh
I saw God Walking the other day Through the Shawâ€™s parking lot. In one hand, a shopping list written in a jumbled scrawl: Milk Eggs Bread A prayer. In the other, A strand of Rosary beads swayed in the late summer sun, Capturing beams of light and dancing with them. They twisted around the ancient branches of his hands, Laced with arthritis, And knowledge unfamiliar to man. The ruby serpent traced his knotted knuckles And the cavernous wrinkles in his palms, And slithered up his neck To whisper blasphemies into his Cotton-filled ears. His figure grew smaller and smaller Reduced To a speck On the horizon Carrying the weight of the universe upon Hunched shoulders And a crooked spine. He whistled a tune low and slow. Even he praises the golden calf.
Spring 2020 / 59
Dupont Everyone passes Whitman Who talks of life and love and age And everything we wonâ€™t remember Until weâ€™re older (As we hope we will always just be getting older) Melodies / Magnolia Fairytale houses / Tinted laughs And loneliness / ( A cute doggo ) ... Broken bricks / Fading books A man smiles at the shelf / As if he encountered a sweet memory A woman lost in symphonies / Reads of Dark Lakes Wood crafted rabbits / Childhood memories This is where Rumple spins his gold Somewhere within the hallowed walls Cries Ophelia / Through the midsummer And Juliet / And all the women who deserved more History waved at me / Poetry had a twinkle in her eye I step out and the sunlight welcomes me. ... A woman wears a storm tinted diamond across her neck and ponders (something?). Or just watches the sun dance with the mahogany shelves and the books she holds so close. ... I see the birds So Vibrant / Plentiful / Beautiful / Fluttering
60 / American Literary Magazine
by Isabella Igbanugo
But no one else sees them / They are all going somewhere ...
This is where Rumple spins his gold In mundane radiance
& How marvelous it all is. & How marvelous we all are.
Guarding the King
by Wesley Dankwa
by Annie Przypyszny
This is the pain that excites The child, twisting the molar From the gum with the same Careful force one uses to pull A key from a jammed lock. That musical crunch When the roots unwind, One slender tendril at a time. Soft blood begins To puddle like magma As a small prize is eased From the mouth. The tongue tastes the sweet Wine of the wound, Exploring the shape Of its crater.
Row Boat by Gabrielle Bremer
by Maya Rodriguez
cierra la puerta the door that tears the mountains from the country An ocean’s distance of stories that curl like smoke under voices and hiss from mouth to many but always sizzles out in plum sun of beaten tropics banana republics left to rot my skin, my family taste like acid on my tongue pray for a better god that doesn’t cut out my southern candy mouth sweet sea salt and blood plunge down deeper into a watery grave crying rivers into sea my parents’ spliced mouths burdened with a language that lost its country and earth to worse gods Ábrelo Otra Vez Ábrelo
Spring 2020 / 63
by Emma Lovato
Author’s Note: Using Lynda Barry's Kitchen Table Method, write about three different kitchen tables and work them into a blended narrative. I am sitting across from you, I can't remember what number of dates this was for us, though our awkward lapses in conversation certainly make it early. We didn't plan anything. You showed me the lake, really more of a glorified pond in a residential area. We sat under a gazebo, and I knew I wasn't the first girl you'd shared this spot with, but I didn't even have the words for the questions that would grow to surround that place. It got too late for us to venture into the city and find somewhere interesting to eat, so confined to our too-small town I showed you my favorite diner. It's fifties themed and gimmicky; the only reason I love it might just be nostalgia at this point. The memories here seem to overshadow the actual experience of eating the mediocre food. We decide that should it be an option, breakfast will be ordered at any time of day, and neither of us can decide between something sweet or savory. The summer sun still graces the evening sky as I stare at you from across this linoleum kitchen table top, and I leave this date feeling like I'll want more than just a summer out of you. We're sharing a table in a coffee shop surrounded by mid-November snow. It's uncharacteristically cloudy outside and I'm trying to reason my way around the idea of another four months of this. Another four months of pits-in-my-stomach, lumps-in-my-throat, overwhelmed with elation or with despair, dragged into and under by your chaotic tendencies. You're across from me, our feet struggling to make room for each other, and our laptops barely fitting on this toosmall table in this too-small town. I have a textbook perched on my lap and a notebook precariously fitting around my computer and my latte. I'm either too invested in this econ lecture, or deliberately avoiding eye contact with you that I don't notice you've been writing a letter to me. “Make room for a life with me” is what this letter will say when you hand it to me. You don’t know that I’ve been begging the same thing of you since the summer, and I’ll spend forever wondering if the idea of a life together meant different things to us. Right now, a life with you surely means chaos, and staring across this kitchen table (considered such because this lavender latte is my first meal of the day) I think I could handle that. You said make room for a life with me, and I did that when I showed up to your college town in December.
64 / American Literary Magazine
We sit adjacent each other at a table meant for four. You and I are comfortable enough at this point I make the call to order one sweet and one savory dish and split them both. I order the French toast, and you order some kind of skillet, eggs over medium. I'm wearing gold hoop earrings and a green sweater my mom bought me; I really did become a better dresser since meeting you. In my memory conversation flows a bit smoother, pauses no longer feeling awkward, but rather we work together a little easier than we have before. In the months full of valleys and peaks, this is certainly a peak. After waking up in the same bed as you, and going to breakfast together, it feels like we're finally doing something right. You ask me if we were in my college town right now what would we be doing. I say we'd be eating breakfast at a place quite similar to this, probably splitting something sweet and something savory. We'd have woken up in a twin bed, and I would be taking you to see the Hirschhorn instead of Horsetooth Reservoir. This time when I say it, it doesn't feel like a far-off fantasy, or an expectation too high. This kitchen table defines how I want our next few months to look.
I don't wear flannels but I still like girls by Jordan Redd 120 mm color film, double exposure
Ghosts of Market Street by Samantha Monteith Up and over Market Street The cobblestones sidewalks are covered With the feet of white men and women once more Examining all that their privilege can provide. Where once black blood was spilt Under the crack of leather whips, Under the relentless glare of the Charleston sun, There is now only sweat flicked off by passing tourists. Smiling faces abound as vendors call out their price, The products new and shimmering, Searching for purposes and loving homes In which to work and abide, rebel and then die. The black bodies who sit in the shade nearby, Whose nimble fingers weave the sweetgrass baskets, Live in the haunted shadow of the past, Skeptical of the scene and an uncertain future. The white bodies stand, overwhelmed by the onslaught of choices, Pass by adorned in golden trinkets and pastels, Oblivious to their track record of crimes, Walking blindly in the footsteps of not so subtle racism. Together they mix on Market Street Home of buyers and sellers, The oppressors and oppressed, The privileged and the powerful, The beautiful black pride that stands ever resilient In the face of the ignorant children of Southern history.
Spring 2020 / 69
by Maggie Mahoney
You tuck your hand into the faded tear of my jeans, high on my upper thigh, where ragged tendrils of blue tinged cotton escape. Your fingers feel warm there, thumbing over the soft white flesh that swells between stretch marks and stubble. The razor missed a patch and left behind a thin red line. You do not pull away. Instead, you stoop to kiss my bare skin and I am reminded of the little things about you that I find lovely: your stubborn insistence that vanilla ice cream is the worldâ€™s most underrated flavor, how your favorite food has been popcorn since you were five. When you rise again to my level, I lick the gap between your teeth and cup your jaw in my palm. The mole by your dimple twitches. I wonder if itâ€™s always been there. That night, I fall asleep to the cool glow of my phone screen, nestled in the crevice of my pillow. Your voice speaks softly on the other line. As I miss yous echo between us like the last notes of a favorite song;
70 / American Literary Magazine
You Melt Me
Artist statement: a portrait of a girl who, when describing a toxic relationship, stated that she felt as if her partner could ‘melt’ her. this piece is part of a portrait series involving how people describe their experience with love.”
by Piper Hamm
Spring 2020 / 71
Cuddle Up for One
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by Simon Tobler
Thoughts In and On the City by Sofia Dean A town unaffected by chains and corporations brings peace to my mind. Sprawling modernization gives me a headache and suddenly I understand why people long for the past. The onset of summer in the air only intensifies my contentment. For a second, I forget why I worry. I forget why I couldn’t wait to leave this place, why I’ve chosen to inhabit a too-tall building with mirrors for walls. Walking down Main Street, which I’m sure was once kickin’, faces which I do not know, but that share my hue, lift their heads to me signifying a “wassup my sista”. The warmth of this gesture fills me with gratitude. We belong to each other. But I examine their surroundings and I’m not ignorant to what has been done to them. Suddenly, reality has taken a hold of me, my contentment escaping its grasp, gone. The smell of candy rocks cooking on the stove wafts from the kitchen storm door, too weak for its own good, bringing back days that I try to forget. I can see the pain in their eyes, and I remember why I feel so much and so hard for my people. History is everywhere and the struggles of my ancestors, now and then, create a lump in my throat. Thank God for my many mamas in the sky who work to plug my tears. I remember why people wish to move forward. But oh, do I hate the city! Or I hate what the white men have done to my city, our city! I wish we could move forward in a place that loves myriads and mosaics. In a place where ivory people don’t need ivory towers and a Whole Foods to make them happy. These thoughts cross my mind as I stay standing in front of the too-weak-kitchen storm door. I walk fast down Main Street to escape my mind and the smell to blame for my childhood trauma. I want to go back though and ask my brothers on the porch if I was right to leave. Maybe they would know how to move forward. I’m afraid I’m too far gone.
Spring 2020 / 73
By Sky Witley
The corduroy couch beneath me swallows shadows in the room. I wrestle raised ridges with small fingers and as I topple the sacred mountains, green with spring’s kiss, I laugh. From the mouth of carpet stairway, twisting out of my basement, a call meets my ears, alien but known. So downward I creep on silent feet. Sun through window lines my father in blazing halo — shoulders heave, waves of light ripple towards me, tossing the sounds of mourning upon them. My father weeps with force, no shame. Two tiny hands barely grasp his one. Brown eyes open and tears splash down. They collect on my hand, a pool. One bead rolls off, onto the couch. Mountaintops sparkle with floodwater. We will not speak of this odd day, not tomorrow, not ever. This anomaly I must hold. For when light blinds my own eyes, when I’m lost, there will be this tear-stained hand token to the strength of crying.
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By Caroline Routh
Spring 2020 / 75
by Emma Lovato
76 / American Literary Magazine
by Maggie Mahoney
Swish of sugar â€” grit between my teeth turns gums pink, bloodied and blooming like left out lilacs on a sun split stoop. Featherlight press on hip bone jut, I am flattened by the stench of new paint that trails tattoos on my thighs, wet and wanton. Kisses swap secondhand smoke, bottle fed nicotine. Make me crave tobacco in small swallows, aftershocks from when I quit craving you. My tongue still snakes the shape of your right dimple. Imagine lapping sweet sweat that that pools there and anoint myself inside.
Spring 2020 / 77
Seeing Jupiter With the Naked Eye Her genesis happened one day when I cut my ankle shaving in the shower, white cream and fresh blood coalescing pink suds, birthing something clean and perfect. I found her there in the froth and marveled at her existence which I quickly learned would always be both revelatory and brief.
by Cam Diagonale
Sometimes Iâ€™ll catch glimpses of her dressed in my oldest tee shirt, toenails painted cornflower blue, drugstore makeup lining her eyes. Sometimes I can feel her with me in my bed and Iâ€™ll fall asleep with my hands cupped over my heart as if to try and contain her.
I tried throwing pebbles at her window one night but kept missing, each one striking the brick siding.
She is the slow click of a lighter, loud easy laughter. She is a candle, with one wick lit the lone flame bobbing in a pool of molten wax. I want to break my bones into hers then glue us together and bake our bodies in the sun. I want us fused: me, and my dream girl, the version of myself I can never seem to become.
78 / American Literary Magazine
The Apple Butter Family
by Kellam Schmudde The sun rises over the red and orange leaves ready to warm the ground and lift the haze lingering from the night before. Bundled up in pink fuzzy socks and worn out puffy winter coats are those fighting away the frigid morning breeze. Giggles and screaming can be heard from children playing, who are too young to care about the cold, as others converse by the crackling flames waiting for the smell of cinnamon and fresh bread to fill the air.
By Daniel Jenks
Cold Mornings in Western New York
by Phoebe McAlevey
The rabbit presses back her ears, I vomit. He pulls the trigger. Butter sizzles in the frying pan, my knees are weak, my vision goes gray and blurry. I watch, as the skin peels away from the muscle, revealing the bright, glossy red of blood being oxidized, dripping. Outside, I sit, my knees bouncing as I search for my lighter seeing the bloodied snow creating a path and I vomit once more.
80 / American Literary Magazine
A Diabetic King
by Jubilee Witte
Fuck you, I am disabled! Fuck you, I am disabled- and I’m still beating you! Live your life the underdog—No one likes your shallow-easy supremacy Sometimes I’m hungry, sometimes I am delirious Sometimes my muscles freeze up and every movement feels like thick acid runs through my veins. I can hardly go two hours without eating. I can hardly go an hour without insulin. And I’m still beating you! I might be a lightweight, I might be disabled. I might lose my eyes by the age of 30 and my Kidneys shortly thereafter. But presently, currently, and most definitely— You are beat, and I am KING. Now let me check my blood sugar.
Page 16 by Alexander Velleca
Not a Charity by Owen Boice
A boy, no more than five years old, with thick sandy hair and piercing brown eyes, lies contorted on the floor. Soaked in blood, his shirt is devoured by a bright crimson stain, emanating from his chest. Guttural moans echo from his throat—sounds no child should have to make. It happened suddenly: his eyes glazing over and his little legs giving out beneath him as he crumpled to the ground. His mother’s piercing shriek reverberating off the sterile glass windows, like a stone skipping across a body of water until nothing is left. And then, silence. From her desk behind a sterile sheet of glass, Helga J. Wilson spots the boy collapsing, his mother diving to brace his fall against the linoleum floor. Helga’s eyes widen and she emerges from her office. “Help! Doctor! Someone help!” the boy’s mother screeches down the hallway, with the imploring voice that only a desperate mother can make. “He’s unconscious!” Helga ambles over to the mother, now hunched over her son. “Now, now,” chides Helga. “Identification.” The boy’s mother’s eyebrows furrow in bewilderment. “That was a question, dear,” chirps Helga in a polite voice just above a whisper. “May I see your identification?” “Please, just help him,” whimpers the boy’s mother. “I’ll sort it out later… I’ll pay whatever you want. I’ll make it up to you.”
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“This is a hospital, not a charity,” replies Helga sweetly. “What kind of an operation do you think we’re running here? Really, dear, we only treat paying customers,” adds Helga, her voice never wavering. “He’s—covered—in—blood,” stammers the boy’s mother, enunciating each word, incredulously. “He can’t breathe. I’ll do whatever you want.” “Rules are rules,” says Helga in a sweet, sing-song voice, looking directly into the eyes of the mother, who stares back intently with a primal disdain. As she strolls back to her office, Helga enjoys the quiet for a moment, but a low murmur issues from the boy’s mother—crying. Helga tries to tune it out. Now, back in her office, propped up in a high back chair behind her desk, Helga J. Wilson is lost in thought, for she can remember a time when if you were sick, you could go to the doctor. The protocols were different in those days, and no one was fired for treating a patient without a sufficiently full pocketbook. Ah yes, she thinks. Those were the good days. A wail, like that of a wild beast mourning the death of its young, pierces the silence, jolting Helga back to reality. Then, the thud of a full grown adult body striking the floor reverberates down the hallway. But really, Helga thinks. It’s better this way. Why would we help
Spring 2020 / 83
By Rachel Black death is supposed to be sad. but we werenâ€™t, not really. grief is unmatched in the ways it paints itself across faces, hiding behind resentment or forced apathy, twisting and changing itself into shapes and expressions we can understand, but why should we have to the constant wondering and waiting for realization or perhaps reality to allow me to feel the heaviness and suffocation of death and the imminence of life, butâ€” the tears never came.
it was never easy to tell people about you but the execution of the rehearsed words was efficient, despite the obscured detailsâ€” crude and f l i m s y. lying became neat, clean[er] than having to explain the alternative, like a bandaid on a papercut, barely effective, but still functioning to support the lesion of truth. but then you died. forcing me to con[front] my sadness (?) and anger concealing the fear of numbness with the fear of pain, waiting for anything to come. but, the tears never came for you dad
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Social anxiety disorder is often confused with shyness
by Sami Pye
Spring 2020 / 85
my Italian ancestors probably look down on me and roll their eyes in disbelief
by Peyton Bigora
at the fact that everyone in la mia familia my mother sister grandma grandpa aunts uncles great grandparents great aunts and uncles cousins can cook and find comfort in the kitchen and try as I might I am a hazard and only find comfort in eating
homemade pastas crafted from a mound of flour an egg a pinch of salt then cranked through a manual pasta machine and always coated in homemade pesto or bolognese or marinara the fresh, buttery breads baked biscotti marinated meats pounds of polenta all made by the hands of la mia familia
not to mention the fresh, buttery breads baked biscotti marinated meats pounds of polenta all made by the hands of la mia familia
I have one signature dish and though the bread may not be freshly baked and the cheese is not of Italian descent it is a dish I can (sometimes) manage grilled cheese on Pepperidge Farm rye bread and Boars Head American cheese while wielding a pan stovetop and mighty spatula and my Italian ancestors roll their eyes as I scrape the blackened bits off my burnt signature dish and my grandpa laughs in dismay at his â€œItalianâ€? granddaughter
Spring 2020 / 87
Femaleium - Her ‘little helpers’ by August Barham X Drug usage and warnings X
Do not use if a person of color Side effects may include alone in public headache disabled heartache mislabeled hearing whistling & other sounds in parking garage / other dark space acute pressure of low income chronic obligation to home life - wife plus size bed ridden queer lost control of body near beer loss of memory trans &/or other gender expression decrease in pay suffer from mental illness - ie depression decrease in say showing skin dizziness Using under above conditions could drowsiness result in serious sometimes fatal decrease in occupations conditions such as disbelief for accusations derogatory descriptions early onset objectification heightened lack of legitimacy increased physical contact - w/o consent heightened lack of representation increased responsibilities heightened lack of opportunity increased double standards generalized harassment inferiority irregular levels of oppression judgment increased risk of abuse cat calls persecution - may resulting in execution unwanted eyes use - as object, as story, as statistic > its unwanted advances sadistic unwarranted romances Usage instructions lack in leadership take twice daily lack of opportunity or as needed - If you pleaded lack of inalienable rights with supervision kept home from fights choking hazard
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Uses acceptance of all ‘compliments’ acceptance of responsibility - for sexual advances lacking consent or inappropriate dissent blocks bossy tendencies - bitchiness maintenance of cheerful disposition or other mood conditions decreases stubbornness combats feelings of hysteria Warning Some patients have expressed feelings of Liberation Empowerment Sensuality Strength Beauty Uncontrollable urge to persist
keep out of reach of children.
By James Skiest
Spring 2020 / 89
Forethoughts: Roll Call and Judgement Day
by Jubilee Witt I put on a brave face. I think everyone here is doing the same. Well except for the Ones who are here for fun. Or for the $$. Or for the Flex. But, at least for me, right below the surface, there burns a deep and growing rage. “Who the fuck are You?” The Rich, the Powerful, the inscripted, the Intermediary, the Rebel, the mother, the broken, the broke, the powerless. The voiceless won’t tell you they’re there, but believe me—they’re there. This is the battleground in 2018. In a courtroom, Armed Guards, crying babies, crying mothers, a Mockery of a JUSTICE system. Above Ground and in full of All. But what can I do? Observe, and Wait my turn for my name to be called. It won’t be.
By Cam Diagonale
Yesterday I fell asleep in one of the lawn chairs with chlorine still in my hair and while I slept two flies drowned themselves in my iced coffee twin kamikaze their lifeless carcasses floating side by side in the brown sludge. There was nothing poetic about it at all this accidental suicide but something about this doubled death was sweet and sad and I hurried when I dumped their bodies and the coffee out into the sink.
Spring 2020 / 91
her By James Skiest she exhausted it and tossed it astray not just the lost end of that fateful day but every duplicitous moment of their friendship she smothered the gaslit butt in that ashtray she’ll never know what she’s done the pain metastasized like coughing up a lung but people never know the things they do how could they it filled her up, like she asked she used it up. now it’s done giving her that heady rush she never liked it she was just too much of a coward to quit a cold uncaring face glaring at the dusk superficial facsimile of a person; a mask a mere simulacrum of human emotion but some day that cancer of guilt will eat her heart from the atrium out until then it sits there, swimming in a sea of thousands just like it—extinguished she draws another from the pack its last exhale matches her breath and the last visible plume of smoke evaporates into the air from the moment she ignited the slow burn she did this to herself
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by Emaan Khan
you rub the callous just below my pinky finger, sugar cookie smell still stuck on them. you pulled out that gold band; even saturnâ€™s rings had never seen a better cradle for rotary. my heartstrings were always separate, gooey threads, unprepared for a life where no one flings us apart.
By Emily Park
it no longer dangles, is no longer encumbered, now a supple knot, a gnarl that peels away from others, wrapping around fingers, curling eagerly around hearts. squeezing gently, easily injured yet impatient to be taken to with a hand, trembling among slabs of cookie dough
Piano By Maya Rodriguez
A piano left in the dark A note that stretches For years and years I sit outside the studio With the cobblestone behind me, I begin I see a woman Whiskey in hand On the phone, splattering words onto pavement I think of my life
By Caleb Gleit
You Spent the Night in the National Cathedral By
You spent the night in the National Cathedral because you couldn’t sleep. You thought you might as well pray to a God you’re not sure exists. You want the weight off of your chest. You still don’t believe in God. But putting your head between your knees in a wooden pew seems as good a place as any to try and begin again.
You’re getting wasted in someone’s apartment. It smells like weed and liquor and you wake up in the middle of the night with your face touching something sticky. You grab your coat and forget your scarf, and on the way home you pass by the National Cathedral. You walk up to the door. You don’t open it because you don’t know what you would do if the door was locked. You stare up from the outside and pray to a God you’re not sure exists. And you ask her for forgiveness.
You wake up with your face touching something sticky. You grab your coat and forget your scarf, and on the way home pass by a homeless man. He is more prepared for the cold weather than you, but you have a bed to sleep in when you find it. You pass by him and ask him for forgiveness.
You pass by God on Cathedral Avenue. He’s smoking a cigarette and you ask him if he has another. He hands you a Newport and you don’t question why he smokes something so expensive. You ask him for a light and he asks what you’re doing out so late. It’s the day of the Sabbath, and you’re asking for forgiveness. You cough on your first drag of the cigarette and he laughs. You hand him a $20 bill and ask him for forgiveness.
God gave you a cigarette and you try it two more times before you put it out on a brick wall and leave the rest for someone else. You show repentance.
Spring 2020 / 95
You’re still drunk when you pass by the small cottage with the blue shutters. You weep in front of it because you know you’ll never pass by it and not think about wanting to live there with the girl you love. The shutters are such an ugly shade of blue. You would buy the house and argue about whether or not to re-paint them white, or yellow, or dark red. The security light comes on outside the house, and you walk away and ask for forgiveness.
You’re hungover at Sunday brunch. The boy across from you tells you about his hookup from the night before and then his first love. He says you don’t need to apologize for yours. No matter what you do, you will always compare everyone else to her. I know, you say. You know. You have a stranger in your bed. She’s here for two nights visiting her friend who’s a freshman. You don’t really give a shit. You fake your enthusiasm and your confidence so well that it’s going to get you into trouble one day. You ask for forgiveness. She is so mediocre that she didn’t deserve to leave to the marks on your neck. “You’re going to compare everyone else to her.” Hair too long, kisses too wet. You ask for forgiveness for even thinking that. The boy says that the next love you find is going to look different. There will be no more games, no more manipulation, no constant questioning. Why does that scare you? Because you got good at it. Because love is texting good morning knowing she’s in someone else’s bed. Because love is coming home and knowing someone will be picked over you. Because love without the weight on your chest would be unfamiliar. Because when it counted you got good at it. If love made you see the worst parts of yourself then it succeeded. You ask for forgiveness from the version of yourself who thought it would be anything else.
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You meet God in the middle of the city. There’s a negative wind chill and you took the wrong bus to your coffee shop. You’d rather be with anyone else, but maybe the right answer is that you should want to be by yourself. There’s a man passed out on the ground. You know he’s not sleeping because he’s holding a Safeway bag and his arm is bent under him like it failed to catch his fall. You call out to him. Again. You nudge his legs with your foot. Harder this time. You stop. You look for the rise and fall of his chest. It’s there. You want to throw up when you reach down to check his pulse. You tell the girl you’re with to call 911 and she doesn’t. You call 911. You meet God at Columbia Road and 18th Street Northwest. You look for the mountains to tell you which direction you’re facing. You’re in a different city. There are no mountains. You’re across the street from the animal shelter. But God forgives you. A firetruck gets there, and the man groans and God forgives you.
Spring 2020 / 97
By Shelby Rose
tears formed a film over my eyes so I don’t think I saw you clearly I knew well enough what you said “I dont need another Ben.” words cracking, motherly love weighed down boughs bending until they broke air from both our lungs bore witness watched as words severed roots down deep twisted, gnarled things that they were he was not there, though I swear the wind whisked our words away to brush his ears young eyes once saw splinters in the bark a tree grows strong, still the leaves fall and a sapling grows crooked in poisoned soil a branch snaps to become a knife a son breaks from a father’s side we watch, you and I, and plant the seeds that sprout into what we say and do if I cried then, I don’t remember I have grown since then, we both have now, I ask if you are happy a smile bows under a fresh storm of tears, shakily you say this: “I just worry about your brother.”
98 / American Literary Magazine
Images for Taking
By Jacob Weil The first flower of ice looks sweet like frosting, Paper flat and hand-cut crystalline on the window. It was so perfect that I wondered if it was a gift. That was before I saw a fish held still by the lake’s frozen vice, Its water muscle constricting around purposeless silver scales. I knew then that the flower (which it wasn’t) was for my eye’s taking, And so could not be given.
by Rachel Burger
by Gabrielle Michel
100 / American Literary Magazine
by Sky Witley
My footsteps erupt through the silence. I reach the grayest room of all Sheltered from drizzle by sickly green tiles, I imagine shower mist. Rolling down upon my shoulders and neck. As they did then. the chamber swallows light, my spirit hovering above me: three holes, their spouts ripped out long ago. Jagged edges encrusted with rust, suffering. Into the unhinged jaws I stare. Three holes above me screaming invitation. And I scream too.
Spring 2020 / 101
Inner Monologue to You: By Charlotte Faust I cried on my nineteenth birthday because I didn’t ever want to be different than I was when there was you. I wanted to hold forever to any moment from when there was us. I once had a friend who had slivery pins all over the ceiling of his Buick LeSabre so the fabric wouldn’t drape down onto the heads of his passengers, and he used to laugh and say at least they look like stars. Ever since he first said that to me, I’ve always thought that the stars hold up the sky like pinpricks in the ceiling of our lives. I think about what people become after things happen to them, if they become broken after they get hurt and where they go after they die. I’m sitting in a stranger’s bedroom looking up at the stars I can’t see through the roof of this building and I wonder if you’re one of those stars holding up my little piece of sky. Is dying the end of your life, or is it just a moment of it like when you got braces in the seventh grade or what you ate for breakfast on your second-to-last Tuesday? The day you died I was in a car, hours from there, hours from home. I got a call, the call, and I screamed and I sobbed and I whimpered in the back seat for hours until that car finally rolled up the drive and I walked to my childhood bedroom and I had never felt so empty. I laid on my bed and counted on both hands how many funerals I had been to in my life until I ran out of fingers and hoped yours would be the last, knowing it was fruitless. Your funeral was in mid-February and it was seventy-five degrees outside that day and the sun was brighter than it had any right to be. Your mother’s prayers sang slow over Earth made fresh from the rain of another day. Your little sister sobbed through the service and your mother comforted her and you college roommate did the same during the burial and your mother comforted her too. I used to think it made me broken. I used to think you dying broke me in some way, but now I think maybe I’m just new. I’m exactly the type of new I never wanted to be on my nineteenth birthday. I’m someone now who you never knew at all. And still I wonder, are you one of them? Are you one of the stars I can’t see. Are you holding up my sky even now?
102 / American Literary Magazine
Bullets for Global Peace
By Jubilee Witte
Barry is Back! Bad and Bold? Love* not Hate! That’ll save the world for sure! I bet it Barry, it’s hard to hate (when you’re paid to love JPMorgan and Chase) But let’s resolve to hate the things that matter** Poverty, hunger, chaos, predatory violence… ….among a growing list of imperial conquests Venture capitalist ideas Let’s Champion the victims, champion the People Who need it most. Liberate your mind Barack. Big think time. *Love: brought to you by JPMorgan and Chase **Like JPMorgan’s involvement in white supremacy, imperialism and global islamophobia.
By MacKenzie Curtin Acrylic paint
By Gracie Donovan
The Ohio summer was hot and muddy. The heat hissing off the pavement like water on a
hot pan, burning Julie’s toes if she went barefoot for too long. Julie and her neighbor, Allie, were hiding from the sun, twisting back and forth on the swings behind Julie’s house. The shadows from the house and surrounding trees kept them in a damp shade, but the humidity was still cloying even away from the sun. This late into the summer almost everything had a tint of boredom to it. Even the swing-set that was once the setting of wonderful games of pretend had now become a moldy place to hide from the heat. Julie dug her bare toes into the mud beneath her swing, wiggling her feat like worms. The earth was cool and wet, she found herself wishing that she could build a burrow in the mud beneath the play set, a damp oasis away from the stifling air.
“So,” Allie said. “Are we gonna play a game or what?”
Julie huffed, gripping her hands harder on the chains of the swing. “We are playing a game,” she said. “We’re swinging.”
Allie groaned and pulled herself to her feet, stamping her foot against the balding grass
and winding her dark hair into a ponytail. “We’ve been swinging for the past hour, I wanna do something fun,” she said.
Julie wasn’t entirely sure what was fun anymore. She felt they’d played and played all of
their usual games until they just weren’t amusing. In the thick heat, it was almost impossible to imagine dragging herself from her spot on the swing to play a game.
“Allie, we’ve tried to do something fun and I can’t think of anything. It’s your turn to
come up with what we do next,” Julie said.
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Allie twined her hand around the metal bars of the swingset and spun in a circle,
humming lightly. The pattern of the sun through the tree branches was reflected onto her eyes, and they gleamed like lightbulbs. Just then, Julie heard a child-like squawk and turned to find her baby brother ambling towards them. He was only in his Pull-ups, as if he’d just narrowly escaped the tortures of potty training. Although he was already three, he hadn’t quite got the hang of holding it in yet and was often found with a soaked diaper. He stumbled towards Julie with drool dripping down his chin and cheeks burning red from heat. Placing his meaty palm on the skin of her knee he grinned up at her. Even the feel of his skin was too hot to bear. She swiped at him.
“Bobby what are you doing out here? I told you to leave me alone when I’m with my
friends,” Julie said.
Bobby giggled and hugged at her leg. “Why?” he said. That had become his favorite
word. It drove Julie nuts.
Allie untwined herself from the swingset and patted Bobby roughly on the head. Bobby a
panting puppy and her a watchful owner. “You know, he is kinda cute,” she said. “Let him play with us.”
Julie wrestled Bobby’s grip from her legs and directed him towards Allie. “Here, if you
like him so much you can play with him.
Allie watched with a twinkle in her eye as Bobby stumbled towards her. “He’s so little,”
she said. “I bet he’d do anything you asked.”
Bobby was now crouched in the grass, stroking the mud with his hand much like Julie
had with her toes.
“That’s not true,” Julie said. “He won’t use the toilet, even if you ask him nicely.”
Spring 2020 / 105
It’s 2 A.M.
By Emma Lovato
It’s 2 a.m. and you’re leaving a frat party that your friends dragged you to. You’ve all but blacked out, and all you want to do is be in bed with the girl you love. You want to feel the curves of her body pushed into yours, and you wish for the softness of her hair against your cheek. You want the tender moment back where it’s just the two of you breathing in your childhood bedroom, and it felt like nothing could shatter you. But you cracked your phone screen at the party, so now you can’t even text her and you start throwing up on the side of Wisconsin Avenue. It’s 7 p.m. and you just gave a speech to the dean of your school about your research project. He was impressed, but the one person you really wanted to impress wasn’t there. You know she’s proud anyways, and she didn’t need to see your speech because you practiced 10 times on the phone with her. By now she probably knows your material as well as you do. You call her after and she lets you gush about it, even though it’s not that cool. The simple fact that you care about it is enough to make her care. It’s 4:30 a.m. and you roll over to check your phone. It’s been weeks since you’ve talked, but you see a text from her. Something happened back home. You feel tears sting your eyes and vomit rise in your throat. Your hands shake as you text her back to see if she’s okay. You wish you could call, but you don’t know if she wants to hear from you. You’ve never prayed harder to be in her small town than you did then because you could hold her and hope that it would fix everything. The worst part is maybe it would. You re-read your text and hope it conveys all the worry that you feel. Even though she’ll never speak of it again, it meant something that she told you. Your anger doesn’t come until days later. It’s white hot, but quick. You type out all your thoughts and send them and regret them immediately. You hope she doesn’t think about them nearly as often as you do. It’s 8 a.m. and you wake up to sleet hitting the concrete. The longing hits you hard as you lay in your warm bed while the city gets colder. This morning should be spent laying in bed reading while your love sleeps next you. You should spend your afternoon baking and writing your essay. You will do those things, but the day stays gray and your sunshine girl is in a different city. You stay in bed for a few more hours, waiting for her to wake up so you can call and tell her about the weather. It’s 12 a.m. and you’re crying on the phone again. She’s frustrating and overwhelming in all the bad ways and all the good ways. You wonder if all relationships are this complicated, but then you remember that not all relationships have cultivated something from nothing over two thousand miles. You remind yourself that the weight of the last six weeks has hit you both differently at different times. Right now, it hits you in the way she strings your first and middle name together. You thought they sounded weird until they slipped from her mouth, and now it’s all you want to hear. Her voice is sweet like honey when she tells you to look at her, and you like to think she’s soft like that for you only. Her sentiments calm the chaotic thoughts only she can give you, and you just want to give her all of yourself and let her keep it safe. It’s 4 p.m. and you’re sitting in your favorite coffee shop. You used to sit against the wall taking a table for two all to yourself, but it began to feel lonely without her, so now you sit at the bar where the big windows look out into quad. Of all the people passing, you hope that she’ll walk by, and there’s a pervasive longing with the knowledge that she never will. Yet the illogical hope that she’ll pass and smile at you through the window doesn’t fade. How one person can take up so much space in a place they’ve never been to fills you with wonder.
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By Cam Diagonale
last wednesday I worked a double and then walked home three miles in the snow stepping carefully over lost mittens and puddles and making small fists with my hands in my pockets, both of which are ripped, and pretended that I was walking to your apartment even though you are miles away and I am smart enough to know I shouldnâ€™t be thinking like that, but my poetic license allows me to think about your green coat and the way your hair sticks up to the side, and then I came to an expanse of unscathed snow that nobody had walked in yet and following the desire to mark up the thing that was unmarked, I forged the first path, trudging a zigzagged line straight to the middle where the snow was the deepest and it was so white it made me dizzy and I sat down right in the middle and listened to the voice in my head that kept saying maybe this time it will be different. maybe this time it will be different.
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108 / American Literary Magazine
By McKenzie Beard
Spring 2020 / 109
by Jubilee Witte
The person on the other end of the phone…their name is Leonard. Leonard is in for a tough week. Even though Leonard’s been paying rent, his roommate hasn’t, and now he and his six-year-old kid and his wife are about to be, Definitionally homeless. Have you ever talked to someone through an eviction? Have you ever talked to someone who’s having the worst day of their life? That’s what talking to Leonard feels like right now. It’s emasculating. It hurts. To feel so powerless to help Leonard. I mean I know I’m helping him but this ain’t the help he needs. Leonard’s life sucks right now. I can’t really change that. Having the emergency shelter number isn’t going to make his life not suck. He knows it and I know it. But all I can really say is I hope the situation works out for you. “Thanks man I appreciate your help. Me too.” Yeah Leonard, me too.
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by Mursal Habibzai
The car ride back home is quiet, the only sound is that of the car speeding down the highway. My mother looks out the window, her honey-colored eyes staring off into the distance. I wonder what she’s looking at, I always do. Her shoulder-length jet black hair covers her face so I can’t make out her expression, but I can tell she’s not happy; it is rare she is. Her hands are covered in jewelry like the mannequins you see through store windows, the same shiny jewelry that I have seen her wear since I was a child. The golden bangles she always wore and the same rings, one with an enormous turquoise jewel and another with an emerald one. The same ones she would never let me touch, too expensive to play with. It’s hard to believe she’s my mother because looks aside we don’t share anything alike. I lay my head on her shoulder to feel her warmth. She moves her body more towards the window, farther away from me. I rest my head on the opposite window, the cold screen has a more welcoming embrace. She sighs, maybe realizing that we still have four more hours until she is home. We pass by the enormous sign that tells us we are leaving Las Vegas. “Drive Carefully Come Back Soon,” the sign says as my father drives 15 mph over the limit. My dad is silent. He’s high I can tell, I always can. He made a stop at a gas station with a full tank of gas, but I know it was just an excuse for him to smoke a joint in the dirty bathroom. He wears black glasses that cover his eyes. His large calloused hands grip the steering wheel. He laughs out loud, the raspy sound echoing in a silent car. I wonder what he is thinking? Or what made him suddenly laugh out loud? Possibly the irony of it all. He did after all lose our entire rent money for next month playing poker, something my mother does not find funny. Goodbye Las Vegas, we won’t be coming back soon.
Untitled by Breanna Hill relief print
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America’s Baby By Maya Rodriguez what did they tell you? that you would be the conversation eyes bleeding at your face men crawling for a kiss because that’s how women rule the world younger women have gotten older way before you were born “pretty” the sludge inside was leaking by then or was it your parents that bottle-fed the poison you had enough fuel for a few pageants you got too friendly with the sun, and melted wax angel, skin peeling and eyes sliding and lips bursting screaming, but holding the crown above your halo the funny part is that pretty girls burn better
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Isla Nublar as a State of Mind by Marissa Zupancic “He’s all right. He’s an engineer. Wu’s the same. They’re both technicians. They don’t have intelligence. They have what I call ‘thintelligence.’ They see the immediate situation. They think narrowly and call it ‘being focused.’ They don’t see the surround. They don’t see the consequences.” -Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park First Iteration
In many ways, my qualities match Dr. Ian Malcolm’s. Except for the part where I am not a mathematician. I don’t mean the Jeff Goldblum version—I could barely sit through the movie version of Jurassic Park. He and I are cursed to carry the burden of being too self-aware and too in touch with the world around us. His is a rational application rooted in numerical explanations, but he feels the pain of seeing his predictions brushed aside as the park descends into mayhem. My self-awareness tends to be self-destructive and in no way beneficial. He and I are the antonyms to “thintelligence.” Instead of focusing on the immediate situation, we calculate the endless array of consequences waiting in the future. Our lives are ruled with one simple question: “What if?”
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Wikipedia defines chaos theory, Dr. Ian Malcolm’s area of expertise, as “a branch of mathematics focusing on the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions.” You are a dynamic system. We are dynamic systems, but we are a different type of nonlinear equation. All of our bones, nervous systems, and individual cells add up to comprise our essence. Just like the frog DNA and the dinosaur DNA in mosquitos’ blood trapped in amber come together to form the dinosaurs. These structures work together, enabling our bodies to follow the repetitive patterns of life. Third Iteration
Google defines iteration as “the repetition of a process or utterance.” There I go again using a somewhat unreliable source. Simply writing about repetition becomes repetition as I repeat actions and repeat using “repeat.” Just like John Hammond’s initial mistake, then his lingering influence beyond the grave. The second generation of dinosaurs still escaped. Don’t you see how everything is connected? Fourth Iteration
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But, isn’t anxiety the same? My anxiety ensues because of an initial condition, the time passes, and I’m already starting to get anxious about something else. I am never in a state of equilibrium. Nedry dies from the small, yet lethal, dilophosaurus. I wither from my invisible, yet suffocating, mental state. Anxiety repeats in the same manner. What if I slip back into old habits giving those I’ve never loved more attention than those dearest to me? What if the guilt of my past actions consumes me until it tears me apart like John Hammond? What if I never gather the courage to tell my therapist about the regret filling every spare space between my 37 trillion cells? I’ve learned until it was almost too late that repression isn’t the answer. These questions are only the tip of the iceberg. Fifth Iteration
Dr. Ian Malcolm, my patron saint of chaos theory, verbalizes the dangers of assuming a system is perfect. He embodies anxiety, but an anxiety supported by math. That eventually, no system is perfect. Ian (yes, I’d like to imagine we’re on a first name basis) applies rational thought to explain his genuine fear of the dinosaurs escaping. The triceratops, stegosaurus, and procompsognathus escape into the world, intertwining the past and present. But Ian is fiction, and I am not. I have an irrational and unnecessary anxiety not backed by math or science. Isla Nublar is a fictitious island, brought to life by Michael Crichton’s John Hammond’s imagination. Yet, anxiety is real concocting fictitious ideas. Instead of dinosaurs, I fear myself.
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My daily life routine, this repetition, this constant cycle, might break. One day, I might succumb to my own mind. What will be my downfall, my Nedry causing the power outage and letting the dinosaurs escape? What if it’s when I have a panic attack worse than the first time? What if it’s when I’m on vacation, having the time of my life? So happy but so sad at the same time. Every time. Once, I was at a meeting when my heart started racing and panic became the only emotion available. It happened again when I found out my thyroid was, and still is, killing itself. Again and again, it all circles back to my imbalanced hormones sabotaging the body they were built to take care of. I know the system will fail, just like Ian, but we never know exactly when. Seventh Iteration
Michael Crichton once wrote Ian once said “Living systems are never in equilibrium. They are inherently unstable. They may seem stable, but they’re not. Everything is moving and changing. In a sense, everything is on the edge of collapse.” Since I am a living system, I am doomed after all. I will always be practicing a balancing act, sometimes more successfully than others. What if I’m not really Ian Malcolm, but the disgraced John Hammond, after all?
Spring 2020 / 117
backyard bluegrass by Emaan Khan I wasn’t allowed in my backyard. It was deceptive, I think. My backyard was a flaxen field. It was fat with Kentucky Bluegrass and wheat. The weeds shuddered as the brittle Midwestern wind touched them. When the leaves wilted, small goldenrod seeds peeled off. My dad would sulk from the patio, as he retreated to get his Zyrtec for his upcoming allergy spell. Mom built a pitiful oak fence to keep my sunburned feet from wandering into our own grassland. After every supper, I would retreat to my backyard. I sat on my playhouse balcony and licked the remnants of a Klondike bar off my fingers. I tried to keep myself busy by carving mean things about Genna (she bullied me at school) and pasting Dora stickers on each pillar. I sat and listened to the cicadas and the rattling sounds of the termites at the patio door. The summer night was nippy and shimmering from the spherical lawn lights that hugged our porch. I peered over the field, trying to see the other side. I imagined that the ground was soft and wet, so I wouldn’t have to wear my light-up Sketchers. It would smell like licorice from the Goldenrod and a bit like soil as my toes broke the ground. I yearned to dart through its dusty bastions and floral parquet. One night, as I laid in bed, the acidic scent of burning wheatgrass flooded my room. I sat up and sprinted down the stairs to the backyard. As I flung open the door, I stared up in awe. Plumes of fire licked each inch of the field, igniting like smoke bombs we flung on the Fourth of July. The goldenrods now charred stakes, the wheatgrass whining as smolders clutched it with verve. I choked on the taste of burned licorice and acrid grass. It burned its hellish path to my playhouse, the vermillion wave liquifying the plastic into the grass. Light spots of gold and scarlet blurred my peripheries and poured into my eyes. The vicious explosion of nitrogen and carbon dioxide rolled up through my body and exploded from my mouth. I felt it all at once, the tickles of the Bluegrass and the burn of the weeds on my shoulders, the searing soil on my chest, and my once special place sinking into my scalp. The wet bedsheets around me and the vigorous shake of my mother’s hands stopped it all. I never looked at that field again.
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A Day Poorly Remembered
by Katie Meyerson
artist statement: This piece reflects a memory from when I was four year old in which there are a lot of holes and lost information. The different layers of the piece encapsulate different layers of uncertainty within the memory of my fourth birthday party.
The Bay Stood Still
by Avishai Zinder
The bay stood still, with a shivering wind blowing south across it’s waters, it slowly let in the tide. The day had just begun, but the wooden docks were clunking and rattling with sailors and fishermen loading up their crafts. Nets, traps, and bait were loaded aboard, ready to take in the day’s haul of salmon or crab. A young lady stood near the aft of a two decade old fishing boat, Jenna’s Jemstone. She was wrapped up in a grey scarf, and a faded blue hoodie concealed her dark black hair. She slowly nursed a watery mug of coffee. “Ready to go?” asked the captain of the boat, a man of about sixty five, who also wore a blue hoodie, and a set of green rubber waders. “The traps are all on the boat, and so is our lunch,” said the young lady, clutching a small pendant that dangled at her neck. “You know, your mother used to love days like this,” replied the captain, “When the bay is calm but the wind picks up.” The young lady, whose name was Jess, did not reply, but she gazed over the water at the rising sun. The sun had an orange light, which was made grey by the water and the wind. The Captain started the boat’s engine, clunking and chugging like an old faucet, and began to guide the boat outside of the dock’s area. “We don’t have to do this,” said Jess, still holding her pendant tightly. It held a deep blue gemstone, deeper than a sapphire, as dark as the ocean at night. “Of course we do”, the captain said, his face balling up like a crumpled paper, “every decade we need to call it.” “But the people here, they don’t harm the bay” replied Jess, “they help it, they fish it.” “And what about their children? And the tourists? And the Commercial folk that will arrive soon? Think with your head Jess.” The captain glanced back to his daughter, gazing at her mother’s hair. “Do you think your mother would want us to stop now?” Jess did not loose another word on the subject, and the captain piloted the boat to the mouth of the bay, away from the other boats, which were either more upstream, or already out at sea. The Sun was now a half-circle, and the bay began to glow orange, the light beating away the darkness of the morning for control of the water. The captain picked up a fishing knife, and handed it to his daughter. “It’s time,” he said “your mother would be proud.” “My mother would be weeping” said Jess as she took off her hoodie, revealing a wetsuit beneath, and jumped into the frigid, barely brackish water, with the knife still in hand. Once again it smelled a scent. The fresh water usually smelled of decomposition or motor oil, but now it had a new scent, the scent of blood. Enticed by the bay’s sweet, yet curdling scent, it opened a dinner plate eye, and spied down the watery way. Past the reef, past the sand flats, past the beating rocks and shores it saw a deep blue stone. The Kraken remembered its old masters. The Kraken remembered its old promise.
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Jess lie flat on her back, relaxing in the warming water, as a small cut on her wrist wept droplets of blood. Soon the grasping tentacles would appear around her. Each one as long as the bay itself, all of them covered in suckers. The Kraken surged forward beneath Jess, while the tide was high. Enacting its promise, it began to sweep its tentacles across the ground. With every massive sweep and crash, the bay shook. Every movement was an earthquake. As the fires took the small town to the south, and the docks became flotsam, Jess and her dad ate their lunch of Crab salad sandwiches, with fresh, crunchy celery. Jess’s father hated celery, but it was what her mother always put in the crab salad. “Just a little bit of crunch makes the sandwich balanced,” she’d say.
reduction block printing, in seven stages of inking.
Badlands Bison by Daniel Jenks
by Robert Sanford
I drank my first drink at the age of 15. The scene of the crime: an old friend’s house in River Oaks, blocks from my Baptist middle school, which, predictably, had exerted considerable effort into advocating for abstinence from alcohol (among other things). Here I was, pushing back against years of Bible study and youth group, testing the limits of authority, both heavenly and human. The smoking gun: apple juice and Absolut, the latter of which stolen by my friend from his parents’ liquor cabinet. In hindsight, mixing vodka with apple juice suggests immature trepidation, maybe even a little angst. Spiking a child’s drink with 80 proof liquor? Either a carefully measured step into adulthood, or an angry repudiation of innocence, an innocence scores of compassionate people toiled to provide me with. • • • “The booze is a different chemical in their bodies from what it would be in mine,” art critic and recovering alcoholic Peter Schjeldahl wrote, referring to his wife’s dinner guests. “Pleasant for them, poison for me.” Like medicine, I thought upon reading this for the first time. Penicillin heals some but agitates others. Radiation fries cancer cells, but it drags their benign cousins along with them. In the same vein, alcohol can numb a pain, but it creates more in due time. Too familiar am I with that reality. • • • What makes an alcoholic an alcoholic? E. Morton Jellinek was among the first to venture a guess, and his model serves as the launch pad for alcohol studies today. After surveying over 2,000 alcoholics, Jellinek posited that alcoholism develops in four progressive phases: pre-alcoholic, prodromal, crucial, and chronic. A 1952 article in the Quarterly Journal on Studies of Alcohol includes a tidy visual of these phases. Onset of loss of control marks the transition from the prodromal to crucial phase; Onset of prolonged intoxications signals graduation from crucial to chronic. I prefer the Glatt Chart, a more elaborate interpretation of Jellinek’s work. In contrast to the bland and distinctly scientific Quarterly Journal graphic, M.M. Glatt’s 1958 illustration depicts a V-shaped plane with the first half of the ‘V’ representing Jellinek’s four phases of alcoholism and the rehabilitation process as its skyward reflection. Like Jellinek’s original, symptoms are annotated across the diagram, and when curated to maintain their chronologic integrity, they can make for an exhilarating narrative. For example: occasional relief drinking and grandiose and excessive behavior denigrates into tries geographical escape and vague spiritual desires. Then, the recovery: spiritual needs examined and desire to escape goes progresses into facts faced with courage, and finally, contentment in sobriety. The stilted verbiage of some of the symptoms listed is strange enough to make you snort (e.g. drinking with inferiors), but in other cases, Glatt’s blunt descriptions are chillingly vivid – at least to those who know the situations and sentiments well.
Promises and resolutions fail. Loss of ordinary will power. Persistent remorse.
• • •
“How has your drinking been this week?” a therapist asked me once. More than once. This particular instance earned its place among my memories for her biting repartee to my reply. “It’s been more frequent this week,” I confessed with underwhelming earnestness. “But only because my workload was lighter than normal.” She smirked. “You say that every week.” She was right, but herein lies the conundrum: so was I. My workload was lighter; for the first semester since my freshman year, I’d elected not to work in addition to class. 20-25 hours of my week vacant, waiting to be filled. What to do with all this newfound time? Plenty – not all of it bad. Long-winded conversations with friends, movie marathons in their apartments. Midmorning adventures to art museums, the Botanic Garden, Bethesda’s commercial strip. Entire afternoons spent in the campus coffee shop, so many that I’d immunized myself to the tremble-inducing qualities of their signature beverages by November. Plenty – some of it bad. European soccer matches at the bar on New Mexico – why not have a pint or five? Dizzy by 2PM. Mixed drink deals all night Wednesday in Glover Park – why not get a double, a few doubles? Bill still comes out to $16. Staying in tonight? Fine, I can mix my own. The local liquor store employees ring up my usual order before I reach the counter. • • • Enlightened and interesting way of life opens up with road ahead to higher levels than ever before. That’s the final destination in Glatt’s diagram. But to get there, one must first descend the valley of addiction, stumbling past macabre milestones like efforts to control fail repeatedly and moral deterioration before landing face-first at rock bottom: obsessive drinking continues in vicious circles. Perhaps things aren’t as simple as Jellinek’s progressive alcoholism theory, or Schjeldahl’s ‘pleasant for them, poison for me’ dichotomy. Truth is rarely absolute; the human condition is far too complex to boil down to a graphs and charts and paragraphs, no matter how well written or illustrated. “Who’s free?,” Schjeldahl even asks, commenting on the inherent simplification of people, ideas, and memories through language. “I can see the paragraphs I’m writing as little jail cells, penning me into perspectives, conceits, ideas, jokes, and memories—stories!” An age-old frustration for a writer, he notes. I’d argue that we all share that frustration, that uneasiness. Some of us just don’t quite know how to deal with it yet.
Spring 2020 / 123
August Barham is considering quarantine bangs. Amanda Book is celebrating her fourth year roaming mars, photographing it’s rocky landscape. McKenzie Beard is a sophomore studying Journalism and Women and Gender Studies. She is passionate about turtlenecks and is an outspoken advocate for the Oxford comma. Rachel Black is super excited to join the AmLit family and let her creative writing minor take over her entire personality (: Owen Boice is a first-year majoring in political science. He enjoys writing satirical commentary and pointing out societal problems. Gabrielle Bremer is sometimes called Badger Drool by her dad. Rachel Burger will stop to pet pups, needs at least 2 cups of coffee every morning, and really loves having a creative outlet like AmLit on campus :’) Mackenzie Curtin Hater of cheese, lover of everything else. Cam Diagonale lives in a tree and bakes cookies all day. Wesley Dankwa is emo to the extremo. Sofia Dean isn’t quirky enough to come up with an interesting bio. Charlotte Faust played lead clarinet in the iconic band, GirlTalk, crica 2007. Piper Hamm Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. Breanna Hill is a third year at AU studying poli sci, econ, and public admin but she loves art. Daniel Jenks is a senior studying Sociology. They like how the sky looks, especially when there are tasty clouds in it to take pictures of. Emaan Khan thinks halo top is a food group. Emma Lovato was too busy baking banana bread to think of a bio. Maggie Mahoney’s brain is mush at this point and she is excited to be graduating soon. She will miss AmLit dearly and all the roses it has given her over these past four years.
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Phoebe McAlevey loves a good discotheque, ‘90s rock, and traveling by train. Katie Meyerson What’s up everybody? I think DOGS should VOTE! -Griffin McElroy Gabrielle Michel is very thankful for the incredible friends she’s met at AU. You all inspire me, have challenged the bounds of my creativity, are so supportive, and are just the absolute best humans. Samantha Monteith is a second year grad student and looking forward to what the future will bring. Emily Park loves chocolate covered bananas and flowers. The perfect day would be eating chocolate covered bananas in a field of flowers that don’t make me sneeze. Annie Przypyszny would like to send love to her magnificent friends and fellow poets Grace Hasson and Bailey Blumenstock <3. Sami Pye is a photographic artist who loves art galleries and theater. she is left handed, a proud crocs owner, and just trying her best. Jordan Redd graduated with honors, without a girlfriend, and without any job offers. Kimberly Rodriguez is a Guatemalan hopeless romantic from New York who dreams of a better world and hates online classes with a burning passion. Shelby Rose is an assistant to the prose editors at AmLit. Her Switch friend code is SW-7083-97292209 if you would like to donate some bells to her next construction project. Caroline Routh Homo sapiens. Has an affinity for lighthouses, dogs, flowers, and love. Rob Sanford is a senior SIS major in remission. When he’s not disappointing loved ones at Breadsoda, Rob can found procrastinating in The Bridge, or disappointing loved ones at Heist. A fan of AmLit since his freshman year, Rob is eager to read the spring 2020 issue and is grateful to the executive board for making it all happen. Riddhi Setty is grateful for the AmFam, her friends, and edible cookie dough. James Skiest was trying super duper hard to think of a bio, but instead spent all of their quarantine freetime staring into the abyss gazing longingly into the abyss through a glazed over, vacant complexion. The abyss began to stare back, but by that time James had discovered TikTok. Jen Stoughton is a film major from Maryland and has the Old Bay socks to prove it. She spends her time trying to build up the confidence to engage on film twitter. Jacob Weil Hi, I’m Jacob, and this poem is one of my favorites that I’ve done. Jubilee Garwin Witte “We’re not free until we’re all free.” Diabetic, African Diaspora Studies Student working towards the liberation of all oppressed people. Follower of God, X, queen, aspiring lawyer and practitioner of good works. Peace, love and victory be upon you. <3
Spring 2020 / 125
masthead Editors-in-Chief Jordan Redd Riddhi Setty
Photo Editors Amanda Book Sheer Figman
Creative Director Emma Lovato
Photo Assistant Jen Stoughton
Copy Editors Char Faust Hannah Pell
Art Editors Rachel Burger Kiran Ahluwalia
Design/Copy Assistants Katie Meyerson Ashley Lee
Art Assistant Piper Hamm
Prose Editors Grace Hasson Kathryne McCann Prose Assistant Gracie Donovan Poetry Editors Maggie Mahoney Shannon Sakosits Poetry Assistant Sofia Dean Shelby Rose
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Blog Editors Maggie Schutte Alice Bershtein Event Coordinators Sarah Maraschky Emily Coneybeare Staff James Skeist Emaan Khan Gabrielle Michel Maeve Pond
From the Creative Director: the people i'd like to thank know who they are. whether we spent late evenings & saturday mornings (whose idea was 11 am after Founders?) brainstorming this mag together, or if they listened to me gush about it from 2,000 miles away. love you, always.
American Literary Magazine Mary Gradon Center 248 4400 Massachusettes Ave NW Washington. D.C. 20016
American Literary (AmLit), AU's student-run creative magazine, is published twice a year and is comprised of poetry, short prose, photos, ar...