AmLit Fall 2016

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fall 2016

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| american literary magazine

Mission Statement


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

Within the pages of AmLit, we hope you can feel the love that our community gives and receives. We feel it is imperative to acknowledge the people that give the magazine that feeling. We would like to thank our faculty contributors: Professor Kyle Dargan for his poem “Another Me” and Professor Leena Jayaswal for her untitled photograph. The talent our faculty shares with us consistently inspires so much of our own work. This magazine also could not exist without the careful guidance, inspiration, kindness, and pep talks from our faculty advisor Linda Voris. Our design staff worked tirelessly to create the perfect frame to showcase AU’s student art and literature. For her selfless work we must thank design editor, Claire Osborn, and her assistants Matt Bernabeo, Izzy Capodanno, Caleb Gleit, and George Gu. Thank you to Jonathan Murray for one of the best covers yet. Jim Briggs of Printing Images has also been with us every step of the way. Thank you Jim for answering our frantic emails, putting up with our ever changing deadlines, and giving us a timeless magazine that we are so lucky to call our own. We need to recognize our Best-in-Show judges: Kyle Brannon, Naoko Chun, Jeff Middents, Rachel Snyder, and Linda Voris. You have taken time out of your already busy schedules to evaluate our work. Your unending support is what keeps us going. Thank you for always having open minds and open office hours. We look forward to working with you all again in the future. Last, but absolutely not least, we must thank our wonderful advisor, Chris Young. After trying to navigate the waters without an advisor our first few weeks, we were so grateful when you took the position. Since the day you began at AU, you have been so eager to learn about our publication and our staff, and have consistently offered wisdom and advice when you could tell we needed it the most. Not to mention the fact that your salt lamp has been one of the best additions to the office we could have ever asked for. Chris, thank you for everything. We cannot wait to keep learning with you next semester. Thank you, everyone. We wouldn’t be here without you.

fall 2016


Painting in Process Claire Osborn


| american literary magazine

Dear Readers, We like to think of this magazine as a glimpse into the heart of our campus community. These pages contain our joy, our sorrow, our struggles, our resilience, our bravery, our strength, and our unique perspectives on the world. As Editors-in-Chief, we are humbled and thankful to bear witness to the work of our peers with the 89th Volume of AmLit. Of course, taking over this year has been nothing short of a challenge. For both of us, AmLit has been one of the most important aspects of our lives at AU since freshman year, and it’s nerve-wracking to take responsibility for something that means so much to us. But our wonderful staff, both the new faces and the long-time members, make every second worth it. We couldn’t have asked for a more energetic, imaginative, badass group of people to spend our time with every week. This magazine is dedicated to every single one of you. This semester was defined by the organization’s growth. At least twice as many students applied for assistant positions than in the past. We had so many new faces showing up to review sessions, always taking the conversations in new and interesting ways. Genre editors hosted more workshops and we re-launched the AmBlog. It has filled our little hearts with such joy to see the staff come together and form such close bonds. Because, really, that’s what this is all about. We also want to take a moment to acknowledge the turbulence of this historical moment, which has deeply affected our campus and our staff this year. Over the past few months we have seen racism, sexism, homophobia, and blind nationalism rear their ugly heads across our campus and our country, and we have often seen members of our community protest these negative forces. We see this the most when staffers, time and time again, share and attend art events in the city that seek to celebrate our world’s diversity. Every time this happens, we are honored to be surrounded by such open-minded and resilient individuals. Let’s be real -- times are tough and there’s a lot to be done. We are committed to uplifting and amplifying the voices of our community, and we are humbled by those students who have found solace and strength with AmLit. We look forward to a new semester with even more courageous voices and stories from the AU student body. It is perhaps our greatest mission that you, reader, can see the love that has been put into these pages (and hopefully not the sweat and the tears.) Wherever you are in life, we hope that what you’re holding in your hands will engage you, intrigue you, and resonate with you. xoxo, Sam and Emma

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Poetry Apple Blossom | Tova Seltzer | 7 a conversation with a statue in St. Matthew’s Cathedral | Julia Buyak | 8 What Happened Here | Mikala Rempe | 13 a.c. | Amanda Hodes | 14

Mission Statement| 1 Acknowledgements| 1 Letter from the Editors | 3 Contributor Biographies | 108–109 Masthead | 110 Thank You | 113 Cover | Johnathan Murray

In His Hands | Elle Smiley | 17 Marsha | Mikala Rempe | 21 Joy | Molly McGinnis | 22 First Pet | Emma Bartley | 34 Infestation | Elspeth Reilly | 38 For All I Know | Riley O’Connell | 40 Palace Coup | Thomas Pool | 43 *Don’t | Mallory Kobler | 57 An Evening, December 1983 | Riley O’Connell | 58 Dream of Clams | Elle Smiley | Window Seat | Molly McGinnis | 67 My Forest | Elspeth Reilly | 72 Transcontinental | Pat Hooks | 76 When You Sleepwalk Into My Bed | Hannah Solus | 81 Car Ride | Brendan Bense | 82 Today (Meditation on A Dream) | Riley O’Connell | 84 As If Judas, John, and Matthew Were Fish | Elle Smiley | 86 New Carolina City | Sydney Hamilton | 95 Dentro del palimpsesto | Sonia Rincón | 98 The Wrong Shoes For Hiking | Samantha Dumas | 102 Minnesota Skillet (a Haibun) | Amanda Hodes | 105 Another Me | Kyle Dargan | 106

Prose Beneath The Floorboards Of America - Black Lives Matter | Nickolaus Mauk | 11 Glisten | Mercy Griffith | 19 *On Womanhood | Mikala Rempe | 26 office job | Maya Simkin | 36 Start Up | Czarina Divinagracia |44 The Flight of Icarus | Sydney Harper | 62 The Wyvern’s Revenge | William Goodwin | 68 Stutter-Stutter-Stutter Repeat | Annmarie Mullen |78 Ismael | Olivia Smith Elneggar | 88 Five Odes To The Odyssey | Sydney Harper | 100


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Photography Minor Performance | Ryan Blocher | 9 5 O’Clock Sun| Hannah Solus | 12 Gems| Meghan Nash | 18 Silhouette| Meghan Nash | 20

Film The Last Haiti | Steven Baboun | 16 Something Greater | Zach Ruchkin | 75 It’s Over | Michael Bollinger | 80

Fourth Wall Exercises No 8, 2016| Ryan Blocher | 23 Open Wide | Ian MacMillan | 24 The Hike Up Kilimanjaro | Ian MacMillan | 25 El mejor lugar es así mismo | Isabella McDonnel l | 27 Isolated| Ciera Burch | 28 Forks, Washington | Emily Hall | 31 Lomond’s Spot | Meghan Nash | 32 4 Years From Behind | Hannah Solus | 35 New Places | Andrea Kim | 37 Fading Horizons | Jordan Redd | 56 Poison | Meghan Nash | 59 Untitled | Scott Mullins | 63 My Friend’s Knee | Maya Simkin | 66 Faces When | Meghan Nash | 69 Abandoned Granary | Isabella McDonnell | 77

Art Painting in Process | Claire Osborn | 2 Aok| Luke Palermo | 6 Standoff| Sara Cooper | 10

Untitled | Emma Bartley | 83 Audrey | Arshum Rouhanian | 89 The Arcade | Jared Beck | 90 Royal Perch | Scott Mullins | 92 Hope Cemetery | Emma Bartley | 94 She Lives | Jay Levandofsky | 98

Hope To Wish You Well | Jonathan Murray | 15

Look For Light | Arianna Alter |99

Nuit | Jonathan Murray | 39 “Figure Drawings” In Ceramic | Elizabeth Lily | 41 Rising Sun | Jonathan Murray | 42

The Place I Miss The Most | Arianna Alter | 103 Mess with the Bull | Ian MacMillan | 104

Untitled | Jack Tollman | 45

Holi | Marley Hambourger | 112

Untitled | Leena Jayaswal | 107

Elephant | Sara Cooper | 48 All In This Together | Claire Osborn | 51 Hands | Paige Shoemaker | 61 Ghosts Of Home | Claire Osborn | 65 July | Jonathan Murray | 73 Percy | Sara Cooper | 74 Out of Quarters | Maya Simkin | 85 One for the Books | Jonathan Murray | 87 Mom’s Garden | Maya Simkin | 93 There Is Pastel Dust All Over The Floor | Maya Simkin | 111

*content warning fall 2016


Aok Luke Palermo 8

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Apple Blossom Tova Seltzer She’s a modern woman. Every month she frosts new rubber onto stompy shoes. She is in conversation with her star sign’s ruling planet. Its e-mails are much shorter than hers. She tries on hand-me-down middle fingers in the mirror. Not even the best at being angry, she frets, not even the best at being sad? She drapes her legs over the arms of sofas and says she’s quite weary of boys who only listen to The White Stripes, they call her Apple Blossom and themselves an engineer. She says she might like to be the whole apple tree, the gnarled roots especially. She says she’ll buy two milkshakes and drink them both in the chair where someone kissed her face last summer. She is reclaiming things. She is claiming things, she claims. Sometimes she proclaims. She is on three missions and an odyssey. She says: The new plan is reading. I’ll sit down and read a whole entire book and then I can say I read, and then I can say I’m whole.

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a conversation with a statue in St. Matthew’s Cathedral Julia Buyak a stone hand reached out delicate fingers caressing the dustiness of eternal sin & sweet scent of decaying Easter lilies the only entity that saved my soul was recognition of existing in a metaphoric purgatory where the only way to survive was to find meaning in the mundane a single stone hand. fingers perched. i think she was an angel or a replica of the prostitute sitting on the steps outside cigarette laced between her delicate fingers gray ash spreading under the March sun i wanted to ask if she knew of the doctor near 16th street figured statuary possessed their own language encrypted in the echo of blooming roses & broken mosaics i told her about the night we found him how the yellow leaves brought out the gold in your eyes & the warm December night was god’s reminder that he still had a sense of humor


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Minor Performance Ryan Blocher

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Sara Cooper 12

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Beneath The Floorboards Of America - Black Lives Matter Nickolaus Mauk If you had asked younger me whether I would like to be a White American or a Black American, I would have, without hesitation, chosen to be White. I would have chosen to abstain from my father’s long, well-intentioned lectures on the necessity of being twice as good in a world that would afford me half as much for my efforts. I would have chosen to not be followed around and stared at in stores as if the intercom had announced a Black spill on aisle 9. I would have chosen to not be repeatedly confused by college professors for other black bodies. [Dear Professor ____, just like I’ve told you throughout the semester, my name is Nickolaus.] I would have chosen not to have to prove that I “exist, that I matter, that I have value, and that I have every right to be me.” What I am saying is when you live in a time where “mobs [verbally] lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown [out] your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society” [1], the notion of waiting, of respectability, of complacency, of do-nothing, of blackon-black crime, of #BlueLivesMatter, of #AllLivesMatter becomes an insult. It is a mockery, a 21st century minstrel show.

women and men “who walked so we could run. It is a charge to run so that our children soar.” [3] Your Blackness is a blueprint for the “temples of tomorrow,”[4] and an example of how we will overcome this condition one generation at a time.

It took a long time to, in spite of all of this, come to terms with my Blackness. To come to terms with the fact that we were endowed by our Creator with inalienable Melanin, among the results being Death, Slavery and the surrender of Happiness. To admit that I was afraid because, as we remember our deceased Black sisters and brothers, the day may come when we, too, join them in the ground. But I have.

Originally published in The Eagle.

So as we find ourselves at the forefront of what is one of the most profound domestic social issues that the United States has ever faced, screaming Black Lives Matter from beneath the floorboards of America. Petitioning for the Blessings of Liberty, demanding redress from the Bank of Justice, and standing on the shoulders of Giants, despite our condition, we remain steadfast that no amount of pacing or vacuous counter-rhetoric will drown out the heartbeat of our message. Thump... Thump... Thump... “Dissemble no more... Tear up the planks! Here, here!” [5] #BlackLivesMatter References: [1] MLK Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” [2] Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Between the World and Me,” [3] POTUS Obama Selma Address, [4] Langston Hughes “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” [5] Edgar Allan Poe, “Tell-Tale Heart”

And with that has come the understanding that though they didn’t ask to become martyrs, though they did not ask to become hashtags, talking points, or even “bricks in the road toward the actualization” [2] of racial equality, and though we did not ask to be tasked with the burden of “pushing and pulling until we redeem the soul of America;” there is utmost importance in claiming your Blackness. It is a testament to

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5 O’Clock Sun Hannah Solus


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What Happened Here Mikala Rempe

The green of the pheasant’s tailfeather screams violently from behind the grey chalky thistle. And my father tells me “We don’t hunt for sport what the Lord has given us we honor and respect” I carry my toddler innocence in the oversized neon hunting vest back to the truck. My father has two roosters by the neck in each hand. Their beaks close enough to kiss. He takes each of their skulls once—swiftly—to the back bumper. To be sure it’s over, that their last wing tremors don’t rustle from within the trash bag in the back seat. I try my best not to wet myself. Once home, I show my mother all that I have learned. Aiming an empty squirt gun at the top of our refrigerator. “bam bam” “Woah” she whispers pretending to hide behind an open cupboard door. I run to my father in the garage, skinning the birds. With a few lingering feathers pressed down on his forearms. The headless pheasants are resting in a pool of salt water in the family dutch oven—a wedding gift.

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Amanda Hodes I keep telling you we keep our apartment too cold I keep shaving the chicken flesh off my legs with the hairs

I keep

leaving you sticky notes on the thermostat with red fingerprints

I keep

tracing small scarred flesh on my femur ridge where I saw to the bone.

I keep

wondering why you didn’t believe me when I said it was from shaving as though a woman I keep a blank face can’t feel pain. when the sticky note is gone I hold my breath my tongue on the roof but you tell me I am I keep smooth as a countertop island made of granite this is a compliment and you wipe my surface with hands that bring out the goosebumps I keep and nails that scratch clean like razors I sterilize myself as blood does to a wound your hands are just as cold as before I keep as my blood is warm it heals telling myself.


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Hope To Wish You Well Jonathan Murray

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In His Hands Elle Smiley The children went to marvel at the butterfly garden. One butterfly, its wings held firmly in the pincers of the little boy buzzes and flaps desperately like a fly. As the kid runs forward, gasping at his leader: “Look!” As it grips the creature in its sweaty fingers which absorb the wing-powder, blending away the creature’s protective eyes, “It’s so pretty, I caught a butterfly!” He exclaims, ripping the wing out of its socket dropping the now-carcass to the ground, bearing the smeared wing aloft.

The Last Haiti Steven Baboun

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Gems Meghan Nash


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Mercy Griffith At first, I felt like I was living my life disconnected from the rest of the world. There were others like me, shuffling about our sealed packets, unaware of our potential. Sometimes I would feel quick glistens of hope grounded in the possibility that there could be something more. I wanted to ask my companions if they ever felt the same way, but we never spoke. The others and I, we were used to getting jumbled around, but one day we experienced something much different: a ripping sound, breaking the seal of our home. Chaos. Invasion. A bright power snatched our eyesight and heat locked our bodies. Some rushed to the back crevices, clutching the paper walls; others, despite their fear, inched toward the light. And I, well, it seemed as if my glistens had finally evolved into a gleam of their own. And I was ready. We were poured out of our home by an unseen force and all I could think about was the way this place smelled. A swaying collage of ebony roots and clouds’ sweet sighs, berries growing beside chuckling streams. I wanted to tell my colleagues to stop squinting in the sunlight, but we never spoke. The force that poured us placed us one-by-one in a dark abyss. I wanted to shout goodbye to my friends, but we never spoke. My new home smelled of life that just ended and life waiting to begin. It was not unpleasant, but the darkness stood guard with weapons of silence. There were times I missed my friends, but I was not alone. Long sectioned creatures oozed nearby, but never disturbed me. There were others, but they moved too quickly for me to see. Each day I yearned for the scent of the sun and the warmth of its light. In the following months, darkness squeezed tighter, joining forces with the cold. The creatures moved slower, if they even moved at all. Once again, I felt disconnected from the world, and hope reverted back to glimpses. I tried to find my friends, but I could not move and I could not speak. As the days passed, fear settled in my heart, giving way to sadness,

to anger. I do not remember how long the cold lasted, but I do remember the day the warmth returned, bringing with it a trickle of liquid. The water did not rush over me, but slowly seeped into my being, siphoning away my fear, my sadness, my anger. I wanted to tell my friends, sure that, wherever they were, they could hear me if I shouted. And even though we never spoke, I felt my voice carry through the confines of dirt and darkness. I waited, but I did not hear an answer. Each day I grew stronger—taller, closer to the gleams of life. Stretching my body, I reached for water, taunted by the warmth that kissed the soil. I felt the light again, but I knew I wasn’t complete. Until, finally, I opened my eyes. Vibrancy exploded before me. Unable to control myself, my gaze flicked between ancient bark and twisting vines, between interwoven branches and miniature sand piles, between scampering creatures and the glassy sky. Even the mourning doves welcomed me with joy. Beneath the sprawling trunks, I felt small. My stem was young, my flower barely open. Shaking with fear, I removed my gaze from the trees. Beside me flourished a flower the color of almond milk with specks of egg yolk. To my left, swayed petals of pomegranate and creamsicle orange. And my own petals shone a light periwinkle, like twilight hugging the moon. I realized all those around me were my friends, each rooted with their faces opened to the sun. No one was squinting. Everyone was grinning. But still, we never spoke. Then, with the warmth on my nose, I, for the second time in my life, raised my voice. For a moment there was silence. Shock. But my friends soon discovered their own tongues. No language was the same, but it did not matter. Now, we never stop speaking.

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Silhouette Meghan Nash 22

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Marsha Mikala Rempe We won’t lie, taking care of you like this has come at an inconvenient time. The dog-walkers in the neighborhood gawk at us sitting on our porch talking about learning French until someone whispers, they always do “How has Marsha been?” I’ve seen Amie in the mornings in the pink velvet wingback chair— perched trying to shake the sorrow out of her long hair. She carries it to sleep with her every night, hangs your heaviness on the post of her bed. I stand at the coffee table and serve you leftover sushi and omelettes and hope that something fills the hole inside you. This is the only way I know how to take care of those I love. There is ashen sage on top of Ellie’s cabinet. I count the empty wine bottles when I take out the garbage recite the labels aloud like a litany. We are all performing the exorcisms the best we can.

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Molly McGinnis It arrives on a spectrum the size of a DJ’s speakers colors tilting off our scale of vision and splashing up against a brilliant elsewhere. Don’t try to figure it out. Step in too close and I want to run away and be lonely forever. Who knows how it came to be like this. Did you see the meteor showers over the foothills this morning? The dove asleep in the restaurant’s darkened window? Sometimes the night is so warm it leaves thermal imprints across my body, glowing like strokes of bright plankton. I spread my arms and light drifts out across my whole backyard. I have only ever been held down by light. That’s only half true. I have my sister, a black cat with green eyes, new friends with magical powers. Doctors, teachers, a Russian cosmonaut who hangs from my ceiling, talking about the life force of the moon. Who could argue? No part of my immediate past seems so alive this evening now that I am standing here on the corner by the cafe and the drugstore as black sedans roll down the boulevard as shiny insects drop one by one from an oak so full of tiger colored sun beams it must be remembering dawn.


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Fourth Wall Exercises No 8, 2016 Ryan Blocher

best in show photography

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Open Wide Ian MacMillan


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The Hike Up Kilimanjaro Ian MacMillan

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On Womanhood Mikala Rempe

Meet Jane Doe. Her story might be hard to hear.

In my strongest memory I am eight years old in our Elm street home. I lead myself down the small hallway between my bedroom and and our kitchen. I am mesmerized by the endless spheres of light. The openings in slats of the worn wooden barn roof leave fragmented rectangles all over the kitchen table. I climb onto the table swimming in cold light and wonder about what it means to be a woman. After a while I bring myself to my mother’s pantry. I try on all her aprons. I don’t look at myself in the mirror— only watching my fingers swim through the air and illuminated dust to tie the strings. In the quiet, I dance or slowly sway in the room by myself; it’s hard to remember. When I think about it, the whole scene is washed in yellow and white light. This is the first time I can remember wanting to be pure for a man.

I was five years old when I was aware of my gender for the first time. It was late August in Iowa and unfathomably humid. You could not walk out onto your front porch without sweating through your clothes. It was what we would call a “two-shower-day.” The fire department had came to our cul-de-sac for a hydrant party. Water rumbled down the dark pavement and cherry popsicle had stained a ruby frown down my chin. I stood where the water pooled near the gutter of the curb and flexed my toes up and down with the waves. I held my ankle up waist-high and loved how the bottom of my foot looked from standing barefoot on the wet rough concrete: flushed pink with small craters dug out from pebbles. I never noticed before how my body could change so fluidly. The neighborhood boys all sprinted through the water in the street. They had fresh freckles on their shoulders, hair buzzed for the summer, and were all named Connor, Kyle, Dylan or something similar. They shook their heads back and forth under the sprinkler, cupped the water with their small palms and used it to cool their arms and naked chest. I wanted to


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feel free like that. I peeled off my strawberry printed royal blue tank top and perched on my tip-toes to hang it from the flag of my mailbox. I waddled towards the water in just my jean shorts and all my baby fat, laughing the way all children seem to laugh in late summer. After one pass in the water I noticed my mother running towards me. She pulled me out by my belt loop and told me to go inside and get dressed. “This is not the way that ladies behave. Do you want all the boys looking at you like that?” she whispered into my ears pointing her fingers and all the young boys still playing in the water. I had just finished kindergarten, but I was a lady.

In sixth grade I had decided I wanted to be an altar girl for my Catholic parish. The position required reverence, mindfulness, and grace. My father recounted stories about being an altar boy, and how he did it to make his father proud of the man his son was becoming. I sent in my application and hoped to be doing the same. I remember the phrase “woman of God” being thrown around often when I was growing up. I wanted to be thought of as a “woman of God.” My sixth grade teacher Miss Fenton informed me that the Archdiocese of Des Moines did not allow women on the altar; it wasn’t God’s way. They are called altar boys for a reason, young lady. This was the same year that she sent me to the principal’s office three times for reading what was referred to as inappropriate literature. In the most memorable of these instances, my mother sat next to me in the Mary Our Queen school hallway waiting for the principal. I was sobbing so intensely that I had worked up a sweat. My blunt bangs stuck to my forehead and I sat shaking with Catcher in the Rye in my lap and my mother’s hand on my shoulder. “I want to be good, Mom.” “You are, pumpkin.”

El mejor lugar es asĂ­ mismo Isabella McDonnell fall 2016



Ciera Burch 30

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The girls in my grade never got sent to the principal’s office. They always followed all the rules. They never talked during school assemblies or rough-housed during fire drills. We were taught to be quiet and small. I began to equate my gender with obedience.

“Fuckin’ cherry blossoms” I whispered under my breath after sneezing three times in a row. “What can I help you with, miss?” A heavy-set man with a long beard, cut-off t-shirt, and dozens of tattoos asked. “I’m here to get my nipples pierced.”

The first time I slow-danced with a boy was after my 8th grade graduation. His name was Todd Leutzinger and our fathers were friends. When dancing, he had awkwardly mirrored me, placing his hands on my shoulders instead of my waist the same way I did to him. I’m sure to the chaperones there we looked like a slowly waltzing collection of right angles. He kissed me on the cheek in the parking lot. Part of me thought we could get married one day.

“You?” He questioned looking at me like I was joking, or I was the joke, I’m still not too sure.

When I was sixteen I was attacked and gang-raped by two men. One of them is in jail, for charges unrelated. The other is still free. As far as I know he could still be in the neighborhood across the way from my parents.

It didn’t hurt.

I missed school for a week, and when I came back there were bruises and cuts that still needed to be explained for. My family decided it was best to tell everyone I had been in a car accident. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to pure Catholic girls in Iowa.

I remember the season that I started wanting my body to be my own again. It was the spring and I was twenty-years-old. Grace and I were strolling down 18th street in D.C., talking shit as usual. We blew smoke at the tourists in town for the Cherry Blossom festival. “....Whatever, his new girlfriend looks boring, like they probably only do it in missionary anyways.” A mother scowled and pulled her young girl closer to her and away from us. The look the mother shot us made me feel as if my own mother would be ashamed to look at me from the 1,200 miles between us. “Christ, Grace, families are out.” I said as we arrived at our destination. I pressed my hands onto the cool glass of display case. I remember sniffling while picking out what I wanted, fighting off the cold that everyone seems to get when the seasons change.

“We don’t have any female piercers in right now. If you want it done tonight a man will have to do it.” If only he knew that I had lost the ability to care if men saw me naked. I stared up at the ceiling and could only wonder what my mother would think about me if she ever found out. How ashamed she would be not only with the piercings, but that a man whose name I’ll never know touched my breasts.

When it was over I looked at myself topless in the mirror with two small silver bars running across my breasts. I looked down at myself like I had never seen my own body before. I felt silly and sappy talking to myself in the mirror, almost crying, whispering “I am my own again.”

This fall my sister left a voicemail on my phone. “Mik, can you call me back ASAP it’s Bri. It’s like kinda an emergency. I need to know how to use a tampon and don’t wanna ask mom.” I still feel like I have failed her as a big sister today. I walk her through how to take care of her own body, but she still thinks I was in a car accident. I know what happened to me is not my fault, but I am still too ashamed for her to know that I am the kind of woman this happens to. I don’t pray very often any more— except for her. The older I get more of my female friends tell me that they know about my pain. They tell me that they’ve felt it as well. There is something darkly sobering about looking into the eyes of a woman who has been raped too. I see it more each year. I lay awake and pray that Brianna’s day never comes. I walked to work down one of the main streets of Ames. Once a man rolled down the tinted window of his van and yelled

fall 2016


“Hey nice legs, baby! Wanna bring ‘em my way?” I don’t even remember how I responded. There was probably cursing, middle fingers, and threats that I would call the phone number of the plumbing company that was printed on the side of the car. Whatever I did it prompted him to yell back “I’d fucking rape you.” I made eye contact and watched the power in his eyes melt as I yelled back “Somebody already beat you to it.” I spent all day thinking about how my rapist knows my first and last name. I wonder if he searches me on Facebook. I am reluctant to post anything about men that I am dating. There are too many geographical clues in my photos. I am so easy to find. I run away from home. 1,200 miles away from home. I feel the grip of the two men’s hands loosen around my neck a little more with each state line that I fly over.

“This tea needs more ice.” My mother changes the subject. I know she’s going inside to cry. Womanhood grows two ways. One, like a flower: taller, and brighter, more evident and beautiful. Two, like a tree’s roots: deeper, and grittier, more hidden and stronger. I worry my mother does not understand this. I worry my sister won’t either. I’m even more worried that she’ll have to learn this lesson the way I did: the hard way.

People say that the worst feeling a parent could ever endure is having to bury your own child. This isn’t true. On bad nights, I often wonder if my father resents me for my asking him to hold my hand during my rape kit. In TV shows, the scene is two to three minutes. My reality was four hours: legs spread and stitches and tears and prodding and silence and pain. I made myself the quietest frog to dissect. The medic pulled a jagged shard of glass from the curvature of my right eye. I winced and she held it up to the light reflecting it back and forth. “My God” she whispered like a prayer.

“Were you happy here, honey?”

It reminds me of family vacation. My father and I would pick up sea glass and seashells tossing them into his old baseball cap to save to show my mother. The medic dropped the glass and tweezers into a bag labeled evidence that would never be used. The medic seals the zipper and my father vomits all over his own shoes. When we finally returned home my father lifted me from the back seat of our car and carried me to my bed.

“Do you mean here in this home, or here in in Iowa?”

After this night I didn’t speak for four days.

My mother and I drink sun-tea on our back porch. It’s the last summer I’ll ever spend in the midwest. I have boxes taped upstairs, and there is a boarding pass sitting on the printer waiting to be picked up.

“In Iowa.” “Yes and no. People are nice here, but middle America is a terrible place to be a woman.” “Are you basing that all on what happened to you?” “That’s fucked up mom. Don’t make it about that.” “Well some of it has to be about that. I mean I’m very proud to be a woman that was born and raised...” “First of all let’s stop calling it that. It’s not some unnameable tragedy; it happened,” I interrupt.


| american literary magazine

I spent last weekend with the only man that’s ever made me feel safe. We rented a cabin in Virginia Beach, and talked about things like how tall our Christmas trees were when we were kids and what we’d like to name our dogs together one day. Saturday night we walked out on the beach around midnight. There were no footprints and no lights for miles. I should have been afraid, but wasn’t. He rolled a spliff while I tried to count the stars. “I wish it was warm enough to get in the water.”

Forks, Washington Emily Hall

fall 2016


Lomond’s Spot Meghan Nash 34

| american literary magazine

I have known this man for years, but we’ve only begun dating seriously. Since we have been together I have this recurring dream. In it we are in a doctor’s office together. When I look down at my stomach it’s ballooning out from my sweater. “Would you like to see?” The doctor asks turning the monitor towards us. I see a baby boy’s face and know he’s ours. In the dream, I should be afraid, but am not. When I think about it the whole scene is washed yellow and I feel so pure and reborn, something akin to a baptism with less commitment. Back at the beach he and I are standing together in the water passing a joint between us, careful not to let the waves creep up and splash its flame out. I’m quiet. “Whatcha thinking about, babe?” he takes a drag and asks while passing it to me. “I’m trying to remember last night’s dream.” I inhale deeply.

fall 2016


First Pet Emma Bartley When I was eight I brought home a hermit crab from Chincoteague Island. He was a cluster of six red crustacean limbs and two beady black eyes poking out from a painted cobalt shell. One day I took him to the backyard, watched him climb over exotic blades of grass. What was it that made me look away? Hermit crabs constantly grow to need bigger shells— he surely crawled out to nothing but pavement and shrubbery, his soft body carried away by a robin, maybe, or someone’s dog. But that bright blue shell must still be somewhere in the neighborhood. A strange, alien monument that leaves all the backyard bugs whispering guesses.

4 Years From Behind Hannah Solus

fall 2016


office job Maya Simkin

i press down buttons on a bulky telephone that will connect me with someone in omaha who probably doesn’t want to subscribe to their local playhouse

i remember someone told me that the guy who plays roger on that show is also the rapper MIMS and i have an urge to look it up

my co-worker, deloris, ignores the phone wedged between my shoulder and my ear and tells me that one night she had two peanut butter sandwiches- no jelly or anything

before i can reach for my cell phone the line clicks out and the dial tone comes back on

i think she expects me to find this very fascinating and i do because my job is mostly listening to dial tones and sometimes getting asked to remove this number from our list everytime riley eats peanut butter they think of a sister sister episode where tia or tamera (not sure which) has a nightmare so the mom makes a peanut butter sandwich to comfort her and she’s like “wow mom how did you know this would make me feel better” and the mom says “oh well i just thought it would keep your mouth shut” i think about a mouth with so much peanut butter in it that it can’t stretch fully open to call for help or a glass of milk when the ringing stops and i hear a frail voice “hello?”
 my glazed over eyes light up - it’s game time “helloOo??” my mouth is stuck i can’t believe deloris had it in her to eat two sandwiches in one sitting they must have been open-faced “hello?? who is this??” shit, they’re getting frustrated but i can’t get the image of either tia or tamera working out their jaw for several minutes just to get through two slices of wheat and some spread “hellOO! is anyone there???”


| american literary magazine

god dammit deloris you just lost me a sale
 i dial the next number and hope she keeps her dining stories to herself this time

New Places Andrea Kim

fall 2016



Elspeth Reilly

If you fill your mouth with water you can swallow them quickly until your stomach is full of moth eggs they’ll hatch, fly out of your dry mouth, and eat holes into everything you own you must burn what remains the moths leave when everything is hollowed you shut your windows tight It will become easier to ignore the small taps against glass and to convince yourself that they’ve found the sun Your dentist will tell you your tongue is stressed asking if you’re sleeping too much or too little You say you’ve been sleeping the right amount (Your body is telling secrets That you didn’t know you had) That night you chew mothballs But eggs are laid in your pores And in the morning You are full of holes


| american literary magazine


Jonathan Murray fall 2016


For All I Know Riley O’Connell I lost it after the move, after the death, the inscription from my father meant for the four-year-old Me, the one who lived at the dawn of a millennia with no expectations but story-time and back scratches. It fell between the cracks in basement flooring and was mauled by moth balls, rats, creatures beneath the floorboards that bore up the house that held a history. The pages held Granny and her words. After every comma was a hush, each sentence a hum. Syllables sung with grace, her brogue danced across the bedroom and painted me a picture. For all I know the pages have been incinerated. Remnants of ash and whispers of magic— yes, magic— hang in the heft of air that the new family swallows.


| american literary magazine

" Figure Drawings" In Ceramic Elizabeth Lily fall 2016


best in show art


| american literary magazine

Rising Sun

Jonathan Murray

Palace Coup Thomas Pool Twelve minutes later, and the palace coup is already oblivion like paint spilled on the highway while red and blue police lights dance on the fresh lacquer. His Excellency, The President, with blazing gold medals on a crisp purple sash, doesn’t see the blood on his shoes. We could’ve joined the weather underground if we were forty years wiser and choked on thoughts of Thermidor.

fall 2016


Start Up Czarina Divinagracia Thursday September 24, Mid-Afternoon

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Acosta,” he amended.

Andre hadn’t been able to sleep in their bed because it smelled like Hannah. Like apples and soap. The covers would engulf him and then Hannah’s smell would start seeping into his pores, which probably leaked into his bloodstream and into his brain.

“You shouldn’t have your door unlocked.” The older woman shuffled inside the room and squatted next to him. He wished she hadn’t. She smelled like oatmeal and baby powder and vapor rub. “Intruders could come in at any time, y’know. That’s incredibly unsafe.”

And the couch was no good either. Hannah picked out the color scheme of the living room and the periwinkle cushions matched the periwinkle rug, which matched the periwinkle drapes, which made him want to vomit. So Andre bought a sleeping bag a couple days ago, and he had been sleeping in it, and it sucked. He never knew how many lumpy crevices made up his back, but since surrendering to the floor, it was like every miniscule detail was now a blaring irritation—the unevenness of their flooring, the dust particles that coated the underside of his sleeping bag, the color periwinkle, that weird noise that sounded like an actual person other than him was home. Slow, off-beat thumps made their way through the corridor. With soft thuds, they strolled past his room and faded into the hallway. Andre sat up in his sleeping bag and opened the bedroom door slightly. The light from the rest of the apartment socked him in the face, and he felt the beginnings of a migraine approaching. “Who—” he swallowed down the dry, crusty taste in his mouth, coughed a few times, and then tried again. “Who’s there?” A pair of thick ankles traipsed in brown bulky crocs stopped in front of the crack to the bedroom door. “Andre? It’s Mrs. Acosta from next door,” she said in a low voice. “Your front door was open, and our mail got mixed up again, and I thought you might be home, and—why are you on the floor?”

“Intruders like you?” “Oh, but you know me.” Irene Acosta was a shrunken woman with a limp on her left side and stood at 4’9.’’ At 70-something, she was retired and spent her free time flirting with men in the neighborhood by comparing them to her late husband. Andre might have been her favorite, but only because he was the closest in proximity. He only tolerated her because she owned the duplex and could probably kick them out. “You said something about the mail?” “Oh yes,” she chirped. “I have mail for you. Bill—you know Bill right? He’s the Thursday mailman—Bill keeps shoving wrong mail in my box. I think he’s trying to get my attention. You think he’s trying to get my attention, Andre?” “I wouldn’t know.” “Well it’s senseless. I can’t ever be attracted to a negligent man. My husband Thomas was so detailed,” she sniffed, peeking at him from the side of her eye. “Kind of like you.”

Eyes closed, Andre buried himself further into his sleeping bag. He could imagine her cocking her head around like a rooster, blinking down at him from behind huge bifocals.

Andre wrapped his arms around his body silently. Mrs. Acosta hummed, and he heard more syncopated steps move around the room. “Please don’t go through our drawers,” he groaned.

“Good morning, Mrs. Acosta.”

“Why? Is there something dirty? I know what kids do.”

“It’s 3 PM.”

Sitting up, his lower back cracked. He struggled to get up


| american literary magazine


(Portrait of Eugene Ionesco) Jack Tollman

from the floor until finally pushing himself up to his feet. “Okay, you’re done Mrs. Acosta,” he breathed, plucking a picture frame from her hands. “Please leave now. Have a nice day.” While he tried pushing her out of the room, Mrs. Acosta dragged her heels against the floor and grasped at the door frame. “Where’s Hannah?” “Gone.” He felt the sandwich he had last night trek up his throat. “Why?”

“I don’t know,” he grunted. “Are you fighting?” “It’s complicated.” The elderly woman skidded her orthopedic shoes to a stop, nearly making him fall over her. “How long have you been fighting? Is it bad? Are you divorcing? Have I come at a bad time?” Dragging a hand over his face, he nodded. “Why would—”

fall 2016


“You know I’ve gone through two divorces before Thomas, and Andre—” “Mrs. Acosta—” “Don’t do it,” she tutted, reaching to cup his face. The wrinkles around her mouth and eyes were sagging more so than usual. He took a step back. “You two are so young.” “Well, it’ll only be our first one, right?” he sneered. “An early milestone.” Shoulders hunched, the tiny woman kept opening and closing her mouth, like she couldn’t decide which words wanted to push out her huge face hole first. Grabbing her by the shoulder again, Andre led his landlady into the foyer and turned her towards the exit. “Mrs. Acosta, you are in my home, and I would like you to leave.” Opening the door, he nudged her outside, and threw it closed, nearly knocking it out of its hinges and making the apartment quake around him. Friday September 25, Noon Back flat against the wall, she could feel every breath filling her lungs, the air curving her spine. In her lap was a ceramic pot, holding a sad, flaccid pincushion. Their cactus was dead; the remains of its pulpy cactus body hung over the side of the pot like the worst type of drunk friend. It lived for three months, and it was really only in their bathroom for aesthetic reasons. Andre told her a bathroom plant would be useless, but she insisted it brightened the room. Too bad she was less nurturing than the fucking desert. Hannah held the pot in between her knees. “I am sorry for failing you.” She poked at the soggy plant wistfully. “Godspeed, cactus.” She came home hours ago at seven in the morning, honestly a little drunk and sad and lonely and a ton of other things probably, but Dave insisted she go home. Something about eating all his food and learning how to be responsible and him “just being a good best friend.” She didn’t leave home with much either. Usually she would


| american literary magazine

put in the smallest amount of consideration for her measly shoulders and pile as much shit as possible into a purse. But Hannah only had her phone in her pocket, which had also been of little use to her. It was on silent most of the time because she knew Andre had been calling nonstop. And then her sister Jenn, who was in cahoots with Andre, started calling her nonstop. And then she just turned it off entirely because it was making her anxious. Hannah pulled out her phone from her jeans for the first time since coming home, her finger hovering over the power button before pressing down gently, watching the screen come to life. 52 Missed Calls. She frowned. Nobody ever called her when she wasn’t M.I.A. The last missed call was only from Dave. Hannah considered calling him back. He just saw her though, but her thumb was already pressed against the call button. He answered after the first ring. “Did you get home?” She frowned, running her tongue over her teeth. “Yeah, I’m home.” Before the two of them separated for college, Dave used to do the same thing in high school. He would call her and check if she was okay and do other things that were much too caring, like give her rides and make her hot chocolate. “But I had to climb through the bathroom window because the front door was jammed again.” “But you’re home, right?” Hannah fingered the fresh hole in her right pant leg that had ripped from climbing through the small square window. “Yeah.” “Facetime me.” She scoffed, “No.” “I want visual confirmation that you’re at home.” She imagined Dave pacing around his fancy, newly renovated kitchen. Imagined him holding the mug his mom gave him for his birthday and nervously sipping decaf coffee. It made the corner of her lips twitch. “You’re full of shit. I swear I’m

at home.”

Someone yelled.

“Did you wake up Andre when you were coming in?”

“Hannah? You there?” Dave called out from the other end of the line.

Hannah crossed her legs so that the potted plant carcass sat neatly over her ankles. “No, I told you, I climbed through the bathroom. How the fuck should I know?” Pause. “Well where is he?”

“Wait, wait shh,” she hissed. “I have to go.” Then, pounding on the end-call button, she climbed into the bathtub, leaving the cactus on the floor. The doorknob on the other side jittered, the sound rippling.

“I don’t know. I haven’t left the bathroom.” “Okay.” Another pause. Another sip. “You’re going to make up right?”

Friday September 25, Late Afternoon

Hannah cradled the phone in between her cheek and shoulder, shifting in her seat. Making up sounded really easy once. Andre had never stayed mad at her for longer than a day or two, but she’d been gone for a week. There were a lot of things unsaid in seven days.

1) Leave the house

Andre eyed the note skeptically. 2) Buy bread 3) Fix the bathroom door knob 4)

“...the remains of its pulpy cactus body hung over the side of the

pot like the worst type of drunk friend. “

When she punched through the screen of the bathroom window and force-shoved her hips through the frame, she hadn’t thought about what she would say to Andre. This past week, she only spent time lazing around Dave’s house watching Chopped on his Netflix account, and neither Dave nor Ted Allen gave her any advice on how to fix her personal life. When Hannah came home, the silence bothered her. The air was stale, like the space in their house hadn’t passed through human lungs yet. She wanted more time. She didn’t know what to say. When Hannah stepped into the bathroom, her boots muddied the floor tiles and seeing the dirt smear on the white floor made her want to cry. Her organs pushed up against her chest and up into her throat and her eyes got hot and she needed to sit down. So she locked the door, sat on the toilet for maybe 20 minutes mumbling to herself before migrating to the floor on top of their overpriced hand-woven bathroom mat.

When he and Hannah were both still in college, he used to write lists on sticky notes all the time. Andre would carry a pack at all times and liked tacking them to the wall above his bed’s headboard because it calmed him down. Hannah would usually come over and pretend to make sense of them, tracing her fingers over his scratchy handwriting and muttering numbered items to herself.

Outside, there was a bang and stomping. A door slammed.

She didn’t know he could hear her spit curses under her

Andre met Hannah freshman year of college at orientation. They sat next to each other in a circle on the quad playing icebreaker games, and she complained the whole time. “Do we have to sit on the grass?” “We just learned everyone’s names. Why are we doing this again?” “Nobody gives a shit about your SAT score.”

fall 2016


breath the entire time. The two of them ended up having biology class together that first semester. Andre asked her to be lab partners, and they bonded over liking the same rappers and disliking most vegetables except carrots. When they started dating, he liked listening to Hannah talk. She was quick on her feet and had something to say about anything and everything. There were moments when he would just stare at her while she talked about something that happened. He would nod at appropriate times, but he would be focusing on her face, tracing his eyes over the contours of her bones. She used to ask him questions about the future—after graduation, in the next five years, in the next ten. And then one day he started to notice her decisions were all made around his. “Can I help you, sir?” Andre blinked, his eyes focusing on a teenaged girl in an apron in front of him. “Uh. No. I’m just…” he racked his brain, uncrumpling the small paper in his palm. “Bread. I’m only here for bread.” She smiled politely at him, colored braces peeking from the upper row of her teeth. “Would you like me to show you where the bread aisle is?” “No,” he said too quickly, clearing his throat. “I mean. I know where it is.” “It’s aisle 12.” “I know where it is.” Andre tilted his head up. He was in aisle nine. “I shop here a lot. I know where it is.” For some reason she didn’t look convinced. There was a pregnant pause, both of them just staring at each other. “Thank you,” he said finally. Andre bobbed his head, turning away from her, and breathed out. A few feet in, he realized he was wandering into aisle seven, and he had to turn back around. Wednesday September 23, Late Evening The other night at his apartment, Dave and Hannah were on opposite ends of the couch, both of them with individual


| american literary magazine


Sara Cooper

fleece blankets wrapped up to their necks and a dim glow from the flat screen over their faces. “What a dumbass. Can’t even debone a chicken properly.” He looked up at her for a moment, eyebrows up. “Han, you can’t debone a chicken either.” “Yeah, but I didn’t go through eight years of culinary school to embarrass myself on TV” she spat. Hannah leaned forward, her eyes pinpointed at the television. “Look at this asshole.” Dave was surprised to hear from Hannah Kim after fourish years of complete silence. Granted, it wasn’t like he had tried reaching out to her either. She wanted something different after high school and flew out to the East coast after graduating. He had stayed in California for pre-med, and suddenly the entire country was in between them. Maybe they just weren’t as close as he thought they were. But around ten months ago, Dave was graduating from undergrad and moving out to Seattle for med school at the University of Washington. After posting an obligatory Facebook status about it, a Hannah Kim-Gonzales sent him a message. Apparently, she was moving to Seattle too. With her husband. For her husband’s job. So she would be there. In Seattle. With her husband.

He supposed he hadn’t changed much either. “Are you going out with Tya tonight?” Dave leaned back in his seat. “No, she’s having a girl’s night tonight.” From the other end of the couch, he caught Hannah nodding her head, still fixated on Netflix. “Maybe you should join her. She’s asked before if you’d be interested.” Hannah shrugged. “Another time.” For a minute, they could only hear the sound of theatrical background music set behind sizzling. “Why haven’t you two moved in together yet?” Dave jerked his head, twisting his neck too fast and making him choke on his own spit. “Uh. We’ve only been dating for five months.” “But you two are getting serious,” Hannah said evenly, now looking at him. “Did you and Andre move in together after less than a year?” he asked. Hannah’s face visibly fell. The muscles around her eyes and mouth smoothed over like an ironed sheet. He looked away but kept going.

He guessed he hadn’t been online for that Facebook update.

“Why wasn’t I invited to the wedding?”

“I hope Kathy wins,” Hannah was saying to herself.

“It was a small wedding,” she spoke softly.

She looked the same to him. Her black hair was cropped to her chin and she had less acne, but she was the same friend he worried about in high school. She still ate everything put in front of her and complained about the littlest things and cursed too much and made the same dumb jokes. She still ran away from her problems, too.

“So I wasn’t invited?” By now, he was only looking at colors on the screen, and Dave couldn’t tell you what was going on in the competition.

“Elliot is going to win,” Dave quipped. “His dish is more complicated.” “Fuck if I care. Kathy looks fresh to death searing her ahi tuna, and Elliot disgusts me.” “Okay, Han.” She sunk lower into the couch, silently nesting herself deeper into the blankets. It wasn’t hard being friends with her again.

“We hadn’t talked in years.” “But we’re best friends.” She sighed loudly. “You didn’t miss out. I didn’t even have an entourage.” Dave thought he would get married before Hannah ever considered it. She never dated anyone in high school, and he couldn’t even remember her having an interest in boys. Or girls, frankly. He used to come over to her house and listen to her complain about her mother, who was old and traditional and had no filter and probably also hated him back then too.

fall 2016


Mrs. Kim was pretty vocal about wanting Hannah to marry another Korean guy so they could have Korean babies and do other Korean couple things. Whatever those were. He wished he hadn’t acted so blatantly shocked when he met her Mexican husband.

Friday September 25, Dusk

When they met up for lunch that first time months ago, Dave had looked Andre up and down. At his brown hands holding Hannah’s and his full-grown beard. He was a head taller than his wife and maybe a couple inches over him. Dave probably looked like a racist asshole gaping at them with his recessive genes and white male privilege. But he couldn’t help it. It was the first time Dave had seen Hannah with a guy ever, and he happened to be the one she got married to.

“Mrs. Acosta, I really can’t talk right now,” Andre sighed coming out of his car.

Neither of them had said anything in a while, and the episode was over. On screen, in unfriendly sans-serif font read, Are you still watching “Chopped”?

Andre grunted in response, entertaining her.

“Sometimes it’s still weird to me,” Dave blurted, words breaking the silent air. “What is?” “That you’re married.” He shifted, still not looking at her. “I missed out on a lot.” “I missed the exact same amount as you,” Hannah said. Dave noticed the depth of his breathing. His shoulders were rising up to his burning ears in a slow rhythm, but he kept going. “I can’t even imagine being married for another ten years.” Hannah chuckled coldly, the sound of it falling flat. “Yeah… well, I got it out of the way.” There was a beat, and she laughed softly to herself again. “I remember my mom used to joke that I wouldn’t get married until I was 40.” He hummed, agreeing. He also remembered Hannah not wanting to speak to her mom for a week after that. He shifted again, his back against the couch’s armrest; he had a clear view of Hannah’s pale face poking out of her blanket cocoon, the dark circles under her eyes stark against her white. She wasn’t looking at anything, just had her eyes downcast and mouth crooked in a bitter grin as she said, “Joke’s on her, right?”


| american literary magazine

“Andre, I am so glad to see you home.” Irene Acosta smiled at the younger man, rocking on her heels from her place perched at his doorstep. “Is Hannah back yet?”

She stepped aside politely when he charged at the door with his house keys. “I have more mixed up mail,” she chimed. “I would have fired Bill years ago. Incompetence is not attractive in a man.”

Irene enjoyed the company of young people. The last residents that lived in the other half of the duplex were another young couple in their early 30s with a baby. Of course, they had to move out to find a bigger space. Irene never had any children, but she knew those things grew rapidly and a one bedroom duplex was definitely not the best fit for a family with a child. A dog, maybe. But a child needs space to roll around and do all those things children do. When Irene met Andre and Hannah, she actually thought they were children themselves. They looked like teenagers, but then Andre grew out his beard and looked more appropriate for her to talk to. The two of them were a little odd. Hannah was a cold one, but she was always pleasant towards the older woman. Andre was also rarely home throughout the months they had stayed in the duplex. He was working for a startup tech company, and he always seemed to be on his way to some place. She didn’t know if Hannah worked though. She probably worked, now that Irene thought about it. Young people usually liked keeping themselves busy. But she almost never saw Hannah out. Irene didn’t even notice she was gone until Wednesday. “You know you should keep a better eye on that wife of yours. How long has she been gone now?” Irene told Andre matter-of-factly. “Mrs. Acosta, please.” Andre stopped jiggling his keys into the door. It had been broken for about a year and the last

All In This Together

Claire Osborn fall 2016


couple had complained about it, but Irene hadn’t gotten around to calling the locksmith yet. It was probably why Andre left it unlocked so often. “It’s not healthy for a woman to be away from her husband for so long, Andre dear.” Beside her, Andre had his eyes closed, forehead resting on the front door. “Is it an issue with intimacy? Y’know, I can offer some good tips—” “Mrs. Acosta.” Irene blinked, taking a step back. “Mrs. Acosta, please,” Andre sighed. “I can’t talk right now.”

He was sitting in the dining room nibbling on bread, looking at a scattering of sticky notes. Call: 1) Jenn 2) Hannah’s mom 3) Hannah’s dad

Getting up, Andre dragged his feet towards the bathroom, holding his stomach. When he reached for the knob, the door clicked teasingly and stayed closed. Andre cursed. “Why are all the doors in this place broken?!” He forgot the bathroom door was jammed from this morning. He meant to grab a new knob while he was out, but he must have gotten sidetracked. He didn’t write a sticky note in case of getting sidetracked. Grumbling, Andre grabbed a screwdriver from the kitchen junk drawer and tried jiggling the knob. “Wait!” He froze, screwdriver still jammed into the door. “Hannah?” “Don’t come in!” A voice on the other side called out. “It’s occupied.” “Hannah?” he said again, slowly. “Hannah?! Have you been in there the whole time?” “No—yes? I don’t know. My phone died.” Inside, Hannah was still in the bathtub with her shoes off and cactus forgotten on the floor. Andre chucked the screwdriver behind him, pressing his shoulder into the door. “Open up.”

4) Dave


5) ???

“Hannah, open the door,” he growled.

Things to do:

“I’m using the bathroom.”

1) Leave the House 2) Buy Bread

“Well I need to use the bathroom, too.”

3) Fix the bathroom doorknob

“It’s locked,” she said softly.

4) Finish coding Johnson project 5) Call mom and dad

“It locks from the inside!” Andre yelled, tired. “Open it.”

6) Sleep forever

“I’m using the bathroom. You can’t come in.”

7) Die 8) Jk don’t die


Andre never realized how nauseous being alone made him feel. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been by himself for this long. His own breathing didn’t sound familiar.



| american literary magazine

“Hannah, can we talk?”

“About what?” Her voice was quivering, and she sounded so far away. He chewed the inside of his cheek, pressing harder into the door. “A few things are coming to mind.”

“Did you go to Dave’s?” “Yeah.” Across from her, Dre was looking off to the side, biting his lips. “I had that idea.”

“Well…” Andre put his ear against the wood; Hannah’s voice kept trailing. Their bathroom wasn’t even that big; how could sound lose its momentum so fast? “Can we talk later?”

Hannah pulled her knees closer to her chest. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Hannah, where have you been?”

His eyes darted at her and then back away. “It means that I had a tiny inkling you would be at Dave’s.”

“Dre, I can’t—”

“Then why didn’t you come get me?” she snapped.

“Hannah, seriously we need to talk—”

“Well, firstly,” he spat, “I don’t fucking know where Dave lives. I also don’t have his number—”

“Dre, please—”

“Yes you do.”

“Hannah, it’s been a week—”

“And I was honestly hoping you wouldn’t be at good ole’ Dave’s.”

“He had long, spidery fingers that wrapped around

hers neatly when they held onto each other.”

“Andre, please!” He stopped, swallowing his dry tongue. On the other side of the door, Hannah was heaving—sobbing? Or crying? He wanted to know. “Andre, My phone is dead, my cactus is dead, my marriage is dead, and I’m using the bathroom so no, you can’t come in!”

Hannah narrowed her eyes. “And why is that, Dre? What is it about good ole’ Dave? Hm?”

“It’s my marriage too, Hannah!” Andre’s heart was pounding out of his chest, his organs ramming against his ribcage. His eyes were hot and his head was hot and he wanted to throw up.

He checked his phone from his pocket. “It’s three. How long were you in here?”

More silence.

“How long have you been in here?”

Andre sobbed. “Please let me in, Hannah. I really don’t want to ask Mrs. Acosta to use her bathroom.”

“Why aren’t you at work?”

Hannah and her husband were sitting fully clothed, knee-toknee, in their small bathtub. Andre’s legs took up most of the space, and Hannah’s legs filled up the other crevices.

“So you only take off work when I’m not here, is that right?”

Andre rolled his eyes, crossing his arms tightly over his chest. She inhaled, closing her eyes. “What time is it?”

“Why aren’t you at work?” Hannah inserted.

He rubbed at his face, groaning. The sound of his voice echoing against their bathroom tiles. “I took off, alright?”

“What,” Andre pulled down on his skin, the bags under his

fall 2016


eyes stretching, “are you even talking about?” Hannah sunk her head to her shoulders, her neckless body stiff against Andre’s knees. “Stop talking to me like I’m a fucking idiot.” There were volumes on her chest. Her head felt like a nail wrongly jammed into the wooden block that was her spine, and her eyes were only a few light strobes away from being raisins. She only needed a vaguely horizontal surface, and she could probably knock out right there. “I didn’t call you an idiot.” “Well that’s how I feel!” Andre shot up, his legs extending over her. “Just tell me then, Hannah! What is it? I’ll fix it! I’ll find a way to fix whatever this is. Goddamn. Just tell me what you want me to do!” Hannah pushed up slowly and reached for Andre’s hand. His hands were one of her favorite things about them. He had long, spidery fingers that wrapped around hers neatly when they held onto each other.

“We talk.” “Not really.” She pictured Dre coming home from work every day, announcing how tiring his day was while she looked at Pinterest boards in the dining room. “Is that the only thing this is about?” Hannah shrugged dejectedly. “I don’t list things out like you do,” she added on. “I don’t plan ahead.” And it was true. Hannah only went to a University on the East coast because she was applying blindly to schools. She bought a cactus on sale for her bathroom and over watered it. She got married at 22 thinking she should get it out of the way in case no one else asked her later in life. Andre was completely different. He was goal-oriented and driven and organized. “You’ve got everything together.” “Together?” Andre scoffed. “Hannah, I’ve been sleeping in a sleeping bag for the past six nights and all I can stomach is bread. That isn’t exactly together.”

When he readjusted himself into the tub, Hannah said softly, barely above a whisper, “Do you ever think we were too young?”

His thumb was stroking her knuckles, and they were both paying close attention to their hands, avoiding eye contact. She already knew what he looked like anyway. His face was a little more ashy and sunken in, but he just looked older. He didn’t look like the Andre she met in college who wanted to hear her opinions on music or asked about what her mom said to her the day before. This Andre looked years ahead of his time, slowly floating away from her.

“For what?”

“Why’d you leave?” he croaked.

“You know what,” she spoke. “It’ll be a year soon.” “Yeah, those are called anniversaries.” She shot him a look, jaw set. “Not now, Dre.” Andre sucked in his cheeks and then sighed. “What’s been bothering you?”

“I thought I was going to go home.” “To California?” “Yeah. I bought a bus ticket last Friday when I left,” Hannah sighed. “But then I imagined my mom rubbing it in my face that I’m too impulsive and bad at making decisions.” She paused, turning her head further away from him and finishing quietly. “So I went back. But I went to Dave’s because I didn’t want to be here by myself.”

She tugged on him, asking Dre to sit down.

A lot of things. She missed her husband during the day and spent nights staying up wondering what she could have done differently. What if she stayed in touch with Dave in college? Would they have been married instead? Where would she be in the country if she hadn’t been with Andre to tag along? What was she meant to do if she were alone? They were still holding hands, fingers laced up in between each other’s. “We don’t really talk anymore,” Hannah said finally, looking at his fingernails.


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He nodded. “I hate being here by myself.” “Me too.”

There Is Pastel Dust All Over The Floor Maya Simkin fall 2016


Fading Horizons Jordan Redd


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Don’t Mallory Kobler

“Please,” you whisper. But you are already on top, fussing with the buttons on my shirt. The nibs of the grass now prick my skin. I just hope the old wheelbarrow blocks us from the eyes of the window. When your tongue touches my collarbone and licks my sweat, I search the sky for a gray cloud. Some rain would be good for the crops. I can feel you shift your weight from your feet Into your chest. You close the space between us. When you enter, my spit is lead. I find a leaf on the ground. I press it between my thumb and forefinger with each push forward. I think leaves have a nice design. Their veins stretch out and taper off at the end. When you are done, you don’t move. And we lay in silence as the breeze begins to pick up.

fall 2016


An Evening, December 1983 Riley O’Connell She sits and spins the thread, unspooling from coiled finger, red— knuckled and twig thin, twitching up down and away from needle’s slit, shining spitting a slanted reflection of Woman, face slack and tongue tugging at psalms, lilting as they limbo under the window’s crack, calling out to the square of street where trees stand like graves, limbs reaching thin twigs to grey heavens where her clouded and hungry eyes search for him to slope up the drive, slink through the door and sleep beside her, the children in the black room down the hall no longer grieving in their dreams.


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Meghan Nash

fall 2016


Dream of Clams Elle Smiley The water looks grey against the sandy bank. I venture farther, kneeling in front of a small bubble as it escapes from the saturated sand. The sand re-forms. It is wet. It is ready. Again, the bubble escapes. Then, a clam emerges, its grayish tongue licking its shell-lips, eating its way to the surface. “Hello!” I say to the clam. This one is a mom, and the smaller one is its dog. On cue, the dog spits out its clam tongue. We laugh. I look to my right to a grey and lilac striped one that I had missed. And the big one over here, its whitened edges, that’s Uncle Clara. When I say big, I guess this Uncle is probably seven feet wide, sunning its giant insides of pasty, slimy, tentacled labia.


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Paige Shoemaker fall 2016


The Flight of Icarus Sydney Harper

Icarus comes in with swollen eyes and unevenly red cheeks, laced with flushed veins, and his hair has found a way to point towards every direction known to the compass rose. He’s wearing the worn blue hoodie as always, despite the fact that it’s nearly summer and warm enough for me to be sweating in just my polo and shorts. “Ready?” I ask him when he slides through the door. He manages a quick smile as he inhales the smell of the hangar—not really a scent so much as the feel of the air. It’s moving, different from the stagnant syrup outside. The air buzzes, tinged with some sort of energy. “Of course.” He nods and sets his forms on my desk, next to the name card—Mr. Arthur Daedalus, stamped in neat block letters with dust in the crevices formed by the metal grooves. The same plaque has perched there for years. I don’t bother reading them, knowing that they’ve been signed by his uncle. Not technically a legal guardian, but I’m not about to question it. I doubt that his stepdad is ever quite sober enough to even consider Icarus’s activities, and his mom—well, his mom isn’t around. He’s already set about fine-tuning the radios by the time I’ve double-checked the flight plans. He insists on setting the instruments himself, shooting grins at me over his shoulder when he sees the way I hover behind to see that he has all the latches and levers in place, but doesn’t say anything. I, in turn, choose to ignore the way he mutters to himself while he works and only scold him once when he gives a jerky pull on the wing of the plane. His smiles appear here and there along with his slightly too-loud laugh—he’s prone to excesses, whether they be in anger or glee. I worry about it, on occasion, when I can almost see the drunken fury of his stepfather in Icarus’ unhindered rants, and in all the stories he tells me about bad decisions he thinks were fun. But he’s a good kid. I scan the plane over when he’s ready and standing next to the cockpit—everything set up perfectly, just as I taught him. The pre-flight inspection flies by. Engines, wings, wheels. Everything is fine on the small plane—the only part missing is Icarus himself, biting his lower lip while skeptically


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watching the plane, just as every pilot has done. How the hell, we think, is this hunk of metal going to bring me up to the edges of the sky? This is nearly always followed by, And, how will it ever get me back down? Leaning against the wall with crossed arms, Icarus throws open his mouth and says, “I can’t believe I get to fly one of these things.” That’s the spirit. He climbs into the cockpit and starts up the plane, mumbling softly to himself as he always does when he concentrates. Just a nervous habit, like everyone has—I absentmindedly click my tongue when I’m landing; didn’t even know about it until my co-pilot pointed it out when I was working for a small charter airline. Icarus is a little bit more obsessive about it, but still controlled. It’s worse on days when he fights with his stepdad, I’ve learned, and today seems to be one of those. “Got your picture?” I prompt. “Yeah.” He slides it out of his pocket and clips it to the dashboard. It’s a fading photograph; a maudlin good luck charm. One of the corners sags down, and as he reaches up to smooth it over, the sleeve of his baggie sweatshirt slips down, revealing bruises and scratches on mottled skin. Today. I’ll talk to him about it later today, I vow. Later. He sharply jerks his hand away and pulls the sleeve back in place within seconds, and I give him clearance to lift off as I return to my base station. My job is to fling him into the sky. He flies for all of five minutes before I notice he’s off of his proper course, just a bit too high. I grin at this—Icarus may be a good pilot, but even the best of us get excited. First solo flight! Beautiful weather, every condition tuned for perfection! Even though I’m not in the plane, I’m excited. I haven’t helped someone do this since my daughter learned to fly a decade ago. “Icarus, according to my measurements, you need to come down a bit.” The call buzzes through and remains in the fizzing airwaves, echoing into pure static. A visionless version of that gray screen you get when a channel isn’t working on the television.

Untitled Scott Mullins fall 2016


“Ic? Report to base?” I peer out the grimy window—the plane is climbing higher and higher, nearing the level of the cloud cover. “I’m serious, answer me.” “Mr. Daedalus?” The voice is faint among the background noise, blurred and distorted. “Icarus, lower your altitude.” My hand falls to the glass of the window and traces the form of the aircraft as it slips into the void of white clouds. “God, the clouds up here! This is amazing! I’m going higher. Just a little.” “Icarus!” What can I do now? Pounding at the window and screaming at the radio sure isn’t making a difference. Damn it. Damned kid. “What? Ic, come down from there. Don’t panic. You know what to do. Here, I’ll explain—” The static leaves a blank void in the air. “Icarus?” I throw open the window—the plane is gone. “Oh, God.” I sit down and stare at the small device built into my desk, the dials and speakers and microphone. That’s all. It doesn’t have Icarus in it anymore. God. What just happened? I need to call the police. I need to—I need to save Icarus. “I can see the sun!” There’s a laugh. The radio goes silent.


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Ghosts Of Home Claire Osborn fall 2016


My Friend’s Knee Maya Simkin


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Window Seat Molly McGinnis

On my flight back to Washington at 4 am in air marbled by night and snow I leaned against the oval glass and saw tiny bodies of light pushing slowly down the mountain roads, each sphere its own life full of sideways winds. The flight attendant was humming a movie score, pouring the coffee into paper cups. I was thinking that every story I have ever written in my head has been about going home when the student in the aisle seat tapped my shoulder and said I do not want you to worry but do you mind if I pray while thirty thousand feet beneath his question people plowed through a snowstorm hardly stopping to ask for permission. As he whispered in Arabic I imagined the white flurries breezing into the sand gusts outside my old house in the desert and pretended I could understand while cars floated through the chalkboard dark like prayers released from airplanes granted sudden phosphorescence and instructed not to drift upward, but to address the stranger.

fall 2016


The Wyvern’s Revenge William Goodwin Sir Jeron drew his sword, Black Fang, and leveled its point at the foul beast. The dragon reared up on its rear legs, spouting fire and roaring. “Return the Orb of Ethulia, Ralarhis, or I shall slay you with my enchanted blade!” “Puny knight in your shiny suit!” roared the Wyvern of the Crystal Caves. “I’ll cook you in that armor, and then your Princess, too!” Princess Diora, daughter of King Ronan, ruler of Calderan, cowered in her onyx cage. “The kingdom will be mine, and the king my dinner!” said the dragon. “BWA HA HA HA HA!” Sir Jeron ran towards Ralarhis, swinging Black Fang with all his might, striking at his tree trunk legs, drawing black blood. He jumped, slashed, and stabbed the dragon’s heart. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” cried Ralarhis. “NOW CALDERAN WILL LIVE ON! CURSE YOU, JERON, AND CURSE YOUR KING RONAN!” Ralarhis fell over and bled out. Jeron freed Diora, who melted like a flower in his arms. “Jeron! My love!” cried Diora. “Now we can finally be together, and return the Orb to my father, its rightful wielder!” “We’ll have time for all of that. Now kiss me, wench!” exclaimed Jeron. “It’s… I’m not gonna sugar coat it, it’s awful.” “I know it’s awful.” “No, you don’t, this really is terrible.” “I know how bad it is, Liv, I’m not a writer!” Olivia gave him a look and slid off the desk. Jay grabbed her arm as she turned. “Don’t… I’m sorry, I just…” He let go and leaned back in his chair from the oversized writing desk, glancing up at the shelf of his father’s novels. The Leviathan’s Children by Gregory


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Harten. Crown of the Vampire by Gregory Harten. Calderan Falls by Gregory Harten. There were thirteen in total, all with stickers reading something like ‘best-seller.’ The bulk of book fourteen, The Wyvern’s Revenge by Gregory Harten, sat in a stack of loose papers behind Jay’s laptop. The study was all dark wood and leather. Maps of fictional worlds hung on the walls, and antique swords and daggers sat in cases below them. A battered typewriter was pushed to the side on the desk, Jay’s laptop in its place. It was the only item in the room, save the novels, made after 1980. Jay highlighted the passage and hit the delete key. “I really don’t know what I’m doing here.” “Sweetie…” Olivia kissed the top of his head. “It shows.”

“Listen, Jeremy—” “I told you, man, it’s Jay.” “Listen, Jay, he was explicit, it was right there in the will,” The lawyer’s nasal voice crackled through the phone. “He gave you the house and the cars, and he said—” “That’s not how a will works, Randy. You can’t legally compel someone to finish your novel.” He shifted the phone to his other hand and played with his wedding ring. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” Jay glared at the open laptop on the kitchen table in front of him. “Harper Collins doesn’t care, Jay, I got two calls from their reps today asking for a progress report, and I didn’t have anything for them!” “Why do they even want me to do this? I’ve never written anything, I mean, I went to culinary school, I don’t kn—” “Look, I’m not saying it makes sense, they fed me some bullshit about the son following the father’s footsteps and

Faces When Meghan Nash

blah blah blah, but they’re right! They leaked the story and you’re all over all these book blogs, there was thing in the Times, did you see the thing in the Times?”

“No, but it can’t be shit either, or it won’t sell!”

Jay watched Olivia at the kitchen counter. She uncorked a bottle of wine she’d found in the cellar; it was likely older than she was. The kitchen was straight out of a French cooking show, copper pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. Their old kitchen had been cheap white linoleum. He put the phone back up to his ear. “Yeah, I saw it.”

“You wanna try?!”

“It’s gonna be a windfall Jay, I’m telling you, this is a million dollar property, they’re developing a show, but you gotta finish it! You’re not sleeping on beds of cash as it is, this is… this is your meal ticket.” “I’m not a goddamn writer, I’ve done it a dozen times now, every time I try and write the chapter, it sucks!” “It doesn’t have to be Melville, Jay, did you even read the other books?”

“It’s one chapter, how hard can that be?”

The lawyer paused for a beat. “Finish the fucking book, Jeremy.” The line went dead and Olivia warily set a glass of red down on the thick wooden dining table. Jay rubbed his eyes and exhaled, slumping down in the chair. “He started writing these around when I was born. Not really sure if it was before or after Mom died.” “Did he name you after them?” Jay raised an eyebrow. “What d’you mean?” “I don’t know… Jeremy, ‘Jeron,’ I thought maybe… Did he name the character first or you?”

fall 2016


Jay took a sip of wine. “I never asked.”

Sir Jeron crawled on his stomach down into the dragon cave. “Damn that King Ronan for sending me after the princess. After I kill this dragon, I’ll give him what for.” Suddenly, Ralarhis emerged from the mouth of his crystalline cave. “Oh no!” cried Sir Jeron, “That dratted king! He has led me to mine own demise! And now, not having reached the princess, I shall be engulfed in the flames of the beast!” Then, Ralarhis opened his jaws and breathed blue flames all over Jeron, cooking him in his suit of shiny armor. Then, the wyvern bit off Jeron’s armor piece-by-piece, blood and gore flew everywhere. Sir Jeron screamed, cursing Ronan’s name, as he got cooked and eaten alive. First his legs, then his arms, then his torso. Viscera flew all over the dragon’s treasure horde. Jeron’s decapitated head rolled down into the cave to the onyx cage and the princess screamed a lot too. The end. Jay’s hovered the mouse over the ‘send’ button. The e-mail was addressed to the lawyer. The subject line read “HAPPY?” He got up without clicking and walked out of the study. He walked down the stairs in the main hall, with its vaulted

desk with several framed pictures of Jay and Gregory Harten. Jay walked back to the study and sent the draft to Olivia. She shot back a response within five minutes. “Take this seriously. we also need eggs, please go to the store. see you around 7.” Sir Jeron approached the cave, steeling himself for an epic fight. Then, King Ronan jumped out of a bush. “Worry not, paladin! ‘Tis I, your king! Forget my daughter, Diora, let us have a game of catch instead!” Jeron fumed. “Too little too late, your majesty. For I am a man grown, and have no use for childish games. Had you ever offered when I was but a squire, perhaps I would have accepted. Now, I must away to save the princess!” “But Sir Jeron, I come to you here, bedecked in kingly regalia, and you deny me my game of catch?!” The king threw his scepter and velvet cloak down into the dirt. Ralarhis growled below, walking up out of the cave to kill some people. “You should have spent more time with me, your loyal subject and less writing all your scrolls!” Jeron drew his sword, Black

“Jeron’s decapitated head rolled down into the cave to the onyx cage and the princess screamed a lot too.” ceiling and brass chandelier, glancing at the dying, monthold flowers and unopened condolence cards collected on the center table. The house was old, but inconsistent. The dark wood of the study didn’t continue. The kitchen was Julia Child’s, the dining room was Louis XIV’s, and the basement was something out of Edgar Allen Poe. He arrived at the doorway to his former bedroom, peering in at the sparse decoration. The couple had moved the boxes from their former bedroom into this one, opting out of the room Jay’s late father slept in. He wasn’t interested in even opening the door to the opulent Victorian chamber, remembering from childhood the tall velvet drapes that obscured all light, the canopy bed, and the bizarre portraits of English nobles. His own room had been more modest. The little league participation trophies and hot wheels tracks were long gone, replaced by a twin bed, a dresser, and a metal


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Fang. He cut off the king’s head because the king was never there. Then Ralarhis ate Jeron anyway. Olivia looked up from the laptop screen at Jay. They sat at the wooden dining table, eating scrambled eggs and toast for dinner. Jay had broken out another forty-year-old bottle of wine from some region of France that was too fond of accented E’s. “You don’t think it’s ham-fisted?” “Well Jesus, obviously I’m not gonna submit that.” “That lawyer started calling me at work.” “That rat fuck.”

“He just wants this over with, don’t be mean.” “Weren’t you in meetings all day? Did he take you out of a meeting?”

my bunk isn’t good but there are lots of nice kids here and they like star wars too! it is not so bad here but I can not wait to come home! i love you dad. sincerely jeron

“I was in a deposition, it’s fine, just… take a day. Don’t think about it, just take a day. Pass the jam? No, no, the apricot.”

Jay wiped his eye, cleared his throat, and crossed his arms. “Goddammit.”

Jay took an early exit off the Parkway, towards Bedford Hills. He leaned on the gas as he passed a gaggle of teenagers on their way to the bus stop. The mossy colored Jaguar’s engine roared. The wind broke on the wide, sloping hood, running back over the windshield of the convertible and blowing back Jay’s hair. The sun was shining in the April morning. Jay rocketed past a field of lavender. He smiled.

“Free the maiden, Ralarhis, or you shall taste Black Fang, slayer of Orgnat the Minotaur! You need not die on this day!” Sir Jeron, knight of Calderan, leveled his enchanted long sword at the wyvern. The dragon laughed, a harsh and awful screeching noise.

He pulled the car into the enormous garage, parking between a Ferrari Testarossa and an early model Corvette. Walking towards the entrance to the house, he noticed a side door. The room behind was where his father used to occasionally disappear. It was always locked in his youth, but Jay had the key now. The door opened with a dramatic creak, swinging painfully slowly. Jay stepped inside and yanked on a string, turning on an exposed hanging light bulb. The far wall was covered in taped up pieces of paper. The light from the open car hangar door illuminated hundreds of fans’ letters, notes, and sketches.

“You dare to oppose me, as I hold the life of your beloved in my claws? Tell me, paladin, where is your army? Surely Calderan’s forces could rally in the face of annihilation? Where is your king? Where is Ronan the great, if not here to aid in your battle?” The monstrous lizard uncoiled, standing on its hind legs, towering over the knight, noxious smoke billowing from its snout. “You are a warrior of renown, but this is a fool’s errand, and you shall die for it!” “This is my fight,” Jeron said. “ I require no aid to best you, foul wyrm.” He hefted his blade, crouched, and whispered. “For Calderan. For Ronan.” Jeron charged.

Gregory, your novels changed my life. Mr. Harten, I’ve been following Jeron since ‘Manticore’s Attack’. My fiancée is wearing a replica of Diora’s gown of betrothal for our wedding. Jay stared, brow furrowed, then turned to leave. His eyes widened at the near wall. This one was wallpapered too. But all the handwritten notes were in the same messy scrawl. Jay’s penmanship had never been good. Drawings of cars from grade school, letters about mosquitoes and mean counselors from summer camp, even printed out emails about his nightmare roommate from when Jay was in college. He stood for a while, mouth agape, before one in particular caught his eye. Jay stepped closer and lifted the bottom of the paper, reading the last few lines.

fall 2016


My Forest Elspeth Reilly

In my forest the trees are splinters there is a pond with stagnant waters skimming with scum and speckled with flies there were once tiny tadpoles who lived there in my forest I feel sickly with myself the ivy grows high here the splintery trees skim the sky in my forest I with my rumbled belly of bees and knees weak of cowardice have kept my feathers trimmed and I have kept my feathers neat but I feel the tadpoles stir within me.


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July Jonathan Murray

fall 2016



Sara Cooper

Something Greater Zach Ruchkin 76

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fall 2016


1— Yachats, Oregon


The gray house, and the beauty of gray, northwest seas, and tsunami warnings that came after the earthquake in Japan. Far west, so far that hope hung in the salt air that sapped the sand, the stone, the sky of color, that only the blue flames of burning driftwood stood against the gray. 2— Helena, Montana The wood house, where the ponderosa grew tall in the front yard until the pine beetles came and cut their narrow mazes through the bark. Roughly hewn, the mountains stood crooked like broken teeth in a mouth that seemed on the verge of swallowing me. Leaves fell away in autumn, the valley was empty and smelled of lake water. 3— Omaha, Nebraska The death house, cloaked in a funeral pall of the humid, Midwest summer. The fat, dark horse flies bit hard and left tooth marks. Flat land, the grass never grew green where the dead lay, and I found an old Bradbury paperback in a used book store, the story of a rocket man, and his family, who convinced themselves he’d already crashed into the Sun. 4— Washington, DC The spring house, where we would eat flowers and lotus blooms and breathe in the harshness of new life and rain that cut through leaves. In memory, The fire-dancers never left the sea, nor the pagans their land of song. The dead stay dead and buried in the dry earth like seeds. The wind blows hard in springtime. The leaves fall early.


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Pat Hooks

Abandoned Granary Isabella McDonnell

fall 2016


Stutter-Stutter-Stutter Repeat Annmarie Mullen

There is nothing cathartic about fighting monsters. You think there will be; you think there will be some triumph in it. Banners. Cheers. Flashes of gold and smiles and a person to wipe you clean again. The reality is—nothing. The monsters die, and you are utterly alone. Empty sky bolted to the horizon. Silence. Gray and frowning and only yourself to put everything back together again.

“You’re back.” It’s not a question. It’s barely a statement. It’s a key slid into a lock—said because it needs to be said, fits because it needs to fit. Someone made those words, that sentence, long ago, freshly minted and tart, like coins. They’re being paid again, handed between me and her, although they are no longer new. They’re cracked and stale and taste like rusted metal. “Yes,” I say. “Are you okay now?” That’s a loaded question. Am I okay now? Am I okay now? Am I okay now? Am I okay now? Is it that simple to be “okay” when you’re drowning in your own thoughts and every word is a snag ready to tear you open and you think, “Well, I might as well drown for real, it’d be pretty stupid to die from words,” so you go to jump off a bridge—so casual, like you’re taking a weekend trip—and you go to hop as lightly as one would hop a fence into a field, but someone happens to catch you right before you fall, which you think is a bit rude of them to presume on you that way, and you try to get away but you’re somehow drowning on dry land, and when you come up for air, you find it’s winter and everything is shuttered and quiet, and there’s no one to towel you off, so you drag yourself, shivering and shuddering, back home, only to find fragile old words that split like overripe fruit in your hands? Is it easy to be “okay” after that? “Yes,” I say.


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“Cool.” Cool? Cool? The eddy of words sweeps me listlessly away. “You’re back.” “Yes.” Short. Clipped. I’m trying to tame the tangled strands of thoughts that curliecue through my mind, but it’s like trying to untie DNA. No, what? I shake my head. Like trying to build a dam across the ocean. “No, you’re not back?” “What?” “You just shook your head, so I thought—” “Oh. No. I mean, yes, I’m back—” I almost say, and better than ever, but that’s not true. Where did that come from? I don’t want to lie. I’m already using a liberal definition of truth. Because I am not fully back in the metaphysical sense, but in the regular physical sense, I am back. If that makes either type of sense. “Good. We missed you. Here’s your make-up work.” He hands me a thick sheaf of papers. All the snow and leaves that got shoveled while I was underwater. I flick through them. The name at the top of each paper winks at me before leaping over the line. “This isn’t my name,” I say. My throat tightens like some divine being is turning screws in my neck for a—what? What? It tightens like a locked door. “What?” He takes them back, looks at the name. “Oh. Oh, damn, I’m sorry, I misspelled it again. Here, just take them for now—” “No.” The name winks and jumps and stutters and repeats,

an old time projector film on the paper. No. No. I’m back, I’m back, I’m supposed to be back, but the name keeps jumping. Maybe—maybe—maybe she did jump and I— what? What? Imposter. Wink, jump, stutter, repeat. I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then. The words, the name, mock me. You can’t go back—I am back—you are different—no, no, no no no I’m back—you can’t come back—yes I can, I didn’t jump—you’re different now—no—no—what? What? “That’s not my name.” Repeat it like a prayer. “That’s not my name.” Stutter—repeat—stutter—repeat. “That’s not my name, that’s not my name, that’s not my name, please. I’m no different. I’m no different.” Stutter—stutter—stutter—repeat. So there’s nothing cathartic about fighting monsters. There’s a banner with the wrong name. You fought, so

you must be different now. And you are—but you aren’t. Everything you were is still rooted deep inside you, a Russian doll getting more and more layers. But they see the outside and think—you’re different. You’re okay. You’re back and better than ever. Substance over essence. They think, you lost your old mind, you have to find a new one. No. You’re in the process of finding the old one and just—dusting it off. You’re—no. Okay. Here: You are different and the same at different and the same times. And that’s hard, for everyone. So pick one. When I go back to the hospital—I’m back—they put a marker outside my door. It spells my name right. I dream that name between the white of dry sheets and the white of bumpy plaster ceilings, my own cloud, and I think—she’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.

fall 2016


It’s Over

Michael Bollinger

best in show film


| american literary magazine

When You Sleepwalk Into My Bed Hannah Solus You’re always moving during the limbo hours–– too late to stay up but too early to live, when I’m in between dreams about you right there in a moment next to us. Last night: You drift off by accident, still naked and then I’m blinded at 3 or maybe 4 (the light during limbo hours stays the same dull charcoal.) What’s happening? Nothing. Are you okay? Yes. I don’t believe you. Okay. You rub your left eyebrow using the opposite hand and make the air mute static again with a double click of the lamp. Hours, maybe minutes later your face is in my neck and I pull your skin around me. You’ve been awake all night, Love, and I worry that you don’t like what I just said or that it’s real. I’m sorry. For what? I fell asleep while we were–– it was shitty. You were tired. You tangle us tight and become still before I blink a blank spot and you’re wrapped up over there in your own blanket.

fall 2016


Car Ride

Brendan Bense

Rolling up I-95 towards Philadelphia, a long strange summer retracts coiling arms from our backs. Bridges over waterways are dotted with freighters, that blink like stringed Christmas lights. It is wonderful how tired we become with travel. Point A and B do not have in-betweens here. Space extracted, skipped over with radio, silence, mind spinning with the tires. I am pulled back by the passenger side. He points to a church lit by window candles. He wants to ask, Who prays there? We pass silently.


| american literary magazine


Emma Bartley

fall 2016


A patch of sun sticks to the carpet warming bodies plastered to the floor splayed at its mercy. Heat grows more intense with the sliding back door shut. Sawdust ash glass fragments — sharp. Unwanted voices rap against the door. She says pieces of sunlight stick to her eyelashes when she squints. Does she see God or is it just a trick of the light? Others watch the sun reflect off their hands smothered drowning dying in paint. She says their colors represent who they are to her right now Today. One with noon-day sky One with dusk’s gray shade One with a mishandled massacre — wet acrylic becomes brain and flesh. What is the boy to say with hands red as blood to the girl who is the sun? At the next morning’s dispersed light it became like a dream. Forgotten far off and existing. Remnants are pressed into the cracks of their skin. Wounds coat creaking bodies — seeping blisters scraped knees knocked-in teeth torn nails. Chests intact. The blue girl sleeps it off. Strips of skin and paint layer her forearms. They flirt and reveal the sky’s finest hour. She dreams of that same stretch of day — the time when The Maker scrubs the dome and slathers a fresh coat of paint across the expanse of creation. The sea His palette and hungry eyes His obedient audience. Planes leave trails of criss-crossing smoke. Like kicked dirt they dance through the driest of deserts and tumble through the greatest of plains. A shower can’t wash off the grime. Grass sprouts from pores and moss between toes. At the ankle it snakes up around the calf and inches toward the knee. At the hook of the leg green transitions to sunset orangepeeling wound. Seeds raise from beneath the skin. Scabs house ingrown hairs healing nicks infected cuts dirt blood — residue from the dream they itch to remember.


| american literary magazine

Today (Meditation On A Dream) Riley O’Connell

Out of Quarters Maya Simkin

fall 2016


best in show poetry

As If Judas, John, and Matthew Were Fish Elle Smiley When the fish see the fisherman’s wife who dips in her hand, they look at the nail polish. Bright beauty flashes as the fingers comb the water, searching. Judas, the first to shoot his beak out to kiss, latches on, breaks the skin. Water turns the color of the wine. Intoxicated Matthew’s tail automatically begins to wiggle him on. Judas fans his fins back and forth to watch while Matthew sucks the wine through his gills, clearing the haze, flicking his tail between the fingers. John, exhilarated by all this, flashes his scales forward and dives above the surface. He set those on the boat in alarm—here are our fish! A net billows, only catching the fish that are not too small to swim through the little holes so roughly woven together. Oh God, look: they are going to be missed.


| american literary magazine

One for the Books Jonathan Murray

fall 2016


best in show prose

This person’s eyes are dark, like bottom-of-a-well dark, and could, in the right light, look like those of that one model— or is she an actress—who’s blazingly African and the new most beautiful woman in the world. They almost look like hers. And this face has pretty nice cheekbones, round lips that need more Chapstick. I’ve been scared to try too much gloss. Don’t even think about lipstick. This person. This person has pretty nice skin, broad shoulders, a wiry figure. He—she—wears jeans that fit and a new cardigan from his mom. Feet don’t have shoes yet, because what do you wear to thanksgiving dinner if you’re just going to take them off anyway? I don’t dislike this person. Before me, she turns to the side, then to the front, looks uncomfortable in her skin. She moves with hips that aren’t there, shifts her balance onto feet that are huge. She doesn’t look bad. She might be a handsome woman. Maybe the uncertainty is cute. The eyes are nice. They don’t even need mascara. Imagine what eyeliner would do. I’ll need shoes now. My brother agreed to pick me up at the MSA mosque, which I normally wouldn’t go to, but it’s Thanksgiving, right? He told me, “If you’re renouncing manhood—” “Not renouncing,” I reminded him. “If you’re not going to be a man and go to jummua every week, at least go this week.” He frowned, but it wasn’t the sort of higher-than-thou, disgusted frown someone else like my dad might have given me. It was resigned, I’d guess. “I mean, you still pray, right?” Yeah. Mostly. Last night I stood in the shower and performed wudu, slowly pressing my face into my water-filled hands, running palms


| american literary magazine

Ismael Olivia Smith Elneggar over my arms and neck and hair and feet, feeling muscle and bone and sinew. I looked down into the swirling drain and watched tiny hairs running between my feet—those big fucking feet—and thought about the lie Allah told me, or I told Allah. And how do you talk to someone who knows when you’re lying, when you are a lie? How do you face them when you’ve asked and asked for clarity and received nothing? Sometimes I pray. Most of the time I hide in my bed or in homework or among people. But I’m going to pray today. DC is a big place, and despite my big feet, I’m so small. The wind shreds my clothes, finding and exposing holes in the fabric to chill my skin. I wish I had one of those big faux-fur vests that the trendy girls wear. They’re so cute. I’m sure it’s not much better for the guy huddled up under those knubbly blankets on the street corner. I wave and say hi, but he doesn’t seem to care. I go down the stairs to the mosque. Here, it is a spacious and cold basement. I can’t help but contrast it to the warm green carpet in the mosque at home. The stares are cold, too. They are made of the disinterested repulsion that you might feel if you’re looking at an unusually large rat. I have paused in the doorway, and behind me, someone says, “Excuse me, brother.” When I move, he pushes past and doesn’t even look when he goes to the far back of the men’s section of the makeshift masjid. I take a shaky breath and pull the scarf from around my neck to over my head. It smells like mom. She’ll notice it when I go home with it. I pass the women in the front row, and one of them stares hard at me with eyes a different kind of dark. A sky-at-night dark, with a certain and unwavering light in them. She says nothing, but I hear, Brothers sit at the front, as if I don’t know. As if I don’t know that I know. I squeeze in next to a young lady in the front. We’re supposed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and I can tell that she’s uncomfortable. She trembles against my arm, but when I look at her, she is not afraid. She’s warm and brazen. A puzzled frown sits on her face with lips only half as full as

Audrey Arshum Rouhanian

fall 2016


The Arcade Jared Beck


| american literary magazine

mine, but so much prettier. She smells lovely, demure with the clean scent of soap and maybe an airy, flowery fragrance. The fabric of her long sleeve tunic is resistant against my tee. It’s cold in here, huh? I hope I’m not bothering you. “Salaam,” she says, then turns away. I bow my head as the Imam begins. His voice is high and comfortable with the music of prayer, like a strong wind shooting through a hollow stick of reed. The notes fluctuate and he ululates like he’s on American Idol. All I know is when I say the words after him, they sound better when I don’t try to sing. They are comfortable as a lowly babbling trickle of water, returning to its source. Then he says, “Amiiin,” and my trickling stream joins everyone else’s in an awesome wave. I

oathful fingers, I straighten my back. I can never tell whether it is better or worse to do so or to bow one’s back under God. Out of habit, I turn my head at the same time as the Imam. I catch sight of her face once more, and say salaam right to her, right into her eyes that have just opened, just now. Her breath smells like coffee. My brother is waiting in an old car—red, whole, Americanly Japanese—right in front of the mosque. If I’d asked my sister, she would have parked a block away with the engine idling and her foot on the brake. When I slide in, we hug each other, but neither of us says anything until he’s back in the stream of traffic. It smells like pine. The woman on the radio says, “The bomber has been identified as a second-generation Ukrainian man by the name of…”

“When you close your eyes, shouldn’t you picture what you

worship, right there between them?”

hug my hands to my chest and we bow. I close my eyes and imagine that big green carpet. We submerge. I’ve heard that you close your eyes to block out distraction, and once or twice I’ve heard that you keep them open to teach yourself to focus. Generally, I alternate between them because it seems right to close them, but the darkness on the inside of my eyelids intimidates me. When you close your eyes, shouldn’t you picture what you worship, right there between them? And when it comes down to it, I can’t see God. Sometimes I see mist, or a flower, or a Buddha, or a long white beard that snakes into eternity, but I can’t worship those things. All this time, every time, I have to think: am I doing it wrong? We go down on our knees, and I fold myself thin and neat as a paper swan onto the ground. I remember not to put my elbows against the floor, lest I look like a dog. Lordie knows how shameful that would be.

Abid cuts it off. He says, “Hey, man.” He used to joke about that a lot. I don’t care anymore; it’s too much a staple. In the implicit subtexts of English, we sort each other so quietly and quickly, we stumble to try not to. But Abid sees me as his brother and habits are hard to kick. “Hey,” I answer. Out on the street, blocks from the campus mosque, I see the girl on her phone. I take off the scarf and I can breathe easier.

I sit up, reemerge. When you’re underwater, water floods your ears until you don’t need to think things. As we’re finishing with the Shahada and putting up our

fall 2016


Royal Perch Scott Mullins


| american literary magazine

Mom’s Garden Maya Simkin

fall 2016


Hope Cemetery Emma Bartley


| american literary magazine

New Carolina City Sydney Hamilton

They call it New Carolina City. The women dress in bluebell skirts and all the men look like lumberjacks. The children are always running, always desperately out of breath but never willing to slow down. In the morning a woman with hair the color of fresh wax fixes me blueberry pancakes as she kisses her son’s face, caressing his cheeks with her porcelain doll fingers. The sweet scent of maple makes me dream of my own. Nice day to fall in love says a man in a blue suit to a woman in a gingham dress. She puts her hair behind her ears and smiles, a significant gap between her two front teeth. It’s the first night of fall and people gather in the park with lit candles. An old timer sits under the vermilion sycamore tree and plays bluegrass on his banjo. I find you on a bench, drinking sweet tea and swaying softly.

fall 2016


Dentro del Palimpsesto Sonia Rincón Atrás de la memoria, en ese limbo atroz, áspero, anubarrado, donde tu rostro desaparece, y el deseo aparece en ese laberinto del recuerdo: el palimpsesto, sueña con tu reencarnación, alucina tocar la puerta… Los trancones vacíos, la ausencia mortal crece y deja el embotellamiento silencioso y aún oigo tu voz—y la puerta está callada. El mar de siete colores, infinitudes regaladas, recolecciones eternas de los mamoncillos compartidos, memoria dulce, me coges de la mano: chondaturo agrio, chontaduro azucarado libre paloma en la orilla, me esperas las infinitas ganas de abrazarte, de un toque de una carcajada, una señal de tu pulso. El pasado no debe ser pasado mi corazón a profundas es vena palpitante que golpea a la vida, ladrona…


| american literary magazine

Inside the Palimpsest (translation) Behind the memory, in limbo, harsh, vicious, clouded, when your face disappears, and the desire appears in that labyrinth of remembrance: the palimpsest dreams of your reincarnation, hallucinates the knock on the door… Empty traffic, mortal absence grows and leaves the jam silent and yet I hear your voice—and the door is quiet. The sea of seven colors, infinite time gifted, eternal recollections, of shared mamoncillos sweet memory, you take my hand: bitter chontaduro, sweet chontaduro unbound pigeon at the shore, you wait for me, the infinite desires to hug you, of a touch, of a guffaw, a signal of your pulse. The past should not be past, my heart in the depths is the throbbing vein, which slays life, the thief…

fall 2016


She Lives

Jay Levandofsky


| american literary magazine

Look For Light

Arianna Alter

fall 2016


Five Odes To The Odyssey Sydney Harper

Odysseus has been gone all summer. That’s 61 days. 1,424 hours. 87,840 minutes. 5,270,400—well, you get the idea.

“Odysseus, our company helps people across the state. Don’t you want to help them?”

It’s been a while.

“I want to help the moon!”

1. Legend has it that true love transcends the expanses of time, surviving longer than any small mortal existence, barely wavering over decades.

Well. It’s been nearly twenty years since then. He thinks while he drives, and somewhere between the Grand Canyon and the Gateway Arch, he realizes that he does want to help them after all.

Penelope thinks this is BS. Or perhaps she never loved Odysseus. It’s been a long time—a month? Two months? She waits, cycling from her apartment (empty) to her internship to the gym to the animal shelter where she volunteers to her apartment to her internship to the gym to the animal shelter to her apartment internship gymanimalshelterapartment. Wow, she realizes in August. I don’t need Odysseus. After two months of no contact from her boyfriend—no phone calls, no skype, not even one damn text—Penelope has moved on. 2. Odysseus is sick of Ithaca when he leaves. He’s sick of Cornell, sick of his major, and most of all, sick of knowing that the moment he graduates he’ll start working at his father’s company across the city. His father has told him this since Odysseus was in preschool and came home with a paper, crumpled by sweaty little hands and covered with a mess of scribbles from stubby old crayons. “It’s me! On the moon! I’m gonna be an astronaut!” His dad chuckled. “Now, how are you going to run the business from space?” “I’m… not?”


| american literary magazine

He fills his car in the nearest gas station (Oklahoma, he realizes, that’s where he is) and heads back to Ithaca. He doesn’t really have the physique of an astronaut, anyway. 3. His friend Menelaus has this startup all the way in California and Odysseus is going to help him out with it. New business—something to do with hacking and fighting off Trojans and all that technology stuff. Odysseus is the first to admit that he’s not the most qualified man for the job, but he’s smart and knows some basic code, so he’s sure he’ll be able to pick up the intricacies of the programming quickly. It’s a lot more interesting than anything that will be going on in Ithaca over the summer. And, if the job wasn’t exciting enough already, Menelaus’ business partner of several years has just left his startup to work for a much, much more elite programmer. Menelaus and Odysseus are pretty sure they can win her back. After all, what can go wrong? 4. The day that his last exams finish Odysseus gets into his car (black, sleek, not the most expensive ride, but definitely not cheap) with a few of the guys. Their intentions? A cross-country road trip to top all other road trips. Odysseus helms their ride. Eurylochus commandeers the

radio from the passenger seat. Achilles and Patroclus are in the backseat with Agamemnon sandwiched between them, looking like it’s the last place he’d ever want to be. Odysseus loves his friends with all his heart. Odysseus is a smart man. Odysseus is also human, and therefore prone to mistake. The car crash isn’t entirely his fault, but he can’t help but think that he could have avoided it, too. Casualties: Eurylochus, Agamemnon, Achilles, and Patroclus. Survivors: Odysseus. His car is totaled, so he calls for an Uber. The driver, a nice man named Charon who shows him pictures of his granddaughters on his ancient flip phone, takes him farther and farther away from home. He’s not quite sure what state—he doesn’t bother to ask—just tells the man to drive. They’re deep in a fog when Odysseus tells him stop. He thanks the man and gets out of the car. It might be day, might be night. He stumbles off-road and there he sees Achilles. As always, Achilles looks like he might kill someone—until Patroclus sets a gentle hand on his shoulder, that is. “Be angry. I deserve it,” says Odysseus. Achilles turns to Patroclus, and Odysseus can see the shadowed forms of Eurylochus and Agamemnon behind them. They converse in words Odysseus cannot hear, and Achilles turns back to him. “Go home.” And so he does. 5. At the end of August, Odysseus’ car is not back in the student parking lot. Penelope searches and searches but it is nowhere to be found. She calls and calls and Odysseus never picks up. His phone sits on the dashboard of his car, parked in a gas station three miles down the road. After the twentieth call, he silences it, tosses it into the backseat, and revs the engine. He’s never going back to Ithaca.

fall 2016


The Wrong Shoes For Hiking Samantha Dumas

The first time I stayed the night sweating next to you focused on the shifting wind outside instead of your inhaling. You were dreaming of mountains the likes of which I’ve never seen, sanctuaries you showed me in pictures of girls you used to love. I should like to stand fixed in the foothills reciting my prayers, unable to ask you to carry me over them.


| american literary magazine

The Place I Miss The Most

Arianna Alter

fall 2016


Mess With The Bull Ian MacMillan 106

| american literary magazine

Minnesota Skillet (a Haibun) Amanda Hodes Dawn cracked its knuckles over the quiet hills, breaking the yellow yolk from its shell. Sizzling and popping, it runs slowly down the sky, its goo seeping in the gnarled, green speckled trees. Pulp strings are pulled out from clouds, like food between teeth, to be draped with limp sunbeams dangling and twining through branches. Yet, soon the watery whites settle from top to cool bottom. They pool in the unassuming divots of soft grassy knolls. There, dusky black creatures rustle the roots of barley grain, stalks stuck together from the syrupy film of day. once all the yolk drains, the tree canopy cradles a glowing new egg.

fall 2016


Another Me

Kyle Dargan faculty contribution


My transcript attests to it, so let it be true: third year, I registered for PSYC 101, having failed to distinguish psychology from psychiatry. Nevertheless, there were requirements to be fulfilled. Shakespeare and Chaucer had been allowed to annex enough of my brain. Wouldn’t psychology teach me how one redeems his mind’s territories? There was, too, an incentive—the friend who suggested we both enroll, the friend I called a sister to stem any looming attraction. Almost a rite of passage— the course you take because your eyes, as much as your brain, need to be fed. And how I discredited my eyes after their tracing of her skin lead me into a semester-worth of notes on dopamine, endorphins, GABA— all alien-looking neurons, no psycho -analysis. The midterm’s jargon glut frenzied us into library sessions and study dates at my upper-class dorm. We drilled neurotransmitters, labeled cell parts until our eyelids failed under the weight of dendrites and synapses. She asked one night if she might crash on our couch—what play-siblings do —but when she woke, she thanked me for not touching her while she purred, prone there. (Mental confusion: a state characterized by a lack of clear and orderly thought.) That me, suddenly, did not know who he was. Could he be brother to someone who could suspect him a rapist? (Anticipation: the imagining of a future event, which elicits an emotional response.) That night, that me convinced himself that his character was the victim, groaned that men might as well act as they’re typecast. That me disowned that sister who was not a sister but a young woman he found comely. When another me, years later, revisits that night, he knows how little it takes for women’s bodies to become bounty in men’s minds.

| american literary magazine

Cognitive dissonance makes it possible to rationalize rape—another concept we would not study that semester. What I learned: trust can mute stress so one may slumber. What I learned: for prey, experience is a spectrum that drowns the light from one familiar predator’s eyes. What I have learned: when men yowl there’s no understanding women, many of us mean we sat for the test without studying and resent the possibility of being wrong.

faculty contribution


Leena Jayaswal fall 2016


Biographies Arianna Alter: aspires to be a dog owner. Steven Baboun: is a 20 year-old visual artist and content creator from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He is a senior studying Film and Media Arts and minoring in Education Studies at American University in Washington, DC. Steven believes in creating work that celebrates people, color, and experiences. His work is characterized by bright palettes and thought-provoking stories. Baboun’s art is aimed at uncovering and exploring “the other Haitian narrative,” a narrative that celebrates the diverse nature of Haitian society. Emma Bartley: please don’t call it Faderade. Jared Beck: splits his time between the mountains of West Virginia with his beloved doggo Karma and finishing up his Film & Media Arts degree in DC. After graduation, he hopes to move to New York City and begin a career in the entertainment industry.

Czarina Divinagracia: is an average extraterrestrial using the husk of a small, human girl to blend in with Earth culture. She masquerades as a senior at American University studying public relations and creative writing. Czarina likes to document Earth behavior in her short fiction stories. She is also a mother to eight house plants. Sam Dumas: wants to give you a numerology reading. William Goodwin: Sometimes, I wake up in a cold sweat. I go to the mirror, see the man staring back, and wonder, “Where has all the time gone?” But I don’t worry for long. It’s in my time bucket, the clear plastic one I got at the Container Store. After that, I sleep easily. Mercy Griffith: is anxiously awaiting the return of America’s Next Top Model

Brendan Bense: is a senior Lit major at AU, with a focus in creative writing and poetry.

Emily Hall: is a sophomore majoring in Film and Media Arts. She loves photography, filmmaking and prairie dogs!!!!

Ryan Blocher: is a filmmaker and storyteller. He has coached video and photography boot camps in the US, China and Egypt. An AU MFA Film candidate, his short film “DO NOT EAT” is a dark comedy. His favorite camera is the one he has with him.

Marley Hambourger: is a current sophomore in the School of Communication and the Social Media Specialist for the AU Photo Collective. She is passionate about photojournalism and aside from events on campus, Marley enjoys photographing protests and performances around D.C.

Michael Bollinger: is a film major in SOC from Baltimore Maryland. I’ve tried teaching myself the basics of filmmaking and story telling in highschool and loved doing it so much I am pursuing it as a career. Also I support anyone who loves prairie dogs!!!!

Sydney Hamilton: is a socially anxious yet desperately witty protagonist. Sydney Harper: hockey nickname could be Harps, Harpy, or Harpsichord. Unfortunately, she doesn’t play hockey.

Ciera Burch: is currently a senior who spends all her time bingewatching Netflix and playing Sims when she’s not busy missing Scotland.

Amanda Hodes: is apparently creative enough to write poetry but not creative enough to think of a clever bio.

Julia Buyak: says the pun is always intended.

Pat Hooks: is a junior Literature major, and he definitely had something planned for the rest of this...

Sara Cooper: is a freshman at American University, majoring in the incredibly unique, not often pursued path of International Relations. Before coming here I attended Oakland School for the Arts in Oakland, California for middle and high school. My favorite mediums are watercolor and acrylic paint, although I’ll work with just about anything that can make a mark on paper.

Andrea Kim: is a Freshman in the School of International Service from Chicago, IL. Her favorite food is mash potatoes and gravy. Mallory Kobler: is just trying to do her best to not let the existential dread set in. Jay Levandofsky: is Constantly Screaming Internally About My Life.


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Beth Lilly: is just riding the rollercoaster that is life. Nickolaus Mack: is a sophomore at American University double majoring in Political Science and International Studies. When I’m not writing about black empowerment, I’m probably taking portraits of dogs in Washington, DC. Ian MacMillan: Any pizza is a personal pizza if you believe in yourself. Isabella Mcdonnell: is a senior public relations, graphic design and Spanish student from London. In her free time, she curates her own feminist, self-love publication, Sad Girls Club, writes for music blogs and drinks an inordinate amount of tea. Molly McGinnis: is a senior literature major. She loves poetry, but her thesis is on fiction because poetry is far too holy for that level of focused insanity. Flawed thinking, maybe, but there ya go. Good luck with finals, everyone. Kyle Mendelson: is the entry-level dad at the barbecue who is only dating you for your rooftop views of D.C. Annmarie Mullen: is a freshman literature major from Philadelphia. You can usually find her in her dorm room watching reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Please hesitate to contact. Scott Mullins: exists. Jonathan Murray: is Nothing yet. Meghan Nash: is fastening her seatbelt. Riley O’Connell: is a witch if you didn’t already know. Claire Osborn: doesn’t want to live on this planet anymore.

Mikala Rempe: wants to know if you’re tryna go to Surfside after this meeting. Sonia Rincon: is a Colombian-American who believes in the importance of language as a powerful literary and artistic medium through which to communicate. Moreover, I believe every person is unique in their own individual truth, and therefore, poetry allows me to communicate and share my own truth through different languages. Arshum Rouhanian: naaaaaaaa naaa naaa NANANANAAAAA..... NANANANAAAAAAAA HEYYYY JUDEEEEE Zach Ruchkin: is an aspiring actor and filmmaker currently working on obtaining a degree in Film Studies at American University. He has worked as the executive film editor and filmmaker for Nexus Lacrosse, the key grip, camera assistant and boom op for Townsend Visuals and most notably he directed, produced, filmed and edited “Something Greater” — a documentary about firefighters; specifically those that volunteer at the Chestnut Ridge Volunteer Fire Company. Zach is extremely excited to be able to share the stories of those that volunteer at Chestnut Ridge and hopes to continue to help share similar stories throughout his career. Tova Seltzer: is a bat. Paige Shoemaker: is a freshman at AU who lives on lovely TS in Anderson with some of the best people in the world. Shout out to Addison Clark for being the best person in the world. Maya Simkin: once bought an onion thinking it was garlic and wants to plan and discuss arts projects with you, reader. Elle Smiley: is a radical poet masquerading in the attire of a hip suburban mom.

Luke Palermo: is a kind of yōkai from Japanese folklore. Depictions of Luke vary widely but usually portray them as hideous, gigantic, and ogre-like with sharp claws, wild hair, and two long horns growing from their head. Their skin may be any number of colors, but red and blue are particularly common. They are often depicted wearing a tiger-skin loincloth and carrying an iron club called kanabō.

Olivia Smith Elneggar: is a self-proclaimed misfit and mutt, especially now that she is a writer-turned-Psychology student in the MA program. She attempts to write in a number of different genres and currently writes for 3 Half Games on the work-inprogress, Eons Lost.

Thomas Pool: has probably fled the country if you’re reading this and Trump has won.

Kyle Dargan: is an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Director of Creative Writing.

Jordan Redd: ”gives amazing head massages” - her cat.

Leena Jayaswal: is an Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Arts and Director of the photography concentration.

Elspeth Reilly: would dance with the devil if only she knew how to waltz.

Hannah Solus: you were in my dream last night.

fall 2016


Masthead Editors In Chief Emma Bartley Samantha Dumas

Assistant Film Editors Kyle Mendelsohn Andrew Levy

Prose Editors Molly McGinnis Tova Seltzer

Copy Editors Laura Thompson Brooke Olsen

Assistant Prose Editors Mercy Griffith Cordilia James

Assitant Copy Editors Alana Persson Juliette Smith Tessa Stewart Stephen Watson

Poetry Editors Mikala Rempe Amanda Hodes Assistant Poetry Editors Julia Buyak Camryn Diagonale Photography Editors Maya Simkin Ian MacMillan Assistant Photography Editors Katie Wong Olivia Sears Art Editor Carolyn Schneider Assistant Art Editors Kiran Ahluwalia Jordan Redd Film Editors Conor MacVarish Thomas Pool


| american literary magazine

Design Editor Claire Osborn

Design Team Matt Bernabeo Izzy Capodanno Caleb Gleit George Gu Social Media Staff Claire Dennis Priyanka Gulati Sonikka Loganathan Jacob Wallace Blog Editor Mia Saidel Blog Staff Maya Acharya Anying Guo Demory Hobbs Daniel Jenks Sydney McLane Tyler Perry

General Staff Rachel Bassell Jessica Beal Zeynep Cakmak Eleana Dacier Tori Dickson Elizabeth Edwards Sydney Hamilton Bella Harget Carla Levy Courtney Miller Macie McKitrick Alecia Nippert Kate Noons Riley O’Connell Melissa Patton Emily Pullen Elspeth Reilly Tiffany Rubio Hannah Solus Maeve Terry

fall 2016


Holi Marley Hambourger


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A special thank you to our donors who made this magazine possible

Thank You George and Doree Dickerson Mike Benjamin Diane Dickerson Larry Smith Carlos Martins-Filho and Cynthia Irion Tom Byington Kathy Falewee Carolyn Schneider Dian Chappen Jerry and Shelley Rempe Emma Bartley Diane Wayman Theodore Chappen Dan Merica Corey Newman Emily and Ryan McGee Florence Gubanc Bruce and KC Graves Julia Irion Martins Elaina Hundley Jake Nieb Mattea Falk Meera Nathan Annie Buller Dayna Hansberger Julianna Twiggs Edman Urias Noah Friedman Julia Hester Tiffany Wong Mikala Rempe Gloria Pappalardo Brendan Williams-Childs Lorraine Holmes Janella Polack AmLit would also like to thank our fellow Student Media Board organizations, The American Word, The American Way of Life, The Eagle, WVAU, Her Campus, ATV, Spoon AU, and AU Photo Collective for collaborating with us. We are continually impressed by your dedication and consider ourselves fortunate to be associated with your excellence.

fall 2016



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