AmLit Fall 2021

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Mission Statement The American Literary Magazine, affectionately known as AmLit, is American University’s student-run literary and creative arts magazine. Striving to showcase the best student creative works, AmLit’s review process is anonymous and democratic, with genre editors leading open discussions. The AmLit community, also known as the AmFam, comes together each semester to share their love for the creative arts, host events, and design the publication. All copyrights belong to the artists.

Acknowledgements This publication would not be possible without the brilliant and dedicated work of the AmFam. Whether you attended a couple meetings, submitted your beautiful work, or served as a staff member, you have contributed to making this magazine a possibility, and we are deeply grateful. Thank you to each artist that shared and placed their beautiful art into our hands. Thank you to each review session attendee who participated and shared their vision of the magazine. Thank you to each staff member who poured their time and energy into creating a beautiful magazine. We cannot wait to turn the page together to see what lies ahead for the AmFam. This magazine sought to bring the reader into the comforting and electrifying world of neon, pancakes, and rock and roll. This vision would not have been possible without the dedicated work and creativity of our creative director, Hannah Sjovold, alongside her design assistants. We thank them for their many late nights spent making this magazine a reality. We are also deeply grateful to the work of our copy editors, Sophia Olson and Natalie Flynn, and their assistants. With their precision and attention to detail, each piece was deliberately and diligently placed with consideration to each artist’s vision. To our executive board, thank you for upholding the spirit and creativity of AmLit. For each hour spent leading review sessions, creating your own creative work, and attending meetings, we are inspired by your dedication and cannot wait for the future of your leadership in AmLit. Thank you to Ted’s Bulletin and Silver Diner Arlington for allowing AmLit to feature their beautiful locations in our magazine. These locations were critical in upholding the aesthetic of diners in our magazine. Without the community and continued support of the Student Media Board and Heritage Printing, we would be lost in the process of publication. A big thank you to all the members of our little Student Media Board group chat for keeping us sane. A huge thank you to previous EIC Sheer Figman, who stayed right alongside us the whole way, even though she had graduated and gotten a “big-girl job”. We appreciate all the advice, the copy edits, and your notorious attention to detail. Katie thanks Alex for always having it together, even when everything was falling apart. You were truly a rock in the storm, and she is grateful to have found such a wonderful soul to call her friend. Last, but certainly not least, a huge thank you to our graduate, Katie Meyerson, for her continued vision and passion for AmLit. Not only has Katie been an inspirational leader for AmLit, dedicating countless hours to all facets of the magazine, she has also been a source of laughter and joy for all who are members of the AmFam. Though the next phase of AmLit will be difficult without her creative vision and exuberant personality, her impact will inspire the AmLits to come.


American Literary Magazine

this could be a postcard Lia Patentas

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Fall 2021

Letter from the Editors Dear AmFam, Upon opening this magazine, we hope that the pages instill you with neon, comfort food, and nostalgia of the fun times with friends at late-night diners out past your bedtime. After nearly a year and a half of being separated, we had the immense privilege to return to campus and see our wonderful AmFam in person for the first time in what felt like forever. While we were away, we all grew in our own ways, some of us returning to campus virtually unrecognizable from the person who hurriedly packed in mid-March of 2020 and scattered across the globe. Even so, if we evolved and changed, we did so convergently, with many of our beloved AmFam returning with extreme enthusiasm to our first in-person events in almost a year and a half. We have loved seeing you once again, and we have been so proud to see our magazine and its following continue to grow at AU. After assuming the role of editors-in-chief after the pandemic, we were surrounded by a plethora of challenges. How can we create a community in the midst of a global pandemic? How do we get new members to join the AmFam? How do we even format a magazine? These questions seemed even more pressing, as Alex had yet to even experience AmLit in an in-person capacity. Despite this, however, the AmFam continued to amaze us with their creativity and willingness to engage and participate in the creative community at American University. The AmFam itself quelled our nervousness about returning to campus as editors-in-chief, and we immediately felt inspired by the loving and accepting community that all of our members sought to foster. Now, a little note from Katie. It has been an absolute pleasure and an honor to serve as both creative director and editor-in-chief, spanning four total semesters as part of the AmFam. I am so beyond proud of the magazines I have helped to create, and still consider my copy of Fall 2020 to be one of my most prized possessions. You know, the thing that you’d grab on your way out the door if your house caught on fire. I joined AmLit as a sophomore because I felt like I was missing out on community at AU, and I sure as hell found it here. Thank you, AmFam, for helping me grow as an artist, as a writer, and as a person. I could never express how much this magazine has meant to me, and how saddened I am to be leaving it. As Sheer said before me, AmLit will always be a part of me, even someday when my editions just sit on my bookshelf collecting dust and my college years are long behind me. As we both continue in our respective paths, we know that this little magazine will be a shared memory of working through days while listening to the “Alex + Katie” shared playlist (which spanned from Charli XCX to Bon Iver). AmLit has always been and will always be our rose. With love, Katie and Alex

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American Literary Magazine

Photo

Art

this could be a postcard — Lia Patentas — 4 remember me at Cedar Lake — Emily Coneybeare — 8 end of the earth — Emily Coneybeare — 13 I like it better underwater — Grace Collins — 14 Misty Morning on Clayoquot Sound — Emily Bass — 19 the calm before utter chaos — Hope Alex — 21 lumen print #3 — Sami Pye — 23 beautiful world — Lia Patentas — 24 leader of the landslide — Emily Coneybeare — 29 Bells Bend — Dori Rathmell — 32-33 Untitled — Noah Fischer — 34 rocks and dust 3 — Sydney Muench — 38 Meanwhile this evening... — Lauren Mitchell — 41 Trance — Callie Lau — 44 Homeward Bound — Emily Bass — 47 Evergreen — Emily Bass — 48-49 pose — Eva Wallis — 50 Little Red — Noah Fischer — 55 Visitor — Grace Collins — 56-57 Morning Glory — Emily Bass — 60 A Slice of Home — Lindsey McCormack — 60 Peachy Dreams — Katie Meyerson — 63 Horn Players — Ronaldo Bolanos — 66 Screens — Lauren Mitchell — 67 Selkie — Grace Collins — 69 BorderLine — Noah Fischer — 70 Aruba 2021 — Lauren Mitchell — 75 Pit Stop — Ronaldo Bolanos — 77 Buttercup — Lauren Mitchell — 80 i missed you — Sydney Muench — 82-83 rocks and dust 1 — Sydney Muench — 85 lowkey, no pressure! — Lia Patentas — 88 afternoons in the middle of june — Lia Patentas — 90 Relaxing After Work — Katie Meyerson — 91 on a scale on 1 to 10 — Sami Pye — 92 Untitled — Hope Alex — 95 Purple People Eater — Noah Fischer — 99 i hate my reflection for years and years — Sami Pye — 100 self love — Piper Hamm — 17 Old Goddess — Elise Nass — 27 Self Portrait 2 — Grace Collins — 30 Assigned [Redacted] At Birth — Nikolai S Razumov — 37 Sea and Sky — Grace Collins — 42-43 Walking Home Alone — Katie Meyerson — 52 Koi Fish — Katherine Raiano — 58 NO POSTAGE — TreVaughn Ellis — 64 Octopus — Katherine Raiano — 68 Art of Trash — Ashley Hocking — 72-73 Shadow Puppet — Ashley Hocking — 87 Have a Seat, Please — Scarlett Wedergren — 96

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Fall 2021

Poetry

Sapphic x3 — Gracie Donovan — 9 Ode to the Closet — Jamie Klinger — 10-11 At the Wild Reef Exhibit — Annie Przypyszny — 15 Tongue Twister — Jamie Klinger — 16 On a Hill in Vermont — Lindsey McCormack — 18 A Premonition of Philophobia — Callie Lau — 20 I’m Thinking — Annie Przypyszny — 22 bittersweet — McKenna Casey — 25 And So I Do, And So I Do — Ray Koffink — 26 Cicadas Hum Psalms — Annika Rennaker — 28 unconditionally — Trevor A Luciani — 33 Finding — Ashley Hocking — 35 Ghost Story — Vishwa Bhatt — 36 if you’re reading this i’m alive — McKenna Casey — 39 Mango Juice — Maite Ramos — 40 The Flowers We Pressed — Annika Rennaker — 43 Dreaming of a Spanish Morning — Lindsey McCormack — 45 Hereafter — Daniel Frias — 49 perfect places — Trevor Luciani — 51 How Do I Tell You — Rhys Allison — 53 Dog World — Hope Neyer — 54 black coffee — Riddhi Setty — 56 milk carton portrait — Alexia Partouche — 59 the green interlude — McKenna Casey — 61 Buddy — Emily Coneybeare — 62 Two Peaches — Sydney Smith — 62 Chai Tea & Depression — Grace Hasson — 67 Thinking Through Feeling — Annie Przypyszny — 68 Recording the Moon — Ray Koffink — 71 Ouroboros — Katie Meyerson — 73 Snails — Riddhi Setty — 74 time — Lilly Song — 74 Beautiful Things — Annie Przypyszny — 76 February, 2009 — Gracie Donovan — 81 Thinking of You — Grace Hasson — 83 I Love Long Titles But I Can Never Be Clever So, Here It Is You Bastards — Ray Koffink — 84 First Supper — Vishwa Bhatt — 86 Mother — Gracie Donovan — 89 The Helplessness of an Atheist — Grace Hasson — 90 manic pixie nightmare — Olivia Wenke — 94 Not a Nightmare — Kaitlyn Newport — 97 The Destiny We Manifested — Jamie Klinger — 98-99 the effects of distance: a series of love letters — Sydney Muench — 101

Prose

Skeletal Remains — Hannah Sjovold — 12 Call Me Shallow — Liah Argiropoulos — 31 White Dust — Natalie Flynn — 46 Dollar Value — Abby Grifno — 65 Zeyde’s Big Day — Max Robins — 78-79 The People in That Car Must Be Dead — Max Robins — 93

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American Literary Magazine

remember me at Cedar Lake Emily Coneybeare

Editor’s Choice

Medium Statement: 35 mm

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Fall 2021

Sapphic x3 Gracie Donovan The last friday of my freshman year I took two busses to the bookstore because I knew I’d miss the city when I was back home, in Ohio. I bought a book of Sappho’s poems the cashier asked me if I was a fan I laughed face gone hot And said I was On the way out the door I clipped my hip on a bookcase so hard that I would later find a purple bruise but I held the pain back gritted teeth And walked onto the street I waited for a bus that never came when the rain came thudding down in fat heavy drops slapping against the sidewalk sa-pik sa-pik sa-pik under the awning of the gas station, I was sure everyone could hear in the heavy beat of my heart the telling rhythm sapphic sapphic sapphic

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American Literary Magazine

Ode to the Closet Jamie Klinger I come out on a rock overlooking the lake, the sun Edging the horizon and her eyes gaze into mine. We’re both nervous, blushing and fidgeting As we tell each other that what we want between the lines Of what’s acceptable, a language we burn into ourselves, Even at that age, learning the dance of discretion when We’re stand apart in the porch shadow, the other girls Laughing inside as they spin the bottle, and she tells me That we cannot play together, not when other girls Can bump lips without tugging shirtsleeves for more. She tells me I make her uncomfortable in the porch shadow And I wonder now if she’s come out the way I did, In hushed words in the bathroom between the sinks Or pressed against my friends and I as we Walk in the mall, clutching the words so tight Against my sternum that they have to fight to get out. I feel it every time I”m nervous, my heart slams And my throat closes and the pressure builds and builds To die, never coming out as I sneak away to the bathroom, Shame pooling in my stomach because I couldn’t come out To my mom as she idly chews her favorite meal the same way I could come out to the waiter in an easy throwaway Between awed juvenile giggling. I come out to friends And strangers, I come out to GSA freshman year just to see What it’s like not to have to say it, I come out to my coworkers While they talk about boys (I do it again when I realize We don’t speak the same language, They do not look between the lines like I do -Why would they? They were not raised behind closet doors).

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Fall 2021

The law says that I’m safe but I learned The danger of a private life from quiet teachers and the potential Pink slip waiting for me at my old job, Shame fumbling my fingers as I tie up clients dresses -All the men are banished to the waiting area, So where do I go? My job is about being dependable, Safe to strangers who need to feel confident and to children Who are too young to know that I am not allowed to tell Anyone that I smile with another counselor when we Come out of our shells, just us, sharing the safety in privacy when She runs her fingers through my hair i the backseat of her car Despite my protesting, warm hands fumbling against warm hands. I come out in this poem and I come out to my sister who doesn’t look At me and I come out to my family who don’t understand Why they can’t call me a lesbian, I come out quietly and loudly In the city streets where rainbows smother me, I come out poolside in Australia, I came out twice in health class In hope of adequate education, I come out on Instagram and am forced To remove the picture, I come out when I put it back up, And when I sit down with my mom, chicken teriyaki and mistakes between Us, she looks at me. She has been waiting for this day For so long as we fumbled around it, and m heart slams And my throat closes and the pressure builds. When she says I know, I cry, and when she says I thought coming out was easy? Nothing comes out.

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American Literary Magazine

Skeletal Remains Hannah Sjovold The day I died began as an ordinary day. Scuffling feet from the floors below, coffee beans shaken in a grinder, squeaky doors unlocking, hissing water pipes, and gentle sunlight caused my mind to leave my dreamscape of altered reality. I resented it all. Rather than springing out from under my cocoon of covers to take on the day, I wallowed, hoping the sights and sounds were illusions and not the sign of morning. With a groan, I heaved off my comforter, the chill air conditioning making my neck tingle as goosebumps sprung up along my arms and legs. Stumbling through my mess of a room, I lumbered towards my bathroom, fumbling for my glasses to make out everything around me. I lazily brushed my teeth, even letting my toothbrush hang for a minute because moving my arm back and forth seemed like a herculean task – one I was unable to handle in that moment. I turned on the faucet, peeled off my ratty T-shirt I had slept in, and waited for the water to warm. As I scrubbed my scalp, my mind drifted, planning what I was going to wear that day. Mostly, I wanted to stay in my warm sweatpants and worn shirt, not restrictive jeans or business casual wear. Eventually, I coaxed myself out of the hot steam and back into the frigid, stale air. When I finally collected myself, I strode towards the mirror, my green eyes hauntingly staring back at me. I wish I were dead, I thought to myself, like words mumbled as an unconscious afterthought. Oh boy, how naive I was that autumn day.

Hood up, headphones clamped over my ears, I braced myself for the brisk wind and heavy streams of people making their way to work. I pushed open the heavy metal doors and began my usual route to the subway, averted eyes keenly studying the cracks in the pavement at my feet. The usual stench of piss and rotting trash lingered in the structural bones of the subway platform. My train came to a halting stop, the double doors slid open, and I entered. Latching onto the cool metal pole, all I noticed was the gentle tug of the train leaving the platform and the jostle of the tracks underneath my feet. It was only when I glanced up to check which stop we were nearing that I took note of the other passengers around me. A leaden dread seeped into my bones, crushing me, crumpling my body like used tin foil. The normally awake but dazed expressions of commuters were nowhere to be found. Donned backpacks and jackets were present, but the muscles that held them up were absent. Pale ivory fingers peaked through when a stranger checked their back pocket for their phone. Hollow eyes and hinged jaws filled out Sudoku and crossword puzzles. A deep terror electrocuted my bones – shakily, I removed my gloves, tugging off one finger at a time. As it slid off, I stared dumbfounded – slender white bones protruded from underneath my sweatshirt. Absolute silence from the sudden absence of my heartbeat and rhythmic breathing clouded my head, a daze descending around me. The doors squealed open, I sprinted – a single glove left on the floor of a dingy subway car.

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Fall 2021

end of the earth Emily Coneybeare

Editor’s Choice

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American Literary Magazine

I like it better underwater Grace Collins

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Fall 2021

At the Wild Reef Exhibit Annie Przypyszny All that water pressing up against the barrier—it isn’t hard to imagine the glass cracking like an eggshell at the tap of the sawfish’s serrated snout. I imagine thin ribbons seeping between the fractures, then all of us crushed by a thick thrust of ocean. Or perhaps not crushed—instead, swept off our feet, immersed in a world of salt and blue, fish drifting above us like balloons. Nevermind our breath—the gasps of awe we took as we watched the glass give will hold us through. See the man in the baseball cap and Jansport backpack slowly swim beside the Napoleon Wrasse, a fish that’s taller than him, that thinks larger thoughts with its larger head.

See two small children, their light-up sneakers glowing like bioluminescent plankton, settle in the sand for a noon-time nap, the spotted ray draped atop them for a blanket. See a husband and wife fall in love all over again, sinking into the memories of their honeymoon in Maui, where they snorkeled in the turquoise of Kapalua Bay. Watch as they renew their vows amidst a garden of morays, clownfish weaving through the wife’s coral-red tresses, moonjellies flickering like stars. Though this glass is plexiglass and as likely to break as the floor is likely to collapse, it’s impossible to gaze through this wall of water and not wonder what it’s like to dance with a blacktip shark, who I’ve heard must stay dancing to stay alive.

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American Literary Magazine

Tongue Twister Jamie Klinger Much of my childhood was spoken. Sitting in silent rooms, so still, shaking my seat sent shockwaves soaring. I sat slouched, sliding s’s between sorry slits, soupy syllables stuck someplace I struggled to see. She sometimes smiled, she sometimes shook and shook and shook, sorry, sally sold…? Say Seashell Say Sunshine Say Santa as my sister and I stared, stitching S together with stupid strength. I stole respite in slurring and lollipops, lilting loudness like leapfrogs lumped on lily pads. I lulled, learning letters that languished living like lords beyond my leisure, loathing low loads leveling up in my tonsils. Lackluster learning, living lesson to lesson, until I could speak.

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Fall 2021

self love Piper Hamm

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American Literary Magazine

On a Hill in Vermont Lindsey McCormack The mountains are quiet at this late hour. I lay nestled in them trapped, cradled. Everything beyond here, beyond this room, may very well not exist. The valley expands too far. Specs of starlight break, through the night’s pitch-black cloak. Empty streets allow, a universe of constellations. Noise ceased to exist here a long time ago; leaving coyotes occasional howels, ringing through the air, bouncing between mountains. Senses are lost in these hours, sometimes we drive to regain them, double-checking that the world still exists, as the car bounces over aged roads.

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Fall 2021

Misty Morning on Clayoquot Sound Emily Bass

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American Literary Magazine

A Premonition of Philophobia Callie Lau Editor’s Choice After the pandemic we’ll realize That there are only two kinds of people I Who upon smelling the ocean run into the waves with open arms, swimming till there’s salt in their lungs and sand in their lashes, laughing as if they’ve just discovered the magic of a giggle, how it spreads, how it wakes the heart, Who couldn’t care less about wet clothes or scowls of strangers while prancing across the beach, collecting pretty pebbles and strangely shaped shells; Don’t blame them for they are creatures of hope, who have lived on land all this time, dreaming of the day they return to sea II Who perch by the shore, lost hands afraid to touch the world outside skin, a shade of too-little-sunlight and too-much-soap ears, listening to waves washing against rocks like a war of words whose muffled syllables are indecipherable, but whose crashing release of built-up tension they feel perfectly Imagine, living with a screaming silence for so long one forgets how to speak, living with loneliness till they forget there was a time they were not alone And now even when the sea rushes to tickle their toes and strangers smile, they retreat six feet away, a social distance

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Fall 2021

the calm before utter chaos Hope Alex

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American Literary Magazine

I’m Thinking Annie Przypyszny If I told you what I’m thinking, could you follow the thought with your eyes, like watching the flight pattern of a dew-crazed bee? Or would you need it hummed in slow song before you sleep, when your mind is most malleable? If I distilled the thought into scent, would you recognize it, detect the hints of lilac, peppermint, volcanic ash? Tell me you’ll taste it, and I’ll set the kettle boiling, steeping flakes of thought so you might drink. Though I think, if none else prevails, that you could feel it. I’ll set the thought soft-heavy in your hands. It will rub its downy face against your palms, lick your skin with a warm, rough tongue. At the crest of its purr, it will bite into the cushion of your thumb, then fall fast asleep.

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Fall 2021

lumen print #3 Sami Pye

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American Literary Magazine

beautiful world Lia Patentas Editor’s Choice 24


Fall 2021

bittersweet McKenna Casey In early June, I remember, how those three crabapple trees would bloom and create that little canopy, and how I would dance through the white and yellow violets beneath it in bare feet, fearful of the bees but unafraid of the scraped palms and skinned knees, and I would climb on that lichen-wearing rock and haul myself into their branches. How tall those trees seemed then, how small I was. The thing I remember most about my childhood was the smell. When the breeze in the summer evenings was in just the right direction and I could practically taste the untamed grapes growing at the edge of the woods. Hours in the grass at the side of my house, pulling up wild chives by the fistful until my hands were sticky with it, the sour crush of just-ripe blueberries on my tongue, on my lips, and of course. The crabapples. Rubbing the sage and lavender that my mother grew in the patio garden between my fingers, on my wrists and neck like perfume. My childhood was a sensory experience, the press of dirt under my fingernails, how that metal grate my father had laid over the creek had dug into my stomach, how I hadn’t cared, just kept hunting for crayfish and trying to catch minnows in the net of my fingers. When we left, I’d wanted to leave a piece of myself behind, something tangible, so I buried one half of my favorite pair of earrings down by the stump in the backyard. I haven’t been back, but I’m sure they tore that stump up, along with the floors in the hallway and the carpet in the living room. So my little “I was here” is gone, and all I have are the memories, so real I can taste them. So real I can hold them in my hands.

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American Literary Magazine

And So I Do, And So I Do Ray Koffink Artist Statement: Title references the last line of Dalton Day’s poem “Dinosaurs Smelled Magnolias.”

After Dalton Day pg. 195 (05/04/2021) Blood let to flood through seams of corset ribbon, and hidden are the waves of your hands. Leaking through to my ribs like God must have held Adam. Soil and sand between his skin manifest a glass body to burn and there lies my sin: between bed sheets. And my hands, your hair is as black as ash yet lit like tobacco on Father’s lips, a liquid smoke in my lungs like flood, like run and river song, just us, on and on and on.

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Fall 2021

Old Goddess Elise Nass Medium Statement: Ink on paper

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American Literary Magazine

Cicadas Hum Psalms Annika Rennaker The sun sets In the backdrop Of a rose-colored haze. The fruit bats survey The parching landscape. Crackling earth, Where the red dirt vibrates. Amidst blurry road visions, Cicadas hum psalms, And pray for days When the heat is not So cruel. The rumble of thunder sounds As the dull sky darkens. Foreplay to the dying desert. All hail the rainfall As it begins to come down Upon this withered wasteland. The melodious pitter pattering of every raindrop, Denotes the long-awaited convergence of star-crossed lovers. As the showers descend upon the arid emptiness, Washing it clean with a calm veracity, The gum trees hold out their hands to greet their gracious saviour, Who has blessed them with such humid happiness. Once again, the puddles of possibility form That the wild wilderness of the great nothing, May once again be filled with life. May our love mirror nature in such a way, You the rainstorm, I the desert.

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Fall 2021

leader of the landslide Emily Coneybeare

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American Literary Magazine

Self Portrait 2 Grace Collins

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Fall 2021

Call Me Shallow Liah Argiropoulos Editor’s Choice I always feel like one of the boys until one day a boy explains to me that I’m just shallow, and I like players for their looks, or personality, or whatever, and that I don’t look enough at stats, and baby, it’s not worth it to stan someone who can’t drop 25 on a bad night. And somewhere deep down there, I don’t feel equal anymore. It hits me that I’ve realized how they see me, and suddenly, I’m looking up into a blinding light, somewhere 30,000 feet underwater, wondering why I could have ever been so stupid and naive and let myself get played. But my sweet, sweet darling angel, I really am shallow. Baby, I’ve been through the Process. I know who TJ McConnell is. I’m jealous of the way his teammates use him as an armrest when he does something good, looping an arm around his neck like he’s a trophy. I want to be just one of the boys — loved, equal, worthy — but there’s something about gender that separates.

DC for school next semester. We play fuck, marry, kill with the pretty boys of basketball and dream of glitzy dates and luxury lives we’ll never live. We’re not Instagram models or children of nepotism, nor do we want to be. It kills me that even just for fun, there is no other option than to be a walking, talking, breathing stereotype of the women who came before you. Men do this to us all they want, so why can’t we do it back? Sweetheart, I was raised on this shit. My favorite NBA player as a kid was Andre Iguodala because my mom told me he was out with a broken arm, just like how I had to sit out of my swim season that summer with a fractured elbow. He had a torn Achilles that season, actually, but it made me feel better when I saw his shooting sleeve and assumed it was for my mom’s made-up arm injury. After him, I entered my freshman year of high school as Dario Saric came over and graduated as Kyle O’Quinn went to the Euroleague, and now, I smile every time I see the number nine.

Darling, I always root against the Celtics, because I’ve talked to four guys over the past year and each one has rejected me and each one has told me that Jayson Tatum is the future of the league. Each one of them has gotten smashed up at TD Garden on a Wednesday while I wonder why they won’t text me back. Is it because I’m a Sixers fan? Is it because I hated Al Horford? Is it because the thought of them frowning at a statline on their phone makes me crack the tiniest smile? Is it because…

I turn career arcs into storylines and citywide heroes into best friends. My non-sports-fan friends know my favorite players as the one with gifted kid burnout, the one with the pet snakes, the activist who stars in Goldfish commercials, and so on. I imagine myself to be a foot taller than I really am and built like a basketballer, passively, envisioning myself in my head as one of the boys. I calculate every move of those around me like one might calculate a player’s RAPTOR or LEBRON. My eyes flick from face to face as I consider the way I’m being perceived. I’m 30,000 feet underwater.

Honey, my friends and I want to figure out where Rui Hachimura gets his coffee when we’re back in

If I’m shallow, meet me in the deep end. I’d like to see you swim.

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Bells Bend Dori Rathmell


Fall 2021

unconditionally Trevor A. Luciani covered in daisies, you are laid for your final rest. navy clouds open a ray of light, burning the shadow that once covered the ace of spades up your sleeve. betty to some, Nana to me. your name will last longer than the trees that rest on top of the tallest folktales. died, but never will be dead. you will be within me till forever burns down.

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American Literary Magazine

Untitled Noah Fischer Artist Statement: Wyoming. Untitled is a really special photograph for me. It’s the only one that I didn’t put any finishing touches onto out of these five. It took me quite a while to get the white balance right on my camera for it, but it was important to me that I get it right then and there. The conditions were quite tricky for photography when I took it, and I’m really proud that I got it.

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Fall 2021

Finding Ashley Hocking Before the atoms shift, my foot lands in the grasses A molecule of being That travels roads and pounces On sinking momentary blips And embellished cottage houses My body flows through the present And passes out on strangers’ couches The sky a dusky blue With moonlight in the brambles Curled blackberry flowers in heavy air With dust blown up from grit and gravel Bird songs and pleasant sights And yet I power past it: The questions, the memories, the challenges, But most of all the masses Of moments past and future yearnings That wrap my heart inside a makeshift casket Of lies that I have never lived And will never find satisfaction And so I breathe the inescapable air That reeks of rot and sweet disaster And exhale filtered release that begs from my next breath To be Of peace and love and laughter-Instead of what would rather Swaddle my mind in weeds, Gently bury my heart down under, And whisper the myth that after all There is no happily ever after.

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American Literary Magazine

Ghost Story Vishwa Bhatt

In the height of summer, you stand at the crest of Devil’s Hill Half mirage and half a boy-ghost The town of believers buried you in the ground But prayers from my sinner’s mouth brought you back To stand above the field of dying wildflowers we once laid in Back when you were the only living thing for miles and your lips tasted like it Here is the boy who made love to me while we were both in our Sunday best Swore he would find his own way to heaven Today, you face up to the sky while the rest of us cower from the heat Your sun-bleached eyelashes feathering against your cheeks And I know you are still looking for your way upward Not knowing your black hair lies motionless in the sweltering breeze. They buried you in your church clothes But I snuck the brass knuckles in your pocket before the funeral Just in case God decided to pick a fight; the kind you could never walk away from You come back to me bloodless now, pale and thin and chap-lipped And more alive than I have ever known you It is an easy thing to choose tumbling with you one final time I think I see the silhouette of crow’s wings blooming from your back just before we fall And then we fall. The village children will relish telling this ghost story for years Of you, the boy who sang the prayer hymns a little too loudly and died an early death And me, who was seen once more on Devil’s Hill and never came back

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Fall 2021

Assigned [Redacted] At Birth Nikolai S Razumov Medium Statement: Made using pen.

Editor’s Choice

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American Literary Magazine

rocks and dust 3 Sydney Muench

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Fall 2021

if you’re reading this i’m alive McKenna Casey I am not used to happiness this big. I keep waiting for it to slip like it tends to, but it doesn’t. I am trying not to think about car crashes or growing up. I am staring at my own hand where it plays in the wind, my skin a different shade each time we pass a streetlight or neon storefront. If this sort of night (this sort of feeling) could be bottled then I would be an addict. This! Right now! A glimpse of an older couple walking hand in hand and I’m caught off guard — Love is alive and well at a gas station off the highway. My hand is getting cold but I can’t bear to bring it inside. I put the moon between my thumb and pointer finger. We keep driving. I don’t want to go home, not yet, at least let this playlist play through. You haven’t heard half these songs. Bowie! You haven’t heard Bowie! All the lights are turning green for us. Inside my chest, my heart is a tenuous, flickering thing, coming back to life somewhere around the last stop sign on Palomino.

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American Literary Magazine

Mango Juice Maite Ramos Artist Statement: Mango Juice is about the latest stage in my trauma healing process that started a year ago. It’s about learning to trust myself with feelings and experiences that feel too big, and loving the tender parts that want dessert before dinner.

I had mango juice instead of water An omelette and sausages when I should’ve had spaghetti Read about a giant spider and a flying car instead of the Good Friday Agreement Called my mom and had a beer She told me I always sound so good even though I tell her about all the trouble I’m having And I know she’s right I just can’t seem to find my way out of my own head. I’ve given everything to you. I’ve given you a year of my life and my love and mango juice and I don’t know why it isn’t enough I want to run at my life at breakneck speed and see all the things these new feet can do But you Push That goddamn Airbag In front of me. I’m ready now, I promise, I won’t stumble this time, I won’t leave you behind, I won’t eat pasta when I know I want sausages Just let me try Please. I want to try all these new things and people and I swear, I pinky promise, I won’t snap my neck if I trip I’ve bruised myself so many times and it’s never killed me I swear - I can do this And I am right now, look - do you see me in the mirror doing all the things I never let us do? It feels like drinking mango juice When I could’ve had water.

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Fall 2021

Meanwhile this evening... Lauren Mitchell

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American Literary Magazine

Sea and Sky Grace Collins Medium Statement: gouache on canvas.

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Fall 2021

The Flowers We Pressed Annika Rennaker Like flowers between the pages We were pressed against the words we said in rage. And I wanted to tell you all the ways that I loved you But through my cloudy vision I was raining tears down onto The summer version of us, High on laughter and the promises of “soon” Unbothered and bound in the boundless Potential that surrounded us. But like the lie that is “forever,” You pushed me over the precipice And falling in love Became falling

past love,

past promises, past memories, and past the flowers we pressed

In pain.

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American Literary Magazine

Trance Callie Lau

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Fall 2021

Dreaming of a Spanish Morning Lindsey McCormack Gold flakes of moonlight glistened atop the sea as waves swooshed monotonously against the shoreline. I sat high up in a lifeguard tower looked out at the ocean scene, imagined fish dancing in the golden spotlights beneath the waves. A cool breeze rippled against my skin, against the tide, it soothed me, settled me into my spot atop the tower. I closed my eyes, let the salt air fill my sinuses allowed the waves to become white noise permitted the breeze to form goosebumps upon my sweaty skin. Across the Atlantic morning was breaking in Spain. Someone was watching the sunrise over the ocean that lay in front of me, tide moving in the opposite direction I wished to stay there all night until the breeze had atrophied my skin with sand, until the smell of seaweed became potent, until the dancing fish lost their spotlights, until the sun was rising for me, until the tide was headed back towards Spain.

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American Literary Magazine

White Dust Natalie Flynn The Martians weren’t familiar with snow. Upon waking to a flurry-filled sky, some stepped out, hesitant, to greet it. Others weren’t so bold; they peered from their windows, eyes alight with confusion and wonder. White dust danced in thick droves against the dawn. It tumbled like twisting galaxies and fell like tiny stars. It landed, feather light, on the packed red ground. On the roof of a little house in a sea of little houses, one martian opened their eyes. Cold specks landed softly on their forehead and melted there. They must have fallen asleep. And now… Drowsy, they pushed themself up on their elbows and looked around. The suburbs were veiled in white. Against the burnt red streets, it wasn’t natural. Neither was the chill in the air. When they let out a breath, they were surprised to find it bloom,

cloud-like before their eyes. Slowly, they lifted pale fingers to touch it; by the time they reached the cloud, it had already dissipated. White flakes filled the air where it had been. Strange… They watched for a long moment, fascinated. The dust seemed safe enough, whatever it was. They wondered what the neighbors would see if they looked up at them on the roof: a little dark blot in the whirlwind. That’s what it felt like. They let themself fall back, squinting against the soft barrage of flakes. Somewhere behind this curtain was the night’s familiar darkness. The universe. Something out there, they thought, must have happened. To cause this. They should be more alarmed. They should be inside, like the others, safe behind windows and walls. But in this moment, all they could think was, it’s beautiful.

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Fall 2021

Homeward Bound Emily Bass

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Lifecycle of a Thimbleberry

Editor’s Choice

Rainforest Family

Evergreen (series) Emily Bass


Fall 2021

Life Among the Giants

Hereafter Daniel Frias Dead birds fly on tomorrow’s wings I know not when But soon they will take roost In a place we cannot go Yesterday’s trees follow in their wake An exodus of greenery and empty nests Shambling in rot-step formation To take root in a promised land Beasts of then and now go too, Treading softly Paws put to prayer, to pavement, To passing on To a path lined with loose feathers Animal bones And seeds Silent but for the creak of absence

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American Literary Magazine

pose Eva Wallis

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Fall 2021

perfect places Trevor Luciani clenching the walkman, blistering guitar solos penetrated my ears. i hid, fidgeting in the corner hoping neighbors didn’t hear china breaking in the kitchen. tracing each unexplained beauty mark one by one, my eyes closed every time a scream not from the rickety headphones reached for my ear. eroding lime green paint chips bounced on to the floor hiding from slam shut doors. the posters on my wall smiled at me; my idols never failed me. a cold grilled cheese sandwich is set on the floor outside my room, it was my Mom. she heard my silent screams, knowing i hadn’t eaten all that day. i wouldn’t forget to bring my Mom with me when i leave.

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American Literary Magazine

Walking Home Alone Katie Meyerson Medium Statement: Ink print

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Fall 2021

I am sick I am tired I am angry And I do not know how to tell you how those feelings have drilled into my bones Engrained like sand into the very fabric of my being How do I tell you? Yet another time I open the news and see another dead face staring back at me Another request for funding for the funeral Another name for the list I am tired of seeing that there is another dead trans woman When Black trans women have a life expectancy of their mid 30s I think of Marsha P Johnson, our foremother Dead in her 30s Her body floating in a river But we remember her We commemorate our dead on a day every year The hundreds killed in 365 days around the world All because they’re trans I do not know how to tell you how sick I am How tired I am Or how angry I am Because how do I tell you how I hate to see the news debating whether I exist Whether who I am makes me sick or makes me crazy Whether people like me deserve to be alive Because it isn’t who I am that’s the problem When it’s their attitudes killing the most vulnerable of us How do I tell you the betrayal of families turning on us? Their hearts broken because I am me? I am sick I am tired I am angry And I hate the screams trapped inside my soul As the states do their best to outlaw us To deny us medicine or the right to our gender The right for our bodies to match how we are 32/50 states cracking down 13 of our own dead this year, one dead trans person a week It’s not new It’s not special This is every day Every year Wondering how many of us go unremembered, unrecognized Because they were still trapped inside Or their families denied who they were even in death And yet I should be happy Because my state has banned the trans panic defense, only the 12th And things are doing better here than they were before While I worry for my trans siblings in Arkansas and North Carolina and Dakota As their rights are stripped bare How can I be happy? When all I feel looking at the news Is sick Is tired Is angry And how can I tell you that?

How Do I Tell You Rhys Allison Content Warning: transphobia

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American Literary Magazine

Dog World Hope Neyer We might have lost the film negatives and the memory cards to those early digital cameras, but you’re always going to be the story behind certain summertime scrapes and the answer to my security questions. Did I capitalize your name? And which name? And when did the “childhood” before “best friend” end? I don’t know where you live anymore or what became of your mother. Your father grew green peppers in the kitchen window in St. Bernard. Your sister comes up sometimes on Facebook. That old dog and your grandma have to be dead by now, And I saw your bird didn’t make it. I’m sorry. Do you remember the night we sat in the parking lot for hours? Do you remember climbing high enough the evergreens shook beneath us? Did they tell you what finally did it? I’ve forgotten a lot, and in any case I never knew that. A check. A careless word, an email, a series of pins, an orange pill bottle like some kind of forgiving hourglass amber and empty in the passenger seat. We’re moving again, I should tell you that. Too often think I see your uncle in grocery stores and metro stations. When I stayed over I would wake up sometimes in the dark hours of the morning, watching you breathe softly and stretch your arms in sleep. In the flat glow of an empty fish tank, anything I heard and did not understand could have been the rabbit kicking her cage or your neighbors leaving for work.

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Fall 2021

little red Noah Fischer Artist Statement: Carlin, NV

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American Literary Magazine

black coffee Riddhi Setty i think i like you maybe not as much as you like black coffee but in a similar way unexpected and acquired addicting nonetheless

i have to admit i didn’t see it coming being a tea person myself but your warmth is alluring and with every slow sip i crave just a little more

Visitor Grace Collins 56


Fall 2021

57


American Literary Magazine

Koi fish Katherine Raiano Medium Statement: Pen and colored pencil on paper

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Fall 2021

milk carton portrait Alexia Partouche we used to laugh about how the girl on the milk carton looked a little bit like me, empty eyes and a flatline mouth while she watched us pour, milky white like the girl next door’s skin, the way it shone under the fluorescent classroom lights, like the glaze on our ceramic bowls, easy to break but so damn pretty on the eyes. we talked to her parents when they moved in, but she was mine alone, in passing glances at her hips, the shape of her, and when we spoke the first time i thought of what a wonderful thing it would be, to crawl into her mouth and feel the sleekness of those fallow teeth and the thin plush of her lips opening and closing like the doors to something beautiful i could barely understand. we touched and my body fell, feather-light, into hers, a freckled pillow to hold me, and could she do it for longer? there was nothing warmer than the blush when her cheek was pressed against mine, her blemishes sinking into my face like ink into water, spirals coming loose, captivating in their messiness. on her collarbone i bit promises, whispering “i’ll tell them for you, i’ll tell them for us, could we tell them?” and in her kisses came the reply — “they’ll devour us whole, they’ll eat us alive.” she unraveled my soul from around my skeleton, pulled it out from inside of me, and said “look at this thing, look at what it’s made of.” and i saw the scabbed knees and flower beds in it, the blood and petals that matched hers, and i knew that they would hate us for it. so i crept out her bedroom window in the middle of the night, and when morning came and we all ate our cereal, we talked about how we couldn’t quite see me in the milk carton portrait anymore.

59


American Literary Magazine

Morning Glory Emily Bass

A Slice of Home Lindsey McCormack

60


Fall 2021

the green interlude McKenna Casey It’s been raining for days and everything is either drowning or growing, green or dead. There is so much green. Our souls are grown in the ground, you know. They have roots. When we touch them, If we could, Our hands would come back grass-stained, our fingernails packed with dirt. I can only imagine what they’d taste like. All different things, maybe. Rain and wild mint. Thunder and lightning, leaves and bark. Mud. Clementines. Our souls are not grown in a garden. Our yards are supposed to have clover. Dig your fingers into the soil, loose from the storm. Don’t you feel it? That you’ve been here before? Go out into the rain. Tilt your head back, open your mouth. Take communion. This storm is a hurricane somewhere further down the coast. On the radar this rain is green. There are souls growing in the woods behind my house. Everything is growing, dead or alive, even you, even me, everything, evergreen, everything.

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American Literary Magazine

Two Peaches Sydney Smith There are two peaches rotting on the countertop. The vestigial remains of summer float through the screen door. The few living fireflies greet me on the porch, and I watch the pollen and dandelions lazily pass me by. The heat is oppressive, and I long for the cold days I used to hate. I can’t think. My head is a flurry of white, like the dandelions, and breath, like yours.

Buddy Emily Coneybeare Hot and warm, respectively Stuck in the first snowfall A new place Handshake at the table Light runs past us We don’t notice We see it all Cut from the cloth that keeps us warm Take a picture, it won’t last But we will Forever, forever Wake up On the tv nowhere I heard but didn’t notice We’re a hundred when you see me In the garden Across the aisle Palms warm Cheeks pink Look at me the same Forever, forever

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Fall 2021

Peachy Dreams Katie Meyerson

63


American Literary Magazine

NO POSTAGE TreVaughn Ellis Artist Statement: lol that initiative didn’t workout Medium Statement: Mixed media: marker, acrylic, crayon, pen

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Fall 2021

Dollar Value Abby Grifno Money has always had a way of finding me, or maybe I’ve always had a way of finding it. Just the other night, I was walking back to a bar where I’d left my scarf. There, on the sidewalk, was a dollar. My boyfriend thought it was a stroke of luck, but I was haunted by a hint of guilt. Someone, somewhere—maybe a few paces ahead or behind me—had lost their dollar, maybe their last dollar. I remember having my first job when I was entering the 8th grade. I was working at a day camp—only five days—but receiving that paycheck, holding it, made me entranced. I don’t remember what I spent it on, but having the choice, truly my own, felt important. I continued working at that camp for several years, slowly working my way up, learning responsibility one role at a time. Since then, filing my W2s and searching for my bank information has become second nature. I make mental notes when I see hiring signs, spread the word casually in case friends are looking. I know what it’s like to be looking, to be too young or too inexperienced for every job you stumble upon. I also know poor planning. There were times too when I lived beyond my means. That day I was headed to my internship and had only single digits in my bank account—almost no money for lunch. I couldn’t afford to eat

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out, didn’t have the ingredients to make anything, nor the planning to find a different option. I had resigned myself to skipping that meal, eating only dinner, when I would have the time to scrounge something up. Yet, when lunchtime rolled around, my stomach grumbled. I felt shaky. Skipping one meal, truthfully, is not a big deal, but it weighed heavy on my mind, as if I was literally starving myself. So instead I walked the half mile to McDonalds from the office so that I could order off their value menu, the dollar menu. I felt full, but pathetic. Shortly after that I picked up a second job. I wonder how I would have felt if I had stumbled upon a dollar on the street back then. Relief, I imagine. But the worry surrounding money hasn’t truly abated—perhaps it never will, as my mother is the same—and neither has my entrancement with a dollar, my willingness to work the graveyard shift, the gravitational pull I feel to pick up more hours. So no, I didn’t leave the dollar on the pavement. And yes, it’s in my pocket as we speak. I will leave it there for now, let my jeans get washed and rewashed. So that maybe at some point, when I really need a dollar, I will search around my room, checking my purses and my clothes, and there it will be.


American Literary Magazine

horn players Ronaldo Bolanos

Screens Lauren Mitchell

66


Fall 2021

chai tea & depression Grace Hasson It’s okay for you to stay for a few days now that the tea is on its tray and the sugar and milk tamper the bitterness away. It’s okay for you to step between him and me. I didn’t really want honesty this evening, just a breath of believability. It’s okay if you hold me against the sheets. Just don’t disturb the shelf of pills and poppies or the cry for help nestled between my tongue and my teeth.

67


American Literary Magazine

Thinking Through Feeling Annie Przypyszny My brain told me a secret, that it might not be a brain at all but a second heart, which explains why I contain so much heat, and mirth, and deadness, and why the affection I give is as as inviolable as my wrath. I must have too much blood. There used to be a cure for that. Violence cures nothing except what hurts, and here I am, almost tired of taking the double beating.

Octopus Katherine Raiano Medium Statement: Pen and colored pencil on paper

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Fall 2021

Selkie Grace Collins

69


American Literary Magazine

BorderLine Noah Fischer Artist Statement: Floriston, CA (even though the photo has Nevada on it)

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Fall 2021

recording the moon Ray Koffink pg. 120 (03/03/2021) It’s a bit blurry at first. Covered clouds, a towel after shower it has just rained. So there’s no shame in wanting to dry. Peaking out, from window pane cracks in the door the grass of his chest hair wisps cirrus above I wish I weren’t so small. maybe then, I could rest my head in the crater of his chest each breath a rotation, having yet to find the hare in the star of my shoulders.

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American Literary Magazine

art of trash Ashley Hocking Medium Statement: Mixed media collage made from locally collected pollution. Artist Statement: This piece is a collage of locally collected pollution with the message to Think Green. It includes various types of litter found on a common day, from pollutive cigarettes, bottle caps, styrofoam, and all things that have an indelible mark on the environment once they are tossed. We must work towards creating a less consumptive and more mindful future for our one and only home.

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Fall 2021

ouroboros Katie Meyerson eating its tail over and over and over again. senseless, rhythmless destruction. harm afflicted from inception to conclusion. and yet i cannot ignore the slight chase the seductive dance of my own end.

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American Literary Magazine

snails Riddhi Setty The air feels different at 4:35 am. Forbidden, nipping at your ankles with a smile.

I see a collection of snails where I heard a sickening crunch under my foot in the day and was too afraid to look down.

I wonder if it is a funeral and if they know it is my fault.

I think about death a lot. I don’t think I will run when the time comes

But then again I didn’t think I was afraid of snakes till I almost sat on one. It’s easy to be brave against an enemy you think is far into your future.

My mother once told me that when she dies, she wants her funeral to be a celebration, filled with life.

I may not be afraid of death but I hate it when she talks about hers. It seems too real. I don’t know how she can expect this of me; I won’t be able to stop crying. But I think about it and there is a lot to celebrate. I wonder what my funeral will be like.

Death may steal us all eventually but as long as life takes her time hiding us, I think it’ll all be okay.

Time Lily Song i wear two watches on my wrists neither of them work but i can feel the time ticking away, a pulsing heartbeat beneath my skin sometimes i dig my fingers into the moment clinging tight to the present as if i could stop time from passing. there is a point in the future in which I cannot see any further; it blurs, turning to pale periwinkle oblivion the color i imagine before sunrise, before wakefulness, teetering on the edge between dream and reality. i want to believe that i will live, that i will find this puzzle piece i am missing, but it is hard to see past this fog— i fear i will lose myself in the nothingness. they say i’m beginning to look like my mother every time i look into the mirror, her smile is echoed on my face i can’t tell if it’s good thing or if i’m terrified of this because it means i’m growing up

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Fall 2021

aruba 2021 Lauren Mitchell

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American Literary Magazine

beautiful things Annie Przypyszny Do you want beautiful things? There’s a man you can marry who will give you beautiful things. He’s an older man, with many things, beautiful and otherwise, to spare: his late wife’s white gold watch, his late wife’s South Sea pearls, his late wife’s Hermès scarf, the one with a Bengal tiger on it that’s only perceptible when laid out flat. He’ll tell you you’re young, and thus you deserve beautiful things—but fair must be fair. How do you show your gratitude? With fingers, mouth? A deep, full purr? He’s looking for a ghost. All you have to do is become a ghost.

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Fall 2021

pit stop Ronaldo Bolanos

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American Literary Magazine

Zeyde’s Big Day Max Robins The face staring back at him in the mirror was familiar. It was the same one the young man had seen in every reflection for the past thirteen years. The bulky glasses and strong prescription, imperfect freckles, and disheveled rust colored hair perpetually in cowlick seemed unchanged.

Ezra mustered a nod, and the contented Rabbi marched out of the study’s stubby, secondary door and into the synagogue’s sanctuary. But before he could retreat back into the blissfully distracting decorations, Ezra’s focus was again commandeered by his keen, 78-year-old grandfather.

His Zeyde Nathan had told him time and time again that everything would change this morning—that becoming a bar mitzvah was more than just reading lines of Hebrew from a set of scrolls. It was about becoming a man—an adult—not just in the eyes of the Jewish community, but in the eyes of the world! Yet here he was, gazing into the same childish hazel eyes and seeing nothing new.

“You know your Shema, Ezra—” “Yes, yes Zeyde, I’ve practiced it a thousand times.”

Two sharp knocks came at the bathroom door. The shrill, distinctive voice of the young man’s Zeyde crept through the old oak door’s cracks and crevices, “Are you done in there bubala? It’s almost time! ” He quickly splashed a last cupping of water onto his nervous face and exited the study’s private washroom. Maybe his next reflection would be different. The study—a glorified library—was an immaculate yet insulating creation. Like the armored Kevlar lining a subterranean bunker, the walls were padded with books, relics, and Judaica. The centuries of artifacts and remnants of Jewish antiquity were a welcome distraction. Photos of a beaming Rabbi Schneier and fellow rabbinical leaders of the world shot intimidation at their beholder; etched and carved Kiddush cups commanded examination behind their glass-enclosed cabinets. Lost in fascination, Ezra almost forgot about the 300 men, women, boys, girls, family, and neighbors eagerly sitting inches outside the shelter-like study. Almost.

“And your Haftorah—you’re comfortable reciting the passage? ” “Yes, I’m ready. I know it like the back of my ha—” “And the Torah! You know your portion? Be careful with that yad, the silver flakes right onto that precious parchment if you’re too heavy handed…” “He’ll be fine, Daddy, he’s been practicing for months.” At last, the voice of reason, the young man’s mother. Suddenly the muffled voice of Rabbi Schneier had ceased and Zeyde was leading Ezra onto to the bimah. He always thought it’d be his proud grandfather and adoring parents following the young bar mitzvah on stage, not the other way around. Zeyde lingered by the lectern, waiting, while Ezra’s parents sat next to the extravagant ark housing the Torah behind—the gilded, adorned Aron Hakodesh. The young man approached the podium and his loitering grandfather, satisfied with the smiles and nods he had directed at his friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, patted Ezra on his suit’s padded shoulder and returned to sit with his daughter. Ezra sang. “Sh’ma, Yisrael Adonai, Eloheinu Adonai Echad…”

Zeyde’s abrupt nudge zapped Ezra back to reality. “… I was saying,” continued a time-pressed Rabbi Schneier, “once I’m done speaking, you’ll walk onto the bimah with your Zeyde Nathan and your parents. You’ll lead us in the Shema, you understand? ”

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Fall 2021

The words—millennia old and among the most important in the Jewish faith—slipped out of Ezra’s parched mouth only to be caught by the congregation repeating them back. It was true that he had practiced them a thousand times. Practice made perfect, but it didn’t make meaning.

Following his return of the Torah to its ornate arc, Zeyde swept the newly minted bar mitzvah into a congratulatory crowd of strangers in the adjacent ballroom. While they applauded Ezra for his skillful execution, it seemed to be the 78-year-old who was truly receiving and enjoying the praise. Eventually, the young man broke free and escaped back to the study’s washroom.

The foreign glyphs and characters were muscle memory, retained by rote, not understanding. Ezra had flunked out of Hebrew school three times before his parents acquiesced to Zeyde Nathan’s wishes and procured private lessons for the thirteen-year-old.

Once again, Ezra stared, bewildered, into the mirror. He’d been hopeful there would be some change— some new revelation in his appearance that emerged following the previous procession. But, alas, there was nothing. Not even another freckle. He thought of his grandfather, likely hobnobbing and socializing with the guests. Zeyde Nathan became a bar mitzvah 65 years earlier before a crowd consisting of his mother, two sisters, and a rabbi. No guests. No reception. Perhaps then, too, there was no revelation.

As he shot a daring glance at the split assembly solemnly bisected by sex, he felt as if he, too, was lost in the crowd of faces. As his projected self sat small and unnoticed on the century-old, donor inscribed bench before the bimah, one Ezra observed as the other Ezra moved from the weathered podium to the Aron Hakodesh and began unravelling the prized Torah with the help of Rabbi Schneier. He watched himself begin reciting the Torah portion that Rabbi and Zeyde had conspired to assign him. The syllables elegantly flowed out of his mouth, replete with the inexplicable inflections and tonal modulations that his tutor engrained in him. By the end of his lessons, he had become fluent in the Hebrew alefbet and could deliver his Haftorah as an oratory masterpiece. But he didn’t understand a single word.

Ezra studied the reflection and it studied him back. It was all still there—the bulky glasses, the rust colored hair. The boyish qualities he had always known seemed unphased. The face staring back at him in the mirror was familiar. He saw nothing new.

When Ezra had at last regained his bearings and his consciousness returned to the bimah, he had unthinkingly progressed towards the final stage of the ceremony: the Hakafot. Already having rehearsed the maneuver with Rabbi Schneier and the cantor, Ezra hoisted the heavy scrolls to his shoulder and paraded them around the congregation, enabling the devout attendees to kiss or touch the Torah. A deeply emotional ritual, his Zeyde’s guests were almost brought to tears. Meanwhile, Ezra could only think of the impending backache he’d experience the next day.

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Buttercup Lauren Mitchell Editor’s Choice 80


Fall 2021

February, 2009 Gracie Donovan When I think of red scarves in the snow I think of February, 2009. When I would sit outside for hours my back against a mound of snow, face up towards the sky as I watched snowflakes fall fall fall Just to feel them tickle the tip of my nose with their coolness But sometimes when I think of red scarves in the snow I think of how I don’t really know where they sell adult snow pants and I, at least, don’t have a pair So if I wanted to go out into the snow, to sit in the backyard, I’m not really sure if I could or, I could, but I’d have to wear my regular old clothes. Maybe a hat, some gloves, boots to protect the important bits. But maybe the cool press of the snow the wetness seeping into my jeans and sweater would finally wake me up would finally jolt me from this dream of Red scarves in the snow We were always losing our scarves Back then Our gloves, hats sometimes even a tooth to the Icy crunch of a chewed up icicle

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American Literary Magazine

i missed you Sydney Muench

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Fall 2021

Thinking of You Grace Hasson Thinking of You isn’t as painful as before I don’t dream of being drenched in you but sometimes I still soften at your smile like an overripe peach

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American Literary Magazine

I Love Long Titles But I Can Never Be Clever, So Here It Is You Bastards Ray Koffink Artist Statement: Inspired by Neil Hilborn as a general muse and references Adam Falkner’s two poems, “Fishing the Little Pigeon” and “I Was Into Fishing and He Was Into Me”

I feel like Neil Hilborn every time I swear in poems. Except with less of a beard and and more like peach pits for eyes. with strained orange pulp words as in I too am the ghost of something good. My mother said as a toddler I spoke to her dead father often on my toy box, to wag chins like that chariot song low and sweet, long and meeting me at home because that was always there: headless summers like unkempt hair. spent curled inside and my mind lost to childhood wanders and wonders - I’ve always talked to myself playing saxophone to strawberry knee sunsets because even then I was a bit fruity.

Falling from roller blade curbs and failed skateboard ollies off granite corner boys so maybe I am Adam Falkner too. Because the center of this lake always felt too deep, and now, I have lost too many fishing poles to find my own words to say “I love you” and still, here I am, saying to him talking to myself, dead like the ghost of someone good, “Who am I now?”

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Fall 2021

rocks and dust 1 Sydney Muench

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American Literary Magazine

First Supper Vishwa Bhatt Content Warning: eating disorders

We are the type of family To feed our delicacies to the crows Watching the things we aspire for Be pecked at & hollowed out The remnants of these easy pickings Still rotting long after we turn our heads (when they asked if we had any last words this is why we said no) Our dreams sit untouched on the dining table So we grind them to seeds Then discard them in the birdfeeder Of our neighbor’s backyard Convinced the feeling that knots our intestines Is disgust (after all, we know what comes of craving) We swathe ourselves in empty stomachs And wipe away the saliva that does not froth at our lips When blood bursts from our left nostrils Our first instinct is to lick that clean too Obedience is a meal we could swallow our whole lives As long as we sick ourselves when no one sees We are a family who starves a good reputation Then pretends we aren’t gorging on crumbs

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Fall 2021

Shadow Puppet Ashley Hocking Medium Statement: Colored Pencil and Graphite Artist Statement: imagination breaks the confines of physical reality to express who we are. When we focus on materialistic goals and accept that we have limits or a set place in society, we lose the childlike joy that sets us free. The monochromatic hands represent seeing in a ‘black-and-white’ manner, and while we all know a shadow puppet doesn’t truly display a real animal, the colorful bird is a symbol of how we can use our physical bodies to explore, create, and be set free from any constraint through our limitless imagination.

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American Literary Magazine

lowkey, no pressure! Lia Patentas

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Fall 2021

Mother Gracie Donovan My mother likes to lay on her bed after she showers. Towel atop her head like a dollop of sour cream, legs crossed at the ankle. When I was a child, sometimes I would join her. Watch as her eyes, “just closing for a minute” flickered and fluttered like an old light bulb. And sometimes, most times, I would run my hands on the skin of her calves giggling when I felt the tiny pinpricks, the sandpaper kittens tongue of her just shaven legs. Back then I’d wonder at the oddness of the feeling rub my own hairless legs and marvel at the difference Now my legs aren’t so hairless anymore and when I sit on my bed after I shower towel atop my head like a dollop of sour cream I rub at the skin of my calves and think of my mother

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American Literary Magazine

The Helplessness of an Atheist Grace Hasson I cannot offer you divine intervention. I cannot tell you that I will see you after this life, but I will call every Tuesday at 1pm without missing a day. When you are at the bottom of a spiked pit I cannot climb into I will not tell you the lions are not starving, that you are not surrounded. I will not tell you someone above is holding your heart in their open palms, but I will tell you to get some sleep and to call me in the aching morning.

afternoons in the middle of june Lia Patentas

Editor’s Choice

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Fall 2021

Relaxing After Work Katie Meyerson

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American Literary Magazine

on a scale on 1 to 10 Sami Pye

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Fall 2021

The People in That Car Must Be Dead Max Robins There’s a moment when your heart sinks before the drop of a roller coaster. As the heart retreats to this refuge you brace for what comes next. You prepare. Roller coasters are fun—you know what happens next. Boom, drop: fun. Your heart resurfaces. The ride continues. Sometimes you don’t know what happens next. My heart doesn’t sink when Jackie’s ’78 Chevy Impala careens down the hill and into the utility pole. Sometimes the heart’s not given a chance to retreat.

She asks if he’s alright, but doesn’t let him finish. He tries to explain what happened. She won’t listen. He says the accelerator gets stuck sometimes. He tells her he knew all along. It didn’t occur to him that this could be a problem. She asks him how it couldn’t occur to him. She asks if it occurred to him that a jammed accelerator and a soaking wet night and the steepest hill on the island and an idiothigh-off-his-ass driver made for a bad combination. He shrugs. She yells some more.

Raindrops fall steadily onto the pavement. Their individuality is lost as they pitter and patter into a massive wet expanse. The crystal shards of windshield and headlight exploding off the car don’t fall as gently. They litter the ground unevenly. Sharp angles cut the flickering light into a million strobing pieces.

I can’t tell if it’s the near-death experience at twenty-two or the slight concussion, but I laugh. I’m hysterical. Tears of fear and twisted hilarity intermingle as cheap mascara runs down my face. It all happened so quickly. They say everything slows down. They lied. Or maybe they just didn’t know what they’re talking about. I guess it all slows down if you do die. Slowed to a dead halt. Funny: they never got a chance to warn us.

I’m the first to stumble out of the vehicle’s chassis. A mangled carcass isn’t really an animal anymore. And this was no longer a sedan. Steaming metal from engine to exhaust fused with contorted lamppost. The deformed “car” wrapped around the pole so perfectly you’d think they were purposefully forged together. Jackie staggers from the car. He got the brunt of the blow. Hailey and I are frazzled, but not broken. A bit bloodied, but miraculously unscathed. Death didn’t even look the other way tonight—he fell asleep on the job. Hailey yells at Jackie and Jackie yells back. My body can’t make a decision whether or not to be buzzed anymore. My sobriety flickers with the lights as I pick up pieces of their argument.

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I drive my unknowing mom by the amalgam of lamppost and car the next day. Some of the glass is swept away. Some remains. She says that the people in that car must be dead. I say maybe. Maybe not.


American Literary Magazine

manic pixie nightmare Olivia Wenke Content Warning: eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD Artist Statement: this is a commentary on the manic pixie dream girl trope and romanticism of mental illness in movies. the manic pixie dream girl is generally a beautiful, fun, eccentric woman who is the love interest of an average, sometimes cynical or brooding male protagonist. they lack any substance beyond helping the protagonist find their purpose in life or teaching them how to have fun. they often exhibit symptoms of mental illness that are either never addressed or treated as something that makes them more attractive and “quirky”.

mentally ill but the fun kind impulsivity and eating disorders catch me next time i relapse i’ll be everything you want me to be radiating charm and spontaneity dressed in clothes i bought at 4:00am because that is what will make you love me mentally ill but the fun kind disorganized attachment style will do anything you want kind never met a girl like me before say one right thing and i am yours you have never felt this loved who knew someone could be so giving moments with you always remind me why life is worth living it feels like we are in a movie until it doesn’t… mentally ill but it’s not fun anymore laundry list of diagnoses anxiety, depression, ptsd, and eating disorders spent 200 dollars on a gym membership you don’t have the energy to use say one wrong thing and i know you will ruminate for a week have to watch my tone when we speak if it is too harsh you will cry or i’ll see the fear in your eyes as if this little disagreement is a threat to your life

mentally ill but it’s not fun anymore overpowered by the eating disorder watch a tear fall down your face as you stare at your plate i pretend not to notice run my fingers through your hair try to ignore all the shedding you joke and say it’s just because it’s long we are at a party and i hear you vomit in the bathroom you say you just drank too much i believe you but now i worry it hit you so hard because you didn’t eat enough my manic pixie nightmare this is what they don’t show you in the movies

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Fall 2021

Untitled Hope Alex

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American Literary Magazine

Have a Seat, Please Scarlett Wedergren Medium Statement: Watercolor

Editor’s Choice 96


Fall 2021

Not a Nightmare Kaitlyn Newport I let out a relieved sigh an almost soundless cry when I realized I had awoken and my alarm clock remained unbroken because this meant my trauma was simply an imagined drama but when I stumbled down the stairs and found my father’s empty chair saw my mother’s damaged eyes heard my sister’s hushed cries my mind could find no substitute our loss was resolute it seemed my presence took them by surprise because they had simply imagined my demise to occur so silently and oh so quietly without a word, I followed script, inhaled as the earth tipped I managed myself to the stair and saw my baby sister crying there she confirmed the sorrow and my soul became hollow with my father went his daughter as my body and mind had become aware this was in fact not a nightmare.

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American Literary Magazine

The Destiny We Manifested Jamie Klinger I don’t have a problem writing long sentences comprised of thin, winding trails that snake around the page. Curling and twisting until you’re stranded in the middle of the paragraph, like turning back on a hike and realizing the forest has unhinged its jaws and swallowed your trail whole, nowhere out but to go further in. Pushing through brush, clawing for the light between the trees, only a sign nestled in the shrubs: The Red Trail Ends Here Thank You For Coming to Yosemite National Park! When we tried to go to Yosemite, my parents, my sister, and I all stranded on the same patch of dirt in Wyoming, it’s own special kind of inescapable, dusting kicking through the streets, a frown at being in Wyoming of all places etched into my face. The driver -the taxi from the airport, ferrying us from lush hills and paralyzing lake in Idaho, another Great American Adventure -- shook his head. The Forest is on Fire, he pressed his lips together, the frustration of a local who knows that ragged burning is just a part of life, What are You Gonna Do About it? He points at the jagged cloud of smoke that pools in the corner of the atmosphere and I squeeze my eyes to look at it, glance for a minute, unhinge and swallow up the round smoke that huffed and hurled itself up, up, up, then I move on to stare out the window again. I didn’t mention that drive when I retold this story the next time I was in Wyoming, the exact same town, exactly a year later, my parents somewhere in Italy while I retread old ground, flicking my finger as my mumbles bubbled in my mouth. There’s Starbucks and There’s a really good restaurant I heard that Harrison Ford eats at sometimes and There’s the intersection with the camera that watches you, it’s all livestreamed onto YouTube so people in Bosnia have something to talk about, I guess. I hate it all the same, despite the presence of my cobblestone friends, unevenly slid together, forty teens herded towards the Pacific in a pathetic manifestation of North American exploration. (The tenuous bonds of convenience we made will crack a month later, though I don’t know that yet. I run into one of them as a mall closes in Sydney, Australia, butterflies in my stomach ground into nothing. I can still hear the joke go stale in my mouth as I walk towards a familiar face in a stranger’s body, long strides towards a fuzzy memory I don’t want to make clear. It’s all relative isn’t it? Some friendships were built to last while others were built to fall apart, sludging around in our collective memories waiting for time to pull the drain plug, but how are we supposed to know when to clear the sink)

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Fall 2021

Purple People Eater Noah Fischer Artist Statement: Wyoming

Artist Statement:

Wyoming isn’t even my least favorite state, truth be told, my opinion of it is lukewarm water, warming and cooling to suit the seasons, always changing but never moving in any way that matters. Perhaps this account is the fruition of teenage freezer burn, a slow chill that boils over without warning. I promise you, though, that family vacation in rural America, nothing but discount mountains lining the highways, only $2.67 at your local 7/11, and the ability to roll time into a ball made of aluminum foil in your hands, tossing it in a game of hot potato, burning everyone who touches it, is not always the best idea, especially when every boat you go on sinks, car sickness is a sniper pointing the muzzle directly at you, and you’re allergic to the horses at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming rodeo.

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American Literary Magazine

i hate my reflection for years and years Sami Pye

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Fall 2021

the effects of distance: a series of love letters Sydney Muench

Editor’s Choice

When I lay down on my mattress to fall asleep, I will spend hours just rolling in bed thinking about how much I miss your body next to me. I yearn for your soft, warm lips on mine. Once I am done reminiscing about how beautiful life was with you, I begin to dream about how beautiful life would be with you here.

So innocent and complex. bringing light to a dark place. Wow. You are like the moon— making me feel seen and giving me light.

--- i miss you

I love that you make me feel, because for so long I have been scared that I could not feel anything, and that something was wrong with me. But I know that is not true, because this intense longing and desire for everything that is you proves otherwise.

--- the moon

I know that the future is uncertain and forever changing. I know that life does not always go the way I think it will. Even so, despite that knowledge, I know that I will never stop loving you. I love you.

--- everything that is you

--- growing apart

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American Literary Magazine

Bios Hope Alex is probably reminiscing about the past while drinking a chai from The Dav. Rhys Allison is a grad student studying philosophy and social policy at AU. They enjoy tea, their cat, and bubble tea.

Noah Fischer is an AU sophomore and misses driving, yet does not want to get on the road with DC drivers. Natalie Flynn is a 5’3’’ tenor sax player who owns half the rainbow in Converse high tops.

Liah Argiropoulos is a sentimental feminist who likes to write about basketball in a way that makes men mad. She would probably drop everything if given the opportunity to become an NBA wife.

Daniel Frias’s friends call their sleeping and eating schedule “atrocious” and “not fit for a human being,” but Dan prefers to call it “diverse and interesting” instead.

Emily Bass is from Coast Salish and Duwamish lands out in the Pacific Northwest and is an avid lover of the outdoors and all of its endless wonders. To see more of her work check out @afishoutofwater.photo on Instagram!

Abby Grifno is busy still celebrating Halloween.

Vishwa Bhatt always has too much coffee, not enough pancakes in her system (blink if you get the reference). Ronaldo Bolanos is a photographer based out of Dallas,Texas, focusing mainly on portraiture and life photography. Casey McKenna misses going for drives with her dog, who has excellent music taste. Grace Collins is having an existential crisis. Emily Coneybeare is a triple virgo with five virgo placements and it shows. Gracie Donovan is currently trying to stop her cat from scratching a chair. TreVaughn Ellis is an aspiring scientist and artist who also happens to really really like frogs. Like a lot. But who can blame him they are by definition the coolest amphibian that nature has dropped so far.

Piper Hamm not only loves art, but is art herself. Grace Hasson is a senior at AU, the author of Into the Orange Grove, and a lover of words. Ashley Hocking is sometimes a writer, sometimes a painter. Mostly a hippie.. Jamie Klinger is a freshman at American University. She has previously been featured in The American Library of Poetry, jGirls Magazine, and the New York Times. Ray Koffink is an absolutely flaming homosexual with a penchant for enamel pins and Oscar Wilde’s wooden toggle vests. Callie Lau is a lost continent in your mind. Her works are visual and linguistic maps to her consciousness; she waves hi to you through this magazine. :) The old Trevor Luciani can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh... ‘cause he’s graduating Fall 2021. In 2001, Lindsey McCormack might’ve absorbed her twin in the womb. She is now a second year film major.

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Katie Meyerson experienced some really interesting character development in the past few months. Lauren Mitchell is Mr. Worldwide’s biggest fan!

Annika Rennaker is a Sophomore at SIS who just finished watching Derry Girls for the tenth time and encourages you all to do the same.

Sydney Muench unapologetically loves watching rom coms.

Max Robins is a senior at American. He wishes he spent less time studying and more time writing bios.

Elise Nass is addicted to ramen and shopping for skincare online. When away from her laptop, she likes consuming YA and contemporary fiction.

Riddhi Setty asked Rick Riordan a question he had never been asked before. She thinks that this will be her legacy.

Kaitlyn Newport is a die-hard Swiftie obsessed with all things reading and chai tea lattes.

Hannah Sjovold is just along for the ride and is super proud of this year’s lit mag and everyone who made it come to life. :)

Hope Neyer has a dead spider in her pocket.

Syd Smith is the inhabitant of a haunted Renaissance painting.

Lia Patentas says hey from 4,285 miles away! i miss u a lot! (yeah, u!) Annie Przypyszny once wrote a love letter to D. B. Cooper for a high school creative writing assignment. She received a well-deserved A. Sami Pye (taylor’s version) wants the world to know she’s looking for art jobs in the DC area. Katherine Raiano knows which plants in the AU arboretum are edible. Maite Ramos likes 2000’s rom coms and knitting, as well as statement earrings and therapy. Maite hopes to own a hairless cat someday. Dori Rathmell is a senior studying environmental science and communications. She is also the co-director of PhotoCollective and the Communications Coordinator of AU Women in Science. Nikolai S. Razumov is a traditional artist and writer from the Washington D.C. area. He primarily creates his whimsical works in the dark fantasy and horror genres.

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Lily Song will probably be found listening to Mitski and thinking about food. Eva Wallis can’t come up with a bio and is respectfully going back to sleep. Scarlett Wedergren sees the world through her two-colored eye. Olivia Wenke once got scammed trying to buy a squishmalllow at 4am but don’t worry after months of searching she finally got a real one.


American Literary Magazine

Masthead Editors in Chief Katie Meyerson Alexandra Kaiss

Creative Director Hannah Sjovold Design Assistants Emily Hanlon Ava Sheffler Mara Shepherd Abby Shumway

Art Editors Piper Hamm Mia Larson-Baldwin Art Assistants Katherine Raiano Elise Nass Anjoleigh Schindler

Copy Editors Natalie Flynn Sophia Olson Copy Assistants Juliette Ciullo Morgan Goldberg Prisca Afantchao Hope Jorgensen

Photo Editors Emma Geer Lindsey McCormack Photo Assistants Sophia Slavin Ericka Martinez Eva Wallis

Blog Editor Jinger Callwood Blog Assistants McKenzie Taylor Audrey Gunadi Christine Rong Anna Woodward

Poetry Editors Emilee Rae Hibshman Syd Smith Poetry Assistants Shelby Rose Hope Neyer Jamie Klinger McKenna Casey

Community Outreach Coordinator Simi Singh

Prose Editors Gracie Donovan Katt McCann Prose Assistants Charlotte Van Schaack Laisa Gastaliturris

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