AmLit Spring 2023

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Letter from the Editors

Dear AmFam,

On a cold January day, under the inauspicious broken faith of a magazine that missed its publication deadline, the two of us met for what we expected to be a quick get-to-know-you before the semester began. We didn’t expect much real work to get done. Instead, three hours later, we found ourselves on the other side of a dense list of our goals and aspirations for the semester, as well as a timeline to make sure everything goes as planned. And what’s more, Anjoleigh gave Charlotte her first real cup of tea, with milk and sugar.

Before we knew it, the reins for driving the beast that is AmLit Magazine had changed hands. We learned many of the processes as we went along, and are thankful to Alex Kaiss, Katie Meyerson, and Jinger Callwood for answering our many, many questions. We are thankful for our whole staff who quickly formed a web of support around us through their ambition for the magazine. We are truly grateful to them and one another for nights in the office burning the midnight oil over review sessions, rebirthing (not just reviving) the blog, cleaning up the AmLit space, and stitching together the quilt that is our magazine.

Over the course of 16 weeks we welcomed in 24 staff members, made 51 Instagram posts, reviewed 120 pieces over the course of 8 review sessions, hosted 5 events, and all just to produce a single 66 page magazine (well, 250 copies of it). Charlotte learned to love the numbers and Anjoleigh became a Canva Pro God. They both were brought to the brink of tears.

We truly believe that you reap what you sow, and we have put our whole hearts into farming this magazine, even if it required a little slash-and-burn. And with that, we hope you enjoy the harvest.

All our love, Anjoleigh and Charlotte

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Acknowledgments

We must thank every single person who put their hard work into the magazine. The fruit of their labor, the magazine that you hold in your hands, could not have been produced without the exact, unique people we had on the team this semester. We are thankful for their experiences and knowledge, innovations, and ambitions that have helped the magazine grow as we work to rebuild and strengthen it.

Thank you in particular to:

-Emma Geer for eagerly taking on the job of Creative Director and organizing the Spring 2023 magazine, after the departure of the position’s veteran, Hannah (they are studying abroad).

-Emma DiValentino who was undeterred by the challenge of creating a new website to better showcase blog writers and make the work easier for future blog teams. Check it out: amlitmagazine.com

-Hope Jorgensen for spearheading the copy team with their expertise, and for welcoming in a co-editor who had not worked in the field before.

We thank everyone for their patience with the new editors-inchief as they learned the ropes and learned how to communicate with a large team of varying experience. In private we might even joke that this magazine is dedicated in honor of the lost emails, trapped in spam mailboxes.

And of course, thank you to the writers, photographers and artists who had the courage to submit to the magazine. We admire your vulnerability to put your work out there for others to enjoy and connect with. Even those whose pieces were not accepted into the magazine, we appreciate you and hope that you will submit more work in the future. No matter how small you feel like your part in AmLit may have been, it was well worth it for the creation you hold in your hands now.

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Table of Contents

Letter From the Editors............................................................................................

Acknowledgements...................................................................................................

Table of Contents......................................................................................................

All-Clad, Zoe Smith..................................................................................................

Father and Daughter, Talia Kahan.............................................................................

Here’s to 2023, Mei Matute......................................................................................

An Isolationist’s Guide to Getting By, Sydney Hsu.....................................................

September 27, 2022, McKenzie Taylor......................................................................

Garden, Olivia Jones.................................................................................................

Unshown Faces, Isabelle Ritz.....................................................................................

Cancer, Reagan Riffle.................................................................................................

Tennessee Tree, Reagan Riffle....................................................................................

Weather Report, Zoe Smith........................................................................................

Postmortem, Gracemary Allen...................................................................................

Leaf Study, Julia Kane...............................................................................................

Landscape of the River Below Mount Washington, Emma Briggs...............................

I Peel Oranges with Calloused Hands, Annika Rennaker............................................

dial tone, Evelina West..............................................................................................

I Travel for Love, Sydney Muench.............................................................................

Warm and Terrible, Annika Rennaker........................................................................

7389, Lindsey McCormack........................................................................................

Postscript of a Summer love, Vishwa Bhatt................................................................

just you and me, Sydney Muench..............................................................................

‘the vultures are waiting to pick at your bones’, Kaela Ryan......................................

Window Blinds, Mei Matute......................................................................................

My Dream Boy, Alexa Julian......................................................................................

The Man with the Orange Backpack, Sydney Muench...............................................

Wait That’s New, Ginger Matchett.............................................................................

Woman on Fire, Anonymous.....................................................................................

Visionary, Sophia Nayyer...........................................................................................

For Boots, Cara Siebert.............................................................................................

Mother’s Daughter, Annika Rennaker........................................................................

Margeritaville (Religious Crisis), Gracemary Allen....................................................

I Am My Inspiration, Ginger Matchett.......................................................................

American Foundations III, Isabelle Ritz.....................................................................

Crabapple, Mia Atkinson...........................................................................................

Pike Place, Zoe Smith................................................................................................

Stars and Scaffolding, Isabelle Ritz...........................................................................

The Art of Forgery, Alexa Julian................................................................................

convos in the sky, Hope Alex.....................................................................................

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I found myself, Ginger Matchett.............................................................................................. his hands and me, Kaela Ryan................................................................................................

My Sister As Myself, Kaela Ryan.............................................................................................

It Started Long Before Us, Reagan Riffle.................................................................................

One Year of the Last Time I Had Sex, Gracemary Allen...........................................................

Amythyst, Olivia Jones...........................................................................................................

Unstoppable Time, Mei Matute..............................................................................................

The Idea of Inheritance, Zoe Smith........................................................................................

My Favorite Color, Jordyn Baker.............................................................................................

Studies in Sapphic Love, Mei Matute......................................................................................

Zitomira’s Gift, Zoe Smith.....................................................................................................

Women Stay Winning, Julia Kane...........................................................................................

January is Ephemeral, Lillian Lemme.....................................................................................

Homage To Maggie, Gracemary Allen.....................................................................................

Sunset Weeds, Hope Alex......................................................................................................

Purple Pink Sky, Olivia Jones..................................................................................................

Seaweed Snacks, Sydney Hsu.................................................................................................

The End, Abigail Pritchard.....................................................................................................

Notes From Creative Director..................................................................................................

Contributor Bios......................................................................................................................

Masthead.......................................................................................................................

TW: Please be advised this magazine may possess content that could be triggering to specific audiences and persons, these include: All-Clad(2), Weather Report(16), ‘the vultures are waiting to pick at your bones’(28), The Idea of Inheritance(53), My Favorite Color(54), Zitomira’s Gift(56).

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All-Clad

In his final act, My father didn’t write a will, because who does at fifty-two? Intestate succession: kick the bucket, I’ll hit the jack pot, it’s stainless steel, four hundred dollars, they don’t make them like they used to when he bought it on the eighth floor of Macy’s, sometime in 1980, and taught his only child to cook with, twenty five years later, we made cowboy candy and it stuck to the sides of my mind when he killed himself in bed just to leave me one rondeau with lid that remembers him when I stir his recipe for braised cabbage.

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Father and Daughter
07_ 7
Talia Kahan
Here’s to 2023 Mei Matute 08_

There is a piece of hair in the air, and I can’t reach it.

No. 1: Get up every day at 7 a.m. Why can’t I reach it?

It’s so far away, I wonder if it knows I’m here.

I peel the skin back, knuckles showing.

No. 2: Make your bed. I make myself vulnerable, exposed, no one looks at me.

If I cut out a part of myself, will I become likable?

No. 3: 2 p.m., time for your mental health walk!!! I chop away the parts— she is all that remains. They like her better.

When she smiles, I scream to stop— she doesn’t listen.

No. 4: Don’t forget to stay hydrated. There is no way to break down what I’ve become. I hate her—she hates me.

This is where I remain, arm in the air, reaching out, but never grasping.

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Isolationist’s Guide
An
to Getting By

September 27, 2022

I woke up on the right side of the bed this morning. A few days into fall, the weather has been nothing short of ideal. A little chilly, but not enough to sting your ears just yet. Sunny, but with a light breeze to tickle the sheen of sweat on your forehead that only appears when exerting just enough energy to climb up the hill on the way home from school.

I woke up on time this morning. I had toast with my favorite jam and the milk for my coffee was just enough so that the tension held right at the rim of the cup, forcing me to balance it with extra care as not to spill a drop, allowing me to move slowly for at least one moment of the day. It tasted a little bit better than usual, and I swallowed it deeply.

I woke up to a text from my dad this morning. He said he was proud of me and that he misses me every day. It made me think about how every time I watch our favorite show, the hero always reminds me of him. A good father, a good husband, and a good man. Which made me think how touched he would be to know that I see him this way. We have always preferred our fantasy worlds to the one we inhabit together, but not today.

I walked to school deliberately this morning. The weather was perfect. My coffee was perfect. My father is not perfect, but he tries. I am wearing my favorite sweatshirt and listening to my favorite music, and I have someone who likes holding my hand and I have friends who laugh with me and even though I have an uncomfortable amount of mosquito bites - on my hands of all places! - I am happy.

10
Garden
11
Olivia Jones

Unshown Faces

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13

Cancer

Every time I go to the water and I sit down, looking over my boots and my long socks, my pale shins and my brown freckles, I feel like pebbles are poems and waves are promises. And every branch that peers over the current is a fallen soldier, shaping, wishing, guiding the stream for her younger sisters.

But the fisherman is a turbine motor oil cheater, floating above the water instead of through. Smelling rotten like bus seats where mamas sat after the double shift, feet longing to stop walking, mind longing to stop longing. Sweet quiet charcoal night, bring her peace.

When I come to the water, I think about mothers and sisters and daughters. Sisters that left red knuckle anger and cacophonous laughter, secret languages and dragon stories in the white rug of their childhood. I wonder if they still dream to tell these stories. I almost hear them in the River. I wonder if she kissed too many lips, hoping they were promises, only to watch them wash, wash, wash away forward.

It never feels like the boat man will come back until he does. And it only sounds like revolution when we’re whispering. And every time I wonder where I have left to go, the water reminds me who I’ve been.

14

Tennessee Tree

Find me at the foot of a lightning-struck midnight Tennessee tree trunk

Where I pour wax over my thumbs, And turn peach rings into prayers; Tree rings into verses.

I made a home for myself there, Underneath patient green and treacherous vines

The spot you chose to intertwine

Your heartstrings with the big Brown Earth.

My Tennessee tree holds a River for the thirsty

In its branches are the fables

Sprinkle moth dust on the table

Made a dragon’s dharma gentler

Silver locket in my pocket

Tell the creatures dare to dream

Of basins where the water’s clean

No dirty Man, no hunter plunder

Crystal honest Placid nomads

Rest in haven winter raven.

I feel the pulse in my palm burn

One day it’s said that you’ll return Prophetic whispers from the stars

Carried by a lucky second bolt.

Until that dawn I’ll sleep in sonnets

Shade from branches blessed body

Tucked tight in your bed of stars

Unbound by Mechanic chains and bars

Nurture this ground in gentle mumbles

I’ll see you when the thunder rumbles.

15

My Father’s Youngest Brother lived in the East Village 14 years before Allen Ginsberg died in it. What’s a punk to a poet?

Coming out at 6’2” from West Texas, Matthew Vann, an All-American beefcake like the Polish street Franks, Kielbasa cooking on rotating spits around the block from his apartment where his lover awaited him.

And Gene waited, waited in the doctor’s office for the reaper’s prognosis which was the same as it always was: some variation of death colored purple with lesions or sudden, surprising, scratched from its own certification.

Matt had called Gene from a rusted payphone and drawled he may be running a bit later. The L train was slower the night his heart danced spasmodically for the legacies of Gene and of Allen until it starved.

So at home Gene turned on the television and, from somewhere on the news, Tex Antoine told him that it was raining in the Catskills.

Weather Report

16
Postmortem
17
Gracemary Allen

Leaf Study

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Landscape of the River Below Mount Washington

Someone told me that they had dug a swimming hole, Into the riverbed behind the woods.

I didn’t know there was a river there. This hole must be a disruption to the fish, But it was nice for me to cool

My blistered feet and hands.

The sun still sat high in the August sky.

The mountain’s great shadow crept along the riverbed, chasing the trout down-stream.

I had begun the trek back to my tent

By the time the mountain had swallowed the stream.

I think that I heard the trout tripping

Over the hole in the clay

At the bottom of the river.

19

I Peel Oranges with Calloused Hands

Peeling oranges with calloused hands over a sink, in a kitchen lit dimly—

citrus salve coats old wounds.

Breathe in, the warmth of orange and cardamom simmering on a stove, swirling up in the air of a kitchen lit dimly,

where sitting at a wooden countertop, eating orange slices from a paper napkin, it feels as though time is fleeting before you can process your existence at all,

except on Sundays, when you forget to breathe, and orange pulp wedges itself between your teeth, filling gaps in your memories with something sweet—

Brush my hair, mother please, braid it back and whisper to me gently, “You have time”

“You have time”

You peel oranges, and drink wine— You are ten, and you are twenty— You are sick, and you are dying—

In a kitchen lit dimly, a glass slips from distracted fingers and in the fall, it is two things that break.

A dog licks red wine from the linoleum floor of a kitchen lit dimly.

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i’m sick as hell but i’ve got to go wait by the phone for some reason

i’m walking down the stairs to sit on the porch to wait for your call don’t know how i got here or why i stay here in my chair but it’s not fair

maybe it’s the change in the seasons but i’ve started pulling out my hair and i hardly care and what a drawn out rhyme scheme all in an attempt to write you into a theme.

but either way the phone doesn’t ring, or i don’t hear it, or you don’t call it it’s all in the content

of your words and the way you smile or the look in your eyes, “this guy,” i say as i roll my eyes but it’s all a disguise

and i think i’m pretty fucking smart cause i write a couple lines that contain a few rhymes while i wait for a call as it gets colder as it gets darker and i know that i’m supposed to be smarter than this but i don’t give a shit.

i guess it’s easier to wait when i get a little angry kick the phone off the hook i don’t even want you to fucking call me.

now my lungs are tight and my chest is heavy guess i’ll smoke another cigarette just to air things out and open things up like i thought i’d do right before i hung up

here i am two days later i guess i’ve lost the thread don’t know what i would’ve said i don’t even feel as sick in the head.

it comes and goes like that my hair grows back

i dial the numbers into the phone and my head is nestled between your chin and collarbone.

21
dial tone Evelina West

I Travel for Love

22
23

water feels funny to drink and I don’t think I can stomach it like I can my grief

grief feels old fashioned, — warm and terrible tip the glass to the back of my throat where I keep the — warm and terrible words I cannot say, like

maraschino cherries stain my tongue and I hate them, but I think I love you

raindrops speckle the pub window and it’s cold and grey, but I still love you

and if love wasn’t so addictive maybe this would all be bearable

if love wasn’t so addictive maybe we wouldn’t all be — so warm, so terrible

something’s gone wrong in that we contort our bodies so much to fit into this bitter world we built for ourselves, — a world ever-warming and all the more terrible except for you

if by healing, what is meant is rest, come back, lie next to me, press — your warm heart closer to this terrible chest

Warm and Terrible

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25
7389 Lindsey McCormack

The end of that summer found me sitting in a field with grief sitting heavily in me

Knowing the ending had come to spoil the entire story

An August epilogue

And a last sentence already written

And the kind of gentle tragedy that simmers in the stillness of the night air

No hot breeze could stop the gooseflesh prickling at my skin

Making an understudy of your fingers

Nor could the crickets drown out the chirping of my own busy heart

An unskilled substitute for the symphony you orchestrated

Every lazy morning of thin blankets and thinner promises

Found itself facing that evening’s sunset in the reflection of the tarp-covered pool

Only fools resist a death that beautiful

And only fools believe in the forevers of summer lovers

I never waited for you but

I never wore the yellow sundress again

And I mourn 28th August with the melancholy of a last warm wind

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Postscript of a Summer Love
27
just you and me Sydney Muench

knobby knees and a pointy spine

hard hip bones that are easy to grab, hollow on the inside ribs that undulate and make ripples in my skin shoulder blades that stick out when i raise my hand i am no longer plump, i am no longer ripe. my body is decaying. my skeletal frame symbolizes my inevitable death, rather than my current life.

i have begun to rot; my sweet, juicy fruit has been dried by the sun and i am now taut. when you bite into me you no longer taste the fresh juices, the blood, the sweat. i am just bones. you press your teeth into my shoulder and you gasp because i crunch in your mouth. my shoulder disintegrates into powder and you cough me up. once they see my body as what it is, a skeleton, they no longer want me. my features are beautiful, but on closer inspection they are merely pieces of plastic disguised as human.

the only creature that could want me is a vulture, so desperate for nutrients that it will continue to pick and pick and pick at my bones, long after any remaining flesh is gone.

they poke and prod at my body, wanting more, always wanting more. they’re just like everyone else. but, at least they appreciate my bones. the vulture is the only animal that feeds almost entirely on bone. they drop the bones from grand heights, swooping down to feast once they break on the rocks below. my body should be offered up to them.

the vultures are waiting to pick my bones. they circle around me, counting the days until they can feast. in my final days, they will be the only ones who desire my body. i will be pushed away by all those who love and care for me, ashamed by my illness, my body, my skin and bones. but the vultures, they will worship me.

‘the vultures are waiting to pick at your bones’
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Kaela Ryan

Window Blinds

29
Matute
Mei

My Dream Boy

As a child, I used to imagine that my dream boy was always watching me. Like an omnipresent god, he was hiding behind my closet door when I changed into my ratty pajamas, sleepy-eyed and serene. Remembering he could see, I was suddenly awake, scolding myself for not wearing something more pleasing for his peeking eyes. He’s watching! Get yourself together.

When I bathed, my skin slick and lathered in soap, I would remind myself that he could see beyond the suds. Suck in your stomach. Fix your posture.

Left home alone, I sang cheesy ballads until there was no air left in my lungs, my voice shrill and hoarse. I wanted to be a pop star, but I doubted my dream boy enjoyed my performance. You’re out of tune. This is embarrassing. Stop.

At school, he followed me down the hallways. On my way from Language Arts to Social Studies I made sure to walk with confidence—but not too much—smiling at passersby to show my dream boy that I was kind and friendly and had nice teeth and people liked me and he should like me, too. Still, I felt his attention shift to the other girls we passed, their ponytails bouncing and laughing with each step. They don’t even have to try. Do you really think your little performance can compete?

My dream boy boarded the school bus and followed me home where he watched me do homework and watch TV and eat dinner and sing and shower and brush my teeth and change into my pajamas and try to go to sleep. But I couldn’t sleep. I replayed my day through his eyes and scrutinized every pattern. I promised his lurking eyes that I would do better tomorrow. I would be better for him. If he sees you as you are, he will never want you. He is everywhere and you are nothing.

As I finally fell asleep, I dreamed that I was sitting crisscross applesauce in my closet, tears spilling over my eyes. My dream boy was there, too, and I could finally see his full form—perfect and otherworldly and fully present. Still, for some reason I could not stop crying, my tears falling to flood the room. He watched me sob—watched the room fill with my tears—and did nothing. Somewhere, swimming deep within the flood, I could hear a submerged voice begin to whisper. He is not your dream boy. This is a nightmare. Wake up.

30
31 The Man with the Orange Backpack
Muench
Sydney

Wait That’s New Ginger Matchett

032_
033_

Woman on Fire

Anonymous

when you recognize your mother in the reflection and see it is her you are becoming why is it terror that courses through your veins why do you fear becoming the woman who claimed a white hot anger and a fire of a thousand suns why do you dread becoming this woman as if she did not bear you on her hips and through them perhaps you believe you will love a man like your mother loved your father until you are nothing but an ember a measly flame hopeless of being stoked into the inferno you were you remember your mother was the sun once, too

34

Visionary

35

For Boots

I’m sorry again for interrupting your nap. Well, not that sorry. It’s only that you were lying there, on a pile of stockings, so warm, so soft, so tantalizingly pliable.

I just had to pick you up. It would have been a crime not to. You understand (no you don’t). I carried you over to the couch, arranged you on top of my stomach, deepening my breathing, trying to entice you to stay, please stay, fall asleep on top of me.

And you cooed and purred like an infant, swat! An infant with claws. And fangs.

But still I held you against my neck (please mind the throat). I breathed in your sweet kitty smell like laundry, and kibble, and my mother’s hand lotion.

It was a perfect five minutes until you started to squirm away, preparing your rabbity feet for a stomp. Okay, fine. I know when I’m not wanted.

Just one more hug. I savored the feel of your fourteen pounds of wriggly, squirming, rage-filled life, before I had to let you go

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Mother’s Daughter

She is the tree on a windless day That still bends, That still breaks, With mud on her face, she prays for healing Which is to say she will stay Kneeling

Forever. Like a spider spinning Its web between two trees, she awaits What cannot see her.

Which is to say her fate rests

Between ponderosa pines. Which is to say She is her mother’s daughter. Which is to say she is alive Until the ax.

In a sky gone lavender, She bathes herself With silt and river water.

Mother Nature’s rapids

Tumble past boulders, Unite before the plunge.

37

Margeritaville (Religious Crisis)

38
Gracemary Allen

I Am My Inspiration

Ginger Matchett

39
40
American Foundations III Isabelle Ritz

Crabapple

All of the world’s apples originated from a single forest in Kazakhstan. The botanist who discovered this died of starvation in a Soviet gulag. I think of this fact as I roll out my pie crust. Somewhere a tree stands resolute, her branches swollen with the small luscious fruit, round and vermillion. The grand old mother Malus sieversii. This original species is in danger of extinction, as her daughters are felled to make space for animals to graze. I fold the sliced, skinless fruit into sugar and spices. Stray fruit carcasses scatter the foothills of the Tian Shan mountains as eight hundred and twenty eight million people the world over waste away. I put the apple pie in the oven and banish the thought of hunger.

41

Pike Place

From the busker’s corner, from the files of his cello, he is playing Mclean’s ode to van Gogh for the fish trapped in grimy white buckets. Against the murky tanks of their stalls they lay petrified on sheets of ice in traveling troughs. In the salty windchill of Seattle Spring, my shoulders tremble beneath my father’s flannel button-up, engulfing me in its sea of threads. A fisherman smiles at me: his eyes forged from the same silver of the steel head trout’s lips hooked around his thumb.

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Stars and Scaffolding

43
Isabelle Ritz

The Art of Forgery

In class we discussed the art of forgery

The slant, size, shape, style of your words

That make them your own

Penmanship marked by your voice: You always wrote in all capitals

And you talked like it, too

The free pen you got from work

Dying blue ink scrawling names and numbers

On sheets of paper to be crumbled and forgotten

Discarded weeks later when I clean up the mess

Ink smearing and running, though it had long dried

At my desk, I mimic you:

Tiny print, bold and sharp strokes

The tip of my ballpoint pen pressing so hard

I think the paper might rip

I summon you back into my life

Leaning over me from behind

Left hand on my left shoulder

Right hand atop my own

Guiding my stroke, teaching me to write

I feel close to you for a moment

As though your words are mine

As though I am part of you

But then, I stumble on the “t”

Cutting the stroke short where you let it drag

Your hand leaves mine, you retreat

And I am left with hollow words

Ink, pen, and memory

44

Hope Alex

convos in the sky
45
I found myself
Ginger Matchett

his hands and me

i feel too big in his hands. like i am water and i inevitably spill on the floor, even if he clasps his hands tightly. he cannot hold all of me. even if he claims he can. try as he might, i am just too much for him, i think. and his hands are big. they stretch so far they can touch the earth. he likes to wrap his fingers around the roots of the daisies planted in his backyard every so often just to ground himself (literally). my cups look like those my dolls sipped out of when i was a child when he raises one to his lips. and my own hand appears infinitesimal in his grasp. but yet, when my tears come rushing out, his hands seem to shrink, and they sit lamely on his lap instead of wiping my eyes. he places a hand on the flesh of my hip and i am so ashamed that we are not like puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together, that instead my parts are too big for him to hold in their entirety. and yet why does he attempt to hold my body but not the complicated scary parts that reside within it? i know i must continue to become less and less until only my shell is left, penetrable and accessible for him yet void of any guts that could seep out and stain his shirt. or his hands. those beautiful hands. that i know i should feel lucky enough to even have sweep alongside my thigh. and i do feel lucky. i feel so much gratitude. but i cannot help feeling like something isn’t right. because why do i offer myself up whole for him but am left to piece myself back together when he leaves? he hands me all of himself and i have come to crave it, these moments where i can feel all of his weight and suddenly am nothing but a vessel to carry him along and i feel of service, like this is my calling. but it is never mutual. i’m not asking him to swallow my juices and take me inside of him for the rest of his life, just to be gentle and accepting for a few minutes, that is all.

47

My Sister As Myself

she and i are both getting ready in the small blue bathroom, the radiator clacking, showing us it is alive and well today. she reaches for her lotion out of the cabinet and i swipe my hand in front of hers to grab my own bottle of moisturizer before she slams the wooden door shut again. i stand next to her in front of the mirror, only one of us visible in my gaze. while i smear lotion on my own face, i watch her do the same. she is so beautiful. people always say to us that we look the same, but i can’t see it. her eyebrows are full and her cheeks are rosy and her smile makes me laugh. she raises a hand to fix her hair and i do the same, but i can still only see her head, not my own.

any likeness witnessed between us is a surprise to me, but a welcome one, for she is like the sun on a cloudy day or the breeze you feel on your skin, chilling the beads of sweat on your back while you lie on your stomach at the beach. she is a strawberry, a cloud in the shape of a star. pink sugar and fairy wings and ivy crawling up the princess’s tower. and i am the witch, the mother, the full rain cloud, the moss on the forest floor. i am older and she is younger and yet she is everything i look up to and hope to be when i grow up.

so when i stand back behind her while she puts her contacts in, i am startled to see only her face in the mirror, and i come to think of her as myself. as my reflection, as my mirror image, as my inverse, as my sister, as an extension of my soul.

48

It Started Long Before Us

49

One Year Anniversary of the Last Time I Had Sex

August 11th 2022

I strip in the parking lot, bralette and a rose quartz cord necklace we peel wheat stalks off our Doc Martens, make fragile boats made of wayward leaves toss things off the rocky ledge

I sit beside the muddy river in my boxers, a butterfly alights on my neck, drawn by the psychedelic bright.

We talk about the Bell Jar, and try to remember what country ISIS used to occupy. She smiles indulgently, as I dip my dirty toes into the rushing water a little afraid to be swallowed.

I walk a couple meters upstream, lower myself into the shallow beside the old wood bridge. Let the current carry me that part’s easy.

It takes genuine effort to stop beneath where She sits to hold fast to a drowned tree branch, a dragonfly on my mosquito bitten thigh.

I feel like a mermaid watching a life forbidden to me. She takes a picture with our disposable camera and cries a little, though She won’t tell me that until later.

A (fish? snake?) indeterminate white thing splashes in the periphery and I throw myself at the shoreline, scrambling for solid ground.

A moth lands on my big toe, a butterfly on her sternum. Another takes a breath on the soft roll of my back.

She asks me what sex means.

I think it’s a form of closeness.

Not (necessarily) a penultimate one, but something akin to sitting at this river, annotating our books in silence.

She drives me to the airport, brackish water still drying in my hair.

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Amethyst Olivia Jones
52
Time
Unstoppable
Mei Matute

The Idea of Inheritance

I’m afraid of Lindsborg, Kansas, and pastors because I don’t want to know my grandfather who died four years before my birth, who had my father baptized so that he could go to hell for the unforgivable sin. Their jultomten adorn the windows of my Jewish mother’s new home, their miniature painted eyes peeking from beneath their woolen hats, as if to echo her voice trailing from the kitchen, asking if I like her “Christmas room,” if I was happy to be visiting, if I remembered that the dolls comprise a portion of my survivor’s benefits, of paltry inheritance.

At dinner, her boyfriend complains of tradition and antiquity and pours his family recipe for bourbon eggnog, smudging a tomten’s wooden body with greasy fingers and laughing too loudly. Was I not so glad, he joined my mother in chorus, that I could make it in time for Christmas Eve despite the icy roads? Despite my invitation never having arrived? And in their unfamiliar house, I excuse myself to kneel at the shrine to my patrilineage and wonder what it means to be the last known bearer of a surname that was never legally prescribed in the bastardization of my existence. To “Made in Little Sweden, Product of the U.S.A.” I pray and pray and pray.

“Please don’t be alone on Christmas,” my dear friend begged of me when he departed our heatless apartment for the comfort of his childhood bedroom and I promised I’d abide by the myth of Christmas not of a matter of faith, or of God, but of poetry, of mulling relentlessly over a riddle that has no key.

53

My Favorite Color

Pink looks like ages six to eight. When my brother said I could not play Tee-ball because it is a boys sport and I swore off the feminine color for two years. The same time I spun off the swings and pink poured from my knees while he laughed at my weak attempts to impress the boys wearing blue. When I wept because I still needed my mother while trying to prove my independenceWhere the band-aid she gave me exuded every shade of the color I tried convinced them was nothing representative of me.

Pink looks like the first time he said that I looked best when I had none in my face. Color-lacked flushed cheeks, hand around my neckLook at how lifeless you can seem. The rose-colored prints left on my body in the shape of weapons, magenta curves to show his fingerprints, The pink that so easily transforms into black and purple and orange until it leaves my body with just the feeling as a reminder it was once there.

Pink is my Sunday School bible, where I first learned what parts of me hold shame.

Pink is birthday cake and icing on a full plate to throw away when no one is looking.

Pink is ripped tights that got caught on a rose bush, they were cheap anyway.

Pink is smudged lipstick on the person who taught me manipulation can share my favorite color.

Pink is the girlhood I hid and the woman I embrace.

54

Studies in Sapphic Love

55
Mei Matute

Zitomira’s Gift

The ring my mother wore, a golden heart upon her little finger where it lived after the fire kindled by a cigarette that only she and grandfather survived.

Inside, her mother slept in drunken bliss, succumbing to her accidental flame. Though from within grief’s hardened chrysalis, still, my parents gifted me her Slavic name.

Apparently, she’s where I get my blonde from, crooked corners of my smile defaulted and golden heart salvaged from a smoking heap.

Perhaps before the northern morning dawn, or maybe on late evenings alone, her malted breath soured while she drifted off to sleep.

56

Women Stay Winning

57

January is Ephemeral

My sister calls me to tell me that everything is ephemeral (though she doesn’t put it like that). She can’t believe it’s already half-way through January, and she doesn’t want to go to school, and she misses me, and what should she wear tomorrow? It won’t be as cold as it was today. I learned the meaning of the word ephemeral two years ago, but here it has become more than a word: it’s the feeling of how fleeting every moment seems to be. I talk too much. I don’t talk enough. I write too much and I’m not writing enough - there’s something I’m trying to grasp that I can’t yet put into words. I cracked my screen protector just over the camera so every time I try to take a picture of myself it comes out slightly distorted. I’m paranoid it’s not actually your birthday but I call you anyway. It goes to voicemail and I don’t leave a message but I text to say I’m thinking about you. I am. I hope it’s enough. I make tea in the microwave and sing to myself, and cry and stop crying, and look in the mirror and go out and stay in, and work and watch TV, and eat and get tired of eating, and walk and walk and walk until I wonder how it is that I ended up here. I can’t believe it’s already half-way through January and I live at school and I miss you and I’ll wear the same thing tomorrow that I did today. It’s dark and I say goodnight to my sister and I hang up and I think about how many goodbyes I’ve said knowing that there will be another hello (I’m learning that it doesn’t make the goodbye any easier, only the hello sweeter).

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59
Homage to Maggie Gracemary Allen

Sunset Weeds

Hope Alex

60

Seaweed Snacks

Sydney Hsu

Nose plugged, papers on the ground, I wish not to be seen.

Seaweed salt sticks to my fingers. They laugh. Point, laugh, tease. Below my blush there are bruises. “I’m going to throw up! Make her throw it away!” I throw that part of me away.

Shanghai, 1945.

My grandfather flees. My aunties flee. My uncles flee. I don’t know where I’m from. I’ve never been home. But I’ve tasted It: Pork buns. Shumai. Congee.

Dim sum on Sundays. Back to school Monday. The semester starts again And I don’t bring seaweed anymore.

These places I’ve never been, live within me. I am white. I am Chinese. I am a collection of letters and ideas and food. I don’t speak the language, or know the customs, but I know War. Isolation. Hunger.

Painful hunger that crawls up my spine into my bones and burrows. Burning.

I see them out for sushi now.

Mouths full. Seaweed spewing past their spit. They’re cultured, I’m told. Their mothers call them brave, but I still see them sneer at chicken feet.

DC, 2022.

Chinatown is down my street. I get on the Metro and Go. I’ve been here before, once Years ago.

Maybe an uncle of mine came here, looking for the same thing— To start anew. To reinvent. To bring back.

61

Purple Pink Sky

62
Olivia Jones

The End

She slowly mixes sauce into pasta, crisp parmesan curls softening as Amy Winehouse drifts from the kitchen speaker, tuning out her thoughts. The intro to “Valerie” starts to play and her mind floods with rose tinted memories. Of dancing in the kitchen and kissing in public. Of screaming at each other in the street at 3 a.m. and watching movies in bed the whole next day. She can almost feel him brushing her hair back the night they met. She sees him through her old eyes, and for a second she is heartbroken all over again. She knows it can’t go on like this. The front door opens and closes and her memories turn to ice and shatter. As he walks into the kitchen, she is left with the broken pieces of the people they used to be. She begins loudly spooning pasta into bowls, slamming cabinets as she gathers cutlery. He comes up behind her, tentatively playing with the curls that have escaped her bun at the back of her neck, and she is overcome by a wave of annoyance at the sheer hope and denial in the gesture. His affection is a relic, no longer tender to her.

“Dinner’s ready,” she says, spinning from his touch and putting the bowls on the table.

She hears him sigh and feels the hurt in the sound low in her stomach. He washes his hands and moves to sit with her.

“How was your day?” he asks, his eyes tired, his tone hopeful.

“Fine,” she responds, scooping pasta into her mouth. “Sally called in sick so I had to pick up all the slack.”

He takes a bite of his food, then puts his fork down. He looks up at her, waiting for her to stop eating. When she catches his eye, she pauses.

“Are we going to talk about it?” he asks.

The gentleness in his voice is like fingernails in her back.

“About what?” she responds.

“You know what.”

She is ready to burst at the acknowledgement. The heartbreak and regret and anger and love and hate and exhaustion she has spent weeks quelling threaten the edges of her control. She breaks his gaze and begins eating again.

“Your food is going to get cold.”

She watches as the effort slumps out of his shoulders. They finish the meal in silence, and as soon as she is done she sweeps both bowls away and stands at the sink washing them. She looks out at the sun fading behind treetops and over the sound of the tap hears Amy Winehouse fade into Adele. “Someone Like You” starts playing, and before she can stop herself she’s laughing at the inane connection she feels with it.

He watches her from the table, laughing softly and shaking his head.

Her laughter gets louder and turns to sobs as she clutches at the wet sponge, washing already clean dishes with practiced aggression. And then he is holding her, clutching her from behind and crying softly into her shoulder. She drops the dish and the sponge and grips him tightly with wet hands.

She once read that the most intimate moment in a relationship is when both parties acknowledge that it’s over. She remembers this and clings to him for who he once was and can’t be.

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Notes from the Creative Director

Hello AmFam!

It has been such an honor getting to be your Creative Director for the Spring 2023 release. Seeing all of your incredible work, enthusiasm and involvment with the magazine has been such an amazing experience. I could not have been able to do it without everyone’s dedication and creativity. I would like to give a special thank you to my wonderful assistants Lex Berman and Grace Hill who put up with me all semester (love you!). Thanks to Lex’s thoughtful layout expertise and Grace’s magnificent art featured on the covers and throughout the entrity of the magazine, we were able to pull of an exciting “groovy” theme that I personally think captures the essence of AmLit. To all the creatives out there...your work is such a gift!

Love you all, Emma

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Contributor Bios

Abigail Pritchard isn’t convinced she knows how to read, she’s just memorized a lot of words.

Alexa Julian is a Care Bear collector who has only crashed one car.

Annika Rennaker is too nostalgic for her own good.

Caroline Siebert is a writer and poet who loves her cat and hates getting out of bed.

Evelina West is going out for a smoke. Wanna join?

Ginger Matchett is a junior majoring in International Studies and has taken various painting courses through AU’s art department. Her art centers around exploring the female nude figure and abstract expressionism. Through her advanced studio painting course, she is currently experimenting with combining these two concepts in a large scale work. Ginger became fascinated with the female nude during her AP high school art class in her hometown of Lancaster, PA. Creating art and visiting art museums are some of her favorite hobbies, and her work will soon be featured in the upcoming book publication, The Path She Makes.

Gracemary Allen is a disillusioned political science major who can typically be found reading in the community garden, listening to folk punk, and talking to birds. hope alex (she/her) is a wanna-be photographer that loves to capture candid photographs. she hopes to graduate this semester, so she thanks AmLit for allowing her to publish her work over the last two years!

Isabelle Ritz’s white camera is going to Scotland this summer!

Jordyn Baker is a sophomore and her favorite candy is Dots.

Julia Kane is a sophomore art history major from Raleigh, NC. Her houseplant collection has grown to 11, with no plans of stopping anytime soon.

Kaela Ryan is a depressed senior who attempts to cope through writing.

Kaitlyn loves listening to Phoebe Bridgers, lounging with a good book, and cataloging her every waking thought in the Notes app.

Lillian Lemme is in her first year at AU and believes every problem can be fixed with a good bagel and a phone call to her mother. She is a big fan of the ampersand.

Lindsey McCormack is a junior Film and Media Arts student and long time AmLit supporter.

McKenzie Taylor loves you.

Mei Matute still an Adelie penguin enthusiast, now purple and pink hair haver, and happy to be on AmLit’s magazine again!

Mia Atkinson is looking forward to summer so she can wear her sage-green linen pants.

Olivia Jones I’m a photographer & writer who wants to write a novel one day and travel the world. Is aways obsessing over her dogs.

Reagan Riffle I am a sophomore here at AU, originally from Peterborough, NH. I’m a double art-history and Black diasporic studies major, with a focus on hiphop and jazz music. These poems are inspired by days spent outside and special loved ones.

Sophia Nayyar is a junior in SPA, and a photographer focusing on landscapes and portraits.

Sydney Hsu is a writer, baker, craft connoisseur, and zine maker. No really, she co-edits a zine. (It’s called Pipe Dream Zine and everyone should check it out.)

Sydney Muench is a junior studying Film and Political Science-- she loves photography & traveling the world!

Talia Kahan Is probably hammocking and drawing strange creatures.

Vishwa Bhatt highly disagrees with the statement that oatmeal tastes like eating paper.

Zoe Smith has been quoted many times saying they hate poetry, especially Neruda. They are also known as a gigantic hypocrite.

Emma Briggs is a student at American University.

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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF

ANJOLEIGH SCHINDLER

CHARLOTTE VAN SCHAACK

COPY EDITORS

HOPE JORGENSEN

OLIVIA JONES

COPY ASSISTANTS

ISABELLA SMITH

RUTH ODIN

BLOG EDITOR

POETRY EDITORS

DANIEL FRIAS

MCKENNA CASEY

POETRY ASSISTANTS

CARA SIEBERT

ZOE J. SMITH

PROSE EDITORS

MIA WEINTRAUB

NATE LIVINGSTON

PROSE ASSISTANT

AVA STERN

PHOTO/FILM EDITOR

LINDSEY MCCORMACK

PHOTO/FILM ASSISTANT

RILEY LUNA FORD

EMMA DIVALENTINO

BLOG ASSISTANTS

EMILY BARNES

MAYSA HAJ-MABROUK

ART EDITORS

ABBY ST. JEAN

THAIS CARRION

ART ASSISTANTS

JULIA KANE

ISABEL CHAPARRO

CREATIVE DIRECTOR

EMMA GEER

DESIGN ASSISTANTS

ALEXA BERMAN

GRACE HILL

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