Don’t place here
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| American Literary Magazine
Mission Statement The American Literary Magazine, affectionately known as AmLit, is American University’s studentrun literary and creative arts magazine. Striving to showcase the best student creative works, AmLit’s semesterly publication includes art, film, photography, poetry, and prose. 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 enthusiastic involvement of the AmFam. We are forever grateful for each of our members – whether you are a longtime editor, attended a few events, or are hearing of us for the first time as you read this magazine. Thank you to each artist who submitted their work and trusted us to share it in these pages. To every review session attendee, thank you for participating in the decision process that created this beautiful collection of works. This magazine was envisioned to bring us into the imagined world of AmLit’s very own National Park. This world would not have been possible without the talented work of our creative director, Katie Meyerson, and print director, Emma Lovato, alongside their devoted design assistants. We thank them for their vision and the hours of work they spent crafting this publication. We are also endlessly grateful to our copy editors, Grace Hasson and Alex Kaiss, and their copy assistants. Their precise attention to detail and diligent work ensured each piece was placed on the pages of this magazine exactly as the artist intended. Though this magazine is initially being released digitally, we are crossing all our fingers that our readers will soon be able to hold a copy of their own and see all the hard work that has been poured into it. To our incredible executive board, thank you for continuing to uphold AmLit’s work and the spirit of the AmFam throughout this difficult time. From helping us build a stronger foundation for the future of AmLit by updating our review session guidelines, planning exciting and engaging events, and thoughtfully selecting your editor’s choice pieces, each of your contributions have made this magazine into what it is today. Thank you for your continued dedication. We are inspired by your leadership and grateful for your friendship always. Thank you to the Student Media Board Co-Chairs, Sarah Mattalian and Isaiah Washington, and our fellow media organizations for always being a source of inspiration. We consider ourselves fortunate to be associated with your excellence. While we spent another semester miles apart, only connected by our Zoom meetings, the AmFam persevered. We hope every member of our community recognizes the important impact they made on AmLit’s success this semester. To all the new members that joined us this past year, we hope to welcome you to the AmFam in person very soon! Finally, a special shoutout goes to our graduating E-Board members, Henri Brink, Rachel Burger, and Sheer Figman, who have all been dedicated members of the AmFam for the past four years. Our thorn is saying goodbye and our rose is being lucky enough to know you.
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The Scale of Things Grace Collins
| American Literary Magazine
Letter from the Editor June 13, 2021 Dear Reader, Welcome to our collection of words, images, stories, and thoughts. As you enter the world of forests and mountains and walk the trails of our park, I hope you find love and appreciation for the pieces within. My four years with AmLit have shown me how so many different people can come together over their individual love, appreciation, and interest in the arts. So, when you flip through these pages, let yourself sit with the moment of each piece. Remember to take your time. Individually, they each tell a story of their own, but alongside each other, they bring us together - readers and artists alike. Whenever I pick up a copy of AmLit, whether it be a copy of Spring ‘07 (a true turning point in AmLit’s history) or Fall ’20 (which I’ve seen a hundred times before), I notice something new. Sometimes it’s the clever placement of an element or two pieces beside each other. Other times it’s the precise phrasing of a piece’s closing line, the shadows in a photograph, or the unique use of color in an artwork. Every time it makes me appreciate the work of the AmFam endlessly more. I wonder what new thing I’ll notice in this magazine in a week, in a year, in a long while. Each time you pick up this magazine, I hope you get to notice these things too. Now, I ask myself, how do I say goodbye? A love letter, a poem, or maybe just a rhyme? I could try, but I realize there’s no need to. I don’t need to say goodbye when I know AmLit will always be there, even if one day just an aging copy in a box beneath my bed. So, AmLit, it’s been a journey. Thank you for the late nights (spent on the infamous E-Board vote or a long list of copy edits), the laughs (always genuine, always hard), and the lovely friends. For all the roses, and even the thorns, thank you. With love, forever, Sheer
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Table of Contents Art A Breakfast for Ants / Scarlett Wedergren / p. 68 Amanita virosa (Destroying Angel) / Grace Collins / p. 33 Answers / Maren Valenti / p. 82 Apartment 3012 Concert Lineup / Katie Meyerson / p. 46-47 Color Theory / Katie Meyerson / p. 70-71 Dawn / Grace Collins / p. 16 Fruits / Grace Collins / p. 86 in my blood / Grace Collins / p. 67 Manuscript 2020 / Nikolai Razumov / p. 80-81 Stranger / Grace Collins / p. 91 The Chameleon / Katherine Raiano / p. 44 The Crystal Kingdom / Katie Meyerson / p. 12 To Reminisce / Rachel Burger / p. 77 Western Monolith / Shane Ryden / p. 11 Woven Film / Shane Ryden / p. 51
Photo 19 / Shea Neary / p. 73 21 / Shane Ryden / p. 20 630A / Noah Fischer / p. 36 A Yearbook Photo in the Time of COVID / Lauren Kelly / p. 69 Alcarez’s Doves / Shane Ryden / p. 59 Bang Pow / Shane Ryden / p. 53 Big Island, Hawaii / Rachel Burger / p. 31 Bridge / Grace Collins / p. 89 city jungle / Riddhi Setty / p. 42 dance with me? / Riddhi Setty / p. 62 disorder / Sami Pye / p. 93 Encapsulate / Noah Fischer / p. 94 Flowers are Free / Grace Collins / p. 40 highway / Lia Patentas / p. 49 I am not there / Grace Collins / p. 45 it wasn’t mine to begin with / Lia Patentas / p. 22 Layla / Rachel Burger / p.43 Matereality / Annie Dempsey / p. 56 Montserrat / Scarlett Wedergren / p. 39 6
| American Literary Magazine
my love / Lia Patentas / p. 87 Night / Ronaldo Bolanos / p. 60 quiet & quaint / Sydney Muench / p. 15 radiant hypnosis / Hope Alex / p. 101 Safety / Katie Meyerson / p. 28 Still / Megan Long / p. 55 The Great American Eclipse / Grace Collins / p. 26 the places we used to go / Lia Patentas / p. 8 The Scale of Things / Grace Collins / p. 4 Too Many to Count / Scarlett Wedergren / p. 97 Untitled / Lauren Kelly / p. 25 Untitled / Lauren Kelly / p. 74 Untitled / Lauren Kelly / p. 90 Untitled / Shane Ryden / p. 98 Waverley’s Delight / Noah Fischer / p. 19 What I Do for a Living / Maren Valenti / p. 76
Poetry A.J. / Riddhi Setty / p. 50 Beyond Mindful / Annie Przypyszny / p. 38 Bike boy / Anonymous / p. 84-85 Boxed In / Peyton Bigora / p. 78-79 Cherries: A Love Letter / Thalia Tosetti / p. 65 Chewing Cotton Wool / Emma Lovato / p. 37 Children / Shelby Rose / p. 18 Citrus Dreams / Annika Rennaker / p. 40 Colorless Grief / Anonymous / p. 96 December Jazz / Peyton Bigora / p. 61 Duomo / Niccolo Bechtler / p. 9 family / Grace Bruer / p. 21 Flower Kids / Isabelle Verdino / p. 10 for sophie / Jasper Lesly / p. 100 Her Own Flesh / Annie Przypyszny / p. 32 House / Sarah Mattalian / p. 24 I’m Afraid to Say I Love You / Grace Hasson / p. 87
Idea farm / Niccolo Bechtler / p. 57 Ignored Advice / Emma Southern / p. 72 Infection / Shelby Rose / p. 85 Is America Still Singing? / Isabelle Verdino / p. 30 It is not that I’m angry / Gracie Donovan / p. 54 J is for Johnny / Jasper Lesly / p. 62 jeevitham / Hope Alex / p. 88-89 Me, Her, and The Moon / Sheer Figman / p. 17 Observe and Describe / Annie Przypyszny / p. 58 Over the holidays / Gracie Donovan / p. 75 Plum Tree / Alexa Barnes / p. 64 Tak For Alt / Niccolo Bechtler / p. 95 the other day / Gracie Donovan / p. 66 To Lucy, (2004-1/24/2021) / Katie Meyerson / p. 29 Trying on the Antique Shawl / Annie Przypyszny / p. 14 we can’t breathe / Callie Lau / p. 83
Prose Hateful Heart / Grace Hasson / p. 77 I Think She Missed Them / Dominic Minadeo / p. 22-23 It’s getting me all choked up / Henri Brink / p. 92 Lady Macbeth / Syd Smith / p. 52 Orangeade / Anonymous / p. 48 Proof-Reading Love / Grace Hasson / p. 43 ripping the band-aid off / Grace Bruer / p. 99 Those Dang 2017-18 Sixers! / Liah Argiropoulos / p. 26-27 ti amo più del sole e delle stelle / Riddhi Setty / p. 13 to study a woman / Charlotte Faust / p. 34
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the places we used to go Lia Patentas
| American Literary Magazine
Niccolo Bechtler I sat up on the balcony watching pigeons and their shadows across the stucco. This was in Italy. I was in love with the sound of cab drivers swearing, small coffee shot standing for cheap, the shade of orange in the afternoon. I thought about Hans Christian Andersen and formed a complex interpretation of “The Shadow” while the birds strolled on the ledge. It had something to do with free will and the cynicism I felt when I first read it and the softness of Florentine winters. I thought about it and I felt very smart. I told myself I’d write a poem about it, the pigeons and Andersen and an orange sea of terracotta rooftops that only part for domes clasped in hope or desperation toward a vindictive and tangible God, about getting my toes squished under Vespas and the smell of sickness in the air. The pasta of unattainable texture. As the sun set and we sat on the street sipping negronis, basking in something unseen— why do people build cathedrals?— I watched the busking accordionist and knew I could never truthfully write that poem. Now it’s late winter up north and I ache for the urgent history of prayer. If only I could go back to that balcony, I’d call the pigeons over and apologize.
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Isabelle Verdino i am happiest right here. no fear to be found in the wind sighing, no more lies, tapered off crying. i plant myself, sprout in the soil, and smile. i know an aster struggling to get by, disasters fly past her. a daffodil smiles, flower kid, stay a while. i cry when they leave. does it matter they’re paper? they all become part of me. these aren’t my stories, my motivations or worries, blurry snapshots of far off places, journeys slow and unhurried; a series of epics at my fingertips. i’m not lonely, no need to console me. i bloom in solidarity, my reality a creation of my own. others have known this, been shown how calming being alone can be.
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i am a peony. i peel off my petals, giving freely, drift in the breeze. please understand wallflowers grow through cracked pavement. the sun’s halo on a meadow of those thrown away. our roots live on pages, teenage escape, break away from our cages. this is a generation of flowers, of hours in journals and dreamlandsthe power is ours. words in our hands, it is infinite, an imminent future, a definite choice to be happy. right here.
Western Monolith Shane Ryden
Medium Statement: collage work with 35mm film prints and polaroids
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The Crystal Kingdom Katie Meyerson
Medium Statement: colored pencil and gold leaf
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ti amo più del sole e delle stelle Riddhi Setty
“Last night I told the stars about you,” I tell him. He looks at me, confusion furrowing his brow. “Che cosa?” I’m a little embarrassed now, but not enough to renege on my words. “I told the stars about you,” I say. He considers this for a moment, then asks, “cosa hanno detto?” “I told them that you were beautiful. The kind of beautiful that makes me want to write poetry about your eyes, but I can never find the words. The kind of beautiful that melts you, leaving me at ease and exploding with a thousand feelings all at the same time. And that right now you might also be looking at the stars, but tomorrow, when I am talking to them, you will be looking at the sun. I told them that everything I have known and loved is moving thousands of miles away and I am not sure how to proceed about my day as if a part of me isn’t also leaving. I told them you were kind. I told them I love you. I told them I’m scared.” He says nothing for a while, whispers topolina and pulls me in a little closer and we sit there in silence, savoring each second. When it is time to go, he looks at me and asks, “le stelle hanno risposto?” I nod and force a smile. “They said they would help you find your way home.”
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Trying on the Antique Shawl Annie Przypyszny
Twirling it like a scarf around your neck, you become a painter, a good one, the kind with intuition and an eye that’s never wrong nor right, just open. In your attic studio, you’re staring down a canvas until it gives, hair delirious with snarls, hands anxious to ignite colors into shapes into awe. The shawl was, of course, a gift from a lover: a sculptor from Vienna whose heart you’ve painted over and over, redder and redder each time.
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quiet & quaint Sydney Muench
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Grace Collins Medium Statement: acrylic on canvas
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Me, Her, and The Moon Sheer Figman
“Look at the moon,” I said to her softly, while we sat at that park bench. (I could tell that night was different.) With her legs over mine and our shadows flickering in the streetlight, it was only the three of us in that moment – Me, Her, and The Moon. “Look at the moon,” I said again. She looked at me instead. “Look at the moon,” she texted days later. I’m already in bed, cozy, under covers. I don’t want to get up. (I do it anyway.) As I look through my window, I see her. I smile.
“Look at the moon,” I thought to myself. I’ve been driving for hours, only two to go. My eyelids are heavy, my coffee cold, and I’m singing along to the songs of last summer. I could drive to her house, you know, but I won’t. We could look at the moon, you know, but we don’t. I look at the moon. I haven’t thought about her in a while – Her or The Moon. I think to look for her, but she’s still looking at the moon.
“Look at the moon,” she called me this time, her voice soft, almost a whisper. I laugh, thinking she sometimes forgets the moon isn’t our secret. “Look at the moon,” she says like it’s a question. It was a voicemail, and it’s morning now. The moon didn’t wait for me to wake up, neither did she. “Look at the moon,” she texted me, again. It’s been months since I’ve seen her, and I don’t know how to tell her that I’m time zones away, and it’s morning. (The moon is out of sight.) I wonder why she’s awake at 3am anyway.
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Shelby Rose i love you like a child loves a pinkies-interlocking promise to be yours in a future unseen, unimaginable in a house made of dirt and grass i’ll bake you mudpies and flower stew and i’ll wish for you on the dandelions that grow on our street put buttercups under your chin and tell you you love me too
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Grace Bruer my mother is a homemade blanket with pieces worn thin. comfortable and intricate and always there, but there are patched up places and needles forgotten in the fabric, and I have to watch for those needles, because she won’t tell me where they are. my father is a sturdy glass bottle, filled with things I cannot see. sometimes he holds tears that almost never spill over, sometimes he holds bitters and vodka and anger that erupt suddenly, like poorly-opened champagne. sometimes he holds tea as light as milk that warms my bones, and he always holds memories. my brother is light incarnate, changing and moving faster than anyone can keep up. bright and warming and harsh and overwhelming, and for all I complain about the light in my eyes, I fear the darkness of his absence more than I could ever hate his shine.
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I Think She Missed Them Dominic Minadeo Mom hated those deer. “I hate those deer!” she’d mutter, her arms crossed at the window as she surveyed the garden in front of our house. Every summer the deer would invade her garden, trampling through scrupulously ordered rows of soil and gnawing on a cornucopia of arugula, cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans that sprouted from the fertile earth beneath. And every summer, Mom would try to keep them out. It occupied much of her attention. She would occasionally catch them in the act and run out on the porch with her apron on, screaming and waving her arms around in a sort of crazed dance. The deer would dart back into the trees that lined our property next to the garden, and then Mom would hustle back inside to find smoke pouring out from the oven, and she’d curse those deer for ruining our dinner. When my siblings and I were little, Mom had us pee around the edges of the garden in hopes that it would keep the deer out. She told us that we were marking our territory, just like the coyotes do. Yet, days later, we saw the garden torn asunder. The next summer, Mom drove to the hardware store and returned with stakes and netting. She spent days pounding the stakes into the ground and lining each with the netting to protect her prolific plants. And again, we awoke the next day to find holes chewed through the fence, hoof prints embedded in the soil, and an absence of vegetables. The year after was when Mom had had enough. I stood at the window one day, transfixed, pressing my hands and face against the glass, fogging up the transparent barrier as three deer strutted through Mom’s neat rows of soil, unbothered. I 22 | American Literary Magazine
knew I should have done something, but I stood rooted to the spot, marveling at the grace in which they moved amongst the plants. I remember admiring their bravery for venturing out from within the enclosed embrace of the evergreens and into that glaring, vacant, open. As I watched, I heard Mom’s footsteps echo through the house from upstairs as she descended from her bedroom, and I knew the show would soon be over. “Hands off the window,” Mom scolded me as she rounded the stairs. I backed away as she entered the frame and noticed the thieves down below. In an instant she was out on the porch. I could hear her muffled shouts from behind the glass. The deer gazed up at her for a moment with cocked heads and curious eyes as if to ask why she would grow so much food, if not to share? Then they turned and fled toward the safety of that beckoning tree line. When Mom came back inside, I could tell she was fuming, but her exterior was frighteningly calm. She strode to the phone and dialed a number. A couple days went by before the Hunters arrived. I heard their loud engines pull into the driveway, felt the dull slamming of their doors, and I ran to watch from the window as they filed out, grabbing their rifles and their stands in mechanical fashion. They wore camouflage and orange vests with big black boots. Their eyes were steel and their lips were knives. The forest seemed to bristle as they entered. I was awoken in the night from the beams of swinging flashlights as they exited the forest. I listened while the Hunters fired up their trucks and pulled out of our driveway, the sound of their engines fading into silence. About a week passed with no signs of disturbance.
The garden looked immaculate. Mom smiled up at us from the garden while tilling the soil as my brothers and I played amongst the rocks. “Look how pretty it is!” We nodded, and continued playing. In the ensuing months, every now and then I’d catch her standing at the window, glancing out at her perfect garden through glistening eyes. The next year she gave up gardening and had Dad rototill the soil and plant new grass. Now I don’t really look out the window.
it wasn’t mine to begin with Lia Patentas Spring 2021 | 23
Sarah Mattalian Content Warning: domestic abuse
I wonder if my mother Still finds remnants— dust coming up from boxes In the shape of my father’s words. I see the look on her face when I say the things that he said; do the things that he did. The way she shrinks herself into a painting on the wall. I never asked her if she regretted her marriage with my father, but it doesn’t feel necessary; There are ghosts that climb out of her throat whenever she sees his car, whenever she hears Miles Davis, whenever the porch light goes out, whenever he hurts me with the same book of photographs he used To chase her down to the basement and out of the sun. No matter what, there will always be the half of me That she hates unintentionally, Because it’s his. For her, it’s a survival instinct. Bad marriages, after all, run in our blood; “Ich hasse,” I hear my grandmother hiss, from under the basement floorboards. (I hate). How long until the women are able to forget? How long until the men are brave enough to remember? How long until this house crumbles and falls apart?
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Those Dang 2017-18 Sixers! Liah Argiropoulos
I miss the 2017-2018 Philadelphia 76ers. I can’t even explain why in such a short timeframe it happened. I would have to go into so much detail about my sophomore year of high school–a year of a European history class where I learned how to write, like REALLY write, a school trip to Philly where we wandered around the city documenting murals in the freezing early-March cold, interviewing my favorite has-been indie rock bands on transatlantic Skype calls, and running off to concerts on Wednesday nights with former best friends. The 2017-18 Sixers were probably the least important detail of that undoubtedly most formative year of my life, but there they were, gracing the flatscreen TV in my living room as my mom cooked dinner. I listened to sports radio shows every morning with my dad on the drive to school. We would flip between Anthony Gargano and the WIP crew whenever one or the other would talk about the Sixers. I would listen, half asleep, one earbud in, subconsciously absorbing so much basketball I didn’t know I needed to learn. And then I’d sit in the library with the only other girl at my all-girls Catholic high school who knew what a pick-and-roll was and re-watch highlights from the night before. Watching the Sixers that year felt like watching a high school team—no player was perfect, as lovable as they were. Joel Embiid broke his face, Ben Simmons was too scared to shoot, Dario Saric toppled over after every layup, first-pick-of-the-2017-draft Markelle Fultz had some ridiculous shoulder issues that prevented him from playing altogether, and JJ Redick was the exhausted team captain with a terminal case of senioritis holding them all together. And then, they made the playoffs. It was a ridiculous run. I chose the right season to get back into basketball. I only went to one game in 2018, January 20th vs the Bucks. I showed up in a white sweater and ripped grey skinny jeans. I sat down, grabbed a bucket of crab fries from my sister, and became completely entranced. The atmosphere of that game was electric, and so different from anything I’d ever experienced — probably because I spent the majority of my time at indie concerts where the goal was to look disinterested. I felt like my head was going to explode. At some point during the game I snuck off to the merch shop to buy a Dario Saric shirt. The cashier looked up at me, my shy, anxious, damn-neartrembling-like-a-chihuahua-at-all-times self, and remarked–“gotta love the Homie.” I somehow made my way back to my seat and no one ever found out about it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a promising team that split up as quickly and as heartbreakingly as the 2017-18 Sixers. Ben and Joel are still in Philadelphia, with a brand-new coaching staff and players I hadn’t even heard of in 2018. JJ Redick is in New Orleans. TJ McConnell is in Indiana. Robert Covington is in Portland. Dario Saric is in Phoenix. Markelle Fultz is in Orlando. I could keep going! If I wanted to make some big extended metaphor out of this, I’d say my life is nothing like it was in my sophomore year of high school. I graduated, first of all. I said goodbye to all of the friends I made over those four years. All of my favorite teachers had already left. When I go back to visit, the school feels like an empty shell housing the memories that used to be made there. There’s an emptiness about it all. I feel the same way looking at the current Sixers roster. It’s not the guys I came of age with when I was falling asleep in my dad’s car as a WIP caller droned on about why the 26 | American Literary Magazine
Sixers needed a third star, or sitting on a bus going into Philly to check on the Eagles Super Bowl mural. Extended metaphor and all, the point here is that we’re all somehow trying to get back to whatever our ‘good old days’ are. To put it in basketball terms, no one ever wants to hear Marc Zumoff call their favorite player a former Sixer. After all, the human experience is just one big struggle to feel good, and high school memories and basketball teams aren’t exempt from that. Unless your name is Elton Brand, the Sixers’ roster decisions are out of your control, and there’s no way to be fifteen again unless you have a time machine. Recapturing nostalgia isn’t the only way to create a time to be nostalgic for. As much as we may want to relive the past, the only way to go is forward. And there’s no way to know what the future holds.
The Great American Eclipse Grace Collins
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To Lucy, (2004-1/24/2021)
there is something saccharine-sweet about the story of our lives. you have known me your whole life. we grew up together, played together. i loved you, you tolerated me (even though we both know you really do actually love me, you old grump). and now i watch as arthritis creeps into your bones, prematurely, in my opinion. you get dialysis three times a week. i am the one that gives it to you. and one day you will be no longer. there will be an empty spot where you sat. there will be an empty bowl at dinner. i won’t hear your footsteps across our ugly laminate floors. i will never be ready. no matter how many times they tell me your kidneys are failing. no matter how many times i watch you gingerly stand and sit like the mere thought of doing either is too much. no matter how much you sleep the day away. i will never be ready to hold you in my arms and watch you leave this world. i grew up with you. i love you still. i will love you every day that you are gone. but for now all i can do is give you your dialysis, move you to a stair-less apartment, make your last days on this earth as full of love as they can be. and on that last day i’ll pick you up, and i will rock you into the longest nap you’ll ever have. but your snores won’t resonate through the house anymore. and i’ll hold your paw. and you’ll give me that chain-smoker meow you’ve always had. and i’ll bury my head in your fur and pray that i’ve given you the best life you could ever have had. that’s all you have ever deserved.
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Is America Still Singing? Isabelle Verdino Of America America is a sonata, an aria, a great crescendo, a teetering innuendo; not just a name but a song sung for years without breath. Tongue like wet sandpaper, suffocated by each note forced out. The singer without choice, endlessly crooning refrains, verses, interludes, and a chorus of a country. Of a mother and her children, her sweet sundried song a solemn prayer or sweet lullaby. Of nostalgic drivers, Route 66 inhibitors inhabiting a dust blown diner, their songs near whispers of roads and regrets. Of lovers drunk on sweet tea stained kisses, their song suppressed laughter and promises pressed up against the others lips. Of rebels and revolutionaries, relying on themselves their songs wounded cries, cries for war for change. Of inventors and dreamers cutting their souls into constellations, their songs are creations their own gods of universes unknown. Of every person that ever was or ever will be, every great love story, every bitter tragedy. Everyone sings, as naturally and unobtrusively as they breathe and blink and believe. America their composer, their composition, perched on the edge of a music stand waiting for an audience.
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Big Island, Hawaii
Artist Statement: This photo was taken from an open-door helicopter flying over active lava from Kilauea volcano, cooling as it meets the coastline.
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Her Own Flesh Annie Przypyszny
Artist Statement: Using words and phrases from a page of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. Her own sensitive body, unfathomable, fathomless. Where are you? Speak to me— The weight of mystery. She clung to it, the weight of it. My love! My love! Her heart within her, quivering with her own beauty: weight of wonder. Where are you? Unfathomable. Speak to me— Fathomless. She held her own flesh, her own plasm, the globes of her own breasts. What mystery… Incomprehensible, iridescent, the flowers between her legs. The little flame of flowers. Where are you? Say something—
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Unfathomable, delicate terror, fathomless wonder: her sheer, warm heart, quivering, her primeval root of mystery. My love! My love! Speak to me— The flesh never speaks. It’s weight is soft, momentous, and unspeakable.
Amanita virosa (Destroying Angel) Grace Collins
Medium Statement: ink on paper Spring 2021 | 33
to study a woman Charlotte Faust head Start high, swing low. A tuft of hair at the top of the forehead, short, barely an inch long, only in the center, just beyond the hairline. A widow’s peak attempting to be. The rest of the hair is longer, umber rivers swimming past a square face. The eyelids tuck neatly into their hoods, only the thin line above the lashes is visible when the eyes are open. They can’t see well. Use contacts, get one stuck. Crouch against the sun in the square, the right hand pressing against the eye. Squeeze the seeping liquid back in, don’t let the redness escape. Leave the line at the Louvre to go to the ER, forget the French word for eyelid. The eyes are bright rays of cocoa reaching from the pupil, striking through the green. Heterochromia can result in worsened eyesight in the patient. A taupe scar runs the length of the left eye, a finger’s width away from it, towards the hairline. An uneven driveway, four children in a wagon careening downhill. The wagon turned too quickly, tilted in slow motion. Four children spilled onto hard ground. Six stitches and two orange creamsicles at the hospital. Three wisdom teeth inch their way through the gums at the back of the jaw. Solid enamel presses down, ripping at the soft tissue. Someday, it will break the membrane and sit in line with the others. Pain ripples through the jaw on the flight back from London. Growing teeth cause air pockets which scream at the changing pressure. neck Lower still. There is a pale white line, one centimeter long, adjacent to the lower jawbone. Is this the neck or the head? Bone versus bone. One child stands on the shoulders of one father who himself stands in shallow water. The child jumps up but not away. The chin of the child collides with the skull of the father. Three stitches, throw up on the doctor, no stitches but extra bandages, age six. hands Left to right. The ring finger is nicked twice, close together. A microplane, zesting a lemon. The blades went sideways on the uneven surface, juice entered the fresh wound, stinging. A vermillion mark the size of a thumbprint sits in the triangle of skin between the thumb and index metacarpals on the right hand. A propane tank. Pink half moons just below the nail plate. Pick at the cuticle, tear at the skin. White half moons above, protruding over each nail, shorter at the thumbs. Chew the nail, make the jagged edge then smooth it with the tips of your teeth. Flip. 34 | American Literary Magazine
The skin is pink, purpling veins meander through the palm, up the fingertips. It is struck through with lines covering the fatty area just below the thumb, running up the thin fingers, breaking only at the knuckles where fewer but deeper indents range sideways. There is a darker line, a scar, on the pad of the right first finger. A swiss army knife gone astray while carving a gravestone for a bird, age eleven. abdomen Focus on what is under the skin. Ribs six through ten protrude and disappear with every breath. On an ultrasound, the rib cage looks like blinds through which the sun shines. Under the bone, the parietal cells in the stomach overproduce hydrochloric acid. The villi in the small intestines cannot absorb vitamins at a healthy rate. Intolerance. Curl on the cold floor of the bathroom, the buzz of the ringing phone echoing in the empty space. Ask the roommate to bring the blanket, water, meds. Shake there, bones rattling the skin, for another hour, go back to bed. Do not sleep. Repeat. Let the fat under the skin slide away. Take seven tests over two years, this body cannot digest gluten. legs Move forward. The muscles sleep beneath the skin. They lift the leg at the hip, extend it at the knee. They walk the body across the earth. Walk for hours each day as a vessel for listening. Bring the dog to make it seem normal. Let the calves and hips ache at night, sleep soundly from the effort. The softest parts of the legs are where the skin bruises most easily. There is a mottled contusion on the outside anterior of the left leg, seven inches up the calf. Streaks of lilac from within to crowd against the skin as if it’s a lid. Lilac seeps into mulberry which slowly fades into the color of cinnamon. At the end, the contusion fades to jaundice and dissipates completely. Ram the leg into the jutting-out corner of the footboard of the empty bed repeatedly, at all times of day. Commiserate over the constant pain of it with the aunt who once lived in the room.
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Chewing Cotton Wool Emma Lovato
She’s the golden light pouring through my window, the blanket on my floor, the dent in my pillow, the painting above my door. She’s drinking on a school night, getting on an airplane, breaking down when no one’s in sight, and cleaning up the wine stain. She’s making mosaics out of people, she’s torn out pages from my journal, smoking cigarettes by the cathedral, she’s ephemeral. She’s the broken heart, the worn-out chair. I’m falling apart because she’s everywhere.
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Beyond Mindful Annie Przypyszny I think I could emerge from my mind as if shedding a space suit; float toward the sky like a ghost, or chimney smoke; somersault into the prime blue ether, becoming the substance of nothing, which is not really nothing but is breath, or time, or silence, anything that we can experience but cannot grasp in the physical way that we so like to grasp things.
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Citrus Dreams Annika Rennaker
Summer’s sweet mandarins Fall into my basket. Fully ripened jewels. I weep like the spring. Nectarines never knew sadness In the presence of you. Orange juice jams From the broken transistor radio And clementine kisses when You would tuck me into bed. Peeling back the dimpled skin, That’s how I remember. Your cheeks the color of mandarins. Your hair the color of mandarins. Mandarins worshipped You. Just like marmalade mother, You made the world shine. The sun blessed you with her energy, And now to continue her legacy you Must spread your light in the world above the world. From my basket to your casket I place Mandarins. One by one. Forever may you smell of summer. Sweet citrus dreams for the eternal sleeper.
Flowers are Free Grace Collins
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city jungle Riddhi Setty
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Proof-Reading Love Grace Hasson
“Why are there always so many spelling mistakes in those long quotes about love?” she asks, her nose scrunching up. “I guess it’s hard to type when you’re in love,” I say, and look up from my book into her dark eyes. I want to add that it’s hard to breathe when you’re in love. And hard to walk in a straight line and hard to have just one drink when you’re alone and in love. Because every time I’ve been in love I’ve been alone. “But proof-reading is really important,” she says, squirming in the mint green armchair by the window. “Maybe it’s better not to proof-read love,” I say, and she rolls her eyes. “You poets always say stuff like that.” She’s right. But what matters more is what we poets don’t say. What we let out when we sigh is so much more than what we metamorphosize into words. What we scribble in our notebooks cannot compare to the marching storm clouds we hold back. I always hold back. Lightning is better as a low sizzle in the back of my throat, never pouring out in mountains of light. That would mean too many words. With that much love, proof-reading would be hopeless.
Rachel Burger Spring 2021 | 43
The Chameleon Katherine Raiano
Medium Statement: pen and colored pencil on paper Artist Statement: “The Chameleon” started as a bunch of doodles I drew during one particularly boring online class. At first I thought the shapes looked like a bird, then they took the form of a purse, and then a lizard. I decided to try and make the drawing look like a lizard, but eventually it morphed into a chameleon. This piece was never meant to be anything special. However, the way it came to be reminded me that things not going as expected can lead to unanticipated possibilities.
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I am not there Grace Collins
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Grace 46 | American Literary Magazine
Apartment 3012 Concert Lineup Katie Meyerson
Artist Statement: I used all of my roommates’ aesthetics, music tastes, and inside jokes to create our concert lineup and band names. Featured genres are punk, clowncore, kpop, alt-rock, and folk. Medium Statement: digital
Jasper Spring 2021 | 47
I’m pretty sure I could fall asleep on the floor right now, but I won’t. I can’t. I don’t think anyone has been as nice to me in the past eight months as you’ve been to me today, Orangeade. The way you laughed at my shitty jokes. The way I felt like you were speaking directly to me. The way you didn’t even mind that I only wanted to shop in the men’s section. The eye contact I was keeping up, the way your knees brushed mine on the train… everything. I’m sorry, Orangeade, I know maybe this wasn’t really what you wanted to come out of that trip, but… I’ve been asking the universe for good things. I’ve been seeing a praying mantis on my window every morning, and when I Googled it it supposedly represents the sentiment that good things come to those who wait. And I’ve been waiting. Like hell, I’ve been waiting. And I’ve been asking for new friends, and trips into the city, and people who get it, people who understand, and… most of all, I’ve just been asking if I could please, please, please feel alive again sometime soon. And today, we trekked from Midtown to SoHo and back. And my feet hurt. And I learned that you work a block away from me. And I learned that maybe… maybe I’d finally reached what I’d been trying to manifest. 18 Miles of Books. We found a deck of tarot cards in the Strand. I pulled a … Chariot 7? Is that how you say it? And a Queen of Swords. “So, the Chariot means you’ve overcome a lot and you’re moving in a positive direction… and the Queen of Swords… God, my phone barely works in here, just give me a sec… the most masculine of the queens… independence… direct communication… she’s got a bright future. You hungry, Kit? I think the restaurant you wanted to go to is like a fifteen minute walk…”
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Orangeade, am I crazy? Or did you really always want to walk next to me? I’ve been so on edge these past few months. Something about being a woman has seemed so dangerous to me lately. I carry pepper spray and a pocket knife not because I’m scared, no not that at all, but in case someone comes up behind me on the street and tries me because I’m little and pretty, and they think they can get away with it. But I felt safe with you. Maybe it was the safety of being around a man. Maybe they’d all think you were my boyfriend and not bother. Maybe I wanted to be you. Maybe I wanted to be 6’2” with a lax boy flow and scuffed up white high top vans. Maybe I wanted to finish my bottle of orangeade in one sip and not have to carry it around in my backpack for hours. But that’s something to unpack later, when my makeup is off, and my head is clear, and it’s just me, and the moon, and the suburbs, and are you working tomorrow? Maybe I love you, Orangeade, I thought to myself as I followed the back of your head up to Union Square. You couldn’t see me smiling under my mask. I was behind you most of the time, anyway. But I was smiling. I felt more alive than I have in months. As we passed the Metronome, I had no idea where I suddenly found myself headed.
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Riddhi Setty I take a drag of you and exhale as you smile and say something about Socrates I lie back, only kind of paying attention, eyes half-open. I like listening to you ramble about philosophy I don’t always listen but I like the ridges in your voice. you’re speaking well beyond your years but something tells me you’ve always had that habit. you intrigue me, have I told you that before? you have so many stories, so much depth I listen as you tell me about the time you were in a restaurant and liked the food so much, you went back into the kitchen and asked the chef to teach you how to make it, and he did. I think you have that power over people, the kind that makes them want to do what you ask. it helps that you know how to ask, just the perfect amount of flattery and curiosity. you’re different than most people. you shrug that off, it means nothing to you. you tell me that you have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. you say this as you explain why you read physics books for fun, why you watch youtube videos on art restoration, why you went back into that restaurant kitchen. I think there are parts of you I will never fully understand. you are perfectly content with yourself, don’t seem to need anyone else around. you can spend days in your apartment and remain unaffected by the passage of time. if I’m being honest, in a way you make me feel special by association, honored that I’m one of the few people you communicate with more than a few times a year. sometimes I wonder if you’re being pretentious even though I know you’re not. it astounds me how one person could know so much, could be so much. I wonder if you feel so much too. there is a lot that you talk about, but not this. you say there is nothing to talk about. is it wrong that I do not believe you? I find it hard to believe that people can just exist sometimes. it might just be the poet in me but there has to be feeling to every story, right? it is hard to fathom that you can just do something, and have it be that. but maybe you can. after all, we are not the same, you and I. it’s probably what I like best about you. so I guess I’ll just lie back down and continue to breathe you in, for as long as you’ll let me. 50 | American Literary Magazine
Woven Film Shane Ryden
Medium Statement: collage work with 35mm film prints and polaroids Spring 2021 | 51
Lady Macbeth Syd Smith
I decided to dye my hair blue and I regret it. Blue is the color of a friend and a hand outstretched but on my hair and against my skin it seems deadly and sinister. I’m far too fair for any kind of color and I tried to play it safe but it seems i’m not cut out for extravagance. I miss the days where messiness was encouraged and hearts could be strewn about, but the stains on my bathtub won’t come out no matter how hard I scrub and how much I spray myself on those death blue splotches nothing changes. There’s a special kind of quiet and weight in a white-tiled room. My hands remind me of what I did wrong, what I told myself I’d never do again, what my mother warned me about but I am no longer my mother’s child as she laughs over the phone about the dog and the snow and things I no longer recognize. I am no longer my father’s daughter as he sits in the very house I resented my entire life waiting for a call from his invisible child that will never come. I sent my teacher a letter and I tried to be eloquent, because that’s what she always wanted, but she saw right through me as she always did. I couldn’t keep anything from her. She could see my hands shake and that always gave me away. My shaking hands stained with something- right now it’s dark and I should be shouting out, out you damned spot but all I can do is sit and look at how the color seeps into each layer and clings to me for dear life. She says hell is murky but to me it’s midnight blue.
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Bang Pow Shane Ryden
Spring 2021 | 53
It is not that I’m angry Gracie Donovan
Content Warning: sexual assault I’m just not entirely sure what happened, or how it came to be. All I know is that it left me feeling nauseous, vomiting on the bathroom floor. It is not that I said no, but I didn’t really say yes. With a face buried in a pillow and your arm around my throat. My mouth spilled out the words, I think I think I think It is not that I hate you I just can’t stand to see your face. Smug and put together like you didn’t steal it away. My innocence, that is. It is not that I feel broken I just don’t feel whole anymore. A year gone by, two christmases coming and going leaves falling out like baby teeth. But I am still there in that dorm room with you. It is not entirely easy. To be a woman, I think. To sit in class across the row from the person who took away that soft little thing you held inside of you for years and years and years. But it is not special, this feeling that I have. It is common It is spoken of It is all there is
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Megan Long Artist Statement: “Still” captures the calmness of a fresh snowstorm with inspiration from Wes Anderson’s movie stills. His symmetrical cinematography and solid production design became the lens to capture the National Cathedral’s lawn in January. Spring 2021 | 55
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Niccolo Bechtler Innumerable legs I lead
smell feed them a
of phosphorus diet
alphabet soup a lucky few grow
with terrible strong
sprout black lettering
(their wooly coats)
ripe for shearing these come with me
to the state fair
of blue ribbons
How do we
an answer: decades of training and all my fails to hold
countless mother can notice
Once to rear these
and lead my herding dog
her breath soon around their I imagine
his pitch she pursues a beauty
what we know
to wake them from their pen
I worry may
translucent hooves the ribbon
to carry her and
evaporating in my hands.
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Observe and Describe Annie Przypyszny
When I’m sad, I observe my sadness. I pay attention to its shape (spiral? turret? declivity?), its color (blue? mauve? clear?), its taste (often that of ice, but sometimes like Amoxicillin, chalky and sweet). When this analyzation is complete, I name the sadness. This process lies somewhere in between naming a species and naming a baby; precise terminology is important, yet I made the sadness— it’s mine. There must be room, then, for sentimentality. Today’s is smudged, like a handprint on the side of a car. It’s the color of cloud and tastes bland, bland, bland. I fog a mirror with my breath and write my own name in the blur. Except with the letters backwards. And upsidedown. And printed with a finger from the unaccustomed left hand.
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Alcarez’s Doves Shane Ryden
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December Jazz Peyton Bigora
Velvet growls The smoky room dazzles of Saxophone blues Mulled wine stained lips, I lean into Peppermint and clove Your whispers pass through me like Flickering ash Muted neon sways Dust rolls in clouding our boots Raveled in one booth Scarves and hats heaped Tipsy laughs High empty heads Hearts melded so sweetly With honey Let’s pour another
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J is for Johnny Jasper Lesly
Because you say you’ll never be Baby, because you’ll never be 80 pounds soaking wet in a skin-tight size whatever white dress, because I fell in love with a girl with broad shoulders and a heart that she thinks is as cold as the steel rod in her back, because I’ll never be Patrick Swayze neither, all arms and shoulders and chest and muscles and ripples and heart, because I’ll never punch a hole in a backseat window (or a wall) because I can’t even drive a car, so I’ll never leave the driver’s side to walk to your door before you can open it. Because I don’t fit in, neither Swayze nor Baby, because I’m not the right size or the right shape or the right anything, because I am a sort of purgatory person, an in-betweener, a meanwhile on the way to your actually, because there is no room for me in your fantasy, because you love me now but not in the way that I love you, because you don’t know what you want so you might as well want me.
Because I can’t fucking dance, but you still stand on my toes like you mean it when my shaky arms are wrapped around your waist, because our silly silhouettes won’t ever line up even though we’re the same size, and because they’re so beautiful, but I want us to be so beautiful in all the in-between spaces, the ones where I fit in, because I want to find all the spaces in your life where I fit in, because you don’t want to take me away from mine, but I want to bleed into yours until I can’t remember who’s me and who’s you and who’s Patrick and who’s Baby and who’s dancing with who as long as it’s just us two, because I love you, because I do.
dance with me?
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When you were just a year, it was blueberries. You’re on the kitchen floor in a onesie and broken berry skins. You giggle and shove a fistful towards your face. Most of them land on the floor. When you were three, it was peaches. The third picture in the stairwell is proof. Your toddler hands grip a sunset peach at the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. You don’t have a smile on; you’re preoccupied with the peach. When you were five, it was pineapples. Preferably raw and sticky and all over your fingers, but off the barbecue is good too. You always ask for it by name. We eat so much that our tongues start to tingle. When you were seven, it was blackberries. You make me wear the backpack. We ride to the end of the trail, past the Inkwells and the horses, and climb the fence. Bittersweet berries stain our lips and fingertips as we rustle through the bramble and fill the bag by the fistfull. When you were nine, it was strawberries. We sit in the garden and pluck them off, one by one. Sometimes the snails beat us to the berries. You throw the bad ones at the fence. When you were eleven, it was plums. I hoist you onto the rooftop and you fill the bucket. Too many of them are unripe. You say those ones are for baking. If we only pick the ripe ones, mom will make us eat them plain. You’re seventeen now. Your fingers are never sticky. The sun hasn’t graced you in years. I don’t know what happened between the plum tree and the present. If a fruit tree could make you giggle again, I would plant you a grove.
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Cherries: A Love Letter Thalia Tosetti
Sitting opposite each other across the marble island between us a shiny glass bowl full of cherries. Sundays were meant to be lazy so we sat for hours, talking stemming the crimson fruit. Seeds dropping in the bowl your laughter hung in the air you loved stories, you loved me. I picked up a soft cherry it rolled easily between my fingers my frown struck you You offered a trade “do you want mine?” yours was shinier, darker, firmer. I did. I bit into what was once yours it was firm, a tear fell down my cheek You chuckled your smile wide “why are you crying?” Because you love me.
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the other day Gracie Donovan
Content Warning: body image I went to the beach with my mother and brother and father Not really the beach but a piling up of sand by the shores of Lake Erie. I wore my pink bikini, the one with the matching bottoms Except the bottoms didn’t fit when I tried them on They pinched at the sides of my hips, kissed too firmly on my thighs I wore the blue bottoms instead Lying on my towel I picked and poked and prodded at my stomach The pale mass of flesh that blocked my view of the faux ocean My mother told me “No one notices it, no one notices it, no one notices it” So I made sure someone would notice it Rubbing and squeezing so hard that the skin turned pink enough to match my bikini In the water a mom held her baby on her hip she was talking on her cellphone The baby swiped at her cheeks, tried to get a grasp of her hair, her sunglasses, her nose And when she pulled her head away, the baby threw back its head and shrieked Sitting in my pink bikini and blue bottoms I thought, that I would very much like to be a shrieking baby. Instead of This
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in my blood
Medium Statement: gouache on canvas
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A Breakfast For Ants Scarlett Wedergren
Medium Statement: polymer clay
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A Yearbook Photo in the Time of COVID
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Color Theory Katie Meyerson
Medium Statement: digital
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Ignored Advice Emma Southern
“Too fast, slow down You’ll trip and fall” But I want to run And play, that’s all “Too fast, slow down You’ll crash your car”
But I have to go Places near and far
“Too fast, slow down You don’t know love”
But I can feel Life’s forceful shove
Too fast, slow down I have so much to do “But you didn’t listen When we told you to”
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Over the holidays Gracie Donovan
I watched Love, Actually which led me to think about It and the misplaced affections we put on pet turtles, rocks, the cracks on the sidewalks even the best friends who go swimming with us at the neighborhood pool the ones who teach us “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” but her skin smells like warm bergamot when you make grilled cheeses together and you eat them over the sink giggling, as the gooey bits drip down your chins then there’s the girls who teach us what it means to be in love the ones with brown eyes, like the foam that spills out the top of a rootbeer float and you drink the punch that falls from her mouth like it’s wine it isn’t until the love is gone and you’re trying to keep your brain from parting open like the spine of a book hands swirling through the murky water of a bubble bath that you greet the feeling for what is was: love, actually then, over the holidays, you’ll watch a movie try to imagine what it would’ve been like if you’d have recognized the feeling sooner
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What I Do for a Living Maren Valenti
Content Warning: blood
Medium Statement: pencil and pastel on paper 76 | American Literary Magazine
Hateful Heart Grace Hasson
Some people love with hatred in their hearts. When we associate passion with fire, we forget that all flames burn. Pull your fingertips away quick, but they’re already singed. Yes, she smiled with all her teeth like a child. But I think she’s lived a thousand lives. And she’s spent every one with her heart turning more twisted. Her eyes glisten like an innocent, but she loves to make you as damned as her. She’ll laugh at you for praying, turn your mother against you, and drop your favorite Christmas ball. She won’t even try to pick up the shattered shards. Because that would risk cutting her fingertips. And she is so fragile to you. So you gather the shards yourself and find the pale blue ornament is nothing but hollow and brittle on the inside.
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Boxed In Bigora Peyton I. Playing dress-up in Itchy, awkward, stiff, shiny Something just won’t fit Over broad shouldered Expectations, synch phantom maturity I hate me (in it) But it’s beautiful On him, her, them…anyone But me (says others) Fold it neatly now And put it out of your mind It can’t ever fit II. So, ____, are you interested in any boys? Look at him, don’t you think he’s cute? Who in class do you have a crush on? I know this guy who’d be perfect for you, want me to set it up? Why don’t you go on more dates? He was totally flirting with you, why didn’t you flirt back? Did any boys ask you to prom yet? When are you going to bring a nice young man home to meet the family? Well, you’ll make sure he asks for your father’s blessing first, right? Do you picture your future groom in a white or black tux? Don’t you want to fall in love with a nice man someday? I have an answer But I just grin and pray, please Don’t ask if I’m gay
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I have an answer But I just grin and pray, please Don’t ask if I’m gay
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Medium Statement: acrylic on paper
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Maren Valenti Medium Statement: collage
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we can’t breathe Callie Lau
there was a fire in the sky. when they ask where it all went wrong tell them it was that afternoon when the teacher asked the class what’s the opposite of courage? and the class replied: fear because those who are courageous choose to stand guard when oppressors arrive at their doorstep so others could flee for they’re told not to go gentle into the world that their voices are all the firepower they need for even if their houses are not in flames, they fight to put out the inferno ravaging the homes, smoke suffocating the hapless ones until their stomachs hurt and their necks hurt and everything hurts and they-can’t-breathe-they-can’t-breathe. they. can’t. breathe and those who are afraid faced their worst fears but replied with poems of restless resistance gave what they had their words to the dying light their arms to the trembling wife their hearts to him stripped of a beating one but those who are cowards succumb to what age and history taught them: silence the kind where you don’t speak even when your own damn house is on fire and so they stay still, peaceful as cobalt corpses, do nothing but wait their turn to be dragged away into violent inaction
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Anonymous Content Warning: allusions to abuse my mom gave me $7 to go buy her some peaches from the store i pocketed the money and went and mounted my bike it all seemed normal but i hung a right onto Lincoln alley and peddled as fast i could she couldn’t know what i was up to it wasn’t illegal or wrong but against her rules which was worse i knew the back alleys and side streets like the back of my mother’s hand they scared me but they were familiar i rode right into my favorite spot on the bike rack the lock click blended with the rush of AC and the slide of the front door i had made it muscle memory took me to the peaches stand my palms passed over them i placed a mixed batch in a basket my mom likes to eat them for many days only i can plan the ripeness right that what she tells me on the way to the registers i palm a plum not to steal i pay for the peaches and collect the 35¢ change i place the plum on the counter and pull a $1 out of my shoe i bullied a kid at school for it my mom told me i would know when i needed to be mean i considered this advice of utmost importance (that’s the phrase we learned in writing this week. i like the way it feels when i say it) it turns out my mom doesn’t take her own advice unless she thinks you should be mean all the time plus i wanted a plum needed it basically the kid will get over it that’s something my mom tells me too i hang the bag of peaches on my handlebars and eat the plum while leaning against the wall as soon as i finish i’m taking off again my mom watches the clock she’s nervous like that she doesn’t know i take back alleys either 84 | American Literary Magazine
she wouldn’t like that i take off home just as fast as i got there i suck on the plum pit until half way home i spit it into an open dumpster the other half of the ride is spent swallowing my own spit over and over as fast as i can: cleaning a crime scene the plum change in my shoe also started the bug me but i knew if i slowed down i’d have a lot more than i sore foot i thought about telling my mom i found it on the ground but she’d just tell me i’d stolen it i got home and pulled in as cool as could be i walked up with the peaches and handed them to my mom along with the change i forget something though i was so worried about swallowing and peddling i didn’t realize the bag had smacked into my knee the whole way home i bruised the softest peach the 35¢ collided with my stomach the peach with my knee it left its own bruise i was a mistake that’s what my mom said
Shelby Rose it’s in the blood a thick, potent poison to make veins a family tree love burrows under the skin, twists into muscle, and clings to cells Those who bore you Kill you with a deadly dose watch, as it reaches your heart
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Grace Collins Medium Statement: relief print
I’m Afraid to Say I Love You Grace Hasson to myself. I don’t know how long this will last. I hold this love like snowflakes on gloveless hands.
Lia Patentas Spring 2021 | 87
jeevitham Hope Alex
Artist’s Statement: This poem’s title translates to “life” in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, India. The poem serves as a reminder of my upbringing as an Indian-American, which is represented through the three things I cherish most in my life - eyeliner (kajal), earrings (kammal), and coffee (kaapi) - while exhibiting how my experiences with my culture have shaped me into the person I am today. kajal
i met you as a seventh month old, because of tradition.
studs: for the beginners and the babies and the private catholic school students.
you covered my eyes and the middle of my forehead, but i never remembered you. i was reintroduced to you as an eight year old, because of family. this time, you were coloured into my tears. but i still longed for you. i found you again as a ten year old, because of art. you, once again, covered my eyes. but then, i fell in love with you.
you are naïve; you know nothing yet. dangles: for the novice and the teens and the ones who want to express themselves. you are slowly experiencing the world. hoops: also for the novice and the adults but serves many purposes. you are talked about behind your back. jhumka: for everyone and special occasions and the most important events in life. they say malayalis love gold.
88 | American Literary Magazine
kaapi frothy bubbles dance on the surface of an elixir held inside a tin tumbler. supported by a davarah. filter kaapi, they call it. but i call it nadu. this is what home feels like.
90 | American Literary Magazine
Grace Collins Medium Statement: colored pencil on toned paper
Spring 2021 | 91
It’s getting me all choked up Henri Brink
Content Warning: disturbing food imagery, domestic violence You never forget what it’s like to go hungry. I grew up with it, the yearning and the hope, stealing scraps from the kitchen when she wasn’t looking. The feeling gnaws at you for a while, but the sensation fades; Stockholm syndrome of the body I suppose. Others, better than me, might have wished for salvation, for crumbs instead of dust, but I learned to savor it. I gathered my own supplies, sticks and rocks and sediment, choked it down and learned to hold it. Stones always settled my stomach better than anything else. It’s a funny thing, sinking your teeth into nothing but your own delusions, the sting of it cutting up your gums like her fist on your lip. Stones sink deep inside you, but the blood fills you up better than anything else, slaking your thirst, sweetening your bones and your sweat and your flesh. It spoils you, after a while, bruising like an overripe fruit. Her fingerprints sprinkle you with decoration, dark spots on a perfect record. The skin heals, but the flesh rots. You don’t settle like you used to. The stones turn inside your belly, pinching you, filling you, clogging up your throat until you can’t speak, can’t breathe, can’t eat. Pebbles lodge between your teeth and cut your tongue, sharpened by time, innocuous little things made dangerous. I can’t stand to spit them out now, so I swallow them, savoring the sweetness as it carves memories in my skin. I don’t bruise as easily now, but I still remember that time when I did. I grew to love it. Sometimes I think I still do.
92 | American Literary Magazine
disorder Sami Pye
Spring 2021 | 93
Encapsulate Noah Fischer
94 | American Literary Magazine
Tak For Alt
Niccolo Bechtler The most common headstone inscription in Denmark translates to “Thanks for Everything.” I grew up across the street from a cemetary where all the headstones were the same: “I wish.” There are no graveyards in Copenhagen, only nightclubs. I haven’t seen a dead person yet. It rained the day I arrived but I was unwavering, I would see the city on my rented bike. I rode to the banks of the Nyhavn and stood beneath a bare tree’s black branches. A man in a hoodie yelled into his phone (there is no good Danish translation of “fuck”) and the ducks nodded on the still water, from a distance looking like half-hearts or the rounded tips of tombstones.
Spring 2021 | 95
Colorless Grief Anonymous
Artist Statement: Since August I have been going through intensive therapy to treat PTSD, which has been the hardest, most confusing, isolating, and beautiful thing I have ever had to do. I wrote this after feeling like I was finally done working through things, only to be surprised by a new sense of loss. I’m trying to find the words to explain this to you But they’re like sand running through the gaps in my fingers. The only thing I can think of is when I used to fantasize as a child That someone would be bitten by a nasty poisonous viper, and I The little war battered giver that I was Would suck the venom from their veins And the onlookers would applaud me for my bravery and wit and compassion. But now that I have done it, Sucked that lecherous shame from my skin And spat out memories like battery acid that stained my teeth and tongue, Writhed on the floor with the pain of knowing that no one will do it for me I have learned that it is nothing like I thought it would be. There is no clapping and no one telling me that I am a hero There is no news reporter covering my story, It’s just me And excruciating grief. Waves of it that wrack my body like a fever And sometimes I sob in the shower Doubled over the white tile Leaking this fucking grief from every pore And it’s not for my loss of innocence It’s not for my blank childhood It’s for that venom I painstakingly pulled from my body Because I wonder if that poison is what gave me color.
96 | American Literary Magazine
Too Many to Count
Spring 2021 | 97
98 | American Literary Magazine
ripping the band-aid off
When I was younger, I never understood “ripping the band-aid off.” I would always pull my bandaids off slowly, trying to move it bit by bit and wincing when I pulled it a little too hard. The stinging of a ripped off band-aid was worse than the long, little, pains that scraping it off caused. A sharp pain was worse than a dull ache. A dull ache could be ignored, but that sharp pain always held my focus. A sharp pain was overwhelming, all encompassing, suffocating. When I was 17, I experienced my first real loss. It was sudden; a candle blown out by the wind, a light flicked off with no warning. The pain was so sharp and so overwhelming that I could barely think of anything else. A piece of my life had been ripped away with no warning and no time to say goodbye. It’s been four years and that pain still lingers, still flares up and feels fresh without warning. I am 21, and I see this new loss on the horizon. It’s not here yet, but I’m waiting for the phone call this time. There is a constant fear, a constant guilt, a constant grim acceptance trying to take root in my mind. This grief is long and drawn out, made worse by my absence. I hate this waiting and the guilt that follows wanting this to end. This low burning candle, this dimming light; this long goodbye. Now that I am older, I rip my band-aids off.
Spring 2021 | 99
i knew fear before its object, the train before i knew the race tracks, the sniper peering through my window, the woman crawling in my bedsheets, the monster not beneath the bed but in the top bunk, sleep the cousin. i am tired of reading about myself in the news. i do not want to be on television unless i am old grouchy lumpy and hideous. it is cold in the water without you. when at last my time it comes i stare into the sun and find the locomotive light it shines run me down i let it catch me. i want to smell like death itself tickled pink and stinking happy.
100 | American Literary Magazine
radiant hypnosis Hope Alex
Artist Statement: I went out to the lake behind my house one day during quarantine as the sun was setting and became hypnotized by the waves. If you stare at this photograph for a long time, you might also do the same.
Spring 2021 | 101
Bios Hope Alex is Indian-American, even though her name may indicate differently. She is also well-aware that her name is made up of typical first names, thank you very much. Liah Argiropoulos is a self-described NBA stannie and pear eater with a dislocated kneecap. Alexa Barnes thinks alstroemeria is a severely underrated flower. Niccolo Bechtler sleeps with one eye open, and his best friend is his boot. He is excited to graduate in May and pursue an MFA at a school he has yet to decide on for sure. Peyton Bigora has built a personality around reading, collecting books, and writing 24/7. Please enjoy her poetry where she allows her peers to see into just a small portion of her mind. Ronaldo Bolanos is a photographer based out of Dallas, TX and currently a freshmen at American
Gracie Donovan writes poetry for sad people and gays, that’s all. Charlotte Faust does not care to hear from the devil’s advocate. Sheer Figman has a list on her phone of things that make her happy: a good song (you just know when you find one); those days when it’s sunny and there’s a breeze; night walks; driving (alone, with friends, with music, with silence, in the rain, wherever); inky black pens (pilot g-2 0.7mm is an all-time fave); and a tall glass of water. Noah Fischer is proud of the LA Unlimited Tacos for finally winning the Blaseball championship. Grace Hasson is the author of Into the Orange Grove: A Collection of Poetry and the songwriter of “Second Guesser” on SoundCloud. She is, overall, a lover of words. Lauren Kelly can’t tap dance but wishes she could.
Henri Brink went into a kitchen one day and never came back. If you think you saw her somewhere else - no you didn’t. Think again.
Callie Lau is dancing naked in the flowers to Hotel California and yelling at the moon with you, or we just aren’t vibing the same.
Grace Bruer is a senior in SIS who has been reading and writing poetry and prose since she was in elementary school, but has only ever memorized one poem: a red wheelbarrow by william carlos williams.
Jasper Lesly is a senior in the 2021 graduating class of American University (woo!!!!!! yeah!!!!! woo!!!!!!). They are a screenwriter, editor, audio editor, and apparently poet. They own too many vinyl records and they have swapped out their bio in this publication of AmLit with that of another contributor, but you’ll never know who (mwahaha evil laugh).
Rachel Burger thinks of the past four years as a mosaic, and is very grateful for every piece. Grace Collins is just a bimbo that likes shiny rocks and birdwatching! Annie Dempsey is happy to be anywhere!
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Megan Long is probably watching a movie right now. Emma Lovato’s thorn is that this is her last AmLit. Her rose is knowing all of you.
Sarah Mattalian is a sophomore studying journalism, Spanish, and creative writing. Katie Meyerson has some very talented roommates who she loves dearly, all of whom appeared in this semester’s AmLit. Dominic Minadeo grew up in Vermont and will not stop talking about it if you let him. Sydney Muench is a freshman at SOC double majoring in Film and Media Arts and Political Science. Shea Neary is currently in Barnes and Noble buying a book even though she has 10 at home that have yet to be read.
Shane Ryden is a queer photographer and multimedia artist interested in exploring the psychedelic aspects of subject perspective. He is originally from Northern LA County, at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. Riddhi Setty is 5’4 with her burgundy red platform docs and she takes great pride in this. Syd Smith has eaten 6 grilled cheeses in the past 24 hours. Emma Southern is a freshman in the CBRS program, and she is always ready for a nap. Thalia Tosetti asks that you pronounce her name right. It’s TAL-LI-AH (the “H” is silent).
Lia Patentas likes to look at old houses and wonder how haunted they are.
Maren Valenti skates fast, **** ***, and gives em all whiplash.
Annie Przypyszny is currently teaching her cat how to read. It’s going well, Oswald is on his third Dickens already.
Isabelle Verdino is a Taurus and matches all of the stereotypes.
Sami Pye isn’t cool or smart, and she can’t even parallel park. Katherine Raiano hates the sound of her own voice but still prefers sending Snapchat videos over texting. Nikolai Razumov is an LGBTQ+ artist who is inspired by nature, Medieval illuminated manuscripts, and Russian folk art. His paintings are a visual representation of the whimsical and imaginative way he sees the world. Annika Rennaker is a freshman at SIS who spends a majority of her time drinking coffee, online shopping, and rewatching episodes of New Girl. Shelby Rose is a junior literature major. Add her on Genshin Impact UID: 613388833.
Scarlett Wedergren is a serious weather enthusiast specializing in snow total predictions.
Masthead Editors in Chief Rachel Burger Sheer Figman Art Editors Grace Collins Annie Przypyszny Art Assistants Mia Larson-Baldwin Nikolai Razumov Emma Southern Photo Editors Emma Geer Piper Hamm Photo Assistants Vanessa Garcia Lindsey McCormack Lia Patentas Poetry Editors Sofia Dean Riddhi Setty Poetry Assistants Emilee Rae Shelby Rose Isabelle Wittmann Prose Editors Henri Brink Gracie Donovan Prose Assistants Natalie Flynn Talia Marshall Dominic Minadeo
104 | American Literary Magazine
Creative Director Katie Meyerson Print Director Emma Lovato Design Assistants Olivia Schwalm Sara Shelton Hannah Sjovold Copy Editors Grace Hasson Alex Kaiss Copy Assistants Charlotte Faust Morgan Goldberg Sophia Olson Isabelle Verdino Blog Editor Katt McCann Blog Assistants Laisa Gasstaliturris Sana Mamtaney Rebecca Oss Clare Wiesen General Body Members Grace Bruer Callie Lau Trevor Luciani Karan Bacrabail Tekwani
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American Literary (AmLit), American University's student-run creative magazine, is published twice a year and is comprised of art, film, pho...