Atlantis Spring 2015

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Spring 2015 | Issue 70


Staff Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note

Lori Wilson

Dear Reader,

Layout Editor

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you about this issue of Atlantis and about the creative items that make it special. But before we go there, I want to explain my dreams for how this magazine will be read.

Marissa Flanagan

Web Editor Abby Harrell

Art Editor

Hannah Granberry

Photography Editor Hailey Black

Poetry Editor Mekiya Walters

Prose Editor Ryan Budd

Copy Editor Kailyn Warpole

Submissions Coordinator Lyndah Muthama

Promotions Coordinator Layne Smith

I once admired a charm of mud-colored finches who indulged in a puddle of leftover thunderstorm water. I watched their gathering grow—positively correlated with street silence— and wondered about how so many birds became tempted by a small and murky puddle on our southern tar streets. Some birds fled from ground to sky to ground again; others waited patiently for another simple soak. Though their visits continued, these finches embraced the puddle with ease. But when cars rode by, back they bolted to cumulus clouds.

Contents Art 4 8 31 36 27 38

Glitch by Emily Hester Morning Coffee by Emily Hester Ashes to Ashes by Spencer Brenes Seated Trees by Spencer Brenes Submerge by Ayla Jones Unhinged by Kathryn Kuchtjak

9 12 20 24 28

Henry No. 5 by Kathryn Kuchtjak Phobia by Kyle Maples Grandpapa’s Friend by Aaron Lovett The Spot by Lydia Plantamura The Lions by Bridget Callahan

Fiction & Nonfiction

I guess I wish you’ll be like these finches. I hope you indulge in this magazine whenever you can, whether time is plentiful or scarce. I hope something here confuses you, and I hope that confusion remains until you read our next issue. In some ways, I hope you wait to finish reading because you want to know how it feels to read tomorrow. Above all, I hope you indulge in your artistic instincts and share your thoughts with us. Thank you to those who shared for this issue. These brilliant pieces of art, prose, poetry, photography, and articles arose from many creative spaces, but when I see and read each one, I become tempted by color, by language, by a star-filled sky— and so a theme surfaces: temptation. I hope you flip, and feel, through these pages. Lori

Feature Articles 14 33

Q & A Sessions: Stray Local by Pamela Creech From Coast to Coast: Josh Vach’s Mission to Bring Baja-style Cuisine to Eastern North Carolina by Pamela Creech


6 11 22 32 34

CLOUDKINGDOM by Gordon S. Holliday Enjoy Everything by Keltsey Mattachione A Fairy Tale by Jacob Lynch Reflection by Rob O’Connor Untitled by Autumn Rose Rankin


We Wear Yellow Jackets Even When It Does Not Rain: Pastiche of Yusef Komunyakaa by Lauren La Melle Geography by Sarah Sullivan Good Intentions by Alixandria Moore Hoarder by Lauren La Melle Illusive Time by Kathryn Kuchtjak

Poetry 23 35 37 39

About the Cover

Night Sky ft. the Milky Way Galaxy Photography by Melanie Westheiden

“For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for photography, whether I was just looking at photographs

or taking my own. Living on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has really influenced my work. It’s a very fragile and beautiful place, and since there’s minimal light pollution, it’s an excellent location for night photography. A camera gives me the ability to capture these amazing, hidden details of everyday life, such as the Milky Way. The moment I realized this, I waited for an ideal night to go shoot the night sky, in hopes of catching the Milky Way. Surprisingly, that’s exactly what happened. I got this shot on my first night shooting. I am continuing this series of work because every experience and outcome of shooting at night is different than the last.



We Wear Yellow Jackets Even When It Does Not Rain: Pastiche of Yusef Komunyakaa Poetry by Lauren La Melle

When the butterfly blade struck Sam’s collarbone, he hollered like Mother Nature did when Mister Jackson gave her that root canal & tore that stubborn old stump from the soil. Blood rockets Pollocked his shirt. He turned war-worn flag at dusk, shivering, but not in the way old women shake their hands on Sunday mornings. We stood weighted by the awkward calm of grief & we cried together once & then a star fell from the big blue-black sky & crushed him flat.



by Emily Hester Digital tablet and Photoshop



Photography by Gordon S. Holliday



Henry No. 5

Fiction by Kathryn Kuchtjak

Morning Coffee

by Emily Hester Digital tablet and Photoshop


you lived in a log cabin, nestled deep in the evergreens. You met him hitchhiking in Washington. You claimed your leg was broken, although it was only bruised from a cow tipping gone awry. You would always need to push something larger than yourself over, and watch it fall. But there never was anything smaller. You moved in with him right away. He was a petite, unthreatening, pro-feminist man whose blood ran thick with revolution. You were a lone farmer’s daughter. You were a millworker’s niece. You stretched your rope slightly outside of the fence, until you found room to roam.   The two of you had six pet rats, all named Henry—not because they were replaceable, but because they were a representation of civilized society. You built them a set of model homes, all crafted from white stucco with an adjacent raisin park for snacking. Something scraped the sky in their small town, a Ferris wheel that all the Henrys could ride at once. They were the same, and both of you loved them all equally.   Your house was quaint, and often warmed by firelight. The warmth escaped you, but not him. You never told your lover that you loved him. You never directly addressed him by name while the two of you made love. Nevertheless, he listened to you. He was body heat. He was change. But the problem with change was the motion, the flux, the inability to control it once it began. The rats got sick of the wheel. You got stir-crazy. So one day, you packed a bag and hitchhiked to the train station.   You found a second lover. He was everything you hated and everything from which you craved affirmation. He was a Republican and he hated pets, especially “vermin.” He was your career; you were his slave. He came as a warning—contemplation on stagnancy, on reverting to what you know. The way


you sat, ankles crossed, skirt tucked in neatly. Your body wasn’t your own— it was a service vehicle. You failed to spread your legs and feel your thigh muscles clench with power. You were an extension of a phallic creature—you were mute.   You told him you loved him.   When Henry number five died, it hit you—you had lied.   You wrote I’m not yours in plum lipstick on the mirror. You moved back to Washington, to a dreary one-bedroom apartment in Seattle. The drain leaked, and you let it. The last Henry had a floorboard, not a house. The furnace broke, and you couldn’t fix it. Firewood sat in a dusty corner, untouched. You would say his name now—if you could.

Enjoy Everything

Photography by Keltsey Mattachione




*after Dogs by Kevin Canty Fiction by Kyle Maples let’s say things stop working out for you. It is the autumn of fourth grade, and you are walking home with your brother and a friend. The three of you just visited the King’s Shopping Center, whose stores lie on one of the many hillsides in your small, suburban New Jersey town. The air carries a hint of frost as you march up the alleyway between Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and Burger King, munching on a sour straw from a pack you bought at the video store, along with a rented copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As you bite down on the end of a new straw—the citric acid tap dancing on your tongue—your brother’s sudden laughter distracts you from the raised crack in the sidewalk. It catches on the toe of your sneaker. You trip and land on your forearms, and the twig of gummy candy jostles its way down your throat. You immediately cough it out, but it is too late.   Sitting in the dark basement of your friend’s home, you watch Harry and his ragtag gang vanquish dementors and werewolves. The dining hall of Hogwarts taunts you with plates upon plates of delicious meals; instead of making your mouth water, the food dries your tongue into sandpaper. The dread of facing dinner evaporates its moisture. It feels like a tether has come unhooked from your reality. Basic survival is now at odds with your fears. During that second in the alley, when the candy slipped down your throat, the thoughtless act of swallowing became your greatest fear.   There were fears before this one—spiders, bees, the dark corners of your bedroom at night—but this transcends anything logical. For some reason, you do not fear choking; you fear swallowing—that moment of unconsciousness, that muscle spasm that is swallowing. It embodies all of your fears of the unknown and uncontrollable. In that basement, you wish that the shadows in the corner would frighten you as they did the night before, that they could take their rightful place in the arena of your fears, but they are weak now; their swords are snapped in two. You sink into the


shadows to hide from yourself. You long for the movie to end so you can prove yourself wrong, but you also hope it will never end. The idea of eating closes your throat to a pinhole.   That night, you lie down in the shower. Scenarios reel through your head like a Hollywood montage in fast forward: the kernel of corn is lodged in your throat all the way down to your collarbone as your parents frantically deliver the Heimlich maneuver; the white ceiling fan fades in a blurred circle as you scratch at your throat and slip out of your body; no one can save as you sit alone in your house choking on your tongue. The shower does not purge your thoughts as you hoped it would; it numbs your abdomen with its constant pounding. You only feel the cold porcelain of the bathtub on your back. The curling paint on the ceiling blurs as steam scalds your eyes.   From then on, you dump your uneaten lunches in the restroom trashcan on your way out of school. Family dinners progress in the smallest possible increments, in the drops of Chinese water torture. Your parents ask you why you are not eating, why there are nail marks chiseled into the back of your hand, why you refuse to open your mouth for the doctor during your annual physical. You break down and tell them that you cannot eat without distracting yourself with pain, that your tongue feels like a dead lump of raw meat, that it could slide down your throat at any moment. Meals diminish into a handful of crackers, which you nibble and flinch down your esophagus one by one. Hunger gnaws on your stomach lining.   It is too much. One morning, you run down to Jerolaman’s Liquors & Candy and purchase a pack of sour straws. You need to conquer this childish phobia. You need to eat again. As you tear the jagged edge of the wrapper, you feel your gut sink at the sight of those crystallized strings that, only weeks ago, lassoed your life and flipped it upside down. You take the whole damn pack and rip a chunk out with your teeth and chew and chew until your lips leak a bitter soup of saliva and acid and sweet sugar. The back of your tongue twitches, your gut slips off the edge of the same cliff again, again, again with every failed attempt. Sugar rots your teeth and wiggles into your gums until you spit the concoction onto the sidewalk to harden in the cold. The wind announces winter’s approach with goose bumps on your neck.   The walk is longer on the way home. You navigate with frosted eyes. In the shadow-black surface of the asphalt beneath your feet, you see a future of grimacing and scratching and dragging the necessities of life into your body. You hope that time has the power to sort out insanity.


Q & A Session: Stray Local by Pamela Creech Photos courtesy of Katherine Clark


during the summer of 2013, guitarist Jamie Rowen, vocalist Hannah Lomas and drummer/washtub bassist Nick Simon joined forces to become Wilmington’s up-and-coming folk band, Stray Local. In October 2014, the band released its first full-length album, The Sun Still Shines, which combines the folksy picking of the North Carolina foothills with soulful vocal harmonies.


Who’s your biggest musical influence? Jamie Rowen: I play a lot of folk music. Doc Watson is probably my favorite influence in that genre…I studied a lot of jazz, as well—Lester Young and Miles Davis…blues and jazz and soul and folk are my favorite American music styles. Nick Simon: As far as instrumental influences, I’d say the jazz bebop drummers—the Motown drummers— Stevie Wonder, of course. He played his own drums. Hannah Lomas: Right now, the bands I feel most influenced by would be Shovels & Rope and the Wood Brothers.

JR: The most recent song is always the one we like the most. NS: The Sun Still Shines is a culmination of a year’s worth of songwriting. HL: The new ones we’re always excited about. What’s next for the band? JR: We’re trying to write songs. Right now we’ve got seven songs that are musically complete but don’t have lyrics.

What do you do if you’re not making music? JR: We just did a half marathon in November. NS: I like to do food-related things. I ferment and make beer and vinegars. HL: We all garden. We ride our bikes together. We go on runs. We like to go to Satellite and get our dance on. If you could have a super power, what would it be?

NS: Looking into labels.

JR: I want to fly.

How long have you been playing and performing music?

HL: We want to take it to the next level and tour more.

NS: Teleporting.

JR: I had a band in high school…that’s when I started songwriting. And then college—UNCG. We had an Old Time Ensemble; that’s where I met Hannah.

Do you work outside of the band?

NS: I’ve been playing for 18 years. Early on, I played in punk bands and then progressed into more technical styles of music.

NS: I bake bread and do some farm work from time to time.

HL: I joined chorus in the fourth grade and then did Honors Chorus and All-State. I went to college and studied voice…I got a music education degree and I was in two a capella ensembles and Old Time Ensemble. What’s been your biggest challenge as a new band?

JR: I give lessons…I love it.

HL: I teach voice lessons at Port City Music studios. I also teach piano and voice lessons at my church… everything that I do is music-related. How did you all decide on the name Stray Local? JR: In college, I took jazz classes and we had to write jazz tunes and I named one of my tunes that.

JR: Songwriting. I never considered myself a singer, and Hannah never considered herself an instrumentalist, but with having only three members, we all have to pick up the slack.

Is there something specific you want people to feel when they listen to your music?

NS: We all recently moved in together, so growing as a band as friends has been challenging.

NS: Nothing specific—we just want people to feel whatever the tone of the song is.

HL: Playing instruments. I’d never been an instrumentalist, so that was scary, at first.

HL: With “Let You Go,” or one of those ballads, if someone has a tear in their eye, it might be an appropriate response—but we don’t want people to cry all the time.

Do you all have a favorite song to play?


JR: I really want to get people dancing.

HL: Magic—if I could go to Hogwarts, I would. If you could travel anywhere, where would you visit? JR: Probably somewhere in the Mediterranean, like Italy. I love Italian food. NS: Morocco. HL: It would be great to get to Europe with the band and hop a bunch of places. Do you have any advice for someone who’s thinking about starting a band? JR: Yeah, do it! Be a good business man or woman— be smart and budget. Think about where you want to be and have meetings…be smart about the monetary things. NS: Listen to who you’re playing with. That really helps. HL: Take risks.




Grandpapa’s Friend Fiction by Aaron Lovett

there was a rush of sweet April heat on the wind and the sky was turning gray and dark and swirly. The wetness in the air and the restlessness of the trees made it clear a storm was coming, but Wilma couldn’t turn back just then because she was only about ten minutes or so from Grandpapa’s house and she had promised Momma she’d be back in time for supper.   She got to Grandpapa’s house, and the blinds were all the way down, which was unusual because he always liked to sit in his big armchair in the den and look out at the street. Seeing the neighbors walking their dogs and the children playing in the summer sprinklers seemed to make him happy. Or about as happy as she’d ever seen him.   Wilma knocked on the door, but no one answered, so she opened the door slightly and peeked in at the dark rooms. She called for Grandpapa. She swung the door all the way open and went inside, then shut it behind her. Silence. Shadows gathered in the hall—the kitchen up ahead, the den to the right. Grandpapa was always sort of quiet, but she had never remembered it being this quiet before. She went through the kitchen and down the hall into Grandpapa’s bedroom and was relieved to see him lying there on his bed, and she touched his arm to wake him. It was stiff. He was so still, staring up at the ceiling like there was something real interesting to see up there, but all Wilma saw was a ceiling. She shook his arm and spoke to him but he didn’t move. His skin was cold. There wasn’t a sound coming from him.   She turned around to see a man standing in the doorway. He was looking at her, but in the dark it was hard to make out his features.   “What happened to Grandpapa?” Wilma said.   “He’s gone,” the man said.   “Gone to sleep?”   “He’s gone to sleep, yes. He’ll be sleeping for a very long time.”   “Who are you?”   “I’m Grandpapa’s friend. I put him to sleep.”   “So you tucked him in and everything?”   “Right. I tucked him in and everything.”   “Oh. That’s good I guess.”   Wilma looked at Grandpapa. She had never seen someone sleep with their eyes open like that.


“What are you doing here?” she asked.   “Nothin’ no more. I was just ’bout to leave,” the man said.   “Are you gonna come visit Grandpapa again?”   “I reckon not.”   “Oh. Well you can come visit me and Momma sometime. We often got lots of leftovers. She cooks too much food. Still enough for three people, but Daddy ain’t here no more.”   “I think I may do that sometime.”   The two shared a moment of silence. Then Wilma spoke.   “I should probably get back now.”   “You probably should. Don’t get caught in that storm,” the man said.   “I won’t,” Wilma said.   She walked to the doorframe and the man moved into the hall, out of her way. She glanced up at him and then walked down the hallway. When she turned around he was still standing there.   “Make sure Grandpapa’s got his blanket on,” she called. “Since he’s gonna be sleeping a while.”   “I will,” the man said.   Wilma went home.   Momma asked how Grandpapa was doing as she finished making dinner.   “He’s sleeping,” Wilma said. “But I talked to his friend, and he tucked him in and promised he’d put his favorite blanket on him.”   While cooking the food on the stove, her mind elsewhere, Momma said that was good.   The next night, Wilma woke to find Grandpapa’s friend sitting on the edge of her bed. There was just enough moonlight seeping in through the window for her to see him. He wasn’t looking at her. Instead his eyes were fixed on the far wall, on a picture Wilma had painted a year ago. It was of a house with a pretty yard and pretty trees and a pretty sun over it.   “Did you get yourself some leftovers?” Wilma asked, bleary from sleep.   “I sure did,” the man said.   “Where’s Momma?”   “She’s sleeping.”   “Is she also gonna be sleeping a long time?”   “I reckon so.”   Then Wilma saw the blood on his moonlit hands, the light glinting off slick fingers. He was still staring at that wall.   “You like that picture, don’t you?” she asked.   “Yes. I guess I do,” he said.



Poetry by Sarah Sullivan Mount Everest grows 2.4 inches a year. It must be war. As bodies collide and humanity fragments the earth heaves skyward. The Grand Canyon: a crevasse 277 miles long in the land’s tremendous heart. Tap something enough and it will shatter.

A Fairy Tale

Photography by Jacob Lynch

Our screams created Halley’s Comet, its 9-mile nucleus scalding the atmosphere as it hurtles past the silvery silence of the stars. The souls of martyrs churn, wedged between the magnetic fields of heaven and earth to create the aurora borealis. They had carried their crosses to the top of the hill, prepared to be extinguished upon them. It was not for nothing, they whisper. It was not for nothing.



The Spot

Nonfiction by Lydia Plantamura

it was one of those infamous summer days and trouble was out looking for us. Nicole and I sat on a metal bench while Robert, her current boyfriend, lingered nearby, occasionally looking up to see if the coast was clear. We hadn’t done anything wrong yet, but teenagers like us were usually up to no good and authority figures were typically perceptive of this. Avoiding adults meant avoiding trouble, and I could tell Robert was aware of this fact.   “How do you get the safety off this thing?” Nicole asked. She was focused on the new lighter she bought from the corner store. A strand of her blond hair slipped from behind her ear. She tried to blow it out of her face, but it flopped right back into her blue-gray eyes.   “You gotta pop that plastic piece off with a knife or something,” Robert said, offering his punk-teenager expertise. I was going through a rebellious phase and surrounded myself with


a group I called “the bad kids.” They cursed, skipped school, and smoked cigarettes. I was born and raised in suburbia and started to outgrow the innocent neighborhood. Now I looked for little thrills like starting fires and stealing nail polish I didn’t need.   Cary, North Carolina, was your typical Leave It to Beaver kind of suburb, without the smalltown feel. Even though the town’s population was growing exponentially, people still felt safe enough to leave their cars and homes unlocked. As a child, I was granted the freedom to roam the neighborhoods.   By the time I became a teenager, I was an expert navigator in the area. I met friends in all of the complexes and spent most of my free time walking a mile or two to so-and-so’s house, cutting through backyards along the way. I knew where you had to walk around fences and hop ditches, and which neighbors had dogs that

would growl and bare their teeth as I passed; their barks didn’t surprise or scare me anymore.   “Hey, guys,” I said, “let’s go to my spot. I haven’t been there in a while.”   Robert pulled out his Swiss Army knife and tried to wiggle the safety clip off Nicole’s hot pink lighter. She studied his technique closely.  “Guys?”   “Got it!” Robert cheered as the small plastic piece came flying off. Nicole flashed a wicked smile. She sparked the flame, which now burned twice as high as it had before.   “Okay, let’s go,” she agreed.   Through my years of exploration in Cary, I discovered a neat little hideout tucked away behind some pine trees near the railroad tracks. I would go to this spot by myself; it was my only escape from the shrill sound of my mother’s voice as she nagged me about the chores and homework I would lie about doing. To get there, I would sneak through three different backyards and cross the train tracks at just the right place. It was a small opening between a row of skinny evergreens that ran parallel with the tracks. Someone nailed a couple of two-by-fours up in a tree that seemed to grow specifically for people to climb—the branches jutted out in just the right places. While the railroad ran behind the spot, and tall pines resided to the left and right, a beautiful field opened up ahead. The clearing was filled with tall grasses that swayed in the summer breeze. Sitting there in the afternoon was like being front row center for an orchestra of cicadas. Their loud maraca-like buzzing vibrating in my ears was a soothing soundtrack to my summer days.   That day, the three of us walked down the railroad tracks, only stepping on the ties. It was hot and humid in the way only southerners understand. It’s the kind of heat that hangs on your shoulders, heavy with humidity. Far ahead of us was the illusion of water coming off the tracks in the distance, water vapor being absorbed back into rainclouds—the same mirage effect that gave desert travelers false hope.   I watched the railroad, trying not to trip over the ties. As I looked up, my head spun and

everything in my vision wobbled back and forth. I stopped moving, but my eyes had yet to slow down. They were still trying to account for the moving objects in my peripheral.   We scrambled up the little dirt path and looked around. I licked my lips and tasted the sweat that lingered there. A few empty beer cans and old boxes of cigarettes littered the ground. I wondered if the trash was left by one of my friends or some other bad kids I didn’t know. I brushed the dirt from my hands and reached up for one of the many tree branches. The rough bark rubbed blisters into my hands as I pulled myself into the tree. I swung my left leg up and positioned my foot in the y-shape of the trunk. Then I reached for the next branch. This part was easier since the branches were spaced close together and I could climb up like a ladder. I reached the highest two-by-four and settled in to watch the wind in the grass.   Nicole and Robert were deep in their own conversation about some new movie they had seen together. I was trying not to feel like a third wheel. Suddenly there was a rustling in the field ahead of me.   “Guys,” I said, but they were already frozen still, listening.   A group of about a dozen deer began to leap and bound through the field ahead of us. There were a couple of bucks, many does, and four or five fawns. They bounced up here and there like a pod of dolphins splashing across the sea. The three of us held our breaths as we watched the group disappear into the field almost as quickly as they had appeared. It happened so fast, I wondered if I had imagined it.   “Wow,” Nicole said in a soft whisper. Even the cicadas had grown silent. Soon Nicole and Robert continued their conversation again. I watched the clearing for another moment, hoping the deer would return, but they didn’t. The development in Cary to create new homes for people was eliminating the old homes of deer and other animals. Someday this field would become a storage complex, housing unused material items instead of my concert of cicadas. Staring ahead, I focused on the green and golden grasses rippling


before me, allowing different thoughts to pass in and out of my mind.   “Now what should we do?” Robert asked, interrupting my meditation.   “I’m bored,” Nicole said. “Let’s walk farther and explore the railroad more.”   So I climbed back down the tree and we began to stroll along the tracks again in the opposite direction. As we walked, Nicole and Robert told stories about sneaking out of their parents’ houses and getting caught shoplifting, while I continued to think about the deer. Soon we came to a bridge where the road crossed over the railroad. Here the tracks cut through a hill. On each side was a steep incline up to the traffic streets above. A narrow triangle of space was created between the bridge and the hill.   “Look,” I said, pointing up the dirt hill to where the bridge began. “There’s stuff up there.”   As we started up, the earth beneath our feet slid out, sending clouds of dust into the air. Nestled up in the corner of the overpass was a dingy mattress. Scattered around it were some musty blankets. Someone had left a bunch of candles on the sides of the metal supports. Nicole lit one of them and illuminated a mural of graffiti. I went from one spot of vandalism to the next, trying to decipher letters and words. As I concentrated, I started to smell something burning.   I turned to see Robert with Nicole’s lighter in hand, crouched over the blankets and mattress. A small flame flickered and spread across the fabric. He was smiling, moving the lighter to different areas of the dry fabric. For a moment I was captivated by the dazzling dance of the flames, but suddenly the sparks began to spread rapidly. Clouds of thick smoke filled the small space under the bridge. The smoke burned my eyes and the three of us began to cough. Nicole was frantically throwing fists full of dirt and sand at the fire, trying to smother it, but it was too late. Now the mattress was ablaze.   “Uh oh,” was all I could think to say before the three of us scrambled down the hill to avoid the flames. Standing on the tracks, we looked back up at the growing fire. The flames began to reach out from both ends of the bridge, like


bright orange fingers grasping toward the sky. The wind picked up, sending gray and white pieces of burned material flying around us. As the fire grew, we began to panic. Dark smoke filled the air and I wondered what it looked like from the street above. I listened for honking cars and squealing tires.   Instead, I heard, “Run!”   I don’t know who said it, it could have been me, but we all took off down the railroad tracks. Not one of us wanted to look back and risk tripping on the ties. We could hear sirens in the distance. They could probably see the smoke from the firehouse; the station was less than a block away.   I expected to see a story on the evening news about the mysterious bridge fire, but there was nothing. I never heard anything else about it, except when talking to Nicole and Robert. I figured some firemen must have put it out before any damage was done to the bridge. I thought about my own spot and wondered whose spot we had almost destroyed. It wasn’t a glamorous place. Their spot didn’t overlook an ocean of grass like mine did. It was dark and grungy, and I imagine whoever hung out there was probably up to no good. They would climb up the next day to find piles of ash and the rainbow graffiti cloaked in soot. It had been someone’s spot, someone’s escape from the rest of the world, and we had tried to burn it to the ground.


by Ayla Jones Acrylic paint


The Lions

Fiction by Bridget Callahan there was a pack of lions swimming in the water. Two adult lions, and several smaller cubs. She could see them only five-hundred feet down the crowded beach. All around her the brightly colored, striped tents of beach vendors were shining golden-red in the dying sun. Their muffled voices hawked fried and frozen things, swirled, crusted, and crumbling with sugar. The tanned, stretched-out plastic bodies of Wrightsville Beach lounged everywhere, including the splintery picnic tables that had been beaten gray by ocean wind: young people laughing and flirting with each other, old people sitting quietly in groups, and then those angry middle-aged people freaking out over everything—their kids, other people’s kids, the fact that the earth was turning in space and they would soon have to go home because they were no longer free to stay in the drunken wilds of the beach after dark. People in general seemed happy and good-natured until they hit middle age, that weird, vast void between being pretty and not caring about being pretty anymore. No one seemed to notice the lions swimming out in the waves, but especially the middle-aged people didn’t notice; they deliberately didn’t notice.   She was caught between the tide of people not watching, and the pull of the lions in the waves. With a short tug she twisted herself out of the thicket of the main drag and onto the empty coastline stretch, into the real sand. Behind her, humanity murmured. In front of her, the water was humming, and for a moment she could hear the sound of her own breath before one sound or the other overwhelmed it. She hovered on the threshold between the two atmospheres. Then she was free of the swell, and trudged toward the water’s edge.   The lions were playing out only a few feet deep, and a young man stood on shore by them, watching them, a handful of leashes dangling by his side. She instantly resented him being there.


It was the illusion of wild lions that had drawn her, but now she knew they were only tame cats. Still they were impressive—their dark, heavy bodies soaked in sea water, heaving and jumping and all their muscles defined by their wet fur, monstrous animals with the faces of kittens and the joy of killers. The sunset light caught the edges of their hair and lit them up with gleaming gold-neon outlines of their ears and snouts and thick necks, the soft pussy willow tips of their tails. Only predators have the capacity to be as happy as these cats were; herbivores can’t relax long enough to smile. She walked up to him, her eyes transfixed on the lions. He smiled at her, also not taking his eyes off the cats.   “They’re yours?” She had to shout a little into the wind. He had coffee-brown skin, and little black ringlets blowing around his half-shell ears. His shoulders were very wide, and he gave the physical impression of being immovable by wind or weather. She could feel his concreteness through her hoodie, as surely as if she was standing next to a pillar of stone, the cold and wet air masking any smell of human that he had. It made sense that he was the lion tamer; if they tried to bite him, they would only break their eyeteeth.   “Sure.” He didn’t turn his face to her when he answered, and the word almost completely escaped—she had to reach out and grab it from the air. She took out her phone to take a photo, and only this action seemed to poke him, he turned and looked at her with disappointment. She was vaguely aware that she very quickly decided she didn’t care about his opinion of whether or not she should be enjoying the moment as it happened, she wanted a photo to remember this by. As she focused the camera and stared at them through the screen, she thought about when she had turned into this person, someone who sometimes didn’t care. She was proud of herself; in another


time she would have felt a stab of shame, and done whatever his large brown eyes were pleading her to do or not do. But there would be no more boys making her feel ashamed, not lion-tamer strangers or anyone. If he didn’t want anyone taking photos of his cats, he shouldn’t have brought them swimming at the public beach. The photos, of course, bore no resemblance to the scene in front of her, but only because there are qualities of light we will never capture, just like there are qualities of lions and qualities of boys that aren’t tangible.   She watched in silence the rest of the time, until the light was really almost gone. He gave a short guttural bark, and the pack came bounding back, rushing toward them in doggish obedience, the cubs following in kind because they didn’t want to lose their parents. The sensation of lions running at you is hard to recreate without risking death, and the experience of lions running at you with a complete sense of safety is reserved for only very special people, ones that have decided to live their lives in close proximity to beasts—zookeepers, vets, circus trainers. They stood around shaking the salt water off in arcing rainbow spatters while he attached the leashes to the giant collars that impossibly circled their huge, primeval necks. She was obsessed with their necks, tendons the size of her arms tensing and flexing underneath the smelly, wet animal hair. She had a deep need to lay her hand on them, put her head down against them, be cheek to cheek with their huge, quiet faces.   He took them away, back home to whatever otherworldly trailer he lived in, and she walked back toward town. The throng of the beach city had turned to the nighttime crowd: tanned, lithe, shinycheeked girls in white shorts; smiling, flirting boys buying them beer; the few middle-agers left that were nice, well on their way to old-people status, already gathered in their social groups. The tents were strung with colored lights, the glows were green and blue and pink, and they cast theatre shadows against the high, dark stone walls that separated the sands from the city. She stopped under the colossal arch of one of the dozen walkways, leaned against the cold, dirty masonry, and watched the two sides—on the other side of one arch there was the beach with lights and loud wantonness, and then on the city side—streetlights and well-dressed women in heels leaning on the arms of their dates, getting in and out of taxis, the antique storefronts lit up like a period movie set. She had salt and sand curdled on her skin and in the folds of her jeans. Her hair was falling stringy and windtangled, any traces of makeup she had left the house with completely bled off now, and she belonged in neither of these places, but the only way out was one or the other; you couldn’t go up.


Ashes to Ashes by Spencer Brenes Ceramic


From Coast to Coast: Josh Vach’s Mission to Bring Baja-style Cuisine to Eastern North Carolina by Pamela Creech


Photography by Rob O’Connor


josh vach landed his first job working in his family’s restaurant when he was eight years old. “I worked for my dad, wrapping baked potatoes in foil—seam-side down,” he says. When he wasn’t working in the restaurant, he was out surfing near his hometown, Ocean City, Maryland.   Vach’s first job eventually grew into a passion for the restaurant industry. In 1983, Vach moved to Wilmington to attend the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where he studied finance and economics at the Cameron School of Business. He also pursued his other great passion by becoming captain of the UNCW Surf Club.   After graduating from UNCW in ’87, Vach moved to Southern California, where he managed a restaurant and took frequent surfing trips to Mexico. He quickly fell in love with the giant swells and the flavorful, yet cheap, food sold by Mexican street vendors.   In 1993, Vach brought fish tacos, along with other Baja specialties, to Wilmington by opening K-38 on Oleander Drive. A building that was once a computer repair business now contains ocean-themed artwork, reggae music and a menu that were all inspired by Vach’s surf trips to Mexico.   Vach attributes the restaurant’s instant success to its laid-back atmosphere and his UNCW education. He also credits growing up in the restaurant industry. “You have to live and breathe in it; it’s integral to being successful in the business,” he says.   Now, Vach owns four restaurants, a café and a commissary kitchen—all of which are immensely popular with Wilmingtonians young and old. While each business serves Baja-inspired dishes, each restaurant has a distinct menu and vibe. “Las Olas combines Mexican street food with regional favorites—barbeque, smoked chicken and fried shrimp,” Vach says.   While Vach stays busy running six businesses,

he makes time to support his alma mater, UNCW. Each spring, Vach and the WBLifeSurf owner award the Tower 7/WBLiveSurf Scholarship to UNCW students who demonstrate both scholarly excellence and participation in surf clubs and organizations, such as the UNCW Surf Club, the National Scholastic Surfing Association and the Surfrider Foundation. This year, the scholarship will award a total of $30,000, giving $5,000 to each recipient.  Vach’s generosity also has four-legged beneficiaries. “Cinco de Bow Wow is a promotion that lets people know to come to any of our locations on the fifth of April and the fifth of October. If we have good business, we write good checks,” he says. “The better I do, the more I can give.”   Vach’s silver Labrador, Gunner, roams the executive office, greeting visitors as they walk through the door. “He’s our spokesperson,” says Vach.   Although Vach spends most of his time visiting his businesses, he enjoys an occasional day off by spending time on his boat with his wife Cindy, and Gunner.   More than 20 years after opening K-38, Vach still loves his job. “I still feel like each day is my first day in business,” he says.


Good Intentions

Poetry by Alixandria Moore If I could split open like a summer dripping watermelon, ripe red and littered with seeds, would you try to fit me back together or let me bleed?


Photography by Autumn Rose Rankin

You’re the one who kissed me, under the freckle-faced moon as the salt collected on our heels. My hands hung over California, my toes sprayed over Carolina and my heart scattered somewhere in between. My disassembled reflection still tucked in the sea. If I fell into the blue mist sky, would you try to find me within the specks of old light and supple blankets of clouds or let me sway with gravity?




Poetry by Lauren La Melle The van has stains the way a dirty Saturn throws its rings around the tub. The muffler hangs on by its nails. Fingertips bleeding, it screams to a halt in the parking lot. The father tells him to pay more attention. God forbid a wrapper break from the pile, find its gravity—the boy has clumsy fingers. The trash man comes soon. Who knows what could be buried—he needs to hurry. The little boy is a collectible growing too large for his shelf. He is seven. He wades through old Burger King bags and Taco Bell cups like he doesn’t know his life depends on it. He doesn’t know any cleaner than sitting in between curdled milk and a burger with brown used-to-be-green things floating in the places the floor should be. Sinking is a welcome feeling when you’ve been swimming all your life.

Seated Trees by Spencer Brenes Ceramic



Illusive Time

Poetry by Kathryn Kuchtjak Have you ever watched a cockroach crumble from the spine, crunch and drain its guts—

but the record skips quickly.

Have you ever seen a horse buckle under the heaviness of its rider, thrash about, wailing hooves in the air—

but the grass disintegrates.

Have you ever studied another’s iris and found yourself entranced in the spirals looping around and rounder—

but the sirens still blare.

Have you ever removed your clothing and respect to lie out on the pavement, in dead space—


by Kathryn Kuchtjak Acrylic and Sharpie on canvas


but the caveman failed natural selection.

Have you ever detached yourself from the universe only to discover that age moves us nowhere—

but the carpet frays in time.


Spencer Brenes is a senior studying communications studies with a studio art minor. He is from Charlotte, NC, and looks forward to exploring the art scene when he moves back.

“I don’t photograph objects, I capture emotions. In addition, a twist of open-mindedness, new experiences, and evolution.”

Bridget Callahan has a blog, a Twitter, a Facebook, a freelance resume, some publications in a couple of places no one has ever heard of including a few architectural journals and two self-published books. If you feel like this is enough reason to give her a grant to spend a year bumming around abandoned Russian factories, please contact her.

Ayla Jones is a studio art major. Loves to paint. Soonto-be graphic designer!

Pamela Creech will graduate from UNCW in May with a BFA in creative nonfiction and a BA in Spanish. After graduation, she will pursue a career in journalism.

Kathryn Kuchtjak is a graduating senior at UNCW with a double major in film and creative writing and a minor in studio art. She is currently an art teacher at a studio in Hampstead and plans to continue her work at an art museum while making short films and writing a novel. Her passion is surreal, much like her style of metaphorical writing. She desires to produce stories and images outside of the norm.

Emily Hester is a student at the UNC Pembroke studying digital art. Her main interests are in graphic design, magazine design, and character design. She aspires to work with her degree in graphic design and make a living doing that. She loves spending hours on an art piece and working hard to improve her skills.


Roole (Gordon S. Holliday) is an American conceptual and fashion photographer who focuses on captivating his audience with the subject of Reality versus Dream.

Lauren La Melle is a senior at UNC Greensboro majoring in media studies. She is a poet and has performed her poetry along most of the east coast. Every event she attends, she films and puts onto her poetry blog,


Aaron Lovett is a student at UNC Chapel Hill majoring in history and media production, with a minor in creative writing. He likes to write things.

Jacob Lynch is a UNCW student currently studying abroad in France. He grew up loving photography, and he likes to use both film and digital cameras. He typically does not digitally edit his photos, but he does, however, get creative with how he takes his photos. He prefers long exposure shots as well as images with a small depth of field.

Alixandria Moore is a senior at UNC Greensboro. She should invest in a coffee IV because she drinks abnormal amounts to survive. She has two dogs, who take up ninety percent of her daily conversations about what new tricks they’ve learned or strange habits they have. And she writes poetry, but she guesses you already know that.

Rob O’Connor is a junior in the UNCW film department. Photographer, cinematographer, musician.

Kyle Maples thinks biographies are hard and just wants everyone to know that he tried his best.

Keltsey Mattachione is a senior studio art major from Durham, North Carolina. She dabbles in photography, ceramics, painting, and drawing.


Lydia Plantamura is a transfer student majoring in creative writing and film studies. She someday hopes to make a living writing screenplays. She spent three years living in Hawaii on the island of Maui. Her hobbies include hiking and playing pool.


Autumn Rose Rankin is a writer of songs, fairy tales, fiction, and a little bit of everything else. Her future plans include travel photography, learning how to pick locks, and a deal with the devil for fame and fortune.

Sarah Sullivan is a Wrightsville Beach native and is in the midst of completing her creative writing degree at UNCW. She loves Wilmington dearly, but was born with a wanderlust and hopes to see everything the world has to offer.

Melanie Westheiden is a sophomore pursuing a studio art degree with a concentration in photography. She is from Nags Head, NC. Photography is everything to her, and she loves to capture everyday things and abandoned homes.


Hawkstream Radio


Spring 2015 | Issue 70

Submissions Guidelines

We are looking for any type of art, photography, prose, and poetry with a unique perspective. We want our readers to experience your mood and talent through your own brush, pen, and camera— not through the lens of Instagram. Show us your most creative, innovative, and personal take on the expansive world around us.   To submit to Atlantis, you must currently be an undergraduate or graduate student at a university within the UNC system, or Cape Fear Community College. Contributors may submit up to ten pieces of art, photography, prose, or poetry. Please follow the guidelines carefully. They can be found on our website at

Editorial Policy

For each genre featured in our magazine—art, photography, prose, poetry, and features—there is an editorial staff comprised of a qualified genre editor and several UNCW student volunteers. All submissions are anonymously coded by the Submissions Coordinator before being thoroughly reviewed by the student staffs. The Submissions Coordinator does not participate in the review process, and the submitter’s name is not disclosed until each editorial staff has made final content decisions.



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