SPRING 2018 | VOLUME 10 | ISSUE 2 A biannual collection of poetry, prose, and visual art created by the students of Middlebury College
Staff Editors in Chief Zoe Harris Maya London-Southern Poetry Editor Maya London-Southern Poetry Board Victoria Albert Steve Chung Matthew Cloutier Delaney Collins Alyssa Crogan Abbey Green Rachel Horowitz-Benoit Abbey Knight Giulia Napoli Nathan Newbold Prose Editor Zoe Harris Prose Board Alexandra Burns Aidan Calinda Rachael Heydt Culton Koster Martha Langford Nicole Pollack Lior Selve Visual Arts Editor Millie von Platen
Visual Arts Board Katherine Morris Marius Sheppard Skaerved Zeinab Thiam Ruhamah Weil Design Editors Zoe Harris Maya London-Southern Jack Brisson
Letter from the Editors We have been honored to watch the culmination of this magazine and, now, to present it to you finished and bound. Blackbird prose, poetry, and visual arts boards have been meeting weekly for the last two months, reading the submissions we received. Here, we’ve compiled work from the minds of Middlebury in an effort to celebrate what students create, what they put onto a page. We are so grateful for the way people have put themselves out there, sending us their poems, drawings, stories, paintings, photographs, and so much more. Blackbird publishes a Fall and Spring publication and reviews student submissions anonymously during the creation of each issue. We cannot wait to present to you the Spring 2018 issue of Blackbird Arts Journal. Thank you for submitting, supporting, and reading! Sincerely, Zoe ‘20 and Maya ‘20
Contents Rayna Berggren 17 MacPherson Christopher 5 Emma Clinton 12, 32 Isaac Ducker 2 Abbey Green 7, 24 Kevin Hopsicker 10 Culton Koster 27 Nimaya Themal 8, 16, 23, 31 Martha Langford 9, 22, 33 Michaela Lombard 37 Maya London-Southern 20, 25, 26, 39 Hannah McKenzie 3 Evan Mercer 13 Shams Mohajerani 28 Nathan Newbold 35 John Rustad 4, 34 Sky Schossberger 30 Lior Selve 21, 38 Marius Sheppard Skaerved 11 Zeinab Thiam 1 Millie von Platen 14, 29, 36
Sophomore in College Isaac Ducker
I walk through bland hallways: industrial carpets and colored doors, I open and close my eyes on rooms pulsing with strobes and the thing is I can smell rancid beer poured all over the floor, her old perfume and sweat, pheromones, I can hear too. Sometimes, I’m not sure if I’m speaking to the person next to me or if I’m talking over the phone– a voice crackling and echoing and distant. I touch the sheen of my iPhone, sweat lubricating the grooves in my fingertips, condensation on a cold can, greasy gray railings and bodies and The room feels cool and full of light. Tell me, hold me and shake me and tell me, Is this real?
On Being Solar
Hannah McKenzie I spent my time swaddled in a hammock of your angled limbs that summer after we locked roving eyes through the dogwoods. Orbiting the cul-de-sac, we revolved around each other, consumed by a planet no one else could see. You remember the record temps, the way the asphalt burned our toes as we flew toward something safer and smoother. When the tepid rain finally tumbled, we waited for drops to form atmospheres around the outlines of our matter. I got lost in your murmurs and how you traced lines between my freckles, as if you were discovering entire constellations and mapping the divine. Although we were only a season I still dream skyward, celebrating heat and lightâ€” feverish stars. John Rustad
The Red Phone Booth MacPherson Christopher
January 22nd, 1970 Peru, VT Alice sits on the third step of the staircase and brushes her finger over the Persian print of small horsemen. The fabric had been salvaged from some great aunt’s home and the deep red of the runner charmingly clashes with the cracked white walls and crooked floorboards. With every sweep she makes, a white hue reappears and then vanishes as she changes the backdrop of where the horsemen ride. The third step is where Alice has a straight view across the street where her father stands with his forearm rested against the glass and the phone locked between his shoulder and right cheek. Although he is turned away from the house, she waits for the moments when he laughs and visualizes his arched smile and smell of vanilla pipe tobacco. He never turns around, but she sits and alternates glances between the horsemen and the pastel red and smudged windows of the phonebooth. In the late fall—when the house became frigid and the bed sheets stiff—Alice overheard her older siblings in the adjacent room. The voices were muffled but she could hear anger and a repetitive flick of the window blinds. She turned around, and through a small opening in the frosted glass was a trail of footsteps in the snow cover and her father in the phonebooth. When the door began to creak open, Alice scrambled to get under the duvet and covered her eyes as her siblings passed through, speaking of a foreign word: mistress.
Webster that was tucked between Yeats and Melville and began to scan the dozens of “M” pages. The word was at the top left-hand corner and she remembered her father using it years ago, describing some sailboat, or lobster vessel, that he admired. She only thought of the muffled cry of her sister, Susan, and the footpath she had seen for the last year leading to the, now, wretched red trim of the phone booth. Tom Dibble transfers the phone to his left hand and wipes his forehead against the grit of his paint stained sleeve. Alice begins to dig her pointer finger nail into the runner as her stare becomes a blurry gaze to her father’s frequent laughter and the incandescent light source. She hears her mother upstairs—on the opposite end of the house—and wonders why she won’t look, or why she probably won’t say anything: Alice begins to feel guilty because maybe she doesn’t even want them to speak about it. The last time, the talk quickly transitioned to shattering china from that same very great aunt’s home and broken shards to step over the next morning. Alice begins to plan the face, or remark, she will have ready for when he makes his slow walk across the street. She wants it to be subtle and starts to practice a tremble in her lower lip: this turns into an actual silent cry as her tears create a swirling bokeh that continues to stare at her father. When the phone latches onto the metal landing, Alice clears her eyes and shifts to the nearby couch where her father’s Labrador—Net—audibly snores. She watches as her father passes the door and heads to his studio. He goes out of sight and she never made her face. And, she never got to see his.
Tommy returned to his fellow long-haired friends at boarding school, Susan back to dance conservatory, Anna to her miniature art loft in Los Angeles, and Alice was ten years old and alone. One day before school, she went to her father’s studio and grabbed the 5
Past midnight, too much to drink Abbey Green
You don’t know if you can hate him forever. It seems like such a long time with the days crawling out of your mouth, tripping on your teeth. You hate so many things. Watercolor flowers that don’t bleed, people who brush shoulders and smile on the street, the color of your eyes this early spring. It is too easy. To blame him for the pen you lost in December, the lack of snow this time of year, why you feel wrung out onto the sidewalk there where you ran, without a coat as the white snow froze your lips, kept them from saying no— a prickle from the right temple: future scar tissue, while the night’s pavement bites, opening paper-thin hands, ripping through. Your heart beats through your teeth but when you do not move or speak, there is no proof that you are here at all and you wish the blood would stop running, you are sick of this, the reluctant drip from your lips— they used to mean something, each time you spoke
Chasing the Moon
Wake up before anyone else, drink water, pray, read memoirs formed from continents you’ve never known,
One night I tried to chase the moon, as the stars danced around to their midnight tune. I ran, and climbed and tried to fly, but the old birch trees never reached that high. So, I sat and rested, in my lone outlook, ‘til the winds turned west and the branches shook. Yet, I never thought of climbing down, to return empty-handed to a silent town. So I stepped out into the open air, and placed my faith in some invisible stair – No, I never caught the moon.
learn languages – explore how your mouth pulls you forward in French and in English lags behind, flat. Ask your father the last time he smoked, why your chest compresses and your shoulders surge each time a man looks too long or speaks with intention – have it yourself, build damns and give them to networks whose easy rivers never needed them. Ask questions, write verses that might answer them. Investigate, on your own, why that one nightmare of floating steel straw has returned each month with the moon for twenty years, like the phoenix your mother is. Write a cover letter. Dance each day with stars – you will not always find them but swing on. Collect teeth and store them beneath down for nymphs. They will invest in you. Drink water or else – 9
Breaking the Fast Emma Clinton
Morning, and the snow has gone Birdsong fills out the guileless sky And sudden strikes the absence Of the silence that hung On those winter mornings Now long past. And though the sun has not yet risen, The air is heated by the hot, heavy breath of the world’s anticipation We await the fragile dawn’s imminent breakage Irreverent, impatient. “Come, let us feast,” we cry to the hidden Sun. “Let us feast, for it has been too long.” Deep is our hunger Fresh from its numbed slumber. We had almost forgotten the flavor But now we remember. We remember And we crave. Yes, let us feast. “Feed us once more,” we demand, (Indignant, childish, afraid.) “Serve us sweet caprice and sunshine. How dare you leave and starve us so?” We remember And we crave.
Marius Sheppard Skaerved
The Old Man and the Curious Boy Evan Mercer
There once lived an old man Who was numb to the feeling of wonder And spent his time waiting for death. Until one day he encountered a boy Whose curiosity shone through all he did. The boy saw the decrepit old man and, curious about his state, asked, “Why are you so drained of energy?” To which the man replied, “Because my chance at life has come to an end, and the light I was born with has faded to nothing.” “But do you not believe in second chances?” the boy inquired. With cracks in his voice, the old man said, “Perhaps you receive second chances through the kindness of another, but life is not so kind and grants no one a second chance.” After hearing this, the boy who was curious said, “I will switch bodies with you, and your life will be restored.” Thus, they switched bodies. On the next day the boy, full of curiosity, died, And the old man, who was now full of wonder, felt the light he was born with grow bright. Millie von Platen
Who You Might Call Nobody By Hannah McKenzie He belonged nowhere drifting through years lost between next times his intention always vowed to move on but could never quit comfort and the 7-Eleven so resolved to live out his days stocking shelves thus realizing at least some form of peace was certainty with lottery tickets his same confused fiction and nicotine how it made breathing bearable.
Grandma Moses Country You live in Grandma Moses Country. The sunlight is sickly and the sky is small. Subarus with snow tires sit unattended in gas stations with one pump. You do not find the white steeples or the cow-looking horses enchanting. This is not your home, but sometimes you use the word for it. You march on frozen grass that crushes under your feet like fairy furniture made out of glass and stop to zip up your RealTree parka and watch the lavender horizon. Besides the twitchy cow-horses, Grandma Moses and you are the only things alive. You’re not sure why she let you stay here, but you really wish she hadn’t. You don’t like being alone. Grandma Moses is too occupied with her work to be great company, and she only feeds you purple carrots grown down near the abandoned art collective. She paints, but you are completely uninspired by the place. You haven’t made one piece of art since you got here. Instead, you lay straight and motionless in your charmingly tiny wooden bed and feel sorry for yourself. Everything is empty. The worst is the highway. You would do anything for a speeding car to avoid. Your only company is a spherical orb of numbness that follows you around as you feed the livestock; you blame it for preventing sights, stimuli, and human beings in human being bodies from coming close to you. Grandma Moses seems to have other friends that visit her in the gray-stone cabin; they leave granola crumbs in the kitchen and their soggy boots by the door—but you never actually see these people. You feel body-rippingly alone. You are immune to excitement. You suffer totally in leather lounge chairs that kick back. When you walk through the snow, an immense, vibrating, and incurable upsetness folds in on you. You remember what it felt like to see Grandma’s paintings for the first time, what it felt like when she offered you a place here, what it felt like to be excited to go somewhere new, and you want that again, to be so overwhelmingly filled and completed by the idea of the future that you lie down on slippery grass, fling your arms out to strap
yourself like a seatbelt to the spinning world, and let your fullness rip through your palms like an anticipatory stigmata. Anyways, you don’t feel that and you haven’t since arriving in Grandma Moses Country. Not even the sight of a dead squirrel, frozen and stiff in an attack position, excites you. I should love you, you say to the deaf squirrel. Sometimes you go to the ice fishing hut to cry. Grandma Moses has osteoporosis and it would be very dangerous for her to come along, so it’s private. You’ve discovered that you only really feel alive when you’re nervous, but Grandma Moses Country doesn’t feel real enough to make you nervous, only vaguely uncomfortable. You make do by jumping on the ice. It only works after a cry, because then your body is primed for nervousness. You hop all over the ice, giving extra attention to the corners where it’s less frozen and more breakable; you look like those boys who jump over trash cans and fire hydrants at public schools. The ice cracks loudly and your heartbeat overwhelms your senses so you can’t really see or breath, and bright white dots tease the corners of your eyes. You steep in the danger. Maybe if you fall through the ice and into the freezing water someone will come pull you out. Before you came here, your mother, (someone you have difficulty picturing clearly these days), gave you a serious talk about putting your shield up, saying no, and being careful in the cemetery. But she didn’t know that in Grandma Moses country there are no criminals, no suitors to proposition you, and no old people to bury. You think about sex a lot, but there is no one to have sex with. You imagine yourself having sex everywhere, clutching the birch tree at a 45 degree angle, or swallowed in snow with soft white tufts spilling into your open mouth, or sprawled indelicately across the empty highway. Your sensual cravings are partially satiated by slowly licking a maple cremee. Each sugar particle is a lover, and you give them names: Home, Person, High School, Pigeon, Korean-Mexican fusion. When it gets really cold, an airplane comes. Frantic, amphetemine-like, you run towards it. You seat yourself. Your eyes don’t leave the window until you land. It’s home. Old home. Or new home. Here. There. That one. The sky is big, the light is strong, and
the people— There are people with eyebrow piercings and scars on their cheeks, people with babies and lovers, people who like jazz, people with crazy party stories, people who own McMansions, people who stay out late, people who are enthusiastic, people who hold a cardboard sign everyday, people with fat egos, people who are afraid of earthquakes, people who make things, people who know freeway names, and people who will learn them. No one has read Grandma Moses or knows who she is. None of them have water and the land is all dried up, but the people don’t care—they are happy having each other. There is still some snow on your Blundstones, and your father collects it in a pot to boil on the stove. When it’s warm enough, he sets the pot in the sink and you lower your head back until your hair grows dark and expansive. You stare up at him as he gently rinses your scalp line. You haven’t showered since you left. Your hair is 35 inches longer. Your father doesn’t mention any of this. You close your eyes and it’s like your insides are glowing, like your insides are hugging your outsides, and your love is so warm and so far away from that cold, drippy place, your love is like lava boiled, and you don’t care about water or the livestock or the purple mountains because the tiny stream breaking across your forehead is the sweetest, most delicious hydration you’ve ever experienced. Home, Person, High School, Pigeon, Korean-Mexican fusion. You are so warm. Maya London-Southern
Watching the Angels Die
The Gathering of Waters, for Greenville
A shiny black balloon filled by golden cries
I know rust. At birth, I made a covenant, a devotion to even planes of braided crops sourcing sustenance while entombing old secrets in the undergrowth, to forgotten downtowns, my mother still driving us by in memoriam— though she never eulogized white columns. This multicolored state cannot evolve to share one humanity: most shackled and singed by the vestiges of history, but all abandoned by a westward bound nation in search of forgetting the runt.
is stretched open by the poles, and spills the Angels. They slip across an oozing sky, catching on an ocean of amber honey
I know tired wooden basilicas – Dear Lord, We pilgrim to knotted altars and beg each wet dawn, through thick brown water like glue, we commune with “Tomorrow.” I know tomorrow’s leaving us again, but my daddy gave me strong baptized bones and I was told, “Conviction, baby.” That those chains must rust and fall with each new coat of cockcrow dew – tomorrow.
like sluggish rain drops on scraped glass.
I know hunger. If we stopped thrashing, would we surface? Will the water settle? Will we breathe? We take what we can get: barely, her current provides, so she malnourished cannot forgive, will not forget that negligence rearranged is Freedom! but we will kneel at the shore and demand again, tomorrow. I do not know the nature of the chains between us and Natchez this morning when the bells and birds sung dawn, Between our darkness and the inexorable greens and blues, Her labor in provision and her decay, but I know there is weight. Lord, we are heavy.
Abbey Green like teeth you managed to save, pulled out while in the bathroom, red gums made your fingers slip but you pulled like you imagine God pulled, would have pulled mom and dad apart if He could have seen what he was doing but now feel the splinter of the bone as it cracks, lonely breaking branches parting flesh from skeleton. Your mouth is still open. Thereâ€™s blood, youâ€™re bleeding. Close it, close them, before the door splinters too.
Jr. Philosophy 1: Fly is Reincarnated in Shower
I am kneading minty-fresh conditioner into my hair. Hot water bakes my shoulders and neck a light-pink color. Cage the Elephant probably strums in the background. There is a fly, lazily perched, on the wall, basking in menthol-steam.
I stumble over a small branch— she laughs, almost mockingly, kisses my bruised hand, and we continue on. we reach a river and sit down in the water; I’ll be gone in two minutes, and wet clothes are no longer a concern.
I slam a palm into the shower-wall, and a long, black smudge replaces the fly. An intact wing juts out, but the rest of his corpse is an unrecognizable schmear. Next morning I walk—towel-wrapped— out to the hall, toss my shower bag into the bathroom, and queue some ethereal jams. He waits for me, not far from yesterday’s splotch. I swat at him again; there is another stain. I flick, swat, and slam through five more. Each day the fly makes only vague attempts to escape slaughter.
After a week, I can kill the fly without touching him: I flick the shower head at the wall, and its light sprinkling makes him convulse and fall to the floor. He circles toward the drain by my feet, and does not stain the wall. Next day, I do not kill the fly.
Sky Schossberger To and fro, necks go slack and throats are slashed compressed bones into metal folds, busted bodies like eggshells mixed with shattered windshield glass, an impact of mass a crash â€” heads careen forward and back.
Millie von Platen
Glass Clouds Emma Clinton
The sky is a lovely visage Reflected in the mirror-sea When the surface cracks, the glass clouds Let loose raindrop shards of window-pane And they fall up Up, onto my face; I feel them as they Shatter into a million droplets Slowly sink into my skin Oh, hello again I say Oh, hello again; I’m sure we’ve met before– Since we are but atomic clay Into these shapes, molded; Since we are the same as everything.
after William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying Martha Langford Now the horses can’t carry us further. The oaks refused and enshrined our mother, how she danced on the porch in the storm during sleep, so honey will steep down through linen to our pores and beg for frank blood to sew friendship with truth as our load decomposes. Provoke the river, endure – we sing towards brass and rain, rising from dusty glasses and gleaning the night for one more hungry waltz.
Nathan Newbold Trying to photograph sunsets until I can write better poems. Word clouds float through my mind containing games we never all agreed to play. I canâ€™t get free without you. We were there before. Now we dandelion drift through that breezy void. I made this so your soul could fit too.
Millie von Platen
The Trace of a Forgetting Lior Selve
your face was stitched onto the eyes I starved with. And that perfume stalked me until I woke up sick. For a while, wilting Roses bled because I cradled them. I think the ocean drowned with me before you could drift too far.
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