en t ripeta l v olum e 1 4
Vol u m e 14 w S pri n g 2013 w I s s u e 2
â€œI read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.â€? -Anna Quindlan
S p r i n g 2013 Vo l u m e 14 w I s s u e 2
Connect with us!
Centripetal is produced once per semester by PSU Poets & Writers at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire. We are a student-run media organization dedicated to publishing, writing, and hosting open mic nights. Guidelines for submission may be found as an advertisement at the end of this issue. All Plymouth State University students, alumni, faculty, and staff are eligible to submit original works. To inquire about Centripetal or to get involved, please contact us directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and OrgSync. Centripetal may also be read online at centripetal.blogs.plymouth.edu.
JOIN, or DIE. Plymouth State University Student Media Organizations
Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication. Centripetal is designed in Adobe InDesign using Helvetica Neue, Tw Cen MT, and Adobe Devanagari fonts.
Centripetal is printed by: True Colors Print & Design 57 Main Street Plymouth, NH 603.536.3600
Haley A. Sciola Editor Michael DiTommaso Poetry Editor | Senior Copy Editor Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Prose Editor | Layout Editor Harrison DiBona Cover Designer | Graphic Art Editor Hannah Smith Cover Image: “Self Portrait” Paul Rogalus & Liz Ahl Advisors
Editorial Assistants Stephanie Alicata Jessica Bierschied Alyssa Caruana Kim Chandler Allison Cohen Dylan Dinger Melissa Fintonis
Samantha Hebert Kristy Lee Cory Levesque Leah Loraditch Chelsey May Andrew “AJ” Maznek Kristen Leigh Russell
Contents Can’t Fix Broken, Can’t Fix Lonely.....................................................1 Robby Binette
Barfight of a Girl...............................................................................2 Lexi Sebilian
Rewind, Stop, Play..........................................................................3 Jenna Cieszka
Ancestors...................................................................................12 Jaclyn Wood
How Poetry Comes to Me............................................................13 Cecil Smith
Hilltop.........................................................................................15 Ryan McLellan
Getting Off...................................................................................17 Angie Ricciardi
Your Own Personal Episode of Lost and a NeoContemporary Account of the Donner Party....................................18 Robby Binette
Music Is My Savior........................................................................21 Allison Cohen
The long ride home.......................................................................22 Ryan McLellan
Ode to the Brave..........................................................................23 Njara del Mar
Bones.....................................................................................25 Heather Tabor
Car Crash....................................................................................26 Tyler Carignan
Anything But Empty.......................................................................28 Jessica Bierschied
Bad Day......................................................................................30 Patrick Liam O’Sullivan
Get Off the Couch........................................................................31 Haley A. Sciola
Monsters...................................................................................35 Kristy Lee
Piles and Piles of the Sharpest Things............................................38 Ryan Cameron
Free as a Bird..............................................................................39 Ali Myers
Starry Night..................................................................................40 Eileen Curran-Kondrad
Man’s Best..................................................................................41 Cecil Smith
The Red Shoes............................................................................43 Susan Dennett
The Seafarer’s Lover......................................................................44 Melissa Fintonis
Friendzone..................................................................................45 Bekka Hoskins
Hearth Song................................................................................47 Leah Loraditch
Letting Go...................................................................................49 Kim Chandler
Stand Bold..................................................................................51 Alyssa Caruana
Why We Were Friends..................................................................52 Bekka Hoskins
Haunting.....................................................................................54 Melissa Fintonis
Heart..........................................................................................55 Jessica Bierschied
Dinner With You...........................................................................56 Kim Chandler
Why I Smoke...............................................................................58 Samantha Hebert
Doorway Morals...........................................................................60 Kristy Lee
Razor Gaze.................................................................................63 Leah Loraditch
MISS. ........................................................................................65 Sean Murphy
Milkshake....................................................................................66 Samantha Hebert
Hard Cider...................................................................................67 Sean Murphy
Anahata......................................................................................68 Hannah Smith
Not Insignificant............................................................................69 Patrick Liam O’Sullivan
Why We Fight..............................................................................71 Haley A. Sciola
Fusco.........................................................................................74 Heather Tabor
Can’t Fix Broken, Can’t Fix Lonely Robby binette Write about mangos, your differences, oranges, politics, dirty children, soccer and American football, the holidays, what you think of legalized marijuana and gay marriage, about somehow there are people who still hate Germans, about being left, abandoned, mistreated, about revenge Write about pain, salvation, addiction, books, the young and the old, about coffins, girls, tits, dicks, mammograms and prostrate exams, how you miss the taste of Carmello, about a long deserved vacation, about California, Vikings, strawberries, about ethics and morality and undeclared wars Write about candy, Geronimo, how this poem could go on and on forever, about how you can’t fix broken, how you can’t fix lonely, write about anything but yourself
Barfight of a Girl lexi Sebilian Resentment hangs heaviest on family trees. Half stepmother. Half absent father. I learned the art of self-loathing from my parents. White picket fences. Suburbia sunflowers. I’ve never been able to shake the notion of being a throw-away kid. There was never any time in that house for a barfight of a girl with skinned knees and booze-bottle mouth. As we grow, it’s never so simple to shake the leaves off the tree you’ve been living in. Picking myself apart piece by piece is what I know best. So go ahead, ask me about self-deprecation. I was spoon fed that shit my entire life. It is as familiar to me as my own hands. Some days, my heart feels like a wicker basket sliding around in the back seat of my lover’s ‘82 Chevy Chevette. Rigid. Light. Able to be left out in the rain without getting ruined. He loves me with everything that he has. Sometimes it’s hard accepting a love you don’t think you deserve. Sometimes I catch myself waiting for my rib cage to burst from the weight of my own heart. Sometimes, it’s hard to forget the only things we know to be true. And sometimes, I just have to remind myself that this barfight of a woman is allowed to be loved like everybody else. Issue 2
Rewind, Stop, Play Jenna cieszka
On July eighth, Katie receives a birthday card. She doesn’t receive mail often and looks forward to getting cards from her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Maybe it’s ridiculous, but she enjoys hoarding them. Every birthday, she covers her walls with cards (old and new) until it’s a pink and purple, glittery, flowery disaster. But Katie wasn’t expecting anything from her dad and can’t believe his card is in her hands. It has travelled a long way from Santa Monica, California to Londonderry, New Hampshire. Katie taps her fingers against the edges of the red envelope. She opens it and reads it once before shoving it back inside the paper flap. She drops it and the rest of the mail into her backpack, pulling the zipper closed. This is the first she has heard from her dad in ten years and the words on the card are a recycled speech. In the early days when he bothered to call, he said the exact same crap: I love you blahblah I miss you. My life is so miserable, let me tell you blahblahblah. Her mood sours. His card isn’t going on her wall. *** Katie and her sister Sammy lived in two worlds when they were kids. The first was a place where five years passed without either of them remembering much of it. All they could recall for certain was that their mom arrived home at 5:30 every night and immediately retreated downstairs to exercise for an hour. Katie found it strange that she and Sammy suffered the same mental fuzziness. The memories of their mother’s house weren’t a “blank space” in their heads; it was like all their memories were written down on a page and the page was saturated with water, reducing full memories to smudged and indecipherable flashes. 3
The second place they lived was a kingdom under their control. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they ate sugar coated cereal and ice cream. Katie built a throne out of soft, foam kiddie chairs on the couch in the living room and watched cartoons at a vantage point worthy of a queen. Katie and Sammy stayed up as late as they wanted and went to school when they wanted. Well, for three days a week that’s what they did. Sammy was her arch nemesis, a pig-tailed evil overlord. They had great wars with plastic baseball bats that ended with one or both of them screaming from the blood and bruises on their arms, faces, and legs. Sammy was frequently the victor; she had the advantage of age and size. She hit harder too. Occasionally they had peace treaties or called for a ceasefire. Their dad was there sometimes, but they didn’t know much about him. He was almost mythological, gone so often they forgot about him and couldn’t remember if he existed. Katie remembered that he sometimes said a prayer so she would sleep peacefully. The memories of their father’s house were vivid and cinematic. For Katie, sometimes the movie played over and over like a song stuck in her head. Memories would rewind, fast-forward, stop, and play. *** Sandwich, snacks, two water bottles, phone, wallet. All check. Katie replaces her items back inside her bag before shrugging it onto her shoulders. She enters the kitchen and blinks at the glaring light piercing through the window above the sink. The sun bleaches the azure walls a pale blue and the embarrassing frilly curtain is so stark white that it appears to be glowing. Sammy hates that curtain. She says it humiliates their window. “Mom,” Katie says. Her voice competes with the water gushing from the faucet. Her mother’s attention is absorbed by the strainer full of broccoli and green beans in her hands. Katie speaks louder. “Mom, I’m going to the playground at Somerset.” Issue 2
Her mother shuts the water off. “What’s that?” “I said I’m going to the playground at Somerset.” Her mother pauses and dries her hands on the redcheckered hand towel laying on the countertop. “Your old elementary school? That’s five miles away. Do you want to take the car?” Katie shakes her head. “No, I want to walk. I haven’t done anything all summer. I need the exercise.” Her mother looks doubtful. “Are you even allowed there?” “It’ll be fine,” Katie says. “No one’s there in the summer.” “Which means ‘no.’ Oh, well, do what you want. Just be careful. Take your phone in case you want me or Sammy to pick you up.” “Thanks.” *** The sun is gone by the time Katie arrives at the playground. When it starts drizzling, she sighs in relief. It’s the type of rain that is welcome after a long walk. Humidity radiates from the blacktop and Katie sees water vapor hovering low over the parking lot. Katie slips into the gap where two chain link fences meant to form a corner and close off the playground. This gap has been there since she was a student. She steps across the sandbox, toward the swing sets that stand a few feet away from the chain link fence and overlook the parking lot. With her back to the fence, Katie takes a seat on one of the swings. Her legs rock back and forth. She climbs higher into the air. She remembers running after a few boys from her grade and pushing several to the ground. The girls cheered. They played a game called “Raptor” where the boys chased after the girls in a form of tag. The girls touched the chain fence (the one at the opposite end of the playground from where Katie is now) and were safe for a period of time. Katie was different than the other girls. She didn’t scream and run; she fought back (with more force than necessary, she knows now) so that the girls didn’t stay cornered. She felt brave and strong. The breach in the chain fence she used as an entrance is on 5
her right. She remembers passing through the space and onto the other side on a dare at recess. She felt proud of herself for doing it. There is a memory behind her. It was a spring morning and the swing set was coated with dew drops, causing her hands to slip on the chains’ rubber exterior. She was facing the parking lot, feeling eager. Cars filled every space and there was a trail of buses in front of the main entrance. They were there to transport kids for a fieldtrip. She felt happy. To her left, there is a cement barricade that separates the playground from the paved area where the kids line up before returning to class. Katie remembers sitting on it. She was on the edge of it under a towering oak, the only tree on the playground. It was autumn and her knees were tucked inside her coat. She had pulled her arms and head inside too. She was a bright pink ball cut off from everyone. No one noticed. Katie’s mind unravels. Rewind. Stop. Play. *** Katie and Sammy lived in two houses when they were kids. The second was a kingdom that slipped out of their control. Every breakfast, lunch, and dinner they ate sugar coated cereal and ice cream because Katie was seven and Sammy was ten and they didn’t know how to make anything else. Katie built a throne out of soft, foam kiddie chairs on the couch and nearly broke her neck when she had to get down. Katie and Sammy stayed up late whenever they wanted and went to school whenever they wanted because their dad didn’t give a fuck. No one noticed. Sometimes they would beat each other with plastic baseball bats because they hated each other. Occasionally they called for peace treaties or cease-fires not out of sudden, remorseful love but out of mutual fear. Because mostly their dad wasn’t there but sometimes he was. They knew he smoked ugly, brown cigars and always had a slight tan that became slightly more orange during the winter. He disliked being ignored, hated it when people accused him of being wrong, and despised it when the people he hated were Issue 2
*** Once they arrived at the condo, Katie and Sammy followed a routine: place things in room and sit down on the couch for Questions. He would say: You have to tell me, what’s your mom doing? How is she? Fine? Oh. Are you sure? Are YOU SURE? Why? Why does she seem happy? Is she seeing anyone? You don’t know, what do you mean you don’t know? Are you lying to me? Are you hiding something? Does she go places? Where does she go? What does she look like? Where does she go? What is she doing? TELL ME. Don’t say you don’t know. I know you know. And once: Tell me. Mommy still loves Daddy. Tell me. Has she told you that? She never told them that. She did tell them one thing and Sammy relayed what she heard. “Mom said she’s happy she divorced you,” Sammy told him. “I am too. I think you’re a jerk.” Sammy was never victorious against their dad. He had the advantage of age and size. *** Only one memory constructed the image of their father’s house in Katie’s mind. It was the sun and a black hole all at once; Katie’s mind, no matter what she was thinking, always returned to this memory, and it was this memory that suckedabsorbed-ate everything except the memories too closely attached it. It was because of this memory that Katie knew the condo’s walls were white. She remembered how the ceiling cast a shadow on the upper half of the stairs that lead to the bedrooms. Katie remembered that she and Sammy shared a room and their bedroom door was white (all the doors were white) with a golden doorknob. Katie didn’t remember going up the stairs or who left the door cracked open. But she remembered standing outside their bedroom door and she remembered Sammy curled into a ball on the top of their bunk bed and she remembered the 7
stupidly cheerful Lion King bedspread on the upper bunk (Sammy’s bunk) and she remembered their dad standing on her bunk, slamming his fist down against Sammy over and over and over again and she remembered Sammy screaming but not screaming any words just screaming and then choking and pleading and she remembered the solid sound—the defined thud—of each landing blow. Katie remembered that she didn’t say anything. She didn’t try to help. Worst of all, she remembered thinking that it was Sammy’s fault. It had to be her fault in order for her to get punished this way all the time. Katie didn’t remember moving. In fact, she didn’t remember much after that. (The before and after were eaten by the blackhole.) She couldn’t remember the specifics but she knew that Many Important Things must’ve happened afterward because their dad had left for good. Katie remembered that her dad sometimes said a prayer so she would sleep peacefully. She dreamed about peeking through the cracked open door. *** Katie is surprised to find her feet planted on the ground. She doesn’t remember when she stopped moving. She wipes a hand over her wet face and wrings water out of her hair. The drizzle has evolved into rain (not quite a flash downpour but heading that way, Katie thinks). This used to happen to her a lot as a kid. Blackouts. Lost time. She would harmlessly daydream and then That was on her mind. The cracked open door. It took some complicated mental exercises to avoid thinking about That but those were perfected when she was a kid, and now she’s out of practice. Katie swears at the rain and her aching leg muscles. She pulls out her cellphone and dials Sammy’s number. *** “I told you that you’d be too tired to make the trip back,” Sammy says when Katie closes the passenger door. Sammy drives around the bus loop in front of Somerset Elementary, turning left at the stop sign. Katie mumbles. She pulls a water bottle out of her backpack
and swallows the last of the water in two gulps. It’s still hot even with the rain and, feeling generous, she reaches into her bag to offer her second water bottle to Sammy. Her fingers brush against something flat and rigid. Her dad’s birthday card. Sammy glances at it quickly before returning her eyes to the road. “Man, you still have that thing? I ditched mine.” “It must’ve fallen through the rest of the mail that day. I don’t know how I could’ve missed it when I was packing my bag,” Katie says. “Well, whatever.” Katie jumps when her window starts to roll down. “There we are. Nothing like fresh air, right?” Sammy sighs. Katie frowns as rain drops splatter on her face. After an extended period of silence, Sammy bursts out, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Katydid. Chuck the damn thing out the window.” Katie isn’t so sure she wants to. She doesn’t hold onto any sentimental notions that their father loves them or—God forbid—feels responsible for his actions but she would feel guilty throwing away his…effort? She feels obligated to keep it even if it’s an insincere gesture. “Do you know why he sent those stupid cards?” Katie can guess. “His new fling of the week or whatever thought it was just dreadful that he didn’t have contact with us and that he should build bridges and all that bullshit. Gossip courtesy of Uncle Dan and Aunt Jamie.” Sammy takes a right turn a little too fast. “Doesn’t that piss you off?” “I guess so,” Katie says. Tentatively, she holds the card out the window. Sammy cheers, “That’s the spirit!” Katie doesn’t let go immediately. Sammy must sense her hesitation because she pumps the brakes suddenly, startling Katie enough for her fingers to release the card. The red rectangle sails behind them. After a few seconds, Katie can no longer see it in the side mirror. She rolls up her window. Sammy grins. “Doesn’t that feel better?” Not really. Throwing the card away makes her feel torn between guilt and vindictive satisfaction and neither are 9
particularly pleasant emotions. It was a small act to stick it to the bastard for treating them the way he did, but what good is that? He can’t see. He wouldn’t care. Guilt is picking at Katie’s insides. She feels it building like a wave of nausea. “Do you ever think about it?” Katie asks. Before Sammy has a chance to reply, she clarifies, “What happened before he left. That.” Sammy doesn’t respond right away. “Not really,” Sammy says at last. “I mean, what’s the point, you know?” Katie wants to say she’s sorry for so many things: for not telling their mother in the beginning, for not getting help or at least asking him to stop. It’s something she will never have the courage to say and it’s something that should be left unsaid. It’s too late to make a difference now. Apologies would only dredge up all those memories of hatred and resentment and taint the relationship they’ve established. Her apology should stay buried, Katie knows, but guilt festers inside her like an infection. Sammy continues, “It’s weird but I’m kind of glad things turned out the way they did.” Katie is shocked by disbelief. “Think about it. What if he never left for good? Think of how different we would be, how much more messed up we’d be.” Katie finds thinking hypothetically pointless; reality is what happened not what could have happened. The might-haves, could-haves, and what-ifs don’t have an emotional impact like the actual events. They don’t have to be dealt with. They don’t cause guilt. “That’s what I think about,” Sammy says. She sticks up her right hand and draws air quotes. Her eyes are wide, mocking. “‘Closure,’” she says. “Or whatever.” They stop talking after that. Katie turns the radio on, searching for a station that isn’t buzzing with a cheery commercial. She wants a distraction from their awkward silence. As Katie persistently shifts from Issue 2
station to station, Sammy laughs abruptly. “What?” Katie asks. “I was just thinking about Aunt Jamie and Uncle Dan. They’re sending a huge surprise package for your birthday. They want you to know they’re sorry it took so long.” Sammy increases the windshield wiper speed (it’s a full-fledged downpour now) and takes a left on Willow Road. “Anyway,” Sammy says. “It reminded me of when we were kids and how a huge package arrived. I can’t remember what was in it but I remember it was full of packing peanuts. We dumped those things all over the house. I think we were finding them for weeks after. Mom was wicked pissed.” An image flashes in Katie’s mind. It’s blurry and quick; she only vaguely remembers what Sammy is talking about. But then her mind reexamines the picture. It searches, refocuses, improves the resolution of the image. Oh! She remembers that. Katie can’t believe she forgot. “Earlier, I was thinking about how much you hate the curtain in the kitchen,” Katie says. “It was a Christmas present from Grandma and Mom didn’t have the heart to remove it after Grandpa hung it up but you hated it. You tried to throw a cup of grape juice at it after you discovered it was too far out of reach. You missed by a mile.” Sammy blinks a few times before her face shifts in recognition. She grins. “That’s right. I was lucky that cup was made of plastic. I forgot about that.” The grin fades. “I forgot about that,” she repeats, quietly. Sammy pulls into the driveway and parks the car. Neither move to unbuckle their seatbelts. Dazed, Katie and Sammy sit, watching invisible movies inside their heads.
A ncestors Jaclyn Wood
How Poetry Comes to Me Cecil Smith I consume my friendships much the same way I eat freshly baked chocolate chip cookies; quickly, angrily, passionately, and the thick spit that forms in my mouth slinks sweetly across my teeth, feeding the microscopic monsters of tooth decay. The crumbles of margarine slick, cocoa-heavy cookie cells march down my esophagus, the Oregon Trail of battered batter, arriving slowly at my stomach to be savored. In the first instant that sustenance reaches the stomach 90 to 93 percent of its nutrients are immediately absorbed through the stomach lining.
My body sucks the use from them, taking the energy they have stored, and fills my blood with sweetness. When the remnants of their baked bodies are left rolling inside of me, all that was worthwhile burned, it emerges, planting its toes in the softly digested sugar-flesh, reaching up through my throat to/for me.
Hilltop Ryan McLellan For Nick Fox; thanks for getting me up and out of the house. They sat in the café and wrote while ceiling fans spun and patrons read newspapers. The music was not very good but the coffee was. One wrote poetry and the other was at work on a novel. One was very self-conscious and the other didn’t show it if he was. The poet wondered how he’d gotten there; the novelist did research to find out. Both of them had decent hand-writing but nobody who looked at their note pads would have understood the words they wrote. Not that they wrote gibberish but rather in a strange shorthand that could be called a talent but likely would be viewed as a foreign language to most. A woman read her paper, written at roughly a sixth-grade level. A man stared at his computer screen, blue and white lights with pictures of him and his friends in various states of inebriation. The novelist would look up from time to time to see if the poet was writing. The poet would write, even if he wrote nothing, for fear of letting the novelist down, for fear he may read the first few lines and scoff. “There’s no real setting, no true characters, no plot-line emerged, just a sketch of a local coffee shop.” The poet thought this was acceptable, albeit banal. The novelist’s glasses were in much better shape that the poet’s. The novelist was in much better shape than the poet. The barista sighed and wished someone would buy something. The ceiling fans longed for a break. The two writers moved a lot and peered around the room, perhaps observing but mostly filling in gaps in the pages. The poet stopped himself from veering too far off track but realized he was lost. 15
The novelist has three story-lines but isn’t sure where they will intersect. The poet tells himself the pictures on the wall are not a good source of inspiration. The novelist says there are hundreds of stories in photos if one isn’t too afraid to tell them. Poet wants a cigarette. Novelist wants to do more. Poet says the café smells like a crude campfire and begins to revise. Novelist thinks poets can be full of shit and, most of the time, Poet agrees. Poet wants to be a novelist but he’s too afraid. Novelist is a poet because he is not afraid. Poet notices his verb tense shifted and is more upset by this than he should be. The coffee is sweet and strong. The two writers have gone from past to present and that is okay as long as the next draft is crisp. The books they write will be remembered but they both fear it will be for the wrong reason. The pens drop on the tabletop.
Getting Off Angie Ricciardi The highway is a lonely paramour: yearning, and breathless, and stretched out, spread beneath me, begging for a ride. I rush on faster than I need to be going ignoring the glint of headlights on the road, not looking at the road at all, pretending there is something else Iâ€™d rather do. I exit, but I donâ€™t get off. But if, instead of a swift turn, I looked forward into the eternity of lines and signs, I would never leave. I would stay forever, use my car to make more vibrations with the attenuating concrete I love. 17
Your Own Personal Episode of Lost and a Neo-Contemporary Account of the Donner Party Robby Binette These may be the last words I write The pen I’m using is bone, sharpened at the end The ink is blood, piss, and hardened substances from other bodily functions I’m writing on skin The skin that used to be Johnny, the blonde Australian bodybuilder He had a funny voice with an accent I remember it so well from him screaming We called him Piggy after the fat kid in Lord of the Flies ‘cause he had the most adorable physique on the plane We didn’t crush him with a rock though Kathy, the ugly deformed suicidal stick-girl from Wisconsin, who had scars on her thighs and wrists, slit his throat screaming, “I can’t stand the beauty anymore! It’s disgusting!” She beat him with a bamboo stick afterward and then we joined her with our own bamboo sticks hitting him like the monkeys from 2001 We did it as if it were an exorcism of some sort, a cry to heaven that there was no hope left for us But it’s not like I imagined, if I imagined, such a situation happening in my life It wasn’t like TV We weren’t brothers in a struggle for survival together It was more like Darwin’s theory survival of the fittest
The lunacy and the insanity There were no sparkling beaches or coconuts, let alone hot chicks in ripped bikinis No Blue Lagoon or Brooke Shields or tropical honeymoon shores There was death and despair Discarded remains and skulls used for soup bowls No brotherhood of any sort, No smoke signals or burning pyres to make sure help was coming Just kicking thy neighbor when he was down We ignored each other We all lost ourselves in the isolation and the sound of endless waves and changing tides on the beach Johnny named his dick Wilson and talked to it constantly A fat gay man who called himself Phil the Bear narrated the porns in his head out loud “Tonight Martha Stewart and the world’s biggest gangbang. And we’re ready to go, here comes contestant number one and that’s one raging hard on. Yes, it is you, got that one right, Johnny.” I’m sure you get the idea Kathy sang a cappella and she screamed as loud as she could under a waterfall so no one could hear her Me? I counted grains of sand and named my toes, They were the children of my fingers In the end though, it didn’t matter if we were on a desert island
or if we were back home We were biting each other’s heads off There were too many differences we couldn’t solve, too many pros and cons to swallow Liberals and radicals, black and white fat and skinny, Democrat and Republican, communist and alchemist, Satanist and Christian fanatics who read passages from the bibles like a pamphlet There was no equal ground or understanding therefore you ate You ate ‘cause you had to ‘cause the other was weak That’s fucking society for you and it rubs off here Dog eat dog, right? Now before I seal this bottle and throw it into the reefs I’m sure no one will ever care about whatever happened to Flight 927 It wouldn’t matter if we were incinerated to ash or if there are mothers who are eating the meat off their children’s bones here or if we flew into a mountain or crashed into the ocean Our immoral acts will remain in someone’s mind and believe me when I say it We’re all the same on the inside: bone to bone, muscle to muscle, organ to organ, tissue to tissue We all taste the same I assure you Whoever wrote that song “Live and Let Die,” if it was Paul McCartney or Axl Rose, they’re a fucking prophet And if you don’t believe me, you could be the one that’s full of shit
Music Is My Savior Allison Cohen If a friend of the devil is a friend of mine, which friend do I trust to keep me from crying? Even Floyd don’t need no control for my mind, R. Kelly even tempts me with a little Bump n’ Grind. Temptations are Sublime, spelling out ‘Wrong Way’ like MJ, I’m a black and white girl, so I won’t leave you gray. The best advice comes from Ophelia, because The Band sure knows how to heal ya. But the Peas always asking “Where is the Love?” Brandy already sent me my angel aboveSo don’t Cry Me a River. Sing me nothing by Hinder, because MIMS already told me, Music is My Savior. Gaga said my Bad Romance was because I was Born this Way, and my Bad Reputation was due to Joan Jett paving the way. T-Pain wants me to Blame it on the Alcohol, but nothing to say, so no need for withdrawal. Don’t hear Dre in my ear, no Guilty Conscience here, but you could be my superman, my superman. I get down on it, Stomp, even got my hands up while I’m playing that song. Even though I can tell, baby, You’re the Right Kind of Wrong. I have my Warrant, so I’ll call you my Cherry Pie, but its true when I say, I just want to Ride Sally Ride. So please don’t pass me by, make me cry, or leave me blue. Let’s bring it back to Sinatra when I say it’s got to be you.
The long ride home Ryan Mclellan 1. Shows in a week in which I was the featured poet: four Shows in a week in which venue advertised: three Shows in a week in which I received agreed-upon pay: two Shows in a week in which I made a profit: one Shows in a week I have regretted doing: zero 2. The highway hisses and the other cars glare at me. Quiet rides home are better than the stage. Late nights of public radio and sports-talk are the only meditations I need. The darkness smells of rotten meat. I drive too fast, the car full of coughs and unsold merchandise. A little bit of blood in both. 3. Sober or shitfaced host, it’s the same: conversation will be awkward. Audience: 17 year-old who dragged two friends to my next gig, two mentors who told me I need to be proud of my work and made fun of my facial hair, a “long-time fan” who doesn’t remember a single title and a ghost heckler in the back who sounds like my grandfather. 4. A lilac bush, a bucket-full of cigarette butts, and a huge moon. 5. A dream: everyone I’ve ever hurt comes to my poetry show. We hang out on the curb for a long time afterwards, share a few stories and old jokes. I don’t laugh.
Ode to the Brave njara del mar (Pastiche of “Mothers’ Pride” by George Michael)
They stand at the door, mother and son. She has fought many battles; his have just begun. They wait. Her arm around his tiny shoulders, they scrutinize the passing men: a blond with a broken arm, a black man with a broken spirit, limping by in their respectable navy-blue uniforms with the buttons and badges shiny like bullets. He wants to pee but won’t go. Daddy’s around the corner. He’s the very next one. They wait. A little girl with bright freckles runs to greet a bony man with faded freckles. Daddy will be the next one. A carriage goes by with the Mayor’s son held together by huge white bandages. The Star-Spangled Banner dances from his left hand. And they wait. Soon the road is empty. They still stand at the door. The little boy is squeezing his legs together. Daddy’s around the corner. The mother stares down the road, unflinching as a sentry. All is silent. Finally, a uniformed figure limps up the road. The pebbles crunch under his tough black boots. He stops at the gate, looks at a scrap of paper in his hand. Looks at the house. The mother squeezes her eyes shut, pushes the boy inside the house behind her. The man waves to her. She goes to the gate that is falling off its hinges and leans against the white picket fence. They speak, and he awkwardly puts his arms around her. The little boy bounds to the gate. “Daddy!” The man looks away. The mother kneels before the boy, her face tear-streaked. She takes his tiny hand, kisses the tiny fingers. 23
She looks into his eyes. His father’s eyes. “Son, your daddy died a hero, in the name of God and Man.” The boy wets himself. ## She stands on the pier: the mother, waving to her son, just like she had done a lifetime ago. Her eyes shimmer with tears of pride. Handsome boy, his country in his eyes, wearing his respectable navy-blue uniform with the gold buttons and badges. Behind the boy a marching band is cheering the men on. The Star-Spangled Banner waves goodbye to the men as they leave to defend its honor, to become heroes in the name of God and Man. ## They stand in the town square: the mothers and wives under big, black umbrellas. Beside the women are the children, crying for the fathers they’ve never seen, the brothers they have forgotten. The Star-Spangled Banner is drenched in the rain. Four rows of men in their respectable navy-blue uniforms march to the muffled sound of the band. Some of the men wheel up in chairs to the huge white monument with the million names to lay wreaths at the base. A pregnant woman stoops to hug her son. “Years from now, men will say your daddy died a hero, in the name of God and Man.” And they pray for the husbands and sons who have returned, encased in pomp, pride, and pine. They pray for the ones who lean on crutches and who lean on the star-spangled caskets. The mother looks at her son. His lifeless eyes. The rain streams down the points of the big black umbrellas around the casket. She covers the lid and drapes the casket in the StarSpangled Banner. From the town square come the strains of “the home of the brave,” and the mother smiles as they carry away her son. He’s a soldier now for evermore He’ll hold a gun till kingdom come… Issue 2
Bon es Heather Tabor
Car Crash Tyler carignan The words life and death are thrown around like dice, and chance is mocked whether it be sevens or snake eyes. It’s the state called: desensitized. It’s a comfortable life when the feeling parts of our brains, tall as the stratosphere of the sexy strip, suck the clouds for a lightheaded oasis. Optional smiles and the tears of a child are cold war relics, like the Titan Missile Museum. Don’t we all hunker down in the bunker sometimes, laughing at the vented air and creamy dull fluorescent lights? Hiding away is as bad as being on the front lines; acknowledges the same adrenaline as a grit stuck trigger, muzzle shined. + I read an article online today that I couldn’t pull away from. Issue 2
Each skimmed over line lead my eyes to fall on a harsher narrative, each lexical dodge mingled the report with adverts till it was all chunked together; a sadder story than the separation of its parts: derailed tires, tragic discourse... get your five minute car insurance TODAY!... teen flung today, bones kissing bark... British man selling ergonomic vacuums... he couldnâ€™t wait to get home, dying at (cut&paste) Hospital he had to wait a little longer... meet sexy singles in (cut&paste), NH today +18... his parents didnâ€™t make it, not a priest at his side... say goodbye to dust bunnies!... say goodbye, goodbye.
Anything But Empty Jessica Bierschied It’s a losing battle not to love the rush. I desperately and hopelessly cling to the destroyer of life, the boogeyman, the beautiful drug that repairs simple wrongs and fills the empty space. Though, I know the danger; my slow heartbeat could land me in the hospital. Sometimes I think going to the hospital would be good for me; then I think of the rush. It fuels me; it makes the impending danger so much more thrilling. It’s so easy to cling to that excitement, to feel anything but empty. This is my life; I live for this drug. My so-called “dear” loved ones keep telling me this drug will kill me, that I will end up in some hospital morgue, cold and dead. My body, empty of everything, including me. The rush won’t be worth it then; I’ll have nothing to cling to, not even life. How about that for danger? All that nonsense about the danger of losing everything and the warnings about the drug do nothing to sway me except make me cling tighter and stay closer. Damn the doctors and the hospital. There is nothing in this void of life without the rush to the head and the blinding pleasure. The universe is empty without it. I am nothing without my companion. My soul is empty, barren of any true feeling, even the constant danger Issue 2
lacks influence. There is no redemption for me. The rush recedes as my heart slows and my eyes widen with fear, the drug takes overâ€Śhelp me, I am disappearing now. Help is at the hospital where hundreds of deserving people cling to whatever they have. Love, family, morals. I cling now to the hope that I wonâ€™t die empty and alone with no one to say goodbye to, in this dank smelling hospital. Tears fall quickly and prayers barely escape my lips as the danger becomes real to me, as I begin to really feel as the drug ravages what is left of my conscience, bringing a new kind of rush. A rush that makes me cling to life, not the drug. It fills the empty space, and the danger ends in that hospital.
Bad Day Patrick Liam O’sullivan It’s not a good day when the dizziness comes, when my mind spins, spins, spins, in an endless loop of synaptic static. It’s not good: the days I catch myself staring at my hands, the walls, the floor, fifteen minutes evaporating while I twist the dials fighting to find anything but this interference. Then begins the numbing regression of vision. I can’t do anything but drink water, stand at the kitchen sink and stare at the glass as it’s muddled and blotched and slowly loses focus, remains unfocused as I fight the fade. On the bad days, sometimes, a line from a movie or a song replays in my head. I’m a drowning fisherman clinging to driftwood sputtering nonsense: “So man-the-fuck-up and carve the pumpkin.” “So man-up and carve the fucking pumpkin.” Or was it “So man-the-fuck-up and carve the fucking pumpkin.” Variations I repeat in thought a thousand times while I fill my glass with more water and stare at it, surrendering to the static.
Get Off the Couch Haley A. sciola Shit just sucks sometimes. Especially when the black-haired lady on the more mentally prestigious couch across from me, who is supposedly able to snap me into sanity, says I’m doing life all wrong. All I can get out of this “therapeutic talk” is that apparently, the way I was doing life before this behavior modification was right—but not really—though it was more right than the way I’m doing life now. But this lady told me that what I was doing before was wrong, so I changed it trying to please her in hopes of pleasing myself. I try to do the right thing, yet here I am, still wrong. I’m either completely in my right mind, or completely mind-fucked. “That’s an all-or-nothing belief,” she so wisely points out. Whatever lady, I think to myself. It’s too late for the bullshit I know and have chosen to ignore. I’m already a seven-year-old child again trying to get a glorious dum-dum lollipop from the jar inside the bank. My two eyes focus on my need for some sugar. “Mommy, can I have one?” She’s busy talking to the teller. I tug on her sweater and her coke bottle lenses reflect her attention down on me a moment. “I’m talking right now. Wait.” But she never answered my question. Isn’t the right thing to do to make sure she heard me? Her four eyes are away again and I’m left with nothing but desperation. “If I wait can I have a lollipop?” The coke bottles snap down and shatter not only my hopes but also any possibility of surviving this moment guilt-free; and since this composite epitomizes my life, my chance at surviving with a generally guilt-free existence. She drops her pen and I know I’ve ruined it for today. 31
“No! I told you to wait, and you didn’t.” I feel her scowl towering over me. “Whatever, I don’t care. Do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter. Here, just take it. We’re leaving now and I’m moving to China.” She reaches in to fish but like a fly rod pulls back at the first bite. She shoves a blue raspberry lollipop at me, and my stomach shrivels; I know I don’t deserve it. Maybe if it was butterscotch, because then the yucky yellow would be hard to swallow. But blue raspberry doesn’t deserve to color my tongue happy for hours. She’d think I enjoyed it. Mommy is a few angry steps ahead. I look up at the teller, walking away from me too, and I place the lollipop I wanted to love back on the ledge. I take great care with it on my tippiest of toes and as I come back down, my sigh helps me shame myself for what I did wrong. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t mean it or even that mommy apologizes for snapping at me in the car, asks where my lollipop is. “It’s fine,” I mumble, almost lost into my mind’s sweeter places. “I don’t need it. I put it back.” And then she asks me, “Why did you put it back? I gave it to you. I told you it’s okay to have it.” No you didn’t, I think to myself. You just didn’t want to deal with me. All I wanted was a little sugar. Back on the couch that’s supposed to talk me into the best version of fulfillment I can muster, I’m still stuck in the injustices of my world. “At this point, I really think you just need to suck it up and work through it. Why are you still stuck?” “It just—” I sigh, averting my eyes, giving reason to shame them into my palms. “What? We only have a few minutes left. Come on, talk.” “It just sucks and I want to go to bed.” I want to give up. I seem to be good at that now. Issue 2
“So what if it sucks? We’ve tried medication, meditation, letting you give in to your head, even. I just can’t agree with that part of you. I’m not going to tell you to go to bed.” I can feel her glare trying to break me into normalcy, which has all of a sudden become productivity. My anger rises as a tear threatens to give. Hypocrite. “Where is the determination in you? Where is that feminist? Where is the successful student? The promising leader?” My heart pulses, patience giving out. Trying and failing again at doing what I’m told. I hear mommy’s voice: “Don’t cry. Stop it.” Yes, mommy. I won’t give. I don’t need you or that lollipop. “I want you to leave here raging mad,” says my own personal couch lady. “Don’t you want to show everyone who thought you’d end up at McDonald’s that you’re smarter than that? Better than them? Are you going to let them all win?” I hate losing. She takes advantage of that knowledge. But I also hate the thought of facing this mental forest fire, even if life might follow with a state of regrowth. I thought I was supposed to ‘listen to myself.’ I thought that meant I wasn’t supposed to press through stress. I got good at that. “You have three things due tomorrow. You need to get them done. It is your choice; that’s true. But are you really going to let your head get the better of you? You know you’re capable. You need to be able to cheerlead yourself through this. There’s nothing stopping you. Don’t let your head win. Just do it.” There’s no escape when your escape bites back with reality. “What’s your choice?” she presses me. I manage not to kick things on my way out the door. “Fucking A!” I’m finally released into the real world, alone with my head and its fury. Back at my apartment I slam the door, charge into bed and clamp my teeth down hard as I pound my pillow with 33
my raging anger’s moan. I need to destroy something. Act on impulse. “Just do it? Just do it?” I guess torturing myself is the way after all. Maybe that will satisfy you and me both. I growl again and convulse in favor of frustration. Aaaaaaargh! I wish I could do more than just think about the ways I could do bad things on purpose! I have a million ideas that do not involve productivity! But I can only act out in my mind, on myself. So I’m doing it my way. Fuck you all. And I hear my couch lady rambling through my dendrites: “I want you to get raging mad….Just do it….You’re capable…. Don’t get stuck in your head….What’s your choice?” I chose spite, and yes, it did feel right: I didn’t do all of my work, but I didn’t do none of it either. Shove that in your psychological pipe and profess it. Namaste. Fuck you, World! I’m gonna do you better than a prostitute! And if you say no, I’ll use due force. “Why did you put it back? I told you that you can have the lollipop.” “That’s okay, mommy. I don’t need it.” Force is my new sugar.
Monsters Kristy Lee She envies those who can go out on a Thursday night. With caution thrown to the wind, Their makeup caked on like clown paint and their bodies doused in perfume. She hates the smell of alcohol. It makes her double over a porcelain bowl, letting the anxiety flow into the bleached water. They don’t get her. They don’t see why she’d rather sit in her room alone than get wasted. They can’t figure out why she hates the atmosphere of parties. They don’t understand what she’s seen. What she’s felt. How real it still feels now. They make up stories and assumptions in their minds, justifying their reasoning for her not leaving. “She seems so happy every time I see her in the daylight.” But the nighttime, that’s when the monsters come out. Her skin crawls when she remembers. The song. The time. The outfit—or lack thereof. Everything spun like a merry go round gone haywire, As her hair was smoothed and pulled at the same time. She remembers the clouds of marijuana clogging her throat, The taste of Bud Light on her cracked lips. The vulnerability and naivety blowing goodbye kisses to her innocence. Stop. Her mind, racing a thousand miles a minute, while her mouth fused itself shut. Just breathe.
She breathed into that panic and pain and tried to turn off her mind, But she knew she would never be the same. When she closes her eyes, it still feels the same. As if three years hadn’t already gone by. As if her trauma-stricken mind was playing tricks on her again. She hates herself. Her body isn’t hers anymore. When she walks after the sun disappears, her guard works its way up. Fight or Flight mode takes over every time. The minute she hears footsteps behind her, she wishes that she could disappear like that sun. Her key can’t open the door fast enough. Please. Please. Please. Work. She heaves a sigh of relief when that door slams behind her, Until she has to face the rude stares from the people inside. Why can’t I just be normal? This double life that lives between day and night is too hard. Her smile is so warm to passerby people, But her eyes turn to ice when the stars twinkle. She’d do anything to break this cycle, To end this war of panic, tragedy, shame, and damage. To be able to fall asleep without a pill, Without crystal-clear flashbacks and distress. God forbid someone places a hand on her shoulder, Her nerves would turn chaotic, signaling the brain to panic, To save her poor, frantic soul.
It’s Thursday night and they ask why she won’t come out. She says she’s busy, she doesn’t feel well, she’s tired, The excuses pile up like Jenga blocks, ready to topple if one more is added. She thinks they know, but they don’t know what to say. There’s no way she’s bringing it up first.
Piles and Piles of the Sharpest Things Ryan Cameron The situation in the basement had grown from the encasement of wild teenagers fresh from first collision with college. The snares rattled from lack of care and the warrior stomp vibrated violently making the shudders shutter. It was the scratch of the guitar that sounded like muted mice and the throng of the bass that made you realize that there was something bigger in the room. The lapse of distortion brought together a restoration of friends who had been scattered for far too long. The reverb glazed guitar battered noise that muffled the sound of crushing PBR cans and the ricochet of an empty plastic handle of rum off of the drummers head, he had not seemed to notice. I sat with my hand tight in my pocket after wiping the blood from my eye socket. The neck of the bass had jabbed me like a viper with blunted teeth. I was overjoyed by the radiating pain for what is normally considered as rotten fucking luck in this room becomes punk fucking rock. The bands were then changing up so I made my way to the outside where people were drying the sweat from their skin and hushing the breaths of oxygen with cigarette smoke. We all talked hurriedly about our plans for after. Formulating cohesive strategies to keep the inevitable burn-out away. Issue 2
Fre e as a B ird Ali Myers
Starry Night Eileen curran-kondrad When I walk into your old room sometimes I canâ€™t see them. The darkness has to be dark, the angle of sight just right. Only then do they shimmer into sight Lining the borders of your closet and windows, the tiny stars and planets you placed there so long ago light up like a wink from your teenage self, or a greeting from your grown-up self, from the high western plains near the Rocky Mountains, across rivers and forests and treetops back to your old room into my heart again.
Manâ€™s Best Cecil smith After watching the sun sink off the beach, we meander onto the piers of hotdog carts and tie-dye t-shirt booths where the waves shed salt scents in the hot air and the plain wooden pier slats soak in the moonlight. We barely know each other, and we sit against a railing, my fingers grazing your fur while I talk, glancing away, and if I were a bull dog I would lean into you and slime my tongue down the side of your muzzle, and if I were a Maine Coon Iâ€™d hinge my back to the sky to erect the soft coat of my spine and tail. If you were an investment banker you might offer helpful hints about the not-so-lucrative business of solar panels and tell me my heart is as hot and powerful as the sun, even though you can never secure a fixed income on its energy, and if I were a tick I would take purchase on your limbs and smash my head under their surfaces to find the jewels inside. And if you were a top notch hypnotherapist I would tell you that I was deathly afraid of eating spiders in my sleep and
you would lay me down and fill my head with eight legged beasts and I would know you were listening. Instead you pant into the conversation, until you whine and beat your tail against my side, and I think youâ€™re saying you need to pee. And I say that outhouses were made because humans are too afraid of their own functions. Then I take your leash and lead you to a bush by the side of late night traffic. â€ƒ
The Red Shoes Susan Dennett When a muscle tightens I know to stretch it. A muscle is like a cog of a machine that must be maintained. Stretched, pulled, pushed until it moves smoothly once more. I can think of nothing more freeing than being able to slip on the ribboned slippers and rising onto my toes. My muscles never miss a mark. The practice room is just a memory. I take my place, center stage, and wait. My heart beats against my ribcage, pounding out a rhythm drastically different than the one I need to keep. Feet positioned in attitude a’terre, head down, I see my red slippers and smile. The curtain rises, Chassé, jeté, plié, every step is a reminder: years of meticulous practice, instructors yelling, “Spot, Abigail. Spot!” in my mind as I turn on my toe. Thunderous applause breaks my concentration, and I find myself backstage. The performance replays across my mind’s mirror. Lines perfect, extensions complete. It is all a blur except for one thing: the red shoes.
The Seafarerâ€™s Lover Melissa Fintonis She waits for the lover that is fated to the sea as dusk turns into the moonless night upon the desolate beach. The icy waves crash against her bare shins as she cries out to the ocean who roars with spite. As dusk turns into the moonless night upon the desolate beach, her heart, torn at the seams, wishes for his return as she cries out to the ocean who roars with spite, as if mocking her salty tears that fall to the sand. Her heart, torn at the seams, wishes for his return and journey back to her, yet the ocean keeps him away as if mocking her salty tears that fall to the sand. She thinks upon a life that was fatefully too short. Will he journey back to her? Yet the ocean keeps him away, never answering her prayers, or granting her ease with his return. She thinks upon a life that was fatefully too short, and she drowns in the flood of misery that torments her soul. Never answering her prayers or granting her ease with his return, the icy waves crash against her bare shins and she drowns in the flood of misery that torments her soul. She waits for the lover that is fated to the sea.
Friendzone bekka hoskins You are living in a fantasy You shroud yourself in a fragile illusion Where you are a nice guy And I became a bitch The moment I refused to open my legs And moan your name Because you were friendly and smiled Sweetheart The Friendzone does not exist Your latest text asks what I’m up to And laying in bed is the response You joke and wonder why you aren’t with me Twisting a blissful hour of solitude Into a lame innuendo followed by a cheesy smile Sweetheart That was not an invitation You say my scars don’t matter Not with hands exploring contours Lips and tongues crashing together “Lust is not in the mind,” you say My sick mind is of no consequence to you
And still You call me cute Claim to love my eyes My hair My lips My voice And with every rejection You hear “TRY HARDER!” I make your world spin My name burned in your mind With a never ending smile Strained just a bit too tight Your patience won’t last forever Yet your fantasy world will persist But the Friendzone does not exist And sweetheart No means no
Hearth Song Leah Loraditch Dry, splintering wood is stacked precariously next to the woodstove. A drying rack for delicates is screwed to the wall and reaches its spindly arms out to grab me: my octopus lover. For a moment, I am trapped in a time before tumble dry and propane heat, my feet wrapped in a quilt my sister lovingly stitched, and I imagine that this is what darker times may have felt like. The snow heaps like thick woolen blankets around the cars and shrubs, our ability to assess the weather growing unreliable as ice builds on the windowpanes. Heat radiates from the wide glass door that holds the hot coals at bay, keeping the thin-haired dog on the rug safe from the burning pain that he is a touch too simple to predict. All at once Iâ€™m aflame, fluttering behind thick panes and warming outstretched toes and cracked winter paws. 47
I am searing pain and broiling coals, burning contained but never tamed. I am Hestia, goddess of the hearth, fire burning in my eyes. Come and sit by my fire, my cold and broken-hearted wanderer, Iâ€™ll warm you with every lick of my amber fingers. I am ablaze, burning with every beat of my faltering heart. I am combustible, burning only as long as I have room to breathe.
Letting Go Kim Chandler People will always hurt you because they change their minds. She says this like she would the sky is blue or the sun is hot. She says it like a Broadway song she sings over and over as if repetition and time will make the words stick in her mind. I let her string me along till it snapped the summer she moved to the city. I remember, my first year of college I lived in the city of Cambridge. One night a homeless man asked if I had change outside a CVS. I pulled out my pockets; only some string and lint were left. He had a tarp and a Walkman with blue headphones in his hands. I knew there would come a time where my only salvation would also be the lyrics of a sad song. While she was gone, I couldn’t escape from the song “Linger.” I couldn’t help but wish New York City were closer to our beach town. Friends said, “Give her time to realize.” She needs to breathe; she needs to feel a change of scenery so she can appreciate home. Appreciate the blue ocean and skies, interrupted only by a child’s kite string. We were young and unhappy. She was yanking a string wrapped around my heart. Every day was the same old song and dance. I tried to please her. On weekends I took the blue line and a bus to see her. The panic in her voice and pace of the city pumped through my veins. I was fighting distance and change like they were murderers. How could I know she’d kill me with time
too? I suffered under the sun all summer long, and then time called me back to school. There were posters and a string of Christmas lights on our apartment walls. The word ‘Change’ spray painted to a tree outside. A blue jay sang a love song in it every morning. The girl I used to love and a city I knew—faded like the bruises they left, from black to blue. My mother tells me great things come out of the blue and surprise you. That you only ever waste your own time and it’s a shame when you do. A psychic in some city told me that she and the spirit world were pulling strings for me. She said I’d meet a girl whose name was a song Mom used to sing. A girl who’d challenge me to change my ways. Things did change in September when I met a blueeyed girl with song lyrics inked in her side that read: just in time, beside were two birds linked by string, fleeing from a burning city.
Sta nd Bold Alyssa Caruana
Why We Were Friends Bekka hoskins We stood on a street corner And I watched you flip the deck of cards Deftly through your fingers Making magic before my eyes You were truly a wonder When we sat on the patio You spoke to my face Not my breasts You didn’t scoff at the state of my hair Or the stains on my jeans When you hugged me You crushed my spine into my ribcage My feet parted from concrete And touched clouds This is why we were friends Running around the cul-de-sac at midnight Just like five-year-olds Who gives a fuck that we were seventeen And soon to graduate? This is why we were friends Your voice on the end of the line After I had burrowed into bed, under my sheets The way you called me “Branflake” Your voice dripping with exhaustion And I told you to get to bed Because we had school on Monday You said “Goodnight.” Issue 2
But, we did not sleep We stayed awake all night Telling each other to have sweet dreams But our dreams were the naive fantasies We created in conversation This is why we were friends The unconditional way we loved How you laughed at our stupid jokes I gave you a piece of me To protect You accepted and tucked it away Inside of you You promised you would never leave me This is why we were friends But, wait When did the boy I called “Snowflake” Morph into a man named Paul? But then, I looked at myself In a room full of mirrors Inside my own skull To discover I was not the girl You christened “Branflake” Instead a woman called Rebecca We were a man and woman Strangers to each other Lost in the foreign Land of Reality But, didn’t we used to be friends? 53
Haunting Melissa Fintonis Let me have my way with you with words, for my lips will entice your curiosity and make you fragile in the bones. My breath upon your cheek as I whisper into your ear, I will sing of our past in the dead of the night. My haunting melody will resound in your dreams as you slumber soundly by the dying embers. My cool fingers graze your olive skin sending shivers up your spine. Will you relish my touch and fall victim to my embrace? I breathe in the scent of your dark, black hairâ€”the essence of charcoal intoxicating my hollow lungs, creating images of our love when hours of our solitude slipped by kinetically. Like an ocean, I will wash away the hidden pains of tears that fall from your sleeping face, and heal the wounds buried among the grains of sand.
Heart Jessica Bierschied I crave your affection, dear one, yearn for your heart, my love. Suffer from your rejection, and crumble at othersâ€™ sympathy. Down into the dark depths, where my heart is supposed to be, a suffocating blackness awaits, preparing to drown me in despair. This bulletproof vest has ceased to serve its purpose. The spray of heartbreak like shrapnel in a war zone has penetrated deep. You have broken down this wall, this fort carefully constructed to protect what is most important. My heart bleeds as this evercontinuing war rages and engulfs every bit of me. Now there is nothing left; I have been taken out and demolished by you, a sniper of heartache.
Dinner with You Kim Chandler We are sitting in cross-legged properness in another lavish restaurant, staring at our surroundings rather than acknowledging what is actually on our plates. It really is taxing, this bill I review. These expenses I’ve had to endure while trying to endure you. Because you will only eat the forty dollar steaks on priceless porcelain plates. You will only eat if there is a waiter named Garçon delicately draping a lace napkin over your lap. You will only eat at a table with chairs— never a booth. When I hand the waiter the shiny plastic slip, I look across the table as you fix your face and I wonder if you will ever pay the price I do to love you. Issue 2
A kiss on my cheek, a faint smile, a “thank you” are all you ever dare to invest in us. Because in the end, I’m always the one who pays the tab.
Why I Smoke Samantha Hebert I smoked my first cigarette because of the way it smelled on your hands. They smelled like sawdust, and smoke, and motor oil; like every hot summer day that I couldn’t wait to be over, but wished would never end. I smoked my second pack because the last time we fought you pressed your cigarette to my thigh letting the ash singe my skin leaving a ring-shaped scar and salty tears filled my eyes, and I asked, “how could you?” And you said, “get a fucking clue.” I did get a clue, and another pack, and another after that. I smoked for you because it felt good; because the burn of the smoke against my throat hurt more than you ever could. I smoke because it’s a little bit dangerous —a little bit dirty— because it will never be quite as dirty as how you made me feel. I smoke because every drag brings me back to the way you breathed my name, and the tobacco masks the blood on my tongue Issue 2
from all the wounds I’ve licked to stay sane— and I tell myself, “it’s not me, it’s you.” It’s you.
Doorway Morals Kristy Lee I knew the minute I stepped into that party it would be an interesting night. It had been a stressful week full of finals and all-night study sessions. But now, I could put all of that in the past. It didn’t take long before everyone was dancing to a dirty rap song and spilling beer on each other’s shoes. “Hey! That’s alcohol abuse!” some guy shouted. I was buzzed, but definitely not white-girl-wasted yet like half the other people were. There were girls puking in the kitchen trash, guys arguing over something pigheaded, I’m sure, and then there was this girl. She caught my attention with no effort at all. She had some kind of magnetic, telekinetic effect on me, whether she knew it or not. Her short, auburn hair poked out from her backwards Bruins Snapback. Her edgy style was something I hadn’t really seen before. She was sitting alone on the vacant couch, texting. I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t know what to say. Something about her made me nervous. It took me a good fifteen minutes before I finally got the guts to talk to her. She looked lonely. I could hear my heart beating in my ears over the bass of the music. My god this girl was cute. We talked on that lumpy old couch, while everyone else danced and sang. They were just background noise. I was mesmerized by this girl. I couldn’t tell if it was the alcohol swimming in my veins or if I was undeniably attracted to her. I asked her if she wanted to dance. She hesitated, saying that she wasn’t drunk enough for that. I handed her my cup of vodka and cranberry juice. She downed it. Within minutes we were on that dance floor. She grabbed my waist and pulled me into her. I felt an electric current shooting up my spine, making me shudder. She knew how to Issue 2
dance, that’s for sure. She started kissing my neck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I wanted her to stop. No I didn’t. I felt her breath on my skin and her voice in my ear. “Come over here with me.” I followed her without a second thought. We ended up in some random bedroom. She pushed me onto the bed and kissed my lips. It was as if we were both starved of touch, ravenous for passion. She took my cheetahprint bra off with her teeth. I could feel my heart racing, my pulse spiking, my breath changing. Everything in the room was spinning in frantic circles. Never in my wildest dreams did I picture myself hooking-up with a girl like her. She wrapped her fingers around my blonde locks and pulled. I bit her bottom lip and climbed on top of her. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I figured that she didn’t usually let emotion intertwine itself with sex. Good thing I left mine outside the door. She traced my hipbones with her fingertips as she admired my blue-inked stars that were etched into them. She looked like the type to be turned on by tattoos. Her body was so toned and sun kissed, almost flawless. I dug my French tips into her back when the climax heightened. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Everything kept spinning and all I could hear was the combination of moaning and muffled music. Her phone started ringing on the dresser. We stopped and she sat up slowly and reached for it, her hand trembling. I watched her looking at the screen, panic written all over her face as the words “Incoming call from: My Girl” scrolled across. She set the phone back down and turned away from me. I felt the alcohol sloshing around in my stomach, the thickened tension, my heartbeat pounding in my ears again. What just happened? Without a word, she got out of the bed and felt around in the pitch black room for her clothes. She stumbled as she tried to slip the skirt up over her hips. I thought I was going to throw up. My lips were too paralyzed by guilt and confusion to speak. I started to put my own clothes back on as she was slipping on her shoes. By the time I was dressed, she 61
was headed out the bedroom door. I followed her, not even thinking about my tousled hair or the fact that my shirt was on backwards. She was practically running for the front door. I watched from the window as she stumbled down the stairs. Thoughts flooded my mind like a basement in a hurricane: I shouldn’t have talked to her. I shouldn’t have given her my drink. I should have asked her if she was single. I shouldn’t have left my morals on the other side of the goddamn door.
Razor Gaze Leah Loraditch I leaned over the bar, served you another Mai Tai in a sticky glass and slipped your number in my pocket, feeling my bones ache. Look at me. Look at me. Every time I spoke, you looked away. Impress me, you whispered. Your room is a mess and you make me a drink this time. My eyes water from the rum, I’m not sure you put anything else in. I take a few polite sips but I tell you I hate it. You pass me the bowl again; it looks like it will slip through my fingers; I’m not afraid. You make the television make noise, but I can’t even follow the storyline, you ask gently to put your arm around me but I’m already pressed against you. You don’t hesitate. You never would. You color your movements with indifference to the smell of my hair and the curl of my lips, pretending you’re hungry for my mouth not because you need to feel more like a man, but because I’m rightfully yours. 63
Your razor gaze is peeling back my naked skin; I breathe you in. You possess me for fifteen minutes, rum and weed soaked kisses rain on my neck and shoulders. I climbed into your bed so easily but now Iâ€™m caught in your net, trapped in a pot of water and the fire is getting hotter. I donâ€™t notice the change, until I get up and put my pants on and you look up at me and ask why I decided to come over and I pause. Because I didnâ€™t think I needed a reason, but now I wish I had one, even if it was just that I wanted to know what it felt like to be cut open.
MISS. Sean Murphy dancing in summer with love, feathers in her burning hair, lily pad brain, veins of wood pumping honey to a heart dripping timeless elixir of sweetness and beauty. bare feet pounding against soil to electric beats and sonic glitches hands up-stretched, twirling amidst smoke, reaching for stars, she promised herself a golden forever. she had wide maple eyes that melted into his own of blue like land meeting sea for the first time nights were eruptive and steamy at first in the best sense and then in the worst. she began to drown in the ocean of his sheets and then winter came with a coldness that bit at the flame within her heart until her bare feet could no longer stand the tundra and an open door never looked so good. now sheâ€™ll see how far her thumb gets her. east coast to west, still without shoes. halcyon hope held in a heart beating out of tune. indifferent to the differences between St. Louis and Minneapolis she burns bridges to light her way. 65
Milkshake Samantha hebert The sun rises over the hills across dried-up corn fields, where the barn cats stretch and yawn on the enclosed porch, where heat from the fireplace radiates. The air is brisk as you make your rounds, each step, routine. I am greeted by two bony hands pulling, tugging, complete disregard for gentle touch as you collect the liquid gold from my undercarriage. I expect nothing in return, but this winter is frigid. My spots quiver; if I donâ€™t warm up soon I will be the first of my kind to produce ice cream without aid. Is it so much to ask for a blanket?
Hard Cider Sean Murphy I love how you hop to crunch all the leaves as we walk, breathing in the crispness they release. Our feet hammer out the seasons. One step, two step, three step, 4:00 and the sunâ€™s already getting low. Your hands are cold holding the glass, but your face swells with warmth and grows a smile that I hope never fades away. Giggles and pace, another glass bigger than your face. Fifth step, trip. Sixth step, strip. Laughing all the way.
A na hata Hannah Smith
Not Insignificant Patrick Liam O’sullivan the way a moonbeam brushes the tips of the needles of a towering lone pine on a night where the clouds part for only a moment at a time to let the fullness of that orb show; or how that same moon, only occupied with its constant orbit, pulls the ocean away from that favorite, rock-hidden spot on the beach, a perfect day belonging only to two lovers occupied only with the joining of orbits; or how the stars flicker above your head that’s flung back in defeat while lips suck greedily the cool night air and deliver gasps frustrated with the anger that should have been pounded into the ground two miles ago; or how the sun’s light breaks across the receding storm clouds that left in the driveway puddles stained with oil-rainbows from her car driving away with nothing but a few bags and the smallest semblance of regret; or how, pulling the sheet taut on the bed, struggling to achieve a perfect plane of crisp fabric atop a hard and lumpy mattress, thoughts wander to places away from this bed, betrayal searing your mind at thoughts of her burning skin; or how, once achieved, a shower with the perfect mixture of hot and cold water makes your skin sing with relief after a hot summer day’s work pulling weeds furiously from the garden, begging your mind to forget burning skin;
or how her dress makes every color brighter and your eyes rest on the future, one that couldnâ€™t have been known before this very moment when you first accept it, an infinite palette to paint a new scene with a new lover. It is not insignificant to finally realize that these things are the whisper of the secret of living, the joy of being alive.
Why We Fight Haley a. sciola We were breaking dreams still tracking our visions: ~ We fought. I. My life began with a blackboard, which was actually forest green and made learning mean nausea. I, a pipsqueak without backbone, was determined to straighten out my soft scoliosis and academic deformity. I fought for my education. II. Your life began with green army men, an explanation of and initiation to war: good guys kill bad guys together. You, a little kid with few toys, were determined to hurry towards glory and respect for your strength, unnatural drive. You fought for your country.
~ We broke. I. As nights flattered us with loneliness, pain was quick to chime its chains; our thoughts revolted and lashed us in sleep. Meanwhile, love, our nemesis, was blind; neglectful, it ignored our pleas for company while I ignored the possibility and accepted defeat. II. My life began with a blackened heart; I, just a pipsqueak without backbone, have hardened, walled away your strength. Your life began with a feverish dream; you, a little kid with few toys, have softened, given up on paradigm. ~ We continue.
I. We donâ€™t know how our strategy changed. But in my weakest moment you marched swiftly towards my blockaded chest and I feared for my life that Iâ€™d lose you, love. Our oddities, underestimated bandages give us a chance to read and overwrite the wars with our own General bad guys. II. Weâ€™re not meant to make war alone. We argue over dinner, press upon the other the significance of interjections, politics, and personal projects to improve our guards. Our nausea still waves, memories still cripple, mental ideations, our enemies, refuse to retreat; but we only surrender to our battles with love. ~ Still tracking our visions we are breaking dreams.
Fusco Heather Tabor
Editor’s Note First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who took the risk to submit their work to Centripetal, especially students who submitted to us for the first time. We all start out as newbies, so please, keep writing! Contributors and editors: a heartfelt thank you for spending long days and nights putting this together. On that note, thank you Plymouth State University and the Hartman Union Building staff for allowing us to work in our office late into the night to meet our deadlines. Also, we couldn’t have done this without True Colors Print & Design; thanks for continuing to physically put this publication together with us. Next, we truly appreciate our fellow student media organizations on campus, including The Clock Student Newspaper, The Conning Tower Yearbook, and WPCR 91.7 FM. Thank you kindly to the PSU English and Art Departments for informing students about the opportunity to publish their work in Centripetal. Drs. Paul Rogalus and Liz Ahl: thanks for being there for us and lending your advice and support. And after three amazing years as the editor of this little art and literary magazine so dear to my heart, this is Halestorm signing off. My strongest hope is that Centripetal will continue to inspire young writers to find their voices. Use your words to make an impact, even if it’s only on yourself. Write on,
Haley A. Sciola
Editor of Centripetal President of PSU Poets & Writers
Vol u m e 14 w S pri n g 2013 w I s s u e 2
“Life is not a struggle. It’s a wiggle.” -Peter McWilliams
We proudly support PSU Poets & Writers and Centripetal:
Like what you see? Submit your work to our next issue.
All Plymouth State University students, alumni, faculty, and staff are welcome to submit original works of: w
Poetry of any length and style
Prose less than 3,000 words
Short drama up to 5 pages
Graphic fiction up to 5 pages
High-resolution art or photography
Limit four art submissions and four writing submissions per individual per issue. Email all titled submissions as Word Document, TIF, JPG, or Dropbox attachments to: email@example.com. Centripetal is produced once per semester by PSU Poets & Writers. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.