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“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.� -Frederick Douglass

V o l u m e 1 3 v I s s u e 2 S p r i n g 2 0 1 2

E ditor

Haley A. Sciola

E ditorial A dvisors Liz Ahl Paul Rogalus

C over A rt

“Scream Out” Tiffany Sweeney

Cover Design

Kirstina Barrows

L ayout

Matthew Jones Andrew Maznek Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Drew Roy Haley A. Sciola

S enior E ditors

Liz Ahl Michael DiTommaso Spencer Jackson Paul Rogalus Haley A. Sciola

A ssociate E ditors

Melissa Davidson Joseph Gallagher Matthew Jones Cecil Smith Andrew Maznek Alexis Myers Stephanie MacDonald Christopher McGinnis Christopher O’Hara Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Drew Roy Kristen Leigh Russell Bethany Veith

S ubmission G uidelines Submissions are open to students, alumni, faculty and friends of Centripetal. All submissions must be typed. No hand-written submissions will be accepted. We accept: prose less than 4,000 words; poetry of any length, any style; micro-fiction less than 500 words; graphic fiction up to 4 pages; high resolution color and/or black-andwhite art or photography. Individuals may submit up to four pieces of writing and four pieces of art per person. Submissions should be e-mailed as attachments in Rich Text Format (RTF), Document (DOC or DOCX), or JPEG to poetswriters@ Centripetal accepts one time North American Rights for print and online publication. All rights revert to the authors upon publication.

C entripetal is printed by True C olors Print & D esign 57 M ain S treet Plymouth , NH (603) 536-3600 ISSN: 1546-5357

Contents Volu me 13 v I s s ue

2 Spring 2012 1. Drinking and Driving Patrick Liam O’Sullivan 3. A Gray Epoch

Elizabeth Kelly

5. Catch Me 6. Ordered Tit for Tat 8. New Age Suicide

Jaclyn Wood Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Tyler Carignan

11. Open Mic

Drew Roy

10. Worth Dying For

Adam DiFilippe

12. Pulling Me In

Tiffany Sweeney

13. Stalemate

Spencer Jackson

24. Nude and Skeleton

Kirstina Barrows

25. Grocery Store Wise Men

Tyler Carignan

27. I Lost the Peach Colored Crayon

Renée Johnson

28. A Man (In Theory)

Leah Loraditch

30. Hello, My Name Is E.T.

Robby Binnette

32. Multiple Addictions

Kayley J. Fouts

34. Dark Desires

Kirstina Barrows

35. Still Life

Spencer Fiffield

47. Through the Eyes of a Child

Tiffany Sweeney

48. On the Occasion I was Asked Why I’m a Poet 50. Vi-Cara-iously 52. An Afternoon at Home

Cecil Smith

Haley A. Sciola Cecil Smith

53. While Passing the Alley

Renée Johnson

54. Times Have Changed

Adam DiFilippe

55. In Retrospect

Kayley J. Fouts

57. Querencia

Jacob Gagnon

59. Undertow

Abbie Morin

61. Souvenir

Leah Loraditch

62. Poetry Reading

Michael DiTommaso

63. Bourbon Lips 64. Innuendo

Shannon Barbara Clark Michael DiTommaso

66. A Way With Words

Alexis Myers

67. Concert Pockets

Mark Flynn

70. Snow Cracks

Kristen Leigh Russell

71. January Ice

Abbie Morin

75. Mist

Nicholas Gagnon

76. Life in Color 78. Old Friend 79. Interdependent

Adam DiFilippe Christopher Foster Vanessa Alander

Acknowledgments On behalf of Plymouth State Poets and Writers, I would like to thank the following for their support of Volume 13 Issue 2: all of the contributors, editors, and Practicum in Publication interns that created yet another amazing magazine; Plymouth State University and the Hartman Union Building staff for allowing us to work into the wee hours of the night to make Centripetal possible; Plymouth House of Pizza for its enthusiastic welcoming as our Open Mic Night and Release Party venue; True Colors Print & Design for its continued support in putting this magazine together; our fellow student organizations with special thanks to The Clock, Conning Tower, Art Club and Student Exhibition Club for increasing our presence on campus; the PSU English and Art Departments for exciting their students about the opportunity to publish their crafts; and finally, a heartfelt thanks to our advisors, Drs. Paul Roglus and Liz Ahl, for always having our backs, lending their advice, and challenging us to learn and grow each semester from this rewarding endeavor. Genuinely,

Haley A. Sciola President of Poets and Writers Editor of Centripetal


Cen t r i pe ta l

Drinking and Driving Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Between the first bullet Leaving my desert-covered carbine, And the last I stepped out Of those tattered shreds Of false dignity Soldiers call a uniform, My passion was lost.

And I have a friend, Rick, Who blinds himself with whisky Locked in the spare bedroom Of his tiny home in Nashua Smoking cigars and screaming Mumford and Sons lyrics ‘til breathless because He left his passion.

We two wandering souls, searching souls Sit at the kitchen table Debating philosophy and religion and politics And just what the fuck is really going on with it all Until drunk and bleary eyed, hearing the Mournful single toll of the neighboring church sound, We part ways. But always we part Not before confessing that if truth was spoken We wouldn’t really care.

So alone sits Rick in his humble home Hoarsely mumbling to himself while Sipping the last few amber drops from the bottle, “In this there’s passion.”


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And I drive home- slowly, cautiously. Praying to the god that I once loved To turn the eyes of the police away. My only passion is to hope One day to drive to it.



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A Gray Epoch Elizabeth Kelly I was searching for something, That much I knew Searching and sifting Through remnants of 1981, The fossils from my dad’s adolescence Lit by a single light bulb. I hunched over scrapbooks and leafed through Photo albums; purposely forgotten memorabilia, Deliberately lost and intentionally misplaced secrets The dialogue of many yesterdays ago And so I poured over these relics, My mind engrossed with the riddle that was my life Consumed with the task of rummaging through hints Hints containing the art of memory; Sketches of who he used to be When dad’s happiness was drained by basic training Glazed eyes in smoky rooms Fucked up, pissed off, Hand rolled cigarettes resting between his lips Pressed roses with wilting petals, German ticket stubs and frayed edges Letters to the rents, Littered with poor vocabulary and bad grammar And so buried in the depths of this vault, this time machine Was his voice, brimming with grit and texture Cassette tapes rewinding back to the barracks Where my father yapped into the recorder Tales of Paris with the boys, empty wallets, Blitzed U.S. soldiers, swell bunch of guys, no trouble makin’ friends here Nice lookin’ broads, flushed cheeks, tan arms, bright eyes One month without smokin’ Ma!

K e l ly

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Earnest for home, for love, it’s rough here You’s was right dad, basic training don’t seem to have changed much Same apples, different barrel There he was though, one year older than his present day daughter Toting luggage bags of the same fucking adventures Jammed with broken hearts and fears of ambiguity Hopes of revolution, demands of resistance The same burning eyes, the ultimate question of who am i? Senses of confusion, delusion, what a joy to be young eh? Full of vigor, full of shit, feeling bold, so jazzed up! Spunk and zest dress the both of us “I want to feel alive!” he says, I say, Mouthing dreams of grandeur That change with each passing season We’re holding hands with bad decisions As our hearts go up in flames Desperately clutching to our raw innocence. But dad never rekindled his fire, I suppose, and so he aged And as his youth was stifled by mechanized routines And lack of lust, it was those damn metal chains with links Of mortgage payments and bills to pay He lost his way and lost he shall stay Unless he accepts the emotional load he carries on his back With his chin up and a saunter in his step.

K e l ly

Catch Me, Jaclyn Wood

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Ordered Tit for Tat Patrick Liam O’Sullivan Peace? I’ll give you peace. Peace is a well-aimed double-tap From the wrong end of my Gun. Peace is Two quick twitches Of my trigger finger and bamthemotherfuckeris dead. Fucking dead. And fuck, it gets Pretty peaceful once I start killing fuckers, Bad fuckers who deserve To fucking die by me ‘Cause they won’t stop killing Innocent people. Their own people.

And now

The shooting’s over And I scream, “Try waging your fucking holy War from six feet under, You goddamned prick.” But I know his reply, “Inshallah.” Ordered resignation.

And back in the truck

Silence, then shame. Because after all We’re all just Trying to live


7 Cen t r i pe ta l Our own version of freedom. Honestly, do I know why That guy was Trying to kill me? Should I try to understand?

And then


Bam. Another. Fucking. Explosion. And the first thing that Runs through my mind is Christ, when will it end? How many of these fucking fuckers Do we gotta kill? All I fucking want is to go back home In one howevergoddamned piece. The truck’s fucked. On the ground. Pull security. Wait for pick-up. And I hope, no, Pray, For some fucker to cross my sights And feel the wrath, feel the burn. Feel the lead Run through his mind And fucking die Knowing his measly Fucking little fucking bomb Did nothing but make me mad.

And now….


Cen t r i pe ta l 8

New Age Suicide Tyler Carignan The temple of God is in each of us,

I thought, seeing the anguished mass of a young man tumble over The Golden Gate Bridge The Lord’s image free-falling into fate.

I missed his homily, the final words muttered under breath that urged his last nudge on earth The Lord’s image nose-diving into eternity.

The bows of ships cut gills in his neck, the choir of mothers rang out terror hymns, cars parked in the freeway The Lord’s image gulping Greek brine.



Cen t r i pe ta l The temple of God is in each of us, Icarus soothed himself, relaxing for the partial state of water as concrete.


C en t r i pe ta l 10

Worth Dying For Adam DiFilippe I clock in four hours early the one with halitosis called me I could smell her breath over the phone I arrive at the gas station tap in my number and password on the touch-screen register

first customer is drunk holding a Keystone 30 pack just this he slurs at me with red eyes I debate whether it’s worth fighting with him next is a woman with wet coughs holding a baby what’s the cheapest ciggs you got here? she buys a couple of cartons and some lotto

with my down-time I read the newspapers: Syria is internationally condemned for war crimes Yemen has its first new leader after 3 decades assassination attempted on Putin Americans killed in Afghanistan over Koran burnings American kills 16 Afghanis in shooting spree as I stand behind a register in New Hampton, New Hampshire tapping in orders for cigarettes, beer, condoms, prepays on gas, and some candy all I can hope is that these nations win their freedom, that they develop a first rate society like our own, so that they too, can have gas station attendants, that question the meaning of labor and life.


11 C e n t r i p e t a l

Open Mic Drew Roy It’s not that I don’t want to tell them, I don’t want their skin to crawl. Beneath this exoskeletal façade that deflects the schoolroom buzz, lies the definition of domination. A war zone like when you were a child and saw the ant hills on separate sides of the walk way. The fire ants teaming up on one side to tear the carpenters on the other limb from limb and carry the body away into the catacombs of mount fire ant. Inside, the fire ants overtake every inner working of that carpenter Injecting venom and burning that ant alive. It’s not that I want to tell them, it’s that I don’t want to be that carpenter ant who works his hands to the bone, only to be overcome by smaller body of the fire ant, to be pulled into that hole only to be food, to be passed around in front of the masses. I will not become the martyr that saves a generation. So I fall in line behind brother behind sister and march out of the catacombs, to tear limbs from the carpenters, one leg at a time, until they fall it’s not that I don’t want to tell them I’d rather have my skin crawl.


Pulling Me In, Tiffany Sweeney


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Stalemate Spencer Jackson Dr. Nick Malcolm quickly came to assume that isolation would seem to be the true enemy of a man’s sanity soon after he began his two-year journey home to his office in Philadelphia. Sitting at the pearly white desk in his quarters, Nick stared out silently at the stars passing by. Other than the objects he interacted with throughout the day, the stars were the only thing that ever changed. He stared like this for hours at a time. He could see a hint of his reflection in the quartz glass window, making out the image of his short grey hair, unshaven face, and the wrinkles stacked on his forehead. Seeing his age made him think of time and how it seemed not to pass in the constant ebony void surrounding the empty ship which seemed smaller by the hour. It wasn’t fair how every continuous minute blended with every grueling hour, how night and day transpired seamlessly. Of course, the idea of ‘what’s fair’ forced a grim smile to Nick’s lips. This was a fitting hell for him. He was a NASA psychiatrist, trained to keep a crew of soldiers and scientists sane during the four-and-a-half year round-trip flight to Kelper-22b; a possible life-supporting planet discovered about a decade prior to their mission. Now that he was completely alone, who was there left to keep sane? Six hundred light years worth of isolation was bearing down on him like deep-sea pressure. He was sure it would be what drives him mad. It took time, but Nick realized that once the influences of friends, the pressures of superiors, and the tension of pretty women were all gone, and all the TV’s and cell phones have been shut off, there’s just you; sitting in a room with the fiendish, slithering, essence of depravity that is your true self. It’s there, waiting to show you just how fragile your grip on reality truly is. Nick lived in a constant war against the enormity of downtime

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two years of solitude offered on a vessel that silently tore through space. Images of horror were painted on the back of his eyelids, and his mind always found his guilt like a blind man’s fingers find a filthy, festering wound in his gut. Luckily, Nick had his duties to keep him somewhat regulated. They were tasks that had been appointed to each member of the crew which were required to keep the ship running. Martin Russell, the chief engineer, walked the entire crew through the three separate levels of the spacecraft, listing every station and its function. The schematics of every machine and its connecting circuitry were filed away perfectly in his head. You could ask him anything, and he could talk for hours. He did not draw out his final speech, however, as he discussed the most important regulated task; to release the engine pressure every eight hours or risk popping the ship like a balloon. The hall leading to the engine room was on the third level, or the ‘basement.’ It was lit with red emergency lights on the ceiling, and the walls were lined with pipes and wires leading back to the engine and its circuitry like veins and arteries leading back to the ship’s heart. The engine room itself was substantial, well lit, and had two large bay windows on the port and starboard sides. Where Nick stood at the engine terminal near the room’s entrance, he could see white vapors burst out into the blackness as he held down the pressure-release valve. He watched the vapors taper off before looking down to confirm that the dial on the pressure gauge had gone down from the yellow stage back to the green zone. This whole engine was Martin’s baby, and Nick wasn’t going to pretend that he knew what the actual figures on the dial meant. Once it was safe, he let off the valve. Outside, he could hear the pressure vents’ doors slide shut and lock, and in an instant, he was standing in front of the air lock again, listening to the mechanized locks slide into place seconds before he would hear the frantic pounding, the panicked begging and shouting of his friends and crewmates before— Cleaning was one of the best ways for Nick to keep himself busy, but it only lasted a few days before he ran out of rooms to clean. At first, he avoided the closed doors to the other crew’s J a ckso n


Cen t r i pe ta l cabins. There was too much of those lost people behind them, and he thought he couldn’t bear to see their belongings. Being alone, however, changes the way a person would think of things. It was about a week, two maybe, before Nick was pulling out every drawer and turning over every mattress, curious to find out everyone’s dirty little secrets. Manual labor only distracts a person so much, and eventually Nick had to become cleverer than simply doing chores. He would scrawl out massive, prolonged alliterations on the different white and silver tiles of the walls and ceilings. Each tile would be dedicated to one letter. Bottle-necking his output through the one letter each time allowed Nick to put out his subconscious in words, but not in the direction his guilt would prefer. The nonsense staring back to him was soothing in its subtle, suggested meanings. Purple packing peanuts place pebbled portholes purveying pungent perplexing poppies pillaging peaceful performing peasants… Somewhere in his conscious ability to match sounds, Nick felt as though the words of his story and admission were flowing out in small bursts that were split up at random and separated by each letter’s domain on a different tile. By restricting the syntax of his language to just one letter per tile, per day, Nick could never slip up and write out the phrase, “I am a coward.” Somewhere among the white tiles of his bedroom, nearly blackened by permanent marker, was a full confession of what he’d been through, what he’d done, and exactly how he felt, jumbled and mixed among thousands of other thoughts separated by a simple variable of the mind’s grasp on language. At night, in his quarters on the 1st level, Nick relied heavily on drugs, headphones, and binaural frequencies to goad his mind into sleeping. When he would lie on the bed in his quarters, the pressure sensors under the mattress would automatically shut the lights in the room off. He had to admit that he found the feature somewhat futuristic and appealing when he first learned of it, but during the first week on board he remembered that he enjoyed reading in bed, and it became more of an obtrusive annoyance to

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his routine. Now, as he was lying, inundated in sweat from the fear of his own mind, the darkness the futuristic feature brought on was a sentence. It was true solitary confinement. The ship’s shrill alarm clock snapped Nick awake at 8:00 a.m. Such shock had always been the case, even before his nerves were shot. Someone, he wasn’t sure who, had told him that scientists determined the harsh noise was statistically the most effective sound for waking someone out of a deep sleep. He cursed out loud to the blackness as he still lied in bed. He cursed at the alarm clock as he shut it off. Getting out of bed slowly, he cursed the whole damn future around him. Nick walked down an immeasurably costly and technologically advanced human spacecraft on the first interstellar mission ever undertaken by his own kind wearing only a pair of blue boxers. Doing so was a crucial part of his routine since he left Kelper-22b. It was a statement of rebellion to him, against the cold situation made of hardened steel and fluorescent tubes that boxed him in. It was a silent protest to the assumed progress of man. Most of all, it was early, and nothing was making him get dressed right away if at all. The data recorded on the CCTV surveillance system would have to be either manually stored or deleted at the end of every week. If the data wasn’t moved, then the cameras would stop recording and only watch, just as they had been watching him this whole time. The cameras hadn’t been recording since the first week after Nick pulled the ship off of Kelper-22b in a panic, and he had long since deleted that data. Before he could make his breakfast in the ship’s mess hall, Nick had to release the engine pressure down on the basement level. He didn’t mind the chore. It gave him a chance to walk, to stretch his legs and wake up before sitting down to eat. He watched with glazed eyes as the ghastly vapor shot out into silent space. So much of the engine room around him made constant grinding, spinning, and hissing noises. So much sound, and none of it belonged to the actual area around Nick. Staring out of the large engine room window on the starboard side, he felt immeasurably small compared to the infinite blackness outside. J a ckso n


Cen t r i pe ta l All that he thought had meaning, his life and experiences, the Kelper mission, and what they found on 22b, all of it could be so easily lost in the darkness between the stars. Nick’s solitary confinement, his stalemate with the non-existent passing of time, and the endless, overbearing weight of his own fear and guilt, were all contributing factors to the reality behind the wonder felt by anyone sitting and gazing beneath a starry night sky. It wasn’t sadness that followed him back up to the dormitory level, to the mess hall, but rather discontent. Nick was never satisfied with himself, with his role on the mission before they even left, and now he was always itched by a need to get out of the ship. He felt like a hamster in a cage, dutifully running in his wheel as if it would take him somewhere. He stepped down the slight ramp leading to the quaint little cafeteria and separate kitchen room, but paused to stop for a sudden sneeze. It left a disgusting wad of snot stuck over his upper lip, yet Nick didn’t even notice it at first. Instead, he was paralyzed by the loud sound of clanking metal that rang out around the corner to the right, in the separate kitchen, immediately following the sneeze. He was back on the other side of the closing air lock doors, watching Captain Alexis fire at the throngs of dark, grotesque shapes that came up from the ground, out from between the large rocks, and over the hills of the island where they touched down on Kelper-22b. He saw her be taken down by one of the thousands of monsters approaching. No other noise came from the kitchen, but still he stood there like a wooden Indian. His hands and fingers twitched as his mind was washed over and over in many different possible terrors. The cause of his subjected sanity may very well be just around the corner to him. Rationality. Logic. Think, Nick, think. Breathe. He gasped in a breath as if he had been drowning, and then followed it with another, and then another, until finally his heart calmed. He told himself that he was surrounded by machines making noise, and that machines can break and make even more noise.

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But do machines get startled by sneezes? After taking a final second to prepare himself, Nick rounded the corner silently, and peeked through the doorway into the kitchen. Nothing. Luckily, the kitchen was small. There were white counters lining the back of the room in a U-shape as well as a small island counter in the middle. There was nothing out of place, no monster in the room. He could rest easy. He chuckled to himself, but found that he was still a little shaky. He stepped across the room, toward the sink to get a glass of water, and stopped when his foot landed on something dry and crackly. His eyes shot to the floor, and his heart sank so low he could have farted it out. The tiles around his feet were strewn with old snack-bar wrappers that had been being stashed away in the island cabinet among the surplus dishware he would never have used. Rationalize that, Bud. Nick had forgotten how fast he could run. He hadn’t felt real panic since he had pulled the ship off Kelper-22b’s surface. He murmured and pleaded to his bare feet and boxered legs to carry him faster to the small security room. He crossed the threshold in mid-air, spinning 180 degrees and clawing at the panel to shut and lock the door. Not even giving himself time to calm down, Nick jumped in the office chair behind the large screen that cycled through the various camera angles offered by the CCTV surveillance system. His eyes scanned each vacant hallway and every empty room for some kind of movement or signs of foreign disturbance as he repeatedly hit the Tab key to display the next camera angles. He cycled through all sixteen camera angles several times before the jolting movements of his hands and fingers became less frequent. His shoulders finally loosened, and after about an hour, he finally sat back in the chair and stared at the camera looking out over the cafeteria and into the kitchen. Nick’s logic offered many explanations for the wrappers on the floor, but this snide, leering version of himself kept whispering J a ckso n


Cen t r i pe ta l clever hints of truth in his ear as he sat alone in the small room illuminated only by the grey glow of the security monitor. Someone was probably sneaking the snack bars while the crew was still around and then stashing them in the cabinet knowing there was a good chance that nobody would look in the surplus dish supply. It was only until now that the door was opened and Nick was able to see proof of the sneaky snacking. But who opened the cabinet door? Those all have latches. Nick had never actually stepped onto the surface of Kelper-22b. All the crew had orders, a real reason to be there. He had only ventured onto the loading ramp before the attack began and he was certainly the only one who made it back onboard. The room opposite the massive air lock doors had an emergency console linked to the ship’s navigational systems. He had used that console to perform the emergency takeoff, and stayed next to those doors until he had left Kelper’s atmosphere. Nobody could have gotten on the ship without him seeing. Nobody? Certainly no human beings made it, but what about the monsters? You saw them, how they moved. You have no idea what they are capable of. No. He wouldn’t have it. Nick had seen people under delusions, suffering from hallucinations. He had seen how a damaged mind could work its way around logic to make its delusion into a personal reality. He rubbed his face and eyes. He was suddenly very tired. Taking deep breaths, he recited his mantra, ‘Reason must prevail,’ with every long exhale. Nick couldn’t ignore the few times recently where he would suddenly wake up in a different place in the ship, his consciousness having retreated when he would foolishly let his mind fall into the abyss of his guilt. He could have been sleepwalking and ate the snack bars while in his trance. He let his hands slide down from his eyes to his chin where he rested his heavy head. Every six seconds the screen would go completely black as it changed to the next camera angle. The image of the mess hall flashed on, and nothing was out of place. Nick chuckled lightly, but wasn’t sure if he meant it. The room disappeared for another instant before the image

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Cen t r i pe ta l of the dormitory hallway on the floor above came on. Nick stared at one imperfection along the hallway wall for a second or two before he realized it was a loose vent cover. He could feel dread tingling in the bones of his fingers and toes as he watched the cover straighten up and wedge back into its space in the wall. “Oh shit!” He cried out. There was a clamor above him as whatever had put the vent cover back in place shuffled along the duct just over his head. He threw himself onto the floor and under the security console’s desk, terrified that the monster would rip its arms down through the vent and pull him up into that tiny space with it. “Oh god, oh god, oh god!” he whispered over and over. What could he do? All the firearms on the ship were left on Kelper with the soldiers. How could he fight something he didn’t know anything about? He would die in the middle of outer space, alone inside this tiny metal coffin, and this vast void of nothing will never know that anything was any different while Nick’s own universe would collapse in the jaws of whatever beast he was trapped with. The sounds of the monster trudging its way through the vents had passed, leaving Nick to be just a grown man hiding under a desk in his underpants. He imagined what he would look like on the screen above him had there been a camera looking down on him in the small closet of a security office, and the thought of seeing himself shaking and empty made him sick. What was he protecting? Was his stalemate not his hell, and if so was this new aggressor his personal guardian angel sent to pluck him out from the depths of the vacant silence his sanity was drowning in? Like a house-fire started by a dropped cigarette, a new idea suddenly flared up at the forefront of Nick’s thoughts. It was a realization that restarted a tremble in his hands and dried up all the spit from his mouth. All the time Nick believed he had spent alone since he had taken off was shared with his stowaway companion. Whatever creature that had so stealthily eluded him had also chosen not to end his life. It’s trying to return with me. It’s trying to come to Earth. Nick’s bare feet pattered against the tile floors as he walked


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Cen t r i pe ta l down the hall toward the elevator. The monster could be watching him somehow, tracking his movements. He did not want it to know he was aware of its presence. He wanted it to think he was going about his business as usual. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he drew nearer to the elevator doors. He imagined a dark shape creeping behind him, looming and menacing with claws and fangs. His shaking finger jammed the call button over and over until the doors finally slid open with a graceful mechanical sigh. Nick tucked himself behind the corner near the elevator’s floor panel and speedily tapped the button to the 3rd level. He did not dare peek around the edge, out into the hall before the doors closed and the elevator began to descend. His anxiety was layered, stacking what could happen between the elevator and the engine room with what he planned to do. He shuddered at the sudden presence of a new enemy: Doubt had crept its way into the elevator on its way down. It pushed the isolation and guilt aside and gripped its heavy hands on his shoulders. The new voice in his head told him that he would never make it to the engine terminal. He would never get the chance to increase the engine output to a critical level, neglecting to release the building pressure and causing the ship to explode. He would never get to prove he was not a coward. The doors opened, and reluctantly Nick stepped into the darkness of the maintenance hall. He passed under each dimly glowing red bulb slowly, waiting for the moment where his nemesis would reveal itself. He rounded the corner and washed himself in the white light of the vacant engine room. Still he crept as though the floor were covered in sleeping enemies. It was a lever that controlled the engine output, and Nick jammed it all the way forward. The engine whirred at first, its complex components spinning faster and faster, until it roared and shook the entire vessel. As it grew louder, Nick’s breathing became heavier and thick with moisture as he allowed himself to fall into the murk of his underlying despair. All this time suffering under the weight of his false isolation and he would die in the flash of a tiny firecracker popping and disappearing in the middle of the gut-wrenching stillness around him. He had no family to return

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to, nor any friends to mourn him. The world would consider the scientists’ great minds, and the soldiers, the country’s heroes, who were lost on the would-be glorious space-mission. With the sound of the engine reaching a deafening level, Nick did not hear the ship’s elevator doors open once again. However, he did hear the approaching footsteps growing louder and louder as his enemy raced to prevent the pressure overload. A siren rang out, warning the nearly empty vessel of the impending explosion. Nick swallowed his fear, his doubt, and stood before the engine terminal gripping an inch-and-a-quarter combination wrench he would use as a makeshift club in the last few moments it would take. He stood, breathing heavily and feeling strong for the first time since he had taken off. He gritted his teeth with anticipation. His enemy rounded the corner, and Nick’s world collapsed. Standing before him, wild and unshaven, was Martin. His maintenance suit was torn, stained, and filthy. The circles under his wide eyes were as dark as the shaggy black hair that hung about his face and shoulders. He stepped forward, holding a threequarter inch bar of threaded aluminum, a club of his own. Nick never once thought of the fact that the ship required someone down in the maintenance room to perform the engine shut-down procedure when they had landed, and that the same person would be required to re-initiate the engines for his emergency take-off to have been possible. What Nick did think of was the view of the loading ramp which the windows in the engine room offered. “I … saw you.” Martin spoke with a raspy, strained voice. “I saw you leave them out there.” Nick trembled violently, shaking his head. “No, no, no no no…” was all he could say. “And I’ve seen your scrawling all over the floors, the walls. I know you’ve snapped. You killed them all. You would’ve killed me too.” “I…I didn’t know, I—“ Martin clung to the threaded bar and raised it up to his waistlevel. J a ckso n


Cen t r i pe ta l “You’re pathetic, cracking so easily. You’re an eggshell of a man. I’ve made it this far, and I saw it happen to them.” Nick tripped as he stepped back, and the wrench in his hand rang against the metal floor as he dropped it. He was speaking incoherently; tears were streaming from his eyes. He reached out toward Martin, desperately terrified, crushed by the idea that the enemy to his intergalactic existence was another man, another monkey with a club. “I … saw … everything,” Martin cried, “and I’m not letting you kill me too!” Martin wound up, raising the bar above his head, and sent it crashing down against Nick’s cheek. The precise edges of the machined threads tore the flesh of his face apart. He screamed in terror and pain. The second hit was blunter, leaving a cylindrical dent in his skull. He could not move nor scream as he convulsed on the floor. He did not feel the third, and was dead by the fourth.

J a ckso n

Nude and Skeleton, Kirstina Barrows


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Grocery Store Wise Men Tyler Carignan He said, never write a work that cuts the mind during his daily grind of packing groceries. I passed food through the mirrors that beep, belt carrying them to the would-be novelist, dropping citrus, bread and bottles into bags sometimes missing going splat, crack, thump on the tile. He babbles about art, not knowing art, not feeling the slick tomato sauce underfoot.

He is paying infinite attention, to the words dribbling from his mouth half slacked with a morbid stare, stuffed with the weight of absolute truth, belting, “How are you?” and “Have a nice one” between his unfounded doctrine. He rambles on beckoning the age of collared shirt and khaki philosophers whose only trees are on computer screens, who say “I love you” only if preceded by key punching. He has a finished novel all in his head which is good enough, if you’re waiting for brain chips that download thoughts, paper that fills itself. He can’t wait till graphics cards making trees look more tree-like.

These oaks are better than the oaks outside, I knew he thought, plugging through desert search engine images of nature; seasons weather meteor showers, the old fashioned mother relics.


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His eyes wide, fingers tracing over maps; the treacherous old parchment leading us to believe their is a world outside our minds.

You should never write a work that inhibits the mind, he said, this moldy world acts the kindling for depression, it is sawdust in a lumber mill. We’ll make our national symbols the arrow and hourglass, lounge in the bubonic plague contracted from the mice we click. I think, looking up at the lids of self-fashioned coffins, that this age of the every-man philosopher stifles even a lazy recollection of our failing to pinpoint the last time we used our eyes to see. Know any recipes that feature lemon rind? he asked, still bagging still got that novel on his mind, believing the world of the mind is a temple of divines— —meaning censorship unwound bullets shaped like Mecca dead buried in the air earl grey drenched in fluoride.



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I Lost the Peach Colored Crayon Renée Johnson The pastor’s kid called it blasphemy as he pointed at me on the Sunday I colored Jesus in black. I was unaware of my heresy but apparently it’s offensive to color Jesus in black.

There was nothing wrong that I could see I mean honestly? Do Israelites color Jesus in black? I guess he didn’t know his geography and how it could technically be accurate to color Jesus in black. As he rambled on incessantly I grasped my crayon firmly and began to color God’s hands in black.

J o h n so n

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A Man (In Theory) Leah Loraditch He says he’s majoring in Philosophy, knows more about Plato and Socrates than how to analyze the way I lick my lips. We are both shallow people, devouring each other like locusts, his eyes focus solely on the shadow my words cast in the cave of our sound-play. Lately Nietzsche just doesn’t do it for me, I just want his skin against mine. When he opens his mouth I don’t want to hear the fate of a supreme divine being, just the angels singing as his lips hug my curves. We are both shallow people, exploring the binaries of each other through our kisses. He chooses his words carefully, quoting Derrida and deconstructing my outfit with his eyes.

Still, he’s missing the point I’m trying to make about me and him and him and me, but we’ll just blame the arbitrary nature of language. We are both shallow people but he makes me want to know



Cen t r i pe ta l everything, together we can create meaning, he can be the Baudrillard to my brain, exploding it nightly.


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Hello, My Name Is E.T. Robby Binette He said, “I hate the way she shakes� followed by a intimation as if he was having a earthquake in his pants He told me this not to scare me

as if he tied a cucumber to his leg and chased the children around the park but to make me aware that love will keep you up many a night when the ones we love are sick and dying

Times of diapers, bedpans, hospital visits, drooling faces and despair Times of beauty

of stillness and of peace The kind of love that will manipulate, twist and mold us like crab grass in sea breeze

The sigh of showing a child how to make a origami;

beauty still, something to keep us to go on Binette


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Something pure and simple like a handshake made in church “Peace be with you and also with you”

“I hate the way she shakes,” he said

“But I hold her until she stops” He holds his head for a moment and I could tell his eyes were no longer dry


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Multiple Addictions Kayley J. Fouts Since I last saw you, you’ve picked up a new habit that kills you a little bit every time, but gives you an addicting satisfaction— you explained, “It tastes like nostalgia.”

Since I last saw you, you’ve picked up this new habit. You said you went into Boston and to keep warm on the frosted streets you kindled a fire on your tongue.

Since I last saw you, you’ve picked up a bad habit. You buy the plastic-wrapped packs from a dirty gas station and breathe in a pseudo-high as you breathe out arrogant paradox. We haven’t spoken much since I last saw you. You’ve picked up this new habit of pulling my hair just to see if I’ll cry. You like to know that you still grip the marionette strings that jerk my limp puppet limbs. I saw that you’ve picked up this habit of continually disappointing me. You’re my personal weather man telling me when I will rain and then blaming me for those drops on my face. I’ve also picked up a habit since I saw you last. I’m a junkie for iron work, forging myself a new skin from the fire I breathe. With screws and steel I reinforce the bones you broke

when you picked up this habit. Since I saw you last I made a decision: you will never again have



Cen t r i pe ta l my forgiveness. I wrote hell hath no fury on a syringe, pushed it into my veins. I’m making a habit of that.


Dark Desires, Kirstina Barrowas


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Still Life Spencer Fiffield John was standing by the pool, staring down at it, frowning, as if frustrated. Ellen couldn’t help but watch him as she made their lunch, two baloney and cheese sandwiches on Wonderbread and a bag of Lays, and wondered what he was staring at. The pool had just been refurbished, as had everything in the new house about a month before they moved in. It was their first morning together at 224 Sycamore, and it seemed that something was already going wrong. “John,” she called, opening the door and calling to him from the kitchen. “What on Earth are you staring at?” He paid her no mind, and stared on. From where Ellen stood, at the top of a set of twelve wooden stairs that led from the grass at the bottom of the back yard to a small patio outside the kitchen, the water seemed fine. Clear as crystal. It sparkled in the sun like platinum, and the water looked damn-near mouth-watering. The pool was a major selling point for them both, as the summers in Poughkeepsie would be much warmer than the summers back in Manchester. Back with Paul. Ellen shook the thought from her head and called to her husband again. “John,” she said. He ignored her. Walking down the stairs, she kept trying to read his face, to see what it was that held his rapt attention in the pool. She stopped at the bottom of the steps and considered going back up, realizing that she’d left the sandwiches in the kitchen. She decided it against it, and kept walking towards her husband and the pool. “John,” Ellen said, pulling open the gate to the fenced-in pool. She pulled it closed behind her, never taking her eyes away from him. She gently touched his shoulder. “What are you scowling at?”

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John looked up at her, his eyes lit with something she hadn’t seen in almost three months. When Paul— Ellen kept herself from finishing the thought, and let John’s eyes burn like they tended to. He was a passionate man, foolheaded, but decent. He pointed into the water, and her eyes followed his gesture. “Look right there,” John said. “Okay,” Ellen said, doing as her husband told her. “Do you see it?” He asked. “What?” Ellen squinted her eyes to see whatever small speck or bug or whatever John wanted her to see. “The people,” John said. “Oh, right,” Ellen nodded. “The handsome guy and his sexy wife. What are they doing down there?” Ellen smiled into her reflection, waving with a laugh, before she noticed John was still staring. “What’s the matter?” She asked him. “You honestly don’t see them?” John asked. “See who?” Ellen looked back to the water. It was pristine. Freshly cleaned. Free of any dirt. It was begging to be cannonballed. “Is this game gonna go on forever, or can we do some swimming?” “Don’t play with me, Ellen,” John whispered, grabbing his wife’s arm harshly. “Do you really, truthfully not see them?” “John,” Ellen said, pulling her arm away from him. “I don’t see anything in there. Why would I lie?” “You’ve lied before,” John said. Ellen rubbed at the growing red spot in the center of her forearm, nodding her head. “Okay, John,” she whispered. “Your lunch is inside if you’re hungry.” He looked at her for awhile as she backed away, until she turned, and couldn’t look back. She went up the stairs, and back into the kitchen. ~ Ellen was reading in bed when John walked into their bedroom. His skin had the early marks of a deep sunburn, and Ellen found F i ff i e l d


Cen t r i pe ta l herself staring at him once again. The body that she’d found so beautiful for so long had seen its first sunburn. The biting red glow on her husband’s skin seemed to read like a note of defiance, like an insult, as if that sunburn was closer to John than she’d ever been in the last three months. “What?” He asked her curtly, lifting up the blanket and getting in. “You gonna tell me what all that was about?” Ellen folded her book in her lap as she spoke. John lay on his back, looking at her. “No,” he said. “You can’t see them. What’s the point?” “You don’t honestly think I’m falling for this, do you?” Ellen asked. “The invisible people who live in the pool. Now what’s really going on with you today?” “Nothing,” he said, rolling onto his side. “Yesterday you were happier than I’d seen in a long time, babe,” Ellen reminded him. “You sure you don’t want to tell me what’s going on?” “No,” he said. “Good night.” Ellen looked back to the folded book in her lap, a poorly written sci-fi romance called Galaxy of Love. The notion of a sci-fi romance had intrigued them both, and they were laughing in the supermarket the morning previous as they read its back cover summary aloud. “Captain William Arguss is a rogue Starfleet pilot, wanted for a crime he didn’t commit, chasing after the one thing he’s always yearned for: freedom.” John had read the cheesy story in a nearperfect Shatner impersonation. “Little did he know that the sexy Mina Starblaze would be following him, looking for answers, and looking to get them by any means necessary.” It was hard to think that just a day earlier they had been laughing and enjoying a stupid, schlocky romance novel in the bread aisle of the A&P. But then, Ellen knew that things change quickly. Things went from bad to worse before they moved, but that was over now. Manchester was nothing but a memory, wilting like a flower, fading like a candle in the rain. Poughkeepsie would be their home form now on. Ellen put the book on her nighstand and turned off the lamp she’d bought at Pier 1 the day before. It was made to look like a

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Cen t r i pe ta l 3 8 candelabra, or something out of a late-night horror movie. She turned on her side and put her arm around John, and felt the heat coming off of him. It scared her, knowing the things that a sunburn can do to you if its bad enough. But she tried not to think about it, as she had been trying to do with many other things recently. “I love you,” she said, kissing the back of his neck. He said nothing. ~ When the alarm went off at seven, Ellen opened her eyes, and saw that she was alone. She sat up, looked around the room, and found no trace of John. She sighed, got up, and went into the kitchen. Looking out the window, she saw him, staring at the pool again. She came out half an hour later, in a black two piece swimsuit. She hadn’t worn it in a while, preferring a blue one piece, but decided to see if it would bring John out of his strange behavior. “Wanna swim?” she giggled, closing the gate behind her. John said nothing. “I bet I can make a bigger splash than you,” Ellen smiled, walking back to the gate to get a running start. “Here I go.” She started a sprint to the pool, but didn’t get far before John stepped in front of her. “What’s wrong?” She asked him. “Stay out of the water,” he said. “Screw you,” she said. “It’s hot as hell, I wanna swim.” “Do as I say,” John said. “Go away, and don’t come near the water ever.” Ellen opened her mouth to speak, but couldn’t find anything to say. “Babe,” she managed. “What’s with you?” “You think I’m just goofing around,” John said. “You think I was playing games, or that I was pissed off about what happened in Manchester, but I’m not.” “Baby, I’m your wife,” Ellen said, her face turning red and her eyes beginning to burn with tears. “Why are you talking to me like this?” “Because you can’t stop thinking about Paul, Ellen,” John F i ff i e l d


Cen t r i pe ta l snapped. “They tell me everything you think. I’ve been out here for hours, hearing about how much you love that bastard.” “I love you,” Ellen began repeating what she had said the first time this conversation happened, when she caught herself. “Wait, who are ‘they’?” “The people in the water,” John said. “The ones you pretend not to see.” “John, you’re frightening me,” Ellen said, backing away from her husband and reaching behind her for the pool gate. John began to look around, as if he was catching himself telling a secret. He sighed deeply, running his hands across the back of his head as he usually did when he was done talking about something. “Just go inside and don’t come back out,” he said. “And don’t ever come near the water.” Ellen tried to look him in the eye. It was a trick she’d learned early on in their relationship, when they were dating. Back then, she could freeze him solid by looking him right in the eyes. She’d used it before to win an argument, or to calm him down, and it never ceased to amaze her. But it didn’t work. “Babe,” Ellen said. “Do as I say,” John said. She opened the gate as quickly as she could and ran inside, not out of fear of her husband, or fear of him seeing her cry, but out of fear of him seeing her cry in shame; shame of the fact that it was the second time her eyes couldn’t stop him, the first being three months before. ~ The days leading up to John’s attempted suicide were a blur of silence and cruelty. Ellen would wake up in an empty bed, knowing that John was staring into the pool again. She could try to call him inside or go out and talk to him, but the answers were always the same. Go away. Go back inside. I’ve told you before. The job John had gotten in town a few weeks before the move had called every day, but stopped trying on Friday. John wasn’t budging.

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Ellen wondered about calling the police once, and even picked up the phone to do it, before she caught herself. What could they do? How could they help? They’d probably just make it worse. He’d start sleeping by the pool, maybe. At least she still had a bed to share with him. It brought her some comfort that she could fantasize about their happy life while he slept. She could hold him, kiss him, and touch him without him fighting her, or hissing at her. But after a few nights of this, of his sunburn heating up the whole bedroom, she saw how awful she was becoming. It was the very next morning that she found him in the pool, floating facedown. “Is there a history of mental health issues in John’s family?” The doctor assigned to John had asked her that day. “No,” she answered. “He has epilepsy, but no one else in the family ever did.” At first it had seemed like a good idea to tell the doctor this, but it made Ellen feel foolish. She started to blush, but the doctor was friendly enough. “Any alcoholism?” “Nope,” Ellen sighed. “He used to drink, but he gave that up in college. Nobody drinks too much in his family.” “Drugs?” “No.” “A history of abuse, maybe?” “His cousin was molested as a child, but I don’t think anything like that ever happened to him.” “Was John under any kind of stress recently?” Ellen knew the doctor would eventually ask this question or something like it. She knew that if she answered truthfully, or even half-truthfully, she would have to relive the guilt, the shame, and the pain that she had experienced when she explained it to John when they still lived in Manchester. Knowing this, she lied. “Not that I know of.” “Well, if you think of any reason, anything at all that would make John want to take his own life, please let me know,” the doctor said. “Nine times out of ten, when an adult male tries to kill himself, he succeeds, so we really must get him some proper treatment as quickly as possible.” “I understand,” Ellen said. F i ff i e l d


Cen t r i pe ta l ~ John lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, looking much older than he had the week before. His face hung from his head loosely, and his five o’ clock shadow hung over his face like the pall of a dying man. Ellen sat beside him for twenty minutes, saying nothing, with John equally silent. “I keep thinking that this is some nightmare I’m trapped,” Ellen told him. “I keep thinking that tomorrow when I wake up, none of this will be real.” John shifted in his bed, before turning to face her. “They told me that you still think about him,” John said. “Is that true?” “John, there is no one in that pool,” Ellen said. “Answer the question,” John said. “You’re delusional.” “Answer the question.” Ellen reached across John’s bed for a plastic cup full of orange juice. “Thirsty?” she asked him. “Ellen,” he said, grabbing her wrist. “Do you still think about him?” She put the juice back down where she’d found it. “Sometimes,” she admitted. “When we have sex?” “Well, we haven’t had sex in a while, have we?” “Humor me.” “Never,” Ellen said, picking up John’s hand. She kissed it delicately, and smiled up at him. “I love you, John. I regret what happened in Manchester more than anything in my life, but I can’t undo what I did. All I can say is that I love you, and I don’t ever want to see you do something like this again.” “I didn’t do it because of you,” John said. “They speak to me. Even when I’m not there. They want me in the pool with them.” Ellen pulled away from John, her face beginning to twist inward. “John,” she began to cry. “You need help. We need to get you to someone who understands these things.” “There’s nothing wrong with me,” John said. “There’s something

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wrong with everything else, though. It’s all wrong. But in the water, it’s beautiful. They want me down there with them.” Ellen sat beside John and cried until there was nothing left to cry out. It began to appear to her that something in John may have snapped, and that he might never come back from it. That night, Ellen pulled the dark green plastic cover over the pool, and vowed never to take it off. ~ Ellen put the Camry in park in front of the house before shutting the engine off and unbuckling. Beside her, John sat, after a day of examination by an in-house psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was unfazed by John’s case, and didn’t bother to make eye contact with him during their twenty minutes together. John was assigned some pills, the kind they don’t run commercials about, and was sent home in Ellen’s care. “Call me if something happens,” she’d been told by the psychiatrist as he walked away. “Home sweet home, baby,” Ellen said. John was motionless, breathing slowly, as they’d both been told the pills would do to him. “Need help getting up?” John shook his head. He hadn’t bothered to buckle up, and Ellen hadn’t bothered to do the job for him. He lay back in his seat, eyes closed, forehead pressed against his window. She touched his hand gently. “Wake up, sleepy.” “Why did you cover the pool up?” He asked her suddenly. “What?” Ellen stammered, trying to realize how he could have known that. He’d been asleep during most of the car ride, and the way the road sneaks up below the house, there was no way he could have seen it from the car. She hadn’t told him, though she’d expected him to fuss about it. “Baby, it’s just until—“ “Why did you cover up that goddamn pool?” John slammed a fist into his window, cracking it. A bead of blood began to trickle down it, and the skin of one knuckle on his hand was torn. “Look,” Ellen said, trying to remain calm. “I know you’re only acting this way because of the medication. I just think you should F i ff i e l d


Cen t r i pe ta l stay away from it until you’re better.” “I was never sick, Ellen,” he said, sitting upright. His eyes had the same fire they’d had the first time this had happened. The first time he’d heard about Paul. “Yes, you are, baby,” Ellen explained. “You’re still upset about…” “About what?” John asked. “Paul.” It was the first time she’d actually said his name since they’d left Manchester. “It’s making you hear things, and see things. It’s called auditory hallucinations. You have them now, and you’ll have them until you get better. And I don’t want you to go near the pool until you are better, okay?” “I want to see them,” John said. “I want to see my friends.” “They aren’t real,” Ellen told him. “They’re real enough to talk,” John said. “To listen. To want me.” “I want you,” Ellen said. The inside of the car was silent for a while, until she kissed him on the cheek. “There was something I forgot to tell you,” John said. “About when I was down there.” Ellen nodded. She didn’t want to talk about his attempt, but only wanted to hear him speak. He had spoken so little lately, that even the things she didn’t want to hear began to sound wonderful. “Go on,” she said. “While I was down there, I saw where they live,” he said. “A big, beautiful house, just like ours. Exactly like ours, Ellen. That’s why they want us.” “Us?” Ellen asked. John punched her in the throat, sending a bitter, copper taste into her mouth. She tried to open her door, to run inside the house, but John grabbed her by the hair, pulled her close, and put her in a headlock. Her face turned red as she fought for air between the shrieking pain below her jaw and the rugged force John was using to control her. “They want us both, baby,” John said, opening his door and dragging her out with him. “They knew that if they chose you, you’d never be able to take me down there. But I can take you down.” As he pulled her with towards the pool, she kicked at the ground

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furiously, and scratched as deeply as she could into his back, but nothing helped. Her breath was coming in shorter and shorter gasps, and her head began to feel very light and hot. “John,” she gurgled, letting bloody spit flow down her mouth and onto John’s elbow. “John, please.” He kicked open the gate to the pool, and twisted her head so that she could see it. “Down there is our new home, Ellen,” he said excitedly. “We can put all of this behind us once we get there.” “John, for God’s sake!” He jumped onto the cover, sinking into the water with her. The dark green plastic began to envelope them in the water like amniotic fluid. She regretted screaming like she did, and craved those slim gasps that she’d taken before she hit the water. Her lungs began to burn, her vision blurred, and her head grew hotter as they sunk deeper into the pool. When she could barely see, she began to realize that John’s grip had loosened. Not enough for her to escape him, but enough so that she could shift her head. She knew she could only try this once, and if it failed, she would die. Ellen grabbed John’s arm and bit down on it as hard as she could. She heard his scream muffled by the water, and saw the bubbles of his breath fly by her face. He began to twist away from her as she tasted his blood, inadvertently making the bite worse. The meat of his arm grinded against the edges of her teeth, and before she let him go, one sharp spray of blood shot into her mouth. Spitting John’s blood into the water, she kicked away from him, hitting his stomach, and began swimming upward as quickly as possible. She could see the moon in the sky, but it seemed much farther away than it should have been. The pool itself was ten feet at its deepest, and yet she felt as though she was swimming up from the bottom of the ocean. Her arms ached like never before, and John’s blood began to swirl before her, and her vision darkened, so that only the slightest bit of moonlight could be made out. The dark green cover tickled at her feet, and she found herself begging God, begging to something, to give her one more breath. That prayer was answered. F i ff i e l d


Cen t r i pe ta l Ellen burst out from the pool and breathed deeply and loudly, feeling her lungs awaken and her muscles unclench. The night air tasted exquisite, and for a moment she lay on her back in the water, breathing heavily, and feeling the heat pull away from her face. Feeling relieved, she swam to the edge of the pool, before realizing she’d left John down there. “Baby,” she began to call out, pulling herself out of the pool and grabbing the plastic cover. She began to pull it out in its entirety, folding it in her arms, frantically calling out her husband’s name. But he was gone. When she held all forty feet of heavy, wet green plastic bundled up haphazardly, she looked into the pool and saw it was as clean as it had been the day she awoke to see him standing at the edge of the pool, staring at nothing. Not a single drop of blood clouded the water, which struck Ellen as something of a miracle, considering she thought she bit into a vein before she let him go. When the novelty of the immaculate pool wore off, Ellen dropped the plastic cover and broke down. Not knowing what to do from there, she went inside and phoned the police, leaving the plastic cover in a heap beside the pool. ~ There was not much the police could do, however. Ellen calmly explained to the two responding officers that John had been showing signs of mental health issues and had gone missing after a fight. She was told that a person must be gone for at least a full twenty-four hours before they can be considered missing, at which point a search would be conducted. “Call us if anything comes up,” one of the officers said before they left. Eventually, loneliness got the better of her, and Ellen realized she couldn’t sleep alone. At dawn, she went out to the pool with a blanket, a pillow, and Galaxy of Love, and tried to fall asleep in one of the folding beach chairs they’d bought for lounging around outside. After a few minutes of discomfort and straining her eyes to read in the still-breaking daylight, she left the things she’d brought from inside on the ground and sat at the water’s edge. As the sunlight began to creep over the tree line, it reflected on the water in a strange way. It shimmered so oddly that Ellen could

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not help but gaze deeper into the water. It began to frighten her, how gripped she was by the sparkling water, and she tried to look away, but found herself enthralled and terrified by what she saw at the bottom of the pool. Shadows, people’s shadows, all in a line, all reaching out to her with dark fingers, whispering her name silently, with shapeless mouths. They stood shoulder to shoulder at the bottom of the pool, their images distorted by the ripples of the wind across the surface of the water. All except one. John stood in the center of the line, reaching out to her, and smiling.

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Through the Eyes of a Child, Tiffany Sweeney

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On the Occasion I was Asked Why I’m a Poet Cecil Smith Saraswati made me a poet the moment I realized my parents had taped over my Limited Edition Bambi VHS with a porn.

Somewhere among the crushed up thighs and lime green lined utterances, the goddess placed a yearning in me; because when you can’t bleach the past out of your eyes, it bubbles over in the folds of your skin, and spills off of your tongue anyways.

My throat is a tramway for the building blocks of sanity, or at least my therapist tells me so. She’s older, wilder, ashier than the steps outside bars and takes time to tell me that there is nothing to be ashamed of in sharing, what she so graciously called, “childhood tidbits.” Sharing things that keep me wondering if my urge for words on pages is my own, or if it belongs to the frizzy haired sapling in my parents’ bedroom fifteen years ago, rewinding the tape just to figure out where the fuck Bambi was in all the pixilated skin. Sharing what makes me invoke the voice from the river, pleading for her to tell me that the stead in which my tongue found rhythm



Cen t r i pe ta l was divine and blessed with fate and purpose;

that the stead in which my tongue found rhythm was more than just a therapists’ wet dream.


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Vi-Cara-iously Haley A. Sciola Cara, when you were one, Mom said it was too early for you to say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ but I knew I could make it happen. I coached you, and then you said it.

Finally two, you had developed your serious attitude. Even then you said everything you wanted to, and I smiled because you would never sit in silence. You would sass the world. Cara, by three I had taught you how to read and write. I’d give you my head start, so you’d never get behind. You were gonna be my genius, kid. By four you were restless. You wanted to stop. But I pushed you forward, and you understood for me. My little sister would know how to multiply and divide, even if I was still struggling. Cara, I taught you how to rule the playground by the time you were five. Friends came as easy as the spewing words from your mouth. It made up for your stature, and for my own schoolyard shortcomings.

But by eight, you’d started giving up on me—First you quit ballet, soccer, tee ball. All right, I said. Maybe my sports just weren’t for you, but I could still make you have the titles I needed: Queen of the Books, Queen of the Class. After eleven summers, Cara, you had found your rhythm on the balanced diagonal of a horse. I told you to stick to it, to never give up if it got tough and tired you out.

Cara, after that you grew up on me. Now fifteen, you’re pulling the blinds on my reflection. It kind of feels like you’re smashing up my



Cen t r i pe ta l window with your shades. But I get it—you wanna be your own you.

Breaking through my pane and into the boys, the weed, the booze— it frees you from my burden. Me. But you were supposed to be my genius, kid. One year at a time. You can still come back to my timeline.


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An Afternoon at Home Cecil Smith We were illusions of a life down under the radar; a world of sweating on engines in grease smeared driveways, and me, caked with Hamburger Helper all on my own and burning every one of my fingers because I was too tiny to know that pan would still be hot. Mom continued sleeping with smoke stained curtains drawn tight against the summer sun outside. They held up their thatched, linen palms as if to say, “Not today. She’s just too tired today.” With my fingers blistered and stomach heavy from a second helping, I would crawl under her covers and wait until her eyes opened to me and ask her if she was too tired to sing me to sleep.



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While Passing the Alley RenĂŠe Johnson Alone in the shadows she leaned against the brick. With a flourish she lowered her smoking hand and watched the white swirls rise to the sky as if she envied them. She took another drag.

We locked eyes just as a giant cloud of her misfortune was released with a sigh. I never broke stride, but her glare made me guilty as if I had seen her mistakenly through a stall door crack. I wanted to turn back, apologize for glancing, but all that was left was a bent and burning cigarette.

J o h n so n

Times Have Changed, Adam DiFilippe


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In Retrospect Kayley J. Fouts You were a hot air balloon dancing wild in the starry sky, your rainbow silks stretched taut, inflated with your Non-Newtonian love for me. Me: your expectation, your reality; I was the iron-forged land-anchor tying you to the real world with my curved teeth wedged between granite and turf. My glowering-red white-hot skin was hammered into pointed arrows and I was shackled to you with steel-poured, molded chain. I was only ever meant to keep you from exiting the stratosphere while simultaneously being the helium-wind in your sewn-shut sails. I will never be a patchwork of vivid nylons precisely hand-stitched into a beautiful sphere that occupies the atmosphere of dreams and clouds like you.


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I only ever tried to be your dream, I only ever tried to love you back, but the person you thought I was, was leagues from who I am.



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Querencia Jacob Gagnon Querencia: The area of a bull fighting ring where the bull makes its stand and always returns to during a fight. Sometimes I am the bull, but not always. Not tonight. I just sit and laugh and let the buzz of a dozen drinks wash over me.

Then I see her, casting a familiar glare across the room. She stomps her high-heeled hooves and snorts her ringed nose. I feel her glare pierce through my foggy bubble like a sword just before she charges. I have no red cape to wave (torro!) she doesn’t miss me (she rarely does). She gores me with her smile. Her lips are as full and red


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as a throbbing heart, yet her eyes frown; the sun’s glare hiding behind a cloud to sob. I kiss her. Guilt impales me, But I don’t stop.

I never do. Even the matador returns To the querencia.



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Undertow Abbie Morin We coalesce in the center of the room. All of us float the electric sealuminescent jelly fish swaying in the crashing bass, tentacle arms tangling near the ceiling.

We drown ourselves in the center of the room. All of us do the fine line dance- venture farther from the shallow end. Hands quickly slip down shoulders, backs, hips in search of anything strong to cling to. We collide in the center of the room. All of us suddenly transparent with need, soften in midnight’s salty glaze. We fuse into a thick pulsing mass of human contact- hide among the glittering bottles’ bobbing constellations.

We spill out from the center of the room. One by one


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we wash up in swollen heaps along the blunted night, eyes foggy with purple light.

I climb into my bed alone and beg the numbing undertow of sleep to rip me free from another failed attempt to stay below surface.



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Souvenir Leah Loraditch At nine a.m. I watched you disappear; you tried for weeks to haunt me in my sleep. I kept that grin I faked: a souvenir

to prove you could not hurt me with your sneer. Even your bite could not cause me to weep at nine a.m. I watched you disappear and worked to paint on my reserved veneer. To show the world that you were just a creep, I kept that grin I faked: a souvenir. And even when I made it very clear that I would hide your lies without repeat, at nine a.m. I watched you disappear. You knew exactly how to feed my fear; and when my insecurities ran deep, you kept each grin I faked as souvenir.

And maybe it will take another year to keep you from my thoughts when I’m asleep; but at nine a.m. I watch you disappear, and keep the grins I fake as souvenirs.


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Poetry Reading Michael DiTommaso I want a girl who uses “poetry reading” as a euphemism for something that will still involve poetry. I want to feel her shudder at the touch of the tip of my tongue to each consonant “T” as I read her said poetry. I want to watch her eyes flick to glance at my lips forming words while she bites hers. I want to give her a night she won’t forget as we shatter the idea there will be anything to regret. I want a girl, and I’m pretty sure she wants me too.

D i t o m m a so


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Bourbon Lips Shannon Barbara Clark Bourbon lips and tobacco breath, I didn’t know you’d taste so sweet. Your tongue brushes mine And it’s toe curling, Knee melting. You are perfect. So soft in all the right places Makes me wonder Why I ever kissed boys. Your pocket vibrates Interrupting softly against my belly, And you’re on the phone again, With that man you shack up with back home. I am just a lab rat In your college experiment. The “I love you,” not meant for me Claps against my ear drum And I’m back in second grade The day after Christmas break. My best friend’s telling me she got a “My Size Barbie” The one that I asked for. So, it’s fine. I’m just a lab rat. But you’re just a doll, I’ll eventually forget I wanted.


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Innuendo Michael DiTommaso There is a certain pleasure and it is hard to describe, this sudden shift which makes her wet

her pants laughing, if pulled off just right. The play really comes

before the word, the set-up, the foreplay,

that’s where you have to be clever to see her crack a smile, when the context cons her mind into the gutter.

Subtlety is key, you see. None of this “Is there a banana in my pocket, or am I just happy to see you--” *produces a banana* “--or both?” bullshit. You need to gently oil

the gears of the language, because Franca Lingua is all about tongue

D i T o m m a so


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in cheek, or better a French kiss, but nothing so vulgar. I want you, right now

to listen to my words, because I’m going to come

up with something brilliant or maybe not, but I’d like you to be on top of things, before they get out of hand. If I go too far, stop me, but I’d like to go all the way to the end of this poem and back with you.

Don’t worry, I’ll be behind you every step on the way.

D i T o m m a so

A way with words, Alexis Myers


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Concert Pockets Mark Flynn Digging deeper than any explorer before ya New worlds of discovery The time-space continuum becomes interrupted As objects from the distant past appear and my ticket and lighter Moments ago my hand was grasping Have dispersed into the everlasting As I stumble forward toward the gate Things happen too fast for my state I’m trapped diggin through concert pockets Great deep holes of confusion I don’t know what’s real or illusion I must find my ticket that I put somewhere An hour ago Gotta find that ticket to see the show I was careful where I stashed it I’ve looked once, but I have gone past it So I begin the dig once more This time I will find what I’m looking for I rumble through my concert pockets

Folded papers, stickers, swag, paper money Not thinking any of this is funny Now I’m getting herded toward the venue Why do I have the veggie burrito bus menu? The ticket has now become my Holy Grail Within it lies my salvation I swear to God I will not fail I double check my wallet

Fly n n

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For the ticket that has dispersed No, you go ahead friend, I think you should go first The search becomes madness in the thickening crowd Hold on, I can do this, the words are suddenly vowed This last search is a systematic itemization Of the treasures of my day Keys and lifesavers – those’ll be good later Glow stick, chap stick, same old things Stickers and papers from earlier today Where I put that ticket I just can’t say

I become a Magellan exploring new lands I’ve emptied my pockets into both hands I sort and I sift through detritus and schist Help me now Lord, give me just one gift The line is moving faster as we stumble to the gate I’ve got to find that ticket, I don’t want to be late I rustle through some bills, some loosely rolled up cash I wonder if I should do something with my stash?

Too late, too late, my thoughts come rushing past I never thought this moment would arrive so fast My friends are now inside and look to see what’s wrong C’mon, c’mon they’re starting the first song The crowd begins to swirl and twist My mind is clouded in a hazy mist I shuffle forward and drain my cup For a minute I feel like giving up My hopeless search through concert pockets

But suddenly there’s a great accident Inspiration that was divinely sent I hook my thumb into that pocket made for change It’s a little thing on jeans, it’s really sort of strange Fly n n


Cen t r i pe ta l I probe in there still deeper And feel something giving way

My thoughts come rushing back to me How could I have been so silly? I put it there an hour ago So I wouldn’t lose it before the show I breathe deep and stow my gear I’m more confused than I appear What the hell did that pre-game do To make me feel so good and stupid too?

But I’m in! I’m in! let the games begin The ticket was bonefide, they just let all of us inside The rest of the show I know how to do Just have a good time, there’s nothing new I still carry too much stuff Which makes things a little rough Sorting through those goddam concert pockets

Fly n n

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Snow Cracks Kristen Leigh Russell The cracks crackling in snow tracks come from our quickened cold pace; a race to get indoors; to find a warm place. Wind playfully projects chills that could dance through nose hairs.

Between all these bare backed trees, Shiver is shaking her freezing knees.

Winter’s facade of silent death is stomped upon the entrance to a cabin. The wood crackling in its place, illuminates heat from the stove.

The apple pie scent crisp in the air could swim in our taste buds. Between all these sensations, Warmth wraps us in his blanket.

Winter’s toy icicles and snow clumps Of cold white frost reside outside; Not being silent, but loud and full of life.

R u ss e l l


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January Ice Abbie Morin I. This place starts to get spooky as the winter months crawl into the spiderweb cracks of our foundations.

The heater (which burns at a steady 85 no matter what I do) rattles my tiny second floor apartment like an angry ghost. I always try to remember what lights I left on, and which doors I left closed. I wake up tangled in nights of fitful sleep and vivid apocalyptic dreams that suck the breath from my mouth so forcefully that I’m left with split lips. My bones are always tired. All of my windows have frozen shut, so I’ve been lighting up in the kitchen with the sweet steam of my sizzling dinner for one to cover up the smell— even though the landlord


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never shows.

Yesterday I took a knife to the soles of my favorite shoes— hoping the slashes would grip my feet to the earth long enough to get where I’m going (and hopefully back again).

Someone once told me the key to enduring January is to accept that you’ll feel very alone no matter what. For awhile I believed her.

II. You strolled into my bedroom and the air became easier to breathe. I had longed for this— you and I wrapped tight in the freedom of our seclusion. January ice melting from my eyes.

You laughed hard as my feet skidded across the glistening pavement. You gripped my arm all the way to the car. Morin


Cen t r i pe ta l You told me I’m too skinny and ordered us Summer Rolls from the Thai place downtown. You made me turn off all the lights. You talked right over the snaps and creaks in the walls and kissed my hands and wrists. And at night as rhythmic breaths and warm heart beats pulled our eyes closed you held me still in the darkness until morning.

III. You had only been gone half an hour and thin soft glass was already beginning to form again around the edges of my pupils.

The phone rang and it was you. The ice had tried to claim you— dragged you from the road, and tossed you into a ditch. You were trudging through the snow. A tow truck was on its way. It was spooky. In a matter of seconds I could have lost you but Morin

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for the first time I had ever seen the twisted winter was forgiving.

Ever since I’ve wanted to tell you I believe we’re meant to endure these windy brittle days together. We all become so incredibly fragile in January.

Ten feet either way would’ve broken us both.


Mist, Nicholas Gagnon

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Life in Color Adam DiFilippe I

I was born wet pink, hues of rouge across my cheeks slim veins of dark purple

cleaned with dry white cloth wrapped in a canvas of sky blue folds gently handed to a hazel eyed woman. II

high school was waves of hot reds, blinding yellows, my love of black and white photography began in the slow grey-times before digital I thought I understood photography, your colors are all messed up again, the tech teacher chanted I tried harder to understand. III

lumbering grey walls sealed the Institute of Art great stones absent of color and life: it was all held inside, a heart beating paint

Color Theory class rained blues and purples degrations, hues, lights, darks, shades, along with striking red Fs written in three strokes DiFilippe


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the family optometrist wore warm dyed sweaters the specialist that told me I was color-blind wore cold white you will eventually go blind, the specialist said When I asked the doctor to write me a note, excusing me from Color Theory I was the only one in the room that laughed.


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Old Friend Christopher Foster I can still hear Your claws rap against the frosted pane And the moans; I swear, I tried to listen. I can still see Your gray speckled stormy mane And the emerald marbles that always glistened. I can still feel Your tail brush beguilingly against my leg And the subtle stuttering of your incessant purrs. I can still smell Those fishy treats for which you loved to beg, And your musty odor—its friendly feline allure. I remember Those times you sat perched atop the wall of stone, Scanning the yard with your critical, all knowing gaze. As majestic and pitiless as a king upon his throne And as I began to understand, I couldn’t help but feel amazed. I consider How effortlessly you stalked your prey, Crouched low amongst a forest of grass and fern. And how you pranced as you went on your way, To a sanctuary, of where I’d never learn. I wish back All the nights you slept at my feet, And helped to calm my tempest of thought. The rise and fall of your chest kept beat And guided me to the answers I sought. I always knew The day would come when you’d have to leave And I dreaded watching you grow old and frail. But I steeled myself against the sorrow, refused to grieve, And smiled at the peacefulness of your final exhale.

F os t e r


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Interdependent Vanessa Alander A state of mind. The freeness and pure ecstasy that the feeling of a blank page exudes is the breathe that allows my lungs to fully and deeply inhale. A blank page offers no judgments, no opinions, no laughter. Paper is safe. Paper doesn’t speak back, doesn’t ridicule. It takes what you give and encourages you to fill it up, turn it over and give it more. Paper doesn’t mind if you cover it with ink, pen, pencil, paint, charcoal or crayon. Paper doesn’t mind if you leave it blank, stain it with a ring of a coffee cup, doodles or tears. Paper doesn’t cry out in alarm when you toss it away, bury it in a hope chest or use it for kindling. From the moment that most of us are conceived to well after we’ve passed on, no matter how technologically advanced we’ve become as a society, paper tracks and parallels our life. So much of our life happens on paper, because of paper, surrounding paper. Important discoveries, happenings, experiences and events are catalogued by paper. Paper is the one steady constant in my life— sometimes the only constant. Paper is where I discovered me; where I allow myself a release of inhibitions, freedom. Free from self-imposed judgments, restrictions, preconceived notions, and responsibilities. The knowledge that paper will accept my innermost fears, thoughts, desires, and wants and will be silent unless I want it discovered, read, made public. Every meaningful experience in my adult life is defined, tracked, memorialized, altered, amended, revealed, secreted, created and ended by paper. Medical records from pre-natal visits, birth and baptismal certificates, report cards, finger paintings, high school transcripts. A horrendously and purposefully botched college application to University of Vermont in hopes of being denied admission. A personal narrative regarding having to parent my rapid-cycling, bipolar mother since I was eight. The narrative was written over five months and then I had to convince myself to actually submit in my


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college application packets. A four-inch binder of e-mails, letters, post-its and cards collected in chronological order and preserved in plastic sleeves (doublesided) chronicling in perverse detail a two-year, tumultuous, inequitable relationship that should have ended a few months after it began but, because of how his words were conveyed on the page, was continued far beyond its “Best-Use-By Date.” One-sided letters written by me pleading to my first love that if I could forgive his transgressions and indiscretions, why was he unable to forgive me for sneaking out of Smith Hall Dorm and going out with my friends just once? A CD I mixed for him complete with written annotations detailing the specifics to song choice with appropriate links to quoted song lyrics pleading my case for the twisted relationship to continue. A piece of paper discovered on his desk the summer after we broke up but were talking about getting back together thanking his female roommate for reminding him how ‘fun’ it was to single without having any ties. The lyrics and accompanying song to Pearl Jam’s Better Man left on my doorstop from a long time, unrequited love that convinced me to finally end the relationship and sever all communications. A memo to myself delineating ways, by use of bullet points, to avoid getting into a relationship again—to avoid the pain, hurt, loneliness, feelings of abandonment and uselessness. This note included tips on how to close others out, build up walls and to be friends with others while still keeping everyone a good length away and never revealing anything personal. Poems composed, and hesitantly and often unwillingly shared, in a Creative Writing course began to instill confidence in my self-identity as a writer. This same course and professor revealed that writing is meant to be shared, not hidden away in secretive cubbyholes like a squirrel storing their winter acorns. This newly discovered confidence led to filling out yet another piece of paper; a dual undergraduate major request—B.S. Childhood Studies, B.A. English Literature. The addition of this second baccalaureate degree led to a literary criticism course where silent laughs, smiles and eye Alander


Cen t r i pe ta l rolling were shared with a classmate across the room because of another students very obvious inability and unwillingness to even be open to another point of view. Co-authoring newspaper articles with this same classmate helped me to realize that my cowriter instilled even more confidence in my writing ability. Late night study sessions spent diagramming Latin sentences on the multitudes of scrap paper retrieved from the recycle bins at Boyd Science Center deepened and furthered our relationship from that of writing partners, to study-buddies, friends, a couple, roommates, affianced, married couple, joint-tenants with rights of survivorship homeowners, parents-to-be, parents. A two-page application that earned me a job as a nanny on Martha’s Vineyard with paid housing allowed for a post-graduate experience that I wouldn’t trade. My three-sentence letter of resignation six months later quitting because of the alcoholic father. A signature on the lease to our first apartment together postcollege—two bedrooms, eat-in kitchen and a living room. A huge improvement over the nine by thirteen foot one-room with threequarter bath we lived in on the Vineyard. A simple signature on a marriage license covertly obtained in Littleton, New Hampshire in preparation for our elopement at the Balsams two-months later. Glossy photo paper that allowed us to share our wedding with my new Grandfather-in-Law two months before he died. A letter from him wishing us a happy, long and healthy marriage two weeks before he dies. Daily notes and reminders written on the dry erase board for our new roommate—my husband’s widowed Grandmother whose mind was riddled with and transformed into Swiss cheese by the horrific affects of Alzheimer’s. Our signatures and initials written dozens of times on the purchase agreement, deed, mortgage note and homeowners insurance for the husband’s grandparents house located at 8 Pound Road in Madison, New Hampshire. One word written on a tag attached to a key—home. Completing the paperwork for a birth certificate and new social security card, twice. A two-hundred and fifty word essay and application sent off to the Graduate Program at Plymouth State University. A one-page


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acceptance letter received back. Several dozen papers written for a multitude of courses. My signature on an adjunct teaching contract. A crisp, blank page in a new journal.


“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you’re alive, it isn’t.”

-Richard Bach

Centripetal Volume 13 Issue 2  

Volume 13 Issue 2--Spring 2012