Castings Literary Journal 2013 Christian Brothers University Thanks to the Judges: Divya Choudhary David Dault Sandra Davis Scott Geis Jeff Gross Karl Leib Beth Nelson Maureen O’Brien Vincent O’Neill Sean MacIness Dan Messinger Nick Pena Brendan Prawdzik Jana Travis Faculty Advisor: Karen B. Golightly Editors: Danielle Morris Paulena Passmore Jennifer Sharp Published By: CB Publishing and Solutions
Winners Prose First Place: Look Away by Madeline Faber Second Place: I Can’t by Amber Lipford Third Place: Lost and Found by Sarah Longoria Fine Art First Place: Full Moon Phase by Hannah Nelson Second Place: Mourning Elegance by Desireé Mitchell Third Place: Eviction Notice by Hannah Nelson Poetry First Place: Roma by Danielle Morris Second Place: Running Errands by Candace Lester Third Place: Haiku by Amanda Shaeffer Digital Art First Place: Untitled by Alvin Siow Second Place: Untitled by Alicia Russell Third Place: Untitled by Alvin Siow
Table of Contents Inaction by Matthew Birch…………………………………………..…………5
Untitled by Alvin Siow…………………….………………………………..7 Blind Blue Taste by Zaniesha Davis………………….…………………………7 Bunnies for Christmas by Camille Caparas ……………………………………8 Resentment by Joy Robertson………………………….…………………….….8 The Ghosts’ Hall by Paulena Passmore…………….…………………………14 I Call on the Bird by Emily Phillips……………………………...…………….15
Look Away by Madeline Faber.…………………………………………....16 Untitled by Marie Joiner….……………………………………………………18 Man XI by LaDarrious Dortch……..…………………………………………19 Why Did God Choose Me? by Sara Swisher…………………………………..20 Untitled by Alexis Blum…….…………………………………………………20
Roma by Danielle Morris….……………………………………………….21 Time to Relax by Christini Fernando………………………………………….21 Tete-Tris by Desireé Mitchell……..…………………………………………...22 The Storm by Jennifer Sharp…………………………………………………..23
Full Moon Phase by Hannah Nelson…..…………………………………..23 I Can’t by Amber Lipford…………..……………………………………..24 Johnathan by Alexis Blum……………………………………………………...25 Dream Big by Tachele Anderson ……...……………………………………...25 Note to Self by Maneesha Palipane…….……………………………………...27 Fleeting by Valerie Mills………….……………………………………………28 the nature of the colored man by Amber Lipford……………………………...29
Untitled by Alicia Russell ………..………………………………………..30 Grime by Danielle Morris……………………………………………………...31 Let It Sleep by Camille Caparas………………………………………………..33 Untitled by Alvin Siow……….………………………………………………..33
Running Errands by Candace Lester…….….…………………………….34 Glamour by Christini Fernando………………………………………………34
Mourning Elegance by Desireé Mitchel…...………………………………35 Haiku by Amanda Shaeffer……………..…………………………………36 Parking by Camille Caparas……….………………………………………… 37
Lost and Found by Sarah Longoria……..………………………………….37 Clarity by Bianca Cowan………….…………………………………………...46 Don’t Give Me Some Bullshit About God Either by Jessica Richard…………47 Risk by Paulena Passmore…………………………………………………….49 Trust by LaDarrious Dortch……..……………………………………………49 Ampoules by Jessica Richard…….…………………………………………….50 Initiation by Bianca Cowan……….…………………………………………...50 Dear Dad by Maneesha Palipane……….……………………………………..51 Untitled by Connor Bran………….…………………………………………...52 Untitled by Loan Ly……………………………………………………………52 Song of Light and Shadow by Larry Woodley………………………………...53
Untitled by Alvin Siow………….…………………………………………56 Untitled by Maneesha Palipane………………………………………………57 Been Home a Long Time by Madeline Faber….………………………….…...58 Echoes of Silence by Bianca Cowan…………………………………………...58 Negative by Emily Phillips…………………………………………………….59 Agraphobia by Tachele Anderson…….……..………….…………………….60
Eviction Notice by Hannah Nelson………………………………………..61 Ours by Emily Phillips………………………………………………………...62 The Rapist by Amber Lipford…………………………………………………63 Quiet Cold by Emily Phillips………………………………………………….64 Cover: Hope by Christini Fernando Back Cover Poem: Alas…Sheet of Paper by Jordan Smith
Inaction By Matthew Birch I was walking down the rain soaked streets watching the neon lights dance everywhere around my shiny, wet little world. The rain was calming. The chill that the rain brought with it made the hair on my arms stand up. As I walked across the huge intersections I could feel myself, and I knew that I was alive. It was a particularly foggy autumn night in Xiamen, but the air was clean and crisp. As I strolled down the street, I saw people clambering into stores, and restaurant owners kicking out loiterers seeking shelter from the rain. I must have looked strange. A big foreign guy walking through the rain in Southern China must have been out of place for the people who saw me. In China, Chinese people don’t just see you. They observe you. I was being observed by thousands of eyes, young and old. Sometimes it can make you feel like a zoo animal, just something to be seen. However, the roles would change that evening, and I would become the watcher. My uncle was getting ready for bed. I decided to take a stroll in the beautiful weather; well, beautiful in my eyes, at least. After walking in the cool weather for about thirty minutes, I decided to get something warm to drink. I walked into a tea house and ordered a small glass of Oolong tea. As I sat there, with my hands cupped over the tea like it was a great hearth, I thought deeply about my life and the beauty that was before me. After I had finished a few cups of my tea, the waitress asked “Do you want another sir?” I didn’t, so she told me,“Here is your check, you can pay at the counter.” This was a polite way to rush me out so they could get the next person in. So I complied and departed from the tea house. Tea, at least good tea, makes one feel different. The only feeling I can compare it to is similar to when the dentist gives you laughing gas. I felt light, warm, and slightly drowsy. At that point I decided to walk back to the hotel and call it a night. I took a different route on the way back. I passed through alleyways. I went through apartment complexes in an attempt to stay dry. About a block away from the hotel, I saw something very upsetting that caught my eye. In an alley, I saw an elderly woman lying down under an awning. She was sleeping on cardboard. It was the first time I had ever seen such poverty. She seemed severely malnourished. She was balled up to keep warm, as she didn’t
have a blanket or a coat on. The shop she was sleeping next to was closing. Through the window I could see the owner pulling down the metal sheet for the door. Then I saw the owner of the shop walk up to her and shoo her off. He nudged her with his shoe until she woke up and he told her to get lost. She wasn’t surprised; she wasn’t angry. She had no response. It was obvious that this was a routine occurrence for her. Then she folded her cardboard bed and put it in a trash bag. She shuffled out of the shelter of the awning and back into the rain, and trudged on through the alleyway. At this point I was staring at the shop owner. He lit a cigarette and folded his arms. His purple and black lips pursed as he puffed a ball of smoke and proceeded to let out a deep cough. I didn’t want to stare at him, but I had to. After a few moments he glanced over at me and said, “What the hell is this foreigner looking at?” I didn’t say a word. I wanted to tell him he was a jerk and that woman wasn’t hurting anything to sleep under the awning – but I didn’t. I walked away like I always do. Then I thought to try to catch up with that woman. I wanted to give her some money, so she could at least buy a blanket. The rain had stopped by now, and the gutters were pouring out a mix of dust, dirt, and water that the rain had released from the rooftops. The streets were filled with black soot. The temperature started to become increasingly humid. I walked down the alley for a few minutes in search of the woman, but I couldn’t find her. I was willing to give her everything I had in my wallet. I didn’t need it. I could get more in the morning. I got back to the hotel and took a hot shower. Afterwards I got under the covers and tried to sleep. Then I felt a deep guilt within me. My stomach turned and contorted as I thought about it. Like the Chinese did to foreigners, all I did was watch. I could have helped her. I tried to console myself by thinking maybe she wouldn’t accept my help. I didn’t want her to feel like I pitied her. I didn’t. I sympathized with her. No matter how much I tried to think about something else, the image of her being kicked was burned into my retinas. The beautiful, cool night that I started my walk on turned into a crucible – a crucible that I failed. I had made myself miserable with my own inaction.
First Place Digital Art: Untitled by Alvin Siow Blind Blue Taste By Zaniesha Davis She closed her eyes and hoped for the best, knowing, now, that she couldn’t avoid the worst. She chose to intake what she thought was safe to indulge. After all, she couldn’t see any immediate harm. What happened on her palette was unexplainable – no longer a mystery. Although it started off dry, it ended gritty and juicy. But, it’s not over as she contemplates on her blinded choice to sink her teeth into temporary sweetness. The blissful flavor has slowly faded. Her eyes open. She has put a blueberry in her belly.
Bunnies for Christmas by Camille Caparas Resentment By Joy Robertson “Joy, are you almost ready? We won’t have much time if you don’t hurry and get dressed,” my mother yelled. “I’m coming!” I dug deep into the layers of clothes in my drawer, that moments earlier were neatly folded. Does this match? I wondered. I held a multicolored shirt up to my chest, while comparing the contrast of the loud 1980’s spandex shorts I had on. At six years of age, I just couldn’t understand matching. “Joy, your mother is ready to leave,” my grandmother directed up the stairs. “I’m almost ready,” I yelled down. Well, I like this shirt and these shorts, I thought, as I twisted my torso, examining every angle in the mirror.
“Joy!” This must be matching I decided; I grabbed my purse, which was an oversized rabbit that appeared to be running in midair. His back unzipped for convenient access to all the necessities: plastic keys, a mirror, brush, and wallet containing only change. I walked backwards down our stairs, using my arms and legs as if descending down a ladder; I had not quite mastered their steepness. My bedroom was on the second floor, across from my mother’s, but it was only used for playing. Sleeping occurred downstairs between my grandparents. “Joy, do you remember what I’ve taught you about matching?” my grandmother asked, as she looked me up and down. “Yes,” I answered defensively. “Honey, your shirt is wrinkled too. Let’s go and pick out another outfit.” My mom came to my rescue, “We’re already running late, and if we wait too much longer, she won’t be able to see all the sights on our trolley ride. She looks fine.” After a short drive, we arrived downtown, parked, and walked to a trolley stop to wait. It was a warm day, but I never felt hot, only the increasing chill of the air and my company. My mother was older in her 40s, with black hair, fair skin and freckles, quite opposite from my own appearance. Family members always told me that we look nothing alike, but our eye color was the same. We both had green eyes, the color of love. My mother felt an infinite amount of love for animals, but she loved people more limitedly. She had been manipulated and hurt by many, my father included. The look of anxiety and shyness exuded from every pore in her body. When sitting she slumped her shoulders and head forward, never comfortable in her own skin. My maternal grandparents adopted me at six months old, adding to the tension with my mother. She was both jealous of my grandmother’s relationship with me as a replacement mother, but also the closeness I shared with my grandpa as his daughter, something deeper than her own relationship with him. She unknowingly burdened me with her resentment and anger. We heard and soon saw a trolley slowly approaching. “Is that as fast as it goes?” I asked my mother. “Um, yeah, I think so, Joy.”
“Oh,” I said half disappointed, “I thought it would go a little faster.” “It’s not a ride; it’s a form of transportation. People use the trolley to get around downtown. No one wants to be scared.” I did, imagining a ride at Disney World where the trolley was a giant enclosed roller coaster, speeding up and down hills, around sharp corners, and coming to screeching halts to pick up passengers. “It will feel faster once we’re on board,” mother explained. “Really?” I excitedly asked. She had spoken the sentence which allowed my imagination to soar. I imagined sitting on the trolley, the driver flipping a switch labeled supersonic, and shoulder straps appearing and dropping down from the ceiling, just so everyone could remain safely on board. I wished it would go upside down like the Revolution at Liberty Land, a ride I desperately wanted to ride in order to show up my friend Jasmine, who met the height requirements. Why couldn’t this be my first upside-down roller coaster? We should have gone to Liberty Land, I thought. “Toot toot!” The trolley driver pulled down on the horn. “He’s almost here!” I yelled, forgetting about my discontent seconds earlier. I grabbed my mother’s hand. “Okay, get back from the tracks.” Using her arm, she nudged me backwards. He wasn’t going that fast, I thought. The trolley stopped in front of us, and by pulling a lever on the floor, the driver opened the doors. I began inching forward, looking at the trolley and back at my mother, anticipating an order to stop, somewhat tiptoeing in order to avoid detection. I looked at my mother. She scanned the trolley, watching passengers exit. She said nothing, so I didn’t hesitate and ran for the open door of the trolley. “Wait!” She clothes-lined me again, and pulled me backward off the step, mouthing apologies to people getting off the trolley. “Okay!” I loudly reacted to her unnecessary roughness. Once it was our turn to board, I rushed to find a suitable seat. “Not this one,” I gripped the back of the seat, “or this one,” I touched a seat several rows back, “Maybe this one,” I sat down, and slid close to the window. My mom instantly followed, sitting right beside me. “I don’t want to sit here if you sit next to me.” I stood up in protest.
“Joy, please sit down.” She grabbed my hand in an attempt at further control. “No Momma. I’m big!” I snatched my hand away and walked to the next seat back. “I want to sit here; the window’s open.” “Okay,” she humored me, exhausted by her motherly duties. The trolley moved slowly through downtown. I sat kneeling in my seat, enjoying the cool air blowing off the river, on an otherwise warm day. I pressed my fingers against the lowered glass, reaching my arms farther out of the trolley window, wanting to touch that which I knew my mother would not want me to. “Keep your hands in your lap!” she snapped, swiveling backwards in her seat. “You could lose an arm.” Resting her hand close to her armpit, as if she was about to do the chicken dance, she rubbed her elbow, lifting it up and down to simulate a missing limb. “Joy, it’s not funny. You think everything is a game.” She never smiled. I pulled my arms back in, until she turned away, then I resumed enjoying the feeling of the wind swirling down to my fingertips and back up to my elbows. I didn’t like to listen to my mother; I didn’t think she had very good ideas, and children want answers. I thought back to last year’s birthday party. I was given a book and cassette tape on the life and extinction of dinosaurs. An educational birthday present, rarely anyone’s favorite; in fact, I think the only worse present would be one of those craft sets that was far too difficult for their prescribed age group. Those gifts, upon receipt, would be placed in a closet until they could be regifted, ideally, not to the original giver. Following my party, we brought the presents home. My mom helped me to organize them in my room. She was almost instantly drawn to the dinosaur book. “Joy, you’re not allowed to play with this toy,” she said pulling herself up off the floor. “This is against God’s teaching and thus of the devil, so I will dispose of it.” “What? No, that was a gift, to me. It’s mine,” sniffling and with a quick wipe of the sleeve, I dried the tears of attachment. “No, this is not appropriate for you.” She left the room and kept the book. She created a huge issue out of something I probably never would have played
with. I spent months looking for that toy. Everyday, before she arrived home from work I would search her room, looking in every potential hiding place. I eventually found it hidden under sweatshirts in a drawer. I remember feeling somewhat annoyed that I had spent so much time looking, and it was hidden in the first place I should have looked. She never noticed I took it. “Look, there’s the river; it’s so big!” I was amazed by the width of the Mississippi that becomes truly visible from the elevated view of the train tracks. Silence from my mom. The trolley made the Riverfront Loop and started back down Main St. towards our car, stopping periodically to let people get on and off. The breaks squeaked, echoing through the trolley as we came to a halt along the Main St. Mall. I studied the vacant and crumbling structures, while taking advantage of the stop to stick part of my torso out of the window. “Sit your bottom in your seat.” She turned her neck, peering the rest of the way with her strained eyes, only for a second to bark an order. “The trolley is stopped, mother.” “Okay,” she sighed, not even willing to exert the energy to turn back around. I smiled, having got my way, which was rare with my mother. She usually smothered me with worry. I turned back to the window to see what was holding us up. Leaning out, I looked to the front where people were getting on and off. “Why is it taking so long? I’m ready to start moving again.” I tapped the side of my seat, waiting for her response, even though I already knew the answer. “It takes time for everyone to get on and off.” I pulled myself back up and out of the window to inspect the progress, and noticed the trolley driver jogging into a small deli. I was frustrated; I breathed heavy, and noticed a man walking towards the trolley. I looked past him, still scanning for our driver. The man had disheveled gray and white hair with a long full beard. He wore a military style jacket with a t-shirt underneath bearing the words, “Read the Bible,” across the front.
Was this man some kind of preacher? I wondered. He was carrying a Bible, shouting passages at those of us on the trolley. I was intrigued. I watched him violently wave the Bible through the air. He must be a preacher trying to find some new converts. His tone sounded strangely familiar, and reminded me of many of the sermons I had heard while visiting and array of churches with my mother. “Hi little girl,” the man now stood right in front of the window supporting my outstretched body. He muttered and rambled apocalyptically about God. His words were incoherent. Then, the man reached towards me with both hands. I was frozen, shocked that he was so close and trying to grab my arms. “Do you want to come home with me, little girl?” The man asked, even though this was not really a question, because he didn’t wait for my response. He clasped his sweaty hands around my wrists, sliding them farther up my arm with each tug. My lips trembled with fear, and tears began to wet my cheeks. I lurched backward against his pull with every ounce of strength in my small body, and yet I was still moving out of the window and toward the man. My imagination was no longer my friend. I am getting kidnapped. He’s going to kill me, I thought. Still unable to scream, the man had now pulled me far enough to grasp my armpits, for one last lift, up and out of the trolley. The tunnel vision began to subside; I felt anxious hands on the back of my shirt, and ultimately, my waist. My mother came to my rescue. She pulled me back into the trolley, and shut the window, in what seemed like one motion. I breathed heavy and my heart pounded against my rib cage. I fixed my bewildered gaze on her yellow-green eyes that matched mine, begging for an explanation or reason for what had just happened. My mother blew out a breath trying to bring calm to the intensity of the moment. “He needs to read the Bible!” This is the clarity she provided for my confusion and terror. Needless to say, for the rest of the ride I had no interest in hanging out the window and sat quietly on the seat next to my mother, only shifting occasionally to turn and check that we weren’t being followed. She didn’t seem worried.
Once in the car, I was tormented by my thoughts. I decided the man looked like a truck driver, and every trucker who drove near us raised my suspicion that we were being followed. I was convinced this man was a kidnapper; I was his target, and that he would relentlessly search until he found me, and then I would never see my grandparents again. “Joy, let’s not tell your grandparents about that man. It might scare them, and they might not let me take you out again.” “I won’t.” I don’t know why I agreed. And I didn’t talk about it.
The Ghosts’ Hall by Paulena Passmore
I Call on the Bird by Emily Phillips
First Place Prose: Look Away By Madeline Faber How much longer could this possibly last? I snort with the horses that whinny along either side of this tragic crowd. This isn’t heat. The sun’s indignation backs the church staple folding chairs. The female reenactors murmur like moths with black lace fans. One stands below the giant magnolia tree of Forrest Park swaying gently in her heavy mourning gown. My pantyhose are righteously adhered to my thighs. The elastic swells with sweat and cuts into my gut. Everyone jokes about celebrating General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s birthday in July, Memphis’s cruelest month. There isn’t much else to joke about. My grandmother swats at my bare arm. Our party of seventy or so rises to salute the Confederate flag. In addition to the widows of Confederate ghosts with their empty hoopskirts, there are gray-uniformed soldiers with longbarreled muskets, the people who petition history books, their cascades of badges and loyalties glinting unmoving in this heat. Barefoot children are spilling lemonade and a disconcerting biker gang hovers a bit beyond the haze. My toes are pinched from conforming to pointed shoes, but I know from all of the godforsaken Sundays here since I was a child that we’ll break for chatter and sugar cookies once Dixie is roused. Women with collars buttoned to dripping chins clutch wreaths and flags. At a signal from the band, they lay them at the base of that bronze cavalryman. I feel a tug at my yellow sheath dress. “It just shames me so. Those fake wreaths are so tacky. Our chapter only uses fresh flowers, you remember that, now. I’ll come down from my resting place if you ever lay fake flowers on my grave.” I nod to my grandmother. Or at her, rather, because I can’t see past the brimming bows of her sun hat. She shakes her straw crown three times vigorously. The crowd hollers, and I know we’re already on the last verse. My grandmother holds her hat and swings it. In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie. Away, away, away down south in Dixie. Everybody cheers and the little kids run up the aisle waving their chopstick flags. The 52nd Regimental String Band of the Sons of Confederate Veterans adjust their ascots and launch into something rollicking. I note the police car parked behind the statue. There’s one every year. To keep trouble down, I guess,
but it’s pointless because there’s a militia here anyway. My grandmother wants to speak with a bearded general on a tawny horse. “A good man,” she knots her uncompromising wrinkles in sincerity. “And always good to your grandfather.” I remember the last time we took my grandfather to the park. He was humming then about what he was going to plant for a season thirty years ago. My heart was heavier than the air, so I left him in the car with the AC running. He didn’t even know where we were. I support my grandmother over treacherously exposed tree roots. Don’t be mistaken; she’s a strong woman. There’s a Dillinger in her ten gallon purse this moment, I’d bet. She blew out the hearing in one ear years ago from time at the shooting range. She’s a perfect shot. She knows her target, but she can’t listen to anything that doesn’t flow in that direction. She stops to dab her brow with an embroidered handkerchief and launches into a familiar diatribe. “Listen to me, now. This country wants to write us out of history. You don’t just carry your ancestors’ name. You bear their cause. Young people now have no sense of place. You have to stay rooted and faithful to your past, Katherine. Do you hear me?” I say yes ma’am. We encounter a cluster of cooing women in snoods and drooping shawls. Like mosquitoes they swarm around us. It’s soft and unobjectable, of course, but they recognize young blood. These flags won’t fly another generation without inculcation. My grandmother beams. “This is my beautiful granddaughter, Katherine. Today is her eighteenth birthday.” The ladies ruffle their enormous skirts in delight. I shake each of their gloved hands. “This is Missus Mary Anne Williamson. She’s president of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Arkansas chapter. You should be expecting her DAR papers, Mary Anne, now that she’s of age.” I nod to Missus Williamson. When I was a child, I thought these women were some kind of fairy princesses. She has a melodious voice and speaks to me like a blessing. I feel a similar comfort. “Eighteen years old, my, oh my, what a special time indeed. You are a beautiful young woman like your grandmother has always told us. And smart too, I’m sure, just like her. You must be looking at nice colleges.”
I tell her that I sent in my application to Dartmouth and Middlebury. She tilts her head, and the women float away. I spy one later in the afternoon, her gloves neatly folded, bending unashamedly over a piece of watermelon. I turn around, and my grandmother’s lips are pressed thin. She speaks quickly. “I’ve told your mother I won’t pay for any Yankee school. They think differently from us up there. They are different from us. You can go to Vanderbilt like she did and I did before her. You’re better than that.” Her edicts and that echo To live and die in Dixie infect me. I say yes ma’am, but – I suddenly feel light-headed under the oppressive heat. The reflection off the General’s statue is blinding. I look up at that monolith. Beyond all of this ritual, the papers, the pins, the thirty-gun salute, his stern eyes see cause. Sometimes I wish I could feel that anthem, to pledge to anything “my life, reverence, and undying remembrance.” I can feel a fever shudder. I know I need to sit down, but I can’t stand those sticky off-white chairs another moment. Before I know what’s possessed me, I’ve taken off my shoes. My grandmother howls. I’m walking through the dirt. I’m throwing my leg over the magnolia branch. I’m tearing my tights. I’m straining my arms. I’m pulling my knees to my chest and tucking in my nose. I look the General right in the eye.
Untitled by Marie Joiner
Man XI by LaDarrious Dortch
Why Did God Choose Me? By Sara Swisher Every day I see people suffering. Every day I see people who are worse off than me. On the corner, a homeless man sleeping in a cardboard box. At the bus stop, a little girl with a mother covered with track marks. At the grocery store, a little boy with bruises from his father. Why did God choose me? Why am I not the one suffering? Why am I not the one sleeping in a cardboard box like the homeless man on the corner? We don’t choose the circumstances we are born into. Why was I born with good ones? Why am I not the little girl with a mother addicted to drugs? Am I just lucky? Is life all about luck? Why can’t the little boy with bruises be lucky? Why did God choose me? Am I supposed to give that homeless man a coat? Or hug that girl with the mother who’s a drug addict? Or be a good role model to the abused boy? Am I the one to lift these people up?
Untitled by Alexis Blum
ď §First Place Poetry: Roma By Danielle Morris The grape plucked from the vine sours on my tongue; The cry of the eagle rings sharp bells in my ears. The ruddy pastures toss about in the wind, Kicks brittle dirt into my eyes. Signs of scuffle still linger along the paths, A history that the wind will carry away, Erase from memory, obliterate from the records. High noon rises; This land is bitter, resentful. The allure of beauty long since gone dwindles, Citizens becoming immune, restless, complacent. Corruption leaks into the streets, Infests the purest of intentions, Oozes between breaking families. Nothing remains sacred. Everything falls to ruin. Requiescat in pace.
Time to Relax by Christini Fernando
Tete-Tris by DesireĂŠ Mitchell
The Storm By Jennifer Sharp Will someone please tell me when this storm will end ‘cause I cannot take no more of this pain. These frightening thoughts are running rapid through my brain. I feel like I’m at my wit’s end. Everything I tried leads me to a dead end. I’m always in a panic, worried about who’s there for me and who’s not. “Will you be there, or will you leave me when I’m distraught?’” That’s the question I ask myself every day. This paranoia and stress has my mind going astray. I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind In life, I feel like I’m getting left behind. As I’m washing my sorrows away with my tears, I wait for something or someone to take me away from this storm.
First Place Fine Art: Full Moon Phase by Hannah Nelson
Second Place Prose: I Can’t By Amber Lipford I grew up hearing that I can’t all the time. No one believed in me. And if they did believe, I never heard a mumbling word from them. Looking back on my life, I see that I could have, I should have, I would have if someone would have believed in me, if someone would have invested the time, the love, the patience with me. No one cared, because I did not matter. It did not matter. It did not matter what I did, what I became (as long as it made me a lot of money), what I said, what I did not say, what I wore (just as long as it was pretty.) But when do those things ever matter? I wanted to be a writer so badly. I wanted to write historical fiction novels. I remember the words so vividly that I had drawn together to create what was like a beautiful start to a bright future, but somewhere along the lines, I stopped. I stopped writing. I stopped believing. I stopped caring. Maybe it was because no one cared. No one noticed. No one showed any interest. No one wanted to care. Maybe that’s what it was. Or maybe it was school. Maybe it was my social life that I wanted to work on, but did not have the guts to. I wonder all the time how it would be if I had kept on writing despite what anyone said or thought. What would my writing be like now? What would my life be like? Would I have a better life because I knew where I would fit in? I would fit in perfectly with those who knew how to express themselves on paper and as time drew on, knew how to express themselves in person. The soul who wrote, who put her all into her writing, has died and as much as I want to resurrect her, it is just not working. I don’t have the time now. I don’t have the drive now. I don’t have the materials now. I don’t have the passion now. Since everyone else stopped caring and stopped believing, I did too. I know now the words “I can’t.” I married them early in my childhood. I live under the same rooftop as them. We created the children “I don’t,” “I won’t,” and “I’m not” and those kids follow me around everywhere. Never give me a breath. Never allow me to just sit alone and think. Never allow me to follow those dreams I have always had.
One day soon, I shall divorce “I can’t” and these horrible children. I can’t stay here anymore. I can’t keep living under a roof where my dreams can’t reach the front door. I can’t live my life on a leash. I just can’t.
Johnathan by Alexis Blum Dream Big By Tachele Anderson I never knew that dreams came in sizes Just like jeans fit to thighs and Necks fit through ties, they Come in sizes, see I Came to this realization the other day when A nearby salesmen told me that my dream was the wrong size. I was aiming too high, reaching for the sky When the dome of this one story home was the limit,
For me at least. I swore confidently that I wouldn’t cease until I reached my dreams His eyes seemed to laugh at me, unbelievingly, Staring down his nose, analyzing me from head to toe Sizing me up before saying, “No.” Apparently my dream didn’t fit. The measurements needed adjusting, a little touching Up. They were too much for me to handle, Or so he said. The man led me to a smaller rack, Fed me lines of what I lack And more hurtful, what I had. The melanin that’s collected in my skin Was a blemish, as was my estrogen. He was tryin’ everything he could To daunt my intentions, but as I mentioned I dream big excessively, and I wouldn’t be deterred From my aspirations. I wouldn’t be coerced into concurrin’, I am her, the One who opposes, who chose to Search for somethin’ to aspire for, Conspire to achieve. Something to attack and pick at until I bleed …like the day-old laceration A child’s sole infatuation, worked at with desperation And unmatched determination. I am she, and I am me. So you be you, be the light that’s shinin’ Even when they argue that the dream you’re buyin’ Is too big to fit. Let them know that you’ll grow into it. That’s what I did.
Note To Self By Maneesha Palipane Words and thoughts Use them with caution What you think Is what you do most of the time. What you say is seldom What your actions will follow Aspire to inspire people With your character, and behavior Not your appearance. The beauty lies within. Don't be the judge of others But let them judge you Because over time People who matter to you Will know who you are. The real you. Speak your mind out-loud, Let alone how insane it may sound. Because meaningful feelings defeat Empty thoughts hands down. Don't bear all the worries in the world Don't feel like it's all descending on you Because it's not. If there's a problem, Cry a little, and go fix it. Because every little problem Has a solution. Learn to smile Through all the tears To laugh, through all the pain To learn, through all the heartaches. Because at the end of the road, Someday, As you look back,
You will connect the dots, And feel thankful For everything For molding you into who you are!
Fleeting by Valerie Mills
the nature of the colored man By Amber Lipford They like to relive history Never taking out the mystery Of what the future COULD hold Deeply dug into their own misery Saying it’s a conspiracy Because of what? Their ignorance of bliss The targets they missed The pain they kissed “No, this is just a list of some shit you made up, some thoughts you dreamed up.” It is so depressing to see a race Get so close to the sun, So close to where they can feel the heat Inch up their skin Only for them to look how far they’ve come Only for them to see how far from home They really where And fall back down “there” There, where the depression lies There, where fears arise There, where love and hope die There, where the babies won’t stop crying There, where the child ALWAYS stops trying The comfort zone they call home A place where they are never alone Someone is always willing to fail Someone is always willing to tell Someone is always willing to bail Someone is always willing to yell “free my friend from that cell” How about you free yourself
From your home, better known as hell? They never amount to anything Because they are stuck in a never-ending rut Of despair. Well, it’s the nature of the colored man.
Second Place Digital Art: Untitled by Alicia Russell
Grime By Danielle Morris “We should get a puppy,” said Dixie. Her ponytail slipped over her shoulder and tickled his nose as she leaned over the back of the couch and hugged him around his neck. “Like a lab or a shepherd. A little one. I think it would liven this place up.” “A puppy?” Alex rubbed her arm. “Why do you want a puppy?” “Who doesn'ʹt want a puppy?” She laughed and tightened her hold. “I would imagine people who are allergic to animal dander don'ʹt want a puppy.” She laughed again. “It'ʹs a good thing neither of us are allergic, then.” He pushed her hair out of his face. “We should get a puppy because we'ʹre not allergic to dogs?” “No, we should get a puppy because we want one.” Dixie released him, but only to step to the side and somersault over the back of the sofa. She came to a rest with her legs crossed on the cushion, facing him and beaming. “Do we?” “Well, duh. Who doesn'ʹt want a puppy when they'ʹve got a big house and a big yard?” Squeezing her knee, Alex said, “I would imagine people who don'ʹt want their yard and furniture ruined don'ʹt want a puppy.” “Alexander.” Dixie huffed, but she was still smiling. The dimples in her cheeks winked at him. “It'ʹs true.” His hand slid up to her thigh. “Why do you want a puppy?” She caught his wandering fingers, pinching each of his knuckles. “I just think it'ʹs time for us to get a puppy, you know?” “Time?” he repeated. One of his dark eyebrows rose, disappearing into his wispy bangs. “Yeah.” She rubbed his hand between both of hers, and for a moment, she fingered his wedding band. “We'ʹve got stability. Maybe it'ʹs time to make our family bigger.” “Aren'ʹt both of us enough?” Alex glanced around their living room. For a moment, he pictured his beautiful house besmirched here and there with bits of mud, scuffs, and gates in every doorway. It would be a losing battle to keep the
puppy way from the nice furniture. Dixie wouldn't keep it off the sofa or out of the bed. She wouldn't even keep her own feet of the coffee table. “We could have more.” Her voice had softened. “Our family could be bigger, more complete. We could be happier.” “With a puppy?” “Or whatever addition we want to add.” Her fingers caressed his wrist. “You want a cat instead?” Alex asked. He pulled his hand from her grip. “I like kittens.” He stood, looking over his living room again. Scratched door frames and mutilated cushions? No, thank you. “I don'ʹt want a cat,” he said, passing the flat screen on the wall. He walked for the kitchen. “And I don'ʹt want a puppy, either.” Dixie threw her feet over the side of the couch and followed him. “Why not?” “I like my house undestroyed, my yard landscaped, and my air smelling fresh, not like wet dog or cat litter.” Alex opened the refrigerator. Dixie'ʹs arms crossed as he poured himself a glass of water. “So, you don't want to make a few sacrifices?” “No, I don'ʹt. We'ʹre fine as we are.” “You never want to make our family bigger?” His eyes met hers over his glass of water. The sunlight streaming in from the window caught the single slice of cucumber he'd added. For a crisp, fresh taste, he told her. Even his water was snooty. “No,” he said. “I like my house the way it is.” “A house is meant to be lived in.” “And we live in our house.” “And the two spare rooms?” “Are for when our parents visit.” Alex took his glass to the dish sanitizer. He hated when she called it a dishwasher. “I don'ʹt want anything from you but for you to think about it,” said Dixie, scowling. “I will.” “Fine.” She turned away from him. It was a warm day; she should be spending it outside. “I'ʹll be back in a little while.” “Wipe your feet before you come back in.”
She didn't bother putting on shoes or socks before she went outside. She didn't bother responding to him either. She didn't make promises she didn't keep, and she always gave in to what he wanted, but it would be much more satisfying to walk on his sparkling wooden floors with dirty toes.
Let It Sleep by Camille Caparas
Untitled by Alvin Siow
Second Place Poetry: Running Errands By Candace Lester The frozen rain stings my face, as my forgotten umbrella is coated in ice. The cold of the bench seeps through my layers Reaching between my ribs leaving the space between hollow. I wonder can you see me, I pray you can’t. The tears stopped yesterday. I sit in the freezing rain remembering the first twenty minutes of your life. Free from tubes or needles, No pain or medication, no blue veneer over grey skin. Tomorrow I will forget that you will not be there when I get to your room, my hands freshly scrubbed, to mold your tiny fingers around mine and disappear into a moment.
Glamour by Christini Fernando
ď §Second Place Fine Art: Mourning Elegance by DesireĂŠ Mitchell
Third Place Poetry: HAIKU By Amanda Shaeffer Morning ritual: Reading the bumper stickers Down the aisles of cars. I'm on top of things; It's all planned out—What? I thought That test was NEXT week! Commuter student— “Which guard will I see today?”— Pulls through a gateway. With tax, that comes to Just exactly two cents More Than I have in cash. That vending machine Neither knows nor cares that it Ate my last dollar. Soror and frater . . . It seems funny how Latin Names things that are Greek. Dash across campus, Climb the stairs, only to learn Class has been canceled. The elevator Takes its sweet time, as always: Hurry up and wait.
A popular course— One minute after midnight, Sign up, nab a spot.
Parking by Camille Caparas
Third Place Prose: Lost and Found By Sarah Longoria My tooth was loose, on the right side, bottom row. I nudged the back of it with my tongue, feeling it wiggle in place with each little push. And then it fell out. I jumped, then spat it into my hand. Uh oh. I clenched my fist around it and ran. I slipped on the rug in the hall, almost falling, banged my elbow on the bathroom doorway, crashed into the sink, jerked the light switch on, leaned into the mirror, and opened my mouth. There it was. A gap where my tooth had been. Why? I wondered. I’d just started college; I’d lost my last baby tooth five or six years ago… Then the tooth right next to the gap fell out too. I spat it into my hand with the other one. Oh shit, I thought as I winced at the gaping hole in my teeth. What the hell was I going to do?
No sooner had the question crossed my mind then all of my teeth began to fall over like dominoes. One after another after another and another. I tried to hold them in place with my fingers, but it was no use. I bent over the sink, gagging. Saliva oozed out of my lips and my teeth clattered on the white porcelain—clank-clank, clank. I couldn’t count how many teeth; I couldn’t think; I couldn’t breathe; my heart was beating so hard, I thought it might burst through my chest. And then my entire body jolted, and my eyes flashed open. Darkness. I clamped my hand on my mouth; I could feel my teeth. Then, I remembered to breathe. With each punch my heart made, I took in a sharp breath. The combination made my chest sting. It was only a nightmare. It’s okay. It isn’t real. You still have all your teeth. It’s okay, Sarah. It’s okay. I kept repeating these things in my head, over and over again. Eventually, my heart settled down, my breathing slowed, and I fell back asleep. But it wasn’t okay. This wasn’t the first time this nightmare had haunted me. It wasn’t the second time, either. I couldn’t count how many nights I had sprung awake horrified, because I thought I had lost all of my teeth. It pursued me by day, too. I walked around worrying—what if I was to trip and bust my teeth on the concrete? I could feel the shockwaves traveling through my teeth; I could hear the shattering sound they would make; I could see the shards lying on the concrete—and it sent shivers down my spine. I remember my first loose tooth. The first time I noticed it wiggle in my mouth, I hopped up and down and ran to find Momma. “Look! Look!” I pointed to my tooth. “It’s loose, Momma! It’s loose!” I grinned. In the week that followed, when I wasn’t eating, talking, or sleeping, I was working on that loose tooth—pushing it back and forth with my tongue. This worked well. After a while, it got hard to eat. I would place my food on the left side of my mouth away from my loose tooth, and chew gently, making sure I didn’t bite down on it. Leaning my head to the left made it a little easier, but it still took an awful long time. I narrowed my eyes and scrunched up my nose, focusing.
My mom noticed. “Sarah, why are you eating like that? Is it your tooth? It’s okay if you eat on it. That will help it come out.” I shook my head. No way. That might be bad. That might hurt. After dinner, Momma called me over. “Let me see your tooth, Sarah.” I didn’t move. “I promise I won’t touch it. I just want to take a look.” “You promise?” I cried from across the room. “I promise.” “Really?” “Really. I promise.” I inched towards her, crossing my arms around my little body. She placed one hand on my back and the other underneath my chin. “Okay, sweetie, open up.” I hesitated for a moment, then did as she said. Her hand went straight for my tooth. I shrieked and tried to run away, but her hand on my back had me trapped. I felt a great pressure on my tooth, a sharp twinge, and then a spurt of something warm and metallic. “Ouch!” I clasped my mouth. “There, it’s all over now. Wasn’t that easy?” I looked up at her and lowered my eyebrows. “Here, look,” she took my hand and dropped my tooth in it. “Now the tooth fairy can come and see you.” My eyebrows shot up and my heart leaped. The tooth fairy! I cradled the little, white tooth in my hand. “When will the tooth fairy come? Where do I put my tooth? How will she know where to find it? How much do you think she will give me?” My mom smiled, and I smiled back. I never let her look at my loose teeth again. I learned how to rip them out on my own after that. In second grade, I learned from the kids at school that I had buck teeth, and I learned that that was bad. “What’s wrong with your teeth?” “Your teeth stick out.” “Why can’t you close your lips over your teeth?”
“Your teeth look funny.” “I want teeth just like Sarah’s!” They joked and laughed about it. But it wasn’t funny. Not at all. I hated my teeth. And I hated going to school. I felt like everyone was always watching me, always looking at my teeth, always laughing at me. I stopped answering questions in class; stopped talking to people I didn’t know well; stopped trying to make friends. I didn’t want people to see me. I tried to make my lips go over my teeth. I tried so hard. But they just wouldn’t. Sometimes at night, I put my fingers on my teeth and pushed as hard as I could. I thought that maybe if I pushed hard enough and long enough, my teeth would go back. Even just a little bit. That Christmas, Mom and Dad bought me a “My Twinn” doll, named Sarah, just like me. I squealed and bounced up and down when I unwrapped her. Then I danced around my Dad while he took her out of the box. I snatched her up into my lap. Her little legs squeaked as I bent them into a sitting position. I stroked her long blonde hair; it was the same shade as mine and soft; she even had my bangs. I touched her hazel eyes; they were plastic, but they were the same color as mine. I ran my fingers over her smooth face, stopping at the bottom left side on two brown specks; those were the same two freckles I had. Then I traced her pink, closed lips. She was beautiful. She came with two matching outfits—one for her and one for me—shirts with green, blue, and purple stripes with long sleeves and curly cuffs, khaki jumpers, and blue scrunchies. I scurried to the bathroom to change my clothes, so I could look just like her. We wore our outfits to Nanny’s house that day for Christmas dinner. I carried Sarah in my arms, beaming. She and I went up to everyone in my family and gave them hugs and kisses, then we went down to the den with the other kids. I sat on the couch with my cousins, placed Sarah on my lap and folded my arms around her.
“Your doll is so pretty, Sarah!” my cousin, Emily, said. “She looks just like you!” “Yeah, except her teeth don’t stick out,” another cousin laughed. Emily gasped, “Don’t say that! That’s mean.” “But it’s true!” I stopped smiling and placed my doll on the couch beside me. I wished I had left her at home. Third grade was worse than second grade. I was in Mrs. Walsh’s class, and I sat next to Ryan. Ryan had tan skin, a big head, black hair, and brown eyes that were spaced a little too close together. It started out as an innocent game. He said something, and I repeated it. He said something else, and I repeated that as well. “Quit copying me!” he said. “Quit copying me!” I said. “Stop it!” “Stop it!” Back and forth and back and forth. “I have buck teeth!” My heart stopped, and I lost my breath. A sharp pang pierced the back of my throat. I had never said that before. I couldn’t say that. No. I could never say that. I looked up at Ryan. He was smirking, and his eyes were gleaming. He knew. I did the only thing I could: I pretended I didn’t hear him. “What? What did you say?” He seized the opportunity and sang back, “What? What did you say?” He had won the game, but that was okay. I was done playing. The summer before fourth grade, my mom took me to the orthodontist to get braces. First, they took a lot of pictures. That made me cringe.
Then they had to take molds of my teeth. I crawled into the cold, pleather seat and swung my feet back and forth while I waited. The dental assistant came in and asked me what flavor I wanted. I told her cherry. Cherry sounded like a good idea. It wasn’t. She spread a heaping gob of pink putty into a mouthpiece, and then told me to open wide. The cold slime sunk into the cracks between my teeth, gushed over my gums, and threatened to crawl down my throat. I thought I was going to throw up. “Don’t move,” she walked out of the room and shut the door behind her. I laid back and waited. Minutes passed like hours. I couldn’t swallow, so my mouth slowly filled up with cherry spit; it slid down the back of my throat. I was drowning. My fingernails dug into the arm rests of my chair. I clenched my eyes shut and tried to think of something else—braces, I’m getting braces, that’s nice, my teeth will look so good, I’m drowning, maybe I’ll get pink ones, or blue ones, perhaps green, I’m drowning, where is that lady? Is she coming back? I’m drowning, she needs to hurry up, I’m drowning, I’m drowning. The door! Thank goodness! As soon as the assistant took out the mouthpiece, I swallowed everything that was in my mouth—spit and bits of cherry goo. My stomach heaved, but I managed to keep it down. “Okay, now we’ll do the bottom row.” I started to yelp, but covered my mouth. I couldn’t wait to start fourth grade. The week before school started, I went to orientation. I bounced down the halls, looking for my name on the lists on the doors, to see which class I would be in. “Hi, Sarah!” Said a pretty girl with long blonde hair. My head whipped back, searching for another Sarah. There must be another one behind me that this girl was talking to. She was the girl everyone liked, the girl everyone wanted to be. She never talked to me. All I saw was an empty hallway. I turned back to the girl. She was looking at me.
“Hi, Courtney.” My hands clasped together, my fingers wringing each other. She smiled. “You got braces! Did you get them this summer?” “Yeah, a couple of months ago.” I breathed out. “They look really nice!” “Really?” my lips curled up. “Yeah, I like the green!” I grinned. “Thank you.” Fourth grade was going to be good. Every six weeks, I went to the orthodontist. First, I got to pick a new color for my rubber bands. Blue, purple, hot pink, orange. I’d be able to go through all the colors before I was done. Then the orthodontist would trim the wires in my mouth and tighten them until my teeth felt like they were going to explode. I usually couldn’t eat until the next day or so. Advil helped a little bit. Chocolate Frosties my mom bought me from Wendy’s helped even more. Finally, the day arrived to get my braces off. I jumped up onto the bench at the orthodontist and lay back before he had the chance to tell me to. He clipped the wires first and eased them out. Then he yanked the metal bands off of my back molars. All that was left were the brackets. They had been glued to my teeth for years. He took a metal instrument and began to scrape my teeth. He dragged the metal down my tooth until it smashed into the bracket. Then he did it again, and again, over and over until the bracket loosened enough for him to rip it off. Then he moved on to the next tooth. How many teeth did I have? I wondered. The metal screeched against my teeth. Each scrape sent jolts through my jaw. I twisted the rim of my t-shirt into two wads and clenched my fists around them. I tried to swallow the pain, but every now and then, a whimper escaped. The orthodontist kept saying it would be over soon. I hoped he was right. And I hoped I would have teeth left when he was done. After he had scraped all of the brackets and glue off, he gave me a paper cup to go and rinse my mouth out with. I hopped off the bench and filled my cup up at the sink, swishing the water around in my mouth. I spat it out and popped my head up to look in the mirror.
I recognized my face, but when I opened my mouth I saw someone I had never seen before. My heart leaped. I smiled until my face couldn’t stretch anymore and examined my teeth one by one. They were perfectly straight. I closed my lips over them and then smiled again. They were beautiful. They wanted to take pictures for my records. This time, I didn’t mind. I smiled all the time, after that. And I loved getting my picture taken. I couldn’t tell my teeth had ever stuck out. No one could. And no one—except my family and the kids I went to elementary school with—no one knew they had ever stuck out. I never talked about it with anyone. And I refused to look at pictures of myself from back then. Each time I did, my face burned and a lump rose up in the back of my throat. In my sophomore year of college, my mom asked me to speak at the fifth grade retreat she was leading called “Christian Community.” The retreat focused on different ways that we can tear down or build up the people around us. She wanted me to talk about the way I had been torn down when people made fun of my teeth. I accepted. I loved working retreats, and I wanted to help. I had never talked about being made fun of with anyone except my family before. But it had been so many years. It would be okay. Writing it all down was easy, refreshing even. When the day of the retreat arrived, I put on my dark wash jeans, blue shirt, and hot pink sweater. I slipped on a pair of sparkling earrings and my silver shoes. I decided to wear makeup that day. I got to the retreat while the kids were at lunch. My mom had packed me something to eat. I nibbled on cheese and fruit, but didn’t eat much. My stomach was churning. My heart started to speed up when the fifth graders came back. Before I saw them walk through the doors, I heard them—stampeding down the hall in a swarm of high pitched shouts and laughs. Then I saw them. There were so many, forty or fifty at least, a whole herd. When they had taken their seats, my mom shouted to quiet them down “All right everyone, listen up! We have a special person who has come to share something with you today, my daughter, Sarah.”
My heart was pounding, now. “So, let’s be respectful and listen to what she has to say.” I eased towards the front of the room, watching my feet step one in front of the other. I turned around to face the crowd of kids. My throat was drying out, so I swallowed a few times, and then I began: “Hello, my name is Sarah Longoria and I used to go to school here.” Easy, I thought. I could do this. It was okay. “There was a time when I did not like to go to school.” Remember to breathe. Take a breath. “In second and third grade.” My chest was tightening. “My classmates made fun of me because….” A sharp pain pierced the back of my throat. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t say it. Tears glossed over my eyes. I gripped the pages of my paper, trying to collect myself. Then, I noticed the silence. The only sound I could hear was my own sputtering breaths. I looked up from my pages. All of the children in the room were frozen in their seats. They were all looking at me—their eyes wide, their mouths slightly ajar. They were waiting. I looked into their eyes, one child after another. I had to say it. “My classmates made fun of me because”— my voice was a knife in my throat—“I had buck teeth.” Tears were streaming down my face. “I can remember each and every time someone called me ‘buck-toothed.’” My voice became more and more shrill. “And each and every time someone laughed at me and made faces at me.” My voice cracked. I didn’t think I could make the words come out. I looked up and my eyes met a little girl’s blue eyes. I shoved the words out. “I was so ashamed of myself. I hated myself. It was one of the worst feelings in the world.” I clamped my hand over my mouth, clenched my eyes shut, and sobbed, my whole body shaking.
Then I felt a warm hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw my mom with tears in her eyes. I took a deep breath and continued, “The hurt of being made fun of stays with you for years, but that hurt can be healed.” Tears were still dripping down my face, but my voice had softened. “We have to remember that God created all of us, and that He created us good. We are all different, but we are all good, and all lovable.” I smiled. My mom’s arms wrapped around me in a huge hug when I had finished and the children clapped for me. I walked to the back of the room and dried my face with a tissue. Later during the retreat, a little boy, about four feet tall, with black hair and tan skin, walked up to me. He looked up at me through his glasses and his brown eyes met mine. “You’re just like me,” he said. My heart melted. I let out a breath “Really?” “Yeah. It’s the same for me.” His eyes never left mine. “I’m so sorry,” I tried to keep my voice even. “It’s really hard, but it does get better.” He nodded. I smiled.
Clarity by Bianca Cowan
Don’t Give Me Some Bullshit About God Either By Jessica Richard A bright light shined in my face. It wasn’t a police person, but it reminded me of one of those God beams. Not pure white, but a yellow white that means the person has done something dirty and they’re about to be smote. It was fitting though, because I should have been blown apart into little sexcraved starved pieces. There I was minding my own business lying on a pew in the church during a youth retreat. The hard back pinned my arm fat up beneath my pit and moved all the jiggle from the bottom of my thighs around to the inside. The seats hadn’t been redone in years and just last Saturday I’d seen one of the little girls whose known for peeing on themselves sitting right where I was laying, rocking and shaking. I’d tried to make sure I didn’t end up here. My little area was all made up; I saved the only good pew and layered it with two holey comforters. My pillows where wrapped in protectors and zippered cases, and an outlet was right across from head so I could keep an eye on my phone. But wouldn’t you know, one of the old busy body abstinent chaperones had to come and make me move, because boys and girls were sleeping on opposite sides of the main aisle. By the time I’d gathered all my stuff and was ready to move, the only pew left was the piss-stained one, and I had to go about trying to find a place to lay my head between stains. “All right, let’s all be clear. There’s no funny business going on. You all stay on your side of the aisle, got that?” With her hands on her outrageously large hips, Ms. Bone had stared at us each in turn with her good eye. That was two hours ago. Now she looked down and the beam of light swung from my face to my genitals. “Oh my God, what is going on here? Jeremiah,” she said. “Jeremiah get up now. Sarah pull your pants up.” She didn’t need to say any of this. When the light hit my face, Jeremiah had tried to stand up, but tripped on the edge of my cover, fell back, and rolled away beneath the pews. I reached down to try to yank my pants up, but they got caught on something sharp and a loud rip tore through the dark. “I can’t believe what you’re doing. Sarah, I said, get up.” Ms. Bones grabbed my arm and pulled hard making waves slosh across from her fat to mine. I stood up and finished pulling my pants up while she dragged me out
into the center aisle. The lights turned on and heads starting popping up and looking around, their eyes dilated and black. “Everyone go back to bed. Turn that light off.” Her nails pinched into my arm on the word “off”. At the back of the church she found Jeremiah on his belly, wriggling back to his side the same way he had come to mine.
flashlight found his face, and he grinned briefly. A piece of hair curled in his teeth. “Uh, Ms. Bones.” “Get up, Jeremiah, and come with me. And what is that in your mouth?” He ran his tongue across his teeth and pulled out the hair with a quick move of his hand. “Nothing, just some food from earlier.” Ms. Bones grabbed his hand and pulled the piece of hair out from between his fingers. The hair twisted between her fingers in the beam of light. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised and her mouth open, but she didn’t say anything and pushed us through doors and hallways until we stood outside the pastor’s office. “You two should pray the good Lord’s forgiveness for the punishment you are to receive from Him, for this most vile of sins committed under his own roof!” With that she knocked on the door and waited for the pastor. She didn’t need to say that either; I was already being punished. The cool air filtered through the hole in my pants and with a shock I realized my underwear as well. It touched my tingling organs which had not calmed down, despite being caught. Jeremiah, a boy who I hadn’t noticed until five hours before, stood beside me with my residue mixed with dirt from the floor starting to dry and get sticky on his fingers. On his face, at the left corner of his lip, was the faintest red smear and with the twinge of a cramp from my left side, I knew I had just started my period.
Risk By Paulena Passmore Yeah, first look Says I’m too much to handle But that’s just the first look. The first word says I’m a smart aleck And the first step says I’m a rebel without a cause. But, just because I fit the mold Doesn’t mean I act the part ‘Cause there’s more beneath this skin Than bone, muscle, and guts. There’s a heart that goes tick tock And a spirit that wants to burst With all that life has to offer But, Since you’re too afraid to take a risk, I’ll take one for you And walk away.
Trust by LaDarrious Dortch
Ampoules By Jessica Richard All of this is but a crock. Pottery badly shaped from the beginning Cracked covered over with rough patches and loose glue. The bottom falls out and what mess is this That stains? Stains what? It covers nothing, for space is black. No white cloth sits patiently beneath waiting To be covered in tar. Omnipotence does not lack that wisdom In the minds of those who create it. Those minds, those sandwich bags Thin cut from the same pattern. Made from cheap plastic holding only Slightly more from those already Decayed cloth vessels of rarest wisdom. They are all soiled and left to rot. And that ambrosia empties out the bottom, Snakes round through cracks holes chips and flecks Filling it up that gas, that stench. Air. Breathe it in, it’s air.
Initiation by Bianca Cowan
Dear Dad By Maneesha Palipane Today. I stop. I bow down at your feet. For everything I have been through Has led me to where I am now. Today. I stop. I bow down at your patience. For allowing me to experience The pain, the sadness As well as the joy and laughter Over the years...day after day. Today. I stop. I bow down standing beside you. For you have shown me Everything I have believed in. I have a reason to keep on believing. And I know I will not fail. I stop. Salute you, Because the gratitude is beyond words. I bow down at your feet, For allowing me to feel, The feeling, I'm feeling, At this very moment. I miss you Daddy!
Untitled by Connor Bran
Untitled by Loan Ly
Song of Light and Shadow By Larry Woodley The sickly cry made my entire world. The sticky red flowed from his chest like wine, My blade rested deep in the heart of a god, and our shared universe was condensed to shock. Lord Faramor’s murky black eyes grew wide in surprise As his brother’s sacred blade lapped up The bubbling pitch that was his blood like a starving hound. The runes etched in the flat of Heaven’s Edge glowed, Bright and hot, Glorious as the splendor of Lord Malareth of Light. Faramor screamed as his blood boiled like hot oil, Black smoke billowing forth from his torso. He tried to speak, perhaps to beg. But nothing came up but a hacking cough, But gurgling tar spilling down his chin Into that matted dark beard. But a sob of sad, whining realization. In that moment, we both knew one thing. I wielded the sword of the God of Light To devour the life of the Lord of Shadow. I watched a god die today, by machinations of his All-Good brother. I watched a god cry today, forced to learn the fear of death. Lord Faramor slid off my blade And crumpled to a heap on the floor. And I said a silent prayer, To whom, I’m not sure, over the corpse of a dead immortal. Then I felt it, Lord Malareth’s promise.
The holy splendor left the Shadow Slayer, And its runic power crept up my arms. No, not power. The concept of forever. Infinite lifeforce crept through my nerves. Boundless vitality rushed through my veins. “You’ve done well, my champion,” Boomed a voice from the heavens, “I loved my brother, but he was a monster, A horrible blight on the realm of men.” “Yes, m’lord,” I said as I took a knee, Sheathing the blade in the earth itself. A blight your hands were too pristine to clean. A ray of gold, blinding and bright, Fell from the clouds on the godslaying blade. And up it rose into the skies. “A murderer, he was, thousands dead, Villages pillaged and plundered and burned. But the Lord of Shadow was God of Death. Who can keep the world in order if nothing But light and life exist?” “You.” The word came simple, but the word came strong. The golden runes of godly power glowing on my body Lost their holy light, and the feverish heat of Malareth Died out and died hard. Those godly symbols were black and cold.
“I promised you life eternal, And with that comes a second gift. Just as my realm is light and life, You’ve inherited the title of God of Shadows. You decide the balance now.” And there I stood, dumb and silent As the corpse lay at my feet. My responsibility? To slay the old and weak and sick And bring the hopeless cold night? The heavens darkened as the thought dawned on me, And I was left alone with my new mantle. The cloudy night was only silent, heavy. I was new. No longer me. I was darkness. Death. Night. Winter. Everything Malareth was not. I’d be the new Faramor. A hated monster, cruel and deadly. All for the machinations of my lord. The God of all that’s “good and right.” A cold, chill hatred took my heart. I’d be…. Everything Malareth was not. Honorable. Just. If it was death I had to bring, I’d make it peaceful, painless, sweet.
If I had to drag the night into the world, It would be a time of dreams. If the power of death was in my hands, Out of Faramor’s crushing grasp, The world would be safer, Warmer, Brighter. The shadows became my entire world. My gentle touch sheparded the dead To the realm of their eternal sleep.
Third Place Untitled by Alvin Siow
Untitled by Maneesha Palipane
Been Home a Long Time by Madeline Faber
Echoes of Silence by Bianca Cowan
Negative by Emily Phillips
Agraphobia By Tachele Anderson
As I lay dreamin’ Images streamin’ ‘Cross a movie screen in my head Everything goes still. Picture it. Nothing’s more innocent Than a valiant, vigilant youth, Super girl will rid the world Of the foul and uncouth. The antagonist that’s prowlin’ ain’t what she expected. He stands erected, unaffected by the fact that he’s suspected. His approach is unalarmin’ So naïve, she don’t believe Any harm can…come from him. Mistake number one. ‘Cause see, that was his intention. To harm the weak beyond mention. He is sick and demented And…she was just so innocent, so he took the chance. At the time, she was too young to know better A gullible go-getter, She had much to learn, But she’s older now…. So much colder now…. And what’s worse, she’s afraid of men. Afraid to let one in ‘cause it feels like sin, Afraid to feel one’s touch, ‘cause it burns so much. Like a crutch, She revels in femininity, Releasing bouts of energy and pain through creativity,
Turning toward the Lord, her ever merciful divinity. Hard as she fights it, the dreams keep on returnin’ Reoccurin’ nightmares that leave her heart burnin’ She’s learnin’ that the dreams just don’t Worry ‘bout how fast they go, No way to stop or make it slow, She’s hurtin’…. With the persistent recollections Of their lip to lip connection Devouring their soul like an infection…. She’s afraid.
Third Place Fine Art: Eviction Notice by Hannah Nelson
Ours by Emily Phillips
The Rapist By Amber Lipford
She sat silently rocking back and forth and shaking constantly in her straitjacket. The padded walls seemed as though they were encompassing her, for all she could see was white. All things that entered and departed from the heaven of hurt just slightly added and subtracted from its blandness. Her caramel brown skin almost always fought with the brightness of the room, except when the night fell upon the room and the whiteness was toned down to almost bearable. The ebony hair that leaked out of her scalp never helped the situation. There was only one time during the day that made her content. She waited anxiously every day for the time when her therapist would cross the threshold and give her some whiteness that actually made her happy inside: a smile. That was the only person that she allowed into her room. Some days, that anticipated moment of joy seemed as though it would never come. Today was the day. She was going to reveal the information that the therapist had been trying to pry out of her since the day she drug herself through the doors of Lakeside Behavioral Health Institute. She was going to expose the vivid details to her encounter with her attacker. A guard escorted the therapist through the door. She took a seat in the chair that the same guard had provided for the duration of her stay with the patient. The guard meandered over to the patient to undo the straitjacket like he had to do every time she met with her therapist, and this time she wrestled and fought for him not to touch her, so he left it on. The meeting of the therapist and the patient always started out with a moment of silence and for the patient, a moment of glaring directly at her therapist, attempting to get in her head before the therapist had the chance to get into hers. It always hurt for the therapist to see her patient struggling because someone got close to her, but she could not express her feelings to her patients so she decided to just go ahead with the treatment. “Hello. How are you today?”
The words just appeared to saunter out of her mouth. They touched the patient’s ears with the slightest touch. As the patient opened her mouth, no words spilled. Only creatures. Bugs of all sorts.
colored roaches, metallic purple junebugs, dusty yellow bees, slimy slugs, and the list continued. Some of them were dead and only pushed out by the live ones, yearning to make an escape. She attempted to speak once more and centipedes began to inch their way past her throat into her mouth and hung past her chin as they fell onto her lap. A stream of them flowed down her body to her feet like a river. She could do nothing, but sit and watch as the insects trekked on all of her purity, infecting it with their diseases and their stained colors. The recollection of the rape could never be told was the thought that recurred in her mind. She thought that the fear and confusion that plastered her face would signal the therapist to get help, but instead, the therapist pulled out her Masonite clipboard and pen and began jotting down words that had not even been spoken by the patient, utterly ignoring the fact the room had been filled with bugs that had fallen out of the patient’s mouth.
Quiet Cold by Emily Phillips