Cliché Teen Journal: Issue #2

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Note from the CTJ: Happy New Years to all and let’s all hope for a great decade! I will keep it short so you may begin reading and viewing the amazing work of the teens that submitted to us this season. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the CTJ, either by being interviewed, submitting, being a team member, or just by spreading the word. It is almost exactly one year since CTJ started and we have already done so much.

We owe it to all of you! Continue to spread the word and share this issue! Enjoy! - CTJ Team

The Cliche Teen Journal is an online magazine showcasing work from teen artists and writers worldwide. Copyright 2020 by the Cliche Teen Journal. All rights reserved to Authors and Artists. Cover Art By: Annalee Hull

Connect With Us: Instagram: @Clicheteenjournal


The CTJ Team: Daania Sharifi: Founder, Media Manager, Chief Editor Dawnie Huynh: First Viewer Mia Hargest: Second Viewer

Samantha Sherwood: Third Viewer Samantha Meyers: Literature Editor Hosna Mohibi: Art Editor

Ben Harvey: Blogger

Sophia Johnston: Blogger

Anna Lopancinski: Interviewer Ella Torfin: Interviewer Kaitlyn Couvillon: Interviewer

Krishna Chaitanya: Ambassador Nikki Nelson: Ambassador Lashawana Diansoni: Ambassador


Cliché Teen Issue 2 Contents Gray Day: Kylee McCue: Page 8 Strawberry Season: Amy Wang: Page 9 Sing Me Back Home: Elysa Caso-McHugh: Page 10-11 Ballet on the Lake: Sara Trimech: Page 12 Process of a Poem: Amy Wang: Page 13-14 Culture: Jayla Sulka: Page 15 A Few Seconds: Mari Stanton: Page 16-18 Dove: Annalee Hull: Page 19 Elephant: Elysa Caso-McHugh: Page 19 Silhouette: Annalee Hull: Page 20 Justin: Sarah Cai: Page 21 Bubble: Emily Melendez: Page 22 Bubble Pop: Emily Melendez: Page 23 Heart Made of Glass: Jariel Vazquez: Page 24 Soph: Sara Trimech: Page 25 A Father’s Love: Graham Glassner: Page 26-27


Shooting Through: Maggie Gonzalez: Page 28 Butterfly: Annalee Hull: Page 29 50 Things to Live For: Sofia Pham: Page 30-33 How to Live: Valentina Michelena: Page 34-35 Jump: Annalee Hull: Page 36 Untitled: Annalee Hull: Page 37 Forevermore: Angel R. K. Chenevert: Page 38-40 Street Music: Maggie Gonzalez: Page 41 Embers: Drake Wells: Page 42-43 Flower: Annalee Hull: Page 44 Barrier: Dachel Fohne: Page 45 Bubble Gun: Maggie Gonzalez: Page 46 Cat Drawing: Carline Caskey: Page 47 Awakening: Laura Rametta: Page 48-49 Biographies of Contributors: 50-53




Gray Day Kylee McCue There is no sunlight where we hide Under a blanket of carbon dioxide Comfortable and unconcerned in our houses we reside And send into the ocean a plastic tide Burning fuels, our world is on fire At least we can build all the things we desire Wrap all the food we require Cut down the trees Exterminate the bees Everyone’s eyes are open, but nobody sees Our vision is cloudy, everything is gray

Maybe that’s why we have nothing to say Your car exhaust fumes block out the sun But it’s okay, we can still have guilt free fun Miles and miles of refuse It doesn’t matter who we accuse Everyone thinks the same We’re not the ones to blame So everybody is charged, all proven lazy Memories of a green world grow hazy


Strawberry Season Amy Wang Strawberry season, Little pink secrets behind shades of green. Rain tapping on the greenhouse glass, tap, tap, tap.

I remembered, Mama’s harsh “No”s and furrowed brows, “Don’t be so greedy.” Holding the prickly fruit white flowers, I forgot to tell her, Tell her that the fruit was too good, Tell her how much I craved them, Tell her, that I’m not greedy, I’m just needy. It’s raining again. Spring had came early. All week, all day, all night.

I thought I was sick of those sweet but sour fruits. They made me think of the “tap tap tap”s and Mama’s fierce care. I wish strawberry season would last, forever. So I can get a taste of those fruits, again. 9

Sing Me Back Home Elysa Caso-McHugh I remember the sweet lullabies, Strung out in chords too complicated for me to understand, The newness of music, The love In these notes,

When all could give up on their worries And take these jams to heart. Such sweetness, Hearts swelling as they beat along, Swaying to the sound, Of early childhood. This is what it used to sound like. Jerry Garcia And a tone deaf Serenador, Who taught me the value Of love. Love Is the emotion Shaped by these words, Blurry memories Bursting through the songs. I am walking through my past

The good part, The one with incense burned in my room And the tie dye shirts I would sink my head into, The belly of a man Troubled but in love. Who can’t be? It is so much of my core, So much of the niceness of my childhood. 10

Something, there wasn’t much of. Let me be thankful, That I can explore these lyrics Once again, Let the mood Take me away again And again. I sure am grateful, To have the feelings Tied to these words, The tears falling down my cheeks, As I hear an anthem, A lullaby, Swing me sweetly All of the way back home.


Ballet on the Lake

Sara Trimech


The Process of a Poem Amy Wang

Yellow yel·low |/ˈyelo/ of the color between green and orange in the spectrum, a primary subtractive color complementary to blue;

Yellow Flamboyant, vibrant, warm, citrus, positivity, lively, carefree, energetic, courage, imperial, happiness, leisure, sensation, cheerful, ablaze, delicate, brilliant, fluorescent, vivid, zeal, ecstasy, euphoric. Flamboyant, vibrant, warm, citrus, positively, lively, carefree, energetic, courage, imperial, happiness, leisure, sensation, cheerful, ablaze, delicate, brilliant, fluorescent, vivid, zeal, ecstasy, euphoric. Yellow Yellow Red Red |/red/ 1.

The color of passion, love, fire, anger. Too much blood.

The color of passion, love, fire, anger.

Red Blue Blue |/blo͞o/ 1.

The color of sadness, pain, sorrow, tears. Too much lost.

The color of sadness, pain, sorrow, tears. 13

Blue Yellow | hom || ləv || əs || təˈɡeT͟Hər || fəˈrevər | 1. Color of gold; of amber; of the magic of our matching bff bracelets; of the tip of the tea leaves that Baba loves; of yolk from an egg right off the farm; of the sunflowers always facing the sunlight; of the shadows of bamboo forests; of your converse that always had gum stuck to the bottom; of watermelon rinds only from home; of the warmth of dim sums and a new year’s dinner; of the crayon-colored moon we watch together every night; of the blanket of ginkgo leaves in a fall evening; of a glowing bulb in the cottage hidden away in the snow; of ripe lemon from a sunny afternoon;

of the frosted flakes Meimei likes to heat up in the microwave; of excitement without being loud; of the sun; of hope; Back to, the one and only, Yellow


Culture Jayla Sulka


A Few Seconds Mari Stanton

It only takes a few seconds. Only a few seconds for everything to change. I had so much planned. Looking down at the calendar spread across my desk, I saw my schedule

packed with months of rehearsals, performances, concerts, and more. After almost twelve years of playing violin, I was on an exciting pre-professional path. Every day, I would lock myself into a tiny basement bedroom, cramming my days with hours of practice to hone my skills, to fine-tune every detail of my playing. What more could I ask for? My schedule had quickly filled with numerous performance opportunities, I could visibly see my musical improvement daily, and I could see all my hours of hard work paying off. Everything seemed perfect. But little did I know that everything would soon change. Only a few minutes later, all my plans, all my hard work, and all my aspirations would derail themselves. All this in just a few short seconds after

dinner that night. I got up from the dinner table on a warm, sunny September evening, immediately noticing a glimmer from the hallway downstairs. Realizing my mistake in leaving the basement light on, I set my plate down and made my way to the stairway. Taking the first step, the floorboard creaked loudly. Dogs barked in the distance, and birds chirped cheerily from their perches outside. Rough threads from the carpet scratched my bare feet, and my hands ran smoothly against the glossy banister. Nothing seemed different; it was simply a typical, quiet September evening. I took another step. Louder this time, the floorboard creaked. My foot tripped over a trailing carpet thread. Around me, the world snapped into slow motion, every moment crawling by at a snail’s pace and dragging on for seeming eternity. Seconds felt like minutes as I heard them tick by in my mind. Tick. As I tripped, I quickly found myself falling down the steps. I flailed my arms, desperate to grab anything that might break my fall, but to no avail. My head spun. Bits of carpet and thread ran against my leg, creating miniscule scratches as I frantically reached my arms out. 16

Finally. My fingertips hit something smooth. Frantically grabbing the banister, I attempted to steady myself, to stop my fall—but in vain. Searing pain ripped through my shoulder. My entire arm fell limp; I lost my grip on the banister. I felt a scream escape my lips as my racing mind suddenly went numb. Tick. I jolted to my senses. Hitting the cold, hardwood floor, my shoulder immediately snapped back into its joint. Waves of pain swept through my entire body in shock as the room spun around me, the white walls blurring into a single dizzying streak.

I buried my face in my arms, stifling sobs of pain as I struggled to sit up. My hands shook as I attempted to lift my arm. It stubbornly refused to move. Muscles throughout my entire arm and shoulder froze and stiffened, constricting any and all movement as my entire body screamed from the pain shooting through my shoulder. Tick. I already knew what the doctors would later confirm. I had dislocated my shoulder, leaving it weak and completely useless for the next several months. Collapsing back onto the floor, I realized the full implications of this incident. This could only mean one thing—I could not play violin in this state. I had heard too many stories and knew enough about such injuries; it would likely take many months before I could make a full recovery and return to playing normally. This realization shook me to the core. Just a few seconds earlier, I had been in such an ideal place musically, making steady progress and quickly filling my schedule. But now, it had all vanished.

Instead of rehearsals and performances, doctors’ appointments and physical therapy would replace my musical commitments. I needed to make a recovery as rapidly as possible. Everything had changed in just a few short seconds. My focus for the next few months had completely shifted from music to simply making a recovery from this injury.


In that moment, I realized that I have no true control over even my own life. Anything can change at any moment in any amount of time, and unexpected incidents can derail even the most carefully constructed plans. Rays of sunlight streamed through my window as I found myself back in front of my desk almost a full year later, my shoulder completely healed and my calendar once again spread out. This time, instead of a schedule packed with rehearsals and performances, I saw a sea of black ink crossing out every one of my musical opportunities. Many long, tiring months of rehabilitation lay

behind me, and I had conquered even the most difficult of days to make a full recovery and return to music. I flipped to the back of my calendar and made a list of competitions, auditions, performances, festivals, and more. Everything that I had lost. Everything that I could now return to. As I stared down at my list, gratitude swept over me. I could lose any and all of these opportunities again in just a few short seconds. It could all change again in a few seconds. Because it only takes a few seconds.

Only a few seconds for everything to change.


Dove Annalee Hull

Elephant Elysa Caso-McHugh You keep telling us, The world is not safe for us. But you always refuse to tell us why: This elephant in the room Takes up more space than I have to Breathe. Quite honestly, I’m tired of trying to.


Silhouette Annalee Hull 20

Justin Sarah Cai I like this guy. His name is Justin. He has sandy, brown hair and dark, chestnut eyes. He’s on the swim team and he’s one of the best. I think I’m in love. We don’t have any classes together but that’s okay. I see him around because I know his schedule and I’m sure he knows mine. I take longer routes to classes everyday just to see him but whenever we past each other, my head is always down. He’s probably looking at me anyways. I go to the pool to do my homework. All of my friends think it’s weird, but I tell them the water helps me focus. That’s a complete lie. If anything, it distracts me. I make sure I look confident and beautiful every time I go to the supermarket down the road. Justin works there every Monday and Thursday. I don’t know how he pulls off the ugly mustard colored uniform, but he does. I always buy more than I need there, just so it takes longer for him to check me out. I

think I’m obsessed. Justin has a big swim meet this weekend. Should I go? I shouldn’t. He doesn’t even know me. But I think I should though. Maybe he likes me too. Still going back and forth, I get ready. I slap a little bit of makeup on my face, feeling much more confident and like myself. Makeup is art, it’s self expression and character. Surprisingly, I don’t wear it to impress boys, not even Justin! I wear it for me, as an opportunity to vividly express myself. After a little lip gloss, I make a big sign for him, expressing my love and affection. Before heading out the door, I rip it up and chuck it into the trash can. I can’t bring that. I sit in the front row. I cheer him on, never mentioning his name. When he wins, he jumps out of the water and heads straight to me. He looks gorgeous. Is this a dream? Unconsciously, I close my eyes, and lick my lips, my heart beating fast. I stay this way until I hear cheering. Why is everyone cheering? I open my eyes, looking around. And there he is, behind me, kissing a girl in the third row. Utterly mortified, I run to the nearest bathroom, stumbling over the pieces of my broken heart. I look into the mirror, mascara running down my burning cheeks. “Why am I a boy?” 21

Bubble + Bubble Pop Emily Melendez 22

Artist Statement: This picture represents the LGBTQ+ community being oppressed within a bubble. Since there were many homophobic views in the past, the community had no other choice but to stay within the bubble. This is why only the girl and the bubble have color, but the background is black and white; it represents how the rainbow in the bubble is the community and the background is homophobia. However, in this picture, the bubble has popped. This represents how as soon as the bubble popped, more people accepted other sexual identities and preferences. Although there is still homophobia today, the LGBTQ+ community has made many positive changes in people’s lives that will last a lifetime such as having gay marriage legal!


Heart Made of Glass Jariel Vazquez She left without warning She left me in silence At a loss of words Breathless because of this tragedy Left alone all in agony Stupid for what I did knowing the fault was mine I try to make amends for crossing the line I know your hurt She left like a leaf in the wind The love in my heart has thinned I Apologize for the mistake I made However you can't fix broken glass You can't turn back time Or forgive yourself for this crime Shattered thoughts Broken soul Finding hope is the goal I only see the truth now Knowing I can't change the past Now my heart is made of glass 24

Soph Sara Trimech


A Father’s Love Graham Glassner “If you’re reading this it’s too late. This is my story. The story of how I fell apart in a matter of hours because of one mistake. And when this story is finished, I will take my last breath.” As I wrote these words down on a clean sheet of paper I flashed back to the event that changed my life from being a long happy one to a matter of minutes left on my clock. The event started with one stupid mistake.

One mistake is what it took for me to lose my daughter. As I recalled, I wrote. “Daddy I’m going to go play with Char!” Lizzy called to me. Char is ...was her imaginary friend who she would spend hours “talking” to. “Go ahead, sweetheart! Just be careful.” “Ok, Daddy!” She said. “Char, let’s go play tag.” I smiled as I watched her as she chased an imaginary friend around the yard until she was giggling so hard she could barely stand. It amazed me how one could be so innocent, so carefree. A pit of worry grew in my stomach as she started running closer to the street. I jumped out of my chair so I could stop her from going closer, and all of a sudden she tripped and fell into the street. I ran outside as fast as I could and before I could reach her,

a blue sedan whipped down the street and crashed straight into her as she was getting up. The driver gunned the engine and zoomed away. “Lizzy!” I screamed. She was lying in a heap on the ground, covered in blood. I turned her over and felt her pulse. Faint but still there. “Thank God.” I thought. This little miracle didn’t stop me from almost collapsing in fear. My hands shook as I dialed 911. “911 what’s your emergency?” The operator asked. “My daughter…. She got hit by a car, 14 Pepperidge Avenue. Please come quick.” My voice broke as I spoke these words. I burst into tears at the sight of my beautiful daughter mangled on the ground soaked in blood. I finally felt some relief when the ambulance arrived. The paramedics lifted her on to a stretcher and put her in the back of the ambulance. I tried to get in too but they stopped me. “Sir she’s in critical condition I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” “She’s my daughter!” I pleaded. “Please let me stay with her.”


They didn’t respond to me and just shut the door and drove off with the siren blaring. I became speech-

less. My daughter, the one who I loved most, I may never see again. I suppressed my emotions as best I could and drove right behind the ambulance to the hospital. After arriving behind the ambulance, the events seemed to go by in a blur. The bright lights when I walked into the hospital, the doctor informing me that Lizzy would be going into emergency surgery, and the wait, the long wait. It felt like an eternity but finally, the doctor came out with a clipboard and walked over to me. I stood up and took a deep breath, knowing the next minute would determine my life. “ How’d it go?” I asked, my voice breaking halfway through the question. He stared at me for a moment, with a sympathetic look on his face, then spoke. “I’m really sorry Mr. Spring but she didn’t make it. There was too much internal bleeding and her lungs were crushed.” He continued to talk but his words were drowned out. I couldn’t cry, I could barely breathe, I couldn’t swallow. I didn’t stop to hear him finish. I couldn’t bear to. Memories and memories flashed through my head at the times I spent with her, she made me who I am. And I needed her to live. When that came to my mind, I knew what I had to do. I drove home in somber silence while the radio played in the back-

ground. When I finally arrived home I kicked the door open, not bothering to close it. Anger overtook at my own stupidity as I slammed my fist into a wall as hard as possible and felt the sharp pain in my hand as the plaster split with such a force. Tears started streaming down my face as I somberly descended the steps to my basement where a spool of rope lay in the back corner. I picked it up and brought the heavy rope upstairs to my study. It felt like I was drowning in my emptiness as I cut the rope away from the spool and started working my masterpiece. The rough rope cut into my hands as I turned the corners and threaded it through the holes until my masterpiece was complete; a perfect slipknot. I reached up and tied it to a hook on my ceiling and placed a stool under it. I tore a sheet of paper out from my spiral notebook, picked up a pen and started writing. I love her more than I love life and I need to be with her. Now, reader, you’re caught up and you know why I’m about to end my own life. My pen dropped down from my hand when these words were imprinted on the paper. I placed a light wooden stool under the rope, stepped up. The heavy rope felt lighter in as the happy thoughts came to my head, the realization that I’d be with Lizzy forever. I dropped the rope on my neck and pulled it as tight as I could until my breath was restricted. One last somber smile escaped my face. “I love you, Lizzy.” I wheezed, then promptly kicked the stool out from under me. 27

Shooting Through Maggie Gonzalez 28

Butterfly Annalee Hull


50 Things to Live For Sofia Pham

The light in the window is growing dim, and I know that orange will quickly begin streaking through the sky and fade to dusty yellow, and soon even that will fall away to the dull purple of a slow night. The grocery store I work at is small, homey, with rows of corn chips and cat treats and deodorant. Most of the people who stop by are in the middle of road trips and just need an airconditioned pit stop, but there’s a few familiar faces a week. Our busiest days are Saturdays. Mrs. Petter takes her time stopping by on the weekends, never without her large-brimmed sun hat. She heads to the back for a rotisserie chicken, then fishes through rows of cheap wine. Cornflakes. Oranges. Fresh milk in glass bottles. Cody Langford is eight and loves his dinosaur toys - he’s promised one every time his mom drags him in, probably as an incentive to behave as she piles whiskey and packs of cigarettes into her cart. Sometimes he needs ice packs for his bruises; I never ask where they’re from. Amy - I never managed to catch her last name - is short and fiery and loves band shirts, although she can’t name a single song from any of them. She stockpiles Hot Cheetos and stacks of magazines each week, sometimes with a six-pack of gatorade thrown in. She used to have a dog, but I could guess what had happened when two weeks ago she stormed in teary-eyed and left her usual pack of treats out of the cart. It’s Amy I’m thinking about now, lazily twirling a red pen in my hand as I watch the sun settle in the crook between two hills. I haven’t seen her in a few months, which is odd for her. Amy is

spontaneous with her hair (some days blue, other days pink, never the same color twice), but she’s always consistent when she shops - every Saturday, every week. And then she appears without warning, hair in braids and sweater baggy around her waist. She hurries into the store, keeping her eyes on the ground even as I call out a hasty welcome. Okay then. We’re the only ones here today - all the other usuals have come and gone. I crane my neck to


peer into the rest of the store, but she’s already disappeared into the aisles, and I’m left huffing a breath

and tapping my sneakers on the dappled epoxy floors. I don’t hear the crinkling of chip bags, which is what she always starts with. The silence scares me, and I don’t know why. And suddenly she’s in front of me, spilling out a murmured, “Make it quick.” I nod - once, twice - then begin scanning the items. Orange soda. Face cream. Sleeping pills. A pack of diapers. I stop. I can’t help it. She doesn’t meet my eyes. Amy is young - 16 is my guess. She always pays in cash, and she walks to the store because she says she doesn’t trust herself to drive yet. I swallow. “Are you okay?” “Yeah. The diapers are for my niece.” Her eyes stay on the ground, never once flicking up to meet mine. “And the sleeping pills?” “I have insomnia.” I know she’s never bought them before. “Why don’t I believe you?” Her eyes are pink. I don’t know why I’m asking, why I haven’t stopped myself from peering too deep into her life, but suddenly I’m imagining Saturday’s routine without her - Mrs. Petter with her wine, Cody Langford and his dinosaur toys, and then an empty, terrible space before the sky turns black. “I had the baby last month.” She’s rolling her hands back into the sleeves of her sweater. “My parents kicked me out.” I don’t know what to say, so she continues. “They hadn’t known about her father. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me again. I didn’t want everyone thinking I was just some irresponsible slut who made a mistake.” “Amy…” “I don’t want to live through that anymore.” Silence. I’m an idiot, and I can’t think of anything to say, so I let her cry. 31

And, when she’s done, I tell her I can give her 50 things to live for in two minutes. The sound of the ocean. Crackling fires in winter. Warm sweaters. Wet brushes poised over their canvases. She wipes her eyes. I don’t stop. The smell of lavender. The first page of a newly opened book. Mud-soaked puppies. Kittens curled in knit blankets. Handholding. Chewing ice cubes in summer heat. Hot chocolate. Spicy food. Diamond rings. Movie nights. Picnic dates. Long nails poised for the camera. Flower fields. Blue skies. Playing in the rain. Red lipstick, perfectly applied. Spa days. Long naps. The first bite of a cupcake. She’s quiet, and I let her sit down on a spare chair I have beside the counter. I ask if I should continue. She doesn’t answer.

Sibling rivalries. Dusty photo albums, littered with forgotten memories. The beat of a new song. Midnight snacks. Late-night binge-watching. Good movies. Murder mysteries. Superheroes. New businesses, opening with potential. Perfectly cooked pasta. College acceptance letters. Wedding cakes and kisses at midnight. I’m rambling, I know, but what else is there to say? I don’t know her, and she doesn’t know me. This is her fight, and I can only give her something to fight for. The cold side of the pillow. Finding old stuffed animals. The smell of a cramped book store. Promotions. Mending relationships. Gaining new ones. Racing in the park, muscles straining. A steaming mug of coffee. Seeing hatching turtles on the beach. Writing stories. Travelling to Japan. Opening your eyes to the faint outline of New York. 32

Hugging a friend. Game nights. Sneaking onto the roof at three in the morning to look at the stars.

She stops me then, lips pursed. “I don’t really know what to say.” I don’t either, but I let the list drop and sit down next to her. She sighs, and I can see her resolve drop, her shoulders fall back against the chair. She looks like she’s making a decision - a hard one. I’m really not sure what to do. I could buy her Hot Cheetos, or take the rest of the evening off and take her to the park, or just give her a hug. Let her catch her breath. Little things. I don’t know if they’ll make a difference.

But I know I can try. So we talk, and the sky turns black, and finally, she decides.


How to Live Valentina Michelena

Enjoy every second of every day of every week

of every year smile till your cheeks feel like they are going to fall off eat all the fried chicken and ice cream you possibly can binge watch friends with friends laugh with friends cry with friends love with friends make regretful decisions with friends but don’t regret them later be a hurricane for life show your school spirit in the stands and on dress up days carry on the hurricane legacy cheer on the most hard-working football team bring on the energy to Friday night lights be a part of the best high school ever set your goals high and don’t stop till you earn them be ambitious in the world be better than yourself the day before 34

be better than your neighbor but always stay humble. Go on midnight walks on along the seashore Surf the grand waves of the ocean until your legs feel like jelly Stare and the stars of the night with your special someone Don’t sleep too much so you can live more Enjoy every single day

Like it is your last one.


Jump Annalee Hull


Untitled Annalee Hull


Forevermore Angel R. K. Chenevert Perhaps it is because I was in foster care before being adopted, that I am telling this story in a fashion colored by trauma. His name was Ivan. He was one of my brothers. It was like a lonely puppy meeting another lonely puppy. He was so warm, so loving. His father had died a few years earlier, he became completely dysfunctional. When he pulled himself together, he reached out to my mother for company and comfort. It takes a lot of effort to pull yourself out of trauma, and Ivan’s trauma must have run deep. I should know. Ivan had complained of stomach aches his entire life. He was missing work, and couldn't eat. He would constantly argue with my mom about his health. My mom, experienced in the healthcare world, insisted that Ivan get some specific lab tests.

One day he was there, the next, he was gone. I was always thinking about Ivan. I think everyone was after he disappeared. I loved him. He loved me, too. He always made time to talk to me, relate with me, laugh with me, love me. He may have had no romantic relationships, or children, but he was able to keep a job at a hospital, and a loving relationship with us. When other people saw him, they felt sort of uncomfortable, the way that one feels when they

don't know if they should point out that someone has their fly open. The area all around his eyes was bluish-grey, and shadowed, as though bruised. He had eyes that would just stare at you. Like he was hyperfocused or something. His eyes would follow your every move, and if you didn't know him, it would be a little spooky. One could just faintly make out the handsome teenager that Ivan was. I could feel Ivan. I knew him from the moment we met. But, unlike him, I refuse to let my traumas show when I walk out the door. I could see right into him, even into his pockets. Similar to mine, his pockets were heavy with I assume, junk such as lost keys, marbles, little sticks, a special rock, the squeaker of a dog toy (though he had no dogs) and a tuft of hair from his last haircut, tied nicely with a rubber 38

band. Stuff that other people see as garbage, yet we see as treasures. At night, he would hover in the darker parts of the room. His voice was soft, unsure, with an occasional stutter. He was a hoverer. That’s something we do, we survivors of trauma -- hover.

I remember, clearly, most of the time both hands were in his pockets, and he would sort of stand in a slouch. He would often shift his weight from one leg to the other, sort of uncomfortably. He would stand and just observe, and stare around at everybody, just listening. For my birthday, he gave me a Hendrix poster, because I appreciated old stuff. I would have kept it, if I had known that that was the last thing that he would ever give me. The last thing that I ever gave him was a hug. I would have hugged him tighter if I had known. I repeatedly asked mom where Ivan was. She didn’t know. I could see the worry in her eyes. I started to get really scared. I started telling myself that everything was going to be ok, and that Ivan was ok, and that we are all just nice and peachy. But I knew that wasn't the truth. I knew that I was just lying to myself. I knew that Ivan was dead. As the weeks went by, I began to get more and more insistent. Then, for about two weeks, my asking began to die down. On the last Friday of my silence, over dinner (salmon, I vividly remember) I asked again. “Mom,” I said sternly. “Where’s Ivan?” A silence fell. No one moved. Everyone looked at mom, waiting for an answer. “Do you want me to tell you now? Are you ready?” she asked, monotone. “ it about death?” I asked, voice wavering. Silence. “Yes.” I shook my head. I didn't want to hear it. I wasn’t ready. That night, I imagined that Ivan’s ghost was in my bedroom, sitting on my bunk bed, silent and comforting. When I fell asleep, I dreamed of my brother, Ivan. I dreamed of the many conversations I had 39

with him. When I woke up the next morning, I knew I had to hear the words, make it official. We were sitting in the City Bakery. The coffee smelled strong, and was thick with cream. I decided that this was the right place. This space was a comfortable place to hear about tragedy. In that space, everything seemed far away. It was like a Cone of Silence. “I’m ready to hear what happened to Ivan.” I announced. And mom and dad told me. Ivan was dead. He had colon cancer. It could have been treated easily. But he refused to get it treated. He let it spread to his liver before getting help. But, he was already dying. Dying, but he refused to tell mom. My mom, equally as worried as me, found out through an obituary online, posted by his birth mom who was jealous of the fact that Ivan loved us so much. I never got to say goodbye to Ivan. What trauma does to people like Ivan and me is very deep and personal. It weakens; there

becomes a threat upon our mental health. We are unable to drag ourselves to do the things that we have to do. Even things crucial to our survival. Sometimes it is out to fear. Other times it is out of anger at the perpetrators of the trauma. That is where Ivan and I connect, the point at which our two lines meet; through trauma. Ivan lives inside me forevermore.


Street Music Maggie Gonzalez


Embers Drake Wells inexorable sleet crackled upon the Alaskan frost of December frozen winds encircled echoing boscage — until they breathed upon a misplaced man in the presence of a hearth his tattered-torn coat declared a dreadful plight — resting on a splitting tree stump under relentless conditions

yet not unaccompanied — safeguarded by a 51 lb. Siberian Husky companionship rested not only in physical warmth but emotional contentment survivability dependent on proximity remorseless winter devastated man’s humanly heat of which already absent his husky’s instincts dwelled mutually within this synergy

sitting before the moribund fire the man’s numb hands grasped glowing embers from the fire

the man — enthralled by the scorching freeze enraptured by the dog’s aura eyes into the boundless blaze augmenting reality.


the twilight stained sunset fogged the air his face — glowed up in the presence of the hearth and a gloomy scent and behold — he meditates. eyes transfixed into the embers.

Biographical Statement: “Embers” is a fictional piece exploring different elements of nature with the utilization of literary and symbolic techniques. Throughout this poem, I subtly accentuate various thematic notions from the physical warmth of a campfire to emotional turmoil to psychological serenity and the significance of companionship. The employment of the ambiguous symbol, embers, invokes wonder into the reader and ascends the poem’s meaning to a new level.


Flower Annalee Hull


Barrier Dachel Fohne Stripped clothes would be more innocent if the clothes were never a barrier in the first place. Role models would not have a barrier placed between them and society if it was not looked down upon to appreciate the human body. Why is there a barrier between the so called noteworthy and normal when we are all human? Humans humble, humans sink.

First and last, high and low; We all fluctuate so quick as if there is no barrier amongst natural human nature. Living free is a privilege, when it should be purely biology. All because some people wanted to be more materialistically enriched, everyone is now forced to be materialistic to modernly live. However, when physical possessions are not sufficient, some people urge to be intangibly enriched in holding the power of the sacred human mind. Through laws and societal rules, barriers get placed on what an alleged typical life should be. Life is not a one size fits all, yet people who crave power make it out to be. Humans do not need the barriers of taboo and labels.

Let us be free. Do not make us beg fellow humans for the better life we have control over and want.


Bubble Gun Maggie Gonzalez


Cat Drawing Caroline Caskey


Awakening Laura Rametta My mom once told me everything happens for a reason. If that’s true, then why did I wake up in the middle of the woods without any clue why? Maybe I’ll find the solution to a world problem or learn something new about myself. Whatever it is, I hope I find out soon so I can wake up in my room and head over to Central Park in time to meet up with my friends. If I was the main character in a book, I would pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. Well, maybe I am. I pinch myself. Nothing but pain. Great. I look around. Nothing but trees. I reach in my back pocket for my phone but then realize I’m wearing pajamas. I look up at the sky. The sun shines brightly right above a tree. Isn’t there some way to tell the time by looking at the sun? I think there is, but I wouldn’t know. Maybe I should take a look around. I could be in some fairytale and find some sort of portal or something that could magically take me back home. Yeah, probably not. But then how would I explain this? Jess and Taylor will definitely hear about this tomorrow – or when I get back. If I get back. Alright, I need to stop this negative thinking. I feel something on my ankle. Looking down, I see mud clinging on to my skin. Are you kidding me? I just want to go back to my city where I could just walk on sidewalks and not have to deal with this. I continue walking, looking down, careful not to walk into any mud. I hear leaves crunching and quickly look up. A few feet away from me, a deer is staring at me, ears alert. What do I do? I feel my heart rate quicken. It’s only a deer. It can’t hurt me…right? The deer suddenly runs away. I sigh in re-

lief. I continue to walk for another few hours or so. Now the sun is scraping the surface of the horizon. I look up ahead and see a hill. Maybe this portal thing will be at the end of it. I laugh, thinking about how ridiculous that would be. But then I realize I literally went to bed like any other night and woke up in the middle of the woods. I start crying. Why can’t I wake up already? I finally reach the top of the hill and gasp. It’s no portal, but wow. Below me, a stunning lake is nestled in a grassy meadow. Pine trees are its backdrop. I look up. Large mountains reach towards the 48

sky. A couple of dear are running and I see bird gathering leaves. Everything is just so pretty and

calming. Without thinking, I run towards the water. I reach my hand in. It’s warm. I walk deeper and deeper into the lake and duck my head under its surface. I hear honking and smell the popcorn from the movie theater. I open my eyes. I’m in my room. The memories of the woods fill my head. So, I was dreaming? I slowly get out of bed. Wait, what? I reach towards my hair. It’s damp. I look down at my feet. My striped socks are dirty. This can’t be! Wasn’t it a dream? At least I’m back home, right? But, why am I so happy? And why do I want to go back so badly?

Biographical Statement: “Awakening” is a short story about being aware of your surroundings. The main character in the story is used to life in the city. However, serene nature can be found near her city, but she failed to experience it on her own. One day, nature is brought to her. At first, she experiences frustration and annoyance, but with every step, she is brought closer to the calmness of it. Near the end, she falls in love with nature and forgets her past. Once she is brought to the present, she re-

alizes that life should be a balance. I wrote this story based off living so close to both New York City and the Adirondack mountains. Although I live close to NYC, I rarely go there. Instead, I spend a lot of my time in nature. I sometimes wonder what growing up in NYC is like. I wonder if the kids there ever saw the mountains that they live so close to. If they went, would they awaken? Would they create a balance in life?


Contributor's Biographies: Amy Wang loves to write and daydream. She is a nostalgic 14-year-old from Shanghai, China and currently studies in a boarding school in Massachusetts. She aspires to be a writer when she grows up and write her own memoir someday. When she is not writing, she likes to listen to music, hang out with her friends and drink Americanos.

Sofia Pham is a 16-year-old writer from Katy, Texas and the Vice President of Women Inspiring Social Harmony, an organization dedicated to writing, STEM, and leadership, as well as an Advertising Manager for her school magazine, the Torch. She enjoys journalism and creative writing and has been previously published on spectrum, an LGBTQ+ news site where she serves as managing editor, and Canvas Teen Literary Journal. When not writing, Sofia loves to spend her time volunteering, playing piano, and making art.

Elysa Caso-McHugh is a first-year student at Barnard College, as a future comparative literature and history major. She is 18 years old and has been involved in various spoken word events at her school, as well as has been published in Spectrum Literary Magazine at Morris Knolls High School, and performing with Carlos Andres Gomez. She has been a contributor for Laurel and Bells Lit, as well as a qualifier for the Grand Slam Finals for Barnard Writing Collective. She is also an active member of her campus’ community, working on the SGA Committee for Campus Life, as well as a participant in the New York

City poetry scene throughout the city. She hopes to get more involved in poetry as she continues her college journey. Maggie Gonzalez is a 15 year old photographer based in the Chicagoland area in Illinois: I’ve been doing photography for about 6 years and I'm so grateful to be creating my dream right in front of me. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for years; it’s my passion and purpose. When I’m not creating, I play volleyball all year round which takes up a huge 50

amount of my time. I also play a couple instruments and love music as well. Emily Melendez, even at a young age, has began to travel the world; taking one photo at a time. Regardless of her being 14, she surpassed many challenges and prejudices that have been put upon her. You can find her gallery @photographer_hooman, where u can keep up to date with her photography. Caroline Caskey from Spring Lake, North Carolina. I’m a fifteen year old self taught traditional artist. Most of my artworks are created with a blend of soft and hard pastels, but

I enjoy using many different mediums such as colored pencils, graphite, acrylic paints, and charcoal. Creating art has always been one of my greatest passions, ever since I was a toddler you couldn’t get a pencil out of my hand. And I am so grateful to have been born in this wonderful generation where I am able to share my artworks with the world so easily!

Mari Stanton is a sixteen-year-old high school sophomore from Denver, Colorado. Though she is an enthusiastic writer in her free time, "A Few Seconds" is her first published work. Hoping to pursue a career in music and the arts, Mari is an avid violinist and has won several awards for her playing. Mari also enjoys skiing in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, reading historical fiction novels, and listening to Broadway cast recordings. Sara Trimech: While beauty’s in the eye of the beholder, it can also be found behind a

camera lense. Since obtaining a Nikon D3300 a couple years back, I’ve worked on my photography skills, my favorite being the manipulation of shadows and light! Sarah Cai, I'm 16 years old, I'm a junior at Milton Academy, and I'm passionate about all things equality. Growing up exposed to both Chinese and American culture, I developed an early interest in gender, LGBTQ+, and racial equality attending international schools


in Beijing. "Justin" is a short story from the lens of a "not so normal" teen. Dachel Fohne is a fifteen year old philosophical poet. In over two years of sticking to her current niche, she has over two hundred pieces written and has so far been featured in Kid Spirit Magazine. Common themes within her works include metaphysics, psychology, and sociology. When she is not writing, she enjoys volunteering, traveling, and mountaineering. Her many experiences encourages her to write about the many perspectives of the world and its people, “journaling through poetry,� as she calls it. Annalee Hull: I am a 16 year old photographer born in Baton Rouge Louisiana, but I'm now based in Florida. I've been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, I've always enjoyed going out and taking photos. I used to use my moms phone for photography, then that turned into her camera (Canon EOS 50D) it was a great learners camera. I used it for about 7 or 8 months while I saved up money for my own camera. I reached my goal on September 15th, a day after my 16th birthday! I ended up buying a Fujifilm xt30. I'm still learning how to use it but I am slowly making progress! Other than photography some of my hobbies include journaling, flower pressing, and jewelry making. Though photography is the most important to me and I'm hoping to make it my career! Kylee McCue, and I am 15 years old. In addition to drawing, I have started painting and have even attempted making music (mostly just creating lyrics). Recently I have started reading and writing much more for the fun of creative expression. Outside of my artistic life, I love running, spending time with my friends, cuddling with my cat, and going out to eat. Laura Rametta is a teen writer based in NY.


Valentina Michelena is a poet, student, and a Latin American woman whose first language is Spanish. As a student in high school, she has immensely advanced with her writing skills and is continuing to blossom in her own unique ways. She also loves to spend time with friends and family. Graham Glassner is a 14 year old writer. In his free time, he loves to hang out with his friends, play sports, hike, and spend time outside. Angel R. K. Chenevert is a college student and a proud African-American survivor of the Child Welfare foster care system. He lives with his lovely adoptive family in California and considers himself lucky to express himself in writing. He loves super hero characters and movies, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and all the ideas that help him survive his early years.

Drake Wells (17 years old), Residing in Houston, Texas, is a high school writer, artist, poet, debater, traveler public speaker, athlete, and an eagle scout. He enjoys articulating pieces, especially poetry, abundant in sensory imagery and emotional symbolism as well as convey his experiences traveling around the nation — most notable being his life sailing across the keys of Florida towards Cuba. Jariel Vazquez is a senior at Methuen (MA) High School. He is an aspiring writer. He

enjoys being with his friends as much as he can. He also enjoy writing because it allows him to express himself to the best of my ability. Jayla Sulka: I am 16 years old, and I started to hone in on my photography in the summer of 2019. I am passionate about taking portraits, writing poetry, and modeling.


Thanks again for all the support! Have a great year :)