A Journal of the Arts
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The Beverly Mitchell Prize for Creative Writing
The editors congratulate Autumn He as the recipient of the 2022 Beverly Mitchell Prize for Creative Writing.
The recipient of the Beverly Mitchell Prize for Creative Writing must be a student currently enrolled as a degree- or certificate-seeking student, either part-time or full-time in good academic standing who submits original creative work in any written genre. The work must be written in English; the creative work may incorporate individual words or short phrases in another language so long as the composition is predominantly English. Translations and visual artwork are not eligible.
Jennifer S. Gilkerson March 15 Maya Donavon Beauty is Dangerous 24 Maya Donavan Monster 30
Judah Stewart Labyrinth 31 Anna Rothrock Kettle 35 Judah Stewart Worn 36 Alayna Root Loveless 37 Judith Parrish Broadbent Silence 38 Anna Rothrock Childhood 39 Alayna Root Getting to Know the Ocean 40 Worth Peppers And I Thought I Loved You Then 43 Shannon Adsero How to Live Right 45 Lillie Runions Despite It All 52 Mike Corn Black and White 57 Bonnie L. Halcomb-Weaver My Mother’s Lap 58 Kylie Johnson Fallen Angel 59 Makayla Ogilvie Grief 60 Kelexis Alexander The Ghost of Her Past 63
A Dying Jewel 7 Kylie Johnson My Brother’s Bike 10 Katherine Neely The House on the Lake 13 Bibi Crane Lost Opportunity 17
Joshua Bryan Thompson Camila 27
Judith Parrish Broadbent Beauty is in the Eyes and the Heart 33 Alena Dingeldein Rumpelstiltskin: A Modern Retelling 48
Judith Parrish Broadbent An Excerpt from The Wind Caller 55
Finding the Light 6 Jaeden Kennedy Nashville Skyline 9 Zekiel Stults Lake on High 12 Judah Stewart Poppies in Normandy 16 Melissa Febbroriello Pink Paradise 19 Melissa Febbroriello St. George Church, Guilford, Connecticut 20
Kaylee Shannon Neon Haze 25 Emma Grace Whitten Inspired 26
Brandon Richardson Birds and Bees 32
Alayna Root Rainy Day 34 Emily Roberts Established 41
Bethany Hinson The Road Less Traveled 42 Bethany Hinson Home Is Where Our Story Begins 47
Carl Jones My New Friend Malik 53
Thomas Lynch Humid Abundance 54 Emily Roberts Saturated 61 Carl Jones The Guest House 62 Carl Jones Courthouse Fog 64
Finding the LightMarjorie Lloyd
A Dying Jewel Autumn He
“Don’t bring me flowers when I die if you didn’t bring me any while I’m alive.”
Those words that my Granny had repeated a million times echoed in my brain as I placed the faded, red, single-stemmed, silk rose among the other vibrant flower arrangements on the cold, dead grass beside Granny’s tombstone. I knew my single rose was the only one she had seen before. Nearly twenty years ago, my three-year-old self had little concept of death, but still tugged on my Granny’s pleated pants, begging her to buy the rose to put on her grave when the time came. She agreed, storing the rose in her kitchen on her old baker’s rack, and she made sure to remind me on a regular basis that it would still be there when she was gone. Taking one last look at her grave, I pulled my jacket tighter around my body and walked to my car parked in the crowded cemetery.
During my childhood, Granny and I spent many nights embroidering elaborate floral patterns onto pieces of cut-up sheets, which she would then turn into patchy pillowcases or framed artwork, while listening to Channel Thirty-Nine, the local gospel station. She would tell me stories about times before I even existed: stories about her marriage, her awful mother-in-law who moved in with her shortly after marrying my grandpa, my grandpa sneaking away to smoke a cigarette hoping that she wouldn’t find out, and nearly every Sunday she had spent at church. Granny would loudly sing along with the only customized ringtone she’s ever had whenever her old Motorola flip phone would begin blaring “Delta Dawn.” It was her favorite song, and I’m sure she sang with or without an audience. Those therapy sessions while embroidering went unrecognized throughout most of my childhood and adolescent years. I now realize I had never truly appreciated those painful needle pokes, weekly repeats of the same out-of-tune songs blaring over radio static, or hilarious renditions of her past riffs with her mother-in-law.
Just a week prior to her death, I received a frantic call at work from my mother letting me know Granny had fallen while home alone and was being hospitalized for a broken hip. I arranged to leave as soon as my shift was over and made it back to my hometown in a record-breaking two and a half hours. Being in the medical field and working in an assisted living facility before, I knew the outcome of a broken hip was never as simple as it sounded, but I remembered what Granny had told us over and over.
“I’d rather die than go to a nursing home,” Granny had firmly said on multiple occasions, holiday dinners included. “Those people there are so pitiful. If it’s my time to go, then so be it.”
“But Granny, if you die, then we can’t see you,” I would remind her with a hug and a kiss on her wrinkled cheek.
When I arrived at the hospital, her condition had drastically declined after suffering from a stroke while undergoing a heart catheterization. Her usually cheerful aura with a smiling face was now one of silence; her face was drained of color and soft groans escaped her chapped lips ever-so-often. Later that evening, Granny woke up and managed to talk, mostly asking for water swabs, and she gave me a small grin when I kissed her cold cheek and told her I loved her as I was leaving to go to a nearby hotel for the night. It would be the last smile I would ever receive from her.
That night, alone in the hotel, I didn’t sleep. Memories of my weekends at Granny’s house and advice she had given me swirled around in my brain like a tornado. Somewhere in there was her voice saying, “I’m gonna’ slap your jaws,” her tonguein-cheek threat to me growing up, as each tear rolled down my face and sobs echoed throughout the hotel room. She had told me a million times not to cry if anything happened. I should not have any regrets; I had spent more time with her than anyone, and she increasingly mentioned that I had kept her company when she needed it the most, especially after the death of her daughter, my Mimi. However, no matter how many days and nights I had spent on that old couch with needle and thread, it still didn’t feel like enough.
The next morning, I returned to the hospital to tell Granny I would be leaving, work was expecting me later that day. The rays of sunshine poured in through the gap between the musty, brown curtains and cast a warm yellow glow to the previously dark room lighting up her stormy grey eyes that struggled to stay open as she stared blankly at me. I couldn’t help but notice she looked like an angel. Her pale skin now seemed smoother and brighter. Her short, silver hair laid perfectly across her forehead in gentle ocean waves. Knowing that this may very well be our last moments together, I took a few moments and etched the feel of her hand on mine permanently into my memories. I told her I loved her one final time and said I would rush back to see her again. As I was walking to the door, something told me to look at her again.
“I love you, too,” Granny whispered, barely loud enough to understand. Her solemn stare told me this would be the last time I would see her.
Concealing my tears, I smiled and blew her a kiss, rushing out the door before the floodgates opened. I walked into the fluorescent hallway where numerous friends, neighbors, and family huddled just beyond her door, all whispering about her condition. The only comfort I had as I strolled through the parking lot and got into my car was knowing Granny would most likely get exactly what she wanted, no nursing home. I pulled my phone out of my coat pocket and turned on “Delta Dawn” and began my journey back home.
The next day, Granny passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends.
Nashville SkylineJaeden Kennedy
My Brother’s Bike
As someone who grew up watching shows such as Criminal Minds and Forensic Files instead of the usual Disney Channel entertainment most middle schoolers enjoyed, you would think I would be a little more prepared for nearly getting kidnapped than I was. It started off as any other day: getting out of bed long after the socially acceptable amount of time to sleep in was, becoming a total hermit and doing nothing but watching YouTube videos and drawing in my room all day, and lastly, sprinting down the stairs towards the front door once the familiar screech of the school bus’s brakes finally stopped at my street corner.
Being homeschooled basically my entire middle school career totally sucked. My mother worked eight-to-five, five days a week, and my brother and I were too young to legally drive anywhere (it’s not like we had a car at our disposal anyways), so pretty much every day of the week, we were confined inside the walls of our generic suburban house that looked exactly like every other in the neighborhood. The only thing I had to look forward to was when the school bus stopped at our street corner, where I impatiently waited for the girl who lived three houses down to step off the bus steps so we could walk together to her garage.
The sounds of laughter fluttered through the air, occasionally being interrupted by the rhythmic clinking of bike chains. We were on our way to meet our other friend, Zara, at the park because she found a Starbucks gift card she wanted to use, and Soyeon apparently knew a secret path into town we could travel on. We pulled into the grass and walked with our bikes towards the back of the playground at the edge of the woods.
“There’s a bridge that’s missing a few planks on the trail, we’ll have to leave the bikes,” Soyeon explained, so we stashed them in the shrubs and bushes at the edge of the forest. I rode my brother’s bike that day, so I didn’t mind leaving it behind one bit.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. Just your average dirt trail through the minimal amount of “woods” there could be in the middle of
suburbia, until some creepy high school guy started chasing us further into the trees of course. The second I heard his voice yell at us from behind, I booked it. Do I feel bad for ditching my friends in order to get a head start? Considering we all made it out fine and dandy, no, not particularly. It felt like we were sprinting for miles on end, which is definitely an over exaggeration. We couldn’t have been running for more than three minutes when we made it to the end of the trail. Our very own axe murderer refused to leave the woods, apparently. As payback for almost getting me killed, I made sure to wheeze as obnoxiously as possible and complain to my heart’s content while we crossed the street to finally make it to Starbucks.
Now we may have been dumb, but we were definitely not idiots. There was no way in hell we were going to walk through those woods again to get home after being chased by a total maniac. So, we chose the next best route. You would think strolling down the interstate would be more frightening than walking through the woods, but to be honest, it really wasn’t that bad. It was nice being able to observe, closer than usual, the nightmare inducing nine foot tall mouse statue they had out in the parking lot of the gay bar. And don’t forget the sketchiest adult video store you could possibly ever imagine, and that one guy whose entire lawn is filled with ratty cages holding exotic birds that probably weren’t legal to own. What a day to remember this had become.
Now of course, since we took a different route home, we ended up returning to our neighborhood through the front entrance rather than near the park. You can imagine my disappointment when I moved across the country the very next day, only to realize I never went back to retrieve my brother’s bike. Oh well, it’s not like he ever rode it anyways.
Lake on High Zekiel Stults
The House on the LakeKatherine Neely
The trip was lengthy. As we turn the corner, I finally see Granddad and Nana’s house. The house is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time; the entire back wall has beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows giving the six bedroom a lovely, overlooking view of the lake. Then there is the den, where we spent most of our time. It is decorated with comfortable chairs, a coffee table with an assortment of magazines, and Nana’s wooden duck sculptures, plus a wood stove in the corner that keeps everything toasty warm.
I am filled with anticipation as I see the sunset shining through the trees gently draping over the sparkling water. The movement mesmerizes me as the fish and water bugs skim the lake’s surface. It had been months since we had come to visit. Eagerly walking towards the door, I am moments away from being embraced by Granddad’s firm squeeze and scratchy-bearded kiss. The memories start flooding in as we continue into the den. I remember climbing on Granddad’s lap when I was five years old; I recall the sweet smell of apples as he would read from the Clifford the Big Red Dog Scratch and Sniff. While we gathered around to watch television together, Nana and I would color my Strawberry Shortcake coloring book she had purchased for me. The background aroma of a wood-burning fireplace is soothing as I reminisce.
After hours of visiting, we are all exhausted. Mom and I cuddle under my favorite plush blanket as the familiar silky softness engulfs us. I can hear the rhythm of the ticking clock that hypnotizes me. Without realizing it, eventually, I fall fast asleep. The following morning, I wake to light peeping through the drapes. Opening the curtains, I see the breathtaking view through the vast wall of windows. Quickly I dress and step out to the kitchen, and see Granddad, as always, is watching the 9:00 AM news with his steaming cup of black coffee. Bacon sizzles: it smells fantastic. The smell of a charring toast begins to permeate the air, breakfast is almost ready. I run to Nana and ask if I can help with anything, but she always says no. I see the sizable spread that she spoils us with every time we visit. In addition to the bacon and the toast, there are eggs, grits with melted cheese, and I know that the big bowl of honeydew melon is especially for me. As we eat, the taste is so familiar; it tastes like home.
With breakfast now finished, we sit on the sun porch admiring the breathtaking scene of the leaves falling on this crisp fall morning. While watching the leaves fall, I remember another childhood memory. I think back to our summertime visits when we would often ride on Granddad’s paddleboat on the warm summer evenings. I turn around to see the room I stayed in when I was young; my mom and I laugh as I recall sneaking off and watching VHS movies. I hear the familiar sound of the landline ringing; my Aunt Donna and cousin Annabelle are on their way for the evening.
As dinner was being made, Annabelle and I recall more memories of how we used to build pillow forts and play with Barbie dolls when we were young. We giggle as we set the table. It is another fabulous meal with wonderful company. After clearing the table and washing the dishes, Annabelle and I begin to whip up some chocolate chip cookies, Granddad’s favorite. One quick finger lick of the sweet, delicious batter confirms the cookies will be delicious. We pop them in the hot oven; immediately the sweet smell permeates the whole house. As soon as we pull them out of the oven, we dig into the warm, gooey cookies with a tall, cold glass of milk.
With the evening winding down, we settle into our comfortable chairs. I gaze over and a sweet smile starts to spread on my face; I remember the hundreds of times that I would crawl up into Granddad’s lap, and he would play, “This Little Piggy” on my bare feet, as he would say, “This little pig went to the market, this little piggy stayed home.” A funny feeling of gratitude and sinking sadness occur simultaneously as I realize that our time together is over again. I know it is about time to walk out the door when Mom says, “Has everyone used the bathroom yet?” We share hugs and kisses all around, grab our things, and head to the car. Sending us off with waves, smiles, and lots of love, I see Granddad and Nana slowly disappear as we back down the driveway. Despite the long drive home, my heart cannot wait for the next visit.
Blue eyes that have lost their glimmer –hope far gone. The azure color, like that of sea, that surrounds us –empty, tranquility gone. Pale skin, with quickened breath –no light left.
I hold your cold hand –limp and frail Music and memories of days past –no more hurting within Golden rays surround your face –a halo that crowns your faltering head Slowly fading, slowly fading –Green clover without luck –Wilted and unadorned
Give me one more moment –last words crumbled, fading in my sorrow Visions without a reflection to heal
Poppies in NormandyJudah Stewart
Lost OpportunityBibi Crane
I slowly leaned back in my recliner and closed my eyes, letting the warm sunlight from the window in front of me envelop my body in a soft embrace. The fading sun was filling his room with golden light and casting lengthy shadows across the floor, suffusing the room with a peaceful yet somber feeling. Everything eventually had to come to an end, even the days themselves could not come out unscathed.
I’m so bored. Bored, bored, bored! When would the nurse be back? I started feeling hungry. When is dinner?
I cracked an eye open, glanced at the digital clock on the table beside me, then huffed. An hour until she gets back. Should I call her? My gaze slowly slid over the room around me, lazily trying to pinpoint where my phone was hiding. I cursed, realizing it was across the room on the kitchen counter. There was no way I would be able to walk over there to grab it, not with a broken leg. My house was a mess anyway: there were dirty clothes on the floor, random pieces of trash strewn about, and even a cheap wig I had bought online for just a few dollars hanging on one of my lamps.
Sighing, I diverted my attention to the window in front of me. I figured if I had to wait an hour, I may as well try to entertain myself. At the street below, cars whizzed by at blinding speeds, coming within inches of each other but never crashing. Through the window, I heard muffled honks and angry yells from the cab drivers. New York, so charming, I thought sarcastically to myself. Busy people passed by each other without a second glance. Slowly, a smile spread across my face as I observed them. People-watching was one of my favorite pastimes. I enjoyed trying to guess their life stories, or just making inferences about a particular person in general.
My gaze darted over the crowds of people, desperately trying to pick out someone unique. A woman carrying an enormous briefcase caught my eye. She looked about twenty, with a slim figure and soft brown hair piled on top of her head. Her bright red trench coat contrasted brightly with the dull, dark colors around her, which led
to the illusion that she lit up the space around her. She seemed to be grasping the heavy object with all her might, accidentally bumping into those who refused to get out of her way. She eventually stopped at a crosswalk but refused to put her baggage down.
My attention was suddenly pulled in another direction. A sturdily built man was waiting on the opposite side of the street as the woman. He was tall, wearing a light blue dress shirt and carrying a similar, heavy-looking briefcase. The crosswalk sign turned on, notifying the public that it was safe to walk across the street. The two brightly clothed figures stood firmly rooted to the spot, staring quietly at each other.
I smiled softly and leaned forward in anticipation. Is this going to be a moment to remember?
A raggedy, faceless man shoved past the bright red woman, leaving a dirty patch on her shoulder and jostling the briefcase out of her hands. The bag burst open as it hit the ground, scattering crisp white papers. The man from across the street sprung into action, quickly dropping his own briefcase and crossing the street to help the frantic girl. They quickly collected the papers, dodging in and out of the giant, colorless crowd.
The two figures met once again. I watched, breathlessly, begging God to let something click into place. Perhaps it was my own boredom, but I needed something to fall into place between them. This could not be another lost opportunity. The man softly handed a stack of messy papers to the woman; love etched into every line of his face. Their hands touched, and I felt the electricity all the way from two stories above. The woman quickly drew away and unconsciously touched the dirty mark the grimy man had carelessly left on her shoulder a few moments before. The two figures quickly mouthed a few words to each other then parted ways.
I frowned and watched as the two figures disappeared into the crowd, their colors slowly merging into the dull and dark world around them.
St. George Church, Guilford, ConnecticutMelissa Febbroriello
Her straight dark hair flowed through the almost pleasant breeze as she sat down to rest on a large, stable boulder near the open mouth of the cave. Her chest rising and lowering rapidly, gradually slowed as she caught her breath during her group’s break. Although, it took longer than usual due to the high altitude their trip up the mountains had taken them. The chilly air helped to cool her down, but almost threatened to freeze her if she stayed still for too long as beads of sweat rolled down her neck. She wasn’t too concerned as she had made sure to plan thoroughly, so she and the rest of the travelers were well prepared for any challenges they would come across in their journey for treasure.
She, like most of the people around her, wore insulated but loose-fitted trousers, a long-sleeved shirt, and a leather jacket with fur inside. Her clothes were mostly black, except for the light brown fur poking out of the collar of the jacket around her neck. The others in her entourage wore a variety of dark colors ranging from blacks, grays, and browns to some blues and greens to help not stand out too much in the environment. She blended in so well with the others that it was sometimes hard to tell that she was the one who organized and paid for the whole expedition. The only thing setting her apart was the black leather string around her neck that allowed a dragon tooth to rest on her upper chest. It was something that she took with her everywhere, never leaving it behind even if it wasn’t the occasion to wear it. The necklace has been a source of comfort and a reminder of her own mission for many years now and probably more to come should she not succeed this time either.
Instinctively, her hand enclosed around the large, pearly white tooth as she gazed at the rocky terrain in front of her. The mostly clear blue sky had an occasional cloud hovering above the mixture of tall and short grasses scattered around among the rocks with the rare sight of flowers here and there in the colder season. Further down the mountain, the forest gradually grows more dense as it reaches the base of the mountains and the valley below. All around the air buzzed with activity of people walking in and out of the cave, moving supplies, while other people in small groups talking to each other during the breaks. The only thing drowning out their voices was the howling wind rushing past her ears. Her mind began to drift off with the clouds, remembering the reason why she came. Once again she is back in her room in the palace, as a little girl eagerly leaning forward as she sat in front of the book her father held up as he read. She nearly fell over him, absorbed in the story, as he retold the tale in the picture book about dragons. The story never got old to her. It ignited this curiosity and desire that still trailed her
to this day. It had been the only interesting thing to her in a life of royal mediocracy, expected to do almost the same things every day, similar to the royals before her and the royals before her parents and so on and so forth.
“Evelyn,” a man called out, marching up to her perch.
Snapping out of her trance, she sighed, tried not to groan or roll her eyes at the voice she recognised immediately as her gaze slid over to the young man that approached her. Unlike the others that came with her, this man wore more saturated colors that almost clashed with the environment and workers around them. Although his attire was similar to those that she requested others to bring, his clothes were, to Evelyn’s dismay, slightly brighter in shades of purple, red, and yellow. Today, he was wearing a mostly purple outfit with black fur, complementing the dull yellow sash and shoulder tassels along with several metal badges. It was also notable that he was slightly bulkier than the others due to his extra layers of clothing. His hair was a dirty blonde color that matched his pale complexion and blue eyes. Within the group, there was a mixture of people with a wide range of skin tones and, yet even among the pale, he seemed to be the palest among them. No doubt with the help of his lifestyle, even though he has traveled as an ambassador and prince, he made sure to mostly stay inside so as to not get his hands dirty.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Lucas?” she replied sarcastically.
The remark almost stopped her “fiancé” in his tracks as he reached the boulder. His tall figure still managed to tower over her, but not by much. For a slight second she could have sworn she caught a stern, annoyed look on his face before it was masked over with neutrality. Evelyn almost couldn’t stop herself from smirking, but she did raise her eyebrows.
“I’m just curious. Even though I’ve been traveling with you for these past few weeks, I still don’t understand why you do these expeditions,” Lucas inquired.
“To get golds, treasures, and riches, of course,” she almost scoffed.
“Why, yes, that is the obvious reason. But, I know that you must have other motives besides just wealth. Why else would you go out of your way like this, especially when you barely even keep anything you find for yourself?” Lucas interrogated.
“Since you seem to have done your research, then you must also know that I give away all that wealth so as to pay for the supplies and for all the people who have come with me to work in this journey. And the money that does not go towards the cost of the trip goes to improving my nation.” Evelyn reflected back, annoyed with his prying.
“Yes, that much is also obvious. Again, I must inquire what exactly is your motive? There has to be something more to it.” His eyebrows started to furrow with a hint of a frown.
“What if I’m just dedicated to charity? Why must there be some other reason?” Evelyn directed back at him.
“There is more to your ambition than just mere charity,” he fired back. His eyes glanced down at her hand as Evelyn squeezed the tooth, still in her hand. Noting that she has been running away from answering the question, like the way she’s been running away from her duties as a princess.
“And what makes you think you are obligated to know?” she snapped.
“We are engaged to be married at some point. I might as well start getting to know you,” Lucas replied coolly.
“You and I both know that this arrangement is pointless. Our nations have been at peace for many years, with not even a whisper of conflict between them. We are only paired up in case of an eventual clash, which I doubt will happen anytime soon. Not to mention, that we both wouldn’t really be in power, considering that we both have several older siblings. Why should I settle for a life of mediocrity just for royal formalities?” She felt herself heating up again out of anger, now glaring up at her fiancé, as a cold wind blew past her cheeks in contrast.
Lucas stood silent for a moment, analyzing her and her words with his blue ice cold eyes. Almost as cold as the wind blowing around them, Evelyn stopped herself from shivering underneath his gaze. In a short time span that seemed like forever, he finally opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted.
“Princess Evelyn, they found the way in!” shouted a girl as she ran out of the cave and up to the boulder, panting.
Evelyn didn’t miss the chance to immediately perk up and slide down the boulder, her break and the conversation officially over. Eagerly, she rushed back into the cave, grabbing supplies on her way, further into the depths, leaving Lucas behind. Finally, she might be able to find what she was looking for. Something that could finally change her life, and her shape, out of this boring path she was pushed upon. Now, with her hand over the tooth, she was determined to find the cursed object that could change her into a dragon.
Beauty is DangerousMaya Donavon
She ponders in the mirror at her reflection Wondering will she ever see perfection she doesn’t recognize who she is in her skin her mother tells her she’s beginning to look awfully thin always cold, always tired, and her hair is falling out but they say she looks like a model, and it makes her want to shout if only they knew what she kept confidential they wouldn’t be complimenting what isn’t coincidental no one would understand and just tell her to eat she thinks if she does, she won’t be petite feeling skinny can be truly amplifying but to say she was happy she sure would be lying “I’ve finally thinned out, but can’t you see that I’m dying?”
Inspired by Agathon Leonard’s Le ScapulaireEmma Grace Whitten
CamilaJoshua Bryan Thompson
I know you have been concerned with my anxiousness towards my birthday approaching. Although, I will no longer be feeling twenty-two (I know you rolled your eyes there, and yes, I had two, ha, ha, I’m so punny). I don’t mind being twenty-three; in fact, in many ways I’ve been twenty-three my whole life. No, the old man is not complaining about his knees again. I actually have a bit of a confusion. When we met in Mr. Moses Geometry class in 10th grade I think, I told you I was from Athens, Greece, and I was born August 3, 2000. I remember this made you feel better about recently moving to the great state of Tennessee yourself. The young Argentinian girl then explained that she had two cousins from Greece about our age. I can’t believe I live in a world where your mother, Hana, fled Tunisia during the Arab Spring and moved to Italy to become a doctor. Then you got married and went to Mexico only to later be offered a job in America. Hana decided to take one final vacation to Argentina where she and Chole discovered you begging for food and smuggled you back into America to adopt you. All of that is to say in the world that I come from you would never have siblings and cousins from not one, not two, but from three continents! Four if you count the Garcia family. To think I live in a world I only dreamed about when I was a boy. Oh, I keep avoiding the subject, choosing to think of any nostalgia over the truth. You always did say I was bad about that, especially when I’m nervous. Well, I’m petrified! Camila, I did the math recently. Not a strong suit of mine, but stick with me. I’ll be turning 593 next week.
No, I’m not exaggerating. I really am a medieval man, technically a late medieval man. At least I was honest about my place of birth, Athens Greece, but in 1430. I’m sure you’re having a big laugh right now! I have no doubt you texted all six of your sisters about this. Something along the lines of: “Girls, my man has gone crazy! Send some help or a malet!” I’ve always found it charming that you call your first cousins sisters also. Such a different world than the one I was born in.
Now I think my offering an explanation would be appreciated, if it’s not too late already. I know I’ve always been the History and English guy, and you’re the braniac when it comes to math and science. That’s always been our special dynamic as we worked through school together. However, I need you to keep track of some names and dates from now on. You can do that for me, my Camila?
During the late stages of the Byzantine Empire, sometimes referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, there were internal conflicts between the nobles and my father, Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos. They fought for the remaining land and power of the once grand empire. However, this had been collapsing for about 300 years. Then it was basically reduced to what you call modern day Greece. Shortly after I was born, another civil war commenced. My mother had fled to what you know as Turkey, but at the time it was referred to as the Ottoman Empire. She wanted to escape the ongoing war. You see, my father had struck a deal with the Sultan in exchange for a foothold in Europe. The Ottomans used this foothold to build a monstrous empire stretching outside of the Balkans nearing Vienna at one point. Lousy Polish Cavalry, I’m telling
you! We were this close to conquering the city of Vienna. But I’m getting ahead of myself. After the Turks (that’s usually what we called them) defeated my father’s enemies, all Byzantine subjects were meant to return to the empire. However, given that my mother was little more than a slave from Crimea, and I myself was an illigimate heir to the throne, my mother begged the Sultan to hide her from Constantine’s fury. The Sultan, Murad ll, granted my mother’s safety in his palace under two conditions. My mother had to serve him as one of his wives. It was common practice back then that Sultans could have hundreds of wives all living in the palace. The other condition was I was to be reconstructed into a Janersary Corp Fighter, an elite addition of the Ottoman Military, when I came of age, at six years old.
Fast forward to the year 1453. I had recently been granted the title Officer by Mehmed II, Murad’s son who was the new Sultan. Despite Muhammed having the title of Sultan, he was not respected by the elder council. They thought he was too young to rule. Afterall, he was only twenty-one at the time. Even younger than me. However, Mehmed had a plan. I wouldn’t expect a Roman Cathlioc girl like yourself to know what I’m going to explain next, but in the Quran, the Prophet Muhammed spoke of a prophecy about the conquest of the city of Constantinople. This is the capital of both the Byzantine Empire and the Christian world at the time. Here is the exact scripture, “One day Constantinople will be conquered. Great is the commander who will conquer it.” With that in mind, it is no surprise that Muhammad approached the other officers and commands of the corps to prepare for the conquest of Constantinople. In summary, after fifty-five days on May 29, 1453, my father Constantine XI Palaiologos was slain in battle. Constantinople fell to its knees instantly. Mehmed II declared victory. The Byzantine Empire was dead.
Under Ottoman Law, soldiers were allowed to raid a conquered city for three days and take any treasure they desired as payment. During that time, I and a few of the higher ranking commanders raided Hagia Sophia. That is technically a mosque today, but at the time, it was the most important church in the Christian world. There were gold and silver coins with my father’s face printed on them, excessively large silver candlesticks, fine china, Persian rugs, and various religious paintings and statues commissioned from the early Renaissance artisans. I’m just trying to give you an idea of what this palace of the Christian world looked like. We had been given orders directly from Mehmed himself to “take whatever treasure your heart desires, but any secrets you find of the Christian world belong to me.” On our second day of raiding, behind a crumbled, poorly lit corridor, lie a room full of scrolls. The majority of which were official decrees from my father, or the Orthodox Church itself. The commanders were rapidly losing interest and wished to return to raiding the church, but I insisted on staying. There just had to be a reason for this room existing. Why hide this when nothing here is worth stealing? Or so I thought.
On my fourth hour, I came across a small golden box which was hidden in a crack at the back wall. I didn’t notice it until the sun was in my eyes, which made me squint. I pulled out the box with great enthusiasm. My mind raced with the possibilities. It was tantalizing for me. There was a possibility that the golden box was the Ark of the Covenant. It was not! When I opened the box, I did not uncover a broken tablet. Instead, I found a scroll with coordinates. I showed the scroll to the commanders, and they pulled an old map from the library. It showed that the coordinates led to the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. We reported our findings to Mehmed II, and with his permission, we were granted an expedition.
Two weeks after the battle, the commanders and I sailed to the coordinates to discover a small uncharted island. This was not uncommon back then, but what was peculiar was that this island was hidden from every other conceivable map. This piqued our interest further. We docked, and with guns and swords in our hands, we traveled through the heavily dense jungle-like terrain. We expected a battle from the last of the Byzantine Army. What we found was a pyramid on top of the highest hill in a clearing in the center of the island. This was like no pyramid I had ever seen before. Do you remember the family trip to Mexico last year? You said I was like a kid in a candy store when we were exploring the ancient native museums. Remember how we decided to take a family portrait on top of the Pyramid of the Sun? Chole said we needed to offer a sacrifice to enter, and that I would do nicely. That is exactly what the pyramid on the island looked like.
We entered the mysterious pyramid. Edged all across the walls were paintings of various stories from the Bible. We decided to follow the path of the stories. The stories appeared in order of events depicted in the Bible. As we neared the end of the Revelation section, you know, the end of the world, there were seven golden trumpets and four horsemen of the apocalypse. We came across an iron locked door with the Byzantine flag etched into the door. The door was located under the final horsemen, Death. With enough gun powder, the door blew clean off its hinges to the other side of the room. To our amazement, on the other side of the door was an oasis filled with tropical trees, bushes, an impossibly high waterfall that filled a deep pool in the center of the room. As we approached the water, I spotted a stone mound at the edge. Inscribed on the stone was a quote from the Bible: “Whoever drinks the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” Our hearts raced as we pondered if we had in fact come across the elusive Fountain of Youth.
Before a decision could be made, yelling flooded into the main chamber. “Stop thieves or be killed in the name of the Lord Almighty!’’
We drew our weapons; then we pressed head first into battle. Gun powder, lead, and blood flew into the air as we battled the pyramid guards. I now know that these guards were part of the infamous Knights of Templar. The battle was not long, only a minute or two before the last guard fell dead. As I looked around to celebrate our victory, I realized the Knights’ standoff was not in vain. I was the sole survivor of the battle. I returned to the oasis and cried out in pain, falling to my knees expecting to die from my wounds. I am unsure of what possessed me to look up at the waterfall, but as I laid my eyes on it, I remembered the words from the stone: “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Desperate to live, I dragged my mangled bloody body to the edge of the water and dunked my head in the pool, swallowing as much water as I could before coming up for air and passing out on the edge. When I woke up five or six hours later, I wasn’t just alive, I was more vigorous than I had ever been. My wounds had miraculously healed, and I felt the strength of a hundred men. I stood up, taking one final look at the oasis. For I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, I had discovered the Fountain of Youth. And that is why my beloved Camila, I’m preparing to celebrate my 593rd birthday.
Forever yours, Xaiver Constantine
He’s running with a torch the flames grow the further he goes
It starts at the chest as it burns long and brutally
Then he makes his way up to the back of my head
Scorching every nerve and melting every muscle in my neck
Arriving at his last destination in my stomach
Running in circles as he twists me into pain
Anxiety is a cruel monster
Oh, how I wish he would blow out his torch
Birds and BeesBrandon Richardson
Beauty is in the Eyes and the HeartJudith Parrish Broadbent
Somewhere in the future, two young people are walking slowly through the waste of a concrete and glass maze that is the living habitat for the people left in the world. They have not seen the beauty of the past in many years, for they have become conditioned not to look for beauty in the world around them. No fresh breeze ruffles the leaves, for none are visible. Everyone goes about their designated tasks looking straight ahead as if they have developed tunnel vision and having forgotten how to look, there is no need to protect or restore nature’s beauty.
The boy suddenly begins to whistle softly, a vaguely familiar tune, some thing his inner self remembers from generations past. As he continues to whistle, a soft wisp of air moves his hair and touches the girl’s cheek. She looks up at him and a small gasp escapes from her throat, for behind them as they pass, trees are visible, their leaves trembling excitedly in the soft breeze that he has called forth with his remembered song.
As she watches, two small blue birds land on a branch and begin to chirp in unison with the Wind Caller. This surprising sight brings a small silver tear to her eyes, and as it falls softly from her cheek and touches the earth, tiny flowers of a deep purple hue spring up at her feet and soon spread all around them. Small creatures begin to appear from around the trees and to play along the silvery brook that babbles happily beside their feet.
The Image Maker has always known that they are somehow different, and now she knows why. If you have eyes to see and look carefully, the beauty in nature will fill your heart. Could they teach others to see as they did? If they couldn’t, this beauty would be lost forever.
A soft Touch of wind to cool a Summer’s day, With clear blue skies and fresh green grass, Trees with leaves upturned to catch the sweet pure rain, And creatures great and small should stop to see it all. For sharing Nature in this way, Will save the World for another day!
The water in the kettle boiled when I answered the phone.
As I moved out the door, keys in my hand and heart in my throat, the burner was cherry red.
The water sat steaming when the bitter air outside cut its way down my throat.
Harsh fluorescent lights couldn’t hide the terror in your eyes. I tried to give you my warmth, to give you my life, but my hands could barely thaw your frozen fingers. The warmth leaked from your soul, the last of the steam slid from the cracks in the kettle’s lid.
And when you breathed your last breath, and I cried in the parking lot, the water stilled, cold.
Say fear-stricken soul, or
Say broken down car, combusted engine
Say your heart
Wasn’t ready, lungs compressed
Say dread of happiness, The consuming effort it exacts.
Say it was all you, no faults in me.
I could bear anythingAnything, but you Forsaking me.
I’ve been told I’m loveless
Although, true to some extent
Uninterested in romance, and critical of its constant consumption
And yet, I yearn to spend valuable, vulnerable time with friends and family
Why, yes, I guess
I am loveless
SilenceJudith Parrish Broadbent
It is Silent ----No motors roaring; No sirens blaring; No voices lent To cheers or shouts.
Where has the noise gone? Does this speak of peace? What is left in this place? Elimination one by one Of species vast and rare.
Nature has reclaimed the earth. She sees survival now; As elimination of too much somehow To give the earth rebirth And start anew the sound. Spring may come anew With many smaller groups. Living things in the loop, Keeping the skies clear blue So breath is not a challenge.
Birds will sing again, And animals roam the woods; Humans will know the good Of saving all nature’s claims--Best to save it now! To have no more Silent Springs!
Not knowing existence can be different. When Mom knows everything, and the depth of her knowledge is limitless.
Believing the whole world consists only of what you perceive. That the sky exists only as you see it. Endless and blue behind your brother’s face from where you stand, barefoot on the tips of his boots.
It is joy without reason. Brilliant memories that feel more real than the pain. Roaring bright lights that almost blot out the stains. The reason you say, “I am happy,” and the reason others almost believe it.
It is hurting and not knowing why. Not being seen but told you don’t need to be. When hiding makes the voices quieter, and closing your eyes makes the tears dry. It is not realizing that your pain comes with cumulative interest.
The reason you cry when you leave home and the reason you can’t stay.
Getting to Know the Ocean
At first glance, uninviting
The glaring sun and scorching sand
An eye looking down, guarded Disregard the first impression
In the distance, can be heard
The crashing of waves and seagulls’ calls
Trudging through the rough burning sand
Shimmering clear blue skies and water materializes
Atop the land, a cool, salty breeze entices
Further down a promising wave Sends white foam to the water’s edge Eager but cautious, you reach out
A foot in the water, the smooth cool washing away the course, hot sand
The water pulls back, hesitant
Standing still, it decides to inch forward Curious, the water reaches out Trusting now, it has something to reveal
Pulling back and showing the hidden treasure below
Of shiny, smooth and ridged shells
The pearly white and chestnut brown
Showing its appreciation, respect, and wonder
The Ocean permits you to wade in the deep blue depths.
The Road Less Traveled
And I Thought I Loved You Then Worth Peppers
Once you were but a dream, nostalgia for a life that had yet to be lived. And I thought I loved you then.
The dust became form. The form became light. An accumulation of desire and defeat, you were the byproduct of a love that had grown weary. You were steel struck against flint in hopes of gathering the warmth that had faded as unspoken emotion caused beauty to hibernate.
And I thought I loved you then.
You conjoined two spirits that had disengaged. Life fulfilled, a premonition of purpose, because of you, blossomed once more. The clouds rolled from the sky, departing on their ways like amicable friends and the sun rose to center stage. And she was beautiful. And she was vulnerable. And she was seen as she was meant to be.
And I thought I loved you then.
You rose like ivy on stone. Clinging tightly to a sturdy foundation. Solidifying the purpose of the stone, you brought beauty from her insolence. You restored the honor of a harlot soul.
And I thought I loved you then.
Your development, your achievements, your nobility - you brought loyalty to hearts that were fickle. Your steps left indents on the sand of souls that were beaches without tourists. You, a beacon of truth and justice, kept every commandment and claimed every fault for the sake of restoration.
And I thought I loved you then.
Your love was effortless, prosperous, accessible. Your love held the value of every longing, until you laid your frail body in the bed of trauma while she reeked of addiction and dreams forgotten. Until you covered the bruises of mediocrity with humor and all her deflections. Until sorrow remained a late night lover who stayed too long and required too much. Until you were pregnant with grief and “full-term” meant forever. Until you were a Gomer in the land of Hosea. Until your love’s equity was depleted.
And even so, I thought I loved you then.
You pleaded with truth for any relief, should he allow your head to embrace a pillow for even just a moment without memory of tragedy. Your soul bartered for peace, trading her poverty for penance, a futile attempt. You submerged yourself in the rising tide, unable to be rescued once more, deeper and deeper into depths of anxious swimming. Your mind betrayed your devotion to the veracious way of existence.
And I thought I loved you then.
Now you are but a life, a dream that has fully been lived.
The form became dust. The form entered light. Fully becoming both desire and defeat, you are the byproduct of a love that had grown weary. You are steel and flint struck together. You are the hope that has gathered warmth and allows unspoken emotion to fade. You cause beauty to emerge.
And I thought I loved you then.
How to Live RightShannon Adsero
The Colorado rivers blood red Beneath an Arizona sunset
Its scarlet waters shimmer And from pain I am delivered How could I explain the motion of the water to you?
And In the land of enchantment Where the golden buttes Plateau
Then fall again, a gentle staircase History’s mantlepiece I left my scars behind
I’ve been wandering for so long Lost and yearning for too long I’ve been wondering for too long Just how to live right
What would you say if I told you I was fine?
In a Santa Fe casita; red adobe dream
The cold pink scent of wine on my lips
Beneath a cumulus laden sky Would you believe me?
I won’t look back, or acknowledge the asphalt Stretching behind us as we travel on In Amarillo the sun is big, and fat She hangs low in the sky and the light gets in my eyes She knows I’ve been blind, but she wants me to see
On the bank of the Rio Grande
I smirk to myself and think
This trickling stream ain’t so grand A thousand westerns and dusty cowboys invoke the legendary name But standing here I see we’re just the same We’re beholden to the patterns of the rain
I compare myself to the weather
As if a storm could explain
The frantic beating of my heart
When I look in the mirror
And see nothing behind my eyes
Just a fragile disguise I’ve been carrying from town to town
Home Is Where Our Story BeginsBethany Hinson
Rumpelstiltskin: A Modern Retelling
Once upon a time, there lived a young couple in a big city. They were poor, but they were happy because they had each other. The man, Thomas, was an artist, working to sell his art, but truly had little luck. The woman, Bernadette, was studying to be a nurse, looking to provide a better life for the couple. The two were engaged, although money for a wedding was nonexistent. One cold October morning would turn their situation upside down. Thomas opened the mail, rubbing his scalp with his fingers as he observed the bold red letters on the paper.
The poor couple had one week to pay the rent or be sent out into the street. Bernadette was pacing back and forth, equally as worried as her fiancé. “What are we going to do? We barely have enough money to eat, let alone pay rent!” She sighed and slumped into the chair across from the worried Thomas.
Thomas hung his head into his hands, eyes still fixed on the large red letters. “I’ll have to work overtime to make more art; going to get a loan will just push us further into debt.”
Bernadette let out a heavy sigh, her fingers rubbing her temples. “I need to go for a walk to think about it.” She got up from her seat, grabbing her coat hanging from her chair. Thomas looked up at his fiancé. “Be careful, it’s getting dark.”
Bernadette would wander the gloomy city streets, quietly weeping to herself at the hopelessness of the situation. As she walked by the narrow alleyway, she heard the voice of a man speaking to her. “Why the tears, miss?”
Bernadette turned to see a short man wearing a long black cloak and a top hat. His face appeared pale with a tattered uneven beard and yellowing teeth. Although repulsed by the appearance of the man, she would answer his question with a sigh, leaning against the wall of the alley. “I’m broke. My fiancé and I will be out on the street if we don’t pay in a week.”
Bernadette dropped her face into her hands and began to cry.
“That is a good reason to cry, being punished without a penny to your name. Perhaps I can help you.” The man spoke up, Bernadette looking back up at him.
“You can? How?” She wiped her face to clear her eyes as the man fiddled with his cloak. “Anything I can do, with a price, that is.”
Bernadette’s hopeful mood quickly faded. “A price? But I have nothing!”
The little man looked down at her hand. “How much is that ring worth?”
Bernadette quickly covered her ring with her other hand. “No, I can’t sell you this, it’s my engagement ring.”
The little man just gave a shrug. “I guess you choose to be homeless.”
Staring at the ring on her finger, Bernadette would ponder. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the ring away from her finger, reaching it over to the little man. The little man reached out, taking the ring from her hand.
“A wise choice, my dear. I’ll make sure you get a better ring soon.”
Bernadette was aching from her sacrifice, but also grateful for his generosity. “Thank you, Mister…um, what’s your name?”
The little man let out a hearty laugh. “No need to worry about that.” With a swish of his cloak and a gust of wind, the little man was gone.
The following morning, Bernadette had checked her bank account to see a huge amount of money, enough to pay off the overdue rent. She cried out in joy, almost fainting in her seat. Thomas heard his fiancée’s cries and came rushing in. Bernadette pointed to the amount of money displayed on the screen, Thomas was relieved but also in shock. “Where did this money come from? There’s no name displayed. Bernadette told the story of the strange little man, Thomas staring in disbelief. He was angry that Bernadette gave away the engagement ring, but his anger quickly subsided, promising a new ring in the future.
One month later, just as things were looking up for the young couple, bad luck would fall upon them once again. Thomas was behind on selling his work, money was short, leaving the couple unable to pay bills. Desperate, Bernadette threw on her coat and went out into the alley to find the strange little man that helped them out before. As luck would have it, the little man was found in the same place they had met before.
The little man looked up at Bernadette, a smirk on his face. “Fallen into bad luck again, my dear?”
Bernadette nodded. “Yes, please, I need help!” She cried out, putting her hands together, begging for help from the little man.
“That necklace looks awfully nice.” The little man gestured to the gold necklace around her neck.
Bernadette covered it with her hand, shaking her head. “No, I can’t! It was my grandmother’s!”
The little man just gave a shrug. “It’s your choice.”
The little man did have a point, she thought. With a heavy sigh, Bernadette unhooked the chain of the necklace, extending it out to his hand.
“Excellent, again, you won’t regret this.”
Bernadette just sighed in relief. “Thank you again…what was your name?”
The little man let out a hearty laugh and with a swish of his cloak and a gust of wind, he was gone.
As expected, financial luck would flourish among the couple, letting them live comfortably.
Or so they thought. They made plans for a wedding, but money ran out. Desperate, Bernadette went out to seek the little man once again. She went to the alley where they had met before, finding the little man once again.
He peeked up from his hat. “In trouble again, my dear?” Bernadette dropped to her knees; hands clasped together as she begged for help.
“You know the deal, give me something and I’ll help you.” Bernadette sighed in defeat.
“But I gave you everything valuable I had.”
The man scratched his chin to think. He then had a bright idea. “You and Thomas are to be wed, correct?”
Confused, Bernadette answered. “Yes, why?”
“I’ll help you now, in exchange for your firstborn child later.”
Bernadette was shocked in hearing such an odd request. However, she had no other choice and agreed to his deal. As the two shook hands, the little man disappeared with the wind. It was the very next night that Bernadette and Thomas would become husband and wife.
A full year would pass, Bernadette had almost forgotten about the strange little man and his deal. She would give birth to a beautiful baby boy, and they named him Damian. One peaceful night, Bernadette was rocking him to sleep in his cradle humming a soft lullaby when she saw a familiar figure in the dark corner of the room. She gasped when she recognized the little man from long ago. His hands were outstretched towards the cradle as he approached it.
“I’ve come to collect your side of the deal, my dear.”
Bernadette quickly lifted her son from the cradle, holding him in her arms. “No! I won’t let you take him away!”
The little man grimaced and snarled. “We made a deal, now give me the boy!”
Bernadette still refused, for she loved her son.
The little man grunted in annoyance, crossing his arms. “I’ll tell you what, my dear, I’ll let you keep the boy if you can guess my name in three days’ time.”
Bernadette began to think about every name she had ever heard of. “Is it Michael?”
The little man laughed. “Guess again.”
“Is it Felix?”
“Is it Phineas?” The little man gave another loud laugh before disappearing.
Bernadette began to ask everyone she knew, friends, coworkers, her boss, even her husband, of every single name of which they could think. The next night, she would try
her guesses with the little man, but no luck. She could not get it right. She would spend her days thinking of different names, some that were not so common. The second night, she would try the unusual names, but none of them worked. Only one night remained, Bernadette was getting nowhere. To clear her mind, she went to walk along the woods. As she was walking, she heard what she believed to be music. Following the sound, she saw a little hut. Outside of the hut was a cauldron, filled with boiling water. Coming out of the hut was the little man!
He hummed a song to himself, dancing around the cauldron. “Tonight, tonight, my plans I make, tomorrow, tomorrow, the baby I take. The girl will never win my game, for Rumpelstiltskin is my name!” Hearing his name finally, Bernadette ran home.
The following night, the little man would appear in her room. “Make your best guess, my dear.” The little man laughed, feeling confident he would win. Bernadette would pretend to think.
“Hmm, is it Sean?”
The little man let out a hearty laugh. “Incorrect, two more guesses.”
Bernadette would look to the side, pretending to think some more. “Is it Bradley?”
The little man snickered. “One more try, bet you can’t guess right!” He let out a loud laugh. Bernadette would then look at him with a confident smile. “Is it…Rumpelstiltskin?”
The smile from his face quickly faded into a shocked frown. “What did you say?”
Bernadette stood up, staring down at the little man. “Is your name Rumpelstiltskin?”
His eye would twitch in anger. “That is correct.”
Bernadette smiled. “Now leave.” Rumpelstiltskin yelled out in rage, stamping his foot into the floor.
“You wretched girl! I never lose at my games!” As his foot stamped through the floor, his foot would break the floorboards, getting it stuck. He would try to pull out his foot, but the floor sucked him inside, causing him to struggle more. Rumpelstiltskin was dragging his nails against the floor, trying to keep himself from being pulled into the floor. With a loud scream, he disappeared into the floor. As if like magic, the boards would float and repair the floor, as if he were never there. Thomas came inside the room, looking at the shocked Bernadette.
“Bernadette, what happened?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Bernadette just looked at her husband with a smile.
Bernadette never spoke of Rumpelstiltskin again. And they all lived happily ever after.
Despite It All
Despite a global pandemic Despite the isolation and anxiety Despite agonizing financial insecurity Despite the growing political dissent Despite an ever-widening divide Despite changing routines Despite the new “normal” Despite last year Despite this one as well
We have and will always persevere
My New Friend Malik
An Excerpt from The Wind CallerJudith Parrish Broadbent
The boy stumbled abruptly over a gnarled root whose twisted fingers inched across the narrow path. He had been deep in thought, concentrating on the girl’s auburn tresses as she moved lithely up the narrow path ahead of him. She had suddenly appeared one morning at the hacienda and impelled him to go with her to the ancient citadel. She had quoted an old adage about precluding eminent danger in her attempt to persuade him to collaborate with her on this expedition. Samueld had been thinking about the discordant arguments that had arisen from Jereo and Lunara when he had told them of his plans. He had wondered why the New Order’s decree that made everyone so servile had not been challenged by others. He recalled a time when he was quite young attending a celebration in the square of some large city. Such gatherings were now prohibited. His memories brought back vivid images of being jostled by a large churlish man dressed in black and blood-red. He remembered hearing many plaudits for his father’s heroism. He could not recall the act that had gotten the praise. It was as if an excerpt from his history had been removed.
“Be careful,” the girl admonished in a tone barely audible, “and don’t be a laggard; we have much ground to cover before the sun sets.” She turned and moved away quickly through the tangle of growth above them.
It was nearly dark when they reached the entrance of the cave. It was cleverly disguised, appearing to be part of the rubble that had fallen from the cliff edge above. They had to grope their way cautiously through the narrow slit that formed the opening to the inner chambers. Abruptly Andreanna vanished from sight and the boy’s throat tightened as a sense of eerie panic engulfed him. The silence hovered over him like a specter. He had to wrangle with his fear in order to go on any farther. This situation could evolve into a serious obstacle. In the velvety darkness he ran his fingers carefully along the cave wall and unexpectedly they were lost in open space. He edged his foot slowly towards the unknown abyss that he feared lay beyond this wall. His soft leather boots slid noiselessly across the smooth surface of
the stone floor, and this did not disappear as the wall had. He stepped cautiously around the corner and to his astonishment saw another opening ahead that was now filled with light.
Samueld walked quickly through the portal to find a bonanza of crystals lining the walls of a rather large and high-ceilinged room. The candles positioned on a flat stone in the center of the room cast rays in all directions that reflected from the facets of each crystal, making one feel that he was on the inside of a gigantic geode. He felt that he was reverting to a magical childhood dream that had filled his nights when he was very young.
Andreanna suddenly appeared from the other side of the grotto. The candlelight reflections shimmered on her auburn hair that she had wound closely around her head. A few rebellious tendrils had escaped and curled gently at the edge of her small but intense face. There was a warm glow about her cheeks, and her dark eyes fringed with long ebony lashes sparkled as if with sweet laughter. She seemed to be amused at his enchantment with the room. “It be quite late, and we still need a vigil to keep,” she said quietly. “This place is known to very few, but one can never be off one’s guard. I will watch first, so go to sleep. We must proceed at first dawn.” She seemed very calm and showed him a smooth, flat stone on which to rest and gave him a hand-woven quilt to wrap himself in. He soon drifted into a light sleep, dreaming of her face floating in the crystal light.
Black and White
Lovers beginning to awake
Anxious to open their bright eyes
A world through which they dream
In search of warmth it brings
Is comfort real
Is it perceived
Will it be there in the darkness
As light of day begins to leak
Another midnight come and gone Romance a fairy tale it seems One touch tender lips they moan Disappearing into the deep
Souls tremble not of fear
Numb from whispers in the night
Intoxicated by each touch
A life not of color but black and white
My Mother’s LapBonnie L. Halcomb-Weaver
Two Long Limbs That Cradle Me, Warm Winds Blow On My Neck;
A Place Of Peace & Silent Words, It Holds Pain & Cries To Be Loved;
A Snuggling Place, To Fall Asleep In; My Protection, A Shield From Evil & Wrong;
A Place I Love So Dear, It Is The Only Place For Me;
My Mother’s Lap….
Her Arms Are The Limbs, And The Wind Is Her Breath On My Neck, As She Bundles Me Close To Her Chest.
I remember the daydreams of sitting on rooftops with my family. Laughing and snacking on popcorn as we mocked and jeered at the people who burned below. Cheering triumphantly as the world was brought to nothing but ash, waiting to be reborn by God’s glory.
This was our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations, our futures. I envied the woman transformed to salt, the woman who became frozen in time, when I realized this future was no longer mine. I begged, pleaded even, “My Lord! Please let me on your ark! Do not separate me with the sinners!”
My prayers fell on deaf ears. All I could do was pray for a silent, painless death. This became my new hope, my new dream, my new aspiration, my new future. A pity death, at the hands of Jehovah.
Grief, you are misery. You are the loss of something special, something valued, something given or something earned.
Your effect is almost indescribable. It feels like a dark cloud filled with sadness and pain is hanging over you, and every memory of your loved one reminds you of its existence. There seems to be no cure but to go through it, no one thing or remedy shakes the feeling, no one person fills the void or provides the right words no matter how concerned.
The mere thought of the loss brings more tears down your already salty stained cheeks, and more hurt and pain into your already broken heart. It feels like you’re in a boat in the middle of the darkest storm, with heavy wind and rain, and no help is in sight.
But yet you see it, peeking through the dark cloud over your head and coming over the horizon. Peace. Joy in the midst of Sorrow. A new meaning and thrive for the life that has been going on all around you. And a reason to move forward.
Some days it’s filled with sunshine and memories, laughter and appreciation of the life you encountered on this earth. Others, the cloud creeps back up. And the ache of quiet resurfaces.
But there is hope. Hope that life continues and purpose remains. Hope that love is victorious and our loved one’s memory will forever stain our minds and hearts, we will never part. Grief.
The Guest HouseCarl Jones
The Ghost of Her PastKelexis Alexander
Wade in the water
Wade in the water
Wade in the water woman Gods gonna’ trouble the water … Her body sculpted, skin smoothed melanin golden, bruised from touch, pain induced traumatic emotion, within her body fear becomes her reality as love becomes a dream, unbearable mistakes, master, master, I baked your favorite, just how you like it, royalty line across the smooth finery of her golden, a silent cry for forgiveness, forgiveness for falling, her mistake, master only master could be, mouth shut legs open I say, open wide, Wade in the water…Wade in the water lovely, Gods gonna trouble the water …royalty lines across her border, bloody lines crossings, the path to escape…lead only back to dear old master, did you like it masa? I made ya’ favorite masa? I’s sorry masa! I’s love you masa! Weeping vigorously, she goes…a black woman was born ...