Perceptions 2020

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A Journal of the Arts Columbia State Community College

A Journal of the Arts

Produced by the Humanities Division of Columbia State Community College

Columbia State Community College, a Tennessee Board of Regents institution, is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity, religion, ethnic or national origin, sex, age, disability status, or status as a covered veteran in educational and employment opportunities, and is committed to the education of a non-racially identifiable student body. Individuals needing this material in an alternative format, e.g., hearing or visually impaired formats, should contact the Disability Resources Center. Columbia State Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Science in Teaching, Associate of Fine Arts, and Associate of Applied Science degrees, and technical certificates. Contact the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Columbia State Community College. CoSCC PERC-01-06-20, Parris Printing, 211 Whitsett Road, Nashville, Tennessee - 500 copies

This year’s Perceptions is dedicated to

Dr. William X. (Bill) Andrews Friend, mentor, professor, photographer, world traveler with an insatiable appetite for knowledge, filled with kindness and hope for all, and a true wonder of existence. These words echo among all who have crossed his path. For more than 30 years, Bill Andrews taught as a beloved Professor of History at Columbia State during which time he touched the lives of countless numbers of students, faculty, and staff. Our lives are better for his contributions to the College and to our community. Bill leaves behind a legacy of friendship, a passion for living, and a call for a return to character, empathy, morality, diversity, and honesty.

STAFF 2019-2020


Shane A. Hall


Shelly Ganter Christina Loucks Colleen McCready Susan Pobst



Nanette Ekimogloy


Blissful Sunset Michael Ambrosio

CONTENTS Poetry Dante Campopiano

Mosaic Heart


Halle Brandt

Any Desire


Hanna Ross

The Jungle


Dana Sanderson

What Next Will Come


Sarah MacIntosh



Sarah Corcoran

Art Critique


Kai Lefler

Some Day I’ll Love Ocean Song


Celeste Larson

The Day She Knew She Loved Him


Hollie G. Phipps

The Virginian


Tyler Saum

The Sparkling Water


Nicolette Murray



Christopher Ingham

Rage Against the Void


Chad Hollingsworth



Dennis W. Holley

Island Hopping


Andrew Myrick

The Trees


Meagan Irby



Prose Celeste Larson

The Skipping Girl


Mariella Ajami

The Tinker Bell Fantasy


Cynthia D. Torres

Do You Like Me?


Sarah MacIntosh



Prose (cont.) Amiee Michele Sadler

Eulogy for My Father


Edith Xuluc

Ashes, Ashes: A Novel Excerpt


Isaac Callaway

Biff’s Lax Leisure


Images Carl Jones



Bob Toothaker

Antoinette Hall


Marla Cartwright



Sarah Corcoran

A 1920’s Murder of One


Sarah Corcoran



Sharon Conant

Toby and Avery


Nicolette Murray

The Little Things


Rebekah Phillips

The Story of Yingying


Nicolette Murray



Diane M. Davis

Disguised as a Flower


Carson Jacobson (Grease Gasket)

She’s Done Dancing


Melissa Febbroriello

Ruby Falls


Diane M. Davis

Twisted Tree


Melissa Febbroriello

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana



Eclipse? Carl Jones


Mosaic Heart Dante Campopiano

Joy relentless, poured like rain Mercy forged within the pain What seemed broken at the time Turned to gold and realigned Welding a mosaic heart Perfect pieces, forming art


The Skipping Girl Celeste Larson “Alice. I met her when I was three at bible school. We were best friends. She moved away two years later—Dang it!” The girl shouted as her stone plopped into the water after four skips. The water was calm and completely still before the girl came to take out all her aggression on it; although, the water had done nothing wrong. She got on her hands and knees and searched for a fitting rock in the gravel and settled on a perfectly smooth one. Mud had begun to gather in small clumps along the cuffs of her jeans. “Timothy. We met in seventh grade.” She threw the rock. “He kissed me in the hall before gym class. We dated for a month. After we broke up, we stayed good friends. In eleventh grade his new girlfriend forced him to stop talking to me.” The girl watched as the stone settled after six skips, and she stood watching the rock peacefully sink as if the water was mocking her, making her watch it drop every heartbreaking inch. The water, after all, needed its revenge for the uncalled for beating. She then dropped to the floor, feverishly scrambling to find another rock. It took her much longer this time, as if it didn’t want to show itself. By then, her pants were covered in mud and it didn’t take long for some to spread to her hands, nearly slipping as she tried to stand, rock in hand. “Jennie. We met in ninth grade. We became fast friends. She was my best friend. We hung out nearly every day. She was my sister. I took her on family road trips. Then she met Jessi. She stopped talking to me. She stopped looking at me. She blocked me.” Tears filled her eyes as the stone shamed her by stopping after eleven skips. She fell to the floor and took to rummaging through the gravel, trying to find a rock that could surpass the last. By then her hands were covered in mud and rocks would fall from her hands before she had enough grip to throw them. She then 10

grabbed a handful in her arms and threw them all into the water, “Stacy. Brittany. Jeremy. Kevin. Ryan. Angelina. Grace.” The water brushed the seven stones back onto shore without a single skip and began to feel pity for her. The girl wailed as the truth of her situation set in: she was alone, and there were no more fitting stones on the shore. Her face fell into her hands, mud covering her features save for the lines left clean from her tears. It was her weeping that drew in a boy; he stood behind her saddened by the state of the girl.  “You can have my stone,” he said, gently extending his hand towards the girl. She took it hesitantly, wiping the mud from her eyes as she stood. The two stood for a moment in silence until the boy got down on one knee, raising the stone to her. “My ladyship,” he said, attempting and failing a British accent. This earned a giggle from the girl as she took his stone. “Please let this stone work,” she whispered, closing her eyes and held tight onto the rock between her palms. With a mighty throw, she sent the stone flying across the surface, the water propelling it forward. The two were amazed that the stone kept on going.  “Eric. Offering me a stone when I ran out. Next was dinner and a movie. Lots of laughing. He got down on one knee again. I walked in a white dress down an aisle. We had a child. And another. And another. One more. We took a vacation to Disney World. Got a new minivan.” The stone never stopped, skipping long into the night, and long after they left. It didn’t stop after dinner and a movie. It didn’t even stop after he got down on one knee. The story of them never ended, so the rock never stopped skipping.


Any Desire Halle Brandt

He spoke to me with sweet words as if his tongue  was made from candy of my choice      Anything your heart desires  A promise he held true  I could have asked him for the moon and with his aching heart beaten and bruised from over use he’d have climbed through clouds to retrieve a gift to make me swoon I gave him silence  How much more hurt he’d be if I told him     My heart does not desire you


The Jungle Hanna Ross

Behind these porcelain palace walls Adorned with gemstones green An interior world of chaos rises A rainforest made out of dreams In halls of leafy splendor Where dopamine waterfalls rush Parakeets soar, passing thoughts back and forth Their exuberant coos never hush But there are places where the flowers cannot find the sun And the canopy is so dark and thick No sunbeams dare paint the shadowy nooks Panthers prowl and boas constrict What looks like paradise to a passerby May really be a wilderness untamed And this jungle that never stops stirring You simply refer to as my brain.


What Next Will Come Dana Sanderson

The butterfly is fluttering, then flips and kicks and bumps. She finally arrives, such joy, but then what next will come? The baby’s home, and sands fall through the hourglass of life. She sits, she crawls, she walks, she runs, she dances, oh, she thrives! I blink my eyes and years have passed, my child no longer rests In my lap to read or sit with me; she’s off to her next quest. I’ve watched her living every day, but didn’t comprehend How sweet the moments were, my eyes were closed, my time was spent On things that had no meaning, cleaning house and making beds. My child, my life, my love, my heart craved words that went unsaid. I blink again and see a mom and daddy on the beach Hold their baby by the hand, my baby out of reach. I want to shout to them, “Don’t blink, you’ll never understand How precious this sweet day is, friend, I know that now first hand.” I often ask the question that in my impatience grows What next will life be bringing me? Impatience is my foe.


Raw Sarah MacIntosh It is easy to be generous It is a display of great When there is surplus Generosity But oh oh oh And patience How the hands clench That we haven’t In scarcity Stolen, killed, or destroyed you yet Real No, Or only We haven’t traded tit for tat Perceived to be But oh oh oh It is easy to be patient We are ever so You know Hungry Slow to anger So tired of being teased Or anxiousness Always feasting on When what you desire Your fumes Isn’t threatened Your crumbs Or Changing Your pre-chewed things Always To quiet our bellies Just Out of reach But mother can only watch Their children starve So, And weep Don’t preach at me For so long You full-bellied And you smell like meat Well-dressed white man Who never knew What emaciation is Please Oh please Because the kids and I do Don’t make a wolf out of me And believe us


Art Critique Sarah Corcoran

My legs feel like butter As I hang you up On the wall I hope I didn’t stain you With the sweat Of my anxiety I show you off to victims Sitting behind me Who stare in disinterest At you, my greatest creation Abomination That I’ve ever breathed It’s true that I love you And that I hate you Don’t know why I made you But that’s what bullshit is for They gaze up at your beauty And at your ugly too All the mistakes I didn’t see When I first made you With their words they tear you Apart so eloquently And thus, they tear me apart Too so eloquently. 16

Some Day I’ll Love Ocean Song Kai Lefler

Many a time I’ve heard of the sound of the ocean’s song Of its beauty and majesty and soothing properties I think, “Maybe I’ve never heard the ocean of which they speak,” For I never have experienced that calming song I’ve heard the loud smattering and haphazard stitching of crashes Against the shore or rocks -- never did I think of song The sound is a bumbling, lopsided sound Made of harsh and grating noises That is not a song to me, I want something hard and slow or light and fast Something that could be mistaken for solid or gas What is the beauty In the randomness of liquid? What is it that all the people before me Have noticed and appreciated? Is it the randomness itself? How unfair That it is me who is left out Who am I to discount the masses? Maybe someday I’ll learn to appreciate too As I grow older and wiser I want to learn to appreciate How good it is to gain new enjoyment! I long to like the ocean song, though it will be long I swear, I will wake – And mistake the cacophony For song 17

The Day She Knew She Loved Him Celeste Larson

Nothing was unordinary about the day she knew she loved him. It was a  mere glance in his direction that made her realize.  He smiled at her, And she smiled back. She then understood that there was  no one else that  could ever make her cheeks hurt like him.


Antoinette Hall Bob Toothaker


The Virginian Hollie G. Phipps

I’m just a simple girl Born southwest Virgina, raised Took some odd paths, made some bad choices Believe it or not, I wear a smile most days I am humbled by the little things That matter most of all Moments of purpose, fleeting memories Sometimes, it’s a long distance call I’m thankful for another year of living I’m grateful to God I’m blessed The Lord has been so good to me I’ve hurdled forward, when I wanted to rest Happy for the people in my life Thankful for those that walked away It’s made me who I am Peaceful dreams, at night when I lay I’m appreciative of everything surrounding I’m loving this life, being me I’m exactly where I want I’m right where I need to be


The Sparkling Water Tyler Saum

I passed a slightly flooded field today Amidst the unwanted conditions, the water sparkled in the sunlight How could such a disaster show so much beauty? A farmer would hate this, but a passerby would love the sight The water reminded me of you How could something so beautiful mask destruction? My heart was the field; you were the flooding water The water looked so beautiful as it washed over me Little did I know the water would cause my downfall All of the hopeful grass washed away My heart tried to keep the grass rooted To no prevail, my heart flooded and the grass of hope vanished The water will dry up eventually Grass will grow back The only thing to question is how long the grass will take to grow back What seemed so hopeful faded away so quickly Eventually, I will become a beautiful field again Until then, I stay flooded in the damaging, sparkling water


Departures Marla Cartwright


A 1920’s Murder of One Sarah Corcoran


The Tinker Bell Fantasy Mariella Ajami When I was a little girl, I spent so much time watching Disney movies. I would sit in the living room on the floor with a blanket wrapped around me, playing movies one after another until not only I, but every single person in my house could mouth the words while watching. Many of those movies took a place in my heart. I loved Disney princesses and enjoyed their movies, but unlike other girls my age, I never cared to be a princess. I wanted to be something else. I did not know what that something else was, but I knew it was equivalent to being a princess. When I watched Peter Pan for the first time, I was in shock and couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted more: to re-watch it or to be a part of that world they all live and fly in. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about Peter and his little friend Tinker Bell and imagining what it would be like for me to be a shiny, beautiful fairy with beautiful wings to take me anywhere with Peter Pan by my side. The freedom that flying brings is fascinating! It would probably look silly right now for me to jump across the living room from couch to couch trying not to fall; however, as a nine-year-old, that was what my whole life was about. Every night for weeks, I would play the movie and start jumping. With every jump, I got higher and closer to the ceiling. With every jump, my hopes got higher, and with every jump, I would tell myself: “This is it: I’m going to fly this time.” Watching Peter Pan was a turning event in my life. As a child I was completely convinced that I may not be Tinker Bell or be able to fly side by side with Peter Pan, but I never lost faith in my ability to fly one day. My mom was starting to get concerned as I would not talk about anything in the world but flying. The only time I did not talking about flying, I was practicing it. It started as an innocent childhood fantasy that my mom found cute at first, but it got serious enough she had to sit me down and explain to me (multiple times) why it wasn’t 24

humanly possible for me to fly because I did not have wings, nor was I born with them. She continued to say that it was not all bad because I would get to see cities, oceans, and land from above and fly by the clouds when I got older and could fly — on an airplane. I didn’t care one bit about what my mom said or what my family thought. If anything, their words only made me more dedicated to prove them all wrong and magically fly one day. I couldn’t resist the desire to be unique: to fly high in the sky, to see buildings as if they were little Legos from afar, to dance with birds while the wind blew through my hair, and to enjoy the fact of being free, and to have the ability to go anywhere I pleased. Unfortunately, as days went by I started losing my motivation. I realized my dream may not come true, and my mom was right all along. Humans aren’t capable of growing wings. It took me a while to actually accept the fact I will never be a Tinker Bell, and I will have to continue living my life as a non-shiny, wingless, and regular sized girl. When I finally accepted this reality, I wasn’t only disappointed in myself, but I was also disappointed in Peter Pan for saying, “Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough.” My mom was very upset with the situation and the way I had been feeling. She almost made me stop watching Disney movies altogether. She did not want me to get attached to another movie and be disappointed again. But that never happened because as soon as I watched The Little Mermaid that became my new movie obsession. And that’s how the whole Peter Pan phase passed. I recovered peacefully as my concerns shifted to how to grow into a mermaid. Sometimes in life we get stubborn and refuse to take the hints because we get passionate about a certain idea and cannot see anything else, no matter how many people try to change our minds. Sometimes, the only way to achieve bigger dreams is to experience failure that pushes us to try again. Thinking about that story today still makes me smile. Even though my dream to fly did not come true, many other dreams did come true in my life. I can’t be anything but grateful for all the failures and disappointments that made me who I am today. And who knows what science will come up with in the future? Maybe one day I’ll be able to purchase wings and connect them to my shoulders via Bluetooth and say, “Alexa, fly me to work.” 25

Nostalgia Sarah Corcoran


Do You Like Me? Cynthia D. Torres It was late May in Tennessee and the lush hues of green were plentiful. The occasion was my daughter’s eleventh birthday. I had made arrangements to rent a three story cabin in Pigeon Forge and had invited my dad and step-mom as well as my sister and niece to join our family. My daughter had also invited three friends. I was so excited to spend time in the Smoky Mountains and Dollywood was an added treat. In my mind this was the trip of a lifetime. My life was finally in a really good place. I was married to the love of my life, had two wonderful children, and we were able to afford the occasional splurge on a trip like this. My dad and step-mom had arrived the day before, giving all the adults time to get people, luggage, and kitchen supplies ready for the weekend trip. I needed to get food, and I coerced my dad into going along on the grocery run. After we had made our purchases, we were sitting in the Publix parking lot, and I had an overwhelming urge to ask my dad “the question.” I had wondered about asking “the question” a million times before, but I had never felt worthy of the answer I needed to hear. I was never thin enough, nice enough, popular enough, successful enough, or even smart enough to ask, but today, sitting there, I felt strong. Strong enough to ask him, “Dad, do you like me?” I wistfully imagined his response, so positive and loving. I even contemplated his surprise at the ridiculousness of the question, with his laughing reply, “Of course I like you. How could I not like you?” Instead, I received a shock. It is only now that I am able to understand the depth and breadth of that question. There is a world of difference between like and love. I knew my dad loved me, but my understanding of love had become bound up with the idea of responsibility and obligation. You had to love certain people, right? The word “like” 27

is free from obligation and coercion. It is the emotion you convey upon someone who meets your definition of suitable, charming, fun, valuable, precious and wanted. That was the real question I was asking my dad, “Dad, do you like me enough to choose me over the others?” I had worked so hard to get to this place in my life. I was content with a measure of pleasure in how far I had come. I was no longer the object of shame and ridicule. I was born again in many ways. As I sat there waiting for what came next, it felt like time stopped. Was it a few seconds or minutes? I do not know. What I heard in response to my question was rage. He was infuriated. I was stunned and almost scared at the intensity of his loathing. He started hurling accusations at me for “ruining everything” with the implied addition of “again.” I am not sure how I drove home. A heavy silence had settled on us, and it was laden with displeasure and regret. Once home, we unloaded the groceries and packed everything for the weekend. I do not remember the rest of the evening. I do not remember how we got to the rented cabin the next day. I was too embroiled in the pain. The only thing I do remember is the agony that accompanied me throughout the weekend. I felt like my insides were frozen while at the same time my skin was blistered from a burn. Every movement was excruciating, so I moved slowly and without fanfare. This trip I was so looking forward to had become a heartbreaking ordeal, a poignant reminder of my past. Perhaps if I had not been so confident of his response, I would have never broached the subject. Except, I had worked hard and long to earn his approval. I had built something that was worth being proud of, but alas, not for him. At that moment I learned to never ask that question again, from anyone. I had learned to not need anyone’s validation. Needing someone’s approval was a double edged sword, and I would not impale myself again.


Toby and Avery Sharon Conant


The Little Things Nicolette Murray


The Story of Yingying Rebekah Phillips

The Story of Yingying is about a young boy named Zhang who was travelling to a monastery for his studies when an uprising occurred in the military as an unruly general tried to take over after the death of a beloved ruler. Zhang saves a friend of the family and her children from the chaos that ensues as well as falls in love with their daughter, Yingying. Both go through an emotional adventure as they fall in love and learn that love is not always meant to be. Life pulls them apart and they end up marrying other people, never to see each other again. The Story of Yingying was written by Yuan Zhen in ca. 804.


Staged Sarah MacIntosh Today, Verity was a curious cat pretend purring and pretend licking her hand, bent at the wrist, fingers curled under into a pretend paw. She licked slowly and her eyes roved over the scene before her. In a little while she would be a seven-year old girl again because Mama would be back from the grocery store and would need help putting away the food and paws always make a tangled mess of it, but for now, the cat habit served her. He is wearing a funny hat, she thought, as she watched the man pace across the living room floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. She pretended to whip her tail and then readjusted herself cross-legged upon the couch. After Mama left to run errands this morning Verity had gone room to room, gathering every pillow in the house for her cat bed, dragged them into the living room and meticulously placed each upon the sofa, nudging with her nose, here and there. Here and there. Here and there. Then kneading the perfect spot in the center (always made of Mama’s pillow) before finally sitting cradled upon it. But she knew, soon Mama would be back and so must every pillow and the little girl, as if the morning had never happened. She licked her wrist and then pawed her whiskers, sliding slowly from her nose to her cheek. Nose to cheek. Nose to cheek. Next, she continued, lazily cleaning her face and then each eye in the systematic way that she figured would refine her feline persona. Eventually, her purr grew silent, and she sat quiet with one large crinkle, not yet a wrinkle or even a crease, between her eyebrows, deepening as her internal dialogue lengthened. What kind of name would a man have who wore a hat like that? 32

Questioning was one of her favorite activities, like catnip, almost like being on the playground. She could do it anytime, anyplace and never taste scarcity. Questions were her Garden, her Eden, her un-hidden-landof-abundance, and she spent most of her time there. Yes, what kind of name would a man like that have? Jack? No way. Jack’s wear football helmets. Josh? Nah, Josh’s don’t wear hats, their hair is too good to be hidden. J.D.? No, J.D.’s wear cowboy hats, obviously. Danny? Hmmm, yeah. A Danny would wear a hat like that because Danny’s sing, and singing is on a stage and a stage needs a big hat. And oh, how the lights on the stage would show that feather right off. It was perfectly placed under the band and extended way out over the hat’s brim. Yes, everyone would clearly see the rainbow of color fanning out over the plume. Cardinal Orange Canary Green Peacock Purple Salmon Well, that was easy, Verity thought. Now I know his name. It wasn’t too hard to figure out after all, she told herself. I just listed all the names of the men in my family: Uncle, Brother, Uncle, and landed on my Father’s name. No big surprise that he has the same name as my father, he has the same face as well. But he is definitely not the same man, because that pacing man, biting his thumb fingernail and mumbling to himself, over and over and over again, that man who belongs on the stage, he looks like he is trapped in my living room and my father would not feel trapped in here with me. Obviously. With that, Verity raised herself from her bed, hands clutching her Mother’s pillow as she arched her back and gave a long cat yawn. Then, she stuck her tail into the air and tiptoed down, off of the couch, pillow by pillow, until she placed her little girl foot upon the living room floor. 33

Sarangkot Nicolette Murray


Hope Nicolette Murray

When the daylight comes It will be a glorious endeavor Hand to the plow Digging up sunshine Sprouts of life Rise to meet the New, blue sky Deep breaths And long sighs I wait with Hope For the warmth to arrive


Eulogy for My Father Amiee Sadler Please excuse my language, but my daddy was a badass. It’s hard to remember that your parents had a full life before they were your parents, but knowing what I know about my daddy, it’s not quite as hard. According to him, he grew up in the projects under less than ideal circumstances, excelled at football, and went to Harvard University on a football scholarship. He was drafted into the army, served his country with gusto, and proceeded to get the heck out of Dodge. Even though his boxing career proved otherwise, he liked to say he was a lover, not a fighter, unless you pushed him. After he was discharged, he came back and graduated from Vanderbilt with his Juris Doctorate. He did some high profile lawyer stuff (his words, not mine) and loved arguing and took great joy in teaching me to do the same. He was destined and determined to succeed. While he was a brilliant attorney, he was not a wealthy one. This lack of monetary success was a direct result of his passion for people. He was more concerned about helping people than getting paid. While this is honorable, it wasn’t always efficient. But, that was my dad. He always wanted to help anyone who needed it and never met a stranger, animals included. He was the only man I knew who walked around with dog treats in his pockets, just in case. He was full of joy, and I could hear his laugh from down the hall. He had an open door policy and would talk and listen to anyone who needed him. He was deep, like insanely introspective and intuitive, and I would leave from our conversations thinking I understood the concept but would wake up hours later thinking, “Dang, Daddy, that’s deep!” As much as he succeeded in life before I was, as he would say, a twinkle in his eye, his greatest joy was being a dad. He often told me that’s what God truly created him to be. I was the first kid in my preschool to be able to spell my name. It wasn’t luck. It was the fact that my daddy wrote a song for me to sing me to sleep at night. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so I won’t torture you all with it, but it was my name spelled out followed by “That’s Amiee, my baby.” I learned how to properly clean the kitchen because my daddy wrote a song for me to remind me to sweep before I mopped, and that song still plays in my mind when I have to clean. He taught me long division and how to solve multi-variable algebraic equations when I was in kindergarten. When he got pushback from my teachers who understandably didn’t quite know what to do with me, he politely informed them that it wasn’t his fault I was a genius and smarter than them. Tact wasn’t always his strong suit. He demanded, not 36

so politely, that my karate sensei let me take classes with the green and purple belts even though I was just a yellow belt because I was too tall to spar with the other kids my age, and I had to sit out of so much of class. When I wanted to audition to be a performer at Opryland Hotel, he helped me choreograph a completely inappropriate dance to a completely inappropriate song and applauded his eleven-year-old emulating 1996 Toni Braxton. It was bad y’all. It wasn’t his best idea, but he did it with love, so we’ll give him a pass. He read to me when I was doing homework and too tired to read for myself. When I wanted to play basketball, he picked me up from my mom’s house at 4:00 A.M. every day for weeks to go run laps at the park even though he was walking with a cane, and he tirelessly counted my baskets as I shot 100 free throws when it hurt him to stand more than a few minutes at a time. He then had a few choice words for the basketball coach who wouldn’t let me try out past the first day because I was really that bad. Krystal’s was our spot. We ate chili-cheese fries after leaving the gym and sunrisers before church. Daddy defended me fiercely whenever anyone had anything remotely negative to say about me. He gave me my first drink of alcohol and helped me hide my first hangover. Sorry, Mom. He was the first person to know I was pregnant with Blair and was more excited to be a grandfather than anyone I’d ever seen. When I was in the operating room for my cesarean section, he sang to me and reminded me that God choose me to be her mommy the same way God choose him for me. He taught me how to meditate, and to this day when I get overwhelmed with anxiety, I can hear him telling me, “God in, love out.” He believed in me when I didn’t think there was much to believe in. He would randomly call me at crazy hours to tell me he loved me and that he was happy to be my dad. He always saw me as the best me I could possibly ever be and would not be persuaded to think any differently, no matter who tried. He reminded me that my name meant “beloved one who is of God,” and I was forever his beloved. As amazing as he was at being my daddy, he had an equally completely amazing identity outside of being my hero. The last time we talked he told me over and over that he loved me, and he was proud of me and of my accomplishments, and I told him I was most proud of being his daughter. I don’t know how to live in a world without my daddy, but I find peace in knowing that this world is a better place because he was in it. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me. I love you daddy, and I’ll miss you always. We all will. 37

Disguised as a Flower Diane M. Davis


Rage Against the Void Christopher Ingham

There was a town deep in the undergrowth. There was no hair nor whisper of a want, a greed, nor oath. The carcasses of conifers lied splayed on the forest floor undying. The soil spoke of black, viscous foreshadowing, the corpse of that land will fuel the conflict of another era’s dying. There the atmosphere had mutated the residents of the tree line, which crawled with no significance. There in that primordial fever dream hellfire rained with fury and indifference. There is a town built on bones and secession. The desires of societal phantoms corrupt natural progression. The farm the town once was has festered into a spasming suburb failing mysteriously. The currency, transport, and concentration are murky carbonizations of underlying idiocy. Here things that waddle around are compassionate and caring though naïve. Here there is a superposition of two starkly contrast potentials which slowly unweave. The city might be breathless. The people might linger headless. The air might be solid and scorching. The land might be toxic and infertile, and those who subside on it will keep on searching. For answers to their questions might be rediscovered amongst the rubble. For this might be avoided and such their trouble. There will be a town that grew from the dirt and gravel into a metropolis. The worries of long ago will have been deserted, so long to the necropolis. The visage of the region will be green and silver, sustainable and succinct. The people will be delighted, euphoric, and pleased, for they are not extinct. Glory to the logical, the kind, and commanding, glory bestowed encroaching. Glory to the calm, cool, and collected, glory to the future fast approaching.


Dreams Chad Hollingsworth

Hopes hung with feathers as dreams float unfettered Protection leant and learned from the Ojibwe tribes of old Spoken from an ancient tongue Civilizations low on timeline’s rung Our ancient history and her story of a grandmother’s love so bold Though her reach was far and wide She was but one, so her people tried To capture evil’s harm and hurt from young and tender ones They’d form a hoop of strong willow and through a process, painfully slow With nettle, they’d weave a web Praying ‘til their work was done As evil would surround their sleep peaceful dreams under protection’s keep Safe and sound, the child would stay Tucked away from ghosts of dark But as a child always grows older dreams somehow become much bolder Adapting, living in this world of woe But still, the night’s coyotes bark


But now, too grown for safety above Independence stretches a protector’s love The man half-heartedly sleeps with eyes Fixated, but no longer upon the door And soon one man becomes a tribe Loss of fear becomes doom prophesied Until a nation becomes homeless heroes Forced to pinched camps between two shores This is the tale of a darkened past One now remembered in shadows cast But there are few, still steadfast and strong In keeping traditions so rich and true And so, declares this outsider “Remember the prayers of Grandmother, who looked beyond and then began this blessing before me and you.” Hold tight to sleep when peaceful But restrain yourself from senses dull Learn from the spider’s woven web And drift not far from its timeless truth Imperative- this lesson before us all History forgotten precedes the fall Let us esteem our forgotten firsts And may our prayers rise like smoke as proof.


She’s Done Dancing Carson Jacobson (Grease Gasket)


Ruby Falls Melissa Febbroriello


Ashes, Ashes: A Novel Excerpt Edith Xuluc It was almost as if the air could tell that she carried a deadly weapon with her. It pushed and shoved and pulled at everything it could touch. Her hair, her hands, her clothes, anything to keep her from releasing her weapon. It whispered to her, urged for her to stop walking, to stop breathing. Stop, it begged in her ear, through her dark hair, you can walk away. I don’t want to be sick. She would have agreed. She would have turned herself around, her eyes downcast, and walked back from where she came. But she couldn’t. This was her job. She had to do it. She was made for this exact purpose. That didn’t mean the wind and the trees didn’t try to stop her in her tracks. Branches whipped around her, smacking her arms and legs, desperately trying to keep her from walking. Some even sacrificed their own limbs, breaking them and dropping them in her path. Their leaves rustled and trunks groaned in protest. If they die, who will take care of us? They repeated over and over. She trekked along, even if her heart throbbed with every passing limb that fell in front of her. Even the animals tried to talk her out of it. Tried to distract her from her duty with cute faces or threatening advances. The deer tried to rip her assignment from her hands, but they were too scared to get close. The eagles tried to distract her with beautiful dances in the bright blue sky. The birds tried to sing her to sleep when she rested. She couldn’t blame them. She didn’t like bestowing sorrow everywhere she went. Didn’t like the way everyone else treated her. She was one of the Originals; her job was too important to stop what she was doing. She didn’t like the side glances she received from the Luminosities. Even some of the Shadows would grimace in her presence. It wasn’t her appearance that made them uneasy; it was the power she possessed over humanity. Or maybe it was the unsettling shades of her irises, one sickly green while the other a muddy grey. 44

She paused for a moment, sitting on a nearby stump and looked around. The trees had stopped their protests, the wind had calmed their whispers, the animals had stopped their plans. She was dreading this job. Not even her best friends could help cheer up her mood. The only thing they could do was promise to be there when it started which was a ridiculous promise as one of their orders was to watch and oversee the Spread. There was a light shiver that traveled down her spine, and the hair on her arms stood on end. There was a shadow that slithered a little past her on the ground, and she heard the familiar sound of Bele the Raven cawing overhead. That meant his owner was not far away. “You’re hesitating, Lilith.” She sighed and gave them a reassuring smile, wincing at how it must’ve looked like a grimace, “Dee, what am I supposed to do? I hate doing these things.” They huffed as they ran their hand through their dark hair as they paced while chewing on their bottom lip. Lilith hung her head as she played with the end of her sleeves. Dee had gone over this reason many times with her. It was routine by now, they were assigned something, she would pout, they’d tried to comfort her. Usually, it didn’t take long for her to finally accept her fate. This time it was different. “It’s millions of people, Dee. Not just a few thousand.” She pressed on, clutching at her dress with tight fists. “Lilith, I don’t want to do this as much as the other guy, but we have to. We were made for this exact purpose. We’ve gone through this hundreds of times before, thousands actually. What makes this one so special?” Dee asked, clearly frustrated with her, and yet their voice held no malice. She stayed quiet for a moment, closing her eyes as flashes of images passed through her mind. Of different people she had the chance of meeting only every century, finally one image settled in her mind, one of a person. This time they were a boy. Dark midnight hair, grey almond shaped eyes, and a crooked smile. “I met them again. They’re going to be a victim.” She whispered softly, hunching into herself as the wind carried her voice and 45

magnified it. “Every century, different people but same soul.” Dee settled beside her, clasping her hand lightly, “Lils, we can’t have Soulmates. Plus you know how reincarnation works. There’s thousands of people that get reincarnated many of times.” “Who says we can’t have Soulmates?” A different voice chimed in, making Dee stiffen. Lilith looked over towards where the voice came from and smiled at the familiar face. Sol walked over, a bright smile gracing his soft lips, dark skin glowing like a god of ancient times — one of the reasons he inspired Apollo in Greek and Roman mythology. “It is physically impossible for us to have Soulmates. We aren’t humans,” Dee ground out, straightening back up and turning to stare blankly at Sol. Sol rolled his eyes before focusing his attention to Lilith. She shot him a grateful smile all while subtly pinching Dee’s calf through his dark pants. Play nice, he’s my friend too. Dee glanced down at her before relaxing, or at least tried to seem relaxed. “Sol, what are you doing here? I thought you weren’t supposed to get here for a few more days?” Lilith asked, looking down at her report to double check. He pursed his lips before talking. “Titi sent me to check on you. Said you were running behind by eleven minutes. You know how Titi is about time.” Both Lilith and Dee scoffed at that. They knew exactly how Titi could be, especially about schedules. “Don’t worry, I was just taking a rest.” Lilith stood. “I’m only a mile away from the destination.” “Will you be able to handle this?” Dee asked softly, concern painted on their pale graceful face. “Sure. It’s not like he’s the one I’m going to Spread first.” Dee and Sol winced. 46

“Oh Lils,” Sol gasped. “I’m so sorry.” “It’s okay. I better get going, or I’ll really be late. I would not hear the end of this if I was late. Titi could temporarily eradicate me.” She chuckled at the thought before shuddering. “I can already see the amount of paperwork I would have to fill up if they do.” Sol bowed his head as a farewell before disappearing. Dee glared at the spot where Sol had stood. Lilith would’ve laughed at how ridiculous they looked if she wasn’t filled with dread. She stood up, picking off fallen leaves from her dress and a single black feather from Bele. “This is yours.” She muttered as she lifted her hand towards Dee, who took the feather carefully. Bele cawed from his position on a tree, staring intently at the fallen feather. “I’ll meet you later.” Dee promised, bowing their head as they too disappeared through a shadow that was cast from a nearby tree. Lilith blew air out as she continued her trek along the forest. This time there was no distractions or whispers keeping her from her mission. No usual rustle of leaves or undergrowth. Not a single chirp from the colorful birds or eagle calls. The forest was still. As she neared her destination, she felt the familiar tingle at her fingertips, churning in her stomach, and pull from deep inside her. Then, just a few feet away was the bench she was meant to sit on. The city only half a mile away, perfect for the Spread to gain momentum. There was a rustle of leaves from her East road, the opposite direction from where she had come. “Who are you? I’ve never seen you before.” Lilith looked up and locked eyes with grey almond shaped eyes. Though his voice was wary and cautious, his lips were politely spread into his signature crooked little smile. He spoke in his native tongue, making her pause before answering back. “I am just passing through, but it seems I have lost my way. Could you lead me into town?” The man hesitated before nodding and offering his hand. Lilith stared at it for a second, knowing that this was the moment. Before the man could take his hand back, she took it gently. There was a 47

rush of cold through her whole body, traveling towards their connected hands. The man didn’t notice and gently pulled her along. When they arrived at the edge of the city, the man let go and turned to face her with a kind smile. She shyly returned it, noting the light sheen of sweat on his forehead and how his body shivered lightly. “I think I’m coming down with something. I will hopefully see you around,” he told her. “Here, as a thank you for helping me out.” She unpinned a small bouquet of flowers and herbs from her dress and handed it to him. He gently took it with his nimble hands. His eyes were bright with surprise as he took a small sniff of the bouquet. It was a fairly strong scent compared to normal flowers, strong enough to mask unpleasant odors. “Thank you,” he whispered, pinning the flowers and herbs to his collar on his coat. Lilith nodded before walking away, too afraid to look back on what she had Spread onto him. She should spend the next few days with him, for observation, to see if it actually took hold of him. But she couldn’t. It would be too painful to watch a person that she had an interest in die. So she kept walking farther away, repeating his last words to her over and over again to calm her breaking heart. The Spread of the Bubonic Plague happened quickly. Even with lulls where it seemed to calm its hunger for people, it continued to feed. Lilith could clearly see the struggle Sol faced to help find a cure, but his assignment wasn’t to begin until much later. Instead, he had to watch millions of people suffer in the hands of his best friend. Even Dee seemed to struggle and stretched themselves thin trying to collect the millions of souls that finally caved to eternal Rest. Dee, Lilith, and Sol always kept to the edge of the crowd, listening to what people said and how they responded. They watched as the high priests announced the terrible disease that was spreading through all of Europe. The Black Death, they called it. They watched as small school children playfully came up with the rather clever rhyme about it, throwing themselves to the ground, laughter leaving their young bodies, as they tried desperately to cling to whatever childhood they had left. 48

Island Hopping Dennis W. Holley

The war took boys from Alabama and Tennessee, Trained them in California, shipped them over the sea, To some God-forsaken island where the Japanese landed planes, Those innocent boys would forever be changed. The bravado instilled or brought from home, Would likely be shattered stripped down to the bone. When the shells exploded and the dead fell in heaps, Their dreams would be nightmares that cancelled their sleep. From boredom to sheer terror the days crawled by, The knowing looks that passed eye to eye. That this will be the day when my luck runs dry. Like Billy and Roger, we watched as they died. So, who will tell mama her boy won’t come home, And break it to Daddy he’ll plow the field alone. For my duty is called I must do what I can, The battle is raging, we fight once again.


Twisted Tree Diane M. Davis


The Trees Andrew Myrick Walking amongst the trees, I get the feeling that something important was interrupted. That same feeling you get when you ask a group conversing a question. They stop and look at you as if they just found out you existed. I didn’t mean to interrupt, believe me, I just wanted to see what a decade long conversation might sound like. Perhaps the oak had been waiting seven seasons to tell the pine a wonderful jokeOnly for me to come along.


Purgatory Meagan Irby

This thing has been living in the cracks of my ribs the discs of my spine the holes in my heart. This thing has been living my mind the life support stubbornly fighting my body’s time clock. This thing has been slithering thickening sickening. This thing has been stuck swimming purgatory. My mind seeks to revive scans the crowd for a sign but my body has given one dare look inside. It’s dead and it’s gone. My face plays along but my heart knows it lingers. A shadow lives on. Weeping in anguish my soul cannot see blinded by this thing that’s blocking its leave.


My skin craves the sunshine I hope it seeps through. I hope when I kiss it it kills off old news. But it’s stirring it’s whirring it’s kicking down doors summoning ghosts of those buried post war. This thing was once violent and though it lives on I have surrendered and so it stays calm. It slithers it thickens reminds me it’s there. It stirs and it whirs but won’t hurt only scare.


Biff’s Lax Leisure Isaac Callaway Biff closed his laptop and sipped his Tubby’s Iced Tea. His focus pulled up to the ceiling and hovered there as his thoughts chained together seamlessly, almost on autopilot. Whenever he finished writing he would take a second to marinate in the bliss of his favorite beverage coupled with deep reflection. He was sitting on his favorite couch in his favorite sweatpants. His favorite plastic parakeet was clipped on his shoulder and his favorite person, “The Wife,” as he called Beth, was humming a song from the laundry room. She had always been a singer; it was nice to have a positive mood posited into his“-underwear smells-like tuurrrkkeeeyyyyyyy, his overalls smell-like juunnnnkkkkkk-”   “You know it does!” Biff bellowed and stiffly stood with a growled huff. All his life, he had been told that he should enjoy his time while he was young, but in experience his fifties had far surpassed his drifting young-adult phase. His thirties compared a little bit (due to his thenrecent marriage), but everything else was far less in retrospect. He was finally living it up, living in the present. Busy nine to five, chill with iced tea and the wife from six to nine. Sometimes they watched TV together, sometimes they took walks, but most of the time she would sing her thoughts at him from the kitchen or the laundry room while he would write out a story or two. “I mean, seriously,” Beth dropped her romantic, whimsical singing voice. “It’s like you collect garbage for a living or something.” “Yeah,” Biff gruffed. He walked from the living room to the kitchen table to get a look at her through the walkway leading to the laundry room. “It’s like I feed a family or something.” “I wasn’t fed today.” The Wife faced Biff and dropped a blouse she was folding. She made her “hot-stuff” face. “There were other things that never happened today. When are those things gonna happen?” Biff’s eyes lit up with sparkles, sparkles The Wife had famously named: “The Pre-Sex Sparkles.” A few nonverbal cues later and the two were playfully moving closer. 54

A knock interrupted. Biff’s face fell. “Who dat’?” Another knock. Then, after a five second pause, a third knock. Recognition took Beth back to the laundry room while Biff ran to greet his closest friend at the door. He swung it open and let out a roar of gusto. “Tom!” Tom was a forty-two year old lawyer who had moved in from New York just three years ago. When the two first met at a local bar, The Mississippi Drippie, they hit it off so well and had bonded so tightly that their friendship had been sealed and remained a firm “man pact” ever since. “Biff! It’s awesome to see you, pal.” Tom waved his head back just slightly to get one strand of his slick hair out of his eye. Classic Tom. Lean, tall, brilliant, donning a charming and uptight smile, Tom had the stuff. He had it all, save relationships with the opposite sex. His complicated ethical theory that he rigidly held all immediate family members up to pretty much killed the vibe whenever something started to sprout. But he bought a nice car to make up for it, which, in Biff’s opinion, was a good call since beautiful cars were second to none, save beautiful women. “Get in here! Got some—” “Iced tea! I’m up for it!” Tom promptly stepped inside behind Biff and softly closed the door behind him.  Before Biff rotated completely Tom gripped him on the shoulder. “I have something extremely important to ask you.” His voice dropped. “I have a big proble—” “Hold on!” Biff said quickly, in an otherwise occupied and struggled tone. He was grappling with his belt buckle. It needed to be looser, much looser. Usually he noticed it earlier in the day, but sometimes he didn’t until it started to cramp. After a few seconds, he managed to unlatch it, freeing his belly to hang lower. He turned to Tom. “Ahh, much better.” His face shifted from relief to 55

concern as he looked into Tom’s eyes. “Hey now, what’s the matter?” Tom shook his head and wringed his hands. “I’ve finally found something that, that, gives me joy.” He gulped. “But it’s also nightmarish, and I don’t know how to do it, but I need to do it. I did it once, and it was magical. Now, it hangs over me like a terrible burden, and I hate it, but I know I love it, and…” Tom breathed in. “Okay wait just a darn minute.” Biff held up his hand. He closed his eyes, sighed, then looked down. “Is it writing?” “Yes! And I had alw—. What? How’d you know?” “Listen Tom.” Biff raised his gaze and scratched his scruff. “For it to be fun, sometimes you just gotta do it, hold yourself to no expectations, just let the story flow through. You seem the type that would get too caught up in the planning to do anything. Your writing will turn out just fine. Go write.” Tom was taken aback. “Wow... wow, thanks Biff-” Biff gripped Tom’s two shoulders and turned him around, then reached from behind and opened the door. “Go write pal. Me and The Big W were about to get it on. There’s a prompt for ya.”


French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana Melissa Febbroriello