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Founded in 2021, The Dazed Starling: Unbound is the online literary journal of the Department of Modern Languages & Literature at California Baptist University
Address correspondence to: Dr. Erika J. Travis, Managing Editor
The Dazed Starling
CBU, Modern Languages & Literature 8432 Magnolia Avenue Riverside, CA 92504 (email@example.com)
The Department of Modern Languages & Literature offers a Master of Arts degree in English, Bachelor of Arts degrees and minors in English and Spanish, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and minor in creative writing. To learn more about the programs and professors in the Department of Modern Languages & Literature, explore www.calbaptist.edu.
The Managing Editor would like to thank Dr Chuck Sands, Provost of CBU; Dr Lisa Hernández, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; Dr James Lu, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages & Literature; and all of those who offered their encouragement, guidance, and friendship during this publication process. The Dazed Starling is currently published with funds generously provided by CBU’s Department of Modern Languages & Literature
©December 2022 Respective Authors
Dazed Starling Unbound
advent winter 2022
DS: Unbound Advent 2022
Letter from the Editors
Thank you for joining us for the Advent edition of the Dazed Starling: Unbound Advent is the traditional time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the lighting of candles, singing of carols, and reading of Scriptures remind us that the miracle of the Incarnation is rooted in and produces hope, faith, joy, and peace. They testify that no matter how dark the world may seem, the Light has come into the world, and that Light will not be overcome. So whether or not you light candles on an advent wreath, we invite you to enter into this season of anticipation with us. Come, prepare your hearts and rejoice with us for we who were in darkness have been given the Light of the World! We hope these creative works reflect glimpses of that light and remind you of the mystery and miracle of God's great gift to us.
Merry Christmas, The Dazed Starling: Unbound Editorial Team
ErikaTravis,GretchenBartels Ray, LauraVeltman,BernieceAlspach
Jennifer Tronti Stubborn
Grace Crandall Propagating
Abigail Lopez Gotta
Gretchen Bartels Ray
Have Been Here Before
A Place to Go
Ode to Winter's Beauty
Christmas Car Down A Country Road
Amberly Garcia Peace Prince
THE PEOPLE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS WILL SEE A GREAT LIGHT; THOSE WHO LIVE IN A DARK LAND,THE LIGHT WILL SHINE ON THEM. ISAIAH 9:2 Hope
Pine’s sharp musk is a pungent reminder: to still, to realign body with soul, like splintering a thing out of joint and into joy.
Let candles and carols keen with staunch anticipation as Word slips from blinding glory into dappled skin.
In right renewal, a ritual for the senses that most sensitive of access which ushers in and honors The Holy.
Let us swaddle Him in tears and lay Him down in our brokenness.
In weeping adoration, Hail the Holy King upon His earth strewn throne, and let Advent’s initiation arise and reign.
Somewhere outside my window there is a tree, surrounded by cement, but still
shooting its life into tiny children: extensions of itself, summer green saplings that push budding heads up and past
the metal grate that keeps the squirrels from burying gifts at their roots, that tells the gardener to cut them short. He cuts &
they are beheaded & the tree looks down and says, “Ah well, I have infinite life to give,”
and says, “The roots are already here,” and says, “I have all the time in the world,” and says, “I don’t have just one chance, but many,” and says, “I will keep growing, the way I always have.”
Snip, snip, snip. The stem crackles with the promise of new life.
Clip, clip, clip. Scissors tackle death and its strife.
This croaking, groaning plant he propagates.
Poor wretched thing! ‘Tis slant but, he grasps fate.
After a few weeks he hears a peep:
The sprouts giggle from the stem’s grave, aglow.
The roots wiggle as if to wave hello!
We Have Been Here Before PeytonBell
we have been here many times before, but never in this way. see our footsteps in the carpet, hear our echoes in the hall. we have been here many times before, but the evening light streaming through the window has never looked quite this radiant. we have been here many times before, we have left our doors open many times in hopes we’d find each other here again. perhaps now we can have softness and certainty. perhaps now we’ve earned that.
A Place To Go
The air was frigid as Bert wandered down the street. Merry little lights of all colors were strung along the buildings, but many of the storefronts had locked their doors hours ago. Light snow had left tiny drifts along the sidewalk and there was a thin sheet of ice on the ground. A bitter wind cut its way through his old brown jacket, and he shivered, trying to pull the knit cap lower over his ears without impeding his vision. Maybe the alley nearby would offer some shelter. A light glowed at the end of the alley and Bert walked closer to investigate, hands shoved in his pockets. The glow resolved into a small fire burning in a low can. Sitting on a crate by the blaze was a wide man wearing a red coat and a battered old hat lined with fur. His beard was thick and white.
“Howdy, neighbor!” called the man, waving cheerily. “Merry Christmas! Come sit for a spell?”
“Some Christmas, huh?” Bert grunted and settled himself across from the other man.
“It’s always been my favorite time of year,” replied the stranger, eyes twinkling.
“Cocoa, Bert?” From a sack at his feet, Nick withdrew a couple of Styrofoam cups and a thermos.
Bert accepted the steaming cup gratefully. “Yeah, well, ‘peace on Earth and good will to all’ sounds really cool till you’re stuck in an alley on Christmas Eve. I got nowhere to go.” He squinted at the flames and took a sip. “No job, no friends.”
Clock chimes nearby rang out quarter to twelve.
“I’ve been working the same job for a long while now.” Nick chuckled. Bert glanced the man up and down. “What’s your job?”
Nick hefted his lumpy sack over his shoulder and held up a candy cane. “Take a guess.”
Bert’s eyes narrowed. “Seriously?”
Nick winked. “Ho, ho, ho.” He rose and began walking back toward the street. “Walk with me, Bert.”
Bert looked reluctantly at the fire, then his curiosity got the better of him. “Don’t you have chimneys to be visiting?”
His friend waved a hand dismissively. “I’ve got time. Come on. I’ve got something more important to show you.”
Bert followed Nick out of the alley and turned down the street, illuminated by lamps wreathed in green and tied up with bright red bows. Now the sky was clear, and the stars returned the friendly greeting of the Christmas lights on every building. Nick led Bert to a long building, the spire of which was garlanded with lights. Despite the lateness of the hour, its stained glass windows glowed. From the open door spilled golden light and the sweet strains of a choir:
“O, holy night! The stars are brightly shining... ”
Nick pointed past the building to a small wooden structure next to it. Under a small, dim bulb, a family of three statues huddled: A man, a woman, and a baby in a box of hay.
“They were alone too, you know.” Nick looked over at Bert. “No friends, nowhere to stay. And he’s the King.” He gestured to the tiny figure in the box.
“King of what?” asked Bert.
“All of it!” Nick laughed in wonder, waving at the world and stars above in a sweeping motion. “But he decided to come live among us. Share our troubles and joys.”
“Huh.” Bert looked down at the baby, then back up at Nick, but his friend had vanished, leaving behind only the scent of peppermint hanging in the air.
THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US. WE OBSERVED HIS GLORY, THE GLORY AS THE ONE AND ONLY SON FROM THE FATHER, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH. JOHN 1:14 Faith
Did one star move, Or did the others stop in their place Awed, uncertain, terrified: Moved into not moving at the singular sun Beaming from a dull, dirty trough?
It's such a beautiful day Light shines through the open window It's such a beautiful view The blue rose soaks up the sunlight
It's such a beautiful feeling My sheets rustling throughout the day It's such a beautiful voice If only I could remember who it came from
It's such a beautiful sight Scenes shift on the TV up above me It's such a beautiful noise When the doctor reminds me what's wrong
It's such a beautiful moment When the strangers come to sit and talk It's such a beautiful time When the voice gives me what I need
It's such a beautiful question When I ask the doctor what's wrong It's such a beautiful answer If only I could remember what he said It's such a beautiful day
An Ode to Winter's Beauty AbigailLopez
People can disregard sheer frost. As if it were a mirror for the face But it is a scene to be crossed, And each step in the snow with grace Watch how snowflakes are not tossed, They are from God and have a place. Ode to Winter's Beauty, if lost, That would be buried gifts in space.
Okay, dude, listen. You’ve just got to believe that it means something
The sour songs you sip in the after hours. The dust behind your car when you’re 12 miles over the speed limit. The instantaneous change that comes over you when silence melts into liquid music, when the radio comes through clearer than usual.
I know it sounds corny, but you gotta believe that the feeling that The Album gives you is genuine magic, that it is legitimate invisible vibrancy dripping from the trees outside of the car windows. The ones you looked through on road trips as a kid. You’ve got to convince yourself that there are colors you cannot see. That the nostalgia is as tangible and important as seeing, as breathing.
You gotta use the memories of crickets and back porches as currency, as coins stamped by joy, to buy yourself a second of moving forward unencumbered. Believe that the good books matter more than the ones you read in class. Tell yourself that crying over an ending is significant, is righteous, is productive and important and legitimate, that it is not just the cocktail of chemicals in your brain.
Just trust me. You’ve gotta say that it matters. You’ve gotta say something. Say it’s more real than you are, more real than I am. Say when the music matches the sunset it is because it does, because it personally Reached out and drew stained fingers across the horizon. You’ve gotta believe that The Book is talking to you, and only you, and it’s not a coincidence. You gotta know that it wants to be read by you, and you need to believe that The Movie doesn’t just inspire you, it inspires your surroundings. And when you daydream, you’re there, touching reality in a way that no one else can
You have to. Your survival depends on it.
That nativity tableau the one with crowded peak topped stable set out piece by piece year after year and filled with Mary and Joseph, a single donkey, an ox and some sheep or goats. Last of all, Jesus asleep in the hay forget it.
Instead, imagine, inside a ground level space, a stone manger where a few animals brought in at night for safety and warmth usually feed, and an upper room, the kataluma (not “inn” but “guest room”) in which there wasn’t space for Mary and all the women at the birth.
“Come in, come in, there isn’t room in the upper room but there is room with us. The animals can spend the night outside. Welcome to the family space. Here there is plenty of room and strong hands and arms to catch Him when you push one last time.”
Joy AND THE ANGEL SAID UNTO THEM, "FEAR NOT: FOR, BEHOLD, I BRING YOU GOOD TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY, WHICH SHALL BE TO ALL PEOPLE. FOR UNTO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY IN THE CITY OF DAVID A SAVIOUR, WHICH IS CHRIST THE LORD." LUKE 2:10-11
Once upon a midnight clear, To a world in Death and Fear, Broke forth a Savior, newborn boy To usher peace, eternal joy.
Beneath the pale moonlit sky Shepherds watched their flock nearby. Behold! A choir o’ angelic hosts To herald news none else could boast.
In a manger, Babe you’ll find, Wrapped in swaddling clothes, the sign. Make haste to worship on bended knee. Proclaim glad tidings to all with glee!
The mother chaste, young and tender. Foster father awed by splendor. tiny child, King of Kings, Sovereign Might, hope He brings.
Once upon a silent night A new Dawn broke, shining light. What once was lost now is found; Declare His glory to all around.
Fresh Fallen Snow MadisonHead
There’s something special about fresh fallen snow It brings back memories from long ago. Your inner child comes out at long last; You have to play in it now and fast Before the sun decides to show.
It was freezing. The sea wind whipped violently above us, angry that it could not penetrate the barrier we made with our blankets. We had them wrapped around us in a hug as we lay side by side on the soft sand, our bodies touching. Your heat radiated. I felt it seep into me, easing the shivering of my bones. The warmth reached down into my soul.
We were laughing. Hysterically. The joke expanded in our lungs, choking our windpipes as it bubbled its way upwards. A concerning wheeze exhaled out of me, which made you laugh even harder. My eyes could not contain the moment and were filled with pools of salt water, as if reflecting the ocean below us. I looked over at you, and a single tear slipped out.
I wildly pointed to it, bewildered at the fact that you made me laugh hard enough to cry. My tear made you snort as we burst into even more peals of laughter, like two obstreperous little kids. Our hysterics were comical. Our hysterics were uncontrollable. Our hysterics danced with the howling of the wind. As we lay there, I knew that your exact belly laugh would be engraved in the innermost parts of my mind forever. And the best part of it? I don’t even remember what we were laughing about. I only remember you, my tear, and how the rest of the world didn’t seem to exist.
Christmas Car Down A Country Road
It was deep in the night. I rumbled down familiar country roads, heading home after a long shift at the grocery store. I had always welcomed the Christmas season with a joyous bubbling in my chest, but this year was different. I never thought I could relate to Scrooge, but working retail made me want to bahumbug the whole event. There was nothing more exhausting than the crush of commercialism.
I stopped at the light—11:28 pm. My feet were cramping. I was ready for bed. Down every residential street, there came a faint glow. But at this stoplight on a country road, the festive neighborhood lights hid behind dry, dusty hills. Only starlight trickled upon the desolate landscape.
I waited, staring at a red that rivaled Rudolph’s nose. No one on the road but me, yet the light refused to turn green. Then, glancing to the right, I blinked. A Christmas car idled beside me.
Wrapped in red and green lights and topped with a wreath, the Christmas car looked as cheery as can be. Yet there was something ghostly in how the lights flickered off its smooth, polished sides. It might have been the near midnight anticipation or the film of dust
that woke in the car’s path, or I was just tired, but hard as I peered through my passenger window, I could see no outline of a driver.
I might have been a bit nervous, but the car awoke in me such a gladsome feeling, much like a sip of steamy cocoa on a crisp peppermint night. Maybe the Ghost of Christmas Present was at the wheel, transforming the dull with a pinch of joyous absurdity. Though, I doubted the jolly giant was squashed inside. I grinned at the thought as the light turned green.
The Christmas car turned the corner. I wanted to follow, but my bed’s direction was more tempting. I rolled up the hill, glancing back often yet never catching another glimpse of the merry vehicle. It made me wonder if I had dreamed it, staring at a blur of red and wishing for the light to turn green.
It wasn’t until I shut the door of my house that I felt the heaviness of the day return in my aching feet. I realized that while watching the car, all weariness had melted as the surprise of lights sparked glee within me.
Maybe that was what I needed to get through this season, unwrapping each moment like a gift. The thought was as comforting as my pillow. Burrowing under the covers, I thanked God for the cheerful surprise of the Christmas car.
After all, God was my joy, springing up when I least expected. Without Him, delight was sparse and hollow. Yet as He proved with the Christmas car’s arrival, as well as the gift of His son on that first Christmas night, His lavish expanse of jubilation is detailed in the meagerest moments.
Peace FOR A CHILD WILL BE BORN FOR US, A SON WILL BE GIVEN TO US, AND THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON HIS SHOULDERS. HE WILL BE NAMED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, ETERNAL FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE. ISAIAH 9:6
Prince of Peace
In a day filled with thousands of voices, I find myself staring into the abyss of the midnight sky, wondering what peace is.
When I take a long bus ride into a foreign land, not knowing if I will ever experience comfort in the unfamiliarity, I find you in the image of familiar faces.
When the tumultuous waves threaten to wreak havoc, you cause them to fall flat at the raise of a hand.
When society quickly judges a woman for not matching each and every nearly impossible expectation, you find her circled by the predators, who scarred her.
Stones are cast at each woman’s bare feet as we anxiously wait and cry out to you, the only one who brings peace into chaos.
You tame the beasts with a quiet roar, locking them behind cages of affectionate words. When the ones I love so dearly discover that the heart that they entrusted to someone is now shattered in their palms, like the sparkling shards of a carelessly dropped glass, I am left with no words of comfort.
I want to be the glue that brings them back to life, but only you have the power to mend since you are the tailor of our lives.
You are the glue that holds them together, and the anchor that steadies the crashing waves of heartbreak, and the compass that gives direction when life feels purposeless.
All these experiences bring me to realize that peace is not a temporary feeling of calmness when life is going my way.
Jesus, only You are eternal peace.
Her Last Christmas
We set her by the yule-log fire swaddled like a babushka on a far away Russian steppe. Her eyes, iced over, still sparkle with reflections from the twinkling star atop the tree that pulses to the beat of carols on the radio.
She mouths the words to the carols with a grin that sees beyond the presents to a childhood in the Dust Bowl, to stockings filled with apples, a few paper dolls, and dust. Everywhere the dust.
She imagines more than sees the familiar manger scene on the mantle, the only decorations she still has from those dusty years, her hands moving in her lap imagining the feel of the painted plaster camels and the single crystal angel whose wing, chipped during an air raid drill, still reflects the light of the twinkling star atop the tree that pulses to the beat of carols on the radio.
The chipped angel smiles down on an empty basket where once a precious plastic baby lay (where he went she cannot remember, but his arms always reached upward).
Like the angel, she looks down at her grandchildren who ignore her by the fire as they finish their sherbet and beg to open their gifts.
The logs sink into ashes as the children reveal, then discard, their presents, shepherding toys from one pile to another in a dust cloud of paper and ribbons, squealing in delight as she and her sisters did long, long ago.
She treasures the pine scent, the warm embers, and the laughter in her heart, a heart that pulses to the beat of carols from the radio and the angel’s wings that seem to come closer and closer each moment.
there is a sense of belonging here a togetherness that never left even after I did familiar voices in the kitchen and familiar voices on the record player how lucky we are to love each other in this time how lucky we are not to have missed it
like a traveler from another world I return to sit in my old spot on the couch I am looking for myself in the garden she waits for me beneath the oak tree and asks what I have done since I left her behind I tell her how lucky we are to grow out of old things I tell her how lucky we are come back to them
the past sings songs I can’t get out of my head and the future is so quiet I sometimes fear it’s not there but the present is warm and golden and sure and the people I love are sitting beside me so I think I will stay here awhile and rest I think I will listen to the lesson the oak tree gives: there is no reason to be afraid of growing it will happen whether you ask for it or not she says it is lucky to grow new branches she says it is lucky to still love the old ones
Do Not Fear
When, instead of quieting the waves, the hand in the storm, through carpenter calluses, says that though reason and animal instinct revel in fear, rebel in fear, do not fear, do not fear because in those hard worked hands, rests shalom.