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The Jonathan R. Reynolds Young Writers Workshop

June 12-19, 2016


Table of Writers Anna Halgash ...................................................................................... 3 Kimberly Norris .................................................................................. 5 Hannah Iskra ...................................................................................... 7 Anna Minton ........................................................................................ 9 Lelia Graf ........................................................................................... 11 Katie Troutman ................................................................................. 12 Ebbie Benson ..................................................................................... 14 Reya Weibel ....................................................................................... 15 Juliana Vaccaro de Souza ................................................................ 17 Annabelle Coyne ................................................................................ 19 Zoe Smith ............................................................................................ 20 Juliette Ellis....................................................................................... 21 Kennedy Gvidry ................................................................................. 23 Emily Koscinski ................................................................................ 24 Simi Armour ...................................................................................... 25 Caroline Bernstein ............................................................................ 27 Rachel Cobedesh ................................................................................ 29 Jia Seow .............................................................................................. 30 Zosha Roberson .................................................................................. 32 [1]


Nicole Pollack .................................................................................... 34 Adoris Gibbs ....................................................................................... 35 Gabi Napolitano ................................................................................ 37 Aurelia Yang...................................................................................... 38 Christopher Wyatt Reynolds ........................................................... 40 Gabby Hayes ....................................................................................... 41 Cin Astasha Cable .............................................................................. 42 Riley Hayes ........................................................................................ 43 Michael Cheng ................................................................................... 44 Margo Milanowski ............................................................................ 45 Menna Ibrahim.................................................................................. 47 Amanda Ebner ................................................................................... 49 Earle Kelly ......................................................................................... 50 Therison Bradshaw ........................................................................... 52 Sarah Zimmerman ............................................................................ 54 Lillian Eells....................................................................................... 56 Gabi Bell-NuĂąez ................................................................................ 58

[2]


Anna Halgash 2007

murder on the land and above stray bullets hit fleeing animals birds race into the stars away from the sobbing only to be shot down by the East in the West above the ghosts of our government

now reduced to fine dust PEACE they screamed YOU HAVE NO POWER UP THERE they cried as crumbles of China’s satellite fell to Earth did you ever think of we the people for the people? by the people? once a people? now only one congratulations you with the last gun and a single bullet what is left? the birds are gone the rivers red the sky dark our souls small the world big this story done

Revolution

the oak tree quietly stirs in the water the dog sculpting its prints in the soft earth as it treads the factories looming on the horizon the crucifix towers chop into the landscape carbon dioxide fills the air seeping through the stained-glass windows the work desks and machines aligned in rows like pews an icon of a changing future

[3]


Memories

memories. unorganized piles of raw materials and emotions tossed into the endless and dark pit that is my mind. like a child the vibrant colors of the world fade into unrecognizable, dull blurs that are my memories. does the earth recall its events in a blur too or in every vivid detail?

[4]


Kimberly Norris An Excerpt from “Humanals”

Aerin knew she was awake. Somehow, she had fallen into a deep, dark sleep, deeper than the depths of the oceans she had heard so much about. Now, she was waking up. Returning to the world of reality from the world of her dreams. The dream world had not been kind to Aerin. She could still feel her pounding heart. Some of the details of her dream clung to the walls of her mind like wet paper, but even those details were torn and fragmented. She remembered being at school. She remembered Squadmen there, and yelling at them. She remembered changing into something else. Something more powerful, more wild. She remembered pain spreading through her body. With these fractured memories in mind, Aerin opened her eyes. The first thing that they found was light. A white light, brighter than the sun, nearly struck Aerin completely blind. She held up her arms to shield her eyes from the beams that attempted to claw at her eyes. Once Aerin could see clearly, the next thing she saw was a pair of faces staring down at her. One was male. This face had a brownish complexion, feathery reddish hair, a hooked nose, and golden eyes which bored holes into her. The second face was female, with more gentle brown eyes, flatter features, and shoulder-length hair which appeared to be multiple colors at once. Aerin this was sure this was due to her eyes still not working correctly. “Are you all right?” the girl gently asked. “You were asleep for nearly three hours. Even I don’t sleep for that long at a time!” Aerin answered woozily, “I’m fine, I’m fine. It’s just… I had the oddest dream…” The boy shook his head. “They always think it’s just a dream,” he whispered. “Listen, do you want to know the truth?” Aerin raised an eyebrow. “What sort of truth?” “Well, can I safely assume your ‘odd dream’ was of you transforming and attacking Squadmen?” “How did you guess?” Aerin gasped. The boy continued, “Because it wasn’t a dream. It really happened. It must have happened, or you wouldn’t be here.”

[5]


The girl added, “Derik and I have been here nearly our whole lives. We discovered our other halves earlier in life.” “Other halves?” Aerin’s heart had clambered up into her throat. She barely wanted to hear the rest of what these two had to say. The boy - Derik - took a deep breath. “You’re only half human. The other half is animal.” Aerin stammered, “I… I… I don’t believe you.” “Oh, it’s true,” Derik continued, edge creeping into his voice. “Believe me, it is true. You’re here because they found you. They don’t see the human part. Only the animal part.” Aerin began to wring her palms. “So… the claws… and the sharpened senses… those were real?” Derik nodded solemnly, but the girl said, “I’d say you’re half polar bear. That whiteblonde hair, those blue-grey eyes… Derik is half hawk. I’m half housecat. Call me Lira, by the way.” Aerin nodded. She barely knew what else to say.

[6]


Hannah Iskra A Flight in the Night

My footsteps were gunshots firing in the quiet night, rapid and thunderous. My bag thudded against my back, matching the rhythm of my heartbeat. Every inhale was raspy, every exhale chopped. My arms swung at my sides, propelling me forward, sending me farther and farther away from the house. My vision soon adjusted, aided by the dim streetlight on the corner. My eyes scanned the empty street as my ears strained for the smallest sound. Hearing and seeing nothing released tension I wasn’t aware of. I wanted to stop, for my lungs burned and my legs ached, but my mind pushed me forward. I could hear their screaming in the echoes of my mind, drowning out the voice of reason I once knew. The street seemed endless in the night, but I was grateful. Endless streets meant endless places to disappear. Disappearing was a crucial action after what I had just witnessed. I craned my neck to search the darkness behind me, attempting to make out any potential threats. I was faced yet again with nothing, but the night hides secrets the day cannot conceal. As much as I tried to keep going, my legs began to slow. My football coach would be screaming at me right now, we are trained not to stop. But the star running-back of the Clove High School Cougars was slowly disappearing with every stride, so I slowed to a walk. My heartbeat, no longer masked by the thudding of my bag, beat steadily in my ears as my body’s adrenaline continued to soar. The night air filled my lungs, allowing my breathing to return to normal. As I continued down the dimly lit street, I came upon a house with a porch swing, identical to the one outside the house I grew up in, two states away. My mother was undoubtedly there now, drinking her hot tea, watching the stars with my sister, unaware of the danger her college son had gotten himself into. For a brief moment, I was there, next to Cassie, listening as my astrology-obsessed little sister rattled off countless constellations and pointed out numerous stars. I could smell my mother’s peppermint tea and feel her hand absentmindedly stroking my hair as we learned about Aquarius and The Big Dipper. Only when I stumbled over a crack in the street was I thrust back into the nightmare I was living in. Then, I heard it. My body reacted before my mind had time to as I took off down the lightless road. The sound of footsteps behind me had been enough to send me bolting through the night yet again.

[7]


The wind whistled in my ears, a sound I normally enjoyed, but knew it only added to my vulnerability as I could no longer hear the footsteps. I held tight to the straps of my bag as I craned my neck, praying to see darkness. I had no such luck, the dark hooded figure was headed for me, and my energy was running low. Terrified, I consented to the directions of my inner child and let out a yell loud enough to wake the neighborhood. I heard a faint curse as the footsteps slowly began to fade. I didn’t hesitate as I let out another thunderous yell, hoping to send my pursuer running in the opposite direction. All around me, lights appeared in windows, voices filled the air. I continued my hurried dash down the street, but soon curiosity grabbed hold of my common sense and I swirled my head around, looking for my attacker, before slamming into something, no, someone. The woman let out a shriek of surprise as I landed on top of her. I scrambled to my feet and turned in the direction I had last seen the hooded figure. “Honey? Are you alright?” the woman rose to her feet. “He was just here.” I murmured, scanning the street which was now full of concerned people in bathrobes and slippers. My heart raced as I realized I had scared him off, which meant my hooded pursuer was out there, and he would be back.

[8]


Anna Minton Didn’t Think So

Let me tell you a story, if you will. Imagine the story of fellow Still a boy (Though legally a man)

This fellow has a secret One he has not told his family or his friends He even kept the secret from himself But now he knows Imagine there is a place where he can pretend his secret is no longer hidden He meets others; some who pretend too He meets others; some who do not want to pretend The place is dark and a little seedy, but that’s OK, the best places often are. Imagine all those secrets. The ones that were hidden in the dark Once shoved in the corner But now the secrets are finally able to see the light Even though the light may just be the techno colors bouncing off the dance floor. No longer is there shame There is validation He feels real. He feels like he belongs He is happy But now imagine screams Panic swelling in the air The sharp crack of a gun firing The pulsing of bullets shattering flesh... Shattering lives The alarm that something is tragically wrong Frenzied confusion Shrieks of terror The horrific sound of the boy’s body falling to the floor Imagine trying to decipher if this is real or a ghastly nightmare Imagine the screeching sirens Dark figures rushing to rescue The spell broken, the haven destroyed The boy’s mom screaming, “That can’t be my son! He wouldn’t be here! He never told me!”

[9]


The techno colors all turned to red Secrets carried out in body bags. The man who killed, lying in his own puddle of blood Smiling, as if he felt confident it was a job well done Imagine a nation built on justice, freedom, and equality Now filled with hate and bigotry Imagine the world divided Male-female, black-white, and now gay-straight Now, dear reader, would you tell me, How is this story fair? Tell me how is this story just? Should the land that prides itself on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, exclude those who love differently than others? Do any of us have a right to take away a life based on whom the person chooses to love? Do any of us have the right to stay passive, allowing another mass shooting? Do any of us have the right to allow this story to fade into just another tragic tale? I didn’t think so.

[10]


Lelia Graf I’m Not Myself When I’m With You

Threads control me. Not the thick rope Of fishing nets, But the delicate thread Of sewing. Threads wind through me, Through my fingers and toes, Through my eyelids and lips. Threads control my body. They lift my arms into waves. They pull my legs forward, Urging them to walk, run, pace, To ease my rumbling mind. They attach little spools to my fingers Forcing my exhausted hand To scribble meaningless sentences. Threads control my vocal chords. They loosen their hold on my stomach, Forcing out a guffaw. They wind up my throat But get frayed when they make me Scream in anger or fear. The finespun thread Spiral around my windpipe, Squeezing and squeezing until I can no longer breathe. The needle winds thread Through my body, My actions not my own, Points at my heart Ready to strike When I can take no more. I don’t even have a thimble To protect my thumbs. It pierces me, Draws a trickle of blood That splatters On the words that cover the page. Threads control me. I am trapped in their web, Helpless to do anything But watch from the inside. And I can’t help but Wonder What if I had scissors? [11]


Katie Troutman July

My mother named me July, after her favorite month of the year. She was the only person I knew who could not only bear the dry summer heat of Texas, but could embrace it. While everyone else lay motionless in front of the air conditioner or stood in front of the open freezer door, Mom would spend all day in her garden, watering her plants because the water seemed to evaporate as soon as it left the watering can. When Daddy would get home from his shift at the factory, she would have dinner all ready, and we would eat on the back porch, no matter how hot it was. “It’s over 100 degrees out, Carol-Ann,” Daddy would say, wiping sweat off of his forehead with his handkerchief and pouring himself a glass of sweet tea, the ice already melting. “Isn’t it great?” she’d reply, smiling and twirling around in her big vintage skirt she had bought at the thrift shop. Mom always wore those skirts and shirts that she called “blouses” and hardly ever shoes if she could help it. I’ve always associated her scent with sunshine; I don’t know any other way to describe it. When the sun is so bright I have to shield my eyes, I think of her with her long, curly, black hair piled in a bun on top of her head, singing songs I’d never know the names of because I never thought to ask. I didn’t cry when she died. I didn’t cry when there was a knock on the door and I opened it to see a police officer who asked to speak with my father. I didn’t cry as I listened through the door while the police officer explained that my mother had been found by some hikers, drowned in the river that she loved so much. I didn’t cry when my father sat me down on the bed and explained what I had already heard eavesdropping. I didn’t cry at the funeral. I didn’t cry for her until almost 2 years after she died, when I graduated high school and my dad went to work the late shift at the factory right after the ceremony. I found myself walking out the side door, through the backyard and down the trail that my mother used to walk every day. It was overgrown now, without her there to discourage the weeds with her footsteps. I fought through the underbrush, moving slowly, as if in a trance, until finally it gave way to sight of the river. I found the little memorial we had set up. A small cross, propped up on a rock, like the ones you see on the side of the highway to memorialize a car wreck. I sat next to it and glared at it, angry with it for being such a poor representation of her life. How did a little blue cross say anything about her, other than the fact that she was dead? It didn’t tell you that she didn’t have a favorite color because she just couldn’t bring herself to choose between all the shades of the rainbow. It didn’t tell you that on clear, crisp nights, she would climb out the window and onto the roof to stargaze, and when I asked her why she did this, she simply shrugged and said, “Why not?” It didn’t tell you that I never once heard her yell at anyone, with the exception of the neighbor’s cat when she saw it chasing after a field mouse. This stupid little blue cross didn’t tell you so many things and that made me unbelievably angry. I could feel my will breaking down and finally I cried, crying for all the things that I never cried for, all of the times when I should have cried and didn’t. I cried for my mother dying and for my father never being home and for this stupid little blue cross. I cried, my sobs masked by the sound of the cruel river that had killed my mother, until there were no more tears left in my body. Even then, I lay back on the ground, my hiccups

[12]


intermitted with uncontrollable sobs. A tree root dug into my back as I closed my eyes and pictured her face in my mind, forever smiling in my memory. A feeling of peace washed over me, like the water that had washed over my mother on that monumental day. The tears that I had finally shed left me feeling lighter, and her smiling face told me that everything was going to be alright.

[13]


Ebbie Benson Intangibility You Can Feel

I love you as a stressed mom reaches for her red wine. Love has a meaning so deep, it truly has no meaning at all. True. when a feeling is given too much power, we wish it were powerless. False. Love is an intangible gift for all to feel. The same moon hangs above our lonely heads. A lonely bar with a flickering sign, waiting for the next broken heart. Your name is Adoration. When it should be Disappointment. Your eyes see only what you wish. The wind is crisp and blows fresh air. I remember that night. You left the room too soon. Your love is a loss, like Vietnam. I fear people like myself. But I do not fear people like you. Water washes away names written in the sand. I wish for you to not be forgotten. Yet here I stand hoping your face will eventually fade from my mind. You are the things I fear most wrapped in a pretty package. I am the things you love most waiting to be enjoyed. True. Love is an intangible gift for all to feel. False. When a feeling is given too much power, we wish it were powerless.

[14]


Reya Weibel I’m sad because the world is sad. bruises and scars litter silent bodies. Darkness clouds a young girl’s mind. A boy cries out as his mother turns to a violent rage.

Wrong

The world is so sad. I am so sad.

I have a love for natural disasters of the mind, where sounds and words flow side by side, but not together in harmony.

Backwards

Sounds are scribbled on paper, words are orchestrated into thin air.

The dogs won’t stop barking, the lights are still on, and I’m still here wondering about stars seen at dawn

Night Life

The crickets keep chirping, they just won’t shut up The shadows are lurking, Just mucking stuff up

We dripped color Down the walls And lit fire To the bricks

Fire in our Hearts

[15]


A gleam in our eyes as we stared at the flames. We’re a couple of bloody pyros, y’know that?

In the darkness, washed in moonlight, I couldn’t see his face, but I knew he felt the same as I did, with body against body, hating the restrictions stitched threads caused, as our lips and tongues collided in heated moment, pulling each other closer, wanting more, always more, sighing quiet breaths into his smile, biting lips to tease, all in the darkness, washed in moonlight.

You always had an addiction to orange peels and I never understood why that was. I figured maybe your digestive system was acting up or you needed antioxidants,

Moonlight

Orange Peels

until one day I realized that they remind you of the bitter kiss of her mouth.

[16]


Juliana Vaccaro de Souza The Making of a Writer

When she was eight years old, her parents asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She opened a smile, a gap where a baby tooth used to be, and said, “Ballerina.” She loved being in ballet classes, dancing around the other nine little girls, all about her age and dressed up in skin colored leotards and pink tutus. She practiced at home so often the soles of her ballet shoes were starting to fall off. Her teacher shouted positions: plié, frappé, relevé. She’d bend her knees and point her toes at the floor so excitedly she thought she could burst, and she could feel her body moving on its own the moment that classical music began to play in the studio. The aptitude test, however, was not in excitement or energy, but in one category: flexibility. She could reach deep into her mind for the meaning of all the French movements, but she couldn’t reach her toes. The teacher looked at her and marked “Below average”. It was a pretty way of saying “not good enough”. When she was eleven years old, her teacher asked her, “What do you want to be?” She smiled, showing off the metal of her new braces, and said, “Singer”. There was something about singing in the shower and in the car, feeling her heart beating so strongly in her chest and her smile being so tight that it hurt her cheeks. It was the same feeling she had in that old ballet studio (she hadn’t been there in years, and her battered ballet shoes were gathering dust in the bottom of her wardrobe). She wrote her name under every singing afterschool activity she found: vocal ensemble, choir, glee club. All she wanted was to feel the melodies coming out of her chest and into the air, giving her life. But when she gathered with the others around the grand piano filled with music sheets, she could barely sing one song without someone shouting: “It’s C-sharp!” “That’s the wrong tempo!” “No! No! You’re going flat!” Frantically flipping the pages of her music book, she tried to find the meaning to these bizarre codes they kept yelling at her. She was going flat, and she didn’t even know it. And what was up with all these letters? Why is there an alphabet? Was she the only one who didn’t know? At the end of the day, she scratched her name off of every activity she had signed up for, because maybe they were right, maybe she wasn’t good enough.

[17]


When she was fifteen years old, her parents asked her, “What are you going to study in college?” She smiled, hoping they couldn’t see through it, and said, “I don’t know.” Counselors were all telling everyone her age that they could be anything, from engineers to doctors to entrepreneurs, that they were the heroes of the future, that they’d invent space travel and feed the hungry and save the world. But how could she do it? She was the girl who couldn’t reach her toes, the one with too much excitement and too little talent. She wasn’t good enough. When she was seventeen years old, she sat down in front of her laptop and wrote down a sentence, which had been nagging her for days, but she didn’t stop there. The sentence became a paragraph, and, when her mother called her for dinner, she was in the eightieth page. After six months, after building castles and characters, she placed the final period. There was silence. There was no one yelling or assessing her. It felt like she could dance across the stage or perform a song to an audience, and she’d be allowed to finish her act before the noises interrupted her again. She found peace in the silence.

[18]


Annabelle Coyne I Believe Sunday Dinner is More than Just Dinner My family has few standing traditions, except for almost

every Sunday since I can remember my family members that live close by come over for dinner. My family is nowhere near perfect, but even through the tough times, I have memories of everyone playing cards after dinner, my cousin, Bailey, claiming to be the best bad-mitten player the world has ever seen, and my dad and my uncle eating in the living room every Sunday claiming that the super bowl is on. I believe Sunday dinner is more than just dinner. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was in elementary school, and although he was in and out of the hospital, my family still got together most Sundays for our usual dinner. I think those Sunday dinners helped all of us. Sunday dinner was a constant, something we all knew was going to happen. I believe we all needed that because there was so much that was unknown around that time. We woke up every day not knowing what would happen, or if my grandfather would be okay or not, but whatever happened we knew that on Sunday we were going to have dinner, together. Sunday dinner is where my grandmother taught me how to cook and where I learned all of my family’s recipes. It is where I grew up with my two older cousins, Carmen and Bailey. I met my soon to be Aunt Leisa and her daughter Reagan at Sunday dinner. It is where I had my last conversation with my grandfather. My sister and I bonded with my uncle and my dad while playing Kan-Jam (a game similar to horse shoes or corn hole) after dinner. They gave me endless strategies on how to improve my athletic ability. My family’s Sunday dinner is not just dinner, it’s hope, love, and togetherness. It is my family’s constant when we need one and our only tradition. Sunday dinner is our time together and always the highlight of my week. I believe that Sunday dinner is more than just dinner.

[19]


Zoe Smith Your Eyes Hold Stars…

Eyes are not skies or stars, they are a complex tangle of blood vessels and nerves and I could tell you about function and composition, but I won’t. Besides, I don’t know enough to tell you anything about function and composition because I’m a writer not a doctor or scientist. It’s my job to convince you of the skies and stars trapped in your eyes, just like in every book and every love poem that I have ever read; that your eyes glittered when we met and sparkled when you smiled at me. I will paint false emotions into your vacant eyes and trick myself into remembering light, airy bubbles instead of your old soda eyes.

[20]


Juliette Ellis Sinking Guilt

The faucet makes a loud, piercing complaint when its rusted knobs are turned, and a sputtered moan before a cold stream of water trickles out the spout. The pressure is hardly sufficient for dampening a dishcloth, never mind washing grime off two pounds of sweet potatoes, but Miriam makes do, her young, calloused hands scrubbing away at eyes and dirt with conviction. She ought to buy a brush to wash these, she thinks. Of course, she ought to pay a plumber to come replace the sink, or a handyman to remedy the absence of a tread on the second to last step of the flight of stairs, or hire an electrician to fix the faulty wiring in Henry’s bedroom so the fuses don't fry should more than one outlet be in use. She ought to do a lot of things, but she just spent the last of the money on groceries and her Ma’s medication, so those projects must be delayed - again. Miriam won’t abide seeing supper delayed though, not when she made Shepard’s pie, special upon Henry’s insistence. He’s late coming home from school, and now it’s going cold. The reason for his delay becomes apparent when she makes out his figure down the dusty drive through the age-warped kitchen window. He’s a few yards from the river bank, under the shade of a solitary oak tree, tossing a stick for a small, stray dog. This spells bad news, Miriam knows – Henry has wanted one for years. She groans as sets the sweet potatoes aside on the counter she’ll mash them tomorrow- and pulls the sink’s plug, letting the murky water gurgle down the drain. She packs two Tupperwares full of the pie into the burlap potato sack, along with some cornbread that’s gone stale, then takes it in hand, creeping out the front door noiselessly so as not to wake her Ma. When Henry spots her trekking in his direction, he gives her a holler and a wave, and motions for her to join him under the canopy of foliage. “Why are you here?” he asks. The stray is now curled up beside him, muzzle rested on the hole at the knee of his jeans -a reminder that those need replacing too- fur and skin pulled taught over ribs. Henry pats its belly. “Eatin’ supper with you,” Miriam supplies, handing him the pie and cornbread. “Otherwise you would’ve snuck that dog in the house and it would’ve woken up Ma.”

[21]


“Bandit’s a good dog,” Henry insists, in all his eleven year-old wisdom. “He wouldn't do that.” It’s then that the dog whimpers, eyeing the cornbread until Henry relinquishes the entire loaf. Miriam shoots him a pointed look. “He just needs a little food, Miriam,” he says carefully, eyes wide with hope. There’s an implied question here, Miriam knows. “Well, it’s not getting it from us,” she warns. “What if -” “Don’t do this,” Miriam starts. “Please. You know we can’t keep the dog.” “His name is Bandit-” “He can’t have a name, either,” she snaps. Henry recoils. “You’ll get too attached, Henry. Already you’ve named and fed the damn thing and it’ll probably hang around the house now, and we can’t afford a fourth mouth to feed, alright? We just can’t.” “What if-” “We’ll have no more of that,” she warns, tone void of any room for discussion. It’s a battle lost, Henry knows, so he finishes his meal in fuming silence, breaking it only to offer the dog a begrudging apology and despairing farewell. When he gathers his backpack and traipses in the direction of home, Miriam traces his sullen movement with her eyes until he’s passed the threshold of the house, then shifts them to scrutinize the dog, who’s staring expectantly at the remnants of her supper with eyes too big for its tiny, frail frame. Guilt pools dark and heavy in her stomach. It’ll keep coming back whether she feeds it or shoos it away, she’s well aware. She considers the sturdy burlap sack at her right, thinks of the heavy, weighted stones that line the river bank. Those will do. “Let’s walk to the river, Bandit,” Miriam says. She’ll be back home before Henry even settles down for sleep.

[22]


Kennedy Gvidry Hidden in the Shadow of a Family Tree Hidden. Deep inside the woods of expectation. There, you will find what you are looking for. A home perfect for a small, minuscule girl like you. A dark place, where each action you make is just as insignificant as the last. From an early age you've wanted to escape it, but who are you kidding? This is where you belong. You'll hear voices of neighborhood children laughing and playing, and you'll wonder. Are the woods all this world has to offer? You'll fantasize about life on the other side. But eventually you'll come to your senses; the outside world will never accept you. These woods are all you know. Besides it wasn't so bad, these woods have been good to you. The tree, that you reside under, provides you with apples and nuts, and even squirrel friends on occasion. You are the gatekeeper. The squirrels would come and hang out underneath the tree, and you'll cave in just happy to have some company around. Then they'd scurry their way up the tree's trunk in search for acorns. The tree loved its little squirrel visitors, not realizing they would only come around once their little stomachs were aching with hunger, and then they were off to rest in the shade of another tree. So even if you did want to leave the woods, who would be there to clean up the scraps the squirrels have left behind? These woods need you. You were good to your tree. It was big and the shadow it cast on you was even bigger. No matter how much you tried, you were never able to escape. Until one day you caught a glimpse of the sunlight, and that alone was enough to motivate you. It was enough to open your eyes to the world surrounding you. You saw the light. It was as if it had been calling out to you through the shadows. The sun kissed your forehead and caressed your hair. You'd travel far beyond your family tree. But each tree you'd get to would present its own set of challenges. One day you'll get all the way to the edge of the woods and you'll approach your final step with apprehension. Won't you miss these woods and the shade it provides? 'Cause see, no one expects anything from someone they cannot see. This thought is enough to make you disappear back into the woods. It took a lot of courage to get there. But just like that, you are back to the tree that offered familiarity to you. Hopefully one day you'll be brave enough to make the step from the woods and into the sunlight. And for your sake I pray it's very soon.

[23]


Emily Koscinski The Sky in Cycles

Far away in the distance we go on Different colors mix throughout the sky A beauty of artwork to look upon Euphoria escapes beholders’ eyes A black canvas to paint a masterpiece Creating something to show everyone It is almost as great as ancient Greece As if its destruction had been undone

I’m a Boy

I have always wanted to be a boy for the boy’s life was for me despite everyone I met saying “You can’t be a boy,” “You’re not a boy,” “You don’t even look like a boy,” but because in small, poorly printed fading letters it says “female” I have been unrecognized for the life choice I made due to feeling more comfortable as a male, and in time, you too will see me as who I truly am cause a boy’s life was meant for me.

[24]


Simi Armour Dear ____,

You hated zoos when you were younger, the rhinos and monkeys didn't amuse you. Truth is as you grew up I was scared you would one day be stuck in a cage. One ruled by not so nice lions. I was scared that they would place bull horns on your head and teach you the true wickedness of this world. But I don’t want you to go like that. I want to give you pearls so that when you take your last breath you feel beautiful and hold that breath in your heart until your posture becomes so confident that you finally know your worth. I want you to believe that a white washed world isn't a “right” one but instead one that has become accepted by the same society that told you 245 years ago that you were property and your purpose in life was to serve those without melanin in their skin but steel in their hearts. And the only difference between being branded by your slave owner is that now you pay $250 for that brand new pair of Jordans and participate in a sport where your leaders more often than not refuse to respect you as an individual but instead as a number followed by a k that can make them rich and you in pain. But you will succeed and no one will ever pierce your ebony skin because I promise you I promise you that you are a speck of galaxy in world of pure Crayola. You are brown, intelligent, and tall in a generation of ignorance of the fact that Michael Jackson wasn't trying to communicate to a certain race but instead a feeling but we associate everything with race. So hold the microphone and speak to the world and one day instead of Martin Luther King being a memorial it will just be. To be. The only thing that scares me is that your night terrors tend to take place in front of mirrors where I can’t protect you from shards of glass breaking your skin and tearing your self-esteem apart. And when you walk on graduation day and a white male hands you your diploma say thank you with your mouth and I made it with your eyes and then turn to your mom and hug her. In two years as you walk down the street in a dress suit and nice shoes instead of Jordans you realize that most of communication between the white male is nonverbal and all he's saying is, “get out” and “you do NOT belong”. They think it’s appropriate to act this way because the howl of your skin breeds intimidation and it is sadly accepted to just shoot

[25]


— you, not that it matters anyway in this moment I want you to remember when you were seven years old and you rubbed white lotion into your knees thinking it would make your skin lighter your life lighter your problem lighter. It didn’t. Hold your head high for that seven year old, now 27 year old brown child. And one day you will be happy because you are happy when you are loved. So many in this world neglect you but love your culture. Admiring your Corbin Bleu curls and Bratz doll lips. Eyelashes glancing at towers you’d rather not climb. Each year when you come home for Christmas you complain about your routine becoming routine but go ahead and cry about your life because I know the zest in your tears reminds you of your Grandfather’s cologne. And I want you to start over, say hello to yourself. Take a step back and bask in your beauty because that is you and you are close to perfect. You can be magic. Touch the ruptured heart of the world and make it smile. Marry a moonbeam and hear the stars sing and don’t let the monsters in your head ruin your dreams. As for people who don’t want you to succeed, you need to destroy them in the most beautiful way— leaving them for something greater.

[26]


Caroline Bernstein Maybe It’s Just the Coffee

You look up from your coffee as the familiar silhouette steps through the doors of the café. You can feel his eyes burning into your forehead like the hot liquid in your throat as you stare down into the black swirls of your mug. Six Months. That’s how long it had been since you’d last seen him— since you’d last called him yours. Now, you watch as he tightens his arms around another girl’s shoulders, feeling every squeeze like a vise around your ribcage. You can’t help but feel a sick sense of irony— this is the first time you’ve gone here since you left him. You swallow your pride and momentarily glance up from your cup to take the girl in— you watch as his eyes never leave her face but don’t dare try to catch his gaze. He’s in love with her, and you know it, and goddamn that hurts because he swore to you once that he could never love anyone as much as he loves you. Loved. Her sleek blonde waves and tanned skin seem the polar opposite of your stringy dark hair and pale complexion. She’s beautiful, and you don’t even bother to fight the jealousy that grinds your bones like they’re coffee beans. It’s as if he’d specifically set out to find someone who’s everything you’re not, while you’d spent that last six months looking for someone to be everything he is. No one is. You fight back the sting of tears as he leans down and kisses her cheek. His lips seem to linger a little longer than necessary, as if to make sure you notice. You rip your eyes away from the scene back to the black abyss of the cup and imagine that if you could see your heart right now it would look something like black coffee. The café is suddenly too small and crowded, and you feel you the sharp pain of a breath catching in the walls of your throat as he sits two tables to your right, the one that had once been your table. You watch as the walls spin in circles around you, and you grip the handle of your mug as if it’s the only thing keeping you from flying away. His back faces you, shutting you out, but you know that it’s better this way. You swear that if his eyes met yours you’ll crack into shards on the hard linoleum floor. Your brain screams, “Leave! Get out of here!” and you aren’t sure whether you ignore her because you’re too weak or too strong. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ears as she laughs at something he says like it’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard. You notice how her eyes light up as she grins, and recall

[27]


him telling you once how much he loved the twinkle in your eyes when you laughed. You don’t laugh much anymore. Suddenly, the croissant in your hand seems cold and stale, and your stomach rolls. You’re no longer hungry. You consider tapping him on the shoulder, saying goodbye before you go— for old time’s sake. But the last time you said goodbye to him, you didn’t leave your bed for six days. You take one last look at her face before you leave, and can’t help but imagining it being you sitting across from him at that table again, like it had been so many times before. As you rise from your seat, your elbow knocks over your plate, scattering the ceramic shards across the floor over to his shoes. You ignore the mess, like the inside of your head, keeping your eyes on the door. With a final gulp from your cup, you step outside into the chilly November wind. You pass the café window, turning your head just as he turns his. As your eyes meet for the first time in six months, a bitter taste burns in the back of your throat. But maybe it’s just the coffee.

[28]


Rachel Cobedesh Wonder

You are a wonder, One I can hardly describe. Perhaps like the cosmos above our heads. With galaxies burning in your eyes, I trace constellations across your skin. A smile cuts across your face like a shooting star, Glittering, burning, a sight to behold. Laughter bursts from your chest, So bright and warm, Supernovas fizzle out in shame. You are a wonder, one I will always hold dear. Like the cosmos above our heads, I’ll always look at you in sheer awe. With your luminous heart With your halcyon mind You are a wonder And you are mine.

[29]


Jia Seow goodbye for ohio

the forecast predicts today’s weather to be much worse than the day before thunderstorms hurricanes tears today would have it all

the shivers come at the least expected moments so I did not bring my sweater this evening because I thought I expected you to be the one who would put late winter to early summer on repeat who would one day reverse the skies we’d go stargazing in the mornings we’d go swimming in the midnight sun my heart heats up as the seasons turn winter acoustics set on fire in a silver dream spring conflicts though the lights are on, there’s nobody home summer rock no light to show you the darkest side of me I find pieces of you in too many songs and when I reach the front of the queue when it is finally my turn parched after a six-month wait for the wine of satisfaction I will find all the bottles spilled thank you for letting me down just another love in the evening freeze just another life with the same skies I will be three hours ahead of you for the next week or so we will look up at the same sky

[30]


see it as it always will be we will look up at the world that you and I could not change while I cry myself to sleep my mind the color of your sweater it can only be this way

[31]


Zosha Roberson History

The sun is beating down on me, harder than the anxiety pounding in my chest. A bead of sweat drips down my forehead and the perspiration on my legs causes my cotton dress to stick to them. I wipe it off and dig around in my purse to check on my appearance for the fifth time since I’ve arrived. Arriving here early was supposed to give me some time to relax and prepare myself for this meeting, but it I think it has had an adverse effect. The longer I sit on the cement steps, the more seriously I consider leaving. The thought of seeing Jacob sends a kaleidoscope of butterflies to my abdomen, but also a sharp jab to my heart. Every time I think my wound is about to heal, the image of Jacob with that women who he swore was, “Just his friend” slashes open the wound, deeper and bloodier than before. I spot him as he is exiting the grass of Central Park. The spring in his step, a detail of him that I always loved, seems out of place in this context. My heart sinks. He offers a bright smile as he climbs the steps to meet me and I try to return it but am reluctant. “You look well,” he says. I don’t rise, so he is literally talking down to me. “Should we go in?” He offers his hand and I take it, following him in to the museum. The admission is $22 and I linger, letting him get to the counter before me. It’s the least he could do. We stroll into the first exhibit. The lighting shifts to a pinkish hue and the walls are covered in plastic red tubes. I’m inside a living creature. Jacob pauses. “Well, I think it’s time that we time about this.” When I had agreed to discuss whether the shattered remains of our relationship were worth trying to mend, I had wanted it to be in a public place, somewhere we had never been together. It had to be free of memories yet full of distractions. He lets his head fall, letting out a large sign before saying, “I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I am.” “I am sure you are,” I said sincerely, looking down to read a description about how the heart works. I wanted to believe him, to trust him again, to slip back into the rhythm of our love, a beat that was so familiar and comforting. “Look, Delilah. I messed up, but I still love you. I love you so much that it scares me to think about a life without you.” His words were sincere but not convincing.

[32]


“I just don’t…” I am not sure how I’m going to finish this sentence. The battle in my body between my brain and my heart makes me feel dizzy. I start walking again, hoping that I’ll find my decision at the next exhibit. The sign reads: Natural Parks Adventure. “Just think about how great we were together- are together.” Even though he corrected it, the past tense view of our relationship still stings. I glance up and laid out before me is the vast landscape of Arches National Park in Utah. I try to transport myself there, under the crisp blue sky and wispy, white clouds, standing on the golden, baked sand that stretches on for miles. Suddenly, I don’t feel so trapped by this situation. “Jacob,” It is the first word I’ve spoken confidently all day. “I understand that you are sorry.” His face lights up like a candle. “-but I don’t think that is enough.” Then it’s extinguished, like a cold gust of wind sweeping through him, taking the flame with it. In the next room sits the bones of a tyrannosaurs. I let the silence do the talking, giving all of my attention to dinosaur skeleton posed in front of me. As the tension between Jacob and me festers, our fate becomes clear to both of us. I find their bare structure oddly beautiful. It is necessary for everything to come to an end at some point, but once it is gone does not mean that you can’t appreciate what remains. I think of the dinosaur in its prime, then its death, how it decayed, like lies and secrets, but how the bones will remain forever as a perpetual memorial of what once roared.

[33]


Nicole Pollack Reunion

“I’m ready,” she says, her voice tinny and distant and unbelievably real across the phone lines that still tie her to me. “I’m ready,” she says and slams the door of her red Honda Civic and drives to a home that she hasn’t seen in three years but hasn’t been gone from for nearly long enough. “I’m ready,” she says and walks up the driveway in the same starched shirt with the same straight hair, passes through the door of the house that was supposed to be my haven, and greets my dad, who was supposed to protect me. “I’m ready,” she says one final time, then she sits, crosses her legs, folds her hands, watches the stairs. Waits for me. “I’m ready,” I whisper and rock back and forth just beyond the steps with my face pressed into my knees, breathing in and out and in and out and in, because my mom’s in the house and I’m gasping for air and I thought I’d recovered from what she did to me, but I haven’t. I work up the strength and start down the stairs, and the boards creak beneath my feet and my ears start to roar because she’s in my house and she’s waiting for me and all I want to do is run away. But somehow I keep going and walk into the room and she’s really sitting there, and she looks at me and her face falls and she shakes her head and says, “I’m not ready.”

[34]


Adoris Gibbs Eyes Know

His eyes glinted, gleamed and charmed me I had no problem admitting that to anyone Our Love for each other was everlasting People knew of Our Love Some were jealous of Our Love Our Loved seemed to have drank from the fountain of youth; We did not grow old. Of seeing each other. Eyes are the key to the soul, Or so I am told. His eyes were the key to my soul His eyes were the key to his soul Heart pounding. I thought my ribcage would become crushed from it Our Love‌ His eyes glinted, gleamed, and charmed her. I had every problem admitting to myself what I heard our love for each other was not everlasting People knew of his affair Some were expectant of this in our love our love seemed to have drank from a fake fountain of youth; He was growing old. Of seeing me. Eyes are the key to the soul, Or so I believe. His eyes were no longer the key to my soul His eyes were the key to his deceptions and affair Head pounding. I thought my head would detonate from it our love? I brought the vodka to my lips and closed my eyes My. Eyes. Are they the key to my soul? Did my eyes glint, gleam, and charm him? I will never know‌ For my eyes were the last thing he saw before his eyes closed. Eyes Know.

[35]


Mi Hermanita

Knowledge we thirst for, Too little room to store. Friendships are created. Can our friendship be articulated? The lovely memories we made… Remember homecoming? The make-up counter we did raid. Do you remember the freshmen float? Time I enjoyed on that and not my own junior float. Do you remember times before high school? My bendy-leg Barbie and your purple haired Barbie would sit along the pink Barbie Mansion pool… Remember the country we crossed in running? In our uniforms, boy, we looked stunning! Time have flown by fast… Glad I have you by my side until the last…

[36]


Gabi Napolitano The Problem with Passion

My passion burns within me like a fire consuming alcohol I am walking heat. The people around me feel its warmth But if you get too close I burn. I have learned to live with the feeling Others fear getting singed Can't take the thought of their flesh exposed after we touch Mine always is. I am a walking exhibit An exposure for all to see Because I cannot control my fire. I have been told it is blinding A little too hot for comfort That maybe I should extinguish myself Be left to choke on the smoke myself My own lungs so full I can't breathe But at least they won't feel me here anymore. The thing about fires is they all eventually go out Ashes, ashes But I seem to be the only one who falls down

[37]


Aurelia Yang A Blessing in Disguise

I walked out of the building and relished the fresh afternoon breeze rapidly dissolving the sweat on my face. In my hand, I carried two pieces of chocolate - one for me and one for my brother to lift his spirits from the rather unfortunate day he was having. As I approached the car, I noticed that the familiar silhouette of a little chocolate-lover, usually quite conspicuous and animated, was not sitting in its usual place… Beads of sweat invaded my face. My pulse quickened. Hundreds of “what if’s” flooded my brain, as my stomach twisted itself into an unforgiving knot. My brother, in a matter of seconds, had disappeared. My mom and I were in a state of complete and utter shock as we drove everywhere looking for him. Eventually, we found him swimming around happily in the DACA pool, as a frazzled employee yelled and chased after him. He was peacefully doggy-paddling his way from one side of the pool to the other, smiling and giggling the entire time. ----When my younger brother Aurick was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of two, I was merely an immature four-year-old who had no idea how much his disorder would impact me later in life. Yet the older he grew, the more severe his condition became. Oftentimes, I felt embarrassed to be seen in public with him, as he would constantly throw extremely loud temper tantrums, steal pizza from strangers and even urinate freely in public areas. To Aurick, his actions were completely normal. To me, they were exceedingly humiliating. My family and I are always obliged to take extra precautions when dealing with him. We have locks around nearly every cabinet in the house to prevent him from binging on junk food or ripping up books, though he always seems to find a way to outsmart us. His extreme sensitivity to loud noises has also prompted him to engage in a lot of self-destructive behavior. Whenever he hears a baby crying or a sick man sneezing, the first coping method he resorts to is furiously hitting his head against a counter, often until his forehead begins to bleed.

[38]


As I grew older, I would think to myself, “What if my brother was a normal kid? Why did I, of all people, have to live with an autistic sibling?” I often envied my other friends who had siblings without disabilities. I would find myself thinking about life if Aurick were “normal,” of how we would share a close sibling bond and conspire against our parents for fun. I remember one of my friends once playfully told me, “If Aurick were normal, he would attract so many girls.” As I thought about her comment more, I began to realize all the important milestones that Aurick would never be able to achieve, such as landing his first job or having his first real relationship. ----Now I glance over at my brother, who is thoroughly engrossed in his new copy of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” his favorite novel of all time, eating popcorn and clapping his hands with glee. He pauses, traces his fingers along the edges of the book with great detail and starts singing the alphabet song. Then he stops. He looks up at me with that innocent, goofy smile of his - a smile so genuinely happy that I can’t help but smile back.

[39]


Christopher Wyatt Reynolds The Endlessly Repeating Postulate

As I reminisce on the days of my youth, the fragments of

time evoked in memory all conjure the same, pressing thought: I was an idiot. Though my intellect was practically nonexistent, I convinced myself otherwise, to such an absurd extent as to believe that I knew everything there was to know. Thankfully, my mature ten year old self is now wise enough to realize the naïvetÊ of my foolish youth, and have on it good authority, myself, to affirm that my search for enlightenment has reached it's close. But of course, not all that's sought is found, as I, eleven years of age, am quite aware. Understanding more than was ever conceivable at age ten has now led me to complete, universal truth. Truth that is truly a façade, and revealed itself a sham to my brilliant twelve year old self, who, avoiding past egregious errors, now has found the real truth. Wrong again. This time, however, I'm assured that my mind has been fully immersed in all knowledge and did so in only thirteen years. At least that's what I would think if my fourteen year old self was equally ignorant to my thirteen year old self. Indeed he is, I, now at the almost implausible age of fifteen, am certain of, because I understand that he understood nothing, unlike myself. And for even considering such a close-minded idea, my present self is able to easily conclude that my fifteen year old self was an idiot, and that, finally, at sixteen years old, I know everything there is to know.

[40]


Gabby Hayes To the One I Love Next

you are the soothing softness of a forgotten wind you are the feeling of a fear faced you are the elasticity of rain, cool and demanding and the fog after a cold night and the lyrics to my favorite song you are the glistening stars the wholeful moon and darkness of the night you are the pin in my heart you are the look of passion in the eyes of the erased you are the glow of a sunrise, bright and haunting you are the smell of blueberry muffins baking and the whispered promises of a future you will not be a part of and you are the smile of someone who does not wish to breathe but you are not a long awaited comforting embrace and you are not the relief of good news nor are you the refreshing taste of a cold popsicle on a hot day you are not the voice of tomorrow and you are not the air we breathe nor are you what pulls the waves to high tide you are not the sweet taste of water that relieves my parched lips and you are not the shining sun you are not the gentle promises of forever you are not what wakes me up in the morning and you are not yet the reason for the smile on my face

[41]


Cin Astasha Cable Triangles

She drew flowers down her arms to remind her self that life was beautiful. Until her skin turned a deep black, and the ink enveloped her into the beautifulness that life wasn't. He drew cars and planes down the margin of his paper to remind him that, one day, he would escape all of the madness. Until the world ran out of paper, and he became trapped inside the desolated wishes that life never granted. You drew triangles and triangles and turned them into diamonds, until there were three million. Who would have guessed that the triangles were puzzle pieces, that fit together perfectly, just like life was supposed to be…

Xenomania

My heart is a cottage where wildflowers grow. You now call it home, whispering honeyed words into my skin while the swaying evergreens keep time— benevolent words as fresh as a daisy. It’s like marigold skies and the gentle caress of rain after disaster strikes. And I feel like I’m blooming again, with lavender flourishing from my wrists as you lead me through a dance of errant sunbeams. The essence of springtime in your eyes; the wind holding its breath for what will come next. But I do not have to wonder. I can already see the grass-stained knees, the “I love you’s” in the shadows of lace curtains, and the tea-stained mornings with our bodies entwined, blissfully knowing that you’re here to stay. Flying, together, in the land of the lost.

[42]


Riley Hayes The Midnight Gardener

I bent half of my foot over the edge of the wooden stair. I liked the way that I could feel the corner of the step massaging the arc of my foot through the thin sole of my black Keds. I wasn’t in any particular hurry either. The way the wooden edge felt was my last distraction before I had to face what was downstairs. I walked down the rest of the steps. My family was not alone on the first floor. Two police officers stood in the atrium, one with a badge engraved “Platt” and the other with a badge engraved “Robertson.” They both had guns. I don’t like guns. It wasn’t even that bad. I didn’t think the police could really get me for it. All I did was dig the word “Asshole” into his yard. I may have trashed his garden also. It’s all such a blur. “Where were you on the night of June 7th?” Platt asked when he opened the interrogation, “We have reason to believe you are responsible for the damage done to the property of a man named…” he opened the manila folder and looked at the name printed at the top of the page, “Cameron Stephens.” The name stung me like a hornet and I broke down in tears. “It wasn’t like he didn’t deserve his precious garden destroyed!” I screeched through the tears flowing down my face. “How could you cheat on someone who has loved you more than anyone else, who has been with you for four years?” I asked this question quieter, while looking around at the ashamed faces of my mother, father and brother. My parents were disappointed in me—that was obvious—but so was my brother. My brother had never been disappointed in me before, so it hit me like a mallet in the center of my chest. My brother was my role model, the hero of a story that developed before my eyes throughout my life. His eyes became tired when I’d told him what I had done, as though his chosen champion had been defeated. He was disappointed in me for letting a boy get under my skin, especially a boy he had warned me about. I sobbed silently as the police officers rolled their eyes. “Mr. Stephens is not pressing charges,” Robertson stated, “but we want you to understand if you continue this behavior may land you in jail.” The anxiety holding me released its grip, and anger filled the space it had occupied. “It’s nothing a little fertilizer can’t fix,” I snarled back, furious that they had upset me when I wasn’t in any real trouble with them. I was confused about how they had known it was me. Cameron didn’t know I figured out he was cheating on me, and he wasn’t home. I made sure of that. The anger inside of me steamed until the pressure built up and I couldn’t hold in my dismay at defeat. I yelled, “How the hell did you even know it was me?” “He said that he saw a particularly small footprint in the dirt, detailed with the word ‘Keds’ in the center. When we asked if he had any idea who had done it, he told us he suspected you.” I looked down at my shoes. “I should’ve worn Converse,” I said to myself as I turned away from my family’s indecent stares. Later that night I lay in the corner of my bed curled around my favorite pillow when my brother knocked on my door. I did not respond. I heard the door open and I began to sob. He sat on my bed and began to rub my back in circular motions. “He was an asshole, wasn’t he?” he asked quietly after a few minutes of silence. I nodded, looking off the edge of the bed at my black Converse, sitting in the corner, covered with suspicious mud.

[43]


Michael Cheng Four Letters

You walk in with the stride of a wolf, sporting your official PETA1 membership badge. The scene is a dank basement. ‘Keep out’ signs line the crumbling walls. A line of rats scurries across the floor. You vaguely recognize the aroma of decaying food. In the center of the arena, you spot a mass of puppy Dalmatians. Barking, bouncing, the puppies play hopscotch with each other. Suddenly, crimson light flashes across the chamber while knives pierce your eardrums. In just moments, one hundred cuddly little puppies will be silenced. You cry out asking God to save the puppies. No answer. You beg the supervisors eye-to-eye, “stop the murders!” No reply. Finally, you jump in the middle of the puppy pit and force your way through when the sidewalls start closing in. 20 feet. You look back at the puppies. None of them look more than a month old; combined, they have hundreds of joyous years in front of them. 10 feet. The walls are closing in faster now. You fear for your life, but the puppies’ lives even moreso. 5 feet. In a moment, you will be one with the puppies. 3 feet. You chose this path. No going back now. The cheerful barks turn into fearful moans. 2 feet. You hesitate for a second, then imagine the inscription on your gravestone: “puppy lover until the end.” 1 foot. You feel the frigid embrace of the metal walls, and hear the puppies’ muted whimpers. You are one with the puppies now. 11 inches. A sea of puppies rises up around you. 10 inches. Asphyxiation settles in. 9 inches. Everything around you blurs. Your watch becomes a fuzzy circle. The puppies turn into blurred ovals. 8 inches. The scent of puppy blood permeates the reeking air. 7 inches. You notice a tiny inscription on the wall. Through the lenses of your tunnel vision, you make out four tiny letters: P-E-T-A2.

1 PETA,

or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an American animal rights organization. 2 Note that PETA actually euthanizes animals in real life, and well over 50% of all animals that enter its shelter succumb to the grip of death (although actual euthanasia is not performed by crushing). The average for all animal shelters is closer to 30-40%. You can learn more about it through a Google Search, or at http://huff.to/28DfLAk. [44]


Margo Milanowski A Mental Affair

we’ve said our vows to dependability to reliable numbers and unquestionable science in our church: America we’ve chosen right and wrong, to have and to hold what never changes but the hearts of a few more than a few remain loyal to golden tones in the air to smiles through a lense to stone faces pages of letters color on skin and walls and paper

sometimes I imagine they love me, too that the reason they never look at me is because they are so in awe they can't

Dwarf

sometimes the children look but they never look again when I wake and sleep they notice me for a moment but I am not just a beautiful face at those rare times sometimes I wonder if they're angry that I'm not there for them when I doze that they wear those darkened glasses in front of their eyes to keep from risking meeting mine maybe they like when those pesky clouds block them from sight I wonder what they get up to when I'm not around watching but I do so much for them I wake them softly in the morning from the little boxes they reside in I raise the green and growing things sent up to the sky towards me I know they tear them down because they need them; I don't get offended [45]


I know as much that without me they could not see a single thing so why don't they look at me

[46]


Menna Ibrahim Synthetic Locks

cobwebs walk her thighs and climb her spine and crawl beneath the marrow of the bones in her arms. a spectrum of bruise tattered pallets batter the absent spider’s signed wake. spotted sun kissed skin wearing another’s flesh. wish I could show you the purples and the reds and the blues. “Good God, what a sight!” wish I could rehear the sound of her vomiting glass or tearing at her wretched lungs or, maybe, scraping obscenes into her broken pipes. “Oh my, how we marvel!” wish I could write you the tar and the grime and the pieces of chipping pavements playing her bottom lashes like an ashtray “think I over drove my headlights again..” synthetic golden locks wave greetings from her scalp …swear I tasted my hello before I felt it…

Golden Crowns RUN! because sometimes split ends are disguised in soft hands and blue is laced in little white apologies and they don't know. i don't think they know RUN! because sometimes he smiles wide and his teeth are pearls and piano tiles and little fragments of Adam and Eve and their apple tree, trust me i know, but his gums are rotten and written out and ripped at the railings, trust me i think know, and his heart is in the cracks of some broken home that isn't even his own, won’t you please just trust me RUN! because my head— RUN! my head— RUN! —is pounding RUN! because sometimes his hands shake for you and his words sharpen you and his tongue seals mouths shut for you and i told you to run. i-i told you RUN! because sometimes pity parties make homes of dilating eyes. because he's somewhere between an oxymoron and an "um" and a "like" and all the "y'knows" in the book in the making. drifting in and out of so called “sleep” when we both know that pretty little mind of his is the dictionary's equivalent to insomnia. there's a reason i told you to run. RUN because he loves and you don't and every poet's learned that the most beautiful thing to do is to victimize themselves for the sake of an art RUN because something about brown eyes with lashes longer than your attention span and golden crowns in your teeth don't make you the princess father claimed you'd grow up to be

[47]


RUN because wearing your heart on your sleeve is wrong and wearing your heart in your throat is wrong and taking it off too early and forgetting to take it off at all are both wrong run because sometimes split ends are meant to be trimmed and emotions aren't meant to be destinations and you don't need another and you don't need to be alone, but you can run — run! if you please

[48]


Amanda Ebner The Clockwork Children

They wander restlessly, Like little blind moths seeking out light, They are always in search of that which they may never find. Time itself is the overlord of their search, And time itself is their worst enemy. They are the clockwork children, The always lost and the never found. They surf from wave to wave, Weathering a thousand storms each day, All the while their time and hopes dance farther away. Time passes for others, When it cannot for them. They grow, and change, But inside they can’t comprehend How to love others and love in return Because after all, there’s been No way for them to learn. Their lullabies are a child’s cries Their clothes are cast off rags They are the Clockwork Children, And will be so forever more.

[49]


Earle Kelly The Science of Selling Oneself Out

It is still dark here, since he came. It is certain that there is

no one left, given the skill and tenacity of that man. It was almost admirable; how he performed the whole operation, how he executed his work so quickly, and so distantly. No one got to the bottom of where the salesman cam from. It was always brought up in visits; I'm sure he expected this. He had the eyes of a cornered animal and was always checking over his shoulder, as if escaping something. And so he always pulled something to make them forget, or simply dodge the question. He was a brilliant speaker. Always able to maneuver a dangerous conversation back into the safety and comfort of the sale of his product. This was very fortunate for him and very unfortunate for the customer, he thought. Mainly because of the wildly unique products he had for sale. Everything from an infinite "Book of Sand" to a cursed monkey's paw, to a strange and powerful rock, to an encyclopedia of impossible things. Name any vile object and he had it. But the most impressive thing he did was cope with burdens he placed on the backs of the people here. A shrewd master of dodging responsibility. It was all their fault. His convincing himself and others that the buyer of the encyclopedia was already insane before purchase; why else would he ask for a book like that? 'I simply sold that couple and their kid the paw. It was their own Hubris that got them all killed. it was all their fault' He once muttered to himself. The Book of Sand? All their fault. Every death. All their fault. All their fault. He managed to peddle all of his merchandise out to the whole small town, and each and every item ended up consuming every last owner, down to the last man, who was killed, quite gruesomely, by the sheet metal of the teeth of the earth brought upon himself with the Stone. And again. All his fault. And after the death of the townspeople, the salesman made his rounds collecting the broken potential of every life that was taken and kept it for himself, for some reason only he could comprehend. And with more trembling fear in his eyes than ever and the tormented lives of an entire town on his back, the Salesman left, perhaps to start again what he had done many times before.

[50]


You Made Me Realize The sun cast its shadow And worst of the wildlife circled and swayed As I submitted to my state of stagnation Frozen by a shower of warm rosy hues. As the theme in my prose ached further, so did my own form, And I fell to the floor, frail and fragile, Surrendered to the white rays which had plunged me into darkness And Surrounded by the sunbathing animals that had picked away at me for so long. Just then, however, In the shadow of the sun, I saw a light. Two deep, brown, eyes, that had met with mine. You made me realize.

[51]


Therison Bradshaw A Piece of Glass

The woman sat at a stall at the very back of the market. Unlike the rest of the peddlers she sat back in the shade of her stall uninterested in the waves of customers swarming the market place. Every so often a, would be customer stopped by. Yet they would all receive a dismissive wave of the hand, turn away and return to wandering the market like sheep. Intrigued I approached her. I didn’t expect much of a response, but curiosity got the better of me. I stopped directly in front of the stand. “Excuse me,” I said. As expected I received a rather sharp wave of the hand. “Hi, I was wondering what you sell here?” I said. She glanced up towards me slightly annoyed her light blue eyes a sparkling contrast to her grimy red hair and dirty clothes. “I’m giving out the treasures of a mermaid’s chest.” She said I laughed. What sane person would believe that? “Seriously Miss what are you selling?” She frowned and said, “Oh don’t believe me do you? Well then guess I’ll have to prove it to you.” She began to dig into a purse next to her and draws out a shiny, bright blue stone and places it on the counter. “What’s this?” I asked. “An Aquamarine. One of the famed mermaid treasures.” She said beaming with pride. I pick it up and admire the way light reflects off of it. Hundreds of glimmers twinkle around the stall. It was as if the ocean had been turned into this little gem if only for a moment. “You know my father was a sailor. Sailed all over these seven seas. And he would always tell me fun little stories about mermaids and their treasures amongst other things. Never did the beauty of aquamarine’s justice though.” I said, still dazzled by this beautiful stone. “Yes well this is a very unique one. It has the ability to bring long lost lovers together.” The mysterious little gem twinkled a bit brighter. But I knew I hadn’t enough money, or station, to afford such a thing. I began to put it back down when the peddler stood up and clamped her hand on mine.

[52]


“Keep it. I want it to prove its worth.” Her face was right in mine. Shaken, I rushed backwards. I thanked her for the gift and hurried away. I headed out of the market careful to hide my new prized jewel from any prying eyes. But as soon as I was on the street I had an overwhelming urge to pull it out. I checked to see if the street was more or less deserted. Satisfied I whipped out the gem, holding it up to the sun. I was greeted with a cascade of sparkles. The sound of a crash snagged my attention. I looked down the street to see a car that seemed to have smashed into a street lamp after turning the corner. I rush over to help the driver who in turn waved me away, muttering something about being blinded. Without thinking too much on it, I approach the car. Opening the door I reach inside to help the occupant out. A small slender hand grabs mine, the owner slowly exiting the car. The woman was dressed in a bright blue dress, though her hair and dress were quite disheveled. She brushed the hair out of her face. “Mary?” I said Mary looked at me, surprise written all over her face. “James? Is that really you?”

[53]


Sarah Zimmerman Hoping You Understand (You Won’t)

Let’s say you are eight years old. You’re on the playground when a group of kids come up to you. One of them calls you gay and they all laugh. When you ask what that word means, Another kid says happy and all they all laugh again. Now you are eleven. You’re watching Food Network when A woman brings her wife in for a loved one’s challenge. Her Wife? You’re twelve. You’re a year older and you’re starting to piece things together. You think you have a firm grasp on what the word gay means. Your best friend comes out as a lesbian. You find it strange, but stay friends just the same. You’re thirteen now and you’re starting to notice different things, Like the curve of her hips and how lovely her smile is, Her lipstick applied oh-so-perfeNo. Stop. You’re fourteen and there’s no hiding from the facts anymore: You’ve always felt the same about women as you have about men, But now you have the words to define it: Bisexual. Disgusting. You’re fifteen and finally coming to terms with it; You’ve told your friends, And for the most part, they love you regardless. It slowly fades to the back of your mind and You start to love yourself again. But now you are sixteen years old And this wall of self confidence That you’ve been tirelessly building for over a year Is being torn down by one of your friends with a hammer Each blow he deals, made of slurs You are sixteen years old

[54]


You keep remembering years ago Staying up every night crying Telling yourself not to love her You are sixteen years old And you cannot stop thinking About how there must be something wrong with you That people aren’t meant to be made like this You are sixteen years old Flashbacks of being called horrible names Are being replayed over and over in your head Repetition dragging you down Let’s say that you are sixteen years old And this boy who was a trusted friend Is making sure you remember what it feels like To be uncomfortable in your own skin But one day you will be twenty years old. You will grow strong and find people who love who you are. And you know what? You won’t even remember that boy who tore you down So many years ago.

[55]


Lillian Eells Around the World in Seven Days

One of the first things they’ll tell you about RAGBRAI is that it's a ride not a race. As someone who did support for two years I can say with certainty the bikers may not be racing but the support definitely are. To get a good campsite you have to hit the road before the sun is up and channel your inner Nascar driver for the whole trip. Each day a new host town is turned into sprawling tent cities with neighborhoods formed over the course of the week. As far as you can see; tents of all shapes and sizes: bikes wheels up by the doors; and, intermittently, food trucks and signs for church dinners with the “best pie you’ll ever have”. Skipping ahead a few years to my third RAGBRAI as a rider and my favorite out of all five, RAGBRAI XLIII, last summer. I had been dreading it in the usual barely fifteen-year-old fashion, mourning how I would miss the Papertowns premier with all my friends and be forced to hang out with my dad for 8 plus hours a day on a bike. Two days before RAGBRAI, I was seated in the basement of a little Italian restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa with the rest of Melon City Bike Club wishing I were back at the hotel with a good book, or really anywhere but there, where I was the weird kid from two years ago with an obsession with kettle corn and tendency to not realize I was shouting. Luckily, I was sitting by a RAGBRAI virgin, a first-time rider, who had no idea I was so annoying, the first two years I rode. I and the rest of my family, hit it off with Michelle almost immediately, talking about the months of training that go into riding 500 miles in a week and how we had initially heard about RAGBRAI. Within minutes the others at our table joined in reminiscing about past rides and telling their favorite stories from earlier years. The conversation went from how this RAGBRAI would be a breeze compared to 2012, a ride with temperatures so hot and hills so high it belonged in the 7th circle of Hell, to their favorite food stops along the way. My mother recalled a sign for a Cub Scout Bloody Mary Breakfast-- helpful for those riding off in the morning wobbling and weaving on their bikes, still drunk from the parties the night before. Soon the worry of being awkward or unwelcome melted away and I began to feel at home. We finished the evening tired and dreading the early morning tomorrow.

[56]


The early mornings didn’t stop there and, in fact, got worse over the course of the week. Every day we were up and dressed before the birds had even thought to start their songs. While the dawn was beautiful, I personally find the back of my eyelids to be even more so, and a meager breakfast of a half a blue Gatorade and a peanut butter Clif Bar didn’t do much to help. Still, day after day I somehow found myself seated shivering on the front of the semi-recumbent tandem I rode with my dad, my feet clipped into the pedals, legs resting on the slightly orange sunscreen-stained boom of the bike, striped sleeves pulled up to my shoulders, and a white and blue helmet resting on my head before the sun crested the horizon. Even with the ungodly hours, made even worse by the sound of the constant parties and ear-splittingly loud music all night long, once we hit the road the day took an upward turn-- not just because the glaciers didn’t make it to the parts of Iowa RAGBRAI goes through. The days consist of waking much too early, eating everything from gourmet pastas to grilled pork chops, and being taunted by signs promising, “this is the last hill”. As we pedaled past cornfields and soybeans and white farmhouses we were approached by people from all around the globe who came to take part in the ride. With the diversity, food, and mixing pot of nationalities RAGBRAI is a 7 day between two rivers in the Midwest.

[57]


Gabi Bell-Nunez Rain

It starts off as a soft drizzle, patting the frames of wooden bells. This drizzle, small and weak, dribbles from bells and hits concrete. Water saturates the concrete, wood, and soil, making its way into everything. I peer to the translucent sky and, for a second, every droplet freezes, suspended in air before they abruptly meet surface. To explode into extinction. To become an insignificant glaze of a tree leaf, or the deep rich brown hues of damp bark on an oak tree. Clearly unseen at the glance of an eye. Yet a droplet doesn’t merely vanish. It disperses into a trillion little bits that melt into trees and wood and concrete—amalgamating as one. Everywhere I look I find this to be true. The trembling rain taps against my door, searching for companionship. Rain beckons for me to come outside. I stay in. From the cracks and crevices, rain seeps in, peeping my name. A steady stream of water falls in a glass on the kitchen table, filling past the brim, flowing out onto the tables grooves and cracks, forming a pool where soggy bread and napkins flow off the tables edges— a thud against the floor. Books furl and wrinkle at its sides as drops fall, seeping in between aged words. The letters, the ones from years ago, kept in a wooden chest locked away from the world, wither with each drop that seeps in through the wood. The letters drench and their ink fuse into one, now a mesh of darkness on white trifold pages. Rain is half of my house. Rain—now falling with greater force—splashes through the paved roads. No longer a gentle visitor but an intruder in my safe haven. Gushing through the windows and doors, rain floods everything I ever considered home, drowning my village of belongings in its own iced sorrows. Boundless tidal waves of cerulean swoosh into swirling whirl pools of great strength, slurping away anything in sight. Hysteria floods through the village of objects, now frantically swimming in this distraught thunderstorm. Brooms and clocks and letters and doors struggle and drown in this brawl, falling in and out of consciousness. This coursing river flings them around, pushing them down then up with the jumping waves. Then suddenly the storm stops, leaving objects to float in a sea of murky grey. The roads are a bowl of unintentional garden salad, scattered with bits of screws and bolts from the mechanic’s shop, doors from the villagers’ houses, produce from the market place, laced garments from the tailor’s shop, and small, lemony

[58]


yellow damsels from the wild grass plains. Through the ruckus emerges sewage from draining systems and the fragments and flowers swam in harmony through the calm waters. Through the chaotic turmoil of the village, I found all sorts of peculiar objects floating. Looking closely through the surface, a child’s stuffed bear, with one eye missing— perhaps as a result of some minute conflict— and fur like the mane of a lion, sinks slowly through different intervals of waters, rocking and swirling beneath the waves, drifting as if anchored and sinks farther and farther until it dissolved in the water’s mirage. I gently canoe through the stench of cluttered waters and shut my eyes. I hear the gust and the drum of droplets. The murky guck beneath me pervades the air. I sense bewilderment among the village of objects, fear radiating off their goose-bumped frames. My entranced emotions are rudely interrupted by a crackling tear in the sky, a potential rumble that invokes harmonized shrieks from the village. I suppose this is my cue to get out of there, so naturally, I do. My paddles swish through the rapids as I escape the town’s view, and behind me is a grand ebony cloud, advancing with purpose. I manage to gain distance but not enough to outdrift the thunderstorm. Its rain, large and more intimidating, comes roaring down on the little wooden plank that kept me afloat. I swing my paddle in an attempt to deflect the baby blue bullets (which is effective at first) but eventually, the hail swallows me and leaves me with a sunken canoe and a hopeless situation. For a moment, the sun peers through the thick daunting sky, sparkling the shimmering waters that prance around the outline of my perished canoe. It is at times like these that I think of the ironic bitter sweetness of the world, a side the world has shown me so often. A stale breeze laced with malice creeps through the open ocean of war. Volleys of rain shoot in every direction; is there anything worth saving? This rain has taken everything. Punches of waves come crashing down lodging the water up then down like fallen towers once touching the skies. The tides are shifting, pulling me in. One swift blow shoves me far under. I sunk, one foot...two feet…five feet under. Numbness consumes me. I hear the gentle drum. I feel nothingness. I see the rain. And in this moment I realize—my storm has ended.

[59]


2016 Reynolds anthology