The Jonathan R. Reynolds Young Writers Workshop
June 18-25, 2017
Table of Writers David Liang ..................................................................................... 3 Sam Fisk ......................................................................................... 5 Taylor Garcia ................................................................................... 7 Ashley Maddock ................................................................................8 Alex Garner.................................................................................... 10 Faith Scully ..................................................................................... 11 Maggie Nesselroade .......................................................................... 12 Isabel “Izzy” Ostrowski ....................................................................... 13 Becky Carr ...................................................................................... 15 Syd Anderson .................................................................................. 16 Helena Han .....................................................................................18 Cate Strong .....................................................................................19 Mckenzie Alons ............................................................................... 20 Kiki Chen ...................................................................................... 21 Kendall Wack ................................................................................. 22 Aaliyah Jones .................................................................................. 24 Peyton Cassel .................................................................................. 25 McKenna Williams ........................................................................... 26 Sam Mader ..................................................................................... 28 Mendy Kong .................................................................................. 29 Lauranna Masters ............................................................................. 31 Ryan Greenwald .............................................................................. 32 Jack Doverspike ............................................................................... 33 
Hannah Salsbery .............................................................................. 34 Julia Harter .................................................................................... 36 Sara Kathryn McCormick ................................................................... 38 Alex Koenigsberg ............................................................................. 39 Abby Spengler ................................................................................. 40 Claire VanDerLaan........................................................................... 41 Victoria Washington ......................................................................... 42 Avery Pereboom .............................................................................. 44 Priya Padhye .................................................................................. 45 Kelsey Reynolds .............................................................................. 46 Kelsie Oshinksi ................................................................................ 47 Cat Kremer .................................................................................... 49 Liz Szymanski .................................................................................. 51 Emily Davis ................................................................................... 53 Marylou Sutherland .......................................................................... 54 Elaina Harris ...................................................................................55 Elliot Jones .................................................................................... 57 Sydney Kim ................................................................................... 58 Abby Wager ................................................................................... 59 Nathen Garson ................................................................................ 60 Katherine Barbour ............................................................................ 61 Isabella Reardon Ramos ..................................................................... 62 Rachel Mierzejewski ......................................................................... 63 Cara Levicoff .................................................................................. 64
David Liang The Hunter’s Cross (Potential) There is a time, when I am certain that I’m alone, with nothing but the night sky and the old cross my grandfather gave me hanging round my neck that I begin to go mad. My mind wanders, the old rifle that was passed down to me seems heavier than usual, and I sometimes slam my hands down onto the ground to make sure that I’m still there. Still alive, still conscious and breathing and lying out over the cusp of the hill waiting for a deer to show up in my sights. It’s when the night is so quiet that even breathing seems like a sin, that I find my hands nervously fidgeting the silver, T-shaped piece of metal that means so much to so many people. It’s when the sky is clear, and the stars and their cold brilliance glare down upon me when I feel most vulnerable. It’s when there is absolutely no one around, no one to even hear the shot of the rifle, the scream of the deer, when I feel that the whole world is watching, listening, waiting. It is then when I bite down on the metal cross, notch another tooth mark in the porous metal, and slam my hands down on the ground again, to make myself come back from wherever I’ve gone to and keep my breathing slow and steady. The night air is a blessing and a curse, and she reaches out with lavender fingers to lull careless hunters into sleep. Men older and wiser than me have frozen here, out on the hills, their families going hungry in despair. There have been times, when the silence becomes too much to bear, that I want to fire my gun into the night, hear the roar of the muzzle, the flash of fire. It’s the quiet, I suppose, that gets to me. It’s the lack of, and it builds up, boils over, seethes in the silence that makes me become this way. Others have called it the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline while waiting for the kill. For me, it’s the potential. Every minute of silence, it stacks up. For every minute of a deer not appearing, potential writhes and froths and taunts me from across the field. For every gnaw on the cross, for every frustrated slam of my hands on the ground, it screams from the trees and from the uncaring night sky. For every second when nothing happens, for every second that a tree doesn’t fall in the forest, there’s something else that could be happening. Potentially. I could be at home, I could have given up, I could have emptied the seven rounds I carry with me into the treeline. But that would be a waste. The night sky would look on, icy as ever, the cross would still taste sweet and cold, and all that potential would have disappeared, been used up. The world shrinks, the fog rolls in, the morning sun peeks through the weary sky, and the stars begin their retreat back to where they came. A deer crosses the prairie in front of me, and all of a sudden it’s overwhelming. The rifle at my shoulder screams in anticipation, and I slowly, with fingers frozen in the morning dew, raise it to my shoulder and look closer at what I’ve waited so long to kill.
Itâ€™s a doe, her stomach swollen, pregnant with a fawn. I imagine my finger squeezing on the trigger, the hammer slamming into the primer and the bullet breaking the sound barrier. The doe would see the flash and feel the hit before she heard the sound. But she, like the moments of silence in the freezing forest, like the minutes spent waiting on a hill in the middle of the night, carries potential. I lower the rifle and pick up the cross, placing it between my teeth, feeling the sweet coldness of the night and taste of silver.
Sam Fisk That Glorious Face In the cold of night, I saw a stranger; Not foreign, but not a neighbor. It was limping oddly under stars. Sometimes seeking up for Mars, And others pondering its feet. Hailing my custom, I met no reply. I knew no words nor dragged its eye. Yet, without a surety, sensed it didn’t blink. Ignorance in such iris owed, I think, To more than a bloody cloak or cassock. Bold ahead, I bent for something bare. Seeming blind, it somehow left a stare. Yes, still stumbling, its ungaze bled raw Or stapled its lids to say “I saw Never.” My rightness was unfitting. Maybe it saw nothing, ever. Then why eyes at all? Sounds unclever. Satisfied with the milky spheres, I turned over to blackened ears, And all else betwixt and behind. Frost and fire and plague bit at the skin. Burned, boiled, stretched each feature thin. Yet, each crease of each pore spoke for more Than any soft and puffy sore. No. Perhaps it was nothing. “This should be the end of it,” I thought. I stepped aside, infirm if I ought To bother, with live and lonesome memory. All a world to itself, still like smeltery With no smelters, it roared and murmured on. Following ‘neath a fresh stars’ field, It strayed to an unfamiliar weald, With funny-birds and bugs unwritten In my writ’s unremitting record. Sick, still stammering iron, sat before stone.
It bowed humbly, and sang to deaf rock. Gangrene tips ghosted along the block. Tugging tatter in the slightest, and Bent melted nose to finest nil I’d ever found. It waited. And when a four-winged speck descended, It blended rot in tiny valleys. Bygone inscriptions, paved in pus. The speck walked down the wall To be crushed down in a crevice. The defiler danced away, giggling. Prayer became a bray, while Foam, piddle, gore, and chyle Riddled down its many clefts. The left foot fell wrong. Rest followed. Walking cautiously to the shriveled, I pondered the humours, cries, and curses. A hand stained in corruption and scraps Of a demon called “Moth.”, arose, Commanded by dumb senses. It whistled something odd and new, To me, at least, holding no rule I knew or knew to know. It was pretty, not more, But enough to kneel for. That bloody, artful hand arose, Articulate and brutish, and would Have grazed my chin, if I’d not Pulled away. The groan it left after Miss made me sour in regret. Then I stepped o’er the dead face of Man. Three cheers for the glorious face of Man!
Taylor Garcia Stardust What are we Except stardust coming together Except cosmic irony? Forced apart in the supernova Weâ€™ll create galaxies And stars will glitter Made out of us Out of lock and key And dream Weâ€™re more wish than fulfilment We are the whispered might have been We are the clouds over the ocean Rolling into the horizon And sun hits us And we dissipate We were made for the middle of the night Fantasies To keep warm until the waking hours of morning But the sun also rises with reality What are we Except stardust coming together To whisper sweet nothings Into the ear of the universe?
Ashley Maddock After Viewing David with the Head of Goliath (Caravaggio Viena) This boy holds the head of a giant for God to teach us that we too can become murderers if only we have faith. Yes the weak can be strong if they let God attach puppet strings to their belt loops… if they’re willing to dangle above the earth and perform pre-written plays. And yes David was a boy. And yes Goliath was a man. And yes for that moment Evolution spun backwards with its eyes closed and its mouth wide open. And yes a June Bug did fall from an apple tree, and yes she did drown. That is if you believe such things.
Growing Into Small Spaces I was never the girl with her head up in the clouds. Instead I liked to stare at the ground and smear kites into the sand with rough twig brushes that I found on the bonfire’s perimeter. I liked pink, but not obsessively. I read books but only about horses because I was convinced that they had beaten gravity and mastered the art of earthbound flight. I fed the cat twice a day, did the dishes most of the time, and killed the cockroaches when my father came home late. 
Now I am a poet who finds herself drawn to coat closets because of the way space writes itself between bits of clothing and how the clothes themselves serve as swaying obituaries for those ghostly figures whose beliefs now hang more heavily than the bodies that broke their necks.
Alex Garner Dreaming Up in the wisps of that sweet, sweet dream, we twist and we wind for a glimpse of that gleam That gleam from the stars that shimmer and shine up in that black chasm, where lost dreams, youâ€™ll find Stars, we try to hold on to but we slip, slip, and fall down we go back, leaving behind our sweet dreams We sit together and gaze up, at those dreams that we dreamed Theyâ€™re too far now and we cry and we reach, reach, and reach But they vanish like mist, when the sun comes by They say dreams are for kids, but dreaming is a gift that all people wish to find one day To be up in those clouds of pinks and purples and blues, of eternal love and light that forever reign true Us dreamers, we thrive Off the lost and forgotten because we fight and endure the harsh storms that arise So we wipe tears from our cheeks and reach a little higher For those dreams that live on Those dreams, we desire
Faith Scully Sunflower Suitcase Have you ever seen someone angry butter a bagel? His knife plunged into the tub of butter, scraped some out, and dragged clumps onto the dry bread, all the while his eyes threw daggers at the hallway at me. I could hear what I told him last night ricocheting around in his brain, bumping into everything we were and tumbling it right over. But he said nothing. All that echoed off the exposedbrick walls in our reality was the rock-on-sandpaper scrapes of dragging butter across a too-dry bagel. If he wasn’t going to speak, I would. “I’m not sorry,” I trumpeted, “I’m not sorry for doing what’s best for us.” He slammed his knife down, and it clattered into the kitchen sink. “How is this what’s best for us? What happened to running away together, following our dreams!” “Playing your guitar on the street corner doesn’t pay the bills, Derek! And one role in one play in a dingy basement is all I’ve got so far. I’m nowhere near getting a break!” My voice cracked. “And if you give up now, you’ll never get your break! God, who are you now? Getting a real job, working under some man in a suit like a dog? Where’s my crazy hot actress girlfriend with a dream!” He whined, hands striking the countertop, white knuckles gripping the edges. “I sacrifice my dream for you, and you’re worried about missing your ‘hot actress girlfriend?” I could feel my face turning red. My throat was sore from those words, fighting so hard to stay down, finally escaping. He swept his unkempt chestnut hair from the left side of his face, revealing his clear blue eyes, his patches of scraggly stubble. He couldn’t respond to that, and he knew it. The wheels of my sunflower suitcase rattled on the grimy sidewalk, squealing from lack of use. Street lights reflected into puddles filling in potholes on the empty street. And I stopped. And my eyes found the foggy night sky, untamed and free, yet chained forever to the earth.
Maggie Nesselroade Elaine Maybe we can move the table to the window. That way He can watch the boat traffic Or the birds. It is better than eating alone. The blue blanket, cloaked in her scent, Is untouched, Resting in its place. Her focus is blurred to the center, While his lies solely on her. He pleads For her to remain, but she abides more In spirit than in mind. As he leaves, he’ll turn on the television, out of Desperation not to return to a quiet house. She is worn, but so are his hands as he Holds the paper cup to her lips. Choking back tears will make you very thirsty.
Ankle Deep I liked talking about my anklets, My sisters found it less amusing, but they Didn’t know. Maybe if I talked about it enough, I could erase it’s meaning, erase Your meaning. Hundreds of different strands, fraying at the edges, still Clung together, holding you inside of them. Or was it you holding me? I could feel the skin underneath, growing red In irritation, rubbing my wounds deeper, Even though I wished for them to callous. Reaching to touch it, entranced by its presence, The threads wrapped like tendrils around my fingertips. It was my possession, yet somehow you were still in Control.
Isabel “Izzy” Ostrowski A Brief Justification of a Solitary Existence I don’t eat with other people. I was quite a vexatious child. The summer I was six years old, my parents sent me to live with my grandmother, a stern woman with pencil-thin lips and patience. I spent that summer stepping purposefully on eggshells, a defiant, unruly thing with wild hair and bloody fingernails. I sat across from my grandmother one evening, chewed my pilaf loudly, issued her a challenge. “Don’t rest your elbows on the table,” She scolded, features pinched with disgust. I issued another challenge, a smug expression gracing my round, freckled face. My grandmother pressed her lips impossibly thin and seized her salad fork. She lurched forward and drove the silver through my left hand. I don’t like needles, and I don’t let people touch me. Nurses like to miss my veins. Their makeup cakes up around their apologetic smiles, the fallout from their cheap eyeshadow flakes off onto my skin and obscures my veins even worse. I double-pierced my ears in a bathroom stall when I was thirteen. A bulb of pus and blood and bitterness swallowed up the nickel I’d jammed through the soft tissue, throbbed with my pulse for months. When I was fourteen, three girls pinned me to a kitchen floor and shaved my head with clippers. My scalp was dotted with scabs and patches of hair for weeks. It took me three years to grow it back. When I was sixteen, I let a boy cut his initials into my thigh because I’d already tried loving him into loving me. I knew better, but thought it would, at the very least, leave one hell of a scar and make one hell of a cautionary tale. I don’t stay in one place for very long. I was seventeen the first time I ran away from home. I split my entire wardrobe and wadded cash between two of my father’s suitcases, pinched my passport between my teeth. My soulmate and I piled into his mother’s Subaru and drove for days. We slept on shoulders and folded the seats down flat, sprawled atop each other in a way that was familiar and almost innocent. We stopped to hike, to throw up in ditches, stopped for soft drinks and french fries and roadside oddities. We ate seafood and saw the ocean and ran out of money in Toronto. We didn’t panic. Our friends had always joked that we were two of a kind, that ice water pumped through the pliant blue of our veins, that our love was like shrapnel; carnage from the collision of two rolling stones. When he left, I stayed cold.
The end was ugly, bones ground fine between two sliding boulders, spitting and punching and plea bargaining, new, brief, desperate heat and my housekey dug into the side of his motherâ€™s Subaru like it was soft cheese. I roll on.
Becky Carr Flashbacks I was walking on the sidewalk on the block with all the bungalow houses. It’s a shame there was never anyone sitting out on the porch. The only people sitting outside were a mother and daughter. The mother was braiding her daughter’s hair, and pulling it back with a firm hand. The girl stared ahead blankly as her feet dangled off the porch swing, not flinching, as I would have done at her age. Suddenly I could hear my mother’s voice, “Mija, you should braid your hair more often.” She looked down at me and smiled while gently brushing wisps of hair out of my face. I looked down at my feet dangling off the stool. “What’s wrong?” she asked, with her concerned face. I sighed and turned away. “I’m stupid.” I muttered under my breath. “Mija, you’re not stupid. “ she said running her fingers through my hair. “I tried to talk to the other kids on the playground. I asked them if they wanted to play with me and they ran away.” My mom sighed with a gentle smile. “Sometimes people make us feel stupid, but that doesn’t make us stupid. Everyone feels stupid sometimes.” I looked up at her with a slight smile. “Hey lady, watch where you’re going.” I looked down to see I had stepped in cement that had been poured on the sidewalk. I quickly stepped back and took off my shoes. I ran away barefoot before anyone could ask me if I was okay. I kept running as my feet scraped against the pavement of the sidewalk. Finally, after I was a block away, I stopped. I was still at least a mile away from my house. I didn’t want to keep walking barefoot, but I didn’t have any other choice. The only person I knew who lived on this block was Cathy. I didn’t want to see her, especially while barefoot. The last time I had talked to Cathy was in a Public Park bathroom. She was getting her hair braided by Samantha, who was the other girl who slept in our tent. “May, are you okay?” I turned and looked at her pretending to smile. “Yeah, I’m good,” I said. I was not good, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I expected her to leave the bathroom, but she stood up and asked, “Do you want to meditate?” “What?” She smiled. “Meditate. It’s easy I’ll teach you how. Let’s sit here,” She sat down on the bathroom tiles. I stared at her for a moment then went to join her. It wasn’t the first time I’d sat down in a public restroom before anyway. I had spent numerous hours sitting in one-person bathrooms at my school. It was one of the few places I could read and not be bothered. “First, close your eyes.” I closed my eyes, still unsure about what I was doing. “Just empty your mind, imagine you’re a cloud, you’re so high up that you can’t see anything that’s beneath you. All you can see is the sky, and it’s completely empty.” I didn’t think about being away from home, I didn’t think about how long it had been since I had last taken a shower, I didn’t think about calling my parents to ask if I could go home. I didn’t think about how stupid this must look to someone walking into the bathroom, I didn’t think. My mind was completely blank. “Mommy look, that girl doesn’t have any shoes.” I turned around to look behind me, realizing I was still standing on the sidewalk with no shoes. I started walking briskly in the direction of my house, knowing I would get home eventually.
Syd Anderson Max’s Second Kill
An Excerpt from a Larger Project The tension below him was incredible. Coiling masses of anticipation like snakes wove their way amongst the warriors in the trees. Max watched it all happen from above. He perched, ready to put his deadly training to use at any moment. He could see Sidari trembling as he approached the Resistance Leader. Maricon Ayrolgeis was a terrifying image of a man. He was gigantic, standing well over six feet tall, and had a large grizzled mane of red hair, streaked with gray. His eyes were the palest blue, like someone had taken ice from the farthest north and welded them into his irises. While his appearance might’ve been frightening, Ayrolgeis’s titles and accomplishments far overshadowed what looks could show. He had graduated top of his class in war training and smashed records at the dragonslaying camp, Sergentr. He had slain countless dragons in his time, and had the battle scars to prove it. Recently, his energy had been focused on the Resistance and taking down King Thorius. He’d said he himself would be the one to kill the fake king, and hang his head on his wall. This, understandably, frightened Sidari, given this was his first real fight and he was standing before the one greatest fear of many soldiers of Thorius’s army. Max couldn’t hear exactly what was going on, but things looked like they were going south. The commander turned his back for a brief moment, concealing his movements from Sidari, but not from Max. He was reaching for the large sword at his hip, and the assassin’s friend was to be his first kill of the day. Max acted fast, drawing the long, thin blade he’d received a few weeks ago. It slid smoothly and noiselessly from its sheath. He then hurled himself from the tree he was spectating in, baring the sword down in a thrusting motion. Max had been terrible at plunging attacks. Master Daeli had relentlessly put him through plunging technique training, and he failed over and over again until one day he managed to do it somewhat correctly. From that moment on, he had to replicate the exact feeling of the fall and thrust until he perfected it, and still he didn’t always hit his mark. This was going to be incredibly difficult. To stop Ayrolgeis from killing his friend, he’d have to aim perfectly to parry the commander’s attack as he fell. After that, it was hand-to-hand against the western continent’s most feared barbarian. The assassin figured that would sort itself out when it came. Time slowed as he fell. Ayrolgeis began to draw his sword, turning towards Sidari, who was only just beginning to realize what was happening. The smaller warrior began to stagger back as the bear-man turned towards him aggressively. Then Ayrolgeis looked up. He saw Max cutting through the air towards him, and a faint air of surprise fluttered onto his face. The commander began to turn towards his falling adversary. This action threw off Max’s trajectory.
Instead of parrying Ayrolgeis’s death blow, Max’s sword ended up falling directly onto the commander’s face. It perfectly threaded the needle of the gap in his metal helmet, which betrayed his eyes to the world so he could see. The sword slid effortlessly through his eye and pierced his skull like it was a knife breaking the brittle crust of a pie. It broke through the opposite side of Ayrolgeis’s head, forcing the helmet off the back of it. The two awkwardly fell to the ground with a thump. Max got his bearings and looked up at Sidari. His brown eyes were wide with shock and fear. The assassin turned towards the Resistance army. Every face mirrored his friend’s. Max felt his stomach drop as the silence was pierced by a battle cry.
Helena Han The August of 1945 It is illuminating the world. These white flowers blooming in the black ashes Struggles to reach the sun. In the corner of a dilapidated apartment, A man is writing a poem in ecstasy: â€œCondensed all the human evil, The world punished human with evil.â€? Correct. It is human who killed the world. And it is human who got killed by the world. Humans exist with no idea what the borderline of right and wrong, They are rusting. Incorrect. We are rusting. Sitting in front of bread and coffee, I feel there is still something missing. Is it butter? Is it jam? Or is it the faith that was lost Forever and ever. Whether you are in passion or insanity or melancholy or despair or anger or happiness or whatever emotion, The world will continue to weave lies. Afraid of the virtual enemy who was created by myself, I still Exist.
Cate Strong Bisection they cut me in half start at my head draw their scalpel down finish their stroke between my legs disconnect the nerves that join both sides stretch out my intestines and make a perfect incision in the middle carefully dissect my heart slice the tubes that pump blood from one side to the other they push me apart into two perfectly symmetrical sections i lay split in half bleeding watching the crimson from both sides slowly pool together in the gap between my left and my right they carefully place parts of me from each half into jars of formaldehyde they think maybe my pieces will explain what they theorize about me theyâ€™ve done this to those before me and will do the same to countless others after
Mckenzie Alons My Piano My piano is smooth as marble Dark as the black hole It glows beneath the sunlit window Dust begins to show The keys are white and hard As knuckles Zebra stripes from 1 to 88 Wild, Yet with polished grace The hammers slap the strings, Thumping plushly, Singing an angelic hue, The blue Of Gershwinâ€™s Rhapsody The spring green of Clair de Lune A storm of enigmatic C# minor Trills The resonance of life And of Heaven, too, Of stage lights But also of my motherâ€™s shoe, Of pies and laughs and candles The sound of morning scales From C to F And from silence to brilliance, Notes dancing on a page Like scintillating stars In a frenzied galaxy, Or chicks warbling a frail melody Or simply seclusion That shrouds the instrument When it is quiet, like a black hole, Sound drowned in its abyss.
Kiki Chen Ode to Taiwan Taiwan: you are the island of my ancestry the foundation of my heritage, you are beautiful in a way I never knew until I saw your lush green mountains, the fog sweeping over you like a magnificent, royal robe. There is no shame but a glorious pride in the honor of being yours. To know that your grandeur lies not only in topography but in your rich, un-imitable culture. Your marvelous juxtaposition of ancient, ornate temples and modern, clean apartments speaks of your rapid evolution but even so, you have never lost your undeniable beauty. Your rich and tumultuous history speaks to your indomitable spirit, because what are you, if not your people? Your people who do not hesitate to share their unique and brash kind of love because they are Taiwanese, all. Clinging to each other in a tightness of bond forged through the trials of history and held together by inside dialects, ubiquitous street food, and above all, the lessons your mothers taught all of us. The government will change, the oppressors will change but you, Taiwan, stay as solid as ever, as hardy as the stone of your seaside stairs as resilient as the leathered skin of your Aborigines and as stoically as your shores, battered by the ocean on every border but you are relentless in your refusal to cower.
Kendall Wack The Insomniac’s Lullabies Purple moons painted under bloodshot irises, Met with shaky palms and rustled hairdos, Sing the insomniac’s lullabies, Eyes forget how to keep their lids drawn, Like hyperventilating children who forget how to breathe, Tossing and turning only prolong the restlessness, And “beauty sleep” sounds like a dream Nightmares are no longer disturbances of deep, snoring slumber, But reality checks show they’re routine, Coffee doesn’t aid muscles screaming for rest, Nor does it keep zombies awake: It keeps them alive, Pillows like prison jumpsuits, And quilts like shackles, Only serve as reminders of the floating prison, That keeps jailbirds awake at nights, And haunts their daydreams.
Torment’s Love Song The girl with the sad eyes looks this way, Her irises dripping with torment, She holds me in a gaze full of pain and despair, And I wish I could take it all away, The girl doesn’t cry, Except in the night, When no one will hear her weeping, She burdens herself with the pain of a nation, But doesn’t want eyes to wander, To the way her eyes speak, When she doesn’t say a thing, Concealer is her best friend, But you can’t conceal an ocean that is deep, Or the problems that keep her from sleeping. 
Paper Girl I was paper, And you loved me because I was new, My body was lined and you memorized my map, I was soft, I was crisp, not to be messed with, I’ve been stained, I’ve been ripped, But you never minded, Your mind was set on my poetry, I was constant, yet forever changing, Always a new story on my lips, You could fold me, I was steady, I became your narrative, We were the perfect romance novel, A Nobel-prize winning paperback, Until that one day that you noticed, I was still just a young rough draft, I was wrinkled, you tried to shred me, Erase everything I’d become, You left ink smears when you tore me, To remind me it wasn’t love, Into bleach, you quickly dunked me, Tried to white out all my words, You stole my mouth piece, Took my lyrics, And when you’d realized all you’d done, You coated me in gasoline kisses, And decided it was my time to burn.
Aaliyah Jones Dancing with the Devil The music began to play at a fast tempo His hand held such a tight grip around hers that her hand turned pink Than purple. His other hand on her lower back side, his touch caused her flesh to melt. His eyes were constantly changing colors from a deep ocean blue, to a honey brown, to a sour apple green, to pitch black. They began to dance, but she couldn’t move. She couldn’t run away. She couldn’t stop dancing. Although their movement together was beautiful together, she was in excruciating pain. He spun her and she felt the mush from her dinner coming up her esophagus But her jaws were locked shut so it had no other choice but to go back down. He dipped her and she could feel the bones in her spin breaking Once the music slowed down he pulled her back up and her bones snapped back into place. The music stopped. The audience clapped. Her eyes sting as a single tear feel from her cheek The more pain she felt, the more she regretted her mistake. But that’s the price to pay when dancing with the devil.
Peyton Cassel Dreaming She swore her bed would unchain itself from the ground in the middle of the night, floating up to shake and gently set back down. Now she sleeps carefully bedcovers twisted around her feet to prevent sudden flight into dreams of purple skies and red weather and drunken ships on foaming seas. They whisper for her to come away she tells herself donâ€™t near the edge donâ€™t near the edge of the bed. Too late.
The Statue Speaks sometimes I wonder if I will ever return to the land I came from. meet the French inventor who built my colossal limbs. tore me apart like a great rag doll and shipped me across the foaming green. reconstructed on strange land, I stand lonely. to my left, the city. to my right, the sea. my frame put back together, insides empty. there is something to be said about being hollow. it makes you want to fill yourself with all sorts of things. I found my filling in people, thrilled by the tremors the immigrants brought as they passed by my feet. foreigners that remind me of another land across the sea.
McKenna Williams Ode to Petra (an Excerpt) He had cared tenderly for her mother, Bella. He massaged Bella’s swollen feet and raced to the grocer when she had late night cravings for pickles or marshmallows, paying in quarters and crumpled bills found under the couch cushions. He held her hand at every doctor’s visit and cleaned up the vomit from her sickness. And by the way, who had named it morning sickness? His beautiful Bel-la was nauseous day and night. When he wasn’t with Bella or working, he took business classes at the local college. He wanted to provide a good living for his family. He bought parenting books and read them with the utmost concentration, highlighting and marking passages that seemed particularly important. Most evenings, if Bella was in a good mood, they would talk about names. They could talk about baby names for hours, suggesting names of family members and childhood friends and their favorite characters and even outlandish ones that threw them into fits of laughter. One day Bella had suggested naming the baby Peter after her father, and when they were checking out at the grocery store the next day and the cashier was named Peter, she pinched him so hard that it left half moon imprints. “It’s a sign!” she insisted. He could hear the hint of a smile in her voice. “Sweetheart, lots of people are named Peter.” “What if she’s a girl?” he asked her that night. “Petra. She can be named Petra.” he kissed her on the forehead. Nothing else needed to be said. In the third trimester, they shared fewer laughs. He once suggested they name the baby after a fruit, like one of those crazy celebrities she loved to read about. “That’s not funny, Jack.” she snapped. “You think this baby is just a big joke?” That night he stayed in the parking lot after his class and downed the little bottle in his glovebox. He threw it out the car window once it was empty, then placed a mint on his tongue. He took the long way home. Petra was born three weeks later. He got to cut the umbilical cord. She was so small and so pale and so, so beautiful. How had he never realized how beautiful fingers were before? How delicate and breathtaking toes could be? The nurse took her away for screenings after 24 hours. He knew just looking in her eyes that nothing could ever be wrong with her. She was so fragile with her skin as thin as parchment paper, but she was also immortal. Nobody had ever been quite so alive. He could hear her heartbeat and feel her pulse in the crook of her neck. He had seen Petra in every state, with a sickly pallor and her blue veins popping out, with the bones of her collarbone and wrists and knobby knees protruding at awkward angles to accentuate her frailty. On the bad days she was like a paperdoll, thin and so pale that she was almost translucent in the harsh lighting of the hospitals they had become so familiar with. He had tenderly wiped the snot from her nose, the mucus from her lips. He had forced enzymes down her throat. He had put her kicking and screaming into her vibratory vest, then watched his daughter shake and cough and shake and cough and shake and shake and shake. He had tagged along on school field trips much to her chagrin, never quite able to
shake the feeling that things could get bad again, that she could get bad again, at any given moment. Sometimes her lungs would be clear for days, even weeks. He remembered seeing her in the holiday concert a few years back, her voice ringing pure and clear, her skin brightened by the forgiving, soft light. Standing there in a black dress, she looked like she could live forever. He had never felt so much love for anyone before. After all, she was his.
Sam Mader Marissa He saw, A diamond in a sea of coal. He spoke, Sowing the seed he hoped would one day blossom. They spent time together, Dances, lunches, classes, and band. He gave her everything, Together, they opened themselves to the world To face its beauty, and its ugliness Unknowing of time slowly counting down Until the day came One last chance Do or die time And he said the Three Words She left for the final time... He failed, Opportunity slipped between his fingers. He felt he couldn't live without her He felt a hole only she could fill He wished that time would stop and reverse To bring back the times they once shared But the clocks continued forward A new experience for both And when they reunited They found they could no longer do so A plug and an outlet that no longer connected She, a vault of feelings with the key dangling just out of reach Never opening in his times of need He hated her Tearing apart the shreds of comradeship That held the two together
Mendy Kong AmeriKKKa Fired seven shots Within seconds Valerie Castile This city killed my son St. Paul, Minnesota June 16, 2017 Minnesota Police Officer Acquitted Of All Charges: second-degree manslaughter, unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, either expressed or implied endangering safety by discharging a firearm. The system in this country continues to fail black people and will continue to fail [them]. A murderer gets away “[The officer] wants to get on with his life.” He who killed Philando Castile in addition to almost wounding Diamond Reynolds, passenger seat, and her young daughter, back seat July 6, 2016 Philando Castile pulled over for a broken tail light at twilight on a summer evening “He did not follow orders. He was stoned.” footage showed Philando Castile was driving normally pulled over quickly recorded on a dashboard camera video was licensed to carry a gun when talking to the officer was alert and courteous calmly telling the officer that he had a weapon in the car
officer told him not to reach for the weapon Mr. Castile and Ms. Reynolds both tried to assure the officer that he was not doing so reaching for his identification to give the officer was murdered Are you kidding me right now?
Going bump! against a strangerâ€™s knee repent for three minutes and repeat when you look down at the slick train floors and remember that always watching your step is a necessity Regret when you slap your ventra card too hard and cross the metal threshold in stifled misery forget and lose yourself in your mind until the metal turnstile makes contact with your right kidney and trudge backwards to connect the plastic card in your palm to the reader embrace not the wind of the trainâ€™s speed but its promise of three minutes dance to the blare of an Express notice determined to blast through the subways until the schedule is organized tune into the chatter of friends strangers and/or the lonely shuffling of coats jackets and cold strangers reflect on salt crusted floors, haphazard marbling swoops of white and the sludgy boot prints Routine embedded with tiny changes like a sudden delay or timely catch ruffled pigeons clicking on damp concrete circling herds of rushed commuters the transit of people time places memories Jackson, Monroe, Lake, Chicago Clark/Division going home coming out coming in going home We have arrived at our stop.
Lauranna Masters 47
An Excerpt from a Longer Work When I was three years old, my family grew by one. The happy Masters’ household added a new brother, a new son; however, the new addition brought more than just happiness when he came home from the hospital. The first time and every time after that. According to my mother, the pregnancy wasn’t hard. Sure, morning sickness and cravings were present, but that is a common threat of most pregnancies. My mother often tells of how she knew my brother would love music even when he was in the womb because he would “dance” to the rhythm of an industrial copier near her workspace. Personally, I don’t remember much of my pregnant mother, just vague images of a stomach stretched to seemingly unnatural proportions. However, the first time I met my brother was unforgettable. A few days prior to meeting him my parents disappeared, leaving me in the care of my grandfather. At that point, I felt like I was a big girl at a whopping three years old. But walking down the hospital hall with my Toy Story plush dolls clutched in one hand and my grandfather’s paw encompassing the other was one of the scariest things I have ever done. The hallway would have fit in well on the set of the latest horror movie or thriller with its flickering florescent lighting and never ending rows of cheap plastic chairs. I tell myself now, after walking the halls of multiple hospitals, that it could not have possibly been so demented, but the building fear I felt that day still knots my stomach from time to time. The pace my grandfather set was too fast for toddler sized legs, and the Bullseye doll refused to stay in my hand. Such small details have always remained etched into my memory. After a toddler’s eternity, the hall cut off. A giant bench with ugly patterned vinyl sat underneath the window to the nursery. Whoever built the hospital did not take into consideration little girls desperate to see their baby brothers since the bench failed to elevate me high enough to see into the nursery. My grandfather quickly fixed the situation by picking me up by the armpits and setting me on his thigh. A survey of the happy, healthy babies swaddled in blankets of pink and blue taught me that babies look essentially the same, and I had no idea which one was my kin. Again, my grandfather rectified the situation by pointing out which little boy I would live with for over a decade. The sight I saw was disappointing. It does not shame me to say that the three-yearold version of myself was disgusted. There was no way in hell that the grey, half-dead thing sitting in a futuristic looking box was related to me. At least that was how I felt before I met him, before I held him, before I felt the life teeming inside him. Fast forward a year or so and he would no longer be grey or half dead. His stomach would not be distended or his eyes quite so buggy. Fast forward a year and he would look like a typical baby boy who I would grow to love as my baby brother. But until then, he was a preemie with a hole in his heart and a partially formed colon. Most importantly though, he was just a little boy who happened to have one too many chromosomes.
Ryan Greenwald White Tailed Wound Tones of beige, and hints of white, peek through the dying underbrush. As she prances out, onto the gravel walk, with two guardians in tow, both standing valiantly. Protecting the one, whose leg is crooked at the ankle… A wound from a bygone assailant. While the one stares, with big black eyes. Straight into the soul of a man, lying in the dewy grass, not making a sound. Trying to imagine, the pain she endured to reach this state of lame. But she alone knows, the pain of running… the great speed she lost… and the gallant beauty she once had… Still, through minutes of wait, she stares… Until turning to her guardians raising her ivory tail, and bouncing away, back to her world. As the man returns to his underbrush, his asphalt walk, and his guardians. All the while, never forgetting the hurt one, whose unhuman eyes had the most human touch. 
Jack Doverspike Castles An Excerpt from a Longer Story I finished the song with a tremendous strum, and we stopped to face each other. I looked into her eyes. Again, we smiled. We were always smiling in the presence of one another. Finally, we began walking back up the trail to the gravel parking lot. I stopped singing and dancing but I plucked at the strings in an attempt to fill the silence. The silence was a good silence. Strong, slow, dramatic. We thought about the world, about ourselves. We took in the space that we then possessed and had a silent conversation between the world and us. In the trees the birds rustled about in the hopes of getting home before morning. The only other sounds were our synchronized breath and hearts. We reached the gravel parking lot, where my car sat as the time machine of our living and dying love. I got in the car, twisted the key in the ignition, and we were off. The rest of this adventure will be delayed for another time when it is ready to be revived. As we left the parking lot, she gave a slight chuckle. “What?” I asked, while laughing along with her. “Oh nothing. It was just a good night, that’s all.” She was still smiling, looked at me, out the window, and then back to me. “It is beautiful tonight. I wish it were always like this.” I smiled and nodded, almost laughed as if I were the victor of an on going battle. “You know, you’re not wrong. It was quite the night.” We rode in silence. The wind coming through the windows roared throughout the car, making it almost impossible to hear one another. But, that was okay with me. I had nothing else to say. I was lost, but not in her. I was lost in our world, the world that lay outside the realm of reality. The whole universe moved past our life like sand at the mercy of the wind. Our castles stand tall with the columns of our attraction. The waves move slowly, discreetly creeping into our kingdom by the sea. Each grain of sand is wisped away into the ocean, traveling miles from our abode, carving its own path in the world that lies beyond the kingdom. Through the coral reefs and transparent rivers, the world disperses, awaiting those whom are ready to put the pieces back together. And finally, it all stops. “Thank you, Bryan.” She starred. “Thank you.” I nodded and gave a reassuring smile. “I’ll see you later.” Her eyes never left mine. My eyes never left hers. She closed the car door slowly and no eye contact was lost. She backed up to the steps of her house, gave me a wave and a half smile, turned and then hopped one foot after another up to the door. While turning the doorknob half way, she peered back into the car. I gave her a grin. It’s okay. And she disappeared into the house. One wave after another, the castle was taken by the sea.
Hannah Salsbery Baby Bird I am now a baby bird learning to fly. I am no longer trapped in a cage, with metals bars made out of: your words, your touch, your heart, keeping me trapped inside. I am no longer a child, I do not fear: your anger, your lies, your fists, that made me hide behind closed doors. when I would see myself in waters clear reflection, I would see you on me, in the form of: “cat” scratches, “playful” bruises, “accidental burns” and I would weep in your memory. now, I have taken my spot on the stage, the white light on my face, I do not play the part of: your prop, your servant, your punching bag, I am the strong female lead. I am now a baby bird learning to fly, yet I still live in fear of the hawk. because now my heart skips for the eyes of another, beating to the sound of a river, flowing during a thunderstorm. in front of me I see a meadow, with bright red roses and yellow daisies for miles. all budding with new love.
but the meadow is covered by fog, and the skies a dark looming grey skies and when the sun does appear in his eyes, I see your shadow. the baby bird is still learning to fly, getting caught in the bumps of the wind. when she comes to rest in the sunset colored meadow, she finds comfort, basking in the sun. but his shadow returns, and she feels captive. and she fears that the sun in her budding loves eyes, cannot guide her out of his darkness.
Julia Harter The Universe Speaks of the Girl
(After The Singing Butler by Jack Vettriano, 1992) You say you love her Well so do I I thought I made that clear by the way I Fondled her skin My breath let loose her hair You kiss her, but you Break away She will never stop breathing my air She wears small scarlet dresses You selfishly assume for you She wears them proud So she can better feel me pressed close to her body At night she leaves you for me Her figure dressed only in my starred nightgown She gives me silhouette soliloquies At night she whispers into me her secrets Calls me her everything You say you love her? Ha! Well so do I
Dress Up When I was 6 I played dress up I wore a blue dress A blonde wig I pretended to be a princess When I was 13 I played dress up I wore lots of mascara Flat ironed hair I pretended to be a celebrity When I was 18 I played dress up I wore little clothes A lipstick pout I pretended to be sexy When I was 30 I played dress up I wore a tight suit Clean slick hair I pretended to be confident When I was 45 I played dress up
I wore a stained apron White smile I pretended to be content When I was 60 I played dress up I wore mature shirts Perfumed skin I pretended to be wise When i was 90 I played dress up I wore a hospital sheet Wrinkled hands I pretended to be brave Now I'm dead And it is my neighbors who play dress up They wear black clothes Somber faces They pretend to have known me
The Other Truth (A Reversible Poem) So simple Was the sweet morning I question Nothing The world showed me Nothing But Smooth honey air Dancing arrow grass blades Welcoming sun on my skin The lingering taste of moisture on my lips The feeling that I just might burst into a thousand fragments I knew it all As just a child My tears Gone away My mother had Loved me Hadn't She (read bottom to top)
Sara Kathryn McCormick He Is Blue
Inspired by Picasso’s The Old Guitarist Inside, the man was blue. Some color showed through his skin and tinted his complexion the color of the sky. His only companion: a bittersweet melody plucked from nothing by his own hand. Brittle, ancient bones form sharp angles at his joints: his shoulder, his knees, the knuckles of his hand. But his song is full of youth, his hands lively as they dance along the fret. The melody hardly reaches his ears, muffled by age, but— somehow— he is warmed, inside he is blue.
I have always liked the shape of “I”— the way the top curls over like the loop-de-loop of a roller coaster, then flattens out at the end. Only in cursive, of course: the letters scrawled by uncertain third grade hands are like train cars connected by thin lines. I, too, am connected by thin lines, my stick figure arms and legs, my tightrope torso, an imperfect circle for my face (I could never draw them round enough), my hair the path of a butterfly in flight.
Alex Koenigsberg Contrary to Popular Belief I’m Awake A Collection of Six Word Stories
I’m always looking out the window. Had a drinking problem, age 12. Didn’t hear a word you said. Spent all day in my head. Come. Give my world some color.
You remind me of summer days.
I wish it felt like before.
Eat these, we’ll understand the universe.
The edges became soft like blankets.
I don’t drink anymore, I promise.
Getting my shit together is exhausting.
I get lost at the parties.
Desks are for putting heads down.
Wake up, I’ll make you pancakes.
You’re worse than my cigarette problem.
She was cute. Couldn’t help myself.
I’ll help you find your temper.
Headphones helped me stay in school.
Don’t wear Thrasher, you don’t skate.
Today, the music matters infinitely more.
I’m still emotionally invested in you.
You made me feel like writing.
Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
Like nothing and everything is forever.
I’d let you hurt me again.
Sometimes I write stories about clouds.
Smiling, I said, “You’re my favorite.”
Always in the mood for rain.
I like you more than coffee.
Phone calls get better at 2am.
I brought bubbles, just in case.
Seniors graduated. We’re still stuck here.
We filled Grant Park with smoke.
I’m painfully sentimental about this song.
Laying on our backs, looking up.
Tresspassed on the Congress Hotel roof.
Let me draw in your sketchbook.
You’re unapproachable, and I like that.
Our senses of humor were compatible.
Think I’m ready to be older.
Abby Spengler Powder Keg It was her fondness for men that was sure to be her downfall. For she loved boys carelessly and hopelessly; she was a child who tore her still-beating heart from her chest and thrust it clumsily at the world. She was tender, like so many children, and scared, like so many girls. She had not yet learned to carve herself from marble, to keep her flames unquenchable. She could only love like one who was broken. She loved selfishly. She loved the boy who was all skin and bones. He held each of her rolls and bulges in his hand like cooling lava. He draped himself in her, and she, in return, poured herself into the iron caste of his frame. She spilled over, marrow into bone, leaking out from cracks and craters. They filled each other up until the day their clay turned to a dusty brittle, until he cut her cheeks with shrapnel lips, until she began to drown in words unsaid. She swallowed herself whole, gagging on all the fights that they could never have, flinching at touches gone stale. They crumbled in each otherâ€™s hands and swept each other out with the dustpans. And she loved the boy with the lionâ€™s mane and narrow eyes that saw the world with neither contempt nor wonder. She wrung out her heart, pouring herself like honeydew into his apathetic shell. She painted a new face, muting herself through watercolors; she distilled and diluted and plastered on smiles until no one smiled back. He smeared the wet paint in his stride. Soft blues melted into bruises. Puckered scars sprung from rosebuds. And she loved the boy with big eyes and small hands. He was fresh, and she breathed him in with renewal. She stole the green pastures of his youth, sucked his sweet nectar in a hopeless and pitiful attempt to counteract her own sour disposition. She held his hand and he kissed her, shyly. She tore her own wilted petals for his own bud and watched him bloom. And their story died in a whisper, petals scattered in the wind And she loved boys made of wrought iron and lace, boys who shuddered at her touch and balked at her unkempt tongue. And she watched them run, one by one, into the arms of the doe-eyed, the meek. She cried for them. And each time, her hurricane sweeping up those who had broken hearts like plywood dams. She did not smile as she flushed them out. She made herself into a powder keg, dripped gasoline into her veins like morphine, washed her hair in blue flame. Forged sparks with her fingertips and let fire drip, sweet and hot, from her tongue. She slept in a bed of nails beneath crisp linen sheets. She tore at her cheeks until they were raw. And she grew from the ashes, the smoldering remains of all the houses that they had built and burned together.
Claire VanDerLaan Paradise she welcomes us to paradise with her smile sheer with hope for us. the sky here is all crystalline blues and hazy hot oranges brushed upon the blank canvas amidst curls of clouds that wrap like jewelery around the tops of trees. i cast my thoughts like a fishing line before me waiting for something to bite before the paint sets. she welcomes us to paradise with the promise that we will not ever have to leave that we can stay here swimming in lakes of sentences draped lazily over the edges of chairs painted with the only phrases that matter to us she says we can float above the rest of the world everyone elseâ€™s eyes on us everyone waiting for us to strike waiting for us to take the bait. she welcomes us to paradise, and who are we to question it?
Sunlight Bounces Sunlight bounces. It curls and drapes shatters into a million delicate colors. It breaks over faces that are honey warm sets over the cool clouds of summer sweet licks at the fingertips at the window. It burns and loves and warms. Sunlight bounces.
Victoria Washington The Butterfly Curse
An Excerpt from a Larger Piece They must not think she hears the footsteps, small and fickle and the heavy stockings of men, but she hears them all the same. And (despite every lesson she’s had that a proper lady should be quiet, not wonder, and do what she’s told) she can’t help but wonder of their faces. Can’t help but dream of the lives of those people, attached to the faces, which belong to the lightest (and heaviest) of footsteps pattering outside her door. Her back settles against the mahogany bed frame, hair spilling out of a silver topknot bun. Staring at the dark wooden door in front of her, she wishes that she could somehow see right through it. Sometimes, when the sun shines between the floor and the door to her chambers, she strains her eyes to see through the little tiny opening and— if she is lucky— she catches sight of skin: alabaster covered in crumbles of dirt or the richest of chocolates flaking at the heels. Only servants are allowed around her quarters, but she couldn’t care less. She memorizes all of their different walks. She often thinks to herself, that once upon a time, she’d known all types of skins… she’d seen the aging sunspots of their faces and known quite dearly the women with little freckles that wouldn’t disappear with even a heap of the finest whitening creams. Perhaps she’d seen the handsome young travelers with reddened necks and inviting dimples that reminded her of the little bunny burrows in the Eastern Garden. And it does her no good, to waste away thinking of such insignificant things as the charming dimples on a man’s face, but is that not why she was locked up here in the first place: to waste away into a heap of terribly expensive fabric and lavender scented hair product. Losing interest in the door, she stands up, careful not to trip on the long ends of her straight-legged pants. A sweet scent, like cinnamon, wafts through the window from the bakery below. She finds herself gravitating towards it, meandering closer until she is gripping the windowpane, legs dangling out of the tower. It isn’t her fault, they’d told her—being locked up here, that is. She remembers Lord Masincher’s god awful speckled beard so close to her face that she could see the tiny bucker fleas jumping around. Every time he scratched his beard sent a shiver through her bones, and she’d think of the tiny nuisances being brushed beneath his fingernails. And his laugh— oh that laugh— (she’d wanted to hate him, as he was on her father’s Council, but he was such an eyesore that her sentiments were all replaced with pity). Besides, it wasn’t his order that got her locked away in this tower, and she’d made a point to remind herself of that. Throwing her legs over the ledge she re-enters the tower. Reaching towards the ceiling, she stretches her muscles, spending extra time on her exhalations. She breathes in… and out. The birds outside sing a beautiful song, the lullaby reminding her of her mother—not that her mother could sing, no, the poor woman was tone deaf—but she was so refined and composed in every other way that it made up for it.
It is the gala song, she realizes, only a few notes in—the rising and falling tones evoking memories of the time before her mother went away. Her memories are vivid. The ballroom ceiling extended five hundred feet into the air, and the lights (bless the servant and the ladder that put them there) dangled from the ceiling like hundreds—no thousands—of tiny fireflies against a rich blue backdrop. Gloria almost took her head when she’d made that remark because the lights were “clearly depicting stars”—but she couldn’t control whether her eyes saw fireflies, fireworks, or stars while looking at the lights: she could only revel in their beauty.
Avery Pereboom No A/C Hot, stagnating darkness, Nothing like a breath In a strange land. The clock reads: 11: 55 So Flesh meets marred metal And I slip between wood. The cool of the forest would satisfy If not for the knowledge that It will not last; I cannot bring it with me. This is Danteâ€™s true inferno. The clock reads: 12:05 Rambling and ragged, Stumbling through bright, white halls, I long for the wings behind me. I think of the fields of Elysium, But until the sun rises, Even Purgatory will be nothing but a dream.
Priya Padhye Dear Baby Sister When I was three and you were zero, and I held you and looked into your small walnut face, I told Mom that I wanted to throw you in the trash. I did not know you. Years later, you tell me that I still do not know you, that our family does not know you. Because we misunderstand you like the photographer does the hummingbird when he captures a still photograph, unaware that he has bottled and sold lies, taxidermy, because a real hummingbird is a slight, lime blur. You are misunderstood like the amber husks of cicadas on summer mornings, carcasses that we roll between our fingers, simple subtractions, reductions, because we forget that cicadas brandish the maracas of the night sky, that they sing the words of starlight. You are marginalized, simplified, you say. You fight every day, clenching your words in your bony, cowrie shell fists. But you have gotten it wrong, too. You have forgotten that our family is the sum of random parts, of mismatched bottle caps and old keys, of making do with what chance gave us. And we love brainlessly, irrationally, the airless, heady feeling of wind tugging your skin on a swing set, the rush of holding your breath underwater for too long.
Kelsey Reynolds A Beauty Beyond Price It was late morning that I first observed the stranger. As I watched him enter my classroom, I wondered if he was the guest speaker meant to present to our class. The speakerâ€™s identity was to be a surprise, yet my curiosity intervened when I watched him disappear into the classroom. We were not meant to know, yet I did. Important to note about our English class was that it served as a cultural door that led outside our communityâ€™s microcosm of mountains and men and into worlds like those of his. At lunch, I mentioned his arrival in the past tense. The young stranger spoke softly to us about China. We gradually learned the routines of a life, a culture, another microcosm we could not imagine without his illustrative words. He recounted the mundane and the devastating choices of his individual family members and of his collective culture ever far from our Appalachian own. Our minds subconsciously grew into a hunger with the guise of an attentive and childish curiosity. The minstrel played to our bland tastes, boasting songs of only the comfortable and familiar stories, only the genres of steaming food, of noisy neighbors, of barking and silent dogs, of childhood games that brought along with them no controversy. Then, our delightful chanson unexpectedly underwent a key change: he introduced troubling, complex concepts of a foreign political landscape that we could not know, yet I did. In a quiet tone, he told of a sister lost long to time. Of her, he has only a few sentences, words forfeited by the orphanage after the director said she had left long to a different world. She was supposed to be his older sister; he tells us this in a voice not unlike the feeling of living between concrete walls. He confesses that he is guilty; she was swept away for one factor, the one for which he is kept, the multi-faceted, simple factor of gender. Besides memory, no tangible proof of her existence remains for him. Then in a speech he could not have given at home, he cursed the government, in a voice coming from beneath a tarred lake, like forgotten wreckage, for forcing the hands of his parents to abandoning their daughter. He raged against a country that forced a generation of girls out of their homes by birthright. Then in an act of love, I felt him losing to tears for the lost red, white, gold flowers of his country. We could not know his agony, and yet I did. I began to share his tears that were so like the rain through the grey smog of the city. I recalled my own concrete walls, the plain staircase in his country. If only we were from the same province, he could have been my brother.
Kelsie Oshinsky Slowly Like a Summer Morning Running watercolors Dripping from the sky onto the sea Blue wavering against blue Clouds on either side Above, they drift and Below, rippling in excitement, They wave back in perfect imitation Blue against blue Like lips pressed together Softly, an airy kiss Grazing against each other Ever so slightly Like holding hands Intertwined so you canâ€™t quite tell Where one Ends and The other begins And the land, sugar sand Sifts Between Your Fingers Curls beneath your toes Silent Everything is almost silent Save for lapping waves That brush the shore then back away again Sunlight Like a warm embrace Wraps around you Tickles your skin A sleepy smile as you close your eyes Fluttering shut like you Are already dreaming The breeze swirls and dances with you Your eyes open But not like ringing, not like bells
Like a Sunday morning Like a sunrise kiss hello Like yellow sunlight pouring thought an open Window And youâ€™re awake now, slowly, slowly, slowly Your heart pumps to the sound of the waves In, you pull Out, the ocean breathes You breathe with it And itâ€™s simply Slowly, slowly, slowly
Cat Kremer Alien I am human I was taught to read between the lines of text And to follow them with my finger to never lose place I was raised in the local library I am human I was taught to look for the constellation Orion His three belt stars a marker of â€œWe made itâ€? His sharp arrow pierced the sky, and my lion heart I was born from cosmic dust, and to dust I will return I am alien I see through foreign glass covered eyes Teeth set straight, bleached white Facaded by long blonde locks When I cut my hair, I cried I am alien I call myself special. I think I am. I plaster pages with words Singing myself silly with soliloquies of my own ignorance I think maybe I am human after all
An Ode to Reynolds denison has a secret definition among young reynolds campers it means days fulfilled antics and laughter and sweat maybe a few more laughs shower stall doors clanging a constant whirr of a fan this has become our home i don't know about anyone else but i never want to leave hot days turn into cool nights we shuffle around our home-made lounge taffy wrappers and skinny pop litter the floor strangers become acquaintances acquaintances become friends friends become something more brethren our groups grow and diminish 
friends are easily made, harder lost we run into town the locals seem to cringe we dance and scream and spill out onto the pavement streets of granville lightning bugs light the way we ramble around campus popsicle stained smiles shout loudly in the dark we search for a lost twenty marching band trumpets sound loudly in the distance we slowly amble back to huffman we collapse into each other throwing popcorn, aiming for the mouth, hitting the floor we settle sit in silence almost silence david bowie woefully sings in the background we work quietly wondering how the rest of the best week of summer will unfold
It Never Gets Better in Ohio sun blends with the sky ordered great weather today good times and fun rides
Liz Szymanski Ode to the Sandcastle A summer evening sunfell hollowing out the air like blowing bubbles away before the coastline. Stars or fireflies illumined our feet like pin pricks to raw skin; A longing for something you canâ€™t give. I felt your exhale pushed me further into the currents. You asked me Will you build a sandcastle? and I could feel the pit of my stomach with draining stomach acid settling in my abyss But I loved you so our knees press and mold our path In the cool canvas sand A facade of virtue broken by your eager hands But my peppery inhibitions slip away to cake in the quick of my nails that I will dig up later You told me it was sacreda sandcastle at midnight a sandcastle with you. Earth shattering. But it is a starspun and saltsick lie name to sea glass as precious stone. Instead the phytoplankton alight the silhouetted seaweed bouncing, iridescent cresting. Maybe I understand. The damp grains in potterâ€™s hands
shape secrets and a moonlit prayers instead of your breath or skin But I can hear you breathing so Iâ€™ll subsist until the next fix of powdery brushes and sultry silence. Like how we build an arch by pressing our heavy hands against each other. The saltwater pools wade and invades when I dig too deep. But you run from waves and guard the tide that you promise me pulls you too. There is a rush in building our ground palace where friction lies in creation, and watching, and filmy water both pooling and settling. I promise I can float if I lie on my back, so long as the moon continues to drift us out to sea. Iâ€™ll subsist in the sand until we can swirl away unto each other: A whirlwind that rushes forwardmoon slips like diamond bands around our fingers. Until we sink like stones and erode and rock like empty bottles do When tempered into sea glass.
Emily Davis Silent Symphony you are an orchestra in my organsan organ-orchestra if you will my heart plays the drums the trumpet of my throat expels its outspoken opinions in a forgotten fury and my mind? my mind is a violin. the tip pierces through the seams of my soul the frog rams into my speechless ribs leaves me gasping for breath but i make no sound there is no symphony in my slumber and when the conductor’s hands come to a close, i am alone silence settles in sends tremors shooting violently up my spine Why my spine? Why me? Why must i be the soloist this evening? Was it written in the stars? Who is to say that it is? That it ever was?
Café Terrace at Night our nebulous town centers on The Café shutters closed tightly against whisperings of darkness burning yellow vibrancy is stricken with starlight no longer overheard, my fingertips graze the very entity i’ve gazed at for nothing short of all of time bold strokes color your life, so why am i stuck with delicate watercolor? these pastel hues cannot harness the power of permanence i am a periwinkle forget-me-not, wilting in the face of the sheer intensity of your unforgiving, unforgettable gaze once, you asked me why this was my favorite painting and i said it represents everything that i am notand don’t we all long for what we cannot be?
Marylou Sutheland The Alabama House The carpet in my house in Alabama was old and felt like the weather torn pelt of a goat, But I would press my face up against it, lay back with my legs in the air like an upside-down bicycle, And pretend to walk on the ceiling. There was just something about that faded lemon plaster house, Those rocking chairs that peeled in the rain, Their arms tattooed in crayon scribbles of something I used to think about. Behind the back fence there were trees that birds would ring out of like a choir on Sunday And the branches would sway like they were preparing to take flight I used to sit out there, with the trees, keeping watch As though if the wind blew too hard one day I could catch one in my arms, Like the hero that catches the damsel in the action movies. Pressed up against the air conditioning unit was a twisted braid of tiny strawberries Red as the sun on the horizon and with seeds that tickled my lips They were hardy and sour and stained my teeth with their sticky juice But I plucked them gently and carried them in my upside down frisbee, a makeshift bowl That I placed on the counter next to my motherâ€™s store-bought sugar cookies. That carpet was where we slept the very first night, arms up behind our heads like it was luxurious, Eyes on the popcorn ceiling above us, just breathing out home, home, home.
Elaina Harris The Talisman
An Excerpt from Chapter One of a Longer Piece “Jai? We should be heading back!” My brother calls for me in the waning sunlight, but I dare not turn back now. We have to get to the tree before the soldiers come for me, before I am shipped to the war front, and Mother is left with two of her sons facing an uncertain fate. “Come on! Mother will want us home for dinner.” William calls again; his voice growing distant as I quicken my pace. Moving further into the forest the trees seem to enclose us, their greenery only increasing the darkness, surrounding us with a thick blanket of dull, grey light. “William, relax, we will be home soon enough. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little adventure.” I look back at him with a mischievous grin and continue forward, using my knife to hack away at the bush, receiving a superficial scratch on my arm for my troubles. We continue on through the forest, the moldy leaves underfoot muffling our steps, while an owl hoots its wakeup call preparing for its night of hunting ahead. The trees begin to pull apart, and the light grows until we arrive in a clear patch of the woods where there is nearly five feet between each tree. At last I see the tree apart from all the others where an X is carved into its course bark, inside of which is the hiding place of mine and Jaden’s greatest discovery. I immediately break into a run, relieved that I still remember where we put the relic after all these years. “I was beginning to worry that I had led us astray,” I say running a finger along the tree’s harsh lines. “What is it?” William calls as he hurries to catch up to me, his short legs hardly standing a chance at keeping up with my long ones. William reaches the tree and immediately doubles over catching his breath, while I turn to face him. “This is the place! This is where we hid it,” I say, remembering the day my older brother, Jaden, me at his side, found the relic that grown men had been searching for thousands of years to no avail. Once Jaden returns it will finally be safe to learn how to access its power, so that we may maintain peace in our land and no other boys will have to lose their fathers as we have. “Hid what?” William asks with a suspicious look on his face. “It’s better if I show you,” I smile at him and then pull on the tree branch opening the compartment that Jaden and I rigged to the branch with some rope from one of Dad’s ships. Inside is what looks like an ordinary locket, handcrafted out of gold with a totem attached bearing a curious symbol, shaped almost like a bird, but with its edges smooth as silk. “Jai, can we not just return home? Dinner is waiting, and we are already very late,” William said, looking at me impatiently.
“This locket is the key to changing everything, William. When Jaden returns after this war is finally done we will embark on our quest to discover its power. I want you to join us.” “Are you saying that you and Jaden found the Talisman?” William asks in awe. “Yes, and I’ve brought you here tonight so you can see for yourself what you have the honor of protecting alongside us. Take a look.” I carefully hand over the Talisman and William holds it like a fragile bird egg, running his fingers over the eagle-like symbol before placing it delicately back in the tree. It is done, whatever happens from here on out William is a part of it. I dare not tell him the real reason I have brought him here tonight, when the soldiers come for me on my eighteenth birthday in two short weeks, I cannot be certain I will return, at least I know that one of us will know where the Talisman is in case Jaden and I do not make it back.
Elliot Jones A Warm Gift Everyone entered the celebration room. With no windows to the outside and a single, bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling to illuminate the room, the grey-walled interior became a subtle black. People that moved like shadows were seated in their stiff folding chairs or found a spot to stand around the table, the room fell silent. The overhead light went out and the smell of burning candle wax filled the cramped space. Tiny flames approached the boy, being placed before him. Seven sticks of honeycomb had been driven into the reused Christmas wrapping paper of the present. Short-fused candles quickly burnt down to their tails. The rectangular gift caught fire, setting it ablaze. Flames that danced like feathers in the open wind rose to Kenny’s eyes. The slow searing paper revealed the book cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was what the boy had been asking for so that he could complete the famous wizarding world series. But the book became engulfed. Warm tears from the small child slid down his cheeks as he watched his novel burn, evaporating each of his tears as they entered the inferno. Men and women began to stand up and file out the the door. No one sang, no one cheered, no one spoke a word. The birthday boy and his adoptive parents were the only ones to stay behind. His father-figure laid a hand on his son’s shoulder, as if getting into a ready position for giving advice. “Another year,–” he said with firm pats on his child’s arm, “Just like any other.” Then, the matriarch spoke. “Kenny, I hope you enjoyed your present. In fact, I know you did. I’m just waiting for my thank you.” His guardians walked away, leaving the child alone in the dark room with only a smoldering book to shed light. Kenny continued to sob, becoming the fighter to his own fire until the book had incinerated into ash. It had been three years since Kenny’s parents had past. Having only memories to remind him of his dad, Kenny held onto each closely. His most dear remembrance was the times his father put him to sleep by reading him the Harry Potter collection. The great wizarding world was not only a fantastic fantasy but a reality to Kenny. He felt that he could now relate to the great misfortune of Harry, having his parents killed and replaced with cruel ones, except he had no scar to show for it. Once Kenny gathered the strength to exit the celebration room, he gave thanks to his parents for their generous gift, and escaped into the early spring’s frosty air. Snowflakes fell from the sky, each a cold tear drop, with slow descent to the ground. And Kenny watched as two snowflakes sunk to the earth, while Firestone tires flattened them against the rough pavement.
Sydney Kim Sixteen i swallow growing pains like cough syrup. in that hospital of proficiency i am incurable, un-diagnosable– one by one the doctors shake their heads. their x-rays are grinning, singing of a fool’s disease with make-believe symptoms springing from the brain. today is yesterday’s impersonator; i move dimly through flat mornings, unsettled by the artificial lack of shadows in the hallways, mute when the slew of voices splash the walls in loud colors, overrun by the clicking of keys while my own fingernails frost over. i am the carbon copy of nobody in particular; there are fistfuls of sugary smoke in my lungs. and i suppose i have lived a chlorine pipe dream where the panacea must exist– perhaps i have lived the greatest deceit. i say, the world’s on sale but no one’s buying. another capsule couldn’t hurt– they form the column of my spine, the brittle sinew of my bones. the doctors say, there’s nothing there. i am ready for the operation– i am as healthy as can be.
Abby Wager The Girl Who Moved Mountains i used to hear stories about a girl who moved mountains. they said she painted the sky with her own colors rushing red like her cheeks, brilliant blue, like her eyes - and by her own design. they used to say that stars tu mb led from her fingertips and that she hung up the galaxy using tools from her grandfather’s toolbox, a hammer her weapon of choice. her imagination ran wild, and, unlike most, she did not run after it with a leash. they said she ran with the wolves and that she wore the world upon her lips, magic her favorite shade. the stars whispered, “come home” in a murmur only she seemed to understand, but, simultaneously, the trees lining the earth tried to anchor her down. she was a force to be reckoned with, as she cartwheeled through the Milky Way, screeching and yelling endless nothings into the abyss. “don’t you know what they say about her?” they used to whisper. “she’s a Dreamer.” they said that life yearned to catch solely her attention. she fueled the beauty of the speckled sky, the dancing trees, and the rolling mountains, and, they say, she herself moved them.
Nathan Garson Camp There is a place where I can go be free A place I fit in anywhere I go A place I do not worry who to be A place I feel I might never outgrow The smell of pine trees forests and fresh leaves A place I would go sleep and then would feast A place I don't need to wear any sleeves But gets really cold since it's far northeast It's worth waiting for every single year To see the people whoâ€™ve been here so long Leave camp with sadness and a single tear Summer in Maine has now just rushed along The place I love so much has got to end It's sad to think that I too will transcend.
To Be Human To be kind To be compassionate To be helpful and respectful To go to your friends house when their sad To be there when your brother or father or mother is sick To think of others before thinking of yourself To be strong Hold your ground Even when someone passes away nothing seems well To live and die happy knowing you changed the world for the better The thought of having pain Without the ability to enjoy life Not being able to feed yourself With so much pain in the world Because of the lack of money for everyone Yet still nothing you can do Nothing you can do to rid the world of sadness All you can do is help who you can After all youâ€™re only human
Katherine Barbour Small Wishes Wishing you were here So I could ask you the whens, the whys, and the hows Why did you need a hatchet? Why peach ice cream with maple syrup? And when did you start loving tomatoes? Wishing you were here So I could tell you what has happened Like how I had a boyfriend, and then I didnâ€™t How I won an award for music in high school And how my friend skied down a flight of stairs Wishing you were here So I could ask you about your life When and where did you meet Dodo? How did you propose? And why did you go to war? Wishing you were here So I could tell you about our family How mom has a new job How Dodo has a boyfriend from Madison And how I donâ€™t like him Wishing you were here So I could ask you about your childhood Like why did you feed your sister rabbit? How did you spend your summers in Michigan? And what your favorite school subject was Wishing you were here So I could tell you about the cardinals How everything seems so different How I still watch Looney Tunes And that I miss you.
Isabella Reardon Ramos An Excerpt from Crosses are Ladders “Do ya know what she said?” he demanded; Mitch and the booze had gotten him all wound up. “No-” “She says to me ‘Sherman,’” Shorty imitated in a ridiculous voice, “‘Sherman, what have you done for us lately? What have you done for me? What about my needs?’” Shorty spat on the ground for emphasis. Mitch, who was not impressed by his small friend and his theatrics, only grunted. Suddenly, many miles above the hill the sky cracked slightly. Both men looked up in time to notice a patch of pale blue roughly circular-shaped disappear. In its place was a blank dark hole, hidden in shadows that seemed to ascend into unknown depths above the heavens. “Fuckin’ Elmer,” Shorty stressed, eyes glued to the hole. Mitch, in a similar state, snorted in agreement. From the sky cavity, a dark wooden ladder began its slow, long descent down to the hilltop. It seemed impossibly long and uncanny, like the train of handkerchiefs that comes outta a magicians pocket, seeming to stretch for miles until the base finally touched down on earth. From the ladder, Elmer climbed down. Elmer, of course, was your typical angel (the kind from God, ya know), and looked just how you thought an angel might look: kinda hard to describe when you looked at him straight on, but maybe like he might have a wings, or a tail or something when you looked from your peripheral vision. He was being awfully deliberate climbing down the ladder, so he took longer than you might expect for a supernatural, holy being (this being Elmer though, it’s what you might expect from the likes of him). “Hey Elmer! Why dontcha slow down there buddy? Take your fuckin’ time?” Shorty, being a jerk, shouted up at him. Elmer, scowled down at him, “Yeah? Why dontcha shuddup? I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” Elmer hollered back. He was about halfway down by then, muttering “I’m comin’,” and “Hold your horses, now,” interchangeably as he climbed. Mitch and Shorty began smoking and drinking as they did before, respectively, instantly forgetting the hole. “Anyhow, I tell Helen that I got no clue what the hell’s she’s talkin’ about, goin’ on about needs-” Mitch took a drag and nodded in agreement, as Elmer finally dropped to the ground. Mitch nodded in greeting, interrupting Shorty’s spiel, “What took you so long?” Elmer shrugged and grabbed a beer out of the cooler, “The Boss had me workin’ late. Big project comin’ up.” Mitch shifted his weight experimentally, cigarette hanging from his mouth like a lollypop stick. “Oh yeah?” he said distantly. He wasn’t really interested in Elmer’s answer, just tryin’ to be polite like his old lady told him. She thought he wasn’t “social enough” these days, bless her soul. Elmer nodded again, before taking a big swig from his bottle and plopping down in the empty lawn chair.
Rachel Mierzejewski Family Room A dim family living room. Clearly full of love and showing the wear of an aging house â€“ faded walls and a slight sag in the ceiling. A house that saw four girls grow up. On the floor, pushed against the far wall with a window facing the street, was a couch. But the fabric could hardly be made out; all four daughters - not all girls anymore - were piled upon and blissfully asleep. A mess of blond and brown hair, flowing into sloppy ponytails. Denim shorts and pink t-shirts, overalls on one. A clock and scrappy photos also filled the room, or what was not taken up by the couch and the bodies. The floor was covered in pinkish brown and tile could be barely seen leading to the modest kitchen. Wood paneling and a man slouched below the front wall in a chair that did not quite fil his comfort. Yet he sat smiling and admiring his daughters, in his slumped, content position. Maybe he was drunk; it would not have been unusual. But I see and believe that he knew the beauty and strength of his young women. The artist, the actress, the student, the park ranger. Passionate and divergent. Maybe, even, better than him.
Cara Levicoff Our Last Night Love is a brush burn surrounded by a bruise. We lay in bed on a summer night On top of the sheets Because her skin is hot to the touch. Her eyes are my golden light And every time I glance at her she smiles, Asks me to kiss her. I do. The sunlight fades and I barely notice. My world lounges on my sheets; Why would I need to look anywhere else? Her laugh, her voice, Her lips, pink petals pliant beneath my fingertips. I like when her eyelids slide halfway closed in bliss And her chin tilts up, slightly, in comfort. In care. She has not known this touch of mine, I think, delicate and full of the purest love That I can muster. Rhythm flows between us when I tap a beat Onto her skin and look down at her. Dance, I dance, and that's all I want to do in that moment. We dance. I try to teach her the steps But she is content watching me twirl. My soul is as bare as the skin above my waist. For the first time, I take comfort under eyes That watch me in my purest form. I turn. Her embrace awaits me from across the room. In my haste to return to her, I catch my shin against the frame of my bed. It doesnâ€™t hurt, not while she kisses my skin, Oh how it stings in her absence now.