Jonathan R. Reynolds
Young Writers Workshop
June 17-24, 2018
Table of Contents
Grace Yoo………………………………..……………..……………..………..………………………………….3 Danya Levy……………………………..……………..……………………….………………………………….4 Gwendolyn Pyle ………………………..……………..…………………..…………………………………….5 Bess Lindeman…………………………..……………..………………………..……………………………….7 Genevieve Erickson……………………………..………………………..…………………………………….9 Cordero Estremera…………………………..……………..………………………………………………….12 Nicholas Ruffo………………………………………………………..……………...………………………….14 Liza Kolbasov…………………………………………………………..………………..……………………….16 Anthony Wright………………………………………………………..………………..…………………….18 Eva Gelman…………………………………………………………………………………...………...……….19 Alexander Stevens………………………………………………………..………………..…….…………..20 Isabella Corder……………………………………………………………..…………………..……………….22 Shori Coggins………………………………………………………..………………………….……………….23 Sienna Otero………………………………………………………………..…………..……………………….24 Theodore Brita………………………………………………………..…………………..………….…………27 Micah Kim……………………………………………………………..……………………….….………....….28 Aubrey Cumberledge………………………………………………………………………………...…...…29 Ilana Hutzler……………………………………………………………………………………..……..…..……30 Carter Newman……………………………………………………………………………...……..……...…33 Page | 1
Abigail Arabia…………………………………………………………………………………….….…….….34 Celia Sutton....………………………………………………………………………………...…..……………36 Chloe Landau………………………………………………………...………………….……………….…….37 Emily Thomsen………………………………………………………………………….………..…………….39 Andrea Reier…….…………………………………………………………………...………………………….40 Jasmyn Reace……………………………………………………………………………….…………...……….42 Max Reynolds………………………………………………………………………………..………………….43 Renee Born……………………………………………………….……………………………………………….45 Aanika Pfister…………………………………………………………………………………….…….….……46 Cg Marinelli…………………………………………………………………………………………………..….48 Jillian Merkel……………………………………………………………………………………………..………50 Yuhan Kim…………………………………………………………………………………….……….…..…….51 Emma Skinner……………………………………………………………………….…………….….……….52 Kassidy Merrick……………………………………………………………………………………….….……53 Max Reichek……………………………………………………………………………….……….…..………54 Ann Marie McAvinue……………………………………………………………………………...……….55 Justin Hudgins……………………………………………………….……………………….……..………….56 Val Selektor……………………………………………………………….……………………….….…………57 Hudson Jones…………………………………………………………..………………………………………58 Mabel Ji…………..………………………………………..……………………………………………………….59 KierraKyser…………………………………………………...…………………………………………………61 Nina Hahn…………………………….………..………………………………………………………………62 Genevieve Pfister…………………………………….…………………………………………………….……63 Mirabel Nguyen………………………………………..………………………………………………………64 Page | 2
Anne Castillo…………………………………………………...………………………………………………65 Lily Rose……………………………………………………..…...………………………………………………66 Daniela Rodriguez-Chavez……………………………………..….………………………………………68 Annabel Bradley…………………………………………………...…………………………………………69 Millie Weibel……………………………………………………………….…………………………………….71
An Interruption Together we seemed reborned in the fire, daring to do the absolute worst. He seemed, in the fleeting moment, at peace from within. And at dawn she seemed, intensely drawn out. A halt and glance. Some viewed us as fools. As love blended with confusion, a lesson to learn from. As their view struck utterly disapproving we let it disperse, and did nothing. The sudden stirring under constellations created a curse. You enter as shifting intuitions stir a flicker of someone I used to know; A mistake rendering upon us so sudden so stern: dear you from me, My love is lucid. You must become the endearing. Show me who you are.
"You can make anything by writing" - C.S. Lewis "The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe" - Gustave Flaubert Page | 3
cave language look here, lovely: we are bats hanging by our necks, stalactite teeth catching on bare skin, bone white hearts choking on air. (i will lick your bruises clean) look here: our milk teeth are falling out, gums bleeding, cavernous sepulchral mouths gaping. (lovely, you are my sun) look: the world is falling apart around us, stars collapsing, sky screaming; beneath our wings the wind howls like the wolves we'll never be again. (here, lovely, is the place i love you)
Piety It goes like this: we dance in pools of blood, christen ourselves in saltwater lakes. Our backs break and knit again and we sew our skin together with fingers of bone. Tell me: am I not brave to carry this burden of mine?
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Am I not brave to have learned not to cry? It goes like this: our gods have fallen but we catch them, arms held out like wings— like safety nets. With no one left to sing to, we scream ourselves to sleep.
Gwendolyn Pyle cedar point i felt like i was going to fall in the lake i was angled toward the ground i was swirling through the lake breeze and the sun was searing into my skin up in the salty air i imagined the worst i imagined being stuck midair in the tilt sliding small centimeters closer to the ground gripping the handle bars so hard my arms shake then hours later we start our descent and i cheer with arms raised and tears streaming down my cheeks i imagined plummeting to my death flying across sandusky then crashing to my death on top of a church spire with blood oozing out of my mouth i imagined my seatbelt unbuckling skydiving to the ground with no parachute vomit sailing from my mouth and coating bystanders then i finally land on the cement below with my neck lolling and my leg bent at a peculiar angle i imagined the ride tipping over into the lake sinking into the murky lake water with no escape scraping the handle bar in panic trying to escape then i finally accept i won’t escape with my face turning blue and a rescue boat dragging out my corpse
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i realized that my eyes were closed the whole time and i realized that we finally started descending and i finally screamed for joy
November 9, 1989 Tear apart from the harsh oppositions. Today is a good day, today fear shall be stricken from this city, today everybody will start dancing. Down with their thoughts of terror and repression. The fear of the people will be gone, but their voices will ring out and they will rejoice now that the threats of separation are fading. This Barrier has separated the people. On it everyone shall dance and party and release their fears. Citizens dancing to the cries of tyrannical rulers distressed by the destruction of their creation. Wall of corruption and constraint will come crumbling. Pieces will be memorabilia of the day that their fear was replaced with reunion. Pieces to remind them of the day they were dancing.
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Chubby Princess Her toes would cling to the worn bottom of her Purple strappy shoes As she tried to run with the other kids. Her chubby stomach wrinkled and jumped in the wind Like a really popular bouncy castle But this princess did not have long hair or a man to save her. No, This princess stole her brother’s protein shakes because they taste like chocolate. At two years old she created a schedule for herself Of when to climb out of the crib In order to get downstairs in time to sneak the candy on top of the counter. Allowing a few minutes to dispose of the evidence In the office trash bin. Her first time lying was to convince her dad that she Had eaten a rice crispy treat When in fact she had not. So her rebellion of the night left her smiling mischievously in bed Hungry, but successful in beating the system. The next trick was coloring on the log outside of the modular Her first mistake was signing her fucking name. Left with the only option of returning With clorox and rags To clean up the act of vandalism and free-spirited “fun”. This wasn’t the only time she cleaned up her own mess Of throwing acorns at Clara Only to get snitched on. Forced to butter up through the grits of her teeth that Yes, she was wrong, Yes, she would apologize and No, they didn’t need to call her mom. The next day consisted of a cupcake party at lunch Where she made amends with yesterday’s enemy. Pink frosting to the win, Satisfying her prepubescent tummy And dirtying her grubby fingernails. Still, she continued to run After the boys who didn’t like her But she didn’t know because Her confidence was as big as her unpleasantly round stomach and the poof of hair on her head That was never brushed.
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No snowball or squirt gun got in the way Of embarrassing herself to the extreme: Of farting at the altar-Something she could never live down-And collapsing on the corner of a phoenix box; Crying in the bathroom, Insisting they check her ass for bleeding. She makes her mark on the world. Physically: With bite marks from tumbling on the floor And broken fingers when she got too intense with ninja. Emotionally: With her dry and sarcastic humor And kind good-nature to do what was right. The chubby princess gets on her white horse-Who is unlucky enough to have an overweight eleven-year-old riding it-And she rides off into the sunset. On her own. Making mistakes as much as she wills And giving zero shits about what a princess is Supposed To look like. ~~~ Henry Case Henry Case never made it to the top; I suppose this was his fate. To journey towards his destination Only to be stuck behind the gate. His brain had a map with all these ideas When Henry Case took to the town. In hope of getting big, he climbed a ladder. Bravely going up, but then he fell down. And so he lay on the concrete road, Swimming in the pool that he bled, A crack in the plan to live to his fullest, Much like the crack in his head.
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distorted reality bells ring, doors open and torrents of students flood the hallways. i am one of them and i am glad, for the innumerable faces shield me from curious and concerned eyes. my body advances on its own, relying on muscle memory as my mind is far too preoccupied. legs flow with the current guiding me to class. hands clenching and twitching in their own little dance. if i could feel myself go through these motions perhaps i would feel more grounded perhaps i wouldn't see the walls melt away and the faces fade from view. brick by brick my second home slides down in droplets, dissolving into the ground, replaced by sterile white walls and the lingering smells of disinfectant and death. autopilot malfunctions and my limbs come to a stop. they are unfamiliar with our new environment but my mind knows it all too well. regardless my throat constricts and my heart rate rises as i begin my search. there are thousands of doors along this endless hall, each indistinguishable from the next. only one will get me what I need. it’s an impossible task but one that must be completed. there are lives on the line. with all of the energy I have left i delve into the task relying on my intuition to guide me i run, tugging helplessly from door to door. my time is running out and
Genevieve Erickson my breathing becomes strained making it harder to focus, I need to focus! the repetition is unbearable. run. stop. tug. run. stop. tug. over and over and over, there appears to be no hope. i stop to try another handle, it's warm to the touch. a sign of life in such a desolate building, this must be the door I am searching for. it isn't locked, but i still cannot manage to open it. my hands take the opportunity rebel. they shake uncontrollably. why must they choose now for their betrayal? i have to open this door but they won't stop, why won't they stop why won't they stop?! but my efforts are futile, it's too late. the door disappears back into the wall until i can no longer feel the warm metal on my trembling fingers. i am back at school and the faces have returned as well only they are no longer a source of protection and comfort. their eyes tear into my body, the force of their stares pushes me down onto the ground. i try to cover my ears but i cannot escape their cries i cannot flee from their chorus of your fault your fault my faul
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hidden humiliation i wish i could say it. each time i muster the courage it gets stuck in my throat and it takes gallons of water to wash it back down. once i felt it dancing around the back of my mouth, it tickled, which only made me mad. it was pretending to be sweet, childish, when i know it was anything but. now the thought of it rests in the deepest part of my mind and it is comfortable there. it grew into the role, it was happy to have a place at all. i remember how it was spelled yet the letters donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make sense it breaks the laws of language it rearranges soundwaves to make itself nothing more than white noise. with it buried so deeply i can replicate it almost to perfection and get it out of my body. i can say your name now, or at least something close, without the lingering taste of bile to follow and a searing wave of shame running up my nerves. leaving me red, broken, and tired of it.
Curativo invisible bruises dotted my skin. the impact of words. i searched everywhere for a cure for my unseen ailment, a search that led me to a peculiar looking old man.
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curandero, my mother called him. i told him my problem and he took my arm observing intently, touching gently, each of my hidden marks. it was a touch that sent chills through my body. when he had finished he looked at me, bittersweet dancing through his eyes. mija, he said, though these bruises came from others, it is you who is keeping them on your skin. his cure for me was strange, yet soft, just like el curandero himself. burn these words he ordered, y por fin you will be free. i left his adobe hut and set out to gather tinder and memories, the kindling for my liberation. some palo verde wood, and several conversations crackled in the flames that night. my worst fight, my worst fear, the happiest night of my life, the death of a dream and a letter were all reduced to ashes. once the coals cooled i gathered the remains in my hands, rubbing it across my skin. i no longer ache when i hear those words.
“Your work will tell you how it wants to live in the world.” - Hanif Abdurraqib
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The Surface From the moment I laid eyes on David, I envied him. He was my mom's boyfriend. David was tall, athletic with luxurious, rich brown hair, pulled back into a ponytail. His tattoos on his arms were glorious, an array of dark blues and silvers. He was a statue. His texture was made of polished marble. I envied David’s confidence and charisma. The way he was able to inspire and make a person smile was beyond compare. My mom and David started dating, and it didn’t take to long for him to move in. We were all happy to welcome David into our family; however, it all ended. One afternoon I came home after a long upsetting day. I stood in the bathroom staring at my reflection, holding up my shirt, and revealing my bulging stomach. A headache began to stir, and my eyelids seemed to have holes poked in them as I cried in disgust. David walked up behind me and chuckled to himself. ¨Damn kid! You should've gone swimming more during the summer! You’re wider than my fucking truck!” I hung my head and muttered, “I know, trust me…I know.” The tears poured down my face. He was quick to comfort me, “Hey, kid, it’s just a joke get over it, we can go…” I cut him off. “Forget it!” I squeaked, trudging away. I desperately wanted his approval, but he withheld it. All I could think about was how much David reminded me of a bully. I slowly began to understand that David was mistreating me. David would come home from work and just make me feel worthless. He wouldn’t dare to do this this in front of my mother, however. The biggest change in David came when he was drinking. Then his model-worthy stature transformed into an inflated bum. I saw the gray stripes of dying hair on his head, and his tattoos began to represent something a thug would have. Another day I was home watching the final minutes of the 2012 NBA finals with David. We both sat on the edge our seats as Lebron was leading the Heat against the Spurs. I sat there smiling uncontrollably, David’s arm gently wrapped around me. We watched as Ray Allen drained an unbelievable three. “Oh ya! Go CRAZY!” David hollered, giving me a smackin’ high five. He looked at me with a grin the size of an ocean. As the game came to a close, my mom and David left to their room. “Goodnight, baby boy,” my mom said. “Get some rest, chubs,” he added mockingly, quick to squash our great moment together with a punch to the gut. Eventually, David’s cruelty escalated to the point of being unbearable. One night I woke to someone’s shrieks. I immediately was on alert and jumped out of bed. I bolted out my room to see a large object being launched down the staircase like a toy. At the peak of the stairs stood a
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large man with his back towards me. The man’s body resembled a statue, which you’d find in a history museum. Perfect, with any dents concealed from the naked eye. However, the man had turned in my direction. As my jaw dropped, I recognized the face. My heart shattered as the image of the statue cracked and crumbled to dust. I stood there trembling, feeling an overwhelming pressure. The tattoos on the man’s arms were scratching and crawling at my skin, constricting my lungs, and any route to a haven. The man seized my shirt, yanking me closer. I managed to cock my head and look what was at the bottom of the steps. It was the woman who’d loved me since birth, my mother. My head was jerked harshly to face the man “Get your ass back in bed, you little shit!” he yelled at me. I mumbled “ David, what’s happening….?” I’m answered with silence and the feeling of floating as my room door slammed shut.
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A Brilliant Night
First a small spark Not enough to wake me from the sleep I hold so dearly to my conscience But then the bellowing boom of this disastrous storm - cracks my eyelids apart Body unmoved But mind - racing towards the window To see what has come about from the clouds The frantic tapping of raindrops against my walls - pulls my listless body from my rooted place The sky rains heavier - the wind swirls stronger The raging storm has shedded its mild skin - and revealed its violent depths The window again Crackling with the wet touch of the sky - but another force is at play The split comes swiftly - and then the crack - and then the full burst of the howling night surges its way into the room Shattered glass pierces the skin on my hands - as I reach my head out the window into the boisterous night And suddenly - another force is at play The walls Follow the vacuuming air - whisking away so carelessly - as if nothing ties them to the foundation I stand there - in awe of the aptitude at which the storm has shattered my illusions of partition from the great beast Rain drops pour over me - wind upsets my balance But the night does not overcome my mind and body Filled with glee at the bewildering sight of chaos the storm has brought - the lawless nature of natural destruction
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I crack a smile - and a yell , a roaring, almighty cry - of pure and utter astonishment Now I am awake And what a brilliant night it is
Downtown “...down in the smoke and fire and broken glass and blood…” - Riot, Gwendolyn Brooks I had walked almost a mike that night downtown. No anticipation for what the bar lights were in for. There was bourbon, whiskey, gin, covering the floor. The bar was empty, but the night was not over. Black smoke the first thing noticed. The overwhelming stench of mortar and coal. For now, the flames revealed a fire, burning, like and out-of-control god, and wasn’t stopping. Not for anything but the broken hearts that watched. Eyes like shivering glass. Only now was the bar empty, and that bourbon, whiskey, gin, replaced by blood.
The Rainbow Has Become Distorted I wish life became easier as it went on. Once everything was colored yellow, maybe some green. Now, a prism of reflecting colors, in all directions. I remember what it was, how it worked in a time of play. Maybe better than I understand it now. But nothing can change life from what it is. For now, the rainbow has become distorted, with nothing staying true to itself since a minute ago. Sparkling eyes, now sullen black shadows, mixed with the grayness of confusion. But not without life. This is what life is, for now. Tomorrow, I do not know what its color will be.
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Shattered The girl who wanted starlight for breakfast Ended up starving herself to her grave You pressed a megaphone to my lips So I would never learn how to whisper You knew I would turn to silence Because we were taught to fear our own voices I was like clay in your hands But you never turned me into a sculpture Rather pounded me with your sneaky hands Until I was cracked stone and powder Shattered, like so many broken promises Like any love I ever held for myself I am only a statue and statues? We are made to entertain Did you ever think what we felt like Laying bare before you? You only spoke words but weren’t you the one Who taught never to speak unless you had something worth saying? As you broke me into your mold, did you think That once, I had been a girl who wanted starlight for breakfast?
Fragments i. pieces of a broken looking glass and blood on the tips of your fingers
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for caring too hard ii. lying in the middle of the forest hoping the shadows will hide you forever iii. but forever is a strong word and you fear strength iv. you once thought you were the strong one but the strong ones don’t shatter v. have you ever seen such a small person? i don’t think your soul likes its vessel vi. you used to brag about how well you hid before you realized the hidden ones will forever be lonely vii. old habits only die when you do viii. your fragmented heart your shattered face your bloody fingers ix. remembered as the girl who slipped through her own cracks x. the cracks no one ever knew she had
"Our stories have lives of their own, and it's up to us to make them mean something." - Francesca Zappia, Eliza and Her Monsters
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Anthony Wright Background: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/southern-tenant-farmers-union “Ah knows schooling is important for our chillun to become book smart and become sumptin grand, but Ah figures a education on being proud and using they head, to keep the rope off of it, is important too. Ah ain’t hardly scared of no man no mattah the race or creed, but Ah knows mah limits and place in this world. A world that is filled with sorrow, and a world that is filled with hate. The people of this community are outcast to the point where we raise our families in fear. Mah brothers and sistahs don’t let your contempt in this life obliviate your reality. Your laughter is false and your hunger and rage is reality. We may smile and enjoy each other’s company, but there’s more that we want. Ah knows that book learnin for our chillun is important, but the education of being free, proud, and thoughtful is important too. Our chillun need to witness change, no matter how small or big. They need change. They need to know we didn’t sit back and accept the crumbs of being a second hand citizen. The oppression this era has bestowed upon us has made of outcast normal. I have four chillun, three boys and one gal. Ah’m exposing them to this cold world, lettin them see the way things are so they can change it. Show ‘em how to use their heads to accomplish every dream they have, show ‘em how to fight for what they believe. These chillun have a right to this education. They papas’ need to teach their sons how to be men. Teach ‘em to have respect for they women folks, they friends, and themselves. Papas need to show their daughters how a man is suppose to respect them. Mamas need to teach their daughters to respect themselves and be strong. Mamas need to teach their sons what love is. Mah people, mah brothers and sistahs, this education will guide them on a path of righteousness. Yea teach them chillun some education! Now let’s talk about the union business, these plantation owners around here want you to think, you ain’t got a right to organize. Cotton prices ain’t been good since 1919. It’s like they keep going down each season. The union is there to advocate for you to get your fair share of the crop. Them big plantation owners think yawl is plum foolish. Every time it’s time to sell the cotton they keep most of the money, saying ‘ole joe, yo crop ain’t been to good ‘an yawls owe me money cause all they stuff yawl then bought at the sto’. Don’t that jus make yawl mad. It’s a crying shame, you can’t do nothin bout it. This is where the education comes in. How you gwine teach yo chillun to be prideful and brave, if you is too scared to organize and join the union. It don’t mattah what they do to you. They can lynch you, so what. You die but yo chillun will pick up the fight, they can kick you off yo land but you can come stay with me”. The crowd applauded.
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A Broken Home - an excerpt (chapter) from a series of autobiographical vignettes I used to live in an apartment building that had an upside down wine glass on the roof. My mother had told me once that the man who build it was an alcoholic and that for him, the glass symbolized the end of his addiction and a beginning of a new era in his life. He was a trader and a traveler, with the ability to go anywhere in the world and see anything that he wanted to see, but the one place that he could never leave behind was the corner of two diagonal, messy streets in the center of Moscow where he built the only legacy he would ever have on the world. If someone asked me where I lived, I’d proudly point to the wine glass as if I had lived inside that silver dome. Sometimes, I wished I had. When I first began to walk home from school by myself, my mother being too busy to drive, I started to pay more attention to the way there. Passing the crappy pizza joint across the street and the old bookstore with discount prices for children, I was able to reach the entrance. The journey to the third floor consisted of a dirty lobby with green cracked walls and a homeless man sitting on the floor, giving me a toothless smile as I passed him quickly, rushing to punch in the code – пять, ключ, четыре, два, шесть, три. I had memorized the code over the years, and I can still type it in with my eyes closed, – пять, ключ, четыре, два, шесть, три – tracing the numbers over and over again on an invisible gate that carried me from the lobby to the small elevator to the hallway in front of our apartment door. Inside, the apartment was beautiful and cold, white walls and art, glass doors that left too little privacy for such a broken and secretive household, nothing like home for any of its three members, but I was too young to know. My room wasn’t home either, gray furniture and tacky neon bedding, all shapes and lines and corners and sharp edges like cliffs from which people would jump if they wanted to die. My wall had a painting on it, of a blue sky filled with roses and books of poetry, flying as if their petals and pages were wings. That painting still hangs right in front of my bed. It’s one of the last few traces of that apartment that are left, here in a new room and a new apartment and a new country, where there is white furniture and light blue bedding. Here, from the window I can see the sky and the trees, and a church peering shyly from them, not another gray apartment building just like mine. In the gray room where I would lie, counting the cracks on the white ceiling, I dreamt myself a new father. A father that would never lock himself away in his study for days, a father that would never let cigarette smoke fill up my nostrils and cloud my mind with his lies. I dreamt of a father that would kiss me goodnight and be there for me at my school plays, a father that would never go to another city and meet a new wife or let me meet her and her acid smile. I dreamt of a father who wouldn’t bring his daughter that I wasn’t meant to know about to have lunch in our favorite crappy pizza place right across the street where I could see them from the window of my gray room, the gray room that had been both my escape and my prison, home to both my dreams and my fears. As it became empty of me, it grew furniture that belonged to someone else, the apartment shifted to a different scent, the elevator became clean and the homeless man left. Still, if I cross the ocean of circumstances that separates me from the city that holds it, I can punch in the sacred code and enter the gates of the plagued house, cursing its inhabitants to repeat the mistakes made before them, give in to the cycle of neglect that forced its way into our home. I won’t give in. I will stand there, trembling at the sight of it, and force myself to turn away. I will turn away, turn around, and turn my own wine glass upside down.
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Another tally mark. One more day we've spent together, you and I. I let you out when I get home. You're large and black, a mutt. It's been months since I found you. I took pity on you, and let you in, only expecting to keep you for a short while. I tried to give you away for a few days. But it wouldn't take more than a few hours before there was a knocking at my door, demanding that I take you back. Sometimes I couldn’t wait for the inevitable knock, and I would burst into the house and drag you back to my home. Our home. I went to the shelters, seeking support, but to no avail. I pleaded and pried, wheedled and whined, and was met with a flurry of excuses. He's too big, they claimed. Too aggressive. Too much. Not our responsibility. Anyway, he seems to like you. It seems ironic that the single location created to help people like me with problems like you turned me away without so much as a supportive smile. So I kept you. They were wrong. You don't like me. But you need me. And I you. I can't spend hours, Let alone days, Without you before the craving for your familiar warmth returns.
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Like a child longing for their blanket, Without knowing what they truly yearn for, I crawl back to you, and the shelter you promise. You're friendly enough, if I ignore the bite marks that criss-cross my arms. Deep cut reminders of who owns whom. More and more days were spent indoors, calmy grooming you to perfection. My friends were the few that attempted to rouse me from my stupor. But soon they too looked at the marks in disgust. And when asked why I kept you in my care, I learned to wear long sleeves. And soon enough those people faded away too. We went on walks often at first, those days now only distant memories. Now we sit on the couch or the bed, feeding off each others warmth. You sleep on my bed, eat your meals alongside me. Some nights I hear you whisper in my ear as I drift off to sleep, a reminder that you’re never leaving, that you’re the only true constant in my life. Some days I see the catchers prowling the streets, going door to door. Looking for you? Or me. Each time, I answer the door and politely tell them I haven't seen any strays. But they way they look at me makes me want to admit that I shelter you. Their offered assistance is now unwanted, their muttered apologies ring insincere in my ears. It’s far too late now for us to be seperated. I’m not ashamed. Not scared. Some days I miss my old life. But, after all, bad company is better than no company at all. And I hate to be alone.
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Isabella Corder Mangata This roadside was silent, not even the wheels of my car made a sound while I carried myself through the dead night. The headlights appeared as leaders, the only light visible from the lone road. Not two lanes, but only one, one single stretch of pavement. Then it wasn't smooth anymore. Sudden bumps made me jolt; my car began to grumble along the cracked and weathered pavement. The smell of salt began to waft through my window. Soon, a lighthouse came into view, my signal to stop. I was quiet to slip out. The walk around my car oddly felt slow, maybe it was the overwhelming scents of sun-baked sand and the rotting flesh of washed-up fish, both prominent in the lack of sound. Not even a sea gulls cry or the soft waves beating on the shore. Then there was the lighthouse. The lighthouse watched me, glaring as I flipped open the trunk of my car. The clank almost startled myself. I was careful to slip out a hefty sack. At first, I wanted to make it quick, and I attempted to carry it. My arms instantly fell away and the sack smacked against the ground. I winced. I winced even more as I dragged it through the grass. It was wrong, disrespecting a thing of memories and prayers, goals and accomplishments by tugging it through a patch of mud. It was wrong from the beginning when I stuffed it into a sack and made the trip. I was in a hurry, stumbling towards the pier. I could feel the lighthouse judging me. It could've turned its light on and it would be all over. Another road, this one a pier, protruded from the patch of grass and stretched far upon the lake. It was a talkative road, yet negative with creaks and groans. It was old. The wood was stale and all it did was complain. I wanted to mutter an apology walking across it, dragging that sack all the way to the edge. If the pier were on the lighthouse's side, it would've broke its own plank and drowned me. But it didn't. And when I got to the edge, I saw another road. A road that'd lead me to better places. A road smoother than the one my car drove across, that reflected the stars across its cold, glossy surface. It didn't seem so terrible to dump the sack anymore. I wouldn't mind myself sinking into that beautiful blackness of the lake. With a heave, I shoved the sack over the edge. I almost thought it wouldn't sink since the water seemed flawlessly still, that it could've been a smooth pane of glass. But it did, heavily, and the splash was all the more satisfying as droplets hit my clothes. A weight lifted. I looked up to the moon; it was my witness. Since it was providing me all the light I needed and projected itself onto that road to create a comforting end, it was on my side. An empty smile. It couldn't be over then. Between the lighthouse, the pier, and even the moon, only my hands were evidence of what had happened. A dead give-away. I lifted my palms to the lonely moon's light. The color stained there reminded me of cherries - and it still smelled like pennies. A mangata. I dove into the sea of stars.
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Piece for Okinawa
I couldn’t possibly have known that the sea has so many colors in it; Emi, Ahi, Aji. Every tile redolent of the countless tuna dragged over it this morning. I never noticed that Ko-chan’s feet are wide set and hairy like mine Ko-chan is the leatheriest man I know Raw-skewered Tako in front of the hanbaiki It’s funny how no matter where you go in the world old leathery men like to sit on upturned crates and drink beer on the street. Some of these Oji’s might remember when the island was serenaded by bombshells The typhoon of steel, passed over once loud & lewd & bustling Izakayas. They are strip clubs for American soldiers now. Footsteps patter on tatami the typhoon took their bodies, but they still like to dance A pin slides from a grenade, nevermind It’s just the sliding of a shoji screen the tatami room is still warm and humid but it’s dark outside
Leaving Towels I can smell yakitori wafting in from the window. Outside they are grilling & in my heart I am dancing. After they’ve hung their towels on the lines They go to eat cake and smoke cigars. They pile into a car And peel away for the evening. A torrent of wind follows And plucks the towels from their lines.
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Daughter Complex I want to cover myself in words – The words of my daughters and their daughters and their daughters… foul, ugly, nasty words strong, great, big words My mother and her mother and her mother… wait for my words to grace their smooth cheekbones their rough knuckles – But I don’t think they’re there yet. I live through my mother(s) while they live through me.
We Are Girls Who Write Love Poems She told me to stop writing love poems Explaining to me that they had no depth – Going on ‘bout a boy’s eyes ‘bout a boy’s hair ‘bout a boy’s hug ‘bout a boy’s laugh ‘bout a boy’s collar bone A composition of hormones Merely acting, thinking An amoeba poked with a stick Aimlessly feeling, foolish, silly Jotting off in verse
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I instead sit –contemplate Something, anything more groundbreaking complex revolutionary Just think: Girls writing love poems … GIRLS WRITING LOVE POEMS That’s why she wants me To stop – STOP Writing depthless meaningless significant-less love poems But… I tell her: I can’t help how easy the words form How warm How inviting their light This naïve, poor, thirsty Girl who writes love poems … What I write Has its own kind of dimension I don’t write ‘bout no foolish love I write my kind of love Rearing its ugly head every now and then Irrelevant: A composition of hormones A girl who writes poems
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me as a glow stick i am a glow stick snap me in half think i’m nice bend me backwards say i’m sweet watch me glow call me beautiful break me in half *careful your eyes, soft skin* phenyl oxalate ester couldn’t keep it in.
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Real American Success
The essence of a successful life is having large amounts of money. Hence, to be successful one must make lots and lots of money. There is nothing that can’t be done with your money – you can donate generously to the political party of your choosing, help save your favorite endangered species, buy massive quantities of illegal substances, spend some money on stuff and then sell it again to make even more money. This is success. But, how do you earn this much money so you can be successful, you ask. Let me elucidate this for you. Well, there’s the best way, and that’s if you choose to be born into it. Everything is at your fingertips from the moment you spring out of the womb. Your parents will indulge you, get you the best middle school and high school education their money can buy, and then they’ll send you off to the college that they donated millions and millions of dollars to. Don’t worry, there’s no connection between how much they donated and the fact you’re a student there. Then, once you’re out of college, your parents will give you as much money as you need until you can be successful – let’s say a small loan of one million dollars. Hopefully you’ll get rich yourself, but if you don’t your parents will always have more money for you to use stored in their bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. That’s how it works if you’re born into it. It worked pretty well for me, anyway, since I’m up here on the stage and you rabble are down there in the audience. What if you’re not born into it? If you’re a member of the middle class? Well, it’s just as easy, I promise. This is America, and we have a long and proud tradition of social mobility in this country. It’s not too hard if you’re in the middle class. Just go to a good middle school, get into the best high school you can, and hopefully your grades are good enough that you get some scholarship money from college. The only caveats of this process are that you need to be smart enough to get into a good high school, you need to have enough money to attend said good high school, and you need to figure out how to excel there. Then hopefully some college that you want to attend likes you enough that they’ll give you a good amount of scholarship money so you can afford to go there. Oh, and if they don’t give you any scholarship money you’ll be paying back student loans until you’re forty-two. No sweat for a real, hard-working American though. From there, you have a small chance of becoming rich and needs to be your own work. Perhaps you’ll think of something genius that everyone in the world will want, like an automatic orange peeler. Then you just need to figure out how to make it, market it, and mass produce it. So what if the odds overwhelmingly say you’ll end up in the middle class? How hard can it be? But even if you choose to be born poor, it’s not incredibly difficult to become rich. We’ve all heard of Andrew Carnegie, the original rags-to-riches story. Born poor, he made a fortune off his oil company and became one of the richest men in America. So why not you? It’s not that difficult to escape the cycle. It’s too bad almost all of you won’t, but let’s be aware of the real reason why this is the case: you’re clearly not working hard enough. It’s not like you’re already working two jobs and you barely have enough money to feed your family or pay for healthcare. These are just minor roadblocks on the path to greatness, wealth and fame! Who needs college anyway? You’ll be fine, and the less assistance you get along the way the better because you’ll know the value of doing it yourself. It’s honestly not that difficult if you just work hard. But I have gone on enough. I pray you will take my sound counsel and go out and make successful Americans of yourselves. As you hopefully go on to better things, I hope you all will take good note of how similarly my advice matches the happenings in this country.
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The Family Van Zant
The gentleman parked his car outside the cemetery gate, and walked towards the groundskeeper’s house as she hefted his bags over one shoulder. “Got the bandages?” she interrogated, testing the bags’ weight. “Antiseptic?” “Yes and yes,” he sang. “Lisa, there’s no need to worry.” “No need to worry?” Lisa exclaimed. “We could end up dead!” The gentleman chuckled. “It’s a family reunion, Lisa. You’ll get used to hosting in no time.” “For Van Zant reunions? I don’t think so,” Lisa replied, and the gentleman laughed again. He was August, eldest living member of the Van Zants. He possessed a spritely step despite his age, for it was said that long ago, a witch had blessed the Van Zants with everlasting vitality. Lisa was fond of complaining that she’d given them far too much. “So Lisa, how is the family business treating you?” he asked her. “Morbidly!” she quipped, then looked pensive. “It comes with the terrain, I guess.” “No problems taking on Walter’s responsibilities?” “None except this one. Man,” Lisa remarked, opening the door and carrying the bags in, “it was such a hassle when Dad passed. Practically everyone was up in arms about it.” “Well, he was the favorite son,” August said, stepping into the house, “and he still loves you very much.” Standing on his toes, he planted a kiss on her forehead. As Lisa unpacked the bags, he sat down in his favorite chair near the fireplace. “You’ve got everything else gathered, I presume?” “Uh, yeah.” Lisa rummaged through the house, checking the closets. “Yep, it’s all here.” “Remember to lock the back door!” August called down the hallway. A thumbs up peeked around the corner. “Got it!” “That’ll keep her busy,” August murmured, finally getting up from the recliner to address the constant tapping at the window. He brushed back the blinds and opened the window outwards. “Ah. I figured you’d be the first to show up.” A man stood on the porch, smiling back at him. There were dirt stains on his overalls from digging, plus one larger stain over his chest from what had finally killed him. The dead man craned his neck, looking into the house. “Is Lisa here?” he asked. “She’s fine, Walter,” August said. “Your little girl is all grown up.” Walter’s eyes glistened, and he pressed his lips together, looking down. August caught his gaze and nodded, and the same, sad laugh passed between them, two brothers across life and death. “August?” August smiled. Here came the inevitable question. “May I eat your heart?” August scoffed and replied, “I should think not.” Walter shook his head, smiling. “I thought I’d at least ask.” With that, his mouth swung open, and he lunged at August through the window. August produced a baseball bat from beneath the couch and whacked Walter upside the head. As his brother toppled backwards, August slammed the window shut. “Lisa!” he shouted into the house. “They’re here!” As Lisa rushed down the stairs clad in spiked battle armor, August hefted the bat onto his shoulder and smiled. “There is nothing like a Van Zant reunion,” he remarked.
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And the Earth
Take the wind. He can be powerful and devastating, but he’s also gentle. He’s everywhere, trying to be many things at once. He’s a people pleaser. And yet the wind is weak, a ghost of a breeze. Sometimes, he doesn’t know what to do with himself, so he does very little. He’s unrecognizable like that, with no echo of the force that left the beach trembling in his wake. Then, he’s just gone, off in search of new currants to discover and with no promises to return. Or perhaps the ocean. He can be unstoppable, but he’s also deep and considerate. He tries his best to be the person he’s expected to be. He is full of life. And yet, that same life can be dark, and he has secrets you can’t begin to unravel. Sometimes, he’s shallow and only looks out for himself. He pulls away from contact until it’s convenient for him. Then, he takes his frustrations out and uses his power against others, drowning and destroying on a whim. Or the sand. She can be too clingy, but she’s also loyal. She has the imagination of a million souls and is filled with so much passion. She’s warm and comforting. And yet, she’s a dreamer who’s stuck in the clouds. Sometimes, she’s so lost, she doesn’t think about anyone else. She only comes back at the call of the wind or the ocean, the ones she loves but can’t have. Without them, she’s trapped by a cage of her own creation, the one thing she’s made for herself. And then the earth. She’s cold and serious, but she’s the one who will be there for everyone else. She’s unwavering. She’s held together so strong, she has to hold everyone else together, too. She waits for the wind to return, knowing he’ll need to be put back together once he crashes into her. He sobs about all the bad in the world then rushes back into it. All the while, she waits, her arms open for the next time he makes the same mistakes. She comforts the ocean when he’s small and meek and tries to strengthen him. Yet he turns dark, and she is left to take his brutal hits and insults alone. Still, she takes it because she knows the sand can’t and that his anger will pass in a moment. She grounds the sand, keeping her from wandering too far while supporting her crazy dreams of running off with the ocean or maybe the wind. She knows that the more she gives to them, the more she’s going to be hurt, but she wants her friend to be happy. So, she watches the sand lose herself, unable to say a word that will change a thing. The earth is always there for them, but they don’t know how she’s disappearing. They’re wearing her away with every crash, hit, or dream to fly. Yet she can’t go on like this forever; she’s going to be gone soon, and they won’t see it until there’s no one to catch them when they need it. But that won’t stop them from taking a piece of her: dust scattered in the wind, mixed in the salty seawater, and joining the grains of sand. The beach will churn on, and the sand, ocean, and wind will find another rock to destroy in the process of trying to fix themselves.
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a sketch i am only a jumble of jagged lines a silhouette until you color me in climb back inside and pour ink by the gallon fill every void feel free to color outside the lines make a mess of me i promise i won’t mind i’ll savor every second intertwining my fingers with yours again feels like home the threads that stitch us together over however many miles i can’t bring myself to count finally close enough to stop tugging the wrenching the aching subsides even if only for a numb moment trust me i’d trade anything for a time
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when i look in the mirror and see more than an outline again -Ilana Hutzler
Battle Cry I would say to pick up your weapons and dig your feet firmly in the ground and prepare to fight because this is war. But it’s different this time. We may be children but this is not make believe. These bloodied shirts are not costumes and these fists in the air are not dancing, they are fighting. Your weapon is not an AR-15 but your strained, screaming voice and the ground is not somewhere overseas but the street of your neighborhood. Our dress code is not camouflage, and we will fight in collared shirts. We are stronger without gunpowder, which you’d realize if you could see past the trigger long enough to care. We declare war, but you’d better not fire into a crowd of children.
One-Lane Road I. Dandelions hit the front window like God had been holding his breath and finally let it out, wishes swirling past the side-view mirrors. Passing field after field of wildflowers, purple, yellow, and white. As the world stretches ahead, the treetops look prickly, but the meadow is velvet. Maybe it’s the speed of the car
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down the one-lane road but daisies and leaves blur together and I want to run my hand through the grass. II. Hay bales roll into the landscape, a Monet at dawn. A single barn and silo fade into the background. I can’t tell where the blue ends and the clouds begin, as if someone threw their head back and painted the sky with their eyes closed. III. Fish out of water, a city girl wants to lay in a sea of flowers and let the horizon melt into the end of the world. Wood-slated houses with green shutters and patterned armchairs on the porches, paints and fabrics as faded as the memories will soon be. Wondering how you can drive through someone’s whole world in sixty seconds.
“Leave yourself always open to revision, as a writer and as a person.” Hanif Abdurraqib
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As Adam drives down the road, he tunes into NPR on the radio. He sees birds fly in flocks across the sky, which is confusing because it is the middle of July. Then, he hears a fallout warning interrupting the radio, “This is the wartime warning. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own house. Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourself to greater danger. This message will repeat.” Adam is startled; he could not believe his ears. Adam speeds to his son, Charlie’s bus stop, passing cars and running empty red lights. The sun sets with darkness following. Once he gets to the stop sign near his street, he parks. He is frightened because the bus is not waiting, nor is Charlie standing there. He waits around a quarter of an hour, when finally, the bus comes around the corner of the street. Adam tries to open his car door but it won’t open, so he panics. He thinks that maybe the government locked his car doors so citizens couldn’t get to safety. He thinks maybe ISIS is working with the United States to take over world domination. He then sees that his car door is locked. He unlocks it and climbs out. Adam has his driver’s license in hand, the usual protocol to verify he is the father of his son. He then brings Charlie to the car and drives away in silence. Once Adam arrives at their house, he tells Charlie to go in his room and pack his clothes. Charlie, of course, hears of the nuclear threats over the radio on the bus. Adam’s wife, Michelle is still working at the restaurant she has owned for around two and a half years. She has lived in Wisconsin all her life with her parents. Her parents are still around and very involved in their lives. Michelle’s parents used to help around the restaurant for greetings and paper work. Lately, with old age, their appearance in the restaurant has faded but they still babysit Charlie and come over for Sunday dinners.
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Poem 1: Monochromatic Grey Red shirt, blue jeans, pink sneakers Stood out against the sea of monochromed grey, The rooms were quiet With only the whispers of other visitors. Then there she was White hair, Pink nightgown, Sitting in her wheelchair, Smile lines show themselves as she portrays a face of happiness. The last memory Always the most vivid, Most impactful, Even when the star of the memory is no longer present. When the Familiar waft Of Italian christmas cookies smothered in powdered sugar Fills our home, Her spirit encases the house And our memories of her bounce from wall to wall, Each one bringing up another Then another, And another, Until we sit in silence With smile lines reflective of the ones she gave me When my red shirt, blue jeans and pink sneakers Stood out against the sea of monochromatic grey
Poem 2: Ascetic I live a simple life I wake up, throw on my cleanest shirt, and the same pair of shoes I’ve worn for the past five years. I have a job located just off the road I live on It’s a harder job than you would think; bargaining with strangers while they are rushing around,
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trying to get to other meetings and places they are needed. Most people just keep moving past, turn me a blind eye. My work starts when the morning rush hour begins, Cars darting from lane to lane like bees to their queen, All rushing toward their desired destination, and doesn't stop until the daily swarm traffic has died down. After work I head back home, to my small community that not many have heard of. Once I'm in bed, I look down at my earnings for the day, In my hand lies one dollar and fifty cents It's the most I've earned all week, standing out there with my bucket and signs I made from markers and cardboard I found in the dumpster, I live a simple life. In a community that not many people have heard of, Hidden in a house held up by cardboard, cloth and sticks from the surrounding trees, Just off Interstate 78.
Poem 3: (Golden Shovel) Line from Sunset of the city by Gwendolyn Brooks The Death of my Youth I do not know where the time went, because When younger, I used to spend every hour of the day under the sun Engulfed by warmth, but now gone, and the darkness stays Now the selfish sun stores away his vibrant light and No longer do I hear the song once sung by the vociferous birds I do not want to continue But I do. Missing my days in the light and only wanting one last time to Hear the birds of my childhood sing
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Chasing Stars (an excerpt)
It was early July, somewhere around 9 o’clock in the evening. I was sitting on the couch, huddled up underneath a hand-sewn quilt with my little sister, Avery, watching the first Star Wars movie---her choice. She’d seen them all dozens of times, and, consequently, so had I. Part of me felt guilty for not enjoying the warm, summer night outside, but Avery could get me to do anything. Our parents were out having dinner, so we had what we liked to call a “sister date.” I relaxed, rolling my eyes as Avery sang along with the movie’s background music. She’d laugh, pushing me away and telling me to “shut up and admit I like it.” Suddenly, Avery jumped up, throwing her portion of the quilt at my face. “What’s wrong?” I asked, pulling the quilt off and patting down my now staticky hair. “I forgot to let Ollie in. I didn’t tie him up because I was just gonna let him out for a second. He’s probably already run off.” She groaned. “I’ll be back in a sec. Don’t watch any ‘til I get back, okay?” She winked and jogged out the door. “I’ll try my best!” I shouted through the closing screen door, still curled up under the warm blanket. I wasn’t concerned in the least about the fact that he was out there without a chain. He’d only ran off once since we got him, but ever since then Avery made it clear that we always must keep him on a leash so nothing unfortunate happens. She followed that rule like there was no tomorrow. My parents and I, on the other hand, hadn’t chained him up in years, knowing Ollie wouldn’t run off. Avery loved that dog more than those Star Wars sweatpants she wore far too often. Bringing my cup to my lips, I found it empty, so I went to the sink to refill my glass. As I dropped lopsided ice cubes into my cup, a haunting screech forced itself through my ears and down my spine. I was so startled I dropped my cup onto the wooden floor, pieces of glass and beads of water sliding everywhere. I flew out the door, ignoring the shards sliding into my soft and bloodied feet. Pushing my way through the screen door and leaping down the steps, I spotted Ollie running towards me from the house across the street. Neighbors stepped outside, trying to find out what happened. I didn’t realize what I was looking at until I heard tires squealing in the distance. Before I knew what was happening, everything went black, my entire body taken over by a sick, tingly sensation. I felt my head hit the concrete step behind me. Pain surged all throughout me. Using every bit of strength I had, I pushed myself back to my feet and walked forward. Because maybe I was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t what I thought it was. Maybe I was just seeing things. But I wasn’t. I knew from one more look that it was what I thought it was. It wasn’t a body anymore. It was blood and body parts all over the street, which was coated in red. Screams from shocked neighbors---or maybe myself---filled my ears. I fell backwards again into the grass, but I couldn’t get up this time. What I would later learn was a drunk driver was speeding away. He lived, in spite of his reckless actions, letting death instead claim the sweet girl who wore Star Wars sweatpants.
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Chloe Landau Sacred These I Have Loved; Carousel horses harnessed with pastel painted reigns, the commandeering sky in its vulgar violet angst, that summons a storm foraging from some far, nonexistent place. Creased and tattered pages of beloved romance novels Fresh pressed linens, ironed and unstained Stacked so precisely in cupboards and closets
just for precision’s sake; Street performers tipping hats, children pointing and dragging parents in their direction, crowds forming among quaint Parisian cafes. Root beer on summer days that pops and fizzes And soaks into the tongue: Ice cream trucks, lemonade stands and Wubba Bubba gum. Red and white striped circus tents, staked down in grass just to aggravate the wind; Graffiti that becomes dripped and dried urban blood, smeared against bridges and brick. Sleepy train cars sweeping cross western plains, Tides bowing their heads in crisp August rains Among all these, I love one most of all- memory. The revisiting of each place indefinitely reacquainting myself with the fondest sights and sounds each space more immense, each color more vibrant each moment becoming more sacred, -more loved- in its remembrance; All these have been my loves.
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SOBREMESA (Spanish) Conversation with family after a meal has finished. Bellies full of wine rise and fall in after dinner laughter Plates pushed aside eager for intimate conversation We shift like sleepy giants in squeaky seats Reclining lazily and nodding in satisfaction The oven’s dying heat ruminates throughout the kitchen Wax candles condense and melts in miniature droplets, Deforming as hours pass, producing light that hesitates. Crescent candlelight in the night peers through our windows Illuminating strands of gray. We reflect on days passed, when we could touch our toes And we would chuck crab apples at oncoming cars from the side Of the highway just to pass time. And how we’d guzzle beers in plastic lawn chairs when your parents left town and try to tell the difference between stars and satellites. We speak of the sourness that has sunk into our tongues, The weather, gas prices, the next generation. We air dry the dishes and prop open the screen door Where moths swarm the porch light and feed on chipped house paint You and I dance beneath the clothesline, silenced by the cricket’s hymn, Swaying gently til dawn
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Emily Thomsen Left Behind They always said Truman's mama had too many kids too fast. But Mama didn't believe it. She said she could handle her kids just fine, thank you. Could count them all on one hand, thumb to pinkie. It went like this: the thumb was Billy cause he's the biggest, pointer was Liza because she directed everyone, middle was Charlie because he insulted everyone, ring finger was Truman because he was a treasure like her wedding ring, and pinkie for May because she was littlest. She could do ages too, pinkie to thumb; 2,4,6,8,10. Mama could handle her children. So no one really knew why Truman was always left behind. He wasn't the biggest, he wasn't the littlest, and he wasn't the loudest. Maybe because his hair was the same dirt brown as Charlie’s and was always missed during a head count. Maybe it was that he had the middle seat in the family van and everyone appreciated the extra space too much to mention him. But whatever it was, Truman was always left behind. By the time he was four he was used to it, so when he looked around the store and didn't see Mama with his siblings flying around her like a dust devil, he found a place to sit. He grabbed a Spider-Man book with good pictures, and climbed into a giant tan chair with an eject button. He had tried the button once and there was an awful springing sound as the chair grew a place for his feet, while he was launched to the floor. The eject button chairs were always the cozier ones, but he never pulled the switch again. When a women in a blue vest saw the little boy in a recliner near the home goods department, she had to investigate. "Are you lost, hon?" She asked him. Truman was used to this question. "No, I'm just left behind,” he replied. The blue vested woman looked puzzled, as she had never seen a little boy so content with being lost. He grinned at her from behind glasses with thick frames that seemed to be perpetually skidding off his face, hanging on by the tip of his nose. She figured his mom must be in the store, and would return shortly. "When will your mama be back?" Truman knew this one too. Mama always realized he was gone at a meal, when there was one less mouth to feed around the big kitchen table, so he just counted on his fingers how many meals there had been that day. 1) Mushy oatmeal, 2) peanut butter sandwich, 3…he couldn't remember anything else so he proudly proclaimed, “Dinner!" "Well, you’ve got some time to wait, why don't you come with me." He was led by the hand to a back office where they asked him questions he was also good at: his full name and phone number. The first time he remembers being left behind he didn't know his phone number so he asked his dad that night. Then they let him color and read and play with little plastic cars so he wouldn’t be sad while he waits. He couldn't figure out why he'd be sad. The little office is quiet, no one smashes your cars except for you, no one hits you on the head with a book or spills juice on your coloring. After no time at all, Mama comes bustling in, hugs and kisses him and says, “I love you, Truman, and I missed you." Truman likes this part the best because Mama hugs him tightest when he is un-left behind, and says I love you. She usually doesn't have time for I love you’s. Then they go get a secret ice cream before going home. Truman thinks that might be the best part.
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1945 A flower, It’s stem awakes in Augsburg, to Beseech the light of her Jewish feet. Another ancient hymn of Autumn’s restlessness, falling On her silver-spoon teeth. Son of Jacob, he opens the ground– And says, See to it you never go on the trains Unless the fog chokes you, Here now, before you are dead. Find the kismet room, the hazy bars filled with red, Crawl into its ghastliness, lie still Dear, You kept the petal in your pocket, And it withers as your hair. So long be, your godly body And the blessing of the blood that comes, When your eyes are gone, carried to the lab Let it be said, the Jews are not all dead.
Based off Prompt - Gone: I loved writing, and you loved science. We’d speak about the philosophies of life, you with your mechanical logistics, and I exploding with the nonsensical pitches– Lost love letters stuck in the corners of my teeth, and the silly sentences I’d string together to make it all revealed to you. As we laid there, our feet bare and woven into the grass– Flowers swarming the midst of morning dew, and trees anchoring their Branches of swept leaves brushing the forest floor, Crickets crawling in the threads of our jackets, worms Squirming under the abyss of buttons, And fingers tingling with the sensation of love I wondered feeling so alive,
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What it could be like if you were dead. I don’t think there’d be a funeral, a vigil of candle-lit mourners, our heads bowed to your cadaver. Cremation was a destitution in your soul, you Said your ashes didn’t do anything For the distance between you and I, and I said It was haunting. And you, just smoke. I think you knew, In conversations About time, and the illusion of it, you knew the universe gaping Would one day retrieve you home; The hollowness of a black hole, suctioning You away. And me, there a pen and paper; A delusion, a fantasy, left with a song I couldn’t write. Alone.
"A writer is a world trapped in a person." - Victor Hugo
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Becoming Us (an Excerpt)
I cursed under my breath. The stairs were the only way to the bottom floor and I knew if I wanted to save the both of us, I had to go through it. I had to force my way through the orange burning wall. I went for it, sprinting down the stairs and into the fire while covering Dyllan’s face as best I could. I wouldn’t let my sister live with scars. “This is all my fault! This is all my fault.” I sunk to the floor with my head in my hands, shaking it back and forth trying to get rid of the memories that consumed me. I fell. I was running too fast down the burning stairs and my foot went through the weak wood and I fell. Dyllan was thrown out of my hands and into the flames below. “NOOO!” I could feel heat against legs and I knew it would leave a scar but I didn’t think twice as I threw myself over Dyllan, trying to shield her from the remaining flames. The firefighters came in only second after, carrying the both of us out and placing us on stretchers. I knew I would only have minor scars, most of them being on the leg that fell through the floor. I knew Dyllan would have the worst scars seeing and she fell face first into the flames. She was only eleven. I felt myself being hoisted up and pulled into strong arms. I stopped fighting his comfort and let him bring me the comfort I needed. “Shh, Gabriella, it’s okay.” His hands were rubbing my back as he drew circle on the small of it. “You know for a fact it’s not your fault.” I went to shake my head in denial but he placed his hands on my shoulders and pushed me back enough to look into my eyes. “You know this was Jace’s fault. You told him to go outside but he didn't listen. You told him to use the ashtray but being stupid, he flicked ashes on the ground as if it was nothing.” He shook me a little bit, his eyes piercing my soul. “This is not your fault Gabriella. You did not start that fire.” My breathing had somewhat evened out, only a few hiccups here and there and the tears were now flowing silently down my face. “I know that Xavier, but even still, I didn’t push him to go outside, I didn't even say no when he asked to smoke.” I could see Xavier go to respond when suddenly, I heard the most beautiful thing I would ever hear in my life. “I-It’s not your fault big sis. I promise.” A raspy voice called out from across the room. My gaze was on Dyllan’s, I saw a weak smile cross her lips. “It isn’t your fault.” She coughed. “I love you.” What I heard next had a blood curdling scream erupt from my throat as I fell back to the floor, taking Xavier with me. Beeeeeeeeep. Her life was gone, and my life was over.
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A Simple Legacy One day, my son might ask about the table, scarred and scuffed and cracked with age, that now stands, a sentinel, next to my mother’s books. No pristine antique, its intricate inlay marked by the ring-scars of hurried generations. Despite its wear, it stands direct and sturdy on a single leg crafted of different woods, artistically turned on a lathe, branching, hooked and digging, into four feet bearing the scuff-scars of multiple moves with my grandmother (four) and my mother (fourteen). When he asks, it will be my turn to explain to him about my grandmother’s father: who never owned very much, and was not widely-travelled, and was not well-educated, but who made the table with his own two hands. He made it from a cherry tree that fell in his own backyard of the house that he helped his father-in-law build, and where he lived and loved his family and all growing things and kept his promises. When he was young, he promised his mother he would never drink (and he never did). When, after a fight with his younger brother, he promised he would never fight again (and he never did). When they made him to go war, he went and kept his brothers alive by keeping their boats afloat right up until the day he saw Hirohito surrender with his own eyes though he never forgave his own country for stealing him away from his young family for those years. When my grandmother’s family broke apart, he promised to pick up the pieces (and he brought her and her kids back home, without question), When my mother lost her way and needed a place to get back on track, (he opened his door and welcomed her home, without question). And on the day my mother and father married, he took my father aside and quietly said “you’re my family now, too” (and he was, without question). They told me that he was a simple man who wore work clothes every day of his life, but whose intellect soared beyond his tallyman’s long hours at the lumberyard— He knew the genus and species of every plant he saw and grew, and developed his own complicated plans for the things he built.
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He was quiet and unassuming, and would play with his grandkids for hours, building them their own fort, letting them help in the workshop, and everybody called him Gump, because that was what my mother called him when she was little. He said that his church was outside under the sun, with the carrots and the daisies in his garden, and in the basement in his workshop, where he crafted a collection of wood furniture (including the table). For years, it was topped with flowers— my great-grandmother’s African violets, And when it lived with my grandmother, I remember that it held a succession of her towering Boston ferns whose arms draped down over it like a lacy tablecloth. It watched as my mother and aunt grew up and left home, and as they all said goodbye to Gump, and as they welcomed my cousins and me. Now it most often holds my mother’s books, waiting patiently to be shelved, or sometimes somebody’s cell phone (prompting the cry “check Gump’s table!” through the house). All that I know of him I learned from my grandmother, and my mother, and the table. Standing and watching our family grow, as the silent testimony of a man who did his duty for his family, and his country, keeping his promises every day, living to find joy in the quiet acts of helping things grow and making things for others, to bring them joy, a simple legacy. The definition of legacy, a bequest: a material thing that passes down to heirs. Or stories. Or promises kept. If I could talk to my great-grandfather today, I would tell him that it’s okay, I’ll keep the table safe. But more than that, I would tell him that I have found in music what he found in wood and that I would explain to my son one day what promises mean in our family, his simple legacy. And I think he would smile, and turn back to his tools, and he would know what I mean.
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Renee Born Something It was nothing. Just the slightest flicker of movement in the corner of my eye. Not always the same eye, nor the same movement, but for some reason I was sure it was the same nothing. Sometimes I thought that maybe, if I was quick enough, I could turn around and catch a glimpse of it. I never turned around. Most of the time it was fine, I went about my apartment unbothered. As long as I was talking or working or focusing I didn't notice a thing. Most days I could believe it was just a trick of the light, or even something wrong with my vision. Perhaps I'm going blind, I would reassure myself. But that wouldn't explain the memory loss. I woke up one morning with a frantic note scribbled on the back of my hand reading; Don't look in the mirror. It was in my handwriting. For days I spent the morning staring at cloth instead of my reflection, wondering desperately what would happen if I dared to look. My fingers itched with the need to know. I trusted myself, the self that left the warning, but it wasn't enough. I pulled off the old pillow case and searched the mirror, but all I saw was me. I looked tired, and older than I remembered, but there was nothing there—the real nothing, not the kind you could see. I was by myself. Older, and tired, but safely alone. I put the pillow case back over the mirror. They always asked about it—the people I brought home to keep my mind from drifting to the sudden movement in the dark corner, the claw-like shadow reaching from beneath an empty bed. As long as I was distracted I was content. One night, after waking from a dream I couldn't remember and didn't want to, I wiped tears from my cheeks and tried to focus. I studied the dips and shadows of starlight on the shoulder blades of the woman next to me. She was laying with her face turned away and I didn't realize she was awake until she spoke. Her voice was soft from sleep when she asked me why I was breathing so heavily. I wasn't. Nothing was. It was oppressive in the room around us. Its darkness curled in the shelves above my dresser, empty of photos or mementos, settling in the bottom of a singular mug on the kitchen table. It spilled over the edges of a toothbrush cup next to a covered mirror with only one toothbrush in it. It was more than just a flicker now, it was the slow approach of a massive nothing clear in my periphery. I looked to her for help, but when she turned around in my bed I realized I didn't know what name to call out. And then the nothing wasn't shadows in a house that’s not a home, it wasn't a shape in the corner of my eye, it was inside. In the blank where her name should have been a cavernous, empty, nothing. How could I not know, I asked myself, and when I had no answer the nothing spread to that shameful silence. It consumed me. My nails clawed at my temples as I struggled to free myself from a tangle of sheets and stumbled into the bathroom. It started with my new lover's name then moved to dinner the night before last, seeping into whatever I had done at work on Wednesday and beyond. Places where there should be something, signs of living, there was only the flickering darkness of unfulfilled space. By the time I had the folds of the pillow case clutched in my fingers nothing had dripped down my spine and hollowed out my lungs until they were empty too. Breathless I looked into the mirror but recoiled from what looked back. It was nothing.
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Aanika Pfister A Guide to God-like Aggression Rip the waves and the water Into a spitting image of your face Toss the dinosaurs into the ocean Bend each straight palm tree So its bark gets a back ache Crush beach rocks until they match the texture and color of your skin. Fill coconuts with sweet milk then make them grotesque balls of leg hair Hard as your kneecap Place them on the bent palm trees So even the birds can see their grossness. and giggle Fill oysters with tear snot And ask them where they were that tuesday when it rained all day When they answer incorrectly abandon them at sea. Bite patterns into smooth shells Give the sea a salt smell Make the Caribbean remember your name. And when it’s all over. And you sit in your mess. In your hand print of His creation. And you look up and the sun is still shining; The caves still echoing His Name His Name His Name Let yourself sink into the sand A tooth chip fossil Choose to forgive him for His passive presence. For disappointing you. Or choose to reject Him Like He deserves
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And push his presence from his islandYour island! Your Godly Legacy depends on your ability To make amends or never regret.
A Comforting Ear for the Bitter Thing. And the sweet in its chest. Stuck under. Skin wrapper. a thin paper-plastic. Indelicate garbage; oyster shell: Sit beside its crinkles frame. Tie up your hair. Sing “Hey Jude” until it opens itself up, peeling past the rot and the foam coins of packaging, the bits of entirely unnecessary organs you should’ve kissed clean. “Hey Jude” is its favorite song. Wipe up the stick lumped around the beating blushing basket Rrrip the sweet from its chest. The soft of the grape when its skin is peeled. Take a taste then place it in the deep crevasse of your jean pocket, sweating syrup in the company of laundry lint.
“I’ve begun to imagine my role as a poet as a band leader.” - Hanif Abdurraqib
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Cg Marinelli Barbie Dolls and Mini Raisinettes The room underneath the stairs made us feel like Harry Potter. It was sizeable for a cupboard, but the slanted ceiling was barely tall enough for me, a child, Only three feet tall, But the height of the ceiling didn’t matter-Not when all my barbie dolls laid scattered, Mini raisinettes stuck in their once perfect bleach blonde hair. This was my safe space, my Valhalla. Where my mother told me to go if someone broke in, or if there was ever a terrible storm This was my happy place, where my sister and I could laugh and play for hour and hours upon end, the pounding of our parents footsteps pacing up and down the stairs above us transforming into the rhythmic reverberations of a waltz, perfect for pretend coronations and royal balls. In the corner of a room we kept a secret box full of our most prized possessions: hair--none our own--but rather the barbies’ that we cut ourselves, a mixture of chocolate milk and lemonade in an Ozarka bottle that always left the air smelling slightly sour, and the pictures we took when we stole our mothers old polaroid. We spent our first seven years in this cupboard, until I was too tall to stand, until the house was sold learning all about the joys of cavities and crushes and cutting our own hair, the room underneath the stairs no longer ours
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To be a Teenaged Poet To be a teenaged poet is to take everything to heart, To wallow in the depths of your misery, To make even the slightest of actions seem insurmountable. To be a teenaged poet is to know it’s only you against the world, To know no one is on your team, To revel in the unimportance of your own mere human existence. To be a teenaged poet is to be overflowing of angst, To write about how you secretly wish to sparkle brighter than Edward despise Twilight, To feel that no one gets you and your ‘upper middle class white girl suppression.’ To be a teenaged poet is to ‘stick it to the man!’ To fight society’s norms, To drown out your worries in a venti cotton candy frappuccino (double pump of strawberry syrup with extra whipped cream) after a night when you ‘literally got 2 hours of sleep.’ To be a teenaged poet is to feel dead inside, To line your eyes with eyeliner blacker than your soul, To listen to nothing but My Chemical Romance because they ‘get you.’ To be a teenaged poet is to use a thesaurus to make you sound smart erudite, To fake it till you make it, To hope and pray you get your assignment in by 11:59.
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Jill Merkel Abe When my eyes were swollen and streaming he stole the tears from my cheeks and cried for me. Look at the sunlight, he said. Look at the trees. Listen to them sing, when the wind dances through their leaves. They will guide you to me. When my shoulders drooped and my feet anchored he took my hand in his and lead for me. Look at the sunlight, he said. Look at the clouds. Follow them as they dance above mountains and give water to the earth. They will guide you to me. When my mouth clamped shut and words refused to come he grasped syllables from the air and spoke for me. Look at the sunlight, he said. Look at the stars. Find the glittering paintings they leave for you in the night sky to light your path. They will guide you to me. When my knees buckled and my lungs gave out he lifted me onto his shoulders and walked for me. Look at the sunlight, he said. Reach inward and touch it. When the trees and the clouds and the stars greet you, I will be there. I am your sunlight, and you are mine.
Choosing Faith We never thought our strength would be our only means of hope, for there is nothing beautiful waiting for those without the courage to have faith.
Haiku Only those who walk through the night live to witness the glories of dawn.
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The Last Change
The thunder of steel hooves echoed through the hills and forests, so loud that it concealed the ominous beat of the looming storm clouds. The narrowed eyes stared out from underneath the steel brims of the helmets, flicking back and forth as the explosions flashed in the distant blizzard. Gloved hands clutched the worn leather reins tightly, as if for comfort, as the horses deftly glided between the skeletal branches of the winter forest. The wall of flesh and steel gracefully lumbered out of the aged brown oaks. They violently burst through the barrier--the comfort and warmth of the watchful gaze of the trees--which none could see but all felt, surging forwards into the desolate white plains. The ground shook as the steel-shod hooves of the horses pounded the earth; the ground shook with the silent tears of the trees as the horsemen tore themselves from the warm embrace of the dead forest as they had torn themselves from families and futures to charge into the bitter oblivion. The hushed whisper of the winds grew into the voices of the trees, the shrieks of crows, and then, the cry of the faded black eagle emblazoned on the tattered flag nested in a gloved hand of its bearer. All eyes were upon it, amidst the uneven bounce of the horse and the strident glare of the sun which tore through the blackened clouds, all eyes converging on the single flag, their epitome of glory. As the banner flew in a fit of brilliance, flashing under the opulent sun over the snow-capped fields, hundreds of steel sabres, so pure, so pristine, that one could lose any notion of their true intent at a glance, hissed out of their scabbards like the tongue of a viper; their dulled vibrations dared not rustle the serenity of the barren tree branches. A cry echoed throughout the field, the jarring call of a gleaming bronze bugle carried by the wind far off into the labyrinth of snow. The sabre points glistened like so many stars in the little light which shone through the dark clouds. Horse and rider alike breathed a maddened and desperate fury, heating the stinging cold as they plowed through the snow in a frenzied dash. Flurries of white burst towards the sky and gently glided back onto the earth as the horses bounded with fervor through the burning winter wind. The horsemen brandished their sabres to shatter and slice the cold sky into jagged shards, plunging forth into the apocalyptic maelstrom, breastplates ringing sharply to the patter of a rain of bullets streaking violently through the sky. They defied the cannons blazing away like so many fireworks from a childhood lost forever, hurtling headfirst into death and glory. They cried to the bleak future as their lives were chipped away in the furious storm of shot. They beseeched in silence against the inevitable end, their frozen tears shattering as they dove into the fire, clinging to the shred of comfort that one day perhaps, if no one else, time alone would immortalize their sacrifice.
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Emma Skinner The Grave-Digger (an except) “So, how did you get forced into this line of work?” Talia asked, night shadows bleeding across the counter and breaking apart her face. “No, I dig graves for free.” I readjusted my dress around my knees and stirred my coffee until the cup trembled. In the months to come, I’d repeat the process with more nervousness and less shakiness, until my hands were steady and my heart was on fire. “It’s kind of a hobby.” “A full-time hobby. You live in a graveyard.” Talia finished her coffee in two swallows and then spent the rest of the night trying to teach me how to dance. I stepped on her feet so often that I left bruises through the tips of her boots. My arms, strong from years of handling a shovel, were dumbfounded when it came to the delicate things. We never talked about Talia’s job. I heard on the radio one day that the British Museum was robbed, and when the sun had set in a violent wash of purple and black, Talia was wearing shards of display-case glass on her suit lapels and sitting on my bedraggled grey couch. “Should I ask?” I said softly, wrapping her fingers around the coffee cup, my hand on hers. “You probably shouldn’t.” Her mouth twisted, lined with gala-red lipstick. The dark light of my old electric lamp set fire to the glass tangled in her hair. “Unless you want to lie to the police.” Sure enough, the police came later that day. I put on a soft red dress to match Talia’s beautiful lipstick, then calmly lied when they asked if I’d ever met a dashing thief with elegant eyes. My grave-digging took up all the hours from dawn to dusk. Every day without fail, I walked out to the endless rolling field shrouded in mist, a shovel slung over my shoulder and calluses already starting to bubble my palms. The dirt that had to be removed and replaced with bodies was more like powdered chalk; it slipped from the shovel and formed grey piles in my shoes. Talia quickly grew bored of visiting me solely in the evening. A month after the British Museum, she appeared out of nowhere, leaning up against a gravestone to watch me bury a body. “Who was that?” she asked, blowing on her nails, all faux confidence and clean clothes. “The body, you mean?” My next shovelful of chalk landed directly on her glossy boots. “I couldn’t care less.” “How clinical of you. You’re a girl after my own heart.” She jumped down into the grave beside me and helped me dig. The hours stretched into a long hum until sunset, and when I said I was too tired to go make coffee, Talia vaulted over the side of the grave, returning with two cups and a teapot of something vaguely akin to a caffeinated drink. We spent half an hour chatting six feet down in the chalky ground, quite pleasantly. Then she left, and I lowered an unknown coffin down into darkness by the light of a slivered moon.
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Kassidy Merrick Pointless It is nothing. Yet it is everything. It is the feeling when you look out of your window in a blizzard; where everything in every direction is being drowned in a static blanket of white. It is the wrestling match between your jaws and the piece of minty cement you placed between them fifteen minutes prior, when it takes all that you are, all that you have to do anything, to keep from giving in. It is watching a fragile flower being crushed beneath heavy, uncaring feet, where every petal is being slowly demolished, and the feeble attempt of staying upright is simply outweighed by the overwhelming push into oblivion. It is walking past that empty, unused room of your house, the one that no one speaks of. No one ever uses it-at least, no one of any importance. It is the fleeting aroma from ancient candles long burned to the ground due to the lack of gracious hands, their ash-filled cadavers a chilling reminder of what could have been. It is the monster that sits in the shadows and just at the point where your vision fails you; he sits there, watching, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. It is the infinite yet fruitless battle between two equal sides; a fathomless stalemate in which two armies make no pronounced moves in either direction. Neither army understands why they are fighting, but they continue, for it is all that either side has ever known. It is playing the puppet and not having the slightest clue in who your master is, nor having any strength to fight their undeniable power. It is being outdoors on a fiery day and being forced to submit to the terrifying potency of the sun, who assaults you, harasses you for hours upon end. It is when your thoughts are winning, when they shriek nothings into your ear and you can do absolutely nothing to protest: you are involuntarily bound to surrender to their claims. It is when you’re on the ground, frozen, looking up at your attacker and unable to ask for mercy or protect from the abuse from their unwavering fists. It is when you are simply a pawn in a game of chess, where yourself and the other pawns are being displaced and forced to play; where the other player is masked and so are their intentions. It is when you look into the shattered remains of a mirror and you no longer see yourself; you see the thing you fear most. It is when invisible hands cover your eyes and you are left blinded; when a sublime force presses down on your lungs so can longer breathe, no longer see. It is when you have been walking for miles and your knees are so close to buckling and the only thing stopping you from dropping and giving into submission to defeat is your pitiful pursuit forward. It is the unmeasurable amount of weight on your shoulders, with the whisperings of the expectations of others being fed into your eardrums, where you know that failure will lead to the loss of everything you know and love. It is being inside of a locked cage and watching your loved ones walk away, where they can’t see you plead and they can’t hear you scream. It is lying awake at night and realizing the fact that people around you may say otherwise, they couldn’t care less about you. You are completely and utterly alone. It is everything. Yet it is nothing.
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Max Reichek Dripping Mozzarella The black car pulled into the alley. Tinted windows, shiny paint, the whole works. Any everyday man on the way home from his nine-to-five job at the factory, coming home with the stench of mozzarella and diced tomatoes, could tell it was owned by one of the bosses. The car reached the unloading area of the factory. Two men in suits stood outside, guarding the door, bald and decorated with pizza themed ties that said “Lou Malnati's” on them. Their faces were indiscernible from each other. They paid little attention to the passing car until it slowed down. As one of the guards started walking towards the car, a window lowered, and out came the barrel of a tommy gun. Before the man could react to the sudden threat, bullets sprayed him across the chest. As sudden as they started, the bullets stopped and the man fell to the ground, dripping with what looked to be pizza sauce out of the fresh holes in his body. The second guard raised his gun, about to fire, when the tommy gun fired again, leaving him like his buddy, covered in pizza sauce and holes, no cheese to top him. With both men losing their sauce, the driver got out and opened the rear door, allowing for a man more wide than tall to step forward. His striped white jacket and pants were accompanied with white boots. The monogram P. P. was stamped into the heel, letting anyone who managed to catch a glance at the bottom of the man’s boot know his affiliation stood with Pequod's Pizza. Two other men, neither as massive as the boss yet both absolute units, emerged from the car. “Boss, you sure this is the place?” His voice was gruff, reminiscent of times in the Old Country. The boss looked at him, his eyes narrowing as his giant maw jiggled with each syllable. “How about you shut your trap, and let me do the talkin’, alright? Capiche?” The goon's massive shoulders slouched. The three men entered the back door into the warehouse. Filled to the brim with brown boxes, there was hardly enough enough space for the machinery, wiring and hissing as they fought to meet the day’s quota. The smell of fresh pizza permeated everything, sticking to the boxes and men. “Ugh, I hate enterin’ the factories. ‘Specially Lou Mal’s, they wouldn’t know a ripe tomato if it hit them in the face,” His speech was slow, muffled by the noise around them. “Shut up! You keep talkin’ and the boss’ll get angry. You heard what happened to Tony the last time he didn’t shut up, right?” The second goon replied. “No.” “Well neither does his family,” the commanding tone of the boss cut through the machinery, even though his back was faced to the two men. Without another word, they continued through the steamy air, passing through conveyor belts and pizza crust throwers. Finally they reached a door labeled “Crust testers”. They burst into the room and shot down the man sitting in front of the desk. “Alright boys, gas the place up,” the boss commanded. “But boss, don’t they got some kinda money we should be after? Why we tryna gas up one of their factories? I thought it was Gino’s that was fightin’ with Lou Mal’s, not us.” The second goon questioned. “For the last time, you’re not getting paid to think, you’re getting paid to do what I say, and kill who I say. You’re real close to becoming the next Tony.” With his final comment, the two men nodded and took out a can of gasoline, pouring it all over the room. As they left the room, one of the goons threw a lit match in. As they left the factory, the boss dropped a pamphlet, reading “Gino’s East Pizza” on the front.
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Ann Marie McAvinue Two Words My story started with two simple words: “I’m gay.” I came out to my parents on October 11th, which is National Coming Out day. It didn’t go so well. They made me pack my things and threw me out of the house. They told me they never wanted to see my face near their house again and that I was no longer their son. It hurt. But I just threw my satchel over my shoulder and walked away from the only home I had ever known. Because as the saying goes, “As one door slams shut, another glides open.” I went to Seattle where I thought I could make a living playing my guitar, a gift I had gotten from my grandfather when I was nine, it worked a little bit but I ran out of money quickly and had to find another means to make money. Instead it found me. I was raped one dark night on the streets then forced to become a prostitute just to survive. I began to buy and sell drugs on the streets and soon became addicted to them. My life had completely changed from the time I was a small child playing football outside with my friends to being a drug addict and prostitute living on the streets when I was only seventeen. I was losing myself fast but then I met him. He had lime green hair, brown eyes, and was a couple inches taller than me (most likely six foot three), he wore a gray hoodie, jeans, and had a toothy grin on his face. “Well hey there, cutie.” He said leaning in close to me and dropping a dollar in my tin for donations for my music. “Do you take requests?” His breath smelled of bubble gum. I quickly picked up my guitar and stuttered, “Of course! What would you like me to play?” He thought for a moment then smirked and said, “Can you play All Star by Smash Mouth?” I laughed and nodded my head, “Totally!” I said still chuckling and began to play the song on my guitar. He watched my hand strum the strings and listened intently. His head slightly bobbed to the beat and I couldn’t help but smile as his foot began to tap the ground. Soon enough he was fully dancing to my stupid rendition of All Star. When I finished the song he clapped his hands and pulled out his wallet. He requested another song. Then another and another. Until eventually he just invited me out to grab some lunch. That was our first official date and there were many more to come after it. His name was Braydon and after our third date I asked him to be my boyfriend. Braydon helped me so much. He helped me get over all the trauma of life on the streets and he also helped me get over my drug addiction. “Paxton.” He said to me when he visited my small apartment that was barely acceptable for a living environment for the first time. “This is barely enough room for you to stand in let alone live in. This settles it. You’re moving in with me.” So I moved in with him and it was great. We kissed and cuddled every single day. We’d tell each other how much we loved each other. I’m so glad I said those two words two years ago as now we stand at the altar saying our vows about to become husband and husband.
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Justin Hudgins In the Garden of Butterflies We sit face to face, truly alone for the first time. The line between us divides and my heart beats hard against my chest at the mere thought of him crossing that very line, bridging the divide between us. I want so badly for him to come from that grassy, moonlit field and into my garden of butterflies. I can feel their pink wings fluttering whispers of hope into my ear. All he has to do is say the words that will let him in, but after an hour of him dodging my prompting, my anxiety grows and the butterflies become restless. To me, their gentle wings carry murmurs of an alternative solution. “Tell me a lie,” I say. He bites his lip, his eyes no longer looking at me, not even when he finally finds the words: “I love you. You’re the only one for me.” My heart leaps and it soars until the blade of his words sink in. They cut my wings and my heart plummets into the abyss beneath what I thought would be an elated sky. I sink into myself, backing into my garden until I can feel the rough bark of its singular tree pressing against the scars he etched into my skin. The pink flurry of restless butterflies turns brutal, ravenous, black. And from that twisting, corrupted mass bursts an endless murder of crows. Their black feathers tumble through the air, painting the sky in storm clouds and grays. The bark of the tree crumbles to dust beneath my fingertips and I look up to find its branches barren, as if it too had been abandoned. The crows flock and swarm, their hundreds of red eyes focused on me. And I feel myself torn apart, jagged piece by jagged piece, shredded and shattered by black beaks carving into my skin. But as I sit, all I can think is that the wounds they’ve caused are nothing compared to the scars he made in me, the unexplored canyons he left in his wake. His eyes never once came to face the destruction he caused because he refused to see the beautiful garden of a girl he left in ruins. My voice rises up, steaming claws raking across once soft flesh to drag itself out and free, piercing the open air with a bitter scorch: “I hate you!” My words drag his voice from the void, out of the black of the crows. It brings with it flowing rivers of sorrow but not regret. His guilt can not turn canyons into fields, but still it echoes across desolate walls. “Tell me a lie,” he says. The crows leave nothing. Even my last shreds of resilience are devoured by their voracious hunger. My words glide along rivers, resound off canyon walls, carried along thrashing black wings until they are the thunder in the storm and he can not deny them any longer. He can not deny me any longer. “I hate you.”
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Tooth The day began rather ordinarily: I woke up and meandered my tongue around my mouth, exploring its constantly changing mountainous landscape. I was at that age when teeth are constantly getting uncomfortable and try to fight for the first chance to get out. I wiggled my loose tooth back and forth a few times before finally opening my eyes. Peeling off the Dalek-printed sheets the August heat had glued to my bare arms and legs, I managed to get myself up. I stared out the window at the bright orange Jeep Mom parked on our driveway because the sound of the garage door opening scared my little sister Bella. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, stumbling over a small city of towered books-- courtesy of Ben, my older brother who, due to a lack of space in the rest of the house, had stuck me with the likes of Orwell and Sandburg as roommates. All the while, I prodded at my tooth, unsuccessful at kicking it out. I was digging for buried treasure: I’d already lost twelve teeth and each time I had triumphantly put them under my pillow, the next morning I woke up to a slightly crumpled ten-dollar bill in their place. I knew that very soon, I would have my reward. Even though the floor of my room belonged to Ben and his books, the walls were mine. I had already put up drawings of dogs and magazine pictures of dogs and photos of our dogs, but the jewel of my interior design was yet to be acquired. I had found this Dr. Who poster of all twelve doctors arranged like a clock online. It was massive, almost big enough to cover the entire space behind my bed. It cost thirty dollars, though, a small fortune to me then. Fortunately, for a ten year old, I was skilled in the subtle art of finance. I kept my tooth loot stashed in a shoe box in one of the few places Ben’s books had absolutely no power: my sock drawer. After locating my shorts-- they were underneath Ben’s Norton from last year-- and exchanging my dad’s old Michigan shirt for one with Iron Man, I made my way downstairs to breakfast. As I jumped over the last two stairs, I gave my loose tooth one last push, and it came soaring out of my mouth and right into Bella’s sneaker that she’d left in the middle of the hall. Hurriedly fishing it out, I galloped into the kitchen with my new trophy. My parents weren’t awake yet, and Ben and Bella were eating lucky charms. In between spoonfuls of marshmallows and surrealist milk, Ben was exploding about alchemy, going on and on about how they wanted to turn anything they could into gold. My eyes became flying saucers against a full moon. “So is that what the tooth fairy does?” I asked, my tongue slipping into my new cavity. “What do you mean?” Ben raised his eyebrows. “Does the tooth fairy turn my teeth into money?” “You still believe in the tooth fairy?” his eyebrows zoomed up his face like Road Runner as he covered Bella’s ears. “Aren’t you, like, ten?” “Ten and a half,” I shot back. “What do mean, ‘do I believe in the tooth fairy?’ She’s real, and I guess she’s an alchemist.” “Yeah, the tooth fairy isn’t real, Chuck.” “What?” My jaw fell. “So, but, then, where does the money come from?” “Same place the rest of your money comes from: Mom and Dad.” So everyone, Mom, Dad, Ben, maybe even my grandparents were in on it. I bet they were all part of a club that met after my bedtime whose sole purpose was to make me look like a circus monkey. “I’m having breakfast in my room. Next, you’re going to tell me Santa isn’t real too.”
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Hudson Jones Business as Usual (an excerpt) Howard sat, frustrated, in his banged-up Mercedes, staring ahead at massive lines of traffic and a dreary, grey sky. He had already been on the road for a couple of hours, though it felt far longer; time always seemed to stretch out and lose its value during his business trips. He wanted desperately to get out of the car, to get up and move around, to do something. At the very least, something different than sitting in that godforsaken vehicle, hands tight on the steering wheel, ferrying himself to or from yet another business conference. He sighed and took out his phone to look for a new route; he’d taken this highway many, many times before, but the traffic was too congested today. He was surprised to find that this new route took him up through his hometown. While it seemed to go a little bit out of his way, he shrugged his shoulders. Why not? Better than sitting in traffic. As Howard drove closer and closer to his old home, he began to feel a small sense of anticipation. This would be the first time he had returned to his hometown since he left for university. This was the place where he learned to ride a bike, the place where he went to school, the place where he had his first dog, Kit. It was also the place where he realized what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He remembered clearly the scent of his dad’s morning coffee as it wafted through the household, and the feeling of awe when he’d see his towering form, clad in a sharp-looking suit. Howard had always attributed a level of high importance with being in business, as his father was. From a young age, he had wanted to feel that way, himself. And look where that got you, he thought. He chuckled to himself, though it was without humor. His father was long gone, and he’d spent thirty years following in his footsteps, but he had yet to feel that feeling of strength and importance.
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Drugged. We need each other but we can’t have each otherIt’s the tug of war neither of us win. The rope gets cut in half and we both fall Crying like little kids, a spoiled game. I have a new smile and you have an old jointWhen I see you, it still gets me a little high. It’s not euphoria but I’m not chasing it, Just a puff so I can function, gateways. It’s been about a month now, since we leftYou go right back to flirting; I can’t help it either. The silence is much too loud for us. I need some of your medication, cough syrup. But it’s still the same when you kiss me, I feel how much you need it, The way you cup my back in your steady arms And hold me when I lean, testing you. I can see, the lack in your eyes, The tears you can’t cry for me. I take it away, the cold and burning Love is a hard drug, too addictive. You take my smoke and turn it back to fire I stamp it out and try to sober up Losing you is like trying to put a sick pet to sleep We aren’t us now; we’re just you and me. In a strange in-between of loving And lying, leaving before being left, There is a sadness like the moment after A really good high ends.
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Growing up You made me this. I was never a monster, I Used to miss conversations. Now I only miss Cigarettes and sex. I still want nothing of you But sometimes days are dark and I scream like The child when the swing goes a little too high, the Fear of falling and breaking, fear of dying Alone. I miss the emotion of you but I don’t miss You anymore. I’ll stop fighting the hurt, the Tears, and let it cut through me like a knife. “I miss you like the dying miss the knife” – Langston Kerman
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Kierra Kyser From Holmes to Moriarty I trudged into Baker Street loaded down with groceries and opened the fridge, flinching as I came face to face with a severed head. My brother Sherlock was always conducting experiments, and for some reason he thought the best place to keep them was in the fridge! We keep food here, Sherlock, Jesus Christ. I thought as I grabbed the milk jug from the counter. Suddenly, a voice called behind me. “Did you miss me?” I spun around, startled. The milk jug fell to the floor with a loud crash. The man in the hall smirked at me as the shattered jug began spilling its contents, the cold white milk mixing with the shattered glass at my feet. I stepped over the quickly growing puddle and made my way to the well dressed man. I threw my arms around him and breathed in his heady scent as I gasped his name. “James....” After a moment's hesitation, he wrapped his arms around me and buried his face in my hair. “Hello, pet.” He whispered softly. His well tailored Westwood suit was soft, silky even, against my cheek. I pulled away just enough so that I could look into his eyes. Two sets of brown eyes meet. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “I came to see you, of course.” He responded a little too quickly. I stepped back and Jim let his arms drop. It wasn't in Moriarty’s character to drop by “just to see me.” I raised an eyebrow. ‘‘Surely there's something else you wanted.” I replied. “I can't want to come see my beautiful girlfriend?” He asked. I put a hand on my hip, eyebrow still raised. He made his way back into the living room. After a moment’s hesitation, I followed behind him. He never visits Sherlock's flat for social visits. Jim bent over the coffee table and picked up an apple from the fruit bowl that rested on top of it.I watched as he tossed the apple in the air and heard the whack of apple against skin as it inevitably made contact with his hand once again. “You’re very perceptive. Like your brother.” “I’m not perceptive. I just know you well.” He chuckled, tossing the apple in the air again and catching it with his eyes locked on mine. “And I’m nothing like Sherlock.” I added. Jim walked past me and sat in Sherlock's armchair. I sank into John's chair opposite him. He regarded me for a moment, his intense stare making me squirm in my seat. Finally he said, ‘’You’re right. You’re nothing like Sherlock. You’re much... sexier.” The back of my neck burned. We had been together for two and a half years and yet he still had this effect on me. It was baffling. I quickly ducked my head and stared at my hands. I took a deep breath and stole a glance at him. He had that stupid smirk on his face, the one he reserved specially for when he knew he had gotten me flustered. “So.. When does brother dearest return to his humble abode?” Moriarty asked in a tone of mocked indifference. “ I-I haven't the slightest.” I stuttered in response. Before he could reply, we heard voices in the hallway downstairs.
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Tell Me Soon Before the orange glow fades to black, before the dry ends shrivel and crack, tell me you love me. Before the roots weaken their grasp, before the tight cords can unclasp, tell me you love me. Tell me you love me. Before the flood shatters the sea, before the mud thickens in me, tell me you love me. Before the lullabies turn to screams, before my cloth skin develops seams, tell me you love me. Tell me you love me. For it’s always too late but never too soon. Please, don’t wait for my parched heart to prune.
My Mountain My mountain sits higher than an eagle can fly. It’s as high as the moon, but I don’t know why. Its shadow is like a night cast over noon, and I know I won’t lift it anytime soon. But when I look at the mountains of others, there's something haunting that I discover. And it makes my mountain not so grand-it makes my mountain a thorn in my hand.
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Genevieve Pfister Come Back, Darling (An Excerpt) The early morning airport smelled of hot coffee and leather bags, the loudspeakers blaring out announcements as loudly and rapidly as if it were midday. In reality, however, Peter Wallace knew from a glance at his watch face that it was only half past six. He sat in a chair in the airport lounge, alone, sipping a strong black coffee he had purchased from his favorite little cafe in town on the way there. He had always preferred local coffee shops to major enterprises as a matter of principle, though his girlfriend told him repeatedly that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Starbucks frappuccinos. In fact, she loved them. Coffee was almost always the subject of their petty, playful arguments with each other, and she once vowed (smiling, but trying to look serious) that she would never set foot in a little local coffee shop as long as she lived. He knew that she had nothing against the little businesses, but was merely making a point. She so loved being stubborn, and it drove Peter crazy. That was one of the many reasons why he loved her. She’ll be here soon, he thought to himself, half hopefully, half anxiously as he took a gulp of coffee. There had never been a single time in his life that he had not been happy to see her, not once when the mere sight of her hadn’t put a smile on his face. But he didn’t know if he wanted to see her in these circumstances. He didn’t know if he could bear it. His nervousness was in part evident by his choice of coffee that morning. He usually didn’t drink straight black coffee, and never so strong a brew, but he felt the need to steel his nerves. After all, today was the day she was leaving, and he didn’t know with any kind of certainty whether he would ever see her again. He didn’t expect her to stay. He didn’t want to prevent her from doing what she wanted, and this was what she wanted. It was her choice entirely, and he was proud of her for it with all his heart. But he knew he would miss her like hell. He would miss waking up every morning and hearing her voice over the phone. He would miss their arguments over coffee, their walks in the park, and the way she nestled into his arms and rested her head on his shoulder when they sat on the couch together. He would miss holding her hand, always so soft even though she never used lotion, and hugging her to him. He would miss kissing her and goofing off with her, would miss the sound of her laugh and the sight of her smile and those bright chestnut eyes. He would miss their venting sessions and their zany conversations, and the smell of her all around his apartment that clung to the carpet and upholstery. There was no doubt he would miss her, and think about her everyday, trying not to drive himself mad with worry about whether or not she was okay. “Peter?” A soft, gentle voice said from behind him. He knew at once that it was her voice, and he quickly stood up from his chair and faked a smile. There she was, decked out in that dreaded gray-green ensemble with her long brown hair tucked up in her cap and her name stitched onto the left side of her uniform shirt. It was all so different from the jeans and t-shirts she usually donned, her hair loose and flowy or gathered into a loose ponytail. Peter stood up from his chair and faked a smile, but she frowned like she didn’t believe him, like she could see right through him and was worried about whether he would be alright. Him! And he was the one staying here at home.
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Of Infinite Power The girl huffed a sigh and slumped further into the seat. Her irritation surged against the walls of her mind, its lingering presence threatening to consume her thoughts. They were impossible to find. It wasn’t that she refused to believe the magnitude of their power, but for years now, she had been unable to retrieve one of these objects. Since her first encounter, she had longed for an opportunity to revel in the glory they created, if only for a second. The wonders they were capable of possessed no restraints, no regards for the existing order. Because these items, they were brandished as weapons, complying to whatever actions the wielder desired, regardless of presumed impossibilities. The objects’ powers were so great, so potent, that after their posessers had returned, they had claimed their experiences could not be encapsulated by mere words. The possibilities were eternal, endless, like the opalescent sea perpetuating is expanse unto the horizon. Shivers snaked down her spine as she recalled the first time that she had stumbled across one. It had bestowed her a power like no other, allowing her the capacity to create, and explore, and wander the depths of her imagination. The girl rubbed her weary eyes, as if it would ease her mind, and rose from her chair. Once again she had allowed her thoughts to flow freely, and in doing so, hours had eluded her in what had felt to be minutes. Chiding herself, she glanced out the window; one look at the unrelenting night sky, and she was suddenly filled with an ambition so fiery it was nearly tangible. As she stared at its impenetrable blackness, the girl realized that, like the infinite envelopment of the sky, these objects would never subside, their vastness limited by nothing. If only she knew where to look, they would always be waiting. Reminding herself of this, she was going to venture out, stopping at nothing until she could claim one of these items as her own. Leaves faintly rustled in the breeze, their whispers luring the girl out into the enticing darkness. Shadows appeared to swallow any glimmer of light that the luminous crescent offered. Throwing her cloak over her shoulders and crossing the threshold into the frost-kissed air, her feet seemed to move of their own accord as they compelled her into the eerily quiet night. The city had retreated eons ago. Forcing herself to continue down the dim, lamplit street, she absorbed every surrounding reflection and pooling shadow in hopes that one of the items would peer out to greet her. Only silence sneered back. Brushing aside any lingering apprehension, she took a breath to calm her rising heartbeat. She refused to let anything stop her from collecting these objects. As she continued under the beckoning stars, the girl reminded herself that she was not to relent until finding one of these beautiful weapons, these alluring artifices, these temptations with enough light to change the world - these so-called “ideas.”
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When Fish Were Dimes
I laid in salt water & my hair fanned out behind me blonde, almost green underwater. A sudden rush of movement, a gathering, & I stood surrounded by a flowing mass of fish, each one longer than my arms. They moved, flashing silver like dimes tumbling through the waves. Look, I breathed – where did they all have to be? – & my father turned to me, salt dripping from his face. Dark eyes held mine. Something’s chasing them, love. I was silent, watching waves move like white lace at the bottom of a dress.
“The only difference between an essay and a poem is how large the stone is you have to whittle down.” - Hanif Abdurraqib
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“Daria the Dark Loves Her Dog Part 1” (An Excerpt)
It was not her dog, though it chose a similar form. It looked wolf-like but that wasn’t what it was either. It was still made of shadow, but now a full form. It stood on two feet and used its claws to carve into the wall. Each claw looked like a tarantula’s thin, hairy leg with a sharp needle on the end. It’s face was turned straight towards the wall. Once it sensed that it was being watched, the demon twitched its head like a clock to view her. The motion seemed to stop after ninety degrees. After a tense second, the head continued to tick towards Daria while the rest of the figure was frozen in time, like a wind-up toy from Lucifer's imagination. Daria did not feel herself shaking anymore, she didn’t hear the noise that came from her throat, or the yelling to shut up from downstairs. She didn’t feel her feet drag towards the hungry shadow-thing as it locked its eyes on her; eyes that were filled with fire. The body spun around the head, the mangy face the only fixed point in Daria’s world. It held out it’s spider hand to her, a human gesture from a less-than animal thing. It cocked its head to the side, seeming to ask Daria a question. The scratches caught Daria’s eye and she recognized letters. She only read two words, LoVE RAgNar, and then she readily grasped the outstretched hand and nodded. If this was what her loved one looked like now, she would have to get used to it. The creature’s mouth stretched open, in a jerky way, unevenly over teeth that looked like they were drawn in by a four-year-old. Daria’s face was drawn in a taunt, downward facing line. The two contrasting figures--Ragnar drawfing Daira--stood facing each other frozen, when light from the hall lit up the crack under the door. The door swung open, and the swaying figure of Daria’s wide-hipped, slightly tripping mother was silhouetted against yellow. “What. The. Hell. WERE YOU GOING ON ABOUT, GIRL!” her mother yelled, and then raised her drooped red eyelids. Her half-crescent eyes bloomed into full moons as she saw the scene before her, and she stumbled forward to grab her daughter. As soon as she made a move forward, the creature shook the house with it’s growl and yanked Daria into it’s chest. The young girl let out a small yelp as the two figures dissipated into smoke just as Daria’s mother brushed her fingers across her daughter’s cool hair. The momentum of her body took her down, through the space where the figures were standing, and the liquor bottle smashed to pieces in her hand. She swayed on her knees in shock and confusion. Heavy droplets of red were growing on the carpet, smelling like a game of penny poker, and the sharp pain was enough for the woman to realize that this was reality. She looked around the room, slowly, and at first saw the cracker picture frame of the puppy she found on the streets a few, what was it, years ago? Daria had called her, what, Ragnar? With a long forgotten fondness she laughed a little, a sound punctuated by a hiccup. What a funny little kid. Then she saw what was carved into the wall, and covered her mouth as she screamed and felt tears on her cheeks. It read:
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FoR fOrEveR YoU pLeDge sERvICe tO tHe DemON, WhEn yOu FrEe d mE THanK DAriA MuCh, yOur liFE iS noW gIfT LoVE, RAgNar There once was a bottle of liquor Dar’s mom, the bottle picked her Then a monster popped up, Mom’s instincts rose up, Daria had needed her quicker.
“If any of my criticism makes you want to quit writing for good, then I’m doing you a favor because you are never going to be a writer in the first place.” --Michael Croley
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My Dearest Peter, It’s been thirty years since our last adventure to Neverland, though I’m sure to you it hasn’t felt quite as long back in your world where time bends. John is away at University now and Michael’s once beloved teddy bear hasn’t been picked up in years. But I haven’t forgotten Neverland and the adventures we had together. I long to dance among the teepees with Tiger Lily or running along the deck of a pirate ship. And most of all I long for my days in the nursery. I willed myself not to grow up, to wait for you. But I couldn’t wait for the boy who will never grow up. And I couldn’t stay in Neverland forever, especially after I fell in love with you. I wear our kiss around my neck, its dull silver a treasure from another world. After school, I was supposed to get married. Michael Banks is his name. We had gone out a few times to the pictures but I know him mostly the letters he writes to me in which he is always mentioning the weather and has a fascination with its pattern. He seems a nice man but he isn’t you, Peter. He doesn’t have limitless excitement or a crooked grin. He is a man with an important job and he wants a life that I don’t want. He wants to get married to a pretty girl, buy a big house, and have lots of children. He doesn’t want adventure. He doesn’t want to make a difference in the world. He certainly couldn’t fight a pirate or save a indian princess. He doesn’t believe in magic. And I guess I was searching for magic. On the day of my wedding to Mr. Banks, I fled the building and saw a child on the street, begging. He looked like a lost boy with his dirty clothes and mischief in his eyes and I gave him my engagement ring. Most might think this a foolish act but I know you wouldn’t think so. That’s when I began The Darling Charity for Lost Boys and Girls and hoped it would make you proud. I remember how much the Lost Boys needed a mother and now I can finally do that for these orphaned children. I bought my childhood home and made it an orphanage. It’s quite fitting that the nursery which was collecting dust is used once more, filled with imagination and more adventure. Yesterday I walked into the familiar room, now cluttered with beds. A new layer of paint, light blue this time, marks the beginning of something new; however, the scenes of our old adventures in Neverland that I had painted on the ceiling keep your stories alive. Noticing a boy sitting alone, I walked over. He had shaggy brown hair, freckles sprinkled on his nose, and his shoulders seemed in a permanent slump. I bent down, familiar with most of the children in the orphanage and asked his name. “Peter” His eyes didn’t meet mine. “I once knew a Peter. He was the bravest boy I knew. Would you like to hear about him?” His head lifted slightly and I told all the children about how you fought the evil Captain Hook and little Peter even laughed, his smile just like yours. I can’t help thinking what a different life I would have if I had never met you. Even though I still miss you sometimes and dream of Neverland, I am so lucky for meeting you at all. Without you, I would’ve been in a loveless marriage as Mrs. Banks. Without you, the nursery would be collecting dust. Without you, little Peter and the rest of the orphans would be on the streets. I had been searching for adventure since Neverland and I have finally found it. Thank you for showing me how to follow my heart and to be fearless in doing so, Wendy Bird.
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Donuts and Crises Sitting in a donut shop, time is replaced by drops of my melted ice cream. A soon-to-be soup of sugar, served in a waffle shell. Staring across two windows, she keeps still, the handicap placard hanging down from her rearview mirror. Like a guac-and-chip donut, she is a stranger to me. The race between my tongue and frozen milk fades away as I continue to stare into the white car. How late should I wait until it’s too late to wait anymore? I look down. The baked dough has succumbed. I look up. From behind the two panes of glass, separated by a parking lot, the white wisps of visible hair lay motionless. I can’t wait anymore. Rising from the stool, I pick up the race I lost. Tossing it into the cemetery of plastic by the door I am struck by the fear of typing a three digit number. I leave the shop. I approach the car, heart pounding with every step I take. Approaching the window I see her face this time. Lines of time without movement, eyes vacant, reflecting the light of a dim phone screen. She taps the screen to awaken it.
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Tableau Grass lies frozen in the ground. The trees stand tall and bare. Wind tosses fallen leaves as it hums through the trees. Remnants of ghosts litter the ground. Carved out names fading away across the field, Decade-old cries and yells drifting across. The man kneels in front of a stone-A crisp suit, a candle sweating. He waits alone- a single flame atop the altar. A deer scuffs last season’s underbrush. In the treeline, birds whisper amongst themselves. Waking up, the sun casts a soft glow on the grounds.
"The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words." - William H. Gass
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“Songs” Lion and the Lamb It kills me to bite my tongue It kills me to watch her Tearing you apart again When walking away, Is never easy. Knowing all that you’re to be Is a memory. But you walk away With no goodbyes Lose perception when a Stranger catches your eye Try to remember who’s been on your side Because even if I should, I’m not leaving this time So, Here I am Holding you up While you’re holding her hand You say that there’s no pain in a second chance. But she’s the lion and you’re the lamb
Stay the Night I gotta know what’s on your mind, When you take a look into my eyes Just let me know Cause if I’m right, You could be mine. So let it go, show me your soul And let me love you You are the closest thing I’ve seen to perfection You are an angel with the Devil’s dress on And I don’t want you to leave tonight, If it means you won’t come back. I think it’s high time That you know you drive me mad So, reach out your hand Place it in mine. I think you should stay for the night. And I know that this might all seem so sudden.
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But if I don’t say it now, Who knows how long I’ll hold it in. When could explore spaces we’ve never seen before. Just pack your bags And we’ll soar.
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