Jonathan R. Reynolds
Young Writers Workshop
June 16-23, 2019
Table of Contents
Brielle Watson-Wood…………….……………..……..……………….……………………………….3 Quinn Neubert………...……..……………..……………………………….……………………..…….5 Laura Wirtz………………………..……………..……………..…..…………………………..………….6 Esmé Bessor-Foreman………..……………..………………………..………………..……………….7 Kaleb Sampson…………………………..………………………..………………..…….……………….9 Madison Sapinksi……………..……………..……...………………………..………..……………….10 Bella Stasio...………………………………………………..……………...……………………………….12 Lu Paris……….………………………………………………..………..…………………………………….13 Carly Noble……………………...……………………………..………....………..……………………….14 Isabella Rodgers..…………………………………………..………..…..………………...……………….15 Finley Williams……………………………………………………..……..…………..…………………….17 Connor Falls………………………………………………………......………………..…………………….19 Yeji Kim…………………………………………………...…..………………..………..…………………….21 Josephine Birdswell…………………………………………………..…..……………..………………….23 Abbey Elizondo……………………………………………………..……...………..……………………….25 Esmé Chin-Parker..…………………………………………..…..……………….……..…….…………..26 Jack Burkholder……………………………………………..………………..…….……..………………….28 Halsey Sass …………………………………………………………………………..……..…………………..29 Willa Frierson.……………………………………………………………………..………..………...……….31 Ellie Wich……………………………………………………………………………………...………...……….32 Demi Chowen……………………………………………………..………………..…………….…………….33 Will Burns…………………………………………………………………………………...……….....……….34 Cate Pitterle………………….………………..……..………………………………...…………….………36 Page | 1
Jessica Durnwald.………………………...……………………………………………...………...…...…….37 Angie Smith……………………………..………………………………………………...………...………….39 Kara Fedurek………………………………………………………..……………………….….………....…...41 Nathan Hill.…………………………………………………………………………………...………………...42 Allison Huffman………………………………………………...………………………………………...…..43 Baila Zisman….…………………………………………………………………………………………...……..44 Eva Smith………………………………………………………………………..………………………………..45 Maia Macek.………………..………………………………………………………………...………...……….46 Rheannon Loth………………………..…………………………………………………...………...……….47 India Allar…………………………………..………………………………..………………..…….…………..48 MaryGrace Osborn………….…………………..…………………………....…….………………..……..49 Zac Payne………………………………..………………..…………………………....…….………………….50 Melanie Perry……………………………...…………………………………………………………………...52 Malina Infante………………………………………………….……..…………………..……………………54 Rita Costa………………..…………………………………………...……………….…..……………………..55 Ella Payne………………………………………….………………………..………….………………..……….57 Katherine Norquist…………………………………………………………....….………………..……….59 Zoe Pettersen ……………………………………..………………….……………..………………………….61 Sarah Wrone…………………………………………………………..………….…..……………………….63 Joss Györ kös …………………………………………………………………….…………...……..……...…65 Evelyn Choi…………………………………………………………………….……..……….……..……...…66 Isabella Yin……………………………………………………………………..……………...……..……...…67
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For You I’ll Wait I’ll Wait. I’ll to be set free. But I can’t wait much longer
I wish I was stripped of this “X” branded on my skin. “Untouchable”. ‘Unlovable”. But I’ll wait Because I know one day my heart will be freed Unlocked with the only key. Lust and happiness will pour out of me. My skies painted yellow And my face red A new me will be awakened Ready to live And love And even laugh wholeheartedly until my cheeks ache So for that, I’ll wait I’ll wait until after the sky falls blue It’ll all be worth it for the love of you So for you, I’ll wait
“I feel most colored when thrown against a white background...Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock, surged upon, and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself.”~ Zora Neale Hurston, How It Feels To Be Colored Me Page | 3
The Code The black man A product of divinity Strung through the thrones of the rose bushes to be pricked and plucked thrown back to the starting line because as soon as you get to the finish line prospering the next level the game operator resets the game and sends you right back to the starting line Because it was written in code: never let the black man prosper Never let him win add drugs as a mini-game in the process maybe sex or alcohol No matter what never let him win let him see the finish line but never pass it Send police at his feet Lock him up if he makes it close because that means he’s smart And we don’t want that No no no we don’t want that he’s not supposed to win it’s written in the code
Philophobia (n): the fear of love or of becoming emotionally connected with another person.
Running and running never stop running My breath is gone with the wind. I am at a loss of oxygen But I will continue to run. I will never stop. I did once for a second And my heart shattered. At first, love coddled my heart with its warmth And after a while, its hands turned from porcelain to callus. And squeeze. And squeeze. And squeeze until my once beating turned cold and frail. With that my heart broke. And no one was there to help me pick up the pieces. I’ve just accepted the fact that I'm broken And this pain is meant to be a token A reminder of what happens when I stop running. But he makes me want to jog Sometimes even walk And that's when I know love is close. So I start to run again
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It was dark. Waxy candles on the windowsill, candlelight casting shadows onto the dust-coated stucco. Floorboards protest every step. A pair of yellow pumps enter the kitchen. Little hands tug at her skirt, pleading for attention. “Mama, what’s gonna happen when the numbers get to zero?” Stop the beep of the stovetop timer. Take the pot off the flame. Empty the packet into noodles, hide it with cheese. Stir. Watch it thicken. Drag the wooden spoon through it until it reaches the desired consistency. “The effects are instantaneous. Virtually painless.” The merchant hadn’t asked questions, arsenic production had spiked within the days preparing for the end, and it wasn’t hard to put two and two together. A mother killing her family wasn’t so tragic anymore. It was a mercy. Use that same spoon to scrape the pot, enjoy these moments, make sure there’s enough for everyone, moments, food, scrape the pot. Pour wine. Give the kids ice cream. Hands around her waist and she smiles at the contact. The kids eat the ice cream, the husband drinks his wine. Scrape the pot, scrape and tear until there’s nothing left. Enjoy. Drink the wine in the dark. Candlelight. Breathing stops. Ice cream melts. “I could never live without you!” The children sleep. The husband sleeps. The wine seeps into the tablecloth. They stiffen, grow cold, she doesn’t have to watch but she needs to. A gross fascination, a necessary pain after waiting and waiting. “I’m sorry.” Her turn now. Shaking hands. Pour the wine, take the packet, shake it out, watch powder dissolve, enjoy. Arsenic stained her gums. No one in the house breathed. It was quiet. Say goodnight to everything she couldn’t save. Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.
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Laura Wirtz A Lover’s Request Hello Love, How are you, Love? Yes, good, good I have invited you here At the precipice of this scraggy bluff So please, do sit with me Yes, I am quite alright, Love But after long contemplation, I have come to the conclusion That you do not love me, Love And so I have decided that I must no longer exist And I know that crying is not quite your style, Love So I will not ask it of you But I do request That you bury me So please, Love, before I go Take my tongue To hold in the cradle of your teeth And my eyes To hide in your door post, so I may watch over you And my hair To weave into a bracelet lined with pearls And take my ears Lay them next to the gramophone So I may hear your voice as you sing along One last time in eternity And mold my heart into a ruby To wear upon your chest For I heard that when a living pulse comes into contact With asystolance It surges Into resurrection
"In order to say something, you have to risk something." – Ali Stine “We don't write poems because we know the answers. We ask poems to ask the questions better.” – David Baker
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Esmé Bessor-Foreman Restless The insomniac was motionless as she listened to the dial tone that signaled her tether to sanity had been cut. She tried, in vain, to slow her heartbeat. In and out. Just like they practiced. When Darla finally hung up the phone, she caught a glimpse of the knuckles on her right hand—blanched white as bone from gripping the receiver. She hadn’t even noticed how anxious she was. Then again, she chose not to notice a lot of things: the grotesque pouches under her eyes that sagged like a Mastiff’s jowls; the fact that she wore the same ratty old sweatshirt every hour of every day, paying no mind to its gag-worthy stench; her blatantly obvious eating disorder, and subsequent loss of exactly nine pounds within the past two weeks. Lately, though, her sessions with Dr. Palmer, her sleep therapist, had helped. Unlike her other doctors, he always picked up when she called, despite the odd hours she kept. It was the moments after he hung up, after her reality settled once again firmly around her, that she found increasingly difficult. Darla shook her head and pushed the phone across the speckled linoleum counter, away, away, away from her, in one fluid motion. The grubby motel kitchenette was cloaked in a damp chill, but, unlike the rest of her room, it generously spat fluorescent light over her bony shoulders. Beyond: the living room, its shadows, and whatever laid among them. Darla let out a breath and checked the clock over the doorway three times before assuring herself that it was, in fact, 3:36 am. She’d developed the habit ever since she found it easier to stay awake than to go to sleep. A painting fell from a wall in the living room and sliced down through the darkness. Darla jerked up like a clumsy marionette, suddenly alert, and made out something thin slithering in the dark, backing itself into the furthest corner of the living room. It stretched, up, up, up, until it was tall and vaguely human-shaped. The thing didn’t appear to breathe, or move. Darla didn’t either. It held out a hand—an impossibly long hand that strained toward her, stopping just short of the pool of light leaking from the kitchenette. Her eyes widened. She felt a surge of relief and confusion. It looked like— “Dr. Palmer?” “Yes,” it breathed. Darla couldn’t tell, in the thick darkness, but it seemed to be smiling. “How…?” The thing remained silent, turning its hand sluggishly, as if not to startle her, so its palm faced the cracked ceiling. An invitation. “It’s okay, Darla, it’s really me, I’m here…” Dr. Palmer beckoned her to come closer.
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Darla took a deep breath. He had always encouraged her to take risks. She bit the inside of her cheek, and, cautiously, slipped her hands out of snot-stained sleeves and toward the dark, toward the hand. As soon as she came in contact with the thing, she knew it was wrong, all wrong. The hand felt like warm putty, dewy and malleable. Darla stared at its face: it was shifting. Its ears slid and stretched down toward its jaw and its mouth caved in on itself, a gaping, ghoulish grin. Its eyes shrunk and drooped and spun like tops. The creature’s high-pitched voice ricocheted within her skull as it yanked her into the darkness, her skeletal hand mashed somewhere within its mangled one. “Wake up!” it shrieked. “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
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What if there were other dimensions? What if everything we wrote was actually real, no matter how bizarre, weird, or wild. What if everything ever written was just a window into another existence, and all these characters we fall in love with did exist, just in another reality entirely. What if there were people who traveled these dimensions, people who have been separated from their own home dimensions. And these people explored the worlds of every piece of work ever written? What if these people were extraordinary, what if they were more than human? What if these people couldn’t die, what if these, these Immortals were out there? What trials and tribulations would they face? What would their goals be? What would they do? Who would oppose them? Would they all be good? Would they fight one another? Could they kill each other? What role would mortals like us have to play in their lives? Would they work with us? Rule over us? Avoid us? How would we treat them? Like strangers? The homeless? Odd balls? Freaks? Gods? What if is the question. It is the question that drives a story, “What if?” is the backbone of creativity and fiction itself. What if fiction isn’t as fictitious as we thought? What if I write about a world where it isn’t?
What if I write that fiction isn’t fiction?
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Peace Wind fluttered through the shattered windows, causing the broken pieces on the ground to tinkle. Scores of cracks coursed through the gray concrete walls, and flickering lights made it seem as though a ghost had taken residence in the abandoned apartment building instead of the electricity inconsistently running. Outside, snow fell upon a dilapidated bus stop, its plastic roof sagging under the weight. Trees towered over dead or dying grasses that struggled to poke through the snow. A woman watched from behind a crumbling wall across from the building, and she notched an arrow to her bow. Her hands shook as she pulled the string back and took aim. A gust of freezing wind blasted into her, and she released the arrow. She watched the arrow fly through the air, fall, and plummet into the snow in an explosion of white. Her target, now alerted to someone hunting him, ran into the abandoned building, his jeweled necklaces clanging stridently. She slumped behind the wall and took a deep breath. She whispered, “I guess I didn’t need to kill today.” As she heard the screams from inside the building, she cowered, covering her ears. Her master always made sure to send multiple assassins to a mission. The screaming eventually subsided, and the woman lowered her shaking hands, her panting misting in the air. She slammed her hands into the cold snow and the shaking ceased. She lifted her frozen hands from the snow and pressed them against her stomach under her leather armor. Is this coldness how it feels to be dead? s he thought.
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The woman picked up her bow and notched another arrow, this one laced with a fast-acting poison. She slipped into the building and found the wealthy man disemboweled on the gray, cold concrete floor. His guts were spilled out over his legs and arms, and was his skin ever not solid red? His brown hair stuck together with red glue. She didn’t know what color his eyes were—she didn’t look—but they were probably bloodshot at this point, the irises’ color faded. She pulled the bowstring back and taking a deep breath, she shot the man in his guts. His insides splattered all over the floor and onto her boots and into the cracks on the floor. She stumbled away from the body and plastered herself to the wall, her hands grasping at the crumbling cracks, attempting to slip into them. She leaned over as she gagged. The woman looked out the broken window, her eyes finding the broken bus stop. She bolstered herself through the window, her eyes grazing the dead man’s fleshy intestines, and then shifting back to the bus stop, and she scampered into the snow, a white haze hanging in the air.
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Bella Stasio red, one
guilt slowly paints my hand red the color matches her dashing dress she tells me it is time to be caught
you are passion you are desire you were carved from the deepest fire you hold the dammed in your claws and you know no laws you are beauty you are sin you just stole my bottle of gin
“I believe your work tells you how it wants to live in the world.” – Hanif Abdurraqib “Share loneliness.” – David Baker
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Green Perched atop a mountain, swimming in trees, we name ourselves colors. You pop, slate grey and static-y, flashes of violet, electric blue, the orange that glows off the city and stains the clouds. You are buzzing with life, you bleed warmth without trying, you dress like an astronaut, my tinfoil treasure. We agree that I disappear at sunset and fade when the fog embraces the gentle hills. I hum softly with life. I blend where you pop. I settle into ancient earth and grow. I yawn. You reach an arm around me, pull me close. Pana Po'o Fingers rise of their own accord. Bitten nails cut the air with jagged edges. Pale flesh blotting out a too-blue sky. Fingers itching for everything you know. Touch the scalp.
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It was my choice. Courtney came in the fall of ‘86. I was a junior in high school, on the brink of what I considered to be self-actualization. Days were scattered between impossible AP homework and cheerleading practices in the blistering heat. I can only describe the casual ambivalence in their air, as though democracy could fall and the students of Oak Ridge would keep on residing, meandering through the stagnant days of our backwater town and unchanging conventions. We lolled, traversing from school to sports to the diner to school again, in no particular hurry to accelerate the looming prospect of college or invite any change to our routine. Summer had stayed late that year. The diner was an institution in our small town. Mag, the feisty owner, seldom appeared from the kitchen except to claim the fistfuls of cash and meager tips we left the place. There was never anybody else in the diner, except for the occasional couple that would hastily exit upon our entrance, and we would pile into the long booths, ten or fifteen of us, crammed into ceramic corners and the squishy flesh of others. Milkshakes and fries were ordered by the dozen. They emerged drenched in grease and colossal squirts of ketchup. I met Mitch there on Tuesday afternoon in the most unintentional of ways; in fact, I tagged along with a group of seniors I had met just that summer, looking only to avoid the quiet emptiness and unconditioned rooms in my house. I didn't know Mitch until we were kissing, tongues skillfully dancing in each other’s mouths. The first thing I learned about him was the grooves along the inside of his left cheek, not him name or even his grade. He was a senior. He flickered with the passion of a crashing wave, prolonging his fun while it lasted at Oakley, and I’m sure I was nothing more than a star is his immense universe, dimly-lit in the glow of the moon. I did not think we would create. Everything was fleeting, and casual and insignificant, viewed through the lens of adolescent angst and boredom. We had crashed against each other, fusing and then violently repelling, too loose to be tied down to another human being. When I received my results it took less than a second to decide, but I am not guilty, because that decision had been made before I kissed him or even was born. I was simply an extension of Oakley’s ideals. I think more of her now than I did with the stick in my hand. I like to think I would have been the trendy mother, growing up right alongside her. I know that she would be wise, smart from the college lectures that infiltrated her newborn years while I finished my undergraduate degree. We would have moved to Boston almost immediately, Concord maybe, or a small suburb. Borrowing her Abercrombie jeans, I could see her groaning at me, slamming the door in my face while she rambled to her gossipy friends. We would laugh off a day later over ice cream that melted down our chins, too loose and free to worry about trifling calories. A delightful feminist, Model UNer, and independent thinker, I would cry fat, sobbing tears at her graduation and plead her to stay. I loved her deeply, perhaps enough to protect them from this penetrating world. I choose not to regret what has already been done.
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The Diner One could not justly call the diner a hole in the wall, for that implies that there was a previously existing structure from which this fine establishment could prosper. Rather, it was a desolate hole between two walls, an existence without an address that spread like a fungus to conquer the area it festered within. At mid-afternoon, the diner on Fifth Street was nearly empty. Despite the filtered sunlight streaming in through the dusty windows, the corners of the room were shrouded in shadow. Thus, the bare fluorescent lights that hummed up above were necessary, even though one occasionally flickered as the bulb shorted out. The three sole occupants at this unusual hour were scattered around the room. A young girl of around six sat secluded in a booth in the far corner. Her small shoes hung off the edge of the seat, swinging in mid air as she scowled at the paper in front of her. She seemed quite content to sit alone there, brow bunched in concentration as she tightly gripped her crayons. A woman sat perched on a squeaky red bar stool, leaning against the polished silver countertop. She wore a maroon waitress uniform, complete with a black pencil skirt and a button-down shirt with too many buttons undone. The brass name tag pinned securely on her left breast read simply “Mama”. Mama drummed her long fingernails on the hard surface, dark red enamel skittering across buffered aluminum in a rhythmic pattern. Crimson slashed lips curled slightly in practiced disdain as she paused, examined a seeming imperfection in one nail, then returned to her finger tapping. The last person in the room observed all of this from her post by the door. She too bore a name tag, though “Rosa” was clearly not from the diner. In fact, her entire outfit was slightly out of place, as if she had borrowed it for the occasion. She wore it with ease. Rosa lurked next to the doors, light illuminating hawkish features mellowed by years in the sun. Her eyes cut to the clock that hung above the cash register, then back outside as a black car puttered down the street. Circling the block twice, it slowed to a stop outside the diner doors to let one small man tumble
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out and scurry inside. The bell at the door chimed merrily, breaking the silence. Mama didn’t look up from her tapping. Fidgeting, the man approached the bar. He opened his mouth, closed it, then opened it again before glancing downwards, busying his hands with the hemline of his rumpled polo shirt. Under the fluorescent lights, his skin was sallow and covered in a thin sheen of perspiration, which dripped in fat rivulets from his receding hairline. “I used to play piano you know,” she started, still running her fingertips up and down the counter. “My old lady made me. At the time, I hated her for it. But every time I complained, she would give me a tongue lashing about responsibility, and how music improved our lives. Do you like music, Pietro?” He stuttered a quick “yes ma’am.” “Please, Pietro, Mama will do. Anyways, she said music was another art form, one that translates to all languages. After a while, I began to like it myself. There’s nothing quite like feeling the keys pulse under your fingers, nothing like the power each note holds over an audience. ‘Music is the only thing that can truly give and take life’ she used to say.” Here she paused, cocking her head in consideration. “Well, not the only thing that can take life, but that’s beside the point.” Finally, she looked up, taking in Pietro for the first time under heavy lidded lashes. “But enough about me, darling Pietro. Sit, please, sit. How can I help you?”
"Pen isn't mightier than sword. Pens don't win battles, and swords don't write poetry. Mighty is the hand that knows when to pick the pen and when to pick the sword." "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic."
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Excerpt from Landrum
1. Introduction and Description
Be it known that I am no sand-constructed creature toppled by gusts of wind, but a vagabond brought upon these lands by my blind following of roads abstruse as those of fate, and to a just equinox not worth interpreting. Of a natural course, then, I must frame the following reflections not as a collection of human miseries and joys, nor as an attempt to incite the reader to those sentiments, but rather as a report, admittedly in the scattered manner for which I have grown a penchant, concerning the persons and sights upon whom and which I have chanced, and perhaps to thus evince some hospitality in that fertile bosom of the near east: Landrum, Ohio. Doubtless, there is more to a town than a name, however close it may sound to the steady pound of rain upon one’s windowsill and its quiet saturation into the loam of one’s backyard, and I am yet warned to not judge a place and its people upon surface observations, yet how impossible a task to stroll through the town—when even air is borne upon tangible sunlight—and not remark that it is god’s urban Eden, its primordial vines still tethered to the muted fire-bricks of the storefronts which stretched along Main Street. Too, in Eden fashion, moss grew thick and moist and green upon the trees, and these trees were untame such that their boughs reached the sidewalk and required one to duck if he wished to pass. And as the world’s short history was written in the pawprints of the spongy earth of Eden, so the street was a catalog and living census, for written in time-ink—which is to say dust and fingerprints and paint and dirt—upon the stone and brick of the buildings were the negligible histories of those who had, in some forgotten decade, resided there. At the corner of Main and Glenwood, for example, where begins this literary tour, Kaussmal’s Methodist Church stands a monument to the man himself, constructed of stone that was once shining beige, but that now, having been sanded by those jagged hands of time, is dull and
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drab—yet upon the devil’s strip beyond it lay the colored shards of its steeple’s mosaic, intangible and so safe from time and, one would hope, all else. Too, this history was present in the peeling of Zimmer’s law firm sign and in the grimy handprint upon a mailbox emblazoned with the old surname Young, and as the town’s shops bore the names of its quotidian benefactors, so all of the green benches upon the sidewalk wore plaques denoting family and death, and these sidewalks were cobblestone fruitcakes with pebbles like childhood treasures concealed not in amber, but in concrete, and so firm and true in changing weather. These characteristics, and an odd and happy languor, constituted the character of the town—or, at least, the character of the town as it existed upon the central section of Main Street. I let me linger in this stone Eden for many a moment, and encountered such persons and lived such events as will be detailed in later parts, before wandering on. This latter, I see, proved an error fatal to dreams, for I continued far down Main Street and was confronted with the same village proper, yet this part sans character and lilting voice, a suburb constructed for the greed of construction, which rose from the ground only as and because industry came to water it. It was beautiful as any nameless place, yes, but disenchanting for its contrast with Main Street, alive and breathing as the latter was. Here, then, are tales only of Main Street and of the people who dwell thereabout.
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Closest Companion I’ve been dating a girl for a while now. Her name’s Anxiety, And I'm pretty sure she’s cheating on me with just about everyone I know.
She's pretty clingy at times. My friends will invite me to a party, but then she won’t let me go. Would rather me stay home with her. Or, if I do go, she ties me to the couch and puts a sock in my mouth, so that the rare times I actually talk to someone, everything comes out muffled and mumbled. Sometimes I take pills that give me this bad breath and she won't want to be near me for a while, but sooner or later she always comes back. She’s right here next to me as I write this, promising she’ll be with me my whole life. I really need to break things off, but I haven't built up the nerve. Yet.
Give Me Some Explosive Shit Something I can fight to with a beat my man Eminem could write to. Coming like a train down this track, I'm moving right through. It's something I don't understand, something I can't explain,
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a super-power that keeps me balanced like a crane. It lulls me to sleep and I don't ever wanna wake up. Not another day where I'm cakin' on this make-up. I just wanna be blessed. I just wanna bleed less. Don't wanna live my life with all these regrets. And right before my everything is shoveled down the drain, Words shelter me again and I remain without a stain. You could cut my tongue out, you could kill me, but you won't ever stop the spirit that does fill me.
Belmont Chicago New York’s cleaner, less popular brother, with buildings that reach to the sky like plants towards sunlight. Where kids draw guns before they draw with crayons. Home to Kanye and Chance. Always a breeze of trains flying by, suspended on grids of rusting metal. City of poverty and city of ambition. Home to theater and science, while graffiti is splattered across the buildings like blood on a battlefield. Chicago, New York's cleaner, less popular brother. The only home for me
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Until We Wait I was out of breath as I opened the white picket fence and ran across the lawn. Autumn leaves were crisp, swelling up to the sun. The wind was colored a wistful gray, and it choreographed beaming leaves into a somber dance, a pity march. It was November. The air was thick and stuffy with regulation plaid and burgundy velvet until children ran out, shattering it. It was in November when words fled a mouth, words decided before we even knew. A sweet and familiar melody filled the house, and Ma went to open the door. A man stood, blocking out the sun in the doorway with his authoritative, stiff, navy uniform. He saluted us and murmured something to Ma. The thick soles of his boots left marks on the beige carpet and I all but expected Ma to take his shoes off herself. But she didn’t. I think that now if I looked back on this, I would see her hands quivering too much to do so, wrinkles ironing her face. Ma was in her flowered loveseat with Pa, and I in my kitchen chair, hands running up and down the familiar crack of the discounted wood. The soldier cleared his throat and gave us the news. He was gone. And he was dead. Ma’s eyes paled over and Pa’s face froze. I froze. I thought this man, this evil man, was bluffing at first and this was all just one big, fat, sadistic joke. But it wasn’t. Maybe it was when I saw Ma that I realized it wasn’t one big, fat, sadistic joke. Maybe when I saw her quivering turn into shaking, every part of her moving except for her eyes. Or maybe it was Pa, as he sucked in a huge breath and never let it out. Maybe it was when my little eyes glazed over the room and saw pictures of him. They all looked like they were graying, dying. Or when neighbors and friends brought along platters of lasagna “baked with love” and they piled up there on the frigid marble, uneaten. Maybe when steaks turned into chicken nuggets and those chicken nuggets turned into nothing. Maybe it was all of those things combined, but there was no maybe in what the man said. It’s June now. But Ma and Pa won’t quit searching for that “maybe”. Because those soldiers never found his body. Ma and Pa cling onto that hope that maybe, just a possibility, at
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one of the ceremonies the soldier will be him. Restless nights, crack of dawn, driving the thirty minutes to the District of Columbia every day, for neither of them can miss the burial in a twisted hope and complicated logic that the unknown soldier is their son. Multiple burials occur each day. And Ma and Pa, they go to each one. It was like he died over and over again, every day. My mother, she remained derangedly persistent. Her eyes flickered, dented color of the wind, shadows of my brother’s, her now-graying hair matted greasily in the sparkling sun of summer. Lips thin, chapped, pursed in, wrinkles down-turned her mouth into a permanent frown. We let her be. But deep inside, we held that shallow shadow of hope high as well. That maybe one of those soldiers was family. That we could pay our respects to him. Days to weeks, and weeks to months. This death of her son, my brother, his son, turned into something to speed up. His death became not something to respect, but a chore. Something like sweeping dust off of the counter or wiping the cabinets clean. Making a bed. Fluffing pillows. A chore. The traces of him are everywhere. I see him racing me up and down the street, helping me with the logarithms of life. Putting overdue bills screaming with blood-like ink in the trash can, visible under stained glass windows of fast food bags made translucent with grease, all while silently maneuvering us like a puppet master gone mad. Summer was nearing an end and our pity money was running out. I think we all pretend to see a bit of that “maybe” we look for so desperately. Ma and Pa and I. And that might as well be the only reason keeping us alive. The thing we thrive on, and the thing that would most likely kill us. Because after a while, in this deranged family, insanity can become normal. Because all of us could only hope that we would stop searching for something we lost sight of long ago.
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a family history We called my grandma’s house Titty Pink. She wanted to kill her husband but never did. It was her next door neighbor who started the name, cried out TITTY, PAINTING THAT HOUSE TITTY FUCKIN’ PINK on painting day. Soon the whole neighborhood caught on, had grade school boys giggling as they passed the house. Titty fucking Pink. The husband’s name was TJ but we don’t talk about him anymore. I only met him once. On his deathbed. My mother’s name is Jenna but Grandma calls her Marge. She hated him too, TJ. Wanted to put rat poison in his weed. Mom had a sister. Her name was Sarah. They lived in Titty Pink. Called the backyard Teddy Land until that old dog died. Then it was just a yard again. He wasn’t their dad; TJ wasn’t. The neighbor beat his wife then smoked on the porch. Grandma left her first husband -- Mom’s dad -- cheated on her then moved next door with his new girl. Mom used to watch waves on weekends. Tides on lake-top. Sand tracked into the house. Grandma kicked TJ out. Lived in The Pines. Home of the world’s smallest highway. Fluid intensity and brash silence. And Mom went to bible college. Owned a church in a warehouse. Smelled like vinegar. Like honey. Grandma couldn’t go to church anymore. No un-polished shoes on Sundays. No divorced women allowed. And when we moved to Ohio, Grandma followed. Her home’s my second. Brick, but we still call it Titty Pink. Our house doesn’t have a name. Our yard was Carly’s until that sweet old dog died.
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And I worked at a garden store. A movie theater. A diner. I started college at fifteen. My aunt lives with Grandma now. With her young son, baby boy. TJ died when I didn’t know who he was. Didn’t know why Marge and Grandma couldn’t cry. Grandma’s mom died when I was older -- started to get it. And I liked a man once. Twenty-one when I was sixteen. I miss Great-Grandma and her green bean casserole. I miss the original Titty Pink and the year-round Christmas lights lining the garage ceiling, back home in The Pines where I hardly lived. He was shitty, that older boy. Twenty-one. When she was a girl, my mom used to race down that tiny highway, back in The Pines. When we visit Indiana now, we run through sand on the beach. My aunt’s son will only ever run through sand. Grow up in a brick house. I’ll graduate college at nineteen, if I stay here. But I think I need to leave. Leave Carly’s yard and the smell of Great-Grandma’s green beans. Leave tiny highways and older boys. Leave Ohio like we left The Pines. Leave Titty Pink and the church across the street. Leave like Grandma left. Find a new home. Track sand on its floors. Like vinegar. Like honey.
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Abbey Elizondo Through the Side Mirror
I sit in the passenger seat on this warm February evening smiling as the wind hits my face from the open window I glance in the side mirror and see a woman carrying a bag on her back plastic bags in her hands. Her shoes are damp with the afternoon rain Her backpack is filled to the brink And exhaustion pulls down her shoulders Each wrinkle on her face counts a worry And her eyes reflect desperation for a life better lived I can see this woman, yet she is out of my grasp. I could speak to this woman, but I don’t have my foot on the brake. I could hear this woman, though I have become deaf. Our car is gliding away from this person who needs me or does my guilt need her?
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Esmé Chin-Parker A Family, United It started out as a simple lie. You wanted- no, you needed that job, and wouldn’t let anything stop you from getting it. But you couldn’t risk failure, so something had to change. So you decided to tell them that you were else, someone better. You dyed your hair a deep blue-black and made sure that no one could see the blonde roots underneath. You were sure to wear colored contacts any time you left home. The clothes on your back were bright and colorful- nothing you would even consider wearing in a different situation. But you weren’t “you” anymore, with one notable exception; to fix that, you were sure to never let anyone see your right arm uncovered. Sure, you could get away with lying about your hair or eye color, but scars as deep as yours? They never fade. So when the interviewer told you to hand in a form full of personal information, you decided to not mention that nothing on it was true. And when she stared at you as if she knew something was off, something couldn’t be right, you just smiled and nodded, handing over your ID. She stopped staring at you like that after a while;after all, what reason would you have to lie? You felt as if your sister’s death was in vain before, but now you knew that it was for the best. After all, people always said that you two looked similar. Over time, you made friends completely separate from your old life, even going so far as to meet up with them outside of work for meaningless talk. Your past self would never be happy living like this. And yet, somehow, you no longer cared. For once, there was stability. Hell, you were even excited at the possibility of getting a raise soon. But then things began to change. You went from having to dye your hair once a week to once a month, as the previously platinum blonde roots were stained pitch black. One night, you woke up to pain- fire burning your eyes until all you could see was blinding white. After a few hours, your vision returned, good as new. Except for one major difference- your eyes were no longer blue. Staring at the reflection in the mirror, a single thought overwhelmed your mind. ‘I look just like my sister.’
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You spent the entire night scrubbing at your scalp, hoping that the dye would leave for good. You thought that you could live with it, that this would make everything easier, but now there was no going back, and just looking in the mirror made you nauseous. But nothing worked, and all you were left with was raw skin, tear-stained eyes, and an overwhelming sense of failure. But you were fine- right? Nothing had changed too terribly, nothing was close to ruining your new life. You were still yourself. After all, your arm wasn’t going to heal any time soon. The scars that criss-crossed it, leaving pale red indents in your flesh- they wouldn’t fade. You were not your sister, no matter what the mirror told you. But you could deal with it, right? Besides, a tiny, screaming part of you yelled that this was only fair. You made her leave, so it was only natural that she’d try to do the same to you. No matter what everyone said, the crash was your fault. You were greedy, and now you had to pay. These statements were muttered under your breath every time you noticed the raised skin on your arm smoothing out slightly, or the long, dark scratch left on your flesh lightening up, matching the skin around it. This should have felt freeing- but no. It was just another sick joke the world decided to play on you. You finally had everything. But you had become her. Your name, face, personality, everything. It was all hers. Even in death, your sister managed to take over, and there was nothing you could do. You were doing well here, had connections and blossoming relationships.. So you stayed. No- she stayed. You had left a long time ago.
“To be young and curious is to collect obsessions that people will tell you aren't worthwhile.” – Hanif Abdurraqib
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Jack Burkholder Ifs and Buts My legs felt shaky, and I had to sit down. I slid down into the mud, in the presence of the dead. I could hear the sounds of war flowing over the top of the trench as I sat there trying to rationalize. I tried to tell myself that had he had a weapon, any weapon, he easily would have tried to kill me. He was fighting for his cause, and I was fighting for mine; which reason was the better was impossible to say. I had to defend myself in that situation, and I had to come out the victor. It was purely survival of the fittest. In a different life, I’m sure he and I could’ve easily become friends, trading poems or talking about things that happened throughout the day as we meandered through some city’s park on a warm summer afternoon. I reminded myself, though, he would have killed me just the same in any other scenario. But he had no weapon on him when he turned the corner. He put his hands up instantly, his uniform too large to cling to his skinny frame. He begged me not to do it and fooled himself if he thought, just maybe, I was going to let him walk off the battlefield free and unscathed. It was only right to take his life, but at the same time it wasn’t. Would he really have tried to kill me? If it was just him and I? Alone in this bombed-out poppy field? I reasoned ifs and buts didn’t matter because now one of us was face down in the dirt.
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The Horseman In early May, Jane’s mother declared that New York had made Jane too American. She decided a good and humbling trip to Ireland was in her daughter’s best interests, and promptly shipped her to spend the summer with her great aunt Iona in a cluster of craggy hills by the sea. So there Jane was, bags in hand, standing outside the door of Great Aunt Iona’s stone house, her cab disappearing up the cobblestone drive, wondering how on Earth she would manage an escape from this island. She hardly had the funds for another steamship home, and anyway her mother had already bought Jane a return ticket for the end of September. Iona’s door had been painted moss green, with an ugly brass gargoyle clapper grimacing at her, as if aware of her disdain of it. Frowning, she set down her bags down to raise it. A heavy flutter of wings and the clop of hooves behind her in the trees made her turn. A man, tall and shadowed in a hooded cloak, led a muscular horse up the drive. It was white, with eyes that glowed bloody orange, like embers, and enormous feathered wings where a saddle ought to have been. Jane drew a breath. There is magic in the woods of Ireland, her mother had always said. You will know it. And suddenly, know it she did. The man brought the horse close to the house and lowered his hood, his hair so dark it was almost black. His eyes, green as grass, beckoned her away from the door. “What is it?” Jane asked breathlessly, delighted eyes on the winged horse. The stranger smiled. It was dazzling, lighting his youthful face with mirth. “He’s Pegasus.” His words were shaped by a charming accent; an Irishman. “He is… he is very beautiful.” Jane could think of no greater description. “Ah,” he said, stroking the horse’s nose with loving disapproval, “I’m afraid he’s very aware of that.” The horse snorted indignantly. “I’ve a package for the Mrs. Iona Byrne. She is expecting family, I’ve heard.”
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“That would be myself,” Jane admitted, tearing her eyes from the horse. “Of course,” he said with another gold-medal smile. “I must apologize—I had not been expecting a lass so fair and lovely of face.” Jane giggled despite herself. “What had you been expecting?” “Some other thing,” he said, mischief sparkling in his bright eyes. “Will you take it?” She nodded and took the package from him, the wrapping crinkling under her fingers. As she turned away, he placed a gentle hand on her wrist. “Might I know your name?” “Jane. My name is Jane.” “Jane, ” he echoed thoughtfully. The “a” was compressed, giving her name a new sound even her mother’s faint accent didn’t quite have. “I am William.” He bowed, stooping low. “Lovely to meet you, William,” she said, placing the package down onto her bags. An apprehensive look in his green eyes kept her from knocking the blasphemous gargoyle clapper. “Might I see you again?” he asked. “Yes, yes, surely,” she affirmed, “You will see me again.” He smiled—gorgeous and chaste—took her hand, and kissed it. He departed, glorious Pegasus in tow. As she lifted her hand once more to drop the gargoyle clapper against the door and alert her great aunt of her arrival, she found herself no longer dreading her summer in Ireland.
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Willa Frierson Lavendar The color that collects On the outside of the glass: My favorite color! See, I have one now, do you want it? The hummingbird who collects nectar from the text Is letterblind Lavendar is warmth for the days when my insides Need a reason to stay inside Press cold sprigs of rosemary to your tongue A drop of winter dust Lavendar becomes The best kept myth of my body Soon enough girls rainproof themselves Paint their nails, dye their hair Their way of reminding me that They want to care for me
Fun Quotes from the week! “Muskmelon!!!” “What’s that smell…” — Amber and Beth via Burton Morgan “…Mr. Snail.” “It’s like kissing an elbow!” “What’s up with all the Sunkist?”
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The darkness whispers But it is not kind It fools us into thinking It’ll keep our secrets. (It sighs in soft breezes, And murmurs false sweetness). The darkness screams But only I hear The echoing cries Of all I don’t see. (It screeches in horror And tempts me to flee). The darkness stalks Just out of reach And I’ll never know All that it holds. (Its silhouette stretches, Its figure unfolds). The darkness is empty, I say to myself. “The darkness is full,” It says in return.
“No one will ever say ‘Sorry, but that writing is just too clear.” – Mike Croley “To reach a stopping point is not the same as being finished.” – Hanif Abdurraqib
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Demi Chowen Art of Surrender When recovery is no longer mantras and deep breaths and coloring books, It rainsAnd I, accustomed to self-destructive umbrellas Will let the anxious mud wash down- This time Watch it fall, naked, shivering, wondering why I ever followed a flood in the first place. I heard there was more to life, Glimmer noted on water when panic settles Longing to touch Horizon’s infinenceSo I lift arms, presenting myself, To sip the stinging truth of marrow…know the gritted sands oozing from pores. Layers ago, I was told I would be doing the hardest thing, Healing. Indeed, it is kicking and heaving to avoid the mind’s too familiar riot, But the truth: the exhale, not the fight Keeps my pulse buoyant at 12 am Keeps water coming to my wildflower roots, Letting go is not giving upIt is facing the flood after centuries of ducking waves Wondering why it took so long to discover the tenderness of floating on my back. Sure, the art of surrender is Drowning to learn floating, Seething to learn loving. But I am doing it, choosing it. Feeling the twinging pits and tidal swings of self Is not pretty; the shaky chest and things resembling apology, It’s a pitiful thing and somehow a beautiful thing, recovery. It is me, fetal crouch, among ripped journals and bloody nails and dead skin and wet cheeks Thinking maybe the place more e xists Is here, in dance between shore and mystery. So I live, bewildered at best Inviting this breath To these barren lungs, Inviting this ocean To these parched limbs. To my surprise, the current knows its way
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Will Burns A Study in Topography I find in general that the rockier a land, the more effete a people it produces. Take for example my own home, De Vierzon’s Land: an endless stretch of rolling, blundering hills, broken only by lowland ponds and lizard colonies, and who am I? None but the most intellectual sea captain to have graced these oceans in generations, as my crew so often calls me. But I attest that, brilliant though I am, I am but a layman amongst my people, so refined and genteel as they are. It is a consequence of our lifestyle, nothing more. When a trip to the next town over requires a three-day climb, one has a way of giving the legs a rest and focusing on the mind. By contrast, I recently had the ill fortune to visit the barren flat fields of Stormblight recently. A wicked place, by all accounts. With no bluffs to break the wind, we were deafened by screaming torrents, and indeed our cartographer saw a good deal of his papers blow away. When at last we discovered a race of men living there, we found that they stumbled about like drunkards every which way, heedless of one another, a race without courtesy. And imagine my displeasure, upon stopping one to ask for directions, to find that he had no head at all! Merely a mass of brown sprouting cones—something like antlers—which he used to great effect to gore two of my crewmen and give me a long gash across the chest! I need not tell you that this headless man could run like a jackal. These were very flat lands, after all. I had to knock over my cartographer and leave him there as a distraction. I tell you, I was so put-off that I barely managed to grab the map from his trembling fingers. Once I had found my way back to the ship, I set sail without delay, and to this day I am overwhelmingly grateful to come from De Vierzon’s Land, where man is civilized.
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Tucson The sheriff lay dead on his back. From so far away, I couldn’t see anything more. Maybe flies had already gathered at the corners of his mouth. Maybe his fancy pressed pants were full of sand. Maybe he had a picture card of a woman he loved in his pocket, just like the one I used to carry in mine. At my side, the desperado holstered his revolver and squinted up at the sun. “Yep,” he said. “Second one before noon. They’s gettin’ desperate to catch us.” I thought the sheriff’s bullet had missed, but then I saw the stain under the desperado’s poncho. “Your arm’s bleeding,” I cried out. A dry wind stirred the orange sands around us. A lizard wandered past the sheriff’s corpse. “Kid,” he said with a sigh, “you don’t think I noticed?”
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Cate Pitterle What Happened on the Vista Point It was midsummer. He and I were wearing sweatshirts, so we could still complain about being hot—North Carolina was colder than it should have been, then. Mountains curled out like ivy from beneath our feet, the entire surface rolling with light that glanced off the trees like they were water. We were young. (Let’s face it, only young people go to the town’s run-down drugstore at 11pm to buy gum, just to fight over whether to get spearmint or peppermint, but—) We watched the hills like we’d never seen land rise up before. “When are you going back?” I shifted away from the guardrail. On the mountain, there wasn’t much to keep you from falling. I could sense the lie flowering between his lips. “Not soon,” he said. “You can’t go back. Look at this.” I flipped a hand out toward the green. “It’s everything.” He cupped his palms over the wood and bowed his head. “But—” “Remember when we went to Kingston’s last weekend,” I said. “We were the only ones who didn’t dance. Your phone just kept buzzing, and you just kept checking.” “It was nothing.” I laughed—bitter, cold, and I wanted to strip the sweatshirt off. He stared as I started to unravel. Deep in his pocket, I heard his phone buzz. I stopped laughing. “Who is she?” “Who is who?” He was too quick. “The girl.” “What girl?” “Stop playing dumb at me.” I pressed myself against the guardrail. All my weight on the wooden stakes. “Who is she?” He didn’t answer. We stared out at the mountains for a while, silent. I looked out into the river valley, feeling it unfold below me, curves of land sharpening into ridges and jagged cliffs. Feeling my eyes sharpen like the cliffs. Feeling myself falling, even as my feet stayed ridged on the ground.
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Jessica Durnwald I Walk Alone in a dark alley
The shadows grow black with every step I take As the light behind me fades I walk The voices grow louder overpowering my thoughts I cover my ears and scream, telling them to stop My own shadow crosses my body Like a barrier, trying to trap me inside of my own mind I walk Hands reach out of every rotten dumpster Every hidden corner Every sewer drain Trying to grab me and pull me down to be with them I walk Every step I take Brings me even more pain I walk Nails through my heart A knife in my back A bullet through my head I walk My mind is swirling with a thick black fog It reaches out and twirls around Slowly encasing my entire body I fall Demons spit fire into my heart Burning what was left of it to a crisp I crawl My body collapses My face in the dirt Blood running down my head I lay I sense a person approaching Their footsteps walk down the path that I had just come I open my eyes and see a hand by my face I take it
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I am pulled back onto my feet I stand His eyes meet mine They are dull and faded Surrounded by his dusty face His clothes are tattered like mine And bruises cover his body He had just been through a war We stand For a fraction of a second I see a glimmer of hope Of determination Of life Back into those hazel eyes I walk He leads Moving me out of the way so I don’t bump into obstacles Stomping on the hands of demons Who try and claw me down again I walk I blink my eyes against up and coming the light So bright So warm So welcoming I run I burst through it The street light above me buzzes And the wind howls in my ears I look behind me And see a long, bleak alley The sound of footsteps catches my attention And I see a strange, yet familiar man, walking down the street I turn the opposite way Leaving the dark and lonely path behind me I walk
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Birth. Here. Here was a place where dreams ran free Where storms never came and flowers Always grew. Where warmth rose so high, It stuck with me for days, I carried them in nights Making fires that illuminated the shadows creeping In the dark. A place so holy, and quante walls holding stories I was eager to hear, and pews that stretched far enough for me to run, not even away. But just to run, My feet finally be able to touch the ground. My little brown body, planted. In dirt that let me grow, Instead of letting me die. I felt, a feeling that in my entire existence Had never come to me so open. Love, I had gotten wings of steel and sat on Clouds. Here, held a reflection that didn’t crumble when i saw it. Here, held reverence, held peace. Held acceptance, held validation. Had doughnuts for breakfast, and smiles that had the sun, Had dances, had parties. Had friends, Had times. Had games, and blue skies. Had, Me. Talked to me during the day, and gave permission for my being to prosper, and to let go. To give release, And my brown body a soul.
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To whom this may concern, I never thought i’d have to write this again. I’ve already written five, but the crazy thing is, is that each time i come to this place i have more to say than the last time. I don't even think i’ll do it this time, writing these in a way take what i can't let go. I sound like a scratched up record, playing the same song but stuck in one place, forever. It’s almost like the further i go, the more i get lost. I just want it to stop. Each time my heart beats, and my chest rises when i breathe i get a ping of anger. It grows and grows, then stops and lowers numbing my body. And i'm left stuck, in this motionless life, here. While everything moves, going on. I feel like i can't breathe, it's becoming too much. Everytime i think i've gotten somewhere i get set back, seems like even further from where i began. And i cant talk to anybody, to talk means you trust, i trust and they lie or leave and here i am again. A piece of my already broken self gone with the wind never to be returned. And people keep telling me they know how i feel, but truthfully if they knew what it was like their head would spin off their shoulders. Me even blinking is enough strength, but i dont think even i can make it through. Everything builds up inside of me like bricks, and everytime i speak out i can’t, it comes out with my breath and lets out such a sound it sounds like glass shattering. I've tried to find things that keep me at bay, yet it seems like nothing stops me from drifting. I have people who tell me im strong, i’ll make it, i’ll be something great. Or even that i’m something in this world, but all i feel like i do in this dark place, is take up room that somebody could be able to use to actually do something great. So, this is the end to my sad sad story. The record is broken and smashed, my story that stops erases and restarts just to say the same thing. This is the end of it all. If i’m going to be stuck in one place forever, i minus well leave footprints. Sincerely, Angie
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Young In the morning I wake with an ache in my body, running from head to neck to back to the arches of my dirt-covered feet. I know they’re dirty because I never washed them last night. Never changed out of my sweaty t-shirt and shorts, never wiped off my cakey foundation or crusty mascara. The mess on my body is a blanket woven with warm memories, keeping me all bundled up in the majesty of life. Memories of running through dark fields barefoot, unafraid of the bugs nipping at our skin or the occasional broken beer bottle lying abandoned on the ground, threatening to cut us if we missed a step. Memories of a youthful kind of impulsiveness that demands to be fed and nurtured under the light of the pallid moon. I pull myself out of bed, recalling the thrill of adventure, shouting and running around an uncontrollable fire, the scent of smoke tying itself to my tangled hair and making my eyes tear up. What a beautiful thing it is to be young, I think, gazing in the mirror at the dark circles under my eyes, vividly apparent after I wipe off my makeup. The lack of sleep doesn’t bother me. We’re all insomniacs anyway. As I shower, I notice the bruises lining my arms and legs from when we played like wild dogs in the empty streets, our dancing bodies revealed to the quiet neighborhood only by dim streetlights. My fingers brush against them, and I smile at the pain. The bathroom mirror, fogged with condensation, proudly displays the hickeys painted on my neck from when he and I snuck away from the group for a moment alone. Both of us high on the cool night air and the chorus of crickets as we hid behind bushes, reveling in each other’s bodies and minds and words and worlds. Reveling in the night itself. I remember how-- when we left the comfort of our hidden paradise-- our friends giggled and pointed at the marks we made on each other. How we giggled along with them, sending small snickers into loud, ugly howls, full of delight. How we spent the rest of the night like wolves on their first hunt, exploring every crevice, chasing after every sound and smell that appealed to us. How we collapsed on the grass after, panting and staring at the starless sky. One and the same, I thought, right now we are one and the same. I think once again about how fleeting life is and how one evening can last so long in the moment and my memory. Perhaps one day I will forget this feeling. When I’m old and gray and wrinkles are carved into my skin like hieroglyphics, each line holding a history deeper than the wrinkle itself. But for now, I will relish in it. And remember, for as long as I can, what a beautiful thing it is to be young.
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Nathan Hill The Walker You are walking your dog up your street. You are unsure of what breed your dog is; just some parts this, some parts that, all parts in between. Long tail just barely able to keep stubby legs from bowling over, its fur coat a jigsaw of shades and patterns that didn’t quite go together. You like that, the in-betweenness of your dog. Your contemplation of things between is brought to a close by the leash in your hands stretching taut. You glance up and catch sight of another man and another dog prowling toward you. The man is tall, too tall, but in a way in which it is hard to notice until he is right next to you. His skin is white and smooth and stretched, as is his grin. He walks stiffly, as if he is out of practice. The dog is the type of hound where it felt wrong to call it a dog at all. It was snow white, pure white, like someone had cut a hole through the landscape of your suburban street and revealed a backdrop that the world forgot to paint over. It wears a grin very similar to its owner’s. The pair draws ever closer, never wavering in their twin stares and smiles. You don’t move. You don’t dare move. The man and his dog are barely two feet from you when they freeze in tandem. Both stare directly into your eyes. You watch in horror as the pale, pale hound rises up and up and up onto its hind legs. It is nearly up to your shoulders now, but only up to the man’s midriff. Several moments pass before the man opens his mouth to speak. “Oh, to be a man and his dog once more,” he says. His voice is a hiss, like air escaping a jar that should never have been opened. “How lovely. How glorious.” He lifts his hat from his head, but the action resembles less lifting and more the unscrewing of a lid. He bows slowly, slowly, and from the space where his forehead should be instead comes a dribble of foul, black liquid. Pat. Pat. Pat. The tar-like mush smacks the pavement in front of you in fat, putrid dollops the consistency of a stew long gone bad. You must look away, but the only place you are able to look is into the pale hound’s eyes. They twinkle with a knowing mirth as more and more black muck spatters to the ground before you. Tearsー of horror or knowing or grief or something else entirelyー well up in your eyes and you are forced to blink. With that blink, your unspeakable visitors are gone. There is no black liquid pooling at your feet, no pale hound arched onto its hind legs, and no grinning man bowing before you. The logic of your mind seizes control once more and decides for you that it was your imagination, an overactive and neglected mind taking its messy revenge. You decide that it was nothing. The next day, you decide to go down the street instead of up.
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Allison Huffman You Speak Love In the knotty potatoes you boil until soft, and chop to little pieces in your crescent-nail, moon-pale hands. In the broth that settles warm in my stomach, in the way you hug me to your cookie dough chest. When you gather me up in dry bay leaves and soft oats until I rise in the oven of your arms. As you knead your raw honey words and roll me in brown sugar crystals, your fingers are whiter, smoother than the first milk. In the way you handmake me in cay, and still glaze my chipped sides with slow-melting butter. In all of it, everyday, you speak love. Midnight Talks The sky was blackberry blue when midnight talked. You blew smoke away from my face, and we listened to the crickets making music below while we wrote aloud. I would wait in the kitchen for the blue clock counting digits down to midnight. Our smoky cat weaved in spirit through the gate while clouds were silver under the belly of the moon; we shook ours with laughter at the idea of it. Now that street lights blink on, I smear bruised circles under sea glass eyes. When did the beginning of a day become silent?
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Baila Zisman Inhospitable “I just remembered how beautiful inhospitable can be.” “What are you talking about?” “It’s like the feeling you get when you fall in the forest, and you fall down on the mud and rock. You’re dirty in an indescribable way, and even when you wash yourself over and over, you can’t seem to scrape the soot and grime off of your body.” “But you’re not talking about inhospitable.” “I’m getting there. All the soot and smoke that had swollen my lungs were now just piles of ash on the floor, and suddenly, I had changed. Little stuff like that changes you. Mundanity gets us all. And you stopped noticing when there was no night light. Just think about it.” “I am, but it’s still not inhospitable. I can’t believe this is what you’re talking about right now.” “No, think about all of the times that you told me you were there, when you had left, that you woke up to see stars outside your window instead of resting on your bed, and you didn’t say anything. ” “You’re referring to loss of childhood as being inhospitable-that’s not what I describe as beautiful.” “When we were children there was no way that you weren’t in front of me, when I thought you were. I didn’t hallucinate us having more meaningful conversations, I didn’t pretend you had apologized to me, when the air was silent. But now my best memories of you are the ones that I draw, and try to tattoo over the real ones in my mind. your hands fit someone else’s now.” “You never told me when I wasn’t there, so how was I supposed to do anything about it. You can’t turn cold and silk into metal; the world doesn’t work that way. You’re using me as a metaphor for every cup of water that turned to ice in your life. This isn’t a metaphor.” “Don't try to tell me that this isn’t a metaphor, because the metaphor is you. You became inhospitable. So at least now I don't guess, and that’s beautiful. I don’t have to dive into the ocean, and coming up choking sand and dust, because I know not to swim in water unless I can see clear to the bottom.” “So that’s why you came here-to scold.” “I came because you’re crushing my time. You’re dropping chandeliers on top of me, and suddenly my years are spinning, and even when I throw marbles and glass beads on the floor to try and buy myself a few extra minutes, they're taken away from me, and I'm left with glass shards on the floor. You filled my days with all that I don’t want to do.” “I can’t believe you walked all the way over to tell me this, it’s like, twenty blocks.” “No, I didn’t, not really, I thought of this in the elevator. I actually came because you still have my binoculars.”
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Mothers The princess wanted scales. She wanted sharp teeth. She wanted fire to burn this hollow rock they called a castle to ash and then wings so she could leave it all in the dust behind her. But she had no scales, no sharp teeth, no fire, and no wings. She was powerless as the women barged in and wrestled her into a wooden tub filled with water scalding hot, then began to attack her skin with rags of coarse cloth. It wasn’t a fair fight. The men wearing red and carrying long wooden shafts mounted with gleaming axe heads prodded her into the chamber that would become her prison. She was still wearing her mother’s blood. In the water, she went down easy and hugged her knees to her chest protectively. She was unashamed of her nakedness but so ashamed of how much she wanted to cry as she felt the dirt and blood, her only armor, stripped from her body. She watched the women’s hands twist back and forth. Ringing them out. Getting rid of the filth until the only thing left of her home was gone. Worst of all was how they cooed at her as they washed her life away. “She looks just like her mother!” The queen was not her mother. The queen had killed her mother. “She’s so stiff, the poor thing.” “Of course she is! Who knows what that beast did to her.” Nothing, the princess thought and clutched her knees even tighter. She was my mother. She was numb when they grabbed her arms and lifted her out of the water, numb as they slipped a white chemise over her head, then a white undergown, then a gown of stiff cloth patterned with vines like writhing snakes with laces the women pulled tight in the front. Every time they forced her into a new piece of clothing, they named it for her. It was only when someone stuck a comb in her hair that she snapped. This was her body. “No!” She screamed as they surrounded her in cage of flesh. “Shh,” The one holding the toothy comb tried to soothe her while someone behind her gripped her shoulders, holding her still. “You’re safe now.” “No.” She whispered, as they stabbed the comb in and yanked it through as if her hair was another beast they had to kill. “No.” Her scalp stung when they were done. On the cloth covered floor, sticks, leaves and dark clumps of hair circled her bare feet like a halo. Across from her on the wall painted with beasts of every size and color was a circle of metal large enough to hold her reflection, like the pools of water on the floor of her cave. In it she was a stranger. She couldn’t stand it any more and looked away. Coward. As she felt their hands grab her hair again and twist it, she let herself absorb the chamber, her tomb. She noticed there were no openings to the outside, two lit candles dripping wax down their wooden candlesticks the only light. It didn’t matter, she was used to the dark. Darkness was comfortable. Darkness was home. “Remember little one,” Her mother’s voice rasped from far away. “A hunter knows her territory.” There was a bed too intimidating for her to sleep in. A chest at the end of the bed. A table by the bed. A wardrobe. The names of the strange wooden creations came to her as she looked around. She knew them, somehow. She remembered. But what memories were there but the cave and her mother?
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Maia Macek The Package It was a box. About a foot and a half cube. It is wooden, a light splintery wood. It has a lid that fits on to the top and is secured with industrial staples. Red lettering stamped on both the side and lid reads “HANDLE WITH CARE” in stenciled letters. There are small holes drilled sporadically on the lid of the box. The box fits in my hands, I can carry it. It’s not heavy in that sense. The box rattles. It’s weight shifts as something moves inside of it. I can feel it pacing around through the thin wooden base. Why did I take this delivery? Simple question. Simple answer. Money. And a lot of it too. I just have to get this box to its destination and I can get my money. I tread more carefully along the rocky trail through the woods I’ve been through on many deliveries in the city similar to this one. The woods are peacefully silent. But I know there is more than meets the eye; creatures lurking in the shade of tree trunks. I hurry through the mountainside, eager to get rid of my package and receive my payment. The contents of the box stopped moving around as I continued walking with a steady rhythm broken by stubbing my toe on a protruding rock in the trail. I lost my balance, hopped on one foot to regain it, and cursed. Standing on two feet again, my hands flat on the bottom of the box, I felt it moving again. I stopped in the middle of the trail, in the middle of the seemingly silent woods and looked down at the thing. It was still shifting its weight in my hands when I almost lost my balance again. A puff of black smoke issued from the breathing holes on the lid of the box. There was a hint of fire that lit up the inside of the box, or at least the pinpricks of it I could see through the holes. The box was warm now as I continued on my way, staring down past the box at my feet, avoiding another fiery outburst. I didn’t notice the creatures creeping closer in the shadows, following me. Until I looked up. That’s when I realized something was stalking me. I reached for my knife in my side pocket because I couldn't use my bow while holding the box. A whole slew of scaley, slithery things that hadn’t yet been named surrounded me in the middle of the forest. They didn’t seem to be interested in me, but rather my companion. Not good. I spun around trying and failing to face all of them at once, brandishing my knife uselessly. My left hand felt movement again through the wooden floor of the box. It was thrashing around this time. I dropped my knife to put both hands on it to steady the box. My scaly audience just stared. Then came an even larger puff of smoke than before and an even brighter flame, after which, I could smell the slight singe of burning wood. Who puts a fire breathing thing in a wooden box? I almost screamed out loud. The creature was uttering a screeching, roar. The reptilian inhabitants of the forest disappeared back into their shadows with a soft swish of grass and a hiss. I am running through the streets of the city with the box held out in two outstretched arms looking like a lunatic. I am almost there, almost to the drop off point. Panting, I knock on the door of the apartment decorated in blues, pinks and hints of green in a similar design to buildings throughout the city. A tall, muscular man with a stern bad-guy face answers the door. He nods in acknowledgement of the package which now has a silvery scaled and sharp clawed limb sticking out of one of the sides and a shimmering head barely peeking out the lid which is almost cracked in half. I rest the package in his hands, he nods in thanks and I bolt, running all the way back through the colorful yet dull city, through the secretive woods and back to my cabin treehouse, leaving the cash behind for my safety.
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Rheannon Loth Temporary Vindication She had waited for the fire department to clear out before strolling among the wreckage—the hollowed shadow of her old school. She had reveled in the heaps of heat, the fluttering tissue paper faintly decorated with biological diagrams, the piles of charred desks––her immense unforgettable Yule log. She had skipped along the makeshift footpaths of blackened bricks that outlined where her English room used to be and where the dining hall was. She had laughed mockingly at the spindly spires, so much less imposing from there on the ground. She had kicked at the thick shards of glass that used to cover the clock face of the bell tower, and had gleefully run her hands over the twisted iron of its pointless balcony––still warm. She had dared the melted, grotesquely warped wheels of her history teacher’s chair to mock her one more time. But now, she is that shadow, a whisper of a human being. She pads again through the rubble. Much of it has been cleared away, but the ground is still blanketed by innumerable charred fragments. The dust has settled, replaced by even heavier air. She gently runs her fingertips over the mounds of crumbled, blackened brick, the most horrible charcoal. She offers a single teardrop to the once-magnificent spires, now lying like sickly twigs in their ashen graves. She toes at the forlorn, grayed glass, pressed into the dirt by firemen’s boots. She lifts her eyes to look at the once-luscious trees that had surrounded the school, each now wearing a heavy veil of ash. She wishes anyone else had been the orchestrator of this funeral. Jefferson’s Bath Houses in a place that should be my hometown I roll open my car window on the passenger side To more clearly glimpse the two white bath houses. Steam swirls from the blowholes of these biblical whales And drifts in delicate clouds up the quiet hillside To fog the panes of equally modest cottages. One female bath, and one male, both warmed By the spring boiling up from red Virginia clay – The dirt that warmed our childhood toes, The dirt I long for while standing right on top of it. The years have swept away pale shavings of paint, leaving a spotted cowhide on the panels of the baths, a backdrop the color of homemade soap. The footpath is home to hopeful carrot tops, Tentatively sunning themselves among well-worn footsteps. The brown-bricked church, neighbor to the cottages, Protectively keeps watch of the pastoral scene.
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India Allar A Sonata in which Kyle Feared Losing his Brother. “Bro? Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Fear was a funny thing. There were plenty of things for Kyle to fear, but the fear he was taught overpowered the fear he felt. He refused to lose his brother, so he ignored the dangers in his own home. But sometimes when he was alone it was hard. It was normally easy not to cry, but when Kyle found himself on Daniel’s couch with all his friends sleeping on the floor, he couldn’t help it. It was as if the midnight moon was his spotlight, and he was performing a tragedy to the only one awake enough to watch. “Are you okay?” Daniel repeated from somewhere in the room. “Talk to me.” Talking was more dangerous than anything else. His older brother told him not to, and not in the interest of evil but since he was selfish. He wanted to keep his brother and Kyle felt the same way. Even when life was hell then he would still have his brother. It wasn’t a big deal. Only four more years to go. “Four years?” Daniel asked. His voice echoed in Kyle’s head like his own shout bouncing back to him. “Please,” he went on. “Just talk to me.” So in his moonlight sonata, Kyle told his tale. His fears unfurled like a quilt, and each square was another picture. It was a quilt that his brother had woven so long ago about the jeeps that would come for them, screaming, yelling, and the departure. He would be roused from bed, pulled down the stairs, and pushed into the car, never to see his brother again. Because of that, he used the quilt only for sleeping. His brother instructed him to never tell anyone about the beer bottles scattered in their home because then the quilt would be taken from them. He would never be able to cope with the loss of his only hero. “Oh,” Daniel said. And then he paused. “It’s really not like that though.” “How would you know?” Then Daniel unfurled his own quilt, except his was wasn’t fear striking. It was a tale of mothers and courts and justice. The beer bottles were long hidden under the robes of judges who wove the tapestry special for him. “I promise it’s not that bad,” he said. “I was only five then so things were different for me than they would be for you, but I still had a family. “For years I’ve been seeing you come to school covered in cigarette burns and bruises and without food. I know it feels like you can make it, but you don’t have to worry about that. Maybe you can make it, but what’s the point?” Kyle considered the options. His quilt, like a baby blanket, had always been with him and it was worn and thin. His was old and frayed, but Daniels was stitched and anewed. He couldn’t let go of his baby blanket, but the large one was more to his size. “I won’t be separated from my brother?” He checked. “I promise you won’t be.” And so, without the call from his brother, his stage manager, Kyle closed the show.
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MaryGrace Osborn Sparkling Hope As the night closed in around me, I turned to my comforter. My blanket was soft and comforting, my place of solace after my living nightmare ends before my nightly ones awake. I lay on my bed, the pile of dusty old pillows and a single mat that I can call my own. As I drift off to sleep, I see his shadow crashing around in anger. Rarely have I ever had a good nightmare. I know that sounds contradictory, but it’s the truth. Like the feeling of a roller coaster, you hate the drop and are terrified but as soon as it ends you just want to go back on it again. Those are the types of dreams I hope to receive in the nighttime. These the best nightmares there are. I hope for that before I drift into a sea of blackness. A sea of different colors surround me. Imperial purple, slate, and boysenberry twist and tangle within each other. Oxford blue, prussian, and juniper braid around each other. The colors mix and meld to create a new world. A new world born in front of my eyes. I blink open my eyes. I’m awake, not in the real world. I'm in a new galaxy, somewhere far from Andromeda or the Milky Way. I glance up to the sky hoping to still see stars above in this new world. There’s a brief glimpse of Gaea chasing Orion across the sky. Suddenly the images shifted to Cygnus, Aquarius, and Delphinus. These images awaken to flit and flutter across the sky, dancing within each other. I know I can’t stay here forever, no matter how much I wish to, need to. I take in every image of wonder and amazement and etch it into my mind. The sky seemed to zoom in closer and closer to a certain blue dot in the sky. The dot wasn’t Earth; the dot was a small galaxy growing larger and larger. It keeps expanding and flourishing from a small powder blue dot into a gorgeous splatter of maya blue, sapphire, and cerulean. The middle is chipped away from an unseen hand, slowly, like a piece of wood being carved from the inside out. An x slowly starts to form. The crosspiece is smaller than the standing pience that reaches towards the edge of the galaxy. The darkness of the ‘x’ starkly contrasted with the beauty outside of it. The x forms a symbol of an old Roman torutre device. But to me, a sign of hope and peace stands out. Somewhere on the edge of the galaxy, there is a sign of hope, faith, …optimism. That even so far away from home, in the middle of my torture, someone cares and loves me. I know one day I will have to wake up. One day I will have to leave this beauty. For now, I relish in the delight knowing that happiness exists in all situations. I slowly can feel the light from the window creeping in towards my pile of things I call my own. I can hear him yelling about how breakfast hasn’t started yet. But I still hold on to the hope of the night. Knowing that even when the dark is holding on to me, that the light and hope is holding on stronger.
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Zac Payne Reunited There had been no warning. One moment, a placid field, the next, Orcs were torching homes and families alike. Eris, Magnus’ elder sister, snapped her fingers, setting the hovel ablaze, then quickly sprinted into the field Magnus was playing in, lifted the seven-year old Magnus into her arms, and dashed farther afield, to their blazing home. Her mouth barely moving, and her eyes locked on Magnus’, Eris instructed, “Magnus, run. You mustn’t care what happens to me, just run, as fast as you can, until you get to the next village.” While giving these instructions, Eris’ voice was cold, callous, unfeeling. However, her voice lightened into its natural, girlish air as she hummed, “Don’t worry. I love you, little Maggie.” Eris kissed Magnus forehead, and pressed a pendant into Magnus’ palm. “Go on, Magnus.” Eris roughly pushed him, and Magnus began to run. He only looked back once, and saw two Orcs, saw her fall to the ground, saw the blood spray. The little boy continued to sprint until his legs gave out, and his body skidded across the hard, gravelly soil. Magnus lay there, fat tears streaming down his face, until a wandering cleric found him, and began his training as a Paladin. Magnus kept the thin, bronze chain clutched in his palm for days afterward. ****** One day, Magnus found a hawk, splayed on the forest floor. The bird’s left wing was broken, red blood matting its burnt-iron feathers, but it still had the zeal to snap its beak at Magnus when he came close. Gently, Magnus held his hand against the hawk’s wing, and the divine magic of the Dragon-Gods mended the hawk’s wounds. The sun broke over the horizon. The Orcs had been only two days’ march away, but they were moving quickly. “It’s as if they’re fleein’ from somethin’,” a traveler had said. Magnus took pride in the knowledge that he caused them fear. Magnus’ quest for vengeance had taken him almost a league away, as he tracked the Orcs into adjacent kingdoms. Once the spell finished its work, Magnus lifted the bird, and it took off into the cloudless sky. ****** Magnus’ chest-plate had been ripped off. Sweat matted his hair, stung his eyes, and his gauntlets were slick with blood. As the broad-shouldered, battered Orc chieftain prepared to bring his axe down on Magnus’ head, the hawk returned, scratching at the chieftain’s eyes with its powerful talons. Revitalized by his advantage, Magnus tripped the Orc onto the ground, and
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plunged his sword into the Orc’s heart. Magnus turned away from the dead Orc, the ruins of Magnus’ village marking the Orc’s grave. Within a few hours, Magnus made his way to a nearby village, and a feast was thrown to celebrate the defeat of the Orc band. Roast pig, cakes, wine; anything the villagers could scrounge together. Magnus ate little, and barely spoke. ‘Why do I feel so little relief by the deaths of those Orcs?’ Magnus thought to himself. Perhaps he was simply still buzzing from the adrenaline of the battle. However, the next day, that damned feeling remained; a little ant, gnawing at his mind; small, but unrelenting.
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i imagine her being a redhead. i say “imagine” but i think i was told-i can’t remember-if i look at the right angle i can see my face reflected back at me in the glass of the picture frame, like i am some living ghost of her. she does not look like my mother, but when i imagine her voice she sounds like her. the closest i will get to mary ellen may be through musty, broken cash registers and the few times my mother mentions her, describing the scent of her makeup or the types of food she made. and the little picture on our bookshelf, the only one i’ve ever seen of her, with its black and dusty gray. i wonder, would she like me would i like her does it matter when a mother loses her mother what does her daughter become
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we will bleed and bleed with this great outpouring of pain our bodies will drain the agony through the cuts on our hands and we will wake to a new dawn bloodless and full of life we hang ephemeral from light fixtures and you would not recognize us. we purge our bodies of everything that is not ourselves everything that is not so ourselves that it is our identity. we will dissect ourselves and scoop out all the seedy insides scrape the underside of our flesh until we’re clean and barren and fill ourselves up again with yellow paint and music philosophy will be our heartbeat symphonies will be our lungs we have no need of this slick red substance of life we are life itself and we will bleed and bleed until the world will have no choice but to notice. their history books are written in our blood but ours will be written in song
my rib cage is a bird cage my shuddering lungs take refuge inside and my heart pumps out honey and blackened thread (my name is an apt label for my contents) my veins burn red with ancestral anger my skin ignites. somewhere in the bird cage is a sunrise made of daffodils (do my ribs keep her safe or does she long for freedom?)
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Malina Infante Raging
Tree branches split the sunset, Tattering the pink sky with their wiry arms. Night’s arrival approaches slowly, Dimming the woods that housed me all day. The sun has sunk yet an Unnatural heat taps on my shoulder. The day’s serene silence Is broken by a series of snaps. I shift slightly and fall back Horrorstruck, As a fiery wrath spreads Like a virus and consumes My once sweet sanctuary. Run away, run away, Through the trees, in to the night Rush back home and slam the door And hope to see the morning light.
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Rita Costa Somewhere Four-sided mountains Self-righteously crowd the sky, Their stare foreign and idyllic. Heat rises like static, Heart trembles with fever: I am somewhere. Twinkling bulbs, flashing lights, Endless bustle—buzz. Cement kingdom of opportunity: Here is somewhere. I, anxious of threats, Still swim with the crowds; Energy floods my veins. The wonders have been here And now so have I. Storms of music and arts Give me bubbles. Senses are tingling and alive. The twinkle of lights In the midnight air Pulls my heart so I will follow. Too soon time is up. The wheels roll away, Retreating from the labyrinth Of stone, and glass, And sound, and neon, And the hum of new things, And progress. Lumbering structures melt away, Empty spaces grow as silence. Going back, back to
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The place unrecognized Except to those who inhabit it; To the place unseen, And unheard of: Except to isolation. I weep. For now I am back to nowhere, As if somewhere was a dream.
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So It Begins It was August and the air in the city was light the same way it was at grandparent’s houses before dinner. It was the time in the year when no one had anything pressing to do, except for the people who always had something pressing to do, but right then everyone else was okay about not having anything pressing to do. A guy in a starchy and pilled dress shirt sat on a concrete stoop and regarded a small moving van to his right. A woman tugged at a bedside table in the back of it. It did not want to move. She got angry at it, punished the cigarette in her mouth for it. It let go. She stood with it and began to move toward the stoop. The man was now alarmed. This indicated interaction. He stood up out of the way. She nodded at him, went up the stairs. She was back again, minutes later, dead set on the van. The man stood again. He was not exactly prone to liking people, but right now he didn’t really have a choice. She was going to be his neighbor, he couldn’t just ignore her struggling with bedside tables. That would make things awkward, and awkward was not something that he liked to deal with. He walked like a child that had been forced by its mother to help, to the van. “Need a hand?” he said. He hated that phrase. “Okay” she said, cigarette still between teeth and eyeliner running. He nodded. They lifted a chair, one on each side, and carried it up old wooden stairs to her apartment. It was the same as his: only the basics, a couch that opened onto a kitchen that opened onto a bed that opened on the left to a bathroom, old wood floors and laminate cabinets, a tenement a century ago. There was a beta fish in a wine cup on the counter. He stared at it. It continued swimming about. “It’s from my niece.” she said “She little?” he asked “7” He nodded again. It was time to leave.
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“I’m going to Florado’s later” she said. “Thanks.” “Yeah” he said back, wondering why she felt the need to announce this, and remembering that he hated bars on August afternoons. He went back to his place and sat on his couch and stared at the wall for a while, as was his habit. Time stretched into a half an hour. He saw the specs in the wall, the wonderful variation of a supposedly white wall. His mind left the white wall, and lingered on the afternoon. He was angry at his mind. It was supposed to be focusing. He tried reprimanding it, squishing it back to the subject of the wall. It would not go. He gave up, and let it picture the beta fish all alone in the wine glass, the boring apartment. “Oh.” he said, to no one, realizing what he was supposed to do (and feeling dumb). He rose and went to his red front door. He walked into Florado’s and saw the table, where a menagerie of strange people sat flattening their hands around their stacks of cards. A green glass light hung over them. “How do you play?” he asked “Play your hands, pretty much.” said someone across the table. The woman, to the right side of the table, said quietly to herself; “so it begins”, and lit another cigarette.
“Remain a person and don’t become a product.” – Hanif Abduraqib “Where does your language come from? It comes from others.” – David Baker
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Katherine Norquist ENDINGS 1 AND 2 Introduction Give her your hand. No, your other hand. The roots are always the half you do not see. Character Development Gaia does not shave her legs. She does not shave her armpits or her sweaty upper lip or cut her eyebrow in half or shave her pussy or her arms or the small of her back. In forests, she believes. In the steam of boiling ceramic twisting vines from baby hairs. She believes in the sweat between her breasts and the dark blood that soaks her every month. She is the dark blood and the smooth sand of the beach tree. She is mountain’s trailing finger -- ripple foothill in the soil. Mother. Magician. Alternate Universe in Which She Won (1) The planet was a screen door Like all those permeable nights When door became air. Carbon Became air is what I’m getting at cellular respiration, glucose. Our species forgot Πr² chose Pythagorus Chose monocrop symmetry Slammed screen door cookie cutter Watched earth squeeze out Watched it bake at 350 Yes humans made a chessboard Of earth Yes humans Yes humans Yes humans Yes humans chose the wrong game Yes earth She saw 5 moves ahead. Lost Though, On Losing (2) Cloudscape, wrap your arms in Gauze dip legs
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In the atmosphere’s suds (Those that remain) If you are lucky, blow a bubble Watch its kin drift by Don’t pop them. You haven’t seen a human In two millennia. I sit beside you on a rock by Lake Michigan and we let The water lick our toes Sudsy with soap, I imagine Prehistoric times Mama, unwrap your shawl and Set it on a hawthorne chair Scrub your daughter’s back with Lavender do not dry her eyes Do not pretend she didn’t Fail you. Endnotes Your palm is branching roots. It is always the half you try too hard to understand.
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Tell Me Soon When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me the story of how she tricked a faerie. She didn’t intend to meet one, obviously. No one in their right mind would attract the attention of the Folk. But when she was a girl, she had taken to singing while she walked through the woods to the market. One day, as she idly wandered the path, basket swinging in her hand, she heard a faint voice raised in song, deep in the trees. She had been told by the elders to stay out of the woods, for it was where the Folk dwelled. But with the sun shining warmly, casting golden beams through the branches, and birds chirping all around her, the Folk did not seem like such a threat. My grandmother ventured off the path, curious. She had never seen one of the Folk. She followed the music, the trees growing taller and broader as she went, until she reached a perfectly round clearing with a circle of stones in the center. On the edge of one perched a faerie, clothed in dewy spiderwebs that sparkled in the light. Her hair was stark white and her pupils were slitted, like a cat’s. She looked no older than seventeen—but those strange eyes looked as if they had seen a millennia.The faerie’s song slowly trailed off and she smiled. “Are you the girl with the voice of honey?” “Perhaps,” my grandmother said, a little unsure. She knew the Folk never said quite what they meant—and the last thing she wanted was to be cursed to have honey drip from her mouth every time she spoke. “Oh, but your voice is so sweet,” the faerie praised, a glint in her eye. “You are most kind,” my grandmother responded, bowing her head respectfully. Never thank the Folk, for it will put you in their debt. And always treat them with the utmost courtesy. “Would you like some honey, to make it even sweeter?” Never eat the Folk’s food. “Ah, but I just ate,” my grandmother lied; faeries cannot. Thus, my grandmother had a small advantage, though the faerie surely had centuries of experience in dealing half- truths.
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The faintest pout twisted the faerie’s lips. My grandmother was not an easy target. “I invite you into my home,” the faerie said, gesturing around the circle of stones. “So that you may rest, and later partake in the humble offerings of my table.” Never accept a faerie’s invitation to its lair. You will never leave. “I appreciate your gracious offer, but I must return home to my parents. They will worry, you see.” Flatter a faerie, when you can… The faerie bared her teeth at my grandmother, revealing sharpened canines. “Choose your next words carefully, mortal,” she hissed. And when you can’t... “I offer you a bargain,” my grandmother spoke. Her heart pounded. “For my safe and immediate return home. Nothing more, nothing less.” “And what would you give in return?” the faerie mused. “Twenty years of your life? The sound of your lover’s laugh? Or that what is most precious to you?” She focused her gaze on my grandmother, like a fox hunting. “That ring. Tell me, mortal, is it precious to you?” My grandmother hesitated for too long to convincingly lie. “Yes.” “Give it to me and our bargain will be complete,” the faerie said, smiling cruelly. My grandmother slid the ring from her finger—her own grandmother’s wedding band. The faerie closed her fist around the ring and narrowed her peculiar eyes. “Run away, mortal. What is done is done, but I will not be so kind if we meet again.” My grandmother turned and hurried home. The loss of the ring pierced her heart, though it was a small price to pay for her life. The trees alongside the road had seemed so welcoming before, only now she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. But no fey creature disturbed her, as the faerie promised.
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Drained My Mom lied I’m not the special, Unique girl she claimed me to be. How can I believe that if We were all the same to him. He made each of us feel special Whispering empty promises As his hand slips under our shirts. We were all the same to him Another body. Another conquest. We all heard the names he called girls – WHORE, easy, gross… We all knew there were others Yet convinced ourselves we were the exception. Blaming each other Forgetting others are not the problem They are you. You are them. They feel stupid because they fell for him Embarrassed they caught feelings for a guy Who considers them one of many. But I’m just scared Scared that I’m not angry My Mom taught me to embrace anger But I can’t I’m just empty. Void of emotion – Drained.
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Tiffany Together we are invincible. We can do anything, Solve anything. Two damaged souls against the world. No one can hurt me – Except you. We tear each other down, Trying to build ourselves up. We used to share everything, The ups, the downs and everything in between. Because your life was mine, And my life was yours Now we only share the pain To not be alone In misery. Desperate to relieve the unrelenting aches. Sometimes, I try to pull Distance myself Put me first But like a moth to the flame I’m sucked right back Into the competition, the fear, the isolation – The trifecta of Tiffany No one else compares It’s too late Too much time has passed No one else could ever understand me the way you do. You scare me How much I care about you petrifies me Because I’d rather be miserable with you Than happy with anyone else I believe you When you tell me “I love you” But what I finally realize is You love tearing me down
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Private vs Public Delusion: Geoffrey opened his eyes. He felt the warm embrace of his lavish feather bed imploring him to stay, to sleep just a little bit longer but he had important things to do. He arose slowly; consciousness begrudgingly washing over him as he prepared to face the day. Geoffrey shambled across the bedroom of his penthouse apartment. His head was pounding, as if a rather large man with a club was attempting to bludgeon his way out of his unfortunate skull. Geoffrey assumed that these were the symptoms of a hangover, as he washed his clean shaven and handsome face in the ornate sink of his bathroom he attempted to remember just how he had gotten such a monumental hangover but found he couldn't. In Fact he had trouble remembering a great deal of things these days, the only thing which remained clear in his mind was his name. His beautiful name; a beautiful name for a beautiful man, a wonderful name …. What was it now … Jeremy, James. As his last memories faded bewilderment filled the poor man's mind. His eyes raced around his apartment as it began to crumble around him. Geoffrey was trapped inside of his own beating, pulsing, searing head. Reality: James peered out of the window of his comfortable, businessman's car as he commuted back to his apartment after a long day of work. His eyes fell on the park; which was desolate at this time of night save for a single man. James observed the man curiously as he came to a halt at a red light. He watched the man rise from a bed of rotting leaves, stride towards the bird bath and proceed to wash his diseased face and his wiry unkempt beard. The man brushed his loose blackened teeth with a stick that had been lying on the floor. James chuckled, it was almost as if this man was preparing to go out for the night. Primping and cleaning himself with random debris from the park in a meticulous manner: As if the man were actor preparing himself for the red carpet. The light turned green James drove on dismissing the man as insane but Geoffrey's shattered mind was left behind. As Geoffrey's delusion began to fade, he saw his lavish bed reduced to fauna, his ornate bedside table to rocks and his priceless mirror to a pool of rippling water. A pool to which he directed his gaze, a small grubby man stared back. He screamed, but no one heard or cared. He was left in the park with nothing save for his painful head and his beautiful dream.
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Observatory Everyone waits to see the faint stars Through a slit carved into the gridded dome that Squints above the light littered horizon and into the sky, Allowing the stars’ feeble bodies to Be reflected on the glassy surface of the cornea.
Golden stage lights smear the outside of white stone walls That sit on a dark washed mountain. As all stare up, the solidity of the walls Dissipates into the city lights, Which glow with the familiar sounds of the rush of cars and cacophony of people, over time swirling into a pleasant susurrus. They glitter, melting the lingering black ice Into a faint orange nebula. At the moon’s crowning culmination, Its fingertips gently brush the dark water of the horizon, Disrupting the standing air with crisp breezes. The water awakens and yawns, rippling its body of stars And the city stares into its murky reflection.
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Excerpt from Wishing for Will I pull into the school parking lot and head to my locker on the fourth flour. Westbrook is already abuzz with students rushing to collect all of their textbooks before the bell rings. Kids on skateboards weave their way through the hallway towards the courtyard, narrowly missing passerbyers. As I climb up the stairs, a boy I don’t recognize collides into me and mumbles an “I’m sorry,” before continuing down the stairs. When I finally get to my locker, I see Brooklyn and Violet wading through the throng of students. An uneasiness builds in my stomach, but I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I guess it’s strange to see them after so much time apart. When they finally reach me, they embrace me with a warm group hug. “Skylar! How was your summer?” Violet slings her arm around my shoulder and smiles. “Uneventful. Just lots of delicious gelato. Venice and Rome were beautiful, but a little boring. All we did was look at museums.” I’m lying, of course. I love being in such romantic cities, but I didn’t do anything they would think is fun. “You’re right, that sounds awful. My summer was crazy,” Brooklyn brags, idly pulling her hand through her sun-streaked hair. I’m really hoping she doesn’t give any details. Brooklyn is notorious for climbing out of her window in the middle of the night and scaling her roof just to escape her parents’ vigilant watch over her. She doesn't have any regard for her responsibilities and obligations. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do her homework. “Feel free not to tell us. I already have enough stories to question your judgement,” I add. I give Violet a knowing look, and she winks at me in response. Brooklyn rolls her eyes and asks, “What’s wrong with a little fun? I mean, it’s not going to kill you, Skylar. This year is a chance for you to branch out a bit. Maybe talk to someone besides us?” “Yeah. Maybe you could join debate with me?” Violet offers. I start to twist my hair around my fingers, watching as the strands coil and uncoil. “Nope. No thanks.” Brooklyn flicks one of the gold bells on her charm bracelet, casting hollow pings into the now quiet hallway. “Fine, suit yourself.” Violet’s eyes dart nervously around the hallway, and then at her watch. “It’s 8:28. We should get to class.” I nod in agreement, but Brooklyn tosses a piece of hair over her shoulder as she complains, “It only takes a sec to get to class, and we’re talking about important things.” “I’ll see you at lunch,” I respond. “Me too,” Violet adds. Brooklyn only shrugs, and we all hurry in different directions to get to our first class of junior year.
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