Jonathan R. Reynolds Young Writers Workshop
June 21 - 28, 2020
Table of Contents Giulianna Bruce………………………………………………..………………….………………………..………………1 Joselin Aguilar Gramajo………………..……………….…………………………….………………….……………..3 Sofia Miller……..……………..……………..……………….………………………………………………………..…….5 Grace Butler………..……………..……………..……………….…………………………………………..……….…….7 Lu Godfrey…………………..……………..……………..…..……………………………………….…………..……….9 Emmanuel Sampson…………………..……………..……………..…..………………………………..…………….10 Eliza Gibbs..……………..………………………..…………………………………………………………………..…….12 Keerthi Lakshmanan.………..………………………..………………………………………………………………...13 Lili Newberry………………………..………………………..…………………………….………………………..…….15 Tanu Ponneri…………………..……………..…………………………………..…………….……………...……….17 Mira Riley..………………………………………………..……………...……………………………………..………….18 Peyton Bender…………………………………………………...…..……………………..…………………...……….20 Kimberly Tyson…………………………………………………..…..……………………..…………..……………….22 Hannah Dubb …………………………………………………..….…….……………………..…………………….….24 Kyler Burke……………………………………………………..………..…………………..……………………...…….26 Tyler Johnson……………………………………………..…..…………………………..………….……………..…...28 Andi Pavlik……………………………………………………..………..………..……………………………………….29 Madeline Gardner…………………………………………..………..………..……………………………..…..…….30 Sophia Kunkel……………………………………….…..………..………..…………………………………...……….32 Gwen Pierce…………………………………………………………………..………..………..………………..……….34 Joseph Lang……………………………………….……………….………………..……..………..………….………….36 Teah Hagan……………………………………………..………..………………………………………….…….……….38 Constance Craig…………………………………………………………………………..………...……………....….40 Pastel Schway……………………………………………………………………………………...………...……….42
Janae-Rose Fageyinbo.………………..………………………………………………………….…….…...…..….44 Ava Wisnom...……….....…………………………………………………………………………...…………….....46 Emely Menjivar……….………………………..……………………………...…………………………...……...…48 Mason Finamore………………………………………………………………………….………...……...….……..50 Natalie Wienke…………………………………..………………………………………..………...….….…...…….51 Will Anderson……………..………………………………………………………………...………...…….…….….53 Leah Hart………………………………………………………………..………….…………….….………..………....55 Ava G.…………………………………………………………………………………………….………...……………...57 Kendall Thomas…………………………………………………………...…………….………………………….....58 Oliver Jackson…………………………………………………………………………….………………...………......60 Kevin Kong………………………………………………………………………..……….……………………...….…..62 Ashley DeStefanis………………..…………………………………………………………………...………….….…63 Jean-Luc Euzen………………………..……………………………………………………………….………………....64 Chaya Tong…….…………..……………………………………………………………….…………….……….….…..66 Maeve Vasko……………………….………………………………....……………………….……….……..……..67 Olivia Poole-Cloud……………..………………………………………………………………....…….……………..68 Cole Mirman………………………………..………………………………………………………………...………..70 Sophia Ramirez………………………………………….…………………………..…………………..………..….….72 Gabi D’Avanzo..……………………………………………………...…………………...……..…………………..….74 Grant Haigney…………………………………………………………………………..…………...………………..….76 Audrey Matzke……………………………………………………………………….......…………………..………….78 Max Giorgio…………………………………………………………..………….………..…………………..………….80 Emmy Ayad…………………………………………………………………………..……………………..…..……...…82 Deepa R ao…………………………………………………………………….……....……….…………...…..……...…84 Maggie Schneider...……..…………………………………………………….………………………..…………...…86 Ciara Tran………………………………………………………..…....………...………..…………………………..….88
Michael Shuck………………………………………………………………..…..….……………..………………….90 Madalynn Stout………………………………………..…………..…………..…...………………..……………….92 Van Nguyen (Vivian)…………………………………..…..………….…………..………..………………...…….93 Sophie Hill…………………………………..…………..…………..…………...…..………………..………………..95 Colin Hamilton…………………………………………..………..…………..………………..………………….….97 Morgan Daise……………………………..…………..…………..…………..…..………..………..…….…...……..99 Neha Magesh………………………..………………..……..……..…………..…………..………….…………….100 Scarlett Mosher………………………………..…………………………………………..…….……..…….……..101 Brantley Golczynski…………………………………………………………..………….………..….……...…...102 Makiyah Harris……………………………………..……………………………………...…...……...…………...104 Nora Masters……………………………………..……………..…………..……………..……………....…………105 Isaac Sylvester……………………………………..………………..…………………..………………...………….107 Sandhya Ganesan………………………………………………..…………..……………………………..………109 Gannon Reilly……………………………………………………………………………………………….………...111 Asose Kelley………………………….………………………...………………………………………………….…..113 Zoe R egner……………...…………………..…………..………..………………………………...….……...……..115 Kaitlyn Phillips………………..…………………..……………………………………………...….……...……...117 Mirabel Banks……………………………………………………..………..……………………….….……….......119 Sam Buehrle …………………………………………………………………………………………….……………..121 Sophie Fulton….…………………………………………………………………………………………..……...…..122 Miranda (MJ) Kubilus……………..………………………………………………………………...…..……...…124 Sophia Lynch………………………………………………………………..…………………..……………………..126 Olivia Valdez……………..…………………………………………………….…………………...……..…...…….127 Joshua Uterstaedt……………..…………………………………..…………………………...…………...……….129 Elena Townsend-Lerdo……..…………………….………………..………………..……..……..………….…..130
Catherine Torkelson.…………………..…………………....………..……….…..………….……….………....131 Liz Newsom ..………………..…………..…………..…………..……………………………….....…….………….132 Lindsay Duet………………………………………………………………...…..………………..……..…………….133 Naarah Amorino………………………………..………….…………...……………………………….………...…134 Kitt Cawley……………………………………...…………………...…..…………..……………………………...…136 Eloise Davis….…………………………………………………………………………………..………….……...…..137 Francis (Blaine) Jones……………..………………………………………………………...………...…………....139 Raymond Headen……………………....………………………………………………………………..………..…141 Renee Gould………………..……………..……………..……………..…………….…….....……….…………….143
The Snowglobe My sister has gotten me three snowglobes from three cities: Boston, New York, D.C. During the devilish hours between midnight and dawn when the ceiling light in my kitchen becomes a terrible shade of purple, I think of her gifts to me. When I stand inside the D.C. snowglobe, the cherry blossoms engulf me. In their velvet, they invite me to sleep in their petals until the sun rises over the Jefferson Memorial. The storm clouds, that for three days have hung over my house, hinting at a thunderstorm, finally float down in the form of synthetic snow and tacky glitter; tiny stars falling brighter than Icarus. I become the flowers, the glitter, the sky and they become me. But just as fast, the price sticker on the lilac pedestal latches onto me, pulling me out. Whatâ€™s left are my eyes, floating in the snowglobe beneath the trees. The Thunderstorm That Lasted 10 Minutes
In May, if the sky isn’t completely cleara blank slate of wide blue freckled with white clouds, then it is a mass of tangled gray that swirls into itself and rolls about. The gods let out a ferocious sigh that propels the leaves from my neighbor’s oak tree across the street. An orchestra of pangs! and taps! crunches! and crackles! crash against my bedroom window. I am blinded by orange and green. The wind is the color of stale bathwater gone frigid after an attempt at forced relaxation, or the color of the bottom of a Sunday morning cereal bowl, or the color of Kleenex kisses drying tears. When the rain finally arrives at the corner of 4th Avenue, it knocks on the door until it lets itself in and waltzes down the street. It’s a whirlwind of white flowers as the blue jays rush home for dinner. The mango trees sway and the crape myrtle shakes its head as the downpours fall for only ten minutes. It’s as if the clouds get bored, their attention spans shortenednever able to commit to one perfect storm.
Joselin Aguilar Gramajo
Dear America: America, The land of the free. Or so we have been told that, A country whose back bonce is slaver and killing Native Americans. Yet you don't even pay our reparations to them. You yell and preach about being a melting pot, Yet black people are killed every single day for no reason. You shove children into detainment camps and then sex traffic them for money. How is it that you want to make America great again when it never was. You were built on slave owners who believed they had entitlement because of their skin, You were built on old rich white men who were never told no. You segregate people based on their skin color, Put your citizens in internment camps because they’re Japanese, Mass murder native Americans when this was their land, Separate families and lose thousands of immigrant children. Because white is right, Right? It’s ingrained in your Constitution and your beauty standards. And on top of all that you tear gas us and shoot us with rubber bullets. Because people want equality. Well wasn’t that what you were doing years ago, Fighting for what you believe in? Oh... I get it. It’s only okay when white people are doing it.
So how is that your values are life liberty and justice for all, When that’s not the truth. You yell go back to your country when I’m on the land my ancestors built, So instead for a change why don't you go back to Europe. I am from: I am from vestidos tradiconales, From bodegas and crammed apartments. I am from a place that has too many lost stories, And dreams that are never going to be heard of. I am from arboles de mango, Whose hearts are full of dreams. I am from munecas y banderas, I am from the forgotten about and taken advantage from. From those who wake up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning, And come to America fighting for their dreams, From hard workers and fighters. I am from la virgen de guadalupe, From tamales y pupusas. From people whose cultures were ripped away from them. From people who suffered to be here, From fiestas that last till 3:00 o’clock in the morning, I am from moments of loved ones being together, And holding on to their dreams.
mother gothel’s love¹ song² for daughters³ ¹and the world is different now. the world belongs to the prowlers. thieves, murderers, cheats. hidden knives under blue skies, and the guise of lanterns to sugarcoat. you will learn what love is. we are already there. bricks so solid reaching only up, and the promise of a full head of hair, gold so solid stretching only down; hours trickled by from combing, hours of cramping fingers, for you. ²did i not teach you our song? did you not hum it in your dreaming hours? line your paintings with its verses? your rhythm is a pulse and your pulse belongs where you are still within this tower the one i built for you with song so sweet the birds can’t help but visit. like you, they are precious. like you, they are fragile. ³ *daughter. 5
forget the plural. forget your whimsy. you are the only flower i’d pick in the fields. you are the only child with petals soft, and thorns too meek to sprout. flower, gleam and glow gold, like your lanterns, if that will help you. you forget to look at me when i speak to you. you forget it was me who coaxed your one beauty into its bloom.
Framed Couple’s Photograph in a Daughter’s Home Across the Sea We don’t get out much. We try to mingle with the other photos, but they speak a harsher tongue; hard A’s and no Ä, which we have been trying so hard to form, only to have nothing here, in this desk in this hallway—nothing to round out, to soften. There’s a girl in the photo across from us, early twenty-something and with permed, dirty blonde hair, who claims to be our daughter.
She says so in our newer language. The soft one, the strange. We believe her. We want to believe that we begin a life together, after all. And there is another girl in another photo—older, hair straight but still dirty blonde, hand resting on a man’s shoulder. In front of them, are children. Little boy, and little girl. The woman here says we have grandchildren. We believe her, too, even though we are still young, like the girl with the perm. We are thin, we are in black and white. Our faces are soft. My husband is smiling. He rests his hand on my shoulder.
loneliness as vast as oceans i wave at you from across a street you do not wave back and somehow it feels like there are oceans and oceans between us. i bring you plums and other sweet things, your favorite, always. you accept with a clenched jaw and eyes full of malice i do not understand and somehow it feels like there are oceans and oceans between us. you say you love me, that youâ€™re proud, but your anger sparks inside you, and when you spit fire, there is little else i can do but cry. my tears have never extinguished your flame anyway. and it feels like there are oceans and oceans between us.
i gift you words i have written in the hopes that they might reach you, in the hopes that you might understand that i love you. but actions speak louder than words and when you throw away the gift i gave you in favor of the bitter tang of hate on your tongue, it makes me wonder what i could possibly give you that might make you see-and i know there are oceans and oceans between us. i can not keep chasing you on this merry-go-round. every time i think i am close to you, you slip away, forever alone. did you mean for it to be this way? to drive me away, until you could stand alone, finally justified in your sparks of rage? i know there are oceans and oceans
between us. i only wish you would stop putting them there.
mantra scrambled soup like scrambled eggs like scrambled brains four forks mixing and mixing with a glass of oj to wash down all of the confusion the powerlessness the lost scrambled soup like scrambled eggs like scrambled brains doomed to have the same meal over and over again no matter how many times you say no no matter how many times you walk away you cannot escape scrambled soup like scrambled eggs like scrambled brains
Ode to Newport Beach i never loved you your salt was always too much for me your sand too sticky your sky too grey your water too frigid and stealing from mine so i left feeling dry as paper but even if you burned my back I still miss you you were the last place I saw those who loved you and at the same time me i was walking for years and then they let me sit at their table i let my feet rest on their fluffy conversations and they let me eat their chocolate and pray with them and refuse to date them i could float with them i didn’t have to surf or try to drown with them i could sit on the ice on that day we took pictures in caves i wore a shirt over my bathing suit and they ran and stuffed their faces in bikinis and then i had to go. three years were over. i know if i went back now i wouldn’t find them all on the shore and maybe it was on another beach but mom said we often went to Newport and that’s all i remember.
Blackout “A meteor will hit the Earth. Someone’s dog will die, and people may get divorced,” Margot said. “How is that supposed to cheer me up?”, I chuckled. “My point is that I see all types of possibilities for the future everyday and I still choose to be happy. You shouldn’t let a couple big bills get you down, Johnny” Margot, my dearest love, is now officially my wife. We had just bought a cabin to celebrate a long happy marriage and a short, but sweet, honeymoon. “You always see the positive side of life,” I said as I popped open my third wine bottle of the day. “I’m positive that you make me the happiest thing in the world,” she simpered then smoothly leaned in for a kiss. Her kiss sent me forward in time. Before I knew it, we were cuddled up in bed with raging storm clouds masking the beautiful night sky through the windowpane.
“Where did you go? I’m so sorry,” she mumbled while half-sleep. “I’m feeling a little thirsty,” I explained then groggily trudged down the stairs; each step felt like a surfboard on an intoxicated wave. As I grabbed a fresh wine bottle from the fridge, I noticed Margot’s phone flashing on the counter. “You know, I love you more” a text read. “From Johnny” “I never knew she had my nickname saved on her phone” I chuckled. Curiosity made me read some more. There were poems of love that I never wrote. Indecent pictures that I never took, and confessions of love that I never said. Ferocity left a broken wine bottle on the kitchen floor, and a chivalrous instinct to fight for my love woke me up to a car diving through a trail in the woods. I drove out to find this womanizer somewhere in the woods. Then, I blinked and opened my eyes to my car scorching next to a tree. The long buzz in my ears was silenced by the sound of a dog howling in pain. Barely able to walk straight, I managed to follow the sound, and I found a crude image of a dog brutally hit on the side of the road. Like any man I wept at the sight, but as my tear-filled eyes turned to the sky, it began to clear up. The rain stopped, and it almost looked as though a meteor came crashing down.
Dear comedian and partier, Why does everything seem like a competition? Why can’t we just be friends and not on and off enemies? I love you and I envy you. I laugh with you and cry about you. I joke with you but I can’t help feeling this emptiness. Did you change to become this or have you always been the person you are now? It seems like everytime I’m around you, people are drawn to you. To your laugh, to your smile, your jokes. And even I am entranced in the social power you hold. But at the same time I am stunted. So stunted uttering a word seems like it’s ranked against yours. Why can’t I be your friend and also be as good as you? Have most of the school as a friend and make everything said something important. Teach me how to make friends in a day and reveal myself to the world with the snap of my fingers. You are my idol, my competition, and most of all my friend. Teach me how. Yours Truly, Me
the road Everyone’s parents have a story. The story of what they did so you could be born in this country. Yours used to say they packed up their lives in two suitcases. But two suitcases can hold an awful lot—so they brought your ancestors with them, foreign-tongued ghosts stuffed between the pure gold bangles and collared shirts. *** So then you’re on an open road skipping school in your friend’s car and your body is halfway through the sunroof, your arms stretching above your head, your midriff bare and hips pretty and the wind like firecrackers on your skin and you laugh and laugh and laugh, your vision blurring at the edges and cheeks pleasantly hot. You’re going somewhere far away. These are the dreams that hurt the most when you wake up; these are the dreams, you know, your ancestors would hate the most. Your friend is flooring the gas. But your ancestors never told you they had doomed you before you were even born. They didn’t say, your skin will mean too much and nothing at all, and they didn’t say, the new world
will hate you if you embrace us but we’ll hate you if you leave us behind, and they didn’t say that no matter what you chose, you would despise yourself for choosing it. The road never stops and you’re not the one behind the wheel so why would you need to look back? You’re not certain you care if you ever reach a destination. Nothing matters in this moment, nothing matters with the sky at your fingertips—it could be night, could be day—and the world blazing quick and wide in your peripherals because there is no sense of permanence here, not while the road yawns on forever. You’re going somewhere far, far away.
Excerpt from “Glovebox” Rose frowned into the Riviera’s vanity mirror. The circles under her eyes were darker than usual; she’d try harder to sleep tonight. In the reflection, Celia stared out the grimy window, silent. She hadn’t spoken in an hour, her gas station lunch left untouched. Rose reached to stroke a stray curl that had fallen across her daughter’s fragile cheek. To her dismay, Celia dodged her neatly manicured hand, teary blue eyes full of fear. She was colder than last time, but at least she was quieter. “Don’t be like that, Cece.” Rose’s voice held little sympathy. The girl said nothing, just looked at her mother like a scared animal. Rose turned towards Richard, studying his strong arms, lips pulled taut, eyes trained on some unknown point in the distance. They were a beautiful couple, a beautiful family. She touched his cheek, trying to wipe a streak of dirt from his face, but only managing to smear it a little. He took her hand in his, giving it a quick squeeze. Beaming at him, she savored the rare show of affection. She took the gun off the dashboard and placed it back in the glovebox, out of sight. They were still and content, looking off into the endless empty desert sky. Their nonchalance was
almost convincing enough to make up for Richard’s occasional paranoid glances out of the rear window. Gradually, the afternoon’s events faded behind them like clouds of orange dust sent billowing upwards in the car’s wake. Celia hadn’t understood the gunshot, or the body hitting the floor in front of her. She didn’t understand why her father had done it, though she knew enough to be scared of him. She didn’t understand her mother, who held his hand so lovingly. But she didn’t cry, and that was enough for them.
Alleged Fools People often call it strange to believe in the things you cannot see. In other words, deranged, are those who water the rootless tree. But isn’t it naive to think that we could possibly know it all? Isn’t a ship doomed to sink if the sailors ignore thunder’s call? Everything that we know to be true was once was no more than a joke. But alleged fools continued to pursue their dreams despite the harsh other folk. Maybe they're right and such thoughts are useless. Maybe there’s no way to tell which of us is clueless. Palms of Mars I put my glasses on yet cannot see. I think the stress of it all is getting to me. Trudging along in endless sand, I can’t escape the chains of this land. I am a tiger dying under the glare of the stars. Stuck inside the palms of Mars. Iris’s rainbows are scarcely felt, in this land where only curses are dealt.
Internal Endeavors Beautiful. A girl repeats the word over and over in her mind until its existence is more foreign than before She tosses it between herself and her alter ego hoping that with the constant repetition one of them will be able to grasp what it really means How it really feels Hoping that one day one of them will embody that foreign matter Hoping that one day she will be beautiful Does it involve her erasing everything she’s ever been or painting an aura in order to imprint society’s image in her hair... In her clothes... In her mind...? These unanswered questions running back and forth as sunlight drones in and out Until it eventually quits altogether Until she eventually quits altogether The art of being beautiful Have you mastered it? -Mira
Monologue from a Dying Bouquet “Just breathe” That’s what I prayed as me and my kindred neighbors who were sloppily placed beside the rickety hospital bed silently watched as the life left the nameless cancer patient.
“Just breathe” I laughed as we’re handed off like a baton in a relay race from a newly-wed bride to a soon-to-be. “Just breathe” I pleaded as we consoled the sobbing mother after burying her only son who was wrongfully shot and killed as he walked home from the corner store with nothing but a bag of skittles on his person. “Just breathe” That’s what I whisper to the stalky, discolored and disobedient stems below My withered and browning petals crumple and fall with ease or perhaps with a light press or squeeze My disregarded and lifeless friends left behind on the dusty table rudely remind my caretaker of our eventual and inevitable demise Then comes the torrential rain It enters my glass home from above as it overflows and drowns our delicate receptacles “Please” We beg as the stems give out and soon, we follow suit “Just Breathe” I whisper as I fall Down...down...down... Joining soon with my disregarded and lifeless friends. -Mira
thalassophile alleviator of pain immensely acute, cleanse my salt with yours. monday as inspired by e. e. cummings’ “in Justー” in Justー when the dreams of Sunprancers have disappeared and Surrendered to the woosh of the wind: jackandemma (wishing for the continuance of sashays) fly out into the Woosh of the wind ; mrandmiss (notfitfor Their first stampede of sliced-up-tree waltzes) roll out of
opulence (lack thereof) into the woosh of the Wind ; (both prior unaware) WindandSun woosh and buzz playfully practicing a prance sashay and waltz in training for the next lottery of life
A Theoretical Knowledge of Snakes Fear is born from a lack of understanding. This doesn’t make it less valid, or less paralyzing, or less awful to go through. It just means that you might jump up on a table and cry when you see a boa constrictor, while another person might reach out to it with open arms. Not understanding something is what makes it scary, but endeavoring to understand it doesn’t always help. You can Google tons of articles and look at plenty of diagrams, and can understand, in theory, how snakes are able to move even though they’re literally just heads on the end of a rope. But theory is very different from real life, so there’s a good chance that even with this knowledge you’re still going to avoid snakes like the plague. You don’t understand why you hate them so much, only that it doesn’t seem right that a piece of string with a head should be able to get from one place to another. You don’t even see snakes in person very often. Maybe once in a while, in the yard, because you live right next to some woods and garter snakes are abundant. Even so, the idea of them is akin to nails on a chalkboard. You’d probably start crying if one came near you. You know, logically, that you have no reason to have any problems with snakes.You’ve never had a bad interaction with one in your entire life. Many people love snakes, and you’re happy for them. Most snakes are entirely unthreatening. For a minute this comforts you, but then
the image of a Titanoboa flashes before your eyes and you accidentally let out a high-pitched whine. It's not like snakes are even slimy. Sure, they eat mice, and the larger ones eat things like capybaras, but you have no problem with carnivores. It’s just nature. Even their flickering tongues—which freak loads of people out—have no effect on you. You would not have a single problem with snakes if they moved in a way which made sense to your brain. This probably isn’t fair, because there are so many other situations in which the polite thing to do is just sit and be happy for people no matter whether you understand them or not, but ugh, snakes. If they had legs, maybe you could get behind them. Aren’t lizards just fine creatures? You’re quite partial to geckos. Geckos are cool. Snakes, on the other hand. . . . You wish you didn’t have to think about them. Just writing about them makes your skin crawl. Do you even want to understand them? Do you really want to subject yourself to that? Do you really want to acquaint yourself with all their habitats and how they spend their days and the different parts of their bodies? Or are you fine defining them as “spaghetti noodles with heads?” Maybe that makes things worse for you. Does this lack of understanding about their muscles and bones feed into your discomfort with the fact that they are able to move at all, and therefore your horror regarding snakes as a whole? Probably. Maybe it's the way that snakes are portrayed in popular media—vile creatures associated with evil who are always out to get you. The media influences so much of what we think and how we feel about things, so it’s no surprise that you hate snakes if that’s how you’ve always been told they are. But the full answer remains unclear. You’re still afraid of snakes. And you still have no idea how you managed—back in your Harry Potter phase—to be sorted into Slytherin and have a rattlesnake patronus. Oh, irony.
Exalted It is a familiar enough story In every seed a spot of blood Hagar swollen from the bastardâ€™s birth Distention mistaken for gluttony Ishmael Holy animal Son of nothing And He was silent. And death complements you like a dress with obsidian buttons Parched crinoline And so you become death Draping across him, like a silkworm, the shawl of your toil When His jaws unclasp you sleep soundly in your own little spot 24
between uvula and pharynx, as if you had never woken up Pandora Daughter of everything Negligible trips off the tongue Flesh collapsing against flesh smothered by my burden of being and being not enough Security cracks a smile as hecklers shout, undulating back and forth as my discomfort courses through the crowd, ill-gotten blood from a dirty needle Just as when He slathers me in a strangerâ€™s plasma so that I may be feasted upon by everyone else who was never fed Not enough
Don’t Look Back Shaking his hand is like grasping stone: stiff and unyielding. His eyes are cold and hard and hold all of the past tension between us. I haven’t seen him in years; partially because he was abusive, partially because I avoid him like a plague wherever I go. When I let go I take a step back, assessing his face. He’s avoided what I’m holding for the past few minutes, eyes shifting from my face to the concrete sidewalk. She looks like him; her small, frowning mouth, the pretty doe eyes. She tugs on my shirt sleeve. “Mama?” I shift her on my hip, glancing down to give her a small, halfhearted smile. I touch my nose to hers before facing him again. “Is she mine?” His voice is grating, cutting through the silence like a razor sharp knife. He’s staring at her now, lips pressed into a thin line. His hands are fumbling around in the pockets of his jeans, the jangling of car keys echoing in the quiet morning. My voice is barely audible, even if the streets are vacant and there are no other sounds; not counting the soft chirping of birds perched on tree branches. The sound of my yes is too loud even to my own ears. He reaches out to touch her, palms calloused from years of hard work. I yank her back, putting a hand to the soft tufts of hair on her head. My voice shakes.
“You do not touch her Finn.” He retracts his hand, running it through his hair instead. He lets out an exasperated puff of air. The small child in my arms whimpers from my tone, so I tuck her head into my neck. I can feel the hot, steady breathing competing with my pulse. “What’s her name?” My focus shifts to the man in front of me, who seems so placid standing there with bed head and faded, ruffled clothing. “Autumn.” I brush a strand of hair away from my face with the tip of my finger. I take a deep breath to calm my nerves. I turn away, ready to leave him and this deserted street. I only called him out of the guilt of not knowing his child, nothing more. “You won’t even let me hold her?” His voice raises just enough for the hair on the back of my neck to prickle. I steel myself and start to walk away. His hand cups itself around my wrist, squeezing. I can still remember the blinding white pain from the broken wrist he gave me. I spin on him, pointing a finger in his face. “You leave me and my daughter alone,” my voice shakes with anger, spit flies out of my mouth. I grit my teeth, and with an iron will, find it within me to walk back to my car, strap Autumn in, and drive away. I don’t look back; not even once.
Where I’m From I am from two worlds from black and white. I am from the snow covered evergreen outside my window. (Never losing its color, bearing the heavy burden on its branches.) I am full of walking contradictions, seen and unseen the privilege to choose the paths before me the expectations of my heritage overlooking me along the way. I am from sweet potato and pullovers, from Abraham and Sarah. I’m from the rabbi and the laborers in the field from the spirit of a dreamer and the conviction of a believer. I’m from the Holy One, blessed be He with the bleating of the ram and the thousand year old prayers I utter. I’m from Heilprin and Rubenstein’s tree, from the sizzling butter on cornbread to the Manischewitz pouring in my glass. From the liberty my ancestors lost To the freedom fought for in a new land far from home: my home. Within a folder in my drawer full of history. familial documents to serve as a physical reminder I am from chains and persecution broken and escaped a growing leaf on the family tree.
My Love You were the love of my life. In the darkness of nightfall, we would sing to you, honoring the ways you brought us together. I still sing to you, even now. To your towering trees and whistling wind, To your fading sunlight and laughing voices. I was supposed to have this last year with you. I was supposed to know when we sang together for the last time. My last opportunity to give you everything, wasted. If I do come back, it just won’t be the same; Stuck watching and waiting instead of thriving in the heart of your storm. I made so many friends and memories running through your fields. I gained a lifetime of skills, a map to lead me through the endless, dark forest of life. Even if everything has changed, my dear, I will still return to you. Because, despite everything, you still are the love of my life.
A Day of Rain Perfume stained with nostalgia hit me Before the skyâ€™s first kiss did. Fresh like spring yet damp in the cold, Like steam unfurling from a fading fire, Curling to reveal imagery unforeseen In the shadows of hearthâ€™s flames. Wind loosening a feather belonging To a dove seeking haven above, Landed with a flutter at my feet, Both of which adorned with galoshes, Speckled with dots of every color. Stringing my sister along, all smiles, cheer, Traipsing through the puddles Under twirling umbrellas, Each falling droplet Brightening my face. Antiques Ink can fade, But it truly always lingers. And as the candle dims, My vision will burn brighter. 30
Freedom pulses when the Expectations have fallen. Time will press onwards, With my coveted truth in mind, For as the pages proudly display age, Imagination serves to remind. Pages can house a thousand memories, Covers binding the treasured tales. With the good times being recalled, Like in the pictures I frame, Makeup can be washed off, But my thoughts will remain. Perils of the Past Illuminated by the stars engulfed in flames, Disguising temptation under another name, Now enriched the color of kingsâ€™ greatest desire, Greed piercing their hearts with matching fire. Once the apple too that was preening with life, Infused with evil, every bite soon brought strife, The tide now the pawn to the moon, Each ripple, each wave allowing the threat to loom. Bewitching the thoughts of those enthralled, Creation was once thought to have been stalled. Yet resistance sprouted in the form of revelation, The seeds reversing the power of damnation. Life the gateway for triumph over the peril, Sealed the fate of what proved to become most vile, Silencing the voices of those beings who crooned, Their words and influence eventually kissing doom. Victories of the past are not ones to presently surrender, However, one must always remember, Imperfections can leave us famished, Yet, they will never be satisfied.
The Dandelion Crown The memory danced in her mind the way a firefly sways in the night, flashes of glittering, bright nostalgia blinking on and off. Calli remembered picking the yellow, weedy dandelion under the ocean of a sky; then she plucked another—and didn’t stop until her fingers wrapped around a dozen, plump, viridescent stems. When she’d collected her treasure—the fluffy, bright tops shining like pirate’s loot in the sun’s vibrant rays— she twirled the ends around and around in an indefinable loop and wove the flowers together with the delicacy of handling a newborn. This last task, Calli reminisced as she sat secluded from the rest of her family, was the most tedious. Hours upon hours of attempting perfection; of finding the most durable flower stalks to utilize for her creation, and yet she was very rarely pleased with the end result. Her finished product was always blemished, according to her piercing examination; the dandelions were too stringy, or fragile, or wilted to be of much use to her. As the remembrance played on inside her head like a perpetual movie reel, Calli waited with her hands clasped on her lap in the stark white hospital room. Her mother and father reclined across from her, both asleep, escaping to fantastical dreams instead of remaining in a dreadful reality which was plagued with anxiety.
While Calli evaded sleep continuously, as it only offered frightening, shadow-cloaked nightmares for her future, she was able to find solace in another place and another time, when life seemed abundant with imagination. With her eyes opened, staring straight ahead at the portrait of the girl with the dandelions—which was hanging above the doctor’s menacing office—she remembered raising the petite crown to her own head for the first time, placing it atop her maple curls. She remembered standing with a smile and watching her dazzling reflection in the stagnant, calming surface of the pond. And, while the weeds she wore were certainly not flawless—some might accuse them of being dirty and unsanitary, and she herself had dubbed them as sorrowfully bent under the summer’s thick heat—she remembered a single thought from that day, which she was never able to grasp again, not after the treatment: I am beautiful.
Haunt Me (Please) II My eyes brush across her face in the dark, my hands across her body. I pull the pillow closer and breathe—her scent almost makes it feel like somebody. She forms a quiet night with her shadow, for her disembodied darkness lives only in my head. Her absence is a topic of no discussion, for if I think too much, I’ll start to think how she’s dead. I suppose I’m the one to blame—my fidelity drove her away. Now I’m left with only her ghost (although she already was one anyway). And so I stay up late, listening for one of her sounds… but she never turns up, and all I hear are my watery emotions running aground. But somehow I still have faith that one night my angel will come back to me. Is that I still believe in the goodness of angels so crazy? Because the trouble with angels is that they’ll lure you in with their promise of paradise— but then they’ll slit your throat and tear your clothes and you’re just another sacrifice. 34
I know this and yet I still cling to her testament—perhaps because it’s hope to me. Maybe hope is why I still sit up awake at night, waiting for my ghost to come haunt me. lento by Gwen Pierce somewhere above me, a voice sings it’s so lovely my body grows heavy with the weight of its beauty who would’ve thought such a light falsetto would weigh a ton? my love turns to me, her eyes misty you hear it too somewhere within me, a voice sings the melody rattles in my chest dancing around my heart lento the beat swings slow slower now lento are we angels? not yet, my love soon when? when the lullaby creeps inside your bones don’t worry you’ll know
I’m the Invisible Planet That Lives in Our Solar System The scientists know I’m out here. At least the best of them do. They can feel me in their pale scientist bones. I’m waiting for them to find me, but it’s not going to be easy. For starters, I will happily admit that I am invisible. That means telescopes are little more than idly pointing baby fingers to me, cute, but largely confused and inconsequential. And to you below-average scientists out there currently raising your baby hands to interrupt: “Uh, excuse me, planets can’t be invisible. Planets are made of things, and things are visible,” hi, I’m the invisible planet. I think I know more about invisible planets than you. Ever heard of a gas giant? You have? Great. Well tell me this: how often is gas visible? See where I’m going with this? I’m made of gas, but I’m not all full of space dirt like Jupiter and all his friends. They’re kind of gross, if I’m being honest. Not that I don’t like them, I just couldn’t live like that. I don’t have one of their silly ‘rocky cores’ either. Don’t need one. I am gas held together by gas. Write that on a poster and sell it amirite?
So we’ve cleared up the whole ‘invisible’ concept, I’m essentially just a bit of a neat freak. But there’s another snag for those sweet, unsuspecting scientists, and this one’s a little harder to swallow. I don’t have an orbit. I roll around the cosmos like a big liberated pinball. I can go wherever I like, talk to whomever. Well actually, I can’t leave the solar system. Whenever I get too, too far away from the sun, I start to feel cold, and I can feel myself shrinking. Plus, it’s harder to see all little specks of space dirt out where the light is dimmer. Otherwise I would have lit out for the Sombrero Galaxy a few billion years ago. Even if I could leave though, I wouldn’t go away forever. Eventually I’d come back just so I could see the look on those scientist’s faces when they figure me out. Still, I wish I could travel, if only so that I’d have more to tell them when they’re finally able to visit. I can go wherever I want in the solar system though, which is a blast. Mercury gets so jealous when I roll between him and the sun, but what’s he gonna do? He’s stuck in an orbit. Pluto’s alright, but he’s a bit mopey. Oh you don’t know who you are anymore? That’s terrible. But hey, at least you have a name. I think I’d want to be named Atlas, because I go all over the map. But I’d be happy with anything, it doesn’t even have to be a god or a titan. I’m not that similar to the other planets anyway.
My Little Dog, the Mother My dog, a little chihuahua-terrier mix named Dove for the white bird-shaped mark on her neck, believes herself a mother. She collects socks—the ones that have been worn inside the gym shoes that mowed the lawn in 90 degree weather or that have lived in my sister’s ballet bag for months on end—and puts them in her crate and guards them like a mother bird guards her chicks. Those grubby, damp, rank socks are her puppies. So like the mother bird who brings slimy, pink, mud covered worms for her little ones, Dove made sure her socks—puppies—were well fed. She fancied herself a hunter, and so caught a rodent for them. It was a chipmunk. I had long suspected that she hunted lizards and other such small creatures in the backyard, but this was the first time I saw it confirmed. She brought the small animal through the dog-door without anyone noticing. She placed it right under my chair in front of her open crate door. No one saw it until my sister exclaimed, “what is that!?” My mom leapt from her chair and shouted something. I didn’t dare move my feet so I didn’t come close to the unfortunate chipmunk. It had to have been cute outside when it ran innocently through our yard, and my dog, the little hunter that she is, caught it. It’s spine was slightly curled inward around it’s four still paws and head. It’s eyes were closed in a tiny mound of dark brown fur with the customary
white stripes of its kind down its back. It’s tail seemed deflated compared to what I had seen outside before. My sister cringed when she used a paper towel to pick up the small furred body and threw it beyond our fence so Dove would not bring it back. She told me later the soft, squishy body was still warm when she picked it up—I hope it’s because it was laying in the sun before Dove caught it.
“Then I Saw the Lake in All Its Fury” I read a Bible story once Where Jesus calmed the stormy sea. It seemed so real then… Then I saw the lake in all its fury. The waves run to the concrete landing Spurred on by the wind Smashing all their force Into the stone Water prancing Higher than before In wild frenzy The waves dancing Moving up and down To their own rhythm To their ancient rhyme Only they know Their own taste of beautiful strength It’s breathtaking and Suddenly, Quite suddenly, I know what a miracle is.
My Mother’s Angel When I was a young girl I saw Hell. My father would say to my mother, “Daphne, I love you more than the world and all the stars shining in the Heavens. You are mine mi amor.” After this proclamation, he would stride to the fridge and cusp the can of death in his calloused palms. The potion inside would alter both our realities. It started off as one a night to aid him with sleep. The next week, it was three in the span of an hour. He claimed it contained a medicinal property that served as a catalyst for relaxation. A month later, his head was face down on the tattered couch by six. He was a broken shell. The breath continued to flow throughout his body. Yet, he had crumbled into pieces. Nevertheless, his hand was gripping that damn can. The world stopped spinning on the night of my seventh birthday. It froze on its axis when I heard a dreadful shriek from my old, dusty living room. My flaccid body sat upright as if a ghost had entered my soul in the midst of my sleep. I crawled from my bed, the train of my baby blue nightgown trailed behind. I dared not make a sound. My young self envisioned I was a mouse with heedful ears evading the attack of a menacing cat. I grasped the brass doorknob and softly opened the wood door. I am the mouse. Quiet. Calm. Collected.
I entered the room. My hand dropped its firm grip on the knob. My palms were sweating furiously. The frightening movies I was told to shield my eyes from were playing out in front of me. I saw my father standing over my mother. His long torso was forcefully pressed against her. He gripped her wrist with the strength of the Devil himself. I will never forget the horror in my mother’s body. Her narrow shoulders shook like a wooden fence in the eye of a storm. Her cheeks were red and her eyes were drenched in mounds of tears. My father cupped her face in the palm of his hand, keeping a tight grip on her left wrist. I thought to myself, he is going to kill her. Shaking, I ran to the window in the far-left corner of the room. I unlocked the metal latches and climbed down on the grass. I ran towards pale moonlight and the stars. I finally reached what seemed like the edge of the world. A large, black crevice lay below my feet. At that moment, I felt endless emotion rush through my bones. The thin, crisp air blew steadily on my face. My feet dug into the Earth below. I closed my eyelids and sighed between my thin lips. My hands fell to each side with palms facing upwards. The crown of my head pulled towards the Heavens, as if a string was connecting the two separate entities. My fair, white skin matched the bleak horizon. My mousy, brown hair blew in the spine numbing wind. My eyes were closed, yet my mind ran wild. I longed for my father back. I did not recognize that man who slept through the day and fought through the night. I prayed for a sponge to scrub my mind of mother’s screaming. Mother. Oh mother, mother, mother. I had left her with the Devil. She was alone in apartment C2 with a man she used to love. I mustered up all the strength in my tired, little body and ran home. My mother was all I had left in this world; I vowed to save her.
Seven Years The last time I saw you, you and I were sitting at a library. The rain was falling hard against the slick window panes and our cheeks were still wet from it as we ran in. I knew it was the last time I’d be seeing you but we didn’t want to say goodbye. Instead, we sat there in silence listening to the rain as I watched the tiny clouds of coffee vapor dissipate from our mugs. Before you could leave I caught your hand and pulled you into a hug. I never wanted to let go. Then, you gave me your scarf. The scarf that you always wore when the seasons started to turn.
I still have it in a box in my apartment. That was seven years ago. We promised each other we’d stay in touch, but the distance eventually got in the way. Messages faltered and you eventually moved on. I don’t think I ever did. Still, somehow and somewhere I hoped we’d meet again. Seeing your silhouette against the streetlamps, I thought it was you. It was dark and raining. As we drew closer, I couldn’t tell if you remembered me from the way your brown eyes slowly tilted upwards. You returned my broken half smile as we passed each other. I didn’t look back, wondering if I had just been imagining you. As I turned the corner, I remembered the day I met you. It had been the first day of kindergarten. You stood out from the rest. You were the only girl with short choppy hair as if it had been cut with a blunt scissor and I was the only boy who
forgot to bring my lunch. You saw that I was hungry and opened your lunchbox as you gestured me to come.
I was often over at your house after that. I was there for you when you fell over trying to ride my skateboard for the first time. I helped you back up and we dusted the dirt from your clothes as we sat up laughing. We learned how to play checkers together and stayed up late nights talking about our dreams. You told me you wanted to be an astronomer and I told you that I wanted to live under the sea. We got busy in high school, but no matter how busy we got, you were always there for me and I was there for you. Our friends teased us for always being around each other but we didn’t care. You were gone for a summer and I heard from one of my friends that you had started dating someone. Out of respect, I kept my distance. Then, one day you called me and told me it was over. I was there for you as you cried when you broke down to me. Then it was back to how we used to be.
I was 17 when I realized my feelings for you. Our first kiss behind the treehouse had been short and chaste before your mom called for you to come back in. We spent that summer’s nights out at the lake. I can still feel your bare skin touching mine as your lips grazed my forehead and how it felt to hold you in my arms. I stayed up late thinking about you that night and every night after. It was so sudden when you told me you your family was going to be moving. I couldn’t see you again. You won’t ever know how much I missed you or how often I wanted to touch your face. My mind was filled with dreams of you and my heart longed to be with you every moment through this all. When you left, a part of me left with you. I abruptly stopped as I felt a pair of warm arms squeeze around me, rushing from behind. I feel your body melt into mine as I see the wetness in your eyes now. You say it’s just the rain but I know better. This time, I’m not ever going to let you go.
Goat or Grandma When I was seven, I saw my grandmother’s soul hanging out back The Jamaican sun darkening my skin American skin unlike that of my mother’s family Unfamiliar to that sun, raised in comfort American I rarely went to the cramped backyard. I had to protect my delicate feet from the rough ground “Mommy, Uncle Binny, What’s out back?” “It’s the goat from the Manish Water” “we Jamaicans don’t waste food, the goat was for Mama’s wake and we’ll use the skin Later” I thought of that delicious soup How it traveled down my esophagus and Warmed my heart at the celebration of my grandmother’s life The small living room had people and their love spilling out Into the porch until the gate Which was open;
Her gate was always open It protected her from nothing because What she offered- comfort, protection, and love- made her invulnerable Except to going into my soup In Jamaican style, she was used until she had nothing to give but herself Like the goat strung on the wire outside Unlike the goat outside Or maybe like it Grandma didn’t start pampered, doted on, or with any fanfare She was a little sprout growing from the sidewalk Despite stomping shoes. flourished without much She soaked up all the sun she could get, begged for water if she had to On the outside Grandma may have been a measly sprout But if you had just known You would be amazed. She turned a dime into twenty dollars She turned rags into a gorgeous gown She turned trash into treasure She turned in the last bit of herself to her family But she’s not an animal I should not see her hung in the backyard Sunning out for one last us But I didn’t think this as the soup warmed my forlorn belly I thought of my beautiful companion and confidant, gone. Surrounded by strangers and ignored I took another sip
Dearest Dementia Cats These are two excerpts from the same story about a boy who runs away from home. The first is as soon as he runs away, the second is from much later. Enjoy! I ran away again. Now, I know I’ve said this before, but this time it’s for real. Like really real. Like, I’m sitting in a phone booth (Because apparently those still exist) hiding from the rain, four miles from home. And I’m crying because What Did I Do??? I should call my parents, right? Why am I asking you? “You” is a goddamn diary with cats on the cover that my dementia-ridden grandmother bought me. Shit. I have to call my parents. Okay, so maybe I’m not going to call. Let me update you on the past few minutes. I stared at my phone, I opened up my mom’s contact, then I pictured my dad walking towards me through the rain like a villain in a superhero movie and I almost threw my phone into a puddle. Then, I didn’t do that. Then my phone died. Fun fact: I’m a dumbass. I was kinda in a trance when I left. I brought breath mints. I brought a can of iced tea. Somehow, I even found a tampon in my bag. To be clear, I am a guy. I don’t need a fucking tampon. Unless I get shot and need to plug the bullet wound, I cannot imagine needing a tampon. But there’s one in my bag. But guess what this genius did not bring. A mother fucking phone charger. Anyway, I had a bit of a freak-out. Then I realized, “Hey, I’m in a phone booth!” And, an added bonus, I brought an entire pouch of quarters, trance me thought I (a 15-year-old with no car) might need them for parking meters. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, though. Broken. Huge shock, I know. So, I’m fucked. Except, I’m weirdly not upset about it. I’m actually kind of… relieved. I could really do this. Run away and never look back. I have a lot to think about. I’m smiling. Really, I didn’t
notice till now, but I’m grinning like an idiot. There’s a lump in my throat, the same way it feels when you’re about to cry. But I can’t stop grinning. I feel tingly too. Like little sparks along my spine and across my knuckles. And I think there’s a fire in my chest. I peeked under my shirt because it feels like I should be glowing a little bit, but I’m not. The same old bronzed abs as always. Dearest dementia cats… Is this what being alive is supposed to feel like? I know there are other ways to contact my parents, but I don’t think I’m going to. Isn’t that something, mom? I didn’t climb the goddamn oak tree but I think maybe you’re gonna hate this a bit more. P.S. I feel bad about lying to you earlier, Dementia Cats. I do not, in fact, have bronzed abs by any stretch of the imagination, but this is my diary and I can look how I want so I choose to look like Chris Hemsworth
Next Entry: I swear that sometimes in that moment, right before I fall asleep when I’m suspended between wakefulness and nothingness, I can see the starlight, just beyond my eyelids. Like, if I opened my eyes, I’d be floating in the cosmos peacefully, drifting through a kind universe. There would be nothing but to hear except a gentle silence, nothing to feel except the warm embrace of a lonely sky. I could swear that just beyond my eyelids, there’s an endless expanse of stars, so full of light and peace, so willing to welcome me home. But then I open my eyes, and they aren’t there. This cosmos exists only on the ends of my eyelashes, and only at that perfect moment between wakefulness and nothingness. But once you reach either side, the universe is gone again, maybe it’s meant to be seen only in that instant, the only time we can fully comprehend its significance. Then we wake up and we forget the meaning until the cosmos embraces us again.
I lay in the dark, window open, listening to all the noises outside. I can hear a helicopter off in the distance. The blades quickly turn above the ball of metal, making a deep whooshing noise. I can hear the sound of that helicopter whose view from 20 miles in the night air is that of a city shining in bright lights, while mine is that of a phone screen screaming 1:49. I can hear cars running on the two-way street that overlooks my home. One second. Two. Another rushes by. The wheels sound so far away, but I can hear the exact moment they pass by our black gate. I wonder, where do they rush to be this this early in the morning. Does the drive help them sleep when they are awake at 1:49? I can hear the electricity buzzing from the poles on the corner and water dripping out of pipes right outside. The wires stretch all over our home, but no one cares much because they bother no one. They care when storms hit and poles fall, when aunt passes by and says “Don’t go near there. You’ll die.” I can hear the wires saying bzzz, tingling with life. Meanwhile, the water sounds like when mother turns off the shower head, except this water doesn’t stop. It splashes onto the concrete floor, and I can see the bombs they make. I wonder. If I were an ant, would I
be out at this time? Would I happen to stand under that very spot and get drenched, or would I be climbing up the electrical pole, at 1:49? I can hear the new baby two doors down crying for food. He has been home for only a week, and his parents are worried. They worry because he is never full, because he always wants to be held, because he rarely ever cries, because he is their first child and they cannot help to do anything but worry. I think: these new parents, they have no say in being awake at 1:49. I can hear the neighbors yelling next door. A brick wall separates our homes, but I can see it all. The man shouts at the woman in Spanglish over not understanding what she wants. He screams “I am right here”, but she remains silent. He yells “Why won’t you just fucking tell me”. Two nights ago, she would have wailed “I don’t want to see you”, but tonight she does not answer. Their kids are quiet. They must be asleep. Or they may also be lying in bed awake at 1:49. I lay in bed thinking, wondering, pondering: why. Why can I hear the helicopter as it circles around the nearby houses. Why must cars pass by every few seconds when rush hour is when the sun shines bright in the center of the sky. Why must we hear the buzzing wires and leaking pipes in the dark when we must also face them in the light. Why does that new born child cry (is it for food, for warmth, for his parents?), when he does not during the day. Why must the broken family over the wall shout, and scream, and ugly cry over understanding and honesty when the words play on loop almost every night. I wonder all this at 1:49. And then it is quiet. I can hear the soft whispering of wind blowing in the air. I swear I can almost hear every air particle I breathe out collide. I hear the water leaking, the wires buzzing, less cars passing, no blades chopping, no baby crying, no family despairing. And I check my screen again. 1:50
Walking You to Your Plane Saturday Morning Outside a Pittsburgh airport, trembling hands occupy themselves in a white-knucked grip on your charcoal suitcase as the rain guides a teardrop from one side of your cheek to the other. The winds of change keep your heart cuffed to its ribcage, but frozen feet still find a way back to my familiarity as calloused fingertips reach out for my own, tender only in the way that you let me go. Chapped lips turn silk when ours connect, and only flavor the goodbye bittersweet because you never looked more beautiful than when you were leaving. The Ocean Loved the Sun First It was hard to fall in love with your shadow. The real thing turned away and left me in the darkness. The moon traced an outline of you into my surface and I reflected the stars, cherry-picked, to fill in the missing details while you searched for constellations on the other side of the sky. 50
a faerie's crown i rest atop messy locks whether they be golden chestnut amber onyx my stems woven together in an intricate embrace my ribbons flow following the path of the tresses down backs between wings behind pointed ears my leaves tickling eyebrows i once grew and changed the grass my friend the sky my view the earth my mother but now i sit upon a smaller world that buzzes like the soil that laughs like the waves and cries like the heavens
r o s y r is feminine, without sacrificing strength. While o is more robust, with smooth, rounded edges and a weighty center. How it gives way to s, tumbling as wind roars in one’s ears, giggles flying through the air. Arriving suddenly at y, as sweet as honey, as warm as a child’s cheek.
love song: loch ness monster eyes gawk from above. their gaze somehow colder than the water. necks short, skin dry, no fangs, futile, flailing limbs. and when they go, fleeing inside their growling metal monsters i remain in the murky depths. frigid waves overhead, i rest my long body in the abyss. their fragile hearts would not beat down here in the deep, but mine pounds. mine pounds alone.
(excerpt from) On The Run The boy was on the run and no older than fourteen years. He stole his father’s car after he’d thrown a ceramic plate at the boy while he was eating in silence and ignorance. He’d broken the silence only to tell his father that he hated him more than anything. Once this familiar rumination of the boy’s lonely mind reached the air in which it had been conceived (the same air sliced down the middle by the plate which reached the wall behind the boy and shattered to dust), he bolted through the living room, grabbed his father’s keys from the coffee table and ran out the door and started the car and drove off into the evening. His father had followed him out moving staggered and drunk to punch the hood of the car and then smash the window while the car backed away. He saw his son’s crying eyes through the windshield and that put him still for a second but it also sent him into a fit of rage a moment later. While the boy drove off and wiped his eyes and slammed his head on the steering wheel, the father yelled angry nothings through the air. When the police arrived at his house investigating a disturbance, he was passed out on the floor next to a broken TV and the police decided there was nothing they could do so they left. So father and son were alone and separated and that night was the last they’d ever see each other, they didn’t know that and both figured they would cross paths again, come back to each other somehow, but they never did.
The boy drove through the county roads and with no driving experience whatsoever but enough fear to mold him into a focus which kept him out of a crash. He took the slow back roads at first until he reached the highway where the brush of the desert flanked him and the purple sage singed with white snow guided him for his headlights were dimmed and it was dangerous. Each time an oncoming car passed him he ducked down below the steering wheel so he was not seen. Drivers who saw this figured they’d imagined a phantom and decided they’d need to sleep before going any farther so they pulled over, reclined the chair and lay shaking. The boy drove throughout the night thinking only about his home and the spaces he’d left. The memories raced through his mind like hornets. He spent a lot of time wondering what his father would think in the morning when he’d wake up and realize he was finally alone. He wanted his father to feel horrible but he figured that would never happen. It never occurred to him that at some point he’d have to get gas or think of where he was going. He just drove aimlessly. The glass from the broken window sat in the passenger’s seat as his father’s presence. Even miles and miles away from his home he could not truly leave. Eventually the gas ran out and the car sputtered dead so the boy pulled it over to the side of the road and parked it in the melting snow. He sat on the hood of the car in the dent made by his father. Then he stood and walked on the windshield up to the roof of the car and he sat there instead, with his legs crossed, watching the headlights streak by and leave their trails. Whether it was in the real landscape or just the surface of his eyes there were red and white cuts in darkness before him. He was hypnotized by these cars and it was the middle of the night now so his eyes began to close gently. He sat with them shut, drifting from and swaying between sleep and wakefulness. He heard the cars rush by and the wind follow them sweeping and breezing through his hair.
The room was empty A hallow shell that carries the metallic echo of my sobs back to my ears. This was wrong. Terribly, unspeakably wrong. Not for years. Not for all the years of my memory had one end table or painting or farmed picture been moved and yet as I stand in the doorway, the room is empty. The tears are not welcome, and they burn in my throat, but I don’t have the mind to stop them. Seventeen days on the ship. Six hours to get here from the coast. My feet where sore and my head was swimming, and yes, I was crying. Sobbing like a child with not the presence of mind to so much as wipe the tears from my face. Somehow, I'd envisioned, running up the stairs and round the corner. Bursting into the room and falling down on the bed. Somehow in my tiered mind, I believed, truly, that everything would have been manageable if I'd been able to do that. To draw her sent into my head just one last time. To run my hand over that imbordered pillow she’d loved so much, to stare at their wedding picture, and pretend that I was 13 years old again, crying because Anthony Smith had pulled my hair and called me ugly. I wanted to lie there, close my eyes and pretend that she might walk in the door. Touch my foot. Say my name. And invite me to share all of my troubles. But she wasn’t there. Nor was the bed, the pillow, the picture. Gone was the room itself really and with it, any hope I had left.
And so, I got angry. Screamed my brother's name and flew down the stars to find him in the sitting room with a glass in his hand. “It’s all gone, where did it go!” I yelled He was calm and it only fanned my rage. “I sold it Mary,” He said as if it were obvious So I took the glass from his hand and threw it against the wall where it shattered into millions of fragments that clicked on the wooden floors and plaster walls. “Mary, it’s been months, don’t get cross with me just because you didn’t come when she called,” In a breath the anger was gone. That was it wasn’t it? The feeling that had fallowed me all this way. She’d called me home, but when she’d needed me most of all, I'd chosen myself. And now she was gone. And all of her things were gone. And I was left with nothing. “Truth be told, I think she could have pulled through if you were here. But when you didn’t come and didn’t come,” His voice trailed off, leavening me, with the obvious accusation. She was dead because of me. If I'd only come back when she’d asked she might be alive right now, and all the trouble I was in would be okay, because I could tell my mother about it and she would know what to do and everything would be fine. “It’s okay though. I'm sure whatever you had to do across the pond was important, and any way, there's nothing to do for it now,” He was being cruel because he was upset with me. But I couldn't blame him. So I just stood there. And I starred around the house. And it was all empty. I hadn't noticed coming in. Mom was gone, and the rooms where all of them empty.
Wasteland Wanderings I’ve spent so long in this barren land With nothing but my pack in hand I started searching this desert fair Observing the dunes that all stand bare From the periwinkle sky stretching wide To the airy winds that whip by in stride To make me keep going, this desert dares It pushes me to find the better airs After years of paring this fruitless quest down I’ve alas caught sight a village, a town A place that I can fin’lly call mine In this empty world, it’s a sign Of vitality in the face of routine To this scene of dull, a splash of green I live there now; I call it my home I call it my beauty; I call it my own Through raging sandstorms, ‘tis my clarity I have been blessed to have found such a rarity
two photographs and one outtake Click! I look out at the water in front of me, how it reflects a deep shade of orange from the sun at the horizon. I may not be the only person on the beach tonight, but thereâ€™s a certain sense of tranquility in this moment, marred only by the sound of an occasional crashing wave. Satisfied with the image captured on my phone screen, I turn it off in favor of looking directly at the sunset. It is often a matter of speed to catch a sunset like this, having to first find a good viewing point and then make it there in time. Arriving at just the right time makes it worth it, getting to see such a fleeting moment in real time. One minute the sky is ablaze with warm tones and highlights, and in the blink of an eye, the sun has disappeared and itâ€™s as if nothing happened at all.
Click! Itâ€™s a quieter sky today. There is nothing particularly striking about it upon first glance, which is what makes it all the more interesting to me. It gives me the feeling that most people might not be looking at the sky at this exact moment. For all I know, I could be the sole witness
of this exact arrangement of clouds. I take an extra minute to let my eyes follow the paths of the clouds as they inch across the sky above me, even after I lower my camera. The clouds move lazily across their bright blue backdrop, at such a slow pace that it takes an extra moment of focus to even notice. To me, this random afternoon sky seems to be as close to perfect as possible. There’s just the right number of clouds, not enough to make the whole sky grey. It’s a quiet sky for a quiet day, one meant for a trip to the library and a calm bike ride. It’s a reminder that not every day has to be as extravagant as a sunset.
Click! I stand alone in the driveway, aiming my phone up to the sky, taking a single picture before pocketing it. The only light comes from tiny Christmas lights woven up a palm tree and across the front of the house, the distinct lack of light pollution contributing to a completely clear sky. Despite my eyes being able to perfectly map out the Big Dipper and Orion, my phone fails to capture them, resulting in a pitch black image. Every time I look at the stars I’m tempted to capture them on camera despite knowing that every time, I fail. The stars might elude my camera, but I’m still able to make a place for them in my memory. Even when they aren’t visible, they’re always there, never changing to my eye. The constellations look the same every December. Life changes too quickly for me sometimes, but the stars are constant. I find myself changing each year, but the stars are eternal.
Dawn â€˜Til Dust (Excerpt) The sky seemed almost to bend under the weight of the rising sun. The horizon was filled with a pale-yellow glow, the light reflecting off the dilapidated roofs of the shacks, yet it did not reach the dark streets below. I pitied the workers making their way to the plants, trapped in eternal darkness. Through the suffocating haze of the factory-smoke, I could barely see past my hands. It was on this murky morning that I sat, crouched amongst the columns of smoke, waiting for my mark to arrive. Why I was there on the roof the garment factory, sitting coughing in clouds of dust and fumes from the assembly lines beneath me, was a mystery even to me. Evan had said they would be here soon, to keep a look out. I peered through the smoke to the shadowed streets below, hoping to catch a glimpse of the procession that would pass by at any moment. As I sat enveloped in the dull fog of the morning, I wondered why the city even bothered to maintain the old factory. All of the actual work was done by the workers underground, not by the rusted machines in the building. And even then, the little work done aboveground was just to appease the overseers, who wanted to show the city dwellers the effect of their labor. I moved to the edge of the roof, leaving prints in the thick red layer of dust. I dangled my feet off the edge of the roof, knocking the dust off my boots. Soon, I got up and launched myself from the roof onto one of the cement columns ringing the factory courtyard. I landed with a soft thud.
I slid down from the pillar, gripping the sides with my arms and feet. Evan, busy untangling the mess of wires inside the factory gearbox, said nothing as I walked up next to him. He wiped some of the dirt from the glass paneling on the box, noting some digits from the display. Turning to me, Evan asked, “why did you leave the roof? Are they here?” He jumped up to check the alley, and, seeing no one, turned back to his work without waiting for an answer. “No, they haven’t shown up yet,” I said, “but why are we even here? We could have hit the trucks that passed by the quartermill an hour ago and gotten more action than this.” Evan turned to me again, “Because these guys have something new. Should be worth something in the market.” “Alright… I guess,” I said, and moved back towards the cement column so that I could get back to the vantage point. Looking back at Evan, I saw him close the box and start up towards the roof, as I made my way across the ventilation pipes covering the building. Just as I made my way back to the viewpoint, I spotted a troupe of pickups driving towards us from across town. They were the brightest chrome I had ever seen. Decked out in polished rims and strangely white tires, the trucks reflected the red of the street, but seemed to repel surrounding grime. “There’s our target,” Evan said, popping up behind me. “You’d think they’d try to blend in a bit more. The clean paint job look doesn’t work too well against, you know, everything.” I nodded, following the progress of the group with my finger. “Got any idea of what they’re transporting here?” I asked, still watching the approaching convoy. “Not a clue,” said Evan. He got up, and I noticed a couple singe marks on his forearm. “What are those from?” I asked, gesturing in the direction of his left arm. Evan hiked up his dark overalls, already stained grey from the factory’s smoke, and motioned towards the gearbox he had been messing with earlier. “Damn overseers have been implementing new locks in their old hardware” said Evan, “I don’t see why they need to protect this junk, but it sure makes turning off the alarms harder.” I nodded my head in acknowledgement and looked back to the street. We waited in silence for a few more minutes until the trucks were right below our overhang, and, with one last look to the horizon, we stepped off.
Etymology The American one was first. In the womb and my parents chose lightness, simplicity, my name a one-strike match for assimilation. Weeks later, they picked a Chinese one. Unofficial, saved for family. I was flawless before I was born. Until birth, I was buried. Walled in the caul, my spine a mudslide, my ribs a string of regrets. Causes: why they wanted to flee and why they didn’t. Why they couldn’t go and why they left. Women hunched over crates with threads, men thin in dark alleys, and it’s better here. My old homelands aren’t safe. Mother couldn’t sleep when she visited, not until she returned
to the safety of an American name, her first country falling back into memory, slanted and bleach-stained. My second name like turmoil, like knives. Like things forgotten. What we once lost and now remember. I didn’t care until I learned. I wasn’t alone until I wanted. Teach me to recall the accents of my tongue, a lilt never seen but heard. A piece you cannot erase. Teach me to bear this name born from love, heal a wound never meant to be carried. In this tongue, I can say: Kong ling fei, victory song marching up my throat. We are here. We are safe.
Hidden Pain Panic attacks are like a faulty light switch. They start like an unwarned flip of a switch, but turning it off is tricky. Sometimes, you do what you’re told, and it goes away. Other times, you do everything right, yet it just doesn’t budge. You have to go through the painful, exhausting, terrifying motions and just pray to get through it. Each time though, it starts with a flip. You can feel it starting in the back of your throat. Your breath gets caught and your chest tightens. Fighting for breath, tears stream down your face. Your head starts to pound as you gasp for air. You shake your hands and try all of those counting tricks: 100, 97, 94, 91… Nothing helps. Your whole body begins to tremble. You tell yourself to calm down, but that only makes it worse. You begin tearing at your legs as if you are trying to crawl out of your own body. And then it stops. Your vision clears, and you see the scratches along your legs. The tear droplets on the floor flatten into puddles. Your whole world felt as if it was crumbling around you, yet give it five minutes and you could make it seem like nothing has happened. Give it mere seconds and you could laugh at someone’s joke. You’ve gotten good at hiding it. No one wants the pitying looks or the popular mean girl to come over to you and say “You’re so brave.” Instead you lock away that part of yourself. You know that having someone there to distract you during a panic attack can work wonders, but you’ve learned to get through it on your own. Why burden another person with your problems? You just know it’s easier this way.
Where Iâ€™m From I am from the middle of nowhere, From sprawling cornfields And densely weaved nets of suburban streets, Cast down into the water to retain all whom they catch. I am from the swift strike of fortune, From a late-night encounter set to the backdrop of a cozy and warm Dublin pub. I am from the kind gaze of Eileen And the faint laugh lines of Laurent. I am from carrot orange rooftops With curved shingles packed tightly together in a motherly embrace. I am from the sweet aroma of crimson wine And the stench of sweat from a day in the vineyard. I am from the language of love, From the melodies that flicker and dance off the tongue. I am from the humid evenings on the back porch, Illuminated by the dim purple streaks of twilight. I am from the drumbeat of shoes crashing against pavement, From the symphony of cackling Echoed by an ensemble of companions. I am from the silence of thirty souls, Whose hearts weep for the sorrow and loss of their brothers. I am from late night conversations,
Which despite being held in darkness, Bathed my mind in a new, white light. I am from the toils, triumphs, and sacrifices of those that came before me, And I am from the select moments of the present That I keep cradled in my hands, their weight grounding me to the earth on which I stand.
The e flows forward, calm and smooth like the waters of a stream. Waters crash against the towering canyon walls of the l. The stream ricochets against the wall, And the second e flows toward the jagged and rough walls of the ct. Continuing to careen and roll down through the ri, the stream suddenly stops short, arriving to fill the crescent shaped basin of the final c.
Might you take the time to play a game of dominoes with me
As words are used, they erode themselves deeper into the culture and language. As water flows, it erodes itself deep into the pits and crevices of the canyon.
Piece by piece, across the sea so that I can see up close those faces miles away from me.
Feel the smooth grooves, the dipped domes. Sometimes I’ll rub my fingers over them when I feel alone. If we play a game of dominoes, maybe we can build a bridge.
A Perfect Match My grandfather says he has a weakness for curly hair. “I wish you had curls like your mother,” he says. My mom has tight black curls that frame her face. “Wish she didn’t straighten it,” he mutters. I agree. She hates it. I can’t remember the last time she wore it natural in public. I ask the hairdresser if she can quickly curl my hair after the cut. “For my grandfather,” I say. As she twirls my hair around the curling iron, she comments that her father loved curls too. “He recently passed.” She stops to wipe her eyes. When I get home, I eagerly run to my grandfather where he sits on the front step. I shake my hair out and he smiles, patting my head without a word. “Look, it’s curly,” I say. “Better,” he nods, “much better.” I feel proud and a little stung before I remember: my grandmother’s hair is straight. I point this out and he shrugs nonchalantly. It takes me a moment to realize that the first time he saw her was at their wedding. He gets up to go inside. I’m left wondering if he would have picked a woman with curls.
witch 1. gretel carries stones in her pockets & a knife in her hand, because she worries what if what if what if— 2. her father dies & her brother marries, & gretel lives with him & his wife in an dusty back room where she empties her pockets & hides loaves of bread wrapped in paper beneath the floor boards. her sister-in-law gives birth to twins, a boy & a girl; her brother names them hansel & gretel. gretel accidentally breaks a glass bowl when she hears. 3. she hates the taste of sugar. even too-sweet berries make her vomit, make her remember a musty-old house that she only wants to forget. she does not like ovens, either. 4. famine comes again & she is the first to go, a woman without a husband chased from their tiny village into the woods she has always feared. gretel weeps for the first time in years, & throws all her stones into the river. 5. there is a house, deep in the forest. it has been unlocked for years, ever since she was a girl, & it is the only place she can go. she plucks the milk-white bones from the oven carefully, then buries them beneath the oak tree. 6. a boy & a girl are walking down the path, hand-in-hand. gretel pulls the curtain back & stares at them, at their frayed clothing & hollow cheeks & terrified faces, & she wonders if her brother has become a woodcutter.
12 To 4am How could you say that? After everything we went through. The late-night conversations about the kind of kitchen counters you want. Marable. You called me at your disposable, ranging from 12 to 4am. My dad often asked who calls. I had to stay up waiting, so the phone wouldn’t ring. I stayed up all night and talked you through your problems, I said my prayers to you. When I was in the city, I came by and nursed the destruction he left. I asked you if I could rough him up you said no. I bought you food every Friday after games, I still know your order. Bacon cheeseburger with fries and an Arnold Palmer. You turned away when you told me. You said the way I treat you gives your heart mixed signals. That since the time I kissed your forehead you view me differently. And the time we played in Walmart and I smiled at you, you thought it was more. Maybe it was. I don’t even remember every specific moment we shared in Walmart. Come on, that’s our favorite activity, along with bullying kids at the rink. So how could me being friendly and caring make you fall in love. Realized weed is therapeutic. How could you say I play with your heart? Was I suppose to say I love you back? You know my current situation, how I love them. You said its fucked up how I treat you like a sister when obviously want more. Well perhaps we love differently. I love hard and sometimes it can
come out indifferent. You say I show love like a black father, I see it. Guilt feels my bell when I’m around. Your gaze on me when you think I don’t notice; twists my stomach and I throw up the smell of your hair. I can feel you lips on my taste blood without even kissing you. Because yes, I'm in love with you too. So why is it so hard for me to admit it? I stare at you too long; I kiss your forehead while you sleep. Why am I not reciprocate the energy? I broke up with them and blamed it on sports. Why do I suddenly find it hard to be alone in a room with you? I started the bond with your brother so we wouldn’t be alone together. I send more time with you than my own father. I admit, I shouldn’t have kissed you after my going away party. The blames on me. I still remember your pizza breath mixed with hemp. We ordered a pineapple just for you, the rest in between us. I squashed it just to sit closer to you. You held on to me and told me again you loved me. As an answer I held you closer. All I can remember is and the warm touch on my cold face. How after all the times we spent together you accused me of being selfish. Trying to forget after I left, you stopped responding to my music you once loved. Frank Ocean doesn’t hit the same. You stopped calling me between 12 and 4am and I realized I cannot sleep without you. I beat every videogame twice, I work out now, I hate Walmart and only shop at Target, I think about us in the limo every time I eat pizza. I damaged you by starting something I couldn’t finish, something out of both our controls. Who knew we would fall in love? If I could come back I would. You call me corny when I send you poems. You changed your number three times. It's getting more difficult to connect to you. Do you still love me like you use to? They’re telling me you go to school lit, drive drunk, work high. Don’t hurt yourself, call me sometimes. I still stay up between 12 and 4.
“Forest” The sight of your green canopy with the blue sky shining behind it, The sound of your trees and ferns rustling in the summer breeze, The feel of your ill-defined paths, carpeted by leaves and gnarled roots, The smell, warm and salty, of the creek that runs just beyond you, The taste of your air when it’s heavy with the bloomings of flowers, I know them all so well. You are as familiar as my own body. I remember the first time it snowed heavily enough To pass through your branches, coating your brown floor in cold white, Transforming you, briefly, from forest to tundra. I had to rediscover you, had to rexplore The trails I’d walked since early childhood. I saw, preserved in the snow, footprints of hours past, Places where numerous animals, from deer to bird to coyote, Had walked; animals I had never seen with my own eyes. Forest, I think of that day, and that sight, And I wonder how many other undiscovered secrets you hold.
Live commentary became a whole new part of Reynolds readings done via Zoom: #teamcarl #aggoddess #ombre #mermaidtail #pixieblood #freethemermaid #forthekebab #teamlucinda #justiceformermaids #UAEcity Paella or papayas?
“The animal pleasure of breathing deep and letting out dark" — Abby Current Carlson “There is no order.” — Abby “Write everything down!!” — Abby “Plant names!” — Matt & Jen “A marble is a willful structure." — Lauren Mallett
"We Contain Multitudes" — Makiyah “While the World Was on Lockdown We Kept Writing” — Janae-Rose Fageyinbo “Sun's Out, Pens Out and I Could Use a Good Story Write About Now” — Ava Graham “Free the Mermaid” and “Voices without Walls” — Chaya Tong "Together From Away." — Kimberly Tyson “Take good care of those you call your own and keep good company" — Giulianna Bruce
Rock-a-Bye She took to kicking the acorn she found by the bus stop after work. A nudge and it would clatter a few paces away, which she would walk to nudge it again. The sound the nut made on the gravel when it bounced around was pleasant enough—quiet, but the crickets weren't awake and the road was for the most part empty. She stared at one car that passed, its headlights' yellow vibrant against the softness of the twilight, the sky wisteria, the blurred purple of everything. Sometimes she kicked the acorn too hard and it scattered off of the sidewalk, into the mulberry bushes, and she'd stop and find it and pick it up and start kicking it again. Once it flew onto the road. Electricity as she bent to pick the acorn up, in the middle of the lanes, a sparking sense of expectation that made her stay bended longer than she had to, trembling in sangria, a deer frozen for nothing. She wishes she had kicked the acorn off into the road more often. Now she’s home and it’s quiet because your father’s out buying three bottles of Fireball whiskey. She’s standing in the entrance, rolling the acorn in her hand.
She wishes that you had been a little stronger. She finds a salad spoon in the sink and goes to the yard. She kneels down in front of three cardboard boxes they haven't thrown out yet and starts digging a hole to put the acorn in. And now she’s shaking too hard. She wishes she had taken another Prozac pill. And that she hadn’t kicked the acorn so hard. It'll probably never grow now, being bruised and all, if that's even how it works. She doesn't know, she doesn’t know. She wishes she had planted this bloody tree sooner. She’ll be dead before it drops a single acorn. Her grave next to yours. And now she’s sobbing over the hole. Look—she’s clawing at her hair, scratching her face, shoving a fist in her mouth, clutching her stomach, hands moving all over her body, heaving, hurting, hugging so, so tightly. She wishes she hadn't drank champagne at your father’s birthday. She wishes she hadn't flown to Michigan the day after to surprise your grandparents. She wishes her sister had hidden her cigarette pack better in high school. She wishes she had bought that stability ball. She wishes she had prayed more. And that she had been sincere when she prayed. She wishes she had asked for receipts. That her grandfather hadn't passed down diabetes (it increases the risk, you know). She wishes that God didn't care how much you prayed or if you meant it, that mercy was more than a word. She wishes that the ground was softer and that the sun could show some respect and that innocence was worth a cent and that she had held your baby hand, just a little longer.
The Life of Charles “Charlie” Wagner 1. Life is short I suppose, the moment you are born – your string cut suddenly without warning. 2. It’s the eager way you learn to walk, shoving your chubby baby feet into too small satin slippers. 3. You drag a magnifying glass along the cracked sidewalks, bodies of ants twitching pitifully, exoskeletons stripped away and burned. 4. Your mother grooms your hair with a fine brush, the tips sharp and probing. She squeezes your pink cheeks and says, what a good boy. How I have raised such a good boy. 5. The children are loud at the playground, their voices shrill like the dark birds overhead. You laugh and giggle along with your cronies, small bodies draped in sagging burgundy corduroys and neon crocs. 6. Your cheeks are no longer rosy, but a faded ash. The color that of a dead rose left in bleach. 7. It is not every day you are rushed to the hospital in a screeching ambulance. 8. It is not every day they tell you it is terminal. 9. It is not every day your body is riddled with sharp needles and tubes, your insides on the outside, your skin feverish with a thin layer of sweat. The doctors rush around frantic, their pens clicking against clipboards which echo to your near deaf ears. The sun streams through the window, scorching your pasty skin. Your mother grooms what little hair you have left with the standard hospital brush, whispers to you, what a good boy. How I have raised such a good boy. 10. It is not every day you wake up dead.
9. You wander the bare school halls on scorching summer afternoons, the kind that leaves skin itchy and burnt. You are incapable of physical pain, your form now a mere whisper of an outline. 8. The flowers in the meadows bring solace to an otherwise meaningless day, their precious petals stained with berries, the bees singing softly near your ears. The gentle drum of their song soothing to your erratic missing heartbeat. 7. You find no meaning in scoring the earth you once knew, your spirit empty and aimless. Days are eternity, the future indefinite. 6. Your mother’s new child is born on a winter morning, the light streaming in just so. Her face is scrunched and pink, like a blooming rose, her eyes are rare polished emeralds. 5. The playgrounds are deserted after nightfall, just soccer balls mocking tumbleweeds as they cartwheel across the mulch. 4. Your sister’s hair is coming in nicely, dark crimson and luscious with graceful curls. Your mother fusses around her locks with a mahogany brush, says to her, what a good girl. How I have raised such a good girl. 3. Ants don’t notice when you walk by. You don’t notice them. They continue to strut along confidently, breadcrumbs balanced precariously on their shelled backs. 2. Nobody calls out your name; nobody calls you for anything. 1. Life is short I suppose, the moment you are born – your string cut suddenly without warning.
Clarity I stood in a broken bowl of ancient shale, worn and shaped over millions of years. The bowl would soon fill with over 400,000 tons of frigid water. I suppose that should have been concerning. It was well into the night and the sun still graced the bitter grey skies with its subtle, fading presence. I treaded prudently across the rigid rock, weaving between the tidal pools, cautious of the slippery kelp beds beneath my boots. I crouched down ragged clothes clung to my weathered skin. my matted, knotted hair fell into my face. My eager eyes darted between every twitch of movement, discoloration, and shadow cast before me. My vision narrowed like that of a falcon. There was no thought as my body took control and relentlessly combed the land and sea. I grew weary and my mind began to wander. This place had immeasurable history, yet time seemed irrelevant here. Days turned to weeks and my own unavoidable filth grew increasingly more abundant. Grime and muck lathered every crack and fold of my body. Salt in my wrinkled clothes rubbed me raw. The foul odor of rotting fish permeated deep into my skin. I endured it all. It wasn't long before I had grown used to it. Through it all, I felt a sense of tranquility Iâ€™d never felt before. I all but forgot
about life's daily charades. The gears began to whirl: Such trivial matters it all seemed. So utterly pointless. Each day planned to the minute and every facade coddled and groomed for a plastic audience. We are nothing more than educated chimps masquerading in tailored suits and polished leather shoes, swinging about in a concrete jungle filled with towering spires of shimmering steel, continuing to hoist one another’s self-worth higher and higher into the clouds until we can no longer breathe our own toxicity. Yet here I was, in these disgusting rags, and I couldn’t give less of a damn. Standing on this island, over 20 nautical miles from the nearest fishing town, was actually not so bad. I had become absorbed in such festering thoughts. My perception of time was distorted, Slowly, I became aware of my surroundings and was surprised to find I’d made my way through shallow waters, across the rocky beaches, and onto the glistening black cliffs of the bay. I stopped on the edge and listened to the waves. The rhythmic sway and crash of water eased my mind. On the jagged rock, my senses became invigorated as if something primal had taken hold. My chest rose and fell slowly. I could feel every creaking joint and aching muscle. I realized how frail my body was. How unbelievably exhausted and worn I had become. My consuming resentment and disgust for humanity dwindled and, for a brief moment, seemed almost trivial. In my solitude I found serenity. The violent inferno fueling my rage had been reduced to dancing embers. I staggered down the cliffs and arrived on an isolated beach below.
virgins start big, my love, start short take off your life-jacket, swim to me past the little orange buoys on state beach seize the empty sea is empty and I’m still here take off your life-jacket, swim past the little orange buoys on state beach little orange buoy forever is long enough take your time
hairbrush bristles: you come to us when you don’t quite understand how the air could be so sticky. Your fingers aren’t enough. They’re too fat. You’re too fat. There are hundreds of us. No one bleeds when they step on a bed of nails. It would hurt more if I did my work alone.
Where I’m from: After George Ellen Lyon I am from Tylenol From allergies and steel picture-frames I am from church wafers they called bread (stale, dripping, I can only taste wine) I’m from the shore from lakes against slippery rocks bigger rocks in the ocean Small ones come home in your shoes I’m from toothpaste and scissors From Monica and Miriam from “pick-me”s and point-seven lead from tooth fairies and hell-isn’t-real from it’s cold when it’s windy and folk songs i can sing myself I’m from wet mold and aspartame sharp grass and hydrangeas From skunks in the barnyard and grandma’s crooked toe I’m from red pens and white-out tape I love the sunrise and sunset before and after death or new sandals, I’ll be here for a while
Journey The packs were loaded and my iron casket was ready to drop. The sea was eerily calm, I would say too calm but that would be so cliche it might make me vomit. Magic Eight, my one man submersible, named because it was painted black so it looked like a glossy eight billiard ball, and ironically because it was the ninth submersible to attempt to reach 4250m below the pacific ocean. Magic Eight was loaded to the gills with cutting edge technology, there was a dusty mustard yellow barometer fifty years outdated, a light that flickered too much, ONE out of the THREE lights on the exterior of the chassis that would supposedly illuminate the darker parts of the ocean, a window, and a stool which was poorly welded to the center of the craft. Oh, there was a blinky red light that went WHAMP WHAMP if I was running low on oxygen as well, but I couldnâ€™t change the oxygen tank since it was on the outside of the craft anyway so the light only told me when I was about five minutes away from death by suffocation, true brilliance at work. I clambered in Magic Eight and Dr. Lertich told me that I would be fine, but Iâ€™m sure the bitch told that to all the other corpses-to-be, all eight of them to be exact. From the inside I could hear all of the last-minute maintenance being done to the outside of the craft as I got situated on the frigid stool and inhaled the slightly metallic musty air. The hisses of oxygen tanks being changed, the taps of bolts being triple checked, the squeaking of cleaning detergents against the barometer filled my cold spheroid sarcophagus. After about ten minutes the door clamped shut,
the lock slid into place, and Magic Eight hit the open sea. The doctors and specialists told me a lot of what I might see, and what I would need to look for and catalogue in my notebook, but I had a bit of a wait since most of the interesting stuff was farther below. While I waited to drop down I figured that I could at least have a look around at the scenery where it was still light. I saw all kinds of fish, yellow, blue, orange, and red streaks darted this way and that. They weaved a polychromatic tapestry like painted needles dashing from coral to coral, hiding place to hiding place. As the hue of the ocean wilted from a translucent cotton candy blue to a dense navy to caliginous black it became more difficult to see. I switched on the exterior light, which cast just enough illumination into the murky abyss to make out some of the fish that swam by. As I got lower, even the light on the exterior of the craft became less useful. The unknown nothingness might seem terrifying to some, but it offered me comfort, or it could have just been shock that Magic Eight hadnâ€™t collapsed at this depth like the other subs before it. But if I had just woken up in Magic Eight, here, without any prior knowledge, I would think that I was in space. The fluttering marine snow and fallen scales twinkling like macabre stars hanging in the oil black water. Blind fish with lumps and fangs meandering this way and that through the liquid cosmos. The fish no longer darted or danced about the sub, these spectral aliens just watched Magic Eight with their milky cue ball eyes, blind to the light that I was shining, not swimming about or living, just floating, existing at a point in space and time. It was like life was put on hold down here, in this alien world. Then out of nowhere, the sub stopped, Itâ€™s programmed route finished. Magic Eight hung there in the water for a brief eternity, as if to tell me to say goodbye to this living Lovecraftian story before returning to my world. I never thought that I wanted to see such creatures in my life, what was a job that I was forced into doing, became a beautiful moment; all thanks to the engineers that made the chassis walls an inch thicker on all sides and kept my skull intact at 4250m underwater, unlike the others. I was the only one to witness such a place. A sad thought, especially when I knew that my notebook could never do it justice.
Anxiety There was dirt in my mouth. There was dirt in my hair. It was probably all over my clothes too, but I couldn’t tell. It was dark and I could barely move. I was also extremely uncomfortable. My shoulders throbbed. I tried to adjust myself but more dirt fell in my face and my attempted movements were abandoned. It’s too small, I can’t sit up or move to the side. There wasn’t anything I could do. So I closed my eyes, hoping this would all go away. When I opened them again, not much had changed. There was still dirt in my mouth and I think there may have been a worm near my face but I was too scared to check. I was bored. This was boring. I don’t remember how I got there. Or what had happened before. I shifted again, resulting in more dirt falling directly on my face. Lovely. My face was a little too clean anyway. I shut my eyes again to prevent more dirt from falling in them. But now the dirt was inside my eyelids. I wondered why everything must have so many consequences. I could feel every single grain of dirt pushing up against me and holding my back level. I could feel them, cool yet grimy, on my face, making their way down to my lips.
My throat felt dry. I didn’t know if I could speak. I was too scared to try. More dirt would fall in my face, to begin with, and besides, I think I forgot how. That can’t be possible, I thought. I’m thinking right now and I still know what words are. Can vocal cords stop working with time? How long have I been down here? I opened my eyes to a dirt cloud. It hadn’t gone away. It had been worse. What should I do? How long had I been here? What was going to happen next? Probably nothing judging by the rate of things that weren’t dirt going on currently. I wondered what was happening somewhere else. Somewhere with light and grass and food. Food. That’s right. When was the last time I ate? Have I ever eaten? I don’t see why not. I know what food is, don’t I? But I know what a wooly mammoth is and I’ve never seen one. I think I’m becoming tired. Maybe I should sleep. That’s a good idea. I woke up with a start. I heard something. And it wasn’t just the dirt falling. There was someone out there. Out where though? Where am I? I banished the confusion from my head. It doesn’t matter. There’s someone there. There’s someone there There’s someone theIt was quiet again. Then a light. Then a voice. I squinted up through the sunlight.
“Orion” Grand Central Station, the seventh of the month, underneath Orion. Since the month is January, the designated time is 1:13 PM. This is where Annie and Maya’s dead drop is, where it’s been for the past five years, and in all that time, Maya’s never missed it. Then again, Annie has supposedly been dead for three months. She won’t fault Maya for staying home. The big hand on the clock hits 1:10. Annie straightens the cuffs on her pantsuit, and she wonders what horrific ensemble Maya’ll be wearing, what sugar-laden snack she’ll be eating. (If she comes, Annie reminds herself. Only if she comes.) 1:11, now. Annie hasn’t fidgeted since she was six years old. She’s not going to break the streak, not even for her best friend— but God, does she want to. 1:12. 1:13. The hand on the clock slides forward once more, to 1:14, and Annie feels her heart drop. And then she catches sight of a green polyester jacket and a sleeve of Chips Ahoy. She walks forward, because she’s not about to do the big dramatic run, and then before she realizes it she’s jogging— no, sprinting— and then— “No cookies,” Maya says, spinning to face her, “until you explain.”
Annie hadn’t even reached for one (yet). “Perceptive as always.” Maya does not fall for the flattery, but Annie hadn’t expected her to. “I’d say I just know you that well, but you faked your death and didn’t tell me, so maybe not.” Annie deserves that. “I’m sorry.” “Why’d you do it, then?” She pauses. Maya’s not mad— Maya’s never really mad, never at Annie. Well. There was that one time in Ocean City. “I wanted to see if I could,” Annie says, because Maya might not be mad, but if she were, it would be reasonable, and it would be terrible. Like the wrath of God. Or an Ocean City millionaire with too much time and too many attack dogs on his hands. “Also, I stole something.” Maya frowns, her gaze boring straight through Annie’s three different jackets, down to the soul underneath. Annie has never, ever stolen anything worth stealing— and gotten away with it— without Maya by her side, and she knows that’s what Maya’s thinking too. “Why?” Maya repeats. Annie shifts uncomfortably, and then she realizes that she’s coming dangerously close to fidgeting again. She stops. “It was gonna be a thank you gift,” she says, heat prickling across her neck. “For, y’know. Helping me out all the time.” Because when they were young and bleach-blond and getting into trouble, Maya thought things through, looked at each angle and each line until they surrendered their secrets to her, and then she’d move. Sure, she’d get hung up on the details, but Annie was always the impulsive one, so it worked out. The two of them always worked out. Annie shifts again under Maya’s renewed scrutiny. She casts a glance at the clock. 1:18. Takes another look. 1:19. Resists the urge to say something— “Have a cookie,” Maya says. Annie grins, and hugs her instead.
Curtain Call It’s the moment before the show starts. There’s apprehension, a buzz in the air from the excitement, the nervousness, the months we’ve waited for this to happen. Opening night is a big deal for everyone, even those of us backstage. Some parents are waiting in the audience, and some aren’t, the source of many tears an hour ago. But now, all of the actors have forgotten who is in the audience— only that there is an audience, one filled with people who came to see them. They are the stars tonight, from the tiniest parts to Dracula himself.
I am single-minded entering the backstage area. Feelings are reserved for the actors as I sit down on my stool, the one I’ve been using since rehearsals started, open up the script and put it in my lap. I press the spacebar until it wakes up, already open to the rehearsal report. I put on my headset and sign on, listening to the standbys. I make a fist at Owen on top of the set, telling him to standby for fog. He mirrors my motion. I press the button on the headset and say, “Fog standing by.”
A few more seconds of chatter, and then my stage manager says, “We’re ready for places.”
I turn to the right, looking at all the apprehensive faces, and yell (well, project) “PLACES.” They scurry into place, fueled by excitement and adrenaline. I press the headset button after a few seconds, when the only people backstage are wearing stage blacks, nearly invisible. “Actors are in places,” I say.
I look over and see the other assistant stage manager across from me. He’s focused intently on the cues, and even though we’ve run this show at least six times, anxiety wells up in my throat. Will run crew get caught in the light again? Will the quick change be okay? What if someone forgets their lines? What if I miss a cue?
I take a deep breath, and remind myself that I’m surrounded by people who want this show to go perfectly more than anything. And all of the thoughts leave my brain as I hear the first cue of the show over my headset.
cornflower It was a particularly lovely February evening, but Jackie was far from calm. She was speeding down the highway in search of flowers. Tugging at the zipper of her coat, she cursed under her breath as a wayward movement of her hand zipped her coat up even tighter. A bottle of marble cleaner and a soft white rag perched in the passenger seat next to her, and Jackie avoided looking at them. Glancing at the horizon, the blood drained from her face when she noticed the grey February sky was bleeding pink, red, and orange. Every time she blinked, Jackie saw the tombstone, marble tarnished, and surrounded by overgrown grass. She shuddered despite the warmth of her car, unwilling to fathom the sight of it. As she exited the freeway, the sound of her phone ringing pierced the air. Aaron’s voice was fuzzy through her car speakers when he asked where she was. She could hear music behind him, and Claire and Taylor’s muffled voices. “Damn it,” Jackie sighed, “I completely forgot, I’m so sorry.” Aaron was unfazed, “Do you want us to wait up for you? We’re at Taylor’s place now.” Jackie shook her head, “No, don’t worry about it. I’ve got to take care of something in Westport anyways, I’d hate to keep you guys waiting.” She could hear the realization dawn on Aaron before he gets the words out“Westport?” he asked, before falling into an apologetic silence, “Oh. Oh. Is today when
Liam….” He trailed off, and Jackie nodded as she brought her car to a stop, “Three years ago, yeah,” she answered. Her words hung between them for a moment before Aaron finally spoke. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.” Jackie shrugged, “It’s fine, really. I’m sorry I forgot to tell you before.” She could imagine Aaron shaking his head on the other side of the line, hear the creak of Taylor’s floorboards as he’s pacing back and forth, “Don’t worry about it,” he said, “I’ll tell the others something came up, I’m sure they’ll understand. Jackie?” She looked down the street, where the wrought-iron gates of the cemetery were barely visible through the canopy of trees, “Yes?” Aaron hesitated a moment, “Tell him…tell him I miss him, too.” A faint smile tugged at the corner of Jackie’s lips, but it barely reached her eyes, “Thanks, Aaron. You know I will.” A tear has already begun to form on her lower lashes, and Jackie reached up with the sleeve of her sweater to brush it away, “I just pulled up outside the cemetery. I think I should probably go if I want to sort everything out before it gets dark.” She said goodbye to Aaron quickly, and grabbed the cleaning supplies. As she walked down the quiet street, she scanned her surroundings for some sort of flower. Her eyes locked on a cornflower-blue window box, bearing a cheerful crop of daffodils. As she approached the window box, the sound of someone playing the cello filtered out through the open window, and Jackie leaned against the house to avoid doubling over. Even though it had been three years since the accident, Jackie hadn’t been able to convince her parents to go through Liam’s old things. What was left to remember their oldest son by was gathering dust behind his bedroom door, from textbooks to baseball caps to a very lonely cello that hadn’t seen the light of the day after its owner tucked it into its velvet-lined case the day before the accident. With a shock, she remembered the velvet’s particular shade of blue- Liam had custom-ordered periwinkle hue, the stormy cousin to the cornflower-blue of the window box next to her. Jackie inhaled sharply as she plucked three daffodils from their patch, and on the exhale, she began to cry.
Mourning Doves I didn’t like the feeling of weightlessness. On one hand, the world seemed more vibrant; maybe that was because my sense of touch was gone, so my eyes could focus on color. But on the other, I felt like air… like nothing. I hated watching everyone go on and talk about me. I had to watch my husband pass out at our dining table every night, surrounded by empty Jack Daniels bottles. One of his vows was to stop, but I guess since I’m gone, he no longer thought to keep them. “Until death do us part” after all; they never said what to do after. I was happier seeing people unbothered by my absence. My boss quickly replaced me, the bus driver stopped looking for my face. I wished that I could have gone my last days more unassuming, rather than balding. Sticking out like a sore thumb. But all these things, my newfound opinions on the world, made it easier to leave. When the silhouette that seemed to create light stuck out its hand, I took it. When wings broke out from behind it, I didn’t let go. I closed my eyes as the weightlessness melted off my skin, and my bones began to feel dense again. The sound of harps overtook my ears, and I kept my eyes shut to try to make my
hearing vibrant as my eyes used to be. The sound made my whole body ring, like the dinner bells my mother had with flying angels ontop. When I finally touched ground and took view of the world once more, I was on the streets of my town. The familiar storefronts, lined up on the sidewalks, narrowed down to a single body standing at the center of the intersection ahead. I burst into a run, ignoring how the rocks of the pavement tore into the bottoms of my feet. My body collided with that of my husband’s, which glowed like a dimmer version of my reaper. His arms encased me, and he smelled like vanilla instead of whiskey. “Are you real?” I asked into his shirt. He said nothing, which was enough of an answer to me. His body felt solid, but no more solid than a stuffed animal. “I love you, Kyle,” he said, and I repeated the simple, four-word saying back. In the distance, mourning doves sang.
Small Town Motel the worst part about me is my heart she opens too early and closes too late like some small town motel they like that it’s home that when they come back again they’ll be greeted by the same ticking grandfather clock in my chest and run down, beat up rugs and halls that smell like snickerdoodle cookies in the fall the homemade kind the ones only achieved by the nimble fingers of a grandmother
experienced by age and warm knit blankets that wrap around the compliments and “how are you, really” ‘s and hide their lack of effort and their egos and their spiteful tongues with “go to bed, beautiful” ‘s and “i love you” ‘s and “don’t worry about her” ‘s when i saw the messages you sent to her at 2am that wednesday after we said goodnight my heart does herself the most wrong always pleasing others always blaming me
Van Nguyen (Vivian)
Waltz I was roaming to the morose moonlight. I was sinking to the stagnant far dive. Like how cliffs soaring high up Luring vines that rip the tide Under which hot geysers hid Now returned to the night. In a waltz, You tripped to my soul. Reverberating, You lulled every niche. I was no vine, yet white daisies With no charm, yet crippling spine Such grisly pale vamps' greedy Two-prong bites I left behind. Ere nightfall, my only beg With gleaming armor, with all might With your soaring sky onward Whisk me far away.
Palette What to do when it rains? Planning is essential, for an unexpected downpour may ruin all your outdoor plans. One of the best suggestions is to spend some time in the shopping mall, maintain the spirit. Another is to wait a bit after the rain and take some good photos in the clear air. Or you could stay at home, enjoy a cup of coffee and warm hugs. But most importantly, put on some warm clothes, because the next span is coming. Some very first sunshine pierce through the clouds, traversed down the skyscrapers. It creeps in houses, gets through cracks of the doorway. Some then plastered onto the wool tiles, while others caress the wooden floors. Some moments until it’s all dyed in yellowish hues. You wouldn’t want to be sick, would you? When would it rain again? It was up to his decision.
A proper way to introduce him is to stroll through his artworks. If masterpieces are works of outstanding artistry, his is the finest of all, although there are hardly any candid comments on its quality. To him, a day of work was a world of experiments. Gently held the prism in his hands, for hours, he never failed to find a new way to study it. When all quintessence met, he created the palette of fragrance and life. In the beginning, it was all carefully organized. There were little greenery, fragrant flowers, warm sunshine, torrential wind, whispering waves, cold breezes, and species to maintain the dynamics of life. Were it a splendid day, the piece filled with yellow, red, pink and bright blue. Sadness is dark blue, gray, and black. The array of randomness and substantial efforts to preserve harmony magnified his works with charm. One day, he was painting rains and stopped. The patchy colors reminded him of the cold water, and how nice it was to go swimming in the dawn. That was his first day off work ever since he started painting, spending all morning in the pool. And the story went, returning home was a big “Huh?” Centered on the painting was a multitude of blemishes. From the masterpiece emanated new chords and shapes that did not follow the rules. He left it, to either flourish or collapse, fluctuated to the unknown. When would it rain again?
Jew In elementary school, my Sunday school teachers asked what being Jewish meant to me... At the time it meant: Being put into Sunday school in the first grade because when asked about what I thought Judaism was, I sang a song about Jesus. Sitting next to Lindsey during class because she was pretty and nice. Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas because Dad‘s family isn’t Jewish. Bringing colored pencils to temple because Shabat services are kind of boring. Having a list of things not to mention at public school that included, but was not limited to: Where babies come from and Santa Claus’s existence, or lack thereof. It meant wrapping my head around the idea that people called Nazis were a thing, and they didn't like us because we were Jewish. It also meant trying to figure out why a little boy with a country accent told me we could not be friends because I was Jewish. It meant that God is possibly a big wizard with a long beard who lives in the sky. Getting mad at mom for singing loudly during morning services. It was singing silly Hebrew words in a children’s choir. It meant that for my school’s Christmas around the world holiday concert, my class had to wear blue and sing the dreidel song. In middle school, my friends asked me what being Jewish meant to me… At the time it meant: Getting to be different than my peers - and possibly a minority? Enjoying the idea of being different from my peers. Being treated like the representative of the entire Jewish population any time my friends had a question. The entire class looking at me when Judaism was even remotely mentioned in a lesson because I am one of two Jews in my school. It meant getting to miss school for big holidays. Feeling out the line between a joke that is funny and a joke that is hurtful. Being part of a community and part of a history way bigger than myself. Actually reading what the silly words we said in services mean. It meant, “Who or What is God to me?” Wondering if I had the right to be offended at the boy who heiled Hitler in the hallway because he thought his rebellion looked cool.
It meant spending a whole year learning Hebrew and reading Torah for my bat mitzvah to have my dad, the night before, offhandedly say in the car that it might just be a big fucking waste of time. It meant understanding that the Holocaust happened only seventy years ago. Someone spray-painting a swastika on my friend’s car in the high school parking lot. Having the superpower of writing friends’ names in Hebrew. It meant we couldn’t use the back door at Temple for security reasons. But we used it anyway. In high school, I ask myself what being Jewish means to me… It means: Wearing the Star of David necklace because it looked cool in a movie I saw. It means crying when mom sings her solo in the temple choir. It’s asking when Christmas is every year. It’s not getting Jesus references in Spanish class. It’s getting to teach pre-K at my temple and trying to show what religion can be and not what it should be. It means a woman coming up to me and pressing her finger into my necklace, saying, “That’s pretty.” It’s contemplating, but not understanding, Zionism and the idea of a homeland I have thousands of miles away. It means a parked police car outside our synagogue and getting checked in and out of the building because we can no longer just talk about Nazis in the past tense. It’s feeling hot in the face when I hear the man behind me complain to his wife about an older gentleman loudly rattling off prayers during services because no one should tell you how to pray and how not to pray. It means being in a hotel lobby with my friends and seeing the headline, “Anti-Semitism on the rise,” flash across the TV screen, and them looking at me for a response. It means me getting sick of people mentioning my religion every time they see my necklace and wondering if I should just not wear it anymore. It means sitting at the same table as a police officer at Passover and getting to drink wine in front of him because it’s a holiday. It means hearing the words, “Jews will not replace us!” and trying to understand where the us ends and I begin. It means having to check in with the front office before I am allowed to take the preschoolers outside to play. It’s asking how the word Jew can stand as both an identity and an insult. It means going to rehearsal and running to the bathroom to cry because I am on my period and hundreds of Jewish gravestones have just been destroyed. It is asking myself if I’m allowed to be scared of something that is happening a country away, a state away, or a school away. It’s learning the word, Kike. It means that now on holidays there are three cops inside compared to the normal one. It’s my dad asking me if I’ve thought about an escape plan if someone were to come into services with a gun. It’s me telling him I do.
A Soldier He stood there. Back rigid. Hands clasped behind his back, staring forward, as he was taught. Today was his day, the day he could finally help his country. Really help it. Not sit behind some desk and jot tactical crap down. “Wars are won through men, not notes.” That’s what his friend said to him. “Notes don’t pull the trigger. Men do.” He boarded his designated plane. He went through all the checks, and sat down. As the engines roared to life, a deep vibration filled the plane, shaking his vision, shaking his body. It was a comforting thrum, a deep soothing feeling that filled him from head to toe. Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep. He awoke to his friend shaking him awake. “It’s go time,” was all his friend had to say. The back of the plane opened. He ran toward it as he was told to and he jumped. He felt the brief sensation of floating, then slammed back to reality as gravity took hold. He fell, and yanked his chute causing him to jerk as it was deployed. Then he hit the ground. Hard. Dropping his chute he ran, quickly diving behind cover. The continuous roar of machine guns was punctuated by the occasional mine or mortar detonating. He glanced around. He peeked around his corner and fired. The butt of the gun slammed into the small of his shoulder. It wasn’t the movie-like image of the gun forcing itself up. It was a back and forth pounding. like
an animal held in violent hands, struggling to escape. The click of the bolt slamming into its home, its signal that the magazine was empty, brought him back to his harsh reality. He tore the magazine out, dropping it onto the ground, and slammed in a fresh one. He yanked the bolt back and started to peek out again, but this time, someone fired back at him. His enemy was closing ground, desperate and low on ammunition. He realized he needed to kill this man, for he would get no sympathy from him. The manâ€™s knife was out. The man was rapidly closing the distance, using anything possible to block bullets. He realized that he would never get the shot off without getting severely injured. The man was already too close. He drew his knife and steeled himself for the battle to come. The man lunged at him. He brought his knife up to gut the man. The manâ€™s knife bit deeply into his shoulder. He could feel it tear his nerves and muscles. He slammed his knife up into the heart of the man. They both collapsed, one dead, the other dying. He felt strangely content and died knowing war was nothing like they said. Humanity becomes a distant, unreachable thing. They fought and died for what they believed in. Neither side believed what they were doing was wrong. They both believed they were right, and they always would. He closed his eyes, and never opened then again. He was looked over when they found him, one of many names on another list. Just another gravestone in the end, alone with everyone around him. Another gravestone to some, but to others a larger-than-life hero, a man who could swallow his fear and protect his family. He was a soldier.
Blackness I read of the boy from the ghetto Walking with a pack of Skittles He was 17, like my brother, and I feel my heart ache I read of the girl from the party The one who was found in the freezer Sheâ€™d been separated from her friends and never came back My hands Shake as I sit the paper down I read of the man with the counterfeit bill Whose life was torn from him because of a knee on his neck and a shiny badge He screamed for his mother and my chest sizes. I cannot breathe either So I told my mother. I tell her of The ghetto boy The party girl And the man with the counterfeit bill How one was killer acquitted, the otherâ€™s case never solved, and the three officers only charged My heart aches, hands shake, and chests teases My mother hugs me but cannot provide any words of comfort. How can she when my skin is like a target symbol on my back 99
LOST She paced about the lengths of the emergency room, trailing off at the water fountain, turning around and making the loop in a counterclockwise direction. If it was possible, her hair had grayed over the last two hours itself, turning from a frazzled brown to smooth and silver. Had she aged? Had she gained thirty years in the past hours? She couldn’t know. All she did know was that Thomas was dead. It was a vile word, it really was, the hard sounds at the beginning and end of the word spitting out of the doctor’s mouth and onto her face, the droplets of water sinking into her skin saying dead, dead, dead. She could have stopped it. She was the one who ran the red light, and she was sitting in the driver’s seat, but Thomas was in the back left, and the minivan had come fast, crushing, splintering her little car, folding the metal in half, Thomas along with it. She didn’t even get a scratch. She turned at the water fountain once more, circling around the emergency room. Ma’am, ma’am, you need to leave. B ut my son is dead, my little boy is dead, dead, dead. Ma’am I understand, I’m very sorry for your loss, but you’re going to have to leave. She stumbled out the glass door, sinking to the door. If she had aged so much in the last two hours, maybe it was her time to go soon. Yes, maybe it was her time to go. She would see him again soon.
CHAINS Do we fear, We manufacture hurt, Create screams with smoke Color ourselves in shades Of armour and hate Drown out yells, Drowning them In gas And rubber There are no chains! On the 13th day of the 13th month, They took them away! Take a knee for your lords For as they enslaved you, Your gratitude will be your collar VIVA! Are we truly stunted, Small wilts Petals barely bloomed Do we not know, Omnipotence Through the spark of electricity When we yell and scream
Not begging, Like we are supposed to. We are the ignorant ones, The ones who help Sisyphus push the boulder, Pick apricots for Tantalus Who fight when stagnation bubbles in democracy, The enlightened ones, They do not care for the law! It is their safety they care for, They will not wrap their sick, bulbous mouths in cloth, They will not be silent as the chokes of the dying Drown them out. The law only applies, When they want it to To protect the ones They once denounced. To silence change Revolution!
Chase When you’re a kid and you hear the word “tag” Your mind loses itself in the possibility of being a secret agent, A police officer, a ninja, or a superhero. You chase the bad guy. When you're not “it” then you run like hell to get away. If you don’t see the game in this way, Well, know that it is fun. I was running. Sprinting. Using every fiber of muscle in my legs to outrun him, My little brother. Scaling flights of stairs, Sliding down fire poles, Swinging over a pit, All trying to survive. You see, being the villain in a game, your one purpose is to spite the hero. I had him on the ropes of a nervous breakdown, Questioning whether his status of being a hero had been earned. Nothing in my way but the possibilities of escapes from the deluxe metal playground. Now listen, I'm not saying if I tripped the baby or if the baby tripped me, But when a small toddler rounds a corner in the middle of the chase of the century, It gets in your way. Time froze. The toddler is falling. In a cliche slow motion dive, I heroically saved the child from scraping his knee. 102
Looks like I was the hero after all, But in my self-righteousness over the victory, Lying on the ground I brushed my hand through my hair Across the side of my head. Blood. In the agony of physical shock I lie on the ground still. My brother stands over me. “Tag...your it.” November --The crevice of a rock structure---A leaf barren forest-Sitting where nature intended The air is sweet and pure, Brushing hair into a face, that is Alone to see at its own pace. Eyes closed. Ears on. The crack of a twig alerts The presence of a fawn. Brown like the ground Speckles of white like snow. Looking around in innocent woe. The click of a rifle Causes a flinch. Looking at her stalker Teasing the thought of a prize. The young one leaves as it came. Silent. Victory, mystery, and life This spirit avoids another cut from the world’s cruel knife.
Drifting in Place Itâ€™s getting colder. You can feel it in the way the air stills and the breeze stiffens and the light of the sun dims. You can feel it in the soil, frigid and hardened into a crust of white-glazed stone. And you can feel it within you, within your drooping wooden limbs, once adorned with magnificent plumes of green, then yellow, then red, but now bare and gaunt like the rest of you. Empty, like the rest of you, and in a position to do nothing to fill yourself back up. All around you, the earth quiets. If you had ears, you would notice the change. You would miss the trilling of the birds and the rustle of their nests. You would miss the sweet rhythm of the rain and the ferocious roar of the storm. You would note the lack of creaks and groans resonating from within your spindly form as it bends with the wind and the weight of freshly-laid eggs. You would not understand the silence, but you would welcome it. If you had eyes, you would close them. You would shut them to the outside world, beckoning the darkness that awaits behind your eyelids to emerge. You would embrace the void and allow it to blot the sight of the frozen ground and the decaying green-gold-crimson collection youâ€™ve gathered at your feet from your vision. And if you had a mouth, you would sigh, and you would grin, as you let the darkness take you and hold you until spring.
mortician mind our celestial girl lays in the churchyard wax words waiting in her mouth while her mother laments through closed shutters. a silent prayer. what happens when your 19th birthday comes and goes? that gut feeling is all gone and the only thing left is absence. so you wait for 40 nights. each one mending that inkling of presence a little more until itâ€™s still there but easier that 40th night waits on your doorstep shaking its knee in nervousness Departure Your brown wings do not match the pink that follows you like the midnight blue tinge of your name nightingale they say that your song is shockingly beautiful something so simple holds such beauty like many things in a world usually ugly flying with wings healed in one too many poems over this Earth that you manifested Iâ€™ve never heard your song 105
Iâ€™ll only hear it artificially unless I go to where you are just as you make your departure blue most visits are spent with repeated stories and the television this one was spent outdoors, where it was as warm outside as it is in the house. we tumbled from the RV park to the river eyes out for snake eyes, that poor handgun starved for use. a blue butterfly lost its wing under our wheels I wanted to keep it so badly, to have something to remember this terribly weird but happy day by. The land goes on for empty acres we're told that the owner of all this terra would give you the shirt off her back as soon as she would shoot you. Fishing in silence and stillness, I doze dreamlessly, waking only to reel in bluegills Days like this contradict themselves. The beauty almost overrides their underlying hatred.
On the Sea White ocean spray sprinkled her rosy cheeks during the waning minutes of midnight. Screeching winds warned her with their cries, but the girl did not speak their tongue. A stranger to the experience, she was overjoyed to see something so foreign, so daring and moving as the open ocean. The dream of becoming a sailor that had engulfed her for years finally appeared to become a reality. At such a young age, the girl did not know the power of a storm, nor that of the surging wave of monstrous proportions approaching her. Most people would have known to run inside and lock the doors, away from the balcony when they saw that mountain of water chasing after them. Not her. She giggled and closed her eyes, spread her arms out in each direction. She thought about how her parents would react to how wet sheâ€™d gotten, and they would laugh. But then the wave struck. A crashing wall of power lurched up onto the deck and consumed her, threw her like a rag doll. The girl felt her chest crush under the weight of a falling skyscraper. Arms and legs tumbled about. She trembled, so dazed and confused that everything lost meaning all at once. Her body became nothing more than a fragile vessel that carried her soul, and the ocean was the infinite universe, unknowing and uncaring. White wash pulled her left and right, stripped her of her ruby storm coat. Both of her arms ached as they paddled against the unforgiving current. She gasped for air. Before the storm
fueled waves overtook her again, she saw the ship towering over her. The wave had been so powerful as to toss her right over the guard rails. The childâ€™s head dipped under the surface of the ocean for the last time just after she took her final breath. Currents grabbed at her ankles and wrists, pulled her down. No amount of struggle could have saved her. The storm was not looking to spare a life that night. She thrashed and panicked and pleaded in her head that the waves would be so kind as to let her go. Just the way she did not speak the tongue of the wind, the ocean did know her language, could not read her mind. Air spewed out of her nostrils in a desperate attempt to keep the water from thrusting itself into her nasal cavities. Her muscles tensed. Her brain sparked with a kindled fear until, just like a flame, it grew starved of oxygen and simmered down. The thoughts of worry and dread fluttered away until she no longer knew what those words meant. For a moment, the surge of sea settled down, the light of the full moon faded from the depths. Bubbles tickled her tingling skin. Grains of floating sand rolled down her arms. Gravity tugged at her legs so gently that she felt as though the ocean were lulling her to sleep. But she knew in the furthest recesses of her hardly conscious mind that the ocean was swallowing her whole. And then her lungs reminded her in a flush of sudden desperation that the water brushing her hair and caressing her face was suffocating her. She grasped upwards. All that her fingers managed to touch were her own palms. A gasp, a breath of pure liquid. A gurgle. A cold shiver that failed to shake death away. The conscious strain behind her flickering eyes settled, as did the muscles in her jumping hands. Two arms spread out lazily in each direction, two legs bent gently at the knees, two eyes stared into a twilight grave. Sinking deeper, she felt nothing, knew not of her descent. What little oxygen resided in her throat trickled out over the course of a few minutes. The innocent dream of becoming a sailor died with her that night.
heat death elegy after Robert Frost you wave to the universe and it doesn’t notice. it’s not your fault. the universe doesn’t understand the thermodynamics of hello. every action has an equal opposite reaction. somewhere a black hole sighs for one last glimpse of light. it has never before been the consumed thing. the universe simply wants a glass of chilled water. it has never told anybody this. absolute zero: an ice cube left out in the sun to melt. entropy until equilibrium. stars hold with those who favor fire but physics has never taken into account desire. relativity has never considered sleep. when you look up, you see no light. it’s not your fault. light faltered well before god lost his game of dice and the universe gave up its pretense of chance. you wave to the universe. it decides ice would suffice and suffuses itself with it. no one notices. no one waves back. no one knows how. -1945 from this high up the span of your palm shrouds the city
permanence an audacious bluff memory carves out a ghost town you cannot see past your hand fission hurtles to earth as you turn away from the window for a moment you try to pray -height requirement midsummer and you are left half-blind your little brother’s hand in yours sticky with melted dippin’ dots as he tugs you over to the line come on his tongue glazed cotton candy pink i’ve never been on one with loops in it he runs past the kiddie ride and eyes it all smug maturity like he’d never once had the time of his life yelling down the five foot drop remember when the span of his hand fit neatly within your palm when he looked at you and not beyond you he jumps the line and you let him do it he challenges the sun to a staring contest and you don’t know at what point he lost his sunglasses but no matter how he leans forward on his tippy toes a bird unconvinced that it’s wingless he is still one and a quarter inches too short to ride the vortex you’ve never been able to tell him no and you wonder how this sun-dazed high school sophomore can do it so easily sorry kid and how your little brother still hasn’t let go of your hand lips quivering pupils flaring like twin suns breath breaking its way out his throat uncomprehending of his own youth he says please he says it’s not fair he says i don’t wanna ride the kiddie one he says tell me what it’s like and you say it’s almost falling you say it’s almost tripping y ou say it’s almost running downhill to the creek like we used to you’ve never said no to him you don’t know how but he hears it anyway your little brother stares up at you as you inch towards the drop and you feel the distance between you and him unspool your stomach and yank it back to where he wonders at you like an answer to a question he doesn’t know how to ask just before you fall you reach half-blinded for the sun and you miss it by one and a quarter inches. 110
Arniel sat back, his amulet resting upon his chest. He knew that in this place, his shrine, he was alone. He was safe to commune with his patron. His amulet was heavy with the blood he had gathered. Tonight, he would send the blood to his patron, wherever her domain lies. He had never even learned his patronâ€™s name, he was so desperate for help. Regardless, he had signed the contract, he carved the amulet that now hung from his neck, he had constructed the shrine he used to pay his tribute. And now, even though his desperation faded, itâ€™s been replaced. Replaced by a repugnant fear that consumed his every waking moment, and devoured his dreams. The fear that his very soul will be ripped from his body if he was to abandon his oath, his pact. To parley that fear, each time his bandits claimed new victims, he would bring the corpses to this place, splay them across the shrine, and plunge the amulet into their chests, allowing the thirsting wood to soak in their blood, feeding the famished visage of his patron. Arniel looked upon the sneering dragon that gazed out at him from his amulet, and remembered the man he used to be. He looked back to the boy whose legs had been crushed by beasts, whose spirit was dying in their jaws, who prayed not to any god, but to whatever would listen. He remembered how he cried out into the unforgiving mouths of the wolves that circled him, and how pillars of flame, which burned like the pits of hell itself, engulfed his attackers. He remembered the voice that whispered its foul secrets into his mind, telling him of the power it
offered. As he reminisced, Arniel looked into his armor’s polished plates, looking at his own face, trying to remember what he used to look like. His eyes looked sunken, as though he hadn’t slept in days. His hair was greasy and speckled with dried blood. Arniel felt a pang of anger, gripping his amulet tightly, realizing what it had done to him. How making it had changed him. How this shrine had altered his fate. Then again, he was reluctant to think of the alternative, to think of the ravenous jaws of nature ripping through his flesh. So Arniel steeled himself, and steadied his hand. He would continue his work tonight, making the sacrifices he had to to appease her, the one who held his soul hostage. A sadistic grin crept onto his face as his tribute stirred from its sleep, as its eyes caught the moonlight that bounded off of Arniel’s blade. And as the raucous cheers of bandits filled the night air, and the embers of the tribute’s caravan died down, a piercing scream echoed from the mountaintops.
Blood On The Horizon The little girl stumbled and struggled to get up, as her body was dragged along the rough dirt road. She turned back to see her home aflame. Sparks flying in the air as chunks of straw and dirt came crashing down. Men were shouting, women were grabbing children and fleeing. “Momma, please, it hurts,” the girl pleaded for the pain to go away. She looked down to find her legs bleeding and covered in scratches. She looked over at her mom’s legs, they were worse. She could see bone peeking through her mother’s frail shin. Blood left a trail as the mom hobbled at a fast pace with the girl behind her. “I’m sorry,’ darling, but we must keep moving. We are almost there.” “Where, momma? Almost where?” Her mother did not answer. Next to her, mothers and children alike were going through the same fate. The little girl waved at a younger boy who seemed to have been crying. The boy gave a weak wave, and smiled at her. His shorts were torn in places, and his shirt had small holes from where the sparks must have touched him. Soot covered his face from being trapped in the smoky ashes of his house. He released a feeble cough as his mother dragged him on as well. “It's going to be okay,” she told him. The girl reached out a hand to grab the boys’. Just as his hands touched hers an arrow struck his upper shoulder. He staggered back in pain, falling to the ground at his mother’s heel.
“They are here! Hurry we don't have much time!” The girl's mother turned to the boy's mother. “Leave the boy, you are still well, you must get to safety!” “No,” I can’t leave him, he is my only child. I promised I would always be by his side.” The girl's mother could not take it. Did she not care about her own well being? The girl's mother left her side and ran over to the woman who was now kneeling by her son. She wrapped her arms around her and gently brought her back to her feet. “We must keep moving. Please, do it for your son.” The little girl watched, as her mom helped the women up. Her mother had always been a caring person. Throughout the village she was known as the person to go to if you needed help or just wanted to talk to someone. The girl took a step towards the two women to help them, but suddenly they stopped moving. She watched as her mother fell to her knees staring straight at her, before collapsing to the ground. The little girl stood, staring at the arrow protruding from her mother’s back. Tears streamed down her face as her vision blurred. She too fell to her knees, rocking back and forth as her sobs overtook her. It’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay. Those words gave her some hope. “It’s going to be okay,” She didn't remember saying the words aloud. It didn’t even sound like her. The girl felt something brush against her ankle. She peeked through her hands to find the young boy staring up at her. “It’s going to be okay,” he repeated again, and gave her a weak smile. The boy still had the arrow stuck in his arm. She gently took a hold of it and pulled it out. Ripping a piece of her shirt off, she tied it around his arm to stop the bleeding. The boy crawled into her arms, both of them stayed like that for a while comforting each other in their grief. When their final tears fell to the ground, the two kids stood hand in hand, looking around them. The field was scattered with bodies young and old. They were the last survivors of their village. The boy squeezed her hand hard and led her away from the destruction. “It’s going to be okay.”
Waking Up I remember when I met you, the dream in disguise. I wished on you, like a falling star, that we could meet with lips instead of hands, for once. You had been out of reach, a wish I couldn’t help but reach for—until your lips touched mine. This must be a dream, a dream that I prayed to stay in, to live in, to never wake up from. But the dream didn’t last. It was a blemish, at first. That was all. A crack that continued to spread, as I saw 115
the signs of a love forged in fallacy— a smile too wide, a laugh too rich, a voice too soft to be real. I watched as the fantasy crumbled, distorting the lucid image of a fallen star to scattered shards. All of the lies, these layers and layers of lies, swirled into a dream, blurred into a nightmare, leaving only false hopes—false miracles. There’s nothing left to offer, save for a broken voice and crippled words. There’s nothing left, for you and I, nothing but dreams and fantasies.
I remember when fall came, with its brilliant variety of colors that made me feel at home in the foreign place. That year would’ve been lonely if not for her. She was vibrantly glowing amongst the warm harvest, but she was one with it at the same time. There was never a more perfect place for her than among the perennial marigolds. The scene complemented everything about her, and she was the angel of that world, of those memories. So long ago that had been when I barely knew her. We were still exploring the dynamics of each other's personalities, and the intricate way in which we so effortlessly fit together. The vibration of our identities could be heard in the autumn air. It was demonstrated in the complexity of the fiery leaves that fell from the trees, and the bright marigolds she insisted on picking. A little later in our adventure, I got her a bouquet of them. The familiar fall spirit invigorated her, as if she were drawing strength from the flowers. They connected with her, pulsed in tandem with the beating of her heart. Orange was the string that held us together throughout the years, but the seasons never changed in our little world. The chilly season never maintained its normal appearance, but it remained our special, eternal place, in a way. We lived in a forever autumnal equinox. That world existed between the two of us alone. It was imperfect, but adaptive, experiencing change concurrent to our evolving personalities. A few constants were the dead leaves, jack-o-lanterns, and hayrides that returned every year without fail. “Such a night owl,” she teased. However, it was technically early in the morning sometime in November. My erratic sleep schedule was affecting her as well, but she didn’t mind—in fact, she seemed completely accustomed to the change.
She sat on the counter sipping a cup of hot cocoa and I was doing the same on the kitchen island. I swung my feet back and forth as I swallowed. “Deadlines are an enemy to progress and circadian rhythm.” I was a writer. A hum. We continue to sip our drinks in complacent silence. She pulled her golden curls behind her shoulders, and I felt a tug at something in me. There’s only the two of us in the house tonight. A rare occasion where we have a shared, intimate awareness of our separate unity. Separate from the house’s other occupant, I mean. A time when we can almost fully tug on the string of the world we’ve shared for so many years. She hopped off the counter and walked through the open concept sitting room. Mug in hand, she slid open the glass balcony doors and stepped outside. I followed her out the door, leaving my own mug on the counter. My hand moved to the small of her back as I observed her gazing up at the dark, morning sky. It was surprisingly clear, a few stars visible next to a stunning crescent moon. We shared this placid quiet—the sounds from the city streets below us were so distant they dissolved in the air before reaching us. Her gaze was wistful and a bit somber. I analyzed her countenance in pursuit of some meaning behind it. My hand moved from her back to her palm, giving it a meaningful squeeze. She smiled, continuing to focus on the stars. We were making up for lost time, it seemed. We continued to occupy our timeless world over the years, but so much time had been lost in the physical one, and I gripped her hand tight, fully immersed in our shared regret. It was the type I didn’t think I could ever live down. We stared at those early harvest stars suspended in the sky. Their stillness, and the comforting hand intertwined with mine, was enough to allay my pensive mind. The orange string was wound tight, but I didn’t want to depend on it anymore. There were no obstacles in our way this time and we could just be. This was our time to thrive in absolute existence. We had the opportunity to finally move on from our autumn construct.
Empty There was nobody home. That was everyoneâ€™s first assumption when they saw him. He saw himself as an empty, ancient home, a creaking wooden structure of secrets and design flaws that the average person could not begin to comprehend. Only an architect could understand, if they were not put off by how dingy, how bent-up and burned the house was, with shaky, rotting wooden beams creaking under the weight of support. Most people refused to go near. A select few took it on as their project, for renovation. They never could finish the job. A house decaying from the start, echoing, empty halls vibrating with the illusion of sound, the hum of something- something not quite right is here, screaming of a presence long dead. The ghosts, past and present, seemed to wail mournfully, I was here once. Listen! The people all refused. They knocked, louder and louder, on the door. But no one answered.
Wallow, or a Summer Backyard The blinking light of fireflies Is something I associate With laughing, staying up too late, And old friends that have long since gone I held on with an iron grip But fondness faded in their eyes With each attempt to stabilize 119
The desperation I kept on Now when I gaze up at the night I feel my strength begin to slip As salty water pools and drips And trickles down my trembling chin I weep until my tears grow dim Mesmerized by the blinking lights Why I could never get it right Is something that I wallow in.
Breaking Through the Wall am i in limbo?
is what i want to light in me, a fire of diligence to prove that the light has not yet left my eyes
i know i was awake a few days ago, with bright eyes and a passionate vow to change the me i am right now
the world does not make any sense and one girl sits alone
i wish that i were stronger
the days seem so much longer now that the world has stopped, come to a screeching halt
for i am only flesh and bone, susceptible to lies iâ€™m but a child, for i believe it all i drink in falsehoods greedily until
and all is still. i find myself akimbo. itâ€™s not my fault that i am sitting comfortably while the world sputters out and dies
i have no strength for breaking through the wall.
iâ€™ll make my life count, come what will
The English Bird and Her Troubles
You give me joy I gladly take it You give me laughs I laugh along You give me help and conversation But damn it, something’s going wrong Beautiful flower, beautiful bird Your petals and songs I’ve seen and heard. You’re a snow white circle on a coal black page, The golden key to a rusted-out cage With bright yellow wings, splashed with red Your sweet happy song spins round my head Happy or hurt, which are you? Your mask may be white but the blue shines through Your windows are open but your door is shut Are you on the road or in a rut? Beautiful flower, beautiful bird Your petals and songs I’ve seen and heard. Is the snow circle on black turning grey? Has the shiny gold key been thrown away? With grey-blue wings, splattered with red I hear no song inside my head.
offerings itâ€™s a pale morning today already feels blue. that kind of blue that gives you soft embraces and neck kisses filled with utter perfection and affection a blue in the form of sunlight on your face the softness of fabric under your fingertips the kindness on others lips as they speak unspoken words That color blue. i stretch my fingertips wide within the mud of the earth saturated by the warm rain that cried upon it late in the evening. and I bury my hands i cover the pale ghostly shade of my flesh in the darkness of the earth let its warm wetness fill me with the ancient whispers of life. i make a hole dig out a basin for my treasure to flourish within and once itâ€™s complete I smile upon the small cavity i pick up my small plant hold it within my palm and admire its innocent complexities her vibrant emerald appears luminescent in the glow of the pale summer morning and just as a mother peers upon their child for the first time I am filled with a sense of pure profound affection i press her down into the small cavity and fill the hole with her presence. i pull the soil around her frail body and the ground welcomes the opportunity of protecting her. droplets of rain begin to fall from my watering can onto her christening her birth and her new home. yo siempre serĂŠ madre (translation: I am and will always be a mother.)
existing in the shadows
it didn’t hurt when his large calloused hands smacked across my face, forcing my ears to abandon their job, making insects hatch within their minuscule caverns to release a buzzing and fluttering of their wings. it didn’t hurt when his voice boomed through our home, made the vacuum tremble, made the dishes crack. and most of all, it didn’t hurt when he left. leaving me with the crumbs of bread, leaving me with my five shrieking children clinging to my ankles asking, “where’s daddy going?” it didn’t hurt when i put them to bed, holding them tightly, wrapping them in the warm embrace of a snow colored blanket, drying the tears on their cheeks with the cracked redness of my lips that left a soft stain upon their frail skin. it didn’t hurt when i went alone to my bedroom. when i shut the large brown door that creaked every time. as if it were always speaking to me. as if it were always warning me of the hushed unspoken words within our home. it didn’t hurt when the liquid burned my throat and the cigarettes bled smoke into my eyes. and the salty water droplets that i by accident let leak from the dark caverns of my eye sockets left my mascara dripping, left my lipstick smudged, tainting my luminous white blanket in a dark streak of black and crimson.
Miranda (MJ) Kubilus
When I Was Too Young To Know Better The smell of burning rubber overtook the freshly cut grass Harsh sounds of tires squealing on the pavement My tiny bare feet, pounding against the soft mud, Dead grass clinging to my ankles as I ran A high pitched, mangled mewl The purr of the engine on the white car as it speeds up On the ground, Red liquid glistening in the sun, Shimmers reflecting every which way, Pooling in the dips of the road Between rocks and stones My tiny wide eyes, mortified by the sight in front of me. White fur So, so much white fur, scattered everywhere Red seeping into the soft white strands Making a mockery of the red blanket clinging between my fingers Tired, lifeless gasps Closed yellow eyes The bile burning in my throat A soft final breath Everything dies. Time is Meaningless without You Minutes Time goes on Vaguely familiar whispers scrawl themselves across the wall
Pink lipstick Stained teeth “You will never be good enough,” They say No I’m remembering it wrong Hours Time goes on Unfinished sentences forever ending in “...” Bony hands etch these fragments into my skin Whose hands? No ones? Everyone’s? Mine Days Time goes on I see pieces of myself reflected in shards Of glass Eyes, deep sunken and foreboding It’s been too long to remember how it went Why am I still here? Weeks Time stops Pieces slide into place, clicking together With a mellow clank Cementing themselves into my memory This is how it went It was dark, always dark, and she was the sun But she was not my sun Belonging only to herself she drifted from here to there Searching for somewhere to fit her hidden self into ‘I will never be good enough, you deserve better’ She left in the silent night And the next day The sun never rose
at home all exists under the eyes of Everyone Else, but here it is under only the Sun Itself. your canopy of separation from the entropy of life makes you the sanctuary for those looking to escape. Escape from what? from the chaos of the rooted version of reality, the one with deadlines and alarm clocks and to-dos, the one with Society and Judging and help. here all is forgotten and all is appreciated. bodies of all sorts lie on your sand; Society says they are toobig or toosmall or tootall but you say they are beautiful. you accept all into your waters; the waves do not discriminate the way the World does. the bike pedals that softly crunch runaway sand roll for everyone; they do not look with eyes that say not for you, you are not enough. acceptance is the chorus of the cicadas that cry as the sun dips below the horizon; they say welcome and good night, the concierge to the hotel of the Beach.
GROWN A strong wind groans as we are blown into a world we must conquer and journey through alone. Serenity is key in times of uncertainty and the unknown. I’m in a cyclone of expectations and a society I must own. Praying on a wishbone that my and loved one’s names won’t be on a gravestone. Perhaps I have outgrown or am forced to disown youth. Overthrown by the shone inevitable and harsh truth. I know that I’m not the only one who feels lonesome. Who has been thrown into a life where our time is limited and can’t be postponed. I was once a kid now an adult who has grown. MAN’S BESTFRIEND My child on four legs that I loved from the day I could call you mine. Your tail that wags from side to side is like sunshine. The games of fetch we played outside always made me satisfied Your soft and warm fur comforted me whenever I cried.
Never a day went by when I came home without you waiting by the door inside. During the hard times, you were always there by my side. Your loveable licks always made me laugh and caught me by surprise. A simple head pat and belly rub would give you delight when we said goodbye. Your woofs, yip-yaps, and arfs were always music to my ears. On stormy nights where you shivered of fear, I was always near. Youâ€™ve been my buddy from day one and have watched me grow. Youâ€™re always and still in my heart even though you had to go.
King Telemachus Without Father, my kingship snatched Its trappings plundered by guests But now he’s here, a prince am I Who sees his crown restored Why else would Laertes depart And retreat to his ranch from the throne? Why else did the gods hurl Ulysses away But to wipe from the subjects his reign? And now the choice is snatched from me Who sits upon the throne With borrowed scepter clenched in fear Pried from a dead king’s hand And still they gaze above my seat And see his face through mine And even dead, the old recall And trust his legend’s might And gone his mortal trappings are That bound him to this earth So with them too his failings fly And thus the god remains A legend’s might is ill endured So there my trouble lies: He is but a name And I But a man 129
Masa I can feel the difference between their fingers, young and cold and slippery And her wrinkles, warm and yellow and flaked in corn husk residue. She stuffs her fists into me so that now there are four hands, two warm and two cold. She stretches and smushes and slaps me with their palms, guiding their wrists like a marionette. She says that masa has memory; Small scars that lock each other into pockets and fold themselves into tails And by the time her hands are gone, I am warmer. It’s a different warm than hers, more faded and more blue but not raw like theirs. New scars ready to be tucked away in the folds of the husk, somewhere between the wrinkles and the cold
Thoughts in a Car
A small piece of sky on three sides; behind me, a softness. Underneath my fingers is a gray wheel that is warm to the touch, which I’ve turned many times—it always comes back. From the rearview mirror dangles a yellow slip of cardboard bearing the forgotten number of a parking space long remembered: a space wrenched from us both in the early days of spring.
Now summer colors glitter on three sides; I reach to touch the warm glass. My eye seeks out the yellow and I can’t bring myself to discard it. Although in two months I may return to the halls and the classrooms, I can never return to that place and that time in my parking spot, groggy morning, plastic coffee cups, your form by my side.
Liz Newsom in the window frame tracing lines into the air of my sinking bedroom with socked feet bathed in the synthetic clouds of my once white duvet now weathered with the cream tint of age i let the warmth of the wind wash over me cleanse my spine feed the guttural hunger for the punch to the gut when i remember i am concrete though i exist in the abstract though i am a walking dualist example the separation of the head and the heart my fingertips find each other press hard to trigger the crash to the high but i’m not high this moment is to come down from the calm euphoria of my cerebral existence to double me over when i am not in enough pain to remind me that i have a body the wind knows i forget it takes time to remind me but i cannot let my ego get into my way cannot let my foolish belief in the centrism of my own self drive a wedge between that beloved relationship and though i belong to the wind infidelity is the foundation of our relationship because it does not belong to only me everyone knows the touch of the wind everyone speaks the universal tongues to coo doting compliments to the wind in the same way i do the experience of being human does not belong to me.
Lindsay Duet Secrets of the Well In an unknown village, in an unknown city some thousand years before you and I, a young girl lived with her grandmother. Grandmother was as old as time but still housed the young girl. The girl did not receive proper hygienic care, so she was always dirty and her hair grew to twice her height. In the village where they lived, an old wishing well stood strongly on stone and wood. Every day the girl would visit the well, asking it for a friend, for there were no other children in the small village. Day after day, she tossed pebbles into the well because she had no money. One day she cried into the well â€œPlease Great Spirit, if you can hear my calls, send me a friend. I am lonely, Great Spirit, Grandmother is no fun.â€? That day, her pebble flew back up at her from the well as if thrown. An idea happened upon the girl. She lowered her long locks down unto the damp well and called to the Great Spirit, thanking her with every breath she took. When she gathered all her hair up, at the end she found a boy. The boy was shorter than her and did not have a face. This did not frighten the girl and the two played all day. When the girl returned home she told her grandmother about the boy from the well. Grandmother was horrified and locked the young girl in her room. She stormed to the well and called for the boy. He appeared to the grandmothers horror. Grandmother pulled out her kitchen knife and killed the boy. After tossing his body back in the well, she prayed to the Great Spirit, asking for forgiveness. The Great Spirit did not respond, she did not approve of the actions of the old woman. Grandmother returned to the house and with the same knife, cut the young girls hair. The girl seeped and ran to the well. The Great Spirit mourned for her and transformed the boys body into a blue bird. She granted the bird a face and the girl the ability to talk to her friend. Filled with anger, the young girl and the bird planned to kill the grandmother who had wronged them both. The next day, the girl brought grandmother to the well to recondite their relationship. The bird then swooped down and pushed the grandmother into the well. Grandmother died and was banished to the deepest pits of the underworld for her actions. The young girl then prospered with her blue bird in the village house for many years.
Naarah Amorino On the Many Moods of the Sea When the waves foam, the sea is A petulant toddler, tantruming, Pounding on the shore, tugging and pulling, Shouting “Mine! Mine! Mine!” until She gets what she wants, Whether that be seashells, some poor kid’s flipper Or even the coastline itself, When the sullen waves Shuffled to shore, the sea Tosses these trinkets back, A disinterested teenager, Feeling that his childhood Toys are “Totally lame; Whatever, man,” Disillusioned with the Cracked sea glass and Broken bits of shell, Encrusted with dark sand, Like dust on forgotten things, But just as quickly, sweeps them back up, In a wave of cerulean, as the memories Return like the tide. When she is feeling low, the sea is The new girl at school, Keeping to Herself, Shying Away From The coastline, When the tide swells, the sea Grows in confidence and becomes Close friends with the shore, spending Time with each other, chatting and trading Seashells, driftwood, and seaweed like phone numbers and gifts.
When the waves become stormy and rough, the sea is Your rambunctious preteen little brother, Leaping at you, wanting to roughhouse Not realizing, As he crashes into you, that He has gotten bigger and stronger. And now, you heave Up from the sandy, gritty bottom, Scraped, bruises forming, Blinking more salt from your eyes than usual, Coughing up a lung of brackish water and Trying to spit the anchovy taste out of your mouth. When the water is calm, Beneath clear skies, the sea, Refined, becomes a model Posing for the Perfect picture, Smooth skin, Pure pearly whites, Clothed in vibrant turquoise and aquamarine, Sun reflecting off of her stunning form; She is majestic. Whimsical, the sea takes any form it chooses.
Kitt Cawley a silent moment *kitt cawley the sea refused to ebb and the wind refused to whistle and the orchids wrought from my thighs were as silent as a daydream grim ideation,
a thousand robins disappearing from each tree
red thrush now dulled to black
quito *kitt cawley he sat there, lay there even, strapped into place by the sandy tendrils of the beach below his feet one cannot manage to empty the sea by means of seashell so much as one might manage to fall in love and never shed a
the boy looked up from his task as a man descended onto the coast, diving through the divide of seaside brush and bramble that shielded the shore from man the boy answered by grace iâ€™ll move this sea and i will fall in love, and i will never shed a tear.
Eloise Davis 3:31 3 minutes 31 seconds is all it takes to bring you memory back Soft cinnamon hair swirling through the melody Washing away at the sadness from months before Fairy feet fluttering around the guitar Little lights twinkle with the chorus If only we knew all love songs come to an end Dancing around in your itchy grey carpeted basement Ready to face the world, indomitable Lyrics leave your mouth in a tiny stream Like delicate wildflowers swaying in the breeze Trees leaning back and forth Wavering between happiness and heartbreak If only we knew all love songs come to an end I can feel the strumming begin to slow The outro keeps me hanging on Wishing for one more verse Birds chirping A happy tune, But melancholy meaning Like a ominous red sky in the early morning Trying to caution us If only we knew all love songs come to an end Your hands begin to drift away The wildflowers stand still The song stops, silence And that reminded me of you too Now we know, all love songs come to an end
Just because her stomach rolls and thighs will always touch Does not mean she should starve herself, or is eating too much Just because you can see her ribs, or every small bump down her back Does not mean you can call her out, or make a targeted attack Just because she ran 10 miles, or maybe didn’t leave the house Does not mean you can decide whose body fits better in that blouse You don’t know What her reflection sees If it cuts into her soul You don’t know What she does to cope Or if she’s simply lost all control What matters the way her face lights up when magenta paints the sun at night Or the freedom she feels, lying in soft green grass in the blazing yellow sunlight What matters is the way her silky dark brown hair flows freely in the wind She’s dazzling in the mirror, as well as bright and cheery with her friends What matters most is the shining spirit glowing deep inside Whatever brings her happiness, whatever makes her feel alive
Francis (Blaine) Jones Baron Hiram von Grant: A heroic soldier, loving husband, and rather distant father, both emotionally and geographically. I can't say he was my hero, but many do regard him that way. The elderly man softly clapped, "A great eulogy, Lord Julian," he cracked a wrinkled, melancholy grin, "It certainly came from the heart," he declared rather hoarsely. Julian von Grant was heir to all of the baron's possessions, honor, and title. He nodded and scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, " Thanks, Raj," he muttered. He turned to face his father's elegant headstone, placed fittingly beside his mother's. Usually eulogies were said during the funeral, but Julian had missed it. He shook his head in disappointment, " Who would've thought the thing that finally got the ever-marvelous Hiram von Grant would be heart failure?" he murmured rhetorically. Raj readjusted his tailcoat now utterly drenched by the rain. He sighed and shuffled closer to the grave, "Your father was a great man, Lord Julian, " he began. His voice was raspy. Julian looked to the aged man. Raymond Johnson, Raj to Julian since birth. He was a sort of manservant to the late baron. Over the years, he had grown to be something more like family. Julian smiled, "If anyone wants to convince me of his apparent greatness, you certainly have the best shot." Raj said nothing. They stood for a long moment in silence. Julian took note of the pitter patter of the rain on his loose jacket. He glanced over to his mother's grave for only a moment. The headstones were almost identical. They were equally beautiful, both white marble with golden text eloquently etched into them. No doubt the baron specifically asked for them to look so similar. "Lord Julian," Raj began. The baron's heir snapped back to reality and shifted his attention to the slouched man, "Yes?" The servant reached deep into his tailcoat and pulled out a golden key and offered it to Julian, with shaking hands. He ran his spindly fingers over it, "This opens a case in your father's study," he explained, " I have no doubt he gave it to me so that I may eventually give it to you." He held out the key, waiting for Julian to take it. Julian stared at the golden object
and looked up at Raj, "What's in the case?" Raj shrugged, "I don't know but..." he paused for a moment and coughed enough times to make Julian want to get him out of the rain. He patted his mouth with is handkerchief, "Apologies, Lord Julian," he continued," I would guess his most prized possession is in that case." Julian nodded in intrigue," And that would be..." he trailed off expecting a quick answer. The old man surveyed the graveyard around them and leaned in motioning for Julian to do the same," His sword, hand-crafted for him by the holy blacksmiths of the Northern Isles," he whispered into Julian's perked up ears. He thought for a moment while tapping his chin," The holy blacksmiths are called the Shames... right?" he wondered out loud. The elderly servant nodded, though completely uncertain. He had the faintest, most unnoticeable smile, "I can't believe you remember that," he confessed. He took a step away from Julian, "If I may be so bold, it sounds like someone's been taking his fatherâ€™s words to heart, maybe you did pay attention to his tales," he suggested with a raised eyebrow. Julian would've liked to punch him for that comment but he stopped himself thinking he might actually wound the old man, "Come on, Raj, we should go home," he stepped past the man and waved for him to follow, "No reason for me to give father anymore time than he gave me."
Raymond Headen The Old Man The Old Man groaned in agony as he attempted to stand up but was met with his hard, old bed. With all of his might, the old man put his hand into a fist, brought it up into the air, and slammed it into the bed. He knew this was his last day; the old man could feel it. His body was frail, and he felt pain in every turn he made on what would soon be his deathbed. He felt the few strands of hair on his head, not caring about his appearance due to having no visitors. The old man looked down at his black t-shirt and pants, trying to remember the last time he had worn anything different. He cursed at the state he was in. He didn’t deserve this. It was not his time to die. The old man looked around at what he would last see before he left this world. What he saw was a nearly empty room. The old man had no pictures. No pictures of the family he used to have. No pictures of his dog that had died early due to him not giving enough care. He had no artistic painting or rug, nothing that defined who he thought he was. All that was in his room was his plain bed with a small drawer next to his side. Suddenly, the old man felt a deep feeling of tiredness as he was almost forced to close his eyes. The old man battled this feeling of death until he eventually gave into his sensations, closed his eyes, and let his body and mind relax. The old man woke up to a child jumping on his body. The old man braced for the feeling of broken bones, but surprisingly, it never came. The child smiled brightly at him as he warily stared back. The kid seemed as if he were around 7 years old. The child was wearing all white and seemed to have a sort of glowing aura around himself as he looked down at the old man. He had bright brown eyes and long, unruly hair. “Who are you, kid?” The old man asked the child who beamed at him as he frowned. The child ignored the old man and began to play with a toy rocket ship, running all around the room. The child began laughing and making whooshing sounds around the old man’s bed, giggling at what appeared to the old man as nothing. “Kid!” He repeated while somehow getting out of his
bed and standing up. “Who are you?” This time the kid stopped what he was doing and stared at the old man. The kid was still smiling though he tilted his head as if he were confused. “You don’t remember me?” the child asked, his bright and kind smile now a frown. Just as the old man was beginning to yell at the child for a better answer, the child vanished and the old man’s vision turned to black. Once again, the old man woke up in his bed, but this time he awoke to tears. He sat up in his bed and saw a boy sitting, his arms and head stuffed in his legs. He heard faint sniffles as the boy began to shake. “Boy,” said the old man softly. The boy brought up his head. His eyes were completely red, and there were streams of tears all across his face. He seemed to be around 17 years old. The boy had messy hair although not as long as the little kids. His eyes also seemed to be just a shade darker than the kid’s. His lips wavered as he tried to hold in his tears. The way he stared at the old man made his heart wrench. The old man couldn’t place it, but there was something about the boy’s sadness that was relatable. “Who are you boy?” he asked. Not a second later, the old man watched as the boy’s tears burst out, and he started sobbing uncontrollably. “Are you okay? Do you need help?” asked the old man, wishing he knew what was wrong. He felt some sort of connection to this boy, some connection he could not explain. He wanted to care for the boy. He wanted to tell him everything would be all right and to continue to be strong. Before the old man could let those words get out, the boy spoke. “You don’t remember me?” he asked through his sobs. Once again, the old man’s vision went dark. This time, he woke up and heard an angry man on the phone. The old man saw the man pacing back and forth, his hands flailing through the air. He wore a black suit and tie with a white button down shirt. He was obviously upset with whoever was on the phone. His facial features seemed harsh, as if they hadn’t had fun in an unimaginably long time. “I’m sorry I can’t be with you and the kids right now, but business is more important. I need to seal this deal,” he snapped over the phone. “If I don’t work, who will pay for our house?” The old man clenched his fists. He heard a ringing throughout his head. The old man was blind with rage against the man, but he felt a little guilt inside himself, but couldn’t place his finger on the reason. The man continued to yell until the old man had enough.
Dear Juliet, You shouldâ€™ve fallen in love with Rosaline. She would have warned you that both love and violence are painted in red. She would have stopped you from drinking the elixir, And would not have killed herself when she believed you dead. I doubt she would have screamed as they burned her in bright scarlet flames, The same shade that she painted her lips when Romeo demanded she do so. You had worn a dress the color of unbloomed pink roses on the night you met Romeo. He only knew how to pull apart the petals, Heâ€™d forgotten that flowers can bloom on their own. Rosaline has not forgotten yet, Having just begun to bloom herself, Unfurling in deep blues and meaningful purples, The perfect contrast to your tightly held pinks and passionless reds. And she burned calmly, her body cloaked in her hair and the flame, Only leaving the strands of gold ripped from her head to remain, Covered under the ebony ashes of the pain that comes after all things red.