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SPRING 2015


To the artists and teachers who make what we do possible, we thank you and hope this book inspires all who read it.


Editors-in-Chief Mariah Abshire Sarah Buckman Jordan Jacob Layout & Design Taylor Austell Website Savannah Thanscheidt Poetry Grace Green Anna Dominguez Fiction Rey Mullennix Ruvi Gonzalez Creative Non-fiction Shamiya Anderson Art Kathleen Roland Social Media Madison George Briana Lopez Submissions Chrissy Thelemann Public Relations & Marketing Stephanie Thompson


Élan International Student Literary Magazine Produced by the creative writing deparment of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts Faculty Sponsor: Tiffany Melanson 2445 San Diego Rd, Jacksonville FL. 32207 1-(904)-346-5620


Contents Aubade Luna Alex Kaplan

8

All Creation Will Proclaim Chandler Fowler

9

Broken Gavels Mariah Abshire

10

Cassandra Evan Tong

11

Father, How Could You Be So Cruel? Madison George

12

Blessed are the Meek Bethany Panhorst

13

Han Kain Kim

14

Close Portrait Law Tampoc

15

A is for Alexander Brandon Heebner

16

The Cussitaws Come East Zoey Carter

17

Just Because I Look Mexican Cody Williams

19

Contagion Kain Kim

20

Aneurism Brooke Azzaro

21

Big Poppa Nik Hermanovski

22

Cutting Cucumbers Stephanie Thompson

24


Man Eater Ashley Hanna

25

Brainstorm Chandler Fowler

26

Tournesols Jordan Jacob

27

shy face of the moon Evan Tong

29

Grandma Taylor Austell

31

Ashes to Embers Rainey Zimmermann

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Maternal Instincts Chelsea Ashley

34

To Those that Leave Shamiya Anderson

35

Weathered Noah Naugle

37

Patterned Girl Sam Jaffe

38

Prologue Savannah Thanscheidt

39

“A Pity. We Were Such Good Inventions” Aracely Medina

40

Black and White Suns Madison Dorsey

41

Play Marlies Amberson

43

Museum for Her Fallen Soldier Destiny Reid

44

Autumn Yasmine Andii Sajid

45

A Small, Sweet Thing Cody Williams

47


Pulchra Geometria Robert Tucker

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Vishnu Picked Berries Under the Stars Alexis Williams

50

Horizon * Joshua Keating

51

Blind to Spirit Jordan Jacob

52

Odor of Sanctity Kain Kim

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Tained Light Audrey Edwards

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1956-Red Beats in Harlem Rey Mullennix

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8 Months Sarah Buckman

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Motherland Lauren Kuehmeier

58

Under the Sycamore Katherine Clark

60

Bare Trees Philip Giangrosso

63

Family Tree Cassidy Trudeau

64

Photograph Grace Green

65

Possessions Taylor Austell

67

Luster Alexandra Spensley

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Eye to Eye Sarina Angell

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Aubade Luna Alex Kaplan

We no longer race to her in our mechanical miracles. She is beautiful from a distance, where the pits and craters become mysterious marks out of reach. We watch from a distance, she slips through the night, a beacon, abandoned after One Small Step: One Giant Leap too far. There was nothing for us in her celestial body, not in all the massive desert and barren hills— she will never glow as bright at your feet, slowly drifting away, inches each year taking the tide with her not in great pounding waves, but in the heavy shrug of the ocean’s shoulders. She spilled herself on those waters but is no longer needed as a silver path, a guiding star to sailors. Centuries of wolves used to echo her in ancient song from the highest cliffs, straining for her distant reliability, but burying boots in her never let her shine so bright again; most sleep until the sun rises and hides her in its glare. From Earth, the last of us watch as she fades from the horizon, and like our ancestors, we hope she’ll give us tomorrow.

8


All Creation Will Proclaim Chandler Fowler

9


Broken Gavels Mariah Abshire

I sit cross-legged with Ovid’s book open to the story of Astraea, Goddess of Justice. The words explain that when humans discovered murder, she had no choice but to drop her balanced scale and flee. The still corpse, dripping blade and guilty hand drove her from this world. Astraea knew that she was no longer welcome here. The news blares as I read but all I can imagine is a winged woman: blue-faced with shriveled lungs. Her tired wings are nothing but desperate as they cut through stars. The flashing headlines on the T.V. pull my attention from Ovid’s words. Another bruised, sullen face is uncovered from shallow dirt amid rotten trees. As if asking, what did I do to deserve this? Maybe that’s why Astraea left, to go look for some kind of answer. Any explanation as to why helpless girls scream from alleyways as fingers pry at unwilling zippers. The camera cuts back to the newscaster. His rehearsed apathetic face tells me that Astraea’s balanced scale only exists on the page.

10


Cassandra

Evan Tong

Sister has already left. I miss her. She spoke more languages than anyone in the family because she played with all the other kids on the street. On kick at the broken bottles and cigarettes Sundays, she would tell Brother and me to sit with littered around, with my sad black shoes. I her so we could share each other’s sadness. On think that it was Brother’s friends who I saw Mondays, she would walk around with the boys here last night. They don’t get any stars. They are and they all like her because her hair is darker thin as the leaves that get swept up in the autumn than smoke and her teeth shinier than the sunlight rain and Brother only went around with them hitting the taxi that Father calls when he needs to leave for a while. Last Tuesday, she got married to a because Father said no. businessman visiting his family, and yesterday she left. She says it was love at first sight. Like Mother — and Father. But I think she did it to escape.

I

I want to be a pilot because Mother says a pilot can go anywhere. When I’m a pilot, I don’t have to listen to Mother anymore. Because when Mother yells at me to come into the house because she doesn’t want me scraping my knee and getting dirt on the new white dress that she buys for me once a year, I will laugh. Why would I do that? I will be free. And no one can yell at me because I will be as a bird. I will be me. —

— Father is tall. Brother is almost as tall as him but not yet. Father has a brown mustache that curls when he speaks. One day, the girl who smelled like strawberries, but sweeter than any strawberry I’ve ever had, told me my dress looked nice. I mumbled to myself that it was the same one I had worn the day before. She heard me. I know, she said, everyone knows. I told Father that I wasn’t going back and I hated her and I hated the other kids who laughed. He told me that if you speak gently, you’ll make friends wherever you go. If you find someone mean, just move on to the next person.

“I think she did it to escape.”

Mother’s eyes are the color of dew on the grass, when you wake up before the sun when Father goes to work.

She looks different from the other moms. I — think she is older. But when she smiles she is more beautiful than Suzy’s mom. But Mother doesn’t I walk down the stairs and look at the stars. smile as much anymore. She says it’s because we drive her crazy. But I can tell she has more on her And I keep walking, and do not dare look away. mind. I know how these things go. The stars can keep you safe. You can pray under the stars and cry under the stars and the Some days she looks sad. I can tell that she is thinking of Helen, who died when I was one. I stars will dance for you and want nothing from asked Mother if she was thinking of her. Mother you. These days, the stars are too few. And the sky said that she would give her soul if she could is too dark. And Mother’s hair doesn’t smell like have fixed her. She said that I am too young to the ocean, and Father’s laugh has no song. understand. But I think I know enough. I know that she just wants us to all be together and not afraid.

11


Father, How Could You Be So Cruel? Madison George

“And he said, take thy son, thine only son Isaac, who thou lovest and get thee into the land of Moriah; and after him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” -Genesis 22:2 He had never cried like this before. His face flushed and all of a sudden his lips grew cold. The man went over to a small pond submerging his hands lacquered in the youth of his son into the water. Scrubbing the blood in the cracks and crevices, still traces underneath jagged fingernails. He stood up and plucked leaves off the tree-gathered flowered weeds from the ground tied them together with blades of grass. Back up the mountain his feet burnt, barely able to graze earth. Toes kicked up dirt and disheveled rock His son no longer near him. Tried to pace his breathing inhaling and exhaling as slow as he could he finally reached where his son now lay. It only took him thirty-two steps. The boy’s hands were pressed together as if he were praying to God. An act of forgiveness for his father, of course. He licked his thumb, wiped away dried blood from the boy’s brow, glanced at his chest charred with burgundy scabs. He pressed the hand of his son’s to his lips, looked at his young boy just one last time, brushed hair out of his face. He then tucked the small bouquet in between his son’s fingers: “Father, how could you be so cruel?”

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Blessed are the Meek Bethany Panhorst

13


Han

spans to even farthest reaches of the globe where Koreans reside- some who may not have even the slightest idea of their homeland’s tragic history. Kain Kim What some doctors have even gone as far as to diagnose as a tangible, acute physical pain, many will experience and may never realize the cause of or the longest time, I’d believed it to be it, just how personalized the affliction really is. (Symptoms of Han may include dyspnea, nothing more than an excuse feigning pensiveness, inertia disguised as melancholy. heart palpitation, and dizziness. The doctor’s diagnosis- does my blood sing with the sorrow of The insanity plea. My mother is an exceptionally engaged the unavenged?) There are many facets that encapsulate person. It’s impossible to slot her into a schedule because she’s constantly days ahead of herself. the face of the Han “syndrome”, the major one an underlying, spiteful urge to avenge all historic Compulsion to productivity, she calls it. Cases where she does happen to be idle, wrongdoing in the name of nationalism. In the face however infrequent, thus jar me deeply—seeing of persecution, however, a passive acceptance and her hands having stilled in the sink while doing willful endurance fuse to yield a faint impression the dishes, eyes clouded over and body subtly of hope. And therein lies the exclusively withdrawn into herself, as if in pain. When I’d ask untranslatable nature of Han, the reason why its equivalent cannot be her what was wrong she’d disclosed in any other reply: tongue- its absolute range of The Han. There’s human emotion, from fury quite a lot of it today. to grief to passivity to faith So you just feel off, spurred by the resentment you mean, was what I’d say. and anguish characteristic Fine. Take a nap. Do you of a nation kept so long in have a headache? isolation. My mother would When my mother now pauses in her work just smile wistfully at me, shake her head to lift her eyes and stare at nothing, I know she bemusedly and return to her work. It took me a while to realize that Han does is seeing a world tinged shades darker by the ubiquitous shadow of a phantom cloud that will not simply imply being under the weather. Han is not at all a temporary flux in state always haunt her. As generations pass, the cloud of being, but rather a constancy in one’s cultural will continually gather weight, but never quite psyche, an abysmally suffocating mixture of sorrow spill over. and regret. In its monosyllabic solemnity it carries the burden of an entire country’s suffering. Its origins are said to stem from Korea’s oppressionimbued history, the collective feeling of unresolved bitterness that ran rampant amongst citizens of the peninsula in times of frequent invasions by imperialistic foreign powers. It conventionally denotes an emotion so inbred, some go as far as to say it is imprinted in our DNA itself- genetically heritable from our ancestors, a bone-deep longing that surpasses any individual blockade. The prospect of Han is a unique one, truly unifying in that this unnamable emotion not only impresses itself upon a nation’s populace, but

F

“A passive acceptance and willful endurance fuse to yield a faint impression of hope.”

14


Close Portrait Law Tampoc

15


A is for Alexander Brandon Heebner

16


The Cussitaws Come East Zoey Carter

T

essa and Kael were hiding behind the bushes near Tessa’s cabin to spy on the vehicle as it approached. This machine rode smoothly across the sharp rocks that Tessa had grown up walking barefoot on, kicking dust and parts of the rocks out behind it. Large red crosses marked the side doors and the back and stood out greatly against the rest of its white paint job. Two men hopped out of the car and onto the land. They held the air about them in a way that you would think they owned the place in their odd uniforms—stiff around their bodies and similar to the color of milk. “They look funny,” Tessa whispered to Kael. “They’ll hear you, shut up.” “But who—” “Shut up.” Kael hit Tessa, causing her to almost fall off the balance of her heels. Kael’s wide, brown-eyed gaze remained outside of the bushes while Tessa struggled to get her heterochromatic eyes to see straight again; the brown-colored contact shielding her bright blue eye did not help. The men had disappeared into the house by the time Tessa regained her balance, and she hit Kael back. “I wonder what they’ll do to Grandma,” Tessa muttered to herself. “Hey,” Kael nudged her and teased, “Maybe if she dies, you’ll finally be able to leave the reservation.” It was a long running joke among their generation of Creek’s that Tessa Carn was the only Creek who actually wanted to live outside of the reservation. It baffled Tessa that all they ever did was talk about the outside, too scared to step outside of the trees. Tessa’s grandmother once told her that her

eyes meant she could see both heaven and hell. Her mother’s eyes had been the same way except she never took the chance. She never got out of this town so she died in it. With the rest of her people, she would lay for all eternity. Her grandmother would always laugh and say that whenever she died, Tessa could do what she wished with her body, and get as far away from the reservation as possible if that is what she desired. When Tessa was young, she would look in the mirror at night and see the way her eyes were uneven, the way the blue one looked larger due to its color. She would find herself sobbing because she could not see heaven. She couldn’t even see past the trees of the reservation, or through the hot, humid air of Florida, or past all the rumors of her being a witch. She wanted so badly not to be like her mother. She wanted to leave and feel her feet touch the hot asphalt of the outside world. Whenever she felt like this and her grandmother caught her staring too long in the mirror, she would always tell Tessa her point of view of the Cussitaws: the founding people of their tribe, who came west, whose children were eaten, who tried to move further west. “A part of them however, turned back and came again to the same place where they had been, and settled there. The greater number remained behind, because they thought it best to do so. Their children nevertheless, were eaten by the earth, so that—full of satisfaction—they journeyed toward the sunrise,” her grandmother would finish and then preach. “You are not wise, Tessa. If you wish to go out there, to the west, you will be eaten by the earth.”

“She would find herself sobbing because she could not see heaven. She couldn’t even see past the trees of the reservation.”

17


The sound of vehicle doors slamming brought Tessa back to reality. Her eyes flickered up to see the medical vehicle sputtering into start. The white men pressed the gas pedal and headed away as quickly as they had come. Tessa found herself tearing out of the bushes, almost tripping over them as her heels slipped on the moist soil. She could hear Kael shouting her name, telling her to come back, asking her what the hell she was doing. Tessa would have said, “Running,” but she would have really meant, “Following my only way out.” She cut through the woods, not following the main dirt road but always keeping the red cross in sight. Her long, dark braid and clothing caught on many branches like hands trying to keep her back. But then, the red cross turned and disappeared. Tessa came to a halt because there was the highway right in front of her feet, and all she could do was put her hands up against the thick air and feel it like a wall. Two weeks later, Tessa’s grandmother died of some strange illness no one would ever be able to identify. So now Tessa is here, up before dawn, listening to the rain patter on her window. It is unbearable. To stare at the same ceiling, lay under the blankets her dead grandmother knit. To listen to the same rain. She finds herself with her large, yellow rain boots on her feet, along with her yellow rain jacket that falls stiffly around her jean-clad knees. She follows the same path the red cross van had; she remembers it vividly, as if the faded tracks from the tires lay beneath her feet. The rain made her loose curly hair frizz and stand out around her face like lightning had struck her. Her one blue eye stood out against the gray sky. She hits the barrier again. Tessa carefully stick her hand outside the trees, she is shaking. She remembers her mother’s version of her grandmother’s story. “…their children nevertheless were eaten by the earth, so that—full of satisfaction—they journeyed toward the sunrise.” Her mother holds her hands tightly; their matching eyes meet. “Your grandmother will tell you it is not worth it, to be eaten by the earth. But, my child, the only way our people ever came to be was because the Cussitaws came here, and were swallowed by 18

the earth, and they journeyed toward the sunrise.” She smiles a bright smile, crinkles around her eyes, “Leave one day, Tessa. For me. Being swallowed by our mother earth could not be the worst fate that should befall you.” …so that, full of satisfaction they journeyed toward the sunrise.


Just Because I Look Mexican Cody Williams

If I was assigned a taste for my champurrado skin, dark curly hair, it would be papaya or would it be mango? La naranja: would that make my skin mush, string in your mouth, gush out with sweet juice? Next, I’ll chase rainbows, eat fruit loops and skittles, finger paint my surroundings with chicken grease, and smother my lips into the womb of a watermelon. I’ll just play a game of illusion, shake maracas against an ancient Mexican sky, watch you deny my black and whiteness, as your eyes and thoughts spin, fluctuate and wonder, and I begin to ponder too, what great land must have bestowed to you such perceptive eyes.

19


Contagion

Already a small throng of kids has gathered around the statue. Nothing too important is happening yet, just some minor taunting and Kain Kim name-calling. Min-Jeong is holding his own. A few adults walk by on the commute home from work and glare at us in disdain. We pull faces and sneer hen I am seven and Ah-Rim is six, a new at them too. My desk-mate, the one that had gathered boy transfers to our homeroom. Half of his face is ravaged with tiny us here today, steps forward first when a nice little red dots, pricks of inflamed skin roughly textured crowd has formed. You can tell he’s glad to have an like braille, and when he enters through the audience. He slowly picks up a rock, a solid chunk sliding door, the entire class breaks out in excited of gravel about the size of my fist. He tosses it up whispers. I can’t stop staring at his horribly in the air and catches it. Toss, catch. Toss, catch. mutilated complexion. It looks as if he’s dunked We all watch the rock as if hypnotized, following the right side of his head into the hot oil they fry its path with our eyes as it arcs neatly through the air and lands with a smack in the boy’s palm. No my potatoes in at the local cookery. Our teacher curtly introduces him as Min- one is taunting Disease Boy now—ominous silence Jeong, says that he’ll be staying with us as a fellow echoes throughout the grounds, more deafening classmate this semester, and that she expects us than the raucous chatter from before. Min-Jeong all to treat him with courtesy and respect. This is staring stoically at the ground. Without any warning, the rock suddenly goes without saying, of course. By the time Min- sails through the air and hits Min-Jeong on the Jeong has settled into his seat, looking as stiff as shoulder. a corpse, it’s gotten around It’s like the world the entire room that his is on mute, and a switch new name is Disease Boy. has just been flipped. Boys Ah-Rim elbows me in the screech in wild abandon and ribs and snickers at the girls giggle in excitement. nickname. My desk-mate Everyone hunts for rocks on leans across the table and the ground to throw. Pebbles hisses at me, “We’ll greet and stones and chunks of him properly at the statue gravel hurtle through space after school. Pass it on.” and deflect off of Disease Boy, His eyes flicker with who’s still unresponsive. He just stands there, an mischief and he grins expectantly at me. island of resigned peace and serenity amongst the I laugh and pass it on. It’s an unusually cold day for May. Min- cacophony. The statue behind him smiles down Jeong stands by the statue, a stone memorial of benevolently on the scene. “Help me look for rocks,” Ah-Rim is saying. the school’s founder, and waits, book-bag clutched defensively to his thin chest. Disease Boy isn’t The tips of her straight black braids nearly brush stupid. He’s seen the looks and heard the hissed the ground in her concentration as she bends over insults, felt the quick, lithe feet shooting out from the lot. “Everybody’s taking the good ones.” What happens next, I don’t remember too underneath desks to trip his own large, clumsy ones, and felt the unanimous, hushed response it well. I think I ran away, or pretended to help Ahdrew from the class. His eyes are like the sleek, flat Rim look for a while. I did not help the boy with stones that my dad and I used to skip across the the spots on his face. Throwing rocks at him with the rest of my surface of the park lake. They are hard and glassy classmates would have been less cowardly. and reflect the gray sky in chiseled chunks. “What is he, stupid?” Ah-Rim mutters to me. “Why isn’t he running?”

W

“He just stands there, an island of resigned peace and serenity amongst the cancophony.”

20


Aneurism Brooke Azzaro

The telephone rings. Hear his mother’s thin voice and picture him, black-haired boy you met playing tag in blossoming forest at Playground’s Edge, fumbling darkness suddenly, brain stuttering, old priest around hospital bed begging black skies above him, childhood friend as smoky spirit. Mom says it was sudden, it could happen to anyone. Watch his picture begin to collect dust above the computer, crackling leaves curl into sidewalk cracks. Spend three years with pulsing heart in throat. Let superstitions swallow you under. Look out the window back and forth. Lock the door three times before hot blankets consume you, slithering thoughts gnaw small toes. Turn lights on—off—on again. In your father’s red convertible, count leather seams until you can’t any more. Just make it to eleven years old and you’ll be safe. Make it to fourteen and everyone will be safe. Cast everything you are afraid of to green leaves above you. They will catch you, it is hard but they will catch you.

21


Big Poppa

Nik Hermanovski

22


23


Cutting Cucumbers Stephanie Thompson

Quiet droplets collect in the gray hollows of this cucumber, and I know immediately, you would make this a metaphor, break it up like enjambment, twist it in complicated syntax. The juice I clean off the counter would be my life or my womanhood, either one would do, you know so little about both. I once saw the world in stanzas and with ink-stained fingers tried to put it on paper but then you took this wet knife, peeled away pink insides of my flesh until I was carved into iambic pentameter, sliced into fourteen bite-sized pieces, and skewered with a volta. Now there is the soft whoosh of a knife singing through air, the crack of splitting cucumbers, the glistening of juices on stainless steel. But the truth is I am only cutting cucumbers.

24


Man Eater Ashley Hanna

25


Brainstorm

Chandler Fowler

26


Tournesols Jordan Jacob

“Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside of me. I see paintings or drawings in the poorest cottages, in the dirtiest corners. And my mind is driven towards these things with an irresistible momentum.”-Vincent van Gogh He arrived in Arles with the spring, though only to visit. It was easier to call it visiting, because it implied something temporary, something done by choice. He did not oppose me, but the fact that I had proposed finding another doctor. I could hear my voice in the letters, the suggestion a tired one, but Vincent wouldn’t hear it. He would always insist on his wellness. This was not entirely an effort to avoid treatment, he had been fond of past physicians. They were just as ill, he argued, but so much like myself I could not help but see friends in them. And he too feared for his health, not as consciously as I have perhaps. He appreciated my concern when he was in the mood for it, but what was more pressing was his artwork. He knew what I might suggest next, and it was not unlike betrayal, his own brother trying to make ruin of his livelihood. “It will only be for a while,” I assured, “and being away from the paint might be all you really need.” What he needed was medical attention, diagnosis. But a break might have been the only treatment he might accept. “I’m perfectly well, Theo.” “It’s hurting you.” “Then I plan to be well,” he said decidedly, as though intention alone would be enough, “just as soon as I’m finished.” I was nearly grateful to argue, it meant he still had the energy. Sometimes with his watery eyes it was hard to tell how he felt; was it anger, sadness, a blend that characterized his fits? I don’t

know if even he can tell. Despite being the closest to him, perhaps a doctor had had some luck before in being brotherly, I feel far from understanding Vincent. What I see in mania is a gap between depression, and brief are the moments of calm that I feel are truly him. But it is not fair to see him that way, in the fractured way that he is. I do not see it as a task to take his pieces and find the patience everyone else lacks, for our sake. He so wished to be away from me, but the walls in my home are thin and the rooms just enough for us both. He avoided the windows. In writing, Vincent had claimed the sun would surely have driven him to madness. This morning though, I found him glancing dazedly at a beam of light on the coffee table, muttering how the sun would make him well. I don’t suppose he could know, in his state, whether there was a difference between wellness and what he endured. I wondered if he wanted to be well. Truly, not just well enough to keep a brush steady in his hands, hands that shook when I found him slouched over the kitchen table unaware that he had nodded off. I almost let him sleep there, I hadn’t seen him sleep in days. But he had made a mess of his palette, and I knew he would care more for his work than anything. Vincent woke, startled, before I could get close enough to nudge him. There was a smear of yellow at the corner of his mouth. He looked wild in the space between wake and sleep. “Need help getting to bed, Vincent?” Though I spoke softly, he would jerk away from me to avoid my touching his arm. I had learned not to let being upset register in my features, it would not help him any to see me that way. “You would be more comfortable there.” “No,” he grunted, still waking, determined. He would sit and finish his painting, or try, as he had, to make the paint comply with the brush. He longed so much to make beautiful things. But beautiful things required effort and disappointment and perseverance. It was tiring. It took all he had, and still nothing was good enough for him. It’s not enough to see the sunflowers, he tried to explain, you paint what you wish to preserve. That’s why it must be right, it has to be.

“He looked wild in the space between wake and sleep.”

27


And I could only half understand. It seemed he was hopelessly devoted to artwork, to subjectivity. His heart, mind, and self were vulnerable. Although I stand by him, and am amazed by what it is he produces, I’ve never quite understood why he allowed the beauty to be destructive. What little energy he had managed to overwhelm him. He could hardly bring himself to speak some days, he cried without realizing. “Can I help at all, Vincent?” “My pipe,” he gestured; odd for him to be away from it at all. He smoked to replace food and drink, I assumed because it was comforting. There was no way to convince him to eat, but I looked at the yellow paint on his lip, tried ignoring that this was not the first time. I thought again of convincing him to see a doctor. I tried to follow a mad man’s logic. Not being able to produce anything for extended periods, just staring at canvases and tubes of what could be something but having nothing and nothing. I pictured the pain of being uninspired, and worse yet, uninspiring. I knew he wouldn’t be able to stand the thought; I felt powerless for him. But still I could not figure out the poison. He appeared calm now, his eyes gentle though tinted red from sleeplessness. Illness? I glanced at the paint, he didn’t seem to notice. Vincent must not have understood how the colors could be harmful, or how being harmful should make him want to give them up. I considered the beauty and intensity in life he wished to recreate. I considered his thoughts of inadequacy, and half blamed myself for not being support enough for him. I considered anything beautiful at all; everyone I had seen in France, the quiet yawn of morning. How would it translate from a sick mind? How did illness distort beauty? In standing there, waiting for an outburst or protest, I struggled with truth and accuracy. Even then he looked troubled, disheveled and unshaven, he looked as though he had never rested. He wrestled with the need to inspire, to give back to the world somehow with his artwork. What he had was kept empty like the house at night. Empty like he felt empty, as the world seemed to empty itself into a dark slate. He became volatile. He remained alone. I believed that Vincent wanted to be happy, that he thought of doctors, and I was put at ease by 28

just considering it. No physician had ever been of lasting help. I know he believed there was no way of knowing what was truly ailing him. I thought of what it might be. I thought of how the paint tasted, if it translated the same feeling as the color produced. I would not argue with him, but in turning to leave, I saw his thumb move to that painted crease, and the look of recognition in his face. I would like to think of the look as remorse, not that it would satisfy me to see my brother in any more pain. But remorse suggests understanding, and I hoped that might lead to getting better. I could think only of the color as he had, the richness and intensity of the yellow on his tongue, the hope that it would paint something in him. I think he hoped for it to become something like happiness, to find in himself a place to begin before he could begin.


shy face of the moon Evan Tong

— “Bie dong!” Mother gives a silent plea with her eyes. “Sit!”

T

hirteen nights before last rain, I listened to the sounds of the sky. And I saw the color, and I knew there was sun that day, the day before. Yes, on that day, there was sun. There were no sirens, no police. The streets were clean. Mother smiled that day. Sister laughed. And brother, brother was back. — He was big enough to reach the ceiling, but too small for the world that confused him. He didn’t understand why we all only had one room, why dinner meant cabbage and rice, cabbage and rice, and why mother couldn’t say a full sentence in American English.

Sister sits on the edge of the bed. The bed is not big enough for the five of us, but it has to be. The bed is bigger now that brother is gone, but to me it is smaller. She’s never seen mother like this before, she’s too young to remember the day he died. Mother grabs the jade Pixiu medallion, waves it hysterically, and tears come down.

She cries.

And cries till her eyes are swollen like sunset, her face red as the rain.

Sister is confused. She too cries.

“He may finally have Mother turns to her. “Bie ku.” He talked to me his peace. By running more than he talked to — away from broken anyone else, I think. Brother could only “You know, didi, glass and away into watch in disdain as mother one day I’m gonna have a begged landladies in pink inky night.” house. One of my own. A frill and disheveled looking

real house. And it’s going to have a big yard. Not that small dirt piece of crap yard the city gives us to make us feel better about ourselves. No, it’s going to have grass as green as the sea. And I’ll have a real turkey for Thanksgiving, and Coca-Cola for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And a white, white picket fence. The American Dream, you know?”

I didn’t know, but I nodded.

landlords, “Tomorrow I have money! Tomorrow you come I give you money!”

And when tomorrow came we were gone. The next house, the next landlord, the next neighbor, the next friend, the next school. Brother was tired. — Where is that boy? The one with river in his hair, with the shy face of the moon, the one with dream caught in his throat?

“And one day I’m gonna get out of here. I’m gonna go to school. University. And I’m never gonna be stuck behind a machine again, no more pins in my hand, no more cheap clothes to sew.” Brother grinned at me, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was somewhere else, away.

Where a breath would never escape. — 29


A crooked smile with uneven teeth, an excited child with stars for eyes, a child who spoke with laughter. A faint blush appears, but like always, and like everything else in his world, it is swallowed. A sea of pain. A void. He jumps. — Brother was the first one to know of Father’s death in Nanjing. He told mother, and mother sat on the old, old bed, and brushed her hair. And she got up and asked us what we wanted to eat for dinner.

“Cabbage and rice.”

Mother smiled and washed her hands. —

He may finally have his peace. By running away from broken glass and away into inky night. And he’ll wander.

And wander.

And wander.

Until one day he sees that it is the in between. And then maybe he’ll stop. Or not. After all, isn’t that how we learn?

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Grandma Taylor Austell

It’s two a.m. and I know you’re gone before I can open my eyes and see you walking lame, blue-toed warm smile cut cold. Your wide open ribcage collects ashes from the Bible, burning through your hands so I cannot hold them. I let go of you because the light is finally yours. I wish I could wrap myself in your purple robe and hide from our last memory: your black-eyed peas and the T.V. blaring the news of the century. We watched the Twin Towers suffocate. As though it’s a dream, I watch flaming pieces of you trail away in September wind, your body the steel frame wavering, crumbling, gone.

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32


Ashes to Embers

Rainey Zimmermann

33


Maternal Instincts Chelsea Ashley

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Connected by mouth to breast, thirst only you could fulfill. Now heaviness you can’t ease that wakes you up every time the clock strikes because they were supposed to be hungry. Toy box filled with superheroes, in the room where pillows end breath instead of bedtime stories, now sits untouched and unseen because they couldn’t save them and neither could you. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

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To Those That Leave Shamiya Anderson

M

y mother tells a room of folks, weeping and raising their arms—reaching out for God or heaven or a way to prove the existence of both with a graze of their fingertips— that her Momma only ever loved one man her whole life. He’d joined the Navy right after she told him she was pregnant. Said he cupped her chin in his fingers one morning—strong, nimble fingers that knew how to hold on to something small—and told her he’d enlisted. There was no goodbye party. He spent the whole night making a garden of her and she’d never regretted it. Even when she had my mother and her brother and her sister and her brother and her brother. Even after time passed, she never swore against the ocean tide he was, always watched the moon grow old at night, and thanked him for leaving what grew behind. This. Fingers caressing the rhythm rounding my hips, some club-techno song falls over us in a red hum, and somewhere between real love and good liquor, a poem forms where his fingers squeeze into my back pocket. It speaks of the split skin from my bitten bottom lip, the clench of his unforgiving jaw, and the bruises his clinging hands will leave once the song is over. I walk into this old world—the mob of grinding, guilty bodies and sweaty, flailing limbs, fighting against the red hum of the music where many black bones have danced amongst their shackles, reveled in the music chains make forgotten—all perky chest and two left feet. I learned real young not to trust anything that couldn’t stand still, had too much tie to rolling waves and liked uprooting seemingly settled things, but the steady pair of hands that hit my waist with a firm grip and an easy smile has a groove in his sway, a hypnotic timber to his quick

step. These hands seem nimble, primed to make something of anything they touch: a glass-bottle ship or maybe a pyre. Either way, tonight, he will be everything but a disappointment. When sitting on the front pew, I could only imagine what my grandfather would’ve been like. If he had a voice like thunder, a dew-slick smile. Maybe he liked baseball. I don’t really know a lot of men that like baseball, but maybe he liked it well enough with a pitcher of Guinness. Maybe he watched the Olympics and cooked barbeque on Saturdays and wore flowers in his suit coat to go to Wednesday evening service just because he wanted to look nice for her. I wonder if he would’ve liked my father. My mother chooses to remember the man only as she saw him last—sitting on the front stoop of her Momma’s brownstone, lips softly mumbling the lyrics of “Motownphilly” by Boyz 2 Men as they spilled out of someone’s open window. His high top fade bobbed and weaved between hi-hats and the stillness that comes only on Thursday, a peace offering to the night before Friday can swallow the neighborhood with smoke and bottles and stumbling bodies making friends with the sidewalks and back alleys. He worked night shifts at the shipyard on the corner of Jessup and Hillsdale. Gram told her it was best to get out while she was young, go see something new: a different continent, the coast, maybe even just an art museum. Instead she found herself in a parked car waiting for a man who spent his nights living amongst other discarded things, dreaming in silence and water colors as they do. A plastic CVS bag sat on the backseat and a nonstop jiggle rose from her bouncing knee hitting the keys in the ignition; her eyes, tense and red, stared into her rearview mirror. She remembered how her Momma had never had to look at the mirror to backhand one of her siblings in the backseat, always hitting the right one who’d talked back to her. She sat wondering at the miracle of it and watched the crucifying stick heavy and breathless on her backseat, waiting for it to cry out, give itself what she couldn’t—wouldn’t—ask him to.

“He’d left a piece of himself inside of her and forgot how to come back to it.”

35


He tells me his life story as a precursor to sex just because he can. Lonely is not something his body is accustomed to. I can tell. He has never gone this long by himself and must feel like an explanation will make me more likely to hold him after. And as he watches me, a righteous grip on a clear-iced bottle, I think that I will. I will grieve for my Gram in the only way my mother taught me how—throw back a glass of whatever he’ll pay for and wait for the buzz to feel like the cavern of his roving tongue. And when we plow through each other, let the unflowered fields of our bodies unfence themselves. While the world is dark and witnesses are few, if any, I will praise the glorious undoing, praise the way my body blooms and my back bends, arches itself off the sweat and cotton bedding, praise the gravity and the thud our ricocheting breaths will make, praise this could-be man, and get lost in the untended fires burning inside his chest. Come morning, he pulls himself together again by the zipper on his jeans, looks lovingly at my uncovered breasts, and tells them he had a great time—as always—and that he’ll call, as he never does. The only man Gram ever loved died just a few years ago. She hadn’t heard from him in over thirty, until one night when the moon was young and her listed phone number worked its one and only miracle; he called. He didn’t apologize, just repeated the name of his only daughter like a blessing—to the mourning or the dead, her Momma didn’t know. Said he’d left a piece of himself inside of her and forgot how to come back to it. I can only imagine Gram would’ve said goodbye first, and make quick work of untangling herself from the phone cord so she wouldn’t have to hear him say the same, hanging up while his mouth sat open. And he, well, he would whisper into the cloud of silence what she must’ve clutched in her dreams, what she hoped grew inside of her still: You are the greatest thing I ever could have loved. And that is the saddest part of it all.

36


Weathered Noah Naugle

37


Patterned Girl Sam Jaffe

38


Prologue

Savannah Thanscheidt I tell myself I should be awestruck. I should carefully count her fingers, her toes— the way most mothers do. My chapped, tired lips press over the thin pale hairs gracing her new scalp. They feel clumsy. When I pull her soft body to meet my breasts, she eats hungrily. The constant pull of her toothless gums reminds me of a tied up animal, gnawing rope in a desperate plea to leave— the way all children will. She shoves her arms and feet against my stomach as I count the days until she’ll be able to walk away. Maybe I want that. I lay her in the bassinet, head to the door and ignore her small, mewling cries. How could she be calling for me?

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“A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention�

Aracely Medina

inspired by Yehuda Amichai In less than twenty lines, I yearned for love, for the infinite body of a woman. Hips, and thighs smooth as peach skin, soft ripened magic of abdomen. I had no hope of understanding that which vibrated in my pelvis and danced up my spine. Overcome with emotion, ready to bleed for her, we fell apart, just as the poem said: A pity. We were such a good And loving invention. Afterwards, I tasted her lingering Honey for a pulse her secret hollows, her rosewater wrists, and delicate natures overwhelmed me with rich sweetness. I brimmed with metaphors and loss, wanting a woman in ways I did not know I could want.

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Black and White Suns

water thrashing against the side of the boat. The kids shout out answers while Maverick swirls his crayon harder into the paper. A little Madison Dorsey yellow sun forms in the corner. His blonde curls slip out from behind his ears and fall in front of his face. He squints and grimaces at the lesson hildren are drawn to colors, they love the way scribbled on the board. “Okay guys, take out your workbooks!” they pop out at them. Videos that stimulate He presses harder and harder, trying to babies’ brains are filled with bright blues make the sun shine through the dark clouds and greens, even fascinating the parents. Pediatric doctors’ offices paint the walls in yellows and fill covering the paper, but the crayon snaps. The sun the toy bins with colorful books and puzzles. My lies broken on the ground in two pieces, falling mother wears the brightest shade of red lipstick beneath the stormy skies. Shavings of it littered all and it always makes me laugh. Lollipop wrappers around, rubbed down to a nub. Maverick digs in his bookbag for another are never black, grey or white; they are all the colors of the rainbow, making them look as sweet crayon, but comes up empty handed. One sits on another girl’s desk, just out of reach. The teacher as they are. A little boy named Maverick loves colors calls out for recess and the girl jumps up, leaving just as much as the next kid, but sometimes he has the sun sitting there. He slips it into his pocket, to work a little harder to find them. His mother grins and heads out with the other kids. Sitting on a swing, Maverick watches the pushes him to study harder and doesn’t like other kids play tag and chant his hobby of painting and songs to the fall of a jump coloring. His father is off in rope. He prefers to sit facing Afghanistan, but he sends the woods, watching the Maverick a letter sealed in a leaves sink down into the blue envelope every month. soft earth. The clouds perch Maverick is the kind atop the trees as if they are of child that doesn’t like to thrones. He kicks off the talk, he sits in the back of mulch below him and begins swinging his legs. the classroom and the teacher barely ever notices he is there. She will skim over his small, hunched- Maverick leans forward and backward, swinging over body to call on the kids who stare at her with his legs until he too sits among the trees. Chalk and jump ropes fall out of grubby bright eyes and waving hands. Maverick chooses to draw instead. His pictures tell long tales of Greek hands as the bell rang, signaling the end of recess. heroes and soldiers winning battles. Stories of Parents sit in the carpool line and wave to their kids dogs, cats, and his family fill the pages. He draws from the window. Maverick slips on his backpack his nightmares and dreams, etching them into and starts his trek home. The other kids hop in paper, making them constant and tangible, less their mothers’ cars. They present their latest art frightening. The stories he tells in bright-colored creations with wide crooked-tooth smiles. He slowly strolls along the sidewalk, kicking stones in wax are better than talking. One Tuesday, he’s sitting in his usual spot front of him and fiddling with the crayon concealed in the back of the classroom telling the story of a in his pocket. Maverick trudges down the hall to his room, pirate ship and its journey to gold. The teacher is running his hands along the wall under old family rambling on about multiplication tables. “Class, what’s one times one? Two times photos and drawings taped to the wall. He drops his bookbag on the floor and digs out his yellow two?” she asks. His teacher worries about math while crayon. He adds the new addition to his collection Maverick and his pirate ship are wrestling with of stolen suns and red roses, green blades of grass, the blacks and greys of the stormy sea, the choppy white clouds and blue seas. He finds them lying on the floor, abandoned, on the desks of his peers,

C

“A small stolen sun shines just below the surface of the white.”

41


even sometimes on the teacher’s desk, but he needs the color more than they do. His mother wouldn’t buy him crayons and he needs them to paint his walls. Each part of his wall tells a different story, never using the same combination of colors. The drawing he is working on now sits in the corner next to his bed. It shows a family, each member has flaws that coated their skin, and shines through their eyes. The mother is depressed; she looks down at the ground, her black hair hanging in front of her face. The father only has one leg, but he smiles and reaches for his wife’s hand. The son has a smile and both his legs, but he is colorless. His skin and hair are ashen white except for where the father’s hand sits on his shoulder. There, his shirt is a bright blue and tan skin replaces paleness. Maverick hears the squeak of the mailman’s brakes, and sees Mr. Halkand put a few envelopes in his mailbox. He grabs his jacket to go and check the mail for a blue envelope with doodles on it from his dad. They recount his father’s latest adventures and all the gruesome details of being an army medic, like having to save a man with a gunshot wound using only a dirty rag and a few stitches. Polaroid pictures of him and his platoon mates stick together and the little notes on the back are smeared, but it smells like his dad. It smells like when his parents went on dates or when his grandparents came to town. It smells like church services on Sunday and hugs when he got home from school. Maverick drops his crayons and runs downstairs. His mother sat in the kitchen, dressed in scrubs, ready for the night shift at the hospital. She barely looks up as he slips out the door and mutters a goodbye. She stands up after he left and walks to his room. Her fingertips drag along the walls and she pushes his door open. Her toes clench into the carpet and she sighs, rubbing her temples. She grabs a paint can from the garage. The brush sweeps and grazes across the drawings, smearing and mixing the wax, swirling together the colors, blending them and then erasing them all together. Mavericks returns home with no blue envelope. He places the mail on the counter, not even glancing at his mother, who is at the table again. White paint, smeared in her black hair and 42

clothes, her grey jacket lay next to her as she scrubs it with a washcloth. The paint can sits by her feet. His door creaks as he closes it behind him. Maverick starts to pick colors for the rest of his drawing, but a stark white catches his eye and he spins around. A small stolen sun shines just below the surface of white. He can barely make out its outline. It was never his sun anyway nor were the red roses and blue seas. When he couldn’t hold the sun or roses or blue seas, he hoped he could hold another blue envelope and trace the doodles from his dad on the back, hold the pictures against his chest, and know that he was okay.


Play

Marlies Amberson

43


Museum for Her Fallen Soldier Destiny Reid

Their life, consisted in this space. Pictures of her husband plastered on walls; his hair like candlewax, stuck to his forehead; bright smile. They’ve been together for years, even when destruction came to ruin them, he still promised forever. Even with bravery upon his back, carrying stacks of ammunition. He told her, intimacy became his gun, he shot the target for years, and made sure the safety was off. This house is dead, no more family dinners, no giggling, only brochures and crooked steps, exhibits of what her husband left. His flag, perfect triangle, an apology letter from the government, too absurd to comprehend, We’re sorry your husband’s dead. She kept this place conserved, catalogues explaining which knick-knacks were his favorite. His flag pierced with bullets, stained with blood; not for sale. She has the soundtrack of marching men, bringing their knees to brick chests; she has posters soaked with letters of discrimination of war. A shrine, pictures and candles illuminating his stern face. She admired how his uniform fit him perfectly, the sleeves held his tattooed arms, framed his body. Her fingers glide across the glass, stroking his face. Remembering him caused wet vision; all she did was stay in this museum for her soldier, grasping his shirt; his scent lingers in the display.

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Autumn

somehow only he could ease it out of her. My uncle loved his family. He’d spoil us with gifts from Europe, spoil us with stories of Yasmine Andii Sajid Sindibad, spoil us with cuddles and care and kisses. Kisses he wouldn’t be giving us anymore. He didn’t tell us he was sick. Seven years of illness and not even his wife knew. e died today. He died and I died with him. I remember his wife calling my grandmother Like the leaves on a maple tree, I brown and crisp and fall. I watch my family and telling her they were moving to Morocco from cloak him with satin, white sheets, place his bony France. We were ecstatic he decided to move remnants on the rolling bed, and wheel him out of there. He could be closer to family, and with that closeness maybe he’d get better. the room. I remember giddying in my seat at the *** Everyone loved being around my uncle. airport. I remember the frantic racing of my heart; He was pretty to look at with his broad shoulders I missed him so much. I remember my face falling and blond hair. He was always pulling a mickey, at the sight of his frail corpse being rolled in. I don’t especially at the younger kids’ expense. We loved want to remember him like that. He looked tiny. him. We really did. But even the things we loved He seemed less beautiful, less alive. His smile was weak and his limbs were weaker. I thought that if I most could annoy us at times. I remember asking him for a lollipop one hugged him, he would shatter. His shoulders caved in and his hair was turning gray; the beautiful man humid summer night. I was dying. couldn’t have been more I remember the than five or six years night before he died. old. I remember his eyes He lay in his hospital twinkling and a smirk bed heaving slowly, playing on his lips. He moaning loudly. He laughed and pulled a cried, “Oh God help me. sucker out of his pants God help me, please.” pocket. “Like this one?” He cried and I cried too. He unwrapped it and I was afraid. He looked handed it to me. As I at me and said: “Focus reached for it gingerly, he snatched it away and on your school, lovely. Focus on your school and popped it in his mouth. your happiness and if you fall, brush the dirt “Hey! I was going to eat that!” I whined. “I don’t care,” he cackled, and I cried until off your knees and get back up.” Blood seeped my mother came to console me, glancing at her through his nose and his eyes, tainting his gray skin maroon. His ears bled and I grew even more little brother accusingly. My uncle had a daughter. She was very frightened. They told me his insides were melting, pretty with golden locks like her mother and and I prayed that they weren’t talking about his chocolate eyes like her father, but no modesty pure heart. Mother and Grandma wouldn’t let whatsoever. Growing up in an arrogant city like me watch. They wouldn’t let me watch him die. I Chartres, she insisted she was better than all the had a nightmare that night, and when I woke up it rest of the cousins. The world revolved around her seemed to be true. *** and the minute we tried to turn it back towards the I walk back to his room and I can still feel sun, she would cry and pounce. Her father would his presence layered in the thick, dusted air. From come to separate her claws from our eyes. “Apologize, this instant.” He didn’t raise his where I sit on the floor, the room appears murky voice. With a teary-eyed look on her face she said except for the scratches of light around heavilysorry. An apology from my cousin was rare, and drawn curtains. His bed is still unkempt and his pillow sinks low in on itself. The room is dank and

H

“They told me his insides were melting, and I prayed that they weren’t talking about his pure heart.”

45


smells like hospital sheets. I can hear quiet sobs behind the thin walls of the room, which is far less horrid in comparison to his agonizingly pierced shrieks from the night before. The door creaks open and I hear footsteps approach me. It’s his daughter coming to comfort me. She rarely shows compassion; my uncle must have granted a miracle changing her like this. I am not particularly sad. I do not need the comfort. I am just confused. One day he is here and the next day he is gone and the time in between seemed to have passed in seconds. I didn’t have the time to thoroughly process what happened. His daughter kisses my head and walks towards the window on the opposite side of the room. She yanks the heavy, velvet curtains open and in comes the blinding red and gold glow of autumn. It was then that I realized that droning about his lack of existence wasn’t going to bring him back. It was then that it finally registered that his presence would eventually fade. Today is a beautiful autumn evening; a rainfall of maple leaves cascades from the winding branches of the trees. The air is cold and dry, the sky is scattered with white clouds, and the sun radiates bright orange gleams on the streets. Today, I forget the blood and the pain and the frail corpse. Today, I swallow the bitter denial lodged in my throat. Today is a brown and orange kind of day. The leaves may be darkening, they may appear dying, but the tree is still alive. Today is the first day of autumn.

46


A Small, Sweet Thing Cody Williams

I

t feels soft at first—the smoothness of thin cotton, the smell of clean perfume. It always does. She is silent, so commune like the last of the moon’s glow has run out, and the evening is a stir away from dying out in the selfish morning. Don’t look at her, though she is a fresh strawberry, most rare. She is used to your body, its curves, and the way you gently smooth her sweet hair. When the air is filled with a full and bursting aroma like bold cherry lotion, and there is stillness, wait with her while the moment passes and flutters out of the room. Look at Rosalina’s picture on the nightstand. Think of the nineties, and nail polish, and oily hair. Think of when six o’clock turned to midnight, and you’d still be up, talking about children and jobs and definitions—all the nonsensical things. “I would have a girl,” you’d say. “She’d be my Rose.” In the dining room, there is that sweetness still lingering, and Rose talks about school. She has heard what love is from the other kids, that it is smooching and holding. Massage her red hair. Say that it is when someone is sweet to someone else. Like candy; she does not need to know what it is made of, only what it tastes like on the surface. Close your eyes and fill the room with your thoughts and your daughter’s small frame. Soon, when she leaves for school tomorrow, it’ll be a matter of time before the evening rolls in again, and the bedroom smells like berry blossoms. Go about your day on your laptop, surfing for some sweetness. Wait for the door to open and ignore your boss’s phone calls, answering every now and then to let him say hello until he finally hangs up. In the office the next day, just say you had to save your daughter from the flu again. You’d

want to save her, but not from the flu. Offer her a Life Saver as the door opens, and she shows you lollipops and Now-and-Laters in her book-bag from a kind man at school. Tell her to throw them away. You are here for her, and her friend can be loved too. Get her friend into your room. Give her that same definition—that real sweet—the thing that makes you forget. She is familiarly soft and rosy and of strawberry powder. She is squirmy at first, but you start loosening up, and the whimpers turn to weightless and airy moans. She slumps—folds into herself like a rotting cherry, like nothing can be okay or evitable. You feel that everything is going to be all right, and that the old passion of the nineties, the missed full moons and the smell of nail polish remover—of round and prosperous things—does not matter. That bursting aroma rises in the room again, but of heavy musk and molded berries. Light slowly hits the walls until you see your daughter struck by sunlight. Her eyes are fixed on her friend rotting from your love. Rose looks on like she wonders what kind of love could make someone so unmoving and still, no longer familiar with the world, but afraid of it. In Rose, you see the waning of the past, the Life Saver on the back table that is already hardened—yellow and no longer white. Close your door as the girl leaves stiffly. Shadows of Rose’s feet remain there, waiting. Pick up a picture of Rosalina, still young and in bloom, while the light dies down to a gray-blue daylight. Rosalina had been in your daughter’s deep, deep eyes, always questioning. Sweep everything, boxes, glass, from the nightstand, and hit it hard because how could you think that this was saving? Your daughter’s shadow grows smaller. Open the door, stepping over Rosalina’s picture clean out of the frame. Hug her, and all the weight of when you were ten and twenty and thirty comes down all at once. You were thirty-five when Rosalina’s stomach was a jawbreaker and her finger had

“She wonders what kind of love could make someone so unmoving and still, no longer familiar with the world, but afraid of it.”

47


swollen over her ring. You’d bought it at a candy store, some under-the-counter pawn, and it suffocated her until her finger was a bruised grape. You’d put your hand on her belly, and she’d ask why the belt on your finger was not covered up. You’d just caress her stomach and say, “I hope it’s a girl.” She was diagnosed after nine months, not enough glucose, and she held your hand like she thought you would know some definitions to give. She was on the page of The Virgin Suicides where the girls had passed on: In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained; oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name. She was blue and veiny and soon paled away. Rose’s hands are small but heavy pink stones, and they tremble like the sweetness is all gone from them. Leave, because chance is a greater lover than you—because she is only six, and you are only forty, and what remains in-between is of something you’re sure is bitter love, the kind that is big and sweet at first, like hard strawberry candy, but slowly gets smaller until there is odd nothingness in your mouth.

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Pulchra Geometria Robert Tucker

49


Vishnu Picked Berries Under the Stars Alexis Williams

meditate in the presence of the dead the holy worshipped thing its rotten body does not rot you don’t think to the floor—why do you bury your face from your creator? he cannot see you down there but think—what makes you less? you are a berry beneath Vishnu’s starry sky and no one watches you they know you are worth touch open up to the wind dance on the backs of your family in prayer the light only wants to consume you go with it be washed away silently in the dark with leaves on your hands yes you grew from ground so ground does not rot— they eat berries from the same dirt they float above walk on earth and waste in their nice shoes laugh at your bronze skin unknowing of the difference between pick and pluck

50


Horizon

Joshua Keating

51


Blind to Spirit Jordan Jacob

We go here, watching the pines shake in blackness, afraid the ground too might shake with their lifting. You pluck them like lilies with hands that aren’t your own. For you, a sky made from soil, stars flat as leaves at the lake crossing. I look to see what you see, but even the lilies are pale here, the cold black and full like lake water. This sky is blue-white, lit by gases gravity wills in place; the spaces become a window. We are both sure we are right.

52


Odor of Sanctity Kain Kim

W

hen my dentist, whom I had been shadowing for the entirety of the past summer, asked what I thought after he finished cementing a crown onto a patient’s weak tooth, I had only one thing to say: “Spiritual.” I’m no pious fanatic in any sense, far from it. But there was something transcendent, sacerdotally divine, about the purifying halo of clean, white light that arched over us all and illuminated the patient’s gaping mouth. The incomprehensible uttering of half-answers to questions like “Are you in pain?” were spoken around gleaming sterile intrusions, in tongues like at a Pentecostal church. I don’t think many people realize this, but there’s something awfully intimate about having someone put their hands, shrink-wrapped in latex, into your mouth. I think it requires an inordinate amount of trust. You’ll never get anywhere like that, my dentist told me. He then leaned back in his swiveling, vinyl chair that was a sterile, sickly pale green like everything else around us in the clinic and—in that infuriatingly phlegmatic way adults quite so often act—said: Tell me, why do you want to be a dentist? I’d been shadowing this man for nearly three months as an unofficial technical assistant, and there was nothing at all technical about it. I’d pull up with my mom in our clanking artifact of a station wagon, fight out our constitutional parking rights with the local patrolling police officer, and then go inside so I could hand Dr. So-and-So his retractors and probes and halogen light bulbs and whirring handpieces in the sanctimonious cubicle of trust. I called it that because everyone inside it needs to have complete faith in each other. The patient trusts the dentist to put multifarious, demonic-looking devices in his mouth. I trust the patient not to sue us for misalignment or breaching

of regulatory policies. Dr. So-and-So trusts me not to hand him the wrong instruments. An ongoing cycle. It was my last day at the clinic. My friends compulsively ewwed at the idea of looking into mouths all day. So what? It was no better than going into people’s bowels or looking at their feet. Every part of the human body is as equally disgusting—or not disgusting, depending on how you want to look at it—as the next. I liked the look of the sterile chrome instruments, small and pointy with an indiscernibly nefarious aura. I had always been fascinated by the way each one had its own function and place in the operating room— one to pick at your cavities, the other to suck up all your spit so you wouldn’t choke on it while being operated on—and had never been frightened of them as a child as many others tended to be. Fixing a tooth was like building a house. You mixed suchand-such powder with such-and-such liquid to formulate an adhesive; you applied it to the tooth, a halogen light held over it that would bathe the patient in indigo glow and almost instantly harden the light-activated glue. When the leather-backed chair tilted the patient back up with its slow, contented hum of a job well done, one felt purged, ready for a new life. I sat there in my dentist’s office, his hard eyes reflecting the cold steel of his instruments. With the overhead lamp still suffusing us in its clinical light, I felt as if I were attending a confessional, ready for catharsis. The sanctimonious cubicle of trust, indeed. Why did I want to become a dentist? The air hissed with expectation—of all I would amount to, and what I would do with it. It briefly impressed upon me that my mentor, as it was, had already given up on me; I was a lost cause, just another run-of-the-mill teenager with no special aspirations or any tangible goals. His glassy eyes shone subtly with the satisfaction of another person sorted, de facto classified in the blink of an eye, a patient successfully diagnosed. There he sat, his face lined with disapproval, the sleek instruments that stood at his side stiffly—at attention—daring me to say another word. Raised on a pedestal, the whole lot, worthy of worship. I left the clinic that day and stared out

“Fixing a tooth is like building a house.”

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the window as our surroundings blurred past us in a conglomeration of fall-hued colors. I almost expected the leaves, the tree bough, the paint on the suburban houses lined up in rows, to be tinted with the same antiseptic, austere grays and cold greens that had been a backdrop to my days at the clinic. But no, there were the reds and the browns and the yellows, the eaves of newly-planted saplings not yet touched by the caress of autumn just as vibrant as when I’d left home. Everything was saturated with color.

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Tainted Light Audrey Edwards

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1956-Red Beats in Harlem Rey Mullennix

She’s at the door. I smell her cinnamon, see her caramel skin, her mahogany curls. She wears her name on red lips and body. There’s no light here, but she pulls star-shine around her figure. Tell her she’s beautiful; she laughs. Tell her she makes my pulse burn. She asks if my kind finds beauty in darker skin. Tell her only when the lights are off. Her voice outshines piano notes. Ivory glides between ebony and she lures me into burgundy shadows. We dance in the dark, crimson clasped between lusting hands. She whispers down my spine and I stumble all the way home with her, finding scarlet passion in brown skin. I close my eyes, breathe in her cinnamon, seeing red—seeing her.

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8 months Sarah Buckman

the t.v. blares a comedy, and he is calling for another beer. I am in the kitchen holding an onion. my thumb grazes its first cellophane layer, pinkish patches of skin flake away, crinkling in my hands to reveal white, fresh flesh underneath. my stomach rustles. a heavy scent seeps from the raw second layer. throat thick, eyes swollen. I try to chop it, but I can’t get past the roots. its thick belly button protrudes from juicy layers. I raise the small orb to my nostrils and see its field, surrounded by thousands of ankle-high shoots, each brown placenta attached to a single growing life. I tear each layer by hand until I reach the center: small, young, white. it needs to be saved from him but he is behind me, hands on my shoulders, squeezing hard. the small layers crackle in a pan with potatoes. I lean against the counter, hands on belly, while he dumps his simmering meal onto a plate. he stabs translucent slices with a steel fork complains it has no flavor. But I am lost in the field of onions, row after row ingrained in my head. I can almost taste the bitter roots as he chews pale slivers of life. my stomach tossing and turning: a hungry new creation doomed for existence.

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58


Motherland

Lauren Kuehmeier

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Under the Sycamore Katherine Clark

S

leepy smiles met wide, excited eyes that morning. Andrew stood over his parents holding a stack of poster board while Amber held the breakfast tray. Laden with spilled orange juice and burnt Wonder Bread, the incentive teetered indecisively in her sweaty hands. The pitch was simple: Andrew would wash the dishes for a month and Amber would pick up her toys if only they could get the cat. Andrew wrote out the contract in magic marker, and Amber added illustrations with a green crayon. The adoption fee would be paid in total from an account Andrew had established in a mason jar beneath his bed. Amber promised the new addition could use her sandbox in the backyard. Their parents, they assured, only had to provide transportation and permission. The cat they picked out had half a tail, one ear, and three legs. They called him Allen, because that’s what their little brother had been named. Until they stayed with their grandparents for six weeks. Until they came home to a half-finished nursery with an empty crib. Until their mother stopped smiling. Until their father buried him under the sycamore in the backyard and the next week put up a tree house. Amber called Allen “Bubba” when no one was around, whispering reincarnation.

“It’s a man-wich.” There was a knock on the passenger window– “Hey there Mozart,” he smirked, opening the door from the inside to let her in. Amber placed her piano books on the dash and picked up Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the floorboard. She had been slowly working her way through Andrew’s bookshelf since he left for college. “Marlboro Man,” she greeted with a tip of her head. He chuckled and let his cigarette fall to the ground, sending a small plume of sparks into the air as it hit the asphalt. Terrible habit, he knew. He’d taken it up as a crutch when he went to college and it stuck. He thought of the growing pile of filters in his old tree house and made a note to bury them when he got home. “How was your lesson?” She shrugged, and the spine crackled pleasantly as she opened the book. “Peachy,” she thought for a moment, staring at a smudge on the windshield. “I’m not good at piano, don’t know why I bother.” She saw him open his mouth to protest and waved her hand dismissively. “No, I’m not digging for compliments. I mean, I just really couldn’t care less about it.” “So don’t go,” he suggested, but she knew she’d be there next Tuesday, as she had been every Tuesday since the first grade. Amber leant her head against the seat and closed her eyes, stretching her sore fingers.

“She never did ask him to come with her.”

Andrew’s mouth felt dry and stale. He hadn’t closed it since the vase hit the wall four Andrew rolled the window down to smoke a cigarette, his fingers tapping a nervous staccato on inches from the picture of his family at Amber’s the car-handle outside. He had lovely hands, thin- first piano recital—a glossy image of his father fingered, free of calluses, with only a few freckles holding Amber on his shoulders and Andrew to speak of. As a boy, he’d race to the playground staring up at them, his clip-on tie slightly askew. so that he could bury his hands in the silt and Their mother had insisted on being the one to take emerge with something rugged, dirty, masculine. the picture. He had seen this happen in the movies, but At lunch, the girls would giggle at the way his hands stained his peanut butter and jellies, he’d they didn’t get the sound quite right. It wasn’t all grin and say with his best impression of his father: shatter; the roar and the heavy quiet thereafter. Andrew’s stare stuck to his father’s face, trying to 60


find him in it, unable to, no longer recognizing the man. When Amber’s teacher dropped her off after practice, her mother was bent over on the ground cleaning up the fragments, hiding her tears in her starched white blouse. “The cat,” his father said, “Allen knocked it over.” Amber wouldn’t look at Allen for the rest of the night. She knew he hadn’t done it on purpose but her mother was crying and someone had to be responsible. That night Allen slept with her though, and her mother with her father. And Andrew with his nightlight on for the first time in years.

Andrew watched from the couch, where Mario Kart was turned up loud enough to pretend everything else was quiet. “What do you want, Carol?” his father screamed, waiting for something, anything– nothing. His mother did not ask her husband to stay; she watched without eyes as tears slid silently to the corners of her lips. So he shoved everything he could into a backpack and Andrew wondered if he too would be lifted onto his father’s back. “I’ll be back for them,” he shouted, an acidic promise. Andrew felt an empty dread in his stomach. He looked over at his mother as the door clicked shut. His mother didn’t stare back, kept her eyes glued to the door that let him leave as if — it had let her drown. He came back two minutes later, a limp form in his arms. “Did you get Mom and Dad anything?” she “Carol–” he whimpered, looking between asked, and Andrew shook his head. Andrew and his mother. “I didn’t see him, he was “They already have two dashing children, under the tire, I didn’t know, I’m sorry, I didn’t—” what more could I possibly give them?” Amber They buried him in the backyard, under blushed, giving him a slightly disapproving look. the sycamore. His mother told Amber that Allen “It’s just an anniversary.” had gone missing. She ran away fourteen times “Twenty-one years,” she mused, sinking that winter, and each time they found her she had a little deeper into her chair and her book and several cans of Fancy Feast and Allen’s favorite herself. Andrew swerved around the pothole in toy. Each time she had the same story: she was just front of Mr. Stein’s house. Amber’s eyes found looking for him, but Andrew saw that the mason the faded rust-colored stain in the driveway. She jar full of quarters had gone missing and she had still had the scar, in the shape of Australia, on packed six extra pairs of socks. her left knee. She recalled her father holding her She never did ask him to come with her. with one arm, leading her bike with the other, how she stared at his tan, calloused fingers knuckled — around her handlebars and forgot how they looked wrapped around a bottle. For a moment, As Andrew pulled into the driveway he she wondered if Andrew knew, and if not, if she thought about asking Amber if she was okay, should tell him, or if telling him would make him behind the books and the piano lessons, if she was feel bad for being at college and not at home. She managing without him at home. Instead he just wasn’t bitter; moreover, she was glad he was there looked over, smiled his mother’s smile, all hope and not at home. She just wished she were not at and expectation and need– home too so she went to her lessons, pounded keys “Thanks for coming to pick me up, kind to ignore her father’s fist pounding on the door of like old times, huh?” she grinned something asking for another chance; played loud enough to different. Her smile had none of her father’s fangs, ignore her mother’s quiet “okay,” and the silence not an air of her mother’s passivity. He knew then that followed. that she had managed, that she’d make it. She got “Their marriage could drink if it wanted to,” out and had made it to the porch by the time she Andrew joked, and they both laughed, not because realized he hadn’t left the car. “Coming?” He shook it was funny, but because it hurt. In a can we go to his head. your house instead kind of way. A Dad, maybe I “In a minute.” He watched her close the should drive kind of pain. door and thought about the sycamore in the The first time their father left, he didn’t. backyard, of both Allens buried there, of the way 61


his parents smiled when they picked him up from the airport, how by fourteen he had forgiven his father for leaving but at nineteen he still couldn’t forgive his mother for staying. He tucked his cigarettes into his back pocket, grabbed Amber’s piano books off the dash, and locked the car. As he passed his father’s truck, he laid a gentle hand on the tire, said a prayer, and kept walking.

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Bare Trees

Philip Giangrosso

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Family Tree Cassidy Trudeau

Social worker slouches Over metal clipboard. His shirt, a landslide of wrinkles. I breathe in flourescent lights of the guidance counselor’s office while rubbing palms on jeans. He looks up with penny eyes, smiles when he asks, “do you feel safe at home?” Sister and I build forts from humid pillows father’s tee shirts, coloring pages of sweat and we rock together, singing pop songs to the rhythm of their insults. Blankets are band-aids over bruises beneath our skin. Electric pain sparks in our eyes as mother’s cigarette smoke embraces us. Ash buries us. I watch the social worker chase my answers on slices of pages, asks for me to repeat my answers. He shakes my cold hand, says he’ll check in later. I close the door on the scene, hug sister’s shoulders, kiss her forehead goodbye leave her a shriveled leaf on our scabbed family tree.

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Photograph Grace Green

A

t work, Lucia faked a happy tone in her voice. When she called people, she twirled the cord around her finger while glaring at her empty cubicle. The only thing she had ever let adorn her desk lately were pencils and manila folders. The most eye catching thing was the purple cup that currently held all her highlighters. Two weeks ago, she had a picture of her brother, Josh, and her as children, making a sandcastle on some forgotten beach, next to her computer. But then she got a phone call, and she put it in her bottom drawer. Now she can’t even open the drawer. The photograph felt too alive to Lucia, their hair matted with sand and her knees red from playing in the waves. Lucia stared at the clock every thirty minutes until five o’clock, wishing she had the power to make the hand spin faster if just for right now. She closed her eyes and felt herself suffocating. When she made her final call of the day, Lucia almost cried. She wanted to be nowhere but she especially didn’t want to be at work, where every time the phone rang she thought it would be her mother, sobbing. And like a pigeon with a broken wing, Lucia returned to where she felt she would be safe to heal. Her apartment greeted her with the same blue walls from the day she moved in, half a year ago. Her landlord told her she could paint it whatever color she wanted but she just kept it the same. Her furniture wasn’t much better. Plain, no accent colors. It was very uninspired, kind of like what someone, who is never home, would decorate their house. Lucia was always home since the phone call. She looked at herself in the mirror above her dresser and smiled. She wondered if the people on the phone with her could sense how her smile was being held up with her boss’s safety pins and tape that read “contractually obliged.” She wondered if

they knew she hated to go to work now. She looked down at the dresser and saw the pamphlet. The white, gold-rimmed piece of paper with more than a dozen tear stains and more than a million pieces of a heart, crumpled in the page. Lucia pushed it away, looked at the blank blue wall instead. The wall reminded her of that day on the beach, the waves rolling closer to her and her brother as they molded sand into a castle. Back then, Josh was a self-proclaimed knight for Lucia, the lovely and beautiful queen of Atlantis. He found seaweed to make her a crown and held her hand as they walked into the ocean. Whenever Lucia fell under a wave, Josh would say that the ocean was just saying hello to its ruler. With a little more practice, he said, she would be able to control the waves. Thinking of his words made her want to cry. She felt like she was under the waves again, being pushed down by the hand of Poseidon. Lucia sat on the ground, pulled her knees into her chest and felt the hot flow of tears down her cheeks and the soft pat of them landing on her knees. After a while, it became soothing so she climbed in her bed and closed her eyes. She woke up at seven in the morning, the sun licking her blinds. She had a dream she was choking. She swallowed it down. She got to work at nine o’clock. Only a smile from her boss when she walked in, Lucia hid herself as she got to her desk. An hour into work, Lucia felt tired. She had cried too much last night and her eyes still looked like pillows. But then the phone roared and demanded that she be awake. Lucia was breathing hard as she picked up the phone and started to breath harder when she realized she kept the files for this client in the bottom drawer of her desk. There was no way she could continue the call without looking at the files so Lucia said she was about to go into a meeting and hung up, promising to call back later. Lucia waited a minute, staring at the drawer. She felt like she was being stupid, childish. So she gave herself a kick. Lucia unlocked the drawer, moved the key with hesitance but assurance. She opened it, pulling back the wooden box on its smooth track,

“She had a dream she was choking. She swallowed it down.”

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she looked inside. The picture looked bright. It was taken twenty years ago, the ink had faded a bit, but the life of the moment was still there. Lucia took it out of the drawer. Lucia felt a tear run down her cheek. With steady hands, she put the photograph on her desk, right next to her phone. Her brother may be dead but he was alive the photograph.

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Possessions Taylor Austell

There are three things I have left from childhood: The round hat box, the memory of my grandmother losing her hair like autumn loses leaves. I open it to reveal her white rose smell, the hat with blond strands still poking through woven fibers. I pluck one thread of gold hair roll it between my fingers to remember the first thing I ever did was cry. A cigarette box I stole from my dad with an unsmoked light and a shard of beer bottle glass inside. I glued it shut a long time ago and I always change its hiding place. The shard inside was once planted in the soil of my hand before it grew into the jagged scar over my thumb. The feather from a dead mallard my mom and I found in the backyard. She told me not to touch it because it might have had diseases and my dad would be home to bury her. But I snagged the feather that blew in the breeze and now it hangs with beads on the side of my dresser. I watch it blow in the cycle of my ceiling fan and remember that I will always have to wait until no one is looking to use my wings. These are the things I have left: a box of tear-stained hats, a box full of pain, a feather waiting to take flight.

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Luster

Alexandra Spensley My father tells me about the pearl hunters: how men with spines ribbed like fish scales stalked an open-fisted ocean for the hearts of freshwater oysters. Their church was the belly of an unshy sea, fingers strumming the underside of waves in a quiet vibrato of current, oxygen slipping from the tide of their bones as they plucked sanded gems from the water’s distant shoulder. A holy place rimmed in salt: candles molded from a wax of greased cotton, a temple of scalloped bodies, oysters thick with the promise of bounty. An empty oyster would be tossed aside— lips wrenched apart, a hollow mouth reeling with its own blank space, while a small chimney of pearls grew beside it, blushing like infant flames.

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Eye to Eye Sarina Angell

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Profile for Élan Literary Magazine

Elan Spring 2015 Online Edition  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

Elan Spring 2015 Online Edition  

Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...

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