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Faculty Advisor Tiffany Melanson

Élan International Student Literary Magazine Produced by the Creative Writing department of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and funded through the Writers’ Guild Boosters Association 2445 San Diego Rd., Jacksonville FL, 32207 (904) 346-5620

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Volume 33 | Issue 2 Editors-in-Chief Lexey Wilson Olivia Meiller Layout & Design Meredith Abdelnour Luz MaĂąunga Art Kathryn Wallis Reece Braswell Poetry Evelyn Alfonso Conor Naccarato Fiction/CNF Valerie Busto Anna Howse Managing Editors Winnie Blay Noland Blain Digital Media Sierra Lunsford Catriona Keel Marketing Lex Hamilton Ashley Chatmon Douglas Anderson Art Liasons Isabella Pecora An Tran

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The majority of Élan’s art expresses intimate selfreflection. Many of our pieces take risks in the topics they address, and the vulnerability shared by our artists. This issue goes beyond that— many pieces address the weight of expectations. Growing up comes with the struggle to become and belong. During this process, we often have to face the roles we haven’t filled, the roles we always seem to fill, and the roles we can never fill. The Élan staff hopes our book will allow you to see these aspects of your identity. We challenge you to reflect upon the honesty these artists have revealed, and discover the ways you are belonging and becoming in the world. -Editors-in-Chief Lexey Wilson and Olivia Meiller

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Contents Sister of the Moon Cassidy Jaillette

Cover

Birds Nikki Kershner

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Liberation Sena Suganuma

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There Would Still be Stars Nikki Kershner

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Sunshine Haley Andrews

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after the rebirth of my mother Valerie Marie

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Bird Daria Dvoinikova

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Pins and Plaques Grace Brodeen

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Extended Day with Izzi Breana Kinchen

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How the Palm Trees Swayed Alexa Naparstek

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una cierta tristeza (a certain sadness) Bella Tolbert

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A New Beginning Davis Smith

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Early Morning at Church Summer Camp Ashley Chatmon

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Dressshopping Evelyn Alfonso

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Prisoner of War Conor Naccarato

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War Memories An Tran

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Eating Art Olivia Meiller

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We Meet at a Museum Tierny Touch

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Weird Science Jose Mendez

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A List of What to Do When Your Body Gives Up Winnie Blay

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Poem for my Eyebrows Nikki Kershner

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The Girl with the Mousy Hair Tori Shoemaker

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What Makes my Hair Different (Texture) Myka Davis-Westbrook

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An Ode to Jeffery (An Ode to Young Thug) Harrison Stephens

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He Experiences Davis Smith

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Circle Za’Nya Davis

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My Mother on the Roof Jaden Crowder

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I Am Tomato Jasmine King

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The Tension Between Us Lily Bulluck

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A Naturalist’s Bathroom Mirror Noland Blain

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Further Examination Mary Hamilton

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Dallas Strong Payton Titus

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Cleaniness Next to Godliness Cassidy Jaillette

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Uncovered Harleigh Murray

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World Creator Heidy Charbonier

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Neighborhoods Sarah Chocron

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Birds

Nikki Kershner A line of birds perched on the telephone wire— Eyes bright and wings aching for the sky. The clouds the cathedral, Their voices the choir, Textured and dynamic and alive, Resonating with history and humanity. We represent a hundred—a thousand—different ways to walk this planet. Little creatures on a marble suspended in space, We kiss each other’s cheeks or tell stories in the night or carve history into our skin. We cross oceans and explore and point to the dots of light in the sky. Humanity is a blanket term, A stained-glass window, And we are the pieces, The light shining through us, Spilling a million colors over the world’s windowsill. Our mouths form different words when we are asked to name the moon, Yet our hearts all beat the same red blood, And we cry the same salty tears, And we have all felt love like a candle in our hearts. I’ve watched a flock of birds take off from a telephone wire. Their wings sound like a hundred heartbeats, All pulsing in unison. I’m reminded that a single cerulean dome encases the Earth, And if I tilt my face upward I’ll see the same sky you do.

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Liberation

Sena Suganuma 9


There Would Still Be Stars Nikki Kershner

If the sun didn’t rise tomorrow, I would never again see the light slant in through my window During the golden hour, When the edges of the leaves are set ablaze, And everything feels rich like honey. If the sun didn’t rise tomorrow, I would never again see the light fall Across your cheekbones, Bright and alive and full of warmth. If the sun didn’t rise tomorrow, I would never again see the beams of light, Like divinity, Breaking through the clouds In a post-storm sky. But if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow— There would still be candles That flicker like birds’ wings, There would still be lighthouses Calling for you to come home, And there would still be stars, Like pieces of my soul, Scattered across a black satin sky.

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Sunshine

Haley Andrews 11


after the rebirth of my mother Valerie Marie

a hummingbird slams the patio sliding doors, thrice until it stumbles into self-pity and gives up. dust is left behind from its green feathers. its body barely makes a sound. I wish my mother would open them, invite the tiny bird into her space. my mother serves tea, and I cough up a feather, watching it settle between us, between kettle and overflowing cup. we are not happy. her rebirth has left her too brittle for me. there is a vacant chair where her sister would’ve sat, untouched by the sun. my mother cannot make herself mourn in front of me. she’ll go back to bed, a Bible tucked under her right arm, and tell me to find comfort in the driveway, alone. outside, I can hear birds talking to each other, singing their psalms and love. inside there is no music, the ice machine is turned off, blinds pulled. the house isn’t ours, the kitchen never ours to share.

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Bird

Daria Dvoinikova 13


Pins and Plaques Grace Brodeen

Lifting her up from under her arms, Richmond positioned his daughter at the forefront of his lap, just enough so that she could see the specimen breathing gently on the table. “It’s so pretty.” Callie whispered, reaching her thin fingers out to touch it. Richmond stopped her before she could. Even if the specimen was frail and was not likely to fly away, he still wanted to make sure she knew to go about it in a calm and gentle manner. He had no doubt that she would make an excellent assistant. “Now listen, this butterfly needs you to be very gentle. The butterfly is sick, and it needs you to pinch its tummy to make him feel all better.” He phrased his request very carefully. Richmond had always struggled with pinching the thorax between his large thumb and forefinger. He knew that his Callie would have much better luck killing the creature than he would. “Will it hurt?” She asked timidly. Richmond knew that the stunned butterfly would only jitter before dying and that it would be a quick and relatively painless death. “Not at all, just pinch right here and he’ll feel all better.” He placed her fingers by the thorax. With little to no hesitation, she squeezed the butterfly at the perfect angle. Richmond knew it was dead instantly. “Now he’s all better!” She cheered lightly. Richmond hugged his daughter around her frail waist and nestled into her cloud of curly hair. He took a breath of relief, blowing the wisps of her hair lightly. She still smelled like the bubble bath she had last night. He loved watching her glide her hands across the pool of bubbles with a slight grin, as if she were holding back a laugh. “I’m so proud of you, my little entomologist.” He cooed, relieved that he would no longer have to kill the butterflies by himself. Callie turned her head to face him, her eyebrows cocked at the word as if to ask for a definition. Richmond only turned her away, placing the metal pins he had laid out into her hands. He didn’t want to dwell on the

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moment, he would be able to do so much more research with the time that Callie was saving him. He positioned the butterfly onto the mounting board in the most aesthetic way he could, off centered an inch to the left. “Now just put those pins where I tell you to. Be careful, they’re very sharp.” He warned. She shied away from his grasp, unsure of what she was being told to do. “But the butterfly is sleeping, this will hurt him.” Callie said very matter-of-factly. Richmond sometimes wished that his daughter wasn’t so bright and he could just make her follow his orders without questioning. She had always been inquisitive, eager to understand why her building blocks fell to the carpet when stacked too high or why her father gripped a pencil with the nubs of his fingers. He sighed, searching his mouth for the right words to explain to her that the specimen was dead, but he decided against it. He would keep this game going as long as he could. He wanted to keep her sheltered from the world; she was so gentle and kind. Richmond knew it would upset her if she had known the truth. When his wife was sentenced, he had told Callie that her mother was going to visit family upstate. Since then, she had not pestered him about it, but he could sense her confusion in the quiet way she kicked pebbles around in the yard. He could sense her concern in the way she flicked her eyes up from the carpet when she heard him enter the room. Even now, as she bounced lightly on his knee, he couldn’t feel farther from her. Richmond worried he was raising his daughter all wrong. His wife had always taken charge when it came to Callie. She was the “Even now, as she bounced one who drove her to daycare, dressed her, lightly on his knee, he couldn’t and made her dinner. feel farther from her.” When the police showed up at the door, she was reading a picture book to Callie in her lilac bedroom. The police demanded to see Richmond’s wife, barreling past him towards the hallway. She seemed to have known they were coming, tucking Callie into bed with the blankets over her pale face. “Papa,” she squeaked, as if she was fearful of the word. Richmond glanced up from the work table to meet her

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meek eyes. “I don’t want to stick pins in the butterfly.” She fought the urge to slide off of his knee. Richmond strengthened his grip around her waist. “Come on Callie, it will only take a minute. Then I’ll make you dinner, how’s that sound?” He tried to reason with her. He looked down to the nubs of his fingers, turning blue around Callie’s small frame. “It hurts…” She whimpers, shyly prying his arm away from around her torso with her small hands. “It doesn’t hurt, the butterfly can’t feel it, it’s dead Callie.” The words slip his tongue with frustration. Callie stopped her squirming and loosened her grip on his arm. Her tiny hands met her eyes, rubbing furiously. She pieced everything together instantaneously, quiet sobs were now echoing against the walls of the office. Richmond took her fingers in his with haste, placing a metal pin between her fingertips. Bulbs of tears rested at her chin, her eyes locked on the butterfly with an uneasy certainty. “I want Mommy, I want her now.” She babbled between sobs. Richmond persisted, pushing her shaky toward the butterfly’s wings. She wailed as they pierced through them, her eyes unmoving. Richmond grit his teeth, grinding them against each other with satisfaction. He felt himself slipping. He never liked this, he didn’t want to pin bugs down in glass coffins. He didn’t want to raise a daughter with a mother good as dead. “Stop it, I want Mommy.” She was screaming now, but the deed was already complete. “You did excellent Callie,” He breathed out. She blinked for the first time since the ordeal, unsure if she was saying even got to him. “Mommy’s died too.” She spit out, eyeing the butterfly. Richmond knew that Callie’s mother was physically alive, but his marriage and her motherhood gone. She was rotting away in her twelve year sentence, a butterfly pinned down to a plaque.

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Extended Day with Izzi Breana Kinchen

We split a pair of cherry Pop-Tarts under the wide canopy of an oak tree. Its trunk is enough to hide our skinny bodies as we tear open the crinkly foil wrapper. I should be stingy with this perfectly-frosted delicacy, but I can’t help but be generous with her. On a boring afternoon, during silent work time, I watched her from across the room as she danced animatedly to the dance studio’s noisy soundtrack. The adventurous gleam in her eyes exuded whimsy, and her bubbly, bright laugh beckoned me. Only a year has passed, but we spend every weekday together waiting impatiently to get away from the teachers and the rules and enjoy our forbidden snacks. Eating outside is too risky; we must get rid of the evidence by burying the Pop-Tarts where we stand. The tree’s tangled roots twist in every direction around our feet. We get down on our hands and knees— two thirteen-year-olds playing in the dirt. If the sun could part through the branches at just the right angle it would grow into a Pop-Tart plant. We water it every day, but years later nothing has sprouted.

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How the Palm Trees Swayed Alexa Naparstek I. 2006 Mom walked me to the bus and passed time laughing with friends, hands drenched in the trickling juice of ripe fruit staining book pages, strolling with our dog near the intracostal before I’d return. At home, she’d sit me down underneath her prized Matisse sketch and indulge me in a Capri-Sun while I read aloud to her, asking her to pierce the pouch. Mom’s voice moved like palm leaves, slow and blissful, wading in the tropical air. II. 2008 I’d watch mom walk through the door recoiled and strained, working minimum wage eleven days straight to make up the imbalance, to buy us enough food while dad was somewhere, finding a sense of place along the state. She didn’t like the way the palm trees stayed straight here, how they never bent back and forth as they did in Miami, how her surroundings grew stiff. How would she have known life would bend back and snap?

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una cierta tristeza (a certain sadness) Bella Tolbert

i am reminded of my mother—of her grief in ample hours, when all is still. remnants of her still linger in my hair; on my bedsheets; anywhere I have known her to be. when she died, I stood there: abandoned. questioned what I could’ve done with more time, with more of a relationship left between us. surely baby birds must weigh as much as my grief, their undeveloped wings fluttering in an attempt they should have known would not succeed. They turned over & over again, broken-legged & dying on the pavement of a street I grew up on, voices calling for a mother. a bird could not have cared any more for her children, like my mother, sitting cross-legged in a kitchen, scrubbing fruit free of a sorrow only she could understand. imagine I was that baby bird, mother smothering me under her breast raising her voice to my deaf ears & singing.

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A New Beginning Davis Smith

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Early Morning at Church Summer Camp Ashley Chatmon

From the stillness of water God created the Earth and dragged life out of sodden shores to drown it again when it could not keep from its own desires Returning to my cabin, powdered eggs fresh on my tongue I imagine they could see it dripping off my body leaving a slush of sapphic footsteps on the cafeteria floor The back porch of the cabin overlooks Lake Swan I sit bearing a closed Bible in my lap watching the water ripple with a quiet rage

I have tried to cut it out of me this part of me that is always between another girl’s legs so I could see it drip with blood, so I could whither without it

If water is triune like God its liquid state must be Jesus who calmed restless storms and walked out onto aqueous peril to prove the extent of his deity

There was a girl who took me swimming and pressed my damp fingers to her thigh, her eyes filled with surrender I told her I could not give her what she wanted, but my hand remained

When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan The sky split open so his father’s voice could spill into the water and mark the cleansing grace of God I want to wade into that lake and let it pull this dark thing from me

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This water could wash it away, kill off this self, rise again in glory,

she’s saved, she’s saved, she’s saved.

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like Jesus, like hallelujah,


Dress Shopping Evelyn Alfonso

That night in the hotel, Carla crawls in bed with me. I feel her smooth, cold legs sliding into my sheets. She whispers, “I’m scared” under her breath. I hold Carla without making noise, careful not to wake up the others. I don’t want her to ask questions. I don’t have the answers. “Just accept it,” is what I want to say, but I can’t roll my tongue. Instead, I rub the back of her head and tell her a story, the one I promised. A witch lived in the mountains, who the villagers called, “physically beautiful and sensuous.” At sunset, you could see her picking strawberries in the fields, singing a familiar hymn, luring all of the young men to the outskirts. I listen to Carla’s breathing until it returns to normal, until her muscles unfold for deep sleep. We are only two years apart, but I am married, and she hugs me as if I know the whole world. The next morning, I watch the girls get ready. I notice how imperfect they look: little missed spots of makeup and un-plucked eyebrow hair. I feel sick looking at them, especially Carla who wakes up later than the rest, unmotivated, burrowing deeper into her sheets, blocking the sunlight from hitting her face. “No,” she cries. “You have to.” “I don’t want to.” She crawls on all fours to the edge of the bed. The other girls watch in a trance, wishfully saying goodbye to what Carla was holding on to. I stand at the doorway, wondering how the mothers told them: the quiet marriage, “...she hugs me as if I the painful sex in the middle of know the whole world.” the night, their last new dress as virgins. I tell the girls that they would start to feel better in two years, after their friends from school have forgotten about them and the popular boy is happily married. At breakfast, the girls use their forks in anger, stabbing leftover scrambled eggs. I sip the hotel’s coffee with a sudden loss of appetite. The girls don’t want to eat

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either. “You have to,” I remind them, gulping the coffee’s sour taste. I remember not eating at all. Barely fifteen and flat chested. I kept thinking, this is it. The driver kept smiling at me, adjusting my hair pins, powdering my face until I was no longer red. She taught us what to say, how to act, how to get out of sexual obligations for the next week. I chewed the inside of my cheek until it bled.

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Prisoner of War Conor Naccarato

My mother was born on Fort Dix, an iris planted on federal land with no state to claim but circumstance: the draft—my grandfather’s regret for not going to Canada, the scent of my grandmother’s recipe trades, the babble of a book club, ringing home of the wet towel of wherever. They talk about it sweetly: how helpful the other wives were with her pregnancy, how they met good people, how flawlessly they kept up appearances. They neglect to recall how dire it actually was: how many other girls were born on an army base, or how many boys we lost. A boy in Hanoi is born deaf, forty years after my mother, the Agent Orange visible in his sign language, audible in how he cannot pronounce his own name. My mother’s name, Lara, bears her parents’ love for Doctor Zhivago, the romanticism of Trans-Siberian train rides, flushed cheeks and blue eyes,

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the bourgeois in her bones. Her existence is borne of war, white petals blooming on the rotting skeletons of Vietnam, her name the dying breath of the Bolsheviks.

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War Memories An Tran

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Eating Art Olivia Meiller

Today marks John’s fifteenth day at the Hotel Indigo. He has put headphones in, and mufflers on—padded locks on the windows. The door is braced with chains. He turns the TV volume louder than ever. Housekeeping has managed to leave him alone. They deliver things that need delivering; keep the “do not disturb” sign on the door. And although the hotel staff isn’t aware of the magnitude to which John has locked himself in, they know he wants to be left alone. John pays enough money for them not to question. The only employee to really interact with him is a woman named Marissa. She slides mints under the door crack from time to time. She must of seen him grab a handful at the front desk when he first checked in. All of this, and John’s sculpture is nowhere near finished. Right now, on the small desk in the corner of his room, sits an off-gray slab of rock the size of an arm, covered in dust from chiseling. He lays on his bed upside down and throws his neck in every position. It seems to take all the breath out of the room. Nothing makes it look good. He cocoons himself in the hotel blankets, covering his head. Hours go by, and the entire situation suddenly appears quite childish to John. He stands, turns on the TV, and searches for the weather channel. The voice of the newscaster pulled the hair on the back of John’s neck. The temperature was to be much higher. John glances at his tennis shoes by the door. A breath of fresh air would be nice, he thinks. After all, it was Wednesday, and Marissa always mentioned the fresh baked cookies downstairs. John waltzes to the hotel door, removes the bolts, slides his shoes on, forgetting his socks. He crawls down the hall in a troubled haze. The lighting always did trouble him—red orange fire dripping down the ceiling, the walls, pouring on the floor. It is July in Louisiana. He is ankle-deep in marsh mud. His father is three feet away and it is dark. His father’s voice is slurred, as if he’s been drinking. They are crawfishing—retreating from the coast house John grew up in. The water radiates heat, and he wonder how old he is.

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Five? Ten? They trudge for a couple of minutes, his father’s speech still unintelligible. He becomes weak and dizzy. The moon is growing larger and larger in the sky, and the mud is becoming thicker—harder to resist. His father is moving and talking faster. His head is spinning, and in the hallway, John seems to turn in his grave. The tips of his ears become red. He can feel the air’s moisture on his finger tips, far away from the hotel’s air conditioner—a whirring, unnatural sound. His father is crazed now. His tall, thin figure whips around, stares John straight in the eyes, and says, very clearly, “This is no accident. You decide to be slow.” And with that, John’s entire body leaps from the daydream, as if prompted by a slap across the face, or a pot of boiling water. The bottom of his feet still squirm with an odd rhythm. He stares at the ugly hotel carpet and sees a small, grey-orange, animal. Its shell is pearly in the light— crawling up his leg, under his shirt, and on his bare torso. John shrieks, attempting to grasp the crawfish with his hand, and shrieks again at the absurdity of it all. No matter how many times he tries, the creature is infinitely faster. He watches its body trail droplets of water, landing on his forehead, his lips, his “...John’s entire body leaps knees. His paralyzed from the daydream, as if figure is static for what prompted by a slap across the feels like hours; there face, or a pot of boiling water.” are knocks at the door. Voices are shouting. Marissa is the only discernable voice. Others interject her. “John, it’s okay. It’s Marissa. Just let us in so we can help-” “John, we knew there was something wrong with you. Open the goddamn door.” “Is something on fire?” “We can’t help until you open the door.” John feels the layers of his skin break from the inside out. Bulging, red hives burst along the sides of my arms, his entire chest. He rips his shirt off and throws it on the floor. He can’t feel if the crawfish is still moving. Its legs still seemed to scratch. All at once, John sees the statue in the corner of the room. It sits like the cat in the nursing home that knows

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who’s about to die. The statue can smell it. It seems to sit in John’s lap, lets his hands rest over its body. Stares at John. Knowing everything. The door is finally open. Marissa and other hotel uniformed men barge in. Before John even knows what he’s doing, the crawfish is resting at the tip of his chin, and John’s reaching for it, grabbing it, clamping its hard shell in his sweaty hands. And before the crowd approaches him, with a hard snap, he bites the head of the crawfish off.

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We Meet at a Museum Tierny Touch

After late night phone calls in the muggy summer I don’t have to whisper into a mic anymore. You drape your arm around my shoulders with claim. I look at you as if I can count every curl in your eyelashes.

My parents are just outside, I say.

I’ll try not too be obvious.

You bounce the pads of your thumbs over my skin reminding me of every I miss you text, and all of my I’ll see you soon, promises. I squeeze your hand just because I can. You can feel it now, pressed against your palm: a little band of metal. I can’t remember where I got it from. You ask to take it out, say you’ll have her home by 9. It slips off my right hand with a little tug, trusting you to bring it home. You feign dropping a knee, nudge the ring onto the fourth finger of my left hand, watch it glimmer in your palm. We’re alone in this gallery of wildflowers, textured oils reaching out to us. I almost try to grab one but before I can, you lean into my ear with a hazy smile and a tone that says I-know-it-sounds-like-I’m-joking-but-I’m-really-not letting these words linger in the air

I’m going to do this for real one day.

Oh, yeah? I dare you.

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Weird Science Jose Mendez

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A List of What to Do When Your Body Gives Up Winnie Blay

1. Decide that you are going to dye your hair. Pick an outlandish color to symbolize that you are not the same person you were a year ago or a month ago or even a week ago. Go to Pinterest for inspiration, twirling your dull brown hair around your pointer finger. This allows time for the contemplation of life itself. Ponder if there is meaning in everything or everything is meaningless because your life is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Question your identity and if your life is going to make any kind of footprint besides the carbon one. Existential dread will set in until eventually, you have become okay with your own insignificance and your brown hair. Decide you are embracing your natural beauty and cut off five inches of your hair to signify change instead. 2. Ignore your parents and slam your bedroom door so that the house rattles. Hold all of your anger in your gut. Let it burn ulcers in your stomach. You are tearing yourself apart from the inside out and you don’t even know it. When Mom asks how your day was, reply with a disgruntled, unidentifiable sound that roots itself in your diaphragm and feel it work its way out. Know you are hurting her and burning bridges that will never rebuild themselves. 3. Take a shower and use all of the hot water. Have the bathroom steaming—call it a cleanse. It will burn first and your skin will redden, but all good things hurt at some point. Example: the first time you frenched your boyfriend and his teeth kept colliding with yours, making enamel grind against each other. You laugh about it now but remember how your tongue hurt because he accidentally bit it. This reminds you of middle school. How you were afraid to hold your crush’s hand. How when you slow danced with him at the winter dance, he wouldn’t look at you. Instead, held his arms pin straight, clammy hands placed on your rib cage, not your waist. 33


4. Self-diagnose yourself using WebMD. Putting a name to what’s wrong with you helps. A name holds power. According to WebMD, your chronic, pulsing headaches can be a symptom of General Anxiety Disorder, dehydration, sinus problems, or a possible brain tumor. Always assume the worst case scenario, and in this case, you are going to die, but death is inevitable. In fifth grade, diagnose yourself with depression. You have all of the symptoms: resignation from activities, abnormal sleeping schedule, and loss of appetite. So you dress in all black to show your newfound self-diagnosed illness only later to find out that you will be diagnosed with depression. Stop taking your Zoloft for a month only to realize you prefer no emotions over too many emotions. 5. Eat whatever is in your line of vision. Fruit is preferable because you can pretend to be healthy. Ice cream is a favorite though. Justify it by saying that at least you are no longer anorexic and can make it through a day without feeling dizzy. Now you have other eating issues to deal with, but now is also not the time to think about that. Enjoy the way ice cream slides down your throat, cooling your esophagus. Or the ways blueberries burst open on your tongue. At Publix, weigh yourself on the rickety scale that sits in the corner next to the pharmacy. 113 lbs. Three more pounds than the last time you were weighed. Feel like a blue whale the entire fifteen-minute ride home. Your car cannot hold that much body. 6. Tell your boyfriend you love him. Remind him that he is one of the best things to happen to you. Just don’t tell him that your chest tightens when you’re around him. Don’t tell him your heart beats against your rib cage when you’re with him. When he asks why you are crying, make up “You feel love. Express it in a a lie. Possible lies can metaphor in your next poem.” be: you gained three pounds, you might get your first B, your love for your family feels too obligatory, etc. Give all of your love to him because there is none left in your reserves for yourself. It makes it easier. Prove that you can feel something. You feel love. Express it in a metaphor

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in your next poem. Call it a shaken soda bottle, waiting to burst. Giving love the impression that it isn’t something that can be held in a single container. 7. Listen to the advice of your therapist. Attempt to meditate. Clear your mind. Listen to the white noise. Be one with your body and soul. And you are for about four minutes. Focus on the tension in your left ankle and move up along your leg to your shin and then your thigh. Then, your fingers start fidgeting with the frayed skin around your nail beds and your foot starts shaking and now your body and soul are definitely not one. Watch your body from five feet above go through the motions of living: eating three meals, brushing your teeth, making your bed, and so on and so forth. Scream at the body that is not you but make no noise because you are just a soul with no vocal chords. 8. If all else fails, cry an ocean or two. Really only do this in the worst-case scenario (remember to always assume the worst-case scenario). By the time you hit 18 in six months, you would have cried the Pacific and Atlantic, which has to be some kind of record. You deserve a medal. The cry is justified though. Just make sure you don’t become your crying. It is better to let your emotions out than to keep them pent up. Your bed will become your favorite place to cry along with in the shower and the passenger seat (no specific car). A Waffle House bathroom is among the worst places you’ve cried along with a Hanukkah party where you knew all but four people and the passenger seat of your boyfriend’s car. Crying helps. Your body is crying and your soul is crying. But only for a moment, because your soul cannot be crying with your body for long. Don’t let it consume you.

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Poem for my Eyebrows Nikki Kershner

This is a poem for my eyebrows. Those things on the ridge of my face That my mother used to call the picture frames for my eyes— I’m sorry I hated you. I used words like ugly and mannish and bushy When I should have said things like, Dignified and stately and powerful. You grow in and up and down and towards each other, Like lovers trying to hold hands across a chasm. I’m sorry I listened when girls pointed— Their ridicule should have been awe. You’re dark and defining, As striking as a mountain peak, Twin slashes of onyx. My mother was right When she told me you were beautiful. I’m sorry it took so long for me to believe her.

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The Girl with the Mousy Hair Tori Shoemaker

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What Makes my Hair Different (Texture) Myka Davis-Westbrook

Braiding your hair at night and sleeping with curlers will put so much volume in your hair You hope your hair is the first thing people notice about you. You want that head full of hair to communicate You are proud to be black. You want an afro. Something that makes someone from the 1970’s jealous You want curls. And they had better bounce off your shoulders. You want it big and rich and to smell like something other than Sulfur 8. But throughout your childhood, Your mother may have put chemicals in your hair Once or twice not knowing it’d make your hair fall out. And at the inquisitive age of seven, you may have taken The big pair of scissors from the living room table and put them at your ends Just to see what would happen. And at sixteen the only things holding your braids at night Was Curl stretch cream and prayers. You’ve tried braids You’ve tried sew-ins You’ve even tried wigs Not because you don’t have the hair But because you want to look like you have a lot of it. It draws some attention away from that Pudgy baby face. When you run your hands through it

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You’ll feel like cotton But on the days you forget to condition You feel something like wool prickling your fingers. How foolish you are.

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An Ode to Jeffrey (An Ode to Young Thug) Harrison Stephens I’ve spent hours letting him yelp the song out of his heart. I let the instrument of his voice tell me a story the lyrics can’t. I sit down in a park, Looking at the stone apartments, Topped with black metal roofs stained with age, and everything about it echoes Jeffrey’s presence. Jeffrey is a rusted bench in a dirty park. A poem shrouded in perceptions. People try and tell me what it’s like to hear Jeffrey’s voice. People try and tell me that his tired moans, that those confused statements he screams out, that his courageous cries for help, that his lively instrument soaked in reverb isn’t beautiful. But Jeffrey sings to me on Parisian benches. Jeffrey leads me through the dark path of judgment. He charismatically strolls down a sidewalk. He lets his filter less thoughts spill out of his mouth, he can sing me a song devoid of lyrics and tell me a story. I know that Jeffrey is flawed. Jeffrey sometimes forgets what makes Jeffrey special. Jeffrey puts on a blue skirt so we think he’s worth our time. I put on a skirt too, thinking that’s what makes me worth people’s time. We’ve turned ourselves to full-time court jesters for the false views of people we barely know. But the skirt doesn’t make us special. That isn’t what makes Jeffrey special. I’ve spent hours letting him yelp the song out of his heart. I let the instrument of his voice tell me a story the lyrics can’t. 40


He Experiences Davis Smith

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Circle

Za’Nya Davis it started when you asked if I’d like to join the girl scouts, and I refused. when you signed me up for tennis during the summer, wanting me to stay active, encouraging me that this will be good exercise or maybe—it began when I found myself freezing in a public pool, learning how to swim when I already knew how. I find myself climbing in and out of boxes you shoved me into until we’ve formed a circle. tip-toeing around you, playing half a girl eating it up in front of you throwing it up when you’re not looking. you always said you wanted what’s best. maybe it’s my fault for still not knowing what that means. but when I answer you no, I see a crack in your perfection. I watch the smile fall from your face and listen to the octave of your voice lower as you tell me ok, you are waiting for me

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to cower. I begin to lean into your authority knowing you have it all, I am now drawing a new circle.

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My Mother on the Roof Jaden Crowder

There’s no light on the roof left, only my mother beating tile with the larger half of her broom. She beats frantically, hits getting louder and louder, the darkness growing closer and closer to the roof. Her screams are erratic; a mix of sobbing and yelling that brings her to her knees. There’s a scratching of claws on the tile, like a crow, lost in the darkness of its feathers. The tiles under her feet shake more and more, creaking like the floor, except my mother is not the cat but the chased mouse, the prey of her own nightmare. It’s like a black and white film, capturing this moment as it happens. I’m stuck in awe, watching it all through a lens. A glass wall erects itself between me and my mother, and I see it is flickering in and out, an image in my head that I can’t quite see, a memory I can’t recall. This farm, this land, this home, this mother and her crumbling roof – this being all I have ever known. This everything, this knowledge. It’s all I have, isn’t it? All I have: a house but not a home, my mother dancing along death’s line with her risks, the storms and the fleeting light. Every night “I can’t stay in this place as my mother chases away the anymore.” sun, I’ve begun to think she’s chased me away too, sending me off in the wind, letting my existence on a stranger’s lips. My mother, desperate for me to stay. My mother, the one driving her own daughter away. I can’t stay in this place anymore. “Lili?” she calls. I face downwards, now ashamed of my mom, and her roof. I cover my ears as to not pity her. She cries again and again, as more and more tiles fall from the roof. A crack runs along the left window as a tile smashes through it. I don’t know what kind of money my mother thinks we have for her to be acting this way. She yells out, a piercing yell that sends a snake sprawling from our gutters. I rush inside, tired of this nonsense and not wishing to risk a cold. She can stay up there until she dies. I don’t have room or time to care.

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There’s the thump of the broom as I close the kitchen door. It plays again and again, that beating of the broom like the song my mother sang from her heart, and I cover my ears as wind shakes the kitchen window. Then, a movement of the shadow, quick enough that I think I see nothing until I hear it. A simple silence disturbed by one last crow’s call, and one last crash of the tiles from the roof; a rebirth in its prime.

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I Am Tomato Jasmine King

On the car ride home from school, the blur of Krystal’s and Chili’s signs brush past. We sit in silence, my breaths strangled. I count to three before I take my breaths. She is angry. I am too. I hold in my hiccups, fold my hands gentle in my lap and let the tears fall into my shirt between my breasts. Her warm, dryly wrinkled fingers curve around Marlboro Light 100s. I remember when she held me like that. I keep my mouth shut as she cuts me, tight-gripped: “You can go,” she says. “I didn’t say I didn’t want—” “It’s fine. You can go to college. I’ll stay.” She squeezes the seeds from my body until I lay limp in the car. I peel the skin around my fingertips, dig in until the blood pools and I can feel the tingle shoot up my arm. When I was young, I sucked on her for the warmth and coolness of my mother’s milk. For the gentle rise and fall of her chest against my head. Her sweet citrus smell enveloped me; I crave for my mother’s touch, for her sweet tea and baked bread smell. Instead, I feel the cold of the window slither into my body and I stiffen.

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When we get home, my mother plants a tomato on a Styrofoam plate. Her hands bruise it and wrinkle the outer layer as she forces a rusted blade through, seasons with salt and tasted the pasty liquid slide down her throat. The punctured toxicity of the tomato melts on her tongue, thick and pallid. I sit on the ground, a round lump on concrete. A tomato. I shed myself bare of flesh and muscles as she tells me about her day. No veins, no bones: she has finished her assignments. I feel myself dip and heave— she’d paid the bills. She finishes the slices of tomato. The white plate sits empty, puddled red.

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The Tension Between Us Lily Bulluck

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A Naturalist’s Bathroom Mirror Noland Blain

Taking the night off to hike the denim foothills of the body, again; finding a pore to enter; taking field notes; weighing specimens; how did a swamp form in the stomach of this biome; how many animals have been swallowed by the bile; how long have we been doing this; seventeen rings on this tree here; each one a red iris; cypresses knee-deep in the fat blooms of algae, no matter how much I scrape; cataloging each time I lived wrong; nothing will grow where it ought to grow; upturning the filaments of my eyes; my god, honey at last; my god, look, bees; ignoring the still insects on the floor, small sickly jewels; did you know, herons are built hollow; measuring bones with bones; tightening the tape measure; birds are made lighter than earthbound creatures; making a topological study; not agreeing on where to put the valleys; all flying things are thin; excavating, excavating, trying to find the pretty center.

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Further Examination Mary Hamilton

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Dallas Strong Payton Titus

I was diagnosed with cancer on December 8th, 2017. Within a few weeks, I transformed from a three-year varsity athlete to an anemic cancer patient. After a while, I became desensitized to the steady stream of pokes and prods that would have previously sent me to the floor, gripping legs of the doctor’s chair for refuge. I had been a stomach sleeper since birth but for those four months I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling, fighting the urge to crawl out of my bloated dry skin. In a vain effort to ease my mind, I attended the prescribed meetings for adolescents with cancer. My peers found comfort in each other’s company, but I still felt irretrievably isolated. Strangers around me were satisfied being each other’s exclusive outlets of understanding; not me. One day that all changed. During my third cycle of treatment, my mom and I heard wailing children. At seventeen, the pediatric oncology floor was a macabre place to be. I counted my blessings. Later that night, the faint crying that had filled the oncology floor all day grew louder as the baby and his mom greeted me through my open doorway. The baby, Dallas, was tightly wrapped in an orange towel with a lion hood. His mom, Alison, held him on her hip with her “At seventeen, the pediatric other hand gripping an oncology floor was a macabre IV pump; a perfect image place to be. I counted my of maternal strength and blessings.” beauty. My heart swelled. In between chemo days, I found myself on Dallas’s floor protracting visits. On Valentine’s Day, Alison gave me a little stuffed lion to commemorate our first meeting. I appreciated the gesture, but I knew that there was no need; I would remember that moment for the rest of my life. While sitting at his bedside with my finger grasped tightly in his hand, I remember listening to Dallas hum along to Disney songs with musical therapy. His favorite movies

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Moana and Sing! played on a loop. Whenever I hear those songs, I am transported back to his hospital room, where we watched the warrior princess and got lost in her journey, daydreaming that we too were navigating the Pacific rather than our treatment road maps. The warmth we felt from each other’s hands was like the warmth of the sun. Suddenly, the fluorescents became sunbeams and the waves of cars outside the window became a breathtaking ocean view; a private island getaway on the fourth floor of the children’s hospital. He is the youngest cancer survivor I have ever met. Dallas won his battle with leukemia, but the lack of humane treatment available for kids proved too much for his body. After eight months of assiduous fighting, Dallas passed away. Through false remissions, painful spinal taps and days with virtually zero white blood cells, Dallas managed to hold onto his happy baby boy persona. His giggles brightened up the days of all who heard them; nurses, family, my mom and me. Forever changed, I now live my life to honor him. His resolve inspires me to use my life for advocacy, kind acts of ministration and love. I approach everything with a refreshed sense of vigor and commitment, just as Dallas did for those eight long months.

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Cleaniness is Next to Godliness Cassidy Jaillette

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Uncovered

Harleigh Murray The gravedigger’s hands reeked of the undersides of the dead he buried that day as fingers groped my undeveloped chest. His lips cracked mine as a smoke-stained tongue slipped into me. Dirt and sweat leaked into my eyes until I tasted his lust, twisted between my lips and thighs. I heard a dog moan. Hunched over sizzling soil near a birch tree, its tongue beats against dusty ground. The sound rattled through me, wound around tired curves of my body, along white spread of breast bone—until finally, I felt it rattle red within my own throat. Each night I think of him, the half dead dog with ears slicked back with dirt, forced to hear the man uncover me. Now scars bubble from my skin, full of liquor, sterile beneath my flesh. The day is molten warm against my arms and breasts as I sit next to the boy I love. He pulls me into his arms, each time my body grows heavy. The first time I peel clothes from myself to show him my body, my skin crumbles, breaks in twisted pieces against my hands like bark. Now my body folds against him. Above us, a night sky reclines. I keep my eyes open. Through the window I imagine a silhouette, chained to the birch tree, the dog asleep against its filth.

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World Creator Heidy Charbonier 56


Neighborhoods Sarah Chocron

Awakened by the noise of the masses; the throbbed humming rendered as the everyman forever so softly proclaiming the tumultuous beginning we call every day. Eternally divided by the borders of my hallowed compass, by the transgenerational roads we traveled, past the unnamed pipelines of binding corruption, unity is unearthed in the burden we desire others to bear, the urgency of erasing unasked utterances, and the pursual of a fate misled from the sacred’s arms. Turn north toward the trodden road of trampled truths; where the unknowable remoteness between people is unseen behind waxy veneers of prismatic colors. Where nobility is only discovered in the pallid wrinkles of the market vendor’s palms and his humble workings, which if hugged to our ears, pulses the rhythmic heartbeat of earth. Venture west toward the boulevard of other worlds, where artists contour the street like the cramped tropes and tribulations of my teeming tongue. Where coffee roasters line the pews of this urban city and harbor those who express god-like fancies of sentences, yet write so little about God anymore. Swing south toward the dusty powders of curbside trees, where stories stack unto stars through the metal giants that outline the Mighty and Powerful’s hands. Where people talk of a war,

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which is any war, yet I know of no war anymore, and dying appears more factual than the atoms that outline our core. Speed east to where we all seem to wear grief on our necks with the blood we bang on the tracks that divide us, even before neighborhood could be said. Where I find my home in words articulated by my father, in the refuge from the disregarded past, and in the differences marked through shoes suspending from wires. O Holy One, break down demarcations between souls; inspire song-filled poems into being by perceiving an ember of hope that might be saved. Shower radiant sparks bold enough to counterpoint gray, leave us with winking words that linger with appeal and never win, and neighborhoods that endure and never fade.

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Profile for Élan Literary Magazine

Élan Spring 2019 Edition  

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

Élan Spring 2019 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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