Faculty Advisor Tiffany Melanson
Ă&#x2030;lan International Student Literary Magazine Produced by the Creative Writing department of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and funded through the Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Guild Boosters Association 2445 San Diego Rd., Jacksonville FL, 32207 (904) 346-5620
Volume 32 | Issue 1 Editors-in-Chief Ana Shaw Lexey Wilson Layout & Design Oona Roberts Meredith Abdelnour Art Natalie Filaroski Kathryn Wallis Poetry Evelyn Alfonso Fiction/CNF Valerie Busto Managing Kinley Dozier Winnie Blay Digital Media Lindsay Yarn Website Sierra Lunsford Social Media Elma Dedic Marketing Lex Hamilton Douglas Anderson Art Liasons Antonio Colรณn Anastasia Utley
While putting together this issue, we found young student artists yearning to explore their personal truth fearlessly and openly. They are often poised at a place of self-discovery in complex situations, searching for a sense of the world when it is constantly shifting under their feet. This issue tries to look the future in the face, and understand what might come next. We hope readers will find their own struggles represented in these pages; find inspiration in those who possess their own emotional candor, and are willing to take the next step to explore it.Â -Editors-in-Chief Ana Shaw and Lexey Wilson
Contents Cover: Halo Sierra Sharp The Ground Under the Nightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Flower Luz Manunga
Masterpiece Jaclyn Berry
Yacht Haemaru Chung
Puro Maria Cortina-Sainz
My Father Fishes for Children Kinley Dozier
Deciding to Stand Up Winnie Blay
Unwavering Katherine Harrison
Dianthus Caryophyllus Shelby Woods
Urban Jungle Albert Zhang
Syrup Meredith Abdelnour
No Estoy Perida Emma McLaughlin
Mandala Jordan Hanna
A Slice of Grief Lex Hamilton
Beyond Brianna Eisman
Crystal Cross Mickey Gonzalez
Clementine Aubrey Phillips
maybe the thing is Natalie Filaroski
Logic is Relative James Morgan
Joints Oona Roberts
Letting Go Harleigh Murray
Rolling Fog Michelle Schoen
Godspeed Valerie Busto
Escape the Heat Darvin Nelson
How to Breathe in a Housefire Keiona Wallace
Water Ignacio Serrao
Yellowstone Air Brianna Eisman
Why Willows Weep Noland Blain
A Rattling Epiphany Conor Naccarato
Real Motherhood Harleigh Murray
Collide Savannah Rahn
Nohbdy Alexa Naparstek
Need a Hand Montana Kromann
John 11:35 Valerie Busto
I’m Really Broken Up About It Tamika Lungu
Feel (The Entirety of My Heart) Olivia Meiller
Don’t Go In Reilly Edwards
Underappreciation of Moms by Sons Noah McGahagin
The Ground Under the Night’s Flower Luz Manuga
Mi Abuela held the moon on her scalp. She carried the world’s sorrows tangled in her kinks. Her shoulders were used to the weight that hung between her weakening muscles. Scarfs that hugged her collar grew stems of orchids— mi Mama’s favourite— to leave behind as a present. Mi Abuela wore comets as sleeping gowns, soft lace caressing the night’s skin. The clouds spread apart, zipping down the seam to reveal the black ink of the sky. The chair she rested in was a meadow watching the flow of dancing threads sat above. The seeds planted from the past grow towards the shine of her bright face. Mi Abuela’s smile was full of stars; the planets were created to settle around her.
Masterpiece Jaclyn Berry
In the summer after my father died, I found myself unable to speak. He had died in an unexplained accident, a rupture of some vein in a place they couldn’t quite see. I’d found him curled into himself as if he were asleep. In the same way a small child drifts as their mother lays a hand on their head, he held a paintbrush in his hand, the bristles curling underneath the scruff of his cheek. As they wheeled him out, I sat at our kitchen table, a cup of cold coffee in my hands. I could nearly see him hunched over the easel at the window in our kitchen, paint brushes clattering, muttering to himself softly. I rubbed at bits of clay lodged in the table cracks, hearing his soft confessions as he bent a sculpture into shape; heard his consistent encouragements to me as his fingers pressed against the top of mine: The foundation will be what matters most. He told me that, in the same way some speak to unfurling flowers, the most beautiful art is the art you speak to—breathe it into fruition. Despite his love for slick oils, thick acrylics, the feel of clay beneath his fingers, he’d always said that I was his greatest masterpiece. When I first asked why, “...each of my limbs felt like an unlike all of my friends, I didn’t have a mother, amputee’s, ghosts of what they were made to be.” he told me he sculpted me himself; pinched my nose until it was thin and upturned, spun my hair from a golden fleece, looked for the brightest jewels to push into my eyes. That, to make my voice, he had combed through dark ocean, scooped out the blubber of a whale’s sonar, and combined it with a songbird’s carved out throat. So when he died, each of my limbs felt like an amputee’s, ghosts of what they were made to be. And my voice was stolen away with him, raw from all the things I never got to say. In late July, I saw a field that my father used to take me to and teach me about the stars. I pulled over on the
side of the road, the engine shuddering and clicking off. I sat there stagnant with the stickiness and the hollow hum of cicadas, watching the repeating swell of headlights in the night. I looked to the sky, where I knew Corvus, Pictor, and Sculptoris all rested. In a stumbling motion, I pulled a napkin from the glovebox of my car, and began to draw. I began to whisper to the crinkle of paper: carved and set like stone into the sky, into my heart. The wound of my throat was cauterized by what I imagined heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d look like in the midst of the constellations: shining like wet paint, an astronomical renaissance.
Haemaru Chung I slide over silver, enter the eye of the color wheel. Silent laborers plow sand under weighted shells, white, ephemeral ribbons. I rest against coarse walls, observe the silent chaos as colors blink away. A boat rumbles above. Its underbelly interrupts the lightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rhythm, energizes debris, an ugly constellation. Plastic wrings the fish, a deadly headdress. Shells peel and rip, exposing tender skin. Oil seeps in lungs and veins, thickens vibrant eyes to foggy glass. Red coral bleaches pink, then white, then ash.
Maria Cortina-Sainz 12
My Father Fishes for Children Kinley Dozier
In the middle of a black-bottom river, I watch my father slip a worm onto his fishing line with precision. He cradles the red, metal rod gently. The hooks from his fishing pole, scattered across the side of the small boat, cling to the inside of my fingers as I wrap my palm around them. I grasp the railing as he casts his line, my body jerked forward. I beg him not to rock the boat, to turn his attention to my hand, but he doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t listenâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; instead, scans the murky water before us. Metal barbs bite into my skin and I let out a cry. Near the end of his line, a fish tugs, calls to him, see me, and he does, stands to reel it in and pull it over the edge of the boat. The fish flops down and lands on my foot, radiant. When he turns back around, he does not notice me. He stares down at the fish now growing stiff in an opened cooler before he sees the hook jutting from my palm, the hot, red clump of skin and blood and scales. We sit for a long time, cold eyes and sneered lips. He turns back to the water. I dig the hook from my palm while he waits for another fish to add to his collection, arms open and ready like those of a doctor handing a newborn baby to her mother in an empty delivery room, her father floating in the middle of the ocean, waiting for a fish to bite.
Deciding to Stand Up Winnie Blay
Cotton t-shirt envelopes my soft body, short legs jump into fluffed clouds, beckoning for me to touch them. My yellow house is the size of an ant under me. I swallow warmth, feel my flat body inflate towards the sun, propel legs further into sea foam sky. Air carries me: wide-mouth, cheeks blushing, fanned out fingers wave at passing birds. Curved body catches jagged air; brown leaves and dirt work their way into gumsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;taste the earth. Lungs burst with impact twigs jab the thin skin between what is alive and what was. My thudding heart meets solid ground, capturing slow beats with spindling roots. Leaves fill the spaces between teeth. I crunch stems with molars, spit up from the backs of indented blushed cheeks. My sore elbows extend from palms being pressed against hardened surface, sending tremors through scathed arms. Crimson blood blocks my nostrils, falling down the corners of my mouth and I cannot rely on the air anymore. My legs forget which way to go, leaving me digging my heels into the wet dirt that sticks to the backs of thighs, dying my skin the color of soil until I can grab onto sunrays, twisting light in my palms, pulling until my body is perpendicular to the ground. Tomorrow, I will be back with the birds, spitting dirt from the back of my mouth until I cannot taste the earth with my tongue. 14
Katherine Harrison 15
Dianthus Caryphyllus Shelby Woods
Of course, Benny has always been a little irrational when it comes to his love for women. That’s actually how we met. I used to work at this little florist shop down by the park and he would come in about once a week looking for something special for one of his lady friends. Not exactly the work I’d imagined myself doing, but it was a job. It turned out to be one of my favorites. See, I didn’t really do anything special there, I was only a receptionist, but after being there a few months I picked up on a few things. There was this fat old book on the counter, sort of like a dictionary of plants in which customers could look up their meanings, etcetera. We were never really that busy and so in those hours of mid-day boredom, I’d read the book. By the time Benny started coming in, I’d been well acquainted with it. He’d show up and he’d say “flower man, I’m looking for something that says “I saw this girl alone, swaying you’re pretty chill and back and forth to a song I didn’t got a rockin bod,” and I’d hand him a bouquet know and didn’t care to know.” of yellow camellias, free of charge. Eventually I got fired for “stealing,” as if giving away a few flowers to my buddy once a week was some punishable crime. And because I’m petty, or maybe because I thought it was cool I guess, I swiped their copy of Floriography Today. At the time, I was perfectly fine being fired. Despite my developing fondness for flowers, the customers were enough to drive anyone mad. You would think that women, our main draw in, would, as women do, be thoughtful and complex in their purchases. Instead, I found them to be worse than the men. They had absolutely no respect for the language of flowers. They’d walk in with a “vision,” something they’d seen in a magazine or at an office. They’d walk out with a horrendous display of bad omen, rejection flowers. Unlike Benny, they didn’t seem to care about the meaning at all. Forget what they claim is important; women
are the ones who only care about looks. That’s how Benny manages to score so often. Women take one look at him and are begging to take him home. Forget the fact that he speaks with the eloquence of an eighth grade education and is painfully obvious in the fact that he has bad intentions. Women have proven themselves to be irrational time and time again. Benny does this thing sometimes when he’ll get real philosophical and tell me about the future he’s always dreamed of. He’ll describe his future wife, who, in his own words, can only be explained as “thick but smart as heck.” Then his kids, their names, how he’s gonna turn out better than his deadbeat dad. I try to play along. I’ll say something like “Ah, you know me man, I’m not exactly the family type.” And he’ll look at me all sad and off-put. He said to me once “But… don’t you want to try? Having kids, raising them right, not like your mom or my dad, but really raising them to be good people… I imagine that’s the only way people like us will change the world. Like we can’t… but maybe they can.” I suppose he was right, but I know how these things go. I know that Benny will probably turn into his father and I will marry someone just like my mother. I know my future won’t include a good wife or kids or success. I know ten years from now I’m going to be in the same crappy spot, with the same crappy job (Or probably a different crappy job considering my track record), going to the same crap parties. Even if I do by some anomaly end up with a family, I certainly won’t be collecting dad of the year awards. My next job is at the Taco Bell and eventually I’m fired from there as well, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this is where I met Bryan Barton. Bryan Barton, despite having a name that just screams Yale all over it, is the dumbest shmuck you’ll ever meet. The one thing Bryan, Benny and I have in common? We have great taste in parties and narcotics. Anyway, we pick up Bryan and go to this party where supposedly Benny’s girl is. I lose Benny in the first fifteen minutes and Bryan within thirty. I don’t remember what it was I did or took, but I remember sitting in a cloud of smoke. After a while, I saw this girl alone, swaying back and forth to a song I didn’t know and didn’t care to know.
Her name was Lilly-Anne. She wore this soft orange dress (Lilies and orange?! Don’t even get me started on the irony) and glitter across her cheeks. She had black hair and pale skin and I felt in some odd way that I was meant to meet her. So when Benny stumbled over to me, a woman on his arm, I was a little less than excited. He said, “Mike, my man, this is Sasha,” though I’m not exactly sure that was her name. It may have been Sabrina or Serena or any combination of “S” names. It is safe to assume that she was the girl he’d been talking about the whole night prior to the party. “This is flower man!” He said. He had obviously talked me up to her, because her eyes widened in interest. “Tell her a fact or something!” he smiled and so I replied “Did you know that black roses, despite the popular belief that they symbolize death and evil, actually represents rebirth and beauty, whereas rye,” I pointed to the arrangement of the plants on her shirt, “which is thought to be harmless, literally means dealing with the devil.” This transaction did not go well, as the woman walked off bothered with Benny at her heels. After they left, I could feel Lilly-Anne watching me carefully. She sat down next to me, shaking my hand, telling me her name, twisting her hair around her fingers, smelling of booze and cigarettes. “I thought the stuff about the roses and the rye was cool by the way,” she whispered. I asked her to dance. She’d have me spin her around until she was dizzy and then she’d drunkenly lay her head to my chest and breathe out questions. She’d ask me silly things like “Do you believe in a God,” and I’d tell her maybe, I haven’t decided, but I believe in a heaven. I found out that her favorite color is gray and that she hates wine but loves champagne. She found out that I’m allergic to cats and that the smell of the ocean is about as close as I’ll ever get to euphoria. “Have you ever read a book that changed your life?” She asked me, with these doe-y little eyes that seemed strangely complex for a drunk college girl. I thought about the florist shop and all the smells and colors all so vividly poignant and alive. The book I had stolen and how the scents were still entrapped in the pages. I thought about every customer who’d ever leafed through it and I told her “Yes,” and she didn’t ask what it was called so I told her. She nodded as if things were beginning to click and asked me, “If you really love all that stuff so much, why aren’t you pursuing it?”
Urban Jungle Albert Zhang
Meredith Abdelnour Tonight, the sky is a crisp shade of grey, and its dullness cracks open above us like an egg, or a pane of glass. You get in my car, lean over, let words slide from your mouth, like maple syrup. The sweetness envelops me, makes my feet slow to brake. I always miss the same turn. Even in the summer, when it was warm, and our hands were in danger of melting into each other, and ash was softening onto our tongues. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s raining now, heavy and decisive. You smile, lopsided. Smoke floats up to the lush of the treetops. I settle into old footprints. The air is damp, and it weighs on the space above my neck. Each time we leave here I say goodbye to the trees, the birds, the mud that encapsulates my sneakers in case this is the last time. It never is. We find ourselves back in my car, and this is the part where I find familiarity in your shoulders, your ears, your hands. We congeal together, and I know Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have to find new ways to exist once you leave. 20
No Estoy Perdida Emma McLaughlin
Jordan Hanna 22
A Slice of Grief Lex Hamilton
The nurse held, in the tips of his fingernails, a clear bag with Tom’s things inside: his favorite khaki work pants, his brown leather clip wallet with his debit card and license inside, his work shirt, and the gold chain passed down to him by his father. It was all slathered in blood. I looked over everything for a while. The nurse was kind enough not to say anything in those moments. I did not know what I could do next. What would be acceptable, not insane. I believe it was cold, but maybe that was me. I remembered this from when my dad died. They give back the dead one’s things that were on them at the time of death. He died in Baptist Memorial Hospital, in Memphis, Tennessee. I’d grown up there. The first time I ever took Tom home to visit my parents, we ended up in that hospital as I said goodbye to my father for the last time. He would cough up blood one morning and three months later the lung cancer would choke him for the last time. My father’s death was expected. Not easier to handle, but expected. I was brought to another room much smaller than the last one. A curtain would take the place of a door. Tom lay bare, except for the tiny, thin sheet that covered his lower half, across a rickety metal table. “There was his body with his moles Stripped of color, his and his long fingers and his hairy veins were the most legs. But Tom was gone.” prominent part of him. Something was missing. In shock, I asked the nurse where Tom’s eyes had gone. His face twisted a little as did mine. Was I wrong to ask? Had I not heard something he said to me? I saw the mole on Tom’s neck. Another form of identification besides his eyes. “They are just shut, ma’am.” I could feel my cheeks swelling with heat and my throat becoming dry. Of course. They were just shut. I asked the nurse if he could open them. My heart beat heavily as he pushed back Tom’s
eyelids and, there, revealed his blue eyes. My pretty boy. The sensation struck me down. There were his light-filled eyes, the color of happy rain. There was his body with his moles and his long fingers and his hairy legs. But Tom was gone. Just that morning we’d spoken about what to have for dinner. We’d decided I would make sushi for him and chicken for me, because I don’t eat fish. We’d sat across from each other on the balcony of our bedroom and we’d watched the deer graze our backyard. Then Tom left for work. When I arrived home alone that night it felt like Tom was on a business trip. It felt like he would return. He’s on a business trip, he’s on a business trip. I had not cried. No, I went straight into work mode. I needed to finish the sushi so when Tom woke up in the hospital there would be food. I needed to go home and grab his clothes. I guessed he would be in the hospital for at least one night if not longer. I had our insurance card in my wallet, ready for when needed to be checked out. I needed to call the coffee shop and let them know that I would not be in for a while. I would leave my head barista instructions on how to run it while I was gone. Hours before Tom’s death I’d come home from the shop to make sushi. I’d learned how from the woman who owned one of the best Japanese restaurants in all of Florida. Amid the hottest summer we’d ever experienced, I thought we would have a nice dinner with wine, and drive down to the creek off the road we lived on. We used to visit that creek all the time when we’d first moved into our house. Summer nights made me home sick. I’d missed the fields of sunflowers that led to my childhood home in Tennessee. Tom would say, “Now, you have a creek.” Tom had been so happy in the days before his death. I called our daughter, Ivy. She caught the next flight out of Chicago. The funeral happened hastily. Compiling the details of Tom’s life and trying to sum them up in just a day seemed impossible. I did not know what casket would say that this man, this German American man, was a hard worker, payed his bills on time, loved his dog. We shared the room with friends from years ago, family from all over the states, and the open casket of a dead Tom. At close to ninety miles an hour, a man hit Tom,
on the stretch of road hardly anyone drove a mile from our house. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d had a feeling. I should have called Tom when I left the shop. Dropped by his firm. Extended the time between him leaving and arriving home. But I was intent on making sushi. After the accident, everyone had told me he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time; it hardly had to do with me. But Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been told, before, that there is a feeling that comes over you just before a loved one passes; I believe itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s true. Afterwards we think there was more we could have done.
Brianna Eisman 26
Crystal Cross Mickey Gonzalez
The drive to the clinic is deathly quiet. I wish I could turn on the radio, distract us both with some music, but I’m not sure how well Carey would react to happy pop songs—or worse, happy love songs—right now. The crystal cross hanging from my rearview mirror—a gift from Carey’s mom—twinkles on the edge of my vision. That woman is like a second mother to me, but she’s very single-minded in her faith. She always keeps her radio turned onto the Christian pop station. “I spend so much of my time driving,” she explained when I asked on one of the first car rides we took together, “I oughta use that time to keep my mind on God.” As we pull into the parking lot, Carey shifts slightly to face me. “Please don’t tell anyone.” “I won’t,” I promise. “Seriously. Please don’t. No one but you can know. If it got to my family…” She doesn’t finish her concern, doesn’t have to. We both understand. If it got to her family, she would have no family left. “I promise. Just me.” I press my hands between my knees to hide their shaking, as well as the fact that I’m terrified too. I trust “But to her family, I’m nothing Carey’s decision, that this is what she needs but an accomplice to an to do. I’m just being a unforgivable crime.” good friend. But to her family, I’m nothing but an accomplice to an unforgivable crime. Or, worse in their eyes, a sin. Carey nods slowly, takes a deep breath, then opens her door. “Do you want me to come in with you?” I ask. She hesitates and looks to the crowd of picketed people shouting abuse at the building’s entrance. “I don’t want them to yell at you too.” “And I don’t want you to face them alone. I don’t care what they say to me. Let them yell.”
There’s a pause. Then, quietly, “Okay.” “Okay?” Carey nods. Her dirty blonde ponytail flops over her shoulder with the movement. Usually her hair is pulled into a tight but relaxed-looking bun or coated in whatever miracle products she uses to keep everything from tangling, no matter how much it brushes against her neck. Right now, though, her normally-perfect strands fall flat and frizzy. She barely had enough energy to brush it before we left. We unbuckle our seatbelts and step out into the fall breeze. The wind barely crosses into chilly, but Carey grabs the edges of her jacket and wraps it tighter around herself. I wonder if she remembers that he bought it for her months ago on their trip to the Keys, swearing the blue matched her eyes, if that’s why she chose it today. She almost reaches up and pulls the hood over her head, but stops short, instead choosing to just shove her hands in her pockets. The moment we start forward, one man from the crowd notices us and captures the other’s attention. The force of their abuse hits like a solid wall, each word another brick. My hand shoots up—maybe to grab my own hood, shield myself in some way—but I glance over at Carey: stone-faced but moments from cracking. I chose to join her so she wouldn’t have to face any of this alone, and I remind myself, I can’t just hide away while she faces them headon. I wrap my arm around her, pressing my hand against one of her ears and blocking her other with my shoulder. I try to convince myself condemnation from strangers means nothing to me when I don’t believe in what they say, when I am not the one their words are truly aimed at. The front door clicks shut behind us, dulling the shouts down to just a low, dull buzz. The waiting area we stand in is cold, sterile in the way medical facilities always are. There are a few others in the room with us, and I try to guess what they’ve each come for. I particularly wonder about the young girl by herself on the other side of the room. Maybe she’s just here for something simple, like picking up birth control. Or maybe she’s in the same position as Carey, trying to protect herself from something she’s not ready for, hiding it from everyone else. Whichever it is, she’s alone. Eventually, a woman pokes her head in and calls
Carey’s name. “Just me,” Carey mumbles as she stands. “You stay here.” I hesitate but know I can’t exactly go in the actual clinic offices with her. “Okay.” She walks out of the room and I watch the door until the teenager—Lisa, I discover— goes back as well. Then there’s nothing to do but wait. A woman with greying hair and piercing blue eyes drifts up to the front desk, heals clicking with every step. She looks too familiar, and my mind fills in the rest of Carey’s mom’s appearance: French-tip nails, rosary bracelet, disappointed glare. I attempt to shake the growing guilt out with a shake of my head and look down for some sort of distraction. The magazines strewn across a table in the middle of the room seem too bright against the soft brown surface, above stark white linoleum. Their overly shiny covers promise the secrets to perfect skin, perfect diets, perfect families, perfect lives. I thought Carey was perfect, back when we first met. She was in gymnastics and ballet, and always did the best when our teacher assigned us pop spelling contests. She always wore a beautiful cross necklace, which had a center embellished with a sparkly diamond. She received it as a gift from her mother, and she treasured gifts so deeply she still kept the pendant in her bag when the chain broke. A few of the other girls in our class became obsessed with finding out what she wasn’t good at, but I just assumed she really was perfect. I believed this even after we’d become friends. It wasn’t until I found her crying under the slide over a flunked quiz that I realized she was human. Even now, nearly fifteen years later, I sometimes wonder if all that blind adoration actually went away. I look up from the magazines, do another sweep of the room. Even with her puffy eyes and splotchy, tearstreaked face still clear in my recent memory, I have trouble seeing Carey as anything less than perfect.
Clementine Audrey Phillips
maybe the thing is Natalie Filaroski
taking the knife to the grapefruit you split it in half, the way Jeffrey Dahmer probably did with hearts. Slowly and deliberately, putting the sharp tip into the center, pushing past the skin and scooping the pink matter out. I take the other knife and use it to spread butter on my toast, the way Paula Deen probably does. Liberally. Maybe the thing is the way you get to devour the fruit, looking at me past the brim of the skin, your eyes searching my chest, wondering exactly how to pull out the red center. I wince and you smirk. I’m picking around my plate with a fork, disgust building in me like a rain cloud. I want to eat the toast and the eggs and the breakfast in peace. I hope for a small moment that you’ll get up and get a glass of water or maybe brush your teeth. Or maybe finish the grapefruit. The grapefruit looks rotted on the outside, blackened spots dotting it, something you’re ignoring. I want to avoid your gaze that lingers from the fruit to me, back to the fruit, back to me. I know what you’re thinking. You were magnifying last night, an angel in our bed. I remember. I want it back now but instead you place fingers inside the skin of the sour fruit, milling your nails around inside. Our kitchen reeks of cheap tobacco and fresh breakfast. The yellow stain patterns on the table are the only thing I can focus on. You continue eating the grapefruit. I wonder if maybe the reason I can’t eat is because of your chewing or because the knots in my stomach twist so tight it feels like you’re contorting my insides. Or maybe the thing is that I’m being suffocated by the weight of your blue eyes on my heart, beating faster with each nauseating bite. Or maybe the thing is remembering the nights where we lay in bed and your hands wander only to me, your thoughts entranced in me. Maybe I want the long nights back where I didn’t have to worry about the blows that come from your aggression. I don’t want to look away from the grapefruit.
Logic is Relative James Morgan
Oona Roberts My writing is sometimes located in my heart, in its cavities and chambers and ventricles and valves. I’m not really sure how to get past those places and see inside of it, so I can’t really tell you what it looks like—I can only tell you how it feels. Like pressure. Like heaviness. Like it needs to be emptied, so that’s what I do: I write, I write, I write. My heart is surrounded by my ribcage, which is dense and thick and too close-together, so there’s really no access point inside. I think that’s why I start crying in the middle of class. Go to “With my heart, everything bed at 7:30 P.M. Eat the is private. And nothing.” same microwave meal for dinner each night. It’s all the same problem—I don’t understand anything worth anything, can’t keep a firm grip around my own wrist to stop myself from jumping off the edge of a cliff, don’t know how to control my insides from spilling to my outside. With my heart, everything is private. And nothing. *** Sometimes my writing is located in my head. When it’s there, I clean up the mess my heart has made. I put all the commas in the right place, convince myself that my ability to sanitize my emotion is all that keeps my writing afloat. My brain tells me that no matter what changes in my life, I will always stay the same. My brain tells me that my writing is simple, is falling, is failing, is drowning in its own need to be written. I have tried to suppress. I have lost every time. *** Very occasionally, my writing is located inside of my knee. I have dislocated it four times, had surgery on it once. There are two scars at its base, right where they cut
me open and tried to find a bone fragment that had broken off and was trapped in my ligament after a particularly traumatic dislocation. I feel my writing there when my knee falters as I stand up too quickly and I swear my kneecap is going to go out again. Pop. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s what it sounds like when it happens. I hear it in my head every day, let it play over and over again like a broken record, a scratched CD. Sometimes, I also hear my writing. Like my knee, I cannot escape it. It sits between my ravaged tendons, suddenly revealed all-too-deeply beneath tender scar tissue, skin undone and ready for the losing, and waits.
Harleigh Murray They poured my mother into the ocean. For a moment, she flew, then crashed. Heavy ashes of her body dissipated into water. Then she was gone. I visit sometimes, and try to remember her as something other than ash. But I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t. Now I have been here, for countless evenings. Again grey moon bends sulk of light through thick tent of dreary clouds as I think of her. In hand, dull light breaks its back against my palm, ricochets across sweaty grass until it twists and stumbles into murky water. I hold sand in my palm, warm between tense skin.
It threads between my clenched fist as I stand, feet in waves. Clouds drag waterlogged bodies across the sky, until finally they break in half. My body becomes soaked with sheets of rain, As I open my fist. Sand scatters into air Pummeled by drops, Until it collides with waters below.
Rolling Fog Michelle Schoen
Godspeed Valerie Busto
“An expression of good wishes to a person starting a journey. A personal blessing.” The groaning engine vibrates the peeling top of my Ford letting warm fumes swarm through the cracked windows and die on the wet hair strands sticking to my cheeks. My seats are smothered in pollen and dead flies between the ripples of the leather. The rear-view mirror, with spots of orange and brown, waves to the broken home. My fingers wrap the head of the transmission squeeze, drag, and release until I’m in second gear, an immensity of oxygen traps in my veins before the smell of my wearing tires evaporates as the miles spread between that house and me, like summer separates from its butterflies. Frost slides to the edges of the truck –warmth exchanges the frozen. The honeysuckle air of Vermont wishes Godspeed past my elbow. Rolling the windows down farther, the new sweetness pushes the burned ash scent. The radio plays songs I forgot about years ago, and I collect apple cores in a pool by my sneakers. I can feel the sunlight press kisses from my shoulders to my eyebrows. The golden nectar of red blossoms oozes out of grip and down the steering wheel, sticking to thighs as morning sunbeams dry the old burger wrap in the passenger seat. I’ve come to a clearing in the terrain, an area of dancing grass and calm emptiness and all I have to offer is my tangles of hair and a roasting pickup. 38
Escape the Heat Darvin Nelson
How to Breathe in a Housefire Keiona Wallace
Officers say the fire started inside the living room from a lit cigarette, but my father doesn’t smoke like Nana. Nana smoked Camel cigarettes. The blue box. She smuggled a box in my jacket pocket a few weeks earlier, asked me if I loved her and before I could answer, and just like that, I became a second-hand smoker like my father. My father tried to assure me that sitting near his mother shouldn’t be considered smoking, but I still count it. I counted the blue box of camels as stealing and he didn’t. “Then how do you steal from a smoker?” “Take their lungs.” My father’s hands—so heavy and large—pulled me from my bed, grappled sweaty ankles, leaving me wrapped in thin sheets for protection. The house reminded me of a thunderstorm, thick clouds of black “My father stopped taking hot gray filling the halls, showers when he realized that lightning clawing at not all pain was bearable.” the family photo of my father holding me with his with bright green eyes. The living room blazed in ashes and memories burning at the fingertips. My father said not much living was done here. When he laid me on the front lawn, I could see the house being ripped and chewed by bursting flames, and each glass that shattered reminded me that my father was still inside. I remember him cradling life, chasing me around the yard, and teaching me how to grow wild roses. “Why do we have to kill these kinds, Daddy?” “Because they’re weeds, sweetheart.” “But the weeds are pretty too.” After running back inside he told me Nana’s door was locked and those hands that were so strong and heavy couldn’t break down the door. Each time he tried his graying lungs got weaker and his eyes weren’t seeing what was really there. He told me those burning eyes
were watching a memory from his childhood. The one in which Nana soaked her feet inside of our kiddie pool, toes a pruning purple. Her veiny fingers clamped down on a cigarette—telling my father that lungs are only good for two things: breathing and rotting. My father coughs more than the average person now. After work most days, I watch him unravel on the couch, falling asleep with sweaty fingers laced around Nana’s picture. She was disgustingly beautiful. Sometimes I touch his wounds with my fingers and imagine them drawing away the pain. My father stopped taking hot showers when he realized that not all pain was bearable. He tries to tell me the craters sprayed across his skin don’t hurt, but he winces when putting on long sleeved work shirts. He no longer wears the white ones because he says they stain easier, but I know it’s because you can see the swollen patches of skin and how the fire spread fast across his body. He doesn’t drink coffee anymore; rather, he swallows whiskey from the bottle. When I tell him it’s not healthy, he starts to slur something inaudible about Nana. Like when Nana tore out the flowers by my window, shouting that we never loved her. But he lets the drink burn, smell piercing his tongue, and says, “I never could have loved her.” He gargles to me sometimes about Nana trying to drown him in the kiddie pool when he was younger. He said it was the summer of ‘87 and everyone wanted to know how to swim. But he wishes that he never mentioned it to Nana. One hand wrapped around his skull and the other on an aluminum can half empty with beer. “I passed out...but she didn’t care. She left me on the front lawn for about five hours. Ants crawled all over my cheeks and face, but when I went in that house, she was was sitting on the couch, smoking, and she just looked at me.” Nana taught my dad how to hold his breath and Dad taught me how to breathe. I couldn’t remember if I was breathing or drowning when my world collapsed. When the firefighters let us plow through the remains of the house, I try to find Nana’s blackened bones. Instead I find ashes of what used to be a house spilling with
photos of my dad cradling me in his arms. Even though the picture is layered with ashes I could still see him—my dad with Nana’s green eyes, smothering me with love. My father burned the yellowing photo of Nana last month when we moved to a fresh start. Smoke rose like tumbling clouds and the smell is so familiar now. It smelt as if Nana was still blowing smoke in my face like we were still sitting in silence on the front porch. My father said we needed room to breathe—he needed room to breathe. His hand always feels as if it’s melting. Rugged stains from a raging house fire created gaping holes between fingers. His violet, velvet skin is stretched like a dessert, but whenever he sleeps I trace his bruises with my fingers and draw wild roses.
Water Ignacio Serrao 43
Yellowstone Air Brianna Eisman
Why Willows Weep Noland Blain
It’s two a.m. I am awoken by thunder thumping its drumbeat, rain driving its downpour on the roof shingles, all the vibrations running through the walls, my mattress, up and across my tiny, six-year-old body. My mother threw open the door to my room, red hair on end of a pale face. She got an alert on a storm radio: Tornado Warning, Take Shelter Immediately. Those great, old analytics of the Weather Channel had not predicted such a sudden development. Tropical Storm Fay is erratic, unsettled, picking up its swirling tempest mass and moving this way, that way, up and down Florida, legs of lightning and storm never moving fast enough. We are on the second floor of our apartment complex, a ragged building of rough wood, so there is nowhere we can go but within our own home. My brother is awake at this point; he is three years older than “Like storm gods waiting, me, but he is rattling like waiting, waiting.” a weathervane with too much wind. He, too, has never seen a tropical storm. The windows are not boarded up, and he has glimpsed through them into the dim, wet chaos. My mother says not to, but it’s too late. Our shorthair and our black-striped Maine Coon are crouched-down creatures beneath my bed, poised as Bastets, eyes very small. I had never seen them stay so close to us, and I wondered why. I’ve heard of cats that can predict disaster. In hospitals, they curl up adjacent, nestled in the crooks of the elbows of sleeping, sick people. Then the nurses and doctors know: That man is going to die. That woman will never see her children again. Is it possible, then, to foresee it? Death? Why were the cats so close to us, to me? I am by the pond next to our apartment, in the
humid light of last week’s evening. The water has a pristine glimmer, pairs of gnats doing airborne pirouettes, making a dance of the harvest of children’s sweet sugar-sweat. I slap at one somersaulting, miss, but I’m not angry. This evening is too orange for angry. And I lean myself against the wood of this tree. This is my favorite tree, I say to my brother, as if to prove something. It’s a willow tree, the introspective, old-man kind that likes to peer down at a pond, the grass, a gnat, and see more than just a pond, the grass, a gnat. These branches make good fishing line, I say without ever having gone fishing. I pluck one of the willow’s hairs and feed it into the water’s surface, slowly, as if to coax the water to work with me, work with me. Send me a fish. A pretty, tiny fish that glows. My brother and I are in a dry-banked bathtub, Fay spilling tides of rain on top of our house, wind howling and thunder cracking its whip. Our cats are with us, huddled against our bodies but prepared to leap. There is no light in the bathroom; the power is out. The room is dark, dark, deep. My mother casts a beam of light into the room, spilling from the font in her hands, her gentle hands. It’ll all be alright, she says, It will all be okay. Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here. She is gone, in the hall, and I count the seconds in my head, the dull glow of the flashlight humming undetectably the way electric circuits do. But I know there is energy going through those wires, impossibly quick, like lightning. Like thunder. Like sudden rain. Like storm gods waiting, waiting, waiting. I count the seconds. I count the seconds. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi… The ripples sway towards me, hiding a huge something just beneath their smooth, illusive sheen. Look! I say to my brother. Maybe he turned to look. There was a small glimmer, like gold. Maybe it was the sunset on the pond’s face. Or maybe… I wait, count the seconds… Eleven Mississippi, twelve Mississippi, thirteen Mississippi, fourteen Mississippi… Doctors do not know when a monitor will stop
beeping. There can be unexpected emergencies. A flutter of nurses around a hospital can become a murder of doves, a tussle of feather and needle, all swathing as one to attack one man’s IV, one man’s iron lung that stopped its heaving. The circuit, the heart, can stop. It is so easy to say that death can be predicted. The men with white hair and long names point to charts, color-code their graphs like mandalas, insist on the holy name of their PhD’s that I will live to be 80 years old. But no amount of peering into computers or crystal balls, nor consultation of divine or medical bodies, can say where things will land before they have. A life is not the weather; it cannot be forecasted. Some things aren’t shown by focus groups and statistics. Some things just don’t line up with probability. Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here. I’ll be right back. Her arms unravel from around me. Her face is a moon. She gives the flashlight to my brother, who has stopped shaking. I am crying without knowing why, only knowing that the night is scary and unknown and my cheeks are cold and something is about to happen. I’ll be right back, she says, Stay here. Before I can grasp her, she slips into the hallway, into the dark, into the air. We stay here, in the cloister of the cold porcelain, clammy with sweat.
A Rattling Epiphany Conor Naccarato
For as long as I can remember, I have heard that my mother and I share many features—that the familial resemblance is strongly evident. I’ve been accustomed to hearing this from just about anywhere. Every time we visit her parents in Naples, her mother, my grandmother, knowingly smile at us. When I sporadically accompany her to work at different stages of maturation, her coworkers look at us like they’re seeing double in shock that a mother and son can be so hauntingly identical. On one of the more recent accompaniments, someone stares at us with wide eyes after we react the same way to a joke— “I quickly adjust my stance keeling over in laughter and wonder how many times with our hands at our I’ve accidentally replicated my hips, letting out short father’s nuances.” bursts of jovial sound. She looks at me, in an almost concerned way, and says “do you know how alike you are to your mother? Down to every mannerism...” “Yes,” I say. I’ve heard it countless times. Every time my father tells me how alike we are, I respond with a furrowed brow and upturned lip, covering up my visceral disgust. Every time, I tell him that the jury is out and has been out for a long time on who I look and act like more. Every time, he tells me that I’m completely wrong. One day, my mother and I fight. She is driving me home from school; I’ve already been aggravated by the length of the day (probably exacerbated by my lack of sleep the night prior). I suppose that she’s had a long day too, and she quickly loses her temper at the sound of my attitude. I turn my head to sneer at her, contempt in my eyes, and place my elbow on the armrest a little too forcefully, lodging my head into my hand, index finger pressing into my temple, the rest of my fingers curled at my chin. My mouth barely hangs open. This is a motion I had seen my father execute many
times. I quickly adjust my stance and wonder how many times I’ve accidentally replicated my father’s nuances. I realize that a clear example is lashing out after an exhausting day. When I go home, I rush to the bathroom, looking in the mirror. My nose, bulbous and hooked at the end, the bridge abnormally shaped, is a carbon copy of his. My torso is disproportionately long, my legs too short—a feature my mother has told me I share with my father my entire life, but one I only now take to heart. The next time he tells me how similar we are, I look at my father, shrug, and say: “maybe so.” There are attributes of my father that I hope I haven’t inherited— narcissism, a borderline personality, parental inaptitude, but realizing that sometimes fathers and sons have a few things in common is by far the best preventative measure I have in place.
Real Motherhood Harleigh Murray
My mother tells me she does not believe I love her. She doesn’t remember times spent with me tucked in the bend of her arm to fight off the cold around us. Together, we watch birds. Thrill to see beneath their wings, downy feathers curled under bodies tight as secrets meant to keep. We sit, bodies shift, ache of tired bone on ground. Two birds weave sleek bodies through grey air, sharp claws of their feet scrape against thin clouds— break them apart. Wings flutter, crunch like paper as they dive above us. Song shrill, catches in their throats, lands disembodied in our laps. My mother and I see them rest on barren branches of hollow trees, dart from one to the next as the sun buries itself behind crooked shingles of houses on the horizon. The birds land, twist bodies close together, feathers indistinguishable from start to end, until they look as though they are one. She studies them as I bury my face into the slope of her neck, let my heartbeat scab over her worry, listen to the birds sing beautiful, broken notes.
Savannah Rahn 51
Alexa Naparstek “Cyclops, you ask my honorable name? Remember the gift you promised me, and I shall tell you. my name is Nohbdy: mother father and friends, everyone calls me Nohbdy.” -Odysseus, The Odyssey Day after day of watching the Revolution unfold, my eyes surveyed every face that marched on the streets, every face that became bloody and proud. I then started to stare for minutes upon minutes at any opportune moment where my reflection could be found, to pick apart my own face. Quickly, I learned, the faces that marched weren’t my own. It became a topic of intrigue, a puzzle and experiment that I could analyze and criticize. Insecurity, or security to be truthful, about my appearance was, for the most part, fairly absent, and so I easily became critical towards my face without feeling dreadful. It was then when I noticed that my eyes were odd: “I wanted to look at myself and curved inward at the lid, and one, the see those who came before me.” right, was droopy; my eyebrows were modest, growing forests; I had a demi-arched “thief’s” nose, and high, high cheekbones. After properly assessing my face, I immediately drafted crude Punnett squares for each of my features. I spent nights agonized and hunched over my desk, my left-hand repeatedly carved squares into notebooks, while I tried to reverse engineer my genetics using what I didn’t repress from seventh-grade biology lessons and Bill Nye’s ridiculous skits. From a young age, I knew that I did not care about beauty or rare features. I wanted to look at myself and see those who came before me. To see those who traveled across lands and lived. Widows peak: dominant. Brown hair: dominant. Left-
handedness: recessive, even if both parents were south paws there’s a twenty-six percent chance the child will be too. I had information, but it did not benefit my sadness. Weeks went by and I was told my biological mother was a brunette and had brown eyes. I refused to look at reflections for months. I still haven’t the slightest idea what I look like. *** I sat in my grandmother’s driveway, clutching a frail, handmade vinok—a Ukrainian headdress—and my mother laughed while she encouraged me to put it on to show my grandmother. I had not detected the unintended cynicism. And, upon reflecting, it was not cynicism but a sense of hope that failed to radiate from her; had I noticed, perhaps I would’ve allowed it to radiate from my own body as well. The headdress was poorly made by my own hands but it was still my own hands that crafted the object. There were thick plastic flowers that etched into my skull and knotted up my hair, ribbons got caught in my underarms, and a growing smile panned across my face. I resembled one of the girls screaming at Berkut on the streets of Kyiv. We walked into my grandmother’s home, she looked at me, made eye contact with my mother, then chuckled. “Ti nefto pano se kefali sou?” What’s on your head? My smile responded to her, stating that it was symbol of pride for Ukraine and so she scoffed. My grandmother, bless her heart, has an antiquarian soul with a blunt tongue. She said you’re a Greek girl. She spoke with her hands and accent, then continued, you were born there but was raised Greek. My heart metamorphosed into a new shape and grew dull, plummeted to my feet, and began to bend and ache. If it was anger or sadness or both, my recollection does not say. My body turned hot. I ripped off my vinok, and, consequently the plastic stems and wire ripped straight into my skin; my mother took notice of this and tenderly asked why it was removed, placed a hand upon my shoulder, but I did not answer. I cannot remember if I shoved her skin off mine. My tongue wouldn’t move. Sitting on the breakfast bar stool and cowering over my paralyzed body, tears rolled down my face and met my
heart on the floor. I wept. There were no answers given to my mother for I did not know them. I was not sure why I felt grief, yet there was, and continues to be, a resounding hole within my heart. My face was saturated from tears and there was a distorted image to the left of me. My grandmother placed the vinok on her head. My mother and her laughed. *** A card was given with a piece of paper in it that bore block letters spelling out: DNA TEST ARRIVING SHORTLY. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEX. My mother’s eyes met mine and instantly my cheeks became drenched from tears. Finally, thinking to myself, I was getting somewhere. The next day, I spat my hermetic salvia into a tube and used more to secure the package. My results relayed to me a suspicion that I held within my head for years. There was something more. It seemed that months of raw dread rotted away as my heart beat and I clicked on the map that my DNA was brightly illustrated on. Ukraine/Russia. Caucasus. Middle-East. I had substance. I had reason. For now, I understood why my skin shimmered copper during the summer and why my hair doubled in size from a single brush stroke. The Cossack was no longer a Cossack, but one that traveled across deserts. I felt my collar-bone rise as weight leapt off my shoulders and rolled down my back. This is what I wanted. The muscles in my face writhed with excitement, my body tingled and my heart beat with pride. But this lasted for mere moments. I still was not told of my origin; the colors were neatly filled in globs within regions and borders. I couldn’t have cared less at this point, it meant nothing to me because there were no flags for me to bear any pride and pride in being a child of the Black Sea’s states was not taught to me. I felt loneliness reside in my stomach once more. I had an urge to throw it up (and this was not the first nor the last time). I wanted to crawl beneath the wooden floorboards and feel all the material coddle my reclining body, like my mother would have had she selfishly kept me. I soon came to understand that this was the burden of being a former orphan.
Need a Hand
Montana Kromann 55
John 11:35 Valerie Busto
eyes welled as I dropped a match into a candle at the prayer table. Holy Mary’s rosy cheeks glistened above controlled flames heavy robes slithered around her throat like Joseph’s praying palms around a psalms book. the small bruises in the darkened church danced like purple butterflies on my arms. staring at Mary, waxy tears dripped like honey sweet and soothing. each rosary bead was a rib you had sliced out so I prayed for you to die in a car crash, mangled flesh found hours later by innocent truckers early morning. their boots would sink into the bloodied grass, moistened Earth signing awake. Sarah gave birth to her only child alone, and now in the church her knees dropped in reflection – a testimony to God and Abraham that her infant Isaac can inherit His land. Women at the mercy of men following a husband - once lover to a holy land that never arrives like the night. My eyes spill in my skull burning under His claim of love and promises of a plan designed for me. repeating the shortest sentence in the Bible, my body shrinks under the growing shadows. the priest, ancient and decayed under cloaks, hums to the dying candles. John 11:35: Jesus wept. 56
Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m Really Broken Up About It Tamika Lungu
Feel (The Entirety of My Heart) Olivia Meiller
I. The entirety of my life thus far, ridges in leaf if you will, is un-aligning. Sometimes I’ll sit down on my bed and think about how involuntarily chaotic every moment has been. The miraculous coincidence of birth, or walking, or seeing. How I’ll never know all the mistakes in the universe that allowed me to be. When I think about larger fears, faster things, like time or life, I’m not thinking— I’m feeling. Despite the results of discomfort, or hopelessness, I admire it sometimes. How choosing to engage in life feels like falling. How life itself feels like falling. I felt this unidentifiable weight when my mom went into drug rehab. Whenever I see this color, this clinical white all by itself, I feel that day. Some vast, dimensional chaos not too distant from life. Messily wheeling off the curb. I never think about it too long. My mom doesn’t either. Because momentous thought is feeling. And if my mom thought about “...feeling is somehow, that day, she’d feel me undoubtedly, the only reason sobbing. Or she’d feel earlier, longer nights I live.” all by herself, some vital substance driving her farther and farther into the floor, doubling over a fixated point in her dimension. I wonder what colors she was seeing. A sort of pulsing, throb of all of them, escaping numbers now. I wonder if she’s able to feel time. II. There are happier feelings than this dreadful pondering. But we tend to not feel those as deeply. Vaguely, I remember parks and warmth and walking with my mom. Most are with my dad, who I know feels time deeply. Sometimes he’ll be looking at nothing while driving, and I see a new line or two form across his hand, or he’ll hug me and his arms are heavier. He carries time with him, my dad.
I pick it up and drop it to find later. Loosely recollecting. III. One day in third grade, my dad and I were listening to Eddie Vedder in the living room. For a moment, I was so deep in thought that he wasn’t my father. His eyes were large and dark—his mind looked too complex for the chair he was sitting in. He was singing, and smiling, bobbing in and out of remembering, physically piloting through the words. Every now and then he’d jut out his chin and smile even harder. I thought of how we’d never really know each other. How I’d never really know anyone. Suddenly, he was a man, and I was just his daughter. We think we experience feeling like this only once because things can only be realized once. But subtle pinches follow. Outliers, really, to logic. When I watch a father holding a baby girl, my arm wants to reach for something. To hold the baby, maybe, but most likely my own father’s hand. IV. Feeling is an intense, bleeding commitment to life. Swelling with death and admittance and truth. Feeling is not being able to visit my mom in rehab, feeling is practically raising my two younger sisters, feeling is somehow, undoubtedly, the only reason I live. When I think about feeling, when I feel about feeling, it cancels itself out. I can force myself to forgive my mom, but I can’t feel forgiveness towards her. You can’t manufacture feeling. Maybe you can only feel specifically, personally. Feel like grow or branch or life. Feel as one blindly floating in a lake extends despite night. Running constantly, passionately in emotion. Time like varying lengths and altitudes to climb. Feeling is the only thing that matters. V. I’m dreaming now. Neon, night club dreams from memories I don’t even own. But for the moment, they are mine. Frosted, writhing moments of panic. And I’m a desperate, robot girl who can’t feel anything. She can
see and she can think and if you asked her to name all the islands in Africa she’d say, “Cape Verde,” and several more, but nothing holds weight. I’m dancing in this ethereal fear that I haven’t fully comprehended yet. And I’ve visited all that there is to visit and bought all that there is to buy. Maybe my hand reaches in the swirling void and finds a husband and kids. Madagascar, Seychelles, The Comoros, pluck the names like vacuums and dinner parties and infinite, neon nights to come. There are no pinches to follow.
Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Go In Reilly Edwards
Underappreciation of Moms by Sons Noah Mcgahagin I. My mother holds the wild growth I’ve cultivated on my chin In one hand, and I know she’s searching the knots For her boy in bright shirts. The boy I was: drooling face in the nape Of her neck. She must remember my tears On the collar of her silk dress shirts, And her own smile. That she was the one To grow me from seed to feeble sapling In the folds of her arms. My mother is willing To draw me out Of a single love’s splinter. Listen to me scream and cry: The world is ending As hers nearly did when my grandmother Took me as an infant. Smothered me in the tobacco smoke and mirrors Of medicated motherhood. Coke for the baby’s digestion. A lollipop to quiet his cries. Finally, my father found me Gurgling in army fatigues, The smiling boy made up to fight. He laid my body in my mother’s arms, Swaddled while the phone rang off the hook.
II. But her back is bent now Aching under the weight of my feet As I strain to reach my father. Stand by his side over the treetops He says I cannot reach yet, tripping over The rooted question of the man I am to be. It’s true my mother tells me, It’s alright to feel uncertain To break down on a path I can’t see and Search for another. Like our elementary school math sessions. Coming home with a soil lined face, My mother stretched and worked my blood to feed Me, my life. My father would have told me to stand, Because standing is a choice. With her hands in my beard, She is begging. Begging when I say I want to be like my father. His unperturbed stance as the favor of others comes To leave him. While I lean into the bathroom mirror To look at myself, eyes puffed up, and ask What I did wrong. My mother holds my softness, A boyhood love and hurt which grow To make a man. To her, we Are weighted need. Dumb pots in her arms.