Volume 30 | Issue 1 Editors-in-Chief Briana Lopez Jordan Jacob Mary Feimi Editorial Assistant Alexis Williams Layout & Design Kiara Ivey Website Ruvi Gonzalez Chelsea Ashley Submissions Christina Sumpter Zarra Marlowe Poetry Aracely Medina Madison Dorsey Fiction Jacob Dvorak Seth Gozar Creative Nonfiction Christina Sumpter Savana Pendarvis Art McKenna Flanagan Zoey Carter Marketing & Social Media Claudia Kildow Dwight James Logan Monds Community Relations Tatiana Saleh
Creative Writing Department FACULTY SPONSOR Tiffany Melanson
DEPARTMENT CHAIR Liz Flaisig
Contents Mourning Song Jacob Dvorak
Dissipate Knowlton Anderson
Flight 187 Luke Broussard
Naiture Janai Dawkins
Mother-Tongue Influence Zarra Marlowe
Throwing Cottonballs Molly Lantinberg
Whisper Roudy Leonard
A Girlâ€™s Adolescence Alexis Williams
Toilet Redemption Christina Sumpter
With My Bones Made Dry Ruvi Gonzalez
My Kind of Woman Austin Abistado
Fireflies do not go dim at the sight of 60watt street lanterns Savannah McLeod
The Last Rays Brianna Eisman
Reflections of Abandonment Justin Darrow
Mother and Son, In an Alleyway Logan Monds
The Weight of Her Existence Adaeze Ikeokwu
East of the Sun, West of the Moon Annaliese Pohlmann
The 10th Plague Terrence Scott
In the Hands of God Roudy Leonard
Sugar Beach Alexis Williams
Shorehouse Joyce DeCerce
I Am Who I Am Who Am I? Ruben Adkins
Yards Christina Sumpter
Picnic Tracy Lin
Congaree Ana Shaw
Domonique Eryka Goldsworthy
Bistro Mary Feimi
Jonah Justin Bumgardner
Unafraid Victoria Sherwood
Resistance Lesson Jordan Jacob
No.4 Deja Echols
Mourning Song Jacob Dvorak There is a friend I had and when she saw the wolf in me she ran into the ocean. Wolf, as in distant cousin. Straight-limbed, grey eyes, ears a great part of them. Noticing. Insular. Blaming themselves and leaving when they are not wanted. And once they leave, alone, thinking differently, their ears are pointed brokenly. Confused, lying for days in the dirt, chest bare, burs lining them, burs folding into their paws, burs filling their ears. The wolf is alone, unable to stand, unable, even, to recognize. Wolf, as in lonely crippled thing. I am in the waves. I roll and reach for her and water presses into me, lines my joint and chin, tells me: â€œPaths are open to her now. Cathedrals, dust-drifted, are hers. She was right to be afraid, right to run. And you were wrong for staying proud and grey and with her for this long.â€?
Dissipate Knowlton Anderson 7
would open its doors to be boarded at six thirty nine, and thirty nine was an Luke Broussard odd number. Thirty was not. Thirty nine minus nine. Nine. It was not six thirty. Nine. Nine. Nine. Nine. Nine. en seconds. Ten blinks. Ten. Ten. Nine. Nine. Nine. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Ten. Theo left the house through Hour marker. Ten. Wait. Theo lowered his arm down the back door at four in the morning. to his side, turning his wrist an entire He took his backpack with two apples, 90 degrees outward until it rested four t-shirts, two books that were moderately comfortably, although not almost of equal weight, and four pairs exactly comfortable at all, by his side. of pants: two jeans, and two khakis. His His watch didn’t dig into his thigh that shoes were red and white, old shoes. way, and Sabrina always mentioned Sabrina said he needed a new pair, something about forward-facing palms but his shoes already had twenty four being healthier. Proper posture. Theo eyelets, and Theo didn’t see the point. They got him here. There. He told her. straightened his back. Six hour. Six divide by two. Three She had laughed. There were a lot of people hour. Ten second. Times. Thirty minute. inside the airport. Theo had walked Thirty minute. He swallowed, then took a deep next to the left wall and taken the elevator upstairs. breath. Five second. The dog Five. Five. Five. Five. “If time went slower, he outside the airport had sat down at five The clock could make it.” forty. It was black in front of him and white. Blue was wrong by eyes. Much brighter five seconds. Six seconds. Theo looked at his watch. Yes, the than the man’s at the front desk. The dog had sat down, but clock in front of him was short six seconds. not before turning around three times. Five. The man at the front desk, lower The man in the holey hat sitting next to level, cargo pants, dark purple polo, almost him had laughed. Theo had walked up blue, said that it wasn’t unusual for the to the dog, turned around two times, airport to allow teenagers to fly on their and sat down on the street. The man in own. After all, tickets were expensive the holey hat had removed his hat and and Theo had a card. The man hadn’t run his fingers through his ratty hair. been wearing a tie. He wasn’t important. He was wearing gloves, but they didn’t Important people wear ties. All of our cover his right index finger. The man in passengers are important to us, the man the holey hat had laughed. “Boy, what the hell are you said. I like your tie, said Theo. Six thirty. It wasn’t six thirty. Six doing?” Theo thought it was obvious. thirty was the time Theo had to step into He was sitting. line to board the plane. It was six thirty because the plane “Sitting.”
“There a reason you’re sitting here?” Theo thought it was obvious. The man in the holey hat didn’t. Theo got up and left. Six sixteen. Theo stood with his hands clutching the straps of his backpack, because Sabrina had warned him about people who liked to steal things. Keep things close, she had said. Don’t lose anything. Theo tapped his right index finger on the black strap, keeping in time to the ticking of his watch. Six taps. He memorized the timing. He didn’t like Mississippi. Six. Six. Six. A woman in a yellow hat was holding a small, white dog. Six. Six. Six. She sat with her right leg crossed over her left, and her dog sat with both legs on her thigh in the boarding station for the same flight Theo was going to board at six thirty. Six thirty. Six. Fourteen minutes. Ten. Four. Seconds. Theo quickly raised his right hand to push up his glasses, staring straight ahead. Two seconds. His hand hovered over his frames. Two seconds. He quickly grabbed the black strap of his backpack again, the sleeve of his jacket pooling around his wrist, albeit uncomfortably. He didn’t let go of his backpack strap to fix it. The woman was looking at him. Her dog was looking at him. Theo looked back. It was perfectly right for him to be standing close to the gate. The woman must be a professional to be sitting down. She must know what to do. She must not care about window seats. She must be famous. Theo would have to ask her if the pretzels were better in first class. He looked back at his watch. Eleven
minutes, thirty seven seconds, and five milliseconds left. He stared at his watch as it counted down the seconds, waiting until it reached the minute mark. Then he looked up at the clock in front of him, right next to the flight attendant standing next to the gate. Six. Six. Six. Six. Six. Theo smiled. Then he frowned. Then he looked down at his ankle. A dog. Theo was rather fond of dogs. He always wanted a dog, but Sabrina said that a dog was too much work. You won’t remember to feed it, she said. You won’t remember to walk it, she said. You won’t remember, she said. You won’t remember. Theo remembered his flight was at six thirty nine, and he remembered that he had to be in line at six thirty. He remembered that he wanted a window seat, and he decided that after he only locked the bottom lock of the front door because Sabrina always told him the key didn’t work for the top. He remembered that one of the books in his backpack was called From Canines to Cockroaches and he’d read it four times, but skipped the twentieth page every time because it was about rat poison. Theo had seen a dead rat before and he didn’t like it. He leaned down and scratched behind the dog’s ear. It quickly pulled away. Then manicured hands quickly grabbed it away, just as a hand was placed on Theo’s shoulder. He immediately shook it away, holding his backpack close. He had seen policemen before. Television shows, mainly. There was a police station two blocks from Sabrina’s house. They were nice. They waved when he walked by. Theo didn’t like this policeman. He was speaking too fast, and his friends were moving too close to him. Theo looked at his watch. Four minutes. He
only had four minutes, he tried to tell them. Itâ€™s okay, they said. Come with me, the man said. Youâ€™re not in trouble, he said. Theo had to be at the gate soon. All of these people were blocking his way. He needed to think. He pulled his head into his arms and rested sideways against the floor. If time went slower, he could make it. Theo saw the gate in front of him. He could walk towards it. Everyone else just had to stop. Stop. Theo covered his eyes and walked, stepping on cloud after cloud, passing the white dog and the yellow woman, catching a glimpse of the man in the holey hat in the window. His dog was asleep. Theo was awake. Theo had one minute. One.
Naiture Janai Dawkins 11
Mother- Tongue Influence Zarra Marlowe
The buildings here are flatter, like the press of tongue over L. Taller too, like the stretch over D. In Hamburg (the H is breathed like a whisper), Herschel kicked over Us like footballs. In New York, the Us drag on like the war. He reminds himself he is lucky (luh-kee, sharp on the Y) to have survived the journey to and from the boat, Star of David around his neck, not marked on clothes. This land is easy, floating water compared to the pointed yellow seas elsewhere, shaping the shoreline into syrette blunted needles. Here the only yellow is in the glares, neon like Broadway. Herschel looks American in the ———— die-agony / diagonal brown of his hair and eyes, creating space for him in the shadow of the square, squat marketplace. But the kvetching and haggling and volume are unmistakably (not-a-mistake-ably) Yiddish. His melting pot was Germany, the soup Torah ink. He practices his Os (round lips) walking to work, Tziporah from shul beside him, chanting out out out out like a vigilante mob dethroning the dictator, people around them parting like the Red Sea, Moshe’s staff his chutzpah. At the store, a narrow customer in daffodil asks for a cigarette pack. Her gum snaps over thanks. Herschel replies, tongue slipping over the double-u in welcome, the way it did the first time he said it. To his father, and English teacher, spilling out e-l-c-o-m-e with his mother’s soft mensch, and the newscaster’s rigid Kristallnacht, and the Führer’s Endlö-sung, and his brother’s urgent go.
Throwing Cottonballs Molly Lantinberg
watched her sitting at the dining room patience. We smiled and joked, but table, a wasp-nest of light, brown hair couldn’t forget that there were crutches piled high on her head. Her cheeks leaning up against the wall and a note resembled the pale underside of my arm excusing her from PE on the island. but tinged with green. She swayed softly It was mostly at night when as if she was in the center of a raging sea. her silk face would turn in on itself— I’m sure her stomach resembled one. Her the exhaustion of a day with constant hands gripped the counter to steady her. motion bubbling to the surface. I had to Her twin sister blew her half of the candles watch her cheeks grow uneven from the out on the brightly decorated cake sitting rolling tides of pain that came through. in front of them. I let her squeeze my hand, hoping that “Happy 12th birthday!” we tell with enough pressure some of the pain her. could just seep out of her and into me… What do you just enough tell an 11-year-old who to provide a “I didn’t want to be complains about hip moment of pain? Our perplexed relief. She near the epicenter of would dig her pediatrician handed out a prescription of rest an earthquake causing face into her and lack of stairs. She knees, like that didn’t get better. The damage it pained me to would make notepad in my mother’s the fact that see.” office could’ve been her cheeks were used as a phone book for any pediatric a battleground of tears vanish. She doctor in the city. The revolving door of shivered as if the pain drew any warmth doctors couldn’t seem to puzzle it out. She from her soul and had wrapped its way sat through MRIs, laparoscopic surgery, around her bones. My mother had the and dozens of pokes to ensure that was job of slowly rocking her as the pain exactly where it hurt. Her place became mounted. Emma would cling to her the sidelines. Anything that involved the like the pain was going to rip her away. lower body was forbidden—no gymnastics, I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to no swimming—so she watched the world be near the epicenter of an earthquake run circles around her. causing damage it pained me to see. Crutches were the honey that drew Summer days were a game the swarms of concerned attention. Her of Russian roulette with her pain. We injury was now blatant. Strangers gave her never knew what water slide or pool acclaim for her strength. Friends marveled trip would push her over the cliff from at her lack of complaints. My grandfather uncomfortable to excruciating. She’d squeezed her shoulders and called her a run through the sprinklers with a grin warrior. At the dinner table, we gave her glued to her face, but hours later it’d be the award of best pain tolerance and most ripped off. We had to watch powerlessly
as she lay on the couch with God’s fist raining down on her. The compliments on strength turned into awe at her invincibility as the months ticked by. Everybody seemed to have a medical story to tell or a quick piece of new advice, and I began to wonder if people believed watching Gray’s Anatomy or visiting a hospital turned them into doctors. The list of doctors needed an extra page. My mother formed the mantras of “It’s just a blip in your long, long life,” and “I understand how you’re feeling.” Emma’s response was always a slow nod with the inability to meet her gaze. She managed not to crumble through the earthquake, but shopping for sneakers was the aftershock that forced her to her knees. The walls of the store showcased a rainbow of rubber soles and crisp images of buff people crossing finish lines drenched in their own sweat. My brother was practicing a light jog in a murky green pair when I noticed Emma’s fidgeting. The pursed lips and narrowed eyes were the same look a preschooler gives a playmate who has the toy they’ve been begging for. I took her to the sweet smelling boutique next door. We pretended to be critics ranking the scent of every candle. I walked slowly behind her as she carefully maneuvered around the breakable items on crutches, sighing heavily. I couldn’t make her forget. She eyed the shoebox as we met up with the rest of the family to walk to the car. We were lying together on the carpeted floor of our living room just after dawn when it spilled out. Another doctor’s appointment was in the schedule—this one out-of-state and top of his field. I was being an early riser like always and she had too many thoughts coupled with too much pain to fathom
sleep. Our drowsiness made us loopy as we stared at the popcorn ceiling ten feet above our heads. “Daddy tells me I’m the bravest person he knows,” she said, nestling her head into my shoulder. “Really?” “Every single time I get a procedure or go to a doctor or anything he says,” dropping her voice an octave to imitate him, “‘Emma, you are the strongest and bravest person I’ve ever met. I could not even think to have done what you have.’” She collapsed into a fit of giggles. “You think he’s lying?” I lifted an eyebrow. “It’s not that!” She turned away from me. “You don’t think he believes you’re the most amazing person in the whole world?” I feigned shock. She laughed again and nodded but said nothing. She was anxious and eager. I can always tell just through the look in her eyes. She wanted to see this doctor and finally get a diagnosis. She just wanted to get better. She wrapped her arms around me but none of her pain was transferred through her skin into mine or evaporated into the air. It was trapped inside of her. We just remained frozen as if the ceiling held all the answers. The next comment I heard about her strength felt almost weightless in my ears—as if it could just float from the window into the sky like a child’s balloon. They came out from their lips hollow and merely echoed off of Emma’s hip and back into their waiting mouths to be swallowed, this time tasting sweeter. I hoped at least they felt better. They were the only ones after all. The sweet nothings we whispered and cooed and shouted and
proclaimed were for us. I just wanted to do something, change something. We were all just as effective as the pain medication prescribed three doctors ago. The one who feared admitting despite a prestigious degree held just as much power against her haywire nerves. Empathy is empty. Once we move into pain and suffering, the gravity that has always held us down vanishes. The most effective weapons that we have used to make a difference but no longer function. Our hands are idle so we send out verbally what we think are grenades. Weâ€™re dropping cotton balls. We imagine explosions of relief even when we know deep down we barely made a ripple.
Whisper Roudy Leonard 17
A Girlâ€™s Adolescence Alexis Williams mornings rise as she does, stretching, thumping sleepily from room to room, flicking lights on as she moves. beneath hot water, she knows herself, counts stretches, sun speckles, scrubs curves delicately, with precision, rushes to dry, clasps straps, ignores tightness and the stress on her zipper as she wisps between rooms, snatching the gumdrop from her motherâ€™s extended hand in the doorway, unwraps it later as he wraps his arms around her waist, wisps her off in the shade where clouds loom low like fog in her eyes, gum flattened against her palm with sweat, and later she runs, catching wind in her mouth, trucks spitting whistles to swirl in afternoon heat before disintegrating in the rush of wheels. evenings sink as she melts into her sheets, friends asleep in a tangle of blankets, climbs over bent elbow, bruised knee, wad of tufted hair with her eyelids hung, gumdrop a knot swallowed, in her stomach.
Toilet Redemption Christina Sumpter
he back of her bony knees were met in my life? I get sick of it. It’s not always grinding against the concrete fun to go on adventures. That’s why I of the bus station parking lot. sit out here. For once I can observe Her hands were always hidden by people without them observing me.” some type of object or folded into her own “Adventures are fun though, body like wrinkled origami. She looked that’s the point of them. Besides, I undisturbed. She blew puffs of smoke from always—you always catch my eye.” her cigarette and stared blankly at cars “That’s the point. I catch your pulling in and out of parking spots. He eye. Not anything to linger on. I was never spoke to her, until it had just stopped generalizing people. Sort of like what raining one day you did with pretty and he couldn’t people.” ignore her fulsome “Her words were similar He didn’t beauty. She sat on to the way that you flip like the way that she the moist concrete seemed to mock the with a hint of through pages of a book.” conclusion he made grimace in her on pretty people. But eyes. that was the past and she hadn’t moved “You’re here every day. Aren’t on. you?” he asked as he hovered over her. “What’s your name?” “You know I’m here every day. “Timothy.” You glance over at me and then stare at She didn’t say anything. invisible scuff marks on your shoes. I just “Yeah I don’t like my name.” like parking lots. No one usually bothers “You’re like Bambi,” she said, you in a parking lot,” she said as she tilted interrupting him with a sort of sigh in her head back on the rough tile that lined her tone. the wall behind her. “Bambi?” “Well you’re terribly pretty to be “You’re meek. Your eyes have sprawled out on the ground.” this light glow to them. It just looks “What does being pretty have to do like a candle is radiating behind your with anything?” She chuckled as she drew pupils. It makes you look innocent and out a short breath of cigarette smoke that inconsistent. I never noticed that until looped around her head like a misshapen you came over here.” halo. “Pretty people can choose ugly lives, She bashfully combed through if that’s their thing.” her hair with the tips of her fingers. “I don’t know. Not much of “Thank you. I thought you anything. Some women just like hearing don’t observe people in parking lots.” that. I thought maybe you would. You look “Well, you’re right in front of sort of lonely.” me. I don’t have a choice,” she briefly “Lonely? I’ve never felt more chuckled. “No one is supposed to bother whole. Do you know how many people I’ve you in a parking lot.” She glanced up at
him again. He kneeled down on the concrete beside her. She gazed at him without a sense of humor in her eyes. The sense of humor that makes you feel comfortable. The cigarette smoke looped around her hair like a deformed halo. The way that she tucked the cigarette into her mouth, like a bat flying into its cave at night allured him. Her hair trailed underneath it, each strand seemed to shimmer in the light like a ruby. “Vans are hideous aren’t they,” she said as her eyes trailed behind a van pulling out of a parking spot. “They’re okay. Nothing I would drive, but I don’t have kids.” “That’s why I hate vans. They usually carry children. I hate children. The way they carry themselves, thrusting around so aimlessly. Parents do so much for them and then they usually just break their parents’ heart.” “They’re children. They’re supposed to be that way. It’s a learning experience for the parents and the child.” “It’s disgusting. It sounds like nothing but a waste of time,” she proclaimed as she watched a mother stuff her toddler into a creaking stroller. She tugged at the palm of his hand and scribbled her number across his palm. “What’s this?” Timothy questioned with a tinge of amazement in his voice, as he glanced at the shimmering black ink in the creases of his palm. “It’s my number. What did you think it was?” “I don’t know. A fake number. Just to fool me.” “No. Not today,” she said as she stomped out her cigarette butt. That’s when he became branded by a woman. A woman that he eventually
called a week later and talked to for an hour about wasting time, and nothing. It was all very harmonious, even though they didn’t know much about what they discussed. They pretended to, just to impress each other. That hour turned into a week, and then a month, and before he knew it, he had grown to miss her even when she came to visit. He wanted her to stay with him for more than a night. He wanted his home to be branded with her things, and those ruby strands of hair that collected on his couch, and her chuckles. It took her three months to decide on what type of paint she wanted for their room, and a month to pick the bed that was firm enough for her rigid bones. Then she eventually moved in with a small burnt orange suitcase, and the pillows from her couch. She didn’t like his. “What are you bringing?” Timothy asked. “Whatever fits in my suitcase.” “Feel free to bring more.” “I don’t want to. What I don’t like, I’ll fix.” Her words were similar to the way that you flip through pages of a book. They seemed experimental, and new with every turn. He was no more than an object to her, and if she couldn’t fix him, then he knew she was gone. There was a trail of acid that relocated from his stomach to his throat as he swallowed. He didn’t have everything. Which means she would treat what he did have like nothing. She had already landscaped his bedroom with a marigold color that he didn’t like. She said that it reminded her of her room when she was a child. So he dipped a paintbrush into the cans of marigold paint and covered his white walls.
The room looked like a nursery. In the morning, he woke up to the scent of Lysol drowned by the musty odor of bleach. Latex gloves draped over the side of the counter, only centimeters away from his toothbrush. “I don’t like my toothbrush so close to your cleaning supplies,” Timothy shouted down the narrow hallway. “You’re left-handed anyway, Timothy. Mine is on the right because I’m right-handed. It’s only logical,” she mumbled as she stood with her hand on her hip and peered down the hall. The toilet was on the left-hand side of the sink. Every morning, he would peer into the toilet bowl and grimace at the sight of germs he couldn’t detect. But every morning she would scrub the bathroom with bleach and Lysol. She would scrub so much that the toilet truly looked like a porcelain throne. But it was just a toilet, and at the time, he didn’t think much of the toilet. He didn’t think much of the bathroom. It was just clean. “Don’t you think the toilet looks nice?” she asked with a pitched tremble in her voice. “I mean it’s a toilet—how nice do you want it to be?” Her hands quivered as she poured bleach into the toilet bowl and her cheeks were intoxicated by redness that illuminated over the pale red strands of her hair. “Timothy, I clean this bathroom every day and you never say anything about it.” “It’s nice. I mean it looks like every bathroom.” “It looks like every bathroom.” “Yeah, I mean it’s just a bathroom.” “Have you seen some bathrooms? They’re filthy. Ours is beautiful.”
“I didn’t know anyone judged you over a bathroom,” Timothy mumbled as he propped his elbow against the doorway. “Just forget it Timothy,” Which he did. He didn’t know much about bathrooms, or cleaning, or women who liked to clean bathrooms, but he had discovered that whenever she wanted to pretend that her life was in total order, she would clean the bathroom. But more specifically she would clean the toilet. She liked pretending that she could tidy up something, and make something so unappealing, look incredible. One morning he woke up to a clogged toilet that had overflowed with old cans of her lipstick and headbands. “Did your makeup fall in the toilet or something?” He could hear her let out a long sigh. “Timothy you don’t notice anything. I mean for God’s sake you never said anything about the paint job we did on your room.” “Well you never asked if I liked it.” “Do you like it?” “No. I hate yellow.” She didn’t respond and Timothy hated when he could hear her sling mugs and plates into the dishwasher. “What’s your problem? It’s just a toilet. We take a shit in it and go. You act like it’s a holy grail.” “Just a toilet? That toilet is more knowledgeable about things then you.” “How am I expected to be knowledgeable about things when I don’t even know what the subject is?” She remained silent and he could hear her take a sigh like toddlers do when they don’t get what they want.
“Well, I can’t read minds. I’m not a magician. I don’t know what else it’s about. You’ve customized my house. You should be happy. You do what you want and then you’re disturbed by me not saying thank you? You should be thanking me for even allowing you to change what you want,” Timothy belted down the hallway as he glared at the toilet. “I didn’t ask to come here. You invited me.” “Yeah well I see why you were in that parking lot by yourself. You weren’t sitting out there because you wanted to, you were sitting there because you don’t have anyone.” He saw a brief glow come from her cigarette lighter and heard her throw herself into a chair by the counter. He didn’t like to argue, so he slipped out of the front door and walked around the neighborhood a few times. When he came back, her orange suitcase was gone and the couch pillows were torn open. He looked into the clogged toilet and watched chunks of lipstick dilute the water with a red and purple tint. He couldn’t clean the toilet anymore, because at some point she had sat there. At some point, she had thought of leaving before this morning. Each morning, he would hover over the toilet bowl and peer inside. Sometimes he would see his reflection, and sometimes he would see her own. He would see how her hands gripped around the bottle of bleach and she tucked her hair away like twigs on a bird’s nest. He never invited people over, not only because of the pungent odor of his bathroom, but also because of failure. This home that he had bought, began to fall apart because some woman decided that she deserved better. He knew she
was right, and didn’t do anything to fix that. The toilet bowl had become a shrine of sorts. It no longer glimmered with Lysol and bleach. But sometimes he would drag his finger across the latex gloves she wore and pretend that they were her porcelain hands.
With My Bones Made Dry Ruvi Gonzalez The snow sticks differently to the wet ground here, at the bank of an icy lake where we can see our faces reflected, slick and glazed over. Air sifting dry through our lungs, we stand in bleak winter again. You pull your sleeves down past shuffling fingertips to keep out the cold, and I lift a hand to stop the wind where it whips at your slim cheekbones. You push me away; you like the way it makes the dark strands of your hair wrap around you like wilted tree branches. The skin of your mouth is velvet, woven from pliable cloth and the brush of snowflakes falling against flushed, rosy cheeks. I try not to mind that my own feels like cracked ground beneath my boots when I lift a trembling hand to touch it. Watching you plant your feet in the thick blanket of snow, I try finding warmth in the curve of your elbow. I know this lake wonâ€™t give it to me. My bones donâ€™t hold the winter the same as yours do, clanking awkwardly against the ice, wounded by the white while you thrive in it.
My Kind of Woman Austin Abistado 25
Fireflies do not go dim at the sight of 60-watt street lanterns Savannah McLeod Do the fireflies go dim at the sight of 60-watt street lanterns? There is a light that is ever-flickering, ever-fading. But I have yet to observe this light putting itself out, even under the hailing rain. It sparks a fire beneath morning dew. I have only witnessed it taking breaths while lying in the shadows. Deep, quickened, none long enough to cause its abilities to lie dormant. I saw you clasp your fingers together, empty, but I proceeded to shake them when I met you. I could feel that they were hollow. I could feel that they were longing. You repelled the idea of stretching your arms out wide enough to gather what lay in another humanâ€™s palms; instead you left them hollow. Instead you left them longing. And when the shadows rolled around, you were caught shivering beneath the blankets, so you opened two aching hands. But they were not calloused with desire, nor torn like prayers had pleaded, instead they were diminished with a dimmed light, bandaged from the bites of anotherâ€™s debris. And you found that the blankets tucking you in at night were nothing other than the scattered exhales others had spit into the corners. How could you let a certain carbon dioxide leave you wandering in the dark? Passion once before kindled a way of life, one that brightened weary eyes, one that vaccinated a decomposing routineâ€” a medicine for the plagued, a caffeine pill for the tired. And if the repetitive sunrise and sunset has encased us inside a 24-hour time frame, is there any way to make it out alive 26
without consuming the world in a lifetime of breaths? For if the fireflies do not go dim at the sight of 60-watt street lanterns, why is it that we should allow someone with better lungs than our own to restrict our ability to breathe? I will not sit idle in the shadows; I will not lie blanketed under the lambent light of another.
The Last Rays Brianna Eisman 27
Reflections of Abandonment Justin Darrow 28
Mother and Son, in an Alleyway Logan Monds
ve’s heart slows as the man with the Her son sobs on the ground, gun pauses, glove-armored fingers and she sinks beside him. Her fingers glittery with rain. Yellow alley light clumsy their way into his, stilled inside bends across his knuckles in arcs like the glove. The gun rests on his chest. comet tails, drawn tight as gems embedded She remembers how he used to prop in faux-leather. The metal pushing square himself with a pillow on the couch between his shoulders and outstretched to watch The Sopranos, but instead reaches, points to her neck. of a gun, there was a cat and instead “Don’t.” It’s the only syllable she of covering his soft spots with sharp finds on her tongue where she hopes to things, he threw that jacket behind grasp a scream. The fire department is only the couch after school and let himself four blocks away. dry under the air vent. She told him so The man’s grip slides along the many times not to get her couch wet. magazine, and She washed the she watches him twice a week “[...] there is no blood, jacket adjust his entire because he wore it body to direct the like skin. only rain.” muzzle back at her He tries for words throat, like a child but only finds at the arcade. The man is soft and tall. The choking Eve clutches his hand to her bottoms of his shoes never fully touch the collarbone. “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t you ground, and Eve wonders why someone dare.” as graceful as a dancer would ever need a The hand squeezes hers. Glock. She can tell she is his first, though. “Mom.” His shoulders hunch in the wrong direction “Don’t,” she whispers. He beneath the slope of a jacket that could stops breathing. have easily been crumpled behind her couch, sharp and jagged over a rounded shoulder, around a straightened elbow. A gun, three feet away, piercing her skin with its glare. Eve is breathless, rushing into the man and, with a shout, the gun shatters the city’s mumbling. She brings the man to the ground beneath her and feels the metal of the gun press hard into her stomach, but there is no blood, only rain. Eve stands. Eve steps away. The alley’s orange shade draws contrast over his face, one she has not seen in two years, and the weeping of his Adam’s apple, too dark to be water.
The Weight of Her Existence Adaeze Ikeokwu In sorrow, Yemaya—goddess of the seas—chose to end her own life on the summit of the mountain. As she died, she gave birth to fourteen powerful orishas [gods + goddesses]. When her waters broke, it caused a great flood around the world and created the seven seas. Nigerian Folktale I. Son, I watched you grow, holding tightly onto your trembling hand through the dark dirt paths. I followed your laughter as we came upon the quiet sea, not knowing that this would be a trap, a plan to drown me underneath my own waters. II. I wish you would have torn your fingers from mine, your body sinking into the kingdom where darkness is eternal and unforgiving. Anything would do, just to stop you from pressing closer unto me. I closed my eyes and stood still, waiting for you to finish, but never would I allow you to do it to me again. III. From high above, I hold my swollen stomach while cursing underneath my breath. Hafum áká! Hafum áká! Orungan anwala, onwu bu ihe nwute. (Leave me alone! Leave me alone! Orungan is dead, death is anguish.) My tears washed onto my hands, I let my foot slip from the mountain, water broke and cradled me to the sea.
My children, where are you now? Lost forever amongst seven aquatic crypts.
East of the Sun, West of the Moon Annaliese Pohlmann 31
The 10th Plague Terrence Scott So Moses said, This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.’ Exodus 11:4-6 I’ve been counting the bloody grains of sand between my foot and sandal. They stretch across my heels like water. These houses frown towards me, kneeling on their dirty wooden legs. Decomposing frogs sink their rippling bodies onto the pyramids as dead cattle push their decaying flesh up from the sand. The city lays across the night sky like a rotting carcass, but as dirty as the night seems, my Lord’s great mind is clean. I cannot question what the Almighty has asked me to do. Rather hold it in my lap, hands spread like a mother holding the dead head of her first born son. I will not be able to rebuild her soft heart with her baby boy’s brown hairs, put together the handmade vase he would’ve broken, draw her a stickman picture in the sand. The path breaks in two, and I imagine my brother, the Pharaoh, calling my nephew’s empty name from his throne. Red night drags down the village. The desperate wailing spills from its broken mouth as my eyes stare from bloodless wooden door to bloodless wooden door.
In the Hands of God Roudy Leonard 33
Sugar Beach Alexis Williams 34
Shorehouse Joyce DeCerce Upstairs a small kitchen, table at the center with four chairs we could barely get around where we ate lunch coming home from the beach a living room windows open, sea breeze flowing like waves in the air lapping at our skin, our aunts could talk for days about the way the tides stole a shoe, about the mayor of New York, about affording the house next year the bedrooms where our uncles stayed and would come out only for a cigarette in the evening, when they werenâ€™t sailing pictures on the wall of our cousins when they were our age on the beach when it was there on the boardwalk where we go each night still and come back with ice cream thereâ€™s a picture of the house even, with our mothers in front of it the stairs we used to lie on sand on our shoulders looking up. Downstairs, damp sheets on the floor cold cupboards and drawers wood peeling at its hinges an empty hallway the shower stood 35
the room where our grandmother slept kept the house together till the wave hit. Outside, nothing. The storm took it all.
I Am Who I Am Who Am I? Ruben Adkins
s a child, I recall that the dentist’s more quickly, and my delusion is fed workplace always smelled until it swallows me whole. But weeks disturbingly of bone dust, though ago, summer was just beginning to slip, it’d be years before I was old enough the sunshine falling like sand between to place the fragrance. Tooth decay is fingers. The daylight was alive, and musky, like wet dog hair, and dead fish— so was my shaky awareness of reality. not wild fish, but market fish, the kind I was wide-eyed and alert and I felt raised in a cramped pond with a tarp everything, anything, even things that ceiling in the winter. The kind that inbred were not real. for generations. Every time I’d visit the This isn’t, however, a desolate dentist’s, my mother would grimace at the state of mind I’m in. Rather, it’s sound of the root drill. She’d later tell me beautiful—I make nests in bird’s bones, it brought the taste of rotting gum to her and there’s a virgin daiquiri in my hand mouth, and it took me years yet to realize whenever I want one, and nobody looks that she meant pink, fleshy gums. I thought each other in the eye because that is it was a nice thought, really. Shedding not an expectancy, not a social norm. away your roots, My head is a place your past— where I come back a embracing the new “[...] my delusion is fed little different than and shinier option. I’d entered. until it swallows me when At the same time I, That’s usually good, too, never liked the until it’s not. whole.” dentist’s. I hated I’d crossed being restrained. The chair always felt like the threshold of my cerebrum and was a lazily padded, faux-leather prison. blinking daydreams away, pleasant I’ve been reading other people’s ones, and rubbed two-day-old sleep horror stories about doctor and dentist’s deprivation from my eyes, trekked visits because I discovered a cavity in my the way out of fantasy, and realized back molar the other week. When I found almost immediately upon coming to the edge of the rot with my tongue, infinite that my throat was hot and my breath old fears pushed back to the surface, kicked was swampy at best. My teeth hurt, an and kicked and broke way. indication that I either haven’t brushed Some number of minutes after or have been grinding, the latter being dinner, balled up in bed, running my tongue the more likely of the two, so I twined over the backs of my teeth, is my supposed my tongue up to massage my aching safe place—a depth of solitude, where my gums. Night had only recently fallen, blankets are the bellies of great benevolent so my routine was already quite off creatures I’ve befriended and the window is from its norm, as this is when I am not a screen into the night sky but a break meant to start dreaming, not to fall in drab grey coral, the yawning mouth of a out of it. I was confused, and my head great abyss. In autumn, the sky grows dark hurt, and my jaw stung. The hole in my
molar found my tongue. In my imagination, it was cavernous—a cave of dry ice, big enough to house leopard seals, and merely touching it was like pissing on the holy land. My face was one of both repulsion and interest, prodding at this newly discovered wound as if it were the body of some bloated, dead animal, poking into its bones with a stick. I was mindblown, stunned, in complete denial. I’d taken good care of my teeth for so long, and here it was—eminent betrayal, a blow to the chest that should have really been long expected, regarding my dental history. I lost its place. I lost concentration for one crucial moment, my tongue slipped, and—resultantly—I lost my mind. I snapped my jaws in frustration, crooked my head, hummed unappreciatively. This did not help me relocate the crater. A thin but generously sticky veil of blood coated the inside of my mouth. In hindsight, I don’t quite remember where my brain was in this moment, but I drew back my fist, and then flattened it, and slammed it against my jaw, as if it would knock the problemchild tooth out of the house. It didn’t. So I tried again, and again, until I was sure a bruise would remain, but none did, as I didn’t hit hard enough. I suppose my body stopped me from entirely going through with it. I’d gone to my room to recover from the day and here I was causing myself harm, and for no earthly reason other than a very childish rage, wishing in that second that I could be the very tooth I aimed to eradicate. I wanted to be able to remain sturdy in my gums, even with a hole driven straight into my core. I wanted to be unshakeable—and yet I detested when something else was, treating the
very ideal of what I believed “strength” to be as if it were a cancer. My tooth, he missed his chance. He could have run, and he should have. He should have fled from my jealousy as quickly as he could manage. He should have bubbled up with the blood I forced out around him, but no—he clung, still clings, even as my wisdom teeth try to push him around and my knuckles rattle his very foundation. I should have been wilder, uncomprehending, and relentless—I should have eradicated him and taken his place, and I know that now, but I didn’t then. Then, I’d stopped and nursed my damaged mouth, carefully brushed my teeth, and flossed, driving the thread between the bone, the act more delicate than I could ever recall it having been before. I made slow work of a quick and nasty job. I savored it. He could have been free, that tooth. I think it would have been polite if he’d left when I offered him the opportunity. But I see the necessity, now, in his quiet and stubborn nature—I see how he’d find no issue in holding onto his roots, even if it meant that some of them would pull up from the visceral ceiling he clung to, and that some may rip, or weaken. I see beauty in how he brushed away fear, and in how he disobeyed my command—knowing what was right, knowing what was best for him and, in return, doing what was best for me.
Yards Christina Sumpter We used to starve ourselves with jello and apple juice. Allowing the colors to turn our shirts into spotted rainbows and fading copper coins. If it wasnâ€™t colorful, we didnâ€™t eat. We crossed our legs and hid the stains under thin napkins, folding our hands to mimic that we were satisfied. The same grass we practiced riding our bikes in turned brown, remnants of green streaking our shoes. Tainting our legs red with bug bites, streaks of blood crystallizing like tree sap. Our parents expecting sunlight to make us grow, some of us still remain hidden in the nook of the trees. Looming over our heads like umbrellas as we bury our faces into its trunk. Occasionally peaking at the division of our narrow shadows, the roots of the tree like a partition. The yard across the street is abandoned with no children emerging from the umbra of the trees, traces of shoe sizes outlined in the way the grass folds like melting plastic. Every time we lift our heads to shield our eyes from the sun, we see the yard melting.
Picnic Tracy Lin 40
my mom’s playful uncle, and my cousin Olivia, whose lakefront house inspired Ana Shaw days outside, on the water, designing civilizations in fallen trees. We visited a Seaside Beach condo, hunted “My whole adolescence, I dreamed sharks’ teeth. We played unaware of a of leaving the South. Until I moved up Confederate flag smirking over the state North. Then I realized how much I belong capital. An impermanent ignorance. here.” I sit in my mom’s car, hands draped Mid-June this year, Dylan Roof opened in studded leather wristbands, holding fire at a predominately black church. a messenger bag adorned with political- Roof’s crime sparked anguish against statement buttons. Black nail polish flying the flag. Historically, South complements my black Converse high tops. Carolina stands against pressured I dress rebellious, trying to be renegade. change. This was different. Friday, Liberal. Intellectual. My mother has spent July 10th—as I arrived in the city, state government twenty minutes officially removed hearing claims Confederate of repression, “I am ready to sculpt my the homage. whines of closefuture from dirt road S a t u r d a y , mindedness. She pebbles [...]” my mom and I responds patiently, visited Kadampa attempting to bring about broader understanding without Buddhist center, attending a marvelous coercion. “Living in Denver, people Dharma talk that covered relinquishing seemed wary. They acted friendly—but no self-cherishing, cherishing others, honest openness for the first year. Like an accepting change, and staying noninitiation, when the South embraced me— attached to past situations. Later, we continues to embrace me.” We have this drove past the Capitol building—24 hours unencumbered by the flag. conversation again and again. Two years have elapsed since Three people stood, feet planted my righteous-angst era. Latitude does firmly, waving massive Confederate not repress me, but I prefer guitar over flags. Stubbornness leaked from their banjo and veganism shuns mac ’n cheese clamped fists, tight around flagpoles. or fried chicken. I find home between Indignation sweated from their creased stereotypes—vegan cornbread and cashew foreheads. Remembering the Dharma cheese macaroni served by college kids in dreadlocks. Florida’s swamps undefined talk, Mom concentrated. “They are in by overweight men and alligators. a lot of pain—emotional suffering, I Unveiling South Carolina beyond the mean. They probably think the whole Confederate flag. Tracing steps along world is collapsing. Times change fast north Georgia’s subtle mountains, winding and they must feel like everyone is through Appalachia, touching beauty fierce leaving them behind. Imagine, so much terror, so much attachment to the past, as flaws. This summer, I visited Columbia, that you fight for a hate symbol.” I nod, seeing the distress South Carolina for a kayaking camp. Growing up, South Carolina meant seeing controlling these men and women, but
the flag was wrong—empathy for them felt stunningly heterodox. How could I support one side while respecting the other? On Monday morning, our outdoors camp stands poised upon the Congaree River, organizing kayaks and slathering on sunscreen before five hours snaking through trees and rocks. The guide, Bryce, positions his sunglasses, clears his throat, catching our attention. “Now, this here is the Congaree River.” A few nods. “The Congaree has historical significance. You see, back in the Civil War when that evil General Sherman— haha—captured this fine city, his men dumped a whole bunch of Confederate armory into a river. Not too long ago, some people found that artillery around here. They’re excavating it soon.” Pause. “Alright! Everyone into your kayaks!” He steps back. My cousin speeds off, skilled from years of practice. My sister follows right behind. I shift into a comfortable position, plant my paddle against sand, and push off. Words resound silently. Evil General Sherman? He was joking, right? He laughed. That probably means he wasn’t serious. We wobble around until catching a current. Maneuvering rocks and fallen logs, getting caught on most of them, distracts me. “Keep straight here! Careful— it’s narrow.” We’ve been kayaking about an hour. I can paddle steadily, avoiding most obstacles, finally able to enjoy myself. I look around. Luscious green leaves meld together, color broken only by pale tree trunks. Moss-sicken rocks crack a labyrinth though glassy water. I sigh. A brilliantly purple dragonfly lands on my kayak and surveys her kingdom.
Suddenly, a thought breaks. Confederate armory under the water. My eye catches the nearby bank. Confederate soldiers may have walked these shores, stepped on these rocks. Later, the poor—of multiple races—who labored fields after those soldiers lost. Recently, the men and women plastering old stars and bars across their trucks, above their roofs because someone died for the sake of hate. The dragonfly tilts into the sunlight. Her clear wings ignite into rainbows, erupting colors expansive as this land’s mistakes, misguided causes, bigotry, beauty, people pitifully loyal to all the wrong symbols. But these people are my family, a literal and cultural lineage, whispering in genetic history and shouting in every accidental “y’all.” Drawing contours in the gray between support and rejection, love and hate, black and white. I am from the South. I am ready to listen. I am ready to sculpt my future from dirt road pebbles salvaged along the Blue Ridge Mountains, Spanish moss pulled from Tallahassee trees, spare change from adults with evaporating traditions, their futures dependent on generations they misunderstand. This is my homecoming.
Domonique Eryka Goldsworthy 43
Bistro Mary Feimi In the middle of July, my father burned his skin creating flesh like watermelon. Soft, delicate, ruby skin. Customers asked him for more, more Chianti poured into petite glasses, not noticing his skin ripen, blister from the heat fumes of the metallic oven. He goes on and makes more pizzas, numbing the burn in off-white dough. His hands smell like the color of his skin, toasted almond. Hair dusted with flour, garlic roasting with red peppers. When the restaurant is silent and dim, his hands take on a new smell: Clorox. His back hunched over, veins pop on arms, eyes wrinkle, nose intoxicates the chemicals as he moves back and forth with the mop, makes the floor slush until he smells bleach, peppers, and watermelon all at once.
She was an attorney for a minor firm, but she’d see the Justin Bumgardner occasional malpractice suit, scaling from a surgeon’s wedding ring being sewed up inside a patient, to deaths “Doctors have been getting worse the ones under the knife expected to at cataract surgery,” her husband kindly wake up from, shaken up in a hospital pointed out to her. She felt older, having room, a bit ill, but alive, and excited to this problem. An elderly problem, it go home. She was used to being seemed to her. Forty-five was too young of an age to be losing her vision. A dark the earner, the caretaker in her storm cloud hovered in front of her eye relationship, and as she looked in the at all times, blinding her with doomsday mirror as close as she could, she feared the possible change. She walked back lightning in her pupils. She called it a family discussion, through the bedroom, shifting to her but more deeply she felt he should make business walk, something she felt she the decision for her. Their palms never had to do to fit in at her workplace. lost contact throughout the discussion, But she stopped, walked around to as he weighed the possibilities, and she the side of the bed where her husband was lying, grabbed drifted, thinking of nothing in “[...] she found out it was a marker from the junk drawer, and particular. “Might be a myth that you cannot scribbled: “I’ve made too early to make die in your dreams.” a decision. I feel as if a decision,” she I’ve been swallowed said. “Perhaps we should sleep on it. I might have an eye- whole.” She placed the paper gently opening dream about it,” she suggested to back next to her husband’s head, so her spouse. But no dream about cataracts as not to wake him, and left the house. came, only about a whale that swallowed It was raining outside, making her her, and she found out it was a myth that upcoming commute more treacherous, you cannot die in your dreams. She didn’t but she was already seeing through fear death from the surgery, but living mist wherever she went. Her husband blind. In the morning, she sat up in her would have told her to not try to bed, but it hadn’t felt like she moved. On drive, but she felt quite nihilistic and the nightstand next to her bed, she had uncaring. She took the highway to get to compiled printed sheets of research she had done about this new future with mountains work, where cars seemed not to slow of malpractice cases. She swung her arm down for the weather. To her, colored into the neat pile and made them fly like blurs blasted through what looked like confetti, but not for reason of celebration. a gray ocean. And she swore she saw The woman watched one float down like a that same blue whale from her every rocking feather and land over the eyes of thought, mouth open with road running her husband, but he slept through it. She straight through it as it swallowed up the passing cars. The water got darker. let him stay as she got ready for work.
The wipers couldn’t clear the splashing water fast enough. Was she here, in the stomach of the whale? When she thought she regained enough sanity, she attempted to call her husband, wanting to tell him she regretted not waking him up. He answered. As she tried to speak, her voice was hoarse. She never realized that she had been screaming. “Where are you?” “I don’t know,” she answered to the concerned voice on the other end. “I’ll follow your route,” he said before hanging up and sitting up on the bed. He placed his hands behind him, preparing to stand, and felt the note. He found her car in a grassy median off of the highway and he pulled up next to it, and approached it. She seemed more relaxed now, listening to a CD in the driver’s seat. It was Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”, one of her favorites. “You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do, and it’s breakin’ my heart in two,” Cat belted through the stereo. She still hadn’t looked at her husband. “Can you see?” “Almost,” she replied, still without moving her head, her eyes fixed on a certain point down the road. He talked her into his car and they drove off, neither of them caring about her car they left abandoned. They spent the trip to nowhere in particular by talking through the decision. “But you thought about what I said, right?” “Yes, but I want this choice. If I don’t do it or it goes wrong, I’ll be blind either way. I’m gambling.” It was decided, and she was the earner again, the bread-winner. Later on, she lied on an operating table, her trust lying in the hands of a man. One man of many that
once could easily perform this. Before medicine took two steps back, and the doctors were more nervous and unsteady than the patients. But luckily, she was asleep and emotionless. Which wasn’t a change for her.
Unafraid Victoria Sherwood 47
Resistance Lesson Jordan Jacob The last summer, we watched muted purple evenings pass slowly. Dad and I staggered on porch steps looking for lightning, a voice trembling. Instead, we found feathers falling before the rain, birds searching for shelter elsewhere. We stayed. We were live-wires exposed, and currents flickered above us like thunder clearing its throat. Dad tells me to count the seconds between strike and sound— “This way you’ll always know how far away you are.” We count miles by five, by hand, he shows me. The sky an abacus, my finger slides to trace the light. The clouds hiccup and there’s lightning. How many miles if we pretend not to hear thunder? Through cloud breaks, we saw brilliance die an expected death. The wind stilled and hushed around us. Shadowed and swaying, the trees were the only evidence of storm. Soft porchlight shone in his palm, and I extended my fingers not counting on always, but on this.
No. 4 Deja Echols 49
Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...
Published on Dec 7, 2015
Élan is an international student literary magazine and a publication of the Creative Writing department at Douglas Anderson School of the Ar...