F IRETHORNE The Gustavus Journal of Literar y and Graphic Arts
2 016 G ustavus A dolphus C ollege
Dear Reader, It’s been an exciting year for Firethorne. With the format changing from two issues to one, the editorial staff now consisting of the students in the English department’s new Editing and Publishing class, and of course the unpredictable slew of submissions, the creation of Firethorne has never been more of an honor. We thank you, those who submitted, for your contribution to us. We received over one hundred submissions this year of art, prose, and poetry, and every one of them was a privilege to review. We’ve done our best to craft a singular creative voice from the many pieces you’ve given us. Every submission offered us a glimpse into the feelings and thoughts of what it means to be an artist here at Gustavus, from the triumphant to the tragic, the heartfelt and the hopeless. Our selections for what to publish were often divisive and close-cut, and with an enormous sense of pride we can tell you that when pieces were given a decision, rejection or acceptance, there was a resonance within our staff that reflected how much your work spoke to us. No rejection was easily given, and no acceptance freely won, which once again shows the tremendous value that each and every one of you are in the creative habitat at Gustavus. Our staff has worked tirelessly to produce this issue of Firethorne, and while we had our part in creating it, this issue, and ultimately, Firethorne itself, belongs to you all. It is your work, your voice, and your creativity that gives this literary magazine life. On behalf of the entire Editorial Staff, we thank you. Happy reading, Cory Witt, Poetry Editor & Jared Leonard, Prose Editor
F irethorne S taff M A N AG I N G E D I TO R Kelsey Skjerping P RO S E E D I TO R Jared Leonard
P O E T RY E D I TO R Cory Witt
D E S I G N E D I TO R S Rita Morgan
C O P Y E D I TO R S Amanda Downs Alaina Rooker AC QU I S I T I O N S E D I TO R Earl Stoll M A R K E T I N G & P RO M OT I O N Brittany Bice
ASS I S TA N T E D I TO R S Liz Adams Katie Allen Jenna Hooper Emma Hunt Imani James
Amanda Koep Jack Laingen Sage Mathers Kjersten Piper
Firethorne archives and submission guidelines are available at www.gustavus.edu/orgs/firethorne.
C O N T E N TS
P oetry Delaney Sweet -9-
Jamie Jennissen -26- I Mean August Moehrke -40- Waldeinsamkeit Marina Rizzo -42- Exquisite Corpse Molly Butler -49- Newspaper Haikus Sophie Panetti -51- -Be StillNoah Nguyen -52- One Third Gretchen Seewald -61- Networking -80- Ambidextrous Earl Stoll -62- Blood Red Riding -79- On Samuel Palmer’s The Gleaning Field Will Neuenfeldt -66- White Miranda Shaffer -67- Me, Myself, I and You -78- His Faithless Katie Allen -68- 7.99 -77- White Noise Joel Stremmel -74- A Freshman Philosopher’s Erotic Love Poem Nels Foslien -82- Reproduction
P rose Jamie Jennissen -12- 20 Times Nels Foslien -14- Tunnelbeast Jared Leonard -27- What Death Would Let Me Keep Lydia Hayes -45- Agnes Caitlin Juvland -48- News to Send a Man Packing -57- For the Cops Emma Hunt -71- On Purpose
A RT Reina Nielsen -11- The Watchers -41- Lichen -60- Pollen Dust Rachel Gunderson -13- Layers Alaina Rooker -17-24-70-76Julie Xiong -25-39-55-56-69-81-
The Barrel Picture St. Peter Gates Pop Build It Hanging Brass Lanterns Sunset Shrine Carefree in Shinjuku Leaves in a Gutter Peachy Pink in Bloom Illuminating Sunset in Fall
Catherine Johnson -44- Meteora, Greece -65- Fairy Lights in St. Goustan, France Noah Nguyen -47- The Exhibit Megan Johnson -50- A Confidential Sketch Splicing Jordyn Roemhildt -54- A Childâ€™s Effect Jordan Randall -64- Untitled Emily Meyer -75- The Only Blues I Could Swallow
SENIOR ENGLISH MAJOR
Hanging Tree I am your hanging tree, Full of weak branches, Every year you come to me, And say today’s the day, And I hope that I’m dreaming. Each time the noose is a little tighter, Stool a little lighter, You still don’t know that I am the one failing you, You lace me with rope, And hug me again, Please let there be an again. “Thank you” I break again, I have four branches beneath me, Three are yours and one is my own, I am done growing, There are only so many branches left. There’s one branch that I rely on, The branch that God sits on, He whispered in my ear when my branch fell, He said I will never fall,
But you donâ€™t see him there. You make sure your noose is tight, Stool is light, And you call me your hanging tree.
SENIOR BIOLOGY & GEOGRAPHY WITH GIS MAJOR
The Watchers 2016
FIRST-YEAR SECONDARY EDUCATION MAJOR
20 Times 20 times 20 flicks of the light on and off before I go to bed and the babysitter gets mad at me. 20 taps of the pencil on the desk in math and the teacher gets mad at me. 20 pushes of the ON/OFF button and my dad gets mad at me. 20 clicks of the bathroom door, open and shut, and my sister gets mad at me. 20 zips of my book bag, back and forth, and my mom gets mad at me. 20 times up and down the basement stairs and my heart gets mad at me. Wait, that time didn’t count. No, I lost count. 20 more times up and down the stairs. “What are you doing?” says my brother. 20 more times; he interrupted it. 20 slams of my locker door. The students all stare. 20 times I blink in a row. 20 chews of my sausage pizza before I swallow it. Wait, I lost count. Wait, should I spit it out? 20 chews of the next bite. 20 pen clicks in geography. Wait, 20 more. Just 20 more. That wasn’t right; I’ll do one more set. 20 more clicks. Everyone throws me death glares. I blink 20 times. 20 more. No, that was 21. 20 more. 20 more. 20. Times I repeat the letters the doctor said to me. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. OCD. 20 times I repeat sets of 20. 20 times. I blink at myself in the mirror and repeat back the letters. I lose track. Again. Again. Again. Just one more time. Tears. I have to blow my nose. I blow it 20 times and then 20 more until the blood drips onto my t-shirt. 20 more times. It’s only blood. It’s okay. Only blood. I sob more, screaming the letters. OCD. Just 20 more. 20 more. 20. My chest heaves. I’M TRYING. Just 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. 20. Mom. Car. Doctor. Medication. 60 pills in the box; that’s three sets of 20. 60 pills, but two today. Just two. An overdose can result in fatality. Just two. Not 20. Not 20. NOT 20. My hands shake; I take one pill. I take two pills. Not 20. I tremble. Just 18 more is 20. 20 pills.
RACHEL GUNDERSON SENIOR STUDIO ART MAJOR
SENIOR ENGLISH & BIOLOGY DOUBLE-MAJOR
Tunnelbeast On a small moon some three billion kilometers from Earth, the electrician was hungry. He turned to look at the woman who was sitting next to him, propped up on a pillow and cradling a cigarette. “I think we have to get out of bed,” he said, the statement was punctuated with a rumble from his stomach. The woman did not respond, her head was tilted away from him and long tendrils of cigarette smoke caressed her cold face. Cigarettes had gone extinct years ago, but this was not a real cigarette. This wasn’t a real woman either—she was a hologram, an advertisement for Mercan Cigarettes whose unmistakable logo hung perpetually over her shoulder. The electrician placed his numb feet on the floor and slid open the curtains. It was now well into the afternoon—he had spent the previous evening watching stars and meteors pass as the moon drifted through space. The window looked out over Mirandatown—or rather what was left of Uranus V’s mining town. The town was empty now, as the mines had long been abandoned, yet it was still lit—albeit erratically—by large fluorescent bulbs suspended between the roofs of buildings. Sunlight was unreliable here and instead the lights worked on a timer set to the seasonal light patterns on Earth. These had once kept the workers on task. The electrician descended a cramped staircase into the kitchen. The hologram followed; the ceaseless trail of smoke flowed behind her. He had found the hologram— or rather the charred control—after a fire in the house that had once belonged to the director of operations. 14
The control had gone stuck so that it only played the one advertisement on repeat, but he didn’t mind. He called her Evangeline after a girl he had once known on Earth. That had been such a long time ago he often wasn’t sure there really had been another girl or if there had only been the advertisement this whole time. He placed the control in his pocket and she would follow him always. Sometimes Evangeline would fizzle for a second and he would watch her as she began her routine. He had long since memorized it, but still he watched. She would fish a long, white cigarette out of a pack that materialized from nowhere, light it with a quick flick of her thumb and take a long, slow drag. She would close her eyes and say, “Mercan Cigarettes have a fresh flavor and help me feel relaxed.” It was the only thing she ever said. On nice days when most of the lights seemed to be working, he would often take her for a walk and show her his world. He would walk down Seventh Avenue and she would follow and they would pass the bakery and he would point and say, “That is where the baker worked, he was a good friend and very wise. He had been here for as long as anyone could remember. They called him the baker, but his job was to heat and apportion the canned food that was hauled in on spaceships. He was very good at his job.” They would pass by the natural lake that supplied water to the town and the artificial trees that pumped oxygen into the moon’s frail atmosphere. He would put his hand on the smooth bark of the trees to make sure they were still vibrating. Two of them had stopped already. He didn’t know how to fix them. Finally they would pass the chapel, which had at one point been a nearly remarkable structure given its isolated location although now it was somewhat rundown. He would tell her about the priest whose Sunday morning sermons were always stimulating and about how he always could turn a dull day into a cheerful one. In the front of the chapel, on 2016
a board that had once been filled with inspiring messages and informative articles, there was now only a single sheet of paper. It was a cut out from the Mercan Daily—one of the last issues. The short article detailed the abandonment of the mines. “Due to the current economic depression,” it read, “the executive board of the Mercan Corporation has elected to temporarily cease mining operations on Uranus V. Regular operations will resume as soon as the company has recovered…” he had it memorized by now. There was no mention of Mirandatown or its inhabitants who, underfunded and unprepared for the termination, had been left behind with no way to afford a passenger ship to haul them all away back to Earth. Sometimes during these outings, Evangeline’s head would turn and she would appear to follow the electrician’s pointing finger with some interest. Sometimes she would give him a coy smile as if to tell him she enjoyed his company and he would always make a point to tell her how much he enjoyed hers. But most of the time she only stared blankly into space or seemed entirely focused on her cigarettes, a fact which troubled him, though he didn’t know why. He realized he expected a lot from something that was only a defective cigarette advertisement after all. In the kitchen, the electrician prepared breakfast while Evangeline toyed with her cigarette. It was tunnelbeast for breakfast again. It was always tunnelbeast—the last source of food on the moon—and now his supply was dwindling. He would have to hunt again. It would be the first time he would have to do it alone. After breakfast the electrician gathered a few of his belongings. In a backpack, he packed two bottles of water, a length of cord, three buckets, a headlamp with extra batteries, and a crude spear he had fashioned from a flagpole, a box cutter, and an entire bottle of Mercan Miracle Glue. He also packed the last of the dried tunnelbeast meat. He then put on his poofiest jacket and his thickest 16
The Barrel Picture
SENIOR COMMUICATION STUDIES MAJOR
wool hat. He put Evangeline’s control in his pocket and began to walk down Seventh Avenue. For a while the pair walked in silence, but soon the electrician began to talk about the town as was his habit. He pointed to the chapel and said, “The priest was very reassuring. He told us to be strong. He told us that the company would shower us with bonuses. He said we would be rewarded for our loyalty and perseverance.” Then he pointed to an apartment across from the chapel and said, “The man who lived there was very loud. He used to go out on the streets with big signs and tell people that the Mercan Corporation would never return. He said we were all doomed.” Evangeline and the electrician again walked in silence until he added, “I guess he was right.” Suddenly, the electrician smiled, he thought for a moment and then said, “The baker gathered a few of us together—the strongest and the most sensible. He told us that the food was running out. He said we would starve, except he had a plan. He told us to grab our flashlights and shovels and pickaxes and he told us that we were going to hunt the tunnelbeast. We were very scared. The tunnelbeasts are big and mean. We all had friends who had been taken by the tunnelbeasts that lived deep below the mines. But as much as we were scared, we knew what we had to do.” He paused. “It was a lot of meat.” The tunnelbeasts were the first to rule the moon. They filled it with their holes—wide, round tunnels that pierced through the core of the moon and looped around back again. When the humans came, the tunnelbeasts retreated deep into their tunnels in fear of the loud mining machines and bright lights. It was a simple task for the humans to repurpose the tunnels for themselves, though the beasts still roamed the deepest parts of the tunnels. There were many horror stories of what happened when a miner roamed too deep without a proper light source. After the hunting party had returned, they cooked and ate the tunnelbeast meat at a huge feast and then many of them developed parasites that made them crazy as the parasites 18
ate their way up to the brains and then out through the ears. Of those that survived, few dared to eat the tunnelbeast again, but the electrician liked to think that there was an iron stomach in his genes. While others starved, he had inherited all of the leftover meat and had not run low on food until now. At the entrance to the mine, the electrician stopped. It was very dark inside and the air was thick and full of uncertainty. He had once spent every day of his life in the mine wiring and rewiring and filling the tunnels with light so that the miners could see their work and not have to be afraid of the tunnelbeasts. Now the power had been cut off to the mines. All energy had been diverted to the town to keep the lights on and the trees running. His headlamp broke through the darkness, but only fleetingly and the longer he stood, the more the darkness seemed to be strangling the light. “Mercan Cigarettes have a fresh flavor and help me feel relaxed,” said Evangeline. The electrician took the length of cord and tied it around a stake in the ground. It would not be enough, he knew, but he halfway didn’t expect to come out alive anyway. Soon the pair were making great progress into the belly of the moon. He smelled it before he could see it. The familiar suffocating stench crept across the floor and penetrated his nostrils. He wanted to gag, but he set his jaw. He turned the corner and let his headlamp illuminate the beast. It sat on the stone floor, its heaving body filling the tunnel from floor to ceiling, wall to wall. From its pores oozed the foul odor in the form of white pus, which dripped down its sides and coated everything it touched.The pus would dry quickly, hardening to provide support for the extensive tunnels. The beast didn’t have any eyes, but it sensed the electrician’s presence by vibrations from the man’s feet, palpitations from his heart, disturbance from his breath. It reared its head revealing its long and massive body, and bellowed a low note that sent pus flying through the constricted air. It flexed its powerful circular jaw showing rows upon rows of gnashing, grinding teeth. The 2016
electrician raised his spear. The beast charged, propelling its long body forward like an uncoiling spring. The electrician braced himself and drove the spear into the soft flesh between the tunnelbeast’s molars. Snarling, the beast recoiled. The electrician made his advance, plunging the spear over and over into the leathery skin. The beast thrashed about, throwing its body around the tunnel, and flung the electrician into the rocks, leaving him gasping for air. The two clashed until the electrician lay sprawled on the floor with his chest heaving and the body of the beast was left a deflated husk. Cautiously, the electrician approached the carcass. With his tool he made an incision in the leathery hide so that the insides came spilling out. It was squishy and jelly-like. He took the stack of buckets out of his backpack and used one of them to scoop out some of the insides. He put the lid on the bucket. Then he repeated the action with two more buckets, filling them to the brim with the steaming goop. That was all he could carry. His chest was completely soaked in the mess and he could barely stand the smell, but he forced himself to think about how the goop would solidify when he cooked it and how he would lay it out in strips to dry and with some of the leftover salt from the bakery stores it wouldn’t smell so bad anymore. He began to feel hungry, remembering he hadn’t eaten much in almost two days now, still he feared the sickening effects of eating the raw goop. He stood up, wiped his palms on his shirt and, with a sinking stomach, realized that the confusion from the battle had left him completely and hopelessly lost. The cord had run out hours ago and he had left the end hanging on the wall where he might see it—if he could find his way back. He held his head in a hand. “Mercan Cigarettes have a fresh flavor and help me feel relaxed,” said Evangeline. The electrician picked a direction and started walking. He wandered around for a long time. Eventually he had to leave one of the buckets behind because he simply couldn’t carry it anymore. Then he left another behind. His headlamp 20
burned through the primary set of batteries and soon the spares. He was forced to take the batteries out of Evangeline’s control. He tried not to think about it, but he missed the silvery glow in the corner of his eye. All the time, he was trying to move upwards. But it’s hard to tell which way is up in the center of a small moon whose gravity is not very strong. His hunger turned into sharp pangs and then a dull emptiness. He considered eating raw tunnelbeast. He thought he might be going insane. He walked until his feet ached. He walked until his body ached. He walked through a thick puddle of what he thought might be the carcasses of a hundred liquefied tunnelbeasts. He walked as his feet began to succumb to the tunnelrot. He knew the disease well—when a miner spent too long in the lower, damper tunnels, their skin purpled and peeled off in huge flakes. The flesh was eaten away until only sand-white bone remained. His feet fell off at the ankle and he collapsed in the darkness. The foreman was in the street again. He was spitting; he had galaxies for eyes. He was saying something crazy about the apocalypse, about a floating lady in white, about strange monsters, about Earth being blown to shreds… it didn’t matter; no one listened. “He’s hallucinating,” someone said. They tried to calm him, but this time he could not be placated. Two men pinned him to the asphalt, but he still struggled, shouting. The lights went out: Curfew. A few too-long milliseconds and someone turned on a flashlight, forcing the bobbing light onto the foreman’s wild face. In the yellow glow he was a ghostly, sickly green. His eyes bulged, straining against their sockets. He was quieter now; only a rasping hiss escaped his lips. “Hurts,” he gasped. He clenched his fists. “Hurts.” Then his head exploded. Jets of red hot liquid streamed 2016
into the street. The men recoiled, stumbling back from the pool of steaming, smelling liquid, and falling into each other until the man with the flashlight recovered enough to reveal the horror before them. The poor man’s head had concaved and from his ears, dripping in dark blood, writhed the hairless bodies of pale worms as long and as thick as a man’s arm. “God!” cried a man, choking on whatever had risen in his throat. “What are they?” uttered another more softly, “Where did they come from?” “The beasts,” came the bland answer. It was only a guess. The electrician was awoken by Evangeline. She was holding his head in pink fleshy palms and staring directly into his eyes. Her brows were furrowed, but her eyes were smiling. She has the most beautiful hazel eyes, he thought. He reached out and caressed her cheek, it was soft and warm. He felt her hot breath on his wrist. Suddenly, she turned away and she was pointing. His eyes followed her finger and settled on the flame of a cigarette lighter farther off in the tunnel as she said, “Mercan Cigarettes have a fresh flavor and help me feel relaxed.” “Yes,” he said. “I could use some relaxing.” And then she was gone and he was all alone in the tunnel. She was gone, but his feet were there. They were cold and wet and tired, but still indisputably attached. He wiggled his toes. The headlamp had gone out for the final time and he tossed it aside. He realized it was dark, but not completely as it had been before. He looked up and saw the cigarette lighter flame far off at the end of the tunnel—just where Evangeline had pointed. His feet ached, his body ached, but he found now that the end of the tunnel was not too far away and he reached it before long. Now he stood at the end of the tunnel and it had ended on the edge of a massive cliff and below him in the valley was not a cigarette lighter, but many lights suspended between buildings and illuminating a town. He smiled to himself because 22
the sight was so familiar and safe. But as he watched the lights he realized he was not home because there were people—many people that hurried about in their daily business, though as he watched them he noticed that none of the business seemed to involve mines or tunnels in any way. It appeared to be mainly construction. He thought he must have come out at the other side of the moon—well maybe not that far away, but it felt as though he had come out on the other end of an alternate reality. And it began to make sense to him because there was a spaceship—a cargo ship—that took off from the port and on the side in big letters was “MEGA-MERCAN RESORTS.” In half an hour he was standing inside a convenience store. On the façade, the sign had read “General Store” and the rest was made up like a building in an old cowboy flick—in keeping with the theme of the resort town. The electrician ran his hand along the wood paneling, which splintered under his touch. It must have been imported from three billion lightyears away. There was food on the shelves—mainly candy bars and other sweets. Soft drinks ran along a fridge on the back wall. The electrician walked up to the counter where a heavy-browed cashier smiled politely. “One pack of Mercan Cigarettes,” he said, digging in his pocket for loose change.
ALAINA ROOKER SENIOR COMMUNICATION STUDIES MAJOR
S t. Peter Gates
SENIOR SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
H anging Brass Lanterns 2016
FIRST-YEAR SECONDARY EDUCATION MAJOR
I Mean In chemistry, the class I mean. He lends me a pencil. Thank you, I say. I really like you, I mean. I offer my textbook to share, my feelings, I mean. He says he can use his own. I drop a beaker and it shatters. My heart, I mean.
SENIOR BIOLOGY MAJOR
What Death Would Let Me Keep
Her name was Susan Callaghan. We’d dated once. She was something with those twisting auburn locks and bright blue eyes. Things didn’t work. We fought too much and fucked too little, but we kept in touch. We stayed friends for a while afterwards, right up until her new boyfriend went and put a hatchet to her face for something I couldn’t remember. She’d been dead for six years. Yet here she was, sitting on crumbled concrete, black ribbon in her hair. Her feather-pattern dress whipped in the wind. Sand raced past in thin rivulets. She looked at me, her face free of marred skin and mangled bone. I had died. The truck had been hit by something and ended up a jagged mess of twisted metal. The driver had been splattered; warm bits of him misted my face. I never learned his name. The door crumpled inward on my leg and flames licked the back of my head. Thankfully, it had been quick. The shadow had come from around the corner, gunmetal glittering in his hands. Three hot, hard pokes, square in the chest, just like that. I looked around. It wasn’t the exact spot, but it was the same place. Thick black smoke streaked a rust orange sky. Explosions and gunfire drummed in the distance. “I’m really dead, huh?” I asked. Susan nodded. “Yup.” “Well that fucking sucks.” “Yup.” “Why am I talking to you?” I asked. The wind picked up, throwing more sand into the air, covering the sky in a hazy filter of grit. Sandstorm was coming. They always did in the evening, to try once more and wear the man-made things away. “Why not Jane? Or Hal?” 2016
Susan jumped from the misshapen shelf, brushing the wrinkles from her dress. “Your wife’s not dead, and they try to keep family members from meeting one another again.” Her lip twisted slightly. “They say it makes things...messy.” “Who says?” I asked. I leaned in close to make sure I wasn’t too loud. “You’re not talking about, like, God, are you?” “You mean the guy with the beard and white robes and stuff?” She shook her head. “Nah, that stuff isn’t around here.” She began to walk, moving along the cratered street. I followed. “So he’s not real?” Susan shot me a look. “I didn’t say that. I just said anything like that isn’t here. They like to keep things neutral while you’re on your way.” “Who’s making all these rules?” I asked. She sighed. “You’ll meet them soon enough, but I don’t really know who they are.” Her gaze turned to a cracked mural on a wall. “Besides, you really should be trying to enjoy this.” “Enjoy what?” I glanced over everything around. “I hate this place.” I breathed in deep through my nose. “Smell that? Kababs and kerosene.” She turned around the corner of some shelled brick house. I rubbed my eyes. “Don’t look,” she said. I didn’t. Grass rustled in my ears. “Smell that?” she asked. I did. There was tiger lily and skunkweed, with manure, earthy and full, and fresh paint. I opened my eyes. Grain, grown and golden rippled in the wind, like the rising fur of some great sleeping beast. Uncle Aberdeen’s newly painted house shined in the distance, while the lone old cedar tree next to it stood like a sentinel among the grasses. The sun sank down over the hills, streaking the purple sky with ochre stripes. “Better, isn’t it?” she asked. “I used to work here every summer,” I said. “Ma had to work two jobs. Didn’t want me running around town, getting into trouble.” The wind was warm. I held out my arms. “Eighteen summers I 28
spent here, before I joined the army and they sent me to…” I stopped. I was in the army. And they sent me somewhere. Where was it? I had just been there. “I did two tours,” I said. A pressure built behind my eyes. “And they were in...they were-” “You won’t remember,” Susan said. “That’s why we had to walk. They were taking it, the time you spent over there.” My head grew warmer. She was staring at the tree. “Them again?” I asked. “And they’re doing what? Taking it?” She nodded. “They start with the places you’ve been. They pick a few and let you see them one more time.” She brushed a rogue lock of hair back into place. “Like I said, you should be enjoying this.” She took a step forward into the field. I reached out to stop her. “Wait a second,” I said, “I’m going to forget these places?” “You’re going to forget everything.” “But I don’t want to.” “Too bad,” she said, freeing herself from my grasp. “I don’t want to forget,” I said, chasing after her. The grain spikes brushed along my jeans. Had I always been wearing jeans? And this T-shirt, it was white. Shouldn’t it have been olive? Another spike between my eyes as I tried to remember. “That’s just the way it works,” she said. “They make the rules, not me.” “Can you talk to them?” I asked. “No.” She didn’t look at me. She just kept walking, heading towards the cedar. I reached for her again. I didn’t see the root. Its long, snarled fingers caught my foot. Withered wheat crinkled beneath my weight; dirt filled my mouth. My eyes closed; pain flared inside my knee, inside my head. Then I felt rain. Heard it plinking off my coat, almost overwhelming the sound of speeding cars. My hands pushed off wet concrete. Neon signs glowed in the misty downpour. Susan stared at me, arms drawn across her chest. Her feather-pattern dress clung tightly to her body. 2016
The place had changed again. Where were we before? It was... what was it? I rubbed my temples. There was grain, or was it wheat? And the tree. Maple? Oak? My breath tightened, and I felt ice beneath my fingernails. “Can you just stop?” she asked. The lines in her face grew deeper. “We have to go.” A yellow sedan whizzed by. I knew this place, too. My car had died some six miles from the nearest auto shop. It was a long walk, but one where I met Jane inside some rundown diner nearby. We shared pancakes, smothered with heavy syrup and cinnamon. Or were they waffles? The needle dug deeper in my ear. I winced, doubling over. “Stop it,” Susan said. “This isn’t fair.” I said. “It’s never fair.” I could see tears in those eyes. “It isn’t fair from the start.” Thunder roared above us. Lightning spiderwebbed the sky. “But we don’t have a choice anymore.” She turned to the auto-shop. “C’mon, we’re almost done.” “What if I stay here?” I asked, holding out my arms defiantly. “What if I just never leave? What then?” She shut her eyes, as if it hurt to look at me. “Then they’ll come get you themselves. They won’t let you see anyone. They’ll take it all.” The torrent pounded on her. “They’ll take every last thing.” “I want to meet them,” I said, voice cracking. “I want to talk to them.” She pointed to the shop. “Then come with me.” We walked. Chalk lines on the curb washed away, swirling down the storm drain. Cars kept racing by, wide tails of water following behind them. Susan stopped at the door to the shop. It was warped black wood, with a dull brass knob, fitted where those clear, glass-pane, bar-handle ones should have been. A neon sign buzzed above. A lone crow sat beneath it, feathers ruffled in the rain. “What is this?” I asked. “The next part,” she said. She tried to smile at me softly. “Try 30
to enjoy this. It’s like...like a going away party.” “And they’re in there?” I asked. “I want to talk to them, Susan.” She nodded. “They’re in there.” I grabbed the knob. Cool brass. The hinges squealed as it opened. It was dark, too dark to see through. I paused. “It’s okay,” she said, gently pushing me forward into the black, “just go.” I went. *** It was warm. I was in clothing I’d never worn before, some grey shirt and slacks. I had just passed through the door, but it felt like forever had gone by. Just like that. The place was a stranger to me, with its soft, sooty white grasses and pale-bark trees. The needle-leaves shined sulfur yellow. Dim light glinted from the hole in the sky. I thought it was the moon, or maybe the sun, but coiling waves of fog were pouring in from it, like some great grey waterfall. They twisted down the midnight edge, burning off before reaching the ground. I didn’t try to remember somewhere else. I couldn’t. It was like trying to tear my leg from a trap, but the steel teeth had settled on a cord of nerves. It hurt too much to move my leg. It hurt too much to try and remember. I looked back. The door was gone. Had it ever even been there? A baby cried behind me. I turned. A woman, clad in white with hair the color of coal, stood in front of me. Her long dress gently rippled. Her feathered wings flexed and stretched. A pink bundle was cradled in her arms. She smiled at me, her face as pure as porcelain. “Who are you?” I asked. “Where did Susan go?” “She’s gone,” she said. “She’s been gone a long time now.” Her voice was soft and sticky, like spider-silk. “You mean that wasn’t her?” I asked. “Would it have mattered if it was?” I thought it would’ve. “You’ve been looking for me,” she said. Her bare feet 2016
stepped soundlessly towards me. “I’m one of them,” she said. She handed me the child. I took the little bundle and pulled back the soft wool cap. Tears broke at the sight of big brown eyes and a happy, toothless face. I had seen her before through television screens, heard her gurgles in telephone receivers. I had even gotten to watch her birth half a world away, although where I it was I couldn’t remember. And then I remembered where I was now. I looked to the woman, realizing what it meant, to hold her, to have her here. “No,” I said. “No, not her. She can’t be-” “The rules are different here,” she said. “We made them that way for a reason.” Her eyes looked up to the little piece of sky that showed. “She’s still there.” There had never been words so sweet before. I let out a breath, looked down at the little girl, and gave her a smile I couldn’t keep to myself. “You still down there?” I asked. “You keeping mommy busy?” She answered with a giggle, and I held her tighter. The woman leaned in next to me as the baby gripped my finger. “I never got to see her, you know?” I lost myself in those big brown eyes. Zoe. That was her name. “Hardly seems fair with how cute she is.” The woman reached down to stroke a fleshy cheek. “There is another for you,” she said. Her eyes motioned towards the winding path. I looked up to see. She wore red. Like the day I first met her. She waved slowly from a wispy tree. I took a step forward. The other woman grabbed my arm. “One after the other,” she said. Her hands reached down to Zoe, gently taking the bundle in her arms. “I’ll hold her.” I fought the urge to snatch her back. It felt wrong to let her go. I should’ve been holding her; she was my daughter, not hers. The winged woman followed me though, cooing to the child softly and settling my nerves. The fog continued to roll down, spreading through the valley. The woman and Zoe stayed back a ways while I went to her. How long had it been? A year? A year and a half? I was gone, I didn’t 32
know where, but I had spent a long time somewhere, away from her. Where was it? My head burned again. “Don’t try,” she said. Her hand brushed against my cheek. Her eyes were the color of cedar, and she smelled like lilies. I fell into her, held her, smelled her hair, felt her warmth. We stood there a long time. Maybe even forever. Who knew? What did forever mean to the dead? “Are you real?” I asked. My face was burrowed in her neck. Her pulse thrummed on my forehead. “Would it matter?” she asked. She grazed the short, stiff hairs on my head. Her lips pressed against my ear. “No,” I said, drinking in her scent. “No, I guess it wouldn’t.” I held her tighter. “I don’t want to leave,” I said. “I want to come back home.” Fire seared my skull. Water welled in my eyes. I couldn’t even remember where home was. “We can’t stay,” she said. “I can talk to her,” I said. “She makes the rules.” She pushed back slightly. “It doesn’t work that way,” she said. “This how it has to be.” My vision blurred, wet and stinging. “But we could be together, the both of us, and…” My voice caught, hooked on some invisible edge. God, no. I knew her name. I knew it. I had just said it. Our daughter. Her name. “No,” I muttered. “No. I know this.” I whipped around to where the woman stood. There was nothing in her hands. She shook her head slowly. Her face carried no smile. I turned back. She was gone too. Her name. Hadn’t I said her name? I closed my eyes. I opened them again. It was only the tree. I shook my head. “No,” I whimpered, over and over. I ran my hands along the trunk, as if the velvet bark would break away to reveal her hiding there. Her name. I knew this. I had to know it. I looked to the other trees. I looked back behind me. Only the woman with the raven wings. I had two fistfuls of her dress. “Bring her back,” I said. “You can do it. I know you can.” My heart beat behind my teeth. Guts slithered in my throat. 2016
“This is how it has to be,” she said. Her hands settled on my wrists. I shook my head. “No, you can change it. You made these rules. I can stay here, with the both of them. You can do this.” I whispered to her, “Please.” “I only helped make the rules,” she said. “And to let you stay here,” her lip curled, “that wouldn’t be fair.” “This isn’t fair!” I lifted her from the ground, shaking her. “None of this is fair! You took them away from me!” “You don’t understand,” she said, her grip growing stronger. “All those places and those people, and what makes you who you are. None of those were yours in the first place. They didn’t belong to you. That time? You stole that time. Everyone does. Everyone will. This is how the debt is settled.” Her eyes were grey and twisting, like the hellish fog of this place. “This is how the price is paid.” “I didn’t choose this,” I said. My hands were numb. She pulled her dress free from them. “No one does,” she said. “No one gets a say. No one gets a choice.” She pulled me, back to the tree, around to the other side. I struggled, fought against her hold. She dragged me all the same. I craned my neck to the branches above. A raven stared, tilting its head back at me. A door waited on the other side. I screamed. Warped black wood, misshapen ebony grain. The brass knob. Cold brass. I begged. I pleaded. I didn’t want to lose them, whoever they were. I knew I wanted to keep them. I wanted to hang on, no matter how it hurt. The knob turned, moved by some invisible hand. The hinges squealed. There was darkness beyond it. God, it was dark. “This is how things have to be,” she said. She pushed me through. I went. *** He had forgotten most everything. He had lost most everything, too. His clothes. His skin. His face. It had all been replaced by some glowing flesh, one that flickered like flames. His memories 34
were shapes. Cold outlines, marked and blurred with grey. Traps, baited and barbed and biting. He fell in them all the same. The door had disappeared, much like last time. He knew there was a door last time, but how many doors had he gone through? How many pieces had he lost? The road stretched on before him, long and narrow, hanging in some empty space that glowed with stars. It curved with others, thousands of them, melding like the roots of some tangled tree. He remembered a tree. It meant something to him some time ago. A glowing sphere loomed ahead, white tendrils flashed from its surface. He could walk there, he supposed. He could throw himself off the edge, too. Maybe he’d already done so before. They never let him do anything other than what they wanted. There was never any choice in the matter. He cradled his head in his hands. Tap. Tap. Tap. Wood on stone. A gout of fire shot from the sphere, spreading out in a long arc. What would happen if it struck him? Would he die? Tap. Tap. Tap. He curled his legs inward, sank his head low into his chest. Something hard poked his back. He looked behind him. The figure was tall, swathed in tattered black robes. The long hood covered the face, but the warped and whorled scythe and bleach-bone fingers that held it, told him everything he needed to know. This was the One. The one who made the rules. “Go away,” he said, turning back to let his head fall between his knees. The butt of the scythe poked him again. He slammed his fists into the hard stone. “Leave me be!” Tap. Tap. Tap. “No,” he said. There was a hiss. Then there was agony. All the pain he’d ever felt, ripping through him. The blade erupted from his chest. He howled as the One walked past and yanked its arm. He was thrown belly-down onto the road. He seized and twisted, screamed and flailed. Cracking phalanges began to walk. The blade took him with, its point scraping the stone, matching his screams. 2016
He wouldn’t die. He still had his debt to settle, but what was there left to take from him? He’d lost the words of songs and the taste of food, the sounds birds made and the smell of storms, the sight of a baby’s smile and the soft press of loving lips. He screamed again, but the blade seemed little to do with it. Had he been good? Had he been decent at least? Had he even tried? “Please,” he said. The One stopped. It turned back and knelt near him. Relief washed over as the blade left his back. There was no wound. Wounds were for the living. He laid there for a while. Tap. Tap. Tap. He pretended not to hear. Hard fingers lifted him by the neck, setting him on his feet. It pointed to the star, whose surface slowly twisted with currents and eddies. He sighed. “I’ll go.” They walked. Other roads dove close to his own. So many of them, too many to count, even when he had forever to do it. The stars seemed closer than before. He realized that they were moving. And then he realized they weren’t stars at all. He could see the shapes he shared with them. The One walked beside them all. So many, all headed the same way. Were they him? Who was he? You had to be somebody to be anybody. He was nobody at all. “Where are they going?” he asked. The One didn’t answer. It just kept walking, scythe rested on its shoulder. The sphere grew larger. The geysers of white fire dwarfed them. He could see the end to their journey. The roads all reached the orb and ended in archways. They were not empty. Even from here, he could see the black wood and brass. He could see the doorways. Like some necrotic mass, blighting the skin of the sun, they stood. Waiting. How could there be more? What else could be done? Maybe this would be the end? He hoped for that. An end. They reached the door. His door. The One stopped. He walked on, he wouldn’t waste time. He’d done this before, he’d 36
forgotten how many times, and he’d probably do it again. His hand gripped the knob. Warm brass. It had always been warm. And the doors were always black, the wood grain lined with white. Their insides were dark too, and he had always been afraid. He still was. A glint came between him and the wood. He froze, the edge of the scythe threatening him again. The blade reflected the One behind him. Its hand was extended, a ripped black ribbon tied around the palm. “What do you want?” he asked. The sun rumbled, roaring as another burst of fire spread out above, ash sprinkling them. The One held its hand steady. He held out his own, and the One took it by the wrist. It set its scythe against the stone, and rummaged through its robe. A glossy, pitch-colored feather emerged. The point dripped with black. The One began to scrawl into his arm. The quill tickled. The point traced lightly at first, just barely enough for him to feel, leaving hardly a mark on him. The One went through it again, the point dug deeper, the lines hardly showing. Again, the tip traced through the lines. And then again. Over and over. The One’s hood tilted from one tracing to the other, one by one. Over and over. The lines took shape, forming something he couldn’t clearly see. When it finished, the One let the feather drift away. It took its scythe back up, and stood there, silently watching. When he looked at what was written, he fell. His wail echoed through the void. It was one word, each letter a jagged, unshined carving. He rubbed them, scratched at them, trying to see if they would wipe away. They didn’t. He put his face to the mark. He caught scents of lily and cedar, faint whispers of a life long lost. The One offered him a hand. He wrapped his arms around its waist, gripping at the cloak, like a child in their mother’s arms. He screamed deep into the robes. He cried a long time. Other weepings joined his. Feathers fell like snow, brushing softly by, silent mourning markers, skittering on ash and stone. The hinges squeaked. He turned to the open door. There was no darkness. There was the star, and below it, a twisting maelstrom. It pulled 2016
at the star, but all it got were strands, small strings of light and fire. He stood and went to the edge. He cradled his ink-marked arm. Tap. Tap. Tap. “Thank you,” he said. He didn’t fall long before the waves took him. He stretched and twisted, blurring in the currents. He had died, and they had taken all of it. They scoured every phantom scrap and heartfelt fragment, paying back his debt, piece by splintered piece. But the One had given something back to him. Something small and slight and sacred, that even as he drifted in the thrashing tides, he held it close to where his heart had slept. They had taken everything else. But Death had given him his name. And then he went. He went. He went.
S unset Shrine
SENIOR SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH MAJOR
Waldeinsamkeit Tall grows my siblings, embracing their tribe Small is my spirit, adrift abounding wood Their colours so vivid, glittering vibes. Here I wander to wonder if I couldDance in their shadows, slumbering in armsMidnight foliage, breathes solitude air, Awake the next day, glowing golden mists, Following wisps into dawning azure Hollow’d ground. Woodland quiet. Mother’s song silent. Creeping shadows, her golden offspring waltz Along edges, breathing dew, kindling riots! Roused cadavers, nimble strides, misty breathsThe orchestra begins, nature’s song sung Echoing her voice, I am mother’s lungs
SENIOR BIOLOGY & GEOGRAPHY WITH GIS MAJOR
JUNIOR ENGLISH & PHILOSOPHY DOUBLE-MAJOR
Exquisite Corpse Kill me. Martyr me. Mourn me. Make me an angel. Love me, now that I’m gone. Hello. Dead girl talking. I told you, I never wanted to grow up. Dress me up in my prettiest dress. You know, my favorite sparkly one. Make me a princess for the day. Curl my hair into a blonde waterfall. I told you, I never did anything wrong. Fasten the silver cross I loved around my neck. Fold my hands just so. Make me look innocent, perfect, saintly. Like I didn’t deserve this. Have someone sing Amazing Grace. Sew my eyes shut. I don’t want to see you. Slather me in makeup. Now you’ll only have to see the pretty doll version of me. Paint my lips with strawberry shortcake, cotton candy, macaroon, peach parfait-42
which are all just shades of pink. Spray me with my vanilla perfume. Do all this so, when death kisses me hello, and hugs me close, heâ€™ll know that I was sweet. Miss me, miss me, when Iâ€™m gone. But love me, all the same. Come cry over my exquisite corpse. then choke when you hear my name.
CATHERINE JOHNSON JUNIOR ENGLISH MAJOR
Meteora , Greece
SOPHOMORE ELEMENTARY EDUCATION MAJOR
She liked watching Jane Austen movies, alone in her room with the door wide open. It was an invitation and she was waiting. I could tell because when I came by every Saturday her ruffled, white comforter was spread smoothly over her twin bed and her grey hair hugged her head in brittle curls. The coffee table’s dark cherry wood shone, except for a few white rings that had been branded there from her hot mugs of liquorice tea. She filled my hand with three ginger ales over the course of my half an hour stay, one after the other, like a bartender does when he waits on the pretty girl in the corner. She would talk to me about the latest news and old literature and I would listen, intejecting here and there. My Saturdays were Mountain Ridge Senior Living Center. I was the only one left – her great-grandniece, attached to her like the limp thread that attached her to this life. I wanted to leave, but I knew I shouldn’t have wanted to. It was like that sick thing high school girls do; that thing we keep on doing twenty years after we’ve left those girls in dusty linoleum hallways. I wanted to leave just because she wanted me to stay. There was no pride in a friend that was easy to get. That Friday I went to Grant’s house for dinner. I had met him at McCabe’s, the pub downtown, the previous Friday when I was out dancing with my girlfriends. He and I really hit it off. We kept talking until late, about the abandoned farmhouse he’d fixed up and lived in by himself. “I don’t need no one,” he said, but his eyes and his big, 2016
white smile told me otherwise. That dinner was our first real date together. I brought a Target pie that I’d heated up in my oven. I didn’t even pretend I’d made it myself. I set it in the center of his vinyl-topped table which sat in the center of his sparse, grey kitchen. He watched me over food that sat awkwardly in the space between our words and I tried not to help myself to thirds. Later, he grabbed my arm and kissed my neck as I washed the dishes. He wanted me to stay, so I did. Her hair was grey that Saturday morning. Her eyes were grey too, just like every other morning. Grey, grey, grey, grey, beige, pastel pink, and baby blue: those were the colors of her life. I told her thanks for the ginger ale before I shut the door behind me and walked down the empty hall. The next Saturday morning Grant and I drove around the back-roads of town. I let Mountain Ridge slip from my mind and fly out behind the speeding car. The next Saturday I washed Grant’s dirty stove wearing his clean T-shirt, before he woke up. I didn’t go to Mountain Ridge that day either. And the next Saturday, and the next Saturday, and the next Saturday after that, I didn’t go… until this Saturday, when the loneliness crept in my skin like the cold coming in through my window, and guilt poured into my stomach, heavier than water. He hasn’t called me in a week and she hasn’t called in five. She hasn’t asked where I’ve been. She’s just sat there, past the open door, with her stained coffee table and her ginger ales, side by side, waiting in the fridge.
SOPHOMORE INTERNATIONAL MANGEMENT MAJOR
The Exhibit 2016
FIRST-YEAR ENGLISH MAJOR
News to Send a Man Packing John Paul was born on the fifth day in June. His mother named him John Paul to please his father. It wasn’t a family name, it was a rock name. His full name was John Paul Jones, after one of the members of Led Zeppelin. His father, Mitchell Jones, never thought of himself as the type of guy to settle down, get married, have a couple kids, and live the American Dream. So when he accidentally knocked up his lady-friend Rose, he panicked. Mitch was in his late twenties when he received the news. He had a gig making repairs on the railroad tracks that ran through Brookings, South Dakota. The letter came from Iowa where Mitchell grew up. That’s where his surprise son was living. So upon receiving such news, he did what any reasonable man would do—he got wasted at eleven in the morning. Twelve hours later, Mitch woke up to find himself sprawled on the floor beside his bed. He frantically looked around, trying to decide where he was. Once he figured it out, he changed into some clothes that didn’t reek of whiskey. It was late; the sun was long gone, replaced by the moon and an endless number of stars. He walked outside and sat on his front stoop. There was a sound that resembled an aerosol can being sprayed coming from the cicada bugs. “Them bugs hibernate for seventeen years. That’s a chunk of life they ain’t ever gettin back,” Mitch muttered to himself. He let the sound soothe him. After some time, Mitch walked back into the small house, to begin packing some clothes. For the first time in a while, he had a place to go and a person to see.
SENIOR ENGLISH MAJOR
Newspaper Haikus One, two, three children Daddy shot them in their bedsI can turn the page. America and Paris bathed in bulletsI put down the Times. They typed your name wrong No sense in correcting an Obituary.
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH MAJOR
A Confidential Sketch Splicing
JUNIOR HISTORY MAJOR
-Be StillBe still and love will come to you. Be still, my child, be still. Be wild, be dark, be terror and thrill, Be raven or dove on the windowsill, Be winter cold or springtime sweet, Be ticking clock or drummer’s beat. Be stranger’s call or dear friend’s cry, Be your mother’s lullaby. But be still so love can come to you. Be still, my child, be still.
SOPHOMORE INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT MAJOR
One Third Mom, I read on Twitter that one third of what we say people would never notice. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Mom, imagine, yellow, red, without blue. Of all the color combinations I can only have orange shoes Mom, imagine, the famous Bee and Kelly without the other woman. Though she was rarely mentioned and I admit I couldn’t get her name, without someone people always forget, those two wouldn’t shine the same. Mom, imagine, a triangle without one of its tops. That’s the exact moment it stops the inclusion of a confined shape and oozes all its matters out to the vast universe where nothing makes a difference and is probably freezing.
Mom, imagine, being born, growing up, but never growing old. That is such a saturation of youth. You wouldn’t want it so, right, mom? Mom, imagine, yourself, without the ‘o’. All day to call you I’d go Mm, Mmmmmmmmm Yes, honey, mmmm?
JORDYN ROEMHILDT FIRST-YEAR STUDENT
A Childâ€™s Effect
Carefree in Shinjuku
SENIOR SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
JULIE XIONG SENIOR SOCIOLOGY &ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
FIRST-YEAR ENGLISH MAJOR
I’m 9 years old and I’m writing this for the cops. I was there the night it happened. I’m writing this because I don’t like being in those rooms with the cops. They ask you a lot of questions and I get scared and start to cry. But they say they have to know and I’m the only one who can tell them. I hope I don’t have to watch them read this. I want to be a writer someday so I should make this good. My teacher says you should build background for the story to be good. So I will tell you about myself to make this story good. Like I said I’m 9 years old. I live with my dad and sister in New York. I’ve heard Daddy say we are the lower part of the middle class. You’re probably wondering where my mom is. I don’t know either. Daddy won’t tell me. One time I asked him if she was dead and he said “She is to me.” I don’t think he meant for me to hear that. I don’t get it. If she’s dead to him wouldn’t she be dead to everyone else, too? I ask Liddy about it all the time and she always says that I’m too young and that I’m a nuisance. I plan to find out when I’m 18. People are always finding stuff out when they turn 18. My cousin Jay found out he had an HIV infection when he was 18. I’m not sure what that is. My other cousin Doris found out she was pregnant when she was 18. Sometimes I imagine my 18th birthday party. Everyone I know and get along with will be there. Some of them will be asking me to sign their copies of my New York Times bestselling book. After we cut the cake Daddy will pull me aside to tell me about Mother. I usually pretend she’s alive and then I go visit her and I show her my Crocs and she has Crocs too and then she takes me shopping for more Crocs. 2016
I have to tell you about my Crocs! I have two pairs. A red pair and a purple pair. The purple ones are old and beat up though. Liddy says they are unfashionable and she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them. One time I cried when she said that. Daddy picked me up in his arms and told me “Liza Jambalaya, don’t cry. Liddy’s just jealous of your style.” Only that’s not true he only said it to make me feel better. It kind of worked. Then he went to work. He works at night a lot. He works for the New York Times newspaper. Liddy is in charge of the house when Daddy is gone. She’s 15 and both of our birthdays were last week. Mine is June 15 and hers is June 17. We used to play checkers a lot while Daddy was at work. Mrs. Jean, our old neighbor lady would come over and watch us. She was a witch. She wouldn’t let us watch TV and she made us eat cabbage soup every day. Finally Daddy decided Liddy was old enough to take care of me and herself. Liddy stopped playing checkers with me and started acting more. I can’t go in the living room because that’s where she practices so I read a lot of books in my room. It’s kind of lonely. Sometimes she lets me watch but only when she’s practiced a lot. On June 10, I was in my room reading poems by Edgar Allan Poe. I remember it was June 10 because I was counting down to my birthday. I don’t know who Edgar Allan Poe is but the book was on the sidewalk outside of my house. I picked it up because I just finished my last book and I needed something to read. Nobody knows I have the book and I want to keep it a secret. I have a feeling Daddy would think I’m too young. There are a lot of parts I don’t get. He uses really big words. I bet I’ll understand it when I’m 18. I heard some screaming so I ran to the living room. I was real scared. I asked Liddy what was happening and she told me she was only practicing. I asked if I could watch and she said, “Don’t be such a nuisance.” I went back to my room and imagined meeting my mom. Only it wasn’t my 18th birthday it was my 9th birthday. The days before my birthday I decided to memorize one of the poems and say it to Liddy for her birthday. I closed my 58
eyes and flipped through the pages. When I opened them my finger was on The Raven. I’m going to skip to my birthday now. My birthday was so much fun! Daddy stayed home from work and all three of us went to Central Park. When we got home they gave me my present. White Crocs! And guess what else? Liddy said she would help me keep them clean! I’m going to work real hard to keep them clean. The next day Daddy had to work all day but it wasn’t so bad because Liddy and me played Checkers. And I wore my white Crocs. Then it was time for Liddy to practice her screaming. She asked if I wanted to watch but I said I couldn’t. She wanted to know why and I told her that I needed to practice. She wanted to know for what and I said she’d find out tomorrow. She smiled and said okay. The Raven is a really hard poem to memorize. I said “Tis some visitor, I muttered tapping at my chamber door- Only this, and nothing more.” I could hear Liddy from the living room so I listened for a while. She wasn’t screaming yet. I said some more stuff. After I said “Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door- This it is and nothing more,” I took a drink of water. Then it sounded like someone opened the front door. I figured it must’ve been Liddy, then I heard footsteps and finally Liddy’s scream. This scream was a really good scream. I decided I wanted to watch. I ran to the living room all excited. Liddy was still on the floor pretending to be dead. “Hey Liddy I wanna watch.” She just kept laying there so I took off my Crocs to clap them in front of her face. My Crocs looked red. Then I realized it was blood. I was really scared but I didn’t want to show it because I thought maybe Liddy was pranking me. I washed the blood off my Crocs. I kept saying nevermore to myself because that word is used a lot in The Raven. I sat down holding my Crocs and waited for Daddy to get home.
SENIOR BIOLOGY & GEOGRAPHY WITH GIS MAJOR
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH MAJOR
Networking The truth is no, it is not nice to meet you. You are yet another face to place a name to, another brief memory, another body to compete with at the end of the day. It’s just a competition where we all compete to win. Try telling the one without a job that “good sportsmanship” is a consolation prize--oh no, you go ahead steal my spot in the working world. The bills and debt and food will all pay for themselves with my “good sportsmanship”. Fighting to the end, mastering the art of being polite and sculpting the perfect response to “What are your biggest strengths?” “I’m a people person.”
SENIOR PHILOSOPHY MAJOR
Blood Red Riding We all know the witch is wicked, a red hood on a black horse, iron burning the road, casting sparks as she goes. The townsfolk tell the children to stay in when the dark comes out, for Blood Red will ride them down and eat them if she sees them. It’s an old tale, the vanity of the Grey Mother wanting the apple, grasping for the apple, at the promise of the young woman at her door. Only the wolf saw clearly, we know‐ and even he was fooled by the dancing cape, the magic of an era long gone, when shape‐shifters ran free, and the trolls remembered mountains.
Red and grey have faded, and the wolf ate the appleâ€?â€? ate itself, leg and bone. Its pack fled this world, we tell ourselves, and no poison fruit, no mirrors, no burning hooves scarring the midnight road can tell the tale quite as wonderfully, as completely, as we know it to have been.
JORDAN RANDALL SENIOR BUSINESS MANAGEMENT MAJOR
CATHERINE JOHNSON JUNIOR ENGLISH MAJOR
fairy Lights in st. goustan , france
WILL NEUENFELDT JUNIOR ENGLISH MAJOR
White Miles upon miles of barren land Sits blankets of bitter arctic sand Biting it blows to blur all in sight Creating the darkness of a white night Piles upon piles the sand weighs The unforgiving guest plans to stay Well past its welcome for he has schemes To ruin my days and haunt my dreams Aisles upon aisles of halls left vacant Trapped alone and left to be latent But boiling inside my head of mine Are days of us lying in sunshine For these months I long for those evenings, So few but precious moments fleeting To treasure every second spent with you For once you seem real and nothing but true Why do my feelings come back to you To melt me down and color me blue Miles upon miles of snow I thank For making our canvas pale and blank
FIRST-YEAR PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR
Me, Myself, I and You I was trapped in a vicious love triangle With Me, Myself, and I. And I wanted Myself more than Me And Myself just wanted Me to be happy And Me wanted You more than anything else. I guess that would make it a square. You wanted neither Me, Myself, nor I And I was fine with that But Myself couldnâ€™t let it be, As Me sat simperingly And so I got dragged back to You Who was in love with Yourself Too much to notice anyone else. So here I am, trying to get a hold of Myself, Wishing You could let Me be.
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH & ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES DOUBLE-MAJOR
7.99 Everyday begins the same. I sit in front of the mirror, pale skin echoing back everything I want to hide. My reflection sneers at me as I take a brush to her cheeks, covering every imperfection, suffocating her skin with shaking fingers, burying myself deep under a layer of flawed fearlessness I bought at the drugstore for 7.99.
P eachy Pink in Bloom
SENIOR SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
ALAINA ROOKER SENIOR COMMUNICATION STUDIES MAJOR
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH MAJOR
On Purpose We were married in ’98, the year the Unabomber was sentenced to four life terms. I met her at the Jiffy Lube on the corner of 42nd and Edgewood when she brought in her car for an oil change. She had such pretty blonde hair. I smiled. I said all the right things. Eighteen years later and she smiles. She says all the right things. I love my wife. She has such pretty blue eyes. My glass sits drained on the bar top, ice cubes slowly melting. Whiskey. I flex my hands and sigh, signaling the bartender for another drink and of course, he delivers. The bar is empty save for a few sluts a couple seats down. I glance down at the silver ring on my finger. I love my wife. I love her more than life itself. I flex my hands again and wince. Sometimes she needs reminding of how much I love her. I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose. The whiskey is empty. I need another. I smile at the tramp closest to me. I love my wife. I love her more than life itself. I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose. I signal the bartender for another drink and of course, he delivers. I’m pulled out of my thoughts when the woman next to me puts her hand on my thigh. The makeup under her eyes has settled into lines and creases, a map of black and blue and pale skin. She’s smiling at me. There’s something in-between her front teeth. “Are you lookin’ for a good time, tonight, baby?” She whispers, her lips coming much too close to my ear. “I can be whatever you want me to be.” Her hand is slowly sliding up my thigh. I love my wife. I love her more than life itself. I end up fucking the slut in the backseat, pulled into the alley behind the bar. Pretty images of my wife flood my 2016
thoughts. The time we spent the day at Six Flags and she got sick after eating too much cotton candy. The time I watched her cry on the bathroom floor after we lost the baby. The time her ribs were broken because she claimed she was working late. She has such pretty pale skin. I leave the car in the alley and start the long walk home. I need to clear my head. I need time to think. The whiskey is catching up with me. Putting one foot in front of the other takes too much of my focus. I’m moving so slowly but the ground is moving so quickly. I know that I’m stumbling and tripping but I need to get home. I need to see my wife. I love my wife. I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose. She’s all I can think of and my brain stops working and the images are fraying at the edges and the links are short circuiting. The time she surprised me with a cake on my birthday, the candles lighting up her beautiful face. The time she laid in that hospital bed, crying for the baby we wished was still there. The time we went to her office’s Christmas party and she was smiling at that young man and all I could see was red and then black and then nothing. Nothing. I’ve made it to the front step and I don’t remember walking up our street. She picked out the color for our front door. It’s Rapture Blue, not Powder Blue or Aquarium. She used to ask me to oil the hinges to get rid of that permanent squeak. Now it grates on my ears. A sickly lemon smell is hanging in the air and my shoes are slipping across the linoleum. The stairs are coming in and out of focus as I loosen my tie and strip off my suit jacket. She’ll pick it up later. The bedroom door is open and I’m calling out her name. She’s lying on the floor, her body crumpled up like used tissue paper. Her pretty pale skin is sallow. I’m kneeling next to her, tumbling, sinking and I can’t breathe. I remember we had dinner earlier tonight and I remember finding the pregnancy test and I remember her crying when I asked if it was mine. There’s streaks of red in her pretty blonde hair. I flex my hands again and wince. I love my wife. I love her 72
more than life itself. I would never do anything to hurt her on purpose. Her pretty blue eyes are vacant, staring up at me. My fingers slide down her sunken cheek and dip into the corner of her mouth. And tug. She has such a pretty smile.
SENIOR MATHEMATICS & PHILOSOPHY DOUBLE-MAJOR
A Freshman Philosopherâ€™s Erotic Love Poem I kiss you Normatively this will not do, so I take off your clothes and press myself into you. I want to be with you Ontologically, make with you Artistically, and love you Metaphysically.
SENIOR BIOLOGY MAJOR
The Only Blues I Could Swlallow
ALAINA ROOKER SENIOR COMMUNICATION STUDIES MAJOR
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH & ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES DOUBLE-MAJOR
White Noise Wind against my ears and everything becomes white noise as all the voices around me crackle and hum like a faulty radiator, like radio static, a station with no music, abandoned. The hum of the highway, the voices that float to me in the breeze like errant autumn leaves, gold rust crumbling as they hit my ears and it all just fades, falling away into silence. I wish I could hear you. I wish I could hear you speak, whisper to me, sheets rustling, dawn breaking, I wish I could hear you, but it’s all just noise and your voice is just—
FIRST-YEAR PSYCHOLOGY MAJOR
H is Faithless ‘We will return to the dirt’ She whispers in his ear As though she is saying ‘I love you and good morning.’ How she smiles her twisted smile Running her lips across his jaw And the universe is breaking apart, So he draws his madwoman close, On this, their day in bed. ‘We are all going, going, going, And one day we’re gone, Poof.’ She nuzzles into his neck, His faithless, And he thinks maybe this could be Their new religion. He pulls her in too close, But she doesn’t wiggle out And he’s not sure if he’s breaking her Or holding her together, Because maybe it’s the other way around And it’s her words that are keeping him stable, While her lips tear him apart.
SENIOR PHILOSOPHY MAJOR
On Samuel Palmer’s The Gleaning Field The sun is nearly slipped, drooping over the horizon like a half‐cooked wheat cake. And yet, the light beams down over us through the clouds, lighting the field, glinting off gold. The old pine has seen this before‐‐ the creek, the crooked roof, us in the field, none of it new‐ the sloping window, an old acquaintance. The tree leans. The haystacks sway, bowing in response to the bent backs of their makers. They think it polite.
SOPHOMORE ENGLISH MAJOR
Ambidextrous A green marker in my left hand, purple in my right, I remember the blank page in front of me, waiting; left green smears a thick line curling tight into a spiral right purple is balanced on its head, ready to etch a narrow line to the bottom of the page both colors racing to finish their lines at the same time. A masterpiece for the age of six My father’s eyes are fascinated, such a gift to watch me. “She’ll choose one or the other eventually” And I still wonder if I was meant to be left-handed.
Illuminating Sunset in Fall
SENIOR SOCIOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY MAJOR
SENIOR ENGLISH & BIOLOGY DOUBLE-MAJOR
Reproduction We are made to reproduce, She says through parted lips. I know what she is saying; I trace along her ribs. DNA builds DNA, Imperfections bear perfection. We are made to reproduce, Say the men outside, Erecting steel beams Twisting towards the sky. They work in teams with Blueprints and collective aspiration. We are made to reproduce, He says through chosen hues, Heroic strokes, and wary shapes, Trying to convey the way The world is made with unapparent effort. He has trained after the greats. We are made to reproduce. She stands with those assembled. Her research is done. Her notes are in order. She is concise. She is logical. These are not her wordsâ€” They are in us all. We are made to reproduce So through erratic chaos 82
A pattern begins to emerge, An atom in his wandering garden Bumps another, they converge If only for a moment, If only accidentally, If only we had a little more Time and Meaning and Purpose and We are not made, not perfect, Not produced, nor permanent. But together, still, we reproduce.
Published on May 5, 2016
Firethorne, The Gustavus Adolphus College Journal of Literary and Graphic Arts, Spring 2016 issue