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“Open your eyes! The world is still intact; it is as pristine as it was on the first day, as fresh as milk!� -Paul Claudel


5. Sunrise x Madison Mutimer 6. The Man Who Never Cried x Warren Rogers 9. 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8 x Diana Crawford 10. A Pristine Type of Love x Isabella Monti 11. I Am Me x Ellie Nicholson 13. The Concert x Aspen Beck 16. A Niente x Leigh 17. Georgia x Amelia Brown 20. Puzzles x Sarah Adams 21. Worth x Melanie Hetsko 22. Dream x Jacqueline Pleitez 23. Pinky Promise x Amelia Brown and Jordan Blackwell 25. Russian Bots Threaten Democracy x Jackson Brown 26. I’m Not Homesick Anymore x Maisy Diaz 27. Who Are You x Rama Alkhofash 30. The Knight and The Dragon x Craig Kennedy 33. Locked x Ali Blackburn 35. Unconditional x Grace Pan 37. Typhon x Kennon Conner 41. Name x Suvitha Viswanathan


3. Pristine Photo x Jason Queen 5. Sunrise x Mrs. Warren 8. Soup Line x Charlie Bancroft 9. Sisters x Olga Kukharsky 12. Lined Faces x Jordan Blackwell 18. Face x Raven Bower 19. Chairs Print x Mary Campbell Greene 29. Knight and Dragon x Jordan Blackwell 32. YGA Photo x Jason Queen 36. Lunar Moth Print x Hannah Cooper 40. Hands attached to the World x Isabel Bancroft 43. Mother and Child x Olga Kukharsky



Letter From the Editor We did it! In one school year, we managed to publish three magazines! If you remember what our magazine looked like just last spring, this beautiful little magazine will truly seem like a miracle. Many hours of hard work have gone into its creation, and I think that everyone involved feels especially connected to this issue. While there may always be a typo to catch or something “wrong,� this magazine is nothing short of pristine, perfect, and uniquely beautiful. And I mean, we are obviously totally modest about it too. To me, this theme has many meanings. When we were brainstorming themes in the fall, Pristine began as an outlet to explore what it means to be worthy of publishing and redefine the word and our standards for what goes into a magazine. Then, we went for a more literal interpretation- thinking of all the most pure things, thinking only of what is perfect. Now, finally, we bring you this edition, which is both of those and neither. With consideration to all of the events, great and terrible, that transpire on a daily basis in this world, I couldn’t put out a magazine reflecting the word as it is originally defined. Instead, these pages are filled with stories of the things that bring new life to this word, new meaning. The emotions central to the stories of this issue- love, perseverance, honor, and so on- all provide us reassurance that, at least sometimes, humans can preserve the good, and are willing to do anything to hold on to pristine. Even when that unspoiled, original state is lost, it can be found again. Personally, I have found it in creating this magazine and working in literary club.This is the most important thing I have done in high school, and through it I have found hope and beauty. The positivity and acceptance this publication has received was such a wonderful surprise to me, and I know this is just the beginning. Speaking of beginnings, I want you all to remember that the Muse is just getting started! Despite the bittersweet fact that I will be graduating this month, the magazine will be carried on by other amazing students, all of whom you all are familiar with from past issues they have been involved with! Enjoy this magazine, and enjoy these years of your life in high school. I know they can be a rollercoaster, but make the most of them and learn everything; love everything.

Until next year, Keep writing! -Amelia Brown Editor-in-Chief




Sunrise - Madison Mutimer

When the shadows slink away, And the ground holds your hand, Bloody and scared, Smile to the sun, For another night’s fight was won. When the tears claw through your lungs, And abandon you, Choking for air, Smile through their rain, For beauty will bloom out of pain. Fear not the shadows, My friend, But give them everlasting thanks, For rosy light of day Is yet more glorious in their wake. A smile is merely sunlight shining courage on the soul.

The Man Who Never Cried - Warren Rogers


November 14th, 1933, New York City It snowed early that year. Normally the city wouldn’t see true snow until December but I guess Mother Nature decided that her wrath was long overdue. All across the nation you could see her. She screamed up dust storms in the South and Midwest, and her angry tears froze mid air up North, leaving our city blanketed in an icy sheet. We all shared one sheet. And a blanket. One tiny bed for the three of us. Of course if we hadn’t all been together we would have probably froze once the heat finally went out. I remember looking out the window, my son sitting next to me, copying my every move. In those days he thought I was special. He wanted to be like me. What he didn’t know was what exactly it meant to be like me. It meant to be hungry, and wet from the snow. It meant there were no sick days. Ever. I’m fairly sure I had a case of walking pneumonia in those days. But that didn’t stop me from going to the docks everyday. If I didn’t go that just meant that my entire family would grow more hungry, and wet, and sick. It wasn’t something you wished for your son. Or for anyone. While we sat, watching the flakes fall, it was so quiet that you could hear the soft ping as each little piece of ice landed on the rail of the fire escape. It was early, soon the city would be loud with anger and hopelessness. This was the overture to the symphony that would soon ensue. Ping, Ping, Ping. “Hey Dad?” The silence broken, the city was alive. My son’s voice the very first eerie note of a violin. The first chord on the piano resonating throughout the concert hall. “Mhhm?” “You know, Tommy Jacobs is gone.” “What do you mean?” “He wasn’t in the yard yesterday, I asked his mother and she said they had to send him away.” I didn’t know what to say. People sent their kids away all the time. Uncles and Aunts that could make sure they were fed and warm. “You’re not going to send me away are you?” That question, like the flick of a conductor’s baton, it signalled for the beginning of the flutes. Somewhere across the yard, a glass bottle broke. Then another. “No. Of course not.” I turned towards him. His eyes were big and dark like mine. Thankfully, he shared the rest of his features with him mother. The sandy blonde hair and the relatively normal ears. I told myself I couldn’t lie to this face. Wouldn’t lie to this face. But then I did. “I promise you buddy. You are never leaving me and your Mom’s side.” He smiled and nodded, turning again to look out at the dark world that had already failed him so miserably. Why should this boy suffer for the mistakes my people made? It didn’t seem fair. Of course, back then, nothing seemed to be. Behind us in the kitchen the noise began to pick up. The slice of ham we would share for breakfast sizzled on the skillet. A door opened. It closed. Even though these sounds were symbols of what we lacked, they still made me feel warm. At home. The melodies at least made sense. I turned back to the frozen city. But out there. It was musical chaos.

7 The sun wasn’t even up yet. The few fat cats left in the city slept soundly in their beds. Their apartments soared above the rest of us, like up there was some kind of Heaven, but we were stuck down here. In the dirty and hungry streets. I had my lunch of bread and a single orange stuffed into one of my coat pockets as I walked down the streets towards work. Some people hated work. Before the crash they had been stock brokers, living in fancy homes and crunching imaginary numbers all day. But then those numbers became real, too real, and those who teetered at the top made the long descent down to my level. Nothing. So I guess in the grand scheme of things that pushed me down even lower. Below nothing. Nothing’s like me were used to this kind of work. It’s where I made all my friends. Bert and Johnny, Tim, Will, Cain, and Samuel. Oh and the Jones boys too. Tim and I were the only ones who survived the cuts. I suppose that made me one of the lucky ones. And, I was. I still had my kid, my wife, and a place to stay. Not so much could be said for my old friends who lived over in the Hooverville. Before the crash I had walked through Central Park to get to work. Now if I did such a thing I’d risk being robbed of my lunch and the day’s wage. There was something about living in such inhumane squalor that turned people into something other than human; their compassion and nerve sucked up into one of the giant fires they built to stay warm. I arrived at work to receive my task for the day. Lift those boxes to the platform. Open these barrels and put the contents in these bags. Shovel that dirt. Oil that machine. It was so tempting to swipe a carrot from the bag I was carrying. Just one carrot that my son could have. It would fit right in my pocket. A fool proof plan. Boss wasn’t looking. But I knew if I got caught that would be the end. Losing my son for a carrot. Losing my wife for a carrot. Hooverville for a carrot. I placed the bag where it was needed and went to fetch another. I would be doing this for eight more hours. There was so much food. We had so much. But where was it going? The farmers made too much and no one could buy it. No one could. Soon was my lunch break. I sat with Tim and he told me about the latest news. He had a radio so he knew what was going on. “Mussolini, that Italian, got rid of the parliament over there. Replaced it with some ‘National Guild Council’.” “Scary times for Democracy abroad, Tim.” “And at home.” Tim was skeptical of the government, even more than the average Joe of that time. His Dad had been one of those “Bonus Army” guys. He didn’t get his money for fighting the Great War so he marched on Washington. He was shot by a police officer and hasn’t trusted them ever since. The day was over and Tim and I were packing our things when Boss came over. “Hey Fellas.” My heart sank to my chest. I looked over at Tim, his face far too withered and tired for someone his age. “We can’t pay you anymore. This part of the docks is gonna close down for a little while.” I sat down on the workbench. This part of the symphony was the crashing of cymbals in my head, the fingers of a pianist smashing into the keys, my ears ringing. We had $10.54 cents left. We owed over $50. I looked over but Tim had already left. Boss shook his head and walked away. I wanted to hurt him. To rip his tweed suit into

8 a million pieces and throw it into the Hooverville fire. Anything to keep me warm. The walk home was the longest walk I had ever made in my life. The heat would be shut off in a week. We would have our last dinner together tonight. I began to think about Europe. Germany was stewing with untapped anger, ready to release it on the world. Stew. I really wanted Stew. I was so hungry. I turned a corner and walked up to the end of the soup line. It was so long, you couldn’t see the end. Just the miserable fog that hung over the city. In the span of a few minutes, three guys lined up behind me and I was stuck. Just like this depression, stuck in this never ending soup line with no end in sight. After half an hour they told us to go home. There would be no more soup for today. I pretended to be surprised. I wasn’t. When I got home, I knocked on the door like I always did. My son ran to the door and opened it for me like he always did. He hugged me in the doorway. I wrapped my arms around him and scooped him up walking into the apartment. Marian knew something was wrong. She saw it in my face, held close against his. My shaking body as I tried to hold it together. I told myself I would not cry. I could not cry. But then, I did.


1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8 - Diana Crawford

1 Corinthians 13:4, 7-8 Surround yourself with love, my dear. Link it with your life. When the world throws curveballs at your soul It will help you through the strife. In your little sister’s laugh. All you have to do is hear that sound And all the bad things fall back. In your father’s strong arms. When he wraps them around you in comfort You know nothing can bring you harm. In your best friend’s smile. It speaks of all-nighters, pizza, gossip, And laughs that last for a while. In the Tabernacle on the Altar. You never thought Mass could bring so much peace, Surround yourself with love, my dear. Link it with your life. When the world throws curveballs at your soul It will help you through the strife.

A Pristine Type of Love - Isabella Monti


Looking at my little sister with her eyes so full of hope Her glittering smile hoping for recess and jump rope We ride to sc But i think of all the things i miss She is so young and so pristine No pain or regret to be seen I hope that she is never bullied into silence, abused, or upset I hope she never lies awake at night wondering if it’s worth it For now she is young and pristine Eyes full of happiness and looking forward to everything Wanting to grow up and be an adult But it’s not her fault For she is young and pristine I love her more than I love myself Please, stay young and pristine forever


I Am Me - Ellie Nicholson

This isn’t real, I’d never do it, Losing the friends, losing their love, But feeling so good, I can’t stop, Forgetting to care, forgetting to feel, But Why? I Learned to love, never to hate, I Learned to respect, never to disobey, But I like to damage, never to repair, It’s easier this way, to be broken, clean slate! Wait.

Opportunities to destroy, dreams to crush, Trust me, everyone knows they’re a bust, So put faith in me, I’ll be your guide, No more nice, no more pain, In the end, it’s all in vain! Stop. Losing myself, Just for relief? Don’t you realize? It’s better to not! Shut up for once, let me control, I’m better you know it, so pick up and go! Stop it.

C’mon it’s easy just for fun! It’s petty, it doesn’t matter! Let me in, just give in! Lying to yourself? It won’t last. Enough. You will have a blast! No. Don’t fight now, we’re nearly there! I’m not leaving, just stop and stare,

12 You’re right I’m lying, but you are too! Stop blaming me, you are a fool! Please heed my words, because I am stronger, I won’t deal with this any longer! Now listen closely and believe me, It’s a secret and forever we’ll keep, To our self, never to leave, Do you agree?

Fine but let me be, what’s this secret you keep? We are both me.


The Concert - Aspen Beck

The night started with my mom roping a ride from our neighbor in her mid 2000s minivan, which had the smell of lost goldfish crackers and feet due to her two children who were both under the age of 10. On the ride, my neighbor casually asked me about my future, and even though I knew I had it all figured out I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it. In all honesty I wasn’t in the mood for anything. Even though I had put on my makeup (false eyelashes included because I wanted to be extra),put on a cute outfit, and tried to do my hair, I still just didn’t feel like I was ready to go to the concert. Our concert. Well, it was supposed to be our concert, but due to certain circumstances that little pipe dream had washed away into the sewer. We arrive at the concert venue, The Georgia Theater, in the classic city. I had walked past this place plenty of times but there were never any shows that caught my fancy. It’s a beautiful building with a lot of rich history, our story is just another notch in it’s belt. When my mom, her boyfriend, my other neighbor, and I went up to the box office to get our tickets the man put an “Under 21” bracelet on me so the kind bartender knew not to serve alcohol to my underaged person. After we made it in the building my mom immediately set up shop near the sound booth and went to go get a drink. I decided to explore my new environment a bit before the show started; we had arrived ridiculously early so the joint was pretty empty. I walked down the faded paint iron stairs to the lower level of the complex to be greeted with old posters and flyers from shows past. I snagged one from this particular show as a memento- also because it was free- and neatly folded it into my camera bag. I then walked into the bathroom to pee before the show, snapped a photo for my snapchat story because I’m 17 and that’s just what we do. I made my way back upstairs. I saw you from across the theater, and hadn’t seen you in exactly three months. I wasn’t shocked; I expected you to be there. How could you not be there? This our favorite band, I still remember you showing me one of their songs in your old grey brown sedan. I remember some hot August day years ago sweating like a pig because your air condition wasn’t in the most pristine condition, but never the less you still sang for me like I was a stadium full of people. We were only neighbors then, and you were just a pretty boy who wanted to give me a ride home from school. But still you stood there, in the middle of the floor, looking like some sort of 80s movie star, with your red All Stars and satin red jacket on. Red is one of my favorite colors and you knew that, but I know you weren’t dressing for me. In my mind you were. It was almost like in movies how they have the spotlight on the prettiest girl in the room and everything goes dark around them but they don’t seem to notice? I teared up when I saw you because I didn’t have to guts to go say hello…also because I cry a lot. How sad. What was I supposed to say after our three months of arranged silence? There’s no script for awkward encounters such as this one. I settled on saying “Hey there stranger”, because I’m actually a 60 year old with no social skills. You smiled that soft subtle smile that makes my heart jump out of my chest like in an old cartoon and left my hands trembling for the rest of the night. I think we chatted about how you’ve been, and how I’ve been. I was so nervous, I felt like I just rambled about anything and everything that came to my mind. I know you didn’t mind that though, you always told me you could listen to me even when I had nothing to say.

14 It felt like no time had passed. In retrospect the time spent away from each other was nothing in comparison to the amount of time I’ve known you. And there we were, in the pit of this small concert venue holding hands and dancing like no one

could have lived in that one moment for the rest of my life. Once the concert had ended I squeezed your hand to try to nonverbally communicate that I wasn’t ready for this to end yet. We walked to my mom and you exchange your hellos and my mom scolded me for things that are no one’s business but my own. I then caught her slurring in her speech along with her boyfriend and my neighbor. We hopped in line to buy some concert merchandise. You got a photo with tarist that was touring with our band walked by and you say that you’re too nervous to talk to him. Suddenly a rush of adrenaline washed over me and I march right up to him as though I’m the most important person in the room and say, “my boyfriend would love a photo with you! do you mind?” He happily agrees, and you looking all cute and star struck, pose for a photo with him. He then goes and asks us our favorite song and when we tell him he says, “Oh yeah, I love it when we play that one. All the couples in the audience get real close together and kiss or whatever. It’s just a nice moment we all get to share.” You say your goodbyes to him and my mom grabs your arm and informs you that you’re driving us home. No questions. No arguments. Just driving. light because I didn’t want to stop being on your right side. I wish you would’ve driven slower even though my mom told you that your song didn’t have enough bass in itshe was to set in her own thought to realize that your speaker was blown out and she didn’t care enough to listen to your explanation. I kept staring at you as you drove and sang to Blackbird. It all felt so familiar to the rides years ago when you innocently right. I want to watch you sing in your car with those imbalanced speakers forever. I wish you could have just driven past my house and kept going till we hit the ocean.



/nē’entā/ (especially as a direction) with a soft sound or tone gradually fading to nothing


“kuh” + “DEN” + “zuh” a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end

A Niente - Leigh


M.63 18.2.1 Cosmic energy dots the surface of my flesh in rhythmic whorls, swirling and intertwining Existence itself lives upon me. Universes are specks of light atop my flesh. I am teeth, horns, and scales of starlightI am the Void. However, I am also a composer. A musician of creation. I fill these areas upon my skin with concertos unheard. I compose with my claws, my breath- a soundless roar that created all that is, was, and will be. A single object, smaller than an atom, situates itself happily upon a claw. There is now only an idea. cadenza. An orchestra swells, a crescendo of unbridled passion. The tempo is unrestrained. Building blocks of creation bind together fervently. A soundless impact. Your lights flicker across my flesh- a silent symphony drifting through the cosmos. A soft luminescence rises to a brilliant haze as eons pass. You are flawed-sure, yet no other shines as brightly. The perfect ensemble. And you float ever so beautifully and hopelessly, out of tempo and tune, As if you are a dancer upon unpointed toes among the stars. A satisfied exhale, a lowered baton. a niente.


Georgia - Amelia Brown

When Georgia cries, you don’t know it till she’s sobbing. So long you’ve suffocated in her dense, hot clouds of humid air… you never even knew a storm coming; it was just the way she was. Her tears fall with flash flood fickleness, and you dance in the rain she creates. No matter her state, you always find a way to live in it. Her tears are a salvation from the heat and a friend to the weary wondering when the next drought will creep in like poison gas to put all life away. She needs someone to love her. When Georgia smiles, you see that she is growing, but you know good and well no one is watching. So you just stand there are, and you watch her and you don’t even realize that you are growing with her, because of her. Looking up at the clouds, waiting, you can’t notice their movement or your own. While Georgia grows, she smiles and looks down at the past with all the adoration she is told to abandon. Every curve she has holds a secret and a memory- some bloody and some dripping with honey. When Georgia talks, her voice slow and thick, her lips still wet with the tea so strong and sweet you just keep drinking and drinking. And she keeps talking and talking. And you listen to all her honey sugar sweetie hospitality. The gossip she brings does not annoy you for it passes the still hours and feels like an art form. She despises those who she touches cheeks with in white gloves under early morning church bells, and she longs for the love of those she passes by. She knows what she’s heard and she knows what she hasn’t too, and well, a white lie never hurt anybody. Sitting at the table, Georgia’s head is down and his hand is on her thigh, and they aren’t really at the same table, are they? He’s a good man, she’s taken care of, and so she will smile and only on the front porch in still hours will she talk freely. And only on back steps will she be held and healed and loved and understood in ways a good man could only dream. So now, Georgia cries. And you never expected it, but you know. The tears are a salvation and short-term solution, but they help her grow. Her roots are strong and stable and the tears are all she needs. When he brings flowers home, she is self-assured that he can never cut hers down. Everything is how it should be, even when she cries. Georgia knows this, and so she walks over gravel with bare feet and she looks forward, she looks up, she looks everywhere- unblinkingly. Understanding. When you close your eyes, her hand is on your shoulder, on the back steps. Her truth is in your ear. Her power grows in the palm of your hand and up through the soles of your feet. When Georgia leaves, she is never really gone.



Puzzles - Sarah Adams


We fit like two puzzle pieces that stand out subtly from the rest. Like two pieces from two different puzzles that by chance met and joined together. We fit like something that was never meant to happen- as if two positives attracted or two birds of different feathers flew together and God did we fly. We’ve flown to the moon, where I never thought I could reach, and back down when I thought I was falling. But I wasn’t really falling. I was flying. And only because you let me. I hadn’t even found I had wings until you showed me and taught me how to use them. You taught me how to fly. And I taught you how to walk because sometimes it’s too dangerous to soar like in thunderstorms you might get struck. But sometimes you just have to fly over mountains and valleys and rivers and cities and everything else because you are not afraid. You taught me that too. That I should never be afraid. That I should trust with all of my heart even if I’m afraid. And that I should always have a positive outlook that could make closed grey skies bright and blue and open with a key that you fashioned. But you are the key. The key is you and you’ve unlocked the skies for us to fly in, finally free of storms and filled with clouds and sunsets. You have completed the puzzle of a lock because you are the missing piece. You have defied that opposites attract because you and I are so beautifully different yet so wonderfully the same. Like two pieces from two very different puzzles that just barely fit. Like two people who met by chance and are now forever friends.


Worth - Melanie Hetsko

When a flower blooms No one says, “Not pretty enough” When the rain ceases and a rainbow peaks out, revealing itself No one says, “Not vibrant enough” And never does anyone say to a star, “Not bright enough” Why then do we only attach unworthiness to people? Are we not all unique in one way or another? What pleasure would it bring-what wonder would disappear, if every butterfly looked the same? If every flower was the same color-the same shape, people would complain on lack of variety, but the more diversity between people, the more distance, the more conflict. What if we all decided that everyone was worthy?

Dream - Jacqueline Pleitez


I might be an immigrant, but I am not illegal, I might be hispanic, but that does not mean i’m a drug dealer. You call me a beaner, you call me a wetback, you call me ignorant, but those are just words, they don’t mean anything to me, because like my mother says: “If you get mad, they win, and if you keep it cool, they also win; it’s complicated I know. But at the end of the day only you know who you are and what you are.” And I do know what I am. I am a hard-working, ambitious and proud Latina. My mother gave up her country, she gave up being with her family, she gave up her entire life and moved across the globe just so me and my siblings could have a better life, a better future, and a better education. When you tell me to go back to my country, I know you do it to make me feel bad, but that doesn’t affect me. It only makes me stronger, makes me dream big and be successful in life to show you that this is also my country. I have a dream; and that dream is to be someone in life, to make my mother feel proud of me. To one day graduate from high school and college, look into her eyes and say “Mami, I did it.”




Russian Bots Threaten Democracy - Jackson Brown

In September of 2016, Russian “bots” spread all kinds of misinformation and sensationalized stories via social media in an attempt to break trust between not only the people and their government, but also between people and themselves. Since then, 16 indictments have come from the Russia investigation led by Robert Mueller. Then on Valentine’s Day, 17 students were murdered within the classrooms of a Parkland, Florida school. The days following the shooting, the same “bot” accounts starting firing out conspiracy theory posts as well as misinformation on topics such as gun control. These “bots” are the fruits of informational wars and are changing the way we see our world. While these “bots” work through exploiting news stories by way of hashtagging them, making fake conspiracy videos, and by steering twitter discussions in volatile directions, the purpose behind them is to fully exploit divisive, hot topic political debates. Hence why we saw them latch onto the 2016 election because it acted as a four in one. By feeding into the frenzy, they killed four birds with one stone. They were able to inflame the entire nature of the election by simply throwing divisive (and oftentimes hateful) speech into discussions on immigration, tax reform, healthcare, and terrorism. They did so through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to name a few. When news broke of this, the main response has been that which is standard in America: to point fingers to an entity instead who is truly responsible. On this occasion, the stand-in scapegoat is Facebook.”Hold Facebook accountable” is the verbage I have heard being used. While this is a response to the issue, quite frankly it is nowhere near a solution. A true solution starts with “We the people”. As a well educated population as a whole, how could we have fallen for such blatantly sensationalized misinformation and conspiracies?One Word: Division. Last election was one of the most hot button, tumultuous elections to date. With corruption coursing through each campaigns veins, and two candidates as far apart on the political spectrum as possible, voters sprinted to whichever side they saw to be the “lesser of two evils”. With the Twitter discussions ablaze and the conspiracy theories running rampant, the Kremlin not only took note of the hysteria and tense division, they exploited it. This is not a problem to be fixed by legal action against Russia, though it may help. This is not a problem that will be fixed by holding social media platforms accountable, though it may help. This is a problem that will only be fixed by -Americans conducting themselves in a fashion that is respectful. Not this primitive disgust we have brought ourselves to look at people unlike us with. That is the source of division and it will be the source of our downfall if we don’t take action.

I’m Not Homesick Anymore - Maisy Diaz

the weather’s different here. it’s a good different. the forecast calls for clean pages new clouds deep breaths and me, with my untied shoelaces untied thoughts and untied words. and it wasn’t too long ago when different places were like new shoes hard-edged, chafing slightly around the edges only ever comfortable the tenth time around. somewhere I must have fallen through the cracks in my own fingers because here I am now; arms out, off balance, and laughing. the weather’s different here. but it’s a good different.



Who Are You - Rama Alkhofash

Today, I am no bird. Today, I am an ant crawling into holes. You ask me who I am. And dear, today, I find no pleasing answer. I am one disappointed baby, crying out of my mother’s womb, asking what did I do to deserve such a punishment. Today, I am no bird. Because today, life’s shackles tied me to the ground, prevented me from flying, and whispered to me the secrets of the past. And it made me realize that, Today, I am no bird. 6/18/17

Right now, I am the old song you wince listening to. I am the wind stuck in the past, knocking at the doors, pushing away the curtains. I’m a tree stuck to the ground by its roots, wishing it could fly like a bird. I’m a dreamer staring at a star, longing its body, in remembrance of its light. I am a kid with nightmares, who’s hunt by the shadows of the night that clench at his throat and stop his breathing. I am the old notebook, hid under the bed, too close to be thrown away, too far to be opened. Right now, I am one of the fears you believe you can never overcome. 7/1/17

28 I am the gray of the white The dark every night The middle of every thought The thought of every fight I am the light dust you wipe off your tables , The drop of coffee left on your counter, The stain on your dress, The wrinkle on your shirt, I am your unfinished writing, holding all you want to write, and all you stopped yourself from writing. 11/16/17 I am my own self today. A weakened body, A tired soul, A hoping heart. My fingers twitch with a sense of stress. My eyes blink as rapid as heavy rain. My Legs shake worriedly. Centuries of silence. A couple of words in-between. I’m from the unknown. A plan. Fate? Maybe. Counting steps. Ignoring glances. Cracking smiles. And losing tears. For once in a lifetime, I am myself. I call this life of mine: A beautiful mess. I’m a beautiful mess. As messy as our backyard in Autumn. As beautiful as its leaves. A beautiful mess, I say once again. 1/17/17


The Knight and The Dragon - Craig Kennedy


nce upon a time, a castle courtyard had no breeze. The two mortal enemies met each other’s gaze. Eye’s locked, neither of them breathed. The birds in the overgrowth above were silent. The cicadas fell hush. The mice huddled in the deep cracks of the courtyard walls watched intently, yet fearful. All things had stopped. The world’s attention was on The Knight and The Dragon. Glowing serpent eyes held muted mortal pupils barricaded behind warped steel. The Knight, sword drawn, shield held close to their armored torso, slightly shifted their ankle. The Dragon leaned lower to the ground. The time had come. They charged at each other with speed fueled with hatred so intense and vile that the ground seemed to cower away in fear from their footsteps. They met each other in the center of the courtyard. The Dragon snapped it’s jaws at The Knight who rolled underneath the attack. They carried their momentum into an air splitting stab into The Dragon’s thick hide. The Knight then used all their strength and tore through the scales, tendons, and flesh, leaving a slash worthy of the strongest of warriors. The Dragon bellowed and convulsed, but retaliated with a swipe of its claws. They connected with The Knight, who had left themselves exposed for only a moment. The claws shredded The Knight’s armor like paper, slashing their torso, and threw the fully equipped Knight several feet. Once landed, The Knight rolled until they collided, still at full speed, with a wall of the courtyard, leaving cracks at the point of impact. Having landed in an upright position, The Knights helm hung low. Both were to die from their wounds. The Dragon fell onto its back legs, barely holding themselves up. “Oh,” The Dragon moaned. “This is how…” The Dragons mouth did not move when it spoke, the words seemed to simply manifest around the being itself, weaving themselves from the surrounding matter mysteriously and, perhaps beautifully, into existence. The Knight, bleeding and shaking, ears still ringing, slightly picked up their head. “You...speak…” The Knight said weakly. The Dragon’s gaze focused on The Knight. “You…understand?” The Knight did nothing for a few moments, then nodded. There was silence in the courtyard. The atmosphere surrounding the combatants was unfamiliar, and slightly awkward, to both of them. They had never been in this position before. They had dealt with their foes swiftly and easily, never really having

31 to look them in the eye afterwards. The Knight shifted slightly, getting in position to rise. Using all the energy they had left, The Knight leaned forward, only to be met with agony from their wounds. They fell back to their previous spot, breathing heavily, defeated. They both looked at each other again, just like they had done only moments before. And then something very peculiar happened. Something that had never happened until that very moment. The two held each other’s gaze, filled with wrath and boiling blood, and almost at the same time, something in their eyes changed. And then something in them entirely seemed to change. They broke their gaze and looked at the damage they had caused to one another. The Knight looked upon their work. The cut was monstrous, humbling even the most hearty of dragons. Even if it were to somehow heal, The Knights mark would be left and would chill anyone or anything that looked upon it to the bone. Pride was no longer a luxury for this once Royal Dragon. The Dragon looked upon their work. Years of hard and beautiful craftsmanship had been destroyed in moments. Years of brutal training, sleepless nights, and lost hours with loved ones seemingly wasted, leaving only a trembling, bloody mass. No words were spoken between them, but there was an understanding, perhaps multiple understandings, but one understanding for sure. They were tired. Oh so very tired. They both sighed. “Pointless.” The Knight said. The Dragon blinked in agreement. “Pointless.” “I kill you because you’ve killed me.” “And I kill you because you’ve killed me.” Sorrow filled both of their hearts. A sorrow so heavy it could crush mountains. But sorrow left room for joy. And once the two looked in each other’s eyes once more, joy flooded in where hate had once been. Their wounds spoke to them. The time had come. There was a breeze in the courtyard.



Ali Blackburn Locked 9th

Grace Pan Unconditonal 10th

Kennon Conner Typhon 11th

Suvitha Viswanathan Name 12th



Locked - Ali Blackburn

The house I grew up in seemed to have millions of hallways and rooms. Whenever I got bored, as a child, I would wander around the house, searching for a new room to explore. By the age of nine, I’d explored every single one in the house. Except one. My mother never recovered from my father’s death, and she had kept so many secrets. She told me never to open the door. I was allowed in every single room in the house except this one. Why can’t I go in? I thought time and time again, wishing I could know what was behind the door. In my youth, I could not fathom what was inside. She told me to stay away from it. I was only a child, and children rarely listen. I used to stand outside the door. Everyday I would press my ear against the smooth exterior, straining my ears to hear any trace of life inside. Nothing. The door was thick, polished wood with a rusted lock and handle. My curiosity only grew. It was late November when I heard it. I had been, yet again, waiting outside the door, beginning to lose hope. Then I heard it. It sounded like glass shattering. I thought I heard something else, but was too afraid of getting caught by the door to stay and decipher what it was. I was frustrated by my own cowardice that day. Two weeks later, I had stood by it everyday, wishing for something—anything—to happen inside. That was the day I got caught lurking by the door. What are you doing here? I told you, clearly, to stay away. This room is off limits. My mother growled, lurching forward, standing between me and the door. Her face was red with rage as she fumed and questioned my activities further. Everything went silent. After her storm of anger, my mother stopped to think. What was she thinking about? I later learned she was at war with herself, debating whether or not to let me in. The key was small and jagged, looking as if it would snap any second. My mother placed it into the lock and twisted it gently, allowing the lock to click open. I took a step towards the unlocked door, putting my hand in the knob. My mother grasped my wrist. Be mindful of the glass. Mirrors. Not only were they mirrors, they were shattered mirrors. Mom, what is this? It’s all my fault. Jonathan is dead because of me. It’s my fault he’s dead. I couMom, it’s not your fauYou don’t know what happened. Then tell me. I waited.

34 It was three years ago. We were so stupid. Or, at least, I was. So, so stupid. She paused, tears dropping from her eyes onto the shattered glass covering the floor. I was in contact with some pretty dangerous people at the time. Jonathan didn’t know I was undercover, he didn’t even know what I did for a living. I lied to him our entire marriage up until the day he died. My mother stopped and looked at me. She inhaled sharply and continued. One of the groups I put away still had members who weren’t in jail. They came after us. He didn’t know what was happening. I was so unsure what to do, I’d never been used to having a partner. The only person I had ever had to protect was myself. One of the men grabbed him and held a gun to his head. I was so stupid, I thought I could make that shot. I couldn’t. Mom, what’re you saying? I SHOT HIM. My mother threw her fist against one of the mirrors, blood dripping from her knuckles as the mirror cracked, leaving a spider web design on the glass. This room is for me to look and see what I’ve done. I will never allow myself to forget. She paused, tears still flowing. She had stopped to think. I was shaking, afraid of what her next move would be. I have something for you. She said it with a hint of regret, like she was supposed to give it to my sooner. She pried off one of the mirrors and pulled out a box, handing it to me. My father’s ashes.


Unconditional - Grace Pan

The haze of memory concealed it, Unknown it has remained; How could I not recall, When my life was first attained?

Progressing through the years, A step – a stumble – a fall; Like I was in a tempest, Alas, back to a crawl;

Then came a change so sudden, My world, it vastly grew; But the more I seemed to learn, The fewer things I knew;

With high pressures to conform, Others tore my life apart; Never enough, always too much, Thus, a broken heart;

Lost within the forest, Cruelly trapped by society; Where was I? Where did I go? Loss and anxiety;

Your first few breaths of life, A cry – the purest sound; A harmonious cacophony, Sweet joy to ears abound;

I held you when you were tired, (Though your efforts weren’t in vain); My love already existing, Yet further tempered by the pain;

Your journey had begun, And as I stood there at the pier; Waving and saying goodbye, Love remaining just as dear;

To see you silently suffer, Hurt me more than it to you; Always enough, never too much, Nothing was more true;


I searched throughout the forest, For you so far departed; Where were you? Where did you go? To seas on maps uncharted?

Recollection is difficult, The memory dissipating to mist, Though as a mother my love, For you, it still exists.

The last few breaths of life, In memory are quite clear; And yet, too late, I realized: You always held me dear.


Typhon - Kennon Conner

It is with the greatest bewilderment that I begin to write this. I, Doctor Alexandria Grant of the Mauna Kea Observatory, am about to relay in this log an occurrence currently shrouded in mystery. What is written here is doubtless going to warrant indefinite amounts of research. While working my shift at our observatory’s telescope, I came across something in the night sky. It is an object brighter than Venus in the firmament, yet it appears to be positioned beyond the farthest reaches of our solar system. After extensive toiling over years of notes and astronomical logs, it cannot be said that this object was ever recorded by anyone prior to tonight. Perhaps what is most interesting about the object, however, is the color, or colors, rather, that it radiates. While most other extraterrestrial objects within our view tend to maintain a single hue when we observe them, this peculiarity acts as a strobe light, flashing the colors of the rainbow and every other shade in between. Never before has there been a stellar object of such wonder and magnificence. What even could it be? The only possible explanation that comes to mind is that a series of coincidental events resulted in the creation of a new type of star which we had never seen. The object’s periodic shift in color could be attributed to the star’s abstract makeup, as it burns away at a fuel supply of copper, cobalt, and other elements. Though, the problem arises that those elements are both metals, whereas stars have been known to burn only gases, such as hydrogen and helium. But hydrogen and helium do not radiate flames of teal or jade when burned. Therefore, the best explanation for the object at this moment is that it is a new type of star with an energy great enough to burn on a fuel supply of varying metals. Only now do I realize the implications of such a discovery! This is a star the likes of which may very well change our understanding of the universe! Everything from its abrupt appearance to its stunning display of color could fuel research for years to come. The one fortunate enough to make this discovery would be showered with praise… no, I mustn’t think about that. I must focus only on the scientific fallout that is sure to follow. But for now, I am required to report this to my superiors, so that is what I will do. In the months that follow tonight, I will continue to study this stellar body. If there are any more irregularities, they will, of course, be subsequently recorded. ******** Three months have passed since my discovery of the mysterious body, which, after intense debate, has been named Typhon at my request. I can’t quite describe what compelled me to name it so. Something about that name just clicked in my mind. Nevertheless, I was correct in my assumptions regarding the inquiries spawned from the star’s seemingly instantaneous inception. The questions themselves only multiplied when a new development was made around the star, this time with regards to its movement in the night sky, or lack thereof. It was noted, over several weeks of study, that while the celestial bodies of normality rose from and set below the horizon in accordance with Earth’s rotation, Typhon remained static in its position. It never followed its brothers and sisters in their retreat

38 from the Sun. It was therefore concluded that somehow, the new star has been perfectly synchronized with Earth’s rotation, as well as its orbit. It is unlikely, though, that this body is actually orbiting our solar axis, due to the undeniable distance between it and the Sun. The world’s top physicists have been considering the theory that much of the energy left over from Typhon’s spontaneous birth was kinetic, and it was thus set on a path similar to ours. It is still unclear how it’s perfectly matching our rotation and orbit, though. Perhaps Typhon might actually grant us some rest before it produces more questions. ******** It is now half of a year after my last entry in this log. Little progress has been made in our understanding of the heavenly entity so discussed over the last year. I am back at the Mauna Kea Observatory, gazing still at this bewildering speck. I can’t help but feel frustrated that my discovery has yet to yield any sort of insight into our universe. The scientists debating over Typhon seem to have taken leaps and bounds backwards. They’re not even sure if it’s a star anymore. The photographs taken by the Hubble telescope bore no fruit, either. Only a bright object could be captured in the still images. And still it remains static in its placement, and I’m starting to think that it’s taunting me with its radiance. Why do you goad me so, Typhon? What slight have I made against you? Surely, we are undeserving of the pandemonium with which you have burdened us! Without even allotting us one answer, you create twelve more queries each day. Even the smallest amount of satisfaction would have been appreciated, yet you give us none. I curse you, Typhon! Return to the vile pit from whence you came! Oh, dear God. Very suddenly, as if in response to my curse, that hateful spark grew noticeably brighter in the night. This can mean one or both of two things: either there is some kind of shift in its fuel source, or it is now closer to us than it was before. I have to report this. ******** Two weeks have passed, and it had been determined that Typhon, whatever it may be, is careening toward Earth. Leaders the world over gave their respective countries press conferences in which the news was released to wreak havoc among the hearts and minds of men. And with these came varying plans to either destroy it, or to build a craft by which we would leave our planet. Within a day, there were crowds of people gathered around Mauna Kea, waving signs saying that, in reality, Typhon was their beloved Planet X all along, finally come to crash down onto Earth. The wealthier of these individuals have already begun to build their biodomes, convinced that they will save them when the day of impact arrives. These solutions are in vain, however. Typhon is now visible throughout the day, as it is so bright in the firmament. Based on the rate of change of brightness, as well as some additional photos by the Hubble, that horrifying body is set to strike in three weeks’ time. It would be a miracle greater than the birth of our destructor if any meaningful construction was completed in that time.

39 Matters certainly weren’t helped when a prominent Tokyo businessman went mad in the middle of Shibuya Crossing. He spouted that an unfathomable giant with eight great wings, brandishing a titanic, adamantine spear, came to him in a nightmare. This was Typhon, he said. And he was coming to run Earth through. A mere summary, this is, for the businessman went on shouting for hours in perfect verse. He was promptly detained and incarcerated. What else can be said? When faced with an inevitability, we, as humans, resort to insanity, to an extent at which even the soundest people indulge in it. ******** And so, the night of our reckoning is finally upon us. The barkers have left the observatory with their “I told you so’s,” seeking shelter in the fallout trenches they’ve dug for themselves. I am the only one who actually bothered to keep the telescope company. I figured there was nothing else to do. I tidied the observatory back up after all of my fellow astronomers left in a frenzy to get back their families, only to find that the airports had already ceased function. The grinding halt which disasters bring upon society came early. Thus, all efforts to circumvent sure destruction were lost to the follies of man. The missiles which were proposed to destroy Typhon could not be developed fast enough, in a final bout that meant to defy our inherent sloth but failed. The one escape vessel that actually showed promise was destroyed by a woman destined for infamy, who claimed that Typhon would bring down upon us from the stars an eternal age of prosperity and gold. Now, we sit on our rock, waiting helplessly for our own murder by some… thing. I can no longer bring myself to care what it is. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this now. What good comes from writing something that no one is to read? I suppose I just need something to do in my solitude, as I await oblivion. But is this any better than talking to myself? Perhaps one’s self is the best company to keep, especially when the only alternative is a telescope. To study the stars is to gaze into the past, into the tales of old which were brilliantly printed on the astral parchment. These tales told of the things that were and the things that were to be. It’s only fitting that the end of all things on this, our loathing, accusing home, took its first steps among those pages. Now, the only thing left to do is to stare Typhon, my own discovery, in the eyes as it comes to greet me. Looking directly at it through the telescope will surely blind me, but what does that matter now? My eyes burn as I look up at Typhon in its final descent, and I see that grand display of color, but… did I just catch its gaze? My vision is beginning to dim, but I see several extrusions encircling Typhon. Are those wings?



Name - Suvitha Viswanathan

The harsh glare of maternity ward lights. The odor of ammonia, the disinfectant of choice. Chilled air, circulated through spotless vents. Clean, in theory. But in reality, stained. Tainted with the echoes of sustained screams, Muffled groans and whimpers, A faint metallic bottom note of blood. A drowsy aura Hovered above the dull sickly, Who paced the corridors Searching for vibrancy. Beyond it all, something new. The energy, pierced with surges of muscle spasms. The atmosphere, engulfed with the limerence for new life, Fresh souls entering into existence. In one room, lies a pale Lady in wait, Anticipating the arrival of a well-known stranger. The two have been in conversation for quite a while. 280 days, or 40 weeks, to be exact. They’ve bonded well, connections formed over oddities. Occasional kickboxing matches against a flesh cavern, Set the urgent tone of the stranger’s desire To finally emerge. And while the Lady lay in wait for nine moons, She developed an agenda, to bring the bundle comfort. A home, built in the smallest room of her house. Furnished to the max, with plush animals galore. She pondered over the future with the Beloved, Pictured all of the feats this Cherub would accomplish. But never once did she have to worry That her Angel would face a complete and utter lack of respect. Yet 9,106 miles away in Madurai, Her caramel doppelganger lay in an detached state. Forbidden from attaching herself

42 To the one thing that consumed her every cell. The Dravidian could not prepare for the newcomer, No clothes, no toys, no potential moniker. There was to be no excitement, but only fear. For to hope was to create inevitable tears. So the Lady acknowledged this, Grateful for her luxury In being able to plan Who her new angel would be. Perhaps a classic, Or maybe a newfangled title. She would choose wisely, From the clichéd books or her family tree. When the moment came, The Lady heard the missing part of her soul sing, Emitting cries that couldn’t be soothed, Until mother and child were chest to chest. Unlike her pale double, the beige Rani was left in the dark, Left to await until the hours of pain That preceded the gain of a new heir, A new leader to rule the family. And no one said, but she knew they wanted a king Not a queen, not a weakling. She would be unworthy if she couldn’t produce, So she followed superstitions and withstood the abuse Different from the Lady, the Rani felt alone. Not a mother, but a host For a growing child. Nothing more. And when her moment came, Her hopes fell flat, Sad to see a mocha-colored girl wriggling in gloved arms, A white coat, announcing the Rani’s failure.


44 She quivered in fear of a crazed family member, Enraged, seeking the babe’s poison-based execution. But she knew that maybe this Doll could break The heavy glass ceiling that caused her own back to ache. The name she chose was one of strength, Wealth and prosperity. The name she chose rolled off her own tongue, But to others, it would not be one. To others that the tan Princess would grow to know, The name would be a topic of shame. It would be something she dodged, If initially unwelcome or “hard”. The brown girl would nod her head To any pronunciation, In hopes that she wouldn’t have to bear With the replied exasperation. Nicknames would be tolerated, Regardless of status. And her last name, Hmm, why bother even having it? No one knew that her name was hers. They believed it was a show, And a mere attempt at fame. But hers was a once-in-a-lifetime name. So why make the effort to learn one’s title, Regardless of origin or pronounciation? It comes down to a simple human concept. Respect.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Mrs. Nash Mrs. Kraft and all our contributors



NOHS Literary Magazine Spring 2018  
NOHS Literary Magazine Spring 2018