#4 + #5 | winter 2015 1
GLASS KITE ANTHOLOGY
Glass Kite Anthology is a non-profit, independent literary & arts journal dedicated to the dangerous. To the uncaged. To the brutally honest that cuts through tendon and singes flesh. We want works that are on the verge of breaking, pieces that are bloated with experience, the ashes on your fingertips, the caverns between your cavities, the kneecaps bruised with jasmine tea. Tell us what it feels like when you first bite into your best friendâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grief, what you do when you outgrow your childhood sandals, where your brother goes at night with his lips stained orange. Let us catch the last words he indents on your cheek, the promises that hover just above the skyline, cawing away like crows. Make us feel like we were corpses all along. Go ahead, submit. Break the glass. Let your words fly. http://www.glasskiteanthology.weebly.com | email@example.com | http://issuu.com/glasskiteanthology | https://www.facebook.com/glasskiteanthology
CONTENTS WRITING At a Godforsaken Hour Alessandra Fernandez The Last Liquid Supper Caroline Tsai Stopped by the sea Devanshi Khetarpal Loungewear Shannon Viola A Winter Romance Lakshmi Mitra African American Proverb, African American Present Neely Woodroffe When You Look At a Man Sophie Coats The Rug Katrina Johnston Lakefield's Sweetheart Laura Mayron Darius Meghana Mysore /drought-speak/ Scott Stevens Pulling a Rope of Sunlight Arianna Linder Amidst the Screams of Strangers Heather Mydosh of colour and flowers Genevieve May Days Marion Deal neoclassical love story Anastasia Nicholas Her Name Is Alex Dang Looking, Not Touching Cecilia Wood Catch Me If You Can Tiffany Wang Dead Painting Blues Carrie Zhang What We Didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t Know Lindsey Hobart Shea Ananya Kumar-Banerjee Whispers from an Aisle Away Eleni Aneziris almost august Joanna Cleary Multiverse Scott Stevens Monsters Madeline Curtis Human Sugar Carrie Zhang Daughterhood Maddie Kim The Show Must Go On Andrew Marinus Anqing: Summer 2013 Lily Zhou death of an astronaut Anastasia Nicholas Moon Cake Annie Lu Oath Scott Stevens Stalingrad Alice Xu Artifacts of April Lily Zhou
ART Exorcism of Time Ilana Newman (cover) Eve and the Tree of Knowledge Emily Zhang Cane Sugar Ananya Kumar-Banerjee 10 of Hearts Isabella Ronchetti Walter in Blue Narisa Buranasiri Societal Pressures Ilana Newman Vanishing Mind Ilana Newman Sand Breeze, Sea Breeze Sohil Patel Untitled Xavia Claire Alice Wasteland Ilana Newman Alma in Pink Narisa Buranasiri The Ghost Inside Ilana Newman Maize Ananya Kumar-Banerjee Untitled William Higgins Staple Town Catherine Zhao Field Notes Isabella Ronchetti My Mother Nature Sohil Patel Lungs Marley Korzen (back)
At a Godforsaken Hour ALESSANDRA FERNANDEZ Tonight the rain falls hastily. The street is veiled with a wet halo that would form a rainbow in the day. I imagine myself in an invisible sphere rolling down the road. Drizzle dragging down like a curtain slinking around me. Here I was perfectly dry. Up the long way I go for the countless time, on a monotonous lap; this is the homestretch. I comb the boulevard for every happening of the night, the stories that take solace in the avenues. It is always at some godforsaken hour that you see your people; the ones who figure out things half-way by frantically decoding a fickle word-of-mouth, to somehow always end up in the same place.â&#x20AC;Š
The Last Liquid Supper CAROLINE TSAI was on the last slick night of an Indian summer, the week like still bathwater, all room temperature, all chalk, dripping from bottle neck to sticky vinyl paint, park bench generations. We were making tradition, the Lego castle destroyed carefully by wrecking ball hands, plastic mosaic. My hands holding back your hair, a bathroom stall that smelled like lavender. I was learning there was a season for everything: full moons, conversations with wolves, dried flowers that, when crushed, diffused autumn. I did not say what I thought, which was I sometimes avoid eye contact with mirrors and I hate my winter birthday. I did not say that your fingers picking apart the bricks was a story I had already written. Or that I carved fingernail crescent moon craters into my palms, trying to figure out what you were supposed to hold onto if slipping from a cliff. You needed leverage and I was seismic, wanted you to hold on more than you did. You destroyed fast the way the clock sliced through twilight. The castle was rubble. I picked it apart and said I was keeping the red pieces. They looked like they needed a place to stay.â&#x20AC;Š
Eve and the Tree of Knowledge
Stopped by the sea DEVANSHI KHETERPAL A man stops by the sea, he stays- stops. Throughout the night, he stands by the sea and watches the waves strike his ankles like splinters that strangle his skin: the water snatches more of him, his skin slithers like a snake into the sea with his capsized hood and fangs as cold as the night breeze. But someone watches him, runs about in the streets shouting to the city that he looks spectacular, that the sea makes him and the night sky bleed in unison. Today, the city- stops. People want to bleed in unison. They partition windows, keep faucets running, keep stereos blaring through their boudoirs while they stand- stop- stay by the sea: the men in their holiday suits, the women in their evening gowns, the children wear what they are told, the old wear their skins tightthey wait for the night. But listen: the waves strike everyone like splinters, make them forget their limbs, remove their skins that slither into the water, under the cold, wrinkled face of the moon that carves itself in the throbbing seawhich has been, from some time ago, keeping faucets running, city bleeding invisible like the first mark of dawn falling invisible on the sky. And listen: this happens with the stayingstopping of one man one night with no beauty but the face of water against his skin. He and his city and his night slither, in unison on the seabed with no man but sand: the amber colour of sand.
Loungewear SHANNON VIOLA In my past life, I was a sex-pot named Georgia with a freckle above my eyebrow and a sweet tooth. I fed my wicked figure with pomegranates and hot milk and rubbed olive oil into my knuckles, elbows, and knees. I smoked a cigar with every man who slept with me. I tiptoed around town in brown saddle shoes, frequenting coffee shops, where I would alight on a couch and pop brownies into my mouth, demonstrating my good appetite. My top three compliments praised my eyelashes, the sweep of my knowledge of e.e. cummings, and my tritone laugh. On December 21st, 1996, I froze to death—whether from falling asleep at a bus stop or from a skiing trip in the Alps, I am not sure. My memory fails me. I died and then awoke as me now. And that was my birthday. In this life, however, I am only good at the first type of kissing. My first kiss was only a couple of months ago. (Please, don’t mention that to anyone else. I’m assuming this is a confidential session). At eighteen-yearsold in my first year of college, I am experiencing the intimacy of a seventh grader. Mikey Cantalini, who lives across the hall, won my unsullied lips. Mikey smirks with his eyebrows and thinks that the holes in his Adidas Sambas add character. His intensity for rock climbing and sidewalk debates and business networking foils my tepid placidity, my languid blinks and tiny white sneakers. Once I told him that all the girls back in Maine wear white mid-calf socks with white sneakers, and he said, “No, that’s a Catholic thing,” and kissed my cheek. I like his tumbles of curly black hair, his Italian nose, and his love for Frank Sinatra. My attraction for Mikey is like a periwinkle wiggling her neck from her shell when you hum to her. His intransigent persistence awakens me. You’re going to tell me that he doesn’t treat me right and that I need to kick my self-respect into gear and kick Mikey out altogether, and you have very wise advice. Mikey first kissed me when I was locked within his arms so tightly that I did not have room to stroke his arm or move. In the darkness, his head loomed over mine and he said “I can’t wait”, and he first-kissed me, that nurturing kiss. I can do that.
After last night, however, I realized that Mikey is the patient tiger, and I am the pure, Catholic girl. Patiently, he growled: “You inspire me. I might come to mass with you one day. I’d have to go to reconciliation first.” Demurely, I wrapped my fingers around his hand and told him how much faith I place in him. Last night, I reminded him again. I was lounging in my room with the desk lamp on, a milky light filtering throughout the stale air of a college dorm. The door was propped open with a carton of trail mix, so I witnessed drunken sprints down the hallway, the insistent, forceful door knocks fueled by marijuana, and parades of body con dresses and crop tops destined for Lambda and late mornings. At midnight, a howl so guttural and orange that it rattled the book out of my hands shot from the girls’ bathroom down the hall. I heard the door open, a sucky slap of vomit hitting the hallway carpet, and then two girls shuffling back into the bathroom. I gathered my hair over my shoulder and investigated. There was a blonde head in the toilet bowl and a steady hand holding her shoulder. The hand looked at me and apologized. I said, “Does she need anything? Water or a towel?” “No, she’s good, Prozac and Everclear. Want a cigarette?” “No, I’m good.” The hand lit herself up and took a luxurious drag while the head moaned a dirge for Saturday night. I closed the door to my room. If Savannah was here, we would be playing Delta Spirit and laughing at photos of ourselves in junior high, before we were in each other’s life. I made up her bed that afternoon. I displayed her stuffed giraffe on a pile of homemade afghans and tucked in the corners of her comforter. I also vacuumed underneath her desk, organized her closet, and disinfected the surface of her dresser. I texted her after there was nothing else to clean, wishing her good luck on the rest of her mission trip and telling her how much I was going to hate waking up lonely this weekend. I was staring at my roommate’s empty bed when Hand knocked on my door. “Do you have the number for the campus police? She just asked for medical amnesty.” I brought her to my RA, who called for a transport. I watched from my doorway.
Mikey tore through the dorm doors. I had not seen him for a week, mostly of his own doing. He had been ignoring my calls, my waves across campus, and my open door. Now—I may be innocent, but I am not naive, and I know that rash, orchestrated avoidance equals guilt. I surmised many things from his silence and decided to cut it off with him, whenever he chose to make himself available. Mikey’s eyes bulged when he saw the RA. He curtailed before me, showed me a fist, unfurled his fingers, and revealed a pristine joint. “Can I come in?” he purred. I shut the door behind us. Mikey pinned me against the door, and in a breathy plea coupled with the eyes of a kidnapper he told me to feel how fast his heart was beating. He seized my hand and I witnessed the swift, turgid spasms. My lips parted at the dizziness that coursed throughout my limbs. I swallowed the hurt I had felt in the past week. “Want to talk?” he said. “Yeah, but I’m talking first.” I pulled away from him and perched myself on my bed. I wore yoga pants and a nubby white top with slits in the back that bared the pink lace of my bra, and as I crossed my legs, I let the neckline slip. I exposed the divots of my collarbone and the hump of one shoulder. My vixen—my past self—emerged when I saw Mikey graze the contours of my décolletage with his covetous eyes. I loved it when I gave boys moon faces. Lifting my chin, I began. “Mikey, you’re a mess. The way you act sometimes adds another layer of stress to my life that I really, really don’t need—“ “I don’t drink because it’s fun for me.” “I don’t judge you because you drink?” “Every time I come in here drunk, you look at me like you’re judging me.” “I get that way because I know that you can do better for yourself. It breaks my heart.” He crawled onto Savannah’s bed and cuddled her giraffe. His silence was more voluble than his everyday mouthpiece; his reticence meant defeat. “Mikey, I understand. Do you even realize how much faith I have in you?” At that he nuzzled his head into the pillows and murmured, “I know I’m not good enough for you yet.”
“We’re just in different places right now.” “I never wanted to hurt you.” “I know.” I hated doing that. I wish that I had been able to plow through the discrepancies of my feelings for this boy—the frustration and pity, the straight love and madness, the dependence and the annoyance—so that we could have been laughing right then. The girl from the bathroom keened out in the hallway. Campus police had arrived to escort her away, but she was shrieking that they leave her alone: she just wanted to die. Mikey peeked at me from the pillows and jumped up to sit at the edge of the bed. “You know, sometimes you wear really short skirts.” “Excuse me?” “Sometimes you wear like short skirts or leggings, and I look at you, and I just feel lust.” I heard Georgia’s hearty applause. I also listened to the girl cry about a rape at age 14. Let me die. Then he says: “Well, I mean you don’t have the perfect body, but I think you have a good body.” I hugged myself. My mouth and nose scrunched. The officers had mollified voices. You will live. After more silence from me, he says, “You’re tall, porcelain, with flowing hair…you’re hot!” Georgia would have tossed her hair back and leapt on top of Mikey, pecking at his neck and nose before going for the dive. At my core, I felt that heat. It was new like an apple blossom and just as fragrant and intoxicating, clouding my head with lovely doses of daydreams. “I just want to kiss you right now.” Yet the Catholicism drowned the apple blossom like a wretched harvest rain. I have suppressed the heat for years on years; I know, I know that it’s unhealthy, but here is how I see it. You will say that libido is human, only human, only natural. I say the distinction between animal and man is that man is able to manipulate his desires; he is able to not to want to. “You’re forbidden fruit.” Georgia was Catholic, but she didn’t care. Well now I am Margot, and I care. “You’re attractive because you don’t give anything away.” The heat made my lips quiver, and Mikey noticed. He slunk from Savannah’s bed onto mine. So close that I smelled his sweet breath. His
breath was a stream, but I smelled it in tendrils, and the scent shut my eyes like an anesthetic. When he lowered his head into my curls, our bodies responded to each other like two whip-poor-wills, both in the sounds of our breath and in our movements. I sucked in the sweetness of his breath. It was so incredibly sweet, just like the poets say. The overwhelming sweetness of his scent stunned me into a stupor. “I just want you to be gentle with me,” I murmured. He first-kissed me. I can do that. Then he lay his hand around my neck and projected his darty tongue inside my lips and suddenly I whimpered and shielded my reddened cheeks. “That wasn’t gentle?” I lifted myself up, feeling consummately Margot, like Georgia never walked on this earth. “No.” We looked at each other. His eyes dripped in longing, yet his hands remained on his lap. He emitted a vibe like he wished nothing but for my unwavering faith—not because he wanted to slay my desuetude and display my maidenhead on a plaque, but because he genuinely pined for my confidence. His eyes blazed a novena for my trust. It was a fleeting prayer. He gathered me into him. “I feel like everything we said took a total 180.” “I know it.” “What do you want then?” “You know what I want.” “You know I can’t do that.” “I know.” “You know that I think?” “What now?” “I think that we should smoke that joint and have philosophical discussions.” “Excuse me?” “I think that’s what we need to get to that point where we feel comfortable enough to be spontaneous.” “You know I don’t do that, Mikey. You of all people.” “Come on,” he said, “how do you know it’s not for you if you’ve never tried it?” “I don’t even want to try it because with my luck, I’ll get caught.” “We can go to the soccer field. I know you’re stressed beyond belief, and you’ll feel so relaxed and then get sleepy.”
“I’m not sure.” “We can do it if you want.” “And what if I fall asleep on the field?” “I’ll carry you back.” When I took my first hit, I knew that I had made Georgia jealous. I got a man to smoke with me before I slept with him. Mikey, already coursing on five hits, tinkered with the tassel on my sheepskin hat and tickled the neckline of my crew sweatshirt. I waited for my high. I fulfilled Mikey’s wish of philosophical discussions. I explained how technology was a hindrance to our intelligence. We can think on computers, but it is cheating. Think about the ancient Greeks, who memorized the tracks of stars. The people who accomplished feats without the aid of plastic and wires were the true geniuses. He responded with a kiss on my neck. When we started kissing in Georgia’s way, the high made me hallucinate. In the visions, I had no eyes. I had two pockets of black crust. Whenever I blinked, a clementine spilled out of each socket like a gum ball dispenser. I would peel each clementine with precision, sectioning the fruit and screeching whenever I found a seed. My high school friends and I used to eat barrels of clementines. They were efficient to eat before class, and we liked to spell our names with the peels. Then I was at a school football game, manducating clementine pulp. Every time the cheerleaders thrust their fist up, my eyes delivered two more clementines. I heard mittened claps and a boy’s feigned bellow yelling, “What’s up, man?” I pulled my knitted cap over my eye sockets. The yelling boy approached me with steps of bricks until he clasped my waist and squeezed every last clementine out of me. He dragged me away from the football game, and in my vision, I knew that this boy was a burn-out, the type who looks at me, a pretty honors student, and wants nothing past a hook-up in order to secure his own worth. After he positioned me in a desk like a doll, he peeled my clementines for me. That was the end. I must have fallen asleep like Mikey said, and he must have carried me back to my room like he promised, because I woke up this morning to Savannah rearranging her closet. “Savannah!” “Morning, Margot.” “Why are you here?”
Savannah sat at the edge of my bed. “The trip got canceled and no one told the director, so we drove all the way to DC and then had to drive all the way back…But I know what you did last night.” I cowered into my sheets. “Me too.” “I called the counseling center for you. You have an appointment at four.” “The counseling center? Savannah, it was a one time thing. I had a really weird night last night with Mikey.” “I called campus police on Mikey.” “You…but, that’s not how people do it.” “Well, that’s what people should do!” Savannah hollered. “I’m tired of everybody here getting off for drinking and causing problems for people like you.” All at once I remembered the nights when Savannah and I would sit up as therapists, assuring this one that he could kick the alcohol addiction, listening to that one relate the bruises from his abusive mother. As the only straight-edged kids on the floor, we became the mothers they wished were awaiting them at winter break. We hated our job. Bearing the grievances of others, all guarded by stipulations of don’t tell anyone, but…, was like being in church and having no one for whom to pray. I was Mikey’s sole therapist before he saw me in my loungewear one night in September. “It’s already three,” she sighed. “I can pick out your outfit if you want to wash your face.” I staggered out of the room at the same time as Mikey. “How ya feeling, Margot?” “Gross, and oily, and gross.” “Campus police got me. I’m meeting with them right now.” “Really? It’s over for you then, huh?” “All I gotta do is smile and charm my way out of a write-up.” I cocked my head. “Mikey, it’s time to own-up to what you do.” “You’re too Catholic,” he scoffed. He did not notice the anger flare within me. “And you’re a calculator.” Well, I suppose that was a unnecessary answer to your question. Overall, my transition to college has been odd. You’re the only one who knows about Georgia. Savannah once said that in her past life she was a drug dealer coursing through America in a van chilling to R&B, and I could see it in her, but I could not admit to
having been Georgia. In this life, I am still a coquette, but I choose not to be lucrative in my eyelash bats and sugary giggles. Savannah and I know what we want and methodically plan out achieving it, and I suspect that girls like us are reincarnated. How else would we know what to do? As for Mikey, it is a shame. He is a baby poet writing for the sophist school, and he cannot have me. Tonight, he will crawl towards me with those eyes of his, but he can no longer have me. He sought to to devour my virtue for his own sustenance. He could be the patient tiger no longer; his crouch strained his muscles. I am just too pretty, too pleasant, too poetic. But I am not too Catholic. â&#x20AC;Š
Cane Sugar Ananya Kumar-Banerjee
A Winter Romance LAKSHMI MITRA last week i buried winter, cardboard box smell lovingly shrouded in blood silk, two strands of grey hair she shed in the monsoon; twigs for her monster legs carcasses of october shrubs to hold over her hollow heart jasmine petals rubbed onto her plastic wrists, just for show, she loved it so kohl over her skinless lids, under her feeble reptillian eyes an easy simmer of smoke to wash our wrongs away & into the earth - my grandmotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s anklets, ravenous for death she wore them to five of her shows, eyes spiralling into mine prehistoric editions of nat geos, in their moulding yellow sleeves her crude stills, all her silvery watercolours, wispy, wistful & into the sky - the demon breath of her last words - or were they mine? remember me, i used to love you - and now, now, i will leave her & into the dust - the aching bones of a five year love last week i buried winter, watched her strangled by the flames i thought i heard her corpse whisper, whisper iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be back again.
African American Proverb, African American Present NEELY WOODROFFE I. “Mothers raise their daughters and let their sons grow up.” What can be done when black baby boys are ripped from the very arms that cuddled them, from the woman who birthed him, whose blood runs through him. Screams tore from raw throats, both inside and out She never really knew her son but for him, all she had was love. II. “If you ask a negro where he’s been he’ll tell where he’s going.” Before you stop to ask his life, realize the wreckage he pulled it from. Baby boy is a man now, one with a gleam in his eyes. The love his mother sent, floated to him overnight, every blessing and admonition was heeded. Baby boy is a man now, one with a rebellion in his soul III. “The worm don’t see nothing pretty in the robins song.” Plastered on signs, shouts ricochet off brick buildings. The once docile, humble humans have changed their minds. Sweetness has gone bitter, kindness cold. The robins didn’t listen to Langston Hughes, the worms have gone mad with complacency, they’ve twisted the form into a noose and banded together to protect the young, old, in-between.
IV. “The very time I thought I was lost, my dungeon shook and my chains fell off.” The chains had finally rusted over, wrists rubbed raw, red pooling around the floor. The dungeon echoed with a new sound: Freedom. Beware robins, baby boy don’ growed up, the worms are fed up, your time of feasting is up. Beware robins, we’ve changed our minds.
10 of Hearts Isabella Ronchetti
Walter in Blue Narisa Buranasiri
When You Look at a Man SOPHIE COATS She is one spandex skirt short from popping a blood vessel, her hair one flat iron away from singeing to ashes beneath her red finger nails. She says, when I look at a man I look at his hands. That’s how you know that a man is a man’s man. Says, my daddy used to have those blue collar swelling callouses. My daddy could put together a car with those hands, stop a train with those hands, string a broken violin with those hands, put a woman in her place with those hands, make a boy a man. She is laughing at herself and it is an empty wind up toy sound in a dark room. Her lips crack like the valleys of ice cubes. When she speaks it is only to herself. When you look at a man find the cracks in his alligator skin between his thumb and pointer finger. Run your fingers over the biggest one. Find the life line. Don’t ask where he’s been. Show him the blood on your hands from winter where it pulled your skin apart. Show him the warmth between your palms. Hide the dirt beneath your nails.
The Rug KATRINA JOHNSTON Bettina Nicholson whacked the side of the ancient vacuum cleaner with an open-handed karate chop. The Electrolux stuttered and belched. It spewed a cloud of dust before it died. “Blast!” she said, watching the haze of dirt as it settled upon her rug. She had not expected the imminent demise of the vacuum cleaner. “A damn piece of obsolete junk. Useless,” she said. “Sucks! Well, no, it doesn’t.” She yanked the plug and trundled the defunct upright back towards the utility closet. Down on her hands and knees near the centre of her floral carpet, Bettina scowled as she inspected it. “Needs a solid beating.” She traced her index finger through the grit that peppered the pale geometric designs emblazoned over a trellis background. “I hate this stupid flower carpet. Really hate it. Too many curled-up memories and all the dumb-assed flowers that look like giant tulips.” She might manage, if she were radically inspired, to roll the rug endto-end, fringe-to-fringe. Then embracing the tweedy bundle she’d have to waltz outside, pressing one cheek against the jute backing, hefting the burden along the hallway and out onto the porch to drape it over the rail and then to clout it with a pole or an old shoe. “No way! Holy Cow. That’s too much crazy effort!” Bettina is sure she is developing arthritis. She has recently nodded in the general direction of her 52nd birthday, watching it sail right past without a celebration. There’s a lot of things she’d like to attack, but the thought of any physical labour overwhelms her. The rug lies dormant. Her renter, Larry Strachan, the guy who resides in the basement suite, could better tackle the household chores, but he won’t budge right now. Bettina hasn’t spoken to him for over a month and she doesn't understand exactly why or whatever is the problem? “He's got himself into a royal snit.” When Larry first moved in, she thought he was her superhero. He owned a full set of carpentry tools and claimed the expertise of a certified electrician. Mr. Fix-It. Her eyes glinted when she stared into Larry's. Bettina called upon him for repairs and Larry worked out well. He rewired two electrical outlets, mended the kitchen cabinets and replaced the flapper gizmo inside the toilet tank. He ran errands to the grocery store and then to the drug store. The relationship of landlady to her resident tenant, at least
in Bettina’s estimation, began to flourish and expand. In all Bettina's loneliness and solitude, in all her imaginings and hopes, she figured now that Larry was here she was redeemed. She had finally, truly, deservedly triumphed and found herself a useful man. What a catch! He stood an admirable six-feet tall and possessed a handsome face, unlike her late husband's. Her renter was eight years her junior. That mattered not one whit. Larry owned the sexiest of eyes. She referred to him as her “partner” or her “fellow” and her hopes began to soar. Though Bettina knew inside the deep portions of her brain, the portions she reserved for common sense, the fantasy was hers. Larry never showed his cards. Now it's ten months after he's been in residence in her basement suite and he does not answer if she knocks. He doesn’t do a measly jot of work, not even in his own suite. And Larry doesn’t come upstairs as he once did during those first few heady months. He would arrive promptly to partake of Bettina’s Wednesday night suppers. She misses that. She knows he’s home. She hears him rattling around the premises. Back to the mess upon her flowery carpet, she begins by scraping with an old hairbrush and capturing the detritus with a piece of cardboard positioned like a dust pan and routinely dumping this into the wastebasket. Options? Yes, Bettina makes her plans, imagines her what-if and how-to and could-be. A rolled-up persian carpet provides the perfect hiding place. The corpse would have to be sans rigour. She snickers. “An unstiff sort of stiff.” Pliable and snugly rolled for transport. She’d have to load it onto the truck bed and motor off into the pre-dawn, navigating distance in her late husband’s Ford and watching the wobbly truck-hood ornament shimmer by moonlight. The ornament is a smirking silver cat, a piece of junk her husband claimed he’d found but more likely he had lifted from another vehicle. James had tried and tried again to fasten it upon the truck, explaining it was a gift; a peace offering of sorts: “Kissy kat for me darlin' wifey,” he had said. But James was drunk as usual and trying to appease for an earlier disagreement. He'd recently proclaimed she was “the craziest of all of the neighbourhood cat ladies,” because Bettina had loved with a grand devotion her soft and long-haired calico—Mr. Peaches. She fed the cat a rich diet of Albacore tuna and blue cheese and allowed him to drool upon the sheepskin at the foot of her bed. And then disaster. On one horrible afternoon, her husband shuffled inside and said without a hint of true remorse: “Sorry. T'was an accident.”
He'd backed-up over the driveway and squashed Mr. Peaches beneath the rear truck wheels. R.I.P. Mr. Peaches. She mourned and cried big Peachy tears for six long days. She never forgave her husband. She doesn’t easily let a thing like that pass by. She will always grieve for poor Mr. Peaches. Her husband – him too. Oh yes, she's truly saddened. Just not quite as much. She keeps the truck in decent repair; primed and gassed. And though she knows it’s an outrageous thing to ponder, she can’t help dreaming of Larry and his possible demise. She’d have to remember how to shift the gears. She’d have to recall the night-time route – down highway 406. And how to find the secluded ground, the thickets and the ravine behind the deciduous edges of Harrison's Wood. A set of complex and physical tasks. That's what looms and daunts her, makes her hesitate. “Dead ridiculous to even consider.... Good grief... Really, oh no!” She commands herself: “Let it alone.” She’d be caught of course, cold blooded, red-handed, green-guilty. But, the idea of solving the problem of her renter does not evaporate. And Bettina keeps scraping at the rug, scraping and scraping and thinking. Poison? A clout on the noggin? A rusty nail followed by tetanus? An injection of toxin? A fall from height? Liquified cyanide in a gift of brandy beans? Lock him in the garage and set the motor running (whiskey first for mild sedation). “Ohhh... that’s quite plausible.” For a time she has understood that Larry could have ruled her universe. He’s handsome. He’s a burly guy, blondish, neat, and employed at a lighting-fixture store. ‘Least he was. On one Wednesday night when he still came upstairs to share dinner and he had raved about her tomato-noodle casserole and her plum cake pudding. “Delightful,” Larry said, piling his dinner plate. As usual they had seated themselves across from one another at her dining room table. Romantic? Bettina made it sure by adding candlelight and background jazz. They’d even ventured out together. Once. “Oh yeah, that was real.” But Larry had clarified. “This isn’t a dating sort of arrangement,” he’d said to her. “Simple. Right. We’re friends.” At the Cineplex, Bettina picked the show, blushed when her hand accidentally knocked against Larry’s. Afterwards, before the credits began to roll, she’d reached over, right across and grabbed his neck with both her hands and.... Oh.... Well! At least she tried the kiss. But, Larry had shuddered and pushed her back. “What do you think you’re doing? Get away from me!”
Bettina smiled, remembering every detail. She'd easily assured herself that eventually Larry would succumb. All men swooned. He’d melt to his desire for her. She was still an attractive dish, still trim. She felt this power of her body and celebrated her own attractiveness. She held the arts of seduction even at her ripened age. He’d surrender, blissfully and completely. She’d engineer it true. Yeah, Larry would want her in every possible way, madly deeply, sweetly and forever, like jam needs toast. For a time, Bettina backed off. She played it cool and sweet, flaunting her magic and subtle charms. She flattered and offered more exquisite dinners. One day, he’d want her so bad – yeah, one day he would ache with a demented fever to plant a kiss on her. She waited, followed, watched, made plans and timed the incidences of his comings and goings matching times with her's, keeping a record in a little red notebook. “No I don’t want to come to dinner,” he’d said soon afterwards. “Busy every night this week.” Larry wasn’t playing by the rules. Now, he never knocked upon the adjoining door, nor came upstairs, not like he used to. He ceased to help with chores. If she just happened to come down the path at the same hour that he arrived back home from work, or in any circumstance, Larry avoided her. Bettina bided time. The longer she waited, the more she dreamed. Even when contrary to his rental lease agreement Larry began smoking those smelly cigarillos downstairs and then ignoring her rationalized objections to the stale fumes that crept through the floorboards. Larry was still the primary target. Meanwhile she grew mellow. She adopted a small kitten, a new orange scruff from the rescue shelter. She dubbed him Apricot. The cat needed a bed and a new litter box. She went out shopping and stockpiled multiple cartons of gourmet tuna. She watched Larry. Always on guard and alert, Bettina waited in the wings. He quit or got laid off from his job at the lighting-fixture store. She suspected he was fired or otherwise dismissed. He began to drink. Lonely, she surmised. Perhaps lonely and depressed? He stayed inside his own suite. She heard the TV rumbling. After two weeks of the stand-off situation, Bettina decided it was time to make her gesture. She knocked on the adjoining door, knocked until her knuckles came away feeling tough. On her seventh round of banging (eventually Bettina wins) Larry pried the door four inches and peered through the slit at her. His eyes were bloodshot and suspicious.
“I need some help with rolling and disposing of the my carpet,” she said. “Would you mind?” “I’m busy,” he said. “I’ve got a surprise to show you.” “I don’t care.” “But it’s a great surprise.” “I said I don’t care. I’m busy.” “Look at this,” Bettina said. “It’s a little orange kitten.” And she thrust the fluff-ball up and held him near Larry’s doleful eyes. “Isn’t he sweet. I call him Apricot. That’s a good name for a cat isn’t it?” “Get that thing away from me. I’m allergic.” “But he’s a good little cat, a bonnie prince, and he’s so clever,” Bettina said. “Litter-box trained already. He’s trying to make friends with you.” “Good grief!” And Larry slammed the door mere inches from her nose and the kitten's whiskers. She heard him setting the bolt and latching the chain lock on the other side of the door. “How rude!” Bettina quavered. She went back upstairs, stroked the kitten behind his ears. “My little sugar plum. How could anyone resist your quirky face?” she said. A few days afterward, the house lay in a state of silence. Bettina realized that she hadn’t seen or heard Larry for several hours. And Bettina relaxed in her own environment, stretched out languidly, wearing her comfy slippers and her housecoat. She downed a bag of yoghurt covered pretzels and drank a can of beer while watching the antics of her fluffy exuberant kitten as he tumbled and chased a rolled-up ball of tinfoil across the tweedy rug. On Thursday next, she answered a knock at her front porch. A police officer idled on the top step. “We’re looking for a man named Larry Strachan. Does he reside at this address?” “Downstairs, but I have no knowledge of him.” “Has he moved?” “I’m still cashing his rent cheques.” “When did you see Mr. Strachan last?” “Is there a problem officer?” “Mr. Strachan’s sister who lives out at North Dairy hasn’t heard from her brother. She advised that he was thinking of some sort of major change or a long vacation. But he hasn’t contacted her. He hasn't called. The sister is very concerned. We’re looking into it on the basis of a missing person’s report.” “I’m sure I don’t know anything,” Bettina said.
“Do you have a key to his place?” “Well, of course I do. I’m the owner here. The door is on a chain lock,” she told him. “I have a tool that releases those,” the cop said. “No problem.” She wanted to follow the cop into Larry’s suite, to see what Larry had been doing to the place. After all, it was her house and her domain, but the officer said no as he easily thwarted the golden chain. “Wait here for your own protection.” After the cop had snooped around for several minutes he returned to the front porch. “Mind if I go beyond and into the back yard?” he said. “I want to check the alley and the surrounding locale. It looks like your renter has taken all of his possessions. You’re suite is empty. I guess he’s simply neglected to inform his sister of his whereabouts – and you.” Bettina followed the officer down towards the back gate. “Maybe he’s gone to Costa Rica?” she said. The officer headed around the fence and paced over and past the neighbours place, forth and back, then outside the gate where the community garbage bins and recycling containers stood like sentinels on guard. “What’s this?” he said, pointing to the large bundle of the snugly tied and rolled-up carpet. “Is this your property?” “Well, yes it is.... Er, rather, I mean it was at one time. It’s in the garbage now. I don’t like that rug. You see, the design is all wrong for me. Gruesome flowers.” “Looks like something huge is tied-up tight inside,” the officer said. And he began the attempt at hefting the carpet roll up and over the lip of the bin, grunting with his exertions, pulling awkwardly. A large muscular man who wouldn't quit, the officer heaved it half-way upright, and then the top half of the carpet roll succumbed to forces of gravity. It tilted before it scraped heavily over the edge of the dumpster and it dropped onto the pavement with a dullish thud. “I’m going to take a look.” And the police officer knelt and began untying the heavy twine that bound it. When the carpet was loose and unfurled he found Bettina’s useless vacuum cleaner. “No body,” the officer said, not even cracking the tiniest of smiles. Bettina clasped her hands and shrugged. “You were expecting one?” Then the officer chuckled mirthlessly. “Well, I'm relieved.” “Nonsense.” Bettina turned away, pivoting on one foot. She headed back to the house and called back over her shoulder, “You’re welcome. Take your blessed time. Look everywhere.”
Peeking through the narrow slit of the curtains, she watched. “Men are so useless,” she said into the emptiness of her living room. “Twits.” After the officer replaced the rug and the vacuum in the dumpster he got into his patrol car and drove off. Bettina went downstairs. She inspected the suite. All she found was a nickle in the back of the kitchen drawer, a bottle of oven cleaner under the sink and a roll of paper towels. Nothing more. Two weeks after this incident, Bettina collected a registered letter. Larry Strachan, the lawyer wrote, had indeed moved on. No forwarding address. He must have snuck away into the silence of the night, like a stealth. She hadn’t noticed when or how he’d managed this secret escape. Maybe, it was on the same day she shopped for her pet supplies? The final rent cheque was overdue, but Bettina did not worry about financial loss. Larry had made a clean and hasty exit. “What a jerk!” She swept herself across the expanse of her living-room floor, revealed as it is, a shiny dark hardwood, perhaps of a hardwood oak veneer. She slid fast and celebratory like a kid would do it, gliding by in thick and fuzzy socks. After all, she felt quite free, wild and reckless. “Whoosh!” Bettina said. No one cared or had noticed the deep brownish stains splashed out in a ragged oval shape that she just couldn’t quite eradicate, a darkening that had remained under the rug for seven years, ancient evidence from when Bettina solved the problem of her husband’s soul. “Thank god that nosey and stupid-faced cop just hadn’t continued searching. It’s still a blood stain after all.” Larry? Poor hapless Larry. Yeah, Larry was the Loser. Capital L for Loser. She thought about it without regrets. “Not worth the frikkin’ energy. Far too much crazy work for someone with the early signs of joint dysfunction.” Murder? Yes, one murder per a lifetime please. Sufficient for Bettina. She reasoned the logistics. She is older now and cognizant of her physical limits. "I'm so mature," she whispered to the kitten. “I do need some kind of new rug. A motif that I admire for it’s woven pattern and it’s texture and it's quality, but mostly just to cover-up. No stupid flowers. Not this time.” She tossed the tinfoil ball towards the kitchen. The orange bundle of fluff skittered after it, clicking his unclipped claws over the ancient tarnished blood stains, racing to capture his bright and shiny toy, unaware of anything but the joy of chasing.
Lakefield’s Sweetheart LAURA MAYRON You wanted to be a nun at age nine. Brushing your teeth —until they were as white as the sheets flapping in the breeze behind which you hid your underwear in shame— you scrubbed yourself pure, praying yourself away from living hell. In that town named for a lake with only land in sight, I would like to think you searched for water monsters all the same, if only to have something to battle against that you could conquer— Lakefield’s sweetheart turned warrior. I wish you had run away to the nuns, where they would have taken you in, convent smelling of incense and the only noises in your home hymns and cooing of doves. Instead you had rhubarb, red and bitter, under your nails, mother’s alcohol breath screaming in your ears, trapped in endless snow, singing gospel of the miserable. In my dreams you learned to be a witch, were taught how to exorcise your bloodline of demons. I like to think you learned magic anyhow, turned from God to the goddesses, passed it on to me, made me a warrior who could slay monsters
with her words. You birthed me, bloody by the sea, set me loose on ocean beasts, let me dig up strawberries, red and sweet, island soil under my nails. Thanks to you I’m no one’s sweetheart but my own, laughing gleefully in the face of the world that dared to hurt you. I’ve taken a holy oath to kill your demons, go howling down to hell for you, teeth bared, singing hymns of your beauty, singing of the glory of being your daughter.
Societal Pressures Ilana Newman
Darius MEGHANA MYSORE Inspired by Sandra Cisnerosâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The House on Mango Street darius in the clouds told us about God, and he made him simple, simple like a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly. simple like a woman without her body, like skin without its color. and he made him simple, like love before people decided its meaning, like the world before adam and eve. and he made him simple, like learning before schooling, like a pulsing embryo before someone told her who she should be.
/drought-speak/ SCOTT STEVENS Starving the roses and the livid earthworms. By cutting the water off, which, lately, burns. What I’ll say by the end of the August day. Bubble burst of metal. Of air and thought. Separateness, and the grow of the garden. Rules, and trimming the pink buds. Cauterization, what I’ll call it. Each snip, a stub wet as a wound licked. And cooling the nose like city night. One rose for every bush, rather than twenty. No fruit (hips, I’ll call them), but yet petals. On the ground? Ruddy baby-blanket sheddings. The edge of one bloom beginning to brown, and now I’m feeling lean times. Shirred cuttings about the lawn. Where autumn was in a trash bag. But it has climbed out, eaten the silverware, and I’m left to wonder about the rain.
Pulling a Rope of Sunlight ARIANNA LINDER The dainty blonde little girl stares through the pane of mirror-like water, her tiny pink lips shaped in a perfect O. Her bright blue eyes blink astonishedly, trying to understand the images she sees. She leans over the pool to get a better look, her small stature towering in the misleading ripples of the water. Her long hair seems to stretch down to touch the surface, shining beacon-like in comparison to the dark trees and cloudy skies framing her face. I want to tug that rope of sunlight, pull it into the water to watch the strands separate and float like seaweed. I love to watch long hair immersed in liquid, how it divides itself almost to the point of absolution. It’s mesmerizing. An example that life tends to destroy itself. I won’t let this little girl be destroyed. I won’t let her be marred. She is too perfect to be changed. Her skin, so smooth and white, can not be allowed to be stretched by wrinkles, or before that acne. Her stomach and hips, so straight, mustn’t be pulled and forced into curves. I won’t let them. I smile at her, and she gasps, surprised. She tentatively smiles at me, and then beams. She leans forward, mouth opening to speak with me, but before she can utter a word I reach my hands out of the pool and grasp at that rope of sunlight. My long nails get caught in the intricate knots of her braid, and I dig in. She screams in pain, but I dunk her head underwater to muffle it. I stuff some of the sunlight in her mouth. I don’t want to hear her scream, and I know that soon she’ll stop. Soon she won’t feel pain, never will again.
Vanishing Mind Ilana Newman
Amidst the Screams of Strangers HEATHER MYDOSH I. I didn’t remember for a very long time I didn’t remember I didn’t remember the taste of puddle mud smell of the dirt foundation rotting two-by-fours poking into earth eaten by soil and moisture and sadness I thought infrequent cars, fewer friends The house was pale blue black shutters, gravel drive the dead apricot tree no taller than my mother when it died having grown from a pitted ark in my Nana’s tissue paper hands I dreamed it died with her (how could it leaf without the warm breeze, when she’d whispered out thin roots into a wet paper towel with her yellow breath?) It, or its stick skeleton above the five gallon ring of naked yard, caught fire unexpectedly when the many firm-set boots staked another two-by-four in the yard between my mother’s chamomile bed and the broken street.
I didn’t remember hiding in the cavity of the lilac bush my father behind his blue 88 oldsmobile and the crowd between I didn’t remember the breaking laughter, strange men smell of slopping diesel which ran me rabbit-shy into their knees I didn’t remember cold lick of combustion reflected in the square glass windows behind which my mother, infant brother I didn’t remember I don’t remember I don’t remember but that I edged past their elbows stood with dirty eyelet shoes amidst the screams of strangers II. I couldn’t remember in the infinite moment of sudden fear I couldn’t remember I couldn’t remember when their faces billowed away into the sweatshirt crowd and I remained rooted shoelace aglets pinning my feet to the speckled egg concrete which resented its trampling spilled ice cream detritus proliferation of french-fry birds I felt child screeching, the shrill of metal
The park was vast the pocket map fenced into eight paddock creases populated by sprawling queues ambling amorphous collections from gate to gate, courting thrill pulse-pound pseudo-fright flight engendering a primordial endorphin on thrice dimension tracks for toy trains we ride oiled wheels as hospital paddles click clack clear The stench of fry oil, human bodies, cold machines, lakeshore rot breeze soaked my clothes, my skin as creeping terror lodged in my throat and I spun, slowly first, then tipping into tight spirals of abandonment pirouetting breathless searching I couldn’t remember the echo crack of my own feet slapping the rigid ground pinballing from point to kiosk I couldn’t remember the safe word, the rendezvous point tour bus instructions in case of separation from my herd I couldn’t remember the nonchalant group think of the next destination for thrilling or my best friend’s sweater hue I couldn’t remember I tried to remember I tried to remember the wet flood of the thankful found
their indifferent wildebeest eyes turned to me amidst the screams of strangers III. I dimly remember the champagne elation I dimly remember I dimly remember cold apple filling, lambrusco spit, heated press of excitement and laptop exhaust mounded damp shoes on the mat dripping fog on interior panes from our collective breath no longer held, exhaled in relief I knew friends on the floor, couches, laps The night felt infinite eternal triumph of the New Left after hot dogs from the frying pan hamburgers on hard rolls expat apple pie crumble mongrel plates on end tables left for mismatched glasses refilled the cup of our joy sloshed, ran over, made sticky our fingers as we cheered, how we cheered jigsaw outlines of states filling with crayon blue. The audacious, impossible hope made a brotherhood of us distant observers, onlookers universally elated by the seeming sense of the trickling results, guest analysts, gyrating graphics, giggling in improbable coziness.
I dimly remember sloppy ketchup kisses, quick fingertip smudges, petite ghost outlines on the bathroom mirror I dimly remember my housemate’s terrycloth robe cushioning our beating of the door treacherous bathmat footing I dimly remember sweat curls like Caesar’s flush-faced, bright eyed daring compounded elation I dimly remember I seem to remember I seem to remember the aching bubble in my chest as we heaved, breathed, steadied amidst the screams of strangers
of colour and flowers GENEVIEVE MAY what if in the night i let my girl-heart out the one that remains like a baby tooth, rooted and stubborn; long out of place would i almost learn how to settle in life learn to unbloom the bruises on skin too tight to remove completely would i lose colour and find it among flowers would i lose colour at all â&#x20AC;Š
Sand Breeze, Sea Breeze Sohil Patel
Days MARION DEAL Monday Monday is a scarred, torn war veteran whom the other days look down upon. They call him tiresome, hideous, the day with the soul black as pitch. That, in fact, is his name within the circle of the days. Pitch. His appearance is truly foreboding, for scars crisscross his face in complicated systems that are always shifting. If one looks closely, pictures can be gleaned from their rich purple-black depths: letters of languages long forgotten intertwined with visions of new and terrifying futures. These scratches will drive one crazy if one is not careful. Pitch stares at whoever faces him, daring them to look further, to mock him. Belying his outward appearance though, he is a true intellectual who possesses an incredible mind and — despite the horrors that he has witnessed — he is a well of optimism. He believes in opportunities: that deeds done in the past are over and that today is a beginning and a wealth of ways to learn, expand, and grow. Today opens the door to the week. None of the other days see Pitch this way, though, and he is cast out from their group. Their whispers are of a loner, a monster, a blight on their shining circle of six. They see only (or maybe just choose to look upon) his horrendous exterior, not the man inside. Tuesday Tuesday has the name of Ujo. He is a day that is often overlooked in the march to the end of the week, passed over like Brussels sprouts. A slight, timid fellow, he has a frame that looks as though it could be snapped like a toothpick, and a wispy bird’s nest of mousy chestnut hair. It is chased into line every morning by a comb, but escapes as soon as its tormentor is put down. Ujo is a dreamy writer, lost in the clouds for much of the day. He takes comfort in the characters that spring forth from his mind; spun from woven thought and dream, they are his companions when he can’t gather enough courage to speak to people molded from flesh and bone. This day is a hopeless romantic: a dreamer of impossible dreams and a soul always searching for his other half, one with whom to share his fantasies. He reigns in a palace of his own invention, but if there is one thing he must remember, it is to emerge from his shell, to conquer his fears. For the life that he writes about, that he wishes for with every fiber of his being, is passing him by.
Wednesday Wednesday is a justice, a lawyer, an imperturbable wall who is sister to Sunday and a peacemaker among the week’s squabbling multitude. She is called Pewter by all of the other days, for the scales that hang from her hands. Glorious shining beasts they are, a set of brassy weights that have determined many a future. They are shaped like a tall, stately woman whose arms outstretch in graceful lines, bearing two silver bowls connected to hands by a thin chain. Pewter is exact in everything she does, speaking in measured tones — when she speaks at all. Her sentences are short, clipped, as if every word costs her. Whenever the other days dispute, Pewter is called upon to judge it. For she will mediate fairly and without bias, regardless of whether the person in front of her is an enemy most hated or a friend held dear — not that she has many of either. She teeters on the edge of being almost too tall, and is thin to the point of gauntness. She ties back her long brown hair in a businesslike bun; her coal-black eyes, more suited to a bird of prey, stare severely down at all who walk below her. Wednesday doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her; in fact, she doesn’t care much about anything, but she has a soft spot in her heart that she avoids at all costs. Her indifference puts up an admirable fight, but in the end its best efforts are to no avail. She has a love for Ujo, Tuesday. Something about the way he writes — frantically, as if not capturing his thoughts on paper will cause the world to burn — strikes a chord with her. Or maybe it’s because they are such opposites, or maybe it’s nothing in particular, just the path of Cupid’s arrow that strikes without reason. However she tries to hide it — and she does so remarkably well — Pewter is not the machine she would have you believe. Though if she continues on her path of black, white, and frantic self-suppression, she will never know whether emotion is something to be embraced or a terrific pitfall. Thursday Thursday is the day lost in shadow, the one made up of obscure, conflicting ideas and feelings that circle the air like lost sparrows. He’s a mystery, and that’s just the way he likes it. He calls himself Shade, the dusk of the week. Thursday is a tribal warrior, adorned in the feathers, fur, and teeth of animals he has slain. These accoutrements are trophies as well as thanks to the souls of the deceased beasts. Shade slips through trees like a phantasm, giving off nary a whisper and providing just a flash of color to the most canny watcher — unless he wants to be observed. He speaks no words and revels in the silence. None knows if this quietude is by choice or not, but
regardless of his reason for doing so, he communicates in an odd sign language that only Monday understands. Whenever a tragedy, celebration, or any to-do occurs, Thursday is on the scene, watching events unfold with an inscrutable gaze. He sees much and is the wisest of the days. For he is the one who stops to witness the little things: the nuances, the music of the forest, and the way that moonlight imbues the world with an air like faerieland. All the other days bicker and roil with a turbulence, then make up, each time more passionately than before. Yet Thursday remains solid, his luminous eyes taking it all in. Shade resembles Tuesday â&#x20AC;&#x201D; but then again does not. They have the same slight, short build â&#x20AC;&#x201D; though where Ujo is thin, almost sickly, Shade is all lean muscle and bony angles; he lies coiled and prepared to attack. His hair is fine and wispy like that of his fellow day, but he gives in to its wild pull. Its raven-wing black layers are seasoned with burrs and leaves, or at times a beetle or worm. The most striking thing about Thursday, though, are his eyes, which are pried wide open with the knowledge of a thousand, thousand years. Their black depths carry an inner fire: a blaze so intense that when one gazes into it, unwelcome thoughts wander into the territory of the mind. The ideas weave words with forked, black tongues: does Shade watch as a scholar, a scientist, and a sage? Or do those dark, incalculable eyes belong to a master tactician; do they judge weaknesses, push at faulty spots, and patiently await the perfect moment to spring forth and attack? Friday Friday is the youngest of the days, one whose skin shines pale as milk and radiates the quiet glow of the moon. Her hair is brilliant blue to rival that of the tropical fish, its cerulean strands always attempting to escape the confines of the dark green bandana she puts it in. She is an inventor, a tinkerer, a knight of invention clad not in armor but in a billowing white lab coat. That blustering badge of the mad scientist is emblazoned with all sorts of writing in a wealth of languages; it is the place she makes her notes when there is no paper to be found. Friday is a spring of boundless possibilities and inventions beyond the likes of which man can imagine. Every movement of hers is an ode to all the art that can be made and the songs that can be sung. For that reason, her name is Prospect, the light of creation. Prospect whispers in the ears of all great mentors, explorers, and teachers as she spurs mankind on its path to glory. She makes inventions that allow her to fly like a bird, to speak with the spiders, and to breathe with the gills of a fish. Friday is responsible for the little bits of magic seen in the world everyday: the splashes of improbable color found in the corner
of your vision, or the eyes that don’t belong in this world staring from the brush. Each creation of hers waxes neither malevolent or benign, but full of curiosity. Her lab coat is full of pockets in the most unlikely of places, each one stuffed with gadgets, thingamabobs, and doodads. She takes these disparate elements out, fiddles with them, and creates something entirely new and fascinating only to dismantle it and reshape the remains into an even more fantastic, innovative design. Prospect always has a pencil behind each ear and a twinkle in her eye, ready to go out and get the world. The one shadow across her illuminating sun is her obsession, a niggardly thought that torments her in her dreams and daylight musings alike. She wants power, and will do anything to get it, even if that means overthrowing her Lord Sunday to do so. She feels that the current establishment is sick and weakened by the tottering size of its own grandeur, its bulk eaten away by a fungus that will devour the entire week if left unchecked. A conflict is brewing, one that has been calmed time and time again by Pewter’s ministrations but soon will escape the bounds of reason — and Prospect shall be ready for it. Even now she waits in her fortress, her laboratory. She stands, hands fiddling absent-mindedly, eyes staring blankly, mind awash with dreams of power: a reminder to the best that genius always comes with just a hint of madness. Saturday Saturday has the appearance of a lazy ranch hand: he ties his long black hair into a ponytail, his skin is sculpted by the sun’s rays into boiled leather, and his eyes permanently squint from staring into blinding light. But, as we know from Monday’s plight, appearances can be deceiving. Saturday, with the name of Crimson, was once a great warrior; a leader; a conqueror. He caused scores of nations to crumble beneath his feet as he rode to battle: first on a chariot, then on a horse, then standing sure-footed atop a tank. He is the unseen champion behind every leading army, and the angel — or devil — on the shoulder of Churchill, Washington, and Caesar, as he spurs them forth on their quests. Now though, in this time of rest and luxury, he has grown lazy and spoiled while the bloodlust drains from his eyes. He lies in a hammock strung between two trees, sleeping the day away in the warm desert sun. Crimson is content with observing the History Channel as he relives days gone by and orders Chinese takeout by the box. Some days though, when the wind is charged with electricity and the threat of thunder buzzes through the air, something appears in Saturday’s eyes. First it is that of nostalgia, of memories for days trodden beneath the creaking migrations of the great leviathan of time. Then it is a hint of red, of anger, of the desire
to be that shining pinnacle in battle once again, to be feared and loved in the same heartbeat. But the wind passes, as all things must, and Crimson sinks back into his hammock feeling drained and listless, as though there is nothing more appealing in the world than sleep. He keeps close counsel with the other days, and when even Pewter is not able to reconcile a dispute, they turn to him. For all great generals know to pick their battles; sometimes the flames of war must be dampened in order to return with an even more powerful force. All of the other days — except maybe Thursday, and if he sees anything, he hasn’t informed the rest yet — believe that Crimson has turned over a new leaf, that he is no longer the savage he once was. But there is still the undeniable reality of what happens when the wind blows from the North, and that deep under the ranch house where he whiles away his days, is a chamber. Within this dank and horrid tomb lie mechanisms of war: catapults, tanks, and siege engines. Every form of weaponry imaginable makes its home here. For Crimson is sensitive to the winds of change, and they are blowing like forceful gales now as the seat of power shifts in its moorings. The pursuit which Saturday most enjoys is looming upon the horizon, and he intends to be on the winning side when battle draws its first breath. Sunday Sunday is an old man of great proportions — everything about him is larger than life. He is clad in voluptuous violet robes that pool in infinite folds around his well-padded exterior. He’s a tremendous sphere of fat whose folds of flesh layer over each other in suffocating mounds. Their decadent monotony is broken only by two scrutinizing, beetle eyes that peer out from heavy lids. Sunday’s name is Rex, the Emperor of the Days, controller of light and director of shadow, King of the Seasonal Commonwealth. Whatever the lofty titles stacked upon titles suggest, Rex’s power and form have faded from their god-like state until he has become naught more than a beached leviathan whose deflating ruin of a body is what remains of a once-great empire. Arrogance and greed, the diseases of royalty, have eaten him away. Despite these impediments, he has a canny, strong mind, one determined to cling to power. Rex feels that he cannot trust anyone save for his sister Pewter — though he knows that one misstep would lead to her placing the death sentence instead of a crown on his balding head. Because of this mistrust swimming inside paranoia, he makes every gathering of the days one of political intrigue as he spies shadows that are not there and imagines darkness flitting across faces that are actually filled with light. Sunday once was a good king, but as his power faded, so did his sense of
right and wrong. Now he sits on his hoard of gold, jewels, and recollections of a vanished past as he sinks further into a coma of dreams and nostalgia. Sunday still believes that he is the strong, young ruler he was in days of yore, and acts as such, but he is caught up in his reminiscing. And for all of his imagined demons, the decaying mind of Sunday fails to recognize the true threats inside and out. His mind skips over dangers right at his doorstep and consumes him from within with frantic imaginings. Sooner or later, a shift will occur: in power, in vision, in thought, and Rex will be left behind.
neoclassical love story ANASTASIA NICHOLAS your love was a roman emperor you came with promises to clothe this brick city in marble; you left it in shambles, fiddled while it burned. now is the age of my renaissance, pax romana (our love was so hot as to burn cities down we so often forget that the great fire was what snuffed out the plague.) if i were shakespeare, iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d compare you to the equatorial climate: static, predictable, day after sunny day i always knew the precise hour it would begin and cease to rain. did your even-keeled demeanor quell the volatile hurricane raging in my mediterranean blood? did your lukewarm salty sea diffuse into my boiling bathhouse sauna? such poetics are incomprehensible to you. i laugh to think of the great comedy that must have sprung from our tragedy. i was the spring musical and you were the philistinian high school audience, hooting and hollering at all the wrong lines.
Her Name Is ALEX DANG She gives me one of those honey dipped dagger looks. She puts her hand on my shoulder, whispers pink clouds over sunset into my ears. I like her a lot, and I think, I think she likes me. She gets her friends who pop their gum and blow bubbles bigger than crystal balls to ask me, So, who do you like? She sneaks in through my bedroom with a deck of tarot cards and a mug of tea leaves and secrets. I can tell she’s done this before, but there’s a glint in her eyethe same kind of shine that a kid gets when he plays with his first magic 8-ball. She reads a lot, but mostly finds stories in my palms. Tells me things I’ve never heard but always suspected. Fate flirts with me hard. You’d have to be made from marble to not flirt back.
Looking, Not Touching CECILIA WOOD My mother braids my hair, pulls too tight against my scalp. When I take the braid out later that night, my hair falls in soft waves but my head is red and raw. My mother keeps a strand of pearls hidden in her dresser. When I ask if I can wear them, she says beautiful things are for looking, not touching. She tells me that I am a work of art created by a Beautiful Maker and she doesn’t touch the artwork. My mother keeps a china doll with rosy cheeks and golden curls locked behind glass doors. She tells me it is fragile and deserves to be seen, not used. My mother tends her garden with a loving hand. When I hand her a bouquet – picked with a desperation to be noticed – of flowers, she says beautiful things are to be admired, not held. She tells me I am beautiful and she does not hold me.
Catch Me If You Can TIFFANY WANG Even when they were kids, she had never played fair. As he looked at the meadow across the street from the hospital, he caught glimpses of the children playing tag, chasing each other round-andround until they fell to the ground in dizzying heaps. They would always get back up, though, shrieking in delight and picking sides for round two. He had come back home, and it was the last place he wanted to be. But every time he started to consider driving back towards the airport, he thought of the skinny, dark-haired boy inside, days away from turning sixteen, clouded in a blanket of medication. I’m here for Julian, he thought, as he sat down on the stone steps. Everything that he’d done in the past week –emptying his meager bank account to buy a plane ticket, blowing off his last few finals – was for his little brother, who now had one wrist heavily bandaged and a mind full of screaming thoughts. His phone buzzed dimly in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw her name blink up at him, before he looked down to clear his vision. She shouldn’t be calling or texting to see if Jules is fine, he thought heavily. She should be here, for God’s sake. I still remember that promise we made – does she? Then again, Hallie had never been very good at keeping promises. Christ in Heaven, she should be here. She was his twin – and Jules’s older sister. He remembered when Jules had first been diagnosed. It was years ago, when his brother was only nine. He had been called a freak in school by one of the older kids, after he had giggled uncontrollably for a solid thirty minutes, his joy blending into hysteria. Because this was one incident out of many, their father had taken Julian to a series of psychological tests. He and Hallie had gone along and stared through the rectangular glass window at the man in the white lab coat, who gestured to their little brother, then to some documents on a table. Through the barrier, the muffled words of “rare before the age of ten” and “severe bipolar disorder” floated through. “What does that mean?” he hissed to her, as they sat back down on the stiff chairs. They might be the same age, but she was a whole fourteen minutes older, so she knew things like that.
She chewed on her lip thoughtfully. “I don’t know,” she said at last. “But he’s not a freak.” He thought of the way Jules always had dirt stains on his clothes, from playing baseball on muddy fields. He thought of his brother’s hazel eyes and chocolaty smiles, and felt he might burst inside. “He’s not,” he agreed staunchly. “If anyone says he is, we’ll beat them up.” “Yeah!” Hallie said excitedly. She grinned at him, the dimple on her left cheek matching his. “And we’ll always help him and be there for him – always!” “It’s a promise!” he added, and they shook on it, just to be sure. Then they went home, and discovered that reality had a way of breaking the promises of twelve-year-olds. He didn’t think that either of them had really intended to slide away from what they’d said they would do in the gray office. It was just – life got in the way, like it so often did. He had soccer practice, Hallie started swim, and both of them joined student council and debate. Eventually, protecting Julian faded from the forefront of their minds; it was never really gone, but it stopped being a primary thought. In the meantime, their brother pushed back against what it meant to have bipolar disorder. He stopped taking the pills several times – convinced that he could cure himself – which resulted in brief periods of euphoria, where he stayed up until five in the morning and thought he was invincible. This always faded, though, leaving Julian plunged into an endless spiral, drawing with metal and losing interest in just about everything. And in the end, he and Hallie had always watched from the end of the hallway, biting down their nails while their parents spoke to their brother, explaining why he had to keep taking the medication. His head was underwater, as he breathed in the strands of thin air. “Hallie,” he muttered, and with her name came a quick lurch of anger. He punched her number into his phone with surprising ferocity and waited. She picked up after three rings. “Hello?” His hand came up, pulling off the gray hood so that it fell around his shoulders. The last time they’d talked, he’d exploded at her for not coming back to see Julian with him. She had refused to give him her reasons, but he thought he knew the answer anyways. She was tired. Granted, they all were, but Hallie had always been more impatient than anyone he knew. She had chosen to stay in her university on the other side of the country because she didn’t want to be tied once again to a place with shaky roots. Instead, she wanted to rip out all the old ones and start fresh.
But Hallie hadn’t really done anything unexpected – she’d just finally followed up with something she had threatened to do for ages. She had taken the first door out that she could, just like she’d always sworn she would. He just couldn’t believe he’d never taken her seriously before. Now, he thought of all the times they had chased each other around when they were children, and she’d run faster than he ever could, screaming, “Catch me if you can!” at the top of her lungs. Even when Julian had joined in, she was always just out of reach, dancing out of the way, laughing. The split second anyone managed to tag her, however, she stopped abruptly, sometimes refusing to keep playing, insisting she had let them catch her. It was just the way she was. “Hi,” he said, and he heard her breathing on the other end of the phone. He could picture her leaning against a wall, her eyes closed, a bold streak of violet dashed in her hair. “How are things going?” “Oh, you know,” she replied lightly. “I aced that physics quiz that I’ve been studying for.” “That’s good,” he answered automatically, and immediately drew a blank. She spoke again first. “So,” she said haltingly. He knew that she was biting her nails as they talked; he would be as well, but his own had already been ragged for days. “How’s Julian?” He realized his knuckles had gone very white. “Fine,” he said softly. “Jules is fine.” Her sigh came through the speaker, louder than he thought it would be. “Don’t give me the cold shoulder too,” she said, and he caught the hint of annoyance in her voice. “I called you earlier today, okay? Plus, Dad already tried to guilt me, and I’m not a heartless bastard, you know –” “You should be here.” She exhaled with frustration. In his mind’s eye, her bangs fluttered as they moved slightly. “Eli,” she responded, “I already told you and Dad and Jules that I’ll be back when the semester ends –” “Hallie,” he said, his teeth gritting together. All of a sudden, he needed her to be nine again, chasing him through their neighborhood and pulling him back onto the pavement when he got too close to the street. He needed her to listen to him – actually listen – the way she used to when they were young, huddled around a flickering campfire and whispering fairy-tale stories to one another. “Jules needs us –”
“I get it!” she snapped, her words stabbing into him. “But Eli, we’re nineteen – Eli, we’re finally out of that goddamn house. I know that Julian needs us, but – God! There will always be another crisis with Jules. Because of him, Mom and Dad never had a chance to do anything because they were always looking after him, and, if you really want to get into this, he also screwed us out of having a normal childhood. God, I know it’s not his fault, but I’m so fucking sick of all this. Eli, we finally have a chance to live our own lives – don’t try to make me some kind of bad guy.” Her outburst wasn’t new to him, and it wasn’t like he’d never tasted the words either. He sometimes whispered them to himself in the safety of his room, when he could hear his brother humming aimlessly next door, rattling the remaining pills around in an orange bottle. It was then that he pondered how it would feel to simply pack a bag and walk out the door. “You’re not the only one that thinks like that, Hallie, and you’re definitely not the bad guy.” He pressed his fingers against his temple. “But we’re siblings – we look out for each other.” “You sound like an idiot,” she responded scathingly. “Eli, you might be my twin and, sure, he’s my brother. But, come on, admit it – even you know that, sometimes, Julian is such a fr –” She stopped abruptly, as his stomach dropped. “Hallie,” he said slowly. “No,” she said, very quietly. She sounded drained now, not angry. He could imagine the tears building in her dark eyes, following the same tracks down her cheeks as they did his. “No, I didn’t mean that, Eli. You know I would never say that about Jules.” “Okay,” he said back, because he wasn’t sure what else he could say. She could’ve been standing right next to him, he saw her so clearly. She was silent, and he stared out at the open field, where figures bundled in puffy coats threaded through the tall grass. “I have to go, Eli,” her voice said at last. It only hesitated for the slightest instant before adding, “Love you.” “Love you too.” She hung up and he inhaled sharply. He needed to go back inside, to check on Jules and tell him that Hallie called and, yes, of course she missed him and she loved him and she would be home soon. But for now, he just sat on the lonely steps, letting the cold wash over him. “Tag,” he said softly, and watched as the children darted among the trees, running so fast they looked like specters. “Tag, you’re it.”
Untitled XAVIA CLAIR ALICE
Shea ANANYA KUMAR-BANERJEE eyes like blue watermelon seeds, lips pressed like an overripe plum. father and mother both magnets, mother like quiet retching; she talks like apple sugar, like everything is pickled pineapple, like she’s happy with the brokenness. darkness and quiet, she panics about returning; i am sorry. cheeks puffy, hair straggly down to her waist, trailing like light blond rope, lips pursed, open purse, she has no money in moral bank; ambitions like open sky, like aviation, soaring through travel and culture, bound only by the self; she is restless. pink scratch behind her right lid; her father yelled and she ran and slept on corduroy couch, promised not to return, got screwed up on highway, highway free she thinks; smoke clouds in her eyes, she wants home, nowhere, twisting, dwindling, kindling prose burning like bonfires in her breath; she wants love; she laughs in face of dangers, smiles swallowed by blackness, lonely, smells like laundry, like wildflower, like mother back from the bodega with fifteen slices of baloney; she wants artichokes; dresses in old fashion goulash, in mismatched morsel of forgotten fabric, in clutter and burning Barbie dolls; she is laughing; fuck that she says, fuck everything. Her father says “rules”; he is tired, but she will fight; cruising down California alleyways untouched, she doesn’t care; father insane, father of nothing, of no one, as man in church of music presses against her, she doesn’t want him; cuts her hair, decides not to, leaves it long and flowy, leaves herself lucid through a bush of welcome wildfires, she is getting out, she’s going home, she’s leaving, she’s gone.
Untitled Xavia Claire Alice
Dead Painting Blues CARRIE ZHANG When I was nobody, I lived in a room and it was very much my own and in that room, I was a mouth, a sensation, something tangible cut on my own voice, crashing glass squares. My life was painted and sometimes it was mineconcertos were playable one moment and forgotten the nextand I was a slow cat, extraneous and blue among the torn-up lights. The mainstream of activity pushed up against my flayed skinI emanated color, sometimes un-color a presence wasted by unguarded eyes. I did a persistent search for meaning by going against meaningbecause I was nothing among the world of ideas. I was fretted in recrudescences of beautyI was smiling in the evanescence of freedomand I was emptiness, unwaiting minutes to be filled.
Wasteland Ilana Newman
What We Didn’t Know LINDSEY HOBART He loves me like a monster, all teeth and talk and hiding in the dark. That’s my specialtymen with strong bodies and fragile hearts, and if you hold them too tightly they will crumble beneath you like an avalanche that’s waiting. Still, he looks at me like all things beautiful and burning and we love each other recklessly with hearts so empty our names echo against vandalized walls that say, “There was someone here before me, listen closely and you’ll hear their name.” He has matches for hands, and I, a paper heart. Gasoline will drip from our mouths and we will call that holy. We will burn at the stake and pollute the sky with smoke and selfishness, and we will say it was in the name of a crooked love. We will burn our own bodies to the ground and we will call that sacrifice. We will tear ourselves open like there’s something left inside. Nobody ever taught us how to love.
Alma In Pink Narisa Buranasiri
Whispers from an Aisle Away ELENI ANEZIRIS The air is afraid. The sky is filling with static and clouds. A tropical storm is brewing in a place that isn’t very tropical at all. I can feel my limbs rising with my hair— we’re all on edge. The men on TV spent a great deal of time last week talking about stocking up on canned goods. I head out. The rain is plopping itself in everybody’s business except its own. Lifting boxes of water bottles into my shopping cart at Target, I hear whispers from an aisle away, “Who’s that girl, waiting until the last minute to get ready for an emergency?” “Who’s that girl, procrastinating her life away?” It’s not like the power’s out yet. Back home, I turn on the stove and cut into a can. Its contents pour limply into the pan before me, in which I roast repressed potatoes and fears together in a stew of smells that might be nice, but isn’t.
almost august JOANNA CLEARY it is almost august. i talk with time in my head, in a quagmire of its own doing. everything happens in humid, slow heartbeats; everything happens as days crawl around their habitat. heat writhes in the air like a snake. it spasms and then lies limp, before shedding its skin onto all of us. did I mention time? time, time has stretched (distorted) the mirage of almost august until it seems irrelevant. things are almost done. light is almost changing and we are almost changing with it, my beloved summertime shadows. â&#x20AC;Š
Multiverse SCOTT STEVENS Today is not the pig-faced lady’s day, not the golden apple’s, a 3-man fight’s, it is the day of the scuffed suede train-rider’s shoe. No winter means no change for the train — that is the root of these jobs aplenty up north in the fog. These dreams: redwoods. Dried black gum a shoe ignores. Bench (planks carved from antediluvian oars) the suit sits on. Here the train flashes out of the earth, the frostless tanbark. Without delay the train’s bokeh thaws the waiting time and wobbles into this space, a steel and glowing blob moving over the faces of the waters: the track’s steam: the mirage. It stumbles out into the station, like the machines onto a great chrome platform, the dawn the entourage. Or like a boy out of a photo booth, dateless now, with a fresh world printed out. Of course the suits the faces. The horizon’s defined at the train’s stopping, and out of the tracks’ mud the riders pluck out their names, the tickets. So goes each day. Where will the suits learn to fight? Each day they learn how mere hours after waking up — and look at the blue, day-dusted suede shoes.
Monsters MADELINE CURTIS I can’t remember what came before the monsters. They’ve been with me for so long I don’t know where they stop and I begin. The bad thoughts hide under my skull, itchy and damp. Sometimes, I try to pull them out with my fingers, but they burrow into the pink folds of my brain, deep down where my hands can’t find them. At night, I feel their bodies across mine, all stinking breath and snarled fur. Their voices flood my head with images of cold white skin and slack jaws, of my father’s last rattling breath, a silent cry. The monsters tunnel into my ears; they howl and howl and never go away. “You okay?” My mother is leaning against the kitchen counter, drying her hands with a dishtowel. Her fingers are flaky and raw, the nails square. She keeps scrubbing the cloth over them, even when her skin isn’t wet anymore. I prod my cereal. Inside my head, the monsters blink their yellow eyes with a rustle like moth wings. “I’m fine.” The bad thoughts started out quietly, as terrible awful promises whispered in the darkness of night. Dad was sick and the worry carved cracks into me. The monsters padded in, hiding their claws. They only showed their true faces once they were safe inside my head. The truth about monsters is they’re cowards, really. “You can tell me if something’s bothering you,” says my mother. Ever since Dad died, her face has been all lines, no softness. She doesn’t smile anymore, not like she used to. Her eyes are flat, two stones set into the hollows of her face. If I tell her about the monsters, how they gnaw at my bones, she will crumble into dust. “I’m fine,” I say again, pushing my bowl away from me. Before Dad died, we made french toast in the morning. Now, I eat cereal, and my mother watches me as if she’s looking for something lost. We used to be knit together like teeth on a zipper, but we don’t touch anymore. Our arms wither at our sides. She doesn’t love you, the monsters say, their voices an oily chorus. Even worse, they promise, She’ll never get better. I cross my arms over my stomach, a scream huddled in my mouth. My mind is a stone-cold nothing, and I can’t think.
My mother watches me intently, her mouth puckered in confusion. After Dad died, her hands started to shake. Even now, I can see them tremble, as if she’s cold or about to tip over, as if the strain of standing up and breathing is too much for her. I hate my mother’s weakness. I hate her shaking, and I hate the cloth twisted between her fingers. I hate the cracks between our words, and the words between our silences. Most of all, I hate the monsters. I don’t remember reaching out, but I am hurling my cereal bowl at the wall. There is an explosion of milk and shattered china, breakfast in a piñata. Then a sudden, ferocious silence. Breaths rattle inside my ribcage, pressing into my sides like a cold, wet sponge. The cloth stills in my mother’s hands. She gapes at me as if I’m a stranger to her. “I’m sorry,” I say. I slump to my knees, gathering the fragmented china into my hands. The dishcloth lands on the kitchen floor. Without my mother’s hands, it’s just a thing, harmless. My mother crouches beside me, helping gather the shards of china. “It’s okay,” she murmurs. The two of us stay there for a long time, not moving. Light threads through the blinds. Outside, the day is clean and new. Inside my head, the monsters shout at the top of their voices. But I can’t hear them anymore.
The Ghost Inside Ilana Newman
Human Sugar CARRIE ZHANG I write by the light of the people by the window, multivarious hummings of clarity mixed with suspicion, the way it always is for new worlds charged with volume. The brilliance of our lives flashes by in an instant, one single chase toward human disaster, whether it is laying in flowers waiting for a friend or swearing to bifurcate the world with the artifacts of your footprint, I saw the angel of all of us coming down, straddling us between today and tomorrow, something passed on in an ancient, primordial but never say obsolete! way somehow closer to heaven than all the flying cars in the world. This is what you give to me, body that welcomes mine, joining in one act of song.
Daughterhood MADDIE KIM I often wonder whether or not sisterhood is binding—by experience, I know daughterhood is not: years spent at my mother’s bedside in the rain, days she never wished to speak to me, not for want of love, but for a desire to break free of it. My father in the car, my mother willing herself to sleep, the love that wishes it had paid its mortgage. Sister, I wish I could tell you the answers to your algebra homework when Mother locks her bedroom door and weeps.
Maize Ananya Kumar-Banerjee
The Show Must Go On ANDREW MARINUS To set the stage: The nine of us sit around a table crowded with bottles and cans and facedown cards. Robert’s parents are out of town, so we don’t have to worry about noise; someone’s iPod’s hooked up to the sound system, bouncing through a playlist of artificial-flavouring pop music and dubstep -- stuff with a good beat and little else. The air tastes sickly-sweet, buzzing like a compost bin swarmed with flies; Greg calls it “eau de cheap booze”. We’re playing “Sociables”. Across the table, Bill draws a card from the pile and examines it. Robert swigs his rum and coke. Greg says something that makes Megan laugh. Peter and Charlotte whisper things to each other, kiss. Heather makes a dry remark. Alyssa asks Robert something, gets a thumbs-up. The exact words are just window-dressing. Bill’s card allows him to make a rule. He declares that from now on, whenever he has to drink, so do Charlotte, Alyssa, Megan and Heather. All the girls. Thought bubble over Bill’s shoulder: one of the girls -- Alyssa, probably -- pulling him into an empty bedroom, her face a caricature of drunken lust. He sees it. I see it. The girls see it. A look of distaste passes between the four of them. To make a long story short, Bill isn’t exactly a ladies man. To make a long story shorter, neither am I. Peter draws a card. Heather heads off to the bathroom. Greg pokes fun at Megan, for how at a party last weekend she got wasted on tequila and flashed everyone there. I wasn’t there. It was only today that Robert asked if I wanted to come drink with them... perhaps out of pity. The others probably weren’t keen on the idea. With good reason -- everyone else is grooving along with the conversational train of slick jokes and prompt comebacks, but I’m just sitting here, not contributing. Soon their eyes will start flicking in my direction, irritated -- I knew we shouldn’t have invited him. So boring. If this is my audition, I’m failing.
I down the rest of my drink. Mix another. Meanwhile, Megan’s sitting there, quietly sipping something bright blue from a glass. Her raised arm pushes out her breasts. The bra strap riding her shoulder is bright red. Down: her stomach, her belt... the place where her legs come togetherStop. The room’s drifting out of focus. Have to squint to see clearly. The lamps are lighting everything too yellow, waxy like an old book dug out of the atticRobert asks me what’s up. I look around and everyone’s staring at me. Panic. I say I wasn’t paying attention and apologize, only slightly slurring the “sss” in “sssorry”. Greg laughs, says I’m approaching “fuckfaced” drunk. Then he explains that Peter’s drawn “Never Have I Ever”. Everyone holds up three fingers. First one out has to take a swig o’ hard liquor. Peter: “Never have I ever smoked weed, you stoners!” Indeed, most of the group puts a finger down. Megan and I are the only ones to abstain. Well, what do you expect? They go to parties and all those turbulent “coming of age” nights you’re only aware of from watching Dazed and Confused. Why wouldn’t they have tried weed by now? Charlotte: “Never have I ever masturbated in public.” I keep my fingers as straight and unfolded as possible. Meanwhile, Peter lowers a finger. Laughter. Catcalls. Robert lowers a finger. More of the same. Bill lowers a finger. No one acknowledges it. The catcalls on Peter and Robert continue even louder. My eyes stray in Megan’s direction again. She’s down a finger -somewhere in this storm of laughter and sidelong glances she made her move without anyone noticing. Now she’s staring back at me, eyes edged in panic. I draw out the pause between us for a second, then grin and mime-zip my lips. She smiles and looks away, red-faced. Cut to: Bill’s facial expression sliding from “oh man, I’m going to get some laughs” to “come on, why don’t you notice me?” to opening his mouthAlyssa counters: “Never have I ever gone down on a girl!” “Liar,” Greg coughs. Laughter. Alyssa calmly gives him the finger, but she’s blushing. I didn’t know she could blush. But it’s funny... if there was one girl I had to bet had gone down on another girl... made her writhe in ecstasy... Boner alert.
Dammit, now’s not the time for that. You have a Never-Have-I-Ever to come up with. Heather returns from the bathroom. Charlotte immediately gets up and takes her turn. Sidenote: Alcohol is a diuretic. So what’s it gonna be? The game is to get as many of them out as possible... but the real, actual game is to amuse everyone by laying all the cards on the table. Call out the hedonist in all of them. Mortify them for what they’ve done drunk on liquor or weed or hormones. While they were making memories for themselves, you were caging yourself in your room. Who exactly deserves to be shamed here? You should tell themAnd then, at the speed of whiskey, before I can come to my senses: “I’ve never kissed a girl.” Now it sounds like I’m trying to make them feel sorry for me. But I’m just fessing up to what they’ve got to already know -- they’ve seen me jump when a girl says my name, choke out panicked responses to whatever she says -- the evidence is all right there. Alyssa puts a hand on my arm. Turn and there she is, face drawing close, grinning, a gleam in her eyes. Then her lips on mine. Is that... tongue? One moment bare, in shock. ‘Butterflies in your stomach’ doesn’t do this justice. The butterflies have snatched me up and are making for the horizon. Then warning bells. System error. Does not compute. Her kiss is unnatural, like adding one and one and getting three: something’s wrong. She isn’t laughing at you. Alyssa must feel my alarm, because she pulls away, one eyebrow raised but not saying anything. Everyone cheers. From the bathroom, Charlotte asks what’s going on. Look over and catch a flash of Bill before he downs his drink -- he’s all envy and hatred and desire, and he’s beating himself up for not being the one to receive Alyssa’s kiss. Hmm, I haven’t breathed in a while. Gasp for air. Blink away stars. More laughter. With enough alcohol, I think the laughter could go on forever. Robert’s lost Never-Have-I-Ever and taken his punishment swig, so Sociables resumes its inexorable circuit around the table. I take a few long drinks; wouldn’t want the fun to bleed out of the festivities. Around the table, the others smile, eyes and words flicking between them, a dance of jokes and come-ons and insults and opinions, questions
answered with the drunken truth, secrets unpacked between friends -characters laid bare. Though Robert’s our host and lynchpin, he’s not the center of attention. That position falls to Greg, with his magnetic appeal and attractive everything. All-natural. Satisfaction guaranteed. And he’s single, too. Charlotte’s back, and she and Peter poke fun at each other. High school sweethearts. Their affection elicits the occasional self-conscious glance from Megan and, to a lesser extent, Heather (who immediately looks to Robert, while Megan has no one to look to). Alyssa, on the other hand, seems nothing but pleased for the happy couple. And then there’s Bill, whose eyes are usually cast in one of three directions: towards one of the girls, towards a pocket of laughter, or off into space, glazed over until he snaps to, takes a drink, and checks out one of the girls again. And then there’s me, still sitting quietly, watching the others. Observing. Contributing only to the silence their talk aims to consume. Dead weight. I stand and say I’ve got to take a piss. The bathroom has white tiled floors that feel cool through my socks. Smooth marble countertops. Smell of shampoo hanging in the air. Blessed solitude. I take a piss. In the mirror, there’s the same person as always. Quavering eyes. Closed mouth. I may realize when I’m being useless, but I’m still too petrified to say anything, mortify myself, jam up the night’s good vibrations with a dumb question or awkward silence. Hell, even Bill’s still trying for acceptance, firing out words in the hope of getting that big laugh, or approving glance. I don’t even have the balls to try. How will you ever work up the nerve to [DO IT]? Even in your own head you can’t admit what you needRoused by a sudden burst of cheering, I head back and re-assess the playing field. They skipped my turn while I was gone. Greg’s drawn “Who would you rather?” and wouldn’t you know it, he fires the question at Bill. Which girl at the table does he dig most. Bill’s eyes swing around unsteadily and center on Alyssa. This isn’t going to end well. He’s got enough drinks in him to forget how these things work for us guys: you have to twist your feelings into a joke, slip it by people so they barely notice. Not allowed to say how you feel. Not allowed to feel. Bill hasn’t even opened his mouth and Alyssa’s already averting her gaze, trying to pretend like she doesn’t know what he’s going to say. But
then he opens his mouth and says it, and all of us feel the gritted-teeth squeal of embarrassment. While we wince, he moves from how he’s loved Alyssa for a couple years, to how beautiful he thinks she is tonight. Then he’s done and no one’s talking. The pop soundtrack hangs in the air. Music’s playing but nobody’s moving on the dance floor. Alyssa finally speaks up, telling Bill how he’s a nice guy and all, but... She sounds like a hostage negotiator. Her eyebrows are knitted together, arms and legs folded up. Leaned back in her chair as far from Bill as possible. I’m bad at body language, but there are some cues even I can’t miss. Her words trail off. Bill’s lost in the silence. All our eyes on him. He reaches for his glass. Most others around the table do the same. I do. When Bill pulls the glass from his lips, he mutters something about stepping out for some air and makes for the patio door. Takes his drink with him. Conversation boots back up, but it’s forced. We all want to pave over what we just saw. Alyssa looks as close to ‘morose’ as I can picture her being. Surely she’s had to talk down undesired admirers before? She’s too hot not to have attracted a couple. But it probably doesn’t get any easier. Jesus, imagine being a girl. The flame to which the moths crowd. Eyes on you all the time. Or hands. How do they stand it? Glass is empty again. I pour another. Liquor-to-mix ratio: high. The game table is a mess. Overturned cards mixed in with cards yet to be drawn. The spill from various sloshed-over drinks winds its way between cards and table, the oldest puddles already gone sticky. By tomorrow, they’ll be hard as resin. Look up and the group’s flown apart. Alyssa and Robert are gone. The patio door is open. Two and two together -- they’ve gone to check on Bill. Megan and Greg and Heather are laughing about something Greg said. Peter and Charlotte are standing over in the hallway, talking in low voices. I guess the game is over. Now Greg gets in with Megan, and Heather and Robert make doe eyes at each other, and Peter and Charlotte find somewhere private. And Bill hates himself. And Alyssa feels guilty. And I try not to look like a ninth wheel. Flash on finding Alyssa sitting glumly on the patio, alone. We talk. She talks. I listen. She feels better. I ask to kiss her. She’s startled, then smiles... Yeah fucking right. I stand up and walk towards the patio door, drink in hand. Outside I hear sobbing. Alyssa’s.
Negotiating. Robert’s. Pain. Bill’s. He says he’s loved her for years. And he says he’s so fucking stupid. So fucking pathetic. And so fucking sorry. Robert says something I can’t hear and somehow all three of them laugh. Alyssa and Bill through tears, but it’s something. You gotta be a hell of a comedian to get laughs at a time like this. I flash on myself, lurking at the doorway like a fucking snoop. Head back to the couch. Greg asks how it’s going outside. “They’re... making headway.” He nods and turns back to the girls. Megan’s laughing with one hand between her breasts. I see a mischievous glint in Greg’s eye. It would be easier to hate him if he was a bad guy. But he’s not. He’s just a guy. And she’s just a girl. I get up again. Everyone looks up. Shouting outside. More like screams, actually. I swallow half the rest of my drink and walk to the door. Alyssa’s gone. Bill is on the ground beating one hand against the pavement, screaming that he has to end it all. Robert’s kneeled next to him, saying something low and reassuring. Looking up at me, his voice clipped, almost angry, he orders me: “Get Peter and Greg out here.” Bill’s hands are bloody when Peter and Greg arrive. When he sees them coming, he makes like he’s going to run for it. Once he’s clear of us he could make his way to the highway, throw himself in front of a semi-truck doing the long-haul. Pieces of Bill wedged in the grille. Red mist on the windshield. The end. Before Bill can get his balance Robert knocks him back down with a kick to the back of his legs. Then Peter and Greg are on top of him, each holding an arm, pinning Bill on his back. Robert sits on his legs, and now he isn’t going anywhere. Peter’s the one who phones the cops. Meanwhile, Bill’s voice isn’t really a voice anymore. It’s like those nuclear war bombing sirens that cycle up and down -- first a screech long and loud enough you feel like screaming yourself, just to try and blot out the sound... and then it winds down to dead quiet, where you wonder if it’s all over. And then it starts back up. There are words in there, but they just slice up against each other and chew away anything that might have been sense. I’m standing here in the doorway again. While the other guys are working together to save Bill from himself, I’m still useless as ever. I ease
forward, not sure what to do, not sure what I can do. Bill’s begging for them to let him die. The guys aren’t talking anymore. I think about asking if they need an extra hand, but they seem to have it covered. So instead, I open my mouth. Surely there’s some way to help make things all right again? “Bill... everybody loves y-” “It’s a bit too late for that, Todd!” Peter snaps. Like I’m a child who won’t see sense. And he’s right. Too late. I turn around and go back inside. The girls are sitting together on the couch. As I come in the door, Charlotte turns and asks me to shut it behind me. I oblige, sliding the door closed and cutting off Bill’s screams. It’s a shitty thing to do. Next she’ll be asking me to close the blinds. The glass in my hand is empty again. When did I finish it? Pouring another, I listen to the girls talk: Megan’s uneasy. Charlotte’s trying to calm her down. Heather’s texting Alyssa, but isn’t getting a response. Which makes Megan even more uneasy. All three of them are still working through their drinks. So this is “living”. And “loving” -- Bill the romantic, tackled to the ground by friends to keep him from running off and slitting his wrists. An open heart is a vulnerable heart. Beats heavily with hope, and just as heavily without. Take that grand leap of faith. Fall. Crash. He’s not even a bad guy, just... misguided. Not like you. Drink’s half-done and I see red-and-blues flashing through the front windows. I shut my eyes. Imagine if Bill hadn’t broken down with all of us around. Could’ve been he shakes off the rebuff from Alyssa, makes a joke of things, maybe gets some laughs. The rest of the night passes with ease. He goes home and locks himself in the bathroom with a knife from the kitchen. Red letters scrawled on the mirror, smeared more and more towards the end. Final swish. Parents at the door, knocking, louder and louder. All quiet inside. Sometime later, a plague of phone calls. Family-to-family. Fathers calling each other because mothers can’t stop crying long enough to talk on the phone. We all hear what he’s done. The world hits home. The others catch their first glimpse of the grey bleakness overtop of everything. For me, it’s nothing new. Open my eyes and I’m back to default mode, mechanical mode, alcohol be damned. Vacant smile stretched taut around rotting brain. Personality bored-out by worms, necrotic holes oozing black. But if I keep the mask on, no one can see what’s going on in my head.
The Girls. The desire to be naked in bed with them. The Guilt. The desire to pull a gun from somewhere and shoot myself in the head. The Allure. All of it over and done with. Purged. No more being alone. No more being afraid. No more letting animal lust step in while my friend is having a breakdown on the other side of the glass. Bill’s getting taken away someplace where they watch to make sure you swallow the pills that come with breakfast. Through the patio door, I watch him being pulled along by two cops, faces indifferent -- they see this kind of thing all the time. How many suicides does it take for a person to stop caring? Just one. What happens next is pretty much what you’d expect. Bill’s parents show up, then leave with him and the cops. Everyone migrates back to the living room and the game limps along for a bit. People start finding reasons to leave. Greg’s gotta get up early tomorrow, offers to drive Megan home, who accepts. Peter and Charlotte leave to go have sex somewhere. So then it’s just Robert, Heather and I, and Robert and Heather kind of have a thing going, and I’m starting to regret asking to sleep over. It’d be better if I was gone. I could just walk home. It’s probably an hour-long walk... but then, there’s something attractive about the idea of a long walk under the stars, free and clear and alone, with a quarter-bottle of rum under my arm. Then Robert gets a text from Alyssa. It takes us twenty minutes to walk to the elementary school, where we find her on the swingset, glumly pushing herself back and forth with one foot. Not saying anything, we take up the other seats. Robert and Heather on either side of her. Me on the outside. Streetlights don’t reach us. No stars out. Field of black cut grass stretches in every direction. No one’s more surprised than me when I’m the one to break the silence: “Jeeze, I haven’t been on a swingset in at least... six years...” Alyssa smiles, then pulls out a joint. We all work our way through it. The three of them tell me to suck the smoke into my mouth, then inhale it, and I think I figure out how to do it, but I don’t really feel anything. Meanwhile, all of them start chattering a lot back and forth, laughing at nothing, or almost nothing, having a grand old time. The ugliness from earlier weaves itself in between laughter, neutralized by nonsense. Unaffected by the weed, I have only the rest of my rum to loosen me up. As their bursts of laughter start getting wider and wider apart, their talk becomes less and less about nonsense and more and more about how
Bill having a suicidal breakdown was a really asshole-ish thing to do. All three of them agree -- he totally ruined the night for the rest of us. Hearing this, I squeeze my eyes shut and down the remainder of my bottle. Flash back to the girls in the living room, talking amongst themselves, tossing the odd irritated look towards the patio, where Bill’s world is coming apart: Who is he to be such a downer? That’s how it is, then: no sympathy. Those who stand on the edge damn well better do their sobbing in silence. Those who can still feel joy just don’t want to hear it. They don’t hate you and Bill. It’s just that you’re both broken, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to throw out something broken than try to fix it. And let’s face it, some things can’t ever be fixed. I don’t say a word. Eventually the talk winds down and we all get up, stumble towards the road. Heather’s planning on going home, and Alyssa’s planning on going home, and their houses are in completely different directions, and neither want to walk alone because they’re attractive young girls and it’s three in the morning. It’s decided that Robert’ll accompany Heather, and I’ll do the same for Alyssa. Before we part ways, Robert gives me a look of great intensity. I have no idea what the fuck it says. Could be, “I’m giving you an opening here; are you going to make a move on her or pussy out?” Or maybe, “Don’t even think about trying anything; she’s drunk as fuck and you know she’d never let you in her pants if she was sober.” It doesn’t really matter what he’s trying to tell me, because nothing’s going to happen between us. Alyssa may be drunk, but she’s nowhere near drunk enough to want me. And even if she did, and we started something, I think that the second our clothes were off and I didn’t have anything to hide behind, she’d see everything festering away inside me. So I’ll walk her home and make awkward conversation about music and school, and what she’s planning to do over the summer, and so on. And when we get to her house, I’ll say goodbye. I won’t throw myself into traffic afterwards, because then for the rest of their lives they’d all be haunted by the corpse that spent his last night drinking with them, and do you think we could have done anything for him? No. Wait a few months. They’ll forget ever hanging out with me. I’ll just be a face in the halls again. They’ll hear about me offing myself, and they’ll just -- shrug. A big Whatever. Better than grief. Better than pain. I feel Alyssa’s hand on mine. She looks at the empty bottle in my hand. Asks me if I’m okay. I twist my face into a smile. “Sure I’m okay.”
Anqing: Summer 2013 LILY ZHOU You sip suannai from a glass jar, frothy white within, which you saved on the train ride to this heat-infested nowhere. Along the peeling dirt road (footprints of those before you, caked like dried paint), dust particles rise, mingling with the stickiness of an anqing July. Your suannai â&#x20AC;&#x201C; beijing yogurt, sold on the streets for five yuan apiece â&#x20AC;&#x201C; has long soured, but you swallow it anyway, if nothing else, for the coolness those tendrils of winter bring to your fingertips: comfort for the solitary. Artifacts of dirt that do not sway, do not drift in the sugar words of breeze, curl among the fine threads of the rice paddies: archaeology for the lost. As you are now led by distant vestiges, home.
death of an astronaut ANASTASIA NICHOLAS it felt how shutter speed looked. i'd been reading the words in my peripheral vision before my eyes soared across them. “it’s part of the trade! i can’t go three days without a poet dropping dead at my door!” “he wasn’t a poet,” they tell me, “he was an astronaut. one of the great minds of the age. a tremendous loss for science.” “what a loss,” i repeat, their words echoing in my bird-bones. they asked me to speak at his funeral i don’t remember meeting him i think we hadn’t spoken in weeks by the time he expired in my arms. he loved me because i was the pallid moon with its cadaverous body. we had a policy of attentive avoidance we were most in love when i was upstairs and he was preparing for takeoff in the basement the whole affair was surreal and unexpected, not the typical voracious black hole of passion in the ballroom he had watched me pick up a wrapped sandwich, read it, put it back down ceaselessly for thirty harrowing minutes. only after he was dead i realized that he, too, had dialed ground control to help him select his dinner; his careful meditations made noise-cancelling headphones when they collided with my frantic panicking, playing hot potato with package after package of cold sushi. we were all woefully sick. cold sushi. when i was eleven i listened at the door of my doctor's office. she knew i wanted to be a lovely lonesome with my disease.
Moon Cake ANNIE LU You tell me to wake up. Get out of bed, you say, and get ready. And so I do, groggy from a long night. Tomorrow, you’re going to tell me the same thing, and the next day, until the day you don’t need to. Or don’t have to. You pack our lunches—a peanut butter sandwich for me, a Pyrex of leftovers for him. Silently, methodically, with no frills. Processed sugar is banned in the house, so you pack an orange. You hand them to me, without words, and watch me leave. Then you sip your scalding water that I don’t understand, and take a breath. When I’m gone, I know what I’m learning. Ecosystems, rhetorical devises. Bar graphs and the thirteen colonies. For the real world, he tells while I keep my eyes pinned to my books, but I don’t know what he means —I’ve never seen it. During lunch, I eat my peanut butter, but I throw away the crust because there are too many seeds. I don’t tell you this because I picked it out among the rainbow of plastic packaging, and I don’t want to see your face when you say Think of the children who go hungry. Because I can’t think of them, they’re real, but they aren’t real to me. They don’t sit in front of me during third period, or grade my papers, or watch over my shoulder at home. They don’t exist inside my narrow horizons, but you do. You’re a giant, in fact. And so I’ll keep pretending to eat my bread. Yum, I say, when I get home. We should buy it again. You’re late to pick me up from school, and I’m tired. And so I fizz, I say you could have told me so I wouldn’t have to wait out in the rain. You don’t look at me; you lower your eyes and raise your voice. You say I’m ungrateful, unappreciative. You list off the things you do for me—the cleaning, the cooking, the laundry. You remind me of my math teacher, the one who couldn’t grade papers because her dog was acting up. But unlike my math teacher, you’re family. And so I let you continue abusing my ears. I let you continue through tears, and you pretend not to notice. I get home and I eat half of an apple cinnamon muffin that you bought for me. See, you can rebel too. But you watch me eat and then grab my plate before the last crumb has fallen, and then toss it in the sink. We both know why. He’s here, even when he isn’t. You tell me to go study. You ask me how I’ll ever go to the college I want, or get the job I want unless I start working. Big picture, you remind
me, for the fifth time this week. Okay, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s the college or the job I really want, or if it’s something else entirely. When I come back, you try to teach me to cook dinner. I grab the salt shaker and drift it across the avocado. No, you shriek, but you don’t tell me why, because I know why. It’s because of heart disease and because of medical school. It’s because when you say he’s crazy, he’s not here to hear it—and that’s the point. You grab my wrist. A little too hard, so I drop the salt shaker. Shatters. Ai Ya, you say, slapping my arm, staring at the mess. Go, go away. So I walk gingerly, out of the crime scene, and I see you grab the broom and dusting pan and squat down. My dog tries to lick up the salt, so I take him upstairs with me. By the time I come downstairs again, the night is black, and he’s home. And so we eat, organically, peacefully, blandly. We watch the news about Donald Trump, the Catholic Church, Russia. He says it’s ridiculous what we’re doing—America, and you nod your head yes. Right, you say. I’m quiet; because it’s you I’m learning from, not Anderson Cooper. I ask if I can meet my friends for donuts at the new café down the road, and I think maybe this time I’ll get to go. I’ve finished all of my homework, but he says no, and I’m reminded again that I’m fooling myself. I still look over at you, hoping that my expressionless face is clear enough for your tired eyes to understand. You’re a sounding board. Reflecting, echoing. You say I can’t go, you murmur something about priorities and how late it is—even though the sun is still winking at me from behind the trees. He nods. You nod more. But I can tell by the way that you don’t look at me that you don’t understand either. Got it? He asks, got it, I say, in response to your mock-questioning expression. After a few more hours of listless reading (real world reading), I get into bed, and watch the full moon creep up to my window. And there it remains—at eye level, for an eternity. I check my phone. 10:35. And later. 10.44. I close my eyes and feign sleep, hoping that my acting will invite the real thing. When I open them, I see the beginnings of the first feeble rays of sun. It’s a lie. 11:17. The moon is still there, staring me straight in the face. I can’t take it any longer. So I tiptoe downstairs, looking for nothing but escape from the time limbo of my bedroom. But I’ve walked straight into the kitchen and the lights are on— you’re still awake. You’re looking out into the distance, lost in thought. You see me and I brace for the inevitable lecture, praying that you won’t tell him. But instead you show me your grandmother’s old moon cake recipe, and I remember white ball hanging in the night sky and the autumn holiday
I’ve never celebrated. We’re rummaging through the cabinets and crannies he doesn’t look in for flour and sweet red bean paste. You tell me that you love eggs because as a child you ate one a year, on your birthday. You show me how you were taught to crack them, scraping out every last drop of yolk. Your eyes fill with tears, and in them I can see the long nights you spent wondering where you would eat your next meal. The heartache of watching your parents crumble under tyranny. The times that he comforted you, promising you a better life, telling you stories of a beautiful free nation. The hopeless trust that grew in your wide eyes that day you arrived in an unfriendly city, penniless, living on dreams and each other. How you stood by him even while he rejected the traditions that were a part of you. And I finally understand why he’ll always be your strong shoulder, your guiding light. Your everything. By the time the small cakes come out of the oven, misshapen but whole, the skeletons in your closet that you’ve saved from me have exposed themselves, relieving you from their shadows. You’re younger now, the years shed off of your skin like flecks of rice paper. And like children, we shove sweet chunks into our mouths, smearing our teeth with smooth purple insides. We can’t finish so we cover the ruins in Saran wrap and hide them behind the skim milk for later. Out of the corner of my eye I watch you wrap the prettiest, most symmetrical cake in red paper, and set it on the countertop. I smile, because I know it’s for him. Dad. By the time I’m back in bed, the beautiful moon is far above my head and I fall asleep instantly. The next morning I’ll sleep through my alarm. But you’ll be there to tell me to wake up, and I’ll see the story behind your game face. Get out of bed, you’ll say, and get ready.
Staple Town Catherine Zhao
Untitled William Higgins
Oath SCOTT STEVENS Down comes the gums and the squelch of bone on lip. What power did you have before, and what have you lent to me before this night? I give it to you with my scabs and openings. I give it with an open mouth. The bed as a salt circle; the heart as a sea. Nails and palms glow in place of candles. 40 days and evenings you’ve spent so far in the desert. Forget the notion of father and remember what you’ve lent. You are as hard-marrowed as me: like Jesus carrying Enemy on back. Like a knee opening I open. I return the burn of demonhood – take it and ride me. We’ll exchange in this room a red sea, take a bite out of me, the sweet and sour apple. You know, the dawn over Nazareth was a revolt of the sun. Jesus fell to a barn to feel far from Father. So fall for me to freedom. I’ve an oasis in mind.
Field Notes Isabella Ronchetti
Stalingrad ALICE XU Mutilated houses, half-skeletoned, moaned like ghosts as we traipsed through the rubble field littered with sprouts of fire patches and ash feet. Lorraine slumped like a willow tree, leaking saps from her eye rims as if to heal the present. The air rusted of ammunition. Clouds swelled with salted blood, and I wondered if it would rain soon: cataracts of the resurrected. Coffined a ragdoll under soot while Lorraine murmured a prayer. I remind myself we chose this, and dig for our past.
My Mother Nature Sohil Patel
Artifacts of April LILY ZHOU On days like these, I always wind up thinking about the way water clings to window panes, like how an autumn leaf (crusted and drained of moisture) is outlined upon butcher paper by the popsicle-sticky hands of dimpled-faced children. Don't you remember? We were those children. We were the children who traced our names onto the April-foggy windows on the car ride home, who carved gingerbread men from the plastic cookie-cutters your mother bought for Christmas the year you turned ten. That spring, we stole flower buds from the meadow (petals crumpled and moist, sticky like embryo) framed them on the living room wall and called it archaeology. That spring, I pressed a daisy head into the pages of my sketchbook, pollen-water leaking out the sides. Years later, a silhouette remains where the cartilage dented the paper, vestiges of bodies pressed against the walls of its confinement. And later still, traces of mist linger on the autumn-clear windows of my car. The slopes and lines of your name, frost caught between your finger and the glass. I like to think of fireworks etching ash-streaked stitches in the velvet cloth of sky, and the cleansing of storm clouds after, one early April morning, leaving only one scraggly white line. I like to think of the sky, with all its criss-crossing scars and remnants of younger times, stranger times, brighter times, as if a millennia later it could still reach out and say, I remember you. Don't you see? There is ardor in the art of tracing, of pressing. Rain adheres to windows. Trails slippage. And then there's you, leaving the whispers of a handprint in your wake.â&#x20AC;Š
EDITORIAL BOARD Editors-in-Chief / Founders Margaret Zhang is a deep experiencer of emotions. She's been writing ever since her 2nd grade teacher praised her for describing the nonexistent snow in California as "drifting." She currently writes about the wild-haired kids of her childhood and different kinds of attraction that extend beyond romantic, sexual, and platonic. She has attended writing workshops at the Iowa Young Writers' Studio, California State Summer School for the Arts, and Interlochen Arts Camp; she is also a Foyle Young Poet, California Arts Scholar, and a recipient of awards from Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, River Styx, and Peninsula Young Writers Contest. Noel Peng is a 2014 California Arts Scholar in creative writing. In the first grade, she plagiarized her first short story unknowingly after hearing her sister read "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" to her, deciding that it would be a great idea to write it down and call it her own. That was her “formal” introduction to writing. Don’t worry, she no longer plagiarizes. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and has appeared in or is forthcoming in Canvas Literary Journal and The Cadaverine. When not writing, she enjoys binge watching old Disney animations, and fantasizing about vintage items she can’t have. Noel is 16 and lives in Palo Alto, CA.
Poetry Editor Lisa Zou attends Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona. Her work has been recognized by Library of Congress' Letters About Literature and published in the Eunoia Review and Teen Ink print magazine. Lisa reads for Polyphony HS. When she’s not reading, Lisa is on Tumblr.
Prose Editor Andy Tu lives in a suburb near Los Angeles where he writes full-time. He enjoys traveling and going abroad to redefine himself and his voice. When not writing, Andy watches television or goes outside to observe people and nature.
Visual Arts Editor Maggie Gray is a high school junior at Castilleja School. She enjoys photography, painting (though she isn't very good at it), and arguing with anybody about anything. Her portrait photography work has won several small contests and appeared on quite a few holiday cards, Instagram feeds, and Facebook profile pictures. Her photography has been published in several literary magazines including her school literary magazine, Caledonia. When she isn't studying or taking photos, Maggie enjoys spending time with her dog and her computer.
Staff Readers Poetry Readers Harika Kottakota is currently a student at Burbank Senior High School, striving into the literary scene. Harika has a passion for reading poetry of all kinds while sipping chai. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Abbreviate Journal, houseboat, Canvas Literary Journal, Periphery Magazine, Euonia Review, and Right Hand Pointing. Her poem â&#x20AC;&#x153;White Monarchâ&#x20AC;? has been nominated for the 2016 Pushcart Prize. Harika loves the editing and literary evaluation process. Following her passion, Harika currently serves as a poetry editor for Parallel Ink and Phosphene Literary Journal as well as an intern for Spark Anthology. Harika hopes to study creative writing and biological sciences in her undergraduate years. Stephanie Lu lives in the Bay Area and specializes in writing awkward kiss scenes because that is the only kind of kissing she ever does. She forgets to do many important things (like change the cat litter or cut her nails) but she can skateboard, as well as read very fast. Unfortunately Stephanie is not very good at skateboarding. Hannah Miao is a student in Arizona. Her work has been published in Burningword Literary Journal and Aerie International and has also been recognized by Princeton University, Gannon University, and Notre DameMaryland. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Phosphene Literary Journal. She is interested in the intersection between poetry and science. Reini Lin is a sixteen-year-old wordsmith, poetry scribbler, voracious reader, and aspiring novelist with a penchant for clever quotes, dystopian novels, angst-ridden poetry, and Oxford commas. She edits for her high
school magazine and is the founder of the Fragments of Chiaroscuro literary magazine (fragmentsofchiaroscuro.weebly.com). Richa Gupta is a sixteen year old girl living in Bangalore, India, who has an avid interest in poetry and creative writing. She has her works published and forthcoming in several literary journals, including New Plains Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, On the Rusk, Apeiron Review, Off the Coast, Poetry Quarterly, Canvas Literary Journal and Wilderness House Literary Review. She is the student editor of the July-August 2015 issue of an Indian parenting magazine called ParentEdge, and is a junior editor for Siblini Arts and Literature Journal. Richa also enjoys playing western classical piano and losing herself in the many great literary works of poets and authors. Leanna Campos is a junior in high school. She has had a love for writing her entire life and has recently been published in the America Library of Poetry Student Compilation book. She continues to write in her free time (and not so free time) when she isn't procrastinating for other work and eating ramen noodles. Prose Readers Kalyn Josephson is a senior at Santa Clara University, double majoring in English and Biology. She spends her free time writing, reading, watching movies and sports, and hanging out with her friends. Her ideal day consists of sitting by the fire on a cold, rainy day with a cat and a book, and she has a soft spot for Pit Bulls and absolutely anything Irish. Nicholas Sum is a 10th grader currently attending Saratoga High School. He enjoys writing and editing other written works. Sadly, he doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t finish most things he starts to write. When he is not writing or editing, he usually spends his time listening to or playing music on the piano or violin (or even badly singing along, if no one else is at home), doing homework, playing video games, reading, watching videos, running, or doing whatever else normal 10th graders do. Nicholas currently resides in Saratoga, CA. William Higgins is a young writer from Southern California, and a senior in high school. He has worked on his school's magazine, Tideline, for three years, where he is currently editor-in-chief. He has also been working for over a year as a photographer, writer, and editor for N2 Publishing. His work has been recognized with a number of honors, including the
Scholastic Art and Writing awards. This summer he attended the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. In his spare time, William enjoys spending time with his dogs, playing sudoku (obsessively), and listening to music. Polina Solovyeva is a high school senior from Moscow, Russia. She studies at The Hotchkiss School in Connecticut where she learns how to be a better person and orders Chinese food at least three times a week. She went to the Iowa Young Writers' Studio and to the New England Young Writers' Conference. When not writing, she can be found reading, drinking ridiculous amounts of coffee, or freaking out. Stephanie Stott is a slightly reclusive, book-loving junior at Osceola Fundamental High School. She usually busies her mind with fantasy worlds and anime characters. For two years, she served on her school's awardwinning literary magazine, the Oracle, and though she's a bit wary of the future, she plans to make a living off of writing. She resides in Largo, FL. Katherine Sun is a sixteen-year-old at Saratoga High School who loves both writing and STEM. She obsessively reads publications like The New York Times and enjoys writing for her school newspaper, The Falcon. Often she writes stories with no endings, sings along to Spotify with her dad, or spends time with her family outdoors.â&#x20AC;Š
CONTRIBUTORS Eleni Aneziris is a senior at Ward Melville High School from Long Island, NY who wants to someday become a writer. She loves psychology and creative writing, and has an unhealthy obsession with Tumblr. Her writing appears in Textploit, A Literation, and Teen Ink, among others. Her work has also been recognized by competitions such as the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards as well as the Walt Whitman Birthplace Young Poets Contest. Joanna Cleary is currently attending the University of Waterloo (that’s in Canada, eh). Her poem, “A Coin Toss” is scheduled to appear in the September/ October 2015 edition of Cicada Magazine as part of the “Call for Creative Endeavours.” When she is not writing, she can be found reading, eating various forms of chocolate, and, of course, thinking about writing. Sophie Coats was born in Texas, but raised a Jersey girl. Junior year of high school she traded out public school life for the boarding school experience at Interlochen Arts Academy where she studied creative writing. She was awarded a gold key for flash fiction and a gold key for poetry in the Scholastic Art and Writing awards. Her work can be found in the Interlochen Review. Madeline Curtis is a 17-year-old senior at Falmouth High School. She is editorin-chief of her school's literary magazine, has attended the New England Young Writers Conference at Middlebury College, and won 2 Gold Keys in the 2015 Scholastic Writing Awards. Her work can also be found in One Teen Story. In addition to writing, Madeline enjoys painting, spending time with friends, and occasionally transforming into a bat. She lives in Falmouth, Maine, with her parents, three younger siblings, two dogs, and a gecko named Norbert. Alex Dang is a member of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Portland Poetry Slam Team competing at the National Poetry Slam and the youngest representative from Portland in the slam's history. Alex is the Eugene Grand Slam Champion of 2014 and 2015. Videos of his performances have amassed over 1.5 million views on YouTube. He has been a speaker at two TEDx events: TEDxReno and TEDxUOregon. A nationally touring poet, Alex has performed in over 35 cities, 20 states, and is a world renowned burger expert. Marion Deal is a dreamer, writer, and lover of unloved things, and though she be but little, she is fierce. When she isn't writing, Marion finds herself attempting to explain quantum physics and the OK Corral shootout to her cats, the only ones who'll listen, but they don't appear to have much interest in either.
Alessandra Fernandez is a recent high school graduate from Miami Arts Charter Schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s creative writing program. She is planning to continue her writing and is majoring in Creative Writing at Miami Dade Collegeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Honors College. William Higgins see editorial board. Lindsey Hobart is a seventeen year old girl from a New York town that's as quiet as her voice. When she isn't playing her guitar, she is tugging on the heart strings by writing everything she is too afraid to say outloud. Katrina Johnston has several short fiction stories published online. Once in a while she breaks into print. She is the winner of the CBC-Canada Writes True Winter Tale.The goal of her writing is to try, to share, and to dream. Katrina lives in Victoria, BC, Canada. Devanshi Khetarpal is a high school junior from Bhopal, India. She is the author of 'Welcome to Hilltop High' (Indra, 2012) and a poetry collection, 'Co:ma,to'se' (Partridge, 2014). She is a Poetry Editor for Phosphene Literary Journal, a Representative and Journalist for Redefy, the Founder of a Bhopalbased literary society called Club Ink and the Founder cum Editor-in-Chief for Inklette Magazine. Devanshi is an attendee of Oxford Prep Experience at the University of Oxford, the Cambridge Tradition at the University of Cambridge and the Iowa Young Writers' Studio 2015 at the University of Iowa. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, Polyphony H.S., The Cadaverine, Eunoia Review, Crack the Spine and Dirty Chai. Maddie Kim is a rising high school senior from Pasadena, California. Her work has been recognized by Princeton University, the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, The Archer School, and the Adroit Prize for Poetry, among others. Her poetry can be found in The Adroit Journal, Winter Tangerine Review, and Polyphony H.S. Next year, she will serve as an LA Youth Poet Ambassador for UrbanWord, as well as make more time for tap dancing. Not your typical teenage tea-drinker, Ananya Kumar-Banerjee is a 17-yearold lover of lyricallity. She currently resides in New York City and attends Horace Mann School. Ananya has won two scholastic writing awards and plans to continue writing in the future. She is a young writer/photographer and is eager to learn more about writing and the world.
Arianna Linder is a 15-year-old writer who enjoys creating flash fiction, screenwriting, and short stories--specifically pieces that are psychological thrillers, dark comedies, or both. Arianna has pink hair. Annie Lu is a fifteen year old student with a passion for literature, philosophy, grapes, and Cheerios. She has been published in TeenInk and Creative Communication Anthologies and serves as a teen blogger and board member for ThingsTeen. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and watch the news. Andrew Marinus contributes comedy articles to Cracked.com and weird fiction to all over - his latest piece, a stoner horror story called "Station to Station", can be found at hypertextmag.com. He lives in Vancouver and can be reached at @AndrewMarinus. Genevieve May is a nostalgic creative writing graduate from London, currently completing a master's in Germany. When she's not translating or editing, she takes 35mm photos, writes novel-like letters, and wanders around musky flea markets. Laura Mayron is a student at Wellesley College but is originally from Maui, Hawaii. A poet and translator, Laura spends much of her time as the poetry editor for The Wellesley Review. She has won Wellesley College's Florence Annette Wing Prize for poetry, and has been previously published in Vagabond City, The Wellesley Review, and has an upcoming publication in Fractal. Lakshmi Mitra is a 19 year old college student living in Calcutta who occasionally frustrates herself into a bout of writing. When not doing so, she can be found reading, studying, craving sleep, and complaining. She is mostly polite, a lousy conversationalist, and doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like sudden movements. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to her that her cats still donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like her. She blogs at sightsinunderland.wordpress.com and anotherwinterheart.tumblr.com. Heather Mydosh is a transplant to Independence, Kansas where she teaches composition and literature at Independence Community College. She was the 2014 Kansas Voices poet, and has poetry and short fiction featured in Inscape Magazine, velvet-tail, and 99 Pine Street, with pieces forthcoming in After the Pause, The Corvus Review, and From the Depths from Haunted Waters Press. She holds her Masters of Literature from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in Comparative Literature and Thought. Meghana Mysore is a senior at Lake Oswego High School. Her work appears in Aerie International, Alexandria Quarterly, Burningword, Crashtest, Eunoia Review, VoiceCatcher, Pilcrow & Dagger and more, and she is the recipient of
Young Poets of the Year and the Scholastics Writing Awards. This summer, she attended the Kenyon Review Young Writers' Workshop, the Iowa Young Writers' Studio. She also participated in the Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship. Caroline enjoys NPR, school newspaper, and traveling. Next fall, she plans to attend Harvard University. Shannon Viola has been published in Anthology of Short Stories By Young Americans, Teen Ink, Calliope, Cleaver, Dallas Morning News, and Wayfarer Journal. She also attended NEYWC at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College and was a winner of the 2013 Mayborn National History Writing Contest. Shannon studies Classics at Gettysburg College. Cecilia Wood is a senior in high school in Birmingham, Alabama. She has been published in Canvas Literary Journal and received an Honorable Mention in the Nancy Thorp Poetry Contest. Neely Woodroffe is a 16 year old rising senior who attends Miami Arts Charter School. She majors in Creative Writing and Chorus and on the side she is learning Sign Language. She lives with her mother, stepfather, four cats and one dog. Alice Xu is a high school senior in New Jersey who adores Jane Austen and her novels. She currently serves as a Co-Editor in Chief for her high schoolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s literary magazine, a Genre Editor for Polyphony H.S., and an Editorial Intern for The Blueshift Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Textploit, Phosphene Literary Journal, The Riveter Review, and elsewhere. Carrie Zhang is a learning poet and rising sophomore at Watchung Hills Regional High School. Emily Zhang is a senior at Hamilton High School in AP Art Studio. In 2014, Emily won 1st Place at the Arizona State Fair in the mask division as well as 2nd Place in the painting category. In 2015, she placed 3rd for mixed media at the State Fair. In her free time, Emily does ballet. Catherine Zhao is the president of Lynbrook ArtReach at Lynbrook High School, where she makes crafts for communities around the Bay Area. Catherine is an artist in 2D and 3D forms, exploring new mediums and uncomfortable ideas and insecurities. Lily Zhou is a sophomore at Aragon High School in San Mateo, California. Besides writing, she also enjoys drinking bubble milk tea and solving sudoku puzzles. A poetry collection of hers recently won a Gold Key at Scholastic Art & Writing.â&#x20AC;Š