THE PHOENIX - GONZAGA FINE ARTS REVIEW
Dear Reader, The Phoenix is not a lit catalogue. It is a bard speaking in the public square. Hear its words. The Phoenix is not an art catalogue. It is an open gallery. Walk its halls. The Phoenix is not history. It is individuals sharing stories in pictures and whispers with colors and war cries. Sincerely, Alex Gomez â€˜18 Rylan Madison â€˜18 Editors-in-Chief
THE PHOENIX 2018 - Volume XXXIII EDITORS IN CHIEF Alex Gomez Rylan Madison EDITORIAL COMMITTEE Jack Chesen, Patrick Gallagher, Jack Heerink, Michael Kennedy, Lucas Scheider, Henry Sullivan, Collin Sundsted, Ethan Tobey, Matt Walter MODERATOR Dr. Harry Rissetto
SPECIAL THANKS Ms. Jennifer Carter, Mr. Joe Ross, Mr. Matt Duffy, Mrs. Shelly Farace, Mr. Rick Cannon, Mr. Mike Fiore, Mrs. Helen Free, Mrs. Teresa Jackson, Mr. John Kilroy, Ms. Mary Kate Kimiecik, Mr. Allan L’Etoile, Ms. Sarah Miller, Mr. Bill Pierce, Ms. Kylee Piper, Mr. Joe Sampugnaro, Mr. Randy Trivers, Mr. Patrick Welch, Tommy Boyce ‘17, Quinn Aitchison ‘17, Luke Allen ‘16, Holden Madison, ‘16, Chris Hrdy ‘15, Kevon Turner ‘15, Matt Buckley ‘14, Joe Dahut ‘14, Christian Forte ‘14, Matt Druckenbrod ‘13, Dominic Plantamura ‘13, Andrew Richard ‘13, John Morabito ‘12, Aaron Clark ‘12, Daniel Sweet ‘12, Tom Robertson ‘11, Matt Weider ‘10, Johannes Schmidt ‘09, Will Felker ‘08, and all those who submitted art and literature for consideration.
POETRY & FICTION
Kyle Brown 8 Myles Dread 9 Aaron Douoguih 10 Lucas Scheider 12 Lucas Scheider 15 Lucas Jung 16 18 Jordan Colbert Lucas Jung 19 20 Jordan Colbert Jack Dufour 21 22 Sydney Person Winston Leslie 23 Dan Flagg 24 Kyle Brown 25 26 Jefferson Ascencio Lucas Jung 27 28 Gordan Turner Jason Labbe 29 Calder Jones 30 Will Turgeon 31 32 Jefferson Ascencio Jefferson Ascencio 33 Jacob Hardney 34 Jefferson Ascencio 35 Kyle Brown 36 37 Lucas Scheider Danny McKinnon 38 Jacob Hardney 39 Matt Yu 40 41 Winston Leslie Lucas Scheider 42 Jefferson Ascencio 43 Jefferson Ascencio 44 Jack Keating 45 46 Juan Fernandez Chris Koi-Larbi 47 Jefferson Ascencio 48 Beakal Sebsebe 49 Cover Art: Rylan Madison
Ethan Boshart 50 Chris Koi-Larbi 51 Kyle Brown 52 Joe Miller 53 Liam Downing 54 Lucas Scheider 56 57 Jordan Colbert Lucas Jung 58 59 Hunter Stewart James Barbour 60 Stephen Cullina 61 Aaron Douoguih 62 Jacob Hardney 63 Jordan Colbert 64 Calder Jones 65 66 Henry Sullivan Alex Gomez 67 Joe Miller 70 Ethan Tobey 72 Joe Miller 75 Trevor Louis 78
Andres Rivas 82 Daniel Beggy 83 Rylan Madison 84 Lucas Scheider 85 Andres Rivas 86 Rylan Madison 87 88 Andres Rivas Rylan Madison 89 Andres Rivas 90 91 Rylan Madison Joshua Pfefferkorn 92 Peter Rizzo 93 94 Nathan Jackson Rylan Madison 95 Juan Fernandez 96 Jack Chesen 97 Will Boram 98 Sean Gill 99 PJ McMahon 100 Luke Hoffman 101 102 Henry Sullivan Rylan Madison 103 Jack Chesen 104 Peter Rizzo 105 106 Rylan Madison Joshua Pfefferkorn 107 Will Boram 108 Jack Chesen 109 110 Henry Sullivan Ryan Ebel 111 Will Boram 112 113 Rylan Madison Ben Hong 114 Jack Chesen 115 Ryker Stokes 116 117 Rylan Madison Rylan Madison 118 Antonio Gutierrez 119 Ned Muckerman 120 Rylan Madison 121
Rylan Madison 122 Daniel Lavarte 123 Andrew Lennon 124 Rylan Madison 125 Henry Middlebrook 126 Tom Williams 127 Tripp Harris 128 Tom Williams 129 130 Daniel Lavarte Rylan Madison 131 Henry Sullivan 132 Tripp Harris 133 134 Chris Koi-Larbi Matt Gannon 135 Matt Gannon 136 Bobby Kelly 137 Will Boram 138 Will Boram 139 Jack Chesen 140 141 Michael Krivka Matt Gannon 142 143 Hameed Nelson Julien Giscombe 144 Bobby Kelly 145 Jack Chesen 146 147 Rylan Madison Hews Hyre 148 149 Henry Sullivan Adam Tanielian 150 John Hodges 151 Luke Hoffman 152 153 Patrick Sheehan Alec Dubois 154 Joshua Pfefferkorn 155 Juan Fernandez 156 Ben Hong 157 Matt Gannon 158 Alex Khlopin 159 160 Matt Gannon
Mr. Rick Cannon
Gonzaga English Teacher, 1976-Present Responsible for the first Phoenix, shaper of writers, pursuer of perfect eloquence, free-thinker, storyteller. Four decades, lifting students and their writing from drafts and ashes to flight. The word, the right word, the APT word is the opposable thumb of the mind. Itâ€™s not important that I be noticed, it IS important that my WORK be noticed. Happiness? Itâ€™s a sales pitch! Doing RIGHT, the ROCK!
POETRY & PROSE
the drop off
for my brother, Miles I knew you were leaving, I knew why, I knew when, still I wept. Praying for safety, reaching for you knowing it took me 14 steps to reach you, 16 years and 10 months to appreciate you. You hugged me. I didn’t want to let you go. No, I didn’t want you to let me go. I was losing you as a cliché preceded me, we couldn’t say goodbye only see ya later.
*WINNER OF THE 2018 GONZAGA POETRY PRIZE 8
What if the beautiful book of black history was never written? Would its poets, singers, and storytellers be silent? Would its fruits, masks, trains, rivers, and drums still speak to us? We need their faith, anger, sorrow, and warnings to seep into our soul. What if Phillis Wheatley never learned to read and write? Would there be less bigotry today? We need to warn the white Christians again of the angelic train. What if Paul Laurence Dunbar never told us to wear the mask? Would we have survived for as long as we did? We need to take off the mask and let the world know what it means to be black. What if James Baldwin never saw the low ceiling of opportunity? Would it change the heights we have reached? We need to remind them we are not their negro, that we are their worst nightmare. What if Billie Holiday never sang of the bitter fruit hanging from the poplar trees? Would the blood on the leaves ever stop dripping? We need to sing along with her and hear the pain hanging in her voice. What if Langston Would our dreams Would there even Would our dreams
Hughesâ€™ soul never grew deep like the rivers? dry up like a raisin in the sun? be a dream to be deferred? explode?
T A H
? F I 9
Do not let your hair grow gray with questions. With mud on your sleeves and elbows scraped to the bone fill your mind with answers. Give notice to the fog and breathe it in yellow. What good is an unopened window? There is time, there is tMy face is prepared and has glanced through window panes I’ve killed my time and created times At one point, long ago I screamed there will be time, time for unity and time for division but no time for indecision.
A LOVE SONG FOR THE OTHERS
At first, inside, I know not who I am. From outside, I watch the women enter the room; I am Michelangelo. I dare I dare I dare use time and disturb this universe No minutes No seconds Only an instant to know that which I do not I wake in the morning to know the morning. No sunrise is familiar I say, “Goodmorning” but a sunrise does not know if the morning is good, for it has not seen morning. So far removed, The sun rises with someone else’s coffee spoon, not mine. I look into the eye of the universe and I dare. I’ve drank from cups some sweet and bitter teas Halls of used napkins have a graveyard to themselves I’ve tossed out coins
Yes, sometimes foolishly, but other times not. I’ve sprawled myself on a pin and wriggled off the wall. I’ve already began to muddy my shoes and have taken many, many falls My claws have scraped the sand of seas tirelessly and worn themselves into nothing more than rounded edges filled with a substance I can call my own. My hair is thick, my muscles toned Why should I wait until I’m old and grown? To round off my spears or jump into colder water, To eat a peach and walk with white trousers on the beach. To put my fist up and hail my alma mater. I’ve had doubts on whether to play, Instead I started my scene. I finally understood what it meant to be the answer to my own question. I had a good day No, The day is not mine. I live by its code Even if that means I have to grow old. I do not hear the mermaids yet, no two sing together If my course remains West, my sun will not set. I have time, I have time To lay under the starry sky for my eternal rest But now, now I go, As my soul follows my shoes I watch the women enter the room; I am Michelangelo. I sing, I sing, I am immune But I cannot sing a song I do not know.
THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES
II. Hands bound Tied like a slave Indentured, indebted The one just repayment He. Forced down to kneel Not before His Father But before an ironed chained (unchopped) pole to The pagans. Whip scourges back Burning with the savage scouring of sinâ€™s disdain. Crooked hooks bite In flesh never tainted by A single wrong.
I. Kneels with determined devotion Eyes cast up Towards a night sky Whose weight pushes Down upon Him. Flashes of Future duty of Promising fulfillment of Impending Death Make themselves known Heart races as The dull thump of Angelic war drums Labor to prepare Him. Abandoned In earnest by Companions Long-given in to the clutches Of neglectful slumber. Red cloying mist clogs running Breaths As balmy drops of sanguine sweat Trickle down Shadows of what yet to be inflicted.
Marking Gouging, Carving In the One whose self-inflicted humanity aches With longing to be given for all Salvation. III. They crowned Him with Glistening sickled intertwined Hidden by the Visage of bristling undergrowth, Decayed rose petals long stripped, Leaving only an uneasy black core Wound with thorns. Beauty ripped away, as it tears His head Tears of blood give thin streams of agape. The shameless mockery that would crown a man of whom no equal would ever pass. Not a perfect creation but The Perfect, Creator. Sneers â€˜round cry beady eyes Foreshadowing nail Driving through flesh and soul. He knows what is to come. As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be. IV. Takes up the beam, A crossed burden Never weightier a single object, Unlike an eternal Atlas His weight borne carried spiritual pain An abstractness of essence never grasped in the horridity of its intensity. Trudging as lashes savagely long for home in back He passes through a town once His, Now handed over to decrepit decay. Stale wind blows out of mindless exhales who glare Down at him Beams of shame! Self-fulfilling cries by some fall Only to garner comfort For themselves But weep not for Me.
Helped by a stone-faced man whose reluctance gives no remorse. Only a grieving mother’s silent love And the passing of face momentarily cleansed of rubble Begets an inkling of comfort as A thick sea of jeers Demand his clothes. V. Pushed down by hands which praise The cold illness of Death. Pulled to a strain Not a cry as wild agony courses Through veins Blocked by the driven nails. Up they hoist Him, a trophy For all to spit upon. The Greatest became The Least. As time slows to a dull drip, Each second an agonizing eternity As sky’s portal gifts a singular stream of light The final cry echoed an “It is finished” Sweeping With an unnerved silence as reverberation. The Spirit was commended The Temple crumbled to Dust.
One Arched Eyebrow One curve Sings The praises of incredulity. One vaguely feigning Intrigue One angled brush stroke Brown lines Softly bent In two An appeal
I have Anxiety but don’t treat me differently because if you treat me differently then it’s like you treat me different cause of my skin or social class or orientation or size it’s weird having a mental disability it gives me some instability yes anxiety may not seem like the worst in society but it’s misunderstood that might be my destiny is it such a felony to have to go to therapy or get treated like I am messed up mentally or those who think they’ll be my remedy I say this, but I benefit from others utility and I don’t mind when they give their pity honestly, my anxiety is something I’ve dealt with quietly and you’re thinking why he’s speaking so delightfully of a problem so excitedly and seems to need to keep this problem privately possibly because of his insecurity or probably because of his immaturity I have this tendency to have this dependency on those I love incredibly regrettably I try to live my life impeccably and use my integrity with much intensity essentially what I’m trying to say is something I hold heavily in my heart presently and I’m sure you’re tired of me speaking endlessly and relentlessly
and I did this rather recklessly and thought about it carelessly but as I stated it’s something I care about tremendously and I hope I spoke successfully cause I did it kind of breathlessly and also kinda terribly but this is part of the recipe of what makes up me my anxiety is something I’ve dealt with in solidarity and it’s become a regularity I’ve had the temerity to share this poem apparently I hope I’ve given the courage to others potentially just me and my anxiety
HURRICANE JANE DOE JORDAN COLBERT
as the storm brews stronger and moves closer a burst of wind hits me as the bathroom door swings open and the girl from my history class tries to run away from her past moving quick as the lightning and stomping thunderously her rainy tears fill her footsteps as she runs to her only place of sanctuary the bathroom stall where she sits pondering Life lost and abandoned everyone she knows put their rain boots on and pranced in the puddles of her tears unaware of what hurricane is actually forming because they only see the storm
Everyday I am reduced to nothing whittled down I am bare and in pain I pray everyday stop the torture I am trapped and in agony I renew my stature reforms and soon I am beaten down only to return again Everyday I hope will be special I hope to be spared I am tricked into false security I fear this gnawing never ends I am worried and eternity is now Everyday I have walls demolished and dissolved I am change
I am chewed up and spit out I crack under the pressure I am frail I cry my eyes forced dry by the monster eating away at me It is forever and living I am forever and dead Everyday I fight to lose I die my hard heart shatters I am certain it will never go away
S U E
H T E
M O R
VOICELESS Ode to the thundering silence, caused when chattering teeth die, and unspoken actions, show the validity of oneâ€™s heart a planet composed of clout fiends, who pollute the beauty of truth with their prideful ways, and empty pompous speech, that builds statues of words as hollow as their minds, while the mute construct monuments to success
I walked through the forest yesterday. I saw tall trees casting shadows; I saw green unable to grow. Fungi decorated trunks of trees berry bushes had nothing but leaves birds with no where to fly maggots swarmed the deer that died. There lied howevera flower with white pedals and a pinkish hue it stood tall on the magolia tree it stood free free from the forest gloom the forestâ€™s only bloom Iâ€™ll be back tomorrow For the magnolia flower
You always say Thank me Later But when is later? Drake you always say What a time to be alive I finally see why Your music is Someone I can Someone I can Someone I can
my best friend cry with relax with get hyped with
Your music is like a mirror I see myself in the lyrics You speak the words I am afraid to speak Your lyrics are influential I learned how to Take Care Because of you Nothing was the Same We all have different Views Your music gave me More Life
T S I ART
MONDAY MORNINGS: ME AND MOM
dew-covered cobblestones reach for toes as wood is pecked over our extended roof, and the cry of daybreak creeps through my slitted shades. i embrace the fur of a beast as a barrage of musty-scented kisses fill my rusty face. my mom, her love lost like the wood off that one oak, calls â€œbreakfast!â€? 13 steps, my nose leads me down. there lies a feast undeservingly for me. cakes, bacon, eggs. smell justifying taste. my plate, a cornucopia of compassion.
I have come from a mother like you--equal at birth, yet seen as an alien in society born bleached by the bigotry and hatred of those I have no relation to. I am flawed in the eyes of mankind, labeled as “privileged” or “entitled”. The color of my skin is White. The color of systemic racism. The color of global oppression. The color I am. My skin is the unwanted voice in my life speaking for me in complete silence, blinding humanity from who I truly am. I am white, but I am not privileged, not oppressive, not the enemy. I am white, but I am not what history says I am.
Blessed are the givers, for their love is immortal. Blessed are the listeners, for their sorrows shall be heard. Blessed are the humble, for they will be revered. Blessed are the selfless, for they will have love. Cursed are those who gossip, for their lives are dull. Cursed are those who hate, for their joy is limited. Cursed are those who do not learn, for their mistakes will recur. Cursed are the seducers, for they will fall.
THE BEATITUDES OF TODAY
ODE FOR THE ODELESS
for the Men at the McKenna Center. How much does a dollar cost? You wouldnâ€™t know, you never had one. Your smile wanes as you tap your pockets and find nothing. Your treasure lies hidden in the struggle not in the grime of your bags. America refused to imitate an airplane and nourish you with a silver spoon. She lulled you to believe that you do not belong while she caressed your hair with blue nails and marked your forehead with red lipstick, overshadowing complexion white as snow or the lines of coke for which many were imprisoned. I know you rehearse a prayer everyday your knees translate reverence for the Holy. At a glance, youâ€™re a failure, but do not fall head-first into the depths of surrender. Praise your suffering. Praise your perseverance. Praise your redemptive, healing soul.
The sediment crunches under my boot as dust clouds around my feet The air, light Breathing, shallow Heart, racing Mind, serene The sun, beaming, shines from the snow my tent a microwave The shade, cool too cold get out Stream, flowing Shimmering crystal in liquid form North mountains South valley East lake West boulders Insides growling Food None except a small bag of damn raisins and peanuts
Birds chirping squirrels scampering Bugs buzzing Bugs bothâ€™ring Bugs bunching Bugs bouncing Thinking, miss my family No Not again Neither fight nor flight Numb chest arms hands legs feet Numb Shrill whistle Here comes support Safety Solitude Clarity
W T U
Warning: Objects in mirror are closer than they appear could that really be me checkered tie a tight noose around my straining neck it seemed looser yesterday? a cold suit imprisoning my aspiration inside skin that hasn’t felt the sunlight that lives from nine to five where is everyone else strangers dance by without touching of hands not so much as meeting eyes or passing breaths carved into the sensation of words I still see my eyes but what they see isn’t me that’s never who I was supposed to be didn’t I used to know you
not from the concrete But From the bed of a flower Never deprived of fresh air My blossom Was easy ? No my struggle treated like a costume sunlight provided but my foundation was cracked Never deprived of attention But life demonstrated what the flower lacked long live the rose that grew a determined flower A brute just to be greeted by the kiss of lifeâ€™s boot
I too grow from the soil But love and care has detonated my blossom
I grew from my family watered and fed. Showered with care Fertile soil, my roots stretched as deep as they wanted, and the earth welcomed me I grew in a forest. A forest of friends and family, plants big and small The soft ground embraces me. My parents look out for me. My brothers guide me. I come from the earth.
My heart, a place, where family gathers and trees whistle with laughter A place of calmness, reunion, where fishing devours the hours Swaying waves of rusted wheat add to the last forever beauty A place blind to the past, and the mere future seems eras away
FATE 1. The long, dark road before me seems never-ending. Streetlights trail me. I can see where Iâ€™ve been. I carry a torch handed to me by a farmer, a foreigner. His sedulous spirit works through my veins while Iâ€” I lead the way. My eyes colorblind, yet my tongue interlaces past with present.
2. I run for hours through the abandoned, narrow road. Depicted an alien everywhere I go. Today, I encountered a bird tweeting on a twig. His right eye twitched; his beak, twisted. 3. He told me a rumor: I might travel down South. Tropical weather, no ice around. 4. I began to walk.
POET TO RACISM
Your impulse shocks my body, I bend to your criticism. You drape my life with sweet burden. My dark mustache, tan complexion, and sugary Spanish breath are enough for you to presume the story of my life. I live by your code, trapped, my body a mere vessel for bottled resentment. I cannot escape you.
it beats slow as still water. a cavern reaching fruitlessly into an abyss stripped of beauty withered by false loving souls in search of selfish desires its welcoming light long since erased replaced with signs stay away-stay out if you enter this decayed place despair waits patiently to laugh in your face one has entered different from the horde with buckets teeming of love honesty and faithfulness ready to restore the light the dark fights relentlessly against this fearless soul yet she remains unbroken and as slow as the sun sets over the horizon she has resurrected a pulse echoed loudly in the heart of a beast
for My Mother and Her Struggles I. She can no longer see past her deceptions. II. Her bag sags— You think it’s Christmas? She feels its weight upon her corpse, restraining depression, events that welcomed goosebumps. III. She is my rose, cliché.
IV. Dipping her toes into the cool, calm river of death, her thorns shriveled. V. She is lost, stuck, a point of no return, with eyes opened, awaiting everything that comes next.
BLACKNESS KYLE BROWN
Why is my blackness the way I speak? How do I disrespect “the culture” because I sound educated? Why is sounding educated equivalent to sounding white? Who would make such a rule? A diminishing rule, why would you follow it? To ensure I am heard I enunciate not to sound like “one of them.” I may not be black enough. The security guards and the police, they think with their eyes. and guess what they see?
The elements mix as a a balmy breeze brings a fresh coat of boiling ice. my bottle stares back one vacant socket, no refreshing coolant, only a light coat of dusty grit. all around, stinging, scratched eyes take in a panorama of desolation where there is nowhere. only the fiery sun remains to listen to my pleas. I have forgotten, why I have lost myself, raw, stripped, bare inside sand dunes morph into eager tombs, patiently lying in wait for my seeming demise.
Cleaning you Keeping you Not because you ever appear well, You look like garbage And you fill my nostrils with an old, moldy scent But I show you off I welcome my finest guests into you And they smack you around as if you have nothing to break bruising you Punching holes in your walls I gladly mend your wounds Leaving a scar in memory Of another dumbass teenager Whom I welcomed warmly My fault I broke you so I bought you You function as both a hermitage and a nightclub, all I needed these years You have watched me grow as I sat on your tattered couch Which soaked up the ooze of The many spills The tears of melodramatic young girls The drool of one night fugitives I remember their looks, face down on your armrest Waking up with your pattern imprinted on their face You left your mark on them They did the same to you
N O E G N U D N
you forged the way in and revealed a way out
42 JACOB HARDNEY
you proved the impossible possible and stared into the face of fear you were the stallion black as night but also the beacon that lit the path you showed me what it meant to fight and the plethora of opportunities baseball could bring to my life you handed me my ticket and I boarded my future
Learning to die is a part of living. the answer transcends Time. you just need to find it. it hides in the cracks and corners of dying dreams, embedded in the the fight for freedom, revealed in the crushing loss of a loved one, It wants to be foundyou just have to look for it I have learned to die and now I can live.
WINSTON LESLIE It was cold in that water. At least cold enough for me. But what about my friend? He no longer wants to breathe. He’s stood up there and hollered He’s stood up there and cried And when it’s all said and done He really wants to die. The heights don’t scare him Nor does water, seemingly bare. He wants us to hear him holler But we don’t really care. He’s just another person, NO, a number, victim to wine. Self-medicated he desires A life worth his time. He’s no longer here living, Honestly, are you surprised? “Don’t mind him though He lived just to die.”
sleepless nights red eyes frozen amidst a bath of fear-shaken animals tears drawn out of pearls
MY SON 42
JEFFERSON ASCENCIO Who is He? What impact has He had on your life? How many sins do you have to commit to capture His attention? We emulate children in the ghetto, fatherless, numerous like grains of salt. The reaper hollers, we hunt each other, taking days for granted, striving towards doom. Where is He? Will He show us the way? Is He the way? Maybe His truth will break my chains.
RESPONSE TO MY GRANDFATHER
JEFFERSON ASCENCIO January 1st, 2018: when i look at you, i see myself and smile. you have taught me to work hard. you were my purpose to do so. gloomy days don’t last forever. it is through misery that we know our own strength. life will beat you but don’t let that deter you from chasing your dreams. Persevere.
I ever looked into someones eyes and seen a sparkle? perhaps, gentle lip movement marching randomly towards the ear? you taught me humbleness is all a man needs–– gloomy days could not contain you from spreading love through misery, it seemed a mystery how happiness prevailed life battered you your hunched back says it all II you conquered your dreams and won your war relax now soldier make Him wait.
Great Hobbit of the Shire, Bearer of the Ring. bucolic life Along came a King.
The Arachnids of Mirkwood Forest no match for thy blade, You forgot you needed sleep Yet, Smaug was slayed
Thorin Oakenshield knocked Upon your ever-sealed door, Along came a Wizard He requested Erebor.
The Heart of the Mountain astray I think that you know why. Avarice at play, arrows started to fly Five armies collided allies prevailed, A pulse no longer present The coffin met a nail.
rumors of undaunted voyage. Echoed inside you. You were reticent at first, but new thoughts began to brew You waved goodbye to familiar friends, furniture, food answered reckless adventure constant worriedness subdued
You never gave up on friendship, you kept it in your sight. A newfound thirst for thrill burns the darkest light.
An unexpected journey The Green Dragon Inn rendezvous at Rivendell much to your chagrin You failed to defend yourself Your dwarven friends you cling Tis was true â€™til you met an elf sharp steel by the name of Sting
S N I
G G A
C A J
G N I
T A E
â€œThe land where I was born Where I grew up Wherever I jump, scream, cry, laugh. Where the mountains surrounded me The volcanoes warmed me The ravines amazed me If it was cold the beach was there if it was hot the mountains were there And I left everything there my grandparents, my cousins, my family, my friends I closed my eyes and it was nothing there. It was like a hurricane happened and left me with nothing. As a tsunami comes and takes everythingâ€?
The staggering pain crept through my soul lost through the torment behind the lens of her eyes Mesmerized each second someone catches site the uncomfortable glare brings displeasure to the mind Bringing to life your faults, mistakes all humans want to hide hidden beneath your heart locked to never rise again. No signs of light but only darkness has surfaced So dark glimpses from the past No longer resonate She knows your deepest secrets your smile canâ€™t hide the lies.
the sky usually emulates the ocean, deep blue, impenetrable for knowledge to dream about what lies hidden. the stars usually pour their light onto the superficial face of the night, marking beauty. but today,
the sky is tired, unwilling to imitate the ocean, sprinkling no desire on humanity to discover the obvious: death. today, the stars linger, veiled, their gleam rusted like Americaâ€™s mercy. the only twinkling night light lives on the ember of a cigarette, its smoke chains seldom company: warmth. today, a man, a homeless man, smokes, wears suffocating coats, and carries bags heavier than his eyes, lost, unable to blind hopelessness.
As the sun sets on the blue nile the alluring forest covers the country the righteous mountains intimidate the foreigners Â the peopleâ€™s skin filled with color work tirelessly to make a living the red, yellow and green flag defines African independence throughout The Capital city Addis Ababa represent the new flower of our country the axum towers fly high and tower into the night sky Ethiopia has been finally freed from the shackles of Western greed.
“there he is” he shouts, as he extends his mitts open for a shake
injustice, he calls out “truth over harmony”
siced about grades, “what about me?” don’t bother him, flee gives up his lunch for brothers like me, he cares
ODE TO MR. D BOSHART
love thy neighbor embodied in thee
“how are you doing?” he asks, eyes meet and conversations peak
The colored vision blinded my future but my mother saved me from despair a mother born to care for others never missed a rumble. An architect, my mother constructed my behavior an irritated child, now a blossomed being. A designer, she crafted my future no longer gifted with hatred
A found poem drawn from “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John It’s laid to rest, the rush of day. Vagabonds believe. Kings turned away The enchanted warrior, restless for this wide-eyed wanderer. How can you feel where we are? It’s enough we got this far. The heat of a rolling moment, is enough for a calm surrender. Can you feel the very best? Tonight sees enough love, to twist wind for this star-crossed voyager
R E G A Y O V
RIDICULOUS AMPHIBIANS JOE MILLER
I. Ridiculous amphibians flit by the by within my mind My skull a rigid riverbed My brain a warm muddy marsh Quaking Quivering Quoting Shakespearean monologues through ribbits and croaks Singing pirate shanties from leathery throats II. An empty bench stands alone in a desert of grass Great dunes of green extend for all eternity or so thinks the bench Its empty grass world will never change Shall remain consistent until bench is dust But I know better I know that the bench is lucky For bleakness is far superior to the noise of human toads At least grass cannot hate At least grass cannot shun At least grass cannot build you up on a paper-mache pedestal and proclaim you king before grounding you into a fine powder to be cast into an ocean of despair Crownless Friendless Hopeless
In August, a sharp pang of guilt accompanies hearty laughter as I watch my dog lie restlessly on the deformed planks of the front porch while flies circle around his nose causing him to itch and scratch in his sleep. In August, the unexpected pleasure of condensation on the cold lemonade jar washes onto my fingertips as I greedily lift its contents to my dry mouth and down my parched throat. In August, a liberated spirit washes over my body with the wind as I bike down dirt paths in the shady backwoods behind my house seeking adventure and asylum from boredom and the sweltering heat. In August, a heavy discomfort from the sultry, water-laden air creates a clinging film of perspiration upon my bare skin. In August, an invigorating rush of rejuvenation flows over my body as I leap off of the diving board and descend like a stone to the bottom of the pool. In August, the sharp regret of stupidity follows the stinging ocean spray as it splatters upon my burnt skin, both cooling my body and prickling my nerves. In August, the insatiable desire to drink water as I exert myself playing lacrosse in the sun is mimicked by my panting dog seeking shelter in the shade of the magnolia tree. In August, a shroud of laziness clouds my thoughts as I lay on a beach blanket and stare up at the slow moving clouds on a windless afternoon. In August, welcome relief is found in the air conditioned ice cream parlor, a place of refuge from the arid streets and the brutal high noon sun. In August, stinging irritation from salty Old Bay seasoning burns my cut hands as I eat succulent shrimp next to the still waters of the Chesapeake Bay.
In August, a feeling of impatience is embodied by the slack fishing line feebly swinging in the dry wind. In August, the strange sensation of quicksand engulfs my struggling feet as the foaming tide turns the thirsty, crumbling sand on the sun drenched beach into a thick soup that traps me suddenly. In August, a glutinous craving fills my mind as I stare at the sizzling sausages, casings slowly cracking open, releasing a slow, trickling stream of juice. In August, the abrupt pain of a horse fly slurping up my thick blood incites a twitching slap and a colorful array of words. In August, an alarming sense of insignificance weighs heavily on me as I gape at the darkening purple and black thunderheads collecting menacingly in the early evening sky. In August, the bittersweet nostalgia of the perfume from wild summer honeysuckle slowly permeates the tall oak trees as the cicadas warble their song at dusk. In August, an awakened awe overcomes my thoughts as I peer at lonesome Jupiter and admire the blanket of glittering stars covering the depths of space. In August, my heart races as voices fill the dark void beyond the blazing kaleidoscope of the campfire with ghost stories. In August, a buoyant joy fills my heart as I look out of my window and into another world where the darkness is illuminated by the glowing tails of fireflies. In August, the unyielding drowsiness of the whispering southern winds filter through my open bedroom windows and encircle me with a lullaby as I fall asleep.
Lost motionlessness trapped in the gravitational Gasp A deep breath Taken drowning in the deluge of water encompassing
Pulsars Beating In keeping with The emptiness felt afterward Sleep’s enveloping Demise loses Its lazy hold As the air lock Fizzes shut.
A universal quest Fruitless But lasting In the impression of beauty
D DER I HE SC
Delving deeper Whirlwinds wormholes
Shocking inhales, exhales, Stark contrasts Between the ice And the smoldering soul
Life’s edges burn away Hazy paper ash The flares’ Comforting caress
Longing looks Faint In the eyes of fate
The journey slits my soul With dull edges and repeated punctures endlessly Endlessly I trod yearning for peace Piece by piece I try to gather my road Roads that lead to any place but this abyss An abyss filled entirely with uncaptured escapes Escapes from the ungodly grip of deficiency Nowhere my origin Uncertain my destination Patiently rushing
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS JORDAN COLBERT
what happens in vegas should not stay in vegas
This country takes a gunshot to the soul sparks the debate of gun control Why do we need to protect a right written in 1791 for those ready to fight It’s not like we don’t have a reason and it has created a lesion There is so much power in some groups we’re trapped in a chicken coup Vegas Orlando Blacksburg San Bernardino Charleston Newtown Aurora, Colorado these are massacres one took lives from another what if it were your sister, your mother, your brother what’s with the 42 death machines to be used as a means for a messed up end don’t even pretend like you’re doing the right thing you’re not because at the end of it all you’re still a killer who shot
*WINNER OF THE 2018 GONZAGA POETRY PRIZE
Day to day. Another gift to the world is dead. Potential never reached. But this is the norm now. So why do I mourn? The world is giving up, these acts of terror go unheard. If the Situation was reversed, the hatred we face would be, so dear. The land of the free, but why am I persecuted. Alas! I am born for this. To perform the drudgery of life. Yet do I Marvel, for the road to the pinnacle is so close. From the dark tower the secrets of slavery are concealed like those of the Inquisition. For Abel never knew the deep sorrow in Cain’s heart. So, we all are gifts of God, but my life irreverent. A short film put on silent.
music to my ears but a dagger to my soul
Alas! I am born Oblivious of the laurel, robe of a black male life. Era to era the bottomless pit of hatred grows. I have mourned the death of many. My spirit is stirred, but I am silent.
Unless it’s with a bullet or the new man’s noose.
*WINNER OF THE 2018 GONZAGA POETRY PRIZE
Some say there’s a station waiting on the other side. On benches sit the shaken anxious people who’ve just died. A train stops once a day, and you have the choice to board. No destination’s given, and the train sits there ignored. One or two rogue wanderers decide to take the chance, And once the doors shut tightly, the train starts to advance. People at the station wonder what could lie in store, For soon enough they too will have to enter through those doors. The station slowly fills until it can’t fit any more Madness grows and grows on those who don’t walk through the doors. A new train comes and this time stops for longer than before. By hoards the stations population enters through its doors. The passengers are packed tight, but each one is alone. When suddenly a bright light upon the train is shone. The train stops, and in an instant its doors open wide, They reveal an endless city wherein many wonders lie. The station now lies desolate, with few men sticking ‘round. They dread each train’s arrival, for they cannot stand the sound. That the station fills and empties is a necessary fact. But so it goes, there’s always those who query, but don’t act. Eventually they will also venture on the train, Until they do, they’ll ponder, and they’ll wonder but in vain. There is but one means by which to see the train’s direction. Until one risks it all, he has naught to do but question. But really, what’s the risk, if death is just the station? Is there meaning to it all, if to stay THERE is true temptation? Is the goal to leave the station, or simply to stay sane? You’ll ask yourself these questions, when you sir, meet the train.
*WINNER OF THE 2018 GONZAGA POETRY PRIZE
Wanderer, where is your home? Your birthplace? No. Born into crisis, that’s all you’ve ever known. Your dream is of freedom, A life without war, But that boat might sink before the shore. Sing your sweet lullaby, helpless friend, For like leaves on a breeze, You are lost to the wind.
*WINNER OF THE IGNATIAN HERITAGE POETRY CONTEST 61
what i have
I have no clothes, They were burned from my body No car, I couldn’t afford one I have No pride, I used it all to shine someone else’s shoes No shoes, My feet are too dirty I have No Home, It was taken from me No family, They were taken from me I have no name, I have nothing There is no sky I can lie beneath Where were you When my skin boiled, When I had nowhere to go, When I lost my pride? Where were you When I couldn’t walk When I had nowhere to sleep When I had no one to love? Where were you When I had nothing? I am still here, Where are you?
*WINNER OF THE IGNATIAN HERITAGE POETRY CONTEST 62
The sun slurps from the Moisture in their throats. The gentle dunes feast on their Foreign skin. Their feet scream In protest as they trudge to a place with no name This family, fled from a land of sadness noTorture. A homeland drowning in bullets, littered with limbs, And haunted by deathâ€™s cool kiss. Against their will they carry crosses As their bones yearn to return to the dust from which they came. Praying to sip from rich rivers that reflect Godâ€™s grace, Not the liquid that runs in their veins.
*WINNER OF THE IGNATIAN HERITAGE POETRY CONTEST
I look down, because to the left and right of me I live destruction.
where am I walking? where do I go? I would trade my feet for wings. the road I travel, the path I take, is only brightened by the tears of my desperation not by the air I breathe, not by my self-worth, because to you I’m worth nothing more than the dirt I walk on. why look around when the colors of beauty are gone? I’d rather just look down, watch my feet, and watch the world, not notice me.
*WINNER OF THE IGNATIAN HERITAGE POETRY CONTEST 64
A response to â€œMetric Figureâ€? William Carlos Williams A trout gives the water life A creek is sad and asleep until he slices through like a knife. The muddy banks mope around until the flashing fish is found The trees stand still and bored until the fisherman escapes the hoard He flees to the welcoming woods where he thrives He waits for a fish to make the water come alive.
LIFE OF A CREEK CALDER JONES
she holds her cup with a somber look. i walk by and our eyes lock. a faint and automatic, “God bless” vacates my mouth, leaving her for the cold night ahead. a feeling of commiseration comes upon me. then i see it, a grin. a spiritless wrinkled face, beams with joy. human benevolence is her ecstasy. i feel that our interaction is over. my humanity dissipates into the sounds of the train arriving. then I hear it, “have a nice day, gonzaga.” the sheer volume of those words. for that split second i am intoxicated with peace. then, she’s gone. a mere voice -- lost until tomorrow.
HENRY SULLIVAN 66
HAVE A NICE DAY, GONZAGA
a sound, that reverberates in my mind -coins clamoring together inside a dilapidated mcdonald’s cup.
I’m sitting in the back seat. Dillon sits shotgun. Erica and I are making out. Sarah keeps slamming on the brakes so that Erica and I will fly forward and hit their seats. I escape from reality for twenty minutes. It didn’t begin there, though. It began months before on a Friday in December. I sat in a noisy classroom and there she was, not even 10 feet away. Her name was Juliet. She was my first muse. Three weeks later, I was in the library in my house before it was overrun with amplifiers and microphones. Dillon sat at the piano. Link had his electric guitar in hand. I had my electric guitar too. It was the first day of winter break. Dillon played a progression on the piano and lyrics poured out of us. We stayed up late fantasizing about the future. How we would drop out of high school after we got signed. How we would play in an arena filled with thousands of people. Maybe it was my dream, but Link and Dillon wanted to come along for the ride. I look back on those days, remembering the excitement we had just to be playing music. We were on the cusp of something big. At least, we thought we were. The following April, it all came crashing down. After a few performances together, the band didn’t feel that promising. Link and I had kicked Dillon out of the band in search of a “bigger” sound, but we weren’t any better as a duo. That was before my ego got the best of me. Over spring break, Link texted me, “Just make sure that no one gets with her.” “Of course, dude. I got your back.” He was planning on taking Scarlet to spring formal. He was going to officially ask her in a few days. Six hours and a few too many later, I found myself alone in a room with Scarlet. Before my mind could catch up with my body, I was on top of her. Our lips pressed together and all my mind could manage was “what the hell am I doing?” The band was over.
I justified my actions to myself by going out with Scarlet. I took her to the dance. Link hated me. How could I blame him? I went away for the summer a few days after Scarlet and I broke up. Going into music camp, I thought I was a hotshot songwriter. How naive I was. Everyone there was miles ahead of where I thought I could be. I had lost my best friend, my dignity, and my sense of purpose within a couple months. The only shred of light was the new muse I found. Alice was her name. She was in the row behind me at orientation in June. “Where are you from?” She said to the boy next to me. I turned around before he could answer. “Waterbury, Connecticut.” Days later, Alice and I sat in a practice room. We told people we were writing a song, but we were actually writing a prophecy. “Tell me you’re not like the others, not like the ones before you,” We sang together as I hammered down the chords on the piano. We were inseparable. We found safety in each other even if it was short lived. When I was with her I could forget what I had done to Link. She inspired the new songs I wrote. The camp rejuvenated me with a new sense of purpose. When I wasn’t in class, I was writing in the library or working through a new song in a practice room. Coming home, I thought I was ready to take on whatever came my way. My return was not as welcoming as I had pictured. Link and I were on better terms than when I had left, but it wasn’t the same. I never even truly apologized to him. What could I have said to make him understand that I didn’t understand my own actions? “Sorry” wasn’t a good enough word. Alice and I kept talking. She kept me grounded as I dealt with the anxiety of no longer feeling at home. The friends I had left weren’t quite ready to embrace that I had gone all in on music. They mocked me, and I felt alone. It was hard to move on from the summer. It was hard to come back to reality. And then there was Erica. Dillon and I had just finished writing a new song when I got a call. “What are you doing right now?” I look at Dillon who watches me eagerly. “Nothing,” I reply. “What’s up?” Erica and I are driving around. Want us to pick you up?” Dillon shrugs. I tell her, “Yeah, why not?” The call ends and we are in Sarah’s car. The radio blasts. Their perfume is sweet. The moon is bright. It doesn’t feel real. Erica and I kissed, and I forgot about the summer. I forgot
about Alice. There was only that bittersweet ride. Erica and I were never serious. She was another muse, and she would tell her friends that I was another douche. That’s how it went. So I look back on the simpler times—when it was just Link, Dillon, and I in a room together testing our creativity. Before I betrayed my best friend. Before the girls. Before I fell in love with one dream after another. I’ve been stuck on Moran Street. I mistook myself for something more than I was. But, now I’m the one driving. I will drive down some dead-end streets. I will drive on to nowhere before I get to somewhere.
The path was illuminated by the final few strands of setting sunlight almost parallel to the cracked concrete ground. I walked slowly, alone, eyes straight down, watching as the loose leaves fled before my oncoming steps. I’ve been afraid before, but this was a different kind of fear. I’m used to the fear that fills every inch of your body with adrenaline. Where even if you die, you die without pain. I’ve had the fear when the adrenaline recedes and you register the bullet hole in your leg, or your shoulder, or your brother. This fear was nothing like that. There was nothing I could do to fix it either, no bandage to wrap or sling to tie. This was the fear that I would have to stand in front of every person I have ever met that’s still alive and make the most important decision in my entire life. I’ve had fourteen years to decide what I want my title to be. The name that everyone except my parents will call me for the rest of my life. And still, on my way to the ceremony I had no idea what I will choose. I guess I still have the three-mile hike down the barren highway to give me a little time to think, but no amount of time will be able to give me a name that I won’t someday regret. I shuddered as I lifted my right foot onto the first steep crumbling stair, the breeze rustling my threadbare clothing. Each step drained more and more of the confidence I had mustered after making my fiftieth, and hopefully final, choice just as the building came into view. It was one of the few buildings around that had lasted since before the war. Before the missiles dropped and reduced it all to rubble. This was the reason the entire community traveled here for their ceremonies. They had been here for three days, preparing, but the carts and tents were tucked somewhere out of sight. The celebrations would happen later, now was a time for solemnity. Reaching the top of the stairs I paused, suddenly frozen as I beheld the perfect rows of people inside, all seated on thin benches with faces turned down. They have been seated for hours, but no one protested. They had all either been in my position or would be in the coming years and knew that they had no right to complain. As he entered the younger ones lifted their heads to look at him but were instantly nudged by their elders and dropped their eyes. Only one person
was out of line. The eldest member of our community stood alone behind a makeshift altar of raw wood and rusted metal. He wore a stark green sash over his otherwise dirty clothing, a knife outstretched in this left hand. As I finally stopped, facing him across the low altar he flashed a quick smile before letting his voice boom over the forty-some people collected in a room built for much more. It still amazed me how such a powerful voice ripped from such a frail body. He went on for what seemed like hours, but I couldn’t understand any of it. Every word was drowned out by the pounding of my heart. “As has been our tradition since our establishment as a community that the Ceremony of Names shall be observed by every adolescent upon reaching the age of adulthood.” He opened a book and began to read. “Life is nothing if not a cycle. Birth, life, death, always turning. When the fires rained and Earth shook, many thought that that was the end of the cycle for all life. But, a new spoke of the wheel emerged from the rubble. Rebirth. To recognize this gift from on high the founders established the rule of the Cycle of Naming. In this observance, our community has the same 44 names as we have had since the beginning, with a new adult arising as the rebirth of those whose lives have been lived, accepting the mantle of the name.” He went on to list those 44 names, nodding to each of the current holders as he did so before closing the book with a small puff of dust. When he finally stopped, it was my turn to speak. I found the knife being pressed into my hand. Following him around the table I looked out among the blank staring faces and with terrified conviction I slammed the knife into the table, making my mark alongside the lines of everyone who had come of age since the bombs.With the knife quivering in the table I locked eyes with a man in his 40s across the room, the fear at the realization of what was about to happen, shattering his steely demeanor. “Ezra.” Those around the man who had been named Ezra only seconds ago, their companion, their family, seized him and dragged him to the altar. He made no sound as I slid the knife across his throat and stole his name. He knew it was the way things come, for he had taken the Ezra before him, and he the Ezra before him. Time seemed to move on without me as water was brought to dilute the blood, make the space clean again. Pure. Within a week everyone had forgotten their Ezra. I was Ezra now, and that was the way of things. No one seemed to notice any difference. No one but me.
THE SLAP AND THE TORPEDO ETHAN TOBEY
Tap…Tap tap…Tap tap tap…nothing. Maybe if I set the hook… Nothing. I see the shape, the familiar zebra stripes, the gray fins, the blocky teeth. I finally got a sheepshead to come after my bait. It inches towards the dangling crab, avoiding the small claws and taking bites at the shell here and there, slowly jabbing at the tortured thing, eventually crushing the shell in half. But the fish still hasn’t seen the hook. It bites a few more times, getting dangerously close to the circle hook that would spell doom for it but a delicious, decadent, and delightful dinner for myself. It bites a little closer and chomps down on the crab, slowly dragging it to the depths, but leaving my line slack. I lift up the tip of the fishing rod again, but no dice. Now I’m stuck with little to no bait and the grumpy attitude that comes with fishing for sheepshead. These fish will laugh and taunt and insult you, looking you in the eye while they steal your bait. These fish are menaces, and it’s not even because of their difficulty to catch or that they’re seen near almost every bit of rock or barnacle-covered docks, but it’s because they’re so worth the pain, especially when the filets are dusted with a little lemon-pepper seasoning and grilled to perfection. Maybe a bit of tartar sauce and cole slaw on the side if you really want it. This last fish is the epitome of a sheepshead, infuriating and aggravating, he got the line stuck on a rock, most likely wrapped around one of the dock’s pylons with no bait to salvage. Just another thing that happens when you fish for sheepshead, or any fish near a dock, or any fish. So there I was, lying on my stomach trying to pull the hook free. The only thing that could make this any better is if the fish was still on with the hook in its stomach and if it started to rain. The pitter patter of raindrops barely made a sound to me as I yanked the line with fury. So there I was, lying on my stomach in the rain, trying to pull a stuck hook free. After much anguish, the hook seemed to be free, sweet victory. I pulled up the line, hoping that there would be a usable hook at the
other end, maybe the bait. I finally could see the stronger leader line that was directly attached to the hook, and there was a sheepshead mouth piercing through the murky depths. And as I was pulling up the line, I saw its large dorsal fin and brilliant black-and-white stripes. It looked like a massive sheepshead, which is odd because they don’t grow to enormous sizes like a shark or a grouper, but I’ve heard of sheepshead that are a good 2 feet. Then what I thought should’ve been the back half of the sheepshead was the empty and dirty water that swallowed up the tail. All that anguish for half a fish, a completely inedible fish. I pull the rest of it into clearer water, but I see two other large shapes circling the corpse. One shape’s larger, brown with blurry beige stripes and tan speckles, densely built. The other was sleek, elegant, and a suppressed yellow color, almost like a lemon dropped in a pitcher of iced tea. They seemed to be following the dead fish up with an extreme intensity, the yellowish shape circling near the fish head and the heavy brown shape hovering near the carcass. These two shapes slowly became clearer, and they showed their faces, a 4-foot lemon shark and an equally sized goliath grouper. The two giants kept following my dead fish up until the surface of the water, then the hook got stuck on a pylon. So there they were, two massive fish squaring up over half a floating sheepshead. They’re waiting for the ref, waiting for that silent bell to ring. The shark struck first. It lashed out, trying to land its teeth on any part of the grouper, but the grouper evaded and rammed the shark, its mouth gaping open. The lemon shark slapped the accelerating fish out of the way with its tail, smacking the grouper on the rocks. Instead of trying to finish off its opponent, it went for the fish head, savoring its temporary victory with slow appreciation. The grouper got out of the rocks and charged the shark successfully, chomping down on the right pectoral fin and throwing the shark into the rocks with a small turn of its head, and unlike its opponent, the grouper didn’t stop for a second after vanquishing the shark, rushing to grab its new meal. The shark didn’t stay down for long. The shark lunged at the grouper, sinking its teeth into the bony plate of the grouper’s gill. The grouper retaliated, and plunged its smaller teeth into the softer gill of the lemon shark. Both sets of teeth tore into the fishes’ flesh, gutting out the gills of both fish, pulling out more and more of their bloody and feathery organs. They stopped writhing, locked in a stalemate as the water turned red. It was a standoff, with the two fighters floating there, hovering in the water, waiting for the other to bleed out or suffocate. The fish
used up their last bits of energy as they floundered and flailed with everything they had left for as long as they could, which was only a few seconds. They both stopped struggling, letting loose a mess of bubbles as they let go of their last breaths. Sinking to the depths with each otherâ€™s gills in their mouths, they were reduced to a yellow torpedo and a sandstone slab as they sank into the depths. What I couldnâ€™t believe was that this was over half a sheepshead.
PATH TO NOD JOE MILLER
The taste of dirt was becoming a little too familiar. It seemed like every time Marcus went uptown to visit his brother someone found it necessary to jump him. He had started to lose count of how many times his pockets were emptied at knife point. Hands scrambling to find traction on the loose gravel path, Marcus pushed himself up just long enough to feel the freshly cleaned New Balance heel connect with his chin. It was a long time until he woke up, with no wallet, no jacket, no shoes, and no way of knowing how long he had been there. His only clue was the light coming out slightly closer to the horizon than before, pushing through the thick clouds of smog the city could never seem to shake off. With a sigh and a finger to the chuckling kids staring from a dozen yards away, Marcus started off towards Eli’s apartment, nursing a bloody knuckle from his haphazard attempt at self-defense. “Open the door, asshole, it happened again.” He could hear Eli groan from inside as he slowly made his way to the door, not even flinching at the black-eye and bloody lip his brother wore like a hand-me-down sweater. He took one more drag off his cigarette before flicking it into a dirty corner of the hallway and stepped aside to let Marcus enter. Marcus made his way to the freezer, digging around fruitlessly for some sort of frozen vegetable to ease the swelling. Eli scoffed. “Grow the hell up man.,” Then in a voice dripping with the sarcastic condescendence that only an older brother can hold, “do you need a spider-man band-aid for your boo-boo?” Too tired to retort, Marcus accepted the outstretched glass and downed the whiskey in one quick swig. It burned less that way. He picked his way through the artful carpet of dirty clothes and empty cans to sit down on the couch, trying not to wake Crackhead Willie. He hated that cat, one day it had shown up outside with white powder all over its face and now it got to spend more time with his brother than he did. Marcus winced as his attempts proved futile and Willie dug his claws into his arm before jumping from the couch and stalking away. “I got you something, to keep you from getting your ass handed to you every time you come up here, just promise not to kill my
cat.” Eli reached into his pocket and tossed a small switchblade in an uncharacteristically graceful - and sober - arc into Marcus’s lap. Flipping it open, Marcus thumbed the blade, smiling at the gift. There was finally a barrier between himself and the guys who waited by the fountain to prey on anyone looking marginally weak. Not that he could ever use the knife, but maybe it would be enough to deter them from taking his empty wallet and last pair of shoes. For now he’d just keep it in his pocket and hope it would give him a little more confidence. He didn’t want to disappoint Eli anymore. Three weeks later, Marcus would get his chance. The red flags should have tipped him off far sooner than they did. He increased his pace as he entered the park, as he always did, hoping to use his proximity to an elderly couple also passing through as some sort of shelter, some shield against the inevitable beat-down. It was all he needed, as long as they kept walking the same way. 100 yards. 80. 60. Damn it, they turned. Marcus was forced to make a split second decision to follow the couple to wherever their Saturday was taking them or continue forward. With the knife heavy in his jeans pocket, Marcus took a breath and continued straight. Only a few seconds later, he sensed a figure behind him and turned, face to face with a pair he had definitely met before. Faces that have contorted to spit into your own are hard to forget. “Come on guys. I didn’t...I don’t want any trouble…” “It’s a little too late for that. Now just-” Marcus gasped in unison with his assailant, not remembering taking the knife out of his pocket, his arm moving almost instinctively as the man had stepped aggressively towards him. Staggering backwards, Marcus released the knife, unable to move his eyes from where it stuck into the Nike logo of a shirt, once white. He took off, Eli would know what to do, Eli always knew what to do. As he threw open the door to the apartment complex, the pounding of Marcus’s feet on the worn concrete steps raced his heart to see who could get to Eli first. Crashing into the apartment Marcus lost his footing among the scattered relics to partying, falling and hitting the ground hard. Eli - seated on the couch three beers deep - barely reacted, only muttering “dumbass,” before returning to his drink. Gasping for air as he struggled to his feet, Marcus managed “The knife--I stabbed--I think I killed him Eli, I think he’s--” Eli froze as, through coughs and gasps, Marcus tried to explain what had happened. “Well? What do I do, man?” Eli wasn’t paying attention anymore, his eyes were trained on
the open window, where the first few hints of sirens were becoming clearer and clearer. There was an expression on his face Marcus had never seen there before. Fear. “You can’t stay here. Go home. Go...anywhere, just get out.” Eli grabbed his shoulder a little too tight and led him into the empty hallway. The sudden coldness jarred Marcus too much for him to resist. Stopping abruptly outside the door Eli, took a step back, back towards the security of empty bottles, ratty sofas, and bad decisions. “Im sorry man, I can’t get involved with the police...they book me one more time I’m done. You’re on your own” A final image of his brother, this idyllic imposter, pushing greasy, unwashed hair out of his eyes. Eyes that held no love. Eyes wide and darting, as if any moment a predator would leap out of the shadows and tear away his worthless life. The door closed and Marcus was left alone with the pounding of his heart, the solid click of the lock on the door, and the crescendo of sirens all around.
I HAVE A PROBLEM
I have a problem. I feel the need to share what I think. And just to set fair expectations for the rest of this essay, know it’s simply another one of my thoughts I felt the need to share. Whether or not it’s worth sharing is immaterial to that established fact. Ultimately, that’s up for you to decide. The other day I was watching the Eagles documentary, which I highly recommend by the way (hey, anything for some ad revenue), and I had a thought. The documentary is in large part about the issues that caused the band to breakup, and it just so happens that my friend Tom and I had a falling out recently. My thought was, “Huh, Tom’s kind of as big of an asshole as Don Henley,” and of course I felt the need to share it. This presented two problems. The first was that the only person I knew who’d appreciate the Eagles reference was Tom. The second was that the only person I knew who wouldn’t appreciate me calling Tom an asshole was also Tom. A bit of a catch-22, you might say. Presented with the options of sharing or not sharing my ingenious observation, I more or less texted Tom I thought he was as big of an asshole as Don Henley. This was, as you can imagine, a pretty awkward conversation, but it was better than not having the conversation at all. Someone has to know what I’m thinking. Otherwise, what’s the point of thinking? This whole ordeal happened pretty late at night. Standing in the kitchen before rinsing out my milk glass and schlepping off to bed, I had a thought. What if this awkward conversation could have been avoided? What if there was someone out there you could say things to that you shouldn’t tell a real person? Then I thought, “That someone exists. God is the person you say things to that you shouldn’t tell a real person.” Of course! Instead of making my dad pause the television twenty times to tell him about the last episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm I watched or how I’m living Caddyshack through my job at the country club, why not just talk to God about it? It’s not like He has anything else going on. There’s no downside to sharing your thoughts with God. Either you’re talking to someone who doesn’t really exist and therefore aren’t bothering anyone, or you’re talking to someone about what He already knows you’re thinking because of that whole omnipotence thing. And if you happen to say something He doesn’t like, He still
has to forgive you. You really can’t go wrong. I began thinking about all the times I got in trouble for sharing things with people I would have been better off talking to God about. In my sixth-grade art class, for example, I noticed one of the girls at my table had what Jerry Seinfeld would accurately describe as “man hands.” I felt the need to share that thought, so I told everyone at the table that I thought she had man hands. This did not go over well. My teacher sent me to the principal’s office, where I defended myself by saying that the girl did indeed have man hands and that the thought needed to be shared. That defense didn’t hold up in court. I realized that if I had just talked to God about it in the first place, all of this mess would have been avoided. I imagined how this conversation would have gone. “Hey, God,” I would have said. “You won’t believe it, but this girl at my art table has man hands.” “Nice, Trevor!” He would have replied. “You’re getting better at the Seinfeld references every day!” Still standing in the kitchen with an un-rinsed milk glass, I began thinking there was more societal proof for my newfound concept than I had even realized. In old bank robbery movies, the criminals often leave their signature at the scene of the crime, blatantly risking themselves getting caught. They do it because they want someone to know that they pulled the crime off, and obviously, as criminals, they don’t believe in God. But if they had just talked to God about their crime instead, whether or not they believed in Him, then they could have satisfied their desire to let someone know what they did without practically begging to get arrested. And remember, nothing can go wrong. Even if you say something He doesn’t like, He still has to forgive you. For an even better example, let’s look to my generation—the “IGeneration.” If you look at churchgoing rates over the past fifty years or the percentages of people who say they identify as Christians, you’ll notice the numbers are way down. But what’s up? The amount of kids sending every little thought of theirs out into the Twitter-verse. Obviously, there’s an explanation for this. Young people tweet so much because they don’t pray anymore, but they still want someone to know what’s going on in their lives. The decline of mindless believers has led to the rise of mindless tweeters. I guess that’s all a long-winded way of saying that people like to feel special and let others know what they’re thinking. But forget people—what could make you feel more special than sharing your thoughts with the Lord? He could make you a prophet or something, and those guys get chapters written about them in the number one bestselling book in history. What’s more special than that? Still idle in the kitchen, I began thinking about how I would share my thoughts with God. In my Jesuit education, I had learned a
type of prayer called the Examen, in which you reflect on your past day, thank God for the gifts He’s given you, see how well you’ve done in furthering God’s will, and try to do better the next time. I was pretty sure this format could be turned around so that I could just go through my day and share with God every little thought I had. This, I thought, was bringing prayer into the twenty-first century. No more spiritual guidance, just an unfiltered dialogue of your every thought. Think of it as a “Captain’s Log” for the common man. I figured I’d try this new method of prayer that night. I had never really prayed before outside of school or for someone’s health, but after having groundbreaking thoughts of this magnitude, I figured this was a good time to start. The only problem was I couldn’t just go to God and tell Him He’s the person who just sits there and listens to my unfiltered thoughts, which is what I was thinking about at the time. Yes, He would still have to forgive me, but I needed to show Him some respect in our first encounter. Therefore, I would talk to Him about why it’s an injustice that mid-calf socks have supplanted ankle socks as the dominant sock among teenage boys in America, to the point that ankle socks are considered so uncool that its wearers get bullied until they succumb to the mid-calf. The dominance of the mid-calf sock is purely a stylistic point, as ankle socks demonstrate clear practical advantages. First, they use over fifty percent less cotton per sock, which clearly could be conserved for better uses like as fuel for cars or electricity or something. Second, the ankle sock provides for a feeling of freedom and mobility. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the ankle sock does not lead to the dreaded sock tan, which has become an epidemic among teenage boys in America. The sock tan is quite possibly the worst look one can go for at the beach or the pool, yet somehow the mid-calf sock remains in style. This is something I had been thinking about for a long time, so I figured I would share it with God. Now with a plan of action, I finally rinsed my milk glass and schlepped off to bed. I entered my bedroom, got down on two knees, clasped my hands together, and prayed. “Dear God,” I thought. “It’s truly an injustice that mid-calf socks have supplanted ankle socks as the sock of choice among American teenage boys. The ankle sock provides numerous clear advantages, and I think a world with ankle socks would be a better world for all of us.” Then, just before I was about to rise and climb under my covers, I heard a voice. “No one cares, Trevor.” *WINNER OF THE MARK TWAIN HOUSE & MUSEUM ROYAL NONESUCH WRITING CONTEST
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