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spring 2019

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The George Washington University’s Student-Run Art & Literary Magazine


sophie rickless cort carlson jordan hutchinson tiffany cornely tommy kubitschek

STAFF EDITORS celine alon

jessica bride danielle donnelly jeremy duarte megan greenstein bridget perry

GENERAL EDITORS camila dominguezi dillan krichbaum shannon mallard annalise nassani cali ragland kateryna stepanenko

submit Wooden Teeth is an annual publication and is

open to all members of The George Washington University community. Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, alumni, and staff are encouraged to submit their poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art. For more information or to submit, please contact: gwwoodenteeth@gmail.com You may submit five literary works and five pieces of artwork each semester.

spring 2019 Volume 42

sydney walsh Dogs on Whitecrest

table of contents poetry sean o'neill gwendolyn umbach pranay somayajula stephanie gemmell samsara counts cort carlson margot dynes jordan frengut jeremy duarte

2 3 5 6 7 8 11 12 13

bridget perry tiffany cornely winnis lokule jeremy duarte carly cannavina maria ellers margot dynes samsara counts mackenzie white stephanie gemmell pranay somayajula margot dynes samsara counts loren booda stephanie gemmell

17 18 19 21 22 23 24 26 28 29 30 37 38 39 40

Law School Eve Loose Ends Diaspora Child sonnet xx Three Things Solidity Lula Ode to Sawgrass Amphibious Celebrations of Same-Sex Love Where am I tonight? Tea Time Kunyarju Improv Gay Girl Finds God Open Heart Surgery Sea Battle Propulsion In Sight of Peter's Crown nocturne A Bandage of Khadi Childhood Amnesia Sweetness Sensible homage to rainer maria rilke

poetry (cont.) olivia upham sean o'neill sean o'neill danielle donelly

42 43 45 49

Beta Knows of Battery Path of a Napkin Morning Routine(s) The Disorder

prose jessica bride jessica bride jordan frengut

14 32 46

The 11:15 to Annmoore How'd We Get So Far From the Sun? 1200 Building

art jonathan lindenbaum jonathan lindenbaum jeremy duarte syndey walsh

4 9 10 16

brooke pellegrini sydney walsh timothy scranton jonathan lindenbaum brooke pellegrini timothy scranton siobhan finnerty timothy scranton

20 25 27 31 35 36 41 44

cover art: timothy scranton Rainbow

Delta Berg Cristine Isolation 1/5 (Coffee Dyed Print) Mothman It's a Long Pond Planetary Crosscut Emperor Moth Pumpkin Patch Trapped Botanic Overture

sean o'neill Law School Eve $5 flat, I wince and hand it over to smiling hipster barista no. 3. As countlessly before, Saturday finds me seeking caffeine & company, the kind I can dissolve in, dripping four corners but not requiring words, just light acknowledgment. Today is different—how so? Padfolio, for one, sending junior year of college shivers down my unemployed spine. It’s law school eve, and like under-the-pillow calculus books, the padfolio mosquito-sucks creativity from me bit by drop. Trembling pen seeks to peruse text book list, once a drafter of similes and doodler of Labradors. Coffee forsaketh me: once the cocaine to my suburban Johnny Cash, my Hendrix heroine, but now the charging stimulant reminds me I have civil procedure homework due, and soon! Color coded, scheduled and last year’s highlights tattoo to mind’s eye, Yeats and Keats and goddamn S. Hunter Thompson slither back and my mind calcifies, receptacle for the practical, the procedural, the law. Ah, to die this death, and to pay hundreds! of thousands for it, is my upmost privilege and honor, may it please my parents, may it please the Court. 2 | Wooden Teeth

gwendolyn umbach Loose Ends If I could go back If I could unravel the last few months The last few years Tug at the loose thread between my fingers and watch the moments unstitch themselves I would go back to the snowiest December Twist the frozen handle on the stiff back door Breathe in the woodsmoke from the old black stove Creep through the quiet murmur of a full house half asleep I would curl up on the squashed-down pillows of that old yellow couch I would pluck a crochet hook from the mug beside your chair I would offer you this tangle of unspooled yarn All my time Attention free and unfettered from distractions The loose end I’d pass to you A beginning ready to become anything we can craft I’d say, “teach me,” And you would.

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jonathan lindenbaum Delta (vicinity of Queenstown, New Zealand, 2018)

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pranay somayajula Diaspora Child i.


diaspora child:

diaspora child:

the blood that runs through your veins spills upon the ground still as red, even generations later crushed petals from a thousand poppies you never chose to plant.

i pray for you. to bhagwan? to allah? to buddha? to all. to none. to you.

in the mehndi laced across your wrist (you would rather not wear it) some may see scars, some just a pattern but not me i see a story, told in a script without words the story of a people, of a land we never knew and yet know all too well.

i pray you learn to love yourself and your poppy-red blood, salty with the tears of your forebears an age-old, endless struggle that runs deep within.

the hue of your sun-kissed skin is too fair, too lovely not fair enough, not lovely enough a white army attacks it, attacks you now armed not with bullets, but with bleach. diaspora child: do you know yourself ? how can you? you never learned your mother-tongue whatever shred of pride you felt was no match for your shame why the shame? who knows? 5 | Wooden Teeth

i pray you learn to love yourself and the mehndi that traces every contour of your hand, binding you to its story from start to end. i pray you learn to love yourself and the unapologetic brownness of your skin, bearing a perfection that can never be bleached out. diaspora child: believe me when i say you are perfect. you always were.

stephanie gemmell sonnet xx why do we live our lives in a hurry as if it’s not our decision to make consumed by constant concern and worry meanwhile something inside begins to break repeating the unrelenting cycle from one achromatic day to the next becoming disenchanted and spiteful denying obvious cause and effect over oblivion the sun rises acknowledged but infrequently observed one of many trivial sacrifices and irreplaceable gifts deferred although from the outside we feel compelled we seek the courage to live as ourselves

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samsara counts Three Things after "They Come Not Back" by Anonymous, passed down in my family in stories and tattoos In Jacksboro pillars of clouds tower over flat, yellow-green hills, looming as if we should cower, as we did from our fathers. They left us daughters the world in a weathered cardbaord box. Our ears ringing, cheeks stinging, we peeled the tape and ripped open the flaps. Inside: a bottle of scotch, a pocket knife with an antler handle, and a poem:

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to imbibe to defend to etch into ourselves.

cort carlson Solidity hands scrape dry, cold rock and the sun pours warm stillness he pushes toward the sky, pulling with him untangled rope morning lifts her head, straightening into afternoon the shadow of the man takes pause below, wind convinces trees to sway a figure draws nearer the cliff face to face for a moment, unmoved crags give way to crinkles at the eyes too steep an angle for doubt

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jonathan lindenbaum Berg (Grindelwald, Switzerland, 2017)

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jeremy duarte Cristine

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margot dynes Lula ​ ne time in English O I read aloud Lula's part in Dutchman. She forced me to read it again the professor loved my little enunciations, so on point, so rehearsed. An act of gender performance, Eve with the apple Attempting to grapple with my body. The futility, talking womanly since I was a baby. Adopt a persona for each new face, and Devour you one day and nurse you the next. I was typecast in roles, using the voice For slithering boys who’d point thither with a limp wrist; seduction with each line, my modus operandi. Sometimes played those princely roles and went as masc as I could be. Groveled up the voice and sank deep from the belly to boom, belt, strain out the agony. But Lula was different, not so much transformation as turning the dial. It was my natural state to sound fuckable; I was Eve and the apple, to be eaten.

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jordan frengut Ode to Sawgrass You are everything at once: desert and jungle, muted and lush. Behind the armor of those saw-teeth there is nesting, hatching, resting. There is life abundant below your primordial grimace. Nothing lived here before you shot from the marsh into tangled masses. The Genesis of the Everglades, nativity in these barren wetlands. The great River of Grass ripples and surges in breezes and hurricanes, pliant against heavenly forces. And in the summer, when sunlight turns to dust your brittle tusks, your roots, submerged, begin anew. Rush hour is golden, it illuminates your grace on the turnpike bearing your name, illuminates the strip malls, condos, car dealerships, all the things that you can’t saw through.

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jeremy duarte Amphibious Celebrations of Same-Sex Love (a title I stole from Colin Stokes who is hopefully gay) “Help!” cried Toad. “My best friend is trying to kill me!” “I am only getting you ready for winter,” said Frog. Toad did not believe him. He thought his best friend was going to smother him. And he was right, of course, because that is exactly what Frog did. Toad cried out a second time, “Help! He’s killing me! My soulmate is killing me!” And again, Frog said, “I am only getting you ready for winter.”

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adapted from Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad All Year (1976)

jessica bride The 11:15 to Annmoore Six people stared up. The screen flashed three words. Red, almost urgent. The man by the door stood to leave and his faded loafers echoed against the bus station’s walls even after he pushed out the glass door. Five remained: a mother and her two young daughters, perhaps twins; a girl, fourteen years old with a yellow backpack on the seat beside her; and an old woman with a book in her lap with a title the others couldn’t read. If someone else had walked into that room, they might’ve thought they were looking at one woman’s life: each stage sunk into the same metal chairs. Except they weren’t. A silence wove between the women but did not speak to them. It swayed with the ring on a silver chain around the old woman’s neck, unfolded the wool blanket at the bottom of the teenager’s bag, and lifted one of the daughters’ toys back into her lap. The undeniable truth was that they all felt more comfortable with the man gone. If they never learned anything else from each other, then the bus station would only remind them of what they shared. But they would forget it, because how can you focus on one feeling from your life forever? *** The youngest daughter whined by the corner and her mother lifted her to her hip. The older one trailed behind as they found the restroom. A bus shuddered into a spot outside the station and the screen lit up: Annmoore. It was a lonely word, a reminder of a town on the outskirts of everything else. They used to say it was named for prosperity, for the nature that grew before the people. Land that pretty couldn’t hide anything. Just reasons to stay. It endured as a place for those with nowhere to go, the ones who convinced themselves beauty afforded blindness.

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The old woman closed her book. The girl grabbed her bag. The bathroom door remained shut. Neither of the two minded that the bus was empty when they boarded. The girl chose one of the navy seats clouded with a pattern of shapes near the middle. She wouldn’t know if it was out of loneliness or curiosity or what she imagined was a hunger of those older than her to try to remind themselves of their past as much as possible, but the old woman sat in the row behind her. As the bus doors collided, the driver, about fifty with a short mustache beneath a long nose, spoke to the mirror above him, “Last bus of the day, hope you two weren’t waiting very long.” “Wait.” A pair of headphones was barely out of the girl’s bag when she stood to grab the arch of the seat in front of her. “There’s a mother and her kids inside so this has to be their bus.” The driver sighed. “Miss, I can’t wait for anyone.” The girl looked behind her at the old woman. “Ma’am, please.” “It’s not our problem.” She hadn’t looked from the window. “That mother should’ve planned for this, known to take her kids to the bathroom earlier.” The bus groaned as the station shrank in its windows. “Girl, what’s your name?” Silent, the girl untangled her headphones and placed them in her ears. The old woman could tell that the girl’s hair had once been blonde. But now she could’ve compared it to the wheat her father used to throw away. Those were the nights she’d spend on the roof, the nights she’d cover her eyes and peek through small fingers to prove to herself, to her midday anxieties, that the stars survived. If the stars remained after so many years, unwilling bystanders to a world of regret, so could she.

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sydney walsh Isolation 1/5 (Coffee Dyed Print)

bridget perry Where am I tonight? Played my finest vulgar music, shook some furniture solo moshing, talked too loudly to a friend back home. Heard some silent objections seeping through my door, so I paused to respect them, paused to respect myself— it won’t happen again. The fridge won’t stop buzzing, the water is ice-cold, one strand of lights has gone out. Tried to prioritize every detail, but now the chaos is too amplified— the only place for it to go is in the crevices of the flaws so nothing feels like it’s falling apart. Littles fixes are more practical than painstaking repairs; mind-numbing is more effortless than willful confrontation. Simple to sink into this familiar space, but it’s still uncomfortable, ugly. I’ve run from here before, but “This is it. This is the last time.”

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tiffany cornely Tea Time For Grandma Edna I remember you at tea time: Hands calloused from decades in the factory, Resting by the steeping black leaves, And your harsh voice that meant well, Laced with patwah and curry goat. I remember those balmy summer mornings: Mom and Dad working downstairs, Joel Osteen and Ovaltine upstairs, The plastic covering on your couch Clinging to my sticky, humid legs. I remember those small family reunions by the pool: Jerk chicken on the grill, three hours late, And at nine the next morning, Ackee and saltfish, green bananas and fried dumplings, Lemon Lipton and hot coffee, cold Milo and 2% milk. I remember those half-used bottles of musk: Near your Precious Moments figurines, Collecting dust on your mirrored dresser, Atop the ancient beige carpet, Framed with the worn slippers from every Christmas. So when I sit on the uncovered couch, With bare feet on the wooden floor, Spaghetti leftovers on the kitchen counter, And green tea brewing in the kettle, I remember you. Wooden Teeth | 18

winnis lokule Kunyarju I cannot pretend to know who you are, For all I know of you I hear from whispers and stories; I cannot pretend to understand your pain, For your shield Could block rain from the earth. But I can tell from your care The character you have grown to be, From your wisdom The violent path you have taken. I can tell failure is not within you, For you have brought your family from hardship. I can tell from your lessons, The fear you hold inside, The fear of returning to inferiority, But if there are words I may use to describe you— Let them be: never once was there a father like you.

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brooke pellegrini Mothman

jeremy duarte Improv Your mother found her crucifix, dull from a layer And now into the past I push my mind further Repress Repress, The unwelcome guest, Throw memories away, Keep steady forward Stay the course Live high on present tense, Forget your sins Relinquish blame Find god as she finds you Wake with the sun Dance with the moon The devil wears dark blue, Velvet jocks with polkadots Poking dots into your thoughts Where again time folds within your palm, Read the lines you’ve been assigned And fold the paper to and fro, Origami of the mind, Forget or remember The choice is yours To make, To mend and bend When the script begs for Improvisation.

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carly cannavina Gay Girl Finds God With her pleasure intertwined —like our legs are— with mine; strewn up in all the broken sounds she elicits from me with her lips, she says, “Give yourself over.” I have, lately, begun to think that is all there is to do. That the god who gifted me this magic might one day take it away is easier to accept than the responsibility of never letting it end, or the idea that I myself might one day keep this woman from loving me. All at once my upbringing, idols, and sensibilities scream solution, echoing her same stained glass sentiment: Give yourself over. So, hands above my head, I say, “Jesus, I do.”

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I was told that one day I would give my whole heart away Every cell of every artery, vein, ventricle—

maria ellers Open Heart Surgery (Untold Stories from the ER)

It wouldn't happen in the matter of one circumstance, When the blue haze in your eyes flatlined as they settled on mine somewhere on the other side of the air we were breathing in. It would happen in thickets of instances; As we watched a sun rise through broken windowpanes Searched for constellations we no longer could find Grabbed each other’s frost-lined fingers, pressed them to our lips, breathed them back to life... But I realize that I’ll never be truly yours. A piece of my heart will forever feed the pulse in his bloodstream; my chest forever scarred from the scalpel that pierced open that empty cavity and removed the shrapnel inside But I can save the rest of the pieces for you; Because despite what the fables say, hearts are meant to be broken Rupt—ure completely and though you'll never have all of it, you'll have more than most —just like how I will never truly have the piece of you that colors her cheeks like the mourning We'll never be a perfect whole, exactly But at least together we'll pull heartstrings through needles And stitch our own kind of Cardiology. 23 | Wooden Teeth

margot dynes Sea Battle Let’s trip balls at the museum one day; modern shit all spits of paint. You’ll drop by to the district and we’ll walk down Chinatown Last time they couldn’t stop and bear witness for a minute; their attention spans so weary all so instant. I’m not meaning to sound pretentious, then again you always found me a bit esoteric.

You said live art and stacks of postcards were just the same, a real Duchamp

but I dare you to face the sea of redness, sliced like a wave of blood butter brush on the canvas, and not touch the viscera.

​ ​ ​ ​ ​

The black plank taught me if you were truly seeing the art, you were seeing yourself ​ like a slab of obsidian you hold in your hand Wooden Teeth | 24

sydney walsh It's a Long Pond

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samsara counts Propulsion for my Uncle Tom, 12/15/1962–04/09/2017, the aerospace engineer The tiger snarls on your poster from The National’s show, compressed in a glass frame, emitting a roar of takeoff. These are your echoes: the air your daughter exhales, that flows beneath the wings of the F-35B, that trails behind your girlfriend as she runs, the carbonation in the beer I share with engineering buddies watching Naruto. Mechanically, I churn forward programming and debugging. Deriving equations. Doing my best to preserve what you ignited in me, as far as possible from the fact of you. Only when I find your college photos in one of my books do I consider how that grinning nerd departed. The boundary between us has no checkpoint to restore. Pressure builds and faults surface. Yet still your skies propel me.

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timothy scranton Planetary

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mackenzie white In Sight of Peter's Crown I dreamt of my bones sinking into the Necropolis; Baptized by the Tiber, illuminated by a lantern to See. Fortified by cobblestones of brick and gold Made sweeter with salt. Born in the land of Rebirth, deemed impermanent by the permanence of Time For Eternity, Drowned seven times to feel the burden of the ancients only to reawaken anew

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stephanie gemmell nocturne too late on sunday I find myself walking home past the church that makes me think of martin luther its imposing red brick spire like a beacon perpetually reaching towards uncertainty and piercing the air with a sharp metallic cross

in munich we climbed saint peter’s tower winding our way up its spiral staircase finally reaching the top and breathing in sky looking down upon a sprawling expanse an endless village of rust-colored roofs

I glance up at a fragment of pure starlit sky and the bell tower chimes an unknown melody the strangely soothing music of striking hammers each tone fades and dissipates into the darkness the song ends then repeats quietly in my mind

assisi echoed with eternal bells a beautiful controlled cacophony prelude to the rest of rumored infinity we cast fleeting glances at silent monks wandering along steep and narrow roads

I finally cross the empty noiseless plaza dark except for the dim amber glow of streetlights the fountain reflects their light in turquoise and jade flowing with an ocean’s resonating whisper or the secret a conch shell murmurs in your ear

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the rushing water of trevi fountain and ripples from coins thrown over shoulders memories of rome blend into everything else simplicity somehow becomes ornate it seems like there are churches everywhere

pranay somayajula A Bandage of Khadi “border” is the name we give the wound slashed by the white man, with a pen for a blade across the breast of our motherland when he could violate her no longer. and all the homespun khadi we can weave (in our own homes, at our own looms) will never be enough to stem the bleeding. but both east and west of that bloody scar the saffron still grows and the crescent moon still shines. indian. pakistani. what’s in a name? a desi by any other name would bleed as red.

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jonathan lindenbaum Crosscut (vicinity of Queenstown, New Zealand, 2018)

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jessica bride How'd We Get So Far From the Sun? The cockroach spun in a circle on its back as white clouded around it. “Spray it again!” Ben yelled from behind. “I feel like you’re way too excited to kill something. I mean, it’s already on its back.” Ben rolled his eyes. “If I’m on vacation, I’m planning on staying away from bugs, not rooming with them.” As the taller boy placed the spray can on the dresser, the vibration made the blue pen roll off and hit the ground. It came to a stop next to the bug’s corpse. “Seriously?” Ben’s hand motioned towards the floor as if he was offering Isaac drinks from a platter. “Okay, so you get to pick it up.” “I’m the one who just killed it.” “There’s a connection already: you murdered him, so it makes sense that if someone has to be near the body, it’s you. And you probably want to grab toilet paper and pick up the cockroach too, so your mom doesn’t freak out.” Isaac didn’t bother arguing; they had just spent six hours in a car together debating who got to sit in the front. Isaac had claimed that since it was his mom’s car he should sit with her while Ben countered that he was the guest and any possibility of him being carsick was greatly lessened by not being shunned to the back. Ms. Sharpe didn’t want to clean her car again, so Isaac was sentenced to sit behind his best friend. Quickly, Isaac grabbed the pen and tossed it onto the dresser before taking the toilet paper in his hand and aiming at the corpse in the corner. “Wait,” he spoke, “look at this.” “I’m just going to keep drawing, thanks.” “No, seriously look.” Isaac turned on the front of his feet and waved over his friend. “It’s crossing its arms against its chest.” Ben slid off the bed to squat beside him. “Wow, I almost didn’t believe you. It’s like it’s ready for a coffin.” “Do they really cross dead people’s arms when they bury them?” “I mean, the only funeral I’ve been to had a closed casket, but I’m pretty sure. It’s to prepare them for heaven.” “They’d cross ‘em even if they didn’t believe in heaven?” “Probably.” Ben scoffed. “My mom would glue my arms together if she thought that would get me into heaven.” Isaac looked down to the cockroach. “I thought after you hit that other car’s bumper your mom didn’t even ask about your injuries?” “Can you flush that thing down the toilet already?” Ben walked back to his twin bed and set his sketchbook on his lap. Isaac cursed at the toilet for not flushing the first time. Ben paused his pen until the sound of rushing water resonated from the wall of their room. Isaac jumped onto his own bed and rolled to face Ben. “Speaking of cars, have you ever broken a law before?” Wooden Teeth | 32

Ben sat cross-legged on the other twin with a bag of pens to his left. He usually complained daily about the ink that accumulated on the side of his hand from being left-handed. “What does that have to do with cars?” “I don’t know. Can you just answer the question?” Ben’s pen stopped, and he looked up. “I guess I have.” “You guess? So that’s a no?” “I’m sure that I stole candy or some other shit from a gas station or grocery store when I was younger. I just can’t remember what.” Ben moved the pen so it pressed into his jaw. “Why? What did you do?” “I ran a red light the day before we left,” Isaac admitted. “Did you get pulled over?” “Nope. But it’s just that I was surprised by my mom’s reaction.” “Dude, why’d you tell her if you didn’t get caught?” The pen clicked and unclicked against Ben’s chin now. “At first, I was surprised that I’d ran it. Though, seriously, I just blurted it out to her. And when I had, I expected her to yell at me for breaking a law and not being a safe driver or something like that.” “What did she say?” “That I could’ve died.” Isaac leaned against the window behind him and the blinds rattled. “Like, how bad is it that I didn’t even imagine her worrying about that? That I didn’t even consider that I could’ve been hit?” “I’m not sure,” Ben said. He brought his pen back to the page. “But if it makes you feel better, my mom certainly wouldn’t have said that, so be thankful.” “I’m sorry.” Ben shrugged. “Thanks, but you don’t have to say that. I get to be here.” He extended his arms. “That’s all the consolation I need.” The other boy watched Ben continue to draw. “Why’d you run the light anyway?” “What?” “You didn’t just ignore it, did you?” Isaac found a scab on his leg and scraped his nail against it. “I was following a girl.” “Do I know her?” Ben peered over the top of his sketchbook. “No, but like a few lights before it, I was stopped next to this really hot girl. I’d never seen her before.” “So you followed her?” Isaac shrugged. “Sometimes you see people only once in your life and I wanted to change that.” Ben rolled his eyes. “Did you end up in another state or what?” “I ended up at her job.” 33 | Wooden Teeth

Ben clapped his hands. “This is a whole new level, man.” “I surprised myself, but there was something about her. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try.” “You try, walk in, and when she asks how your day is going you say, ‘Great, ever since I followed you!’” Isaac knew his cheeks were red. “No, that’s not what I said.” Ben leaned forward over the edge of his bed. “Hold on, where exactly does this girl work?” “One of those waxing places.” “So,” Ben started, “you walked into a place where women go to get everything waxed and you talked to this ‘really hot girl’ how?” Isaac leaned this time. “You never even noticed that I don’t have a unibrow anymore.” “You’re blond, I never would’ve noticed.” Ben laughed. “Holy shit, I can’t believe it. Please tell me you got her number.” “No, but I gave her a $5 tip.” Ben picked a fine point pen from his bag and returned to his art. “If I ever got hair ripped from my face for a girl, I’d at least try to speak to her.” Isaac’s words quickened as he spoke, “I thought there’d be more time to talk.” “'Course you did. How were you supposed to know what getting waxed is like?” “She just went for it, Ben. Just ripped it off so fast I couldn’t get through one sentence.” Isaac grinned. “Hey, if I recommend a friend I get five dollars off my next wax.” “I’m good,” Ben stated. He turned the page to his friend. “Done.” A large sketch of the dead roach in a black coffin with its arms crossed sat across from Isaac. Its body was a series of short lines overlapping to emphasize its shape. Isaac tried to remember if he had seen the bug in such detail, even when it had been in his hand. All he knew was that it looked realistic, though enlarged. Except, the roach had blond hair surrounding its antennas. “Ben—” “The cockroach died hugging itself,” Ben began. He turned the page to face him now. “It’s a reminder that we can all find comfort in ourselves.” “Did you have to give him my hair?” “See, we don’t need others in the end, which is lucky since you clearly might not have anyone.” “At least I’m not afraid to kill a bug.” “Hey, guests shouldn’t have to do chores.” Isaac leaned to the bedside table between them and grabbed a pamphlet from its stand. He pointed to the large, white text: 'Welcome Guests!' “We’re both guests here.” “Next time there’s a bug, I’ll kill it. I’m sorry that it was hard for you.” Isaac smiled. “The hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Wooden Teeth | 34

brooke pellegrini Emperor Moth

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timothy scranton Pumpkin Patch

margot dynes Childhood Amnesia The last time I saw Nick was at my usual ice cream place, where he works, infiltrating my safe space. Could only make small conversation while a world of revelations came in swirls across my mind. Like when he pushed me up against the basketball hoop assembled in his driveway, built as a lure, I assume. I still played with Barbies back then, and you knew.

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“Was it love or power?” I should’ve asked him. Was it love or power for me too? I have half a mind to get my answer When I inevitably return For my ice cream.

samsara counts Sweetness My Latin teacher said the Ancient Greeks didn't have cane sugar. They relied on honey and fruits for their desserts like the figs in my Nana's front yard. Figs are rare in Texas—the blessings of a mild summer. I gather the figs when I get home, bathed in sunlight and the heavenly scent. The tree's shadow grazes the face of the nymph statue standing vigil among the roses. She and I are friends, sharing secrets and indulging together. I savor each bite, eating until my stomach ached, returning with an overflowing basket.

At dinner, Nana says, Did you hear about your cousin Beth? Apparently, she likes girls now... Nana shakes her head. Forever a sin, in my opinion. I stare at my plate, full. Nana doesn't know my friends are dressing up as the Muses for Halloween. I read that people call Sappho the 10th Muse because of her poetry. I like poetry, so I'm dressing up as Sappho. Nana would agree with my homeroom teacher: No, you don't want to be Sappho. She's... well, she's Sappho, from the island of Lesbos. She wrote love poems about...women. Their intentions are kind; their intonations saccharine. Wooden Teeth | 38

loren booda Sensible Were we lame, we’d relish walking Blinded both, we’d savor sight Hearing stopped, together talking Earmarks make us feel alright. Swivel on my wheelie route Bump into the beauteous spread Signing sexy, silent shout Disabled rise to come abed. Your legs are works of Grecian art Your writing Shakespeare’s equals Your silence cometh from the heart We’ll act out moving sequels. Blind bore lame upon their back With eyes they walked aright Both folk strode along the track I’ll ride with you all night.

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One has never perfect sense But we can always braille To soften from the present tense Kiss and touch email. Walk the halls of hard to hear And you’ll heed cries of passion Silent shouting they keep dear Like we view nudist fashion If I were deaf, or blind or lame I’d seek you stay with me Anyway, I’d feed your flame And spark my hots for thee.

stephanie gemmell homage to rainer maria rilke I am but one who has been graced by your verses whose heart feels recognized in the wealth of your words I have great faith in all things not yet spoken our souls’ deepest dreams were woven of the same cloth artistic impulse and vulnerability the weak chaotic spirits of hope and yearning let it all happen to you: beauty and dread songs of infinite faith and abstract emotion your guidance transcends generations to reach me as I silently ache with lost inspiration alone: what shall I use my mouth to utter? I imagine this tumult once flowed through your veins sad songs are not beautiful because they are sad but because they are the nearest offspring of truth at first the solitude charmed me like a prelude fleeting respite of the mind’s somber melodies in my impatient striving I forget my art and the quiet evolution that awaits me to be an artist means not to compute or count I recall that before being one must become you created in ways so simple and profound your own anxiety as your constant critic with fervent, quiet and humble sincerity with affectionate ardor you wrote of it all in awed contemplation you captured true beauty breathed life into the muses that evaded you for the creative artist there is no poverty and for the young poet there is reason to hope Wooden Teeth | 40

siobhan finnerty Trapped

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olivia upham Beta Knows of Battery There’s a ritual Maybe Greek I imagine you sit in oblong circles “Olivia” between your teeth Perhaps weak candlelight coats their faces As they watch you spool your insides out in dollops of glory— pining for points Between the break-up and The beer-pong My story of survival, Sixteen and sinking Was fodder for the rite And now they’ll think you’re good And now they’ll see a martyr For loving blemished baggage And now, in your sacred basement, Beta knows of Battery

There is the weight of a Sinister metamorphosis across this city Every face is the face of recognition And I can see the candlelight Reflected in their irises And now strangers see me as the secret You told your soon-to-be-brothers When I haven’t even told mine I haven’t even told My blood, my own And yet, as it boils beneath my skin Like a blush borne of battle I am reminded that with it Flows a gentleness, a grace That courses over tired wounds Shaky, And slow.

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sean o'neill Path of a Napkin Naïve even, the way the napkin fluttered as the man took a latte pull, tumbleweedily drifting pavement-bound to land in 4/4 time beneath the flip flop of a departing patron. For a prolonged stride it drags, valiantly cleaning the patio— (never in its job description) then, suddenly disentangled, hovers on the sidewalk’s fringe, to be cursed as everyday trash. Not so—I swoop, grab, deposit in the bin. I return to my writing, prideful, wishing all distractions so concluded.

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timothy scranton Botanic Overture

sean o'neill Morning Routine(s) They—you know they— say most CEOs awake early, conquering the world while you toss, turn. But that to me is home-brewed Kombucha, an appealing thought, until eh not quite. Same goes of course for law school, having kids, that second glass of scotch, that road trip you and Betty often contemplated. Half a coffee down, I’m fluttery with zeal and double crossing to-do lists at warp speed, and James Brown is on the speakers, regardless of what is playing. But three-quarters down is different, where is the bathroom, where is my goddamn breakfast, who or what gave you that impression? When anxiety replaces serenity, that’s when the going gets good, as they say, as you know, they say, when yes, it is definitely time to tip the Ciobani into the lunch bag, extinguish residual theories that Tuesday mornings can be spent like Saturday ones, lock the door behind you, and join the wildebeest herd for our morning commute.

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jordan frengut 1200 Building I remember the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. I remember orange and white vinyl floors and the clicking of a blonde stranger’s heels. It was the Monday before Easter, 2013. She had taken me out of Mr. Witcher’s third period English class. I was 15 years old, a freshman in the brand new freshman building. She asked me how my day was going. It was a rainy morning, and impossibly dark outside. She led me to the stairwell. I remember gripping the cold handrail when she told me, “your friend Niels was in a car accident Saturday morning, he didn’t make it.” My first thought—“he wasn’t ready.” I felt as if all my guts had fallen out on that stairwell. The blonde stranger didn’t stop her ascent, so I gathered my guts and followed her into a room where all his other friends were being debriefed. It was a very small crowd—just eight of us. Five of my friends, plus the two women who were employed by Broward County to deliver traumatic news to kids. My friend’s mom was there, too. I remember how the room shifted beneath me when she hugged me and whispered “it wasn’t an accident.” I remember red doors slamming behind me as I got on Mr. Feis’s golf cart. I realized during this ride that I had been shaking since the moment in the stairwell. I would shake like this every time I got called from class for the remainder of high school. I remember Niels’ frame gilded by the Florida sun and his voice booming down the concrete PE hallway. He was like a crane: pale, thin, and tall. His eyes were crystalline, his face immature. He made me laugh like no one else could, and I don’t think anyone else will make me laugh like that again. One time, I couldn’t hear him over some other kids talking near us, so he just shouted over them; dozens of PE uniforms turned to him in response. He chuckled while I blushed. I’d never heard him be that loud. I remember that moment as our final laugh together. I remember learning that Catholics believe suicide victims go to hell. That’s why the truth had to be told in a whisper. If there was a funeral, I wasn’t invited. I remember his empty seat in Mrs. Schamis’s Human Geography class, room 1214. It was right behind mine. The community didn’t have much to say about what happened to him. We were shown a suicide awareness video a month after he died. His seat was especially empty that day. I remember always biting my tongue to stop myself from crying. I remember listening to Mr. Lipitz in that classroom three years later. He is a Jewish man whose family fled from Europe to the Philippines during the Holocaust—out of the frying pan, you could say. He hid from a Japanese ambush while Filipino guerilla soldiers snuck up behind the attackers. He saw them return with two Japanese heads, one with a face of laughter. He tried to talk about his mother but couldn’t speak through his tears; her health was too bad to ever

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leave the Philippines. I cried with him. I remember the microphone he used; Mrs. Schamis used it to host Jeopardy the day after every test. I remember graduating high school and entering college with the intent to carry Niels quietly with me, to put use to the empathy he had left me with. I remember a Vex ride on Valentine’s Day, 2018. I was arriving back in Foggy Bottom when my youngest brother called and said, “I think something’s wrong.” I remember a text from my sister, “I’m safe.” She wasn’t near the 1200 building at all; she was waiting for SWAT to rescue her. Her phone battery was low, but she sent me screenshots from her friends in room 1214: “there’s so much blood.” I turned on the live coverage and didn’t move for eight hours. I had my mother on speakerphone the whole time, I was telling her where the gunman was suspected to be while she biked to the school, hoping she’d find my sister. Mom was too hopeful; she was sent to a pick-up location a mile away. Meanwhile, SWAT was tearing through the red doors and leading students across the orange and white vinyl floors. They were instructed: don’t look around, there’s nothing good to see. I remember seeing videos of so many empty, bloodsmeared desks and sprawled feet in brown boots. Her face wasn’t visible but we knew who it was; my sister told me she recognized the boots. I remember Andersen Cooper saying “the Valentine’s Day Massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.” It was as if I was suspended in Jello when I finally stopped watching to feed myself. I remember feeling guilty for leaving a pile of dirty laundry in the closet on February 15 when my mom booked me a flight home with a half an hour’s notice. I remember the look the stewardess gave me when I took my seat in first class, surrounded by men on conference calls. My hair was wet, my face bare. I had barely made it to the plane. When she glared at me I felt like screaming. I remember silent, flashing police lights and so many closed roads. My sister met me at the front door, we didn’t run to each other or weep. I put my bags down and embraced her. I remember her blank face and weak smile. I remember how the helicopters shook our house in the day, and the sounds of quiet sobbing at the makeshift memorial after sunset. Two nuns asked to pray with my sister and me—we usually don’t pray, but we acquiesced. They said, “Lord grant these children a good night’s sleep.” I remember the dark mass of news cameras pointed at the mourners. I remember the viewing, and leading the way through the procession because I was closest to the family. We were all so nervous, and the church was so quiet. Her parents and brother smiled and thanked me for coming, they were so

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genuinely grateful. I was so confused by their smiles. I remember feeling like crawling out of my skin when I saw her. I remember her bright red lips. She was so still, it was unbelievable. I felt myself suffocating while looking at her unmoving chest. Yet, her face was peaceful, if a little puffy. They had to put it back together that way. I remember my sister whispering, “do we have to look,” and I said no. I remember gathering my guts as I turned away from her body and saying, “no thank you,” to the priest when he motioned for us to kneel and pray. I made sure my sister was close behind me and hoped the girl would forgive us. I remember feeling relief outside the church and releasing my bite from my tongue. I remember not knowing if I could make it through the funeral the next day. But I went, of course. The symphony of the choir had me biting my tongue again. I saw her brother across the church. He was my prom date and good friend. I watched him carry his sister out of her funeral. There was a dove release, but we missed it. I remember a reporter asking, “can you tell us a bit about her?” We declined. I remember the turbulent plane ride home. I dug my nails into my palms until they bled and I held my hand to my face and bit my tongue. I had been so close to death the previous week, why wouldn’t it take me then? I silently wiped tears from under my glasses and prayed for a good night’s sleep. I remember a feeling of survival when we landed safely. I remember the 1200 building and how they won’t tear it down for at least three years because they have to walk the jury through it. There’s blood on the concrete, and you can’t remove blood from concrete even if it wasn’t a crime scene. The spot of blood is just feet from where Mr. Feis picked me up, when visions of a broken windshield and a bloody steering wheel were turning my head to lead. I remember the anger that cauterized the pain, and the sadness that always ripped open the stitches, and the scars that will never disappear. I remember the oppressive silence and the liberating uproar. I remember how good it feels to cry in your mother’s arms, and chant with a crowd, and give out red ribbons, and smile at strangers, and look back with pride when you just kept climbing. I remember a need for change, for awareness and action, like the need for a revolution that stirs so many hearts, but has gone unheard. I remember feeling that need in 2013, and having it met in 2018; I will never forget.

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danielle donnelly The Disorder My mother told me I have a disorder. I want to be smart this cannot be true. I have to read this line over and over. “Read example one out loud,” is my horror. Stammering, stuttering, spluttering through, my teacher figures I have a disorder. They’d say “marauder” and I’d write mortar, they’d write revenue and I’d say “rendezvous” so I practice reading this line over and over. These words on pages are foreigners, lost in a country, not knowing what to do. Please go slower, I have a disorder. Four years later, I read about martyr. Their tale of life to death changed my view. I love reading that book over and over. Hundreds of books later, I’m a hoarder. Storytelling is my passion I can’t subdue. I told my mother I don’t have a disorder, even if I read this line over and over.

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contributor biographies Arlington is Loren Booda's home. Loren attended GWU between 1979 and 1983 for a physics BS. There Loren matured. Since then, Loren has also explored the arts. Jessica Bride is a freshman from Charleston, SC. She is a published author who sometimes doesn't remember the name of her book, Who to Love Besides Ourselves. Carly Cannavina is an English and public health major who hates getting out of bed but loves bears, flowers, and dessert. Cort Carlson is a senior from rural northern California. He’s happiest barefoot with friends somewhere outside. Tiffany Cornely is a sophomore from Westchester, NY. You can find her indulging in bubble tea, reality TV, and online shopping at any given moment. Samsara Counts is a senior from Fort Worth, TX studying Computer Science and Math with a minor in Creative Writing. She enjoys tattoos, the Alps, and (occasionally) publishing poetry. Danielle Donnelly is a Sophomore from Setauket, NY. She had the highest score on Subway Surfer in the US for three months. Jeremy Duarte is a junior studying creative writing and sociology. He writes primarily poetry, and designs primarily graphically. Margot Dynes is a senior from Bayonne, NJ. She enjoys gay clubbing, wearing a subtle heel and 90s women in rock. Maria Ellers is a rising senior from Long Island, NY. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the kitchen, procrasti-baking and perfecting her chocolate chip cookie recipe. Siobhan Finnerty is an International Affairs and Geography major from Easton, Massachusetts. When she's not studying, she can be found photographing the cherry blossoms alongside all the tourists. #onlyatgw Jordan Frengut is a junior and political science student from Parkland, FL. Life has taught her to never stop reading. Stephanie Gemmell is a sophomore from Greencastle, PA studying religion. She loves to play flute and do vinyasa yoga, and she’s passionate about pacifism, floral prints, and inaccurate historical memes. Jonathan Lindenbaum is a sophomore from Manhattan, NY. He enjoys biking, sailing, and listening to heavy metal.

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Sean O'Neill is a law student hailing from Buffalo, NY. He can be found meandering around campus in search of free food, let him know if you have any leads. Brooke Pellegrini is a freshman from Wayne, PA, who rides a unicycle, collects vintage hats, and loves frogs. Bridget Perry is a freshman from Nashville, TN. She loves taking ballet classes, listening to music, and playing with her cats. Timothy Scranton is a freshman at GWU who grew up in Connecticut. In his free time, he enjoys making digital and analog collages and creating sample-based music. Pranay Somayajula is a freshman from Woodbury, MN. His biggest hopes and dreams are to end capitalism and free Palestine. Olivia Upham is a Sophomore that lives in the former gravel capital of the world, Oxford, Michigan with her two puppy-dogs, Tug and Roo. She would like all survivors to know that they are brave for just being. Gwendolyn Umbach is a junior born and raised in Seattle, WA. She enjoys swimming, making music, and a good cup of tea. Sydney Walsh is a first year student at George Washington University studying photojournalism with minors in Spanish and entrepreneurship. She enjoys art, the ocean, terrible jokes, and spending time with her cats. Mackenzie White is a senior from South Florida. She loves to reminisce about study abroad in lieu of her impending graduation. Winnis is a freshman from Uganda and South Sudan. She spends her free time in Gelman, wondering how to get an A in Econ.

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Profile for gwcapitolletters

Spring 2019 Edition  

Spring 2019 Edition