illumination The Undergraduate Journal of Humanities
cover Eating to Survive is No Longer the Goal Oil Ingrid Olson
Madelyn Sundquist Reid Kurkerewicz Caleb Weisnicht Lana Scholtz Genevieve Anderegg Haley Nippert
Editor-in-Chief Managing Editor Layout Art Editor Assistant Art Editor Fiction Editor
Publications Committee Director
Letter from the Editor
Fabulous Readers, I am thrilled to introduce the Fall 2016 issue of Illumination as our boldest collection of student work in the humanities yet. Our staff strives each semester to find some of the most poignant and beautiful works on campus, and I believe we have done just that. Inside youâ€™ll find an image of the thriving literary and visual arts community we have here in Madison. Illumination has the wonderful privilege of strong, consistent support from the university and its readers. Many thanks to Victoria Fok, director of the Publications Committee, Jim Rogers, Illuminationâ€™s lovely advisor, as well as to the digilent editors and staff of Illumination. Their work has ensured another successful issue of our journal. Itâ€™s a joy to support undergraduate work in the humanities. My aim as an editor is to provoke critical thought on the value of the arts, both for the creator and the audience, while providing rich examples of these talents on campus. I hope each one of our readers walks away from Illumination having seen a new literary, artistic, and social perspective. With love, Madelyn Sundquist Editor-in-Chief
Girls Like Trees Shine Peter
Confessional Rachel Crews
Under the Watch of Moontime Emma Liverseed
Eggs Vivi Davis
This Blood is Not My Own Emma Crowley
I'm Not Gay Anonymous
Swabs Gabrielle Diekhoff
Hair Shine Peter
Laugh-Track Lullabies John McCracken
Eternal Community Grace Hayes
Sense of Self Anupama Bhattacharya
Just This Anupama Bhattacharya
Snowfall Meadhbh MacDiarmid
How I Learned to Love Myself Haley Young
During/After Madeline Kelly Garden Colten Parr Deep Boundary Waters Sleep Alexandra Pleasant Voice Loop Emma Liverseed EVE Tiffany Ike Mesh Vivi Davis
Art Rosa Selia Salzsieder
Childhood I/II Lindi Shi
Ghost in Water Olivia Cook
As We Do Mike Lind
Dunce Audrey Hansa
Across Katie Hitchcock
Below Maggie Aletha
Body on Fire Moira Chiu
Stand Survivors Georgia Black
Versatility Ingrid Olson
Together/Apart Gwyneth DeLap
Golf #1 Henry Stoehr
Pins and Needles Audrey Hansa
Mother Shelby Kahr
Half Life Aida Farrokh Ebrahimi
Drained Marissa Haegele
Mary Shelby Kahr
EVE poster Tiffany Ike
Dark Dreams of a Dark Boy Rodney Lambright II
Hurricane Kathryn Weenig
Art Museum Rodney Lambright II
Olivia Zoe Flynn
Vic Audrey Hansa
Puking Butterflies Michelle Pelowski
Guardian Genevieve Anderegg
Road Lights Katie Hitchcock
Rosa Collage Selia Salzsieder
Girls Like Trees Shine Peter
Her palm, calloused and sweaty, slid off the bicycle’s handlebars as the other carefully laid the back wheel against the birch tree. Under the speckled sunlight, her face was flushed, but not glowing, and she rushed to wipe her hands on her shirt. Her dark, bluntly cut hair, straight like the grass, caught itself between the wind and her dry lips, brushing the sharp edges of her shoulders. She tried to stand like an oak tree, like the ones that were watching her, sturdy and imposing. As she wrung out her hands in her shirt, the younger girl, a lean cattail, about six years old, sprung out of the tent. She hadn’t showered, nor had she changed her clothes, but she slid her feet into her shoes and ran towards her sister. Patiently, the older girl grasped the younger’s hand, and they stumbled towards the lake. They covered their feet in sand, burrowing their toes into the shore like olive-colored beetles. Eventually, the trees hid the sun from them, watching as the girl washed the silt from her younger sister’s feet. “Magdalena,” the older girl sighed when her sister barreled down the gravel path to the campsite, leaving without her. Magdalena never learned how silence could prevent pain the way her sister, Mara, had. She only knew how Mara’s silence betrayed her. In late January, the bare trees peered past greentrimmed windows where Magdalena prayed that her sister would burst out from her hiding place—for once, please, come help me—and cool their father’s temper, because only Mara, who was never angry, was capable of this. Yet in the bathroom, Mara laid on the clammy floor, letting her cheek cling to the tile as her torn nails traced the pattern of the grout, gritty like sand. She had run her hands under the faucet and pushed her fingertips into her ears in the hopes of drowning out what she knew Magdalena was
silently begging of her. Silence was her only strength. If she let her anger consume her, she’d burn out like dry firewood. When it was over, Magdalena would slink into the bathroom, and let her sister braid her hair while she rested an ice pack on a bruise. Later, they would sleep in the same bed, and Magdalena would snore while Mara laid awake for hours, quietly. At night, the trees’ fingers would fall away from the glass, because they could not bear to listen any longer. It wasn’t always like that, though, and sometimes the two girls, with their parents, would find themselves amidst bright-leaved orchards or unfamiliar Joshua trees. Often, Magdalena’s hair, unbridled and chaotic, would find itself caught in a tree’s branches, having been blown against its limbs or wrapped around them when she tossed her head back in laughter. Of all the trees that watched over them, these were the happiest. Two lone yucca trees, nestled along the red rock, watched as Magdalena stood atop a sandstone overhang. A sixteen-year old Mara watched from the water below. She had leapt a few moments earlier, but not without first pondering it for five minutes while rocking from heel to toe, not without forcefully dragging her feet to the drop off, and not without collapsing into the current gracelessly. When Magdalena dove off the edge, the yucca trees held their breath. Not for fear, but for elegance. When her feet found the water, it was not the phenomenon of gravity, but rather the stream’s longing for something truly fluid, that had pulled her in. The trees had to strain to hear when their leaves began to fade. Like confetti, they poured down along with the light rain showers on that year’s homecoming parade. Mara, having forgotten an umbrella, had nothing to dry her palms on. She only loved her hands when they were parched and
Ghost in Water Photography Olivia Cook
wizened, and so now, they shook. From the asphalt, the pressed leaves listened, they watched. Magdalena had spent the first half of the parade in the guidance counselor’s office, where they tried to show her good intention after good intention but failed to realize this was her family they were asking about. Mara was livid after discovering this. If mom and dad ask, you were talking about college applications, okay? Just keep your mouth shut and don’t get angry. We’re fine. Don’t tell them anything. Don’t ruin us. Lying in the grass next to each other, Magdalena had begged her to leave for college, but Mara refused. She’d attend from home, instead. Eighteen was too young to be alone, anyway. The oak tree in their backyard promised to itself, as it listened, that it would never move its roots, for her sake. Mara, likewise, left loose hairs like seeds in the shower, clothes like peeled bark on the tiles. She would never leave, not really. She couldn’t, because while Magdalena was unbreakable like marsh reeds, she still bent. By the time Magdalena was seventeen, she was well versed in pain, despite Mara’s guidance. Mara had hid in the bathroom, feet pressed against the porcelain wall of the tub, as her sister marched out of the house. Magdalena still had not learned that noise begets misery. She grew unabashed of her anger and when her parents went looking for it, she become transparent with a familiar ferocity. Mara did not leave the comforting tiles for the whole night, taking a bath instead of a shower. She was not the oak tree; she was the soil staining the knees of her jeans, waiting to be dusted off. A few days later, when Magdalena wanted to be found, she called upon her sister. The house was small and unassumingly blue. Pine trees, like
shadowy guards, hovered in the windows, hiding and protecting the vulnerable people it held. Dim lights strobed behind the glass, the peeling siding shook with the music. A young sapling sighed as Magdalena, with numb legs and bleary eyes, heaved into the grass beside it. Mara waited in the car. On the way home, Magdalena let her head rest outside the window, hoping that the wind and trees from her childhood would grasp her hair in a comforting embrace, but she had forgotten that she had cut her hair. “Please don’t take me back, I can’t stay here anymore.” She choked on the words like she finally believed they were never supposed to be hers. Because the wooden spoon was the daughter of a tree, she heard the world around her as she struck Magdalena’s face. Magdalena’s soft skin was not new to the spoon, but the sound of Mara’s voice was one the spoon had not heard in a long while. She was astonished when she was grabbed by a cracked palm, instead of their mother’s silky one; she was shocked when she felt ragged nails grip her handle, and pull. She had never heard a voice burn the way Mara’s did in that moment. That night, when the wind bent the trees down towards the windows, they listened as Magdalena asked her sister to braid her hair. Mara’s fingers were usually stiff as sticks, but as they pulled the choppy strands into small ropes, she felt as though they were the silt at the bottom of a river, smooth like the visible current. At twenty-six, Mara finally lost her bitterness, having forgiven her parents, unlike her sister. With the spoon in her hand, she had learned that silence shields from pain, but also from compassion. Even still, she could not help but follow the path laid
out for her. She could not bring herself to move on her own free will—she was an oak tree, immovable and rigid. Her chaos was in someone else’s uninhibited life wrapped around her branches. It was enough for her. That summer, she and Magdalena returned to their lake. They swam in the fresh water, letting their bodies melt into the depths. Whenever Mara turned to find her sister, all she was left with was a gasp of inky hair and frog-like legs stealing away. On the shore, they covered their feet with sand, in the hopes of soft skin. The birch trees blocked the noise for them, observed them. It was quiet, and for a moment, there was no pain. “You remember how we jumped off those big red rocks?” Mara watched the lake, she nodded. It was windy, and the water was falling in over itself, again and again. She hadn’t been able to see her reflection that day; every time the lake picked up a fragment of her face, it would crest and turn white, and she would be gone. She was afraid that if she looked at her sister, she wouldn’t be able to find herself there, either. “It’s sunny there, and you know, it’s been so quiet at home, since you moved out.” If she didn’t respond, there would be no suffering.
“I’m leaving, Mara. I’m going back to Arizona. I’ve found a job in Phoenix.” There was a pause. “C’mon, don’t be mad. It’ll be quick and easy— I’ve just gotta take the leap.” When Mara finally spoke, it was in a whisper that was coarse like the shore, clinging to the undersides of their legs, cozied between their toes. Years later, Magdalena would find this voice, like sand, hiding in places she forgot to reach, places of herself that she didn’t know existed. She would hear it when the trees scratched at her windows, she would sense it when drops of water fell from her hair onto the bathroom tiles, she would feel it under her neatly trimmed nails, waiting to spring out and scrape her skin. “When are you coming back?” “We both know that I can’t stay here anymore.” Mara nodded. The sun dipped behind the trees and the tide began to cleanse the shore. Mara put their hair in braids, and since Magdalena couldn’t get all the sand off her feet, she helped wash them. As the trees watched, they ran down the gravel path together.
Dunce Screenprint Audrey Hansa
Confessional Rachel Crews
“Why are your shoes on?” I ask dumbly, my face wet, my heart dry, my body tensing and pulsing from chapped lips to sore fingers That’s all I can say as my heart’s ripped out and strung on a clothes line, staining all the linens red And I can hear her angry voice, saying that I had made a mess, crimson drenching the towels, spotting the dress shirts, forming tiny pools dripping out from holey socks Because it’s been minutes, days, months and I finally see his face, hear his voice, touch his hands and Elation is a gossamer cloud, dissolving fast with no safety net below He says it quietly I almost can’t hear him Or maybe it’s because I just don’t want to listen But that black bubble breaks from his ulcerous mouth And the truth pops out to empty ears Glassy eyed with a twitch, I’m trapped, I’m stuck and I want my voice to ring out, I want to flail, I want to do anything but my wings are pinned down to the cardboard and my heart’s beating, beating, gone And as he mumbles coined apologies and offers filth-filled excuses all I can dumbly ask is: “Why are your shoes on?”
Eggs Vivi Davis
Deep in the Philippines My gramma set all her oxen free... but I wear a yoke unprotected, no shell, no egg laid by my mother, broken by my father, father figure’s just a figure— silhouette shadows when the Son’s down down in the dumps garbagemen don’t do their job because no one’s cleaned up my mess message you on the 31st hear back on the 32nd a second can be purchased for every hour spent we spend our whole lives dying in death we live the most cause it’s inside the darkest times when the truth decides to show life is just a show and I’m just an actor pulling backflips into hat tricks but nothing really matters some days I get booed off stage exit stage right but I already left i’ve never been, never am, will never be going just dreaming just pleading begging Morpheus for a daylight stallion instead of a night mare married to the thought of marriage tied forever by our word it’s really just the same as now we just neglect to say the words I do. I do. I do.
but I really don’t can’t stand with you in sickness because I’m already sick with a disease you might be familiar with fever burns my memories lungs cough up all my dreams sore throat keeps me from shouting that I’m drowning in your sea But I love your waters Did you know That I breathe water? Deep in the Philippines My gramma set all her oxen free I wear a yolk But then there you are to make an omelet.
Below Photography Maggie Aletha
Eternal Community Grace Hayes
Allen Ginsberg “saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness” and in order to unite them he wrote a three-part poem, Howl (Ginsberg 1). He continually began each verse with “who” to produce a sense of community, so the poem is seen as a sort of offering, even a Eucharist (Allewaert). The “who” community that Ginsberg created is confined and governed by Time, with a capital “T.” Ginsberg makes a point to capitalize Time to stress its
significance and power. Howl acts as a unifying agent among the isolated minds of Ginsberg’s generation, but this community formed is threatened by the confinements of Time. Throughout Howl the “angleheaded hipsters” are frantically searching for Eternity only to find it in the very mechanism bringing them together, the poem. Ultimately, Howl, the physical poem, transcends time and produces an eternal sense of community.
opposite below Stand Survivors Serigraph Georgia Black
Ginsberg juxtaposes Time and Eternity showing that the concept of community is fleeting. The general theme throughout the poem is that each “who” is followed by a verb which represents a completed past action: “who got busted…. who ate fire…. who vanished” (Ginsberg 9,10, 20). The hipster’s community formed through Howl was confined by Time because the actions that brought them together were completed. Ginsberg does not depict them as currently busting, eating or vanishing, which shows the transient qualities of collective action and community. As a result, within the poem you begin to see words such as “continuous” and “endless” used many times. These words show the desperate need for the actions to be eternal and maintain the community: “who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to Brooklyn Bridge” (16). Adding “continuously” transforms the verb to an ongoing action striving for never-ending conversation. In contradiction, “seventy hours” quantifies the supposed continuous action proving that Time is restrictive. In constant pursuit of Eternity, Ginsberg’s mad generation is failing to create an everlasting community through their desperate actions. Frustrated, the hipsters stage a collective rejection of Time: “who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade” (54). Attempting to maintain a community, they threw their watches away, symbolically disregarding Time, but the attempt failed because the alarm clocks constantly reminded them of Time’s presence. As well as, Ginsberg defined the duration of the reminder with a Time constraint, it lasted “for the next decade”. This perpetual triumph of Time over Eternity is eventually challenged. Rather than continuous action, Ginsberg concludes that Howl, the physical poem, and other
creative output will transcend death and achieve eternal existence. When Time is juxtaposed in a verse with death instead of Eternity, the capitalization changes and it is spelled “time”: “yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death” (76). When faced with death, time is no longer a proper noun and loses its significance. Time morphs from an all-powerful, governing force to weak and powerless because it cannot quantify death. As a result of death controlling time, Ginsberg and the “who’s” realized that in order to create an eternal community they would have to transcend death. Howl proves that poetry can transcend time and death: “put down here what might be left to say in time come after death” (76). The physical manifestation of thoughts and ideas will live on after death. Within the concluding verses Ginsberg shows that his mad generation has achieved eternal community because they: “dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotence Aeterna Deus” (74). Through the mechanics of poetry, “juxtapositions,” “verbs” and “2 visual images,” death can be transcended and a “consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotence Aeterna Deus” can be achieved. According to the footnotes, “Pater Omnipotence Aeterna Deus” means “Eternal God,” so together the hipsters had reached a state of eternal community through poetry. Although Allen Ginsberg is only a beat in time, his poetry and ideas will remain forever as a uniting force among the mad minds of his generation.
Together/Apart Pen Gwyneth DeLap
I'm Not Gay Anonymous
because I don’t want to be. because I’m scared to be. I can’t be gay because I’m writing this . while trying to distract myself with food hear t get squeezed out of my chest. while holding back tears and feeling my dentally see me writing it. while worr ying that someone might acci ful of people I’ve told, I can’t be gay because out of the hand not one has mentioned it twice. I told my gay friend, onsin high school. the only out guy in our small-town Wisc be yourself!” g to do great things. Enjoy college and In my yearbook, he wrote “You are goin I told my best friend, the only person I’ve ever really loved. In my yearbook, she wrote nothing.
because she didn’t want me to be. because she was scared for me to
I thought it meant something when she signed my birthday card “Love, —.” when we went to prom together. when we grew up together. We were in first grade when we first met, and the two of us were best friends eve r since. We shared the same class and rode the same bus, so naturally I asked if she wanted to be friends. We shared everything together as we grew older, so naturally I asked if she wanted to be more than frien ds.
be. because my love doesn’t want to be. to because my love is scared I cried king and wished it were me with her. when I saw her dancing with the prom me back. when she told me she didn’t love rian speech to our class. when she gave her goodbye salutato ings I spent a year agonizing over my feel before I told her. Valentine’s Day eve, my heart got ahead of my head, evolved into more. all the ways my love as a friend had k boo chy kits a in ed lain exp I and Valentine’s Day, my heart leapt out of my chest, not to read it until she got home. and I gave her the book but told her
because my heart doesn’t want to be. because my heart is scared to be. My heart stopped when her car pulled up to take us to school. when she told me she didn’t feel the same way. when we didn’t talk the rest of the way. I had spent so much time telling myself it was a phase, or I was just lonely or confused; in the end, it didn’t matter. I went to college, found a boy, had my first real kiss. I went to second base, found out he didn’t want anything more than sex, had my first fuck anyway.
because my body do esn’t want to be. because my body is scared to be. I was broken when I felt soiled an d in pain in the show er afterward. when I thought the only person to ever wa nt me only wanted when I sent him a let my body. ter breaking things off because I was ge tting too at
The sex wasn’t bad; Sometimes I could get off, sometimes
I did my best to forg et the nights I had sp ent watching gay so ap opera characters happily ever after. chase each other ou t of the closet to I did my best to forg et the nights I cried ab out never finding my own happily ever after.
Pins and Needles Acrylic Audrey Hansa
t to be. because my present doesn’t wan because my future is scared to be. I still freeze when I hear our prom song. when I think her name. when I feel love. There’s so much that I can’t get myself to say. the local gay bar with my friends I can’t admit that I want to go to town to go dancing,” not because “it’s the best place in it feels like to kiss a girl. but because I want to know what eone to rescue me I can’t explain how badly I want som not later, acceptable time to “experiment.” but now, before I pass the socially
because my voice doesn’t want to be. because my voice is scared to be. I can’t say I’m gay when I think about the possibility of my parents not loving me in the same way anymore. when I think about how much harder it could be to find work, housin g, love, and everything else. when I think about the history of violence aimed at the gay commu nity. I read about the recent slaughter of men and women at a gay club; I pushed my anguish down with all the other suppressed feelings. It hurts to think about what I can’t do. It hurts more to think about what I can do.
because people don’t want me to be. because people are scared for me to be. I can be hur t when the “righteous” bash me. when the fearful shun me. when the hate-filled kill me. I try to tell myself society is largely past all that, but then I remember a friend excited ly telling me how he hoped to one day go gay The fact that I have not confronted most of these thoughts for years says more than words can. The fact that I can’t attach my nam e to this poem for fear says more than the words I write.
Half Life Silver Gelatin Print Aida Farrokh Ebrahimi
Under the Watch of Moontime Emma Liverseed
There is a strange, restless feeling in the air tonight. She senses it in the urgency of the chirping crickets, the questioning croaks of the chorusing frogs. It is 1:07am. In the countryside, she is the only one awake, walking the worn gravel road that curves in front of her family’s house. She can smell the laundry detergent her mother used on her pajamas, a clean scent of lilacs. She checks her watch (her father’s watch, the leather wristband is soft and cracked) and paces the gravel in rainboots, though it is not wet outside. Where are you? She wonders. After an almost dramatic crescendo, the chirping and croaking ceases and the trees hold their breath, trunks creaking as they inhale. She holds her breath, too. The wait is over. The clouded sky clears, and the moon becomes visible over the jagged treetops. It is a perfect harvest moon, yellow and buttery, melting upon a black swatch of sky. The girl allows the moonlight to rest upon her cheeks. Lips parted, she swallows the cold glow to fill the emptiness in her stomach. It tastes like honey and jasmine and comfort, dripping down her throat and leaking into her purple-blue veins. She didn’t realize how hungry she’d been. A figure darts across the road. It pauses in a wavering spotlight of illumination. She grins at the sight. Hello, there. Have you come to see the moon, too? The fox stares at her, its eyes like twin betelgeuses. They stand there, watching each other for a lifetime (for forty-seven seconds). The girl imagines herself morphing into the fox, her body shrinking and twisting until she is a four-legged shadow. She is lighter and faster now, covered by thick russet pelt. She drops to a crouch, offers a hand toward the animal. Above, the stars are shaking their heads at her (at the girl who is trying to escape herself). The fox, unconvinced by her transformation, takes one more glance at her and slips away.
Indifferent, the girl goes back to gazing at the moon. The wind plays with her hair, smoothing it with gentle palms. She tilts her head upward and slowly begins to spin, faster and faster until the sky transforms into a kaleidoscope of flickering sparks. Not a soul observes her movement, except for the fox, who is still watching from under the branches of a blackberry bush. She is overly aware of the moon’s timelessness, of a moon that has seen war and strife and love and a girl in pajamas and rainboots. It is a thought that is too much for her to bare for more than a moment. It is now 1:13am, and the girl is approximately six minutes older. In approximately eight minutes, the clouds will cover the moon once more, but she will not realize this because she will be safe in her bed, feeling slightly less and slightly more lonely than before. Outside, the fox and the stars whisper to each other about an unusual, remarkable girl who beamed like the moon but who was blind to her own light.
Hair Shine Peter
If the coils on my head were a count of my worth, you could say that the only treasure to my name was family. I was ungrateful, because even though I accepted my desi girl skin my wilted eyes the crook in my nose, (a first birthday gift from my father) there was a time where I’d have thrown my hair into the ocean, hoping it would find its way home. After I’d watched the strands slink away, one part ink, two parts hair— thicker than water, I’d lay on the shore and wish that I had something to wrap my wounds in.
Mary Acrylic Shelby Kahr
The Beatniks: Dark Dreams of a Dark Boy Digital Rodney Lambright II
The Beatniks: Art Museum Digital Rodney Lambright II
Laugh-Track Lullabies John McCracken
Did I mistake myself for a parking meter? A bumbling disarray of leftover fajitas. The last prince of a failing race, shucking yourself like a young Vegeta. I can’t become accustomed to the receptionists you’re failing. I don’t want to be become that Flenderson you’re hazing. On nights like these I taste like the warm hailing in September, and smell even worse. I can’t make myself believe that there’s a good reason for Miroku’s curse. Don’t be so bold as to ask me if I am still watching because this reflection can’t be rehearsed, and I’m not asking you if I can stay awake just to watch reruns, I’m just letting the static take its course.
Vic Acrylic, gouache Audrey Hansa
Don’t mistake my open eyes for mirrors into a sole purpose. I’m leaving the lights on so the shadows don’t make you nervous. The bulbs flicker in and out of tune like a voicemail left running, while you ask if the only things left in my heads are all my circuits.
Sense of Self Anupama Bhattacharya
I wish my face would fall off So that I could be a lightning rod diverting and absorbing all energy around me So that my sight was not limited by the eyes in my head So that my idea of myself was not limited by my experiences So that my understanding of reality was not limited by my senses I want to be expansive like a shriveled balloon being yanked out of tub of liquid nitrogen It would grow and take up more space until it popped and became a part of the atmosphere Touching everything I think my urge to become everything comes from feeling I must be specifically something I hate realizing while Iâ€™m thinking that my thoughts come from me, from inside my curly brown head. I would rather my thoughts come From the center of a black cloud where moisture comes together to make rain From the center of the sun where hydrogen come together to make helium From the center of the universe where dust and stars come together to make galaxies
Guardian Copics and micron Genevieve Anderegg
This Blood is Not My Own Emma Crowley
Gally grabs my arm and pulls me with him as he sprints down the street. My long red hair flies behind me as I run, my sixteen-year-old-girl legs barely keeping up with Gally’s thirty-year-old-man ones. He leaps over the hood of an abandoned car, sliding across its dusty surface as if it was made of ice. I follow him, using an old overturned plastic bucket as a launchpad as I try to mimic his maneuver. My breath catches in my throat as my foot breaks through the bucket. I yell in shock as I fall against the car, slamming my head against the rusty metal. My vision blurs and the throbbing in my head syncs with the pounding rhythm of my heart. I want to lay down and close my eyes, to rest until the throbbing ceases. Gally screams my name, his voice joining the shrieking moans that echo like a horror movie soundtrack in the background. I writhe on the glass-covered concrete, desperately trying to reach my trapped ankle. Finally, my fingers hit plastic. I rip the broken bucket from my ankle, wincing as it takes some of my skin with it. I force myself to my feet, then break the only rule I’ve ever followed. I look back. A crowd of about ten Were filled the debriscovered street, shrieking and moaning as they drag their rotting limbs towards me. Their skin is as torn as their clothes, many of them with chunks of flesh dangling by thin sinews from bone. Their eyes —oh, God their eyes— are like black holes drilled into their skin: sunken sockets threatening to drag me into the darkness that they hold. But the worst thing, if I could pick a worst thing, is how human some of the Were still look – the traces of hair, or clothes, or jewelry. That’s how they got their name. We used the word “were” so much when talking about them that it became them. They were my friends. They were my family. They were human.
Gally screams at me again, jolting me back to reality. I take a cautious step forward, testing my ankle for stability before trying again to scramble over the car. Gally waits on the other side, one hand reaching for me. I reach for him, see that spark return to his eyes as our fingers touch, then watch it go out again as I’m dragged away. The hand on my ankle shows no mercy as it yanks me roughly across the hood of the car. My fingernails scrape across the rusted metal, giving off an ear-splitting screech in their fight to find traction. I kick out with my injured leg, colliding with something solid. The Were lets out a pained yelp, and I know I’ve found my mark. I lash out again, ignoring my throbbing ankle. This time when it strikes the Were, I feel its bones snapping under my boot. I’m preparing for a third kick when a searing pain shoots through my other leg. My scream echoes through the broken city, mingling with the roars of the blood-thirsty Were and Gally’s terrified shout. I twist around to finally face the Were holding me. He couldn’t have been more than ten years old, his oversized soccer jersey ripped to shreds and stained with blood. His black eyes bore into mine as he chews the mouthful of flesh torn from my leg. The world falls away and all I can see is my blood in his mouth. My heart pounds in my ears as I lie frozen, watching him crouch down to take another bite. I want to scream, throw up, and run away at the same time. But I only watch. Strong arms grab me around the middle and drag me away before he can get his second bite. I yell in pain as my wounded ankle scrapes against the car, and a terrified voice shouts a hurried apology. Gally. He gathers me gently in his arms, careful not to knock my ankle against anything as he sprints, hopefully, toward safety. I try to lose myself in the comforting pounding of his heartbeat, but the pain in my ankle only
grows stronger. Twisting my head towards Gally’s face, I try to tell him that something’s very, very wrong, but I never get the chance. It feels as if someone has set a match to my bloodstream. White hot pain surges up my leg and through every inch of my body, filling me with fire. I convulse in Gally’s arms. I scream, cry, beg Gally to make it stop, to please just let me die, but he runs on. I can feel his tears splashing onto my skin, but they do nothing to stop the fire that consumes me. My good leg jerks violently, colliding with Gally’s knee. He yells in surprise, trips, and I’m thrown from his grasp. Crashing into the concrete, I roll across broken glass and debris. My head hits something solid and the darkness takes me away. With the darkness comes a death-like peace that I’d never think I’d miss, but as the pain slowly returned, I am forced to say goodbye. Although I am keeping my eyes shut, part of me is hoping that I could drift away again. I feel cold concrete against my back, but warmth on my face. A fire’s comforting crackle fills my ears, over which I could hear Gally’s familiar whistle. That’s what finally convinces me to open my eyes. I lay on my back, staring up into the night sky. I shift my head slightly, trying to look towards Gally, but even movements as small as that cause me pain. I let out a moan and Gally’s eyes snap to me. “Alex,” he lets out in a low whisper. “Jesus kid, I thought you were a goner.” I grin at him sheepishly. “Nah, I’m good. Feel like I could fight an army of Were.” “You really feel that good?’ “No. Everything hurts and I have to pee.” He chuckles as he gets to his feet, brushing dust off his old jeans. As he crouches next to me, I notice that his face and short brown hair are smeared with dried blood. I reach out a shaking hand and scrape some of it away with my fingernail.
“Did this happen when you fell?” “Don’t you remember?” He asks, slowly helping me to sit up. “I picked you up again after I fell and you spat all this blood into my face.” He laughs at my horrified expression and waves away my attempt to apologize. “Don’t be stupid, the only thing that I care about is that you’re alive. You really scared me back there with all that twitching and screaming, but hey, you pulled through. Good job kid.” “Thanks,” I reply weakly. Gally grabs his bag from where it lay by the fire and hands me a bottle of water, which I gratefully accept. He sits back and watches me as I drink, studying my every move. “How do you feel now?” “Like shit, but better than yesterday. Everything hurts from the fall—” “Sorry about that.” I roll my eyes. “Please. You are the last one to be apologizing.” He runs a hand through his gnarled brown hair. “I was just thinking, though. What if I hadn’t jumped over that car? What if I had grabbed you faster? There were so many things I could have done and now you’re hurt-” “Gally.” He falls silent with a sigh, his teary eyes shimmering in the firelight. “You were fantastic. You did everything you could have and more. I don’t blame you for a single thing.” He tries to protest, but I shout over him, “shut up and go to sleep, Gally! It’s late, and God knows you earned it.” He opens his mouth to argue further, then closes it in defeat. He grabs the water bottle from my hands and dumps it over the flames, shrouding us in darkness. The next morning I am roused by Gally’s cheerful whistle, as I have been every morning since I met him. I roll over to face him, still sore from yesterday’s adventure.
“Morning Gally.” He sits with his back to me, preparing a “meal” from our meager supply of rations and a big bowl of water. He turns to smile at me at the sound of my voice, then shouts in horror. I twist around, looking wildly behind me, but the alley is empty except for us. I turn on the spot, searching for danger, but I find none. “What? What is it Gally?” I look back to him and realize that he isn’t looking past me, but at me. I jump to my feet and grab the bowl of water from him, looking down at my reflection. No. Oh please, no. My once green eyes are now black. The darkest black I have ever seen in my life. For a minute, I can’t tear my eyes away from my reflection. I look to Gally for an explanation. “You’re changing.” I shake my head. “I—I feel fine. Gally, I’m fine!” I reach out to him but he flinches away, eyes filled with terror. “Gally, please,” I beg, my voice cracking; he only stares. “Gally. I’m still me. Please, I—” My words are cut short at the sight of the knife wrapped in his shaking fingers. I fall to my knees, sitting so that my eyes are level with Gally’s. He flinches at my sudden movement, hand tightening around the handle of the knife. “You wouldn’t,” I whisper. “Not to me.” “Don’t tell me what I would and wouldn’t do,” he growls, voice low and dangerous. “I’ve killed lots of Were, you’re just one more. One more kill.” “I can fight it Gally.” “That’s what they all think. At the beginning. They think that if you pray hard enough, or take enough pills, the disease will just leave them. It never does. I won’t make an exception for you.” “You can’t just leave me here.” He looks down at the ground, then up at the sky. When his gaze returns to me, it holds no kindness, no evidence of friendship. It’s the look he gives
a Were before he puts a knife through its throat. “I thought I told you not to tell me what to do.” He raises the knife and I throw up my arms to shield myself. “Wait! Wait!” I scream. “Three days! Give me three more days!” He pauses, but doesn’t lower the knife. “What?” “Give me three days to get better. If I don’t, you can kill me. You want me to survive, but you don’t think I can. What if I could? What if I could recover but you killed me before I had the chance?” He lets his arm fall to his side and the knife clatters away across the concrete. He knows that I’m right. We haven’t seen another human being for weeks, I’m the only thing he’s got left. If I die, he knows that he’ll be all alone, with no one but the Were to keep him company. He lets out a long sigh. “Three days?” “Three days.” I repeat. Gally turns away from me, and my heart rate falls slowly back to its usual pace. I have three days to live. After a small breakfast of crackers and canned tuna, we pack up and head east. Not for any particular reason, but simply to stay one step ahead of the Were. Gally doesn’t say a word to me as we wander aimlessly through the streets, and I am too terrified of his knife to break the silence. We stop to dig through a looted pharmacy, but when the sun reaches its peak we give up and break for lunch. This meal is a continuation of the last, more crackers and tuna. But when he pulls it from his bag, the smell makes my stomach churn. He offers me the can and I wave it away. “I’m not hungry. You can have it all.” He raises his eyebrows at me. “What do you mean you aren’t hungry?” “I’m just not, okay?” He eyes me suspiciously and I sigh. “Just hurry up and eat, alright? We should keep moving.”
Childhood I Woodcut Lindi Shi
I don’t tell him that I’m actually starving. I don’t tell him that I’ve been staring at the blood on his face the whole time we were in the pharmacy, fantasizing about how it would taste mixed with his own warm flesh. I keep that to myself, and push the thoughts and the hunger away. If I don’t, he won’t honor my three day request. When we start walking again, I lag behind him, not trusting myself to stand so close to him. My mind is a battlefield of cannibalistic thoughts, and I focus all of my energy on trying to keep them away. This isn’t a fight I’m going to back down from easily, not if I value my life. I look back over my shoulder at the setting sun. Soon I’ll be able to sleep, to escape this hell for a few short hours. Suddenly, I’m on the ground, Gally’s knife pressed against my throat. His knee is resting on my chest, making it hard for me to draw a breath.
I cough and wheeze, trying to free myself, but Gally easily overpowers me. “Three days, Gally! You promised!” He presses the blade harder against my throat, leaning down to glare angrily into my now black eyes. “You should have thought of that before you attacked me.” My mouth falls open in shock. “What? Attacked you?” “Don’t play dumb,” he scoffs. “You can’t very well try and cut someone’s brain out with a chunk of glass and pretend it didn’t happen!” “Gally, what are you saying?” I whisper, confused. “I was walking right behind you, looking back at the sun, then you jumped on me! I don’t even have a piece of glass—” Except I do. In my right hand I’m holding a long shard of broken glass, its edge smeared with
Childhood II Woodcut Lindi Shi
blood. I throw it away with a gasp. Looking back up at Gally through my tears, I see a long cut stretching from the middle of his forehead to the top of his ear. What have I done? “Did I really try to do that to you?” I whisper. His eyes grow soft as he realizes my confusion. “You really don’t remember?” “No.” His eyes grow hard again and he gets to his feet. He kicks the shard of glass farther away and returns to where his backpack lay on the road a few feet away. “That was your last chance. One more, and your days go from three to none.” I lay on the ground, frozen in shock. This isn’t my Gally anymore. This isn’t the man who rescued me from a lightning storm when I was ten. This isn’t the man who spent every day since then as
my new dad and my best friend. One little bite and everything we had went away. I follow him to an old apartment building and we hole up on a balcony on the second floor. Perching upon what remains of the balcony’s railing, I listen as Gally makes a fire further into the building. I look down at my boots, how my feet dangle so high above the street below. I should jump. I should jump right now and end all of this madness. I want so badly to rip this disease from my veins and cast it away, but it’s a part of me now. It’s in my blood, betraying me, driving me towards insanity. My blood is not my own. “Al, come get some dinner.” Gally calls to me from across the room, but I’m not quick to comply. I know that I won’t be hungry for whatever he has prepared for me, but I have to eat some to prove to him that I’m getting better.
Most of the drywall has fallen away, revealing a metal and concrete skeleton underneath. Gally’s fire casts eerie shadows across the dusty floor, but the flames themselves are warm and inviting. I sit next to him by the fire and hold out my fingers, warming them gratefully. “I saved your tuna from earlier. If you heat it up it shouldn’t be that bad.” Gally offers me the can and I thank him as I reach for it. A wave of hunger rolls over me, and a split second later my mind is no longer under my control. I knock the tuna from Gally’s hand and grab his wrist instead, pulling him towards me. My mouth is watering just looking at his beautiful, beautiful flesh when Gally strikes me across the face with his other hand, sending me sprawling across the floor. He scrambles away, but I lunge towards him, slamming his shoulders to the ground with a strength I never knew I had before wrapping my hands around his throat. He thrashes under me, but this time I’m the more powerful one. With one arm trapped under him and the other pinned by my boot, there is nothing he can do to stop me. The wave of hunger slowly recedes, leaving me looking down into my best friend’s face. What have I done? I let go of him and he shoves me away, coughing violently. He lunges for the knife, but I don’t even bother trying to stop him. “I should have killed you when I first saw your eyes this morning!” He screams at me. I can feel anger and betrayal in every word. “I know.” He pauses, chest heaving as he looks down at me. “What did you say?” “You were right. There was never any hope of me getting better.” My voice cracks, but I manage to hold back my tears. “Kill me. Kill me before I kill you. You said I was just one more Were. One more kill. You can do it.” “You know I didn’t mean that Al. I was trying to
put on a brave face.” I look into his face and his eyes are wet with tears. “I’d never be able to do it.” “Gally, you have to. Or you’ll die too.” “Would that be so bad?” Gally asks softly. My breath catches in my throat. I can’t think of Gally dying. Even in this horror filled world we live in, I’ve always seen him as the invincible one. My hero. I’d die for him in a heartbeat, but I swore never to let him do the same. “I won’t let you do that. You know I won’t.” I can’t stop the tears from running down my face, cool against my skin. “You have the knife, just do it.” He looks down at the weapon in his hands, the blade shining in the firelight. Turning it over in his hands, he shakes his head. He looks up at me, then reaches down towards his backpack. I cock my head to the side in confusion as I watch him dig through its pockets. He pulls a black pistol from the bag and I gasp. “I never told you I had it because I didn’t want to tell you why I had it.” He turns it over in his hands, checking the muzzle, the trigger, the grip. “I kept it in case it got too bad out here, in case I wanted to give up. This is my easy way out. There’s only one bullet.” He raises his arm, pointing the gun towards my head. “I’m willing to give that up for you.” I give him a small smile, looking forward to the darkness. “Thank you.”
As We Do Pastel, graphite, gesso Mike Lind
Across Oil Katie Hitchcock
Snowfall Meadhbh MacDiarmid
They fall alone, a single Uniqueness, glowing White against the dreary Nothingness. Into this World from the heavens They descend, one by One, floating down from The sky. But though they May tarry, tumbling in the Updrafts of individuality, All too soon, they hit “reality” and join the Chaotic throng. The Blank white sheet which Covers the earth. They Are pushed and pulled This way and that by the Wind, but forever drifted Into a faceless bunch. The earth echoes with The silence of a thousand Screaming empty minds. The sectored plates and Stellar dendrites that Separated the hollow Columns from the Needles all but forgotten In the warmth of the Clumps and drifts. But The day approaches When the warmth of the Contentment boils into Suffocation, and the sun Pierces the clouds, in Search of those delicate Masterpieces the sky too Willingly released. And thus The dawn of judgment Arrives — the Nameless Cling to each other,
Feeding on the multitude Of impending oblivion, And nevertheless blister In the heat, melted away, Both single and multiple Disappearing forever. All Too soon forgotten by Those eager upturned Spirits awaiting the next Snowfall.
Just This Anupama Bhattacharya
Prejudice has risen from the actions of the people, from their words and their looks it has risen. And it has settled in the ether of the souls of the people. In the ether, prejudice picks up all souls and shapes them, by making them respond to its force. Prejudice swims in our culture, in the atmosphere, it dives into our hearts and enters our souls and licks up our brain and skews the way we see. It taints our building blocks. My building blocks are painted brown. My body has a yoni. Rummaging through the pile of art my parents keep of their only child early years, I am astonished to find that everything that I made about me has an Indian flag. Where did it go? When did I stop putting the Indian flag in my art? When did I start trying to define myself without my race instead of within it? Somewhere along the way my middle school peers thought I was dating the only other Indian kid in my school. Somewhere along the way my speech teacher told me to put in a monologue that I wasn’t allowed to date, for comedic effect. Somewhere along the way my world history teacher genuinely asked me if why my parents hadn’t kicked me out of the house for not being Hindu in front of the whole class. Somewhere along the way a man at Costco accused me of being greedy for helping myself to a single sample of cheesy popcorn and told me to “look back at my culture.” Somewhere along the way I thought I had to shed my brown skin to transcend it, leaving behind a crispy shell. I clash against my shell like a bell around my soul I clash harmoniously as I try to transcend my outer bowl. My pitch is loud, my tone is clear, but I’m afraid sometimes I am derived From the bell which within, I am confined My nature feeds my nurture. They are not separable because everything that has ever happened to me, was to some degree, informed by my womanhood and my race. I responded to everything that’s happened to me and now I am me. The ether contours me as I build. It sways my direction, my confidence, my identity, and I am left wondering how much of me transcends my shell. Shih et al. did a study where Asian women took a math test in order to understand the power of stereotype threat and stereotype boost. When the Asian women identified their gender in a box on the front of the page as female they scored worse than the Asian women who had no box to check. When they identified their race, they scored better. They were being primed, made to perform, think, and identify differently without knowing it.
My free will whimpers at the sound of that. It recoils, draws in, like a rolled up yoga mat. I’m smart because I’m smart you know. I’m dumb because I’m dumb you know. I know some boxes let you be anyone and some boxes don’t. I’ve learned performance is identity and that when my performance is swayed my identity is swayed, when my performances contradict, my identities contradict. Simply performing forces me out of an identity. So how am I supposed to know, how much of me, transcends my bell? Do I ring out to you? To me, people who are attached to their free will struggle the most with understanding privilege. To them, everyone is on the same playing field and they’ve done everything for themselves. Yes, it is about the opportunity, but it runs much deeper— skin deep. Whether I think I have free will or not, no human being can function without its impression. Am I me or am I just this? Because Every time I’m catcalled, every time the receptionist glances at my name, smiles expectantly at me assuming that I know that she won’t try to say it. Every time he’s surprised I’m strong enough to help move the big heavy shiny white tub, every time that he didn’t expect to see me moshing at the rock concert because I seemed “really into my studies.” Every time he says that he would hate being on an all-girl design team—to me, the female team leader of his. Every time she doesn’t want to play with me because I’m “too dark and too skinny.” Every time my boyfriend’s socio-economic status needs to exceed mine, reminding me I have to marry up. Every time I feel boxed in Every time I feel less than… My soul falls into my bowl, I flip to a bell within my shell and I can’t hear myself ring.
During /After Madeline Kelly
body says it’s sorry body sings and gets the lyrics wrong body tries to swallow more slowly. body rolls the window down when body prays the rosary body prays the rosary body prays the rosary body talks to sidewalks and statues covered in snow body touches itself softly but body stings like trespasser. wait no body doesn’t touch body doesn’t touch don’t touch me body says don’t touch me. body doesn’t touch itself body doesn’t touch at all body forgets body forgets body tries to forget. body tries to touch body feels too much like battleground still damp still steaming. why does body equal violence body wants to be river.
following three pages Excerpt from Body on Fire Ink, colored pencil, ballpoint pen, acrylic Moira Chiu
Swabs Gabrielle Diekhoff
Clean ears are important. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that clean ears are crucial. If they weren’t, why else would that earwax-eating vacuum exist? Someone somewhere had to invent it, so someone somewhere must share these sentiments. But I can’t afford one of those, even though the man yelling at me through my television set claims it can be mine “FOR ONLY $19.95!” I, however, unlike the majority of paid-programming viewers, am bright enough to take shipping and handling into account, which means the total would most likely come to about $24.95, and with that much money I could buy at least eight large cartons of Q-Tips from the local Walmart, which happens to happily coexist in the same lot as McDonald’s, which means that I can sneak by and snag some free mayonnaise packets after I pick up my Q-Tips. So, I’ll stick to Q-Tips. I write a “?” in the middle of the Post-It note labeled “GROCERY LIST” that hangs on my fridge, roll up my left pant leg so it hangs precisely in line with the right, and search the fridge for mayonnaise. There are only four packets left. I scribble out the question mark on the Post-It and write “MAYO” before I shuffle to the computer, spoon and packets in tow. Using one hand and my teeth, I tear open a packet of mayo. Using the other hand, I pull up Google and search “painless methods of suicide.” In the matter of time it took for me to squeeze mayonnaise onto my spoon, (0.60 seconds), the internet provided me with 238,000 search results. Not bad. I lick the spoon clean as I wait for LostAllHope.com to load. THIS IS A SECURE WEBSITE. ARE YOU OVER THE AGE OF 18? I click the “yes” button and wonder why we adults are the only people who are allowed to off themselves. That seems unfair. LOST ALL HOPE HAS A LIBRARY OF INFORMATION
Versatility Acrylic Ingrid Olson
ON METHODS TO COMMIT SUICIDE, INCLUDING STATISTICAL INFORMATION ON WHICH METHODS ARE MOST SUCCESSFUL. This sounds promising. I prepare another dollop of mayo and continue reading only to find that this website offers the same lousy methods as every other site. HANGING. GUNSHOT. I can’t say I’ve ever been overly fond of either option. I want my body be tidy when it’s found; preferably bloodless and flaunting my immaculately clean ear canals. But I also know from experience that pills never work, especially when you’ve been a bulimic for 20 years and your acid reflux results in burping up water thrice a day, and I was never brave enough to climb any higher than the second floor of a building, so jumping wasn’t really an option, either. I guess I’m kind of stuck here. It’s disappointing that in 2016 no one has come up with a fresh, creative exit strategy, but then again I suppose if they were successful they wouldn’t be here to share it with us, anyway. I turn off my computer. I’m looking back at myself in the screen, recently deceased. A dab of mayonnaise is dangling from the hairs above my lip and eye-sand is crusted in the maze of wrinkles that borders my sockets. My irises are a deeper grey than usual today. I leave my mayonnaise packets and dirtied Q-Tips on the keyboard, and I go to bed. I wake the next day at noon, precisely an hour and half before I’m supposed to be at psychotherapy. This is to ensure I have plenty of time to lie awake and unmoving in bed for 40 minutes as I listen to my neighbor screech into the phone about whatever is happening in her life (today, she’s frantically dictating a gluten-free dinner party for one of her boyfriends’ sisters). After those 40 minutes pass, I have an allotted five-minute slot
for peeing, though of course peeing doesn’t take that long, but I like to sit on the toilet and think about what kind of dinner party I would throw if I had multiple boyfriends with gluten-free sisters. Then I have three minutes set aside for dressing myself, so that I have around 30 seconds to stare at my droopy, middle-aged sex pillows, another 30 to pinch the cottage cheese lumps on my inner thighs, and an entire minute to sit on the floor and examine my lady parts for any ingrown hairs that may require immediate plucking. There are none today. On my way out the door, I grab a handful of Q-Tips and the two remaining mayo packets and stuff them into my sweatshirt pocket. “So, how are you today, Pennie?” My hands are a little cold so I sit on them before answering, and for that moment the only sound in the office is the hum of her cheap humidifier. I know it was cheap because after last week’s session I went to Walmart for Q-Tips and decided to see if they sold that same humidifier there. They did. “I’m OK.”
“Just OK?” I nod and look around the room. Aside from a singular clementine-colored wall, it’s a dull room, complete with one of those hideously engraved name plaques. KAREN BERNSTEIN, it reads, HEAD PSYCHOTHERAPIST. There is one personal touch and it’s a framed photo of Karen’s college-aged daughter. It’s facing the potted fern in the corner. The fern is dying. “Karen…” I’m hesitant. “Yes, Pennie?” “Would you mind turning that photo of your daughter towards the orange wall?” Her expression remains neutral, as is characteristic of every good therapist. She asks me why. “Well, your daughter. She’s staring at the fern. And the fern is dying. And she can’t turn away because she’s trapped in that frame, in that moment…So she’s being forced to watch that plant die.” Karen appraises me, her densely penciled eyebrows outstretched toward her hairline, and
for a fleeting moment I think I see a flicker of emotion behind her aged eyes, the color of stone worn by shuffling heels. She turns the frame towards the clementine wall. “Better?” I nod again. There’s something about Karen that I like. Her voice is annoyingly soothing, her clothes are taupe and shapeless, grey roots are peeking out from beneath a homemade dye-job, and her crow’s feet could have been used as a prime “before” photo for a Botox ad. But, there’s something about her that I like. “Good. Well, give me some specifics on this past week. What’s happened since we’ve seen each other last? Have you felt suicidal again?” I shake my head. I had Googled methods of suicide three times in the last 48 hours, sure, but that didn’t make me suicidal. Maybe this is a lie, but that’s OK because therapists lie to us, too, to make themselves seem more relatable. “Good! Have you tried any of the coping methods I suggested?” I couldn’t remember any of the suggestions she had made so I decided to lie again and tell her yes, I tried them, but no, they didn’t work. When she asked me why, I stared at the floor and brought my hands out from under my pancaked bottom because they were falling asleep and beginning to tingle. The carpet in this office is trying too hard to be regal, or maybe Persian. It couldn’t fool me, though. I knew it was from the clearance aisle in a wood-paneled Big Lots. “Did you throw up this week, Pennie?” I told her I had, and she asked me how it was, and I told her it wasn’t too bad because I had only thrown up ice cream and it was still cold when it came back up, so at least it didn’t burn my throat. Other than the ice cream, all of my food had stayed down this week. “And, I’ve been eating mayonnaise,” I tell her,
“when I feel the need to binge? I eat a spoonful of mayonnaise. I don’t know how or why it helps, but it does.” If I were the kind to smile proudly, I would smile proudly as I told her that. Instead we hold eye contact in silence and wait to see who is the weaker of the two. It’s me, because finally I flinch and return my gaze to the carpet and continue picking at the raggedy skin around my nailbeds. Something in the room smells nice. Slightly floral with a wet dog undertone. “What about masturbation?” This turns my attention away from my self-made hangnails. “What about it?” “Have you tried using that as a coping method? When you want to binge or purge?” “No. I haven’t mast—no…I haven’t done…that.” I hadn’t thought about sex in quite some time. She was saying something about it being a commonly used practice among therapists, something about endorphins and positive-energy release, but I was staring at her fingers now, at the cleanliness and shortness of her nails, and how one of them would feel if it slid into my honey pot. “So, that’s your assignment for this week. Try to bring about an orgasm or two, if and when you have the urge to binge. Can you do that?” “Karen.” “Yes, Pennie?” “May I ask you a question?” “OK.” “What kind of shampoo do you use?” Her face remains expressionless and she tells me it’s an anti-dandruff formula from Walmart, and then the clock ticks and it’s 2:30 and my session is finished. I thank her, poke a Q-Tip in each ear, and head to Walmart. The shampoo was only $4.99 a bottle so I bought five of them and used an entire bottle in the shower. Now my hair smells slightly floral with
a wet dog undertone. Now my hair smells like Karen. I wish it would smell like this forever. I consider lopping it all off and stuffing a pillow case with it until I remember I don’t have any extra pillow cases lying around. A shame. I’ll add that to the grocery list. I put my hand over my midriff, examining the bulge as warm water from my floral dog-smelling hair trickles over my belly and catches in my navel. A binge was imminent; I could feel it coming. It’s just like when goats know a typhoon is coming and flee to higher ground – they just know like I just know. I flee to the kitchen for refuge, for mayonnaise, only to remember that I had forgotten to go to McDonald's today and I had polished off the remaining packets this morning. I catch a glimpse of my still-naked self in the reflection of the glass cupboard. Have you tried masturbating? A singular black hair has sprouted on my nipple and I imagine what Karen would say if she saw it. Her expression would remain painfully neutral but she would say, shouldn’t you get rid of that? So I yank it out and rub it between my thumb and forefinger. It’s wiry. Does Karen have wiry nipple hairs? I wonder. Have you tried masturbating? I’m on the kitchen floor now ogling at the web of flesh between my legs. It’s been untouched for years. Maybe longer. Maybe forever. I can’t even see anything beneath all of the hair so I don’t even really know what’s under there. I wonder when this hair will turn grey. Probably soon. Cobwebs atop cobwebs. I wonder if Karen’s down-there hair is grey. Or maybe she uses box dye on it, too. I imagine Karen’s cobwebs against my own – friction between two bristly brushes — and I squirm. MASTU- … MasTURBA- … I place my palm between my legs and I rub furiously enough to birth blisters on my finger pads. For a moment I’m concerned that my neighbor can see me here on the linoleum floor because I
forgot to draw the curtains, but I can hear her yelling into the phone about gluten-free linguine so I think it’s probably OK. I’m too caught up in the act to care. I’m sweaty behind the knees. Karen is too. I inhale her floral-dog hair and we leave yellowed sweat stains on that pseudo regal Big Lots rug. A good session, she’ll say, and I’ll say, yes, a good session, and we’ll both leave, smoothing our blouses and swirling Q-Tips in our ears that will come out unstained, our mouths tasting like mayonnaise, lips crusted with flaking mayonnaise, her daughter having watched the entire scene take place in front of a clementine backdrop. Karen greets me with the usual, how are things today, Pennie? I reply with my usual OK, and then she with her usual, just OK? I nod, but it’s funny because I know that I’m more than just OK today, but Karen doesn’t know that. A warmth is spreading between my thighs. I squeeze them together. “Why are you so dressed up today, Pennie?” She’s eyeing my denim dress. I bought this dress fifteen years ago for my cousin’s engagement party but haven’t found an occasion worthy of it since. It’s nice because it has pockets for my Q-Tips and also buttons that start at my breast and continue past my pelvis. I hope Karen notices this. I remember she had asked me a question so I shrug in response. This makes me mysterious. We’re staring at each other in silence but this time I don’t break eye contact to look at the carpet. “Yes,” I say. “Yes…to what?” “I tried it.” “Tried what, Pennie?” “You know…it.” I motion to my honey pot. “Oh! Well that’s wonderful. Was it effective?” “Yes.” “And do you mind if I ask what were you thinking about as you were doing it? Were you thinking
about purging? Or did the sensation provide sufficient distraction?” I think about Karen’s clean ears processing my groans as our perspiration yellows the Big Lots carpet. I think about this and I smile but I don’t answer Karen. Instead I uncross my legs. I spread my thighs so that the cottage cheese lumps are no longer touching each other. I slowly pull the dress above my knees. I thought about doing this quickly but while I was on the toilet for five minutes this morning I read about something called “foreplay” and the importance of “building tension” so I decided slower was better. Karen’s eyebrows are furrowed. They’re even more heavily penciled than they were a few days ago. I wonder if she did this to impress me. “Pennie…” There seem to be storm clouds overcasting her eyes. I take this as a good sign. I’m confident because I examined my cobwebs this morning and didn’t find a single ingrown fiber that would require plucking. I was in prime condition. I was ready. I stand, my back erect against the clementine wall, feet shoulder-width apart, and fidget with the Q-Tips in my pocket before fidgeting with the first button of my dress. “Pennie, what are you doing? Sit down, please. We only have a 50-minute session today.” I don’t sit. Instead, I keep working away at the buttons. I think that once she sees my bosom, free now of any wiry hairs, she’ll wish to see the rest of me. My dress pools around my ankles as it hits the floor. I’m facing her now, totally exposed with the exception of my calf-high Valentine’s Day socks, goose-bumps prickling my flesh despite the sweat beading behind my knees. Karen’s mouth is agape but she says nothing. I’ve done it. I’ve left her speechless. Now I must make the next move. I begin to waddle towards her, my steps constricted by the dress suffocating my feet. A Q-Tip rolls from one of the pockets and onto the rug.
A fist thuds on an armrest but is muted by the loosened leather. “PENNIE, ENOUGH!” I halt. What is it? Did I miss a stray hair on my nipple? Is it the fuzzy trail leading from my belly button to my…entrance? Should I have shaved that? “You need to leave. Grab your things, Pennie, and leave.” I blink. “Immediately.” She had been pursing her lips so firmly that her lipstick had left a brownish frame around them. If she were anyone else, I would have lent her a Q-Tip to take care of that, to be a pal. But she wasn’t anyone else. She was Karen. She was Karen and her hair smelled like flowers and wet dog. She was Karen and she shopped in the clearance aisle at Big Lots. She was Karen and she didn’t leave sweat stains on the carpet. She was Karen and her breath didn’t taste like mayonnaise because her breath didn’t mingle with mine. I pull my dress back over my shoulders and dump a handful of virgin Q-Tips into the waste basket. Karen is still staring at me intensely, stiff and stone-like as the color of her eyes, unmoving, other than the fat vein I can see pulsating in her forehead. I stare back at her as I take the photo of her daughter into my hand. I consider shattering the frame. Not bold enough. I return the photo to the desk, facing away from the orange wall and instead towards the corner. Her daughter is watching the fern die again, and she can’t look away.
Golf #1 Pastel and charcoal Henry Stoehr
Garden Colten Parr
inside my crystal sphere of barbed wire, broken glass, a chest of flesh to guard you
without the rain, we are the rain. dust dries and rises to the sky rises and dies (rises and dies)
my private garden, my treasure, my love. our violin hangs from the branches. (a secluded spring, a secret reservoir, the serpent amongst limbs.
come into your garden. weâ€™ll sew seeds with songs and semen.
a hidden fountain, shadow of a shadow, a garden enclosed.) without the name, without the fruit, without the command nothing to tame, nothing to tend: my blood approves your body, withering tongue, still beauty of a wilting blossom. my bones approve your blood, your body, deliberate as the ghost of a wild fragment. my bones in your body, our wings tied back by silk, Naked Spring.
Deep Boundary Waters Sleep Alexandra Pleasant
A Canadian man tried to bless me with an armful of sickly Irises. Troublesome in my arms, I say thank you. Watch him lumber away with anxiety in tow and veins varicose. Thinks he knows something I donâ€™t. Thinks of Scandinavian surnames. Thinks bear is cannibalism, and the river too shallow for surfacing. Knows mire from peat by blade of shovel. Knows the highest point in Wisconsin, and will take you there
Mother Collage Shelby Kahr
if only you ask. So cradle I the flowers in crook of arm. Because what else can you say, what excuse can you claimâ€”when a man digs for you a grave.
Drained Photography Marissa Haegele
Voice Loop Emma Liverseed
I remember you speak speak speaking to me. I can still feel slivers of your words crawl beneath my nails like insects burrowing into rotten wood. And the skin running over the bump of each vertebra in my spine shuddered with the sting of the toothpick you kept in the corner of your mouthyour tongue twirl twirl twirling it spinning out whispers that curled and coiled inside my ears. Some of your words were gritty like sand under my eyelids. They blind blind blinded me and forced me to blink. In your screams I saw inferno, red as the bronchial forest of my lungs. Your body has vanished but your voice still roams the cavity of my skull buzz buzz buzzing like a static-filled channel impossible to turn off and loop loop looping over and over until all of your words lose meaning. But you were the only one I could ever make sense of, really.
EVE Tiffany Ike
If you palmed the dust from the ground. would it feel like your skin? Held it to you ear, could you hear your heartbeat? Do you see your reflection in mud puddles? Eve, was not conceived from dust, She was fashioned, That no weapon formed against her should prosper. She bore suns to keep the tide coming in, Â turned dusty men into sandcastles . In the beginning, black women were called miracle. Because even after countless of Cains cracked at our little ribs we were still Able, to stand with poise. But when more boys, more ribs, broke because of pale hands And it began to uncage the fire in our heart to speak out, I learned that Soon after the beginning, we were really considered magic. A black woman disappearing act Poof like dust Erased. I am convinced my skin is supernatural. Like abracadabra Like bippity boppity boo Where wands are beaten on the head of kings mistaken for midnight Leaving a damsel scared and a knight dead
I am convinced my voice is sorcery, My body, witchcraft. The open sesame to ridicule I can be in two places at once A hypersexualized commodity, or an overaggressive figure. I figured this is what being cast out feels like Except I am no demon only dehumanized and no one wants to get to the core of this apple. This misrepresentation that bore fruitful and multiplied. In the beginning you were made to believe That any step forward in our attempt to live Â Could only be construed as evil, But a step in the white direction is usually backwards. We were formed to prosper too. We have been fighting to be heard Since the tide came in Since sand castles Since pale hands started taking our ribs Eve was not made for this.
EVE poster Digital Tiffany Ike
How I Learned to Love Myself Haley Young
My insecurities were truly birthed in the sixth grade. Before that I had been a rather self-assured (if naive) kid who was much more likely to be found with her nose in a book than engaged in conversation. I simply didn’t care what my classmates thought of me. I didn’t have a desire to impress anyone. My parents were loving and supportive, my teachers had always been kind, and I was proud of my intellectual abilities. I liked what I liked, I hated what I hated, and I never felt the need to justify my feelings or decisions. I was shy, maybe, but I was also confident and proud. I wish I had stayed like that. When I entered middle school, I started to feel estranged from those around me. I had a few close friends, but a secret part of me still longed to find a place in the large, robust social groups that I saw my classmates forming. I became acutely aware of how my perceived intelligence factored into my identity as I was branded as “smart” and “nerdy,” labels I never really minded but also never really understood. People thought I was weird. It was often subtle, but it was always present: this feeling that I somehow, deep down, just didn’t belong. And then there was a boy. He was my first real crush and I’d never had any experience with romantic relationships before. He confused me and I liked the rush of trying to figure him out. I reveled in the excitement of getting to know someone new. I glorified the challenge of making myself acceptable in his eyes. I had no idea just how dangerous it is to give one person so much control. I allowed a single external opinion to determine the way I saw myself, and it stripped my self-esteem down to something so feeble it almost ceased to exist. He would talk to me for hours outside of class and he would come to me when he needed help, but whenever we were surrounded by other people he
never failed to make me feel inferior. He told me the things I did were lame. He told me I dressed poorly. He told me he liked me, but that I wasn’t good enough for him. He told me it wasn’t cool to be a good student. The worst part of all of this? I listened. I almost got a D in seventh grade English (a subject I adored) merely because I wanted him to think I was cool. I started to doubt everything I thought I had known about myself. I let this one person control my every move because I had begun to think that his acceptance was the only thing that mattered, that I existed solely to become worthy enough of his affection. I was so wrong. I finally broke away from this unhealthy relationship after years of struggling under its weight, but the self-doubt didn’t leave when he did. I had become dependent on external approval and I collapsed into a cycle of trying to please everyone around me. People thought I was happy and often I even convinced myself, but at my core I was living just to meet the demands of others. I became so worried about what the world thought I should do that I completely forgot about also pleasing myself. I became obsessed with my reputation. If I did something that wasn’t “normal” I felt a searing need to justify it, to explain it away, to make people understand every last reason why. I didn’t allow myself to have bad days, to argue with my peers, to show how I was really feeling. I checked myself obsessively; mapping out conversations, planning explanations, and stressing about every social interaction so much that it became habit. It almost felt natural to wonder if everyone hated me, to feel awkward in conversations, to walk away thinking that I said something wrong, that I did something weird, that this person was going to figure out the terrible secret I had known for years: that I didn’t belong.
Hurricane Mixed media
There was one friend who I stayed close with through it all. Although I still constantly tried to please her and worried excessively about losing her friendship even when I had no reason to, she was the one person I felt like I could be myself around. She was brilliant and beautiful and quiet and brave. I protected her fiercely and loved her even more. We used to vacation together, and on my junior year spring break I remember crying on the edge of her bed as I told her how I feared we would grow apart as we graduated and attended different colleges. She told me that our friendship wouldn’t die unless I let it. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this statement put all of the responsibility on me: it was my job to preserve our relationship. I had begun to think this was normal. I started to believe that things only ever went wrong if I deserved them to, that every broken relationship or argument was entirely my fault. It’s not that her words necessarily caused this – it’s that my immediate acceptance of them reflected how warped my views of myself and reality really were. A few months later she began to grow distant from me with no explanation, despite all of our mutual friends. I will never be able to describe how difficult my senior year was. I overanalyzed every last thing, reliving all of our memories over and over. I traced the same paths in my brain so many times that I’m not sure the imprints will ever truly fade. I thought it was all my fault and couldn’t live with the guilt and the lack of closure. I felt ostracized at events with our friend group, but I was looked down upon if I didn’t attend. I once spent almost an hour crying in the bathroom at a party at her house, but felt that I couldn’t leave because I would be judged. People thought that I wasn’t trying or that I didn’t care – in reality, sometimes it was just too difficult to be present.
I couldn’t win. I couldn’t please everyone around me without damaging myself, and I couldn’t protect my mental health without being judged because of it. For years I had been so concerned with what people thought of me that it was impossible to imagine anything else. I tried to justify everything without stepping on anyone’s toes, to make up excuses, to hide the extent of my turmoil and to still be the girl everyone always thought I was. Underneath it all the poisonous thought still burned: I just didn’t belong. Eventually I reached a breaking point. I had begun to hate myself. I believed everything was my fault, that I couldn’t do anything right, that I was fundamentally flawed and unlovable. My relationships with my family and boyfriend were becoming increasingly strained as I began to take everything too seriously, to constantly degrade myself, and worst of all, to take it out on those who loved me. After months of this, I finally sought professional help. I felt embarrassed at first to be in counseling, but then I realized something pivotal: I do not have to justify myself to anyone. I had always felt as though I wasn’t enough, as though I was inherently wrong, as though I needed to explain my every move to the world. But I don’t. Sometimes people won’t understand, and no matter what you say they never will. And that’s okay. I had become so worried about pleasing the world that I forgot about my own importance. I abandoned my self-worth in order to mold myself into something society and my classmates and all of these external sources told me I should be, even though my natural self has always been sufficient. There’s much to be said about consistently trying to improve, of course, but never forget that you are amazing just where you are. Don’t let your goals be set by the world – let them be set by you. Let them be shaped by your passions, your interests, your love, your faith. Do not let them be
Olivia Photography Zoe Flynn
shaped by the demands of people who are not privileged to the wonders in your head. For years I had believed a lie, this dangerous voice that told me I didn’t belong. But here’s the truth: I am valuable, even if I am nerdy, even if I am weird, even if I like to be alone. I have worth regardless of whether or not my opinions match those of the majority. Don’t let anyone dull your joy. Don’t let anyone tell you to be different. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t fit in just because you want something other than what they want. It is okay to do what makes you happy, even if it’s not viewed as normal. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone. I felt horrible sinking into depression because I felt like I didn’t have a right to be sad. I ignored the danger of the negative things I was feeling because I felt that I was wrong to admit how damaged I was. I felt that I was a fraud. I used to remind myself that there were people with real problems out there, and I used to tell myself that I wasn’t one of them. But saying that you can’t be sad because others have it worse is just like saying you can’t be happy because others have
it better. Your feelings are real, and you have the right to respond to them and to take care of yourself – no matter what the world tells you. I am still learning to love myself. There are days where my insecurities rear their heads just like they used to, moments where I wish I could sink into the floor, sometimes entire weeks where I feel as though everything I do is wrong. I still have anxiety about making friends. I’m still afraid of people thinking I am too this or too that. One of my future roommates has already noticed my tendency to downgrade my accomplishments and opinions. But through this all, I am still so much better because I am remembering that it’s okay to take care of myself too. It’s okay to make myself happy. There is a difference between being selfish and being healthy, and it’s a difference I had to understand in order to heal. No matter what you’re going through, you are valuable. No matter what you feel, you have worth. You are not a mistake and you are not a failure. You absolutely belong. Take time for yourself. Be honest with yourself. Never force yourself to do something that doesn’t bring you joy simply because the world says you ought to. Someone will love you just as you are – I promise. I didn’t think it was possible, but it happened even to me and I will never be able to verbalize how freeing that is. If you are with the right people, you will not have to feel inferior. You will not have to feel wrong. Instead, you will feel capable of moving mountains and etching skies. It’s a suffocating life when you live for the approval of others, but you have the ability to let yourself breathe. You are important. You are worthy. You are allowed to be yourself, and you are allowed to love yourself.
Mesh Vivi Davis
They were the spider. But the web still ends up being mine. Spurning the spinner doesn’t make me a winner so why even try? People are naturally robbers Because sharing isn’t caring...it’s staring and envy and preparing, then grabbing, ripping, and tearing, because the things I’ve received are so much less than the things they say I’ve given, than the things I say they’ve taken, but there’s no referee because even the Bible says that God forgave the thieves. Even looking up at the ouroboros of human decay, they tell me to “try hard." ...Why would you ever “try easy”? And I know I’ve never wanted anything so I’ve never tried anything but— Now see that’s a lie...because... Because I’m only here to try and show her, the kind of life a life of lies could give her, that silver tongues earn silver rings, that it’s the snakes that survived and killed the dinosaurs, that liars are the best at lying and the best at lying, that she doesn’t need breadcrumbs to save my Hansel and Gretel, that when I cross my fingers I’m crossing our paths, that my poker face saves all my cards for her... That I would count cards on anyone because I can’t see what kind of punishment awaits at the pearly gates, because I’m always looking at her pearly whites and the dancing lights that shine behind the roll of her eyes.
Puking Butterflies for Kicks, linoleum, monotype, micron pen Michelle Pelowski
Road Lights Oil Katie Hitchcock
Thank you to all of the professors, teaching assistants, advisors, and professional staff members that have supported all of us during our time at the University of Wisconsinâ€“Madison. Our success as students is dependent on the dedicated talent of many employees of the university that inspire us with new ideas and encourage us to develop our own. This publication is made possible through the generous support of the Wisconsin Union and University Marketing. Thank you to both of these organizations for helping Illumination share undergraduate work on campus, and providing us with valuable assistance and encouragement. Thank you to Theda Berry, Kara Evenson, Deshawn McKinney, Lily R. Hansen, Adan Abu-Hakmeh, Victoria Fok, Jim Rogers, and Jenny Klaila. Your guidance has meant much to all of us.