ITALICS MINE ISSUE 13.2
/ KYR A BETHEIL / WHISPER BL ANCHARD / MICHELLE BL ANYAR / SHANA BL AT T / MADELINE BODENDORF / K ATE BROWN / SAR AH BROWN / SAR AH BUCKSER / NNANDI CASSON / SAMANTHA CROHN / BRIDGET DE ASE / L AUREN D'ERRICO / NICH FARRELL / DANIELLE FOTI / ERIK GOETZ / PETER HAYES / CHRISTOPHER JILES / ERICA LUBMAN / DANIELLE MCCORMACK / FINOL A MCDONALD / KENNETH MILLER / JAMISON MURCOT T / CHELSE A MUSCAT / KYLE NOGUER A / VICTORIA OT TOMANO / MA XIMILLIAN POLLIO / IAN PUCKET T / ZOEY B SCHELER / ANSEL SHIPLEY / JAMES SIEGEL / CHAYA STURM / JIAMING TANG / SHANNON VIGNOL A / ANDREW YOON
SPRING / SUMMER 2016
ISSUE 13. 2 NANA ANCHAMPONG / R ACHEL ANTONISON / EMILY ACQUISTA / CHRISTINA BAULCH / OLIVIA BEHAN / GABRIELLE BERNSTEIN
ITALICS MINE ISSUE 13.2 ART / POETRY / FICTION / NONFICTION
16 20 er ur ch as c su h e e as C e 13 o , . 2 Ne lle w ge S pr Y in or g/ k S um m
Italics Mine showcases the new, creative literary voices of Purc hase College students —majors and non-ma jors alike —th rough print and web. The diversity of the student popu lation is reflected in the pieces we strive to share with the enti re college com mun ity. Italics Mine is a notable addition to the Lilly B. Lieb Port Creative Writ ing Prog ram at Purc hase College. The prog ram’s close prox imit y to the cultu ral life of New York City, its numerou s writers in residence, and its sum mer writ ing prog ram on the French Riviera make it unique amo ng undergraduate prog ram s. It is the only prog ram in the SUN Y system to offer such a major. Spec ial than ks to the Purc hase Coll ege Affi liates Gra nt for thei r support in the printing of this issue. The Creative Writ ing Prog ram at SUN Y Purc hase College, in Purc hase, New York 10577, publ ishe s Italics Mine. Opi nion s expressed herein do not necessari ly reflect those of either the mag azine staff or any institution. Foll owin g publ ication, all rights revert to the authors and artis ts. “Cr ystal Sun set”
Cover Art by Chelsea Muscat
Jalen Garcia-Hall Cody La Vada Chris Sommerfeldt Lucas Tromblee
Megan Byron Lydia Everett Molly McNally Zoe Nathan Raven Williams
Jonathan Hernandez Jake Lam Jennifer Longiaru Jamison Murcott
Megan Byron Jonathan Hernandez Zoe Nathan
Jake Lam Chris Sommerfeldt
Jalen Garcia-Hall Cody La Vada Lucas Tromblee
Jennifer Longiaru Jamison Murcott Raven Williams
Monica Ferrell Catherine Lewis Mehdi Okasi
Maggie McEvoy Christopher Stewart
Lydia Everett Molly McNally
Table of Contents Poetry
In the Mire
The Pressure to Have Fun
Reason #50 you are going to Heaven
Dry Rain in Nirvana
Smells Like Home to Me
To the Owner...
The Force is on Us
Fiction Bridget Dease
The Crosswalk Game
A Tired Man Falls Asleep
Me, Myself, & I Generation
Oliver Baker’s Note to Self
A Reminder that We Were Here...
Beautiful Swamp Creatures: How Girls... An Interview with Bridget Dease Annihilation Review
An Interview with Ian Puckett
An Interview with James Siegel
ATTN: Spotted Queer Kid In Aisle 7
An Interview with Lauren D’Errico
The People I Never Expected to Love
Talking with Susan Breen
Interviewed by Jamison Murcott
Do You Like the Way My Voice...
An Interview with Gabrielle Bernstein
The Garden Wall
Working Over Times Square
Creepy Cake Designs by Dad
Progression of Thought
A Look Through
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral
Me and Jasper
Zoey B Scheler
New York City
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In the Studio
Bad Food BY R ACHEL A N TONISON
The taste in my mouth: Moldy coffee and spoiled milk, lumpy yellow yogurt. Cracked eggs in a carton, stale coffee, salmonella in cookie dough, rough peaches that cut your tongue, italics mineâ€ƒ
ants in avocados, apples covered in slime. Poisonous cake,
cobwebbed doughnuts, water with arsenic. Wet crackers, dry cherries, saliva on sandwiches, chickpeas and marbles. Granola filled with rocks, earthworms in spaghetti, Toffee and toothpaste, cheese and chocolate. Orange juice from last year, radishes just dug up, grapes from under the fridge: the taste in my mouth after you kissed me.
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Daniell e Fote
Beautiful Swamp Creatures: How Girls are Embracing Their Grossness By Shana Blatt
Places on the Internet reserved for females overflow with self-
focused positivity. Someone’s healing process can involve a reliance on a quasi-private yet wholly-public cyberspace. When people feel down, they turn to the internet—they scream into the void, they breathe, they feel better. Within this void are pockets of intense love and unconditional acceptance, specifically for girls struggling with body image. And now, instead of girls trying to prove to themselves that they are beautiful (whatever that means), they create new concepts of self. This movement is rooted in the rejection of traditional beauty concepts. Aside from the rigid standards plaguing Western society, there is no objective definition of “beauty.” Women whose perceptions of beauty are based on outside observers remain stuck in a limbo. How do we define ourselves if not by our beauty? How do we quantify our worth, if any, besides an appearance-based scale of one to ten? The truth is, the idea of beauty is much flimsier than your selfconcept could ever be. Throw out the idea that beauty has to be beautiful. Without the cumbersome label, people can gain valuable insight into their own identities.
“The truth is, the idea of beauty is much flimsier than your self-concept could ever be. Throw out the idea that beauty has to be beautiful. Without the cumbersome label, people can gain valuable insight into their own identities”
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Once beauty isn’t an issue, we can be as ugly as we want. I see the concept of ugly the same way I see the concept of fat; both are just adjectives that people choose to identify with. More specifically, we are allowed to revel in the (seemingly) gross aspects of our bodies. I remember one summer night, sitting on my bedroom floor with my best friend. I was hunched over, and I saw folds of fat squished between my top and my shorts. Instead of moving to make my stomach flatter, I admired the rolls. My midriff was damp with sweat, my hair was greasy. I looked up at my friend and said, “I’m totally, like, a fat lizard. I’m so swampy.” I was ecstatic with my words as soon as I said them. “Swampy!” I repeated. It was so perfect, so fitting for me. By some standards I was ugly, but surely I was worthy of other, more specific adjectives.
Although I’m okay with “ugly,” my new word and corresponding identity gave me a unique view of myself. Only by embracing my grossness did I discover this accurate concept of self. The sense of liberation that comes with creating your own identity is unreal. You feel responsible for your own worth, your own sense of self. You do not have to shove yourself into a mold of “beauty,” or some preconceived descriptor. Grossness doesn’t always have to factor into this liberation, but it comes with the rejection of beauty—we sweat, we spit, we bleed, and yeah, it’s gross, but it’s who we are (and it’s awesome and honest). I have two celestiallooking friends who take Snapchat videos of themselves spitting, streams flowing from their lips, smiling. I want to call it beautiful, and now I can. We took beauty, ripped it up, turned it inside out, and now we’re beautiful in our own ways. Now we’re the ones manipulating beauty, and we have control.
italics mine 12 “Daphne”
A Reminder That We Were Here (an excerpt) By Bridget Dease
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February 1993 Flies. Flies were everywhere. The house was a damn mess. Nothing but a ramshackle of broken promises and secrets struggling to stay hidden within the peeling wallpaper. The kitchen was littered with silverware. The windows were cracked, dirt embedded in the corners of every wall. The curtains and tablecloths were ripped and unsuccessfully patched with plastic bags. Shit was strewn all over the walls of the bathroom and clumps of coily black hair freshly ripped from a scalp seeped into the soggy wooden floor. Terrence ran through the kitchen, past the bathroom and down the basement stairs. Krik, krack, krik, krack. He had no place to hide. He backed into a wall, tiny pieces of broken glass crunching under his shoes. A trickle of sweat dripped down his forehead, over the gash on his eyebrow and into a bloodshot left eye. He winced as it stung and the tears that rested on his eyes began to flow. His wife, Aja, wearing black leather gloves, walked down the stairs, laughing a deep, throaty laugh. She had a gun in one hand, waving it around carelessly, and a small compact mirror in the other. In the mirror, she stared at her left eye; an eye as gray as misted clouds lulling back and forth as if the socket was a built-in rocking chair.
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Terrence began to cry. “Don’t start crying now. Why is it that you men always cry when it’s convenient for you? You don’t think I feel like crying? With an eye looking like this? With a man like you? You wasn’t doing all that crying yesterday. You wasn’t doing all that crying when you was shacked up with that blonde bitch. How long has it been, Terrence? How long have you been keeping this from me? Thought I wouldn’t find out, huh? You was a grown man then, you can be a grown man now.” Aja looked him in the eyes, and walked towards him, pressing the gun against his temple. Her brows were furrowed. “You been smoking?” she asked. “I stopped that a long time ago, remember?” Terrence’s brown, bloodshot eyes were darting around the room so quickly it was a wonder the tears did not spill out. “You smell like you’re lying.” “Don’t do this, baby. I know I ain’t perfect, but please. I want another chance. I want another chance to show you…I’ll be who I say I’ll be. From now on, you got me.” “I don’t got you! I never had you. All I got is a coward. The same lying fool you always been. People like you take what you want and then leave,” Aja said, wiping a tear away from her eye. “It don’t have to be like that no more. I can fix it,” Terrence said. The small inkling of hope in his eyes faded away; only fear was there now. “No, you can’t. You can’t fix nothing.”
“I’m only asking for one more chance, baby. One more.” “That’s one too many. You done took what you wanted from me and you gave it to some other woman. I’m not letting you leave. It’s my turn to talk. Let me ask you something: did she make you happy? Did you love her? Did you like fucking her more than you liked fucking me? Did you like fucking me at all?” Aja asked. She backed away from Terrence, clutched the gun, pulled the trigger, and shot him in the knee. His screech was so loud it could have summoned the devil. “You trying to kill me, is that it? You trying to kill me! After everything I’ve done for you, you want to kill me.” Terrence said, spit dribbling out of his mouth as he clenched his jaw. “I ain’t killing you Terrence. I love you… you just killing yourself.” “Why you doing this? After all I’ve done for you,” he said. Aja walked back up to him and blew in his ear, giving him a light, soft kiss on the side of his nose. “You ain’t done nothing for me but put me through hell. Only a fool puts up with fools like you.” Terrence looked down at his knee and shook in pain. There was so much blood. “I ain’t want you to find out this way, baby!” Aja stomped down hard on the concrete. “Stop calling me baby! I’m not your damn baby. I’m a grown ass woman!” “I was going to stop. She didn’t mean nothing to me. You are my everything.
“A trickle of sweat dripped down his forehead, over the gash on his eyebrow and into a bloodshot left eye.”
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You’ve always been my everything.” “So is that why you brought her here and fucked her? In my house? In my bed?” “I swear it didn’t mean nothing.” “Bullshit.” Aja shot at him again, only this time the bullet ricocheted off the wall and hit a big brown trunk nearby. “You know what?” Terrence asked. “You always gonna be that scared little girl that I met all them years ago! That gun makes you feel big, don’t it? You always gonna be scared. Ain’t nothing in the world gonna stop you from that.” Aja started to laugh. “Bold…aren’t you? You know, maybe I want to be scared. Maybe that’s all I got going for me.” “Don’t let your imagination get the best of you, baby girl,” Terrence said. “What imagination? Did I imagine you doing the things you do? Did I imagine you hiding that bitch from me like she was some kind of treasure? I love you,” Aja said. “I thought I was your treasure.” “I ain’t never said you weren’t, but you’re still scared. Scared to lose me…scared to hold me…you’re even scared to love me. And there ain’t no escaping fear. You can dream about it all you want, but nothing is
gonna take you away from it. You hear me? Nothing,” he said, spit flying out of his mouth. “You just gotta face it.” Aja nodded her head and backed away from Terrence again, throwing the compact mirror off to the side. Her feet were firmly planted on the cold concrete ground below. “Not today,” she said. She shot him; once in the heart, twice in the head.
“Pink Lady ”
Emily Acqu is
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
I wanted to explore the theme of “the world in just one eye,” which is the title of my first chapter. I was inspired by an Alice Walker piece I read in my U.S. Short Story class entitled Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self. In this story, the protagonist (Walker herself) has to come to terms with her appearance (a blind and deformed eye), and through this journey of self-discovery, she learns the importance of the acceptance of oneself. In my story, my central character’s outward appearance is secondary to what she feels inside. The story is not about her deformed, lulling eye, but instead explores what happens when one becomes so overwhelmed that they themselves become an act of impulsivity. The world in just one eye (both the chapter and the phrase) signifies the idea that there’s always something you can’t see, as if you only have one eye. Either you can’t see it or it’s being hidden from you because the power that you find within that lack of sight will make someone else weaker. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
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A Reminder That We Were Here began as a piece of micro-fiction. The part featured in this issue of Italics Mine was all that existed up until the summer of 2015. I felt that there was more to my central character’s story than just the killing of her husband, so I added more...and more... At the moment, this budding novella is currently twenty-five pages which bounces around in time over the span of several years. I wanted my characters not only to feel pain, but to embody the idea of pain itself. In a piece of micro-fiction, the “pain” would have been very brief. Pain is often a very long and strenuous process, so the decision to extend this story was definitely inspired by pain’s longevity. What excites you about the artistic process?
Having the chance to explore themes that I wouldn’t normally face in real life is probably the most exciting part of the artistic process. The characters I create often possess some of the characteristics I don’t have and lack the ones I do have. I’m always interested in writing about things that make me feel uneasy or uncomfortable because that is when I feel the most cathartic. It’s almost as if I’ve released a small burden from my body and thrust it onto my characters, which is really mean and inconsiderate now that I think about it. They’re people too.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
So you wanna know my most embarrassing habit as a writer, huh? Well, there’s a couple. I’m usually very embarrassed when I’m asked, “what is your piece about?” and all I can start off with is, “oh it’s about this girl...” It’s so frustrating because ten times out of ten, the story isn’t just about some girl. The longer, more articulate answer is always on the tip of my tongue, but I get nervous. Also, as a writer, I talk to myself a lot...there’s no real explanation for that...I will say though, when you’re a writer and you’re stuck in another world, it’s sometimes hard to get yourself back to reality.
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Annihilation By Ansel Shipley
Jeff VanderMeer’s novel Annihilation is set in a world apart from
ours, while still being uncomfortably familiar. Nature has reclaimed the setting in Annihilation, Area WX, by force. Like the novel itself, Area X is an insidious and untrustworthy place, full of twists and turns and an overwhelming sense of wrongness. This twisted sanctuary “has been abandoned for decades, for reasons that are not easy to relate.” This deeply unsettling novel lures you in like the dark wilderness of its setting; you need your questions answered but you know the answers will frighten you. Annihilation eludes categorization. It embraces a myriad of genres, drawing inspiration from science fiction and horror while remaining under the umbrella of “literary fiction.” This crossgenre style is often called “weird fiction.” VanderMeer plays with the Lovecraftian idea of cosmic horror by substituting the natural world in place of the universe. The core sense of humanity’s ultimate insignificance and powerlessness remains. VanderMeer’s interest in fungi and parasitic organisms is reminiscent of the film maker David Cronenberg’s body horror. As the characters are picked off, Area X begins to reclaim them, and the descriptions are decidedly unnerving. The “biologist” character describes it as
expedition is surprised by the tunnel. The biologist believes that the reason they knew nothing of the tunnel has more to do with information being withheld than the tunnel being a new appearance. VanderMeer establishes a lush and vibrant wilderness within Area X. His descriptions of the flora and fauna are both rich and understated; “velvet ants and tiny emerald beetles” crawl across the trees, the biologist watches a “tiny redand-green tree frog” and an “iridescent black damselfly.” The floor of the tunnel is littered with “embalmed husks of insects” and “dimly sparkling green vines.” The nebulous nature of Area X, its borders and the strange natural laws, create a cognitive dissonance for the reader. The descriptions never settle on
actual explanations, always hovering in the uncanny valley. This uncertainty is one of the main things that make Annihilation so
“While many science fiction and horror novels devote much of their time to establishing the setting and creating questions to later answer, VanderMeer lets Annihilation develop organically.”
“spilling out from her jaw, which looked as though someone had wrenched it open in a single act of brutality, was a torrent of green ash that sat on her chest in a mound.” These images of plant growth as violent attacks, merging the human body with nature, appear throughout the novel. There are also unsettling depictions of the animals within Area X. The biologist sees a dolphin with what appear to be human eyes, eyes that she finds uncomfortably familiar. Annihilation follows four women, members of the twelfth expedition sent to explore Area X. Each of the women serve a specific purpose: a biologist, a psychologist, a surveyor and an anthropologist. Told from the biologist’s perspective, the narrative moves between present horror and past trauma, slowly revealing the narrator’s history and motives. Even the motives she supplies cannot be fully trusted, after all “nothing that lived and breathed was truly objective,” and it is clear that Area X is warping the narrator as the story progresses. None of the characters names are ever given and only a few pages into the novel does the biologist state that “I would tell you the names of the other three, if it mattered, but only the surveyor would last more than the next day or two.” Within Area X sits two landmarks; a tunnel made of coquina and stone, and an ancient lighthouse. The lighthouse has been a fixture in the past expedition member’s journals but the twelfth
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engaging. While many science fiction and horror novels devote much of their time to establishing the setting and creating questions to later answer, VanderMeer lets Annihilation develop organically. Annihilation grows like a tree, sprawling between the present and the past, encompassing past conflicts and immediate horror. The pacing of the novel is slow in a deeply disconcerting way, its narrative creeps to a conclusion creating more tension the longer it draws out. Annihilation is the first novel in VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilog y, but it works well as a stand-alone novel. The biologist’s story concludes with the end of the novel but the questions left unanswered leave you wanting more. After finishing Annihilation you would be hard pressed to resist immediately starting its sequel Authority: Area X. It will have you under its control and nothing will quell your need for more.
S a r z e” ah bro
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italics mine 22 “The Garden Wall”
Daniell e Foti
In the Mire BY I A N PUCK ET T
There’s a constant cold chill – With no breaking stone or lee – That cuts through to distill, Purify, and remind me. It raises the hair and the skin, Little peaks, a vesicle, a roiling; Minutiae of evidence to life. A person with personalities rife, Enduringly prolapsing, toiling in,
Trekking in, and mucking up the mires.
A thing that roams and tires,
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
It’s going to sound cliche, but I was inspired by a bizarre out-of-body experience that I had this winter. I saw myself somewhere else, as something else. My breath would catch whenever I thought about it, so I had to write it down. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
When I write a new piece, it usually just spills out. Of course, I go back and read them as I write new things or when I’m bored. If something seems finished then I leave it alone, if I think I can eek out more detail without clouding or changing my objective then I’ll make an edit. What excites you about the artistic process?
I always feel a bit more complete when I finish writing something. What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer? italics mine
I try way too hard.
Fruitless Grove BY JA MES SIEGEL
Self-deprecating existence burns slow like an abandoned cigarette before being stomped under heel. I know I was born for these times. Unlike a handful of artists, I know
Complete addiction feels like this, ambulating through an endless row of vines and trees and bushes with not a single sweet thing to pluck until you beg for a filthy image you already tasted long ago. Don’t remind me that my tongue can even begin to taste sweetness. Moribund verdure deliquesces abstemiously into germination
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I’m a product (of my generation).
where seraphs shatter upon the poetic crux. A frigid boon, negligent abuse, chastity and astrology implode. Famished corpses feed the Earth. What a glorious accomplishment.
italics mine 26 “Working Ov er
Nna ndi C asonTimes Square”
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
I was never a fan of the ars poetica type of poem about poetry until I read “Of Modern Poetry” by Wallace Stevens, which quickly became one of my favorite pieces. Learning about that piece lead me to write some lines about poetry from my point of view, which served as the basis for my own ars poetica, “Fruitless Grove.” Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
It began with a few random lines concerning the nature of poetry. That led to the titular image, a fruitless grove, which serves as a metaphor for writer’s block. Once that concept was in mind the piece began to take shape, though I did spend many months adding and removing couplets until I felt every couplet was relevant to the theme of writer’s block. What excites you about the artistic process? italics mine 27
Seeing a memory or feeling captured on the page. Writing can be therapeutic, and the foundation of my poetry comes from stray thoughts that I can’t seem to shake until I do something artistic with them, usually through music or poetry. It can be a very stressful process translating a hint of a feeling or a shred of a memory into a relatable piece, but once I feel I have truly trapped the essence of that emotion or moment then I can move past it. Then whenever those thoughts pop into my head I think back to the piece I made that addressed it and take comfort in the work. But nothing is more relieving than the initial moment when I see that that feeling or moment I have been grappling with captured in a tangible form.
The Crosswalk Game By Erik Goetz
Daisy couldn’t stop touching her forehead.
She compulsively tracked the development of every bruise. Depending on her fluctuating inclination to shame Rob, she would at times cheer on and, pressing a fingernail into it, encourage a subdural hemorrhaging which expressed the complete circulatory rainbow. Other times, like the night before her interview at Red Lobster, she would attack the bruising with an arsenal of compresses and increasingly-not-quite-pale-enough concealer. No work tomorrow. None the day after. No job since he’d driven past Arby’s and seen her outside enjoying a smoke break with Cory. He’d take care of her few bills and she’d have eight hours a day to spend reading on the couch and smoking on the roof. A tolerable gig profiling local hard-rock bands for the faux-homegrown web-tentacle of a radio conglomerate had also ended abruptly when Rob saw that she’d accepted a friend request from the lead singer of Bitchdozer and smashed her laptop through the TV. She wanted a dog, but Rob, a militant vegan, saw no distinction between pet ownership and slavery. Bubbling beneath the diatribes on “human domestication under consumerism” and “Speciesism” was his sweaty, omnipresent fear of competition for her
teen missed calls. Even. She turned right on Henry Street, past the church where her grandmother used to work part-time as a cleaning lady. On weekends, she and Tim would get dragged along, playing hide and seek in the rectory, giggling at the blood and nudity in the stained-glass Stations of the Cross, and marveling at the concussive resonance of a bible being slammed shut on the altar. She had a fond memory of eating McDonald’s in the pew that had a little plaque dedicated to the memory of her Grandfather, while up in the balcony, Mrs. Curley taught Tim how to play the hook from “Jump” on the pipe organ. *** Daisy. Gary thought he saw Daisy through the fogged crystal, the refracting riverside air of the darkening city. Her glasses were at the end of her nose. The motion of her head, when it tilted back to correct them, was really flattering. She probably had no idea. That was a thing the old Gary would have said to someone else while she was in the bathroom. He definitely never told her. Her new boyfriend, the sad punk relic with ear gauges whose name he could never remember ( Jim? Chris?) probably worshipped her. He probably told her things like that all the time. “I think that’s Daisy Hezonja,” he said. “Really? No, everyone looks like Daisy Hezonja nowadays.” Donna cupped and un-cupped her hands around a cigarette, jutted her lower lip. The smoke rose at a
attention. She thought of his jealousy and wanted to Proust up in the darkest corner of the attic. She thought of life without it and wanted to Woolf herself in the Susquehanna. At the next intersection she pulled out her cracked, dimly flickering phone. Twelve missed calls from Rob and one from her mother. Thirteen. Prime Number. Straight. This was a variation on an old game she and her brother Tim had made up as kids wandering around the South Side while their mom came down from a bender. Rock paper scissors at every intersection. If she won, they’d go right, if he won they’d go left, a tie and they’d go straight. Straight down Water Street. She’d gotten so used to trying to remember the last time she saw her mother, it felt strange to immediately be able to recall last Thanksgiving, her mom sobbing into the hem of her sweatshirt in front of Rob’s horrified family. Daisy’s step-father Kenny sitting stone-faced with her half-brother Kendall on the enclosed front porch all through dinner, smoking silently over the case of beer they’d brought just for themselves. Later that night, after Kenny and Kendall passed out in their truck and everyone else was asleep upstairs, she and her mom watched the old Cher movie “Chastity” on premium cable and ate leftover mashed potatoes. She’d been growing out her bangs since then, and was thankful now for their utility as a veil. She came to another intersection. Four-
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sharp angle away from her heavy-lidded eyes. She remembered meeting Daisy at school, way before Gary started coming around. Back when Daisy was dating the stuttering redhead with bedbugs and living at “Slime House,” where all the lanky slouching comp lit babies hung around and played at being failed grown-ups. It was a nice place to sit and drink on the porch, but Donna lived across town at the comparatively ritzy “Womansion” which had cable and carpeting and hosted drum circles, poetry slams, and potlucks. ”What happened to you guys?” “I broke her heart.” Gary was distracted, mentally preparing a greeting, and his mouth was drooling schmaltz. He had, of course, broken her heart, but having never experienced heartbreak himself and having been a twenty year old male, he overestimated both the destruction he’d wrought and her inclination to forgive him. After graduation and the end of his post-Daisy relationship, he’d attempted to reconnect with no success. He heard from some mutual acquaintances that she was working at a hip non-profit publishing house in San Francisco and his ego began the process of victimization-transference. Now a “damaged, wizened” twenty-three year old, he was “doomed” to long for reconciliation with “the love of his life,” that his “past self” had so callously abandoned. He passed Daisy a few years earlier on a chilly night in the Castro when he was walking with his friend Patrick. She was
arm in arm with a small bearded man, whose reaction to her smiling acknowledgement of Gary was a measuring rictus, impatient to begin an interrogation out of earshot. Daisy’s happy hello was alternately interpreted by Gary as being victorious in love or mistakenly congratulatory of his flowering homosexuality. Now, six years after the breakup, with both of them back in town, fantasies danced in his head of subtly impressing her with his emotional development over drinks at the old spot. He’d obviously have to weigh the risk-reward of ending things with Donna. “Why’d you do that?” Donna asked with mild interest. She saw her now, and was pretty sure Daisy had seen them too. Donna watched as she smirked, pawed at her bleached blonde bangs, swung her head around, jammed both hands in the pockets of her hoodie, and walked west, away from them. “That’s what twenty year-olds do,” Gary said, following Daisy’s retreat with a grimace. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she stifled a yawn and coughed, sneaking a look at his drooping profile. She glanced up at the circular belfry window of the church on the corner just as the light popped on, momentarily upsetting a pair of pigeons. “I’m really tired. Not sure I can stay awake for drinks. Good night Gary.” She gave him a quick hug and crossed the street, heading east.
*** Passing the courthouse, Daisy looked back at Gary, who was watching Donna’s retreating back and scratching his bald spot. Always the oblivious cartoon. She used to find his predictability charming. She looked at her phone. Still fourteen missed calls. Still even. Had Rob given up? She was about to make a right onto State Street, back toward the house, when she noticed crowds milling around a couple blocks down to her left. It was First Friday. The art galleries down there would be full of insurance salesmen lingering a
few dutiful, squinting seconds before an exposed brick wall covered in matted black and white photos of driftwood and dreamcatchers. Free boxed wine and three-hundred-dollar senior-thesis finger-paint renderings of corporate malfeasance. She used to go there in high school just to sit
“Laughing at everything and nothing, tolerating one another only to the extent that they provide a context for their own preening. A tumbling bundle of wandering eyes tied together by their tongues.”
on the curb. What travel guides now call people-watching. Tim and his friends would be there to antagonize and be seen, but she would just sit demurely in their midst, soaking up the atmosphere, wincing and giggling at the stiff formality of the enlightened beings losing themselves in the throes of intellectual stimulation. She particularly enjoyed the roving bands of male post-collegiates, each there to flaunt their worldly openness and hunt the mythical dream girl who’d pull them through the looking glass into a world where their current behavior could someday be excused as a means to an end. Laughing at everything and nothing, tolerating one another only to the extent that they provide a context for their own preening. A tumbling bundle of wandering eyes tied together by their tongues. Why couldn’t she have just sat there forever? Why did her own little troupe have to disperse? Before she could formulate an eloquent appeal, a blood sacrifice to the god of teenage impermanence, Tim was in jail and she was in college, swept up in Gary’s vortex of recycled laughter and garbage conversationalism. *** She walked through the little street carnival set up in the middle of “Gallery Row,” navigating a gauntlet of vendors, dabbing an index finger into the mounds of powdered sugar atop her frisbee of fried dough. She avoided the galleries, but from
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the maze of tents and trucks, she’d gotten a palm reading (short, shitty life, duh), a tarot card reading (long life of love and lemon meringue pie, fuck you), and won a giant stuffed Australian Shepherd by spraying a water pistol into the mouth of an unsettlingly excited plastic circus clown faster than a bunch of kids who’d clearly never fired a gun before. At the end of the block, in the middle of a blocked off intersection, was a big Ferris Wheel, its rusty cages screeching insanely as they swung back and forth. She knew the operator, a high-strung junkie named Britt who’d made it through two shifts at Arby’s before locking himself in the women’s room and torching his uniform in the sink. He gave her a nod of recognition and she and her Australian Shepherd hopped past, free of charge. The Ferris Wheel brought her slowly above the roof of the Burger King-turnedgay bar-turned-reggae club-turned-vacant building just as the sun began to set over the rooftop patio of the Double Tree Inn. She could see there, a block away, silhouetted against the hazy swirl of sunlight and steam rising from the dry-cleaning plant across the river, Rob’s 8mm silver flesh-tunnel earlobe gauges glinting distinctively in the fading dusk as he stepped to the edge. *** Rob could feel the seven story drop-off through the soles of his vegan Doc Martens. He stepped back onto the loose gravel
covering the roof, trembling, and sat in the cast-iron patio chair he’d dragged over from the tiki bar. Cliff jumping into the reservoir every summer had made him intimate with the horrifying moment between the decision to jump and the jump itself. The danger was never in the jump, but in the hesitation. If you hesitated, and didn’t get enough force to send you over the big birch log rising out of the shallows, you were done for. He gained mild comfort in the clear delineation now between jumping and not. The parking lot would scatter his skeleton in five different directions whether or not he hesitated. He had only to cross that one
“Their unspoken, paralyzing fear of return-less points, pointless returns, their coy acceptance of a fingerpointing parasitism.“ terminal angle of incline. Thinking of the reservoir brought to mind the giant blue spider he’d seen the previous summer in a little rock crevice a foot or so above the water line. He remembered swimming away in a wide, horrified circle, imagining a casual grasp at the rock, the stab of the fangs entering the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, his hand instantly swelling up, his delirious
phone fell away, bounced off her shoulder, smashed on the asphalt, and she raised the giant stuffed Australian Shepherd sky-ward and Rob-ward as he crashed down onto them. *** Daisy’s fury drowned, gurgling in the warm water of a breathless, hysterical laughing fit. Spilling hydrogen peroxide all over Rob’s cargo shorts, she slammed the brown plastic bottle on the table and rolled melodramatically to the floor. “Fuck you Daisy, stop laughing, it really hurts, I’m gonna need stitches.” He grimaced, dabbing a q-tip at the long, angry gash running the length of his thumb. He fumbled with the roll of white gauze, his anger ricocheting like a pinball, seeking release from the little tin box of his humiliation. “I really need your help with this.” Flat on her back, the laughs were coming out in long, drawn-out moans, and her deep set eyes filled with water faster than she could wipe it away with the cuff of her sweater. “You’re just so… so… you thought you were so cool ahhhh,” she screamed, the laughs redoubled. They had been sitting on the porch. Daisy doing a crossword while Rob ate an apple in that weird, old-time Hollywood-street-tough way, pulling the knife back against his thumb and popping the sliced-off chunk into his mouth. That night, as they cuddled on the couch, she watched their disjointed re-
shouts stirring a pissed-off Daisy, fully-clothed and reading Faulkner in the shade, and the long desperate hike back to the Volvo. He looked at his phone. She still hadn’t called him. What dark-matter/ether/dimensional-vortex lay between his “good riddance,” her “this is eminently avoidable,” his “I know,” his “but…” her “but nothing?” The invisible spaces between everything they said. The illusory snapshot-oases of action which they supposed could flash-collapse everything into a slick, eloquent, well-written singularity. Their unspoken, paralyzing fear of return-less points, pointless returns, their coy acceptance of a finger-pointing parasitism. A mutually assured conviction that some comforting presence was hovering in the cobwebs above the ceiling fan, disabusing them both of a sense of something better. He threw his phone underhand and it chirped in disbelief, sailing a looping arc over the edge of the roof. His brain immediately registered the sound of Daisy’s assigned ringtone (“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship) and he stretched fullout after it. His boots slipped in the gravel, his wallet chain caught in the twisting lattice of the patio chair, and the three went over together: phone, chair, and Rob. “Hello?!” he screamed into his phone through the rushing air. “Rob what are you doing?” Daisy demanded in the last breath before her
flections in the cracked black mosaic of the ruined flat-screen and wondered with something approaching guilt if sheâ€™d telepathically compelled Rob to cut himself. She looked at their dog, lying in a basket by the radiator, pointed a rigid index finger and silently commanded him to levitate.
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r” t a R i ve p l e Mu s c r u a “P e l se
SURFACE TENSION BY K Y R A BET HEIL
Every once in a while the universe sends you lemon drops sparkling like solar rays, reflector dew drops of honey fighting gravity recoiling into amber waves, shock and combust run the fuck amuck, italics mineâ€ƒ
Forsythia busting Fading into Daffodils
Along Summer sidewalk baked
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P ol ” a ke ian “Aw x i m i l l Ma
A Tired Man Falls Asleep By Kyle Noguera
AWAKEN.The man sees a field. Green grass waves
gently in the wind as the blue sky melts with the glowing sun. Why is the man here? He knows what he has done, yet tries to sleep soundly anyway. AWAKEN. The man blinks and the field is gone. The man is now outside a bowling alley. The air is cold, and the building is empty. The streets are dark, save a single yellow light that shines in the murky black. The sign out front reads “Lucky Loo’s.” The man starts to panic. He can’t be back here, not where he left him. He blinks once, twice, three times, the green fields are coming back. He can almost hear the birds chirp and the grass rustle. He can almost taste the fresh air. He can almost lose himself again. AWAKEN. Tears have formed in his eyes. The green keeps fading, no matter how many times he blinks; the beautiful day is lost to that one, unavoidable night. How could he have thought he wouldn’t care about his son anymore? The night is back, stronger now. He turns around and runs away. The sounds of heavy footsteps fall around him, like stones falling off the cliff side to rocks below. He tries to duck and weave away from the noise and the memories, but the anxiety has set in. The son probably hates the
thunders and echoes in the darkness, resonating with the hollowness of the streets. He calls for his son, begs for his forgiveness. The man pleads with his own, empty soul. The boy doesn’t answer for a long time. The man’s eyes feel heavy. It feels like an eternity. He feels years pile onto him like heavy blankets as he waits. His beard
“How could I give you back your heart, when you never even had one to begin with?”
grows, then grays. His eyes grow milky. His knees grow weak. His throat becomes parched, his stomach feels acidic. Brainwaves halt, scatter, relinquish their order and repeat. Finally, before the man can stand it no longer, the boy looks up. He hasn’t aged a day. He looks into the man’s eyes and speaks. “How could I give you back your heart, when you never even had one to begin with?” AWAKEN. The man shoots out of his bed. He falls to the ground shaking. He gasps for air as he recovers. Hesitantly, he looks out his window. The sky is alive and beautiful. The grass sways in the breeze. The man slowly gets up and goes to the bathroom. The mirror sneers at him, informing him of his old age. His beard is silver, his joints are aged, and his eyes are dull. He shuffles back to bed. As he lays down, he thinks of his son whom he left, never to see again. The old man weeps softly into his pillow as he falls back to sleep. AWAKEN. But he couldn’t. AWAKEN. But he didn’t. AWAKEN. No more.
man. The man is turned around, spinning again and again, manages to huff and puff his way back to the bowling alley. The man stops to rest, his hot breath pants out of his lungs, vapor leaving his body. AWAKEN. He looks up and sees the boy. He’s barely 16. He doesn’t look up from the ground as the tears stream from his face. A small puddle has formed around him. The man screams and tries to run away, but his body refuses. The man wasn’t ready to care for him, or at least that’s what he tells himself. AWAKEN. His mind tries to flee but his eyes are stuck on the boy. AWAKEN. The boy’s cries are passionate and painful, the sound of a wounded animal backed into a corner. The man feels his tears stream across his face. AWAKEN. AWAKEN. AWAKEN. He cannot take it anymore. The man screams, roars to the boy that he is sorry. His voice
The Pressure to Have Fun is Killing Me BY ER IC A LU BM A N
There’s a home video where everyone is talking and laughing. I am wearing nothing but the underwear I used to complain didn’t fit right. The lighting accentuates my nose and roots growing in like rusty pans in the family garden.
Their voices sound like television static, so the only audible words are my name. It’s cold gravel beneath my feet, then cigar smoke everywhere else.
My friends are making comments that sound like they are inches from my ear but no one will come up to me. Good one, guys. I swear, they want me to relax. They want me to join in and have a good time and stop trying to separate myself. But when I laugh, they’re silent. And when I ask them to change the subject, they don’t know what I’m talking about and I don’t know what I’m talking about and then it doesn’t matter because someone else said something funnier and
the rewind button doesn’t work on my remote. It is my least favorite home video. I see it playing on every channel. This is the local news and my 8th grade diary. This is the first time I got high with my friend and threw up on her bed. This is my first time being naked with a boy. This is that anxiety at the request to “be chill” when it feels like I am made of paper and VHS footage and everyone has a permanent marker.
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“Creepy Ca ke De signs by Dad”
Vict or ia O tt
ATTN: Spotted Queer Kid In Aisle 7 By Kenneth Miller
or as long as I can remember, Michael’s was the one destination where I felt comfortable exploring creativity. As the son to an unchecked, sprucely crafty mother, our errand excursions often left us at discount fabric shops perusing through layers of silks, searching for patterns with defined paisleys. Inside, congregating older women of various backgrounds altered the landscape by importunely whipping out their crafting tools and continuing work on their developing projects without inklings of shame or embarrassment. I’d frequently get separated from my mother in the hour-long lapses of time we spent within the store’s moldy, congested four walls. Occasionally we would reunite, and my mother would find me sporting a finished craft, in-hand, thanks to the gentle instruction and assistance of the store’s wackily commonplace vagabonds. These crafting overlords, who never feared opening products without buying them or desired compensation after teaching me methods of crafting, encouraged unruly acts while promoting a sense of public unapologetic artistic endeavor. Their kindness, unprecedented; their unbridled spirits, even more so.
embrace now) or pointed out that I have a whiny, rather atypically effeminate voice. They wanted to craft. And that was the only shared characteristic I needed in a friend group. “Where I’m from, people don’t have anxieties,” Marcello reiterated for a second time as we waited on our table at Serendipities to be cleared. “People have pregnancies and STDs they never wanted. That’s some American bullshit, if you ask me.” No one asked him, but being from Brazil, my uncle’s partner always had something to say about the sweeping stupidity of Americans, which he felt, overloaded his life as a hairdresser on the Upper West Side. This time, the stupidity was surrounding the doctor who had diagnosed my wheezing existence with a mild anxiety disorder. Billy and Marcello had been together since I was born, and their relationship as Equinox-obsessed gays never seemed the slightest bit revolting to my adolescent eyes. This was mainly in part to the two’s commitment to never show affection to one another in public and my family’s refusal to recognize them as anything more than friends. But, they didn’t have to spill the tea for the memo to leak. Enter their Chelsea studio apartment and you’re welcomed with a barrage of rainbow flags and an altar to Cher. I don’t think as a 10-year-old I knew what sexuality was, but I knew Billy and Marcello were outside of the
Frolicking through the aisles of yarn and unpainted birdhouses struck me to stillness—these moments were highs induced by straining loose fabrics uninvitingly prompted into my mouth. When juxtaposed next to these stacks of Martha Stewart and Lion Brand collections of yarn, I felt limitless—a wildly free gay 10-year-old up to no good. Hello shoppers: Annoying and literally biting gaunt boy in aisle 7. Owner, where are you? This was a rare feeling. Being a lunchroom loner-type kid, I rarely felt moments of inclusion in public spaces. Ms. Fitzpatrick, my awfully proud IrishCatholic fifth grade teacher who dedicated her life to our school’s tattering parish, pulled my mother aside after a PTA meeting, insisting she help jolt me out of my shyness so the other boys would more actively welcome me into their circles. I hadn’t wanted to adjust socially, and my mother was aware of my indignant stance on forced mingling. Still, nothing made my mother – and consequentially myself – more upset than someone deeming me “shy” or “too quite.” These classifications, at least to single pubic haired, prepubescent Ken, meant he was unthinkably strange. Older women were different, though. Especially the ones at Michael’s. The gang of straggly women, who I very much considered to be my friends, never pushed me around and called me schoolyard names like “Faggot Trash” (a nickname I wholly
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term’s norm. And being that “If I Could Turn Back Time” was on every mixed tape I burned, I knew I probably fell outside of that norm’s perimeters too. The only person willing to appease my lawless pleas for pity was my brother, Tim. Nine-year-old Timothy Arthur (the retention of the middle name was purely aesthetical) looked like a younger Augustus Gloop and held an obsession with W WE Divas. When my suspicions concerning my uncles’ alleged deviant sexuality flooded my psyche, I poured all my ringing thoughts to my confused and adamantly defiant brother. He hadn’t believed me, and visibly became upset over the possibility of having an actively queer family member. If those angry weirdos we learned in scripture class were in our immediate family, what does that mean about us, in general? “No,” he firmly vouched. “He doesn’t kiss Marcello! They’re just roommates.” “They sleep in the same bed,” I reminded my brother as we sat outside their bustling corner bodega as our mother bought a pack of Marlboros 27s. “They’re totally gay!” He looked off disgruntledly, seemingly on the verge of tears, and turned away. Mom quickly returned to our sides and we trekked back over a few avenues to the one spot where we were able to find free parking on a Saturday, and loaded into our minivan. Tim remained silent for the trip home, speaking up only once, begging that
one of us upfront raise the volume to P!nk’s pointed middle finger 2001 hit “Don’t Let Me Get Me.” His swinging vocals drowned the thoughts tumbling through my mind. The questions were seated at the tip of my tongue, and I knew my mother had the answer. Is Billy gay? Does Billy really like kissing men? Do they have sex? How do two men have sex? Are they ever going to have children? Who makes the dinner? Nothing made sense. These questions were pointless without the guts to pose them formally. Every hope laid in the oblivious, yet always curious mind of Tim. He could ask, and with the right amount of persuasion, he would. The following morning I reviewed my game plan. Spit it out at the diner and let it swallow the fumes of charred pancakes and runny eggs — no one can ignore such a question when pitted among such welcoming aromas. A simple yes would ease my scattered psyche. I just needed to know these types of humans existed and, in fact, were able to live functioning, successful lives. When I stumbled my way downstairs to where my mother had been waiting, wrapped in a cheetah plush throw while sipping from her morning chocolate milk, the Staten Island Advance laid spread across our newly purchase HomeGoods coffee table. With the coupons already clipped, I knew we were headed to Michael’s. The diner plans with my mother’s work friends had been canceled,
and we were going to be stuck aimlessly shopping for the upcoming art projects she had yet to plan for her 6th grade students for the remainder of the day. The devised scheme to out my uncle had gone awry — fuck. Stress levels rise. You can ask her another time. Don’t sweat it. Stop sweating. Allude to the question casually as you part ways in the paint section. You might faint or poop your pants. Forget it. “Get your brother,” she commanded me while seamlessly applying mascara through a bronze mirrored tin. “He’s still asleep, but needs to come with us to get a new jock
strap. Lord knows he needs to try that on before I just assume his size incorrectly, again.” Golden. Like that, she came and peeled off all my anxieties like an orange. Just kidding! I was still dying. The identity of my uncle, at the time, felt like my own. If I could out him, he could potentially help me transform into a meaty, ultramasculine man worth fucking one day. He did it somehow; I saw the polaroid images of his scrawny physique from the early 1980s, sporting permed hair and ill-fitting
“If I could out him, he could potentially help me transform into a meat y, ultra-masculine man worth fucking one day.”
clothes. It was possible, and Tim was the only person seemingly capable of clearing those foggy waters of sexuality for both our mysterious uncle and myself. Do or die. He needed to ask; it was the only way. Entering Michael’s felt different that day; it was no longer a safer space. My elderly friends were all absent, and unfamiliar faces inhabited the aisles that once were exclusively sashayed through by our borough’s oldest and finest. Tim was aloof, and giddy over his newly attained protective cup that would keep his perpetually endangered balls safe during a dynamic game of soccer played out by dangerous, crotch-aiming fourth graders. We spoke about confronting our mother on Billy’s sexuality as we scrambled through Yankee jerseys in Dick’s Sporting Goods. He manifested his anger by throwing stacks of meticulously folded Jeter gear against the wall. “Can you stop with the gay stuff?” he angrily stated. “I don’t know why you care so much. He’s straight!” My constant bickering on the compulsory (and very urgent) outing of my uncle started to look obscene. I began questioning why I actually cared so much about Billy’s sexual preference and less about his actual character. It’s not like I fantasized about his shared intimate moments with Marcello or necessarily felt lied to over the secrecy of my uncle’s partnered life. There was just a zinging pull from the bottom of my aching spine
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needing to normalize an identity with a really real and present face. I slowly began removing myself from the cause, and imagined P!nk singing to me, “It’s bad when you annoy yourself so irritating / Don’t wanna be my friend no more / I wanna be somebody else.” P!nk wasn’t lying about the hate-me-love-me feels one gets when you’re gleaming, but 90210 fake façade is turned upside and thrown out the window. My mother had taken note of my rather stinky attitude and strenuously tried to brighten the mood with tempting, overthe-top crafting items including the latest Color Wonder Toolkit and a Toy Story Play-Doh Playset. I rejected the gifts with a simple swing of my head. Concerned and disoriented, my mother took to questioning Tim. Somewhere in between the makeshift toy section and the water fountain, she hounded him till he spoke. Refusing to speak until I showed face, Tim grasped onto my hand and spoke the unthinkable. “Mom,” he whimpered out. “Is Uncle Billy gay?” Reverting her eyes back to the racks of items for 60 percent off, she blankly stated, “Yes.” After taking a moment to readily organize her shopping cart stuffed with coloring books and cutout images of leprechauns, she bent down to our level to stare us deeply in the eyes, and said, “You can like whoever you want: a girl or a boy. Just make sure they always treat you and
your momma right.” Looking at my brother when she referred to the heterosexual pairing and at me when OK-ing the homo relationship, the exchange felt like the first of many indirect coming outs. At this point, my only queer experience occurred in a salient wet dream featuring my cousin’s boyfriend who attended The New School and sported a septum ring. It was hot, undeniably, and I loved the idea of being gripped tight and gently caressed by another man. Still, I wasn’t entirely sold on the queer lifestyle. I wanted to fit into the picture-perfect mold my surroundings dictated to be laced with thriving futures: three children, a home outside the city, a time-share in Florida, and a career with an extensive 401(k) plan. Getting with a man who studied sculpture, exclusively listened to post-punk bands, and enjoyed brunch spots with unlimited mimosas didn’t seem to be appearing within my expected future’s forecast. My mother always watched me, observed my liking of certain boys, and knew I was queer AF. It was all falling apart. Past five o’clock, cars crackled steadily down our quiet neighborhood’s main road — housewives in Volvos and older couples in Saabs heading home. We remained silent on the way back. A car darted aside us, filled with electricity and pomp, terrifying the vagrants on the road and each hidden passenger in its path. I screamed, wild with pent-up anticipation and sugar from the Auntie Anne’s cinnamon pretzel I snagged
on our way out of Michael’s. “Shit,” my mother belted, extending her arms before me. “I hope we’ll be okay.” I kept thinking of the remark throughout the day. I hope we’ll be okay. There are a couple of ways you could put it. We were okay; no one was injured by the typically reckless driver. Sometimes you just keep thinking and thinking of a reason to justify someone’s wording and actions. It becomes understood, one day. And you will never think about it again.
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italics mine 48 “Progr es sion
Sa m an th a Crof Thought” ohn
Nadir BY JA MES SIEGEL
Sometimes it’s good to have just nothing, no money, drugs, sex, food or happiness, just a pile of weak flesh and a few organs with a deep dread of all that has existed. But garbage is not sad in being unwanted so I see no reason for more tears tonight. We played footsies in the hot tub, aware I was in love with her sister.
for hours and when she asked me,
coyly, if she was pretty, I said no.
We took a handful of pink ecstasy and stumbled around town rolling
Maybe people like us, sad, eroded stray cats nervously skittering through evenings, don’t deserve the beauty and the light. Our inherent ugliness is defining us and karma eagerly aborts aspiration. Oh how I wish I was still seventeen, crying “Amy”, kissing Amy, crying. But garbage is not sad to be unloved so I see no need for emotion tonight.
italics mine 50 “A Look Through”
GIFT By Lauren D’errico CHARACTERS jay: a young 21, tries to act tough only for the sake of covering what is soft and scared underneath. jakob: 23 but looks much older, an air of real darkness and grit around him, wears an effortless scowl. A note to actors: jakob is less of a real person and more of an idea/feeling that has been conjured by JAY. Think about what this might look like on the stage. Do their bodies work together somehow? Do they move at the same time? Do they ever look at each other?
SCENE A movie theater, a nowhere town in Maine. A few rows of theater seats with ripping upholstery. The chairs face the audience, where the movie screen would be. There is a light source projecting the colors of the “screen” onto the chairs.
This theater does not have the high-class atmosphere that would be found in an AMC, but instead looks about as nothing as the town outside of it — it is such a rinky-dink place that it isn’t even worth comparing the two.
LIGHTS UP on JAY, who sits near the middle of the row, a bag of popcorn in his hands and a soda in his cup holder. He eats hungrily, the colors of the film illuminating his face. He is enthralled by the film. After maybe fifteen second of this, JAKOB enters the theater, not trying to be quiet. He sits a few seats away from JAY. He lights a cigarette and smokes, taking deep drags. The smoke mixes with the light from the screen, making it more visible as it hangs in the air. The stage grows smoky. They stay this way for a few moments.
JAKOB You mind if I smoke in here? JAY (nervously) Uh, actually I do. Could you take it outside? JAKOB What? JAY Um… No. I don’t mind. Silence as JAKOB continues to smoke. JAY turns around and stares at him, not trying to hide it. They stay this way for a few moments. italics mine
JAKOB Something you wanna say to me?
JAY (nervously) Actually, no, you can’t do that in here. JAKOB I’m sorry? JAY The cigarette? You can’t smoke it. Inside. It’s not, like, the nineteen-forties anymore. JAKOB Why not? JAY It’s the rules? I don’t know. They decided that no one would do it anymore. Only outside.
JAKOB Who are they? JAY I have no idea. Please, put it out. I’m trying to watch the movie.
A beat, and JAKOB continues to smoke. JAKOB
Do you always follow the rules? JAY What?
JAY I’m trying to watch the movie. I don’t want to talk. JAKOB When’s the last time you broke a rule? JAY I don’t know, okay? I’m sorry, but you don’t even know me.
JAY thinks about the question —why can’t he remember? Silence, this thinking lasts for around five seconds.
JAKOB/JAY There was one time. JAKOB Yeah?
JAKOB I bet you don’t smoke, but if you did... Say you wanted to light one up, right now. No one’s here. They don’t even have an usher. No one would know. (pause) I wouldn’t tell.
JAY It was when I was living in New Orleans with my mom. I don’t really like talking about it. JAKOB Come on. Just say it. It’s a story.
JAKOB stares at JAY intensely. JAY shrinks under his gaze. A moment, and then JAY takes a deep breath.
JAY My mom and I, we moved around a lot, but we stayed in New Orleans for almost four years… She used to say that the world gives us gifts each and every day. But we didn’t have much, didn’t really have anything at all… Only cold water a lot of the time, so it didn’t feel like I was getting any gifts. Everyone else was, but not me. And I wanted something, too. italics mine
JAKOB takes a long drag of his cigarette. Only smoke in the air for a moment, and then:
JAY I used to walk around in this little strip mall just to torture myself. And there was this game store. Like, video games? And I guess there was a new one because there were all these kids inside. Wall to wall, you know, all this happy yelling and excitement and all that. I just slipped right in, took one of the games off the shelf, and then left… No one even noticed. (pause) It was stupid because I didn’t even have the thing to play the game on because of course we couldn’t afford that either, it was too… It was just a disk. I don’t know. I wanted to be part of the fun. I don’t know. A long beat of uncomfortable silence as the film plays on. JAKOB continues smoking, but after a while, he takes the cigarette out from between his lips and carefully breaks it in half. He throws the pieces on the floor, snuffing out the lit side. JAY Thanks. For putting it out.
JAKOB No problem. Silence, this time more comfortable. Something has changed here. They try to focus on the movie. After a moment, JAKOB moves closer to JAY, taking the seat next to him. JAKOB (re: the movie) I have no idea what’s going on here. JAY Yeah, me neither. italics mine
JAKOB You wanna do something?
JAY Um… JAKOB We don’t have to go anywhere. We can stay right here. Don’t even have to leave your popcorn behind. (pointing at JAY’s cup) Can I get that?
JAKOB takes the cup before JAY can answer. He takes a long gulp of the drink before continuing.
JAKOB I want to say that I feel like I know you very well, Jay, and I want to say that I feel like there is something very important that we have to do. A job, you know what I’m talking about? (pause) No, I think it’s more like a gift. A gift from me to you.
JAY What are you talking about? What job? What gift? JAKOB Tell me, why didn’t you go to the theater in Harrison? A lot nicer than here. Floors are still sticky, but it’s a much better atmosphere. JAY No reason. JAKOB Nicer screen than this, too. I think they might even have surround sound.
JAY It’s cheaper. I’m not gonna pay like, almost twenty dollars for a movie. (pause) I like to get popcorn, for the experience. I can’t enjoy it knowing that I’ve spent so much cash on something that’s only going to last for a few hours. (pause) I like to be alone.
JAKOB So what you’re saying is that you’d rather be in a ratty ass theater? That here is where you belong? JAY No, that’s not what I’m saying, I’m— JAKOB Doesn’t that make you mad? JAY What? JAKOB (collecting himself, then:) Doesn’t it make you angry that you aren’t surrounded by beautiful things? I know that if I were you, that would make me mad — I’ve gotten used to it by now, but that’s only because I’ve only ever had one beautiful thing — my cat. She had these green eyes that just followed you around. She was my most favorite thing, my pet, and you know what happened? My brother’s dog killed her.
JAY Oh my god— JAKOB And know what I did? I got mad, that’s what I did. I got mad. I fucked him up. JAY Your brother, or his dog? JAKOB The dog! What did you think? The dog. I killed his dog. JAY That’s… italics mine
JAKOB Sometimes you get mad and you want to change your whole life, so you let yourself do just that. You don’t think about it. You just act.
A long silence between them, one that lasts for maybe ten seconds. JAY I think I might…go. I’m not really into the movie so much, anyway. JAY begins to rise, but JAKOB grabs his arm, stopping him. JAKOB Don’t leave. Just hear me out. (pause) Let’s fuck this place up. A heavy silence between them as JAY tries to figure out what the hell JAKOB is talking about. It only lasts for a moment.
JAKOB This place, it’s dirty and it’s soft. It’s not showy. No one wants to be here. It’s just like you. When you stole the game. Right now. You know that, right? JAY I don’t… I mean I never really thought— JAKOB (more forcefully) You know that, right?
A beat of silence. JAY thinks on this for a moment. JAY
I guess… I’m…soft… italics mine
JAKOB You didn’t like who you were then, did you?
JAY No. I didn’t. JAKOB And you don’t like who you are now. Silence, JAY not answering him and JAKOB not caring to wait for a response. JAKOB You can destroy that part of yourself. Right here, right now. JAY What do you want to do?
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Da niel le Fo tiad”
JAKOB looks around the space, as if trying to locate another place where he can cause mayhem.
JAKOB Slash the screen with that Swiss Army knife in your front pocket? Or maybe rip off the rest of these cheap chairs? Or maybe the floors…
A long silence between them. JAY is considering this…
JAKOB No one’s here to see you break the rules. I told you before that I wouldn’t tell. I don’t tell. JAY No, I can’t do this. I can’t. I’m sorry.
JAKOB If you leave, you’re gonna end up in places like this for the rest of your life. JAY
I don’t know, man… JAKOB Places that no one wants. And no one’s going to want to give you a gift then. No one’s gonna notice you’re gone. No one’s gonna care. JAY rises from his seat, and this time JAKOB does not stop him, suddenly enthralled by the film. JAY walks upstage, headed towards the imagined back exit of the theater, but stops, his back to the screen. They stay this way for about ten seconds.
Finally, JAY turns around, moving his body stiffly back towards JAKOB. He does not sit back down when he gets there, and JAKOB does not rise to meet him
JAY (not entirely sure) Yes. Okay. Yes. Let’s do this. JAKOB smiles, the first time that we have seen him smile on stage. It almost looks wrong on his face. He does not stop smiling.
JAKOB It’s easy. Watch.
JAKOB opens the lid of the cup and pours the dark liquid onto the theater floor as JAY watches. JAKOB italics mine
Now you. JAY
What… What do I do? JAKOB Do whatever you want to do. Aren’t you angry? JAY Um…
JAY looks around awkwardly, his gaze landing on the pop corn bag. He attempts to follow JAKOB’s lead: he picks up the bag and spills the popcorn on top of the soda. He looks to JAKOB for approval, who seems unimpressed. JAKOB
The stage goes black except for a tight, dim spotlight on JAY as he performs the following various acts of
vandalism. JAKOB is barely visibly in the darkness.
He starts slowly, looking around him for something to do. He takes the knife out of his pocket, and cuts a shaky “X” into his seat.
JAY I’m…mad… I’m angry… He runs the knife along the armrest of the chair. He kicks the back of the chair until there is a sound of breaking wood.
The sounds of the movie grow more intense as JAY moves onto the next chair — maybe it’s an action flick, but maybe it’s a comedy, and the happy, bouncing music of a montage is hitting the peak of its crescendo.
JAKOB (a disembodied voice) Slash the screen. Right now. Go!
JAY hastily climbs over the chairs in front of him, standing in front of the “screen” downstage as he mimes putting a long gash down the middle of it. As soon as he does this, the projection of the movie stops and the stage is silent.
The spotlight on JAY grows brighter, and JAKOB is still in the dark. JAY Shit! Someone was up there in the projection room. Shit! They totally saw me! JAKOB There’s only one way now. It has to be fast. Then we’ll get out of here.
As if he does not realize what he is doing, JAY produces a book of matches from his pocket. He looks down at them in his hands, surprised. JAY No, I can’t do that! I’m not burning this place down, I can’t do that, oh my god let me just think about— JAKOB I’ll do it, then.
The actors reset. When the LIGHTS RISE again, the scene is the same as it was at the top of the play: there is some audio cue of the film beginning again, and there is no popcorn or soda on the floor of the theater.
JAY reaches into his full bag of popcorn, eating it hungrily, absorbed in the movie. After a little while, JAKOB enters the theater, taking the same seat, a few away from JAY. He lights a cigarette. JAKOB You mind if I smoke in here? There is a long moment of silence between them. Only the sounds of the movie. JAY (nervously) Uh, actually I do. Could you take it outside?
The stage is still, and then in the darkness we see the flame from a single match in JAKOB’s hand. His face is illuminated by the flame for one moment before he drops it. The stage goes dark when the match hits the ground. italics mine
JAKOB Whatever, man. A moment, and then JAKOB rises suddenly, heading for the exit, still smoking. He leaves the theater, the stage.
JAY watches him go, watches the smoke as it slowly dissipates into the air. He turns back to the movie.
END OF PLAY
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A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
This piece came from a writing assignment in which actors were given a set of questions to answer in order to develop original characters for a short play. The biggest inspiration in writing this piece was to hear what these characters were saying but to not listen so exactly. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
After I read my character biographies a hundred times each, I decided that Jay and Jakob were at opposite ends of a similar spectrum, and I wanted to work with that idea. The movie theater worked as a setting because it is a space that always feels like it’s filled with weird energ y — watching people who don’t know you’re watching them and also being watched by someone else even when you are alone. What excites you about the artistic process?
The most exciting thing about dramatic writing for me is the fact that I feel like I don’t know anything about it. I’ve only just started writing plays and knowing that I’ve only just scratched the surface makes me a better writer. What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
I listen to the same weird songs over and over again as loud as they can go. At the end of last semester, I couldn’t stop listening to remixes of Christmas songs. Right now I’ve been listening to the same Irish fiddle song on repeat while I write everything.
Cancer BY PET ER H AY ES
We watched him change as the years went by, brunet to bald to blond and back. his eyes sank into dark pits, losing the light from their gaze, lively, then hollow. one bone failed him; that was all. italics mine
he’s lost, gone.
At the funeral, they cried for him. Who wouldn’t surrender to grief. but I sat detached, dry eyed. “Stoic,” they said, “hiding.” Family and friends could not see it. Nothing then or now. Why?
It may be the years of hateful stares, smacks, words that cursed me to this point where I cannot escape his cold cruel presence. call me shameful, ungrateful, wrong, fag.
the rest of the world will weep and say “he was a good one” I will know the real man. He showed me how to hate a person for who or what they are. Well I don’t hate him. He’s not worth it.
His empty eyes still abuse me,
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Reason #50 You Are Going to Heaven: BY F INOL A MCDONA L D
You told us last Sunday to be careful – olive branches could be set on fire, too. In drips of oil there is an upside-down galaxy, shuddering with the reverberations italics mine
of that voice. I couldn’t help but listen to self inflicted apologies when
it told me to just let go.
“Saint John’s Co-Cathedral”
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Cubic Zirconia By Olivia Behan
My mom and I never argued. We never fought. I was the good
kid; I was the angel baby. My sister and mom argued. They always fought. She was the bad kid, but calling her the “devil baby” may be too extreme a description; but they always had that relationship. They just never got along. In many ways, my sister and I were similar. We both had brown hair; Jenna having the darker shade, and I having the highlights. When we hit puberty, we were around the same height. We had the same nose, the same teeth, even the same habit of chewing on the inside of our cheeks, but perhaps that was just me copying her. But it was our differences – oh, our differences – which stood out. Physically, Jenna had brown eyes, and I had grey. Jenna had long, slender feet, and I had small, boxy ones. She had lengthy, piano-playing fingers, and I had long, old fashioned nails. Concerning our interests, she liked being outdoors with friends; I liked being indoors, alone. She liked shopping, and I liked painting. She was all about cruise vacations; I was about calm, beach vacations. Mentally, she was crazy. I was not.
One night, maybe three, or four in the morning, she came home, and I heard her yelling with our mom. It was loud, raw, and cracking; like a whip over my senses. I attempted to get out of bed. Suddenly, the door to my sister’s room opened, and then slammed closed. I could hear Jenna moving around. She was making a lot of noise. After she swung the door back open, she snuck into my room and kneeled down beside my bed.
“Jenna was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She went to this place called Four Winds...”
“I’m going away for a bit. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I’ll come back soon, okay?” she told me. “Where are you going?” I asked in a sleepy murmur. She shook her head; the silhouette of her face darkening with the tone of her voice. “I don’t know,” she replied. I cried. “I’m coming back, okay?” Before she left my room completely, she tapped my cheek with two fingers, getting my attention. “Listen, I’m not crazy. Whatever Mommy says, Molly, I’m not crazy, okay? I just… feel things sometimes. Things that make me mad…sad. But I’m not crazy. Don’t let someone tell you you’re crazy for feeling something,” she said. And then she left.
That was when I was twelve. Since then, I developed an aversion to the word “crazy.” I didn’t like hearing it, I didn’t like reading it, and I didn’t like using it. My friend used to call herself crazy when she was depressed in sophomore year of high school. I told her she wasn’t crazy. A girl from work noticed me picking out the bits of bacon from my salad, because I didn’t eat pork. She called me crazy. I told her I wasn’t crazy. Anytime my sister was in an uproar about something – even as benign as her not being able to find her other shoe – our mom would call her crazy. “Don’t call her that, Mommy,” I’d say. “What? Crazy? Molly, she’s not crazy, she just acts crazy,” she’d reply. If she was trying to phrase in a way that was supposed to make me feel better, it wasn’t working. Sometimes, Jenna and I would sit in her room, on her bed, cross-legged across from each other. I would live vicariously through the stories she would tell me about her and her friends. Like the time she ditched school, and rode all the way to her friend’s house on some stolen bike; or about the time she tried cigarettes and marijuana with a cute bouncer from a club; or about the time she shoplifted, or beat up a girl for flirting with her boyfriend, or performed countless acts with countless men. She would tell me never to do these things, and then continuously do these things herself the following week.
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Jenna was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She went to this place called Four Winds. It was a juvenile facility that dealt with patients who were either diagnosed with neurological disorders, or badly behaved. My mom told me it would help her. She said that the medication would help her. That everything she, as a mother, had tried to provide for Jenna wasn’t helping, but surely this place would. A six-month treatment changed some things, but it didn’t change most things. Jenna still had brown eyes, but they were empty. Jenna still had long fingers, but they were bruised, pale, and covered in fingernail-sized scabs. Jenna didn’t feel things anymore. She lost her memory a lot. When she picked up the habit of smoking, she could never remember where she left her lighter. It may have been funny the first, second, or even third time it happened. It stopped being funny when she spent a fortune at gas stations buying new ones. She closed her eyes a lot. I don’t know if it was, because she was sleepy, or because of the sun, or because she didn’t like the look of some things, or because she liked seeing black rather than anything else. Jenna and our mom didn’t fight anymore. There were no walk-ins at three in the morning; no slamming of doors, no high pitch hollers, no stamping of feet, no slapping of cheeks, no throwing items off shelves. There was nothing.
When I would sit across from my sister on her bed, cross-legged like we used to, she wouldn’t tell me stories of her and her friends. She wouldn’t tell me anything. I would ask her silly things like “How does it feel?” because I wanted to feel what she felt. Know it. Be familiar with it. But she would just shrug her shoulders, or let out sighs that filled the room with her exhaustion. Living vicariously through her was now like swimming in a sea with no waves.
“My mom told me it would help her... That everything she, as a mother, had tried to provide for Jenna wasn’t helping, but surely this place would.” It didn’t drown, or pull you, it just didn’t do anything. By the time I was eighteen, Jenna wasn’t living with us anymore. She lived in Miami with her friend where they worked at waitresses. I’d sit on my bed, alone, crosslegged with my computer in front of me. My mom would every so often pop her head into my room and talk about universal things moms usually talked about with their kids. “How was school?” “Did you get your homework done?” “I spoke with your grandparents today; they say ‘hi’.”
crease. I was not always certain if the smile reached her eyes, because she would never look at me while doing so. One day in July, during the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I lost my perfume bottle. It was small, and I usually carried it around with me in my purse due to my self-consciousness. Five minutes in of searching, and I started to cry. I crumpled down against the dining room table; my body making an oddly shaped question mark. My mom came in, startled, thinking something bad had happened. Once she realized what was happening, she did that thing with her lips again and patted my back. She told me the universal things a mother always said when her kid over reacted to something. “You’ll find it.” “Where was the last place you saw it?” “Well, if you brought it home with you we know it’s in the house somewhere.” “It’s not going anywhere.” During the next month of the same summer, I read a funny story online, and could not stop laughing. When I was finally to stabilize my words, I attempted to tell her about it. I could barely contain myself; it was all breathless laughs from me, and that weird smile playing on my mom’s lips. After I was able to get through the story, I waited for her reaction. It was not the one I expected; a turned down smile was never really a smile, if you thought about it. That same month, my friends called
“Dinner’s ready.” And being the good kid, the angel baby, I’d smile back up at her, and nod, or laugh and respond timely with the universal answers kids usually responded with. “Fine.” “I’m fine.” “School was fine.” “Things are fine.” Living, breathing, working, writing, talking, eating, sleeping; it was all fine. I started college late, because I wanted to work and earn money. When I finally started college, I really loved it, but I also kind of hated it. There was a certain pattern that took place which was similar to my pattern back at home. I could not tell if it was bothersome, or comforting. I would have liked to believe the latter. By my sophomore year, I would experience random spurts of joy that led to me calling my mom in order to tell her about them. My friends made me laugh, but they also made me cry. At one point, I was confused on whether or not I liked being alone, or with company. During the summers when I came back home, I’d be driving in the car with my mom and I’d point out a tree that looked pretty. Point out a dog walking with its owner. Point out a lake filling back up with water in preparation for the hot months. She would turn her head in just the slightest, not taking her eyes off the road, and her mouth would turn up right. The wrinkles on her cheeks would curve and
me asking if I wanted to go to Ocean City, Maryland with them for graduation. A beach vacation. My favorite kind of vacation. When I asked my mom if I could go, she gave me that same damned smile, with her wrinkles creasing in the corners, and replied with the universal thing that moms
“...there weren’t good kids and bad kids, or crazy kids and normal kids. Kids were just kids and some kids felt things more than others did.” italics mine 76
say to their kids when they did not approve. “No.” “Well, why not?” “Because I said so.” But I was the good kid, the angel baby; the girl who never fought with her mom. I thought it was always going to be like that. But perhaps that wasn’t true; there weren’t good kids and bad kids, or crazy kids and normal kids. Kids were just kids and some kids felt things more than others did. When I felt an unsettling anger, or a bubbling sadness I was still a good kid; even when I fought with my mom for the first time. And there was slamming of doors, high pitch hollers, stamping of feet, slapping of cheeks, and throwing items off shelves. Until, finally, my mom rubbed her face
with slender fingers with her long, old fashioned nails combing through her hair. “You’re crazy!” she shouted. Suddenly, I stopped. “What?” I challenged. “I said you’re acting crazy!” “No, no, no, no, that’s not what you said. That’s not what you said!” I screamed. “Molly stop, that’s not what…that’s… you’re getting out of hand—” “I’m not crazy,” I said. When my head shook in violent directions, strands of hair fell in my face. Tears stained the collar of my shirt, and embedded themselves into my cheeks. Mostly, the word crazy hung in the air like a bubble in comic magazines, and it would always be there any time someone flipped the page. In my mom’s words, she said I was hysterical that night. She said that I scared her. She said that she had seen my sister’s eyes in my eyes that night. I remembered watching her grab for the phone, dial numbers, and watch me from the couch as I cried, continuously shaking my hair around. “You’re not doing to me what you did to Jenna, Mommy,” I muttered under my breath. When the person my mom was calling finally answered the phone, she let out a sigh I think she was holding ever since the day my sister was born. She handed me the phone and said nothing. “Hello?” I asked. “Hi, Molly,” said my sister. “Hi, Jenna,” I said, sniffling my nose, scratching my face with nails that I recently
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“Me and Jasper”
Sara h Brow n
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cut short. “Go into my old room and sit on the bed, okay, Molly?” she requested. So I did. I sat cross-legged, facing the window; the same direction as if my sister was there like she was before. “Are you sitting there?” she asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Good. Mommy said you’re crying and screaming.” I ignored the statement completely. “How did it feel?” I asked. She exhaled slowly, creating static on the phone. I asked again. “It felt like this,” she said. “And now? How does it feel now?” I asked again. Jenna paused. “It feels better.” My mom said I was still a good kid; still the angel baby. Even though I refused the medication, and still fought with her, I was still a good kid. I still liked painting, beach vacations, and staying inside. There were still broken picture frames, still turned up corners of rugs, and still tears embedded in the skin of my cheeks. But I wasn’t crazy. After I graduated from college, my mom asked if I wanted to reconsider taking medication. “I don’t want to lose my memory,” I said. “We’ll find a better medication then” was her response. When the new medication made me tired all the time, I fought about it. “I don’t want to be sleepy. I can’t focus, I can’t…concentrate,” I complained with as
much effort as I was allowed by my dosage. “We’ll find a better medication then,” she said. When the new medication made me gain weight all the time, I fought about that too. “I don’t want to be heavy, I hate being like this,” I muttered at the dinner table with the food still on my plate. “We’ll find a better medication then.” Finally, when that new medication made me feel everything just a little bit less, I think my mom waited for me to say something. She had a nervous look on her face in the car, at home, or when I came back from my job. I think she waited to hear about something she was going to have to fix; but it didn’t happen this time. I let my nails grow out long again. I finally went on that trip to Ocean City, Maryland with my friends. I saw my sister down in Miami. We sat cross-legged on her bed. She asked me how it felt. I told her it felt better. When I finally moved out of the house and with some friends into an apartment, my mom helped me move all my stuff. On the first night there, I called her, knowing she was alone. “Is it like when I was in college?” I asked. “No. It’s different,” she replied. “How does it feel?” I asked, because I was obsessed with feeling, wanting to know, wanting to be familiar with the idea of someone feeling something different from me. I always asked this. “Like cubic zirconia,” she finally re-
“It felt better, because I didn’t have to fight it.” “And you like fighting it now?” “Yes! Because that’s normal! It’s normal to feel things you don’t want to feel” was Jenna’s response. Our mom’s slightly panicked look; that smile with her deepened wrinkles; the motion of rubbing her eyes as she stood there helpless. I was not there to see it so my sister told me this over the phone. I guess I already had an answser prepared for our mom when she would inevitably ask us why. “Well, how does Molly feel?” our mom questioned. Jenna chewed on the inside of her cheek, and then offered a faint smile. “Molly told me to tell you it feels like getting a good price on movie tickets.” And
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plied, “How does it feel?” she added, tacking on a question about being in a room completely alien to me. I looked around my small apartment, listening to my background sound of friends in the living room with the T.V. “Like black jelly beans,” I answered. She shuffled the phone from ear to ear. “Like rush hour traffic.” “Mosquito bites,” I replied again. She sighed on the other end. “Expensive movie tickets.” I looked down at my fingers. “It feels like breaking a nail.” From time to time, both Jenna and I had broken off from our medication. I know Jenna’s reason was, because she felt that she was better, and did not need it anymore. My reasons were excuses that changed every time someone asked. I know it bothered our mom whenever she saw us, and I know she now wondered who the bad kid was, and who the good was. I know it made her feel like a bad parent. Once, Jenna rehashed an old argument with our mom, and she said the word “crazy” again. “Do you really feel better, Jenna? How do you feel without the medication?” our mom demanded. “It feels better, Mommy! It feels better,” Jenna said. “That’s not what you said when you were on it. You said it felt better when you were on it,” mom said. Jenna scratched at her face, brown eyes sunken and dark.
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Dry Rain in Nirvana BY CH AYA ST U R M
Mother Sun was crying snow covered tears Teaming through clouds, freezing his fears Squeezing beneath a hill, inclined to find Just one more pill to pulverize his mind Pink and purple stars drinking the sky Blinding his eyes he began to cry Whispered to him to see tangled trees so bare
Live for death ‘till it comes to call. Live alone, or don’t live at all. Sleep safe in soil, drown in Dry rainfall. Lost inside a haunted everglade Riding in the groove of a record overplayed Static stereos, too high to be heard Singing in harmony with a silent city bird Reel to reel, too real in my head Projects title: “The Past Ain’t Dead” Unraveling and revealing pictorial Pollution I’ll dissolve this problem in acid solution
Cry alone, or don’t cry at all.
A raw, wrinkled leaf floated onto his hair
“Roll ‘em” nags the Soul, “Roll ‘em” needles the Dealer Soul says: “Grass isn’t always greener, knowing pain’s the real Healer” Tape your mouth shut, take in your story Soak up the scene, its grit, its glory! Our hands, once our slaves, now command us to grab Kaleidoscopic concoctions from the chemistry lab Lunch is now over, our systems’ out of whack We quench our churnings with experimental snack I lean on his body in acute desperation His thunderous heart beats bloody elation We laugh in heat, I choke on his cries italics mine
He melts to my feet,
I Drown. He Dies.
Cicadian Arrhythmia BY ER IK G OET Z
I. You casually return an infestation of cicadas in my cheap brown suit. You always told me not to sleep in it, but by the time I fall asleep it’s time for work.
On my way to work, A butterfly beside the bus this time. To be honest I preferred the cicadas. I’ll be more honest if I can just get some sleep. I wake to someone spilling coffee on my suit. III. As I’m screaming about lawsuits the bus arrives at the fireworks factory then drives straight into it. The driver was asleep. You casually return full of sappy memories like an epicurean cicada remembering a cypress limb it sucked this one time.
you casually return.
IV. Do you remember the first time we met? I’d just bought this suit and was on stage shaking like a cicada. The first thing you said was ,“It’ll never work.” The last was “I’ll never return.” Somewhere in there was “Okay, but we’re just gonna sleep.” V. In the rubble, I finally fell asleep. For good this time. Or so I thought. But then you casually return, burrowing holes through the casket, and into my suit of cheap brown armor made from the patch-worked italics mine
carapaces of a million dead cicadas. VI.
Fifteen years later, and the cicadas haven’t come back. Maybe they’re asleep. Maybe they have to work in the morning. Full-timers in cheap brown suits with videotapes to return. VII. Fifteen year cicadas casually return to the place on my neck where the string broke. “Sleep suits you”, they whisper. “I think it’s all gonna work out this time.”
Smells Like Home to Me BY SH A NNON V IGNOL A
In Northport, New York I popped inside the local flower shop. Dewy greens accompanied by the overwhelming, migraine-inducing, sweet and sour notes smothering my nose. As if I was trying to walk on water, drifting deliriously, losing time.
through the air begging for an answer to a question I once had asked. Innocence squeaked from her mouth My mouth: “Daddy, I’m afraid,” I said as I drew the delectable honeysuckle to my face. On three, and before she could protest, he chirped out the numbers
The childish giggles bubbled
I plunged through the surface -
and we graced our mouths with the sweet tingly nectar, glazing our tongues as the bugs nipped at our skin while the heat clung to our clothes. He watched me as my face spiraled into joy. Lines etched his skin leaking love from every pore where mine now leaked longing. An unwelcomed voice splashed the memory like boots in a puddle, and so swiftly that italics mine
I awoke from what once had been. “Are you looking for anything specific?” a women begged, and suddenly,
I had a craving for some honey.
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Zoey B Schele b” r
The People I Never Expected to Love By Kate Brown
We met at fourteen when he had a mouth full of braces and hair down to his shoulders. All I knew about him was that we had fifth period together, and that he had a mother and a little sister who was unexpectedly born in the bathroom of their old home. I did not know his favorite color or which songs he listened to when he was sad or that one day I would look at him and feel at home. On a Saturday in spring of that same year, we took the Q train to our favorite neighborhood. We walked up and down the avenues as he showed me his favorite places and told me the stories he had about those places. The stores I once did not know the names of are now where we end up when one of us says, “Where do you want to go?” and the other responds, “The usual.” ii. I sat next to a girl on a picnic blanket in early September, and she told me I looked like the embodiment of autumn. She was the amalgamation of every protagonist of every angsty teen-fiction book I have ever read. It took me months to convince myself that she was a real person who looked at me and thought good things,
the same way I looked at her. I watched her as she walked (she always walked faster than everyone else), and it was always with her head held high and arms glued to her side. I had never known anyone else who walked without swinging her arms. “She looks like she shouldn’t be real,” I slurred to my roommate one night as I was hunched over my trash bin. “That’s what love’ll do,” she told me.
“...she was a real person who looked at me and thought good things...”
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iii. She is a poet who carries a small yellow book that is thick and worn out from being written and painted and drawn in. She does not fear the regret of documenting things she might one day miss. I carry around a small purple book with almost every page I once filled torn out. She tells me I remind her of her best friend, who also has curly hair and a crooked smile. She reminds me of mine, too, who also listens without judgment, and stands firmly with unwavering beliefs. In mid-October we went to a donut-shaped field hidden in the woods which later became the go-to spot for us and our friends on warmer days. I brought my small purple book with me on one of those days and wrote about her on a page that is not ripped out.
iv. We were casual acquaintances who did not look for anything more than that in each other. To this day, I am convinced that we were pushed towards each other by an unknown force; there is no reason why we should know each other, or love each other. She sings like my grandmother, shamelessly loud, and just a little off-key. Her voice is one that always demands to be heard, talking or singing. If anyone could talk to the stars it would be her. If she were to open her mouth and call upon them they would have no choice but to listen, and how lucky they would be. But she is not talking to the stars, she is talking to me, and smiling, and how lucky I am.
“New York Ci
ty Chel se a Mus ” cat
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Utopia-11 By Jiaming Tang
Cradled between the radiant cusp of dusk and dawn, the secular
elysium of Utopia-11 rested peacefully along the luminous vista of human fantasy. It was the modern mythology of heaven: brilliant skyscrapers of gold and silver stretched up towards the sky, its glass walls reflecting the precious glow of prosperity. Water fountains shot sparkling geysers of water 300 meters into the air, sprinkling decadent mists of diamonds down into the gleaming streets below. The routine, mechanical peals of an illustrious clocktower struck the hour, its musical chime whistling through the air like an angelâ€™s song. Roads were paved with star-studded limestone; sapphire canals coursed through emerald parks, grandiose, shape shifting sculptures mobilized in town squares, and hovering just above the paradisiac skyline; a small fleet of helicopters, policing the sky like metallic dragonflies. Lucian Haze stared out from his spotless crystal room on the 33rd story of a luxurious skyscraper, his pale slender body draped in a vivid robe fashioned from the most magnificent silks. Beside him, resting atop a shining table of mahogany, was a silver cup, engraved with his proud initials: L.H. He licked his lips and smiled. Lucian saw exactly what he wanted to see: a vision
her seat. In a flash, her husband, the fashionable Lord Ingraham Steel, began to flicker against the wall. “How did you find the inventor, Julia?” Lady Steel glanced over at Lucian, who stood nervously off to the side, flicking ominous switches on his machine. She flashed him a sweet, artificial smile, then turned to face the crisp image of her elegant husband. “Wonderful, Graham.” She gestured behind her, directing her husband’s attentions towards the fluttering curtains. They danced and drifted, floating smoothly like gentle waves. “Look how beautiful they make our home look!” “Ah,” Lord Ingraham replied, staring at the image of frivolous decadence with a polished countenance of curious apprehension. “Well if you like them Julia, we will order one for every room in our home.” Lucian looked up and beamed. It was yet another step forward in his career; a great leap toward his dream of wealth and riches. He imagined the soft caress of a new robe, made of the finest Egyptian cottons. A new chaise lounge constructed from the softest, most exquisite white velvet materials began to take shape in his mind. No more quarter-month old robes, he thought. No more leather “couches” (what a pedestrian word!) stuffed with memory foam. He grinned at Lady Steel, who was smiling indifferently at his absurd machine. “Oh Graham, that would be so
of utopia, staring back at him with jewel toned eyes. Everything is perfect here, he thought. Crime and poverty have been eradicated, hunger is nonexistent, and the people are content. The city of Utopia-11 was truly the physical manifestation of human harmony. Suddenly, the clocktower struck five. Lucian frowned. “Blasphemy against science,” he muttered. “I forgot to take my third shower of the night cycle.” A light breeze rushed through the vents of an artificial autumn, billowing the sheer white silk curtains of Lady Steel’s opulent living room. She sat, bored on a love seat, watching Lucian describe to her the magnificent wonders of one of his newer patents: the seasons changer. “And this, my lady—this is autumn! With this new machine, you never have to leave your building to experience the wonderful transition of the seasons!” Lady Steel looked out towards the window. The sun shone listlessly through the glass, coloring the room a lazy shade of light yellow. She looked over at her entertainer, the ridiculous Lucian Haze, and scoffed. She thought it was ridiculous that she, the niece of the mayor (twice removed) and a lady of great importance and stature, would have to listen to this clown cart off his ineffectual creations. A seasons changer—it was nothing more than a wind blower! She shook her head, and, upon hearing the distant hum of a home holo-receiver, tapped a panel beside
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incredible! You really don’t know just how happy that would make me feel!” “Great. Tell the inventor we’ll take four.” Lord Ingraham peered down at an invisible watch. “Well, I have to get back to work now. I’ll see you at the Gala tonight, my love.” “Yes, I plan to take the tube there tonight—that foolish maid of ours forgot to charge the hover copter.” She scowled, annoyed at the memory. “So if I am four to six minutes late, pray don’t be anxious!” “I’ll wait any length of time for you, Julia, even if it is six minutes.” Lady Steel blushed and looked down at her feet. Her toenails were painted with the newest synthetic lacquer—a “chameleon” polish that adjusted its color to mirror the changing emotions of the wearer. Right now, her toes shone a bright metallic red. “Goodbye,” she whispered softly. She tapped the panel beside her seat again and her husband flashed away. She looked over at Lucian, who was looking expectantly at her. “You heard him. Four of your wind blowers.” “Seasons changers, my lady. Will do.” He began to pack his machine away, folding it over and over until it was the size of a little cube. He wrote a little note and signed it, placing it on a desk. “They’ll arrive tonight by hover copter, Lady Steel.” She nodded. “And now I have to get ready for the Gala…” “If I may be so rude as to ask my lady…
What sort of gala is this?” “It’s not one of great importance, if I’ll be honest. I always say that if the tube can get you there, then it probably isn’t worth going.” Lady Steel shrugged her shoulders. “But my husband insists we go—he claims the hosts were clients of his—something along those lines. Why do you ask?” “Oh, nothing. Just curious is all.” Lady Steel looked at Lucian mischievously. “You know, if you wanted
“She was covered, head-totoe, in a shining armor of transparent rainbow scales. She tilted her head down and curtsied, saluting the pensive Lucian Haze. What a glamorous suit, Lucian thought, staring wide-eyed in amazement.” to come I wouldn’t be so opposed… My husband wouldn’t either, considering he’s such a big fan of your work. In fact—why don’t you come? Bring your little seasons blower with you. The gala starts two hours before the night cycle in District 33 of Utopia-28. It’s best to go by hover copter—the tubes are a desolate medium
began to chime, its resonant sound echoing throughout the city. “And not a second late,” Lady Steel said, smiling warmly. She was covered, headto-toe, in a shining armor of transparent rainbow scales. She tilted her head down and curtsied, saluting the pensive Lucian Haze. What a glamorous suit, Lucian thought, staring wide-eyed in amazement. Like a diamond held directly beneath the sun, Lady Steel glimmered, displaying every color in the ocular spectrum. “Shall we go?” she asked. Lucian nodded, speechless. The spacious interior of the hover copter displayed the crowning achievement of trans-dimensional engineering, appearing several times larger than the exterior. Two plush pangolin leather seats, flawlessly molded to match the spinal curve of the modern Utopian, waited in the arched head of the vehicle, which also happened to feature the sole window in the entire machine. Every other wall had a display screen or a monitor, suitable for entertainment and navigational purposes. Lucian placed his foot on a practically placed propel pedal, and the engine began to drift speedily into the golden atmosphere. He glanced over at Lady Steel. She was staring intently at one of the screens on the wall, engrossed in the dramas of a popular program. He smiled and faced forward, out of the tiny restrictive window that only presented what was directly in front of him. This was yet
of transportation. Unless of course, you actually enjoy traveling with others and being late.” “No my lady, I can take my hover copter.” “Then you wouldn’t be opposed to taking me with you, of course?” “It would be no trouble at all. In fact, it would be an absolute honor to arrive in your presence.” “Wonderful.” Lady Steel flashed Lucian a curious smile. “Meet me by the Platinum Promenade just before the evening cycle begins, when the clock starts striking six.” Lucian gazed out at the dazzling expanse of the Platinum Promenade through the reflective chrome of his freshly polished hover copter. It was a curious little machine, smooth and round like a sphere, but jutting out from the top was a rapidly rotating set of synthetic rotor blades. He was standing beside a bench while his vehicle slowly drifted, dreamily contemplating the technological progresses humanity had fostered in the last 100 years. I can’t believe this thing runs only on electricity, he thought in amazement. No pollution—yet it could still reach a top speed of 1234.8 kilometers per hour. He stretched a hand out towards the reflective exterior of the machine. And this skeletal chrome finish—it’s a perfect mirror. I can see every little detail of the Promenade. And there’s—ah! Lucian quickly turned around. He had seen the large, womanly figure of the handsome Lady Steel walking toward him through the mirror of the hover copter. The clock
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another success of Utopian engineering, he thought. With no windows to look out of, there was no possibility of distraction. The hover copter soared through the lower skies, flying coolly over the abstracted beauty of Utopias 12 through 27. At one point however, as it traveled past a low-lying strip of terrain referred to as the uninhabitable “Bad Lands,” the chromatic exterior of the vehicle began to come alive. Like an almighty mirror, the hover copter reflected the desolate livelihoods of another existence. Cast off the orb-like surface of the machine was a large expanse of brown, covered in dust and filth. Factories churned out immense clouds of smog. Rivers were poisoned with oils and sewage. Tiny men and women, like ants, stood outside stone abodes collecting woeful little pots of water. Children, in want of the more traditional forms of entertainment, played with balls of trash. Elderly folk, dressed in rough, russet rags, chewed on rough bones beneath sparse stretches of shade. These unfortunate people, lacking the frivolous contraptions of our more fortunate Utopians, made up the coarse edges of a distorted image of harmony. They were the tribes erased by progress; the lost paupers of paradise. The dignified Lady Steel began to rouse herself out of a dull state of concentration as Lucian accelerated the hover copter into a plunging descent toward the diamond vistas of Utopia-28. She tapped a small translucent orb on the side of her seat,
causing the wall monitors, which moments ago displayed the mundane dramas of a holographic entertainment program, to fade into a blank mode of luxury. Lucian looked over at her and grinned. “It took us no more than 18 minutes to get here. Isn’t technology incredible?” “Not incredible enough to produce some plausible scenarios on the holo-vision, apparently,” Lady Steel replied. “That show I was watching was an absolute joke.” “How so?” “Well, one of the girls on the program— her name is unimportant—she had no holo-vision apparatus in her home, no hover copter (or any other mode of transportation except those awful tubes), no automatic consumption pills… And you should have seen the rags she was wearing (and I bet they were months old too)! It was a farce, Mr. Haze. I had never seen such extreme poverty in my life. The only realistic thing in the program was the girl’s bed. At least that was made of some fine, synthetic prism silks. Oh, what a spectacle!” Lucian tugged at his collar, suddenly conscious of the fact that the silky velvet suit he wore was purchased months earlier, and though he had only worn it once—at a small, obscure gathering in Utopia-34— he feared the noble lady would find him ragged and impoverished and cast him away in disgust. He looked out the tiny, restrictive window, his fearful countenance expressive of a subconscious desire to
lower nobility, altered by the artificial lens of dull narcotics, danced and glided around the room. Lady Steel, her armored hands gripping the smooth arc of a curved glass, laughed pleasantly beside her husband and “his clients,” the Gerishes. Lucian stood quietly beside her, gripped by a keen sense of not belonging. Together, the party formed a sociable half moon beneath the halo of a seraphic crown of pearls beside an elegant banister. “Look, look, Lady Steel!” the plump Mrs. Gerish whispered. “What is it Sophia? Out with it.” Mrs. Gerish, hidden by Lord Steel’s handsome frame, gestured behind him with a sharply pointed finger. “Look—it’s those odious Reeds!” “And what of them, Sophia?” “You haven’t heard?!” Mrs. Gerish stuck a bottom lip out impetuously. “They’re the lowly savages who only shower once per day—ignoring all cycles!” “Oh!” cried Lady Steel. Lord Steel shook his head. “They claim they’re water conservationists,” Mrs. Gerish continued. “Ha! Conserving water for what? There’s simply no need to do such a thing in times like these, in a city like this! Nobody is dying of thirst nowadays. They’re just trying to make an excuse for their terrible hygienic practices.” A displeased murmur echoed across the group. Two ashen men, lurking behind thick masks of maquillage, looked as if they
escape. And the flight here was so smooth too, Lucian thought wistfully. Everything was so beautiful and peaceful. Lady Steel looked over at Lucian, raising an eyebrow. “Mr. Haze, what are you waiting for? Release the locks—it would be of poor taste for a lady like me to be late to the Gala. Lucian jumped and started. “Yes—sorry Lady Steel. I was just thinking about something.” He reached over to the front of the machine and placed his thumb on a print scanner. With an abrupt gush of wind, the doors slid open. Lady Steel nodded at Lucian and stepped out of the hover copter. The radiant lights of Utopia-28 scattered down from a luminous paradise above. Taking long, polished strides, Lady Steel began walking towards a massive dome encapsulated within an artificial rainbow, the scales on her dress dancing like auroras. Lucian stared at her from behind, stricken by her angelic grace. When I hit the jackpot someday, he thought, I’ll have a woman like her too. The Gala materialized like a celestial mirage through the gilded entrance of the 12th Utopian National Stadium. Inside, translucent specks of amethyst-infused gold lazily descended down—like colored snowflakes—from stained skylights. Nine ornate balconies, designed and furnished as to resemble the Dantean spheres of paradise, observed the festivities with the omniscient eyes of hidden security cameras. Superior men and women of the
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were about to vomit. Suddenly, Lord Steel tapped Lucian on the shoulder and led him up towards the stairs. Lady Steel, too invested in her gossip with Mrs. Gerish, waved them off contentedly. “How are you liking the party Mr. Haze?” They looked down at the Gala from the balcony, perched atop the holy thrones of God. Glancing through the railings, Lucian stared with idolatrous eyes at the radiant silhouette of Lady Steel’s body. He swallowed thirstily and looked back at Lord Steel. “Please don’t take this the wrong way my lord—but your wife is absolutely stunning.” Lord Steel laughed heartily. He patted Lucian on the back kindly. “Well, Mr. Haze, it seems we’ve got some competition between us. We all know how much Julia enjoys your inventions. What’s the newest one—a leaf blower?” “A seasons changer, sir.” “Yes, that. Well anyway—I’m sure you’ll get up there someday and find a beautiful woman of your own. To be quite honest,” Lord Steel paused and gazed wistfully down at the party below. “We aren’t exactly what we’re often made out to be.” “What? Who sir?” “You know—us. You were there when they talked about the Reeds.” “Yeah. I was, sir.” “Well, frankly…” Lord Steel looked sternly down at his shoes. The gold polish glistened under the pure white light,
obscuring the extravagant onyx alloy of the outsole. “Never mind, Mr. Haze. Just know it’s not what it’s made out to be.” The Gala ended just before the transitory edge of an inky midnight. Almost all the participants had left and gone home by then—in fact, the only ones who remained were Lucian Haze, the Steels, and their hosts, the Gerishes. They stood quietly beside the entrance, wordlessly mouthing the silent rituals of separation. Later, when Lucian and the Steels stepped out into the radiant Utopian night, words began to flutter, like moths into the light. “Oh wasn’t that just beautiful Graham? We really should throw our own gala sometime!” Lady Steel looked over at Lucian. “You’re always welcome to stop by of course—if you feel so obliged.” “I would be absolutely honored, my lady.” Lord Steel looked over at Lucian and nodded. “I hope you enjoyed yourself tonight.” “I did, sir. The stadium was beautiful.” “Wasn’t it, Mr. Haze? Oh Graham! We need even better decorations at our gala!” Lord Steel smiled slyly at Lucian. “Remember Mr. Haze, it’s not what it’s made out to be.” Lucian grinned. “Come on Julia—let’s go on home. Our hover copter is over that way, by the Mercury Canal. Good night, Mr. Haze.” “Yes, good night!” Julia chimed in. “Remember to come to our gala Mr. Haze!
It’ll be much better!” They walked off, two monarch butterflies fluttering away from a swarm of moths. Julian flew back towards Utopia-11 alone, his mind wandering like a curious child along the mythical boundaries of a glorified memory. What a wonderful little get-together, he thought. The Steels were so graceful and elegant—just like royalty. He looked out the window dreamily, gazing off toward the distant harmony of Utopia. “I’m living in a paradise,” he whispered softly to himself. The Bad Lands raged ceaselessly beneath him. italics mine
gi Chel se a Mus a” cat
To the Owner of the Book I Left in the New Haven Train Station BY S A R A H BUCK SER
Take the memories that you have written on the back of napkins. The cereal receipts, The rejection letter, And tuck them into the dust jacket Of the novel you’re reading— The one about ecosystems And geometric ice crystals Leave it on a station seat When you leave. Philadelphia Will see the cover. An arctic fox Beside print that is faded and blue And a corner that was Once a mouse but Is now a wad of paper in A lint trap in Ohio. Someone will see it. Watch it,
Someone waiting for the 3:15 to
With the misspelled word on page ninety-two.
Have their bus delayed by half an hour And fall asleep in the thick, Gasoline evening, Laces tracing cobwebs in the dust On the floor. The word is insufficiency, Spelled with a single “F.”
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Tangling Wires BY A NDR E W YOON
tangling wires, staring far to the painsun or another thismoment;
rugs with strange colors and melodies waitingly,
taking deep breaths before the speech where we finally speak our minds: won’t everybody please, please stop this cruelty?
can’t we see how unecessary it is?
some glass window creaking under winds,
how again the why’s and who’s before and after or some some behind throughingly, complex analysis and early marxist painting; the walls of this place have shoulders that are sagging, somewhere in these pages an actual answer to a question that matters. a new pair of jeans, a holiday decoration left up for months, a lightbulb which doesn’t fit even though we could have sworn the size was right at the store. no sense in preventing, it seems.
a better time to laugh or write circles on a page.
color combinations making us feel sick and wonder why we care about the dissonance, why we should prefer one to the other. we conclude that we’re all just bits of air moving with the waves of some song we can’t hear: now banging on the wooddrums, the thoughts and the doubts,
a manual for writers of research papers about electrical engineering and game theory,
some oil spilled in a parking lot.
hopes or imaginations throwing fists on the organ keyboard, some body of loud waters,
some electrical structure groaning in rains –
particles trapped in the breezings, the sine waves, the eyeballs thrown left and right or up and down – or is that a sign of happiness, of peacefulness? who’s to tell what’s harmony and what’s dissonance? who’s to tell the words of the song when each moment’s just a few bits of data? – hard to see the picture from a pixel, hard to find the poem through a word – a letter – an inkdot – the arounds and behinds lost somewhere in the mix, the breath being exhaled before we even noticed it was inside our bodies, each note rising just a little higher or just a italics mine
little more like dirty wallpaper: we ask each other where it happened. where the music
got faster. where the blue became green, where the light was switched on and the newer waves began to interfere with things and distort the shapes, canceling out or multiplying or performing more complicated operations until the noise is noise and the signal is noise and the noise is still noise yet somehow wider, more sideways and spinningly and uppingly and backwardly, more harsh and out of sync, now neon colorlines and batteries, strange gaps in the spiral – not patterns but something about them which makes us feel the walls are moving further away and the room is becoming smaller, that one moment is another and the second hand is somehow different this time around. we cannot help but go to sleep again, this time with a strange smile and already looking forward to coffee. this time with socks and a thicker blanket. this time with the windows open: and in comes the cooler air.
Daniell e Foti
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Me, Myself, and I Generation By Olivia Behan
The woman placed a half-eaten bagel on the table.
A man sat across from her at a coffee shop. The woman sloppily wiped her mouth. “Sorry I keep interrupting. Continue,” she said. And so the man did. He read off his dog-eared manuscript. “A man went on an ice fishing trip in Wisconsin, and acquired severe frost bite. Too panic stricken with the idea of losing his fingers, instead of attempting a trip to the closest town, the man sliced open the belly of his pet dog of twelve years. After he stuck his blackening digits inside the freshly opened carcass, there was a tug on his fishing line. The man figured he was going to hell for what he did, but at least he would go with all ten fingers. “Later that same year, the same man was killed by a bobcat in his own backyard. Upon seeing the large feline loitering around near the garbage cans on his property, the man attempted to scare it away. The feline did not scare easily. A different man, who wrote the autopsy report, cheated on his wife the previous night with a college student. The student’s aunt happened to have written the man’s obituary. “Warden Chikobey’s obituary did not mention anything about his death involving the bobcat; the aunt made sure all her writings
slumped back into his seat. He rubbed his face with his hands, and rested his elbows on the small table between the them. “And… the point is that everything, and everyone is connected,” he responded. “Connected in this particular story, or in real life?” Again, she asked disinterestedly, as though the answer meant nothing. The man lowered his head to the table. “Both,” he replied dejectedly. “That doesn’t make me want to read your story.” Picking up her bagel, she detached herself from the conversation. Irritated, the man shuffled the thirty-page treatment in his hands, feeling the quality of what he wrote fall into potential meaninglessness. “You’re doing a terrible job of being my agent,” he spat. Looking up from her lunch, Annamaria twisted her mouth to the side like there was a bad taste on her tongue. She narrowed her eyes. “You’re doing a terrible job at being creative” she retorted. Alfred had it with this woman. She was too young for the profession she was in, too young to have gained enough experience to tell him what was creative and what wasn’t, and too young to have good taste. Alfred Minnow knew what good taste was. He’d been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for three years in a row. Of course, this was twenty years ago when his writing was relative to his crowd. Then the 90’s crowd began to grow tired of aliens and robots, feeling it was played out. Alfred Minnow was no longer a
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lacked morbidity. She wrote Warden’s gruesome death only as a sad, natural passing. Now, the hunter assigned to the case for killing the bobcat was just a local hunter. He killed for sport with a few buddies, and nothing more. Though he never slain anything that could not be mounted on his wall, he figured the job was an act of service for the good of the town.” “This character sounds pretentious,” Annamaria interrupted. The older man, sighing loudly, titled his head. She muttered a ‘sorry’ and let him continue. “However, the local animal ranger was infuriated when he was not given the job to hunt down the bobcat. In his act of frustration, he drove to the nearest gas station and bought a pack of cigarettes. Outside the gas station, as the animal ranger was unraveling the clear plastic off his pack, an older man came up to him asking if he could bum one off him. The ranger complied, fingering out two Newports. Little did the animal ranger know, the older man was a private husky breeder; the same breeder who sold Warden Chikobey his twelve-yearold Siberian husky.” The silver-haired woman – colored not from age, but from personal choice – looked at the man indifferently. Her fingers poked at the crumbs surrounding the dessert plate where her discarded bagel sat. “And?” Annamaria asked lazily. The pepper-haired man – colored from age –
best-selling author. His reputation began to rot after pumping out too many shoddy novels, leaving him with the frightful truth that perhaps he was just a three-hit wonder. After years of exploring other career fields – and finding himself just as unemployable –he
“After years of exploring other career fields – and finding himself just as unemployable –he realized he couldn’t let his writing career die like that.” italics mine 108
realized he couldn’t let his writing career die like that. However, no agent was willing to lend him their respect. Until he met Annamaria Manchester; a fresh-faced graduate student whose resume wasn’t chock full of the experience Alfred would’ve preferred. Besides petty jobs here and there, Alfred was her first reliable client. Annamaria was a prime product of her own generation’s design: unnaturally silvered hair, and thrift shop jeans addict. Yet what separated her from her generation, in Alfred’s eyes, was her vast knowledge. When he first met her, she surprised him by her fluidity in language and written art. There wasn’t a motive behind everything she said; in the end, each conversation didn’t turn into an autobiography. She was refreshing.
A few months prior to this arrangement, they attended the same writer’s panel. He thought getting back in touch with the young writers of today’s society might help him re-route his writing. Instead, he met Annamaria, a better alternative. Just before the writer’s panel had started, outside, leaning against the dank building of forty stories, Alfred had been smoking a cigarette when Annamaria quietly approached him. After she asked for a cigarette, he fiddled around in his pockets for the pack. Unfortunately, scraps of crumpled paper fluttered from his jeans. Through the creases, slanted scribbles – Alfred’s stirring ideas – covered the papers. Annamaria reached for the ground to scoop them up. Her face was tight, angular, and seemed as if it didn’t give smiles very often; thinly stretched lips produced curvatures in her cheeks. “You must be a writer,” she had correctly assumed when she couldn’t help, but peek at Alfred’s messy handwriting. “I’ve come to despise technology,” he explained, answering a question she never intended on asking, but found herself satisfied with the reply. She knew what he meant as she used her laptop and cell phone for most things nowadays. After all, her generation grew up with computers, his did not. “You know, small notepads are only cents in most supermarkets,” she said as she handed him the wad of scrap paper.
Annamaria’s blunt deliveries and opinions were admirable to Alfread, because he at least was familiar with that kind of agent/ author relationship. “I’m not asking you to slip in a romance subplot for the readers,” Annamaria said across the table. After four months of back and forth on Alfred’s new project, it felt as if they were still on the early stages of outlining. “But I do think it’s smart to know the audience you’re writing for. You have to know what’s in.” “I know romance sells. Smut sells. And trust me, I can write smut,” Alfred replied, cowering his head to the table in hopes no one heard him. Annamaria’s quivering lip indicated he was embarrassingly loud, but she stopped herself from letting a laugh slip. She didn’t provoke him on the topic of good smut-writing, though she was curious. Alfred Minnow, well into his fifties, was an attractive older man according to society’s standards. Yet this somehow qualified him to write steamy sex scenes, though she didn’t know when he did, because his previous novels didn’t contain any. She pushed this idea aside. “Again, I’m not telling you to write romance,” Annamaria replied, but Alfred intervened. “I won’t succumb to writing outside my element just to get a few greasy-haired fifteen year olds to pick my book off the shelf.” “Greasy-haired?” she questioned. Alfred
“I’ve also come to realize I’m a big cheapskate,” he said. Her chuckle was genuine, but her acknowledgment of who this man claimed to be wasn’t. He assumed pretending to know the name Alfred Minnow was just a part of her strategy. His rather large ego, fanned by his introduction as a “three-time best seller,” was also disingenuous on his part. She found him cocky, and she didn’t like that. This made him stubborn to work with. After she agreed to represent him, she admitted to having not read one of Alfred’s novels. She backed herself up by saying it was only due to the fact that Sci-Fi wasn’t her genre of interest. But really it was, because twenty years ago, Annamaria was only an adolescent, and wasn’t reading up on the best-sellers list. She then forced herself to become an avid reader of Minnow’s novels within the short months following. She may have been stubborn to work with as well – he blames this on the age difference, – but at least she did her research thoroughly. Her lack of experience, however, continued to make Alfred nervous. The high risk of working with someone who had only represented minor names was unheard of; but he had no other choice. Yet what gave Alfred breathing room were her many credentials: connections with countless professors from countless top rated universities, as well as stellar performance reviews from internships. He wasn’t necessarily screwed with where he had found himself in his career, he was just desperate.
italics mine 110 “In the Studio”
They both agreed to separate, and soon left the coffee shop. ~ In a small studio, Annamaria sat at the descending ironing table she used as a desk. Papers, bills, and most recently, Alfred’s “best selling” novels covered it. She fingered the sticky-note bookmark to the side, scanning the page to find where she had left off. It didn’t matter, she had read the book twice already; she wouldn’t find anything new. She flipped to the first page where a large Roman numeral 1 marked the start of the first chapter. “Blue skies. Yellow skies. Purple skies. Grey skies. The community had known these skies at different periods of the day, and became familiar with all their colors and patterns. But red skies were welcomed with fear. Blood; it was a sea of blood from above. “Franklin, an average fairing man in his late thirties, remembered the first morning he had awoken to a red sky; a blood sky....” Annamaria tried embellishing the written piece with as morbid of a voice as her feminine tone could vocalize. She stopped and looked down from the book to the dog sitting at her feet since the moment she got home. Her Siberian husky, dusting the debris with his wagging tail on the floor tiles, barked at her for attention. The young woman thought back to Alfred’s newly written piece. Her heart thickened with feelings of unsettlement. She leaned down and placed her hands on either side of his temple, flapping his ears. “I’d rather lose my fingers,” she whis-
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rolled his eyes. Annamaria took a moment before responding. “What do you want to write?” “I want to write something real,” he replied. “Real, as in not Sci-Fi or…?” “Obviously not. Real, as in something provoking.” “Wouldn’t you consider that something outside your element?” Annamaria realized her words may be taken out of context. She watched Alfred’s eyebrows twitch. Feeling his frustration, she tried another angle. “Your connection story is good; it’s real. It’s just boring. What other fantastical element do you have planned for it?” she asked. Her lips jutted out slightly, puncturing the air with mentality of patience. She waited as he took his time replying. “I don’t know yet.” The young woman brought her hand to her chin. “Okay. Work on that.” “That’s it? Work on it?” he asked, confused. “Yeah” she responded. “As an agent, shouldn’t you be lending your advice more descriptively? Work on what? The plot, the tone, the structure, the setting, the grammar?” Leaning back into her chair, she could feel the cheap wood pressing into her shoulder blades. “I want you to look back at what you’ve written; look back at it at four in the morning, and tell me if it’s still interesting to you. Then fix it. Work on it,” she finally said.
pered to him, kissing the side of his head. ~ Black skies; night had fallen, and soon
“He’ d never encountered such strug gle coming up with desirable stories. He didn’t know where he lost his touch, but he guessed it must have been somewhere in all the cockiness twenty years ago.” italics mine 112
the grey period of the early morning did as well. Alfred, thinking to himself about how he stupidly let a twenty-something year old influence him, sat at his desk with his laptop’s face beaming at him. The cursor still blinked on his ending line. The clock read 3:52 at the bottom of the screen. Alfred identified himself as a writer; this is all he ever knew. This is what he had gone to school for, practiced for, lived for. He’d never encountered such struggle coming up with desirable stories. He didn’t know where he lost his touch, but he guessed it must have been somewhere in all the cockiness twenty years ago. So that same night, he knocked on Annamaria’s apartment door three times. A dark-haired girl answered the door in a t-shirt reading Free the Nipple that hung just below her hip line. Based on her taste,
she probably didn’t give a shit about what else she was letting be free, Alfred thought to himself, attempting to avoid looking at her torso. “Can I help you?” her asked in a voice strained with exhaustion. Before Alfred could answer, Annamaria, in her own sleep attire, showed up at the door, sending the other girl away. “I got it, Faith, thanks,” Annamaria said softly, brushing Faith’s hand on her way back into the apartment. “Oh. Oh,” Alfred said more to himself, “I’m sorry, Anna, I didn’t mean to interrupt you—” “It’s, like, four o’clock, Alfred. Yes you did. What is it; what are you doing here?” She let herself rest against the door hinge, not inviting Alfred in. Her body language was obvious; she wanted him to leave so she could go back to sleep. “I re-read my story, and I think it’s fine” he answered. “Good. Then finish it” she said. Alfred looked confused. “But you said to fix it.” Distant clinks rattled off behind the front door until Annamaria’s dog snuck his head in between the doorframe; the tags on his collar continued to rustle. Alfred’s gaze shifted slightly to the dog. “Alfred, can we please do this another time, or tomorrow, I don’t care, just go home.” “You’re supposed to be guiding me,” he said, coating his voice in vinegar.
his own place, he looked at his blinding computer screen again. The cursor was still blinking in its original place. He backspaced until he felt satisfied and then he began rapidly typing. “A man went on an ice fishing trip in Wisconsin, and acquired severe frost bite. Too panic stricken with the idea of losing his fingers, instead of attempting a trip to the closest town, the man sliced open the belly of his pet dog of twelve years. The dog’s name was Blink.”
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More awake now, Annamaria crossed her arms over her chest. Some hair fell from her ponytail as she shifted her weight. “You didn’t need guidance when you were a ‘bestselling author,’” she said. Alfred ignored her mocking tenor. “I’m not in my thirties anymore; I need a different perspective.” “I’m not your psychologist, just your agent.” “And a poor one, at that” he hissed. Annamaria had enough; she stepped towards him a bit more, widening the front door. Her dog ran out and over to Alfred, sniffing his shoes and walking around him in circles. “Mr. Minnow, I have done everything I possibly can to ‘inspire’ you. I’ve tried to give you an inside look at what people ‘my age group’ like. I’ve tried modifying the way you write in terms of not having you seem dated. I’ve even allowed this conversation – at four in the morning, I might add – to go on as long as it has, but you, Alfred, are old, stubborn, and refuse to learn things. We are in no way connected, as you put it. Write that into your story.” She slammed the door shut. Both Alfred and the Husky looked up at the shut door for a moment until it reopened, and Annamaria rubbed her face. “C’mon, Blink,” she called. The Siberian Husky obeyed, jetting back inside before the door once again closed shut with heavy purpose. When Alfred finally got back to
italics mine 114 “Memphis”
Da niel le Fo ti
The Joke is on Us BY DA NIEL L E MCCOR M ACK
His status read: “I just found out that I’m going to be a daddy” followed by two smiley faces and an exclamation point with my name tagged on the end as a crutch.
as the comments begin to grow. Four people have already figured out the hoax while others causally offer their congratulations Two hours later we decide that for shits and giggles I should pee on a stick only to see two bright pink lines stare back at us proving that April fooled us instead.
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We both sit back and watch
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Chel se a Mus
Talking with Susan Breen by Nonfiction Editor Jamison Murcott
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Susan Breen is the author of the novel The Fiction Class (Plume and Headline Review UK). She has published short fiction in American Literary Review, Chattahoochee Review, Nebraska Quarterly, North Dakota Quarterly, and anderbo. She holds a BA from the University of Rochester and an MFA from Columbia University.
Italics Mine: How did creating The Fiction Class differ from Maggie Dove? Susan Breen: I guess it’s been about 10 years since The Fiction Class was published, so I’ve been teaching creative writing for about 15 years now and I’ve kind of become more focused on character. And of course Maggie Dove was a mystery and The Fiction Class wasn’t and that has its own set of things. I’m probably a little more confident because at least I know I can finish it. But a big part of my process is revising it. I work on it then revise, revise, revise and I work on it a bit more then revise, revise, revise. There’s a lot of revising going on. IM: What is the easiest part of writing for you?
SB: I like dialogue. A lot of the times, it just feels like the characters will start to talk by themselves, and it feels like I’m just overhearing a conversation. I find that the most surprising parts of writing come when characters are talking and I don’t even know what they’re going to say. It’s just one thing leads to another thing leads to another thing. So that, for me, is really fun.
“ I find that the most surprising parts of writing come when characters are talking and I don’t even know what they’re going to say.” IM: What is the hardest part of writing for you? SB: Probably description. I find description very intimidating. I’m in awe of poets and people who can always find the right word, you know? I always feel a little flat footed. My heroes are people like Emily Dickens… are people who are so resourceful when it comes to finding the right word. And so, really, the way I’ve solved that is I just take a lot of notes. Wherever I am, I just write down a lot of notes about things I see. IM: Of the characters you’ve created, who do you think you’d be better friends with? Why? SB: There’s a young woman in the mystery (Maggie Dove), who Maggie befriends, and
her name is Helen Blake. She’s 30 years old and she has this son, Edgar, he’s six. He’s a handful. Anyway, Helen’s a lot of fun, she’s always in trouble and Maggie loves her and I kind of love her myself. So I think that I would probably be friends with her. But I’ve got to say that I think that most of the people I write about, I like. I don’t often write about people I don’t like. IM: I’m sure you’ve been busy preparing for the release of your new book, Maggie Dove, what’s the publishing process been like for you? SB: It’s been wonderful. I’m sort of surrounded by people who just love the book, which is really nice. Since it’s a digital book, the process is a little different than what I’m used to. In some ways, it’s better. In some ways, it’s worse. What’s really exciting is, because I’m being published by Random House, they have this network of people who get involved in promoting the book, it’s just incredible. IM: Can you describe what the creative process is like for you?
IM: Looking back on your writing and publications, what is something you wish you could tell your younger self before you were published? SB: It’s hard because I always took it seriously so the things I wish… Like I wish that I was 20 years younger now that this is coming out. The things that took time were things like raising my children, and I wouldn’t have wanted to give that up. I think I would say to just be patient. I don’t think I realized it would take this long. I think if somebody told me, when I was 30, that it would take me like 30 years to get this all done, I think I would have been appalled. And yet, it’s really, it’s still so exciting
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SB: I usually start with a character. In the case of Maggie Dove, I knew she was a woman who was a Sunday school teacher and she was grieving because she lost her daughter and she was stuck. She was stuck in this place. That’s usually how I start, I think about somebody who’s in a particular place. And I think about the character a lot, like what they want, things they like. And once I know the character well enough, then I write. Sometimes it takes months to get to the point where I’m ready to write. It changed a little bit because The Fiction Class was a single novel, but Maggie Dove is a series. Writing the second book for Maggie Dove, I already knew the character so I needed to primarily focus on the plot.
and I feel like I keep learning stuff. I guess I was a particular type of writer when I was young and now I’m a different type of writer and I think that I just really enjoyed the process. One of the best things I did was that all along, I’ve made friends in this business. I’ve got fellow writers, I’ve got agents and editors who are friends, and that is in many ways the most rewarding part of the whole thing. And I think that’s why it’s so exciting now, because I’ve got so many people happy for me, so that’s a really nice thing. It doesn’t have to be a really isolating thing. One thing that surprises me is that when I go back and read stuff that I wrote when I was, like, 15 years old, I still think it’s good. I think that there’s still a part of that 15 year old in me. My writing has changed and grown but part of it is still the same, part of it is that 15 year old girl that wanted to be a writer. I read a quote the other day that I really liked. “The hard thing is not starting to be a writer, but to keep being a writer.” I think that’s wonderful. To me, it’s a lifetime commitment.
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Oliver Baker’s Note to Self By Michelle Blanyar
Juno’s and I’s relationship consisted of playing Words with Friends. On Friday nights, we’d play into the early mornings. She played words that surpassed my vocabulary, ones I neglected to remember during SAT study sessions and she’d gotten points that racked up her high score, words like a loaded gun. Sometimes it took her days, and I’d get to see the way her brows furrowed in concentration, her lips curling up into a smile and her blue eyes brightening when she finally figured it out. And then she’d play it and the rest of my letters on the bottom of my screen couldn’t compare, and it wouldn’t matter then what word I’d play. The game was already over. She was unbeatable. She wasn’t modest about it either. I watched her walk with an air of superiority when she’d win, a bounce to her step, mouth stretched into a sly grin. I remember when she was on the brink of being beat, she’d look up dictionary words and how many points she’d receive on the Internet. Her tongue jammed to the roof of her mouth, swiping over her gums bitterly, she would not stop until she won. And she’d smile triumphantly when she eventually did.
During our younger years of being freshmen in high school,
“Cheater,” I’d accuse her without any animosity. She’d poke me in the middle of my forehead with her pointer finger, lean in close before whispering, “Sore loser.” And I could not stop myself from falling. I lived and breathed her entire existence.
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Other nights, we opted for Mario Kart instead, Juno taking Peach as her regular and I with Yoshi. And purposefully, I’d slip on the bananas she’d leave on Rainbow Road, falling off into the abyss of color and light while she took the lead. She’d call me out on it, too. My cell phone would ring that familiar ringtone of “Sweet Disposition” and her loud laugh would blare into the tone. “Stop playing like you don’t know what you’re doing and let me beat your ass fair and square!” I’d laugh back, but I never stopped purposefully falling off the tracks because I never got enough of her voice when she’d hang up after calling. My heart would beat hard against my chest, fingertips buzzing when she’d call again, sweet when she’d sigh as I picked up the phone. “I swear, you just get worse and worse, Baker.” I’d cross my arm over my head and we’d abandon our game, and we’d talk until three in the morning when she’d fall asleep. The call would still be going until five when the sun would come up and her phone battery would die and my fingertips
would still be buzzing with want. Our fallout lead me to delete the app and let it sink out of my consciousness to forget. We got too busy for games and late night conversations spilling into the mornings. Because the older we got, the more shit we had on our minds: she started to become serious about her career of being actress, I started working two jobs just to help my mom pay for rent, and we had less and less time for each other until we didn’t have time for each other at all. And then after three years, its radio silence with the occasional happy birthday on Facebook. I gave the game card to my sister to enjoy herself when she was stuck at the hospital, breathing tubes stuck down her throat. I sold my old blue D.S., the one with a Mickey Mouse sticker stuck to the back that Juno put there in seventh grade. But the forty bucks I received from selling it to our local Game Stop did nothing to satisfy the emptiness Juno left within me. I still loved her even when she slipped out of my very fingers. Even when I let her. The first night I ran into her since our fallout, Kaz convinced me to get high with him. We each took hits off the bowl from a dime bag I sold him earlier that day until every blood vessel in my being started buzzing and Kaz had to pull the car over because our lungs were still burning from the harshness of the kush and the roughness of the bowl. We had stopped in the local 7/11 corner
store and Juno had been the last person I thought I’d bump into, our shoulders smacking together as I entered and she was leaving. Every feeling I had been harboring from our adolescent years spilled out onto the messy sidewalk, proving that I never fell out of love with her at all. She didn’t recognize me at first and an apology was just on the tip of her tongue before she looked up. Her eyes widened with recognition while I stared at her fuzzy form, panicked. Vibrations ran through the pit of my belly, down humming to my toes and it was the first time I thought about fucking Juno and just how badly I was
still in love with her. “Oliver?” I opened my mouth to speak, but sparks like panic rose in my throat. Dry, sticky and hesitant. The after burn of the weed made my chest heavy and my head light, unfocused. My heart rattled in my chest and I flexed my fingers from the numbness of the nipping February air, the drugs no longer warming me from the inside out.
“I tried not to think about how unfair it was for her to be the love of my life for years and appear only when I was baked and she was still as beautiful as ever.”
Her lips looked rimmed red even in the light of the fluorescent bulbs overhead and my mind flickered to a conversation I once had with Kaz. “Kissing is amazing,” he sighed, sprawled out on my dorm room bed and reeking of weed. And he looked at me with squinted, blurry eyes when he continued with, “It feels so good when you’re blazed.” I hadn’t thought about it since. My cheeks burned not only out of shame but out of how high I was. Distracted, I swallowed thickly as I pulled my gaze away from Juno’s mouth, my own dry, but there was an ache that shuddered through me. “Hey, um, hi.” The words fell faster from my mouth than I had meant or would have liked it to. Embarrassment tickled the inside of my brain on how idiotic it sounded; rushed even to my own ears. I stuffed my hands casually into the pockets of my sweatpants, paranoid of seeming too stiff, not casual enough. The fear of seeming too casual haunted me just as easy and I opted for keeping my hands at my sides instead. Her gaze swept over me. “Hi,” Juno trailed off, syllable slow and corner of her mouth turning up in amusement. I tried not to think about how unfair it was for her to be the love of my life for years and appear only when I was baked and she was still as beautiful as ever. “What’s up? What are you doing here?” “I’m fine,” I replied almost instantly, an after wave of embarrassment hitting
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me seconds later when the realization that my response wasn’t the answer she wanted dawns on me. “I mean,” a dumb smile found its way onto my mouth and I couldn’t help from laughing, one of my hands coming up to rub over my cheek and forehead. “Just, uh, running errands.” The look she had given me was disbelief and confusion rolled all into one, that perhaps she didn’t believe me. And there was no way I could’ve guessed what she might’ve been feeling or thinking, or what she was like when we were two different people the last time we saw each other. “Oh,” her face fell into an expression I could no longer read, Juno having grown up without me and I without her. Yet, I was still so stupidly in love, feeling licking at my every nerve, melting away the numbness of the cold, the drugs, and my heart. I crossed my hands in front of my pants not so discreetly as Juno looked on out into the parking lot, biting her bottom lip. A deep red hickey sat at the juncture of her collarbone, tiny bite like marks littering the left side of her neck. I watched her with parted lips until she glanced back at me, a small, apologetic smile appearing on her mouth. That fucking beautiful mouth. “I have to go, but, um,” She paused and I didn’t get to ask her what she was doing at 7/11 at one in the morning on a Friday. But I don’t think I had to. A car horn went off and we turned toward the sound, and at the far corner of the parking lot, Miles stuck his ring-
clad hand out of the window, flashing the headlights impatiently. We watched through the windshield as his thick brows pulled together in the inquisition and I was reminded of the time Juno’s relationship status changed, how I poured over Miles’ profile for two hours trying finding reasons not to like him. “Look at this,” I had laughed bitterly at a photo of him; long hair past his shoulders and holding up a Polaroid camera like he was taking a picture. “A picture of him taking a picture. Is that not pretentious or what?” The bag of chips in Kaz’s lap crinkled as he leaned as far back as his desk chair would let him. He stared at the screen of my laptop for a good minute, eyes squinted before he shook his head. Placing a salt coated hand on my shoulder, he chuckled, “You got it bad, Ollie.” And through an enamored gaze and a fuzziness in my gut, I watched her waved back. She threaded her fingers through her tousled hair when she laughed nervously, a pink and embarrassed blush dusting over her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” Juno directed at me, holding her nearly empty shopping bag closer to her. The bold and obnoxious MAGNUM mocked me and all of my stupid, unrequited feelings through the thin plastic. “It’s really great to see you.” Her eyes were big and sweet and sincere. Her hand reached out to touch my elbow. “I’m still living with my parents, so my number
“But I couldn’t think of anything but her. The fruity scent of Juno’s perfume and the thin line of glitter that lined her eyelids or the way she used to dance. Slow, drawn out movements of her hips.”
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is the same. Don’t be a stranger. Call me sometime, okay?” “Yeah, yeah,” I trailed off and I watched her walk away from me for the second time in my life, down the parking lot in that baby blue, floral print skirt. I had known Juno for eight years and I was always letting her walk away. And when I got back into the car, laughter fell from Kaz’s mouth easily and I adjusted myself in my sweats, my cheeks burning all the way to my ears and down to my neck. “That was honestly so painful to watch.” He told me, preparing the bowl with one hand, the other taking the car out of park. “Shut the fuck up,” I retaliated, but there was a smile on my mouth. Lights reflected off the streets and onto Kaz’s face, the web-like shadows cast underneath his cheekbones. But I couldn’t think of anything but her. The fruity scent of Juno’s perfume and the thin line of glitter that lined her eyelids or the way she used to dance. Slow, drawn out movements of her hips. Or the fact she was going to fuck Miles that night and I never told her how I felt and never will.
italics mine 126 “Parallel Palms”
trashbar BY NICH FA R R EL L
replay the sun boiled blood with coolant running the veins brown bagging, being brave stranded in what I chose I had hardly had a drink until then with my hard hat and skeptic step but I spoke too much for the future and work my way down from there
spent my time there pondering if the bar served trash, to trash, or was actually made out of trash there were these big collaged red curtains in the back they were heavy to push, and behind them was a girl who knows we aren’t we were what’s happening after all passing through the purpose of the place, to move through the hollow walls for I am pulled by the arm through all of my memories by the Ghost of Regret Yet To Come steep steps to new lows the world bows with my vision as I staggered down the rock tumbler to the back black-lit litter
how suiting a name for a place for us to end up in, trashbar
the way I always do, start with big plans
where what’s left of Iggy Pop’s reduction print is chipping away to a more sunken stare sees two children with too many stains take pills with or without too many names how fitting a place, trashbar the exact kind of place where this kind of thing would happen saw my doe eyes in the headlights in the bull’s-eye of the audience as we packed ourselves in a clown car I either held you or a keyboard, either way I sensed a miscommunication pressure being the only fuel in me italics mine
I did not question the answers I’d find in the orange juice clueless if anything could actually change me then idle for so long and idle still
but the background paper began to roll away the foreground began to shrink to the stranger’s floor, I melted watching the sun bloom above me just a pincushion for these cactus needles just a bucket under a leaking ceiling not a real solution but a place to hold the filth
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Nana Ach ampong
Do You Like The Way My Voice Sounds When I Say Your Name? By Gabrielle Bernstein
I don’t know who you are, where you are, or anything about you, but I still want to tell you stories. I love them. I love the way they look on photographs, on film, and on paper. I love the way they sound on the tongue when someone speaks. I love the way they make me feel. I hope that you can speak English so you can read this. If not, it might look like a bunch of mush on a page and this will be nothing but a sheet of paper that you toss in the trash. But if you can, please bear with me and hear me out and if you still want to crumble this or rip it into a thousand pieces, that is fine. I will understand. I am a very understanding person. I don’t really know why I am writing this but I guess it’s because I want to tell you a few things about myself. And just because I am telling you, it does not mean that I am happy about it. If you knew me you would know that I have a hard time talking about things that I don’t understand. I want to tell you a few things about myself because maybe it will make me feel closer to you. Although I might never know how you feel, these are things that I think you should know because I would want to know these things about you.
wouldn’t. She was old. I have small scars on my face from her claws. That’s probably because I would jab my fingers in her eyes and ears and other places that cats don’t want fingers being jabbed into. I still think about what it would be like to have another cat. I wanted to adopt one behind my mom’s back but she told me that if I brought an animal home, I wouldn’t be able to live with her anymore. So I didn’t. I felt sad because the cat I had chosen online, Buddy, was old and no one really wants to adopt an older cat. All I could do was imagine this poor, fat cat living in a cage for the rest of his life. I called my mom and told her about this and she just yelled at me and explained why she doesn’t want to take care of a cat. I called her selfish and then she hung up. I was upset but quickly got over it because a few days later, I found out that Buddy was adopted and I felt better. Did you know that I like to make movies, take pictures, and write stories? I go to an art school in New York. I really love it. I wish you could see it. The campus is ugly but the people are wonderful. I can’t begin to explain to you how much I have learned about myself as a person and as an artist. My friends here are very talented. They inspire me everyday. I wish that there were a way that I could show you some of my work. Some of it is good. Most of it is bad. Maybe I will staple some of my short stories and photographs to the back of this letter so you can see. It is all proof that I am living. It shows exactly who I am and if you
Did you know that my name is Gabrielle? I was named after my grandmother. Her name was Goldie. I never met her but she sounded nice and my mom wanted to name me something with a “G”. I hate it. She was going to name me either Molly, Maya, or Madison, but, of course, she named me Gabrielle. If you are curious on how it is pronounced, you should look it up. I think it is French. Sometimes, people call me Gabriella or Gabriel. People are fucking stupid. Did you know that I live in New York City? I was raised in Riverdale, which is in the Bronx. I really don’t like it. I don’t know many people there, which is fine. It is just my mom and I; her name is Irene. You would probably like her. A lot of people do because she is very kind, compassionate, supportive, and just the overall best. I sometimes forget to tell her that because we argue a lot over stupid things. We used to have a cat, Kitty Cat, who died when I was six or seven. She was the only animal that I really got a chance to love. She didn’t do much, but I have fond memories of her sitting on my windowsill, looking at nothing because my room faces this alleyway that was supposed to be a community garden. It’s really rusty, mostly concrete, and just full of trash. I don’t know what Kitty liked about it, but sometimes I would watch her; she wouldn’t budge as her small round head was tilted to the side. I would try to pet her, sometimes she would let me and sometimes she
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wanted to understand, you should look at it and you can get a grip of who I am, what I dream about, what scares me, and what I am interested in. It is all there. It might be hard to find. You just have to look closely and you will find exactly what you are looking for. Did you know that I teach kids how to ice skate? I started skating when I was six years old and I skated on a team for years. It was a lot of fun but it also sucked because I wouldn’t do anything that harmed my skating (food, boys, social activities). For a majority of my adolescent life, I had only known what it was like to be an athlete. I really loved skating. It challenged me and taught me some very valuable skills but it was also a very difficult part of my life. My skating coach, Sylvia, was very mean to me and it really fucked me up because shit like that fucks you up. She compared me to other skaters, yelled at me in public, and she made me feel like shit. I was pretty depressed for a majority of high school. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t please her. I failed most of my classes and almost didn’t get into college. Towards the end of my high school career, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and wasn’t around a lot. I prayed a lot for her. She passed away during the summer before my sophomore year of college and that was very hard. I felt strange going to the vigil and the wake because it seemed that she hated me and wouldn’t want me there. But I went because I cared about her. A lot of the girls on the
team were there and they gave me dirty looks, which made me very uncomfortable. One of Sylvia’s friends then came up to me and told me that when Sylvia was on her deathbed, she said that she loved me and wanted to know if I could forgive her. I will never forget that. A few months later, I donated my hair in her honor. I still think of her often. Did you know that I suffer from social anxiety? I don’t know if that comes from you or not but it’s real and it sucks and the air always feels tight making it nearly impossible to breathe. It spiked during my sophomore year of college and I had many anxiety attacks in front of my friends. I have lost some friends because of it but that’s okay because, I guess, sometimes you will lose friends. But a lot of people have stuck around and are still some of the most important people in my life. It took a long time but I think I am in control of my anxiety. I still get anxious but I know how to handle it before it overwhelms me. I don’t know how that happened. I guess it’s because I have been surrounded by such good people. I wish you could meet them. They are fulfilling, smart, supportive, interesting, and just the best. I want to tell you about each and every one of them but that might take forever. I love them dearly and hope that they know that. Did you know that I think of you often? I wonder what you look like, what your skin feels like. I sometimes look in the mirror and I freeze because I had forgotten what I
looked like and it’s hard to understand that I don’t know where I am from. I touch my face to try to see what part of me is from you. My nose? My eyes? My thick eyebrows? My dark complexion? All you gave me were your genetics and they are all here on my body and even when I look at myself, I still can’t picture your face. I don’t feel
Chinese. I feel American and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Did you know that I am not very religious but I pray for you every day? I pray you are alive. I pray you are well and that you are not suffering because although I don’t know anything about you, I don’t want you to suffer. I don’t know if you made this decision solely because of politics but know that I do not resent you. I sometimes think that I can remember what it was like to be left naked in a small basket in a park or what it was like for my mother to hold me in her arms when she came to China to get
“I want you to know that I have touched the stars and held them in my hands and that I have danced to smells and colors and textures. Normally you dance to sounds, but know that it is possible to dance to everything else. I hope you can too.”
me. I know that this is not true. I want you to know that I am happy. I want you to know that I live a good life, my mother is my hero, I have a shelter, an education, and food. Sometimes I question whether or not I deserve her, my friends, or this life that I was given. I want you know that I am crying as I write this because I feel all sorts of weird things, things that I can’t explain, things that are overwhelming and uncomfortable all at the same time. I want you to know that this summer I will be going back to China to see where I came from. I know that it is impossible for us to meet. I would want to meet you, to see your face, but I don’t think you would want that. That’s okay. I want you to know that I am proud of who I am. I hope you are proud of me, of the person I have become. I want you to know that I have found my silver linings. I have had my breath taken away. I have had my halcyon days. I want you to know that I have touched the stars and held them in my hands and that I have danced to smells and colors and textures. Normally you dance to sounds, but know that it is possible to dance to everything else. I hope you can too. I want you to know that I am alive and that I live. I want you to know that when I think of you, I think of red, red like home, red like love, and red like pain. I want you to know that things are good
with me and I hope things are good with you too. Your loving daughter, Gabrielle Mei-Li Bernstein
italics mine 134 “Pink City”
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Since I am about to graduate, I have been having very existential thoughts about where I come from which has affected the way that I exist in the world: my interests, my dreams, my flaws, and my fears. So I decided to explore that. I brought my computer out on the front porch, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, a cup of tea by my side, and I just wrote. I didn’t stop and then I read it. It was filled with grammatical errors and it was honest. For the first time I did not filter myself. For the first time I decided to share exactly what I was feeling. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
I don’t know. I love what I do, but I also hate it at the same time. The artistic process is something that I am really trying to work with and understand because it really is where everything happens. Everyone has got their own process and system. I guess it’s pretty magnificent when I can write a numerous amount of pages without planning it. For example, sometimes if I am feeling a certain way, see a color, feel a texture; it pushes me to write, whereas I would have not been able to create any pages if I hadn’t been exposed to those senses just moments earlier.
What excites you about the artistic process?
I just sat down with myself and had very deep and fulfilling conversations. I asked myself questions. I allowed myself to really think and feel. I think that’s where a huge chunk of my piece came from. I think artists should take advantage of their mental capacity…to be able to listen to yourself and not judge yourself for feeling some type of way about something that is so complicated. It is all really beautiful. And from there, I looked at my old photographs and writing and noticed how my catharsis was embedded subconsciously in everything that I was producing; that was scary. I had always felt like I wanted to express how I felt about my adoption but I was not ready. And most importantly, I cried. I called my Mom, spoke to my friends, and I continued making art.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
I have horrible grammar. And sometimes Iâ€™ll try to use really big words but then find out that I use it out of context and I just wind up looking stupid.
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Bowler Hat BY R ACHEL A N TONISON
I saw a lady in a bowler hat — rimmed, black, pristine condition. A lady without poise, with more drinks than American dreams, a lady without much to her purse but pennies and matronly lipstick.
listening to a swing band transport her to Prohibition and Gatsby — she is unprepared for everything life will never throw at her. I didn’t know this lady with her bowler hat, her pink drinks, her loud calls to a loud band, vicious clapping and crisp blonde hair; I didn’t know her, but I did. I turned to my date and said, “That’s me in fifty years, all alone at this bar, drinking the night into oblivion, a swirl of trumpet and new memories. That’s me in fifty years
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She waits all alone for nobody,
when I lose every lover in my life and promises crumble like cake, when you’re famous and I’m listening to you on my car radio.” Of course, that last bit was to flatter his ego, but truthfully, he would continue singing Sinatra and I’d be the drunk lady in the crowd, reminiscing on how the man on the stage was once the man who took me to a candlelit dinner and held my hand beneath the table. Black bowler hats, pink fruity drinks, old swing tunes, italics mine
all alone too — “Dylan, that’s going to be me in fifty years, not giving a damn about three failed marriages
and my cat’s vet appointment on Tuesday; I’m going to be that lady drinking on a Sunday night late into the swoon of colors from the instruments. I’m going to watch the Russian bassist and the elderly man slamming on the drums in his burgundy baseball cap, not giving a single anything about image and reality and fashion. I’m going to fall in love with a stranger on a stage and go back home to write poetry about them, remembering every detail of their image and embossing them in stone.” This is the part of the night when Dylan, in his brown suit and fleur-de-lis cufflinks,
his strong posture and strong jawline, turns to me and says, “Yes, that’s you — how accurate.” Because I will become the lady in the bowler hat when my date leaves me, when everyone leaves me but myself, when the world is gray but music becomes color, sitting alone in a bar and drinking shamelessly, worrying about little but missing someone I never met.
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Your Removal BY M A DEL INE BODENDOR F
My graduation, brought on by gifts And family from all afar, With weary eyes and several woes, we all Wanted to go home, to that Place of solitude and no suffering. You didnâ€™t want to die, the day before, italics mineâ€ƒ
But, you also helped us out. You let go, while we were all together, And that has made it easier, and soft,
And I forgive you for taking my day away. We called on you while cutting the cake, And fit you into the photos. We washed the sweet sadness down with Beers, bourbon, and bread pudding, And buried you the next day.
The Voice BY CHR IST INA BAU LCH
sing-song hums ricochet through the circuitry of the hallways. the voice, pulled thin, singing, “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.” a door to the left swings open with the same gleeful cheer. pictures of miniature descendants frame the walls, smiling. the grin paints lines across her face, the cost of happiness.
her hands begin to shake with the vigor of her sunshine song.
“Grandma, grandma.” tiny hyper voices plead like a chorus choir. each child learning the song, but for how long will they be smiling? there sits her bed, made one final time for its only occupant. the walls of time closing in, but still all the nurses are smiling. the grandchildren in frames are frozen in a flash time machine. heads tilted as they stare at their past selves eternally smiling. they say even in death her “eyes twinkle bright as can be.” the beloved woman motionless, presumably smiling.
pale pink lips curved around each of its loving words, smiling.
her real heart slowly dying every day, the other smiling.
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Whisper Blanchar d
Contributors’ Notes Nana Achampong was born and raised a New Yorker. She is a student who tries to take life one day at a time, without constantly tripping over herself. Smile. Rachel Antonison likes to write negative poems about people and then read them out loud to the subjects, which she did with “Bad Food.” The man still doesn’t know. Emily Acquista is a junior in the Painting and Drawing program. She is a freelance artist and aspires to one day teach in the field.
Gabby Bernstein is from New York City, and wants to travel the world. Gabby drinks very sweet wine, tells stories, and is great with kids. Kyra Betheil is a first year Environmental Studies major. Her love of the natural world is matched by her appreciation and passion for all mediums of art. However, written language has always captured her senses best. Her works are meant to enlighten. Read the words, then look around. Whisper Blanchard is a small flowering plant that flourishes best in the tropical weather of Miami, FL. It is essential that she is planted near the sea. She only recently discovered— on her twentieth birthday to be exact—that she is considerably allergic to bees ( you can image how this might pose a problem). Michelle Alyssa Blanyar is a young junior in college double majoring in both Literature and Gender Studies. In between juggling school, work and a social life, Michelle works on her craft as a writer. Michelle enjoys writing flash fiction, as well as other short stories and is currently working on her first novel.
Olivia Behan is a Senior at Purchase; she will be graduating with a BA in Creative Writing. She hails from Middletown, NY but now resides in Peekskill, NY. When she’s not writing or sleeping, she somehow manages a dog daycare. Oddly enough, you can’t imagine how much inspiration she pulls from playing with puppies all day.
Christina Baulch is a first-year Literature major at Purchase College. She’s an avid reader, writer, book blogger, and possible aspiring librarian. Before coming to Purchase, she was the Integrity Chief of her high school newspaper, The Paw Print. While sometimes indecisive about her life goals, she is sure that she is a big fan of pizza. And chocolate, definitely chocolate.
Shana Blatt is a freshman Literature major hopefully switching over to creative writing in the fall. She has an intense love for poetry, and recently, she’s been writing a lot of non-fiction pieces for The Odyssey. A lot of her writing is about self-love, feminism, and/or birds. Kate Brown is a freshman Literature major at Purchase College. She likes dogs. Sarah Brown is an artist based in New York City/Long Island and will be receiving her BFA in Photography from Purchase College in May ‘16. She specializes in photography, and her style is distinct in its unique use of imagery, the profound concepts explored, and the aesthetics she incorporates into each image. Madeline Bodendorf is a sophomore from Highland, New York currently studying Creative Writing. With three full–length novels under her belt, she prefers writing prose over poetry but takes a shot at both nonetheless. A medieval English junkie and Game of Thrones fanatic, she hopes to one day write a novel that can somehow compare to the two. Sarah Buckser is a sophomore Drawing and Painting major who comes from Plattsburgh, New York. While she loves art she also has a passion for writing and has had work featured in Teen Ink Magazine and Teen Ink’s anthology, Surviving the Teenage Years. Both her visual and her written work focuses on creating emotion and imagery from seemingly unimportant details. She is a member of improv club, Hillel, and PCEMS club. In her free time she enjoys writing novels and hopes, at some point, to publish one of them. italics mine
Nnandi Cason has been taking photos for about a year. He enjoys exploring abandoned train stations under the city of New York and sneaking on to skyscrapers just for the love of photography.
Samantha Crohn is a sophomore in Drawing and Painting, with a minor in Art History. She draws a lot of her inspiration from philosophy. She has a strong interest in introspection and the human form within her work. Bridget R. Dease was born and raised in Washington DC. She became serious about writing in high school when she attended a prestigious arts school in DC called The Duke Ellington School of the Arts. At Purchase College, Bridget has gone insane. She is currently a junior and has decided to double major in Creative Writing and Anthropology as well as double minor in Playwriting and History. The library is her soul mate. Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are two of her favorite authors. A little advice if you find yourself a little down: Never doubt yourself; you’re amazing. Lauren D’Errico is a double major in Creative Writing and Playwriting/Screenwriting. She enjoys petting her dog and making her thoughts into bad songs. She hopes to write for as long as possible and do as many things as she can in the meantime. Nich Farrell is a songwriter and lyricist originally from Atlanta, Georgia currently making music under the name “As Gideon Weeps.” Nich also writes poetry when his words won’t fit into a musical phrase. Danielle Foti enjoys long walks on the beach, having her hair combed by handsome men, and shopping for groceries in a T-Rex costume. For more of her graphic design projects, go to behance.net/Danielle_Foti
Erik Goetz is a writist, cartooner, MSTie and FOT from Endicott, NY. The host of Pogo Pogo, a music and comedy show airing Sundays at 10pm on WPSR. He enjoys Yerba Maté and Lucha Libré. Peter Hayes is a junior Literature major. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, or why he writes, but he’s going to keep at it until he finds out. He is very glad to have found a place at SUNY Purchase to do this. Christopher Jiles Jr. is an African American visual artist born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. currently majoring in Painting and Drawing. He primarily works in oils and acrylics, but is known for his experimentation with material and texture. His works have been noted for being very sculptural, incorporating three-dimensional elements, found objects, and areas of thick paint. Jiles’ pieces have ranged from being representational with the slightest narrative to a wide abstraction that is physical and enamoring. Erica Allen-Lubman is a Purchase studio composition sophomore. She’s been writing casually and for self expression/ care since grade school and hopes to continue it as a life-long habit Danielle McCormack is known to her friends as DaniMac, she’s a Creative Writing major, a History minor and a Visual Arts minor. Her friends are just as important to her as her family. She loves to go camping and spending time outdoors. She hopes to one day publish her poetry and open her own photography business.
Chelsea Muscat was born and raised in the beautiful mediterranean which is what inspired her love for art. She is able to see the light in any situation and find inspiration in it. Kyle Noguera is a freshmen at SUNY Purchase. He has been interesting in writing since he was 6-years old, and is excited to share what he has written with others. Kyle enjoys not being sick, reading, video games, and spending time with friends and family. If you would like to say hi to Kyle, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Victoria Ottomano is a junior and a Painting and Drawing major. Maximillian Pollio is a Graphic Design junior at Purchase College. During his time at the school, he has explored many different ways of image making through different processes and styles including printmaking, photography, hand-generated techniques and digitally-generated
Kenneth Miller is a student at Purchase College and has a dumb love for knitwear, murder mystery shows, and Regina Spektor. He’s really bad at movies (except documentaries because he obsessively watches those), being appropriately affectionate towards puppies, tweeting, and expressing his feelings.
Finola McDonald is a Bronx born writer/poetess, coffee enthusiast, and undercover queen of the universe just trying to live life here on Earth. She is also a first year Creative Writing student at SUNY Purchase. You can probably find her lounging around Strand, reading (literally anything) Billy Collins, drinking some pretentious green juice, or dancing. Finola found her passion for writing young, took a break to try and be twelve different things, then threw it all out the window when she realized it was writing that made her world go round.
techniques.. Max has also developed a style, he has been told, that’s said to be very minimal and geometric. Ian Puckett is a transfer Sophomore majoring in Biology. Born in the deserts of California but now a self proclaimed Seattleite since having spent most of his life in the suburb of Everett, WA. He’s excited that he chose Purchase College because he’s fitting in with his boyfriend and one other guy from Long Island? To kill time he sings a lot of music and writes a lot of poetry. This will be his first submission to Italics Mine and he is grateful for the opportunity. Christina Sanchez is a student at Purchase College. Zoey B Scheler is in her first year as an MFA candidate here at Purchase College. Zoey attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, where she received her BFA with an emphasis in Ceramics. Wanting to continue to make work and explore her dream of being a full time artist, Zoey moved to Southern Colorado where she set up a ceramic studio in which she focused on developing a new body of work. She continues to explore ceramics here at Purchase. Integrating her passion for creating and her experience with teaching she intends to continue to explore different paths for selling and showing her work as well as remain close to the classroom, as she hopes to never stop learning and to always be among open minds eager for knowledge and ready to grow.
Ansel Shipley is a junior majoring in Literature and minoring in Economics. He enjoys writing reviews of the things he reads and watches, because he can’t just enjoy something without being overly-analytical. He prides himself on being able to keep on top of important popculture developments, and it definitely does not stress him out.
James Siegel , aka BK James, is a poet, comic book collector, Robocop aficionado, and musician. Visit bkjames.bandcamp.com and3penisproductions.bandcamp.com to hear his music.” If you find that plug for my music to be too much I understand and will come up with another line to replace it. In any case let me know if there is anything else you need from me. Chaya Sturm is a fourth year Psychology major, and is currently interning at Sing Sing Correctional Facility where she works with inmates in a GED/pre-college program. Raised in an insular, ultra-orthodox Hasidic community, Chaya was perceived as a social maverick due to her curiosity about the secular world. Chaya is just starting to enjoy her freedom, and feels like the world is her oyster. Jiaming Tang, 18, is a sophomore literature major at Purchase College. He was born in Fujian, China, but currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. He has no social media to speak of. Shannon Vignola is a sophomore psychology major who enjoys writing in her free time. She hails from LI where she grew up as one of eight kids. She fell in love with books in the seventh grade and since then they’ve had an epic love affair. She is 19 years old and has never submitted anything to be published let alone had anything published. Aside from using writing as a hobby she would ultimately want her poetry to move peoples emotions; to make them feel.
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Spring/Summer issue 13.2 featuring new fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art.