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Thank you. Italics Mine, a literary journal published by the Creative Writing program at Purchase College, not only gives students hands-on, real-world experience in editing and production, but also provides a platform for burgeoning writers and artists to see their work in print, often for the first time. By championing the work of young artists in our pages, we encourage the making of art as a worldview; by supporting the diverse voices of our community, we foster the next generation of artists. Thank you for the generous gifts of Lilly Lieb Port, the Humanities Department at Purchase College, and the Purchase College Affiliates for their support of Italics Mine. Without financial support, this journal would not be possible. For further information about ways to give to Italics Mine, please contact Tracy Calvan, email@example.com.
Italics Mine showcases the new, creative literary voices of Purchase College students —majors and non-majors alike —through print and web. The diversity of the student population is reflected in the pieces we strive to share with the entire college community. Italics Mine is a notable addition to the Lilly B. Lieb Port Creative Writing Program at Purchase College. The program’s close proximity to the cultural life of New York City, its numerous writers in residence, and its summer writing program on the French Riviera make it unique among undergraduate programs. It is the only program in the SUNY system to offer such a major. Special thanks to the Purchase College Affiliates Grant for their support in the printing of this issue. The Creative Writing Program at SUNY Purchase College, in Purchase, New York 10577, publishes Italics Mine. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of either the magazine staff or any institution. Following publication, all rights revert to the authors and artists. “Freak Ocean” Cover Art by Andrea Ross
Editors 2017 Managing Editors Erik Goetz Jiaming Tang
Graphic Design Hailee Knadle
Poetry Loisa Fenichell
Marketing Vee Weeks
Finola McDonald Lunes Lucien Toni Chianese Ashley Fields
Taylor Johnson Zarira Love
Ashley Fields Kyle Noguera
Rosa Sugarman Madeline Bodendorf Alyssa Pfingst Taylor Johnson Vee Weeks Zarira Love
Liz Schack Kyle Noguera Kayla Dale
Layout Loisa Fenichell Liz Schack Madeline Bodendorf Toni Chianese
Kayla Dale Lunes Lucien Alyssa Pfingst Rosa Sugarman
Faculty Advisors Finola McDonald
Monica Ferrell Catherine Lewis Mehdi Okasi Warren Lehrer
Table of Contents Poetry
Metro-North Towards Southeast Trisha Murphy Digging Holes Danielle Calleo Teaneck, 1984 Regina Bowler thank you for the mosaic vase Regina Bowler The Scarecrows Micah Havriliak Everyone Has a Tio Noelani Sky Capote Oink Doc Roulier Cinephilia Christina Baulch Childhood Romance Amber Gorney Seven Years Old in Our 2003 Ford Windstar Trisha Murphy from where Iâ€™m standing Trisha Murphy Like Animals in the Frost Elana Marcus A Thought Daniela Franceschetti Urban Suicide Noelani Sky Capote Recovery Noelani Sky Capote Mystic Miki Micah Havriliak Parsing and Detecting for Twenty to Life Andres Cordoba Rocket Ships Keegan Sagnelli
1 4 12 14 20 30 39 49 55 75 77 86 92 96 98 99 100 103
Bitter Weep Anne Penatello 2 Fun Ajani Bazile-Dutes 6 Berry Pleasant Anne Penatello 15 Mrs. Wilkins Winnie Richards 22 ...Pickle-Eating Big Crunch... Sam Bell 32 Persephone and Hades Jaela Vaughn 50 Beauty Behold Janelle McNeil 60 Spirits Jamison Murcott 83
The Elephant Tree Lydia Everett 16 Writing, Wonder, and Wit: An Interview with. . . . . . . . . Joanna Valente 40 To Dwell on Dreams Shannon Magrane 46 A Letter to You Michelle Blanyar 53 An Interview with. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chelsea Muscat 58 Love Me Better Mommy Yvelyn Freycinet 78 Thomas Rain Haluska 87 An Interview with. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rain Haluska 90 Untitled Documents Destiny Carattini 94 An Interview with. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Andrea Ross 106 Freak Ocean (Cover) Andrea Ross Beautiful Queen (Title Pages) Spencer Wainacht Me, Myself, and Parts of You Leandra Manon 3 School’s Out Jason Quizhpi 8 Pink Jason Quizhpi 13 Rethinking Woman Caryl Melnick 17 Confused Olivia Evans 21 Health Goul Griffin Rapp 24 I’m Right Here Griffin Rapp 27 Yo Soy Leandra Manon 29 Late Summer Overbite Gio Martin 38 Spring Cleaning Casey McCarthy 47 Melancholy Olivia Evans 52 Mommy Nervosa (Series) Chelsea Muscat 57 Exquisite Corpse #1 Nandita Raman’s Class 76 Marina di Pisciotta Jason Quizhpi 81 °˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° Spencer Wainacht 82 ヾ(｡･ω･｡) Spencer Wainacht 85 Lavish Olivia Evans 89 Exquisite Corpse #2 Nandita Raman’s Class 97 La Donna Jason Quizhpi 102
Metro-North Towards Southeast Trisha Murphy
It’s the warm gush of wind blushing against your cheek as you walk the length of the platform, counting cars as you pass them because “You Must Be In The First Four Cars”. It’s the window seat facing backwards because you like to see what you’re leaving. And when you’re leaving for the first time in 4 weeks, 2 days, an hour and 45 minutes, it’s the seventh time you check your wallet for the ticket. The headrest of the seat in front of you has “Steven” written in Sharpie, you trace it with your index finger and wonder if “Steven” was the one to write it, or maybe a lover, or a best friend, or it doesn’t really matter, you’re just grateful for something to stare at, sitting backwards was a mistake, you feel sick.
Bitter Weep Anne Penatello
hen I was little and living on my family’s sunflower farm, I took my tea with two whopping spoonfuls of honey. I’d spin the spoon, spilling out half, then suck off the sweetness. I assumed honey came from trees, like syrup, until I was ten and a half. I became informed otherwise one morning after having struck down a bee with my tennis racket. It did not go down immediately. It stung me and then flew a few feet before plummeting to the porch’s poorly painted steps. It felt like I had been shot! My nanny, Miss Rosalie, rushed from the yard where she was hanging linen towards my hollering. After she removed the stinger and applied a wet Tum to the surface, she questioned why I had hurt the bee. I said that it was out to get me with its horrific buzzing noise, much worse than a moth or mosquito. She swept the tiny lifeless bumble into the kaleidoscopic garden and led me to the back by the hand. We made our way through flowing walls of soft fabric and came out at the far end of the field. There she showed me how to watch the bees move from flower to flower. I suddenly understood the crucial role bees played in the planet’s beautiful survival. I wept for the life that ended because of me, as a child. Now I weep, wrinkled and rocking, for the lack of sweetness in my cup and loss of color in the fields.
Me, Myself, and Parts of You Leandra Manon
Digging Holes Danielle Calleo There’s hours until the sky turns blue, when you call I spring out of bed to fly over dark skylights. Over girls dressed in white lying face down in puddles of saliva, someone else’s fingers in their braids. I melt in front of you wholeheartedly, a puddle of impotence at your feet. But you wear your combat boots and I can’t stop the soles from mashing my soft body into bullets that whirl around like a boomerang into my head. Another stain on your wall. I was a sunflower a month ago. I woke with the sun, mounted the day and rode it to the ends of the universe. Now I wake with long shadows, swallow shards of glass and wait for you.
Present your shovel and pull me out of this hole made of soft bodies and hard words. I want a kiss; but you break my nose instead. Sticky drops turn the sky crimson on the pictures Iâ€™ve taken for you. Daylight has broken, but the excavator that you are keeps you from seeing the sunrise. Your dirt-caked face will never be clean again.
Fun Ajani Bazile-Dutes
Your thumb scrolls down through the selection of guys on your phone screen. Apps like Grindr seemed
so bizarre at first; it’s like picking from a vending machine of boys and the product gets delivered to your door. You’ve been single for a couple months now and your friends suggested this app as a way to meet guys easily. However, you’re stressing about it more than you should. It’s nothing, you tell yourself. It’s just sex and people do it all the time. But you don’t do it all the time. You’ve done it, but you’ve never done it with a stranger you met online. You see a couple of guys that look cute but then move on when their profiles say, “Here for Latino and White guys.” You stop scrolling and click on one profile because the guy’s picture gets your attention. He’s 20, which is only a year older than you. He’s two miles from your apartment, which you have to yourself since your parents are at work. And he looks somewhat sweet. You can clearly tell that his body is toned in his profile picture, but his inviting smile and Batman t-shirt tells you he’s not a prick. You can’t help but compare him to your ex, as you do with most guys these days. Your ex was a little shorter than the guy in the profile and pretty slim too. You remember the grip of his gangly arms wrapping around you from behind when he wanted to surprise you. He’d grip so tight you never would’ve thought he wouldn’t have wanted to stay. As you catch yourself in these thoughts, you shake your head, because you’re trying to move on. You look back at your phone and read the guy’s profile. It says that he likes to read and likes guys with good humor but that he is only “looking for fun, no strings attached.” He’s 6 feet tall, black, and has full eyebrows that make him look brooding. His HIV status says “negative.” You decide to reach out to him like you did earlier with the five other guys who didn’t make the cut after a little messaging. You type and send, Hey!
He responds almost immediately. Hey. You go through about three minutes of dry small talk before he asks, What you looking for? You’re a bit surprised that he propositions you first since, through text, he seemed indifferent towards you. You reply, Fun. He replies, Cool. Five seconds later, he sends you a picture of his dick. You don’t even know each other’s name’s yet. In the photo, his erect penis is lying on his stomach while his hands grip his balls. It’s not very long, but it’s pretty thick. The head is pink like salmon and the rest of it is a smooth chestnut brown. You’re glaring at it to notice every detail. You get hard. He now asks you if you have any pics. You don’t respond with words, but with pictures you took this morning in your bathroom. You’re nervous of what he will say, but he says, nice. You respond, thanks, and grin to yourself. You know you’re about to kill the vibe, but you ask, You free of STDs n shit? He says, Yeah, u? You say, Yeah. Top or bottom? Top. You don’t know why he asked, since it’s in your profile. You know he’s a top too, because it says it in his. He says, Well so am I. What do we do? Head? You suggest. He says, Ok. When? Where? You start to consider. Things are becoming very real and you feel it in the pit of your stomach. You could go to his place, but you’re paranoid as hell. He could trap you in his basement or have hidden cameras. He could come over to your place, but do you want him to know where you live? Especially if he turns out to be sketchy in a scary American Psycho way rather than in a sexy Bruce Wayne way? You end up telling him you’re
free now and have an empty apartment because you figure it will be better to have home-field advantage. You send him your address and he says, Dope. You spring up from your bed and begin to fix up your room. You run to the bathroom to use your electric shaver and give the area around your dick that same smooth aesthetic that his had. You grab a small towel and put a dab of body wash on it. You open the faucet over it and then proceed to scrub under your arms like a 7th grader getting ready for a first date at the movies. You bring the towel to your lower half and scrub your dick and balls.
“You remember that he is an actual human and not just a sex doll you ordered on Amazon Prime.” Once you’re clean and have nothing to do, all that’s left are the nerves. The last time you felt like this was when you first took your ex out on a date. You had found a small, hidden museum that, from the outside, was guised as just a regular apartment. Inside, it hosted a variety of small paintings that you pretended to observe to hide your anxiety. That feeling is no different from now, and you hate it because you want to feel sexy. As per usual, when you feel the nerves, you suddenly need to take a shit. You do so in three minutes, then febreeze the fuck out of the bathroom, because that’s not sexy. You go back to your room and sit on your bed. You are wearing Adidas ankle socks, basketball shorts, and white t-shirt. A casual outfit to slip out of. You take out
School’s Out Jason Quizhpi your phone to keep you distracted as you lie on your bed and wait for him. You consider taking a couple shots of vodka to ease your nerves. You keep thinking, you’re bugging over nothing, it’s just a blowjob, everybody does this. It’s not working. You need the vodka. Once you’re in the kitchen, you open your parents’ liquor cabinet. You put your hand on the Absolut Vodka and— knock, knock, knock! “Fuck!” You close the cabinet and go towards the door. You open it and the minute you do, the nerves disappear. There he is, in a red tee and slim-fit black jeans. Seeing him in the flesh is a bit odd. You remember that he is an
actual human and not just a sex doll you ordered on Amazon Prime. “Hey,” you say. He smiles. “Hi.” You open the door more so he can walk in. “Uh…you want anything to drink?” You ask this awkwardly, because it sounds as if you’re having company over to chat rather than a dick sucking appointment. “Actually, yeah. I’d love some water. It’s hot as fuck outside.” “Sure.” You grin. You walk to the kitchen and take out a plastic cup from the cabinet above the sink. You go to the faucet to fill it up. Part of you wishes the cup would take longer to fill so you could avoid the awkward interaction. You hand him the full cup, and, as he starts to drink, you say, “My room is over here.” You begin to lead the way and he follows. Once you both walk into your bedroom, he’s done drinking, and sets the cup down on the dresser near the door. “Nice room,” he says as he looks around your mediocre room. It’s just four white walls with three posters, a bed and a desk. You took down a lot of stuff because they were gifts from your ex. “Thanks.” You walk over to your desk which has a speaker connected to your phone. “I’m just gonna put some music on.” He probably thinks you’re doing it to set a tone, but you’re really doing it because the walls in the apartment building are thin, and you don’t want your neighbors to hear you being a ho. You mindlessly throw on a Fifth Harmony song which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best music for the setting, but you are getting nervous again and so you just leave it. When you turn around, he’s just standing there awkwardly, four feet from you, with his hands in his pockets and a grin. You nervously grin back and try to break the silence. You ask, “So, what’s your name by the way?” “Chris. What’s yours?”
“Jay.” “Cool.” He nods and the silence returns quicker than it left. You have no idea how to ease into the sex without it being blunt. You assumed that he’s met up with guys online before, so you thought he’d be the one who would take it from here. For four long seconds, you both look at each other with uncomfortable grins before you just decide to break the tension. The awkward tension, not the sexual one, because there isn’t any. “So…you want me to…go down on you first?” You point towards his crotch when you say this, as if he didn’t know what you meant by “go down.” What would he have thought? That you were gonna suck on his knee caps? He grins and just walks towards you. You say, “Oh,” right before he pulls you in and starts kissing you. Immediately, you are thrown into the moment. The use of his tongue is a little too constant and you overthink. You wonder if it feels weird because it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten how to kiss well, or if it’s just because you became so familiar with kissing one specific boy, one specific way, for over a year. Chris’s lips are soft like challah bread, and a line of saliva stretches like syrup when you guys pull away from each other. You take off his shirt and he takes off yours. You glance at his body, but not for long, because his tongue is back in your mouth a second later. It’s not really doing anything. You pull away from him again and you pull down his pants. He pulls down his underwear and there it is. It looks like the picture for the most part, except slightly longer. You drop to your knees and use the same mouth you kiss your mother with in a way that would appall her. You use it in a fashion that you haven’t since your ex decided that what you two had after 18 months wasn’t fun for him anymore. Three minutes later, Chris pulls it out of your mouth and tells you to get on the bed. You lie down and
he gets on top of you with his dick hovering above your torso. He’s jerking off and asks, “Where do you want me to come?” Like a dumbass you say, “In this room?” He says, “I mean on you. Where?” You say, “Uh, anywhere but my face.” He asks, “Your chest?” You say, “Yeah, that’s cool.” With your permission, he unloads. He looks relieved as he pants heavily and wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. You feel proud for a moment. Then you feel weird because you have his sperm cells all over your chest and have to lay stiff on your bed like a surfboard until he realizes you need some paper towels. He runs out of the room ass naked and returns with a sheet of Bounty paper towels. You’re glad your mom bought the super absorbent ones yesterday. As you lay there, he wipes you down like a table. After throwing out what could have been his children, you stand up and lean against the bed as he gets on his knees. Finally, you’re getting yours and it’s subpar. Still, a mouth is a mouth. You close your eyes and pretend it’s someone else. Habit makes your ex come to mind, but you know if you keep thinking of him, your eyes will swell instead of your dick. You power through and picture Michael B. Jordan and Shemar Moore to get you where you need to be. In 4 minutes, you say, “I’m gonna come,” and he takes you out of his mouth and beats you off. After you unload on his shoulder, you run and get some more Bounty paper towels. As he gets dressed, you walk towards your desk to turn the music off. As you pick up your phone, you hear him from behind, saying “Thanks. That was dope.” “I feel the same,” you answer. “So do you go to school?” The sound of the front door closing alarms you and when you turn around you see that he is gone. But still, there are bits of him that he left behind on stuff in your room. There is the cup he left on your dresser that he drank from. There is the used, crumpled-up Bounty paper towel he left in the trash can under your bed. And there is you, which he left naked in your apartment. uuu
Teaneck, 1984 Regina Bowler
Wind, tease the leaves, lift the skirts of long legged trees, as the August sun melts the gray crayon street and blanches the sidewalk beneath my feet. Miss Mary Mack, enchant the rhyme, turn the rope, jump back in time: See eight year old me under that tree, spin Audubon Road— the houses, the cars, the street, then me. Tumble now to the grassy mound, shut my eyes, block sight block sounds. Burnt sun on black closed eyes makes red spellbound sleep on a dandelion bed. Dreaming breath blows tutu seeds weaving magic between the grass and weeds. By the light of fireflies, open your eyes to this night of ice cream and stars where anything is possible on a rocket to Mars! You rode it to twenty-seventeen —but Mars was the wasteland. On which planet was my dream?
Pink Jason Quizhpi
thank you for the mosaic vase Regina Bowler I set it on the window sill where it catches the sun Light come undone fracturing polygons from the window to the door How beautiful is the sun this morning-even more refined into the warm, jeweled light where I sit smiling because you remembered me on my birthday.
Berry Pleasant Anne Penatello
he groans excessively as she slides from her not-once-made bed. A medley of stuffed things with faces are mangled in strawberry covers pulled to the floor. Amongst the bunnies of crumb and dust, she rolls to evade my gaze, and to let loose another lengthy, multi-pitched groan. I walk over and, by the fuzzy guarded ankles, pull her towards the bathroom. She allows herself to be dragged in silence down the carpeted hallway, arms fumbling dramatically behind. She fights with me on being made vertical in front of the sink. We tussle and I end up underneath the small person… horizontally. Now I’m face to face with a wild mesh of matted hairs and cherry-scented bath ball scum, and I’ve got a forty-five pound pile of fart breathing rugrat on my back. We take a wee moment of silence for the little blue pill that fell behind the sink almost seven years ago. The stinky mass grumbles that her momma don’t make her brush her teef while she scratches at my leg hairs with sharp toenails. “Dads are allergic to rancid-scented words,” I said, as I pretended not to hear that. I make a momentary push-up and put my knees to the tile, arch my back up high, and she slides to the trash with a little pang. Wagging her tongue, she gets onto the stool and squeezes the remaining blueberry bubble-gum, cartoon character toothpaste into the ceramic bowl and down the drain, accompanying it with a whirling raspberry. Face and brush firm in my hands, her growling gargles tell me the frothy spearmint wasn’t berry pleasant.
The Elephant Tree Lydia Everett
very Easter when I was little, my mom would gather up my three older siblings and I and we would drive over to my mom’s parents’ house. There, we would spend time in the basement while the adults hid the eggs on the wooded hill behind the house. Then the search began. Sometimes my cousins would be there too, and we would all compete to see who got the most eggs. I don’t recall if I ever won but, being the youngest, the odds weren’t in my favor. There was always a jackpot of eggs, too. This treasure trove was usually in an uneven part of the ground, covered in leaves, or in a broken stump or log. Those were the places we would look first. I remember my family members cheating and showing me where the jackpot was because I was so bad at searching, or at least far slower than my older siblings. We would also look around the Bloody Murder Tree. This tree was a little removed from the rest of the trees on the hill and it had a large chunk missing out of the bark that someone had painted red and black (I’m not sure how or why this happened). It must have happened before I was born or I forgot when it was mutilated – that tree has just always been the Bloody Murder Tree to me). Once we were done and had found all the eggs we would go in and count them, eat chocolate and jellybeans, and revel in the company. When I was little, spending time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a treat, whether it was Easter or not. There was always a little contraption with a jar full of jellybeans that would dispense them if you pulled a lever. I loved that. It was accessible and stocked all year round, so I could indulge whenever I was visiting. To this day, I am a jellybean fiend. In winter, when it snowed, we would sled on the hill behind the house. Sometimes we would make a ramp and go flying through the air in exultation. We had a toboggan, several inner tubes, and some plastic sleds—of varying levels of flimsiness—that served us well. It was never as fun sledding somewhere else as it was sledding there. We would also make snow forts next to the drive-
beverage, usually hot chocolate. We would lounge on the couch for a few minutes next to the stove, which gave off delicious warmth and a pleasant wood smell, until our hot chocolate was gone. At some point during the winter season, the house would be decorated for Christmas. The best decoration was a Santa figure with a voice box that, when the button on its base was pressed, would say, “Soak, soak, soak my fair may gahfah.” Apparently, it was supposed to say ‘Soak, soak, soak my tired aching feet.’ There is no definitive proof that this particular Santa ever said that. There was usually a Christmas or New Year’s party at the house that lots of family, (some from out of state), and friends would attend. Having the basement decorated and in full party mode was always fun. The kids would play while the adults talked and did other similarly boring adult things. The food would be set up on a long bench by the stove and served buffet style. I remember there always being Jell-O for some reason, as well as a Western New York State staple: beef-on-weck sandwiches. The food was always delicious. Everyone would load up their plates, sit at the long table, and relish in the delectable food before them. Sometimes, when everyone was done eating, my Grandpa would break out the ‘One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater’ paper-mache head that he had to entertain the masses. I’m not sure why it existed or who made it. That head just lived on the fridge downstairs and would only occasionally be put to use. He would then sing the ‘One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater’ song. In the warm months, we would have adventures in the woods. Every time we went into the woods, we’d pass the Weather Rock. This rock was quite large, at least as big as my head, and hung from a chain underneath a hand-painted sign that said what the weather was, based on the rock’s movements. For example, if the rock was swinging, that meant it was windy, if the rock was bouncing, that meant there was an earthquake, and if the rock
Rethinking Woman Caryl Melnick way. My grandpa would push all the snow to one side and we would build forts by digging tunnels through the snow. We’d also play King of the Hill by scrambling up the side of the snow fort, trying to usurp the winner from their spot on the topmost point of the mound. Once we were done gallivanting around in the snow and getting pink faces from the cold, we would trudge inside, into the basement, take off our snow suits, hang them, and put our boots next to the wood-burning stove. Then we would be served some sort of warm
connection that piqued our interest. We would also play hide and seek, utilizing both the basement and the upstairs for good hiding spots. The bathroom upstairs had doors on either end that made it the perfect place to slip away from the seeker if you felt cornered. You’d just run through and be free, at least for a few seconds. I also learned how to play pinochle on the table down in the basement. There were these tall white swivel chairs and bar stools that we would sit on crowding around the table to play card games or put together puzzles. Pinochle was (and still is) our favorite. My family would tell stories about people they used to play with who count cards and we would sit, laugh, eat jellybeans, and just be together. I haven’t thought about most of this stuff for years. Writing this actually reminded me of a lot of the antics we got up to. I don’t know when we stopped doing the Easter egg hunts, I just know we haven’t done them in a while. It might have just been because us kids were all getting older and having reckless fun isn’t cool when you’re a teenager. All I know, is I haven’t had that much unadulterated, pure fun in a long time. The Elephant Tree eventually got too rotten and fell. I haven’t gone in the woods since the Elephant Tree perished, actually. I remember going to see it afterwards and mourning the loss of such a perfect tree. The last time I had a jellybean from the dispenser, it had been in there so long it was rock hard. I honestly don’t remember the last time I even looked at the Bloody Murder tree. We still go to the house occasionally (my Grandpa still lives there, my Grandma died several years ago) but I don’t appreciate it the way I did as a kid. It’s almost foreign to me now. As I’m getting closer to adulthood and farther away from these golden memories, I’m getting more and more heartbroken. The ache of responsibility and accountability outweighs these things so much that I almost feel like they happened to a different person. If I wake up tomorrow and find out that none of these things occurred, that I’d just imagined them, I wouldn’t be surprised. It almost
was missing, that meant there was a hurricane. In the woods, there was a creek that we would search for crawfish and other animals. Once, we went through a clump of pricker bushes in search of new adventures and got all scratched up. I didn’t care, though, because whatever we did after was fun enough that I forgot I was covered in tiny, painful scratches.
“if the rock was bouncing, that meant there was an earthquake, and if the rock was missing, that meant there was a hurricane.” There was also a field that we would visit and to get there we would pass by the Elephant Tree. The Elephant Tree was this amazing dead tree whose top, by some miracle, was shaped exactly like an Elephant with its trunk up in the air. I don’t think most kids have a favorite tree, but I certainly did. I couldn’t do much besides look at the tree, but it was so unique that all you needed to do was marvel at the feat it had surpassed by making itself look like an elephant. If we weren’t playing outside, we would be inside, past the spindle in the corner of the living room (that I would imagine had been the downfall of Cinderella) and in my uncle’s old room that housed the computer. We would do lots of fun things like playing Solitaire or Flight Simulator. We had a computer at home that we could do both of those things on, but there was something about the novelty of a computer that didn’t have an Internet
seems too good to be true that I was the little girl that experienced all of that blissful joy. uuu
The Scarecrows Micah Havriliak
Only scarecrows are true Specimens of beauty. Their narrow Rigor mortis frames draping clothes Amongst the wind. Standing fierce and still--supported By splintering wooden planks. Taller and thinner than a 2x4.
A true scarecrow does Not need oxygen. They live off the stares And carbon dioxide From their breathing counterparts.
They do not eat, Do not shit, Do not sweat.
They are forever Looming above the field mice And the worms, Swaying in the wind With their amenorrhea-stricken bodies,
Not even the fat bright sun, Or a daffodil can compete With the scarecrow’s beauty.
Gracing the sun with their presence.
The secret teaching of scarecrows Lies in many places; Their pale burlap faces, Shrunken stomachs, Tendril limbs, Withered uteri.
Birds fear scarecrows But I think they’re just jealous. Jealous of the chattering The corn field makes around them, Jealous of their time soaking In the sunlight-Such green-eyed monsters birds are.
Being a scarecrow takes skill, It is Hell.
5 And then finally when the itchy Cotton has worn thin, When the coarse straw hair fallen Out are the scarecrows superseded. Their emaciated bodies dragged To the compost, buried in manure. Their replacements propped up Haughty and fierce on display For the field and all its children.
Confused Italics Mine
Mrs. Wilkins Winnie Richards
The air is hot and thick, but we tear through it, fast as heat lightning. The ball rolls faster and faster down the middle of the street and tears straight through the intersection without ever looking both ways. Krissy screams out a big scream and drags her hands down her face, pulling her eyes all the way down so I can see the red, and then drops to the pavement in a dramatic puddle. The Pinky ball skips away, and I watch it go until it’s just a tiny speck. “Rats,” I say. Krissy Wilkins is my best friend in the entire world. We have been best friends since the first day of first grade, which means we’ve known each other for five years, which is longer than I’ve known anyone else in my entire life, except Mama and Daddy and Ella. Krissy laughs loud and dances in class and talks to grown ups like she’s their good friend. I don’t do any of those things, but I like to watch Krissy do them. Krissy lives in Rogers Park, on the other side of the river, where all the buildings are smushed close together and we can’t play outside. So Krissy has come to my house in Skokie, where the houses are farther apart and people have lawns and stuff. She has come over after school almost every single day of fifth grade so far, and today is no different. Today, same as every other day, we lost another Pinky playing stickball. And now, like every other day, we lie on the sidewalk panting out all our sweat in the hot, hot sun. Inside, the house is even hotter. Krissy and I sit slumped in a sweaty heap at the table, trying our best to not die of heat stroke. Mama leans up against the refrigerator, holding a cold jug of orange juice to her head. “My Lord,” she says, “We sure have been blessed with a late summer this year, that’s for certain.” Her big bun of curls bobbles back and forth, precariously, as she shakes her head. A few naughty ringlets escape and cling to her glistening skin. Mama’s right, of course. It’s nearly October, and Chicago should be scarf-and-mittens weather by now. Mama spoons mac and cheese into
bowls and passes them to me and Krissy. The hot steam coming off my macaroni makes me feel like falling over and dying of heat exhaustion. I eat it anyway, because it’s impolite to not eat something when somebody worked hard to make it for you. That’s what Mama says. The phone rings in the next room just as Mama falls into a chair at the table. She sighs a big sigh, tugging at her blouse, and calls for my big sister Ella to answer it. A grumbly sound, like a sleeping bear, comes from the living room, and Krissy and I giggle to each other. Ella is the grumbliest person I know. The only time I saw her not grumbly was when Krissy and I saw her kissing a boy behind the bus garage last year. But she was definitely extra grumbly after she found out we were there. She made me swear to never tell. I told Mama the moment I was alone with her. I couldn’t help it. Ella comes in a minute later with a grumbly look on her face and holds the receiver out to Mama.
*** Krissy tugs absentmindedly at my blonde Barbie’s limbs, twisting her arms around backwards and her legs in opposite directions so she looks like she’s been through the garbage disposal. I am making the other Barbie’s hair into a beautiful braided ponytail like the one I saw on one of my sister’s friends. Krissy is quiet and I don’t know why. She’s never quiet. I try reminding her of the hilarious thing Tommy Heeler said in science class today, but she doesn’t laugh loud like she usually does. She just smiles. “You miss your mama?” I ask, without looking up from my doll. “No. Not really,” she says. It’s quiet again for a while. “Do your mama and daddy fight ever?” she asks after a few minutes. I ponder the question. “Sometimes,” I say. “Sometimes Daddy forgets to do things, like pick up eggs on his way home from work, and Mama gets mad at him, so she yells.” “My daddy yells all the time,” Krissy says, flatly. “He makes me go play when he yells, but I still hear him.” I wrack my head for something helpful to say, but I can’t think of anything and I feel terrible. I remember one time, Josiah Hayward told me that, when parents yell, it means that they don’t love each other anymore. It scared me so bad and I thought about it for days and days. But then I asked Mama about it and she said it wasn’t true, and that her and Daddy still loved each other very much. So I felt much better. “Maybe you should tell your mama that you don’t like it when your daddy yells,” I try. “Yeah,” she says, “One time I told her that the yelling was scary. So now sometimes she sends me out to the store or to my grandma’s house when Daddy is mad.” I watch her twist the Barbie’s head round backwards. “That’s probably why she let me stay here.” I don’t know what to say, so I don’t say anything.
“I remember one time, Josiah Hayward told me that, when parents yell, it means that they don’t love each other anymore. It scared me so bad and I thought about it for days and days.” “It’s Mrs. Wilkins. She wants to know if Krissy can stay here tonight.” Krissy and I scream in unison and Mama shushes and waves us away from the table. A sleepover on a school night is about as special as chocolate pudding for breakfast.
The mist is thick and low this morning. It gathers in the streets and runs down the gutters and makes Madison Street look like a rolling river. I sit on the edge of the curb and watch a little ant carrying a giant chunk of my english muffin into a crack in the cement. Krissy spins round and round the bus stop pole, tethered by one hand. She’s singing a song about an old man called Bill who lives on top of a garbage hill. Her voice is loud and brassy. It cuts through the quiet morning air and echoes off the single-story houses, up and down the street. Krissy is awake and ready for a great new day. Her purple and pink bedazzled backpack lies on the pavement where she had chucked it, in a wild showing of how exactly she was going to take out one of the boys in dodgeball today. We have first period gym on Tuesdays, and Krissy absolutely loves gym. She loves it so much, she sometimes gets “overexcited” in class and yells at the other kids, and Mr. Beacon makes her sit out for a few minutes. Today will probably be one of those days. Krissy may have forgotten about the trouble with her Daddy, but I haven’t. I can’t get the thought out of my head, but thinking about it makes my stomach hurt. My Daddy never scares me. He’s the nicest Daddy in the whole world. I try to imagine Daddy yelling, and the picture in my mind makes me shudder. I don’t know what Krissy’s Daddy looks like, but now I’m glad that I don’t. I hope very much that I won’t ever have to meet him, because then I’ll have to pretend that I’m not scared of him. I’ll have to say hello because Mama says it’s not polite to be silent when you meet someone, even if you feel like you want to be silent. I think about Krissy’s Daddy the whole day at school, and even when I get home. I watch cartoons before bed so that I won’t still be thinking about him when I go to sleep, and have a bad dream.
one by one. The night begins to blanket the houses and the windows look like a hundred televisions, all turned on at once. Way up high above the streets, Mamas switch on all the lights and turn up the thermostats. Daddies make dinner. Little girls get in the bathtub and big sisters call their friends on the phone. The thought of everyone nestling in for the night makes a lump form in my throat. I’ve never ever missed the bus home before, and I have no idea what kind of walk is ahead of me. But I do know, from many nights of staring out the window on the ride home, that the sun will be gone very soon, I can feel hot tears begin to well in my eyes. I can’t cry while I’m here on the street, though, or someone will ask me if I’m okay, and I don’t want to talk to someone I don’t know. The street is widening now and The Touhy Avenue Bridge looms ahead of me. From where I am, the bridge looks like a string of white Christmas lights, pinned up along the river bank. It’s a real small bridge, but just the idea of walking across it at night makes me tremble all over. The wind off the river blows mean and cold. Josiah
*** The sun sags lower and lower in the sky and the world around me turns from gold to orange to grey and then to blue. As I walk, the lights in people’s apartments flick on,
Health Ghoul Griffin Rapp
Hayward told me one time that his brother Mark once saw a guy get murdered on this bridge at night. I was also told by Krissy that Mrs. Bleecker, the fourth Grade teacher, rides across this bridge every night coming home from work. I saw her today so I know for a fact that she’s not murdered. Either way, I am not so thrilled about having to walk across alone at night. I kick myself for missing the stupid bus. As I reach the middle of the bridge, the wind picks up, and I have to stop and stand still and scrunch up my eyes for a second. When I open them again, a big car is slowing up next to me. My heart jumps into my throat and I can hear it beating in my ears. The window rolls down and the driver fumbles to click on the overhead. “Zuri?” In the dim yellow light, I can make out a lady’s face, surrounded by a halo of curls. I peer in close, and to my enormous relief, I see Krissy’s mama, Mrs. Wilkins! Gushing with the happy comfort of familiar face, I grin full-out, forgetting my shyness. “Zuri, honey, what are you doing out here? It’s way too late for you to be out by yourself !” Mrs. Wilkins says, as she fumbles for the door lock. Her voice wavers strangely. I realize then that she is alone. “Here, hop in, baby. Excuse the mess,” she says, as she lifts a big duffle bag from the passenger seat into the back. “Thank you Ma’am,” I whisper, remembering my shyness. “Your Daddy didn’t forget to pick you up after soccer, did he?” She fumbles with the heating knobs, her hand shaking slightly. “No, Ma’am. I was supposed to take the late bus home, but I missed it on accident,” I say. “Oh,” she says, distracted, “Uh huh.” I watch her eyes as she checks the rearview again and again. It’s quiet now, and I nestle into my seat and sneak a look around. It’s probably the fanciest car I have ever ridden in. So fancy it makes my stomach feel funny. The inside is wide and roomy, but not in a nice way. The car makes me feel cold, even with warm air coming from the vents on all sides. It’s
also clean. Extremely clean. In fact, I can’t spot a single bit of dust anywhere. The windshield is so clear I can almost convince myself it isn’t there. I ball up my hands in my lap so as not to get my grimy fingers on anything. The cleanness and the silence makes my stomach feel all tight. I guess I never realized Mrs. Wilkins was so rich. I wonder why I’ve never seen her come to pick up Krissy in this big, fancy car. If I were her, I would want to show it off, even if Mama says that’s impolite. Maybe that’s why Krissy and her Mama always take the commuter bus home from school. She doesn’t want to show off and be impolite. Squirming in the strange silence, I stare down at my sneakers. On the floor by my feet, I can see an odd collection of things. A couple bags thrown in sideways and spilling across the floor, several shoes strewn all around, a pillow, and two credit cards. I shift slightly so as not to crush anything valuable and, winking from underneath a Whole Foods bag, I spot a stack of green bills all tied up with a rubber band. The money sends a shiver down my spine, but I don’t know why. I look out the window, praying to see my neighborhood street names. “You know, Zuri,” Mrs. Wilkins says, suddenly, “I am so happy to see you and my Krissy getting on so good at school. I hope you girls will stay friends for a long time.” “Yes, ma’am. I’m sure we will,” is all I can muster in my discomfort. I count the streetlights as we come closer and closer to Madison Street. “Because, you know, you’re real lucky to have your big sister. Krissy doesn’t have anyone like that. I just hope you’ll take care of her when she needs some help, you know.” She pauses, her voice sounding strange and strained. “In school, I mean.” “Sure,” I say, my fingers wrapped tightly around the perfectly polished door handle. We cross through the intersection, and my house appears from behind the hedgerows. I have my door open before the car stops. With a wave of relief, I hop from the car, calling a thank you over my shoulder to Mrs. Wilkins. “Wait! Your book bag!” she calls from the driver’s
seat. I feel my stomach twist. Turning back, I meet her eyes as she reaches over the seat to hand me my bag. In the light of the streetlamp, I see the dark bruise around her left eye. It’s swollen, and a thin line of dried blood hangs near her temple. In the dim light, she looks like a halloween mask that I saw in a store on Montrose. I choke back a scream. “Be good, Zuri,” she says. I nod, slam the door, and sprint up the drive to my front steps. I turn back once when I reach the door, but the car is already gone. Inside the house, Daddy grabs me and hugs me close. I can feel his tears on the back of my neck. He says Mama drove back to school looking for me and am I okay? And he’s so, so sorry, baby girl. I tell him that Joey Haver’s mama drove me home. I can’t bring myself to say it was Mrs. Wilkins.
ear and his shoulder as he refreshes the coffee pot. “Hello?” he says, tossing the coffee filter in the trash and nudging the closet door closed with his shoulder. “I’m sorry, may I ask who’s speaking?” I fold my oatmeal over itself, and watch the milk bubble to the surface. “Oh, George Wilkins! Yes, yes, hello,” Daddy says after a pause. I freeze, my oatmeal spoon suspended in mid air. “Oh, I haven’t. No, I’m sorry. I’ll ask Alicia.” He looks to Mama and she reaches out for the phone. “Yep, just a second, George, I’ll put her on the line.” Mama gives him a look and puts the receiver to her ear. “Hello, George,” she says, tugging slices of whole wheat bread from the bag and placing them out in pairs. “No, not since yesterday morning when she dropped Krissy at school,” she says, her eyebrows bunching up in the middle. A long pause. Mama’s lips tighten, and the muscles in her face harden with disapproval. “I’m sorry to hear that. You might try using the commuter bus. I’m sure it runs over by where your office is.” A short silence. “Yes, I’ll let you know if I hear from her. Goodbye now.” She clatters the receiver back onto the wall with an irritated sigh. “Go get dressed and washed, Zuri,” she says. From my bedroom, I can hear my parents voices. Mama tells Daddy that Mrs. Wilkins didn’t come home last night, and that Mr. Wilkins is complaining that his car is gone too. Now he can’t get to work. Daddy makes a disappointed clicking sound with his tongue. I can feel my blood beating through every inch of my body. I can hear it in my ears. Walking down the drive to the bus stop, the chilly morning wind cuts deep through me and blows a whirlwind of dry leaves up into the air. The sky is heavy grey. Autumn is here.
*** Thursday morning, I wake up with my sheets soaked in sweat. In my dream, I ran through the streets of Chicago, trying to find my way home, but Mrs. Wilkins’s bruised face appeared around every corner. I’m not hungry for breakfast this morning, but I pick at my oatmeal anyway. In the kitchen, Ella drones on about some test, and Mama rummages through the refrigerator for deli meat and mayo. In the midst of the morning bustle, the telephone rings. Daddy answers it, the receiver pressed between his
“In my dream, I ran through the streets of Chicago, trying to find my way home, but Mrs. Wilkins’s bruised face appeared at every corner.” Italics Mine
*** On Saturday mornings, the world wakes up a little slower than on other days. In each little house, up and down Madison Street, and through each window across all
them and bump my toes off the coffee table. Ella halfheartedly swipes at me to stop, but I don’t. I know if I stop moving I will have to think about why Mama and Daddy made me and Ella sit in the living room, and why Mama is talking so low, and why Daddy is pacing in the kitchen,
“On Saturday morning, we live gently. On Saturday morning, the police find Mrs. Wilkins.” and why I know deep in the deep down bottom of my stomach that it all has something to do with Mrs. Wilkins. Mama comes through the doorway in her robe, and Daddy follows her without his contacts in. “Girls,” Daddy says, but that’s about all he’s got. He looks to Mama. “Girls,” Mama says. “Krissy’s mama, Mrs. Wilkins … passed away this morning.” And that is all I hear. I am frozen where I sit. The world inside my head is dead, dead silent. As dead as Mrs.Wilkins. The silence is as horrible and suffocating as if everyone in the entire world had started screaming all at the same time. I should scream. I should feel my blood coursing through every tiny cell of my body. It should make me hot all over. So boiling hot that I have to jump out of my pajamas. Instead, I am nothing. And that is ten trillion times worse. My eyes are open, but I cannot see. I can only see Mrs. Wilkins’s bruised face in the light of the streetlamp, like a big picture projection being displayed behind my eyes. It’s Saturday afternoon, and I was sent to go play. Mama and Daddy sit with Ella in the TV room with the French doors shut. I am in the living room, but if I sit super still I can hear almost all their words. Mama tells Ella that the police found Mrs. Wilkins inside her husband’s
I’m Right Here Griffin Rapp of Chicago, people are easing into the day. On Saturday morning, the sun seeps its way through the blinds and runs up the bedsheets in yellow stripes. Families sleep late with the morning light on their faces. They rise softly. On Saturday morning, Mamas make coffee in their robes. Daddies fry bacon without their contacts in. On Saturday morning, little girls lie horizontal on the couch and watch bright cartoons balloon from the TV set, while big sisters crunch bowls of cereal and stare blankly into salt shakers. On Saturday morning, we live gently. On Saturday morning, the police find Mrs. Wilkins. I can hear only murmurs of a voice, every once in awhile, but I know it is Mama just from the sound. The same way I know it is Daddy pacing back and forth on the kitchen floor. His footsteps are almost silent, but I know it’s him. I’m sitting on the couch in the living room with Ella. Just sitting. My feet don’t touch the ground, so I swing
car, at the bottom of Lake Michigan. They say from the look of it, she was heading south, towards the Indiana state line. Ella asks if she crashed. Mama is quiet. Daddy says that the police say she was too far off the road for it to have been an accident. I stop listening then. I don’t understand how someone dying could not be an accident. I think about Mrs. Wilkins’ bruise. I think about the big fancy car I had never seen her drive before and about all the bags, and the shoes, and the money wrapped up in a rubber band. I think about all the times I had seen her and Krissy ride the commuter bus home from school. And about the way Krissy twisted my Barbie dolls all up. I think about Krissy. I think about playing stickball every day of the summer, and setting up the tent in the backyard, and all the mornings we spent watching cartoons, and what it sounds like when she laughs, and how much I love her. I think about Mrs. Wilkins’ body lying down at the bottom of Lake Michigan. I think about how, somehow, maybe, Mrs. Wilkins is dead because of me.
The days and weeks and months and years passed just like that, blending back and forth into each other. That’ll happen if you watch a place long enough. Nobody ever asked me what I knew about Mrs. Wilkins. Why would they? I was just a kid. uuu
*** The rain is so heavy and cold, it almost feels like ice. The clouds have rolled in off the lake, and settled like a big blanket over Chicago. The rain comes and goes through the days, but the cold is thick and close, always. The storm clouds won’t be gone for a long time now. Winter is here. I don’t think about Mrs. Wilkins anymore. I don’t think about her for a long time. Snow falls on Chicago and carpets my street in the deepest, most silent white; and I don’t think of her. The sun pokes through the clouds and melts the snow, and Madison Street becomes a great wide stream that washes away all the cold and brings up the little green from the ground; and I don’t think of her. The thick sticky heat sinks in over our city, and people stand in the street and shield their eyes with their hands and pray for rain; and I don’t think of her. The rain finally surrenders and pours down in buckets, carrying down all the bright colored leaves into the street, where they gather in gutters like a congregation. And I don’t think of her.
Yo Soy Leandra Manon
Everyone Has a Tio Noelani Sky Capote
Grandma had nine kids Or six... Some girls, some boys. One of them boys stays home... Trouble maker. But responsible. Always made sure the rent was paid, Despite how it is paid. Never married. Sometimes, he has kids… They visit time to time Or never. Cousins say behind his back “He’ll die if he stops.” “He needs to control that temper.” “It’s a part of him.”
Tampered tantrums of a suffocated childhood robbed Raising everyone else, their kids Cracks in this system 1st generation Knotted aunties/the lost Aids/Attacked/Christ Cross fired field brothers Deported despite my citizenship Shipped to me Jones Act granted after Injections they granted during Discharged in 93 Living still 3rd Floor, 3c Dishonored spic spitting Asthma hacks into buckets Phlegm flavored Newport not news that my nieces need to watch but everyone has a tio on heroin.
*(ASMR)* PICKLE-EATING BIG CRUNCH (INTENSE) BREAKUP ROLEPLAY *EXTRA TINGLY* a short play by Sam Bell
SHOSHANA is sitting at a table facing the audience. A microphone picks up the minutiae of every sound she makes, and she speaks slowly, hypnotically, the soothing quality of her voice almost more important than the words she says. SHOSHANA Hello. How are you? Good. Good. Makes some clicking smacking noises with her mouth, making sure the mic picks up every phonetic detail. SHOSHANA My name’s Shoshana. I want to spend some time with you, talking. Just talking. Later maybe someone else will come, but for now it’s just us. Just you and me. SHOSHANA’s nails are long and painted. She taps them against each other and the mic, making a show of how they sound and look. Then she stops and breathes for a while, making some mouth noises and, when it’s natural for her, she speaks.
SHOSHANA There’s so much to talk about, I know. There always is. But we don’t need to talk about any of it. I just want to give you tingles… but you don’t need to feel tingles, either! Not everyone feels the tingle right away. Clicking, smacking, swallowing of saliva. SHOSHANA Oh, I forgot. I’m also gonna eat some pickles. If that’s okay with you… Looks out, as if listening to a response. SHOSHANA It is? Good. Good. I have them right here. She produces a jar from under the table, letting its glass bump against the wood. She slides it back and forth across the table. SHOSHANA I just need to loosen them up. The best way to do this is to push it back and forth, and back and forth… The jar makes a hollow scraping humming ringing sound. SHOSHANA Oh wow, I could just listen to that all day, couldn’t you? Let’s hear it again… back and forth… and back and forth… She continues for a while, then she stops, and starts breathing into the mic, and tapping her nails on it, and the top and sides of the pickle jar, making smacking mouth noises with her lips. SHOSHANA Wow. The noise is such a landscape, such a whole landscape. Just listen… we don’t even need sight, give your eyes a rest. Close your eyes, let the sound fill the darkness. Like a bat. The whole world is just these noises. Wouldn’t you like to be a bat? You are a bat. A little baby bat. All warm and fuzzy. Just listen, little bat. Little baby bat, you’re safe. You angel. You’re safe with me, all bundled up and
upside down. Your wings are hugging you. They’re my arms. Can you feel my arms? She reaches out her arms like she’s hugging the whole audience. SHOSHANA You’re safe, you’re so safe here. You can relax. You’re just hanging above the cave floor, relaxed, swaying. You can relax every muscle. Poop, you can poop. You’re just a baby, so go ahead, you can poop. That’s a good word, isn’t it? Poop… it doesn’t have to be dirty, just listen to the word. PUH. OO. PUH. Poop. It’s such a fluffy word. Poop. It could just float away. Puts her mouth right up onto the mic. SHOSHANA But I almost forgot about the pickles. She unscrews the pickle jar, letting the sound reverberate into the mic. SHOSHANA Ooo I love that sound. MATTY enters, very quietly approaches the table, and sits down. The following exchange is carried out in the same near-whisper as everything else. MATTY Hi. Hello. (To audience). Sorry to interrupt. SHOSHANA This is my boyfriend Matty. Sorry to surprise you. Because um, our relationship isn’t going too well and we need to talk. MATTY That’s right. SHOSHANA continues to tap her nails on the jar, ever mindful of the audience.
SHOSHANA Do you want a pickle? MATTY Yeah. She fishes out a large dill pickle for each of them. MATTY It smells so good. SHOSHANA Yeah. They each hold a pickle. SHOSHANA holds hers up to the mic, tapping it with her nails, for all its rubbery-slick-bouncy sounds. MATTY sits there, listening, nodding, eyes closed, vibing to the pickle noises, then joins in with his own pickle. They do this for a while, playing their pickles. MATTY Shoshana, I love you. SHOSHANA takes a slow, crunching, echoing bite of the pickle. MATTY But I can’t do this anymore. SHOSHANA chews the pickle right next to the mic, and you can hear all the little chewing and smacking sounds in her mouth and her throat. MATTY It’s not where I am right now. I feel trapped. SHOSHANA I never wanted you to feel trapped.
MATTY takes a bite of pickle with his molars, and the sound echoes out of his mouth like a falling tree. SHOSHANA (Soothing) There’s another woman isn’t there, you bastard… MATTY We just need to spend some time on ourselves… And who’s to say that, down the line, we won’t reconnect? SHOSHANA That never actually happens. And you deflected my question. MATTY takes a long, slow bite of his pickle. SHOSHANA I’m gonna sip some pickle juice. She slurps some pickle brine from the jar, letting it smack on her lips, and swallows noisily as MATTY huddles next to the microphone and exaggerates his pickle chewing. They huddle together like that for awhile, making mouth noises. MATTY starts crying softly. SHOSHANA Are you crying? MATTY Yeah. SHOSHANA Is it the vinegar? (He shakes his head and sniffles into the mic. She rubs his arm and you can hear the sound of their contact. It’s silent for a while, aside from the sniffling and rubbing and chewing.)
MATTY …I’m gonna stay at Brian’s. SHOSHANA You don’t have to. You can stay here. MATTY I don’t think that’s a good idea. He stands up. MATTY Are you okay? SHOSHANA It hasn’t hit me yet. (They hug, next to the microphone, and exaggerate the sound of their clothes rubbing together for the audience. They disengage and MATTY addresses the audience.) MATTY Sorry to interrupt. (Sniffling he exits, even quieter than how he entered. SHOSHANA watches him go, and stays fixated on his direction even when he’s gone. During this time only the white noise of the static mic can be heard. Eventually she turns back.) SHOSHANA How are you doing, little bat? …did you get tingles? It’s okay if you didn’t. It’s okay. You have your whole life to get tingles. It’ll happen. You have so long, baby bat. You have so much time. (She takes MATTY’s unfinished pickle and bites into it, enunciating her chewing and swallowing.) uuu
Late Summer Overbite Gio Martin
Oink Doc Roulier
Tons of pigs In suits and ties With powdered wigs Covered in flies They bring their kids They drag their wives They eat their ribs With forks and knives Put on their ties Start up their cars But still the lies They go to bars But hereâ€™s the thing I think it too They get this zing Unlike me and you
Writing, Wonder and Wit:
An Interview with Joanna Valente
Joanna C. Valente
is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Sexting the Dead (Unknown Press, 2017) & Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016), and is the editor of A Shadow Map: Writing by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is the founder of Yes, Poetry and the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, BUST, Spork Press, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets.
Â joannavalente.comÂ / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente
“I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Valente, a Purchase College Creative Writing Alum, whom I was first inspired by in my senior year of high school to pursue my creative writing journey into college. Their work is wonderfully adventurous, calling to the forefront what needs to be said and so often is not. I asked Joanna a few questions to hear about their writing journey and process, along with inquiries into some smaller, quirkier sides of their mind.” –Finola McDonald FM: If you could describe your writing journey in five words, what would they be? JV: Intense, ethereal, spiritual, sexual, harrowing. FM: If you could describe your mood using a color, what would it be? JV: Purple. A dark purple that is almost an inky ebony. FM: What are one of the happiest and one of the scariest moments of your career as a writer thus far? JV: I think happy and scary definitely go hand in hand. For instance, one of the happiest moments for me was getting my first book published. As a child, it was always my dream, so when it actually came to fruition, it was almost hard to believe. I was also lucky being that I was 25 with a first book but, because of that, I was also so young, so in many ways I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Of course, the dark side to having a book come out is the worry about people liking it, getting enough reviews, having readings. It’s a performance, in a lot of ways. You have to perform being confident and successful, even if you don’t feel that way. And I definitely didn’t feel those things, but I pretended to. We’re all obsessed with the status quo of publishing, even if we think we aren’t. It’s important to question these impulses and to fight against the institutional gatekeeping that happens, whether we intend it to or not. This is not to say that I think publishing, or all presses, are inherently bad, because I don’t. But I do think we have this idea of the publishing model that has existed
for decades, a desire for this kind of acceptance, but I do think it has a very dark side of who is accepted and who isn’t, and why is that? For women, POC, and the queer community, this type of institution has usually kept these writers out, for instance, so we do need to question who it is actually benefitting. Another scary thing about my career has been being so candid in nonfiction essays about my sexual assaults and abortion, about being non-binary. Coming out, so to speak, is incredibly difficult and while I encourage everyone to write their truths, it’s not easy. Largely because you don’t know how your family or even your job will react. Professionally, even in progressive circles, many people don’t necessarily know how to react to that information. I’ve had jobs, for instance, where I really tried to hide certain things because I had to; I had to be a more normal version of myself (like when I was a high school teacher), because admitting or highlighting certain things could have gotten me fired. The media world can, and is, equally as nuanced, depending who your audience is, of course. So many people have called me brave for writing about what I do, for being vulnerable, and
“For me, being an artist of any kind means you see what others dont.” while I feel honored, it also makes me sad. Because that shouldn’t have to be the case, and I don’t think of myself as edgy for doing so I’m just a person with pain and happiness like everyone else. It’s hard, of course to admit these things publicly, because admitting to pain and trauma itself can be seen as a weakness. It’s not, but people see it that way. I hate that we live in a world where admitting to being sexually abused, or having an abortion, or being queer could get someone fired. Or even having any kind of sexuality if you aren’t a man. It’s such a strange world we live in. Which was also ironic for me. When I was a teacher, for instance, I always wanted my students to believe in themselves and their identities, to take risks to find happiness - and yet, we live in a world that doesn’t always make it possible, as much as I’d like it to be, and fight for it to be. But we do have to maintain our safety. That’s no joke. FM: What moves you to create? JV: The need to be seen, to change the status quo, to change how women and queer people are viewed. For me, being an artist of any kind means you see what others don’t. Being an artist is intensely political to me,
and while I don’t necessarily think all artists have to be, I also can’t imagine not being political, not fighting for equality or the betterment of people. I want us to live in a kinder, better world, and that is what writing is for me, to highlight experiences that aren’t seen as “norm” and to normalize them. To highlight the nuances of human interaction, because we live in more grays and shades than extremes. FM: How and when did you first get into writing? JV: I was 11 and I had just gotten my period and started listening to music like The Cure and Tori Amos and began reading Emily Dickinson, and I think the combination of all those things led me to it. That being said, I was also intensely shy and introspective and was deeply into visual art (often I could be found painting or drawing), so in some way, it was just another outlet for me to express something, myself. Rebellion is also a big part of art for me. And I think my English teacher at the time would always give me 89% on essays and I wanted so bad to get a 90, so in some strange way, I think that really prompted me to excel at writing because I knew I could, I knew that I was capable. The same running theme of rebellion has always been the case for me. As I got older, being a femme was something that was a barrier, being assaulted, being silenced. And I’ve rebelled against that. Even in my MFA program, my writing was often seen as “women’s work”, as if writing about womanhood or queerness was seen as something “other” that men didn’t have to be interested in. Being non-binary, of course, is doubly erased by people, so right now I’m trying to write to that experience. Perhaps it’s half-rebellion and half just me trying to understand myself better, but finding your real identity is a rebellion in itself. FM: What, if anything, have you noticed to be a constant theme or image that has hung around your writing for the long run? JV: The ocean. I’m obsessed with the ocean, its danger and its calmness, its never ending cycle of waving in and out. I also love how the ocean and the moon are tied together, part of the same whole. That entire relationship is so mysterious in some ways, and I think that sense of duality is a constant in my writing, and those images are embedded not only in my writing, but my mind itself. It’s a metaphor for a lot of things, spiritually and naturally.
FM: Do you have any specific strategies and or tips you use for editing? JV: Space, time, silence. You need to let your work breathe, you need to write and edit from your body. Take walks, think about what you want to say, about the structure and the words. Listen to music, watch films. The best art incorporates every sense, how it feels, looks, smells. Poetry is the same. How is it part of your body? Read your work aloud. Think of it as a painting, as a film scene. I think it opens it up in your mind so much more this way, and it becomes a full body experience, not just something on the page. Poetry is also like chemistry. What can you fill a jug or a vacuum with? How many parts sound, silence, rhythm, words, and how many parts persona, visual, etc? The different combinations produce different outcomes. It’s fun to mix and match, to see what works and what doesn’t, what explodes, what simmers. Experiment, don’t do the same thing over and over again. Only in experimenting do you find a deeper truth, a deeper you. It’s OK to fail. Imperfections are what make good art. FM: And last, but not least, do you have any advice for younger writers getting ready to graduate and pursue creative writing even further? JV: Never stop studying or learning. I’m learning all the time. Don’t be lazy. Laziness is the death of art and the mind and the body.
To Dwell on Dreams Shannon Magrane
Dreams are fascinating to me. As a writer, I find putting a dream sequence together similar
to creating an abstract painting. The ideal sequence whould convey the intended messages or symbolism, however, it must do so in such a way that it does not beat the reader over the head with metaphors, but rather crafts an enigmatic and pleasing scenario for them. They can be heavy-handed and cheap if done improperly, and can be difficult for a conscious person to pin down exactly right. By contrast, dreams will float up from the unconscious mind that express exactly the right thing in exactly the right way, without any effort at all. Strictly speaking, I am not a religious person. Even so, lack of faith in religions does not necessarily equate to lack of belief in an afterlife. I do believe (or at least, in the words of Fox Mulder, I want to believe, if only from fear of the alternative) in some sort of continued life after death, but Iâ€™m much more skeptical of the concept that the dead gain the ability to view and communicate, between planes of existence, with their loved ones. My mother, though, is a firm believer in the afterlife, and she interprets certain occurrences as signs directly from God or deceased family members. These are the same occurrences that I routinely write off as just coincidences. History provides us with countless examples of unbelievable coincidences, so itâ€™s not impossible that everything is just that: a coincidence. However, when she tells me of the dreams she has, that started to come near nightly after the deaths of my maternal grandparents (both at ninety-one, within a year of each other), some of what she says falls together so perfectly that I have to wonder.
My grandmother Flo suffered from severe Alzheimer’s in the last few years of her life, and lived in our house with a hospital bed and nurses coming in and out to look after her day and night. At the time, she was bed-bound and could no longer open her eyes on her own, let alone walk or move. Even before then, her body was fragile with old age, relying on wheelchairs, walkers, and aides to get around without hurting herself. Soon after she died, my mother had a dream in which she walked outside and saw my grandmother swinging on our large back gate, with one arm wide open and a huge smile on her face. When she saw my mother, she happily reassured her, “Look, I don’t have to be careful anymore!”
Spring Cleaning Casey McCarthy
“When she saw my mother, she happily reassured her, ‘Look, I don’t have to be careful anymore!’” Italics Mine
Some time after that, there was a shorter dream in which my mother laid down next to my grandmother and told her simply how much she missed her. My grandmother, reassuring her again, smiled and held her hand. Then another dream, in which my mother was sitting with my grandparents in the kitchen of their house (which belonged to our family for roughly fifty years, and which we had been forced to sell to afford my grandmother’s aides, treatment, equipment, etc.). All of a sudden a bright yellow peacock strutted down the stairs and around the house, as if it didn’t think it were an unusual sight. Curious, my mother went online to look up the meaning of something like that happening in one’s dream, and not only was the first interpretation website that popped up AuntyFlo.com, but she discovered that “a peacock is a great sign indicating re-growth, birth, new life, and rejuvenation. Seeing peacocks in your dream can also be omens of prestige and success. When you see a peacock in your dream, it is a positive sign for the future that
brings luck and happiness.” Even the dream birds knew that my mother needed all the positive signs for the future that she could get. Her dreams didn’t only feature my grandmother alone. One saw my mother and my uncle Frank in the car with my grandmother, dropping her off someplace. My uncle, on the driver’s side, was trying to find a safe place for her to get out of the car, while my mother “gave her a tight, tight hug and told her that [she] missed her so very much. She said, ‘Not to worry, we are very close to each other.’” One more dream, that struck me hard with its finality, had my mother encountering my grandparents all dressed up in their winter clothes, as if about to walk out into the cold. My grandfather looked content, while my grandmother looked at my mother and said, “I think we are finally home now.” I said before that I am not religious. Specifically, I’m agnostic, meaning basically that I believe, while it’s entirely possible that religious deities and such do exist in some way, it’s also equally possible that they don’t exist at all. I myself have never had any of these sorts of dreams before, and I wonder often if there’s some meaning behind the fact that my mother has multitudes of them, while I never seem to. The only time I
“I think we are finally home now.” can remember something similar was from a few weeks after my grandfather’s death. In the dream, I was presented with an enormous wave pool that pushed back anyone who tried to cross it with the force of the ocean in a storm, and told that if I could reach the other side, then I could have my grandfather back. Naturally, I dove straight in, but then woke up before I could make any progress. I wonder a lot about that moment, about what it might have meant for me. On the one hand, my dream could have simply been my unconscious brain helping me to work through a stage of grief, as the science of dreams would suggest. But on the other hand... maybe not. uuu
Cinephilia Christina Baulch Elbows pedal to the standing line. Tickets unsheath from shallow pockets. Synchronized hearts pulse: “are we on time?” The niceties begin. “Excuse me, pardon, is this seat taken?” Elbows pedal to the standing line. The seat is always taken by some pair of invisible knees or an anxious friend trapped in a neon taxi. Synchronized hearts pulse: “are we on time?” We’ve all been diagnosed with a case of cinephilia. It’s contagious, but not a disease. It means our elbows pedal to the standing line. We much prefer these plush red seats and the faint glow of murmuring screens to the world out there. Synchronized hearts pulse: “are we on time?” The world outside has elbows and knees, time and keys. But this one is contained and screened, has all we need. Elbows pedal to the standing line. Synchronized hearts pulse: “we are on time.”
Persephone and Hades Jaela Vaughn
Winter is brutal. It is cold and harsh. The crops wither and die, animals burrow for places to keep warm and sleep, and the world, for a moment, becomes quiet, dark, frozen… All I know is winter; the souls of the fallen pass through and with them they bring their chill and the iciness of their dead bodies. There is no sky, only the endless black of the caverns of my home; endless winds that signal the arrival of a new soul. Only when my love Persephone is here do I ever feel the warmth that humans pray for. The goddess of spring, she shines, and the earth is covered with flowers, crops, life, while I cling to her like a tattered black shawl providing no protection from the frost of my world, yet allowing her beams of light to pierce through, melting the ice and my heart as well. I cannot help but wish to follow her wherever she goes. But she goes where I cannot follow. I do not grant life as she does, I take its remains, and as punishment the mortals offer no home to me. It is the will of her mother, she tells me. Old and bitter, she calls her daughter from me for six months so that she may shine on the world above and feed it, nourish it. It is Demeter’s right, I tell myself, that is her daughter whom she loves and misses. Can the same not be said of me? Her husband, her lover, her captor to those who do not know us. “He stole her from her mother! She longs to be free from Hades! The underworld is no place for her!” My claim to the underworld is little more than bad luck and a horrid sibling. But when Persephone is here, free to kiss me and hug me and aid me, I feel as if I am the true victor of the
draw, and not my brother, Zeus. As for her vengeful mother, she punished the earth by denying it substance, letting it die slowly because her daughter ate my fruit. Six seeds of a pomegranate. Now the mortals think me a great villain but alas, I am only a god in love with his wife, who could not watch her starve any longer. She leaves. She turns and blows a kiss to me and I catch it. My fist clenches in fear that I will drop it and it will be lost to me for months. The boat sails away and she stands proudly, ignoring all those that watch her as she drifts farther and farther away from me. When she is in the underworld, her hair is black, and her eyes the color of midnight. Now as she heads toward the surface, the gold of her wavy hair returns, and the white of her robe reflects so brightly off the onyx water that I must shield my eyes. As she strays from me, I notice the water is, in fact, a dark blue. Her radiance surprises me still. When she is gone from my sight, I take her kiss still in my grasp and I place it, gently, on my own lips. My home; I had grown accustomed to its darkness, to its wet and cold air. I had grown used to its bleakness. Oh. There is a flower. Around it, a circle of light. It shimmers as if I too reside on the surface. A parting gift from my beloved sun. What a fool I was to think that I could ever live without her light. uuu
Melancholy Olivia Evans
A Letter to You Michelle Blanyar
t is hard to write anything about you because, like you, it must be perfect. I admit that over the last year and a half, I struggle to find the words for anything. It is not only hard to write about you, for you, but for myself too. Inspiration is all around me yet I lack any and all motivation. I told you I was a writer and you have read only a fraction of my work, but I wish I could show you the work I am proud of. Yet, I struggle even to admit those works are hardly good anyway. As a perfectionist, I lately have lost any and all confidence. And I cannot begin to tell you how deeply saddening it is for me to not be physically and mentally able to do the one thing I love the most. Though, it has enlightened me that I must cherish those things that I hold dearly and never give up on them. And that’s why I attempt to write this for you. A letter to my soulmate. Our anniversary is on Tuesday. Halloween. My favorite day of the year. For months I have wondered just what to get you, but nothing seemed good enough. I thought of getting something you wanted, like in July when I got you that watch when you lost the one your dad got you, or like when we went to Malaysia and you went on for the whole two weeks about how you were going to get a jade necklace. You never bought one though, and I ended up getting you it, three months later, but it was worth it to see how happy you were when your fingers brushed over our initials I had engraved on both sides of the stone. Instead, this year I wanted to do something a little more thoughtful. I want you to know that there is no one I admire more than you. Sometimes people too often spend their time trying to find the faults in others. But you are the most wholesome person I have ever met. There is no one like you. Thoughtful, respectful, grateful. You ask me all the time how did you get so lucky, but it is me that is the lucky one. You do a lot, not only for me, but for my family, and your family too. You
“You signed my mom’s birthday card thanking her for letting you date me.” Italics Mine
offer to get my father dinner on some nights, respect my grandparents when we visit their house for coffee and dessert. You signed my mom’s birthday card thanking her for letting you date me. I have never met someone like you. I appreciate you and all that you do, even if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. You make me want to be a better and more honest person. We’ve had too many coincidences between us to not believe that we belong together. I remember last year I was waiting to use the Starbucks bathroom, leaning against the wall, and out you came. Our gazes met. You looked at me, disoriented because you didn’t expect to see me. And then you kissed me. We have a lot of moments like these. Unexplainable mutual connections. Like your whole universe aligns with theirs and everything just fits, as gross as that sounds. We always joke about how we are the same person because we are always thinking alike and always laugh at the same things. You don’t get to meet a lot of people like these in your lives and if you do, you have to be the luckiest piece of shit on the planet. I’m so unbelievably thankful that I have gotten the privilege to meet you, get to know you, be with you. I don’t mean to write any of this to be or sound romantic. The first draft of this letter was so much worse. It means more to me to be honest than to be romantic anyway. I just want to show you how appreciative of you I really am. And I have to thank you a lot. I know that sometimes things get bad. You know this, too. What we tend to forget is that this happens with everyone we will ever know at some point in their lives and we have to remember that it is normal and it will pass. We’ll always come back to each other eventually. And we will keep having times like these. Good, bad, sometimes worse. But good will come again. We will continue having bad days, but we will have lots of good days too if we let ourselves.
I love you, Bradley. Happy anniversary.
Yours forever, Michelle
Childhood Romance Amber Gorney
You mistook me for a self-help book, A shelf to store insecurities. Dancing through borrowed light, Entangled in the shadows of yesterday. Culpability kisses your lips and Whines for remembrance Of August nights, Of sour cherries, Of honey suckles numbing your tongue. Laughter vibrating the room, Drowning us in fallacious love. I watched the sun set in your eyes For the final time. My thoughts revolve around your utterance, Wondering what was true and What had only been alive to pass the time.
Mommy Nervosa (Series) Chelsea Muscat
Interview with contributor
What was the inspiration for this piece? My mother’s eating disorder has been with me all of my life; it was my idea of normal in a parental figure. One day it dawned on me that not everyone’s parents act in this manner, so I started documenting her. I wanted to show how having a sick parent affects you. I’ve made films and photographed her and it will probably be an ongoing project.
Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece? The creative process for these photos just consisted of being present. I always try to talk to her or catch her when she’s doing something day-to-day. That is when her true self really comes out, in the small details, like, for example the way she holds up a pair of jeans while doing laundry.
Beauty Behold Janelle McNeil
INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM - DAY NATALIE CONNER is standing in the mirror examining herself. She’s 17, and her bedroom is clean and filled with pink and yellow itemsx. She’s wearing yellow long-sleeved pajamas. She sits on her bed and writes in her diary. Natalie’s MOM walks in the room. She’s in her 40’s. Natalie shoves the diary under her pillow. Mom doesn’t notice. NATALIE (Sharp) Jesus, Ma. You forgot how to knock? MOM You forgot who paid the rent around here? NATALIE (Softly) No. Mom walks closer to her and leans against the wall.
MOM What you in here doing anyway? Natalie gets up and walks to her mom. NATALIE Nothing really, Ma. Mom grabs Natalie’s hand. MOM (Softly) I miss when we used to talk, baby. Natalie lets her mom’s hand go and backs up slowly. NATALIE Ima go take a shower now, Ma. MOM Wait- your friend’s downstairs. NATALIE (Snickers) Friend? Please. That must be one of Aaron’s. I ain’t got no friends, Ma. You know that. Natalie twiddles with her fingers. MOM Nah. She came here looking for you.
NATALIE (Confused) She? You sure that ain’t one of Aaron’s girlfriends? MOM Yeah, I’m sure. Besides, she went to high school with you. She say her name is Rose. Natalie turns. She has a shocked expression on her face. NATALIE (Confused) Rose is here? MOM Yes, now go get the door before she thinks you ain’t got no home training. Mom turns to exit the room. Natalie grabs Mom. NATALIE What she say she want? MOM She said she wants to talk to you. Mom exits and Natalie stays staring at the door confused. INT. NATALIE’S FRONT DOORWAY - MOMENTS LATER Natalie looks through the peephole and sees ROSE. She’s 17, dressed sloppy and has freckles. She is antisocial and is looking down sad, Natalie takes a deep breath and opens the door. Natalie looks at Rose for a beat.
NATALIE Rose. Rose looks up at Natalie with red puffy eyes. ROSE Hey... how are you? Natalie looks around confused. NATALIE I’m alright... a-are you okay? ROSE I look okay? Natalie looks Rose up and down. NATALIE What are you doing here, Rose? Rose rubs the back of her neck. ROSE I need to talk to you. NATALIE Is... Everything alright? A tear drops from Rose’s eye. ROSE Please Natalie. Natalie takes a step back from the doorway.
NATALIE Come in. Mom walks towards the girls. MOM Hi... nice to meet you! Y’all want me to make you something to eat— Natalie grabs Rose’s arm and pushes her toward her room. NATALIE (Passive) No Ma, we’re fine thanks. INT. APARTMENT BEDROOM - DAY Natalie shuts the door behind her. Rose stands by the door and Natalie sits on her bed. NATALIE Oh...uh chair? Chair? You wanna sit? Natalie gestures to her chair and Rose takes a seat. They sit in silence for a few minutes. They make brief eye-contact every few seconds. NATALIE Look Rose... what are you— ROSE Remember in middle school, we were like best friends. Then high school came and we barely even spoke. NATALIE What?
ROSE We only spoke eight times in four years. NATALIE Is that why you came here— ROSE You were always so quiet. There is more awkward silence. ROSE They gave you so much shit in school. Natalie fidgets. ROSE Do you remember Angelica Bryce? Natalie turns to Rose. She has a shocked expression. ROSE Do you remember Gene? And Brandon? And Camille. Natalie’s eyes are puffy. NATALIE (Upset) Rose, if you came here to play the memory game then you can let yourself out. ROSE That’s not why I came here—
NATALIE Then why the hell did you? A beat. ROSE (Snickers) You know when I was younger kids used to call me polka-dot face? Natalie looks at Rose with a confused expression. ROSE So one day when I got home I tried scraping the freckles off my face. It didn’t work though... but I did get this scar. She points to a scar on her face. NATALIE Why are you telling me this story? ROSE Cause I feel like you can relate to it. Natalie shakes her head no. NATALIE Nope, never tried scraping anything off my face Rose, so if that’s why you’re here— Natalie stands up. ROSE What about your wrists? Natalie sits back down abruptly.
NATALIE Excuse me? ROSE I’ve seen your wrists, Natalie. Natalie puts her hands behind her back slowly. NATALIE You need to leave. ROSE My sister’s in the hospital. NATALIE I’m sorry to hear that, but you need to get the fuck outta my house— Natalie walks over to the door and opens it. ROSE She tried committing suicide. Natalie pauses, shuts the door turns around and stares at Rose intensely. NATALIE What happened to her? ROSE (Crying) She took pills.
Natalie walks over and pulls a chair in front of Rose and sits in it. NATALIE I-is she okay? ROSE We don’t know yet...the doctors have her hooked on so many machines. A beat. ROSE She’s only fourteen years old. Rose begins crying heavily and Natalie gently places her hand on Rose’s shoulder. NATALIE Wow... I am so sorry, nobody should have to go through that. ROSE You know the worst part is she tried to tell me. The room is silent. ROSE She tried to tell me that they bullied her. And I told her that’s high school. A beat. ROSE (Crying and upset) She came to me because she needed me and I told her to get over it. Rose stands up and paces around.
ROSE (Whispers) I’m the reason she’s in the hospital. NATALIE What? Natalie stands up and walks towards Rose. NATALIE Rose tha-that’s not true. Natalie grabs Rose’s hand and looks in her eyes. NATALIE People like Angelica and Gene anNatalie starts crying. NATALIE They’re the reason she’s in the hospital. ROSE And people like me too. Natalie lets go of Rose’s hand and walks away. NATALIE No, okay? No, you didn’t do anything. ROSE Exactly. A beat. ROSE I didn’t do anything... I saw the way they treated you and I didn’t do anything. I should’ve known she
would try to do exactly what you did. NATALIE It’s not your fault, okay? They were bullies. Natalie faces Rose. NATALIE Nobody ever says anything to bullies. ROSE And yeah maybe if somebody did my sister wouldn’t be laying in the hospital fighting for her life right now... but at least she told me. A beat. ROSE (Softly) Why didn’t you ever talk to anyone? NATALIE Who was I gonna tell? My mom acts like I’m her co-parent. And the teachers at school? A beat. NATALIE (Softly) Well I’m sure they’d just see it as one less student they have to worry about. ROSE That’s not true... Natalie, you need to talk to somebody. NATALIE I just told you I don’t have anybody to talk tROSE What about a therapist? O-or a support group?
NATALIE (Snickers) I’m definitely not going to a therapist. Rose grabs Natalie’s hands and exposes her wrists. ROSE You can’t act like these scars don’t exist...you could be lying next to my sister right now. A beat. ROSE (Softly) You need to get help. They stare at each other for a moment. CUT TO: INT. KITCHEN - LATER Mom is stirring food on the stove. She turns around to see Natalie then continues stirring. MOM Hey baby... you have a good time with your friend? Mom turns to face Natalie. Natalie has her sleeves rolled up and her wrists exposed with self-harm scars. MOM (Scared) What happened? Natalie breaks into tears and Mom hugs her and rubs her back. MOM Okay...okay... okay... it’s okay... it’s okay. FADE OUT. Italics Mine
EXT. IN FRONT OF GROUP HOME - DAY Mom has both her hands on Natalie’s shoulders. Natalie is wearing a tank top and jeans holding a suitcase. MOM You sure you’re gonna be okay? NATALIE Mommy, I’m gonna be fine. MOM You make sure you call me, and if you ever wanna come home— NATALIE I think I need to stay here. A beat. MOM I know... come here. Natalie gives her mom a hug. MOM I love you so much, Natalie. NATALIE I love you too. INT. GROUP MEETING - LATER Natalie is sitting in a circle with 12 other people. The room is big and has dark walls. MARTHA, the leader of the group, is 46, and is wearing all black.
MARTHA We have a new member of our group. Would you like to introduce yourself? She gestures to Natalie and Natalie stands up. NATALIE (Nervous) My name is Natalie Conner... and... I attempted suicide. CUT TO BLACK. uuu
Seven Years Old in Our 2003 Ford Windstar Trisha Murphy
Knobby knees kissed with grass stains swing restless in the backseat. Shinguards still velcroed on, hiding tan line earned by hours spent in sun. Still smelling like Banana Boat, still tasting oranges coating the back of your throat. Itâ€™s the end of the season and the trophy Mom buckled-in, sits to your left, shimmering, making light dance across the cushioned ceiling. Mom fiddles with the dials on the dashboard before settling on the Christian Rock Station, finger pads writing out the rhythm on her steering wheel. Looking down at the tie dye tee shirt Kate made you in Girl Scouts, you think about the navy blue jersey returned in exchange for the trophy.
Exquisite Corpse #1 Nandita Ramanâ€™s Class
from where I’m standing Trisha Murphy
When Casey laughs, she throws her head back, going out in the outfit she wore to class because “who really cares about these parties?” Shifting in my new dress, sticking to back sweat, Oliver asks me if I got it at Salvos. When we’re outside Tanya takes a picture of Casey and posts it on her Instagram— I wonder if I’ll ever be on her Instagram. I wonder if anyone will notice if I go back inside.
Love Me Better Mommy Yvelyne Freycinet
ommy’s hand is small and lightly sprinkled with freckles on her fair skin. It slides from my tightly-braided bangs down to my nose that looks like hers. I’m briefly blinded by the warm sensation. As the hand returns to her side, she comes into view. Soft warm brown orbs caress my features. My cheeks begin to flex, displaying a slight dent coated in the heat rising to my face. My eyes dance down past her nose as her right nostril tries to reach her eye, as if to tell it a secret. My eyes take a stop at her cable-cord-thin lips to behold a sight few see. The slit between her perky cheeks opens slightly. Oh, if my six-year-old eyes could giggle! The gap that separates her two central incisors greets me in the formation of a smile. “Hi Veen,” she says, with her Haitian roots slicking her tone. The accent I have grown so accustomed to is a warm blanket coating her words. This is what it was like when mommy came to pick up my brother and me. To me, scenarios like this are the equivalent of running into her leg and holding on for dear life. What does it mean to be affectionate? “Hi Mommy!” I reply. The smile I am unaware of disappears and the muscles in my face relax. Mommy isn’t like the common affectionate mothers you often see on television. She isn’t gushy and touchy; she’s stern and endearing.
“What does it mean to be affectionate?”
“Ban m‘men ou,” Mommy says, reaching for my six-year-old hand. “Carl,” she continues, turning to my nine-year-old brother. “I can cross it,” he says as his feet follow in tow with his statement. He’d outgrown the hand, but not the sentiment behind it. Once we reach the corner of my school’s block she stops; “I give you fifty cents. Go get something,” she says as we approach the corner store. A small smile dances on our faces. Carl reaches for the handle first. I stand closely behind him, mentally rationing out my share. The corner store is an odd thing
figures, ranging from glass to ceramic. A figure of an angel that wrapped around a scroll that I got after my First Holy Communion had a vacant space next to it. On the scroll was a small prayer that I pushed to remember but the crystal ball wasn’t clear enough. I zoned back into the situation at hand: “Ok open house is Saturday, May 25th,” the teacher said. We got ready to pack up; I laughed silently to myself. She’s not going to the Open House; she never does. She isn’t one for unnecessary social gatherings. She’d much rather appear only at mandatory meetings, and even then, she’s more of a wallflower than a supportive parent.
to maneuver at this age with a budget. My eyes scan the juices. A small grenade-shaped bottle captures my attention. My shoes slide across the dusty, dirty, debris-coated floor. The store isn’t graded an F health code wise, but I wouldn’t touch their floor willingly. My left hand wraps around the handle of the glass fridge, pulling it to the left, and I grab the juice with my right hand. 25 cents, I subtracted from my budget silently. My eyes forget they can’t escape my head, and they jump to scan the store for Mommy. They stand still at the sight of Mommy leaning slightly against the hip-height freezer. My eyes resume their prior mission. Scanning the chips, I get what I always get (but today can pronounce, Cheese Doodles. As a child, I just never said it right). Turning to Mommy, I bring the treats of my gathering. “Juice and cheese dodos,” I say, handing them to her. She pays and I am reunited with Carl at the candy counter. These were my moments of affection when it came to being in public with Mommy.
*** “Veen, prese vit. You gonna be late,” she said in her Creolish. The words danced along the rim of my eleven-year-old eardrums. Creolish was a language that Mommy made so she could speak the language of her motherland and connect my brother and I, two Americans, to the Haitian blood in our veins. The language entailed elements of English and a substantial portion of French Creole. In this way we made a trade, we’d teach her the language of the land she escaped to and she would teach us the language of the land she inhabited prior. Though she tried very hard to gather her lessons of English to create a conversation for outsiders, she always had a setback: her accent. Mommy’s luscious Haitian accent consumed the words that escaped her in a cloud of culture most never experience or know about. Although to me it was beautiful, to others it was odd. They seem to attack it instead of trying to understand it. The clock above the tiwa seemed to be waiting for me before it struck 6:30. We were on our way to an end-of-the-year parent-teacher conference. I knew what the night would entail. “Good night Mrs. Freycinet. I am
*** I, at some points, envy the affections others are given. “Everyone pick a frame,” my fifth-grade teacher said as Mother’s Day approached us. Ten years of handmade cards were getting an upgrade. My eyes shopped around the colors: purple, pink, teal, and highlighter yellow. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I would try to use every color. After an hour of painting and stamping I had my masterpiece. Why did you use so many colors? It’s ugly! It’s not gonna dry! Were the comments I heard around me. I was still not discouraged. Unlike the other kids, I knew where my gift was going and I knew it had to be grand. My eyes, like a crystal ball, displayed my gift’s future home. The vision was of a cherry imitation-wood tiwa. A lace doily dressed the tiwa with medium to small
Mrs. Evans,” my sixth-grade teacher greeted. I stood off to the side closest to the door. I wasn’t failing anything, at least not to my knowledge, but I knew this would be a bumpy meeting. My sixth-grade teacher also carried a setback to the English language much like my mother. She was Jamaican, and her accent created a coat around her words; they gave off a sense of pride in her culture. Though she had an accent, it was a common one, at least where we lived. Most people—if not everyone—understood it. “Yes, Allo,” Mommy replied. I wanted to tell her she doesn’t understand you. I wanted to shield her. My eyes, instinctually shut and prepared for a blow that wasn’t coming. After a couple of seconds my eyes peeked out from between my lids and allowed a slight opening for sight. “Yes, Yvelyne is a great student…” My ears drowned out whatever else she said. My mind was off in a frenzy of confusion. My teacher didn’t laugh? Maybe she didn’t hear her? I opened my eyes fully. They held a regular conversation, though at my expense, a regular conversation. I wanted to allow the smile that manifested in my mind to become apparent to them. This sacred language had slowly become a language used to express extreme emotion. This language was used to express endearment, anger, and excitement. It was very odd to me to see it being used so casually. Yet hearing the comfort in her tone made every word that much more comfortable to hear.
umes. In this I learned to be affectionate. I, like my mother, am not super touchy, but my intentions are good. Affection is not a physical feeling but the intention behind the physical action. uuu
*** Affection is universal. You don’t need to be gushy or touchy. The action may be translated differently to everyone, but as long as your actions have positive intentions, they can be seen as affectionate. Mommy may not be touchy or very open, but her intentions speak vol-
Marina di Pisciotta Jason Quizhpi
°˖✧◝(⁰▿⁰)◜✧˖° Spencer Wainacht
Spirits Jamison Murcott
There is a shop situated at the back corner of a shopping plaza, its door hidden by untrimmed shrubs, its
windows always reflecting the passersby, hiding what lies within. The shop is called Spirits. It is a liquor store. Inside the store, there is a man. He is old. His white hair is pulled back into a bun. His wet lips twitch under his snowy mustache, his eager blue eyes smile at you as a small bell rings when you open the door. You look around, the walls are lined with colored glass liquors. Vodkas and rums and tequilas perched like dolls on shelves, their bottles glinting in the low light. “I think I’m in the wrong place,” you say. “Maybe that is why you are here.” The old man steps out from behind the counter. “Where am I?” You ask as you drift towards the walls, reaching out and touching the cool glass with the tips of your fingers. These bottles are faceless, no label, no price. You pick up a green bottle by its neck, looking at it through the light so that the brown liquid inside glitters. Putting one bottle down and picking up another, you notice that they have all been opened, the drink inside partly consumed. “What’s in these bottles?” Behind you, the old man has walked the length of his shop, pausing by drinks and pulling them from shelves, yanking out their corks and bringing the bottles to his nose, inhaling deeply. He returns to you with two bottles. One, a simple clear glass bottle with dark brown liquor inside. The other, a crystallized bottle with textured glass and sparkling clear liquid. He pulls out a large shot glass from under his counter and pours a shot from the first bottle. He holds it out to you. “Mixing rum with a soda takes out the adventure, the soul. It needs to be taken alone.” There is a moment of hesitation as you glance out the storefront window, though the outside seems dark and far away. You glance at your watch, you need to be somewhere. Maybe a meeting, or a lunch. You reach out for the glass, instead, and take it, quickly throwing back your head as the liquor slips down your throat the way you try to swallow a scream: bitter and burning. The old man smiles at you, more so with his eyes than with his mouth.
suddenly feel heavy. Looking at them, there is the glitter of diamonds, weighing down your wrists and fingers. There is the sound of clinking glass, of faint music. Looking around, you see the empty store. But there is a presence of bodies, many bodies, whirling around you, laughing, dancing. They slowly start to appear, apparitions dressed in silky gowns and velvety suits, lacy gloves and feathered boas; the light of chandeliers fragments as it hits the gems of expensive jewelry. You have the sensation of moving with them, you feel weightless as you are pulled into the crowd, dancing among them. An invisible partner wraps an arm around your back and pulls you closer. There is the definite smell of perfume and wine, of glamour and wealth. There is the definite memory of being here before, of dancing like this. You do not remember it as yourself, but as someone else. You do not remember it at all, and then you do. And then it is clear, so clear that you are certain you will never forget it again. But then the music falls away and your partner lets go. Your body lurches to a stop, though you realize it had never moved. You are still standing in front of the counter, the old man watching you carefully. You are already starting to forget. “People don’t just come here by accident.” He says. He has put the shot glass away. You look down at your fingers. Bare. “People come here because they are looking for something.” “For what?” You ask. Outside, it is dark. You’ve missed your meeting, or appointment, or whatever it was. But it doesn’t matter because it will be rescheduled and there will be more meetings and endless lunches and your life will be spent moving from one room to the next; moving from the bedroom to the kitchen to the office then back to the house and there will be crappy motels for business trips and there will be semi-okay rooms for vacations where the wi-fi will suck and you’ll still be stressed about work. The observer will never see the adventure of your
You feel the liquor spread throughout your body. The heat starts in your chest and stretches out to your arms and legs, the pads of your fingertips and toes growing warm with sensation. The shop seems dream-like; the light of the ceiling bulbs catching in the glass bottles, projecting stain glass reflections on the floor. First, there is the sound: seagull wings flapping as the birds arch back their heads and bark to one another, water lapping against the side of a wooden boat, the body of the ship creaking as it is rolled by the sea. You smell the ocean; your skin feels tight with sun and dried salt. The light is getting brighter, but if you focus hard enough, you can still see the old man standing in front of you and you tell yourself that you are still in the shop, but below you, the wooden boards are tilting under your feet, the sides of the ship rising and falling as waves curl under it. There are sudden memories that don’t belong to you, though, for a moment, they do. Voices and images flash through your mind, you remember them just as quickly as you forget. Take a step forward, reach out to grab the railings of the deck, lean over and look down into the ocean, into the vast emptiness spreading before you. Take it all in, because in a moment, it is gone. What you are gripping is the counter and what you are peering at is the old man’s shoes, old loafers with tearing seams. As quickly as the ship appeared, it has returned to its sea. It takes you a moment to gather yourself, to place exactly where you are. Already, the old man has refilled the shot glass with liquor from the second bottle. “A very fine vodka,” he says, handing you the glass. “What is this?” You ask. “The soul.” He pushes the glass closer to your face. “Drink it.” You do. It tastes like metal, coating your mouth and throat and a strange chill fills the cavities of your body. You shiver. You stretch out your arms, your fingers
life because you never lived any. Don’t you get it? “Thank you,” you say, though you can’t articulate why. The old man smiles at you and nods because he knows you understand. You turn to leave, push the door
open, walk out into the night. You must go now. There are other places to be. uuu
ヾ(｡･ω･｡) Spencer Wainacht
Like Animals in the Frost Elana Marcus
You knew me once as an animal in the snow; pushing one another down hills on ripped cardboard we had found in the trash. We shrieked a hyenaâ€™s shriek as we fell within one another, losing parts of our bodies beneath pillows of snow, only to be found when we ceased to remember each otherâ€™s names.
Thomas Rain Haluska
Thomas was born on a clouded, windy, but tranquil spring afternoon. We knew he was coming for some
time now and were anxious for his arrival, both for his sake and for the sake of his mother, Clara. We knew that she was due anytime and wanted to be there to help her with the birth. Too many had gone that way recently and we were keen to make sure it didn’t happen again. So when my stepfather, Adam, and I heard her cry out on that blustery afternoon, we rushed out to help. After about an hour-or-so of Clara in labor, we managed to get Tom out. Both of them were happy, with him suckling on her teat and her fussing over the afterbirth still clinging to his spotted hide. We were disappointed, Adam much more so than I. I’ll never forget that hard look he had on his face, biting down on his lip so deeply that I imagine his bushy Scottish-red beard was tickling his tongue. Much like the situation, it couldn’t have been comfortable. “What are we going to do with him?” I asked. Adam unfurled his bottom lip from inside his mouth and began rubbing the inside of his cheek with his tongue as he spoke. “Gonna have to sell him, he’s only gonna be trouble.” “To who?” I asked. “Probably Tabolt’s.” “They’re gonna kill him…” “Well what else do you do with something like that?” “We could teach him right.” “Bullshit we could, your mother and I are way too busy as it is and don’t need to have to be lookin’ over our shoulders all the time worryin’ about a monster like him going to creep up on us someday. ” “Well, I’ll take care of him then.” He looked at me in disbelief and shook his head. “You? What are you gonna do up against him when gets huge?”
“He’ll listen if I teach him how.” He chuckled and put his hand over his face, “You really think you got it in you to tame him, eh? Well listen, you’re old enough to be responsible with something like this, so I’ll make you a deal: If you can show me he’s good and tame before he’s two, we’ll keep him. If he isn’t, it’s on you to take care of him.” I took a long look at Thomas, considering the offer. He looked like he was made of toothpicks and glass, taking slow, long sips from Clara’s teat and nodding off slightly. His big brown eyes hung on me, despite the obvious struggle to keep them open, filled with that new optimism and delightful confusion that comes with birth. I figured that since I had a hand in his birth, I was already committed in some way to the youngling’s continued existence. Why put so much time and effort into a thing you were just going to throw away? I could at least give him a life better than any he could have had being stuck in a cramped cell for a few months at Talbolt’s. “I’ll do it” I proclaimed, a surge of confidence in my voice. “Alright, but I’m gonna hold you to it.” Adam said, grinning a bit at the concept of me raising Thomas. He held out his hand to shake mine. I grasped his and we shook firmly, looking each other dead in the eyes. After a few days with his mother to make sure he was indeed healthy enough, I undertook the task of caring for Thomas. We built him a nice little house to stay in on our land and gave him plenty of room to run around and play. I bottle fed him three times a day and was very hands on with him, using kind words and low tones when talking to and caressing him, hoping that some kind of positive energy would rub off on him and make him tame. He always looked up at me placidly with those beautiful earthen eyes, lying in my lap with a bottle in his mouth. After a month, he was good enough on his legs that we would chase each other around the yard. I would usually catch him much quicker than he could catch me, but after two months, he was running alongside our
shepherding dogs, playing and sometimes even outpacing them. After a year, Thomas’s play activities included pushing a tire around, chasing any birds that landed in his yard (something he picked up from our dogs) and testing his strength. Now on a steady diet of solid food and getting plenty of exercise, he seemed to be enthralled with our daily pushing matches, always greeting me with a playful but firm shove in the stomach whenever I came to see him. Sometimes we would push against each other for 30 minutes at a time; he always had better stamina than me, but I was stronger than him by a fair amount. We had fun, got stronger and got closer. I had grown to love Thomas and until that following winter, I thought he had loved me. It was a cold, bitter, and bright morning during his first feeding of the day when it happened. He was meandering on the other side of his yard when I stepped in with his food, an odd occurrence for him and one that I noted as I was approaching the yard, but I had passed it off as him recovering from a recent cold he had. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It all happened rather quickly; I saw Thomas running towards me as he usually did, I set the food bucket down next to me to greet him and looked back up to see that he was about 5 yards away with no signs of slowing down. And those eyes, those once fragile and curious large brown eyes were now filled with a red rage, one that sought to kill. I had little time to react and instinctively held my right hand out straight, my arm firm behind it. A massive miscalculation. Thomas rammed right into me and sent my arm flying back so hard that a thunderous crack rang throughout the surrounding area. My arm went numb as I fell back into the snow and felt his weight thrust upon me as the nubs on his head vigorously grinded into my chest, tearing at the surface of my skin. He trampled my lower half with heavy hooves, seemingly putting all 350 pounds of muscle into each stomp. I struggled with my only good arm, frantically trying to push him away and screamed. He dug into me so hard with his head that I thought he
Lavish Olivia Evans
broke my ribs. I began punching him hard all over; nose, mouth, ear, and finally a good slug in the eye. This discouraged him enough to step off of me and run away to comfort himself. I frantically crawled out of the yard just as Adam rushed out from the other side of the property. He looked down at me, lying there in the snow, broken. I met his gaze and we both knew what had to be done.
The next day I held my stiff right arm by the elbow. Thankfully, neither it nor anything else was broken, though I was told I might have some minor nerve damage from my foolhardy attempt to block Thomasâ€™s charge. I extended it out to its full length and heard a loud crack emit from it. It sounded like the bones were grinding against each other, an immortal scar he had left me with. As I massaged my arm, all I could think about was why he did it. I had never treated him badly in any sense of the word. Was it really all just down to his natural aggression and savagery? Or was it that he knew that we looked down on him? That we considered both him and the rest of his kind to be just what they were to us: cattle. He couldnâ€™t accept that, I suppose. He was too stubborn and proud. Much like his predecessors and, in a way, a lot like me. I threw on many layers, some leather gloves and a pair of thick boots. I picked up the shotgun that Adam had left for me by the door and slung it over my shoulder as I begrudgingly trudged outside. Thomas was sitting there in his little house. Adam had sedated him so he was barely conscious, his large brown eyes glazed over from the drugs. Gone was that energy and curiosity I had loved. That blind fury that had nearly meant my end was absent as well. His eyes gave the impression of an empty vessel, as if he were an animatronic. I turned the safety off the shotgun, held it up against my shoulder to steady it and aimed it at Thomasâ€™s head and put my finger over the trigger. He faced the barrel, taking a moment to examine it before placing his mouth over it, looking a lot like he did just under two years ago when I fed him using a bottle. I took a deep breath, looked into those eyes I no longer knew, mouthed an apology and pulled the trigger. On that dark, cold and lifeless winter day, I murdered Thomas the bull. uuu
Interview with contributor
Can you discuss your creative process for this piece? My creative process for this piece involved a lot of reflection on my past and identifying a sequence of events that I found to be formative or significant to the person I am today. I ended up finding myself coming back to this story numerous times throughout my brainstorming sessions. Something about it was alluring, in a dark and even depressing way, perhaps feeding into my desire to re-experience those emotions, as they were very important to me, in spite of the pain they inflicted. When putting pen to paper so to speak, there was a lot of structural changes that I made. I wasn’t sure which way of presenting it was most effective and truthfully, I still don’t know. I do however think that not explicitly stating Thomas’s species until the end was an important choice for me. As someone with a lot of experience with animals and their deaths, it’s easy to let their lives and very existence fade into memory, so making it seem ambiguous and leading the reader to think this may be a more traditional pet or maybe even a person was important to me, because I wanted people to regard Thomas the way I did, not as a human or an animal, but as a life full of potential that was stripped away.
Who are some writers/artists that have influenced you? Truthfully, I don’t think my influences shine through in this particular piece, as I’d regard myself as a writer of comedy more than anything else. However, some of my influences from various genres include Neil Gaiman, Toni Morrison, eastern mangaka such as Akira Toriyama or Tite Kubo, the show Red Dwarf, vaporwave, retro-gaming and anything mostly everything on the programming block Adult Swim.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer/artist? My most embarrassing habit as a writer is probably my tendency to over-complicate things in an effort to make them seem more important. I blame my obsession with in-depth lore from Lord of the Rings or just about any anime for that.
A Thought Daniela Franceschetti
I miss shitty fall weather days that I’d spend alone reading graphic novels on a bench by my elementary school’s parking lot I miss my grandmother. I wonder what she was dreaming that night I wonder what my father thought the next morning When he called me, and cried I remember what I thought that that was possibly the first time I’d known his tears He said “mamma,” his mamma— I miss there only being three places in the whole world I miss one of them being her house I miss Halloween. Magic was real, viscerally real and God, did I have a lot Good was Good. Evil was Evil. We fought evil all the time We were heroes I miss believing in God, knowing in my soul bullies got what they deserved “Knowing”
Maybe evil is still evil. I knew a lot of things back then I used to make up holidays with my friends. We’d celebrate them together, dressed to the 9’s Nonna made food for all of us on Sundays—I loved Sundays; when family was a home and I was always sure to return to it On weekdays boys were gross not because of cooties but because I hadn’t met a nice one yet Family didn’t count as “boys” Boys spawned from cracks in the earth Did you know they were only created to torment me? I wasn’t a girl—This was a fact of science, they said how could I be with no breasts? I don’t miss that Running was my greatest pleasure, I ran, I danced I danced at home, I danced at school I danced at Nonna’s house I miss videogames with my brother, we had so much, together I miss sitting in bakeries and not buying anything, watching the leaves fall Worries ended, problems were solved Earth was comfortingly small, community flea markets, our passport to the world Other planets were just characters in picture books We traveled to them using the magic we had Where did it go?
Untitled Documents Destiny Carattini
3/14/2016, 2:40 a.m. I have a rambunctious soul. I can hardly silence it, but when I try to, I’m not so sure if I’m silencing it for the right reasons. I laugh loudly. I talk when I try to whisper. I react sensitively to minor mistakes. When I speak, I take too long to get to the point. I think this is because I was given an unstoppable mind. No, I do not intend on some corny undertone to emerge from that statement. My mind literally never stops thinking. It dispenses little beautiful thoughts I long to discover and investigate.
7/2/2015, 8:28 p.m. There are times when there are so many thoughts, I have to organize them in a folder in my phone, titled “Untitled Documents.” The folder’s filled with random inklings of my wild mind and sometimes I don’t even remember what certain thoughts meant to me in that moment. It’s just nice to document those kinds of things and look back later. I tend to get lost in these thoughts, and it feels wrong to apologize for it. Do not disturb me while I’m away in my wonderland. My thoughts are my art. They are endless, and they are my precious little secrets. Sometimes I share them.
9/2/2017, 7 p.m. My lover’s smile isn’t a just pair of spread, plush lips. It’s energy. It’s an enigma. It’s an inviting warmth. Sometimes I’m in bed by eight, counting sheep at 8:30, and letting my restless thoughts magically transition into wild dreams I struggle to capture in constraining words. There are times when I stay up until three in the morning, then figure: it’d be a peacefully scenic experience to take a walk at four. There are the afternoons I am antisocial, and the only thing I want contact with is the soft blankets and
feather pillows of my small bed. Other days, close friends who make me laugh and tell intimate stories surround me with their warmth and promising comfort.
1/2/2017, 6:11 a.m. I love living. I love the small parts. I love the big, distracting chapters that make you forget there’s more to the story. I’m all for the drama. I live for the silence that follows. I live for the urgent kisses, desperate hands, and our universal movement. I love holding someone’s face in my hands and looking into their eyes. I live for the passionate music that sinks me into my seat that makes me feel things only late nights could wrought. I love mysteries so much I create them everyday. There’s no grandeur in my mysteries, just intimacy. Only I know about them, and that’s a safe feeling. I love buying myself flowers and smelling the tender petals. I love coloring my face, strokes of pastels on my eyelids, swaths of red on my calm smile, a bold line above my long lashes, and glimmering cheekbones. I love smoking alone. There’s no commentary, no criticism, no needless frivolities.
11/28/2016, 4:32 a.m. The other day I saw a tall, poorly-postured professor climb into the shuttle bus, and I couldn’t help but stare at his satchel. Again, I must disclaim myself. I am not an accessorial kind of girl who stares at the belongings of others... for an inappropriate amount of time that is. I began to wonder what he held in his satchel. I noticed it looked old too. I wonder what has come through and left that aging bag. It even had a lock on it. This was my first time seeing a lock on a satchel, which must make its held items even more mysterious. What did Professor Satchel have in store between those weathered, leathered flaps? I smoked that day, so I may have been staring for too long. I wasn’t in the mood for human interaction, so I tore a page out of my journal and scrawled in messy, on-the-bus handwriting, “I’m not good at talking to people, but I thought I would tell you I like your satchel.” I handed him the note after two sheepish “excuse me’s.” He looked confused as he took the paper from my hands to his lap. It was nice to see his small smile form. “This is sweet.” he said. My throbbing heart eased into proud, softer thumps. My face was expressionless through the entire interaction, keeping my anxiety at bay. He asked me if he could keep it, and I nodded with two short bobs of my head and my own little smile. It felt nice to be nice quickly and resume my thoughts with my soft playlist titled “Mellow” playing in the background. uuu
Urban Suicide Noelani Sky Capote Sweaty soles drag up six flights, took his mother, aunt, & grandma six nights to get back to bed. Our playground was always lit by hallway lights, free from night & day. He walked right up to that roof to take a step into hell. Whispers from his ears to take the plunge, well, Six flights he fell onto kaleidoscope concrete & no one believed he lived.
Exquisite Corpse #2 Nandita Ramanâ€™s Class
Recovery Noelani Sky Capote Broke am I, without her call. Pay cash for fast track to the lull. Hold in, hang on, waste time to ash. Hands to use to begin to shake from whiffs on paper trails. Spliffs and dutch sniff if itâ€™s stale. Hot box her human, the rocks are chalk. Board up her nose, outline her pose, till she canâ€™t talk.
Mystic Miki Micah Havriliak
The water is a lurid blue Surrounded by people Cheering and snapping cameras; Dirtying it. Everyone stomps their feet with excitement On the grey pallid floor, Hands and faces pressing against the glass, Wide eyes, “There he is, there he is!” Yes, there he is! 2,000 pounds of blubbery ivory All for you and your eyes only. An oafish thing, a still-life. He swims like a fool in fall, Yellows and wallows in winter, Burgeons in spring, But come summer And you cannot cheer “There he is!”
He will no longer possess Two eyes round like little earths, Two lungs with bronchial branches, A mouth to suckle with, Genitals to orgasm with. Plucked Like a hair From a once lush peach scalp. He is Mona Lisa, fine China, A wax fruit.
Parsing and Detecting for Twenty to Life Andres Cordoba I’ve been paranoid about dying in a fire lately, everytime I’m about to sleep my roommate covers the fire alarm with a sombrero lights up my borrowed pipe, and with a grin says, “think about it from my perspective.” I’ve always been at the mercy of fire alarms, as the man in grown-up halloween attire with the sharpened nose, sharpened eyes, and meaty mouth asks me why I think he thinks I’m “full of shit.” Standing in a dorm with howling alarms, set off by gold cigarettes, and green blue disregard. Takes me twenty years to parse that query out. He stands there for all of them, all badge-y and gunned, and I have to admit, as I blow out the candles, “I don’t know,” like always. I just don’t.
A new neighbor says, “I’ll take good care of you,” to my mother, and I venomously bite, “In that case, Just make sure you pay for her wake and we’re even SGT.” His eyebrows twitch, and his pregnant biceps flex, and I wanna mumble, “Yeah, I too know five sets will get you there. Any high school boy in Long Island knows.” Mom sits me down to say cool it, but she forgot to turn the stove off, and it’s all charred as we run around slamming broom handles on screeching Detectors. And it’s so small sometimes, I swear it’s so tiny that I wish I couldn’t hear it. I could just change the batteries, give myself a month of respite, A week or two of somber clarity. Just all clear, and see through, paling in comparison to how I am. People don’t like my fire drills, “It’s too cold out there!” they whine. Like I’m not aware; I’m in my underwear for god’s sake! I thought we all agreed just to cover them while we’re at college, but they left these gaping holes in their plastic Chinese take-out bags. Then mumble that they knew about it, but, “I figured no one would hear.”
La Donna Jason Quizhpi
Rocket Ships Keegan Sagnelli Three-hundred-something stars last night Cardboard wings and tinfoil engines collecting dust Kept in rooms never opened for rainy days Thinned sheet rocks and chipped paint Under feet fragile frames crumbling We choked at every opportunity to be more than our doors Still I call you at dawns of weekends in paradise Awake your slumber for new dreams of old times Wet dreams, dirty words – say “home” Say it with the breath of the leaves in fall – the corners trapping wind in bags Under feet – shake fragile frames till they crumble No base, just score and score until we think We know and we say no more More, more, more women More money More walls in homes transparent my love for you I yearn for you and your ideas and all you know You need more ideas From smooth pages in books never borrowed I could never read two times through Only repetition in waves of heat – rays of sun We could have kissed the sun had we wanted to Through better blues we could’ve flew –
we could’ve swam I’m coming to you from a not so different color Coming from a not so different sky Turning in my body like pale waves in mornings in Old Saybrook Burning through my skin in Ridgewood’s golden sun We were golden – Always peaceful, always angry, always right Stomping through graveyards and playgrounds Shaking the world till we lift off so they know we were here Scrape the crust from our scabs – Never attention till knees grow cold and damp We take our crust from the Earth – Put it in mason jars on top shelves in rooms never opened for rainy days Collect dust until the world is too much so we calm our nerves Take a piece of the Earth in our hand, “you are mine” “I’m taking you home” So we take home the girls we know will say ‘Yes’ We suffer through good days with discontent And we kiss the skies that keep us here Never far, never near Until we kiss the brides we always wanted We kiss the golds goodbye We make the best with what’s been given And we hold onto the sky So we open doors to open news, New skies, new blues, new yous, new bloom, new rings, new girls, new rooms Old room – Cardboard collecting dust Rocket ships with fragile frames Counting… counting… Counting…
Interview with cover artist
Can you discuss your creative process for this piece? My idea for Freak Ocean was to show what the world looks like through the perspective of my cat, Freakmaster. She’s a hyperactive and inquisitive black cat that’s pictured hiding behind a bush. She runs around with a shocked expression so I imagine, for her, the world is bright and teeming with weird shapes and snakes. I decide to make an abstract landscape, drawing reference from zooplankton and other microscopic forms to give reality to this imagined landscape. The result is a playful and organic world that blurs the line between fantasy and reality.
Who are some writers/artists that have influenced you? Ever since I was young, I’ve been fascinated by plants and animals and the natural world. I am inspired by nature and enjoy making work that evokes a sense of play and movement through bright colors and patterns. Henri Matisse’s work has also influenced me, especially his cut-outs and depictions of textiles and decorative elements. I’m inspired by patterns and simple repetition. As a designer/illustrator I am obsessed with patterns and hope to one day be a textile designer and make really indulgent and decorative work.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer/artist? Sometimes I struggle with the idea that my work has to be totally perfect, and then I stop having fun and my work suffers. I have to step back and take a breather and tell myself that it’s not the end of the world if something isn’t perfect. I also really try to have fun making work (especially now that I’m in school, and don’t have to listen to clients!) and it can be frustrating to expect joy when you’re trying to find a solution. Art is fun but it isn’t always fun and sometimes you have to work through the parts that aren’t fun. But I really try to find elements that are accessible and enjoyable no matter what project I’m working on. Because in the end, if I don’t have fun making, it you’re probably not going to have fun looking at it! And that’s my ultimate goal- to make work that’s lively and intriguing.
Christina Baulch is a junior Literature major. She works in two libraries and loves every minute of it. She really should write poetry more often, but “Gilmore Girls” and her to-be-read list get in the way. Ajani Bazile-Dutes is a senior Creative Writing student from Long Island. While his focus is on fiction, he also writes screenplays and poetry. Sam Bell is from Providence, so if you go to Providence, ask him where to eat, and he’ll tell you in order to promote commerce in his home city. He also writes, and is confused why 19 years of living still can’t fill a five sentence bio. So three sentences it is, he’s not Helen Keller or Nelson Mandela or something, three sentences is more than enough for a kid like him. Michelle Blanyar is your local barista. When she’s not too busy brewing coffee and steaming milk for your lattes, she is writing in the hopes of squashing her year and a half long writers block and finally finishing that damn novel that’s stuck in her Google Docs. Regina Bowler is a Biology major at Purchase College. She was born in the Philippines. She currently lives in Mamaroneck, NY. Danielle Calleo is a BFA Photography senior at Purchase College who has just discovered a love for writing poetry. She looks to poetry as an outlet for emotions that are otherwise hard for her to describe. Her poem “Digging Holes” was written directly after the death of a good friend of hers, and they speak to her personal healing process and her own struggles with depression. Noelani Sky Capote is a second-generation Puerto Rican, Costa Rican, and Cuban young woman from The Bronx. She wants her writing to introduce the New York City she grew up in, the one an hour commute from the skyline that draws people from around the world. She is something akin to a senior at Purchase.
Destiny Carattini is a Journalism major who likes to write about the important stuff going on in Washington D.C. as well as creative nonfiction and on a good day, some poetry. After college, she plans on working at the New York Times with hopes of seeing her byline printed on the front page. Andres Cordoba is a Creative Writing major at Purchase. He enjoys reading, writing, and small dogs with long hair. He writes because his mother and sister do too, and his end goal is to one day get them to like what he writes. He hopes this is all just the lead up to a soon to be burgeoning R&B career. Aidan Engel-Bradley is a senior in the Philosophy department, a native of the Lower East Side, and a photographer concerned with urban development/community erosion. Aidan is a student in Nandita Raman’s class. Olivia Evans is a Visual Art student from the Bronx, New York, using a variety of art styles and mediums to connect with subject matter as well as her audience. Creating work inspired by Magritte, Romare Bearden, and Kerry James Marshall. Evans actively strives to experiment with different ways to convey a theme, currently vibrant color and composition are important factors. Lydia Everett majors in Creative Writing and minors in Literature at SUNY Purchase. She enjoys reading (especially if she’s rereading Harry Potter for the millionth time) and is a huge proponent of the Oxford comma. Someday she hopes to live in the middle of nowhere with at least one dog. Daniela Franceschetti is a senior Literature major. Keeping her busy this year is her senior project on Xenophobia in Gothic Fiction. She enjoys tabletop rpgs, larping and other obscenely nerdy things. Some of her favorite hobbies include talking too much and writing. Yvelyne Freycinet was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently nineteen. Although she was born in America, she was raised within Haitian culture, completely submerged in her roots. She is currently studying Chemistry. She hopes to later become a chemist or create natural medicine. Amber Gorney is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Psychology. She has yet to figure out what she wants to do with her life, but whatever it is, she hopes it involves writing.
Rain Haluska is an Anthropology/Gender Studies double major who hails from a secluded valley deep in the mountains of Northern New York. Rain worked on their parents farm during their childhood and believes that everyone can learn a lot from being in such in environment. Rain’s perfect evening would involve watching “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross” next to a blazing fire during a cold winter. Micah Havriliak is a junior/senior at Purchase College currently majoring in theatre but also studying various other subjects. He enjoys writing free verse in his free time as well as reading poetry and ceaselessly listening to music. Micah is proud to be a student at Purchase and hopes to continue his education further in the future. Daniel Heinley is a second-year New Media major from Syracuse, NY; he focuses on technical photography. He is a student in Nandita Raman’s class. Shanelle Lopez is a freshman Journalism major, with an interest in portrait photography and landscape photography from Staten Island, NY. Shannon Magrane is an aspiring author who favors fantasy and horror, but is interested in experimenting with other genres and styles. She has lived on Long Island for fifteen years, and adores dogs, chocolate, and family. Leandra Manon, 19, is a Journalism sophomore. She has a background in digital and film photography; gaining most of her creativity from the streets of New York City along with her own experiences. She began shooting at the age of 15 and hasn’t stopped since. Elana Marcus is a sophomore Creative Writing and Playwriting/Screenwriting double major. She almost drowned in a river once, but she didn’t, and now she is in this magazine. Her work is dedicated to her step-dad, Grant Alan Keiser. Gio Martin is a junior studying Painting/Drawing. Stressed but always dressed, they would rather die than wear an all-grey outfit. Their work, which primarily takes the form of oil painting but spans multiple media, centers around topics of discomfort, imagination, body image, internet
culture, and foodstuffs. They scream through juicy, potent saturated color with janky proportions and wonky critters. Casey McCarthy is a junior BFA Interdisciplinary student focusing in Printmaking/Painting and Drawing. Her subject matter mainly focuses on dream/memory-based scenes that will knock your socks off. Incorporating painting techniques into prints, she proves she ain’t no one; no one trick pony that is! Keep an eye out for King Casey in years to come, she’s a star. The end. Janelle McNeil is a first year Playwriting/Screenwriting major at SUNY Purchase. She enjoys listening to Beyoncé and Eminem, having long talks with her family and friends, and writing. You can always catch her wearing pink, laughing, and telling stories. Caryl Melnick is a BSVA senior who works primarily in animation. However she works in many other mediums as well. She is currently working on her senior project which will revolve around various goddess themes. “Rethinking Woman” is part of her exploration process. The work consists of pieces cut from a print of her original charcoal and ink drawing “Woman” and then reassembled. Jamison Murcott is a student at Purchase College and is currently working towards a BA in Creative Writing. Native to Long Island, New York, she spends her summers working at the beach and then spends all that money on egg sandwiches and iced coffee. Her earliest written story was about her Uncle Larry mowing his lawn in July while dressed in a snowsuit because he was afraid of venomous snakes (she likes to think that her storytelling has since improved). Trisha Murphy is a junior Creative Writing major with a concentration in Poetry and a full time emo. She spends the majority of her time either listening to music or forcing people to talk to her about it, that is when she isn’t busy turning them into poems. Follow her on Spotify if you really want to get into your feelings. Chelsea Muscat has been photographing and filming ever since she twelve years old. She finds beauty within the pivotal moments of her life that she continually reworks and revisits.
Rin Otoguro is from Japan and a freshman photography major. She usually takes cityscape photography, portrait photography, and apples. She is a student in Nandita Raman’s class. Anne Penatello is a junior majoring in the Creative Writing program at Purchase and is minoring in Philosophy and Literature. She enjoys dancing around her museum like apartment and observing campus wildlife. She can often be found in the library. Jason Quizhpi is an artist from New York who dabbles in printmaking, painting, and photography. His work primarily focus on animals regarding their form or creating a surreal environment for them. In photography, he captures the little moments one seems to ignore. Griffin Rapp makes short films at SUNY Purchase and is a senior pursuing a B.F.A. in Film. He plays college volleyball, loves coffee, and was born in Rochester, NY. Winnie Richards is a freshman at Purchase in the Creative Writing department. She is from the Catskill Mountain region of Upstate New York. Anthony Rojas is a second-year Cinema Studies major from New York City. He combines his interests in digital/film photography and cinema to create an intersection where aesthetics meet purpose. He is a student in Nandita Raman’s class. Andrea Ross is a multidisciplinary designer/illustrator from upstate New York. She is currently studying Graphic Design at SUNY Purchase and hopes to one day be a textile designer. Her hobbies include petting cats, drawing words, exploring new places, eating pasta and running through the woods. Doc Roulier is a junior at SUNY Purchase majoring in Lateritious studies. He enjoys writing, sitting, and seeing. Keegan Sagnelli is a sophomore Arts Management student. He started playing with poetry in senior year of high school after years of writing lyrics and music. His poetry centers around love, nostalgia, and sentimentality.
Nicolas Umpierrez is a junior New Media major, with an interest in photography focusing on patterns either in architecture, nature or people. He is from Queens, NY. He is a student in Nandita Ramanâ€™s class. Jaela Vaughn was born in the Bronx and has been writing since second grade. Sheâ€™s won both honorable mention and gold key awards from Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in high school. She mainly writes fiction and this piece is inspired by her interest in mythology as well as short stories. Spencer Wainacht is a digital artist and designer who loves makeup, fake hair, and Starbucks. Follow his Instagram: spencer.design, for pettiness, drama, chaos, confusion, and madness. :* Arielle Young is a fourth year Journalism major focusing on Photography and Asian studies. As an aspiring photojournalist she hopes to use her lens to bring into focus the elaborate and beautiful cultures of the east. She is a student in Nandita Ramanâ€™s class.
Issue 15 of Italics Mine