Janelle McNeil Jon Mecca Jordan Meiland Latricia Morgan Chelsea Muscat Kyle Noguera Ace P.B. Imani Parker Patrick Preziosi Jordan Reynolds Winnie Richards Toni Rizzaro Liv Rouse Eden Russo Keegan Sagnelli Madison Svercel Jaela Vaughn Xingyun Wang Vee Weeks
Rachel Bevacqua Ana Blanchet Justin Blatt Lauren Bleiwas Leandra Bombace Kate Brown Danny Bunyavong Andres Cordoba Sarah Couture Matt Cullen Emily Czerwinski Nicholas Dinielli Joshua Gage Yancy Garcia Emma Griffiths Lassiter Jamison Madison Janetsky Daniel Kuriakose Yuko Kyutoku Alexandra Lazar Jakob Lorenzo Kayla Lunden Ryan Majors Gio Martin Shanille Martin Finola McDonald
ITALICS MINE Issue 16
Italics Mine showcases the new, creative literary voices of Purchase College students â€”majors and non-majors alike â€”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 programâ€™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. Cover Art: "Split" by Toni Rizarro
EDITORS Spring 2019 Managing Editors
Finola McDonald Jamison Murcott Shana Blatt
Mitchell Angelo Christina Baulch Emily Hargitai Muse McCormack Trisha Murphy
Rian Nicolas Grey Mina Guadalupe Elana Marcus Tabetha Rosado Nick Sapienza Meagan Sweeney
Leila Rabia Louhaichy Shannon Magrane Sydney Shaffer Carly Sorenson
Christina Baulch Shannon Magrane Nick Sapienza
Mitchell Angelo Muse McCormack Sydney Shaffer
Leila Rabia Louhaichy Elana Marcus Meagan Sweeney
Mina Guadalupe Rian Nicolas Grey
Mehdi Okasi Warren Lehrer Catherine Lewis Monica Ferrell Aviva Taubenfeld
TABLE of CONTENTS Poetry Character Study The b[ore] [oar]d memento Will You Hum for Me? Goes Down Easy Discussions on ... Parties After the Fall excerpts from Trace Happenings Doe Abstract Thought Piece Baobaby Dies Resignation Lipstick Loverboy Vulnerability Study The Treasure Yours Law of Impunity Beautiful Brown Things Where To Begin The Only Real Thing My Life Has Been One of Suppression Curdle Projected Onto and Through the Landscape The Meek Uncoming Bud
Ryan Majors Daniel Kuriakose Kate Brown Kyle Noguera Imani Parker Andres Cordoba Ana Blanchet Matt Cullen Emily Czerwinski Jaela Vaughn Andres Cordoba Ryan Majors Ace P.B. Danny Bunyavong Keegan Sagnelli Nicholas Dinielli Imani Parker Winnie Richards Imani Parker Danny Bunyavong Kayla Lunden Matt Cullen Emily Czerwinski Winnie Richards Kayla Lunden
1 2 8 16 17 18 34 35 38 49 50 56 58 67 75 76 78 84 95 99 106 108 110 112 114
Leandra Bombace Emma Griffiths Lassiter Jamison Winnie Richards Janelle McNeil Leandra Bombace
5 22 52 59 86 100
Fiction Ghosts In The Garden Blood Sugar Grocery Store God, In Our Spaces Coffee Mugs The Shepherd And The Djinn
Nonfiction An Interview with ............................................................... Leandra Bombace How I Loved Him Shanille Martin An Interview with ............................................................... Gio Martin Thanksgiving Joshua Gage I Am Not My Hair, I Am Not Your Expectations Yancy Garcia An Interview with ............................................................... Yancy Garcia (Not So) Lost in Translation Finola McDonald An Interview with ............................................................... Madison Svercel Something Is Wrong With Me Vee Weeks An Interview with ............................................................... Imani Parker My Type Of Party Jordan Meiland An Interview with ............................................................... Winnie Richards An Interview with ............................................................... Liv Rouse Helpless Desire (Book Review) Patrick Preziosi Bruja Born (Book Review) Justin Blatt
7 9 15 32 40 43 44 65 68 79 80 85 104 116 118
Art Berries Toast Birdsgiving L1ly Bathing in Clouds Sgord Grocery Boy Nomad I Right into the Wrong Simplex 1 Nomad II Horse 477 Days Natural Organic Life Lost in the World 2 In the Box Consumption Consumed The Divine is in Everything Haze B Desert Asterisms Lost in the World La Residenza Chivalry Wrestling with Self
Yuko Kyutoku Sarah Couture Gio Martin Jakob Lorenzo Alexandra Lazar Lauren Bleiwas Gio Martin Xingyun Wang Rachel Bevacqua Madison Svercel Xingyun Wang Chelsea Muscat Jon Mecca Yuko Kyutoku Chelsea Muscat Xingyun Wang Liv Rouse Rachel Bevacqua Madison Janetsky Jordan Reynolds Chelsea Muscat Eden Russo Latricia Morgan Jordan Reynolds
4 11 14 31 39 48 54 57 62 66 71 74 83 88 94 98 102 105 107 109 111 113 115 120
Italics Mine ISSUE 16
Body Works Liv Rouse
Character Study Ryan Majors
 Start first of June when women of righteous blood grow wild, with lawns so verdant, hydrangeas tend to blossom from the tops of their heads. At least we look good in hats, they say. And they do. Kelly green grass stains a white dress meant for the Fourth. A spot of Grenache on the hem already, the dress gets scrapped. Another round, please!  Men of suburb upbringing choose to remain stagnant in heat. Their rose-colored cheeks air defeat and desire when we lock eyes. He begged me to stick around last summer when I cleaned his pipes in Connecticut, capturing dozens of reptiles living inside. The lizards promised the snakes would be evicted before Thursday brunch. The homeowner thanked me, yanking my shorts to my ankles. He completed the deed in record time. How pious one must be to organize a living room this way.  Are the hydrangeas at risk of wilting? Not yet plucked, they bend into animal stances. An amethyst crystal hangs around her neck. She touches it when she’s lonely. She’s lonely. And bountiful. She pours Cabernet over her garden and fans a budding flame. She’s flammable now, but cannot bring herself to burn.  A husband does not concern himself with the stems of wine glasses. He gulps a glass of mid-afternoon and revs the engine on the Craftsman he forgot how to control. Isn’t he rich? A pretty penny, actually.
d Daniel Kuriakose
1. Fundamentally, we were holed, but injunctively, superpositioned between holed and blue, and rude, and precipitory, fixated on us whatever it was we were. A static, new dread, which protected it permanently; it belonged to a packaging of light, a packaging of people, of words, fridges, of the worst things, the cold breath of fridges. The breathing was a necessary practice, filling and unfilling me. I needed that, to ignore something so invisible and breakable. That’s called a “wallet,” a carton designed to include and organize various moments of impact. It’s littered with ears, I know, because I know a man who walked through all of it, and he collected all the ears his bag could carry for a very specific, marine reason relating somehow to balance.
2. These moments allowable and in order of appearance, we moved freely, like kites. It has always been here. Of course itâ€™s not a bother: we knew it since childhood; in the early periods, figures ordinary and positive, tonalities brass and termed, certainties international and alive, of course, big enough to fit in. Think of how little effort itâ€™d be just to follow us; the importance of umbrellas, these negotiable insects, water, sex: about none of it would you have to even become. Uselessly, they apprehended the figurations, changed, and met up with me later.
3. The auxiliary law, as I understand it, has to do with making stuff up, with defacing property and remaining grouped. Its sound radiated hemispherically, allowing birds on first contact with water. He fell down, and was definite only in the absence of other features, places to solidify in and open towards. I surrendered to him the madness, the commodities, the landscape and the out of focus background, all of which I owned in plenty until that moment. The dust settled into birds. The birds settled. I tried to forbid consequences, and merely became one. I said, good morning. I said, where is the leg? He said, your leg? I said, yes. He said, good morning. 3
Berries Yuko Kyutoku
GHOSTS IN THE GARDEN Leandra Bombace
It was infuriating how cheerful the house looked, how bright and alive. The periwinkle paint gleamed merrily in the sunshine. You’d never suppose a ghost haunted the splendid garden to the side of the manor. There were two ghosts actually, one more corporeal than the other. The woman took to wandering between the trellises filled with marigolds and under ivy-covered archways. Flora of every conceivable shade and tone grew with sweet abandon. The gray and deep, liver-toned red of her shawl was an ink smudge on a canvas bursting with light. Scent and color, it did not belong here. There was once a time when she’d dressed in wrap-dresses of poppy red, rosemary green, iris blue. She was leached of color now, the faded blue of the dress beneath her shawl almost a pale, sickly white. The weather was warm enough and, in truth, the shawl served as protection from unseen sorrows rather than a chilled wind. Occasionally, she would turn her head and stare at a point across the large grove, gazing at some memory that only took form in her mind’s eye; the sun turning his hair the color of fresh tilled earth while he worked. His large, strong hands holding daffodil and orchid bulbs as gently as they held her. The two of them napping at the turn of the evening out on the veranda. She often mused about burning the whole garden to the ground, watching the blooms curl up like scorched paper in the flames. Maybe that would ease the memories that seemed to prick her as harshly as the thorns of the white roses.
She had never possessed a green thumb, she’d simply been content to watch the garden grow. The apple blossoms, peonies, buttercups – she hadn’t planted anything here. They weren’t hers; they hadn’t really been in the first place. Deft hands had tended the flowers, pulled out the weeds – weeds that were now daring enough to strangle a small patch of lilacs. Her hands were small, with long fingers suited to weaving. She’d not given that up, but the bolts of cloth she created no longer held a gleam of joy. It all seemed too dull. There was so much color, yet she couldn’t see any of it. The ghost trailed her wherever she wandered, silent and watchful. It agitated her. One moment, her mouth would smile softly and the next, she would freeze and her mossy eyes would turn sharp and bright. The smile would vanish and her throat would close. The quiet did not help.
A figure walking through the kitchen door, a slight limp to the long-legged gate. A shadow lounging sleepily in the big armchair in the study, now slowly gathering dust. An imprint in the bed she could no longer sleep in. The garden would either turn wild and unruly or die from neglect and spite. The beds would bare the trellises empty and cold. The ivy would wither and crumble from overhead, floating like ash on a summer breeze.
“She often mused about burning the whole garden to the ground, watching the blooms curl up like scorched paper in the flames.” It gave her too much time to think, to stare at the colors until they all bled together into something else, something trying to pass itself off as a beautiful. Until it was all one solid void of grey. It seemed to mock her — cold and indifferent. All the lovely blooms and petals. Empty promises. Disappointment. She couldn’t even smell their once enigmatic perfume anymore. Yet, she’d been left to care for them. She tried not to keep her hands idle. Stillness and silence served to be more painful than the color, noise, and smells. In those pockets of silence were when the ghost was most solid, most tangible.
An Interview with Leandra Bombace Author of “Ghosts in the Garden” and “The Shepherd and the Djinn” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for your pieces? LEANDRA BOMBACE: Both pieces were very much inspired by my personal life, despite their supernatural characteristics. “The Shepherd and the Djinn” was inspired by, and also written for, a dear friend of mine—he asked for a story and I gave him one, all while I was making breakfast. “Ghosts in the Garden” was inspired by a breakup; one that left me feeling haunted by everyday reminders that I didn’t want to let go of at the time. Long story short, both stories produced a lot of tears on my part, but they are also creations of love. IM: Can you discuss your creative process in crafting these stories? LB: “The Shepherd and the Djinn” came to mind easily, to my own surprise. Writing it felt seamless. I wanted to write a little fairytale on the fly, one that pulled from Middle Eastern folklore with inspiration from Arabian Nights. And since it is a fairytale, I wanted to put a bit of a twist in it. When I sat back and gave it a good look, the story had this Cinderella-aspect that wasn’t strictly intentional, but worked really well. When I was writing “Ghosts in the Garden”, I was listening to songs that were more on the reflective and melancholic side (such as "Lullaby" by Pink Martini, "All of Me" by Billie Holiday, and "Palace" by Sam Smith). I could picture this 18th-century English-style house in my head. It put me in a gothic/romance literature collected frame of mind— think Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. IM: What excites you about the writing process? LB: Capturing the very life of the characters and what they want to share is the most exciting part. It feels very much like sitting down and talking with a stranger you don’t really know if you’ve met once before or not; they’re familiar but other. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer? LB: Honestly? I have to change the font before I type anything out. It’s very much like setting the mood. If I’m writing something in the horror or suspense genres, I’m not going to use a font that looks like it could be on the walls in an elementary school classroom. Read “The Shepherd and the Djinn” on page 100
memento Kate Brown i wonder if frogs feel the same metallic acid in their molars: moving, thrashing, burying, white sheet moratorium wishing the white whale would swallow you— ––up. picture frames
on walls on
house frame, everything has bones and even if they don’t, they have muscle and skin and plaster and rubble from before you and after. soon the laundry will be done and a lone cub is born from a beached whale and the blinds are pulled shut piled with blankets so there is no light before it’s time the time i deem for it.
HOW I LOVED HIM Shanille Martin
We were doomed from the start, my father and I. He left me when I was five months old
and returned when I was five years old. I don’t remember my childhood within that time, most people don’t, but I remember the feeling of not knowing him. He says that when he arrived back in Jamaica after all that time, I was in a yard with a pile of other kids. My hair was wild, my skin covered in dirt, and I was skinnier than all the other children. My father walked up to the gate, took off his hat, and asked which one of us was his. I walked up, chest puffed out like I was ready to give him a long lecture, but instead I just said, “I am.” I had only seen him through pictures, so it must have been a shock to see him there in the flesh. He laughs every time he talks about it, because he’s sure it’s the reason our relationship is still so dysfunctional today, that maybe because we skipped the bonding stage of my development, I now hold an internal resentment towards him. I wouldn’t call it resentment, it’s more so that I don’t understand him. We were all born in Jamaica, everyone I consider my immediate family and I. We were also all born in Kingston, the country’s capital. It’s an inside joke among Jamaican people that if you ask them where they’re from, everyone comes from Kingston. Once, a friend of mine from high school said that Kingston should really be called the bush of Jamaica. He grew up in the nice parts where everyone lived in big houses and spoke proper English, not the broken english my family is accustomed to. Still, my mother never spoke of Kingston that way. She had a dozen stories about running into the zinc house where she, my grandfather, grandmother, and my uncle shared a bed. They’d run inside and lock up the door, which wasn’t really a door, whenever there was a shooting in the yard, which happened often. Her stories scare me, but my mother’s face lights up when she recounts these events. She admits that although she’s thankful for how blessed I was to not have the same childhood, she doesn’t regret the one she had. I envy her for this. I won’t go as far to say I was always different from my family, because there are eight years of my life where I lived in the same country they remember fondly. I can’t remember much but vague faces of people I may have known and the structure of our house. After we
got out of Kingston, we moved to Portmore, which was a much nicer neighborhood. I googled Portmore not too long along and the trending article was titled “Bloody 24 Hours in Portmore”. There was a yard out front, with a black garbage can that was big enough for us to sit on and watch the stars at night. This I remember. I remember catching crabs that came crawling out of the gulley during floods. I hated this because the crabs were always clawing away, begging to return to the earth, and my mother would just ramble on about how good they would taste.
One of my strongest memories is of the sugarcane fields. Sugarcanes are a pale-yellow fruit, and you wouldn’t think they were edible just by looking at them. There are two ways I’ve seen sugarcane being eaten: 1) The way I eat it, by biting directly into the cane and chewing at it till it softens or 2) The way my grandmother eats it, by tearing at the cane till it’s all just a spot of fibers in her hand. Everything has changed, everything but the food from my culture that my family refuses to abandon. Sunday mornings— the smell of oxtail and rice, Mondays and Tuesdays are leftovers, Wednesdays are whatever concoction my mother whips up quickly, usually salt fish and rice or curry goat and dumplings. Thursdays are leftovers because you never cook two days in a row in my house. Fridays are of course take-out from the local Caribbean restaurant with which my grandmother has an unpaid internship as its biggest critic. When my mother and I left Jamaica in 2006, my father was still a stranger to me. He’d been in and out of my life for three years before he brought us to America, but we were both too stubborn to admit we needed each other. This created what I call the reverse Oedipus complex. Sigmund Freud claimed that girls will have an unconscious sexual attraction for their fathers, and hate their mothers because of it, vice versa for boys. Freud’s theory is silly, but for the sake of this story, I’ll entertain it. My father missed key stages of my development, in return my mother was my sole guardian during those times. Note: I’m not saying I was in love with my mother, but I did love her in a way that I did not love my father. So maybe Freud is right, maybe because my father and I didn’t bond when I was born, I’m all messed in the head. Maybe we’ll never reach a place of contentment with each other because I never got to have those unconscious sexual feelings towards him. When we came to America, we stayed in a motel the first night because my father wanted it to just be the three of us alone. At the time we came, he was living in his sister’s house that had nine other people living in it.
“My father walked up to the gate, took off his hat, and asked which one of us was his.” Not many people had pets because dogs were outside animals and everyone, especially my mother, was afraid of lizards, which there are an abundance of in Jamaica. I had three best friends. One was named Jordan, the other names I can’t remember. I can only remember Jordan’s name because we nicknamed him “egghead.” His head had an unconventional shape which brought him years of teasing, but I don’t remember him ever being angered by it. My father claims I had a secret relationship with him, and throughout my adolescence, when my father would see I was taking notice of boys, he would remind me of Jordan. One friend was a girl who was already in her teenage years when I knew her. Now that I think of it, she’s probably married with kids now, or traveling the world. I name her Trisha because the name sounds right in my head, but I can’t confirm that it is her real name. She lived next door to me, and her mother would fill up barrels with crabs and boil them in hot water. Trisha was wise, or at least to my eightyear-old self she was. She knew everything about everything. As for my last friend, other than vague flashes of a pale face and a voice, I don’t know anything about him.
Toast Sarah Couture
My parents were all over each other once we got off the plane. I didn’t understand. How could my mother love this man who wasn’t always around as much as she loved me? How could she kiss him? Hug him? How could she expect me to do the same? My father told me he called my mother once while we were still in Jamaica, and they were having phone sex. My father was a craftsman of sexual innuendo but I was too young at the time to understand what any of it meant. At one point my father said he and my mother would play his favorite game, the one he’s shown her before, and I busted in the room yelling, “AND I’M JOINING TOO!” They haven’t let me live it down.
I resented my father for having access to my mother’s heart, a heart that I wanted to own in its entirety. I resented my mother for making me love her too much, where even to this day my heart can’t split big enough to love my parents equally. My home lies in my mother. My father’s home lies within my mother. While we are connected through this human being, it’s not enough for my father and I to find home within each other. I can’t ever tell him this to his face, but I’m still learning to love him. My mother never says a bad word about my father. Instead, she tells me how she knew he was IT for her the moment they met. My mother says my father saved her life.
She says she once wrote a list of things she wanted God to give her. She wanted a better life, happiness, money, but more importantly, she wanted a good husband and at least one child. She left the list within her bible, and when she found it years later, everything she had asked for had come true. God sent her me, but before I came, he gave her my father. My father’s first job in America was at a Payless Shoe Store in Canarsie. The job paid him bare minimum and wasn’t in the greatest of neighborhoods, but still, he made it work. There he met people he’d have a long-lasting friendship with. He made every customer feel welcomed like it was something more than a shoe store. When my mother and I moved to America, he realized that job wasn’t enough to take care of us, so he quit. A little while later, he found a job at a clothing store in an Italian neighborhood in Sheepshead Bay. He worked there for years, often bringing home clearance clothing for my mother and me. We looked forward to this. A few years after my father started his new job at the store, it went out of business. My father was once again unemployed, but this time it was different, this time he didn’t have a choice. The more days went on where he didn’t have a job, the more my father lost sense of who he was. How could he call himself a father and husband if he couldn’t even provide? For the year he was unemployed, my father and mother prayed aggressively every day, except for when my father’s faith would falter and for a moment, just for a quick moment, he would question God. During the time my father lost his job, the owner of the apartment we lived in sold the house. We had to move because A) we wouldn’t be able to afford the new rent price and B) we were too angry to stay. The praying increased when we heard we had to move. My father needed a job. We needed a home. Our hereditary curse lies within our name. My father, unlike most people, was not given his father’s last name, White, because his father existed only as a name and occasional body that came around to cause my grandmother ache. He’d offer my father money not because my father
asked or because he cared for him, but because like many men in my family, he saw his role simply as the benefactor, a fountain of riches that should keep on giving. My grandmother wanted my father to know he was loved. Instead of giving my father his father’s last name, she gave him his stepfather’s last name, a man who did accept his role of father. Thank God for that, Shanille White doesn’t quite ring as sweetly in my ear. I used to call him by his first name, Carl, because it felt unnatural to call him anything but. Then we moved into a neighborhood in East New York which consisted primarily of Spanish speakers. The neighborhood was louder than the quiet block in Brownsville where we spent the first year after my arrival. People were always outside talking, hosting a party, or playing in the water hydrant. All the children called the older men Papi, and somehow, I started calling my father Papa. My father was pleased with the name, at least it wasn’t Carl. Now he had a title, now he meant something. Still, giving my father this title didn’t change much. Our relationship remained tumultuous. We were always at war, and my mother was always the mediator. It wasn’t until recently that I started to empathize with my father, that I started to understand why he yearned for
“How could my mother love this man who wasn’t always around?” me to love him. A few years back, when the killings of black youths became an epidemic and the Black Lives Matter movement took off, my father and I were pulled over by the police. It was for a reckless move my father often makes, not stopping at a stop sign. When I saw the lights coming up in the distance and my father coming to a slow stop, my heart started racing in my chest. My entire body went into panic. My arms began to tremble. Goosebumps appeared on my skin like it was ten degrees outside. The thumping in my chest felt like an oncoming heart attack. None of it was for me, not the prayer I whispered into the silence as the offi-
cers approached our car. My fear was for him. I looked over at my father, this black man whose skin runs deeper than mine, whose features give him away in the light and dark. There’s no escape for someone like him. The officers were kind, but even through the calm conversation, I worried that one action would trigger a series of events that would lead to me losing my father. I hugged him that night and hid my tears in the crease of his shirt. How could my mother love this man who wasn’t always around? This man who could disappear if the storm in Jamaica went on for too long, and he needed to escape for the sun in America? This man who was a player, who boasted about the three other women he was seeing when he met my mother, and the seven different baby mommas he had? How could I love him? When I was on the brink of possibly losing him, I finally understood how love works. So now when my father’s face twists into sadness, and I worry for him, I know it’s love. When I haven’t seen him for weeks on end, and I walk inside ready to hear the corny joke I know is coming, I know it’s love. When we argue and I become angry to the point where I say something I don’t mean, and I’m too stubborn to take it back but still I feel like shit inside, I know it’s love. Finally, we found a house. It wasn’t perfect but upon walking in, we saw a home. My room would be there, the bed there, the lamp there, bookcase, picture frames, shoeboxes. Everything had a place. For just a moment, we felt like we could breathe. My father invited our pastor and other church members to bless the house. They gathered in the living room, arms linked, and prayed in a way I’d never seen before. My parents cried. They took the olive oil my pastor blessed and scattered it across each corner of the house, and each dipped their fingers in the oil and made a cross on my family’s forehead.
“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” Matthew 7: 25
Birdsgiving Gio Martin
An Interview with Gio Martin Artist of “Birdsgiving” and “Grocery Boy” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for these pieces? GIO MARTIN: It’s been a key long-winded coping mechanism for me to use colorful scenes with playful mascot-type characters to depict distortions of everyday situations that are difficult for people with anxiety; like family dinner with dysfunctional parental units or going to the grocery store by yourself for the first time and feeling like a fool for not knowing where the syrup lives. IM: Can you describe your creative process in crafting these pieces? GM: As an “artener” (art gardener), I like to plant the seed of an idea on my mind and let it grow for a few days before I actually begin the piece. That gives me multiple chances to decide if it’s worth executing or not. IM: What excites you about the creative process? GM: I’m just excited to glue rubber slugs to a rainbow canvas and call it my job. If art’s feeling like a chore, I like to find a way to make my artmaking process more exciting, playful, and relevant to my mood, like hanging out and drawing with my friends instead of toiling alone in the studio. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as an artist? GM: As an artist and person, my worst accidental habit is that I sleep-talk and sleep-scream on the regular. It’s gotten pretty bad to the point where my roommate has caught me saying full sentences at 6 AM.
Will You Hum for Me? Kyle Noguera When you buy a plant from a store, what does it think when it goes outside into the cold? What about those chrysanthemums waiting in their ornamental pots, still sheltered from the change of seasons? Were they humming do~si~do until someone picked one up and walked to the counter, bagged it, and made their way to the door? That little mum must have still been humming in the store, all the way to the automatic door, until the floodgates opened. The wind cuts so deep, it’s not just chilly; it’s chilled icy raw gusts that cut through meat with ease, let alone a little stem. So I’ll ask again; what does it think when it goes into the cold? Does it whimper? Does it hiss? Does the cold wind sting until it cries for mercy, does it sigh and rustle in defeat, waving a red yellow orange flag of surrender? Does it have to keep on whistling do~si~do while its luster browns? “WE ARE DYING WE ARE DYING WE ARE DYING WE ARE DYING WE ARE DYING WE ARE DYING WE ARe—” and back to the low hum as they’re put inside, waiting to flourish or rot at the mercy of someone else’s green thumb. I had to know, so one day I bought one, and I carried the poor mums to the cashier. I paid in full, tucked them in the crook of my arm, and stepped one foot out the door. The wind blistered my licked lips blue. I put my ear to their potted soil home and waited. Nothing at all for a minute, not a sound, but finally, one single note. I strained and strained and finally heard my poor mums whisper, “Why are we so cold?” I struggled to sputter an excuse, but a frozen gust answered for me and stole them right out of my arms. And the poor mums fell, their beautiful pot smashing to bits on the concrete as the dirt spilled out and away with the wind.
GOES DOWN EASY Imani Parker Caramel gathers thick at the bottom of your drink and when you suck on the straw, you get a load of it in your mouth. Liquid candy goes down easy. I remember dipping whole apples in homemade vats of caramel. We peeled the wrappers off the squares and warmed them up. Can you call that homemade? Listened to the hum of the microwave and the beep beep beep. Memory numbs pain, temporarily. You hold yourself together with a knife made of memory trying not to twist or slip the blade out. Caramel sauce and green apple slices in my Happy Meal. I remember that. Or maybe I donâ€™t. The apples could have been red. Either way, they were apples instead of fries. You re-remember so you donâ€™t forget. Old things disappear No matter how much you love them. So you try your hardest to keep them young. Caramel pools at the bottom of your iced coffee; you pull it in through your straw and get a load of it in your mouth. Liquid candy goes down easy.
Discussions on Romanticism Internal or: Tonight’s Bad Parties Andres Cordoba Party 1: Disco light dipped purple, party pendulums slide slow and aerate my skin slick and chaos kissed. Tight pants make me self conscious- (on who!? you!?) //Everyone, I guess? The room is thick with the curls and beckons of smokes both tobacco and medicinal- (How’s your ‘debilitating anxiety!?’) //Fine! Thanks for asking! My brain is fish tank bubbling eyes blank. Music is bass melody and rhyme scheme: three, three, three-... A monstrous white boy shout from my left is silent film emotive, all action no substance. I watch his mouth mutter-move, motion slow. I could stick my fist down his throat, to my wrist, feel his esophagus tighten around violence. Scrabble at his ribcage, pluck his vocal chord, make him sing to me about his family? (Do it.) //I can manage my menagerie of megalomania myself! Leave me be! I won’t do anything I don’t want… to… do… (Please) ... Hold back and simply touch his front teeth sweetly. Fingers on enamel. Tonsils visible, but only barely. It’s so slow, and it’s then the music quits, because occasionally the Universe flexes comedic timing like she invented it. Some smoke is blown between boy and I, it smells like the sea. I withdraw. He stares at me. (You’re wonderful, a real mensch) Then,
kicks me out.
(Oh, but the night’s still young! Why don’t we see someone? Someone beautiful like coats around chilly arms! One with a neck! And hands! We love hands! Show me dem hands, people!) Party 2: I made myself wear a bandana around my neck. Around my neck, tie-dye bandana hung like good dog syndrome. I am brown Air Bud, half as liked and twice as nice. The air feels, ‘like, so, like, pure, dude,’ down around my hippy bandana, and I really wish you felt this. (But I do!) Sweet stupid colored cloth drapes me in safety. (A white look– camouflage– clever, passive predators will never endeavor!) “Hey, Jerry Garcia,” a blank boy snides. (How’d he see you!?) I am not Mr. Garcia! But I do believe in a love for my fellows, and some men. ... I dance to Kanye screams on 808 beats. I see my ex. (....) How interesting, you like black man growls now— didn’t think you accepted others— are your opinions found? (I hate this. I want to go.) //I’m joking, playing, a kidder in kangaroo pockets with handcuffs. (I’m gonna go to bed.) //You do you, mirror maker. I’m a bad man. Never ‘cool bad,’ but bad bone thick. My marrow mewls for me to make healthy. I do good and cycle downhills ! Do they think of the still static states I’d possess ‘till we became lovers broken? (Easy there, you’re actin’ jagged) I drink my overfloweth cup empty, and she shimmies with desire and frailty. I twitch at the hollow of completion. (Oh buddy, she’s a dub, a real fake, let’s get you out of this place! Whatcha say we grab a few shots from dis bottle o’ tonic present and a pull from some crutch passed? Buck up, butterfuckincup. I heard a wild rumor that sex can fix all, and I deign great interest in experiment.) Party 3: Bandana bound, I love the look. Some girls whiskey breath whispers, “Hey, Mr. Garcia,”– this Grateful Dead fan club collects close to me apparently. (Counter culture is the new culture, y’heard?) I feel stupid, but not unique feelings flow through me forever, and so I depress them into a cube, star heavy,
and kiss my hands that shiver, prior to release. Garcia girl smiles deep. (I like her forehead. It looks Human.) She asks, “Would you like to grind on me?” Maybe. (Ass is good! We are connecting! I believe in our condition!) – I’m asexually recused from these moments anxiety rides me. (You gonna give an answer?) Wild pony instead of boy, an outsider. Y’know S.E. Hinton believes (What? Why are you– S.E. Hinton can fuck-) no one sees the gay in her poetry. But fuck her! (Are you cutting me off-) Her’s is just an author, and I’m still attractive college fuckable cute, (She’s wait-) and sometimes I read S.E. to remind what prodigy smells like. (She’s leaving!!) – Garcia girl’s body disappears into party mass like smoke through nostrils. Powder melting all over a city street. Evaporation. Sublimation. My inclination states that I must fuck, or else, or else, or else, I’m stagnating! Fuck! ….(....) Folding origami orgasm tissue vaginal prehensile penis specific walls. ( I fuck the ideas till they’re sore pregnant born and borne through scorn. My bandana meant SO much to me tonight! I believed me ) invisible, but I’m just Jerry Garcia. (*laugh track*) A t r P a rTy F e How grand, dead eyed I can smoke (*pained shrieking; the sound of fear made by creatures entrapped*) cigarettes with the best of em: the bougie Brooklyn borough bogie champs. With the burn marks on their forearms to prove it. (*glass crunching underfoot*) “Well,” one says, *inhale* “Forget em, all of em, men and women, be ghastly and dying, like, how we,” *exhale* “do.”
So I inhale snail mail slow. Breath is for breathing. I, breathing my breaths slow, wishing to wear my own clothes; but I suppose they all fall floor flat eventually, dirty and mute. My mouth spews pollutants, liver shivers down alc stream to deaths linear, I could use sleep like a sheep could use shears, feel my brain circle blackout drain like velvet dripping hands melting plans.
BLOOD SUGAR Emma Griffiths Setting: Karina Spitzâ€™s front yard. It is a yard sale, and blankets are spread out, littered with random items and covered in little neon price tags. People mill about, browsing and talking amongst themselves. Characters: SAM- In his teens, best friends with Ryan, has a sweet tooth. RYAN- In their teens, has an eye for fashion. KARINA SPITZ- Thirties, running for Town Council. Has a missing husband. Throwing a yard sale to focus on something else. Lights up. RYAN is paying for a funky fanny pack. SAM is a few feet away, staring at a box with great focus. Ryan adjusts the fanny pack around their middle and saunters over to Sam. You get the fanny pack?
SAM Ryan sticks their pelvis out and gyrates.
RYAN Hell yeah, I did! Way cheaper than anywhere else thatâ€™s selling them. This is retro. I do not understand why those are popular again.
RYAN I can keep all sorts of shit in here. Oh, just a heads up, Mrs. Spitz is running for Town Council, so, like, this yard sale might be a campaign tactic. Oh, damn.
Yeah, she’s going to lecture you about her platform. Anything good?
RYAN No, but her slogan is fucking hilarious. I told her she needed to make pins for it. What is it? Karina Spitz? She’s the right fit!
SAM RYAN Ryan laughs hysterically.
RYAN I can’t believe she’s running while her husband’s missing. Yeah, that’s weird priorities. Whatcha looking at? Milkshake machine. What, like a blender?
Nope. It’s specifically a milkshake machine. Who makes those? As Seen On TV.
SAM RYAN SAM RYAN
SAM RYAN SAM
RYAN Oh, I love their work. I still have my Snuggie somewhere. This thing is brand new. Look. Box is sealed.
RYAN So Karina saw it on TV and then decided to keep it that way? I guess?
RYAN What makes it special and not, like, a normal blender? Sam picks up the box and inspects it. Patent-pending ice cream friendly blades.
SAM He shakes the box.
Feels kind of heavy. Heavier than a blender should be? Must be the patent-pending technology. Let me see.
RYAN Sam hands the box over. Ryan reads it and shakes their head.
Man, you can’t get this. I’m so sorry. What? Why not?
RYAN There’s nothing here about its ability to bring the boys to the yard! SAM Oh my god.
RYAN (To the tune of Milkshake by Kelis) My milkshake maker brings the boys to the yard, and they’re like, you gotta vote Spitz. If it’s that good of a blender, maybe I will. So, you going to get it? Maybe. Hey, can I try your fanny pack on for size?
SAM RYAN SAM Ryan unbuckles it and hands it over. Sam puts it on.
You know what? It’s kind of comfy. Yes! Convert to the power of fanny! That sounds awful. Yeah, I regret saying that. Looks nice and roomy, too.
SAM RYAN SAM RYAN SAM He unzips the fanny pack, blanches, and immediately re-zips it.
Oh god. Oh god. I’m gonna be sick. Oh my god. What? What’s wrong?
Did you look inside this thing before paying?
SAM Sam hurriedly removes the fanny pack and thrusts it at Ryan, who puts it back on.
What? No. Why, is there a freebie inside?
RYAN Ryan unzips it, looks inside, and gags, re-zipping the fanny pack.
Oh God. Oh God. Take it off. I need it off! They start to panic. Sam grabs their wrist. No! Don’t. Don’t panic.
RYAN You’re telling me not to panic? There is a hand in here, man. Someone’s severed hand is on my waist in the most fashionable way possible, and we don’t know where the rest of this person is, but you want me to stop panicking?! Yeah. Mrs. Spitz is watching us.
SAM Ryan immediately calms down and looks over their shoulder. KARINA SPITZ is indeed watching. She looks away quickly.
I’m going to barf. Whose hand is it? Like I know?
RYAN SAM RYAN
Ryan unzips the fanny pack, peeks in, and looks back up, sliding the zipper shut. Do I pray? Are you religious?
RYAN No. I don’t even know. I just don’t know what to do. I just think this guy needs a prayer. This piece of him. How do you know it’s a him?
RYAN It’s just such a hairy hand. Oh God, what if it’s Mr. Spitz? What? There’s no way.
RYAN He’s missing, isn’t he? What if Karina killed him and chopped him up and spread the pieces all around? She’s running for Town Council! Yeah, and? Politicians are ruthless like that!
SAM Oh God. You’re right. She’s coming this way. Holy shit, keep calm. Karina Spitz approaches.
Sam! Good to see you. How are you today?
KARINA SPITZ (Brightly)
SAM I’m good, Mrs. Spitz. How’s it handing (quick beat, realization) hanging? How’s it hanging? How’s the search for your husband going? Karina Spitz tears up. KARINA SPITZ (Through dramatic tears) Oh, I want him home and safe right now! It’s so lonely without Alfie. But you know, my sister told me that there’s not much I can do while the police are investigating and that I should let them do their work and focus on my campaign, you know? This whole yard sale was her idea, too. She’s the one who put this all together. You know my husband is diabetic? What happens if his blood sugar spikes? What if he dies? What if he’s already dead? What if someone kidnapped him and he has a heart attack right in front of his kidnapper? What if he has a heart attack and dies and his kidnapper just so happens to be holding a knife and what if he falls right onto it? What if his death was accidental and the result of years of poor dieting and eating too much sugar but he dies and hits a knife and now it looks like a murder? I’ve been watching him eat for years, a heart attack is incredibly probable! What if that accident now looks infinitely more suspicious than it is? What if the kidnapper panics and chops his body up into lots of pieces and disperses them just to make it all go away? I’m a wreck, Sam. I’m distraught. She zeroes in on the milkshake machine. Oh, were you looking at that? Uh…
KARINA I’m afraid that’s not actually for sale. Alfie loves milkshakes. I need that back for when he comes home. Yeah, of course.
SAM Karina Spitz takes the milkshake machine and speed walks away.
Oh my god, she did it.
I don’t even know what to think after hearing that. I really wanted that milkshake machine. Why are you obsessing over a shitty blender? Cause it’s $4.
RYAN SAM RYAN SAM
RYAN Man, Mrs. Spitz is nuts. I don’t even want this fanny pack anymore. SAM No, keep it. It’s evidence. We can take it to the police. You’re right. Thank God, I want to get out of here.
SAM As soon as I get my hands on that milkshake machine, we can go. Are you fucking kidding me? No. I take my milkshakes seriously.
RYAN SAM They both look around. Karina Spitz has disappeared for the moment. Sam snoops around, looking for the milkshake machine. Finding it, he grabs it and runs back to Ryan.
Great, you got it, let’s go!
SAM No. Wait. I gotta make sure it looks like the picture on the box. She’ll be back any minute, hurry up!
RYAN Sam pries the box open and looks inside. He reaches in and there is a rustling noise, like plastic bags being moved. He grabs onto something and lifts. His hand comes out, ensnared in human hair. Sam looks at it, retches and moves away. Karina Spitz returns and starts looking for the milkshake machine. Realizing that it’s gone, she looks directly at Sam from across the yard, slowly placing her hands on her hips. Sam looks up, makes eye contact with her, and swivels his head to look at Ryan in horror.
It’s his head.
SAM Blackout. END OF PLAY.
L1ly Jakob Lorenzo 31
THANKSGIVING Joshua Gage
For Thanksgiving break, my family has a yearly reunion with my grandma, aunts, uncles,
and cousins in Massachusetts. This year was different: I had a specific task in mind. When I arrived at my Uncle Mark’s house, I immediately noticed the metal ramp leading up to the door. As I walked into the house, I glanced around and saw the exercise bike that was in the middle of the living room, the college football game playing, and my uncle, who was sitting comfortably in a recliner chair. He looked thinner than I remembered and was coughing. I greeted him and was asked to sit on his right side, as he had lost his left peripheral vision. I told my cousin Zachary and Aunt Hedy that I was doing a creative writing piece about Uncle Mark. At the time, my uncle had been suffering from brain cancer for six and a half years, and I wanted to talk to him to understand what he was going through and how he felt. As I sat down next to him, questions fluttered through my mind. Before I began asking questions about his illness, he told me in a faint voice to download a voice recording app so that we could have a conversational interview. Once I was recording, he proceeded to share his story. My uncle said, “Each day is its own challenge. And each day, no matter what I’ve accomplished, even if it’s just a half hour on the bike, it’s important to me. Put a pair of headsets on and play me a little bit of James Taylor and a half hour later, I’m happy and I’m sitting here napping.” My aunt added, “Cancer can’t take that away from Mark. He just loves each thing that he does, he just loves it and enjoys it. Whether it’s a piece of music, a sports game, or when his friends come over and laugh with him. It doesn’t take away his dignity.”
My Uncle Mark was always a very down-to-earth person who enjoyed the simple pleasures in life and always found the silver lining of every situation. Uncle Mark added, “I was never one of those people who went outside, put my hands up in the air and said, ‘God, how could you do this to me?!’ No, I only understood that I am within a bell curve.” He and my aunt then explained that his diagnosis was like a bell upside down: ninety-eight percent of people are in the middle and will die within a year and a half from their brain cancer. On one tail of the bell are the people with brain cancer who will die within six months. According to his doctor, my uncle happened to be on the opposite tail of the bell, where one percent of people will die in five to seven years. Uncle Mark had lived with aggressive brain cancer for six and a half years. My uncle’s biggest joy was bike riding. He, my aunt, and their friends had ridden their bikes fifty-three miles from Massachusetts to New York to raise money for brain cancer research.
he would be lucky to live six months. After a seven-hour operation, six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, and then a year’s worth of more radiation, the treatment left him with some left side weakness and some sensory deficits, but no speech or vision problems. “Whatever your dreams are, keep chasing them,” he told me. “However difficult it is to attain them, keep chasing them.” I told him that my worst fear is having cancer, and he replied that I should live out every day of my life without fear. Despite his struggles, my uncle lives with dignity while still pursuing his dreams, such as becoming licensed to certify patients to obtain medical marijuana. He has currently become licensed to read electroencephalograms in the state of Texas. My Aunt Hedy has been an amazing caregiver and supports him in all his endeavors. When the interview was done, I took out my ukulele and began to play music and sing for my family. Uncle Mark sat back in his chair and began to fall asleep while enjoying my strumming and singing. My passion is to write and create music so that I can share my ideas and inspirations with others, and I was so empowered by the words of my uncle. Talking with him gave me an incredible amount of comfort and inspired me to pursue my dreams. What was once an extreme fear of mine was now lessened by the courage, resilience, and love of a man who always appreciates the simple joys of life.
“I told him that my worst fear is having cancer, and he replied that I should live out every day of my life without fear.” I asked him how he got diagnosed with brain cancer and his experience with it. Ironically, Uncle Mark worked as a neurologist diagnosing and treating nervous system disorders and diseases. While he was attending a professional conference in New Orleans in 2012, he heard a lecture titled “Primary Brain Tumors: What’s New?” He said that his left knee had been bothering him and he initially thought it was a bike riding injury. However, the lecture reminded him that knee pain could be a symptom of a more serious disease, so he began to think about all the possible diagnoses. He believed it could be Glioblastoma, a highly malignant brain cancer. After an MRI scan of his brain, he found that he was correct about his tentative diagnosis, and his oncologist said
After the Fall Ana Blanchet Our backyard is bare except for a worn tree and you and me. The old turtle pen will do for our little garden – I want flowers to brighten up the mood. You plant cabbage and roots, for your lunches eaten at home, hunched over your computer. You claim unemployment suits you. I hear the change in your voice. The wind over our garden plot shudders. We don’t talk much, except to give orders, or obey. I stick to my own corner, you shovel yours, the mound of dirt a dug up miniature grave. We grunt. We get red clay on our knees, on our forehead veins. We weed out the dead and dying. I avoid telling the truth, lying. You ask me if it was worth it. Twenty eight years of work, gone. One time, drunk, you admitted you wish you never had children. Last week, you sent me dried bunches of the marigolds I planted. “Save them,” you wrote. “The frost will be here before you know it.”
excerpts from Trace Happenings Matt Cullen I Again the flood of option. I was cleaved in, the hurt we incurred from the formal mitosis retreated with a taste of iron. We can’t be the first to notice that rivers leak from continents like blood from bodies. I want to open it. To open it means a collision. I’ve strewn the curtains roundabout. Sharpness is determined by an angle’s acuity, and the pressure of context is beginning to be felt. The forest broken by a golf course is ample evidence. A rush of wind shuffling in. The lot was seen as empty and so others began dumping their trash in it. Slowly it filled. Down the road we would often smell the gas leak, and as a child I feared it would catch fire and blow up the block. Our calls to the authorities didn’t fix these problems. Unfortunately it was mainly an aesthetic concern. The stream behind the house led to the pond which ultimately connected to the river, where we can no longer swim or fish. I’d come to the conclusion that there were no authorities for these sorts of problems, that a larger “we” was responsible. The evening dissolved in my hands and its various components moved in single file towards the next day. “It’s nice out there, you’ve got backyards and lawns,” he said, and left to board his bus. I don’t remember his name. One only had to cough in order to get the great blue heron to take off from the shore of the pond. The interruption resulted in a spectacle we momentarily delighted in, then moved on. As children my brother and I would harvest tadpoles from the water, and yet I could never imagine abducting children from the maternity ward — this difference is absurd but crucial. When grass is left “unkempt” we insult it like a person who “needs a haircut.” Those so-called “houses” in the forest were cleared for “more appropriate houses.”
III No discernible movement but the flicker of eyes across the room, letters scattered again. My orthography demands for you to have a problem with it. Obviously the insistence on conformity is reductive. We must expressly appreciate the vacuum cleaners which help us maintain the illusion of perfection, which we have otherwise swept under the rug, along with some antiquated notions of identity. Often they begin as parts, moving towards a familiar whole. A priority, like wherever the tunnels run to.
V The imposition lies above us. Sedimentary parasitism. I’m positioned beneath it. It’s easy to forgo the standard pleasantries, to distribute moments of attention at a rate previously considered too generous. Our landscapes have been rendered bare, and despite its recursive nature, the sky has yet to realize it’s someone’s property. Hey everyone, I’d like to make an announcement: If gender is performative, I have stage fright.
Doe Emily Czerwinski When Grandpa shot the Buck three years ago, he mounted The antlers atop a slab of white birch. Hung over the entrance of his house they frame the doorway in regal entrance; Home to one who shoots, who Kisses the balls of the beast he kills then throws them over his shoulder to Tangle in a tree’s branch. We watched the Doe hit the car in front of us that same June. Daylight on a heavy trafficked highway, she ran Out of the wood to make heavy impact with a pickup truck. We, Also in a pickup truck, listened to her crushed yell As she flew over the other lane into a deep ditched bed. Grandpa explained to us how disgraceful that was And we watched as the deer gracefully fell onto her face Each time she felt her swollen belly move. I remember My mother before her crash, the way she would float through our house Before landing in front of me. Crouching down to my level she’d smile, say “you have doe eyes.” Her fingertips lightly brushing my eyelids open so brown could greet brown, “baby, you have my eyes.” Standing in the house that was never her house I greet myself in mirrors each morning. Formed from flesh, a dirt-pitted birth from crippled mom while Dad is mounted up in the foyer. His gift bursts through my skull in sharp white bone, Branches of it rising above my head. As velveted antler turns smooth And the weight of them uproots my solid stance My only hope is for my dark-eyed stare To one day haunt the car kills me.
Bathing in Clouds Alexandra Lazar
I AM NOT MY HAIR, I AM NOT YOUR EXPECTATIONS Yancy Garcia
Fitting in was never my thing. I was either too quiet or too outgoing, and too American
for the Latinos, and too Hispanic for the Americans. I always felt different and I never had many friends because I couldn’t seem to connect with people easily. But I will say that I am surrounded by some of the best, most supportive, and most genuine people a girl could ask for and who never judge me on what I like or do. There has always been a stereotype on how Latinas should act, dress, and what they’re into. I hate being referred to as a Latina because the word itself has a history of being sexualized and gendered. A guy once asked me about my race because he thought I was mixed just because of my hair. We were in the lobby of our school waiting for our next class. Coffee was the signature scent of this floor. The couches were ripped, making it obvious how many times they’d been used. I could see the yellow cushion poking out on the one I was sitting on. You could hear the trumpeters, pianists, vocalists, and trombonists practicing different jazz tunes or working on warm up exercises in the rooms because most of the practice rooms weren’t soundproof. I had just met him. We exchanged hellos and introduced ourselves. He was a saxophone player from Detroit. He had braces and his button-down dress shirt was untucked from his jeans. “So are you mixed?” Jay said after a moment of silence. “Like, are your parents Black and White?” I laughed because no one ever assumed that about me, and I told him “Nah, I’m full-on Latina.” His eyes opened and he responded, “Oh, that’s sexy, say it again.”
leave it curly for too long. Some would joke and say I look Cuban or Puerto Rican with my curls and I couldn’t wrap my head around that way of thinking, especially coming from a culture with extremely diverse looks. I also got this from strangers. “Oh! You Dominican, you don’t look Dominican?” “But you’re so white, I thought you was Puerto Rican?” (As if Afro-Puerto Ricans don’t exist!?) Many people in my community or culture are subject to these same influences and ideas. Almost every weekend, I would go with my mom to the salon to straighten our hair, God forbid someone sees her with her natural hair, and it’s about time I “fix” mine as she tells me. Venus Salon was always full of women and some men gossiping about things that I guarantee you were irrelevant to their lives. It smelled like moro, Bustelo coffee, nail polish, styling hair spray, and scorched hair all together. Juan passed by, selling his famous pastelitos de pollo y queso in his Pathmark shopping cart. Everyone bought his pastelitos because they were the best. The oilier and hotter, the better! Most of the women would send their kids to buy it because they were either getting washed, under the hair dryer, getting styled or because the chisme was too good they didn’t want to miss a detail. I would buy three, one for me, one for my mom, and the other for us to share as we waited to get washed. My mom didn’t want to partake in the gossip, so instead she reached for a magazine called Vanidades and the cover had Roselyn Sanchez on it. Some of the women would dance to the music playing as if we were at a family gathering. I would notice on the TV was a playlist that said “Reggaeton mix”, and the cover had a light skinned curvy woman with straight hair, a seductive look, and a French manicure, and I’d think to myself, “Well what was the point of having her on the cover?” and I’d also think, “I wish I looked like that.” Once my hairstylist saw my hair before she saw me, she would laugh and say in Spanish, “I see you’ve been hanging out with black people.” Suggesting that only Black people wear their hair naturally or that their hair looks this “messy” and “bad”. It was like this every time. It’s ironic because she had the same hair as me, maybe a bit bristlier, but you
“Ew!” I thought. I looked the other way in confusion. I was a little grossed out. I started to fidget with the strap of my book-bag because I was now starting to feel uncomfortable. I would usually fidget when I didn’t know what to do with myself or with a situation. That was the last time I described myself as a Latina. It made me feel uncomfortable because it reminded me how overly sexualized Latinas are and how I am not that at all. Growing up, almost all the films and TV shows I saw — especially in American TV — cast the same kind of Hispanic woman: fair skin, straight or wavy hair, with an amazing body, feisty, sexy, and speaks Spanish a lot. Which is why I think people have these stereotypes of Latinas.
“Did my people forget where we came from or why we look the way we do?” An article by Brian Latimer about Latinos on-screen made me aware of interesting facts on Latino roles. “There is a notable gender disparity when it comes to onscreen Latino-speaking characters. Fewer than 38 percent of the actresses are Latina, and according to the report, they are the most sexualized identifiable minority group… when Latinos are represented, they just play stereotypes… if the casting continues to portray a very singular look for Latinos, then that means women continue to be overly sexualized and [men] equally have to be the dominant, macho role” (Latimer). My goal in life is to become a professional artist and throughout that journey I have had to work with choreographers who would always tell me “Tap into your sexy side, be confident, you’re Latina!” but I struggle to because I’ve never felt confident or sexy and it’s not me and it shouldn’t have to be me. Concurrently, “Arreglate ese pajon” is a phrase I am too familiar with hearing. My family, mostly my grandmother, often criticize me on how I dress and that I should wear tighter clothes. Echoing that phrase directly, that I should straighten my hair more often because it’s not healthy to
couldn’t tell because she always had it straightened. I never understood what that meant or how to feel about what she said. I know she didn’t deliberately mean to make it sound hurtful, but it still bothered me. I was born with this hair, this was my crown, my identity, it didn’t automatically turn curly because I hung out with certain people! I realized how ignorant that comment was of her. It’s not just her with these thoughts or stereotypes. The phrase pelo malo or “bad hair” is still used. The idea that the European standards of beauty are superior is still very present in my culture, and not to mention colorism as well. Did my people forget where we came from or why we look the way we do? Why are they in denial of our roots and why is it such a shame? I came across a poet named Elizabeth Acevedo, and she has a poem called “Hair” and what she says in her poem couldn’t have been put into better words. She says, “They say Dominicans do the best hair… but what they mean is we’re the best at swallowing amnesia in a cup of morir soñando, die dreaming, cause we’d rather do that than to live in this reality… what they mean is why would you date a black man… what they mean is why would two oppressed people come together, it’s two times the trouble… what they really mean is have you thought of your daughter’s hair.” I learned to love every strand of my hair at seventeen, after years of feeling it was ugly. I learned to appreciate who I am after so many years of worrying what others think of me. I will straighten my hair when I feel like it and I’ll dress up when I want; because I am not my hair, and I am certainly not your expectations.
An Interview with Yancy Garcia Author of “I Am Not My Hair, I Am Not Your Expectations” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for this piece? YANCY GARCIA: This piece was actually an assignment that I had to do for a class. As I was writing, I felt like I had so much more to say even after the assignment was due. So, I kept adding things and when I received an email about Italics Mine; I submitted it because I felt this piece was worth reading. IM: Can you describe your creative process in crafting this piece? YG: My creative process consists of listening to other people’s work that’s related to what I want to talk about or am trying to say. I am inspired by that. I also like to jot down notes of ideas even if they don’t make sense and as I write I’ll take some of those notes and incorporate it in the piece. IM: What excites you about the creative process? YG: The most exciting thing about the creative process is challenging myself and finding fun ways to say things that matter to me. It’s also exciting thinking of what my work will make someone feel. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer? YG: My most embarrassing habit as a writer is stuttering or getting nervous when presenting my work.
(Not So) Lost in Translation: An Interview with Brian Sneeden Finola McDonald Brian Sneeden is the author of the poetry collection Last City (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2018). A 2018 PEN/Heim recipient, his poems and translations have appeared in Asymptote, Beloit Poetry Journal, Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications, and translations of his poems have been published in international magazines in Greek, Italian, Albanian, and Serbian. His translation of Phoebe Giannisiâ€™s collection Homerica (World Poetry Books, 2017) was selected by Anne Carson as a favorite book of 2017 in the Paris Review. Brian received his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he held a Poe/Faulkner Fellowship in creative writing and served as poetry editor for Meridian. He is a PhD student in poetry and translation studies at the University of Connecticut, where he serves as senior editor of New Poetry in Translation.
Finola McDonald: So, this first one is a little loaded. I wanted to know how you got into the art of translation? I know you’ve recently translated a collection of poems entitled Homerica by Phoebe Giannisi … I was wondering how you ultimately ended up with her and Greek translation in particular?
of Books 2016) actively disown the fetishized ideal of the Greece of statuary and crumbling ruins. There are poets writing about the economic, the refugee, and the Syrian War crises, and what has been referred to as “the crisis crisis” of every-constant economic and political insecurity. But there is something rather magical in the way modernist and contemporary Greek poets destabilize and re-embody myths. The ruins persist, partly in the language itself, which Rex Warner once described as weighted with the “radioactivity of the divine.”
Brian Sneeden: First I should say that I’m somewhat obsessed with myths. I was first drawn to Modern Greek poetry, I believe, because the poets I found working in that tradition—like George Seferis, Odysseas Elytis, and C.P. Cavafy—were using and reinventing myths in a way that strongly appealed to me. This is especially true for the work of Phoebe Giannisi, who in her book Homerica interweaves mythological and everyday experience in a way that fully, and I think uniquely, embodies what T.S. Eliot called the “mythical method,” a continuum between classical and contemporary worlds on the page.
McDonald: Do you find translation work very different from writing a non-translated poem? Do you find it ever helping the creative process you apply to your own work? (Or the opposite?) Sneeden: I guess one way to answer would be to say that I translate in the margins of my poems, and I write poems in the margins of my translations. On a process level—where the question is how do I, as the one putting these words on the page, sustain an image, or idea, or sonic pattern?— translation feels very similar to composing an original poem. This is why I consider my poems “first translations.” Seamus Heaney said the two processes are interlinked, and that they are both aesthetic acts resulting from a “text labor” of “form-feeling” and “sense-giving.” In other words, the translator is responsible for all the words on the page, just as a poet is. The point is whether the translation also contains a life of its own, as a poem in its own right. Sometimes the source text is an actual text, sometimes it is an experience, a place, an event, an image, or something else a poet may use for materials—either way, the end result must be an event, not a record of an event.
I first met Phoebe in New York in 2016, where she was serving as a Humanities Fellow at Columbia. She gave me a copy of her book, Homerica (Kedros 2009) and I remember first being captivated by the music of her poetry, which often has this unusual incantatory quality. I began to translate partly out of a desire to capture the aural experience of the book (it didn’t hurt that the book came with a CD of her reading several of the poems). Later that year, she gave an invited performance at the Onassis Center which involved poetry, lecture, field recordings of goats being sheared, and her body-length aegis—a goat skin onto which maps of poems have been written. At the end of the performance, Giannisi removed the aegis and the goat bell, and cut her own hair. It was around that time that I decided I wanted to translate as much of her remarkable work that I could find.
McDonald: What is it like having to so closely collaborate with somebody on an art (poetry) that is often such an individual process?
About Modern Greek poetry: I don’t mean to say that this incredibly complex literary tradition is just about myths. Many of the poets in Karen Van Dyck’s recent anthology Austerity Measures: The New Greek Poetry (New York Review
beautifully, in rhyme who also believe that a translation of a rhyming poem should always preserve its rhyme scheme. Alternatively, there are translators who ignore the form of a poem altogether, and never attempt to convey its music— focusing instead on the meaning of individual lines.
“So, there is this doubleness to translation for me.”
The approach I’ve developed is somewhat different. First, I read the original and try to assess how important formal elements such as rhyme are to the poem. From there, the translation may take on elements such as alliteration, internal rhyme, consonance, assonance, or even the occasional end rhyme. As a poet and translator, I tend to avoid end rhymes, as it can sometimes make my ear beholden to the tyranny of the line break—always anticipating and plotting how the end of the line will sound, instead of its emotional, tonal, or visual accuracy. This is why it can be so tricky, I think, to get caught up in the “echocentricity” of enforcing formal restraints which can needlessly antiquate or trivialize a translation by lending it a forced tonality that wasn’t present in the original.
Sneeden: Some of my favorite moments are the discussions, elaborations, and illustrations that surround the translation—either from issues of confusion, or clarity that sometimes occur. The most important aspect of this sort of collaboration, I think, is trust. I’m very lucky to work with authors who not only trust that my translations are, in their own way, faithful recreations of original work into English, but who I can trust to tell me where I’ve taken a stray path or have misread a phrase. As a poet, I know what it’s like to surrender your writing to someone else’s interpretations. It’s similar perhaps to writing for theatre, where your script leaves the page and becomes embedded into the lives of the actors—living out what Walter Benjamin called “afterlives” of translation and interpretation beyond your original creation. In every translation, something is changed, something is added, or missing, based on how the text becomes interpreted through the translator’s idiosyncratic network of idioms, associations, and sensibilities. The product is always an entirely new text in a different language—a non-subservient co-creation—in which a translator needs agency, and trust, to create. It’s a strange, marvelous dance of control and surrender, for both parties.
McDonald: Finally, why do you translate? Is it the pure love for the other person’s work that you feel you must share with the rest of the world, or is it something else that drives the work? Sneeden: There’s a wonderful quote by Lawrence Venuti where he describes the translator’s responsibility as constantly “make[ing] the receiving culture mindful of what it lacks.” There are so many examples, historically, where translation has radically changed our approach to the written word (e.g. the discovery of blank verse in Henry Howard’s 16th century translations of The Æneid, or John Wycliffe’s 14th century experiments with free verse while translating the Psalms). It’s difficult to imagine contemporary American poetry without translated forms like the sonnet, ode, elegy, ghazal, haiku, villanelle, terza rima, sestina, etc. But I think there’s another side to Venuti’s comment, which is: part of the responsibility of being a
McDonald: What would you say your biggest challenge has been so far with translation work if any? Sneeden: As someone who doesn’t particularly write formal poetry, one ongoing challenge is deciding how to approach work that uses rhyme, meter, or other formal devices. We all know how forced rhyme can sometimes sound in contemporary idiomatic English. Yet open a door, and you already have two or three rhymes in Modern Greek. There are poet-translators who work diligently, and often very
translator—especially a poet-translator—is to constantly become mindful of what your own writing lacks, and where it can learn from translation. So, there is this doubleness to translation for me. Part of the impetus—most of it, I think—is because I find something in the Greek that I have never encountered before, and so I feel the need to bring it, not only to English-language readers, but to English poetry as a whole. But there is also a selfish part, which is wanting to grow and discover, through translation, those aspects where my own writing can benefit from experimentation with translated styles and forms. An example from my own writing is how I recently came to explore the genre of prose poetry— which always somehow eluded me, or made me feel out of my element—after translating a sequence of prose poems by Phoebe Giannisi. This give-and-take between languages, and the instabilities it causes in our inherited forms, is one really exciting part of translation for me.
Sgord Lauren Bleiwas
Abstract Thought Piece Jaela Vaughn A sentence fragment. I am a sentence fragment, incomplete yet you feel that if you give me more words I will transform into something else. Something that you can understand better. I’m an abstract thought now. I write word upon word, relating to things that we don’t quite understand yet we do. I can compare a thing with another but because it speaks to me, you resonate with it too. I can say that I am a flower that blooms at night and there’s a sadness to my words, to my tone that makes people sad too. I can tell you that I am the star that shines the brightest, and you will think of me as this illuminating presence that comforts you from afar. What is it about words and sentences that makes me feel hot, then cold, and fills me to the brim with emotion that can only be expressed through tears? I’m abstract, but I give you more words, more feelings that you comprehend and make you want to share me to the world. I am an abstract piece, I speak, and I feel and then I leave. I don’t make sense, yet you are still here, and you listen, and I give you more so that you will understand me in my entirety. I am an abstract thought that appreciates the way you read me and applaud me even if there were times where I became too vague for you to relate. I am an abstract piece that grows jealous at the way your eyes linger towards words and stories that present to you more than I can, so I create more and add more parts to myself so that you will have me fully and completely. I wish to never leave your thoughts, only to show up again at moments in your life where soft things remind you of me. I am still growing and learning, and one day I will be cohesive, but until then, I am an abstract thought and I love you.
Baobaby Dies or: “Coltan, Mine” For: Tantalum Stolen, Taken, Removed, Used; Trees Slaughtered, Torched, Razed, by us lucky few. Andres Cordoba 1. This money is burning a whole pocket with green flames that lick fingertips– melanin stripping substance. And some princely dowry makes you king-like, while the sums of price forever remind that the sins of lust must further mine. Obvious options of honesty don’t mean much because comfort-hunger is clutched all sick baby stiff to chest. They name their idealdead son corporate specific– all apples and galaxies, bastard toefucked beauty– so they feel untouched like ocean, so he knows to backstroke swim through tear filled gaps made by other kin. 2. Eye of the blind beholder! Don’t be full, be foliage. Interlude in the Baobab trunk: From Latin: deciduousor off. Italics Mine
The parsing of what can no longer give. Like a loving motherâ€™s womb lined slick with fuel, bringing bloom to a weeping fetus wielding matchsticks double. The act of life brings a light, and the men admire the ingenuity of another body consumed. 3. Baobaby saves and saves monthly tears, like rains, in the space where life slumbers. However, deciduous decisions must be made. A leaf dead from over exposure, a branch torn by fruits too ripe. White roots, probing knuckle deep into fertile, living meat. Squirming into the organic format molded. Bark cold, coltan black. 4. Shade canâ€™t be made without setting seed and sweating hard. If the baobab dies then plant another, but admit you slaughtered beauty for lust. And the sun always rises everyday until it dies, and the phones ring until those that mine die, and the baobabs reach to the sky with every living moment, as if escape could ever be possible. As if backbreaking belief could ever exceed the greed of gnarled, developed reach.
GROCERY STORE Lassiter Jamison
I went out to the grocery store one Tuesday and when I returned, my son was gone.
The radio warned me as I drove the miles back, the two hosts pausing between reports on shootings and the weather to weep over the loss of him. They didn’t name him, but I could feel their grief through the speakers, washing over me. My husband helped me bring the groceries in and laughed when I asked where our son was. I asked again, and started to count all the eggs. One. Two. Three. Four. “We’ve never had a son.” He cracked his knuckles and tilted his head at a harsh angle. “Do you want one?” I avoided looking him in the eyes. “We do, he’s… a teenager. He likes folk music. He had a crush on the janitor’s daughter at the Y.” Five. Six. Seven. Eight. “I do not, recall that,” he said, stopping and starting like a stalling car. “Why are you talking like that?” “Like what?” I looked at his nose, his eyes were boring into my forehead and I couldn’t meet them. “Strange.” His mustache twitched and he sighed, walking away from me. “It’s strange for you, thinking we have a son?” He called over his shoulder. “Okay,” I acquiesced. Eight. Nine. Ten. “What was his name, if we had a son?” Eleven. The twelfth had cracked. I couldn’t remember his name. I tried to draw missing persons posters, but I had forgotten what his face looked like. After my thirteenth attempt had resulted in me just drawing an unending spiral where his features should lay, I gave up and left the house, fear swirling above me with the storm clouds. The radio had apologetically alerted me to the possibility of rain a few hours before, but in
“I found some old photo books, with memories. We had a son in none of these.”
“I’m worried about you.” My heart ached, I loved him. “I know, I’m sorry. I’m just confused.” “As am I.” “I’m sorry.” He sat close to me and we wrapped our arms around each other, taking solace. “I don’t mind, I’m just worried,” he said. I kissed his temple. “Maybe you could help me with these? Tell me if you remember him?” I knew he had existed. My heart knew. The radio doesn’t weep over children that never existed, you have to have been there to be missing. You had to have meant something, to have had weight and impact for the absence of you to be notable. And it was. Everything felt off kilter, like my life had been carefully measured and without him, my scale was leaning too far to one side. Unfortunately, our search yielded no results. Our son was absent from every photo. The only trace of him I could find was a picture of us in a hospital room, beaming. Underneath it, my husband had written “It’s a boy!” but insisted it wasn’t our baby. “It was my sister’s. She still has him,” he said slowly, as if reading a script. I looked at the picture again. The baby was unfamiliar to me but my hand was shaking. “Can we go visit her? Maybe she knows something!” I insisted, grinning. He looked at me, his fingers drummed against my leg. “They moved.” “Do you know wher—” “They moved into a dark space, curled into balls and tucked themselves into the subconscious of everything. I don’t think they’ll be back for at least a year and two months.” I blinked and turned away. “That’s very specific.” Sensing the drop in my mood, he stilled his fingers and gave my knee a gentle squeeze. “She gave us a card, you’ve been spacey ever since you got back. Speaking of which, I ate all the eggs, please buy more?” I wondered if he always spoke like this and I’d simply forgotten. It felt like perhaps he was off too. His
my haste to find my son, I’d left my umbrella behind. I don’t remember much of the drive. My husband called me and I ignored it, not wanting to talk and drive at the same time. I was preoccupied enough, something was wrong. I could feel it in my bones, something was horribly wrong. I felt like I was floating, flying with one of my wings destabilized. I pulled over after half an hour, no idea where I was going and running out of steam. The radio began playing a song and I was overrun with a feeling of déjà vu so strong I thought for a moment I was being transported back in time. The sun was so bright I couldn’t see outside. My husband was swaying in the passenger’s seat and my son was in the back, singing. I looked back quickly, heart racing. There was, of course, nothing there. I was alone and it was raining so hard it sounded as if the car was being hit with stones. I remembered only one note, some lonesome unwavering note that the song finished on. The radio ran an ad for the local grocery store and I sobbed so hard I felt sick, that one note ringing in my ears. “I found some old photo books, with memories. We had a son in none of these.” It had been a week and all I’d done was cry. My stomach was beyond empty and my mouth was dry. My husband had watched me with concern and tried to hold my eyes closed or pinch my nose. But I had persisted in my grief, so he left for two days and returned on the seventh day with stacks of photo albums. “You’re still talking like that,” I whispered. “I always have,” he said. The second part of his sentence seemed to be missing, like he’d been muted. His mouth moved for a second more, then he stared, waiting. I stopped crying and took the books from him.
Grocery Boy Gio Martin
words were almost-right, so close to normal. I was afraid if I looked him in the eyes, I’d find that they were dim. He kissed me and where his hand caressed my cheek was the stickiness of yolk. “You shouldn’t eat them raw.” The radio groaned as I left to buy more eggs the next day. “You really, really shouldn’t.” I almost said aloud that I had not eaten the eggs, but the topic was changed quickly to sports. The grocery store was cool. I was always dusted with frost when I left. It was my favorite place to shop because of this, it felt like a baptism but better. The song that played over the speakers was a remix of the inner thoughts of a cashier. There was a prize for the customer that could
guess which cashier it was but you only had one chance. I think the last time I was here they played Celine Dion but in a pitch that only people twenty or under could hear, so I could only go by the teeny boppers humming along spitefully. I put two cartons of eggs in my basket and then paused on my way to the register. I felt something drawing me into the candy section so I followed it without resistance. It lead me into the arms of a heavily pregnant woman. She had a sweet smile, all gum. Her cart was filled to the brim with some viscous yellow substance. The aisle turned dark the moment I stepped into it.
“The radio doesn’t weep over children that never existed.”
“Of course, I’m so sorry. What do I owe you?” “They’re priceless,” she said with soft insistence. “The eggs?” The chirping became a cawing and she gently began to hum. “No, no. The memories.” “Oh, yes. Well. Maybe my husband and I’s vacation to Cancun?” “I’m afraid this is a bit more expensive than that.” “Of course. How about our first Valentine’s Day together?” “More.” A baby cried an aisle over. I heard the flapping of wings. “Look, just tell me what I owe you then,” I said, my headache spreading like ink in water. She smiled brightly and set the cartons down. Two fully-grown chickens peeked their heads out and began to walk around aimlessly. “I’m sorry, you’ve been in so much pain.” She grinned and my headache got rapidly worse. Falling to my knees, she knelt beside me and placed a cold hand on the back of my neck. “So sorry.” I came to my car and placed the groceries in the back seat. I stared out the window, eyes softly aching like I’d been crying, but there was no wetness on my cheek. I drove the miles back home and, when I returned, I found it empty except for a shadow that danced wildly and hummed a single piercing, constant tone. I started counting eggs, unsure of why I had so many.
“Welcome back!” the pregnant woman chirped. I turned to retreat, but she grabbed the back of my shirt and pulled me towards her again. “Welcome back! I’m so happy to see you again!” “Please let me go.” “How’s your son?” A spike of fear shot through me and I tried again to leave but her grip on me was ironclad. “Please stop, I don’t need this— I don’t want to talk to you. Let go.” “I saw the flyers you put up—” “I didn’t put any—” “I saw them and they were beautiful. They looked just like him.” The fear bubbled up in me and I screamed, kicking at her and throwing my head back. “Someone help me!” Her face didn’t move except to open and close her mouth unnaturally, less like talking and more like chewing. “I heard you cry and I cried with you, I truly did. It moved me.” “Please!” “I’m so grateful for what you did for me, I’m having a baby, you see? I’m having him and it’s—” I broke free from her grip and ran as fast as I could, knocking over shelves of candy and never looking back. But I could hear the whoosh of something and her screaming. Then a crack. “Ow, watch it!” I apologized and frantically looked back into the aisle. It was still standing static. The woman was browsing, seemingly absorbed in the task. Something dripped onto my shoes and, when I looked, I saw that the contents of my basket had broken. “You’ll have to pay for those, sir,” a cashier said to me. She lifted the ruined cartons out of my basket, a soft chirping coming from inside.
Resignation Ryan Majors Despite all signs of the contrary, I still believe Iâ€™ll fly. Deep inhale â€” I am talking to my shoulder angel about my anger, when eyes cry, Halved clementines translate attachment to passion: keep an eye, please is implied. Dawn with eager foxes learns to quickstep, and a blond sun curls over the horizon, Mastering the kindest mindset that everything kindled will be invited to retire once again. I am taking my time to adapt. Long exhale, and I learn something knew.
Nomad I Xingyun Wang 57
Lipstick Loverboy Ace P.B. You’re a daydream with split bloody knuckles. If the
would stop perhaps you could soothe the dissonance overpowering this paradoxical person. Started lying when you realized your pull in the genetic lottery was unlucky but fuck it, it doesn’t matter, it can’t be undone. Mirror still taunts and teases even when you try to ignore it and haphazardly throw Together a flannel and jeans that hug your hips the way you wish they would. Unwarranted, your reflection appears sitting It's you that's cracking and crumbling and not the mirror. So today you stand in front of the mirror and manage to stitch up the laceration in your soul because maybe you’re still in a flannel and jeans, but you’re a dream when your lips wear that shade of red.
across from you in a coffee shop.
GOD, IN OUR SPACES Winnie Richards
It’s Friday night at the Owasco Drive-In, and the place is crawling with the usual crowd.
Pulling over in the field, the scene unfolds before us like a morbid billboard for a variety show that’s never out of season. The evening slides lazily towards night and the wide stage is gearing up for the show. Rising from the mud-slicked valley, the cast and crew congregate; cigarettes wagging, beers clinking and Capri Suns bursting in their coolers, hauled down from the back of the pickup truck. And above it all, the great white screen, rising like a blank and holy canvas, preparing to prophesize to the people the great word of God. Tonight, I think it’s Spider-Man, but I could be wrong. Joining the slow-moving crowd of vehicles descending into the valley, I lean my head out the open window of my truck and breathe in deeply the smell of farmland and summer mud. Beside me on the bench seat, Cassie lights a cigarette and leans up against my shoulder. I run my hand through her hair, pulling apart the tangles. “Alice, he’s waving you through,” she says, pointing to the traffic kid who’s directing me towards my spot in the line of cars. “Hey, would you stop at the snack stand?” she says, fishing in her pocket for coins. “I just want some Skittles or something.” “Sure, of course,” I say. “You eat lunch today?” “Didn’t have time, I was running late,” she replies, absently ashing her cigarette on the dashboard. “Get a hotdog then, will you? You need some real food in your stomach,” I say. She scoffs quietly and flicks the cigarette butt onto the floor.
Rolling past the ticket booth, Cassie waves to the girl behind the window. The girl is doing her lipstick in the reflection of the cash register screen and barely glances up, but gives us a wave. I can’t remember her name, but I recognize her from around. I think her brother fixed the brakes on my old truck a couple years back.
now. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever met and sharp as a pin. But mostly, I’m just down with the fact that she’s really the only other person in our world who thinks about getting out of the shithole we were born in. We have six months left of high school, then we’ll be gone forever. We’ve got no idea where we’re going, and just about no money between the two of us, but I love her and so that’s really it. We’ve been dreaming of the day we escape since before we were even together. And the thought’s been brewing in my head since I was a little kid. As long as I can remember. There’s no doubt in my mind that once we’re gone, we’ll never see this place again. To me, it doesn’t even matter all too much where we go just so long as ‘there’ isn’t here. But Cassie’s got ideas. Pretty damn big ones. It’s one of the reasons I love the shit out of her. She wants to drive across the country in the truck. Watch the sunrise over the Arizona desert. She wants to see the Redwood Forest and the Grand Canyon. She wants to work and save and buy a one-way ticket to Asia and never come back. Neither of us have ever seen the ocean. We’re going to find every place it touches the land. She’s at her best when she talks about the things she wants to see. I want to see them because she wants to see them. I want to see her anywhere; everywhere but here.
““I’m pregnant, Alice.” She opens her eyes and looks directly into mine. She shoves her arm forward, just enough for the needle to enter her skin. My eyes on hers, I empty the vial into her arm.” Pulling into the field, the full scene comes into focus, in all its grandeur. The Owasco Drive-In: a last bastion of the time before our wasteland became a resort for wealthy city folk hoping to find fulfillment in their dreams of woodland foraging and artisanal barnwood pizza. Each sweaty hick-town corner, one by one, successfully deodorized and pasteurized until it resembled an imaginary village scene from a vintage postcard. Nobody’s shading in the opioid addiction and child abuse. This place still does though. Truck after busted truck all loaded up with families and plastic lawn chairs. Thirteen-year-olds rolling up on lawn mowers and tractors. The girl at the snack stand has opened the cash register with her acrylic nails ever since she lost the key. Most weekends, the movie is something by Marvel, but nobody cares anyway. The drive-in is strictly not about the movies unless you’re under the age of fifteen or you came here by accident. Monroe and Susquehanna counties are the Opioid Kingdoms, sure. But anything special that you can’t get from your own local townie-source, you have to wait on ‘till Friday night at the drive-in. Men’s bathroom. Fourth stall to the left. Cassie and I have been together for a couple of years
*** There’s a hole between the stalls where the toilet paper dispenser used to be. Through it, I watch Cassie tie the bandana around the top of her arm. The low yellow light makes her hands look beautiful. Like there’s gold underneath the skin. Fragmented, through the door, she looks like a piece of God. “How was work?” I ask, watching the thick, brownish mixture I’m holding over the flame melt away into itself. I’m using one of the spoons from my mom’s kitchen, with the roses on the handle. That morning, I had watched my kid brother eat Fruit Loops with one just like it. The thought makes me laugh and I wish it hadn’t.
“Fine,” she sighs. “Sorry, I meant fucking terrible, as usual.” She takes one end of the bandana in her teeth, jerking it hard. It rips and she curses. “Cass, Jesus.” I get up and come around the divide into her stall. Setting the full spoon down on the concrete floor, I kneel beside her and begin adjusting the cloth on her arm. She lets me for a moment, and then snatches it back. “Cass, babe. What’s up?” “It’s too loose,” she grumbles, fiddling with the knot. I lift the spoon slowly from the floor and grip it between my teeth, drawing up the thick brown liquid. Cassie watches as I turn the syringe and flick the amber tube. She clasps and unclasps her fist, distractedly. She’s watching me closely and not watching me at all. I try to meet her eyes, but she won’t let me.
The movie shifts back and forth in front of my eyes, in and out of focus. More of a balloon of dull color than anything tangible. Cassie nods beside me, her head brushing softly against my shoulder. In these strange, sluggish moments, I feel I might be brushing up against understanding the grandeur of what it is that I have, and the way it is incomparable to anything I will ever have again. Things are so fucked up. But this is who we are. It’s who I am. And it’s who I am both absolutely certain – and terrified – I will never escape from being. I could never argue with anyone who told me that we’re broken, because we are. But beauty transcends the boundaries of the here and now, no matter how fucked up. I’d be lying to myself if I even pretended to think for a second that I will ever know beauty as purely as I know it now. *** The rest is a film reel shot in one take. I don’t sleep except accidentally, for brief lengths of time. Cassie sleeps forever, waking only for a few hours here and there. She goes cold turkey, of course. The baby is probably fucked up enough already. About as fucked as its momma had been seventeen years ago. Cassie says there’s no chance she’s gonna start down that street as well. And I believe her. We’re all fucked up, but Cassie’s head has always been on the right way. In one of the few concrete moments, I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the middle of the afternoon while Cassie sleeps in the next room. I’m sitting here, peeling potatoes to put in the oven— one of the only solid foods Cassie’s able to keep down. And I’m just wondering if I should be feeling more fucked up inside about all this? Maybe the daddy is someone I know, maybe he’s not. It could be anyone. I reckon she wouldn’t have known, even if I asked. There’s always been an understanding between us that our love is the realest thing we have, but at the same time, this place is complicated. This kind of life is complicated. Things happen and other people happen, but they don’t come between us in the ways that matter. At the end of the day, we’ll leave
“I could never argue with anyone who told me that we’re broken, because we are.” “You okay?” “Dude, ask me one more fucking time if I’m okay!” She rips at the bandana again, her vein bulging out of her forearm. “Alright, I’m sorry!” I concede. “Here, gimme your arm.” She thrusts her hand towards me and I can see her tears. I can hear my heart in my ears. I press on the vein. “Cassie …” I whisper. Her eyes are closed, hard. Her lip quivers. The needle wavers just above her skin. “I’m pregnant, Alice.” She opens her eyes and looks directly into mine. She shoves her arm forward, just enough for the needle to enter her skin. My eyes on hers, I empty the vial into her arm. ***
Right into the Wrong Rachel Bevacqua
this all behind, and we won’t even remember the names of the people who came and went during this strange time. But I knew all that, I understood it. This is different. This is something I don’t know at all. All through the week, I hold her while she shakes and cries. Hours. So many hours watching the person I know drain away, and agony replace the life behind her eyes. She contorts into a figure so broken and far from herself that one morning, when she wakes from an hour or so of fitful rest and comes to the kitchen to ask me for a glass of water, I swear for a moment I don’t know who she is. She’s asked me a hundred times over the course of these days to make
the pain go away. It would break my heart if I didn’t feel half dead inside. I hold her silently, while she heaves and sobs. I comb her hair once she’s quiet. One morning, we’re sitting on the porch staring out at the driveway. Fall is coming, and the lawn has seen better days— strewn with car parts, a ragged tarp, a roll of shingles that’s been eaten away by the rain. Rubbing her stomach and staring blankly ahead, Cassie asks me if I would start looking into rentals around town. We’re going to need a place to live. A thousand times I’ve laid under the stars in the bed of my truck with her asleep on my shoulder, playing out in my head all the places we would live: a
tiny cliffside home in China, way high up in the clouds. A big silver camper out in the Utah desert. An apartment in the center of Paris, looking out on the damn Eiffel Tower. Sitting there on the crumbling porch steps, she looks smaller and more fragile than I’ve ever thought her to be. Even in the really deep shit, when she was taking bigger doses than anyone we knew, I had never once thought of her as weak. Cassie is the strongest person I know. Watching her hands quiver as she presses back her bangs from her damp forehead, she looks so utterly broken. I don’t recognize her. I tell her I’ll start looking into places tomorrow.
Cass. I pray her arms are soft again when she holds him close. That her voice is not bitter. I pray her milk is sweet. While I drive, the day breaks above me and I skim beneath the fog’s fading wake. I’m at the state border by six. I imagine Cassie standing alone on the corner of Main and Elm, holding her bags to her thin chest. She’s supposed to be moving in with me today. Her mom’s boyfriend is not about to have a baby in the house, and certainly not one by some dyke mother. And he pays the bills. In that moment, the desire to be there with Cassie is overwhelming. I imagine slamming my foot on the break, turning right around, and driving straight back to the only life I know. With her. With that little boy. I would pull up on that curb, she’d slap the shit out of me and I’d deserve it a thousand times over. I would carry the bags. I would carry the bags every day for the rest of my life. I don’t.
*** The morning is grey, and softer than any I have felt before. The fog holds everything in place. Each piece of the wide valley seems suspended on a string. In that silent, still-sleeping dawn, I stand on the sidewalk in the town where I grew up, watching the day roll in like a storm-filled sea.
*** The early morning air is soft and still, and if I shut my eyes it doesn’t take much to convince myself I never left. I am sitting on the curbside at the back of the La Quinta Motel in the basin of a desert town. It’s been three days, and I’ve covered near three-thousand miles. I could cover another three-thousand, another ten-thousand, and it wouldn’t put a single grain of distance between me and what I’ve done. What I had to do. I don’t know. Where I’m at now, there’s nothing. But sometimes, in the fight between nothing and something, nothing wins. Just for a second, I tasted something. And I knew I had to go. That life stood before me, and for a moment I looked it dead in the eyes. A lifetime in the town I grew up in. Working the same job my dad did. Living every day in the eyes of the town: the dyke mother to a bastard kid. Drinking too much, and learning to hate the girl that I love. Sinking deeper into that big mud, every day. Each night, a quiet rehearsal for death. I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count. The great variety show that
“Anyone could blame me, sure. But I’m pretty damn sure I’d blame myself more.” Cassie will be here, but not until six, not for another hour. I’m driving her to an appointment at the Family Planning clinic. Her first one was a week ago. They didn’t let me come into the room with her for the sonogram, but they let her take some pictures away. The baby was doing well. Before we left, they gave her an envelope. She opened it once we were in the car, pulling out a slip of blue paper with the word ‘male’ on it. She was having a boy. Cassie slept all the way home. I wept. This morning, I stand on the sidewalk, closing my eyes against the heavy air, and imagine what that little boy will look like. Cassie has this incredible golden-brown hair. Great, wild curls. Wide, brown, Jersey-cow eyes. I pray for the kid’s sake that he turns out looking something like
transcends time and characters. I know the script like the back of my hand. And I know I can’t do it. Anyone could blame me, sure. But I’m pretty damn sure I’d blame myself more. Here I am, either way. Across the parking lot, I can see in the window of the motel breakfast room. An old man in suspenders and a stetson shuffles past the window. He pulls out a chair, pauses, and turns to look out somewhere past me. I turn, and in the distance I can see heat lightning on the horizon. I’m sort of thrown by how flat and dull it is. I guess the man’s gaze had me believing I might see something I know I don’t have the capacity to see anymore. When I turn back, he’s gone. We don’t get to decide the moments when each of us pokes a finger through the screen and sees a glimpse of the real and grey light. I wonder, as I do often, if this is God in our spaces. I don’t believe it is, even though I used to pretend I did. I’ve torn through the paper ceiling. I pray, every moment, for the comfort of its cover again.
Somewhere, I’ll visit mountains capped in snow. Cliffs that rise higher into the sky than you can see. I’ll walk in the deepest, greenest forests. Put my head beneath the ocean waves. I will stand in a thousand places where the seas touch the land. Yet I know in this moment, as sure as anything, I will never think them beautiful. I’ll find cities thronging with more people than I could have ever imagined seeing in one place, and I’ll walk among them. I could search a hundred thousand days, but I will never again know worth. Worth, much like beauty, and very much like love. Things that lie in the East. That lie behind me. I climb into my car, and there I’m warm. The nights are colder here. I watch the sun set through my grimy windshield and the smell of exhaust gathers around me like a close and forgiving fog. When the dark rolls in and the sky dissolves light into absence, I think what I see might be considered beautiful. I allow myself to believe it is. I know that it is not.
*** The sun is low and red, and in the distance I can see dust rising off the desert. I know I’m facing west, as I’ve positioned myself towards the setting sun. I’m watching it now, as it sighs its final breath across the red clay horizon. My home is behind me. Just about three-thousand miles. In the quiet before dusk, I give way to the suicidal act of imagining. I close my eyes. Somewhere in the hazy future, whatever that means, Cassie is sitting on a porch watching a setting sun that looks almost exactly like this one. In a better home with a better friend by her side. A son at the door, letting out the dogs. Never a thought given to the bad people and stuff she didn’t deserve, all faded far behind her. Only the sun ahead. Realistically, I think it’s doubtful she will ever see a sun that looks like this one, but I allow myself a moment of imagining she will. There are too many hills there. Or at least, I think there are. I reckon my certainty, even of that, will fade with time. There is so much ahead to fill the spaces where memory falters.
An Interview with Madison Svercel Creator of “Simplex 1” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for your piece? MADISON SVERCEL: I was inspired by cold sores. I get really bad cold sores/fever blisters when I’m stressed or sick. I had a really awful outbreak during finals which stressed me even more. I was in a lot of pain and embarrassed about how prominent they were on my skin, so I tried making the most of my experience and turned it into a sculpture. IM: Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece? MS: I was really stuck when making this sculpture. The final product was not what I had envisioned at all, so the exploration throughout the making was really exciting! I think that happens with almost all art I create, it starts as a little seed of an idea and sprouts into something I couldn’t have fully imagined in my head. IM: What excites you about the creative process? MS: What excites me about the creative process is that I’ll start with an idea and it has the ability to grow into something I couldn’t have imagined when I started. And my creative process calls for a lot of planning and research but usually neglecting all of that and letting my art transition into whatever it has to! IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as a artist? MS: I think the most embarrassing part of my practice is how messy I am. No matter how hard I try to contain the mess, I still manage to get material on everything in my path.
Simplex 1 Madison Svercel
Vulnerability Study Danny Bunyavong In the beginning, dawn creeps around my waist like the hand of a stranger. A stirring, a commotion, laughter. The cigarette hisses, twirls its gray into the air. The floorboards complain. In the bathroom mirror, my eyes wish to tell me something, dark pools of glassy night, longing. The mouth of the sink makes a gurgling sound. The calico scratches at the screen door, her thighs restless. She skips into fall, the sun swooning over her brilliant coat, pauses to lick. Two sparrows flutter about in cursive. A corrinidae spins a home in moist silken geometrics. In the beginning there is nothing else. Still nothing. A massacre of the heart comes, as it always does, dressed in a promise.
SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME Vee Weeks
“The way you learned to talk was really interesting,” my mom said. She was speaking to me,
but her eyes had been nailed to the ribbon-blue tablecloth between us since we entered the restaurant. Her face looked more forlorn with each word that left her mouth, making my heart jitter in my chest. Why was my development of language so upsetting to her? I glanced at my dad to see if I could figure out any answers, but he was absorbed by Words With Friends on his phone. “I remember I used to say every morning, ‘Vee, are you ready for a beautiful day?’ And one day you just started repeating it back to me,” my mom continued. “But you couldn’t say or understand any of the individual words by themselves, just the sentence, if that makes sense.” “Okay. Good for me,” I said. “So things like that, things with your speech patterns, kept happening,” my mom continued. Now she looked up from the table, but only to take a bite of her burger. “When you were three, I finally brought it up to the doctor, and she recommended you get a test.” “A test? For what?” My mom launched into a monologue that really had nothing to do with me, about how I got tested with a group of kids and we had to identify images on a computer, and
this one little boy who kept pointing out the window and shouting irrelevant words. It didn’t take long for me to zone out and focus more on my dad. He squinted through his reading glasses, as if Words With Friends could take him away from the conversation if he concentrated enough. I shifted my attention back to my mom when she concluded, “So after the test, they recommended a preschool they thought would help you. We were a little worried. You were wired a little differently than other kids, and we weren’t sure what that meant for you.” “Yes, originally we were going to send you to Catholic school,” my dad chimed in, putting his phone down. My eyes widened. “Wait, really?” I glanced over at my mom, who gave a confirming nod. “Well, damn, thank God that didn’t work out. But like, why? Was something wrong with me?” “Yes, I’m not sure if you knew this, but Catholic schools don’t take kids with disabilities,” my dad answered. Just like that, it all clicked. The clues from our conversation added up. I realized that when I was three years old, I was tested for autism. “So there is something wrong with me,” I said. This conversation made me rethink my entire life up to that point. For as long as I can remember, I’ve rotated through phases of being fascinated by random books, movies, websites, pieces of knowledge, or whatever else entered my life, to the point of uncontrollable obsession. I had to talk about whatever subject currently captivated my attention to whoever I could get to listen, even if it really didn’t interest them. A lot of the friends I made in high school and college were autistic, and although I asked myself why the hell I attracted autistic people, I never connected their behaviors to my own. I just thought they were easier to make friends with or something. I’m not sure what specific “kind,” so to speak, of autism I have. But after talking to one of these friends about it, we came to the conclusion that I probably have PDDNOS, which basically means I was really autistic when I was a child, but I “outgrew” it as I got older, with only a few
mild symptoms left behind. As a kid, my voice was super loud and whiny, to the point that I can’t even watch videos of my elementary school self without my ears ringing. I used to get upset about stuff that wouldn’t bother me now, like plans changing or being forced to sit still for a long time. But as I got older, my voice flattened into a monotone, I “learned” to keep my obsessions under wraps, and I began changing plans myself. The obsessions are still there, however, as are a lot of the other behaviors I was never fully able to shake. When I walk long distances, I catch myself doing subtle but weird stuff. For instance, sometimes I become preoccupied with my sweaty hands, and I’ll wipe them off on my thighs while I walk. When I talk to people, especially if I don’t know them well, I fidget with pencils, or any small objects that are in front of me. No one ever comments on it, but I can tell they notice.
“It’s not like the autism would flit away and leave me alone if I decided to reject it.” Once I learned my diagnosis, half of me wanted to just accept the word “autism” as a label, be grateful that I was at least on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, and get on with my life. But another half went through the times I got bullied, the awkward interactions I had, my quirks, my friends who also had autism. Could they tell, this whole time, that I was one of them? On top of all that, I was, frankly, pissed at my parents. I thought of my teachers, relatives, and others who might have known I was autistic this whole time because my parents told them. I felt bitter that they got to know when I didn’t even know myself. I started thinking about this stupid peer mentoring program my parents signed me up for in elementary school that got me more bullies than friends. Did all of those people know? What about the teacher who ran the program? Did she know?
My parents had made it pretty clear that they were uncomfortable talking about it-- even though it’s my neurological disorder-- but I had to ask them how many people knew. The possibilities were eating away at me. To my relief, they informed me that the only people who knew were the two of them and my sister, who had also only found out recently. But my anger continued to boil, and I wasn’t sure why. I felt betrayed. Part of me felt like if I had somehow known earlier in life that I was autistic, I could’ve used that knowledge to explain why I was so goddamn awkward. I knew, logically, that it wouldn’t have mattered because, as I said, autism was only a label for the thing I already knew was wrong with me. But I continued to be angry, blaming my parents for the rejection and judgment I faced from others when I was younger. The only people who knew my Tragic Backstory™ were my parents and my sister, and I intended to keep it that way. I resolved never to tell my friends. I’m not a sappy person, and I’ve always hated when I reveal news or secrets about myself to people and get slammed with an overabundance of acceptance. I figured I’d get an onslaught of that if I told my friends that I was “one of them,” and I needed to accept my diagnosis myself before I heard that from outside voices. As if I really had a choice. It’s not like the autism would flit away and leave me alone if I decided to reject it. But even though I kept my mouth shut about it, I paid more attention to the quirky behaviors my friends exhibited, to see if any of it lined up with anything about me. There was this one particular weekend when I was with my two friends, Mike and Lance, and I let out the most enormous belch in front of Lance’s mom. I was a little embarrassed at first, but I relaxed when everyone else just laughed it off. After a minute, we moved on to a different conversation and forgot about it. Mike, however, kept laughing about it for weeks afterwards. The next time our friends were all together as a group, the first thing he said was, “Guys, I have a really
funny story about Vee.” Beyond that, he’d reference it any time something in our environment reminded him of it. A character could burp on a TV show we were watching, or we could be getting food somewhere, and he’d giggle and ask, “Hey, remember when you burped in front of Lance’s mom? That was so funny.” The laughter he expressed was genuine, like the incident had just happened two minutes ago, even if three weeks had passed. I thought about all the other mildly funny jokes that Mike refused to let die. I thought about how I often find myself dying of laughter over events that others stopped finding funny months ago, and I concluded that maybe autistic people have trouble letting jokes go.
“Does the phrase 'autism gives me superpowers' ring a bell?” But then again, maybe everyone has that problem at one point or another. My mom has told me stories of jokes she can’t let go of. It just seems more common among autistic people, and I wondered if my theory had some truth to it. “Do we do this because we’re autistic,” I wondered, “or is this just something everyone does and I’m overthinking it?” The weirdest part of it all was just looking at my friends and thinking, I am one of them. We are all part of a community. My brain and their brains have something in common, something the rest of the world doesn’t have. Sometimes I just zoned out in the middle of drinking and let my thoughts overtake me, until I felt like an outsider staring at a group that didn’t include me. Oddly enough, the isolation came from my own decision not to tell them I was like them. More like them than they realized. I saw myself as the personification of that irony, and if they only looked at me long enough, they’d see the knowledge they were missing out on. It was ridiculous how much I fixated on my diagnosis. It got to the point where I binge-watched YouTube videos
Nomad II Xingyun Wang
about low-functioning autistic people, who’ll probably never go to college, or have to go everywhere with their parents at the age of thirty-five. I would think to myself, I could’ve been like this. I have something in common with these people, and that’s terrifying. What separates them from me, besides a few more altered brain chemicals? But I also frequently reminded myself that by this logic, everyone’s a few altered brain chemicals away from being autistic, and furthermore, I needed to yank my head out of my ass. After about a month of long showers, internal battles, and depressing YouTube videos, I got to the point where I could say “I’m autistic” to myself without feeling the urge
to yell at my parents for a half-hour straight, so I’d say I was making progress. I was even considering taking back my resolution and “coming out” to my two closest friends, which is why I wasn’t outraged when my sister did it for me. Jessy was visiting my college for the weekend, and as per our usual Friday night routine, Mike drove the two of us and our friend, Charlie, to 7-11 to pick up some Four Lokos. I had discussed my diagnosis with Jessy for the first time a few days ago, and I had mentioned during the conversation that I was considering telling Mike and Charlie. She must have decided at some point before the car ride that she was going to take matters into her own hands, as
she frequently did when I hesitated to do what she thought was a good idea. Throughout the trip, she kept describing me with words that resembled “autistic,” like “awestruck” or “artistic.” As we got closer to White Plains, her hints inched closer to the truth. By the time she got around to saying, “the three of you all have something in common that I don’t have,” my heart was racing. “Look, all I’m gonna say is, a discovery of newfound autism was made recently,” Jessy said. Mike, who thought she was talking about him, said, “What do you mean? I’ve known about my autism for a while.” If they were going to find out, I at least wanted the words to come out of my own mouth. “She’s not talking about your autism,” I said. “She’s talking about mine.” So ultimately, it was me who told them, but it certainly felt like Jessy told them for me. I braced myself for the uncomfortable silence or awkward attempts to comfort me. Instead, Charlie said, “You’re autistic? The fuck? Since when?” “Since I was born?” I replied. “How come you never told us?” he asked.“We could’ve been the Autism Squad.” So I told them all about the awkward dinner and my parents’ inability to handle emotional topics. I hoped they wouldn’t feel sorry for me, and they didn’t. They just nodded along, laughing at all the little jokes I squeezed out of the story. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it proved to be helpful, too, since I could ask them about their experiences with having autism. But more importantly, I could talk about personal issues, like my anger towards my parents. I began to understand why people form communities around identities that most people don’t understand. They made me rethink the whole reason I was resentful towards my parents in the first place. I always assumed people found out they were autistic at a young age and lived
their entire lives with that knowledge, but I learned that my two friends didn’t find out about their autism until they were eighteen. They apparently got to have more in-depth discussions with their parents about it, which made me jealous, but basically their parents had good reasons for waiting until they were older to break the news. They wanted their kids to have as “normal” of a childhood as possible, without their self-esteem possibly being lowered with the knowledge that they were “different.” I still think the way my parents told me was fucked up. They dumped this door-opening knowledge on me and then skitted away from all my follow-up questions, dancing around even using the word “autism.” But I at least understand why they waited so long to tell me. Would I have even wanted to know that about myself at the age of, say, thirteen? I already had a lot going on at that age, with puberty and the horror that is middle school, plus I had zero control over my emotions and probably would’ve reacted (more) horribly to that news. At this point in my life, I’m almost done with my emotional journey from shame to acceptance of my autism. However, I realized recently that an important part of my acceptance process is to observe what acceptance means to other people with autism. So I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. The problem is, I’m not so sure if I agree with everything I’ve discovered. Even though there are still stereotypes that perpetuate, like that autistics are incapable of love or sex or that they’re all freakishly intelligent, I find myself taking issue with other autistic people more so than with neurotypicals. I’ve noticed a rising trend of exaggerated pride among autistics. Does the phrase “autism gives me superpowers” ring a bell? Not only do I hear my friends use this phrase and see Facebook or Instagram posts about it; it’s now possible to buy a T-shirt that says, “I have autism. What’s your superpower?” There also seems to be this trend of community isolation, which goes along with the pridefulness. I had one friend in particular who said things like, “We autistics have to stick together,” and “The world will
never understand us.” I met a person with autism once who professed that she “hates neurotypicals,” which doesn’t even make logical sense. The overwhelming majority of the world is neurotypicals. It’s impossible to know for a fact that every single one of them is despicable and will have a negative attitude towards a person with autism. Even calling them “neurotypicals” is nonsensical, since it implies that every non-autistic brain is automatically “normal” and there’s nothing wrong with it, which of course isn’t true. Is bipolar disorder, for instance, not also a chemical imbalance in someone’s brain? Obviously this attitude doesn’t apply to all people with autism, but it describes enough of them that, in addition to annoying me, I fear that it will become a more popular belief among autistics: that a few altered chemicals in our brains somehow make us above everyone else, and we don’t need to associate with the rest of the world because they “just don’t get it.” I understand this isn’t what people are consciously thinking. They’re just angry that the world doesn’t easily accept people with disabilities, despite there being a lot of progress and more representation of autism in the media. They’re done being ashamed and embarrassed about who they are, and want to embrace it instead. But people seem to believe acceptance and pride are synonyms, even though there’s a world of difference between them. I’m not going to lie; autism comes with some advantages. All those trivial things I was obsessed with when I was a kid? Most of them turned into worthless knowledge, but sometimes they end up being helpful. Don’t ask me why, but people’s birthdays stick in my head. Tell me your birthday once, and I guarantee you I’ll remember it for the rest of my goddamn life, even if we stop talking. So I never have to worry about forgetting a friend’s birthday. In general, I have an excellent memory, which has always been an enormous help on standardized tests and such. By the same token, I could do without the social awkwardness, the unusual behaviors, and the monotone voice that has led people to say I “don’t have emotions.” And what about all the lower-functioning autistics I subjected
myself to watching on YouTube, who will never be able to do more than go to the grocery store on the corner by themselves? Some superpower. I fear that if people with autism start to romanticize their disorders, the negative parts of it will get overlooked by society, resulting in more misconceptions about autism. Look at what’s happened now that depression and anxiety have become “trendy.” As someone who felt ashamed when I first learned I had autism, I understand the importance of embracing one’s identity and connecting to a community of similar people. I used to drink before going to any social event, even if no one else there would be drunk, because in the event that I committed some social faux pas, I could laugh it off with an, “Oh, yeah, I was super intoxicated when I did that,” and people wouldn’t judge me as much. So yes, I understand what it’s like to feel ashamed about a permanent part of you that you can’t control. But at the same time, I would hate it if my entire identity was centered on my autism. I just want to accept it as a small percentage of who I am, and I wish more people in the community shared that philosophy.
Horse Chelsea Muscat
THE TREASURE YOURS Keegan Sagnelli I’m sticking my thumb in the soil And coming in safe from the rain. Steady and unnoticed, the ghosts In the bushes scream after me As I leave them in the pour, with Their broken wing to crutch into. Even their softest knocks echo through The empty house, pulsing beneath The bed frame – between the floor and its legs encrusted with filth. I worry one day the open sky will come For me and I will have no choice but to grow And burst on my own within its dark scape. Still close to heart, when you turn awake From the presence deafening, I will be moaning Through your walls. One day, this house May no longer stand or you may not listen. Here, An honest point is not a mountaintop of past lovers Recounted like ghost stories – rather it looks down At the dirt tracked into your mudroom from the garden. Ten lovers in a weekend, Good God, I clutch but they claw.
Law of Impunity Nicholas Dinielli Some claim the world at large is a game with loaded dice; Transparent as the cellophane that preserves all the vices Presented so precisely, professionally assessed, Recommended by a group with no return address Is this it? Has it come? The Solution to our lives? A belligerent anxiety in aggregated minds? Is a bathroom made from gold worth a heist of Layman savings? Will the Story from days of old go about unchanging? Those claims are hard to believe; weâ€™ll have to wait and see. That frame is hard to conceive Why think to stop and hesitate? Those been dealt a bad hand: this realm canâ€™t comprehend, It's stumbling about in a ceaseless effort to expand Those been pelt with bad brands: there's more than the newsstand, No one can offer an eternal lifespan. Some feels the world at large has a card up its sleeve; Ridden with crass bribes taking place behind smoke screens Hidden in the details and presented with blank stares; Complicit consumers crash themselves, clapping from their Armchairs Is it here? The reckoning of rocks and pains of glass? Is this brazen show of ego tarnishing the Brass? Who the hell espoused that shit of perpetual boyhood? Who the fuck dares nod their head, saying "Sir, that sounds good!"
Those aims are hard to achieve; weâ€™ll have to wait and see. That flame is hard to receive Don't shrink and drop to contemplate Those been dealt a bad hand: this realm canâ€™t comprehend, It's stumbling about in a ceaseless effort to expand Those been pelt with bad brands: there's more than the newsstand, No one can offer an eternal lifespan. Iron boots may run their course, but they too must erode Crashing in the River, yes, they too must explode Every force eventually must reach a closing line; The sole thing inescapable: a passing of the time.
BEAUTIFUL BROWN THINGS Imani Parker brown skin boy. why do they always say you have skin like chocolate? as if chocolate is the only beautiful brown thing. have they forgotten about mahogany? or Earl Grey tea with honey, piping hot— so hot I have to blow. have they forgotten about Tigers Eye Gems? my brown boy had skin the color of pine cones and his outsides were just as rough. though sometimes soft, unlike pine cones. i’ll call his insides maple syrup and picture myself sinking into him the way i imagine one would sink into a tub of maple syrup— thick viscous smooth sickly sweet. some brown boys are the color of piano keys back when piano keys were made of sugar pine. press them and make sweet music. music. i think sometimes brown boys are the color of New Orleans blues. or the sounds that come out of steel drums, if you can imagine sounds having a hue. mine. i remember him well. his voice like calypso. his eyes, amber floating in cream. his skin brown.
An Interview with Imani Parker Author of “Beautiful Brown Things,” “Goes Down Easy,” and “The Only Real Thing” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for these pieces? IMANI PARKER: I am a person that feels deeply and intensely. These poems are inspired by my emotions and my feelings and the weight of them in my body. My work is very much about my heart-the shape of it, the way it feels when it breaks, and the things that break it. I am fascinated by the nature of memory and the ephemerality of life. The fact that every moment, event, and experience, can only be lived once and never again is both tragic and beautiful, and I like to explore this in my writing. IM: Can you describe your creative process in crafting these pieces? IP: I walk around with a journal at all times and whenever I get a random thought that I think is worth something, I write it down. If I hear a beautiful sentence, word, or phrase, I write it down. When my feelings are overwhelming and I need to move them from my body to paper, I write them down. These poems started off with these sentences: Where are the romantics? The people that feel things, and love and crave immensely. Where are the ones that don’t let go? That hold on tight. These lines actually don’t appear in any of the poems, but is essentially what started them. I started writing, and then didn’t stop until I felt like I was finished. Then, I looked at what I had in front of me and started cutting the lines and words that didn’t feel right. IM: What excites you about the creative process? IP: A few things: attempting to say common things in ways they have never been said before, escaping, using it for self-healing and reflection, and the idea of making something out of nothing. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as an artist? IP: Talking to myself, definitely. Sometimes I have to get myself in the zone and I end up having entire conversations with myself which include singing breaks and referring to myself in the third person.
MY TYPE OF PARTY Jordan Meiland
n 2016, I went to one concert. In 2017, I went to seven. In 2018, I went to seventeen. So far this year, 2019, I’ve gone to two and I’m going to six more before June. It’d be an understatement to say that I like concerts. I absolutely love concerts. I’m constantly looking through websites, refreshing social media, searching for my next live music venture. I don’t splurge on clothes, food, or anything else really. Live music has become my splurge. This is the story of my first concert. On July 19, 2016, my then-favorite band, a post-hardcore band called Pierce the Veil, announced a headlining tour starting in early September and ending in mid-October. The Made to Destroy Tour. Fifteen-year-old me was ecstatic. Earlier that summer, Pierce the Veil played in New York City at a venue called Irving Plaza (a venue I’d become quite familiar with in the future). That venue can fit around 1,000 people. It sold out in less than a week. At the time, I was so desperate to see them, I spammed each band member on social media with comments, asking them to try and release more tickets or get a bigger venue. Nothing worked. They played at Irving Plaza on June 15th, 2016. I was not in the crowd. I bought tickets to the Made to Destroy Tour a day or two after they went on sale. I was convinced that the show would sell out again (it didn’t, the venue had a capacity of 2,200). I wouldn’t miss my favorite band again. Even if it meant doing something I’d never done before. The urge to see my favorite band was overpowering. I paid $34.50 for a ticket. I was so excited. In less than 3 months, I’d be seeing my favorite band! I even started a countdown on my Instagram page, changing the number of days until the concert daily. However, once the number was down to 10, I got anxious.
I suddenly became afraid of a myriad of things. Will big people crush me in the crowd? Will the singer look me in the eye, expecting me to be singing along? Will other fans look at me and think I’m a weirdo? Will a fire start in the venue? Suddenly, this grand occasion started feeling like a not-so-grand occasion. The day of the concert, October 4th, 2016, there was a 75% chance I wasn’t going to go, and a 25% chance I would. I spent an hour in my room debating with myself. Finally, I made the decision: I was going. It didn’t even matter that I was going by myself. I wouldn’t let this opportunity pass.
during the concert. Nobody came up to me and said “hey, what the hell are you doing here?” or anything like that. I Prevail played a good set. At the time, they were still a relatively small band, slowly rising in the metal scene. The next band was a band called Neck Deep, a Welsh pop-punk band. Neck Deep had an entirely different sound from I Prevail. Rather than having breakdowns, chugging guitars, screams, and lyrics about betrayal and perseverance, they opted for fast guitars, clean vocals, bouncy instrumental sections, and encouraging lyrics. Their set was actually my least favorite of the three that night (but looking back, 3 years later, I’d say that I Prevail was my least favorite set). I liked Neck Deep enough, though. But really, I was restless and wanted to see Pierce the Veil. After Neck Deep finished, a large curtain was dropped on the stage. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought that something went wrong or that the concert was over. I was a bit scared. I was so close to seeing my favorite band and then this happened! Turns out, it was part of Pierce the Veil’s production. Every show of the tour had a unique intro screened on a white curtain that depicted a rocketship traveling through space and crash landing in whatever city the band was playing that night. Once that spaceship landed in New York City, the crowd screamed wildly, the curtain dropped, and the first few notes of their song called “Dive In” (Ha-ha, get it?) started playing. On stage were two halves of a rocket ship cutout. An enormous banner with “Pierce the Veil” and a big cartoon rocketship hung above the stage. One by one, the members of Pierce the Veil emerged from the rocketship. First, Mike Fuentes, the Drummer. Second, Tony Perry, the Lead Guitarist. Third, Jaime Preciado, the Backup Vocalist and Bassist. Finally, Vic Fuentes, the Lead Singer and Rhythm Guitarist, emerged. Snapchats from that night have captions such as “THEY’RE REAL” and “Holy fuck, he’s real” (referring to Vic), perfectly capturing how excited I was. It was finally happening! I was finally seeing my favorite band! A lot happened during their set. People crowd surfed, people moshed, people sang along, people took videos and
“I absolutely love concerts. I’m constantly looking through websites, refreshing social media, searching for my next live music venture.” I put my Pierce the Veil shirt on, got directions to Hammerstein Ballroom, and set off to my very first concert. I listened to Pierce the Veil on the train. It made me feel less anxious. I got to the concert a little after 7:30 PM. The first band, a metal band called I Prevail, had already started. I saw how massive the crowd was. Fearing everything from fires to fights, I settled in a nice spot behind the soundboard at the back of the venue. Surprisingly, I could see the stage really well! My first concert had started! Immediately, I realized that everything I was afraid would happen to me would certainly not happen. I was so far from the stage, it was impossible that Vic Fuentes (lead singer and guitarist of Pierce the Veil) would even notice me, let alone make eye contact with me. I wasn’t physically in the crowd. I was in a small area underneath the first balcony (Hammerstein Ballroom has a massive standing area and then three balconies at the back of the standing area. This venue is ENORMOUS). Nobody would be crowd surfing from where I was. Also, nobody talked to me at all
so much more. I had a blast, despite being hundreds of feet away from the stage. I sang along, I took videos, I lived. I’d never experienced anything like this before. The energy, the noises, everything was so new, yet so appealing to me. I didn’t want the concert to end. But sadly, it did. After three to four hours of the best experience of my life, it ended, and I went back to my old self. As I write this, I look back and think fondly of fifteen-yearold Jordan. I was so new to the live music experience back then. Since then, I’ve become a regular concert-goer, seeing bands at all venues under all sorts of conditions. I’ve seen metal bands play back rooms with a stage three feet high, no barricade, and barely enough room to move. I’ve seen pop punk bands play massive ballrooms with high ceilings and standing room for thousands. I’ve traveled to Long Island for shows. I’ve traveled to New Jersey for shows. I’ve traveled to Connecticut for shows. In fact, this May, I’ll be flying to Chicago for a show. I’m more comfortable at concerts now than I was at fifteen. I’ll get as close as I can to the stage. I’ll help people crowd surf. I’ll stand on the edge of a mosh pit if it means protecting others. I take videos of every band I see. I’ll share the videos on social media so that others can enjoy what I experienced. In addition, I’ve also become quite good at catching items thrown from the stage by musicians or crew members. I’ve caught 14 guitar picks, 4 setlists, and a drumstick. Impressive, isn’t it? I want people to make time for live music. Concerts bring an energy and atmosphere that is unparalleled by any other situation, I feel. Plus, you’re supporting musicians, fellow artists, like many of us are. What better feeling is there than helping someone else chase their dream? Be someone’s audience. Show your support. They need it. Get out there and experience the world of live music. You’ll have a great time, I promise.
477 Days Jonathan Meca Italics Mine
Where To Begin Winnie Richards And this, here: this was where we come from. Not you and me necessarily, but my pulse ran here once, and settled. And I can’t, though I’ve tried to, ever really go away. Fully constructed, we are equal parts asphalt, heat, and all the papers we’ve acquired in the legal process of calling this ‘home’. Catalogued the rules for this arbitrary habit which we’ve called ‘living’. It’s pretty impressive, actually. Constructed counting the beats of our hands on our knees. Quantifying the reasons for this pilgrimage Westward. And all the while we are one and two and one again, and my mother is leading me to the water. These days my mouth is better sewn shut and I promise I have tried to unmake all these holes. But still, always, I am bending backwards, and the sky is an underground. Always, in some space and time I am eating plastics in the subway station. And with every train that passes I can see again, through the grimy tunnel of memory, at the back stairs, by the elevator – a nation, new and bleating. And I am reminded that we began broken.
An Interview with Winnie Richards Author of “God, In Our Spaces,” “Where to Begin,” and “Uncoming” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for your pieces? WINNIE RICHARDS: Both “God, In Our Spaces” and “Where To Begin” were inspired heavily by the theme of ‘home,’ and the way that definition has changed and morphed for me throughout my life. I’m really interested in what it means to come from somewhere, and the implications that those places have on the rest of our lives and the people we become. A lot of the setting and characters of “God, In Our Spaces” are based on the small town I went to school in. And “Where To Begin” was thinking a lot about my childhood in Brooklyn. “Uncoming” was much more your standard “yearning” poem. About absence and loneliness and all that good stuff. IM: Can you discuss your creative process in crafting these stories? WR: For me, the creative process is pretty chaotic. I rarely begin with a solid plan, or much of an idea at all. It’s really about sitting down and staring at a blank piece of paper until I feel guilty enough to make myself start writing. But there’s always something to be written about, even if I can’t see it while I’m going about my normal day. Once I make myself sit down and write, whatever’s going on in the back of my subconscious just kind of spews out on the page and I’m like, “wow, okay. I guess that needed to be talked about.” It’s my excuse not to go to therapy. IM: What excites you about the writing process? WR: What excites me most about the creative process is getting into that crazed zone, halfway through a piece, where I can’t stop myself. You know, when you’re so imbedded in the piece, you can’t leave it alone. It’s such a weird, thrilling feeling that simultaneously reminds us why we write, and makes us wonder why we put ourselves through it. But, of course, it’s because we have to. I’d be more unbearable if I didn’t write. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer? WR: My most embarrassing aspect of writing is probably that my pieces never have a happy ending. Like, I can’t think of a single piece I’ve written that ends happily. But, in my normal life, I think of myself as a pretty optimistic person with a lot of good stuff to lean on. So it’s a bit of an odd contrast when people (mostly my mom) read my stuff and are like, “Okay, this girl needs Jesus.”
COFFEE MUGS Janelle McNeil Place and Time: Leila and Marcus’ house somewhere down south. Around 7 PM. Characters: LEILA- A woman in her mid 30s, finally learning to speak up for herself, a wife who is tired of being mistreated by her husband. MARCUS- A man in his mid 40s, used to being in control, doesn’t prioritize his wife’s feelings. LEILA paces back and forth through the living room, she has her arms folded and she is upset. Moments later, MARCUS comes walking in with his shirt unbuttoned, a messed up collar, and a coffee cup in his hand. Where you been? Getting your coffee. Where’s yours? They ain’t had none. They ain’t had no coffee in a coffee shop? Do we have to do this every time I come home?
LEILA MARCUS LEILA MARCUS LEILA MARCUS
LEILA Do what? All of a sudden I can’t ask a simple question without you getting angry, all raising your voice? I ain’t raise my voice, woman.
LEILA Don’t be calling me no ‘woman’. When you met me, my name was Leila. It was then and it is now. I know what your name is.
LEILA Then use it. My daddy used to call my momma that and I couldn’t stand it. Her name’s Mary just like my name’s Leila. They glare at each other. Leila walks over to the couch, sits down, and pours a glass of wine. MARCUS I don’t need no wife of mine to be drinking that stuff. Well, I ain’t got nobody to drink coffee with.
LEILA Marcus puts the coffee on the table and goes to give Leila a kiss on the cheek, she moves her head. He backs away and takes off his hat and coat.
They laying people off at my job…
LEILA That why you didn’t get coffee? Only had enough money for one? MARCUS They started calling people in they office. They called my name. I went in damn near wobbling, couldn’t stand still. Couldn’t stand strong like I like to. So you was too scared to order two cups?
LEILA Leila gets up and walks into the kitchen. Marcus follows her.
Natural Organic Life Yuko Kyutoku
MARCUS So I marched up in there and I told them I was the best damn worker they ever had! Come in early, leave late, work the hardest. Told them they be out they mind to get rid of somebody like me. And? Left with my job and some… I got myself a raise. Hmmph. You hear me? I ain’t deaf.
LEILA MARCUS LEILA MARCUS LEILA
And you ain’t got more to say than that? I said what I had to say.
MARCUS What? About that damn coffee? I just ain’t want none today! I come home excited to tell you some good news and you upset cuz I ain’t want no damn coffee. I got you coffee, don’t I get credit for that? Marcus slams his fist against the counter creating a crack, and causing Leila to startle back. LEILA Credit? You work five days for eight hours, take your lunch break, and come home to a clean house, your dinner, and your peace time. I work all day and all night. Where’s my credit? Where’s my credit for staying in this house all day to clean your floors, your kitchen, your bedroom, and your bathroom? Where’s my credit for taking your paycheck and paying every bill imaginable and still managing to buy enough food for the month? Where’s my credit for putting aside my dreams, and my hopes to cater to yours? … And where’s my credit for not packing all my shit and moving halfway across the country after finding this in your pocket? Leila pulls a small earring out of her pocket and places it on the crack Marcus created. Marcus looks at it and begins to back away slowly. LEILA (cont’d) My momma told me I had the devil in me after I married you. To take another woman’s man ain’t right. She told me what I did would come back to me and it would be something of the devil. She told me I’d feel it in places I ain’t never felt stuff before. I’d feel something in my stomach- something evil. Like myself. But then I got pregnant and I was the happiest I ever been in my whole life. Had a piece of me and a piece of you inside me. Thought momma was a fool, and sure enough- she wasn’t. Marcus looks down, noticeably saddened about this topic. LEILA (cont’d) Sat right there in that bathroom and felt the devil going through my arms, my legs, my back, my hands, my feet, and just like momma said the feeling I got in my stomach was something strong, and something evil... but
I thought the devil was done with me. Leila walks past Marcus and into the living room. She takes a seat on the couch, picks the coffee up, smells it, and looks defeated. She places it back down. How long you known?
LEILA Well, you been smelling less and less like a janitor. Smelling less and less like a bus ride. Smelling less and less like the coffee shop. MARCUS And why you ain’t say nothing? Huh? Why wait all this time? LEILA What was I supposed to say? That I noticed the way your shirt buttons ain’t fixed right? Marcus looks down and begins fixing his shirt. LEILA (cont’d) Or the way you trickling in here later and later, first with two cups. Then with yours half drunk, and now just with one. MARCUS It ain’t like I wanted to do this. It ain’t nothing I could help. Is that the same sorry story you told Patricia?
LEILA Marcus walks closer to Leila and is upset.
MARCUS Now you ain’t got no business bringing her into this. This is between me and you. Not me, you, and her. She ain’t got nothing to do with this.
LEILA You left her cuz you said she was old and tired. That’s why you got me. Cuz you said I was young and alive. Well I ain’t dead, Marcus! MARCUS I know you ain’t dead! This ain’t about you, this ain’t about Patricia, this ain’t about RobynSlight pause. Robyn… hmmph.
I ain’t mean to say her name. But you did.
LEILA Leila takes a beer out the refrigerator, opens it, and places it in the middle of the table. MARCUS LEILA There is silence.
Where’d you meet her? ...by the bus stop. She know about me?
LEILA (cont’d) MARCUS LEILA Marcus takes a seat on the chair and slouches a bit.
Hmmph. She pretty? Leila, we ain’t gotta do this.
LEILA (cont’d) MARCUS
LEILA Nah, we do. Cuz for the past seven years you walked through that door at 6 o’clock. Not 6:05, not 6:30. Walked through that door to a cooked meal, a clean house, and everything else I had in my power to give to you. You walked through that door with a story to tell me, a smile on your face… and our coffee. Leila sits down on the couch and takes off her shoes. LEILA (cont’d) I think I got the right to know about the woman who made you stop doing all that… She pretty? She young? Younger than me? I can’t stand to talk about this. Good thing you’re sitting.
MARCUS LEILA Leila gets up from the couch and paces around the living room. At this point the room is completely silent.
This ain’t about the way she looks. Hmmph. I’m serious.
MARCUS LEILA MARCUS
LEILA Then what was worth ruining our marriage for? If it ain’t about the way she looked? MARCUS It’s about how she makes me feel...she makes me feel young and alive. Young and alive.
LEILA There is silence.
Ain’t you got nothing else to say?
LEILA I’m just thinking… this must’ve been how Patricia felt. But truth is, you a old man. And what I did was wrong, but I ain’t got the devil in me. She don’t got the devil in her. It’s you! You bring the devil out in other people. You an old man with the devil in him. MARCUS This ain’t how I wanted you to find out. It ain’t nothing I could help. LEILA And ain’t nothing more we could help about this marriage neither. MARCUS Stop that, okay, I’ll get me and you some coffee and we can drink and talk about this. Like we used to. Leila walks behind Marcus with him on the couch and puts her arms around his shoulders, and goes to whisper in his ear. Pregnant women don’t drink coffee.
LEILA Leila backs up slowly and exits. Marcus sits and examines the table looking at all of the things that pregnant women can’t drink. THE END.
Lost in the World 2 Chelsea Muscat
THE ONLY REAL THING Imani Parker let her try to forget those things that broke her. they said it was an intercostal strain and not a failed heart. she should be relieved, but she isn’t. the diagnosis doesn’t help her breathe easy. in fact, she has so many trust issues that no man’s words mean anything. even when the man is a doctor. the pain is the only real ground under her feet. she feels it in her ribs dull and gnawing like they say. doctors claim you can’t feel your heart but she can feel the uneven beats and the way her blood doesn’t run the same. is there any blood left from when he loved her? even a drop? one drop of happy water beat out of a loving heart redder and purer than the blood she has now. how long until a broken down heart turns everything black. she thinks of the word rememory and wants to re-remember him and make believe that her moments held, still matter. what’s the difference between memory and imagination when he’s so long gone? elephants die from things like this. is it romantic to yearn like this? is it disgusting and weak?
she thinks that maybe he doesn’t remember her name or that he loved her and this keeps her up sometimes— wondering if it was real. people don’t walk away from things so real. she feels her way through her veins for that one drop. where is that one drop? she doesn’t want new blood. she wants old blood or no blood. old heart or no heart. which pain is from the strain and which from broken men unfolding themselves in her brittle body and standing so tall they bust her open, spilling her clean blood on the floor. her skin the shell of a person that she remembers or imagined or remembers. whichever.
In the Box Xingyun Wang
My Life Has Been One of Suppression Danny Bunyavong This must be why it feels like home at the bottom of a poolâ€”the weight, the silence, the holding of breath, familiar. Each day, the task is simple. Each night, at my writing desk a massacre. I have restitched myself more times than I can count and to be still is not a practice of self discovery but rather an effort to remain whole. If you hold on tightly to the doorknob of a house filled with water, with the other hand you can still eat an apple or wave at someone, but oh how Iâ€™ve wished for so long to be able to embrace someone more than halfway.
THE SHEPHERD AND THE DJINN Leandra Bombace
nce upon a time, in a land of heat and sun, there was a selfish merchant. He was as wealthy and proud as he was ignorant and cruel. The merchant had several beautiful daughters with whom who he was eager to marry off to wealthy suitors, so he did. The merchant also had one son. Where his father was greedy, he was generous. Where his sisters were vain, he was humble. The young man’s father did not look favorably on him for he believed he had no ambition and no stomach for deceit. Instead of making his son his apprentice, the merchant chose his eldest daughter’s husband to succeed him. The merchant’s son spent his time herding and watching over goats as a shepherd and he watched over his flock with care and diligence. If one of the goats wandered off into the desert, there would be little hope of getting it back. People only ventured across the dunes when they were desperate. There were creatures who walked amidst the dunes that would find a lost traveler to be great sport. Very few who dared try to cross the sea of sand returned. One day, the merchant received news that one of his sellers in the northern province had refused to ship hundreds of pounds of spices from the far lands. This enraged the merchant, for the spices were exotic and decadent, and they made him a great profit. He made the decision to send his eldest daughter’s husband across the treacherous terrain to make him change his mind. His son in-law went begrudgingly. Several weeks passed with no news. When he inquired to the seller by way of messenger, the seller expressed that the merchant’s son-in-law had never arrived. Not believing the seller and growing increasingly impatient, the merchant sent his second daughter’s husband across the sand. Just as the one before, he neither arrived nor returned so the merchant sent his
third daughter’s husband, who disappeared just as well as the others. The merchant was surly and fed-up, never mind that he now had three daughters whose husbands had been lost to the desert. Finally, he called for his own son. He ordered him to venture across the desert, find his three brother in-laws, journey to the seller and bring back the spices. The merchant’s son refused. He neither wished to leave his flock unattended nor was he a fool; the young man could hear the cries and songs made by inhuman tongues coming from the sands at night. But the merchant was not a superstitious man and refused to believe in such childish nonsense. He paid a pair of city orderlies to throw his only son into the desert.
and the invisible fingers that had once grabbed at him let go. His was a song that went on and on, weaving a tale of his life and dreams. With each verse, the young man’s voice grew stronger. The young shepherd often sang to his flock to calm them and help them sleep. No other had heard him sing. But now, all the desert seemed to be in an intense quiet, rapt with attention for this man’s beautiful, heartbreaking song. And when he finally looked up at the crescendo of his piece, he found a beautiful oasis before him. The water was a shimmering, turquoise-blue surrounded by mouth-watering date trees and vibrant palms whose fronds stretched wide to offer refuge from the heat and sun. Despite his pain and his exhaustion, the young man was wary. When he next opened his mouth he asked, “Is this a gift or trick?” The palms swayed in a murmuring breeze, the leaves sighing. Finally, a voice answered him. “A gift for a gift. In gratitude for your song.” Still he saw no one and thus made no move to step towards the pool. “And whom do I thank for this gift?” he asked politely. There was a soft laugh. “Many names, many names to give. Would they make you sing? Would they make you run? What does a name matter or mean?” “It is only courteous to know the name of a gift-bearer, to thank them properly. To be sure to remember them,” the young man replied. There was a hum that stirred the turquoise water. “So sincere for a mortal man, so true and plain. Such lovely words spill from your mouth.” The young man bowed low, kneeling on the scalding sand. “I only wish to offer my thanks to the Djinn,” he answered. There was a hiss like running sand through a sift and the air between the palms trembled furiously, undulating to reveal a figure dressed in sheer veils, with burning eyes. The
“I only wish to offer my thanks to the Djinn.” The orderlies beat and blind-folded the young man, dragging him as far into the desert as they dared go before hurriedly returning to the city. Though they’d been paid handsomely, they were superstitious men and feared the unknown. The young man found himself alone and aching. The blistering heat made the grains of sand painful to walk on, but he knew it was far more dangerous to remain idle. He wandered across the sand for hours, the sun beating down on him relentlessly. There was no shelter, no food, no water and nothing living that he could see. But there were the voices. The air wavered and danced, whipping at his clothes and his hair. Invisible fingers clutched at him as voices -young and old, high and low -- urged him to stop, to rest, to sleep. He kept moving. He was determined not to look at the wavering air in the distance that beckoned to him. Instead, he began to sing. His voice cracked from being so parched, but he sang still. He had a clear voice, melodious and true. The voices and whispers faded. The wind ceased
male counterparts. More cunning, more resourceful. Man was far more likely to fall before a beautiful mask than a hideous one. “The Djinn rule the desert, as all know,” the young man stated. The Jaini clicked her tongue. “The three who came before you did not believe so. They did not know me, nor my brothers or sisters. They did not believe.” The young man replied, “They only sought to cross and bring back riches.” The Jaini’s smile was sharp. “That is what all want. Wealth. Something to possess,” the Jaini paused. “But not you,” she mused. The flames of the Djinn’s eyes flared brighter, hotter. “What do you want, Singer of Sands?” What a question to be asked! None had ever done so before. He had always been told what to do, but now he had been asked. The shepherd remembered his father, who had no love for him. He remembered his sisters, who had no need of him. He remembered his brother in-laws, who thought nothing of him. He remembered the city-dwellers whom did not see him. He remembered the orderlies who had beat him. And he remembered his flock, who needed him and loved him in their own way. “I want to be free.” The Jaini was quiet for some time. All was still as flaming eyes looked deep into the young man kneeling in the blistering sand. “You seek freedom,” the Jaini murmured, crouching before the young man who kept his head bowed. “Will you look at me boy?” she asked wonderingly. The young shepherd met her fiery gaze. His eyes watered and his body went rigid; but he did not look away. The Jaini smiled. “I can set you free,” she told him. “I can make it so that you will have no master ever again.” “How can you do that?” he wondered, his voice hushed and hoarse. The Jaini reached out and cupped the shepherd’s face in her hands. Her hands were incredibly warm, but not painful.
Consumption Consumed Liv Rouse
young shepherd held very still. Though the figure looked to be that of a mortal woman, flames danced and smoldered in the place of human eyes; there were no whites, no irises, no pupils. Simply flame. “Djinn,” it purred. “A clever shepherd whom has not forgotten us. How honored we feel. The young man knew the tales of the Djinn, the Ifrit. They were creatures of flame and wind who took the lost and unwary traveler to their hidden city deep in the desert. And the Jaini were said to be more dangerous than their
She leaned in close and spoke against his chapped and cracked lips. “There is one who answers to none. No man or beast, nor to time nor space. He shepherds all, even those who wander -- he eventually finds them. All must return to him.” She carded her fingers through his hair. “Do you know of whom I speak?” she sighed. The young man shuddered, and flames were all he could see. “Yes,” the shepherd breathed. “Who is it?” “Death.” The Jaini smiled against the shepherd’s lips, crooned as she closed her eyes. “And Death you shall be.”
An Interview with Liv Rouse Artist of “The Divine is in Everything”, “Consumption Consumed”, “Body Works” ITALICS MINE: What was your inspiration for your pieces? LIV ROUSE: The inspiration comes from my own personal experiences with body acceptance. I want to strive for a world where people don’t feel the need to change the way they look to appease society. I want to eliminate beauty standards and live in the beauty and the divine that is in everything. I turned outward to find ways to become more comfortable with myself, consuming a lot of media and realized that had the potential to make me a very judgmental consumer. I want to remind people to strip away their judgement and see what they are seeing, and to not blindly consume things without giving thought to them. IM: Can you discuss your creative process in crafting these pieces? LR: I always start out writing. Making work comes from having ideas so I try to free write or have a stream of consciousness for a few minutes before I set out to work. This often leads to questions I have which I will research and supplement with readings or additional content. I’ll then allow myself to draw out ideas, typically a figurative approach, where my brain has made connections as well as leaps. Thinking about how color functions in my work comes as I work through the mood of what I’m creating. IM: What excites you about the artistic process? LR: When I draw something and it makes me laugh it’s like a breath of fresh air. I get so into work that allows me to have fun and play. There’s a lot of energy when you’re holding a brush or a pencil in front of a blank expanse. It can be anything you want it to be, as far as your mind can expand inward and then some. It’s so freeing. IM: What is your most embarrassing habit as an artist? LR: My most embarrassing habit as an artist is that I don’t like to paint with shoes on. I’ve gotten a lot of strange looks from people in passing which I don’t particularly mind, but it’s when I leave the studio barefoot and walk into bathrooms or down the hall without realizing that it becomes a funny thing.
The Divine is in Everything Liv Rouse 105
Curdle Kayla Lunden The day doesn’t quite hang around like she’s waiting for me to get started anymore. January’s always been a little tough love, a little bit like salt’s all we got so take it or leave it and You take it by the handful, or mouthful or whatever you’ve got left to carry something that stings. And you don’t got much, let me say. The day doesn’t bring around much color anymore, like she knows better than to waste it on me. Sickly pale sky, salt-sprinkled on dried embalming, standing between me and all that blue. Evenings come quicker, stay longer, rub against the edges of night that puncture it clean through, tears sometimes leaking deep purple or blue and I watch them spill or watch tv, there are nights when those feel the same, I swear All those veiny navies and mauvines bursting on sky or on screen or on sweater sleeves it’s all the same. There are days now, that no matter how I water the plants, things still seem stiff. Some mornings I will finish a tea filled cup, and draw back the curtains to find it only curdles the last sip faster.
Haze B Madison Janetsky
Projected Onto and Through the Landscape Matt Cullen This constitutes a perpetual ungrounding. The shuffle of pages searching for the reminder. Aye, there’s seldom ever a cup in which it all could be held; instead, they insist on those frequent mittens, as if they’ll really keep us warm. But I’ve found, rather, that these memories fizzle when touched, or shift in one direction or another, which we can’t predict, and subject ourselves to nonetheless, as if they hope for us to feel some predestined isolation from ourselves. We traverse the interior only to find a lack of anything resembling a cross-stitched pattern; yes, even the tiled floors seem to be arrayed in a fashion meant to move us away from or over them. An indiscernible flag raised up against a sky I can’t quite recognize in its familiar absence of memorabilia; the flag, on the other hand, I simply can’t recall. He walks, stops at the stoplights, remains parallel to traffic. Their vehicles, to her, seem to be waking (at the behest of those who pilot them, blind against the rays just now filtering in over the intersection). In the darkness passing them by they distinguished few shapes, hardly even the events illuminating their designated objects. Maybe it was that, how the dark seemed itself brightened (no doubt due to a glasses-induced glare, but we nonetheless enjoy indulging in these theories). Memory, aided photographically. I watched the taillights arranged before us, how they rearranged and scattered. The highway functions as the island’s spine. For too long I’ve dwelt in this house of etymology, now I am the adamic namemaker, the procreant, arbitrary taxonomist.
Desert Asterisms Jon Mecca
The Meek Emily Czerwinski May God have mercy on tawny field mice who burrow into tightly-knit nests. As Frost claims their sleeping bodies, winter moves her calloused hand over barren land; Mothers furiously spin white wool into bright scarves that lay noose-like over necks. Weave advice into the threads, tell their children to Go and scatter! Dash out of homes into natural high grass mazes seen from branches grazing heaven. As talons unhinge, untangle themselves, They will lift you up to a less cruel life. Blessed are you, trembling children. Go inherit the earth.
Lost in the World Chelsea Muscat Italics Mine
Uncoming Winnie Richards From my bed on the edge of this seaside town, which is usually called Stonington but is also sometimes called something else, I hear her coming again. In the kitchen in the rumbling tummy of the morning the coffee pot chuckles and the toaster oven claps its lovely hands. The dogs are singing all the time these days. The fat bread knives nod their heads in time. I am buttering bread and feeding the dogs and all across the house I am raising the blinds. And all the while the train is coming quickly and the sea is here and calling out the time. Today she took the train away from my bed, and on the empty platform the sleepers are up and moving. At home, the evenings are softer now, but their rooms are hollow. I keep all the lights on, to ensure this is not the big sleep. I pull up the carpet and staple it back down. The dogs arenâ€™t hungry tonight. I lie awake, straining to hear the toasterâ€™s wistful pop, so I might know I am not alone here. The bread knives only shift and knock when I bump against their drawer. We lower all the blinds, me and the sea. Once itâ€™s dark, we sit still and wait for her to come again. We sniff and shuffle. We check the time.
La Residenza Eden Russo
Bud Kayla Lunden A voice like bubbles sparkles, budding through the receiver, calling me home. And sand spills out the speaker, I hear you try to gather it up. I tell you bubbles and sand can both shimmer. I say allow it spillage. Laughter crackles, white and strong like coconut, shaving just as good. Your nutty chuckle soothes and wraps around me, fingers kneading shoulder muscles hard and kind. I miss the way weâ€™d watch the moon in my room on weekends, pomegranate seeds that bleed onto our fingertips, stain beneath our nails. My bedroom hallowed, pillows catching quips we belted over fits of cackles, strummed guitar that glides in air like, bubbles. Tonight, the rivers run as racing tigers. They weave through trees, and canâ€™t remember why they run until the water leads them gently, home.
Chivalry Latricia Morgan Italics Mine
Helpless Desire: A Review of Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You Patrick Preziosi Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You opens in the men’s bathroom below Sofia’s National Palace of Culture when our unnamed narrator exchanges twenty leva (Bulgarian currency) for sex with a young, wayward Bulgarian hustler named Mitko. Our protagonist is enraptured by Mitko’s confidence, his undeniable sex appeal, the sound of his voice. Even after fumbling through the language barrier, our protagonist and Mitko disappear into a bathroom stall, unwittingly setting off a winding timeline of coupling and recoupling, passion and frustration, and the lingering threat of violence. Much of What Belongs to You follows the protagonist’s borderline destructive relationship with Mitko:. “My first encounter with Mitko in a betrayal, even a minor one, should have given me greater warning at the time,” the narrator states in the very first sentence. Because of this one encounter, a polite spiraling of events occurs, some unexpected, yes, but when paired with Greenwell’s methodical tone, all are rendered with a sense of indisputable inevitably. For example, upon inviting Mitko over for the first time, the narrator plainly remarks how he, “recognized the foolishness of bringing this near stranger into [his] home.” Our protagonist has a slight savior complex–– later in the novel, his new boyfriend R., calls him a “big American” who just has to fix everything.
It’s in the novel’s midsection where Greenwell makes clear some of his more obvious influences, while also providing a framed narrative that expands beyond the conventions of the well-to-do-teacher-suddenly-seduced story. Greenwell maintains a certain faith in his reader, jumping back in time to detail our narrator’s upbringing in the American South through a painful retelling of history evoked on the occasion of the narrator’s now-estranged father falling ill. The narrator seems likely to fit in the shape of Eric from James Baldwin’s Another Country, another queer man whose intolerant, Southern upbringing somewhat explains a bout of European rootlessness.
With the omission of more formal details, as well as Greenwell’s narrative economy, such sensations are delivered with a concise interiority (“and then I sank to my knees, taking him in my mouth”). Events happen, and our narrator is quick to offer the implications, whether they be emotional, political, symbolic, etc. It’s a disruption of narrative convention that works, such as the depiction of the narrator’s childhood, whose politeness and length are highlighted as byproducts of the South. Greenwell presents his narrator’s personal history with an emotional gravity and individual context that rightfully outweighs the typical formalities of a story of its kind.
Both authors share the ability to write about sex and desire in an equally transcendent and crushing manner, but Greenwell forgoes Baldwin’s sculpted prose for text that spills forth like a waterfall: sometimes unwieldy, but always immersive. Even the dialogue is delivered secondhand, as if just another fact of the events the narrator has decided to share. Only after a closer reading does the formality of the text appear as a façade for just how cruel some of the dialogue could have been (i.e. when the narrator’s father practically disowns him for being gay, it’s still delivered in the now familiar tone, despite the gravity of the event).
[208 pages. Picador; Reprint Edition. $13.60.]
For Greenwell, it seems as if catharsis should be as economical as possible, as with a pained meeting between Mitko and the narrator later in the novel. The narrator already has apparent trouble comfortably accepting his sexuality entirely, and the burden of desire Mitko places upon him does nothing to alleviate this: “How helpless desire is outside its little theater of heat,” Greenwell potently writes at one point. Desire smolders between the two in a McDonald’s bathroom, and when Mitko leaves, the narrator feels one of his more gutting sensations of shame, saying, “I was sick, I was infectious and children came here,” while wiping down all the surfaces he’s touched. Just within two lines, a world of shame and longing is embodied.
Bruja Born: Witchcraft, Zombies, and the Grim Reaper Come to Brooklyn Justin Blatt On the surface, Zoraida Córdova’s novel Bruja Born seems to be just another fantasy story, further saturating the genre, but it stands on its own. It follows Lula, a Latina bruja, or witch, living in Brooklyn, as she brings her boyfriend back from the dead, along with a dozen or so of their now-zombified classmates. Córdova’s work is refreshing, seeming to both sidestep fantasy clichés entirely and, at the same time, unabashedly write the stereotypical fantasy in her native yet fantastical Brooklyn setting. As Lula puts it, “Magic transforms you. Magic changes you. Magic saves you. I want to still believe in all those things.” It is the magic especially that sets Bruja Born apart from superficially-similar fantasy stories. Its magic is firmly rooted in the Latinx culture of the characters, who call themselves brujos or brujas—although they’re quick to point out that they’re not witches, “brujas may be witches, but not all witches are brujas.” Their practices, or brujeria, are often presented in The Book of Cantos, a book that each family owns detailing their family’s history, knowledge of their gods (the Deos), and most notably, the cantos—rituals involving candles, flowers, and other materials. The Creation of the Deos, another nested book, describes the origin story of their gods. This helps the bruja’s magic and culture feel, if not real, then just as deep and complex as our own, with their own gods, philosophies, and prayers that can mirror or even overshadow ours. But the magic also feels alive—grounded in the culture of the people. The brujas tend to have individual powers, which they consider to be blessings and gifts from the Deos, but
even these individual differences tie communities together. Families come together on an individual’s “Deathday” to provide a bruja with their family’s blessing and celebrate their powers in a cultural analog to a bar mitzvah or a quinceañera. In this book, culture and magic aren’t just sacramental, reserved for penance or reverence of their gods; rather, they are celebrated and lived. The characters often will turn to the cantos to deal with their problems—some mundane, like making potions for a cold, and others profane, like the one that Lula manages to retrofit to resurrect her boyfriend. But all of them feel alive, even putting on a face-mask:
Córdova casually wades through such dangers. For example, Brujas are one of many magical species in a fantasy potpourri. At one point, Lula’s mother, a bruja with healing powers, goes to deliver a half-mermaid, half-human birth, noting casually that mermaids are technically already half-human. Witch hunters exist in the story, but rather than let the story devolve into a dichotomy of “us vs them,” the hunters seek peace with others, including supernatural species. Córdova clearly prioritizes the story of Lula and the other brujas, allowing the fantasy background to enrich the world rather than defining the world through the supernatural. Outside of Córdova’s canny sense of fantasy tropes, adding fantasy without justifying it works because of Córdova’s tactful building of Brooklyn as a place and community. This isn’t a fantasy story that happens to be in New York City. Rather, it’s a story about people tied to their communities and their home, in Brooklyn.
“One by one, she places each petal on my face. She hums until she’s covered every inch of pearlescent scar tissue and I’m wearing a mask made of roses. She pushes her power into the rose mask, and slowly, it takes on her magic. The petals heat up and soften, melting into my scars like second skin. […] Her face, right where my scars should be, darkens with red splotches. I recognize the recoil of glamour magic bruises and redness that match the person being worked on. All magic comes with a cost. The cyclical give-and-take of the universe to keep us balanced.”
[336 pages. Sourcebooks Fire. $10.99]
Family and community are integral both to the magic and to the fantastical New York the story takes place in. Lula, at the center of the narrative, is closest to her sisters, Alex and Rose—they would do anything, break any law or taboo, for each other: “I can see the war playing out in my sister’s mind, but I know she’ll give in to me. She always has because she loves me.” Surrounding them is the brujeria community —who are family until you introduce danger to their community or threaten to expose their identity. Other circles and communities follow, like the alliance of supernaturals, concentric circles growing wider and less intimate, eventually encompassing Brooklyn. At times, it seems the book will slog through cliché fantasy tropes, making it generic in the worst sense, but
Wrestling with Self Jordan Reynolds
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS RACHEL BEVACQUA is a sophomore Photography major who transferred to SUNY Purchase in Fall 2018 and has fallen in love with it. She is currently focusing on printmaking and creating etchings like “Right into the Wrong” (with all of her prints for sale!) as well as photographs, drawings, sculptures, and paintings, in hopes to share this work in the Forum Art Space in the fall. She is headed to Puerto Rico for the spring break service trip in an effort to help provide relief from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. ANA BLANCHET is a poet working on her dual undergrad degrees in Creative Writing and Literature. She has previous work published in Gutter Mag and Submit Mag. In her free time she likes to sew and read, and currently is trying to grow chamomile in her dorm room so she can make her own tea. JUSTIN BLATT is a Literature and Psychology double major, and plans to pursue a PhD and eventually become a Professor of Literature. His favorite genre of literature to both read and write is fantasy, with science fiction being a close second. LAUREN BLEIWAS is a junior Printmaker at SUNY Purchase. She is very into outer-mind vibes and looking into the mind’s eye. Her mediums of choice range from wood/linoleum cuts to etching of stone and copper. Her instagram is @Artium.psyche. LEANDRA BOMBACE’S heart belongs to a world of monsters and magic, as a lover, writer and student of fairytales and myths. A native New Yorker, she hopes to travel the world to collect more inspiration for her stories. She has been previously published in SUNY Dutchess’ literary magazine, Exposed, as well as Italics Mine - Spring 2017 and also by Z-Publishing, in their New York’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction compilation. KATE BROWN is a senior Literature major who loves Emily Dickinson with their whole heart. When they are not working on their senior project they can be found writing poetry or reading. DANNY BUNYAVONG is a senior studying Creative Writing at SUNY Purchase. His topics of exploration often cover that of love, depression, and loss. When he is not studying or writing, he lives and works as an upholsterer in Millbrook, New York.
ANDRES CORDOBA is a Creative Writing and Literature major. He is well-meaning. SARAH COUTURE is a Painting and Drawing Major currently in her second year at Purchase. One in a mess of directions her work is going in, she loves to draw and paint things she loves, using bright and happy colors. Her background before coming to Purchase is in illustration, and she especially enjoys incorporating elements of the Fantastic into her visual subject matter. MATT CULLEN is interested in the constraints that writing a bio imposes on them. They will now list objects around them from which the reader might deduce something of the entity in question: books of poetry, empty cup of coffee, jazz, uncapped pen, the dread of continuing this bio, the relief that the bio has ended. EMILY CZERWINSKI is currently a sophomore at SUNY Purchase. They are studying Literature and hope to be employed one day with this degree. Currently, they own six notebooks and are actively working on buying more. NICHOLAS DINIELLI is a junior Literature major at SUNY Purchase, with an interest in novels and poetry, and a minor in Political Science. His work covers topics like social dynamics and power. JOSHUA GAGE is a Junior majoring in Communications. He enjoys his classes in Creative Writing, Songwriting, Film Studies, and Communications. Joshua credits his wonderful professors who have given him the skills to great storytelling which will be very useful as he pursues a career in Communications. YANCY GARCIA is a transfer student, now studying in the Jazz Conservatory here at Purchase. She is 20 years old, born and raised in New York City. Yancy gets inspiration from anywhere around her and loves to write because she finds it to be restorative. EMMA GRIFFITHS is a senior Playwriting/Screenwriting and History double major. They have wanted to be a writer since middle school, and have had work featured at Abingdon Theatre in New York and had another work published by Harmony Ink Press. They look forward to what they hope to be a long career making stuff up. LASSITER JAMISON is a student at Purchase who wants to be an author. He's aiming to one day have his books displayed at the airport or possibly if he's really lucky, on a grocery store checkout line. He doesn't have any specific inspiration for a good deal of his writing and it mostly comes to him like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, trying desperately to tell him something and vehemently against his wishes to earn money. MADISON JANETSKY is a senior Sculpture major. Her work breathes through a world of mysticism, relying heavily on themes of spirituality and senses of things beyond the physical. She thinks a lot about folklore and allegory, sci-fi, and the natural planet.
DANIEL KURIAKOSE has a beard. The beard wants water. The water is a cup of water. YUKO KYUTOKU is a Japanese artist who specializes in painting, drawing and printmaking. She completed her Visual Arts A.A.S. at Westchester Community College in 2016 and is currently pursuing a BFA in Painting/Drawing and Printmaking at SUNY Purchase. Yuko has exhibited her work in many art magazines and newspapers in the United States and United Kingdom, including Submission Magazine, Create! Magazine, A5 magazine, AA Magazine, NY Japion, and Syukan NY Seikatsu. ALEXANDRA LAZAR is a senior Visual Arts Interdisciplinary student with a focus on Painting & Drawing and Printmaking, and they are minoring in Art History. They have been making art their whole life. They love all things that are colorful and bright, and they like to think their work shows that. JAKOB LORENZO, also known as Monoculus Rex Murum, is a junior in Graphic Design, rapper, actor, musician, and animator. They are most known for their ongoing series of surreal (and sometimes disturbing) self-portraits. Not one to speak linearly, they wrap all of their work in layers of metaphors, while leaving the interpretation up to others. They are currently working on their second full-length album, Skull Crack Gurry Dip, which they plan to officially release later this year. KAYLA LUNDEN is a junior Arts Management and Creative Writing student at SUNY Purchase. Despite transferring from SUNY Fredonia, and being born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Lunden has never quite gotten used to the cold, despite the extreme weather that is the norm in both previous places of residency and seems to always creep into her work. Her prominent genre is Poetry, however she also writes fiction and creative nonfiction pieces, as well as her own pop/blues/folk/funk music, which sometimes also incorporates elements of spoken word poetry. She also enjoys painting and hopes to explore photography and film. RYAN MAJORS is a junior Creative Writing major at SUNY Purchase, with a concentration in poetry. His interests and daily activities include, but are not limited to monster hunting, toy car racing, macchiato guzzling, and shoelace tying. His poems have been featured in Gutter Mag. GIO MARTIN is a Painting/Drawing major in their senior year of goofing off. A queer illustrator whoâ€™s stressed but always dressed, their work spans many a medium and centers around topics of anxiety, imagination, humor, body image, and glorious food. As Seen On: the walls of the Stood! SHANILLE MARTIN is currently a junior/senior Creative Writing major and Psych minor. She enjoys all forms of writing, but especially historical fiction. FINOLA MCDONALD is a New York-based poet and writer. She is a recent graduate of SUNY Purchaseâ€™s Lily Lieb Port creative writing program and loves this little magazine very much. You can find her work in Breadcrumbs Magazine, Gandy Dancer, and forthcoming in UCity Review and Flock.
JANELLE MCNEIL is a second year Playwriting and Screenwriting major with a minor in Global Black Studies. She was born and raised in The Bronx with her mother, older sister, and two older brothers. More often than not you can find Janelle writing a script, listening to music, or hanging out with her fellow R.A. friends. JON MECCA is a senior Communications major and Journalism minor from Milford, Pennsylvania, and has an Associate of Fine Arts degree in Photography from Sussex County Community College. He started skateboarding at the age of 9, which eventually introduced him to the world of photography, and it led him to picking up his first camera at 17. His main subject matter consists of skateboarding, portraiture, music, and documentary. His work has previously been featured in the Purchase Beat magazine as well as the Purchase Phoenix. JORDAN MEILAND is a freshman at Purchase. He is from Brooklyn, New York. He is undeclared. LATRICIA MORGAN, also known as @TheArtsyPlug on Instagram, is a Bronx born and raised African-American young woman. She loves photography because it gives her the freedom of expression without saying a word. Often enough she stumbles on her words but behind the camera she is a sharp shooter. CHELSEA MUSCAT is a filmmaker and photographer passionate about exploring the world and capturing the human essence in every visual form. KYLE NOGUERA is a senior on his last semester at SUNY Purchase. Studying to become a teacher while honing his skills as a writer, this is his second time submitting to Italics Mine Literary Magazine. He spends his time writing his novella Journal: Jeff Halloway and watching bad movies with friends. ACE P.B. is a performer, writer, and producer based out of the New York City area. They are currently a Senior at SUNY Purchase College where they are pursuing a double major in Theatre and Performance & Arts Management. They have been featured in many different performances on campus including Rent, Attempts on Her Life, To Be Heard, and the upcoming immersive experience The Dream Factory: The 60 Most Fascinating People. IMANI PARKER, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, is a Creative Writing Major, set on exploring intense emotion, memory, reality, and the imagination, while navigating that which relates to her identity as a black woman through her works. PATRICK PREZIOSI is a Literature student currently finishing his senior year at SUNY Purchase. He is also a freelance film, literature and music critic, writing for PhotogĂŠnie, Electric Ghost Magazine, the Purchase Phoenix, Irish Film Critic, Toy Records, and more. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. JORDAN REYNOLDS is currently a junior at SUNY Purchase. Originally they are from St. Paul, Minnesota. They have been making art since the age of 5, but stopped for a short while because they didnâ€™t think being an artist was a viable career choice. Recently they decided that there are no right
and wrong choices in life, only choices, and they didn’t want to go the rest of their life not choosing to be who they are. WINNIE RICHARDS is a sophomore Creative Writing and Literature double-major, from the Catskill Mountains, NY. She has two dogs, and cooks a mean coconut curry. TONI RIZZARO is a fourth year student at SUNY Purchase majoring in Cinema Studies. Their love has always lied in film, but has dabbled in other forms of art since their youth. Ongoing themes in their films deal with mental health issues, reflecting their personal experience with anxiety, depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder. They cope with their art and although there’s a darker edge to their work, they find solace in the idea that there might never be a solution to their problems and they must accept them and live with them. LIV ROUSE’S bodies of work focus mainly on the human figure: introspective, meditative, and resisting against semblances of form. Exploring ideas of consumption, their paintings seek out what the human mind yearns for and what the product is of such desires. Their work is transitioning into a dissection of the physical and mental acceptance of individuals through challenging the preexisting gendered lens. EDEN RUSSO is a Painting and Drawing major from Brooklyn, NY. She works primarily in drawing/ collage medias, oil and acrylic, but is always experimenting and combining techniques! A lot of her work stems from constructed places, memories and familiar feelings. KEEGAN SAGNELLI is an Arts Management and Creative Writing double major in his junior year. When Keegan’s not writing poetry, he enjoys living vicariously through his Sims and making music. MADISON SVERCEL is a junior Psychology/BSVA student from Long Island creating works that incorporate both fields of study. Madison’s practice focuses on the body in its rawest form, ideas about the self, and the human psyche. Through materials like, plaster, paint and fibers, Madison aims to create a feeling of familiarity and softness while keeping a very sterile exhibition of her works. JAELA VAUGHN is a second-year student and is an Arts Management major. This is her second time being published in Italics Mine. XINGYUN WANG is a Painting and Drawing sophomore at SUNY Purchase. She is an international student from China. Her works are primarily on watercolor and oil. VEE WEEKS uses her major in Creative Writing and her minor in Psychology to explore the human mind and create conflicts among different human minds in her writing. When she’s not busy doing that, she spends her time impulse buying, watching Insider videos, and drinking copious amounts of Starbucks.
Italics Mine ISSUE 16
Issue 16 of Italics Mine