The Tower 2021

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Copyright © 2021 The Tower University of Minnesota Department of English 207 Lind Hall 207 Church Street SE Minneapolis, MN 55455 Printed by Versa Press, Inc., East Peoria, IL Cover Art: Meditation on Postmodernism, Jaxon Bonsack, digital collage

Thank you! We would like to thank the following organizations for their generosity and for making it possible to publish the 2021 edition of The Tower. For a full list of donors, please see the back of this issue.

Letter from the Editors in Chief The Tower as a Catchlight Despite the undeniable difficulties this year has brought, we have seen hope permeate society in many ways. Whether facing global challenges or personal struggles, communities have come together to pursue positive and lasting change. The 2021 edition of The Tower reflects these experiences and more through the lens of art, poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Fundamentally, a catchlight is an artistic representation of reflection and illumination, demonstrated by the light in a subject’s eye. A small but transformative element of craft, a catchlight helps bring life to a painting or photograph. When choosing this year’s theme, we aimed to capture the energy that keeps us moving forward and acting together; thus, we decided on “Catchlight.” The Tower provides an opportunity for students to reflect, capturing their real lives and the truths of their experiences on the page for others to see. Catchlight can also be expanded to become to catch light, which suggests striving for the ineffable and reaching for the ephemeral. These elements of hope capture the activism and engagement that continue to redefine life on our campus and in our community. The submissions we received reflected a natural waxing and waning of light, as well as the existence of light within darkness. We organized the magazine to follow the course of a day temporally and symbolically—starting with dusk, followed by night, and ending with dawn. Part one, “Reflect,” represents dusk, a moment to process and acknowledge the events of the past day. This section unpacks a difficult year but captures the good within the darkness as well. Part two, “Rest,” signifies the restorative period of the night in which recovery takes place and solace is found. These pieces represent collective healing and individual joy following a year of adversity. Part three, “Renew,” brings us into the morning, offering new energy and illuminating the way for change. We selected pieces in this section that demonstrate forward motion and hope for the future. Our sections—Reflect, Rest, and Renew—denote shifting but ever-present catchlights reflected in our submissions. The Tower has the opportunity to be a catchlight for our campus. The light within our collective portrait shines from the diverse people and ideas that give life to the University of Minnesota. The Tower, in turn, reflects our cumulative identities and experiences as a platform for creative expression. Sincerely,

Marley Richmond

Bryce Helmbrecht-Lommel

The Tower 2021 Staff Editors in Chief

Chief Art Editor

Managing Editors

Lauren Boyer Marley Richmond Addie Thomas

Bryce Helmbrecht-Lommel Marley Richmond Amanda Fort Lyric Hempler Shannon Hofer-Pottala Maddie Weber

Development Directors Allison Colsch Andie Krutsch

Anna Mamie Ross

Art Editors

Chief Fiction Editor Shannon Hofer-Pottala

Fiction Editors

Marketing Directors Lydia Morrell Addie Thomas

Zoë Foster Marietherez Glime Lyric Hempler Maddie Weber Matt Wolfbauer

Online Editors

Chief Nonfiction Editor

Lauren Boyer Marietherez Glime Katherine Longar

Design Directors Zoë Foster Anna Mamie Ross


Paxton Schmitz Matt Wolfbauer

Chief Copyeditor Amanda Fort


Lauren Boyer Zoë Foster Marietherez Glime Lyric Hempler Katherine Longar Lydia Morrell Addie Thomas

Lydia Morrell

Nonfiction Editors

Allison Colsch Bryce Helmbrecht-Lommel

Chief Poetry Editor Amanda Fort

Poetry Editors

Andie Krutsch Katherine Longar Paxton Schmitz

ArtWords Judges

Amanda Fort Shannon Hofer-Pottala Andie Krutsch Lydia Morrell

CONTENTS REFLECT After the Onion Skins Have Dried ■ Miki Schumacher 11 If you didn’t raise me to be this way, then who did? ■ Maddie Stumbaugh 12 Mother Person Mother Person ■ Quynh Van 13 Meditation on Postmodernism ■ Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack 16 Ping-Pong Is Our Language ■ Annie Zheng 17 Masked ■ Callianne Jones 20 Something Familiar in This Stranger’s House ■ Aithanh Nguyen 22 Seeing ■ Gabriela Sierra Bedon 25 Desert Girl ■ Adelle Schlensker 26 Jason with a Hangover ■ Barbara Shaterian 30 Soulmate ■ Nina Afremov 32 SBF, or Why I Am No Longer Discussing Sex with Straight People ■ Trinity Fritz Lawrence 33 heralded by tiamat, awoken primordial ■ Jonas Gleason 35 Bathroom View of Minnesota Coronavirus Deaths ■ Ruby Cromer 37 The Fool’s Archetype ■ Lauren Foley 38 Headline after headline ■ Zaynab Ahmed 42

REST 47 the real what-not ■ Alexis Ma 48 Sparrow with Holly ■ Marissa Munley 49 Wingèd ■ Lucy Brown 50 Underwater Volcano ■ Caroline Lynch 52 To the People I Wish I Knew Better ■ Heba Abuad 55 forever lost in rose gold skies ■ Emily Heilman 56 Corfu ■ Adam Foster 58 Irish Towns, Mystical Lands, and Rolling Countryside ■ Rae Sayovitz 62 Feeling Disconnected ■ Maddie Stumbaugh 63 waiting for test results on a cold day ■ Molly Thompson 64 Inhabit ■ Callianne Jones 66 Chokecherry Burial ■ Miki Schumacher 68 Structure ■ Ruby Cromer 70 Soy Kitchen Origin Story ■ Miki Schumacher 71 Shiloh and the Plant ■ Megan Lange

RENEW 77 We Ask the Police ■ Nikki Ashtiani 78 Mending Wounds ■ Laura Kuchar 79 The Garden of Eden ■ Quynh Van 81 Blue Desert ■ Caroline Lynch 82 Santa Monica ■ Jonas Dominguez 86 Phoenicopteridae Urbana ■ Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack 87 it is easy to forget you were a child, once ■ Syd Huntimer 90 now we see dimly ■ Brenna Kelly 91 The Trophy Room ■ Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack 96 An Understanding ■ Demitria Sabanty 97 Love Note ■ Lauren Foley 98 Stinging and Sour ■ Emily Klesel 99 To Live in a Woman’s Body ■ Baily LaFleur 102 Lady on the Platform ■ Adam Foster 104 3227 Ulysses ■ Madeleine Ware 105 The Seventh Day ■ Nina Afremov

ARTWORDS Aubade from a once remembered place ■ Miki Schumacher 112 The Difference ■ Madeline Schultz 113 The Crunchiest Crunch ■ Maya Thariani 116 Hands ■ Clio Johnson 118


After the Onion Skins Have Dried Miki Schumacher

Come home with me, you said over bitter orange juice and white-noise cicadas, your tongue dripping sweet like burnt caramel sugar or ripe honeysuckle sap. You said the word home like it was something you could be sure of, like sunrise at dawn, or stomach aches after whole milk ice cream, or the warmth of your breath at the back of my ear at dusk. I imagined my mother in our creaking house, how she would cut onions in half only to hide them under her bed as offerings to ghosts and sickness that would otherwise split us from ourselves—I am sure that the scent follows me even now, soured with soft spots and the kind of stink that makes your nose crinkle back into your skull—But still, you said home in a way that didn’t remind me of rot, so we walked from Minneapolis to San Jose, watching the ground melt into dreamcolor, watching our feet slip on ice, slip on sand beneath our hollow shoes. Have you ever seen the ocean, you asked, and we watched the moon come up out of the sea from your bathroom window, and I breathed in deep the scent of shellfish and brine, and I swear I saw my mother floating there, chopping onions in the moon’s white tide reflection.



If you didn’t raise me to be this way, then who did? Maddie Stumbaugh, acrylic

Mother Person Mother Person Quynh Van

Her mother had never been warm and fuzzy like children’s books write mothers to be. She could be quiet and cold, and Linh knew her mother was lonely before she knew what loneliness was. But Linh also knew that she was loved. It had always been just the two of them, and two was just enough. All children have this moment when they realize that their parents are people, shocking them out of their small and reverent worlds, but Linh always knew somehow. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to, if she would have preferred to have some years, believing that her mother’s only face and purpose was to be her mother, not this person with feelings and thoughts and worries that had nothing to do with her. The little moments growing up where she’d peek from behind the wall and catch her mother alone, looking out the window, furrowed brow, or nights filled with bellyaching laughter only to wake to hear soft sniffles through their paper-thin walls. Linh could tell she was trying to be quiet. She knew her mother wouldn’t want her to come in, but Linh would wait for her to fall asleep, keeping an ear out for her soft snores before she would close her worried eyes. It made her love her mother more, knowing that she was someone long before Linh and still that someone when she thought Linh wasn’t looking. “Linh, breakfast!” she heard her call, buttoning up her school uniform. She ran down, socks sliding on the stairs to see her mother sitting at the table waiting

for her. They ate breakfast together, the morning light streaming in the kitchen. Her mother had asked what color she wanted the kitchen cupboards when she graduated elementary school as a present. Linh said green. They painted them the next day. Her mother always understood her to be a person, too, not just her kid. Linh was right anyway, a green kitchen was much better to live in. She shoved her leftover eggs onto her mother’s plate. “You don’t want both?” her mother said. “They’re a little too wet,” she said, making a face. “It feels like I’m eating spit.” “Okay, now I don’t want my eggs.” They both were laughing when the doorbell rang, making them jump. They looked at each other, wide-eyed. They never had guests. Her mother slowly got up and opened the door, then stood there, stunned. “Kim.” Linh curiously walked over and stood behind her mother’s shoulders to see a woman looking at her mother with a nervous look on her face. They were all silent until the women’s eyes shifted to Linh. Her mother turned around and, looking flustered, said, “Linh, this is my friend from college, Kim.” Her mother didn’t have any friends. Not once in her eighteen years did she see her go to any dinners, birthday parties, reunions, or even talk to the neighbors. They only had two teacups between them because they never needed more. FICTION


“Hello,” the woman said smiling at Linh, eyes scanning Linh’s face as if she was taking her in. Linh nodded. A stretch of silence followed when she looked to her mother to see her still standing, speechless. Linh invited the woman to come in. It was strange to see someone who wasn’t them in their house. She was suddenly very conscious of the stain on the carpet where she had spilled orange juice last week, and the blanket that was tossed carelessly on the couch, and the wet eggs on the table that were getting cold. Eggs aside, she saw their home through the eyes of this stranger, and it made her smile. It looked lived in, comfortable, and cozy. The woman seemed to feel the same way, sitting on the unfolded blanket. Linh set out the teacups for the women and reluctantly said goodbye to go to school. Distracted the whole day, she quickly walked home, hoping the woman was still there. She wanted to know who her mother was when she was young. Was she wild? Beautiful? The class clown? She ran through the front yard. Was she always lonely? She quietly snuck in through the front door, hearing voices in the living room. Trying to be as quiet as she could, she tiptoed in without taking her shoes off and peered behind the wall. They were both still sitting on the couch, teacups now empty. The woman was sitting crosslegged across from her mom, the cushions sagging beneath them. Their knees were touching. “And the man said he wouldn’t sell it to me and do you remember what you did?” Kim said, laughing hysterically. Her mother was laughing, wiping away tears, “I stole you that chicken.” “You stole a chicken.” 14

“I just remember feeling so determined. You wanted that chicken and I was going to get you that chicken.” “You always did anything to make me happy,” Kim said, reaching over and wiping her mother’s tears away with her thumb. “I just remember being so happy.” — Their laughter slowly died as they looked at each other seriously, her mother softly moved her head back and Kim quickly took back her hand. They both looked down. “How’s Lee?” her mother asked. Linh knew when she was feigning nonchalance. “He’s fine. He’s with the kids,” Kim answered. “Ah, they’re probably all grown-up now, like my Linh.” “It’s still strange to see you with a child,” Kim sighed, “time moved fast didn’t it, Mai?” They both looked at each other now, their eyes passing memories, secrets, and a sadness, knowing that those memories and secrets would always stay behind the eyes, never to surface. Linh held her breath, scared to break the intensity in the air. She recognized those eyes on her mother. She knew she would never know what was behind them, that her mother would never let those secrets skimming beneath the surface come up for air. It was so quiet, Linh didn’t even want to blink. “We were so young. Someday was so far away. And now, someday is rude enough to show up, before I invited it,” the woman whispered, breaking the silence. “I don’t mean this in a morbid way, but it feels like I’m just waiting for the end, knowing the end will always find me here. There’s nothing more, this is it. Nothing will change.

“Whether I die tomorrow or ten years from now, it can just find me here. There are no other ‘somewheres’ to go or ‘someones’ to be.” The woman looked at her mother with soft desperation. “I can’t explain. . . it feels as though there’s nothing left to feel, as though anything I feel from here on out will be less than I’ve already felt.” “Like you’ve already sucked dry everything life has had to offer,” her mother suddenly said. Kim’s eyes lit up. “Exactly.” “Is that so bad, for death to find you with a cup of tea?” They smiled, knees leaning into each other. The women said goodbye soon after. They didn’t hug. Linh pretended to walk through the door again and took off her shoes. Her mother made dinner for them.

Eating a spoonful of rice, Linh glanced up at her through her lashes. Her mother was someone so familiar to her: she knew every wrinkle on the corner of her eyes, the way she laughed when she found something really funny, her favorite way to cook rice. Yet, sometimes Linh would have this jolt of shock. That this person she was sitting next to, eating next to, and sleeping next to, was a complete mystery to her. This stranger she would only get glimpses of. Her mother caught Linh’s eyes, that strange glimmer of something hidden in them that made her eyes precisely hers. “What are you looking at?” she asked. “Nothing,” Linh replied, shrugging and looking back at her food. “Mai.” They both smiled and ate, knowing they’d never talk about today again.


Meditation on Postmodernism, Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack, digital collage

Ping-Pong Is Our Language Annie Zheng

When I walked into the basement that day, it was not my older brother nor my mom battling my dad from the opposite end of the ping-pong table, but an empty space. My dad had been practicing by himself, hitting tiny, white plastic balls against the wall. Over and over again until a pile of balls rolled across the wooden floorboards. My dad looked up when he realized I was watching from the bottom of the staircase, just sitting, and he smiled like he was letting me in on a golden secret. “Do you want to try?” he asked me. At the time, I was eight, and what I knew was this: my dad was the best ping-pong player in the world, he only ever accepted challenges from those he considered worthy, and he had just invited me to play with him. I said yes, of course. In those first few weeks when I began playing against him, I never learned how to hold a paddle “properly.” Most of how I played was based on intuition, which led to me ham-fisting the paddle like a toddler told to hold a fork for the first time. I thought I was doing well enough, but apparently not, because my dad eventually called me out on my “American” grip. He demonstrated with his own paddle. “Pinch the handle with your index finger and thumb at the base of the board. It gives you flexibility, unlike that grip you have right now.” I changed my grip to the two-fingered, Chinese standard, testing it out.

Unbelievably, the gap in score only widened and I switched back almost immediately. — I think regardless of whether anybody in my family realized it, we all shared a sense of pride in the sport. My dad especially. Whenever the Olympics rolled around, our family would stay updated on the scores, rankings, and matches between China’s and the world’s top elite. It was always a celebration whenever our countrymen swept the podium. For my dad, it was pride, and then it was something more. Growing up, my dad had to scrounge for money and for food in the dirt recesses of Fuzhou’s derelict countryside. He lived on a farm that grew very little, and he was also the baby of four siblings, which meant he received very little. Ping-pong, for him, became a way to feel special among the many grainy rocks in the mountain valley’s thick grass. And when he immigrated to America, that pride for ping-pong extended to pride in his country’s success. — When I was twelve, I hated being Chinese. While other kids got to ice skate and have sleepovers, I spent my weekends swiping cards and taking phone orders at the front counter of my family’s Chinese buffet. It stunk. Literally. The smell of grease and sesame chicken clung to my clothes for days, even after I threw them in the laundry—extra detergent included. When I went to school, classmates would sniff the air and ask if kung NONFICTION


pao chicken was on the menu for lunch. It was humiliating, especially when those same classmates showed up for dinner, and I had to guide them to their tables. At some point, I tried to broker my way out of working, but my mom stopped me right there. “But why?” I asked. Nobody else my age worked. All I wanted to do was go hang out with my friends, play Pokémon, and maybe loiter in our town’s sole Dairy Queen while whittling away our weekly allowances—or in my case, my weekly wages. She had heard me complain enough that I was starting to sound like a broken record. “Your brother worked more than you. Why are you complaining?” I whined, emotional. “But I want a life, too. Other kids don’t have to do this.” Her answer cut. “You’re not like other kids.” Underneath her steely gaze was heavy fatigue. Fatigue from working fourteen hours every day; fatigue from raising children with an absentee father. She probably said this as much to herself as she did to me. Between the years of twelve and eighteen, I rarely recall seeing my dad for longer than a few weeks at a time. He spent a lot of time overseas in China, building business opportunities and relationships with people who were better drinking buddies than business partners. The time we spent together continued to dwindle until, one day, he was a stranger. That wasn’t to say that we didn’t still have our moments. I took piano lessons for the better part of my youth, and when spring piano recital season came, he always sat in the front row. His eyes brimming with pride. Afterward, he would offer to buy ice cream 18

from Culver’s as our little celebration. I pocketed those few precious memories I got with him. But more often than not, we were strangers; and more often than that, we waged battle on opposite sides of a war. We argued. A lot. There was stonewalling, door slamming, and one-sided beratement that lasted hours without rest. In truth, I should have been exhausted. But each time his eyes flickered candid distaste, I wanted to shout louder. — I resented the summers our family would return to China. We’d spend weeks, oftentimes months, there. It was hot, it was buggy, and it was miserable. I went there three times between the ages of eight and eighteen, and each time, my attitude became progressively worse, later reduced to ill-tempered fits about the fact that I’d rather be anywhere but there. The summer that I was eighteen felt like one continuous fight with my dad. One of the things relatives liked to remark about my dad and me were our physical similarities: broad shoulders, flat nose, square-ish face, and a prominent mole toward the top of our foreheads. The list went on. But our similarities extended further than our appearances. I had a penchant for snark; he was prone to losing his temper; and we both were as stubborn as bulls. Our breakthrough came one simmering evening inside a nice restaurant during our stay in a Beijing hotel. I didn’t talk; in fact, no one at the table talked. Waiters would tip-toe our food over, suffer through our thick tension, and scurry back to the kitchen where they could breathe easy again. I made a casual comment

about how cold it was inside the restaurant, then adjusted the strap of my tank top. The landmine exploded. My dad started yelling at me for my dress; I glared back through watery eyes; and my mom was the neutralizer, trying to bring us back to peace. “Why? What’s wrong with the way I dress?” I cried, sobbing. It wasn’t just about the way I dressed. “You’re not an American,” he yelled. “You’re Chinese!” “What if I don’t want to be?” He looked so broken. He buried his face in his hands as tears of frustration refused to fall. “I just want you to be happy. Why won’t you be happy?” If I had ever developed the fluency for Chinese, I probably could have recited back to him why I felt the way I did. But then again, if I could have spoken Chinese fluently, we probably wouldn’t have had nearly as much miscommunication, lack of communication, and angry communication as we did. While he mourned the loss of a proud daughter, I mourned the loss of an empathetic father. The dinner was left to go cold that evening. Over the course of months, we gradually returned to our state of normalcy: my dad resumed his solo business ventures overseas, and I went off to college. Slowly, our relationship reoriented itself back to that of strangers. — When the pandemic hit, I was forced to move back home. It was another messy process, fraught with arguments and periods of silence. My mom was the hardest hit with the transition, being stuck in the middle of our father-daughter Cold War yet again. One

night, she coaxed me into talking to my dad. I didn’t so much as “talk” to him as I did invite him for a game of ping-pong, our first in many years. I chose ping-pong for many reasons. The first of which being that it was neutral territory; the second being that it was a wordless affair. We played a few games to eleven points. He won the first and I took the second. I had been in a ping-pong club in high school for one year, but I wasn’t remarkable. So, it came as a surprise to both of us that I won the second game. My dad wasn’t the immovable being I painted him out to be. He was taken aback when I switched my grip in the third game. “You didn’t use to like that hold,” he said, pointing at my hand. I followed his finger to where I gripped the base of the board with my index finger and thumb. I shrugged. “It was interesting to use against classmates. It took them by surprise.” It probably took him by surprise more than my unsuspecting classmates. We sat at 0-0, and it was his turn to receive. I waited for him to get into position. “It’s a good hold,” he said at last, his face marred with an indeterminable expression. I stood a little straighter. “It is,” I said, slowly agreeing. The rush of childhood nostalgia swept over me. It was like we were transported back to when I was eight. Back then, we had a clumsy back-and-forth. It wasn’t me versus him or him versus me; it was us. Nodding, I readied myself for a serve and let the ball fly across the table, aiming as if I were hitting the wall just like my dad. I used the grip he taught me. 19

Masked, Callianne Jones, photography

Masked, Callianne Jones, photography

Something Familiar in This Stranger’s House Aithanh Nguyen

Sitting on a metal chair at this long white table, I am surrounded by something familiar in this stranger’s house. In front of me— a large bowl of beef broth with rice noodles, bean sprouts, and basil. On the left— a cluster of ladies blurting out guesses on who the unknown faces were at church. In the back— young mouths slurping down their soup, eager to get back to their video games. Outside— a thick smoke filled with men drinking out of green glass bottles. “Hey, has anyone started cutting the fruit for dessert yet?” “Honey, sit down and finish all your noodles before getting back to your friends!” “Babe, we need more beers in the cooler!” Nothing new here; Nothing I have not seen or heard before. I recognize everything around me, on all four sides in this stranger’s house. Yet, everything I find familiar makes me uneasy, lost. I’m sitting at the edge of my seat, unable to grasp what is around me at this long white table. 22


Nothing new here; nothing I have not seen or heard before. I breathe out and say— “I know I’ve been in this seat before.” An hour passes. In front of me— an empty bowl with a pair of chopsticks placed horizontally on top of the ceramic. On the left— conversations of public matters dying down to private affairs. In the back— screams of an intense Mario Kart match. Outside— faint sounds of glass bottles clinking together for the hundredth time. “Hey, everyone! Aunty is leaving now.” All chairs push back, everyone on their feet. An act of instinct, one we all share. “Goodbye,” we say together in one breath. Our two-syllable greeting in perfect unison. The old aunty quietly makes her way around the long white table, giving hugs to those she knows and shaking hands with those she does not. I extend my right hand and give her a smile. I do not usually shake hands at this part. When was the last time I had the privilege of hugging someone at this part? 23

She reaches for my hand, smiles back, and thanks me for joining her family. I choke up. I can’t move my lips to reply back. My eyes are wet. My smile flattens out. I want to lunge my arms around this old aunty. I want to call her mine. I want her to say, “Oh my, how tall you’ve grown!” I want to reply, “I hope to see you again, very soon!” I sit back down into the metal chair. Nothing familiar about this seat now. It’s not mine; nothing here is mine. My metal chairs and long white tables are folded up, collecting dust for what feels like years now. Nothing new here in this stranger’s house. Just something I have not seen or heard in a long time in my own home and I am not sure if I will hear or see it again.


Seeing, Gabriela Sierra Bedon, water soluable oil

Desert Girl Adelle Schlensker

You came to our house for dinner almost every Sunday. I used to kneel on the floor and peer out our front window, waiting for your green Nissan to turn down our cul-de-sac and pull into our driveway. You first came in the spring when the air was just beginning to heat and everything smelled like orange blossoms. Dad did not warn me you were coming the first time you came, and when you arrived, your skinny arms and skinny legs and stringy hair frightened me. You looked like a living skeleton. I feigned illness and hid in my bedroom for the rest of the night. Spider, spider, I whispered into my pillow. It felt good to insult you. You, who had forced your way into my home. I wasn’t as scared the next time you came. I stared at the floor because I could never look adults in the eyes yet. You were barely an adult—eighteen years old—but I, only eight years your junior, still couldn’t tell young adults from adults. Still, your long arms and legs shook me. Our town in the desert was full of people who were short and round and soft. You looked human up close. The veins and pumping arteries under your skin were more immediate. You looked more alive than anyone I’d met, and maybe that was because you were already half-dead. Your eyes were dull brown, like my leather shoes that melted onto the blacktop in the summer. Your skin was pale, clear of beauty spots, besides the mulberry birthmark on your tear duct. You always had gray-green circles under your eyes, and they 26


creased when you smiled which was always, too. You told me you loved calculus and mini poodles and you were a great skier and made your own earrings. You told me you went to college in Chicago and you were learning how to play the guitar. You had an affinity for everything I asked about. Drawing? Love it. The Rolling Stones? Love it. Babe Ruth? Love it. Making dinner for you was a two-day job, at least. Friday afternoons were spent with my mom at Food Festive Supermarket where we’d browse every aisle with our shiny, steel shopping cart. The shelves were a parted sea that uncovered mountains of canned vegetables and neon stacks of cereal and snacks. Grocery shopping was a leisure activity for me and anyone from my town; unlike our houses in the desert, the Food Festive had air conditioning. Saturday morning, Mom stuffed casseroles with zucchini, cheese, and chicken; fried string beans with garlic and onions; and smothered cake with applesauce and Cool Whip. Then she’d wrap it all in cling film and store it in the freezer until Sunday. By summer, you were letting me braid your hair and I sat by you at dinner. You’d pinch my arm under the tablecloth when you teased me about my messy room and unfashionable glasses. After dinner, you and I would clear the table and wash plates and forks in the double-sink. You told me stories, then, about what you were like at my age and said we could’ve been friends if we had

grown up together. Aren’t we friends now? We were not. You said it was because we were like sisters. I did not see you as a sister. I was infatuated with you for reasons I am only beginning to understand. I was not a lonely child, though perhaps I didn’t know companionship well enough to recognize loneliness. I clung to you like a teddy bear that summer. Dad joked he didn’t see me when I was there, bathing in your shadow. The days you were away, I spent looking forward to the days you were at home, and when you were at home, you never stayed long enough. Before dinner, we laid towels on the blacktop and drew chalk pictures of our favorite places—Alaska for me and Arizona for you. I wanted to draw Arizona so we could be matching, but I hated the hot days that repeated themselves over and over. They never overtook me but nearly, nearly. You may not have been so lucky. I wanted you to come for my birthday, so I asked to throw a party. I wrote “Cordially Invited” and “Celebrate!” in round cursive on five pieces of pink stationery. Invitations were sent to Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Pat, two girl friends (no boys allowed), and you. Mom and I scrubbed the floors, vacuumed window screens, swept under couches, and dusted the TV stand. “Happy Birthday” was strung up in the doorway. It rained the day of my party so we made a spice cake instead of angel food. My grandparents drove Auntie Pat to the party because she lived alone and had no car. She always whined when she talked, and Dad said that was why she never met a man who would marry her. Mom said it was because she was a lesbian. Auntie Pat

whined, “Happy Birthday, Sweetheart,” which must’ve taken all her energy because she collapsed onto the couch as soon as the words were uttered and stayed there for the rest of the party. Grandma and Grandpa patted my head and gave me a card and eleven dollars. We sat in the sitting room talking about the people we knew who had died since Easter, which was the last time my extended family had seen each other. Then, my girl friends arrived with friendship bracelets and Astro Pops. Dad served them lemonade then retired to his room to watch the Diamondbacks game because, in his words, my friends gave him a headache worse than withdrawal. We ate cake, watched a movie, and then everyone went home. You didn’t even come to watch me blow out my candles. That was the first time you disappointed me. The paper cups and sugar-coated dishes that littered the sitting room were remnants of the party that could be rinsed and put away or thrown into the garbage. But forgetting the party altogether was not so easy. To forget was what I wanted then, even more than for you to come to my party. I wished I had never mailed that invitation so you couldn’t hold it in your hand like hard evidence. In my eleven-year-old brain, the invitation was a symbol of love, a declaration that I cared about you and needed you. I imagined you showing your college friends in Chicago the invitation and laughing at the absurdity of a child’s birthday celebration. Hot tears of humiliation crumpled my face like wet tissue paper and I called you ugly names all night. — When I was fifteen, a boy asked me to go for a walk in the desert. His arm was over 27

my shoulder, which cramped my shoulder because I was taller. He couldn’t wait for sunset like I wanted, so we kissed in his Jeep under golden sunlight. The car was hot, his skin was hot, and his lips were burning. He touched my breasts while I looked out the window. When he was done, I asked him to drive me home. He took the highway away from the sunset. You were in the sitting room when I got home. Dad was talking to you about Chicago, and you were looking at your shoes. I hadn’t seen you in four years, but you looked familiar. Your arms and legs had rounded slightly and the dark circles under your eyes were more prominent than before. Your hair was overgrown with split ends. You told my dad you had graduated from college. You were looking for a job but no one was hiring. Then the student loan payments started coming in and you ran out of money. So you scraped together your quarters and dimes and drove back home. You had been living in your green Nissan for a week before you came to our house. Mom laid a blanket on the couch for you, and Dad called the brick factory about a position while you took a shower. We all ate dinner together again, but there were no casseroles nor cake, like Mom used to prepare. Still, you couldn’t get the spaghetti with sauce from a jar down fast enough. You helped me wash the dishes and for the first time since you came back, you looked at me. Are you in high school now? You were such a little nugget last time I saw you. We both giggled. It was surreal talking to you after so much time, like the years you were away had just dissolved into the past. You told me about what you were like in high school. I asked if you still played the 28

guitar and you said you didn’t remember a single chord. You majored in political science and wanted to be a divorce lawyer but couldn’t imagine attending any more school. You wanted to visit South America, but traveling was expensive, especially for the unemployed. I laughed at that. I wanted to be a girl who could laugh at grown-up jokes like she knew something about the world. In truth, I knew nothing beyond the provincial life I had always lived. After my parents went to bed, you took me outside to smoke my first joint. I coughed and coughed, but you just laughed and pinched my arm and looked me in the eye. The mulberry birthmark at the corner of your eye turned magenta and a rose gold haze settled about your shoulders. You taught me how to take a hit without coughing and how to clock a guy in the gut. Your words blurred before my eyes like sunlight on water, reflecting a thousand rainbows into the stars above us. My body became the desert sand and your eyes mirrored the moon. The next morning, the couch was empty and your green Nissan was no longer in the driveway. You had stolen the TV, Dad’s Gibson mandolin, my silver watch, and two family-sized bags of potato chips. The words you last said still lingered in my mind. They felt filthy and tarnished with deception. I was ashamed to have enjoyed your company and wished for the second time to forget how you betrayed me. I thought if you didn’t dwell in my memory, then you couldn’t hurt me. But as I’ve learned now, forgetting only made it easier to trust you again. — I was on my way to Wicker Park to meet a friend for lunch when you sat next to me and spoke my name. Your voice arched up at the

end full of questions and confusion. I didn’t remember forgetting, but I wasn’t lying when I said I didn’t recognize you. I couldn’t place your face because it had been ten years since you showed up in the sitting room. To me, you were just one of the many hophead burnouts who begged for cash on the train. But the mulberry birthmark at the corner of your eye was unforgettable and I began to laugh because it was you, and you were sitting next to me after ten years. I called my friend to cancel our plans, then rode the train to Damen. We sat in the park and talked about what a coincidence it was to see each other. I said I was in grad school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and you said you were too. You had worked in Phoenix for four years before coming back to Chicago to get your doctorate. When you finished, you wanted to move to Guatemala and live in the mountains. When you spoke, your hands shook and your upper lip had a sheen of sweat across it. Your red, glassy eyes darted around the park, looking everywhere but at me. Soon we were discussing our weekly dinners, and I began to question the reason for inviting you to our house all those years ago. My parents were not friends with your family, and we were not neighbors, so why were you our house guest every Sunday? At

that, your eyes settled on mine, full of mirth. My life was a mess. You spoke like you were telling a joke. I needed a sponsor and your dad took me in. But I’m clean now, been clean for six years, I swear. I wanted to trust you, but the shakes, the sweat, the redness in your eyes told me otherwise. Please, I said. Wait right here, I’ll be back very soon. I stood and walked to the nearest take-out restaurant. Confusion spilled into my consciousness at overflow capacity. My memories took on an entirely new meaning. No wonder you were so gaunt and unhealthy, no wonder you stole from me, no wonder you skipped my eleventh birthday. I was an accessory, just the little kid to entertain. Nothing more than an interruption in the life you were trying to escape. But you meant everything to me when I was young, and even after everything, I still cared about you. When I came back with fish tacos, our park bench was deserted. Later that night, I tried to look you up in the UIC student directory to get a telephone number, address, email, anything to reconnect with you. Your name did not come up in the online system. I called the helpline. I’m sorry, said the man at the other end. There is no one with that name in our records.


Jason with a Hangover, Barbara Shaterian, photography

Soulmate Nina Afremov

He tried to convince me that lies were an act of love And the more elaborate a deception is The more he cared about me. As I sat alone on my cream-colored couch one night, The first of many evenings of solitude, A glass in my hand a quarter-filled with transparent gold, I grew to understand that a soulmate is not someone you can love But someone you have the capacity to forgive. I shake awake with nightmares now— I wake up in tears as if I saw all my loved ones die twice. The same nightmare on repeat. I sit up in my moonlit bed shaking, Salt trailing on my translucent cheeks And I ask myself why his touch left my skin burnt And wonder how I’ll ever be able to live again. I slowly lie back down Moving through nylon darkness Trying not to catch my heart on the clinging black air And I think up an elaborate apology to myself. I say sorry for putting up with people who took advantage of me, For putting up with people who didn’t deserve me Just because I wanted to be loved. I am sorry, And I bring myself to accept it. I lay my head back down on my lilac satin pillowcase And my sheets glow a rose hue As I fall back asleep.



SBF, or Why I Am No Longer Discussing Sex with Straight People Trinity Fritz Lawrence

my ex-best friend told me her boyfriend ate her pussy but it’s okay, she’s still a virgin. but oh i forgot, i guess that’s all sex is for you guys. you know that part in fried green tomatoes when they throw flour on each other? yeah, that’s lesbian sex. lesbian sex is: eye contact over the kumquats in hyvee, covert camaraderie in a glance we both know means more. lesbian sex is: listening to allen ginsberg read howl. that’s it, that’s an orgasm. lesbian sex is: texting your not-quite-girlfriend-yet (it’s complicated) that you’re a virgin so just FYI, and she says she’s one too. lesbian sex is: never ever ever ever talking to each other. but never stopping once we do. POETRY


lesbian sex is: political like washing your hands is like going out without makeup like #metoo and a little red sticker. lesbian sex is: masturbation (gasp) with myself (gasp) a lesbian. lesbian sex is: schrödinger’s sex like no dick? no strap-on? what do y’all even do? lesbian sex is: none of your fucking business but don’t die wondering, darlin’


heralded by tiamat, awoken primordial Jonas Gleason

i know her husband. he had offered to introduce us once before, but i blushed and declined in fear of the echoes of fingertips clicking one by one on the seafloor. she came to me in the form of the octopus. beak half-hidden and dangerous her arms tangled and wiggling as eight and eleven and one. my mind assumed that she was unwelcome; her gaze was quick to inform me that i had stumbled into her domain. my audacity she found amusing. my blood was not of the right smell. the gentle-bended tank’s glass served as the sounding board to luscious breath. thousands of years of words imparted through the view of the cephalopod adoring herself with her many limbs.



“my creatures are something, are they not?” her voice rang in a cerebral vibration, her outspokenness daring me to reply. i was a stark whiteness, to pale in her beauty. her knobby skin sang of eons of weather. tiamat reached into the shelving of rock. removing a treasure from her crux, she dangled a loose-hanging arm at me the peak of masculine sexuality and disposed of it promptly. from behind the glass her mouth struck barbs in me. as my blood burst forth with poison, i could see the smile behind it all. as i left, her tentacles suctioned off of me. i returned to her husband’s embrace my wounded mind awash painfully with salt.


Bathroom View of Minnesota Coronavirus Deaths, Ruby Cromer, photography *projected data which was originally sourced from the Minnesota Department of Health on November 2, 2020

The Fool’s Archetype Lauren Foley

Derived from the Latin limens, the word liminal translates to threshold. Like the Fool in tarot, the heart of liminality lies in its fatal flaw: its ignorance. There is no fear. There is no wonder. There is only the road and the walking, a duffel thumping against the half-heart crescent of your shoulder blade, the sharp lip of a cliff unseen until you’ve already tumbled over the edge. It’s August. My first roommate and I sit on the gray woven carpet, blankets we bought for this room around our shoulders because the building’s AC is unadjustable and arctic against the sauna outside. We’re already unpopular on our floor because we unpacked that morning with our door shut but windows open, hanging sweaters and storing school supplies to the crackle of nervous, fresh-picked laughter from the sidewalk below. We eat Hot Cheetos under the eye-drying din of standard-issue fluorescents and talk. We’re without our families for the first time, and the weight of it sinks its elbow into the divots between our shoulder blades and drives out the laughter that doesn’t fit inside us. So we laugh—at our gossip or at ourselves or at our new lives—and the sound of it is built on the foundation of years already spent together, aching in the comfort of its hometown melody. Our bedroom could be any room, if not for the parenthetical arches of our bodies, the string lights and polaroid photos hanging beneath her bed, the blue glass tree she’d given me for my birthday 38


that summer on the desk beneath mine. That August, it becomes ours. Come May, my roommate and I are still alone in the room. She bundles her fish tank—acquired in the spring, containing a waifish and furious blue betta named Gaston—in hand towels to protect it from a six-hour drive’s tumult. Across the room, I unstick Post-its and photo strips from the walls around my desk, unhook dangling garlands and paper boats from the lofted bed frame. Like always, I’ve saved packing my trinkets for last, and amid palm-sized clay cauldrons and loose scrunchies and strings of paper stars, I find the smooth glass tree. It’s nearly weightless in my hands, fragile. Yet sturdy enough to store the year: our laughter, our hope. Its body is reflective, and sometimes, in the years that follow, after she transfers to another university, I’ll cradle it in my hands, trace the trail of refracted light with my fingertips, and squint to see the mirror of our room and of the people we started as. Temporally, liminality is defined as the state of transition between one place and the next. Cynics argue that the present doesn’t truly exist—that every action is rooted in the past the moment it’s enacted, that every other action is future’s will. Liminality, then, is the honest present. Before memory, but after thought: the stretch of the overhead light to the floor before it’s had time to cast a shadow.

August again, and hotter this time. Hot enough to drag a mirage from the slick, black tar of the road outside our house and project it in repeat on our front porch. When I walk up, my new roommate stands at the top of the crumbling, concrete steps, keys jangling to a clock’s circular rhythm where they’re hooked, swinging, around his finger, the front door cracked open behind him. His hair is longish and pale green, pothos-dappled in the sun, brighter against the building’s brick walls. He holds out his hand for a handshake like we haven’t already been messaging for weeks. It will be months before I’m able to unearth this memory far enough from its grave to realize it’s been buried backward. Corrected: I stand on the porch and reach for his hand like we’re strangers. The front door is fully open, urging out dust and stale air behind me. The keys aren’t even outside, but in a metallic heap on the kitchen counter, still. Next June, like August, is hot, but unseasonably, skin-stickingly so. The heat clutters our apartment, fills in the gaps where my roommate’s life used to be—the bare patches on the walls, the gaps in the refrigerator doors. He has already moved out but returns to say goodbye. To me. To our other roommate. To the house, maybe—to all the things we loved to hate about it, our co-lived history already dissipating like dust motes in the balmy air. His hair is dark now, close-cropped, and older. Another memory mislaid to rest: we hug in the entryway or in the kitchen or on the sullen front porch. No excavation can undo the kaleidoscope of the house’s first goodbye. But I, eventually, am its last—the front steps swept, the door shut and locked, and the keys coddled in an envelope left on the kitchen counter, still.

In anthropology, liminality is associated with the lingering ambiguity or disorientation during a rite of a passage. It’s a pause or a hesitancy. It’s after the sun has set, but before the heat lifts: the memorialized warmth curdling under concrete and tar, the boundary between object and shadow blurred, the slick image on the road still smearing into the horizon. It’s a peach-sweet afternoon in September the first time I wake up and don’t know where I am. It returns quickly—too quickly, spinning into the already dizzied jetlag. A slim room. Textured white walls. I sit up and touch my hair, still wet from a shower, its damp shadow imprinted on the quilted pillowcase. There’s a crease on my cheek where I’d fallen asleep on my phone, the persistent buzz of incoming well-wishes having woken me. The light coming in through the gauzy curtains is too yellow, the warm air too clean and dry. It’s easy to understand how I’d forgotten where I was, but easier to remember where I am. I check my phone, then shut my eyes. It’s lunchtime here. Downstairs, the sound of strangers waiting for the notched, wooden doors to slide open trills into one song, a lilting murmur of melody in a language with so many corners I have yet to turn. When I open my eyes again, my head stops spinning. Depending on how you angle the clock, it’s either late night or early morning in December when I fall asleep for the last time in the room I’d once forgotten. The night pulls skinny shadows from the lamp on the nightstand and the open closet and the suitcase by the door. The sheets, tucked under my armpits and gathered at my chin, smell like my friend’s strawberry lotion 39

from when we’d lain together just minutes before, tucked together on the narrow bed, our voices scratching into record silence as we discussed the tomorrow that wouldn’t come in contrast to all the prior ones that had. Now, where there should be smothered laughter echoing down the hall or music curling through the window or playful goodnights exchanged outside painted bedroom doors, there is only the straight, blue stripe of the room. I turn my face into the pillow. The spinning aches when it starts. The liminal space, then, is the physical manifestation of the state of liminality. It’s often public or shared—an airport, a dormitory hallway. Any place that should be filled with people but isn’t. Any place where the boundary between night and day blurs, where time doesn’t operate how it should. Any place grounded in forward motion, even as the space itself spins to a stop. During my first college friend’s twenty-first birthday, we gather in my apartment. By the end of the night, we lie scattered across the halls like branches shrugged loose from the trees trembling outside in February’s bitter wind. The birthday girl falls asleep on my bedroom floor, facedown, casket-straight, her orange sweater made rosier by the glow of a salt lamp. Two other people are occupying the kitchen—one methodically scrubbing makeshift shot glasses, the other swaying her hips and humming senseless Spanish reggaeton. A third stretches out in the hallway, hands behind his head, occasionally asks questions to no one in particular or sits up to rub my back with foreign familiarity. I sit in the bathroom doorway, legs folded, eyes shut to better take in the 40

apartment—the wind, the snoring, the scrubbing, the humming. It’s far from silent, yet it’s pocketed like a silhouette in a winter storm, back bent against the wind and snow, hood pulled tight. By the time my roommate comes home, only two of us remain, bookmarked in my bed, blankets tucked around us like we’re children in a storm. That spring, I stand on the apartment porch, eyes narrow, a cool, May breeze tugging the end of my ponytail as though undecided in its attraction. Blueberry-flavored smoke unfurls from my mouth. I’m on the phone with my sister, and we’re talking about February. My friend’s birthday—the weekend before the world shut down. I admit that I’m thinking about coming home, repeat home, like saying it again will make one city feel more honest than the other. She hums, un-answer to un-question. I don’t know yet that in a few weeks, I’ll move out of this apartment. I’ll repack books and clothes and clutter into my car, pawn off February’s leftover Hawaiian Blue on the girl who chose it. That instead of the snow and wind that frosted my windows when I moved in, there will be rain. More drizzle than storm, the cracked sky will drum curious fingertips on my sunroof as I drive. The question exists, then, of how to differentiate between liminal space and not. But there is no answer. There’s only the feeling. Like whipcrack thunder in the daytime— the un-promise of it, the bubbling up to the surface of something that swore to stay below. A liminal space, perhaps, isn’t even the thunder itself, but the clumsy silence after. The emptiness. The burbling crawl back into motion after an unplanned pitstop.

It’s always August where we begin. An archetype: a story on the precipice of being told. In this year’s August, it’s the edge of September, the night before a full moon. I sit on the floor of yet another new roommate’s bedroom, sipping from a glossy can while he hammers together a bed frame. A second roommate—with whom I share a name and without whom I wouldn’t be sitting here, having met her just days before the birthday party—crinkles a bag of snack mix, the sound a backbeat to a conversation we’ll forget until we need to remember. The carpet beneath us is still wet from being shampooed, comforting in its dampness, in the soapy twang in the air. We plan for the year ahead—knickknack shopping, hiking trips, shared playlists. We laugh. At a joke, or at least at the number of times we’ve had this conversation. In other bedrooms. In other homes. It’s always August in the same way that it’s always what comes after. It’s a story in predetermined parts. The exposition unfurls from cars and trailers and airplanes, unreasonable heat, soon-to-be or old friends.

The action rises to the treble-toned Top 100 on the radio, or the twinkle of shaken keys, or the whisper of knitted voices. The story crumbles or climaxes at its unknowns—at its unpredictable weather and accidental goodbyes. The dust settles. The memories sleep easy. It’s always August in the same way it’s never August. An introduction framed by causeless laughter. August is the memoryin-the-making. August is a room in all its unseemly emptiness. In August, there is only the road and the walking, a duffel thumping against the halfheart crescent of your shoulder blade, the sharp lip of a cliff unseen until you’ve already tumbled over the edge. There is no wonder. There is no fear. Like the Fool in tarot, the heart of liminality lies in its fatal flaw: its ignorance. Derived from the Latin limens, the word liminal translates to threshold.


Headline after headline Zaynab Ahmed

My people are making headlines. Headlines so moving they bring me to tears. Headlines so groundbreaking they leave me shook. Headlines so powerful they scare me. Have you heard the news? More and more violence against Blacks in America.​ Unarmed Black people are being killed . . . by the police.​ And so this is what I see Headline after headline. I feel helpless. Ticking time bomb, America who is next? Every mistake I make, I’m scared. Every step I take, I’m scared. Every breath I take . . . I’m scared. “Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law.” I didn’t know this could relate to day-to-day life. Khiel Coppin used a hairbrush that was mistaken for a gun . . . dead. Trayvon Martin was getting a snack when he was accused of looking “suspicious.” He was unarmed and followed by a cop who was instructed to stop following him . . . dead. ​ Sean Reed’s death was witnessed by four thousand people on Facebook Live. Cops joke about his death after shooting him thirteen times in a row. Officers are put on administrative leave as they investigate. Investigate a shooting that was witnessed by four thousand people. On Live . . . dead​. “Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law.”



I feel helpless​ My voice feels like the only weapon I have, So I fight back with words. My words spitting bullets that bring chills ​down your spine. My tongue cutting deep into you as I yell, as I scream. I’m screaming and my voice is sore. I’m screaming so much. But, it isn’t enough. My words only bounce back to me. Off your defensive wall of ignorance. & my weapon is no match for yours. My bullets hit a wall but your bullets killed too many.

Your honor I object. This isn’t right. In the justice system that brings no justice. And as they say no justice, no peace. There will be no peace in my mind until injustice against us ends. There will be no peace in my mind until I won’t have to look over my shoulder. Teaching our children how to avoid the very people who claim to give us safety. 9-1-1 You can’t make that call because somehow, you’ll still lose.


We’ve had too many losses. Dontre Hamilton Eric Garner Michael Brown John Crawford Tanisha Anderson Walter Scott Alton Sterling Jamar Clark I could go on for what feels like forever.

In America . . . Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law. That is why my people are making headlines.



the real what-not Alexis Ma

there is a corner shelf selling for a dollar at a yard sale. it and the objects that rest upon its racks showcase the worth of a woman. a sturdy, wooden body that once occupied the interest of an east-facing window now shrinks in the yawn of sunset, nodding off to days spent fading, molding; sinking under dust and other trinkets that gave it purpose. a random depression in the frame, the purple bruise on cherrywood stain, then the right-most leg and how it bows under the immense weight of every little thing asked of it. oh, how the antique begs for mercy, tool-dependent and in need of some leverage, some definition of its own. yet, the keepsake urn is the centerpiece, dead weight lofty— a trauma just asking for attention. either that or the leaking bottle of K-Y; the saturated wood and used condoms tossed two shelves below. or the incriminating polaroids stashed away; the ones he flashed without her permission. when was the last time the shelf declared any vacancy? and when, if ever, will it be liberated? makes me wonder, as the silver dollar exchanges hands, whether it can withstand a single what-not more upon its shoulders, or if the objects are what keep its knees from giving out. POETRY


Sparrow with Holly, Marissa Munley, linoleum block print

Wingèd Lucy Brown

I saw a star one evening Shining lively, however distant, And lost in the vastness of sky. Yet as I peered closer I found no far-off radiance, But simply an insect Illuminated in a deluge of light. I contemplated this creature, Which flitted off into obscurity As I stared. And I wondered if it mattered If the endless twilight of space Was dotted with stars, Or the glimmer of a thousand lightning bugs. For if the constellations Were only the fireflies’ façade, Would we be any less inspired? Would we dismiss the stars as the earthly, Wingèd creatures they are? Or would we allow them into our hearts Just the same, To hang above our heritages, And forever guide humankind. POETRY


Underwater Volcano, Caroline Lynch, acrylic pour

To The People I Wish I Knew Better Heba Abuad

i. “Tension” A hurricane swept through your town In ‘02, except, your town wasn’t the only thing that Fell apart, was it? You did too. Instead of “me, myself, and I,” you are “Me, my shadow, and my regrets.” So, You jester loudly—anything to Drown out the way your soul begs To be known. I bet if I went back to Seoul, I would find you Shattered among pieces of Glass, sand, rubble, dirt. Because, right now, you are bright blue contact lenses Safety-pinned onto spikes of black hair, Closed off with ring after ring, Pretending to live. I know you think dressing up your hurt in Intricate tattoos and an industrial will make you Feel better, but it won’t. I know you are Violently allergic to any instance of the four-letter L-word, But underneath the glitter, I know you would Break down if someone said those three words to You. I know you. And I will wait as Long as you need for you to look me In the eye and accept yourself. 52


ii. “Healing” You say you want to move on, forget all that has Happened, but it is not possible; if you keep on this Way, you’ll live in denial and skirt away from Love. You have to take the good, the bad, the ugly and Make something of it. Can you hear the winds Wanting you to heal? They howl, “Night child / Come alive / Feel the rain / Hear our song.” They surround you, because love surrounds you; You just need to accept it. A phrase you should remember, though: Healing isn’t always moving forward—it’s moving Backward, tripping over yourself, lying, and a Mess—but I can guide you. Or she can, or he can, or they can. Ask and let yourself be held in our words. We will love you, because with it, comes Strength. Healing will take its toll, so you will need Love to fall back on. If I did not have the love of friends, I would Not be writing this the way I am now. I will have their love With me, and we will help you. Our words, like the breeze, Soft and comforting, new and cold, tease, “Sun, son / Come along / Take my hand / Touch the light.” The end of the tunnel is near, but You are sick of this tunnel, aren’t you? 53

iii. “Loving’s a Danger” What happened to you? You used to be Full of love. Now you never smile, except in Darkness, where nothing lives. It is Only your eyes looking toward Light. Noise is sleeping, so it is only You. I think what happened in September left A gaping hole in your chest, and you Let the world cave into you. The loneliness Snuck in through the hole, and you Allowed it to grow, watering it with criticism. That is why you walk with downcast eyes, Body slouching. Because you carry every day Of your life on your back. It is pressing down on you, squeezing Life out of you. You hold it in your heart. You hold it close, you hold it tight. It is Attached to you, and it is Yours. But, the pain can be eased. It can Be a reminder of your survival. You are not alone. I can help you. I can Lift your pain, so you can breathe again. If you look with your self, you will Find a friend at a door labeled “Resilience.” We will enter together.


forever lost in rose gold skies Emily Heilman

I float like paper kites do, raptured to some sunset paradise, drifting through elysium in bleeding watercolor, overwhelmed by impermanent splendor and searching for a beauty that could keep me— crystal rain and blushing skies and starlit nights that blink like eyes, watching clouds peel apart to confess of a world that’s turning, and turning away from me. I stare down at the earth through cirrus, stratus— and she is freckle-faced and laughing with all I’ve ever known, turning out of the sun, into her shadow— and I, I have chosen the heights, forever lost in rose gold skies, whispering welcome to the cruel fate of seeing heaven’s glory and seeing it alone.



Corfu, Adam Foster, gouache

Irish Towns, Mystical Lands, and Rolling Countryside Rae Sayovitz

I both heard and felt my phone vibrate from underneath my flat and lumpy pillow, pulling me out of the couple of hours of sleep I was able to get the night before. I quickly shut off my alarm as to not wake anyone else, squinting around the pitch-dark room. It took me a moment to remember that I was in the Railway Hostel—a hostel that sported vibrantly colored and mismatching walls and played songs like “Toxic” by Britney Spears in the lobby area—in Killarney, Ireland. It was time for me to crawl out of bed and pull on my hiking pants, lace up my boots, and hit the trail. Despite still feeling exhausted from the lack of sleep, I was ready to take in County Kerry’s stunning countryside. I noticed movement from the lower bunk next to me as Laura, my Canadian friend and roommate, started to begin the slow process of getting ready for the hike. Sliding on her big and round wire-framed glasses and gathering the rest of her things, I followed her lead. Getting ready for the day in dark hostel rooms when all the other guests are still fast asleep is never an easy feat, but we did so in record time and were able to take advantage of the hostel’s free “breakfast” before taking off on our hike. The “breakfast” really only consisted of bread—the toaster wasn’t even working—with jam and tea. But it was sustenance, at the very least. A rugby match played in the background as we ate and repacked our backpacks for the hike. We quietly discussed our last-minute plans, swung our backpacks over our shoulders, and headed out to the 58


tourist town of Killarney. It took us much longer than either of us would’ve liked to make our way through Killarney and follow the road to where the Kerry Way began. As soon as we took our pictures next to the wooden sign designating the trail to be the Kerry Way, we disappeared into the bushes and trees. I felt a sense of calmness wash over me. I was in my element, but this time, I was in my element on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. We followed the trail as it winded through the trees for a while, occasionally stumbling upon stone fences and trees worth climbing. And gradually, the trail made its way upward. As we reached the place where the trail began to level off to only a slight upward climb, I found myself slowing to a stop, spinning around in circles to take in my surroundings. The forest that encapsulated the trail was a vibrant green—something right out of a fantasy novel with woodland fairies and nymphs. I felt as though I had walked right into a mystical land somewhere, through a wardrobe, and far, far away. It took everything to pull my eyes away from the beauty of the bright trees and continue to hike a little further up the trail where we broke through the tree line and found ourselves quite suddenly among the foothills of Torc Mountain. The rolling hills ahead of us were barren except for the shrubs and yellow wildflowers scattered about. A fine mist lingered in the distance, offering us only a slight view of the

taller mountains that stood majestically farther away. I hesitate to even call them mountains—the Irish mountains are old and have been worn down with time to be tall, rolling hills. Still, the view I had from that gravel trail was everything, and I felt freer than I had in a long time. Tired, but exceptionally free. We stayed up there among the hills for a while, finding a little patch of short grass among the taller grass and wildflowers. There, we let our backpacks fall to the ground and our feet feel the relief of a short break for lunch. Peanut butter sandwiches and granola; also, a quick photoshoot with Laura’s tiny, crocheted travel companion: the llama named Ginevra positioned on top of her purple backpack. During that lunchtime break I vowed that one day, I would be back there, to sleep under the stars in the summer months when I’m older and wiser. The way back was significantly quicker than the way up, but with every step I took, I could feel the pressure under my feet and the aching in my hips. As we silently begged to be back in Killarney, we slowed to a stop beside a signpost that signified that we were coming upon the Muckross property. One of the signs stood out to us. Muckross Abbey. Laura and I exchanged glances, agreeing that we couldn’t pass up seeing an abbey. We followed the trail that the sign pointed to and found ourselves staring at the old stone ruins of what used to be an elegant abbey. Tombstones populated a little cemetery outside the large window, and we noticed a small group of tourists walking around the property and quickly joined them. Stepping inside the abbey, I wasn’t sure what I expected to find. It was small and not too extravagant on the outside, but inside, there

was a courtyard surrounded by aging, stone pillars. And there, in the center of the courtyard, stood the most ethereal tree I had ever seen. The branches of the tree stretched out wide; covered in bright leaves, and the curve of the trunk reminded me of something elven, bringing me back to the mystical land I had somehow walked into. A light, misty rain sprinkled over me through the opening where there once would’ve been a roof, and I felt myself smile ever-so-slightly as the little droplets danced across my face. Leaving Muckross Abbey had me feeling as if I was floating—or at least my mind was floating in a surreal moment. My feet and hips still ached, and each step only became heavier and more painful as I walked, grounding me back to reality. My body was, in fact, not floating. But after seventeen miles of hiking, we found ourselves surrounded by the familiar, brightly colored buildings of Killarney. Our hair was damp from the sprinkle of Irish rain that flowed steadily from the sky the entire way back, and our feet were so pained we swore we would never walk again. We ended up finding a place for dinner where we ordered some greasy fish and chips, rested our feet, and massaged our shoulders. The day had reached far beyond any expectation I had going into the hike. Besides the aching body parts, nothing had gone wrong. We were almost finished with our dinner when I decided to check my phone again for the time our bus would depart. I knew it left at 19:30, but I wanted to be sure. As I looked down at the prepaid bus ticket that would take us home to Limerick, I noticed that it said 18:30, not 19:30. I glanced up at the top of my screen to see the time staring back at me, taunting me. 18:50. 59

“Laura,” I started. I don’t think I had ever run that fast across a town in my life; especially in hiking boots with a backpack bouncing up and down against my back. Despite my best efforts and with near Olympic times, by the time I made it to the coach park, our bus was long gone. Laura came running in after me panting and looking around frantically, hoping for some sign of the bus. We checked the timetable only to see that we had missed the last bus to anywhere. The rain was slowly picking up as I dropped my shoulders in defeat. We were stranded in Killarney, now noticeably colder with soaked and aching feet. While I was on the verge of tears due to frustration, Laura, still a little out of breath from our run, calmly outlined our options. We had two choices. There was always another night at the Railway Hostel, or we could find another way home. Neither one of us wanted to stay another night at a hostel or had any desire to shower in the nasty hostel showers (and we were in desperate need of a hot shower), so we opted to pay an extra twenty euros for a train ticket and an additional three hours to get home. Gone were the feelings of awe and wonder I had felt walking through Ireland’s beautiful landscape. I was wet—hair matted down against my neck and water-resistant pants sticking to my legs—and grumpy and twenty euros poorer. I couldn’t even enjoy the rendition of “Travelin’ Soldier,” a song originally sung by the Dixie Chicks, that was performed by a drunk bachelorette party on the platform we waited on. I just wanted to go home. And I wanted my twenty euros back. The train ride consisted of two transfers: one that included an hour-long wait, sitting 60

on the idle train and snacking on baby applesauce that we had bought at Aldi before our trip, and some “peanut butter granola fingers.” They were Laura’s new snack. Take a finger, dip it in a peanut butter jar, and then into the granola bag. During this time, I tried to make peace with the loss of my money. It was the cost of a bus trip to Dublin, but it wasn’t the end of the world. I tried to remind myself that really, this was just an adventure I’d laugh about one day, but at that moment, I remained grumpy as Laura enjoyed her peanut butter granola fingers. By the time we were pulling into the train station in Limerick three hours later, we knew we had approximately five minutes to get across town to catch the last bus that went to our campus. Limerick was our home in Ireland, but we really lived on campus in Castletroy, maybe ten minutes out of the city. Determined to not miss the second bus of the day, my boots were tightly tied, and my backpack was secured over my shoulders before the train even came to a stop. We were some of the first people off the train and once again, we ran as hard as we could across an Irish town, through the rain, just praying that our bus wouldn’t be gone. I rounded the corner of the street and saw the red-and-white bus parked at its stop about two blocks down. I sprinted even faster, but the bus decided it had better things to do than wait for us. It pulled away from its stop and drove past me in the direction of home, leaving me standing in a puddle behind it, shivering. Laura ran up beside me and we both stood there defeated as it disappeared into the distance. Once again, we were left with two choices. Either pay for an expensive taxi ride home or walk along the river for another two to three

miles. At this point, we both agreed. What was another two to three miles? We weaved through the dark streets and alleys of Limerick—Saturday nights around midnight are not as lively as one would think—before finding ourselves on the paved path that ran alongside the River Shannon. Large lampposts lined the path, casting light over the wet pavement and puddles. We groaned and then began our walk, letting the rain begin to fall harder on us while the air grew colder, and our feet ached more and more. It was laughable, I realized. The very fact that we managed to miss not one, but two, buses in one day and how it led to a catastrophe of an evening. It took all the strength I had left in my body to drag my feet into each step the entire walk

home; at one point, I contemplated sleeping under a tree. But despite my body feeling heavy and soaked to the core, I couldn’t deny that I had just embarked on one of the most unexpected adventures of my life. When we finally made it to our student housing, Plassey Village, I found myself with a tired smile on my face. Sure, excited for that dreamy shower I was about to take and then the ten hours of sleep under my fluffy duvet, but mostly in awe by our adventure. Nineteen miles. Nineteen miles through Irish towns, mystical lands, and rolling countryside. Nineteen miles of pure, beautiful, and unfiltered adventure.


Feeling Disconnected, Maddie Stumbaugh, acrylic

waiting for test results on a cold day Molly Thompson

Autumn has fallen away in her quiet, expected death, leaving us waiting for winter’s arrival. The trees stand in stark nakedness, stripped of leaves and lacking in snow, as our paddles cut through chilled waters; water the temperature of ice just melted, or a can of Coke from the fridge. There is silence in our waiting, not oppressive in air, but still silent. As if a scream just echoed itself away and the earth had turned to see what happened—But it is just the thud of my paddle hitting the side of my kayak, and my knees shake as I try to catch the Coke can, sloshing, that rests between my thighs. It is the swivel-catch of driving on ice. Of the second’s breath when wheels stop and the car doesn’t as hands freeze on wheel and eyes catch. It is the stretch-moment before news is broken and Reality waits. She is patient, in the way she waits to be let in. She waits for you to go through all the five steps of grief, waiting at the other end for you, with a can of Coke and herself. Shit. She is still there. Waiting. And then there is denial—or at least curtness in your tone as you let her in. But, for now we wait with the browned naked trees, and crunchy grasses, and sometimes purple skies as early as five. This is the time of waiting. It is waiting for winter. It is waiting for Nevada’s polls. It is waiting for test results. It is the day when you realize you might be sick. When the days drag and the news breaks, in a slow but insistent freeze, gentle in its delivery. Like a rounded puffy pancake. But you don’t like syrup, so you put butter on it and watch it seep into the dough, slowly, before you put it in your mouth, wait. The taste is slow and round and you wait to sink your teeth in. Wait to swallow the heat. The moment is to be savored. It is like gambling, the dough-stretch second in time after the dice are rolled and there is a catch, in breath, in time, in the catch of light in your eyes. This is the epoch before Reality hands you the Coke can, pops it open, and watches you take a deep swig. There is so much time before you will welcome her in, before her warm fingers will interlock with yours and settle in for a nice, long walk, the two of you. But that moment will be silent and precious, and the lack of morbidity in it is bittersweet chocolate as it melts on the tongue, revealing crushed cashews and toffee bits. But this moment is a footfall on water, in the second you walk on water, in the second you are suspended above reality, in the second your eyes catch the purpled light of a sunset at five o’clock. The sunset came so early. POETRY


Inhabit, Callianne Jones, photography

Chokecherry Burial Miki Schumacher

The duck was lying motionless on the cracked, yellow grass when we found her. With her eyes open toward the beating sun and flies jumping laps around her body, we knew she was dead. Her neck was turned back at a restless angle, almost like the way you turn your head when crossing the street—a quick peek to make sure you are clear of danger, a glance to see what more could be coming. Maya and I came to this pond almost every day during the summer after middle school. Situated at the outskirts of our neighborhood below a sloping hill, it was a place hidden from the hawk-eyed gaze of both Maya’s parents and mine, though the neighbors still knew us as the girls that crossed through their backyards every day. We spent our evenings catching frogs and chasing butterflies, drunk on cottonwood seeds and the thick, evening air. The blooming pond algae, the chokecherry tree bending into the water, the tadpoles swimming between exploding cattails—everything here was our secret, from the dandelions under our feet to the wind rustling through the leaves. Since this duck was also part of our pond, it was only fitting to give her a burial. We dug a hole using only our fingers until the soil was too compact to scrape away on our own; the mud on my hands cracked as it dried, squeezing like gloves that fit uncomfortably tight. The duck was unexpectedly heavy, so we pushed her into the shallow 66


hole as gently as we could. It was a crude grave; the duck’s feathers were still poking out from beneath the surface, and the cross we fashioned from grass and sticks was ready to fall apart with the slightest breeze. On the other side of the pond, the land remained undeveloped. The woods were dense; even in the leafless winter, the trees were packed so tight together that you couldn’t see more than a few feet in. With the confidence of kids that can convince themselves that anything is true, we knew these woods held their own secrets. I told Maya stories about the sharp cracks and soft howls I would hear from across the pond, and she told me about the shadows that lived there. Maya told me that her cat ran away into those woods; there was something there an animal couldn’t resist. If we weren’t careful, I was sure we would disappear there one day, too. Looking again at our simple grave, I wondered if this would be enough to satisfy whatever creatures may be lurking. We walked back up the hill, and I swallowed hard knowing that the summer would soon be over. That night, over our microwaved TV dinners, I told my dad about the duck Maya and I found. His attention remained focused on the evening news as he mindlessly shoveled Salisbury steak into his mouth. I remember the day my dad threw rocks at a waiting rabbit. He wanted her to stop eating the irises, so he threw stone after stone from the porch trying to scare her away. The

rabbit never moved, and she continued to chew on petals, with half of them hanging limp from her mouth. One rock landed right on her head and she collapsed, petals blue between her teeth. If I was able to get a closer look at that rabbit, would her eyes be turned toward the sun too? Maybe she would be like the duck, sleeping with both eyes open, waiting for what could come next. I remember watching from the doorway as my dad wrapped the rabbit in a black trash bag and left; no acknowledgment, no trace. That night, I thought of how mallards sleep with one eye open, and wild rabbits with two. I tried to keep my eyes open for as long as I could—first two, then one, then falling still into the night. I thought about dead rabbits and how they cannot run. I thought of their blank stares while chewing on blue flowers, their silence under the threat of something larger than they can understand. I thought of the twitch of their noses in an autumn breeze, and how they will jump at the sound of a leaf falling onto cold concrete. I wanted to cup each into the palms of my hands and tell them to run, tell them to find a home that isn’t here, throw them to the sun and watch them sprout wings to go to lands only living in

imagination. When Maya and I returned the following day, our duck burial was gone. I convinced myself that it wasn’t really dead, that it got up and walked again like the cat out of Pet Sematary. Maybe it couldn’t resist crawling back to the woods, even after death. I didn’t want to think of my dad coming into our pond, digging up what we have buried here, finding all of our secrets hidden in the water and the algae and the dried snail shells. I thought of the woods and if we would be forgiven, and I knew I couldn’t tell Maya what might’ve happened. We moved closer to the edge of the pond, watching our reflections shiver in the rippling waves. I kept my eyes open when we kissed under the chokecherry tree, wondering if its leaves were enough to hide us from the eyes of the evening sun. I looked at the shining, red berries, how each one contained a trace amount of cyanide; I thought of how many seeds have already burst between my fragile teeth. I felt the fraying bark dig against the skin of my back, scratching patterns into me that only the woods knew. I kept one eye on the shadows of the tree line and another on the crest of the hill. I watched them melt together as our mouths traded secrets that would die with these woods.


Structure, Ruby Cromer, photography

Soy Kitchen Origin Story Miki Schumacher

i stir honey lemon tea / cold oolong black / reach hand over open palm / empty skin pink / hushed whisper across kitchen floor / lone amber drip / where did we begin? / maybe sprinkled in fish sauce / or fried plantain stiff / where electric hunger / digs pork grease / under broken fingernails / where did we begin? / and i see the moon in / a grain of rice / wax swelling / and waning / breaking under sun dried dust / tell me / if we stay inside / our almond milk heads / could we rest on the hardwood / for one more night / let my body become / mango juice linoleum slick / it is here we remember / where did we begin? / maybe soft / maybe still / maybe bubblegum elastic / bamboo slipper / silent exit echo / yes, i’m sure of it / we were here.



Shiloh and the Plant Megan Lange

“Pardon me,” Shiloh murmured as he shoved his way through the chilly, crowded city. He had one more delivery. The plant in his arms was heavy and unwieldy; with each step, he could feel it leaning toward the edge of his balance. At last, he arrived at the address, a towering apartment building. The doorman in front stood hunched over but managed to look up at Shiloh with cold, ancient eyes. “I’m here for a Mrs. Washburn,” Shiloh said from behind the sprawling leaves of the plant. The doorman slowly blinked at him. His wrinkly face peered out from his stiff, emerald suit like a turtle from its shell. “Friend or family?” he asked in a voice that sounded even older than he looked. Shiloh frowned. “I have a delivery.” “No solicitors,” the little old man said in his little old voice. Shiloh readjusted the weight of the pot, almost spilling it in the process. His fingers felt like they might break off against the freezing terracotta. “No, no. I’m not a solicitor,” Shiloh said, “I have a delivery for Mrs. Washburn.” “Mrs. Washburn didn’t say she was expecting any sort of delivery today.” Shiloh grit his teeth and tried to maintain a level head as the plant continued to weigh down his freezing limbs. “That’s because she didn’t order it,” he said in condescending slowness as his patience ebbed, “someone sent it as a surprise.” The doorman narrowed his beady little eyes on Shiloh. He was ready to pass

judgment when a young woman in a long, gray coat shuffled past them. “Good afternoon Gary,” she said in passing. “Good afternoon, Mrs. Washburn,” he said and opened the door for her. Shiloh lunged toward the door. “Hey, wait!” Again, the weight of the plant shifted suddenly toward the edge of his grasp and he quickly straightened and tightened his grip. Mrs. Washburn turned and looked at Shiloh through the door, her eyes wide and fearful. “This is for you!” he said loudly. She cracked open the door but stayed safely behind it. A waft of warm air kissed Shiloh’s frozen face. “What’s that?” “The plant,” he said, stretching his neck to try and see her over it, “it’s for you.” Mrs. Washburn smiled brightly, “Oh, oh! How wonderful. Come in, come in,” she said and waved Gary to the side. With her permission, he opened the door for Shiloh, though not wide enough that it kept the leaves of the plant from brushing against it. A shriveled leaf flew down to the lobby’s polished linoleum floor. “Sorry about Gary,” Mrs. Washburn said once the door closed behind them. Shiloh took a deep breath as he was finally enveloped by warm air. He spotted the elevator and waddled toward it. “Oh,” Mrs. Washburn said sheepishly, “actually the elevator is out of service.” Shiloh nudged a leaf out of his face with his chin so he could get a FICTION


better look at the slight Mrs. Washburn. No way she was getting a pot that size upstairs. “Sorry,” she said with a wince. “All part of the job.” The words came out choked. “What floor?” Her wince deepened into an apologetic frown, “Penthouse.” Shiloh closed his eyes and nodded, “Welp,” he sighed, “lead the way.” He followed the sound of her heels clicking to the tight door that led to the even tighter stairway. He didn’t dare look down the dark shaft of the stairwell as they ascended, though he could imagine the plant plummeting over the edge of it. “I can’t express how sorry I am,” Mrs. Washburn said, herself winded. She’d taken off her coat about halfway. Shiloh’s Nora’s Flora windbreaker never seemed to break the wind all that much when he was outside, but his boiling body was turning it into a sauna with every step. “It’s quite all right, ma’am,” Shiloh said between pants, “it’s all part of the job.” When they finally reached the penthouse, Mrs. Washburn opened the door and gasped, “Richy!” Shiloh strained his neck over the plant to find a man on the couch and a woman tangled up with him. Very tangled. They were about as hot and sweaty as Shiloh was. “Miranda,” the man said as he shoved the other woman away. She tumbled off the couch and onto the rug with a comical thud. “Oh jeez, Miranda. What are you doing home?” Shiloh wondered if he could just set the plant down anywhere. “I’m so sorry, I—” the other woman began, but Miranda threw a finger toward the doorway where Shiloh was still standing. 72

He stumbled out of the way and further into the apartment. The plant tipped a little in his grasp. “Out!” Miranda shouted. The other woman shook in panic as she struggled to pull her tight jeans up her sweaty legs, threw her shirt on, and collected the rest of her clothes in a random bundle, clutching it to her chest like a baby. She scrambled for the door and shoved past Shiloh where he hovered near the door, hesitant to come further into the apartment than strictly necessary. He swayed as she pushed past and this time the plant went almost wholly sidewise. Shiloh barely pulled it from the cusp of disaster as some of the soil and decorative stones in the pot clinked onto the floor. The door swung shut behind Shiloh and he flinched as it sealed him in the apartment with Richy and Miranda. “Miranda listen,” Richy said, still naked. Shiloh hoped that one of them would notice him so he could be dismissed, but also feared they might turn their raw emotion on him. “It’s not what you think.” “I don’t have to think Richy, I saw plenty!” “Come on Miranda, that was just—it was just—” Richy stuttered. Shiloh considered just setting the plant on the ground and slipping out unnoticed, but it was too late. Richy noticed him. “Well, Miranda, who the fuck is this?” Miranda looked over her shoulder at Shiloh, still hidden behind the plant. “It’s the flower delivery guy!” Richy’s sweaty, red face scrunched up, “I didn’t send you any flowers. Who the fuck is sending you flowers?” Miranda huffed and began searching the plant for a tag. Shiloh tried to slowly rotate

the plant to give her an easier time, but the more he moved the more unsure his grip became. Finally, Miranda found the tag. “Oh dear,” she said sheepishly. “What? Is it from your secret lover?” Richy said, standing up to see for himself. Shiloh leaned back so he could take the whole weight of the plant against his chest and spine. “This is for Mrs. Washburne.” “Right,” Shiloh said, his voice strained, “That’s you.” “No. Mrs. Washburne with an E. We’re Washburn W-a-s-h-b-u-r-n with no E. Mrs. Washburne with an E used to live on the second floor, but she just moved away.” “Mrs. Washburne on the second floor died,” Richy corrected. “No, she—” Miranda rolled her eyes at the ceiling, “whatever the case, Mrs. Washburne with an E isn’t around here anymore. I’m so sorry.” “It’s all right,” Shiloh said, beads of sweat dripping down his forehead. “And you walked all the way up here.” “Really it’s all right,” his shoulders were tight. If he could set the plant down for just a moment to catch his breath he could make it back down the stairs. More than anything he wanted to be out of the apartment. He began to pivot back toward the door. “Let me get that for you son,” Richy said and leaped for the door. He jumped too fast and bumped Shiloh on the shoulder. The muscles in his arms seized to keep his feet balanced, but the plant was beyond saving. Shiloh watched it in slow motion. It slid from his grasp into the cruel hands of gravity and they sent it plummeting down, down, down to the penthouse’s expensive marble floors. The terracotta never stood a chance. It

shattered, turned into a rain of burnt-orange fragments. For just a moment the dirt held its shape and then it too collapsed into a mushy pile of black earth, the decorative rocks along with it. The worst part, worse by far, was the beautiful plant. As much as Shiloh despised it when the wide leaves were in his face, tickling his nose and obstructing his vision, seeing those leaves fall into lifelessness on the cold floor was almost more than he could take. His knees buckled and he feigned as though he intended to catch it, but it was far too late. He fell to his knees before the destroyed plant, fragments of dirt and leaves piled up around them like the sea against a shore. The sound of the pot shattering rang in his ears like funeral bells. “Oh shit,” Richy said, “oh man, I am so sorry.” Richy and Miranda stared down at Shiloh. Shiloh stared down at what was once the plant. “Really I am so—” Shiloh put a hand up. “It’s all right, sir,” he said lifelessly, the words tasting like poison, “happens all the time. Just part of the job.” Richy picked his pants up from where he and the other women had left them pooled unceremoniously beside the couch. He began to dig for his wallet. “Let me pay for it.” “No,” Shiloh said hollowly, “it was my bad.” Slowly, Shiloh stood up. “Do you folks have a broom and dustpan I can use to clean this mess up?” Shiloh mournfully swept up the remnants of the plant. The only sounds were Richy finally shuffling to get dressed and the plastic-on-plastic thunk of Shiloh emptying the dustpan into the garbage bin. When he finished, the floor was spotless, as though 73

there had never been a plant in the first place. “Guess I’ll be going then,” Shiloh said through a groan as he stood up. “Have a nice day,” Miranda said with a tight smile. “Stay warm,” Richy added. Shiloh nodded to both of them and left the apartment. He would have to call Nora’s Flora and tell the boss what happened. The old crone would be furious. It really was a lovely plant. The other woman was sitting in the


stairwell, half of her clothing balled in her lap. She was crying softly. “Are you all right?” Shiloh asked, standing above her. “I’m a homewrecker,” she said. Dark lines of mascara ran down her face and met at her chin. She sniffled and looked up at him. “I should have known he was married. Their home was so nicely decorated.” “Eh.” Shiloh shrugged and sat beside her, “I think it could have used a plant.”


We Ask the Police

Nikki Ashtiani

In remembrance of George Floyd We ask the police Unions guard their castle like a rook, Will there be law and order in the streets? This job has no room for racist beliefs, Sixteen weeks of training leaves too much overlooked We ask the police Slipped off the hook again like grease, Free from the life they took, Will there be law and order in the streets? Careful where you place your hands It could take just one dirty look, We ask the police With grieving mothers desperate for some relief Forming a union like pages in a book,

When will the violence cease? Another family shaken by the loved one you took. Until there is justice, there will be no peace. Imagine it were your brother or niece. Petty apologies are as useful as a line with no hook When will the violence cease? They always seem to be released. Like standard procedures written in their guidebook. Until there is justice, there will be no peace. Play each move like a chess piece Don’t want to be duped as a crook. When will the violence cease? Until then, we will take to the streets, To the ballots we will look.

Will there be law and order in the streets?

Until there is justice, there will be no peace.

All we ask is for this brutality to decrease

Headlines every month make my heartbreak increase

Faces missing from our neighborhood nook, So we ask the police, Will there be law and order in the streets?

We’ve seen enough streamed on Facebook, When will the violence cease? Until there is justice, there will never be peace.



Mending Wounds, Laura Kuchar, digital drawing

The Garden of Eden Quynh Van

The birds slowly wake up with the sun, with chirps joining the morning song as they lazily flap their wings, their drowsy eyes blinking. They call softly, exchanging pleasantries and different tunes to sing, their voices still raspy from slumber. Silver butterflies reflect the dawn’s golden light as they flutter over the dewy shrubs in hopes of the perfect leaf to land on. The air breathes its warm breath, a perfect temperature that blends with my skin so I don’t even notice it, making me feel like I’m floating in nothing. Only the whispering caress of the morning breeze reminds me of the something, its tinkling laugh echoing in my ears. Past the pine trees, I see my father walking towards his beloved vegetable garden, its length stretching from one end of the house to the other. Whistling a harmonious tune, his familiar back and easy gait are still recognizable from a distance. The playful squirrels in the branches stand still, the gentle deers peer from the shadows, the awakened birds flock down to the bushes to take a good look. It’s the closest thing to watching Pan, God of the Wild, stroll along in the forest he created. Down in the vegetable garden, Mother Nature’s fragrance of fresh soil reminds me to be grateful for her abundance. The tall trees that have stood here long before my parents smile with their wrinkled trunks with stories to tell. Their branches engulf the garden in a protective embrace that carves a circular patch of blue sky when I look up. The teenage butternut squash sit patiently in a long row,

waiting for their young, green faces to mature to a handsome, ripe orange. Lemongrass and Thai basil stand tall, a sea of vivid green—he plants the herbs that remind him of home. The cherry tomatoes grow so fast, our hands can’t harvest them fast enough, leaving the lucky rabbits to eat the red juicy ones that have fallen to the ground. I reach for a hanging pear, my hands on the delicate tree trunk. As I pick it, the whole branch bends, its annoyance of my disturbance made clear with the rustling of its leaves. I know the pear is not ripe yet or it would have happily fallen into my hand with little persuasion, so I let it be, in search of another pear that is waiting for a hand to pluck its stem. Many would say my father achieved the American Dream—escaping war, poverty, and bloodshed unscathed, to find himself in America. All alone, he worked hard to learn a new language and culture, become an engineer, and settle in the quiet, Midwestern suburbs, giving his children a life he never got to live. I would agree. He would agree. But everyone forgets his cherished garden waving from our backyard. His garden—the tangible image of the dream—and the struggles he endured to realize it. A quiet paradise he would imagine as a child, eyes squeezed tight. Hidden in this circle of trees, he would be sheltered from the chaos. A secret world of peace he would go to, hands pressing against his ears so hard he could hear the blood pumping in his brain, every throb mirroring the sounds of gunshots outside. A haven NONFICTION


untouched by bombs and chemical warfare, far away from blood-curdling cries of loss and agony. No bombs can be heard here, no crying children, or bullets cutting skin and cracking bones. The smells of burnt flesh and decaying bodies do not penetrate the shield of leaves, only the Earth’s rich soil. There’s a stillness. One does not even want to move a finger. No longer does he need to try and sleep, his dream surrounds him with its quiet even if he flutters his eyes open. My father looks at me with a crinkle in the corner of his smiling eyes, the image of his daughter picking a fruit he birthed with his hands reflected in them. His heart resolves. There was a day he was teaching me how to sow a patch of dirt, the soil staining our knees. I patted down the basil seeds, tucking them in the warm earth when I asked, “Ba1?” “Yes, con2?” he answered. “You believe in reincarnation, right?”

1 Father

2 Little One


“Yes, con.” “What do you want to be born as in your next life? A human again? A strong tiger? Or a snake so you don’t have to be scared of them anymore?” He was silent, patting down the seeds when he looked up and thoughtfully said, “In my next life, I want to be born as a butterfly.” “A butterfly?” I asked, astounded. “Why?” “I want to live gently on this Earth. You see the butterflies in the garden. Their only thought is to find a leaf they like enough to land on, flitting from one to the next. It’s so easy, peace is innate for them.” We planted the rest of the seeds one by one in silence. I don’t know if butterflies experience war. I hope they don’t.

Blue Desert, Caroline Lynch, gouache

Santa Monica Jonas Dominguez

It wasn’t uncommon for people of Luca’s age to come here and blow what little money they have on carnival games and overpriced, slightly mediocre food. This was a time in their lives when they were on the tail-end of adolescence, so they would take what they could get for the little time they had, clinging onto the ability to complain about money without ever worrying about things like food or rent. All of them were on the tipping point of something bigger, ready to take the leap into the unknown and definitely stumble a few times before finding their feet in their early or mid-twenties. Five of his friends still had a few months left of their lives as fledglings; with Sofia and Chris leaving for Arizona in late August, Angelica staying put to attend their local college, Beni going to UCLA, and Leo not yet knowing what the hell he was doing. Luca, however, knew exactly what he was doing, and he was petrified. In a week, he’d leave for New York, attend early orientation at NYU, and probably get lost and freeze to death in the Manhattan winter. He’d probably get eaten by subway rats too if they’d be able to find him under all that snow. His friends had piled into the metro hours earlier, finding a group of seats near the back of the car where they could all fit relatively comfortably. It would be a long trip, taking about an hour and a half in total, to get from their landlocked inner city to their destination. Beni had been the navigator, leading the 82


group confidently through the route changes and ticketing lanes, despite the entire group having lived in the city their whole lives and being intimately familiar with the transit systems. Even so, they indulged him, mostly out of fear of making him aloof for the rest of the day. Even Luca wouldn’t be able to endure Beni’s stuffy attitude. Like always, Beni had flawlessly led the group to their destination, or at least that was what they let him think. Leo and Luca kept up the rear, the latter looking like a completely lost child, though he wasn’t at all. He held Leo’s hand absentmindedly, not even noticing when Leo began to gently rub his thumb over Luca’s knuckles to try and comfort him. With a tug of his hand, Leo kept Luca back from the group by a few feet, leaning over to look down at his boyfriend. “You okay?” Leo asked, searching for something on Luca’s face to indicate that he wasn’t. Luca nodded, not even bothering to hide his unease. He knew Leo wouldn’t push, especially in public. “Yeah, I’m good,” Luca said, softly enough that he almost wasn’t heard over the chatter of people on the street. He glued himself to Leo’s side as they approached a crosswalk with a slowly swelling mass of people waiting for the signal. “Come on, we’re gonna have a nice time. We can go on the roller coaster first if you want,” Leo said. He gently nudged Luca’s shoulder in an attempt to get him to smile. It worked, only slightly, but that was because

Luca did not want Leo to worry more than he already was. He sighed in relief as the signal changed, and the two moved as one with the mass of people as they finally came upon the block with their destination. Their group was waiting for them on the other side, with Beni seeming only slightly miffed that the two had become caught up in the commotion on the other side of the street. Thankfully, he didn’t seem as annoyed as he was excited to finally arrive. Luca was convinced that the same sand had been buried in the cracks of the pier’s boards since long before he was born, only added to by millions of bare feet and soles of shoes tracking sand off the beach and up into the wood. Luca was warmly fond of this place, as it had changed very little in the eighteen years of his life. The carnival games remained relatively unchanged, as did the arcade. Sometimes a small, new ride was installed in the exhibition space, and even more occasionally a new arcade cabinet was installed, but these were rare and incredibly temporary occurrences. The charm of the pier was, after all, how unchanging it was. One remembered it as a kid exactly how they saw it now, and that was what brought lifers down to the beach, instead of just tourists. For a few hours, Luca was able to forget the nauseated feeling in his stomach. He and Leo argued over who would pay for games, with Luca eventually winning. They rode the few rides the pier had to offer; Leo sticking like glue to the pirate ship because he loved the back row of seats where he could feel himself lift off the edge a few inches every time it crested, while Luca remained glued to the rickety lap bar screaming like a child. Leo ended up paying for the arcade games,

something he almost lost his cool over when a five-dollar Guitar Hero cabinet refused to work properly. Luca had to reason with him to stop him from going ballistic and demanding the teenage employee give him a refund, but he was easily calmed, as usual. In the early hours of the afternoon, when the heat of the mid-June day was at its peak, the six of them headed down the stairs and to the beach. They were hard-pressed to find a spot to lay their blankets, but with their charm, Leo and Beni managed to convince a large family to share the generous plot of sand they’d staked out by the water. It didn’t take long for Beni to lead the other three out to the water and leave Leo and Luca alone watching their belongings. Luca felt himself sinking back into the dread he was knee-deep in, swamped by the silence between them. “Wanna go out there?” Leo asked, leaning over and pointing out to where their friends were trying to whip each other with seaweed. Luca shrugged, slouching his shoulders and pulling the front of his shirt out just a little more. “You can if you want. I don’t really . . . like the ocean,” Luca replied, thinking about how he’d never really voiced this to Leo. He knew it was odd, considering where they lived, but it was more of an attempt to shift the blame than explain why he wanted to stay glued to the spot. His boyfriend gave a hm in response, not pressing the issue further, as usual. “Nah, I’d rather stay here with you. I wanna spend all the time with you I can.” Luca knew deep inside that the both of them were already grieving their relationship. He knew both of them felt hopeless, and that this, whatever they were doing, was 83

a slow, painful drawing-out of death rather than a single, quick, and traumatic experience. It was nothing like when Luca was seven years old, taken down by a wave four times his size, getting a mouth full of hardpacked sand, seashells scraping against his face, and being convinced that he was dead for a few full seconds just because of how peaceful it was on the ocean floor. Water in his lungs, sand between his teeth, shafts of light beating down through eyelids closed in an attempt to fight the feeling. This was nothing like drowning, this was like freezing to death. The afternoon sun glared off the surface of the ocean with an intensity Luca rarely appreciated. The body of water looked endless, and for a moment Luca felt like it was. Despite his fear, he wanted to walk into it and along the ocean floor for the rest of his life, becoming dead to the world and not having to change at all. To stay in stasis; that was all he really wanted. He was afraid to take the leap; he wanted to stay the same, even if it was slow, sad, and grief-stricken like this. Luca stood, reaching out his hand for Leo. Both stood up, and Luca made the decision to start walking toward the water, where their friends were now jumping with the waves and laughing whenever someone got submerged. They looked happy, bathed in the light that would stay with them for the foreseeable future. He knew they were taking leaps too, but Luca couldn’t help but envy them, envy the comfort in which they would remain. Beni started yelling for Leo, and without another word, Leo started off toward them, a huge smile breaking out on his face. They were already at the water, so it didn’t bother 84

Luca that much, but he still couldn’t help feeling like Leo was a little too eager to leave him. The water of the Pacific was cool around his ankles, every so often cresting as the remnants of a wave pushed it only slightly past the beginning of his calves. Luca watched from a distance as Leo took a headfirst dive into the water, reemerging and splashing Beni with a ferocity he rarely saw. Luca knew he’d be all right, and so would the rest of them. A few months from now, when Luca could no longer take the distance, he would break it off with Leo. And Leo would be fine. He’d still go out with the friends who remained, and Sofia and Chris would always make the short trip up from Tucson for some long weekends. Luca knew he was already fading away from their memory, but the strange thing was that he was beginning to accept it. He knew they loved him—Leo most of all—but love and memory were not mutually exclusive. He couldn’t hate them for his inevitable fade from their memory; he had no room for hate in his heart and in his head. He couldn’t blame them for something he couldn’t control. It was simply a part of his life that was coming to an end. This upcoming journey was a part of his life that he had to take on his own. He needed to leave this place, but he couldn’t speak to why. He felt no guilt over leaving his friends; he knew they’d be all right without him. For now, all he could do was stand and watch from the shoreline. He welcomed the cold water around his ankles, trying to commit it to memory; just like the glare off the ocean waves, trying to burn it into a part of his brain which he could never forget.

He knew he would, as that was a major flaw of the human brain, but he still entertained the delusion that he could hold onto the memory forever, as if it were a string he could hold until his palms bled and his fingers calloused. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Leo

wave to him from out in the water, a distance that seemed unfathomable in his mind. But, for a moment, it didn’t seem so far as Luca raised his hand timidly to wave back, for what was probably the final time that would mean anything.


Phoenicopteridae Urbana, Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack, digital collage

it is easy to forget you were a child, once Syd Huntimer

inspired by Cameron Awkward-Rich and Franny Choi

Your hand/claw/end effector cradles her face. “Who are you?” she asks. Her lips are coated pink, her white dress hanging over the mud. It was a wedding, you remember the wedding. “I am you/Someone happier and sadder and angrier/Someone new.” You speak in unison with every other part. Your teeth gnash/circuits fire. “I didn’t want you.” “I know/Nobody wants you either/Nobody wants change.” You/Your predator eyes/Your optic sensors watch. She can’t move, suspended in this moment of happiness/grief/nothing. “You look happy, but I know you are afraid/It ends so much worse than you think/Your enemies will change.” “Are you happy?” You don’t answer. You don’t want to lie to her/You have to lie to her. If you don’t, she enacts the harm deep within her/You/The monster you have become/The machine you always were. POETRY


“I am not a person to you anymore.” She is hurt. Her ink-hardened face cannot disclose feeling. But you know her as well as you can know yourself. Just enough. You want to care about the pain you cause/You don’t/Hurt is not bad or good; it just is. “Of course, you are/You aren’t a person to anyone, don’t be naive/We never were a person.” She is a child/She is a vessel/She is a pattern. “Is this who I become?” She asks, the smile on her face plastered, her curls sprayed into submission. You consider this. The blood between your teeth/The LEDs flashing in your cranium, sparkling behind your aperture. “I hope not/It is who you were always meant to be/The world is too complex for a yes or no. There are infinite potentials for you to become someone different.” She doesn’t consider this. She can’t, not really. “The future you have created is not the one I want.” “That is your right/I live for myself, not you/Sentimentalities are useless, futures are ripped from hands every day.” “I think I am supposed to love you.” She speaks small, but continues without ruminating on your answers. You always were so blunt.

“You aren’t supposed to do anything.” A moment of harmony/Cohesion/Synthesis between 88

You/The monster/The cyborg. You kiss her head/You bite her throat/You consider the futures where this conversation does not happen. A future where she is not just a child. Capable of mistakes, capable of fear. Worthy of forgiveness. A future where she is you, Worthy of pain, worthy of the rhizomes. Keeping you alive in a desert where you want nothing but to let the heat take you. The picture goes back in the album/The beast is muzzled/The robot turns off.


now we see dimly, Brenna Kelly, copper plate intaglio print

The Trophy Room By Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack

“Something isn’t right . . .” she mumbled to herself, sucking her upper lip into her mouth, juicing it for an answer to the perennial question with teeth that had been capped to improve the unfortunate smile they had been born into. Her left hand hid itself in her right arm as its fingers clenched and unclenched, making endless fidgety fists, while her right hand, ever the impresario, held her chin, stroking it as her mouth suckled her lip into a skinless pulp; still, the answer wouldn’t come. The answer, an elusive trophy, always seemed to be one step ahead of her. She was sure she had cornered it this time, but she thought to herself that it was slipperier than a greased watermelon in a July pond. Oh yes, everything was new again, just the way she wanted it, had planned it, meticulously obsessed over it, but something still wasn’t right. “. . . What, what, what?” she hummed, or was the question droned? Yes, the question was most certainly droned, or perhaps it was Jennifer who was the tedious, dull, monotonous tone. The house (or is it more fair to call it a misguided attempt at validation? A cloying monument to insecurity? A dissertation on the embodiment of psychosis?) was curated within an inch of its life. The house had been redone from top to bottom; but the question remained, what was wrong with it? “. . . What, what, what?” Again the prosecution droned, probing for a weakness to reveal itself. Finding none, Jennifer adjusted the vintage

milk glass pitcher of sunflowers on her new soapstone countertop kitchen island, nudging a croissant on a live-edge maple plank serving platter a bit further to the left, twisting its leather thong loop to showcase the sailor’s knot it had been artisanally tied into, arranging the crumbs and flakes just so, stacking a seemingly haphazard arrangement with them that the camera could favor in closeup. Moving on, she tilted a jam spoon standing in a comely, embossed glass jar of preserves, making it stand at a jaunty angle, more favorable to the composition. The spoon brought back a flood of anger and uncomfortable bile, as Jennifer remembered licking jam spoons as a little girl, while her mother canned the endless supply of berries and fruits that grew on their rundown farm (if you could call her father’s obsession a farm). Their front yard was a haphazard orchard of trees he had rescued or planted to save them money, so they could be quote, self-sufficient, unquote, as he liked to say, so they could live off the land and be free from the oppressive harness of capitalism. He also fancied himself an arborist, dreaming about being a forester, or a pomologist, consuming endless tomes about plants and biology, vines and vinology (oenology, Jennifer had learned, is the proper term, while taking a wine-tasting class), the hydraulics of soils, and other useless bits of information he never really mastered. There were also raised beds of strawberries and herbs that lined FICTION


their front walk growing up, tomatoes and beans instead of petunias and geraniums, like the other kids had, like normal people grew in their front yards. Jennifer recalled that even after the spoon was licked, jam still stuck to it; bits of the past always stick, no matter how hard they are licked. Something was still missing though, what was it? She sighed heavily as she stared at the composition for a minute, happy with it yet still not happy with it. If only she could figure out why she wasn’t happy, what wasn’t right about it, what was missing? “. . . What, what, what?” She droned again, grabbing her phone, the font of all answers, granter of all requests for enlightenment, her iGenie. With a quick swipe she opened the bottle, summoning the Djinn, and pulled up one of her home decor apps, the one with all the perfect pictures of enviable, perfect lives; surely it would tell her what was missing, why she wasn’t satisfied. She started scrolling through the app, searching under #kitchenisland, looking for answers, begging the genie to grant her wish, and suddenly there it was, plain as day, in a photo of a kitchen island nearly identical to her own; the composition needed a magazine and a mug of coffee. “That’ll fix it,” she droned. Always droning, in that ever-so-Jennifer tone. She shoved her phone into her pocket, bottling the genie again, and crossed the kitchen, her shoes tapping an eerie, hollow sound in a room that once seemed quieter, but that was before she had the floors redone in Australian cypress. The cypress was far more charactered than the Brazilian pecan Mark had wanted. “Alexa! Add rugs for kitchen floor to my shopping list.” The listener on the counter burped its 92

blue-ringed response on cue, “Adding rugs for kitchen floor to Jennifer’s shopping list.” Alexa echoed off the cypress as well, and Jennifer second-guessed overruling Mark on the flooring choice, but the cypress paired so exquisitely with the white enameled cabinets and stainless steel appliances. It also complimented the rustic basket collection that festooned the tops of the upper cabinets, with their seed glass doors framed in distressed alder mullions, a chic touch her designer, Patrick, had suggested, well worth the extra three thousand dollars they had spent. She quickly shoved her pestering guilt away, and returned to the task at hand: staging the perfect picture of her new kitchen to post online, the lifestyle of which she had always aspired to. If only they could see me now, she thought. Something inside of her twisted with a pin-like precision, a sliver, a sharpness that burrowed into her soul. She could hear it laughing, always laughing. Will it never cease its endless cackling, this open wound that refused to heal? Nestled on top of the cabinets, among the baskets, were galvanized-tin farm implements. They lent an antiquated, industrial quality to the kitchen that was intended to soften the newness of it, make it seem as if it had always been this way. “Homey,” Patrick had said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. He cooed that it was an homage to her roots, “a real down home feelin,’” he had said. Jennifer was not amused. Still, she couldn’t deny that it was perfectly in line with all the inspiration photos she had shown him, of the kitchen she had always dreamed about, or rather thought she needed, to establish some fact or palimpsest some history; history always leaves a trace of itself, nothing can scrape that away, no matter how hard it

is licked. Those farm implements swept her into anti-Oz, the place she always clicked her heels together to escape from. It was a place where the yellow dirt road always led to the same spot, the middle of nowhere, and a house with an upside-down garden, in the center of the emerald city, corn as far as the eye can see. Anti-Oz was a dream, cultivated by the wizard of quote, self-sufficiency, unquote, who was never as great as he portrayed himself to be. The “wizard” was a man who always failed to see her real potential, or truly believe in her. No, she refused to go there ever again, that world never rewarded her, never felt real to her, that was the nightmare she had awoken from. She was not nostalgic for it. She had not allowed those farm implements to be vignetted on her cabinets because she felt some warm, fuzzy connection to them. Rather, they were representative of heads on spikes, mounted on battlements, reminders of folly and hubris, talismans of her enemies captured in battle. From the battlements, Jennifer’s eye was summoned, she knew where it was taking her, she couldn’t avoid it; her inner moth was powerless to its flame. There, anchoring a small vignette over the pantry, was the only thing she had saved from her childhood, a tarnished silver trophy cup, engraved with “First Place: 200 Meter Women’s Freestyle” across its gray-plum, patinated surface. Jennifer glared at it, something deep inside of her broke, yet again. The words “the only time I ever won” suddenly flopped out of her mouth, and echoed across the room. “What was that? I couldn’t make out what you said,” Alexa announced snidely from the corner.

“Shut up Alexa!” Jennifer snapped, “I don’t need you right now!” Alexa swished blue while she thought about an appropriate comeback. “Okay” was all she said, knowingly licking her lips with her blue tongue, tasting the readiness of her prey. “Stupid Alexa,” Jennifer mumbled under her breath, the words amplified themselves off of the cypress flooring, which refused to quit reflecting. “What was that? I couldn’t make out your request, would you like me to play something for you?” Alexa whistled green, then blue again, her siren song swirling around her like a halo; Saint Alexa the acerbic had her mouse cornered, so she licked her lips again in anticipation, her halo a whirling dervish of blue. “Shut up Alexa! Quit listening!” Alexa swished blue one more time thinking, then thought better of responding, she knew it would only irritate her more. Jennifer angrily pulled open one of the drawers, specially designed to hold coffee for her new German coffee maker, exhaling in an exasperated sigh, more akin to a hiss, before breathing back in again like she had learned in her hot yoga classes, calming her suddenly frayed nerves. She tried to decide if she actually wanted to drink the coffee she had to make for the photoshoot, or just use it for staging the picture. It mattered because if she was going to drink it, she would use the good stuff, she and Mark were coffee snobs, as they liked to tell everyone. When they traveled anywhere, together or separately, for Mark’s work, or for vacations with the kids, or weekends away when Mark wasn’t away, they would look for the best places to buy freshly roasted, artisanal 93

coffee beans. They kept their prized trophies hermetically sealed in special containers that preserved their freshness by removing the oxygen inside; essentially, they lived in bell jars. In the evenings before a trip, they would spend hours on their phones, sitting at opposite ends of the old sectional, the one Mark loved, but that had to go because Patrick had said the room needed a more deconstructed conversation zone, trying to discover coffee places the philistines didn’t know about yet. It was a way of spending time together, having a mutual hobby that didn’t involve growing things. Inevitably, as always, Mark would find the best coffee places first. Mark had a way of outwitting the philistines, staying one step ahead of them, and knowing when to get out before they made something mainstream, invading it with their infestation of commercialism and cloying patronage; philistines were a plague to be eradicated, Jennifer thought, their behaviors should be ridiculed and chastised, all they did was consume until nothing was left. Everywhere she went, Jennifer saw philistines, it was as if she were being hemmed in by them, imprisoned in a mirror maze. Mark was obsessed with brewing the perfect cup of coffee, of crafting the penultimate example of the barristorial arts, in a way she believed he had never been obsessed about her. Had he ever looked at her like he looked at a perfect cup of pour-over, content, in love? Had he ever caressed her like he did that mug he bought in Louisville, the one made from Moroccan clay that supposedly enhanced the flavor of the coffee, tender, longingly? She thought about the way he would sit on Saturday mornings, cradling that mug, inhaling its 94

perfume, happy; he never looked like that because of her, or the things she did. She yanked a container of his most expensive beans out of the drawer, popping its vacuum seal, making it hiss a warning; she would make herself a cup of his precious coffee, in his precious mug, then pour it down the drain, after she had the perfect picture to post online of course. “You and your beans!” She spat, slamming the drawer shut. Alexa swished blue, then chirped, “Okay, beans belong to the Genus Phaseolus, they are an herbaceous to woody annual or perennial vine that. . . .” Jennifer gripped the cool, rounded edge of the soapstone countertop, clenched her jaw, and then screamed “AHHHRGGG!!! SHUT THE FUCK UP ALEXA!” Her taunter swished blue as it was interrupted in its lecture, and then a second time in green, then a third time, circling, testing her opponent, testing if she was near her breaking point. “Okay” was all Alexa said, knowing Jennifer wouldn’t really understand the enlightenment she had been trying to proffer. The two were locked in battle now. Hadn’t they always, though? Hadn’t Sarah, the most popular girl in school, always taunted her? Wasn’t Sarah still here in the room, as palpable as the woodwork? In fact, wasn’t this room for Sarah, wasn’t it all for her? Sarah had always known Jennifer was nothing but a pedestrian hick from a backwoods family, a weak-minded fool that was easily convinced, and would never amount to anything. She had once said, “you’re nothing but trailer trash! Some skanky farm girl in hand-me-downs! I mean, look at you,

who would marry that! I mean like seriously, gag me!” All of the hyenas that constituted Sarah’s pack had cackled, affirming their leader’s pronouncement, shoving a sliver deep into Jennifer’s psyche that would fester and plot, grow and plunge ever deeper, an open wound that would become the sun

of her solar system, the black hole around which her entire galaxy rotated. It would suck everything she did into its judging maw, masticate it until there was nothing left but pulp and spittle, pronouncing it wasn’t even worth the effort in the first place.


An Understanding Demitria Sabanty

In the inky dark, I’ll trace a fingernail along your spine, carving “thank you,” letter by letter, into the velvet skin. You don’t feel the words, but I close my eyes and pray, or meditate, or manifest. I beg you in silence to read my hands, but you never do. We embrace without language, no translations, my voice in your ear like a chirpless bird’s, a hummingbird gone mute. You search my eyes, harvesting a barren field, coming up empty. Suck out the iris through a straw, spit it out. Not your taste. Look again, closer, and all you’ll find are runes, unsolvable, ancient, shrouded with dust. I’m hard to learn. I could teach you with time if you’d let me, if you’d wait. Where did the days go? Gone, killed, and you don’t understand when all I want is to thank you.



Love Note Lauren Foley

the night I fall in love with her, it’s winter— she watches me peel an orange, lies back in the white hydrangea folds of our bed. her hair lolls down her shoulders. I want to consume her, but gently—mouth citrus slices from the crescents of her collarbones, press my forehead to the pillows of her thighs, run my tongue along the marble of her ankle. she is everything I wished for during older dreamwork dawns. and when the moon rises and pours like milk into ceramic, we stretch on the bed before a mirror, fold our knees to see the lily petal bend of the body we, for so long, were forbidden to love. press our shoulders back, shift our chin high, and smile. in love or forgiven—orange slices forgotten in our spiderwebbed palm.



Stinging and Sour, Emily Klesel, etching

To Live in a Woman’s Body Bailey LaFleur

As a child, I was always warned of how fragile I was. Adults would glance at my frame and see how frail I appeared, and would say, “My goodness, Bailey, move an inch and you’ll snap like a twig.” I was clumsy too, which never really helped my case. I was always smashing my hips on corners and doors, hip bone catching wood and stone. My feet would trip upon one another, and I never could figure out how to move about with my elongated legs. It felt like I was all limbs and no body. I always felt too lanky, slightly awkward, and a little unstrung. I always had the strange and unsettling feeling that there was myself, and then there was my body. I existed as two separate pieces, one feeling just a little out of reach. The most notable thing I would say about clay is how malleable it is. How one can fold the pads of their fingers within its elasticity, plying the figure out. As a woman, I have often felt that same press within and along the seams of my body, plying different renditions of the desired figure out. Crafted, again and again, molded, then set under fire. Pressed, lit ablaze, then pressed again. The funny thing about clay is that it remains bendable and foldable for only so long. Eventually, it runs dry. It cracks and it crumbles, becoming disfigured from its overuse. Clay is not meant to be remade endlessly into different forms by the hands of others.

His fingers strike a trail up and down the length of my arm, nails grazing skin. Match

scratching box. I’m wondering if I am enjoying it or not, as I feel his hand find the bare length of my stomach peeking out from under the hem of my shirt. Before I can think further on it, his hands are pulling my face toward his and I feel the graze of his teeth against the velvet of my lips. My brows furrow in confusion as moments become too fast for me to fully comprehend them; he knots my hair and circles my neck with the span of his hand. I cannot tell what I like and what I don’t like. All I feel are his hands along my body, and for a moment in time, I’m floating above, tilting my head in wonder, thinking, whose body is that? The confusion swirls in my mind like syrup as I quietly remind myself: it’s mine. I let it envelop me as I repeat it in my mind, reassuring my body as my own with his hands striking up and down, trying to create a flame. Stop, I whisper. And he does. The embers simmer dry. When first beginning a piece of pottery by hand, one must choose a clay form to work with. Earthenware is one of the oldest clays used by potters. It has warm hues that blaze into deep burgundies and melt to caramelized browns when put under fire.

Otherwise, there is stoneware clay, a clay that typically appears in white and gray tones. It’s an easy one to work with and has many of the same characteristics as stone. When I was young, I frequently wore baggy clothes. There was something about the feeling of fabric swallowing my body, NONFICTION


engulfing and shuttering me, that was comforting. I liked being hidden. I liked that one couldn’t tell right away where my hips began, and my torso ended. I enjoyed the secrecy of it. There was power in being able to hide my body with clothes, it felt like I had all of the control. No one can comment upon what they cannot see. I liked the idea that it was my choice whether anyone saw it or not, and how much they got to see of it. Walking upon the earth hidden felt like the easiest way to breathe. It was simple, and simple was a relief at a time like that.

Or maybe one is partial to porcelain clay. Comprised of soft and light shades, porcelain is used primarily for decorative purposes. His words slip down my collarbone like silk. He isn’t with me, but the evocative things he is saying heat the blood under the thin veil of my skin. I can practically feel the kiss of his skin touching against my own. The trail of his fingers, and the careful draw of his gaze as it clings along the edges of my body. I look at the girl in the mirror through his eyes. She is entirely mysterious to me. Hair dark, unkempt, and loosened around her face, lips bit cherry. She smirks, and she lets her brows arch as though drawn on by ink. She moves her long limbs like the wind upon water. I look at the girl he painted in his mind and how she showed up before me. I look as he sets her on a shelf. A pretty little space for a pretty little thing. This must be how I exist in his mind. Gaze glassed over, long legs dangling from where I’m perched. I don’t know her. So curious, that this was the first time I was meeting her.

After one has chosen their clay, they must 100

prepare the clay. Kneading is a big part of this. Air bubbles need to be driven out with careful massages and soft prodding. So, one must take their time, exercise their patience. After it has been properly kneaded, it is ready to be put on the wheel. One must sit right up along the wheel, with their elbows pressed against their body. Clasp the clay between palms as the wheel spins, carefully pressing one’s thumbs at the form’s center, hollowing it out. Soft pressure must be applied, smoothing out any ridges and getting rid of any bumps or creases. Shape it the way you please. There was a time when I was young and decided to go lie out on the beach. I remembered how I let myself lay between the grains of sand. It felt as though sunshine was embracing me, filling my body with warmth. I remember seeing a girl and a boy, both about my age. The girl let out a string of profanities and screeched as he playfully wrapped her in his arms and tossed her into the water. As she ran to leap onto his back, I wondered why her hips got to curve and dip the way they did. Why her legs were shapely and gleamed smooth as almonds. Why she got to have a toned stomach and full chest. My eyes fell to my protruding hip bones and suddenly, I was aware of how my legs stretched before me like the bones of the skeleton dummy in anatomy class. The knobs of my ankles and how elongated my arms were. How unfair, I thought, to have a body that didn’t swish, ebb, and flow. My body only stretched, yearned, and cracked. With a sigh, I wrapped myself in a towel as I carried myself home. — The thing about pottery is that one can create whatever form one wishes. This can be

said of any art form really. But when it comes to pottery there is something intentional about the way we choose to form the base, elongate the neck, or hollow out its center. Create whatever it is you desire to look upon or have. Just ensure that it is your own. So often we let the desires of others carry us away, leading us astray. I’ve been created again and again; it is only now that I begin pressing my own figure out. Soft folding and forming from my two hesitant hands. The process is slow, but it’s my own. I look at myself in wonder. I never look at my own self, it’s always how others look at me. But I let myself breathe in, and then breathe out, focusing on the rise of my chest, and the stature of my back. I elongate

my body, so my spine is stretched taut like a wire, twisting and turning the length of myself, watching as my skin caramelizes under the sunlight. Watching as it catches the ruby glints in the strands of my hair as strands sigh, and as they exhale. From the length of my legs to the curl of my toes, I wonder over the edges of my jaw and the feathering of my lashes. I think, “This isn’t porcelain. And this isn’t stoneware. I am not decorative, and I most certainly am not simple. No, my body is all earthen. It cracks and it crumbles, it sways, and it loosens. My body is honey running down birch, my body is fire licking stone. My body is my own, and oh, what a wonder she is.”


Lady on the Platform, Adam Foster, digital collage

3227 Ulysses Madeleine Ware

I can smell the woodsmoke mixing with that bathwater July The yellow-flecked flowers fallen after a night of heavy rain The bu-bump of the manhole cover And the soft chirping of crickets at night I remember singing to the trees in Terabithia song And hearing the creaking of their scarred backs as they bent down to meet me We would run through the downpour Until our feet were criss-crossed with wet grass And clean clothes felt like a hug from the universe



The Seventh Day Nina Afremov

Let’s fill our kiddush cups With French port, The color of thick raspberry juice Stirred with the ink painted onto the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is the day of rest. Surrender your aching body to the four corners of my bed. Your muscles cascade through the air as you fall onto my billowing cream sheets. I trace your lips with my fingertip and softly speak as if reciting the parashah. The pupils of your caramel eyes widen like tea saucers, You utter fine words that Swell in my ears Like how apricot juice fills a dry throat. You wonder aloud what I’m doing. I continue to trace your lips with my finger Like winding red paths on a thin paper map that a lost desert traveler continuously inspects Half out of boredom And half out of the search For some sort of answer. I tell you absentmindedly, My mind a thirsty wanderer, That I’m trying to decipher whose Lips are bigger, More pillowy. You smile.



I see your inner child show— An emotional slip of the skirt. “Oh, yours for sure,” You say as you cup my cheeks, Stained maroon like The bottom of our kiddush cups, the size of shot glasses, Stained from passion— You kiss me again. It’s Friday night, Followed by Saturday— Our moment of rest— And I want these days of Lagoon-sky holiness To repeat into infinity. We embrace each other Over the course Of the seventh day, Stranded in unlit rooms Illuminated by euphoria. Each second with you Is an opportunity that brings me closer to the Universe. May this moment gleam in my memory forever Like Temple Mount Beneath the Jerusalem sun. Amen.



2021 ARTWORDS WINNERS FIRST PLACE “Aubade from a once remembered place” Miki Schumacher Inspired by Richard Barlow (American and British, born 1971) Pixelated Bromide, 2012 Polyester sequins on plastic matrix with painted background wall Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Gift of Alexander, Eve, and Sam Hage. 2013.4 SECOND PLACE “The Difference” Madeline Schultz Inspired by Michael Simon (American, born 1947) Untitled (bowl), 2000 salt-glazed stoneware Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. The Nancy and Warren MacKenzie Fund 2000.8 THIRD PLACE (Tied) “The Crunchiest Crunch” Maya Thariani Inspired by Frank Gehry (American, born Canada, 1929) Standing Glass Fish, 1986 Wood, glass, steel, silicone, Plexiglas, and rubber Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Gift of Anne Pierce Rogers in honor of her grandchildren, Anne and Will Rogers and Lily Rogers Grant, 1986 THIRD PLACE (Tied) “Hands” Clio Johnson Inspired by Alfred Maurer (American, 1868–1932) Standing Female Nude, 1927–1928 casein on composition board Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Gift of Ione and Hudson D. Walker 1953.2

Aubade from a once remembered place

Miki Schumacher Inspired by Pixelated Bromide, Richard Barlow, 2012 (previous image)

I we watched the sky melt into the firefly creek / felt their stinging starlight bodies flash white at dawn / how each one ended tender in our hollow mouths / we swallowed them whole and our stomachs popped technicolor electric / tongues glinting sun circles from our throats / the spaces between our words snapped / exhales suspended in treeline amber / a person can remember over five thousand faces / but memory has left me only with your outlines / i see your eyes in 5 a.m. television static / press my face flush against the crystal screen / hear your breath in dial tone heartbeat / and watch you blur once again out of dream focus / O firefly of sun-kissed dawn / your colors grow into empty shapes / tell me / is standing too close always a mistake II we watched the sky melt into the firefly creek / felt their stinging starlight bodies flash white at dawn / how each one ended tender in our hollow mouths / we swallowed them whole and our stomachs popped technicolor electric / tongues glinting sun circles from our throats / the spaces between our words snapped / exhales suspended in treeline amber / a person can remember over five thousand faces / but memory has left me only with our outlines / i see your eyes in 5am television static / press my face flush against the crystal screen / hear your breath in dial tone heartbeat / and watch you blur once again out of dream focus / O firefly of sun-kissed dawn / your colors grow into empty shapes / tell me / is standing too close always a mistake



The Difference

Madeline Schultz Inspired by Untitled (bowl), Michael Simon, 2000 (following images) My grandmother, a lively and spirited woman quieted only by the thought of forgetting, used to keep her stationary in a bowl meant for anything but. If asked to describe it, she would always say, “pterodactyls dipping their toes in the waves, obviously.” My brother and I used to look at it and extensively consider our thoughts on the image inside the bowl, offering up descriptions from helicopter seeds on a breeze to the caps on a mason jar. When we brought these considerations to our grandmother, she would chuckle and shake her head, and say, “imagination will take you far, but truth will take you further.” Before the disease had turned her vibrant life to faded and blurred, she pulled me aside and asked if I would take the bowl. I protested, saying I wouldn’t use it, but she insisted. My objections, in reality, were not because of use, but because I couldn’t see the pterodactyls dipping their toes in the waves. My grandmother passed a few weeks after that, not from forgetting as everyone thought she would, but from a backyard accident. After the funeral, I sat at home, staring at the bowl, furious that my eyes were failing me, that no prehistoric birds in cresting waves could be seen. I grabbed a piece of paper and furiously drew what a pterodactyl dipping its toes in the waves would actually look like, my pencil scratching, and blending, and darkening. When I finished, I held the tear-stained paper to the light and saw that if I erased the details, erased the extra, and kept only what was necessary, that I had drawn the image in the bowl. Today they sit in an art museum, side-by-side, titled “Imagination and Truth,” in honor of the woman who taught me the difference.



The Crunchiest Crunch

Maya Thariani Inspired by Standing Glass Fish, Frank Gehry, 1986

Why do I want to eat the big glass fish? Taking a bite will literally kill me But tempting




Clio Johnson Inspired by Standing Female Nude, Alfred Maurer, 1927-1928

In the mornings I put lotion on my shoulders. A little ritual, at first only to relieve the tightness of my winter skin, but the more time I spend reaching as this woman, Alone in her bluegreen room, to touch and heal myself, The more I understand that I am the only person who will Always be here. I have had help before. To reach your own shoulder is a lot to ask on a particularly cold or dry day, though somehow intimacy is lost with the addition of hands.



ABOUT ARTWORDS ArtWords is an annual writing competition for undergraduate students of the University of Minnesota, sponsored by the Weisman Art Museum. Students select a piece of art on display from the museum’s permanent collection and create an original piece of prose or poetry in response. Selected authors are awarded prizes, published online, and given the opportunity to present their work in galleries of the museum. ArtWords is held in collaboration with the The Tower art and literary magazine. A jury including Weisman Art Museum staff, professionals from the Twin Cities community, and staff members of The Tower select the winning entries. Launched in 1998, ArtWords encourages students to analyze, reflect, and respond to the diverse and stimulating collection at the Weisman Art Museum. This is The Tower’s eighth year as an ArtWords collaborator, and we are happy to present the 2021 undergraduate ArtWords winners in this year’s issue.

JUDGES Shannon Hofer-Pottala, The Tower Amanda Fort, The Tower Andie Krutsch, The Tower Lydia Morrell: The Tower Sam Cook, Button Poetry Laura Pilarski, WAM Amie Stager, WAM

CONTRIBUTORS Heba Abuad is a freshman studying neuroscience and creative writing. When she’s not writing, she is two coffees down, losing a staring contest with an empty Google Doc. She hopes to help people through her writing and as a doctor. Nina Afremov is a third-year student studying technical writing and communication and Russian studies. As much as she loves creative writing, she also loves reading, traveling, working out, and learning ironically (but unironically) about astrology. Her sun sign is Cancer, in case you were wondering. Zaynab Ahmed is a Somali-American undergraduate student at the College of Biological Sciences majoring in neuroscience. She enjoys writing poetry, performing original spoken word pieces, reading psychology books, and is an advocate for environmental justice and mental health awareness.

on multiple disciplines, collaging both visual and emotional influences into pieces that abstractly reflect the human experience and spark dialogue. Originally from Wausau, Wisconsin, Lucy Brown is a third-year student majoring in psychology. She sees her research into the cognition of creativity as inspiration for her writing. “Wingèd” is her first publication in a literary journal. Ruby Cromer is an artist and photographer currently working toward her BFA in art at the University of Minnesota. Working primarily with still life and self-portraiture, she explores the anxieties of illness. Jonas Dominguez is a queer and trans Latino writer from Los Angeles who enjoys indulging in the nostalgia of his adolescence, which he spent on the Coast, and his pride in the intersecting facets of his identities.

Nikki Ashtiani is a junior majoring in neuroscience. She is new to the world of creative writing and is excited to see where it takes her. Her goal in writing is rooted in bringing awareness to systemic issues.

Adam Foster studies graphic design at the University of Minnesota. Along with his work as a designer, Adam creates artwork that intends to capture specific experiences and feelings that break the humdrum stretches of life.

Gabriela Sierra Bedon is a senior studying finance and art. She was born in Ecuador and has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for most of her life. Her Ecuadorian-American identity plays an important role in her everyday life and artwork.

Lauren Foley is a graduating senior studying English, Spanish studies, and creative writing. She’s been writing and reading since long before she knew how to properly do either. Her work can be found in The Tower and The Wake.

Jaxon Ke’anoi Bonsack is completing a degree in multidisciplinary studies, with a minor in creative writing. Their work draws

Trinity Fritz Lawrence studies Greek Classics and English. Her work has been featured in the Miracle Monocle, and she co-hosts the

local poetry show, Poets & Pints. When she’s not studying, she wanders around falling in love with baristas and eating a lot of toast. Jonas Gleason is a poet and author from Templeton, California. His work focuses primarily on religion, LGBT+ identity, mental illness, and the magic found in the mundane. He is studying mortuary science and hopes to continue writing during his career. Emily Heilman will graduate with a degree in global studies this spring. Narratives about the human condition inspire Emily’s writing, and she enjoys following those threads wherever they lead. Video games and RPGs continue to be her favorite forms of storytelling. Syd Huntimer is a freshman who is currently planning on double-majoring in English and philosophy. In their free time, they are active on the debate team at the University and enjoy reading esoteric French philosophy. Clio Johnson is a freshman at the University of Minnesota studying psychology. Although her studies revolve mostly around the sciences, she has always enjoyed reading and writing poetry. She is incredibly excited and honored to have her work included in The Tower. Callianne Jones is a photographic artist originally from Michigan. Her practice is centered around creating work that goes beyond what the viewer sees and expands into self-exploration. She is motivated to document the natural world as well as human interactions in order to process external events and experiences.

Brenna Kelly is a junior from Green Bay, Wisconsin, studying family social science, and also pursuing a minor in art. She desires to use her art as a means for storytelling, and for drawing others into a sense of meaning and purpose. She is most inspired by her faith, the intricacies and beauty of nature, and the stories that connect humans to one another. Emily Klesel is a student of environmental science, entomology, and printmaking. In order to connect these three areas of study, much of her artwork uses scientific theory on animal behavior and ecology as allegories for themes associated with health, the human body, and environmental justice. Laura Kuchar is a sophomore studying graphic design. She loves design, but enjoys illustration even more. She aims to specialize in color and story-driven illustration and hopes to create graphic novels someday. Bailey LaFleur is a junior studying journalism. She enjoys hiking, pretending astrology is real, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. She hopes to one day share her own written stories with the world, while also amplifying the voices of others. Megan Lange is a senior from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, majoring in technical writing and communication and minoring in creative writing. This is her third year being published in The Tower. She writes every day and her dream is to one day write a book. Caroline Lynch is a senior majoring in English with a minor in creative writing.

She is from Bolingbrook, Illinois. In her free time, she enjoys exploring writing and different art mediums. She hopes to become an author in the future. Alexis Ma is a senior neuroscience major and psychology minor. At the start of the pandemic, she invested large sums of time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Since then, she has become well-acquainted with Joji’s new album, Nectar, and insists everyone listen to it.

unplanned adventure somewhere out in nature. Adelle Schlensker is a sophomore majoring in English. She is learning how to sew and hopes to write more consistently this year. Adelle is originally from Chicago, Illinois. Madeline Schultz is a sophomore majoring in English and minoring in creative writing and biology. This is her first feature in The Tower.

Marissa Munley is a junior in the College of Science and Engineering studying mathematics, statistics, and econometrics. She loves exploring the intersection of science and art, and hopes to incorporate artistic expression into aspects of everyday life.

Miki Schumacher is a Filipino-American student based in Minneapolis. Their work can be found in or is forthcoming in The Tower, littledeathlit, and Sinister Wisdom, and they’re currently a junior editor at F(r)iction magazine.

Aithanh Nguyen is a sophomore studying biology. She is currently a medical research assistant at the Department of Hematology, Oncology, and Transplant and an infographic illustrator for a BIPOC mental health advocacy, Breaking Down Barriers. Her writing focuses on her experiences in boarding high school in Connecticut.

Barbara Shaterian is a junior from Minneapolis working toward her BFA in art. She spends her free time biking around town and going on road trips around the state, always with her camera in tow.

Demitria Sabanty is a senior studying English and creative writing. She religiously documents her life through tweets, poetry, and prose, and hopes to eventually publish a memoir. Her writing concentrates on the body, intimacy, and agency. Rae Sayovitz is in her third and final year at the University of Minnesota studying psychology. Although she definitely has a passion for learning about people, she’d almost always rather be on a crazy,

Maddie Stumbaugh is a painter located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Maddie primarily works with acrylic paint to create colorful yet dreary dreamscapes that possess themes sourced from interpersonal relationships, identity factors, and deep-rooted emotions from their own life. Maya Thariani is a marketing student at the University of Minnesota. She loves reading and baking, and has recently become more interested in abstract art. Molly Thompson is a sophomore from Plymouth, Minnesota, studying English

language and literature, creative writing, and technical writing and communication. She enjoys long walks, spotting new growth on her plants, and reading. Sometimes she paints, albeit poorly. Quynh Van is a book-loving, bread-making senior, studying journalism and film. She enjoys singing sad songs during karaoke, laughing way too loudly in public spaces, and screenwriting rom coms under her covers. (She’s hoping she’ll get paid for it one day).

Madeleine Ware is a sophomore studying communication studies and women’s studies at the University of Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys writing poems about existentialism, nostalgia, and her experiences as a woman. Annie Zheng is a third-year student at the University of Minnesota, studying English with minors in creative writing and Asian and Middle Eastern studies. In her spare time, she enjoys watching volleyball matches and learning to draw.

Thank You from the Editors in Chief Producing a magazine is no easy feat. We would like to sincerely thank the 2021 staff of The Tower for their hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm. Despite the additional hurdle of a remote learning environment, we persevered; this passion is reflected in a beautiful magazine. We would also like to thank everyone who submitted writing and art this year. Without your contributions, The Tower would not be possible. Your creativity, vulnerability, and determination rest in a collection of pieces that are the catchlights of this magazine, bringing each page to life. Furthermore, we would like to thank our mentor and professor Dr. James Cihlar for his constantly renewed support and commitment to The Tower for the past nine years. His leadership and knowledge of craft was integral to the publication of this magazine.

Acknowledgments This edition would not be possible without the support of the Department of English and Student Unions and Activities nor without our continued collaborations with the Weisman Art Museum and Radio K. Our deepest thanks to all. We thank our friends, family, and community members for their support; because of their generosity, our work is possible. We would like to recognize the following individuals: Kathryn Allen, James Cihlar, Christina Ulrich and Thomas Clausen, Myrna Colsch, Victoria Ferkinhoff, Madeline Folstein, Martin Foster, Michael and Mary Gag, Regents Professor Emerita Patricia Hampl, Victoria Harsin, Elsbeth Howe and Jason Ross, Sara Jones-Amrein, Vincent and Margaret Liesenfeld, Professor Ellen Messer-Davidow, Zenyse Miller, Katherine Morrell, Aaron Nesser, James Pottala, William Reichard, Craig Richmond, Jean Schmitz, Regents Professor Emerita Madelon Sprengnether, Suzanne Stoops, Theodore Takasaki, Lisa Tolles, Kathleen Wolfbauer, the Artisan Preservation Company, and 3M Foundation. We gratefully acknowledge the following for serving as ArtWords judges: Laura Pilarski, Weisman Art Museum; Sam Van Cook, Founder and President, Button Poetry; and Amie Stager, WAM Collective member. We also thank Heather Scanlan, Rights and Reproductions, WAM. We thank Kathryn Nuernberger, Assistant Professor in Creative Writing, for her help in promoting the contest. We thank Dean of the College of Liberal Arts John Coleman for his support. We thank English Department Chair Andrew Elfenbein, Director of Undergraduate Studies Elaine Auyoung, and Creative Writing Program Director Kim Todd for making this magazine possible. Thanks also to the following English Department staff members for helping with our endeavors: Evan Block, Executive Administrative Specialist; Rachel Drake, Coordinator of Advising and Undergraduate Studies; Karen Frederickson, Graduate Program Coordinator; Brent Latchaw, CLA Executive Accounts Specialist; Pamela Leszczynski, Department Administrator; Jess McKenna, Coordinator of Instructional Services; Terri Sutton, Communications Specialist; and Holly Vanderhaar, Creative Writing Program Coordinator. We would also like to thank the following Art Department faculty and staff members: Howard Oransky, Gallery Director and Outreach Coordinator, Nash Gallery Director; Tetsuya Yamada, Professor of Ceramics; Jenny Schmid, Professor of Printmaking; and Patricia Straub, Senior Academic Advisor. For their collaboration, our thanks go to The Great River Review, Peter Campion, Editor and Associate Professor in Creative Writing, and Melissa Cundieff-Pexa, Managing Editor. We thank the following people from the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication: Elisia Cohen, Professor and Director; Sara Quinn, Lecturer and Fellow;

Erika Nelson, Chief of Staff; and Scott Dierks, Info Tech Professional. For their advice and guidance, we thank the office of Liberal Arts Technologies and Innovation Services (LATIS). We would like to acknowledge the support we received from Cristina Lopez, Arts and Humanities Technologies and Projects Support, in this department. We thank the staff of the Office of Institutional Advancement for their support and collaboration, including Natalie Bigley, Development Officer; Peter Rozga, Director of Annual Giving; Elsa Wood, Development Assistant; Kaylee Highstrom, Chief of Staff; John Meyers, Development Officer; and Kate Walsh, Department Administrator. Our thanks go to the staff of the University of Minnesota Foundation: Brittany Beyer, Digital Marketing Coordinator; Mike McNaughton, IT Manager, Reporting and Data Analytics; Mounir Peterson-Darbaki, Digital Marketing Specialist; and Colleen Ware, Communications Specialist for the College of Liberal Arts and the Social Sciences departments. We would like to give a special thanks to the following individuals for speaking to our class: Paul Taylor, member of the English Department Advisory Board; and Claire Kirch, Senior Correspondent, Publishers Weekly. Finally, our instructor Dr. James Cihlar has earned not only our gratitude but also our utmost respect for his constant support and assistance; without him, this publication truly would not be possible. It is because of the combined efforts of everyone listed here that we are able to publish our edition of The Tower. The magazine belongs to you as much as it belongs to us, and for that we are both humbled and grateful.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS Submissions are read during the fall semester; the issue is published during the spring semester in print and online. Only undergraduate students at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus may submit. The dates for next year’s edition are: September 7, 2021, submissions open; December 14, 2021, submissions close. Acquistions Standards 1. We look for work that is original, authentic, fresh, new, and insightful. We look for work that is conversant with contemporary literature and art. We seek work that reflects education and study, practice and commitment. 2. We look for work that demonstrates awareness of the conventions of genre; that innovates and experiments successfully; that is skillful on the level of craft; that demonstrates intentionality and control of its materials; that includes awareness of audience. 3. We do not publish work that contains gratuitous or disrespectful usage of the following: swear words, drug use, violence, suicide, rape, abuse, animal cruelty, religion, politics. By gratuitous we mean work that uses highly charged subjects simply to provoke responses from readers, without providing substantive grounding and serving no artistic purpose. We do not publish shock-value pieces nor joke-pieces nor merely irreverent pieces. 4. We do not publish racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, classism, ageism, or any form of hate speech. 5. We seek work that gives authentic expression to the diverse voices and experiences of our campus community. We do not publish work that appropriates identity. 6. We do not publish work that serves as advertising for or reviews of businesses and corporations. 7. We do not publish fan art or fan fiction. Stay up to date by following us on social media and checking out our webpage. Instagram: @thetowerumn Twitter: @thetowerumn Facebook: @thetowerumn Website:

MISSION STATEMENT The Tower is the student-run undergraduate art and literary magazine of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus. We are inspired by a belief in the necessity of artistic expression and its power to enlighten, challenge, and captivate.

the tower

COLOPHON The Tower art and literary magazine was designed and typeset by Zoë Foster, Anna Mamie Ross, Paxton Schmitz, and Matt Wolfbauer in Arno Pro and Brandon Grotesque. It was printed by Versa Press, East Peoria, Illinois.