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Copyright Š 2018 The Tower, University of Minnesota, Department of English, 207 Lind Hall, 207 Church Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455,, Printed by Versa Press, East Peoria, Illinois Front Cover Art: The Animals, Ashlyn Boehme, painting

Mission The Tower is the student-run undergraduate art and literary magazine of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. We are devoted to promoting the work of those who wish to express themselves creatively, and are inspired by a belief in the necessity of artistic expression and its power to enlighten, challenge, and captivate.

Thank you! We would like to thank the following organizations for their generosity and for making it possible to publish the 2018 edition of The Tower. For a full list of donors, please see the last page of this issue.


Letter from the Editors We live in a world of constant sound––of all sorts and from all directions. Every day, we serve as vessels accumulating written, spoken, and illustrated noise. With this in mind, our goal for the 2018 edition of The Tower was to identify a theme conducive to a wide range of experience and emotion. Ultimately, we arrived at the idea of “Human Noise.” Taken from Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” the phrase is intended to convey the duty we have as authors, artists, and readers to actively express our humanity to those around us, even in dark rooms and silent spaces. Taking our cue from the human noise of music, we organized the pieces into four general movements: overture, interlude, crescendo, and finale. Movement I introduces impressions of human life and whispers of simple observation. Movement II offers an acknowledgment of steadily building noise, drawing attention to newly heightened emotions. Movement III focuses on a zenith of sound and strengthened impact of experience. Finally, Movement IV reflects the aftermath of a human score, bringing resolution and fortitude to its performers. Of course, we also recognize that we publish a wide range of narratives that often capture more than one of these evolutions. As you’re reading, we encourage you to examine these pieces not only in terms of how they impact you or fall into a particular category, but also in terms of your own story–– your own collection of human noise. The idea of “Human Noise” is far larger than this publication or its contents. Amidst the commotion of modern society, a resounding desire to merge unity and diversity has been at the forefront of many discussions. This year, the magazine—formerly known as Ivory Tower— affirmed our commitment to these discussions by changing our name to The Tower. Our persisting goal, both then and now, is to ensure that our publication celebrates and features as many intersections of identity as possible. As Carver wrote, “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.” We want to hear everyone’s heart, and we invite you to listen.

Marah Walker, Editor in Chief

Joanna Jensen, Editor in Chief

The Tower 2018 Staff Editors in Chief Joanna Jensen Marah Walker Managing Editors Ella Cashman Bailey Davis Jayme Oberman Development Director Alyssa Benson Development Coordinator Laurel Darling Marketing Director Monica Hying Publicists Ethan Hallstrom Hannah Nelson Emma Pitzl Design Manager Sabrina Munsterteiger Designers Tripura Talagadadeevi Yang Xian Art Editors Yang Xian, chief Laurel Darling Tripura Talagadadeevi

Fiction Editors Avery Ewing, chief Alyssa Benson Haley Burgess Ethan Hallstrom Kayleen Hedberg Il Hwang Monica Hying Hannah Nelson Emma Pitzl Nonfiction Editors Sabrina Munsterteiger, chief Ella Cashman Jayme Oberman Poetry Editors Nicole Borneman, chief Bailey Davis Joanna Jensen Marah Walker Copyeditors Nicole Borneman, chief Haley Burgess Avery Ewing Kayleen Hedberg Il Hwang ArtWords Judges Laurel Darling Hannah Nelson Tripura Talagadadeevi

Contents 1


On Light, Lizz Fong


Flux, Kendall Laurent

3 Jade, Rachel Parks


Rise, Meg Jenson

4  Late Onset Adolescence, Breck Hickman

38 Minneapolis by Night #3, Carter Blochwitz

5 Celestial, Johanna Schmidt


syzygy, Ondrew Tillotson


Self-Portrait, Kate Drakulic


If Symptoms Persist, Andrew Zhou


The Bag, Garrett Grage


The Nude, Alex Schumacher


universal grammar, Brad Harmon


we sleep the same, Kate Drakulic


Knowledge, Allen Witkowski


Notes, 2017, Aubrey Asleson


Liam, Zoe Rogers


things I eat, Kendall Laurent


Collage, Gavin Arnold


Reverse Abecedarian, Juliana Que


Now, Erin Anderson


Galaxy Goddess, Emily Jablonski

20 Neon Sign at the Ice Cream Shoppe, Ashley Mattei


 hen You Come Back, W Mark Richard



Red Regression, Ashlyn Boehme

22 The Intergalactic Gallery of Fine Artifacts and Arts, Tiffany Bui


our music, Payton West


Forever in My Head, Anthony Flores

28 All She Ever Was Is Now a Memory, Anthony Flores


Circuit Breaker, Olivia Heusinkveld


Untitled, Kyungmoon Park


Space Puddle, Sydnney Islam


Wet, Megan Gunderman


winter, Sowmya Narayan


Elegy, Erin Anderson



33 I Know We Just Met But I Think We Should Go Camping Together Over Spring Break, Rosalie Uggla 34 A Soft Kiss in a World of Heavy Voices, Sierra Larsen




Childhood Injuries, Lydia Hollen


jump!, Meg Jenson


No, Longer, Amy Verrando


Citrus, Evelyn Staats


Gray Landscape, Kate Drakulic

76 The Wolf Considers Herself, Her Food, Claire Fallon


Unleashed One, Aaron Musickant



The Animals, Ashlyn Boehme


1,001, Lauren Foley

121 When You Floated Away, Rachel Parks


Hers, Grace O’Neil


Picture Day, Ashlie Paulson


The Other Self, Kalina Kostka


Semasiology, Megan Hoff


Stationed Movement, Melissa Gust


Purr, Megan Gunderman


Dirt, Hannah Jacobson


Untitled, Kyungmoon Park


Names That Kill, Cassidy Kummrow


Before and After, Kate Drakulic

98 You can have my body, Shereen Fahrai 99



Three Songs for a Cowboy, Lizz Fong

102 las semillas de la suerte están flotando, Maureen Amundson 103

Stella’s Fish Café, Gabriella Granada


Old Havana, Sydnney Islam


S alsa in Track Spikes, Benjamin Schroeder


With Selves, Ashlie Paulson


Georgia Watermelon, Garrett Grage


Stranded, Carter Blochwitz


Rosé, Sydnney Islam


Roses, Consumed, Lizz Fong


Unnatural, Ashley Mattei


In the Garden, Kate Drakulic


Blink, Ian Smith

Hollow Humans, Emily Jablonski


Sandbar Fire, Carter Blochwitz


Untitled, Makayla Samountry

124 The Cemetery by the Grocery Store, Claire Fallon 125

Universal Thoughts, Emily Jablonski


Observants, Meg Jenson



128 First Place: Nausea, Benjamin Schroeder, inspired by Still Life with Bananas, Alfred Maurer 130 Second Place: Decay, Grace Baldwin, inspired by The Pedicord Apts., Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz 132 Third Place: Baby Diaz, Mike Corrao, inspired by #4, Diaz, Charles Biederman







JADE Rachel Parks

She is woeful in the sun’s absence, crouched near the windowsill, etched with eeriness. Insect carcasses and dust mites decorate her hiding spot, dressed in darkness. She appears tall and mighty, but knows that a single gust of wind would shatter her. So she cowers in her shell, scuffed rough and littered with pockmarks. Her rubber green fingers, once lavish but now tattered, twist and twirl and turn in a frenzied kaleidoscopic mess. Still, everywhere new fingers emerge,


and each day she stretches her spine wistfully toward the blockade of concrete above.



Late Onset Adolescence, Breck Hickman Painting

CELESTIAL Johanna Schmidt

The girls at my school referred to sex as “making love.” It always confused me. How does one make love? It seems like love is either there or it isn’t. You can’t

touch it. You can’t sculpt it. You can’t mix things together and create it. There’s no recipe, no instruction manual. How does having sex make love? But when they called it that, I didn’t say any of this. I called it that too. That’s what was written in the script, and if you want people to leave you alone, it’s best to just say your assigned lines. He was a sweet boy that I had been going out with for two years, but we had known each other since third grade. His hair had gotten darker since then, but his eyes stayed the same. They were a steadfast green, bright and loyal. They gazed down at me with more love than I thought I could ever match. My mother said that you shouldn’t make love before you’re joined by love. Married. I was fifteen and that was a long ways away. He looked at me with those sweet green eyes and I didn’t want to wait. Afterward I looked around the room for the love we had supposedly made, but



n Spanish, the words for “moon” and “sun” are feminine and masculine, respectively. My mother told me it was because the moon represents women and the sun represents men. “Women,” she said, “are supposed to be mysterious. They change. They’re deep and emotional.” And I loved that comparison. At night, I stared up at the moon, admiring it. There’s something entrancing about it. It has an ethereal glow to it, its bright face staring out at the world with some sort of beautiful wisdom. Who stares at the sun? It’s brash, it’s harsh, it’s obvious. There’s nothing to wonder about. It beats down on you, it burns you. How perfect, I thought, to have been born a woman. Lovely like the moon.


there was none. The old love, the love of his eyes, his love for me, mine for him, all of that had remained. It wasn’t bigger or more powerful, just steady. The more times it happened, the more ridiculous the phrase “making love” seemed to me. Nothing had been created by our actions. It was not a monumental event. It was fun, it was good, it was nice, but in the end, it was nothing more than sex. It was wonderful, but it did not shatter my world. When he told me his family was moving, I cried. He pulled me in and I leaned against his chest, sniffing in his scent like I was huffing paint, like if I breathed in enough it would settle into my lungs and I wouldn’t have to be without it.


The appearance of the moon is mutable, ever-changing. Sometimes the moon is so black it cannot be seen and sometimes it has enough brightness that you can go outside without a flashlight. It wanes and waxes, fades and returns. When the moon is full, people fall in love with it. “Did you see the moon last night? It was beautiful.” It’s beautiful. Look at it. They always tell you to look at it, but they never say it

made them feel warm. The Bible, being as tactful as possible, will sometimes say that “a man lie with a woman.” Funny how frat boys say similarly, “I got laid.” But who lies? Who is laid? Does one lie while the other lays? In any case, more is (or should be) happening than lying and laying. It’s not very accurate. He was my first but not my only. I loved him and I missed him, but that was not enough. Perhaps if we were older, we could have done it, but those 600 miles were just too much. The sex was good, and I had liked it. When it was gone, I missed it. It did not seem like the kind of thing to agonize over, the kind of thing worthy of a pros and cons list. It was something I wanted and something I could get. So I did. I want to be clear. I was not standing on a street corner with a sign that said “fuck me.” I refused advances; I was not open to everyone. I was not some cat in heat, accepting anyone I could because of some primal need. But if someone wanted me, and I wanted them, I said yes. Always at their house, so that my mother would not see. Always with a condom, so that nothing

The problem lies in basic astronomy. Really, the moon is just a satellite. It is a body that spins around a planet. It whirls around, flitting through space, dependent. A sun is a star. It is steady, unwavering, unmoving. It pulls objects in, pulls others toward it because of its gravitational attraction. It is the center of our solar system, the figure around which the planets revolve. The moon is flighty. Romance novels sometimes try to make it sound like some sort of sacrifice. “I gave myself to him.” But that isn’t right. I didn’t give anything to anyone. Or if I did, it wasn’t anything that they didn’t give me in return. It’s kind of funny, in a way. The haughty stares from other girls, their judgmental eyes snaking over to me. Their insults thinly disguised by coughs. Slut. Their whispers frosting across the hallway, settling on me like ice. Their heads held high. They would never dream of such a thing. What little respect I must have for myself, to do something like that, to give away my body for a few tokens

of affection, like a stuffed animal at a carnival. Cheap. They had won me. I let them win, let them in. What were these girls’ bodies? They were millionaires’ houses, they were goldflake vodka, they were the latest model of Bugatti. They stared down at me, down at my earthly cheapness. My frailty. My weakness. And the boys. Tongues that snaked out, slinking across their lips. Air kisses like darts, like stinging nettles, like fire ants. Lewd gestures, lust-filled stares. But it’s funny. It really is. Because even though I was treated as a pest, a fly to be swatted at with loud whispers and licentious eyes, I don’t remember anyone ever doing the same to any of the boys. Oh no, not them. They were treated like the family dog. The girls who had so long ignored them now fed them table scraps of attention and the other boys welcomed them into the fray. They were brought in while I was cast out. Funny. The sun gives us light, heat, and life. It allows for plants to grow, it keeps our bodies at a sustainable temperature. It is the linchpin of existence. When the sun burns out, we will burn out with it. The moon produces no light. It is just rock. It merely reflects the sun’s light.


unexpected happened. Only and always when I wanted to.


It makes nothing on its own; it simply borrows. Without the sun, the moon would become invisible. “Coitus,” “copulation,” and “intercourse.” Let’s not be ridiculous. This isn’t a laboratory. We don’t need microscopes or goggles, and when the lights are off and the heat is rushing through my veins, I don’t really care what the evolutionary purpose for it is. I am not thinking about genetic recombination. I am not being studied. I am doing. I am feeling. I am being.


The hisses, the whispers, they were like papercuts: practically insignificant except for the hurt they leave you with. Sometimes I returned home with my skin cut so badly I cried. I stared in the mirror and I saw those blue eyes and I wondered how anyone could say blue was the color of sincerity. I had been reckless, and flighty. That’s what they told me. That’s what was true, wasn’t it? I wondered if the boys ever thought that about themselves. Did they stare at their reflection and see it painted over with comments? Eyes distorted, lips aggressively inviting? Did they clench their hands in a fist sometimes for no reason? Did they lie in their bed and

think of all the beds they’ve lain in before? Speculated as to where the tipping point was between a good amount and too many? I did. But sometimes I looked in the mirror and something else happened. Sometimes I saw my lips curl up at the edges. I stared into my own eyes and I found depth that had been somehow overlooked by everyone. I saw my body, saw it wrapped up in clothes, saw it without them, and I saw that it was not dirty, it was not spoiled, it was not ruined. I saw myself and I ignored the papercut comments; they hurt but I would not let them leave scars. I don’t want to be the moon. Pale, frigid. It dances around the earth, begging for attention. Maybe we look sometimes, maybe we admire it. But when they say the sun and the moon are twins, they’re lying. They’ve never been twins. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to twirl around. I’m not going to show a pretty face while darkness lies just beyond that façade. I am not here to be stared at. I won’t take their light because I make my own. I don’t belong up in the sky because I’m right here. I’m here on this earth. Maybe that’s why some people just say, “We did it.” Crude? Perhaps a bit. But no

The easy thing to do, I suppose, would have been to stop. I could have switched schools. I could have begun again as a new petal, just then being exposed to the

world. I could have let my ice-blue eyes sink to the ground, could have tsked at the inappropriate jokes I overheard. I could have lifted my chin in the air and said, “making love” to my boyfriend, correcting his dirty way of speaking, tossing my hair to show everyone I am classy. I could have. But I didn’t. I am a woman, but I am no moon.


one questions what you mean. There is no ridiculous poetry surrounding the words. There is no unnecessary tact. No undue sacrifice. I think my favorite part is the “we.”


10 Self-Portrait, Kate Drakulic Acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink

THE BAG Garrett Grage

I skipped down the concrete corridor bathed in dim canary bands of light shuttering like film frozen in an old Kodak I tied the bag to my wrist to remind myself I bought more books its weight hard to forget carving a pale pink valley just voices enveloped in pulp choked in plastic nothing more

I see someone bought groceries, a voice calls out I opened my mouth like a patient lift bridge I eat paper I set the table with warm ivory plates took out a copy of that book you like and carved into it like a Thanksgiving bird


feathery handles snap under pressure my paperback beehive buzzes piercing cavities as if I filled the bag with freshly pruned limbs from the oak out front



all languages are shadows against the backdrop of

infinite light

small movements trigger a boundless vitality


every fluctuation

a mistake

in the infinite logic

of clarity

Knowledge, Allen Witkowski Photograph


14 Liam, Zoe Rogers Graphite, charcoal, gouache, ink, citrasolv, and collage on paper

COLLAGE Gavin Arnold



ome people meet anxiety. Some sell drugs. Some enjoy the fantastic poison that can be called liquid courage. The stuff that with each drop draws away self-control. Learning how to drink. Throwing away naïveté and becoming pessimistic? How about giving a neuroscience presentation with a hickey? Or being so high you don’t notice class ended? Someone told me not to let college become a blur of drugs and alcohol. Did that mean I shouldn’t have been hammered that Tuesday before my 8:00 a.m. lab in which I had to use a microscope for three hours, the light torturing my sensitive eyes. How about the Monday before finals? Would you remind me that I haven’t written anything serious since? It almost feels like yesterday, or perhaps two days ago, that a group of awkward first-year students stumbled around trying to find places to get hammered. The keyboard has an unfamiliar feel under each finger as they struggle to find a button creating some story about why it didn’t work, or why it’s good that we don’t speak. Or why the performance of our first year was so draining. Or where our dreams went. Where did they go? College is fine. You don’t need alcohol to have fun. But it definitely makes life more interesting—you said that once, I think.



u u u

They told me college is the best four years of life. Let’s run with that statement for, perhaps, just for a moment. My bike weaves in and around traffic; the streetlights illuminate me, each pedal pushing with more force than the previous cycle. The smell of food wafting from my handlebars drawing me to the basement apartment that has become home. Senior year, Saturday night: barbeque, pass out before twelve. Ten first-years wandering college drunk, directionless. Each one frantically texting, trying to find a party, trying to find a venue in which to channel the alcohol’s energy. I dangle the keys close to my face trying to find the one for the door, the bike and barbeque ready to make the very least out of a conventional party night. All three enter, bike against the wall, barbeque on the coffee table, me on the couch. The college president’s holiday party ends; we, the student caterers, grab beers stashed while cleaning up. Drinking, we laugh at the absurdity of cocktail parties—the fronts, the faux smiles, the feigned interest; us, who blend in while representing the student experience. After a weeknight tour of Dinkytown bars, two others and I stumble up the stairs into our house. “Fireworks!” Someone finds a Roman candle and mortar. Someone else goes searching for the missing lighter. I casually roll the eight ball around the pool table. “No lighter!” he shouts. We turn on an electric burner, roll up an old Daily and wait. Flame bursts out of the newspaper; moments later, fireworks fill the Minneapolis skyline. We would talk about med school, or maybe banter: the flings, meaningless sex, that internship which opened our eyes to money and the working world. Could we talk about the bubble in which we’ve been so immersed or is it too soon?

My favorite text is the “What are you all up to tonight?” without any plans of ever leaving the couch. Vinyl crackles in the background. Chatter flies around and goes in circles, caught in the draft created by the ceiling fan. Our oven clock reads three. The upstairs neighbor was locked out and showed up to drink some Fireball—does anyone know what’s happening? Sometimes one waits patiently for the last people to leave, sometimes one gently alludes to their desire to go to bed. I slip out and fall asleep. The upstairs neighbor was still asleep on the couch at 9:30 when I came out to get water; it reminds me of waking up on a friend’s window seat, a dash confused, at six in the morning and quietly slipping out. If you and I were to talk without reminders of everything during and since—if we could still be civil—maybe that narrative would become something more than a show canceled after its first season. Saturday Night Live comes on in ten minutes. The few replies to my text have gone unanswered: couch, McFlurry, fries. I plan to watch the second half of SNL in the morning.


I still have that little red bottle half full of bubble juice. The bubbles I blew as we walked around and learned about the different academic buildings and all the amazing opportunities just waiting to be found. We’d wake up around eleven and our freshmen friends’ group chat began to buzz, meaning it was time for the dining hall. Eggs, bad bacon, cereal, and the worst coffee were the ingredients to a successful—or more aptly, manageable—Sunday. Who had the craziest night? Who hooked up with whom? We still cannot believe how much fun this is. Sundays are for grocery shopping now. The eggs and bacon don’t cook themselves nor do they show up in the fridge.


After the catering beers, we went to an apartment with jungle juice. One cup, two cups, three cups, and a grass field somewhere. Someone scoops me up, leads me along the grass toward the road, back toward my room, rolls me into bed and sets the alarm I ask for before saying, “Goodnight.” A fairy tale ending: you would text me, “What are you up to tonight?” “Watching SNL on the couch with McDicks, how about you?” “No plans.” “Care to join?” You would lie on one couch, me on the other. Two brown paper bags cast onto the floor. We haven’t spoken. Alec Baldwin will be dressed as Donald. You would say, “Remember freshman year?” “We drove each other insane.” “Remember when we didn’t?” The opening credits are playing. The remnant of a thought slips out the window, disappearing into sweeping narratives about experience or the expectation of real life—the opportunity to explore a “new” bubble.



I don’t know your voice. There. That’s the worst part. I wanted to say it first so we can have this end some other way. Once you held me in the rich soil of your body; once you were the only thing I’d ever known. Now, petunias line my pillow; orchids smear the sink; I pull hair from my brush and lily petals fall to the trash like snow. Yesterday I went barefoot because my shoes were flush with magnolias. Do you understand? It’s silly, I know, but everywhere I go I drop seeds. I am trying to grow your garden back.


Erin Anderson



It buzzes because They buzz about It: the electric attraction Between she and her status, A charged blaze Bent to build brand . . . Names her sparkle-topped flavors to spoon Inside Instagram squares “Nothing tastes as good.” She beams in its glow, like her They pose for white flashes Fitting person into pixel Perfect captions reading, “Who I am” Trading five senses to curate Posts for eyes, for little coded hearts.


POETRY Space Puddle, Sydnney Islam Mixed media, collage





ua So sat at their desk every morning, silent and still, eyes trained dutifully on the doorway, wondering who would walk in next. Perhaps a star-studded celebrity, searching for the next piece to keep them ahead of the trends? Maybe an up-and-coming politician, eager to display their wealth? Rarely, but often enough to be of note, deep-pocketed artists gravitating toward their next inspiration? Whatever their needs, Cua So was prepared to show them to the window that would fulfill their desires––and ignite some previouslyunknown ones. A subtle vibration alerted Cua So to the arrival of a visitor. Cua So rose gracefully from their chair and floated to the entrance. From the dimming light of the portal emerged a tall figure with delicate shoulders and a somber expression. “Welcome to the Intergalactic Gallery of Fine Artifacts and Arts. My designation is Cua So, and I will be your guide to the

Window Exhibit.” Cua So, bereft of any vocal cords, beamed their introduction directly into the minds of patrons. The fiery depths of the visitor’s eyes flickered, bottomless and unrevealing. They recognized the newcomer instantly. He was Wrah Shing, famed poet and author across the Andromeda Galaxy. Many who had the privilege of meeting the secluded writer left with a feeling of great warmth and comfort in their body, but also a distinct perception that he had burned a hole through their soul. Needless to say, they never were quite the same again. But Cua So was a professional, and maintained their cordiality seamlessly. “If you would follow me.” Cua So gestured toward the exhibit. Cua So made no sound as they walked across the spotless white floor, but Wrah Shing had a heavy tread. They worried about the priceless window displays suspended by antigravity, each showing images of faraway places throughout the

falter. They were used to these sort of grandiose statements from their clients. With another polite head tilt, they led the writer away from the offending window. For a time that could’ve been mere hours or eons, they waited and made little suggestions as Wrah Shing hemmed and hawed over the intrinsic moral value of the windows and how they measured up to aesthetic metrics of solvency. Finally, Wrah Shing left with a picture window dipped in silver, showcasing a lonely white dwarf at the end of its life. His heavy footsteps shook the room one last time as Cua So bid him farewell at the portal exit. As soon as the portal enveloped the rest of Wrah Shing’s back, Cua So turned and walked briskly across the gallery lobby. They stopped at a secluded corner near the windows highlighting the beauty of the Leon system. An identificatory system appeared, requesting a print. Cua So waved the loose particles at the end of their arm into a skeletal hand and placed it on the pad. A door made of white marble slid open, and Cua So slipped inside. Deftly descending from the precipice of the stairs, winding around boxes of long-forgotten artifacts, they stopped abruptly, with a deep, excited inhale, at the sight of a medium-sized window draped with curtains on the


galaxy. The panes shook with each step Wrah Shing took, and Cua So made a mental note to take the shortest route through the gallery. The curator stopped in front of a simple double-hung window featuring the blank, icy whitescape of Hai. Icicles hung from the ledge with the precarious grasp of a novice climber. Beyond that, a land of infinite whiteness, blanketed by the everfalling snow. “This window has been rated one of our most awe-inspiring pieces. It highlights the beauty and simplicity of Hai. While we are swept away by the business of daily affairs, this window to Hai is the perfect way to strike a balance and restore peaceful harmony to our lives upon our return home.” Wrah Shing made no comment, but stared at the window so intensely Cua So wondered how the snow was not melting under the heat of his gaze. “Simplistic beauty has become a trite concept, and long devolved into the aesthetic of an archaic time. Truly, to bring forth any work based from this window would be an affront to the nuances that make our lives worthwhile.” Wrah Shing’s smug, pugnacious tone grated against Cua So’s synapses. However, the dutiful curator didn’t



granite basement wall. Grasping the soft, gray fabric with their skeletal fingers, Cua So pulled them back with unrestrained flourish. A simple gliding window peeling eggshell-white paint was revealed. The tension from the tribulation that was Wrah Shing melted from their muscles. Today, the window was peering in on a lush forest, blooming with liveliness and vibrancy in the middle of a hot summer day. Cua So tentatively placed a hand on the pane, cautious of scratching the glass, and felt the heat of the forest pressing back on them. A clear river snaked across the forest floor shaded by low hanging trees. This was Human Earth, or as it was colloquially called among the intergalactic gentry, the Primitive Pit. Cua So’s favorite part of this window was that it hardly stuck to one location. Wrah Shing would never see anything more than that lonesome white dwarf collapsing in on itself. But this window enjoyed roaming about Human Earth, and Cua So could see anywhere, so long as it was on this one planet. Cua So had spent their life studying humanity, but never once heard their voices. They watched the whole of humanity unfold on mute, from the vantage of this humble window. Suddenly, a smudge of motion caught

Cua So’s eye. They moved closer, and a little human bumbled into frame. The child was dressed in a bright red shirt and jean shorts, mud-stained sneakers feeling out the uneven forest floor as they made their way through the brush. Cua So smiled as they watched the child’s valiant efforts to clamber over a fallen tree trunk. As the child neared the edge of the river, littered with sharp, protruding stones, Cua So began to feel alarmed. The child reached the water’s edge and peered in, transfixed by something glittering in the reflection. Those dirty sneakers were too close to the rushing water. The child stumbled, small body lurching toward the jagged rocks. Forgetting the glass barricade, space, and time between them, Cua So rushed forward and collided with the window. Dazed after the impact, they almost missed the sight of a large figure sprinting across the forest floor. The figure swiftly snatched the child into its embrace before it could topple into the river’s maw; the water rushed by, agitated to have been denied a victim. Cua So’s shoulders sagged in relief. The human woman, presumably the child’s mother, carried the little one to safety. As the woman walked past Cua So’s direct line of sight, they saw tiny beads of tears welling up in her eyes. Cua So noticed the

it away. Just as the newlyweds were about to cut into their cake, the scenery in the window changed. Taken aback, Cua So tapped the glass inquisitively, as if to ask the window to please switch back. But the scene stayed fixed on the outside of a pillared building, magnificent in the midday sun. Two flagpoles like metal stalks grew toward the sky, banners flapping lazily in the wind. Cua So didn’t realize that the window had been unobtrusively following someone until they recognized the young woman. She was framed by a crisp gray suit instead of a wedding dress, her ponytail a pendulum keeping time with her gait. A flood of endearment and adoration overcame Cua So as they watched the young woman pass through the revolving glass doors, eyes alight with childish excitement and mouth set in a determined line. She was reverently fingering the tiny metal flag pinned to her blazer. Cua So leaned forward eagerly to see where she was going, but the window stopped at the front doors. The patient curator pulled out a chair from the corner, unfolded it, and sat down. Cua So’s glassy eyes were watchful, their long limbs still, as they waited for the young woman to return. On the gallery’s third trip around the sun, Cua So opened the window to find


gash pooling crimson across the child’s ankle. Placing a second thin, bony hand on the window pane, Cua So felt the woman’s sobs reverberate to their side of the universe. From then on, the window showed only places the child inhabited. During the next few weeks, as soon as Cua So was relieved from their tour guide duties, they fled to the depths of the basement and flung open the curtains to check on the humans. The window made Cua So privy to the intimate aspects of human life they had never known before. Cua So had kept the woman from before company as she laid on a hospital bed of stark white sheets, gasping and crying out noiselessly. When the child was born, Cua So read the lips of the nurse (“It’s a girl!”) and saw the mother’s face light up with joy as she cradled her crying baby for the first time. The window never showed her the girl’s life in chronological order, and Cua So was left to piece the timeline together. They saw the girl take first in her school spelling bee, then her first steps, then her first day of university. Today, Cua So saw the girl, now a young woman, draped in a white dress as beautiful as a newly born star, face shadowed by a delicate veil. Cua So was shocked when they felt a lone tear drip down their face, and chuckled sheepishly as they brushed



the scene had changed. The window had positioned Cua So inside a moving car. Rain was pelting the windows. The windshield wipers did little to combat the rain; the young woman was struggling to make out the road in front of her. The sight of the young woman filled Cua So with an inexplicable and immediate rush of joy. Had they a voice, they would’ve laughed in happiness. Instead, they moved their shoulders up and down like they had observed humans doing from behind the glass. Between the intermittent arcs cleared by the wiper, Cua So thought they could make out a forest converging on either side of the road. The trees swayed with an eerie calmness in the calamity. The memory had only just begun to reform in Cua So’s mind when they noticed the headlights illuminating the windshield. The car jerked sharply to the right, and the world outside the car spun far too fast. The car slammed to a halt mid-spin, and Cua So saw the young woman lurch forward. Glass fragments exploded and covered the dashboard like ice shards. The front of the car was flattened against the trunk of a tree. Cua So forced themself to look back at the young woman. She was slumped against the wheel, the airbag partially deployed. A crimson rivulet

adorned the skin between her temple and jaw. She was the picture of tragedy artists like Wrah Shing loved to hang in their foyers. A creature bred for solitude, Cua So had been born into a voiceless, noiseless existence. But the pause that followed ballooned into a silence more deathly and frightening than they had ever known. Cua So shut the window. They had no time to mourn, or rather, they gave themself none. Cua So awoke when the exhibit opened, sold windows to patrons, entertained their artistic notions, and went back to sleep. Cua So’s nights were strung along by a wordless nightmare. Eventually, they barricaded the doors leading down to the basement. They learned to keep awake by mindlessly wandering through the exhibit, watching their reflection slide off the panes. In the morning, the museum lights flickered on, catching Cua So in the midst of gazing into the Tya ocean. Startled, they hurried to the front, preoccupied with the indignity of tardiness in front of customers. The sound of a door closing echoed in the hall. Cua So froze. The clacking of heels gradually made its way closer. Disbelief battling with fear anchored Cua So to the floor. The noise grew louder until

Their voice was neither too deep nor too high, and possessed a pleasantly-round sound. Cua So felt themself awash with wonder as they drank in the rich noises. They strained to hear the woman’s even breathing, the swish of her clothing as she shifted; all the indicators that told Cua So that finally, they weren’t alone. A new dimension of the universe unfurled in the form of this one human. But there was just one more thing they had to hear, one more memory to treasure and tuck away for safekeeping. They clenched their hands behind their back in restraint, breathless with excitement. The woman’s face crinkled slightly, lips drawing up in the lightest suggestion of a smile. Her lips parted, like the opening of a ruby-red pomegranate. The windows trembled, the floor fell away, and Cua So felt themself forgetting everything but dirt-covered sneakers and metal flag pins. And she spoke. FICTION

Cua So became convinced it was just their own overworked heart trying to escape from their chest. But Cua So had never heard their heartbeat. The creature that rounded the corner had a body of simple appendages and eyes that spoke of stormy days rather than hellfire. No sensory antenna adorned its scalp, nor battle-scarred horns, just hair pulled into a graying ponytail. The human woman stopped in front of Cua So, showing no expression of fear or amazement, just searching curiosity. Hardly daring to believe their eyes, Cua So slowly moved their gaze to where the woman’s gray pantsuit stopped short of her ankle. A thin scar wrapped halfway around the skin, like a bracelet cut too short. They blinked slowly, as if adjusting to the sight of a full moon on an endlessly dark night. Remembering their manners as a curator, Cua So straightened, aligning their shoulders, and wrapped their skeletal fingers behind their back. Cua So stepped forward, almost expecting a pane of glass to stop them. This was a dream that had accidentally snuck inside the house through the open window. “Welcome to the Intergalactic Museum of Fine Artifacts and Arts. My designation is Cua So, and I will be your guide to the Window Gallery,” Cua So said.


28 All She Ever Was Is Now a Memory, Anthony Flores Photograph

WET Megan Gunderman


I am haunted by this dream I had a reverie made too green—all green wet I swam in the stream, knee deep and clear scooping up smooth stones, suggesting that they slip some of them I loved too much to let go but I do not know where I hid them

winter, Sowmya Narayan Photograph


ELEGY Erin Anderson

Maybe you’re wondering if I remember the birds we’d watch from the window, the babies especially, their paper wings & bones so new. If I remember the clouds of light blurring our bare toes in the dirt, that lavender light, how we combed our own paths in the back woods. We chewed chives, held wildflowers, threaded curlers through your hair. Those nights we slept under the Christmas tree, you too even though you had a bad back, of course a few pine needles poking through our pajamas, the close, blinking lights of the tree somehow gentle in their closeness, like falling asleep inside a city skyline at night. And yes, I remember the music—there was always music—you taught me to sing melodies, they brimmed broken from our mouths & I remember the way Grandpa laughed at our songs & what I’m trying to say is I’m sorry, I remember, listen: the house where I live now is close to the train tracks (it’s green, you’d like it) & sometimes at night the passing trains shake my bed while I’m trying to sleep & so I lie there not sleeping, & while I lie there I remember all of this— the birds, the light, your elbows, you.





I anticipate sleep but it never does find me. I just met you four days ago. Stacked against the wall are the objects of my desire: a pen, a comb, an accordion, meaning, perfume. Someone’s jacket is draped over the handle of the door. Maybe you would call me today even in your sickness. It is a sentiment, a fantasy with which to contend. I pretend to erase the things that I anticipate with you: water, cedar, pine, a feeling, the sunrise through the slats of the eastern-facing blinds, the bramble of messages in the looming relentlessness of love or something like it. The night I met you I tied a cherry stem with my tongue and dropped it into the bottle you were drinking from. I was bolder then. Time was different, just a week ago when I was filled to the brim with your voice on the phone, when you called me and told me you wanted to see me again. Is brevity the nature of adoration? Because I would delete half the things I’ve ever done just to fumble for your hand in the dark.


Rosalie Uggla


34 A Soft Kiss in a World of Heavy Voices, Sierra Larsen Collage

ON LIGHT Lizz Fong

Light is both a wave and a particle. When I look at you, I rock back and forth between delight and shame. Sight is a continuous miracle. Light

bounces off every object in its path, then pours into my eyes. Particles of light become a site of a constant conversation between me and my surroundings. I know that no one else sees exactly the way I do, or at least, there is no way to confirm that they do; the conversation between my eyes and my environment takes place in solitude. That is to say: sight connects, but it also isolates. Light encompasses your entire body, which is how I’m able to see you. We’re all on the bus heading back to my place. You are sitting across from me, and we lock eyes for far too long. By now, I know that this will be my last month in Illinois; I know that we won’t be friends once I leave. After I’ve moved back to Minnesota, I replay this scene, but I can’t remember what color your eyes are. I remember only the softness of your face, only of the muteness of desire.



love you the most, watching you get pushed around in a crowd of people while a band plays—your hair glued to your sweaty face. I watch your face contort as you sing along, and I think: this is what desire feels like. After the concert, we stand outside, and I stare at you because I can, because I want to, because there is something in your face that is meant only for me. Even though I like to look, I’m afraid to touch. You glance up and catch me staring. Shame washes over me, and I suddenly remember all the times I’ve thought of you fucking me. In attempts to recover, I look down, but your hands catch my eye, and all I can think about is how they would feel in my mouth. I can’t look up from the ground, but I wonder if you’re watching me.


I read somewhere that we never actually touch anything. Something in our atoms repels each other, so there is always some space between us and the object we wish to touch. There is an uncrossable rift

in-between us. Even if there was a way to bridge it, I’m not sure I would want to. I have infinite tenderness for you and, even more so, for the space in between us. What I mean: I love to reach for you.

36 Flux, Kendall Laurent Colored pencils, pen, and ink


37 Rise, Meg Jenson Collage

SYZYGY Ondrew Tillotson

they are solar luminescence sewn in a lunar clamshell: their nebulous consequence is their aligning nonpareil. these eclipses cast umbras on the umber, across tundras, near gumshoed inglenooks, and beside lustrous brooks.

and open-and-cotton-mouthed from gilded awning flares, we were dazzled and doused with syzygy’s fanfares.


skip’s twin is stutter, flip’s kin is flutter. they’ll retrace quartets as the midday sun sets.

39 Minneapolis by Night #3, Carter Blochwitz Photograph




here was a dog once; I would’ve only been around six years old then. More than anything, I remember that he was missing a back leg. Maybe missing since birth, maybe stolen. His owner was wearing a faded floral dress and a band of gold around her finger. Streaks of jet black hair sprouted from her head, and from his, a mat of gold. Neither could look the other in the eye. You know, it really is fascinating. Other than the tumbling of leaves and the stench of a Bible, I can hardly remember what being a child was like. It’s all just heat and sweat in my head. And I can’t recall the bitter prick of snowflakes or the shape of my father’s voice. Even my dreams slip away when the sun rises. Nothing sticks. But if I close my eyes tight enough, I can still see that dog bracing himself against the sidewalk. I remember how he squealed. I remember the tightening of my mother’s nails against my wrist, dragging me away and away; I remember the silhouette of a skyscraper against the heaving, horrid sun. Most of all, I remember how that woman’s twisted hands clamped around that dog’s jaws as tidal waves exploded from his lips and stained the sidewalk around them. Blood, I thought. It must be blood. I imagined an unfurling fist and a ball of jagged glass, both buried in the throat of a crippled dog. What else could explain how he writhed, how he stumbled where his leg should’ve been? A fountain

When I was thirteen, I sat on the edge of a bathtub and felt poison start to drip through my veins. I don’t remember what it was, but I like to imagine it was beautiful: a handful of toothpaste, a shot glass of paint, perhaps a gun filled with bleach. But whatever it was, it had slipped past my lips and into my stomach, tying bewitchingly toxic knots. One of the lightbulbs above the bathroom mirror crackled and sang. And then out of nowhere, it popped, dropping half of the room into darkness. It settled into my skin like sunlight into rose petals. That was when I was sure it was all going to topple. When I knew


spray of bile spewed from his lips in wild bursts as if somebody was trying to block the end of a garden hose with nothing but their own fingers, forming swirling pools of muck beneath their feet. But looking closer, the woman’s hands were actually holding a glass bottle in between the dog’s teeth, forcing some impossibly awful liquid down and down into his throat. The stuff slid into his mouth and flew right back out in Rorschach splatter. “Hydrogen peroxide,” my mother said on the drive home. “Dog probably ate some chocolate or something.” “Is that bad?” I asked. “Yeah; chocolate’s toxic to dogs. Gotta make it drink hydrogen peroxide to make it throw everything up. Might die otherwise,” she replied. “You know, we probably have a bottle in the bathroom somewhere.” We did. Still do. And sometimes, when everything is still, and all that’s left is me and a fraction of moonlight, I think about those moments. I think about beautiful dogs who love chocolate and fight for their ecstasy, obedient dogs who simply exist and exist and exist. All that dog wanted was something sweet, and that woman stole it. I could never figure it out. “Why?” I asked. Why, why, why? “She loves him,” my mother told me.


that the air inside me was going to spark and combust, flaring and thrashing until there was nothing left of me but skin. I could already see the gravestone hurtling toward me, the hands folding themselves into mine. And for a moment, I tasted wildfire. Then my mother stumbled into the room, kneeled in front of me, and fumbled with a little black bottle. The cap popped off and sighed, the rim of the bottle glinting like a guillotine’s blade just before its wicked drop. “Ipecac. It’s all we got,” my mother said. “You’ll throw up for a while, but the poison will come out with it. It’s fine. Just drink it.” And then she was pouring it onto a spoon, and all I could do was dig my fingernails into my palms and stifle the laughter that was clawing its way out of my throat to infect the air with incredulous joy.


Then I was twenty, and there was a great big party. I remember the band, but I don’t recall their faces. Only their fingers and the plucking of strings. We saw a comet that night. It was lovely for its light of course, but it was beautiful for its rarity, for the sweet scent of history that drifted through the clouds. And when it arrived, everyone gasped and trembled, and suddenly nothing was more important than the sky. Afterward, everyone told me it was a sign, an enormous beacon held up high. So bright. Holy, even. It was orange, they said, and it was also purple, but brighter and larger and prettier than that sounds. And they said that everybody understood all at once, that everyone saw the light and knew they were everything and knew they were nothing. But perhaps they were wrong. I’m not sure; I don’t recall. With the crowd silently enraptured, I found the bathroom and listened carefully for the click of the door lock, pulling out a small


bottle of Ipecac and a smaller bottle of expired pills I found a few days ago in the back of a medicine cabinet. One by one, I counted out seven of the capsules and placed them on my tongue like I was licking up ashes. I didn’t even need a glass of water to swallow them. Then, off came the cap to the Ipecac and down went a river of that syrupy stuff into my throat. The exact amount didn’t matter; I just drank until I felt my stomach cling to itself and shatter. Briefly, as I put the bottle away, I made eye contact with a sliver of a man in the bathroom mirror, his skin infested with pity. But no, that’s not right. It wasn’t even a man; it was a tumor, a rot. And the entire time, the comet burned, sputtering into dust. I sometimes wish I had looked at it longer, stared harder. I wish I could describe it to myself. But in that moment, all I could do was get down on my knees, bow my head, grip the sides of the toilet bowl, and wait for my disease to come spilling out. In the few minutes that passed, I did not think about my mother or the precious, jagged outline of her tears. I did not think about the vicious applause of a congregation, rising up and down and up again. I did not think about religious light way overhead or crumpling vanilla or sliding strings or how difficult it is to pry metal bands from fingers. No, I thought about foaming lips, the color gold, and a crippled dog who has fallen desperately in love with chocolate.


THE NUDE Alex Schumacher

A reawakening of sexuality, relearn the carnality of deepest flesh; untamed desire calling out, drying slow. Unprimed skin, craving complexity and definition, contained by harsh shadows along edges; remnants of denied tenderness.


we sleep the same, Kate Drakulic Acrylic paint, charcoal, and ink


My muse, remember those melodic muscles, the trapezius, the latissimus, made luminous, made transcendent, through touch.


NOTES, 2017 Aubrey Asleson


eptember 23, 2017, 11:42 p.m. You trade one party for another. There is a boy here with wild hair. He’s in the center of the room and he tells jokes with his whole body but meets your eyes hesitantly when everyone begins to laugh. In the kitchen, away from the party, you sit on the counter and he leans over and tells you he’s sorry for his loud jokes, and that he likes you a lot. You smile at him but your words are messy and caught inside you. You shut yourself in the bathroom and stare in the mirror. You are a shoulder tattoo and a tight denim skirt, a pleasant, entertained smile for the party, and you wish you could apologize, too, but you’re not sure which parts of you are for show.


October 13, 2017, 3:37 a.m. You are at a Perkins in Maplewood, across the street from the mall where your mom shopped when you were a kid and where you and your friend, a girl with

driving anger and big hoop earrings, will be first in line for a cheap tattoo later in the morning. The two of you talk about pretending while your waiter uses a fake British accent. You feel like you are buzzing and you think this is happiness. October 13, 2017, 10:45 a.m. Your skin is bleeding and you are grateful for your angry friend, that she would not hesitate to skip a night of sleep so the two of you could get meaningless images etched into your bodies, thin black lines that now permanently hold this night in your skin. You will tell this story to everyone that will listen for months and you will like the way people look at you when you do. September 20, 2017, 2:02 a.m. You drag the wild-haired boy that drops his jokes around the city for hours. You walk along a quiet path wedged under a canopy of nighttime and trees and talk about fear. You sit cross-legged on

November 17, 2017, 11:32 p.m. There is a devastatingly beautiful girl that parades through the party and she is abrasive and charming in a way that is meant to be seen. You think she could kill someone with her bare hands and still look beautiful dripping in blood. You catch her sometimes, and she still is loud and abrasive and charming even when no one else is watching. You think you know that feeling, of being your own audience. September 23, 2017, 10:27 p.m. You’re at a concert at Surly and you’re covered in your own sweat and others’ sweat and the air is thick and difficult in your mouth. The beer you drank is settling uncomfortably in your stomach and Caroline Smith sings “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” by Martha Wainwright while two of your friends start grinding on each other, and it’s strange and predictable. You and your other friend,

the angry girl with the hoop earrings, look at the people around you like characters to pull apart. There is lightning behind the stage and when the lyrics reach you, they hurt. You look at each other, wideeyed. Your friend is crying. November 18, 2017, 2:22 a.m. You are warm and full next to the boy in his crooked bed, his wild hair now crumpled against the pillow. He shakes in his sleep and it stills you. You hadn’t known you could be soft like this. November 20, 2017, 12:35 a.m. You are in pink velvet and fishnets and you find yourself across a keg from a boy that smirks and lounges, the one with the charm that has only ever made you angry. You argue for too long and you only make him pause once, when you rip away at yourself and tell him that you, too, know the kind of violence that keeps you awake and afraid. You keep telling yourself to smile so he’ll think you don’t care. But you do, and you want to win, so you lose every time. He leans against the sink, tells you you’re on the same page. Eventually, the girl with the big hoop earrings and the driving anger pulls you out. She knows this smirking boy, and


a deserted sidewalk in the middle of the city and then stand on a bridge suspended over the highway, watching cars pass below your feet. You laugh at his jokes as he shakes his head at them and you tell him the happy parts of your stories. You throw up your fronts like punches but tilt your head when you look at him.


knows what it is to be made small by him. When she brings you to your sweet friend with the silver hair and drops you in her bed, you don’t know how to explain why you’re crying.

So you tell him the truth, that you used to have trouble sleeping until you stopped trying. You think you would be just like him if you took away the fishnets and half-true stories and indulgent laughter.

November 20, 2017, 10:45 a.m. You wake up in your silver-haired friend’s bed, still in your pink velvet and fishnets. You apologize for needing to be taken care of and realize you were wrong about power, and about smiling. You walk home and press your knees to your bathroom floor. You throw up in your tub.

November 18, 2017, 11:35 p.m. You can’t tell if you’re really okay or if you’re just moving too fast to know. The friends that brought you to your first parties and gave you your first drinks are going to bed. You get in a Lyft and go anywhere.

September 29, 2017, 6:06 p.m. You find yourself at Buffalo Exchange with your friend. She buys new hoops, big and multicolored. You tell her that you love thrift shopping because it feels like fate, then you both find umbrella pins when you’re not looking. You pin them to your denim jackets and take pictures while waiting for the bus. Things fall into place all around you.


November 4, 2017, 10:27 p.m. There is a boy next to the one with the wild hair that leaves parties early, that is comfortable being quiet. He asks why you don’t sleep and you start to make a joke until you realize he isn’t going to laugh.

November 16, 2017, 8:27 p.m. You’re at the art museum with three friends and things are about to break but for now they are whole. It’s nighttime and the museum feels like a quiet pocket that some part of you will live in forever. September 29, 2017, 10:34 a.m. A text, sent to your friend with the hoop earrings about the lounging boy: “Two bottles of wine and us spending the day together is a perfect recipe for throwing empty beer cans at his window.” August 9, 2017, 1:10 p.m. You go to court and place your hand on a Bible and think about how you’ve never believed in God. You testify against

November 22, 2017, 12:01 a.m. You’re surprised every time the boy with the wild hair tells a joke, then shakes his head and pulls you closer. You surprise yourself every time you lean into him instead of stepping away. You laugh, quiet and half inside yourself, and he asks you why but you can’t explain. October 21, 2017, 12:04 a.m. You steal a wooden jack-o’-lantern from Pumpkin Nights at the fairgrounds and joke that you’re less of a person and more of a character at a party full of people that are creating characters, too. Later, you’ll nail the jack-o’-lantern to the wall of your bedroom to remind yourself it was real. September 17, 2017, 12:33 a.m. It’s the third party, the third group of people, and you’re more drunk than anyone else there. You’re wearing a shirt that could double as a costume and a boy you thought could be a friend leans around you, too close, encircling you, and you feel sick.

November 21, 2017, 9:19 p.m. You smile when you hear “Space Song” by Beach House. November 18, 2017, 1:45 a.m. Your friend, a boy with round glasses, has been quiet all night and you feel him unravel beside you until he finally snaps outward. It’s almost bar close now and you’re dancing with your other friends, avoiding him because you have been on the periphery of anger like this before and you can’t look him in the eyes. But he hears you when the others don’t, and he makes sure you find your way to the house with the warm, wild-haired boy that doesn’t exist in that club with the fighting and the drinking, which you sometimes hate to exist in so easily. November 2, 2017, 10:45 a.m. You get breakfast with your mom and there’s a distance between you that didn’t used to be there, so you tell her the things she wants to hear and the things she doesn’t, too, and you both know she can’t change any of them. She worries, but you feel free. September 23, 2017, 12:01 a.m. You leave the bathroom, return to the


someone who made your home a place to be afraid, and when she looks at you, you are fourteen again and you are breaking. You return to the city and start moving as fast as you can.


party, and watch the boy with the halfjokes and wild hair hold the room in his hands and then drop it on the floor. You follow him back to the kitchen and sit next to him on the sticky linoleum. He apologizes again but you’re not sure why, and the moment hangs, and you realize you don’t want to let it fall. You reach out just before it does. May 4, 2017, 10:12 p.m. Too many of your friends are leaving and you will no longer see each other like this. The boy with the round glasses burns a dresser stolen from his neighbor’s yard and you walk across the fire on a plank of wood and talk about the simple power in doing stupid things. November 16, 2017, 2:57 p.m. Happiness is filling you and spilling out. You wonder if people can see it pour from your body.


October 11, 2017, 11:23 p.m. Your angry friend with the multicolored hoop earrings sits on the steps outside her apartment with you. You’re both wrapped in blankets and the cold is pressing on these nights and making them fewer. A man wearing a cowboy hat emerges from around the corner. He locks eyes with

you and tips his hat. You and your friend shrink into your blankets and burst into laughter. July 8, 2017, 12:33 a.m. A friend of yours encourages you to hook up with a boy you barely know at a party you didn’t mean to end up at. You watch the people around you twist and stretch and dance and blink out. You leave the party early and stare at your bathroom floor and wish more than ever that you didn’t exist. October 15, 2017, 1:11 a.m. You cancel on the boy that shakes his head at his own jokes when you realize he could cancel on you. You call your friend with the multicolored hoops and she gives you wine that is red and strong. The two of you jump a fence and lie in a dry pool scattered with dead leaves, facing the sky. She nods her head when you say that you’re afraid, knows how tightly you hold onto your control. October 20, 2017, 1:37 a.m. Two full glasses of wine, left forgotten on your headboard, pour over your bodies and spread across the bed. You’re both cold, your skin sticky, and you can’t stop shaking for a long time. You sit in soft,

November 15, 2017, 8:35 p.m. You thought you meant it when you said you didn’t want to be celebrated; then a long table of people you never thought you’d have show up to surprise you. You are full to bursting as you blow out a single candle on a cupcake, can barely remember being empty. August 17, 2017, 11:35 p.m. You’re at the bar and you’re surrounded by boys that bounce jokes off of each other in quickening succession, and you think you’re keeping up tonight. It’s one of your friend’s birthdays and she is singing and drinking and she is so bright. You are sitting in between her and the boy with the wild hair, the one that drops his jokes when you tilt your head, and your friend is flirting with him, deserves to be flirting with him. She watches you, pulls you aside later, and tells you it’s okay if you care. You leave before the rest of them and walk home alone. November 8, 2017, 1:03 p.m. You talk to editors and publicists at the

publishing house where you intern. One by one, they give you advice that you can see yourself following and you wonder if it will feel like getting stuck. You smile at them and ask the right questions but you’re spiraling in your head. Your notes are scribbles. November 18, 2017, 3:20 p.m. You’re in last night’s velvet dress and a fur coat in Dinkytown and you’re staring at your phone to avoid the eyes you feel on your clothes and your messy hair. You stumble upon your writing published in a magazine when you stop for coffee. September 16, 2017, 12:34 a.m. You leave the party to sit on the porch steps alone because your head is spinning and you think you might throw up. The wild-haired boy passes you on his way out with his friend and says goodbye to you with a joke about sword fighting, then disappears around the corner. He leaves his friend in the street and runs back across the yard to stop at the porch steps and say something real. September 17, 2017, 10:38 p.m. You circle Gold Medal Park with your friend with the anger and the big hoop earrings and you’re both aware of the


surprised laughter. Cliché, he says. You press your lips to his shoulder.


movement you feel. You sit cross-legged on the concrete path wrapping around the

hill and look across the river at the city. Your lives are beginning to shake.

52 things I eat, Kendall Laurent Painting


Zealotry racing through your veins, your voice runs up and down its pitches xylophoning across all your sentences in maddening frenzies.

Of course this isn’t the first time it’s happened. No amount of shattering makes the breaking easier, makes the fragments you dissolve into any less lost. You try to even your breathing but it keeps leaping out in erratic gasps jumping with shakes stronger than even your own convulsions.


What you are talking about you are no longer sure of, vaulting from one thought to the next and ultimately landing somewhere that brings you to tears again, some of joy and some of fear, you are scared, suicidal, full of fireworks and rockets and anything but quiet, anything but peace.


Irregularity, it and all its overwhelm, hangs your sanity from the rafters of your ribs. Grasp what little you have left. Feel the air move in and out of your lungs. Ease your breathing slower. Descend your meditation stairs, count by twelves and run backward through the alphabet.



55 Galaxy Goddess, Emily Jablonski Digital



e places the last brick firmly into the corner. His arms reach down to control his fall to the ground. He leans against the wall. As he lifts his arms to wipe the sweat from his forehead, his shoulders fight him. He winces. It had been a long time coming. He stares at the crumpled papers near his feet. I know you will close us off, but I need you to know we still love you. We’ll be here for you when you come back. He squints: when you come back. Who were they to say he’d be back? Don’t they know how much work he did to be alone? Every crack that was letting in light had to be spackled again. He had to make that black air filter himself. The dim, red lightbulb illuminates his face. Another swipe of his hand across his face. Another wince. Solitude. That is what he had been working for. No other people to worry about. No reason to feel anything other than blissful solitude. Why did they try and tell him to stay?


u u u

He wakes up to the red light still on, unwavering. It seems to take an eternity for the light to reach the corners of the room. He pushes himself up and wipes the sweat away. He had never been one to perspire so easily. No hunger or thirst comes to him. An acute sense of numbness enters his body. He lies down and lets the red light

wash over him with slow, measured persistence. This is solitude. He should be elated. The work he spent to get here was enormous. He thinks about the others. Why didn’t they try to stop him? They just let him walk away. No, they pushed him away. It was their fault. . . . when you come back. His neck tenses as he kicks the paper across the room. He wipes the sweat with his shirt. He gets up and paces around the room. What could they offer that was better than here? He had his room all to himself. He had built it alone. They tried to give him responsibilities, tell him how to live his life. They let others speak for them, other people who didn’t know any better than he did. Those three only gave him pieces of paper. Now he is alone. He had closed them off, kept them at bay. No knocks come to the door. They aren’t even trying. What sort of love is that? He feels weighed down. He put a lot of effort into making this place. His muscles are sore, that’s all. He has time to rest, and think, and pace. To enjoy solitude. Those three can’t interrupt him anymore.

u u u

Red. The overwhelming sense of red. It seems to pervade every part of him. The light is duller than when he started. The feeling is more intense. He mops his face with his shirt, pulling it up from his waist to rub his head. His hand begins to reach for the door. He falls to his knees, then on his back. He said he would stay. This is what he wants. He will not let those three get into his head. They would tell him to abandon all of the work he put in, just do something inane somewhere else for someone else. He is happy here. He is alone. He has won. He blinks. He shuffles to the corner so the red won’t come so fast



and so strong. He smooths out the papers. He is going to be here for a while, and the light is too strong to be pacing. You think that you cannot talk to us, and we feel that deeply. The pain we have because we know you are leaving is immense. Though you are going to a place we wish you would not, nothing will make us waver. I know you will close us off, but I need you to know we still love you. We’ll be here for you when you come back. And you will realize you never left. Arrogance. The paper is covered in it. A small ray projects onto his thumb. He looks up. A piece of wall has flaked, and light is coming through. He smooths the papers and puts them aside. He fights through the red, moving along the walls to avoid the center of the room. He lies down near the flaked wall. The beam pierces the red. It shines straight across the room. He slowly lifts his head up. He shakes. He stops to wipe the sweat from his face. He takes off his shirt to wipe down his neck and chest. His hand comes back up. It touches the light. He shivers. He forgets the joy of his solitude, of the red, the bricks, and focuses on the light, and the flowing, rushing feeling in his heart. He jerks his hand back. He is not tempted. He is not going to sacrifice his freedom, his release from the world, for them.


u u u

Red clouds his vision. Nothing except the wash of red. He feels the papers in his hands. He cannot see the words, but he does not need to anymore. He knows them by heart. No. He just knows them. They do not live in his heart. Two more beams have entered. He sleeps in the center now, in the glow of the red, to avoid them. And you will realize you never left. He went as far away as he could. He isolated himself, and the light still followed. He just wanted solitude, to shut off the world and focus


on himself. He was not bothering anybody. There was nobody that relied on him. But these three insisted he not leave. Why is that? They still let him leave. Alone. The joy of being alone. He tries to cry. He wipes his brow. His face is covered in sweat. Were there tears? He doesn’t know. He reaches out to one of the beams. He cannot see it, but it emanates through the red. He can feel its chill on his skin. He doesn’t need them. . . . when you come back. He stands up. When was the last time he stood up? He moves to his right, keeping his arm out. He feels the second beam on him, through him, within him. Are those tears this time? He stumbles on the papers beneath his foot. He clutches them to his weary chest. He is perfectly okay with the red. He will fix those holes today, and finally be able to rest. The beams keep shining. The red is fading from his vision. Another step forward. The third beam envelops him. He nearly collapses, but catches himself on the door. The door? He pushes open the door and stumbles into a blinding light, as soft and cool as a sunset. But he doesn’t fall. He is being held up. The hands are strong, compassionate. Surely these are tears on his face. He blinks. He looks around. Behind him was the Hell he had constructed. He feels arms around him. He is steps from where he began. “I came back.” “We’re here for you.” He had never left.


Red Regression, Ashlyn Boehme Painting


OUR MUSIC Payton West


the cries of sisters are trapped in the floorboards. laughter from father is there too. whispers of both echo with each creak. we walk on eggshells so the sounds won’t wake mama. at night, we press our ears to the floor and listen to the music of our past; cries and laughter all tangled into the most beautiful symphonies. one day, we’ll run through the halls, letting the sounds exhale out and up.


62 Forever in My Head, Anthony Flores Photograph

CIRCUIT BREAKER Olivia Heusinkveld

“Where do you picture yourself in five years?” he asked. I don’t remember his eyes, but I remember the string lights staring at me. They crept around the room with female fluorescence. The space between us burned, twisted like a flame around a marshmallow.

In that dimly lit apartment, I let “five years” do somersaults in my skull. I felt the chest embers and their socket fire. “In a system, connected, glowing,” I replied.


Earlier and with a flask of gin tucked into my waistband, I danced with the electric boogieman, looking for more forgiving light between sensitive shadows and their electrical bruising.


64 Untitled, Kyungmoon Park Acrylic on canvas





chlorine stings small eyes. the most potent memories are those of accidental injury. a tender pink comma smiles from a tear-tracked cheek. a gummy mouth tucks two gravel-ingrained teeth under a pillow. band-aided shins and dirty toenails dangle from the trunk. pressed palms and white feet illuminated by a yellow crescent plead to the Man or the moon.



69 jump!, Meg Jenson Photograph

NO, LONGER Amy Verrando



ou reread old emails to see her familiar sign-off, “love mom.” You stare into old pictures of her and you and you and her and her and dad and her and your sister and her and her and her and her as if you could, by sheer eye power, will yourself back into those moments, will her back into future moments—as if your grating gaze could turn the clock in any direction other than forward. You cuddle with her old fleece pullover but rarely cuddled close when you were able. You and your sister talk on the phone now—you never had before—and both wonder why your mother’s death was the cost of this newfound solidarity. You and she discuss how your whole family is stoic as shit, and when your sister laments how she would never share these things in person, your only response is, “True that.” Your grandparents were in town the weekend prior because Dad called them up and, for the first time in his life, pleaded, “Please come. I need you,” so come they did. After one look at your mom, Grandma sadly declared, “I’ve seen this before, kiddo, and it won’t be long now.” Your friend Maggie drove you home, seven hours, thirty-nine minutes, and fifty-six seconds, and you managed to stay for two hours, six minutes, and twenty-seven seconds before leaving because you couldn’t stand being in that house, afraid your mother would die as you were forced to listen to her gasp her last. Listening as your dad sobbed, clinging tightly to his wife, telling her it was all right for her to let go even if he couldn’t. You texted Maggie in a panic, begging (or as close as you’ll ever get) her to pick you up and take you


“anywhere but here,” and when she came, your callous ass couldn’t careen fast enough into her car. You coward. Cowardice is how, a week ago, you told your mother that you’d see her next week. You promised her that you would return, and physically you did, but mentally you’re not so sure. When you physically penetrated that sick bubble of which oh so many (including you) are most terrified, you gently placed your hand on your mother’s shoulder (something you rarely, if ever, did before) and said, “Hi Mom, I’m home.” In response, she slowly opened her lids, which looked as heavy as those fifty-pound weights you’ve seen jacked-ass gym rats lifting at Lifetime, and looked through you. Not at: through. Apparently, your physical presence had no resonance; it could not percolate that sick bubble in her brain. She just stared blankly at you, and only when she realized you weren’t going anywhere did she mutter, “Hi . . . where is your boyfriend?” You tried to tell her that you weren’t your sister and hadn’t any prospects, but she didn’t seem to understand. Shortly after the longest two days of your life, you were leaving, back to Minnesota. You knew this would be the last time seeing your mother alive, so you slowly trod to your parents’ bedroom. Sitting awkwardly at her bedside, you murmur, “I’m leaving soon, Mom. Going back to university.” In response, she points painstakingly at you with a shaking finger, unable to quite make a “pointer” but pressing ahead, stammering, “You . . . you . . . stay here tonight. Leave tomorrow.” You look at the woman who raised you and lie through your teeth, claiming you will “consider” when in all reality, you have less than five minutes left together. You say goodbye to her, finally telling her that you love her, that you are proud to call her your mother. You explain how you suck at goodbyes. What you don’t say is that you’ll miss her more than you’d miss your right hand even though you fancy yourself a writer, that you’ll miss her more than you’d miss driving around singing to that



Lumineers song “Cleopatra” at the top of your lungs, more than you’d miss curling up on the couch with your dog to watch Game of Thrones. What you don’t tell her is that you wish you’d told her sooner; that you wish you could have given her grandchildren; that you wish you could have sent her and Dad to Italy, so you and your sister could laugh at how touristy they looked in the pictures they would occasionally remember to forward you of the places they’d been and the things they’d done, of the times they could have had together; that now, every time you get behind the wheel of your family’s old van, you’ll think of her; that she can’t die and that she has to beat this fucking cancer so that she and your dad can go on one last date together, where they would hold hands as they walked along the Riverwalk until they got hungry enough for lunch at Egg Harbor; that she needs to live long enough to read Donna Leon’s next book, to watch the next season of Blue Bloods; that she needs to live to see the flowers bloom and feel the Earth come alive in the spring because then she might feel alive again. That you need her to live because if she doesn’t, then every time you see a plant, you’ll feel your throat close—literally, Mom, EVERY DAMN TIME. What you don’t say is that for you, losing her is losing your entire past, present, and future because your lives are more intertwined than the trunk of that pachira braid plant she showed you at Menards. All these thoughts race through your brain and you aren’t able to separate any of them so instead all you can do is tell her that you love her, desperately hoping against hope that she knows—that she knew. As you’re leaving you gently grasp her shoulder, frantically trying to channel the entirety of your relationship into that physical connection, and repeat, “I have to leave now. I love you. Don’t ever forget that. Don’t you ever question that.” A split second later she lolls her head toward you, catching your eye, and wheezes, “Who would’ve guessed?” and you can’t help but laugh/sob because it’s something she would’ve said in any other circumstance, making light of the severity,


of the sincerity, the severity, of your statement. The room now charged with the ghost of who you’d been together, who you could have been together, it’s all you can do to tear yourself away, breaking the connection. As if finding your feet, you can’t help but say again in tiny, croaking whisper, “I love you, Mom.” Stumbling to the door, breath hitching in your chest, afraid someone will come up the stairs and see you like this, you hear your mother call out from the bed, her voice almost normal, “Be careful, Amy.” With that, you force the door open and sprint down the dark hall, running away one final time.

73 Citrus, Evelyn Staats Painting


Gray Landscape, Kate Drakulic Acrylic paint, charcoal, and ink



Sometimes she lets them go, the littler ones with their wide marble eyes and skittish tails. She heard children in the woods once— a girl on a class field trip bragged to her friends about how she undid the pig’s bones for dissection and only gagged once. They went silent in awe. There is no salt. There is no bitterness. There is only a ritual, a routine sigh when the slow ones shoot up their trees and when her jaw lunges without her. Mouthful of velvet. We all mean no harm. She listens for their chittering at night, their flailing across the snow. She keeps their teeth arranged in concentric circles. She knows what gets left behind.



77 Unleashed One, Aaron Musickant Monotype screen print

The Animals, Ashlyn Boehme Painting



1,001 Lauren Foley

Do not love a writer. I can name 1,000 poems of this nature, and they all say the same thing: that she will make a meal of the meat on your marrowless bones, that she will pick, with arrowpoint nails, the scab of your insecurities and use the blood as ink, that she will memorialize the end of your brandy-bitter war in stainless steel words. When I say, “Do not love a writer,� I mean that when you love her,


she will build an outlet mall fountain just to store your most virtuous moments like shiny pennies. But when you lose her, she will erase you and write sonnets over the top in looping copper script. She will not forget you, but she will write like she has. Do not love a writer because if you do, the last word will never even exist.


81 Hers, Grace O’Neil Photograph

Picture Day, Ashlie Paulson





t’s Thanksgiving. I’m sitting on your bed drinking ginger tea. Today is one of the few days this semester we’ve been home from college at the same time, me from Minneapolis and you from Milwaukee. The air outside is crisp, almost refreshing. Without the sun, though, it’s bitter. On a normal day we might go for a walk, but today you aren’t allowed to leave the house. The moment I sit down, my purple knit sweater begins picking up thin, white dog hairs, an annoyance I long ago learned to overlook. You sit next to me, shoulders pinched and feeble, eyes cast in a glaze, hypnotized. You have slight tremors. Your mind is afloat in a completely different reality, one muddled with delusion and disorder, a dark fantasy. This isn’t what I would have expected mania to be like. This isn’t you at all. You tell me you know it’s strange, your state (I feel a glimmer of hope that you are still in there, recoverable), a surprise to all those outside. No one saw this coming

(I remember the flush of tears on that bright afternoon a month ago, standing on the curb outside McDonald’s when your mom called to tell me you were in the hospital for the first time). You ask me to hold your hand, so I do. You tell me it will help my understanding to hear an essay you wrote last year. You read to me in the first person, about childhood, about a side I never saw. You read about insomnia, anxiety, and fear, about a little girl with snarled curls crying alone in the middle of the night. You lay awake wishing we didn’t all die alone, separated by perspectives that could never fully overlap. You wished we didn’t all die. You wished to know whom, if anyone, truly cared about you, and who was just there for the company. I wince. I knew you when you were a kid, and we didn’t cry. We played in parks and slept in tents in the backyard. We brought in popcorn and glow-in-the-dark stuffed animals and watched the fireworks, and told each other stories about marrying


Kalina Kostka



the boys who stepped on the backs of our heels. We were in the fourth grade, the same year we sat in our social studies class drawing worlds of fairies on looseleaf paper, closets and kitchens and living rooms all in miniature. A fuzzy VHS tape about lumberjacks played as background noise. The tiled, fluorescent lights in the room were off, making us feel hidden. I wonder what it was like to feel those fears then, absent of the vocabulary to articulate them. Fears of the transience of human existence, and of the loneliness felt in a room full of people. I wonder if you felt alone during those days. The same days we sat by the three-foot pool wrapped in polka-dotted towels with shriveled fingertips and king-sized candy bars. I remember when you sculpted little figurines out of the Skittles. (Of course you were going to become an artist, how did we ever doubt it?) Do you remember the one you made to look like me? You made my hair out of the orange one and my dress from the green, back when green Skittles were lime instead of green apple, and you would let me eat all of them because that’s the only flavor I liked. I wonder what it is like to feel those fears now, in the depths of a manic episode, fighting through a reality in which everyone is out to get you.

You continue to read on about high school, six years later. I remember the way you looked then, the long blond hair, eyeliner smooth across the lid. I remember the way you walked then, too, like someone was always watching. I remember sitting in the armchairs around the fireplace at the coffee shop after the first day of classes, during the brief time they still felt exciting. We would talk about every period of the day—where we sat in each of our new classes, who we sat by, who we wished we sat by, whether or not the teacher seemed funny, or dorky, or rude. We talked in fragments, mixed with bits of laughter, our thoughts intertwined and overlapping, a language all our own. I’ve since learned not everyone shares stories with the same excited, exhaustive detail as us. This realization always makes me miss you. You read about the boy, the one you kept running into at McDonald’s because you knew the days he would be there after football practice. The late afternoon sun was bright those days. Trees were changing colors. We would sit at the coffee shop, at the table by the window with a small vase of lilies at its center. We would look at all his texts, wondering what they meant, analyzing every smiley face. He wasn’t your type, but I didn’t think much

us, or maybe on top of us, suffocating our romantic spirits. We were ready for better relationships, better cities, better challenges. Everyone around us was beginning to feel insignificant, so I didn’t question it when you didn’t shed a tear. We talked about what movie we should watch in the coming weekend. I wonder if you felt alone during those days, too. I wonder now if your whole life has led up to this breaking point, sitting on your bed consumed by a pallid paranoia, and I just couldn’t see it coming through my filtered lens. Maybe I should have paid better attention, prodded you further when you missed school for three days after your dog died, or when you didn’t miss any school when your grandma died. Maybe I should have questioned you more when I missed your call that night at 1:00 a.m. Because now we’re sitting on your bed crying about rape, and I’m wondering how I never knew. I wonder if you’re broken, if all the hurt you never shared has finally carved you out and left this delirious shell of a self, armed with nothing but a disorder diagnosis. I don’t yet know that little white beads of lithium will bring you back to a girl with strength, the girl who draws with me in parks and talks to me about boys and exchanges knowing glances with me across a room.


of it. We were sixteen. We all wanted a boyfriend, anyone would do. I remember first hearing about that boy, and I remember the night a few months later when I found a missed call from you glowing on my screen. I was standing in the entryway between the kitchen and the living room, leashed by the phone charger plugged into the wall. I had just said good night to a boy I would outgrow in a couple of months, and completely forget in a couple of years. A single light hung over the kitchen table across the room, leaving the rest of the house shadowed and still. It was 1:00 a.m. You never called. I texted you back, but you didn’t respond until the morning. You told me about your first time with the boy, and you seemed fine. I remember sitting side by side in our science class a year later when you broke up with him. A short text, the act long overdue. Short and sweet. You were glad to finally be done with it. You went right back to drawing doodles of eyes and coffee cups and song lyrics in the margins of our readings on eutrophication and zebra mussels. Fluorescent lights continued hanging over the desks we’d outgrown. Neither one of us was happy, but we were unhappy together. The world felt too small. High school felt beneath


Those glossy eyes, I can’t see into them. I don’t yet know you will come back, at least the you that I know. I remember the first time we saw each other after moving to our new cities. That day was a year ago, already. We greeted each other so calmly, casually, as if we hadn’t just spent months apart for the first time in our lives together. I know you remember. We ate dinner at the café that’s also a market. Conversation was light. It wasn’t stiff or scripted, but it wasn’t quite us. When the night was over we said goodbye just as coolly. It wasn’t until my car turned the corner that I burst out in tears, or until my boyfriend insisted we drive back that I found you had done the same. I will never forget standing on the curb on that bitter November night, hugging, sobbing, repeatedly shouting that we loved each other. That might have been the first time we hugged in the ten years we’ve known each other.


How many selves do we have, and which ones are the truest? The ones put on public display? The ones seen after hours by an intimate few? The ones absent of medication? The ones we hold alone in the middle of the night, when surrounded by nothing but the darkness of our own thoughts? I know your instinct will always be to slide back to patterns of emotional suppression, but I want you to stop trying to protect me with that reservation. It’s doing no one any good. I know you want to shelter the people you care about from taking on your pain, but if you can’t share with me, whom can you share with? I’ve been at your side now for ten years, and at this point I think I can take it. Loving someone fully cannot be a selective act. Full investment is taking on the ugly sides as well as the pretty ones, both the hurt and the happiness. I signed up for this. I love you, and I promise, I can take it.


Whatever is growing inside of me cannot be contained; the echoes and shadows and chaos in my veins choke the pen with an iron grip. No one ever tried to understand the blood of my fingers. They smoke old cigars to forget about the present; the dreary eyes and dry bones revived. Wind prickles the hole in my skull, howling with the lullabies of 10,000 lions who walk on two legs.

Apologies for crimes I did not commit are unaccepted; they lie with unborn papercuts on the floor. I memorized five-eighths of the dictionary, but all the words in the world couldn’t change the minds of creatures who have no regard for semantics.


Taking their time ignoring what needs to be said; I am nothing but a speck of dust to be swirled away. Sit down and shut up, they scream behind plastic smiles. A metallic taste to their spite, I gnaw on tinfoil and dream of their fears.


88 Stationed Movement, Melissa Gust Ceramic sculpture


our love sits on the countertop purring soft, unspoken, reverberating, revering resounding through this dim-lit room it is only a matter of time before one of us reaches out to touch it hungrily to stroke it gently to whisper it delicately to an ear perked in anticipation admiration for in this moment all of the breath we’ve been holding is let out in a sigh a great whoop! of exaltation exhilaration because now when we pause part lips to breathe we can tell one another honestly what we were dreaming about


Megan Gunderman


DIRT Hannah Jacobson



have lived in different variations of the same kind of house since I was born. I’ve always sought old houses over apartments. When I moved out of my home, I entered a similar world of dust and wood paneling and curiously colored walls. My first house was a shoddy Victorian copycat of the dysfunction I had come to expect from life, but its familiarity was a comfort. It had character. Every corner had been so neglected throughout the years that an obstinate layer of dirt refused to budge, no matter how hard I scrubbed. In the kitchen, the hot-water tap rose to boiling seconds after you turned it on. The toilet screamed when you flushed, beginning at a squeal that crescendoed into a noise that rang through the house. If you didn’t jiggle the handle after you flushed, the water would continue to run and the plumbing would continue to scream. The bathroom doorknob would fall out into your hand if you pulled too hard. This was easy enough to fix, but I never thought to. An ambitious onenight stand offered, but I said no. I never called him and I never tightened the screws. In other houses I’ve had bathtubs that didn’t stay plugged, floors that tilted conspicuously, and windows that never opened. My home had been the same way. I grew up in an old and messy middle-class structure of survival in western Ohio with my mom, who embraced clutter as a natural byproduct of life. We lived in it contentedly. My mom worked irregular and sometimes long hours and often came home after seven with a pint of ice cream for us to share as we watched TV together. Mostly, we didn’t think about


cleaning. Occasionally, though, the familiar clutter was broken up by one of her cleaning episodes. They were spontaneous and sporadic and always after midnight, in the still-blue hours before waking that you never understand as a kid. I would wake up to see a thread of light under the crack of my door. I’d get out of bed and open the door and my mom would be on the other side cleaning. I can see her like I’m still three feet tall and she has her yellow gloves on, scrubbing so intently that she seems a thousand miles away from me. Sometimes it took her a while to notice me. When she would finally see me standing there watching her, it would be like she was coming out of a dream. “Oh. Hi, Kim. I’m cleaning,” she’d say, blinking out of her trance. My mom rarely gave more of an explanation than that, but I began to see a connection between bad days and the cleaning. When I was thirteen, my dad called me. I’d never met him. My mom, who’d never said much about him or where he was, came into my room one day with the phone. “Honey, your dad called. He wants to know if you’d like to talk, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said slowly, her hand over the receiver. I can’t say how many times I had wished for this exact moment. Every lonely part of me ached. “No,” I said, “I’ll take it.” For a second I thought I saw surprise and disappointment on her face. Then she nodded and handed me the phone and left, shutting the door quietly behind her. On the other line I heard a strange, warm voice greet me. He apologized for his absence, said he didn’t know how to make amends but he’d try, and that he missed me and wanted to be in my life. I held onto each word, waiting for him to ask if he could see me. After we talked for a bit he told me he had to go but would it be okay if he called again? Yes, I said, absolutely. Great, honey, he said, I’ll talk to you then. Then I heard a click. I waited in a sort of limbo for a few moments before I realized he had hung up. When I came out of my room I saw



my mom in the kitchen, reorganizing spices. I came in and set the phone on the hook and she turned to me and raised her eyebrows. “How did it go?” she asked. “Okay. He asked if he could call again.” She nodded and we looked at each other and then at the counter between us. Neither of us said anything else. That night I woke up to a fluorescent glow seeping into my bedroom from the crack under the door and knew without leaving my bed that she was out there with her rubber gloves on. Eventually I met my father. I came home from school one day to see an unfamiliar back standing in the doorway of my kitchen. My mom was facing him, standing stiffly next to the sink. When she saw me the muscles in her face pulled together with worry, and then he turned and I saw my dad’s face for the first time. He smiled broadly at me from a tanned, lined face and for a moment all three of us were silent. Then my mom said, simply, “This is your father.” We must’ve talked a little after that but I was so in shock I can’t remember what we said. My dad and I began to go for weekend lunch dates and matinee movies. He was always on time, waiting outside in his car with his sunglasses on. I can’t say that I appreciated the irony of the punctual little beep of his car after thirteen years of silence, but it was also thirteen years of need, so what the hell. I practically ran outside every time I heard it. After the movie or lunch, he’d take me back home. When we got to my house, he would pull up to the curb and we’d sit for a few uncomfortable seconds. I felt like I was floating in the middle of an unspeakable distance that ran from his driver’s seat to my front door. One day I asked him if he’d like to come in. “That’s okay, honey,” he said, “I’ll see you next week.” Then he kissed me on the cheek in a way I was still getting used to and drove off. Inside my mother was waiting for me like always, her hands wrapped around her coffee cup and her eyes on the door. “How’d it go?”


“Fine,” I told her. I couldn’t muster anything else. Picking up a relationship with my father was easy, but I now felt a nauseating wave of guilt when I thought about my mother. Neither of us ever said much about my dad or our meetings, but at 3:00 a.m. that night I saw the light beneath my door again, reaching out to me. I got out of bed and opened the door. Through the living room I saw her body crouched in front of the oven, framed by the wood-paneled doorway. She was on all fours and her head was in the oven, one yellow hand bracing herself. Then her head popped out, a Brillo pad in her other hand. She saw me and gave a small smile. “Hey, babe,” she said. “I’m just cleaning.” I nodded. Her lips parted and I thought she was about to say something, but she only paused, smiled, and popped her head back into the oven. I grabbed a broom and we worked silently for an hour, my mom attacking the oven grease and I sweeping ineffectually. Things continued in this way for a few more weeks. Then the day came that my dad didn’t call to schedule his weekly visit with me. That weekend I could feel my mom watching me extra carefully. Maybe she was waiting for me to say something. I was waiting for her to say something too, but neither of us did. She just watched, silently, while I waited. Nothing happened that weekend. He didn’t call the following week either, and then it was Sunday evening and the silence in the house was deafening from the waiting and watching. My mom came into my room that night and my heart fell hard when I saw she didn’t have a phone in her hands. “Let’s see a movie,” she said. I couldn’t explain how much I didn’t want to see a movie, but the way she stood in the doorway told me it had already been decided. I can’t remember which movie we saw. I remember the bitter anger and the disappointment that settled its weight on me as we drove. She paid for the tickets and we went inside. During all that time, I don’t remember saying anything. We took our seats and waited. We had gotten there early, and the time


stretched out before us in agonizing silence. I could feel her watching me from the side. Finally, the curtains opened over the screen and the room faded to darkness. As easily as if a light had been flicked, I started to cry in the big black room. I cried low, silent tears that came out of another darkness I didn’t have words for. I felt like I could fill the theater with them. Then I felt her hand, fumbling over the seat in the dark theater. It found my hand and we sat like that for the rest of the movie, gripping each other’s palms in the black room. After that, my dad didn’t come back for visits. I waited, and I think I’ll always be waiting, but after a few weeks I started to realize that it wasn’t going to happen. I never knew how my mom felt when she heard my dad’s car outside and saw me leave her home to see him, but she always let me. During that time our home became alien-clean, as strange and unfamiliar to both of us as my dad himself. It slowly regained its cluttered order after he left. There were fewer nights where the ribbon of light under the door woke me up. Dust began to gather back in the corners and the stove lost its blinding shine. Life settled back down to my mom and I, and the house seemed to hum with dirt again. I’ve carried this dirt with me to each home I’ve moved into. I clean, sure, but I don’t bother with the brown dust in the cracked corners of the walls. When it’s there the house seems full, just like it did when I was a kid. After my father left, there was still my mom and me. Now, after the friends and the one-night stands leave, there is still me.


FICTION Untitled, Kyungmoon Park Acrylic on canvas

NAMES THAT KILL Cassidy Kummrow


if i could make a list of names that kill yours would be at the top because i’m telling you now if you pushed me down a mine shaft i’d take the whole world with me and set it on fire because i know you’d like that and you have to believe me when i tell you that my fingers turn into spiders when you look at me and they’re crawling all over my brain and you make everything explode and if i were a bird i’d make a nest out of your head so you would finally think about me and i know it doesn’t matter but i used to think it did and that’s what’s giving me so much trouble.

Before and After, Kate Drakulic Acrylic paint, charcoal, and ink



But you cannot have my soul. You can take my body, you can cook it. Yes, marinate it in some oppressive, tangy sauce—some recipe passed down from oppressive, tangy grandfathers. You can grill it on a blistering cast-iron pan. Then, take my body, and chop it into slender, insubstantial slices, enough for every body. But my soul will entrechat between walls and ceilings, twinkle around the eaves of boring, gunmetal monoliths that you built and adore. Go on and impale my body with your fork, letting the juices gush out onto your stiff, ceramic plate. But know that while you chew with your presumptuous pearls, I’m still breathing. While you suck your teeth proudly after gorging on this sensual dish, my soul glides in to flutter at your nose.





Song 1 The love of my life is a cowboy—he sips flat Sprite through a chewedup straw and squints when the sun hits his eyes. He tells me that everything is sacred; he says that the sun and the moon and the cows are all connected, that we are witnessing something holy. Now he kicks his spurs. Now he spins his gun around his fingers. Song 2 My cowboy’s blue jeans have faded in the sun, and although I mourn the loss of color, I’m thankful for the light. The cows groan, and I know they are dreaming of a new blue, deep and vibrant, beating like a heart.

Song 3 Sometimes, I wake up on the verge of tears; I name this feeling desire. Do you remember what hunger feels like? No, but I remember that hands are sweet when they aren’t weapons. We will pass a labored breath back and forth, and the cows will moo at the moon.


There is something heavy inside my cowboy’s body, something blue, something pulsing.


102 las semillas de la suerte estรกn flotando, Maureen Amundson Monotype with lithographic crayons

STELLA’S FISH CAFÉ Gabriella Granada



could feel the bar before I saw it. Its pulse, a frantic and thumping cadence, ricocheted off the walls of the two-story brick building. The words “Stella’s Fish Café” buzzed in neon blue on an overhanging sign. I stood outside with my arms close to my chest, braving the February wind with Mia and Britt. It was a Friday night and the line outside the bar wrapped around the corner. Britt and I, both transparently underage, fidgeted nervously while Mia, the only one who was actually twenty-one, whisper-fed us lies of reassurance. Using our fake IDs at a real bar was a gamble. Britt’s fake was somewhat believable from La Grange, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Mine, on the other hand, was from Mason, Ohio, which was a stretch, considering we weren’t entirely convinced anyone was actually from Mason, Ohio. By some miracle, the bouncer let us both in—most likely out of pity, but we took it. “Can you imagine the kind of person that comes here every weekend?” Britt pinched my arm. We sipped four-dollar rail drinks, an abhorrent concoction of bottom-shelf vodka and cranberry juice, while absorbing the bar’s spectacle. When I first caught a glimpse of Chloe, she was sitting on the edge of the bar, surrounded by a handful of people, mainly men, and flinging her head back in a fit of laughter. The colorful, flickering lights of the bar bounced off her complexion like a sort of miraged spotlight. I learned that she was the older sister of Mia’s boyfriend, and she came to Stella’s often. Mia ran over to say hello and returned with Chloe at her side. She had one arm looped in Mia’s and the



other balancing a tequila shot, a lime wedge, and a small mound of salt resting on the top of her hand. “I hear this is your first night out off-campus,” she yelled over the music. Britt and I glanced at each other, taking longer sips from our drinks and trying to dissolve our awkwardness into blind confidence. Chloe licked her hand and tilted her head back, downing the liquid. I grimaced for her. She put the lime wedge in her mouth and voraciously bit down, somehow making it look graceful. The music changed and Chloe squealed. “I love this song!” She slammed her shot glass down and grabbed our hands, pulling us onto the dance floor. Stella’s was colossal: two stories of overpriced drinks and sweaty dance floors. The main floor was scattered with oversized standing tables and the largest bar I had ever seen in my life. The three of us snaked through the enveloping crowd, bumping into shoulders and dodging airborne drinks like a sort of drunken tango. A grandiose staircase spiraled up to the second floor where two very different crowds were split by a large atrium. On the right side, a crowd drowned out a middle-aged man in a puka shell necklace belting “Wonderwall.” The left side of the atrium was a closed-off room that looked more like a vault. Its walls were damp, and a thick layer of smog hovered over the floor. The only lighting the vault had to offer was a set of neon lasers, sporadically blinding people, and the blue LED glow from behind the back bar. The DJ, suspended above the dance floor in some type of cage—as one does—was playing remixes of already impossibly remixed electronic music. It felt like a high school homecoming dance without the braces and sequins. The unwanted boners, however, were still present a decade later. All the time we spent on the dance floor bumping into guys and downing drinks at the bar, I spent studying Chloe. “You know, I used to be fat and depressed,” Chloe said, using her tongue to twirl the tiny blue umbrella around the rim of her drink. The bartender had given it to her—along with a napkin with his


number on it. She smiled at him and crumpled the napkin in her back pocket, turning her attention back toward me to emphasize that now she was skinny and platinum blond and owned “the cutest little typewriter.” I smiled and nodded because I had no clue how else to react. Chloe said things like “I refuse to applaud a fish for swimming” and “Ugh, let’s go find some hot boys” in the same breath. I collected the tidbits of information she sprinkled throughout the night like a breadcrumb trail of twenty-something-year-old knowledge. She talked hurriedly and flew from topic to topic, as if she was running out of time. Her stories were exaggerated, yet too detailed, too bizarre to be fake. I believed them; I just wasn’t sure which parts of her were real. In the bathroom line, I learned that she went to a suffocating private college and was “peer pressured into joining a religious cult”—a story for another time, I was assured. Later, after our second round of Jager Bombs—on her, she insisted, waving her shiny new credit card in the air—I learned that her college years were the worst of her life. But now, she flounced into real bars, ordered real drinks, and got hit on by real guys. We played a “Guess His Age” game while standing in a swarm of people at the bar. Chloe guessed every single age right, even the thirty-two-year-old masking his premature balding with a Twins baseball cap. I watched as Chloe pulled Mia and Britt into a new circle of guys she had managed to corral within minutes. I held the cool curve of a shot glass to my warm cheek and pressed my back up against the counter of the bar. The encaged DJ started remixing a song with a pulsing bass, and I closed my eyes. I could feel the thud of the syrupcovered floorboards shaking underneath my feet. I could hear the sloshing of drinks and the crowd’s melodic buzz as people flailed their arms and bobbed their heads in sloppy, magnetic clusters. I opened my eyes, feeling somewhat removed as I watched people bump into each other accidentally and on purpose, though it was usually the latter. I wondered if that’s what going to bars like this every weekend



really was: an excuse for contact, connection, or, at the very least, the inebriated reassurance that you’re not alone—everyone is. As the night progressed, the bar seemed to shrink, the music grew louder, the colorful lights grew brighter. Then suddenly, from the far right side of the atrium, we could hear the puka-shell-necklaced singer strum the first chords of Semisonic’s “Closing Time.” “Should we head out?” Mia turned to Britt and me. “I’ll call a Lyft,” Britt said, digging into her purse to grab her phone. Chloe’s sloppy grin fell. I watched as she grabbed Mia’s arm and pulled her off to an adjacent standing table. I could see Mia mouth the words What’s wrong? over the music. Britt and I shot each other mirrored glances of worry. “You don’t get it.” Chloe clamped both of her hands onto Mia’s shoulders. Her voice dropped almost a full octave as she spoke. “I’m such a slut.” Britt and I met each other’s eyes with a hollowness that wasn’t there before. The bar’s thick, sweet air was suffocating. “I’m such a slut,” she repeated, this time in a whisper, and I wondered how many nights these bar walls had heard women slur those shrinking words in a guilt-ridden, drunken penitence. The hazy lens through which I had been observing this strange and blurred world shattered before me. For the first time the entire night: sobering clarity. I was foolish enough to think that here, it would be different, that older, more assured women were impervious to those societal pressures, that it got easier. I tore my eyes from Chloe and surveyed the room while she wiped away her tears. The bar roared on, unchanged. I looked at the faces of the men around us and wondered if they’d ever uttered words like those at places like these. This was a burden exclusively reserved for the shoulders of women, and that weight was crushing Chloe. “None of this means a fucking thing!” Chloe spoke with a little


more vigor, hoisting her drink and gesturing around the packed bar. Maybe she was right. The place, the people, the conversations all felt slightly scripted, like borrowed lines of assurance that this is what you’re supposed to be doing and saying and feeling, even if you’re not. These people came to Stella’s to drink, to dance, to flirt, but mostly, to feel less alone. I saw all of this unraveling before me, knowing that soon I’d find myself in the thick of it, no longer an observer. We would be back here one day. I wondered how we’d look then. Would we see the faces of women our age downing drinks at the bar with their friends and crying in the exact same spot hours later? Would we be them? I straightened my spine and pushed my shoulder blades back—just in case—as if the shared, incremental weight we lifted had anything to do with our posture. “Our Lyft will be here in like two minutes, so . . .” Britt trailed off, gesturing toward the doors. The three of us filed out of the bar. Britt went first, her lips pressed into a straight line as she squinted at her phone to track down our driver. Mia wiped Chloe’s cheek and murmured a frantic barrage of reassuring phrases. Then she reluctantly turned toward the doors, yelling after Britt, who was a full head taller than her, to wait up. I moved through the bar slowly, stealing a few extra seconds in the confined chaos. This place was beguiling. Everything seemed to grow larger and brighter and louder behind its doors, and for a moment, I was convinced that I had, too. I snaked through the crowd and reached my hands out, pushing my weight against the heavy bar doors. A gust of sharp wind stung my cheeks. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back, filling my lungs with the biting air. The bar’s roar behind me was muffled now, sounding almost like an ovation. Months later, someone in class mentioned that Stella’s used to be a theater. Fitting.


“What are you doing? Let’s go!” Mia and Britt shouted from the backseat of the waiting car. I turned back and stole a final glance at Chloe before the bar doors closed behind me. She had floated back to the center of the crowd, her blond waves bobbing as she laughed wildly. She slipped back into the Chloe I met at the beginning of the night: lighter, happier, well-rehearsed. An attractive man approached her, wasting no time to strike up a conversation, and almost on cue, the crowd closed back up, swallowing her in a maddening swirl of colorful drinks, and dancers, and indiscernible noise. Then the heavy bar doors swung shut.



109 Old Havana, Sydnney Islam Photograph

SALSA IN TRACK SPIKES Benjamin Schroeder

I know a place where the land is unnamed and the dance in the moonlight is tense like a noose it’s a desert where cacti outnumber the stars and the spikes on their arms are combined more than both where the stars fall like rain during April’s short play. There grows a rose with no thorns to be seen in the dry months it lives off the vapor-filled air and the water it steals from the roots of those near and if some other plant tangles roots with this rose then a dance will begin with a passionate brush. Legs on the legs on the feet on the earth and the end will step steps in the way that they do with a flash of the red on the lips of the bloom made of petals that curve like a smirk in a lie but it’s never the rose that gets caught in the drought. Heat not enough to make sand into mirror.



111 With Selves, Ashlie Paulson Painting


Private Davy Walsh B Company, 4th Ranger Training Battalion 10850 Schneider Road Fort Benning, GA 31905 Dear Rambo,


I’m keeping one eye on Syria How’re those rich southern rays? You’re burnt to shit, aren’t you? A regular Georgia watermelon Layered in heavy greens, brilliant red beneath What’re they feeding you at Benning anyhow? I bet you’re a bony-faced bastard Anyone fresh outta basic looks like a dehydrated broomstick Your mom insists that I write you I’ll humor her She’s been reading your letters aloud at happy hour I’ve timed it out to two tequila sunrises before tears form and fall I don’t listen in too close, but I know this much: You made it through the first bout good and gasping Army Ranger Private First Class I know I’m not supposed to tell anyone I told everyone anyway

You’ve wanted this since Clancy’s Rainbow Six on 64 You never let me play The fuck’s up with that? I tracked your every move from the pleather trenches Blow on the game pak and slam it home, bud Bud— It didn’t mean to you what it meant to me Tell me, how heavy’s that M4? Not the same pixelated heat you remember Nothing’s ever the way you remember


Lead The Way, Arv

113 Stranded, Carter Blochwitz Photograph


RosĂŠ, Sydnney Islam Collage




he bugs loved her mother’s rose bush. Six or seven beetles per budding rose eating through the petals. They would be behind gaping holes (sometimes, after the bugs had eaten their fill, she would peer through an apertured petal, hoping to see the world differently. Was it a tiny looking glass? A kaleidoscope? She knew it was a gift. She named them as sacred). The holes, of course, upset her mother. The girl was instructed to cut off each flower that had an infestation of bugs, but the petals held a sort of grace meant only for her. She picked up one of the bugs and fell in love with the reflective green of its exoskeleton, the way its tiny legs moved. The beetle was nestled in her hand; it crawled up her arm and into her hair. She picked up another one and another one until all of the beetles from the rose bush were crawling on her body. She let a few of them slip into her mouth—they buzzed. She buzzed along with them.


UNNATURAL Ashley Mattei

Where it splits, a cotton skirt shifts Birthing earth-brown vines weaving Then wrapping Climbing from ankles to inner thighs Black hair, she roots Ripped bare before sleep with Razors passed down from mothers To daughters, eyes wet in a wet tub For the boy’s blue eyes, she wanted Beating into her Roots Of weeds ripped from their ground to let Tulips grow tall with thin stalks Swaying in winds where their weighted heads Bow down To the father, whose father pointed and said, “Here is a woman.” He lied.



117 In the Garden, Kate Drakulic Painting

BLINK Ian Smith



lackness; and then your eyes adjust to a panorama of turquoise. The moon casts its light upon the ceiling and your eyes decide to focus on the grated vent blowing frigid air down to your tired body beneath the sheets. I will live in the South of France—add this to the wish list in your mind—along with a 70” TV in the living room and Master’s from Columbia. Two months from now, you will be staring at a ceiling identical to this one, dreaming and wishing. Except this ceiling will be different due to location, and you will be different due to education and parties on Tuesday nights with cheap beer and loud music. Merlot, finely aged. No beer. A quick flicker of blackness and then back to the perpetual turquoise of the moonlight. You yawn, rub your eyes, and shiver as you pull up the white blanket to deflect the cold wind, which blows almost ceaselessly from the ceiling. Vacation somewhere warm and coffee in the morning float in your head and are duly noted. Another flicker of blackness. Cobalt, not turquoise. A breeze seeps in from the tenth story window above 116th Street, and you lay without sheets or blankets. Your room back home feels warmer in retrospect: not in temperature, but in ambiance. The heat and humidity in this space are suffocating, and the soft breath of air does little to aid in cooling the room. Air conditioning that actually works and a laundry room. In less than twelve hours, you will have the diploma and degree you spent the last however-many-years dreaming about. The image of a white sheet of paper with a few signatures in black and a gold stamp resonates


in your mind. An elaborate white picture frame and 116th Street street sign. Regardless of the late hour, horns and music and drunken shouts invade your ears from the streets below your open window. A quick flicker of blackness. Your humble home at the foot of the Alps won’t have these distractions. A king-size bed and wine and cheese. Another flicker of blackness. Royal, not cobalt. The patter of pellets against the pane of glass which separates you from the gloomy City of Rain soothes your busy mind. Starbucks in the morning. Don’t forget the paperwork. Gala on Thursday. Your shoes that sit in the hall are still wet from the daily downpour. Rain boots, white and dance in the rain. The rain is soothing when you have shelter to protect you from the wet, but you remember cursing the rain gods as you walked into work, soaking and feeling like you jumped in a lake fully clothed. A new washer and dryer. The illumination of the moon makes the royal blue shimmer with silver. A quick flicker of blackness. The rain is distracting. An umbrella. Laundry detergent. You yawn and tighten the heavy blanket around you to insulate yourself from the insidious feeling of dampness. The warm cottage in the South of France will definitely be warm, but not humid. Near the beach. Another flicker of blackness. Navy, not royal. Your eyes look straight ahead but seem to shift in and out of focus. All you see is the expanse of the navy ceiling; details and nuances escape your vision. Better glasses. The smell of the sea is in the air, and even though you know it is warm outside, there exists an incessant shiver. Dance in the rain. You rub your worn eyes and pull your fatigued sheets and threadbare blankets but it does nothing. A quick flicker of blackness and then the vast ceiling again. Always the ceiling. Paint the ceiling a different color. Maybe green. Blue reminds you of Columbia. And Seattle. Never go to Starbucks again. Or New York. But the beach is nice. Go for walks more often. All these years. Merlot. And you have never really enjoyed the beach.


Remember to take pills. All of them. The ceiling is darker than you remember. Dance in the rain. Blackness; and then your eyes adjust to a panorama of white.


Hollow Humans, Emily Jablonski Digital


It was a cashmere day, amorphous and hypnagogic. The clouds seeped in through the window in your hospital room. You were sleeping. I hoped.

Sterile tools hung eerily, smirking at us. I imagined death seducing me instead— thrusting a glittering knife to my gut, relishing in it, then drinking my blood like wine. If only you had smiled, the glinting sheen of steel would have melted death’s weapons to flakes of dust. With no hum in your lung, a vivid black hole ran patrol. Despair gurgled in my stomach and bubbled and poured out of me and shredded both our hearts.


Your face was a malaise distortion: I saw your skin melt from gleaming bronze to putrid gray. I saw the creases etched into your skin, like someone didn’t smooth you before dragging a hot iron hastily across you.


If I could write infinity, I would etch its obituary. When the numb turns to sting in a sick scalding blitz, I will feel your presence again.

Sandbar Fire, Carter Blochwitz



UNTITLED Makayla Samountry

In this vessel, he said, is the soul of your worst enemy. Drink it, and his bones shall catch flame, his body shall burn from the inside out until he is no more than white smoke. Be wise—do not drink simply out of thirst. I went home that night and I thought of how perfect I would become if my antagonist were no longer here, how beautiful I’d be if I wasn’t hurting. So I opened the vessel because my throat itched.


The wind blew my ashes across the morning dew.



Colorful foil balloons bob and sway across the street at the cemetery, weighted by cellophane bags full of sand. Mother’s Day was yesterday. The women’s places are signaled by offerings, apologies placed at their sleeping feet. I have missed the bus again. At the stop, a group of pigeons circles a tiny hill of crumbs. A dozen eggs and a bottle of orange juice bounce against my hip in a cloth bag. I decide to continue walking and reach the edge of the cemetery fence, thinking of my own mother on her favorite side of the couch with the cat in her lap, her hand curved around a mug of lemon ginger tea. When I look down, it’s too late;


a thick rope of gold yolk is sliding down my leg. A paper towel is on the counter at home a mile away, and I’m not hungry enough to eat anything raw. The women in the earth remember breakfast delayed for an extra moment in a quiet bedroom, at peace.


125 Universal Thoughts, Emily Jablonski Digital

Observants, Meg Jenson Collage


ARTWORDS ArtWords is an annual writing competition for undergraduate and graduate 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 the galleries of the museum. ArtWords is held in collaboration with the English Department’s Creative Writing Program and The Tower art and literary magazine. A jury including Creative Writing faculty, 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 fifth year as an ArtWords collaborator, and we are happy to present the 2018 undergraduate ArtWords winners in this year’s issue.

Judges Laurel Darling is an art editor for The Tower. Annemarie Eayrs is the Publishing Assistant for Coffee House Press. Diane Mullin is the Senior Curator for the Weisman Art Museum. Hannah Nelson is a fiction editor for The Tower. Julie Schumacher is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Tripura Talagadadeevi is an art editor for The Tower.

NAUSEA Benjamin Schroeder

Inspired by Still Life with Bananas by Alfred Maurer

Here, where all the shadows fall like window panes out of skyscrapers and make a clean break of every table’s legs before the big race, the static on the television starches the drapes, and several fingers— so long they stretch from Peru, varied as a hypochondriac’s medicine cabinet— they seek their fist, their medium through which to knock on some solid, unbroken thing, for travel is a superstitious task full of the same godless mathematics that throw metals into the sky— still those fingers, bruised at the tips, come to rest here. On the edge of the gray square that cuts through space, a grip, loose like the rain, carries, too, the unwieldy shade.


1930, oil on composition board. Bequest of Hudson D. Walker from the lone and Hudson D. Walker Collection.


Still Life with Bananas, Alfred Maurer


DECAY Grace Baldwin

Inspired by The Pedicord Apts. by Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz


the red-bulbed marquee drips with something unfamiliar, flickering and twitching like a wounded animal. “36 PEDICORD APTS.” despite never being alive it is inevitably decaying, pine woodwork leaking, bleeding out amphetamine sap. light evaporates from glowing sconces, like eyes: i watch the life as it leaves. hollow now. look, stumps of cigarettes in a row sucked of all substance, carpet casketing ashes of Marlboros and good intentions. i’m not from around here. claustrophobia creeps in. the hallway slopes and creaks too with each step and i’m reminded of the fun house at the state fair. not so fun when dissociation is breathing down your fucking neck. what self-loathing ghost would stay here? behind door A, the crackling cordiality of Alex Trebek, delivering a “daily double” dose of depression to empty ears. a Doberman barks behind door B and i jump back, too anxious to apologize. curiosity killed the cat, you know. next. laughter, the clink of wine glasses: a party i wasn’t invited to, a contact high from the infinite illusion of inclusion. the fourth room so quiet, i think it may be empty—wrong: inside hides a woman, alone: silence loudest of all. what she feels, i cannot say. sobs and snickers sound so, so similar. door E: two voices argue, clock ticks like punches, silences aging like cheap wine. “who is she?” better to never know. by the time i slump against F i can no longer understand the manic static on the television. neon red exit sign glows above a dead-end window, small


but large enough to end it all if the stink of formaldehyde and isolation make you desperate enough for air.

131 The Pedicord Apts., Ed Kienholz and Nancy Reddin Kienholz 1982–1983, mixed media. Gift of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.

BABY DIAZ Mike Corrao

Inspired by #4, Diaz by Charles Biederman


eometric organs are pouring out from the kid’s abdomen. “There are tiny people who come and clean up the mess; don’t you worry about it.” Bright lights flood the room with a multitude of colors. Harsh beams are projected outward, fragmenting when they hit any residue that floats in the air. The tiny people arrive. They crawl out of the walls and collect whatever they can. Shapes are dragged away into the crevices and cracks. “I want to know a person that can tell the difference between a real object and a fake one.” What those people dragged away are the fake objects. They’re corporeal and all of that, but they don’t have the right abstractions attached to them. A good object, or just a real one, is weighed down by signifiers. It can’t be dragged away by someone so small. They don’t have the right arms to pull it with. Instead, those objects stick around until the corporeal parts decay away. The abstractions are cut loose and float up onto the ceiling so that the janitors can sweep them up. “There are too many meanings,” says one of the janitors. “I remember one boy who used to pick it all back up himself afterward. He’d take his guts and stuff them back into his stomach; sew it up. Like it didn’t mean a damned thing to him.”



133 #4, Diaz, Charles Biederman Painted aluminum. Biederman Archive, Weisman Art Museum, gift of Charles J. Biederman.

Contributors Maureen Amundson is a Peruvian American artist and writer from the Midwest. Erin Anderson is a senior majoring in English. She enjoys playing with words, always in search of the spark. Gavin Arnold grew up somewhere outside of Boston and is a senior studying English. While he occasionally writes, he also likes to drink too much coffee and recklessly avoid adverbs. Aubrey Asleson is a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in English, Creative Writing, and Gender Studies. She cares deeply about books and her aesthetic, to which she dedicates most of her time and money. Grace Baldwin is a twenty-year-old sophomore at the University of Minnesota studying Psychology and Creative Writing. When she isn’t in class, she can be found DJ-ing at Radio K or performing in the cities with her band, Last Import. Carter Blochwitz grew up on a small farm in rural Wisconsin. He strives to create something new every day and hopes to one day become an authorfilmmaker. Ashlyn Boehme is a visual artist who predominantly works with oil paints on paper or canvas tapestries. She paints with a surrealistic style that incorporates saturated colors and textures, recently exploring human vulnerability through nude figures and detailed landscapes.


Tiffany Bui is a freshman who wandered into Minneapolis from the suburbs of Maple Grove. Her inspirations are poets Sarah Kay, Hieu Minh Nguyen, and Ocean Vuong.

Mike Corrao is a young writer working out of Minneapolis. His work has appeared in publications such as Entropy, Cleaver, decomP, and Fanzine. His first novel, Man, Oh Man, will be out in fall 2018 from Orson’s Publishing. Kate Drakulic is a visual artist who uses a variety of mediums, including acrylic paints, charcoal, and ink, to explore representations of the body. She is currently working on a series of figure drawings about the relationships between others and self. Shereen Fahrai’s poetry can be found in the 2017 edition of Ivory Tower and in Z Publishing House’s anthology, Minnesota’s Best Emerging Poets. Shereen enjoys performing music in her hometown of San Diego, California. You can find her on Instagram at @sf.poetry. Claire Fallon is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Spanish. She hopes to pursue graduate studies in literature and continue writing poetry. She’s never spent more than eight dollars on a bottle of wine and insists on playing sad music at parties. Anthony Flores grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he found his passion for photography. He wants to express pain and suffering with his art so that others can get through their own. He strongly believes that this pain and suffering leads to self-actualization. Lauren Foley is an undergraduate studying English literature and Spanish. She loves cats, iced coffee, soap-opera-level detail in novels, and the feeling of the sun on her back.

Garrett Grage is a senior studying English and Creative Writing. He explores all genres, but he is especially fond of bringing warped realities into fiction. He would like to dedicate his future creative endeavors to Joba from America’s favorite boyband, Brockhampton. Gabriella Granada is an advocate and writer studying English at the University of Minnesota. She enjoys fat bulldogs and screaming about women’s issues with friends. She credits Thai food, Carrie Fisher, and her rage for getting her to where she is today. Megan Gunderman is a human being who loves to write, learn, travel, read, listen to music, dance, and play in her band. Her poems are mementos plucked from her ethereal dreams. Melissa Gust is a senior studying the arts. She works primarily with clay, and whenever she is away from it, it’s most likely because she is volunteering through the service fraternity on campus. Brad Harmon graduated in December 2017 with a major in German, Scandinavian, and Dutch and will begin graduate study in Scandinavian literature at the University of Washington–Seattle in fall 2018. He enjoys Swedish poetry and long winter walks. Olivia Heusinkveld is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Individualized Studies with concentrations in Communication Studies, Sociology, and Creative Writing. She spends most

of her time working at a comedy theater, ranting about the importance of storytelling, or taking blurry pictures of the moon. Breck Hickman is a senior in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program. She is a multidisciplinary artist interested in mundane cyborgs, being a body, and queer identity. She is from Elk River, Minnesota, and currently works out of Minneapolis. Megan Hoff is a sophomore majoring in English with minors in Spanish and Mass Communication. She likes to write poetry at night when she cannot sleep, or during particularly boring lectures. Lydia Hollen is a senior studying English Education. She enjoys writing fiction and poetry about the complexities of family life and growing up. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s probably tweeting about Harry Styles. Sydnney Margova Islam, a Milwaukee native, is a freshman working toward a Bachelor of Individualized Studies with concentrations in Anthropology, Journalism, and Studies in Cinema and Media Culture. Her biggest passions include travel, photography, and creating mixed-media artwork. Since she was young, Emily Jablonski has had a huge passion for art. She has always loved drawing and currently studies Graphic Design. Her favorite art subjects are plants and animals, and she takes inspiration from biological illustrations. Hannah Jacobson is a junior at the University of Minnesota studying English. Meg Jenson is a junior in the graphic design program. Inspiration for her work is most


Lizz Fong is a senior in the Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies department. She ghostwrites songs for a band that doesn’t exist. Her work has appeared in Cellar Door, Quiver, and plain china.


often derived from the plethora of talented artists around her, both visual and musical. The pieces she presents strive to highlight the interconnectedness of life. Kalina Kostka is from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and lives in Minneapolis. Her piece speaks to the complexities of her relationship with her best friend as she struggles with mental illness. Kalina often writes on themes of mental illness, childhood, and relationships.


Sowmya Narayan is a sophomore studying Neuroscience. Whenever she isn’t in lab, she enjoys taking pictures of her friends and family. Grace O’Neil is a sophomore studying Marketing and Journalism. She is the founder of The Sunday Pastry, a writer for Spoon University, and a Relay For Life chair member.

Cassidy Kummrow is a freshman studying English. She enjoys playing Frisbee and drawing flowers.

South Korean artist Kyungmoon Park is passionate about contemporary painting and pouring arts. Her artwork has been exhibited at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Regis West Gallery. Park is currently working on pouring arts that express the beauty of nature.

Sierra Larsen is a sophomore studying Film. Her favorite artists are Rebecca Sugar, Taika Waititi, and Amy Sherman-Palladino. She likes the color orange and a good cup of tea.

Rachel Parks is a sophomore studying Math and Philosophy. In her free time, she likes to listen to music, take pictures, and write. She wants to be a teacher, and hopes to publish a book someday.

Kendall Laurent is a junior studying Art and Psychology. Working on canvas and paper, her recent work explores figures and objects with vibrant and nontraditional usage of color.

Ashlie Paulson is a local artist based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They are currently studying to get their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Their art is anchored in interactive qualities.

Ashley Mattei is pursuing a BA in English with a Creative Writing minor. After graduation, she plans to obtain a Masters of Education and teaching licensure in English/Language Arts instruction, with the hope of exposing the power of language to new generations.

Juliana Que is a writer, poet, performer, and mental illness activist. Most of the time, though, they’re just mentally ill.

Aaron Musickant is a third-year student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pursing a BFA with a minor in Interdisciplinary Design. His primary medium is printmaking, pen, and marker. He explores the fragility and depravity of the human form and spirit.

Mark Richard is a senior Mathematics major. Writing has been a passion of his from a young age, and he is excited to have his work published in The Tower as a final achievement in college. Zoe Rogers is a freshman studying Art. She specializes in drawing, painting, and printmaking, but also practices the pottery wheel and takes photos on her Minolta X-370. She enjoys buying candles, reading Sappho, watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, and petting dogs.

Johanna Schmidt is a junior majoring in Spanish and Sociology and minoring in Translation and Interpretation. She is originally from Wisconsin, so, of course, she loves cheese. She also enjoys old yearbooks and judging people. Benjamin Schroeder is a poet and essayist studying English and Creative Writing. His work has also appeared in—or is forthcoming from— Ivory Tower, The Wake, and MURAJ. Alex Schumacher is an English major. He works for a podcast at Radio K. When he’s not reading, writing, or podcasting, Alex is probably petting one of his three cats. Ian Smith is a freshman studying English and French. Born and raised in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, he enjoys cheese and arguing in favor of the word “bubbler.” In addition to studying, Ian immerses himself in writing, drawing, and listening to Glass Animals. Evelyn Staats is a nineteen-year-old multimedia artist studying and living in Minneapolis. Her paintings explore the perception of time and change, often rendered through ecological, organic, and anatomical imagery. Ondrew Tillotson is a mathematician, product designer, experimental musician, .gif artist, and writer from DeKalb, Illinois. They amalgamate observations into creations. Rosalie Uggla is fascinated by the irrationality that comes from freshly born affection, and how

even in the wake of disintegration, a relationship can remain in someone’s mind as one of the best parts of the human experience. Amy Verrando is an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota who writes on occasion. Payton West is a poet, third-year Political Science student, and cat mom. She loves socks, iced coffee year-round, and the cinematic wonder that is National Treasure. Allen Witkowski is a junior pursuing degrees in English and Art History. He is fascinated with the cinematic aspect that presents itself in art and everyday life. He is a fan of the arts and a devoted Gopher Sports attendee. Andrew Zhou is a sophomore studying Chemical Engineering (and sometimes Interdisciplinary Design) at the University of Minnesota. He can usually be found watching films, talking about medical devices, or making science in a basement somewhere.


Makayla Samountry is a senior studying English and Creative Writing. Her work can be found in the literary journals Ars Nova and Bella Grace Magazine, as well as on her YouTube channel.




First, we wish to express our gratitude for the support we receive from the Department of English, Student Unions & Activities, and the Minnesota Student Association, and for the continued collaborations we have with the Weisman Art Museum, Radio K, and the WAM Collective. We thank our friends, family, and community members for their support; without their generosity, we would be unable to do what we do. We would like to recognize the following individuals: Mike and Shelly Auld, Lynn Belgea, Gina and Michael Benson, Karen and Wayne Borneman, Darlene Borneman, Buffalo Books LLC, Elizabeth and Michael Cooper, Dalton Craig, Harris Darling, Barb and Kevin Davis, Kathie Dievendorf, Scott Ewing and Gina Easley, Robert and Barbara Gaertner, Fe Granada, Forrest and Angela Hallstrom, Regents Professor Patricia Hampl, Harris I Darling Rentals, Elizabeth and James Hogan, Rolf and Catherine Hohertz, Joseph and Janice Holthaus, Steve and Carol Jarecki, Sonja and George Jensen, Michelle and John Kimble, Florence Krupat, LeeAnn Lanzo, Lisa Leonard, Professor Ellen Messer-Davidow, Aaron Nesser, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Medalit and Jim O’Hagan, Rhonda and Andrew Oberman, Karen Omlung, Kathryn Pieper, Eric and Leann Pitzl, Russell and Linda Pitzl, Regents Professor Madelon Sprengnether, Barbara and Dennis Sweat, Paul and Lucienne Taylor, Valerie Thompson (on behalf of Charles Thompson), Annette Valeo, JoAnn Verburg and James Moore, Terry and Babe Walker, Mike and Delores Xenos, Eugene Yeates, and Joanne and Ronald Zapchenk. We thank Jamee Yung, Director of Education for the Weisman Art Museum, for organizing the ArtWords competition. We would like to acknowledge Julie Schumacher, Director of the University of Minnesota Creative Writing Program;

Diane Mullin, Senior Curator for the Weisman Art Museum; and Annemarie Eayrs, Publishing Assistant for Coffee House Press for participating as judges. Additional thanks to Brittany Vickers, Communications Associate for the Weisman Art Museum, for her involvement on this project. We thank English Department Chair Andrew Elfenbein and Director of Undergraduate Studies Dan Philippon. Thank you also to the following English Department staff members for helping with our endeavors: Rachel Drake, Coordinator of Advising and Undergraduate Studies; Jessica Franck, Executive Office and Administrative Specialist; Karen Frederickson, Graduate Program Coordinator; Judith Katz, CLA Regional Academic Advisor; Lauren Heavey, Administrative Assistant; Pamela Leszczynski, Department Administrator; Jess McKenna, Coordinator of Instructional Services; Brent Latchaw, CLA Executive Accounts Specialist; Terri Sutton, Communications Associate; and Holly Vanderhaar, Creative Writing Program Coordinator. We would like to give a special thanks to Steve Foley for providing invaluable design expertise, and to Asmaa Gass for assisting with our staff operations. We also thank Erin George, from the University of Minnesota Archives and Special Collections, for speaking to our class. 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 were able to publish yet another 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. Thank you.

The Tower 2018  

The annual journal of the best in undergraduate writing and art from the University of Minnesota.

The Tower 2018  

The annual journal of the best in undergraduate writing and art from the University of Minnesota.