PLAINSONG Volume 27
ÂŠ 2013 Plainsong, Vol. 27 Department of English, Jamestown College, Jamestown, North Dakota Copyright reverting to authors, artists, and photographers on publication Any reprinting or reproduction may be done only with their permission
Plainsong, a non-profit journal funded by Jamestown College and published by the Jamestown College Department of English, includes the work of students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Jamestown College
Editorial Board Department of English David Godfrey, Ph.D., Chair Mark Brown, Ph.D. Sean Flory, Ph.D. Dorothy Holley Larry Woiwode, copy editor
Student Editors Jessamine Julian Leah Olmstead
Layout and Interior Design Donna Schmitz
Cover Painting Brock Drenth brockdrenthart.com
Printing and Binding Two Rivers Printing
For Josh Berg
Above the skies a kingdom sits undone. An element is missing. God looks at his work and knows it’s good. But an element of someone is missing, a soul created with a childlike spark, the kind that lights a room and blows the fog away. “I need that special spark to complete heaven. My kingdom must be perfect,” God decrees. “These souls will be the final piece.” So God calls back the souls he chose and brings them home. Heaven is perfect—though unsung until the rest come home. So God sits waiting. And heaven is why the good die young.
Table of Contents Epigraph, Finishing Heaven, Briana VinZant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Photograph, Bridge, Levi Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Awakening, Jim Stone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tea, Toast, and Duck Eggs, Dad, Jim Stone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Equatorial, Mark Brown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Of Natureâ€™s People, Mark Brown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Photograph, Blackbird, Dacotah Wealot, Plainsong Prize for Photography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cruel World, Levi Brown. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Choirboy, Linda Hess. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Depths of Love, Brittany Cochran. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fairytale, Brooke Lietzke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Photograph, Wolves, Dacotah Wealot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Sound, Brooke Lietzke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Painting, Cow, Kayla Byle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frozen in Time, Alison Kassian, Thomas McGrath Prize for Poetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fall, Alison Kassian. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Too Late, Alison Kassian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . In the End, Alison Kassian. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Photograph, Old Ford Grill, Brooke Lietzke. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . March to Victory, Levi Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Passion, Kelsey Mittleider, Louise Erdrich Prize for Non-Fiction. . . . The Mixed Rose, Jonathan Jacobs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Warm Sweet Lips, Andrea Toepke-Floyd. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tick Tock, Amanda Paone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . My Devil in Red, Amanda Paone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Photograph, Boy in Cowboy Hat, Linda Perleberg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Waiting, Briana VinZant, Larry Woiwode Prize for Fiction. . . . . . . . Photograph, Primed House, Brooke Lietzke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Crazy Woman Mountains, Jim Stone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Truth, Finally, Briana VinZant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dear Daddy, Briana VinZant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mrs. Hyde, Briana VinZant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Yes, Dear, Zuleyma Diosdado. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guardian Angel, Josh Berg. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Photograph, Ice-Edged Leaf, Levi Brown . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
7 9 10 11 12 13 14 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 34 35 36 37 38 39 46 47 48 49 50 51 54 59
The Magnitude of Grace, Jim Stone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
AWAKENING At winter’s end the earth lies hard asleep beneath a threadbare comforter of snow. Awakening, the sky begins to weep as long-awaited winds start up and sweep across the fallow fields that lie below. In winter when the earth lies hard asleep, lethargic shadows slowly start to creep to meet the early evening afterglow. Awakening, the sky begins to weep a long-awaited rain for hope to reap the harvest of the crop that hope will sow. In winter when the earth lies hard asleep unfrozen roots lie hibernating deep, awaiting summer’s growing season’s slow awakening. The sky begins to weep; the dormant earth has promises to keep and nature’s way is the only way we know. At winter’s end the earth lies hard asleep; awakening, the sky begins to weep. —Jim Stone
TEA, TOAST, AND DUCK EGGS, DAD Old Donald McDee tromps through gumbo mud, until his shoes weigh twenty pounds apiece, to bring the woolies in from pastureland. Quick words—“Get away by far off, Jock”—send Scotsman’s dog around the way of Pecker’s Knob, beyond two stubborn waywards by at least a hundred yards. He watches Jock hunker on the run, one eye for sheep, another for the signal wave, a wave the old man knows’ll bring them straight to the weathered fleece nailed to the pasture gate. “I could’ve sold him once,” says he, “but she’s a lonely cold without Mother.” Not so often lately does he mutter, “What’s for breakfast, Katie?”
EQUATORIAL After all, it makes about as much sense as anything else in my life: “winter” chill and damp amid palm and papaya; tropical sun soon stricken by nightfall.
OF NATURE’S PEOPLE * Several, to be sure— not known, noted though for cunning, venom, fang without fellow; others also—no stranger, no less so for talon or quill, scale, feather, or fell; acquaintances all lacking feeling but full of keen regard and nothing vulgar.
* See Emily Dickinson, “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass.”
CRUEL WORLD How often do we find ourselves at the top of the world only to tumble down the mountainside the next day? There are many illustrations of this occurrence in literature, and certain literary works reinforce the idea. Some of the works derive from the experience of their authors, but even the pieces that are products of imagination are filled with this cycle of life, a cycle so engrained in us that even the authors’ dreams can’t escape its presence. Every person has several points in his life where he lives in an imaginary paradise, but an enemy is always lurking behind the veil of that illusion. The idea that every paradise has someone or something waiting to end its bliss is apparent in Cantares Mexicanos. In “Song XII,” the Aztecs are singing about the beauty of the environment that surrounds them. The flowers they sing about “intoxicate one’s soul with life” (Cantares Mexicanos 16), and bright and majestic birds fill their paradise. However, an enemy lurks outside their city, threatening to destroy the peace they’ve enjoyed (16). This poem from the Aztecs is a prime historic example of the rise and fall of paradise. Many more examples of fading paradise can be drawn from other texts. The romance, Monkey, paints a picture of a primate clan that discovers a vast stone kingdom. The kingdom has everything the clan needs, and they live in contentment for hundreds of years (Ch’eng-en 43). The Monkey King, the one who crossed the waterfall and found their kingdom (42), is the individual who grows unhappy (43). Feeling death creeping up on him, his sorrow grows. His current paradise is coming to an end so he sets out to learn the ways of the Immortals in order to make his paradise last (44). Unfortunately, his efforts are in vain, since all mundane things pass in time. Then there is Moliere’s Tartuffe, where the idea of a lost paradise is profound. Orgon is the first example. He is the head of his household, and everything under his reign is falling into place the way he desires: the bond with his friend Tartuffe is growing (Moliere 113), the engagement of Mariane, Orgon’s daughter, to Valère is called off—against her will—so she can marry Tartuffe (118), and Tartuffe accepts Orgon’s embrace of him as a son (136-137).
Orgon’s paradise with Tartuffe is torn apart when he witnesses Tartuffe’s affection for Elmire, Orgon’s wife (142-145). This is a rare case where one paradise is replaced by another: Orgon’s relationship with Tartuffe is destroyed, but it is offset by Orgon slipping out of Tartuffe’s net of deception. Tartuffe is not so lucky, though. He replaced Damis as Orgon’s son and received promises of an inheritance (136-137), but Orgon discovered Tartuffe’s plot to steal his wife and everything else under his name (142-145). The comedy ends with Tartuffe being sent to prison (154). His paradise in Orgon’s household is replaced by the misfortune of imprisonment. The last representative example is Candide, by Voltaire. The young gentleman Candide lives a rollercoaster of a life that revolves around Cunégonde—daughter of a baron in Westphalia and the woman Candide loves more than life itself. But when he is found in an affectionate state with Cunégonde, Candide is kicked out of the Baron’s castle for his display of affection (Voltaire 187). Candide faces and overcomes many trials (188-194) and is reunited with Cunégonde after she and her companion rescue him from the Inquisition. Candide is so overcome with emotion when he sees Cunégonde once more that “[h]is knees give way, speech fails him, he falls at her feet” (Voltaire 195). As one might expect, the two lovers are separated again when the governor of Buenos Aires takes an interest in Cunégonde (205). For a third and final time, Candide and Cunégonde are united when he finds his love working for a prince in Propontis, Transylvania. The two are fortunate enough to remain together, but Cunégonde has lost her beauty, which was the greatest factor in Candide’s attraction to her. Every time Candide was with his precious Cunégonde, he was in paradise, but there was always an enemy waiting to invade. Even when the two are brought together in the end, Cunégonde’s homeliness destroys that paradise (243). The mountain tops that people achieve aren’t reached by chance. Many factors exist in climbing the totem pole. People must first master their state of mind before they can find a paradise. Having a positive outlook can drastically improve the chances of finding happiness. An example of this is the primate clan in Monkey. The troop decides to go on an adventure and follow a stream to its source. Granted, the primates do this because they have nothing else to occupy their time (Ch’eng-en 42), but their desire to explore and enjoy their surroundings brings them to a
perfect home (43). Other traits can help a person find a higher quality of life: persistence, hard work, connections, charisma, and experience. I label hard work as the most important, and Tartuffe is a primary example. Dorine, Mariane’s maid, is a pivotal character in the comedy. Her duty consists mostly in trying to expose Tartuffe’s deception of Orgon (Moliere 108-140). The success that follows is the return of peace and normalcy to Orgon’s household (155) after Tartuffe is exposed (154). The problem with creating a paradise is the lurking enemy. Paradise always has someone or something trying to bring it down, and sometimes the enemy comes from within. The following is a group of possible variables that threaten paradise: laziness, over-confidence, new trials, and fear of the unknown. In Candide, the paradise of the characters’ reunion was coming apart due to laziness. The gang had all the means necessary to survive, but boredom crept into their lives because they were missing the key to contentment (Voltaire 244-245). Fortunately, Candide found the key. He and his companions had to work hard with the land and resources at their disposal to discover new meaning in their lives (246). The test of time brings ups and downs to all inhabitants of the world. An individual can shape a paradise, but he or she will eventually have to face its inevitable demise. No matter how rooted people are in their paradise, its collapse can be devastating. It is difficult to suffer through the trials of our lives, but suffering builds character and teaches us to have a greater appreciation for the times when all of our needs are provided for. —Levi Brown
Works Cited Cantares Mexicanos. Trans. John Bierhorst. Simon et al 1550-1581. Ch’eng-en, Wu. Monkey. Trans. Arthur Waley. Simon et al 1592. Moliere, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. Tartuffe. Trans. Richard Wilbur. Simon et al 1664. Simon, Peter, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Shorter 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: Norton, 2009. Print. Voltaire, Francois-Marie Arouet de. Candide. Trans. Robert M. Adams. Simon et al 1759.
CHOIRBOY We practice precision such as poets writing sonnets will. Within exact confinement discipline enjoins sublime transgression. No world outside of space thus filled with sound is safe. â€”Linda Hess
DEPTHS OF LOVE The waves slap the sand, always mocking me, The ocean sneers yet invites my intrusion, The coldness wraps its fingers around my ankles; I can taste salt in the air and I Feel the wind pushing me toward the vast blue. I stand at this shore every day And wait for the arrival of him, my love, Who left, saying it was for a simple trip, And promised he would come back. I’ve stood in the sand since, waiting, The wind’s piercing across my back. I hear the waves slap as they mock, Whisper and call my name And say he is not coming back. I loathe loneliness and its closeness And the wind keeps pushing me harder. Sometimes I listen to the whispers That tell me now to walk in. The waves have turned into open arms And say that being with them will relieve my weeping Eyes and are so welcoming I want the pain gone, The wind a supportive hand over my back. The cold is pricking at my skin. It feels like kisses. The wind is guiding me to my new love, The waves engulfing me with their comfort As the water covers my head and I feel found, My heart repaired by the depths of this blue love.
FAIRYTALE Always a little girl with long blond hair stuck way up in a castle tower. All the people talking, saying her daddy’s so mean. “Why did he lock her away?” they say. Never knowing the real story, just talking and judging and wondering. Then one day, a prince rides in. Sitting on his white horse, thinking he’ll be the one to save her, so brave. So he shows up at the castle, looking up and calling her name. But all he hears is the whisper of the wind because she’s been long gone. She never needed any rescuing or a white horse.
THE SOUND I walked down the desolate road that appeared to go on for miles. I had no destination, only a goal. My pace quickened the more I let my mind wander. With the dusty gravel crunching under my Nikes, I started to run. After about a mile, I finally slowed to a walk. I looked down to see the cord of my earphones dangling, leading to my iPod. I flipped the unlock button and stared down to see Francesca Battistelli on the screen. I tuned back into the world to hear “…I’m letting go of the life I planned for me and my dreams. I’m losing control of my destiny, It feels like I’m falling and that’s what it’s like to believe…” I looked up and around to survey my surroundings. Flat: the typical North Dakota landscape. That’s the one thing I always loved the most about it, though. I can see. Up here, it’s a different kind of beauty. Sure, traveling is great, but my favorite part is always coming home to see everything I expect and love. I was coming up on a short row of cottonwoods, so I instinctively hung a right and jogged to them. When I reached the first one, I was quick to scale it and settle myself on a low-hanging branch. My hand instantly went to still my blaring iPod. I pressed pause and took the earphones out. Immediately I heard the same familiar sounds: cows mooing as they grazed in the distance, a chorus of rustling leaves above my head, and the occasional gust blowing across the prairie. These were the moments I constantly longed for. Moments of peace, quiet, and the sound of the world moving around me are what reoriented my life. I hopped down off my branch and started wandering through the pasture I was in. Every once in a while I would reach down and pick a wildflower, twirling it in my fingers as I walked. I came on a bright yellow daisy and tucked it in my hair, behind my ear, as always. I reached up to the thin-worn silver chain around my neck; at the bottom hung two crosses. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken it off. All I know is that I felt bare without it.
I snapped back to reality too quickly, thinking of the time. My hand fumbled for my shiny blue iPod. I switched it on and stared at the screen, waiting for the clock to appear. It read 4:12. I gazed out across the prairie, lingered a second more, then reluctantly put the earphones back in. I turned and started running back the way I had come. This was the part that always killed me— returning to reality and taking on what I had been running from once more. I crossed the field and found the road. In my ears I heard “…you can never fall too hard, so fast, so far that you can’t get back when you’re lost. Where you are is never too late, so bad, so much that you can’t change who you are.” Even with that, I could always hear the sound of my feet on the dirt. It was the sound of escape. —Brooke Lietzke
FROZEN IN TIME I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know where to turn. Every time I close my eyes All I see is you. Remember all those crazy nights We stayed up laughing until morning light, Telling stories and making jokes About things we used to know? But now times are changing, We’re rearranging. Nothing seems to stay the same. I don’t want to let this moment end, So please don’t say goodbye. I don’t want to let you go just yet, I want to stay here, Frozen in time. Remember how we used to stare Up at the night sky And tell each other all our dreams, And how we’d learn to fly; We’d tell each other all our secrets, And promise not to tell a soul. I made a wish upon a shooting star, That you would never go. But now times are changing, We are rearranging. Nothing will stay the same. I don’t want to let this moment end, So please don’t say goodbye. I don’t want to let you go quite yet, I want to remain here, Frozen in time. —Alison Kassian
FALL Standing in front of you with my heart on my sleeve, Do you remember the words you said to me? You said people change, But I think you were wrong. Take a look at where we are now; And I thought you were strong. So now I’m leaving, I’ve got nothing to say. I’m packing my bags And I’m running away. Where do you go when you don’t know where to turn? What do you do when the walls crumble down? Where can you turn when the road is uncertain? I’m not sure where to begin, Because I don’t want to fall again. I look around and all I see are eyes, Staring through me and I wonder, Will I survive? I try to hide the pain, And not let it show. I keep it inside; I don’t let it go. I try to understand How we let it all Get so out of hand. Where do you go when you don’t know where to turn? What do you do when the walls crumble and burn? Where can you go when the road is unknown? I’m not even sure how to begin, Because I never want to fall again. How do you fly with broken wings? How do you learn to love again? Show me and I’ll meet you there, Oh, don’t let me fall.
TOO LATE Sitting alone in this empty room, Looking at your picture and thinking of you— All those memories, they’re haunting me, And sometimes I think I’m going crazy, Because all I see is you. I want to tell you I miss you but I don’t know how. I want to tell you I love you but it’s too late now. I should’ve said something, didn’t know what to say. I guess I never thought it could turn out this way, And there’s nothing I can do about it now; It’s too late now. I wonder where you are and how you’ve been. I hope it’s a lot better than the state I’m in. I want to tell you I miss you but I don’t know how. I want to tell you I love you but it’s too late now. I should’ve thought of something, didn’t know what to say. I guess I never thought we could turn out this way, And there’s nothing I can do about it, no, It’s too late now. That July ninth when we said goodbye, I didn’t want to let you go And, yeah, I cried all the way home. I want to tell you I miss you but I don’t know how. I want to tell you I love you but it’s too late now. I should’ve done something, didn’t know what to say. I guess I never thought our lives would turn out this way, And there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s too late now. —Alison Kassian
IN THE END I bet you thought it wouldn’t matter, And what you did wouldn’t hurt. I bet you thought it’d be better To hide and not say a word. Oh, but you were wrong. In the end you can’t go back and say what you should’ve said. In the end you can’t rewind and try to start again. What’s done is done; you’ve had your fun, playing your stupid games. You left your mark, left me shattered and scarred. I’ve got nothing left to say. And in the end, without you, I’m gonna be okay. I bet you thought it’d be easy, And there’d be no consequences. I bet you thought I’d forgive you And let go all of my defenses. Oh, but you were wrong. In the end you can’t go back and say what you should’ve said. In the end you can’t rewind and attempt to start again. What’s done is done; you’ve had your fun, playing your stupid games. You left your mark, left me shattered and scarred. I’ve got nothing left to say. And in the end, without you, I will be okay. Oh, do you understand what you did was wrong? How could you think I would be okay? I’m not that strong. I thought we two had something, A one-on-one that wouldn’t end; I thought you would be a support to me, Not push me down and lie and pretend. Oh, I guess I was wrong, Yeah, I was wrong. In the end you can’t go back and say what you should’ve said. In the end you can’t rewind and pretend we can start again. What’s done is done; you’ve had your fun, playing your stupid games. You’ve left your mark, left me shattered and scarred. I’ve got nothing to say. And in the end, without you, I am going to be okay. —Alison Kassian
MARCH TO VICTORY The man walks through another day For home and passes the same fallen tree And asks Why? Why do I walk this ground? Why is it that others set themselves above me? Why do I allow myself to continue in a living hell! Isn’t there more to life than walking toward death? What purpose do I serve when I end up no different from the tree? Shouldn’t my being have more meaning than prey for the jackals of life? No one has the right to take all I’ve worked for and bury it in the dirt— Taking labor and passion and treating it like filth left behind by slugs! They don’t know the meaning of work or pleasure or love! Then again, who is it who knows about love? Who can speak the word in full awareness of the power it carries? Who can proclaim its emotion and fulfill the promises that accompany it? Who knows where the true meaning of the word even comes from? NO ONE! They’re merely shells possessed by the demons they’re too weak to fight, Or they’re too blind to realize that the force they’re fighting against Is the pure essence of life! Those demons regard us as cattle. They dehumanize us Until we can’t tell what depths have spawned that monster in the mirror! They smother the flame in our hearts so we lose sight of the path, And this is when calamity comes hunting us Like crows circling in search of a rotting carcass. But we are not rotting flesh. We are creation! I charge you, soldiers of the King, kindle that flame! Give the bellows no rest until you are a raging fire of passion and love! Light your paths and show those demons that we have hope, That we have Strength, Protection, Peace, Salvation! We no longer exist as slaves to our faults, failures, and secrets. March with the King, and battle the fear that tries to grip your heart. With this army, there can be no defeat. Together we stand in the arms of this Savior, and what we Find is more precious than the mundane riches that once captivated us; What we find Is Eternal Victory. —Levi Brown
PASSION: A Means of Destruction or of Restoration In Moliere’s Tartuffe, readers experience comedy, hypocrisy, and passion—all of which encompass everyday life. The French comedy portrays a man, Orgon, who lets his passion get the best of him. Orgon allows the sneaky, hypocritical Tartuffe to stay in his home until eventually Tartuffe controls him. Many try to warn Orgon—his wife, son, daughter, his brother-in-law, and even the lady-maid— that Tartuffe isn’t who he says he is. However, Orgon’s passion and blindness lead him, along with his family, to near destruction (Moliere, 107-155). The first scene of the play unfolds while Orgon is away and his family members are discussing the situation between Orgon and Tartuffe. Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother, proves herself as hypocritical as Tartuffe and as blind as Orgon. No doubt, Orgon gets his passion from his mother. Madame Pernelle believes that Tartuffe is nothing but a saint and can’t believe that everyone in the household is trying to push him away. In her exit speech she talks about church and scripture, but is completely wrong in what she is referring to, underlining her hypocrisy (111). She leaves in a fuss after being laughed at by Cléante and giving her maid a quick slap in the face (111). This portrayal of Madame Pernelle foreshadows Orgon’s character through most of the play. Because Madame Pernelle’s character reflects Orgon’s, it later helps him see how foolish he was acting. In Act V, scene 3, Orgon tries desperately to explain to his mother Tartuffe’s nasty ways, You’re talking nonsense. Can’t you realize I saw it; saw it; saw it with my eyes? Saw, do you understand me? Must I shout it Into your ears before you’ll cease to doubt it? (148) Those same thoughts are shared by all of the others who are trying to help Orgon see the truth. Orgon’s blind passion hinders his ability to take advice from others. He is being stubborn, or worse. He thinks he is right and he doesn’t want anyone to tell him otherwise. Once he sees the truth, however, he gets a taste of his own medicine when he tries to explain to his mother Tartuffe’s dishonesty. Dorine even says that it’s Orgon’s turn “not to be
listened to; / [he’d] not trust [them], and now [Madame Pernelle] won’t trust [him]” (149). There is no doubt that Madame Pernelle and Orgon share the same passion, or stubbornness; but what does that passion look like? It appears that Orgon is passionate about devotion, loyalty, and believing the good in everyone. In this play, however, passion leads to obsession. Tartuffe enchants Orgon with his meekness and fake humble character. He makes Orgon believe that he gave all he had to charity “because he cared for Heaven alone” (119). Orgon passionately believes that Tartuffe is “pure and saintly” and that alone makes him worthy enough to Orgon to take him under his roof and provide for him (119). When someone is passionate about something, it has the potential to help or harm. Any person can become mentally deaf and blind to hypocrisy and lies due to his passion. This blind passion for Tartuffe causes Orgon to disinherit Damis (136), force his daughter to marry Tartuffe (118), and give away Damis’s inheritance to Tartuffe (137). Through all of this, Orgon never stops to think about how unreasonable his actions are. Tartuffe hasn’t proved himself an honorable man except by the words of his mouth. Actions speak louder than words, yet all the actions displayed are from a man who has become so blinded by his passion he can’t properly reason. Destruction comes when Orgon’s failure to reason leaves Tartuffe the sole inheritor to everything he owns. Tartuffe cunningly takes his leave after Elmire, Orgon’s wife, has revealed him as the scoundrel he really is (144-145). Orgon orders Tartuffe to leave, forgetting that he has handed the family’s entire inheritance over to Tartuffe, who says, No, I’m the master, and you’re the one to go! This house belongs to me, I’ll have you know, And I shall show you that you can’t hurt me By this contemptible conspiracy, That those who cross me know not what they do, And that I’ve means to expose and punish you, Avenge offended Heaven, and make you grieve That ever you dared order me to leave. (145-146)
Tartuffe has finally revealed his true motives while also proclaiming that he is defending Heaven—a true hypocrite. This whole mess could have been avoided if Orgon had set aside his pride and tuned his passion down in order to listen to his family. Because Orgon reacted out of passion, order is destroyed; Orgon is left hopeless and penniless. Realizing his descent, how low he’s fallen, Orgon jumps from one extreme passion—complete trust— to another: hating all pious men (147). Here again, he allows his passion to pass judgment on an entire group of people. It takes reasonable Cléante to reveal how ridiculous Orgon is being, “Why can you not be rational? You never / Manage to take the middle course, it seems, / But jump, instead between absurd extremes” (147). Cléante’s honesty brings reason back to life and Orgon begins to realize the error of his quick, unreasonable actions. Even though Cléante is advising Orgon to be more reasonable and careful, he mentions that it’s “best to err…upon the side of trust” (147). It is virtuous to place trust in others, Cléante realizes; however, one cannot allow passion for trust to hinder one’s ability to reason, either, which is exactly what Orgon did. He allowed his reasoning to be clouded by his passion and that, in turn, caused destruction. I have experienced this same sort of blind passion, which I’m sure many others have as well. People get caught up in whatever it is, and don’t realize passion is clouding their judgment. The best part of the play is that it doesn’t end in complete destruction. The King, whom Orgon has served in the past, has brought restoration to Orgon and his family. The King’s “zeal for virtue is not blind, / Nor does his love of piety numb his wits / And make him tolerant of hypocrites” (154). He sees right through Tartuffe and sends him away to prison for his deceitful actions. If Orgon had not served the King so passionately, this pardon may not have taken place. Now the question is, did Orgon really learn from this experience? Does he realize that his passion almost caused the destruction of order and of his entire family? Or does he think his passion is the virtue that restored him?
I don’t believe Orgon learned his lesson. The King swooped in to save the day without giving Orgon the chance to fix it on his own. I think that we all need the opportunity to make things right, because we are not going to be miraculously saved every time. At the very end of the play Orgon says, “Well said: let’s go at once and, gladly kneeling, /Express the gratitude which all are feeling. /Then, when that first great duty has been done, /We’ll turn with pleasure to a second one” (155). And that is all he says about what the King has done for him and his family. If Orgon had learned from this, I believe his final speech would have expressed that. He would have apologized to his family for being so blind. He would have thanked the King in depth. He would have perhaps even thanked God. There needed to be more to the conclusion of the play for me to know that Orgon learned from his mistakes. —Kelsey Mittleider
Work Cited Moliere, Poquelin, Jean-Baptiste. Tartuffe. The Norton Anthology of World Literature: Shorter Second Edition. Volume 2. Ed. Peter Simon, et al. Trns. Richard Wilbur. Norton, New York: 2009. Print.
THE MIXED ROSE As the wind blows, the petals sway, And intertwined colors of the rose display Difference—red at the tips and white laced inside, The colors strong and distinct yet perfect complements. Red, the color of mystery, blood, anger, and love— Mystery, for the color makes you wonder; Blood, for the color is natural and a part of you; Anger, for the color ignites passion in every situation; Love, for the color mends the hearts of those wounded. White, the color of peace, neutrality, mercy, and purity— Peace, for the wings of a dove reflect light’s gleams; Neutrality, for the color contains no gray of any shade; Mercy, for the waving flag in a mist of bloodshed; Purity, for the soul beams an explosion of inner beauty. This rose is love and peace, Yet mystery and mercy.
WARM SWEET LIPS Warm sweet lips press against mine My lips return the kiss with the same pressure My heart hops a little But the smile hides it all His strong arms wrap around my body I feel his soft skin against mine He whispers sweet words in my ear But the smile hides it all He says the words, “I love you.” “I love you, too,” escapes from my lips He smiles and I smile back But the smile hides it all His three words are meant to make me fly But wings do not appear And suddenly I start to fall But the smile hides it all Then it starts His body hard and swift against mine I try to respond with the same intensity But the smile hides it all Once it’s over he whispers, “I love you” again And I consciously force, “I love you, too.” He smiles at me and I make myself smile back— That smile that hides it all I feel more alone than I should feel now And tell myself, “You should be so happy” But I feel confused, empty, cold, used, Behind the smile that hides it all I know he doesn’t love me, “You love my parts,” I want to say, But I’m too obsessed Behind the smile that hides it all I know I’m not strong enough, and dream Of a day he’ll love me, not what I can do for him; I grow tired and I’m seized with pain But in the end my smile hides it. —Andrea Toepke-Floyd
TICK TOCK Our life starts ticking away on our very first day, with giant round eyes and a tiny pink nose paired with a soul that can be taken away. A brown haired, hazel-eyed child demands to play outside till day turns to night, because she knows our life starts ticking away on our very first day. She has friends of all kinds, but an asthmatic airway that swells in the night; she has too many sorrows paired with a soul that can be taken away. She knows how to love and she wonâ€™t let it stray into a world full of hate. She will always suppose her life starts ticking away on her very first day. Life is a gift that is not meant for display; use it as much as you can, you who have hellos paired with a soul that can be taken away. We all have a ticker that is likely to fray and stop us before we can grab a last doze. Our life starts ticking away on our very first day, Paired with a soul. It can be taken away. â€”Amanda Paone
MY DEVIL IN RED You mock me when I see you dressed up in red And big beads of anger drop from my head. Escaping is gone; you are burned in my eye; You deserve my prolonged and vengeful cry. Long nights of stress are killing me slowly. Please go away; I would be happier lonely. My neurons keep throbbing in seeing you there; I’d rather ingest bloody needles and hair. You invade my mind and haunt every inch While I keep praying I’ll awake with a pinch; The torment you inflict seems never to cease, And each night my dream is to be living in peace. I study night and day, but it doesn’t matter; I believe you want my head on a platter. A hole in hell is brighter than this kind of fate, So get the hell off my test, you damn 98!
WAITING There is a familiar kind of buzz present in every waiting room. It is barely audible, yet always present. The clicks and clacks of receptionists at their laptops, the turning of magazine pages that no one really reads, the coughs that fill the little silence that exists, the clock ticking, a baby crying, a toddler nagging, a child whining—all swarming together in a noise so haunting you want to run. I feel my shirt dampening, and look around the room, waiting. Waiting Room, I read on the door. What a terrible name for a room. There are so many things in life to wait for. The seconds before a ball swooshes elegantly through nothing but net. A hot bowl of pasta after an intense workout. Air flooding your lungs and easing the burning when you surface after a dive. Sleep to come, when you lie in bed at night, contemplating yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Death to lead you away when you’re old and decrepit. So much of life is a wait. It’s like breathing, something you must do—waiting. “Remy?” I flinched, letting the tall ginger woman with glasses know it was me. “You’re up. So first let me just get your height and weight over here.” I slipped off my shoes. “Yup, that’s right.” I looked ahead as the electronic scale narrowed in on my weight. The wall was a dull off-white with a texture like someone had splatter-painted it. “All right, one-thirty-eight-point-three. Now if I can get you to flip around for me for your height. Yup, and stand up straight.” I did but it didn’t make me feel any taller. “Okay, five-seven. Now if you’ll follow me into 5C, I’ll get your blood pressure.” In 5C I pulled up my sleeve and she wrapped the scratchy cuff around my arm; I felt the pressure build, squeezing and entrapping my arm. She kept pumping and pumping and I watched the little pointer on the dial move higher and higher and higher, waiting, and finally she released it. “One-sixty over one-oh-five,” she said. “That’s not too terrible, but not where we want it.” Her
brow furrowed. “Well, if you’ll wait just a moment the doctor will be right with you.” She pulled the door to shut it, but it didn’t close all the way. Through the crack I watched her go over and hand my file to an older man and heard her say, “Dr. Anderson you have a patient, uh, Remy Sanderson, waiting for you in 5C.” The doctor glanced over my file, flipping pages, and muttered to himself, “Weight normal… Height okay… Blood pressure moderately high… Has she been to see us before?” “Nope, she has no file.” He looked down again. “Another young one. Is anybody with her?” “No, she came alone as far as I can tell.” “Did she mention her plans? Ask any questions?” “She barely spoke to me. She acts like she doesn’t want to be here.” “She’s only sixteen,” he said. “You don’t think she’ll….?” “I hope not, but we will, if that’s what she wants.” “Here, take these pamphlets with you when you go back,” he said, and for a moment neither of them moved. “Hello Remy, I’m Dr. Anderson,” he said, smiling, and shut the door quietly behind him. He was in his fifties-sixties, with wrinkles working their way into the curvature of his face, radiating from his blue-grey eyes, going deep around his mouth, and with a silvery grey comb-over hairstyle. A single hair fell across his forehead, drawing my focus to the bags under his eyes, which even his fake smile couldn’t camouflage. “Hi,” I said. “So.” He paused. “You’re pregnant.” “Um, yeah.” “Right, and you’ve done a home pregnancy test, I take it?” “Yes.” “Now, we’re going to do a confirmation pregnancy test, so I’m going to ask you to go into the bathroom in that corner, and pee in this cup.” “Okay.” “I’ll be back in a minute,” he said, and left. I took the cup, went into the bathroom, and peed in it. I knew the test wouldn’t come out negative, but I was hoping it would. He came back and I handed him the cup and sat down to wait. I brought my knees to my chest and ducked my head down
and didn’t look up again until he returned. “Congratulations,” I heard him say. “You’re pregnant.” I didn’t say anything. I looked away, and waited for the tears. “Remy, are you okay?” I nodded my head but didn’t look at him. I could feel his concern piercing through me. He sighed. “Now, I have to ask you, what are your plans?” Again, I didn’t say anything. “Remy,” he said, and in his pause I knew it was coming. “Are you going to keep it?” I didn’t answer for a long time, and he didn’t press me. Maybe it wasn’t a long time, but time moves slowly when you’re waiting. It was especially cold that night. I was walking home from a late-night basketball practice at the gym. The road was covered with snow and looked eerie, lit only with light from the street lamps. A red car passed me, going slow to compensate for road conditions. My car was in the shop getting snow tires installed. A half a block later, my breathing finally slowed to its normal pace and a black car passed. It was quiet, except for the hum on the highway four blocks over and the sound of an occasional car passing me. I could see only my breath and the circle of space lit by the streetlamp I was under. I heard another car approach, and it slowed down beside me. I tensed my body, preparing to run. “Hey,” the driver said. I turned. “Hey,” I replied. It was a kid from my speech class. I didn’t know him too well, only that his name was Luke, that he was in my year, and he rode motocross in the summer. “I’m on my way back from a study group. You want a ride somewhere?” I thought about my cold nose and the pain beginning to creep into my earlobes. “Um,” I said, and thought a second. “Sure.”
“All right, hop in.”
I was relieved that I didn’t have to walk the last mile to my house. “You’re in my speech class right?” I asked.
“I’m the Motocross Kid!”
“Yeah, I remember. Your speech was really good. It made me want to come watch sometime.”
“Mm-hmm, but obviously I’m going to have to wait a few months.” “Yeah,” he said, and laughed. “It’d be pretty dangerous, but I think I might rough it for a cute girl.” “I don’t think a cute girl would be worth risking your life over.” “Maybe, if she was the right girl it would be different,” he said, and turned and stared at me. I didn’t know how to respond and felt myself blush, so I turned to look out at the darkness. He got his stereo radio tuned to a local rock station. “So, how come you never come talk to me in class,” he said, over the music that was too loud. “I guess I’m shy,” I said. “A girl as hot as you? How could you be shy?” I blushed again. It had been a while since a boy had talked to me. Most got freaked out at how intense I am about basketball— workouts three times a day during the week, and two longer workouts twice a day on weekends. “I dunno, I guess I don’t see it that way.” “Well, then,” he said, “how do you see it, then?” I thought about my light hair, my freckles, my grey eyes. “I guess I see myself as the girl everybody remembers for her athleticism.” “Yeah, I see that, you got some nice legs there.” I blushed again, slightly more awkwardly this time, and suddenly felt self-conscious in my spandex shorts. I crossed my legs. I saw him look at me again, but didn’t feel his eyes on my face, so I turned and stared back at the dark. It only then occurred to me that he hadn’t asked for directions to my house, and couldn’t know the way. “Um, Luke, where are we going?” “It doesn’t matter, baby,” he said. “You’re with me. We’ll have a good time.” “Luke, pull the car over. It’s okay, I’ll walk from here.” My voice quivered, but to my relief he pulled into a parking lot. I could see the silhouette of a warehouse-type building that looked green. “Um, so thanks for the ride. I hope you have a good night.” I reached for the door handle, but the door was locked. “Could you
unlock this please?” My heart was starting to pound. “How could I let a pretty little thing like you out of my sight?” he said, and reached over and put a hand on my leg. I pushed it away. “Luke, I don’t like you like that, I’m sorry.” I said, starting to get scared. “Come on, baby, I see you blushing over there, I know you want a piece of this.” He moved in to kiss me and I shoved him. “Wha—” “Just let me out,” I said, my eyes narrowed, breathing hard. He turned toward me and this time the reflection of light in his eyes was horrible, evil. He threw himself on me, reaching below my seat to lay it all the way back. I struggled against him, punching as hard as I could. “Get off me! Get off me! Get off!” I kept screaming over and over, knowing he wouldn’t stop. He slapped my face, silencing me. I was so shocked I stopped fighting. He reached up and pinned my arms above my face with one hand. Then he brought a finger to my lips. “No matter how hard you struggle, I will have you tonight. Look around. There’s nobody to hear you scream.” I didn’t say anything. I fought back in spite of what he said. He shoved me against the window as soon as I started struggling and my shoulder hit the handle on the car door. My head throbbed from the collision with the window. I tried to knee him but he was too heavy. He kept his weight on me and reached to the floor and grabbed—I saw in a glance—a piece of rope. He tied my hands together and then tied them to the headrest of the flopped-back seat. He reached his hand to my face to brush away loose hair that had slipped out in our struggle, and I bit him as hard as I could. He cursed and slapped me again. I stared deep into his eyes, realizing for the first time how bad the situation was, and then kept struggling, even when my wrists were rope-burned and bleeding. He reached down and unzipped his jeans. “Remy?” Dr. Anderson said. “I need to know so I can either prepare you for the procedure, or have the receptionist schedule another appointment.” I looked at the doctor and saw the anticipation in his eyes, waiting for my answer. Are you going to keep it?—is what I heard in my head when I stepped outside the clinic with the winter air rushing over me.
I pulled out my cell phone and the LED screen glowed bright. I scrolled down my call list to a number I had memorized when I was eight years old and hit send. The ringing failed to drown out the doctor’s voice still resonating in my mind. I leaned against the icy railing, withering in the cold. “Hello?” It was my mom’s voice. “Mommy,” I cried, “Mommy I need you.” Hot tears rolled down my cheeks, and slipped into my mouth, tingeing my tongue with salt. “What’s wrong, baby?” she asked. “Mommy, I’m at the clinic, can you come?” “Tell me what it is?” “I’m pregnant,” I said. “You’re what?” Her tone elevated. “I don’t know how it happened,” I whispered. “What do you mean, you don’t know how it happened? You had sex! How could you be so easy? What, did you beg him for it?” “No, Mom, please, that’s not what it was at all!” “I want you to get rid of it, I don’t want it in my house. I will not have a pregnant teenager in my house!” Her tone was quieter, but livid. “Mom, no, please don’t, you don’t understand!” “I understand perfectly fine, you get rid of that baby, or you get out of my house.” I couldn’t believe my ears, as four days ago I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at those two little pink lines telling me I was pregnant; as before I couldn’t believe my luck that I wasn’t pregnant from a rape. I hung up the phone. The frigid winter wind dried my tears as I sat there, waiting on my next move. I got home before my mom did. My body felt heavy, my clothes still sticky from the heat of the waiting room. I moved slowly up the stairs and into my own personal, safe bathroom. I turned on the shower and let the hot steam fog up the mirror before I undressed. I flinched when spreading my legs apart to step over the tub and under the hot water. The water scalded the scrape on my left shoulder. I placed my hands on my stomach, as I had seen in movies and sex-ed. There was a baby, unwillingly placed inside me. Another life. A life I would protect. I looked down and saw the faded yellowing bruises and started to cry again, hot, burning tears. And then I started to shiver. I started to shake. And I stood there waiting as I would wait for nine more months.
* When I was seven, I had my first crush on a boy. His name was Justice Elson, and he had vibrant red hair, freckles that matched mine, and green eyes. Every day I spent the majority of my history lesson signing my name Remy Elson. Today when I sign my name I have a familiar flush from then in my face and a rush in my stomach, but I’m signing my name for a different reason. My eyes focus on my wrist as my fingers find their way to the line and I notice for the umpteenth time the slight curvature of the scar that’s there. My pen is static, perched at the start of a line that stretches on forever, waiting for my brain to tell it to move. Move, I thought to myself. But I didn’t. “Remy?” The lawyer said gently. “Everyone is waiting.” I half smiled. “Sorry,” I said. “It’s OK, honey,” my father said, “just sign the papers. It’s what’s best for everyone here.” “I know,” I said. I turned back to the paper and my eyes went to the line. I touched the pen to the paper and a first drop of blue ink bled into its pores. And then I felt my hand move, glide in the familiar loops and twists I had known for so long. I pressed harder into the paper, and felt the weight of his body that night. I reached the Y in my first name and the ink in the pen started to spill slightly. I thought of the blood gliding down my wrists, and circled my name as I always did and after I curled the last loop, I deflated. “All right, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson,” the lawyer said. “Congratulations!” “Thank you Remy!” the soon-to-be mother said, and took my hand. “I can hardly wait! Only two more weeks until the baby will be here!” “If it’s on time,” my father added. I felt relieved at their joy, and I felt the baby kick, as if it, too was relieved I wouldn’t be its mother. I was still waiting, but now I could see a time when I would be waiting for a development not forced on me, but my own. —Briana VinZant
THE CRAZY WOMAN MOUNTAINS It might have been the wind that drove her mad, remembering the kind of life she had before she met the man, Montana bound to mountains he’d been told of—how they’d found a river full of gold. It might have been the prospect of desire without sin, the days as dark as starless nights, the cold, the fool’s-gold mine, the fear of growing old and never having seen the promised land. It might have been the sky, a crooked hand, whose fingers flickered through the foresting, the ring around the moon, the moon its ring. It might have been the stillborn child, still unburied, wrapped in flour sacks until spring released the winter’s icy grip— or scenes from an imaginary trip to towns that even then did not exist. It might have been reality she missed. Of all the tribulations she had had, it might have been the wind that drove her mad. —Jim Stone
THE TRUTH, FINALLY It started small, when I was young. If I could be perfect, could undo the pain my mom and dad had accumulated— the meaning of my life would be significant. A pattern emerged in me of fixing things, although I could not repair myself. The pain I chose to shoulder consumed my life. My dad—depressed; my mom—regrets, but I can fix it, I thought. I can take their pain. It’s my responsibility to ensure they’re proud, to be their joy in life. It’s my responsibility to fix a host of others— everybody—to be strong for them so they don’t have to be. But I am not perfect. I have made mistakes. I’ve disappointed them— my friends, my family, my boyfriend, too. I’ve failed them all. That’s how I feel. I know it sounds stupid, but now you know the truth.
DEAR DADDY If I could write to you and speak my mind, I would say that I am mad—enraged—when you cry out, “What is it that I leave behind?” I would tell you: “Me! Your girl! I try so hard to be the “What” to make you proud. But you— Don’t you see that what you leave behind is more than only things? It’s me!—your living child, here to continue your legacy when you leave. You make me need to make you happy. You are broken and cynical, and you are blind to the beauty created by you—our life— and I am hurt, doomed to live your life, forsaken, alone—consumed by misery.
MRS. HYDE I’m afraid of the person I think I might be in my Mrs. Hyde personality— a heart and soul is her expensive fee. I put on a pretense so the world cannot see her. Perhaps I am the pretense and she is me; I’m afraid of the person I think I might be, a siren who makes people love what they see while feeding on inner insecurities. My heart and soul is her expensive fee. I lock her up; she still breaks free from the dungeon of my morality. I’m afraid of the person I think I might be. I cannot fight her; she’s stronger than me— so I watch and I hurt as she hurts those close to me, Their hearts and souls her expensive fee. I need to wake the sleeping knight in me to slay the evil beast heroically. I’m afraid of the person I think I might be, A heart and a soul is her expensive fee. —Briana VinZant
YES, DEAR Ugh, why does mom always make me go to grandma’s room? I don’t mind going, and I like her room, but I hate walking up these stairs. And it’s my birthday, so why should I go get her? Hmph. Hey! Is that grandma singing? “Grandma!” “Oh, my goodness, girl! What have I told you about yelling indoors? You scared me.” “Are you wearing that beautiful, fancy dress to my birthday party?” “Ha! Ha! Ha! No, honey, I don’t think this would be appropriate attire for a kid’s birthday party. How old are you turning, is it six? You haven’t grown an inch since last year!” “Grandma, you know how old I am. I’m eight. Six was a long time ago! And I did grow! Mom measured me against the wall this morning. Come see! ” “Please don’t yell, dear. What did I say to you a few days ago?” “You said it’s not proper for a young lady to raise her voice. I’m sorry, grandma, I don’t mean to.” “That’s all right, but you must remember to behave properly.” “Ugh, I don’t like it! You never scold my brothers. You get mad at me because I play in the dirt and don’t like to wear dresses. They play in the dirt, too!” “You’ll thank me when you’re older, dear. Men must act properly in their own way, and your father is teaching your brothers. As for ladies, they must be well-behaved, especially in front of men. Your mother isn’t doing anything about it but I will, because no granddaughter of mine will be yelling and playing in dirt. Do you understand?” “Yes, ma’am, I’ll try to remember.” “Thank You.” “I do love your dress, grandma. Did you buy it last night?” “No, I’ve had this dress for a while now. Your grandfather bought it for me several years ago.” “Granddad bought you this dress? He seems really nice. Sometimes I think about him. I wish I could’ve met him.”
“He was a nice man, and you did meet him. You were born a few months before he passed away.” “I didn’t know that! Mom always says I never had the chance to meet him. Do you think he liked me?” “Well, maybe your mom means a different kind of meeting. But your grandfather loved you, and he thought you were the most beautiful baby girl. You are our first-born granddaughter and we were both so happy and in love with you.” “What else did granddad buy you?” “He bought me many things when we were together. He was a real gentleman and a wonderful man.” “Like, did he buy you a lot of pretty dresses and a lot of candy?” “Yes, he bought me several dresses but not candy. He did he buy me a lot of cocktails, though!” “You mean like a rooster’s tail?” “Oh, goodness, no! A cocktail is a drink grown-ups have.” “You mean like wine?” “Sure, dear.” “Did granddad buy you pretty necklaces?” “Oh, yes. That man bought me the most beautiful jewelry. Would you like to see?” “Uh huh! Uh huh!” “What was that?” “I mean, yes, please. I would really like to see them, Grandma.” “How about you sit at my desk while I go into my closet to get my jewelry box?” “Yup! I mean, yes! Yes, grandma, I’ll wait here.” “All right, are you ready to see my treasures? Now, you may touch them but you must be careful with them, O.K.?” “O.K., I really like your jewelry box, it’s beautiful! May I open it?” “Yes, dear, go ahead.” “Wow! Everything is so sparkly! Look at this necklace! It’s gorgeous like your dress! Why haven’t you worn this?” “Well, because this necklace is special. Your grandfather gave it to me when we were engaged. Here, let me put it on you.” “I feel like a princess going to a ball! What kind of gift was this?” “Your grandfather gave it to me on my nineteeth birthday.
It was in a pretty black box. He handed it to me and said he loved me. When I opened the box I was surprised to see such a beautiful necklace. But when I noticed the stone I began to laugh. I couldn’t stop. He probably thought I had too many cocktails.” “Why were you laughing?” “Well, you see, this stone is green and it’s called an emerald. An emerald is the birthstone for May birthdays and my birthday is June first.” “So, granddad made a mistake? But why did you keep it?” “He felt terrible and I only found humor in it, so I couldn’t be upset at him. He said he would replace it as soon as the jewelry store opened, but I told him I wanted to keep it.” “Why would you want to keep it if it was a mistake?” “Because I knew one day I would have a daughter I could give it to.” “Like my mom or auntie! So which one are you giving it to?” “Neither. I don’t think I could give them this special necklace. You see, this is an emerald, which means it rightfully belongs to my first-born granddaughter, born in the month of May.” “Grandma, that’s me!” “Yes, dear, it’s for you. Would you like to wear it to your birthday party?” —Zuleyma Diosdado
The poem that stands as an epigraph to this volume of Plainsong is dedicated, along with the journal, to the memory of Josh Berg, with a concluding coda by a faculty member. Josh read the story that follows in a Wednesday evening writing workshop the Friday before he died of a pulmonary embolism. Josh walked a fine line between hope for intellectual accomplishment and an inclination to simply enjoy—one side serious, the other spontaneous and heartfelt. He could be mischievous but was never mean-spirited, unlike practical jokers who imagine their belittling or bullying of others is funny and cunning. Josh was dutiful, delight-filled, sometimes distressed, but always approachable—with the coiled, in-drawn tension of a seasoned athlete. Anybody he met felt a bit better at his presence and ready smile. But in the flicker of an instant he could turn serious, his forehead-creased concern suggesting a thought or intimation had struck at an unexpected level and he was plumbing a darkness he didn’t usually reveal. But it was there. It wasn’t always only smiles. My sense was he wore himself out, due to his academic demands, his intermural athletics, his sports broadcasting, his training of youth groups and coaching their sports over the summers, his midnight studies, his inborn desire to excel, his dedication to his family, brave in their adoption of him, an AfricanAmerican infant from Texas; and, perhaps above all, his love for others. That love extended to so many he was surely the best-known and likely most-loved student on the campus of Jamestown College. But it’s best to encounter Josh in his own words, and this is the last story he wrote, the last presenter to read aloud that Wednesday night, his voice shaky and questioning at moments, but joy-filled. —Larry Woiwode
Josh Berg â€™13
GUARDIAN ANGEL I was so excited I could hardly wait any longer. It was Friday and school was almost done for the day. I looked outside and then at the clock, then looked at the clock again and back outside. It would be summer vacation in a couple of weeks and I already had everything planned out. I was going to bike with my friends and go to the pool and, best part of all, now that it was warm, Grandpa and Grandma would come to visit. I was especially excited to see them because they always wanted to do so many things with me. Grandpa loves nature. He loves to take me hiking and fishing as well as my favorite, canoeing. Whenever we go visit them Grandma always has cookies and sometimes cake baked for me when I get there. As I was sitting there daydreaming about all these fantastic things I was startled by the sound of the school bell. It was finally time to go home. I went outside like I do every day to wait for my mom to pick me up. She usually parks right across the street from the playground under an old oak tree. Mom likes the shade so the car doesn’t get too hot while she’s reading her book. Today I didn’t see her car parked along the street. I thought that was strange but then I realized why. Standing next to the playground gate stood my grandpa. I could pick him out anywhere. He stood at average height and always wore a sophisticated brown coat that grandma had given him two years ago for Christmas. He wore a brown hat with a brim all around, but these were not the characteristics that made him stand out. Grandpa wore glasses, and he had been wearing the same frames since the seventies. They were extremely large and, as my dad put it, “Larry, you know you could probably pick up cable with those things.” I never understood why that was so funny. Right after I saw my grandpa he spotted me and said “Hey buddy! Get over here and hug an old man.” I ran to him and gave him a big hug. I asked him where Grandma was and why I didn’t know they were coming. He said he wanted it to be a surprise and Grandma was busy making cookies at my house. I couldn’t have been happier. Grandpa said he could use the exercise, so we should take the scenic route home, and I thought that was a great idea. Now that I was with my grandpa we could have one of our talks, because no one talked to me like my grandpa does. He might be the cleverest man ever.
“Wow, these trees are really tall,” I said. “Yes they are,” Grandpa said “Some of them are over one hundred feet high.” “One hundred feet! Holy cow, that’s high!” “It sure is,” Grandpa said with a smile. “When I was your age these trees were only as tall as a basketball hoop.” “Jeez, Grandpa, that must have been a long time ago!” “It was. A lot of things have changed since then.” “Like what?” I asked. “A lot of things—the world changes every day. When I was your age I didn’t get to play Nintendo games or watch television.” “You didn’t?” I said with surprise. “What did you do for fun?” “Well, my dad, which was your great grandpa, owned a farm, so most of the time I was working with him or running errands in town.” “Jeepers!” I said. “Did you have any fun?” Grandpa chuckled, and then said, “Of course we had fun. We went fishing or sometimes I played football with my friends. Once in a while, if we had all our chores done, your great grandpa took us out for ice cream.” “Well, I do like ice cream,” I said. “I like it when you and Grandma come to visit. Why can’t you come visit more often”? “It’s hard for Grandma and me to make long road trips these days. It gets to be a long ride when you’re as old as I am.” “Then I’ll tell Mom and Dad that we have to come visit you more. I miss you and Grandma when I don’t see you for a long time. I don’t remember my other Grandpa, but Grandma Beverly died last year. You and Grandma aren’t gonna die, too, are you?” Grandpa stopped walking, turned to me and said, “Life is hard sometimes. It’s hard to lose people that we love. I’ve lost friends and family over the years and it was painful. The thing you have to remember is that they go to a better place.” “A better place?” I said. “Like heaven?” “Yes, heaven. That’s it, the greatest place you can go. I know your Grandma Beverly is in heaven, and one day Grandma Margret and I will go there, too.” “But I don’t want you to go to heaven! I want you and Grandma to stay here with me, Mom, and Dad.” “I know,” Grandpa said. “I want to stay here with you, too, but guess what? When I go to heaven I’ll always be here watching over you.” “How are you gonna do that if you’re not here anymore?”
“I’ll be your guardian angel, of course,” Grandpa said, and a smile came to his face. I got excited and said, “You mean you’re always gonna be watching over me from heaven?” “Not only will I be watching you, but I’ll be right here with you always,” Grandpa said, sticking his finger out and touching it to my heart. I beamed and embraced my grandpa, and for the first time all afternoon I was speechless. I didn’t have to say anything. Grandpa knew what I was thinking. He took me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I love you, too.” —Josh Berg
THE MAGNITUDE OF GRACE The moon’s full, frozen, empathetic face in a sunlit sky of December dusk, acknowledges the solitude of place and fortitude of those whose stoic trust in promises beneath the frosted earth pays homage to the immigrants who died, as children or to children giving birth, and those who buried them who must have tried to justify the misbegotten choice that led them to this unforgiving plain— to listen for the all-forgiving voice to give them will to rest and rise again. The moon’s full, frozen, empathetic face exemplifies that magnitude of grace.
Plainsong, No. 27: Spring, 2013 Contributors Josh Berg Levi Brown Mark Brown Brittany Cochran Zuleyma Diosdado Linda Hess Jonathan Jacobs Alison Kassian Brooke Lietzke Kelsey Mittleider Amanda Paone Linda Perleberg Jim Stone Andrea Toepke-Floyd Briana VinZant Dacotah Wealot Larry Woiwode
Funded by Jamestown College, published by the Department of English, Jamestown College