Green Blotter is produced by the Green Blotter Literary Society of Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania. Submissions are accepted from October through February. Green Blotter is published yearly in a print magazine and is archived on the following website. For more information and submission guidelines, please visit: www.lvc.edu/greenblotter
GREEN BLOTTER Art Editor Julie Wiker ‘18 Sierra Force ’20
Bethany Kristich ’20
Michaela May ‘20
Poetry Editor Jackie Chicalese ‘18 Kayla Heiserman’20
Rachael Speck ’20
Raeann Walquist ‘20
Prose Editor Sydney Fuhrman ‘18 Emily Branson ’18
Megan Finlan ’21
Lauren Sigmon ‘20
Design Editor Luke Dougherty ‘18
Bethany Kristich ’21
Michaela May ‘20
Paige Bryson ’20
Maria Scacchitti ‘18
Breanna Kane ‘18 READERS
Tyler Miller ’19
Mariah Sensenig ‘18
Faculty Advisor Sally Clark
The Cartographer’s Fingerprints
Up and Around Perugia I
Heather Riutzel Dream 4 Annelise Duque White Loaves 5
When I remember the people who are
gone it surprises me
Heather Riutzel The Stonewall Inn 11 Patrick Holmgren Through Time 12 Skyler Smith Why I’ll Never Know Her 13 Heather Riutzel Solitude 20 De’Shaun Madkins Prayers to the trout 21 Brooke Gundersen Everything Grieves 24 Ryan Bibeau Explore 28 Raven Halle Landscape with Bucolic Rot 29 j. sophia Against Ana 30 Kayla Hodecker Untitled 35 Patrick Holmgren Lamplight for Dark Streets 36 Abbigail Mazour Dinner with a Convict 37
The automation of my experiences is more comforting than I like to admit Up and Around Perugia II
Kayloa Gurr A Bitter Heart 41 Erik Hoover Worms 46 Cover Art: Vast Imagination by Heather Riutzel iii
Dear Reader, The human experience is full of variation, but among them, we find similarities, threads to connect us when we boil each event and emotion down to its essence. We breathe the same air, tread the same earth, and exist simultaneously. There is no one experience that determines humanity, but we find ways to connect and empathize across unfathomable boundaries. Within these pages, we have amassed a collection of diverse works that explore some of the common themes of life, such as love, family, and grief, in a number of different forms. But rather than linger on the somber tones that accompany tragedy and loss, many of these featured works suggest hope, progression, and growth. The process of arranging these pieces for publication is always fascinating, how things seem to fall into place, themes emerging to connect works from different creators in meaningful ways. In the end, we look back at the spread and find we could not have imagined it organized in any other way. Life is full of happy accidents like these; we may not fully understand how they come to be, what makes them surface, but what we can do is appreciate them. As you read and view the various pieces housed within this edition, we hope you experience the resonance and dissonance of common threadsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and that you draw your own connections, as well. We leave this journal in capable hands, and our support will continue past our graduation. Thank you to all who submitted, all who accepted, and all who offered aid along the way.
Sincerely, The Editors
In memory of Gabe Pfeiffer whose creative spirit touched us all
The Cartographer’s Fingerprints Jade Riordan A map that leads home, but where else do maps lead nowadays? Scale in the bottom corner says, 1 fingerprint:1km. Population density says, you’ve touched lives. Compass rose says, wander with direction, says, north is perpendicular to the sunrise/sunset. Light, filtered through the windshield/canopy of leaves/ spaces between buildings, breaches the indicated city limits. Breaches the city and fades our old neighbourhood away into new paint jobs, new vehicles, new inhabitants.
We close our eyes momentarily and breathe in the scent of peppermint growing where we used to keep the recycling bins. We close our eyes, just for a moment, and follow the hopscotched sidewalk forwards. And away. Light breaches the scale on the map. Now 1 identity:1 city, population density varied, compass rose responsive to your touch. Sunrise/sunset and we are led home. And forwards.Â And away.Â
Up and Around Perugia I Courtney Mengel 3
Dream Heather Riutzel
White Loaves Annalise Duque My father’s dreams are prophetic, I am dismayed to say. Or, perhaps I could say they are self-fulfilling. It would be stinking lie, of course, so I’ll stand by the hokum that is my reality. My father’s subconscious is a nosy Sibyl whose soothsaying rejects the bounds of dreamland. At many times throughout my life, he has bounded from his bedroom to tell us what the night’s sleep had brought him. These dreams provide him with direction and inspiration. Would that he, upon waking from visionary slumber, might shake the sleep from his head and let the night’s visions stay un-illuminated. Alas, this is not the case. He will arise from one of his bouts of seer sleep and, unbidden, divine things great and small. My siblings and I, although we must be half of him, have no such gift. We must take after our white mother. A part of me yearns to have prophecies of my own—maybe that would prove to me that I have claim to my heritage, and to my brown skin, both of which I inherited from him. But I wonder now, as I look back on my 23 years of life, how many of my father’s decisions were made because of dreams, and if he ever felt helpless against them. I know I should ask him these questions, but I’m not sure I want to know the answers. ✠✠✠
In 2002, when I was 7, my father had a dream. At this time, my parents had been searching for a new home, and hadn’t yet decided where we would go, or even if we would go. My father had had an interview for a teaching position at BYU-Idaho, but nothing had been decided. I don’t think any one of us wanted to move from our redwood cottage in Woodland, California, and as I write this, I can’t help but imagine a different story, one where my father was more like me—dreamless. Perhaps if this had been the case, we never would have left California. But, unfortunately for us, my parent’s bedroom had perfect conditions for dreaming. It must have been something about the temperature, as the room was pleasant in the summer and cozy in the winter. Or perhaps it was their bed, which had soft white sheets and a real down comforter. In any case, in that room my father would succumb to slumber, and, thus invited, dreams claimed him. And in 2002, my father had a dream that pushed him to leave behind sunny California and move us to Rexburg, Idaho. 5
Yet somehow, I only learned of this specific dream this summer. He told it to me like this:
I walk along a path until I find myself in a clearing. There are large boulders towering over me, and I stop to take a break in the middle of them. I look around the boulders that surround me, and I realize they aren’t boulders. They are loaves of white bread! The loaves encircle me and I just stand in the middle. My father dreams poetically. ✠✠✠
In August of 2002, we moved to our new home in Rexburg. In California, my home had been formed of redwood. In Idaho, everything was plastic. The siding was plastic, the floors were plastic, the countertops were plastic. I remember sitting on our plastic porch, eating a cold hot dog off of a paper plate that was being tugged at and buffeted by the wind, and wondering if my father had gone mad. For reasons unknown to me, we had left behind friends and family and my childhood home. Only looking back do I see that my father’s displacement was worse than any of ours, as this was not the first time he had left a community, and the promise of belonging behind. My father is not from here, and I do not even know what here means. ✠✠✠
My father was 4 when he and my Lolo and Lola left their home in San Antonio, Zambales, on the west side of the Philippine Islands. They moved to a small house that perched on the thirsty hills of Vallejo, California. Soon after, my father, intelligent and adaptable, found while exploring his new town that he could read the signs posted on the restaurant windows. “Filipinos and dogs eat outside,” he read. My Lola banned her 5 children from speaking Ilocano.
In my father’s 1st grade class, he had to pass a verbal exam. He enunciated his words so carefully that he got the highest grade of the class, beating even the native English speakers. By this time, he had lost his accent, along with any memory of his mother-tongue. And, upon erasing the language ties to his childhood memories, he lost almost any recollection of the Philippines. His classmates called him and his siblings “coconuts,” meaning they were brown on the outside and white on the inside. Although they had assimilated to survive, the taunting hurt my father deeply. When he told me this story he wept. He has not told me much about his childhood, and I wonder if the more he told, the more he would weep. ✠✠✠
When I think about my father’s birthplace, I don’t think of the Philippines. I cannot visualize, having never visited, the place where he came to be. I have asked him for stories of the Philippines, but what he tells me is limited. My mother and I theorize that, having lost the language, he has lost his access point to those early memories. I have trawled through google street maps, hoping to discover the visual vocabulary I need to root him to his homeland. But his memories, like the pixelated photos I find of banana trees and foreign roads, are decontextualized snapshots. My vernacular is stunted. As a child I linked his place of origin to the Mare Island Shipyard. This is where his stories of his childhood were concrete, both because he has the memories and the language to describe them, and because I have been there, and I can cement the abstract anecdotes to a physical place. I cannot see him being born in a hospital—what are hospitals like in the Philippines? So instead, I picture him, with his horn-rimmed spectacles, untamable hair, and round, brown cheeks, emerging from the cold water of the Bay, like a comically overgrown Moses. My father and his story are otherworldly to me. I do not know if this was his intention, or if he purposefully has kept details from me. I wonder if he feels a disconnect to his past.
Do I need to know his past to better learn his present? I feel doubt, or maybe fear, brimming within myself. I am scared to know him well. Through the stories I have created about him and through his inherent mysticism I can see him as extraordinary. I want to see him as folklore. I do not want to see his pain. I asked him today for answers to my questions of his origin. He was born at home, not in a hospital. He came to the United States by military plane. He flew first to Hawaii, and then to the Travis Air Force Base in Fairbanks, California.
I am still questioning if these details help or not. He knows where he was born, yet he fears returning. He will not take me to the Philippines. I think he feels he will not belong there, and so, neither can I. But he never quite seems at ease here—seems to me suspended in exile, never allowed to be. I think of my own experience, and my own feelings of imposed stasis (either too this, too that, not enough, not quite). If my father cannot find place, is place possible for someone like me, who has a part of both worlds, yet at the same time, holds claim to neither? Who are his people? And then, who are mine?
I never thought to ask him how it came to be that we moved to Idaho, but this summer, unprompted, he told me. It was morning, sometime in August. I was sitting at the kitchen counter while my father kneaded bread dough. I remember looking at his dark hands and noticing how white the flour looked against his brown skin. I watched him stretch a piece of dough to check the development of the gluten. His skin—which had never adjusted to Rexburg’s
dry climate—was rough and cracked. It mirrored the crazing that spread across the dough as the yeast bubbled through it. “How did you know we were supposed to move here?” I asked him. “I didn’t exactly, not at first.” He said. Something outside caught his attention. He looked out the window and I craned my head to see what he saw. Todd Hammond, the All-American dad next door, was crawling around in his immaculate lawn, armed with a trowel and weed killer. The balding crown of his head, as white as a piece of wonder bread, gleamed in the sun. My father continued: “But then I had that dream, right before I came to interview here. Your mother and I were looking at houses in this neighborhood, and meeting all of the neighbors, when I stopped and looked around. And I knew we had found the place, because all around me I saw them.” “Saw what?” “White loaves.” He said. “White loaves surrounding me.”
When I remember the people who are gone it surprises me Madelyn Pospisil
When my mom told me Buddy died I cried even though I didn’t know him. He was 94 and smoked weed between his jazz sets at a dive bar near our house. I went once and watched him gesture at the others in the combo to speed up or change solos. He couldn’t speak. Throat cancer a few years back. I played in a jazz band a few years ago; tenor sax, barely. Our biggest performance was at a fundraiser where we played Love Train. During my solo, my first solo, I played the same note in different rhythms for twelve bars. When my grandfather died I was ten and playing a computer game with my dad. I don’t remember the funeral but I remember Tamale Loco. Join hands. Psychology says when we think of a memory we are really remembering the last time we remembered the thing, not the thing itself. So I can’t be sure if my mom came down the stairs crying after the phone rang, or if she called the house to tell my dad and it was he who cried. But my grandfather ate his scrambled eggs with sugar, and I remember that Buddy did too.
The Stonewall Inn Heather Riutzel
Through Time Patrick Holmgren
Why I’ll Never Know Her Skyler Smith
Listening to my wife read from her journal convinces me, like nothing else, that I am
unrecoverably egotistical. When she started reading from it a few months into our marriage (we haven’t been married two years yet), I expected that the stories and thoughts she had recorded as a teen would, by improving my familiarity with her character then, teach me something about who she is now. But, as I have listened to her read I have hardly recognized the protagonist of the record, despite her commentary. Usually, it seems to me the writer is only mildly, and perhaps coincidentally, similar to my wife. Her bumbling teenage apprehensions, delicately inked into the pages, preserved under Disney-princess-pink faux-leather covers, were incited by high school dances, piano competitions, and estranged friends. Nothing like the career outlooks for aspiring editors, the foggy unknowns of having children, and the trying-to-be-a-good-inlaw-to-my-Canadian-family-she-only-sees-once-a-year-and-heavenhelp-her-she-will-love-them-or-freeze-trying worries that stress her to tears now. There are, however, a few things I recognize. One is her tendency to give routine updates on the events in her siblings’ lives, something she continues to do to the present day. In this perpetual mindfulness of her siblings, there is evidence that the girl who wrote the journal and the woman who reads it are similar individuals.
But in pursuing a deeper understanding of my wife’s character, I find her journal’s greatest
value to be in the experiences it gives me with her at the present—to hear her reflect on her memories while she reads it, and to help me feel closer to her at least because I am trying, however fruitlessly, to understand her past life better—since it seems entirely unable to acquaint me with the juvenile writer of the text. To reduce some blame on the journal, though, I should mention that its inability to acquaint me with my wife is not unique. Our daily conversations and joint experiences scarcely acquaint me with her either; I can only barely begin to understand why she is she, or how she came to be so. For example, I’m confused at how she loathes philosophy, which antipathy, given the philosophical nature of many of her family’s conversations, hardly seems to be a product of her upbringing (at least not through lack of exposure to it). She loves Star Trek, which explores some of the marvelous possibilities of scientific 13
advancement, but our own society’s continuously evolving technology makes her anxious. I suppose I hardly know my wife at all.
And so (I haven’t forgotten how I began) to my egotism. It seems that my wife’s only fathomable
qualities are those we share. I appreciate good reading. Naturally, I can understand my wife’s own liking for it, and can predict at least half the time when she would like to read, simply by asking myself the same question. More elusively, she likes to “do nothing,” as she puts it, from time to time. I, on the other hand, prefer to have a list of tasks, productive or diversionary, that I can pursue throughout the day. Doing nothing makes me restless. For this reason, I find it impossible to predict when she wants to do nothing nor even what that phrase means, since sometimes it entails a detailed recounting of the day’s experiences, and other times requires nothing more than holding hands on the couch in contemplative silence: no TV, movies, games, or books. Just sitting, holding hands, and looking around the room or occasionally at each other. As I said, I hardly know my wife at all.
But I do know myself. Or at least, I know myself better than I know anyone else—I am aware
of my self’s fickleness, which evolves from day to day and mood to mood. Although I know I am not a moody person. Interesting that I know that. As I consider now what I know about myself, there comes to mind a collage of feelings, images, and experiences that are meaningful to me in a way that I do not have the literary talent to describe. Some I can best characterize as a love I feel for friends and family, a love that I am sure is common to almost all humanity. Others are entirely unique to me, like partial memories about sleeping on the bunk under my brother when I was five, or listening to my mother explain how to get grass roots out of the vegetable garden, or walking home from seminary in the wintery Canadian cold before sunrise: simple nostalgic moments with a deep, wistful feeling. They might not even be real, but I want to think there is meaning in them. My wife has them too—I’ve occasionally caught glimpses of them, although she usually combines them into stories with a narrative rise-and-fall. I recognize them when she pauses briefly while telling a story, like when she’s relating her teenage efforts to get in shape, and she mentions going on walks with her older brother. She stops, as if to transport her mind back to one of those moments. I do not know why they are important to her, but I cannot help but wish I were there, in her mind, to see and feel what she feels. Those memories, I think, are the ones that make her her. 14
To imagine a scene, however vividly, does not give us the sense of being or even of having been, present at it. Indeed, the greater the glow of the scene reflected, the sharper is the pang of our realization that we were not there, and of our annoyance that we weren’t. — Max Beerbohm, “Laughter”
There is a filter between our thoughts and our words, and it is so effective as to remove all but
the shadows of our meaning, which makes our attempts to fully describe our memories only partial successes, at best. We are only capable of transmitting to our audience groomed and edited versions: they can know only what we say, and they can infer little more. That is, perhaps, the main reason that getting to know someone is so difficult; we cannot be certain of any more than what they choose to communicate, and so we cannot know them any more than they choose to let us. Further, because of the difficulty of communicating effectively (even while using a complex combination of words, facial expressions, and actions), it is mostly hopeless to even know them as well as they might be willing, or want, to let us.
But there have been transitory moments when I have gained a bit more understanding of people
than I think they meant to give me, so I can’t say that I totally agree with my last assertion. One such moment comes to mind. It was when I was thirteen or fourteen years old. My older brother had written a short story that he described as his own Frankenstein. What he meant was that, just like Mary Shelley experimented with the amazing and horrific possibilities of electricity in Frankenstein, he was exploring the possibilities of virtual reality. It began with the words, “I suddenly remembered,” and told the first-person account of a boy going on an innocent romantic outing with a young girl. It ended with the boy waking from his thoughts, then removing a helmet that had been implanting the memory. As I listened to my brother read his composition, I remember being impressed by how much the words sounded like they were my own. Later, I even remarked to my brother that I felt like I had written the story myself, since it paralleled my own imagination so closely. In that conversation, my brother 15
added that while writing it he had just described what he had often imagined would be the “perfect date.” It seems significant to me that despite us being different in age and experience (my brother was about eighteen), his imagination was so like mine. I think I knew exactly what he meant with every word. That closeness of thought is a remarkable thing, and so rare between humans: to understand, and to know to have understood, without being able to say it.
brothers have many languages, some of which are physical, like broken noses and fingers… and some of them are laughter, and some of them are roaring and spitting, and some of them are weeping in the bathroom, and some of them we don’t have words for yet. — Bryan Doyle, “His Last Game”
But there was one part of my brother’s story, when the boy and girl sit on a bench and the girl leans close to the boy and crosses her legs behind his, that I knew I would not have written. I had never imagined that small gesture of affection nor thought that it would be part of a perfect date. So, despite the closeness of our imaginations, my brother was not, and is not, me, and there are parts of his character that are alien to me and that I doubt I will ever touch. This is a frightening thought, because I recognize that the reverse must also be true: that I can never be understood.
But is that really so? Am I defined by anything more than what I do? It may be true that there
can exist a closer, more intimate connaissance, but I can’t wholly discount the deepness of my closest friendships, even if they don’t border on being telepathic. Maybe despairing at the impossibility of being “truly understood” is childish and naïve. If I am defined by what I do, then it’s not important for my friends, or even my spouse, to be familiar with every fleeting thought or feeling I have, because those memories and longings are closer to being quirks or glitches than profound, essential parts of my character. 16
When I was nineteen I had a new and undeveloped friendship with a roommate, whose name
is Eric. We were companions in missionary service for our church in France, but I had just recently arrived and we hadn’t come to know each other very well yet. I was struggling to learn French, to adapt to a new lifestyle, and to find any enjoyment in life without my usual friends around me. I asked Eric to play Monopoly because, although I didn’t tell him this, Monopoly was a reminder of home: in some shabby way it represented long afternoons with my friends, often spent in each other’s houses, but sometimes at remote mountainside cabins or riversides—we used to bring it with us everywhere. Eric obliged without complaint, and we played for hours, even though he doesn’t like the game. I think he did it just because he could see I was struggling and wanted to help. It is unlikely that he totally understood where I was coming from, but he knew enough, or guessed enough, to believe that playing Monopoly would help me. I’d call it compassion, but compassion is so easily disregarded. It is remarkable, I think, that people can feel each other’s personal needs acutely enough to know how to help them.
I’m not of the mind that compassion requires a total acquaintance with a person’s life history. At
times, a caring connection can be made on nothing more than a humanly gesture of altruism. At other times, such a connection can be built on much more. Shared experiences, although not entirely identical for each participant, can provide a common frame of reference for communication. Is it not very common for a bonding conversation between friends to begin with, “Do you remember when…?” Such conversations often reveal that two people have thought in complementary ways about a shared experience. Discovering that similarity provides a sense of connection, even if the two people don’t know exactly why the other felt that way. I’m reminded of a favorite summer pastime during my teenage years, which was to play video games with a friend, I called him D.T., until dark. Playing those video games was such a wonderful waste of time that, in some ways, it epitomizes all the dreams of my boyhood. A few years later, after we had both moved out of our parents’ houses, D.T. and I fell to reminiscing about those long hours playing video games. He said to me that those carefree hours have become, in his mind, the image of his childhood and that he expects he will never again be able to squander time so recklessly. It is incredible to think that in the years between those childish days and that conversation, we each, through our own meandering reflections and considerations, had come to 17
see those wasted hours as the summary of youthful frivolity. It is especially remarkable considering how many pastimes we each had at that period of our youth, some of which were just as carefree and wasteful, and many of which were totally different from each other’s’ (he was an avid gymnast, a hobby I never pursued). I cannot say that I know how D.T. came to that conclusion, nor why, but it is interesting that he did, and I feel I know him better for it.
But if some basic predictive skills and a few days spent together constitute knowing someone,
then what of walking home from seminary in the early morning cold before the sun rose? For four years I would walk back home in the cold (if it was ever warm I don’t remember it, and a whole essay could be written on that psychological phenomenon), sometimes with one of my sisters, but often alone. It was dark and sometimes icy. It was usually cloudy, with that high kind of cloud that covers the sky like a carpet. And I would sing, if I was alone, some lingering hymns from church. The sidewalks were lonely and silent, and I didn’t think anyone would hear my voice. So I sang, even though my vocal capacities have never been praiseworthy.
I wonder if it makes any difference that I sang or that I remember being five years old on the
bottom bunk or that I remember my mother showing me to remove grass from the garden.
When I’m alone now, walking home in the cold, I don’t sing. So, then, what difference would it
make if my wife knew I used to sing or not, or even that I vividly remember those soli tary mornings and hope never to forget them? It probably wouldn’t make any difference.
If all my little memories change nothing and mean nothing, then my wife knows me very well.
She’s familiar with my love of board games (not just Monopoly), and how cycling makes me feel free, and how hiking in the mountains makes me feel close to God. She knows that I am entertained by discussions of philosophy and the newest technology. And what she doesn’t know about all the moments of my past, she makes up for by knowing all the intimate details of my present: my daily pursuits, my most recent aspirations, my small joys and pains.
And in the same way, I know my wife, Liz. She often says that I know her better than anyone
else, despite my having met her only three years ago. I know what playing the piano means to her—that it represents years of diligent practice, including the sacrifice of most of her spare time as an adolescent. I know that she’s good at it, too. I know that answerless questions transform her eyes into an angry fire, 18
and that Portuguese tile makes them glow. She has the funniest habit of writing in the margins of every book she ever reads: novels, textbooks, literary compendiums. She stars and circles and underlines and annotates. And I love her for it. And besides these, I know numberless little nuances about her character that make our relationship the closest and deepest I have ever had.
And I know Liz well enough to say with certainty that I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know her, because there is
something untouchable in the pause she takes when sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s remembering her teenage years, and comes to how she would go on walks with her older brother. There is a solemn deepness in that pause, so prone to stirring me into quiet reverence, that echoes my own familiar nostalgia. It is possible, of course, that all of our past, remembered or forgotten, changes very little about our present personality. Even still, this collection of half-memories is sublimely beautiful, and if by some trick death is the end of the soul, I should be sorry to lose so much incommunicable richness.
Solitude Heather Riutzel
Prayers to the trout Deâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Shaun Madkins Here I stand on the marshy ground that overflows with H2O once the catalyst of the Lenape tribe. Former land of free trout now a touristic attraction masked as a habitat para el natural. Lenape cry o Lenape fight o Lenape donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t go gentle into that good night The Dutch have come The Dutch have slain o Dutch donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t take the Lenape away. 24 to 42 the Dutch controlled slaves taking the land and bringing estates. Praising potter fields infested with yellow fever 21
Offering only tribal calls and eagle feathers Truth found drilled beneath parade grounds used to elevate profit and erase your name o Lenape Elegance and nationalism take you away you from history O Lenape New prisoners build their homes upon your elders Protests, riots, disturb your tombs awakening your souls Wind changes to gust mud changes to stone Double Washington stands tall as a symbol of Americanization War and Peace instead of you O Lenape
Lenape zephyr make me remember your stories of free trout wandering into your streams Water not H2O pure untainted let me sip the natural enjoy the authenticity. Air not Oxygen let me smell the calls of nature first and digest her later O Lenape drop your blood on my tongue So that I can untaste Washington Square On your land today.
Everything Grieves Brooke Gundersen An ant crawls slowly along the dirt barely leaving an impression— a faint line soon to be swept away with the winds. In the hot air there are no sounds. The birds hum no gentle songs, the leaves don’t tickle each other when the wind whispers to them, the tall grass doesn’t bend and lean over itself. All that exists is the sickening silence of the air. I sit and dangle my feet in the ice cold creek which, like the birds and the leaves and the grass, is lackluster quiet dead. The creek doesn’t roll and tumble and crash. It doesn’t heave over the rocks or carve into the muddy banks. It inches along, and if I listen closely I can hear it weeping. 24
Weeping. Just as I am just as I have been since you left, since you were secretly stashed and pilfered from this earth, whisked into the clouds. We all followed after the car, in a line just like ants, marching with our heads bowed and hands stuffed into pockets. There were lots of us, but everybody looked the same because at a funeral there is no room for cacophonies of vibrant colors or raucous laughter. Because at a funeral everyone tries their hardest to go unnoticed hidden behind the black veil of anonymity and uniformity, alone together with their grief. The men wore black coats and their wives wore black dresses and together they remembered all that you taught them, all the love that you showed them. Everyone walked, silently, even the children 25
who lacked regret, too young to understand the chasm your departure leaves. Ants can carry 50 times their weight even though their bodies suggest otherwise. And we all must now act in the same way and carry grief 500,000 times our body weight. I can tell you that my shoulders are not strong enough to carry that much. I used to look at the stars and I used to think of you and your eyes. Looking at the enormity of the night sky I shouldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve understood beauty and romance passion but instead it made me hollow insignificantly small to be so aware of the unsettling amount of space between me and the stars me and the planets me and you. I am but an ant 26
in the eyes of the multitude of celestial beings a hiccup in time. I am fractured by enormous emptiness. And now, the stars have no meaning merely only impressions of deceased balls of light millions of miles away. As far away as you feel Hear me, grant my wishes. Shrink me, minimize me, let me become the ant so I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to think about things so indescribably large like emptiness and mortality remind me of my insignificance and the insignificance of your death because people die all of the time and the heavens just donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t care. Let me become an ant so that I only have to focus on making my small impression on this earth. So that I only have to carry the weight of a crumb instead of the weight of this grief. 27
Explore Ryan Bibeau
Landscape with Bucolic Rot Raven Halle i think often of a carrot spray tan of my hands / of fertile whorls / of the fertile world / of a green womb / of flesh pressed into dirt / of sweetness / of sweetness. screw six feet / i want six miles / sixty miles / six hundred petaled smiles / for every grain of sleep / that said all my past lives / died the same / whittled down / to a single bitter stem.
Against Ana j. sophia
Your mother does not look you in the eyes before she hugs you; instead, she presses her cheek against yours and forgets to exhale. Eventually, she settles for staring at the space along your brow bone. She used to complain that you filled in your eyebrows too thick, so you shaved them off completely. They still haven’t grown back.
Some attendant offers to carry your luggage onto the train, but you refuse their help. You fear they will lose it, and you only brought along that one suitcase of clothes to last; you left your makeup and razors at home so they do not tempt you. Before you board, you kiss your mother on the cheek for the sake of kissing her. For a second, you wonder what it was like for her to hold you as a baby and then one day, never pick you up again. Perhaps she was a good mother.
You board, lugging your green leather suitcase up the narrow steps, and sit at a window facing away from the station so you don’t have to watch your mother’s silhouette fade into the distance. To ward off strangers who might want to sit beside you, you set your suitcase on the adjacent bench. Avoid confrontation for as long as you can.
You resolve to stare at the scenery as the train jolts forward. The windows, old and stiff and refusing to close the entire way, are coated with a thin layer of frost despite the afternoon sun set high. It’s the first 30
day in several where the sky hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t been gray. Appreciate this, but long for the way falling snow silences the earth. You etch you are hollowed into the window, the frost curling beneath your fingernails and melting before you have the chance to dig it out. You have chanted the same mantra until you began to believe it. When you finally arrive at the home, pretend the curious gazes from the doorway go unnoticed. The upturned faces drink you in until they are satisfied and the girls retire to the depths of the house. When Mrs. Moore introduces herself, refrain from focusing on the irony of her name. She is a matronly woman with a prominent hooked nose, and her graying hair a birdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s nest atop her head. She will indulge you in excess.
Follow her up the staircase to your new room. As you pass the other girls, avoid comparison. Do not admire the way her skin caves from the framework of her collarbone, or the way her thighs bow and knock her knees against each other as she walks. Ignore the way her hair is chopped short and patchy, fail to compare her scalp to a dying lawn. Do not try to be better than her. Do not confuse lessening yourself with empowerment.
Find solace in your new bedroom. Mrs. Moore tells you your roommate had recovered early and was able to return home. You will have the room to yourself so long as no one is admitted during your stay. Know that there are thirty million people in the world who can walk through that door at any given moment, but also know it is more likely that none will. Fight the haunting thought that somewhere, there are coffins that weigh as though they are empty.
Pretend you are productive by unpacking your suitcase until Mrs. Moore leaves to help her staff prepare dinner. Tiredly sink into the bottom bunk and stare at the bedâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s metal frame canopying your head. Imagine the rungs are ribs, your ribs; reach out and run your fingers along them, imagine plucking them like guitar strings. Without the hollow body of the guitar, the strings would fail to vibrate, fall silent. Let go the idea that your body is an instrument.
Mrs. Moore will knock on each door when it is diner time. There are seven seats at the dining table and she expects each of them to be filled for every meal. Watch how the girls are handed carefully balanced plates, some a large glass of juice instead of water. Notice the size of your helping, trying to refrain from calculating calories. Fail. Seventy-one in the gravy alone, thirty-six in the butter. Try to avoid the watchful eyes of the other girls, know they are curious, not judgmental; they, too, have sat where you sit and have labored to chew without feeling guilty. Perhaps they still do.
You will be forced to eat the entire contents of your plate at every meal despite the aching protests of your stomach and the way your intestines feel as though they are snakes who have had their strikes beaten out of them. Accept the toes that brush apologetically against your foot from beneath the table, notice how cold they are through the buffer of your socks. Those toes belong to the little eleven-year-old sitting next to you; you will later learn her name is Emmie. She will invite you to her bedroom at night to read to her and after several weeks, she will ask you to teach her. As you curl up next to her on the mattress, her hipbones will dig into your side, but do not shy away; instead, invite her closer. Ignore the hair wallpapering her pillowcase. You will never finish the novel you are reading her.
During your stay at Mrs. Moore’s, there will be a required amount of transparency. This means weekly weigh-ins, supervision after meals, no baggy clothing. Solitary trips to the bathroom are a privilege and do not happen often, but when they do, you find it is difficult to be alone with your own body. Avoid raising your fingers to your mouth, avoid glancing at your reflection in the mirror. Slip into one of the stalls, slip out. Try to live in your body without ever fully confronting it. During your stay at Mrs. Moore’s, you will be allowed two phone calls a day, both fifteen minutes long. There are no personal computers, only a small television with designated watching hours always overseen by one of the staff. You will call home out of obligation and fervently pray your mother doesn’t answer the phone. When she picks up, do not blame her for attending to the wrong details. Thank her for noticing at all.
During your stay, you will read eighty-one books. The library is limited, but Mrs. Moore requires daily lessons. Because you are the eldest, you help the younger girls with their work. Avoid personal questions, learn to excel in small talk. You never ask how long anyone has been at the home; Mrs. Moore tells you to believe in the process. Try not to get so attached to the others, but when you watch one of the girls reunite with her parents at the end of the driveway, cry along with her from the porch. Stand there long enough to watch the car pull out of the driveway, long enough to be ushered in by Mrs. Moore with a kiss to the forehead. Be thankful you didn’t have to watch her fade away.
During your stay, you will be kept from exercising after meals. When the weather becomes nice, Mrs. Moore will invite you and the girls to walk down to the lake with her and throw stale bread to the ducks. When you are passed the bag, you will look down to guide your hand through its plastic. In that moment, you will see the label and realize you had been forgetting to count calories. Pass the bag along and continue to forget. Throw crumbs into the water for the ducks. Eat when you are hungry.
During your stay, your eyebrows will grow back but you will ask Mrs. Moore to shave them off again. Emmie had stared at your face between her palms one night and after a long pause, finally told you she liked you without your eyebrows. You resolve to never grow them back. For Emmie. At the end of your stay, you will have gained thirty-seven pounds. Before you leave, you will make yourself change in front of your mirror and stare at the reflection until you begin to compare the stretch marks that sprawl across your skin to the soft recession of waves. Somehow, you will not feel guilty for eating, for the way your stomach rolls over itself when you bend over. Somehow, you will grow accustomed to your body. Spend the next several months teaching yourself how to appreciate it in its entirety. Believe in the process.
On your train ride back, it will begin to flurry. Somewhere, a few rows back, someone will be tuning a guitar. You will etch you are hallowed into the frost thickening the window until you begin to believe it; write it backwards to others know it to be true as well.
Untitled Kayla Hodecker
Lamplight for Dark Streets Patrick Holmgren
Dinner with a Convict
Abbigail Mazour His calloused hands extend, his eyes asking permission
before he takes the ketchup packet from my fumbling fingers. He tears
it open easily, grinning as he hands it back; careful
not to touch me like he touched her.
We spent the rest of the hour laughing talking praying singing and I learn he likes Nebraska football and The Phantom of the Opera 37
too. When I return home, I Google his name.
Life + 19 years
after he touched her and didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop until
his calloused hands extended to her neck tearing
through her trachea, easily crushing her until she was
still. At night I will wake up and stare restlessly at the ceiling
haunted by the fact that, when reduced to nothing
but the clothes on our backs and ashy hamburgers,
we were the same.
The automation of my experiences is more comforting than I like to admit Madelyn Pospisil
There are some things I don’t buy into, like salmonella or Elon Musks’ plans for sending humans to Mars. And I know I could Google these and read articles and gather statistics, but I miss not knowing. In the way that I will never have to call my mom and ask her what’s the name of that actor from MASH, not Radar, the main one? Instead, I called an old friend tonight and recorded four different versions of the same rambling voicemail before finally deciding to text him instead. “Sorry for not reaching out sooner. Hope you are holding up.” Elon Musk says we’ll be there in under a decade, finally a multi-planetary species. He really said “we” and that, more than anything, felt impossible.
Up and Around Perugia II Courtney Mengel
A Bitter Heart
I didn’t set out to find Mary when I left for Jerusalem this summer. She wasn’t even in my peripheral view. Yet, there she was. I sat in a shepherd’s field looking over Bethlehem as the sun went down thinking about her. I visited the Church of Annunciation in Nazareth. The church celebrated her life by filling the walls with hundreds of depictions of her from around the world, her different versions watching me as I watched her. I saw her face in gift shops plastered on icons, charms, candles, bags selling incense, book marks, and nativities. I saw her life in church murals painted, carved or engraved. I saw her young and old. I saw her joy as she held her baby and saw her filled with sorrow as she watched him die. She seemed to follow me wherever I went. Her name, Mary, is a name that has been used for centuries, if not thousands of years. Her name comes from the derivative of Miriam, the sister of Moses—the girl who watched her brother float down the Nile in a basket and straight into the saving arms of Pharaoh’s Daughter while she stayed with her people, enslaved. Both names come from the Hebrew root mr or mry meaning bitter or rebellion depending on the root. How could a name that has held and still holds so much meaning and reverence be identified with something negative? It matches the nursery rhyme, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary—how does your garden grow?” better than someone worshipped for being the mother of Christ. Perhaps it’s a description of her life. Her first born child caused the social fabrics of her life to unravel, placing her in situations she never thought were possible. Such as her fears coming to rest on Joseph, her fiancé, when he found out she was pregnant. What thoughts ran through her head when she realized he could stone and likely kill her? Or what thoughts ran through her head as she traveled to Egypt, replacing her ties to family for mud, crocodiles and pharaohs? ********* 41
There is something about “Mary” that tugs on my brain and my thoughts and in just the right way, my heart. Maybe because I’m surrounded by Marys, the name stands a little taller above the crowd of names and faces. My Mary, different from the Virgin Mary, is my grandma. She has a halo of white hairs curled to frame her face. When she smiles, her eyes crinkle and glow a brighter blue which often happens when you give her hug. Like me, she falls more on the soft-spoken and quiet side of the spectrum. Yet, when she speaks, she speaks well and if you keep listening, you’ll hear the humor she slips between the syllables. She is a child of the 1920s having lived through the Great Depression, WWII, the race to space, black and white television sets, bell-bottoms, the Beatles, and all of the little moments that formed and shaped her into who she is now. Those shaping, forming moments of life that like air, we don’t realize are happening until they’re gone, like eating oatmeal every morning or seeing your neighbor mow his lawn every Saturday or waiting for the peaches to ripen on your tree outside every summer. My Mary had four children but really five. I learned years ago, she, like the Virgin Mary, lost her first child. Amy, the name she was given, died before she could take her first breath. I remember going to the cemetery as a young child for Memorial Day or maybe it was someone’s funeral and seeing her headstone. I remember it being a red type of stone but I think my memory is faulty, it could’ve been gray. I remember hearing my mom talk about her. I was fascinated to learn I had another aunt. An aunt, I knew nothing about and most importantly, as thought by my younger self, made my mom the third oldest and not the second like I always supposed. ********* Another Mary, “little Mary”, is my little niece. She was born in April, a little too early and a little too small. She was born five days before I flew to discover the streets of Jerusalem. I saw her exactly twice before I left. Both times she was wrapped tight in a blanket with little wires connecting her to various beeping machines. Her feet and hands were covered as tightly with a blanket as her little eye lids were tightly shut, tired from the demands of eating. While I was gone, she finally opened her bright blue eyes and started seeing the world around her from her toes to her fingers to the faces of her mom and dad. ********* 42
The Virgin Mary, toting her new born along—a newborn as tiny and delicate as my niece—left her home and every familiar thing to travel across the desert to Egypt, to start anew, only to pick everything back up again and move a few years later. Did she leave anything behind in Egypt? Friends, the familiarity of the space she called home, the neighbors next door that chatted about their problems so she didn’t have to think about hers? Or did she miss seeing the Nile as it ran its course, winding through floodplains and cutting through steep cliffs? Or was she relieved when Joseph finally said, “Let’s get outta here!” My Mary, the older one, traveled the world over, visiting Egypt, Jerusalem, and different parts of Europe. She lived in Mexico, Peru, and Chile, not to mention various parts of Arizona, Idaho and Utah. When I would visit her, she would show me all the different souvenirs she had been given and the stories behind the people who gave them to her. I would look and see her rock collection piled high in a basket, each rock labeling the place with her small immaculate handwriting. When she lived in Mexico, soon before her second child was born, she didn’t learn Spanish. Instead, she learned it the second time she moved back to Mexico. She couldn’t quite wrap her mouth around the difficult phrasing or the strange pronunciations. My mother told me of story that someone appeared to my grandmother in a dream and taught her Spanish. No, that “someone” was not Gabriel but whoever that man was, he would say a word or a phrase, then she would repeat it until she was speaking fluent Spanish. In the middle of the night, she woke shouting, “Una milagra! Una milagra! It’s a miracle!” The next morning when she woke up, the vision faded as did her perfect Spanish of the night before but like the ripples from a pebble thrown in a lake, she was left with fragments of Spanish words floating through her mind, allowing her to learn with ease instead of frustration. ********* If the Virgin Mary was named Sarah or Rachel or Jane or Siobhan or Katie instead, would her life have been different? Would she have been chosen to bear the son of God? Would the moments and memories she experienced been different because her identity would have colored them differently? Yet again, her name wasn’t Sarah or Rachel, or Jane or Siobhan or Katie, it was Mary and this Mary watched her son grow from baby to boy to man to Son of God. She watched him laugh and cry and take his first steps. She watched and she listened and she kept things in her heart. She watched him perform miracles, liked healing the sick and raising the dead or turning water into wine. All the while, not 43
speaking aloud the thoughts of her heart. Whatever thoughts they might have been. Maybe she didn’t even know herself what her thoughts were saying to her. So perhaps she waited until she heard something that sparked the different pieces she had collected to fall into place for her to realize what her thoughts have been saying to her year after year: she couldn’t hold onto her son any longer. He wasn’t hers to hold onto. ********* On the day my mom told my grandma she was engaged to my dad, Mary became entangled with the thoughts of her own heart. She couldn’t speak to my mom for three days. ********* I think my grandmother is more tender-hearted and emotional then she lets on. She doesn’t often wear her heart on her sleeve but hides it well under the guise of being independent—independent of help or needs or of anything that would involve someone sacrificing for her—yet her independence is simply a mask to protect her fragile heart. One time, before my mother was out of high school, my grandparents went up to their cabin in Island Park for a quick trip. My mom, retelling the story to me, said Mary suddenly stopped breathing. Essentially, her heart stopped beating. My grandpa brought her back to life, his hands furiously pushing up and down against her sternum, forcing oxygen back into her lungs. My mom tells me that no one really knows why Mary stopped breathing or why her heart stopped beating but it did. Her heart, showing its true self in a rare moment of odd circumstance, that it needs family and friends to help pull her through tough times. When my grandpa died, no one could bring him back to life, though the doctors at the hospital tried. All I remember of that day is hearing the phone ring right after I went to bed and a few minutes later my mom breaking down in tears on her bed. Her heart broke, so did Mary’s, so did mine. I realize now that he has been gone for most of my life yet has made a permanent mark across the entirety of it. He has become one of the moments that has shaped and defined my life more than waiting for the peaches to ripen or seeing my neighbor across the street mow his lawn. *********
There is something about Mary. There is something about each Mary that I know, the Virgin, the young and the old. Something that draws my eye and tugs on my heart. Something that connects me to them and won’t let me go—not that I would want to let go. Mary means bitter or rebellion. Bitter, I learned in Hebrew, is also another word for strong. It’s distinct, recognizable, and its flavor is undeniable when you taste it. It makes your face bunch up and your insides twist more than a little. It’s not sweet but can overtake that sweet taste when it’s near. Perhaps the moments we face in life test how strong the heart is or is willing to become. Sometimes, our hearts do break—or more than break, they shatter but being bitter means you pick the pieces back up. Mary, whichever of the three Marys she is, picked herself back up after her son died or her husband or her daughter or kept holding on a little longer when the machines in the hospital had to keep her heart beating till she figured out how to eat. Each heart becoming a little bit different, a little bit stronger, and a little bit more resilient but with a quiet part of her heart still yearning and missing the piece that changed.
Worms Erik Hoover
They seem to me to be reincarnations of soldiers long dead, these earthworms.
Stripped of armor, of sight, of hand and limb, they know two things only:
duty, and drumbeat. The first is simple. They burrow, making holes,
turning putrid things into dirt. It must remind them of their old duties,
these endless crusades against the dark nothing. They persist,
these worms. Soft, fleshy things, theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve no brain to speak of, yet these ideas, 46
they somehow endure. A person of reason says that many
mindless things have purpose: Looking at moss, or at fungi they are right.
But not when they speak on the case of the worm, warden of dirt.
The worm follows its simple task until it hears the beat of war, becoming berserk.
When the sky itself breaks loose on the Earth, and a million impacts fall, the soldiers of dirt rise;
having heeded the call of Ares, they charge in to battle. Their tiny hearts must pound.
When they reach for weapons and find none, they are only compelled further. 47
They are deluded, fed too well on the blood of warriors spilled on battlefields
that they turn back into gardens; the soil they tend is the prize of their war.
Turn the dirt, bring us back to Eden.
CONTRIBUTORS Ryan Bibeau is currently a second semester freshman in the physical therapy program at Lebanon
Valley College. He’s done photography in his free time since sophomore year of high school as one of his enjoyable free time activities. He hopes everyone can enjoy photography like he does, maybe starting with this photo.
Annelise Duque is an interdisciplinary creator who explores themes of identity and displacement through her art and writings. Her work reflects the complexity of belonging and fitting in as a response to what it’s like being torn between two cultures. Annelise is currently a BFA candidate at Brigham Young University.
Brooke Gundersen is a junior at Pepperdine University pursuing a degree in advertising with
a minor in creative writing. She hopes to work in publishing or advertising while writing books on the side. She strives to capture the beauty in the simplicity of life in her writing and hopes readers will feel the magic that radiates from such things.
Kayloa Gurr is a junior studying advertising at Brigham Young University. She loves eating mangos and watching classic films from the ‘50s or ‘60s but not necessarily in that order. This is her first publication.
Raven Halle is a sophomore at Florida State University pursuing a degree in creative writing. She
has won the 2018 FSU Emerging Writers Spotlight Award in the category of undergraduate poetry and also has a forthcoming publication in Collision literary magazine.
Kayla Hodecker is a junior majoring in Psychology. Her future plans include going to graduate
school for Clinical Psychology concentrating on children. In her spare time she enjoys shooting senior portraits and weddings.
Patrick Holmgren is a senior computer & data science major with a minor in mathematics at
Lebanon Valley College. When not spending time in front of a computer, he spends his time making old cameras take new pictures.
Erik Hoover, as a soon to be graduate of Lebanon Valley College who normally focused on science fiction and fantasy, has stepped outside his normal range for his first published work. He would like to thank the Green Blotter staff for including his work, and is tremendously excited for this opportunity. Following graduation he intends to continue his pursuits as an author and hopes to make this the first of many works to be published.
De’Shaun Madkins is currently a senior at the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, IA. His poetry is usually centered around social justice change and indigenous peoples. In the fall, Madkins will be attending New York University to pursue his Master’s degree in Social Work. He hopes to continue his writing while there.
Abbigail Mazour is a senior English major at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. After gradu-
ation she will be moving to Thailand to teach English before pursuing a Master’s degree in education. Her work has previously appeared in ZAUM. She can usually be found curled up with a good book or furiously searching for cheap flights around the world.
Courtney Mengel is a junior art and visual culture and English double major at Lebanon Valley
College currently studying abroad in Italy. She has spent this past semester seeing the world in a different perspective: through the lens of a camera.
Madelyn Pospisil was a senior English major at Northwest Missouri State University when her
poems were accepted. Her heart belongs to the Midwest and reality television. She iscurrently pursuing a Master’s in English at Kansas State University, and her poetry has appeared in Prairie Margins and The Spectacle’s The Revue.
Jade Riordan is from northern Canada; she’s currently attending university further south. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dalhousie Review, Fourth & Sycamore, Half Mystic Journal, NōD, 3Elements Literary Review, and elsewhere. She is a member of Bywords’ selection committee.
Heather Riutzel is an art and psychology major at Lebanon Valley College graduating in the
spring of 2019. Originally from Ventura ,California, Heather traveled across the country to further her education and study the subjects that she has a passion for. Practicing drawing and painting most of her life, she hopes to incorporate art into her future career.
Skyler Smith grew up in Victoria, Canada, and after spending two years in France as a missionary,
moved to Utah to continue his education at Brigham Young University. His original intention was to major in English and pursue a career of creative writing, but he found that building software is also a deeply creative endeavor (and one he feels more naturally inclined to), so he switched to Computer Science. He is a senior who plans to move to Canada with his wife, where she’ll enjoy the glamorous life of writer-editor and he’ll tinker around with iPhone apps. He has published one other essay, “Watching,” in Brigham Young University’s Inscape Journal.
j. sophia is a senior English major with a concentration in creative writing at Lebanon Valley College. She is a cat enthusiast and motivated by coffee and her brilliant professors.