Spring Issue 2018
Table of Contents Trip to the Moon, Artwork by Grace Oppihle…………………………………Cover “You Are Here,” Poem by Penelope Epple…………………………………………4 “Grandma’s Kitchen,” Poem by Emma Sule………………………………………..8 “Strangers on the Berm,” Fiction by Carolyn Kesterman…………………………...9 “A Note to My Lover,” Poem by Natalie Puening………………………………...14 Under the Sea, Artwork by Hanne Driscoll………………………………………..15 “Funeral Flowers,” Poem by Emma Sule………………………………………….16 “Battles of a Dark World,” Essay by Michelle Herling……………………………17 Contemplative Red Panda, Artwork by Carolyn Kesterman………………………23 “Through a Glass,” Poem by Ariana Spencer……………………………………...24 The Call of the Sea, Artwork by Carolyn Kesterman……………………………...25 “No More Than Ash,” Fiction by Megan Simmermeyer…………………………..26 “The First Generation College Student,” Poem by Emma Sule…………………...29 Times a Ticking, Artwork by Grace Oppihle………………………………………31 “Dirge of a Woman,” Poem by Sasha Feldman……………………………………33 Submission Guidelines…………………………………………………………….34
You are Here Poem by Penelope Epple This planet, There is nothing Here. I wish I could be elsewhere. Is that so? I would rather be Anywhere But here. After all There are no Wonders Here. Is that so? Do you really believe that? Yes. The Sun gives light and heat and Life to all around it, Creating new elemental matter From the beginnings of the universe. Mercury is constantly burning And freezing, stuck in between. Yet, the miracle of water Is still there. 4
Venus, at least, Gets to be a nightmare. Snowing metal And raining sulfuric acid. The Moon is ever-changing With ancient seas of lava to explore And grand mountain ranges to climb. But it is too close to home. Home? Here, I meant here. On Mars I could dwell In the Elysian Fields with heroes Or scale Olympus Mons And be among the gods. In the Asteroid Belt I could visit Ceres And Ida, with its little moon Dactyl. Or mourn with the Trojans over their fallen leader, Hector, Who lies with the Greeks, forever separated from them. With Jupiter and its harem of moons I would never be lonely or bored As they create storms, radiation, volcanoes, And oceans, which possibly hide life. I could explore the beauty of Saturnâ€™s rings With Pandora and Prometheus to guide me. 5
Or relax on the beaches of hazy Titan Next to oceans of methane. Uranus, once called Star of George, is surrounded by characters who once graced The Globe. Puck, Rosalind, Ophelia and more Acting out their plays in Uranian skies. Neptune would give me Diamonds from the sky And whisk away all of my troubles On its 1,500 mph winds. Pluto, covered in icy volcanoes, Is locked with its partner, Charon. As they dance, they are guarded by Kerberos, Nix, the Hydra, and the moon, Styx. I think I like Pluto best. It is far from here And will keep me in its heart. Is that so? Of all the circumstellar bodies To which you go, You would choose the one With a blue sky Like ours. While there may be amazing And wondrous things in those heavenly orbits, There are no flowers there, 6
None of the stories or songs that you love And nothing to eat. And while they may not be grand, Are these not small wonders? They are only here, you know. And you are here. And trust me, That makes this planet The most wonderful Of all.
Grandmaâ€™s Kitchen Poem by Emma Sule a preheated oven, ready to go, flour coated kitchen table, cookie sheet, dollops of dough, recipe book laid open on the counter, though she knows it by heart, my apronâ€™s too long, it drags the floor, back issues of Good Housekeeping in a stack in the corner, the tick of the timer keeping us in check, a dropped egg oozes yellow onto the green tile, commotion, happiness, warmth, love. now, empty.
Strangers on the Berm Fiction By Carolyn Kesterman The rain drummed against my windshield as I stared up at the sky from the berm. It had been at least ten minutes since I’d pulled over, and while I knew everyone was waiting, I just couldn’t face them yet. Dark and light clouds swirled together above the fields, mimicking the way my head felt. “I’m a coward,” I sighed. “There’s never going to be a good moment to do this. Just go.” My pep talk didn’t work, though. I sighed again and closed my eyes, leaning back against the head rest. The last time I was home from school, I had gotten a speeding ticket somewhere on this stretch of road; I had been so excited to be back. But a lot had changed in a year. My stomach twisted up again, just thinking of it. I’d made it through two states of highway with it pushed far from my mind, but there was no escaping it when the mile markers got higher and I passed the county line. I kept seeing all their faces staring, gaping, yelling. Don’t assume the worst, they’d told me back at school, but that was just it. Those were the optimistic predictions of the situation. A car motor sounded behind me down the road, but I’d grown so used to city life and was more concerned with my own dilemma that I didn’t bother to open my eyes – that is, until I heard the motor slow to a stop in back of me. My eyes flashed up to the rearview mirror, expecting to see flashing lights and the same cop who’d ticketed me last year, but to my surprise, it was an old, light blue pick-up truck. I twisted around to look out the back window just in time to see a man stepping out of the driver’s side with a green plaid coat held over his head to shield himself from the rain. I turned back around, groaning. My cowardice was making a Good Samaritan get drenched. I looked in the side mirror to see if I recognized him, it not being a terribly big town, but he was a stranger, not much older than me. And with an eager, innocent smile that was making me feel worse. “Why?” I muttered, rolling down my window as he approached. “Hey, you having car troubles?” he said, blinking at the rain hitting his face despite the coverage of the coat. I smiled sheepishly, shrugging. “No, actually, I was just gathering my thoughts before going home. Thanks anyhow, though. I feel bad that you had to go out in the rain.” 9
“Aw, don’t worry about it, ma’am,” he said, shaking his head. “No harm – ” I followed to where his eyes had suddenly dropped to my collar and flushed when I saw my medallion. “Oh, I’m sorry, Sister. I guess I shouldn’t have called you ‘ma’am,’ huh?” I chuckled. “You’re fine. You didn’t know. In fact, I’m surprised you got it off of the medallion. I didn’t think there were a lot of Catholics around here.” “Well, I was raised in Colorado, and there was a convent down the street. I used to talk to the Sisters all the time. You’re from around here, though?” I gestured down the road. “I grew up on Applegate, but I’ve been going to college in Ohio.” “Oh, and that’s why you’re collecting your thoughts, like you said. Well, I guess I’ll leave you alone, then. It was nice to meet you, Sister. You take care.” “Thank you. You too,” I said, and I rolled up the window as he walked away. “Well, one person was fine with it,” I said to myself. My lip quivered against my will, and I looked up at the dark sky. “Why couldn’t it have been my mom or dad?” I asked, the overdue tears escaping. I grasped my shoulders, imagining that stranger’s smile on my mom’s face, hearing my dad welcomingly call me “Sister.” The medallion felt heavy around my neck, a scarlet letter to an Atheist family. The truck’s motor started up behind me, and I opened my bleary eyes just in time to see him drive past, holding up his hand in a wave. I returned it a little late, then sighed and wiped my eyes with the sleeves of my sweater. “I can’t do it,” I whispered. I heard a small metallic screech and looked up. Not more than five car-lengths away, the truck had stopped. I watched the tail lights with a furrowed brow for a few seconds. Through the back window, I could see his silhouette, looking down to his side in complete stillness. Then his shoulder moved, and suddenly the truck was driving in reverse back to my side. My eyes darted around in confusion as I rolled down the window again, the stranger sliding to the passenger side to do the same. “I know this isn’t any of my business, Sister,” he said, leaning out into the rain a little so I could hear him. “But are you in some kind of trouble? Other than car trouble, I mean.” I shook my head, but my face betrayed me, twisting without my control. The stranger turned for a second and came back with some napkins from a fast food place in his hand, passing them to me with his palm down to protect them from the rain. 10
“That’s all I’ve got,” he said, and I laughed, taking them and wiping my eyes. “Thanks. I’m sorry you’ve gotten roped into this melodrama.” “What’s wrong?” I sighed and leaned my head back on the seat. Darker clouds were gliding over the road ahead. “My family doesn’t know,” I said. “About what?” “That I’m a Novice. They don’t even know I became Catholic, and that’s been a few years, now.” “Oh,” he said in a lower voice. “Are they Protestant? Or Jewish?” I shook my head. “They’re Atheists. Staunch ones.” “Oh.” “The first time I heard about faith and religion was when I was five. I was running ahead of my parents in town and saw that church with the stained glass on Main Street. I opened the door, and the pastor was in there sweeping and told me to come in, really friendly. I was halfway through the door when my parents yanked me back and pulled me to the car, telling me how those buildings were full of idiots and hypocrites.” I looked back at the stranger, shaking my head. “How am I supposed to tell them that their own daughter didn’t just start believing in God, she’s going to be a nun?” He sighed and nodded. “That’s a real problem.” “You bet,” I said. “They call me every week to hear what I’ve been doing, and every week at confession I have to say that I’ve lied to my family yet again. Sister Agnes says the truth has to come out sometime, but I just can’t do it. I love my family. I don’t want to lose them.” “Maybe you won’t be losing them,” he said, leaning further out the window. “Maybe they’ll accept you for what you are.” I shook my head. “They’d sooner accept me if I’d gotten myself in jail. This is just too big in their books to ignore.” The stranger was quiet for a few seconds, his lips pressed together. When he spoke, his voice was gentle but serious. “What made you join the Church? Before you decided to become a Sister.” That pulled my mind from the downward spiral, and I looked out at the field beyond him with raised eyebrows, thinking back four years. “Well, the college I go to is technically a Catholic school – I just went there because they had a good veterinarian program, which is what I wanted to do. 11
Freshman year there, they make you take some sort of religion course, and my advisor suggested that since I was an Atheist, I could take this Christian art class.” The right corner of my mouth twitched up into a smile, remembering. “One day, this old man came to class to talk to us about his paintings, and he let us pass around a few of them to get a better look. I thought he was a good artist and all, but I was just sort of glancing at them and passing them on quickly until I got to this one, and I just stared at it for the longest time. It was of Saint Francis and the birds. I’d seen those formal-looking statues of a man holding a bird, but this one was so detailed; there was so much love in his eyes. After class, I stayed behind and asked the artist who the man in the painting was. He was so excited that I wanted to know, he talked for forever. And then, he said that there was an amazing statue of him in the Motherhouse chapel next door, and without thinking of it as being wrong at all, I was over there in this strange, beautiful place, completely in awe that such a building could even exist. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. That weekend, I went to Mass there, just to see what it was like. The Gospel reading was Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he prays and asks God for the burden to be lifted from him. I’d never thought about the guy standing tall and serious in paintings as being human, never known that there could be emotions like that in a book I’d always been taught was stupid. I cried. Right there, with all those Sisters staring.” I laughed, and looked back at the stranger, who was smiling. “I probably looked like a teenager sneaking off to try drugs, the way I snuck out of the dorms every morning to hear the Sisters pray. After a month, I was praying with them. I bought a Bible and read it in my spare time. Not long after that, I told a Sister I wanted to become Catholic, and I didn’t look back.” The smile faded from my face. “I would have liked to have told my family why I was so happy. When I joined the Novitiate last month, Sister Pamela asked if I had any family coming to watch, and I wanted so badly to be able to say yes. But I couldn’t. I can’t.” The stranger nodded sympathetically, looking off into the distance himself this time. “Two years ago, my little sister went off to college. For the first couple months, she used to come home on weekends, then it was every other weekend, and then there was a whole month we didn’t see her. After Christmas, we didn’t see her at all. She’d text us to say she was doing alright, but we could never seem to get her on the phone. We were all real upset about it; we thought maybe she didn’t care about us anymore. Then it got to be May, and I thought, okay, everything’s going to 12
be alright. She’s going to come home for the summer, and we’ll all be a happy family again. But then she texted to say she wasn’t coming home. Not even for a visit, I asked. No, not even that. I got in my truck and drove out to talk to her myself, tell her that she was breaking our hearts. And when I got there, my sister wasn’t there. My brother was.” I shook my head, confused, before it clicked. “Your sibling is transgender?” He nodded, smiling. “It was a shock at first, I’m not going to pretend to be righteous. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. More than that, I saw how happy he was. He’d been real depressed throughout high school, but all of that was gone. It was nice to see him getting to be the person he wanted to be. So I drove him home, and when my parents saw him, they saw all that, too. It took a little time before we were totally adjusted – I still slip up now and then and say ‘she’ – but we got through it.” I snorted, looking down at my hands for a moment before turning back to him with a smile. “What you’re saying is, my family will see how happy I am and get through it, too.” “If you tell them about Saint Francis and the Sisters praying the way you just told me, with your eyes all lit up like that, they’ll come around. I have faith.” My hand went up to the medallion around my neck, which was beginning to feel less heavy. “This isn’t going to be easy,” I said. “Sister, do I have to use your own Bible verses against you?” he asked, laughing. “What?” “Jesus in the garden. He asks God to take his burden from him. But he says that if that’s not possible – ” I sighed with a grin. “‘Thy will be done.’” Looking down the road, a little patch of blue was opening up in the clouds overhead. Not enough to turn the fields to sunshine, but enough to give me hope. “You ever think of becoming a priest, stranger?” I asked, making him laugh. He slid back to the driver’s side of his truck and changed the gear to drive. “Applegate Lane, you said?” he asked, looking ahead. “Maybe I’ll stop by sometime and see how you’re doing. In the meantime, Sister, you keep your chin up.” I waved as he drove on, then turned the key in the ignition, glancing up at the sunlight breaking through overhead. 13
A Note to my Lover Poem by Natalie Puening When the flowers bloomed this year and I watched blissfully as spring danced in your eyes; I was overwhelmed with the feeling you may be an optimist. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that, but I must admit I was taken quite aback. Hand in hand we strolled and I struggled to see the world through your boundless stare. Where I saw decay and disorder and was consumed with the merciless plague of negative thoughts and worries, overcoming me like the white caps of the oceanYou saw something else. It amazed me to hear you weave stories of the world around you, the gold and the stars that littered your mind. Holding my hand and closing our eyes you walked me through a magnificent landscape of conditionless love and opportunity. So it was no surprise how startled I was when I wasnâ€™t with you, but I saw the world through your eyes. I found every object and person transform into magic and wonder and although I reached for your hand I was met with nothingness. It was only then that I realized you had given me more than love, you had given me your most prized possession; your sight.
Under the Sea by Hanne Driscoll
Funeral Flowers Poem by Emma Sule You were the first boy to ever bring me flowers. They were cheap, discount sticker attached to the side of the plastic lining, $2.99 They were the same color as my grandma’s outdated pee green shag carpeting yet still beautiful. For discount flowers they sure smelled sweet, exactly like spring in my mom’s garden exactly like summer while my dad mowed the lawn. If I saw them in the supermarket, I would have passed them by. Not appreciated their underrated beauty, “Sorry I didn’t go for roses, I thought you deserved more than funeral flowers.”
Battles of a Dark World Essay by Michelle Herling A World of Addiction. It consumes and sets turmoil into the life of not just the individual under the curse of the addiction but sucks in, tosses and turns the world of every life the one addicted is a part of. We are lucky, we survived, but not without some dark, dark parts of the world to be conquered. By: Michelle Herling A Damn Good Mom The concrete slab I was perched on that constitutes the make-up of our back porch was as hard and rough as every muscle and nerve in my entire being. Cradling my knees I watched as the blackest of storm clouds loomed over my head. Just as the dark clouds billowed the damning ripples of childhood taunts, the pelting rain like the claws of cattiness raking clear to my soul. The suffocating thickness of the hot moist air is not just outside but has invaded the very essence of my home and my mind. The once clear confidence of being a good mom deteriorated to a shadow. Finding the strength to continue to fight the evil my daughter Annaâ€™s addiction of cocaine has thrust upon us leaves me weary to the bone. It has rooted itself in our home with what seems the intent to stay until it destroys both my family and my home. Engulfed in thought and dread to the point that the severity of the now raging storm was of no consequence until the hair-raising streak of lightening that split the air with heat and sound brought reality crashing back. With great effort and heavy feet I drudged back into the kitchen where the level of argument now reached a bullhorn level of shouting. The cruelness of the verbal exchanges between Anna, her siblings and my husband Bob was the weight that tipped the scale. 17
Shut up! Just everyone shut up!! Shouting at the top of my lungs was all I could muster to bring to the confrontation taking place. For a split second it worked as they all stood in stunned silence. Then it was there, the sly smile that crossed Anna’s face and entered into her eyes. It was coming, she knew she had me. Pushing my buttons is now her passion and she was ready to come in for the kill. With one word from her she had me. The heat and anger boiled over, bubbling out, the shouting, the cutting words. With the coyest of smiles she looked me straight in the eye, her words calmly threw the dagger putting voice to the guilt and insecurity I was feeling, “You’re just a bad mom.” KaBoom! The words coming from her lips were like a bomb! In that instant the world stopped. I had no vision, no hearing. I don’t even know if I was breathing. It was in that very fleeting moment of powerful enlightenment that I gained freedom. No, I am not a bad mom. I am a good mom, a damn good mom. Not perfect, but a good mom. Anna was raised the same as our other two children, she was the one choosing not to live as she was taught. It was not until I heard Bob seconding that thought that I realized I must have spoken it out loud. It was his voice that brought me back to the kitchen, a room now filled with total silence. I looked at each one of their faces, turned and left the kitchen whispering “bring it on.” I now was ready to take my place back on the battle ground for I knew that the war was not over just yet. Anna unknowingly gave me strength to pull out all stops to do whatever I needed to stay in the fight. She gave me THE-BEST-GIFT-EVER! NO GUILT! When The Darkest Shows Up In The Dark From no guilt came a renewed avenue from which to draw strength against the addiction war raging within our home and our lives. It’s a damn good thing it did too because just when it seemed that we were in the darkest of places, the darkest of the darkest showed up in our very home.
The home we were living in was one we purchased from my grandparents. Movement around the house on Ashbrook Drive when they lived there had been reduced to a four by four square as you stepped into the front door. Then on a good day you may find a limited width path back the hallway to the bathroom. Every other inch, nook and cranny of that house was floor to ceiling boxes and whatnot. It seemed as if they threatened to topple and crush all within at any moment! If you needed something to nibble on a quick search amongst the mountain of boxes would more than likely reward you a Triscuit cracker with cream cheese on it. No promises on the length of the aging process though, eat at your own risk! Grandpa used to complain constantly that he had no breathing room in his own castle! No place to rest his weary feet for heavenâ€™s sake! Grameve, as she was always know to me for she combined her name Evangeline with gramma, was a pack rat. Emptying that house took three months of intense cleaning and hauling and hauling and cleaning by any and all who could lend a hand. Grandpa had already passed when we purchased the house, so he was not around to enjoy the clean home. Or, so we thought. Shortly after we moved in I could feel it, grandpa had moved back home. Happy to finally have someplace to rest his weary feet. I can remember after we started our family and I would be sitting in the dark feeding one of the babies, I would feel the pressure of his hand on my shoulder. There would be a shift in the darkness and I knew that he was standing there gazing into the face of his great-grandchild. Then in the next breath the darkness would shift back into place. Even as the kids grew older they too could feel him, they knew he was a good spirit. Grandpa was a light shadow, there to enjoy being able to roam the house and to protect us. During the years of turmoil I cannot tell you how many nights I sat in the thick darkness talking to grandpa and asking for help. The darkness was not only because it was night but of the evil that addiction leaches into your world. Wrapped in a blanket warmth eluded me and offered little to stop the shivering. So violent at times was the rattling of my bones from the fear, anger and anguish I would swear 19
the noise loud enough that it could wake the dead. Night after night I would sit in the dark guarding the only exit that Anna could possible leave the house from. If she was out it would be waiting for her to return home or trying to contact any and all who might know where she was so I could go remove her and drag her home. Always I expected the most dreaded of all, a parent’s worst nightmare, the knock on the door or phone call to tell you to come, something is terribly wrong. It was during those hours spent waiting in the dark that the laughter began. A laughter so shrill and so evil that at times I would jump. How could I be the only one hearing it, how when it was raging at the top of whom ever was the owners lungs?! In time it carried over even into the light of day. It was just from my lack of sleep, they would say. From being so stressed out, they would say. It is just my imagination playing tricks on me, they would say. Bullshit! BULL – SHIT! I would say! It is real! Something or someone so evil has invaded our world and they are letting me know that they have taken up residence in our lives! And let us know it did. Bob, myself, Heather and Bobby had gone out to get dinner. Anna had refused to take part in our company. I was beyond the point of the battle on this, fine, you don’t want to go, stay home, I - DON’T - CARE… When we left I knew damn well why Anna did not join us, she was withdrawing and she needed to take a hit… Will she be there when we got back, will she be alive, no-one knew. The four of us were actually able to enjoy ourselves. Heck we even had REAL laughter. We ate without the food ending up as a lump in the pit of your stomach or in your throat threatening to choke you! We talked about the good things that were the bright spots in our lives. Heather getting ready to finish up college at Miami University. The campus in Oxford, Ohio so beautiful and lending itself to a storybook feel as you would walk the paths winding throughout all of the buildings. Searching for a place to set up home for the last year until graduation. Bobby being taken underwing as he started his freshman year at Bob’s high school alma mater, 20
Elder High School. Bob telling Bobby that it will not take him long and he will be bleeding purple! So after eating my fill of shrimp linguine alfredo, buttery garlic biscuits and a crisp salad with French dressing that had such a tang to it that the tip of my tongue was numb I let my rarely relaxed body slide in to the car seat to head home. Being relaxed was such a foreign feeling to me that I was practically dozing on the short ride home. As we pulled into our driveway though it all too soon came to an end. Immediately the chest crushing dread was back, Anna standing in the door waiting for us I am sure was not a good sign. Struggling to even walk up the steps as every muscle in my body felt as if it would snap like an over stretched rubber band does. As we stepped on the front porch I barely had one foot in the door when she asked her question. “Grandpa lives here right?” she blurted out. “I believe he does. We have all felt him around us”. “Why?” I asked full of apprehension. “I was in the living room and I felt someone watching me” She started telling us. Before she even continued to speak in that very instant every hair on my neck and arms stood straight up. Ice cold rods shot down my back, it was like a rock hit me in the stomach. I had to listen hard as she finished her sentence, “I turned around and there was a dark shadow looking at me.” The grip of terror that threatened to turn me to ice and buckle me at the knees allowed nothing but a whisper to escape my lips. “Baby” came out in a strangled voice, “that wasn’t grandpa you saw. He is a good spirit, he is a light shadow.” “What do you mean, who was it then?!” she demanded. Not sure if I was even speaking my response out loud the reality of the evil lurking became a horrifying reality. “Sweetheart, you just looked into the eyes of the devil. He wanted to let you know just how close he is.” No sooner did I get the last word out of my mouth and it was there. Shrill as a siren, deafening as the roar of an angry ocean, it was the laughter I had been hearing all along, it had been real.
With that laughter ever so evil and piercing came the vision of a misshapen body yet so full of undeniable strength. Oversized hands with talon like fingers, sharp and ready to impale a victim at the end of arms that were just a little too long. My head was swimming, focusing was beyond my control as the enormity of what lies ahead came crashing down all around me. Anna and her use of drugs has been a draining and exhausting fight of its own. In these past few moments the intensity and level of urgency to rid our family and our home of the evil that was practically swallowing us whole was multiplied tenfold. Before me was an adversary that the heavens and God Himself have waged war on. There, with a hunger and a greediness for lost souls, was a vision so frightening it felt as if my heart would beat right out of my chest. Letting me know that he was working to take Annaâ€™s soul, the darkest of the dark of the evil world has made it known that he has been watching. Allying himself to lead the war already raging in our home, he now has thrown the new decree of war at my feet. Knowing that it would take every ounce of faith and strength my heart, soul, mind and body could muster to face the increased intensity of the war that now loomed before me was almost too much to take. For there before me, vowing to be the victor of this this war, was Satan himself.
Contemplative Red Panda by Carolyn Kesterman
Through A Glass Poem by Ariana Spencer Through a glass, darkly, Like looking through a portal of the world, We find ourselves wondering what darkness means, Yet find happiness unfurled. We search for what we want, We search for the truth, But what we desire isn't so blunt. In the moonlight, we hide our faces, Because the truth can find us, And we dream of imaginary places. If all we have is all we are worth, Then we must be wary of what we have, And carry on with peace and mirth.
The Call of the Sea by Carolyn Kesterman
No More Than Ash Fiction by Megan Simmermeyer Once upon a time, there was a boy who liked to burn books. He sat in his room, pulling page after page from its binding, a thin lighter resting by his foot. When he had freed every last page from the hard, beautiful spine, when he had broken the book so deliberately and so perfectly, he would gather up his stack of freed pages, put them in a wide glass bowl, and click, click, click his lighter. A brilliant spark gathered at his fingertips. Entranced by the orange petal swaying before his eyes, he joined it to the edge of the nearest page. Quick, like a waterspider dancing across a pond's surface, the orange spread over the white and black pages, its ravenous hunger consuming everything. There is no reader quite like a fire. It lives on words, gathers them in its arms and devours the ink and paper until there is nothing left. When the pages, the words, the stories are gone, the fire dies, can live no longer. Words keep it alive. And still the boy burned them. Book after book. Story after story. Life after life. He pulled them from the bindingsâ€”they are too difficult to burnâ€”and fed the fire. He stole the books from libraries, from his parents, from his friends. No one knew he did this, save one girl. Why do you burn them, she asked. Because I must, he said. But why? He could give no answer, only tear another page free, light another character on fire. For years, he suffocated ideas, characters, worlds with the smoke caused by his fires. He murdered words, and no one could stop him. Until one day, the girl brought him a special book. This is my favorite book, she said, please do not burn it. 26
Why, he asked. Because it is my story, she said. What will happen if I burn it? My favorite character will die. The boy laughed and accepted her gift. For three years, he did not touch the book, allowed it to gather dust atop his dresser. Though he itched to burn its pages, watch the edges of the story crumble into soot, he did not touch her book. In fact, he did not even open it. There was no title, no author, no mark on the green cloth binding. After three years, he learned that the girl had died. She had fallen asleep and not woken upâ€”no one knew why. And as he contemplated her life, he stared at the book she had given him. Nothing about the book had changed but he could no longer suppress his urge to set it on fire. The girl was dead. She said the book was her story, so if she had died, surely her story had too. Right? The boy gathered the book in his hands, caressed its surface with his fingertips. Dust clung to the binding, gripped the fabric with an urgency matched only by the boy's desire to see the yellowed pages inside become black, turn to ash. When he opened the binding, the spine cracked, sounded like a groan. But he ignored the plea, reached for the first chapter, and pulled. Special or not, the book's binding yielded like the others had. The glue gave beneath his insistent fingers, and the pages crinkled in his hands. Chapter Two gave in just the same. More, more, more. He stacked them all in his bowl, until he reached Chapter Twenty. Ironic, he thought. He was the same age. Twenty chapters for twenty years of life. Had the girl been the same age? He did not know. Gripping his lighter, the boy slid his finger along the ignitor and called forth the bright orange fire. He smiled, felt the heat caress his fingertip. Then, he put it to the pages. At once, he started to sweat, rivulets caressing his forehead and slipping behind his ears. He wiped at the sweat, but more drenched him. He started to burn. 27
What is this, he cried, dropping the lighter. Flames crawled up his arms, chewed through his sleeves, seared his pale flesh beneath. The fire, once his friend, his pleasure, smothered him, devoured him, until he was no more than ash. In the bowl, the girlâ€™s story smoldered, little heaps of dust shifting in the slight breeze from the boyâ€™s open window. Though book may have been the girl's story, she had not been her favorite character. The boy was.
The First Generation College Student Poem by Emma Sule I read an article recently that depicted The First Generation College Student. Stereotype after stereotype formed together to conclude that The First Generation College Student is the one most likely to drop out. “Facts” they said, pieced together this image of The First Generation College Student with no support system, below the poverty level, less academically prepared. Suggestions for The First Generation College Student: stay away from STEM majors find a tutor as soon as possible don’t take courses outside of your comfort zone manage your finances closely strive to obtain 67% of the credits you attempt In disbelief, I reread the article Assuming that I had mistaken a satire piece for an actual article. But sadly, no. For the first time in my academic career as The First Generation College Student I felt ashamed. Was this what people thought of me? I felt angered. 29
Why is this what people think of The First Generation College Student? At what point did these stereotypes Become facts? At what point did these judgements become predetermined before a student even steps on campus? I’m The First Generation College Student that you’ve heard about. Yet I’m so much more than that: my dean’s list honors academic scholarships internship experience campus involvement my diploma and my graduate school acceptance have proven the stereotypes wrong. My bachelor’s degree is a stepping stone on the way to a PhD, so that one day I can work for a university with The First Generation College Student to help them prove the stereotypes wrong.
Times a Ticking by Grace Oppihle
Dirge of a Woman Poem by Sasha Feldman She had never taken pride in her intact virginity nor did she put much stock in the notion that maidenhood was a woman's most treasured and private possession Why, then, did this particular act of force likely the least painful thing he had done to her thus far feel so devastating like such a ceremonious loss It did not make sense to her
Submission Details Initiated in January 2005, Lions-on-Line is a literally collection of works by the students and alumni of Mount St. Joseph University published online with the cooperation of the Liberal Arts Department. Lions-on-Line is published online twice yearly, during the fall and spring semesters. When our budget allows, Lions-on-Line goes “in print”. We take submissions during all twelve months of the year. If you are currently a student or a graduate of Mount St. Joseph and you would like to see your work published, you may submit your work to LOL simply by emailing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction or artwork to LOL@msj.edu. For full submission guidelines, consult our website. Lions-on-Line is always looking for new staff members. If you’re interested in joining LOL, please contact faculty advisor, Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. at the following email address: email@example.com.
Editors and Staff President/Fiction Editor:
Creative Nonfiction Editor:
Penelope Epple Rachel Fairfield Carolyn Kesterman Tiffany Nascimento Emma Sule Danielle Watkins
Elizabeth Taryn Mason, Ph.D. 34
This literary magazine out of Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, OH prints poetry, fiction, visual art and essays.