Kent State Universityâ€™s Literary and Arts Journal
Volume 22 (Est. 1956)
What makes a good home for art? The auctioneer’s block? The quiet museum? What about your hands, eyes, and mouth? You sent us your voices. In these pages, they sing. Luna has been blooming. We’ve tried to solidify our presence online by opening a brand new website, hosting open mics, stepping into the world of podcasting, and even collaborating to turn a short story into a short film! (See “Daddy Issues” on page 13 to check out its live-action adaptation.) In many ways, this year has been about amplifying Luna’s voice. Why? Because, in turn, this amplifies yours. Nothing means more to us at Luna than providing a space for art to speak for itself. It might be easy in this day and age to say that we need art more now than ever. The truth is, we always have. Each and every one of the artists who lent
their visions to this journal are part of what makes life about more than just living. By picking up a copy of Luna, you’re part of this movement, too. As you make your way through this new edition of Luna Negra, I hope that you can feel the passion that’s gone into creating it. The process of creating it was about more than the countless hours of work that went into it. When I think about Luna Negra, I also think about what it means to me -- to my team, to you, to everyone who might read through it. Luna Negra is about making sure there is always a place for art. It is about sharing the astounding creativity we have in the bones of our very own Kent State University. And, sometimes, it’s just about reading a beautiful story, feeling a beautiful image, or finding a beautiful poem. In this life, we have to take light where we can find it. Maybe, for you, that is in writing. Maybe it is in poetry or drawing or painting or reading. I hope that, for at least a little while, it can be here. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us. Cameron Gorman Editor-in-chief
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I want it to dispel the dust from my eyes, so I can see the sun again, so I can reach up like I did as a child and grasp for its rays.
His eyes were already closed when he died. He wasnâ€™t asleep, just too weak to open them one last time.
5 A Dream by Hana Alghamdi
19 Newport, 2018 by Ashley Lamatrice
24 Dutch Light by Olivia Swasey
8 Washday by Mariah Hicks
20 Taches de Soleil par Chad Troyer
31 Dripping by Jordyn Imari
21 Taches de Soleil (Translated) by Chad Troyer
32 Tell Them by Nisreen Yamany
18 Flower Child and That Summer Feeling by Hanna Marie
29 I’ll carry you always by Nick Lee
Rosetta Stone by Mariah Hicks
Be Gentle by Cassandra Beattie
I Won’t Hurt You by Cassandra Beattie
15 Blue Face by Eleonore Zurawski
22 In the City’s Shadow by Michael Indriolo
33 Self-reflection on my 20th birthday by Valerie Royzman
34 Tension by Rees Jones 35 Circle Game by Caroline Pavlish
40 Seven Ruminations on Death and Decay by Olivia Swasey 43 She Takes Their Blessing by Ruby Callen 44 Hurling Rocks by Amanda Vogt
42 A Glimpse of the Future by Margaret Davis 45 One and Three Smokes by Alysia Klein
11 Daddy Issues by Nina Palattella
26 Pathborn by Stephanie Walker
37 My Father in Retrospect by Emily Palombo
47 Advice from My Abuela by Halena Sepulveda
16 Videotape by Sylvia Clark
23 Maintenance by Michael Indriolo
30 Summer Days by Bobbi Broome
41 Opaque Mind by Sam Nockengost
17 Rose Tinted Glasses by Jessica Miller
25 Reflective by Bobbi Broome
36 Manmade by Eleonore Zurawski
ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN TRAN
A Dream by Hana Alghamdi
I woke up once. Children were flying like Birds. They didn’t need passports, and they’ve never seen a gun.
Be Gentle, Cassandra Beattie
I Wonâ€™t Hurt You, Cassandra Beattie
Washday by Mariah Hicks
Mama’s hands carried that load to the river in the burrow of each Sunday afternoon after she’d unravel from prayer and sanctioned mornings in the middle of her living room the devil still followed her home for the evening in the seams of her children’s worn-out clothes so down by the river she’d sit for hours till the early morning sun rose. She hummed and prayed with her back caved in wringing linen till there was no dirt left to be seen she’d sit on that riverbed for hours and hours watching her sins flow down the stream she’d gather up her belongings and walk back on down that dirt road the hem of her dress dragged on the ground beneath her but her faith remained in that freshly cleaned load. Mama made her way to the backyard certain not to drop that basket atop her head as she clothespinned her garments under the faint of wind then climbed her way into bed she’d rise and breeze through the rest of the week watching as the hamper gathered weight and she’d roll around to church on Sunday morning preparing for another washday.
Rosetta Stone by Mariah Hicks
quenched blue river ripples hailed by skipped stones on sunday evenings mid-august 2018, 5 p.m. maybe the evergreens hold more translations of growth than the wilting does. blue jays turned red under the blaze of the setting sun, 5 degrees north, one sliver distant of kissing your skin tonight. tonight I dreamed of you in pieces, said hello in different languages: bonjour, ciao, hola. I feel like I have always known that the river takes many forms, so to me, you were always more than just the ocean. you are the storm, the cool glass of water on grandmaâ€™s front porch, and the brown, sweat-glazed skin, 5 a.m. where the moon and the sun make love.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY SOPHIA DELCIAPPO
Daddy Issues by Nina Palattella
he water was low and placid, calm enough to wade through, not that swimming had been part of the plans for their date: though the early October air was a pleasant temperature, the water was surely several degrees colder. Nikki stood on the edge of the grassy area, trying to glimpse her reflection in the water’s surface. Shawn tossed a stone at the water from behind her; it skipped three times. “Nice one,” Nikki said. Shawn clicked his tongue. “My record is eight skips. Three is nothing to be proud of.” He handed her a smooth, flat stone the length of a deck of cards. “Your turn,” he said. “You can beat that.” Nikki cocked her arm back, unsure of her posture, and threw the stone. It dropped into the water and sank unceremoniously. She shrugged—she couldn’t be rusty at something she never learned. “Looks like somebody needs rock skipping lessons,” Shawn said, his voice buoyed by teasing humor. “Are you offering your expertise for free? Has college taught you nothing?” “Call it a friends and family discount.” He paused and looked at her, which she’d concluded was his way of asking permission before he kissed her. They’d been on three dates so far—they were on the third right now—and he was still hesitant. Nikki wasn’t sure if her personality brought that out in him, or if he naturally erred on the
side of what she thought was excessive politeness. He pulled her close enough that, during the kiss, she felt his phone buzz through the pocket of his jeans. She didn’t react, but he flinched and the moment was over. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I just need to—” “No, go ahead,” she said, then thought about how she should’ve let him finish. He looked at the screen, blinked, and dismissed whatever alert had interrupted them. During its transfer from hand back to jeans pocket, Nikki glimpsed the external wallpaper on Shawn’s phone: a photo of a small child, a chubby little boy wearing a miniature flannel shirt with toddler-sized jeans and Timberlands, seated on one of those pastel plastic chairs featured in chain portrait studios around the country. Whoever he was, he looked like a genuinely happy baby, not one who had to be forced into position and bribed with whatever candy the closest adult could pull from her purse. “Oh my gosh,” Nikki gushed. “I don’t mean to be nosy, but that baby is adorable. Just look at his cheeks!” She verged on overexcited whenever she saw little kids, which happened less and less often; her youngest sister would turn ten this year, and the number of babies in her family would continue to decline until the oldest kids, herself among them, had kids of their own. “Thank you,” Shawn said. He blushed hard, but he hoped the image of the kid was too fresh in Nikki’s mind
for her to notice that the blood from underneath his skin was burning his face. “Whose is he? Elena’s?” She remembered that Shawn had a sister who was several years older than they were, and—from the way Shawn talked, at least—was either engaged or ready to make that commitment any day now, provided that the boyfriend complied. Shawn made a sound that was most closely related to a sigh, like a pebble displacing the smallest possible quantity of water. He picked up another stone but didn’t throw it; instead, he passed it back and forth between his fingers. “He’s mine,” Shawn said. He spun the stone for a few rotations before tossing it on the ground. Or maybe he just let it fall. He put his hands in his jacket pockets and turned ninety degrees, so he was facing away from Nikki. Nikki realized that the sky, which she had assumed was blue, had actually turned to the color of cement. It was getting late. Maybe it would rain. Nikki felt the weight of her dinner lurch in her stomach. Shawn stepped a few paces in front of her; beyond him, the river rushed. Above them, the town bustled with college kids nourishing themselves for their nights ahead in sandwich shops or getting the antics underway in one of numerous bars. At the restaurant where she and Shawn had dined, they had waited fifteen minutes to be seated, but they’d passed that time with ease, recalling awful memories from the first class they’d endured together (the memorable hell of Biological Foundations), discussing Netflix specials, comparing Spotify playlists—and nowhere in that extended inventory of their lives had he mentioned his son. Though she wondered exactly how that would have happened: You look very nice tonight. Is it warm in here? That guy in the Hawaiian shirt lived down the hall from me in Wright—he drank a lot then, too. And by the way, I got a girl pregnant once. I have a kid.
Amid all the ambient noise of their college town, Nikki and Shawn said nothing. It hadn’t been more than a minute since the revelation, but it seemed entirely possible that they’d turn around and travel the distance to her apartment complex in silence, and after she departed without saying “good night” they would never see each other or speak to each other again. Unless she did something to prevent that. She felt compelled to speak. “He’s beautiful,” Nikki said. “He looks so happy, too.” “Thank you.” Shawn nodded his head just slightly, bashfully admitting that he was aware he had contributed half of the genetic material which resulted in that small, gorgeous human. The progression of tense moments resumed. Nikki became acutely aware of her scarf’s coarse fabric rubbing on the skin of her neck. The rain had yet to arrive. “I’m sorry,” Shawn said. “I didn’t mean for you to find out like that.” “It’s okay,” Nikki said, without really thinking about the implications of those words in this instance; while complex feelings about this new knowledge were still germinating, multiplying and dividing like eukaryotic cells, it’s okay seemed an appropriate stand-in. “I figured we’d get to the important stuff in due time.” She meant it like a gentle wisecrack, but it came out sounding like a platitude for a business meeting. Shawn chuckled, which was comforting. “Sure, I guess,” he said. “What’s his name?” Nikki asked, interrupting any further canned response Shawn had prepared for instances of this reveal. “Everett,” Shawn said. His pride shone through him like a blacklight against the dimming invisible air. There was something extraordinary, not just about the act of being a father, but of having created a living organism that was unique and complex and whose life was so intertwined with those of his creators that they even got to name him. Nikki knew she wanted children, but she
toys or picture books or anything to indicate that Everett also knew that she had to wait, for a host of reasons: had ever stayed there at all. Maybe he kept his apartment from her education—she was studying to be a health that way for the benefit of visitors like her. services administrator, and she was serious about being “Yes, and her mother. They raise him together, damn good at everything she did—to her current financial pretty much.” status. But Shawn had disregarded those barriers, and Shawn returned to Nikki’s side and offered his hand; here they both were, on the same campus, enrolled in she had held it periodically throughout dinner and some of the same classes. Though disregarded is probably constantly for the duration of their walk down to the too purposeful a word, as if Shawn were some homewrecker river, until they began skipping rocks, and if she had determined to flout the conventions of young adulthood by diving straight into procreation, no matter the costs. If refused, Shawn might have established a correlation between her refusal and the information he’d revealed he truly felt like that, he wouldn’t have any joy in his eyes since then. She put her hand in his and he squeezed it, when he talked about his son, only indifference. and when she squeezed back, she wished she knew “That’s a great name for a little boy,” Nikki said. Morse code. It was nice to simply hold hands, but she “It was his mother’s first choice, and I liked it too,” wanted their communication to have meaning on Shawn said. “His middle name is Louis.” multiple levels. She thought about the layers of sediment Unlike the little boy, who had been bouncing and gurgling in living color for minutes on end in her imagination, beneath their feet, the order of which they’d learned together in How the Earth Works, about how the passage it was hard for Nikki to think of the mother as a real of time and the actions of unseen forces deep in the person, harder still to imagine what she might look like. planet can wear away large swaths of the geological record The default would be to envision a girl who strikingly and leave abnormalities in their place, like how silence resembled herself, but the associations frightened her, could strip the meaning from whole conversations. and she forced the thought away. She pondered what Everything felt so much more serious now. Shawn called Everett’s mother in other company where the “Do you want to start heading back?” Shawn asked. standard of politeness in conversation was not as high. “It’s starting to get cold.” “Does he live with his mother?” Nikki had been to “Sure,” Nikki said. Shawn’s apartment briefly before their second date—he The leaves made no satisfying crunch as they had needed to get his coat—and she had met boys whose walked over them; swells of wet dirt pushed out from residences were far more hazardous places to raise a underneath their shoes, creating a trail. They left the child, but Shawn’s place had been completely free of any river as it was, erosion and all, and walked up the steps necessities required for a toddler: no baby gates or leading back to downtown. plastic inserts covering the electrical sockets or plush
Download the Zappar app and scan the Zapcode here to see a short film adapted from this story by Kent State Independent Films!
“How old is he?” Nikki asked once they’d returned to the sidewalk. She figured that, of what she saw as her two options, this one would sound better than asking How old were you? Shawn exhaled and squeezed her hand. She was too focused on the answer she would receive to squeeze back. “He’s two,” Shawn said. “He’ll be three in November.” She tried not to show evidence that she was doing the math in front of him, as their legs carried them through Acorn Alley, past the clothing shops and coffee shops and other restaurants where they could’ve eaten dinner but chose not to—another time. She took note of that comfortable, reassuring thought. Another time. “That’s a good age,” Nikki said. “He’s mastered walking, and now he’s over it. He likes to run. That’s his newest thing,” Shawn said with a laugh. Nikki smiled. She remembered that squeeze of the hand, suspended in the ether; she squeezed back, and so did he. It was doomed to be a never-ending cycle. “Does she go here? His mother?” Shawn shook his head. “No. She was my high school girlfriend. She’s not in college—decided that it was best to wait until Everett got a little older. Aurora isn’t far, so I try to see them every week, bring them Pull-Ups and groceries, whatever they need.” The streetlights wove irregular ribbons through his wood-brown hair, then through hers, as they passed the architecture building on their right and the equally cherished poetry house on their left. Despite the chill, she was glad they’d walked from her apartment. This conversation may not have fit within the fixed dimensions of a vehicle, would’ve snaked around them and into the vents and filled up all the available space until it choked them both. She was glad that she could hold his hand while they talked about it. They walked until they reached her apartment door, which meant crossing several streets and ascending a
flight of stairs. He took both of her hands in his as he said goodbye and leaned in for a last kiss. “Do you want to come inside for a minute?” Nikki asked. “Do you want me to? I do have to work in the morning,” Shawn said. He might’ve been that irresponsible once, but not anymore. He smiled the kind of smile that made his eyes sag with regret for the things just out of his control. “No, just for a second. I wanted to ask you something, but I didn’t want you to be cold. But anyway—” she felt all the nerves she’d been holding in rise from her chest to her throat, and she coughed. “Are you free at all on Monday?” “I have class until 11 and I work at 5, but I’m free in between,” he said. “Unless you have an idea that can take up my free time.” “I just might,” said Nikki. “Would you want to get coffee?” “I’d love to.”
Blue Face, Eleonore Zurawski
Videotape, Sylvia Clark
Rose Tinted Glasses, Jessica Miller
Flower Child and That Summer Feeling, Hanna Marie
Newport, 2018 by Ashley Lamatrice
Here are some things I long to be: a raft on the blue ocean being tossed from wave to wave; a point along the line where the sky and sea touch; a crimson lobster, with nothing to rely on but my own claws, the scuttle of my own tiny feet. I want to hide among the pebbles dotting the shore. I want to lie in the sand, waiting for the tide, and when it comes, I want it to wash me clean. I want it to dispel the dust from my eyes, so I can see the sun again, so I can reach up like I did as a child and grasp for its rays. I long to be a June evening, a gust of wind through an old house on an even older shore. I want to rise to the smell of salt in the air, and bear witness to the way the pregnant morning sun splits open and spills across the horizon like an egg yolk. I want to touch and be touched, as warmly and intimately as the sun, sky, and sea touch each other; so intimate, in fact, that when I wake in the middle of the night and stretch my long arms over cotton white sheets, I am touching and being touched. I am not alone. I long to be so many things that I often overlook what I already am. I am not a raft, nor a lobster, nor a June evening whose winds dance across the waves with more skill than any sailor; no, I am not an egg yolk. I do not drip gold like the morning sun. But what I am is this: I am arms and legs and a brain, a heart, a pair of battered lungs, a tousle of hair. I cannot become the sea, but I can sit and wish to be, and watch how gently the sea settles against the shore. I am untouched, but I am not alone.
ILLUSTRATION BY SEAN DOORE
Taches de Soleil par Chad Troyer
Il a dit, “My freckles will disappear”. Il a eu raison. Mais sa raison, elle doit être corrigée. Ce n’est pas à cause du manque de soleil, c’est à cause du manque d’amour. Je ne peux pas me souvenir de combien ou où—ses freckles étaient situées ? Et ça marche pour moi. Je ne veux plus te connaitre.
Taches de Soleil (Translated) by Chad Troyer
He said, “My freckles will disappear.” He was right. However his reason, it must be corrected. It’s not caused by a lack of sun, it’s caused by a lack of love. I can’t remind myself of how many or where—his freckles were situated? And that works for me. I want to know you no longer.
In the Cityâ€™s Shadow, Michael Indriolo
Maintenance, Michael Indriolo
Dutch Light by Olivia Swasey
I have made a greenhouse of my life, cultivated many green things sheltered all in glass, each plot painstakingly maintained. I have sown many seeds, planted African violets in chicken shit, watched them bloom lovely and fragrant under a vitreous sky. Hopes and dreams poke olive-colored shoots up out of pots, my future tied to stakes so it grows straight and strong toward the light. Climate-controlled life, I watch my temperature, my humidity; test the soil for its acidity day after day. I have done all that I can to give myself space to grow, to repair, to become. Only now I worry about what storm might come and sweep it all away. I awake in the night from dreams where I stand in muddy boots, two fists covered in blood, on a pile of broken glass. I do not know from what corner of sky will come the winds that will crush me like a witch under the weight of my own best-laid plans. But for now, I have placed lovingly around my heart a tomato cage, that it might have structure to grab onto as it grows into something that I hope will one day bear fruit.
Reflective, Bobbi Broome
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ASHLEY GRIFFITH
Pathborn by Stephanie Walker
ust beyond the miniature forest, the one that divides this town in half, lies a garden. Once you step inside, you are rendered invisible to all: the flora and fauna, the ghosts of dead trees, the other visiting mortals, memories you have left behind. Your sins and secrets are cast in color—all that you hid and was hidden from you illuminated by the sun that is always, curiously, shining, even when this corner of the world goes dark. The sleeping daisies blink themselves awake, sensing your footsteps at the forest’s end, and nod eastward, the stillest of synchronies. This is where you go. I never dreamed that entry into this other world would be so easy. I was always told there was a cost to everything, but in this moment it was hard to believe. Besides, over time I had learned that much of what I was told as a girl were but well-percolated myths, diversions to suppress the most minor of curiosities. Lies meant to protect, or so I had been led to believe. You will discover things you’ll wish you hadn’t, I hear my own voice say as I slip out the door and into the tepid autumn morning. I inch my way through the tangle of longleaf pine and cypress, shimmering gold with dew. The forest floor is a dizzying labyrinth of roots. Spanish moss, the soft fingers of benevolent giants, dangles before me. As a child I used to relish the feel on my skin. Ponds of trumpet pitchers with their veiny heads of red and pink
signal to me that I am nearly there. They breathe a final warning: Once you go in, you will never be the same. But I must, I say aloud. An osprey calls in response something incomprehensible, for I do not speak bird. Even so, I sense that it too is trying to warn me. I shrug it off and continue to the clearing, where my shadow stands even and clean in the morning sun. It marches with a cool assuredness, one I would never see unless I were firmly aware of my fear, crawling now on my skin and burrowing into my blood as I step through the pathway. Dotted with beach glass and flanked on either side with rows of purple hairgrass, I am immediately struck with a sense of déjà vu. I wince as it passes, the nausea settling deep inside me somewhere. Though it is only eight a.m., the heat is building, the humidity filling my lungs like smoke. The sweet almond perfume of cherry laurels meets me at the entrance. Scent of my youth. Amid the wax-myrtles and stalks of coral bean I see him, my very first love, with her, my friend. “Sarah’s so nice, though. That’s what’s making it so hard to break up with her. I don’t want to be the bad guy.” He looks down at his feet. She nestles herself into the warmth of his chest. Beyond them is a fit of snow, fluttering in the wind like broken feathers. My heart slips out of place. “I understand…but we have to tell her.” She pouts, looks up at him for reassurance, her doe eyes flicking,
unwittingly, in my direction. He lifts her mouth to his and kisses her lingeringly. “Don’t worry, love,” he says after a moment. “It’s just you and me against the world.” They fade into the winter night. Tears claw at my eyes. I cannot—I will not cry for him anymore. Anger surges in my chest, bursting open my rib cage. A blanket of firewheels sways to their own private breeze, as the air around me is heavy and thick with memory. This way, they seem to say, pointing me north past a thicket of bamboo. The horse flies and mosquitoes and other local insecta are teeming around me now, my presence renewing their latent hunger. Just a few yards ahead, I see my father. He is with some woman who is not my mother. They are slow-dancing to a distant, unseen symphony. My mother looks on, her face folded in sadness. She is absently whirling a soapy sponge over a plate. A little girl in a yellow dress and braids runs up to her, laughing wildly. She notices my mother’s frown and, like a true empath, lets her own grin fall off her face. My sister. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” she says. My mother feigns a tight smile, as she often does when her world is coming apart at its seams. She puts a hand to her belly, plumper than I ever remember seeing it. “Oh, nothing, peanut. Promise.” “Is Sarah okay?” Her tiny hand entwines with my mother’s, still over her womb. “She’s great. Ready to come see us any day now.” As if on cue, my father joins them, smiling broadly at his perfect family.
Then, like a morning fog being burned up by the sun, they vanish. I grab at any residual wisps—my mother’s fragile scent, my sister’s idyllic laughter, glimpses of the man I believed my father was—but they just pass through my fingers. The fury is so great I cannot make a sound. Seeing enough, I go to turn around. Suddenly I feel a pair of cold metal arms push me forward. As in a dream, where I need to run but my legs feel glued to the ground, I have no resolve; I have no choice. To my right is a trellis covered in coral honeysuckle, breathing with hummingbirds and impossibly stunning butterflies in fairytale colors: taffy pink, honeydew, mint blue. Something hopeful in me rises. My husband is cradling our son in the nursery. He is humming Brahms’ Lullaby and our son, pleased, twinkles from stem to stern. Their perfection makes me weep. My husband falls asleep in the rocking chair, only getting up once to put our son in the crib. The sky in the window behind him flashes from the pale dusk to the gray
light of morning. He wakes to my son’s sad, soft cooing. “I miss your mommy, too,” he says, plucking him out of the crib like a ripe fruit. I fall to the ground and, hugging myself, hope it is a quick death. The arms return, forcing me up and shoving me past the beauty that so deceived me. I arrive next at a group of trees: plum, persimmon, fig. Among the grass and fallen, rotted fruit is me, in bed with a man. He is kissing my breasts, my swollen, pregnant belly. I pull him up to me and take his mouth in mine. I remember that hunger well, which, despite everything, is settling into my bones now. My husband appears beside me. He is happy as always, oblivious of the woman I am. He does not know. He will never know. And somehow that is worse than him knowing anything at all. It is the diametric opposite for me. It is commonly thought that when it comes to ourselves and our faults, we are myopic, unaware. Perhaps that is true for some, but never for me. I know I am a bad woman. I look behind me, the bright white heat curdling the edge of my vision. All is silent, almost apocalyptic. The only thing stirring around me is a lone gull, greedily tearing up an earthworm at my feet. Nothing can make the worm whole again. And the bird, only temporarily sated, will soon find another life to destroy. And so on. A pair of sunflowers, standing like sentinels, signal that my walk is nearly over. Beyond them, at the outer edge of the garden, are my husband and son. They are waiting for me. My son sees me. He is older now, standing on chubby little legs, wearing a red, white, and blue baseball cap. With one hand he is holding a lit sparkler, with the other my husband’s hand. My son has morphed into a miniature version of my husband, with his olive skin and dark, curly hair. Fireworks splash electric color in the evening sky behind them. I hasten my step.
My mother reappears just before the exit. She is in a hospital room. She is crying. My father is at one side of the bed, squeezing her hand; a doctor is on the other side, giving her cold comfort. “The chaplain will be here soon to make arrangements. In the meantime, try to get some rest.” As he leaves the room, a nurse’s aide comes in and, in a flurry, removes a bundle of balloons and a banner that reads Congratulations! in lovely pink lettering. “Our Sarah,” she wails. My father puts his head down. In this moment, all I want is my son. He is the only thing that makes sense in either world, in any possible world. I am running now, arms outstretched, yelling for him. His sparkler fizzes out to a fine smoke. He cries. “Hey buddy,” my husband says. “Let’s watch the fireworks before they go bye-bye, okay?” My son mumbles an uh-huh as my husband wipes away at his tears. They turn around to a grand popping that seizes the remaining bit of twilight. I yell once more, but my voice is swallowed up by the noise.
Iâ€™ll carry you always, Nick Lee
Summer Days, Bobbi Broome
Dripping by Jordyn Imari
As she wakes up she drips cocoa butter, shea butter, honey. She glistens in the sun as her melanin whispers good morning, buenos dias, effortlessly. The curls of her hair mimic the springs in her mattress, shrunken, textured. The plump of her lips tells her story passionately, loving. The curves of her hips play peek-a-boo, innocently unaware of the enchantment that is she, black, beautiful. A queen.
Tell Them by Nisreen Yamany
Tell them she steals your words every time. Hide them in her pockets, walk the streets. Pocket full of utterances rushing home counting them again and again. Are all the vowels here? Did a consonant slip away? Do her pockets leak a poem she never knew how to write? Tell them she steals your words every time. Hide them under her pillow. They bloom into a garden. She wakes up with lines springing out of her head like lilies! Tell them she steals your words at times to discard herself of the burden that comes with them. To dismantle the perfection of a bodily poem, and recreate her limbs, restitch them one leaf at a time till a tree is resurrected, till a bird is reborn within its branches, till she becomes this mythical creature part tree, part bird, part poem, part woman! Wings always yearning for new skies, roots steady within shifting lands, ever-defying geographical borders and supposed marked spaces, ever belonging to spaces in between words lingering silence in between hushed poems waiting for a way to redefine themselves.
Self-reflection on my 20th birthday by Valerie Royzman
Today is a good day to be a mirror. And I’m thinking about this beginning again, the bliss and terror of it all. And I’m thinking about how my nurturing self straightens the posture, tucks the loose strands of dark hair behind the ears of my exhausted self. And I’m thinking about how time cannot decipher stop signs. And I’m thinking about how my commiserating self cradles the delicate face, runs thumbs over unruly eyebrows, smooths them down for my child self. And I’m thinking about how I know this woman. I know me. I know she. I know her so well. But every time I touch us, our body falls apart like a cardboard fort. I cannot tell which of these she-selves rattles the walls. And I’m thinking about how my motherly self bathes my careless self, rinses the self-hatred from my hair, scrubs the Friday out of my Saturday lashes, says Stop crying. I’ve got you. I’ve been here this whole time.
Tension, Rees Jones
Circle Game, Caroline Pavlish
Manmade, Eleonore Zurawski
My Father in Retrospect by Emily Palombo
e weren’t shocked when my father passed. He had been sick for more than two years and was constantly in and out of the hospital with one issue or another—long enough to prepare for what the doctors call “the worst.” I didn’t want too many people there when he died. Too much crying. Just me and my two brothers. My older brother, Garrett, holds my hand and delivers a stereotypical teary eyed, “At least he’s with mom now.” I try not to puke from the cliché. I have way more important things on my mind at the moment than half-assed comfort. The man has been dead for twenty minutes and I’m already planning the funeral. He’ll wear his navy suit, brown loafers, tan tie, and matching pocket square over a white shirt. Done. Flowers? Only a few. He hated things like that. We’re alike in that way. Not big on sentimentality. A nurse comes into the room and starts folding his clothes into a cardboard box. “Where should I put the box?” she asks quietly. My brothers look at each other then back to me. I shrug. “Throw it away.” Garrett and Lucas both hang their heads at the same time. “Guys, you know we don’t have time for that. If we don’t start making arrangements now, he’ll spend weeks in the freezer.” They nod their heads slowly, remaining silent. They know I’m right. I look back to the nurse who was staring at us, open mouthed and clearly appalled. She packs up the rest of dad’s pajamas
and scurries out the door, closing it behind her to give me and my grieving family “time to process.” “Alright,” I let out a sigh. “Do we have a copy of the will?” Lucas looks at me with a horrified face. “Are you a robot? He just died, Liv. Let him get cold first.” Being the youngest, Lucas will no doubt take this the hardest. He got the least amount of time with our father despite getting all his love and attention during our childhood. I roll my eyes. “Then you girls can sit around his bed and cry while I call Uncle Chris and actually do something useful. Feel free to take all the time you need to stare at a dead body.” I turn sharply on my heel and push the hospital room door open. Trying to ignore the harsh words I said to my brothers, I busy my mind with thoughts of headstones and bible verses as my legs carry me farther down the hallway. I pass rooms filled with ten-year-olds with broken arms, thirty-year-olds having children, and eighty-year-olds saying goodbye to their families while they contently die in their hospital beds. I stop and stare at the rooms filled with loved ones and doctors offering their support during these transitions in life. Something strange is happening, and I’m suddenly staring at my younger self in a hospital bed. Somehow, I am in all these rooms. I stand in the doorway and watch my life unfold from hospital room to hospital room.
It’s my fifth birthday, and I’m crying on my mother’s lap as we sit on the chair in the corner of our semi-private room. She wipes the tears from my cheeks as I bleed from the dog bite on my leg and we wait for the doctor to come back in to clean out the wound. I was playing dress up outside with my friends for my birthday when the neighbor’s dog broke its chain and ran straight toward me. She didn’t bite hard, but my skinny legs were still pierced by her sharp teeth, and dad insisted we go to the hospital. I’m nine years old and I’m holding my mother’s hand as she slowly slips away. My father stands by her side cradling their newborn baby, Lucas, in his arms as he watches his wife bleed out. She struggles to smile and whispers to me, “Don’t let him push you around too much, baby.” My little eyes fill with water, and I squeeze her hand as hard as I can to keep her from leaving me. She goes anyway. My father doesn’t cry. It’s two weeks after my mom died, and I’m in the waiting room with my father and feverish baby brother waiting for a doctor to see us. My dad isn’t saying anything, but I can see the panic in his eyes as little Lucas’ temperature remains higher than normal. The doctor finally sees us. Lucas is fine. My dad has him wrapped in too many layers. It was July. I’m seventeen and I’m waking up from my first surgery. My side hurt for almost five days and I drove myself to the hospital to have it checked. I was right: appendicitis. They put me under not long after the diagnosis, and I woke up to an empty room. My younger self sighs, but doesn’t admit how disappointed she was that her father wasn’t there when she woke up. Hadn’t the hospital called him? Did he come at all? Did he not care? Just as I’m about to call for a nurse, dad walks in with a cup of coffee and an apple. “Here,” he mutters. “In case you get hungry.” I’m twenty-six and my brother Garrett is helping his wife deliver their first child. I play with a loose thread on the cushion of the waiting room couch and drink watereddown coffee to give me something to do. From two doors away, I hear my sister-in-law scream in pain from the bundle of joy erupting out of her. Finally, her screaming stops, and a horrible alien noise (which I can only assume is the baby) comes from the delivery room, and we wait for the nurse’s OK to go in. “Steven,” my sister-in-law sobs. “His name is Steven. After your father.” My dad wasn’t there when his first grandchild was born, but they honored him with a namesake anyway. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me even now. It’s one hour ago and my father is dying in a twin bed surrounded by three kids and four white walls. I don’t
even tear up as his heart monitor slows, and the beeping eventually stops. His eyes were already closed when he died. He wasn’t asleep, just too weak to open them one last time. My brothers hug one another and let out the last of their cries slowly, ignoring me entirely. I watch myself from outside my own body and feel a tinge of pain in my stomach; not like the kind you feel when your appendix is about to burst, but the kind when your father has just died, and you haven’t told him that you love him in more than a year. You don’t realize this until he’s dead. “Miss, are you alright?” A nurse touches me on the shoulder, and I flinch. I have been staring into the room of a woman who had just had her shoulder replaced for about ten minutes and received some very odd looks from her and her husband. “Yes, sorry. I, uh, just lost my father.” She gives me a sympathetic look that I expect to see a lot in the coming weeks. “Oh, I’m so sorry honey.” Me too, I want to tell her. But I don’t. I walk away from the scene I was making and back toward my father’s room. I find Garrett sitting on the radiator and Lucas leaning on the rails of my dad’s empty bed. “Where did they take him?” I ask quickly, filling with panic. Lucas looks back at me with the coldest steel I have ever seen. “Probably the morgue, being that he’s dead.” He stands. I was used to receiving that kind of attitude from Garrett or even from myself, but hearing it from Lucas sends a chill through my body, and for the first time I really feel my father’s death. My eyes feel hot and my legs don’t seem as strong as they used to. I can sense my balance going, and I know I am about to fall. Garrett must realize this too and runs to catch me. Then, black.
I’m thirty years old, and I fainted in an empty hospital room. I am blinded by white lights and asphyxiated by the smell of formaldehyde. The man standing above me isn’t my dad; it’s my brother, Lucas. He puts his hand to my head and smiles at me. “Dad would be so embarrassed.” I smile too, because he absolutely would be.
Seven Ruminations on Death and Decay by Olivia Swasey
I. Understand what it means to die. Your skeleton is not inside you— you are inside your skeleton. A whole universe of understanding trapped in grey matter the way fruit hangs suspended in lime Jello, if the Jello were also encased in a sphere of thin, fragile bone. We are not creatures built to last. II. Consider the impartial flame. Consider the way it devours a body with its many tongues like a lover, lapping away at flesh, then fat, then muscle, then bone, until at last it disappears, satiated. It tiptoes out with no thought to breakfast and locks the door as it leaves. III. There are a great many hungry mouths waiting for you in the dirt. It would be unfortunate to keep them from their rightful dinner by locking them out with cement and filling yourself with preservatives. But they will get to you. Eventually.
IV. Sometimes I like to imagine the feeling of decomposing. Picture how the barriers between your soft, pungent organs will break down like fences between neighbors who can’t remember why they ever hated each other. Picture your skin becoming loose, bloated and purple around you, breakable with a sharp fingernail. Picture your exposed teeth, your exposed radius and ulna, your exposed femur, not white, but stained the color of tea, an ancient treasure map. Follow where the map leads. V. Sometimes, I can see the appeal of consuming one’s dead. Why put them somewhere for animals to eat, who don’t care who this person was, when instead you can show your father how much you really loved him by sucking the marrow from his bones and adding his DNA to the microbiome living in your guts. VI. Never has there been a face so handsome that it could not become an interchangeable grin in the walls of a catacomb. VII. Bury me the way Neanderthals buried theirs. Bury me in my monkey flesh and nothing else. Under a tree, please. Bury me somewhere no one will hear me. Bury me somewhere no one brings flowers. Bury me the way we all should have been. Bury me somewhere I can rot.
Opaque Mind, Sam Nockengost
A Glimpse of the Future, Margaret Davis
She Takes Their Blessing by Ruby Callen
women must take care, for the others had full plates, and with their blessing of this earth, she delivers. the sun was rising to be seen by them only, because with their blessing of the clouds, she sleeps. the babies stand tall at the age of imbalance to carry out their blessing of this sprout, she eats. women must bend in submission, for the others carry the edge to hold up their blessing of privilege, she rages. the sun is setting over the mole hills of the men, cowered with their blessing of ego, she rises.
Hurling Rocks by Amanda Vogt
Under the blanket of night in coastal Virginia I hurl rocks into the screaming ocean laid out before me. Wet air clings to sun-poisoned skin and seeps deep into warm lungs with each broken-up gasp of breath. That feeling washes over me, like the moon-swept tide curling over December beaches, warm with an icy undertone. My knees fall, sinking into mud-brown sand, and I wait to drown in frosty white sea foam.
One and Three Smokes, Alysia Klein
ILLUSTRATIONS BY ASHLEY GRIFFITH
Advice from My Abuela by Halena Sepulveda
or me, racism wasn’t real until it was standing in a crowded bar screaming, “I don't speak Mexican! You're in America. Act like it.” I can’t tell you how many people in my life roll their eyes when I tell them I’m Hispanic. They laugh me off with their, “Sure you are, chica blanca,” grins, as though coffee-colored skin is the trademark for being Puerto Rican, and my light green eyes and white complexion are all that I am. When I was a little girl, my abuela thought that Vicks could cure anything. I could have had a broken foot, and she probably still would have said, “Ponerle Vicks, mamita,” with her endearing smile before wiping at my tears and giving me a Malta. She was always calling me mamita. It had the power to make me feel like a child and a woman all at once. My abuela had that way about her.
She could make you feel like the most important person in the room but somehow still remind you that the others in the room were important as well. She taught me what it means to be proud of who you are, of where you come from, and of the people that paved the path before you. My people are more than just the people that share the blood that runs through my veins. My people are strong and powerful and ambitious, but my people are also sick and starving and tired. They are tired of being sick, of starving, of watching their people die or struggle. Family does not mean blood. Family means dedication. My grandmother knew the meaning of true family, and she made sure I knew it too. And she was usually right about most things, because the Vicks always seemed to work.
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