New Literati SPRING 2018
Copyright © 2018 St. Edward’s University All Reserved New Literati is an annual publication of St. Edward’s University. The views expressed in this publication are those of individual authors and artists and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editor, staff, or the university. St. Edward’s University 3001 South Congress Avenue Austin, Texas 78704 Cover design by Amy Tondre 2018 New Literati Printed by OneTouchPoint – Ginny’s, Austin, Texas 3
Letter from the President. Wow, I truly cannot believe that this is my last time writing this letter. Being on New Literatiâ€™s staff for the last three years has been better than I could have imagined. I have gained leadership skills, met some incredibly talented students, and made some new friends along the way (cheesy, I know). First, I want to say thank you to the contributors to this issue. You all keep this publication going, and I admire all of your wonderful work. I also want to thank the New Literati staff, who work hard to keep this organization possible, and are all incredible and unbelievably talented individuals. I am so lucky I got to know all of you cool kids. To all our wonderful Editors, thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to this organization. To those of you who will be here after this semester, I know you guys will kill it and will make this organization be even better than it already is. I want to give a special shoutout to Logan Stallings for being my partner-in-crime in everything New Literati, I appreciate you so much and canâ€™t wait to see what you do next year. Alright, Oscar acceptance speech over, go look at some cool work. Amanda Markoe New Literati President
Letter from the Editor. I am immensely proud of what we, the staff of New Literati, have accomplished this year. So much goes into the creation of a print publication as well as maintaining an online presence. There are deadlines, and design meetings, and editing workshops. This is the second print publication we have accomplished after New Literati’s however year-long hiatus. New Literati is the on-campus literary magazine of St. Edward’s University, and we are dedicated to presenting the work of talented members of the St. Edward’s community including students and alumni. New Literati is completely student-run, studentjuried, and student-edited. We are very excited and proud to be presenting this print issue of our Spring 2018 magazine. I would like to say a special thanks to our section editors, C.J. Shaleesh and Oliver Davis as well as every staff member of New Literati this year, as they not only helped choose the magazine’s content, but also gave creative and helpful feedback, comments, and expertise at every editing workshop, and they contributed submissions for our website and fall web-issue. I’d also like to give a special shoutout to our designer, Amy Tondre. Also, thank you to Terry Sherrell, our contact at OneTouchPoint printing for helping us through the process. I also want to thank our amazing president, Amanda Markoe, for all the work she does for every aspect of New Literati whether it’s fundraisers or campus events. St. Edward’s has such a vast and incredibly creative student body, and I want to thank every single member of the St. Edward’s community who submitted their work to us. We are so excited to publish your incredible talent, and we hope it brings you as much joy as it does us. Thanks again to our president, staff, editors, and contributors for all their hard work. It does not go unnoticed. This student organization is like a family and I treasure each and every one of you. Logan Stallings Editor-In-Chief
Editors/Contributors Amanda Markoe President
Amanda is a Senior and Digital Media Management major at St. Edward’s University who enjoys nature, photography, movies, and music. She once took a Buzzfeed quiz asking “Which Kardashian are you?” and she got Kanye West, which is something she thinks should be on her resume.
Logan Stallings Editor in Chief
Logan is the current editor-in-chief of New Literati and is pursuing a double major in Graphic Design and English Writing and Rhetoric with a concentration in Creative Writing at St. Edward’s University. She enjoys ‘90s TV and Wes Anderson color palettes as well as writing music reviews and leading editing workshops.
C.J. Shaleesh Poetry Editor
C.J. is currently attending St. Edward’s University, where she is pursuing bachelor degrees in both Marketing and English Writing and Rhetoric with a concentration in Creative Writing. Her work has previously been published by New Literati and Voices. Presently, she is working for New Literati as a staff writer and copy editor. After she graduates, C.J. hopes to work in publishing as an editor so that she can be constantly immersed in creativity, while also helping others art be seen and heard by the masses.
Oliver Davis Prose Editor
Oliver is an interactive game design major at St. Edward’s. He is a head copy editor for New Literati, as well as a staff writer. He firmly believes sharks are misunderstood creatures, and if you’re out of beans, put jelly on a tortilla because it’s okay. Also, is sand called sand because it’s between land and the sea? Oliver can tell you.
Bailey Stephens Copy Editor
Bailey works as a staff editor, writer, and business/financial head of New Literati. She will graduate from St. Edward’s in 2018 with an international business degree, and plans to carry on and receive her English Masters and PhD. She also plans to reread the Harry Potter series at least fifty more times and own all memorabilia.
Nicole Zodrow Copy Editor
Nicole is a Writing and Rhetoric major with a concentration in Creative Writing. She has been a writer and an editor with New Literati since the fall of 2016. She enjoys reading and writing while fangirling on the side about musical theatre, movies and TV, and Disney.
Amy Tondre Design Editor
A design major with an interest in writing who never seems to find the time to do any, Amy has an affinity for ghosts, westerns, and the color red. She hopes to one day meld her love for storytelling and design into a soul-fulfilling career.
Gabrielle Wilkosz Copy Editor
In a recurring dream, Gabrielle gasps for air as a python with the enlarged, plaque-ridden teeth of a 5th grader tightens its mechanical coil around her. In alphabetical order, her reptilian captor recites every sin she’s committed. Tears streaming down her face, our heroine hears the comforting voice of God: “Lighten up!”
Editors/Contributors Sierra Rozen Copy Editor
Hey guys! My name’s Sierra, and I’m a freshman Communication major. I loved being in New Lit this year as an editor. You can usually catch me writing articles, wearing yellow, reading poetry and watering my plants! I hope you enjoy our issue this year! #ToppersUp
Kristyn Garza Copy Editor
Kristyn Garza is a Hispanic freshman English Literature major from McAllen, Texas. She writes fiction pieces, poetry, and is constantly reading in her spare time. She aspires to be a young adult author and work at a publishing company after graduation. Her passions include environmental, wildlife, and human rights.
Rebecca Harville Copy Editor
Rebecca doesn’t like to talk about herself in the third person. However, she must start clacking the keys away to tell you about herself. She’s a short ginger. Loves long walks on the beach. God, she feels as if she’s making a Tinder profile. Now all she—oh, 50 words. She’s done.x-
Katie Okhuysen Copy Editor
Katie is a senior studying philosophy at St Edward’s. She is a New Literati editor and enjoys eating, traveling, and hastily making deadlines. She loves New Literati and all the people who work hard to make it possible.
Gianni Zorrilla Copy Editor
Hey guys! My name is Gianni Zorrilla and I am a freshman Communication major/Journalism minor. Most of my time is spent writing—articles, poetry, prose, anything really—covering events, listening to music, or talking about my hometown, NYC. I love writing and am so glad to be a part of the New Literati staff.
Bryce Robinson Copy Editor
Bryce is a Master of Liberal Arts student concentrating in the Humanities at St. Edward’s. He is both a copy editor and staff writer for New Literati. His primary interests are joking around and listening to sweet reggae music. He hopes to travel to Jamaica at end of the year to record his very own reggae song at the legendary Studio One.
Dunja Sissoko Copy Editor
Dunja Sissoko is a Forensic Science, Lab Emphasis major who enjoys getting distracted by the German classes. She loves getting free food while collecting frequent flyer miles. Friends have stated that she is both Captain Holt and Detective Peralta from Brooklyn 99. Hopefully, she will get her life together before retirement.
Daniel Matteson Copy Editor
Hailing from sunny California, Daniel Matteson is a Video Game Design major at St. Edward’s University who is mostly into bad movies, sad music, antiquated technology, and Hawaiian shirts. When he’s not writing poetry or recording music, he can be found looking for cursed objects at your local Goodwill.
Table of Contents Letter from the President
4 | Amanda Markoe
Letter from the Editor
5 | Logan Stallings
Editors and Contributors
6 | New Literati Staff Eric Anderson
14 | Wilder
18 | chemical imbalance
20 | Seven Stars
23 | Homeland 24 | No Quarter
26 | boy in a shirt
27 | Sacred Silence
29 | Aboard the Titanic 30 | Lioness 31 | Love Poem No. 2: Sucker Slap 32 | Mankind is a Woman 33 | The Seven Billion Breadhandlers 35 | Verde Canyon
37 | The Beast 38 | The Ruler of Love
39 | Through My Grandfatherâ€™s Eyes & A Plane Aisle
40 | Robert, The Love, in the Morning & Girl Love
41 | Clara Ewert Profile
43 | Natural Beauty
46 | I am not now myself at all 48 | IMG_8047.jpg
49 | Frustration is a Bracelet
50 | Pink-Tinted Goggles
57 | Regrowth
58 | 2 A.M. Trip to CVS 59 | January 28th 13
61 | Brandished Generosity 62 | Conversing with my Frontal Lobe 64 | Last Day at the Office 65 | Mansion of Red Brick 67 | Runaways in Quarry Hill, TX 68 | The Priest Will Help Me Dream of Angels
70 | Bullnettle
72 | Hair
75 | A Fine, Contributing Woman 76 | Gabzilla
77 | Winter
Eric Anderson *Autumn – Second Moon – Seventh Year* “The red ones are Mother’s favorite,” he said, plucking a flower from the ground. “What do you think, little twig? Do you think we can find some more for her?” Ethan handed it to me gently and tousled my hair. “Yes,” I answered, pointing to a bush of them in the woods. “No, little twig. You know the rules. That’s not allowed,” he said with disappointment in his voice. He turned to my little sister. She did not yet know how to speak but clutched my hand harder because even she knew the rule, although not old enough to fully understand. “Don’t fret Kat, there will be more elsewhere,” he cooed, tickling her belly to make her giggle. We walked along the grassy fields outside the village for the rest of the morning, collecting flower after flower until my hands couldn’t hold any more. Mother would be happy, but I wished we would have found more of her favorite kind. We walked back to find Father gathering the rest of the village children for our daily lessons. “Ethan! Bring the girls. Come now, we have a lot to learn today,” Father yelled. “Yes, Father,” he said, picking Kat up and placing her on his shoulders. Ethan was big for a twelve, bigger than any twelve I had seen. I used to ride on his shoulders like that, but now that I was a seven, I was too big for such things. Maybe one day I would be as big as Ethan. Mother had just cut his hair yesterday. It was lighter than mine, almost blindingly so when the sun shone on it. It was nearly as bright as Kat’s, but hers was cotton-colored. The other children sometimes picked on me, saying my hair looked like mud compared to my siblings. I say sometimes, because I’d throw mud at them to teach them not to say such things. It’d be many moons before they’d try again. Father would scold me every time, but I could tell he was secretly proud. Mother and Father walked toward us, the children of the village following closely behind. Father carried the chalkboard and
easel he used to teach outside. There were maybe thirty or forty of us, though children of nearby villages would often visit, so ours didn’t seem as small as Father often told me it was. I rushed ahead and presented the flowers to Mother. “Oh, thank you, Alexandra. These will be lovely for the table tonight.” She grinned, taking them up in her hands and giving them a sniff. “What’s that I smell? You found some of my favorites too! Oh, thank you, sweet child.” Mother was happy. She patted me on the head before kissing Father on the cheek and returning home to prepare supper. “Come along now, children. There is much to teach today,” Father said, hurrying us along. We scurried across the grassy fields, over to the edge of the pine grove that sat just before the greater woods. Father taught us that pines kept their greenery year-round, but otherwise, the rest of my surroundings were orange and yellow. When the weather permitted, Father would teach the children outside, instead of the schoolhouse we used in winter or when it rained. The children sat around in a semi-circle as Father set up his chalkboard. Not long into his teachings, I grew bored of arithmetic. My gaze turned to the forest. A few feet of grass separated the grove from the greater woods. And there it was again, the bush of flowers Mother liked. I stared at it, thinking of how happy Mother would be if I were to bring them to her. It wasn’t far into the forest. Surely that wouldn’t be too bad. When Father’s back was turned, I got up quietly, snuck out of the grove, and across to the bush of flowers. I started to pick them, hoping to gather up several before Father would notice I was gone. “Ah, and something else. Today is a special day,” he began, speaking louder with enthusiasm, “on this moon, seven autumns ago, one of our very own was born. Alex, my daughter, happy—” he paused. I grabbed at the bush in haste. Mother’s favorite flowers had to be picked gently, otherwise, thorns would hurt your hands. But I did not have time to pick them gently. My hands stung as I hurried to pluck the last of the flowers. “Alex?” he yelled. It wouldn’t be long before he found I had entered the bad woods. I bunched up all that I collected and ran back toward the grove. My hands were red, the stinging
wouldn’t last long, but it was still painful. “Alex?” he yelled again. I ran as fast as my feet would move. He knows I left, but with luck maybe I could— “Daughter.” There, glaring at me just before me on the edge of the woods, stood Father, his voice stern with anger. “I’m sorry Fa—” I began before he grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward him. The flowers Mother loved, the same color of guilt as my hands, fell to the ground. “There are wolves in the woods,” he hissed. “You must never enter there. You should know better, child.” “I just wanted to… to…” “You are never to enter the woods.” “Yes, Father…” I mumbled as we walked back to the pine grove, my hands empty, red, and stinging. “Now children, why is what Alex just did not allowed?” he spoke as I sat back down. “Because we’ll get lost!” a boy shouted. “Because we’ll get cold!” said a girl. “Because it’s forbidden!” another yelled. “All true,” Father began, “but that’s not the whole truth. You see children, the villages are very safe. Life was not always this way. As we know from tellings passed down through generations, there was a time when our ancestors did not live in the villages. It’s hard to imagine, I know. Our village is the only place most of you have ever known. And if you’re lucky, you may get to see others as well. The villages are vast—yes, and sprinkled within the grasslands and groves such as this one, but that is all the world of which we know. There is much that was lost over many years, but what we do know is this—life beyond the villages was not safe. Our ancestors came to this place and discovered it was different, it was safe, and it was fruitful beyond measure. And that is how the villages came to be. As you can imagine, people once grew curious and tried to leave the villages, but this was not a good idea. Groves such as these within the boundary of the Flamering are safe, used for wood and carving, but why are the greater woods outside it specifically forbidden, children?” Silence. The children turned to look at one another, worried they may give the wrong answer. A gust of wind moved
through the grove, scattering newly fallen leaves. The pain in my hands continued, stinging more as the wind brushed across them. Father stared at us, looking for a volunteer to come fourth. “Anyone?” he asked, gesturing to us all. “There are dangers in the woods,” Ethan answered. “Yes. Children, we may not have the knowledge of our ancestors who came before,” he began before turning his easel around to draw something, “but we do know one thing is certain, the highest law of our people: you must never enter the woods.” His strokes moved faster, aggressively clawing at the board with a dwindling stick of chalk. It made a loud scratching noise with every mark. I covered my ears. He drew faster, pressing the chalk harder on the board. The screech of each stroke grew louder and sharper. The noise got more intense until he stopped suddenly. Breathing heavy, he dropped what little remained of the chalk. “And why does this rule exist, children? For one simple reason.” He turned the easel around, exposing his work to the class. Girls began to cry. Two pointed ears sprang up from bladesharp lines scratched together forming tufts of fur. Boys cowered together. Hard lines dug into the surface of the board, encircling outlines of large pupils. Some shielded their gaze. Rows of teeth, a wide-open mouth, carved deep into the board to the point where they might never be erased. There are wolves in the woods.
*The story continues on the New Literati website
chemical imbalance Corinne Bates
I am a chemical imbalance. Serotonin, dopamine, estrogen, adrenaline, too high, too low, iron, vitamin d. I thought I had scurvy. That would be vitamin c. When I was 14, my pastor said, “You don’t pray enough. He would fix you.” But God’s not real. Not that God. God is a woman. Birthing water, earth, air, fire, from her core. Too beautiful to be made by a man, too full of consequence, too obsessed with balance, too many flowers that look like vaginas with the clitoris in the right spot.
No man could create a world with sun showers or birds with fluorescent underbellies. She made it all. Then left. No list of chores. No inheritance. No stepmother. No babysitter. Just a universe with endless possibilities. She does not answer prayers. Or dole out punishment. She is busy birthing other universes maybe like ours maybe different. So no. God could not fix me. Put my pieces back with a practiced hand. Adjust the levels of melatonin noradrenaline potassium sodium vitamin b. I am a chemical imbalance. That is who I am.
Caitlin Butterworth Did that final star—yours—break between your fingers When your fingers splintered it like a diamond Or did it split long ago When you realized what your fingers could do What else could your fingers do but break you— Feed Break bread to toss to Street children adorned with White maiden clothing washed Russet clean in the Hollow hymnal sigh of The Levanter Or crush the seven stars of your Impropriety Feed their flowers to the Gaping mouth of the Vulture Twisting tangos In the prison of your stomach What else could your hands do— Create Make pita bread from ground bones, your White-tiered, white-knuckled fingers kneading Oil-thick dough into an Oblation Baked with blood and sweat For your mother As an offering to Her dying favor, Moon-face waning Fingers Pet her copper head Beautiful as the santimat-sheen
Of the metals In the sunset sand Of your Sahara Fingers Dry her dying tears Destroy Turn knife-edged Turn into Serrated tool of Sacrifice No god would want But the vulture Turned deity within you –Don’t think too– Consume each woman’s dying wishes –Forget your mother– Bring each child falling to her knees –Bury your father– In prayer and plea To an ever-busy Mary A unison chorus Cry of Give me Mercy
… Pray Could you, with those corrupted fingers Could your mouth caw solemn bleat To a black sky Too late to the already dead And long dying To make any difference Could their defiled ghosts Fill your sick bullet stomach Enough to satiate your Perverted nurture
Could your hands trace The seven points of their Shattered stars Plucked pre-ripe, too soon And write bloody elegies On fled bodies Could you wipe the stars from your snout Crushed fine and dead to Cocaine powder, Ever stop your nose from bleeding I wonder what Youâ€™re so hungry for That Even stars Were Never enough
Alejandro Castillon I found my home in the Heartland. Nest on a holy hill, I keep it, until eventually, I step down to the Great Gateway which raised me. But the gates have been shut now, it embraces no more. It strips my feathers. It rusts my throat. The border sun bakes my skin, and Iâ€™m alone Days grow long in dry soil. In fiery dust clouds kicked up by 18-wheelers, they meld, fuse, roll in (heat)waves of yesterdays and crash all around me. A crying river of souls trying to reclaim me from the sky. If I could just have both, I would let it. (God, I would let it.) Another prodigal flight, wringing aguas frescas out my lungs. Yet I know the Heartland is still South to most. Bugambilias can bloom next to Bluebonnets, and the Gateway will always remain, plucking at the heartstrings of my Spanish guitar.
Alejandro Castillon There’s a beach condominium in Port Aransas, Texas, that sits closer to the shore than any other. Every summer in my memory, my family and I would live there for a week or two at a time, boiling crabs and playing cards until 2 in the morning. Gulf Shores is one of the older buildings on the beach, the exterior constructed with a ruby red brickwork, perpetually worn by the sand, the wind, and the water. Barefoot climbs to our second-floor condo always seemed excruciatingly painful, as all the outdoor flooring in the building was coated in a course, beige stucco that would stab into the untouched skin of our adolescent feet, as we darted out the building (for the beach and the conquest of waves) or down echoing hallways (for late night sodas from the vending machines, some of the only reminders of consumerism in this otherwise coastal utopia of youth). The door to Room 204 was always heavy, white, and would creakily sweep the floor as you push it open with extra force. Every time. It was hard not to notice whenever someone came in or out. The words to describe the particular smell of the room have been lost to time now, but you would know them if you stepped inside. I’ve smelled it while dreaming of home. I still do. Now this tiled entryway, regularly dusted with fresh sand from in between toes, stretched forward to the small kitchenette before giving way to a carpet of swirling turquoise and algae-green, encompassing the rest of the place. This carpet was the sea to me in those days, vast and other-worldly, a sign of adventure, beauty, and belonging. On it sat a small, round wooden table with matching chairs: the cutthroat battleground of card games and tequila, or during the day, the dinner table. Two couches and two lounging chairs, all adorned with vibrantly colored fish sewn into the cushions, huddled around a boxy television set from the early 2000’s, where my brothers, cousins, and I would frequently find respite from the day’s activities by watching pirate movies, of course. A few feet from these spaces were two full sized beds, Spanish flamenco dancers swaying in waves tropical yellow and pink on the comforters. Now, it must be known that there were two things of utmost importance hung on the walls here. A large vintage mirror by the dining table, a rectangular curiosity whose border comprised entirely of gluegunned sea shells, every shade of blue and pink. The mirror was my
family’s collective art project, a never-completed work in progress. My family, comprised of dentists and doctors, but also a painter in my mother and an actor in my brother. The second of these eccentricities, The King of Gulf Shores, hung magnificently above the couches. A swordfish of the richest blue and streaked silver, nearly seven feet across, one bulbous taxidermy orb of an eye peering out into nothing. The story of its capture by my late grandfather circulated the condo at least once every summer, my grandmother telling it to hushed baby cousins entranced by its seemingly ancient presence, mounted high on the wall, watching us all grow up before his glassy eyes. There was a balcony. “Sliding” glass doors from 30 years ago led to the small railed space looking out across the beach, the sea, the horizon. I used to watch the miniature silhouettes of ships with their blinking lights travel beyond where the sea turned blue, past gigantic oil rigs in the distance, and fade away. I used to wonder what we looked like from out there. I’m unable to speak of the hurricane. Not for pain of memory, but out of respect for the ones whose lives it capsized. For I live far from the coast, inland, barely escaping the reach of Harvey’s talons. My city had no evacuation, no streets rivers, no submerged homes, no wounds in its flesh. If you’re not aware yet, loss doesn’t care about these things. A week after the storm hit, we heaved the door to 204 open once more. What had once felt full was laid bare. Skeletal. Walls knocked through, all rooms now visible from anywhere you stood, among pieces of furniture strewn about and caught in briny debris. Salt water saturated every inch of the carpet, along with most everything in the condo, permeating the entire place with the smell of the ocean. The dining table, splintered and unrecognizable, didn’t stand a chance in its final battle. The television had taken flight over to the bedroom, leaving shards of obsidian glass trailing behind. The flamenco dancers were torn to shreds. We seemed to keep finding new strips of their bright dresses in unusual spaces the whole day. The whole cloudless day. Now the sun reflected brightly off the gulf, as it does every summer, and came in from the balcony through the smashed-in glass doors. As sunbeams filled the small dark volume of our condo, the mirror’s sea shells glimmered brilliantly across every inch of the ruined carpet. They had become constellations, floating through the vast, treacherous sea of my youth. My grandfather’s swordfish hung where it always has, proudly bearing scars across the grain of its wooden body, unmoving eyes fixed on the horizon.
boy in a shirt
Chrystalla Christodoulou Speaking of the difference between casual and dress shirts, I can’t help but think of how sweet you’d look, sleeves rolled 3 quarters up, your thin smile at prom, waiting for me. But then I remember that you look best when you are slightly annoyed. I don’t know what that means, except that, when we didn’t speak, I fumed at your immaturity, yet adored the slight closing of your eyes, hands locked in pockets, mouth almost turned. I hate school dances, and you have no rhythm. It wouldn’t be much of a date. I don’t know which is best. All I seem to notice, is how any shirt you wear, casual or dress, makes me want to stare and stare.
Sacred Silence Rebecca Darling
Monument Valley is one of the few places left to the Native American community in our country. I experienced some of the greatest peace and stillness hereâ€”so silent, it makes your ears ring. In a world that is constantly inundated with images and sound, this place holds a lesson for all of us, to seek out stillness and savor silence.
Aboard the Titanic Miguel Escoto
I’ve come to terms with the darkness. The quiet is what terrifies me. A 145-pound Rottweiler at the animal shelter sounded like a dying baby rooster because his vocal chords were snipped. Ariel only looked at me funny when I confessed I didn’t know how to bark. I preached that forests would decapitate us all in our sleep so that La Virgen de Guadalupe could sow us back together like a quilt that takes a decrease of 100 carbon dioxide parts per million to finish. Finish line. Track season starts as soon as semi-rifles pop in vecindades across the border, where the people that grow our corn tortillas live. Stop asking why Speedy Gonzalez doesn’t talk pretty and start making fun of the guys in suits. Bathing suits. On account of flooding, beach clothing sales will increase by 300% by the year 2075. He’s 75. Tito is my grandpa and he sweats more than I do. He rides motorcycles more than I do and his hands are more calloused than mine. Daniel studies Quantum Physics at Harvard, so one day I’ll use his time-machine to travel back to Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico; January 22, 1959. I vow to be the one in history that teaches Tito how to change a tire and ride a motorcycle. Plugged into the machine, I’d probably change my mind at the last second though (—like that Thursday before the party when I tried to buy my first case of beer and told the cashier I was 21 when my fake I.D. claimed I was 22). Southampton, Hampshire, England; April 10, 1912 and buying my ticket to board the RMS Titanic. That’s where I’d end up. Why? Because someone has to scream “iceberg” into Capitan E. J. Smith’s white beard only to be dismissed as a Chinese conspiracy, only to be 20, only to sound like a dying baby rooster, only to be quiet.
Miguel Escoto I sign up to be your scape impala, you lioness. But only you, your highness. “I’ll race ya,” you’ll say, basking in the sun, asking me to run, run a mile ‘n’ three quarters, face up, slowing down only once I’ve passed our location, an Umbrella Thorn Acacia. The last thing I want is your mercy when you’re driving your stiletto claws into my chest. Last time, I needed open heart surgery and paid the veterinarian a finance option with too-high of an interest. Remember Lafayette? Three cigarettes, a poker bet, and that brunette, Annette. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Name one worthwhile memory that didn’t include broken skin, sore throats, and debt. Fuck the giraffes. They don’t know what we’ve been through. Too much oxygen in their face leads them to think straight. I’d much rather beg for your curves, cry for your nerves, moan for your paws, and sweat for your jaws. Demised and reborn. When you aim at me with those feline eyes, my horns become your steering wheel—drive with power, lust, and zeal.
Love Poem No. 2: Sucker Slap Miguel Escoto
“Smell my armpit” you said after I handed you a bouquet of Hot Cheetos instead of roses. That night you taught me how to walk straight with my eyes closed. You picked me up when I crashed into light posts, ambition, or temptation. It was like getting to know you all over again. I was sure you wouldn’t slap me in the face when I asked you to. The fact that you did gave me hope.
Mankind is a Woman Miguel Escoto
I’ve gotten used to the taste of dehydrated fruits and the frosty touch of this vehicle’s windows. Exploration of my woman is not for the faint-hearted. Her desires are the ripple effects of supernova explosions, star funerals that wake her up each morning. Her dreams are the edge, expanding infinitely since the big bang celebrated its first breath of existence. Her culture is radioactive residue, left behind by birth and scattered between vastness of planets. Her opinions are the constellations, crafted by laws of physics and destiny. They’re the reason there’s a difference between nothingness and the color black. Suddenly, I could feel the fear of traveling at light years/second. I reached out my hands—palms up, shaking, and sweaty. When she smiled, the gravity of her universe sunk my heart into humility. As dangerous as it is comforting As terrifying as it is beautiful: I love her. I love her. I love her with ambition from the refrigerated cabin of my spacecraft.
The Seven Billion Breadhandlers Miguel Escoto
Have you stared into the eyes of a panhandler for more than five seconds? When you go to sleep that day, their pupils blossom amidst the deserts of your nightmares. “Pan” means “bread” in Spanish, did you know? Somewhere in a language we no longer speak, “charity” means “nutrition.” I clean up their forgotten trash on misty Saturday mornings. Nests made of landfill, buried in city park forests. This was where they lived for a few passionate moments. This was where they stayed, an encampment of their own debris. I see a dusty mattress, a makeshift tent. Bottles of beer that are missing elixir but filled with black rainwater and nature’s regret. Here, plastics make love to the soil without the roots’ permission. There is a shoe with no sole, and a flip-phone without a battery. A blanket so seasoned that moss keeps it warm. Dirty syringes with needles that I rubbed onto rocks until there was no point to it at all, until there was no point to it anymore. I rubbed out of protection, I rubbed out of fear, I rubbed out of affection, I rubbed for a year. A tin can with spiders in it. A paper bag and some socks. Beneath a pillow consisting of newspaper bits and cigarette butts, I found the scribbled note. It smelled of liquor, fermented from tears. It said “Don’t think I left you because I was angry. Can we meet up A$AP? I am scared, lost, and alone.” and the author was unknown. It was humanity
without a home. This was the only thing I didn’t place in the huge, elastic trash bag I brought with me that weekend. I folded up the piece of carton and ran until dusk to bury it in a community garden. Will our Father go to sleep that day? Do we even have the roots to bloom? Do you think He’ll have an appetite for the moldy bread we offer? I wonder how long He’ll stare into the eyes of the very last one of us, after all the floods and the fires, after the wars and the desires. May this page be the seed—a piece of carton and regret. May it be planted in a garden and grown into a new beginning by the One that comes after us with huge, elastic trash bags and pity.
Verde Canyon Miguel Escoto
The train rumbled in jolts bumpier than the rocky facade that surrounded us tourists. We slithered like a curious rattlesnake through the cracks of Verde Canyon, Arizona. High definition cameras as fangs. Humans as venom; venom as strength. The family caravan totaled a 21-person head-count. The type of bunch that gave waiters headaches. For a few minutes, I thought our laughter was more powerful than the coal that burned the locomotive’s engine into ignition. When I heard Grandmother speak, I held no doubt. The railroad hugged a corner, and hid the sun from us. Like the cool side of the pillow the canyon spirits sleep on, the shadowed mountain kissed my cheeks until my skin was crisp and my breaths were clean. On our way back to the station, the outdoor cabin rode into a pitch-black tunnel and we pretended that bats flapped their wings in front of our faces. These were the few seconds of relief where grownups acted like kids and kids acted like they were in Disneyland. By sunset we all fell asleep on each other’s shoulders and wondered in our dreams. We wondered why the passionately red slope looked like the crumbled-up sheet of paper you leave in a backpack for an entire semester, why the mountain wasn’t immune to
oxidation, when water became as violent as dynamite, and how we managed to stick together after all these years; but we never bothered to find out when we woke up. Some mysteries are best left within canyons.
Kristyn Garza It is He who cannot be held at bay. Life is leached. Fires rage. Ash rains down upon the land. The Beast growls and the world decays. His breath billows a fog of grey. His malodorous stench of sulfur and liquor, impossible to withstand. It is He who cannot be held at bay. He snarls and barks, so drunk on storms that I have no choice but to obey. His mind unravels with every swig of sin, until there’s nothing left but a tiny strand. The Beast growls and the world decays. Any hint of fear or tremble when I rasp could result in my own doomsday. His fury, his pain, his thunderous roars hit me like a backhand. It is He who cannot be held at bay. He comes home every day, swaying, smelling foul like an ashtray. I am always an easy target for his rage—so meek and weak—to command. The Beast growls and the world decays. My father, still is He, who tears and rips and flays me with his savage tools of cruelty, brutality, inhumanity in hand. It is He who cannot be held at bay. The Beast growls and the world decays.
The Ruler of Love Kristyn Garza
Eros, in his austere and lonely temples, slowly is driven mad with bitter joy; joy in the misery of lovesick dogs. Darkly, he laughs as they chase their tails in a never-ending cycle. He watches the males adroitly coax their potential mates, whispering soft promises and gifts in abundance, which he knows to be a farce. Alas, he cannot see the beauty in that which he guards so dear. Peering through the heavens, he merely sees a vision, a dark and abstract version of mortal joy. He watches the females, in their circumspect and pliable way, pour their hearts out in earnest ostensible desire. Bored, he is, of this joyous scene, and so he succinctly creates a struggle; a war of some other, whether mental or not, spreads like a bloom made of pure crimson. He hears the cries of those broken mortal hearts as if they were palpable. He smiles at this, the misery of those below, for he is defunct; a dark soul in a husk of an ancient body. It is he who is to be held accountable for all tragedies mortals call love. He who has the heart as dark as night and soul as black as onyx. He the king. He the god. He the ruler of love.
Through My Grandfather’s Eyes & A Plane Aisle Samuel Griffith
My grandfather spits over crystal glasses of red wine, a joke. Something about a man in a train wanting to sit. Something about a woman who wouldn’t move from her seat. Something about a bitch being a bitch. It’s quiet. We’ve stopped running our gravy licked fingers over those crystal glasses, and force out guttural laughs, replacing the melodies we tried to make. Our eyes scan across the room we wish was bigger. His eyes are lit, like fire. Squirming in our confined chairs, we are rooted in our seats and he is rooted in his. On a flight from St. Louis to Austin I sit next to a baby girl. She has eyes like her lap keeper who cries as we take off, and cries as we land, because for a brief moment, it might have felt like she wouldn’t become rooted in what is now growing below. I wonder what it would be like to sit in that plane 15 months later. To see that mother, and that baby girl, to know that she is rooted in something else.
Robert, The Love, in the Morning Chloe Halstead
I strive to create work that bleeds with intense emotion. Whatever I feel, my art reflects. To me, my art is a chronicle of an ever-evolving individual who discovers new facets of themselves.
Clara Ewert Profile Rebeccah Hoffmann
“I have a lot of passions as a person, and I kind of realized that photography was a really great potential way to bridge a lot of my different passions, because it’s just so relatable to everything I do and I really love that idea.” Senior photocommunications major, Clara Ewert said, while working on her senior thesis. For Ewert’s senior thesis she used an alternative printing processes from the 19th century. Ewert used her own negatives, and then printed over them with her fathers. Using her own negatives, she created platinum palladium prints, Platinum which are grayscale prints that have one of the longest tonal range of any process. After creating the platinum prints she then put a Cyanotype blue scale print of her father’s negatives over her print. “I found out about alternative processes because my dad did it before he died, and the people that he worked with I ended up interning with this past summer. I learned how to platinum print with them, and something about it was more magical for me than black and white film.” Ewert expressed how she loved the idea of putting her image down, and then putting her fathers on top but in a physical way, “ I’m a big fan of the process,” She expressed. “I shot the film, developed the film, I scanned in the film, I spotted the film, I printed the digital negative, let it sit for 12 hours, made mock prints, and then made final prints.” Ewert found her passion for photography during her freshman year. Halfway through freshman year she realized the class she enjoyed the most was photography. “I grew up with my dad photographing, but didn’t get into it for myself until college. I came here and wanted to minor in photo since I had been travelling and photographing, and I really enjoyed that.” She went on to take courses such as History of Photography and Large Camera, which went on to become two of her favorite courses she has taken. “Working with larger formats of film allowed me to get bigger negatives, which allowed for more detail, and it was just so slow and so cumbersome and that was where I really fell in love with photography seriously, and wanted to do it for the rest of my life because I love how slow it is.” Ewert is interested in archiving, and expressed how she would like to archive her father’s work in the future. Even after completing her senior thesis, she explained how there is still so much more that can be done to her project. “I don’t feel like this body of work is by any means finished, I have literally scratched the surface. I have so many more negatives of his to go through and I have so many more combinations.”
Natural Beauty Amanda Markoe
“Natural Beauty” uses double-exposure to create ghost-like images that combine my love of art and nature. These are two elements that don’t often go together; I wanted to create feelings of confusion as the viewer starts to see the fashionable ghosts that inhabit these pictures. The mannequins and beautiful clothes on them are from the exhibit “The Glamour and Romance of Oscar de la Renta,” which was featured at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The exquisite beauty in the detail of these gowns mesmerized me, as does the detail in nature. The natural images in these photos are from some of my favorite places on Earth, ranging everywhere from St. Edward’s to Australia.
I am not now myself at all Daniel Matteson
Broken glass twinkles like Christmas lights, illuminated by passing carsâ€™ red and orange glow. Your kiss burned like a cigarette on my tongue. Now, my bones are brittle, they crack with every movement (so I just stay motionless in bed). Thoughts pile up like the dirty dishes in my sink (like the dirty clothes in my hamper). Thoughts pile up like the layer of plaque on my teeth as I slowly decompose. Broken glass twinkles like Christmas lights, and I cringe when remembering my pseudo-poetic adolescent musings. It makes me sick that I ever thought of you as anything other than abusive. I am not now myself at all. I am not now myself at all. I am not now myself at all. I am but a ghost of a reflection: a pale mutation, a perversion of what was. I am scar tissue. I am adult teeth. I am broken glass strewn across the highway, twinkling like christmas lights. I am not now myself at all, and I wonder if I ever was.
My self was stunted by that violent tongue (that tongue whoâ€™s kiss burns like a cigarette). That vile, violent tongue, forming words like the poetâ€™s pen, but with the ill will and shear power of a fucking tornado. I am not now myself at all. I am not now myself at all. I am not now myself at all, but someday I will be and I will laugh.
IMG_8047.jpg Daniel Matteson
Frustration is a Bracelet Gavin C Quinn
Worn to start the day, because it’s habit. You could try a day without the bracelet, but the phantom feel fills the pores of your skin. Its light-wooden-brown beads can be pulled and stretched in infinite directions, but cannot burst. You test this in doctors’ waitingrooms when diagnoses become ghosts that join your silhouette. You picture the beads, scattered, filling every corner of every sterile room you’ve ever sat in. These days the beads look more metal. The edges cuff and tear at your wrists. The links feel more like a chain, always pulling you towards the earth, reminding, This is where you came from. This is where you will return. This is where you will always stay.
Pink-Tinted Goggles Jessica Rose
The incessant tapping on her bedroom window lulled Willard from her dream. It had been a good dream too. Full of fancy men from Harbortown, with their perfectly kept beards and tweed jackets. A screech interrupted the tapping, making one of her green eyes pop open. She groaned as she reached up and knocked on the window with a small fist. “I’m up, I’m up,” Willard groaned in response. She sat up slowly and stretched before looking out her window. The large head of a griffin was blocking her view of the yard. It’s golden feathers shone in the morning light of the sun, beak black as pitch as it came crashing gently against the glass. Large blue eyes blinked back at her expectantly. Willard let a huff as she opened the window. “Roscoe, I had at least another hour of sleep before it was completely necessary for me to get up,” Willard said in greeting. Roscoe chirped before grabbing at her long red hair with his beak. He pulled, getting a squawk of protest as Willard swatted at him. “Okay, Mr. Impatient Pants. Give me fifteen minutes and we will head out.” Roscoe screeched as he bounced away from her window, the combination of his large paws and flapping wings, making dust dance into the air. She watched him for a moment, always amazed at how fast he was growing. He had been so small when he picked her during the Griffin Choosing so many years ago. She had been a bystander, not even one in the running to be chosen, when Roscoe had pranced into the crowd of onlookers, twice as small as his brothers and sisters, and had saddled up to her. There were murmurs of surprise and disapproval in the crowd, but no one was to go against a griffin’s natural instinct to choose a rider. But never had the daughter of a lowly blacksmith been chosen before. A sharp rumble went through her abdomen, drawing her attention away from the froliking griffin to her empty stomach. Willard couldn’t remember the last time she’d had something substantial to eat. She swung her legs off the side of the bed and stood. Roscoe had been right in waking her. The quicker they got going the better bounty they would earn. More money, more food
as her dad used to say.
**** The town center of Wreath was bustling with people on their way to work. Autumn had set in early in the small town, the cobblestone streets littered with leaves of yellow, red, orange and brown. The air was filled with the sounds of blacksmith’s hammers, villagers hawking their different wares, the whinnies and clacking of mounts, and the giggles of children. The crisp scent of snow rode in on the cool breeze, mixing with the stench of manure and burning iron. The mountain peaks that surrounded the valley were covered in a fresh fall of snow already and Willard couldn’t help but think that she wished autumn would have held off a little longer this year. Bounty had been slow as the game moved on or got hunted down to small numbers. It didn’t help that she was not only the youngest hunter in the village of nine-hundred, but was the only female as well. Being a female bounty hunter became some unspoken taboo. Never a law, but unacceptable all the same. Willard could swing the blacksmith’s hammer just as good as the best in the ten villages, but it wasn’t what she loved doing. It didn’t call to her like adventure and danger of the bounty hunter did. Plus, Roscoe would have been as miserable as she would have been if they were forced to stay in a forge all day making weapons and armor for others, but never adventuring themselves. Her fellow bounty hunters made sure she was unwelcome, only ever giving the scraps of what was left, and there just hadn’t been as many bounties as there had been the year prior. If Willard didn’t get a good bounty soon, she wasn’t sure how her and Roscoe would survive the winter. Willard trudged along, black-booted feet dragging across the cobblestones as she made her way further into Wreath. She pulled her worn, blue wool jacket closer to her person as she buried her face into the popped collar to try and block out the cold morning wind. Roscoe chirped happily beside her, wings tucked against his side and back. His rogue tail swung behind him, every now and then smacking against a passersby. It seemed to amuse him when they looked back angrily, a rattle leaving his broad chest every time. It amused Willard too, though she never would admit it. It did not take long before they stood outside Mae’s Wares
and Bounties. It was a seedy establishment, the wood paneling bleached and cracked from too much rain and sun. Deep green vines grew up the left side of the building, crawling up and over onto the front and under the red clay shingles on the roof. The shop sign was made of dragonwood, the light purple of the wood contrasting with the snarling wolf head carved into its surface. A man in a black cloak was leaning against the front of the building, his tall frame muscular in that way that told you he had probably wrestled a bog troll and won. His dark, greasy hair was slicked back in a neat bun at the back of his head and a cigarette hung from his mouth, two puffs away from meeting its end by the sole of his boot. The silver hilt of his greatsword was visible over his shoulder, blue stones decorating the hand guard. “Hey Archie,” Willard said, one hand coming up in a small wave. She let her face dip down further into the confines of her collar as she felt the heat of a blush work its way up her neck and to her freckled cheeks. Roscoe had no reservations of his affections becoming and made his way up to the man. Archie accepted the griffin with a soft smile and started scratching Roscoe in his favorite spot, right under his beak. “You’re a little late this morning. You get lost?” Archie inquired, his Northern accent thick and inviting. Willard swallowed as she hesitated, thinking of the right thing to say. She may have dreamed of the boys from Harbortown at night, but it was the man in front of her that made her heart jump and speed, as if it were a hummingbird caught in her chest. “In my dreams, I suppose,” She said, feeling her cheeks inflame at his soft chuckle. Willard cleared her throat in attempt to rid herself of her embarrassed panic. “Can you watch him for me?” Archie said nothing, just nodded in recognition as she continued inside. The shop was stuffed with products, the shelves overflowing with books and tomes and any remedy one could think of. Ropes of garlic and dried eels hung from the ceiling, the vines from outside creeping across the beams of the ceiling. Open barrels lined the wall farthest from the entrance, javelins and tridents, electronets and wooden staffs jutted out the top. Willard reached up and yanked two eels from their hooks as she headed for the counter. The woman looked up from her book and smiled
cheekily at Willard, teeth stained brown from root. “Well, well, look who the cat dragged in,” the woman said in a sing song voice, mocking Willard as she flopped the eels onto the wooden counter. “Do you like them?” Willard was confused for a moment as she looked at the shopkeeper. Then she noticed. Somehow her chest, which had been as flat as a washboard the day before, was now spilling out of the bodice of her red dress. Willard’s nose wrinkled. If there was something Mae was going to get a magical procedure done to change, it only seemed logical to Willard that it would have been the woman’s teeth. But, then again, no one ever accused Mae of being logical. “They are...” Willard hesitated for a moment, her brow furrowing as she struggled to find the right response. “Massive?” Mae snorted. “All the boys said they liked them.” “Mae, if you had horns sticking out of your forehead all the boys would still like you. It’s been that way since we were five.” Mae pursed her lips as she nodded her head in unconscious agreement. “That’s true. What can I do you for today, Willie?” “I need a bounty.” “There isn’t much left after all...” Willard held up a hand, stopping her. “Whatever you have. Please.” Without breaking eye contact, Mae ripped the last bounty out of her book and slapped it onto the counter. Willard took it, eyes going wide as she began to read. “You know, Willie, if you got here a little earlier then you wouldn’t be left with the leftovers,” Mae said. “Maybe if...kelpie! Are you out of your fucking mind, Mae!” Willard shouted as she looked back over at the shop keeper. “Don’t be dramatic, Willie. Besides,” Mae said as she reached across the counter and flicked at the goggles hanging around Willard’s neck with a dirty fingernail. “You got those antiglamour goggles. They’ll keep you from becoming a thrall.” Willard shivered at the very thought. She had seen what being caught in the glamour of the fae did to a person, how they became nothing my mindless tools for the creature who caught
them. “That’s besides the point,” Willard argued. “The Loch is in troll territory. That shit is dangerous. Can’t you give me a Brownie round up or...or...a fairy habitat destruction? Just anything besides this.” “Look Willie,” Mae said. “Kelpie scales are going for 100 gold a pound right now and their ears and 50 gold each. If you can snag one, you’ll be set for winter.” “If they’re worth so much, why didn’t the guys take it?” “They all gots families and the trolls are a real issue.” Willard went to protest again, but Mae cut in, leaving the words stuck in the redhead’s mouth. “It’s the only thing I got left. Take it or leave it.” Willard’s eyes narrowed as she grabbed her eels and the piece of paper and headed for the barrels at the back of the store. She yanked one of the electronets out and dragged it behind her as she headed for the door. “Put it on my tab,” Willard grumbled over her shoulder. “That’s going to be twelve days of you shoveling horse stalls!” Mae yelled, the slam of the door cutting her off as Willard made her way into the street. Willard came to a halt in front of the store, an excited chirp and the scrapping of a wooden bowl drawing her attention. Roscoe was excitedly eating chunks of raw meat in a large wooden bowl, Archie nowhere to be found. **** Fog engulfed the Loch, the dense mass of moisture flirting with the glass smooth surface of the water. It was bluer than normal. Royal blue instead of that faded cornmeal color it tended to be on its best days. The tall foxtail weeds stood stock still against the jagged shoreline, like sentinels lying in wait. The cold, crisp air carried the tiniest hint of algae from the large kelp bed that lie just underneath the surface. The blue heron were gone, only the ghostly prints left on the beige sand of the shore. Not even a splash, not even a ripple. Just blue glass under an unsettling Mist. “Crap,” Willard whispered as she looked out on the lake. It was unnerving and the thick woods just beyond that seemed to swallow any light that dare stray to close made it even
worse. There were beasts in those woods, trolls worst of all. She felt a nudge at her shoulder before the stench of raw meat crept into her nose. She looked back over her shoulder at Roscoe and smiled softly. She turned and ruffled the feathers at his throat. He cooed in appreciation before butting her in the forehead with his own. She laughed slightly before swatting him away. Willard turned back toward the lake then, dropping her bag next to her feet. She imagined a small green canoe before thrusting her hand into the depths of the bag. She found purchase and began to pull, digging her heels into the grass as she dragged the canoe from the bag. With a huff, she threw the bag and the electronet into the canoe. “Now, Roscoe, I want you to circle around as I get the prize, okay? Look out for any danger. Scream if you see something.” He squawked in acknowledgement before he turned and leapt into the air, his long claws ripping out chunks of grass. Willard watched him for a moment. He was so graceful and fast, even for his small size. She couldn’t wait until he was big enough to ride. The thought always sent butterflies through her stomach. One day. With an exhale of breath to steady her nerves, she dragged the canoe to the shore line. The tip of the canoe broke the surface, ripples spreading further into the lake. Movement caught Willards attention. The top of the horse head broke the surface, green mane spilling out from the white body. Red eyes watched her. She pulled her goggles on and pushed herself out into the lake. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end as she approached the beast, her breath coming faster as she tried to calm herself. Willard took a quick look to the sky to check on Roscoe before focusing on her bounty. It hadn’t moved, its red gaze trying to pierce through the power of the goggles to get her willingly to jump into the water. Kelpies were nasty beasts, luring their prey to them, but she knew just the trick to get it coming to her. Willard pulled one of her gloves off, bringing her small knife to her palm and striking the flesh. Blood flowed from the opening. Willard made a fist as she held it over the open water. The Kelpie’s ears perked forward, nostrils flaring as the first drop of blood broke the glass surface of the loch. The world stilled
around her as she waited. One second. Two. Then in a flash, the beast was moving toward her, head fully exposed. Mouth agape, she could see the rows of razor sharp teeth inside, decayed and treacherous. Willard reeled her arm back, grabbing for the electronet at her side. If she didn’t time it perfectly, she would end up in the water, eaten, or worse, a mindless thrall. A terrified skwak filled the meadow, followed by the quick succession of snapping trees. Willard watched as a troll came crashing from the woods, the roar chilling her to the bone as it headed right for Roscoe. “Ros...” She started, her words cutting off as the boat tipped violently as the kelpie crashed into the side. Her foot tangled in the net as she scrambled to find her footing. She took one last sharp breath of panic before she pitched sideways. Willard crashed into the water, the sound being swallowed by her fear. She sank down into the murky depths, struggling to free herself from the net. And as the kelpie swam into view, mouth wide, she could only hope that Roscoe knew to fly away to safety.
Regrowth Sierra Rozen
Sunlight streaming in through the blinds. The smell of growth wafting into my nose. Bare feet hopping from tile to tile, carefree. The plants are turning up their faces, happy to feel alive again. Do I feel the same? Does my rebirth count? Or should I call it regrowth? My petals falling off and then reappearing. A new season, one filled with sun and breeze and tinkling laughter. One where the sunrise feels like a blissful hello and the sunset feels like a tender goodbye. One where my skin finally feels like it fits the body it was put on. A season where my apologies feel natural instead of forced. One where they are not coerced out of me. One where happy becomes constant instead of a fleeting feeling.
2 AM Trip to CVS
C. J. Shaleesh
the soul of an insomniac inhabiting the shelter beneath my skin knows not where I am but where I will end fog ridden street lamps on a misting night soothes like a horror film in the moments when the audience is anticipating death this lulling scene continues until streets intersect wrapped in an intimate embrace all hours of the day constantly interrupted by childish streetlights sticking their tongues out at viewers licking their eyes with vicious orders unveiled in each of their pixelated taste buds red green yellow stop go pause (your life) no matter the order no matter which direction I go they all lead to the same place a CVS at the end of the street a place of comfort providing me with what I need any time of the day perfect for a person like me who just canâ€™t seem to sleep
January 28th C. J. Shaleesh
This day has come. It’s the sixth year since you left. And It will not just pass. And I can’t sleep through its existence. I want to be cemented to the bench that bears your name, holding a bouquet of gardenias and lavender, your favorite scents, let the mutant mosquitoes of Port Arthur eat me away, and stare at the mausoleum where you lay. I can’t go in. I tried once, crumbled in front of you, and would have died, hyperventilating, choking on exasperating grief, if someone else hadn’t come in. Six years ago, The bundle of people who were also saying goodbye to the body in your box, the body that looked nothing like you, (That body was too thin, had too much makeup on in a yellow and white skirt suit, something you’d never be caught in.) tried to comfort me and say the typical, It will get easier with time. It never did.
My heart did not gain a simple splinter when you passed away, a splinter that could be grown over or pumped away. Nor was it a fissure, whose erosion could be patched up. My heart became more like a deflated balloon with a hole cut out of it then was blown into, as if it had a chance of ever becoming inflated again. But now, after so many years have passed with me feeling incomplete without you, everyday, I have finally come a little closer to accepting that I will just have to continue on until the day we can meet to say hello again, instead of me having to live with this one sided goodbye.
Brandished Generosity Dane Shannon
Brandished Generosity What compensation can I offer for your calm magenta smile when I clopped, like a two-toed fawn, and blustered into your humming Sunday? Whoops! I might be a horned owl making such a noise. A dupe with my glasses, my professor’s shoulders, my craned double take, and other things I’m too shy to name with so many pigeons watching. Pardon me, but I’ll offer coffee or lunch…we’ll walk together the next mile. I’ll just give you a hand. It’s warm from drugstore gloves and soup-drinking and loneliness. Since I shoved over your morning, please take it. No, you say through charming gaps among your teeth. Ah, I already knew. You’re too kind, too magnanimous, too gracious to take up any of my compensations.
Conversing with my Frontal Lobe Dane Shannon
Conversing with my Frontal Lobe You told me we were fabricated from mystical spells and carbon aortas, woven together and welded alive by rays of innocent life, purely prismed into Mr. Roy G. Biv’s winking coat of arms, against which shattered the black and white weapons of common ambition—the force that pulls each mighty oak high into the wide and blue until it spills its shadows over the soil and earth from whose womb it was birthed —whose nitrogenous pools, death-rich and sweet, every oak root continues to drink, drink, and drain. The idealist in me raised a rebel fist, gesturing approval while I just wondered what you meant. You told me we were studying to determine “good” from “evil” as my mother always could from her biblical textbooks, until we became a walking, talking crucible of day and night, battling or denying the darkened sky as if it were we (not the Earth) who turned away our face from the one and only sun. The philosopher in me began to scribble notes and theories and arguments while I just wondered what you meant. You told me we were striking down the cancerous bug of judgement who infested and destroyed these flowerless gardens because it knew they grew its cure. The altruist in me (ironically self-righteous) confidently concurred with a curt nod while I just wondered what you meant. You told me I was extraordinary— “special” —since my mind had been pried open by disorder and invaded by a galaxy of words (whose solar flares
scorched mere matter into smoky surrealism and ashy abstractions only my own eyes could ever read). Even with no clarity on what was what reality, my eye could deviate and dilate like a serpent breaking its own jaw to swallow the truth whole, while the world dissected and tore it into bits and bits.
The artist in me reveled, producing a tear of satisfaction, while I just wondered what in the real world you meant. Now you tell me these words were always my own â€”whispers softly slipping through the colander network of neurons that was always my own in the volatile voice of nonsensical reasoning that was always my own and that we are one: one lunatic maniacally braying at the moon in the widely forsaken name of the written word. You say all this dreaming, this conjecture, this spirituality, this art, and all this poetry was always just me, scheming for ways to paint myself into the world and draw myself out from this homemade hell of lifelong isolation and mandatory silence: side effects of personality disorders like ours. Ahâ€Ś we know exactly what we mean.
Last Day at the Office Dane Shannon
Last Day at the Office Will you sign my card? Come on, just for fun. Thanks. Here’s a pen. We’re not that close, but still. I remember when your macaw died. I wanted to give you my chai tea. You looked cold. But I didn’t give you anything because coworkers just don’t. Like when your son’s tooth came in two years ago. I haven’t heard a peep about the kid since, but I know he’s got healthy chompers, right? Do you not want this pen? I’ll find another. Is your aunt still in the hospital? Was it lupus or Crohn’s? Oh, sorry. It is personal. I didn’t mean to pry. Well, how’s the caterpillar situation on your tomato vines? Still chewing holes in the stems? When I was twelve, my brother took scissors out to our garden when he found a caterpillar infestation, and he—well, never mind. It’s gross. Thanks for the card. Wow. You’ve got some fancy penmanship. But this is just your name. Come on, why not write something else, like, “Good times hardly working,” or “These… these are the old days we’ll talk about tomorrow,” or “Take care,” or something. You seem busy. I’ll just see you around. Maybe. I hope so.
Mansion of Red Brick Dane Shannon
Mansion of Red Brick Every night’s a new affair (a private party, invitation only) for some playboy fucker to get to know her in her mansion of red brick. They’ll dance in the foyer, lit by the moon (the only light she’ll ever trust) and all the warmth she’ll ever need can come from lusty flames like him. She’ll flounce to the cellars, well-stocked with wine (labels all the rarest) then pour him a glass in the classiest way. When his eyes glaze with hunger and stray to her breasts she’ll lead him upstairs to a wide-open door and a king-sized bed of crimson satin (soft enough to sink and drown) that swells her dingy, musk-enveloped room. If he’s wise he’ll see beyond her willing body and her spread, to the mansion’s features, begging to be read. He’ll realize why the bath, so steamy, hot and deep, draws for two, while the separate shower sits to run cold for only one. He’ll find the false bottoms in her drawers and see through keyholes on her long-locked pinewood doors. But he’s a foolish superficial stud caught-up in throbbing flesh and blood, and she knows it well, she put him there.
They’ll use each other. He’ll up-and-leave her. She’ll dust it off as she always does. Then she’ll send another invitation to any warm body able to come. She used to keep an eye out and a beating sleeve for love, until she realized even Daddy wouldn’t stick. So now she’s taken over the estate the bastard left her, hosting nightly private parties in her mansion of red brick.
Runaways in Quarry Hill, TX Dane Shannon
Runaways in Quarry Hill, TX Not so pleasant in the follyville streets and the blighted creeks of old rando-man park. But with comradery? We tribe on. Unwashed ears, commando asses, bellies so lean they might be not-bellies over Neverland loins. Back in June, a woman left her trunk open, spoiled with groceries. We’re hobos, not criminals now, so we borrowed a carton of eggs. The right idea was a hardboiled night. But we yanked out the yolks and drew a flurry of 666s under two Quarry Pass bridges. We hobbled the next morning, the devil growling in our guts. But no one cried. We’d rather be angry than not-hungry. We’d rather go hungry than home.
The Priest Will Help Me Dream of Angels Dane Shannon
The Priest Will Help Me Dream of Angels It’s a pinch of pure heroin. It’s the canvas finding its soulmate pattern. Then—being stolen, then recovered, then forgotten in a warehouse corner like a bad poem— it relapses into mediocrity, full of crickets. It’s my only cat’s glass eye— not the one in his face, but stuck in his throat like a frog—until no one is looking. Then it becomes a real eye, swallowed in stiff purring. It’s Black Friday, horning over a shy Saturday to be mismatched and married to a pearly pink Sunday. It’s Saturday crying alone in its pillow the next week. It all makes about as much sense as fog afraid to clear—because clearing is how fog dies. We all prefer to thicken and swallow our own little world.
I’ve been called to see the One-More-Time-Man by the Waiting-Around-Man, who works with the In-Between-Man. The One-More-Time-Man recommends confession and it must be in person. No phoning it in this time. I show up early—because I’m All-Too-Eager-to-Please-Man. “What dream were you having?” he asks. I can’t say. “Your lip is stained with clovers?” I tell him that’s hereditary. “Who turned your wings to dust, my Angel?” That would be me, I’m afraid. “Shall I wake you?” Yes please, Father. “A little pinch, dear child.” As I said: pure heroin.
Logan Stallings Maggie, Della, Tallulah, and me went flower-hunting in the mornings. We’d be flower-hunting while breakfast cooked over the campfire. “Honey, mind the time and the thorn bushes,” Daddy said when he gave me his heavy scuba watch. “Be back by 9:50, alright?” I nodded. We walked single file away from the campsite, following the skinny dirt path that cut through the tall grass waving in the crisp morning breeze like rippling water. The smell of our campfire breakfast as it cooked wafted down to us on that same breeze. We walked sure footed on the soft dirt trail. The goal was to gather the prettiest wildflower bouquet and then compare at breakfast, but we weren’t competitive. It wasn’t a race. We helped each other find the flowers we needed and sometimes we traded them too. “And, Honey, don’t touch the Bull Nettle,” Daddy had said, and I had nodded. He always told me the plants not to touch. I could spot poison sumac a mile off. Tallulah was the first the Bull Nettle caught. None of our bouquets had any white flowers. It was taller than other wildflowers. Tallulah picked it and we were halfway back to the campsite when she started crying. She threw down her bouquet, and I saw her hands were red and splotchy, tiny hairlike thorns poked into her fingers and palms. I felt guilt rise in my belly. I hadn’t known Bull Nettle could blossom. “Everyone listen, please,” Daddy said at breakfast. He was always hike-leader. He could spot rattlesnake holes a mile off. “Listen, girls, don’t touch the white flowers. They’re Bull Nettle.” Tallulah’s daddy sat with her across the campfire, a magnifying glass over her swollen hands. He was using tweezers to pull out the tiny thorns. The next day when we went flower-hunting, Tallulah wore cloth on her hands like the kind they wrap mummies in. Maggie was next to pick the Nettle, and Della shortly after. Maggie found the tall blossom with the white petals, and picked it. It was off the trail, and I didn’t follow because of my
bare feet and the thorn bushes that confined me, so I didn’t see it up close. I didn’t see her pick it. I would have stopped her because now I know Bull Nettle has blossoms, but Tallulah watched Maggie pick it and didn’t say a word. Soon Maggie was crying, but not before Della found a white blossom to match. That time, I saw it, and I told Della not to, but she said this one was different. Didn’t I see that the leaves were different and the flower not at all the same? I told her it was Bull Nettle, but she picked it anyway. That breakfast, Daddy helped pick the thorns out of Della’s and Maggie’s hands with the tweezers and the magnifying glass. He told me how good I was to listen to him and how smart I was to know better. He said Bull Nettle’s a mean tricky plant. He said Bull Nettle that blossoms is the meanest kind. The next day, Tallulah, Maggie and Della all had mummy hands, and I lead the way down the path, holding Daddy’s scuba watch. We picked beautiful bouquets. I helped when the flowers were too hard for their mummy hands to pick. Then, we saw a tiny white blossom. We all stood around it, prayerfully watching it sway. I hadn’t gotten so close to a Bull Nettle blossom before, so I didn’t realize how pretty they could be. The others didn’t stop me. “Go on,” Tallulah murmured, and Della and Maggie watched steadily. They wanted me to pick it, and my hands didn’t hurt at first. Halfway back to the campsite the tears started down my cheeks. It still didn’t hurt. We got back, and Daddy saw me crying. “Honey, why’d you do that?” Daddy asked, seeing the white blossom in my swelling hands. “I don’t know why I did it,” I said, and my hands were on fire. I still clenching the Bull Nettle blossom and Daddy’s heavy scuba watch. Tallulah, Maggie, and Della stood watching, their mummy hands gently holding beautiful white bouquets.
Bailey Stephens The moonlight breaking through the balcony doors splashed off the bed and put the whole room in a hue of soft blue. The girl fell back lightly on the bed and studied her room. Her long hair fell around her and touched the floor. Her hair was ebony black with a bluish tint that fell in waves. The bedroom had soft, cream-colored walls with a canopy bed and other dark-wooded pieces. An oversized armchair was snuggled in the corner. The canopy bed had thick light pink drapes drawn back around the high posts. A soft tap on balcony doors drew her attention. The doors had heavily frosted glass with an ivy metal design. Outside, the doors led out to a sculpted cement balcony that was only a few feet wide. She stood from her bed and stared at the glass doors. She only ever had one visitor. Her dark hair fell in a huff. A dark shape was huddling very closely to the door. She hurried to the door with steps as quiet as breath, her hair swishing behind her. She tapped the secret code out on the glass, the code she had memorized as a child.
Tippity, tippity, tap.
The figure raised a gnarled hand and shakenly it rapped lightly.
Tap, Tap, Tap.
She heard a delicate whisper, “Rapunzel…”. The girl sighed with relief and reached out, fingers wrapping around the metal handle of the door. She paused, hesitant and frightened. The doors creaked and moaned as they opened as if they were covered in rust and decay. The girl jumped at the sound but opened the door. When she peered out into the night, she saw no one. She slammed the door with fright. The groan of her armchair drew her attention. The figure sat and under the tattered brown hood, she could see her mother’s smile. Giggling slightly the girl hurried to her side and said, “You gave me quite a fright mother! How was your trip?” Her mother said nothing, she simply sat and smiled at her daughter. The girl had grown used to this silence. “How are you? Did you bring anything back from your trip?” the girl was eager to hear her mother’s voice and see her sparkling
green eyes. Yet again, her mother said nothing. The girl spotted a basket near the armchair and grabbed it. “Oh, what’s this? A rabbit!” The girl pulled a plump white rabbit out of the basket. She began instantly stroking and kissing its nose. “Thank you, mother, I love your gift!” She kept stroking the bunny and inched closer to her mother. “Mother? Are you alright? I want to see your eyes-” she began screaming. The girl reached and drew the hood back. Her mother’s face was contorted. The smile had been pinned on her face with push pins. Her eyes held some green but maggots slowly devoured it. Parts of her flesh were sagging or falling off. Bursting through her chest were jagged pieces of wood that the girl hadn’t noticed before. It seemed the entire body was riddled with wooden splinters. The girl scurried to the back of the room. She curled into a ball and began rocking herself, “It has to be a dream,” she thought to herself. “She tapped…she tippity tap..”, her thoughts fell away as the room went black. In a world away, Detective Hon stepped over yellow tape and onto a crime scene. The house was once beautiful, but now the threestory Victorian mansion had fallen into major disrepair. The white color had faded to gray and green. Vines and shrubbery could be seen growing in random spots through broken windows. The steps leading up to the main entrance had a giant hole right in the middle of them. Right above the stairs was an ornate balcony. Hon walked up the stairs and around the hole. She noticed a rusty maroon stain near the entryway. It was a stain she was very familiar with. Inside, it looked as if a hurricane of rage had erupted from someone and struck the inside of the house. Furniture was thrown against walls and torn open. Photos had been shredded. Small tufts of black fur lay in piles everywhere. Worst of all, the maroon stain trailed up the stairs inside. The detective pulled out a small pad and pen to detail her thoughts. She then carried on up the stairs to follow the blood. On the top floor, there was only one room. The cream of the walls started to fade and peel. The tufts of ebony fur doubled. A canopy bed was sagging and had heavy brown drapes that were torn in places. A thick coat of dust covered everything. Yet, the armchair drew all the attention in the room. “The body was covered in brown drapes, probably from the canopy bed. The blood trail ends at its feet. There is heavy decay,
probably a few months. My guess is it belongs to Maria Johnson, the owner of the house…,” her thoughts ran through her head quicker than she could write. Large pieces of wood could be seen jutting out of the body. Detective Hon thought of the hole in the entryway stairs. Upon closer inspection, she could see the body had lost its eyes due to decay, while other parts of its skin had rotted and fallen away. The odd smile sitting upon its face was held up by push pins. Detective Hon spoke aloud, “Did we find any other push pins in the area?” She turned to a nearby cop. “Yeah, identical ones were found in the kitchen,” he replied. The detective sighed and turned, “Where is the daughter? They said they found her on site?” “Yeah, she’s over there,” he gestured to the balcony. Hon walked towards the ivy doors and swung them open. Curled up in a ball, in a straitjacket, was Rachel Johnson. She was rocking back and forth, muttering, “Tippity…tippity… tap…tippity…” over and over again. Standing next to Rachel was Hon’s boss, the Chief. “How’s it look?” the Chief grunted towards Hon. “Maria fell off this balcony and was impaled numerous times by the wooden stairs. Her body was then dragged from the hole, back up to the third floor and placed in the chair. The pins in her mouth were placed by another person,” the detective sighed in conclusion. This was not a challenging case. “What did the neighbors say?” Hon asked the Chief. “They were both reclusive and hardly ever left the house. One night a scream was heard but that wasn’t unusual for this house. Rachel struggled with early-onset schizophrenia and hallucinated occasionally, according to medical history. She may have had a psychotic break and pushed her mother. Or maybe the mother just fell and the daughter couldn’t cope,” The Chief spoke with indignation. “She has been whispering about tapping since we found her. She was trying to claw her way to her mother’s body any chance she got and kept grabbing the carcass of a dead rabbit so we put her in a straitjacket.” The detective looked at the girl, her scalp was covered in scabs and fresh blood oozed down one side. She seemed to have pulled her own hair out in clumps. “That explains the tufts of black fur,” she thought.
A Fine, Contributing Woman Gabrielle Wilkosz
Oh! Labor does she keep the demons at bay! Bashful hands, she breaks fruit but of it, eats none Raised brow, press onward, there’s no other way. Unafraid, she dreams dreams white night after day. She hungers for nothing, but must eat to run. Oh! Labor does she keep the demons at bay! Goodwill that she has, men’s hearts go astray. Beehive for a head her fears are hard-won. Raised brow, press onward, there’s no other way. Perfection, Precision; two offspring at play. Excel spreadsheets dawn, dusk and mid-fun. Oh! Labor does she keep the demons at bay! So healthy and vibrant, poops thrice a day. Though the moon has its place, so does the sun. Raised brow, press onward, there’s no other way. With honors, scholarships, foreign medals to assay. In private quarters, you’d think she’s a nun. Oh! Labor does she keep the demons at bay! Raised brow, press onward, there’s no other way.
Note: not an artist, not a writer! GABZILLA!!!
Yasmeen Yahya Dad shows me how to peel a pomegranate. We sit at the kitchen table, one next to the other, and I watch his hands working. They’re large and yet they can easily peel apart the cheeky fruit. The red gems fall gently from the plastic-like peel, one by one, into a small blue bowl. Tib tib tib tib, the sound of falling gems fills my ears, and I glow. He cut open another shiny red fruit for me. The knife glides easily through the skin, slow and smooth. Stained hands cradle the bulb as the pinkish blood oozes out onto the knife. He hands me the messy fruit and gives me a nod. I excitedly start pulling apart the skin, eager for its gems. Tib tib tib tib, the gems fall into my bowl. We sit at the kitchen table in silence, diligently working for our jewels. Splat — my hands, though small, crushed a vulnerable seed and the juice smashed on my nose and glasses. Tk Tk Tk, Dad kisses his teeth at me. Be gentle, don’t rush. Be gentle. Don’t rush. We continue to sit in silence.
Nicole Zodrow That early morning, when Josie heard of how the enchanting pools of the fairies had frozen over as a result from last night’s winter storm, she decided that now was a good time to practice her ice-skating skills, or at least develop them, before she met with her friends back in London on their next outing. With her sister Amelia to drive her over, they searched for the pool that was the most frozen. In Josie’s gloved hand, she carried the poppy seed muffin that Amelia snuck from breakfast. “I’m trying to learn to skate, not have a miniature picnic,” Josie had said to her sister as they left the manor, and Amelia tried to hand her the muffin. “That’s for the fairy guardian, Jo,” Amelia answered. “Amelia, I understand how superstitious you tend to be, but-” “I will not drive you over there otherwise.” Amelia crossed her arms and stopped walking to the car. “You’re the only person in this family that can drive themselves!” Josie objected. “And you’re the only person I know who is foolish enough to walk over to the fairy pools in this weather and try to teach yourself to skate! Why didn’t you just tell Beatrice and the others that you could not skate?” Amelia responded. “They would’ve laughed, I would’ve felt embarrassed, and I’d never walk outside my room again, that’s why.” Josie groaned, picturing the look on her friends’ amused faces had she told them that she couldn’t do the very activity she had suggested they do when she got back. “Fine…” Amelia sighed, “I understand, but I am still not driving you over there unless you at least pay respect to the fairy guarding the pools.” “Amelia,” Josie rolled her eyes, “it will just be you and me over there, not some fairy guardian as well.” “Josie, this is honestly no different than what I do at the
theater to ward off spirits.” “Dear sister, you are really getting on my-” Josie started to argue. “If you will not look at it in a way that Grandmother Leslie would have, then consider this as a way to balance things out. If you insist on dragging me upon this silly errand, then satisfy me with this ‘silly’ task,” Josie said. Tired of debating the matter and desperate enough to maintain her social reputation, Josie accepted. They soon drove and then trekked towards their destination. Josie carried her skates along with the poppy seed muffin in her purse while Amelia brought her sketchbook and art supplies on their walk over. Whenever the cold wind blew past them, Josie looked forward to the time when their family would return to Skye in the summer, when the isle’s unearthly gloriousness would shine with the warm sunlight. Leaving Amelia to sketch, Josie tied on her skates and was about to test the ice’s strength when Amelia called out to her. “Josie!” She shouted, “The offering, remember!” Josie sighed in response. She reached into her purse and pulled out the muffin to leave it out by the rock where she tied her skates. “And the message, Josie!” Amelia added, “Grandmother Leslie would be cross if she were here now.” “I remember, Amelia!” Josie answered. Yes, she remembered the days of blissful childhood memories when she and Amelia would take walks with their grandmother throughout the isle. Whenever they came upon visiting places like the fairy pools or a fairy ring, they left small treats for those fairies. Josie used to try to sneak muffins for herself but whenever that happened, her grandmother always scolded her and made her return it for the fairies. “The fairies never like it when we humans try to trick them.” Her grandmother would say to her. “But the fairies trick us as well,” Josie would’ve argued. “Yes, but who do you think they trick more, Josephine? Those with ill will in their hearts or those with generosity?” Sighing in defeat, Josie would turn back and leave her hidden blueberry muffin behind. Now there she was, about to do
something that she used to do as a child, without the presence of her grandmother, a wise woman with many stories and fairy tales to tell them by the fireplace, advising Josie and Amelia what to value throughout their lives. As Josie thought about her message to the fairy guardian, Amelia looked up from her sketchbook and called out to Josie again. “If you cannot think of what to say, perhaps you should think about what to sing,” She smirked. “Oh, of course,” Josie agreed with sarcasm. “Here you are telling me I should pay respect to the fairy guardian and then you suggest I should sing. I might as well have brought along a donkey with me.” Amelia only grinned in response. Just then, both of the girls’ hats flew off their heads and onto the snow-covered ground. “There, you see?” Josie laughed, “You just offended the fairy guardian with that suggestion!” As Josie dusted the snow off her hat, she glanced at her sister’s drawing. Amelia’s etches not only depicted the accurate details of the fairy pool they stopped at and of its frozen waterfall, but also illustrated figures almost as small, thin, and delicate as snowflakes that skated upon that same pool with as much joy as deer would have while they spontaneously frolic in the green meadows during spring. Furthermore, Josie recognized how Amelia visualized the fairies based on how Grandmother Leslie described them in her stories—dragonfly-type wings and leaves that were sewn by the special silky strands of spiders turned into doublets and gowns for these mysterious magical beings. One of them was sitting upon a rock, like he was looking out for danger, but was also glancing towards the lively scene behind him with an admiring smile. “That’s just, um, an idea of what the scenery for the-the forest scene in our production of-of A Midsummer’s Night Dream could look like.” Amelia explained but Josie saw through her acting. “It is lovely, but I honestly see a different story within it. Whatever you think it could be, I think it would be a fantastic tale.” Josie smiled as she turned back to the poppy seed muffin upon the rock. When she recalled what kind of message Grandmother Leslie would leave them, she began to whisper her own message,
“Well, sorry for the long wait first of all. It’s, um, it’s been a while since I’ve done this. The last time I was here with my Grandmother Leslie. She was the expert in what to tell you in the message. As a matter of fact, she knew a lot more about life than what I know now. Perhaps she would have a better idea of how to skate than I do at the moment. Um, what I do know is that I am meant to give you something, so, um, hope you like poppy seed. That was what my sister was able to grab before we got here. The next thing, I suppose, is that I ask you if it’s all right with you if I skate here, on your pool. I mean, that’s how it worked the last time we were here with my grandmother before she-she moved on from this world. It was-It was summer, well the end of summer. Anyway, my family and I were paying her a visit. During our time together, my grandmother wanted to see your pools. Amelia just learned how to drive, despite whatever protests Mother had, though Mother would refer to it as ‘concerns.’ Anyway, Amelia and I drove over here, I forgot that Grandmother wanted to visit this pool specifically, and we found out that Grandmother snuck muffins for us to give you or whoever was there. Then, she said her message and we waited until she said that all was fine or something like that. Amelia and I dived right in that pool over there and swam while Grandmother soaked her feet; all of us really enjoyed that day. Of course, we did not know that it would be our last day with her. Then again, how would anyone know when anyone’s last day is? I wonder…do you know? Um, that is-whenever someone in your world is about to move on, do you know when they will? If you do, is it better or worse? Perhaps Grandmother would have known whether or not you do, as well as how to...” She didn’t even notice that she was crying until a tear fell on her cold cheek. “Sorry, I’m-I appear to be getting off track here.” Josie brushed away that tear. “Um, I guess I’m supposed to ask you if it’s all right with you if I skate here—or attempt to skate anyway. I have no idea how far I’ll go with this whole thing, but hopefully better than I was about an hour ago. Um, if you do let me skate here and if you don’t, um, pull any nasty tricks on me, you-you got this poppy seed muffin to snack on. Right, that just sounded really silly. What would Grandmother Leslie say?” She laughed at herself as she
continued, “Um, I would like to skate here. No, no. Would you let me skate-no. May I skate here?” She asked. As she waited, Josie pondered on what kind of sign she might or should be expecting to get after she finished. When another cold breeze flew past her, stronger than the last one, her hat remained on her head. She looked back to see the poppy seed muffin remaining on the rock standing and then whispered to herself, “I’ll take that as a yes then.” Josie lifted herself from the snow and returned to the edge of the pool. The ice was formed exactly how she needed it to practice. She wobbled a little bit and gripped the rocky edge when she took her first step. “You got this, Josie,” she said to calm herself; “it’s just a figure eight, that’s it.” Her words temporarily worked. Still, she wobbled when she tried to form the curves of the figure eight and she often found herself stumbling upon the ice. Upon her third try, she fell on her back. “Jo? Josie?” Amelia called out to her, “Are you all right over there?” “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.” She lied. She not only felt physically not fine, but as if her emotions were shattered like a mirror. The one time when she felt like she could be herself, not like how she felt at all the tea parties and all the croquet games with her friends, bearing a mask which was painted exactly how every women of high society would like it, she kept falling and falling and falling. Specks of ice drenched her crimson winter coat as she moved to get up. Then, as she lifted herself off the frozen pool and began to fall back down, she felt a cold and gentle grasp hold her steady. “Amelia, really, I’m all-” She jerked her head to look behind her when she realized that Amelia was not there, but a figure unlike anyone that she’s ever seen. One thing that made Josie recognize that this figure was not human at all was the frostbitten dragonfly-type wings appearing behind him. Another was that his hair matched his light blue eyes and the ends of his hair were also decorated with tiny icicles. She noted the silk spider threads, embellished with frozen dewdrops, that sewed together his doublet, which was made of birch leaves that the frost swirled upon. Josie’s heart beat in confusion
and disbelief, when Josie heard the whistle from a snow bunting that landed on the rock, near the poppy seed muffin. That bird then flew to the figure’s shoulder. Hesitantly, Josie reached out her hand towards the snow bunting and it then hopped onto her fingers. It gazed at her in a familiar kind of thoughtful glance, one that she hadn’t seen for a long time. “Grandmother?” She whispered. The bird whistled in response and hopped back to the figure’s shoulder. Josie got the feeling that this figure was a fairy from her grandmother’s stories, perhaps even the fairy guardian himself, but she couldn’t explain nor rationalize it to herself and in that moment, she knew that she never would. Perhaps it was when the snow bunting whistled at Josie and hopped to her shoulder, back to the fairy’s shoulder, and then back to her own. It looks like it’s expecting me to do something, she thought, but what? The bird flew back to the rock and it whistled again. Perhaps it was while Josie stood, while feelings of shock and awe intermittently changed, the fairy reached out his hand toward her. As he did, his eyes silently offered help to her. However that realization came to be, it motivated Josie to listen to the snow bunting’s constant whistles and took the fairy’s extended hand. Supporting her like a dance partner in a waltz, the fairy guided her across the pool. The path of the figure eight slowly became easier for Josie as she balanced on her blade’s edges. The fairy turned unexpectedly and Josie’s gloved hands gripped his shoulders, her eyes shut tight, fearing that she would fall again, but her balance remained steady. Timidly, Josie put one foot in front of her other, and she found herself skating with as much confidence as she would have if she were playing cards with her friends in London. When the two of them gradually stopped skating, the fairy’s eyes glanced towards Josie, this time asking her if she was ready to try on her own. Josie nodded at him and, when the snow bunting gave a single whistle, she let go of the fairy’s hand and skated back to the frozen pool’s open space. Launching herself forward, Josie’s blades soared upon the ice and the cold breeze rushed through her hair. She successfully engraved an eight in the ice, and without falling, she spun around in joy until her momentum slowed, leaving her standing,
eyes closed and beaming in unadulterated happiness. “Jo! Josie!” She opened her eyes and saw Amelia waving at her. When Josie looked around, she found herself alone, the sole skater on the frozen fairy pool. No fairy guardian. No snow bunting. She thought to herself, was that all just a dream? Everything that just happened to me? Considering that maybe she hit her head on the ice after one of her falls, Josie placed her hand on the back of her head but found no bump. “Jo! We should start heading back; Mother will be expecting us for afternoon tea!” her sister called out to her. “I’ll be right there!” Josie replied, stepping off the ice and sitting by the rock, still questioning herself, and wondering if she had imagined the whole thing. While Josie untied her skates, she noticed something different. Gone was the poppy seed muffin that she offered and in its place was a small simple acorn. When the sisters arrived at Amelia’s car, Josie thought she heard the familiar whistle of that snow bunting again as well as jingling bells in the distance. “So, how have your skating skills improved?” Amelia asked during their drive back home. “I think that they’re quite better than before.” Josie smiled. “Is that so?” “Yes. I suppose you could say that they now have more spirit.”
The New Literati print issue is an annual publication of St. Edward's University.