New River Anthology
2012 New River Anthology A Collection of Student Art & Writing
Editors Melanie Bruce Kellie Cannon Deborah Doolittle Justin Eatmon Bethany Hunter MaryEllen Martino Michelle Sweeney
Student Editors Norman Duffin S. James Parsons Jr. Chris Wilk
Special Thanks Rachel Cessna, David Heatherly, Annette Heishman, Dewey Lewis, Colette Teachey, and Anna Tendero
Cover Art Alignment by Shea Pierson
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville, North Carolina
Table of Contents “Home to Natalie” by Jonna Mastropasqua................................................................................................................................... 1 “Conflicts and Compartments” by Chris Wilk................................................................................................................................. 3 “Where the Wisteria Blooms” by Bernie Rosage Jr.........................................................................................................................5 “Remembering the Wool Blanket” by Darrin Chestnut................................................................................................................... 7 “It is Never That Serious” by Zenita Green.....................................................................................................................................9 “Fateful Attraction” by Chris Wilk................................................................................................................................................ 13 “One Small Gold Cross” by Mary Laird Busk................................................................................................................................ 15 “And Now She’s Dead” by Chris Wilk........................................................................................................................................... 17 “Six Days in Hell” by Shane Unger............................................................................................................................................... 19 “To Live” by Shane Lawrence Kephas.......................................................................................................................................... 23 “Eyes of Adversity” by Matthew Bradford................................................................................................................................... 25 “Thoughts for the Ages” by Vicky Poutas..................................................................................................................................... 27 “New Day” by Shane Lawrence Kephas....................................................................................................................................... 31 “Not My Intention” by Joseph Ratte............................................................................................................................................ 33
Untitled by Bryce Gillam
Home to Natalie by Jonna Mastropasqua
Staff Sergeant Todd Dehue sat up, twisting a bit in his seat. He
Corporal Jimenez, seated in the window seat a row behind
tried to stretch his legs too, but the guy in front of him still had
Todd, muttered to no one in particular, “Everything is so
his seat reclined, making it so he’d have to stand up to get any
green. The leaves were falling when we left…” Todd couldn’t—
relief. That would call attention to the fact that he was awake,
wouldn’t—or at least would never again, sit in a window seat.
so he resisted. He wasn’t ready to join in the “we’re headed
Not after five deployments. He had to sit in the aisle seat,
home” euphoria just yet.
ready to take action. No way was he getting stuck, pinned behind two people, two seats away from freedom.
Instead, he closed his eyes again and pictured, for the millionth time, his little girl—Natalie—five weeks old today
No one sat in the seats to his right, either. They were empty.
and yet to meet her daddy. He sat there marveling, also for
Maybe the guys had sensed that he’d want to sit alone or
the millionth time, at how small she was. Of course, any baby
maybe they wanted to give him room to stretch out—space.
was small compared to him—at six feet four, two hundred and
No matter what, he needed space.
ten pounds, most adults were small compared to him. Still, she weighed a light six pounds, eight ounces. His wife, Dana,
Natalie. He smiled, born with little blonde curls, patches of
claimed baby Natalie would fit in the palm of one of his large
hair that would, he’d bet, be just as untamable as her mother’s
someday. She had Dana’s mouth, too. He knew for sure that in just a few months he’d see his wife in Natalie’s smile.
He could feel the anticipation spreading; it was a palpable wave washing over his fellow travelers.
They’d been in
But thinking about Natalie and the empty window seat in his
Afghanistan for just over six months. The fighting had been
row brought him full circle. Back to Nate. Natalie had been
fierce—day raids, night raids, convoy and personnel escorts,
born a few weeks early and their deployment had run a few
the steady rat-a-tat-tat of enough bullets to make the most
weeks late. IEDs don’t know; they don’t hold back because
jaded Pentagon bean-counter weep, it seemed, would echo in
you’re ten days from heading home. They don’t consider how
his head for the next millennia—the losses heavy. He didn’t
much they’ll change your life once you have to send your best
want to think about the losses. Let’s just say everyone was
friend’s body home to his heartbroken wife. IEDs don’t care
ready to be home.
if your little girl’s name will remind you every day of the one person you would have brought home alive, if you could have.
His mind drifted back to Natalie, using her sweet, round pinkness and intense fatherly pride to banish the other images.
Suddenly awash in anger and grief, he reached into his pocket
Right now, she was the antidote to things he’d rather forget.
and fingered the pin he’d taken from Nate’s uniform, one of
His wife had sent him what seemed like hundreds of pictures.
the chevrons he’d pinned on at a promotion ceremony the
Natalie was asleep in most of them, swaddled tightly, warm
year before. It was an honor to pin on new chevrons—a show
and safe. She was awake in a few, gazing happily at her mom.
of pride to do it, a show of respect to be asked. It seemed like
He wanted to hold her more than anything in the world, his
forever ago, the day Nate picked up Staff Sergeant.
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He’d wanted to take Nate’s dog tags, but they had to go with
about Nate—she’d know eventually anyway. He had to tell her
the body to Dover. They were buried with Nate and, like Todd’s
about Sergeant Blake losing a leg, about Corporal Rodriguez’s
daughter, who was born without him home, his best friend’s
burns. These were all things she’d hear about at some point.
funeral had been conducted without him to give a eulogy.
But…he just couldn’t bring himself to tell her the rest of it, to share the fear, adrenaline, gory details. Sure, she’d be around
Stuffed into a cramped airplane seat, he tried so hard to think
when the guys—beers in hand—rehashed the victories, the
of little Natalie. Jesus. He was almost home—minutes from
triumphs. She’d hear the pain beneath it all. But he wouldn’t
landing—he needed to focus on the little girl he’d never met.
be the one to taint her world with the reality of it.
Instead, he saw Nate’s face. He heard the explosion, the yelling, orders, screams. He felt the debris, nearly choked on
As the plane touched down, a cheer went up. They’d made it:
the dust of running boots. He tried to remind himself that it
a fifteen man team, short six guys—two KIA, four wounded.
wasn’t real, or, at least, that it was over. Done. Still, he saw
They were home. Even the civilians flying the last leg with
the pain leave his friend’s body; saw the blood. He saw Nate’s
them cheered. A few thanked them for their service. The
eyes empty, felt the sigh—the end. The Corpsman worked on
flight crew gushed; the plane’s captain asked that the other
him, tried to bring him back. But in his heart, Todd knew it was
passengers remain seated so they could disembark first.
better this way. Nate was so vital, so full of life. He wouldn’t have wanted to live, burned and broken, struggling. Or at least
Todd stood up, stepped into the relative space of the aisle,
he told himself that. Nate was better off.
relieved, finally, to be out of the small, cramped seat, though at his height, he still had to duck. He fingered the chevron
Once Nate was gone, he’d looked down, saw the chevrons still
one more time then reached into the overhead bin for his
somehow neatly pinned, one on each collar. He knew because
Nate wasn’t the first person the Marine Corps had buried that they’d put him in dress blues. So no one would miss one
Finally, he joined the guys—mentally and physically. They
chevron, no one would notice it was gone, like Nate.
clapped each other on the back, boisterous congratulations masking silent relief, smiles and OORAHs, for the moment,
He’d closed Nate’s eyes, then, gently, unpinned the memento
outweighing their grief. He waited—patiently, he thought—for
and slipped it into his right front pocket, where it had stayed
the people in front of him to make their way off the plane and
in the weeks since, transferred reverently from uniform to
into the terminal. He watched them, thrilled to be home, but
uniform every time he dressed. He didn’t cry, then. He couldn’t.
sore, tired. He would smile, sweep Dana and Natalie into his
He had a team to bring home—tears, grief, even being pissed
arms, call his mom. But, he knew he’d still miss Nate. He’d still
off wouldn’t help him do that. Focus and determination would.
replay that day, fight that battle over and over. That he’d lose every time wouldn’t matter.
After chaos had smoothed into numbness and they’d returned to base, he called Dana. She’d cried for him, all those miles away. She’d been heartbroken, too. He had no idea how long it would take them to notify Sonya, but he wanted Dana to be ready when she called. He wanted her to kiss little Natalie, to tell them both how much he loved them. He wanted, desperately, to make it home. He wanted to tell her other things, too. He’d had to tell her
Conflicts and Compartments What am I doing here? Again. In two hours, up out of my hole, into the deadly Arena, before it was constricting jungles or jagged mountains or trashed streets. This time it’s coarse deserts, reaching to the horizon. Again. Pitted against an obscure foe, who wants to kill me. No turning back now. I’ve put myself here. Once I had no concern about returning home. I lived for the moment, the chase, the engagement, the vengeance. Then came my family: wife and two kids. They care, they depend. Now it’s more than just me. I’m repelled by the Arena: burning, bloody, shattering destruction, confusing, doubting, freezing fear, lost, scarred, torn-apart lives, destitute, discarded and helpless innocents. I’m drawn by the Arena: rescuer, defender, protector, the just cause, thrill, fascination, stimulation, pyrotechnics, the power, sharing, cheering, laughing, crying, enduring, the exclusive brotherhood, prowess, aptitude, achievement, it’s all I’ve ever known. Ripping apart my soul. How do I reconcile? I don’t. I can’t. Too late anyway. I push home and family into a compartment. Close the lid. Scramble over the parapet, into the Arena, once more.
- Chris Wilk
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where the wisteria blooms there is a place my steps and mind retrace where the wisteria blooms weeping and joy encompass each bloom cascading memories of one gone too soon where the wisteria blooms the beauty, the fragrance reminds me of you spring gives way to summer…the splendor is through where the wisteria blooms autumn, winter…the loveliness concealed alas, spring is nigh…hope is revealed where the wisteria blooms a sign of comfort from heaven above warms my broken-heart with each purple bud where the wisteria blooms
- Bernie Rosage Jr.
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Mother and Child by Bernie Rosage Jr.
Remembering the Wool Blanket by Darrin Chestnut
It’s amazing what we remember from our childhood: a game
Neither of our families need to keep warm in the winter using
we played, a toy, a favorite food, that one friend who was going
old wool blankets.
to be our best friend for life, or the smell of our mom’s cooking. We experienced thousands of events as children. No one can
My son has toys and gadgets that I would never have dreamed
remember them all, but each of those events shaped us into
of as a child. Remote controlled cars, computer games, and
the people we are today. Every little choice that was made for
wireless toys, when I was a kid, would have cost much more
us, and that we made for ourselves, continues to shape us and
than my parents could afford. My wife and I do our best to keep
the people around us. I sit here, and I try to remember as much
him from being spoiled, but I remember when I was young and
about my young life as I can. I am the third youngest of seven
had very little, so I find it hard to tell him “no” when he wants
children, four girls and three boys, and I was born and raised in
something. At four years old, he wants all the toys he sees
on television or in the store. I can hear him in his room as he watches his favorite cartoon show, “Daddy, I want that toy!”
I remember the house we lived in on Oliver Street in east
I guess you could say I am the soft parent when it comes to
Baltimore. It was big, but it was old and needed a lot of work.
buying junk that he does not need. But like I said, I remember
My father worked often, and my mother was a stay-at-home
when I was young and had very little.
mom. We didn’t have much food or many clothes, but what we had, we shared and enjoyed. One small event that I remember
When I check on my son at night, I wonder what events he will
is being cold in the winter because we had no fuel in the tank.
remember when he gets older. I tuck him in tight under his
When I was small, the houses in Baltimore were heated by fuel
warm covers and kiss him softly on the forehead as I watch
that ran the furnace and sent steam to the radiators in the
his chest rise and fall. Will it be a game we played, his favorite
rooms to warm the house. After several winters of being cold,
food, or a toy? I then think back to the cold nights in Baltimore,
I made a promise to my oldest brother, “When I have a family,
and the old wool blanket, and know that being cold at night
I will never let them be cold in our home. I will work as hard as
will not be one of the things that he will remember. And I smile
I can to make sure my kids have everything they need to have
as I close the door to his room and know that he is safe and
a better life than I have now.” My brother and I would laugh
warm for one more night.
as we tried to sleep under the old wool blanket that covered our bed. Even today, my older brother and I talk about how we sat under that old wool blanket as kids and talked about the huge house we each would own one day. We do not have mansions, but our families are doing okay. He still lives in Baltimore and does very well for himself working for the city. He and his wife own a 2000 square foot home. I live in North Carolina, am retired from the Marines, and now work for the Department of Defense. My wife and I own a 2500 square foot home in Williamsburg Plantation in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
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It is Never That Serious by Zenita Green
In life we all have to face circumstances for which we are
is the halfway point yet?” I asked myself. The gaggle of girls
not adequately prepared. We may know the situation in the
dispersed into determined women on a mission. I was running
forefront, and we may have physically and mentally prepared
so hard, sharp pains shot from my shins to my knees. The first
for it, but when the event at hand is staring us in the face,
quarter mile, half a mile, and the one mile marker signs faded
something happens. First, nerves of fear and doubts of failure
away, along with my drive to continue.
stir up inside of us. Second, our faith is tested. Last, we see the “light at the end of the tunnel” and a sense of accomplishment
I could not see the halfway point. The sun was shining and
comes over us. This is what happened to me during my first
sweat was dripping in my eyes. Oh no! Was this the infamous
three mile run in Marine Corps boot camp.
“wall” my drill instructors spoke of? I could hear the birds chirping as though they were taunting me: “Give up; you will
There I was, starting my second month of boot camp on a crisp
never make it!” My pace slowed down, and other girls were
and chilled April morning in Parris Island, South Carolina. Early
passing me. Still more than half of my platoon was behind
morning physical training was something I was accustomed to
me, but I felt like I was the last person in the race. A turtle on
by this time. Three days a week, my platoon would run three
the running path stuck his tongue out at me. “Wow! Was I that
to six miles in formation. This day was a little different. This run
slow?” I started to wonder, “If I quit now, they would send me
was an individual timed run: three miles in less than thirty-two
home, and I could always go to college.” I finally made it to the
minutes. Standing at the starting point with the other girls, I
was ready for it. So I thought. My mind was bombarded with questions: “Why did I join the military? What if I hurt myself?
I lifted my hands to get my stamp, and that was when I received
How am I going to look? Will I run the right route?”
my first words of encouragement: “You are halfway there. The hard part is over now.” I became feckless towards the other
The drill instructors looked at us like we were a herd of gazelle
mile and a half: I had found my stride. The mile two marker was
and they were the hungry lionesses, waiting to pounce on the
nothing. I saw that turtle at two and a quarter miles, and, yes,
weak. I later learned after graduation that they were, in fact,
I stuck my tongue out at him.
pointing out who would fail and who would pass the run in the required time. A whistle was blown and a thunderous voice
I was on my way. I could hear more drill instructors cheering for
belted, “Fifteen minutes to start time.”
just me. “Good job! You can do it! Pick up the pace.”
I suddenly felt nervous. I was shaking more than before from
From out of the blue, my favorite drill instructor appeared by
the cool breeze. My breathing grew heavy. My chest rose up
my side. “Let’s go, Green. I am here with you,” she commanded
and down like a bullfrog. My heart pounded so hard I thought
I keep up with her.
the girl next to me could hear it. “One minute,” spoke the voice again.
I replied, “Yes, ma’am.” I could see the end. A small group of girls had already finished and were running back to motivate
I positioned myself in the runner’s stance. Pop! Was that the
other runners, including me. My drill instructor barked to them
sound of the gun firing? “Oh, dear God,” escaped my lips.
to leave me alone, and at eight hundred yards to go, insisted
My thoughts were mechanical: left foot, right foot. “Where
that I had to finish it on my own. After she said that, she too
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left my side. For the last four hundred yards, I was feeling a little supercilious. I sprinted like a rabid dog was behind me. It seemed as though my feet were not touching the ground. I was the comic hero, Flash, traveling at the speed of light. I crossed the finish line, and my time was announced: twentytwo minutes and forty-five seconds. I jumped up and down and analyzed what I had just accomplished. A drill instructor reminded me that I was in boot camp and to regain my bearing; I did so proudly. I did it; I finished the race in a very good time. To think, I had been nervous, terrified, and wanted to quit. Once everyone finished, we were awarded an apple. It was the most delicious and juiciest green apple I had ever had, and I earned it. That run was the hardest thing I had to do alone in my life. In that short period of time, I had established a system of overcoming any obstacles in life. Things may get hard sometimes and I may want to quit; yet, I know there is always an end to every beginning. What I have to go through to get there is only a phase. Just as the run was not as bad as it seemed, neither are some of the other challenges I will have to face in life.
Things may get hard sometimes and I may want to quit; yet, I know there is always an end to every beginning.
Winter Path by Shea Pierson
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Untitled by Bryce Gillam
Fateful Attraction In the township valley:
Infinite stars, icy pinheads, unconcerned gleaming.
Laughing, screaming, snow balls, snow men, snow angels.
Surroundings contract into headlamp beam,
Nightfall with street lights, car lights, windows aglow.
black void beyond. Stopping—hear the silence,
Then, inside warmth, an evening with friends.
nothing moving, no one there.
Later, readying for bed: luxurious, steaming shower. Soft toweling, naked under the heat lamp.
Onwards once more.
Taking my toilet; easy, unencumbered comfort. Lean-to appears, welcoming, Drawn to the night window, hypnotic vista.
Drifting out to leafless, fogbound woods.
Slow process getting spring water;
Chilling my core, familiar, inner feelings of desolation.
Standing, staring, still: spirit seductively pulled.
Cold inevitably invades,
Other times, other winters, other places…
strings of hypothermic trembling in my chest. Hands numb, weak, uncertain,
…on the trackless mountain peaks-trekking:
shaking to light the stove.
Alone, though one fellow hiker three days ago,
Warm food and drink,
going in the opposite direction.
warm the body to warm the bag. Nestling snug in my cocoon:
Then a day of soaking downpour,
safe, secure, asleep.
a night of driving snow.
Only my lips to the breath-hole
Now a frozen landscape;
connect me to the cold emptiness…
boundless, blinding white, below cloudless skies, cutting wind.
…back home under the comforter:
Enduring, ten relentless hours today, 30,000 steps.
Go back again? Another time, to that other place?
Movement means warmth,
The memory scares me.
seek rest standing in windless sunshine.
Still draws me.
Tarrying too long, an injurious fall tempts death. Sun sets, wind dies,
- Chris Wilk
twilight gives way to moonless heaven.
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Stacked Steeple by Shea Pierson
One Small Gold Cross by Mary Laird Busk
She was a sweet, gentle young girl, just ten years old, with long
unimaginable happened, we were silenced in our shock and
corn-silk-yellow braids and eyes the color of blue sea glass, the
frightened by the world.
kind of girl who might grow up to become a writer of poetry or perhaps even an Olympic ice skater. Her name was Wendy,
I did not know Wendy well; perhaps none of us did. She would
and none of us would ever forget her.
sit at her wooden desk and keep to herself. She had an angelic look, all cleanliness and goodness. She sat two rows in front of
Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Connecticut was, and still
me, and I would watch her yellow braids sway as she moved.
is, an independent college preparatory day school for highly
An artistic girl, her paintings were often on display in the halls
motivated girls and young women in grades pre-kindergarten
of the school. During a special spring presentation for the
through twelfth. Founded in 1827, the student body was made
entire school, Wendy was a daisy, while I was a daffodil; our
up of daughters of the genteel rich. Uniforms were required,
flower headdresses were made from crêpe paper and ribbon.
and during the years I was there, from 1948 through 1954,
How lovely she looked with her shining face peeking out from
the spring and fall uniform was an apple green jumper over a
the white daisy petals!
crisp, white puffed sleeve blouse, tan socks and brown walking shoes, buffed to a high polish. In winter we wore a heavy, dark
It started as any other spring day in 1948. April in Connecticut
green wool jumper over a long sleeve tan blouse, tan knee
can be cool, yet with the promise of crocuses, daffodils, and
socks and the same brown, highly polished shoes. For gym,
hyacinths soon to bloom. Miss Eckert often held class outside;
which mainly consisted of field hockey, the uniforms were
however, today she kept us inside, and as we sat at our desks
made up of green bloomers under a green jumper. We carried
we noticed a decidedly subdued atmosphere and stillness in
our hockey sticks as we walked the quarter mile to the hockey
the air. Eleven students looked up expectantly. Eleven ten-
field past stately, well-manicured Greenwich homes.
year-old girls were about to have their lives shattered by a cruel reality.
In 1948 I was in fourth grade at the Academy. Our class was small, twelve students and one teacher, who taught every
Miss Eckert had to give us news that no one wanted to hear,
subject. Miss Eckert was a slim, rather tall, austere lady of
and it must have been difficult for her. In her New England,
impeccable breeding. She was strict and a hard taskmaster.
stalwart way she told us that our Wendy was dead. Wendy’s
She instilled in me a love for learning and a desire to excel.
mother had taken Wendy and a younger sister to heaven with
Wendy was one of us, and as such, had been brought up
her. How could this be? What had happened to this gentle
with wealth and privilege. In her quiet way, she absorbed
girl? It was explained to us that Wendy’s mother had taken
all that Miss Eckert taught her. We were secure in the love
both of her younger daughters into the garage at their palatial
of our parents and the world we knew. Most of us had been
Greenwich home and turned on the car, killing all three with
sheltered from the ugly side of life and knew little of tragedy.
the exhaust fumes. Wendy was found on the garage floor
All of us lived a life of ease, many with servants and nannies
reaching for the door, while her younger sister was in the
to supervise our days.
backseat of the black town car.
Perhaps that was why, when the
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We sat at our desks, eleven girls in green uniforms stunned
with her inner glow of happiness. The generosity of Wendy’s
by what we had heard. Most of us had had a pet die, but this
family will always stay with me. They gave of themselves to
was something totally different. I remember being scared and
help eleven girls recover and realize that there is goodness in
wondering if the same thing could happen to me. That school
life. The implication of this small act has stayed with me all
day was brought to an early close, as we were dismissed into
these years, as have thoughts of Wendy, and a life taken much
the care of our parents.
A week or so later Miss Eckert told us that we had visitors. An
Each of us went on through life experiencing wealth and
unusual event in our school day always piqued our interest.
poverty, happiness and sadness, sickness and health. We were
As children will, we had recovered somewhat from the shock
given the chance to grow into the women we were meant to
of death and had begun to resume our fun-filled lives. Miss
become, whether that was to soar to some great height and
Eckert stood in front of the class and introduced to us a tall,
accomplishment, or to raise superior, gifted children. We had
distinguished gentleman and a lovely young woman as Wendy’s
the opportunity to be whatever we chose to be. We learned
father and older sister. I remember her father was dressed in a
to withstand the hurdles life gave us, and make the best of
business suit, slim and sad in countenance, her sister in shades
our choices. Wendy never had that chance, and we will never
of yellow, which complemented her golden hair. Wendy’s
know her true potential. Like my small gold cross, Wendy was
father explained to us that he had gone through her jewelry
a symbol of love and goodness. I feel honored to have known
and wanted each of us to have something in remembrance of
her for the brief ten years of her life. A life taken too soon by a
his daughter and our classmate. As Wendy’s sister passed the
selfish act, a life never completed, a life lost at the very time it
small gift-wrapped packages to us, I chose mine. Opening it
was just beginning. A tragedy for a father and sister who will
carefully, I discovered a brushed gold cross, perfect in size and
never again enjoy the love and soft kisses from two beautiful
proportion to wear around my neck. I felt so special to have
young girls, one of whom was my remembered friend, Wendy.
received this cross; it reminded me of my soft-spoken friend,
They gave of themselves to help eleven girls recover and realize that there is goodness in life.
And Now She’s Dead My turn soon. Sitting in dimness, small on the bench. Looking, without looking up, at the sad grownups shuffling to the front. I wait. Faintly, I can still smell her house – cleaned, but unclean. Softly, feel her touch – weak, cold, bag-of-bones trembling. Gulping, taste her food – greasy, mushy, gagging. In the murmuring, hear her voice – calling, yelling, wanting something. Closing my eyes, see her face – wrinkly, sagging, scary smile. I’m pulled up onto my feet, reluctantly pulled forward. Sickening flower perfume. Old people kiss me. Making spit to swallow. Whispers without words. Watery-eyed smiles of fear. I’m there. Alone I climb to the top of the coffin.
- Chris Wilk
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Six Days in Hell by Shane Unger
In the dark of the night we waited. Some of us were eager,
fifteen to twenty enemy fighters were hiding out two thousand
some scared, but all were focused on what was to come. In the
meters northeast of our position. My team was given orders to
days leading up to our mission, through the training, studying
move out and clear the building. We were exhausted, hungry,
maps, going over target buildings, and practicing dry runs,
and covered in sweat and sand. Our gear felt as if bags of wet
there was one thought I couldn’t shake. Could I do everything
cement were strapped to our bodies. None of that mattered,
the military has embedded in me? Many people will go through
though. All that mattered was getting to our target quickly
life never having to find out what they’re made of. In six days
and carefully. The streets were littered with debris and rubble
I discovered exactly what I was made of. I found that I had the
from days of fighting and airstrikes. We bounded from building
power to take life, save life, and how it would all affect my life.
to building, trying not to be seen in the daylight. My team was stacked front to back on the south wall of the building
We knew our targets and could navigate the streets as if they
just across from our target. We held there waiting to cross
were our own. All we needed was the signal to move. Like
one by one and line up on the door to breach it. There was no
thunder rolling through the sky, we heard the bombs being
movement, so our team leader took off across the street. He
dropped, which cut power to the city. That was it. The train
was about half-way when he yelled, “RPG!” Everything went
station was our first target, and it was essential for our mission
black. The RPG hit the wall directly beside us. When I came to,
to move forward; not only did our enemy keep supplies
everything was distorted, and the screams were muffled by
there, but it was an ideal point to operate out of. As Marine
the ringing in my ears. Once everything started to clear up, I
and Army vehicles set up a perimeter, my team, along with
spotted half my team returning fire on the building across from
two Marine squads, moved in on foot. We were taking heavy
us. Then I saw it: three of my men were on the ground covered
fire. The bullets impacting around me sounded like strings of
in rocks and blood. I went from body to body to assess and
firecrackers being set off in the street. Streaks of light filled
treat their wounds. After all hemorrhaging was stopped and
the sky from tracers that screamed by, letting us know how
they were stable, I had another teammate help drag them to a
close to death we really were. I was the third of my team to
safe position. My mind was thinking clear again, and I noticed
enter the station. As I crossed the plain of the door, I spotted
I hadn’t had eyes on my team leader. I returned to where the
a middle-aged man running out of another room. My friend’s
guys were still taking fire and saw his body lying motionless in
back was to him, so without thought, I sighted in and pulled
the street. I yelled out hoping to get a response, but I heard
the trigger. I had fired many rounds that night, but until then I
nothing. One of my guys ran out with me to drag him to safety,
didn’t know if I had hit anyone. My eyes followed his limp body
while the others provided covering fire. Without hesitation we
to the ground, and I knew without a doubt I had just taken
grabbed hold of his vest and started running. Mixed in with the
another man’s life. If I hadn’t, my friend would be the one lying
whistling of bullets flying by us, there was a crack. My buddy
there lifeless, but still I was amazed at how easy it was.
next to me had been hit, but luckily his armor did its job. Once we returned to cover, we saw our leader lying there. His eyes
After two days of little-to-no sleep and non-stop fighting, we
stared into my soul, but I knew there was nothing behind
had taken over and secured all of the key targets. Our task now
them. In that moment I realized I had the ability to save lives,
was to push through the city and clear out the smaller groups
but no matter how much training I had or how hard I tried, I
of insurgents, still trying to hold onto the city. It was the
couldn’t save them all.
middle of the day, and we received information that a group of
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We pulled back and called in an airstrike with MED-EVAC to
Even now, there are nights I awake with the smell still singed
get our dead and wounded out. When we returned to our post,
into my nostrils. The vacant feeling of death inhabited the city.
I realized I had been hit. My right side was scattered with rock
I couldn’t help but think of the lives that were lost. The sand
fragments from the RPG blast. I don’t know if it was from the
soaked with the blood of our enemies, innocent civilians, our
adrenaline racing through my veins or the shock of losing a
teammates, and friends. Looking at the men to the left and
friend, but I didn’t feel a thing. I went and had a DOC from one
right of me, I knew we would have a permanent connection.
of the Marine squads remove the fragments and bandage me
No one would ever be able to relate to, nor understand what
up, so I could rest for the next mission.
we had gone through. Whether we stayed in touch or lost contact over the years, nothing could ever break the bond that
After six days of hell, the city was ours, and the fighting had
grew between us these few short days.
slowed down. I finally had a chance to breathe and reflect on everything that had happened. Hoping the worst was over, I
Having gone through this experience, I can move forward
knew I would never look at life the same again. The choices
through life with a resolution that others will never find. I was
and experiences I used to think were difficult would never
pushed to the limit and tested more in six days than most will
compare to what I had gone through. The violence and hate I
be in a lifetime. If ever asked, I now know who I am and what
experienced had distorted my sense of morality; I was numb to
I am capable of. I have confidence in knowing I will not fold
all emotion. We patrolled the abandoned streets, through piles
under pressure, even if my own life is at risk. I discovered I have
of rock where buildings once stood, and around cars burning in
the ability to choose between life and death and appreciate
the street. I don’t know if it was from the bodies still trapped
the difference between the two. Most importantly, I will
and burning or the dry absent air that sealed it in, but the smell
always make the most of each day, for the next time my eyes
of charred liver and brown sugar lingered from burning flesh.
close may be the last.
In six days I discovered exactly what I was made of. I found that I had the power to take life, save life, and how it would all affect my life.
The Road Less Traveled by Bernie Rosage Jr.
the new river anthology
Growth by Shea Pierson
To Live The beloved sits at the laptop slightly outdated, scrolling up and down, surely on Facebook while the fan stirs, giving a slight buzz− “I love you,” words come out. “I love you, too,” a response is given. Is this what life has in store? No− With pilot pen in hand, mind awake with thoughts, I write− to breath to dream to be. I write− to live.
- Shane Lawrence Kephas
the new river anthology
Untitled by Bryce Gillam
Eyes of Adversity by Matthew Bradford
I am a twenty-five-year-old United States Marine who has
that would take my life. Before I had enough time to react, the
faced adversity, overcome challenges, and adapted to a new
bomb detonated in the pipe. Shrapnel immediately entered
way of life. On January 18, 2007, I saw my life go from light to
both of my eyes, claiming my vision. Hearing what sounded
dark in a matter of seconds. On that day, God held me in his
like a thousand gunshots that just knocked me to the ground,
hands and pointed me in a new and better direction. From that
I didn’t know what happened. I just lay there, listening to my
day on, I was given a new opportunity to start my life over,
life fade away into God’s hands, hearing the angels of second
to live to the fullest and live without regret, and to challenge
squad yelling to get Quick Reaction Force (QRF) out to our
myself in moments of weakness.
location as soon as possible and doing what they have been trained for by calling in for more help to get me out of the
During my teenage years, I had the typical attitude of “no
combat zone. In a matter of minutes, I heard a voice and the
worries in the world” and believed I was invincible. When I was
last words that I will never forget. My senior drill instructor,
a nineteen-year-old Marine, I had the mindset to just do what
and platoon sergeant of the QRF, told me “You will be fine,
my superiors said and I would be just fine. My life was train
Bradford,” and then I closed my eyes, not knowing if I would
and deploy, with no future goals in mind. The time came when
ever wake up.
I was given my orders to Iraq, and little did I know that with these orders came a future that I could never have anticipated.
The moment I woke up after being in a coma for three weeks,
Seeing the troubles in life for the Iraqis was a life-changing
I was mad, I wanted to die, and I would not do anything to
moment. I was also struck by the reality of being in a war,
help myself get better. I was surrounded and blessed by many
losing many of my friends, and having thoughts of myself not
caregivers who I now see as my heroes, who would not give up
making it home. I didn’t think it could get any worse, but then
on me no matter what my attitude was. I had one corpsman who
knew if I didn’t eat, I wouldn’t get better, and I would continue to suffer. That night she went home and baked brownies for
On January 18, 2007, at 4:00 p.m., a nice, pretty day in Haditha,
me, and the next day, I ate her brownies because it sounded
Iraq, my squad got ready for a routine Improvised Explosive
so good with a glass of cold milk. That moment changed my
Devices (IED) patrol near the river. I was walking point along
outlook on my situation. Having other Marines come talk to
a compound wall, and I noticed an opening to my right and
me every day while I was in the hospital motivated me to work
left. Looking fifteen feet out in front of me, I saw a white bag
extra hard and be able to help other wounded soldiers who
leaning up against a tree. I turned to yell to my squad leader to
went through a similar experience. From then on, my attitude
let him know, and as I turned back around and looked down,
was better, my motivation was heightened, and I no longer
I saw them: the wires that changed my life forever, the wires
used the word “can’t” in my vocabulary.
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Being blind and a double amputee made me face another difficult challenge: re-enlisting in the Marine Corps. I was told it couldnâ€™t happen, but I was determined to prove everyone wrong. I persevered through the sweat and tears and kept my attitude positive, knowing that I would accomplish what I had set out for. On April 7, 2010, all my hard work paid off as I took the oath back into the United States Marine Corps, making history as the first-ever blind, double amputee to reenlist in the Marine Corps. My goal in life is to be the best that I can, push myself to succeed at anything I do, and never quit. I always tell people that I can do the same thing they can do, but I just do it a little differently. It might take me longer, but in the end, it will be done just as an able-bodied person would have done it. Adversity to me is an opportunity to overcome yet another challenge.
From that day on, I was given a new opportunity to start my life over, to live to the fullest and live without regret, and to challenge myself in moments of weakness.
Thoughts For The Ages by Vicky Poutas
Time is patient where I am not. There are so many things to
with blue fire. If the boat rocked when I stood, he took my arm
do—people to care for, errands to run, bills to pay—endless
and held me steady so that I did not fall.
lists that vie for space in an already over-crowded brain. Patience was ejected long ago to make room for “catastrophes
Back in the kitchen, I go through old pill bottles and throw
about which to worry” and “Remember!” As I leave school for
them away. I try to shred labels from pill bottles in my
my parents’ house, I think I would welcome the rest provided
father’s shredder. It is a crappy shredder and everything
by a police officer as he writes out a speeding ticket, but Mom
sticks together. It does not shred. I tear my parents’ names
and Dad are waiting, so I turn my little blue car into a jet and
off of the bottles and put them in my mouth to chew so that
remain hyper-vigilant for the flash of blue lights in the rearview
nobody will find their personal information and use it to clothe
mirror; I am an arched cat flying through the ticking minutes of
themselves in my mom and dad’s identities. I have heard the
the remaining day.
stories. I empty their refrigerator of expired food. On her last visit from Charlotte, my sister left our parents a package of
Upon arrival, I de-plane and enter. I greet my mother with a
ingredients with which to cook. It reads, “Calabrese Salame,
kiss. She stares at me, blank as a sheet of paper. She has not
President’s Prosciutto Naturale and Capocollo Gourmet Deli
eaten anything today, which means she has not taken her pills.
Selection. Ready To Enjoy!” and I can’t help thinking about the
She accuses me of stealing them from her because they are
ridiculousness of this statement. They are currently enjoying
now in a pill minder and not in the silverware drawer where
Polish sausage with a mashed potato mixture. Bacon grease is
she once kept them. I remind her of the pill minder and myself
a staple in their diet. I put the package into the outside pocket
of how strong she used to be when I was a child, how that
of my computer bag and make a mental note to put it into the
strength sometimes hurt, and how I am now not allowed to be
refrigerator when I get home.
angry because age has replaced that strong person with this confused little old lady.
I text my sister and ask why she did not call in Dad’s Nexium and aspirin.
My father calls out from the living room where he is seated in his leather recliner, “Vicky? Is that you? I need you to put
“Yikes, I forgot! I’m sorry,” she texts back.
my eye drops in.” He has just had cataract surgery. I ask him to do it while I watch. He drops the milky fluid on his cheek,
He is almost out, but I send her a text. “It’s okay; I forget
his nose, in his mouth, everywhere but in his eye. I cannot be
things, too.” She is five and a half years younger. Many years
here tonight when he must do this again, so we keep trying.
ago, I taught her the ways of the world. Today I will go to
My shoulder muscles are the tightly wound springs in a broken
Sam’s Club to get the medication that I asked her to fill. I text,
clock that always runs behind. I roll my neck to relieve the
“Just wish you’d told me what was left on your list of things to
stress as I watch and impatiently put in his last drops for him.
do, like I asked, so that I could add them back into my calendar.
When I was a teenager, my father and I spent many early
It would have been nice to know.” She does not reply. I make
mornings watching the sun burn the mist off of the water
a mental note to complete the list that she did not. I wipe a bit
before fishing the day away. In the dark, the water on the New
of food from the corner of my father’s mouth, and he smiles
River looks like the surface of the moon, and small squid glow
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Time keeps ticking. It walks in circles with me from my dad in
A weird thought enters my mind, unbidden, “if the baby is the
the living room, to the kitchen to fill both of their pill minders
size of an onion now, will it be the size of a potato when it’s
and make sure mom is taking her medicine, back to my dad
to put in more eye drops, back to the kitchen to stand at the counter. There is something important I’ve forgotten.
Make a mental note to pay more attention to them and their
Otherwise, why the hell waste time standing still when there
is so much left to do? My feet hurt. I blow gusts of air through my mouth like a winded horse to relieve the stress until I
She is halfway through the pregnancy that will make me a
remember that tomorrow is garbage day, and I must roll the
grandmother by the end of April, and I have not yet seen the
trash bins to the curb. When I step outside, my mother leaves
sonogram pictures they posted online.
the kitchen without taking her pills. She has gone to sort through her costume jewelry for the hundredth time. Shiny
Sigh and gather my things to my chest like a barrier. I feel like
things make her happy. When I was in elementary school,
an old sock.
she brushed my hair until it shone like polished wood every morning of every day.
The leaves are a curtain of color screaming with life.
When I am finished, I run out the door into the diminished day.
I walk through them.
It’s late. I’m running everywhere. I forget to eat until I am sick to my stomach and extremely bitchy. Only my love of junk
I don’t want to go inside.
food keeps me from weighing roughly three pounds. The garage door has been left open all day, a gaping invitation The frenzy of the day ramps me up, and I rush home like a
that says, “We’re not home. Rob us.”
bat out of hell only to sit in the car in my driveway for fifteen minutes thinking about death, while watching bits of red and
Make a mental note to tell the kids to keep it shut.
gold and burnt umber fall from the sky. The leaves are vivid. Enter my home. It looks like a landfill. My cell phone makes the gurgling sound that signals a text message, and my stomach knots in a Pavlovian response. It is
Make a mental note to tell my kids to clean up after themselves.
the sound of more work, someone else to shuttle somewhere,
take lunch to, pick up from school, or take to a doctor’s appointment where I will make copious notes in order to
The blinds are still closed.
remember everything. Make a mental note to open them every morning before I My mind clicks forward, faster and faster.
leave for school.
Make a mental note to do my homework.
Make a mental note to stop making mental notes because my head hurts.
Check Facebook and read my daughter-in-law’s status. The baby she and my oldest son have created is the size of an onion
Walk aimlessly around in circles randomly picking up bits of
Totally forget that my purse and computer bag are still on my
My husband grabs his iPhone from our daughter and sends her
a text that says that he does not appreciate her attitude with his girl ‘Siri.’
My feet still hurt. Our daughter is lying on the floor less than five feet from him, Remember that I haven’t eaten and hope my husband gets
but she texts back anyway.
home soon with fast food. The whole thing makes me laugh. Put my computer bag down. Walk in more circles. My daughter grabs the iPhone again and tells ‘Siri’ she is Put my purse in a different place than normal.
stupid, and then asks ‘Siri’ if she can give her a ride home from school tomorrow.
Forget where it is. ‘Siri’ replies: “I don’t know your school address; in fact, I don’t Forget the gourmet deli selection of meats in the outside
know anything about you.”
pocket of my computer bag until my husband arrives and hands me an Italian sub sandwich. He puts the deli selection in
Now we are all laughing, and my mind slows down enough to
the refrigerator for me.
realize that it is now 11:11 p.m.; time to go to bed. It makes my heart hurt. I haven’t spent enough time with my husband
Feel guilty that I am not taking care of my own family.
My husband picks up the slack at home. It only adds to my
The next morning I awake and stretch long and hard to prepare
guilt, and I ironically respond by shutting him out. He responds
for the fight that will be my day. In the kitchen, I discover that
in kind. We fight almost every night about stupid stuff. We do
my son has left a note on the counter near the refrigerator:
not agree on most things. We cannot communicate except
“Milk was impossible to open. Decided to cut off cap with a
through anger, and the house is soaked in the high emotion
knife,” it reads. “Seriously. What the hell was that thing made
of a marriage in turmoil. My sixteen-year-old daughter and
my nineteen-year-old son have taken bets on whether we will divorce.
I laugh hard, a real belly laugh and feel my tension ease.
I don’t know who is winning.
My mother and father are old, and I am not. For all things there is a season, and it is now a new day. I turn to face it like a
Unless I am playing for the Patriots I can’t get my husband’s
warrior, knowing that it is my turn to brush their hair and hold
them steady so that they do not fall and knowing that I am strong enough to win even this battle, if I have to.
“Why am I so ugly?” my daughter asks ‘Siri’ later that evening. ‘Siri’ replies, “good question.” ‘Siri’ is an automated voice system on my husband’s new iPhone. My daughter bursts into laughter, and I relax a little.
the new river anthology
Sunny Field by Shea Pierson
New Day Wake Smoke Dress Eat Check email Brush teeth− Coat Smoke Keys Car School’s not Too far− Learn Smoke Drive Alone At this point No one home− Nothing left Done today Smoke settles On another day
- Shane Lawrence Kephas
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Marilyn Monroe by Courtney Solano
Not My Intention As I am now, sitting, legs-crossed, hesitating Behind the door, a Bo-staff, on the floor, an escrima Scattered haphazardly around the room, weights and mats bought for decoration? Clothes, unseparated and unclean, supposedly in two containers Books dusty and seemingly untouched but most read Backpack on the floor unopened—unzipped Testing guidelines of Krav Maga and kid’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu somewhere lost Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gis on opposite sides smelling not so pleasant Mouthguard, boxing gloves, shin gear, and Muay Thai wraps, bloodied, need cleaning A large blue yoga ball, inflated, hardly used, resting upon stories I wrote when a child Read enough manga to fill six pages single spaced, twelve font, Times New Roman Pretty ridiculous, letting my grades drop every time, not doing my homework Contradicting myself, contradicting, contradicting Tournaments coming up, not practicing; at work, falling behind When did I become like this? I let it, I welcomed it, drifting down the wrong path Staring at the ceiling now with its uneven plastered nodules and occasional spider webs I’ve been fooling myself this whole time, thinking I am a stepping stone To work hard is a talent, something I have not used in awhile I am that unused weapon, collecting dust and fragile No longer am I powerful or agile, everything an exaggeration is futile But once used, hopefully I will break, then be re-forged with blindingly smothered coals My goals, aspirations, ambitions...ah, okay, I must have imagined them Do I really want to give up my youth to further training or to party, never have gone to any I’ve finally erased myself through writing Should I erase this whole document, this truth? As I am now, as I am now, as I am now, as I am now, thinking aloud while lying down Being a ghost is fine for now, working unnoticed is where I have worked best Listening and speaking without generating sound.
- Joseph Ratte
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Serene Majesty by Bernie Rosage Jr.
Contributors Matthew Bradford Matthew joined the United States Marine Corps in 2005. He deployed in September 2006 to Iraq during Iraqi Freedom. On January 18, 2007 he stepped on an IED and immediately lost his vision and both of his legs. He spent three years in rehab and reenlisted in the Marine Corps on April 7, 2010 as the first blind double amputee. After spending the last three years trying to motivate others wounded and not, he made the decision to enroll at Coastal to get a degree in motivational speaking and Communications. His goal is to use his story and life experiences to help others that may face adversities and show them that giving up is not an option but motivation to take on a challenge and persevere. Mary Laird Busk Mary is a seventy-three-year-old, widowed great-grandmother. She was born in New York City and grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. She has lived in twelve different states, as well as in Jamaica and Bermuda. Her career was in the medical field where she spent twenty-seven years in Behavioral Services and three years in Medical Genetics. She is pursuing a degree in Biology at Coastal with intended transfer to UNCW. Upon graduation she will return to a career in Genetics while she works on her Masters in Human Genetics. Darrin Chestnut Darrin was born in East Baltimore, Maryland on April 1, 1965. He retired from the Marines in 2004 as a Geospatial Analyst. He and his family settled into Jacksonville, North Carolina. He currently works for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. His goal in school is to get his Geography degree. Bryce Gillam Bryce was born in Chesapeake, Virginia. He went to White Oak High School and graduated in 2011. He now attends Coastal and is taking general courses until he finds his passion. Zenita Green Zenita is a person who learns about life as it happens. She awaits everyday challenges with no regards to yesterday. She has a no holds bar rule for the truth. She speaks and always goes outside of the box. Shane Lawrence Kephas Shane has thought about pursuing a degree in writing since the beginning of his college career. He often finds himself writing countless observations, poems, and thoughts; oblivious of the potential hidden inside him. Being unaware of the skill he may possess, he continues to write frequently. Jonna Mastropasqua Jonna was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She moved to North Carolina in 2006 and married her husband, a Marine stationed at Camp LeJeune, in 2008. She is a part-time student and full-time nerd. She writes poetry and fiction as well as non-fiction and memoir.
the new river anthology
Shea Pierson Shea has never taken a photography class, but loves snapping shots on her Nikon D60. She also enjoys theology, philosophy, grammar, British literature, and playing her flute. Vicky Poutas Vicky Poutas is a special credit student with a Bachelor’s in Broadcasting from ECU. After raising three children and watching them grow up, she has gone back to school at Coastal to find out what she wants to do when she grows up. Joseph Ratte Joseph loves to write and experiment with forms he sees, learns, or accidentally make ups on his own. He is very detailedoriented, and finds poetry is the most fun to create. Joseph’s writing probably would not be here today without his English instructors, family, friends, and the talent that he received from God. Bernie Rosage Jr. Bernie Rosage Jr. is a native of Onslow County, North Carolina, where he resides with his wife, Tami, their children and grandchildren. He is an artist and full time student at Coastal and will transfer to ECU this summer to obtain his degree in Elementary Education. Courtney Solano Courtney Solano is from Syracuse, New York. She is former tattoo artist who is majoring in Sociology and working with RYCA and Golconda Skateboarding with her artwork. Shane Unger Shane Unger is a U.S. Navy Corpsman. He has been on active duty for the past nine years. Shane is currently working on a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science, and hopes to become a Physician Assistant. Chris Wilk Chris Wilk was on active duty with the Marines from 1968 to 1971, then from 1975 to 2002. For eight years after retirement he worked with Marines in the areas of training and lessons learned. In 2011 he thru-hiked the Appalachia Trail approximately 2,181 miles. Now he studies and writes.
The New River Anthology is a publication of the English Division of Coastal Carolina Community College. All works contained within are the sole copyright of the authors.