Notes From the Underground, Fall 2020

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Notes from the Underground: Maclay Upper School’s Journal of Creative Writing Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Craig Beaven Founder: Dr. N. Suzanne Jamir Issue 8

Fall 2020

Editorial Staff Editor Managing Editor Poetry Editor Fiction Editor Nonfiction Editor Art Editors Copy Editor

Kate Krizner Annette Lu Chloe Harbin Mercy Crapps Eli Mears Dani Paredes and Sonu Patel Ella McConnell

Front and Back Cover Art by Annette Lu

A Note from the Editor Dear readers, To say the least, 2020 has been a turbulent year. At times, it has been tempting to succumb to the hopelessness that has saturated so much of our news, our feeds, and even our conversations. During the never-ending hours of isolation in quarantine, I found sanctuary and certainty in the literary arts. When I walked through the pages of novels by Hemingway, Orwell, and the BrontĂŤ sisters, I felt the comfort of a shared human experience that transcends every age...every pandemic, world war, and political crisis. I also picked up my own pen to embrace and dissect the shadows that loomed over a present and a future that seemed more unknowable than ever before. In recent months, I have spoken with many other writers, poets, and artists who navigated their way through these dark days in this same way, further reaffirming my belief that the literary and visual arts are elemental to human life. In art, we find hope rather than despair, asylum rather than isolation, unity rather than uniformity. Ars longis, vita brevis. I have had the opportunity over the past few months to work with an incredibly talented staff who have labored tirelessly to make this publication possible. I am especially grateful to Dr. Beaven for his hours of advice, counsel, and encouragement. I could not have asked for a more diligent, cooperative, and creative team, and I am immensely grateful for every moment we have worked side by side. Our sincere hope, dear readers, is that by reading or contributing to this issue, you will be participating in a process much greater than simply experiencing or creating art by yourself. You will, rather, be gaining a better understanding of your fellow students, as artists, and as people, and through such understanding, you will be linked in a deeper way. In art, we find a connectedness, a community, and strengthening this community is the most important accomplishment this journal could ever achieve. Until our next issue, Kate Krizner 1

Table of Contents Family - Anya Mazerac


Schubert’s Moment Musical No. 2 - Eli Mears


Notes from the Underground Nonfiction Prize Winner A Moment in Time - Katie Matthews The Day Eli Ruined My Life - Trevor Gross

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Orion’s Might - Sean Patrick McCann


Untitled - Maria Boulos


On Levity - Kate Krizner


A Song of Aremaeyan: The Knight’s Pledge - Zachary Kasper


iceland bookstores - Abby Hugill


northern lights - Abby Hugill


Sleeping Oak - Jenna Adams


Fingers Crossed - Kameryn Davis


King - Mason Singleton


One Audience - Teresa Morgado


Bird - Eli Mears


Sleeping Dreams of Port-Au-Prince - Jenna Adams


Smokey Stream - Eli Mears

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Rest in Power - Dani Paredes


DAMN. - Dani Paredes


Pray 4 Love - Dani Paredes


Sundown - Sean Patrick McCann


Maria - Dani Paredes


Caricature Stand, Night Before September 22 - Kameryn Davis


Ruby Red - Madeline Sewell


True Silence - Kate Krizner


Notes from the Underground Fiction Prize Winner What’s Left Unsaid - Kameryn Davis


The Choice to Live - Ella McConnell


Notes from the Underground Art Prize Winner Lady of Colors - Mason Singleton


Letter to Myself - Sean Patrick McCann


Tabula Rasa - Annette Lu


Another Day - Kameryn Davis


The Burning - Sophia Krizner


Blackberry Bush on a Cliff’s Edge - Jenna Adams


Mural - Eli Mears


Apple Trees - Sean Patrick McCann

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Dancing Yellow Girl - Olivia Schroeder


YOLO - Kameryn Davis


the WANTING - Sophia Krizner


My Solace - Mercy Crapps


Losing My Mind - Lindsey Gray


How to Take Over the World - Kate Krizner


The Sound of the Blackbird’s Siren - Sophia Krizner


Pretty Boy - Sonu Patel


I’ll Never Choose a Title - Chloe Harbin


Untitled - Maria Boulos


Clocks - Anna Grant


Girl Eye - Anna Grant


BTS V - Emma Messer


A Man With a Rose - Kameryn Davis


Notes from the Underground Poetry Prize Winner Elevator Shaft - Jenna Adams


Feel Something - Lindsey Gray


305 Calories - Mercy Crapps


Tears for You - Olivia Schroeder Poker Face - Kameryn Davis

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Snow Globes - Kate Krizner


A Little Bit Won’t Kill You But a Lot of It Sure Will - Sonu Patel


the last words of the dead girl in my gutter - Chloe Harbin


ANXIETY - Emma Messer







Raindrop Raindrop Raindrop Raindrop Flashes of light from the corners Reflecting in your bright eyes Sheets of rain across crescendoing gap, paint our faces with the watercolor,

I’m here.




“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which has never been seen before, and shall never be seen again.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature 1. Last summer, my parents took me to Aspen, Colorado, their favorite place in the world. Unlike any city I am accustomed to, Aspen is a very small town with a very small population, so everyone knows everyone. Because this dynamic is so different than what I normally see, my parents spent the week showing me all the simple pleasures the town had to offer instead of packing our days full of tourist-y attractions. Maybe it was that the town seemed to be full of life, yet alone, or maybe it was the loud restaurants and quiet mountains, but I realized that life should not be about simply going through the motions; we should take the time to appreciate the small moments life offers, because each one is precious and fleeting. 2. In “Joyas Voladoras,” Brian Doyle says,“So much is held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment” (148). We should appreciate all that happens in a moment so that all the joy and wonder of that moment may fill our hearts in the one lifetime we have. I constantly choose to fill my heart with the events of the past, but that is not the most meaningful way to live. After all, if I focus on the events of the past, what will fill my heart in place of joy? Regret? Sorrow? 3. We must set aside current worries and struggles to live in and fully enjoy each moment, because we only have one chance to; once a moment has passed, it is 8

gone: “It’s expensive to fly. You burn out. You melt the engine� (147). We only have a defined number of moments in our lives, so they should be spent living and loving rather than worrying and agonizing over obstacles we cannot control or change. 4. On the Wednesday of our vacation, a storm came. Because it was a family trip, we were not going to let some violent weather deter us from exploring the town, so we visited many of the local restaurants (considering the size of the town, they were very close to each other). While each restaurant had different structures, one thing remained constant: the people. Cold and wet, the locals dined and laughed like there was not a raging storm all around them. Even with lightning illuminating the sky, these people took the time to cherish this moment. As I watched them, I realized that this is the true way to live life to the fullest; becoming distraught over tests and stressing over events already passed waste precious, otherwise beautiful, moments. 5. When reading this essay, you probably have not stopped to count how many paragraphs there are because, really, why would you? Well, I have done that for you; there are six paragraphs. I did not count these just to do it (because again, why would I), but instead I did it because this essay is finite. Similar to life, this essay is short. Where life only has a certain number of moments, this essay can only have so many paragraphs, so many sentences, so many characters. This means that I must take the time to appreciate each sentence, because each one ties to each other and each one is uniquely important.


6. Students should not stress as much about the future because, instead of worrying, students should be trying to appreciate the world as it is now so they can see one that will never be seen again. Students should not worry about the future because, if they focus so intensely on it, they will never be able to live in the present and they will miss many opportunities in life. Furthermore, if students choose to focus on the future, then can they truly succeed in the present? Works Consulted Doyle, Brian.“Joyas Voladoras”. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers, edited

by David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky, 10th ed., Bedford/Martin’s,

2014, pp. 147-149.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature:

Volume 1, edited by Nina Baym, Shorter 9th ed., W. W. Norton and Co

pany, Inc., 2017, pp. 553-82.




A PREFACE FOR THE READER: The following essay is a stretch of reality, a work of humor from the start, and a retelling of a story first created in middle school. Thus, the vast majority of the quality and delivery of its writing remains unedited. Neither the protagonist nor the antagonist of the essay bears ill will.

Break – separate into pieces as a result of shock or strain (or Eli). In the win-

ter of 2018, I was having a boring day at school as usual (until F Block of course). In Language Arts we had a substitute and did book work and in Math we did triangle stuff. Because it was a Monday I had to go to the after-school center, and that’s when it all started…

As I arrived and was greeted by a room full of sadness, I knew I would be

in that room for a while. I signed in by writing my name very quickly and by writing the time as 3:00. The desk I normally sit in was occupied, so I sat in the one next to Braden. I logged onto my computer by typing “••••••••” very quickly. I looked at Schoology for what my homework was and reached into my backpack to get it out. I talked to people in the room that I knew until about 3:20 when Mr. Bradley told us we had to go and work on homework. The lady that was normally in the center helping Mr. Bradley was not there, so there was a different guy helping and his name was Dash. I worked on my homework and that first hour went by really fast. I finished everything, but it must have taken a lot longer than I expected. Once I left that room, my life would change forever.

Since my water bottle was empty, I went to go to the drinking fountain. I

walked over to my locker first and put my completed homework in my locker and slammed it shut. Then I got a long drink from the drinking fountain and walked back to the center. On the way Eli asked me if I wanted to go play basketball with him 11

because he needed a lot of practice. I was reluctant at first, but I gave in because I had nothing better to do. We spent about fifteen minutes looking for the keys, which were eventually found on the shelf behind Mr. Combs’s desk. Eli took the keys and walked down to the orange ball chest and took out a basketball. He started dribbling around and then wanted to play a one-on-one game. Neither of us really scored for a couple minutes until Eli got the ball and ran down court. As he ran, I caught up to him and tripped over his leg. As I landed my fingers bent back very far, and I knew right away that I broke my fingers. I did not know how many or where, but I knew some were broken. The pain was immense but manageable, like if someone just took your finger and broke it like a baseball bat on their leg. I tried to wash my hands because I had multiple cuts on my hand including a deep gash on my middle finger. Luckily, my mom came and picked me up.

My mom worked at TOC and could get me in early, so we drove to there

to get x-rays on my left and right hands. The x-rays were very hard to get because I could only move my left thumb and my right hand, but thankfully they gave me a highlighter to push my other fingers out of the way. Great thinking, guys! Then they took me to get a splint put on, so my fingers would not fall off and could maybe actually heal. After that, my mom took me home and I was honored to put a plastic bag over my hand while I took a shower. I had to take ibuprofen after each meal to make sure that I could feel my hand because otherwise it felt like my fingers were melting away. After a week I got on a hard cast and then three weeks later I got that off. Now I have a brace I wear at school and during tennis. All I have to say is, thank you Eli for all that you have done.




What do you see in me I see into your dark colorless eyes A night sky lies beyond Your breath pours like the ocean Your chest rises and falls like the waves It’s a rough day at sea It’s the white vines of maturity Protruding from the now Leading to tomorrow Your black fur glistens like a summer’s river Just to disappear in our sunless world You always hear my voice When you talk Your voice is unheard But I understand The constellations tell a story One of joy, or fear Only you and I would understand You don’t have much time left I won’t forget the nights When you tell your stories 13





Alabaster moon rises in a patchwork sky of blood, daylight, torn royal robes, all stitched together by golden hands. Dark, winged creature soars across the fading quilt. Winged creature intoxicated by flight. Winged creature out of reach of peril’s cold fingers. What a wonderful feeling it must be, not knowing or fearing what it is to fall. Cruel Cheshire smiles o’er my head, moon beckons, and stars mock. Winged creature lands next to me. I ask him, Do you not fear you will fall? Do you not fear death? He does not answer and flies away. I envy him. I am haunted by a night vision. Standing beside Atlas, I bear heaven on my shoulders. It is heavy and daunting, hopeless and crushing. I look at him with pleading eyes. And he says to me, Foolish girl, do you not know who holds up the sky? I let go and walk away. The sky does not fall. I wake up. Lighter. 15



The lands of the Gendrii were young and in conflict. Peoples fought over

lands and resources. Small tribes grasped for power. Few survived, and others fell to be engulfed by fire and blood. Wars were waged and many never stopped. Voria itself was a field of turmoil. Its hills and plains were covered in tribal leaders and converging civilizations, the first of which was Foringar of the Southern Peninsula. The Kingdom of Foringar prospered as its first King Forig grew hungry with power. He sent his Ironclad legions across the region, yielding to only the Great Desert and the waters of the Northern Sea. Many fell under Forig’s rule; some chose death over his tyranny.

As Forig’s son took the throne, he ordered his armies east to the Dag-

nerfynn mountain range, a place full of Life energy. It moved along the eastern coast and curved back at the most northern corner of the Continent, creating a C-shaped depression known as the Arem Aeya, Rich Valley. The mountain pass which served as the entrance to Liin was barely big enough for the Foringaran forces. Covered in rock and black ice, it stretched twenty miles long. But the terrain was not what killed off the first legions, nor was it the Native tribes.

The Great flying beasts of the Dagnerfynn Mountains never thought

twice about devouring a legion invading their territory. Not when the Waeverns were many times over the size of a man, with claws like Aremaeyan Steel blades, teeth like daggers, and wings like sails that thrust squalls in the faces of any who dared encroach upon their nesting grounds. The new King of Foringar, Borig, called his troops back as he suffered his first terrifying defeat at the hands of monsters beyond his knowledge. Borig vowed to stay far away from the Dagnerfynn Range. 16

He vowed that never again would he allow his men to be slaughtered by such beasts, and so it was.

This new peace did not last long. As Borig grew older, he grew more

tyrannical and drunk with power. He forced taxes on his empire and drew levies from every corner of Voria. Very few in the royal family approved of his actions, least of all his youngest son, Garund. Garund saw his father’s tyranny as an insult to the family’s name and to the Gendrii of Voria. He sought to destroy this empire that his grandfather built in his lust for power. For two years, Garund freed slaves and promised them that if they followed him, the slaves could start a new home, out of the reach of Foringar. As he and his people made their way to the Dagnerfynn mountains, they reached the Arem Aeya where his father dared not go.

Garund fought masters and freed slaves, and from those that fought with

him he chose the most skilled, loyal, and brave, who would become the twenty-four Knights of Aremaeya. Of his Knights, he named the four best to be his Lieutenants: Askar Felr–son of Denjo Felr, once Lord of Eniya; Graesion Sael and Aenaeya Sael–brother and sister, children of the lower House of Sael; and Aeryn, whose name was Daenal, meaning friend. These three houses, these four names, would become the legendary Heroes of Aremaeya and of the world which the Gendrii call

Aeyvanfel, Place of Gods.

Two years passed and the people Garund called his Daenalo, his friends,

had reached the Mountain pass of Dagnerfynn. In the entrance to the pass stood a tree, and on this tree was carved in old Valecur,“Ifryn Kelon Da Aremaeya Fre

Oren.” “Only Kings of Aremaeya Shall Pass.” Garund approached the old, twisted Hellen Tree, its green, star-shaped leaves and blue flower petals shivering in the wind. Garund spoke the words written there and touched where the deep cuts curved in the bark. As he spoke these words and touched the carvings, gold energy 17

flowed in the air, and the words which he spoke grew heavy with power. The script in the wood began to glow teal, the color of the young savior’s significant magic. Then a roar.

A guttural reptilian growl sounded through the pass. Creaking and

rolling, it was not just heard, but felt. Then another, this time a hissing screech. Then two massive shapes flew through the pass.

The two great shadows circled around the travelers and landed with a

thundering crash in front of the gate-tree. The winds from their wings blew up dust and even caused children who were not yet strong enough to stand it to fall. The Waeverns sat, their legs like columns, their wings like great doors to the mountain pass. Then one stooped its neck down and looked upon Garund.

Art thou the one who called the words of the gate? it asked, its voice full of

power and wisdom.

“Yes, great guardian, I am Garund, third son of Borig,” proclaimed the


Son of Borig, why dost thou march upon our mountains? The other beast

did not lower its head, its voice full of arrogance.

“I come not to conquer or to fight; my people are not soldiers,” Garund

explained.“We seek a new home in which to settle.” The two serpents growled at each other, contemplating in their own tongue.

Who art thou to ask this of us? they asked.

“I am a liberator and a savior; these men, women, and children were slaves

and serfs to my father’s empire and his father’s before him. I am Garund and these people are my Daenalo. We seek only a home.”

The Waeverns nodded.

We shall grant thee this home of which thou speak, they decided, only 18

upon the condition that thee shall lay not a hand on the people which also call the Arem Aeya home.

Garund drew his sword, a long length of leaf-shaped Iron, its grip long

enough for two hands and its blade the width of one. He leveled the blade at the Waeverns and held it there.

The Waeverns did not attack, nor did they flinch from the sight of the

blade. There, the prince thrust the tip of the blade into the soft dirt of the mountain and fell to one knee.

“I pledge it on my life, on the lives of my children, and their children after

them.” Garund’s knights drew their swords in a loud rasp of Iron on wood and leather, each falling to one knee.

“I pledge it on my people, and on their children,” he continued, “I pledge it

on my soul, and on the nobility of the Aviendre.” His words swept through all the hundreds of followers behind him, his knights echoing the last of his pledges, the pledge of the Knights of Aremaeya.

The Two Waeverns spread their wings and leapt into the sky, throwing a

torrent of wind upon the pilgrims, opening the pass of the Dagnerfynn mountains.




i’m currently thinking about iceland bookstores, magical escapes from the frigid cold, the cool lighting contrasting the–although early afternoon–night sky. an open layout, with spiral stairs that lead to the wraparound second story with wall-to-wall bookshelves and tables, that hold the tidy but strewn books. although the perfect place to be alone with yourself, you don’t mind when the affectionate, yet aloof, bookstore cats lead you to works so confidently, as if they know what words will change you. collecting more and more books, you forget you’ll soon have to venture back out into the cold & grey, but similarly comforting, ice land.






Sit against the giant oak that sleeps On top of the vibrant green hill,  And against the soft brushed, light blue canvas Soft, cotton clouds stick to the painted sky The tree’s limbs relax and Float just above the grass and wildflowers The curly Spanish moss  Drapes over the long branches Corkscrew-like vines wrap around the rusted chains Of two old, broken swings That drag in the dirt  And fallen auburn leaves The day has been long and  It is too tired to hold them up now




The pigs flew, morning came. It’s still dark. No curly tails in sight. I walk in large gaps To avoid the cracks and splits in the concrete, But manage to pick up every penny I can find to make me happy. I flinch away from the black cat when it starts to pour. I lift the hood over my head as the cats and dogs fall. A dalmatian falls before me but starts chasing a ragdoll. Mom would kill me if I’m late. Rumors say my would-have-been big brother was killed for saying “no” Without the “ma’am.” I knock against the pencil in my backpack. That’s wood, right? The rabbit’s foot dangles on my key chain. Mother is holding an umbrella over her head next to the fireplace. Sparks fly. Not seven but six. The umbrella burns, and the house is on fire. I cross my fingers where I stand and give the small foot a shake. The mirror shatters.






Gleaming with reflections of the multitude of strobe lights surrounding

us, her wide brown eyes meet mine for an instant. She has the same euphoric look on her face as I had had on mine, looking to my own mother, at my first concert.

Her excitement—along with mine and that of the entire audience—begins

to boil over at the arrival of that silent hush that takes over the crowd for a split second, the miraculously coordinated, unspoken agreement between tens of thousands of spectators that comes when they sense the much-awaited artist approaching the stage. Turned into a teenage girl once more, I contribute to the subsequent exhilaration that reigns the O2 Arena just as much as my own daughter: the shrill screams and cries emitted simultaneously for over three minutes are deafening yet infinitely rejuvenating. Sitting in the first tier of the arena, with the stage on our right, we can see everything—the artist opening the show speaking critical, muted words, inaudible over the crowd’s shrieks; the thousands of dots covering the main floor and encircling tiers standing up as the first notes from the speakers reach our ears; and soon, the impenetrable darkness over the audience turned into a twinkling, starry night sky of cell phone flashlights swaying back and forth. Being amidst this one united audience made up of thousands of unique individuals—connected by the timeless thread that guides our synchronous hushing, standing, singing, and swaying—makes me once again appreciate what I realized when I was thirteen: despite our many differences in appearance and background, we are all human beings and fundamentally similar, connected by the transcendental thread of music.

“Wow…” my mom—who has never adjusted to the immense scale of

American things—pronounces in awe as we turn the corner, catching sight of the colossal, mushroom-cap-resembling Superdome stadium silhouetted against the 25

sunset sky. “Tc, it’s enormous!”

“It really is,” I utter in reply—equally as stunned.

As the dimming sun recedes beyond the skyline, the New Orleans streets

are overflowing with partygoers, trick-or-treaters, and concertgoers—all masqueraded in different costumes or distinct variations of the same. Though it seems that the entire world population has concentrated around the Superdome tonight, there are not even two identical witches or black cats that pass by us as we enter.

The stadium concourse is illuminated as bright as day, though night has

fallen. As my mom and I amble determinedly through it, crammed like sardines, the incessant, thunderous murmur of the thousands filling the dome resonates ubiquitously, making the background music indiscernible; dissonant conversations fill the air with voices of anticipation and excitement, turning the atmosphere into one palpably saturated with emotion. We pass the beaming stands of stadium food and Ed Sheeran and Lauv merchandise on either side of us, all half hidden behind lines of ecstatic mobs, and trudge along to our seats, positioned at three o’clock from the stage, in the first row of the lowest tier.

“Hello! Would you mind getting a picture of us?” queries the blonde, kind-

faced mother sitting behind us with her son and daughter. She asks with the smiling face and insistent passing of a phone characteristic of the question, only uttered in special moments.

As I finish their photoshoot, my mom inquires,“Where are you all from?”

They have made the pilgrimage from North Carolina—double our jour-

ney from Florida.

When reciprocated this question, my mom answers, “We’re from Portu-

gal!” as she tenaciously has for as long as I can remember. Variations of this exchange are universally audible: excerpts including 26

“Yeah, we flew from New Mexico to see him!” or “This is our fifth one of his concerts. We just had to come—it might be his last tour you know!” echo across the massive arena, even discernably spoken in other languages. While gazing down from our seats at the vast expanse of the concrete main floor, studded with perfect rows of those grey, padded folding chairs, my mom and I converse about the different people populating the arena. To the left, an old American couple of around eighty catches our eye, dancing in the margins of the main floor to the pre-recorded music blasting from the speakers. Passing them is a group of four teenage friends of contrasting ethnicities and comically different heights in neon, math symbol T-shirts—plus, minus, multiply, and divide—and color-coordinated tutus. Closer to the stage, which reminds me of an open cardboard box turned on its side towards the audience—its cardboard flaps displaying digital Halloween pumpkins carved with ÷ symbols––stands a grandmother-mother-daughter trio laughing and chatting merrily in Spanish about the others present.

Abruptly, light vanishes.

The dome, at seven sharp, assumes night-time darkness—penetrated only

by the strobe lights swooping overhead. The dancing couples, the twinning friend groups, the multigenerational families, in an instant, become one continuous sea of coalescing dots, indistinguishable people. The murmurous chaos reigning the main floor and surrounding tiers transforms, in almost implausible speed, into a serene undulating ocean of people uttering as one—as if to each other— “I like me better when I’m with you.”

First one, then two, then forty thousand phone flashlights are swaying,

floating upon the oscillating sea—even before “I’ve watched those eyes light up with a smile,” the opening line to the next song on Lauv’s setlist, is heard. As I turn my own light on, I cannot help but wonder how it has been decided so utterly that this 27

is the song deserving of the ineffable starry night.

The stage lights go off. Forty thousand—one—continuous shrieks envelop

the night-time as Lauv and his band depart. My mom and I exchange joyous smiles.

Daylight returns. Chaos recommences as the ocean evaporates drop by

drop, each rushing to reach the food and merchandise stands and come back as quickly as possible.

Night-time reconvenes the sea.

My mom enthusiastically begins,“Are you enjoying the…” but her ques-

tion is cut off by the perceived silence that has taken over the audience in moments. Sooner than we can recognize its cause—the livestreaming of Ed Sheeran’s approach to the stage—the silence has already erupted into euphoria. His arrival seems to take over twenty minutes, so great is our anticipation and ecstasy; in reality, only forty seconds pass until Ed’s vehement strumming kicks off the show.

From “when I was six years old, I broke my leg” on, every line is chanted

passionately and infallibly by the crowd, even by those who previously did not know the lyrics—a product of the near-magical connection that guides our human ocean.

It is needlessly, therefore, that Ed entreats,“See, here’s the secret to this

show: there’s no such thing as ‘can’t sing!’ Can’t sing in tune? Maybe. But, for this to work, you just have to sing and sing loudly!”

The volume, intensity, and oneness of our chanting grows stronger even

as our voices grow hoarse. Our emotion reaches towards its climax with every next song that is more heartfelt, more powerful, more familiar than the last. Galway Girl. Photograph. Thinking Out Loud. Perfect. No pauses in between, just seamless transitions from one to the next. The stands will surely collapse from the force of our forty thousand simultaneous jumps. The bass in my core pounds more intense28

ly with every next note. Two hours—gone in a minute. Forty thousand voices in one.

Shouted clearly and definitively from the stage,“Good night, London!”

reverberates out to the audience, exploding into a last shrieking, deafening hurrah.

A final prolonged whistle emitted from somewhere above us is silenced.

The concert ends. The oceanic audience of the O2 Arena is dispersed—this time for good—into its component water droplets. The thread of music snapping, the unity of our world dissolves.

“That was brilliant!” my daughter exclaims, with a voice squeaky and

rasping, as I regain sense of time and place.

“Oh, it was absolutely incredible! Feeling the heat of the strobe lights

wooshing across us, the pure energy of the atmosphere—it makes me feel your age again.”

We begin walking up the stairs to the bustling concourse, still sensing the

lingering tranquility at heart that can only be kindled by a concert, by the one event that proves the prospect of world peace; around us, the mood of the air becomes discrepant, evermore in discordance as in the outside world.

As we step out of the arena, the words that have formed the foundation of

my principles since I was thirteen are returned to me: “You know, mum, it’s amazing how we are all connected deep down. There were literally forty thousand people here tonight from different nations, of different races, different beliefs—all of us seemingly disparate! But as soon as the music started, all of that was just forgotten. We become one body, agreeing on the same fundamental ideas, and belting out the same words—out of tune but in perfect harmony, as one audience.”




“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving.” Lao Tzu, Daoist philosopher To see Boston in a day is difficult. But not impossible from the granite gates outside of Faneuil Hall. There’s the Midwestern family with the kids who don’t want to set foot in the aquarium. Their colorful accent seems like it’s from Thirty Rock and less from the harsh reality of vacation. Nonetheless, the children’s malady is quickly remedied by cones from Ben & Jerry’s: Cherry Garcia for the parents, Cookie Dough for the kids; as the universal mantra goes, ice cream makes you happy. No worries; the hotel’s a half-hour away. The hardened Bostoner, down in the dumps after a decidedly gloomy outcome at Fenway Park. Raindrops on his L.L. Bean whaleback are like chocolate jimmies on a cake, but they certainly haven’t made the 10-2 loss sweeter. It’s a long, dreary subway ride home. The intensity and crowds of rush hour might seem a bit much for his small frame and obstinate soul. But on the light side, the nearby amaranth market is warm, there’s hot food inside, and it couldn’t hurt to sit down and rest. The street performers up the block set up their wares and play Johnny Cash, dance to reggae, and perform magic. The guitarist and his ocherous-yellow Yamaha lie passive to the whims of the passerby; to give or not to give, they must consider. A large and noisy crowd groups around the dancers, flipping over each other and 30

circling right into that one gullible tourist (with the fat pockets). Magicians swallow balloons and juggle hacky sacks and soccer balls. One magician up the block seems to have a huge yellow snake wrapped around him, as well as a few BPD officers. The foreign tourist group inches down the concrete block, rapt with every little thing in this new reality. What to see? Where to go? Perhaps more importantly, what to eat? The jaded Yankees must seem like hungry fish to these travelers, swimming tightly together in their school. Their bus blocks almost an entire city block of traffic, but regardless, they’re living in the moment; what’s a few pissed cabbies and drivers? Head out of the clouds, dinner time. Walk back to the market, in stupor over my dinner options. Get some pizza, sit at the bar, and think about tomorrow. Maybe the museums, the whale-watchers, the universities…who knows. There’s no rush, after all.




Staring off a rugged mountain cliff, Little yellow lights twinkle along the path that Flows down the summit’s own steep side. Downhill, a tufted animal darts by. It howls its trail into the black night, And disappears into the Dying branches of the tired, droughty undergrowth. The bare bushes line the path Leading down to a small, gray, cement church That sits above its own quiet, dreaming town. Colorful songs flow out of the chapel Between the bars in the open windows. Its vibrancy floats on the steady winds To land gently on the ones fast asleep. They do not wake the buildings tonight. The buildings remember the quelling sound From countless quiet silent nights before. The singing inspires their thoughts and dreams. It scares away nightmares from creeping in. It whirls around the stars to help them glow, And lulls the eager mountain to stillness.








“Hip-Hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.” Geraldo Rivera

Ahmaud Arbery was going for a jog in a neighborhood. Sandra Bland was

avoiding a state trooper on the road. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was holding a toy gun. Stephon Clark was holding a cell phone. Trayvon Martin was walking home from the convenience store.

Each one lost their life because of stereotypes related to solely the color

of their skin. They, along with countless others, died due to prejudice and racism in America. Yet Geraldo Rivera, a reporter on Fox News, blames hip-hop.

In 2017, Kendrick Lamar released an album that powerfully impacted

the world of music. Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for DAMN., his fourth studio album and latest project. It also won Best Rap Album at the Grammy’s, along with its songs being featured in the soundtracks of movies, like “DNA” in the movie The

Hate U Give. It is no doubt that this recognition is for his incredible lyrical talent and for the use of his music as a cry for protest against social injustice. Stereotypically, hip-hop and rap are seen as songs about drugs, gang-violence, or sexual relations, usually conveyed though profanity. Lamar repeatedly disproves this stereotype. Critics interpret this album in many different ways. Some believe it is about Lamar’s internal religious conflicts. Others believe that it is meant to make statements about the social issues in our society. Critics compare it to previous albums and other music, revealing how DAMN. is unique in the vast pool of music geared toward addressing social injustice. Lamar clearly has other ideas evident in his album, like internal conflict, religion, and realism. However, these topics are all tied together 36

and rooted heavily in one major, prevalent topic which Lamar is beyond invested in: social injustice reform in the United States.

A prominent concern about rap music is that rappers who have grown

into fame begin producing not necessarily what they want or need to, but instead whatever makes them the most money. Duncan Mair, the author of a journal for undergraduate research at Huron University, argues that Lamar has created a balance and found a way to make money and send his message due to his talent: “This is what makes Lamar so special. He has achieved his star status without having to rely on these tropes [lyrics that makes money]. This is, in part, due to the quality of his lyricism” (Mair 4). The author argues that this, along with his use of his platform, leads to his success. Lamar represents a sincere artist, resulting in his message being more meaningful and powerful. This sincerity is seen in DAMN. as he contemplates approaches of religion and attitudes of dealing with the prominent issues in society.

Clearly, this album follows Lamar’s trend of protesting social injustice and

the discrimination experienced by the African American community. Patrick Salmons, who published his college thesis at Virginia Tech on this topic, explains that “through the profits of hip hop, Kendrick Lamar does not want to forget about his community. He does not want to abandon the violence, inequality, and discrimination of his community” (32). Although Salmons mainly analyzes Lamar’s previous albums, the same ideas are clearly at the base of DAMN.. After all, DAMN. is the result of an evolution of these thoughts marinating in Lamar’s brain. How he approaches and handles these injustices proves to be different as his albums succeed.

Some politicians tend to criticize rap music because it is deemed unortho-

dox, too profane, or more detrimental than helpful for the black community. A Fox News reporter, Geraldo Rivera, commenting on Lamar’s performance at the BET 37

awards, greatly agreed with this concept (Glenn). After showing a clip of Lamar performing on top of a police car, Rivera famously proceeds to repeat the lines from the songs, with evident connotations. Brilliantly, Lamar added this clip to the end of his first song,“BLOOD.” After describing a situation of lending help to a woman who proceeds to take the narrator’s life, he creates an impactful intro to his album. He then proceeds to build up Rivera’s voice as it echoes from the background, as Rivera clearly mocks the lines “and we hate the po-po, wanna kill us dead in the streets fo’ sho’” (DAMN.). Another female reporter from the same clip proceeds to say, “Oh please, ugh, I don’t like it” (DAMN.). As this is evidently extremely ignorant and highlighting a fallacy in some beliefs, this shows the type of people that Lamar is reacting and responding to in his albums. He also continues to fire back at Rivera in “YAH.” In doing so, Lamar highlights the foul conclusions of people who are subject to ignorance. However, demonstrating his artistic brilliance, Lamar follows this track immediately with “DNA,” which he opens with “I got loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA” (DAMN.). This song is extremely upbeat, and he clearly demonstrates his pride in his background. Without clearly addressing it, Lamar responded to Rivera, showing Rivera’s ignorance and the hate that dominated mainstream media’s responses to clips of his music.

The song that Lamar performed at the BET Awards was “Alright” from

To Pimp A Butterfly. Rachel Vandagriff, the chair of Music History and Literature at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, explains that this song starts with messages of hope but has sharp contrasts: “The song ‘Alright,’ however, addresses the topic of police brutality, with the lines ‘We hate the po’ po’/ wanna kill us in the streets fo’ sho’.’ The hook, in contrast, expresses hope: that in the face of brutal obstacles, eventually things will be alright” (Vandagriff 348). She explains how it is a type of relatable protest music. His previous albums show that Lamar has similar 38

underlying opinions, but differing approaches and different ways of conveying it in his albums. DAMN. is a growth from these albums and the responses to them.

Although many authors do not study DAMN., their analyses of other

albums and works of Lamar help to understand his intentions for DAMN.. Dr. Natalie Graham, who earned a PhD in American Studies at Michigan State University and is an assistant professor in African American studies at California State University, examines songs from To Pimp A Butterfly, Lamar’s previous album. In one of his songs from that album, he explains how people don’t know him and that he will show everything about himself. Graham explains that this is a part of his interior conflict and self-growth: “Kendrick Lamar’s performance of black masculinity is resolutely and defiantly incongruous, vacillating, partial, punctuated by moments of sincere doubt” (Graham 11). She explains that things do not have a strict definition in Lamar’s mind; instead, he challenges social norms and questions himself. Listeners hear the conflicting ideas in his brain, gaining insight on how he processes thoughts. It is clear that music is a way he can successfully express himself. Although this is part of a song from his previous album, this interior conflict becomes even more prominent in DAMN., as he juggles popular ideas of religion and his temptations. In “YAH,” he begins the song explaining that he has “so many theories and suspicions,” and claims that “today is the day that I follow my intuitions” (DAMN.). Even after releasing multiple other albums, Lamar is still trying to find himself. It is almost as if the fight against social protest seen in all of his albums has brought out so much anger about the world that he is forced to take time to analyze himself.

Rolling Stone magazine, of course, has commented on this album. Elias

Leight and other authors of the magazine briefly describe the meaning of each track, and although short, the descriptions provide a slight insight to the meaning 39

coming from Lamar’s internal thoughts. They comment that in the song “Lust,” Lamar is “overwhelmed by sexual desire during the chorus…and, by the second verse, turns his attention to the rise of President Trump” (Leight). This song shows how Lamar has numerous ideas filling his head at one time, yet he demonstrates many of them in a singular song. In another example, in the chorus, he describes his earthly temptations as a contrast to his pious desires, and then later turns to highlight social injustice in America. Lamar writes about his own thoughts and contradictions, yet somehow ties it back to his investment in social injustice reform.

To further analyze Lamar’s internal conflicts, Romy Koreman, a student

who submitted his thesis in media studies, investigates both the religious approach and the social undertones of DAMN.. The author explains Lamar’s reconnection with God through the belief system of the Black Hebrew Israelites. This group believes that “it is God who is responsible for their ‘lower state in life’” (Koreman 37). However, it is not to be assumed that God is like an evil in their eyes; they believe that God is essentially punishing them for their sins on earth, like gang-violence and drugs. It is evident that these beliefs are hard to follow in Lamar’s mind as he is constantly trying to balance earthly temptations and piety. This constant battle in his head seems to be a very prominent theme in the album. It is like he blames himself for struggles in his community yet knows that earthly temptations are hard to pass. This “love-hate” relationship with God puts a twist on how religion is traditionally used in music, adding an entire layer to DAMN.. This idea broadens the scope of those who relate to the album from strictly African Americans to anyone with religious struggles. However, all of these ideas clearly have social undertones. It seems as if the exhaustion from the social struggle in America has made him more pessimistic and realistic. Lamar tries to find answers, and in DAMN., he tries to come to terms with what those answers are. 40

Rodney Carmichael, a writer for NPR, explains how the religious rhetoric

of DAMN. is even conflicting and confusing for listeners. He struggles, as Lamar does, to understand who is at fault for the struggles of African Americans and how religion plays a role: “Is it the inherent wickedness of America’s radicalized politics or our weakness as a people that we must overcome?” (Carmichael). This question is arguably the largest theme of the entire album. Carmichael explains that throughout the album, listeners are just as confused as Lamar, who purposefully makes the album the way he does to push people to think. He also explains how it is hard to wrap his head around believing in an entity that has a curse on his people (Carmichael). This dilemma shows how Lamar wants people to think about the things he is thinking, and he won’t hold back on letting the people know what is going on in his head.

Throughout the entire album, Lamar contemplates these possible expla-

nations for struggles in his reality. In “YAH,” he explains that he is not a politician or “’bout a religion,” and says,“I’m an Israelite, don’t call me black no more/ That word is only a color, it ain’t facts no more” (DAMN.). This line shows his self-reflection and the effects that injustice has had on him. The last part sounds ironic, as he is clearly proud of his background and culture. It is also sarcastic and a shot at society, which treats African Americans as inferior for solely the color of their skin, in the workforce, by police, in shops, and in almost every aspect of life. However, the Black Israelites blame it on their own faults as a culture. This problem is what the unequal racial hierarchy has created. Although there is gang and drug violence in African American neighborhoods, to blame it entirely on the color of their skin or their background is completely denying the fact that African Americans have been oppressed by the white population since the beginning the development of the New World. 41

Arguably the most political song of the album is “XXX,” and it also en-

compasses Lamar’s realistic yet frustrated point of view. In the middle of the song, the track becomes aggressive and is echoed by police sirens. He opens with “God bless America, you know we all love him” (DAMN.). He follows with a story of his friend who called him because his son was shot for “insufficient funds.” He explains how his friend was “talkin’ out his head, philosophin’ on what the Lord has done” (DAMN.). This shows the conflict in religion, like questioning how God could allow for such hate crimes. He later asks, after the track switches to a more mellow tone,“But is America honest, or do we bask in sin?” (DAMN.). America is characterized by freedom, yet since its birth, it has stripped rights from those who were deemed inferior. If God is so good, how could He have allowed for such injustices?

Various topics and approaches have risen from DAMN., and it is evident

that the album is not about a singular element. Lamar successfully demonstrates the complexity of his mind in this album by including his internal conflicts as well as ideas about religious and social injustice. This exhibition has allowed for the album to pertain to a large scope of audience, resulting in awards like the Pulitzer Prize. Lamar provides a convincing example of how rap music is not just a mix of drugs, violence, and lust; it is a modern form of art and expression which leaves an impact on the world of music as well as the country. It serves as a way for people with a platform to speak out against what is unfair. Kendrick Lamar is not just a singer. He is not just a lyricist. He is not just a producer. He is an artist. He is one of the most influential artists of our generation who uses his platform to express himself. He speaks out for social reform and equality. He has not damaged young African Americans. He has provided a masterpiece demanding justice for those deprived of it: Trayvon, Ahmaud, Sandra, Tamir, and Stephon. 42

Works Cited Burfiend, Samantha.“Coloring Book Versus Damn: Chance the Rapper & Ken

rick Lamar’s Lyrical use of the Moral Exemplar Theory.” Southern Utah

University. SUU, August, 2018.

ters/capstone/thesis/burfiend-s.pdf. Accessed11 March 2020.

Carmichael, Rodney. “The Prophetic Struggle of Kendrick Lamar’s

‘DAMN.’” NPR Music.NPR, 12 Dec 2017. https://www.npr


mars-damn. Accessed 11 March 2020.

Glenn, Erza.“Kendrick Lamar Sampled Fox News on DAMN.” Fader. The Fader, 2017.

fox-news-damn. Accessed 11 March 2020.

Koreman, Romy.“From ‘Proud Monkey’ to Israelite: Tracing Kendrick Lamar’s

Black Consciousness. Leiden University. Leiden, April, 2019.https:/ Accessed 11 March 2020.

Lamar, Kendrick. DAMN. Top Dawg Entertainment, 2017. Leight, Elias, et al.“Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Damn.’: A Track-by-Track Guide.” Rolling

Stone. Rolling Stone, 14 April 2017. sic/music-news/kendrick-lamars-damn-a-track-by-track-guide-114407/.

Accessed 11 March 2020.

Mair, Duncan.“Finding a Healthy Balance in Hip Hop and How Kendrick Lamar

Achieves It.” Huron University College. Huron, 10 April 2019.https://ojs Accessed 11 March 2020.

Natalie Graham.“What Slaves We Are.” Transition, no. 122, 2017, pp. 123

132. JSTOR, A

cessed 11 Mar. 2020. 43

Vandagriff, Rachel S.“Talking about a Revolution: Protest Music and Popular

Culture, from Selma, Alabama, to Ferguson, Missouri.” Lied Und Po-

uläre ultur / Song and PopularCulture, 60/61, 2015, pp. 333

350. JSTOR, Accessed 12 Mar. 2020.

Salmons, Patrick Jeremiah.“Hip hop voices in the era of Mass Incarceration: An

examination of Kendrick Lamar and The Black Lives Matter Movement.”

VTechWorks. Virginia Tech University, 28 April 2017.https:/

PJ_T_2017.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Accessed 11 March 2020.






I’ve never seen a more beautiful day For a funeral, the sun bares its face Rays of energy bathe my day with a Somber tone, I feel it creeping up A portal opened before my eyes They are all so welcoming, I pass through It couldn’t have been steel, I’ve seen the proof A world where everything glows, incense looms Colors dance, melodies cry with sadness I see gold and silver, and more victims I see a healthy, beautiful boy His mother and father by his side like always They are laughing, I wish I could understand I can see the love they share, a family I see a close family all holding hands A grip that says “never leave my side” 46

No–that is not a boy but a carriage A black wooden carriage, down the aisle No–they aren’t laughing, I see a father Crying, with the weight of a lost child No–they aren’t holding hands but holding the Casket, nothing could be heavier I sit with my father and uncle Dare I gaze into a mother’s eyes Dare I say I’m sorry for her loss I could never know true pain like her Apologies filled with uplifting lies She has my remorse and all my heart How could I ever truly understand How could my words be enough for her I do not think I have what it takes I know she doesn’t want my remorse She wants the touch of her boy once more But I’ll give her all I can for now





I sat atop a wide wooden bench That shimmered with the water That came off of my clothes. I attempted to swing my feet, but each time They hit the wall behind them. I look up and a man stares with narrow eyes At every detail as if he reads a book. As he glances above my eyes To the heavy bang of wavy hair I unconsciously move it out of my eyes. Hours before, I stood in the splash zone Of the incoming roller coaster, planting my feet As my friend ran before the water so much as Touched her head. Later, I’m falling down a waterfall In a small boat-like contraption That could fit a group of three and a stranger with an odd smile The man then looks higher to the crown on my head, The “Sweet 16” in bold, golden glitter for people to see If they dared take a glance as they walked by. Below my chin, a pair of glittery golden glasses Hung from my shirt, covering the letters On the red, Marvel-themed shirt designed for this day. I risked a glance to the artist


Who then looked back at dark brown, Nearly black eyes. As he got to work, I pondered on whether or not It would look like An inexperienced muse that sat too stiff With tired eyes, a wrinkled shirt, and bad hair. He made humor with my family On the other side of the canvas. They saw everything, and I saw nothing But the mischievous grins and glances they threw my way. Time was not measured as I stayed, sat on a wet bench Late in the evening. He finished, and what I saw on the paper Was not what I expected As it showed a broad-smiled sassy girl With her black nails flipped in front of her As if to show off. The choker around her neck With the glasses and tiara shining gold With the mix of yellows he used. Brown wavy hair that swooped behind her left ear To show off two small, silver loops. The glow around me he made in bright yellows and soft pinks, Making me question what people really see When they dare take a glance as they walk by. 50



The once beautiful metal horse wrapped in red Now sits like crumpled tinfoil On the side of the track Losing the race Body broken, legs warped Saddened by her deformed right side Angered by the tragedy Her luck had run out Now moving slowly with a rattle Ignoring the right pull On paper, she will never be the same But soon will be back in the race




Last night I dreamt you and I were ruling over paradise. It was endless. Maybe it was Eden, or Xanadu perhaps. No matter, it was ours. Only, our crowns were made of stone the heaviest stone you could imagine, and we could barely stand under the weight. So we sat down on our thrones and gazed out at our land. I asked,“Have you ever heard true silence?” You thought for a moment, then simply shook your head, not even turning to face me. Your neck was trembling from the weight of your crown. Mine was too. “I have two theories,” I whispered.“Either true silence would shatter our ears, or perhaps it is too beautiful a sound for this world. Either way, I believe that it is the first thing we will hear when we die.” Still, your blank eyes and silent lips said nothing.


I went walking alone in the lush gardens and forests that we ruled, yet I could not enjoy our utopia. My neck was aching. My stone crown was too much to bear. I climbed atop one of the stoic giants that surrounded us, and I watched the sun descend for the last time. Then, I jumped. Believe me when I tell you, I heard it. And it was more beautiful than you could imagine. I count the hours until I’ll hear those tranquil symphonies of nothingness again.




“Dude! I swear it was this big. Look at it, yeah?” I watch the drunkard talk

to his drinking buddy, sitting three seats down from my right and discussing his life-or-death situation against a boa constrictor that matched over twice his height in its length. The variety of names I hear them call each other consists of Bro, Dude, and Bruh. Dude is jumping in his chair, hyping up the storyteller with the occasional nah bruh and no way dude. I sit sipping on the iced tea the bartender gave me. It was not because of my age; I am twenty-two going on twenty-three in two hours, and seven—sixteen minutes. I just do not feel like getting drunk tonight, and besides, I would not want to miss the entertainment around me.

“Babe! Babe. Baby. Listen to me. Please. I promise you. I would never do

that to you. I love you. Don’t you trust me?” Holding in a sigh, I raise my hand to wave the bartender down for another refill and some more Splenda. Mr. Baby trust

me sits two seats over on my left. He huffs, rotating the near empty beer bottle in his left hand while twisting the toothpick in his mouth with his right and holding the phone up to his ear with his right shoulder. “I love you so much. We can talk about this when I…no. No. I’m just with the guys, you know?”

“There is no way you could kill a snake! You can’t even kill the spider at

work! Bro! It was green! I heard those were poisonous!” “Who’s that? I…I don’t know that name. You looked through my…she must be a client, sweetheart. Otherwise, I would not have it in my phone”

“Here’s your tea, ma’am,” the bartender says, placing the honey-colored

drink in front of me.

“Hm… What? Oh, thank you.” I tear the two yellow packets and put the

sweetener in my drink before stirring it with my straw. Mr. I don’t know her waves 54

down the bartender for another beer. Dude and Bro start fussing about which of them is braver, listing off everything they have done that was close to bravery.

“Um…Hi! I mean…Hey.” I turn to my right to see a guy standing with his

back straight and his smile oddly formed into an attempted smirk. He leans onto the bar and nearly misses, catching himself and composing his face. I smile. He must be trying so hard, and I feel bad.

“Hey!” That weak, awkward wave of my hand is the dumbest thing I could

have done just now.

“Is um…someone sitting here?”

“Oh! Um… Are you breaking up with me right now?”

“Bro! I’m legit craving donuts right now.”

“No. No one’s sitting there.” He smiles brightly and slides into the seat on

my right, blocking me from the sight of two men making noises as they describe the chocolate iced sprinkle donuts they would eat. The awkward man by my side is now fidgeting with his jacket sleeves and scrunching up his nose to push up his dark shades. He glances back at me, and I return to focusing on my drink and the conversations around me.

“Look. Babe. You are the only one for me. I’m nothing without…I don’t

see a life without you, honey!”

“That’s disgusting. Who puts a burger on a donut?”

He breaks the silence.“What’s the matter with you? So… you come here


Dang. That did not sound right.

“If I want a donut burger, I will get a donut burger!”

Hmm…” I acknowledge his words. He might not be wrong. I do come 55

here often to the point where I no longer need to give my order; I just say “the usual” like they do in the movies. It makes the characters seem so fancy and nonchalant to me. I sigh again.

“Do you like…sweets? There’s this diner a few blocks down that is still

open. I really like their cakes. I’m more of a vanilla fan but-”

“Excuse me, but…do I know you?”

“Are you hearing yourself right now? Because it’s like you’re accusing me

with no proof whatsoever!”

“No. No, you do not.”

“What if I put ketchup on it? Dude. It would be sweet and savory.”

“Well. Okay then…Can I get a name?”

“How are you even getting my messages? Are you…how many times…

how long have you been looking through my phone? I cannot believe this.”

He seems to ponder my question, like it isn’t an essential to formalities.

Like it isn’t just a name.

“My name is Anon Mous,” he replies.

I laugh,“Oh really? Is the middle initial Y?”

“How on earth did you guess that?” He laughs and I huff in amusement,

rolling my eyes.“Well… Is that a yes or no?” I look up in contemplation before turning slightly to my left. There, Mr. No one else for me but you has another arm around him as he kisses the woman sitting in the seat farther from me. Before I could look longer, he is up and on the dance floor, dancing away the boredom with his…client maybe. I look back at “Anon” and squint before leaning back to see the two men on the other side of him. Storyteller dude is close to tears, so I must have missed something in the snakes, spiders, donuts, and donut burgers that brought him to tearing up about his girl leaving him because he wasn’t daring or 56

adventurous; he was a boring boyfriend that just “cared too much and loved too deeply.” The other dude is holding an arm around him and waving down the bartender to call a cab for them. I sigh as the drama comes to a sad conclusion and look back at the “Mr. Anon Y. Mous.”

I shrug at him, take out the money to pay for my tea, and hop down on

the tiled walkway to walk out of the bar. I hear him behind me, jogging to catch up in the midst of the crowd. He gets to the door first and holds it open for me–how old-fashioned.

I walk beside him as we draw closer to the brightly lit diner. There are very

few people in there given the time. I still have a good…one hour and eight minutes until my birthday. We don’t talk until we are seated at a crimson booth in the corner. Mr. Anon Y. Mous still wears his shades but smiles at me as I sit across from him. It is weird how we talk. We talk about everything and nothing at the same time. I tell him I like almond Hershey bars, and he tells me he will eat anything that is sweet, as long as it does not kill him. I tell him that I graduated college and now have a job, and he says that his life has played out like he has always wanted it to. He tells me he is under twenty-four but above twenty, and I tell him I will be twenty-three when the clock strikes midnight. I may not have been born until the evening time, but I still count the whole day as my special day. He gets excited and asks the waiter for a vanilla cake slice with sprinkles. He slips the note that my birthday is in less than twenty minutes, and they give us a large slice for free. I can’t believe it, but throughout dessert I am laughing.

“I thought I would spend my birthday at a bar, stuck between a cheater

and boring dudes that wished to be adventurous.”

“And instead you got to spend it at a diner, stuck in a booth with an anony-

mous stranger.” 57

“What? I thought your name was Anon! I’ve been deceived!”

“Ha ha. Very funny.” I look at him and cannot help my curiosity.

“Take off the shades.” His laughing quiets as he sighs.

“No can do.”

“And why not?”

“Because.” “Because?”

“What if I have laser eyes?” It shocks me for a moment, and a surprised

giggle slips from me.

“Are you joking?”

“No…I’m anonymous.” I try to glare at him, but he grins back. He looks to

his left to call down a waiter. I take the opportunity and glance behind the shades as he turns, and I can see swelling and purple skin.

“What’s with the black eye?” He looks back at me again and sighs, taking

off his shades to further reveal the bruising.

“What if I told you I was once a millionaire that held all my money and

cards in my pockets, then someone mugged me.”

“I would say that would be the stupidest thing to the point where it is not

possible to be that stupid.”

“What if I am a part of an illegal underground fight club or something?”

“Hm. You should invite me to one then, so I could see you in action.”

He chuckles again as I look back at the slice of cake and two spoons that

the man had put down. I have fifteen seconds. He looks at his Rolex as well.

“For some reason, I feel special in being the person you spend your birth-

day with.”

I beam at him as he counts down to zero and blows out the invisible 58

candles. As we eat the delicious cake, we fuss about how I was supposed to blow out the imaginary candles, and that he made me lose the chance of getting a wish this year. We joke and laugh until we stumble back out onto the streets. It is JESUS

CHRIST o’clock in the morning, and I wind up getting a birthday piggy-back ride. At some point, he slows down as we pass by the bar again, watching Mr. I would

never cheat on you and Miss I’m a client drunkenly walk out hanging off each other with the woman’s red heels in her hand. Mr. Anon leans his head back to look up at me and says,“Happy birthday” before continuing off on the journey with no destination. I smile as I push the shades farther up on my face, chuckling as he offers that he could be an undercover CIA agent, sent to track me down and protect me from heartbreakers and donut burger heart attacks.




“Our housekeeping is medicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlor soldiers. The rugged battle of fate, where strength is born, we shun.” Ralph Waldo Emerson,“Self-Reliance”

A few days ago, an interviewer asked me,“What is your greatest weak-

ness?” Automatically, several possible answers rushed through my mind, each of them hurriedly considered and then discarded. I struggled frantically to choose the best response, started to reply and then cut myself off, second-guessing my decision. After a few panicked seconds, I spat out a simple answer that I had read online, thinking it better to choose an easy solution than to disclose something authentic and risk saying the wrong thing. In this moment, I allowed my fear of failure to overcome my judgement and sacrificed my individuality by relying on another person’s words. In truth, my greatest weakness, like so many others, is my self-doubt. I do not trust my own beliefs, so I willingly forfeit my free will, letting other people make my choices for me. I am a “parlor soldier,” mindlessly obeying the orders of others to avoid difficult decisions (Emerson 607). This weakness, however, must not continue. Too many people in this world are merely spectators in their own lives. In order to truly live, not just observe, we must become individuals and learn to trust in ourselves and seize control of our own fates.

While reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” in my AP

Language and Composition class, Emerson’s words penetrated one of the greatest issues preoccupying my present life: What do I want to do in the future? In the past year, the topics of college and career paths have emerged as constant features of my daily life. Whenever I see a relative or meet someone new, they immediately 60

ask,“Where do you want to go to college?” Or,“What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer usually includes an Ivy League School and a medical degree. But is this really what I want, or are these only my parents’ words?

As I contemplate my future plans, Emerson’s warnings flash in my mind.

I cannot be a “parlor soldier,” relying on society to choose my fate (Emerson 607). When people do not trust themselves and thoughtlessly follow the instructions of other individuals, they surrender control over their futures and allow others to determine every aspect of their existences. We should be the commanders of our lives, leading ourselves to success. Instead, we are mere cannon fodder for the will of society. As living, thinking human beings, all individuals possess the power to make their own decisions, if only they are confident enough to try.

In her poem “The Soul selects her own Society,” Emily Dickinson echoes

this theme of individualism and reaffirms Emerson’s ideas. She asserts that the human soul can choose its own path, rejecting “the divine Majority” and refusing to conform to the pressure of outside opinion (Dickinson 1236). Like Emerson, she urges individuals to form their own decisions instead of relying on other people: “Unmoved - she notes the Chariots - pausing - / At her low Gate - / Unmoved - an Emperor be kneeling - / Opon her Mat” (Dickinson 1236). Even when compelling forces drive people to choose a certain route, they should always trust in their own judgements and follow the course that their souls choose. Both Emerson and Dickinson’s ideas encourage me to take control of my future instead of succumbing to others’ desires. Rather than mechanically following what the people around me want me to do, I should believe in myself and forge my own path.

When an individual allows another person to make his or her choices, he

or she surrenders the free will that sets humans apart from lifeless robots. In the past, I have let my doubt control me. As I look to the future, I must be able to trust 61

myself to make the right decisions and choose my own fate. We individuals cannot rely on others to generate our success, or all we will have is a worthless existence of cowardice and disappointment. To truly live, we must fight to conquer our weaknesses and overcome our doubts, shedding the labels of the spectator and the “parlor soldier” and embracing our own personal identities (Emerson 607). Insist on living. If we submit to the obligations of society, we have already accepted our graves. Every individual is capable of leading himself or herself to greatness, but first we all must choose to trust in ourselves and our own potential. Works Consulted Dickinson, Emily.“The Soul selects her own Society.” The Norton Anthology of

American Literature: Volume One, edited by Levine, Robert S., Shorter

9th ed., W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp. 1260.

Emerson, Ralph Waldo.“Self-Reliance.” The Norton Anthology of American Lite

ature: Volume One, edited by Levine, Robert S., Shorter 9th ed., W.W.

Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp. 596-613.






Dear Sean-Pat, it’s you Did we all make it? I don’t know Which path is correct Did I do it? I look To the future All I see is clouds Is that our path Do we soar Will I leave this ground This world I know Will be nothing but foggy memories forgotten times heartbreak and laughter I’ll take it all To meet you 64





Being stuck in the house during such a pandemic led me to the actions

that defined boredom. Earlier, as I sat at the window, light flowing in to brighten the table of pieces before me, I hummed to the tune I played just moments before, remembering playing the wrong key and giving up on putting a faster pace to FĂźr Elise. As I put more pieces together, I continued to fidget with my plaid-patterned house shoes where I crossed them on the chair to my right, the worn “CHECK ME OUTâ€? letters barely visible on the soles. I struggled to find any more pieces that would go together as I spotted the stack of work over in the chair on my left. I simply moved that stuff to the floor and replaced it with the puzzle box, making more room to spread out the pieces. I had gotten nowhere since I came downstairs moments or hours before, moving some of the pieces to the side to use my camera and take pictures with the reflection of the table. I am nowhere near finishing the thousand-piece puzzle. I would continue, but now I am hungry.




this will burn you! as if i didn’t already know she holds the candle in her hand, tilting it like a teapot letting the wax drip down the side it cascades like a waterfall, but before it can drip it hardens around the edge with curiosity i reach my hand out to touch the dancing flame sister pulls it away

this will burn you! no matter what she says i can’t fight the raging desire to know what it feels like to burn i want my insides to turn to wax i want my life to peel layer by layer til there is nothing left i want to be so immensely hot that all my worries pour off i want to know what it’s like to drip, to cascade, for it all to just fall away




As solid as the ground we slipped from When I’m here Hanging off the edge of a cliff And my shrill voice is echoing Off the rocks and the clouds The rough waves of the sea below aren’t so endearing The empty branch of a blackberry bush With its twigs piercing my hands like large needlesThe only thing left for me to hold on to. I can hear the whir of the passing cars  On the streets half a mile away And the pressing voice of my sweet mother telling me to let go




Perpetually standing in a brick-concrete cell, I feel a chill and remember

there’s no air conditioning as an industrial-sized garage door opens in the distance, letting the cruel winter light into my depression, where the warden squeezes my legs to see if my reaction is proper, grabs my wrists for wear and tear, and runs a finger through my right frontal lobe and he pushes me into the light and I think

Perhaps the world will not end with a crash, but rather, with the sound of my feet which cannot move fast enough down the coarse driveway into the cold and sluggish reality that can’t pass me by any slower than my inert brain that stopped spinning at a lack of challenges because; what the hell is with being a “gifted kid” anyway, it’s the stupidest thing and you can drive faster than you can run but if you can’t spin the wheel, you won’t win the prize, but maybe you could have gotten it if you covered all the bases; the diamond that you wish you could run around if you knew how to hit the damn ball, I don’t need another chance, we both know that’s a

strikeout of the parking lot into a 2005 silver Toyota Corolla with the license plate you wish you didn’t pay for, kick on the defrost and roll down the window to cut the ice, but this is summer not winter and the mosquitoes will get in the house so close the door and leave as we descend through the autumnal sensation of a sunset where the park seems to refract the light onto your first bike.

And now the sun stretches further into the noontime west, it shines onto

a small white portable classroom resting on a grassy green at the bottom of a wooded hill and illuminates the building’s green roof as children eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches beneath a wooden enclave, the dirt eroding to dust beneath their buzzing shoes, but one can’t eat his strawberries fast enough and finds himself being pushed out to a playground he wasn’t quite ready for, suddenly picking kumquats 69

for mason jars that contain citrus-colored ichor, or so all the adults seem to think, it all seems a little bitter to him, run around the neighborhood and clear your head, rack up the miles, tally them down, and win a purple T-shirt; but it doesn’t fit you anymore and whoa watch out for the roots on the trail, might buck you over the handlebars if you don’t check yourself, just hold on tight and feel your bones jiggle through your joints as the hands rub and blister against rubber grips, squeeze the brakes for everything you can and shift the gear down to 2; Wow, I could never bike

down that hill but how did I learn to in the first place?

Feel the spiky hairs sprouting from the tires, spin it too fast and get heat

burns on the gym floor diving for a dodgeball, grasp the foam like a turtle grasps Styrofoam cups from the cafeteria, prove that it can still swim with its heavy green shell, frozen time in an aquarium logo that oak pollen coats so thick that you could swipe a finger through it but, you know, maybe don’t, remember your allergies, check the seasonal allergies box on the camp medical form, maybe that makes me

special, whatever, climb the fifty-foot ladder and jump onto the trapeze, sail into the airplane and press the little button on the sides of the seats that give the person on the seat next to you a mild electric shock; wipe down the blue leather seats, look out the window, and imagine skydiving, but you land brusquely on your feet, walk the Appalachian Trail, take a bus down from Atlanta, and arrive back home where your parents are expecting you and your bed is made.




If I were a tree what type of fruit would I bear My branches laid out–a hand and its breathtaking purity I feel my roots deeply seeded in this community Trees display their fruits–fresh and pure Maybe a ripe, fresh, red and shiny Apple said the Oak With weariness in his voice yet his eyes so pure Apple trees seem to shine the most Like the sun, it glistens with the utmost purity A bud, the sign of fruit to come Life so full of innocence and purity Time passes as my fruit blossoms Finally, I can provide for the pure That is no Apple said the Oak A brown, squishy, soggy excuse for purity No, it won’t get picked It will not be thrown in with the fruits so pure Like a wingless crow it plummets Useless, full of impurity Just as the crow got up and walked back home Maggots and Ants dine like kings with nutrients so pure They sing praise and thanks So, I provide for the hearts so pure I, Sean Patrick, am an apple tree The least pure apple tree you can find 71





Guess who will be laughing as they told her she was not dying While each day a lash came off, her shoe felt smaller, and she almost touched the top shelf, Her mechanical pencil lost its led, her pen lost ink Her cuts healed, her scars faded, and her best friend got older, Lost her jokes, faltered on her laughter, And caught up slowly to the girl until she was either a few feet behind her Or in another city, state, or country that lost its reception, Banned technology, or crashed all of its cellphone towers To which her best friend could not answer the phone that called a month ago Or respond to the texts from last month, last year Three hundred and sixty-five days Eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty hours Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, Six hundred minutes that went by In what felt like days in retrospect to a year Where she once wore chokers, played with dolls, painted her nails Stole her mother’s rings to place on each finger Wore her father’s cap that he got in Canada That now appears in another souvenir store across the street From another place with a name she could not remember 73

Again, they told her she was not dying To not abuse the word death or say it in vain Or jinx herself as if it were a word that would send her To the church to beg for forgiveness and go to heaven instead of hell Yet she could not pray for forgiveness Without the thought: she wanted to die And go to heaven Could not drive on the road and not wonder if the car next to her Would see her as she changed lanes, Could not walk on the sidewalk Without seeking each crack that could trip her and cause serious damage Could not say hello to a stranger without the thought That he could be her killer Could not drink without the thought that someone wanted to poison her Could not breathe air without the thought of it being her very last breath Nothing could be done without the belief that death was behind it She goes on anyways and celebrates one day closer to dying As she blows out the already melted candles that got wax on the cake That they’ll still eat because

Carpe Diem and YOLO Are screamed into her ear by the older supposed role models That counted down the days until she could apply herself For lung disease 74

And liver failure Count down the days, months, years before she marries and has babies, Bringing her back to the jump rope melody she sang As she hopped laughing, the words lingering on the children’s tongues As they sang:

college, college, marriage, marriage, kids, kids, grandkids, grandkids, death, death Then she misses a step and they start over To pre-k, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, Tripping the rope again and starting over again By the time she grew to grey hairs, wooden canes, soft food, and rocking chairs, She still looked to the games she once played For comfort in the idea that she could start over if she lost a life, Do the game over, and avoid or confront the things that killed her in the past levels, But she could not while she was then bedridden, As everyone around her said that she was going to be fine That she would survive, that she would live another day, Another day of shallow breaths, Another day of shaking hands, Another day of exhaustion, Another day of fear for the possible demise coming In the next few years, months, weeks, days, maybe tonight, maybe in less than an hour, 75

Maybe in a matter of minutes, or now at this very moment Guess who will be laughing when she finally drops six feet under, Wearing the dress the funeral home people had picked, face sculpted To look as if she accepted the ugly dress, the nonfunctioning organs on the inside of her, The life on the outside of the casket But guess who will holler, laugh, jump with joy with the knowledge that she was right? Not her, no, because she is gone, dead, lifeless, With the I told you so Dying on her tongue.




a tree so shallow its own roots can’t hold it in place who raised it so? it wants what it cannot have and has what it doesn’t want why must the oak mock the world so? why must the world be so easy to mock?




My solace comes to me With the stars, with the night… It comes when my soul concentrates And slips like silk into my stomach, My mind buzzing, always awake The waves of the stars reverberating in my heart, The numbness in my body,

My soul trying to break free Too long have my feet been bound, My voice choked I refuse to cower in corners, I refuse to be silent and to fit Into the small societal cages set for me Because I am too loud, or perhaps it’s my ambition Or maybe it’s because I observe the translucent chains every day when I’m told to shrink myself, To cater my soul to the fragility of others When my spirit spills from my body, Flying into the parchment sky Like a clouded black ink, Only then will I be free





Step One Your very soul craves me uncontrollably, inevitably. I know you deny it, but everyone desires me. I whisper to you, It is only through me that you can matter. I can give you purpose. I can offer you control. Naively you listen.

Step Two You must have me, regardless of the sacrifices I will force you to make. When I run through your veins you will be immortal. Do whatever it takes to find me, and you will be happy.


Step Three I told you that you would love me as everyone does. Isn’t the price worth it? My intoxicating taste on your lips is all that matters. But it’s not enough yet, is it? I know I am addicting. You won’t be whole, you won’t have control, until you have more of me. All of me.

Step Four If you want more of me, you must worship me. You must give me all of yourself. I refuse to share you with anyone. When she screams at you through her tears,

Why are you doing this? She is weak.

I don’t know you anymore. You will forget her soon.

What have you become? Tell her, you have become one with me. You have become powerful. 81

Step Five You sit at the zenith of yourself. This is where you were born to be. Earth sits in the palms of your shaking hands. Copernicus lied, the stars orbit your domain. The universe bends to your whim. I nestle between your ribs and burrow in your pulsing core. I have given you the apex of your glory.

Step Six You fool! You should have known this wouldn’t last forever. Their threats have brought you to your knees. You weak coward! You will never know me again as you did. I created you just as easily I will destroy you. For empty promises, you sold me your soul, and this is where I have brought you.This indifferent world may remember your name, but you will spend the rest of your life spilling the same question from your trembling lips, How will you find me again? 82



no one knows until they do the sound of the blackbird’s siren the call of death the pull of the grave the ominous organ playing the tears of loved ones fill the river the hope that there’s enough to ride and reach a promised land not to stop and fall into the wrong hand have enough souls been touched? has enough been done? no one knows until they hear the sound of the blackbird’s siren 83





This entire concept of writing, Of what poetry truly means, is confusing. I can never tell if something will sound significant Or like I wrote it in my notes app during a Depressive episode, as if I was conducting My own therapy session. Poetry does not play out like An orderly scripted film. If it makes sense, It’s probably not poetry.

Life does not play out like A carefully scripted film. If it makes sense, It’s probably not real life. Coming to terms with My lack of significance in this world, Moreover, my lack of ambition to do Something great, Is one of the hardest things I’ve Come to terms with. 85

I think I’ve lost it, Like I’ve lost so many things this year. I lost my passion I lost my ambition I lost my urge to do something great, something significant I lost my je ne s’ai quoi When you’ve lost everything, And by everything, I mean a zeal for life, You can’t bring yourself to do the things you love. It’s not because you don’t want to, it’s because you’re Emotionally numb every other week. It’s because you can’t come up with Anything to write about. It’s because you can’t come up with a title For any of your poetry.










There’s this rose with no thorns That lives forever encased In some liquid that makes it Eternal and infinite. Yet it stood in glass, Fragile and vulnerable. A girl ran bare through the woods, Escaping from nothing But heading towards the cliff to jump And fly away. She’ll fly to the boy, A kid with grey, dazed eyes Who stood at the center of the war, Seeing everything she could not. Fire was not seen, But smoke burned their eyes and filled their lungs. The screams came from behind a little girl, Motioning her fingers in movements Too rapid to be understood And keeping her feet From making new footprints In the mud. In his living room, a man moves To place the encased rose At the center of the table, His tremor making the glass fall And shatter, leaving just the rose Out of reach of the man Who could not bend without breaking. 91



I gazed too closely into the silver mirror And then I was falling slowly I turned around Through my long, windswept hair, I struggled to see the bright rectangle of hallway lights Just to watch them shrink smaller and smaller till they disappear The whistling in my ears got louder and louder Face-to-face with rusty metal and wiring The overwhelming smell of oil and rubber made my head spin till the walls lit up a warm light

With memories of childhood With prospects for the future My hands on their own tried to grab one, to stop myself but the passing wall just burned my fingers I was plummeting far too quickly My hands grab one on their own, to try and stop myself But the passing wall just burned my fingers With prospects for the future

With memories of childhood The overwhelming smell of oil and rubber made my head spin till the walls lit up a warm light Face-to-face with rusty metal and wiring The whistling in my ears got louder and louder Just to watch them shrink smaller and smaller Through my windswept hair, I struggled to see the bright rectangle of hallway lights I turned around And then I was falling slowly I gazed too closely into the silver mirror 92





“36 calories for the butter, 75 calories for a slice of toast, and 194 calories for the hot chocolate, so 305 calories.” Pushing the plate from me, I grabbed 4 calories, or a small strawberry. Eliza stood amazed.“How did you do that?” I grabbed my water bottle. I would need to drink two and a half bottles today to make my weight at the weigh in. I did not remember when the food I ate turned into numbers and calories I would consume and then cut off. When my parents’ fights became too unbearable to go unnoticed, and my childhood joy had died. However, I had remembered going to school when my parents found out my secret. I had been in English, when Mr. Annec had asked me to present in front of the class. I remembered hitting the blue carpet. I remembered getting up and my parents being called to take me home. Worst of all I remembered the screaming matches between my parents, each of them blaming the other for stressing me out. Even when it was my fault, they found a way to make it about each other. I remembered the psychologist’s ivory and burgundy colored room where my “family” went into counseling every Friday. I remembered how Eliza had cried saying she wanted her sister back.


I remembered how my parents argued, and how my mother’s ghostly hand had closed the car door. Hair in a loose bun, my mother had decided to walk the seven miles home. I wondered when I went from being a child to being a problem, a burden my parents carried on their shoulders. I stepped onto the old cream scale in the same white tiled room every Sunday in the same black joggers and grey hoodie. “91 pounds, sweetie.” My mom smiled, a look of relief on her face. “That’s better than last week. Only twenty more pounds to go and you will be on your target weight.” My dad’s stressed smile returned. I looked at my parents; it seemed to be the only time they agreed and were not fighting with each other. Offering a weak smile, I went back to my room. Closing the creaking chipped door, I looked in the mirror. The gaunt figure looking back at me I could hardly recognize. All I knew was I hated that fat repulsive figure staring back at me. The girl who looked like a dodgeball, not a stick. Hair disheveled, I was everything but beautiful. I wrapped my thin fingers around my wrist; I wasn’t skinny enough. I took out the rocks in my pockets and put them safely in my box along with my other secrets, ghosts. I knew the rocks were not a long-term plan, but as I “recovered” so did my parents. I took out my journal and recorded, 83 pounds. She had lost a pound since last week. 95





Silence rang Only because the commercial’s noise Was muted in the minds of the three people Sitting around a table In the center of the living room, Gazing at the cards before them; Eldest to youngest or Boomer to Gen Z, The kids are underestimated, And the adults hold their pride For the games of their time, What brings them back to the good old days. Self-righteous and confident Only in their body language and tongue, Yet it all plays in the cards And in the hands that lay them. A teenager’s mind can be misjudged For naivete or less knowledge, But there were movies I saw as a child That taught me to hide The potential of the cards I held. At the time, I could be young and dumb, Regarded as if I have the best hand Or the worst luck. I still wonder, When I look into the others’ eyes, If they know they are going to fail Or think they still have chance. 97



We are not children anymore. Before this moment, every breath that has escaped our lips has been contained inside these elliptical walls of glass, where no tears fill the alleys, and no screams echo in the streets, the colors of our home bathed in eternal daylight, never to be enveloped by night’s obsidian sheet, never to behold the stars that float in its aether. The world is frozen, suspended in solution, waiting to be shaken. Conflict falls and settles like ashes, gray snow. So much less daunting is the world when held in the palms of our hands. Death’s limber fingers linger just outside its walls. It’s a one-sided mirror. It can see us, but we can only see ourselves, until the day the illusion is shattered, when this living, breathing world can no longer be contained in the paper-thin walls of glass. The fragile orb is shattered under the heels of our growing, stretching, longing. Only then can we embrace our mortality, our humanity. We are not children anymore.






An ache shoots up my spine and spreads through my veins  My heart pounds louder than the ringing in my ears

No one cares anymore The taste of metal filling up my mouth is making my eyes water  The scrapes on my knees sting more than the blisters on my hands  The ink I wrote on myself with is seeping into my skin, into my blood My blood is now turning as black as my chipped nail polish

Look at me, I’m a cry for help My hair is being tugged at in all different directions by the ghosts playing with it  The spiders from my nightmares are climbing up my legs  My throat burns from screaming  For their attention

They never cared to begin with




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Articles inside

Anxiety by Emma Messer

page 103

A Little Bit Won't Kill You but a Lot of It Sure Will by Sonu Patel

page 101

Tears For You by Olivia Schroeder

page 98

Feel Something by Lindsey Gray

page 95

BTS V by Emma Messer

page 92

Girl Eye by Anna Grant

page 91

Clocks by Anna Grant

page 90

Untitled by Maria Boulos

page 89

Pretty Boy by Sonu Patel

page 86

Losing My Mind by Lindsey Gray

page 81

Dancing Yellow Girl by Olivia Schroeder

page 74

Tabula Rasa by Annette Lu

page 67

Lady of Colors by Mason Singleton

page 65

Maria by Dani Paredes

page 50

Pray 4 Love by Dani Paredes

page 47

Rest in Power by Dani Paredes

pages 36-37

Smokey Stream by Eli Mears

page 35

King by Mason Singleton

page 26

Northern Lights by Abby Hugill

page 23

Untitled by Maria Boulos

page 16

The Last Words of the Dead Girl in My Gutter by Chloe Harbin

page 102

Snow Globes by Kate Krizner

page 100

Poker Face by Kameryn Davis

page 99

305 Calories by Mercy Crapps

pages 96-97

Elevator Shaft by Jenna Adams

page 94

A Man With a Rose by Kameryn Davis

page 93

I'll Never Choose a Title by Chloe Harbin

pages 87-88

The Sound of the Blackbird's Siren by Sophia Krizner

page 85

How to Take Over the World by Kate Krizner

pages 82-84

My Solace by Mercy Crapps

page 80

The Wanting by Sophia Krizner

page 79

YOLO by Kameryn Davis

pages 75-78

Apple Trees by Sean Patrick McCann

page 73

Mural by Eli Mears

pages 71-72

Blackberry Bush on a Cliff's Edge by Jenna Adams

page 70

The Burning by Sophia Krizner

page 69

Another Day by Kameryn Davis

page 68

Letter to Myself by Sean Patrick McCann

page 66

The Choice to Live by Ella McConnell

pages 62-64

What's Left Unsaid by Kameryn Davis

pages 56-61

True Silence by Kate Krizner

pages 54-55

Ruby Red by Madeline Sewell

page 53

Caricature Stand, Night Before September 22 by Kameryn Davis

pages 51-52

Sundown by Sean Patrick McCann

pages 48-49

Damn by Dani Paredes

pages 38-46

Sleeping Dreams of Port-au-Prince by Jenna Adams

page 34

Bird by Eli Mears

pages 32-33

One Audience by Teresa Morgado

pages 27-31

Fingers Crossed by Kameryn Davis

page 25

Sleeping Oak by Jenna Adams

page 24

Iceland Bookstores by Abby Hugill

page 22

A Song of Aremaeyan: The Knight's Pledge by Zachary Kasper

pages 18-21

A Moment in Time by Katie Matthews

pages 10-12

Schubert's Moment Musical No. 2 by Eli Mears

page 9

Family by Anya Mazerac

page 8

The Day Eli Ruined My Life by Trevor Gross

pages 13-14

Orion’s Might by Sean Patrick McCann

page 15

On Levity by Kate Krizner

page 17
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