Notes from the Underground: Maclay Upper School’s Journal of Creative Writing Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Craig Beaven Founder: Dr. N. Suzanne Jamir Issue 9
Editorial Staff Editor Managing Editor Poetry Editor Fiction Editor Nonfiction Editor Art Editors Copy Editor Publicist
Kate Krizner Annette Lu Chloe Harbin Mercy Crapps Eli Mears Dani Paredes and Sonu Patel Ella McConnell Trevor Gross
Learn more about us at www.thenftu.com
Front and Back Cover Art: Blanc By Sonu Patel
A Note from the Editor Dear Readers, What is it that separates you from the world...from your peers, your friends, sometimes even your family? Humans are social creatures. By nature, we forge connections, create relationships, join groups, but there will always be a part of us that we keep almost exclusively to ourselves. This is what makes us artists. In fact, it is through art that we are able to release those hidden parts, the pieces we keep underground. Creating art, poetry, and stories is how we not only seek to understand the world around us, but also ourselves. It is further how we strive to connect (or reconnect) to that which sometimes feels alien, distant, or broken. This issue is very special for us as a journal. For the first time in NFTU history, we were able to include submissions from outside of not only Maclay, but Tallahassee, and even Florida. As an editor, this is an extremely exciting development of which to be a part because it allows us to interact with even more talented artists. Widening our circle of contributors, and readers, allows us to reach out to an even broader world of both creators and lovers of art...and to further connect. This is our journal’s reconciliation. I am so proud to be a part of this journal and am incredibly grateful to work alongside such a talented group of artists as we continue to expand into a larger community. I cannot wait to see where this journey takes us. Until our next issue, Kate Krizner 1
Table of Contents Paranoia - Emma Messer
Long summer Sundays - Mateo Silberman Illusion - Shiv Patel
Sons - Mateo Silberman
Notes from the Underground Nonfiction Prize Winner Mr. Sun - Shelby Harrell
Awaken - Sean-Patrick McCann
Feeling of Calm - Annika Dean
Pass - Quinlan Coryat
Emerald - Anna Grant
Notes from the Underground Poetry Prize Winner ink - Abigail Hugill
Rendezvous - Kate Krizner
The Ring - Anne Mason Roberts
Everything Is Fixed - Kameryn Davis
Figures - Annette Lu
The Drink - Michael Gier
Notes from the Underground Art Prize Winner Gemini - Emma Messer All You Are Is Paper - Heaven Ward
Micah - Anna Grant
Fiducia - Geena Whitin
You’re Experienced - Chloe Harbin
Deep Poem - Annette Lu
Sofia - Dani Paredes
Kid, who gave you a heart so big? - Kat Large
Stuffed Crust Pizza - Kanene Nwokeji
If Its Walls Could Speak - Kate Krizner
A Journal from a Jewish Man in Nazi Germany - William Wishnia
Hope - Sophia Krizner
Presumed Guilty - Amelia Haggins
Notes from the Underground Fiction Prize Winner Observations of a Window Washer - Sophia Krizner
Iris - Sonu Patel
Another - Jenna Adams
well, well, well - Chloe Harbin
Bipolar Disorder - Emma Messer
Melancholy Tune - Kat Large
Tabula Rasa - Kate Krizner
The Essence of a Pawn - Sean-Patrick McCann
We Are Strong - Maleah Ceballos
Regardless of the Sun - Jenna Adams
Class Consciousness - Colin Lewis
Me - Lily Strickland
The Art of Suffocation - Kate Krizner
The Traveler - Teresa Morgado
The Girl in a Blue Dress - Lula Robertson
Sea - Mateo Silberman
Why don’t you answer my questions? - Eli Mears
Simple Wonders - Turner Beshears
Brasstown Bald Mountain, GA - Katherine Gorkov
A Discussion Between Two Squirrels - Jack Grooters
A Light in the Dark - Lindsay Garrett
Cherries - Dani Paredes
Ode to Lethargia - Eli Mears
Mirrors - Amelia Haggins
Sappho - Anna Grant
Duplicate - Annika Dean
Monsters and Mirrors - Heaven Ward
Smile - Mercy Crapps
Face Paint - Annika Dean
Looking in the Mirror - Anonymous
Thinking in Waves - Sonu Patel
Shedding - Kate Krizner
Growth - Annika Dean
Don’t Cry Angel - Chisara Amanze
PARANOIA EMMA MESSER
LONG SUMMER SUNDAYS
Long summer Sundays brought in sizzling heat waves. It felt that way.
Everyone else was out on vacation, but I wasn’t. One free weekend was enough to enjoy some hobbies. It started with a game of checkers against myself, as if to develop a poor strategy game using army men. But soon, the 11:00 AM sun would push people out of their houses. Even with the AC going full blast, anything left inside was layered in humidity. Around this time, the seemingly ancient family portraits would need to be replaced to avoid any molds from growing. A small pile of sand in the backyard made the perfect place to toss and turn. Some of the army men ended up buried there. Even after going through everything fun possible, I felt burnt out by 4:00 PM. I wasn’t supposed to go down the neighborhood on my own, but I knew something was waiting for me out there. Stacks of sticks that piled higher than mailboxes rested outside each home. The recent hurricane offered many opportunities to find some rich old people with hurricane damage and help them. That was what my friends always talked about, at least. Eventually, I stumbled upon an old skateboard in a garage. I rode it under the summer sun till it faded. The skateboard had lived long past its lifespan. After a quick trip to the pool by the nextdoor apartments, I threw the board in the kids’ bin, hoping someone else would get better use of it. Another quick visit to a nostalgic location wouldn’t hurt, right? I pulled the rough pack of Newports out of my back jean pocket and lit it with an old lighter. The lighter was probably older than me and had a rusted lighter case with four skulls. Who knows where I picked it up, but I sure wouldn’t have bought it. A short journey through the bushes brought me back to the house. The TV had 7
been left on for who knows how long, but it didn’t matter. Some beers and important-looking mail stacked high on the countertop. The old family portraits had been long gone by now. Maybe I am tired of living that Sunday over and over again for the past year. Two mystery pills and a few drinks later, I woke up in the hospital. I don’t know how, and the bills are unbelievable, but maybe it’s time I wake up for real now.
He sat on the couch skimming the paper on the coffee table closest to him.
At a quick glance the words seemed legible, but the more he concentrated the more they looked like unarranged streaks across a printed sheet. His attention drifted from the puzzled hieroglyphics as he noticed what appeared to be a blue top silently spinning, stationary on the table. A strange object indeed, but he dismissed the abnormality. He assumed his mother left it. She loved bringing little souvenirs from the places she visited. But she wasn’t here...
While wondering who had spun it, he heard a door open from across the
room. He drifted his attention from the paper as she stepped out.
“Hey, mom. Where did you come from?” he asked, puzzled.
He didn’t really remember. Of course, he saw her enter through the door
of the far room, but he had moved out ever since their fight a year ago. And now that he tried to recall, he couldn’t remember her arrival either.
She laughed off the question and asked,“No matter that. Where are you
At the time he didn’t think anything of it, but now looking back, he
noticed that she never answered the question. He thought about informing her of the upcoming psych exam he had. Ever since he had moved out, he’d been having recurring hallucinations and delusions. He decided to consult his doctor, in fear that something might be wrong. His doctor recommended he go see a psychiatrist but didn’t specify why. They never say why.
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” she said.
In the present, everything seemed fine, but in retrospect, he realized he
never talked aloud. 9
His eyes drew to the stationary top next to the coded paper again. It spun
still, showing no signs of slowing. It should’ve fallen by now, he thought.
She said,“You’ve noticed the top. I picked it up from the doctor last week.”
Confused, he replied,“What?”
She replied,“What’s the matter? Pick it up.”
He stared at the top and then her. He felt mildly delirious, but suddenly, as
if hit by a brick wall, he fathomed the dark truth. He finally recognized what it was.
But she kept insisting.
Quickly, this simple chat transformed into a shouting match.
But deep down, he knew she was right. He needed to. His hand regretful-
ly reached for the revolving top. Oddly, it started wobbling as he reached for it. And just as his hand arrived, it ceased its rotation. He blinked and looked back at the top and his mother, but neither were there.
Instead of the top, there lay a yellow plastic bottle with a white cap with
the name ANTIPSYCHOTIC Q.D. written in thick letters. Next to the bottle was the same paper, but this time, legible. It read PSYCH EXAMINATION from a week ago.
SONS MATEO SILBERMAN
“The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature.
Before I had become a productive member in society, a.k.a. before I could
drive, my mom would drive me and my brother to school every day. For many years we drove south on Thomasville, our destination being Holy Comforter Episcopal School, where I received an education Monday-Friday for ten years. Rarely, if I can remember correctly, was I excited to awaken from my slumber and go learn. My mom always knew this, and she always would cheer us up (as best she could). For as long as I can remember, we would drive over the bridge on Thomasville and Capital Circle. Every morning without fail we would greet the Sun as he rose above the horizon. We would always say “Good morning, Mr. Sun,” and my mood would always change for the better. After reading this Emerson quote, I now realize the significance of seeing the sun rise every morning. No matter what terrible things may be happening in the world, the sun rises regardless. We can find faith in seeing the sun rise every morning. It is dependable, and most of all it represents the new opportunity that comes with every new day.
I feel this idea of new opportunity can be related to the song “Over the
Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. In the song, there is the idea of a place “over the rainbow,” where dreams come true, where things are possible no matter how big they seem. This place is here on earth. It is the world we live in every day. To live in this world is for us to seize every chance we get at making this a better place for us and others. For me, this song has a deep personal meaning. One of my friends passed away recently in a car accident, and this song was played at the service. 12
Death is never easy, especially when it is someone you care about, someone you are lucky enough to call a friend. However, when this song came on, it made me realize: Nothing I can do will bring him back. Instead, I need to live the rest of my life seizing the opportunity that comes with each sunrise. I need to reach for the stars, and if I only come down with a handful of clouds, so be it. Cause I will be darned if I do not reach up again tomorrow.
Emerson also strongly believed in God as well as the natural world and
its beauty. He often noted how his surroundings were changed by God’s seasons but were still beautiful under the sun. With every passing second, hour, and day, the world changes. Nothing is the same as it was yesterday, or even five minutes ago. For me, this thought is scary. But as Emerson saw it, this is part of the raw beauty of nature. If things stayed the same, the world would become boring and dull. Unfortunately, these changes are not always welcomed. Sometimes they are the passing of a friend. However, we have to learn that all of these changes happen for a reason, and in the end, the relationship we have with God, as Emerson did, can help lead us out of the pit that is grief and sorrow. We can climb out and seize the opportunity that comes with greeting Mr. Sun in the morning. Works Consulted Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature:
Volume 1, edited by Nina Baym, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and
Company, Inc., 2017, pp.553-82
Kamakawiwo’ole, Israel. “Over the Rainbow”. https://youtu.be/V1bFr2SWP1I
A ship set sail A plane set for the sky Will it soar with the dragons Or come burning down like A pheasant after the bang Floated, With the shot clock low Time is still I wake to the sound of monotony Imprisoned by the endless fear Of day to day I rise and fall Amongst the sun Waiting for the sunset Like an autumn tree wrapped in its warm orange veil Waiting to fall And to be reborn
FEELING OF CALM ANNIKA DEAN
“Destination: Long Island, New York Demographic: 16-year-old boy Candidate: Jean Ali Description: Grades are average and even though he is a soccer and hockey player, he is not a superstar …” “Send him a letter.” …
There it was–a red letter with a burgundy wax seal in his mailbox. Jean Ali
had never seen a letter like this before, so he gave it to his Mom. Taking the letter and casually opening it, his Mom gasped,“Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh! Jean, come here.”
She handed him an invitation to an international camp in Toronto, Can-
ada. The paper read,“Classified…safety of each participant will be ensured but the camp is not responsible for any harm they might encounter outside of the grounds.” He skimmed the letter to see the draw to the camp until he read, “Many of our participants have gotten an average scholarship of $45,000 to top schools.” Looking in his mother’s eyes, he knew her mind was made up. He would go to the camp.
A few months later.
It was here. The day he had been waiting for had arrived. He grabbed his
bag of clothes and basic boy scouts gear. Looking out the window, he saw a giant, fancy white bus. He turned back to see his mom crying joyfully as he quickly gave her a hug and walked to begin his journey.
Immediately upon entering the bus, he saw only four people. One of the
kids signaled him over to sit by him. The kid said,“Yo, the name’s Zach. I’m from 16
The bus started, and they were on their way. He and Zach talked all the
way there until the bus stopped at the airport where a larger number of kids were waiting. After going through security, everyone settled down and waited.
Suddenly a siren went off, and an announcer’s voice boomed, saying,
“Lockdown Emergency.” Kids started to scream in terror. Jean Ali yelled to get their attention, but his voice was lost in the chaos. There–a phone. Nine-one-one, but it did not work. He tried the police’s number, but it did not work again.
Then a strange voice said,“Pound, pound, two, eight, seven, pound.”
Jean entered the code and said,“Hello. Remain Calm.”
His voice echoed in the airport as it was blasted through speakers. Every-
one quieted down to listen.
Jean Ali instructed everyone to wait patiently until they received help.
Once everyone had realized they were safe, the lights flickered on. A man in a navy suit descended from the second floor of the airport and handed Jean Ali a white pass.
He then said,“Jean Ali, Pass.”
EMERALD ANNA GRANT 18
ink has a mind of its own. ink does it know what it wants? is it for you to write? there is so little in a cartridge: does it imagine helping compose something great, or is it fine just being used up? when it sits, unused, in glass, (among other cartridges of ink), it slowly leaks, as if trying to escape from its confined, predetermined space, it drips down the dusty finger indentations, only for it to collect at the bottom, and lightly coat the tips of the other unused pens, do the pens discuss? <<is the girl’s mind dead? does she no longer write? >> <<does the sight of us spur anxiety?>> <<panic?>> they wonder, <<does she still carry the small notebook with ideas for writing?>> the one filled with ideas, & inspiration, for writings she always thought would make her happy ink has a mind of its own, but is it anything without a hand? 19
It was a chilly November evening. The smell of freshly fallen rain coated the dark city streets, succeeded by a thick fog that concealed the tops of the flickering street lights. The street’s archaic buildings hummed with history. Times of peace and war. Days tainted by rain and baked by the sun. They had seen people too. Men and women. Free spirits and businessmen. Those beginning their journey and those nearing the end. They had seen it all. But never had they seen anyone like him. He was combusting with fervor. Each of his steps seethed with movement, limbs dancing, vibrating as if even he had no control. He was scurrying back to his apartment. Having graduated after years of studying journalism, this was his big break. This city past its prime contained secrets. Stories. At least that is what they told him. They lied. There was nothing here. Nothing except dilapidated buildings and abandoned streets, only a few lost souls haunting the place that once thrived with thousands of people. But tonight there were none. He had nowhere to be and all the time in the world to get there. And he hated it. He wanted to go back. Back to the big city with all of the blinding lights. Not here, fading among the memories of what once was. He stopped. Nothing ever caused him to stop. He listened but was met with silence. But not the kind of silence one would expect from a place like this. It was the kind of intoxicating silence that comes right before something begins and just after it ends. Something shattered the symphonies of silence, a shallow sigh from behind him. He turned around to see–nothing. He continued forward, but the sound of his worn shoes against the damp pavement was undoubtedly accompanied by a haunting rhythm Click Click Click 20
of heels. He spun around only to be greeted by the fog, just as empty and silent as before. Though he knew the town was silent, the same noise he had heard behind him tapped delicately like a mallet in his head.
He struggled to tell which of the sounds he was hearing were being fab-
ricated in his mind and which were in existence. It kept echoing and repeating and getting faster, all spinning inside his aching mind. He shut his eyes tightly and held his head in his hands. It stopped.
He opened his eyes and standing in front of him was–her. He examined
the figure that stood before him. Lips red as if they were stained by his own crimson blood. He glanced at her feet. Red stilettos the same color as her lips. But her eyes were what captured him. Eyes cold and grey and hard as if carved out of stone. It was like staring into the eyes of a ghost. Enchantingly and horrifically beautiful. He could not tear away his eyes from her stare. A frozen, haunting figure. She continued toward him. Click
His heart was pulsating faster and faster. He didn’t know whether he 21
he should turn and run or stay. As if he had a choice. She reached for his hand. And when she took it, his world stopped. In only a moment he saw his beloved city. Flooded with people. Flashing with lights. Beating with energy, electricity, movement. He saw places he had never seen before. Forests and mountains and oceans. He saw stars and planets. But all at once the chaos he had seen that chilly November evening.
ANNE MASON ROBERTS
“I don’t understand what I did. Did I not treat you well enough?” he said, appalled and hurt. She hesitated. What DID he do wrong? Wait, no. He did do something wrong. He, um, he… As she rummaged through her brain to scrap together any reason to explain why she was really breaking up with him, frustration began to take him captive. “Please tell me what I did wrong, maybe I can improve over time!” he pleaded. She looked down at their shadows, elongated by the lamps lined like tin soldiers hovering above them, and she twirled her golden hair while playing with the frays from her jeans. “I dunno,” she muttered after some time. “You’re ending this relationship even though I did nothing wrong!” he whimpered. She bit her lip, her eyes glazed over, and she was struck by waves of intense emotion and confusion. Am I doing the right thing? rang over and over again in her head like a pulsing vein. “Say something!” he commanded. All she did was close her eyes to create a gate that the tears could not pass through. With pitchers of anger bursting from him, he turned away and took long, quick strides as his anger built up. Then he ran up to her like a fierce twenty-foot wave about to crash on the shore, and she shrunk from him with a look of fear and torment. He stopped. Looking into her glistening eyes filled with fear extinguished his flame of anger and wiped away his exasperated thoughts. All he wanted to do was apologize over and over again for his irrationality and plant kisses upon her forehead. Taken aback from that fantasy, he blinked and brought their intense conversation back to the forefront of his mind. With irritated thoughts swimming again in his head, he proceeded,“How could you do this to me? You led me on for 23
for four years just to cut it off now. I was about to…”
He closed his eyes and tried to continue his sentence–to make sense of it
all. But then, he fell unto his knees and cried. The tears rushed out as he wiped at them frantically.“I was about to…to…” he choked, his voice clogging. Seeing his tears sprinkle the weathered wood on the boardwalk made her yearn with sadness. But to stop her emotions from building regrets about all the words she had already put into his head, she interrupted,“I truly am sorry, although I know you’ll never forgive me. Maybe it’s better if we take a couple of days to process this before we talk again.”
She took a rattled breath and walked into the fog that rested on the
boardwalk. Sitting up and watching her leave, he took the box from his pocket. He walked to the edge of the railing with his teeth clenched and tossed the box far into the open sea. He took a heavy breath and turned away from his fading future as a ring sank, sank, sank.
EVERYTHING IS FIXED
You were in love once, weren’t you? Yeah. You were in love, alright. He swept you off your feet. At least, that’s what everyone at the shop thought. Each day–for about two months–you entered with a smile. Good morning all! Hey guys. What is up my peoples? You had jokes. You apparently had a nice smile. A sweet, innocent face for a sweet, innocent lady. You embodied every romance movie ever. The good scenes and the bad. You passed the same office each morning. Dan’s. Dan’s office was in that awkward corner that just happened to be the cleanest space in the whole shop. It was small, but the manager could keep it open and see the whole expanse of the workplace in one glance. You came in. You knock once? No, twice! You knock twice on the open door. Hey Danny Dee! He always smiled before attempting to scowl with his usual remark about disgusting happiness stinkin’ up his shop. After passing his office, you give a fist-bump to Jakey, knock your foot with Lukas Lane—his hands always busy with a broken toy or clock—and do your usual handshake with Ronnie McDonnie. Fist-bump. Clap hands two times. Rock, paper, scissors, then finger guns. Wipe sweat from your forehead gesture, and you’re off to your station, working on your most recent commission of crafting a bird frozen in the moment before it’s just about to fly. A wooden masterpiece you were later congratulated on. You took on about three commissions—the others grateful when you took some of the work off their tables—and no one knew how you got it all done within only a few weeks or months. Jake would just say he’s grateful for whatever made your eyes shine that day. Ronnie elbowed you, asking again for hints about the hot guy that struck your interest. She asked the same question eighteen, nineteen, twenty times in those two months. But you were silent, weren’t you? You gave nothing away. Keeping him to yourself like some secret that only you had the privilege to know. Three weeks after that, you walk in. It’s no hop in your step, it’s a strut. Like you’re a high-class woman, a queen. Like someone was meant to bow and kiss your hand or kneel and shine your shoes. You strut—at least that’s how it was 25
described—down the same pathway. You knock twice on the open door. Hey Dan-
ny Dee! He noticed the ring. He had yet to respond as you continued your strut. A fist-bump to Jakey. He felt the sharpness hit against his knuckles. You knock your foot with Lukas Lane, waving your hand in the air as if to only flaunt it. You do the handshake with Ronnie McDonnie. Fist-bump. Clap hands two times. Rock, paper, scissors, finger guns. Wipe sweat from your forehead gesture, the glint of the ring sparkling with every move. You move through it like a chore rather than a joke, but still smiling with that sweet, innocent smile. You get to work at your station, but you avoid anything that even slightly threatens the sparkling diamond. You work with tools but not your hands. A clean freak avoiding the touch of wood or steel. You let Lukas take the other handful of jobs. He rolls his eyes, but hey! It was your first time ever asking for a favor. Why not oblige, you know? Ronnie just gapes. You don’t say anything.
Each week after that brings a new excuse as to why you were late, or why
you needed to leave early. No one spoke. You had never asked for a day off in the five years you had worked there. Sure, there were sick leaves and doctor’s appointments, but never because you woke up late, had to make some breakfast, or got caught
in traffic. You were always early. Whether it be five, ten, or thirty minutes early. Maybe even an hour. Jake would bring bagels on his early workdays. Ronnie always brought you coffee when she had time to make a stop on the way. Now, you stopped grabbing the bagels. Ronnie started giving the coffee to Lukas. You knock twice on the open door. Sorry Danny! He would just shake his head. You jog past, fist-bump
Jake, knock the head of your shoe against Lukas’s, just about tripping every time you do so. You do your handshake with Ronnie. Fist-bump. Clap hands two times. Rock, paper, scissors, finger guns. You jog to your station. It had been cold lately, 26
but when some days got warmer, you still wore a neck scarf or turtleneck. Your face is red. You smile at nothing. You hum to a song. You tap your feet to music Ronnie never thought you’d listen to. You would move in your seat and laugh at a memory. There are bags under your shining eyes. You are still in love. You get to work.
You are married. They see the second band on your finger. You took time
off for a whole month and came back a different person in the same body. You weren’t exactly a tomboy, but you didn’t do skirts and makeup and jewelry, et cetera. The day you return from your time off, you wear new jeans instead of your favorite sweats. There are diamonds in your ears. Your hair is pulled back to flaunt them to anyone who’d glance. You usually kept your hair down. It framed your face in a way you preferred. Your old worn shoes are gone, replaced by new expensive ones. You’re wearing a blouse. A pink blouse. You hate pink, but that’s beside the point. It was the necklace you were wearing that day. A necklace. You only wore chokers. Everyone knew that. You’d say you feel odd if you went without them for a day. There is still light in those eyes. It’s just dull and shadowed by the bags under them. You hold a smile, but you look tense, looking this way and that. You knew something, didn’t you?
You no longer walk with joy but with purpose. Your chest out, shoulders
back, like a robot that learned to impersonate a human but still can’t perfect it. You knock twice on the open door. Hey Dan. He just looks up at you then goes back to work. You wave at Jake and pat Lukas’s shoulder. Ronnie gets the awkward finger guns. She doesn’t even bother to ask for your last name. You walk to your station. You look lost. You stare off into the distance. Your feet shake to anxiousness rather than music or excitement. You take one commission for a music box that no longer plays “You Are My Sunshine.” Good song. Very beautiful. Once you fix it, you let it 27
play through a few times. No tapping to the beat or rocking in your seat, but you silently hum. You fiddle with the ring, a ghost of a smile on your face. You’re still in love. You get to work.
A year later, you’re walking in with rubies as pins in your hair. A gold
watch on your wrist. You shine. Your eyes don’t. You’ve gone hard in a way. It’s like steel covered with a pillowcase. They still got your smiles. They still had the rare conversations and small talk with you. You knock once on the open door and nod. Dan looks up then looks down. Jake and Lukas get small smiles. Ronnie tried harder to keep that bond you had. She still made jokes. She may even get you to smile or chuckle. She asks one thing about the mystery sugar daddy and you’re back to the blank look. If someone dropped a tool, you flinched and looked pale the rest of the day. You’d go quiet. No one would remember what your voice even sounded like until you asked them to pass the screwdriver.
You started a habit of rubbing your left arm, clasping over the wrist. Was
he right-handed? Nobody knows. Well, only you and God hold that secret. That ghost never left suspicion. Never left a clue. Makes you wonder where he got the money, where you got the shoes, where you got the ring, the necklace, the clothes. The bruises. The scratches. The scars. You were in too deep. You could have been his kryptonite. His downfall. But you’re a creature of habit, living by the same words of
till death do us part.
It took one year and five months. You walk past the open door. It’s a slouch.
Not relaxed but as if to curl in on yourself. Your hair is down around your face. Not to frame your face but to hide it. No jewelry this time. You walk past Jake, past Lukas. You walk past Ronnie. They don’t even look up from their work. You’re late. You have shades on. You still have some nice jeans on, but you wear a hoodie. Your old 28
one. It was worn but had sleeves long enough to hide your wrists and your knuckles. Your cheeks are rosy under the shades. They’re slightly puffy. You didn’t bother with makeup that morning. It was all there. No one looked, did they? Until Dan comes out of his office. He clears his throat. He reaches your desk. He thinks you’re hungover. It’s the eighth time you’ve come in like this in the past three months. He tells you he is tired of it. He says to leave and not come back until you’ve changed your act and handled whatever is going on with you. He says to fix it or leave for good. If
it’s an addiction, get some help. If it’s a personal issue, talk to someone. If this is your own burden. Then you deal with it. But not here. He crosses his arms. You ball your hands into fists. You never look up at him. You breathe in, breathe out, then relax your hands. You say nothing. You drop your tools. You leave the teddy bear with a broken voice box that can’t say “I love you,” and you walk out the door.
It was ten days. It took you ten days to pack up your crap and throw it
behind you. You came back with a hop in your step. Hoodie, sweats, choker, and all. You knock twice on the open door. Hey Danny Dee. You apologize for everything. You say it’s fixed. Everything is okay. He smiles then shooes you away, talking about your disgusting happiness stinkin’ up his shop. You smile and give a hug to Jakey and
Lukas Lane. You apologize for everything. You say it’s fixed. Everything is okay. You attempt to remember the handshake with Ronnie McDonnie. Fist-bump. Rock, paper, scissors, clap hands two times, finger guns, then the wipe sweat from your forehead gesture. You apologize for everything. She gives a small smile. They all can’t help but forgive such a sweet, innocent woman with a sweet, innocent smile. It takes time to fix but you do it. You build back every relationship lost. Of course, no one says anything about the pale streak of skin on your finger where the ring once was. You got a divorce, they guessed. Why you would divorce such a rich man was 29
beyond them. You seemed fine. Everything was fixed. Everything was okay.
Three weeks later. It was just another day when a missing person report
was on the news. A nobody that was neighbors with an old lady. The lady said he came out every day dressed in a suit and tie. He kissed his wife at the door then walked to his old, bent-up car. He waved with a nod at the lady as he left, and she waved back. He got back long after the lady’s bedtime, but he was always there every morning when she stepped out onto her porch. The old lady said that the wife was a mystery. They never spoke, but she’d nod as she left. The lady would nod back. She told the cops that he had stopped waving. He stopped nodding. His old car was gone. He never returned. But the wife. His wife. She still came out every morning at the same time. She continued nodding to the lady before driving away.
You thought it was all fixed. You thought everything was okay. You
thought that that was love. That it was something powerful. Relentless. Steady. But in the end, that love got the best of you when it was no longer given to you. Who would’ve thought? Ha. You. A sweet. Innocent. Woman. The truth’s out now. No need to hide it. Now, I’m going to ask again. It’s a simple question.
Where did you hide the body?
FIGURES ANNETTE LU
There’s something about You, Always flowing, always varying, Your every fragment breaking down And reforming. You hypnotize me. Yet there you sit, high upon that desk, Taunting me like a candy jar taunts a child. You glow with ease. I glow with envy. Enough is enough. I’ll get what I want. Oh, how could I even live my life under your shadow? I’ve sat here, idly by, while you haunt me, Scrutinizing my every move. My bones and tendons shiver as I reach, Curling my fingers around your neck. You’re warm. Your heat pulses through me, only strengthening my desire. I can only imagine the intensity of my eyes as I Slam Your head against the cold and solid wood of the desk. Fragments of your Soul fly in every direction. You cut me. And I smile.
And from my skin drips crimson, Mixing with your blue as I seize my prize. I sip, slowly at first, savoring your taste. And then, I swallow. You burn me, every fiber of my being is destroyed By your rejected Love. I am betrayed, yet warmed with the heat of a summer night. And I am happy. The act is over. I wipe my mouth. But you still spread within me, compressing my abdomen, Twisting my gut to your will. Yet I still laugh. Besides, I was always destined to drink that lava lamp.
GEMINI EMMA MESSER
ALL YOU ARE IS PAPER
The human body craves affection. Love is an addiction all by itself, but I am a master of protection of hiding all my feeling on the furthest pedestal. I never imagined that one day I’d meet someone who loved to read. Little by little he made his way down my maze of paper walls and despite my objections I couldn’t help but let them deteriorate around me. Like any drug I got addicted, to the laughs to the smiles and to the affectionate touch. With every high comes a low, and eventually we would burn out. You lived for books and stories, The wonderful adventures written in dark ink. But I was only made with a limited amount of pages and a way sadder story than you’d hoped for.
I always said I wanted to be someone’s favorite story, One that they knew inside and out. I know I’ll never be that awe, A truth I wish I could deny. Favorite things are overrated, especially when it comes to books. They just lay still and quiet, Waiting to be met by your gaze. To be someone’s favorite doesn’t define what you mean to them. For people even have a favorite color, So, you’re worth as much as something trivial, like the color blue. I don’t want to be a favorite that will change as the seasons fade away I want to be something more, something that actually lasts.
MICAH ANNA GRANT
FIDUCIA GEENA WHITIN
that brief sense of profundity of truly feeling your own heart beat inside its chest befalls with a cold harshness puncturing through your skin
the red seeping from the walls in your mind pours onto your face reflecting the crimson-stained lights blending around you this tone of “everything RED” covers the cement
deafening pitches echo through your ears and ring in an indescribable sequence hypnotizing you to the point of unawareness and you feel happy
are you deep? is your mind, like an ocean of thoughts, 80% undiscovered according to National Geographic? does it cave in on itself with questions and answers which wave more questions? and do you think: why is the world the way it is? why are people cruel? why do bad things happen to good people? do you ponder your existence? do you try to find the meaning of life? are you aware? are you aware that you make everything about yourself? that everyone makes everything about themselves? are you aware that you hate that? do you hate the things you do? do you hate that you hate them? do you hate yourself? sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but answering “Yes” to these questions does not make you deep. if you think you are, you aren’t. do you hate that you think you are deep? Yes
Note to Self: you aren’t the like ocean, endless and rare. you’re just like everyone else
SOFIA DANI PAREDES 41
KID, WHO GAVE YOU A HEART SO BIG?
who gave you a heart so big? a heart so caring and kind– a heart of good intentions, a heart made to love everything.
who gave you a heart so big? i could never comprehend, or begin to wonder how much love you carry around with a satchel so large.
who gave you a heart so big? it was never hard for people to make you cry cosmic glittering streams of tears you scream out in pain– why do those who you care about, hurt you so much?
who gave you a heart so broken? someone tore it to shreds, i am sorry. no little person with a heart so big could ever deserve such an affliction. your big heart will heal eventually, i bet. bright, colorful, half-stuck-on band-aids will hold your heart together. you hope that someday you could go back to those times when you didn’t have such a heart, but that time will never come. to live with a big heart means to die with an even bigger one.
STUFFED CRUST PIZZA
I just bought a stuffed crust pizza at Walmart. In the bakery section of the
store I frequent, where an open-air refrigerator houses the frozen pizzas, I picked out a stuffed crust pepperoni and left the store with it.
Unlike any of the other pizzas on the rack, the stuffed crust one holds a
special place in my heart. My eyes scanned the freezer with desperation, because my brother and I used to eat that particular pizza almost every night when we were little. Zim would take it out of the soggy cardboard box and plastic shrink wrap and carry it straight onto the racks of our oven. No pan. No aluminum foil. Nothing. He would place it straight onto the racks and race back to his new Spider-Man game that was paused on his PlayStation. When the twenty-minute alarm dinged, he picked up our pizza with his bare hands. He’d cut it into uneven slices with a random kitchen knife that was definitely not meant for pizza. And we’d eat. And we’d fight over the last piece.
Tonight, I’m going to put my pizza in the oven. It will sit on a tinfoil bed,
and after the alarm rings, I will savagely cut it with a random kitchen knife. Then, I’ll sit on the couch and watch Zim play Division 1 College Basketball on TV while I eat my stuffed crust pizza. 44
We are both still young. Our whole lives are ahead of us. The stuffed crust
pizza may be gone, but I’m looking forward to all the new meals and the experiences we’ll build together. I’m looking forward to all the memories we’ll make when I see him again.
IF ITS WALLS COULD SPEAK
Claire stands before her home. Or more commonly known–the public
library. It certainly feels like home. She stumbles up the familiar steps, pulling her worn wool coat tight to escape the sting of February’s cruel breath. The columns and marble remind her of one of Apollo’s temples, as if she should be surrounded by rolling green hills and ancient ruins, not looming skyscrapers and screaming sirens. When Claire reaches the top, she pauses, pressing the cold brass of her empty locket against her lips. The picture fell out long ago, but Claire thinks she would know her if she saw her. Claire holds her breath and says a silent prayer before heaving open the hefty oak doors. She is immediately enveloped by warmth and the aroma of aging literature. Mrs. Gardner’s soft smile and kind eyes light up when she sees Claire.
“You’re here later than usual.”
“Hello to you too, Mrs. G. School got out late.” Claire’s cheeks and the tip
of her nose are rosy from the cold. She smiles, revealing a tiny gap between her two front teeth.
“Lucky for you, I’ve been guarding your corner.”
“You better have,” Claire teases, tucking a stray piece of auburn hair behind
her ear, the sleeve of her sweater falling and revealing a pale wrist ink-stained with reminders.
“Some new books were just delivered,” Mrs. Gardner calls out.“You might
like them if you’d give them a chance.”
“That’s okay, I like the old ones better.” Claire walks over to the ornamental 46
window that sits between Classics and Historical Fiction. She discovered this perfect space on her first day at the library, and over time Mrs. Gardner had brought cushions and a houseplant to decorate it. The plant died within a week because Claire overwatered it. She had tried to care for it too much. Mrs. Gardner remembered that first day well. The tiny girl with huge, curious green eyes peering up at her in front of her desk. She didn’t have a library card or anyone at all who seemed to be with her. When questioned, Claire said only that she was waiting for her mama. She still waits. Every day. The many years have never extinguished the hope. Hope that one day someone will come for her and find her reading Robin Hood in her nook. But Claire hadn’t realized that she had already been found. ...
Delilah stands in front of the library as she had done so many times
before. Something keeps her outside. Something has always kept her outside. She stands there clutching a worn copy of Anne of Green Gables. She never got to finish reading it to Claire. Her Claire. She knows it’s a long shot that Claire will even remember her. That she hasn’t given up on her. She couldn’t blame her if she had. Delilah holds her breath. The doors of the library are heavier than she remembers. She pauses to wonder, once again, if Claire would be better off without her.
A JOURNAL FROM A JEWISH MAN IN NAZI GERMANY
Gunter Wizniak, June 6th, 1941
My dear brother Yudel is working on another one of his plans to save our
people. He says since we were blessed to have been born into a wealthy family and we escaped before everything, it is our duty to help them.
Gunter Wizniak, June 9th, 1941
When I say that Yudel is working on another plan, I mean that this is the
seventh time we attempted this. With so many other Jews in those death camps, we must do everything we possibly can to save some. I remember the second time we snuck in. We used the same plan–sneak over the fence after the guards leave (for a break or a position change). This time we were almost caught by the night patrol who returned earlier than we expected. Ha! His face–we were five feet away from him and he did not even notice. I am nervous about Yudel’s new plan. This time he wants us to cut through the fence using garden shears to allow more people to get through.
Gunter Wizniak, June 10th, 1941
The plan is underway. Yudel and I are still getting everything ready. The
plan is to sneak in on Sunday (June 15th). We have the garden shears, but we are waiting on our paperwork to come through.
Gunter Wizniak, June 13th, 1941
We are going into the camp in 2 days. Yudel and I have everything we need
to get in. I have never been more nervous–this will be the most dangerous attempt 48
to rescue our friends yet. Most of the other camps we snuck into were smaller and less organized. This prison is the biggest I have seen, with soldiers patrolling in every hour of the night. Our parents think this is unwise and are trying to dissuade us from going, but we can not stay complacent as our neighbors are murdered.
Gunter Wizniak, June 14th, 1941 (Morning)
It is a day till our big plan. We have all the materials ready. My wife Isabel
and Yudel’s wife are trying to convince us not to go, but we must. We cannot wait for someone to help the people in that camp; we need to take action. I must do this, because if I did not help them, I would not be able to live with myself. When we started planning, Yudel and I made a pact that if one of us backed out, we both would. Neither of us wants to be that person because we both believe in the cause.
Gunter Wizniak, June 15th, 1941
The day is upon us. We are waiting outside the camp for the guards to
rotate out. The next step will be Yudel and I cutting through the fence and running to the dormitories to instruct people on escape. We will split up, Yudel going to the East dorm and I to the North dorm. We will return to our designated area near our fence opening and wait for at most 10 minutes for the other to arrive.
Yudel Wizniak, June 15th, 1956
It has been fifteen years since Gunter’s death. Before he could reach the
appointed area, his group was caught. He sacrificed his life for them to get away. I wish it would have been me. Oh how I miss him so, my brave, selfless brother.
hope, incredible and intangible, slowly slips like a porcelain plate coated in detergent for no one ever has a complete grasp on what they cannot see If only the wise had a reason that life was worth living
I could feel the cool droplets of perspiration gliding down my neck and
soaking the back of my tie as the prosecution brought up its last witness. My eyes attempted to make a steady gaze across the stand as the witness approached, but I quickly forced them back to my “notes,” a series of doodles. Placing his left hand on the bible with a sly smirk, Dominic “Stew” Stewart swore to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. Lies, I thought.
Stew was a compulsive liar who every year tricked dozens of freshmen
into buying his herbal “snacks,” which were simply filled with an extra cup of sugar. After taking a seat at the bench, the questions began, and I could feel my nightmare being revived again.
“Could you recall for me what you were doing at 11:00 p.m. of October
I was with her in the parking lot of my fraternity house.
“I had just gone outside to grab something from my car, after having some
drinks in the frat house.”
“Before you went outside, did you see the suspect and the victim in the
“No. She just got there, and he and I only had a couple of drinks.”
Lies. I never drink during fall workouts.
“After the defendant was taken into custody, it was determined that his
blood alcohol level was .20. Did he seem disorientated or more aggressive than usual?” 51
Where is she getting these numbers? I only had one sip. It’s a set-up, I
never meant to…
“He seemed fine until she came. Then after she arrived, I could hear yell-
ing, when I went outside to my car.”
I wasn’t yelling. I never raise my voice.
“After you went to your car, what happened next?”
“I went to grab my wallet out of the front seat when it got really quiet all
of a sudden. I then heard a faint cry… Like a cry young children give out after they accidentally break their mother’s nice vase.”
Wait, that can’t be right.
“I was confused, so I walked to check the noise and saw her lying on the
sidewalk facedown, and he was across the street with his hands on his head.”
“No further questions, your honor.”
“The courtroom will now proceed to recess.”
The jury left and no one moved an inch.
My lawyer whispered a sentence in my ear, but the words faded away. I
could feel my future slipping from my grasp as I pondered the events that led to our final interaction: Why didn’t she tell me? Why would she keep such a big secret from me? Why was I having to pay for her actions?
Before I could finish my thoughts, the jury reentered. I made a final glance
around the courtroom, specifically at the twelve strangers that would determine my future. My life decisions flashed before my eyes as the judge approached the stand.
“Foreperson, has the jury reached a verdict?” 52
My heart stopped.
“The jury finds the defendant…”
OBSERVATIONS OF A WINDOW WASHER
Dangling almost three hundred feet above the ground, both my body and
my heart grow cold. Two weeks ago, I was hired by Big Apple Window Cleaning Services. Although this was a great opportunity for someone like me, I never thought a job could make me feel this alone.
Today, the first window I reach looks into a rather roomy, yet dark, apart-
ment blasting smooth jazz. As I begin to soak my sponge inside the bright yellow bucket, a man walks into the room. His hair is a ruffled mess, and small, square reading glasses are planted on the chaos. Rolling up his dress-shirt sleeves, he stalks toward the kitchen island. When he goes to grab a whiskey glass, we make eye contact. He looks startled and almost offended as he quickly detaches his pupils from mine and continues his drink pouring. Soon we both finish and he takes one last sip of the liquid as he goes to check his phone. Scowling at whatever message appeared, the man grabs the entire bottle of whiskey and stalks back to his room.
A few windows later, I descend upon another rather disturbing scene
filled with rage and a fuming couple. The couple is screaming so loudly that even the window cannot completely cover the sounds of the fight. When I reach for my drying blade, I realize a crying boy is sitting below the couch covering his ears. I wish I could help him, but I can only stare and pray. The woman finally notices me, scowls, and yanks her husband into another room. Just a minute later, I hear a muffled yell, and the boy scurries away as well. I let my eyes hang on the now empty scene for a moment more, letting myself pity the boy in the apartment.
As if this day was not already depressing, it begins to rain. My quivering 54
reflection catches my eye as it stares back through me. The dirty white uniform encasing my body contrasts the dark pigment of my skin as a great wave of sadness envelops me. People will never change. I’ll always be the black man. Never the husband. Never the dad. Just the black man. The man, offended by me, the family, disgusted by me, and humanity, scared of me. I push my eyelids together trying to slow my sobs. Tap. Tap. Tap. I peel my eyes open to meet the gaze of a young, pale girl holding a stuffed bear in her arms. Her smile beams so brightly that I must resist the urge to smile back, worried it may scare her. Lightly breathing on the window and leaving a foggy cloud behind, her fingers reach forward to draw a small smiley face. Her giggle escapes the glass barrier as once again her glowing smile shines at me, but this time I smile back.
IRIS SONU PATEL
And why do I remember from the perspective of another? Someone saw you lean on the sink.
Someone saw you leaning on the sink,
And I saw your face when your back was to the mirror.
I saw your back in the mirror you won’t face, While you stare at me.
Instead you stare at me;
Why is fear so clearly found in the reflections of my eyes?
Why does fear make clearer your reflection in my eyes? It blurred my memory.
How did you blur my memory?
You changed my mind.
I’ve changed my mind. And why do I remember from the perspective of another?
WELL, WELL, WELL
it’s about to happen she can already tell the feeling is underwhelming but it won’t be for long soon she will be staring at herself in the mirror a witness to her own destruction as her mascara drips down her face like black tears gasping for a breath that will never come and soon she will see her face swell and red circles form around her eyes in either rage or self-hatred –she will never place the difference– she wipes the black tears all over her face disgusting a monster she’ll never clean off the mess she’s made of her face and she starts to like it she likes the reminder of how she failed herself
or perhaps the reminder that she can’t control herself can’t control her mind
well, well, well she murmurs to herself
here we are again we’re back at the place we swore we’d never go to we’re back here again in front of our dirty mirror staring at our shared face – it’s almost peaceful the way the world collapses around her it’s everything and nothing simultaneously dare i call it, beautiful – she paces around her room and her legs feel fatigued she sits down and she feels as if she will die if she does not begin to pace again she pops her knuckles one-by-one she doesn’t know what to do with her hands she doesn’t know what to do with her mind 59
she hears the reminder in her head, telling her that she’s safe
SAFE (adjective): not likely to be harmed or lost –
well, well, well it looks like she’s never actually been safe once before in her life
BIPOLAR DISORDER EMMA MESSER
i lie on my bedroom floor– quietly, my calico rubs her old gray muzzle on my shoulder before lying down on my stomach. we lie there in silence, listening to some melancholy tune singing on my record player. if i close my eyes, and think hard enough i can see a Canadian man with diastema in his two front teeth singing quietly, a song that i have yet to long to forget. cigarette smoke clouds the room he is in, and he strums his Fender, the curled guitar strings at the top bouncing up and down they have yet to be cut.
oh… don’t let me see you cry-yin... cuz oh… honey i’ll smoke here till i’m dy-yin’… i open my eyes, the room i now reside in is unfamiliar, but i’ve seen it many times. the sage green walls draped in greenery seem to sing his words, the hanging plants weep their tears as stems and leaves, as they reach out to a small circular stained-glass window. the sunlight seeps through that little pinhole and makes the room drip in warm honey. was it always this warm? my record is still playing, but i feel older, or like i’m floating. where did the time go? the song hasn’t ended yet. 62
in this simple state of mind, i remember the man singing. i get up and stretch, humming his tune softly, as i reach for the window latch. how could i ever forget it? opening the window, the salty wind rushing inside, filling my lungs with the same air that makes the fish with wings fly. the world outside the window is covered in clouds and warm sunlight. i wish i was young again, this air would have pushed me to do more. this eclectic room, the messy watercolor paintings, the sweet, grey-muzzled, round calico cat rubbing at my ankles, a familiar maine coon with a long coat sits at the foot of the iron bed frame. it is all so familiar. i’ve seen this all before, could it have been my imagination? i don’t care all that much, i can stay for a while longer. i’ve missed you, diamond. i wish you were there to watch me grow up. song credits: Mac Demarco- Ode to Viceroy
“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.” Ralph Waldo Emerson,“Self-Reliance”
I have lived a life of imitation, convention, and expectation. Since I began
my education so long ago, I treated every aspect of my life with the same lens of perfectionism and competition. Few things tasted as satisfying to me as victory, and this drive nested at my core as I trained to win 5k and 10k races, ingrained and regurgitated facts to achieve the highest scores on tests, and recited speeches over and over to win class elections. Having a goal to accomplish, an opponent to defeat, or a new challenge to conquer always used to fuel me. For a long time, it was an effective way of living, but when I reached high school my outlook was challenged, and a haunting question began to ring in the back of my still ambitious mind. What
happens when I fail? Why does it matter?
My identity was a trembling house of cards. By sophomore year, I had
found that there would always be classmates who outscored me, assignments on which I fell short, competitions for which I endlessly prepared only to lose. I could feel my self-worth shriveling, and that was when I started asking myself why I even cared. As much as I tried to convince myself, I was doing little of it for me. I wanted to be seen as the best by my friends, parents, peers, and teachers. I was only acting out a character I had written for myself that I believed everyone would love. I knew I needed to fix something before the smoke show I constructed dissipated, but the chaos of life rarely leaves time for intensive self-examination. 64
But then, the unthinkable. Because of the pandemic, life itself came to
a screeching halt, leaving me with no one to impress outside of my laptop screen. I was presented with a chance to find myself, to have that magical moment of self-actualization I had seen in countless coming of age films. Because I did not have the typical ingredients for a picturesque summer of self-discovery, the first place I searched was philosophy. I spent hours reading Camus, Descartes, Socrates, and de Beauvoir, binge-watching the entire seven hours of Hank Green’s Crash Course Philosophy, and staring at abstract works of art about identity. Michael Reeder’s haunting depiction of a half formed, but colorfully bleeding self especially stuck out to me as an image of what my process should have resembled. If anything, my struggles to find meaning only dragged me deeper into a place of existential confusion. Again, however, I had made a fatal error. A miscalculation in the definition of originality. What I really was searching for was not myself, but some dead philosopher who could tell me how I was supposed to feel and who I was supposed to be.
I would be lying to you and to myself if I wrote a satisfying conclusion to
this essay. I still have barely laid the foundation on which I hope to build myself. I still act in ways that I hope will placate others. I still rarely dare to do anything that would damage the way I am seen. I refuse, however, to think it was all for nothing. I do not regret the sleepless nights I spent questioning my existence. I do not want to repeal any of the questions I have asked of myself these past two years, even if I still must search the darkness for the elusive answers. In fact, I think Emerson would applaud these continued attempts at toiling my plot of land to till.
My efforts, however, are incomplete because they were in ways misguid-
ed. Humans were never meant to cultivate themselves on their own. When I was searching for art that embodied this idea of building oneself up from nothing but not alone, I was surprised to find comfort in the words of Thoreau’s “Friendship”. 65
While one and one make two,
And two are one;
In such case only doth man fully prove
Fully as man can do,
What power there is in Love
His inmost soul to move
Thoreau expresses exactly what I was missing, that the key to finding
meaning in life is not endless philosophical pondering, but being with others and finding oneself through shared experiences. Though somewhat ironically, I have found the most about myself through both my timeless friendships and small exchanges with strangers. Humans are without a doubt social creatures, and though taking time to be alone is necessary, isolation can never be the only path to self-realization. Works Cited Emerson, Ralph Waldo.“Self-Reliance.” The Norton Anthology of American
Literature: Volume 1, edited by Nina Baym, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. No
ton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.596-613.
Reeder, Michael.“The Search for Identity.” Forbes Magazine, 15 Aug. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/felicitycarter/2018/08/14/artist-michael-reeder
Thoreau, Henry David.“Friendship.” 1841. Thoreau Online. https://www.tho
eau-online.org/friendship.html. Accessed February 19.
THE ESSENCE OF A PAWN
For I am a Pawn. I meaninglessly step from square to square to be met with a more powerful foe. I find myself in the shadows of bishops and knights as they march across the board with pride. I see the other pawns and their trivial moves Just to realize, I am not unique. I cannot travel the ranks or Explore the rows, I cannot blindside my enemy by capturing from a distance But I know my worth. I can capture from close, I can protect my allies. I gracefully step from square to square I can challenge a powerful foe.
I do not cower in the shadows of bishops and knights, I see my fellow pawns follow me on the path to salvation, I am not alone I’ve traveled the ranks To meet the end, I am a queen I march the board with pride and power, I cast my shadow over bishops and knights, For I am a Pawn.
WE ARE STRONG MALEAH CEBALLOS
Fear is a leech it feeds off of us, makes us feel weak and drained, makes us challenge our strength to fight it off, makes us undermine our abilities, but it is us who pulls that parasite off and s t o p s letting it run our lives We are strong enough to wake up every day. We are strong enough to challenge the status quo. We are strong enough to be ourselves. All because we can pull off our leeches and decide That we are going to live for ourselves, and no one else. We are going to remain strong no matter what the obstacles are And no matter how much we are scared. We will no longer fear because we are strong. We all have leeches that prey on our weaknesses. And fear can be a drive to overcome obstacles But we cannot let it drive our lives. 69
REGARDLESS OF THE SUN
They continue running into one another. Unimpressed. Yet another rainbow will go unnoticed by businessmen and women still yelling at their phones over the incessant noise in the streets. They cuss at me; words I refuse to repeat. I haven’t moved, sir. Severing myself from the current, I rest against a dripping stop sign and stare at the sidewalk as the rain lets up. In time, the sun will overcome the clouds. I’ve waited at the corner of Lexington and 49th to remind myself. The outline gets more prominent the more the sky forgets the recent storm. The other shadows start to dance around my own. But that one’s mine, I know it. It’s the only one standing still.
Born about twenty years into Britain’s biggest bout of development, he knew nothing of the times before the Industrial Revolution. To him, the men on top were the most innovative, placed on this pedestal by their education and wealthy families. He was not one of those lucky few, so his first day of work was when he was five. It was this way that he would work endless hours for little pay. When he reached manhood, his hands grew too big for the delicate sewing machines in the factory. So, he was fired–only a matter of time he had figured. It would not be fifteen years until Parliament would pass laws for the worker ensuring livable wages. Now he had found a job working with pocket watches. He shaped metal sheets into a watch’s shell for the wealthy men to buy. He pulled a lever to push a metal rod down on the sheet, thus molding it into the shell. Days turned to weeks and then to months. Until he accidentally pushed the rod on his finger, breaking the rod and his finger. For his carelessness, he was laid off and billed for the damage to the rod. After months of diligent work, he was fired for a single mistake? How come the worker was responsible for the booming production rates and economy, but he had no rights? These haunting questions kept pestering him with each trip to the factory. But what could he do? He started to listen to his fellow workers. This is when he heard the need for workers to realize their essential role in the factory’s production. These men dreamed of a world where the working class got the money they deserved, and everyone’s needs were provided for by the government. One where the workers unionize, and they decide their working conditions. He dreamed of this future too, but he had to eat, so he had to live by the rules of the industrial society. So he promised himself he would do something later when he was more stable. But that time never came. He became another replaceable number, hopelessly submissive to his defined role. 71
ME LILY STRICKLAND 72
THE ART OF SUFFOCATION
Why are you keeping the nourishing air from your starving lungs as you wait for the train to pass? What horrors will occur if you stop and let the breath fill your aching chest? I promise, it won’t kill you. Even as you sleep, your restless fingers trace figure eights until you wake. Sometimes I want to ask you how you’ve made it this far like this. When most people ride a bike, only their feet are pedaling, but for you
it has always been every limb,
every member, grappling towards the finish line -
as if your motion is what keeps the world
revolving. I promise it
won’t stop when you finally decide to
Work, eat, sleep, repeat—thus is life satisfied; This hymn in us society instills, Prescribing our future so nice and stiff. A mindless robot’s life as much implements. We career through our pre-trodden life journey, Go through the motions, society’s toils– Then find our soul’s been lost, we do the math, Misplaced somewhere on the road to “success.” But I alone quit comfort, set before me, Trod ten thousand miles on unbeaten ground. From the Himalayas’ summit looked out, And turned my world view upside down in Perth. I broke free of man’s mantras, sacred riches; Only through travel did I find myself.
THE GIRL IN A BLUE DRESS LULA ROBERTSON
SEA MATEO SILBERMAN
WHY DON’T YOU ANSWER MY QUESTIONS?
Because we are approaching the tangerine hour before sunset when the air and the sky and summer humidity and the wind in hair will not often be so impermeably perfect and balanced, because my body feels it can no longer support me in my afternoon adventures into the wilderness, because the music will never strike my ear with the knowingness of a close friend who will go kayaking with me at the drop of a hat, because somewhere, miles from this oak-lined parking lot–millions–no, billions of people who have no care for us will be eating breakfast soon, if they aren’t sleeping or working, yet one of them will eat his daily grain and think of us the same way we think of him, because your question distracts me from this little blue marble’s curved lip of possibility as I aim a shooter towards it, because a rabbit could never conceivably hunt an eagle; its pulsating heart plays the Stradivarius of time in a different tempo than ours and everything plays its part in the orchestra, because if we are silent the rabbi will give us each a lemon beneath the shade of a great crepe myrtle, because there is yet time to see that the last two bannister seats at the philharmonic have magically opened, because it is the perfect hour to tag neon obscenities under the bridge and reach eternity, because it is possible to survive a fall from thousands of feet in the air without a parachute, to feel the wind in your face and reach the Nirvanic knowledge that living will never again be so deathly and intense, because the airport is electrified by the silence of transitions, broken hearts, weeping children, and random searches, because falling down to Earth means you land on hot coals, because the night grows with the fallen acorn, because you do not know the stars will make you cry, because a banjo twangs in the distance, because you don’t have a helmet for protection from heroin skies, because reality is a fence I can’t jump, because the tears are rising up, “…because I don’t know the answers, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.” – Woody Guthrie,“Why, oh Why?” 77
“To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature Towards the end of the movie Soul, directed by Pete Doctor, a passionate pianist gets the big break he’s been waiting for his whole life: playing in Dorothea Williams’ renowned quartet. Despite his success, Joe Gardner, the protagonist, becomes upset. He laments that he’s been waiting his whole life for this moment, but he believed that it would feel more fulfilling than it does in reality. When he reveals his troubles to Williams, she responds with a brief anecdote: “I heard this story about a fish. He swims up to an older fish and says,‘I’m trying to find this thing they call the ocean.’‘The ocean?’ the older fish says.‘That’s what you’re in right now.’‘This,’ says the young fish.‘This is water. What I want is the ocean!’” We can look all around and wait for life to begin, every day, but truly living a life of meaning is a matter of perspective. The metaphorical fish wanted the ocean because he thought he was just swimming around in regular old water. But he was already in the ocean; it was just about his perspective. He was looking at his surroundings as though it was just water, but in reality, it was so much more. It was a boundless ocean. The fish is really Joe Gardner. Joe was overlooking all the possibilities of his everyday life, just like the fish was overlooking the great expanse of the ocean. Ralph Waldo Emerson perfectly captures the idea of living in the moment and taking in the beauty of our surroundings in his essay Nature when he writes, “Each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again” (Emerson 559). Because Joe Gardner constantly grinded through life, he lost sight of what was really important. Joe was so caught up in living his fantasies that his real world slipped away. Emerson’s quotation reminds the reader of how much simple 78
beauty there is in each day, if only we open our eyes and see the great blue world. We often overlook the beauty each day provides, choosing to focus on larger, more stereotypical aspects of beauty. But each day is filled with thousands of awesome yet simple wonders. For me, I find some things to be simply beautiful: seeing lovers reunite at the airport, watching the sunrise on the way to school, freckles, making my sister laugh after she’s been crying, seeing my dog chase a butterfly, falling into clean sheets after a long day, succulents, picking flowers for the kitchen during the summer, or even drifting to sleep as my dad rubs my head on the couch. Learning to appreciate and to love small things throughout our days makes life beautiful. We must wake up each day knowing “the sun shines to-day also” (Emerson 554). And because so much of this beauty is fleeting, it is important for all of us to remember to take in every minute of life and its simple wonders, to see the wide waters around us all, and just float. Works Cited Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume 1, edited by Nina Baym, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.553-82. Soul. Directed by Pete Doctor, Disney’s Pixar, 2020.
BRASSTOWN BALD MOUNTAIN, GA KATHERINE GORKOV
A DISCUSSION BETWEEN TWO SQUIRRELS
“I followed the crystal river down to the northern side of the forest and
they were there – the humans walking on the path,” said Reggie, an adventurous squirrel. A gasp followed from the neighboring squirrels who had gathered to hear his story. There had not been a human sighting in forty years.
Alford, a headstrong squirrel, sighed, saying,“Yeah, right. There is no such
thing as humans.”
Reggie, stunned, stammered,“Excuse me?”
“You know there is no such thing as humans, right?” Alford answered.
Reggie had never heard anyone say anything that stupid and ignorant
“How can you be so sure? I literally just saw them today,” Reggie gasped.
“There is no way that there is such a thing as a giant creature that balances
on its hind legs without a tail and has created an enormous stretch of its own environment that reaches around the world. You probably saw something that made you think it was a ‘human,’ like a moose or a bear.” Alford laughed as he said this.
“There is plenty of evidence of humans existing. Look at the footprints,
sightings, and reports of loud noises coming from strange metal machines. There’s more than enough evidence that they are real,” he retorted.
“Oh, Reggie, I have never seen one before in my five years living, so they
cannot be real. I’ll never believe it until my own eyes see one of those monkeys.”
“Well, then there’s just no use in trying to convince you then,” Reggie
“Yeah, you keep believing your conspiracy theories, and I’ll believe the
truth, you moron!” Alford grunted.
Suddenly, there was a terrible roar, or a rumbling, or a growl. Whatever it 81
was made the deep woods shudder and the trees bristle. Birds, chipmunks, and deer were all in a frenzy, racing off further into the woods.
Alford and Reggie climbed on a branch to see.
“What is that?” Alford questioned.
“We’re about to find out,” Reggie stated.
A shiny silver beast erupted from the thickets, claiming trees with its metal
teeth and kicking up dirt with its wheels. A long arm snaked its way through the air as a stout machine with a plated face grinded the shrubbery to leaves as it forged its new path. And that is when Alford saw them. Humans–humans operating machines, humans driving vehicles, and humans walking between the trees. Alford and Reggie began running to join their neighbors fleeing their home.
Once they reached a quieter part of the forest, Reggie, panting, asked,
“Now do you see that you were wrong?”
“I, uh…” Alford stuttered.
Alford looked upon his once home with a heavy heart and hanging jaw as
the mythical beasts destroyed his home.
A LIGHT IN THE DARK
“The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
As a child, I would frequently wander around my driveway watching tiny
insects scurrying around me. I remember one spring day, when I was six or seven, I noticed a cluster of ants carrying a butterfly atop their tiny bodies. Excited by this discovery, I ran inside to find my mom. When I finally dragged her out, I pointed to the ground and said,“Look! The nice family of ants is helping the hurt butterfly!” My mom replied,“Wow! How nice of them!” Then I returned to observing the other insects, all sauntering around my driveway. Years later, I look back on that moment and come to the depressing realization that the “nice family of ants” probably wasn’t trying to help the poor butterfly… but instead they were likely carrying it to a convenient place to eat it. Reminiscing on the moment, I am saddened by the fact that I was essentially witnessing the death of a butterfly.
Yet it was also a beautiful moment, because it emphasizes the power of
the positive thinking and the imagination of a child. As we grow, we tend to fade into a more pessimistic outlook on life and often only see things on the surface level. Thus, we overlook deeper meanings and potential connections. With age, we lose our curiosity, our imagination, and all of a sudden, things are far less beautiful than how we viewed them as a child.“Retaining the spirit of infancy” is a beautiful way to live because it is an opportunity for us to see the beauty and the light of the world, rather than the darkness we tend to succumb to with age.
As we grow up, we typically become wiser and learn from past 83
experiences, but why is it that in the process, we seem to throw away the essence of curiosity and hopefulness we had as children? Why do we lose this beautiful “spirit of infancy?” I suppose it is just human nature to leave childhood behind, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. We all have the capability to see the good in the bad; we just have to make an effort to do so. As we age, we also tend to lose the desire to form deeper connections to the world surrounding us, and we only see things on a surface level. To get the most out of the beautiful things the world has to offer, we should retain the desire that we had as children to connect with the world, as well as make a conscious effort to see the beauty in the things that don’t necessarily appear to be beautiful on the surface.
Ross Gay’s Book of Delights is an excellent example of a conscious effort
to see the good and the beauty of the world transforming someone’s entire mentality towards life. After getting the urge to write about something delightful, Gay created a project for himself which consisted of writing a short essay about something delightful every day for one year. This effort pushed Gay to focus on the beauty and the light surrounding him that he overlooked in the past. The delights ranged from cats, to infinity scarves, to umbrellas. But by writing about them, Gay was able to develop a more curious and creative mindset, along with a greater appreciation for the world around him. With that being said, we don’t necessarily need to spend time writing an essay every day (although it would definitely help), but we should at least be consciously observing the beauty and delight surrounding us. In doing so, we can positively transform our lives because it will allow us to increase our connection to and appreciation for the world around us.
The world is surrounded by darkness and chaos. Ants eat butterflies…
despite how much we want to believe that they help them. But even so, there is so much good to be found among the bad, so much love to be found among the hate, and so much life to be found among the death. Yes, the world can be dark, chaotic, 84
and sometimes scary, but retaining the “spirit of infancy” has the capability of changing our entire outlook on the world. As we grow, so does the separation between us and the world, but we can stop this separation. We can choose to stay curious; we can choose to see the beauty. Works Consulted Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume 1, edited by Nina Baym, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.553-82. Gay, Ross. The Book of Delights. Algonquin Books, 2019.
CHERRIES DANI PAREDES
ODE TO LETHARGIA
I set my hand on the varnished maple wood, burned like a marshmallow, hazy in the sky light, and recline the black cereal-crusted office chair that discontentedly squeaks under my posture. I am tugged beneath the sunshade an eyelid drifts towards a faraway star, my neck waxen under its flame, baking me with too-soft cookies, and cotton socks lying on hardwood floor. no sunset or sunrise, work to be done, numerous screens beckon, breathing slows, possibility demurs, i strain through the mesh of the present falling through the water, sweating, shaking, blistering, writhing, contorting beneath the unfathomable error in my waves. the tide continually recedes every hour, every day the same rotten performance, the same sandstone-coated retinas, the same watchful silence, the same 87
Whenever she looks in the mirror, After she does her makeup, She studies her insecurities Because society told her to She wonders if she’ll ever be good enough. Until then she will continue to look Because no matter what she does Who or whom she talks to, how she does her hair, There are always those looming and impossible standards That govern her life.
SAPPHO ANNA GRANT 89
DUPLICATE ANNIKA DEAN
MONSTERS AND MIRRORS
My face mocks me. Tears and mascara running. Cheeks puffy and red. And while it disgusts me to look in the mirror, I finally did it... after months of not being able to meet her eyes. I can’t look away. My throat aches and the stench of liquor and smoke fills my nostrils. I could simply text them, and say the three simple words that could change my fate. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Somehow the silence is ringing in my ears, meanwhile my breathing finally slows. My thoughts are cloudy and overcast waiting for rain. It seems like it’s always raining. I reach to get my phone but my hand trembles. She needs me to get the phone... to pick it up to just...love her. Doesn’t she know by now? I could never love someone like her. A broken brown girl with boring brown eyes. You disgust me. One tear falls. You’re a waste of time. Three tears are falling. Even you can’t bear to look at yourself! And with that the lights are out, I no longer have to be face to face with the monster in the mirror. 91
I was taught To fear To never be alone To clothe my body and walk briskly As if showing my skin was a cordial invitation to remarks And when layers did not work as well, to wear baggy clothes To restrain and live an amorphous blob where the others can only imagine my figure How many more layers till he stops looking and starts listening I do not smile at you, who stare at me, Now I stare back Stare red Because I know it doesn’t matter what I wear
FACE PAINT ANNIKA DEAN
LOOKING IN THE MIRROR
It is not until high school when many teen girls really look in the mirror. And I mean really. You start to notice your body and it feels as if all your flaws and imperfections stand out. I speak from experience when I say fifteen-year-old boys can be unkind. A vivid memory of my first year in high school is when a group of boys would make fun of my chest every day and call me “flat” or “shaped like a piece of cardboard.” I would also hear them tell my friend her butt was nonexistent and “inverted.” While I never let it truly get to me, it still made me question my worth. Following these exchanges with the boys, I wondered where they got the idea that a fourteen-year-old girl like me had an unappealing chest. And then I realized: social media. Although I don’t dislike social media, apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok definitely have a negative impact on my life. Boys see Instagram models with society’s beauty standard of a body, the perfect hourglass shape. They see stretch-mark free skin, small waists, and seemingly most important, large chests. They take this cookie-cutter, model idea of a body with them and compare other girls, even if they are much younger or adolescent. Social media creates impossible body images to live up to for still-developing teenage girls. I once spent hours scrolling through pictures of models, crying and feeling bad that I didn’t look like them. The question is, why is it acceptable to let people make you hate what you see when you look in the mirror? You have to sit down with yourself and decide you love yourself, no matter what other people think about your body. I am not quite past the time in my life where I look at myself and see faults and blemishes, but I’m learning to embrace the differences. I love my freckles, chipped tooth, eye bags, and scars, and I love my small chest. They are what set me apart from the person next to me. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you look like, but the substance of your character. Who will say at your funeral, “Oh she had a great body!” or,“I’m so sad she died, she was so good looking?” True beauty has nothing to do with what you look like. People will remember you for who you are, not whether that boy in the back of your math class thinks you’re pretty. To love yourself, you don’t need to be accepted by others; you need to accept yourself. The most important thing you can do for you is to look in the mirror and think, “I am good enough.” 94
THINKING IN WAVES SONU PATEL
My core is rapidly expanding, growing
it presses against my ribs
until the pressure is
they must give up and snap
my other organs are squeezed against one another.
That’s when I know it’s time. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again – the pushing and the stretching and the reaching and the aching and the BURST I fold up the burnt remnants, so they fit neatly in a cardboard box, so someday I can look back (fondly) at them and misremember the person I used to be.
GROWTH ANNIKA DEAN
DON’T CRY ANGEL
This girl is beautiful–she is. As her skin absorbs every touch of moonlight, the night welcomes her darkness like a distant sibling. The light from the stars gleams in her dark eyes as the shadows of the night hide in her thick coils, and her white dress contrasts her cocoa skin but by the mark of horror stained on her face, that angelic gloom becomes a ghost, ready and willing to float off into the night.
So, from my lips I leave these words unto her and wipe her tears of silver:
“Don’t cry angel,”
for fear is a companion of courage. One that makes even the weakest of cubs into ferocious lions
“Don’t cry angel,”
for you are a descendant of a long line of warriors. Even the toughest of battles makes for the greatest victories.
“Don’t cry angel,” 98
for tears, like time, are temporary and; both eventually drift off into the cosmos, only to be recognized in the stars.
For your beauty surpasses that of societal standards.
You are Negus.
Your crown of coils hides your nobility. With reason, you worship Queen-Africa. Because with every struggle faced, she continues, rich, mighty, and beautiful. She is your legacy, and you are hers, and for that, you are beautiful.