Notes from the Underground: Maclay Upper School’s Journal of Creative Writing Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Craig Beaven Founder: Dr. N. Suzanne Jamir Issue 11
Editorial Staff Editor Managing Editor Copy Editors Poetry Editor Assistant Poetry Editor Fiction Editor Nonfiction Editor Art Editor Assistant Genres Editor Publicist Web Designer/Finance Manager
Kate Krizner Eli Mears Isabel McDaniel and Kanene Nwokeji Chloe Harbin Jenna Adams Mercy Crapps Sophia Krizner Geena Whitin Lauren Price Abby Hugill Trevor Gross
Learn more about us at www.thenftu.com
Front and Back Cover Art: Aged by Logan Albritton
This issue of Notes from the Underground is dedicated to Dr. Paul Berk Your passion inspired us all.
A Note from the Editor Dear Readers, Honestly, I’ve been thinking about this letter for a long time. I remember distinctly sitting down to write my first letter from the editor, trying to figure out exactly what I was supposed to say. I remember realizing that, during my time as editor, I would have the opportunity to be part of four NFTU issues. At that point, it seemed like I had all the time in the world to accomplish everything I wanted to accomplish; yet, here I sit, with just one last letter left to write, one last chance to express how much this NFTU experience has meant in my life. I applied to join the NFTU staff at the very beginning of quarantine. It was a dark time for everyone, and, facing an unknown future, I wanted to set my eyes on an endeavor that extended past the circumstances of that year. Little did I know how far that hope would take me. Against all odds, Dr. Beaven took a chance on a junior editor in chief, who had not been on staff before and who lacked some of the experience possibly needed for the job. Two years later, I am still figuring everything out, but with the help of an incredible staff and sponsor, it seems I’ve made it through the many trials of publishing. We’ve faced the struggles of the past two years together. The struggle of isolation, the struggle of uncertainty, the struggle of anxiety, the struggle of self-doubt, and now – the struggle of not wanting to leave the known world behind. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who has walked by my side these past two years through all these struggles and the triumphs too. To Dr. Beaven, thank you for putting up with my chaos and constant need for reassurance of the fact that the world isn’t going to end if we need to push back the release date. You have taught me so much as a leader, editor, and writer. To the NFTU staff, I could not ask for a better group of people to work alongside. You have witnessed my insanity (a few of you for two years now, and to you I especially apologize), and have supported me in spite of it. You are truly the most talented writers and artists (and tech people) I know. I can’t wait, years from now, when I get to tell everyone we worked together in high school, as I know you will all go on to do incredible things. Thank you to Mr. Norment, Dr. Perry, Dr. Berk, and all of our teachers for your endless support and constant encouragement. Finally, to everyone who has, does, and will submit stories, poetry, essays, or artwork to NFTU, thank you. None of this would be possible without your creativity, inspiration, and contributions. You make the struggles bearable, and the victories all the sweeter, by your willingness to share your own hardships with the world. Your vulnerability, bravery, and transparency remind everyone else that growth only happens through pain and true beauty is borne of suffering. Never, ever stop creating, writing, and sharing. Until next Thank you and goodbye, Kate Krizner
Table of Contents Chadwick - Katherine Campbell
Greed Dims the Sun - Olutobi Adeyeri
A Letter to Grandma - Efrem Rosenberg
The Ravine - Tanisha Petit
What You Look Like from the Inside - Katherine Gorkov Almost - Diya Patel
The Moon - Abby Hugill
November 11th - Turner Beshears
A Person Whose Life I'm Curious About - Chloe Harbin
Brooke - Shelby Pautsch
Notes from the Underground Fiction Prize Winner The Memorial - Evelyn Romano Frozen Memories - Lenia Charitonos
Tale of Narcissus - Chloe Harbin
Linoleum - Rhys Berk
Counting the Minutes - Anonymous
Fallen Dreams - Andres Estrada
Arboreal - Coleman Mackie
? - Michael Gier
Notes from the Underground Poetry Prize Winner Walk Like a Man - Rhys Berk Hate Drawing - Madeline Lillie
On Birds - Kate Krizner
Reflection - Lula Robertson
Parallel Parking - Chloe Harbin
Tennis - Anonymous
My Barely Living Lifeline - Paloma Rambana
Lunar - Isabel McDaniel
Bleeding Heart - Madeline Lillie
A Love List Personified - Michelle Veneros
To the One Who Inspired It All - Sophia Krizner
Brain vs Heart - Mallory McCaffrey
Obey - Anonymous
Notes from the Underground Art Prize Winner Imagination Runs Free - Katherine Gorkov
Martha: A Tragedy - Alexandra Bilanovsky Lethologica - Bradley Carnes
Welcome to the Underworld, How Can We Curse You Today? - Kat Large
Basquiat - Logan Albritton
Caution: Slippery Slope Ahead - Heaven Ward
If You Could Have Dinner With One Person, Who Would It Be? - Jasmin Small
Satsuma Tree - Turner Beshears
The Downpour - Michael Gier
The Standard of Gr_y - Samantha Koegler
Susan - Turner Beshears
White Noise - Chloe Harbin
Rehearsal Room - Jenna Adams
Lady - Kate Krizner
Empire - Kate Krizner
Mockingbird - Isabel McDaniel
A Time To Self-Reflect - Victoria Deutsch
Hendrix - Logan Albritton
Galatea - Kate Krizner
Finale - Dillon Williams
Windchime - Eli Mears
Drawing With Eyeshadow - Madeline Lillie Astronomy 1B - Kanene Nwokeji
Through the Lens - Victoria Deutsch
Cat's Eyes - Eli Mears
Game, Set, Match - Megan Vegas
The Other Side - Heaven Ward
The Riverbed - Katherine Campbell
Push Pins and Daisies and Rocks - Rhys Berk
Kombucha - Heaven Ward
Will My Efforts Turn to Dust? - Peyton Crumpler
Down Walnut Street - Mercy Crapps
For Pecola - Geena Whitin
Biltmore Lobby - Victoria Deutsch
Write Me a Letter - Kate Krizner
What You Missed - Anne Mason Roberts White Island - Anna B. Brantley
A Nod to My Soul - Maddy Meeker
Green Anole - Geena Whitin
The Lizard - Ryan Daunt
Notes from the Underground Nonfiction Prize Winner (I Will Never Be) Trapped Inside the Walls of Myself - Peyton Crumpler 121-127 Subliminal Message - Geena Whitin
Below the River - Katherine Campbell
The River - Michael Gier
Swings - Anonymous
My Present Is Made By My Past - Lucy Whitehead Rhubarb and Tomato - Katherine Campbell
Hedonia - Kate Krizner
Azaleas Behind the Oak - Sara Butler
The Goodbye in Hello
Chasing You - Mercy Crapps
Forgotten Sunset - Clayton Knox
Look and Sea - Teresa Morgado
Whitecaps - Rhys Berk
A Letter to the Symbolic World - Clayton Knox
Vociferate - Geena Whitin
Conscious - Jenna Adams
Success at Last - Jackson Kottkamp
CHADWICK KATHERINE CAMPBELL
GREED DIMS THE SUN
On this planet heat is finite And light limited Yet some hungers never tempered Devour life And leave others for dead Hungry prowling shadows Follow bottomless pits Named Men Who choose to make their living Stealing from the sun Every ray consumed Chills the earth and warms Man whose happiness Is a thief and whose Shadow is ever-growing
A LETTER TO GRANDMA
I didn’t know you were dying, nor did I know what cancer was. All I knew was that one fateful February evening, you didn’t greet me with the hundreds of kisses I had learned to embrace. So, concerned and confused, I did what a ten-yearold does best - talk. Out of my childish self and your worldly mind transpired a conversation about life. And now, I remember peering deep into the gorgeous cosmos of your dying eyes, wondering if this would be your last conversation, or my last conversation, or even the world’s last conversation. Now, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter because when we are all caught up in life’s race towards the abyss, we should just slow down a little, and enjoy the beautiful picture every moment beholds. _______ I leaned over the edge of a decent-sized boat, about twenty miles to the west of the island of Santa Cruz, in the midst of a volcanic crater between that island and Santiago, and about fifty miles north of Floreana. From the balcony, I saw the bay and the mountains on the other side. It was mid-June, and it had been cloudy all morning, so the surrounding land was blanketed in shadows, and it was impossible to see anything in the dark, choppy sea. I read David Sedaris’s Me Talk Pretty One Day and stared at my dying phone for what felt like an eternity, while I waited for the sun. It took a little over four hours that day for the first rays to pierce through the stratus-laced sky, to illuminate the bare rocky mountains, where black marine iguanas outnumbered the fallen leaves on an autumn day, and to bounce off the water, creating the glimmer the tourism company promised us in the pictures. By the time the sun had melted the clouds, the day was already half gone, but the air was warm, and the water was a clear blue, and the birds were flying. I lept off the boat and landed in another world. Dotting the white, sandy ocean floor was coral as colorful as a rainbow, and swimming around was enough life to fill a thousand aquariums. Minute penguins flashed across my fogging goggles faster than formula 10
one race cars, and daunting, gray sharks prowled the waters, on the hunt for the next angelfish or clownfish or teenager or whatever was deemed appetizing for dinner. Schools of fish swarmed, their slippery scales brushing against my flippered feet, and urchins lined the dark-colored sea rocks, their pointy spires aimed to the sky. Then, out of the blue, something happened. A sea lion pup hurled into me, and then a nearby rock. It was unexpected, and it snapped me out of my trance. It halted right next to its friends, only a few feet away from me, where it stared me down. I was in awe as I looked on, yet I also sensed something was off. Its long, slick body sported a greyish-brown coat, and it had two flipper arms and one flipper foot, and it stared at me with its … that was it … it was missing an eye. Where the pup’s right eye was not, I saw an empty, infected hole. The pink inner lining of its eye socket draped down its snout like ivy on an old French cottage, leaving behind a trail of murk. Then, it looked at its friends and swam off, playing with the fish, chasing the sharks, and saying hello to every human it saw. It was destined to die but it was still so alive. It was the most beautiful thing I saw all day. Seeing the sea lion pup reminded me of hummingbirds,“[Whose] hearts are stripped to the skin for the war against gravity and inertia, the mad search for food, the insane idea of flight. The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature” (Doyle 2). Hummingbirds, like the sea lion pup, don’t care about their short life, they just enjoy living. You don’t know how long you have left, so enjoy and live to the fullest in the moments you know you have. _______ It wasn’t until I found out just how close you came to dying that I took time to reflect on our time spent together. I remembered going to the park with you on cool winter days and watching movies, cuddled together on the couch when mom and dad went to dinner. Now, looking back at what could have easily been our last conversation, I remember how relaxed you were, how relaxed we both were, and how 11
beautiful the moment was, as poison coursed through your veins, killing everything that lived. The thing about life is that no one knows what the future holds. At any given moment one of the trillions of cells constantly circulating around the human body can misread a microscopic nitrogenous base or an eyeball can get knocked out of its fragile socket or a heart, only designed to support a short burst of life can simply quit. Just like the sea lion and the hummingbird, you didn’t think about the fact that you were marching towards death, you just kept living and enjoying the moment, because every moment, good or bad, beholds a beautiful picture when you slow down a little and take a look. Works Consulted Doyle, Bryan. "Joyas Voladoras." The American Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, 12 June 2012, theamericanscholar.org/joyas-volardores/. Accessed 22 Feb. 2022.
A scar that ran thousands of miles, With jagged rocks protruding. Almost as if it tried to heal itself. The light rarely touched the bottom, But for some reason, it just added to its beauty.
It attracted many. Like vultures circling A dead carcass, people peered over the edge. Some dared to even enter it. Crazed, For the endless possibilities, they could encounter. And I wanted to be a part of that population.
I wanted to taste the bittersweet honey That made every instinct in my body scream. The ravine called out to everyone. To me. The only thing that held me back was the gnawing Fear of whether I would make it out alive.
There was no telling the end results, The ravine tosses a coin and decides the fate Of those who dared enter. Some never came back, Some like wounded beasts on the lookout for danger, Some came out with the hand of Midas. The majority 13
Were neither alive nor dead. Their minds scrambled, Eyes trained on the unseen, and mouths constantly trembled. With a foot hovering over the open mouth of the ravine, I closed my eyes. The cold exhale of its mouth awakened me. There was no place for me there.
WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE FROM THE INSIDE KATHERINE GORKOV 15
“Are you ok?” I ask. “I have a really bad headache, and it’s not going away,” Morgan winces. “I’ll call a cab, and we can go to the hospital,” I say as one pulls up. Just as we sit in the taxi, Morgan collapses. “We have to get to the hospital!” I scream to the frozen driver. It was all happening too quickly. I kept thinking that I couldn’t lose her. We went through everything together. Our driver sped towards the hospital, his face seemed eerily calm. Why is he so indifferent? Doesn’t he care? I thought to myself as I cradled Morgan’s head. When we arrive at the hospital, the driver helps me carry Morgan inside. “Help!” I call out to nearby nurses.“She passed out on the way here.” Then they take her from me. All I am left with is my pounding heart and quaking hands. I am about to call out for her when the receptionist says,“Wait. All you can do is wait.” [Two Days Earlier] “. . . and I have so much homework. I have this five-page paper due tomorrow.” I complain to my friend, Dakota, who only smiles. “Hey, why are you smiling? Are you not hearing how much homework I ha-” “Boo!” someone says behind me. “Aahh!” I scream. The librarian looks over at us and hisses,“Shhhhhhh!” “Jeez Morgan, why’d you have to scare me like that? Ms. Humphrey is going to be mad at me!” I say to my sister. “That sounds like your problem,” she says.“Anyway, I just came over here to tell you about my doctor’s appointment.” “What appointment?” Dakota asks. Morgan points to her forehead.“Oh, I just had this weird bump, but the doctor says it’s nothing to worry about.” 16
[Present] “Where am I?” Morgan asks groggily and yawns. “The hospital. You’ve been asleep for three hours.” I respond. Just then, a doctor walks into the room, sighing when he sees Morgan’s face. “Ms. Peterson, I am afraid you have been diagnosed with Stage 3 brain cancer.” Those words seemed too fast and too short, but the gravity of their meaning hung in the air. Morgan froze. The doctor’s voice droned on about treatments, but all I could see was her future, which believed was promised to her. She had just been elected student body president, she was going to the state science fair. She was only thirteen,this could not be happening. I couldn’t think. I could barely breathe, and I couldn’t begin to imagine how Morgan felt right now. I felt a headache coming on, and the antiseptic, bitter smell of the hospital didn’t help. “I’m sorry, could you give us a minute?” I ask the doctor, shakily. “Of course. I’ll be back in a few minutes to discuss further treatment options.” ~~~ The next few months were a blur. I got my driver’s license, so I could drive Morgan to chemotherapy treatments. It was hard for us. She missed a lot of school for chemo and so did I, which meant she had to resign from the science fair. I made dinner most nights and we ate in silence, except for the occasional clutter of a spoon. There was nothing we could talk about anymore- each previous issue seemed so bleak compared to her struggle with cancer. Today was no exception, until Morgan broke the silence. “When I die. . .” “Don’t say that.” “We both know it’s going to happen, Amberly,” Morgan states. It hurts that deep down, I know she’s right. Admitting it would make it true. “When I die, I want you to stay happy. Don’t let me drag you down after I’m dead. Don’t use me as an excuse to live your life the wrong way,” she says. “Ok. If that’s what you want.” 17
“Promise me.” “I promise.” [March 7, 2022] I looked down at the stone, which is used to mark her life and put some fresh flowers on the grave. I sighed, as the tears started rolling down my cheeks. I could almost feel her presence. Almost–the saddest word in the English language. It was almost enough. She almost survived. We almost made it. She deserved so much more, she shouldn’t have had that taken away. I read the words on her tombstone one last time, Morgan Peterson June 19, 2008-March 2, 2022 Beloved sister and daughter and I closed my eyes and walked away, remembering her last wish.
The moon stands in the sky every night without a chance. A constant.
You think you are a constant, but I would disagree. You disappear and reappear with ease.
The moon is a symbol and device for the immortal timekeepers of the universe, with their estimation of various things, and their plaguing of nations and of peoples.
Like the moon, you plague people, me and them and you. You walk by and they walk by, but I’m not there, yet later, you’ll say I was.
Eventually, the moon will fall. It will no longer be a constant. It will stop controlling the tides. You’ll realize then that you aren’t a constant either, And by then I’ll be gone. 19
On November 11th, 2000, a newlywed couple is photographed at the altar. The woman is young, with deep auburn hair, and a contagious smile that gleams with her pearls. Her smile stretches from cheek to rosy cheek, and you can feel the warmth of her happiness. Her husband towers over her with love. His smile is tobacco stained but honest, and he isn’t directing his heartfelt smile at the camera, but down at her. One can feel their love through the photo. The photo isn’t on the wall of the first house they bought together, 20
or on a dresser they share, in their master bedroom, but its soaring through the air 18 years later, in an engraved silver frame, launched by the woman with now faded auburn hair. The frame and imprisoned photo are stopped by what once was the couples living room wall, and the glass confining the morning of that one November 11th shatters, much like the heart of the now aged woman, at the thought of her deteriorated marriage.
A PERSON WHOSE LIFE I'M CURIOUS ABOUT
what if the old man promenading through the park tripped and fell on his face. what if a careless couple, walking their dog, let the terrier off her leash. what if she springs towards the old man. what if her dangling leash wraps around the old man’s clogs, pulling him down carelessly. what if the duck he tossed bread to a moment before, came back for more. what if it came back for something else. what if it came back for revenge, revenge for giving his friend an extra piece of rye, instead of him. what if a wizard came down from the sky, cascading on an upside-down umbrella. what if he landed right on the old man. what if his thunderous appearance caused a strike of lightning to crash into him. what if the old man simply lost his balance. what if the world isn’t as accidentally torturous. what if he falls, and it’s no one’s fault, except his own. 22
what if the old man falls. would he call someone, 911, his ex-wife, his grandchildren who stopped speaking to him, his old chess buddies. who would he have to lose. would he think about the day his daughter was born, the adrenaline of rushing his past lover all the way to the nice hospital on the other side of town. would he think about his graduation. would he think about how his dad never showed up that day. what if he calls out the name of someone he’s known since he was 11. what if he calls out the name of someone he’s never met. what if he calls out mine.
BROOKE SHELBY PAUTSCH 24
Ann brushed out her hair. Down below, music spilled from the foyer. Ann was wearing a black silk gown. The gown flowed over her corset like water, hitting her ankles. Black, two inch heels were fastened around the top of her foot. She was sitting at the vanity set in her and her husband’s washroom. The vanity itself was from when Ann was a child, painted with red peonies around the white porcelain. Ann twisted her chestnut hair, streaked with grey, into a knot at the top of her head as she examined her reflection in the mirror’s cool depths. Ann’s heels clicked on the wood steps that she probably should have had replaced some time ago as she moved down the stairs. The music from below enveloped her. She had had her sister plan the memorial for her husband, so Ann could not quite recognize the music. Ann’s sister was from down south and Ann knew that she had strange tastes in music. As Ann entered the foyer, she heard snippets of conversation. “I don’t believe that…” “And then they fell, straight into the mud!” “Wait, the husband or the wife?” Ann glanced around, looking for her sister, her mother, anybody. She recognized nobody here. Ann remembered telling her sister to invite as many people as she wanted, but she did not expect all of Georgia to come filing into her house. Some of them were wearing strange clothes she was not accustomed to. Jeans, she thought they were called. Ann picked up her chin, heading through the living room to see if she could find her sister. She had to force her way through the throngs of people. Strange, she thought, shouldn’t people be giving me their condolences instead of having me push through them like I am swimming through a maelstrom. Ann continued to walk through the house, trying to see if she could find anyone she knew. Ann was surprised by the amount of people that showed up, her husband, William, must have known more people than she thought. Through the window, Ann saw a flash of light. Red, then white, then red again. A wailing sound accompanied the strange light. Ann rushed outside, back through the living room, the foyer, to see what was going on. A strange sight met her eyes. The source of the red and white light was an unusual metal box with a red cross along the side. This box was sitting atop four black wheels. It was moving 25
faster than Ann had seen any horse or carriage move. As the contraption passed and the wailing grew quieter, Ann looked around. These strange metal boxes on four wheels surrounded her. In all different colors they passed by: blue, black, red, green. They all had blaring lights like fifteen fires blazing from their fronts. Ann was blinded. She turned and stepped back, only to realize these strange lights now lit the front of her home too. She rushed forward. The lights from what Ann could only assume to be fires lit up a gold sign before the three steps leading up to the house: The House of William and Ann Flinn (built 1705) Donated by Robert Flinn – 1930 Ann stepped back. Her foot caught on a stump as she fell into a pile of mud. It splattered up her hands and onto her face. She started sinking into the mud. Bugs, maggots, and all surrounded her- crawling into every crevice of her fine black dress. Ann caught sight of the gold sign as she slipped deeper into the mud. “Wasn’t this how her husband died?” On a trip to Pennsylvania. A sinkhole. Maggots and all.
FROZEN MEMORIES LENIA CHARITONOS 27
TALE OF NARCISSUS
doesn’t she seem splendid staring at you behind the 5-inch glass i think makes her look like a princess
her off-white stained robe
with tangles cr ow ni ng her face like a garland of petals sleeves draping past where her fingers end c ir cli ng around her back hugging herself hugging herself the lonely princess her laugh it caresses the air soft scr a tch ing a vocal whisper the glass surrounding her she wants it to sha tter
appears to be a protective shell
sees herself in it
hugging my herself hugging herself her head is irritated from the insideout she thinks she’s ophelia reincarnated i think i’m she thinks she’s the tragedy of hamlet sitting upon her chair of de a th
draped in flowers
the glass it’s so close but silver bracelets strangle her movement her head is her sac ri f ice launching it towards that shell until she can get it to splinter into beautiful f r agme n ts
has she ever heard of the tale of narcissus?
bruising the s kin upon her forehead striking striking the glass over and over and over an d over and over and ov e r and over an d
o v er
over and overrrrrrrrrrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
the glass shatters and there i am she is
scraps of cedar scattered across the floor each bent and broken iron nail makes marks in the laminated linoleum curtains of jade and azure a pack of razor blades for cheap flatpack furniture and copper wire and bags of sand that will track on the linoleum And when the house is in array And the solo cups and Styrofoam are gone the quiet disarray of grains of sand scraps of traffic orange cloth pink-and-blue taffy wrappers still sticky with warm Florida-melted sugar remains
COUNTING THE MINUTES
It took me 397 days To write 9 lines about an Assault that took 5 minutes
Those 5 minutes Shut me down For over a year
Now 397 days later, I finally move forward. Because forward movement can be as little as 9 lines.
…1,988…Go…1,989…Go…1,990…Go… One after another, we walked forward in a line, like pigs for slaughter. The officers watched the line, as if we had reason to escape…1,991… At some point, I forgot faces and only recognized people by their feet: worn-out sneakers, mismatched shoes, or barren scarred feet…1,992… In front of me, the man’s foot was bleeding from his rotting heel… 1,993… I watched small pieces of flesh flake off with each step…1,994…Did they feel it? Or did they just not care? Behind me, I hear a child asking,“Where are we going?” I found myself asking that exact question. Where are we going? I remember asking that to an older lady and she turned to me and said “Some place better, somewhere the world can’t get you.” …1,995…We were in a street, at least it looked like it. The surrounding buildings looked fake, as if someone was trying to replicate what a street looked like. I rarely if ever looked around me, but I was always met with soldiers staring back at me. Behind them were the buildings that looked too clean, but if you looked closely enough there were people on the sidewalk. While I had a hard time seeing them, they did not look like soldiers or even us. They looked like people, minding their own business. I remember trying to call out to them, yelling at the top of my lungs, hoping they could hear me, maybe even save me. No one ever did. I even tried to talk towards them, maybe I thought that if I got closer they could hear me, or I thought that maybe the officers would let me go. As soon as I took one step out of line, an officer met me. He looked at me, but I just couldn’t look back at him. Looking back at him would mean facing him. He didn’t say a word, I just got back in line. I used to try asking the people in front of me or behind, even the soldiers, why we were here and where my family was. No response, some tried to pretend they did not hear me. After some time, I stopped asking the question as the answers became 33
more apparent,“Nobody knew why and nobody cared.” …1,996…The person in front of me was finally chosen to go up onto the platform we had been marching towards. As he stepped up, I saw his blank face of despondence. He stayed that way even when the officers grabbed their bats and hit him until blood streamed down his face. All I could do was stare into his glossed eyes- staring back into mine. Help. He didn’t say anything. But I could hear him. He laid there, unresponsive as the officers dragged his body into a truck stationed nearby. …1,997… It was my turn… I could not move as my biggest fear became my reality. I thought about the man prior- I should have helped him. Panic started to set in- I searched the officers’ faces for a pair of empathetic eyes but found none. As I went to take my first step on the platform, an officer stepped up to me. I looked where his eyes should have been to be met with two deep, sunken, dark holes. “You wanna end up like the last guy?” He said with a gravely deep voice “If you don’t move, I’ll beat you so hard, you’ll wish you were never born” I felt my tongue go dry and slink into the back of my throat. I couldn’t say anything but I could nod. And then I lifted my leg slowly and I ran. Past the building, passing those in the line, I felt my heart race. I could hear the officer yelling at me, but it did not matter because for the first time in as long as I remembered I felt free. I ran to the sidewalk thinking,“I’m free, I’m finally free.” I could see the people properly now. They wore sophisticated suits, colorful shirts, fancy dresses- things that I had never seen before compared to the monotone grey jumpers we had worn while in line. I tried talking to the first woman I could see, but she kept walking not as much as noticing my presence.It seemed as if I was shielded by a transparent curtain of low status. I saw a man approaching and grabbed hold of his arm. He turned towards me with a face of disgust, as if my existence was bothering him. His eyes whispered that I didn’t belong, I wasn’t free, the world had lied to me. 34
Then I felt the electrifying buzz of the officer’s net on my legs. I could feel the metal rods hitting my body filling the few seconds with pain. As I began to cry for help, I looked at those standing in the line. Adults, children, the elderly, the line was full of people of all ages, and sizes. Those in line looked at me, and in the corner of my eye, so did the people on the sidewalk. The light of day and the officers’ yells grew fainter as any shred of hope I had once left my body. And then all I could hear were numbers…1,998…
ARBOREAL COLEMAN MACKIE
Why am I here? Why do I sit still and let the tick tick tick eat away at my breath? How can life be so short if I am buried in boredom, stuck neck-deep in the mud of emptiness in every waking moment? Can I be something great? Should I? Do I want to? Why do the things that bring me happiness bring judgment, abuse from real or imagined voices pounding at the windows? Why do these thoughts plague my mind each day, a black cloud of locusts buzzing incessantly in my ear? Why do I stay alive? To find happiness? To exist? Why would I want to exist in a world in constant pursuit of a happiness I can’t seem to possess? Am I a hedonist that can’t be pleased? A nihilist floating through every day, aimlessly wandering towards the one true predetermined ending? Will it ever end? How do you do it? How can you smile at every moment, like you’re seeing the world from the eyes of a child? Can I be more like you? Can you pull me from the mud? Is it possible? Or should I give up? Should I let the mud consume me, pulling me into the warm, dark earth? I choose the dirt. 37
WALK LIKE A MAN
Walk like a man You hate the man Who walks like a king Because he is mud And he can’t accept He is mud or Gum picked condescendingly Off shiny leather spat-heels. You’ll tap cigarette ash Soon enough. And He’ll sit and sneer As he puffs a big Fat Cuban cigar. You’ll try and baby A Scotch. And He’ll scold and scowl While he pours It thick, neat in a tumbler. Walk like a man Or big bag of bones Because soon enough When they pick Your teeth out of The steering wheel, He’ll be the one to Pick the ornament out Of your head. 38
The cat kept to, Walked like a man, Stood knight and bishop Stared at that painting Of a long, tall, devilish Sweet-talking skeleton.
HATE DRAWING MADELINE LILLIE
For a quiet day in Physics class [See those birds sitting on the telephone wire? They don’t die like you and I would if we dared to touch it, do you know why? Yes, I say, I sat across from you when we learned this in physics. They don’t touch the ground as you and I must. No, that’s not it, he says. They don’t die because they do not know they will die.] I am holding a dull knife to my chest – dull, I swear – but I want to know how it feels in the moments before: my shaking hands, the silent fear sliding in and out of my ribs. It is a difficult thing to be alive, I tell myself. It is a difficult thing to be alive and to not know why you do it, to not know where the meaning is in it. I swear it’s there, 41
I say. The meaning’s there in the moon painting the pavement like snow, but it’s Florida and humid and 70 and December, in the disembodied hand hanging out of the window of the truck parked next to me, smoking a cigarette and letting the orange ashes trickle off into the asphalt, in the chorus of the tambourine reverberating off her hip, in the man on the corner playing the violin, in his please help in the manic laughter, in the let me out let me out let me out, in the cathedral, in this cross I carry, it is heavy, and it is slipping, in the its fine fine fine, in the moments I’m not breathing, in the sweet sweat, in the swearing,
in the repetition, in the mundane, in the endless, in the end, in the nails, in my nails, running across my forearm, running across my forearm, running into my forearm, in the blood running from my forearm in the wonderful laceration, in the splendid lacrimation, in the good pain it's a good pain it's a useful pain it helps I say It’s there and it’s so thick I can feel it as I breathe in the YOU ARE ALIVE AND THAT IS A VICTORY in the isn’t that enough? [What about the birds who are shot by hunters? Birds die all of the time. He leans in and replies quietly, Somebody told them. Once you know, you can’t outrun it for very long at all.]
REFLECTION LULA ROBERTSON 44
In 1998, she pictured an angel of history writing down her day with a feather quill. The rolling motions of the quill made blurry streaks that imprinted in her rearview mirror. Her paragon of a friend makes a request of her. Can you parallel park my car for me She says Wouldn’t she do anything for her. She'd haul 27 boxes of raspberry fudge in cardboard boxes. She’d haul them to a brown door with patches of light blue paint scraped off. She’d haul them in her battered 1990 toyota supra to her side of town. Yeah sure no big deal She mutters in return In 2001, she bought a pair of mudd holographic sandal heels to wear to dinner. Devoid of any straight form, the holographic heels refracted light on the side of the wall. She brought a copy of a poem by frank o’hara “the day lady died.” 45
Her hair had been pulled back in two braids, to hide the knotted mess the desolation monster had constructed. Is it natural to feel so scattered She thinks to herself The paragon orders a glass of bogle old vine california zinfandel, and she offers her a sip. Her pink skin becomes scarred from the suffocating bangles decorating her arms. Her ears are drooping from mangy pearls. It seems the paragon has suffered some. In 2019, she’s desperately holding onto the handles of a 2012 ford explorer, slamming her laura gladiator sandal into an imaginary car break. She is finally brought to a deserted park, found on the left side of a restaurant, that hadn’t seen good days in 5 years. There were only 2 spots left on the brink of grass. She knew she couldn’t help her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to park there. Pull forward past the spot, shift gears, turn your wheel, keep going backwards, keep going backwards, keep going backwards, keep going backwards backwards more more backwards just a little more don’t forget to look behind you and stare at what you left behind 46
don’t forget to see an angel in your rear-view mirror keep looking back and never look forward, shift again, turn the wheel and try to pull up just a little bit more. Can you parallel park my car for me She says Swelling oceans full of sharp corals fill her up, almost pouring pouring out of her eyes. No I can’t. Let’s just find a different spot She says apprehensively She’s dropped off at her house, it’s devoid of a home. Failed attempts to drink out of an empty cup consumes her actuality. A cold cup of dark roast coffee, with stains of old grains decorating it, is still inside of the microwave. She pours almond milk out of a thrift-store saucer, and she tries to nourish herself.
There were eight girls On the tennis team That year Eight girls who wore identical uniforms Eight girls walk into a restaurant Eight white pleated Nike skirts Eight girls laugh and enjoy themselves Eight lightweight baby blue tank tops Eight girls leave the restaurant Eight pairs of stained calf socks Eight girls part ways Eight pairs of run-down court shoes Eight girls wore identical uniforms So why was only one assaulted? If the clothes are the reason, Why did it happen to only her?
MY BARELY LIVING LIFELINE
One You are my barely living lifeline. The thing that tells me stories, that keeps me sane You keep my head in the clouds but my feet ever so buried in the roots of Your truths I sit inside Your office daring not to make a sound, We get cursed at by Your bosses while taking the cab home I am facing an internal war of my reality and Your past lives But then I’m no longer in Your office or in a cab coming home, I’m in Your car no, not a taxi or someone else’s car but Your busted up Mercedes driving me to Your tiny little place with Your tiny yappy dog and we are about to turn the corner when You break the news to me tell me that what You’ve got and Your time left with me is only measured by the good lords meter stick And damn I didn’t think I would be crying as much or dying as much when You tell me Gods meter stick is only getting shorter You tell me I won’t be sad when You’re gone, Hold on! Wait I’ll never get to fully appreciate all the great You have and the stories I couldn’t save on to the memory file that is locked and secured in my brain for safe keeping and legendary leaders as a tool for example Your hair is falling out Your skins turning pale Looking like that wedding vail Your daughter trashed those many years ago We drive around for hours being happy being hopeful. I wouldn’t dare dance on the tightrope trap that is the lifeline of Your lives presence in mine. 49
Two when I think of You my palms sweat thoughts I forget I digress I can’t refer to You as my “late” when You were awake at dawns first break Your heart pure gold mother said You’d gotten old it’s been so many months now so many suns arisen and moon set but my brain just won’t let me forget I knew as soon I opened the door sneakered feet touched the car floor father told me the final score that You had passed the night before memory encrusted cassettes we watched all those years ago memories of which I can’t let go from New York snow to the apartment window we looked out when there was nowhere else to go You were my barely living lifeline the buzzer told me I had exceeded my time and now as I’m about to cry I understand what it means to let a good thing die
flowers we romanticize the moon; she is the focal point of our sensual musings; the highlight of our love poems so often we forget, it is the sun who gives us the flowers that we give to our lovers easy love The moon is an easy love. You can gaze upon her for hours; lay beneath her glow; bask in the cool of her presence. It is easy to love such a simple beauty. It is harder to love the complicated divine Who will burn your eyes if you stare; fry your skin if you linger too long; dry your mouth and crack your lips; she does not mean to burn you, but she was never taught a gentler way to love. The sun is a difficult love. 51
alone The sun is comfortable in solitude Watching her people as they go about their days Content with silent observation But at night, when the moon comes out and laughs with the stars, the sun realizes that although she doesn’t mind being alone, She quite dislikes being lonely.
BLEEDING HEART MADELINE LILLIE
A LOVE LIST PERSONIFIED
What am I if not borrowed letters reminiscing on the fading shades of green What am I if not a shadow living in former selves consistently forgotten and unrecognizable What am I if not hidden behind the not-so-secret secret identities stolen glances overtaken by soft skin and rosy lips How could that be so evil What am I if not an ever shifting axis desire for expression not to fulfill expectations Biology silly little girl thinks she can escape Biology Who will I be if not a reflection of extinguished flames Who if not noticed and returned who will I borrow
TO THE ONE WHO INSPIRED IT ALL
Dear _________, I wish my brain was a library that you could spend your Saturday strolling through. Maybe then you could pick up a novel or two, and understand the magnitude of my love. If I could stroll with you, maybe then I’d point you to a few of my favorites. We could read about our time spent together. We could read the one about how my love runs so deep that at some point between you and me it reaches a point of yearning. Not necessarily yearning for you, though. Yearning for more time, yearning for more memories, yearning for more resemblance. Yes - that’s it resemblance. Many a night, I lay in bed thinking of your many accomplishments, wishing that my tiny heart could feel the pride of any of the ongoing list. Sometimes I wish that my brain could hold the capacity for intelligence that yours does. I love that your brain never stops contorting and your hands never drop a pen and your mouth never stops uttering brilliance. It’s truly inspirational to every other person that surrounds you. A moth to a flame, people swarm to hear your ingenious thoughts and works. You are one of the few souls I know on Earth, who, for as long and as wide as they may search, people will never find a flaw. Those who try will fail, and likely attempt to clip the wings of such a perfect angel with frivolous arguments and vehement clawing at your flawlessness. I hope to be an ounce of your library one day. Although I wish this was only an ode to your greatness, it's also a very reluctant goodbye. People move on and reach better things (although I’m not sure I will ever find anyone better than you). It’s inevitable to grow up and use those broad feathered wings to rise higher and go faster. I only ask that you keep this letter with 55
you and welcome it into your own library. It’s only a few chapters, but they hold great significance. It may be wordy and confusing, but I’m afraid there’s no other way to express my adoration for you. Sincerely, Your Friend Forever
BRAIN VS HEART MALLORY MCCAFFREY
A man is created to exist, reproduce, and die. He is made to be an animal. A slave is created to obey. It is made to be silent. Man dilutes into slave when he obeys when his eyes and palms are turned to the heavens in confusion of himself, when he closes his eyes and rejects what he is, when he decides he is more than animal. Many great minds and bodies of men surrender. Many heedlessly obey the words of a prophet. The words of a god. The words of a king. Once animal recognizes he is built to exist, reproduce, and die, he takes one of two paths: He may oedipus himself and live as a troglodyte. He may believe there is a meaning to it all. This man becomes a slave. Or he may accept he is only man. He may accept there is no higher purpose. This man stays man. This man stays animal. A slave would abandon his senses if ordered to. Door becomes chair. Disease becomes a test from God. Burglary of a man’s work becomes a good deed. When does slave become man? Simple. When he disobeys or when he dies.
IMAGINATION RUNS FREE KATHERINE GORKOV
MARTHA: A TRAGEDY
The heavy curtain falls in such a way that the woman in the corner of the kitchen is hidden from sight, cradled by both shadow and her soft, grey cardigan. Steam from the cup in her hands rises to her face - her wrinkled, blotchy face, ghost eyes intent on a spot on the vinyl floor. She shall be short this time, she decided, doll-like yet sturdy, like a ballerina. As if spinning a pottery wheel, the woman bends and presses into the clay of her first character. The hair, let it be golden, long, and the eyes, emerald green, the legs toned and the skin taught. The protagonist must be wondrously voluptuous, yet not cliched in her glamour, this isn't an Ali Hazelwood novel, after all. How can she make her feel like life? The woman blinked rapidly, eyes stinging from their deathlike grip onto nothing, stinging as if met by a salty sea breeze. Perhaps, that is where her ballerina must be, at the helm of a ship named after her, The Martha, her weight flowing from one foot to the other, as her crew fights against the biting grip of the Black Sea, dripping in their tunics and trying to ignore the groan of the vessel. No! Better yet, they cover their ears from the groan of the sea monster snaking its way under them, raising waves with its scaly tail. The spear in her hand, splintered and harsh (she liked that tactile imagery) rests lifted above her head in anticipation. A rustling sound made Martha lookup. The wind had shifted the papers on the kitchen island, lifting one to reveal the scarlet font of the other. It was as if she was flying, fingers caressing the vapour around her, and then a rope pulled her back by her waist, pushing the air out of her lungs. Reality tiptoed into her mind, dripping red “Overdue Bills” and “Unexplained Work Absences” like blood. The old woman’s pained whimper was like a war chief blowing his horn for aid. She pushed her new story, the better story, against the red in her mind with the force of a trained battalion. Her anxieties morph into the black hairs of her second character, as she decides that he must be tall and dark and strange. Must be strong, or was 60
strapping the better word? Black-bearded, intelligent, and his steps must be confident, thumping on the wooden deck of the ship, as he moves towards his beloved, glowing, Martha. He will save her. Soon, the morning light turns tangerine, and the tea grows cold on the counter. Our lady has been moving in circles around the kitchen island for hours now, blind to all but her sickly sweet dream. She has abandoned her sea adventure now, it seems, for her rounds had a waltz-like quality to them. She was among shimmering dresses and glinting jewelry, sparkling under the attention of her virile, young hero. A ball, or better yet, a wedding. I must be a tad more confident in my reader, my editor had said, and so I give you the freedom to decide yourself where she's escaped to, she thought. “Mama!” Brown curls bounced on the child’s head, as she ran to embrace the woman’s knees. The front door slammed shut with the force of the wind, a smiling paunchy man slipping in just in time. “I drew a bird at school today,” the girl said into her mother’s dress. She held Martha’s knees in place, like ties holding a heroine hostage in a villain's poorly-lit lair. “And I didn’t trace over the lines this time!” Martha, as though underwater, sees only a blurry figure beneath her, wavering to and fro. Her hero tucks a strand of golden hair behind her ear as they rest from their waltz. She hums at the caress, then stops short. She ought to add more conflict to the narrative, it felt unrealistic. Disrespectful to the art of creation to have a plot so picturesque. “She doesn’t hear you, love.” The man had stepped into the foyer now. He understood. He picks up his daughter, and leaves his wife alone. Not alone. Not really. She was with the pirates and the elves, on quests for treasure and glory and passion and kisses. He knew that there weren't many who would say no to living in a story. Having flaws that were 61
not truly flaws. Being brave. An author caring for you, the way you've never been cared for before; cleaning your dishes with a quick simile and making the curtain catch the light in the most symbolic of ways. Sending you through events that had meaning, had purpose, that ended in exotic places for a happily ever after. He knows that she sees color in her mind; she is not swayed by a black and white reality. He drains the tea down the sink and walks out.
Writing poetry is like the feeling of lethologica, The best words, the best lines, Always on the tip of your tongue. The words and phrases are trapped Inside the tiny capsules that cover your mouth. Some of those words burst from their scarlet prison As your fingers fly across the keyboard. The keyboard is the savior of words, Delivering them to their forever home on a blank page, slowly filling. What is the keyboard saving those words from? What does poetry have to fear? Distraction. You just remembered that it’s late on a Thursday night, And you still haven’t taken it out. And when you return, your keyboard looks dull, And the words are forever trapped on the tip of your tongue.
WELCOME TO THE UNDERWORLD, HOW CAN WE CURSE YOU TODAY?
paint my ceiling greenish-yellow cover my walls in carpet turn my tapestries into bedsheets turn my skin into stone make my eyes dry give me perpetual hiccups have a telemarketer call me about my uninsured home every Thursday make me work at Shoe Station take away all my pens and my paper rip it from my hands all of these curses would be better than losing my creativity
BASQUIAT LOGAN ALBRITTON
CAUTION: SLIPPERY SLOPE AHEAD
Maybe I ignored the signs way too long, Maybe we all ignored the signs too long. The sleeping excessively, all the while not enough. It never felt like enough. The dependency on things. Things we know we shouldn’t depend on. Death always scared me, but I found myself closer to its grasp. It scares me to know one day we stop existing. All we are, were, will be, gone. The uncertainty of the unknown. But sometimes we yearn for that. Death: such a complex thing. We mistake wanting relief with wanting death. Something new to cover old pain. Anything can be better than the excruciating tremors that seem to never go away. But when the thoughts become so real, actions almost taking away life, On the verge of pushing oneself off, Sometimes the pain is not soothed but intensified, Realizing we don’t have the guts and if the pain never stops, we’ll be forced to endure A life of yearning. But don’t ignore the signs, like bottled up pain. The signs, the ones we so despise, Making us feel worthless, weak, and burdensome, Are the ones that will save us.
IF YOU COULD HAVE DINNER WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? JASMIN SMALL
Oh, to exchange words with you What a gift that would be. I soak up your annotations and doodles On the paper passed down to me. I crave the marks you left On the possessions you kept. I trace my fingers over the carvings you left in My bookshelves and the clay you cast for me. I learn from the textbooks you collected From the school you wished you had attended. I was too young when you left, Too young to quite grasp what it meant. Now I greedily consume your body of work, Hungry for the lines of pictures you have drawn. I chase you down the hallways of words in Pages in books from a time long gone. 67
Flipping through page after page of Words put together by other people. The expressions of Kendall and Housemen, Lousy replacements for your own. You taught me what they wereLetters made words made sentences made stories. But you left me with none that were yours, Pa I wish I had listened to your tales then, So I could remember you now as more than Your fingerprints.
SATSUMA TREE TURNER BESHEARS
the droplets freeze instantly as they hit my skin, an assault, an ambush of asymmetry and doubt. i see our memory in the empty branches swinging violently in the tempest. i see your face in the bark. i see your tears in the rain. and i can’t help but question whether i planted seeds in the clouds, blossoming into billowing blasts and cold, white lightning. maybe i could’ve carried my umbrella just a little longer, holding up the sky. i was atlas. now i’m sisyphus. maybe there are brilliant skies ahead, and new life will sprout through the earth, all because of this storm. maybe worms will feed robins will feed snakes will feed hawks and the world will once again come alive. but life is not a constant. we are not forever. and maybe thunder is.
THE STANDARD OF GR_Y
The girl woke. She sat up in a sterile bed, pulling back the sheets. Her surroundings came into focus. She was in a cubic room in which every wall was painted the same shade of white. In front of her, a wall made of a seamless sheet of glass provided the only contrast in the room. As the girl began to comprehend her environment, panic entered her mind. She could not remember how she got here. Her heart began racing, and she scampered out of the bed, limbs flailing. Her lungs inhaled and exhaled rapidly, and she began to scream. Just as the girl screeched for the third time, a sharp pain arose in her arm while a curtain of darkness fell over her eyes. ~ It was 10:46 pm. Anshi paced around her dorm. She tried futilely to reduce the swells of anxiety within her mind, counting to ten, taking five seconds for each breath. According to her teacher, this technique should lull her into a sense of complacency; however, no breath could stop Anshi’s mind from racing. Today was the day she would leave the only place she truly knew- her dorm. She had lived here, in solitude, since she was three. She remembered no other world but this bleak, grey space. Today, she would venture out into the real world. She would meet real people, not just her facility’s guards or her teacher. Today was the day her whole life had led up to. Today, she’d take The Question. In Abalan, each person was tested at precisely eighteen years old to confirm that they would be a bright citizen who would improve society. To determine whether a person was suited to become part of society, each citizen answered The Question. Based on which answer you gave, you would be deemed either a Positive or a Negative. Positives selected the right answer. Anyone who did not was deemed Negative and labeled by the government as incredibly dangerous. Being as unintelligent as they were, they simply could not be trusted to interact in society. 71
Soon, Anshi’s clock changed its glaring numbers to 11:00 pm. Anshi held her breath, standing still in the center of her lifeless dorm. After what seemed like an eternity, a guard unlocked and opened her door. Anxiety strangled Anshi like a boa, cutting off her air supply. In walked a young woman. She appeared to be in her early thirties. Her dull brown hair was cut in a bob, ending in a perfectly straight line above her dainty shoulders. She was about 5’5, her petite frame drowning in a pantsuit. The way she carried herself in her leather pumps radiated through the room in waves of ice. Anshi watched as the woman’s eyes scanned her, scrutinizing every minuscule detail of Anshi’s person. Her glacier blue eyes then flickered up again, looking into Anshi’s molten chocolate irises. “Hello, Anshi,” the woman droned.“My name is Diane Gates, and I will be your proctor. According to your file, you’ll be exactly eighteen years old at 12:00 am. You’ll then be ready to begin the process of The Question. There is a strict protocol that must be followed, and I ask that you pay close attention to my directions. Do you understand?” “Yes,” Anshi replied, intimidated by Ms. Gates’s stare. “If you would follow me, we’ll be heading to the car.” Ms. Gates then turned sharply on her heels, walking out the door. Anshi looked around her bleak dorm room. For the past fifteen years, she had grown here, contained by the six plaster squares forming the room. And now, she would leave for the first time, following the first person she had met in fifteen years. Ms. Gates’ voice snapped Anshi back to reality.“I don't have all day. I will give you ten seconds to be out in this corridor before I leave.” With a deep breath, Anshi scuffled out, leaving her past behind her. Anshi followed Ms. Gate through the narrow stone hallway that she assumed led to the outside world. As they walked down the corridor, Anshi spoke. “Excuse me, but may I use the restroom before we leave?” “Very well,” said Ms. Gates with a sigh.“You have five minutes.” “Thank you.” She turned into a side hall, finding the bathroom on her left. 72
Upon her exit, a hand grasped her arm and yanked her into a dim corner. Before she could scream, a hand covered her mouth. She bit down. “Stop!” Anshi recognized the voice whispering. She turned to see the face of Jude, her teacher. ~ “Where are we going?” inquired the child. Her hand clasped onto Jude’s; she seemed frightened. Of course, she’s terrified, thought Jude. She’s being ripped from childhood at three years old and put into a dungeon. He didn’t want to do this, lock another one away in solitude for fifteen years. But he had no choice. The government claimed that socialization among individuals between ages three and eighteen soils the mind and interferes with answers to The Question. They said it fosters creativity and analytical thinking, which would hinder their performance on The Question. They stated a lack of socialization evens the playing field for all children. “Standardization”. Jude had cheated his way through The Question by choosing the answer they wanted him to choose. He became a teacher at Facility 155, one of the hundreds of buildings where they locked away children to prepare them for The Question. This little girl was one of the children under his care. He would drown her in governmentally issued lessons and texts, monitor her compliance with the education, and track her development. For such was Jude’s job: a warden of innocents. They then reached Dorm Three. The girl drew back instantly, revolted at the sight of her environment. “This is where I'm going to live? Why?” Jude sighed. He had known that this girl was a Negative as soon as he had seen her. He would need to teach her to hide this. If she showed her intelligence during The Question, she would not make it far. He looked down at her file. Her name was Anshi, and he had fifteen years to save her. ~ “Jude, I have five minutes to get back, you know I have The Question in an 73
hour,” Anshi said, irritated that she was being delayed. “Anshi, listen to me. You can’t answer The Question, at least not the way you want to. Just pick an answer. Any answer. Don’t think about it,” Jude whispered urgently. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I’m prepared; I know what I’m doing.” “No Anshi, you don’t. You don’t comply. The Question won’t work on you. You don’t fit their standard. Just listen to me for once, ok? Just put down an answer.” Anshi, confused, started to ask more, but Jude scurried into the shadows of the hall before she could. Anshi hurried back to Ms. Gates, and they continued down the hallway. As they walked, Anshi kept thinking of Jude’s cryptic warning. She simply could not fathom why she would have trouble with The Question. She had never had any difficulty with her lessons. She questioned the answers often, but she wrote down what she was taught. She questioned the government and its ideas, but she didn't go against them. ~ “Ok Anshi, let’s review,” declared Jude. “What are the two types of people in this world?” “Well, Positives and Negatives. But how can everyone be one or the other? There have to be other ways to define a person, right?” Jude sighed. “No Anshi. We are either a Positive or a Negative. That’s all that matters. Think of people like lamps; they are either on or off. You are either bright or you aren’t. ” “But why?” “Because that’s the way it is,” Jude answered, hoping she did not catch his lie. ~ “Here we are,” announced Ms. Gates, gesturing towards a black car. Anshi opened the back door and climbed into the seat. Ms. Gates sat down in the driver’s 74
seat and began to pull out of the lot. Through the window, Anshi saw the exterior of her facility. The sign near the building read “Facility 155” in bold letters. The building itself was five stories high, made of rusted metal. There were no windows, and only one door marked both the entrance and exit. Above Anshi was a monochromatic gray sky, and beneath her was a matte brown ground. Anshi watched as the building, along with her childhood, grew smaller until it disappeared in the horizon. ~ “Why do I need to read this again? I could recite it to you. 123 years ago, our country…” “Anshi,” warned Jude. “Created a way to maintain a sustainable society where everyone is put on an even plane...” “Stop.” “Through answering The Question, every person was put into one of two groups...” “Anshi stop now!” Anshi looked up at Jude in surprise. He never yelled at her. Jude immediately regretted his scolding, but he had to stop her. She was eleven years old now. She had to begin complying with the lessons. “Anshi, you can’t know something after reading it once.” “I know, I know. If the government says to know something, you have to read it five times, then you have to trust them. But it just doesn't make sense. I know something thoroughly after reading it once. Why do I have to sit and do it all over again?” Jude sighed. “Because it’s the standard Anshi.” ~ Ms. Gates pulled the car into a parking lot. When Anshi exited, she was greeted by the looming shadow of a massive metal structure. The sign near the base 75
of the building read “Proficiency Standardized Singular Assessment Center.” Anshi followed Ms. Gates inside the testing center and down the hallway to the seventeenth door. The room was a small cubicle painted a beige color. In the center was a beige desk and a beige chair. In front of her lay a narrow strip of paper. On this sheet were two circles; one labeled with the letter “A” and the other with “B”. Next to the sheet was a perfectly sharpened pencil. Ms. Gates then began reading off a sheet of paper. “You may begin to read The Question when the clock strikes 12:00 am, as you will be precisely eighteen years of age. You may not write on The Question sheet, and you may only fill in one bubble on your answer sheet. You have fifteen minutes to complete The Question.” Anshi watched the clock, fiddling with her hands beneath the desk. The numbers on the clock flashed 12:00. Anshi flipped over her question sheet and began to read. “Select the best answer,” it read.“Which spelling is correct,” The Question read. Choice A read “Grey” and choice B read “Gray”. Anshi looked up in confusion. For fifteen years, she had prepared tirelessly to answer this singular group of words staring back at her from the flimsy paper on her desk. She had read and reread countless dissertations and informative essays on the basis of the Abalanian government. She had been tested relentlessly of her knowledge on the trivial tactics of ancient government officials, expected to memorize and recite their biographies. Yet, here she sat, staring at the one question, the one standardized analysis of her mind that actually mattered, and reflected in her eyes was a spelling problem. Anshi looked down at The Question again, hoping to glean some greater insight on how to answer by rereading the prompt. Again, she was confronted by the choices Gray and Grey, required to choose a “best answer” between the two. 76
Anshi’s thought process was muddled by clouds of confusion over the weirdly worded question. She could not understand exactly what “a best” answer meant. Anshi picked up her pencil, hoping that by some miracle the writing device would magically select the correct response for her, saving her from the agony of deciding. Failing in her attempts to comprehend The Question, Anshi resolved to choose an answer. She reasoned that there must be one correct answer. She scrutinized choice A. She knew that she had seen the word gray before, recalling some passage poorly explaining the lives of the founders of Abalan. Yes, she knew that choice A was in fact correct. However, she decided to look at choice B to verify her conclusion before committing to her answer. Choice B read Grey. From a dusty shelf in the back of Anshi’s mind, a passage from a Study At the Testing revealed itself in her mind’s eye. Nestled beneath the black print, Anshi clearly visualized the word grey, spelled exactly the way it was spelled in choice B. Yes, Anshi had seen the word grey. But no, there had to be one correct answer. Placing her pencil on the desk, Anshi raised her hand, hoping Ms. Gates could provide her with some clarification on what The Question was asking of her. “Yes?” snarled Ms. Gates, obviously annoyed at Anshi’s interruption. “The Question is asking me to choose between Gray and Grey. However, I believe both spellings are correct. How am I supposed to answer a question with no incorrect response?” inquired Anshi. “I am unable to answer your question,” asserted Ms. Gates, “Return to your Assessment.” Anshi redirected her eyes back down to the paper. She reread the prompt again, trying aimlessly to divulge an answer from the words shrouded in mystery. Ms. Gates’ voice suddenly sliced through the air of the room. “Flip over your answer sheet; your time has elapsed.” “That’s impossible. I haven’t answered yet,” replied Anshi. “Your fifteen minutes has elapsed. I will now collect your answer sheet for 77
review.” Anshi watched in horror as Ms. Gates’ talons pried her blank paper from the desk. She looked on with disbelief as Ms. Gates exited the room, carrying her answer sheet, void of responses, into a room to be analyzed. Anshi had always known precisely what was going to happen. Minutes passed as Anshi awaited Ms. Gates’ return. However, the room stood in its strained silence as it had in the previously elapsed sixty seconds. Her hands were white from wringing them under the desk, furiously trying to clear her anxiousness. Biting her lip, she kept a constant eye on the door, waiting for someone to walk in and tell her her future. Anshi heard a faint click as she saw the door handle turn. She sat up, expecting Ms. Gates. However, she was not greeted by the icy woman but a large, burly man enrobed in a jet black suit. His eyes were masked by streamlined cobalt sunglasses, and his hair resembled the color of squid ink. His leather shoes began moving towards Anshi, silent on the tile floor. He grabbed her tightly by the arm, yanking her up out of the chair she had been sitting in. Anshi was paralyzed by fear, unable to protest, even as the man removed a large syringe filled with a crystal liquid. A sharp prick awoke Anshi from her paralysis, but she was soon engulfed by darkness as her world faded from view. ~ The girl was awake. Her mind was alert and attentive, but her eyes remained shut. She could feel the cold sheets beneath her, stiff and unwelcoming. The frigid air racked her body with shivers and tremors. Around her, she could hear the words of others shielded from her sight. Through her ears and into her mind entered the word “Negative”. She heard the people talking about pity. She detected them mentioning funding and Facility 155, an investigation over a teacher in Facility 155. The words came into Anshi’s mind, swirling around in winds of worry. Her head was whirring. She tried 78
desperately to open her eyes, yearning to view the people speaking. “She’s waking up again,” a voice said. Anshi felt a clammy hand grasp her arm, followed by a sharp prick in her bicep. Her mind again fell silent, as if the lamp illuminating the deepest corners of her brain had been switched off, plunging her into a deep and dreamless sleep.
SUSAN TURNER BESHEARS 80
WHITE NOISE CHLOE HARBIN
An early 1900s Steinway sits against the peeling wall Undusted, Untouched, and untuned, except by old age, That gives each ivory key a kind of vintage resonance, That rings a memory I will never recognize. Couples, Drunken, insouciant dancers Gliding in circles along floating melodies. A grand banquet, A crowd Of Edwardian silhouettes in the warm candlelight. Silk Ruinart bodied in crystal glasses, Indulgence. Dark, velvet drapes the massive floor-length windows That frame the yellow moon That tease the outsiders. The 12-piece string orchestra breaks. The Steinway alone leads the next reverie, Into the long hours counted By the Grandfather Clock in the corner. The final chime and the wavy reverberation, The forgotten Steinway against the peeling wall. 82
LADY KATE KRIZNER
I am displaced by the graceful sway of the bearded spirits I created in desperate attempt to rid myself of those seasick prayers for God to give me a sturdier heart and colder veins and more time. Instead,
he sent me ladybugs. They moved into my bathroom, speaking a dead language. It began with weaving lines of a lyrical style of poetry long ago in the aching hours, but soon their stories are constant as breath.
I overheard a group of the conquerers one afternoon plotting a coup. One said to a few others, We are founding a civilization 84
We are founding a civilization no, an empire. We are more determined than the night and as endless as the day. We will last. We are unending. The others murmured in anticipation.
When they finally come for me, I open my mouth and surrender with my tongue out. They enter my body and move through my flesh. I beg for an end as swift as they found me, but they bathe in the death of it all, and the death revels in their tiny ruby chests. They find sanctuary in the cold places between my ribs and take solace in the cruelties so meticulously tucked behind my eyes, and I’m not mine anymore, but then again I never was, and I never seemed to mind. 85
There’s only one left now, crawling into the air vent above my bathtub, but I still hear them dancing through my veins and crawling down my femur, having found more a home in me than I ever could.
A mockingbird used to live in our front yard I recall afternoons spent listening, yearning, dreaming of such freedom His cry loud, unencumbered, uncaring who heard there were moments I could understand him He spoke of longing, longing that transcends barriers between even the most different of species I recall the day he cried for a love, lost in another lifetime That day they decided he was too loud Too unencumbered, Too uncaring, I never heard his voice again. moments later, another bird began to sing A song of mourning Echoed for miles Through my ears Between muscle and bone Reverberating within my flesh Forcing my heart into a rhythm to match his own And I felt it then The longing It has been years since that day and sometimes, on quiet afternoons I wonder where he is if he found the love he longed for and if he is still singing somewhere I can no longer hear 87
A TIME TO SELF-REFLECT VICTORIA DEUTSCH
HENDRIX LOGAN ALBRITTON
“Do you want freedom?” He thinks he knows what we will say, but I want to cut my hair shorter than my shoulders just past my ears in a way that isn’t flattering I want acrylic and oil paint streaked across my calves and collar bone I want my hair to be soaked in water colors I want chalk on my shoulder blades and knees and cheeks I want to become a work of art not machine surging not flesh breathing I want ink on my forearms and across the bridge of my nose I take your words and you take mine and we are immortal And there is this relentless urge pulsing through me to become a story, a performance met with a standing ovation I want to change myself enough that I become my own I want to be able to chip my signature into one of my ribs “Which of you wants to be free?” He asks, and not one of us raises our hands. Maybe we don’t know what we want. Maybe we do. 90
Realize life is More than a culmination. Particles, reactions, coincide. Inherent. See reality as The untapped cosmos. Nebulas, energy, collection. Control. Become ourselves through A method to indict. Harken, explore, together. Interlinked. Face The amalgamations, abominations, annihilation. Fears. Determination. Cover yourself with Hopes and dreams. Spite. Exist within cells, But outlast. Exhilarate, vindicate, live. Fight. 91
The tone of contact resonates softly across the window mallet touching tube like sunlight on floorboards The heart eternally echoing through its halls needs a matching frequency a pace to fill its chambers with something kinder Music of the breeze air of memory the chambers harmonize for a moment That moment is enough for joy
DRAWING WITH EYESHADOW MADELINE LILLIE
“Of course, when I looked through Dr. Piedmont’s telescope and saw what I saw, I thought people would believe me. I imagined meeting with the President, sharing my testimony and brainstorming solutions to the problem at hand. The urgency of Earth’s shared issue would make my mother’s doubts in me negligible. All of my past hiccups in school and with friends wouldn’t matter because of what I saw. A scary fiction story coming true. Dr. Piedmont teaches the Astronomy elective at my private school. We started with an intro to space and talked about how scientists stripped Pluto of its planet status. Piedmont asked us,‘Y’all heard about Pluto? That’s messed up right?’ and we agreed. After a basic introduction to our galaxy, we segued into the complexities of the universe. The accumulation and collapse of gas and dust leads to stars. Other balls of swirling particles form planets like Earth, all throughout the galaxy. Trillions and billions of dust balls scattered throughout the universe. ‘So if there are countless planets out there, paired with countless stars like the Sun, then there are planets like Earth? Do you think there are aliens on those planets?’ Eilan asked this. He was new at this school last year. It’s not common for teenagers to start a new high school in their junior year, but Eilan did because his dad found a thrilling job opportunity that would earn the family renown. At least, that’s what the girls were saying about him. He was the talk of our grade year, and his smooth skin, blue eyes, and perfect life seemed a bit too perfect to me. Too perfect, like he was some science experiment escaped from a top-secret lab. His eyebrow twitched and his eyes stared straight ahead, quiet and glassy, at Dr. Piedmont. Sitting here now, I remember this. ‘Yes, Eilan, that is what is referred to as the Fermi Paradox,’ explained Piedmont,‘out of the many Earth-like planets in the universe, there must be some 94
with intelligent life that have-‘ ‘That have developed interstellar travel, and the ability to make contact with Earth.’ Eilan cut in, before breaking eye contact with Piedmont to glance at me. I remember. ‘Yes, good, Eilan. Now, class, imagine if there were aliens on Pluto, and we invalidated their existence with our silly classifications. That’s not cool. Anyways, down to business. Every year this elective has a night sky viewing. I’ll bring in my telescope this Saturday, and each of you can take a turn looking at the sky. Maybe you’ll see an alien! Also, Kelly, is your mom okay with bringing snacks? I was thinking chips, freeze-dried ice cream, and maybe some of that new Starlight soda…’ Sitting in class that day, months ago, Eilan looked almost the same as he did when I saw him through the telescope. Almost the same. At first, he looked normal, his perfect normal. Regular-seeming kid with regular skin and eyes, just chilling in the night sky for some reason. Floating where the Big Dipper should be. Then he looked back at me, our eyes locking through the curved mirrors inside the metal cylinder of the telescope. Eilan looked back at me with inhuman eyes, multiple, and skin a color that I have no words for. Not even now. I screamed for Piedmont, for my mom, for someone. It was a matter of global security, and I thought they’d believe me, but they didn’t. No one did.” “So no one knows about our infiltration of Earth?” “No,” I said,“no one knows.” Inspired by Dr William Perry
THROUGH THE LENS VICTORIA DEUTSCH
The evening of the fall, I remember that the moon was small enough I could have grasped it in my hand and held it like a stray kitten with large orange eyes on the median of the road, bleak and resolute in the little storm which was incoming in the clouded distance. I got in my car with stormy shadows and you in my peripheral, the unrelenting soft haze of a warm Florida night, I reached in to help the shadows, they were worried about you and their identity for a moment I dropped the kitten to shift gears and look at you and for a moment I was bitter and I lost myself. The moon was small enough but too large to forget like a white rose in a countryside bush, blooming against the rain.
GAME, SET, MATCH
Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision. - Muhammad Ali Since I could hold a tennis racket, I’ve dreamed of being one of them. A champion. In tennis, this takes the form of winning one of the Grand Slam tournaments. I’ve dreamed of this tournament for years, imagining myself as one of the greats. A name so famous that it would come up in the same conversation as Serena Williams. I’m not there yet, though, not even close. I’m only fifteen years old and I’m trying out for the Varsity Tennis Team at my school. It's the second day of tryouts. Players hoping to make varsity are playing challenge matches, which will determine the starting lineup. I’ve prepared more than anyone; I’ve studied books, watched loads of professional matches, even gone on a diet plan for the weeks leading up to tryouts. My stomach is squeamish, filled with butterflies. I wait nervously to be sent out to a court. Finally, my coach calls my name. The first game is filled with nerves and so many mistakes. I lost the first game. Anxiety swirls through my mind. I should have trained harder. I should have played longer. I should have done better. A familiar feeling fills me. The feeling of anger at myself, for not being good enough. My fingers tighten around my racket. I raise it above my leg. Then I freeze and remember. Remember the times I was unable to gain control over my anxiety. Remember the pain. Remember a couple weeks ago, when I missed a shot. Then I missed again. Continued missing for the rest of practice, my anxiety snowballing. At the end of practice, I was filled with fear I would fail during tryouts. My thoughts kept spiraling until my dreams of playing pro tennis flashed 98
before my eyes, breaking, crumbling. My breathing had become shallow, and my thoughts frenzied. I gripped my racket. Raised it above my leg. Smack. Pain. Not enough. Smack. Again. Still, I hadn’t felt it was sufficient punishment for my terrible practice. Smack. Smack. Smack. SMACK. Finally, I felt I had gotten what I deserved. Later, as I showered, I looked at my red, swollen leg. The week that followed, I wore pants that covered the purple bruising covering my calf. So many emotions, but most prominent was shame. Shame and sadness. Such a terrible combination. Back in the present, only a few seconds have passed, though it felt like more. My racket is still raised above my leg. I relax. Deep breath in, deep breath out. A wondrous feeling fills me, regenerating my spirit and passion. I look to the sky and smile, knowing God is with me. Determination coursing through my veins, I step up to the baseline, ready to serve. Under my breath, I mutter,“Come on, you’ve got this.” Wham. A beautiful serve, followed by a strong forehand my opponent has no chance of reaching. Again, I serve and win. Suddenly, we’re competing for match point. She serves. Out. She serves again. I push it back, nervous to over-hit. She returns it, filled with the strength of someone who realizes they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I become nervous. What if she digs deep and finds out how to come back and win? What if I don’t get it together? What if I lose? What do I do? Deep breath in, deep breath out. Help me, Lord. A smooth, confident stroke from me, delivered cross-court. She gets to the ball and hits it hard, ready to come to the net and win the point – but wait. It hits the net. I whirl around to face the fence, happiness exploding out of me, a cry of joy, of fierce pride, bursting out of me. 99
I won. I won not from letting my anxious tendencies override my abilities, and not from letting anger and frustration guide my strokes. Victory isn’t the result of being perfect, victory is the result of being better than you were yesterday. And that is how you play tennis.
THE OTHER SIDE
When I go to the other side of town I can’t help but see it. The difference. The white picket fence families and big houses and cars. I wonder what troubles they have. Everyone has them, some with accommodations that help along the way. What gives and takes do they experience I wonder As I see a multitude of people in stores, none like me – on the surface at least. The store clerks sometimes see it when they follow me around, Maybe that isn’t just on this side of town. The kind old gentlemen and women who smile so bright and warm, inviting you in. For a second, you may even believe they’re your grandparents. The stores stocked with products, isles full and ready to supply. Unlocked cars and families, full families, strict parents, and kids with all they ask for. Schools with working water fountains and real food for lunch, healthy food even. People who maybe even kind of like their job, even McDonald’s employees. No projects or gunshots, but land and trees and roads with less than 30 potholes, And joggers and dogs and more dogs who go to groomers and pools and brick mailboxes, And nice cops, and lawn services and Teslas and lululemon. And so many, so many things, that I’ve never experienced, besides through the windows. I quickly turn away from the feeling of shame and awkwardness as someone catches me Daydreaming. They catch me daydreaming about this side of town. 101
I can try to blend in, but I still feel like an outsider, just a traveler coming And going each day for one sole purpose, Never really staying for good. I watch the people that surround me go about their day normally on this side of town Where I daydream sometimes. I wonder what it’s like for them, on this side of town, where the grass is greener. I mean this saying in literal and connotative ways, but I hate to judge and Jump to conclusions. To fantasize, an idealized version of what I think something is. Before I’ve ever come face to face with it below the surface. The society and setting are one thing and the people that live in it are another, Sometimes mingling. Maybe the grass isn’t greener, maybe it is, maybe some parts are, and others aren’t. I say this as I observe and note and meet and interact, clash and more. You see I’m not from this side of town, just visiting.
THE RIVERBED KATHERINE CAMPBELL
PUSH PINS AND DAISES AND ROCKS
push pins into the cork of boards that don’t need more paper and pencil sketches of some god you imagined while zonked out on cold meds or half-awake watching podcasts of men who never dreamed of writing poetry or even prose because that’s gay and when the cold rain hits your back you’ll know it it will hurt but you’ll know push daisies through dirt of lands that are cluttered with ardisia and dandelions and clover pest-plants in fields that have thorny vines climb through fences and bushes of some waxy leaf red berry beautiful white flower cresting the sharp sea of knife-leaf and desolate wintry thorn-stick and when you see into the wax leaf you’ll know you’re that magnolia white & gleaming & headstrong push rocks up hills of war-torn and scorched earth tracts of land that just about but does not quite touch the white-crystal plains of an elysian wonderland that looks with the ‘skance look like that ugly waiting-room wallpaper and when that pit opens up and you realize you climb for nothing but the burn in the ankles will hurt it will but you’ll know 104
I hold in my pain for months. My sister says she can hold her breath for longer, I’ve held mine for a while, Air bubbles float to the surface To alert passers of a drowning, sinking, tired Body. But they’re too busy. I hold it in for years, until the cracks start to chip my paint, leaking, I’ve made a mess of myself, But I clean, quick and spam, don’t let them see, Let them use me till I can’t be used anymore. My purpose achieved. He says this isn’t my purpose, she says this isn’t my purpose, they say this isn’t my purpose, Then what shall I achieve? They say this isn’t my purpose until they need me for my purpose: To be useful until I can’t anymore. Until the bubbles stop floating to the surface Until the cracks now are all I am whole, Paint worn and gone, liquid spilled, no more towels to clean, No more time to fix this mess, useless, no purpose mess. I hold my pain inside for months, years, lifetimes Until I can’t be busy, until I can’t be useful anymore. Right until I have to save myself, swim to the surface and breath, glue the cracks, And repeat again. 105
WILL MY EFFORTS TURN TO DUST? PEYTON CRUMLER
DOWN WALNUT STREET
The crack of the splintering bat echoed in the silence of the swaying trees and fleeting days of summer. The rough baseball soared in the cerulean sky and jumped into Mrs. Hickory’s grassy yard, overruled by weeds and fireflies. Johnny’s holey tennis shoes scraped against the asphalt as he barreled forward to first base, Mr. Jones’ chipping green mailbox. He jumped to slide into the base as George chased him with the ball outstretched in a gloved hand- Johnny’s knees rubbing on street- fresh flesh flaking off as a stream of blood dripped into the dirt. Earth swirling in Earth. Heatwaves radiating off of the asphalt. George sighed, sweat flicking off of his brow, and reluctantly passed me the ball- it was my time to pitch. I looked down at the ball- The white and red were no longer recognizable from the years of dog slobber and rolling in potholes. Washer was at bat, his eyes concentrating and dripping with sweat. I squinted and threw a curve ball, spiraling through the air, cutting through the summer breeze. He swung at the ball, sending it rolling towards my dirt stand, clay coating the air. I dropped down and chucked the ball at Johnny to stop him before he got to third base, the magnolia tree. Right there- Johnny was hit in the hip. Vivi screamed “Out!” It was time to switch up the field. LT whooped from the sidewalk sideline, sending his voice up into the sky- cemented there and in my memory. Then our mother standing on our cement porch, glowing from the descending sun’s rays, with a striped hand towel, called us for dinner. There were six of us who played in the neighborhood games: - Johnny, the oldest boy at eleven years old, was the best- he hit so many home runs, any team that had him was sure to win until I started to 107
pitch. - LT, my big brother, who had dragged me along since I was five to rough house with his friends. - Washer, a short fiery boy, who could pitch a mean ball and spit an even snarkier comment. - Vivi and George- twins who mostly hit fouls and wrestled. And me- an awkward eight year old who could pitch. I can remember my uniform- striped shirt, baseball cap, and calf high socks. My mother would always complain about me wearing my brother’s clothes, but after a week of me muddying my dresses - she gave up. Even now as I walk down Walnut Street in my heels and dress, the bittersweet taste (like the aftertaste of pineapple or when you suck on sour candy too long) returns to my mouth. I can still smell the fresh kickup of clay, stretched leather and withering shoe laces, dusted in the flying dirt from the breaking road. Everything seemed the same- well almost everything. We had played everyday in the summer for years and then we drifted apart with the years passing. LT now worked as a lawyer in the east side of town. Washer ran an auto repair shop in a nearby city. Vivi was married with two kids. George had disappeared after graduation. I worked in New York as a journalist now. We had all spread so very far away- running away from the inevitable. We thought if we ran faster- pushed ourselves to beat the crashing dawn that we could escape this- growing old and moving away from one another- just to find that we ran from each other. But, Johnny was the only one who held onto our dream. Johnny was still here living on Walnut Street, remembering the honey filled days of 108
an unfading youth- an ambrosia for him. Sitting on his porch, under the oak tree, sipping sweet tea and toasting to the sunset, where purple, orange, and pink kiss the waxy green leaves of the magnolia tree.
FOR PECOLA GEENA WHITIN 110
BILTMORE LOBBY VICTORIA DEUTSCH 111
WRITE ME A LETTER
write me a letter i want to hear the voice of your hand i want to listen to the dialects of your fingers i want to know the tone of the ache in your wrist write me a letter and remind me of all the nights we spent trying to match our breaths and all the days we carved our names into trees as if to say in a caring whisper we know you are not immortal either but you are longer than we are you are forever to us write me a letter and let your words stand alone until they find mine let them take each others’ hands and hold each other so tightly the skin between their fingers is touching they are less present than we are but more concrete write me a letter and let me breathe in your promises and declarations and allow the sincerity of your syllables to heal my pieces write me a letter so we can be a whole person again
WHAT YOU MISSED
ANNE MASON ROBERTS
The waves roll onto the sandy beach, eventually turning into foam. Fish ride each wave like a surfboard and the dolphins flip through the air like birds. Far below the surface, electric jellyfish illuminate the pitch darkness with a sunlight glow. In the opposite direction, beyond the sand is a lush forest with grass greener than any fake plants that an artificial person can buy. Piles of thick mud cover the forest floor, hot and sticky like the damp air. Lizards scurry across logs filled with termites and crickets as if their lives are at stake. As if to brag, vibrant flying lizards cruise through tree canopies above the other prey, looking free and happy. These photographic moments come and go in the moment, never to be captured by any camera’s electronic frame. The snow lands silently upon thousands of evergreens. The flow of white continues endlessly, covering every available surface. The cool, crisp air feels refreshing on people bundled in hundreds of layers, yet this air that feels rejuvenating to so many people, also has taken so many lives. The snow-capped mountains are captivating, but they too crumble and cover the bodies of skiers and hikers. The mountain has a perfect slope for skiing, but it was bare. The fresh powder was smooth and untouched by any ski tracks because nobody was there. The sky is a deep shade of midnight blue. There is no light anywhere. No sun, no flashlight, no lamp. Nothing. You are alone with the most misunderstood character in life, darkness. The rock you are sitting on is cold and pointy, but the ten minutes you spent trying to get comfortable on this uncomfortable surface was not done in vain. You get to reflect on problems, triumphs, stresses, joyous moments. Your mind is torn from its own thoughts: should I be proud or feel unaccomplished? But as if to give you a sign that you should focus on the worthwhile moments, a brilliant comet shoots across the sky, scaring away all the darkness as it 113
passes. It left as quickly as it came but at least you got to witness it, right? No, this didn’t happen to you. You are in a house. A boring, empty house. Each curtain is closed to conceal the beauty outside. The only glimpse you have of nature are the tiny openings under the closed, locked doors. But, you can only see artificial grass when you lay on the ground and look through that tiny sliver. But this is good enough for you because you haven’t experienced real beauty. Plus, if you really were feeling curious, you could just Google it. After all, you get to see islands, snowy plains, and forests without leaving the couch. But what happens when you zoom it and realize it is just pixels? Will you still be fulfilled? Probably.
WHITE ISLAND ANNA B. BRANTLEY
A NOD TO MY SOUL
“I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature. I sit among the Rocky Mountains, silent and awestruck at the giants that surround me, and I begin to cry. Weeping, because I am both empty and full of every emotion all at once; because I am myself and my future selves and my past selves, all in one body; because I am the mountains, who have existed for millennia and will exist until the end of time, and I am a young girl, who for the first time in her life, is seeing the Rocky Mountains. My world is turned upside down, all because I am sitting on a rock and staring out at the earth as it reaches into the heavens. Reading Emerson, I am transported into that moment once again, where I am both comforted and shocked by the way the mountains understand me, even though we’re meeting for the first time. The singer Stevie Nicks had a similar experience to mine, where she found understanding in a vastly new environment, which she details with her band Fleetwood Mac, in their song,“Landslide.” Throughout the song, Nicks reckons with her mortality and with the speedy passing of time, as she sees the pain and hope and possibility that come with a life with an expiration date. She shows us the inexplicable feeling of time moving too fast and too slow all at once, and she shows us how she gained this understanding from nature. Nicks hikes up a mountain, turns around at the top, and sings,“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills / ‘Till the landslide brought me down” (Fleetwood Mac, 0:23-0:33). She sees herself in the snowy mountains; she sees who she is and who she was and who she will be when the inevitable landslide sweeps her life away. The mountains understand her, they know who she is and what she needs to learn, and that understanding the mountains hold for her helps her come to terms with her fears about a life 116
with an expiration date. Nicks shows us all, through her own experience, the power nature holds: the ability to make us feel known and understood as it helps us on our journey of becoming. Enveloped in nature, we can feel like our souls are known. I’ve experienced this feeling countless times, that familiar sense that nature will always know me better than I know myself, and it never loses its effect. It’s the kind of summer day they show in the movies. The sky is clear, the sun is shining, the air is cool, and I’m standing at the base of the largest sand dunes I have ever seen in my life. Out in the Colorado plains, the sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park look like mountains compared to the sand dunes of the Florida coast. I am in an environment entirely foreign to me, yet I’m getting a hint of that familiar feeling again. I trail behind my brother and his friends as we hike to the top. My legs burn, my throat is dry, and the wind relentlessly whips the sand against us, making my legs and my face sting. I keep willing myself to put one foot in front of the other, though, pushed on by my burning desire to see the view from the top. In the end, my desire is validated. The view from the top is worth every grain of sand that flew in my eyes on the way up. My bare feet shuffle in the cold sand, finding a place where I know I won’t start sinking off the side of the dune, and I feel it again: my soul is understood. The sand dunes are “new to me and old” (Emerson 556), as Emerson puts it; I am living in them for the very first time, and yet they feel familiar to me, they feel like they know me. We run down the side of the dunes, our feet sinking into the sand like it’s water, and we can’t help but laugh and yawp with joy. We are kids, seeing sand for the very first time, and we are grown adults, with the wisdom of a lifetime. We are known and understood by the sand around us, by the sky above us, and by the trees and the stream at the end of our journey. We stare at the sun as it sets over the dunes, wholly ourselves. I stare at the stars as we walk to the car, knowing, in that moment, who I am. We came to nature without a purpose, but we found ourselves. 117
We found the pieces of our soul that are pulled from our hearts and scattered in nature for us to find. That, is the power nature holds for us all; it shows us, with its peace and inspiration, who we are, and who we can be. No matter how lost or broken or alone we may feel, we can always turn to an understanding natural world, that can remind us of who we are. We can nod to the mountains, to the sand, to the ocean of stars above us, and they will nod back every time. Works Consulted Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume 1, edited by Robert S. Levine, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.553-82. "Landslide." Composed by Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood Mac, 1975. Spotify, open. spotify.com/album/5VIQ3VaAoRKOEpJ0fewdvo?highlight=spoti fy:track:5ihS6UUlyQAfmp48eSkxuQ.
GREEN ANOLE GEENA WHITIN
Leaving school, I am irritated There is no root to this emotion. Life is going well. I open the garage, life is going well. Praying for anything else—a lizard is perched on the red brick. Lizards prefer warm surfaces. We use to always look for lizards, spent our days on the pure ecstasy of anticipation. In the morning a shadow cast half over the yard. We never found lizards in the shade. Always in the sun. How was school today? I do not want to answer. I wonder: is the lizard still there?
(I WILL NEVER BE) TRAPPED INSIDE THE WALLS OF MYSELF PEYTON CRUMPLER
4-year-old me was a work of art She danced around the house Wore crazy headbands and bows all day long Sung as loud as she could Wore the blingiest jewelry Played McDonald’s with her uncle Caught butterflies with her grandfather Held her father’s hand as she crossed the street “[Threw] [herself ] unhesitatingly on [her] thought” 5-year-old me was confident She wore all her jewelry to school Would have competitions with her teacher, Mrs. B, as to who was the sassiest Always wanted to be with her mother, even in front of other people Laughed as loud as she could Liked to read 6-year old me started to lose herself She was hurt for the first time Was made fun of People were mean now 7-year-old me lost just a little more She cut her hair Wasn’t pretty anymore 121
Walked into her class while everyone was talking about her Everyone stopped when she walked in Still doesn’t know what it was about Tried to fit in with the popular kids Never figured out why she didn’t “Is weak because [she] … looked for good out of [them] and elsewhere” 8-year-old me started to crumble She was left out Felt she needed to change Felt the need to be skinny Felt lost Was made fun of for trying out a tinted Chapstick Took off her bow after it was “too much” I was “too much” 9-year-old me started to repair She met her best friends Had her first sleepover Made movies with her friends Pretended she had magical powers to where she could control water Did crazy makeup Was somewhat back to being herself 10-year-old me wore bows again, but they never stayed in all day She still had the same friends Still made movies 122
Still felt that it was all better than before Still held out hopes for being a mermaid Got more friends Lost some too “Command[ed] [her] limbs”
11-year-old me no longer had those friends She did not make movies Did not believe in magic Did not understand why it all had to change Wore makeup to cover up what they had laughed at After a word it was wiped off “[Stood] on [her] head”
12-year-old me wanted a start fresh She tried to let the comments roll off Was left out, again, but it’s ok, right? Was made fun of, again, but it’s ok, right? Was hurt……again…... but it’s ok,…..right? “It’s what girls do at this age.” “Just wait until middle school is over and it will be ok.” So, I have to wait until middle school is over to be who I am?
13-year-old me was alone 123
She started at a new school Was forgotten by all her old friends Had tried so hard to be them Was hurt by one of them How could they just leave her? She saw them and they acted like she did not exist I guess 10 years is nothing Was something wrong with me? She made some new friends Tried to be herself Still felt she didn’t belong 14-year-old me was betrayed She thought she was doing good…. she was happy Never thought her world would crumble in one night It seemed everyone had something against her She hadn’t done anything Realized all her friends would probably be gone the next day Was hurt by someone she trusted…. repeatedly Someone she hoped she could finally be herself around There was never a moment a comment was not made She was too loud Too smart Too extra Too innocent Too scared Too much 124
She thought it would be different when she left, but she still was trapped inside the walls of herself 15-year-old me was numb, well…… wanted to be numb She once again made a new friend Once again was hurt Once again was left out Once again was literally thrown aside for a better option Once again was betrayed Once again had fooled herself that this time would be different Could never be herself and she could not be other people Something was wrong with her It had to be How could it always end up like this? Why does it always end up like this for me? She did not “instantly right [herself ]” Did not “[stand] in the erect position” Did not “[command her] limbs” She needed to apologize to 4-year-old me End of 15 --- made new friends ………. maybe this time would be different? ………. maybe “power [really] is in MY soul?” 16-year-old me was different She wanted to be 4-year-old me I wonder why only the young child can ask “What is the grass?” 125
They are the only ones with no hindering filter They are undamaged by the world We should all “wear [our] hats as [we] please indoors or out” We should all “find no sweeter fat than sticks to [our] bones” We should all “not trouble [our] spirit[s] to vindicate [themselves] or to be understood” “[We] exist as [we] are, that is enough” 17-year-old me She will dance even when the music stops Will sing even when the crowd is booing Will run even when there is nowhere to go Will jump to reach the overhanging clouds Will laugh so that the other side of the world will laugh with her Will drive where she wants to go Will wear the blingiest jewelry Will wear craziest headbands and bows Will catch butterflies Will “know that power is in [her] soul” Will “throw [herself ] unhesitatingly on [her] thought” Will “instantly right [herself ]” Will “[stand] in the erect position” Will “command [her] limbs” Will “work miracles” Will “[stand] on [her] feet” and be stronger for it She is and always will be a mermaid with magical powers Just 126
You Wait Works Cited Whitman, Walt.“Song of Myself.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature; Volume 2: 1865 to the Present edited by Julia Reidhead, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 28 & 38-39. Emerson, Ralph Waldo.“Self-Reliance” The Norton Anthology of American Literature; Volume 1: Beginnings to 1865 edited by Robert S. Levine, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 613.
SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE GEENA WHITIN
BELOW THE RIVER KATHERINE CAMPBELL
I’m cold, barely breathing, Floating down the river. A fiery figure on the shore Stoops down, Pulls me out. We sit and watch the water. It’s somehow completely still. Reflections of headlights Open new worlds. We start to sing. You warm me in tight embrace. I think about how in all of space and time, We were both put in this exact spot, In this single moment together, And you saved me. I fall into your eyes, But it’s different than when I fell into the river. Inside the river, I felt alone, empty. Inside your eyes, I feel every piece of me In harmony. Somehow, after its over, And your kiss is just a memory in my head, You manage to linger, haunting me still Consuming my waking hours, The perfect actress in my dreams. It’s crazy to think in one night, The entire trajectory of my life could shift, You turned my raft around, You reversed My river’s tide. 130
MY PRESENT IS MADE BY MY PAST
“Our age is retrospective.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature When Emerson writes this, he is commenting on how society builds itself around relics of the past, and how everything in society is done thinking about the past. He is advocating for individualism, for people to think for themselves, and to live their lives in the present. However, I believe that viewing my life retrospectively strengthens my individualism and guides my present life. When I was in elementary school, my mother (as most immigrant mothers do) decided I needed extra homeschooling to supplement my education. Among the flashcards, writing assignments, and science experiments, there was the random English textbook Voices of Literature. In it was the short story “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. “Eleven” is the story of a girl named Rachel’s day of school on her eleventh birthday, where she is embarrassed by having to put on an ugly red sweater that isn’t hers in front of all her classmates. In the story she details having all her years built up inside of her, like pennies in a box, giving her wisdom and informing her reactions; for example, crying like she is three or feeling stupid like she is ten (Cisneros 11). This story was essential to my childhood, and my mother and I read it over and over again. It put words to an experience I didn’t know yet, and once I began to experience what Rachel talks about, the story assured me that I was not alone. When I get bad news and start sobbing like eight-year-old Lucy when she lost the last relic of her dead grandmother, or when I feel small and powerless like five-year-old Lucy did when she committed her first social faux pas, or when, even at 16 years old, I curl up in mother’s arms just like three-year-old Lucy did when she was sad, the story reminds me that this is what age or aging is, living your present through past experience.
This is why “Our age is retrospective,” because all the ages you have lived through make up who you are (Emerson 553). As the story says,“When you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t” (Cisneros 11). You feel all the ages built up inside of you instead. Things do not matter precisely when they happen. They matter when you look back on them, and you finally see how they shaped who and what you are. The love I felt from my first teachers Ms. Jane and Ms. Sylvia didn’t matter at the time. It matters now, when I find the letter they wrote me when I moved away, and I break down in tears. It matters now that I realize how much their love shaped me into who I am. The decision my mother made to never give me a birthday party again didn’t matter at the time. It mattered when, five years later, she finally caved, and I was able to appreciate the party she threw for me. And it matters now, several years later, when I realize that I don’t like parties. The tears I shed when I was forced to quit the sport I loved didn’t matter at the time. But, they matter now that I look back and realize how much I’ve grown, how much better I am for having survived that hardship, and how terrible that sport and those people were for me. The fear I felt walking into my first day of middle school, didn’t matter when I was standing there staring at the big building. It matters now when I can say that I did it. That I made it through. That I’m a whole new person now. I realize at my ripe old age of sixteen years-old that the reason I feel so tired is the weight of all the stories I carry with me. That I must carry with me. They make me who I am. They make me who I will be. Emerson advocates for people to be unique and present in their lives. Cisneros’ story describes how all our past experiences create the present us. I know that my absurdity, sarcasm, confidence, and insecurities have been made by the 133
experiences of my past. My present is informed by my retrospect. My individualism is made by my past. And my life is determined by my stories, like the pennies rattling inside Rachel’s band aid box. Works Consulted Cisneros, Sandra. "Eleven." 1991. Voices in Literature, edited by Mary Lou McCloskey and Lydia Stack, Boston, Heinle & Heinle Publishers, 1996, pp. 11-14. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. 1869. Volume 1: Beginnings to 1865, edited by Robert Levine, 9th ed., New York City, W.W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 533-95. Vol. 1 of The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 2 vols.
RHUBARB AND TOMATO KATHERINE CAMPBELL
I stand at my kitchen counter with a pomegranate balanced between the blade of my knife and the cold countertop I want to remember It is one of those things I want to remember I push through the firm flesh and break the hard halves in half with my hands I pick the skin off the minute seeds thinking every time There has to be a faster way to do this but you have to take advantage of pomegranate season They’re only ever this good for a couple months I eat a couple every few minutes As I peel, with each seed between my teeth a gentle, pleading chorus I want to remember I want to remember I want to remember The average lifespan of a fruit fly is twenty-four hours and I’m lying on my back like I used to lying on my back at the bottom of a pool 136
lying on my back with my eyes closed counting the endless stars and all their kind could possibly know is death and all they could possibly know is nothing and spilled wine and sweet nectar I beg for a transfiguration Silly Eve, who could ever want to know what was forbidden for a reason Silly me, you were never built to comprehend eternity, so why do you try You don’t want an apple you want a pomegranate
AZALEAS BEHIND THE OAK
Water sprinkles from the fronds of overhanging palms as a moist breeze pushes its way through the maritime forest. The sun had pried its way through the cracks of intertwined branches and soaked into the pavement, evaporating puddles from the morning drizzle. Spring was nudging its way through the island this morning and the cadent rustling of palm fronds sends me into a trance. The somber hum of cicadas and mourning doves masks the distant coo of an egret on the shore, just past the forest’s edge. A flash of pink dances across my eyes but disappears behind an oak. It could not have been an azalea, they aren’t in bloom yet. The chorus of humming, buzzing, and cooing along with the slow, yet perpetual drip from the encroaching branches march me along the forest path. My feet seem to assume the position of drums in our little band as they step, one, two, in front of me. Just as I had caught another glimpse of a flamingo colored petal, a sudden snapping of twigs and crushing leaves force my eyes to avert from their enchanted stare. I jerk my head up as the blur of a white tail flees the scene. Frowning, I curse the forest that had enraptured me into missing the white-tailed beauty. I trudge down the path in silence. The asphalt beneath me soon dwindles into rocky sand and the water’s edge becomes visible through the marsh. Stepping out onto a rickety boardwalk, reeds poke between the wooden boards, tickling my legs. The egret’s coo swivels my head around and there it is: an entire bush of fuschia azaleas looming behind an oak. Happiness sometimes seems as swift and unnoticeable as a deer in a forest, only recognized by the sound of crackling leaves as it escapes human sight. I cursed the buzzing of bugs, humming of birds, and constant drizzle that dragged my feet down the path, my eyes glued to them, forcing me to miss the deer. Amidst my frustration, my feet fell back in tune with the tranquil cadence of the forest and I realized I had enjoyed its intonation all the while. Its unexciting presence had been there the whole time even though I cursed its name. It is the constant buzzing and humming of the forest, those things in life that are steadfast, often unnoticed, that 138
carry my feet along the path. We often become so disillusioned by distractions such as flashy antlers and fast-running deer, that we lose sight of the world around us. Deer move fast, they come and go, and antlers are just for show; most of the time they are hung too high on the wall to even reach. Nevertheless, the forest will always remain. Winter has been long this year, but as the springtime awakes the forest, we must all stop to admire its beauty. Only when I came to appreciate the birds and bugs around me, was I able to spot the azaleas.
THE GOODBYE IN HELLO
You say hello, but all I can hear is goodbye. As you reach your hand out offering a shake, my mind splits into a reel of the last time I met a new friend. The smiles, the laughs, the sobs of departure flood my insides and wash the feeling of guilt from my head to my toes. I want to recoil and shrink away into my shell, but my feet are planted and you stand there expecting something in return. Do I shake and welcome a relapse of pain? How can I trust you, a stranger? The girl from my past, she too was a stranger at sometime - how can I be sure our acquaintance doesn’t end in the same salty residue? My brain twists into a pretzel-like figure trying to compute the sense of emotions I feel. I try not to shudder as a splash of goosebumps run down my body - a way for my brain to say I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING RUN! But my feet are planted and you stand there expecting something in return. My hands find each other and begin to twist for a millisecond to hide the rumble of my muscles working overtime. My heart picks up its pace and pounds so loud I think you might hear. Your eyebrow twitches in what I can only understand as a judgment - did she used to do that too? I thrust my hand forward and plaster a somewhat joyful expression on my face - my brain deciding to test fate. But no matter how hard I try, my head still reels my last farewell and the feeling of dread still sloshes around my stomach. You said hello, but all I can hear is goodbye - please don’t abandon me this time.
Eleven years later, the beach looks the same. Sandpipers stand in the glistening lapping waves. You were four, and I was five. We spent the day making salty sand pies. The sand coated our hands. We waded into the frigid water as it receded and sprinted away before the chilling waves came crashing onto the gray shore. It was during a snack break of dried pineapple when your mom asked where you were, the fog had spread out, and you were nowhere. In between seconds of the waves lapping onto the shore, I heard your sandpiper-like stride and giggle to my right. I ran towards you, who had run so far. Push. Farther. My feet imprinted on the slipping sand as I dug my toes into it. I felt my heart and feet bind to the beat of the mystical drum of nature I could not hear, but I could feel. Breaths shortened, blood flowed and pricked my veins as the cool air grated my skin. I looked up as the pelican frozen in the sky, gracefully swooping through the fog. All I could hear was your laugh as a free bird and my breath of fatigue. I pushed harder to bridge the gap between you and me. I felt the sand mold to my feet and slip away like the casting of a statue. Our footprints were only erased by the inevitable waves. I pressed on bringing my knees higher and outstretching my hand to cut through the silky sheet of fog and grasp your blue sun shirt. I saw my hand disappear into the white gray of memory. I gasped out “Wait, we need to turn back,” but you kept laughing. Quicker, quicker. As you started to push on the sand more, I jumped sending sand into the sky like crystals falling. Am I close enough? We fell on the mineral pillow down the shore and then the sand marked the path of your tears, down your cheeks. You raised your light pink fingertips, like frozen rosebuds, to wipe the tears from your puffy eyes. You were so close. Knowing what I know now, I should've let you run. 141
FORGOTTEN SUNSET CLAYTON KNOX
LOOK AND SEA
The ocean is my oldest companion, confidante, consoler. The shoreline is my home. As the rays of midday wrap around me like a warm hug, I sit in my dent—the smooth, westerly crevice carved out of one of the tallest rocks in this city of jagged granite. Nature has contoured this dent to fit me, just as a bean bag chair molds itself around one’s body. Reclining back on its scalding stone surface, my fatigue begins to melt away. Listening to the peaceful concert of the softly crashing wavelets beneath me, with legs outstretched, I mull upon the affectionate name sand that has been given to the torturous rock fragments covering my feet. The scuttling of a crab suddenly turns my attention left to a small tidepool neighboring my dent—a wondrous microcosm teeming with life. Outlined by a white border of salt crystals and green seaweed, the miniature basin shelters a lone crab, a few shrimp, and an astonishing density of limpets, barnacles, and mussels. It impresses me to think this crab has the whole aquatic world within its view from this lofty vantage point—it need only to cross the pool’s salty horizon to go to more opportune places. My eyes wander right to the other rock formations that continue endlessly along the shore, which constitute Praia da Luz. Amidst the maze of boulders, a group of teenagers emerges. Directly in my view, several yards ahead, their loud voices disrupt any sense of serenity. I watch their silhouettes sit down on the sand, with their backs to the ocean, and I see them light cigarettes, the nauseating smell of which extinguishes the pacifying perfume of the ocean. I lay down in my crevice so as to not see them, and feel the pulsing wind in my ears, one moment carrying their conversations to me with extraordinary amplification, one moment filling my ears with the loud buzz of windy nothingness. At the latter sound, I close my eyes and let the afternoon pass by. 143
As I awaken lazily, my eyes traverse across the beach and move up to the horizon, where they meet the setting sun, which has slowly descended since noon. The teenagers have departed, and no longer can my crab companion be found in the tidepool. Only the fine gawking of seagulls near and far persists as the wind settles down for the day. The dimming blue of the sky, by degrees, gives way to a brilliant show of orange and magenta bleeding together into a celestial mosaic. And soon, even bright dusk falls, and the deep blue of night takes over. A most delicate crescent moon, thin as thread, reveals itself in the heights of the dark, and a first bright star glints next to it. At the last disappearance of the sun, I look out to the vastness of the ocean with greater clarity than ever before. The silhouette of a cargo ship floating on the horizon materializes from the mist where the sun last kissed the sea. Suddenly, two, ten, twenty more ships appear in every direction as if lamps clicked on one after another. Light specks, stars, floating upon the wavering, moonlit sea stretching into infinity. But no—the vessels are not steel freighters. These are caravels headed to the ends of the globe. These are the brave vessels that from this shore of Lusitania, through seas never before traversed, passed beyond Taprobana and circumnavigated this Earth. In the calm stillness of the night the heroes of Portugal’s past hover before me, and I sit awestruck, writing The Lusiads. Trusting to be guided by the stars that now fill the sky, these ships will cross and recross the planet always in the hope of discovering more. And one day I will join them. Look beyond the ships even: I will go to the stars. My sights are on the horizon further than any horizon ever was. Time transcending time—a glorious past becomes my future, a transition blended by the sea. 144
The seaside churns. Whitecapped waves crash, Tumble and turn as you Watch far-off dolphins crack and fall, Splash in the gray-green water. The seawater color of the daughter’s eye, The old painting of the birds, A gift of poison in a bottle of wine, The painting of the Voyager, Sixteen-fifty and still hurts like a hundred dollars, A reminder of what you’re trying to do, Set next to the coastal Poseidon, Crash against the seaside, Thrum up a storm when rain can’t come. And then cleansing rain, Take a basinful of stormwater with its Mud-brown and road tar-black calico, and It smells of salt and sh*t and sulfur.
A LETTER TO THE SYMBOLIC WORLD
After dinner ends, and all the dreadful tasks are complete, I escape out
the door when mom isn’t looking. I walk down the steps towards the beach. I wade through the shallows of the Gulf of Mexico. The sun has set, and the stars glisten off the choppy waves. The wind swirls, washing the salt and sand across the landscape and into the air. Standing amongst this power brings a certain reverence for divinity. It is not exactly beautiful, or even pleasant, but the unrelenting power of the sea is awe-inspiring. A blue heron bellows its cry down the coast. It is an awful rasp that reflects the rugged habitat in which it lives. He has seen the horrors of this world; he has seen all. What does the heron mean? What untranslatable spirit of man is housed in this creature? The heron says,“I have seen all, there are horrors in this world. But despite those horrors, life is worth living.” He warns us of the horrors that man is capable of. He wants us to acknowledge the monster inside of us so that we can control it, to use it for good instead of evil. We must experience nature to truly understand ourselves, and that is necessary in order to live a meaningful life. [Sunday February 20, 2022, 9:30 a.m.] This morning, I lay on the hard packed clay road at the intersection of Old Centerville and Sunny Hill Road, a few paces south of the Florida-Georgia line. There is a cool breeze, and the sun warms my soul. The sky is a deep cobalt blue that fills me with softness. The branches of a live oak splinter across my view. A choir of birds fills the air with pleasant sounds. What is this natural world telling me? It tells me to relax, so I relax. It tells me that everything will be alright, so I believe. I feel complete peace and am content to simply be. With the peace of the world absorbed into my bones, I continue my day. Hoping to radiate some of that 146
warmth back to her. In today’s world, we must deliberately seek out these natural symbols. We spend the better part of our lives trapped indoors. Within these walls, we are blindfolded to the true spirit of man. We are unable to understand ourselves without seeing and experiencing nature. Without seeing these symbols, we become lost and confused. We have no way of explaining the inexplicable; only nature can do that. Seeing a glorious sunrise reflects a certain state of mind. Any attempt to put this state of mind into words will always be incomplete. So, go out there! Get out in nature and absorb its meaning. Perhaps if we were to take a step outside and see what nature means we would stress less about the matters modern society puts so much worth on. Things such as standardized tests, the text you sent to that girl, or your grade on the AP Lang essay all seem trivial when we are among nature. When we simplify to what truly matters to us, all else seems to slip away. “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin c current slides away, but eternity remains.” (Thoreau 971) Lately, I’ve tried to be closer to nature, to allow it to tell me what I need to hear. Nature gives me everything I need and nothing that I don’t. By slowing down and getting at the meaning of these natural symbols, I have realized what truly matters, what brings me joy. Currently for me that means showing my love to the world. Relaxing a little bit. Running freely. Enjoying food. Noticing the little things. The glimpses into the unknown consciousness of man. Perhaps trying to bring some more of that mystery into the light. I have seen that this world I perceive as complicated, and frustrating, is really a lot simpler than I thought. I am able to 147
let things that used to keep me up at night slip away into oblivion. Worrying about how I look, my grades, and track times. No longer. Like that peaceful Sunday told me,“Everything will work out” so I will allow these trivial matters to slip away and dig my feet down deep into the mud of what matters.
Works Consulted Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Nature. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume 1, edited by Robert S. Levine, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.562 Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Volume 1, edited by Robert S. Levine, Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc., 2017, pp.971
VOCIFERATE GEENA WHITIN
The first time we talked in years, We talked about dreams and How neither of us remember. Sleep is nothingness, if that. It takes the average person 10 to 20 minutes To fall asleep, calm the mind, forget the day. Any faster may be a sign of sleep deprivation. Any slower may be a sign of insomnia. We will not talk again, I know. Not for a while. So you won’t know that since then, My dreams have returned. Of taking photographs along the shore Of a beach caught in an everlasting sunset and bliss. Of watching enormous surges slowly crash Over the people and places I love, and I live. The one beside me raises his hand. “What is the difference between imagination and visualization?”
SUCCESS AT LAST JACKSON KOTKAMP
Jenna Adams Olutobi Adeyeri Logan Albritton Rhys Berk Turner Beshears Alexandra Bilanovsky Anna B. Brantley Sara Butler Katherine Campbell Bradley Carnes Lenia Charitonos Mercy Crapps Peyton Crumpler Ryan Daunt Victoria Deutsch Andres Estrada Michael Gier
Teresa Morgado Katherine Gorkov Kanene Nwokeji Chloe Harbin Diya Patel Abby Hugill Shelby Pautsch Clayton Knox Tanisha Petit Samantha Koegler Paloma Rambana Jackson Kottkamp Anne Mason Roberts Kate Krizner Lula Robertson Sophia Krizner Evelyn Romano Efrem Rosenberg Kat Large Jasmin Small Madeline Lillie Megan Vegas Coleman Mackie Michelle Veneros Mallory McCaffrey Heaven Ward Isabel McDaniel Lucy Whitehead Eli Mears Geena Whitin Maddy Meeker Dillon Williams