Spring 2021 Issue

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Northwest Passage Spring 2021

Letter From The Editor T

hroughout this year I hope everyone has enjoyed the Northwest Passage. As I close out my time on the Northwest Passage, I also close out my time at Western Oregon University. It’s been a wonderful four years, and I’m glad I could spend a year as the Editor-in-Chief of this fine publication. Contributing to this magazine’s rich history was a wonderful opportunity. I want to thank everyone who helped me put these issues together. Each and every student who submitted their art and written work deserves a big shout out. Without you this magazine would not be possible. I also want to thank my Editorial Board. Without you fantastic people this magazine would not exist either. Your hard work each term made this possible, and I could not have done it without you. Thank you to everyone who made this magazine possible. It’s been fun working with you all. –Sam Marshall Editor-in-Chief

Table of Contents

Content Advisory: Some work featured in this magazine might make some readers uncomfortable. Reader Discretion Advised.

Colle Abstract––Darrian Rodriguez–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––Cover Lake Beauty #1––David Tomasiewicz––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––4 Goldfish––Cheyan Swan––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––5 The Color of Chanterelles––Miykayah Risseeuw––––––––––––––––––––––6-7 Stranger in the Skylight––Cynda Neidenbach––––––––––––––––––––––––––8 Memories Out of Time––David Tomasiewicz–––––––––––––––––––––––––––9 Decay––Cheyan Swan–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––10 Slush Underfoot––Cheyan Swan––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––11


Submission Guidelines

f you want to be part of next term’s issue of the Northwest Passage, consider submitting your original work! 1. Acceptable submissions include: short stories (1,500 words max), fiction and nonfiction (1,500 words max), creative essays, poetry, scripts and screenplays, art of any medium, photography, spoken-word, music compositions, and recordings. 2. Creators have the opportunity to submit a maximum of 10 works of any medium, but only three to five may be included in the issue depending on space. Please submit art and photography in jpeg format, and written works as a word document. 3. Submissions should include a title and be submitted without a name attached. We view all work without attachment to the name of the artist to reduce bias. 4. All work should be final drafts. Please do not submit work with significant grammatical errors, unless it is for artistic purposes. 5. Creators may remain anonymous. Please let us know in your submission email if you would like to remain anonymous. 6. Art must be submitted in a digital format.

Please email all submissions to the northwestpassage@wou.edu


MotoDrop #3––David Tomasiewicz––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––12 FV4005 in Warm Colors––David Tomasiewicz––––––––––––––––––––––––12 Netarts Bay #1––David Tomasiewicz–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––13 Home in Chroma Key––Sarah Westlund––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––14 Hilo––Alexander O’Brien–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––14 Creative Bubble––Darrian Rodriguez–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––15 Flying High––Darrian Rodriguez––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––16 Colle Wave––Darrian Rodriguez–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––17 Whitewashed––Sarah Westlund–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––18 Only the Dead––Sarah Westlund––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––19


Lake Beauty #1 David Tomasiewicz



Cheyan Swan

o one ever said I’d be alone when it happened. Because the first time, I wanted to drown, and there were people in the pool. And I almost tipped off the rail on a hotel’s eleventh floor. One guest could watch the splat. And in my car, I nearly veered into a truck— what a grand fanfare of sirens. But then it hit in a dorm room, and I knew they wouldn’t find me until my rot filled the hall, so I told my friends in Dairy Queen that the bad stuff was back. They said they’d take me to the doctor’s, yet I ended up the only guest in the lobby. I cried because they can’t keep their promises, or because that nurse was so gentle, or just because I couldn’t look the doctor in the eye. Still, I told him it feels like I swallowed a goldfish, and I’m not sure if I should puke or let it die.

self-harm all the same. I didn’t get a miracle from seeking help, still lay in bed until three p.m., listening to hail and feeling my skin leak into the sheets. But I figure out my own remedies, because nobody shows you how plugging your ears under the shower makes rainfall sound distant, how chewing on crushed ice helps the itch in your veins go away. And I can tell you now, trust me, from minutes that felt like years of coughing up goldfish, that when you wanna die, for real this time, there’s someone waiting for you across the dial tone.

And after two years on good drugs, I only dream about faces, and I wake up wondering how much longer my dog has got left. The chemicals numb my panic but I still can’t see clearly when I’m pissed. I eat food that takes a bite out of me, because I don’t really wanna live to thirty. And yeah, I started picking at my skin the same time I stopped cutting. But the doctor never told me it’s



The Color of Chanterelles


Miykayah Risseeuw

here is something special about Oregon in autumn. The valley is fantastical and ethereal this time of year; we are gifted fruitful harvests and awe-inspiring sights. The sun and rain take turns blessing us equally; while the trees change colors as they drip in nature’s jewels. Shades of orange, pinks, and reds stain the sky and clouds. Many traditions surround autumn: festivals, hazelnut harvesting, apple picking, winemaking, and foraging. But, the most celebrated tradition in my family is hunting for the prized chanterelles. Mushroom hunting is something I was a part of before I entered kindergarten. I grew with the ferns who hugged the trees along their mossy bases, I tasted fresh rain before I tasted soda, I wore mud before I wore makeup, nature became an important participant in my life. Nature brought my family together during this time. We were seventeen in total. We consisted of my three aunts, two uncles, my mom and stepdad, my two younger siblings, my five cousins, my Nana and Papa, and myself. We meet up at the spot no one shared with non-locals; it was dangerous to, you see. Locals know the mountain. They know how to properly harvest the fruit she bears. Locals don’t take advantage of her due to ignorance. She was a shared secret. We drove up the mountain twisting with her narrow curves and shaded by the trees. The car window fogged up from my breath as I pressed my forehead against the chilled glass. I watched how the river cut through her earth with ferocious speed; how it smoothed the rocks. Oh, how I wanted to roll down my window and listen to her rapids. I cranked my neck to try and see that river until I could see it no more. My brother’s boney knees, too scrunched up against his torso, jabbed my side as my body twisted; begging to see the river one last time. The road had turned just narrow enough for one car; grass and twigs covered the road; barely used. We had arrived. It was a decent-sized spot with a fire pit used by the few locals who know this place. We all did our part unloading and setting up our shortterm base. The little ones ran around with the


dogs, my siblings and cousins explored the area, Nana set out tea and water, the uncles helped with the tables and canopy, my aunts and mother walked off to smoke, and I just: breathed. There was something special about the air in autumn. It was crisp, fresh, wet with the remnants of rain. I quenched my thirst just by breathing. How wondrous– the sound of clicking broke my breath. Looking over, I saw my Papa checking his revolver. When he seemed content he put it back in his worn, leather, holster on his jeans. Papa was a man one would see and immediately be labeled jolly. Being only five foot ten, he wore a small beanie covering his bald top, hair stuck out the sides, glasses wet from the water droplets the trees kissed him with, his large belly was moving with his laughter, all accompanied by his gentle words and smile. He was a very cute man. Papa looked as if he couldn’t hurt a roly-poly. The gun was for two things: cougars or bears and to send a signal if lost. After I kissed him, I decided to walk to the edge of the base and stare down the steep hill. The trees stood sparse, ferns planted in moss covered some of the ground, mud and marshes made up the rest. I looked up at the oak trees acting as a canopy. Water drops from the morning rain dropped onto my glasses and cheeks. A voice cut my breath and called me back to decide groups. My aunt, little cousin, and I started down the forest’s hillside after finding walking sticks. The ferns kissed my calves, hanging moss tickled my nose, water droplets snuck their way down my shirt. Nothing is more romantic than being kissed by dewdrops on an autumn leaf. My cousin slipped her small hand in mine to help me across a small marsh. She was only ten, and yet she knew how to walk the land as we did. I looked back and found my aunt fighting off spiders with her walking stick. Exchanging looks, my cousin and I laughed and went to help her. It isn’t soon after that we found our first bunch of those orange candies the forest gifts us. Chanterelle mushrooms are golden in color and are about the size of a fist. The smooth cap edges wave and taper down to the stem; underneath,

The Color of Chanterelles cont. Miykayah Risseeuw

shallow and wide gills decorate the delicate mushroom. They smell of apricots or peaches. I showed my cousin how to cut the mushroom so it grows back next year and gently placed it in our bucket. After twenty minutes of not finding anymore, we decided to go back up the hill to another spot past our base. The trees were closer together, moss covered fallen logs like a thick blanket, the mud turned to clovers, and it was trickier to move with the flora. We had just gone uphill instead of downhill and the forest had completely changed. It was dense and full of flora hundreds of years old. It didn’t take long to fill our bucket. The chanterelles liked this area better; maybe the more cluttered and moist forest floor satisfied the mushrooms more. Chanterelles liked damp and shaded areas. We found them next to rotting stumps, under a pile of natural mulch, and hiding in ferns. It was an extreme game of hide and seek with the forest. The intense hiking, squatting, and climbing caused us to shed off our coats and flannels. Tying the outer clothing around our waists, we continued. The forest surprised us with the gift of a deer skull. It was clean. It was beautiful. Into the bucket the skull went. We three took a break by a stump to wipe the sweat off our faces. Oh, how the chilled air cooled my flushed cheeks. Hair that wasn’t tied up stuck to our necks and faces, my glasses slipped down my nose, and our shirts stuck to our backs. The temperature was by no means hot. Clouds covered the sun all day; it was cold enough for thick beanies and flannels. The forest had just worked us hard. We welcomed it wholeheartedly. Deciding we had enough mushrooms, we made our way back down to the base. We found Papa sitting in a camping chair playing the guitar, Nana prepping lunch, and the dogs laying by the newly made fire. After we set our bucket of treasures down we three joined them. The others arrived shortly after–– just in time to make some fish tacos and coffee. We paid the forest in laughter and gentle guitar music. Papa’s fingers were calloused from fifty years of guitar playing. His

music was comforting, nostalgic. He melted into the music, and the music melted into the forest. The trees danced to his strumming. I breathed. Oh, how I felt like a tree covered in dew. How lovely the joy expressed by the trees felt. How fresh the douglas fir smelled. How content I was in that moment. We started packing up our base; my aunts and mom helped my Nana put away leftovers, the uncles put away the canopy and tables, my siblings killed the fire, the cousins watched the dogs, and I helped my Papa with the chairs. After we loaded up, I took a moment and looked at the deer skull. I carefully walked across the road and faced the steep hill. I set the skull down, nestled against moss, and tucked in by ferns and clovers, they were where they belonged. I locked eyes with my cousin when I turned around; I gave her a soft smile and walked back over to help finish packing up. We drove back down the mountain slowly as if we didn’t want to leave. She was addicting; nature. I dreaded seeing the buildings as we made it back into town, and so I lowered my eyes to my, now dry, mud-covered boots. I fiddled with my fingers trying to imprint the feeling of the mountain. She called me; looking back once more, the forest decided to give us one more gift. My breath was gone. She had taken it. I pressed my face against the window once more in reverence. The sky was the color of chanterelles.


Stranger in the Skylight Cynda Neidenbach

Memories Out of Time David Tomasiewicz

(This poem is dedicated to the lady who told on me to the librarian because she needed the school computer I was using, and she didn’t consider me typing this poem to be “school-related.” It’s school-related now! You’re welcome.)


nly just this morning, waiting for my shower to grow hot, I stood there texting, without a second thought when across the room a shadow did seep. Framed against a sky of blue, You saw me, and I saw you. I always assumed peeping toms were creeps —not roof inspectors. You must have seen quite the sight, my stranger in the skylight, my guy in the sky . . . dude who saw me in the nude. I am not prone to railing and wailing; plus, it could’ve been worse. Though maybe I should’ve insisted on dinner first . . . Be that as it may, you went on your merry way, and I to my shower for late had grown the morning hour. I will think of thee when next I look to that great height. Remember the naked truth, stripped bare, remember the moment that we shared, and that I didn’t know you were there, my blatant roof inspector, my stranger in the skylight. May you stay professional and aloof. May you find nothing lacking with our . . . roof.




Cheyan Swan


he grave coaxes, a velvet bed I’ve yearned for since my twelfth year. I’ve sought it in alcohol & revolution, on dark highways & thrill rides. At fourteen, I almost stepped off a mountain’s cliffside. When I’m only bones in a box, a memory on a yellowed page, I want to be grateful for loving, for holding convictions. I don’t want to pursue a coveted purpose, but a meaning found in dim nooks—spring leaves on fingertips, cheeks stiff with ocean spray, & the scent of pavement after rain. I’ve built sandcastles & snow forts, made worlds from paper & plastic. I dissected this flesh & saw gleaming, vibrant red—my heart kept beating. My brother cut his foot on glass while our parents were absent. Blood streaked across his skin, body shaking, sobs jarring. I moved steady & sure, bandaging him back together. Nothing was scarier than hearing him cry. I sat on a stained theatre chair, felt the fleeting touch of many women. None were more gentle & caring than the girl who held me on a coarse sofa, the evening’s hours slipping past its cushions. I once faced a sliding door, sitting beside my late rabbit & watching a Florida thunderstorm. Lawns flooded, walls tremored, & the sky wept. She tucked her nose under my palm, her fur soft, her breath warm. My life has never been a grand picture. Just snippets, highlights, colored samples of broken glass. It’s a slow novel, incoherent, filled with characters that enter and pass. Each decaying page spells out distance, airplanes, bookstores, glowing screens, shattered silence, a garden in the late morning & fog at my calves. Each sentence knows love & every form it takes.


Slush Underfoot


Cheyan Swan

e live in a mountain basin—high desert and murky lakes. The sun stings and prickles; summer burns our forests and young skin. Crisp leaves and dry branches snap off and crackle underfoot. Frogs croak as we ride bikes through suburbs, cheeks cooled from chilled dusk breezes. Mosquitos buzz, circle, pop under a single smack.

Winter is a new world—the trees are still bones on the horizon, fingers pointed to the moon, a quiver in their branches under every short, icy gust. Roads frozen over, every other driveway shoveled clear, sky white and empty. We stomp through eight inches of snow toward school, suck on icicles during recess, stuff clumped powder down hoodies. At home, kids peek outside, zip puffed suits up to our chins and hobble to front yards. We pack down piles of shoveled snow with cracked plastic sleds, flattening paths through the neighborhood— our own intricate highway. We dig tunnels in our stiff mountains, big enough to fit two small bodies huddled under thick coats. The wasteland grows dotted with round men, slanted pebble smiles, thin twigs sticking out for arms. The carrots never stay when we try to shove them in as noses. We lay back and stare at the gray void, then stretch, shift, creating wonky angels with mismatched wings. Little siblings shiver inside as the sky darkens to a deep navy. Our skin is numb, and there is hot chocolate waiting for us in the house. But we finish our forts, mold the snow tight, firm, down with brilliant red hands, can’t feel the sting when we break and shovel off thin layers of ice with our fingers. Yet, even this season passes. The thaw comes in March, and every year, I think there is less for spring to melt. I get bigger, and I stare longer at the ether, the air heating, stars disappearing, until one winter, our silent skies offer not a single silver flake.


Moto Drop #3

David Tomasiewicz

Netarts Bay #1 David Tomasiewicz

FV4005 in Warm Colors David Tomasiewicz



Home in Chroma Key Sarah Westlund

Creative Bubble Darrian Rodriguez


Alexander O’Brien shaking sandy hair out its knotted bun I reach for a lighter I smell sweet, for someone who bathes in the ocean & dries off on a rock and walks through town with empty pockets empty stomach but a pouch full of dry leaves used to pass time while standing on a highway thumbing for a ride, or walking in the street looking for food, or sitting on a park bench nowhere to go with all the time to get there



Flying High

Darrian Rodriguez


Colle Wave

Darrian Rodriguez


Whitewashed Sarah Westlund


Only the Dead Sarah Westlund