EVERYTHING I COULDNâ€™T SAY P & P GUMBO OETRY
NYWC PRESS Edited by APOGEE JOURNAL
EVERYTHING I COULDNâ€™T SAY: POETRY & PROSE FROM GUMBO AT BENJAMIN BANNEKER ACADEMY
NY WRITERS COALITION PRESS SPRING 2015 3
Copyright © 2015 NY Writers Coalition, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-9964012-0-3 Library of Congress Control Number: 2015941394 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Upon publication, copyright to individual works returns to the authors. Editor: Cecca Ochoa, Morgan Parker, Chris Prioleau, Layout: Rose Gorman, Anna Pettus Title: Ornella Dacius, Marie Damus, Nia Tipton Cover & Interior Images: Arina Nath, Carissa Normil Everything I Couldn’t Say: Poetry & Prose from GUMBO contains writing by members of NY Writers Coalition’s and Apogee Journal’s creative writing and skill-building workshops for teens at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Benjamin Banneker Academy’s GUMBO Writing Group is made possible by the Cultural After School Adventures Initiative (CASA), supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Learn more about Apogee Journal at www.apogeejournal.org. NY Writers Coalition Press, Inc. 80 Hanson Place, Suite 604 Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 398-2883 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nywriterscoalition.org
CONTENTS Introduction Chris Prioleau
ORIGINAL WRITING & ART My Generation Mani M.
Where I Dwell Carrissa Normil
And Yet Another Mother Cries Najaya Royal
Truth Shamar Niang
Precautions Nia Tipton
Scar Ornella Dacius
Beautiful Things Atira Barber-Ellis
I Am Mani M.
For Oneâ€™s Country Likita Griffith
Objective for Warfare Likita Griffith
Dawn Carrissa Normil
A Love Unwanted Ornella Dacius
Trouble Nia Tipton
Saturdays Carrissa Normil
Queen of Hearts Mani M.
Sonder Atira Barber-Ellis
Taken Carrissa Normil
Newspaper Story Jeneice Marshall
Beauty Behold Denari Purdy
Fairytales Nia Tipton
Love Sonnet Mani M.
Untitled Marie Damus
Recipe for Restoration Likita Griffith
Behind a Smile Dene Morgan
Ode to Coconut Oil Ornella Dacius
Moving Benga Thompson
Genuine Happiness Marie Damus
Marissa Ornella Dacius
Corridors to Corners to Crevices Likita Griffith
Starry Night Dene Morgan
Resolutions Nia Tipton
Ruined Dene Morgan
Art Arina Nath
Alcohol Ornella Dacius
Caught Up Shamar Niang
My Only Apology Marie Damus
Shipwrecked Atira Barber-Ellis
Battle Of The Body Niazyea-Arianna
Faces Carissa Normil
ABOUT APOGEE JOURNAL
ABOUT NY WRITERS COALITION
INTRODUCTION Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, students at Benjamin Banneker Academy have met twice a week to write and share poems and short stories. The following is a collection of work by those students and some of their fellow classmates at BBA. Having worked with these young people since late last year, I think what they’ve put together is an achievement for many reasons. The most obvious is the quality of work. It shows a depth of talent, imagination, and feeling that’s rare in human beings period, much less humans so young. It’s also an achievement in terms of their work rate. They did it. These ladies showed up every week and did it, from scratch. They developed an idea for a journal, named it, figured out how they were gonna run it, and then they ran it. Never mind the bumps in the road and adjustments that had to be made. Never mind that at the same time they’ve had to deal with high school, and all the scholastic, parental, social, and hormonal obligations that come from those two words. The amount of follow through that these young people, especially the core group of them, have shown is an inspiration to me. I wish I had half their work ethic. Really. Keep doing that. Another reason what you’re holding in your hands is an achievement is the bravery it takes to do something like this. It can be a frightening feeling to be simultaneously artistic and young. In some sense it’s a burden. You’re burdened with a different way of viewing the world; you’re burdened with the sensitivity that comes along with being able to recognize great beauty; you’re burdened with the strange and sometimes overwhelming artistic desire to capture that beauty, to add to it, to make it yours. The combination of these things can often mean that you’re burdened with a loneliness, a feeling that you’re the only fish in the fry. That’s why spaces like the GUMBO Writing Group are such a blessing: spaces where we can get 11
together, where we can share and understand one another. It takes a lot of opening up and letting go to allow that to happen. You have to let go of parts of your own ego, your desire to be right, your desire to be the best writer there is. You have to let go and give in to the idea that we can do this together. Itâ€™s something that takes a long time to learn and something that many people will never learn. To witness these students begin that process: to start to let go, open their eyes, and listen, as many of them have over these few months is a blessing that Iâ€™ll take with me for a long time. I think that we decided on the name GUMBO (Great United Minds Believing in Ourselves) partially because it encapsulates just that feeling. It represents people of talent coming together and making something greater than their individual parts. I hope you enjoy reading this and much as we enjoyed writing it. In love and art,
CHRIS PRIOLEAU FOR APOGEE JOURNAL & NY WRITERS COALITION
MY GENERATION Mani M.
For all my gents and fellow ladies I’ve got something to say, not to the 80s babies I’m talking to the late and great, products of ‘98 No time for fun and games, I’m coming to you straight Blinded by the high and mighty society All our personal flaws we don’t seem to see I’m no better than you, you’re no better than me And at 15 and 16 there’s much more to achieve Our mind frames set on money and technology Trying so hard, but failing to succeed A generation of successful failures Yet no one thinks it’s anything major Our tailored behavior is all too familiar Much like the tiring aspirations of “future ball players” We need to do better, add a new flavor And eliminate the tendency to be around-the-clock haters Our predecessors should be proud of us Our successors should look up to us But instead, all we get are glares of disgust Time to regain our trust To get on up and brush off the dust We are the Millennials, Generation Y It’s time to kiss our bad habits goodbye.
WHERE I DWELL Carrissa Normil
The borderline of two worlds is where I dwell. Neither dead nor alive, but always watching. My vision is stained with the dark reality of the world I last traveled, bitter and cynical. My eyes long to be cleansed by the beauty of a world beyond my frontier. My mind knows no luxury. The borderline of two worlds is where I dwell. I look through a glass as purity, love, and joy, pass me by oblivious to my existence. Of course. These worlds are separate. The borderline of two worlds is where I dwell. Behind me I see fire, melting days and nights into one another. Neither having a purpose. Before me the sun rises and falls. The reason changes every time. The world I don’t know is vast and mysterious. The one I know all too well is small and oh so sure. I often wonder how such extremes can exist so closely. If the sky and earth were to meet, what would we make of it? But these worlds will forever be apart. Seeds can’t grow from nothing. Ashes don’t fall where there are no flames. The borderline of two worlds is where I dwell, and the one I choose is the one willing to take me.
AND YET ANOTHER MOTHER CRIES Najaya Royal
And yet another mother cries while another victim dies Blood seeping into the concrete Leaving a camera-ready scene With pain in HD What happens to a soul taken too soon? Does it wander searching for answers? Or try to dry the tears of those left behind? Silently screaming “I’m right here.” Mama always told me these bullets were nameless Can lie within your palm while another pierces through you Claiming your life and your name Mike, Trayvon, Kimani, Sean And yet another mother cries Another rally arises We are told to keep the peace But what is peace when you’d rather see us in pieces? As warriors we march Long after the rubber of our shoes wears down When our words, chanted with passion, vanish into thin air But even if it’s our last breath Let our message blare through the streets Ones where justice goes off duty And fill the void between losing hope and finding a reason to still believe
Our movement is like poetry Flowing through generations It’s the type that makes you turn to your neighbor and converse without words Has you feel like this is your story But then you backtrack to your reality and vow that this is not your battle And while you contemplate on how close this hits home “Breaking News” flashes on your TV screen A reporter stands only feet from a scene that’s all too familiar Saying a name that is, too And now yet another mother cries
TRUTH Shamar Niang
Today I’m here to speak the truth About the truth With the eyes that see 20/20 And have seen the situation 360 We live in a world that’s 10/90 Instead of 50/50 Instead of black prosperity They terrorize Until we no longer see a prize Until we no longer want to rise Instead we fry fries, swat flies Sit around and waste time As time flies, Spirits die And they oppress and oppress Until there’s nothing left Hold on cop There’s been a theft We’ve been robbed of a chance A chance to make the dream work like MLK said, maybe even teamwork We have been robbed and yet We requested no police report No retort Because too many believe if we fight
They’ll have no support Defense shouldn’t be a last resort United we stand Divided we fall We have fallen We have our own questioning resistance Racism has been laced in While black has been traced in As if it should be erased As if blacks shouldn’t have a good face As if its supposed to symbolize the bad that’ll never last The meer and utter truth is, we’ve been looking at the world with no glasses We’re forgotten, they’ve divided us into classes We hold the race of greater masses They still find a way to harass From systems they are able to pass Once again the truth is The world we live in Is no better than it was when we first came Because even though there are laws to say we are free In fine print to them, we will always be Just a slave.
PRECAUTIONS Nia Tipton
When you’re young people warn you of the dangers in the world, they tell you to buckle up in your seat, to look both ways before crossing a street. They tell you not to run with scissors, and to always have your shoes tied. The touching of hot appliances is forbidden; you shouldn’t drink and smoke when you’re underage. Do not commit crimes of any kind, and always do your homework or there will be consequences. Do not lie, steal, or cheat your way through life. There are so many rules to guide you through your existence. But one thing they don’t warn you about is love. Heart aching, gut-wrenching, teargushing love. Falling in love is just that, falling. You feel as if you have been pushed off a cliff and can’t help yourself. Your heart races, your pulse rises. You can’t do anything to stop it. Really that should all be a good thing. Finding someone who will accept you for you, flaws and all. Finding someone like that is just a myth to some people. No one, really, should love you for all that you are. It’s impossible. After all, we’re just humans, walking around and looking for some form of belonging. But somehow, magically, and against all odds, I found my special someone. She was beautiful, crazy beautiful. But she had so many flaws. I looked past them all because I could see her for who she truly was. And she was mine. All mine. We fell in love so suddenly that neither of us knew what to do exactly. It caught us by surprise.
It was okay though because we had each other. I was hers to have and she was mine to hold. Until we weren’t anymore. Just as soon as we found each other, we lost one another. And that feeling, losing her forever, was the worst feeling. She was my everything, and I’d do anything just to hold her one more night in my arms. To listen to her hum off-key to some oldies song on the radio, to eat her badly burnt pancakes with whipped cream, to smell her apple scented hair in the wind when she’d walk next to me. To feel the palm of her hand begin to sweat during a scary movie, see her confused and frustrated face when she got stuck on a chemistry problem. To listen to the beat of her heart when she’d fall asleep on my chest. She was taken away too soon, far too soon from me.
SCAR Ornella Dacius
I wear it like a golden necklace The scar I live with it In the same house, in the same bed It’s the master and I’m the prisoner It’s the judge and I’m the convict Nobody will love me because IT does The mirror laughs at me Sometimes soft inaudible giggles, sometimes loud snorting When I look at IT, it talks, it hurts me The scar I wear it with other accessories, Too shiny to shame, too lovely to regret Who would I be if IT had not ruined me The Scar A child, born of my actions But IT will never belong to me
BEAUTIFUL THINGS Atira Barber-Ellis
We are so small. I am small. You however, are as large as mountains. Patches of rough Earth along your smooth surface. Green is a color I’ve never truly seen, not until I watched from above you, on your side of the bed, but hey, they say the grass is greener on the other side. The side of me when I’m with you at the start of the night. We can only see one side of the moon but “Don’t worry,” you said, “because someone has to be on the other side”. The side that only you let me see. The one where your tears fill up the ocean a shade of cerulean blue like your favorite dress. The one where your eyes outshine the trillions of stars in the sky. Where brown tendrils spill from your head to my hands and they feel like the finest of silks and your voice out sings the birds in the morning. Where you’re screaming red and then soothing blues. Where you let me be the explorer and you the
map and the cracks in the sidewalk, can’t compare to the ridges along your back. Straight down, to the left, back down, over the bumpy curves of your spine, through the U-turn of your hips, back home towards the ski-slope curve by your neck and finally finding the sweet sunset touch of your lips. Sunsets we’ve painted ourselves. You were red and I was blue, but purple really just wasn’t for you, so you decided on lilac and I was purple while the rest of the world was covered in blue. And I cried you a river so crystal clear you could probably taste the chemicals burning my bloodstream. The moon doesn’t seem so bright anymore and there are stars in the sky that wink and whisper at me in the night but they aren’t anything like your eyes and there are people on the other side and again, I am small. I am so so small. And I am alone. This universe is beautiful. Damn, this place is so big and beautiful but God I wish I could’ve learned that without having to lose you.
I AM Mani M.
I am a cool summer breeze Blowing away the troubles of today And the borrowed whispers of tomorrow I am a koi pond Tranquil trouble free and still Overflowing with every and anything but misery I am karma Going around and coming back around Eternally haunting the dreams and realities Of this contaminated society Wanting desperately to be set free, to be that lucky escapee But being trapped, attacked, by my day one--destiny I am Aphrodite Goddess of love, and of beauty Attributing both since the circling infinity But not really infinitely It begins and it ends But I doubt that thereâ€™s an end for me I am red, I am blue, I am a bright golden hue A bright meadow, a rainbow A rippled reflection, a spectrum Fully painting every speck of white, yes Even the stars that light the blackened night Breaking the dreary sky and making it come alive I am a blank panther, a sensual dancer
A she-wolf fully engulfed by the moon Watching from a distance, seemingly omniscient Only till taken for a joke, provoked by a fool Then Iâ€™m on the prowl, hear my violent growl Hope your fun was worth your while I am lovely spring, I am sun rays that sing I am the rainy day that makes the sky gray Replenishing the world to see a better day Bringing life to the roses, covering them with dew Filling the black and white world, making everything bloom I am a dense tree root, growing delicate lychee fruit Its sweet juices give you eternal youth Eternal beauty, eternal truth A truth serum that makes you fearsome, now spill the truth The body tells the lies, that are exposed by the eyes Embodying the sincerest of gentle butterflies I am the flute, the harp, the lute, the drums My beat reverberating on like echoing hums Thrumming loudly but only soundly in the slums It plays indefinitely, paradoxical it becomes I am the sun, I am the moon I am the stars that swirl galactic whirlpools I am outer space, I am earthâ€™s core Haphazardly limited but begging to be more I am Zeus. No I am Athena Glorifying me for my mystifying demeanor I am your ruler, you lunar empress I am that dream that makes you restless I am an ocean, I am a tree I am you, I am me I am everything that lives and breathes To put it simply, I am.
FOR ONE’S COUNTRY Likita Griffith
October 17, 1942 Weariness strikes the soldier who conforms to the principles ordained. Threatened with hankerings of fleshly desires, he is at a battle internally. This is the year that tries the souls of soldiers…rather men. Insane of it all, we must win the war or lose everything. The last attacks came as prepared for. Into the fearful fateful night, marched many on the side pronounced righteous, our side. The force of the enemy was not underestimated, however we…we stand overly hubristic which has proven as an ultimate downfall. Many marched on our side, all flouncing with determination. However retreated did we when all was done, no longer marching. In retreat we trudged, and not with the many. In war, one is born again for it is not morally and universally possible to be conceived with the tolerance for such grievances, apathy and bloodlust. A soldier unconsciously becomes dismantled. His mind discombobulated, and reason for victory discredited. If he is kept oblivious, he won’t question his own actions. If conscious, he is weakened. He
thinks against the proposed ideals, and this is acknowledged as danger to the comrade and combat. All physical and mental reminders of his life outside the war are metaphorically scorched to stave off these distractions. What we are fighting for does not truly hold any weight. Whatever it is we are fighting for has not once shown an ounce of hope in achievement rather shows that thousands can die conditioned to believe that this something exists. The soldier is forced to think between the good being done, or is there any good placed upon him. Are his barbaric actions justified? Will he be graced by sweet victory and if not, will the consolation bring contentment? It is dangerous when the soldier becomes cognizant and rather conscious of his environment. He is reassured of his being here, this war zone, deathâ€™s own valley. Reassurance in methods I cringe at just contemplating to place in this letter. I stumbled upon this the other day in thought. Indeed the soldier grows weak and I begun to figure out why ignorance is strength â€” freedom. Signed, Sal Clemens
OBJECTIVE FOR WARFARE Likita Griffith
November 13, 1945 About a score and some years ago I was a child in a home that provided enough for survival. This was not my sob story because we were trained with a genuine childhood. What I see today goes to show how the world has honestly changed entirely for the good of few who desire to remain in power. What this society is built upon, is status. One must have more prestige and importance than others. This is not to be confused with merit, which in a sense is how our society is governed is some aspects-meritocracy. Advances are ideally supposed to provide an individualâ€™s reward. This encompasses our hierarchical mindset which the top dog position must be protected and coveted in order to be maintained. Innocent folk back home are cognizant of this, really they are, however, they are heavily conditioned enough to believe that their society cannot function without a top and bottom. In this type of society, families and individuals aspire to a lifestyle and social standing where they think they have more affluence and personal freedom-even if it means facing ultimate sacrifice. We are fighting against a controversial issue. Are we for an increase in wealth or against? War means nothing more than falsifying its ideas. There are still many who are kept hungry and fearful. Those of power ensure that whatever products are made available must never reach and supply these people for it would provide nothing more than comfort and pleasure. Those pusillanimous bastards! Worried that even a mother will be empowered thus propose as a threat with the
gift of abundant sweets. And then, that damned defense which goes forth with conditioning justifies this. The idea that we are merely capitalists, goods must still be produced. The only way to keep it all entirely out of neither the reach of people nor those who have sense enough to disclose this propaganda, is to keep an ongoing war. Wealth provides no distinction from what we have thatâ€™s a threat as of now. We would all become educated enough to think for ourselves. Once we all grow conscious enough to figure out that really we were all stupefied in order to be blinded by the fact that there was no power at all and just means to have others maintain their luxuries, there would be more uproar and terror. The only way to continue this system is through warfare. It is dangerous that I confess my knowledge, but it becomes evident coincidentally to those over seas- where one with knowledge is bound to face death from retribution of the opposing side. I wish not to face this fate. I no longer want to become part of a war torn society destined to have itâ€™s plan only attack those unknowledgeable however spare the powers at hand. This is my note after death, and whether one has found it they shall no longer be ignorant of the cause, and hopefully they will find a solution rather than a way out as I will in the coming battle which granted, will be my freedom. Signed, Elliott Scollin
DAWN Carrissa Normil
She slid to her knees and pressed her face against the cold iron gate. It was the only thing between herself and safety. Dawn almost believed she could squeeze between the bars or pass through the metal entirely. It wasn’t a crazy thought. After all she’d survived that night, gaining the powers of a superhuman would be nothing in comparison. After her run and the loss of blood it was impossible to catch enough breath to call for help. All she could manage was a whisper and even that hurt. As she waited for someone, something, she started to believe the building in front of her was nothing but an illusion. Oasis: Haven for Troubled Youth. Or a terribly cruel joke. A blurred image appeared. Then there was a squeaking that Dawn assumed came from the gate being unhatched. The metal swung inward and she toppled into someone’s arms. Now Dawn had to assume this person wasn’t going to hurt her, just like someone would assume the guy delivering the mail wouldn’t try to slit their throat. Assume because there was nothing else you could do. Dawn couldn’t even tell the person who was supposedly helping her that they were pressing on her injured shoulder. “You gotta help me kid.” The person said. It was a female voice. Dawn’s legs burned. She couldn’t tell if they hurt because of the running or because she had injured them as well. Whatever it was, pain was still pain.
But Dawn would try her best to move her legs if it meant this would all be over soon. “We’ll call an ambulance if they can’t help you in the infirmary.” Dawn wanted to shake her head to argue. She didn’t want an ambulance. If she wanted to go to a hospital then she would’ve ran to a hospital. The person helped Dawn past the front lawn and to the doorstep. Dawn heard her rescuer call someone on the phone but it didn’t sound like she was speaking to a dispatcher. Probably someone from inside. They went through the front door and walked into a grand hall. Dawn was placed on a couch. Through her splotchy vision, Dawn saw a strand of blue hair in a mess of blonde, and a blood soaked white shirt. She wanted to apologize to the girl for that. Lights flickered on but things felt dark. Dawn swore she heard shouting but it was all so distant. “I’ve never gone out of my way to save someone’s life before. But I can’t brag about being a hero if you die. So don’t.” she sounded as if she was talking through water but Dawn heard her all the same. The blue strand female was so calm she had to be a teenager, just another messed up teenager. She knew she came to the right place. Dawn felt detached from her body as she was put onto a gurney and pushed further into the house and away from the blue strand girl. “Wouldn’t dream of it.” Dawn whispered.
A LOVE UNWANTED Ornella Dacius
All his life, Elijah Mikaelson had trained himself to ignore his own desires and focus on what was right for his family; for New Orleans, the home he and Klaus had been so vicariously fighting for. Trying to reunite his family was a seemingly hopeless battle that would come to a meaningless end. Sometimes Elijah thought that, maybe Klaus was not redeemable. Maybe the destruction and violence they’d endured had truly destroyed any chance they’d had of becoming civilized. Elijah and his siblings. They were Originals, the first vampires known to the world and the progenitors of every single vampire that existed. They had been turned into predatory monsters by their mother, Esther, one of the most powerful witches known to those who knew of magic. She had used the Immortality Spell to stop her children from dying like the ones she’d lost. Frieda and Henrik. Like any mother, Esther never wanted to lose another child again. However, the Spell morphed into something malevolent, turning Elijah, Finn, Kol, Klaus, and Rebekah, into impossibly strong creatures that depended on the blood of humans for survival. Esther was immediately repulsed by her creations, stricken with horror over what she’d made her children, and since then, for 1,000 years, has been trying to kill them. Elijah thought of poor Klaus, who had already been born a werewolf; he was now made into a vampire-wolf hybrid, and began tearing apart every human in his sight. Esther created another spell to keep his werewolf side dormant, but it only added fuel to the perpetually burning fire of war. Unlike Klaus, who openly voiced the bitter hatred he held for their mother, Elijah spent centuries burying his. Everyone in his family had their vices. Finn did anything Esther commanded him to without second thought. Kol did anything Esther did if it 34
benefited him. Klaus, ruined by the centuries of mistreatment from Michael, was an egomaniacal murder (though Elijah didn’t like to refer to his brother with such terms, it was the truth). Rebekah, his sweet little sister, had been injected with the emotional poisons of the mortal world, having been treated harshly by the circumstances of life (mostly due to Klaus, who seemed to only make life miserable for everyone.) Yet Elijah willed himself to be different. After centuries of watching his family fall apart, consumed by the bloodthirsty inhibitions attributed to their vampirism, he made the decision to be different. There had to be a white rose amongst the garden of red. He did not in any way consider himself better than his siblings, for he too had his demons-more than he’d like to admit, but he’d pushed them into the farthest corner of his mind. He’d fought off his desire to kill, no matter how long it took him. He worked against his nature-the nature to bite, to drink, to leave piles of cold, lifeless bodies, to create others who would do the same... Someone had to stitch the Mikaelson family back together, and he was going to be the needle. He had to be because he knew he had the most self control. He knew he had to be the one to show his brothers and his sister that they were not what Esther made them. Weren’t they? Hope. Hope was all they needed. And it was here. It was quite unconventional but the beginning of a new step for the Mikaelson family started with a werewolf. A werewolf girl who was pregnant with Klaus’s child, the result of a careless drunken mistake, but nevertheless, a sign that maybe his plan at family redemption was going to work. This girl was Hayley Marshall. She was tall, with a slim physique due to her werewolf nature. Her hair was dark brown, and wavy like damp seaweed as it hung around her face. Her features were angular, much to sharp for her, he thought. She had thick, arched eyebrows and big, emerald green eyes that seemed to stretch on and on into infinity when he looked into them. Elijah had seen many women in his 1,000 years of life, but Hayley Marshall was certainly, one of the most beautiful. But that’s all he saw to her. Elijah didn’t really care much for 35
the girl when he’d first been introduced to her. At the time, she was just another werewolf, part of a species of creatures that shared the night as vampires did. However, she was always a little more important than everything else. When Klaus couldn’t care less about her, it’d been his job to protect Hayley from the witches who were trying to kill her child. The part-werewolf, part hybrid, part witch child that would be the union of his family, if not the destruction of it. This child was extremely important because over time, Klaus began to care for it, and Elijah knew that Klaus cared for nothing. Maybe this would motivate him to change for the better. The more time Elijah spent with Hayley, the more he began to strip away the layers of her personality. She was no damsel in distress; she was a strong, independent, intelligent girl who was trying to piece together a past she didn’t know she had. Hayley had never had a family, as she’d been abandoned by her biological parents from birth and left to fight for her own. She’d been adopted by humans, and Elijah could already understand how uncomfortable and inconvenient that situation was. To be a werewolf amongst the sheep. And like Klaus, Hayley had begun to love this unconventional child. It was the only family she had. The more he studied Hayley, the more he focused on unraveling her and understanding her, the more protective he became. Elijah was not one to lie to anyone, much less himself, but this time, he tried to convince himself that what he was feeling was because she was carrying his niece. Was it not normal to love your family, even unborn family? However, there was still something about Hayley that made him feel incomplete. She was a mystery all in herself, though the girl swore she was an open book. Maybe it was her fierceness that he admired. She spoke her mind and didn’t care who heard, even Klaus. Yes, Hayley was not afraid of Klaus, and she complained about how irresponsible and heartless he was, not that Klaus didn’t know. She absolutely despised him, and hated that she was stuck being forever bound to him because of a child. The child was the beginning of several new obstacles that 36
the Mikaelsons were trying to over come. First, a coven of witches were trying to kill the Originals, and upon the discovery of Hayley’s pregnancy, the child. The child all of a sudden became a weakness because it was being used as a war device against them by the witches. They knew what a powerful child she would be, how rare and valuable the blood of a hybrid-wolfwitch was. The witches, led by Genevieve, would not stop hunting the child until it’s innocent blood was staining their blades. Sacrifice. It all came back to their mother, Esther, who, despite having been dead in her grave for 2 years, was still managing to ruin the lives of her children. However, Elijah, Klaus, and Rebekah knew that nothing as silly as death could keep Esther from trying to eliminate them. Elijah would be dead before Esther, or anyone, laid a finger on Hayley. He swore on his life that he would protect her and by the heavens it would be done. If anyone tried to even touch her, Elijah would tear them apart limb from limb, and he didn’t care if he looked like a savage. He would throw away the years of control for her. He’d do anything for her. And it was when he admitted that to himself that Elijah knew. He was in love with the girl. He’d never been in love with anyone else in his entire existence other than Celeste, who had been killed by Klaus in a petty game of savage behavior. That he had forgiven Klaus for (inexplicably so), but would never forget. And now, Hayley, a werewolf girl who just happened to come along, pregnant and boiling with indignation, had caused him to once again become weak. He loved her. It was wrong. It didn’t matter that Klaus didn’t love her, it was because he didn’t deserve her, or her love. Still, the tension between them was undeniable, and he knew Hayley felt the same way. He could hear her heartbeat pounding incredulously fast in her chest, even faster than the normal werewolf heartbeat was supposed to. And all those times Elijah had to literally tear his eyes away from her, or think of something really grotesque, like eating someone, just so he wouldn’t have to think about kissing her. He was going to control himself around her, because she deserved it, and she needed it. Hayley may have been strong, but she was not immune to injury, whether it be physical (though 37
Elijah could barely stand himself for thinking it) or emotional. He refused to be selfish. If he had to give Hayley up for the well being of his family, he would. The idea was unfathomable and quite heinous considering the fact that he could not imagine a world without Hayley Marshall.
AUTHORâ€™S NOTE: All characters belong to the creators of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I own nothing.
TROUBLE Nia Tipton
He came in every night at exactly 10pm. She would always leave her window open for him to slide easily through. He would come in and lie down next to her on her bed and talk about all of his crazy adventures. She would just stay quiet and listen, she never asked for his name, and he never asked for hers. But one day he stopped coming, she left her window open and crawled into her bed but he never showed up. He knew it was stupid to leave, but he thought she deserved better. She deserved someone who didn’t come from a broken home, who didn’t have a broken life. But he didn’t realize that trying to help her just made everything worse. She was broken, and he was the only thing in her life that kept her happy. It was as if they had an unspoken bond, they kept each other sane. He kept the nightmares away, and she kept the demons away. One night he came back, he never told her why he left or that he was sorry. He just continued from where they had left off. It was as if nothing had changed, like that huge time gap with no visits hadn’t happened. But she wasn’t angry, because she loved him. She loved him with every fiber of her being, and she only realized that when he was gone. When she didn’t feel the warmth of his body lying beside hers. Or the way his eyes crinkled when he talked about his siblings. Or the way he would comfort her during a horrible nightmare. They never talked about the burning love they shared because it never needed to be said. He loved the way her hair was always in that messy bun. Or the way she bit her lip when she tried not to smile. Or the way she would lean her head on his chest and play with his fingers. He loved that just seeing her made him smile harder every time. He loved everything about her and she loved everything about him and that’s all they needed. 39
SATURDAYS Carrissa Normil
They were her ear buds. On rainy days he and she would sit at a bus stop bench and listen to the angelic voice of Sharon Den Adel, through them. At first he wasn’t interested in her symphonic metal band. He couldn’t imagine listening to the demonic, eardrum ripping screams of a metal band, for long periods of time like she did. Then while he was listening to a song by Drake he couldn’t even remember now, she slipped one of her pink earbuds in his ear. That was the beginning of their rainy day bus top montage. It was meant for her lips. Tuesdays she wore her bright Mac lip gloss. She’d wear it along with her yellow and orange hoodies. She claimed Tuesdays needed the energizing feel of color because Tuesday wasn’t Friday, when the week was over. Tuesday wasn’t even Wednesday, when the week was half over. Tuesdays needed color. He laid in bed. He was wearing her cocoa butter lip balm, tearing up to “All I Need”, her favorite Within Temptation song. The lip balm was colorless because Saturdays never needed color. He and she would rest in each other’s arms and watch the gray sky through the window on Saturdays. They didn’t need reds, or greens or blues to get them through the day. They had each other. He kept her pink earbuds, her bright MAC lipgloss and her cocoa butter lip balm because she’d left them behind. It was Saturday and he was without her.
QUEEN OF HEARTS Mani M.
Standing behind the joker, waiting on the king Trying to be like the ace, but only the queen Yes, just the queen The queen of hearts to be exact Double sided, reflected like a mirror image Impending the never ending cycle of attack Plucked, dealt, shuffled Barely able to withstand Only being a part of just another hand Just another game Being just another winning factor Or maybe losing factor? Benefiting the dealer The dealer is the master Two of her, one upside down, the other right side up One the silent killer, the other the gracious savior One the real deal, the other but a mirror image Nothing but a reflection, an illusion, a hidden lie A difference that can be noted with close investigation But the closer you look, the less youâ€™ll actually see But do you really see? What you think you may see? Or who do you think the queen may be? She could be the king, the king in disguise Because for all you know, her eyes, could be his eyes And the key to revealing the truth, and exposing the lies Itâ€™s always the eyes, the eyes that penetrate the mask
The mask that hides the truth But the eyes hide nothing, they only hide from the fools From the jokers, no? Yet they’re better than the queen. The queen The lean, mean unstoppable deceiving machine And with her strong eyes, and double sides She can finally Be above the joker, stop waiting on that king Be superior over the ace But she’s only the queen I’m only the queen.
SONDER Atira Barber-Ellis
There she sits, staring off into the distance. It is a crisp Autumn day, leaning more towards Winter and he is wearing gloves with the fingers cut off on his hands. One hand stuck in his black jacket pocket while the other holds onto his cup of Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Starbucks. She demanded he get it saying It’s the reincarnation of a York Peppermint Pattie, her favorite childhood snack. She once told him the story of how every time her mother took her to the store she always demanded at least one patty even though she hated dark chocolate. Sometimes you can make an exception. He looks over at her, studying her side profile as she stares out into the busy city street. Cars and trucks and buses and vans all hustle by. People on phones and random joggers in shorts, even a few pets all passing by and he can only imagine what was going on in her fluffy hat clad head. It was colorful and fun and described her in every way. The fluffy pom-pom on the end always attracted him for some reason. He would attack it in the school halls, like a cat pouncing on a stray ball of yarn. He wasn’t even sure if they really did that. She is leaned over slightly, like always, never sitting completely straight yet poised in such of a way that she isn’t slouching. Just comfortable. Her ankles are crossed and tucked slightly under the bench. Both of her hands are around her very own cup of reincarnated peppermint patties. “Hey Sonder” he calls to her. That was the nickname he gave her. They spent over a month in English-which happened to be one of the two classes they shared- going over vocabulary words in a book he barely understood. When the teacher stood in the front of his desk and read the definition to the word “Sonder” he looked directly at her only to find she was staring off into space, 43
lost in her own world. Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life that is as vivid and complex as your own. That everyone has their own story that you don’t know about, it intrigues the mind and you begin to just picture either what perfect or twisted life a person has. What did they have for breakfast that day? Who did they last text? Did they cry when their first fish died? She sits up a bit and looks at him, flashing him a sweet smile as always. She is always so bright and bubbly while he is gray and nonchalant. “What’re you thinking about?” he asks though he knows exactly what she is doing. Exactly what her name said, realising that everyone around her held a different story. And it seemed like everyday she had this same epiphany when she realized it. She brings her cup, which was probably just lukewarm by now, up to her lips. She takes a long lingering sip and he notices the subtle stain of lipstick that lined the rim of the cup as she pulls it away from her. He doesn’t say anything about it though. He never minds the natural colors that she usually wears. “Just thinking” is all she says looking down at her old white converses as if they too had a story, which they probably do. She just hasn’t told him yet. He gives her one of his winning half smiles, something that’s always intrigued her. Why never a full smile? Did a full out grin contradict with his personality? Was it maybe someone in his family that influenced him to smile like that? He raises the hand holding his cup, gesturing towards a group of three friends, probably around the age of seventeen to eighteen. There are two girls and one boy, one girl with brunette hair walking a bit slower than the other two. “What’s their story?” he asks looking straight at her. She leans back resting her head on his shoulder lightly. A small smile rests on his face, almost undetectable as she tells him what she was thinking. “Do you see the way that girl isn’t walking in line with them? She keeps stealing glances at him because she loves him. But they’ve been friends for years and she doesn’t want to risk ruining it.” He nods slightly at her. “Is she jealous?” She nods, taking a 44
quick sip of her drink. “Most definitely. That’s why she lets the others walk a bit ahead. Because she’s too scared to try to break it up, because he may love the other girl and not her.” “She won’t know unless she tries, right?” “It’s not as easy as you may think.” She tells him. He shrugs, “Well, why not?” She takes a deep breath letting it out through her mouth. “One of the hardest things in the world is telling someone you love them and them not returning the gesture. I mean just picture it, you’ve been waiting for ages to finally say it and once you muster up that last bit of courage to finally say it, that person just looks at you and doesn’t say anything. It’s heartbreaking! You can’t take back your words after that. What’s done is done and you could have ruined a beautiful friendship.” They were silent again before he spoke again. “The truth really hurts, doesn’t it?” She nods. They stay silent for a moment, just taking occasional sips from their drinks. And they just sit there for a while, watching everyone pass by, he asks her questions because he knows that’s the only way to pull her out of her world. On the outside he is so reserved and dark looking, and she is so bubbly and cheerful. How can two polar opposites possibly connect so well? “What do you think about when you’re all alone?” He loves being able to ask questions like that. Questions so deep that she would only answer if she really trusted someone. And she trusts him. She trusts him enough to tell him the things she hates to tell herself. When she speaks she sounds distant, the way she usually sounds when he manages to sneak past one of her many walls. “Anything. Everything.” “How do you do it?” he asks her, knowing everything she goes through. The way she can’t will herself to cry anymore and the way a sad song somehow brightens her mood. Remembering the times she’s quiet and not the cheerful ray of sunshine everyone sees. 45
Remembering the first time he saw her alone, without any makeup, vulnerable. Alone with just a book and her thoughts. And how easily she let him in. Remembering the first time he thought she was the strongest person he’s ever seen. “I smile.” She tells him. “A smile can hide anything. And people can only see what you are willing to show them.” This is nothing new to him. He’s asked it many times before. And every time she gives him the same answer, because it’s her story and how she manages to turn the next page of her book fascinates him. Because he gets to live that life with her. “I love you.” He tells her knowing exactly what her reaction will be. It was the same every time. “Don’t be stupid” is what she says. “I love you” he repeats himself, ignoring her comment. Because he knows that she prefers to be alone. To only worry about herself and not have others worry for her. Because that’s what people do when they love. They care and they worry and they risk everything for those they love. Quickly and without thinking his head turns and he plants a quick kiss on her temple. Giving her no time to react because as she says she’s “an awkward little shit”. He stands, discarding their long forgotten drinks and pulls her up. She is looking down at the ground, losing herself in her own story as he throws his arm around her shoulder. He says to her “C’mon Sonder. Next page.” She nods, the heat helplessly rising to her face. He smiles satisfied that she didn’t go crazy like she had the first time he kissed her cheek. He’s been going slowly, trying not to fully break the barriers of her little world. He wants her to let him in herself. And right now she’s in her world sitting by the window with him on the other side and together they watch. Him and his Sonder. Living a life of stories together.
TAKEN Carrissa Normil
I bit my lip again. I’d chewed through skin and tasted blood. It had become so much of a routine that I did this every time I felt myself drifting to sleep. In my half conscious state, the pain was the thing reminding me that I couldn’t afford to fall asleep. There was a banging at the door followed by a high pitched cackle that erupted from the hallway. It caused all five of us to shift uncomfortably in our spots on the floor. It even made Marian start crying again. These things also let me know that I couldn’t afford to sleep, none of us could. I let my eyes wander to my fellow captives, who were in no better state than I was. They sat as far apart from each other as possible. Most had their own methods to coping with their exhaustion. Jonah examined his watch for the hundredth time, as if there was a time limit to being trapped in here and when we got to that limit all of this would be over. Our third day of being trapped in the teacher’s lounge without sleep was coming to an end. Cole sat in a corner of the room. He had just dumped a bottle of water onto his face to keep himself awake. It would work for a few minutes but then he’d grow tired again. I say he should’ve kept it, he didn’t how much longer we’d be in there. There was a shriek from outside. The girl’s screams only got higher and more piercing until they stopped completely and we were left in our eerie silence once again. It turned my stomach to know people might’ve been dying out there, but it couldn’t have affected anyone more than Marian. She only stopped crying for short intervals. I knew how much she wanted to find her friend, but we’d already decided that we weren’t opening that door for anyone. And then there was Evan. Out of all of us, I’d rank him second most disturbed by our situation, between Marian and 47
myself. Someone brought a knife into the room and placed it in the center of the floor. I caught him glancing at it occasionally as if it would come to life and do the deed itself. The amount of things we had to fear didn’t stop at the horrors that awaited us outside our door. And because our doomed situation had stolen every last ounce of sanity left in me, I smiled. “I can do this all day.” I even added a bitter chuckle. No one looked at me in surprise. It was too late for surprises. Then Evan spoke. “Maybe I should look up how long people can last without sleep.” he hesitantly reaches into his pocket for his phone. I can tell he doesn’t want to do it. “Don’t.” Jonah said from across the room. “The point is we will fall asleep eventually. It wont help at all.” “Then what will help?” Evan asked. “Are we really just gonna wait to die in here?” he raised his voice above our usual whisper. “They’re going to hear you.” I warned, fearing the ones outside. “So what if they do? Everyone in here has accepted death. Why prolong it?!” his voice grew higher. I wanted to punch him for ignoring me, risking everyone else’s safety and pretending as if this was as easy as just simply accepting it. “What the hell do you want us to do?!” Jonah yelled in response. Their argument didn’t help Marian with her struggle to stay calm. Evan inhaled. “No one is coming for us.” he admitted. We’d called the police and our families several times the first day. We were told to stay calm, to be careful, that it would be over soon. “There could be a safe place outside. We need to get out of the school and save ourselves.” Jonah shook his head. I was doing the same thing internally. “No. You’re insane. You’re stupid. No.” “You’re ridiculous. We can’t just wait out the rest of our lives in here!” “You think we have a chance against-” “Cole.” I breathed, my blood turning icy. His head leaning back against the wall. His eyelids were fallen shut. Asleep. Then his eyelids fluttered like he might still be awake. I didn’t 48
know what to think of it. There was no time to think. Cole’s eyelids jolted open and there was only blackness where the whites of his eyes used to be. Cole, or what used to be Cole, moved quickly. Before a warning had the courage to escape my throat, he was scrambling across the floor and gauging talon-like nails into Jonah’s wrist. His pained scream snapped me out of my stupor. I needed to do something. Cole had Jonah pinned to the floor struggling to avoid the sharpened claws aiming for his throat. I needed to do something. Evan attempted to pry him away from Jonah but the possessed are stronger. Cole was able to keep his hold on Jonah and sent a hand tearing down Evan’s face. The sight of blood sets Marian into another panic. “Harper!” Jonah calls. I jumped to my feet and grabbed a chair from the barricaded door. I feared the moment I decided to turn away would be the moment Jonah loses his fight. I smashed the metal leg into the side of Cole’s face, throwing him to the floor. He got up with ease, all his anger directed at me. He ignored Jonah and leapt toward me. Fear gripped my legs and I fell on something sharp. I held up my forearm against his neck, keeping his jagged teeth from biting into my face. I felt for the thing I landed on; the knife. I grabbed it by its blade at first then found its hilt. I didn’t think about it. I just sent the knife across his throat. Everything in the room went silent. The last thing I saw were his pitch black eyes. They weren’t his. So dark so cold like a never ending abyss. Then suddenly in that darkness, I saw movement. It was a figure, a creature. Something alive. It pranced around in his dead eyes like a reflection. It danced, oblivious to the person observing it. And finally it stopped. Turned around and looked at me. It was something sinister. Someone yelled for everyone to close their eyes. I don’t know by what luck I was able to turn away in time, but I did. I almost forgot. “The eyes are the window to the soul”. It was a sound like knives being dragged against a chalkboard, but amplified. The room shook violently. Books and furniture were thrown from one side to the other. Wind 49
whipped in all directions. It had no place to go and it was angry. The window. If I could only get to it. I tried to crawl from under Cole’s body and get to my knees. Only when I tried to move did I realize how much gravity was against me. My eyes were closed. I used my hands to help me crawl not to block out that hellish noise. I could feel blood running from my ears. I moved in the relative area of the window. A hard strike to my side knocked me over. I grunted trying to get back up. The pain only encouraged me to get that thing out of there. I felt around the wall for the window. I attempted to force it up but it won’t budge. Maybe we were all meant to die there. I yelled. I held the knife. Frustration consumed me enough to make me smash the handle to the glass until it shattered. The window acted as a vacuum, expelling the evil thing and all its chaos outside. The room was still, quiet enough for me to hear my own jagged breath. I was afraid of opening my eyes. Who’s to say the demon wouldn’t come back and take me like it took Cole? How did I know it hasn’t taken me already? A person never knows until they fall into subconsciousness, when their soul is vulnerable, when they fall asleep. I slowly opened my eyes after the ringing in my ears had silenced. Cole’s dead body was the first thing I saw. Then there were the bloody hand prints on the window. I let the knife drop to the floor. Evan nursed an eye he might never see out of again. Marian was silent. Jonah had his gaze locked on me. I rub the bruised spot on my waist. “...all day.”
NEWSPAPER STORY Jeneice Marshall
To whom it may concern, I don’t know why they put me in charge of writing this letter, I am new around here. I don’t even know how to start this. Humm... do you ever wonder why you get bored? It is a plea from our minds to occupy it with something, it is our brains way of telling us we must discover more, do more. We use such a small portion of our brains that it leaves a large capability to wonder. We can do so much if we just put our minds to it. Let me tell you what happened with me. Ever since I can remember I had the feeling that someone was following me. I thought that I was being paranoid or my grandfather’s last words were just getting to me. My grandfather had been my legal guardian, the only parent I had ever known. Then on my sixteenth birthday, he never came home, he just disappeared. All I found was a rushed note on my bed from him saying Be wary of discovery, do not venture to the unknown corners of your mind. I can no longer protect you. They are always watching; never be alone Charlotte. *burn this. I was left in the hands of one family member to another, no one ever spoke of my grandfather, it was as if I was supposed to forget him. I couldn’t take it. I was already in college due to my high IQ so I decided to just live on Campus. I just stayed in the Campus Library, like a book worm. I kept wondering what my grandfathers note meant, but was never able to understand the full meaning behind his words until I discover I was one of the chosen. I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, lets start from the day I discovered the darkness had been released. I had just finished classes and decided to indulge myself in my favorite book, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The boys 51
in the lab call me a real life Madame Marie Curie, just like the scientist I can focus so profoundly, everything else just fades. I didn’t even realize that their wasn’t a librarian that day or how all the lights had suddenly gone out around me and the only light remaining was the one above my head, until it was too late. A shiver went up my neck and suddenly I was engulfed in darkness. I could feel the presence of something behind me, something was breathing on my neck. I felt the presence lift a strand of my brown hair. “Charlotte, Charlotte E. Roosevelt,” I heard a cold voice whisper behind me. “Why have you hidden from us Charlotte, did you think you could escape?” “Are you cra—” “There is no need to deny it! We’ve been watching you, we know the truth” The male presence grabbed my neck, and lifted me of the ground, I was alone in the darkness, and I knew I was going to die. Then all at once he went flying off me and I fell to the floor. I looked up to see my grandfather standing in front of me. “I told you to never be alone. Come, we don’t have much time.” “Wh—” I tried to stay away but couldn’t the last thing I remember was hearing grandfather say “teleport to Bermuda lab now, Lisa.” And that’s how my life changed. In one day everything I thought I knew disappeared. I woke up in a lab, and by woke I mean they awakened my mind. I was no longer using a percent of my brain, I was unlocked, using a hundred percent. I understood everything. That how I ended up at Bermuda. I guess I should explain. I’m running out of time, so let me just sum up what my grandfather told me. Our reality is a false one. We used to be capable of so much before our brains we locked. Yes, locked. Humans 52
used to use a hundred percent of their brain, this is how we got the Ancient Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and Atlantis (yes it exists...more on that later). Just know that all these are proof of the capability of humans. We used to be in a golden age creating and sharing ideas. But there were a group of people called The Darkness who wanted to decrease the amount of the brain other hundred percentiles could use so they could rule. Using a device I will not name (names have power) they were able to lock the human brain of most of the human population, but not decrease it. In a bloody war, the remaining hundred percentiles were sealed away for all eternity. The damage was done however and that is why there was a separation. There are the people in the normal world and those in the Bermuda. Einstein had this gift, scientists believe he used seven percent of his brain, which is a great deal considering we use less than this, however it is not accurate. Einstein was the leader of the hundred percentiles, this was before the members of The Darkness locked ninety three percent of his brain. I am Einstein’s Great (great, great, great...) granddaughter. The rightful ruler of the hundred percentiles (that’s why the guy was after me...more on that later). The Bermuda as in the Bermuda Triangle. Underneath the Bermuda’s waters there is a laboratory, this is where all the chosen ones go. The people who are capable of using a hundred percent of their brains and helping the others in human kind find there way back into a golden age. Amelia Earhart is an example...well that’s story for later. All you need to know is that in order for there to be balance and order the world can not handle the truth, it may cause a war. So we stay quietly giving knowledge and helping others to unlock a little more of their brain. It happened with Apple and then again with Microsoft. This is not something that you should know, but you must keep it a secret. The members of The Darkness became free, someone used an earthquake device and broke them free. That is the reason for my letter. We need recruits, if you can read this you are a chosen, you are able to unlock the full 53
potential. Start working on that, and we will find you. If you are brave enough, take a boat to the Bermuda triangle and we will handle it from there. There are things in that lab that you wouldnâ€™t even believe. I now hold this truth evident; Everything that has a name exists. The things we believe to be fiction, is not. We have the mermaids on our side for example...remember even in the dark there is light. Sincerely, Charlotte
BEAUTY BEHOLD Denari Purdy
To my beautiful heart holder. Let it not be said due to lack of belief, caused by lack of action, but said or not, attention be dragged back like metal to a magnet against will, will remain for lifetimes and though the next time again. Invited or rejected thought forever rests in a protected place. Waking momentarily to preserve its limber ways then receding back when not entertained. I can’t deny the blame, I created time and space and things have changed in a strange way. But this thing in my chest sees it simple. Surprisingly with no eyes to see “who are you to advise me?” It quakes unwavering even when unbearable backs the rest of me into corners until i give in to embrace... of a hand that I tell myself isn’t held out for me. Why would I do that to me? ...my sanity. One of the few things that manage to keep a level head on my shoulders above all else. Under vain influences, flames fueled by ignorance that you seem to wash away with wisdom beyond that of my own. Knowing that it is how could I know what it is that is a suitable word for one whose definition defy’s every processor in existence? What would I deliver? An apology? A word I assume desired? I’d rather deliver myself, wholeheartedly, or nothing at all. I’d rather not tell me to you. I’d rather read you to me. For better or worse, pleasing me. But it always seems to be about me and I don’t want it to be, but how can it not be when we only have the power to wear one pair of sandals stitched by god, shined by angles, dirtied by demons and carried by successors?
FAIRYTALES Nia Tipton
Sometimes life doesn’t come with a happy ending. In real life not every girl goes to the ball, and meets her Prince Charming. Not everyone grows up to live in a big house and raise a minivan full of kids. Everyday isn’t full of sunshine and we all don’t skip through the field. Sometimes you have to struggle, bleed, cry, and rethink everything you’ve ever known. Life is meant for you to give up but at the same time you have to fight. There is strife and there is evil, there is war and there are casualties. But there is also purity and light, filled with happiness. Not every story ends on the best note, not everyone gets to die with a fairytale ending. Life isn’t meant to be perfect. What is meant to be perfect is what you do with the amount of time that you’re given on this earth. That is where you can achieve the happiness we all so rightly deserve. So to be completely honest, our stories might not end on the best note. But it’s still worth living and we might not get that happy ending.
LOVE SONNET Mani M.
I have liked your smile ever since day one It was always bright and full of glee Our love is strong and cannot be undone It must be a spell you have put on me. Your presence is bright like a summer day Warm, and full of loving adoration I never want you to leave me, just stay And live life like it is a vacation. We do have our times where we fall apart We bicker, we argue, we fuss and fight But through it all you do still have my heart Which you will keep all through the summer nights. Your words quicken the pace of my heartbeat Feeding a romance that is oh so sweet.
UNTITLED Marie Damus
I was lost I got up everyday with no intentions to change But when I met this girl, I knew things wouldn’t be the same She wouldn’t settle for less Her whole demeanor symbolizes success I thought of her day after day Yearning to introduce myself Without any idea of what to say Her face was beauty within itself The way she smiled was intriguing Not like the girls I was used to All sneaky and deceiving Surely you can tell this was something new I walked up to her and we stared into each other’s eyes Though it was only for a few minutes, it seemed as if hours had passed by Not only did I see notice her beautiful brown eyes I saw myself Just one look That was all it took For me to finally realize That finding myself through her was the greatest thing She was something I could idolize
RECIPE FOR RESTORATION Likita Griffith
With the misconception of advancing, society fails to regulate its growing dependency on technology. Domination and damnation coincide. We become socially inept. Our capacity for concentration and contemplation diminishes. Unfortunately, the luxuries provided by technology create a faĂ§ade which conceals the detriment; and due to this constant revolutionizing, anyone who fails to comply with modern times, must stand corrected. #SOCIALMEDIA4EVER It undermines the ideal that human intelligence and physical interaction alone brought society to what we know as modern times. Technology cannot operate without human intelligence. Whether in an educational or professional setting, being forced to integrate technological attitudes and habits just for the fact that society revolves around change is unnecessary. Artificial intelligence displaces people from simple tasks. Indeed internet technology has fashioned the instantaneous availability of resources. It also increased interaction abroad in ways never before possible. However it has also defeated societyâ€™s selfsustainability. Our ability to retain vast quantities of knowledge is gradually being eliminated because some technological creations rid the need to do so. This way of adjusting should not have to be followed because in utilizing books, essays, perspectives from historical scholars, and more, humans were able to develop critical aspects in life and allow themselves accredited accomplishments. There is a need to eradicate the habits which has led our mentality downhill. This will ease societal havoc allowing the enrichment and restoration of our intelligence, communication, and unity.
BEHIND A SMILE Dene Morgan
Every day, I walk this earth seemingly hidden from all life. Invisible to the naked eye, I wander aimlessly, not worth the time of day. Every night, tears stream down my face like rivers pouring over the edge of a cliff. Every night I am alone, thrown to the side, left in a pit of my own despair. I cry until there are no tears left to shed, until my face is inked with tears, I cry until I enter the numbed state of sleep. The routine is the same every waking moment of my life. I awaken dreading what each day brings me and go to sleep until my nightmares wake me back up in the middle of the night with an aching pain so terrible it haunts my every movement no matter how small. Everything will be fine, dear. It’ll all get better soon. Just have hope. I promise you it’ll get better. She said that to me three years ago. She made a promise to me three whole years ago and it hasn’t been fulfilled yet. How foolish am I to believe in such things? Hope has gotten me nowhere in life. Hope has taken my parents from me. Hope has taken happiness from me. Hope is the bane of my existence. It is useless. It exists only to ruin me further. How silly and foolish is hope? I find it a bit harder to get out of bed this morning. The dull clouds describe my existence perfectly. I dress myself agonizingly slowly in my sweats and BET T-shirt, eat a spoonful of cereal, and leave the one-room apartment I call home. I can never manage to eat very much since she left my life. She was the one that always forced me to eat when I refused to. Ever since she left, I keep losing more and more weight. I drag my feet to the broken mirror and smiled at my grave reflection wishing that I could be the being inside the mirror, not the one whose broken and depressed. She’s in her own world far from the incessancy of mine. I trudge to my 60
school that seemingly is 100 miles away even though it is just up the block. I use every ounce of energy that I have to push the door open. I enter with my head lowered, hood raised, trying to avoid the so frequent stares that always burn through my back like embers pressed against my skin. Whispers of gossip fill my Ears every time I walk these hallways. “That’s the girl that lives by herself. I heard her family left her.” I hear someone whisper. “I heard that too. How sad…I wonder why they left her alone. Her friend responds. “They probably didn’t want to bother housing someone so useless. It’s understandable, seeing what they had to deal with.” They both laugh at the topic of conversation. I almost walk away. I almost let her walk all over me with her impossibly high sparkly hot pink heels. I stop mid-step and turn around, already feeling the blood rush to my face. A ghostly smile finds residency on my red face. “What I find useless is the toilet paper you stuff in your bra, the fake nails you stick on your fingers, and the plastic surgery you did just to make yourself look pretty. Go back to the doctor and get a refund ‘cause it didn’t work. I’m so sick of people like you always spouting nonsense about me! You don’t know anything about me or my family. People like you are so ungrateful for what you have. You always put others down just because you think you can. I refuse to be that person. I put myself down enough already. I don’t need another person to do it for me!” I ranted. I stalk angrily to my first class, away from the crowd of shocked stares and open mouths, silence completely taking over the previously loud hallways. I stick my headphones in my ears, and blast heavy metal. I have 15 minutes until this dreadful class begins. I hate my teacher with a passion. It’s not hard to understand her, but she always calls on me when I honestly want to sleep. Curl into a ball, hiding my face from the world “Jasmine, describe the 17th element in period four of the periodic table.” Ms. Young demands. With a groan I respond with everything I know. 61
Apparently, it is enough because Ms. Young smiled at me with complete and utter pride as I slouched back in my chair at the end of my long-winded explanation. I used to study chemistry a lot to take my mind off…things. Turns out doing so got me into the AP class. “Wonderful explanation. You kids could learn a lot from Miss Lorenz. She’s at least a year younger than all of you yet she knows more about this subject…” I ignored her for the rest of the class. She went on about some lesson that I studied last week. The bell rang and I was the first one out of my seat and through the door, trying desperately to avoid those hateful stares. The day dragged on painfully slow and my melancholy mood returned. Barbie wasn’t done with me after I ranted vehemently at her in response to her statements. Both her and her friend thought it plausible to corner me after school. “Well isn’t this a sweet surprise?” I caustically spat out. “Oh so you think you’re funny?” She practically growled. “I don’t. I think I’m pissed.” I responded. “What’s the matter? You’re mad ‘cause no one loves you? I suggest you get used to it because it’s not going to change anytime soon.” She snorted. It was as if that statement alone broke the barriers inside my mind. It brought back emotions that I thought I had buried ages ago. The constant beatings, the lashes of the black leather belt that would mark my skin with red splotches, the tears I had been forced to wipe every night as my mother soothingly rubbed my back while holding me in a warm embrace whispering, Everything will be fine, dear. It’ll all get better soon. Just have hope. I promise you it’ll get better. The level of anxiety I was having soared to unimaginable heights. All I could do was smile as my demeanor deteriorated. My feet took off running before I knew where I was going. As my surroundings got more and more familiar, I realized that my subconscious was directing me to the cemetery. “I haven’t seen you in a while. I wish you were here. Life would be so much better if you were here, beside me.” I trembled as the familiarity of my sorrow overwhelmed me. “I 62
need you. I miss you so much that it pains me to think of my own reality. You were the light that guided me through the thickest of darknesses, the vision of beauty that made my existence worthwhile. I can no longer bear my place in this unforgiving world. Everywhere I turn there is chaos chaos and more chaos. What ever happened to your promise? Where did it go? Was it even worthwhile? Did you believe you could help?” I sunk to my knees, exhausted.. “Is this what you meant by “it’ll get better? Maybe I should just join you then, mother.”
ODE TO COCONUT OIL Ornella Dacius
I’ve used you so many times But you’ll always be extra virgin The love of my existence Beauty in a jar When I first laid eyes on you, I thought you were just like the others Olive, Jojoba, Tea Tree, Castor But you were a constant rainbow And eventually there were no more storms I try to piece together how profound your beauty is To find a logical explanation For why you’ve captured my heart You are inexplicably amazing Those who pass you by in the grocery store are fools You’re so expensive and so priceless Oh how sad it is, oh coconut oil, That you do not know how beautiful you are
MOVING Benga Thompson
I wanna take a break Eat a motherfucking Zebra cake My whole body aches This new house shit is great But do you know how long it takes How much pain moving shit alone awakes Wait nigga wait nigga I’m dropping these math ethical bags that hit harder than meth or weed Eye bags that drag you More colors and shit that you see Exhaustion is a disease that brings your whole body and mind to its knees I couldn’t do my homework, what do I need to do to improve my grade, please? I need a breeze of fresh air because I’m watching my life fall apart while I try to build more which depletes my membranes feeling the restraint I’ve slipped down stairs I’ve torn the skin on my fingers and my face I’ve slipped on snow and ice Broken some precious things to my pops and me like my trophies I still keep because of their memories of looking at them seeing me
I feel displaced I don’t know if life is something you can ace The way life moves so quick when you’re behind on shit The way money slips or flies out of your hands The way people act you add it all up and start to see the facts Then you fall back And want to stop Don’t want to fear your race, or cops Don’t want to use your mind anymore Just want to get fat and be in liquor white provided stores You hit your bedroom floor and everyday suffocate another breath away Dying everyday and I don’t know how to say God please help me everyday The way I start to see things My eyes of exhaustion bleed and plead upon death Maybe I am death because I see how death moves I can’t groove like before I’m feeling obscure and unsure Of my position This tuition isn’t paying itself Losing that scholarship hit my brain waves negatively But I positively believe against every word and thought That consumes me everyday But something I don’t know I just can’t seem to get back Or find my way I need a zebra cake And lots of chocolate They keep me awake.
GENUINE HAPPINESS Marie Damus
“How can you love someone you’ve never even met?” Well even though I can only see him through a screen, he makes me smile. He makes life worth living. He’s just someone I adore. Yeah you can call me your typical fan girl but I don’t even care. To you he’ll always be just another rap mogul but to me he’s an actual human being who’s gone through what everyone else has. You see, when someone you’ve never met makes you smile harder and laugh louder, there’s something there. It might not be much but it’s enough to keep you motivated. You hold onto hope that one day you can do the same for him. The chances are one in a million but who’s to say you won’t be that one? Despite what’s been said and how many people have talked you down, you’ve made it far enough to know that there will be a day in this life that you’ll reach where you want to get to and beyond that point, nothing matters. Not the opinions of anyone but yourself. So hang on to love if that’s what makes you happy. Hang on to music if that’s what makes you happy but most of all hang onto yourself. Stay grounded and humble but also remain aware. Respect others and remain patient. Find your muse and do what you have to in order to keep that muse alive. I guarantee that you’ll enjoy the bliss feeling of Genuine Happiness.
MARISSA Ornella Dacius
Marissa wears bright pink heels And has her hair pinned up like a China doll She tells lies as bold as her lipstick She hides behind them; they’ve replaced concealer Marissa wears skirts as short as her relationships Danny, Ryan, Joey Martinez, that guy from the corner store She rims her eyes with black pencil She looks like a raccoon Her lashes are longer than anytime she’s spent studying She gets home later than she gets to class Hanging around long enough to smoke her soul away Marissa won’t take biology anymore She has no body to learn about She does bad things with bad people Her beauty is a weapon of mass destruction Her mind plays hide and seek Marissa has nothing left to fear The worst found her a long time ago
CORRIDORS TO CORNERS TO CREVICES Likita Griffith
They voluntarily “bench warm” and without mercy fail to spare you embarrassment as you try to get inside. The five second show to them feels never ending to you- the innocent unintentional entertainer. The unfortunate part of it all, you begin from the far right, jiggle the first door, the one adjacent, the next, an entire row down, till you feel relief to reach inside. Head hung down, you silently curse the spectators. The Lobby; the abstract entices your senses. The antiquated medals and trophies wisely cased hiding much detail, tell stories of what was once pride and recognition and respect. You think to yourself, maybe the day won’t be so bad, maybe this is the place for you. A small place. Oh how longing to belong somewhere disorients the mind. You walk into the office perhaps for guidance; you know just who to avoid. Seems like you’re already getting the hang of things. The staircase. You’d better figure out which side has the ascending students and descending or else the wrong side of the stairs would get you on the bad side of other students, good luck if they are upperclassman. “These damned Freshman!” Take note of the euphemism. It may seem harsh, but get used to it, you’ll hear it often. The second floor. Intimidation awaits you as you pull back the door. The outbursts and roars of students who come to school only to end classes three seconds later- the notorious seniors. You must be vain to think that all attention is on you. You’re considered insignificant remember? One kid throws a football to a friend in front of you. Well, there goes your books, papers, glasses. Too small to be acknowledged, too insignificant to be cared for, you’re left to gather your own papers that are now accessorized with footprints and...what is that? Is that gum? As if one thing was not bad enough. The bell signals you to pick up pace and get to class. 69
Fourth floor, you’re caught in a crowd of students. You realized what you never took time to notice earlier. The shades of the students seem to bring more unity than does what the school wants to enforce. Lost in your train of thought, you unintentionally lose your pace. You face the consequence (these damned freshman!) You’re pushed, shoved, nudged. There goes your books, papers, and glasses again. Too small to be acknowledged, too insignificant to be cared for, you’re left to gather your own papers that have now landed in a pool of liquid not only covered with more footprints and gum but now torn cruelly. Ironically out of all the mutilation of your work, you think to yourself, “When did I pack a pair of socks?” Only to realize, it’s just the messy halls, or maybe even another freshman who might be having the same day as you. The bell rings once more to signal you to rush to class. But you’re exasperated, afraid to move again because the day seems to be riddled with a series of unfortunate events. Resilience is key freshman. These events are seemingly unfortunate, but are never untold by others. After falling, just rise up. It just makes you stronger. You are back to the lobby. You have completed your day’s worth of classes and loathe the rest of the week that awaits. The abstract no longer attracts you. The trophies and medals are irrelevant. You glance over to the accolade on the wall. You roll your eyes at the merely pretentious attitude of the entire environment and believe that there are so many facades. You are even lead to contemplate the chance of being bamboozled. The truth, freshman, is that a place is what you make of it, what you utilize it for. You begin to say in unison with others that you despise the school, however freshman, the piercing words of those who have experience tell you, maybe it’s not the school, maybe it’s you, just make something of yourself if its that bad. Don’t be one of many in nearly one thousand students to victimize yourself as an excuse for failures. Rather utilize it all as motivation to succeed.
STARRY NIGHT Dene Morgan A ghost of a smile spreads across my face as I drift aimlessly under the stars. The moon’s rays light the dark waters below. I’m finally free from the whirlwind of trouble that seem to swarm around me. I feel tranquil for once in my life. Sighs of pleasure escape my relieved form. Ease drifts over me as I gaze upon the stars. As a child I was told that each star has its own story, life, and family. They love each other like a family does. They shine every night with bright emotion and on starless nights, they are sad and don’t want to be seen. I often wonder about the joys of being a star. Lighting the night with my brilliant light as people gaze upon my beauty in awe. My amazement is short lived, however. Sooner or later I must return to my own stars. My loving mother and father who worry far too much about me. It always warms my heart to know how much they really care. Even though I throw my tantrums and rarely smile, they still love me with all their hearts. At times it shocks me how much they really care. I rarely thank them or say I love you, for that matter. I know their lives are much tougher than mine will ever be. I’ve come to realize that I am one of their biggest problems. I am the one causing them worry and strife, I am the one who they strive to keep happy, and I must be the one striving to do the same for them. Although they rarely hear it, I love them as much as they love me. They are the light at the end of my dark tunnel. Without them I surely would be lost. They guide me with their age and wisdom. Every time I am confused or need help, they are there to rescue me. My mother smiles and embraces me in a hug. My father makes me laugh and distracts me from my dilemma. I pull my wooden raft back to shore. The edges of my 71
red sundress are dampened with the lake’s water. Even so, I run, barefoot, on the dewy grass to the cabin which I currently call home. I burst through the door in a rush, spotting my parents sitting on the couch huddled together. “Hello dear. Did you enjoy your rafting?’ My mother greets me. “Yes mother. It was quite...enlightening.” I respond. “Oh? How so?” Father asks “Well, I thought about some things. I’ve come to realize that I don’t show you guys how much I really appreciate you. I always act like a spoiled brat in your presence because I think that my life is so hard. I apologize for the way I’ve been acting lately. Moving out here to the middle of the forest has taken a toll on me. But now I know I am not the only one who has the problem. You guys have had to put up with me for so long and I rarely thank you guys or even say that I love you. I’m sorry for having been a hopeless little brat for so long.” “Oh honey you’re not a brat. We understand your dilemma about the move. As parents we’re supposed to deal with your behaviors and help you through this. We don’t expect you to tell us you love us everyday. We know you do deep down inside.” My mother pulls me into a tight embrace. “Listen to your mother. She’s always right.” My father chimes in. “That I am, Richard. That I am.” Mother smiles. We stand in this position for what seems like hours. I eventually yawn, signaling that I am tired. I go off to bed where I dream of my family spending time together and laughing. Everything is perfect.
RESOLUTIONS Nia Tipton
There are flaws in who we create ourselves to be. Those dumb New Year’s resolutions that we make every year saying we will become the better image of ourselves. That we will go to the gym every day, and stop ordering that pepperoni pizza from Dominos, or that we will find it in our veins to be all that we desire. People make resolutions because it’s another form of hope. It’s another prayer that everything will eventually morph into an epiphany of happiness, though you know the second you make that resolution it will be a consistent struggle to keep your word. It will always be the same because as human beings we are afraid of everything but refuse to admit it. We fear change like it is some kind of disease. All of us fear the inevitable fact that we are changing every second we step out of the comfort of our homes. Fear is based upon choices, upon actions. Fear is based upon a permanent and punctured image that nothing is going to last forever. I know that everything changes. The leaves change color for a reason and that temperatures transition through the seasons. I know that eventually the love in a relationship fades and a broken heart can eventually be mended. So why do we confine ourselves in such change, knowing very well that it will just lead to our utter humiliation when we don’t get what we ask for? That boy/girl that you have been chasing for 10 years isn’t going to spontaneously start loving you because it’s the best option for them. Nothing is permanent and like the seasons we are constantly changing. I just wish that someone would’ve told me about the consequences that come with letting someone change your entire life. All I wish was that I never met him. That his eyes hadn’t haunted my dreams like plagued nightmares, just like 73
I wish my lips wouldn’t have burned for the touch of his like fire and powder. I know that wishing for something so sickening would be a crime, because I know that all of those feelings would go away if someone had warned me. I know that there wouldn’t be a hole inside of my heart the size of a bullet wound. Maybe if he had been a different person, at a different place, or at a different time. He made me feel so lonely and loved at the same time. He made me feel so weightless and anchored. He made me feel so alive and dead. He made me feel everything and nothing, and nothing is all I could ask for because nothing means not knowing his name, not knowing everything that holds a place in his still beating heart. I stare into pictures and memories and all I see is sadness and happiness and I just wonder how that could be. How can someone give you so much joy and sorrow? How can the devil be pulling you towards someone who looks like such an angel when he smiles? There was nothing that could have compelled me to walk away from the broken heart that was slowly developing, and for that, I am both overwhelming grateful and exceedingly greedy. You spoke bullets so painfully that you didn’t even realize there was going to be an exit wound, that those words could cave in my soul and break my bones. My heart cried for the insanity, to stop the rage that was ruining all of who I was. I stare in the mirror and all I see is a broken image of a girl who let love consume her. I stare at myself in the mirror and all I see is you. I see all that you created, and all that you changed. There was a girl that became so blind to the lights and deaf to the spitting words she got lost in her inability to fully love. There was a girl that made a resolution to be happy, a girl that prayed for something to devour everything she was and make someone new. She got lost in the sensation of being loved she didn’t even know who she was anymore. There was a girl. There was me. And then there was you. 74
RUINED Dene Morgan
Ripped from me is my bright, content soul Replaced by one darkened and tainted by time Rough reality has forced away my ignorance Rendering me open and unprotected from the truth Realism shoved its face in my door all too suddenly Roaring at me, tugging at me, darkening me Recalling that day, the day everything fell apart Realizing all things fall apart, before hand wouldâ€™ve saved me the trouble of unpreparedness Recognized as the day I became lesser than my past self, the day he entered my life Ruin was left of me after I was with him Everything I had ever known no longer mattered Entranced by his prepossessing physique, I let him in Little did I know, that would be the gravest mistake of my young life.
ART BY ARINA NATH 76
ALCOHOL Ornella Dacius
On late summer nights when the sun is beating us senseless Our shirts clinging to our backs like a second skin We run down to the river And fill up our glass bottles with the cool River Water River Water laughs with us, tells us jokes, and tickles the insides of our stomachs We always go back for more, Dakota and I Dakota is the Queen and I am the King And the River Water our heir Our thing, our little secret Florida heat, dry and deadly Humidity hanging around our necks, ready to choke us And River Water, the purest companion, is a perpetual savior Until the day Dakota drove her car through town And never came back And her life was ended by some guy who wasnâ€™t drinking River Water I wept River Water, I drank River Water, I wept more River Water Until it became as bitter as my soul A reminder of the darkness without Dakotaâ€™s light And it burned my throat like the Florida sun And it made my shirt stick to my back like the Florida sun And it killed my spirit like the Florida sun River Water made me forget This new creation, molded out of angst and sorrow As long as I drank River Water, my pain was no longer unbearable Like the Florida sun
CAUGHT UP Shamar Niang
I wonder if I’ve gotten too caught up in not thinking that I haven’t realized I’m not breathing I’m not living that I’m not really feeling I wonder if I’ve gotten too caught up in needing to realize I’m not needed Maybe the seed that was planted before isn’t really growing anymore Maybe I’m pouring water into a cup that needs juice Maybe I’m not the spice and you want a trade Maybe what was meant to be is going to fade I wonder if I’ve felt so much pain I’ve become numb that I’ve become so caught up on you being the one that I didn’t realize I’m not your one I’m not your world or your all
I’m no longer the sun to your moon I’m no longer the one you call when you’re not in the mood I’m no longer number one I now fear the lonely or the person I was before I fear that all of me is in you That all people will see When they see me is you I wonder how hearts that were intertwined have separated how something so beautiful brought me devastation how we used to crave the same thing and now you feel nothing and I’m stuck here feeling everything Stuck here with memories of what we used to be and how we used to feel and how my heart was yours to seal and now the veil has been dropped
MY ONLY APOLOGY Marie Damus
I didn’t deserve you. I know I didn’t. I made you smile. I made you laugh. But worst of all... I made you love me. If not forever, maybe for that little while that we were together. I was unhappy and everyone but you noticed. I took ahold of my heart and when you needed it the most, I gave it to someone else. I guided your soul where you told me not to and I made you hate the things you’ve once loved. You allowed me to walk away with a piece of you that I didn’t want. And that was your respect. You’ve changed and the only person to blame is me. I accept that blame. Every time you walk by me I feel the hatred you now have for me. I notice how much strength it takes for you to not look at me. But most of all I notice how hard you try for me to remember you. How hard you try to convince me that you’ve moved on. I wish we could both just act like we never happened but when I’ve caused so much damage its hard for someone to move on. And for that I could never forgive myself. I could never forgive myself for all the damage I’ve caused to others and how I could just walk away so easily. I hate how I can listen to every one of your fears. Help you overcome them but at the same time add one more fear to your list. And that one fear is one you will never get over. A fear that you can’t even explain but deny the fact that it’s there and that you feel it.
SHIPWRECKED Atira Barber-Ellis
I loved her not for the way she could dance with my angels but for the way her name could silence my demons — Christopher Poindexter She was unique; such a simple being yet so unimaginably special at the same time. She knew all of the right things to say, the right things to do. I still can’t understand why she ever wanted to be with me. I just know that I needed her. And I wanted so badly to hate her. To not get attached to her and keep myself protected. Yet she made drowning in her love so easy that I didn’t mind the struggle for air. It’s odd to think of all of the time and wasted nights I spent without her. I always saw her around, sitting under the large apple tree in the middle of campus or drinking something at the Building C Cafe. BCC was known for having the best coffee so most people hung out there; at least that’s why I went that day. It was raining that day and she sat inside. I was grumpy, as always. The rain made everything smell funny. The ground was wet, slippery, and I nearly fell three times. I was agitated in every possible way. A twelve page paper, no sleep, and four chapters of some bullcrap book to read. All I wanted was some damn coffee. The little bell over the door rang when I entered the shop and I’m more than sure that I growled at it. The waitress, a girl named Jenny I had 2nd period with, was way too cheery as she asked for my order. All I wanted was black coffee, peace and quiet, and to 81
be left alone. She sat in the very back of the cozy shop on a leather sofa pushed against the only red brick wall. She was in a mustard yellow sweater that was two or three sizes too big for her petite frame. A maroon beanie covered most of her mousy-brown hair. Her nose was tipped red like Rudolph’s from the cold wind. I sat next to her and she tore away from her book to my eyes for just a second. They were gray and hers were the kind of honey brown that reminded you of your favorite teddy bear. She blinked at me and smiled. All I did was blink. Jenny came with her too cheery smile and a cup of joe. She put it on the small table in front of us and then greeted the mousy -haired girl with the brown eyes. I sipped my drink, muttering profanities as it scorched my tongue as always. The girl giggled along with Jenny who gave me a look before heading off. I looked at the girl as she closed her book. She said “Why don’t you let it cool?” I told her “it would take too long.” She asked if I’ve ever tried it iced. “Y’know, tea but with ice. Or coffee if that’s what you prefer.” I had a serious thing for blinking that day. I told her no and she handed me her chipped blue mug. I wanted nothing more than a cup of iced tea and to sit with her. She was magic I swear. There were so many things wrong yet it was all right with her. All of the thoughts, all of the screams and the laughs, all of the ticks faded away with the hairpin curve of her lips. I made sure to get a cup of tea everyday. On a sunny day I would get it iced to go and sit beside her under the big apple tree. And she would tell me anything on her mind. On a gray day we would sit on the old leather couch and she would read to me. She would walk with me on those gray days and make the rain sound like the sweetest songs. She would stay with me alone at night because “no one wants to be alone. They want to be safe.” She told me it was unfair that I didn’t have a roommate. I told her that I did at one point but he had moved out when my 82
demons moved in. There was barely enough room in my head, let alone my dorm. But I made room for her and so she’d tell me all about her dreams whether good or bad. She’d tell me all of her fears. “I fear never being loved and never being wanted.” I told her my mother would’ve loved her. “The lady said you must learn what is love, learn to love, and then you will be loved because love loves love.” I was twelve when I told her there was no love without hate and that I hated the idea of being in love. She listened to my story and said “Your mother loved you. I love you. Too. I do.” I blinked. She was my worst habit I swear because she always made me blink as if there was something in my eye but it was only ever her. She watched me blink and blew the steam away from my tea so I didn’t have to wait for it to cool. She said, “I love you, but you don’t have to love me. I know you want me here.” I wanted to want more than just her and I told her that. It was her turn to blink. I told her “I learned what love is, and I don’t want to love but I do. And you taught me how to love so i love you. And I need you. I love you and you love me too because love loves love.” It had been three months since she first made me blink and this was first time she ever kissed me in her oversized sweater. And I swear I heard the angels sing. They replaced all of the ticks and the constant sounds and they just sang. They sang the way the howls of the night sing for the damned love of the Sun and the Moon. I love her like the wooden floor loved our socks as we’d slide across on a Sunday without a care in the world. She was my world and she’d let me explore with sloppy touches and rushed emotions, the air forever thick with feelings. I was desperate. I was more mad than ever before. But I was madly in love and I never knew being insane could be so beautiful. She just made everything right. When she found me standing in a mix of blood and broken glass, she cried for the pain I should have felt, but didn’t. And 83
she cleaned me up and kissed my scars. She let me kiss her and I said I was sorry for getting bad and God, it was bad! I was bad! And the ticks! They were just ticking and sounds were howling and I flipped a chair and tore a page from her book. She held her tears and put me to bed saying “even the sky gets bad before it can smile us a rainbow”. That alone filled my head with bliss instead of the ticks. Loving her was bliss. And bliss is beautiful. There was beauty in bliss and she made bliss so wonderful that I never noticed that I was repeating my words. I never noticed the crease between her brows when she was stressed with school. She would say it’s okay and let me edit her papers while she blew the spiraling steam away from my tea. I never noticed the way she would tug at her hair and bite her pens whenever she was nervous. Maybe it’s because she was never nervous around me. She said I made her feel like the air beneath birds. I told her she made me feel like the ocean. I had the power to hold up boats and then sink ships. She made me feel power; like the ticks in my head were mere elementary school jokes. It was like everything meant nothing and nothing was okay. I never noticed the echo in her voice when she said she felt nothing. I never noticed how she cried for me but never herself. I never noticed how she managed to always say I love you in undetectable ways. “Is it cool?” she’d ask after blowing my tea. I’d say yes and she’d smile and give me a kiss. I never paid much attention to the questions she asked. “Will you love me forever?” she’d ask, sitting in the back of BCC and I'd tell her that forever was measured by a clock and I'd break the hands to love her for even a second longer. I noticed the one tear that escaped and asked if she thought I was in pain. She said “No, you’re in love. I love you.” She kissed me and cried and asked if I could give her a piggyback ride home. I never noticed how clear the veins on her wrists were as she draped her arms around my neck. I never noticed the pills under her pillow behind her sleep journal. 84
She said she needed to remember all of her dreams because they made life worth living. I told her she was worth living. She stuttered and kissed me and damn it I love her! I love her so much I burned my thumbs making her soup when she was sick. She laughed and coughed from the couch as she blew her nose. She kissed my wounds but I never knew I could kiss hers. I never knew what would happen when we bought an apartment. I never knew what it would be like to kiss her while she coated my hair with streaks of paint. I never knew how far my heart would jump when she read me a letter of all the things she felt. How loving me was “like forever being hugged by Winnie the Pooh” and kissing me was like “smiling into intoxicated clouds”. She never explained what she meant but she said “I love you” tons of thousands of times. I had no idea what would happen when I went down to tie my shoe and grabbed her hand instead saying “I love you more than the Sun love’s the moon because I’d put touching you before Earth and the stars.” I had no idea a white summer dress and unbroken promises would make me want to cry, but damn did I find out. I found out she wanted a big apartment and not a house. I found out she always wanted her daughter to have green eyes and be named Paisley. I said “We’ll give our little girl contacts cause her eyes might be Chocolate Sunrises like yours”. She blinked and whispered “Ours” and a tear fell as hugged me and kissed my face. I told her I loved her more than anything when we found out we’d have our little girl. Smaller than my palm but I wanted to give her the world. She laughed and called me an idiot when I hurt my thumb building the crib. I kissed her tummy and she laughed when the little one kicked my nose. We lived. We loved. We laughed. We fought. We cried. I drank. She slept. She cried. I loved. She slept. I loved. She 85
loved. The doctor sighed. I hung my head. He said “Hold on. It’s almost the end”. She covered her head with that maroon beanie and that old yellow sweater fit her like a wedding dress. She coughed and wheezed and dammit she cried. Her tears fell on a tiny head and the tip of her nose turned Rudolph red. She said “I love you more than light loves dark and the moon loves the sun. The ocean isn’t even big enough for our love”. And I love. We loved. She smiled. We loved. We kissed. I sniffled. She kissed. I prayed, damn it, I prayed. She slept. I begged. She slept. I screamed. She slept. I panicked. She slept. I cried. She slept. I felt the defeat of the Moon when the Sun has set and the waves crashed on me like I was shipwrecked. She slept. I kissed. She slept. I heard them all at once, the buzzing and ticking and buzzing and ticking. She slept. They ticked. She slept. I dressed. She slept. I held her hand. She slept. I stood before them all and said “Kissing her was like putting ice in my coffee and dancing in the rain. Loving her was like a total eclipse when the Sun and the Moon were finally one. Holding her felt like Paisley Ann wrapping her five fingers around my one thumb. And dammit, I love her and they took her away but I can hear her laughter when our daughter cries and I’m so fucking blessed that they have the same eyes. “Cause losing her was like a never ending case of amnesia, where your treatment was being thrown headfirst into the sea and waking up the way you fell asleep. Slowly, painfully, and then the waves crash on you all at once but you can’t possibly escape because being lost is all you’ve ever known. Losing her was like going blind and being shipwrecked when the waves and the ticks are all bigger than me.”
BATTLE OF THE BODY Niazyea-Arianna
The heart feels what the eyes canâ€™t see The heart understands what the mind canâ€™t comprehend A battle of the body What the eyes see, the heart feels The mind knows. Want over need... Lust over logic A never ending battle of the body...
FACES BY CARISSA NORMIL 88
A CKNOWLEDGEMENTS As a small, grassroots organization, NY Writers Coalition relies on the generous support of groups and individuals dedicated to getting the voices of those who have been silenced heard. Many thanks go to our foundation, government, and corporate supporters, without whom this writing community and publication would not exist: Allianz GI, Amazon.com, the Bay and Paul Foundations, Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Kalliopeia Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, the Pinkerton Foundation, the Tiger Baron Foundation, and the Two West Foundation. NYWC programming is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We also appreciate the continued support of New York City Council Member Laurie Cumbo. Benjamin Banneker Academyâ€™s GUMBO Writing Group is made possible by the Cultural After School Adventures Initiative (CASA), supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. We rely heavily on the backing and guidance of individual NYWC members and attendees of our annual Write-A-Thon. In addition, members of our Board of Directors have kept this vital, rewarding work going year after year: Louise Crawford, Marian Fontana, Sandy Huang, Matthew Krejcarek, Lisa Smith, Jonathan Tasini, and NYWC Founder and Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman. What youâ€™re holding is the sum total of months of work not only by the students in the GUMBO Writing Group but by the dedicated staff of the school and community arts organizations, as well: Many thanks to Francie Johnson, our BBA faculty liaison, and the amazing Chris Prioleau, Morgan Parker, Zinzi Clemmons, and Cecca Ochoa from Apogee Journal. Without you, this workshop and publication absolutely would not have been possible. And finally, special thanks to the dedicated members of the GUMBO Writing Group: Thank you all for truly making every Tuesday and Thursday this school year a real adventure! 89
A BOUT A POGEE J OURNAL Apogee is a literary journal specializing in art and literature that engage with issues of identity politics: race, gender, sexuality, class, and hyphenated identities. We currently produce a biannual issue featuring fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. Our goal is to publish exciting work that interrogates the status quo, providing a platform for unheard voices, including emerging writers of color. The word apogee denotes the point in an object’s orbit that is farthest from the center. Our mission combines literary aesthetic with political activism. We believe that by elevating underrepresented literary voices we can effect real change: change in readers’ attitudes, change in writers’ positions in literature, and broader change in society. For more information about Apogee Journal visit WWW.APOGEEJOURNAL.ORG.
A BOUT NY W RITERS C OALITION NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates opportunities for formerly voiceless members of society to be heard through the art of writing. One of the largest community-based writing organizations in the country, we provide free, unique, and powerful creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people from groups that have been historically deprived of voice in our society, including at-risk, disconnected, and LGBT youth, homeless and formerly homeless people, those who are incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, war veterans, people living with disabilities, cancer, and other major illnesses, immigrants, seniors, and many others. For more information about NYWC programs and NY Writers Coalition Press publications visit WWW.NYWRITERSCOALITION.ORG
G REAT U NITED M INDS B ELIEVING IN O URSELVES
NY Writers Coalition Press & Apogee Journal are proud to present EVERYTHING I COULDN’T SAY: POETRY & PROSE FROM GUMBO. What you’re about to read is the battle cry of Great United Minds Believing in Ourselves (GUMBO), NYWC’s after school workshops for teens at Benjamin Banneker Academy in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Featuring original writing by Atira Barber-Ellis, Ornella Dacius, Marie Damus, Likita Griffith, Mani M., Jeneice Marshall, Dene Morgan, Shamar Niang, Niazyea-Arianna, Carrissa Normil, Denari Purdy, Najaya Royal, Benga Thompson, Nia Tipton. Art by Arina Nath and Carrissa Normil. Edited by Apogee Journal. The GUMBO Writing Group is made possible by the Cultural After School Adventures Initiative (CASA), supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. For more information about NYWC creative writing programs and NYWC Press publications, visit WWW.NYWRITERSCOALITION.ORG.