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Journal of Art and Literature
Staff EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ADVISOR MANAGING EDITOR LAYOUT EDITOR WEB EDITOR MULTIMEDIA EDITOR
MORGAN JOHNSON REBECCA MEACHAM AUGUST WIEGMAN KORI KOEHLER JADACEYJJADACEY TESKA KAITLYN PICHETTE
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
FICTION EDITOR NONFICTION EDITOR POETRY EDITORS VISUAL ARTS EDITOR
BROOKE POARCH SIDNEY GRADY RACHEL SANKEY & RIANNA KUBLY SAMANTHA VONDRUM
BRANDI JO CHARLES LAUREN SCHAEFER KATHERINE LUND KATERA CAVITT APRIL BUB
BRUCE KONG MORGAN SCHRAM MIRANDA MARTIN KAITLYN PICHETTE SAVANNAH GREEN
CADEN WILES JADACEY TESKA SAMANTHA MYERS EVELYNN EHRLICH
ALLY GORENCHAN BREANNA VANDERMAUSE KAYLA UNDERHILL ABBIE BASTEYNS
Table of Contents Letter from the Editor Morgan Johnson
Liberal Arts Essays The Fate of Liberal Education
in Modern American Culture Reclaiming the Purpose of Liberal Education
The Mug on the Top Shelf Tom Sielaff 20 Cry Nick Wagler 23 Dead Birds Alexx Mattox 35 The Garden Zach Murphy 42 Crimson Fantasy Nick Wagler 51 This Place is No Longer Anyoneâ€™s Bussiness Zach Murphy 56 In the Mountains Eleanor Levine 64 The Girl in the Fountain Victoria Pantalion 76 Wine and Silence Tayler McAuliffe 84 Two Bedrooms Tom Sielaff 92 Knock Indigo Ramirez 97
Nonfiction Mythopoeia Riley Winchester 17 A Letter to my Gay Black Beloved Andre Alexander Lancaster Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko 27 Seen, Unseen: Visions of a Pandemic Abhinita Mohanty 47 Lost History Steffi Farrey 59 Rogue River Blues in C# Ian Patt 79 The Monarch Sophie Amado 89
Upon Hearing that a Second Parkland Shooting Survivor has Committed Suicide, I Change My Mind About Mushrooms Richaundra Thursday stolen moments between you, me, and the moon Julia Vu The Attic Skylar Brown A Conversation with a Tree Nathan Knutson I Wish I Could Buy Compassion on Amazon Ally Blovits Summer in the Eyes of a Delta Woman Who Left Countless Eons Ago Jeffrey Alfier focus on me Julia Vu Modern Love Nick Minges Patria Amada, Brasil MĂĄrcia Bruno Lobo Paintress Julia Vu Insomniacsâ€™ Slumber Party Heidi Seaborn Perhaps Then Stephanie Lamb A Letter to Mata Hari, Dead at 41: Cierra Alexus Lowe-Price you loved me to the moon but then you got lost Julia Vu
15 24 37 42 45 53 55 58 69 71 74 87 95 100
Table of Contents Visual Arts 6.6.2020 - Wheaton, IL Connor Doyle #MA141 Silent Scream from the Quarantine Days I (It Is What It Is) Josh Stein Collage Despy Boutris Broken is Beautiful Lindsay Huehns Escape Hyewon Cho My Honey Brooke Biese Perriot Bianca Rivetti Summer Tresaure 86 Jim Ross Media Head Jason Christensen Free the Nipple Lindsay Huehns American Pelicans along Eastern Shore of Lower Green Bay Collette LaRue Neglect Aluu Prosper Il Santo, Andare Con Dio Miranda Rios Cover Your Mouth Sunny Scheer Rift Hailey MacKenzie Budapest Evening Trolley Jim Ross Victoria in Front of Timeline for the Far Future Danielle Klebes Banished from the Tribe Dave Sims Dystopian Robbie Gallows Overgrown Kelsey Harrison
13 14 22 26 39 40 43 44 50 54 57 72 73 78 83 88 94 96 98 99
A Letter From the Editor Welcome to the Fall 2020 edition of Sheepshead Review! This issue was full of milestones for us, and I am so proud of the people I got to work with this semester. Due to COVID-19, I decided the best way to keep our staff safe was to hold class online. We still wanted to have a print journal, but having over twenty undergraduate students meet face-to-face while also enforcing the proper safety precautions on campus did not seem possible. Instead of letting this get in the way, we thought about how we could bring the journal into the digital era. Not only did we revamp our website, but for the first time ever we accepted digital media that would be featured exclusively online. We also created a Google Map to showcase just how big the Sheepshead Review community is. I invite all of you to put your city on the map by following the QR Code on the back of the journal. I also wanted this edition of the journal to focus on community. In our call for subs we asked people to submit pieces exploring how 2020 has shaped human connections, networks, pods, neighborhoods, bedfellows, groups, and gatherings. As writers and artists, I believe it is part of our job to be historians. We must document and draw inspiration from what is happening around us so that we can create and maintain relationships with people around the world. The response we received was awe-inspiring. Just to name a few, the nonfiction piece “Seen, Unseen:Visions of a Pandemic,” allows us to think about the things we were never able to notice before. Everyone can take comfort in the fact this is a scary time to be alive, yet there are silver linings if we look close enough. In the visual arts piece “#MA141 Silent Scream from the Quarantine Days I,” we see a colorful array of heads peering out their windows. It resembles something a lot of us saw back in March, but it also shows the strength of how we’re all in this together. To me, community means focusing on something bigger than yourself. It means wanting to learn from the people around you, protect them, and most importantly, help them grow in hopes that you will become a more insightful and loving person too. I want to use this issue of Sheepshead Review to document this abnormal time in our world because I want to show that even though COVID-19 might make us feel powerless in many ways, it is also an opportunity for everyone to push themselves to test new ways of communication and companionship.
Back in September, no one knew what this semester would hold for our journal. As Editor-in-Chief, I wanted us to push boundaries and show everyone just how amazingly talented our students and submitters are. I am so proud of the content in this journal and the people in our class who helped to put it there. I hope that everyone who picks up a copy of Sheepshead Review feels welcomed into our little community. Sincerely, Morgan Johnson Editor-in-Chief
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6.6.2020 - Wheaton, IL Connor Doyle
Black and White Photo (Analog Film)
#MA141 Silent Scream from the Quarantine Days I (It Is What It Is) Josh Stein
Metallic Acrylic on Canvas
Upon Hearing that a Second Parkland Shooting Survivor has Committed Suicide, I Change My Mind About Mushrooms Richaundra Thursday
After Alex Loret de Mola When I die, probably still poor and anxious, afraid I add nothing of value, I wish to compensate for the inadequacy of my existence by being mulched For trees or better yet, a mushroom garden. Let my flesh become oysters and chantrelles, Let my soul travel through the mycelium to pulse with an Earth Waiting to become its own corpse, Eat me if you wish, ideally sautéed in wine and butter, just as I was in life, Or leave me for the fairies to dance in, but let me reincarnate as luscious dirt... Unless: Should I die at work, in my classroom, surrounded by frightened eighth graders Who previously stressed most about progress reports and puberty, If I am gunned down by a child the world could not love enough to live so he Hated us all to death; if the cylinders of his frustration weep from a weapon Barely fit for a soldier, if the last thing I see as a screaming symphony Becomes the background soundtrack of my ‘senseless’ death Before it is washed away by the next news cycle, is a demon toy Legally purchased and easily taken by hands still learning to type: I hereby give my expressed, explicit permission to have my corpse Dumped on the steps of fucking Congress. If my body cannot be fungal nutrients, it can be a log Fertilized with their bullshit and maybe just this one time, ‘Thoughts and prayers’ can be transmuted Through the alchemy of my white woman stigmata To actual change until future children Can grow in the sun like sequoias, instead of huddling
In the shadows like truffles, dug out and poached until they bury Themselves, still chased by phantoms. Leave my broken, useless frame as a testimony That they are not alone, that none of this was their fault, Let me symbolize the failure we have passed On to them like measles and climate change and debt, And let this indictment haunt our moral starved marionnettes Like hellish furies. If I cannot be food for mycolophilies, let me at least be food for thought.
Mythopoeia Riley Winchester The problem with memories is that you can’t decide to have them. You can use methods to try to cement an event into your memory, like repetition or mnemonic devices, but ultimately memory is left to chance. Sometimes you remember, sometimes you don’t. The first memory I have of my dad is when I was four years old and we had our picture taken together at JCPenney, in one of the back rooms where they do family portraits in which everybody dresses and smiles like they’re being held hostage on the set of a Hallmark movie. The photographer was a kind woman whose wrists dangled with jewelry every time she directed us into new poses or swept her chopped hair out of her eyes. We did family pictures and after them came smaller group pictures. My two sisters and mom went together, then it was mine and my dad’s turn. We both wore short-sleeve button-up shirts—mine was denim blue and his was gunmetal gray with little white designs that resembled oleander petals. My dad’s top button was undone, revealing his upper chest. We smiled—my baby teeth shied behind my lips—and the picture was taken. I made most of that story up. Truthfully I don’t remember any part of that day, and the only evidence I have of it ever happening is the picture of my dad and me posing in our button-up shirts that has sat on my nightstand since I was a child. I don’t know what my first true memory of my dad is. But through that picture, I’ve constructed my own story of that day, and it feels true to me. The last memory I have of my dad is just as nebulous in my mind as that day of family pictures, only this almost-memory took place fourteen years later. My dad was checked into hospice care when his stage four colorectal cancer had metastasized and invaded his entire body, leaving there no hope of recovery. I spent five days by his bedside, in an oversized, uncomfortable sofa chair, as he lay in a medically induced coma. In my mind I picture myself watching my dad, looking for any movement or sign of consciousness. Nurses come in every couple hours to check on him and administer his pain medications. Visitors stop by and tell me how sorry they are. I say thank you and that it’s good to see them. My dad shrivels in size, his arms are stripped of muscle, his face is pruned to the jagged corners of his jawline, the little black hairs on his cheeks grow into sharp, thick pins as the days pass.
The reality of it, though, is I have one clear memory from those five days. One morning—and I don’t even know on which day—I had egg whites from the hospice cafeteria for breakfast, and they were surprisingly good, especially for hospice food. For five days I sat by my dad’s bedside and watched him slowly lose his grip on life, and the only clear memory I have is of a plate of egg whites I ate for breakfast. In fact the last clear memory I have of my dad is from three months before he died. It was when he helped me move into college. We woke before dawn even had a chance to crack, and we were the first people at the university, because that’s the way he was—always early and always overprepared. I was moved in before any other students and parents showed up. My dad and I took a selfie of us in my dorm, and then he drove home. Three months later he was dead. Three months—his final three months—and I have no memory of him. I don’t know why this is. I don’t have any form of memory loss. I actually have a good memory. Yet, for some reason my dad has disappeared from those three months and I can’t seem to find him no matter where I look. So I’ve filled in the cracks with stories. I drive home on a weekend in late September and see him raking leaves in the front yard. We watch college football all day Saturday and the Lions game Sunday afternoon before I head back to school. At first snowfall in mid-November he’s up early and shoveling the driveway, for even in his final weeks he stays up and moving. At Thanksgiving he drinks iced tea from his favorite plastic green cup that he washes only once a week. He tells jokes throughout dinner. He’s lively up until the day he’s checked into hospice. This is what I tell myself. I’ve talked to my mom and sisters about this time and they all have different stories of my dad. He was already starting to slip by September or he couldn’t get out of bed by early November or he became withdrawn and depressed in his final days or he remained positive until the end or he had short bursts of liveliness followed by long stints of agonizing pain and lying in bed or he didn’t even come downstairs for Thanksgiving, he stayed in bed. My dad’s final days have become a Rorschach blob to my family. We were all presented with the same image, but we’ve constructed meaning and truth differently. Joan Didion said, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I think sometimes, too, we tell ourselves stories in order for others to live. So they can still live with us even after they’ve left us.
These stories, the stories of moments that forever change us and one would think to be unforgettable, are not transparent windows we can look through to see absolute truth. They’re frosted, glue-crusted mosaics, but they’re the best we got. So we make do and look through hoping to see a flash of truth. Just one flash, that’s all we need. My mom and sisters have their stories of my dad, and I have my stories. I have our picture at JCPenney when I was four. I have our last football season together. I have our last Thanksgiving together. I have those five days in hospice we spent together. I’ve created these stories with the memories I have, and I’ve created as much truth as I can, as much truth as I need.
The Mug on the Top Shelf Tom Sielaff Excuse me, but would you mind using a different mug? I know I say what’s mine is yours, but the mug isn’t mine. Well, I suppose it is now, but it hasn’t always been... mine. I still think of that mug as his. I really hope you understand. It probably seems really stupid. It probably seems absolutely, totally, completely melodramatic of me, to stop you from using a fucking cup. But you won’t be able to ever understand that mug’s significance. You won’t, you simply won’t. I picture you putting your lips on the same spot he always put his, and it makes me feel a numbness I haven’t felt in a long time. As you reach for it on the highest shelf of the cupboard, I remember all the times he struggled to reach it. How I would pull it down for him instead, and how he would give me the sweetest of kisses for the simplest of acts. I stop your arm, guide it to another mug, politely ask you to not touch that one. You don’t ask me why I’m being so weird about it, but I feel the need to tell you. You have a look in your eyes that begs me to stop, but I just can’t. Every time I’m provided with an opportunity to think about him, to talk about him, I take it without the reluctance I should have. I hope you don’t think I’m taking this too far. After all, I was so good about letting you eat the dinner I always used to make for him. I let you light his favorite scent of candle. I even let you take his place in my—our—bed. But the coffee mug... I can’t bring myself to be so lenient. After all, I don’t remember the last time he was home for one of my homecooked meals. The last time we had ignited the wicks of his favorite scent of candle, we had an argument that signaled the beginning of the end. And as for the bed, he hadn’t shown me intimacy in months. But our morning coffee was something that never expired, something that lasted right up until the morning before he left. It was a given that we would enjoy our Saturday morning coffee together, planning out our weekend. We did a lot less talking towards the end, but even sitting in silence with him, that mug from the top shelf
warming his hands that only grew colder by the day—that was always so comforting. It was in these moments that I pretended, just for a few minutes, that everything was okay between us. So, I’m sorry, and I know you probably think I’m crazy, but just... use another mug. That mug on the top shelf is off-limits, a rare antique that isn’t for sale. That mug on the top shelf will always be his.
Collage Despy Boutris
Photographs, Tape, Paint, Typed-up Text
Cry Nick Wagler Cry, my friend, it’s natural. Natural as leaves on a tree, or like the circle of life; bottling everything inside is the worst way to live. Live like it’s your last day, pardon the cliché; you can’t spend forever in silence. Silence is what dooms the many, incapable of expressing their feelings. Feelings of negativity that are held captive fester within you. You can’t allow them to grow. Grow, like the budding crocus plants pushing through the snow. Snow holds things down, not limited to dormant plants. Plants, of the perennial variety, always return in the spring. Spring into the healing process by letting it out. Out with it, I say! Say to yourself what’s burdening you, out loud or in your mind. Minds relax with the release of pressure. Pressure is constant in the life you lead. Lead of great volume seems to weigh your body down. Down with the troubles and responsibilities that crush your hope. Hope often makes the difference between life and death. Death will only occur if you give up. Up in Heaven, or whatever you believe, distances you from everything on the ground. Ground during the winter is hard and impenetrable. “Impenetrable” described my young son, just a child. Child, mother, father, sibling: losing one is unbearable. Unbearable in the sense of grief, guilt, and confusion. Confusion is what my boy must have felt. Felt sheets for a middle school project hung in a knotted rope. Rope, like many tools, can join things together. Together, my son and I were getting by. “Bye,” I whispered, as the frozen ground swallowed his casket. Casket or cremation shouldn’t be on your mind now. Now, you are young. Young enough to push through your difficulties and recover sooner. Sooner or later, you may thank me for my words of advice. Advice saved me when all the meaning to life disappeared, so I thought. Thought, as you know, is involuntary but can be untrue. Untrue perspectives can be easy to convince. Convince yourself to change your mindset for the better. Better yet, tell yourself to let it out, to yourself or someone you trust. Trust is the key to prevent one from being alone. Alone, like my son was, because he kept it all in. In your hopeless, stubborn consciousness, convince yourself it’s going to be okay. Okay, in the sense that it’s alright to release emotions as you cry.
stolen moments between you, me, and the moon Julia Vu
Quarry Lane School, California when the night washes over the sky and the city lights illuminate the restless summer air and the stars hide behind thin veils, the moon doesn’t steal the sky, but only unveils the beauty of the dark, glowing with the sun’s light, and although the sun doesn’t ask for anything in return, when their lips meet, it’s like a burst of energy erupting onto the horizon, painting the breaking dawn with the blushing of the sun and the smile of the moon. as we lay on the midsummer fields and gaze up to the star fields as the blanket of the night wraps around us, watching how the starlight holds onto the vast void of the midnight sky, i thought to myself, i think i’ve loved you from the beginning, perhaps it means we were made from the same star. freckles blending in with stars and galaxies disappearing behind your eyes, you remind me of the moon - imposing, imperial, imperfect - and when you lean over to whisper your sweet nothings, the warmth of your breath brushing the curve of my ear, i thought to myself, it’s like we’ve met before, it’s like we’ve known each other from the start. lying next to you feels like getting a taste of eternity, like the soft harp playing after a rainstorm, like falling completely lost in the watercolors of the sunset, and tonight we bask in the gentle stillness and the cradle of abysmal solace of night and tomorrow we dream of it again, and i thought to myself, i could get used to this. (Page Break)
and looking at the skyâ€™s glittering freckles with my fingers intertwined in yours, my heart skipping beats like rocks across a lake of serenity when our limbs intertwine, my mind clouded with a strange sense of nostalgia, the night filled with the echoing pulse of you and i, i canâ€™t help but wonder to myself, how many sleepless nights does it take to count the stars?
Broken is Beautiful Lindsay Huehns
Hand Built Ceramic, Raku Fired
A Love Letter to my Gay Black Beloved Andre Alexander Lancaster Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko
Under the artificial but highly industrialized canopy that was the D-train running directly over our heads, we stood outside for our first heart-to-heart conversation. It was summer in New York City, distinct in humidity and activity from summers anywhere else in the world, and the workshop process for your Black queer theater group with its five playwrights under fellowship had begun. Monumental was the fact that we were Black writers commissioned for actual pay, read: real money. Miraculous describes the dream realized and its impact on our creative lives well into our queer futures; “divinely powerful” is the phrase that comes to mind whenever I think of you, a young gay Black man whose ministry meant creating theater for queer Black playwrights when it wasn’t a thing, wasn’t trendy or an identity-marker to distinguish oneself at parties among the liberal elite or leftist intelligentsia who tend to populate, if not dominate, theater circles within America’s artistic landscape. But on that sweltering hotly humid summer afternoon in the city, we stood on that sidewalk like true transplants, non-New Yorkers hands-in-pocket not worried about our future, or relevance, or the fragility of our egos or definite death through denial and Black artistic erasure thanks to White Supremacy, or even that we desperately craved two tall glasses of ice water plus a pair of fold-out beach chairs to shoot-the-shit authentically. Heart-to-heart was our conversation that went something like this: YOU-2-ME: “Currently, brah…?” ME-2-YOU: “Mmm-hmmm, I’m listening, go on…” YOU-2-ME: “What you’re writing is bullshit. Is there something I should know? What’s wrong, Beloved? Tell me.” ME: “Gimme a sec to catch my breath. I’m still stuck on “bullshit.”” Then you quickly followed up with, “This is a safe, affirming space. Here, my trans sibling, you’re free to soar. We are your solid anchor, your queer family with wings, don’t you see that? Can’t you feel our feathers rooted to your bones?” The initial tenacity and accompanying paranoia that comes with a new ministry often masks the deep love and fragility of its first founder. I knew then but not like I know now, many years later, that when a Black gay man is pregnant with a vision, and when he finally gives birth to see his vision take its first step, nurturing that dream to maturity instantly makes him a marked man, a target destined to die multiple deaths within one lifetime. For support, for spiritual food, to make sure his vision-child survives this sick, toxic,
racist, homophobic world, he must hold that baby tightly to his bosom for Mama’s milk because it is himself he is holding, himself he is nursing, himself he gently cradle-rocks to sweet safety ‘n’ peace, himself he is raising up from the graves that mark him and his baby everywhere they go, no matter who they grow up to become, whatever they manage or are allowed to achieve. Heart-to-heart conversations among queer folks of color are staple to our diet, not just for purposes of survival that craft heart-shaped solid bedrock into beautiful Black being, but because Loving looks like coming together. You know that moment when witnessing the arching neck on its way back before the burst of laughter painting a sunshine only heartstrings hum to warm Black queerness. Or the dramatically orchestrated giant step into the limelight at a groove party to prove your hairstyle, hot plate, and outfit mean so much more than style, transcend current cultural politics, make mockery of mainstream etiquette, throwback your throw-down. Pockets of conversation that drop truths to soothe you right after your partner, now ex, deadnamed you during otherwise hot sex; the same truths whispered centuries ago among our Queer Ancestors when they gathered together for sustenance, groovetime, funk, gossip, touchy-touchy during their tribal meet-n-greets. So when you told me, “Write whatever the hell you want”, you were giving me permission to reclaim my Black queerness as foundational fabulousness; giving me permission—scratch that— mandating me to live fully free in my beautiful Black body, manifesting the miracle of my queer intersectional intelligence, uplifting my soul on and off the page which, in those days and especially now, is a miracle. Like you Andre. “Loving is Being” is what you were telling me, “Loving is Being.” Being Black queerness is nothing short of miraculous, proof? I know Black queers who’ve walked clear across continents to free their dying lovers from homophobic hospitals, ensuring that last breath was taken in an abundance of dignity. I know Black queers were forced to renounce religion to reclaim themselves divine. I know beautiful dark-skinned Black queers who pill-pop to quiet panic attacks from complex PTSD, massive anxiety, and daily trauma just so they can host, perform, and moderate events, ensuring the queer gospel’s rawness reaches their community free from straight people’s corrupt capitalist coin. I know gay Black men who face emotional isolation for standing tall and unwavering in their complex queer truth, refusing to suffer in silence or fake it in order to “make it.” I know gay Africans never ever spoken to by their own fathers, yeah verbally blocked then kicked out of their homes, denied medical treatment, and humiliated by a sick healthcare system that prescribes toxic transphobia wherever they remain boldly Black while trans-identified; sexually and physically assaulted and abused in cages posing as makeshift homeless shelters in refugee camps, anally raped on the daily by security guards entrusted with their bodies, denied passports on grounds of gender and sexual biases, violently
harassed at borders; euphoric at 40 because it took four agonizing decades before they could finally, finally look to their reflection in the mirror then whisper “Survivor.” Trans men-of-color who can’t rent an apartment without proof of their “birth certificate,” life through documentation after documentation; can’t drive a car without facing police brutality; who walk the streets misread as “thugs” despite their rich, complex identities. Black trans femmes butchered to death by cis male lovers because “real Black men” aren’t “queer” enough to love trans femmes in public. Black trans femmes beaten on the streets by cops then wrongfully convicted as whores, not professionals engaging in survival sex so they do not starve to death in the richest democratic country on earth. Black trans femmes judged in court by criminal laws, injustice sending them straight to male prisons because they proudly identify as women with penises. I know Black queers who swallow oppression, who are medicated and institutionalized for mental illnesses that would not exist if they denied their existence, if they agreed to selfidentify as cis and straight instead (of trans). Black queers pronounced demonic by a loving Jesus, their suicidal screams unheard for so long they set up their own toll-free lifeline to stem the queer bloodshed, weaving magical unicorns and real rainbow flags out of generational abuse and social stigma. Elders, queer survivors press their ears to the telephone receiver, listening to queer family cry as only the oppressed can. For one pure moment of desire, one pure moment of unfiltered truth, Black queers whose resistance is resilience, and resilience is each other because this world, with its racist, toxic, anti-queer culture, wishes us nothing more than death. Loving is Being, I tell you. You moved with a young, hip, risqué crowd of wild artists, mostly southern queers who lived loose, lived free, lived hard and on the edge of every conceivable border along the East Coast or New York City’s margins. You dropped out of their scene, disappeared. Rumors began. Everybody heard tidbits about something. They claimed they didn’t but in truth, we all knew something just wasn’t right. You relocated: a cheap dump, rats plus roaches, recently released convicted criminals for neighbors. By then your vision-child was dead, that theater group for Black queers cut. Lack of funding, plus some “established” theater institution “awarded” yet another “white creative” large sums of grant money for stealing your idea, extra cash allotted for killing your baby. You moved twice in three weeks. Folks whispered, something about an addiction, possibly meth, maybe HIV-positive plus backsliding after rehab for the umpteenth time but during this intervention, this time you swore up-n-down you would conquer your demons, kick the curse to the curb for once and for all. Loyal friends kept up the faith, urging the rest of us to go visit, never mind the stench, that you smelled like fresh shit mixed with stale urine living in a tiny, dark coat closet and looked nothing like your former Self. Ex-lovers shook their heads, propped their coat collars upright as a shield against wintry winds, walking speedily away from the gritty gossip soon swallowed by the boom, blast, and brilliance that is New York City. That same night you took a tiny hit, nothing much just a late night shoot to soothe the evening’s nerves. Then the Junky in Room 226 told the Crackhead in Room 225 there’s a strange smell
coming from down the hallway in 224. Three days later, when the cops kicked open your door, they found you in bed with your most faithful lover, a meth pipe nestled sweetly between the sheets, smack in the middle of that open palm attached to your cold corpse. Being Andre meant carrying the burden of other people’s fucked-upness. Because racism. Because stigma. Because shame. Because homophobia, biphobia, queerphobia, ableism, classism. Because transmisgynoir. Because you were so ahead of your time you gifted everyone else with a future. Because queer masculinity coupled with Black Brilliance like yours is slaughtered in a deeply racist world. Because the queer Black body is under siege. Because Black Love is as criminal as poverty is shameful in a hyper-capitalist shithole democratic dumping ground of a country like America. Because there is no such thing as celebrated, safe space for queersof-color. Because we are forced to use English, a colonial language, to decolonize our dreams. Because patriarchy is a hate crime. Because being labeled “crazy” when Black and queer in a racist world is the ultimate compliment. And still, despite what stood between you and (institutionalized) insanity, you claimed your identity, birthing new realities to transcend circumstance, sometimes bigotry. Fabulousness?, you?, yes of course. You dreamed big, dreamed brave, you dreamed strong, dreams bound beautifully by queer Black pride. How many times did they kill you before you died? How many times were you erased, ignored, lied to, manipulated, gaslit, raped, shamed, ridiculed into tortured submission until you decided, Why not disappear? When did you know your screams will never be heard? Is that the distinct difference between Black queerness and White queerness or being straight, meaning: alive? The first time you were in drag, was that the first time you feared for your life? The first time the Black community failed you for being Queer, what did you tell yourself? The first time the queer community failed you for being Black, what did you tell yourself? That next morning was your pain floored or could you carry it past the doorpost out into a White world? At what point did you stop performing to let the mask slip? They killed you after that, I know, but how many times? Did you die when they shouted “faggot” or the word “Art”? TV taught me how to love my queerness by hating my Blackness; you? How crazy is too crazy when you’ve never seen yourself? Never ever whole, never ever full, never ever beautiful, never ever man enough or woman enough or cis enough or Black enough or gay enough or queer enough, never ever free when never ever human. When the mirror is your rapist and society stands you long enough to stare but never sees you, you must obsessively wonder if that’s why the future screams stigma. That sliver within Time, that breath inside survival, that scream for existence within eternity, what broke you my Brother? What made it impossible to outlive your pain, Beloved?
Now, transition completed, you are among Queer Ancestry whose sole purpose is the exaltation of life divine as love supreme. Consciousness meeting consciousness, you no longer have a material body. Think: how radical is that? A Black gay man finally, finally is not “his” body: no more stereotypes and just gender infinity; no more racial constructs because you are the beyond; no more labels; no more sexual and gender-based stigma. Where you are now is gender eternity, divine love radiating core being. At the inner sanctum of which is your baby, your vision-child of a theater group for Black queers, still pure, still enduring, now resurrected and more alive among our Queer Ancestors who live to fully honor their own. Finally, in death you have attained what life viciously robbed from you: visibility, significance, meaningfulness, acclaim, space, peace, safety, and above all, true love. Yes, here, among your tribe, you can claim who you are. Because we are the celebration of your fullness and, in so being, the Ancestors have nominated another tortured queer Black creative to your theater’s music ministry: Whitney Houston. There she stands, bathed in Black ancestral queerness, ready to crown your arrival with song. Moving towards the ever-growing spotlight awaiting her at center stage, she tips her head slightly, acknowledging the other Queer Ancestors in attendance, none of whom require introduction. There’s lesbian poetess Audre Lorde in dashiki, eyeglasses resting at the base of her nose; James Baldwin who still goes by “Jimmy” sitting next to his close friend, Black lesbian playwright Lorraine Hansberry; Langston Hughes leans in to listen to South Africa’s closeted lesbian musical queen of 80’s Afro-Pop Brenda Fassie; Ugandan queer activist David Kato is to the left of trans femme icons Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Haitian-American Drag King extraordinaire Dred (Mildred Gerestant). In the box marked “Allies Only,” Nelson Mandela infuses individual charm to spin his unique narrative about African freedom fighting with personal anecdotes about the struggle told to Bobbi Kristina Brown. For the most exalted Queers in the audience, all 446 murdered trans women-of-color sit in a special section marked “The Holiest of Holies,” reserved exclusively for our most honorable for, without the trans femme community of color, without their precious lives and equally precious bloodshed, the Queer kingdom and community must acknowledge our movement did not, could not, and would not exist. Whitney, within the spotlight’s circle, takes a deep breath as she throws her head back, singing: Beloved Sacred One Peaceful stillness is your newest home Hommmme…. Full queer disclosure by way of naked honesty? In truth, we were scared
shitless of getting too close to each other. Black touch, moments of intimacy, time and time again are miracles because they are so uniquely powerfully intimate and therefore uniquely deadly. And, contrary to queer theories that center bodies in white space, no, our fear was not born during the HIV crisis and its ensuing epidemic. And no, our fear is not the organic byproduct of programmed instability during a shifty Digital Age. And no, our fear did not suddenly metastasize after September 11th as the defining apocalyptic event of our generation. Ours is a fear with an umbilical chord stretching back centuries, across numerous lands and oceans, weaving through multiple generations amplified through compounding traumas. When you are Black and queer, your whole Being calls out White Supremacy and anything, anything that does that in this world must die and keep dying multiple times until stamped “dead enough.” To reach out, to touch another Black queer is non-conformity, is affirmation of the unspeakable, is acknowledgement of the denied, is transcendent and transformational of all betrayals. That particular brand of Black intimacy is completely queer in that its focus is not to turn Darkness into Light but Light into Darkness because Beloved only Darkness, on this wretched Earth, only Darkness is powerful enough to contain all things. To contain the pain with the joy. To hold onto spiritual faith amidst the human horror. To live in peace during the storm. To reach the social heights of Black celebrity while rooted to Almighty God. To manifest contradiction as inevitable surprise. To push the original sin against Black people to the background of our Love Supreme as foreground. So, is my spiritual crisis, and that of my tribal siblings, something like this: somewhere deep down, I knew if I reached out to touch you, I would have to reach for myself? And maybe, after years of trauma, after years of dying multiple deaths, I was scared shitless of where I’d gone and who I’d become to get there? Whenever I stared into the mirror, forced to stare back, to face a reflection that strips all the way to my Ancestors who question what I’ve done to and for my queer family, question how I’ve honored their power through community, question my place on Earth in the name of their precious blood, maybe that reckoning is the ultimate death stamp, the final kill among kills. In short, I never touched you Andre because somewhere deep down I knew I would have to survive myself to reach you. The paradox is exactly what paradox is, glaringly obvious. Just as there are different types of murder—intentional, unintentional, reactionary, accidental, revenge fantasy, merciful—so too are there different types of death. Meaning what? Love kills. Our great Queer Ancestors intended it to be so. Coming out of the closet means dying to that person who was in the closet; going back into the closet means dying to the Self who is out. And life’s epic sweeping journey involves eternally going in and out of that closet’s revolving door unto the everlasting. As you die to yourself—forever moving through multiple closets, moving from who you were to who you are to who you were to who you are, moving from mask to face to soul—as you do so, you get close to someone. And as you get close to someone, you assume a tremendous amount of power because you realize you can always get close enough to kill them—always.
But are you willing to get close enough to love them? Are you willing to leave it all out there for them? Are you willing to be vulnerable to them? Are you willing to be there for them? To share their queer breath? To honor their queer Black body in a racist world? Are you willing to plant kisses that destroy the myth that Black space, our bodies especially, only house stereotypes of self-destruction? Are you willing to snack on their queer asshole? Are you willing to die to your reality to live within theirs? Their soul music, their sound, their language, swim smack in the middle of their word soup, lose yourself in meaning that is their eternity? Are you willing to let yourself go? Seriously, would you put your Truth to sleep? Are you willing to die to yourself to touch them? Yes, we died, too many times. But we also lived just as many lives. And not touching you, Queerly Beloved, robbed me of those lives. And the truth is, the foundation of many beautiful worlds were right there, living in you. Dearest Queer Brother, forgive me for robbing the majesty of our connection, dishonoring Black love. It was not alienation but pure murder. Forgive me for running away when you stood tall and strong to claim me. In the name of our Queer Ancestors, please forgive me for labeling you fragile instead of championing the strength and power of your vulnerability. Shamefully, I turned my head to stab you invisible, making me unworthy of your trust and tribe. I beg you, please forgive me for dishonoring my queerness and yours, and those of our Ancestors who shed their precious blood to hold firmly onto their integrity. Whose ascendance is proof not once did they sell their power to appease oppression. But I foolishly labeled my murder of you survival, believing that I had to deny and destroy my brother to get somewhere safely when Black and queer in America. Safety is a lie, maybe an even bigger and more dangerous lie than the gender-binary because itâ€™s consumed more communities. However today I give up the myth of safety in a white world, surrendering to my grief to uplift you who were sooooo much better than me, and sooooo much greater than this world. With love everlasting, I say your name as prayer eternal: Andre Alexander Lancaster, I love you. Truly, Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko Mourning, unlike grief, is a scripted ritual for a circle of intimates who gather together (usually in all black) as testament in honor of life passed. Grief, by contrast, is neither scripted nor collective in expression, perhaps because itâ€™s invisible twin is love. Like love, grief defies social scripts; like love, grief celebrates transformational chaos; upholds vulnerability, helplessness, and surrender as powerful. This piece not only examines loss of life but looks at the multiplicity of deaths within a single lifetime the moment one identifies as black and queer. The intimate circle, also a tribe of queers-of-color, anticipate systemic (#cistemic) death by erasure, silencing,
racism, hetero-patriarchy, shaming, stigma, self-sabotage, addiction, escapism, lethal doubt, queerphobia, and, because of all this and a lot more, we participate in numbing ourselves to so much oppression, read: are complicit by inclusion. As the forces of White Supremacy feast on Black bodies, queerness is its only cure but only if fear does not limit its expression. I grieve Andre most whenever I surrender to the truth that I was too afraid to love my Black brother queerly, read: fully, truly.
Dead Birds Alexx Mattox On most days, my name sounds strange and uncomfortable to me. Like it belongs to the rotting plants hanging from ceilings or the wine glasses in the dirty dishes. I find it in the curve of the distant mountains or in a glass of wine before noon. I’m sure my mother named me with stale coffee on her breath and my father replied yes with a glass of whiskey in his hands. Some mornings, I feel like a stranger in my own bed. Like I’ve been tossed around between a sleepless night and a distant memory. As I learn to navigate my way through life, I find myself spending time looking for ways to recognize the only sound that’s ever been mine. I pace around my apartment, clean the dishes, have two cups of coffee, and learn to love whiskey without committing to accepting the taste. My desk drawer is filled with trinkets and crumpled up letters that I’ve written but decided to never send. Most of them are just desperate pleas. They ask strangers if their hearts jump at the sound of my name. If its meaning is wrapped in the bed sheets of their bed or living under a pile of magazines. I wonder if it tastes better rolling off tongues if it’s dipped in honey or if it gets stuck between the teeth of men I’ve never met. Everything is a mess and it makes my heart hurt. I cut red wine stains out of my carpet and look for ways to hide the same stains left on my soul. I often find myself laughing at the dead birds that are scattered in my front yard. With shaky hands, I hold their deflated bodies, black feathers wrap around fragile bones. One by one I pick them up and throw them into the sky, hoping the air will decide to fill their tiny bodies and make them plump again. I exhale stale smoke, my belly full of coffee. I pace through the present as I leave footsteps on my past. One by one, the birds remind me of who I’ve become. They scream at me without using words longing for my letters to be taped to the ends of their bony legs. They only knew how to fly off in a cool breeze in the summer or when sunsets look like opals.
When I finally make my way back to the kitchen, the dishes are dirty and swallowed in the mess I’ve made. I submerge my arms elbow deep into the murky water in search of a wine glass. I scrub red stains off the glass just to watch them reappear later. I take a seat at my desk and find comfort in flattening out the crumpled letters one-by-one. I’ve accepted that I’ll never ask these strangers any questions, just like I refuse to ask the birds to fly for my enjoyment with broken wings.
The Attic Skylar Brown We laid together in the attic, do you remember? The fireplace roared downstairs, embers rose in the air but we were warm together upstairs chest against chest. You were older, the lines on your face reflected a life already lived, and my skin was smooth for I was untouched, and meant I feared, to forever stay that way. We laid together in the garden, surrounded by leaves. We were the first women, Eve and Eve, and we were not self-conscious. So still, you remember me. From older women comes a desperate, rollicking desire to recapture what they had when they were younger. And younger women ignore the women of the woods but in the end, they need the witches much more than they think they do. I asked you to lock me in a tower for it was best to remain in isolation, never risking the bitter pain of rejection. You so kindly obliged, laid in the attic with me all night. We never touched. You confessed to me how you used to dream of free love no marriage, no children, just an endless parade of sleepless nights no commitment, no such thing as rejection when love only existed for one night. But that world never chose us so in the end we had to be alone together. I felt your cool breath on my neck as we dreamt away summer nights, blinds drawn so we never saw the sun rise. We played mother and child, took turns cooking and I cared for you, brushed out your hair though my favourite was when you painted me in red lipstick in front of the rusty mirror for no oneâ€™s eyes but your own.
Mother knows best, so all that you said, I would do. Remember all those silly copycat games? I buried you in the garden, and Iâ€™m reciting my last rites now taking pills from the vial you kept hidden under the pillow because the attic is just an empty attic now without you in it and the weeds are overgrown so I will lie down now and sink into the soil with you.
Escape Hyewon Cho
Korean International School, South Korea
My Honey Brooke Biese
A Conversation with a Tree Nathan Knutson I tried to have a conversation with a tree today It made me feel better but Iâ€™m not sure it got anything out of the exchange How could anything with branches and rings that sway and glow in the dripping sun ever gain something from a tiny person standing at its trunk whispering into the chasm of cracked bark Waiting for an echo to return from the depths of slowly decaying carbon Softly exhaling the oxygen I rely on I know the tree doesnâ€™t need me to be there spilling my guts to it It has better things to do with its life But I canâ€™t help but stand there Like an idiot Waiting for the moment when it whispers back
The Garden Zach Murphy The wildflowers wilt over their own feet as I trudge through the dusty, jaded soil. One of my legs is broken. My mouth is parched. And my stripes burn. I wonder if the workers before me dealt with this kind of heat. I wonder if the workers after me will suffer even more. I wonder if there will even be workers after me. The honey isnâ€™t so sweet here anymore. The dream has melted away. This planet is no longer my garden. As I use my last shred of will to drive my stinger into the wrinkled ground, I pray that my final moments will be graced with a cool breeze.
Perriot Bianca Rivetti
Summer Treasure 86 Jim Ross
I Wish I Could Buy Compassion on Amazon Ally Blovits Sometimes, I can afford to eat Avocado toast for breakfast. Jeff Bezos Can afford to eat 91,000 helicopters For breakfast, 300,000 Lamborghinis For lunch, 355 yachts as a snack And still, be a billionaire by dinner. My mom had to convince me It was fine to pay $2 a week for parking But Jeff Bezos could pay for 4 years of tuition For me and everyone Iâ€™ve ever known And still, be a billionaire by dinner. I wish I could have a pet. Jeff Bezos could buy 10,000 Bengal tigers, mansions for each of them to live in, 100,000 zoos To house all of their animal friends, Give all 10,000 tigers a small loan Of 1 million dollars, then 3 more gifts Of 1 million dollars each (for tigers are irresponsible with money) And still, still Jeff Bezos is a billionaire by dinner. My $9.25 an hour paycheck disintegrates in my hand Money already promised to pay back loans, housing, or food
Jeff Bezos makes over $4 million an hour. The $690,000 Jeff Bezos donated to the victims Of the Australian wildfires is less than What he makes in five minutes. With a day’s wage, Jeff Bezos Could fix the Flint water crisis. My friends and I joke about needing To live in cardboard boxes after graduation Jeff Bezos could end homelessness in the U.S. And still be the richest person in the world. Jeff Bezos could end world hunger Twice a year. 1 dollar to the average American is the same as Jeff Bezos spending 1.2 million dollars. My question, Jeff Bezos, is if you have the money To solve the world’s problems What is it that you can’t afford?
Seen, Unseen: Visions of a Pandemic Abhinita Mohanty I hung my neck out, venturing my sight through the semi-dark streets. The COVID lockdown looks peaceful. Streets are empty; roofs are full. Balconies are dark, dotted with greying older men and women. I can hear the faint noises of insects under the street lights, a sound that I have never heard before. It pleases my soul, and instantly I am doleful at the sight of closed eateries, delicious street foods. The heart, like always before, doesn’t know what it wants. It never will, and I will be doomed at the blandness of my life when it becomes too sure of everything. The starry skies and chirping crickets are captivating. Still, as a rotten slave of habits, of complacency and a quotidian mind, I miss the sound of honking and chatter of Homosapiens and street parties. Guilt engulfs me. The things I miss today, I have always seen them as an obnoxious part of modern life. The playful street dogs and bashful birds make me joyous. The smoking chimneys from the nearby slums (which I never noticed before) makes me wonder what’s cooking underneath those tinted roofs. Everybody is at peace, my heart ripples, rumbles, and surrenders to things as they are. I now understand the stubbornness of our hearts and at the same time, how easily we lock ourselves into the prison of routine. Even we millennial who worship quirks of unpredictability and romanticise the explorers and adventures, don’t want to dust up certain things. The lockdown has an immense impact on our economy, personal life, lifestyles, and our choices. Yes, these changes are not organic. It is sudden, abrupt, and challenging to accept. The pandemic sweeps across the globe and humans gape. One wonders when things will return to the mundane! Change is scary, perhaps scarier than death to some of us. We make a big fuss with just sleights of hand; a slight change in skin colour can throw some people into a fit of panic. We freak out when we see a harmless stranger loitering in our neighbourhood. We are after all, most of us, creatures of habits, convention, and we revel under the cloak of ‘the usual.’ The higher a position we occupy in the pyramid, the stronger and tougher our bubbles become. The burst makes us uneasy, vulnerable, and naked. During these unusual times, I often notice things that I have ignored before. I have never stared at empty roads for so long or checked out the fading colours from old electric poles. I have never looked so carefully at those tiny houses in front of my lane or heard the faint voices of people next door. Slowly, with baby steps, we are getting comfortable with our confined lives and blissful family around.
Things have not changed much in my neighbourhood. The insects always hovered around the street lights. The tiny asbestos houses in front of my house, with the evening shades of grey and dark, was still full of boisterous women during this time. At the end of the street, at the darkest zone, the street dogs and cows prowl as usual. The lights of my balcony and a few others are as bright as every day. The corner grocery shops still do business as usual. The people, the buildings are the same. It consoles me, my heart. Things have not changed so much. Fewer people are visible on roads, and we cannot venture out often. We are making a big fuss, after all. Things are ordinary and bland with a twist and with bitterness in the mouth. Just like everything else, this will pass too. My heart will again miss those, peaceful, ‘non-polluting’ quarantine days and curse the honking cars and loud chatter down the street. Then, still, I am unable to comprehend or put the finger on that lingering feeling, hanging heavy in me amidst this lockdown. A few days back, I heard about swans and dolphins in the waters of Venice; it turned out to be fake news. There were reports of sightings of wild animals and birds all over the globe, which to my respite, turned out to be true. However, my mind went back to the edited images of pretty birds of Venice to peddle fake news. Someone bored to his/her wits imagined a narrative where the pandemic would have a silver lining to it. Those women, near my building, who buzzed around in the veranda and made balls of cow dung to dry on their tinted roofs, were trying to steal away a bit of normalcy. A few others are seeking a silver lining. Perhaps even the hardest of ‘oil company’ investors, coal mining oligarchs, and myopic ‘climate change’ deniers will see something beautiful when they see clean waters with swans and bluer skies. There are two categories of people. First, those who ‘unsee’ the ravages of a pandemic and bleakness of quarantine, have to sprinkle their lives with routine and preserve their sanity. The second includes those who are not waiting anymore to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They post pictures of clear morning skies and a rare bird in their garden and feel joyous at the sightings of wildings. One can, as well, be both. My excitement towards news of reducing pollution, ozone layer repairs, and wildlife sightings get dampened too soon. I ask myself what will happen after this passes; we will go on to create new holes in those layers and drive back beasts and birds into exile. What narrative will I use to say things beyond, ‘how some vaccine or medicine restored us to rapacious and self-centred normalcy?’ I cannot unsee the humongous abnormality, stretching its limb away from my privileged dwelling. As I, in my secluded, private life try to find scrapes of normalcy, it is punctuated by images. These are the images of a few ‘forgettable’ souls who lost their lives in the railway tracks or a man on the edges of society, dragging
his pregnant wife and baby daughter in a makeshift cart and walking 700kms. Amidst all my new found joy of cooking and writing, I cannot unhinge the feeling of abnormality in the distance. More disturbing than COVID is the fact that, in 21st century India, millions of people exist without any safety nets, a bystander to policies and ‘welfarism.’ We inside the catacombs of our normality are not unaware of the human cost and catastrophe of our fellow beings, but these are perilous times and keeping ourselves in high spirits matters too. Personally, when I saw the snippets of my neighbourhood during the lockdown, I was hoping to spot the differences or imagine the ‘after’ and ‘before’ photographs of cities and those DIY skin hacks. On spotting those differences, I was baffled enough to search for the familiar and the humdrum state of being. Those people, who covered a lot of ground and died or escaped with charred feet, were seeking to grasp the familiar. They were also trying to look for a silver lining, at the end of the tunnel. More than the havoc of the pandemic or the streaks of ‘environmental beauty’ it has created, we as writers, perhaps need a narrative and a language to talk about the simmering emotions of the everyday life during this time. As of now, my narrative resembles a jigsaw puzzle, with missing parts of the picture; perhaps someone else will find them somewhere and complete it.
Media Head Jason Christensen
Hand Made Stencils, Paint, Mixed Media
Crimson Fantasy Nick Wagler Cracking my knuckles, a feeling of satisfaction courses through my veins as I stand above her body. Her eyes are closed, and she stopped fighting moments ago. The roughened, dry skin on my hands is reddened from the force I applied to her neck, and tiny cuts caused by the movement trickle slightly. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken a life, but the object of my desire wasn’t a nameless hooker or hitchhiker I met along the highway. However, I don’t feel a shred of guilt. Her name was Toni. I hadn’t known her for long, but I was thrilled by the fact that a pretty, twenty-something woman trusted me enough to travel with me. The sheer disbelief and horror in her eyes as I made my move was far more intense than what I’ve witnessed before. Her screams and voracious drive to fight me off only caused a greater sense of excitement. Obviously, she was no match for my strength. I’ve never been able to explain, even to myself, why I have such violent fantasies. Something in my mind tells me to do it, so I act when the urge becomes unbearable. It’s worse than when I haven’t smoked for a few days. Again, and again, and again, I give into my craving for murder. My biggest weakness is a girl with red hair. I’ve always had a thing for redheads. I slowly shift my weight and move off the bed, grabbing my button-up shirt from the top of the dresser. The scratches lining my arms, face, and back sting as the fabric passes over my body. The pain she inflicted as she dug her nails into my skin only intensified the frenzy I experienced. It was indescribably pleasing as I felt the life slowly fading from her body. I suppose proving my dominance and superiority is why it’s so rewarding after I’m finished. Opening the breast pocket of the shirt, I retrieve a half-empty pack of Pall Malls and light up. Grabbing her by the ankles, I pull Toni off the twisted pile of sheets on the mattress. I’m not fucked up enough to sleep next to a corpse. The pleasure is all in the killing. It’s the afternoon, and daylight peeks though the closed shades inside my semi, but I’m feeling a bit worn out. I still have to make it to Jellico by morning. When it’s dark enough, I’ll find a good spot along the road to dump the body. After I drop off my cargo, the rest of the day will be open for me. I’m probably doing society a favor by picking off these women. It’s not like anyone is going to be overly bothered by their absence. Toni couldn’t bear to stay confined in Indiana; she wasn’t ready to slow her life down after she’d had that baby.
The two I killed previously had run away from home or got kicked out of their homes for using drugs and sold their bodies to make money. I’d met Toni about a week ago as I made small talk at the grocery store. She wanted to go down south so badly. Technically, I haven’t broken my promise. She’ll still get dropped off in Tennessee. But for now, she’s going to stay on the floor until I get some shut-eye and start driving again. There are only three days remaining in 1984. I’m going to hit the bar after I get back home, my friends are more than likely going to want to celebrate with me. I’m expecting my boss will boost my pay soon, since he keeps saying how impressed he is with how fast I’m able to make a delivery. My son is midway through kindergarten, and I’m sure he’ll be asking for my advice to impress his female classmates. Like me, when I was a kid, he doesn’t seem to think the opposite sex is plagued by cooties or disinterested with their activities. Although it’s quiet and the covers are comfortably surrounding my body, I keep having trouble relaxing my thoughts. I’m usually able to calm down after I’m finished choking the life out of someone, but the desire to do it again still lingers. The relief from satisfying my urges isn’t lasting as long as it used to. I don’t know when my next opportunity will be waiting at the side of the pavement with an outstretched thumb, but she’d better come soon. I haven’t been caught yet, and the first girl still hasn’t been found, so I’m not bothered by this change.
Summer in the Eyes of a Delta Woman Who Left Countless Eons Ago Jeffrey Alfier
Scalded by the brands: whore, dyke — she flees her birthplace, her cozy hometown, its craftstore welcome mats, church marquees, their wind-canted waymarks, and one preacher’s warning: You best cut that woman from out your mind — someone who was her original sin, her Eden apple. Tonight, she races the highway north in an obsolete Pontiac, the darkness of cane fields and ditchbanks spanned with hubcaps, hard weather threatening to return like an emigrant unseen for years. So where is her body made in the image of God, save for the thorns of herself? What did she leave behind: points of reference fading in the rearview. And what’s the next town but streetlamps sinking through idyllic trees — light to stab her eyes, music slithering through the doorway of the only bar? Damp air brushes her face now, she cocks her head windward, as if hearing a woman singing to a child, or a lover’s hand trying the door unseen behind her.
Free the Nipple Lindsay Huehns
Yarn Weaving with Embroidery
focus on me Julia Vu
Quarry Lane School, California tonight, i feel homesick for a place iâ€™ve never been and i miss people i have yet to meet; these nighttime sirens and traffic lights make me an alien under my own sheets. the springtime atmosphere feels too crowded to breathe, too heavy to feel, too suffocating to hurt. your eyes look so distant when they lay lost in the city lights. if blinking headlights were stars, then we must be floating in an abyss of clouds and nothingness. tonight, my love, we are too proud to sleep, too numb to hide. take me home, to the quiet suburban roads and skies free from pollution of light. letâ€™s skip the wordplay and let me lose myself in the lust glowing on the dips and curve of your neck. print your teeth onto my skin and taste me over and over, make me forget the bustling train stations and the winding cracks on gravel sidewalks. fill me with the delirium of electricity pulsing in pinpricks across my thighs and growl in my ear an invitation to madness. remind me of the ways our bodies slotted together so long ago.
This Place is No Longer Anyone’s Business Zach Murphy Morton and Rosa slow-danced in the street as the shoe repair shop that they owned for 31 years went up into flames. “This probably isn’t the best idea,” said Rosa. “Nothing is ever the best idea,” answered Morton. “But let’s keep dancing.”
American Pelicans along Eastern Shore of Lower Green Bay Collette LaRue
Modern Love Nick Minges The restaurant was wonderfully lit and my date was even more beautiful than Dan had described. “I’m sorry I’m a little late,” she said when she sat down. “No problem,” I said. “I like to be early—and I’m sorry I’m not taller,” I added. “Oh really?” she said. “I’m sorry I’m not very girly if that’s what you’re looking for. I think pink is a stupid color and I hate makeup.” “I’m sorry I hate sports,” I said, smiling. “I’m sorry I haven’t cut my hair in almost three years!” she beamed. Some kind of palpable momentum was building. “I’m sorry I can’t bench press more than eight pounds because of a nerve condition in my neck,” I said. “My father would love you,” she said. “I’m sorry, but I would probably hate him.” I said. “I’m a very good mediator, I can handle it,” she said. The waiter approached. “I’m sorry, just another minute,” we said in unison. “I’m sorry I don’t like jury duty,” I said. “Who does?” she said. “I’m sorry that none of my teeth are real. I had a horrible gum infection years ago.” “I once stole a hamster from a pet store and tried to care for it but my brother threw it in the garbage disposal,” I said. “That’s disgusting,” she said. “I know,” I said. “What about your brother? What’s he like?” “He’s dead,” she said. “Lyme disease.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “Don’t be—it feels like we’re really getting somewhere. Come on, ask me about someone else,” she said. “Your...mother?” I said. “Mental hospital,” she said, beaming. This girl checked every box. “What about your—” “My uncle was a cannibal who fled to Peru!” I felt like I was going to faint. “What about your mom?” she asked. “Oh, she’s fine,” I said, examining the table for imperfections. She pouted a bit. I went big. “I’m sorry that time and genetics have conspired in such a way to produce me in the shape you see before you now. My penis is like a stick of chalk that gets smaller all the time and I’m sorry about that too,” I said. She put her hand on top of mine and a jolt shot through me. “I’m sorry I think one of my boobs is bigger than the other. I’m not even sure if it’s true—it’s just a thought I have that I feel like I shouldn’t.” “I’m sorry you have that thought,” I said. “When I look in your eyes, my sorrow only grows,” she said. Man, this girl was my ticket. “I’m sorry I lied about my father,” she said. “He’s the reason I have separation issues because when I was young, he used to hide from my mom and I in the basement and we would go look for him. He was committed to it though, and got so good at it he died down there, and we only found him later because of the smell.” She crept her fingers up my arm, but I pulled way. “I’m sorry I need so much personal space because when I was young my brother who slept with me chewed off several of my toes...” I said. “I’m sorry I snapped,” I added. “Me too,” she said. “And I’d love to meet your mom.” “What’s good here?” I asked.
Lost History Steffi Farrey A water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In order to neutralize their opposite electrical charges, the molecules bond together to form a single drop. She meets my inquisitive gaze evenly. I never met my great-grandmother; I was born almost a decade after her death. This picture I hold is the only one I have ever seen of her. Until I started my research, I didn’t even know her first name. Still, I feel connected through the slightest thread in my bloodline to my mysterious ancestor. She stands, in this picture, holding a large Northern Pike, presumably caught very recently before the photo was taken. A field extends to a tree line behind her and she stands on sandy soil. Her face, aged and wrinkled, is framed by a hat which mostly covers her dark hair. If I look close enough, I can make it out to be the same shade as my own when I was younger. Her face is shielded by a pair of widerimmed sunglasses, but I have been told that I have her eyes as well. A large cigar protrudes from her mouth which is firmly creased into a frown. She seems a very serious woman. The Mississippi River begins as a gentle stream trickling from the side of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. It is only three feet deep at its origin. As I stare at the only visual record I have of my Native American heritage, it occurs to me that it easy to feel proud of a family history when you are not discriminated against for it. Studying her frown and weathered expression, I feel myself pulled towards her time. I see her parents, equally as mysterious to me. They must have grown up in the height of Native American cultural assimilation. Children, who only a few decades before would have happily grown up learning their people’s ways of life, are forced to attend boarding schools designed specifically to “civilize” the next generation. At these schools, they must dress and act as European-American children are expected to. Names are changed and identities erased. For the sake of “civilized man,” the children lose even their family. “Misi-ziibi” is Ojibwe word for “great river” and is the origin of the Mississippi River’s name. It is 1884. Zitkala-Sa, an eight-year-old Sioux girl, is attending a Native American boarding school in Indiana. In stark contrast to the life she is comfortable with,
the school operates in a mechanical fashion. Students respond obediently to the sound of a bell. The bell tells them when they may sit. It tells them when to stand. It tells them when to eat, when to sleep, and when to assemble into neatly ordered rows. The curriculum is taught only in English; any student who speaks otherwise is harshly punished. On her first day of this new life, the young girl finds herself “tied fast in a chair” as the women use “cold blades” to “gnaw off [her] thick braids.” Years later, Zitkala-Sa writes of her experiences at this school and of her return to the English culture for a college education. The pain she describes in her series of personal accounts is one many can certainly empathize with. She feels caught between cultures and between worlds, describing herself as “a cold bare pole [...] planted in a strange earth.” The heart-wrenching tale paints an almost unimaginable image of the power of self-assumed superiority. The Mississippi River is approximately 2,300 miles long. Because of the constantly changing river dynamics, it is impossible to declare the exact length of the river. It is 1804. A treaty is signed between the United States and the Sac and Fox Nation of northern, modern-day Illinois. The chaos such a simple thread of ink will cause is incomprehensible. Black Hawk will later lament how “[the treaty] has been the origin of all [the Sac and Fox tribes’] difficulties.” If he had only understood what he was being asked to sign, I cannot imagine that he would have. The idea of land ownership was a foreign concept to the natives. As many indigenous people did, the Sacs saw themselves as of the earth, not owners of a piece of property. Easily swindled through the lack of proper intercultural communication, the Sac and Fox Nation sold all their land east of the Mississippi River to the United States government. Erosion and deposition plays a major factor in the shape and resulting length of the river. At each curve in the stream of water, the water on the outside of the curve rushes faster and erodes the bank. The water on the inside curve of the river moves more slowly and deposits sediments along the bank, forming a “point bar.” The combined forces of inner and outer curves will change the river’s shape over time, establishing increasingly more intense curves. The stories I am finding fill me with a terrible sorrow. Like an iron fist, I feel my chest tighten as the pain of these people rushes through me. Once again, I think of my ancestors. I want to understand my heritage; I want to understand where I come from. But these stories—these histories—are not mine. All I have is one picture. Deep down, I know how important it is to separate my own history from these events. I cannot rob others of their ancestry to fill my own void.
Eventually, the bends of the river become so dramatic that two curves meet. Separated from the main river, an oxbow lake is established from the former river segments. Why do fear and repulsion grip us so firmly when we encounter a culture we are unfamiliar with? It pains me. What makes us think one group of people is so impossibly different than another? As if we have found a new species, we cautiously observe others and make presumptions about their culture and life. The unfamiliarity brings about a sense of vulnerability. Most do not welcome such a feeling, and instead, project dismissal and rejection. Drawing water from approximately 1.2 million square miles in thirty-one states and two Canadian provinces, the Mississippi River has the third largest watershed in the world. It is 2014. A movie is released. The film is not about the Americas or native cultures; it takes place during World War II in Nazi Germany. In the movie, a character declares “you can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements and it’s as if they never existed.” A river’s watershed is the area of land of which it draws water from. Underground water currents all flow to the lowest point in the watershed, creating a river as it flows to the sea. I stand, a lone figure, surveying the river. The pavement feels hard beneath my feet. The sun warms my cheeks and a gentle breeze blows stray strands of hair across my face. The water shimmers in the sunlight as it flows steadily on its way. Eventually, the water in front of me—along with all that flows with it—will join the Mississippi River and make its way to the sea. Although the solemn peace of the river is what I came here to experience, it is not what I experience. I hear the sounds of the city all around me. Horns blare as impatient drivers sound their irritation. A digger creaks and groans at the construction site behind me. The familiar sounds of motors accelerating and a car radio that is up just a little too loud disturb my reflective state. Looking around at the broken buildings and crumbling concrete, a wave of grief falls over me. Black Hawk traveled on this very river. These people have likely never considered the people who lived at the foot of this very river. He was here, on this spot. But that was when “here” was a different place. A coal plant siphons water from a river or lake and boils it to turn a turbine. Afterwards, the steam is cooled with river water and released back into the river. The water that is returned, however, is not always fully cooled. Warmer than normal
water, over time, will affect the temperature of the river water. It is 1832. The Black Hawk War ends in an infamous last battle on the banks of the Mississippi River. The steamboat Warrior blocks the Sacs’ path like an ominous shadow, looming and creaking in the waters. There is nowhere left to go; there is nowhere left to run. Anticipating defeat, Black Hawk attempts to surrender to the American soldiers for the third time. The Sac leader’s envoy and the soldiers aboard the steamboat, however, are unable to understand each other. Black Hawk himself stands knee-deep in the Mississippi River, holding a white flag high above his head. Despite his submission, the soldiers aboard the Warrior open fire, slaying twenty-three Sac and Fox in a matter of seconds. The survivors scramble for cover behind logs and trees. After the battle, General Atkinson will report “a great advantage was derived from the presence of the boat on this occasion as it retarded the enemy in crossing the river.” Firing from both sides commences for two hours until the steamboat retreats to refuel. Only one American is wounded in the affair. Unfortunately for Black Hawk’s people, the deadly skirmish is only the beginning. Hours later, as Black Hawk’s followers attempt to make their escape into modernday Minnesota, they once again find themselves outnumbered and outgunned. It is a massacre. The soldiers show “no regard for age or sex [of their victims], slaughtering helpless women and children” alike. As Black Hawk’s men fight with utter desperation, the women and children are rushed towards the water. They cross the river—women swimming with small children strapped to their backs—fleeing for their very survival. Many are shot. Still more drown in the treacherous waters. And of the few that make it to shore, most are eventually hunted down and murdered by their long-time enemy, the Sioux. Black Hawk describes his experiences in his autobiography with static elegance. Recalling the break in the fighting, he states “after the boat had left us, I told my people to cross, if they could, and wished.” It bothers me that such an emotionally devastating scene can be described so casually. The writing barely pauses to reflect on the loss of so many lives. I cannot help but feel as if the most important part of this story is missing. A river that has been unnaturally heated by several degrees suffers from a condition known as “thermal pollution.” The warmer waters encourage excess and abnormal plant growth. I am searching for truth. To my dismay, however, truth is an elusive force. Black Hawk’s autobiography feels twisted through translation—translation of not only language, but of culture. His words are distant and disconnected. Referencing the infringement of settlers in his home, Black Hawk recalls, “On my arrival again at my
village, with my band increased, I found it worse than before. I visited Rock Island. The agent again ordered me to quit my village.” Frustration fills me as I realize how little these words might mean if they are given only through the mouth of another man. When too many biological entities inhabit a given area, a “B.O.D. (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) situation” arises. Essentially, there is not enough oxygen available to sustain the significant amount of life in the river. I imagine Black Hawk now, telling his story to the interpreter. He speaks freely of his old way of life and the events that led him to this place: “I was born at the Sac Village [...] my 67 thyear [...] my great grandfather [...] the tradition given me by my father [...] the Great Spirit...” Antoine Le Clair, who serves as the interpreter for the Sac and Fox Nation, carefully translates each word to English. The ink scratches the surface of the paper and leaves a mark—a mark that transfers all the power of these words to the interpreter and those who read the resulting text. In a B.O.D. situation, many of the plants die. Fish and other water creatures move on to other waters or suffocate. Due to B.O.D. pollution almost always occurring as a result of another environmental catastrophe, it is very difficult to remedy and can only be done by resolving the source issue. I look into her eyes again. Who was she? I will never know. Setting the photo of my ancestor down, I turn towards the window. The sun is shining and the tree branches sway in the steady wind. For perhaps the thousandth time, I think about all the people who have come and gone before me. And I wonder, who were they?
In the Mountains Eleanor Levine It was over, despite my inability to let go, find tears, ride the course of indifference in my new home in Red Bank, NJ, where I lived with my brother Harold. He, like the ex, smoked dope. She did it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and wanted to meet my brother who’d been smoking reefer since sixth grade. She also thought it was great I’d be living with him instead of interacting with crack addicts near my former home in South Philly. *** My brother recently bought medical pot, though he didn’t have a “prescription,” whereas she got hers in Pennsyltucky, an area between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where people act like it’s Kentucky and have bumper stickers that say, “God, Guns and Guts Is What Made this Country Great.” *** In my new life, I ate my brother’s yogurt, sometimes without permission, and attended 12-step recovery meetings, where I checked out women in Asbury Park meetings who dyed their hair blonde. I didn’t want these women who wore women’s clothes, not the men’s Oxford shirts I donned. But clearly the ex, who was smoking a joint with her coffee, a breakfast moment when the neighbors came to her house before work, didn’t want me. She wanted a Trump transgender Republican who was against gun laws and thought abortion was murder and Trump was the new messiah, and clearly, they weren’t going to wait for the real Jesus. *** She chose Donald over me. For I had the kind of double chin you couldn’t hide, though if you asked someone to take your photo, about fifty feet from where you sat, and then made the picture black and white, the wrinkles in your chin would temporarily disappear.
I put a new photo on my Facebook profile every day. The thing is: I unfriended her but the public, which includes her, could still see my profile pic. It was with regret, this morning, that I didn’t wake up my brother, from his medical marijuana coma, to photograph me for Facebook. He could have taken my picture from a distance and it would’ve made me look skinnier. In my shot, I appeared with dogs and cats, and envisioned her stalking me, opening her computer and seeing my animals, a distraction, I hoped, from my fat cells accumulating since she dumped me. I’m sure, I thought I was sure, she’d visit my Facebook profile daily, and though it annoyed her that I changed my picture, she would, unrelentingly, without delay, visit it, while her boy-man drank coffee or smoked a cigarette. He preferred menthol and did not indulge in reefer, though he walked on mountains and chased after her dog with more zeal than a rabbit twice the size of a Golden Retriever. She just wanted to be friends, which is the death word for love. For she had a neurotic family, and they collected smooth rocks in the mountains near Pittsburgh. They took these stones and made a path in her backyard where their dogs peed. Initially she said, “I became his lover because it’s not easy for him to be transgender in the mountains.” Her man, the Donald T. canvasser, embodied the same qualities as other open-minded agrarian folk. You couldn’t stereotype them: they went to inexpensive swimming pools open to the public; amusement parks that resembled trailer parks but with Christmas lights; and they kayaked, smoked cigarettes, and had an envious view of nature that ex-Yuppies like me, though crippled by titanium knees and hips and unable to hike with dexterity, would pay thousands to visit with our guides and Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches in portable fridges. If you live in bucolic America, it does not cost much to find beauty, though the careers are not exactly run-of-the-mill intellectual slut choices like you get in the West Village of New York when you work for an ad firm. In the country, you can serve drinks or make pizza boxes and sometimes do metallic works over gas lights. Carpenters can be like Jesus. Plumbers are not irrelevant. The supermarket trade is not dying there.
But you won’t find many marketing departments employing English majors. It’s okay that your garbage doesn’t smell like sewage in the summer and you don’t have rats crawling under your stairs. You have mosquitoes and raccoons and nocturnal beasts. You have a great view that Teddy Roosevelt would have preferred. You can take a ride to the government-funded areas that have not yet been decimated by oil companies and corporations, though there is now a pipeline in parts of Pennsyltucky. Eventually, the Pennsyltuckians will revolt against their government and reclaim this area as their own, because if oil companies get in the way of deer hunting season, it’s over folks. Plus, Feds need to understand that the Pipeline is not all-American if it destroys the forest. *** Many of them, those people in the forest, have guns. For example, my ex’s ex-boyfriend (the man she lives with), who is also friends on Facebook with the transgender Republican, has numerous guns—gangster movie artifacts but with real bullets—enough to supply the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ad infinitum, so if there’s no food, your gun appetite will be satisfied. I recall her ex-boyfriend purchasing a rifle for her daughter. A large camouflage deer rifle. WTF is a ten-year-old doing with a camouflage deer rifle? “She shoots really well, better than me,” the ex says about her daughter, Charlton Heston’s protégé. The poster child for the NRA. And plus, teachers are now armed in Florida. “We need to arm teachers,” my ex says, as children die, and bullets go through their hearts. What this means, of course, once this story gets published, or others get printed, her daughter, with good agility, will shoot me. Ain’t no time for legal disputes. Let’s get the bull by the horns. *** I should not be upset that she is dating a person who believes that a misogynistic, euphoric, McDonald’s-eating neophyte and tax evader should be in the White House.
*** Most people in Pennslytucky are not Democrats, and if they have a gay brother or sister, they donâ€™t cheer them on like they might a favorite football team. Still, I wanted to be part of her family, even though when I look at her face it is not the face that led me to this decision. It was her heart and her soul and deep within her Howdy Doody non-binary complexion was this precious cretin who eloped in my mind. Who brewed in moods where the sky was clear blue and nascent mountains shifted in darkness. But it was not to be. She filtered me out. I was too old or desperate. Though for some reason, I still feel her peering at my Facebook profile pic. *** The ill-fated me, whom she felt compelled to discard like old furniture, well, she had no idea how enraptured yet bitter I could be. How I would delve into my delusion while she was fruitful and multiplying with the rocks and demeanor and driving through the hills and getting security at her new factory job that manufactured insect repellents. *** I had a Volvo. She had a flat tire. She had a husband. I lived with my brother. But there were other womenâ€”those with dyed hair and blank stares and trendy motifs on websites and the Princeton, NJ, potluck dinners for the LGBTQ community.
I could also jump in the ocean. Maybe try Florida, Pittsburgh, meet Andy Warholâ€™s niece. *** I still miss her, like you might a tear drop that falls on your face when you are commuting home on the Garden State Parkway, and know they are settled in front of the fire, sleeping, while it snows outside. No erstwhile zeal leading to Asbury Park. No comfort food in the microwave bought at Whole Foods. No, they are part of the earth and its dead cow from the local butcher who has been kind enough to cut them steaks.
Patria Amada, Brasil Márcia Bruno Lobo I’d like to propose a toast. Here’s an (empty) glass for each. One for me, one for you, and one for you. Please pass one along to every other Brasilian. I’d like to propose a toast: cheers to our Democracia. Let’s take a sip from this ( ) glass o v e corrupção.
Democracia says: celebrate! And treats us with ( ) glasses to trick our thirst. Tipsy, we give them the (s i l ê n c they so desperately need in order to rule. I’d like to propose a toast: Let’s each take our empty glass and ppppppppp pppppoooo ooooooooo ooouuuuuu uuuuuuuuu uuuuurrrrrr rrrrrrrrrrrrrr
its treachery on the earth
to release the tamponade restraining our temper, to poison the roots of this Trickster, and claim back what is rightfully ours— claim back everything Democracia has stolen: our public education, our healthcare, our safety, our voice. Our government leaves us with barefoot five-year-olds on a Wednesday morning reaching pleading cupped hands into drivers’ windows, forgotten 80-year-olds on improvised gurneys scattered through hospital corridors, 15-year-old daughters murdered in traffic, on their way to pick up mothers at airports, 210 million civilians lining up on election day, obliged to vote or else. Cheers: we’re still thirsty. But sober.
Paintress Julia Vu
Quarry Lane School, California
ink-stained fingers and mischievously sparkling eyes, she painted the skies with periwinkle strokes and the seas with cerulean swirls and lands with emerald flicks. she made the tides recede in terror and the stars weep in sorrow. the river reeds and the mighty oak bowed down to her alike. the sun adoringly caressed her heart-shaped face with rays of warmth and the moon beamed upon her careless smile and dazed eyes. the mountains rose upon her command, ripping through the cracks of the dry grounds. the snow fell upon her feet at her icy glare. the skies flush with scarlet pain, seeping into the wispy clouds, and veins of sanguine creep between the imperious waves of the tempest. her silent scream escaped her throat, not so much a scream as a beg for mercy. blood-stained trembling fingers and hollow eyes, she carves elegant roses, bleeding rubies and blooming thorns, onto the vast canvas of her thighs, intermingled with teardrops. and the world that she had so carefully pieced together is painted over with ebony ink.
Neglect Aluu Prosper
Oil on Canvas
Il Santo, Andare Con Dio Miranda Rios
Insomniacs’ Slumber Party Heidi Seaborn ~with lines from a 1967 Judy Garland interview about Marilyn in Ladies Home Journal 1967 and from Monroe characters in Bus Stop and Don’t Bother to Knock Judy: It’s so easy to forget . Marilyn: Maybe I want to. Forget. Judy: how many sleeping pills Poet: I’ve taken. Judy: And you wake up in 20 minutes and forget you’ve Marilyn: been asleep. So awake Poet: in the middle of the night. I’m awake, Judy: so you take a couple more Marilyn: sleeping pills to sleep. Poet: That’s what they’re for—to sleep, so Judy: the next thing you know you’ve taken too many. . Marilyn: I’ve taken so many Poet: to sleep. I’ve taken so many— Judy: You shouldn’t be left alone. Poet: Leave me alone, I just want to sleep (Page Break)
Marilyn: alone. Judy: With too much— Poet: we’ll finally sleep. Marilyn: Turn off the light, bunny. Please let me sleep.
The Girl in the Fountain Victoria Pantalion There was a girl in the fountain, and I didn’t see how Rachel could focus on anything else. Didn’t see how we could still be having this conversation. There was a girl in the fountain, smiling in a way that said “Yes, I’m crazy, but I’m the exact kind of crazy you wish you could let yourself be.” And god, did I long for that. I stared at her as she stomped madly around in the water, spinning occasionally, splashing some other bystanders lucky to be close enough to her. Something in me longed to run towards her and shake her, asking, “What happened? Is it true? Is the world ending? What brought you here today?”. But I remained frozen in my spot on the stone bench with an intrigued look on my face. There was a girl in the fountain, and she didn’t have make up on, and I thought if she did she may have been less beautiful. Although to call attention to her beauty feels almost wrong somehow, for she surely was blissfully unaware of the concept, which inherently tied her to a set of standards imposed upon her by the society in which we lived. No, she didn’t seem to care to be aware of society’s standards at all as she knelt down in the fountain, picked up coin after coin, kissing each of them and putting them each back in their place, carefully and gently, with a small smile. And I knew it was for luck, somehow. And I wondered if she’d ever get to mine, and if she did, if I would feel a sudden shift in the world as I knew my wish was surely about to come true. For what couldn’t happen after the girl brave enough to jump into the fountain willed it to. “Don’t be dramatic,” Rachel said, her tone sharp and biting. “The world isn’t ending. The world isn’t ending. I’m breaking up with you. I’m breaking up with you! And all you can do is stare at that girl! What is wrong with you?” Okay, so maybe the world wasn’t ending, and I hadn’t meant to say so out loud. So it’s true, and the world wasn’t ending. So a world was ending. So ours was. So mine was. But doesn’t that just say something? It does, doesn’t it? I need it to say something. Maybe something about how even when the world ends, even when more than one world ends at a time, others are still happening, thriving, or just beginning to blossom. About how sometimes you’re lucky enough to get swept into those worlds right as you think you’re about to crash and burn in yours. There was a girl in the fountain and when she lifted her arms up over her head, splashing the water through the air, I thought of how perfect it was that she was there. That she is here, right now, in this moment of my crashing down. How perfect a distraction for me to see the bright red lines running up and down the length of her arms, kissing her wrist and reaching all the way up to
her elbow. Here she is, her world about to fall apart, or already falling, two worlds falling in succession into the past, worlds which we would be able to look back on again but never to attend. Okay, so maybe I just needed this story not to be about me. Not to be about this, about Rachel and I, who no longer exist as a unit, as an us. So maybe it would’ve killed me to have to focus my attention on the lack of tears in Rachel’s ocean eyes. On her world spinning past mine, intact and alive. Maybe I couldn’t stand on two feet again were I to remember the day we met, which happened to be the day I first kissed her pale pink lips, lips that I would learn always tastes like peach chapstick, and told her, “I know it’s a bit early for this, but I’m going to love you one day.” Is it a crime of me to need distraction from the fact that she’s sitting here, right now, telling me her love just faded away. There is a girl in the fountain, and thank god for that, otherwise I might have had to ask. I might not have been able to hold it back. I might’ve needed to know: was there someone else? But the girl in the fountain helped me to control myself. Her laughter reached my ears and sounded like bells I wasn’t meant to hear, but as I began to smile at this I noticed her face covered in tears. And how right it was, that it was her crying, and not us, I’m sorry, not me, not Rachel, who exists as separately from me as ever since the day I held her hand, kissed each nail painted yellow and told her I want her forever. “Do you even have anything to say to me?” she asked. “Or am I wasting my time having this conversation in person?” And I knew the end of the story was coming. The girl was still in the fountain, but soon Rachel and I would have to stand, shake hands and walk our different ways. “I— I can’t,” I said, and put my face in my hands, achingly aware that she would never touch them again. And the girl in the fountain didn’t know. She didn’t know that as her world was crashing and burning, so was mine, parallel to hers, but likely never to collide. “I can’t let you go,” I finally managed to say, looking Rachel in the eyes. I can’t let this story be about our last goodbye.
Cover Your Mouth Sunny Scheer
Acrylic Paint on Canvas
Rogue River Blues in C# Ian Patt The old timer garnered all the attention of a pre-internet hate crime as he approached his makeshift stage. Both sets of gnarled, calloused fingers were wrapped around black guitar cases. Jet boaters, fisherman, and firefighters alike ignored him as they went about eating their midday meal there in the lodgelike landing above the Rogue River. I’m a picker myself, but I might have given the burger before me more notice than the grayed figure-now busy at setting up-had it not been for the second case. Why would one guy need two pieces, I thought. Is he waiting on his Garfunkel to show, or is one in open tuning? Compelled by curiosity, I kept a close eye on his proceedings. Under my gaze, he doddled about the stage, moving slower than molasses on a cold January day. Out of one case, he produced a Gibson, a music stand, and a binder filled with what I assumed to be either song lyrics, chords, or both. Before he could get the other case open, a waitress approached him with a smile and a glass of wine. Must be a regular here. Probably plays every Saturday from noon to whenever he runs out ofHe revealed the other piece-a shiny stringed instrument, which, to the average onlooker, would appear similar enough to a standard sixer. I knew better though. It’s distinctions were unmistakable from my table ten feet away: raised strings stretching over an abnormally tall bridge, round silver resonators in the body, a neck thicker than a bull. Unique parts proclaiming that this was no ordinary acoustic. A budding eagerness overtook my senses, and the question escaped my mouth before I had any chance to squelch it. “You play slide with that, Mr.?” I asked. A knowing smile spread over his cracked lips, creating a playful rise in his ruffled gray beard. “Does a toothless beaver have sore gums after a long day at the office?” We chuckled in unison. “I suppose that’s a yes,” I said, getting up from the table and approaching his arena. “I’ve never seen a lap slide like that in person. That’s pretty neat.” “Oh yeah,” he chuckled. “Neat indeed. I call her Laura-named after an old lover, truth be told. That one there is Cassie,” he said, pointing a long finger at the standard Gibson. “I name all my toys after past loves. Don’t think I’ll be playing Cassie much today.”
“Huh. Why not, if you don’t mind my asking?” “Well I forgot my goddamned capo for one.” He took a deep, ragged breath. “And for two-well, shit.” Tears began to shimmer in his soft old eyes. He inhaled again, this time as though he’d been under water in the river below for a full minute, and, having finally broken the green, murky surface, needed to take in every ounce of available air. He downed half his cup of wine, then said: “Cassie is my partner. Was at least. Cancer took her away two weeks ago.” I didn’t know what to say. How do you console a stranger you only just met? He carried on before I could muster words. “Whole goddamn town found out this morning and my phone was ringing from the time I got up till the time I left town to come here and play my songs. Brought all the first week’s grief back like a bad dream.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. It was all I could muster. It felt pathetic. “Gee thanks. Gonna play a song I wrote for her now. Here goes.” He turned his attention from me to the binder, flipping through pages until he found the desired tune, setting it to rest on the stand. A single tear trickled down his cheek as he slipped a glass slide over his ringless fourth finger, and caressed the guitar’s strings with the familiarity of a longtime lover. He was no Robert Johnson, but then, that was probably for the better. A person needn’t meet Lucifer down the dark crossroads should they wish to entertain a conglomerate of river ruffians enjoying fried food. Still, I was blown away by the swift strokes of his fingers, so much smoother and faster than a person could guess having watched his sluggish movements during setup. His slide coaxed a sad, shrill cry out of the steel cords-tones fit to accompany his visible outpour of emotion. Once through a twelve-bar progression, then he was walking down to the turnaround chord, raising his voice up over that deliciously white trash twang. It was impossible to make out the lyrics, but I was moved nonetheless, as if by the same invisible hand pushing the body of water along below. His voice was raspy-it sounded like Springsteen’s might, should the Boss spend a few evenings straight singing screamo. Those pipes would have no place in a Beach Boys vocal, but there, in the bluesy belly of Southern Oregon, they were perfectly natural. All he needs is somebody playing a little rhythm from that other piece to undercut those cold cries.
Patrons who had paid the man no attention upon his entrance began to shift their gaze toward the sun-soaked stage. A few took to stomping feet or slapping knees, the way a body with a working set of ears is inclined to do upon hearing soul stirring blues. The tune’s conclusion received lazy applause, and I turned back in the direction of my table, wishing to leave the man to his business. “Say fella,” he said, stopping me midstep. “Do you play?” “Yes sir, I do.” “How are you?” “Well,” I sighed, grasping for the right words to convey my abilities. “I’m walkin’ talkin’ proof that Gladwell’s theory is off. Nothing close to a master, but I could keep up with you if you play another twelve-bar.” “Could you now? That’d be grand. Come on up here and get yourself ahold of Laura, if you would.” “Sure thing,” I said, before the panic of playing some song I didn’t know with some man I didn’t know in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know could set in. He thumbed through yellowed pages in his binder until he found the one he was looking for, and as I shuffled up next to him, Laura in hand, I could see that the lyrics were all penciled in. “I write all my own stuff,” he said, gulping down the rest of his wine. Don’t play any covers, so normally I wouldn’t ask a stranger to play with me. You sound as if you got the know-how you need to accompany though, and boy could I use that today. Do you need a pick?” “No, I can get by with or without one. Are you in open D?” I asked. He nodded, and slid his glass up to the twelfth fret, breaking into a new tune before I had any time to overthink the unfolding events. I fretted a D chord and gave Laura one rake of the fingernail before realizing that his piece was half a step down from mine, not truly in open D. I flushed, embarrassed at the off-key chord, but managed to get down to C# before any of those eating noticed my misstep. That sounded right. He smiled and winked at me, indicating I was where I needed to be, then descended into a mad series of slides and crys.
I kept up with a Chuck Berry chunk, da da dadum--da da dadum. He made his way to F#, back to C#, and then up to G# for the turnaround. I stuck with him like a fly on shit. We made a rich, full sound together--his licks now freed to ring out with a support his last tune lacked. The deeper we got into the song, the farther I descended from reality. Where a dull roar of chatter and forks scraping on plates had been, our music stepped in, filling every square inch of the moment. I don’t know if the people eating noticed the two of us fidgeting our way through that twelve bar. They disappeared completely from my consciousness for the ditty’s duration. I don’t know exactly what the oldtimer thought or felt during that song either, though he donned a shit-eating grin and seemed to forget about his loss, temporarily at least. The only thing I can recall with complete precision from that moment was a thought which floated around my head like an all encompassing balloon: Who dubbed this style of music the blues? I’ve had a high or two hundred in my day--both of the natural and chemical induced variety. And I can tell you this with absolute certainty: nothing comes close to the high you get from falling into perfect musical synchronicity with a complete stranger, taking a brief, beautiful respite from all the shit of the world together.
Rift Hailey MacKenzie
D.C. Everest High School, Wisconsin
Wine and Silence Tayler McAuliffe Dark grey clouds outside matched the mood of the Morgan household as shouting echoed through the house. It was loud enough to wake the dead. Loud enough that Sara imagined the walls were rattling. Like an earthquake only...inside her house. She searched for the remote with her hand, but her eyes never left the TV. It was her security blanket. She imagined if she cranked the volume high enough it would drown out the achingly familiar yelling match her parents were in. Again. *** The loud words, even though not directed at her, still cut her like knives. Each word was another cut until her whole chest ached from imaginary wounds. She searched for the remote harder, dragging her hand along the cracks between the cushions where things liked to disappear. She wanted to blame the fighting on the salary cuts. “It’s work stress,” her mom would tell her with a thin smile when she asked why dad kept coming home later and later. Her mom’s excuse about him needing space. How his new boss is a jerk threatening to lay him off every day, but two weeks later her dad still has a job. Her mom promised her she had nothing to worry about. Always a lie, but Sara would say nothing and accept the imaginary reassurance with a ghost of a smile. But whenever her mom left for her own work, leaving Sara alone at home, all she could do was worry. Worse yet, whenever her dad was home, he barely spoke to Sara—sometimes he walked right past her without saying anything—sometimes refusing to even look at her. She felt like she didn’t even know who he was anymore. The last few nights she would try to sleep and she would hear her parents in the kitchen arguing. Every time it was the same thing. Her father’s ‘late nights at the office’, and where all their bill money was going, and recently, some lie her mom had given her dad. What her mom lied to him about was a mystery. *** Sara knew today was going to be a bad one when she saw her mother carefully place a stack of papers on the table and pour herself a glass of wine. Her mother only drank when she was preparing herself for a difficult conversation.
“The wine soothes my nerves,” she explained to Sara when she worked up the courage to ask what she was doing after she caught her mom finishing a hushed phone call two nights ago. She had been sitting at the table with her face in one hand, her special wine glass clasped in the other. Sara had meant the phone call—not the wine—and she had a feeling her mom knew, but Sara didn’t challenge her or ask again. *** Their raised voices rang through the living room and no matter how loud she turned the TV up, nothing could drown out the swearing her father spat out. Sara wanted to tell him to stop—to not yell anymore. She wanted them to stop fighting, but whenever she tried to will the words from her throat, her mouth refused to cooperate. Tongue heavy and throat dry, night after night, Sara would listen to the arguing and internally yell at herself to go down there. To say something. Anything. But fear kept her silent. Fear at learning the truth. Fear at accepting the reality. Something had soured her parents relationship and she didn’t think anything could repair it. But what she feared most of all was hearing her dad’s rejection. They had been so close once. She didn’t understand why he changed so much these past few weeks. As the swearing grew louder and accusatory shouts followed, she squeezed her eyes shut wishing and wishing for it to stop... Yet, no silence greeted her in the dark. A buzz pierced her dark haven. A soft bee compared to her parents roaring shouts. She opened her eyes and pulled her cracked phone close. ‘Hey girl! Come hang out. Ask your mom or dad to drive you!’ The message from her friend Emma increased the pressure on her chest. Emma had no idea. Had no clue how much she wished she could flee. To find a way to escape the shouting...but running never solved anything. She had to talk to her parents. Legs trembling, Sara shook her head. Working up her courage, she left the couch, blankets, and blaring TV, and entered the kitchen. A familiar sight greeting her eyes. Her dad—red in the face—opened his mouth to shout something else at her mom, whose fingers had gone as white as the wine in her glass. “Why...why do you guys keep fighting?” Sara asked, wishing the words didn’t come out so shaky. But...as the words she yearned to speak for the last few weeks left her lips, the weights crushing her chest finally lifted.
Any relief she gained vanished as quick as it had come. The weights on her chest came crashing back down as she spotted the papers her mom had set out earlier in the day. She hadn’t been able to read what they said before because her mom covered them with her arm, but the bolded black words came across as clear as stars on a cloudless night now. Divorce papers. Eyes wide in horror, her mom stepped towards her, but her dad beat her to it. Spinning to face Sara, brown eyes furious and blood shot, he raised one hand. Slap! Sara stumbled backwards. Her mom cried out, but the sound was lost in her father’s rage. “Get out! I don’t want to hear you!” he screamed at Sara, but faced her mom and grabbing the divorce papers, threw them at her face. “And You. You have the nerve to get mad at me for going out and having fun, but which of us slept with someone else first, huh? WHICH OF US?! You want a divorce. Fine. Take yourself and that brat and get out!” he bellowed and turned to storm off...Crash! Sara froze in place. Hand pressed against her throbbing red cheek. Her mom stepped calmly back as her dad...no. The man she thought was her dad’s body hit the floor hard. Bright red drops stained the linoleum tiles surrounded by a glittering pile of glass and white wine. In her hand, clutched in a white-knuckled grip, the rest of her mom’s wine glass sat. The jagged edges like teeth from a predator stained scarlet in its prey’s blood. “Grab your stuff, Sara.” her mom ordered, voice soft but firm. In the car, heading for the freeway, neither of them said a word. All Sara could think about, as her mom swerved into the right lane, was the spiderweb of red trickling from the man’s—she thought had been her father for the past twelve years—skull and face. And how he laid there. In a puddle of white wine and glass. Divorce papers placed on his chest like flowers on a grave. Completely silent.
Perhaps Then Stephanie Lamb You are mouthfuls of rain and eyes of rolling thunder, snowcapped emotions and she-loves-me-not conundrums. And I am feverish remorse and avalanches of white flags turning red under sarsaparilla skies. I would place dreams on the tails of comets and leave atmospheric burns across your skin if only we could travel to a time before the fireflies escaped and we trapped lightning in bottles. Perhaps then, you can suture the pieces of me that are no longer me and the fragments of you that separates our flesh from bone and love from lust and cauterize truth and hope back together. Perhaps then, we will collapse breathless and shaking, bare and breaking at Erosâ€™ altar and claim a heart that beats to the rhythm of forgotten fables. Perhaps then, with a steady hand and haunted heart, I will chop loveâ€™s martyrdom off at the knees so it can no longer run.
Budapest Evening Trolley Jim Ross
The Monarch Sophie Amado He was bludgeoned. In the head. There were bruises too. He was found two days after the other victim’s funeral. Monarch butterflies travel over 2,000 miles to migrate each year and no one understands how each generation knows where to go. why.
Much like the butterflies, he received life-threatening letters and no one knew
Some have theories, like how he was targeted due to his line of work, which involved environmental activism. Some say it’s just a mystery, will always be one. It seemed as though people were upset about his views to protect forests. Their journey is long, as something so small only goes twelve miles an hour, but that’s still faster than I could probably run. Some travel up to 100 miles a day, which is substantial, even for insects with wings, since bees just fly three miles a day to gather nectar. He was found after not being able to be found for six days, discovered in Ocampo: wounds, a knife to the head, signs of asphyxiation, submerged in the water of a well. Monarch butterflies are crucial to the food chain. They used to represent when to plant crops. These marvelous insects contain poison but not enough to kill humans. Their poison can, though, harm small animals and make them ill. They can only kill humans by their dwindling population because our food supply will diminish. Their names: Homero Gómez González and Raúl Hernández Romero. I don’t know why there isn’t more written about them, much like how there isn’t much written about the monarch’s journey or the life-threatening letters these two men received. One of the few publications that discussed this violence, New York Post, wrote, “News of two murders in Mexico this week isn’t all that shocking for a country plagued by
senseless killings often related to drug running and gang warfare. Both men, the now dead men, worked towards preserving these monarchs.” Reading this makes their deaths even more of an outrage. I’m afraid of butterflies. One time I went to a conservatory where butterflies flap and float about. Sometimes they land on you if you’re lucky. But I was nine and found this nothing short of horrifying. Butterflies are just prettier insects, if you ask me, and I wouldn’t want any kind of creature crawling on my body, especially ones that flutter without any predicted pathway. I think that’s part of what I’m terrified of the most, or how eerie they look up close, the way their legs and antennae creep out makes my skin crawl, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. That doesn’t mean I can’t marvel at them, doesn’t mean I have a vendetta against anyone trying to preserve anything in nature. “No suspects have been named and no official motive has been announced.” If you’re not familiar, let me introduce you to the amazing ways butterflies come to existence: first, a caterpillar is born from an egg. Next, once matured it loses its tissue, stops eating, and hangs its body along a tree branch or a stick of some sort. Step three: it makes a cocoon with help from its cremaster, or the short hook at the bottom of its body. The caterpillar then twists around itself to make a silk-like barrier. Within the barrier, it has time and the ability to morph into a butterfly, complete with a head, body, and marvelous wings that break to the touch but are strong enough to propel them to Mexico. It may be the fault of avocados. Hernández gave tours around Gómez’s sanctuary. I imagine they did not make very much money doing this. Avocado farmers, who plant their crop by sometimes tearing down existing forests, can make a good wage living in Mexico. Here’s a math problem: if someone wants an avocado farm, and butterflies and trees are in the way, how many people are killed to make fast cash? Butterflies are particularly important in Mexico because they are symbols for Day of the Dead, a holiday that commemorates those who have passed away, to honor their souls. They are particularly extolled there. According to Smithsonian, those who celebrate this holiday believe monarchs cradle the souls of the deceased, which relates to or stems from the monarch’s arrival to Mexico from Canada right around the time of this holiday, between October 31st through November 2nd. trade.
Ironically, Gómez, who grew up in a family of loggers, was familiar with this
The Washington Post quotes him best, “We were afraid that if we had to stop logging, it would send us all into poverty.” When he turned to activism, he brought back 370 acres of previously deforested land and those avocado farmers got angry. This is not to say an avocado farmer killed him, but it is to say that we do not know who did and how wrong it is, this unknowing, and perhaps there’s a more complicated correlation here. How much do we need avocados at the expense of the environment, mysterious and violent deaths of individuals who certainly didn’t deserve their fate? I heard Gómez’s voice once because his Twitter is still active. He spoke standing in front of his sanctuary. How he adored those butterflies. Sometimes, as someone who enjoys writing about the world around us, I think I’m plagued thinking about perspectives and my constant attempt to think of all the lives being led right now, including the lives that are no longer living like Homero and Raúl. And I think what makes me the most upset is that politics aren’t thinking about the individual. It makes my head spin. Mexico isn’t thinking about Homero and Raúl specifically, because if governments were thinking about each individual, I wonder if anything would actually get done, instead of how things get done that anger some and delight others. It’s a hard balance to strike. Think about it: if the government focuses on economy, aspects of life like the environment or individuals as cogs in a greater machine will not be in the foreground of congressional bills and law. If the government flips their attention to the environment, it would take time to restructure everything we’ve ever known since the Industrial Revolution. And if the government were to ask every individual in their system what to emphasize, where to put their focus, everyone would have a different answer. You can’t please the masses. What bothers me even more than these senseless murders is that while one crisis happens abroad another individual not in calamity-mode is cluelessly getting drunk at a bar or eating overpriced smashed avocados on wheat toast. How much did some restaurant pay to have those avocados delivered from Mexico and subsequently how much do they get away with charging for half of this fruit to be pulverized on a piece bread salted with lemon pepper that a young professional calls yummy? And you can see now even I’m guilty of not dwelling on two individuals, Homero Gómez González and Raúl Hernández Romero. Rather, I’m thinking of all of us living in a mass of people, much like butterflies in their colonies; I’m thinking about injustices and the ways humans live their lives in a governmental system that doesn’t think of them first as individuals who were once fathers and husbands and sons and brothers and environmentalists and climate change activists. How strangely delicate this all is, so much so like the wing of a monarch butterfly soaring south.
Two Bedrooms Tom Sielaff You ask if we can move to a two-bedroom apartment, and I don’t quite know how to answer. After all, look at the home we’ve built in this simple yet beautiful one-bedroom on the corner of Broadway and Main. Silky sheets across velvety bare skin, that velvety bare skin against mine, the smell of our favorite candle filling the room. Why, my love, if our lives are so seemingly perfect in this quaint one-bedroom apartment, do you insist we move to a two-bedroom? I have loved you for three years and I have resided here with you for one. You tell me that one year at an apartment is enough, that our generation has never been known for staying in one place too long. Yet I feel as if there is something deeper, something more underlying, that you’re not saying. Every day, you tell me you love me a million and one times. So why am I so doubtful? Is it something in the inflection? Something in your body language? Language barriers seem to surround us like vast prison walls. Do you feel trapped inside of them? You ask if we can move to a two-bedroom apartment, and I don’t quite know how to answer. After all, don’t you remember our double date a few months back with Brittany and Hannah? Remember how, afterwards, they had us over for tea, and as we walked past their spare bedroom, it had been clear that someone was living in there? Remember the way Hannah rushed to close the door, hoping we didn’t see it and make any assumptions? And maybe we hadn’t made any assumptions about our friends, but still they split up nearly a month later. Because the second bedroom in their apartment was initially used as an office space and spare bedroom, yet one of them inhabited it in the end. What if you grow tired of me and you move all of your stuff into that spare bedroom? What then? I don’t know if you realize how much I love you, and how much I need you. If you leave, I’m unsure of what I’ll do. That’s why this is such a hard decision for me. Maybe I’m being completely irrational. Or maybe this is the beginning of the end, you asking for this type of upgrade. Just please, help me understand why our lives here
aren’t good enough for you. Maybe I’m projecting, maybe I’m being a little crazy. Or maybe, just maybe, you will start to realize things after you read this. God, maybe I just shouldn’t give you this note. I’ll write it in a diary, lock it away forever, throw it into the ocean. But I know I won’t do that. It’s time for honesty. You ask if we can move to a two-bedroom apartment, and I know how to answer, but I just can’t find the words. After all, this may be the beginning of the end. And after all, I don’t want you to leave.
Victoria in Front of Timeline for the Far Future Danielle Klebes
Oil, Spray Paint, Canvas, Cut Panel
A Letter to Mata Hari, Dead at 41: Cierra Alexus Lowe-Price
I can envision your pilot, roiling within his apartment that mourning—despicably frying eggs and renouncing your conception. As if your essence was merely insult to his injury. I bet you were born on Rosh Hashanah. I bet you used a rib as a hatpin. I bet that those twelve barrels seemed a curious affection as they peered upon you—they say you blew a kiss to the firing squad. You were then deafened by God’s silence. It was French bullets that made love to your body for the last time. They say you wore white gloves. They say you kept your face to the sky. Blood wept from your abdomen, and still-blind gathered around its mother. Undancing legs curled beneath you like an impossible chair as you birthed your first Rorschach test. To France, it looked like moral ambiguity. To General Nicolai, it looked like a breech of contract. To your creator, it looked like spilled ink.
Banished from the Tribe Dave Sims
Knock Indigo Ramirez You could knock until your knuckles were bloody but they were never going to open that door for you again.
Dystopian Robbie Gallows
Overgrown Kelsey Harrison
Acrylic Paint, Upcycled Fabric, Yarn
you loved me to the moon but then you got lost Julia Vu
Quarry Lane School, California I. growth when i met you, you were a garden of bounty where nature reigns superior and, around you, i could lose myself in the skies kissed golden and trees intermingled with the stars above, i could melt into a tornado of rose petals and stars divine; i could sink into the throes of savage passion. i painted the soft thumping of your pulse into constellations, i whispered your name into the roses in front my window, i smeared the woody scent of your pheromones into aged parchment, i carved your touch onto my skin in crimson rose blossoms, i burned every last message you sent me and kept the ashes in a golden chest on my bedside; my darling, i was good to you. you loved me like a rose, caressing my crimson petals between your fingers. II. decay the day you untied your ribbon from around my neck, you tasted like warm milk and lavender and your voice was imperial blue. your fingers were soft, that day, when they gently loosened the silk and pulled it free, and when the winter air prickled my neck, i could feel my entire body start to quiver. if i could, i would slice my dignity with the last words you whispered into my hair and sacrifice my blood to the moon for the chance to be reborn from stardust;; does the world grant the right people at the wrong time second chances? i would stab your white promises and broken eyes into (Page Break)
my throat and bleed the reasons why, without you, i am nothing. i would drive my teeth into my thighs and rip out every last inch that you touched and use my skin to cover-up the recordings of your laughter that was suddenly playing on loop in my brain. perhaps you had forgotten that flowers need water, too. III. what comes after i think i spent way too much of my time writing poetry that i’d never showed and writing letters that i’d never sent and imagining what the words “i love you” would sound like coming out of your mouth. i’m tired of being jealous over something that was never mine. some people are like clouds, the days are just brighter without them. in the end, you tried and you cared and, sometimes, that’s enough. i am not your rose and what we had was not love.
Liberal Arts Essays
Once again this year, UW-Green Bayâ€™s Office of the Provost sponsored its annual Liberal Arts Essay Scholarship Competition. This undergraduate competition aims to promote understanding of the purpose and value of a liberal arts and science education. Two outstanding essays were chosen for this yearâ€™s scholarship. Sheepshead Review is excited for the opportunity to publish these pieces in our journal. Students were asked to respond to the following prompt: What is the future of liberal education in the Untied States? Will it survive the political challenges it faces from its critics? Will it be able to adapt to rapidly changing technology? Will it become so expensive as to become the exclusive domain of the elites in society? Will it simply fade away? What role will it play if it does survive? Is it possible to imagine a vibrant and dynamic future for education in the Untied States? What roles do the liberal arts play in that future? Congratulations to the winners and thank you to the writers and to the provost for sponsoring a scholarship in honor of furthering awareness of the importance of liberal arts.
The Fate of Liberal Education in Modern American Culture Mackenzie Ringer
Liberal education is a form of discipline meant to widen the eyes of the pupils who study it. Often, itâ€™s been described as a way to teach students a wide variety of subjects, while also preparing, and making them aware of the changes that could occur within the understandings that we have. It is a fluid, and ever-changing style of instruction that focuses in on individuals and pushes towards understanding the complexities and differences that thrive in our world, while also allowing them to find their preference in study and discipline. Despite this attempt to allow academic diversity, however, liberal education is underappreciated. In the wake of a series of technological revolutions and repeated advancements in the name of science and education, the consideration for liberal education and particularly that of the humanities has disappeared. In recent years, itâ€™s been criticized for its lack of proper application in many peopleâ€™s day to day lives, and is therefore perceived negatively, and perhaps even as elitist. I would like to refute this belief, however, and state that education not utilized every day, is still worth the effort taken to learn and understand it. I believe whole heartedly that this form of instruction will survive as professors find new ways to share the information necessary. I can support this belief by reminding any who ask of the sudden change in education that began in the middle of March 2020. In the midst of a sudden pandemic, not one class, nor one department, or even a single institution, hesitated to modify the way that courses were taught. Over the course of just a few days, nearly every professor in the United States shifted their courses online. Given hardly any time to prepare, a new form of instruction, still donning its liberal title, made its way onto canvas, blackboard, and zoom alike, all attempting to retain the importance of the discipline, while making it accessible to the students. Despite what feels like the end of the world, the education that I have sought out has continued on fearlessly.It is evident thanks to events like those occurring in the spring 2020 semester, that despite our difficulties in communicating face to face, our education persists. The disciplines form may morph along with the rest of the world in an attempt to match the ever changing expectations and uses of technology, however the intentions behind it will never truly change. The world is full of many different people, and despite the trends that wax and wane, and the different popularities of certain careers, people will still flood to what they truly want to understand. Forms of study that allow a great diversity of the topics covered are few and far between these days, but when they are present, they give a
sense of life and option to those who have yet to find their calling. Liberal educations like those offered at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay offer not just the end goal of a degree in a form of study, but also the experience that comes along with it. In my short time at the university, scarcely a semester and a half, many of my peers as well as myself, have questioned their preferred disciplines. When seeking education from an institution such as this one, the stigma that couples itself with being unsure nearly disappears. With a wide variety of offered courses of study, it’s no wonder that students grow eager to adventure, and explore others during their attendance. Education that allows exploration gives solace from the world that requires one to stay in a specific box, and to disregard its importance would be unfair. There is an unfair assumption coupled with liberal educations like those found at many 4- year colleges and universities, that the education is far too expensive, and therefore elitist. Whether one likes to admit it or not, the price tags for even public and state universities are sky high in comparison to the prices of education in other first world nations. This high price tag gives off the assumption that those attending these institutions must have money beyond that of the general public, especially when many students use their time to study unstable and risky disciplines. This plays into the belief that many college students, especially those attending colleges unaware of the end goal for their degrees, must be ‘screwing around’ with copious amounts of money. This assumption is unfair for all students, both decided in their careers and not. It downplays that amount of effort that goes into classes, major specific and not, and discourages others from considering the diverse education offered at institutions like these and gives them a bad name. Education in the United States is a unique topic for many. We are a nation considered thorough in our pushing of students to complete the 12 grades of schooling deemed necessary. We look at higher education right after those 12 years, and deem it just as necessary, stating that it’s required for anyone who wishes to be successful. This is done at the same time that higher education is priced at tens of thousands of dollars. We as a nation love to insist that to be educated is both a blessing and necessary yet refuse to make this further education accessible to those in a lower economic status. In order to push for a nation which appreciates a wide variety of education and support of disciplines, we must make them easier to obtain. In order to support our worldly love of the arts, we must make the creation of them possible. We as a nation must understand that we deserve to learn and further our comprehension of the world, and that the best way to foster this, is to push for free and reduced pricing for colleges. With rising pricing of tuition, and the lowering of general wages, we will soon see a drop in the art put into the world. If we wish to continue appreciating film, music, stories, documentaries, theatre, and so much else, we must make the creation of it easier, and more accessible.
I believe that the future of liberal education in the United States will change. It may not necessarily be for better or for worse, but as the world changes, so will how we teach. I believe that in an effort to appease those against it, this form of education will have to change. I believe that in order to move forward with the rest of the rapidly advancing world, the types of offered instruction will have to change. I believe that in order to accept the changing trends of interest, different forms of study will receive more or less attention, and that the classes taught will change. What I do not believe, however, is that these changes will lead to the death of liberal education. It will do as it has in its 200-year history, and progress to benefit the students who still seek it out, and the world that they live in.
Reclaiming the Purpose of Liberal Education Emily Miller
Liberal education: critiqued by some, pursued by many, and rooted in tradition for centuries. According to the Yale Report of 1828, a liberal education was never intended to “teach that which is peculiar to any one of the professions; but to lay the foundation which is common to them all”. The essence of this foundation consists of developing skills in writing, problem solving, and critical thinking. In order to develop these skills, students take a variety of courses regardless of their elected area of study. For example, an arts major will take math classes while a chemistry major may take courses in creative writing. The idea of developing the “whole self”, rather than isolating one’s growth in a particular subject, shines through the basis of the curriculum of liberal education. I admit it, I was once skeptical of liberal education. Freed from the very basic and limited course offerings of high school, I entered college ready to delve into my deepest passions. I walked into my first advising appointment ready to tailor every course only to what interested me. That meant abandoning math once and for all, and never entering another science lab or analyzing another classic work of literature ever again. As I entered my appointment that day, all of my excitement and dreams seemed to crumble. My adviser handed me a crisp orange sheet full of general education requirements. Majoring in psychology, my first-semester course schedule seemed like an extension of high school. After all, macroeconomics, environment and society, biomedical ethics, and horror story literature are hardly what comes to mind when you hear the word “community counselor”. And worst of all, this is how it would be for the next year and a half. I braced myself to stick with it and overloaded my schedule to get the requirements out of the way as quickly as possible. Somewhere along the way during that first semester, I had a revelation that would completely transform my perspective on liberal education. Perhaps the general education requirements necessary for my liberal education degree were not limiting, but in fact liberating. In macroeconomics, I learned psychology: after all, the basis of economics is the human behavior which drives us to make purchases. In my environment and society course, I discovered the relationship between humans and their surroundings and investigated the reasoning behind why they make the choices they do. Biomedical ethics informed me of the laws and general moral obligations I would eventually need to abide by as a counselor. Lastly, engaging in gothic literature allowed me to gain perspective of what it means to be human across cultures. I was also able to gain extensive knowledge in perhaps one of the most captivating
human emotions: Fear. Throughout this semester, I contemplated the idea that perhaps all subjects are in fact interconnected. I found myself in a community of fellow students pursuing a variety of majors and containing a variety of strengths, yet refusing to be labeled by them. A philosophy major in my environment and society class contributed substantially to our conversations by analyzing topics from a moral perspective. The class was no longer simply informing us about the way humans interact with their environment; it now included discussion involving the moral influences which guide different cultures to interact with their surroundings. In my course on macroeconomics, students studying history enriched our environment by adding details regarding how different economic systems have changed over time. As for my course on horror story literature, I found myself sharing my own perspective based on psychological topics I had previously learned as a high school student. All of these experiences have contributed to my belief that perhaps without these general education requirements, my college experience would be conceivably more isolating. One of the greatest benefits of attending university is the opportunity to work in a diverse community sharing a common thirst for learning. To remove the general education standard would be to deny students of this unique opportunity found only in the liberal education setting. With that in mind, it is of paramount importance to address that this opportunity is not affordable for everyone. In a world where the cost of higher education is increasing nearly eight times faster than the wages, the financial return of attending college is rapidly diminishing (Maldonado). Students are encouraged to â€œgo to college and get a good jobâ€? - often mindlessly taking out student loans under the prospect that they will be able to pay them off with all of the money they make after graduation. Unfortunately, while this may have held true in past generations, it rarely holds true today. People with degrees are all around us - they make our coffees at Starbucks, serve our food at restaurants, and stock the shelves of our local grocery stores. The truth is that going to college alone is no longer the one way ticket to a lifelong career of prosperity and self-fulfillment. Alarmingly, this very notion continues to be spread particularly as a salvation for low-income children and families, often furthering them into the poverty threshold with heaps of readily-available student loans at their disposal. As more and more individuals become enlightened of this educational crisis, many steer clear of four-year liberal education facilities and turn their heads towards trade schools. Trade schools are specialized to provide hands on training to directly connect with jobs. They toss out aspects of liberal education that can be timeconsuming and expensive, such as the infamous general education requirements - which can take over two years to complete. Job employment after graduation is high; and because a degree takes significantly less time to complete, graduates begin earning money faster. With todayâ€™s situation for higher education, going to trade school is an obvious choice for students who want a reliable return on their college investment. As criticism over liberal education continues to rise, trade schools have
become celebrated while liberal universities continue to be blamed for the student debt crisis. Post-graduate employment, job skills, and preparation for adult life have become new standards used to measure the value of college. While it is true that universities strong in these areas often contain high standards of economic value, liberal education was never intended to uphold these standards. Its beginnings, as addressed in the Yale Report of 1828, suggest a holistic approach, designed to provide students with the proper foundation required for any professional career and to foster a lifelong thirst for knowledge. Specialization and job-centered training were to come later, as students connected with the world and went on to obtain Masterâ€™s Degrees and PhDâ€™s. Comparing trade school certificates and liberal education degrees is comparing apples to oranges; they are two vastly different institutions with vastly different goals. Regardless, the goals of liberal education are not going to align with everyone. The ever-competitive job market nearly requires the pursuit of higher education in modern society, and choosing trade school over a four year university may make more sense for some individuals. As the cost of liberal education continues to skyrocket, universities should anticipate a decline in enrollment and a rise in students attending technical colleges. Although liberal education holds heaps of intrinsic value, for some, this may not be affordable or even desired. Students today are forced to determine how much they are willing to pay for something that does not necessarily have monetary value. How can we put a dollar amount to something as invaluable as knowledge? While the unfortunate circumstances of liberal education do not appear to be dwindling down any time soon, advocates for liberal education should not lose hope. Acquiring and sharing knowledge has been a fundamental element of the human experience since the beginning of time. In todayâ€™s evolving educational climate, sacrifices will have to be made. Perhaps not everyone who dreams of attending a liberal college will have the opportunity to do so immediately, but they can postpone their liberal education journey to a later date when they have better financial security. Parents can work hard to ensure that their children will be able to attend university without facing the economic dilemma that many are forced to face everyday. High school students can plan ahead by dedicating themselves to their passions and working tirelessly to qualify for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Citizens can vote according to their own beliefs on how liberal education ought to look like. Rich or poor, young or old; social and economic implications will never prohibit society from pursuing what is essential to human nature - the passion for knowledge will always prevail.
Works Cited Maldonado, Camilo. “Price of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster than Wages.” Forbes, 24 July 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/camilomaldonado/2018/07/24/ price-of-college-increasing-almost 8-times-faster-than-wages/#d678e3066c1d. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020. “The Yale Report of 1828.” Keith Buhler, www.keithbuhler.com/yalereport. Accessed 19 Mar. 2020.
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