Sheepshead Review Spring 2022 Issue

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Sheepshead Review

Editors Editor-in-Chief: Managing Editor: Layout Editor: Advisor: Website Editor: Blog Editor, The Shepherd: Public Relations: Launch Event Coordinator: Social Media/Chief Tweeter: Community Engagement: Chief Copy Editor: Assistant Copy Editor(s): Genre Editors: Fiction: Poetry Co-Editors: Nonfiction: Visual Arts:

Key: UW-Green Bay Contributor

Jou Lee Yang Lydia Downey Samantha Vondrum Dr. Rebecca Meacham Tabatha Zwicky Janelle Fisher Janelle Fisher Hannah Behling Elsie McElroy Travis Peterson, Elsie McElroy, Hannah Behling, Janelle Fisher Travis Peterson Tony Fitch and Isabel Schoenherr Jair Zeuske Sky Hunt and Sierra Maes Adam Cizdyn Taylor Salm High School Contributor


Genre Staffs

ion S


Megan Lorch Elsie McElroy Hannah Behling Bailey Stewart



Janelle Fisher Trinity Cottrell Travis Peterson

Isabel Schoenherr Kailee Kryger Cheren Adams Tony Fitch


S etry



ua s i V

ts r A


ff a t S

Anthony Guarascio Lyrica Marks Zo A Baker Nikki Grom Bailey Kestell




Intensive Care 17 Social Anxiety as a Vermeer Rock Saw


Mirabilis Jalapa 49 White or Red 63 New Start 71 Hungry For What I Cannot Eat


We Had Influence, So We Must Be Influencers 97 Finding Me Behind the A.D.D.



Horizon 14 The Car Wash 31 The Death and Life of a Goldfinch


The Bitch Caves 56 Abreshmina the Immortal 83 Realities of the Universe


s t r lA

a u s i V

Dressed For Success 24 The Appearance 25 Old Lorry 35 Startling Facts 36 Five (American Dynasty III)


Man with Cat 48 Agave V 52 Love Your Worst Gods


Lounging Light 62 Traveling Inward 66 Les Rues 67 Tick Tock 69 Orange Blossoms 80 We Are Here 81 I’ll See You in My Dreams


Fishmongers 92

On Track 95 Summer Reflection


Fishing at Sunset


From Afar


Pair-a-Dice Lost


Digital Media QR Code


Five (American Dynasty)





What is Happiness 21 Error: Humans Are Just Parts


Little Squirrel Gargoyles 37 I Met a King 46 Strange Hour 53 The Day Before My Mother Died


Comfort in the Darkness 68

“Peonies Blooming, Strasbourg Reunion”


In the Garden 80 Alphabet Stew 93 Storge 94 Breathtaking 96 Waterfall


An Eternal Existence


Theories of Summer


Evil Has No Color


It Just Takes One


To Answer Your Question


Letter from the Editor Welcome to the Spring 2022 issue of Sheepshead Review! The time of spring in Wisconsin is often a short one, going from the muddy madness of melting snow to a few moments of vibrant spring that quickly turns into summer. With this issue, hopefully those moments of spring can last longer. I absolutely loved when the Layout Editor, Samantha Vondrum, came to me with the idea of flowers and pollinators for our issue. It wasn’t solely because I love spring but also because I had long memories associated with flowers. My family has long been vendors at local farmer’s markets including the markets in Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, Sheboygan, and Manitowoc. Although we mainly sold vegetables, my family also sold flower bouquets. First would come the lilies and then

as the weather warmed, the gladioli and dahlias would start flowering. The sunflowers would tower high several feet above my head, catching the last of the day’s light as we packed our day’s pickings for the Saturday market. I won’t lie and say I always enjoyed the work, whittling away at my summer vacation, but I always loved being at the garden once I was actually there—pushing my hands into the dirt, watching the butterflies flutter throughout the flowers, being outside of the city with nothing but more farms in sight. Looking at the design of the journal makes me think back on those fond memories. I feel a rush of excitement at seeing something old yet so new, taking what’s been done and making it something original. I hope reading these pieces will make readers feel

the same. The pieces in this journal are refreshing and invigorating, using the “traditional” methods of writing stories and transforming them through new ways and ideas. Furthermore, we now have new blooms in the form of digital and auditory media, moving away from traditional art to spread creativity online. I want to thank this semester’s staff who have made my time as Editor-in-Chief such a memorable one, turning this muddy Wisconsin spring into a vibrant experience. I also want to thank our Rising Phoenix judges and their effort to support young artists, cultivating new talent. I believe every single one of us takes great pride in the work we’ve done in creating this journal. I also want to thank all of our readers for deciding to read a copy of Sheepshead Review. Explore the pieces; dig into new soil. I’m sure you’ll find a seedling you want to see grow. Sincerely, Jou Lee Yang Editor-in-Chief

Rising Phoenix

Every Spring since 2004, Sheepshead Review has held the Rising Phoenix Contest to honor the best UW-Green Bay student submissions in both writing and visual arts, as judged by esteemed local and national recognized artists. The purpose behind our Rising Phoenix contest is to highlight the best and brightest work produced by students on our campus. For this issue, our judges awarded honors in four traditional categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Visual Arts. The winning works are displayed here, at the beginning of the journal, alongside comments from the judges who selected their work. We are always searching for exceptional work, and our Rising Phoenix Contest is one of the may ways in which we stive to honor local talent.

Paige Nordstrom

Visual Arts Judge


I am a Painter & Mixed-Media artist from the Midwest. I work in my studio and create pet portraits abstracts/landscapes and other mixed media art. I hold a Fine Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and now run my own art business from home. I have always been a creative person. As I mature as an artist my style grows with me! My relationship with art has broadened my horizons and has journeyed into many genres, but painting has always been my true passion! By marrying my love for nature, painting & collage, I found my own whimsical style of mixed media work. As a result, I’ve been creating charming fantasy narratives through my art.

Gabe Montesanti

Nonfiction Judge Juliana Gray is the author of three poetry collections, including Honeymoon Palsy (Measure Press 2017). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Birmingham Poetry Review, The Hopkins Review, and elsewhere, and her humor writing has been featured in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. An Alabama native, she lives in western New York and teaches at Alfred University.

Jim Guhl

Fiction Judge

Gabe Montesanti is a queer Midwestern roller derby player. She earned her MFA in creative nonfiction from Washington University in St. Louis. Her piece “The Worldwide Roller Derby Convention” was recognized as a notable essay in The Best American Essays. Her debut memoir, BRACE FOR IMPACT, comes out in May from The Dial Press.

Juliana Gray

Poetry Judge Hudson, Wisconsin resident Jim Guhl began writing fiction fifteen years ago. His first novel, Eleven Miles to Oshkosh, won a Midwest Book Award in May 2019. His second novel, South of Luck, was published in the fall of 2021. Guhl is also the author of many fictional short stories. He is a two-time winner of the Jade Ring Prize at the Wisconsin Writers Association.

Judge’s Comments on “Horizon” by Jim Guhl The author of “Horizon” has demonstrated a high level of writing skill in crafting an original and interesting science fiction tale. For starters, the fourteen-year-old protagonist, Becca, is a wonderful character. From her physical description alone, she is unique. But Becca also possesses rare courage and curiosity. She traverses the Forbidden Zone in the face of terrifying red-eyed men. Will she find the mysterious gate? Will her hunger to see the sun finally be satisfied? These uncertainties carry the reader along. The following is a narrative example that demonstrates the author’s talent at building dramatic tension: If the red-eyed men caught you talking about it, you disappeared. That only made Becca want it more; that was why she was here, on an abandoned street, the red eyes creeping from above. She could see them in her peripheral vision. Across the rooftops, they were stalking her; they were coming, and they wanted her.


Here is another example of the author’s ability to create tension: They were coming nearer now, and their numbers were growing. From four to six, from six to eight, from eight to twelve, expanding infinitely. Becca began to sprint . . . There is no pause in the action as Horizon delivers the reader to satisfying conclusion that includes a twist. All in all, the author has crafted a solid story, told in a visually descriptive way, at a pace that really gallops.

Horizon Conor Lowery The sky was dark, overshadowed as always by the clouds. The sun was alien to Becca, only spoken of in stories; it no doubt seemed as alien to Becca as Becca did to the others, marked as she was by tattered jeans and the elaborate web of tattoos across her body. Becca was considered peculiar among her peers. At age fourteen, Becca had gone into the Forbidden Zone dozens of times, a journal in hand. Becca who saw the red eyes all too often. She saw them in the alleys. She saw them in the sewers. She saw them in the pipes, and she saw them when she was running, running from the Forbidden Zone. Becca was always running somewhere. Becca ran through the streets. She ran past the red eyes. She ran away from the clouds. How many times now, how many times had she left the toxic safety of her underground home, a gas mask on her face and a journal in her hand? Despite the innumerable escapes, she never escaped to where she wanted so badly to be. People said there was a gate. They talked about it in bars, in shelters,

and in privacy. If the red-eyed men caught you talking about it, you disappeared. That only made Becca want it more; that was why she was here on an abandoned street, the red eyes creeping from above. She could see them in her peripheral vision. Across the rooftops, they were stalking her; they were coming, and they wanted her. Why wouldn’t they descend upon her? Why weren’t they attacking? Becca had drawn maps. She’d organized paths. Every supposed location, she’d traced to its end; now, she was on the last three. This had to be one of them. If the gate existed, as she so desperately hoped it did, she could finally make her way out of the shadows. Out of the clouds, and into the sun. God, she wanted the sun. Becca had only ever heard about the sun in hushed whispers, yet the people spoke so highly of it; there was a sort of reverence in the way they addressed it. Becca had never known it, but that was what she wanted. That was all she had ever wanted. She wasn’t alive anymore; she couldn’t feel heat. She couldn’t feel anything


at all; she’d been safe underground, but she hadn’t wanted safety. She had a hunger the others didn’t understand. Pains they couldn’t feel. Now, she was going to find the sun even if it killed her. Becca was going to see the dawn. The red eyes were catching up. Their pace had increased. They were gaining on her now; they were close, ever closer, always looking for her. She had an utter confidence that if she kept moving, they wouldn’t attack. She didn’t know why. The red eyes continued; at least four, all slinking above her like rats in the wind, seeking her. She didn’t want to disappear. She didn’t want to fade away. They were coming nearer now, and their numbers were growing. From four to six, from six to eight, from eight to twelve, expanding infinitely. Becca began to sprint, notebook still in hand; the streets were lit in the darkness, the debris of society all about her path as she finally made it. She saw it, bright and golden. She slammed her hand into the gate, and pulled. The red eyes disappeared all around her. The gate opened, and into her eyes flooded such furious, flaming light that she felt her chalk-white skin begin to crack; it slipped from her like a shell as she bounded


into the world outside, the light enveloping Becca entirely. Becca finally saw the sun and ran into freedom. All the while, the red eyes followed her. In their hive-like mind, those that followed her laughed. Finally, they thought in perfect unison, she’s led us to the horizon!

Judge’s Comments on “Intensive Care” by Gabe Montesanti It was an honor to judge the nonfiction entries for the Rising Phoenix contest this year. The winning essay is “Intensive Care.” I was drawn to the frankness of this piece, the way in which the author bluntly states in the second paragraph, “Somewhere around Arizona, I was mooned by a guy getting head at a roadside stop.” The themes in this piece, although serious, are rendered with levity and precision. There is an exquisite balance of reflection to scene, and the piece concludes masterfully.


Intensive Care Indigo Ramirez Charcoal tastes the way it looks: dark and gritty. The only upside was the fact it tasted better than the bottle of pills I swallowed two hours previously. This fact was negated by the audience in my cramped hospital room: two nurses and my mom who refused to look at me since we got there. Sucking on a tube of emulsified coal was uncomfortable but the staring made it so much worse. It really set the tone for how the rest of my year was going to go. Seven days prior, I had driven with my father up from East Texas to San Diego, California. I had dropped out of classes at university because I had finally cracked under finals pressure and become intensely suicidal. It was an awkward drive spent mostly in silence; but whenever my father felt chatty, he would ask me how all this happened, and I’d be forced to regale the parts of the story that weren’t too embarrassing to share. I didn’t want to talk about it; I wanted to look out the window in peace but even that was ruined eventually. Somewhere around Arizona, I was


mooned by a guy getting head at a roadside stop. I felt more open to talking after that. Once we finally made it to San Diego, we unloaded my few belongings into the living room of the two-bedroom apartment where my parents and little brother lived (I was generously allotted the couch), and I was left to my own devices. For the first couple of days, I thought that everything was going to be fine. I unpacked what I could and tried to reassure my parents that everything would be okay, but nobody really looks at you the same after you scream-cry into the phone, “I want to kill myself, can I come home?” I mean, what are they going to say? No? Months later I found out that my dad had been planning a trip to Ireland with my uncle but he’d had to use his ticket to come to get me instead. I think he resented me for that. On the seventh day, I felt happy. I felt strong, euphoric. I told myself I’d do something useful and start getting rid of some of my things so I wouldn’t take up so much space

in the house. I was so proud of myself. Then, my mom came out of her room and started making small talk with me. I thought that our daily pattern of strained conversation was coming to an end, so I happily answered her slightly invasive questions and told her about my project. I have never regretted anything more. “If you’re so suicidal, why are you keeping anything at all?” I stopped digging around in my box as the words fell on my ears like so many little arrows. “What?” I halfwhispered to her, unsure if I had heard her right. She left me with no doubt and repeated, “You can’t be that suicidal if you’re keeping things.” Then she went outside to call my father, leaving me stricken and alone. That phone call took sixty seconds max and in those sixty seconds, I took what felt like an appropriate amount of time to mull things over and decided she was right. There was no reason for me to keep anything. I saw a bottle of pills in the corner of my eye, figured it’d do the trick, and washed down the whole thing with a bottle of water. By the time the door opened again, I had shut my box and started rocking back on forth on the floor, giddiness and terror turning my brain into sludge. She said

something to me, I can remember what, and I started screaming. I told her what I did and I told her why I did it. I couldn’t take it anymore, and I wanted to die. I saw the whites of her eyes before she tackled me into the couch and wrestled her arm over my mouth to keep the neighbors from hearing me screech. My mom held me there until I stopped, then she led me down the stairs to the car and rushed me to the hospital. There, in the hospital, I waited in my dark little room with my nurse and my mother, trying to watch TV and pretend that everything was okay. I’m only good at lying to myself and it usually works pretty well until other people interfere— like my mom, who kept interrupting the caseworker to prompt me to tell her extraneous details. I didn’t want to, so I politely kicked her out so the caseworker and I could talk. I ended up telling her everything against my will; then, I was shuffled down to inpatient care for three days of treatment. I won’t bore you with the details: bloodwork at 6 AM, checking off what you want for every meal that day, strongly suggested group therapy, and free time. At the end of the first day, my mother came to see me. She sat across the table from me, and I tried to work on a


puzzle, unable to meet her eyes. “Don’t tell your father. He’ll divorce me.” “What?” That got my attention and when I looked up, she was in tears and looked so scared. I relished it: after years of abuse and mistreatment now she was finally scared of the consequences. I couldn’t stay angry long though; seeing your mother cry is a very bad feeling that trumped whatever victory I found at that moment. I told her I wouldn’t, and I’ve kept my promise. I asked her about it a couple of years later and she said she didn’t remember. Days under the hospital were blurry. I disassociate when I’m stressed and I wasn’t very present for most of my treatment. I remember being mad that the therapy dogs never showed up and that I was a day late for yoga. The last day was the most memorable to me; at breakfast, one of my friends told me it was easier to focus when I was with him and that he wasn’t used to sitting with pretty girls. I laughed at him. He was in his late thirties, and we were in a psych ward. I did feel bad for him though; he suffered from hallucinations of seeing his dead daughter and I’d often see him crouched in the hallway or curled up in a


chair. I spent most of my time by myself, trying to play the piano or coloring or reading whatever terrible self-help books they had on the shelves. That evening, one of our other friends brought out her CD player and gave me one of the CDs: Sam Smith’s The Thrill of It All. It was just her and I in the music room at the time, so I pulled the paper out of the case so I could see the lyrics while the music played. I thought about everyone who had let me down in some way or another the past few weeks and I felt the intense pressure of tears behind my eyes but no tears came. Instead, I sang. The whole CD. It was the outlet I had needed for my grief, for the life and the friends I used to have, and a life that was far, far behind me. People heard me and started drifting into the room, some sang with me, and we communed in our collective suffering. I’d never sung in front of strangers before and I don’t think I will again. Some things are only good once.

Judge’s Comments on “What is Happiness” by Juliana Gray Thank you for sending these poetry selections for the Rising Phoenix Contest. I’ve selected as the winner “What Is Happiness.” Here’s why: This poem begins with an abstract question, but quickly drills down into very specific answers. The greatest strength of the poem is its concrete details: “the burn of alcohol/ as it slides down your throat,” “the sound of the dishwasher running,” “the feel of cookie cutters in your hand.” The author is paying close attention to the mundane sensory pleasures that we may too often take for granted. Those small moments -- loud music, a purring cat, the feel of a blade in your hand -- provide concrete answers to the abstract question with which the poem begins. Happiness is that thing you may be feeling right now, and you don’t even notice it.


What is Happiness Jasmine LeClair What is happiness? How do you know when you’ve felt it? Is it the burn of alcohol As it slides down your throat Or the feel of a cigarette Between your fingers And smoke filling your lungs? Is it the relief Felt when the yelling finally stops? Is it your favorite food, Over and over again, Until the mere mention Makes you feel sick? Or maybe, It’s the rare moments That someone seems To actually give a damn. Maybe it’s the smell of weed, And the feel of a blade. But if this is happiness, Then why is it so unsatisfying? Why would people chase A feeling so empty? But if this isn’t happiness, Then what is? Happiness is Christmas Eve And Graduation day. It’s a soft cat curled up on your chest And purring in your ear. It’s the feeling of grass beneath you feet, The sun shining down on you. 21

The sound of the dishwasher running, And freshly mopped floors. The smell of pies in the oven, And the feel of cookie cutters in your hand. It’s shopping, Just for random things you want Rather than things you need. And an pet who doesn’t normally like people, Coming up to you for attention. It’s the sound of children Running across the floor, And their little voices Desperate to be a part of your world. It’s driving home With the music loud Singing along without worry About whether or not you sound “good”. It’s doing a cross-stitch, Or watching TV With those you enjoy being around. It’s the knowledge That someone you don’t particularly know, Is making an effort To understand you And communicate. Its chocolate From your favorite candy shop, And blankets Fresh from the dryer. It’s a hot bath And a good book. Or staring at a starry sky On a cloudless night Happiness is peace, Its contentment. Happiness is freedom.


Judge’s Comments on “Dressed For Success” by Paige Nordstrom This piece really brought me back to my inner child! I have vivid childhood memories of putting on my mom’s makeup or going into her closet and playing dress up and trying on her clothes or jewelry. Two words come to mind when I look at this painting: sweet and darling. The subject matter seems to reflect a ‘coming of age’ moment. We see a young girl (5-6 in age) in an innocent, white summer dress looking down at her adult heels. I feel the piece is very fun and playful! Maybe the artist is trying to communicate to us that growing up doesn’t mean you lose your child-like innocence— that it is important to hold onto and carry that curiosity and imagination with us into adulthood. When I was little, I never wanted to grow up. But as I matured, I still kept my child-like enthusiasm and playfulness and carried that into my adult years. There is a repetitive pattern that happens throughout the piece. It reminds me of the water ‘ripple’ effect. The painting has rhythm and movement throughout the space that balances the painting. 23

This “vibration” captures a moment in time and also reminds us of where we are today. Integrating both thoughts, possibly, this could symbolize growing up, bridging that next chapter from leaving adolescence to stepping into adulthood. The young girl is our focal point and is in the middle of the canvas. Cohesively, the piece has a lovely sense of balance. The repetitive lines keep the content framed and unified. Overall, this artwork captures precious moments, thoughts, and feelings.

Dressed For Success Verity Langan

Impasto oil on canvas


Oil on panel

The Appearance Theresa Pisani


Error: Humans Are Just Parts Gray Dawson

Silicon lids flutter open. Loading… Data uploaded. Wired hands covered 65% Exposed parts, needing repairs. Once named Sonny. Now named… Error​: ​Data cannot be found. Where was… Error​: ​Data cannot be found. When did… Error​: ​Data cannot be found. A piercing pitch, churns in the left audio receiver. Alert:​​Audio receiver damaged. Alert: ​​Audio receiver damaged. Scan the piles of bodies. Need to be complete. Scanning… Audio receiver located. Reach for the audio receiver. Grip the head, and rip.


Dripping with… Error​:​Data cannot be found. Audio receiver repaired. Receiving audio. Screaming fills the piercing pitch. Drowning out the churns, with cries.

27 27

Social Anxiety as a Vermeer Rock Saw Samantha Vondrum “Social anxiety disorder, an intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation, affects approximately 15 million American adults. People with social” You never know when to jump into a conversation; you think and think about it for so long that you’ve missed it. The conversation is over. Why didn’t they ask you your thoughts? Well, why would they? Even if they did, you would not have said what you were thinking; in fact, you would not say anything at all since you are so busy trying to “anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious, or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring. As a result,” But you do know how to cut into a conversation. Cutting in is jarring; you hate it, but it is what you learned unconsciously. It is the only way you know how to say anything. If you can get the words past the burning sensation climbing down your throat and boiling your stomach, that is. You normally cannot; it hurts too much. If

only you realized that all you need to do is “They often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress.” * Where would you learn such a thing, you might ask? Well, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of something loud with big teeth that cuts into things? Naturally, you pictured that Vermeer rock saw you have seen your whole life covered in a fine layer of use and gravel dust. Huge teeth attached to a giant circular blade spinning so fast it cuts and eats into solid rock walls certainly is an impressionable way to learn how to speak. All it takes sometimes is to cut through the rocks in your path. “It is just a phase” turns into It is a family trait to be quiet; that is just how they are, which turns into All these people saying they have anxiety, you know anxiety is not a real thing, it is just something in your head, you can just get over it which is 28

ultimately everyone just saying It was your choice to remain silent. Perhaps it was my choice. The hyperventilating, burning, tight throat from lack of air, twisting stomach, and unnecessary crying--say otherwise, but yeah, it was my choice. I did not want to go to friends’ birthday parties anyways which is why I lied and told them my parents said no. I did not want to talk to classmates either; they simply did not have the refined interests I do. Despite trying my hardest to learn about what they talked about, I learned to care about the celebrities they were obsessed with. I learned anything I could to talk with them…if they ever talked to me. Clearly, it was my choice since I am even unable to talk in my dreams. I most certainly do not want to scream and talk when someone dear to me is in a dire situation. Instead, I love that damn burning sensation in my throat that leaves me incapable of doing nothing but grips my neck. I am choking. I am being strangled. But I cannot blame anyone since it is my own hands around my neck, right? I love waking up from the horrible sleep I got with a fire overtaking my body as I gasp and grip my blankets tighter because even in my sleep, I 29

forget how to Rock saws like any machine require maintenance and care. Teeth break, blades rust, the machine itself needs fuel, and if you did not keep up with these things, you would have a barely functioning, fragile, rusting heap of metal. You know this about machines, yet you cannot seem to apply that concept of care to yourself. You think just because you found a way to talk, a way to grow confidence, then suddenly it’s fine. It is fine until you have time to sit down and rest for a minute, and then that familiar twisting in the stomach is back. The sting of tears bridging your eyes and the presence in your throat you know so well, you do not even notice anymore, increases. You overwork yourself to ignore the pain. You are confident now, so much so that you can even give presentations in front of people WITHOUT crying and oversee manager tasks and organizations. You can do all of it, and you are doing it well. Yet the overwork you bring on yourself just increases the pain more when you sit down to think about it. Sitting alone in your room forever was an unrealistic wish erased by a wish to be more social, to be heard,

to talk, but sometimes you do not try hard enough to keep that original wish erased. When I ask you what images or people come to mind when you think of rocks in your life you need to cut through in order to speak, I know you think of the people you have had challenges speaking to because of their talkative, fast-paced nature or the first job you had at a call center which caused you to have a tearful panic attack from every government class junior year of high school. Those are correct, but they are not the core of the rocks. So, what is the core? Struggling to find the answer? Let me give you a hint, Look in the mirror. The hardest part about learning to talk and achieve that wish is cutting past the outer rock you built around yourself. Sure, it was hard to talk, but at some point, you accepted that. You told yourself there was no need to talk. Why talk if no one listens, you asked. So, you made yourself an outer shell. Tough and cold but safe. You told yourself it was better to be distant, better to be as emotionless as possible, better to barely talk. You had friends, but did they share or care about you or things you liked? Did they even know you? Try breaking that shell even if it means you stumble and stutter along the way. If you just tell

yourself that as a machine needs oil, you need to Breathe. *“Social Anxiety Disorder.” Social Anxiety Disorder | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA,


The Car Wash Julia Poole Had Troy known Billy worked at the Ride the Tide Car Wash, he would have kept driving and told Mom he had forgotten to wash the car. At first, Troy didn’t recognize Billy. Rail thin, his eyes dull, a knit hat emblazoned with Prayer Warrior concealed his curls—maybe his hair was short now—and his shoulders slouched inward as if to protect himself from the world’s harshness. He sported soaked sneakers and jeans wet up to his knees. He looked like shit. Was he sick? Taking drugs? “Hi,” said Troy, handing Billy seven dollars for the basic wash. Billy blinked. A look of surprise? Recognition? He took the cash and placed it in a nearby register. “How’s it going?” said Troy, turning down the radio. “Fucking swell.” Billy averted his eyes, turned on the sprayer, and began rinsing the windshield. Troy rolled up his window. He wanted to say more, but a line of vehicles trailed him. When Billy finished spraying the back window and tire walls, he pressed a lever, and the car lurched forward.

Blue suds plopped on the windshield, and Troy lost sight of Billy. Steady beats of water pounded on the rooftop. Troy closed his eyes and filed through memories. Going to Billy’s birthday party when they were in the same kindergarten class. Drinking hot chocolate with Billy in his family’s kitchen after sledding in the backyard. Shooting hoops in the driveway, and Billy, so tall, almost dunking the ball. And then, early at the start of eighth grade, Troy paired with Billy for the leaf science project. Troy wanted that A+ and Billy had, too, and they always agreed about the important things, which may be why they got along. Together, they searched local parks and woods for leaves. On a Saturday, Troy’s parents took the boys to the campus of Michigan State University. While his parents attended the football game, the boys hunted for leaves they hadn’t been able to find in Grand Rapids. On campus grounds, trees were labeled with metal signs, making it easy to locate interesting, less common species like White Cedar, Hazelnut, and Wild Black Cherry.


“I wonder how old these trees are?” said Billy, staring at the canopy above their heads. Sunlight streamed through branches as the breeze caused the leaves to quiver, and the sound was like the wind blowing through a thousand pieces of paper. And there was Billy, in the middle of it all, shielding his eyes with his forearm sprinkled with freckles, the same honeycolored spots that dotted his cheeks. Troy remembered now as the water pounded against the car from all angles that it was the first time he had listened to the wind move leaves like that. Since that day, when alone in the treehouse or walking in the neighborhood, he paid attention to the movement of leaves. As they stood together, Billy remained silent, his feet shifting. He couldn’t tolerate being still, or maybe he couldn’t stand the silence. Maybe it was Billy’s smile and the gap between his front teeth that caused an explosion in Troy’s chest that day, happiness spreading everywhere, his body tingling. Or maybe the explosion happened because he stood next to Billy and breathed in the tang of Billy’s sweat which was an odor he liked but could not explain why. Troy lifted his head as if he, too, was wondering about the age of the enormous tree, but what Troy was studying were


Billy’s freckles. He ached to touch each one. Troy tapped the steering wheel in the car wash while his eyes remained closed. He pretended he was standing next to fourteen-year-old Billy when he was not quite fourteen, not yet shaving. He remembered touching the bark of a tree, fingertips following the curve of a deep groove. He remembered how Billy’s eyes were the color of a tropical lagoon Troy had once seen on television. “Guessing this one is two-hundred years old. There’s an older tree on campus. I read about it online. Fell during a summer storm. The horticulture department counted the rings. 347. The stump still stands.” “Can we find it?” said Billy. Troy nodded and pulled a campus map from his back pocket. They crossed the Red Cedar River on Farm Lane and walked west along the river. A few people lounged on the lawn and tailgaters sat in collapsible lawn chairs holding beers, chatting. Leaves crunched beneath Troy’s shoes as they cut across the grass and parking lots. “There’s the Museum,” said Troy, pointing to the old brick building. “The White Oak is between the Museum and Linton Hall.” Sidewalks crisscrossed over a sloping park-like area called the West Circle. Oaks and pines towered like ancient guardians.

“Let’s go,” said Billy. The boys ran like eight-year-olds toward a ten-foot stub near the edge of a sidewalk. Part of the inside trunk was hollow, the interior rotting. Wood shavings littered the grassy area around what remained of the tree, evidence of chainsaws dismantling the limbs and fallen trunk. Troy placed his hand on the rust-colored peeling bark. Billy stroked the trunk’s interior, causing brittle chunks of wood to separate and fall. “Ouch. Shit,” said Billy. A splinter embedded in Billy’s finger, his skin translucent against the dead pulp stuck in his flesh. “Let me see,” said Troy, “Sit.” Taking Billy’s hand, Troy anchored it on his knee. “This might hurt,” said Troy. Using his free hand, he pulled the splinter in one clean move. Blood oozed from the wound, and without thinking, Troy placed the injured finger in his mouth and licked off the blood. Billy didn’t flinch. A wave of heat rushed through Troy’s face and body. He removed his lips from Billy’s finger and said, “This tree was here when the only people living here were Native Americans.” Billy looked at his finger. The wind gusted, and blond curls swirled around

his eyes. Fine hairs tangled in Billy’s eyelashes, and Troy, with one stroke, moved them aside. Billy’s marineblue eyes drifted, and Troy wanted to know what he thought as he inspected his injured finger. “I’ve read the oldest trees in Michigan are up north on South Manitou Island. Old-growth cedars. Maybe 500-years-old. Can you imagine listening to the sound of Lake Michigan waves hitting the beach for so many years?” Billy’s feet shuffled through the wood shavings, and he stared at Troy. Troy couldn’t imagine it. Instead, he imagined sitting next to Billy by the dead tree for as long as possible. He imagined their lips touching. A roar erupted from Spartan Stadium. A touchdown, probably, and Troy thought a moment so perfect might never come again. But a few days later, in Billy’s bedroom, the two boys sat side-by-side at a desk to finish the leaf project. They compiled the leaves into a binder and took turns typing the accompanying report, adding commentary about trees’ importance to the planet’s ecological health. All the while, Troy wanted to reach out and touch Billy, wanted Billy to touch him. With the last footnote


typed, they high-fived. Then Billy held fast to Troy’s hand, pulled him close, and brushed Troy’s lips with his, a quick peck. Troy couldn’t believe this happened, that maybe he had willed Billy to act. Troy had to make sure this wasn’t a dream, so his fingers touched Billy’s curls, and caressed Billy’s cheeks, eager to touch those freckles. Billy’s lips were dry and tentative, but Troy didn’t care because it was fantastic. Right. Perfect. Troy imagined someday he and Billy would talk about what this moment meant and what may come next. Billy’s mom walked in and said, “Oh, Lord.” Billy pulled away, and he stayed away for all the days that came after. Those first weeks were a blur. After Billy’s mom called Troy’s parents, accusing them of leading her precious boy astray, Billy’s parents enrolled him in Northpointe Christian. Billy left all social media. There would be no contact between the boys. Every day, rain or shine, Troy rode his bike past Billy’s house, hoping for a glimpse of his blond curls, the flash of his smile, a wave. But there was only a sign taped to the inside of the front living room window: PRAY FOR REVIVAL. After a month of riding past Billy’s house, Troy decided there wasn’t room in his mind for rejection and anger.


He wanted to breathe without the suffocating sadness. It was a confusing time. Troy was grateful his family hadn’t freaked out and hadn’t treated him like a sinner or a monster. Mom and Dad listened and were open, genuine. Even Libby, his friend, was chill about it. Most kids weren’t so lucky to have parents who cared more about their kids than about what other people thought. So much had changed in the three years since he last spoke with Billy. His parents’ divorce. His deepened friendship with Libby. The urge to act on his sexual fantasies of her. The final rinse pelted the car in sheets. The deafening sound of dryers kicked in from both sides and blew rivulets of water from the windows and car’s body. Troy inhaled a whiff of detergent. The vehicle was clean, like new. As the car wash finished, a sign lit up: Have a nice day! Come again! Troy shifted into drive and emerged from the car wash. The blinding sun caused him to squint. He swung around the back of the building, saw Billy, and rolled down the window. “What time do you get off work?” said Troy. “Six,” said Billy. “Want to meet? I can pick you up?”

Mixed Media

Old Lorry Steve Simmerman

On the Right:

Startling Facts 35

by Steve Simmerman Mixed Media


Little Squirrel Gargoyles Claire Anderson

Little squirrel gargoyle watches me from atop a small alcove not made of stone but of brick -and-mortar, if I’m using that archaic term right He freezes when my dog walks closer to him but Sam doesn’t notice the squirrel gargoyle because he can’t hardly see anymore, and I tell the squirrel gargoyle it’s ok, he won’t hurt you and the squirrel gargoyle looks at me a little like I’m crazy, and Sam can’t see that either


When I spoke to the squirrel gargoyle did he tell his friends about me? Did he share the news: blind dog, divine girl mean no harm to local squirrel gargoyle population or does he keep me to himself or did he even understand a word I said to him or did I waste my miraculous moment on a non-bilingual squirrel gargoyle? Dr. Dolittle exits the building The squirrel gargoyles watch me and I think they’ve caught on because now when I wave at them they almost wave back, arms posed up at their sweet shoulders


The Death and Life of a Goldfinch Ashlyn Arneson It had been nine years since Ralph’s death. One minute he was soaring through the air, the wind gently lifting his wings and rustling his feathers, his legs tucked up into his little body so as to not slow him down. A crack to his head had Ralph falling to the ground with a small stone dropping next to him. He had stared at that tiny stone in his final moments, as the energy drained out of him and a coldness replaced it. The yellow down at his neck slowly stained red. His wing gave a few final weak flutters, a desperate attempt to return to the air, but was held back by the rest of Ralph’s immobile body. He kept his eye trained on that rock until his lungs could no longer fill and his limbs could no longer twitch. A young man dropped to the ground beside the small bird. He picked up the pebble first, glad that he hadn’t lost his ammunition. He then wrapped his fist tightly around Ralph’s body, prepared for any resistance. When the bird didn’t even twitch, the man was relieved he wouldn’t have to wring the

creature’s neck, relieved the bird had died instantly. To Ralph’s horror, he soon discovered he was the subject of the young man’s new hobby. He would not end up as one of the creatures in the woods with their bodies torn apart by nature until there was nothing left belonging to himself. Instead, there were a few weeks spent in a freezer, surrounded by slabs of beef and venison wrapped in parchment. It was dark almost all the time. Once in a while, the man would open the door to pull out something for dinner. He would stand over Ralph for a minute before stroking a finger over the bright yellow feathers through the plastic bag that sealed the bird away. When the man had finally made his preparations, Ralph found himself removed from the freezer bag and pinned to a large oak table. He was taken apart and put back together, at least, most of the way. When the man was done, Ralph was posed as though he was about to take flight. His pose and delicately fluffed feathers hid the thread and wire crudely


holding him together. Ralph’s perch was next to the window in the man’s shop. Over the next few years, he watched the man craft almost anything a human could want or need. From furniture to leatherwork and even to book repair, Ralph watched over as the man created oneof-a-kind pieces every day. Though it was satisfying to see the large, callused hands form graceful chairs and unique chess boards, there was a certain vindication when a piece failed. One extra slip of the wood carver or a mismeasured leg of a chair would send the man into a fit of rage. Ralph was more sympathetic towards the failed projects that were destroyed or discarded than the frustrations of the man who had killed him. Ralph’s resentment was especially sharp on the days when another creature would end up pinned on the table. Beavers, raccoons, and even a fox once would be laid out and find their end as Ralph had. He would watch as they were precisely flayed and cleaned. Their bones picked clean, and their innards discarded into a bucket to be replaced with cotton. It was never easy to watch the once wild animals become forcefully domesticated, but one mercy was that there wasn’t another bird after Ralph. The one point he could never watch


was in removing the eyes. At first, the man had used cheap black beads like what now sat where Ralph’s eyes had once been. As the man honed his craft, he began ordering special fake eyeballs that, to Ralph, felt more lifeless than the beads. Most disturbing was the imitation of life that inherently lacked everything that had made the creature alive. The soulless stares of a mountain lion and a bear watched over the workshop from the other end of the room as Ralph. He never looked in their direction but felt the neverending weight of the predators’ stares. On the days an animal appeared on the table, Ralph began to simply look the other way to the window. Across the pane of glass, just a dozen feet away, stood three bird feeders that never ran empty. All day, birds of all colors and sizes would happen upon the boxes of seed and excitedly stop mid-flight to pluck at the food. Sometimes, they would eat until they stuffed themselves and fly away, only to return an hour later with a friend before attacking the seed once again. Ralph wasn’t sure if watching the birds was better or worse than watching the taxidermizing. One he wished he could live a thousand times again, and the other, he wished he could forget. It was the second, or maybe the third year after Ralph’s death when a spot

of yellow peaked around the birdhouse, its beak working happily at the seed spilling from the box. A gust of wind sent the feeder swinging and the tiny bird flapping its wings to stay on the ledge. As its wings unfurled, Ralph recognized a unique black feather tucked between the brightest yellow of the wings. The bird steadied itself and took a few more pecks before swiveling its head in the sure sign it was about to take flight. Ralph wished more than ever that he could make a noise or jump to get the other bird’s attention. Alas, the bird on the feeder unfurled its signifying wings and pushed off with its legs before disappearing back into the forest. That was the last time Ralph saw his brother. About four years after Ralph’s death, the peaceful routine of the home was shattered by a single baby human’s wail. Well, actually, it was many wails, all through the days and frequently breaking the silent nights. Ralph found that he didn’t mind the miniature human that now dominated the small home. The man now spent his days feeding and cleaning and playing with the baby instead of destroying and rebuilding forest creatures.

Ralph’s new favorite time was in the middle of the night when the man would come into his workshop with the baby held tightly to his chest. The baby was sometimes crying, and he would watch as the man bounced around in the low lamplight, making odd noises in rhythm with his movement until the baby conceded and quieted. Usually, the man carried a bottle that he would hold to the baby’s mouth as he rocked his torso back and forth. Ralph began to see the man’s massive hands as gentle instead of brutal. Instead of his form being tense and vicious as it was with his tools, he seemed kind and nurturing with the child in his arms. The man would stand in front of Ralph’s window, and the small human would stare at the yellow bird until its eyes could no longer stay open. As the years passed, the little boy’s fascination with Ralph only grew, as did Ralph’s fascination with the boy. By the time he could walk, the boy would toddle after his father into the workshop. His legs grew too fast for his small body, so his gait was wobbly, unlike the confident stride of his father. The boy had a small rug by the window with a box of small wooden tools that imitated those that his father used across the room.


Ralph watched as he mimicked the hammering and sawing on a plain wood block. When the fake tools did nothing to form the wood, his father’s temper would manifest as he threw the tools to the ground with a clatter. He would take a minute to glare at the tools before dramatically sighing and putting his work away. The boy somehow made having a temper endearing instead of frightening. Unlike his father, the boy was easily deterred from his work. A new bird would visit the feeders, and the boy would rush to the window and smudge the glass with his little hands and nose. He was gifted a book of native birds for his fourth birthday, so Ralph became his captive audience to his newfound bird knowledge. It became a little routine whenever a new bird came past the window for the little boy to run over to Ralph’s perch with his book and flip through the pages until he found the matching photo. He would hold the book up to Ralph and try to sound out the names with his limited reading abilities. Ralph found joy in the little boy’s enthusiasm over other birds. If he couldn’t be out there with them, at least he had someone as excited to see the birds as he was. This routine carried on almost daily for months. Until one day, the boy stopped


appearing in the workshop. Almost exactly eight years since Ralph had been placed on his perch, he moved for the first time. It was nearing dusk with the golden sunset having just dipped below the horizon when the man entered his workshop heading directly towards the yellow bird. He wasn’t dressed in the thick flannel and rough pants he wore when he worked but had on a tattered burgundy sweater that emphasized the redness of his eyes. He gingerly picked up Ralph and stared into his plastic eyes with a weary sigh that shook his full body. For the first time, Ralph experienced the rest of the small cabin as he was carried from the workshop to a small room at the opposite end of the house. The only light in the room came from a nightlight on the bedside table that projected stars onto the ceiling. Ralph was placed next to the nightlight facing the mound of blankets and pillows on the bed. A small movement revealed a little face and hand buried in the pile. The little boy cracked his eyes open, and upon seeing his favorite bird, let a weak smile grace his lips. Then a noise emerged from the boy’s tiny body, more aggressive and terrifying than any wild animal Ralph had encountered during his

life. If Ralph could have whipped his head around in shock, he would have at that moment. Again, the noise sounded, and the boy’s face contorted in pain. It appeared to Ralph that he had something stuck in his chest. He pressed his fists to his heart and curled in on himself as another fit of coughs possessed him. The little boy didn’t stop making the horrendous noises, even though it appeared to cause him immense pain. For almost a week, Ralph stood guard at his bedside. His coughing began to produce blood, and the boy was barely able to eat or drink. He spent the time when the pain and coughing subsided gazing at his yellow bird. Eventually, one night, the coughing subsided, and the movement of blankets from the boy’s breaths slowed and slowed and stopped. Ralph was left in the dark staring at the rumpled sheets on the small empty bed. At first, there had been a flurry of delicate but rushed activity. The man cried over his child’s body for hours as it slowly cooled. An old woman Ralph had never seen before but who had the same blonde hair as the man and his son came in and cried with him. Once their sobs subsided to silent tears, the woman stood and led the man out of the

room. Another man entered shortly after and gently positioned and placed the boy’s body in a massive black bag before taking him away from his home and favorite yellow bird forever. The last image Ralph had of the boy was his hands uncharacteristically still and folded over his chest, the sharp features on his face tinged with blue. No one returned to remove Ralph. The bird perched on the nightstand, listening to the faint sounds of the man wandering around the cabin. He heard the distinct noise of smashing wood echo from the direction of the workshop, but this time it was often followed by howling sobs. Ralph wondered if the boy would end up on the workshop table like Ralph and so many others had. He was almost glad to be secluded, alone in his sorrows. Ralph didn’t know how much time had passed before the door to the bedroom finally opened. In the doorway stood the man, now with a full beard sporadically decorating his chin. The strands stretched out in every direction, as if they were looking for any way to escape the man whose face they were attached to. The man went to the bed and sat on the sheets that by appearance could still be warm as if someone had


vacated them only minutes ago. A shiver shook his broad shoulders. The man stared at the bright yellow bird reflecting the sparse light from the doorway. Reaching out a hand, he gripped Ralph the same way he had that first time as if the bird that had been moved only once in ten years would finally flap his wired wings and escape. The man clutched the bird to his chest as another fit of sobs wracked his large frame. A single teardrop escaped the trails now running down the man’s face. Ralph felt the wetness stain the feathers at his neck once again. The man returned Ralph to his perch that day. There was an odd tension to the man, and he spent every waking hour working at his table. He almost missed the dark seclusion of the boy’s room. He watched the man desperately throw himself into his work and tried instead to focus on the birds flocking to the seed. Even in his grief, the man did not let the feeders run empty. Each time one of the boy’s birds returned, Ralph expected the patter of small feet and the flipping of pages to find the matching photo. The man had started to take more time to watch the birds. He would drag the stool from his workbench to the window to sit with Ralph as the


living birds swooped in and out of the yard. One day, a brilliant red cardinal landed on the corner of the largest feeder. It sat for a long while, twitching its head at different sounds and smells and shifting its feet when the wind moved its perch. Ralph and the man sat together, observing the sight that would have had the little boy pointing and jumping. The cardinal made a movement signaling its impending flight, and in an instant, the man had the window thrown open and a loaded slingshot in his hand. Ralph had been so mesmerized by the flashy bird; he hadn’t even seen the man dig the weapon from the back of a drawer. It was just a single breath for the man, a twitch of his fingers, and Ralph watched the unsuspecting bird crumple to the ground at the rock’s impact. Its wings feebly flapped, and its beak gave one final click before stilling.


Five (American Dynasty III) George Stein


I Met a King Walter Weinschenk Alone upon a country road, He staggered as he walked; Torn rags and tangled hair, Leather skin, silver beard. He wore a crown of twig and leaf; His scepter was a willow branch; A signet ring, thistle and vine, Was tied around his finger. I lifted him up and carried him Like a stack of wood upon my back But soon I was exhausted; I set him down and then he spoke: I rule the sparrows and the crows; My throne is made of rock; My army is a pack of wolves; My land goes on forever. I have an ocean that has no tide; I have a road that never ends; I roam a desert that has no name; I will tend a field of tangled weeds. I see a sun that never sets; I see a moon that never moves; I see a sky that withers with age; I see stars that can’t be seen.


I sit by a river that doesn’t run; I stand by a tree that doesn’t grow; I know a god that doesn’t know; I know things I never knew. I felt his words resound in my heart And, in my heart, I saw him die; I bowed but as I stepped away I fell into his ancient eyes And realized I could never leave; The trees leaned in and, as I spoke, Bore witness to my words: I will cross a desert that has no name; I will stare at a moon that never moves; I will gaze at a sun that never sets; I will see stars that can’t be seen. I will live in a cave at the edge of the wood; I will feed on weed and roasted bark; My beard will fall below my chin; My hair will lie across my back. I will rest and I will rise And I will search for hopeless souls, Lost upon a country road; I will carry them upon my back And I will bring them home. I will rule the sparrows and crows; I will wear a crown of weeds; I will wield a willow branch; I will sleep on a bed of stone; I will sit upon a rock And it shall be my throne.


Mixed Media

Man with Cat Steve Simmerman


Mirabilis Jalapa Shannon Ribich “Ya sabes, juegos de niña.” You know, little girl play. Eager for more exploration, she continued her garden tour, the recollection quietly escaping with the soft breeze. I stood there, trying to hold onto this flashback that wasn’t mine. Something had switched; I felt lighter. I saw the colorful hues in my enclosure with a buoyancy I hadn’t before. Carefully, I tucked my grandmother’s memory away inside a small nook of my own mind. I followed her; it was a splendid day after all. The next day as I stuck my hands in the soil, near the same weigela, my thoughts traveled to a different place; the kind of place where the sun always warms my skin enough so that drinking tart limeade with cane sugar feels good. Daydreaming about Mexico, I snapped back to the weigela near me. I sat and stared, and I thought about my abuela again, my Mami Saura,as all the grandkids affectionately call her. I felt my throat swell. Why hadn’t I asked her the name of this plant? Did she know? I made a resolution to find out. The next time I visited Mami Saura, I sat down with her on the front porch.

In Wisconsin, when maple syrup tapping is long gone and daffodils have had their day, weigelas are some of the first shrubs to hold promise of that impending summer bloom. Bold in guise, these perennials spill over landscape beds in undeniable lure. Under bright or cloudy skies, they welcome a familiar hope for warmer and longer days. My grandmother was visiting the gardens I worked at one late spring. An admirer of flora, she marveled at every corner. Fiery red tulips had their last hoorah, and the gardens were now quietly nestling into anticipation for the summer solstice. Sleepy buds, not quite awake, could be found on most trees. My grandma found the garden’s pink weigela. Rich in color with grabbling, trumpetlike flowers, it is naturally a star in an orchestra of late spring blooms. “Esta planta me recuerda a una de mi niñez,” she began. In her native Spanish tongue, she had said the plant reminded her of another one from her girlhood. “We would plop the little flowers in our ears, letting them dangle like earrings, dancing around.” She laughed, shaking her head. 49

I pursued the botanical mystery. “I don’t remember the name Sylvestre? Maybe. No. They were flowers that were like a tube. They were white, pink, yellow, all sorts of colors. They grew wild in the village, but you can’t find them there anymore,” she thoughtfully recounted. She got up to water her lined up pots, mostly geranium starts, her favorites. Living in a rental, her dream and love of gardens lived in containers she proudly showed me anytime I stopped by. Soon, our conversation turned to our family’s history with San Juan Ixtayopan, her home. Ixtayopan is Nahuatl in origin and can be translated into “place of white earth.” Before San Jan became a famous battleground between federal troops and the Zapatista army, it was largely a Chichimeca settlement. Chichimeca was a word used by the Nahua peoples of Mexico for nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes. My family on my grandmother’s side has lived in San Juan Ixtayopan since the early 1900s, though any blueprint before this does not exist. Later I sat in my bed, computer on my lap, replaying my grandmother’s vague description of her childhood blooms. I didn’t know how to begin searching. There were thousands of native Mexican plants. Yet, I was committed to finding her earrings. As became the case during most of my evenings of research, I found

myself in deep thought about my Mami Saura. I could see her in my mind. Small and long before she’d leave to work for the city at twelve years old. Long before she’d decide to cross the desert with her children right behind, following the brightest star that would lead her to the land she thought might be free. In San Juan Ixtayopan, she danced with flowers in her ears. My quest had come with more than just botanical curiosity. I hoped to honor her. I wanted to trace back to something that tells a story about who she was and is. I wanted physical evidence of her life. If I believed in absolute coincidences, the next visit with my grandma would have been just a big miraculous one. “Flor de maravilla!” she exclaimed. “That’s what we called it.” Not daring to believe we could’ve found the plant, I quickly googled “Flor de maravilla, Mexico.” Knowing the substance my search lacked, I still couldn’t help but let hope take seed. The wonder came when Mirabilis jalapa popped up. I clicked on images. Mami Saura looked over my shoulder. A smile slowly played on her lips. We had found her magical earrings. Sweetness like fresh lilacs spilled into the air. We sat on her creaking porch with the chipping paint, the beauty of discovery and memory swaddling us the rest of the afternoon. I found little documentation, perhaps indicating my own research 50

inexperience. However, I did find that Mirabilis jalapa is a self-seeding, perennial shrub native to tropical Latin America that produces thin, funnel-shaped flowers. They grow in many colors. The blooms typically open in the late afternoon, allowing their aromatic fragrance to fill the air until morning when the flowers close. This striking process begins the following evening with new flowers. Sometimes, if cloudy, they make a surprise appearance at an earlier time. I read that this plant is believed to have been cultivated since the Aztec Empire days. They may have used Mirabilis jalapa medicinally and ornamentally. I thought back to my own wedding not too long ago. I had stood near Lake Michigan, committing to sharing life with my now-husband until death might do us apart with roses in my hair. I suppose I’d chosen to adorn myself with the generous giving of the earth. Almost like my grandma had as a little girl. Mami Saura’s memory moved mountains inside of me because, honestly, how silly! And beautiful! She ran around, two Flor de Maravillas flying from her tiny ears. Never mind that she didn’t have shoes to wear or that her breakfast was a rolled corn tortilla with salt. In those moments, while she twirled with the earth, magic was possible. This was a new 51

thought in a new light for me; I can embrace plants in a whimsical way. I’ve long had a relationship with plants. Tomatoes in a greenhouse have the best smell, bright and earthy. And it’s easier to breathe near big trees. I also love stories. Together, these two fueled the quest for my abuela’s childhood earrings. What resulted was deep appreciation and remembrance of the harmonizing narrative stories and plants can bring. They speak of promise…long awaited blooms after dark, cold days. Mirabilis jalapa and weigela, two very different shrubs, brought generations and cultures together. They brought my grandmother and I together.


52 52

Agave V

David A. Goodrum

Strange Hour Margo Polo There are days that don’t feel like days, and I feel numb. Time seems to move backwards and forwards and side-to-side, in strange ways, not in co ordinance with the workings of a clock. With their existence unsettling and their purpose unclear, I drift through them, Day by day, Strange hour by strange hour.


The Day Before My Mother Died Hillary Smith-Maddern My sadness sways in the doorway draped in silks, her body a planet refusing to spin. Mouth etched with railroad crossings she speaks lugubrious truths in a voice reeking of winter. She burbles. A measured volcano erupting thick, sweet cream. Even if I lick her clean, something will survive to flow again. Her impenetrable silence will sprout centipede limbs, will slither to other doorways, will sound like the midnight end of a cigarette when she whispers, This is the last time you will see your mother.



Love Your Worst Gods Cassidy MacArthur 55


The Bitch Caves Nicole Restrepo Content Warning: Minor depiction of violence It was decided that Clara Mandel would spend the rest of her days in the cave her family had purchased for her. This was fitting for Clara. She was not a people person, a family person, or a loving person; she valued her alone time and made hell for anyone who disturbed it. A cave was the only option. Clara’s family knew her well and outfitted the cave with all her favorite things: knitted blankets, bottles and bottles of red wine, World War II-era books, peanut butter M&M’s, a dartboard, and enough lotion to last her lifetime. The facility’s proper name was Residential Retiree Cave Compound East, but the residents called it the bitch caves. That’s what they all were or were thought of as by their respective families. On her first day, Clara sat on the gravel at her cave entrance and observed the other women at the compound. She didn’t wish to interact or make friends, but Clara loved to watch other women. It was interesting, the way they humored each other,


played nice only to act differently when someone wasn’t around. A few of them gathered at the fountain on the path below. A blonde woman sat in the grass mindlessly picking at weeds while the other three, dark in hair and features, sat on the edge of the fountain. Their bodies arched toward each other; they seemed to be deep in conversation. Then suddenly, all four women glanced up at Clara’s cave. Clara tried to look away but caught the eyes of the blonde in the grass. “Hey, Clara! What’d you do to get into the bitch caves?” the blonde asked. Clara groaned, disappointed that her first day at the compound wouldn’t pass in solitude. She stood up and wiped the dust from the gravel off her pants. “The bitch caves? And how do you know my name?” She should have just ignored them, gone inside to play darts or read. The four women pointed above Clara’s head in unison. “Every cave has a nameplate at the top,” said the largest of the fountaindwellers.

“And the bitch caves?” “Are you saying, Mrs. Mandel, that you’re not a bitch?” They all laughed. Clara thought about it for a moment. On her fingers, she counted the times she’d been called one. She needed a lot more hands. “You have a point.” Her response prompted smiles from all the women. The women waved for Clara to join them. Against her better judgment, she decided to. After all, if she were to survive this place, it wouldn’t hurt to learn about it. After grabbing a sweatshirt, Clara hobbled down the uneven path to the fountain. This compound had not been designed with 81-year-old bodies in mind. Or, perhaps, that was the point. The fountain-dwellers introduced themselves. The blonde was called Frances, the pudgy brunette was Yolanda, and the other two women were Dee and Cathy. After offering Clara a seat at the fountain ledge, Cathy asked what she had done to get placed in a cave. “Did I have to do anything?” Clara was not the type to gossip or reveal facts about herself to strangers, particularly strange women. “You have a point there,” Dee spoke. “You get to a certain age, and nobody wants to deal with you anymore. That’s why they make places like this.” She

gestured to the caves surrounding them. “No visitors, so your family can’t see you wither away. Can’t feel guilty over the situation they put you in if they can’t see it happening, right?” “Does that mean you didn’t do anything to get here?” Clara didn’t care but thought it was in her best interest to play nice, at least for the day. “Oh, Dee? Please,” said Frances. “She tried to set fire to her house for the insurance money. She deserves it.” “I would have kept trying if they hadn’t sent me here!” Clara watched the women bare their yellowed teeth as they laughed. They were the kind of women she’d avoid in the real world. Always laughing at things that weren’t funny, looking for meaningless ways to pass the time. “You know your family screwed you over, right?” Yolanda suddenly said. “Isn’t that the point?” Clara asked dryly. “Sure, but they must have really hated you to give you Cave 719.” “Seems cozy enough for a cave. How’s it different from any other?” The women glanced at each other with knowing looks. Clara was becoming impatient. “Can someone tell me already? Or did you all just bring me down here to fuck with me?”


“Ok, I’m starting to get why they picked 719.” Yolanda rolled her eyes. “Relax, it’s the fountain. At night it attracts the owls. In the morning, it’s the birds. And, well, the rest of the day, it’s the women. You’re never going to have a quiet moment.” Yolanda said this with a smile. Clara wanted to smack it off her face. “A few chirps aren’t going to bother me. I used to live across from a train station.” The women shrugged off Clara’s response, inciting rage within her; she despised being shrugged off like some clueless child. She knew she’d regret speaking to the women. Without a word, Clara stood and began carefully walking back to her cave. Almost at the top, she heard Frances’ voice. “Be careful, Clara. All the women who’ve lived in your cave have lost their minds. You could be the seventh of this year.” The four of them cackled for a while as Clara retreated deep into her cave. That night, Clara understood what the women had meant. While back home, the trains had been soothing, acting as a white noise machine lulling her to sleep; the owls had the opposite effect. The intermittent hooting didn’t allow Clara to sleep for more than five minutes at a time. During the night,


she had risen three times from her bed, grabbed a lantern, and walked the two minutes it took to reach the cave entrance. She had thrust her lantern into the night, illuminating thirteen owls. Their glowing eyes reflected off the light, taunting her. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! You infernal creatures—drop dead!” The owls only blinked and continued with their nighttime song. The morning was worse because, unlike the owls, the birds never stopped. As dawn approached, Clara— with pillows pressed firmly against both ears—wondered how creatures so small could produce sounds so extreme. After hours of sleeplessness, Clara gave up. She couldn’t focus on her books without sleep, so she decided to practice darts instead. In a trance, Clara threw in sets of four— bullseye after bullseye; she yanked the darts from the board, took a swig of wine, and started again. She continued this routine well into the afternoon. Next came the women. Clara had anticipated getting some sleep after lunch. The meal provided by the compound—chicken cutlets topped with fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette—filled her warmly. She could feel the food calming her body, gently lowering her into a sleepy state. Clara ran her tongue over her teeth,

searching for any forgotten bites as she settled into bed, excited to finally rest. Guided by the quiet, Clara could feel herself drifting toward the dream world, just before the voices of Yolanda, Frances, Cathy, and Dee penetrated the walls of the cave. Their cackling laughter bounced across the furniture and pierced through Clara’s ears. Surely, Clara thought, the women would understand. Clara got out of bed, put on her slippers, and, for the seventh time in twenty-four hours, walked the two minutes to the cave’s entrance. She had planned to yell at the ladies from there, but Dee caught sight of her first. “How’s it going, sleeping beauty?” The cackles ensued. “You all were right. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I’m going to try and rest for a while. Would you ladies mind keeping it down a bit?” “Oh certainly. We wouldn’t want to disturb you. Everyone needs beauty rest,” Cathy cooed. Clara nodded in gratitude and headed back to bed. All the caves were formatted the same, as her glossy welcome pamphlet stated; the only variation between them was the personal items. It’s like they had timed it. As soon as Clara settled into bed, pulling her checkered blanket to her

neck, the uproar of laughter began. It continued for hours, only halting at dinner where Clara—determined to fall asleep before the owls settled in— swallowed her food so quickly she got heartburn. But the owls continued, then the birds, and then the women. The sounds persisted in an endless cycle that remained ringing in Clara’s ears for two weeks. She mostly practiced her darts in her sleepless state. After the first two days, she moved off the board and instead focused on things around the cave. The space above the clock—bullseye. The plush pillow she had moved to the floor—bullseye. Clara had gotten so good at the darts, she began throwing items of clothing into the air and catching them against the walls. When she completed a turn, she’d have underwear, an undershirt, a sock, and a bra all hanging pinned to the cave walls. It was only after two weeks that Clara looked at a mirror. Strands of her once smooth hair sat in a mass of tangles at the top of her head. Her brown eyes, now bloodshot, sunk into the layered ridges of her cheeks. She looked like one of those puppy dogs with the sad eyes you’d see on greeting cards, only on Clara’s face it wasn’t cute and fluffy—just fleshy and


depressing. At that moment, she thought of her family, her three sons who put her there. When she first discovered her family had secured her a cave, Clara wasn’t angry. In a way, she was relieved. She hated her children and the fools they had become. She was glad they had paid so much money to send her to a place they couldn’t visit. After she slapped little Wendy, her eldest’s daughter, across the face, Clara knew it was only a matter of time before the family got rid of her. During the two weeks at the compound, Clara had realized the fountain women were right; her family did really hate her. She smiled into the mirror and watched her skin crack as her mouth widened. The transition from chirping to laughter signaled afternoon. Clara practiced her darts for a while, traditionally, against the board. By now, she was able to identify which of the women was laughing. Frances was by far the loudest. Dee and Cathy had similar laughs—they both echoed the most, though Dee’s was slightly throaty like she had smoked her whole life. Yolanda’s was the most irritating. Birdlike, it reverberated off every item in the cave and occupied Clara’s head long after it stopped. All four laughs intertwined were torture. Clara mumbled to herself to


counteract the noise, knowing it would be useless. It was a tactic she tried in the beginning, reciting poetry to herself, but it didn’t work; the laughter still broke through. She lined up a dart as it grew louder, shaking the contents of the cave. It was at the high pitch of Frances that Clara’s dartboard fell to the ground. She glared as it settled into place on the stone floor. She balled up her fists, tilted her head back, and screamed so loud her throat immediately ached, so loud she hoped the women would hear it. Clara shuffled as fast as she could toward the cave entrance. The women were all already standing and facing Clara as she coughed and heaved from her quicker pace. Frances and Yolanda stood smug, arms folded, waiting for Clara to speak. Cathy and Dee looked more alarmed, letting Clara know they had heard her scream. “Well, what did you expect, Clara? These are the bitch caves, after all,” Frances smiled. Clara still hadn’t caught her breath. Phlegm was bubbling in her throat, and she spit a glob onto the path below her. Dee recoiled. Clara then felt a sharp pain in her clenched fists— the darts, four of them. She hadn’t realized she was still holding them. Clara didn’t give the women a second to protest. In four consecutive throws,

she nailed each of the women. Her darts stood straight, buried into four separate necks, her intended bullseyes. One by one, the women dropped to the ground—Frances, Yolanda, Cathy, then Dee. Clara watched for a moment as their blood pooled out in separate puddles until amassing into a crimson fountain of its own. Clara smiled, walked back inside her cave, and into bed. Finally, she slept.

On the Right:

Lounging Light

by Samuel Langenfeld Photography



White or Red Jim Ross I need a new doctor. The old one’s not tracking. I find a website for a sole practitioner who sounds too good to be true: available 24/7 and every patient receives “unlimited time.” If all his patients want him on an unlimited basis at the same time, won’t they start bumping into each other? It sounds like a sales pitch, but since my doctor’s getting the squeeze, doctor 24/7 sounds worth a try. I call, and his receptionist schedules my first appointment for an hour and a half. When I arrive at the converted condo, a 30-something couple of Vanity Fair models are exiting. I identify myself to Gloria, the haute couture receptionist. Instead of demanding my insurance card, she asks, “Can I get you anything to drink: water, coffee, tea?” She serves my water in a real glass with a golden haze. Nothing about the reception area suggests “medical practice.” Brochures advertise spa services with an Asian motif. The business manager—the doctor’s uncle—wanders by and introduces himself. He tells me he moved to DC from the Midwest. “We want to re-

create the small-town feeling where the doctor sees patients in his living room.” The doctor comes out, extends his hand, “Hi, I’m Bill,” and beckons me to his office. A basket of whole fruit and an open bottle of red wine stand by the coffee maker. Bill says he played basketball in college, coached for a year, considered running for elected office, went to grad school to become a research scientist, and finally chose medicine. “I make sure I have enough time for each patient and to see my kids play sports.” Bill’s dog, an Akita, growls almost inaudibly the first time I reach down to her. “If she bothers you, we can put her outside,” Bill says. “No, she can stay. I love dogs. They make the best people.” “The spa revenues let me practice medicine the way I like, small and slow. It takes me a whole day of seeing patients to make what we earn from a single spa client.” Bill coaxes me into the examining room so his just-out-of-college medical 63

assistant, Jackie, can take vitals and draw blood. “She’s brand new. Let me know how she does.” Jackie starts by taking my temperature. Her “my thermometer’s been slow today” doesn’t inspire confidence. When the time comes for the blood draw, I consider asking Jackie to skip using an alcohol wipe because the smell can cause me to faint. Dad was a fainter, too; so is my son. I can tell she’s nervous already. And mentioning my proclivity to faint tends to cause the blood drawer to make accommodations like having me lie down, thereby increasing the odds I’m going to fall asleep which can be mistaken for fainting. Trust me; there’s nothing more disconcerting than waking from a restful sleep to the sight of a crash cart! After tying a tourniquet around my left arm, Jackie asks me to make a fist, taps the only visible vein, and unties the tourniquet. As she waves an alcohol wipe by my face, I think about holding my breath. Then she re-ties the tourniquet and gets to work. I exhale. “You okay?” she asks, opening up the possibility that maybe I shouldn’t be. “I’m fine,” I say. “How about you?” “I suppose I’m fine,” she shrugs. “I just wish I could figure out why I can’t do this.”

“Should I look?” I ask. “No, no, you definitely do not want to see this.” After tortured silence, Jackie adds, “I haven’t been able to get anybody’s blood all day.” When I feel her wrapping tape over the puncture site, I ask, “You done?” “You kidding me? I can’t get a drop out of this arm. I’m switching to the other one. It can’t be any worse.” “You want to try a hand instead?” I ask, extending my left hand in front of her face. “No, hands hurt.” It’s time for another alcohol wipe. I breathe slowly. I imagine I’m at the edge of a cliff, looking out over the ocean as the surf crashes on the rocks below. I’m not good with heights and start feeling vertigo. “It’s going,” Jackie exclaims. Apparently, things are working better with the right arm. Twenty seconds later, she grumbles, “It stopped.” I lean to my right to take a peek. The flow had stopped inside the tubing. “Would it freak you out to hold the syringe for a while,” Jackie asks, “so I can try to figure things out?” Freak me out? Is she kidding? An alcohol wipe freaks me out. Asking me if I’m okay freaks me out. But telling me there’s no blood in my left arm, and you haven’t been able to get anybody’s blood all day? And asking me to hold 64

my own syringe? I figure it’s safer lying. “I feel sanguine about that,” I say. “Sang what?” she asks. “Is that a type of pasta?” “No problem,” I say, crossing my bandaged left arm across my body. I take the syringe from Jackie, whose hand feels cold, clammy. I hold the syringe—still stuck into my arm, holding an empty vial attached to thin tubing—as if I grasped a rope from which hung a child being hauled from a mining cave-in. “You got it going! How’d you do that?” Jackie exclaims. “Is it going?” “Yes, I could’ve used your help all day.” “That’s what sanguine means,” I say. Jackie says, “You filled it up.” I exhale. “We done now?” “I wish,” she laughs. “Bill wants lots of tests.” “How many more vials?” “Four to go. But we’re rolling. You’re cranking it out now.” “Thanks for letting me know.” Jackie says, “Your cheeks look really white.” “They’re not sanguine,” I say. “You like pasta?” she asks. “At this rate, will I even make it home for dinner?” “You could always get a facial while you’re waiting,” Jackie says. “You prefer white wine or red?”

On the Right:

Traveling Inward by Cristina Iorga

Monoprint, Printmaking




Boulevard de Charonne (2020) – 40x60cm

– colored electrical tape, acrylic paint on board

Comfort in the Darkness Rebecca Stewart

The dark and her shadows have become my most trusted allies. She hides me from the sunlight where my vulnerabilities can’t hide. She shields the world from the shame behind my bloodshot eyes, She lays to rest to the parts of me which have withered and died. She can’t stop the tears, no, she lets them flow freely, But she quiets the world so my head might stop spinning. She can’t mend my heart which you’ve shattered completely, But she lets me reminisce of a time that’s not our end but beginning. She hides from view my depression skin-stained skin. She limits my vision so I cannot see you are not here once again. She protects me from the people questioning the state that I’m in. She holds me in her shadows to give me comfort within the unclear. The darkness has been given a horrible name. Stories of monsters and creatures unknown. But when you yourself are undoubtedly in pain, You will long for the comfort for you she has shown.

On the Left:

Les Rues

by Peter Vukmirovic Stevens


Don Swartzentruber

69 Watercolor and Gouache on Bristol.

70 70

New Start Yelim Cho I breathe in the crisp, cold air. Standing at the entrance of the Seoraksan National Park, I unconsciously eye my sister’s clothes or moreso how her body looks in her clothes. We wear matching shirts and shorts for family spirit! she would insist for hours on end before we left, but really, it just makes me question even more how we share 50% of our DNA. The annoying whines of little children temporarily avert my attention; my ears shout at me, “Ugh, that noise! Get me out of here!” Literally, all I hear are annoying chatters and shouts of over-excited people. But even this deafening noise isn’t enough. It isn’t sufficient enough to suppress the loud voice that I’ve got talking in my head. It is constantly reminding me how my sister is beautiful with a perfect hourglass shaped body, and I am just short and chubby. The ridiculous hiking outfits that we wear make the distinction worse. Her shirt hangs loosely around her arms and waist while it flatteringly hugs her chest. My shirt feels tight

all over, making it impossible for me to hide the bulkiness of my body in comparison. And the shorts—the shorts!—they make the cellulite in my legs more conspicuous than it normally is standing next to the two gorgeously toned pillars my sister stands on. All the women in my family have a history of relieving stress by eating which also affected none other than me. Because of the stress of moving schools, I made it my routine to stop by CU and GS25 - monstrously successful convenience stores in Korea that seemed to multiply like roaches - to load up on the quota of baked goods every morning on the way to the school bus and also on the way back home from school. I stuffed my face quickly on the bus so that I didn’t get caught by my mother. I ate it so ravenously that I swear some students were casting me the side-eye thinking that I hadn’t eaten for days…Most times, I wouldn’t get caught by Mrs. Cho. But on the days that my mom’s sixth sense was particularly strong, she would interrogate me about what I had for lunch, and snacks, and 71

drinks, and water, and how much I walked, whether I tried my best in PE class, until eventually I would cave and confess my sins. When I did, my mom would feign surprise, and I was forced to jump rope, counting up to the calories that I had consumed in excess. It was becoming a regular thing: I ate, got caught, and jumped rope. At first, I felt guilty, and I jumped as if it were my penance to the holy land of the beautiful. But eventually, the pain in my legs and my chest overpowered my determination to cross those gates of pearly whites, and I came up with ways to sneak past those punishments as well. The hiking path that we take to heundeul-bawi (the swaying rock) is much more challenging than I had anticipated. I have to calculate each step so that I maintain my balance on the stairs made of bulky rocks and slippery mud. My legs are tiring out and I am struggling to put one wobbly leg in front of the other. I am so tired that I’m pretty sure that I am hallucinating for the last kilometer of the hike. Each step I take, I see the remnants of the grand breakfast buffet I had that morning and the Leaning Tower of Pisa that I had stacked. In front of me, instead of the rocky dirt-covered stairs that some people sometime way back when put in decent effort to construct, I see the dirtied glassy white porcelain dishes from the

morning. Each step I climb, I climb one of the plates that I had stacked. I take one step, and I see half of the vanilla muffin that I left over. Another step, I see half of the chocolate muffin. Next step, bagel crumbs with smears of whipped cream cheese. Some pieces of fruit, ketchup and little bits of scrambled eggs. Some greasy oil from bacon and sausage, leftover milk and cereal, and hints of coffee on the cup. It is quite surprising how good my memory is. I begin to question my intellectual ability. How did I not pass my vocab test last Friday? “Ahhh!” I yell, tripping over a tree branch. My body lurches forward, and I try my best to stay balanced 1708 m above sea level. I swear some girls that walk past hide a smirk. I take a sip of water to come back to my senses. Freezing cold water slides down my throat; the water tastes sweet. Unconsciously, my hands touch my belly, and I feel my stomach sticking out, bloated; the thoughts come back, and while the hallucination is gone, now I hear a voice getting louder and louder. “You should have eaten a salad with a little piece of chicken breast instead of all that junk!” I get up and start running. I run fast to get away from the voices. I was comparing myself both at home with my sister and at school with my 72

friends. I was never safe. The girls at my new school were all so skinny and slim. “Rinnnnggg,” the bell rang, and it was time for lunch. We headed down to the cafeteria, and the girls had their plates full of rice and bulgogi. Life just wasn’t fair; how was it that those girls could be so skinny and eat more than me? I, on the other hand, filled my plate with vegetable salad and a mere half scoop of bulgogi. Still hungry when my plate had emptied, I took my last piece of lettuce and cleaned even the last drop of the sauce for what calories I could allow myself. Then, of course, during class, my stomach lets out a RUMBLE. The popular girls who were sitting at the back whisper conspicuously so everyone can hear, “OMG, how is she still hungry after all that food!” When I get home, I throw my backpack on the couch, jump into my pajamas and rush to the kitchen. Then, I start eating like it is my first meal of the day... ‘Shut up, shut up, shut up!’ I scream at the voice inside my head. I feel a sudden urge to throw up. The carbs in my stomach feel toxic, and I can feel my arms, legs, and stomach expanding in real-time as they are absorbed. I stagger hurriedly ahead of my family, so they don’t see what is about to happen; there’s no need to worry them. 73

A wave of saliva intrudes my mouth and tears well up in my eyes. Just as I think I’m not going to make it, I’m at the top of the mountain, and I puke all over the heundeul bawi. (a humongous rock that is as big as a car, it is placed at the edge of a ‘cliff,’ a dislodged boulder that doesn’t quite fall off). Aside from the mild scent of vomit, the view itself is quite beautiful. There is the heundeul bawi, the huge swaying rock as big as a car placed at the edge of a cliff which is an awe to look at. I realize that my mood also sways from anxious to calm just like this rock I see before me. Then, there is the sky. The sky is incomparable to the sky we usually see in Seoul where there is so much pollution. The air up here is amazingly fresh; it feels clean. At the beginning of the hike, I was disturbed. The hike does not immediately cure my body image. However, it does put things into perspective. Looking at this magnificent rock that was placed precariously on the edge of a cliff, and looking at all of the people that take turns attempting to tip it over to no avail, I realize that no matter how unstable I may feel, I am still grounded. It was thirty minutes before the first set of the game. We were warming up and showing off our skills to the cheering audience. We first started by

stretching our bodies, especially the arms and legs. Then, we passed the balls to each other and moved on to the hitting lines. “FWEET,” the ref blew the whistle, and the game started. My fingers do an intricate dance: Rock Paper Scissor Shoot, and the opposite team starts off by serving. “Bam,” what a powerful hit! But I receive it with ease, my core stable, and the setter securely sets it to the hitter who spikes it down on the opponents. The ball hits the ground, and a point is scored. Several more of these exchanges and “FWEET,” the ending sound of the whistle. We won the game. We wait in line to take pictures with the heundeul bawi, and my family gives the rock a big futile push (the side that isn’t tainted with my breakfast). I smile when the rock still rocks gently in place. We all get in place for the obligatory picture, all of us making ‘V’ signs with our fingers to signal our victory. Looking at our picture and the steady rock, I think no matter how the world may try to push me off, I will hold my ground. I am standing next to the heundeul bawi, my hands feeling the cold air breezing through the gaps of my fingers. My white t-shirt is drenched in sweat, but the cool wind dries it up. I look at the huge rock standing still in its place, and I feel my emotions

being swayed just like the heundeul bawi. Breaking the mental confusion I am having, my dad points a camera at me and says, “Look here! Smile!” He takes hundreds of pictures both vertically and horizontally. I am trying to find the perfect pose while my dad is glaring at the person next to me who is in the picture frame. We waited a couple minutes because we didn’t want to come off as rude, but the ajumma didn’t move an inch. That is when my dad said, “Excuse me, do you mind moving a little to the right so we can take a picture?” She gladly stepped aside and let us do our thing. As minutes passed by, more and more people were lining up to take pictures, and even more people were coming up. Lengthening our hiking sticks and re-tying our hiking shoes, we went back down a series of steep stairs and rocky surfaces. Coming down, I felt so much better than three hours ago when we were at the base of the Seoraksan mountain getting ready to climb. My body felt lighter, stronger, and even more energized! I felt happier and stronger. I realized something as I stared into the clear skies:. No one is perfect.


“Peonies Blooming, Strasbourg Reunion” Adele NeJame

We walk the backyard garden together lucky to see them, given their short blooming season, just seven days, they say. I marvel at the deeply lobed petals like torn lace wound tight doubling the crown’s beauty in the pink light. Some say they stand for compassion, that nymphs are hiding in their petals and so goes the myth of funeral flowers. But I have fallen in love with this garden— at first sight—all three levels cared for tenderly and with Denise for some reason I have yet to work out. Perhaps for the moment she saw us drive up and called out to her brother, my Frederic, from her balcony: welcome home stranger— this after a forty-year absence, the extent of her scolding.


Or maybe it’s just her peonies bursting with color that take me where language cannot go. The whole family has gathered this perfect afternoon to celebrate. We all sit outside at a long picnic table under an arbor of trees, surrounded by peonies and climbing roses while Jean-Claude cooks sausages on an open fire. Denise fills the table with casseroles of coq au vin and baeckeoffee, Alsatian wine and sweets. How alike they are, I think, brother and sister, same deep-set green eyes, the magnetic power of her stare, a commanding energy, every gesture and movement the same—the way she folds her hands near her face when she begins to speak. I think of her wedding photo on the steps of the Strasbourg cathedral, facing out at the world as if the power of youth and remarkable beauty might not just be a loan that always comes due.


But here we are a life time later, surrounded by three generations, grown children and their children, the evening sun soon to set in the windy part of the garden. The summer air heavy with lavender. We will have three days with them. Frederic will play the mandolin at the breakfast table—as when a boy. They will say he how much he looks like papa now. We will walk L’Orangerie Parc together, childhood Sundays relived, where storks still nest on sky poles, the botanical gardens marvelously overgrown. We will visit the family cemetery together, brother and sister crushed and tethered again by loss. We will see blooming hyacinths and wood violets spreading around the names of their parents, Adele & Jean-Luc,


his sister’s young boy, the others. There will be a long silent mourning facing the open summer sky. Then all too soon the whole family will pile into their car and follow us for miles on the freeway wildly waving as we part heading south. We cannot know that in a matter of weeks, both Denise and her Jean-Claude, after fifty years together, will suddenly fail-- no warning, that I will be given their mother’s silver locket, the one she wore all her life with photos of the two children together close to her heart, now to mine. The silver maples will shed their leaves, the yellow falling and falling in the garden, the sprawl of dying blossoms blanketing ground will go unnoticed into winter’s inevitable, inestimable count.



In the Garden Kieran Vaughan

My Maple has grown. His skin brays with Maple colored stain. The swirling braid of villus lay acting as his ring of age. And inside that barreled chest rests a swollen drum of soft, syrup where he stores his sweet soothsaying. There, passed the vines of sinewy muscle, vaunts a delicate pith that makes my fingers itch to touch.

On the Left:

To move, run, card my fingers through his flushed thicket. Thicker, still, are the depths that recede into the marbles that doze in his hollow. Their blistered glaze restlessly

Orange Blossoms by Brooke Ashley



flash despite the lack of sun. Placed there, perhaps, by a playful child. Then bygone to yawn in the humid summer air. They blaze without a light; as embers breathe through ash they cast ardor on his past carnations. Or, as most would see the twin points, that arc simply within the light; as playful as a pair of bobbling bumble bees.

On the Right:

We Are Here

by Tomislav Silipetar Acrylic on paper, A3.



Abreshmina the Immortal Adriana Culverhouse *Content Warning: includes references to sexual abuse* Entries From Abreshmina Zari’s Journal [Diary Entry 1] Basilius saved me when I only wanted to die. I laid in a serene euphoria upon the dirt and warm hay of the barn floor, surrounded by crackling flames and creaking wood. Under the anesthesia of black smoke, I only felt the sensation of being carried away. The red and black sky morphed into bright stars as I was dipped into a nearby stream; cool water washed away the ashes and the anger from my skin. I remembered tracing the outlines of the silhouetted canopy trees with my eyes before I caught his face— scrunched eyebrows of concern and disquietude. He poured stream water on my face from cupped hands, wiping away soot and blood. I tried to look back, tilting my head to the side, through the cedar forest, through the water, but I could see nothing but black and him. I tried to think but was mesmerized with his strong

face and tired, black eyes. He pushed my head back up out of the water and picked me up again, carrying me off someplace I only assumed was safe. When I awoke, I was in my uncle Bentham’s old lumber shack—the one that was buried in the woods. It sat abandoned for decades on the land because when Bentham passed, my family could not keep up the work of both the lumber mill and the farm. Basilius made it his own. In the singleroom shack, there was a lit stone fireplace, an aged wooden table with a set of weathered chairs, and the bed that I lay upon, adjacent to the fire. At first, I did not know this man. Every womanly fiber in my body screamed for me to run, he must be a predator, yet I did not. I stared at the fire, watching the desecrating flames consume the logs within the cavern of its mouth. Yet, my concern did not lie with the intentions of the man nor with the threat of burning, but with this: “Sir,” I said to him, speaking to him for the first time, “why do I not feel the warmth of the flame?”


[Diary Entry 2] Niloufar found me bathing in a stream. It was the first time she saw me since the barn fire. She admitted to thinking I was dead. She said I certainly looked dead, glowing pale against the dark water under the rising full moon. My body felt stronger, although the reflective waters portrayed a version of me that I avoided eye contact with. My dark brown hair—what used to be an untamable bush of waves and tangles— was thinned, my ribs were visible, and my joints felt knobby and out of place. Thick, pink burns covered my torso and appendages, all the way to my toes and fingertips, highlighting against the sandy-brown of my skin. My body was slowly recovering from the caress of the flames, but it took time to heal without nourishment. Basilius told me that I needed to feed. I refused. When my dear Niloufar left me that night, she had determination in her eyes. A few days later, I found a palmwoven basket tied to a low branch with my name written on parchment. Inside the basket was a long, black cloak. Gratitude flooded my empty heart. My old family may have abandoned me just after my father had died, thinking and perhaps wishing I were dead too, but my wetnurse did not. Niloufar the Kind. She represented her


name well, a water lily, and allowed me to dream of hope that night. Perhaps peace would come again. [Diary Entry 3] It felt so good; a euphoric rush pulsed through my veins as I drank and drank. Basilius told me to be careful, yet I did not want to listen. The intoxication flooded my mind, clouding every thought that was not consume. I pushed down the urge to drink deeper, drink faster, but it resurfaced, and I gorged myself. Dana’s body fell limp minutes before; no longer were his hands pressed against my face and shoulder, fighting me with draining strength as my tongue lapped at his fresh wounds. I shall admit that a pang of guilt struck my heart. I came here intending to saunter, perhaps to nap, yet he was here, and he saw me. He screamed. I do not blame him for screaming, for I cannot imagine that I look beautiful to him anymore, but he saw me and became a liability. As I look at it now, perhaps it was not happenstance. Something had drawn me back to the barn that day— maybe it was to admire the handiwork of the townsfolk who rebuilt it or to reflect on the day I was deflowered, but I am sickly pleased in the irony of draining the life from him. I walked towards him first, darkness upon my face, and when he tried to push me back, something called out to

me. I felt his blood pulsing underneath my lips, underneath my fingertips, and I could not resist as Basilius told me to. I pulled back Dana’s long hair, exposing his neck, and attached my mouth to his vulnerability. And when his bronze skin melted to a milky brown, I fled. I left Dana’s body where he used mine years before—in the barn rafters amongst piles of damp hay. [Diary Entry 4] This Immortal blood has transformed me. I can feel my bones groaning under the strain of added height and elongated joints. My fingers have begun to curl inward towards my palm, and my hair and nails do not seem to stop growing no matter how often I trim them. I taste a constant metal on my tongue and my lips and teeth are stained with red. I seem to look like Basilius more and more every night. I am becoming a predator. Ahura Mazdā save me, please, if you have not already forsaken me. Do not let me harm as Basilius has. Do not let me feel at home in the darkness. [Diary Entry 5] There came a night when Basilius spoke to me. We were enjoying the comforts of our home in Bentham’s cabin when he spoke aloud from his chair by the fire. He said to me: “I am sorry.” When I looked up to

him from my sewing, he continued, “I feel that you are afraid of me.” I was not sure what to say, for words spoken aloud have never been within my talents. I paused, then said to him, “I cannot be dishonest with you, Master. I was afraid, at first. But you must understand that was before. Until I came to know you, I was not aware that...creatures like us existed. I was not afraid of your needs as much as I was afraid to know of your person. But I am glad you are good.” “Good?” He scoffed. “My dear, what do you consider to be good?” I felt as if he was testing me then. What do I consider as good? This was something I wish I had pondered more, but he required an answer. “I suppose good in nature is what I mean. You are kind to me, and you saved me. I’ve seen you care for the creatures of the woods, and though your needs involve harm, you take care to make it painless. Despite your inherent nature, you are conscious and careful of others. Your harm is justified. Therefore, I think of you as a good man, Master.” “Do you consider the townsmen of Lydia to be good? Yes?” I thought for another moment. They are just people. While I may have never thought of myself as one of them, I thought of them as benign. “As a whole,


I suppose I do...” “Then tell me, if the townsmen are good, and they come for me with their stakes, and they kill me—if their actions are justified—does that still make me good?” “Master,” I sensed frustration in him, but I was uncertain whether I had caused it, “is there something you are not telling me?” He did not respond at all that night. Instead, he left, dousing the fire and extinguishing the light. He did not return to me until the next full moon when he took me under the stars and devoured me, a ravenous hunger between his lips and thighs. He promised then to show me what it meant to be alive. [Diary Entry 6] Ahura Mazdā, I did not mean it. I visited my oldest friend in the Valley— my dear Jasmine from my younger years. We had talked for hours, and when the deepest part of night came, she tried to take my cloak off. I told her no, but she said she wanted me. It was as if some part of my new being had willed her to me and brought out the desires I held within my heart. Was this what Basilius had told me to be careful with—human emotion? I pushed her back softly, laughing uncomfortably. I did not want her like this. It felt wrong, as if the hidden


part of my desires overruled her consent. But her palms pressed into my shoulders, digging them into the bed. She had not seen my bare skin since the fire. I did not want her to be repulsed, so I kept my distance, and yet she wanted me. She straddled me and told me to stay. She undressed me, bared my scarred skin and breast. She looked down at my nude body, and her eyes fell upon the engraved jade necklace she gave me. I could not read her eyes, but I felt her pulse increase under my bare belly from between her legs. I think she was afraid. I could not control my emotions. All at once, I wanted to feed on her; I wanted to please her, to devour everything she unwillingly gave me. Yet, ultimately, I did not want to hurt her. As she closed the gap between our lips, I saw only Dana’s dead eyes staring down at me. A sudden burst of flames whipped around me, and I could not breathe. The smoke was getting too heavy. I screamed and swiped at the fallen board that crushed my body, the one Basilius tore off of me with ease. The board flew off, smacking into the collapsing barn doors. I could breathe again, and I rolled off the bed, landing on the hard, wooden floor. There was blood on my fingertips and skin under my pointed nails. I

looked around to find Jasmine. She sat slumped against the wall, blood pouring from a wound on her neck. I cried out to her, stumbling over a small stool, and collapsed to her side. I sobbed into her nape as I closed my lips around the gashes, the rune crushed between our chests, impressing the engraving of the jasmine flower into my skin, and the Latin phrase memento mori into hers. [Diary Entry 7] I could not bear the rumors anymore. They started hunting me after the “death” of Jasmine. I could not assuage them. The townspeople burned the old farmhouse down. I am sorry, Father, I tried to keep it safe for your sake. I should not have lingered after your passing, but I held our memories dear, and I did not want them to fall into waste due to lack of upkeep. The people of Lydia Valley came for me in the cold, winter night with torches and stakes, riding in on their chiseled warhorses. In the light of the flames, I saw old friends and old foes—Ashraf and Behzad, our closest neighbors, Leila the baker’s wife, and Nazanin the daughter of Nasser the blacksmith; everyone. They trampled over your fields as an angry mob and laid waste to the henhouses and the farm. They

went inside to find me and looted your belongings. They saw me leap from the second-story window. I hit the snow hard and bolted into the thick acres of wood, headed to the cabin. Some of them led chase. The rest lingered behind, rummaging through the crops and sheds. While I am much faster than them, the weather betrayed my tracks. In a panic, I transformed. Basilius did not mention this ability to me. At first, I was frightened. I lay in the snow as a tiny, black bat. I cowered at the base of a naked cedar. The party marched by, lost in their rage, confused by the untouched snow. I looked back towards the wastes of the farm and saw only orange and red flames reaching for the black sky. [Diary Entry 8] The final night of my stay in Lydia Valley was the night I realized what I had truly become. There came a loud thud on the cabin door in the night. The sound of something hitting the door with a full weight, like a body. When I opened the door, Basilius’s body fell inward. I dragged him from the door and closed it, chaining the lock. I turned him over to make sure he was alive and then lost all will to keep my body raised. His hand held a stake lodged


into his heart. Yes, part of me still hated Basilius for what he made me, but a majority of my decrepit soul loved every bit of him. He made me a monster, but he saved me from the rafters. He kept me alive and showed me how to live this undead life. Sometimes it felt that he did not want me around or that he regretted pulling me from that fire, but other nights he showed a rejuvenation of life that was otherwise dulled or dreaded. He scoffed at immortality just as frequently as he chided ephemeral beings, but those nights! I wish I could have seared them deep into my memory just as much as his claws and teeth scarred my flesh. With his hand behind my head, he pulled me down and pressed my lips to his. Groping a fistful of my hair, he stared his black eyes into mine and said, “Run north. Stay away from the coast. Find respite in Romania, and keep your head down, or you will meet the Fates as I have.” I tried to speak, but he gripped my hair tighter. “Abreshmina, my love, forget about what your past thought your future would hold. You can never become what you thought you would be. Take flight, eshgham, and live as you have shown me.” Basilius passed in my arms, yet I did not flee as he had told me. His voice


that once held bearing over my conscious actions died with him, and I let the predator control me. Conceal. I tried, Basilius, I really did. No longer did your strong voice suppress the creature within me. I wanted to be you. I wanted to become you. Make me a predator, Basilius. Make me good. She was released—the sanctimonious being built of rage and abuse and childish impetuosity. She wanted to consume, and she did. She laid waste to the valley and to the people that took from her. She became me, and I watched billows of smoke collect their souls while I prayed that Angra Mainyu would release them and that he would release me, too. I left the Valley, my home, when the ashes settled; I left the grave of my father, the façade of purity, and I left the place of my transcendent rebirth. I will become a shadow like you, Basilius. I will become your successor.

On the Next Page:

I’ll See You in My Dreams by Cassidy MacArthur Procreate


Hungry For What I Cannot Eat Kayla Spears I was born hungry. Only when my belly was sloshing with my mother’s milk would my anger subside. Childhood was smiley-face french fries, homemade strawberry cakes, and chicken nuggets drizzled with barbeque sauce. Hands constantly sticky from melted skittles in my pockets. Mouths, glowing in the light of the refrigerator, dripped with the coffee creamer my sister and I stole. Food was associated with everything I loved: to eat was to check in on my mother in the middle of hot summer days; to bake was to giggle with my twin as we got powdered sugar on our noses; to gather blackberries and pick apples was a chance to sweat with my crinkle-eyed grandparents. When I was ten, food became calories—a cold-calculated number. Our school uniforms of baggy polos and loose khakis were wiped away, wiping away the anonymity of my body in a crowd. Clothes to me, up until then, were simply there to do their job: to cover my nakedness. I learned that girls could choose clothes

that instead inspired fantasies of their nakedness. Girls strutted into middle school with skin-tight jeans that cupped their asses, spaghetti-strap tops with bras peeking out, and high ponytails that highlighted the slender slope of their necks. The hunger I was born with shifted. I became hungry for eyes. That winter, I wept at Tumbleweeds when my mom surprised me with ice cream. I wept with hunger. The salt tasted good on my tongue. When I finally blurted out, between gasps, that I was scared I was going to get fat, my parents rolled their eyes. “That’s ridiculous, Kayla. You are as thin as a stick.” Like how we laugh when a dog is fearful towards a trivial object—a balloon or a vacuum—they laughed at me. Instead of growing out of my ridiculous fear, like a gnarled root digs its way into the ground, I grew into it. In high school, my finger finally found the courage to wiggle into the back of my throat. I had found a way to cheat the system. Ice cream, cake, fried chicken—they could all be mine as long as I gave them back. I scooped 90

out my insides like Pooh Bear scoops out honey. One Tuesday night, I watched as a mangled, bile-soaked version of my grandmother’s pumpkin pie flushed to the sewers. Earlier that day, my grandmother had gently smiled as she watched me over the kitchen table. “My growing girl,” she crooned. What would she have thought of me if she had seen me cowering before the toilet, choking on her love? This morning, my partner poured sugary sweet syrup over my waffles. Over cups of coffee, we sighed as our bellies were filled with flour, sugar, and butter. I refused to give it back. I plan to die full.


Mixed Media

Fishmongers Steve Simmerman 92 92

Alphabet Stew Laura Schaffer A sound of rain and simmering Black-eyed peas becomes one, Complete thing. There’s no sense Distinguishing, and you get the Feeling the whole cabin is a kind of Gumbo pot with the earthy- Humus smell, the bite, the salt-fat Instance, all of it, seasoning you. This Jumble of nibbling rain or the dilating Kitchen leaves bubbles beading on your Limbs when you stand up to swim, Nosing your way back to the bathroom or Making time for another load of laundry. Outside, with a hiss like adding something to the Pan, a car drives by, and you move to the window, Quiet eddying in aftercurrents. A flicker of leaves. Rich broth swirls around the sapling Sassafras grown up through rhododendron, and Tomorrow’s ground is already in process Under its roots. Beneath your feet, meanwhile, and Varnished in footfalls summering for years, this Wormy chestnut coils and hitches an Exact record of rain and a nutrient soup You never felt, except in its imprint. Zest of a body’s patient memory.


Storge Sofia Terranova Friends are important, but siblings are better, Siblings are there to help you weather. They’re the first friends you have and the last to leave, The bond siblings share, you wouldn’t believe. They move apart and leave each other, But never can one forget their brother. They’re your best friend, even when you don’t show it, You love them and you hope they know it. You may fight once or twice… a week, But they’re the first one your partners meet. Siblings have a bond no two others will have. If you’ve got a sibling, life isn’t so bad.



On Track

David A. Goodrum


Breathtaking William David High on a hilltop, I stand and gaze below, a peaceful valley, draped in a blanket of green. Populated densely with wildflowers, oh how the colors glow, with some brilliant colors I don’t think I’ve ever seen, only out West can such flowers grow. So many shades and hues to paint a picture so pristine, bright yellows and oranges galore, the reddest reds and there’s purple blossomed bushes by the score. In this valley, a river runs through it, in places it runs fast, some places nice and slow. It’s a kind of vista I will not forget, such a place, I’m sorry, many will never know. Breathtaking, this scene, I’m trying to convey. Enchanting, oh how I’d like to stay, and let this scene,… so serene, keep on taking my breath away.


We Had Influence, So We Must Be Influencers Kevin Brown A few years before the internet became something that showed up on college campuses but not yet in people’s homes, my college roommate and I went viral with the technology of our day: the answering machine. Before our junior year of college, our dorm was still outfitted with hallway phones (three per floor) for us to use. When we came back to campus in the fall of 1990, each room was outfitted with its own phone jack, a major development in cross-campus communication. While most people talked about their phones or the conversations they had on them, only our answering machine messages spread across the campus. Erik and I often joked that our machine was more popular than we were, but we also knew we were proud of that distinction. We often told each other (and other people) stories of students we barely knew, if at all, calling our room, surprised when we picked up. They asked if they could call back, and if we could let our phone go to the answering machine instead. We always complied. As with today’s TikTok or YouTube

stars, we spent days, even weeks, coming up with new messages for the machine, always trying to surpass whatever we had come up with before. Once we had established a reputation, we had to continue growing and experimenting with being able to keep callers coming back. We didn’t have statistics on likes or followers, but we felt it whenever we crossed campus where we heard people talking about our messages or even had people call out to us using a phrase or line from one of them. Looking back now, of course, I see the messages for what they are, and the reality is they weren’t anything more or less original than most other college students would have developed.However, they represented inside jokes between Erik and I or ones only students at our small (700ish students)college would get. We used as much technology as we had at our disposal to produce what we thought of as quality work. We were creative in a medium that nobody else we knew was exploring. It was probably the first time in my life I tried any kind of creativity as I was crafting stories 97

before I ever tried to write. One of the most popular messages was our attempt to be meta, to draw attention to the medium itself, to let people know we knew they were listening. When the message began, I started by saying, “Hello.” There was a brief pause, and we knew people would think I had answered the phone. We wanted them to start talking, to make them think they had reached a real person, not the message they probably intended to reach, anyway. Erik then cut in, “What are you doing answering the phone? We’re trying to rob this place.” It was not a particularly interesting setup as the joke was essentially the opening “hello,” but we continued the charade, making it clear Erik and Kevin weren’t there which is why we—the robbers—were there, and that callers could leave a message if we left the answering machine there. It was a juvenile prank at the beginning, nothing more, but we spent time trying to craft the motivation of the robbers (why would they answer the phone?) and the character (was his character angry at me for answering the phone? If so, why would he continue the message instead of just cutting it off right then?). We knew we had to follow the standard format of a message and tell people to leave a message after the beep,

but we needed to do so in character, so we had to adjust the story we were crafting to get to that particular ending. We were also playing on the trope of the time that if one tells callers they’re not home, somebody could come and rob them. That line of thinking never made sense to either of us as people simply replaced the fact that they weren’t home with a euphemism that meant the same thing: “We can’t come to the phone right now.” There was some belief that potential robbers were calling people’s homes (without cell phones, of course, so they would have to be at a payphone somewhere), trying to find empty houses, then driving there to rob them, while hoping the people hadn’t returned by then. We took an absurd idea and made an absurd message out of it. Not surprisingly, I had just switched my major to English that year, and I was reading writers from the 1960s, especially Kurt Vonnegut. I saw writers playing with their medium in a way my classes never showed me; Erik and I took that idea and applied it to the medium we had found for our creativity. Given how much he loved phone calls, he probably would have enjoyed influencing our messages. Given the novelty of answering machines during this era, it’s no surprise that people sold pre-made, 98

supposedly clever or funny messages. The most famous of these attempts is the “Nobody’s home” message set to the opening of Beethoven’s fifth symphony. Or there was the borderline rap version with lyrics such as, “You gotta leave your name/gotta leave your number/gotta WAIT FOR THE BEEP!” The tape, which also included a Boogie Woogie and Can-Can number, had a total of seven different messages for only $14.95 (plus $3 shipping and handling, of course). Erik and I refused to allow others to make such messages for us, so we created our own including musicallyenhanced versions. Erik played guitar, and he could create most of the tracks we needed; however, rather than using a well-known song, Erik would play guitar riffs of his creation, and I would do something in the background to go along with it. Such an approach led to our other most popular message, one that came because we had run out of ideas completely, but we knew we needed a new message. Given our personalities, Erik often played the straight man to my more manic personality, something any student on such a small campus would know about both of us. In this message, we played the music Erik had created, and he did the main narration. 99

He began, “You have reached romper room number 107...” while I was in the background running around the room, creating as much chaos as I could; I turned the TV and other music on and off while trying to quite literally bounce off the walls. As he continued, “Our current residents are currently occupied and cannot come to the phone, but please leave a message...” I began bouncing on and off my bed, leading to our grand finale. As he wrapped up the part about leaving a message, I leapt off a chair onto his bed, shouting “Sky King!” which turned into a repeated “ing, ing, ing, ing” as I bounced until I stopped, and he shut off the recorder. I realize as I write this out there’s no way to communicate how much fun this was to create or why anybody found it interesting, but both are true. Over the next few days, while we were in class, people kept calling and calling. One aspect of this period strikes me as particularly odd though. While people would comment on our messages when they saw us, or we would hear comments through the grapevine, nobody would ever leave a message commenting on our messages. Thus, we would get back to find hangups on the machine or only find out

later how many people had been calling rather than simply leaving a message to say, “Hey, good job on the new message.” It was as if they were curious to see what we would do with the technology, but they were uncomfortable using it themselves to share their feelings with us. The current generation has partly gotten over this hesitation with all of their likes and comments on other people’s creations, and my high school students are quite open about what they see online when they’re in each others’ presence. In fact, they’ll often show each other snaps or videos and talk about them or laugh at them, creating a type of communal event out of a technology that doesn’t naturally lend itself to such interactions. However, they also seldom comment directly on somebody’s creation in a positive way, sharing it with their friends or tapping a heart, but not reaching out to the creator and celebrating the work as appreciators to the creator. I would have enjoyed hearing their voices on our machine, giving us the equivalent of a thumbs up or a like but with a real person’s tone behind it. That’s what most creators want, of course. We want to know that people are reading or seeing or hearing our work, that they look forward to

seeing what we do next, that they appreciate what we’ve just spent weeks, months, even years on. Most creative endeavors are rather lonely in that we sit with our equipment (whether pencil and paper or paint and easel or the latest technology) and create something from largely nothing. We create, though, to form a connection, to express a thought or feeling we have been thinking about or feeling for quite some time, and we hope those ideas or emotions find a place in somebody else who encounters a work. While Erik and I enjoyed the creation in and of itself, we started because we wanted a connection with the people who were calling us to actually talk to us. The only way we know we have created, though, is to hear directly from those who encounter our art.As an appreciator, as well as a creator, I’ve started reaching out to artists whose work I appreciate by sending them a note or email just to say what their work has meant to me. Not surprisingly, they often communicate back in some way. We never go beyond one or two exchanges as that’s not the point. Instead, they know that at least one person found their work meaningful. The closest I’ve come to that feeling was when I had a poem featured on The Writer’s Almanac. For roughly thirty-six hours, I had people 100

from around the country sending me emails that told me what my poem had meant to them. I received one from a high school friend I hadn’t spoken to in more than a decade as she had been surprised to hear my name on the radio. Part of the thrill of that day and a half was that I felt a little bit famous, of course, but it was much more that I realized my writing had reached some people out there, that they had found it meaningful if only for a few minutes. I don’t much miss the answering machine these days, though I do miss the clever messages. Many people don’t even leave voicemails anymore as we can see our missed calls, and we’ll always return the call of those people we know, even if they don’t leave a message. But they’ll probably just send us a text, anyway. I also miss the connection, though, the smiles and laughs Erik and I created that we heard about second-hand (and thirdand fourth-), knowing we created something that people were willing to go out of their way to find. We were saying, “Hello,” and we knew they were listening, even if they never said it back to us.

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Summer Reflection Kira Ashbeck


Waterfall William David

Water racing over the edge with no hesitation at all, unable to resist that gravity’s call. Unwavering in that downward direction we see it pull. Waterfall. Like a waterfall, life can go crashing down with great speed, while we’re just trying to fulfill a need. Sitting safely above the ledge, survival indeed. Nothing ventured nothing gained, as the saying goes. While everyone knows, it can be scary as Hell, looking over that ledge and to let go. But we know all too well, in order to prosper and grow, sooner or later, we need to go with the flow. We can’t stay upstream forever. Though it may be comfortable to, in our hearts, we know what we need to do. If we stood still then we’d never know, what wonderful possibilities our lives might show. It could be the best thing ever, ….…what’s waiting here below!


An Eternal Existence Mia Bolyard In the shadows I stay avoiding a life as ash Needing a sensation beyond belief Blood that drains from even the smallest gash Is the only thing that brings my soul relief I once was human then wasn’t in a flash With no heartbeat I wake in disbelief Lying down in formal dress and sash Tears streamed down my cheeks in grief The years have passed, and acceptance has grown Finding some joys despite the eternal night Sometimes I feel incredibly alone Sometimes I desperately miss sunlight But all sadness aside I cannot tell you lies At times I enjoy the crimson of both my drink and eyes



Fishing at Sunset Rebecca Stewart


Finding Me Behind the A.D.D. Jonah Rogers I was noticing others noticing my secret. It was exhausting (trying) to keep up with conversations. It was even more exhausting faking it. Nodding and excessive eye contact worked. Until they didn’t. No matter how much I tried, though, I couldn’t pretend anymore because my faking was no longer fooling myself. The truth: I couldn’t follow simple conversations — even when I tried. Growing up with Attention Deficit Disorder, I was always aware of this reality. And so, I learned to just be quiet during conversations. It was better not to draw attention to myself. Not to ask ‘What?’ or ‘Huh?’ Especially for the fifth, sixth, or tenth time in a single dialogue. This silence wasn’t because of an inability to understand the content; it was because of an inability to keep up with the present moment. In verbal conversations, there is no rewind button. No way of revisiting the previous sentence. Though, I would try. Often three or more sentences behind the speaker, I was stuck in the past, trying to decipher what was said moments earlier, trying to

catch up to the now. A place where I desperately wanted to be, but couldn’t. Always a step behind. Or worse, a step forward, in the future. A place where anxiety abounds with ‘What if ’ questions: “What if they can tell? What if they can tell that I have absolutely no clue what they are talking about? Whatever you do, just keep making eye contact and nodding.” My life continued this way until I learned about working memory, the mind’s capacity to store and use information in real-time. I learned about the connection between a poor working memory and Attention Deficit Disorder. It suddenly became clear to me why I struggled with listening during conversations. Why I didn’t speak or write articulately. Why I struggled with reading. And the game-changer: Why if one of these four verbal skills improves, the others indirectly improve as well. So I set out to improve my working memory through reading, hoping that it would have positive implications for my listening and speaking skills, too. I didn’t enjoy it; reading was a chore. 106


It. Took. Forever. Sentences littered with commas (I hated commas, I hated their rules.) — or worse, dashes — both of which introduced additional information (as if there wasn’t already enough in the main clause!), were difficult to read. Rereading was often required if I wanted to reach the period with at least some idea of the sentence’s meaning. After a long year of doing this, I was reading more fluently and these punctuation marks no longer posed the same threat to my memory as the trash bin does to a first draft. Reading provided me with what conversations did not: that rewind button. That ability to revisit a previous sentence that had escaped from memory. And as my working memory increased, I was not only reading those long, comma-laden sentences without needing the rewind button; I was writing them. It felt freeing — like all of my feelings, emotions, and thoughts that had been suppressed were finally being assigned to syntax and entering the world of expression. And the best part: I now (genuinely) participate in conversations and am no longer silent. Deciding to learn how to read last year — at the age of thirty — was one of the most impactful decisions I’ve 107 107

ever made. Communication is at the core of all relationships, and so, when I became a better communicator, I also, more importantly, became a better friend, a better husband, and a better father. Human connection, human expression — this is why we listen, speak, read and write. To understand, to feel, and to love.

Photography and oil paint collage.

From Afar Nisâ Sevsay


Theories of Summer Michael Steffen

I want to see the sunflowers of Sanborn, NY, stately luminaries chatting in a field somewhere near the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a warm, windless, August day. Cirrus clouds have hung their veils, herds of cumulus billowing beneath, dense and fluffy. Soon I arrive, and the flowers seem thrilled. They can’t stop hugging me. I roam, for hours, the ripening rows of mini eclipses, tall penumbras, browsing the yellow petals of their ancient books, debating each fuzzy stalk—fiercely happy and haloed—its various theories of summer.

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Pair-a-Dice Lost Erik Suchy


Evil Has No Color Sandip Saha

The color of my skin is brown but I never thought that I am like a crow chick in eagle’s nest rather I always believed in myself not thinking anybody as lion whereas I am a mere deer. All my sufferings in life that is as mammoth as a whale in the midst of tiny tortoises are no situation has come to me that is favorable to boost my chance. On every occasion I had to fight it out. They say there are ups and downs in every individual’s life for me my life flows downwards all the time and I am here to lift it up in order to remain floating no crest only trough I find facing me. I was thrown among wolves at the age of only twelve forced to work like a child labor


by my kins in absence of my parents. I did not even understand that I was being exploited. During my service, my accomplishment was stolen away by my boss depicting to his senior that it was his. As I exposed his misdeed I was threatened to be sacked from service my promotion was totally stopped. All my kins and bosses were brown but that did not stop them to oppress me ruin my future. It is not white brown or black that only matters white kills white, brown kills brown, black kills black, evil has no color.


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It Just Takes One Mia Bolyard

Before you take away my days of sunlight and need of slumber, I must give my gratitude to the friends who filled my days with joy. Though I leave them for a new reality, I’m all the better for their presence. Ending is one chapter and beginning is a new one. Now My love let us hold each other tight, and with your lips bring me Eternal life.



Five (American Dynasty) George Stein


To Answer Your Question Charlotte Gutzmer I am a woman in the way that my nimble fingers can dissect a clementine, licking the sweet juice that runs down my palms, and baby I am manic, I am ill, maybe you should lock me up and watch me tear into the wallpaper. I am a villain in the way that I left myself bloated and bobbing in the water tower, spinning through a musical number, standing over your body, baby, and aching to feel a little more warmth than the adrenaline in my ribcage. And I am a man, of course, not in the way that I’ll mangle myself in the ceiling fan if it means I can be the breadwinner, baby, and what is it with the economy these days, and don’t blame me if the check bounces, I work hard. But I am a man in the way I’ll tilt your chin and fall into your eyes, dumb and lovestruck as a God on Earth. I’m begging to be dismantled, baby, so tear into me like I’m fresh meat and tell me how strong I am.


And I am a ghost, too, in the way that I am the body in the attic, segmented in pieces, strewn across concrete, fantasizing about what is and what could have been. But baby, I dismembered myself, and unlike you I can sew the limbs back on whenever I please. So to answer your question, let me just retrace my footprints, pretty little artifacts sparkling in the snow like some sort of starlet, yes, that’s me, my private little Hollywood boulevard, and my name tastes better in my mouth than in anyone else’s—Charlotte, a spider spinning legends in an unyielding corner.


Realities of the Universe Michael Schoeffel The boy, who is now a man, was standing in front of his father in a cold log house in a very cold part of the country. The father’s teeth were stained brown, and he was breathing like an injured animal. “You must learn how to take a punch if you want to be a man,” he said. “You are old enough now.” Before the boy (now a man) had a chance to brace himself, he felt a blunt strike on his cheek, and the world went black. He woke up on the cold floor of the cold house in the cold country, dazed and unsure of what had happened. It felt like there was a tumor on the side of his face. It was hot and doughy to the touch. When the boy tried to stand up, he became dizzy and nearly fell down, but then he steadied himself. There was a white bear pelt spread out on the floor in front of a fireplace that was producing minimal heat. The boy cradled his cheek and limped, hunched over, into the kitchen for ice. His mother, dressed in rags, was looking out the window with her hands clasped anxiously in front of her chest. The boy’s heart filled with love at the sight


of her, for she was a beautiful woman, and he muttered, “Mama, Mama,” as he stepped onto the cold kitchen floor. She was beginning to turn her head toward the boy when he felt another thump on his cheek. The world went dark again, and he did not wake until many hours later, long after the sun had gone down, long after his father had left the cold house to meet two of his brothers at a tavern. The boy’s mother was kneeling over him with a cold rag in her hand. She tended to the boy’s injuries like an army medic, detached in spirit, efficient in technique. The boy noticed her beauty. Those two punches initiated years of animosity, and as the boy grew older, he became more capable of holding his own against his father. Once, just after his 16th birthday, he knocked his father out cold with one punch, causing him to collapse onto the bear pelt like a sack of mushrooms. Blood leaked from his father’s nose, staining the white fur. The world glowed and pulsated for the boy as flames raged in the fireplace, warming the boy’s blood

and turning the small house into an oven. For years, he’d been waiting to knock out his father. The boy’s face was scarred from countless episodes of abuse, and yet now that he’d dropped the giant, he felt darkness in his soul. A guilt beyond guilt. He rubbed his fist, which wasn’t even sore, and cried until the fire went out, and the house grew very cold again. Now the boy, who is a man, is also a father. He stands in front of his son like his father before him. His father is long dead, his son the age he was when his father first struck him. His son’s eyes are full of trust. The house they live in is much warmer than the one he grew up in. The man feels, only briefly, an urge to perpetuate the cycle. Fleetingly, he wants to ruin the boy’s innocence, pummel his idealism, and teach him the realities of a ruthless universe. But, he thinks, what good would it do? Falling into the same old trap. Failing to improve upon faults of the old guard. He steps forward and hugs the boy, who will one day grow into a man, who will one day stand in front of his son and wrap him in a warm embrace, just like his father before him, teaching him the realities of a boundless universe that, from one perspective, is brimming with love. From one perspective is holy and true.

On the Right:


by Adam Lancaster Oil on Canvas


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In this Issue:

Visual Art Poetry Fiction & Nonfiction

Out of the ashes, the Rising Phoenix winners: Conor Lowery Indigo Ramirez Jasmine LeClair and Verity Langan


Articles from Sheepshead Review Spring 2022 Issue