Spring 2015 Pfeiffer University Misenheimer, NC
THE PHOENIX STAFF Editors-in-chief Sarah Hill Stephanie Nants
Alex Brown Eli Bostian Maranda Fisher Torrianna Foster Kimberly Goodell Courtney Hernandez Kenneth Marscheke Christie Mello Megan Petrea
Faculty Adviser Dr. Marissa Schwalm
We would like to thank the Pfeiffer English Department for all of their support.
Cover Photo provided by William C. Crawford All Text set in Palatino Linotype Author bios can be found at our website Please visit out website at www.pfeiffer-phoenix.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS Fiction
Flames by Danielle Haizlip Her by Torrianna Foster It All Started with a Cup of Coffee by Eli Bostian Sunday Morning in Auburn, Alabama by Danny Overcash The Verdant Path by Connie Dinkler Tree Outside My Window by Danny Overcash His Eyes, His Secrets by Danielle Haizlip Crazy in Love by Aaliyah Jackson
Photography and Art
Asheboro Store Front by William C. Crawford Triangular by Juanita Kruse A Beautiful Morning on the Beach in Jacksonville, FL by Roseann DeTommaso Carolina Balloon Festival by Audrey Glatz Waterfall in Beautiful North Carolina Mountains by Roseann DeTommaso Hawk by Danny Overcash Boston Apartment House by William C. Crawford Golden Gate with Marin Headlands by William C. Crawford Grand Tenton National Park by Roseann DeTommaso Watermelon Octopus by Chase Spivey Rose by Chase Spivey Spolohotz Watercolor by Will Spolohotz
5 7 10 12 13 17 18 27
Inevitable by Alan-Michael Allis My Mother Warned Me About Guys Like You by Claire Johnson War-pen by Eli Bostian Higher Math by Connie Dinkler Regretful Longing by Jamie Young Hidden Tears by Jeffrey Plyler Geppetto by Eli Bostian Unending Goodbye by Claire Johnson Top of the Mountain by Kimberly Goodell What is it? by Connie Dinkler Tragedy at 23-29 Washington Place by Bailey Sherrill Autumn by Stef Hardig Awful Rockets by Zaman Rashid Te Busco by Alfredo Coelho Te Busco English Translation by Alfredo Coelho
36 37 38 39 41 43 44 45 47 49 51 55 56 57 59
NonFiction My Last Day With Ollie Noonan by William C. Crawford
Anna stands barefoot on the cracked sidewalk watching her house burn. She smells an awful odor that’s making her throat scratchy, and some strange woman keeps trying to put a mask on her face. She is dressed in her favorite pink, princess pajamas, but they are now covered in ash. Her curly, brown hair is whisked up in pigtails. Her dark brown eyes start to glisten as tears slowly spill down her cheeks. She doesn’t understand what is happening. She sees a bunch of men in yellow and red running around screaming at each other. They keep entering the house with a long, rubber hose, spraying big, strong bursts of water. This bothers Anna because they are getting her mommy’s floors all wet. Her mom was brought out of the house earlier, but for some reason they covered her up with a white sheet. The man they call, Chief, tells Anna that her mom is cold and they are warming her up. Every time she wants to check on her mom, Mrs. Smithson, her next-door neighbor, pulls her back. Mrs. Smithson is dressed in her blue, housecoat that Anna’s daddy always makes fun of. Her white hair is pulled back tightly into a bun, and her blue eyes keep watering. A loud car with flashing lights is now parked in front of her house. She sees a red and yellow man carrying her daddy to the flashing car. Her little legs start running as fast as they can to catch her dad. Mrs. Smithson’s grip is strong for an old woman and pulls her back beside of her. Anna looks around for her Barbie doll, Skipper.
The Phoenix They had been playing in the kitchen before all this had happened. Anna had snuck downstairs, climbed on a chair, and turned on the oven so she and Skipper could bake together. She had wanted to surprise Mommy with cookies. Flames started to shoot from the oven, and Anna got scared and ran outside. She didn’t want to get in trouble since tomorrow was her mom’s birthday. Anna is about to reach up and tell Mrs. Smithson that she needs to go find Skipper when the red and yellow men go by screaming that the house is about to cave in. Anna’s big brown eyes widen with fear. Her little hand tightens around Mrs. Smithson’s wrinkled hand as her house falls down to the ground, engulfed in flames.
I’ll never forget the day I figured out that liking girls wasn’t “just a phase”. It wasn’t like I had just stopped liking guys, I highly doubt that will ever happen but now I can’t deny the fact that I’m not totally straight. If I label it—which I always hate doing—I guess it would be called pansexuality. It’s a relatively new word but basically I like people based on their personality and not their gender. Our journey started freshman year. She was in my first college English class and I didn’t even romantically like her when we first met. She just sat next to me in class and started talking; we came from the same town but graduated from different high schools and that’s what we had in common. She became my best friend and something more without me even knowing. Somehow she crawled herself into an empty spot in my heart and set up camp as if it was her right to occupy such an important place without my permission. She asks about my life and slowly I start to open up. I tell her about my dad who was in prison for 8 years, my mom who struggled for a majority of my life, and my nanny who was taken away from me before I was ready to let her go. She tells me about her family and the girlfriend she had before move in day. That’s what got me; she cries as she recounts what happened to them and my heart broke for her. But even then, I don’t like her. I have too many guards up and I have a feeling that she’ll just hurt me; I should have listened to myself better. By second semester, she’s coming into my dorm to hang out. I don’t think it’s weird because I lived by myself
The Phoenix and she had a serious girlfriend who moved into a dorm with her. I never think about the girlfriend when we’re alone. I knew her but that didn’t matter too much to me. It hurt too much to think about and I desperately wanted to be one of those girls who could just do what they wanted without caring about who they were hurting...I never quite got there. It’s like that for 3 months; each time she’d “visit” she got me to go a little further with her, made me think that I needed her, that she cared. By the second month, her girlfriend leaves and I think that things will change. I thought wrong. I still wait for her to let herself in my dorm every night and she always does. I tell myself that hiding is better for both of us since I’m not out and not even close to admitting to people who I am. The reasoning only makes me feel better when she’s around, but if she’s not, I feel awkward and dirty. I’m convinced that people know we’re not just friends anymore, she keeps leaving marks that I have to explain away when people ask. My friends hint at it but I follow with a hasty and over-dramatic denial. I know they won’t care but I still care and I don’t want to tell them about her or what we’ve been doing. On Monday, I see her with another girl. They laugh and joke, I notice that she touches the girl a lot. It’s small things, like rubbing her arm or playing with the ends of her obviously fake hair. I don’t know why the space she takes up in my chest feels like it’s being ripped open but I am left breathless watching them. That night when she comes to my room I mention it, but she blows me off. After she leaves, I sit in the dark and try to figure out what that girl has that I don’t. I don’t get another “visit” for a week. This mystery girl gets her in the daylight, in front of people; I don’t get that anymore. If we see each other it’s a hasty hello and we keep going. It’s not like it used to be. Now her only
Fiction interest is in claiming me for everyone else to see the next day without actually having to be near me. I realize now that this was her game: claiming me. She wanted to know that she had someone putting their life on hold for her. The visible marks she left on me weren’t from love, but out of spite for the girl before me; I was paying for another girl’s decision and I let it happen. The following summer, I came out. She had slipped up and told me that she didn’t love me so I stopped eating. She had taken the space she owned, lit it on fire and watched it burn. By the third day of not eating and her absence (as was the pattern) my friends stepped in. I broke down and told them the whole story, they made me “breakup” with her. I told her that I knew what she was doing to me, that she played me, and that I was done. In response, she called me. The conversation was the worst song I could have ever heard. The verses were full of my imperfections and downfalls, the chorus a repeating “you have too many emotions” with a bridge of “this is why I can’t be with you” repeated 3 times. By the end of the song, I realize that this wasn’t about me anymore. She was more damaged than I was and there was nothing I could have done about that. So, I hung up the phone, went to dinner with my friends and prayed that one day I won’t shrink just by hearing her name.
It All Started with a Cup of Coffee
It all started with a cup of coffee. At five-thirty on a Saturday morning, I made the second biggest mistake of my life: I woke up, drank some coffee, and toppled back onto the couch, intending to watch some television. I blinked. I awakened inside of a vast cavern. I could clearly discern my dark surroundings, yet there did not seem to be any source of light. My feet echoed on the stone as I paced forward, but my surroundings did not change. “Is it far in?” I asked my cousin who stood suddenly beside me. “No,” he answered, “but I hear that it is heavily guarded with fearsome beasts. I am glad that we brought our swords.” I glanced in his hands and was unsurprised to see a fearsome, glimmering sword hanging loosely in his grasp. I was equally unsurprised to notice a short, wooden bow clasped in my own hands. My cousin looked at my bow. “Sword,” he repeated, and his face went oddly slack. Everything flashed. I stared into a dense forest, trees so thick that it would take three of my interlocked arm spans to encircle. With a sudden lurch, I dashed into the thicket, immediately entangling myself in branches and leaves. Wishing for a vantage point, I moved to climb a particularly towering tree and found myself instantly among its topmost branches. I had already traversed leagues of forest by now, as there was no exit in sight… only more woodland…
Fiction I dove behind a gravestone as a spell whipped my hair to the side. Voldemort had almost struck me that time… I glanced to my left and saw Harry Potter already looking at me in concern. I gave him a terse nod, and we simultaneously tore out from behind cover. Voldemort already had his wand pointed at me… of course he did, I was the Chosen One… I was on a roller coaster, scorching along at indeterminable speeds. I could tell by the awkward screams of the other passengers that something was wrong… the track was broken. We groaned around a corner and dipped down into a yawning hole… My aunt offered me creamed potatoes at our family picnic— “But I don’t like creamed potatoes!” Flash! I gazed at the audience’s shocked faces as I walked on stage unclothed, but I was not embarrassed or even cold… Flash! I stared impassively at a chicken as it fell from the sky, but my parents and Benjamin Franklin were exchanging bewildered looks… Flash! “And that concludes our Every Ten Minute Traffic Update on Channel 9, Eyewitness News!” closed the exceptionally upbeat news anchor. As I sat up from the couch, the TV channel changed again. Pulling the remote out from under me, I examined the clock, my eyes still groggy with sleep. It was 5:40 on a Saturday morning. Never again would I sleep after drinking coffee. What was the biggest mistake of my life? It was probably admitting that this ever happened.
Sunday Morning in Auburn Alabama
Sunday morning in Auburn, Alabama. University Lutheran. Front row. Next bulletin item: Children’s sermon. As a father, I gathered a bevy of children on the steps to the altar. “Christ lived and preached and told us how to live a joyful life by being helpful to others.” “He is with us always.” “He is our heavenly father,” I preached. “Today, pastor James tells us he is the light of the world.” I reached my hands over their heads and said, “He is always with us. He is everywhere.” At that instant a cloud blocking sun light moved enough to allow sunshine through the stainedglass window over the altar. A beam of light illuminated a line of dust and moisture from the stained glass window to the gasping children kneeling below. “Amen,” I said, and we all quietly returned to our pew, taking a little Christ with us.
The Verdant Path It’s been a hectic Monday. I am finally through with my work at the office and I have 35 minutes until my evening Stats class begins. I am glad for a break. I loathe my job. I’m overworked, underpaid, not appreciated. But it pays the bills . . . mostly. My life seems to be an endless cycle teetering between doldrums and insanity. I sit in the quiet parking lot to eat a ham sandwich in solitude. I gaze out at the rays of sunlight glinting off the parked cars and start to roll down my window when my phone rings. “Hi. Sure, I’ll pick up some milk . . . and eggs . . oh, sorry about that, I was in a hurry this morning, but I’ll do it as soon as I get home tonight…When is it? Well, if I reschedule my appointment with Doug’s teacher...okay. Love you too.” I hate to lie. But what can I do? They need me. I shouldn’t complain, I’m content and that’s good enough, isn’t it? It’s selfish to want more? Isn’t it? As I sit in my late model Nissan, I realize that I forgot to make a deposit to cover the checks I just wrote. I reach for my checkbook and notice in my rearview mirror, on the other side of the parking lot, there is a verdant path surrounded by lush, green hedges. It seems to go on forever into the distance. Has it always been there? I have been coming here for two years and have never noticed it before. How odd and yet not surprising—I am so busy with work, school, and family my mind is sometimes so overloaded that I fail to notice even the most prominent things. The path seems so tranquil and inviting I am compelled to get a closer look. There is something mysterious 13
The Phoenix about it…it’s probably all in my head. I walk nearer and step onto the grassy path. Immediately everything is silent. It is eerily surreal. I turn to look behind me. Nothing has changed and yet it has. The buildings, the cars, including my dusty white Nissan—all are still there, and there is nothing out of the ordinary, but the surroundings have a calmer quality, and the sun has moved. I hear a bird chirping. It is coming from farther down the path. Then, I hear a second bird, then another. They are inviting me along the trail. I check my watch. If I hurry, I can still run to the bank and eat and I won’t be late. I hate to be late. I’m never late. I’m known for my dependability…my loyalty…my predictability. Just one quick look to see what’s there. I wander deeper into the greenery. There are trees and shrubs on both sides so dense I cannot see through them. They envelope me and I become lost in nature. I begin to feel an overwhelming sense of well-being and I find that I am no longer hungry. The warmth of the sun touches my shoulders and a slight breeze wafts through my hair. I then hear the sound of running water. I wonder where it is coming from. I try to recall if there is a fountain or creek nearby. There is none I’m sure. I stroll down the path, beginning to become less concerned about getting to class on time. I follow the trail, slipping off my shoes to feel the soft, cool grass against my bare feet. The narrow lawn has no weeds, and I can find no stray limbs or debris of any kind— not even one fallen leaf from the abundance of surrounding trees. Another oddity that I cannot explain. What is this place and where does this path lead, I wonder? After walking quite some distance, I come to the source of the water. It is the most magnificent waterfall I’ve ever seen, spilling into a beautiful, pristine lake. I find myself surrounded by lovely flowers in every shade of spring
Fiction and the delightful fragrances are overpowering. How unusual for there to be so many varieties of flowers in bloom at the same time and at this time of year. I know this place can’t have been here before—I could not have overlooked such a stunning garden—even in my busy frame of mind. How would I not know the existence of a lake! The birds have now become hundreds. All singing happily in the blossoming trees and shrubbery. Butterflies float by and out of the corner of my eye. I see a doe dart off into a thicket of trees. The breeze picks up and as it does, a feeling of elation also rises inside me. I start to feel a strong sense of confidence, energy and passion that I never in all my life have felt as I race past a serene willow tree swaying in the gentle wind. Strangely, getting to class on time seems trivial now. Out of the ordinary for me because I have never been late in my life. I laugh out loud at my long history of prudence. I check my watch nevertheless—more out of curiosity than concern…it isn’t there! Where did it go? Funny, but I don’t care. I start to question my reasons for wanting to earn a degree in the first place. Is it what I really want or am I still, after all these years, trying to gain my parents’ approval—something I should recognize by now I will never have. I step up to the lake and dip my toes into the water. My feelings of power and assurance intensify tenfold. It is unbelievable how clear the water is. I can plainly see the smooth shiny stones at the bottom—each one, a piece of me that I had lost. I look at my reflection in the water and I see myself for the very first time. I know now that I have the strength to do anything and I am worthy of anything. I am enlightened. I am free! The burdens of guilt and obligation are lifting into the air, being carried away by the songbirds and butterflies. My insecurities, inhibitions, negativity and
The Phoenix concern, all float away and I watch them dissolve into the air as I dance around the edge of the water. I realize that I can never go back. I must pursue the dreams of long ago. The dreams I sacrificed and the dreams that I forgot I had. I see them clearly at this moment in the vast pool of sparkling water and they are easily within my grasp. I can go anywhere…do anything…be my true self. A warm, pleasant rain begins to fall, but where is it coming from? It is a clear day, the sky is a vibrant blue and there is not one cloud in sight. It doesn’t matter; I have accepted the fact that this is a magical place that I have no explanations for. I close my eyes and begin to think of the possibilities. The adventures I’ll have, the people I’ll meet, the sights I’ll see. I revel in the euphoria of my new-found paradise as a tear of joy wells up in my eye. The sound of the waterfall slightly fades and the air begins to cool. I open my eyes and discover that I am sitting in my car, the rain blowing into the half-open window, my sandwich on the seat next to me. I’m almost late for class.
The Tree Outside My Window Taller than my house the sweet gum reaches. Branch es wave in the breeze. Winter is near. Leaves shout yellow in the setting sunâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s light of November. I stand at the window and imagine opening the second story window, jumping into her limber limbs and climbing to the ground below. Oh, if the tree heard the phone conversations watching outside my window. It could have heard the sighs from my bed and the clangs from the tool shed covering its roots below. If the tree watched through the second story widows where blinds were never closed it saw dirty clothes thrown into the hamper only to return and be hung in a row waiting for selection. The tree could have watched at night the red digits count the time and flash as they alarmed at the 6â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s arrival. The tree could have seen a lady slowly unpack her boxes and paint the walls blue and rustic brown and before the paint dried, quickly repack her boxes to never be seen again. It proudly supports a beam from which humming bird feeders hang and before sunrise or an hour after sunset quickly darting little beaks snack. In the winter the tree covers the ground with leaves and prickly seed balls to distribute and continue life. Maybe it will give support to a hammock and my nap as we both
His Eyes, His Secrets Alex stares out of the window watching the red, brown, and orange colors blur by. Virginia was known to have some beautiful fall afternoons and this evening did not disappointment. Red and blue lights flash as they pass, yet another police officer with his back rim-rod straight and hand in firm salute. Alex slowly turns his head to look out the long, wide, back window of the limousine. Cars are lined down the road as far as he can see. He twists uncomfortably back to face the front of the limo. His black necktie is starting to irritate him, so he casually reaches his long, slender fingers up to his throat and gently tugs on the knot. Alex feels the pressure loosen from his neck, and he takes a relaxing deep breath. He had been hugged, pinched, and squeezed by so many little old ladies at the church today, and he was pretty sure they weren’t done with him. Sadly, he thinks every single pincher is behind him in their big metal vehicles ready to pay their final respects to his dad. Alex was pretty sure he smelled like a walking beauty shop. Let’s just say his new smell probably wouldn’t help him pick up any ladies when he returned back to college next week. As he continues to stare out the window, he catches a glimpse of his eyes reflecting back at him. The light blue color was one of the few qualities he had gotten from his father. If he could, he would change them to a murky brown color. Alex had noticed at the dinner table many times that his mother’s green eyes would be staring into his, and he knew she was thinking about the Colonel. Colonel Alex Patterson had been killed in the line of
Fiction duty. He died saving one of his gunnies. Alex thought it was fitting that his dad would die being a hero to someone. He was everyone’s hero, except his family’s. Alex feels his mom’s small hand reach across the leather seat and give him a squeeze. For the first time in the limo ride, he finally takes a look at his mother. He takes a sharp intake of breath as he starts to assess the tight lines around her mouth. Her brown curly hair was pulled tightly into a bun just as the Colonel liked it. Her beautiful emerald eyes were dull and lifeless, and where there should be laugh lines there were frown lines. As they pass another policeman saluting the hearse, Alex looks at his sweet mother and wonders how all these people could have been so fooled by the Colonel. Alex knew his mom was wearing her hair in a bun out of respect for her deceased husband, but he wished she would wear her hair down like she wanted to. That was one of the things he had always looked forward to when the Colonel would deploy. His mom would always wear her long, glossy, brown hair down her back like a movie star. The day the Colonel returned it would always be back up in that tight bun. Alex reaches his hand up to brush his long, shaggy, black hair out of his face, when a black smudge catches his eye. His heart sinks to his stomach as he furiously starts to rub the shoe polish stain off the pale-skin of his hand. His blue eyes wince as he looks down to see the gloss of the perfectly, shined shoes he had spent an hour on last night. A good pair of military shined shoes would always get a nod of approval from the Colonel. Alex hangs his head in surrender. His father would always be a part of him. Grave stones start to appear into view as he sees a cluster of soldiers with guns and trumpets surrounding
The Phoenix where his father will be buried. Oak Hills Cemetery was a beautiful area to lie for the rest of time. At least, that’s what the pinchers had told Alex in between hugs and squeezes. Alex feels the car hit the gravel then slowly start to slow down. He sees Pastor Timothy and the funeral home director start walking towards the family car. Pastor Timothy reaches them first and opens the door of the limo. Alex wasn’t a big churchgoer, but he had to admit Pastor Timothy was a pretty all-right dude. He had a raspy voice, which made it sound like he coached football for a living instead of pastoring. The sound had always comforted Alex as a young boy, and he remembered a moment when he first found a confidant in the Pastor. It was a brisk afternoon in mid-September when Alex had run to the church upset because his dad had just left on another mission. His house was only a few blocks away. He used to play on the red swing-set and the big, blue slide that was used for the church’s pre-school. The squeaking of the metal chains from the swing always made him relax and forget about his problems. The wind was blowing against Alex’s face, and he could feel his cheeks warm from the windburn. He heard footsteps on the gravel of the playground, and he jerked around to see who it was. Pastor Timothy stood there with his white shirt protruding over his belt buckle, hands in his pocket, and the wind blowing his coat. Alex would never forget the way Pastor Timothy looked at him as he lifted his pudgy hand to his shiny forehead and said in his raspy voice, “Boy, it’s windy out here. My hair is going to be a mess.” Alex had burst into a fit of giggles looking at the Pastor’s baldhead shining from the sun light. That day the pastor had become Alex’s friend. Pastor Timothy, squeezing his shoulder, brought him back to his trudge up to the green tent that held a mahogany
Fiction casket draped with the American flag. The wind picks up, and Alex looks over at Pastor Timothy who puts his pudgy, wrinkled hand to his forehead, mimicking that he is trying to keep his hair from blowing. Once again, his baldhead is shining as the sunrays reflect on the beads of sweat that are popping out, pronouncing the shine on his pale skin. Alex feels the first signs of a smile as he lifts his lips slightly. Pastor Timothy gives him a wink, and Alex feels a little better. Alex smells all the different aromas of flowers coming from the gravestones. He knows it’s common that most family members come and visit graves after their loved ones pass on. Alex cannot picture himself kneeling down before the headstone talking to a man that isn’t even there. The funeral home director waves him into the first row of seats under the tent. He was an older man with a receding hairline, wire-rimmed glasses, and the distinct smell of peppermint. He had extremely kind eyes, which made Alex wish for a grandfather like him. Alex had never met his grandparents. His mom’s parents had died in a car accident before he was born, and his dad hadn’t spoken to his parents since he joined the military. Alex’s mom had told him once that Colonel’s parents wanted him to become a doctor and have a good education. When he joined the military they assumed he was doing it out of rebellion. His father told him he would fail, and those words became the Colonel’s driving force. Hence, why he was one of the youngest to ever become Colonel in his branch. Alex snaps back into the present as he hears Pastor Timothy’s voice start reading the scripture. He considers rolling his eyes, because the Colonel was far from a spiritual person, but he bows his head in mock grief. As Pastor Timothy slowly recites, “Ashes to ashes, dust to
The Phoenix dust,” Alex knows his father is about to go six feet down into the ground. He tries to feel the hate that he had been building around his heart for years against the Colonel, but it just won’t come. The breeze picks up and blows his hair. The wind brushed against his face, which brought up one of the few good memories he had with the Colonel. Alex was eight years old and in his eyes his father could do no wrong. He couldn’t believe that his soldier dad was going to spend the day with him. Alex had recently joined the little league baseball team, and his dad was super excited about it. It was an absolute perfect day for baseball. Orange and Red leaves were falling onto the grass as the fall breeze blew them around in circles. Alex’ dad jogged out of the house with a catcher’s mitt on his left hand, and his right hand was holding something hidden behind his back. Alex bounced around excitedly on the grass as he tried to see behind his father’s back. His dad’s laugh echoed through the development, and his blue eyes were sparkling in the sunlight as he said, “I am proud to call you a Patterson today, Boy.” He ruffled Alex’s hair and continued, “I thought I would get you a special gift so you can always remember that you are Major Alex Patterson’s son while you’re on the field.” Alex’s chest puffed out as he practiced his military stance preparing to receive the gift from his dad. Finally, a brand new catcher’s mitt appears. Alex can still remember the brown leather shining in the sun and the new smell of the glove. He jumped into his dad’s arms screaming thanks. Then they proceeded to play catch the whole afternoon. His dad shipped out the next day. Alex remembered at every little league game, he would look up and see an empty seat beside his mom who was standing up waving ecstatically. Every game that went
Fiction by, Alex always checked that spot on the bleacher beside his mom. The Colonel never filled that seat all season. Finally, Alex put the baseball mitt into his closet, where it still laid collecting dust. For the first time in a long time, Alex felt tears slowly well up in his eyes. For so long, he had tried to block out the good memories of his father. Every time he watched his dad pack his desert, camouflage suitcase and lace up his military work boots, Alex would act out in rebellion. When his dad would return, Alex would purposely dirty his shoes, grow out his hair, or leave his bed unmade. The Colonel’s eyes would meet Alex’s identical ones with disapproval. Colonel gave up yelling at him, and the house conformed to a dead silence whenever they were in the same room together. Alex jerks back to the present as he hears Pastor Timothy reciting the closing prayer. He knows that it’s about time for his dad’s body to be lowered into the ground. He feels a sense of pity for the man. The grave was a metaphor of his dad’s life, lonely and dark. Alex would never forget when his dad returned from Iraq after he was promoted to Colonel. His blue eyes no longer sparkled, and they had turned cold and distant. Alex never knew what had happened to make the change in his dad. All he could remember were times when he would wake up, because his dad was screaming through the house. The screams were so scary that Alex could still feel the chills thinking about it. Every time he heard the piercing cry, Alex would run into his parent’s bedroom. His mom would be holding his dad rocking him like a baby. Alex would stand there, his blue eyes brimming with tears as the vision of his fragile mother holding his dad would forever be engrained in his mind. Who his dad used to be was left on the bat-
The Phoenix tlefield never to be found again. The secret would always remain with what happened to Colonel Alex Patterson. He was never the same. After that mission, their household changed completely. His mom would be hard at work in the kitchen, and sprigs of her hair would fly up from the heat. Colonel would walk in and his icy blue eyes would just stare at her. He remembered as soon as the Colonel would leave the room, his mom would run to the nearest mirror and pat her hair down. The eerie silence that filled their home was depressing; Alex could hear the neighborhood kids playing through the walls. He didn’t want to go outside though, if he got his new shoes dirty, the Colonel would give him the cold stare. Alex shakes his head and realizes he is the only one still sitting under the tent on the green velvet seat. His blue eyes roam the area as he sees the pinchers have attacked his mom. They are all over her with hugs and sympathies. His poor mom is smiling, and he can tell by her hand gestures that she’s telling them she will be fine. His eyes keep roaming around trying not to look at the wooden box sitting in front of him. He keeps trying to get up and leave, but that box is holding him there. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see the funeral home workers walking up to lower the casket into the dark hole. He waves to them to give him a minute. He finally lifts his blue eyes to the casket with the red, white, and blue flower arrangement resting beautifully on it. He slowly rises to his feet, his patent-leather shoes gleam in the sunlight. Alex walks toward the casket, and lifts his hand to the wood. He runs his slim fingers across the smoothness of the mahogany. The wood is gleaming brightly in the sunlight. Alex says, “Dad, you’d love how clean the casket is.
Fiction We made sure it would shine brightly, just like your shoes.” Alex feels a tear trickle down the curve of his face as he catches a glimpse of his reflection in the wood. Tearfilled, icy, blue eyes stare back at him; those same colored eyes that, as a little boy, he wished would be home for Christmas. Every year until he stopped believing in Santa Claus, Colonel was his Christmas wish. The little letter he would write with his favorite military green pen always had the same words, “Santa, I want my soldier daddy home for Christmas.” Each time he would give his mom the letter to mail he would put his shoulders back, march towards her, and give a firm salute. His mom would get a very serious face and tell him what a good solider he was. Then she would toss her long brown hair over her shoulders, throw her shoulders into attention, and salute him back. His mom never thought Alex saw her go into their living room and sit down on the sofa as she would rake her fingers through her hair, read his letter, and break into tears. Oh, but he did. He remembered peaking around the doorpost to see where Mom took his special letter, and every year he would watch her do the same thing. Alex jumps as he feels a hand rest on his shoulder. He sees the pale wrinkled hand and knows exactly who it is. Pastor Timothy doesn’t speak. They just stand there in silence. Alex hears the wind pick up and the leaves are rustling around the cemetery. Across the road, he sees little kids playing at the park. He faintly thinks he hears the sound of a swing set creaking back and forth. To his left, he sees a father and son playing baseball together. The little boy is jumping around excitedly, and the dad looks like he’d rather be nowhere
The Phoenix else. He pictures himself, and the Colonel doing the exact same thing. Deep down he knows in all his sternness, the Colonel loved him in the only way he knew how. Alex moves away from Pastor Timothy, stands at attention, and raises his hand in firm salute to the casket in front of him. Then he picks the folded American flag up off the chair. He hugs it tightly to his chest and walks away without looking back as he hears the creaking of the machine lowering the Colonel into the ground.
Crazy in Love
Andi rolls over in the queen sized bed and searches through the blackness of her bedroom for her cell phone. As she runs her hands along the edge of the bed, the ruffles in the pillows, and the wrinkles of the white satin sheets, she comes up empty. Using her left arm to steady herself, she sits up and wipes her face. Her strawberry blonde hair is all over her head, the curls falling just past her shoulder blades and smothering her face. Once she is settled and no longer disoriented, she squints her eyes at the red flare on the bedside table until the blurs adjusts on the alarm clock that reads 12:03 a.m. With her legs now dangling loosely off of the edge of the bed, her face contorts as the pitchblack house confirms that her husband Mark hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t made it home yet. This would have been considered obscure behavior to Andi about five months ago, but now it is normal. Markâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s monetary raise at Grayson Global motivated him to work harder for a position in management. To Andi, this means that Mark will be spending long hours in the office and perfecting the skill of ass kissing, but she is okay with that. Even now, two weeks from Christmas, she never interrupts his obsessive working to ask him to spend more time with her. As a child raised by a single mother in Virginia, Andi was taught the ways of a woman. Cooking, cleaning, ironing, nurturing, these were roles of the woman. And when it comes to men, be the best woman he could ever find, give him everything that he asks for. And always, always, always be a lady. After all, the woman is the reflection of her husband, and he has an image to uphold.
The Phoenix Andi stands to get a little more leverage as she continues to search the bed for her iPhone but is quickly distracted by a set of headlights that shine through her bedroom window. She grins as the thought of her sapphire eyes meeting his emerald ones after a long day crosses her mind. She couldn’t wait to jump into his arms and run her fingers through his short, jet black hair or to see that million-dollar smile of his. Her smile drops as she runs to the window, disappointed by what she sees. No Mark. It must have just been a passerby, someone that got lost and ended up on this country road. There’s nothing for miles out here, but that’s the beauty of it. Because when Mark gets home, he’s forced to be with Andi. There is nowhere for him to run. That’s actually why they moved out here in the first place. Desolation and quietness, it was the complete opposite of the city life that Mark grew accustom to and he appreciated that Andi moved to the middle of nowhere with him. Mark was the golden boy of his family. His path was all laid out for him from the day he was born to the day he is laid to rest; he was the sole heir to his grandparents’ fortune. All they asked of him was to obtain a college degree from an Ivy League school, any Ivy League school would do, and he could have it all. It all sounded like a good plan to Mark as he was cruising through his senior year of high school until he made the ultimate mistake. His girlfriend at the time confessed that she missed a few periods and just like that, his future was gone. His parents kicked him out, and his grandparents changed their will to leave the money to his cousin Edward. Mark never got to meet his baby, either. A car accident two months later sealed the fate of his girlfriend and their unborn, a tragedy Mark never thought he’d overcome. But he did. Two years later he met Andi. He claims
that the moment they locked eyes he just knew that he’d found his drop in the ocean, the queen to his joker, his one in a million, a flame that can never cease. Now it seems that his feeling of sheer infatuation has faded. She rarely sees him anymore. Andi is afraid of the burnout. They’ve been married since they were only twenty years old but these have been the best three years of her life. Well, almost. The last five months, she has felt like she’s been sleeping with a stranger. Mark has lost that flare in his eyes when he looks at her. The sweetness in his voice has gone stale. His kisses no longer have a spark; they are bland and dry. Andi snaps back to reality and peers back over at the alarm clock. 12:58 a.m. Andi begins to feel a little unease. He’s usually home by now. She walks over to the nightstand on which the alarm clock sat and opens the top drawer. Without hesitation, she pulls out a folder and an old box of Misty Silver cigarettes and lifted the flap. Three left and a BIC lighter. She found the folder earlier that day. She was cleaning Mark’s study when she saw it almost completely submerged by a slew of other folders. She assumed he’d have her take care of it because the folder was labeled “bills,” so she put it in the drawer until the perfect time. Andi carries the items to the kitchen with her, both clutched tightly in her left hand. Her pace slows as she steps from the carpeted hallway to the white tiled floors in the kitchen. Directly in front of her is a small, round table with two chairs, one for Mark and one for Andi. She flips the light switch to turn on the kitchen light before she sits where she usually does and sighs as she begins the tedious task of paying upcoming bills. Andi was always taught that since the man is the breadwinner of the household, the woman is in charge of everything else. If a man is busting his behind working to feed you, the least
The Phoenix you can do is make sure you have everything else taken care of. Besides, Andi can’t sleep fall back asleep without him. Maybe this would make the time pass. Andi reaches into the pack of Misty Silvers and pulls out one and lights it. She opens the folder and squints to see the small print on the page in front of her. The dim light coming from above her was the product of two out of three blown bulbs, but Mark hasn’t noticed and she simply can’t reach the fixture to change the bulbs. Squinting even more tightly, Andi could now decipher that it was the Verizon Wireless bill, but something seems odd about it. She then notices his bill was almost one third of the usual amount and only has one line connected, and it wasn’t a smartphone. Confused, Andi re-checks the billing address to make sure this bill was sent to the right house. The envelope reads” Mr. Mark Smith. 247 Langhorn Highway, Alberta, VA. 23821.” Flustered, Andi decides to sit that one aside to ask Mark about later. She folds the Verizon bill back up and places it back in the folder and withdraws the next envelope. The electricity bill follows the Verizon one, then the house payment, and lastly, the MasterCard. She glances to her left out of the window directly above the sink periodically. Exhausted from analyzing the bills, Andi’s heavy eyes quickly scan over the monthly charges for the total. She begins to read the charges aloud in an attempt to stay focused. “Food Lion, Citgo, The Holiday Inn, Chick-Fil-A, Walmart,” Andi stops. She wipes her drowsy eyes and rereads the list for confirmation. “The Holiday Inn? When did we go to the Holiday Inn?” Andi’s heart sinks when she remembers that they haven’t been on a vacation together since their honeymoon in Cancun. She slowly looks back to the bill, afraid of what else she may see. There, in fine print was two more Holiday Inn check-ins.
Andi has little time to process what she has just seen because of the pair of headlights creeping up the driveway. Andi glances at the stove clock that read 1:42 a.m. and sighs heavily. Her hands are clammy and shaking uncontrollably, a lump of emotion is lodged in her throat. The red veins in her eyes are now dominant over the sapphire irises and all color from her skin is drained completely except for the red freckles that cover her cheeks. Her pink, knee-length night gown is drenched with the sweat and tears that have engulfed her. Andi is paralyzed, completely frozen and unable to hear anything but her heart beating in her ears. The abrupt sound of the car door closing brings feeling to her numb body. She can’t let her husband see her like this. It’s unladylike. Her mother would turn over in her grave if she knew that Andi had allowed herself to completely break down in front of a man. Too weak to move, she wipes all evidence of sorrow away and tucks the folder under her butt. She aggressively reaches for her pack of cigarettes and hastily lights one of them. Taking these long, deeply inhaled pulls are calming her. She paints on a smile as the front door creeks open and closes, trying to convince herself that she was okay. Mark’s footsteps get louder and closer, and before she knows it, he is standing right in front of her. “You’re up late,” is the first thing that leaves his mouth. No hello or anything. Andi just smiles, afraid that if she speaks then she’ll say something that will tip her husband off and make him suspect something. She just takes another pull from her quickly diminishing Misty Silver. “Ugh Andi, for heaven’s sake you know how I feel about you smoking,” Mark says disgustedly as he loosens his tie and unbuttons his shirt. “Do me a favor and brush your teeth before bed. I don’t want to roll over and smell an ashtray in the middle of
The Phoenix the night.” Andi just agrees, doing whatever it takes to hold back the feelings that are beginning to overwhelm her. She takes the last pull, and puts the butt out as Mark stares silently. “I don’t want you smoking. It’s not attractive at all, Andi. That shit stinks,” Mark says and kisses Andi on the forehead. The smell of his skin is intoxicating; his eyes are peering down on her and are as green as ever. His lips are pink and his hands are soft as he pulls her close for an intimate embrace, the most affection that she’s felt in months. As she sits still in her chair, she takes in all that he is offering. Andi is almost convinced to forget, but as soon as he lets go, she is reminded. There, between his collarbone and his neck is a small bruise. A bruise that is impossible to obtain for someone who works for an investment company and wears a suit and tie all day. Andi stares with a blank face, and then reaches for the pack of cigarettes, ending the moment with Mark. “Last one and then I’m quitting for you.” Mark doesn’t look convinced, but Andi reassures him that it’ll be her last. “Honey, its 2:30. Go on to bed. I’ll be right there.” Andi’s words almost hurt as they leave her mouth, but Mark agrees to go. As he shuffles drowsily to bed, Andi lights her last cigarette, grabs the folder, and heads to the bathroom. As soon as she closes the bathroom door, Andi unravels silently. She drops down to the floor and lets everything that she is feeling go. All of the anger, the betrayal, the hurt, the lies, she just throws a silent tantrum. She couldn’t let Mark hear or see her like this. A woman should never let a man know that he is the cause of her pain or else he will always know that he is in control of you. With her mom’s “Rules to Womanhood” running through her head, Andi decides to get straight. She stands up and stares at her re-
flection and is shocked at what she sees. She’s staring in the face of a beautiful disaster. Those sapphire eyes are now engulfed in a red sea of veins; her naturally curly hair is as tame as a lion in a zoo. Those freckles that covered her cheeks and arms complimented her strawberry blonde hair well. She was beautiful, and everyone knew it. So why didn’t she feel beautiful? She starts thinking back on their first encounter, how she met Mark. She was waitressing at Outback in Charlotte and just happened to be assigned to the table with the fellow that was sitting alone. He had emerald eyes, shaggy black hair and a beautiful white smile. He wasn’t from the area that much was obvious. He was wearing a jacket in July, so Andi assumed that he was from the north, Canada maybe. The gentleman flirted a little, and eventually asked her for her number before leaving a very healthy tip. She chuckles to herself as she thinks about it. Such a strange way to flirt, but with him, anything worked. He is a beautiful man, the kind of man that Andi’s mother could only dream of. His teeth are as straight as a fresh row of staples and his eyes glisten in the moonlight. Men like him are hard to come by, and some girls could only dream to be in Andi’s shoes. One lady’s dreams are going too far though. The thought of her husband sleeping with someone else makes the tears begin to flow again. She can see it all going down in the Holiday Inn hotel room, the way he yearns for the touch of another woman... Andi’s mind and body are starting to shut down. She can’t possibly produce any more tears and the bags under her eyes indicate that she desperately needs to go to bed. She takes the finishing puff of her last cigarette and flushes it. “No more smoking. For Mark,” She says solemnly. She’d given up so much already for Mark. First her job,
The Phoenix then her family, her hopes and dreams of becoming a chef, and now, smoking. Although it may seem like something small, it was all part of a bigger scheme to keep her precious Mark. Her mother taught her that the role of a woman was to cater to her man, no matter what. That means that if he is wrong, you will defend him. If he is hungry, you will feed him. And if he wants to leave, you will remind him of every single reason that he may want to stay. Andi takes one last look in the mirror before she leaves the bathroom. She lets out one final cry, one more punch to the cabinet door, one more deep breath. She exits the bathroom slowly, thinking about everything that has transpired in the past few hours and what the future holds. On the snail walk from the bathroom to the bedroom where her man awaits, she passes all of the photos hanging up in the hallway. She thinks about all of the different journeys that this man has taken her on. She thinks about all of the ways that she’s changed him. He was once one of the hottest men in New York, and he chose her to be his bride. Out of all women, he chose her. The thought of this makes Andi crack a smile. She rushes to the bedroom where her groom is laying and pauses when she gets to the door. She sees him lying there in a dead sleep, looking as beautiful as the day she first saw him. His frame is over six feet tall, but he still presents an arm for Andi to lay her head across when she arrives. Andi crawls up next to Mark, still replaying the events that happened in that long, exhausting night. She gracefully places her head on Mark’s bicep, sliding her body next to his. Mark could have any woman he wants, but he chose me. That thought brought a smile to Andi’s face. Tomorrow’s a new day. Andi didn’t care about the past, only her future with him. So tomorrow, she’s going to think
about all of the things she could have possibly done wrong and try to right them. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d change anything for him. She will do anything to keep him, even if that means transforming old Andi to the best damn woman ever! Because he is the best man ever, and after all, the woman is a reflection of the man.
Inevitable Both hands gripping the handle, A trickle of blood glints against the silver As the blade presses against my chest. My dear Sir, The choice is yours; What will it be? Shall I hand you my heart, Or twist the dagger? Either way I will feel the pain. The blade will pierce this skin of mine. It is inevitable.
My Mother Warned Me About Guys Like You I need you Like I need a bullet in my head. A dangerous combination that would inevitably end With pain and misery. But darling Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve never wanted anything more. I will not fight it. Please, destroy me.
War-pen Just wait for the fire and brimstone, The flagrant battle cries, The soldiers marching on, The deep, unflinching eyes. Expect the gale-st’rum coming, Know the end is nigh, Certain redemption is looming O’er the corrupted bargain of thine. The phoenix again is flying, The righteous justice is lent, The marchers yet are still crying ‘Gainst your rule, so wicked and bent. Beware all the fire and brimstone, No more with battles of tin; Instead of flyshafts and flintstone, The strength of a mighty War-pen!
Higher Math Algebra and Statistics are classes I must take, but it’s hard to understand that stuff and harder to stay awake. Math itself is bad enough with fractions and decimals and such, but then they throw letters in there— now that’s a bit too much. I’ve chewed up fifty pencils; I’ve killed a hundred trees, and worn down twelve erasers just to find x y and z. Graphing those functions—I hated that too from cubic to exponential decay. I never could seem to get the graph right— it always went the wrong way! I thought that Algebra was hard enough but Statistics was even worse yet— not only did they use letters in there— they used the Greek alphabet!
The Phoenix Alpha, Beta, Sigma and Chi— it’s all Greek to me. I never could understand why they can’t stick with a, b, and c! To work all these problems gives my head a great pain. To choose math as a major is truly insane! There’s a hundred percent probability— that’s a pretty darn good chance— That pi won’t make me sated and logarithms won’t make me dance. When this class is over and I’ve earned my degree, I’ll burn all these math books throw the ashes to the sea. Who needs higher math? I’ll be okay. I’ll buy a computer… and a good CPA.
Regretful Longing Watchful joy of parental bliss, a lonely task for a man alone; love, control. and power would make his son feel safe at home. Past the fatherly duties, an old manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart will ache for the baseball fields with morning dew that time will surely take. Small smiling eyes stand dirty skin-and-bone, a cruel life for a little boy all alone. He gave his love so he could feel safe at home, aiming to please and getting what he could take, pain and uncertain love, drove his heart cold like a stake. Hindsight and regret rule the old manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s little World. The carcass of relations torn through rage that has swirled, broken hearts and pain drive both to nevermore feel safe at home. Hateful ways were more than one boy could take, prison of lies is what the old man would make.
All souls of old and new long for the days of baseball grass, covered in morning dew; hearts of man and child only wanted to feel safe at home. Failings of life strike the old manâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s heart like a quake; the boy lashed out at the World because it was more than the old man could take.
Hidden Tears The Distance away is staggering Tracks of hurt connect the time The Love was Invisible Scenes of Grandeur became crucial Pretending to look normal became passĂŠ Tears hidden in the face of deception Traveling into reality is inconceivable Ignoring thoughts is critical Fall from grace is complete Searching for a hand to hold on to Seeking an arm for comfort Desiring a face to see hidden tears Praying for a soul to wipe all hurt away
Geppetto The puppets dance In order of Orderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pulls, But Order is ordered by one from Disorder, Who too is a marionette for sure. The great master puppeteer, Geppetto, the son of his name, Tweaks every string, Adding new to the seam, And plays to gain for his Game.
Unending Goodbye “I could never live here,” you blurt out between thoughts. As if the sentence was poison in your mouth you needed to get out. The words float around the room, Echoing within my soul and my mind. My face drops because you knew Without me saying anything: that I want, Need you here. Words had not yet left my mouth to your ear of how I’d already mentally rearranged my apartment with your furniture Or that I’d already dreamt of waking up with you next to me And sneaking out of bed to make pancakes. Of course you already know it all. My eyes lift up to see your face, A smile crosses your mouth but your eyes give you away. “You’re braver than I am.” People surround us laughing and having a good time, Little do they know we’re in our personal hell. The unending goodbye we’ve been stuck in for years Now only quantified by the distance separating our hearts, The distance that never gets smaller.
The Phoenix Unsure words pass my lips as the sadness takes over Hoping I can get the last words out before the tears begin to fall, “Can I have a hug? I need to leave now.” Before I have time to finish speaking your arms wrap around me, Pulling me in I can feel your warmth And the breath you take as your arms envelope me. A moment passes before we disentangle Retreating back into our thoughts To avoid the pain we already feel. “Bye, I guess.”
Top of the Mountain Long ago, my well of tears went dry. That meant it was no longer an option for me to cry. I now had to pick myself up and carry on as if I had never been done wrong by the very men who were supposed to love me most. I was left with the task of filling a now gaping hole in my soul, trying to quench my thirst for love with the bitter taste of menâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s semen. Hoping that if I let him, and him, and oh yes, I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t forget about him over there into my bed but NEVER into my heart or even my head. I could have it all and by it all I mean a toe curling, back arching, sheet clenching, eyes rolled back in my head type of a good time that would somehow turn into him holding me and giving me something to believe in. And if I threw a few of my best moves in,
The Phoenix how could he ever leave this bed? Silly me— trying to convince myself that the word lust was really just a combination of the words love and trust and that with every thrust he was trying to reach my soul, the same soul with the gaping hole that only he could fill. And now, I’m picking up the pieces that were strewn around the room, along with my clothes and there’s no amount of duct tape and super glue that can put me together again as the girl I once knew. The girl who grew up too fast and real love she’s never known and she’s trying to get to the mountain top where she knows she belongs but all she can see are the valleys where she’s been held down by men who misused, abused, and just plain treated her badly. For that girl, I will climb all mountains until the world is ours as far as we can see. and to every girl like her, come, your place is at the top with me.
What is it? Tell me I’m a fish. I believe you for I love to swim. Tell me I’m an ox. I believe you for I pull a heavy load. Tell me I’m a tree. I believe you for I have deep roots. Tell me I’m a feather. I believe you for I drift with the wind. Tell me I’m the sun. I believe you for I am warm, yet distant. Tell me I’m a rock. I believe you for I am often tossed aside. Tell me I’m a stream. I believe you for I run a steady course. Tell me I’m a rainbow. I believe you for I have many colors seldom seen.
The Phoenix Tell me I am anything and soon I will believe. Instead of telling, why not you ask? Ask what I think I am. Ask what others see me as. But most importantly, ask what I would like to be.
Tragedy at 23-29 Washington Place Tragedy at 23-29 Washington Place speaks of the horrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that took the lives of 123 young women, not including the men that perished alongside them, on March 25th, 1911. This poem stands as a memorial to the young immigrant women whose lives were taken on that day never to be forgotten. The year was 1911, and boy, with passion it burned. At the helm stood Taft and around him a country of sweat, cloth, and stitches. It was the era of growing, and magnificent buildings, all around, were popping up from the ground. And on the warm, spring day of March 25th, Celia made her way to her usual shift. A trip to the heart of Manhattan, to a building called Asch; up nine floors, to a seat beside Annie Pack. It was here, in these cramped quarters, in her efforts toward a new life, that Celia had found her sisters. Her 17-year-old fingers were slender and nimble, which made them perfect for sliding cloth under the sewing machineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s stamped stitches. And though it was odd, Celia smiled as she worked, for this Triangle company had iced her poor fever with a small paycheck when it burned.
The Phoenix As the daily routine began once again, Celia started to think of her future in America, one that included these friends, these sisters. She thought of the little house she passed each morning that she hoped to buy, the dreamy boy she’d met at the soup kitchen, just of putting her stake of existence in this American ground. She even dreamed of the day when she could buy clothes from an actual store and place them in stacked packs. So as she dreamed, the clock ticked away, and so did her shift. It was just a simple cigar, thrown into a wastebasket full of scraps that lay on the tiled ground. No one had noticed it fly from the workman’s hand, for hot on the loom were Celia and her sisters. But still that fat, smoldering stick began to blossom and bloom, and soon through the basket it burned. Its orange flame soon flew down the railroad tracks that the women had created with their stitches. And that’s when it happened, the chaos that came, for at that moment there weren’t thoughts of an ending shift. Celia’s eyes grew large with that flame that came to the corner for her and Annie Pack. Celia’s first thought was to run, and that’s what she did, hand-in-hand with Annie Pack. They ran across the room, and through the smoky cover, the seats seemed to move and shift. But after reaching the elevator shaft, there was no room, for it was filled with 13 girls, 13 of her sisters. Even with her back to the flames, Celia felt the flames as they
Poetry came close, so close that her skin burned. Celia screamed, an inaudible scream, as she watched them fade from view going down to the ground. And Celia realized that this fire, it was like her sewing machine; ready to plant its own death stitches. She knew that this furious fire had come like a ravenous reaper, eager to end all shifts. But Celia told herself that she would not stand helplessly, for she had to look over Annie Pack. The two ran to the windows that flanked the ninth floor to see streets that were merely dark stitches. And with the huge gap, Celia felt herself join in on the chorus of shrill screams with her sisters. She leaned out the window, white cloth in hand, with the will to live that inside her burned. “Why, oh why,” they wailed, for all they wanted was to reach the cold, frigid safety of the distant ground. As Celia looked around her she saw young, innocent girls jumping out of the windows; all those sisters. They jumped with their eyes closed and their arms open as they flew to the ground. But Celia knew that she would not take her own life, for she knew there were spaces in Heaven for her and Annie Pack. For it was here, where it had begun, that her shift would end. As the flames leapt higher, she grabbed Annie’s hand and Annie another, creating their own stitches. And it was this love that overrode the pain that would come when the flames consumed the short wick that her life had
The Phoenix always burned. On that day, on the 25th of March, 122 of Celiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s sisters were placed beneath the ground. It was the shift that changed a nation with its building burned; and today the graves lie from land to land - Annie Pack and Celia E. and their network of stitches.
Autumn The crisp air wraps around me like a childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s blanket shielding them from fear The breeze frolics through the trees, whispering the secrets that lie in the forest; forever unknown to many, known to prized individuals The trails that become unveiled, painted with vivid colors that take your breath away, allowing you to seek a new way The leaves beneath my feet shatter into delicate pieces unable to bind back together The haze dances upon the water, cherishing all the moments left before the sun erases their existence The warmth that spills from my coffee brushes upon my lips, leaving that sweet pumpkin zest which lingers all around The water personifies the outer beauty of its surroundings, masking the truths that lie within Autumn is a beautiful time to submerge in its beauty as the eye perceives it and how the soul discovers what truly matters.
Awful Rockets This climate is calm, yet my heart is beating fast I think very deeply and go back to the years past I can never forget that brutal rocketâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s blast It didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hit me, but made many holes in my chest
Te Busco Te busco, intento descifrarte. La luz de un faro es intermitente, pero los navegantes la conocen y con su guía pueden llegar a buen puerto. Tu luz tiene otras pausas, otros tiempos a veces erráticos; pero a pesar de eso, al igual que los navegantes, yo sé que está allí, latente y cada vez que la veo es como si nunca hubiese dejado de iluminar y siempre a buen puerto me hace llegar. Te busco entre los témpanos del silencio donde abunda el viento frío y si te veo, te sorporendo y dejás de soplar, sube el calor, cede el hielo, bajan los ríos, bebe la tierra, brota la alegría. Te busco entre las grises nubes de tus dudas y tribulaciones, densas y grises nubes que el “amigo” alimenta entre la niebla de la indiferencia
The Phoenix y el aire lleno de silencio. Te busco hasta que esas nubes se agrietan, parten y disipan por tu sonrisa. Tu sonrisa, tu sonrisa es luz es fuerza que irradia belleza y alegría, que despierta corazones (o al menos el mío). Tu sonrisa es luz que aclara el día. Cuando sonreís nada más existe, sólo la certeza de tu presencia y tus brazos y pecho abierto que cubren, protegen, cuidan el mundo entero, mi mundo. Te busco y a veces me pregunto si tu también te buscas. Allí donde caiga el rayo de luz, donde la lluvia y las nubes den tregua, donde el agua se amanse, donde el ruido acalle, donde no exista pena ni especulación, donde sólo haya sinceridad y se abra un nuevo mundo lleno de posibilidades. Allí, allí espero encontrarte, allí espero que nos encontremos.
English Translation The light of a lighthouse is intermitent but sailors know it and with its help they can safely bay. Your light’s got other pauses, other rhythms sometimes erratic. But, in spite of that, just as sailors, I know that light is still there, imminent And everytime I see it it’s like it never stopped lighting my life and to a good port I safely arrive. I seek you among icebergs of silence where cold winter reigns and if I see you, I get you and you stop blowing, heat’s up, ice melts, rivers flow, earth drinks, happiness arises. I seek you among grey clouds of your doubts and tribulations. Thick grey clouds that the word ‘friends’ feeds between the mist of indifference and the air full of silence.
The Phoenix I seek you until those clouds break, split, dissipate, because of your smile. Your smile, your smile is light; itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a force that brings beauty and happiness that awakes hearts (or at least mine). Your smile is light breaking into a grey day. When you smile, everything else vanishes, but the certainty of your presence and your arms wide open. that cover, protect, care for the whole world, my world. I seek you and sometimes I wonder if you too seek yourself. There, where a ray of light broke where rain and clouds surrendered where water calmed where noise shut where pain nor speculation existed where just purity and sincerity to be and a whole new world opened full of opportunities. There, there I hope to find you, there I hope to we find each other.
William C. Crawford
My Last Day with Ollie Noonan
I finally reconnected with Ollie Noonan, Jr. after 45 years. He is on Campobello Island now, near his family’s home, not at Fenway Park where we planned to meet. His gravesite is hard by the Bay of Fundy where some of the world’s biggest tides provide a striking contrast to the rugged jungle terrain of Hill 445, Landing Zone West, where we met. I last saw Ollie in 1969 when we spent a long day together interviewing and photographing exhausted grunts as they battled an overpowering North Vietnamese division. The temperature was an unholy 120 degrees, and the strong stench of death poisoned the air in the Hiep Duc Valley, Republic of Vietnam. Ollie and I bonded instantly because of rock ‘n roll and sports. We planned our day’s itinerary as the Coaster’s “Yackety Yak” pounded out of my tiny transistor radio. I sang along like crazy to calm my combat nerves. Ollie sang harmony, pausing just long enough to remove his smoldering cigarette from his moustache framed lips. He cut a striking figure at 29: tall and handsome in his jungle fatigues. We talked furiously about the Celtics and the Red Sox. Ollie took mesmerizing photos of Bill Russell dueling Wilt Chamberlain in the Boston Garden. I wouldn’t see them until decades later on the internet. We made a solid plan to meet back in the world after the war to go to Fenway Park. He knew of a good neighborhood bar that served steamed clams-my favorite.
The Phoenix Ollie even took up the thankless job of trying to make me a better photographer. I lied during my job interview when my Sergeant Major asked me if I could shoot photos. I had plenty of writing experience from my college newspaper days, but I didn’t know jack shit about cameras. My assignment abruptly changed from rifleman to photo journalist in the same battalion. I learned on the job, and Ollie pushed me along the learning curve. I realized later he was just paying forward a family debt he owed his father who taught him photography at an early age. Ollie’s dad, Ollie, Sr., was a respected Boston newspaper photographer. He took iconic photos such as the doomed Andria Doria foundering in “Times Square” off Nantucket in 1956. Ollie and his dad eventually worked briefly for rival newspapers. Ollie, Jr. quickly made a name for himself by shooting well known photos of the Kennedys, Boston sports figures, the Beatles, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was president of his press photographers association, and he paid his own way to the Nam. Noonan came to the war zone to experience every photo journalist’s dream: combat. Later his dad would say he went “in search of the truth.” The young photographer wrote his family: “If you hear that I am coming back soon, forget it. I like this place. It is really great for a newspaper man.” Noonan signed on with the Associated Press although he vehemently told me he was “just on leave” from the Boston Globe. He was one of the Horst Faas’ boys, the platoon of young photographers hired by the legendary AP photo chief. These lensmen would gain immortality for their stark images of the war. Faas also came to LZ West
NonFiction with Peter Arnett where he too helped improve my photography. Ollie arrived in Hiep Duc, Que Son, and Song Chang Valleys in the summer of 1969 as the region became a focal point for big headlines. The Communists mounted a huge offensive against Hiep Duc, a model village for the South Vietnamese government’s refugee resettlement program. The powerful 2nd North Vietnamese Army Division infiltrated the area over time on a mission to annihilate Hiep Duc. When they were prematurely discovered by US troops, they revamped their battle plan to just kill as many GI’s as possible to take advantage of mounting anti-war sentiment in the US. As temperatures soared, a major August battle erupted. Infantry soldiers dropped like flies from heat exhaustion and withering enemy fire. A number of compelling subplots unfolded against the backdrop of this bloody inferno. Notre Dame running back Rocky Bleier, an army draftee, was seriously wounded as his company engaged in close combat with the NVA. He would later rehab from his career threatening wounds to win four Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A movie, Fighting Back, depicts Bleier’s story, and a book, Death Valley by Keith Nolan, chronicles the heroism and the failures of GI’s during the summer battle. Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry attracted worldwide attention as GI’s demoralized by days of ferocious fighting, heavy casualties, and furnace like heat temporarily refused their commander’s orders to move out. Other US units balked throughout the region but with far less fanfare. Marines defied orders to don flack jackets in the boiling rice paddies. The entire demeanor of
The Phoenix the American fighting machine was changing in 1969 as dope, facial hair, beads, and peace symbols began to chip away at military discipline. On August 19, Ollie Noonan headed back for another visit to our region accompanied by AP colleague, Richard Pyle. A critical decision occurred when Noonan elected to chopper to LZ Center while Pyle continued on to LZ West. Both locations were in the thick of the battle, but the AP men attached themselves to different battalions several klicks apart. Noonan may have chosen LZ Center because he had already been with us on West several times. Noonan ended up embedded with the aforementioned Alpha Company near the Song Chang River. He experienced a day of fierce fighting against an NVA regiment with temperatures reaching 120 degrees. Later in the afternoon he made another fateful decision. He requested a helicopter extraction. Ollie wanted to get his fresh combat film back to Da Nang to be processed quickly. He scrambled aboard the helicopter of Battalion Commander, LTC Eli Howard. The chopper was taking heavy small arms fire, but the pilot managed to fly safely to the east by hugging the Nui Lon ridge line. Howard made several attempts to land with nearby Bravo Company, but he was forced to abort because of intense fire. The chopper then banked steeply toward Hill 101 probably to recon an enemy anti-aircraft position. Communist fire struck the chopper dead on throwing Howard and Sgt. Major Franklin Rowell out the open doors. The fuel tanks exploded creating a midair fireball. Some of the craft stayed intact as fuselage fragments rained down on the ridgeline. I was scurrying around LZ West trying to coordinate the expanding press coverage of the battle. I scooted into the
NonFiction Battalion Operations Center to arrange a chopper ride to the bush when I heard a heart stopping transmission amid the chaotic buzz of radio chatter. A nearby battalion commander had been shot down. One of the passengers was an AP reporter. Ollie! Richard Pyle mentioned his location to me earlier. My heart sank way below my jungle boots. A pall settled on me. I staggered outside into stifling heat and the deafening sound of our artillery pounding away at enemy positions. The din muffled a single sob from deep within my chest. I selfishly thanked God that I wasn’t on that chopper. That’s what I always did when we had KIA’s-my only way of coping. The helicopter crash site quickly became famous in every newspaper in the world. A dazed and exhausted Alpha Company temporarily refused to move out to recover the bodies. After five more days of fighting, US forces finally reached the remains of the bird. Horst Faas arrived to accompany the advancing GI’s. There was little left of Ollie Noonan, but Faas did retrieve one of Ollie’s cameras. Eight persons perished including the crew. Several grunts related stories of Noonan furiously shooting photos, even leaning past a firing helicopter door gunner to capture images of the bedlam. Noonan even laid down his camera to help drag a wounded GI to safety. Several years later during a hurried trip home through Boston, my wife and I visited Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. I tried to remember the name of the bar where Ollie and I planned to meet. I couldn’t dredge it up. All I could see in my mind’s eye was his moustached face with that smoldering cigarette dangling. “Yackety Yak” pounded in my brain. I remained silent, flashing back, still not close in 1976 to coming to terms with the jungle war or with Ollie’s fate.
The Phoenix We waited our turn at the teeming ticket window. The clerk finally barked out in a clipped Boston accent: “How many?” I silently thrust my left hand forward with my wallet in my right. I curled back my index finger with my left thumb exposing my remaining three fingers. He shoved three tickets out the window. I stuffed them in my pocket with the change. I said not a word to my unsuspecting wife. I never discussed the Nam with anyone but ex-grunts back then. Ollie’s empty seat in our crowded section was his memorial. I lamented that he would never again help me with my photography. There would be no steamers and beer with him that night or ever. There at Fenway for a few heart breaking hours, I finally caught back up with my friend. It just took me 45 years to be able to write the story.
NonFiction Epilogue Ollie Noonan often wrote poetry and listened to tapes of classical music to calm down after combat. He wrote the following poem in Vietnam and sent it to the Boston Globe obituary department for use if he were killed. It is at his grave site. On the Side That’s Winning
The moon hangs like a tear And I, sensing mortality But afraid of tomorrow, rush to greet it Afraid to die And keep running, Afraid to realize it may be hopeless To carry tears on my sleeves While right behind me, in cloak and gown, The man’s juggling bombs Like a circus clown Though the bells toll They can bomb the land But not the soul.
“Nothing comes easy here. Everything is earned.” – Ollie Noonan, in a letter home, 1969.