Managing Editors John Frye & Will Limehouse Publishers Andre Hebra, William Chapman, Cameron Hay, Tillson Galloway Faculty Advisors Mr. Childs Smith & Mr. Wesley Moore Front and Back Cover Art by Maggie Berlin Featuring Artwork by Chase Howard (above), Leslie Wade, Michael Sagatelian, John Frye, Maggie Berlin, Haley Belcher, Simone Handfield, Jacob Skaggs, Alex Hebra, and Madison Coleman With special thanks to Ms. Jeannie Gleaton, Dr. Tom Westerman, Mr. Brink Norton, Alexandra Hildell, Katie Krawcheck, Ms. Jen Lorenz, and Ms. Gabrielle Calvocoressi
TABLE OF CONTENTS 4
1st Place, Narrative: “That Which Ends in A—” by John Frye
1st Place, Poetry: “To Write” by Ali Lovell
1st Place, Essay: “My Life in a Flash Drive” by John Frye
2nd Place, Narrative: “The Insult” by Courtenay White
The Porter-Gaud School Visiting Writer Series 14
Poetry in Focus: “Shave” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Between the Lines: An Interview with Poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi
2nd Place, Poetry: “Reflection” by Parker Murphy
2nd Place, Essay: “Through the Eyes of the Working Class” by Jones Alexander
3rd Place, Narrative: “Trapped Inside a Little Black Box” by Ali Lovell
3rd Place, Poetry: “Pigeons or Pelicans” by Will Limehouse
3rd Place, Essay: “Did You Get That?” by Eleanor Lee
Honorable Mention, Essay: “Something That Matters” by Parker Cline
Honorable Mention, Poetry: “Panic Cycles” by Juliette Lovell
Porter-Gaud Poetry Out Loud Finalists
“Rabbit: An Emotional Resistance” by Katie Krawcheck
Travel Log: “A Trip to Cuba” by Alexandra Hildell
“Beach Night Meditation” by Chris Nelson
“Dinner” by McRae Lawrence
“One Classroom or Another” by Alex Dodenhoff
“The Wake-Up Call” by Judah Ellison
1ST PLACE, NARRATIVE
That Which Ends in A— It pierced the Southern earth like a spearhead: a billboard sign proclaiming “Judgment Day Is Upon Us.” Apparently, not quick enough. We outran Judgment in a mini-van and locked it tight on its solitary hill miles from the church door. With one Eek! shut, we were safe. In the windowless, sheet-metal bunker abuzz with the fluorescent lights above. Buzzing. Buzzing. Buzzing. Laughing. Hearty chuckles webbed with sinews of fried chicken and little giblets of corn in the family tales passed down from generations. They drowned under the incisive bark. “Enunciate….I said E-N-U-N-C-I-A-T-E,” Mom orated into the phone. “You— Hello? Hello? And she hung up on me.” “I tell you whut,” Aunt Barbara adjusted her Pentecostal hairdo and sat her chickenplatter on the opposite side of the table, “they’re gettin’ worse.” “Mhmm.” “I was at the Laundromat the other day and, shug, lemmie tell you how hard it is to navigate around these ignorant black women,” Barbara leaned forth, whispering over the reunion’s clamor. “It got me thinkin’. Our great, great granddaddy took care of ’m. He gave ‘em food, water, shelter. And whut do they got now? Out there shootin’ each other up and—” “I don’t think—” “Sweetie,” Mom shushed me, “don’t interrupt your aunt.” And so I didn’t. Instead, I returned to my prior engagement of watching drool trickle down Uncle Jim’s beard. “I’m just sayin’,” Barbara nodded. “That’s a little bit far, Barb.” “Ain’t you worried about him?” she pointed to me. “Well, I am worried about my little baby being all alone in college. Especially up… there.” “Where’s he goin?” “Baltimore,” Mom whispered, “y’know, with the riots and all.” “But whut school? Whut ‘bout somewhere in the good part a’ town?” “Well, I’ve been accepted—” “Johns Hopkins,” Mom swooped in. “So that’s a no-go on the ‘good part of town’.” “Shug, he’ll be fine. The riots’ve been done for years. They wore themselves out whoopin’ and hollerin’. Ain’t surprising for a bunch of—” Uncle Jim suddenly shot upright, groaning through old, puckered vocal chords. “I heard somethin’ at that door.” An arthritic finger hovered above an entryway punched into the cement. In that moment, the family chatter ceased, leaving nothing but the creak of a swaying light fixture. Back and forth, it echoed across the church—so large, so void, and yet as constricting as a closet. “Hush, Jim. It don’t matter whut’s at that darn door.”
“There’s somethin’ there, I tell ya.” “Good lord, do I need’ta get your meds again?” “I killed a man with his own foot!” “Well, bless your heart,” Barbara sighed. Routine babble, once again, drew my attention from the dim, claustrophobic vacuum. “But as I was sayin,’ he’ll be fine. Whut’s he wanna major in?”
Artwork by John Frye
“I’ve considered—” “We’re still thinking about that. They have this thing called ‘undecided’ for kids who haven’t really figured out what they wanna do.” “Goodness gracious, he better find out quick, shug.” “I’ve decided,” I finally said. “Yes, I have finally decided. I’m going to enucleate myself with a fork, and I’m gonna dance around the table until my perforated eyeball
detaches into someone’s ‘taters.’ Isn’t that a grand decision?” “Here’s a fork, sweetie,” Aunt Barbara said. “You need a napkin? We got some grane banes if you want any.” “I think he’ll pass,” Mom said. “Alrighty. But as I was sayin’, you gotta git him to find whut he wants in life. You’re a parent, shug; it’s your job to git him on the right path. That’s a tall order these days, yes ma’am, but lemmie tell you that if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s you, shug.” Again, she beached herself on the table to whisper, “I hope you been takin’ him to church.” “It’s hard to find time for it.” “What she really means is that we haven’t been to church in nine years,” I said. “We haven’t been in a few weeks,” Mom said. “It ain’t ever too late,” Barbara shifted my way. “Sweetie, you believe in the Lord, right?” “Whatever makes you happy, Barbara.” “Well, that’s good,” Barbara smiled. “I’m glad to hear you have faith in the Lord. We live in Godless times.” “I have a sneaking suspicion that nobody’s listening to me.” “Mhmm. I’m proud of my baby for sticking with what he believes in,” Mom nodded. “That’s all a parent can hope for,” Barbara said. “Did you know that bees are dying at an alarming rate, and scientists estimate we’ll be dead within a few decades?” I ask. “You gotta raise ‘em up strong.” “I’m riddled with undiagnosed anxiety disorders. I ponder a horrific accident every time I get behind the wheel of a car. Isn’t that interesting?” “They’re our future.” “So God help it if I’m a disappointment.” “Jim!” Barbara clambered out of her chair. Furiously, she waddled towards the senile wanderer—arm crackling towards the exit. “What I tell you ‘bout that door?! You gon’ strain yourself n’ poop your drawers again!” “I’ll do what I want, woman!” Jim wheezed upon being escorted back. “I swear there’s somethin’ out there!” “It don’t matter! Leave it! God knows what’s outside! Jim, good Lord, it’s safe in here.” “Safe where all we do is eat and grow old and die,” he muttered. “I wanna see what’s outside.” “He’s gettin’ up there in years,” Barbara sighed. “It won’t be long now. But there’s always hope. My little Connie just had herself a baby girl.” “Congratulations!” Mom exclaimed. “Yep. That makes me a grandmamma,” Barbara then shot me a spry glance, then one to Mom. “You gon’ be a grandmamma any time soon?” The reunion babble drowned in an ice that coursed through my bloodstream. Everything grew cold in the glacial tomb, patrolled by predators waiting to pounce on my grimaced expression.
“Oh, look, he’s gettin’ so embarrassed,” Barbara cackled. “I’m just sayin’, shug. They’re outbreedin’ us. He’s real smart, ain’t he? We need someone to make us some nice, smart, white babies.” “I’m still in high school,” I said. “Not for long,” Barbara snorted. “Your mamma’d be so proud.” “There are many things my parents want out of me, but a baby isn’t one of them.” “Oh, why nawt?” she whispered, mockingly. “You got yourself a girlfriend?” “Well, there’s a blatantly obvious reason why I don’t, but…” I bit my tongue. “I’m busy with school.” “Too busy?! Shug, Jim here was married n’ he was eightane. Whut? You gon’ go your whole life without a family?” “I’ll find a loving one eventually.” “Good Lord!” Barbara laughed. “You better hurry up then.” “Hurry up? Good Lord?” I ask. “If you could only hear me. You think I haven’t fought myself over this, Barbara? All those nights I spent praying to God, banging my head against my clasped hands.” “Oh, well bless your heart, shug. There’s plenty a’ fish in the sea. I’m sure you’ll meet a nice girl in college,” she said. Each syllable sharpened in an increasingly nasal tendency. Each over-exaggerated breath of an inculpable Southern belle misted around me. A miasma that cloaked her face and consumed the church. Grey, all around. And from every direction, it squealed, “I tell you, there’s a nice girl waitin’ for you. God made a special woman for every man. That’s how it is, shug…Look at that; I got myself all sentimental just thinkin’ ‘bout it. Goodness gracious, I can’t help myself. I can’t help but think how wonderful it is to see our family grow.” The final syllable echoed across the misty plain. Like a starting gun. The fog engulfed me. “You could have a wonderful girl, shug. A wonderful wife. It’s the best thang on Earth.” This time, I silenced the congregation. Bolting up, I screamed, “Oh, for the love of God, Barbara, I’m—” A Bang! stifled my shouts. A wild mass thundered past Uncle Jim through the nowopened door. The reunion fell into disarray: fluttering napkins, plates cracking against the floor, frantic shouts. “Git the shotgun! Git the shotgun!” But I remained calm. It was a hawk. As it turned—suddenly eased on the rafter—to look me in the eyes, sunlight bombarded the church. For one momentary fractal of time, and then the hawk darted back into the untamed, golden flare that broke through the door. The reunion returned to chatter once again, albeit slowly. A few sweeps here, a grane-bane-stain or two mopped, and then viola. Again, I sat rigid at the table across from Aunt Barbara, who recalled that I stood on the precipice of divulging something monumental. “You was sayin’ you was somethin’. Whut was it, shug?” “Nothing,” I replied with the pleasant smile my family knows well. “Nothing at all.”
1st PLACE, POETRY
To Write Give me paper and a pencil, and Iâ€™ll be content, Content to whisper words into the soft lines, Dragging lead across wood, nature through nature, Colors swirling in my vision, yet only mine Sees the softness in your worldly eyes So I write them into words all gray, Their bluish tint ebbing into thought. How does one capture their light this way? Pushing my pencil to the sound of the tide That washes thoughts into physical beings, Elemental creations of my mindâ€™s alchemy, Simple thoughts into crystal creatures seeing. Memories mix with the tint of graphite, A tangible moment turned to ideas that are mine.
Artwork by Jake Millman
1ST PLACE, ESSAY
My Life in a Flash Drive The entirety of my life rests in a kooky pen flash drive. With paint faded from eons of scratches, cracks, and haphazard duct tape, I scarce remember its face’s original design, and yet every time I hunch in front of the computer, I’m catapulted back to the day I chose to be a novelist. Twelve years old. Zombies and explosions. My fingers darting over the keyboard in anticipation of showing my friends every comma splice, every mortifying one-liner, every deus-ex-machina moment of a giant squid careening through the roof. At ten thousand words (a novel in twelve-yearold terms), I prepared to show the world what kind of action aficionado I was. But then my reticence got the best of me, and I never told a soul. Curiously enough, though, this hardly prevented me from adding to my novel. Sure, each addition occurred arbitrarily, often vivisected by twomonth intervals of nothingness, but they were additions nonetheless. When an idea popped into my mind, I wrote it down, even if it entailed completely restructuring the novel’s plot and characters. A chaotic process? Certainly. But my creative writing’s apparent entropy only cements something it took me six years to realize. Whatever I write in my novel is a reflection of my life. And through each of the fourteen revisions and hundreds of thousands of discarded words, I read a story of progress. It begins with the first few editions. I am unlike many middle schoolers. I am a cold rationalist, contrary to an outlandish plot. I write with an air of pretentiousness. Like a miniature Holden Caulfield, my own sense of “rationality”—my old code word for a bizarre right-wing modus operandi— led me to believe myself superior to others. Only through subtle hints—brief demonstrations of despair in otherwise shallow characters—could one determine that I was only a boy wrought with insecurities about his faith and self worth. My revision process continues. A new novel forms, replete with fast-paced, edge-of-the-seat action, realistic yet engaging dialogue, and a surplus of adjectives. It’s only fitting for the time. I envision myself a doctor, a journalist, a plastic surgeon, even a bioengineer, and I realize the goal to achieving any of these ambitions lies not in scoffing at the world around me, but molding it with my hands. 10
A semblance of symbolism and character depth emerge. As I read through the latest revisions, I hear a powerful voice forming. One with visions and ideas its hidebound progenitor would vomit over. Sentence fragments. Cryptic. A fractured mirror of poeticism and symbols. This voice speaks of human empathy, harkening to a boy who marched for peace and equality following a massacre. Who saw his bigoted views crumble as he worked fast food, watching his coworkers persevere through the tribulations of racism, poverty, and unequal opportunity. This latest voice calls for freedom. And even if I possess a quiet demeanor, my writing reflects the numerous experiences, either in work, school, or service, and the ardent beliefs that they have cultivated. My writing is loud. For now, however, I’m unsure whether or not to publish, or if I even want to. A part of me dreams of the success that may stem from publishing, though I realize the market for action novels symbolic of left-libertarianism isn’t exactly booming, and yet another part of me realizes why I write my novel, even to this day. Nuances of the plot may shift, as do its symbols, but I’ve decided to maintain one constancy in my novel: the opening paragraph. I awake. The protagonist begins a new chapter of his life—one that continuously changes with the life experiences that shape me. It begins with a proclamation of life; where it ends, no one knows.
Artwork by John Frye
2ND PLACE, NARRATIVE
The Insult She wanted to smack their second-best minister. Although, Sonya reminded herself that he was not the insult. The insult was that their best couldn’t be spared. And so they, the family, and the friends, and the young ones who colored pictures with the little church pencils in the back pews, were subjected to the sermon of the second-best minister who had never met the deceased or his widow since they had been brought so low that even the call of God could not lure them from bed. No, the second-best minister was not the insult. His tweed sport-coat, and his gray slacks, and the grease stain on his shirt that even his fat tie could not hide—these were the insult. When Sonya got up to say her piece, she smoothed down the folds of her dress, then stepped over her mother and the caregivers. The second-best minister handed her the microphone then sat directly behind the podium. Sonya could hear his rattling breaths as she, hands trembling, unfolded the creased copy of the speech she had rehearsed to her sister so many times over the phone. “When we were kids, my father used to tell a story about a bunny who ran away from home…” Sonya knew it was perfect, every word of it, every pause, and every articulation. But the second-best minister kept laughing in the wrong places and breathing too loudly during the silences. It was supposed to be her time. Everyone would see how much she loved her father, and this would be her final gift to him. But it didn’t feel like that. At the reception across the street from the chapel, Sonya clasped many different pairs of arthritic hands and explained her sister’s absence again and again. But even then, the second-best minister hung around, eating her father’s food and watching the commiserating crowd from the outside. Then the well-wishers trickled from the room one by one. Even her mother was too tired to go on. Sonya longed for one of them to stay, but not one did. Out in the yard, there were two plots side-by-side. One was for her father now, the other for her mother later. Sonya always thought there would be more people at the internment, always imagined it might be raining. People would be hidden, weeping softly under giant, black umbrellas. But it wasn’t raining, and there were no umbrellas in sight. The ground was soggy, melting beneath their feet from the storm a few nights before, and gnats zipped around their faces. The second-best minister asked if Sonya wanted to give a few words before the lowering. But everything had already been said.
Artwork by Maggie Berlin
Poetry in Focus Senior and watch magazine co-managing editor John Frye took pen to the poem “Shave” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, this year’s Porter-Gaud Visiting Writer.
Artwork by John Frye
HEADERthe HE Between Lines:
A Visit with PG’s Visiting Poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi This week, renowned poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi will visit our campus from her post at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches poetry as the Walker Percy Fellow. Her first book of poetry, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, received the 2006 Connecticut Book Award in Poetry and was shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award. Her second and most recent book, Apocalyptic Swing, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2009. She has also received a Stegner Fellowship, a Jones Lectureship at Stanford University, a Rona Jaffe Women’s writers award, a fellowship to Civitella di Ranieri in Umbria, and a Writing Residency Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation in Marfa. Ms. Calvocoressi’s poems have been published in the The New York Times, The Boston Review, and The Washington Post, among many others publications. In our interview, she talks about her poetry, her inspiration, her book titles coming to her in dreams, and much more. How do you suggest readers go about distinguishing the speaker of a poem from its author? This is such an important and thorny question in American poetry. I’m someone who writes a lot of persona poems, poems that are ostensibly in the voice of “someone else.” And yet, there also (in my practice and in my mind) has to be some connection between me and the figure I’m speaking through. Some place on their body that meets the body of my concerns and my poems. So, even if you are able to discern the voice of a person from 1944 in my poem, I also think that you are able to hear me in there as well. There are people who believe it’s really important that we never conflate speaker and poet. I totally get that. For my part, I don’t mind so much. Or, what I don’t mind is someone finding the space where the speaker and the maker of the poem clearly come together and where they come apart. I think a ton about this issue of “voice.” And I totally respect that many people need the separation between speaker and poet. But, I don’t need it so much anymore. Or, it’s not a big concern of mine. Which is a real change from the answer I would have given you a few years ago.
Do you have a strict routine that you follow when writing, or do you write on a looser schedule? It’s sort of what you think of as a routine and what qualifies as working on a poem for you. Some people make a point of sitting at their desk every single day, and they make a point of spending that time at the desk writing poems. Or writing something. Many of these people would say, “A writer writes every day.” By that definition, I write on a much looser schedule. But, for me writing a poem means reading constantly and following my hunches about what I need to be reading and listening to in order to find the poem I’m interested in. When I was working on my last book, I somehow knew I needed to be reading Russian novels. So a lot of my day was spent reading Russian novels. I’d call that part of my writing routine. Walking is also part of my writing routine. Taking long walks to think through the poems. To write them in my head or think through turns I’m having trouble making. Often on those walks I’ll see something that surprises me, and often that will end up in a poem. Reading and listening and walking are things I do absolutely every single day. And then, when poems are ready to show up on the page, I sit down and work in that way. When I really have a sense of what is happening in the work, that something is forming, I tend to sit and write extensively for many days at a time. For me, that’s a rigorous schedule. It’s also a schedule that keeps me engaged with the world, which is where my poems live. What part of the poetic process comes easiest to you? What part comes the hardest? Well, I think the part that comes hardest is writing poems after I’ve finished a larger project like a book. I’ve had to accept that I spend a year or two writing poorly in order to get the last world out of my system. I mean, some good work comes out of that time…. but honestly, more likely than not, the work is not going to be so great. I’ve had to really get used to that and accept it. It’s actually made my poems better in the end. In terms of the easiest…I don’t know. I guess I’d say I don’t think of anything as easiest, but I do have parts that are more pleasurable. For me revision is not the easiest but is incredibly pleasurable. And coming into an idea, really hearing a new poem form is like no other feeling in the world.
When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? Was it a single moment or something that happened gradually? I think like a lot of people, my first poems came from trying to make sense of things that I couldn’t find language for. For me that was my mother’s mental illness and suicide. After she died, I start writing. I don’t think I would have thought of that stuff as poems (I was thirteen and hadn’t read much poetry), but I was very lucky to have a teacher who did think of them that way. So that was the beginning. Once someone spoke to me about my work as poems, I made a point to start reading more poetry. And that really began my life as a poet. And then I got lucky enough to go to a private high school that brought Seamus Heaney and Donald Hall to read. And then I was hooked. Someone could do that for a living, or for their whole life. It was totally life changing for me. Do you identify with any particular literary or artistic moments? I am really interested in the Black Mountain movement. Their relationship to experiment and making art is endlessly interesting to me. I hope to do some experiments in the mode of Black Mountain when I’m among all of you. I also am deeply indebted to all of my LGBTQ forbears in poetry. I don’t know that I’d single out a single moment, but I suppose the work being done in the late 80’s into the late 90’s meant a ton to me as someone who was growing into their own understanding of their sexuality. How much thought goes into picking the name of a book of poetry? For example, do you intend certain poems, like “The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart,” to imply set themes that the rest of the works explore? If you can believe it, I have always dreamt the title of my books! Even the first one…I dreamt that title for the poems. And then I dreamt that it was going to be the title of the book. A lot of folks tried to talk me out of that title, but I knew. And that title has had a wonderful life in the world. You’d be amazed how many people who don’t read poems picked up that book because they like the title. I wonder if one could say my titles are somehow American in their tone…maybe that’s something we can all talk about. Have you ever had an awkward encounter with someone whom you wrote about in a poem (or someone who thought you wrote about them)? I’ve been so lucky. I was really scared that my Circus Fire poems would come up against people who were really offended…the challenge of writing about charged subjects and, also, I was so young then. But people were and continue to be so wonderful about them.
It’s actually been harder with family, although everything has always worked out in the end. But, I think it’s always something I think about when the book is about to come out. I don’t worry until then but, oh my gosh, when it happens I get SO nervous. Not because I think I’ve done something wrong. But because everyone has their feelings. And those feelings are valid. And while I know my poems are my own, I’m also aware they affect other people’s lives, particularly in the case of family. Have you ever had someone drastically misinterpret one of your poems? If so, what was your response? Oh, I imagine that happens a lot. I’m cool with it. I don’t mean to sound flip. It is important to me that I make a poem that evokes certain kinds of feeling in the reader… but I’m not sure it’s important to me that the reader understands the poem in the way that I do. I’m pretty allergic to trying to control the reader in that way. Which is not to say I don’t want the poems to be clear. I just don’t always think content is the place where I value clarity the most. Similarly, after an English teacher makes a conjecture about the figurative meaning of a poem, occasionally a student will wonder, “but how do we know that the poet meant this?” or “how do we know that the poet meant that metaphorically rather than literally?” What would you tell that student? I’d say I think you can feel it if the poem is working at its highest level of elegance. I mean that about the second question. I don’t think (and this is just me) you can ever be certain what the poet meant to accomplish in a poem. At least not in a poem that’s working in complex ways on multiple levels. If you are reading carefully and patiently, it’s pretty easy to tell what a poet absolutely doesn’t mean. I guess I’d at least say that in terms of a straight forward narrative poem. And that’s if the poet is doing their job well. But if we’re talking about a lyric or other more experimental kinds of poems (even narrative poems that may not initially read that way) then I think it’s not so important to figure out what the poet means so much as it’s important to locate the mode of clarity that was most important to the poet. Finally, what advice would you have for aspiring writers and poets? Just: be curious and rigorous and good to each other. Seriously. That’s worked pretty well for me.
Ms. Calvocoressi will be giving a reading on Thursday, March 30th and visiting certain classes that Thursday and Friday, March 31st Interview by Will Limehouse
2nd PLACE, POETRY
Reflection Through steady rain, I walk. My mind clouded, Light shrouded in a dark haze. Silent is my descent through the streets, Masked by the tapping of water meeting earth. A shallow lake interrupts my sauntering feet, The reflection warped by the ripples in that natural mirror. A new thought arises from the ocean of my consciousness, Expanding the storm brewing in my mind. What seed within me, Watered by time, Will sprout into the bud of my future? For my seeds remain dormant within the ground; As the unrelenting storm digests them, One by one. Artwork by Simone Handfield
noitcefleR .klaw I ,niar ydaets hguorTh ,deduolc dnim yM .ezah krad a ni deduorhs thgiL ,steerts eht hguorht tnecsed ym si tneliS .htrae gniteem retaw fo gnippat eht yb deksaM ,teef gniretnuas ym stpurretni ekal wollahs A .rorrim larutan taht ni selppir eht yb depraw noitcefler eTh ,ssensuoicsnoc ym fo naeco eht morf sesira thguoht wen A .dnim ym ni gniwerb mrots eht gnidnapxE ,em nihtiw dees tahW ,emit yb deretaW ?erutuf ym fo dub eht otni tuorps lliW ;dnuorg eht nihtiw tnamrod niamer sdees ym roF ,meht stsegid mrots gnitnelernu eht sA .eno yb enO dlefidnaH enomiS yb krowtrA
2ND PLACE, ESSAY
Through the Eyes of the Working Class The following was originally submitted as a rhetorical analysis based in part on Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed. Stepping into the life of a waitress in Florida, social critic Barbara Ehrenreich illustrates the plight of the American worker through her vivid and disturbing depiction of an “average” day on her job as a waitress. The author instills empathy for the employees by immersing her reader into the laborer’s arduous tribulations. In order to convey her subtext, Ehrenreich appeals to the audience’s sense of a minimal standard of decency and humanity, and she implies the necessity of raising minimum wages and of creating enhanced standard working conditions for the lower echelon, America’s working class.
Artwork by John Frye
To counter the misperception that current job conditions are acceptable, Ehrenreich establishes pathos as the readers encounter barbaric conditions: no breaks, sore muscles, no socializing, and a general indifference toward the welfare of these employees. She outlines the lack of availability of even the most
basic products for hygiene— “soap, paper towels, toilet paper”(394) —and these disconcerting anecdotes effectively convey her implication that the germs in the restrooms soon spread their way onto the customers’ plates. Immediately, the audience transforms from detached bystanders to acquiring an engaged concern for their own well-being and a repulsion over such indifference. After attempting to foment this incensed reaction, Ehrenreich’s credibility rises as the realization emerges that other dire working conditions such as “[f]or six to eight hours in a row, you never sit except to pee” (395) are intolerable. The refusal to allow even casual banter (conversations “seldom last more than twenty seconds”) (395) demonstrates more than a lack of a social environment; rather, the inhumane and robotic demands outline a complete void of compassion. By allowing their suffering and heartache to touch those higher in social status through pathos, the conditions are no longer deemed tolerable. Recognizing the challenge to the “ethos” of the conservative in order to advance her liberal agenda, Ehrenreich, through her sardonic tone, introduces the desperation of these people. The waiters are not grasping for a better lifestyle in order to obtain luxury items; instead, they are just hoping to reach a level of survival. For example, a co-worker, George, “shares an apartment with a crowd of other Czech ‘dishers’ . . . and he cannot go to sleep until one of them goes off for his shift, leaving a vacant bed” (399). By normalizing working two jobs, juggling multiple shifts, and living in subpar conditions (even in their cars), Ehrenreich forms a bleak picture. Identifying the difficulty of the upper classes in grasping the gravity of the situation, Ehrenreich drives home her point when the boss fires George for taking “some Saltines or a can of cherry pie mix and that the motive for taking it was hunger” (401). While readers rail from this injustice, the downhill spiral continues with her personal concession that in these circumstances, she—a highly educated, former “crusader”—may even become “the kind of person who would have turned George in” (401). Suddenly, the current low wages appear criminal and completely indefensible. While Michael Cox and Richard Alm tout the Calvinist work ethic that “some of us are willing to work hard so we can afford a lifestyle rich in material goods” (65), Ehrenreich exposes the hypocrisy of trying to assign credit or blame based solely on work values. Chiding workers for their “laziness” in not reaching for the American dream becomes preposterous when juxtaposed against their long work hours, their strong work ethics, and their determination to survive despite their appalling lack of resources. After becoming aware of these workers’ quandary, the advice to “accept that, even celebrate” (66) the widening gap of income becomes insupportable. Therefore, the readers finally discern that in order for the American dream to remain alive for all, a hand must reach down to those who cannot help themselves.
3RD PLACE, NARRATIVE
Trapped Inside a Little Black Box The man in the brown fedora sighs and orders a black coffin—coffee, excuse me, he says. The barista, a pretty twenty-something woman with a dark, curly afro, gives him a fake smile and writes “Richard” on the cup. Ritcherd sits at the bar to wait for his coffee. He fingers the small black velvet box that rests in his pocket, its weight pressing against his leg uncomfortably. Vibrant blue eyes, golden-blonde hair, tooshiny white teeth—she smiles at him as he extends his hand to tuck a fallen lock of her hair behind her ear: fixing the only possible imperfection to her appearance. The barista pours the coffee automatically, adding a lid, stopper, and cupsleeve before delivering it to Ritcherd. He reaches forward, thanking her, but her eyes rest on the clock behind his head. Its ticking noise drones slowly towards the end of her shift. Since dawn she has made cappuccinos for rushed businesspeople, mochas for teenagers who despise the taste of coffee, hot chocolates for whiny Upper East Side kids and espressos for their overpaid nannies. Yawning, she pours a shot of espresso for the next customer. A woman in a green pea coat enters; her golden hair tucks into a neat bun and her cheeks sparkle pink from the cold. She orders a caramel cappuccino with a sprinkle of cinnamon, sitting next to Ritcherd and gingerly setting her expensive purse on the bar. “Hullo,” he says. “Hi.” “You look beautiful, as always.” A slightly deeper blush enters her cheeks, and she looks bashfully down. Ritcherd takes a sip of his coffee and starts coughing violently. His girlfriend pats him on the back, but he shakes his head and waves his hand in a gesture that seems to convey “I’m fine.” The barista delivers the girl’s coffee and offers a “you good?” to Ritcherd, to which he nods. “Michelle, the register,” the barista’s coworker calls out. “Coming,” she says and walks away from the pair. Ritcherd’s gaze follows her. Michelle. Michelle shops at thrift stores downtown, drinks wine with breakfast and coffee with dinner, and goes to the city college for night courses. Sure, his parents might not like her, but that would be okay—a good thing, even. “I’m worried about your health,” the girlfriend says. “You ought to avoid caffeine.” Ritcherd gulps his coffee and says nothing. “You want to be a good role model…in the future.” She grins.
He wakes up next to her, her face bright in sleep even though it’s five in the morning. He sneaks out of bed to go to work. After work, he drinks beers with his colleagues before catching the bus home, where his wife—he cringes at the word: wife—has prepared a meal of salmon salad. Months or years later, she’s pregnant. One child, a girl, and then another two: a boy and a girl. She’ll be a good mother, kind and loving but also stern and fresh. She’ll head the PTA and make cookies and work part time at his mom’s firm. And the money, the money! How expensive it will all be. They will have to buy a house and another car and save for college and— “Ritcherd? Did you hear anything I just said?” Ritcherd’s eyes widen and he focuses on her again. “Yes. I mean, no. Sorry. What were you saying?”
Artwork by Alex Hebra She rolls her eyes good-naturedly and explains her plans for Christmas this year, every detail planned out perfectly so that they can visit both families and still have time to spend alone together. He touches the box in his pocket. Michelle hates small talk and parties with his parents and doesn’t want kids. Michelle watches as the couple begins to leave. The man stops before they reach the door. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small box. Gasps of excitement fill the café as he drops to one knee and proposes to the awe-stricken woman. “Yes!” she says. “I love you! Yes!” They kiss and the café cheers. Michelle claps, glad that someone in this messed-up world managed to escape entrapment.
3RD PLACE, POETRY
Pigeons or Pelicans I lounge in my chair underneath my umbrella on top of the sand looking at birds. I drove 10 hours for this, and it is worth it. People walk by as I sit and read. some walk to my right, others to the left, I doubt they are going anywhere. They arenâ€™t running errands, or visiting friends. They are just walking. Do they just decide to turn around, and walk back to where they started? a man in plaid shorts, a woman in a green dress, they never return. The gulls fly with them. And are more wayward, facing south but flying west. And the Sand pipers arenâ€™t bothered by the winds because they never fly. The pelicans keep me company. They sit out on the water drifting with the currents. I reach for my camera But they fly away. Leaving me alone with the children building castles. And now I want to leave the ground. But where would I go? To the left or right? Out to sea? Where after that? Sighing, another pelican flies by inches above the water. The water ripples and undulates beneath him Will his beak, or wing ever catch the surface, Sending him like a stone skipping the sea? How does he know not to fly too close as the dynamic force of the ocean waves underneath him?
Artwork by Madison Coleman
The beast swoops up then dives low and quickly returns to his seat on the sea. And looks at me I know he caught a fish He knows he caught a fish We both know that I am incompetent, Like I’m a beached whale flailing in disgrace, A crow approaches me.
I remember that some crows can talk. This one couldn’t. He could only stare blankly with a rotated, curious head. “I’m trying to relax. I don’t have any food.” He stepped away bobbing his head. I’ve read birds do that for balance, or at least chickens and pigeons do. Pigeons are the saddest of birds. Vultures of filth rather than death. I feel no sympathy but wonder which is worse as I lounge in my chair underneath my umbrella On top of the sand, thinking of pigeons and succumbing to sloth and sedentary living. I always fed them as a child, until mother stopped me one day, ”Please don’t, those carry diseases, sweetie”.
3RD PLACE, ESSAY
Did You Get That? Regardless of age, gender, or background, human beings are united by one common trait: the overwhelming desire to belong. It engenders country clubs and street gangs, sports culture and fashion trends. These institutions all enable people to “fit in,” to feel supported and important. Perhaps the most ubiquitous manifestation of humanity’s connection-craving, however, is the inside joke. Ranging across broad spectra of subject material, audience size, and duration of popularity, inside jokes have existed since Sarah named her son Isaac. Although multiple mediums of conveyance are available—images, melodies, etc.—inside jokes used in conversational context are easiest to classify. Also, despite inside jokes’ universal popularity, only those observed among high school students are included in this essay due to the author’s limited perspective. When divided by source, verbal inside jokes of precollege teens can be organized into three categories: the Outsource, the Shenanigan, and the Secret Language. The Outsource, also known as a “nerdy reference,” implements material that is produced outside of the speaker and listener’s relationship. It can include quoting movie dialogue, song lyrics, or even lines from a book. Because the Outsource is not based on personal experiences, its employers do not have to know their audience well, or even at all, to foster an instantaneous connection. For example, on the last day of school, any student can burst into a rendition of “What Time Is It?” and immediately be joined by a dozen of his or her peers. The instigating student may only know his or her chorus members in passing, but for three minutes and eighteen seconds, all are swept up in glorious camaraderie. The Outsource is fascinating in that it can reach an incredibly large audience, including complete strangers. A smaller-scale inside joke, the Shenanigan blatantly references a shared memory that includes both parties. This arises when a teammate says, “Hey, remember the time you farted right as you took the shot?” or a friend asks, “Seen any roaches lately?” the day after a cockroach sighting caused a public spaz attack. Since individuals who have never met are unlikely to have memories of each other, the Shenanigan requires a preexisting relationship. It also narrows one’s audience size, because there are only so many people who could have “been there.” By decreasing audience size, the Shenanigan heightens its sense of intimacy. After all, anyone can spout lines from Jurassic World, but were they there in front of Rachel’s television when Henry had to leave the room because he screamed whenever people got eaten? Granted, simply being present at one moment in a person’s life does not signify a deep bond. Although the Shenanigan is more personal than the Outsource, it certainly is not the deepest and most complex an inside joke can become. The Secret Language, as its name suggests, involves elaborate “code words” infused with hidden meaning. Usually, “code words” are used as nicknames, but they can also refer to distinctive situations or emotions. For example, the phrase “ADM,” or “Awkward David Moment,” refers to David’s uncanny habit of showing up exactly when one is
trying to coax out a burp, or carry five binders with one arm while holding in a sneeze, or something equally… awkward. In the realm of nicknames, however, middle school girls reign supreme. “I like Sam,” one of them will think to herself, “and I want to discuss Sam with my friends, but I can’t risk anyone else finding out I like him. I know! I’ll call him… Saran Wrap!” Due to the complicated thought process behind the Secret Language (and the highly sensitive material it often involves), only a small group of trusted individuals is privy to its true significance, making it the most personal of inside jokes.
Artwork by Leslie Wade
Inside jokes are a thought-provoking concept, by name if nothing else. Why distinguish between “inside jokes” and “outside jokes?” And why have different levels: the general knowledge-based Outsource, the shared day-to-day existence Shenanigan, and the blackmail-material-in-disguise Secret Language? As if drawing a line between those who “get it” and those who do not is not enough, people change the depth of what is to be “gotten.” Is it a simple literary reference, or is it a wink at one’s childhood obsession with sloths and overall laziness? By creating different levels of “belonging,” humans divide others into layers of trust: kindred spirits with similar tastes in entertainment (the Outsource), companions who know one’s life story (the Shenanigan), and confidants who know not only one’s life story but the thoughts and emotions behind it (the Secret Language). Far from being overly complicated, the varying intensities of inside jokes allow individuals to develop complex bonds with one another.
HONORABLE MENTION, ESSAY
Something That Matters I order you to close your eyes for ten seconds. That’s it. Open your eyes when you are done. You could argue those seconds were a slight waste. It was nothing when there could have been something. But what if I gave you, instead of two seconds, ten minutes? And I’d give you a purpose to that silence: “think about something that matters.” Then you would certainly think about something that matters, and, possibly, the silence would do something that matters. It may control your emotions. Like when I was at a competition for my school band. We wanted to give off an impact to the judges, so we purposefully approached the stage in silence. And they spoke. “Oh, Mrs. Randall, how did you raise such well-behaved musicians?” Our presence earned us a top score. It could teach you a lesson. Like when the school all watched Traces of the Trade last year. It was a story about the roots of slavery and the racial divide. At the end of the movie, the directors asked a question to the audience. “What are you feeling right now? Why do you think this is?” But no one raised their hand. There was only silence. I did not raise my hand either, but I thought about the question. The silence cleared a path, allowing me to walk through my thoughts and carefully observe each feeling and its effects on my personality. And after a while, I stumbled upon one in particular: prejudice. Flashbacks entered my mind. All the times I’ve turned away from a person solely because of his color of his skin or his economic status disgusted me. Only one action remained; I threw prejudice into the abyss below. In the silence, I learned not to make assumptions. It may even affect your spirituality. One of my friends went on a spiritual retreat with his vestry group last year. The final activity was a “retreat of silence.” He sat on the beach, shut his eyes, and listened to the stillness of the world. New ideas entered his mind. The silence—this absence of sound—freed up room in his soul. As a result, he was able to form a deeper relationship with God. Silence is powerful. If you sat here for ten minutes thinking about something that matters, your soul would be able to run freely through your emotions and your spirituality. Maybe it would dump all your worries out and start you from a blank slate. Or it would combine everything I just mentioned to transform your life, such as when Siddhartha silently rested by the river. But is silence “tangible?” The human hand cannot touch it, but the soul can. Silence has a weight similar to noise. So we should regard it not as the absence of noise but as the presence of tranquility.
Artwork by Simone Handfield
It is this presence of tranquility that continues to impact so many lives. It powers our imagination, raises our spirituality, and alters our personality. It is important, therefore, to pause the sound of life from time to time and retreat to a place with no sound at all. Staying too long in the sound of life leaves your soul longing to break free. For those who are willing, I give you a challenge. Put this article down. Sit in silence for ten minutes. Let it help you â€œthink about something that matters.â€? Feel what happens.
Panic Cycles Breathe in. Breathe out. Panic Ensues. Thoughts race, Heart follows; Lungs struggle. Breathe in. Breathe out. Head in knees, Rocking slowly. Loud brain; Short breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. Stomach queasy, Palms sweating, Foot tapping. Beginning of end. Breathe in. Breathe out. Mind calms. Feet on ground, Body upright. Everything stills.
HONORABLE MENTION, POETRY
Artwork by Michael Sagatelian
Porter-Gaud Out Loud Poetry Recitation Contest Spring 2017 Finalists
Each year, all Upper School students memorize a poem and recite it in their English classes. The best performers in each class proceed to grade-level contests, with two finalists from each grade moving onto a school-wide competition in front of the student assembly, where first, second, and third place winners are decided.
1st Place: Derrick Main
2nd Place: Courtenay White
3rd Place: Rachel Yoon
“Wide Receiver” by Mark Halliday
“To a Prophet” by Richard Wilbur
Hamlet’s Soliloquy by William Shakespeare
(clockwise from bottom left):
MeMe Jefferson “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou Annemarie Thompson “The Colossus” by Sylvia Plath Jacob Skaggs “To Have without Holding” by Marge Piercy Victoria Mabe “An Addict with a Pen” by Tyler Joseph Gabby Short “A Thank-You Note” by Michael Ryan
Rabbit: An Emotional Resistance Freshman Katie Krawcheck has submitted the following narrative to this year’s essay competition sponsored by the Charleston Jewish Federation’s REMEMBER Program for Holocaust and Genocide Education. She won top honors last year with a story titled “Identity: The Holocaust Through the Eyes of Eva Heyman.” I could feel my mother’s dress begin to tear, as I clung to the little fabric she had plastered to her wilted body. She shook me off of her, her hands reaching up in an attempt to touch my father’s face. She missed. And by the time she could drain her eyes from the tears molding within them, he was gone. And there was another man in his place. My ears filled with sounds of heavy cursing and the shrill wails of the families around me as I came face-to-face with my surroundings: shreds of Siddur pages turned to dust at my feet, slurs painted on a nearby synagogue door, and my stockings distressed. Everything was broken. Everything in ruin. I trailed my stuffed rabbit behind me by its long ear. Things were being dragged into the fire and I didn’t want my rabbit to be next. Because, if there was one thing I wanted to survive in the mass destruction, it was my favorite stuffed toy. And as a seven-year old girl, my priorities were not exactly in order. I disregarded photos. I disregarded family quilts. I even disregarded facing the truth: that we Jews were destined for something horrific. Something almost uncontrollable. Yet I kept that dear rabbit close to me. Because, as my older brothers had taught me at a very young age, ignorance was the key to numbness. Ignorance was the outlet needed to escape the inexplicable, to avoid the unknown. I was subjected to words allergic to confrontation. And I listened to these lessons. I was a good student. I didn’t know German very well. I knew numbers and colors, could sometimes recognize the names of simple animals. And by the age of five or six, I began learning the different words that were used by the Nazis to refer to us Jews. “Judenschwein” rung continuously in my ears, as “Kike” plagued my body. These words were inescapable and used frequently, even casually, strewn across propaganda. They were the first things I heard when walking into a restaurant; the last thing I heard when walking out. And they were the Nazi boys’ freshly painted brushstrokes on the artwork of mine that my second-grade teacher had hung up in the classroom. This picture displayed the sun and flowers and the positivity that still reigned over my imagination. But the sun turned to scribbles, the flowers to swastikas. However, what tainted the entire piece was my crossed-out name, the blood-red “X.” And above it, the words: “stupid Jew.” My teacher left the picture hung up for the rest of the year.
There was a time in Sunday School when I was learning about God’s “almighty power.” I sat there in my dark blue dress, holding that rabbit in my lap, as we discussed “bad” circumstances and situations. We covered topics ranging from scraping a knee to coping with a death in the family. We were told that every person has “bad days.” Every person goes through “struggles.” And we were fed words of brainwashed adults who claimed that our Lord would help us persevere through everything. Everything. These people, who knew more about the Holocaust than we did at the time, were attempting to tell us that we must, above all else, rely on God to push us through the “rough patches.” At the time, I would have nodded my head and continued to stare down at my rabbit. But I now realize, at the age of forty, that such an idea was silly. For, if God had truly that much control over the human race, what was His explanation for Hitler’s rise to power? How could He explain the gas chambers, the internment camps, the destruction of Jewish homes and families? If He was “almighty,” how was mankind somehow mightier? Or at least mighty enough to dehumanize an entire culture of people? And why was everything supposedly our fault? One of the most difficult things for me to fully understand is how, during the war, children were still able to be taught to rely on prayer and faithfulness in order to keep their innocence intact. They were persuaded to put themselves in God’s hands, even though adults understood that they, themselves, had slipped from His hands long before sending their sons and daughters to synagogue. My mother grabbed my wrist and I looked frantically from one side of the street to the other. My vision was tainted with new fires, swallowing books and valuables. And my eardrums were coated with desperate shouts from Jews hoping to preserve their religion and its culture. I could sense the acrid smoke beginning to wrap around the neighborhood, from the Nazi soldiers’ cigars to the flesh of those refusing to leave behind their beloved Torah scrolls. And I heard screams from struggling shop-owners caught between handcuffs or a gun. Leave behind their grandparents’ silverware or keep their integrity and faith. Give in or stand up. Surrender or resist. We approached the fire. I could feel my mother’s hot breath on my shoulder as she pleaded for me to leave the stuffed rabbit behind. She looked at me, doe-eyed, as the Nazi soldier, the one who now stood in my father’s place, met my gaze. He beckoned me closer to the fire. My mother continued to plea for relief. She craved an end to Hitler’s rage, an end to something I did not understand, something she would not explain to me. And she pleaded for an unforgiving freedom that I just could not—and still cannot— comprehend. But I looked this man up and down. I traced the swastikas stitched upon his coat with wide eyes. I remembered my mother’s dainty figure, trembling as she watched my father disappear solely for refusing to give in. I remembered the ruinous aura of my neighborhood. I remembered my painting. How the art was temporary. Innocence was temporary. So I handed the man my rabbit.
Travel Log: A Trip to Cuba After traveling with her family to Cuba over the December holidays, Junior Alexandra Hildell reflects on the changing world of the island nation. As soon as our taxi entered Havana, or La Habana as it is called in Spanish, it was very clear to me that this must have been one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Though much of it is now in ruins, you could still somehow see and feel the greatness behind the decay and much of the spirit seen in a diversity of happy people socializing, eating food and laughing with each other. The Cuban atmosphere, dotted with tourists and locals hanging out together in the streets, is alive and unique. Havana is divided into three parts: Old Havana, Centro and Vedado. It has approximately two million inhabitants and it is the largest city by area. All around you are beautiful art deco and art nouveau buildings falling apart, suggesting an aesthetic war zone of sorts, and yet they could be magnificent if rebuilt. Some streets are very newly rebuilt and made smooth with repaving, but then others arenâ€™t at all; such are the shifting contrasts in different parts of Havana. We spent one day walking around in Old Havana, filled with tourists and the famous postcard architecture of an earlier era, and the next day in Centro Havana, the section most populated with locals and the Cuban mix of Spanish and African cultures. Much of it felt like traveling back a hundred years in time. The main transportation in the smaller cities of Cuba is by horse and carriage. In fact, when we were driving from the airport down the highway, we passed by more of these than we did cars. Speaking of cars, though, if you have seen any pictures from the streets of Havana, you have probably seen the old American automobiles, big chromatic roadsters like you see in movies about the 50â€™s. These colorful cars are everywhere, and what I found the most fascinating is how locals have taken such pride in repairing these old classics over and over again to make them work. I think it best signals the localâ€™s resourcefulness and their strong will to make life work again, and to make it beautiful.
Surprisingly, they have two currencies in Cuba, one for the locals, the other for tourists. The local currency is called Pesos Cubanos, and it proudly features their former revolutionary leader Che Guevara. Though the tourist currency has the same colors, red and green, it doesn’t feature Guevara, which may be fitting—and perhaps ironic. Such a dual currency system could be an issue for some wanting to travel there because everything offered to tourists is actually rather expensive, with visitors paying almost ten times the amount that locals pay. For example, an ice cream cone for a tourist could cost between 5-10 dollars, with prices set everywhere because it’s all owned and regulated by the government—all hotels, taxis, stores, all bus companies, all larger companies, almost everything. As most know, education and health care is free and available for everyone, but I personally believe that the government provides way too little to the people. An average Cuban earns between 10-60 dollars a month, which I believe is shocking and brutal. This is probably what most Americans spend on different things in less than one week! They have no money to import products, and many have no electricity nor hot water. In Havana we stayed for half a week at a Casa Particular which means that you live in someone’s house, a very common accommodation in Cuba. Our Casa Particular was located perfectly on the border to Old Havana, but we did not have any hot water for the three nights we stayed there. Being around people who live like this all the time, however, can make one appreciate the contrasts—it makes me feel more thankful for my own life, for example—but, too, it can offer perspective. The majority of the people in Cuba are extremely poor, but something that I found touching was that they still seem to embrace life itself. Cuban people are very friendly, hospitable, and generous, but they are also courageous and have a fighting spirit. On every corner you passed in Havana, you heard music and happy people singing and dancing. Something else struck me: the internet in Cuba is still a rather new thing, and it is very hard to find and get. To gain access online, you have to stand and wait in line for many hours only to get an internet card which gives you only an hour of service. As a result, people don’t have the same connection to a device as we do, but they might have more connection to each other: they have the time and desire to hang out together. Cuba is a conflicted island but also a country of greatness, and of much potential, with beautiful people who seem newly happy, or at least optimistic despite the harshness of life and of the ruins around them. And especially visiting Havana, a city of such great contrasts, I am mindful and more appreciative of my own life.
Beach Night Meditation
The waves roll over each other in uncontrolled formation, transforming, cresting into froth, and then crashing to contest the shore in beautiful chaos, scattering flecks of loose sand and matting the rest into solid ground. The water pulls away being tugged by an unseen force, leaving behind its evidence in the form of foam. Lunar phosphorescence and celestial light beams voyage across the infinite expanse of the dark universe to reflect off of the obsidian body of undulating liquid. They share the same shadowy expanse â€”the sky and the seaâ€” as does everything else in existence. And in this moment they mimicked one another, holding secrets and mysteries unfathomable to the most advanced computer. These secrets and mysteries being whispered in the wind, floating on strands of the soft breeze. Inaudible. Intangible. Ethereal. Delicate. Yet, monstrously powerful. Unpredictable. Wild. Natural.
Artwork by Michael Sagatelian
Senior McRae Lawrence reflects on food, family and personal fulfillment.
6:30: the aroma of dinner wafts through the house. 7:00: the table is set. 7:30: dinner. At our dinner table you best not get queasy because you never know what you are in for. Whether it’s jokes about flatulence (one needs a strong stomach to be a gastroenterologist’s daughter), discussion of current events (we are all required to read three news articles per week), or life lessons and words of advice (mostly about the perils of high school), my dinner table is a sacred place. It’s a place void of the chaos of high school, a place that emphasizes that conversation is a way to explore the world. My mind is a battleground of thoughts, and each night the dinner table turns into a resting place for them. As I set down my plate of chicken pot pie, my mouth runs wild. I cannot stop; I have to tell my family about the day’s drama and excitement: who’s going out with whom, who broke up with whom, the “impossible” calculus test I had. Yet, as we finish eating dinner, conversations turn. 33 razor blades in a man’s intestine, boys getting in trouble for smoking, the upcoming election. These conversations shape me. On Call. As I sit in awe listening to my father’s stories about explosive diarrhea, most people would ask, “Who wants to hear about that while eating dinner?” But, for me these stories are riveting. Until recently, I never wanted to be a doctor, but as I started to listen to my dad’s stories at dinner, I realized the thrall medicine had over me. The more stories I heard, the more I wanted to actually see what he did. So, I began participating in programs in the medical field, including shadowing various doctors, one of whom was my dad. Without my dinner table and my father’s stories, I may never have found a passion I now have. Breaking News. For as long as I can remember, a pile of newspapers has sat on our dining room table. I have never been an avid newspaper reader, always claiming to be too busy with homework or sports practices, but recently my mom instilled a new dinner table practice. Each week we are required to read three news articles to discuss at dinner. At first I scoffed at the idea, rolled my eyes, but the more I thought about it, it was brilliant. These measly 300-word newspaper clippings and dinner conversations began to deeply affect my life. I thought about my life decisions on a broader scale; “stressful” situations began to seem more and more trivial as I read about women being raped by Boko Haram and mass murders in Orlando. Dinner made me a citizen of the world. En garde. Whether I want to rant about poor decisions fellow classmates make, discuss how I should act as a Christian, or talk about racial and general inequality in the world today, my family is always there, eager to encourage me.
Without a place to share what is truly on my heart, I would not be me. My family has taught me unfathomable life lessons on how to defend myself and my beliefs. Next fall, my place setting will be empty. My dad will have one fewer set of ears to gross out; my brother and my sister, one fewer person to anger and annoy. But, itâ€™s comforting knowing I will be able create my own version of the dinner table. I may one day be sitting in a college cafeteria with twelve people I have never met, but Iâ€™ll be able to make it feel like home.
Artwork by Simone Handfield
One Classroom or Another
In his college application essay, Senior Alex Dodenhoff opines that a dissenting voice can be the one that matters. “—and specifically, the majority of students in the class must disagree with your argument.” A college professor had just asked a group of teenagers attending a summer public speaking program to argue an unpopular opinion: in front of a college professor, in front of a group of kids—a group of kids they’ve known for only a week. Hearts in the room sank. Jack, a new friend, turned to me, “Ha, hmmm.” I, however, was elated. To me, an opinion rests on three crucial moments, each one requiring the other, lest the entire operation falls flat. First: The Position. I sit in class typing notes. It may be on the Progressive Era, some debate about drug legalization, the cause of the Great Depression, or any topic, but there will always exist a majority opinion. Quickly, the class will assume such an opinion and defend it infallibly. The government should regulate meat; drugs should be illegal; the Great Depression was the speculators’ fault. Now, the floor is mine, unofficially. I raise my hand. I offer my opinion. The fuse has been lit. It is officially time for the explosion. Second: The Response. To someone walking into the room, I have seemingly incited a riot. With the same fiery passion one might expect from a foreclosed renter, I am met with the burning passions of a class of peers—seemingly all against me. “What do you mean legalize all drugs?” “You’re crazy.” “Oh, so kids will just do heroin all day until…” —“ENOUGH!” The teacher finally breaks through. I sink in my desk, knowing the teacher will soon mark me the scapegoat for the eruption. But always, without fail, he won’t be angry; he can’t be. I hadn’t done anything wrong; I had only voiced an opinion slightly—well, decidedly—different from what was currently on the table. I then ask, ever so politely, “May I defend my position? It will only take a minute.” I receive a nod, a sigh, or whichever way the teacher plans to brace for the next minute— he doesn’t suspect anything conventional. I speak for a brisk 60 seconds, as promised, conveying every ounce of the one opinion I can muster. The class goes silent. I cross my fingers. Third: The Reflection. The orator’s oxygen. The reason I awake in the morning. In the back of the room, slowly, with every bit of ease one can impart, a student says calmly, “Well, that… that actually makes a lot of sense.” My neurons explode. With intensity akin to the star’s ultimate explosion—truly, I invite you to see it sometime—my mind conducts the neural firework show that I simply call, The Reflection. Beginning 17 against 1, after pushing, battling, communicating, arguing, and imparting every facet of one opinion I possibly can within one speech, I wait for the one opinion that matters most…
Artwork by Haley Belcher
The one that’s changed. See, the Position is merely a shout without the Response. By that same token, the Response is merely a yell of its own without the Position. But without the Reflection— without the ultimate validation of whether your idea has shifted minds or hardened them just the same—no opinion, nor response, would ever be necessary. For this reason alone, after seven minutes of expressing my opinion in this classroom, after preparing to the nth hour of the night, I left the room with a spread smile. I hadn’t convinced everyone. I hadn’t entirely changed every mind in the class. But in the one moment that mattered, the few minutes following the speech, I breathed that invaluable air once more. A hand raised, a calm voice, a changed mind. “…That actually makes sense.” And if that’s all I ever hear for the rest of my days, I will rest a very, very happy man.
The Wake-Up Call
Senior Judah Ellison finds his present voice in an ancient sound. I walk to the front of the synagogue, the cantor’s powerful voice reciting the final lines of prayer for Yom Kippur—the holiest day of the Jewish year. Suddenly, he halts. A hush falls over the room. Eyes fixate on me. Small children file into the room, watching my every move with excitement and anticipation. Gripping the shofar, I close my eyes, press my lips against the smooth ritual ram’s horn reserved for the High Holidays, and blow. A booming sound shatters the silence… As a child, I used to look up to my synagogue’s shofar blower with a fascinated reverence. In front of the large, High Holiday crowd, he would shuffle to the front of the synagogue and blow the shofar with perfection. Throughout services, worshipers’ attention would stray as the cantor recited seemingly endless prayers, but once the shofar blower stepped up, everyone would focus on him alone with razor sharp attentiveness. After services, children and adults would hurry home for a holiday meal, the conversation often focusing on a description of the day’s shofar blowing at other synagogues. When the shofar blower asked me—a mere high-schooler—to succeed him two years ago, both shock and pride overcame me; I had never heard of a teenager undertaking this huge responsibility. While most Jewish boys nominally become men after their Bar Mitzvah services at 13, I never felt like I had truly become a member of my community until I blew the shofar in front of the congregation. On that Yom Kippur, I grew from an immature child into a full member of my community. Continuing my responsibilities the following year during the Jewish New Year, I walked around my neighborhood to blow the shofar for those who had been physically unable to attend synagogue, cementing my place in my congregation… Inside the synagogue, a metaphysical aura fills the room: the shofar’s blast reverberates, yet a booming silence darkens the white walls. Mere seconds remain in the Jewish Day of Atonement, yet more spirituality fills those final moments than during the entire day of prayer and fasting. Through this vehicle, I breathe spirituality, meaning, and purpose to my community… Until I blew the shofar myself, the man’s action—not the meaning behind it— moved me. I found the shofar blower’s ability to perform nearly flawlessly in front of a huge crowd more impressive than the spirituality behind the notes themselves. When I finished my own shofar blast, I almost expected to find the audience nodding and smiling, impressed with my performance. Instead, I observed deeply moved expressions and even some tears (something I had never witnessed before). In the following days, people from other synagogues told me they had heard about my shofar blow, describing it as “beautiful,” not “impressive.” I slowly began to realize the power underlying my actions. My actions had a meaning beyond the physical. They were a source of inspiration and spiritual heightening. Prior to that Yom Kippur, I believed inspiration to come from records and physical feats, trying to best them in my own realm. During track season, I focused almost completely on shaving off seconds and reaching better splits. However,
I have slowly realized that the most powerful inspiration comes from the nonphysical, whether athletic grit and determination or the spiritual call of the shofar. I am more moved by the person who finishes last place but pushes himself to absolute exhaustion than the person who coasts to first. Quotes and pictures of Louis Zamperini, Olympian, POW, and survivor, cover my walls not because of his times but because of his mental strength. Unlike physical feats and setting new records, effort and determination—like the shofar—send forth the most evocative reverberations, motivating others and myself to be better… The unwavering echo of the shofar hangs in the air for a few seconds before ending with one last powerful scream. Then, silence.
Artwork by Leslie Wade