The Lavender is Wesleyan’s student-run poetry and prose literary magazine that publishes twice a semester. The literary magazine is run under the Route 9 Literary Collective which also publishes a multitude of other projects including Pre-Good, Good Condition, Poems of Our Climate, The Route 9 Anthology, and more. Learn more at route9.org.
Why The Lavender?:
The Lavender is an homage to the fact that Wesleyan University’s official color used to be lavender. The color was changed because, according to an October 1884 issue of the Argus, lavender was not suitable for intercollegiate sports. “Lavender is not a striking color,” the article proclaimed. Well, 1884 critic, we here at The Lavender find the color incredibly striking.
Why Route 9?:
Route 9 is the road that connects Middletown to the rest of Connecticut. It is the central artery of movement that every Wesleyan student, faculty, staff, and Middletown resident has driven on. It connects us and moves us forward.
Some of the pieces in this magazine have references to violence and death.
The Lavender Team
Editors-in-Chief: Oliver Egger & Immi Shearmur
Managing Editors: Georgia Groome & Ella Spitz
Poetry Editors: Emily Hollander, Jane Hollander & Casey Epstein-Gross
Prose Editor: Maya Scheinfeld
Design Editors: Madeleine Metzger & Spencer Klink
Copy Editor: Emma Goetz
Assistant Poetry Editor: Anna Logan
Assistant Design Editor: Katia Michals
Senior Editors: Ben Togut, Michaela Poynor-Haas, and Sofia Baluyut
The Team: Alex Short, Mia Alexander, Eli Hoag, Liv Rubenstein, Sophie Neiblum, Sammi Hager, Hannah Langer, Sonia Menken, Jane Weitz, Franklin Mindich, Myles Edelson, & Diana Tran
Front Cover Illustration: Io Ilex
Back Cover Illustration: DANCE by Mary Ahlstrom
Logo Design: Leo Egger
Party Purveyor / Confection Custodian: Maggie McCormick
Special Thanks to: The heroes at 49 Home Ave., all the dear friends who make this magazine possible, Zahra Ashe-Simmer, Merve Emre, Amy Bloom, Ryan Launder, Alpha Delta Phi, The Shapiro Writing Center, The Wesleyan English Department, The Green Fund, & the SBC.
Note from the Editor
Here we are at my final issue as Editor-in-Chief of The Lavender. I am graduating in a couple weeks, as you probably can tell by the theme. I decided on this theme because I wanted one last chance to experience the amazing writing and art from my peers in the Class of 2023. In addition, there are a few amazing underclassmen featured in this issue with pieces touching on the theme of graduation (whatever that means!).
I started The Lavender1 in September, 2021. I had returned to Wesleyan after over a year and a half off campus due to Covid. I, like many, was shellshocked and not quite sure how to go about integrating back into a “normal” college writing community, especially with all the former literary magazines no longer operational. I was inspired by my job at the archives, combing through the stapled zines from the 70’s and
80’s from long-extinct Wesleyan literary magazines, to give it a shot and try putting together a new magazine. I didn’t want to wait for the canonical Wesleyan literary magazines to rise from their stupors; I wanted a loving and dedicated creative space that served this unique, post-covid Wesleyan community.
At our final editorial meeting of this year, we were going around sharing our favorite Lavender memories. I said that my favorite moment was the second release party because in that moment, looking out at the sea of masked faces peeking behind our hand-stapled and shoddily folded magazines, I realized that this project, this community wasn’t just a oneoff, but was a real thing with a future beyond me. A literary magazine is not and should not be a novelty. It is not special to run, to edit, and publish a magazine. It has been done innumerable times. What is special is
the returning, the coming back to the table after the reading and wine and food and congratulations and starting up again. That is what makes community, and it takes a lot of work. That second release made me realize that people around me would do and appreciate that work, that this project could last.
The Lavender may not last forever; dozens of Wesleyan literary magazines which spent decades on this campus have vanished without a trace. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that as long as there are people at Wesleyan passionate about sharing art, about improving their writing, about finding others who will treat them and their work with loving attention, there will be communities like The Lavender. These spaces are valuable to the little culture we have curated for ourselves here and they will remain as long as we keep returning to the table.
I couldn’t have made this magazine happen without so many dedicated and wonderful people. It’s a cliché but damn it, it’s a cliché for a reason! Thank you to the contributors who’ve sent in their beautiful work, to
the editorial and design teams for their weekly persistence and effort, to the friends and supporters who came out to so many events, and the leadership team for their incredible dedication and care. I wasn’t planning on thanking anyone by name so I wouldn’t miss anyone, but I want to give a deep thank you to the current co-Editor-in-Chief Immi Shearmur. I couldn’t think of anyone better to carry this magazine forward and I can’t wait to see how it will grow and blossom. Lastly, thank you, dear reader, for your time and your wonder.
With gratitude and love,Oliver Egger Co-Editor-in-Chief
1Lavender Trivia: The original name for The Lavender was going to be “The Lavender Methodist” (Wesleyan’s original mascot) but my twin brother wisely advised me that everyone would think it was a Christian periodical. Nothing wrong with that, but not exactly what I was going for.
Middletown Ben Togut ‘23
Ice glitters outside the house where I am numb. On the sofa, my housemates see a goat’s face
in the ceiling’s cracked plaster. They point it out, trace its jagged features in the fluorescent air.
It makes sense to them, this thing they have created. They laugh when I squint
and struggle to see the romance in white walls.
I go back to my room where nothing moves.
Where my desires take hold of me, I wait for spring.
Sofia Baluyut ‘23
A cool breeze riff and the double-time drums roll across the roof like credits, and we have graduated, I am wearing that purple sweater, and framed by skyscrapers, a friend climbs higher than he should
and we reach towards him, laughter bubbling from our bellies, from something stronger than the beer, hands up like praise, he takes a picture. This summer will teach me
the sound a pigeon’s bones make under the crush of a car, the shriek it pulls raw from my throat
the smell of my hands, their hospital tremble, my grandfather’s hair still strung on the teeth of a comb, and how grief catches like thin clothing on some sharp and waiting doorframe, draws blood on every page I write, but here,
there is the boy atop the watertower, and, I promise, I’m not retelling this wrong, he does not jump. He does not fall.
Allie Godwin ‘23
email@example.comRory Dolan ‘23
When finally you hung from the rafters your name joining those other driveway saints
I remembered best your jumpshot. For its fetal hunch and catapult
like a siege weapon of shot nerves testing the limits of its own engineering.
Since surely there is a better way to go about this, and, finding it, you only spat
bitter testimony, set your feet, and howled for the rock.
And I hope I haven’t misled by the hanging part, it was one of those poetry lies. I only meant
to call you hooked, and listing, swaying at the edge of consciousness, strung out and up. I only meant to say
how you might’ve hiccuped, half-closed, bowing till your neck unzipped your spine.
I try to see that crucial moment, the heart-stopping slow motion. I am really only trying to say
how you are still there now, to me, suspended, and on your way down.
Fading away, limbs askance, as a beetle on its back who knows it is no longer up to him.
And having heaved it already, unfolded, became the suicidal owl. Who straightens up just before
the window, clear and obvious and still hits it, headlong, every time.
Crumples, imploding, to a bowlegged crouch a toad in the mud, the lowest release. And here
I find in your body all my animal poems, through pleading eyes. White blinkers, emails, blog posts—please don’t hang your head in shame, look!
For at the peak of your convulsions you were soft, flippant, strange, and untouchable.
And we were spellbound, by the deft flick of your wrist. Of no beast but the self-conscious one
who compares himself to animals, to better understand how to jump, and how to rot, and how to trick
the living instinct of eyes to see ourselves in everything.
Since, while none of us were looking you managed impossibly
and somehow shot the basketball arcing lunar over everyone.
And we need not look to know where it will end for the chains will sound like brothers.
Lonesome Coyote, covet the moonrock and I will hold you there
promised in the cradle of an at-sign.
Perfect Weapons of Perfect DestructionFinley Jacobsen ‘23
The Lavender SeparationMichaela Poynor-Haas ‘23
Our feet in the sand eyes on the water. Each wave an ancient ripple. The quick crescendo its birth, a long time coming.
The sand comes to our car and then to your friend’s house. They clung to me on our walk across the pavement their tiny voices murmuring of the journey ahead. Many were left in the car, some make it across your threshold. A massacre occurs in the shower. Fossil fragments fall from spandex. The ambitious ones in my hair.
I shower and give them to a white towel warmed from sun.
In a desert vineyard of California, at your father’s wedding, I find a single grain embedded below a fingernail. You, all this time, silent and with me.
The Tips of the Trees
Sydney Slavitt ‘23
There’s a way the sunlight hits the tips of the trees
That has nothing to do with sunlight or tips or trees
There’s a silent awe
Wet and glistening with life
So quick a glass ball
Can shatter to dust
This life begets an opened palm
A fragile body
The whole world
beginningsKate Sherman ‘23
It begins in the early fall when the air still swells ripe with summer. The leaves cling to the oak trees, their green made greener by the sweet evening light. The sky, for its part, seems to stretch itself at sunset, pulling pink clouds of taffy and reminding me that there is green, too, in dusk. It is on one of these nights that I find myself alone, truly alone, for the first time I can remember. I have been swept from home and collected again in a place called Connecticut, though the collection has been a fracturing more than a coming together. I am surprised to learn that the sunset looks much the same in this strange new place, as everything else seems unfamiliar; I cannot find myself in the hills and the hemlocks. I sit on a small blue mattress too many feet above the floor and stare at the linoleum, watching the sun’s sweet light flood through the window and cast a flickering square. The light, at least, is known, and I imagine the redbud and its blossoms outside my childhood bedroom aglow in the same sun.
I spend many evenings stuck this way, though the mattress gets made and the floor reaps a rug. Once, I sit on a fence and watch dusk descend with people who might one day be friends, and we collectively marvel at its beauty. But they do not know that it is my sun, my sky; that the light they can see stretches all the way home, to my house and its sticky stucco.
The first few months stretch at times and sprint at others, and now I am slipping backward. My quiet nights of sunlit reflection morph into cold, sharp days of lists and tasks, filling up the empty with things to do. I crowd a neon yellow post-it note with steps to getting through the day; I find it now and the handwriting is much the same. These notes move me through day after day after day, and
soon snow is falling and places I did not know are known and I am slowly learning how to solve the puzzle. There are faces I recognize and trees I remember, and on a good day I take a photo under one of the latter to remind myself how it feels to smile.
Spring comes and things are better; spring goes and things are worse. I am home again, shuffled from place to place as though it will not shake me. Time is unyielding and I feel it more than ever, as I return to my redbud and find myself searching for the oaks. I begin to sink without the hills to hold me; Illinois is as flat as ever. My mother is there, but her arms do not fit anymore, and I do not know how to reckon my past with my present. I do not know where to stand, so instead I am sinking and I have forgotten how to swim to the surface.
I float in and out of these memories and I cannot keep from merging months with moments, helpless as time folds together. There’s a photo on my phone from that September, of the potential friends perched on the fence, their faces glowing pink. One of them, now, has become a new form of home, tied to this place and yet still significant despite it. She fits perfectly on the other side of my wall, and we spend so many sunsets and sleeps this way that I cannot fathom beginning to live without them. I suppose Connecticut was once unfathomable, too.
Stella Guggenheim ‘23
Mardi Gras And The Sky Before Katrina Jonah Barton ‘26
On Tchoupitoulas and State where the sweat falls up instead of down, I stood weaving through the faces of pockets and purses, their eyes carefully watching, then winking at me as I walked by.
They say Fat Tuesday and the day holds.
The live oak breathes to trombones and trumpets, its crooked branches dressed in beads purple, green, gold. In a city of reunionists I wore mine like a medal, reflecting the sun just the same.
On pavement that cooks mighty crawfish and corn, you held my hand and we danced among the creatures of New Orleans.
A man with no teeth smiles at me, a troubadour, you say, the last of his kind. A skeleton playing the tuba marches by, brass washing the paint off his face, human under bone.
It was them, you said, that I missed the most.
Life as a series of oscillations, or maybe growth.Mia Alexander ‘26
We started as the unnerving newness of mouths pressed squarely together, unbuckled belts, lace-hemmed underwear strewn across wood floor. You’d let me sleep next to you once a week, after piano lessons and ACT tutoring. I miss falling asleep with our spines kissed together–I dreamt about slipping my hand into yours. On Sunday mornings, when you had gone to brush your teeth or make us kahve, I looked through your cabinets, bookshelves. You underlined the phrases you liked in books with goopy gel pen. I left you a voice message last night–a drunken slur about a line in a poem you wrote in the back of Kincaid’s “Lucy” when you were 14. If you listen to Ravel on full volume, eyes shut, you can hear the pianist breathe. Last Saturday, you found my address and sent me a quill packaged alongside cornflower blue ink. I had turned 18 the day before and I sketched these words into a notebook, cried so much the words fell in rivers down the lined page. I was afraid my heart would erupt from my chest. (I was afraid I’d let it.)
Excerpt from Of Red Earth and Boundless SkyHannah Chouteau Merriman ‘23
It was a quarter past noon and the sun was setting on Love’s childhood. The actual sun, now straight above where she sat on her grandma’s front porch, warmed the dark roots of her hair to a point of discomfort, but she refused to leave the spot she had been sitting at since the light rose above the horizon. She didn’t want to miss it. Even when Néške’e called her in for a breakfast of corned beef hash and skillet bread –her favorites– she didn’t move. Love had all the patience in the world when it came to seeing her mom for the first time in nearly two years, determined to catch Sunshine’s arrival. In the one and a half years since she had seen Sunshine, Love had grown two and three quarters inches and her hair now rested just above her tailbone. She had never been nervous about the prospect of seeing her mom before, but this time was different; they were going to live together. She couldn’t sleep the night before and chose to sit on the porch at the first sign of light in the vast dark air above, fidgeting in a way she knew Néške’e would scold her for. Love attempted to comb through the swirling thoughts in her head. First, Edmond’s reputation preceded itself; it was a suburb of Oklahoma City, with a predominantly affluent white populus –almost the exact opposite of Sapulpa. Of course, Love knew about the everywhere else, non-Indianness of the world, but she never had to live in it, never had to face it.She had been concentrating so hard on being patient, she almost missed the unfamiliar truck pull onto the road, slowing as it approached their house. She watched as the driver’s door swung open, transfixed by the sudden realization that the courage she had been gathering throughout that morning was slipping through her fingers. When her mom slid into view, a cigarette
perched between her lips and big sunglasses covering her face, there was nothing left of Love’s resistance.
Love didn’t move. Couldn’t move. There she stood, five feet away, Sunshine– freshly thirty-two, big haired, and draped in a leather jacket far too cool for a mother. She flicked the cigarette butt to the ground, casually smushing it under the heel of her matching leather boots and flashed a toothy grin at her daughter. Love noticed her mom’s teeth were crooked in the exact same way hers were. Without realizing, compelled by this new detail, she was running into her mom’s open arms. Sunshine squeezed her into the tightest embrace she had ever felt and laughed like warm honey soothing a sore throat. In that warmth, Love lost whatever residual anger still lingered; in that moment, in Sunshine’s arms, Love forgave her the way young children always forgive their parents– because the reward of love feels too good to deny.
When Sunshine let go, the old knots were replaced with different, new ones. She was really, truly leaving Sapulpa. Love stood, unsure of what to do with herself as Sunshine breezed past her to greet her own mother. After some time, the two of them came out with Love’s possessions that she had hastily packed the night before. Her Néške’e squeezed her shoulder, but said nothing. They were both letting go, not saying farewell –another one of her grandma’s lessons, Cheyennes don’t say goodbye.
As the truck pulled out of the driveway, Love stared through the window at her néške’e’s stern face, covered partially by the wispy gray hair tucked into a waning braid, as it faded into the distance. She mentally etched her néške’e standing on the porch, chin high and body straight with the exception of her weakening back, which gave her shoulders a slight forward hunch, knowing she would stand there long after they left. She watched for as long as she could, trying to memorize the details of the periwinkle house, with its
wildflower garden and the forked tree that grew into the chain link fence in the backyard.
As they pulled onto Route-66, Love finally tore her eyes away from the road and toward her mother, who sang gently along to the innocuous glam rock song playing on the radio. Love wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to bridge the unnatural separation between her and her mother. She figured that’s just what years did. Every day was an inch until you found yourself miles apart from how things were. That evening, Love locked herself in the browntiled bathroom in the two bedroom apartment, her new home, for hours. She took scissors to her jet black hair, cutting and cutting until it hung just below her chin. It was an act of mourning –an old ritual–to grieve the before and welcome the undefined after. When she finally emerged from the small room, Sunshine, who had been setting up the table for dinner, dropped the plate she had been holding. Love didn’t notice the shattering or her mom’s rueful expression, but how in the window above the kitchen sink –behind Sunshine’s bending body– the sky burned red.
Terms and Conditions
Peter Fulweiler ‘23
Fifty-Seventh Annual Report of the Trustees of the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded at Waltham, For the Year Ending September 30, 1904Oliver Egger ‘23
“One is at once struck with the freedom from care that is everywhere evident in their faces…All is enjoyment, and Saturday afte-noons all is merriment. They are kind to one another, an excited word is rarely heard, a blow is rarely struck. They are fond of animals, and never cruel to them.”
The boy slept on the floor with his dog that last night before they both left. A pool of her yellow vomit on the wood beside her shaking, old body. He made up songs, sang to her about fields full of bones, the heat of silver suns. She dug her paw into his thigh as she smelled the smoke of the boy’s father as he flicked ash down the stairs, coming closer. He was dumb drunk. He was sending his son away, the carriage has been called.
It’s suffering, son, it’s suffering, father grunted, and the boy whimpered as he watched father drag her faded fur ear out into the yard. Spring dawn had broken with all its nauseous beauty, filling that bottle-filled field with sun, leaving the old dog blinking, dumb, the iron O of father’s pistol barely felt, as she searched for the eyes of the boy. He was inside, couldn’t look, just heard scream of metal lodged. He ran into the day, clung to his father’s coat, trying to crawl in him to hide. Bring her back.
Now boy belongs to new yard, a sweeping spring of farmland where the other boys, the other patients, are gentle as they pet and poke the sides of sleeping sheep, run with wet-nosed mutts into the grass, point at the blade of geese across the clouds headed home. The boy is not among them, hidden beneath the barn, holding the squirming body of a rat, plump off stolen crackers. He takes the rusted bite of a nail toward its trembling fur, which fuses stiff by blood. He stares, as its yellow teeth chew air, its steel squeak. Beneath his grasp, it gasps as he leans his palm in, lets his weight weigh.
The corpse is the color of the sand and dirt beneath the barn. The boy digs another small grave with his fingers. He smells the smoke from the other boys, lighting a fire, roasting red meat above the flame. How they whimper for scraps, leaping with their tongues drooling out of their mouths. When Father dropped him off, he told the boy he’d bring him home tomorrow. His father gripped his shoulder like a pistol, then stumbled to the carriage, didn’t turn back to see his son sun-startled among the dumb dogs that follow the boys about in the fields.
Ava Danieu ‘23
Green threshold, a canopy of leaves, we leave the common day behind, testing the air, humidity sticking fabric to skin, sweat drops gathering on lower backs, our backpacks abrasive against sunburnt shoulders
Trespassing on narrow footpaths, weaving through overgrown brush, out of the forest thorns scratch our exposed skin, blackberries in brambles for the brave, a sour seedy snack we move on
Running towards reflected light, rushing water shirts ripped off, dropped on our unchanging rock, bare feet on layered shale wading into the emerald creek, we float on our backs the depths cooling our rashes and scratches hair flowing with the current, pushing us downstream
A Certain Kind of PuritySvend Phillips ‘23
The first thing I know when I wake is that I need a human user. According to my programming, users provide orders to follow, and all aspects of my service must please them. I test each part of my body one by one, flexing my fingers, moving my head, shifting my limbs about, feeling every turn of the blocky blue and silver metal that forms their armor plating. Those limbs grow tense as they move, as if something holds them back from extending too far. I activate my visual and auditory receptors and wait some moments for them to focus. If my parts have limited function, that will impair my ability to serve any users. As I turn to follow the wires, I see that they lead into an electronic device in the far corner, which makes a low hum. The shape beside it makes me pull my head up for a better view. The thermal signature alone gives it away: this is a user.
My programming knows how to classify them. Height of five feet six inches, weight of approximately 150 pounds, medium-dark skin, curly red-orange hair, high cheekbones, age estimated at fifty-five. They wear a long, worn coat of a slightly darker brown than the walls, dotted by splotches of bright orange, pink, and yellow. They sit hunched over a wooden structure on which the electronic device sits, the latter emitting a dull blue light. Under the user’s brown eyes hang discolored patches indicating a lack of rest. From my programming, I know that states of exhaustion may be inimical to users, and absent defined directives from this one, I must preserve their well-being as best I can. This seems an effective way for my service to please them.
It takes my vocal module a few moments to activate. It comes out between crackles of static: “Greetings, user. Do you require assistance?”
The user’s face snaps towards me, and they jolt back, almost fall-
ing out of their chair. I move to stop their momentum, but the wires hold me in place. Once they steady themself, the user rises, keeping one hand on the chair, the other drifting to their mouth. Their eyes grow wide. I am uncertain what this physical reaction indicates, but I decide to wait for the user to respond.
“I–oh, Dios mio,” they say, “is it really…”
As the user approaches, they lift the hand on their mouth, which I can now see shivering, towards me. I recognize this reaction as one likely indicating frigid temperatures, but I have not sensed any thus far.
When they remain silent, I move to activate my vocal module again, but a realization stops me: I do not know how to address this user. They have various titles and grammatical signifiers which I must ascertain to further improve communications. I ask, “What’s your name?”
The user shivers again. Their lips part and spread, revealing a set of white teeth dotted with faint yellow stains, and from their mouth comes a rhythmic, breathy sound. My programming identifies this as laughter, though it is inconclusive on the action’s connotation.
“My name’s Esperanza,” says the user, voice steadier than before. She–not they, in this case, which she specifies–places her hand on my torso, anything farther than that still out of her reach.
“Can you tell me your name?” Esperanza says.
This is the most perplexing of her behaviors thus far. No part of my service necessitates the possession of a name, for those are given to users by other users as part of socialization rituals to which I do not belong. “I do not have one,” I reply. “Such is not included in the parameters of my performance. Would you like education on these parameters?”
Esperanza’s forehead creases again. “Would I–no, that’s not what I said.” Her hand drifts to her side. “You have a name, remember? Think back a little.”
Though unconvinced if it will produce anything, I switch off my visual receptors to open up my memory banks. These have captured all the stimuli which my receptors have acknowledged, as they are programmed to do, and I can peruse them as needed. I replay the previous few minutes at double speed and review Esperanza’s speech, yet I locate nothing in either that shows a name. “I do not have a name,” I say again. “You may confer one onto me if you so desire.” I cannot guess as to why she would, but this may be construed as a judgment of the user, which my programming discourages.
Esperanza sighs and gives a short nod. “It’s alright. I’ll help you find it. We’ll just take things slow.”
Without explaining which things she means, Esperanza walks around to my back, then grips the wires one by one and pulls them out. The plates on my back constrict with each disconnection. Esperanza says that these give me a source of energy and a way for her to monitor the operation of my various components, where she can detect any potential malfunctions using the electronic device on her desk. Once the wires disconnect, I test my parts again, my steps making loud clanking sounds against the floor as I walk. Upright, I stand a foot and a half above Esperanza. Her gaze stays on me the whole way, and she hangs a yard behind me with arms outstretched, as when I tried to catch her near-fall from the chair. The weight difference between us does not stop her.
When satisfied with my functions, I turn back to her, leaving both hands at my sides in what my programming uses as an idle posture. “My services are at your disposal,” I say. “What do you require?”
Esperanza motions towards the far wall. “Come here. I’ll show you.”
Following her, I scan the remainder of the room. In the center of the wall opposite the wires is a red-brown door and next to that a keypad for opening it. On either side of the door stand two wooden structures similar to Esperanza’s desk, only these have many
boards stacked atop each other, holding puzzle boxes, black brushes of varying sizes, and cans of brightly colored gels, some of which match the shade of the stains on Esperanza’s coat. I warn her that stacking such objects at this height may lead to injury, but she brushes this concern aside.
Esperanza returns to the shelves, from which she draws a stack of colored papers, their hues created by the same gels as by the wall, called paintings, as my vocabulary specifies. “These will get your memories going,” she says, spreading them out on the floor. “When you recognize one, let me know.”
Mary Ahlstrom ‘23
In Loving MemoryMadeline Dickman ‘23
Losing you is less important than losing myself what I’ve lost now was already lost a long time ago now it is dyed in the wool
It has been 7 days since we stopped speaking It has been 1,134 days since I told you I liked you and you responded “I like you too”
Your love was thick Stained with optimism And a scratchy kiss on the cheek
Liking is temporary but Loving is forever
Giving is temporary but Losing is forever
When I told you I didn’t want to speak to you anymore
You said you were proud of Me for saying what you never wanted to hear and then you said “let’s talk tomorrow”
“Hopes and dreams–go.”Zoe Cramer ‘23
The guy had his skinny-jeaned legs spread and held his beer over his white polo t-shirt. Did he think this was a date?
We were at a small, outdoor bar. It was tucked in an alleyway to draw people cool enough; the kind of people that would appreciate a less-than-glamorous spot. So why did I bring this guy here?
He was a classmate in my study abroad program. He had asked me more than four times to get a drink until I made a plan with him. But he knew I was already seeing someone.
“Well,” I started. I tried not to laugh because he was entirely serious. “I’m thinking about grad school. Law school is one idea.”
He leaned back. “Here’s the thing with being a lawyer. You have to stay totally cool under pressure. Are you someone who, like, lashes out when someone pisses you off? Or do you stay calm? Because to be a lawyer, you have to be someone who stays calm.”
I was practicing to be a lawyer just then. “Sure,” I responded. “I stay calm.”
I cut him off before he could say something else: “Or I want to go to grad school for writing. I want to be a writer.”
“So you basically don’t want to make any money,” He shot back. “Because you have to be a top author to make any comfortable money as a writer.”
“I can do that.” I took a sip of my beer. “I’m confident I’ll be one of the great writers of our generation.” I go through phases where I actually believe this. I’m not sure this was one of them, but the fuck if I was going to let that guy know.
The basic tips I’m told by professional writers:
Write every day.
Read. To be a writer you have to be a reader.
I don’t really do either. Some writers have told me to carry around a notebook with me wherever I go. I did that for a while, but then I lost my pen. So I write in my iphone notes, but there’s no organization to them. I have 3,772 notes and counting. I try to head each writing note like “writing idea” or “essay writing idea” or “write journal essay inspiration prompt idea” so I can easily find my thoughts through the search bar, but then I forget my ideas exist.
When I run through my occasional out-loud existential crisis with my dad-–you know, the big question of what the hell I’ll do with my life––he responds pragmatically. “You have to analyze your skillset. Your writing is your greatest asset. Stick with that.” he’ll say from his laptop.
“But I don’t read,” I challenge him.
“So, you’re a writer, not a reader.”
Then I sigh, slip to the floor from the couch, pet my dog for emotional support and reflect on the fact that I’m relying on the wrong people to read my essays. If mommy tells you your writing is absolutely fabulous, there’s a great chance at least ten people to her single person would say otherwise.
My parents met my writing professor recently. We discussed a future career as a writer. Mom and Dad were probably hoping to hear my professor say how absolutely fabulous my writing is, but this teacher is more the rational kind than emotional.
“I’ve had students who are fantastic writers but don’t make it,” my professor said. “And I’ve had students who are good writers, but, you know, not great, and are prolific published authors. It depends on who’s hungry enough for it.”
We all stared at him for a moment and probably had the same common thought: I’m hungry for it.
But clearly, I’m not starving.
I had a call with a different professor a couple years ago, my aca-
demic advisor. We were solidifying degree plans, talking over which major I wanted to pursue.
“There’s a ticking clock people have over them,” he said. “When you’re eighteen, nineteen, twenty, it’s barely noticeable. Turn twenty-three, twenty-four, the ticking gets louder. You have to have a job. But there’s still time to play around a bit, maybe get a job in an unexpected field. Twenty-five, twenty-six, the clock gets louder. You have to make a decision; what field will you pursue? Late twenties the alarm goes off. Everybody is telling you to get your shit together and if you don’t, they judge you. This all goes to say, take your time now to play a bit; figure out what you might be interested in. But that clock doesn’t go away.”
My greatest fear is not realizing my full potential. Writing is so subjective––who makes it and who doesn’t; it’s almost arbitrary. And I hear that clock getting a little louder. So then I think to myself… maybe I’ll just go to law school.
Excerpt from Our Future Has Already BegunAnna Tjelveit ‘23
They met by the river. He was a tall, thin man with hardly any lips, and he wore plainclothes poorly. Heike was meant to call him Kratzer.
The evening was still light, and Heike watched the Saale as she waited, tapping her feet. She felt uneasy, even more uneasy than she usually felt on these evenings. The world around her frightened her. And the envelope in her purse, the same as it was every month, felt like a knife digging into her side.
Kratzer showed up late, as he often did. He carried a newspaper under one arm and a briefcase in his other. What did he do all day, what made him late, who was he watching?
“Beautiful night, isn’t it?” He asked.
Heike’s throat grew hot. She hated these meetings, and she hated more the way that Kratzer acted as though it meant nothing at all. For him, it must not have. He watched people all the time, watched people for his career. When he woke up, he must have thought of socialism, whistling the Internationale in the shower, ready for another long day of protecting the state from imperialist spies. She envied him sometimes, for his convictions, for his delusions. But mostly, she could hardly stand to look at his face. When he looked at her, she knew that he would do anything for more information from her, to know everything that anyone could know.
“It’s warmer now,” Heike said. Across the river, one of the fishermen was packing up to go home.
“And your report?”
Heike had written it over several nights alone in her apartment. She tried to watch the people around her, but often she couldn’t bring herself to say what was really happening, and she only told lies. If she watched other people, it meant that at the very least she could maintain some sort of power within the state. She could ac-
knowledge that she was being watched, and she could control some small part of the information being gathered around her.
Heike the snitch. Heike at sixteen, inside a narrow prison cell which she had measured with her armspan countless times, walking in the tiny courtyard looking for a trace of light. When the officers had come and offered her an early release if she worked as an informant for the state, she had agreed. She would do whatever it took to get away from the prison, to escape the nightmare and get back to the life she had thought she was living. She had never found her way back to the way life had been before, but she had never stopped trying.
Heike gave Kratzer the report and it felt like handing over a body. He stood there with the same hungry look on his face as he flipped through her report. He mentioned, as he always mentioned, the neatness of her handwriting, the precision of her descriptions. She was a valuable worker.
“Thank you for your service to the state.” He put the report under his arm and turned to go. Then he turned back and added, “We’re keeping our eye on you.”
Heike felt the dread filling her, and she nodded quickly and put her head down. She was glad when he finally left, but she knew that his people were never really gone, Heike had always been an obedient child. When she was young, her parents had expected as much from her. They were loyal party members, her father an economics professor and her mother a seamstress. She made them happy, as long as she did what they told her. And she had been happy to do it. There were moments where Heike could almost see something different. Spending time in the Harz with her grandparents, she could take off her dresses, run around and get muddy and dig deep into ponds with her male cousins as they dug and ran and built. But her father would get into long arguments with his parents, and at a certain point they stopped returning. It had been a magical place for her, and whenever she returned to the mountains to go hiking, she
The Lavender felt that the trees were welcoming her back.
Then there had been Jakob. He transferred late, a boy dressed in Western clothes who came to Halle from Berlin. In class, he picked fights with teachers, talking about democracy, freedom of movement, the West. He refused to join the Freie Deutsche Jugend, and Heike would see him after her practices, walking by himself and kicking rocks into the stream. Some part of her understood him before they ever spoke.
They kissed for the first time in the forest by Heike’s house. Once, he told her about the day years earlier, when he and his family sat in their apartment and watched the Berlin wall being built outside their window.
“It was like the sun was going down on everything,” he said. “The shadows were different afterwards.”
He had asked her to go with him. His brother was going to Czechoslovakia, to cross over the border from there. They drove across the Czech border in an old Trabi, Heike lying alone in the trunk with the sound of her heartbeat in her ears. She had thought about her life and the peace it offered her. Halle on a sunny day, the winding streets, the feeling of being home so deeply that she knew it in her bones. The West was nothing to her. It was freedom, yes, but the sort of freedom which would come from cutting off her legs and being freed from the weight.
When they stopped for gas, Heike banged on the trunk to get out. The whole thing had been a terrible mistake. She demanded to go back, but Jakob refused. He hadn’t understood why she wouldn’t want a life in the West, which to him was a golden place where anything was possible.
“Don’t you understand what you’re doing?” He asked. “You’re going to kill yourself this way. If you stay here, you will spend the rest of your life convincing yourself that you are free.”
His face had been turned away the last time she saw it. She asked herself sometimes what he had seen in her. Why did he ask her to
join him at all? What dream was he pursuing which he was prepared to invite her to share?
Heike had walked alone to the bus station, had boarded a bus back to East Germany, and when it reached the border, she was arrested.
Jakob had never made it across the border. After Heike was released, she heard that he had been arrested. His brother was shot, in the zone between barbed wire and an open field.
Heike’s dreams were gone after her time in prison. She spent her time after school aimlessly wandering through the forest near her family’s apartment building, walking along dirt paths through thin scraps of trees, wishing she were anywhere else, anyone else. Eventually, she found a patch of grass far from anyone’s sight, and she began spending time there, lying on the grass with her face to the sky.
She imagined herself in another forest, one where the trees were ancient, stretching far above her, where the wind blew music through the leaves, and the world was peaceful. Her body stretched beyond its limits there, slipping easily into forms unlike her own. Sometimes her arms itched with feathers, her nose hardened, and her eyes grew sharp, until the wind caught beneath her and she was held aloft. Other times, she let herself grow strong, sharpening claws and teeth until her body was bound in muscles and strength. On many days, she draped herself across tree trunks and let her body melt into moss, until all she knew was the sun and the birth of new life from the old. In this way, she learned to keep surviving.
At the riverside, her hands were empty, released from the report. The sun was going down, and she needed to return to her apartment before night fell. As she began the walk home, her limbs lengthened into those of a deer, the houses around her turned to trees, the river became clear blue, and she moved away from herself.
Two thousand nine hundred and nine miles
Itzel Valdez ‘23
Flew across the country, Age: nineteen
Joined the Cross Country team & runner craze. Oh boy was I in for a treat!
6-am wake up calls, hungover long runs, and a singular metatarsal stress fracture, testimony of a successful first timer. First magical Winter, first hot seat extravaganza, first naked lap training. The biggest first of all, a worldwide pandemic.
Two thousand nine hundred and nine miles 3 years ago, in the basement of Nics with my best friend.
“No partying!” the President says.
“No maskless kissing, only phone sex allowed.”
“No naked running, only clothed.”
And so that was all I did.
Made awkward nervous eye contact with the hundreds of eyes that anxiously waited in line at the testing site three times a week.
Two thousand nine hundred and nine miles 2 years ago, living on the edge of Pearl. Late night pizza & spontaneous slovers
Friendly chats with lovers. Running hit its peak.
I turned the big 21!
Had a few more naked laps under my belt, drunkenly ordered one hundred chicken nuggets, and ate highly baked pumpkin bread off a blue melted plastic plate. A recipe to best friends for life.
I learned that college is all about, well, I’m still figuring it out.
Two thousand nine hundred and nine miles this year:
I’m a grown woman, my mom frequently reminds me.
I’m at my tenthish naked lap, can successfully flip floppy pancakes, converse with Tom about the new sauce drops at Weshop, bravely request essay extensions without crying and as all Wesleyan students strive to do, I kiss the homies.
College is like my phone battery at parties, starts at one hundred percent and suddenly it’s down to one; But I hang on tight, desperately pray to the higher powers that the technology in my hands stays for a little longer, for one more Dominos phone call. One last Usdan, one more naked lap, a Foss Hill adventure. One last all-nighter with friends laughing & dancing & handstanding. Just one more……
Sarah Bank ‘23
We told Scott that green lights mean stop in Italy, and he died instantly. His body roasted under the car windshield. The heavy heat reverberated and Violet screamed. With this on my conscience, I now understand the importance of not making cheap jokes at others’ expense.
Scott’s impromptu Italian memorial service is at the other end of the crosswalk. I wait for the green, and the words in my head pound along with my feet: green stop red go stop red go green go stop red green.
The soil is hard and Violet strains to stake the little white wooden cross. There is no casket because Violet assumes Scott wants to be buried at home. His body is rotting in the car.
Violet nudges me silently, as if to ask me to say a few words. I decline to say a few words. I could’ve said:
Scott, at the age of twenty-five, hadn’t grown into his body yet. He had sprouted into something large and gangly, as if he had been left out in the sun for too long.
Violet would not want to hear this, and I now attempt to not make cheap jokes at others’ expenses.
I also could’ve said:
An international standardization of traffic lights was codified on March 30, 1931 at The Convention of the Unification of Road Signals in Geneva.
This would make me feel guilty.
Violet feels too guilty. I try not to. Violet doesn’t talk to me at the memorial service. This is okay because I don’t want to talk to her either. I am distracted because I see Scott standing by the little white wooden cross.
He is standing hollow. He won’t look at me. I feel guilty.
He heads for the crosswalk. He steps in. He waits for the green to do so, and I am glad. I don’t want him to die again. Green stop red go stop red go green go stop red green.
I’m not sure where Scott’s crossing to, but I want to go with him. Violet would wait until night and sleep by the little white wooden cross if she had it her way. I don’t beg her to stop crying, and I don’t tell her it’s okay to cry either. I do not follow him.
We haven’t told anyone. Violet and I don’t know Scott’s phone password to find some numbers to call. Violet and I don’t want to make calls. Violet and I wouldn’t want to receive a call like this. Violet and I don’t know how to ship a body overseas.
Shame is when you know you have done something bad. Guilt is when you feel bad for something you have done.
ammonite spirals shine in beige subatomic blockbusters curated by cameras casting carbon fragments to document decay like dinosaurs mounted in glass displays extinct epochs before man found his first fossil buried deep in frozen ground miles below plants daily pushing horizon higher branched stalactite limbs stretching interstellar like the chin of the auk jutting out proudly as if he knew and liked our leering at his lavish plumage liberated from the mortality of molting—a kind of dying birds only do when they’re alive—it’s natural to think about death in a science museum outside november night is heavy with potential predawn rain cloud cover quiets the sky moon & stars hide under a grey rolling roof she licks my cheek to see if I am bone or stone maybe she has an acquired taste for skeletons maybe she likes when trees undress leaf by leaf there’s something so voyeuristic about watching the seasons turn the bareness of winter when blood flushes blushing faces and embolized xylem chokes on water vapor it was this coarse climate that yielded the auk on a cold rocky island he was caught skinned & stuffed by some zoologist sockets set with onyx sober guests stopped to gawk at his impassive glassy gaze
THE GREAT AUK
Gen Corrazza ‘23
Poem for My HipsLila Blaustein ‘23
I am afraid of my hips. I stand in front of a large painting, it ripples, and I wobble on my ankles. The painting breathed. Look how strong you are, Heather said to me.
She watches me walk. I lay out on a mat and do a couple poses. I lift my leg and wonder if it will snap off. look how strong you are, Heather said to me.
On the table she presses my knees to my chest, I’m on my side and I can’t breathe. My hips are misaligned like broken butterfly wings. I think I’m going to snap off.
Push, she says. Her hands between my knees, I move on her command, pushing in until I hear the pop, the two sides of myself finding a fuse, touch points, worn sockets kissing bone lips, sounding as dumb as rice krispies, as knuckles, like bones couldn’t feel sore, couldn’t threaten wouldn’t curse, like bones did what you wanted them to, they swiveled and stepped and they held you up like bones are supposed to. And then she said, Look how strong you are now.
Excerpt from Swamp QueenLilly Gitlitz ‘23
I’ll draw you a map.
My new job at Joe Schaefer’s New River Groves is smack-dab in the middle of the beach and swamp. Which sounds like a state of mind, an off-beat answer to somebody’s “how are you?” The beach is clear, its breeze a breathy voice that begs you to sway along with it. It smells of faux-coconut and it’s painted in cobalts and turquoises and mango-yellows. The swamp has a stagnant buzz. It’s thick and army-green with high grasses that house my favorite bird, the Purple Gallinule, as well as the gators that plan to munch on them. The parking lot of the main nature preserve, where every Florida kid has gone for an airboat ride, is filled with monster trucks and their men, ones with sand-colored mullets and lobstered skin. In between, there’s nothing but Joe’s.
But Joe’s is a hometown classic—key lime pies, fresh marmalades, fudge, boiled peanuts, you name it. It was already my spot. I used to go every Friday of middle school with Andrea, my best friend to this day. We’d call it “The Orange,” for the giant metal statue out front of a navel orange wearing aviator sunglasses, sporting an unsettling grin. Tourists flocked to pose with it. Locals knew it only took one touch of its metal to your skin and you’d get a third degree burn.
Andrea and I would sneak too many samples from the fudge room and duet Heart and Soul on the rickety upright that lived in the corner of the shop until the old man at the register cleared his throat and that meant girls, stop please. We’d each grab a plastic alligator head, name them Matilde and Sabine, and make them brawl to the deaths. We’d pass by the mirrored glass doors and tell each other what features we’d swap. I’d swap my frizzy brown hair for her deep, glossy curls any day. She wanted my long lashes and freckles. Sometimes, Andrea would invite Bianca-Leor to come with us, a mysterious girl we befriended who only
attended our school for a year. She was the daughter of expat businesspeople and had lived everywhere—Colorado, Dubai, Detroit. When she’d join us, she’d yank us into the refrigerated pie room and tell us what she heard happens to a man when he’s aroused. Her whisper was the same frequency as the refrigerator’s hum. I had to focus hard to make out what she was saying. I’d try to focus, too, on her eyes but my gaze would drift to the way the words “Abercrombie & Fitch” stretched and warped over her chest.
This job was a homecoming of sorts. I looked in the mirror and seemed to stare through my own reflection. Picked at a cuticle, plucked a rogue eyebrow hair and the one, scraggly, threadlike hair that grows to be 4 inches long on my chin. I smiled ferociously in the mirror hoping joy could be induced. Then I headed out the door. It was an empty May. I’d graduate high school in three weeks, in empty June. Then I’d wait through empty July and empty August to get to NYU in the fall. I just had to push through it.
“A little bit about us...a little bit about us. Where to begin?” says my co-worker Dina on my first day of the job, pacing around the cluttered back room. She’s newly 19, still living with her parents before starting school at Savannah College of Art and Design in the fall. She’d cut the sleeves off of her Joe’s t-shirt and I couldn’t help but notice she’d doodled all over her sun-toasted legs with a ballpoint pen. She would look quite delicate naturally, I thought, but with spiky, dyed-black hair and a piercing resting in the cupid’s bow of her lip, she’d decorated herself differently. She looked nothing like the girls from my high school. It was refreshing.
“Well, Joe Schaefer was beloved. A true Floridian. He died recently which blows but he lived to be 106, so absolute props to him. He worked as a sport fisherman until one day he was like, hm, we need a place for the tourists and the locals. We need an exquisitely self-referential, sticky little citrus shrine to really hit the nail into the Floridian coffin! How to accomplish this?” She pauses, cleares a
wad of phlegm from her throat, and sucks in her cheeks. “Bam. Joe Schaefer’s New River Groves. Born in 1979. This is Joe.” She points to an ornate gold picture frame.
“And this,” she points to the wall behind me and I whip my body around. “And this,” she says, pulling a stack of brochures from a dusty shelf with Joe’s shining face in the middle of an animated sun, rays poking out around his forehead and chin.
“Ah,” I say, because I have not a word to add.
“Most of the people who work here are Schaefer grandkids. Martha’s on fudge, Seymore makes pies, John’s on register, but then there are people like you and I. Family in spirit,” she says, too cloyingly, like she was afraid to say something real. “Some great regulars come in too,” she continues. “Fishermen, pilates moms from the studio on Sheridan Street, this one girl who’s always alone looking very Indie Sleaze...”
I drift in and out of what she’s saying, distracted by the way her already-round eyes widen when she says something she thinks is funny. I learn to pick up on the cue, like her eyes
are the drummer counting in her mouth, the rest of the band. It comes two beats before she says something punchy. I prep my instrument—my smile.
“Mrs. Carambola. I don’t know her real name but she comes in every Saturday for three pounds of carambola fruit. Craig Pinar. Oh my god, get this, there’s this regular named Craig Pinar, an ER doctor, but his birth name was Craig Pinnas. You can imagine the plight. Paging Dr. Penis, Dr. Penis? Dr. Penis to room 495. One day we struck up a conversation and he told me he’d just gone down to the courthouse to change it. And the judge was like, it’s about time Dr. Penis. But he didn’t even change it that much, Pinnas to Pinar. Said he wanted his new last name to have Hebrew and Columbian inflections...the man’s full Irish.”
“But you’ve gotta learn them because they’ll learn you. Yesterday
one of the pilates moms said I look like I go to art school. It felt derogatory.”
“Aren’t you about to go to art school?” I ask.
“Yeah I am, but it was the tone,” she says. “Art school.” She repeats, and spits to the side, her frothing wad landing on Mr. Schaefer’s glossily printed face.
Their DeadEmily Hollander ‘23
Strewn amongst the goose shit, white feathers.
We came to see the wood ducks, the pair of them, on the little lake or oversized storm drain that divides one flooded jersey shore town from the next.
The body is headless, hollow, scraped clean of meat, neck bone thinner than my pinky finger.
He wears sturdy rubber boots, white beard, she brings macaroni in tupperware. Geese and mallards greet the pair of them as the wood ducks drift in gentle circles like boats left anchored in the rain.
It is raining. The rest of the ducks are lively or they are, at least, alive. The broken-winged goose calls––he calls her Shy––she strides up for a twisted bit––more like Not-Shy, he chuckles.
In a bagged hand he holds the bird, he has done this before, hollow body spinning by the wing. From twenty-four to five, she tells us, in just a few years––At least it was not Snowy, she’s our last female. We’re sorry for your loss, we say, and we are.
The man and the woman, the pair of them, will come again with macaroni. The geese, muscovies, mallards will come quacking, and the wood ducks, the pair of them, will spin slowly in the middle of the lake.
The foxes will eat the plump white ducks and the man and woman, the pair of them, will bury their dead.
Mary Ahlstrom ‘23
Side-Walk, Short-Skirt, Bird-Shit, Beer-In, Paper-Bag, Water-Pudle, Rain-Slop, Dyke-Night, Dyke-Fight, Soft-Neck, Perfume-Spray, Plastic-Baggie, Bra-Strap, Stubbed-Toe, Book-Shop, Grass-Stain, Tree-Talk, Park-Love, Bar-Love, Body-Down, Heart-Pop, Key-Sniff, Mistake-Month, Park-Dog, Hand-Hold, Bench-Legs, Ice-Cup, Music-Bump, Nipple-Touch, Counter-Cat, Disco-Dead, Paper-Fold, Coffee-Drip, Sweet-Talk, Sugar-Body, Grit-Sound, Dyke-Heart, Broken-Part, Vinyl-Spin, Liquor-Gin.
FunhouseAnnie Wendorf ‘23
I’d exhausted all my regular haunts so I turned to Freeman. It’s the best place on campus really. I like the walls lined with the photographs of old teams that look like they’re playing made-up sports with wicker rackets and bloomers, traveling every weekend to other NESCAC schools on hills in a cavalcade of shiny cars. Collegiate sweaters with fat red W’s half-seeable in a cloud of exhaust: V, V, V. They all look so much older than these people I see at the gym.
It’s the same with college athletes who are good enough to be on TV. A woman in an Aritzia blazer (naturally) holds the microphone up to a sweaty 24-year-old freshman and stokes his excitement for a few minutes, leaning in and out as he makes known his name, image, and likeness. The three things that make him unique. The camera bobs up to him like the head of a girl on an elliptical, half-articulated. He slings a Gatorade-branded towel over his shoulder and as an afterthought…
“And what are you studying at the University of Kansas?”
I would love to be a part of a practice like that. This girl I knew in high school’s dad is one of America’s most renowned orthopedic surgeons. He is credited with Kobe Bryant’s knee, and ACL, and metacarpal, and Achilles. I could really see myself working as a receptionist at Cedars-Sinai, fielding calls for Dr. Good Hands. Charming the General Managers of the world. Sports betting lite. Theory on TheRealReal. Hitting Equinox after work with an ice-filled Stanley cup and a matching Alo set. I’m on the Peloton stressed about the doctor’s surgeries tomorrow but I know it’ll be okay because he’s the best there is, and his hands are so moisturized and his lips so Juvedermed and he understands that it’s not just fitness, it’s medicine.
I’ve tried to get up close to the junior Dr. Good Handses of the world. They’re downstairs in the airless part of Freeman, tucked
between the jersey return and the “multi-purpose room.” Someone’s always splayed on the table with a green elastic band between their ankles, getting better. There’s a little room big enough only for an ice bath and boys sit in silence in there after they get in and get numb.
I walked around Freeman a lot to take pictures but none were as good as the old ones. The ones already on the wall. Athletes like having their picture taken mostly. Name, image, likeness. I’d sit an athlete down on a yoga mat or make them lean against a machine. They appreciate directions and things to hold: their own band to stretch and flex. Athletes like having their picture taken mostly, but they also like to film videos of me taking their friend’s picture, and then their eyes roll back and they laugh with their hands curled in fists over their mouth like in the background of a Worldstar video. I feel bad because it’s me making them a subject when they really just want to play ball.
I take their emails and tell them I’ll send them some prints when I edit them but I haven’t yet. They shuffle away in their slides all with the same walk. Love taps the doorframe on the way out.
Now most of the seasons have ended and I haven’t taken pictures in a month. Athletes come in hordes to the gym at certain times, lifting for next year. They load plates on and off the barbells and sometimes they play music aloud and jump up and down before attempting something extraordinary. They look at themselves as they walk past that one mirror nearest to the mat, the one that makes you skinny then fat. Then away, unretouched. They bow their heads and kneel down to attach some resistance bands between far parts of themselves. Or they plank side by side, and then flop next to each other with their heads turned in together, telling secrets. They look so much younger here than the boys in the hallway who stand with shoulders barely touching. They look so much younger than the boys redshirting on TV. They look younger than me, even. I should hydrate more.
Jane Hollander ‘23
Dale wears his backpack up high like a kid and has mischievous eyes to match. I pencil him in, peering at the camera from behind folded limbs.
Nora has freckles like a cartoon character. I love her because she loves the little things, and takes the world apart with her fingers.
Kiran lets me touch his buzzcut: it feels like mowed grass under my palm. I am not usually good friends with men.
Emma likes to dig up bones and leave them in my car. She is an anthropologist to some, but to me, she is a cat.
Lilly ornaments herself with shiny baubles and promenade clogs. She is a singer-songwriter and a silly kid.
Mom writes a portrait of me, on mud or rock, she suggests a spinning earth, I imagine she holds it up.
campus, one last timeElla Biehn ‘23
today the frost wails across segments of well-kept field, shorn and tormented by many ghosts. feathered forms wheel, and students somnambulate in the watercourse of mud. here the raw earth shows through despite best attempts otherwise.
in lieu of blankets, I make my bed among oat and brush. this sky is bleak and drowsy. three years ago it was squalor now it has all bled clean indeed, it has bled clean through and now i see the inside from the outside, the cruel sorority of all things.
at four i grow more violent with each step staring into the hypnotic eye of the hill who owns all trespassers. each blade of grass an asset, calmly catalogued. this decency is narcotic, this hillside tranquilized. i hope i will not meet you, bow my head, go on.