SAINT ANN’S HIGH SCHOOL LITERARY MAGAZINE 2022 Saint Ann’s High School Literary Magazine 2022
SAINT ANN’S HIGH SCHOOL LITERARY MAGAZINE 2022
STAFF Angie B., Cheryl C., Isabelle C., Clara D., Nola D., India E., Eden F., Lucy G., Lola G., Caroline H., Lukas K., Claire L., Cora L., Phaedra L., Mirabelle P., Anaka P., Shayni R., Izzy R., Lucy R., Clio W. EDITORS Raimi B., Eitan F., Sammy G. FACULTY ADVISORS Ronica Bhattacharya, Beth Bosworth Many thanks to the following people for their support and assistance: Kevin Anderson, Jason Asbury, G. Giraldo, Tom Hill, Melissa Kantor, Jesse Kohn, Mary Lou Kylis, Katya Arnold, Marcia Hillis, Tony Thomas, Alejandro DeSince, Chloe Smith, Terry Thomas, and Vince Tompkins. Thanks also to the English and Art departments, and in particular Eli Forsythe, Larissa Tokmakova, Elizabeth Fodaski, and Marty Skoble We are especially grateful to everyone who submitted work to this magazine.
Copyright ©2021 Saint Ann’s School Brooklyn, New York www.saintannsny.org Cover Art: Thisbe W., 2022 George and Michael 1971 oil paint, 25 x 36 inches
POETRY AND FICTION Caroline H. Sylvia 9 Lyla B. Throbbing Heels 10 Thisbe W. Elegy for Apo 11 Hannah B. the ladybug 14 Anaka P. Departure 16 Lukas K. My Turnip Heart 20 Katherine S.-R. Life in Amber 22 Phoebe B. I wonder what... 26 Phoebe B. The good kid... 27 Cole C. It began as it ended... 28 Kate W. I’d imagine them fighting... 29 Fig W. egyptian 30 Phaedra L. Marigolds 32 Ruby D. Between a Molar and a Hard Place 33 Jojo M. seafoam 34 Lyla B. When Last Light Comes... 36 Eden F. clair de lune 38 Léa S.-G. time machine 39 Hannah B. Crazy Eights 40 Laiali T. Bored 41 Léa S.-G. stinking hot and salted... 42 Katie L. Wishing Well Woman 43 Jacqueline K. Five Ways of Looking 44 at Glass Katie L. I Remember All Summer 45 Abby D. (Parenthetical Woman) 46 Hannah B. Supercalifragilistic 47 Clio W. No. 4 48 Katherine S.-R. Foxgloves 49 Mirabelle P. Making a Smoothie 50 Clio W. I’m Full of Bees Who Died at Sea, 52 It’s a Wonderful Life
Margot S. Isabelle C. Caroline H. Lyla B. Sadie G. Katie E. Hazel P.-M. Emilia M.
The Distance Between Us Orchestra Poem Out on a Saturday Greetings from Shining New York... Hair Ties Silver Shoes Today’s Top Story in Vermont Letter of Excusal A Note on Strategy A Pretty Stranger They never made it big When I walk in the bathroom The Scorpion and the Frog Stuck Slowly Dying in the Condiment Aisle in a Costco To Whom It May Concern at Dick’s Sporting Goods The Water and Me On Lockdown When It Rains The sky was a flat gray.... some things in life will always come before you History, Unresearched a home &slyly by we go infinity What Uma Knew How to Look at the Moon Ganymede I Found Myself in Sequences You Were Beige This Is Jesus Candor Purple
53 54 55 56 59 61 63 64 65 67 69 70 71 73 74 76 77 79 80 84 85 87 90 91 92 94 101 107 110 112 114 118 120
Felix C. Two-for-one Deal 121 Maia-lu R. The Song of Spring 122 Margot S. Dragonflies and Other Adventures 123 Cole C. I Only Take a Nibble 126 Soleil P. Venus 127 Clio W. Gorged 129 Becca D. Was It Worth It? 130 Quincy C. Losing Hair Every Day 131 Dashiell B.-T. Green Door 132 Abby D. green and the bread box 134 Anaka P. On Laundromats 135 Lyla B. Your Songs 136 Katherine S.-R. In Odessa 137 Sofia C. Senseles s 138 Sadie G. Matchbox 140 Sabine K. My Eleven Ways of Living 142 Anna M. Visitors 144 Ruby D. There Is a Man Cut in Two 145 by the Window Seryn K. I Dream of Driving 146 Stella M. Bubblegum Circus 148 Léa S.-G. Amigas 150 Ellie P. A Trip to the Art Museum 153 Joline F. Mornng Routine 155 Ruby D. After “Theme for English B” 157 Julie S. The small frog sat next to.... 159 Fia D. Strawberry Please 163 Stella M. The back of my throat burns... 164 Katie E. Indulge Me 165 Abby D. A Little Coda 166 Jack A.-G. Let’s take it back to the U.N.... 167 Stella M. Teacher, teacher, teacher 170 Nina D. Jesus Sits in a Cyber Cafe 172 Joline F. Great Expectations 174 Lucy G. These Days of... 177 6
Eli B. Hannah B. Laiali T. Phoebe B. Ed L. Dashiell B.-T. Emilia M. Violet D. Dashiell B.-T. Mirabelle P. Anaka P. Naya M. Anna M. Caroline H. Ari W. Naya M. Lucy G. Phoebe L. Eden F. Thisbe W.
The Artist Routine Did She Notice? By Her Birthday Sweet dawn dews on my tongue... Chocolate Square Traveling For My Sister on Her Birthday Daydreams of a Lonely God today (tonight?) scattered: blue highways reverse autobiography A Dinner Party Dog The Photograph west village Em BFFS The Mend Shrooms Firecrackers
178 181 182 184 186 188 190 192 193 196 197 199 202 204 206 208 210 211 215 217 218
8 18 25 37 62 79 89 93 119 154 189
Photograph Photograph Nai-Nai and Her Sons Photograph Rainbow Friends Digital Art Acrylic Painting Portrait Portrait
Katherine S.-R., Photograph
It’s evening and it’s awfully hot And everything sticks and snaps, Everything, The footsteps and door-locks and lock-clicks Down the hall 16J to A, The skin folded neatly behind her ears, The sparkles on her sweatshirt, The Klondike bar in her hand, And outside her window is a parking lot and a very long gray street Or a lovely view of the aquarium and the ferris wheel and the fireworks Because it’s July 4th And this is the perfect place to be at this time If only the fan worked Or perhaps if some birds flew by and a gust of wind too But the Klondike bar is helping And when her plant brushes against her cheek it’s cool and it smells good Almost like the hairdresser’s Which Sylvia can see if she leans far enough to the right And where she might go, —With a tight mask— To get all the gray recolored, A thought which she ponders a little before another firework ascends so that when she looks out her window this is what she sees: Her favorite colors, Yellow and green, The ferris wheel, the aquarium, and down below, A few of us, Illustrations of the voices on the telephone, Arrived too late, But arrived. Caroline H.
Throbbing Heels bass washing through the walls, glittery jittery ocean waves alive with cloudy electric buzz your feet have lost their war with the floorboards your hair a sticky didion diadem dripping with jewels of sweat corners of your face still tickle with fleshy heat and fingertips’ brush hanging pensive in the bathroom’s pink tiles; a breath of fizzy peace forehead breaking against the cool dark wall for now you savor the sweetness of maraschino cherries’ aftertaste, but soon you will pick up your throbbing heels and face again the euphoria of human experience, infinite armpits winking in the shadowy purgatory Lyla B.
Elegy for Apo Apo smiles at me through the rearview mirror. She’s not a careful driver, even though I, her eight-year-old granddaughter, her “PJ” (acronym for Pride & Joy), sit in the backseat. The Subaru smells like mothballs and Cantonese cooking, like her small-town Virginia home. It’s nighttime. The streetlights and massive Walmart sign halo her head. *** I mostly avoided calling Apo during the pandemic. I was too wrapped up in my own teen-angst-quarantine-bubble to check in on her by phone. NYC—>Luray, VA. I didn’t want to listen to lectures about her kidney problems, her taxes, how thankful she was for the happy family she built (even though my mom hadn’t spoken to her for months). But more than not wanting to call Apo, I didn’t think about her. Instead of thinking about her, I worried about the pandemic’s effect on my social life and how to prep for the SATs. I worried about my dad’s diabetes and wasting my teen years. I didn’t think about how lonely she must be, my only grandparent who never remarried, with few friends. When anti-Asian violence increased at the beginning of the pandemic, I called her, worried for my elder living in a white Southern town with a Confederate soldier statue erected at its center. She said she was well, staying happy, hydrated. She rarely left home and changed
churches because her preacher was anti-mask and anti-Black and anti-immigrant and proTrump. While the major news outlets were silent, I read NextShark headlines of hate crimes every day. The violence felt too close, too close to my grandparents living in distant parts of the country. *** While 2020 covid rates soared, my schoolmates posted unmasked, kissy-face group photos on Instagram, Trump said inject bleach, Americans chose to party rather than stay apart, and my school allowed its rich white kids to learn in-person two days a week. I sat at home in the evenings video calling Apo in a Virginia ICU. Watched her pixelated and sedated, shuddering quick breaths on the ventilator like how newborns breathe shakily, so fast. My spine tingled every time I saw the tubes, like vines clutching her to the hospital bed. My mom and I sight sang her favorite hymns, songs I’d never heard before, our voices tinny and distant in her sedated dreamspace. The doctor said she could hear us, that she was lucid dreaming. I tried to believe. That pain cannot be summarized by statistics on CNN. 1 out of 893,000 deaths in the US. Those ICU moments are swept away, untold in a sea of body bags. *** While mom and I cleaned out Apo’s house, I wandered into the bathroom, the
counter cluttered with makeup products. When I was little, I always thought Apo was so ugly. The opposite of the blue-eyed blonde Cinderella/Swan Princess image I had learned to idolize by osmosis. I never fathomed that Apo, with her puffy under-eyes, pockmarked skin, and mouth stuffed full of crooked yellow teeth, would care about her appearance. She wore synthetic blend shirts with the loudest prints, thinking it covered her four-kids belly. I don’t know if she was trying to fit in to white American beauty standards, as I tried to for so many years. I don’t know what image of beauty she tried to craft for herself. I never asked. I cried as I left the bathroom. *** My childhood memories of Apo are fading fast. I use Google Calendar to search for her last visit to NYC. August 2019. I don’t remember any part of the visit, but I create a composite memory of the last time I saw her, felt her, by spinning together memories from different years. I try to recreate the cotton candy soft feeling of her hug in my mind and feel it in my body. Her sloppy kisses on my cheek as she squeezes me to her and I try not to recoil because I am a little kid who doesn’t know how lucky she is to be her grandmother’s favorite. One last embrace before she returns to Virginia. Thisbe W.
the ladybug crawled under a turnstile didn’t need a metrocard to get through, and was barely even aware of the rotating metal bars above her the linoleum floor was covered in grime and scents that felt familiar & recognizable like home she scampered down the stairs more worried about being hit by the rush of subway air than being trampled by hordes of pounding feet attached to bodies pressed together like sardines in a tin she lingered a while on the yellow strip of platforms treating the bumps as hills so she could run up and roll down with her limbs crossed over her chest taking in every thrill when the train came she braced herself for the warm gust
to wash over her and she leapt over the gap closing her eyes so she wouldn’t see the decrepit tracks below “stand clear of the closing doors please” so she did, and the air was cool and calm the floor of the train car was empty no shoes and just a banana peel “next stop, Brighton Beach” Hannah B.
Departure On the eve of her departure from the states she called me from her apartment’s telephone. Megha told me, her voice crackling from the reception, that she wanted to revisit her childhood home for her last years of life. She had been alone in Southern California, and even though the temperatures were the same, she missed the company, the smell of her house in India (I was imagining a mélange of mothballs and masala). She wanted me to come with her and hear the cacophony of cows mooing and bike bells ringing late at night. “I know it’s been a while, but I want to go with somebody and you’re the first person I thought of. I always wanted to show you where I grew up. This is our last chance.” I remember, decades ago, cupping her face and staring right into her eyes, begging her to take me with her when she went to India. She didn’t. She wanted to see her brother alone and needed someone to feed our cat. When I watched television that night, she was standing in line to board her flight. The doorbell rang, and I jumped up excitedly, hoping she had returned after having changed her mind. She had ordered me Thai food as a way of apologizing, and I felt water fill the slope of my eye while I poured extra sauce over my noodles. I had thought, “She’s feeding her pig before the slaughter.” I had no reason to think of this, yet it was the first thing that came to mind. I felt patronized—she thought I would accept her apology and eat her gift happily. I spent the week deciphering what she meant by ordering food for me—perhaps she wanted to repair our relationship quickly so that I wouldn’t starve our cat (it was more hers than mine, she had brought it with her when we moved in together). I recall a letter I wrote to her on one of her sacred trips to India. I had written, in complete despair, “I see the tragedies of war when I think of our brief separation. Do come back, papillon marron.” I would write formally, to emphasize the barrier she had brought upon us by leaving; I would never dream of using contractions. My letter then went into more local discussions, but these were hidden with little pleas for her return: “There are large nicks on the stair-railing.
I cannot bear them. I must call Andrew to repair them with that special goop he enjoys so much to overcharge us on.” I’d lure her with Andrew—she hated him, saying his beard reminded her of tangled weeds. She knew I liked to be dramatic, and I knew she would never take my pleas seriously. To some extent, we were both content with this—it was a sort of harmony. I eventually got over my desire to go to India. It had become this great mystery, and I knew that if I ever actually went, I would inevitably be disappointed because it wouldn’t reveal Megha in the way I had hoped it would. I saw India as some tropical paradise, and saw her adorned in florals dancing with those cows, which was perhaps influenced by my upbringing. Any place with Megha would have been paradise, of course, but not in the same way. Megha’s request to join her in her old age still haunts me; I refused her offer. Whatever loyalty or love I had to her during our youth wasn’t strong enough. I’ve felt guilty since. When I said no, it was mainly because I was worried about not remembering her the same way, and that she might’ve been more disappointing than I remembered. I grew, and a part of me couldn’t visualize her growing too. She was still immature in my mind. I didn’t want to confirm my fears. I spent the rest of that night sitting cross-legged on the carpet, sifting through pictures of the two of us. There weren’t many. I wanted to visualize her face. I found one of her with her arms crossed, a cigarette grasped between fingers, and wearing a linen shirt that had marks of paint clogging the frail weaving. For a long time, she and I lived in a small one-bedroom apartment above a bakery in Fort Greene, and many of the pictures had the same background of dried wine glasses on a windowsill that overlooked the park. She’d only half-smile for them all, too busy in whatever she was doing to give me her full attention. Every Saturday morning she’d clean the apartment, opening the window to feel the wind. She wouldn’t move the wine glasses. Those would stay, never officially washed—just briefly rinsed—until one would inevitably fall late at night and we’d argue about who would go get a new one from the kitchen. Funnily enough, they never held wine, but water. Megha just liked the feeling of holding a glass with one curl of a finger. It felt elegant to her. She was always aiming for this idea
of American elegance; she wouldn’t stop talking about Grace Kelly. She left for India alone, and spent her last ten years there. She thought she’d have less time, and I thought she’d have more. I never visited. Anaka P.
Katie L., Clay Vessel
My Turnip Heart Sing me a song for my ruby red heart My tiny turnip Sing me a song Make my roots grow Capillaries like golden reigns Make my feet swindle the ground and tiptoe across the wind Make my tongue linger on dry-empty and wander the four corners of my red cavern embossed Sing me a song to set in motion the green-emerald inlay to my golden heart, my ruby red heart my tiny turnip Set my gears turning and clocks shifting Let my watch break Watch time unravel itself In tocks Speed So fast And so slow And so—so...so wonderfully And make my ears quiver And dimples I want them big and wide and tough and full of danger Make me a dangerous man Not a small little rabbit of the kind I would stomp on with my bare feet I want to cry beautiful big oceans, ruby red for my heart, my turnip heart Some yellow, we need some yellow Like that pancake sun in the game Memory I want that yellow A golden chariot is too much 20
Something fine A nice piece of silverware A golden sheen actually You can tell I like gold But what I really want to hear is your voice ’Cause you have a beautiful voice A voice fit for my ruby red heart My tiny turnip Lukas K.
Life In Amber You told me, when I first met you, that when you were young you could hear the sound of dog whistles. You lived in Chantilly in a blue-shuttered house and wrote to me in beautifulhandwriting. You had yet to become a photographer of the conditional. Your eyes were amber, life captured like bugs in their rays. I could have surrounded you in the labyrinth of my love, reading your letters from France about the clouds and how you liked the smell of cigars because it reminded you of the father you never knew. It was so quiet there, you said, that you woke up from the silence at night. At first I found it bizarre that you almost never signed off, but rather ended your letters abruptly halfway through a sentence. On occasion, you couldn’t even make it through a syllable: “Je suis agité depuis des heu–”. Only later did you explain to me how you kept a legal pad on your night table so at three in the morning you could tell me how you’d spent the past four hours pondering what color a snore was until you got fed up and decided it was a sort of beige mystery. Sleep descended upon your scrawl and your mother would rouse you the following morning, shaking her head reproachfully at the ink stains on the blanket where your pen had rolled as your hand sunk reluctantly into slumber. Sitting at breakfast smoking a cigarette in her red velour bathrobe, she threatened to confiscate the par avion stickers if you didn’t expunge the Nepal-shaped spots by tomorrow. When I came home from school I’d find your life in my mailbox, the yellow paper redolent of cardamom and rain, the smell of your insomnia. And although I did not realize it then, the idea of you had become like a lung to me. I would wander through glistening nights of after-rain until the only sound was the cars whispering down the block, letting out a long, wet hissing as they passed. I would wait to breathe until the red taillights melted into the rain, and my whole mind became that sound. I lost my keys the night the snow descended, leaving only a ghostly glow of identical offices suspended in soft darkness. I was in tenth grade, and still had the habit of enclosing pressed eucalyptus leaves in my envelopes to you. Across 22
the street from my aparment, in a building which turned out to be ICP, I found myself in Hockney’s Pearblossom Highway. In the gray nebula of New York, the photo collage seemed to layer tenses until they broke beyond our hollow architecture for time, grazing the abyss between one perspective and endless understanding. Bud Light cans sprawling by the side of the road, desolate shards of a world stretching in 700 ways towards the horizon. It was the kind of place, I felt, which was livable. A picture I could inhabit for the rest of my life. I had been staring at Pearblossom Highway for over two hours when they offered me the compromise of a postcard print of it: they had to close, but I could take this world with me, if I held it carefully enough. Walking swiftly down the block with the highway cradled in my arms, immediately I decided to send it to you. In Chantilly, you walked and pigeons flew away with a sound like clothes flapping on a line; your cat would follow you in her umber coat, slinking behind your footsteps to the superette. Upon receiving the postcard I had sent of Pearblossom Highway, it was not you who was enamored, but your sister Agnes. Although we never met, I felt like I had known her for a long time when you told me about the little forest she had in her left eye. Encircled by hazel rays, dark green pines lay blurred beneath her pupil, visible only after close examination. *** We were lying in bed the morning you told me you thought you heard the sound of the two ash trees outside our window collapsing, their slender limbs creaking before a hollowness settled within, then gradually crept out and around the wild undergrowth behind our dorm. I walked to the window and drew the curtains to show you the trees standing unchanged in the tall withered grasses, marcescent leaves clinging to their branches, but you wouldn’t meet my eyes, avoiding the details of my face as you left the room to find the car keys. I heard your voice from underwater, reminding me we should leave soon if we wanted to be home by that evening for Christmas vacation. Ringing in my ears, I felt you sink into the gray leatherette beside me
(5:07 PM, December 23, a bomb smuggled into a yellow samsonite suitcase), amber eyes glazed over the ice at 75mph. Kept driving somehow (252 people), tightening my grip on the wheel (detonated over Eyrecourt, Ireland). Watching you go limp, unable to see me and only able to see the reflected world of your red fingernails, I realized I needed gills. Trees whipped by in the red as I drove faster, clouds becoming icebergs from below. When your sister died that night, in the pocket of her plaid-lined coat she had a print of Pearblossom Highway. *** When you peeled off the red, nail polish was replaced by dark dots that gathered at the peripheral fringe of your left eye’s top lashes, their silhouette gradually drifting down, to coalesce beneath your pupil where they dissolved. You began to see the butterflies she had loved everywhere; your life becoming a double exposure. (At least, you thought the butterflies were the ones she had loved, but you could never truly know.) Now you could only feel; now the essence of life seemed slowly to reveal itself, days increasingly concentrated into light and shadow, all else eschewed as superfluous. When I first saw your photographs, I thought they were taken at night, but you softly explained (moonlike fingers eliding emotion, eyes swimming with distance) how in fact you shot during the day, then printed them in a gray scale so deep and nuanced that their subjects are difficult to see. In the years that followed, you got married to your husband, had two children who know nothing of your past. Your life in amber winds its way up my ribs, folding around my heart like a shroud, Zinnia. So when you showed me your most recent project––would-have-been pictures (a woman receding down the long, gleaming linoleum at JFK, a runway strip lightly cloaked in fresh snow)––I gazed hard at you with a question that I didn’t need to ask out loud. Quietly, you nodded. Katherine S.-R.
Eli B., Photograph
I wonder what Noise echoes within the branches When they are broken Phoebe B.
The good kid Likes her egg yolks Runny. Phoebe B.
It began as it ended. The door opened. Some person, or family occasionally, often malnourished and with clothes a bit too small, a bit too old, worn a bit too thin, stepped in. Of course the hinges were scrupulously oiled, and thus silent. It would always happen the same way. They would place their application on the desk, the deep brown wood kept perfectly clean, not a speck of dust to be found. He would flip through it, almost everything he needed to know in the hundred pages of forms, which had already been filed in triplicate. They had already been pre-vetted of course, first by a computer and then by some non-government flunky making just above minimum wage(It wouldn’t do, of course, to have government employees making minimum wage). He would run through the standard interview questions while watching them fidget. Name, age, date of birth, place of birth, parents, etc. Eventually they would complete the interview, and he would pause, then stamp their application with the dreaded red ‘DENIED’ stamp. Of course, they could try again, but they had to wait a year before they could submit another application, and then wait to get through the process again. It would be at least another three years before they ended up back in an office, before another official. They stood up, appearing some variation of depressed, heartbroken, or just broken. He sighed, as his bonus ticked up yet again. He had the highest bonus of anyone last year, and was on track to surpass it this year. He also had the highest application denial rate of anyone in the department. The door swung closed, bringing a crushing finality to their hopes. He paused. He took a breath. The door opened. It ended as it began. Cole C.
I’d imagine them fighting each other behind closed doors. Maybe one throws a jokey punch and then the mood shifts to something a little dark and uncomfortable. Maybe eyes avert from each other or fists clench tightly. Then one pushes a little and it ignites. They swing and shove but maybe it’s somewhat quiet, like when actors dance to silence so it’s easier to overlay music later. I guess it’s light in the room, but maybe it’s dark and somewhat intimate for a group of men very insecure in their own sexuality. They have to fight then, to diffuse the sexual tension brewing beneath the shag carpet. At school they walk around douchey and stoic. They text each other where to grab lunch and about whatever sport is in season. They cherish the sanctity of situational friendships. Sometimes they feel powerful walking in their big groups, falling into different formations like birds migrating. They exclude and include each other in endless waves, never knowing who is in charge. One of them always has a broken leg or something like that. It’s always like that with those kinds of groups of boys, always on crutches or in slings. But I like to think they listen to Aimee Mann or maybe Joni Mitchell by themselves. They cried when Joan Didion died and bought an extra copy of Blue Nights. Kate W.
egyptian It is night and she is asleep the two of us leftover from pretending for the future still awake and still alive and cleaning after dinner I soap the dishes and move them through my hands to dry as you clear the table, forgetting the sponge This house is not yours, nor is it mine and still we make our way through to cabinets and things we are in search of, a plate two glasses of water and a fifty-two deck I watch you make a home from a place that has allowed me so much living I watch you learn to understand this house and its age I watch you clear the table and shuffle because I do not know how This is when I feel I know you best when the person we love most sleeps in the next room in preparation for early morning and you are shuffling the deck for another round Here I am steadied, when we emulate adulthood and set the table while she cooks and together we are eating and laughing and forgetting to fear and she is going to bed early as the two of us, accustomed to the night play a card game we once knew winning and losing and winning again This game and I have known many names and you in a testament to love have bent to the rules of both I am good at egyptian and you are better and still sometimes luck and a red ten spare me the loss
In your lives I am allowed an ease I do not yet know well enough to name at night we talk of fate and purpose and you believe you are doing what you can and I believe we are meeting again and she believes we have known each other once and figures the luck of it without resolve together knowing reason is no object Because at night we play cards and she is tucked asleep or winning without mercy or watching us halfway through the sixth round while the two of us spar with memory and luck and it is friday after dinner and we are playing cards Fig W. .
Marigolds i want to tell you so many things i wanna tell you how your name still slips off my lips as if it knows where to go even when it isn’t meant to come i wanna tell you how the sunlight hits our new car mom says at the right time it can blind you from the kitchen i like it i bet you would too i wanna tell you that people still ask about you the people we haven’t talked to in years i tell them i have to and i try to keep myself together yet every time i shatter into smaller and smaller pieces i wanna tell you that to me you never left your room still sits at the end of the hallway across from mine you never made your bed and you had so many books i put flowers on your windowsill now your favorite ones Marigolds Phaedra L.
Between a molar and a hard place Because it’s always been october, and i’ve been looking for a poppy seed kind of loving, crimson-addled, Holding on for dearness, honest to goodness, the kind you can’t quite unjam, (sour cherry) the kind that sticks fast, Ruby D.
seafoam Every tear that drops from my pale cheek to the hardwood floor transforms mid air into drops of shiny white. Every tear I shed turns iridescent as it falls, clattering when it hits the ground. When the week is done I take a bucket, bright blue like beach umbrellas we used to sit under, and round up every single pearl from the corners of my room. They clatter as they hit the bottom of that cerulean pail, loudly too so I carefully take my hand and gently place them, one by one so I don’t wake anyone. 11PM I creep out of my house, around the corner and down the street. into my little hobbit hole and through the narrow dirt hallway. I finally hear the crashing of the waves against the sand I smell the salt in the air and I know I’ve reached my destination. as the moonlight strikes my face and i feel the sand in between my bare toes i begin to call to you. I scream your name into the crashing waves And all i get in return is a mouthful of seafoam. Foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal i start to run down the shoreline. Calming creatures, calling your name. I set my bucket down in the sand and sit,
Getting sand on your favorite of my shorts. I don’t know why I hoped to see you here, Swimming or drowning, But i did, And you’re not. So one more pearl plummets to my bucket before I head back home to start again. Jojo M.
When Last Light comes—we soften— When we un-don the Stays— We prize to Breathe, the Lovers All pink for Judgement day— We grasp each Other, Taking— While walls are all ablaze Not asking—cross the Canyon Into—perdition’s Place— The citizens are wailing— Newborns—are born to die— While we parade in Darkness Into Hell’s piquant sky. Lyla B.
Katherine S.-R., Photograph
clair de lune the oceans are impossibly clear i can see my reflection: a girl with years for eyes &a memory braid she stares back at me those hands held the moon she took off a little piece to keep in her back pocket, next to two broken rings —some say she’s a hoarder i call it sentimental don’t keep for too long she’ll loosen among the waves & blur with your childhood chord skip along the shore to find her footprints, i hid the moon among them Eden F.
time machine just now i saw the soft whispers of human presence etched onto the window noses and fingertips permanently pressed because the door wouldn’t open just now my hair became a golden tangled wire lit by a sun that never shined this bright we put our dark shades towards the sky hazy fire seeped from the edges of a rounded sphere there was a feeling of particles growing on my spine and then it all grew so dark, so cold just now i turned my head towards the ground plants and worms forever dug into the soles of my cracked boots just now i thought about how much i hated flying i thought about the time i let myself fall to those depths not knowing how to stay above throat filling with a chemical chlorine cough i saw a face through the rays on the water my sunken eyes welled up in fear they closed and i could see the orange of the sky just now i knew of nothing no words, no meaning just the warmth on my toes. Léa S.-G.
Crazy Eights Number one is draped over coral, reprieving itself after a hard day of tethering. Another is hidden under the sand, Shy. The third leg is loose, dancing solo and disconnected from the fourth that knows exactly what and where it is and how it all connects. The octopus likes to think of herself as a unit: Three shared hearts despite nine separate brains. Though lately, she feels on the verge of nine bodies, So she pretends she doesn’t know what the plural of ‘octopus’ is, Afraid the power of words will be the last straw. Opposite of the fourth, the fifth is trying to find its way, While the sixth lies in wait, the self-appointed capturer of prey. (Tentacle seven (introvert) tries to hug its own body), But eight, selfless, is already doing the job. Hannah B.
Bored the everlasting grayness of boredom seeps into my bones the world drains of color sound fades from my ears the perpetual drone of life locks me in place the light in my heart flickers and dims i am resting but not at peace forever waiting for the stop light to turn green the water keeps rising but i’ve stopped struggling so i sink forever drowning in a gray sea of nothing overwhelmed and underwhelmed contentment is an old friend whose grave i cannot bear to be near so i’m on my knees hoping, praying, begging to finally drift off to oblivion Laiali T.
stinking hot and salted, smoked. harsh smells of the kitchen would make her imagine dipping her hand into the deep fryer just as a fly did once frothy yellow cocooned its whole body flies were a common complaint among the patrons whose ballooned and greasy fingers slapped them onto the walls red shaky lines running down a mish-mash of a dark body the patrons feel starvation coming on until plates and plates stacked like staircases balanced between her spidery hands float out of the kitchen with ease what happens shortly thereafter— chop-licking bone spitting teeth gnawing more eating with occasional breaks to breathe the hazy smell of their hunger seeps up from the linoleum floors into her nostrils and through the back door covering the whole earth Léa S.-G.
Wishing Well Woman
Despite stagnancy and larval dreams she reads clears in the dampness: the water of the well instead of the reflection left behind. My mother told me my grandmother used to sing three coins in a fountain in deference to the English language, the fountain with tides on the face of a well turning white where water crushes its eyelids back together, and the wishing well woman resides in the faces that grow mottled over coins from head to tail exhaling on top of metal. In her well, she tucks mildewing remnants of half yellow tree galls formed on fading green leaves of the thinning hair of empty spider webs all into bed on the water logged foam couch cushion; She waits quietly for dissolution for her slow way of coming together seated around round dining tables soft curtains of algae blooming over splotches of oil rather than in the violence of inexhaustible fountains connected to the drain. Katie L.
5 Ways of Looking at Glass: I) Colored. Thick and cold. Puddles form. I stain you with what I choose, Holding some back. II) Distracted, I lost my control over you. Staring at your broken ribs and cracked belly on the floor; you were always nothing without my hold. III) Clouded, I must rub off all that they’ve left on you. Scrubbing until I see myself. Then, I can finally see through you, to me. IV) Holding, You are. You have tended to the liquid that stays full. Your child; bearing addiction. If only you had not held him so tight all those years, for now, your arms are the messenger carrying his wrath. V) Lovingly, the scented elixir broke into pieces. I was looking for you. Not too small, not too big. Yes, you; You are just right. Jacqueline K. 44
I Remember All Summer I remember all summer All we wanted was to sit (recline) In those wooden lawn chairs Painted like a storm cloud breathing heavy, And the back tilted at an angle that We could only achieve by letting go, sinking in. Humidity would make the backs of my knees damp, And we worried the poison ivy would Crawl up our pant legs or through our socks But somehow never simply reach out to touch our fingertips. We worried even after we chopped the poison ivy down Red clippers razed the basin, and the vegetation subsided. I wanted to tell you That absence makes the heart grow fonder Between trees or piles of vines, of moonweed, Between the cicada we watched turn into a carcass, Between the (no longer red) wheelbarrow we carried together As I walked backwards up the stairs, letting you push forward. You mentioned how the Adirondack chairs were placed Sporadically but together— duets tilted at heart-shaped angles Or like ears craning to hear, but once in a while They’d turn away from each other (absence!). An ear turning away, trying to discover the mosquito interlaced between. Katie L.
She is sweet, silly, sanctimonious & sultry 80 degrees out so she’s wearing Shearling and sex. Sun and Selene around her neck and Svedka and Simon on her lips. Her hips On the left, wait, no, now the right. Tripping down 2nd Avenue at wine o’clock at night. Offered leather for her shoulders by Q and J (a pair of forbidden lovers ((her words, not mine)) who quarreled over virtuous vindictiveness) Bruce Springsteen in her legs, Oh she’s so American! French kisses on stale couches from smart Germans with good denim in her hair and a 2nd cigarette in her mouth. SEXY SADIE! Strictly brick house and business Broderick and big chests Kicking down Canal with the contrarian choir. Abby D.
Supercalifragilistic A long time ago: Birds in a V were my idols; I wanted to be Carried by the wind. Directions felt limitless; it was Even worth it to be a Fish out of water if it meant landing, Gasping, in the middle of a Heap of something new. As I child I read the dictionary from front to back, Jettisoning practicality & hoping to memorize every word in the Book; each was a Key to how I could live on the edge, Looking the steep drop in the eye. But those are Memories who have dissipated and left dust. Now: Out of all those I know, I’m now the only one who bears my last name. Parrots are stacked on my shoulders. They Query my coughing and frailty, encouraging Rest and routine. They are adamant and Stubborn, clawing out a barricade That grows stronger with each feeble Utterance I make. The day the barricade was completed, Variability vanished. Now I’m grounded in the Whowhatwherewhenwhy, whittling away time worth its weight in gold. Suddenly Xylophone is the only word (starting with x) that I can remember, and You know what comes next Hannah B.
No. 4 Seeing unclouded eyes telling her to follow the North Star when it only ever led her in circles, she bent down to bite at her knees— Pick up a flower. But it closed its eyes tight held its breath and told her Never Let Go— when god had already said that Red Wasn’t The Color Of Her Eyes. Gloves slithered fittedly around curves as they gasped final breaths and yet, to open One cabinet is to open them all. They will sit there looking at you wide-eyed Causing painful awareness of bare toes on icy tile While you realize you would’ve preferred a Drawer. Clio W.
Foxgloves when I grow up I want to be a cloud & you will find my shadow on the mountains waiting along their ridges to trace back my love. I show up like rain, once every few weeks. the leaves appear before you can hear my footsteps, your breath making shapes on the windshield as I walk towards you with the flashlight. your dog’s eyes are little moons among the acacia trees of your hometown; they circle us, discovering blooms in every direction. tonight we drive down route five. you cut the engine and it’s so dark we climb down from memory to listen to the rivers sing in a language we do not understand & for a second I am a force of nature; I am a thing that has never learned shame, that can never fit into one shape, a thing that breaks & breaks & breaks & knows that this has always been the way of things, deep in the obsidian of its heart. Katherine S.-R.
making a smoothie He making an attempt for substance to be eaten (rather, drinken) before departure to school. he, in his worn out Loved lounge pants (adorned with bare strings and growing holes) and some graphic tee advertising a favorite band (he threw his head back and forth in his twenties). untangling the wire he plugged it into the outlet. he turned the glass blender (rusty at the blades) onto the base. the top was sitting to the side on the counter (it would remain clean. he preferred to constantly stir getting out the chunks top open with some wooden spoon that used to be his mother’s).
bending over, pulling hard to open the freezer and retrieving frozen fruits ice crystals coating every piece (if only they could be larger i could turn them into earrings). he took out orange juice milk (the mixture was perfect) and his special edition (he would always ask Us if we liked it) peanut butter. we always said no. tossing everything into the blender (spooning peanut butter in cleaning the spoon with his finger) he started to blend. it was early. maybe too early. Mirabelle P.
I’m Full of Bees Who Died at Sea, It’s a Wonderful Life The waves slamming themselves upon rocks tell me of their restlessness. But I had already heard it from the moon, the same time he told me of the xanthic sun taking leave. The waves laying within their foam allow my toes curiosity as I keep my way towards the horizon. I am almost there. I swear. And I could have sworn my eyelashes grew enough to reach the sun in time, but the sun has set and she has yet to pull me with her. “I need to go,” buzzes near my right pointer finger, ready to take me along. They wish to help but my weight would be only on their journey. I couldn’t do that to myself. But each bee files into me. My gut, my toes, my neck, all chattering with their vibrating buzz as they lift me up off my feet without warning. As I let it happen, I think of wonderful things instead of the great cascading water beneath me. If I had chosen, I would have flown above the clouds– a buffer between death and I. With the thin ice I’m on, I bend it towards life as best I can. But as the horizon closes in, I try to keep my eyes upon it, willing it to be my final thought instead of the great cascading waters enclosing on top of me. As my lungs fill with liquid among the humming, I think of this wonderful life. The bees exit my body, leaving my soul anchored down to the tendered sand. Clio W.
The Distance Between Us The distance between us is a tangible thing. I hear it in your laugh, I see it in your smile. Your digitally altered sobs, your tense avoidances. The distance between us is a tangible thing, and I want to gather it in my hands until I can feel all of it at once, each mile, each inch, and pull it up all together, one long lifetime, and squeeze it around my throat. The distance between us is a tangible thing. I feel it in your thousand-pace hugs, the nights I call you crying from the train platform. Some days I think it would be easiest to pack myself up and mail myself to you, and I could live in a little huddle underneath your bed with you. I’ll go with you to all your classes, meet all your friends, pray with you, write your notes for you. I’ll do whatever to bury this distance between us. The whole of it is so long that it wouldn’t all fit in a single coffin, and I’ll dig a hole in the ground far enough to China so I can bury it. I will not weep at its funeral. I will laugh with your arm around me. We will rejoice in each other’s embrace. I will give a eulogy of every inside joke we ever made, and it will be a day of sunlight. But I worry that when we finally rid ourselves of this tangible distance between us, part of us, too, will die; something that made us distinct. When the distance between us is gone we will just be standing alone in the trees together, feeling the same sunlight on our skin for the first time, breathing the air from your lungs into mine. I will pause, and it is only then that I will weep because there will be a time when the sun goes down and we watch the sunset together, and I will soak my tears through your scars, and I will bury myself in your ribs. Your smile will drip with tears, and you will dig your nails into my collarbone. We will pull ourselves together. We will steal paint from the dollar store and tattoo our names on each other’s cheeks. We will try to speak only in Latin and waver after the first sentence, forgetting all we painstakingly memorized that year. And all that will matter to us will be each other, and I will cup your head with my palms, feeling each inch of your freckled skin, as tangible as the forgotten distance between us once was, and collapse into the grass with you holding my hand. When the ticker runs out, I will watch you fade away, kicking, screaming, forced backward into oblivion as the distance swallows us whole. Margot S. 53
Orchestra Poem It is incommunicable. The feeling I get The goosebumps I feel The rosy garden I enter, under the soft twilight. When I hear an orchestra. Defeats and triumphs, all in the same bar. There are turbulent trumpets And proud piccolos every next page. Angels carry me up to a fluttering flute. Getting higher and higher every next note. The violin greets me hello, While the piano wishes me goodbye. My heart falls deeper and deeper into the trombone’s bell. Oh sweet, soft, strong symphony. Keep marching on. Isabelle C.
Out on a Saturday Out on a Saturday, ice on the ground, And a green sofa beside a glossy dresser and a stack of children’s clothes. I think to myself: For free: baby shoes. Good as new. Later, at the corner of Henry, I find a table, a printer, and a box of kitchen tools. Across the road is an entire mattress, wrapped in plastic, An empty raft in a place without storms. Second-hand goods on this street will collect snow and then dust and then rain: Fruits and flowers bloom in their seasons, And then they are gone; The neighbors don’t cling to things. They are there and then not, Traded to no one for something new but never precious, Left out on some street corner, With no fingerprints to trace. On the way home, I stop to rest on the sofa, even put my feet up. It’s a little strange, but I wonder if this couldn’t be a little home of its own, If it wasn’t winter, If I could somehow carve windows in the gust of wind before me, And look out upon a day like today, At a patch of someone’s stuff In shades of green. Caroline H.
Greetings from Shining New York—Postcard Back Home ffom Baby Gust–a Young Trade Wind Hi, Mom. It’s me, Baby Gust. I made it here all by myself, just like you said I would. I didn’t believe you. Thought I would break down, dissipate Into water and clouds, Or passing on to the atmosphere Like my brothers did But I made it Though I got a bit twisted on my way; I got caught in a storm, And I felt so free I spinned, tornadoing, 100 knots The little raindrops laughed their Tittering baby laugh And I understood what you meant when you said Let yourself dance with nature It was a hot night, all of us together Swirling against the infinite black sky The waves even came out, with their Old-timey moves and tufts of white hair I even touched a lightning bolt I know you said they’re dangerous, mom But she was so beautiful– Electric, yellow, so in control. Don’t worry, though The stars watched us, winking 56
That wise wink that only they can pull off They’re everyone’s sentinels– You know what I mean I swung through the palm trees in Tortola And tickled the sand, played with the sunshine waves But then I veered north, And now I’m moving around this big, silver city I found. So it’s a lot more than a hop, skip and a Jump over the Atlantic But I feel like a bigger wind now, more powerful. I’m growing up, mom; gaining my force. The people here are different than Back home in the Med– They wear their jackets thick, they Choke themselves in tangled yarn Their cheeks turn pink whenever I Whisper to them. It’s hilarious. And there’s this cousin of the rain She only stays up here, so you’ll have to Come see her for yourself. She’s unlike anyone I’ve ever seen before; beautiful, youthful, and whiter than a flock of doves She’s delicate, but her strength is unmatched; And she’s the most wonderful pacifist I’ve ever known Her voice is soft like a lily, and she leaves cities speechless
We’ve become quite close She’s a great dance partner, mom; I throw her high into the air, And she cascades down, all lacy-ribbony and grace The people are all in love with her But she only comes for short trips Then she’s gone the next morning Without a kiss goodbye. I’m sending all the goosebumps your way; Come visit. I miss you, mom. All my love, Baby Gust Lyla B.
Hair Ties When I was a child I used to ruin my sister’s hair ties. It was an insignificant act of defiance so small she would probably never realize it was me. In fact she probably would never realize at all since I only did this one at a time. But I made sure to devastate the best ones: the ones that stretched out just enough to wrap around her ponytail three times without being too tight. When she yelled at me or hit me or called me ugly I wanted to do something, no matter what that something was. So on multiple occasions I found myself wandering into our bathroom and peering into the yellow dish she kept her hair ties in. I’d then take four or so and first scan them for imperfections. If the ends had begun to fray or a string was out of place It wasn’t good enough for my retribution. So I’d take the remaining and stretch them around my hand to find whichever one was best. Then I would take the pair of scissors on my side of the dresser and snip that last perfect hair tie in half. The joy I felt at this was unwarranted. I look back and think I should have felt guilty. But instead I felt proud. Here was an inconvenience I had caused her. She would suffer because of me. I had to hold in my laughter. I had to be cautious. So afterwards I would carefully wound the tattered hair tie in tissues. My scheme would be uncovered if she were to find any evidence in the trash. So I made sure that from whatever angle she might look through no hair tie was visible. I even went through the trouble of flushing them down the toilet once or twice. But I was always worried they would emerge if it ever got clogged. Eventually I settled on throwing them in a neighbor’s trash can on my way to school. That way, if they were ever discovered, she would have no proof that it was me. Although this was time consuming and the stress of being caught began to pile on it was always worth it when she noticed. She wore a ponytail almost everyday. The days she didn’t were entirely due to me. She’d walk to the kitchen fidgeting with her long blonde hair asking “does anyone have a hair tie?” and we’d all say no because she was the only one who wore them. “God, where do they keep going?” And I’d smile because I knew. And she deserved it. She deserved to have her hair get caught in her zipper as she threw on her coat. She deserved to 59
go to school with it down even though her boyfriend thought she looked better with her hair up. She deserved to have her hair fly into her face as she biked home until she couldn’t see. Maybe she even deserved to crash. Sadie G.
Silver Shoes It wasn’t long ago that I was standing on this very monument with a water gun, at the annual end-of-the-school-year water gun fight. I was ten years old: bright, adorable, annoying, filled with potential to be anyone I wanted to be. I was wearing a blue tank top because I liked the way it looked, blue shorts because I thought they were comfortable, silver sandals because I thought they were pretty, and my hair tied back because I wanted it like that. And that was that. I had a mirror in my bathroom but I never looked at it. I had a phone in my back pocket but I never looked at it. I had voices inside my head but I never listened to them; I couldn’t even hear them. Tonight the park is filled with people: men walking their dogs, old women jogging, couples making out on benches only five feet apart, and teenagers – lots of them – pretending to be people they aren’t. It’s cold and dark but the temperature isn’t low enough for anyone to care and the surrounding lampposts provide enough light so I can just barely see the makeup on everyone’s faces. I am wearing a white tank top because it covers my stomach, black jeans because he complimented them once, white shoes because everyone else has them, and my hair loose because it was straightened at the salon. At ten years old you don’t believe all the random old people when they say you’re living in the “good old days”: “Look at that skin!” — “Look at that cute little body!” — “I wish I could go back.” — “Enjoy it while you can.” At ten years old you think they’re obnoxious and silly and wrinkly and sappy. At ten years old every day is new and bright and maybe your mom picks out your clothes and the thought of your grandparents don’t sadden you and your favorite people don’t die and you can eat whatever you want without your head hurting. I am still young. I know I am still young. But now as I stand on the monument looking over the park where I once ran around with a yellow water gun – cartwheeling, screaming, laughing, and not giving a fuck – I know they’re not wrong. Those sappy silly wrinkly adults. Katie E.
Thisbe W., Nai-Nai and her Sons, Hard Pastel
Today’s Top Story in Vermont I once knew a man had who made a house out of books Every one one he owned Placed They were bonded to be bricks like shuffling cards And he needed no windows Orwell had told him Good prose was like a window pane He had a refined palate for books He could use any one he had Although he used Dickinson Almost every page dog eared The slight gaps in pages let air and light in His goal was to live in this house for a week Without reaching for a book If he pulled one out he would be crushed It was not to prove anything about literature to society It was a game for himself The thrill of willpower After ten hours he was deceased His craving for books did not kill him The gas stove he had installed burnt it all down
Letter of Excusal Hi, Ms. Garner! Please excuse Jack’s absence. He woke up this morning and wouldn’t stop throwing up. Initially I was concerned by the color and smell of the throw up (It was red and smelled like a fresh earring back), so I did some research on WebMD. The internet says he might have internal bleeding but I always tell Jack not to trust everything he reads online, so I’ll do the same. We are going to the doctor later for a check up. Jack only threw up once, so I have a feeling he’s fine! I set him up in the living room with a metal bowl in case he throws up again, and Avatar the Last Airbender on the TV. I think Jack threw up because he’s nervous about going to class. All the boys have begun growing leg hair and he feels left out. I told him not to worry, it’s natural for him to go through puberty after all the other boys. His father is a late bloomer and I didn’t get my period until I was seventeen. I know Jack is short and a bit pudgy, but eventually he will even out and all the ladies will want him. I’m currently writing this email to avoid talking to my boss. A few coworkers have raised complaints about my mask wearing tendencies. I think they are out of line. I only take off my mask if I’m eating or drinking, and of course if I’m talking, walking upstairs, or doing any physical activity. I always wear it at my desk, though. I’m not wearing it right now but that’s only because I had lunch 15 minutes ago and I need to digest my food. My son tells me you came to class with a hickey last week. I’d love to hear all about that. We should get drinks sometime! Are you single? :p My son told me you aren’t married. Girl power!! My husband is away for the next week and if Jack feels better by Friday, he’s spending the night at a friend’s house. You should come over! Let me know. I’ll email you after I talk to my boss to let you know what he says. Thanks, I really needed this. Best, Elizabeth Emilia M.
A Note on Strategy There are two types of people in the world: those who love and those who game. This unfortunate dichotomy makes for a never-ending chess match. The lover makes charitable plays since he’s already ahead and he’d like to keep the board somewhat level. But the gamer knows only how to game so every move is treated with incredible calculus. His strategizing is ultimately for naught because he loses every time. He thinks his record is a result of his flawed strategy. He’s right, in a way, but not because his knight’s capturing the rook made him vulnerable. He’s right because every move he makes is tainted by his corroding mind. The lover takes pity. His king and queen are side by side at the end of the game. Genetically modified chachas and whowhos are queen and kingless. Designer babies, Beyond Meat, and EDM are made by the gamers. They have overthought an appropriately complex world in the hopes that someway, somehow, they can undo the complexity with algorithms and amalgamation. I found the gamers tied up in webs of thumbtack-secured red string pulled wide across the world. They ensnare river and road, house and home, man and mung bean. They climb, breaking records and chilling crowds and mystifying ministers everywhere. They take pawn after pawn, bishop, rook, and knight. And they chase the lovers around the board for a while, slowly and slower. Predictably, they lose. TREND CYCLES: FLASHBACK TO FARRAH FAWCETT Bored of neons and pit vipers? Get groovy for a 70s revival! Flared jeans and band tees are far out! There is a regression every few years when attempts at innovation prove to lack longevity. The gamers reevaluate and pivot, writing and employing the rules of a new handbook. They appeal to the logos of an audience held captive by flashing lights that tell of skyrocketing efficiency rates and synthetic somethings that will heal your booboo and wash your car and by golly, it will also feed your dog! Your dog, who has received no genuine love because you are chronically calculating
how long it will take poor Fido to take a shit and a lap around the block so that you can, as quickly as possible, get back to work at a company that pays you to write ads for carcinogenic soap that really ought to say BIO-DEBATABLE on the label. And at the end of the day you have practically nothing because you bought a subscription from some As Seen On TV supplement that tastes like purple and makes you stare at a screen better and it killed your paycheck then your liver and you drowned in medical bills and said it wasn’t your fault and that they plotted to kill you. Even high off those purple pills, you were overthinking the strategy. Once you’re in that hospital bed, all of those pseudo-scientific calculations you’d made over the years were truly for nothing because in a room of beeps and drips and cleaning solutions, you have no line of defense. You have no kingsmen, no right hand. You’re alone, and cannot game anymore. What could you do? There are two types of people in the world. Abby D.
A Pretty Stranger I’m staring at a girl at a cafe. She’s pretty, simply pretty. She’s effortlessly pretty. Her hair, curly, falls down to her shoulders. It bounces when she moves her head. A waitress walks up to her, and asks her what she would like from the menu. A chocolate croissant, and a hot chocolate please. I can tell from her order that she likes sweets. I wonder if she likes to dip the croissant in the hot chocolate. She looks intimidating, but I guess that’s what being beautiful comes with. She reaches into the tote bag that’s hanging from her chair and pulls out a book. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh. A dark comedy that can say a lot about the person reading it. Is she reading it because she saw it trending on social media? Or is she real, does she think for herself? Did she see it in a quaint bookstore in the village and pick it up because of its cover, with its neon pink title that contrasts with the renaissance painting? Or did she read the back of the book and become intrigued? So intrigued that she sat in the quaint bookstore and read 50 pages before she realized she had been sitting there for an hour, reading a book she never paid for? I wonder. She reads, I can tell she’s about halfway through the book. She’s a very expressive thinker, I see. Every couple of minutes she makes a face, or smiles, or laughs. She looks up every once in a while at the counter across the cafe, probably wondering where her croissant and hot chocolate are. She looks down at the book, and like clockwork the waitress walks swiftly out of the swinging white door behind the counter and right up to her table. She doesn’t even look up as her order is placed on her table, and only realizes it’s there once it’s pushed in front of her. Thanks, she says. She puts the book back in her tote bag (it’s a black bag that repeats “Protect Mother Earth” on it like a “Have A Nice Day” plastic bag), and pulls out a claw clip and a hair tie. She’s going to put her hair up? I’m sure with as much hair as she has it must get in the way. But it’s so pretty, the way it bounces. It falls flat, but has so much volume. She wraps the hair tie around her hair into a low ponytail, twists the hair tie three times around. Pulls it tight. Then she wraps her ponytail around in her hand twice, so that it’s twisted to-
wards the base but still curly towards the end. She tilts her head down a bit, takes the claw clip, and pins the twisted part to the back of her head. The curly ends fall on top of the clip. This gives me a chance to look at her jawline, so sharp, like it’s been carved from marble. She lifts her head up after she’s sure the clip is secure. We make eye contact. She’s looking at me. She smiles. Then looks away and scrolls on her phone as she begins to eat her croissant and hot chocolate. That delicate smile made my heart beat faster and my palms sweaty. I have to wipe them on my jeans. She was just being friendly, smiling at a stranger whose eye she caught, who she has probably already forgotten about. I will remember, though. I will remember her, even if she doesn’t remember me. Angelique R.
They never made it big. Never teased their hair into spikes atop their heads, never got the chance to wear enough eyeliner to scare a small child. They got the guitar, the bass, a cheap drum set, an untalented but attractive vocalist. They bought CDs to burn, safety pins to modify clothing, contemplated dying their hair. Kim’s mom, who was generally liked but known to take the “cool mom” shtick a bit too far, said that they didn’t commit enough. They toyed with the idea of walking the walk, talking the talk, but in their heart of hearts they knew they could never commit to the look. They only had one real “jam sesh” as Kim’s mom called it, and even they could tell they weren’t great. Sure Nora was a talentis flutist, but she didn’t have a natural inclination towards the electric bass. Kevin had been to a concert at CBGB’s, and this seemed to qualify him to be their manager. What he was supposed to manage was unclear– they didn’t exactly have the most extensive discography. Nevertheless, Kevin assumed the role with gusto– he abandoned his usual khakis for skinny jeans. He tried his best to wear muscle tees, but found that his arms got cold and the rough fabric made his eczema flare up. What they lacked in talent they made up for in teenage anger and angst, and besides, wasn’t that the most important part? They grew up to be bankers and teachers, mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles. They never made it big, but most people didn’t anyway. Abi W.
When I walk in the bathroom all I can think is how pretty I look like this. My features are worn from too much work and not enough sleep; my fingers are bruised from banging them on my piano keys; my hair is half out of its tie, mussed from laying on the small of my back too often. I feel fuzzy and dizzy, though I’ve had nothing to drink, and I think this high must be on melancholy and television and overwork and strawberry ice cream. I feel so strange, like all of my limbs could just float away, like I could just drop the spoon right out of my hand and it would shatter, or I could drop the pen across my textbook pages and the ink would bleed through the table. And in these moments, I can’t help but reach for you. I have so many things to say to you and no idea what any of them are, because you are so perfect and untouchable and unreachable and you seem to like talking to me and I seem to like talking to you but when the going gets tough and I think I’m finally ready to be honest, the words slip from my mouth like magnets off the tiles and and I don’t know what to tell you even though I’ve never been more sure that right now there is something I should be telling you. In death there is truth and in this feeling there is truth and I have a sense that there is something I’m keeping that needs to be confessed, that needs to be admitted to you before the clock rings midnight but I took one step too far and now it’s forty past and I think you’re asleep so I will dream of leaving a message on your answering machine and then breaking in to delete it before the sun rises. Sometimes I wonder if how I feel about you has less to do with you and more to do with me and my own desperate need for something; not love, not happiness, not peace but something, something I can’t speak of. And it’s in moments like this that I think maybe I’ve fulfilled that need, when my cheeks are ripe and my lips are pink and glossy and the night is ticking away under the stars, the fog clearing to show the moon. I hope that when I wake up in the morning I will still be as pretty as this; maybe my hair will be a little too mussed and my lips will be cracked and bloodless from sleep and my skin won’t have that dewy pink look that only comes from staying up too late after only running on six hours of sleep. But maybe I will be pretty tomorrow in my own way, too. And I hope that when I wake up in the morning you will still be there too, and maybe the magnets will stick this time. Margot S.
The Scorpion and the Frog I’ve always wished my favorite color wasn’t blue If you ask me I’ll lie about it Rather well too It’s a quintessential question really creating a basis for your reputation Foundation for the house if you will ‘What’s your favorite color?’ Royal and hardworking purple can be trusted for most occasions, A reliable second stepping up to help out I turn to red when I’m sicker with sin Perfect for checkers, blackjack, or an unknown body But deep down I know I’ve always known It’s blue Am I talking about the cute blip of a blueberry basket Or the bluish-gray eyes in my mirror becoming More and more unrecognizable every day Or even the unending ocean smashing all pride back into a bruised and sandy poem Maybe I’m on about The inclining sky Meditative today, destructive tomorrow And suddenly your house is gone This blue that never leaves me A tear tearing time
Spiraling raindrop to dewdrop Until it’s nothing more than mist We’re at the river, for a moment Ferrying the idealistic and altruistic frog As I grab him from my back Him pulling me into the water Sting him Beg him for mercy Butcher him Cry out in vain For no reason other than My unchanging dualistic nature that allows me to lie to everyone but myself About such a simple thing: My favorite color And the feeling of blue Jack Allen G.
Stuck I. (elevator) It was bound to happen at some point. The school elevators were barely elevators; more like antique wooden boxes shakily strung about on aging cables. It’s just that it happened to break down at the worst possible moment – Jamie had to get to class, Isabel had a meeting, and Fred needed to get to the library computers. Johnny, who had nowhere to be at the moment, would have been oddly unbothered by the whole situation, if not for the pressing fact that two minutes after the elevator came to a grinding halt he registered that he really had to pee. II. (freezer) Unfortunately, everybody in the kitchen forgot to tell the new cook that the walk-in freezer locked from the outside too, so she didn’t think to take her keys in with her when she came in looking for meat. It wasn’t until three hours after she was gone that the pastry chef decided to look in the freezer, where he found her, clutching an equally frozen leg of lamb. III. (date) “So what do you like to do in your free time?” “Oh, I’m glad you asked,” he replied, with a smile. “I work at the animal shelter!” She lit up. “I love animals!” “Me too,” he said, then added: “But sadly, I work there as the euthanizer.” Seryn K.
Slowly Dying in the Condiment Aisle in a Costco Concrete floors stretch out so far in every direction Cold and dead, pressed up against my cold dead face. Steel rafters stretch out so high above me Making me too small to make a sound. No one can hear my shallow, ragged breaths As I gasp for air. Fluorescent lights beat down on me, Pounding into my skull, making my skull pound. This is a jungle without life. Someone could spend their entire life here Without living. Unconscious eyes swivel, avoiding me As I struggle to find footing, As I collapse onto a wall of ketchup bottles And the bottles fly. Luckily I’m alone so no one mocks me for my failures. No one sees my tears and spit mixing on the concrete Pathetically. Luckily I’m alone so no one is around to help me to my feet Or to touch me with a warm, living embrace. Years from now, When man has long since died And God has long since been forgotten This place will still stand proudly, A testament to the greatness of our species. When rapture descends upon the world,
All Death will find will be Costcos. Mechanical labyrinths with no minotaur or treasure, Mechanical fortresses with no soldiers or kings. Long after life ceases to blemish this perfect world, These racks of ketchup bottles will remain, And Something will come searching for me Among these condiments But I am long since dust. Dashiell B.-T.
To Whom It May Concern at Dick’s Sporting Goods I am a concerned father of three young children writing to you about your questionable choice in business name and branding. Every time I bring my boys to the shopping center, I have to pass by your giant white sign screaming “DICKS” as I attempt to find a parking spot. I’m so unnerved by your vulgar sign pulsating in my face that my palms sweat and I can’t grip the steering wheel properly and it makes it really hard to find parking fast enough. What’s worse is that my oldest, who just turned ten, has started yelling “DICKS!” every time we pass by the store, and as I’m trying to find a parking spot I simultaneously have to chastise him for his language while also making sure my younger ones don’t get the joke. I cringe to think about the day that my oldest will take it too far and I will have to explain the meaning of your crass business name to the rest of my children. Your store has turned a wholesome Saturday of father-son family fun into a phallic parental nightmare. Yes, I am aware that there’s an apostrophe in the sign that denotes its possessive nature, but it’s simply too small for common sense to read it as anything other than “DICKS”, and I’ll have you know that my wife agrees with me. And yes, I have a wife because I am heterosexual. Many have accused me in the past of projecting latent homosexuality due to my irritation at your company name, as well as my previous letters of complaint to Dickie’s and Johnson & Johnson, but I assure you that I am a happily married heterosexual father of three who is simply concerned for the protection of children from such public vulgarities as “DICKS”. As an all-American, happily heterosexually married father of three, there is nothing I would like more than to bring my boys into your store to buy fishing rods, fireworks, and BB guns. But, I cannot, in good conscience, do that until you do something about your inappropriate logo. I suggest you change the name or make the font smaller or just make the lights dimmer. And if you can’t do any of that, then at the very least, for the love of God, make the apostrophe larger! Seryn K.
The Water and Me I feel the cool blue water against my feet. The water slowly climbs up my back and flows through my hair. Suspended in the deep, Gravity gone from my frame, Just the water and me. My body moves and drifts, Draped in liquid sheets, water fills me. This is where I go to escape from reality, Where I feel alive. Just the water and me. .
Eli B., Photograph
On Lockdown the sink filled. droplets slowly releasing from the faucet’s molding mouth, minute by minute, creating ripples that spread and graze the very corners of the toothpaste-stained bowl. the streets bare, desolate, besides a lone tennis ball that bounces down a sunkissed sidewalk, the neon blending together with the vibrance the rays echo down. bubbles burst through the air with each bung. a man, his knees bent, staring at all that lays beneath him, a balcony that exists purely for relief suspended in the air the ceiling fan in his bedroom twisting slowly, its power dwindling until it comes to a halt. synchronized doves that paddle through the sky with their open hands. stark, so stark, that the people must admire, as they perch themselves on the edges of their roofs, their shoulders cloaked with textured shawls to protect them from the outside. Anaka P. 79
When It Rains It’s raining again on Decatur Street— the kind of long raindrops that play gentle notes against the skylight and do not sting the skin. The Bedfords, all six of them, apprehensive of the weather, sit in silence. In the parlor, the new maids are dusting everything, again. Angela Bedford is sick and tired of living with so much dust all the damn time. She’s quite on edge these days, worried that James is worried she’s gotten older, and, worse still, feeling herself aging more than ever. She’s very busy with the renovation. They’re buying up properties left and right. The market hasn’t been this saturated since— well, it’s never been like this. It’s a fantastic time to live in New York. “School!” James says, and three of the children rise obediently. “It’s going to be a lovely day. I don’t even know what they’ve got prepared for you over there. I bet it’s something really special.” James affords his children every privilege. They attend one of the best schools in the country— in the world, really. Though he does not pick favorites, he sees himself in the eldest— his light blue eyes and wise solemnity. Only ten years old, he’s already reading Proust in his English class. The youngest he lifts from beneath the arms and places by the door. “Shoes,” he says loudly in her ear. Her education is costing him more each year than the three boys’ put together. “You know,” says Angela, flipping through one of the colorful journals fanned on the coffee table, untouched by prospective guests since last spring’s editions were published, “I don’t think I’ve read a single poem I liked in— a long time.” “We can get rid of them. Lord knows the mail isn’t coming as it used to.” James will have to put the girl’s raincoat on first, then the boys’, and then hers again. Otherwise she’ll wander off. It just goes to show one shouldn’t be having children so late in life. Well, she wanted a daughter. “Listen— “Rainwater Summer.” “Under the Manhattan Bridge, Sheltering from the Rain.” “When It Rains, It Pours—” could they have been slightly more interesting? I understand it’s topical—” “I hate topical art.” She’s escaped again— luckily, not out the door this
time. The younger boys have shoved her in the upstairs closet. The eldest has got his boots on. “Yes, so do I. I just—” “That brute Morrison was on last night again. Talking about uprisings, uprisings. Stop that! He practically ordered those lunatics to round up everyone who cut them off at an intersection and start drawing and quartering.” “Yes, he was gloating at us, just gloating—” “Well, I don’t have a problem with it. He lives in Boston, you know! He’ll be next, they’ll be next for certain.” “Yes, I suspect you’re—” “All right! You’ve put your boots on? Good. Into the car— Goodbye, darling. I’ll be home late tonight— I’ve already told Diana to pick them up, have the car brought around— remind her it’s not too bad today but that they still need to wear their jackets— you never know what’s on the horizon— all right! Let’s— goodbye, darling—” James opens the inner door and kisses his wife on the cheek. With a sharp shove he knocks the children into the vestibule. The chauffeur opens the outer door. Angela watches as the five of them huddle into the backseat of the long, low, heavy vehicle. Then the outer door shuts and she is left with the hum of a vacuum in a distant corner of the house and the piano-like ringing of the rain above her head. She thinks absently again that the Chinese torturers are wearing away at their home one drop at a time. “Diana!” The woman scurries into the room, small and ugly, in a brilliantly white uniform. “Remember that you’ve got to pick up the children today. And remember that it’s raining again. And Robert made a mess of his breakfast. Please clean that before lunch.” “Yes, ma’am.” She’s quite stocky, Angela thinks, and not young at all. “Diana! Turn on the news, please.” Angela walks upstairs, admiring the woodwork again. It’s a miracle, she thinks, that she has been lucky enough to build such a beautiful thing with her hands. The house stretches almost the full length of the block now. With any luck, the holdouts on the corner will flee soon— she’s spending more time at that 81
end recently, with the new construction men, and has overheard a few squabbles— the husband just can’t take it anymore, he just can’t take it, and the wife is absolutely drowning— the new construction men are much quieter than the last crew— they’re just grateful to the two of us, James says. The weather report is a sudden explosion of noise, much too loud. IN OTHER NEWS— “Diana, turn it down!” —IT’S RAINING AGAIN. IT’S NOT SO BAD TODAY— “Diana! Turn it down!” —CHRIST, MAYBE I SHOULD RETIRE. MAYBE WE ALL SHOULD— —BOB, GET A grip. We’re on— —I know we’re on, damnit— The girl rushes into the sitting room, despairingly apologetic. Angela motions her away. —It was Bill just last week— —When it rains it pours— One of the weathermen lets out a harsh laugh— a soft scream, really, and then heavy breaths. Perhaps he begins to cry. “Off, Diana! Turn it off!” The noise shuts off at once. That girl has learned a valuable lesson today, Angela thinks. Then she thinks: Maybe she’ll take a nap. No, it’s too early. After lunch, perhaps. But there’s just so little to do. She wanders upstairs to their first bedroom. Out the window, through her reflection, the storm hangs low and omnipresent, gargantuan. His gray arms embrace the city. They ought to have more visitors, Angela thinks— at least for the children. Lord knows she can’t keep cooped up here herself for much longer. The black canvas of the television hangs invitingly over the bed, freshly made. As she moves to shut the door, she notices the old cleaners, polishing the floor of the old library. They do not look up at her. “Acabo de verla. La bruja.” “Bueno. Dios te bendiga.” 82
“Escuchaste lo fuerte que la Mexicana puso la radio—” “No la llames así.” “Dye an uh.” “Si la hubiéramos conocido antes, nos habría comprado y trabajaríamos en un campo de concentración.” “¡Ya lo sé!” “Vivimos como reyes ahora.” “Reyes que enceran los pisos tanto que pueda ver mi reflejo todo el dia.” “Saben que le deben sus vidas, ¿no? Que si no—” “La comeré antes de mostrarle una pizca de gratitud.” “Y después de comerla, ¿qué? ¿Qué vamos a comer?” “Es una mansión llena de comida.” “Es una prisión.” “Lo que dije yo.” “Si para de llover, estaremos muertos. No se puede vivir en esta ciudad.” “¿A mi qué me importa? No ha parado de llover en dos años. Vamos a comerlos a todos.” Miles G.
The sky was a flat gray today. A woman, around seventy-five, paced around her garden in a series of circles. One loop around the eggplant crop, one around the parsley, one around the chives, and so on. She glanced up at the sky, muttering under her breath about the possibility of rain today. She stooped down over a row of tomatoes and ran her thumb over the smooth, round skins. A drop of rain fell on a green tomato, and as it settled, the woman made a tsk tsk sound with her tongue the way she might to a child misbehaving. She turned her gaze up at the sky again, and was greeted by a sprinkling of raindrops on her wrinkled face, with one mischievously landing in her rheumy left eye. The woman stood up in a panic, her knees and ankles crackling in the process. She hobbled across the garden, onto the red stoop with the paint peeling off, and into a squat, decrepit structure she called her home. The woman sat down at a wooden table in the center of the main room. Its grandeur seemed out of place in her cramped habitat, and its finish and beautifully carved legs stood out from the strewn books and candles that surrounded the table. The ferocity of the storm increased minute by minute, rain pounding relentlessly against the windows, demanding to be let in. The woman cried out and waved her arms wildly, screaming at the squall to leave her property alone. Outside, the wind whistled and thrashed about the conifers at the entrance of the woman’s garden. She pounded her fists against the polished top of the table, still protesting against the havoc the storm was wreaking. Eventually, she acquiesced, and the sound of rain pounding against the windows lulled her to sleep. When she woke up, the storm had stopped. She stood up from the table and hobbled back outside. The storm had decimated her garden, and only faint marks of each crop remained. She circled the location of where each crop had been. One loop around where the corn crop was, one around where the mint had been, one around where her beloved tomatoes had been planted, and so on. The sky was the gentle pink of dawn, and streaked with clouds. Hannah B.
some things in life will always come before you where did you get that? she asked me, wrist barren, white to the summer light it was a semicolon upon my skin a continuation of when i think i had scratched myself raw and promised i had sworn in breathy whispers i’d never touch myself with such cruelty again. only attempted kindness. only an attempt to continue where you left off the bruise after the break was for the colorful bandaids i used to collect cause i always knew i’d have to use ‘em eventually. summer sky is: a clear day and the smell of rot and the thrill of falling off. you always knew my plans but you left me alone anyways you let me climb through my battered heart till i found the seed at the top of it and i didn’t even know it but as i leaned over the crumbling railing trying to hide the roses bloomed beneath me. rust induced parentheses and my shoulder pads i always wear to bulk myself up could never shield me from the cold. even as i ran outside and heard the swing scream i always thought 85
wooden chairs and green, green gardens felt like home. have you been here? i am an orchid in the greenhouse a flower that blooms by tearing itself apart. Ed L.
History, Unresearched In 1066, my (many times) great grandfather did something. I think it was warlike. In 1066, the Battle of Hastings was fought, and the Angles fell to the Saxons: Anglo-Saxon. In 1066, Sir William de Birdwell smeared war paint on his bearded face and charged into a fray of Angles. I think Sir William de Birdwell was my (many times) great grandfather. In 1067, Sir William de Birdwell sat on the bank of the river Thames and stared at his reflection In 1067, as he stared, he thought to himself how cruel it had been to be a soldier in 1066 In 1067, as he thought, an otter floated on its back down the river, holding a nut on its belly to nibble at In 1067, as he watched, the otter delicately raised a paw as though to wave at him; the world fell silent In 1067, as he gaped, the otter slid beneath the glassy surface, gliding away—and Sir William de Birdwell, exhausted by grime and dirtied by war and sin, silently wept. 956 years later, I find myself wondering what color his hair was, and answering:
red, like my brother’s. I find myself wondering whether his cheeks crinkled when he smiled, or whether his cheeks crinkled when he cried, and answering: yes, they did. And I find myself uncovering a picture of Sir William de Birdwell: dirty, yes, but beautiful too. He certainly was a man to be remembered. Max K.
Michael F., Rainbow Friends
a home twisted black metal bending and arching and holding me not noticing the dusted layer of the rail or the vine that desperately climbs up fingers stretch towards her doorway summers where her door would grow from the heat where we had to keep it open where our sandaled sunburnt toes got bitten by mosquitoes discs of music pull my head back and forth hips and legs all up in air trampolines and sound machines her heart would tremble in agreement the wood floor jumping up and down lifting my tired bones that slept listen to the way she breathes—her walls creaking doors growing footsteps and windows and cup your hand against her skin and listen to the bones of her foundation shake and the water running through her— this is hers—not mine, not yours. her 16 years of sounds stacked up inside me, each layer a ring of an onion each one making me cry big salted tears—the ones i used to lick off my face when they reached my mouth. Léa S.-G.
&slyly by we go Looking for vermillion &split nail beds &earth’s damp disco whore &looking for any kind of landing strip— but November is for satellites. so the ocean will have to do. Ruby D.
infinity i have been to the end of infinity it is a great emptiness, loneliness it could use some throw pillows Leo G.
Lola G., Nyx
What Uma Knew Identity is most certain in your dreams, and most uncertain when you wake up. At least, that’s what Uma’s mother tells her when Uma recounts her recurring nightmare of witches bringing her down the staircase on a bed of lily pads, dripping pond water in New York. Uma notices how the flowers go to sleep at night, their petals folding into themselves. She sits among the crocuses, hoping they will teach her, hoping they will cure her of her sleepless nights when she pretends the ceiling is the floor. They leave themselves quietly for her to find later; a crocus field so vast it stretches over the horizon, blooming on the backs of her eyelids. Their petals disintegrate by the time she wakes up; a flower’s life is condensed to the slippery hours of one night, and a bloom cycle is gone within a dream. Uma falls in love with solitude like a picture in a magazine. She stands on tiptoes so her eyes reach the latticed window, concentrating sharply on the sky until she can hear the clouds undulating overhead. The entire room darkens when the clouds pass over; they are gray and bloated today, yet promise no rain. Uma watches the shadow of a bird fly through her fingertips towards the furniture, passing over the deflated dolls and plastic tea party set Uma only pretends to play with to please her mother. Past fingerprints of light remain on the window, shifting gently with a quivering of the dogwood blossoms on nearby branches. Through the glass, wind drifts a man down the block, the pale plumes of his breath hovering over his shoulder briefly before disappearing into the cool April morning. “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello, hello...” Her dark eyes dart to and fro as she repeats the unequivocal greeting out loud until it becomes estranged from its meaning and purpose. She pauses delicately as “hello” sinks into the existential crisis she has created, cradling it carefully on her tongue, savoring the taste of its quiet demise. Uma has two hearts; she needs pockets specially sewn onto her dresses to hold them, these brown clay hearts slightly chipped at the edges from the times they’ve fallen with her on the cold sidewalks when she runs too fast, and sudden94
ly the old cigarette butts and pigeon feathers are at eye level. When her mother bends down to help her get up, the tears are floating on Uma’s eyes not because of how her knees are bleeding and her palms are scratched from the pavement, but because her hearts have been chipped and there’s nothing she can do to make them what they once were. On the first day of preschool, her mother gently asks, “Do you really want to bring those hearts with you,” and Uma feels her entire existence flood up into her throat, melting onto the floor with her as she sobs. Uma carries her hearts everywhere. Her father made them for her; the father who vanished with the southbound birds in autumn, before she was barely seven months old. She is young enough that she does not question this father of hers, the image of someone who she can barely grasp yet still is entitled to “father.” Uma dips her fingers into her pockets as she watches the sky; she knows all the subtle grooves and ridges of her hearts from memory, she knows as she watches the clouds. Her friend Harriet comes over and they run up the stairs to sit in her mother’s room under the wooden chair that has spokes like ribs, licking that delicious, minty flavor Uma recently discovered floss is waxed in. They slowly inch their way up a vast expanse of floss until finally it loses its taste, and they are left in the silence that is the small dark space under the wooden chair. In August, the cat takes refuge from her own body here, taupe fur dissolving into the darkness so only a pair of green eyes remains. There is a purple woman in Uma’s mother’s room with a purple gaze. Uma can’t escape it, even when she looks in the opposite direction. The purple woman lives in a canvas hung over her mother’s dresser, but she seems to seep into every crevice of the room, Uma thinks. Uma and Harriet are alone with the purple woman, watching the dust motes as the air gently sinks them to death. Three years ago learning to crawl, light would flood through the windows of this room, and laughing Uma would open her palms and attempt to grasp the motes out of the air. Uma wants to be a cloud when she grows up. (She doesn’t have to say; Harriet already knows; she has slipped into Uma’s mind while she was thinking of the purple woman.) Harriet brushes away the knotted hair that’s fallen in front of Uma’s face, her dark eyes like beautiful rotting things in the murkiness of the bedroom. 95
They sit there like that, in the small dark space with tangled strings of floss all around them, until the terrible sound of her mother’s voice comes billowing up the stairs. “Come down, Harriet’s mom is here!” Her voice drops an octave to say, “I don’t want to have to remind you again in five minutes, please don’t start your tactics, Uma.” Immediately Uma and Harriet spring up and race down the hall to the shelf where the jump rope is stored. Uma moves so quickly her eyes don’t have time to adjust to the light; fuzzy shapes float across her reality. They don’t know how to tie a knot so instead they wrap the blue nylon around each other until they are one person; it leaves tiny rectangular indents on their arms and legs. Her mother’s form emerges in the doorway, encroaching towards their new body–– a being Uma likes to think of as an octopus, with its eight tentacles surprisingly tender to the touch, shapeshifting in the velvety darkness of the room. Unfurling slowly, the octopus will coil fiercely around her mother if she comes even one step closer. *** They bring the cat up that fall to visit her grandmother; she sobs every minute of the ride until Uma’s mother declares she can’t drive with that noise, and Uma hesitates before her mother insists and she lets Frances out of her carrier with a little metal click of the door. Frances licks Uma in gratitude with her sandpaper tongue before nestling herself below Uma’s feet (they still hover above the floor, leaving the perfect amount of room for a cat, these tiny sneakered feet of hers). Fran slowly kneads the air, her soft, leathery paw pads curling in and out with their four pomegranate seeds, as Uma likes to think of them, encircling each. “One sec, let me grab the sandwiches from the trunk, Uma.” Her mother swerves the car off the road onto a small clearing surrounded by the forest–what looked like a plantation forest, her mother will later remark––with the sametoo-tall, too-narrow pines stretching for miles, inhospitable even for the birds. 96
The next moment her mother has thrust open the side door and Fran’s paws are a blur as she darts in a sharp right angle over the armrest, towards the opening, and before they can see her land on the grass she is gone, a taupe tail (or is it a slim tree branch?) disappearing into the pines. A slice of silence. Then the unintelligible wails are unleashed. For hours they stumble over rotting stumps and roots, before collapsing back into the car. Uma’s mother holds her in her arms as she weeps. “I thought she loved us Mommy didn’t she love us. Then why. Why Mommy why?! See she licked me Mommy look at my hand she licked me but then she left. I let her out Mommy I did remember?!” “Uma. Uma. It was my fault Uma, okay. She loved us, Uma, she loved us so much but she saw the woods and so…” And so on. The sandwiches are never eaten. Uma’s legs stick with tears to the faux leather seat as their car pulls in the driveway near midnight, the gravel roaring. It is October now; the fig tree which grows beside the porch has spilled its supple fruit over the long wooden slats, although evidently some racoons have feasted on them from the look of the pawprints receding from the steps. Her mother cuts the engine and has to carry Uma from the backseat, for it is several hours past her bedtime. The slam of the car door wakes her and Uma wrestles from her mother’s grasp, running over to the tree to examine its knotted trunk; in the moonlight that filters softly through the fig tree’s branches, the beetles have left carved patterns in the barkless areas for her. On the porch her grandmother has been waiting for them; under the small light where the moths gather, her form is ghostly illuminated. From the cloudy gray gaze of her eyes, Uma’s grandmother already knows. Uma curls up in her grandmother’s lap, the black cashmere of her sweater soft on Uma’s skin. There are bugs trapped for eternity in her grandmother’s amber necklace; “Shake the beads, they will never move,” she says to Uma, and Uma takes one in her hand, presses her eye up to its prisoners. She decides that when she dies she wants to become trapped in the necklace like the bugs, an Uma in amber, so everywhere 97
she goes her grandmother can have her with her. If her life was filled with amber, she would never lose a thing. Uma presses her head into the cashmere crook of her grandmother’s arm and falls asleep in the wispy night air, the syrupy smell of the figs wafting through her dreams. “Time becomes circular when you’re gardening,” her grandmother tells her in the morning. She plants snapdragons in the summer. Delphinium. But in October, there are only beautiful dead things, cascading hither and thither as they stand together in the open meadow. There is a tiny wooden shed where she once stored spades and watering cans, now filled with three feet of leaves, and Uma can see the years layered in them: crisp red on top, then turning clawlike, gradually disintegrating as her eyes shift down. Immediately Uma plunges in, her entire body enveloped by an epoch extending boundlessly further than her lifetime. She is not heavy, yet leaves a her-shaped indent in the leaves. Time is more delicate, Uma guesses, than she imagined. She finds sun-bleached animal bones behind the house. “A deer, perhaps,” her grandmother suggests placidly, running her withered fingers over the porch banister. They are hollow in her hands, and for a fleeting moment she is seized by the desire to take out her clay hearts and pocket the bones in their place, but she drops them among the dirt and dismembered roots of the undergrowth. She takes only a rib, walking back to the house through the tall blue grasses. A soft swishing is all that is left in her wake, and after a moment it’s like she was never there. Stepping up the stairs towards her grandmother, Uma unlocks the door gently, cracking it open and sliding through. At night, she lies on her bed watching as the moths begin to gather at the windows, mistaking fluorescent bulbs for moonlight. They are pale and unmoving, and life easily slips through their translucent wings. She extracts the rib from the space between the mattress and the headboard where earlier she had hidden it, gliding her fingertips along its curve, noticing the moss that has begun to grow around its edges. Over the years moss has cultivated tiny islands, spreading itself like Indonesia over the narrow space of the rib. She lays the rib on her chest, watching it rise and fall with her breath; it really is no different from her own, she 98
thinks, marveling at its brittleness. She could make a slit so easily, pluck one of her rib’s from the tomb of her chest and smoothly slip the deer’s into the darkness–– “No one would ever notice,” she murmurs to the moths. Their wings are not stirred by the idea as they peer back at her, insouciant. Rib by rib, Uma could become the deer, burying her own bones in the forest so one day she can take her true form. But she folds the rib into the sleeve of a shirt as she packs her suitcase the next day; she is proud she can roll it down the corridor all by herself, although the carpet is so thick that the sound of the wheels is absorbed, her footsteps advancing into silence. Uma finds an unmistakable taupe hair in the absence between her tiny sneakers and the floor as her mother starts the ignition. Without thinking she swallows it. It tickles playfully down her throat, like the noise the toy mice made when they were pawed around the kitchen, one last banter. And then Uma looks out the window. Her grandmother waves until they are gone, standing regally on the porch with her frail arm raised, her fluttering hand guided by the wind. *** The sun is pink tonight, smoke swept all the way from Oregon. Uma holds her mother’s Minolta in its compact black shell, wishing there was a grain focuser for her hearts, wishing if she cracked the amber open the bugs could fly out, breathing. She was the girl who thought the trees in the forest rearranged while she slept. She can see the pink sun, yet she cannot find her own shadow. Her mother has a shadow; standing stark against the wall it lashes out at air, clutching handfuls of war. Uma watches the clawing dance of her mother’s hands as she stands wrapping her grandmother’s plates in The New York Times obituaries. Uma takes close-ups of the tiny balled-up tissues in the trash bin, her mother’s vitreous eyes like moths beneath the fluorescent lighting. Tonight Uma feels like a cello lives in her throat, like for her whole life she’s lived on the cusp of something. The doors are impossible to close in August, the figs nowhere near
ripe though they pick them anyways––how can they help themselves, when it’s the last time they’ll be able to? Uma twists off the stem of one, gently splitting its flesh open; the taste is tart and implacable on her tongue. She lets it linger. *** I am older now and I make the drive on my own, speeding to reach the fig tree before nightfall. I park the car by the woods, pausing briefly to look up at the sky. I was once afraid of the quiet sadness, softly descending. You can only hear it at night, after everything but you is gone, and you stand out in the blue grasses at the edge of your love. I listen closely and there it is, the sound of the Earth breathing, softly, softly. I take my hearts from my pockets and drop them among the pine needles and beautiful rotting things of the forest, the quiet creaking of the pines. There are new owners. I watch their shadows crouching from behind the curtains, a young child, perhaps, a father who pretended he was leaving her love when really it was only clay. My grandmother’s love was like the lip of a cup; my love was a swarm of bees. I slip back into the car and am gone, the tentacles of an octopus, the ribs of a deer, the wings of a moth, enveloping the night myself. Katherine S.-R.
How to Look at the Moon Characters: Petal: Mid-teens, stringy brown hair. Mom: Middle-aged, likes the news. Dad: Middle-aged, likes the news. Audrey Scene One (The stage is small and set like a kitchen, very cozy and lived in - blue checkered tile, white wooden cabinets with flowers painted on them, etc. All the cabinet doors are open, and where there would be food they are overflowing with strange objects - costume jewelry, broken appliances, vintage photographs and postcards that bear no relation to the characters shown. There are countless clippings from news headlines pasted on every empty surface. There are soft water sounds playing in the background, and plastic vines wrapped around the scenery as it approaches the edges of the stage. Petal is sitting at the kitchen bar while Mom mops the floor.) Petal: Do you think Audrey is going to be okay on her drive up here? I know her family has that big SUV with the iPads in the seats and everything, but we’re a pretty far trip from the city. Mom: It’s a trip for sure, but I really think she’s going to be glad they did it. I mean, it may take a while to get to the moon but it’s so beautiful out here. I think once they take one look out their windows they’ll realize why it was worth it. Petal: I guess it’s beautiful. Maybe I just feel numbed to it because I’ve been here for so long now. Mom: I don’t feel that way at all. Every day I walk outside and take in the beach views while drinking my morning cup of coffee, and I feel overwhelmed by all the beauty around me. I’ve been doing yoga videos before bed recentl—you
should try them. I sent you an article on how exercise helps with depression that you need to read. I think it might help you. Petal: That’s nice. Do you think that yoga stuff actually works? Mom: Of course, what kind of question is that? I swear, sometimes I wonder about what goes on in your head. Ooh—I just read this amazing piece in the New Yorker about how lack of sleep is ruining teenage brains that I swear is what’s happening to you. I always tell you to start going to bed earlier. Here, I cut it out for you to read, let me go grab it for you. (Mom starts to get up to leave, but Petal stops her by putting an arm on her shoulder before she can.) Petal: Mom? Mom: Yes sweetie? Petal: Do you think that Audrey hates me? It’s been so long since I’ve seen her, and we used to be such good friends but she never responds to my letters these days. Mom: Aw honey, I’m sure she’s just busy. You’ve been telling me for so long about what good friends you two are. And she responded to your letter agreeing to drive up here, so she can’t be totally ignoring you. Everyone has a lot going on these days, I’m sure she just forgot. Petal: (Dazed) That’s right. Me too. (She lets go of Mom’s arm, and Mom wanders off. The stage fades to black.) Scene Two (The set looks barer than it did in scene one - much of the clutter has been removed,
and several pieces of furniture are missing. Mom and Dad are sitting at the kitchen counter. Mom is drinking coffee, and Dad is loudly chewing toast with the Sunday paper spread out in front of him. Petal is sitting in a corner on the opposite side of the stage, holding a pen and paper and speaking as she writes.) Mom: What’s going on in the news today darling? Dad: The usual. Pentagon chief orders new inquiry into U.S. airstrike that killed dozens in Syria. A potato the size of a small dog is found in New Zealand. She started losing fistfuls of hair, and by the next day she was dead—what caused it? You won’t believe these twenty corgi puppy pictures that say: “Mondays, amirite?” Mom: Ooh, let me see that article on hair loss. I’ve noticed that my hair hasn’t looked quite as thick as it usually does. I certainly hope that I’m not going to be dead by tomorrow. Dad: Me too, but you never know these days. (They read the paper in silence together for a few minutes.) Dad: They just started construction on a new hydraulic bridge between the moon and Cleavland for easier commuting. Great. The last thing we need is more tourists. Mom: The last thing indeed. Those darn tourists are ruining the moon for those of us that actually live here. Why, just last week I saw these two snotty-nosed children and their father taking a photo practically right outside of our front door. Dad: Great. I feel too upset to finish my toast. Honey, I told you I needed you to try not to raise my blood pressure. You know I have blood pressure problems. Petal: Dear Audrey. It’s so lonely out here. I feel like I don’t see the moon like other people do. It’s beautiful to me, but paper thin, and almost see through. To me the moon is green and lush like an alien planet, and the brown dehydrated
grass in our yard stretches down to the sea at the edge of the horizon. I can’t see it as much as I can smell it, but to me the moon smells achingly flat all the time. Sweet from the invasive honeysuckle and wineberries in everyone’s yards, salty from the ocean in the distance and slightly smoky with the scent of other people that you can sense but never see. To me, living on the moon feels kind of like living inside the essential oil diffuser I always used to use back in the city that’s lost somewhere in here now. You know, it’s a sterile white plastic object but I always imagined it overgrown and verdant on the inside, like how our driveway looked the first time I went outside this spring. The moon has always felt empty to me, maybe through some transitive property of its cleanness, or the fact that there was never any ugliness to diffuse. When I tried to run my diffuser out here the smell of artificial orange blossom and lemongrass just echoed against the empty landscape. I had to turn it off the next morning because I felt dizzy. There was nothing to escape from - I guess I just feel unmoored. I wish other people could see what I do. I know you do. I wish you would respond to my letters sometimes though. I miss the days when you would always write back. Love, Petal. (Petal gets up, and opens one of the kitchen drawers that the audience can see is stuffed to the point that it almost can’t be opened with sealed letters with the name Audrey written in big marker letters on the back. She places her letter in the drawer, and shoves it closed.) (Stage fades to black.) Scene Three (The stage is now fairly minimal - there are only several basic pieces of furniture to indicate a kitchen at all. Petal and Mom are washing dishes at the sink together. Mom looks terse and angry.) Mom: Audrey was supposed to be here twelve hours ago. Petal: Where did Dad go? Mom: I don’t know. I don’t know what you did to him. This is all your fault. If 104
only Audrey had shown up, or you hadn’t gotten your hopes up like this. Breaking news: connection with other people has proven important in peoples’ odds of living past sixteen. You did this to us. Petal: Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I know Audrey’s still going to come. Mom: I can’t deal with you when you’re like this. I’m going to go find your father. The odds of finding a missing person decrease exponentially with every hour they stay missing. I read that somewhere. Petal: Mom, no. I’m so scared you won’t come back. (Petal reaches for Mom’s arm, but she has already walked away.) Scene Four (Everything is dark except for a lamp illuminating Petal, seated on the floor of a stage that is now empty save for the lamp and the pile of Audrey letters. Petal holds a pen and paper and is speaking as she writes.) Petal: Dear Audrey. Sometimes I feel like you’re the only person in the whole world. I don’t know why you didn’t come today. If you had only come then everything would have been okay. Mom’s been acting weird. Everything feels weird. I know that maybe you can come visit next summer, but sometimes it feels like there won’t even be a next summer. Strange things can happen these days. For what seems like forever in its inescapable presence I have been lulled to sleep by a veneer of cicada wings coating the thin, slick sounds of pool water being filtered over and over again, and woken up by the smell of our dry brown grass baking in the sun, stretching and morphing into strange saltwater plants at the very edge of our backyard. Now I can’t stop thinking about how our grass stays the same length, and how it’s strange that I’ve never really seen a lawn mower in real life, having read extensively about dads telling their sons to mow the lawns in Archie comics and teen novels, or how I can’t even imagine my dad holding a lawnmower, always outlined like a cartoon in my mind, much less mowing cartoon grass
with it, that I never went outside when the lawn guys were there, that I never said thank you, that I never said hi. I don’t want to think these things. I don’t know where they came from, but I feel like I could never tell Mom or Dad. I don’t want to upset them. I only just remembered that there were men in our garden every week, mowing grass and trimming flowers. That doesn’t fit. I don’t want it to fit. I wish the flowers just grew that way on their own. I’m building this reality, I should get to make it how I want. I just wish I could control any part of my life. (Beat) No, I’m sorry, I don’t want to control you. I know I didn’t make you up. You can come visit me next summer. Love, Petal. (She seals the letter, but as she reaches to put it on the pile she looks up and realizes she is alone in the theater.) Petal: Mom? Dad? (Beat. Everything is silent for several minutes as Petal looks around and realizes what she has done. Fade into blackout.) ***
Ganymede Her parents wore cowboy boots and listened to hippie rock. Her mother, as a child, was interested in outer space, growing up watching the attempts to put man on the moon and memorizing constellations from her bedroom window late at night. Every child, according to her, has a list of names that they collect over time—names that they might want to give their child one day. She found the name Ganymede from one of Jupiter’s moons. I met Ganymede when she moved to my suburbs; we were naive enough to think that we’d be friends forever. She was a short second-grader who wore red ribbons in her hair and spent hours pruning her shrubs in her front yard. She had these odd cactus-shaped flowers with little lavender bulbs. Delphiniums, I think they were. She gave me a few of the seeds once—because I asked—and they’re still flourishing in my parents’ backyard. During our summers our families would drive the ten hours down to the coast and rent a house together, and we would share a bedroom. Our room had vast ceilings with intricate moldings in the corners with shiny golden foil. Ganymede said they reminded her of her dream home, an expansive rococo mansion (of course, the beach house looked nothing like the gold-embalmed French baroque style). We whispered secrets beneath the covers and giggled at the exaggerated creaks of the bed. We’d try to paint each others’ lips with our mothers’ thick cosmetics, horribly butchering the delicacy of the vermillion border. We didn’t have such intimacy back at home; we were separated by what seemed like endless rows of houses. It was late August, I’m sure, when it happened. We were only twelve. It had been time to transition from tanning silently in the heat (because tanning was reserved for only the early summer) to doing staggered runs on the sand, letting the wind fly by us as we tripped on wet clumps. We would listen to the waves crash against the small boulders—ones caressed by waterweed—failing to mimic the ocean with our shushes. Ganymede loved that salmon pink shade that the driftwood turned in the wetness. She always smelt like the beach too; I’d look over and see little shells braided into her hair, her svelte legs etched with shimmering sand—even if we hadn’t gone to the beach that day. We had a kind of 107
freedom at the summer house; our parents trusted us enough there to explore by ourselves. There was a run-down arcade next to the beach, but we never went. Our parents thought we would enjoy it and would give us quarters to play games. Instead, we’d squander them on popsicles at the beach store. Our parents never asked us whether or not we actually went to the arcade, and we never told them that we didn’t. There was a large run-down lighthouse that overlooked the sea; it had intricate drawings on its sides, flaking latticed windows, and a crimson viewing tip—red from rust. There was a discouraging fence that ran around the border two hundred feet from the entrance on all sides. The lighthouse had become private property, although no one knew who owned it. Ganymede loved that lighthouse. She told me over and over that when she finally climbed those winding steps and got to the top, she’d be able to “find the sea.” Her phrasing didn’t make much sense to me; she could very clearly see the sea from where we stood on the beach. I see it now, though, after I’ve had a few years to think it over. I somehow never made a connection to Ganymede’s desire to get lost in the sea. Ganymede did not want to be stranded, per se, but to be so far out she couldn’t see the speckled gray of land. She wanted to be in complete silence, with just the ripple of her paddling feet in her ears. She knew she couldn’t securely attempt that, and perhaps simply watching the sea from so high up was enough. If she got up there, the merging of land wouldn’t taint her elaborate fantasy. Later that same August, Ganymede got dragged out to sea—I still think a part of her had done it on purpose. Maybe she thought she was slowly swaying towards the grand lighthouse. She knew of its history and of its fencing—I think she thought the only way there was through the water. She looked so helpless, perhaps for the first time, and I knew there wasn’t anyone nearby to help. I had stood still, my mouth quivering—I couldn’t push any words out, they clung so tightly to my throat—and my feet were digging further into the sand. But I couldn’t move. I felt my hair blow over my eyes as I stood, just staring out at her head bobbing up and down. Her little returns were tantalizing. I found my
breathing matching her sways. Somehow, in the back of my mind, I was thinking about how our parents had trusted us to keep each other safe, and how I had broken that promise to them. I anticipated her death. I felt so certain that she was not going to make it. She seemed too small and the ocean seemed too large. After a few minutes of having not seen her bobbing head, I let myself fall upon the sand and bawled. The sand knew enough to keep me warm. I watched the waters just in case. Anaka P.
I found myself in sequences. In rippling reflections under stone bridges Between wrinkled ivory sheets. Through shards of glass sprinkled like salt over snow I found myself. Not in you, But through you Past you. I found myself through experiences caused by people I never want to see again And yet wouldn’t be the same without. I found myself through crying sharp tears on windy winter evenings, Alone and yet never without you. I could never leave you behind. I found myself in between asleep and awake, Where I was free to roam your dreams and wake you up with memories of something you could never have again, The taste of my voice left lingering on your tongue. I found myself in midnights that were not my own. Nights belonging to everyone who wandered lonely streets, Searching for their other halves Aimless Tired And yet never more fulfilled. I found myself through discarding shells of girls who I thought you wanted me to be I wore skin that didn’t fit quite right For at least a year I thought I was golden. I could’ve sworn I found myself, But it was just another sequence of events that would inevitably lead to today Which will inevitably lead to tomorrow And then Wednesday
And then August And then Home. Hopefully. I found peace in the fact that my days are not numbered, They are alphabetized, Spelling out words I haven’t learned yet Like Lonely, Palliative, And Equanimity. I am finding myself in sequences In never ending mobius strips of green grapes and breakfast sandwiches. In rippled reflections of muddied roadside puddles And smudged liquor store windows. I will find myself through sequences Of events that will hopefully shape me (that’s the point, isn’t it?) One day I will look back and laugh at how naive I was (i am) Or how stupid my decisions were (they are) Or how ignominious my writing was (it is) Or how unnecessary my word choices were (see above) I will laugh at my younger self for thinking I had to be self aware and selfdeprecating in order to be taken seriously. But I have not yet found myself Not even close Please tell me one day I will find myself in sequences Jojo M.
You Were Beige You’ve changed so much recently it’s hard to remember who you were a year ago. Your eyes must have been devoid of sunshine and your smile would have been beige. Your hollow skull waiting for an occupation. You hated your life but you didn’t know yourself enough to make it better. So you lived and watched time pass. Nothing ever changed. But you wanted change, didn’t you. The packages arriving at your door were proof of that. You bought eyelashes and dresses that hugged your center so tight and nightlights so you would feel less alone. You cut your hair then and watched it fall as if it was all the worst parts of you. And then the paint. You would sit at your window and watch the trucks pass bye and your excitement at the presents that arrived. You hurried to your room, didn’t you, to tear them apart, never waiting for scissors. Yellow was first. You pushed aside your things and smeared honey melon dreams on walls until you were new. You weren’t dull and boring anymore, you thought, because no dull or boring person would do such a thing. Now you were a wonder with yellow walls. Then you changed. You’d spend your afternoons practicing in the mirror, scheming what a yellow walled girl would say. She’d be happy and confident and I’d watch you leave the house from my window sill and reshape yourself. But then you’d come home, and you were you again. But in the end you were tired. You were tired of being yellow, but it was too late to go back to beige. So you were blue. You slammed on dusty keyboard keys as you ordered, and lit up when it arrived. And once again you broke your room into a thousand pieces, and painted them all blue. Then at last, you dyed your hair to match, didn’t you. This time you were mysterious, and smart. When you were blue you studied harder, and asked questions and thought about things. When you were blue your face was bare and you wore whatever clothes were clean. For a while it worked, didn’t it. But then the pressure of being blue, of being interesting, overwhelmed you, and so you baptized yourself pink. Pink girls were fun and flirty and all the things your beige self wasn’t. So you dyed your hair blonde. When you were pink you wore butterfly earrings
and fake smiles, and twisted your hair until it glowed. You traded Rubix Cubes for barbies, and slippers for high heels. And you looked in the mirror and barely recognized yourself, but that was what you wanted, wasn’t it. When you were pink you slept around and spent money you didn’t have. You drank and went to parties and hated every second of it, but at least everyone liked you. Pink didn’t last long, did it? Your stomach ached from calorie counting and your plastered smile began to undo. And all the anger you felt manifested until you were red. Red girls were righteous and angry and they didn’t care what anyone thought of them. When you were red you fought back. You cut your shorts shorter when guys complained, and you yelled at catcallers instead of just walking by. When you were red you hated the world. And maybe it was a mask because you hated yourself. But still you slammed doors and cursed at the top of your lungs because that was the role you had given yourself. And you wouldn’t let yourself give up now. So when red wasn’t you anymore you found yourself at a loss. Deep down you were most afraid of being nothing. Of not knowing who you were. So when you ran out of paint and money to buy more you cried. You cried colorless tears until you passed out from exhaustion. And you woke up to find that your red room wasn’t yours. So you reverted. You started over. You wiped the slate clean and called yourself beige. Because at least that beige was yours, wasn’t it? Sadie G.
This Is Jesus You’re making pasta tonight, but it’s going slowly. Clearly, a watched pot really doesn’t boil. Stirring idly with your left hand, you take your phone out of your back pocket with your right and open your New York Times app. You scroll past the headlines in search of the mini-crosswords: “APPLE BUYS GOOGLE” “OLIVIA COLMAN DIES AT 48” “TRY MELISSA CLARK’S MEATLESS MEATBALLS” “NEW STUDY SAYS SLEEP INCREASES MUSCLE MASS” Then they begin to blur. You reach the crossword archives. While you hunt for uncompleted minis, a Facebook notification pops up on the top of your screen: Genevieve’s birthday. God. Hate Genevieve. You go to January 2017 and see that they’re all filled in. Damn. Another notification pops up. It’s an email with the subject line, “This Is Jesus.” Confused, you blink for a minute, and then remember that you get an email like this every day at 6:00 from President Jesús Gonzalez. You scroll through the months of 2017. November and still no undone mini, but you do get another email at 6:02. It looks the exact same as the previous one. You’ve never gotten it twice in one day before. You open it and read, Hi Margaret, IT’s me, Jesús. As you know, pRimaries are coming Up, anD I want to makE sure every AmericAn citizen can make their voice heard. I noticed yoU Haven’t yet taken the first step, sO I wanted to show you how simpLe it is. All it takes is one click to confirm it’s you. That’s what, one seconD? Three, for the sIte to load fully? Okay, three. I kNow you’re busy–aren’t we all these days–but I hope you can make time to let us know that it’s your authentic, tax-payinG voice tHat’s being heard. Ok, that’s all fOr now. See you in the boothS! WiTh wArmth and GratitudE,
President Jesús Gonzalez At first you can’t get past the weird capitalization, but then you read through it carefully and realize that it does look very much like all of the others. You scroll back to the one sent two minutes before and the one sent yesterday, and they are all identical (aside from the odd orthography of the most recent one). You sigh. You’ve been feeling a bit down about politics lately, so you’ve been avoiding them entirely. You haven’t even been looking at the news–like, not only have you not been checking it; you’ve been turning your head away from it–so why would you go out of your way to obey this automated email? You return to your NYT app and finish your mini. *** Meanwhile, Gonzalez is sitting zip-tied to a chair in a cell, sweating, panting, looking around frantically. In front of him, Trudeau and two hitmen look up. “Well, go on.” Trudeau gestures toward Gonzalez. “Please, gentlemen. It doesn’t have to be this way.” “So naïve.” Trudeau smiles. “But of course it does.” “I really think we can come to an understanding here if we take a moment to calm down.” “I am calm.” And the creepy thing is, he is. He even looks bored. “Of course you are. What I mean is that if we just stop to listen to each other, we’ll realize that we can give each other what we need. I can give you what you need.” “And what is it I need?” “Control of all three branches of government. Contacts. The CIA and FBI under your belt.” The larger of the two hitmen speaks up. “No, dumbass, he wants the country. He doesn’t need you. You think you’re so smart? We’ve got eyes on your email, everything. You wouldn’t be alive right now if you had contacted any—” Trudeau fires at the guy’s head. He falls. When he hits the ground, his 115
face turns toward Gonzalez. The gunshot is dead center in his forehead. “Insubordinate.” Trudeau quietly pockets the gun Gonzalez didn’t even see him remove. It disappears into the dark folds of his jacket. “Be thankful it wasn’t you,” he adds to the other hitman, standing on his right. The man nods slowly but surely. “You make a good point, you know,” Trudeau smiles at Gonzalez once again. “But the thing is, I don’t really give a fuck. I wanna do it my way. And you’re in my way.” He nods to his guy. The guy takes aim. “No, please, no! We can work it out, I promise!” “Ehh…maybe. But I know your offices have contacted someone in the past five minutes, and that really pisses me off.” “Please! I’m sorry! Anything, I’ll give you anything! I’ll tax higher, I’ll gerrymander, I’ll leave the election up to y—” Trudeau nods again and the man fires. Gonzalez slumps in his chair. Trudeau walks over and lifts a lock of hair from Gonzalez’s slick forehead. “Hmm. A little to the left.” He turns toward his remaining hitman and cocks his gun. The man backs up with his hands in the air and his mouth moving noiselessly. Trudeau puts his gun down and smiles. “Kidding. I wouldn’t kill you for that. I already know I’m the better shot.” The hitman laughs a shrill and hoarse laugh. Trudeau brings him in for a bro hug, and he accepts. Trudeau whispers into his ear, “But letting the guy loose so that I had to tie him up and hear his whiny little voice before I bagged him? Come on.” His gun fires and the hitman falls to the floor, blood blooming from his sternum. Trudeau looks down at his suit and sees a couple of drops on his tie. It’s black, thankfully, but still. He wipes his hands on his coat, sighs, and exits the cell. His footsteps echo on the stairs. *** You’ve finished the December minis and have now moved on to January 2018. But for some reason, Joe Fagliano was feeling really mean in the begin116
ning of 2018 and these minis are really hard. You’re already at two minutes thirty seconds on Saturday the 8th with autocheck on, and you’re still only about twothirds done. You can’t bring yourself to keep clicking letters until one is correct, so you leave the app. You see that your mail app is open too. Wait, why…? Oh, you never closed that Gonzalez email. Hate those things. Once you heard that if you click on any of those links it immediately notifies the government of your latest electronic activity. Like, they can see your most recent emails, or Instagram posts, or something, and they can decode them, put them into the algorithm, whatever. You wouldn’t fall for that shit. You open the email again, and again you balk at that bizarre capitalization. What is it about T-R-U-D-E-A-U-H-O-L-DI-N-G-H-O-S-T-A-G-E? Just another word puzzle you can’t solve. But you’re too far in not to be curious. So you open your notes app and copy down the letters. TRUDEAUHOLDINGHOSTAGE. What’s “trude?” some new Wordle thing? Wait a minute. Oh, shit. You reopen your NYT app and scroll desperately back up to the top. There, in somber letters, is the front-page headline: “PRESIDENT SHOT IN TRUDEAU’S BASEMENT.” Violet D.
Candor Here for you a laugh, my heart spun within return I am finding myself swept away and off my feet measuring nearness against breath I am happy to stare and smile, spin a story from the past though distance is now a rule of conduct a boundary made set and staying by a self less sure in their skin hoping for futures resolute it has been, i know Moments like a present moon and light vanishing to brick i miss our fitting seeing beauty and hope and solace and yet the circle of salt remains closed for lessons learning, lived Though each season the monarchs return Fig W.
finding their way home
Anouk G., Acrylic Painting
Purple Cold words chilled my hot breath. Blue. Rivers of dark red streaming up my throat into yours. Crimson. I know I shouldn’t have said it. We made purple. Jacqueline K.
two-for-one deal oranges are a two-for-one deal: you peel it, then you have an inner orange & an outer orange that’s two so now you have two oranges but you only paid for one Felix C. .
The Song of Spring The season of spring is coming near, And green will latch on to the tree’s wooden spears. The pollen will orchestrate a series of sneezes, Not to be accompanied by winter’s chilled breezes. And no more snow is falling now, Not yet flowers but some might sprout. And finally the music, in the street, People, birds, their voices meet. And by sound strung together a symphony sings “On its way is the season of spring!” Maia-lu R.
Dragonflies and Other Adventures She dances around me on the carpeted floor, bits of paper from a game we played strewn around the two of us. It is a magical halo with the sunrise around us, and the lights from the tall skyscraper five city miles away reflect off of the windows like multicolor fireworks, the same color as her tie-dyed shirt we made together so many months ago at camp. Now it is September and we have spent every day of school together waiting between classes on the front steps to watch the dragonflies buzz by, even though the weather is starting to turn colder like my mom said it would, and my mom said that the dragonflies will go away soon but me, I don’t ever think they will, because the colors of their scales shine like those oceans I see on pictures at the airport, and even if I got to the airport in the middle of January—when the snow builds on the city sidewalks, making me slip like a banana peel until my coat is soaked through with mischief and her laughter because we’re always on the city streets together—even if I got to the airport then, with my coat soaked through, those oceans on the pictures still shine like the dragonfly scales, so the dragonfly scales must be year-round too. Right now, her hair is still sticky and wet from when we went swimming earlier, and I told her how good of a swimmer she was, gliding through the water like an eagle flies in the air, and I think that the pool was only fifteen feet long, but she was an Olympic swimmer in an olympic pool, hundreds of miles stretching out across her horizon. And I was on the sidelines, taking notes for an article I would write, and she laughed when she saw me taking notes on a clipboard, my hands empty but scribbling five words at a time. I held out my microphone to her, and she spoke into the void space with vigor, detailing the ways she was going to move forward in the next few seasons, and when she’d see us all again at the next Olympic Games. “Maybe they’ll be in India,” she said, and my eyes widened. “Or Russia. Somewhere far away, where we can go together. Wouldn’t that be so marvelous?” And we took a shower when we got back upstairs and I dropped the shampoo bottle on the floor, and when I picked it up again, I smelled it and it smelled like those flowers she had brought for me once, ones that were orange, that I thought she had colored with the light from the morning sun, that she
smelled a little like cherries but, at a different angle, I thought they smelled like the markers we use at school that stain our fingers together a myriad of colors, but the flowers were very pretty, so I told her thank you just like my mom had taught me. The first time I ever met her was with those markers, because I had this one shade of red that she came up to me and asked for because she claimed it was “positively lovely” and insisted on taking it from me, because “even if it was my absolutely favorite color in the world she needed to use it for a few minutes and would give it back to me” and would we like to sit together because it was the first day of school, and neither of us knew anyone and I thought everyone else seemed a little big and a little scary, just a little, and I know I must have seemed that big or scary to everyone else, but apparently to her I wasn’t, because she came up to me and asked me for my red marker that was positively lovely. Her hair was so soft under my fingers, like the leaves that fall from the trees around our apartment in the springtime, with their tiny ridges that we rub our fingers over until their tips turn the same color as the leaves, and I poured too much shampoo into her hair, but the drain swallowed it quickly so I wonder if she even noticed. And she’s here now, dancing around in a shirt that she bought from me for five caterpillars, because before the end of last school year I wanted to collect as many caterpillars as I could, and she was good at finding them, and she told me it was because she was used to hiding in the small spaces and looking behind the corners and doors, and that’s where the caterpillars like to go the most, so she found so many for me, and my favorites were those big and bushy ones, the ones where if you ran the back of your heels across them on the ground they would tickle just right, and we’d both fall over laughing, and my hair would tangle into hers until we couldn’t tell the colors apart anymore. We started using the caterpillars as money between us, like I had seen my mom give the man at the corner deli when she would buy us my favorite kind of chips, with a coating that would stay on your fingers for days afterward, and my mom would give him two of those little papers, and so for this shirt, I told her five caterpillars, and she gave them to me the next day at school, and I handed over my shirt, which had no wrinkles, because I had told my mom that I was going to give the shirt to her, and so my mom showed me where the ironing board was and the scary steaming 124
iron that she told me to never touch, not even when I was older because when I was older I would get my own steaming iron, and I would never have to touch this one. My mom ran the iron over the shirt until it was all smooth again, and I thought it would suit her well because the shirt was all smooth, and she was all smooth, her skin like those fabrics I would see at the craft store, so bright and rich but mine was lumpy and covered in freckles like little ants crawling all over my arms, but she told me she liked my skin too, and so I laughed and I thought nothing of it until I gave her that old shirt of mine only a few days ago. She’s in it now, and her hair is tied up in these clips that one of my old teachers gave me, because my teacher told me I was so good that year and that my reading was getting better, and gave me these little clips, and they looked like the venus flytraps I saw on TV once, with sharp teeth, and I worried for a month that they would eat my hair like I saw the venus flytraps eat those bugs, but they didn’t and they kept my hair in well, and they’re in her hair now, and they keep her hair in well, even though hers is a good deal thinner than mine. She stops her pirouettes for a second, clumsier than the ballerinas I see practicing outside the school gym on Thursdays, her toes catching over themselves, but it’s prettier than those ballerinas, and when the sound of her feet padding against the carpet stops, it’s too quiet, so I ask, “Why have you been staying over more lately?” And she shrugs and starts spinning again, like those spinner tops my grandma has at her house, painted in the brightest colors I’ve seen, so bright that I think you could turn the lights off and they would still show. “I like hanging out with you,” she answers. “I don’t think I like my dad very much.” She leaves it at that, and I don’t ask more questions, because if she doesn’t like her dad very much, then I won’t like her dad very much either. She falls down and I catch her just by the side, my arms tugging at hers, and I can’t see that well in the dark, but she’s there, just like always, and when she falls onto the bed, I catch her, and her hair falls over my eyes, and I close them, and she is beside me. Margot S.
I only take a nibble, A little bite off the edge, Just a taste of the donuts They bring home. The biscuits, the bread, The cake, the brownies. They don’t notice the nibble Because it leads to a bite. They never see the bite Because the whole thing Is gone. Cole C.
Venus I live diagonally below you, next to the red bricks, sitting on problems on piles on paper. I collide with the kaleidoscope through which you see the world. How I wish my view was as pretty, as serene, as carefree! But when I look around my space, it’s ugly, gross, and inhibits me. Sometimes I pick up my chin to look up at the blue sky. Rarely do I see the blue sky. Often I see the bottom of your terrace. Your terrace which pours out of the side of the building, which spills its shadow onto my brow, which reminds me I’m beneath you, which tells me there’s no heaven when I look up. I take the stairs 1...2...3...4 flights. You take the stairs when your elevator’s down. “Sorry for the inconvenience.” I collect rain water from the cracks in my ceiling so that I don’t damage my floor. You collect rain water on your windowsill because Your Venus flytrap prefers rain.
I bet you have a dog, I bet that your companions are loyal— I bet your dog will live forever. Last week my cat died. Our lives seem to move in a linear way, with you always in front. Soleil P.
Gorged I bet you wish your skin could shift on its seams The line preceding your drawstring finally laying askew A clouded sense of grin rippling through your ears But naturally, you must twist it back to where it aligns with your neck, rewinding your spinal cord Yet, beside that line lies a blanched vein Solo in the quest of branched oxygenation But not really because the metallic taste consecrated your tongue And in that moment nothing became golden Except whispering glistening gums Your tongue doesn’t fit inside your mouth Why would it? Clio W.
Was It Worth It? Was it worth it? The crumbling buildings, the broken expressions. The collapsed cityscape, the hollow stares. The arenaceous ground. The wary minds. You shattered them. With your staunch posture and weighty words. With your bright grin. With your web of lies you had been weaving since the beginning. Did you know what would be lost? The merry laughter of the youth. The harmonic pitch of a community that was one. Faith for the future. I know why you did it. Everyone knows why you did it. But was it worth it? Becca D.
Losing hair everyday Like stockings ripping Until they’re too thin to wear I’m sure someday soon my scalp will be bare And I will cry crocodile tears Down my pale cheeks Confirming my first fear And now I am bald and sick Downing my hot tears as soup I cling to my hair on my shower walls And fold it in a locket Not letting it fall Now I love my disconnected brown strands Underneath blonde, blonde, and blonde again Bleach breaks it in the gold clasp I knew it was too pretty, too flimsy, to last. Quincy C. .
Green Door Esther always felt drawn to the green door. It somehow reminded her of a Russian nesting doll. When Esther was a baby it was bare and uncovered. She would crawl toward it on the floor when her mother took her eyes off of her, but her father inevitably stepped in her path before she could make it. His brow furrowed, his mustache trembling, he seemed to become a mountain standing between her and the door. As a three year old, she remembered, she made it far enough to brush her fingertips against the door. She was so enthralled she didn’t notice her father’s thunderous footsteps nor his booming voice as he pulled her away and carried her to her room. She couldn’t sleep that night. Even though parents were screaming at each other for hours on the other side of a thin wall, she couldn’t stop thinking about how soothing it had felt for her to touch the door. It was as if she had momentarily fallen back into a natural state she had forgotten. By morning, there were layers of dull gray duct tape closing off the green door. With each failed attempt to open the door, a new layer of tape was added on top of it. On her first time touching the brass doorknob at six years old, her parents began nailing planks of wood across the door. She continued in vain attempting to open it for another three months, but as the number of planks grew it became painfully apparent that she had been defeated. Six years passed with little incident other than a persistent painful gnawing in the pit of Esther’s stomach. She managed to suppress her thoughts of the green door, but she could never rid herself of the physical ache for it. One day, Esther’s parents decided that her behavior had been so good that it would be fine to leave her alone as they went out for dinner. The twelve-year-old’s heart raced and her stomach churned. She was filled with an impulse to run right to the door and claw her way in, but she had waited patiently for an opportunity for six years now, and so she smiled and waved in the most childlike and innocent way she could manage. Her mother squeezed her cheek. Her father kissed her on the top of the head and then looked her straight in the eyes. The past six years had not been kind to him. He had been burly and swarthy with thick black hair, but
he had grown gaunter and paler as his hair grayed on the sides. His bewildered amber eyes pleaded with her. “Please. Don’t go near the door.” The front door clicked closed. Esther crept toward the closet where her father kept a toolkit. She pulled out the bright red box from its hidden corner, popped open the lid, and procured a hammer. She wavered for a moment as she turned to face the green door. Gazing at the sliver of metal visible beneath the flaking green paint beneath the strips of tape beneath the planks of wood, Esther paused for the first time to consider why her parents had been so desperate to stop her. She began to feel certain that opening the door could only lead to her destruction. Though she was overwhelmed by fear, her body moved without her in a hypnotic, trancelike state. Violently, she pried the nails from the wood, tore the tape from the doorframe, and for the first time since infancy stood face to face with the bare door. As her fingertips slowly investigated the crevices of its jade-colored surface, electric excitement hummed just beneath the surface of her skin. She heard her mother in her head crying out to her, telling her to stop. She felt her father pulling at her hand. She tried to slow herself, to think things through before she did anything rash. Before she could come to a decision, her hand had already wrapped itself around the brazen knob and twisted. Without a thought, she had already crossed the threshold and stepped through the green door. Dashiell B.-T.
green and the bread box winter arrived, and all that she had left was the low-grade satisfaction brought from none other than the existence of her own volition Geraldine skies Geraldine and the plum bag five Geraldine’s mother calls the children inside Skip skip Sidewalk crack broke Geraldine’s mother’s back Back at it again in just a few days, Regular restored, like the Green and the breadbox Abby D.
On Laundromats I remember how we used to lie on top of the machines at laundromats, Flat on our backs. We’d listen to the quiet rumble of clothes swirling beneath us. We’d count the clinks of quarters, Making sure they always added up to a dollar, Then wonder how people could waste so much money on such useless things (Being kids, we didn’t understand the value of money Nor the importance of cleanliness). Anaka P.
Your Songs You slept on the hopscotched ground, outlined blue Chalk always ends up on your cheeks in spots That I can’t reach anymore. I’ve grown too Big for the playground & for listening To the sounds of poetry in the street & stooping down to pray to that lonely god. I can only hear the sounds of them Their laughs in yellow, tears in red & some Leftover kisses in pink. & I think Nostalgia is killing me. Please find here Enclosed with all my love, words you should sing To save me when I fade away. Thank you. Thank you for all those peanut-butter days, For records spinning, for the Brooklyn kiss. Now the days are shorter & I’m crying I light a candle for the words my mom Didn’t really mean and start praying to That lonely god again. Church walls echo My animal heart raging in its cage. I’m dying for you & I hope you know. My life is threadbare, broken passionate Bones and whispered phone calls. Gray friends arrived They wrinkle the perfect softness of your Baby hairs. The moon is coming & soon After the cool silver of your new deal Unravels, I’ll be able to reach them Piano fingers that braided my hair & you’ll find your laugh, caught in your grown throat. Lyla B. 136
In Odessa the sun seeps down your throat, towards the edges of your memory. It’s all just as you left it. Leaves disintegrate under your footsteps as you walk the brambled paths and dissolve into the garden where once your father would have guests. The men would shake hands and the women would kiss each other on the cheek. You would sit on the metal chair, fingers carefully clasped, as the silence decomposed and the dusk deepened over the parched fields. Katherine S.-R.
Senseless I did it I counted sugars in sandwiches and sandpaper and scissors and sailboats Rationed the sails I only went out on the water on the weekend The sandpaper tore my tongue I grinned sour red I chopped my sulking hair with scissors Frail ends fell to the floor Some clung onto my back I plucked the strays and bunched them together with tape Smiling stupidly as the bundle grew every time I thought that someone would hold the door open for me If I sifted the sugars through a sieve But my nails broke and the beds bled as doors slammed on my hand My skin stretched and flesh bulged to one side My ceiling was a notebook My novel was a cereal box I licked my salty finger and smudged the black scribbles on my wrist Of this morning’s numbers I thought that if I counted every single grain of sand I would be walking through open doors If I satiated myself with sums I would no longer be no-one I am not no-one No I am a number
And I know how numbers taste One thousand two hundred times seven times three hundred and sixty five minus depends on the day Bitter Bittersweet, but never sweet I miss my sailboat, the ocean, the sand, the salt. I miss the sweetness, the sugar. Sofia C.
Matchbox I used to carry around a matchbox full of band-aids for her, just in case she ran out, but in all my years of knowing her she never did. She was at least aware enough of her own shortcomings to know that she needed to have a couple on hand at all times. Hers were bound in a hair tie. That way if she needed a band-aid or a hair tie she would have both. Plus it was a neat way of organizing them so they wouldn’t get lost at the bottom of her handbag. She dove into her stash regularly. At the beginning of the day her hands would be exposed, and at the end I’d knotice they were neatly packaged. But when she did she would always make an extra stop on her way home to purchase more. If she ever found the matchbox, I’d probably lie and say they were for me. When our paths first crossed, it confused me how such a small girl could obtain so many injuries. I wondered if she played volleyball or rock climbed, but neither explanation matched with the little I knew about her. She was quiet and guarded, saying no more or less than she needed to, but there was no shame in her quietness. She simply seemed the type of person who enjoyed their own company. I found her on multiple occasions laughing at her own jokes when no one was near enough to laugh with her. But I never minded. I was happy at her happiness. And the more I observed, the more I liked her. She had a way of making life beautiful. So it may have been selfishness that led me to move my seat in Chemistry two rows forward and a seat to the left. It was nice to be close to her, though. From there I could lean a bit to the side and see her doodling in class, or reapply lip balm, or raise her hand to answer a question. If I was lucky I might even see her smile. But I was the luckiest when I saw her bag catch under the seat in front of her and tear at the seam. Her bag was half fallen-apart already, it was only a matter of time. She frowned and sighed. After a moment of deliberation she pulled a needle and thread out of the front pocket and began mending the tear. After that more and more pieces of her fell into place. She sewed absentmindedly, never taking her eyes off the teacher. The only problem was she was 140
not good enough at her craft to do so effectively. So after a couple rounds of over under and through she stabbed her thumb with the tip. She closed her eyes and sucked in breath. I would have rather she stopped sewing then. She could have finished it later without the threat of poking her hand. But she didn’t and after a short pause she returned to her mending. My mother used to sow, but she avoided such problems by using a thimble over her fingertips. So I bought one after class and put it into my bag next to the matchbox, just in case I could muster the courage to give it to her. And slowly the side pocket of my bag became just another piece of myself devoted to her. Sadie G.
My eleven ways of living: 1. Entrapping: I entrap myself in solitude by letting myself scream 2. Screaming: I scream for my mother’s name until my voice gives up on me 3. Becoming: I learn to become the gray cat that lives fluidly between backyards 4. Falling: I let myself fall with the rain–and I no longer define myself by my physical state 5. Dancing: I dance because it’s the only time my mind is free from my body 6. Giving in: I accept the compulsive nature of my being that lives and grows inside me 7. Succumbing: I learn to love the fact that I am a creature of habit, and love that my patterns have become me 8. Washing: I wash my hands continually I must learn how to cleanse! To repent! 9. Waking: I don’t let my body stay prisoner to my subconscious mind 142
10. Fearing: I let my fear devour me And tell myself it’s easier that way 11. Laughing: I laugh with my sister until the air leaves our lungs And the only thing left to breathe is love Sabine K.
Visitors I found the seeds in a drawer, where they pensively lay waiting In a small plastic ziploc, dusty and quiet beside a roll of yellow thread I don’t remember when I got them, Only that I have them now, and that it falls to me to animate them. I don’t know how to garden. The only plant I ever had was a cactus, And it died. I watered it too much So I was gentle with these mystery seeds, small dark and smooth Like insect bodies. I chose a tea mug I had never much liked, perhaps because I had never much liked tea And filled it with dirt, the granules like sugar but softer, more somehow Their weight palpable and yielding to the seeds I gave them And I watered it immediately. That seemed like the right thing to do. As the days passed, I thought back to my ill-fated cactus How the term I learned for overwatering was that I had ‘drowned’ it And how violent that seemed How intentional, when my intentions were anything but. A week or two had passed when I saw the first green murmurs of my mystery seeds I rejoiced! I had worried I’d commited another murder And how alien they looked, how pale Like fish that dwell at the bottom of the ocean. Anna M.
There Is a Man Cut in Two by the Window There is a man cut in two by the window and a man cut in quarters by the moon and the moonshine is spilling out of him like so much milk, lap it up! Start again. There is a man cut in two by the window which he has only recently scrubbed clean so he can see with greater clarity his neighbor Lala whom he sometimes fancies and whom he sometimes watches pull into the garage and park the car and exit the car and close the garage door click click shut. Start over. There is a man cut in two by the window by the sea and the ocean is pouring, in great gobs, through the hole where glass should be and into the holes where glass shouldn’t be, lap it up! Try again. There is a man cut in two by the window and he likes it this way because now he can do a sort of hula hoop dance with his separate halves and also pretend that his torso is a delicious treat being served up on a gleaming glass platter and maybe this parlor trick might entice Lala to come over for dinner? Do it again. There is a man cut in two by the window, but he doesn’t know yet, and most likely will not know for a very long time. Not quite. There is a man cut in two by the window pane which a magician’s assistant has just shoved clean through the middle of the box he’s standing inside, at center stage, and the audience is delighted because even though they can see the man through the box’s transparent front they really cannot tell whether or not he’s actually been chopped! So they laugh and they clap and the man cut in two by the window can see, just before his lights fade, that Lala is leading the standing ovation! She loved it! She’s lapping it up! Ruby D. .
I Dream of Driving I dream of driving. Long stretches of coastline California highways, Single tarry lines cutting through the deserts of the southwest, The green and gray roads of the northeast hills. It seems I have sacrificed the freedom to drive with the freedom to live in a city. Don’t get me wrong, I adore this city. I do not, however, adore its drivers. My mother doesn’t either, and thus I am prohibited from learning to drive here, Which is fine by me since the thought of navigating the FDR makes me want to die. But still, every night, I find myself back in the driver’s seat. Sometimes it’s a stress dream, and the brakes stop working or the turns are weird, But even through the yells and honks of disgruntled highway goers I can only think one thought: I’m driving! And the good dreams are even better, because they’re so intuitive, like me and the car are one entity, body, and mind; we have the power to go anywhere, just me and my car against the world, “Out on the open road,” as they say. I am nobody’s but my own in my car. I am a pirate and my seas are the endless roads of America; all those God-blessed amber waves and purple mountain majesties they sing about at baseball games. I romanticize the pedestrian freedom granted by driving; the ability to feel like a cowboy from an air-conditioned leather seat. Oh, to be a car owner, to trade in my vertical card that screams UNDER 21 for a 146
horizontal milestone. Last: Kim First: Seryn Class: D Organ donor? I’m not sure yet. In truth, I’ve never been to the coastline highways of California, Only ever seen them in old movies and modern music videos. I’m not even sure if they really exist like that, all deserted and baked and golden, with palm trees that sway in the salt breeze, Because I’ve been told that southern California is notoriously full of traffic, And most realistically I will be stuck on that highway, Sandwiched between Priuses and pickup trucks for hours, Stuck in my car. Seryn K.
Bubblegum Circus I went on a parade With cowboys, mermaids and clowns and thieves. We rode by way of horse Through the desert of mischief, ornamented with sandy sky-studding stars. And when we reached the forest edge, We let our horses go and gallop off —I imagine to their next troop— And the monkeys took us under. They taught us With a precious and most excellent delicacy The art of swinging from a vine. We lived off pomegranate jewels and pineapple juice And on not-so-hot Nights we’d have Fat plantains and cherry pop soda And sometimes coffee, too. We scented our skin with limes And tickled ourselves giddy With pink and red Feathers, flattering in their exuberance. I was shown Bubblegum berries And mangoes shaped like stars Trees with mirrors-for-leaves And beads Blue and green And purple too, unlike any I’d ever seen! Tumbled like stones or smoothed Along hazy orange beaches,
Sticky and wet with impermanence, a drowsy and ephemeral oasis, Where we may have pitched our tents once. The circus of circuses; Comes as it pleases, Travels where it wishes. Stella M.
Amigas I often think I miss those kinds of new friendships where the night and tired eyes turn the truth over and reveal a new person out of me Now the nighttime hangs over my skin A sickly stale reminder of myself Mangle my mouth back in time and regurgitate what was accidentally swallowed But this is what I remember: My skies stayed blue and I rode underneath your rolling clouds on a concrete highway Caught in giggles underneath a statue No one else was living while we ran blurrily through the nopales Oh, so weightless and weak (you would be eight kilograms on the moon) You moved thirteen times, you told me The last move was because he broke up with your mother, What an asshole Asshole who couldn’t talk about what he had seen that day The day your city sounded sirens and your whole life shook I was with you during my first earthquake You showed me your dark-blue school texture touched bumps and aches in its walls decaying by every word we spoke I showed you a word in another language
until we stood suspended Our train car rocking back and forth as you sobbed The doors opened and I felt a rush of people scream out into the concrete air You are quite sensitive But you have those strong bones Those dancer bones that don’t break Bruised raspberry red toes that I once saw in the floor to ceiling mirror The night has been too empty lately But you do tend to stay up Are you thinking about our distance? (It would take me 840 hours to walk to you) We live connected on a string A string that forms between our two hairy eyebrows A string of the phone that I used to curl in my hands before hearing a dead tone A single string traveling miles and miles on dirt roads up to your desert border So far away and nearly 19 your eyes keep staring back at me subtle glow across the glass I wash my face clean of the night. Léa S.-G.
Letter to Dr. Seuss Oh Dr. Seuss Oh Me Oh Dear Oh My Such basic words thou dost let fly Your tongue must flip and rivet, turn To let loose such affronting words Green eggs and ham which ever I do see Green eggs and ham, to be honest, from you to me From you to me green eggs are not my taste And ham is what? A farmer’s farting waste So let us make peace oh Dr. Seuss For you will never board my autobús (and if so, only in caboose) Lukas K.
A Trip to the Art Museum I don’t remember much about her but I recall the sound of her slippers on the hardwood floor as she tiptoed down the hallway towards the bathroom. She always began her journey at exactly 6:05 AM when she probably thought I was still asleep. On one occasion, I was so overcome with childish curiosity that I stared through the crack of the slightly-ajar door just to see what she could possibly be doing. I watched her unscrew the cap off a stout translucent jar filled halfway with off-white face cream and dip her pointer finger in, careful to take only a miniscule dollop. It must have been cold to the touch, but she seemed used to it. She pressed her finger to the skin of her cheek and dabbed delicately, traveling over the bridge of her nose before making her way up her cheekbones and towards her graying widow’s peak. She dabbed repeatedly at her wrinkled forehead pursing her lips in skillfully constrained frustration before she finally gave up and screwed the cap back on, sighing to herself. Some days, she would take me to the museum to peer at Impressionist paintings of long-ago maidens whose skin never dried in the winter or sweat in the spring and would remain unblemished for eternity. They don’t have to worry about wrinkles, she would joke. I could never understand her longing for such monotony, since I much preferred Picasso’s eccentric jumbles, but perhaps when I am all grown up and my forehead becomes creased with worry, and the color in my lips fades to faint purple-pink I will understand— and I will prefer Renoir. Ellie P. 153
Lyla B., Drawing
Morning Routine It would be so easy to break into the neighbors’ house; thinking about it was Harold’s guilty pleasure. Every morning, while on his perfunctory stroll around the block, the thought was on his mind. He stepped out at the same time every day—7:05—and always returned at 7:30. At this time, he would unlatch his white picket fence, retrieve the paper tossed somewhere on the stoops (usually the first step, but recently the paper boy was slightly off mark and had been hitting the second or third step, and some days even the porch) and re-enter his neatly painted door to start the coffee and change for work. Harold’s morning walks were civil; he was a man who liked routines. He would wave to neighbors, peer in at new garden additions, and make a note on the weather — but then, on the last stretch down Ives, he could think of nothing else but the robbery. The house in question was number 248. A perfect number. A number much better than Harold’s own, 241. His obsession with this house started two years ago, when there had been local commotion over a home robbery in this very town, only five blocks over. This town never saw crime—Harold didn’t think there was even a calculated crime rate—so naturally the event sparked a lot of unrest; people purchasing new locks, putting in surveillance cameras, that kind of thing. But for Harold, who knew the homeowner personally (Harold was his accountant), the proximity of the crime sparked something different in him. Harold was a content man. He liked his job; he had a wife whom he loved; and his two kids were grown but visited home often. He appreciated the regularity of his life. Every weekday, he left for work and returned home in the evening at the same time. Every Saturday, he and his wife stayed up late to watch SNL together. Every Sunday, they had brunch at the same café in town. His paychecks were steady enough for him to put some aside and take a weeklong vacation the first week of August every year, to a small bed and breakfast in Maine that his wife enjoyed. His days were predictable. This wasn’t a bad thing—he had an enjoyable routine, after all. Nonetheless, his life had little room for unplanned excitements or spontaneity, and this is why the idea of the robbery clung to his imagination 155
so strongly. Harold was an agile man, and clever too; with enough planning, he was sure he could pull it off. Not that he ever would—he knew that it would be ethically wrong, and that any misstep ran the risk of completely upending the comfortable life he and his wife had here. But still, dreaming up ways of entering and removing something meaningful from 248 Ives Street filled his mind whenever he gazed upon its lovely facade across the street. There was nothing very special about this house in particular, at least from the outside. Harold chose it purely because he liked the number, 248. He thought it sounded very satisfyingly succinct. It rolled off the tongue. He knew who lived there: a couple about his age, the father a banker, the mother a teacher, and their teenage son. This added an interesting layer to his thoughts. He was sure their house and his likely held many of the same kinds of trinkets, but rather than dimming his imagination, this made the idea of permeating their front door even more enticing. He liked the idea of sifting through the objects of a family that he saw as his parallel. How did others like him live? Where would he find similarities? Where would they differ? It was a guilty pleasure. An outlet, even. Walking by 248 Ives and pausing from across the street to gaze and think up new entry points to the house had become a morning ritual. Some people did crosswords, some people watched the morning news—Harold thought of methods to rob the house across the street. He didn’t tell anyone about this; that would spoil all the fun. But he didn’t think it was harmful either. Harold was an upstanding member of his community, a devoted husband and father. Those couple seconds each morning were simply a welcome dash of excitement to his days. A puzzle of sorts. The rest of his life circuited around work and his family, but the idea of the robbery was his little secret, and he smiled to himself when he thought about this part of his life— something that no one else knew about, something that was all his own. Joline F.
After “Theme for English B” There is something to be said for urgent greasy Gas-station breakfasts. Easier to get down than our freeze-dried macro-nutritious Meal rations. They cover the bases—and I’m not one to fuss—but I do miss disposable coffee cups And those plastic packaged, pre-halved hard boiled eggs shelved Between stacked six packs of Coke and neatly lined rows of JACK LINKS EXTRA TENDER jerky strips: reliable. There is something to be said for the way space sounds. Not out there (though you already know what that silence is like, don’t you?), but inside: This bird chirps non-stop. I sometimes forget to speak For days on end. “Piece of My Heart” has been stuck in my head but the monitors Sing enough for me and Janis both. The first sound I made today was the scratch of this pen on fireproof paper As I hunch in the best ship spot (domed bay window where I have sometimes played submarine), And let the page “come out of me” because, as Mission Control Likes to remind, it’ll help me “maintain morale” through to the end, So I write when I can. Soon the pen’ll run dry, and what will this chapter of space sound like then? There is truth in the way the heat of the sun makes a body sweat. Makes a body miss. Humid lawn chair mornings. Dust. There is still some truth left in this spaceship: I burned ants with a magnifying glass as a boy, and I regret it, but the regret
doesn’t make me any Better of a person. Sherrie married me to spite her old guy. She was self conscious and she could Crack a bottle open with her canines and she was Good to me. Orange juice doesn’t taste right this far out, so I won’t be drinking it with Any of my remaining breakfasts. A morning is empty this far from home. And my nitrogen propelled Pen is on its last legs. Here is a new kind of truth: I am hurtling past Ganymede and I cannot turn back. Ruby D.
The small frog sat next to the young boy, glistening in the rain. The water droplets slipped unfazed down the frog’s protective skin, washing down into the soil and most likely creating a house drip for some snuggled group of rodents down in their tunneled burrows below. The boy was waiting (of course) for the fireflies. They only came out in the dark, and though it was moderately frightening being out at this time of night, he knew it would be well worth it. He was wearing the green oversized raincoat his mother insisted he wear, but, as usual, no boots. He found them to be completely pointless. The obvious choice was barefoot, so the water would glide off your feet as you walked, rather than accumulate in a wet dirty puddle around your toes. He watched the area intently, waiting for a movement or sparkle somewhere but nothing seemed to happen yet. And then, a glow. In the heart of the dark wooded clearing, a smudged hazy light was creeping through, illuminating the intricate black carvings of each countless tree it passed. The initial gleam was followed by more flickering twinkles, lazily trailing through the sprinkling rain in a warm group. The brightness increased as they got closer and closer to the little boy, until they were only a few feet away, shining like immortal lanterns in the profound gloom of the forest. As they arrived around him he noticed the shape of some was different from the others. Bigger, but more separated and extremely delicate. He realized he could make out thin blurred limbs, dangling and pointed, attached to tiny smiling faces, their features barely discernible in the mist. Long iridescent wings sprouted from their backs, only the veins and edges visible, sweeping the air purposely. His eyes widened in awe and he inhaled deep from his small chest. These must be fairies. One little laughing face floated down to rest on his foot, shining so he could now see the mud-soaked earth crusted on his bare feet. The fairy reached a nimble hand down and then up, accompanied by a nod, beckoning the boy from above. The creature slowly stepped off his toes falling back into the air an inch away from the ground. The boy looked on with astonishment as one of the bigger black and orange striped fireflies gradually leaned down, in between the gray grasses, to take the fairy carefully on its back. They buzzed upwards and into the crowd of indistinguishable torches. The troupe began to advance past him, the 159
light that had first been so prominent slowly dispersing further into the hollow. The frog, clearly unfazed, turned his head, let in a mucky gulp, and began slowly striding towards the direction of the luminosity. The boy straightened the ends of his green raincoat and decided to follow. The fairy and firefly brigade floated ahead through the black branch-clouded forest, occasionally looking back at the boy and his pronounced presence in the group. The trees were torturously coiled and sharp in the dark, but by the roots, faded pink milkweeds, cream-colored lilies of the valley, and bright blue cornflowers weaved their way through even the strongest shadows. Owl-feathered ferns and rubbery mushrooms collided in plumes and stubs of orange and green on the floor. Dripping moss and wet clumps of dirt collided with the boy’s soft feet as he walked. Just when it had felt as if they had been walking for too long, the mass stopped at a clearing in the branches. The boy looked forward and saw a great green sprawling lake, the surface smoking from the chill of the air. He noticed a beautiful woman sitting off to the side of the shore. She had silver and blue stone skin, craturered with shadow and spotted with white from the sun. Her wet hair clung in gray curls around her face, hugging her chin and bracing itself along a shiny pearl circlet around her head. Her face was still, eyelids smoothly closed and eyebrows completely relaxed. She was something otherworldly the boy thought. Something not from near here or anywhere close. He watched as one of the fairies (the same one that had been on his foot he thought) floated over to the woman’s head. Her scale was tiny in comparison to the woman, barely as big as one of her fingers as she approached the woman’s ear. The boy heard a small sound come out of the fairy’s mouth, and one of the woman’s eyebrows furrowed slightly. Suddenly two identical large furry black moths fluttered softly out of each of the woman’s ears. The little boy jumped back in shock and looked as the woman shifted both eyebrows and slowly opened her eyes. The boy was initially frightened, they were completely silvery white with no iris or color, just blank shining milk. Although there was no way to tell where she was looking, the boy felt her presence watching him almost instantaneously.
She stood up to her full height, quite a great deal taller than the boy, and shifted her arms to the front of her body where the boy could see that she held two items. As the boy watched closer he realized it was two small animals, a newborn felted bat wrapped comfortably within its bony wings in her right set of fingers, and a small brown and gold wild pygmy owl nestled into her left palm. She set them down lovingly in the soft grasses and approached the boy reaching her now empty hands to him. He hesitantly took them, and she lightly tugged him towards the bank of the lake. He slowly followed. He noticed the frog hop over and arrive by his feet once more. The waters swirled with dark green and blue gray, the fog on the top rising up and curling into the sky. The frog stood for a moment contemplating the boy and the woman, adjusted his legs and pushed off, jumping into the water below creating a small circle in the water that pooled The boy looked over into the strange lake and saw his round face and ruddy green rain outwards as the frog began to splay out and swim. The woman dipped her long fingers into the lake, and as she pulled them out the boy saw that the liquid he thought was water had produced thick pure silver droplets on her fingertips. jacket were surrounded by a bright white haze in the reflection. He turned his gaze to where he thought the woman’s own reflection would be showing, but it was not. Instead he saw the lake reflect a brilliant full moon, the radiant white speckled with gentle purples and dusty orbs. He then truly realized who had been meeting all along. This woman was the moon and these fairies her stars. He turned to the woman who was already glancing back at him; she opened her mouth, closed lids over her white eyes, and lovingly laughed, a sound that was filled with vitality and faraway coolness. She placed a nurturing hand on his cheek and he slowly felt his mind starting to dream away. He turned his head to take a glimpse of the fairies who were still lazily floating and talking in their warm golden light, thinking he could just make out the one he recognized smiling back at him. The little boy in his green rain jacket opened his eyes. He found himself lying under the tall curving trees he had started in. He felt the soft wet dirt under his elbows and head; he was really back here. He slowly sat up, completely dazed
and sleepy-eyed, and pulled his green hood up and over his small head. He heard a deep-bellied croak and swiveled his head to the side. There in all his glory lay the frog, as unbothered as before and looking back at him. The boy grinned and looked above to the sky. The moon was shining brighter than ever in her infinite spot and the stars twinkled throughout, creating a deep tapestry of black and silver. His mother had not known he had left, and she would not check his bed until morning. Something made the boy want to stay out here just a little longer. And so. The small frog sat next to the young boy, glistening in the rain. Julie S.
Strawberry Please Every Friday they plant spoons in the creamy surface of a pink planet marking the scoop as a place for two. Alternating bites shrink their new home until they’re left floating away from one another until next week. Had she known it was the last planet he would discover with her she would have never touched the spoon. She would have let the ground melt under their feet before clinging to the last drops that always remained in that paper cup galaxy. Fia D.
The back of my throat burns with a burp And I’m out sick with an embarrassing Case of Nostalgia Grotesque and delicate disease Of the heart and the fingertips That trace over our mossy brains Like a subtle and murderous breeze A fire rolling down in a shade of red of Whatever you please Gregarious Man thankful for any stains Lipstick or wine or ash or dog shit Anything to display the image of no grit Only illustrative moments long before New York rains And I’d give a pretty penny To see the city without any pains Stella M.
Indulge Me The table is glass and so is the Vase that rests on top. Orange peonies, pink tulips, red poppies: a beautiful bouquet in that slender, curvy, translucent Vase. What would happen if I smashed it? The room is silent, the house is still, and every object and every being sits gently in the exact place it’s supposed to be. The glass would be cool, it would fit in my hands like a glove. It would only take a moment. I walk away because breaking glass is
not allowed. And all of a sudden there are tiny pieces of shattered glass on my floor. The orange peonies, the pink tulips, the red poppies are now surrounded by a puddle of water that has sunken into my rug. Everywhere. I feel much better now. But I will miss that oh-so-beautiful Vase: slender, curvy, glamorous, magnificent, Translucent, and perfectly wrong. Katie E.
A Little Coda A supper, a seder, A few sips of wine. A party! Let’s have a party. Coney Island, the F train The end of the line. The Plaza at 3 Eloise fell, Kaboom! Born in a hotel room, goddammit it, dying in a hotel room. The parade is over Shreds of docs fill the streets. What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? My dear Beaver, hello! How are you, How’d you do? Swing low, sweet chariot. A little kiss for you! Famous last words. I’m bored with it all. And now for a final word from our sponsor, Barren trees after fall. Abby D.
Let’s take it back to the UN security council room, New York City, February 5th, 2003. It had all come down to this: the world’s most influential nations’ largest conflict, on whether or not an invasion or Iraq could be morally followed through with, was coming to a head. Unusual enemies and allies had been made. Despite moral platitudes and a pooh-poohing from all sides, most parties involved, if not all, were only in it for themselves. Sure, they claimed to care for the twenty-three million Iraqis, gasped at potential WMD’s, and in the hottest take of the 21st century, denounced Saddam Hussein (who’d given those very same administrators oil sale kickbacks in the decade prior). But really? Underneath the mask of concern, every single member of that council was looking to push their global advantage; who better exemplified this than America and her revolutionary sister France? And yet, this ancient alliance had fallen apart. American generals slandered the French at press conferences while being insensitive to the suffering of Iraq. At the same time, French peace strikes ignored how their homeland had invested in Saddam Hussein as a long term leader through consistent trade, even when other allies backed off. This division of the international community played right into Saddam’s “divide-and-conquer” tactics. That day was the tensest it had ever been in the UN Security Council room, which was really saying something. There was only one person who was going to solve this. Elmo, beloved children’s figure and ardent supporter of the highly divisive Oil-for-Food program, was taking center stage that day. He was the world’s only hope for a smooth deal, whether it be war or peace. “La la la la, la la la la, Elmo’s world. Hi, everybody!” The room bristled with uneasy laughter. Way in the back of the room, where no one could see him, was Benon “Pasha” Sevon, Elmo’s boss. The head of the United Nation’s Oil-forFood program, who’d soon flee the country for diverting funds from his program to himself, was putting his head in his hands. “Who the fack chose this idiot?” Pasha muttered to himself in his thick Cypriote accent. Of course, he had chosen this idiot, but responsibility wasn’t something you took in this business. “Elmo’s all about love, and Elmo never lies. I know there’s been a lot of fighting recently, between all of you guys and your friend Iraq. And that makes Elmo sad. You know, Elmo also fights with his friends sometimes. We fight over 167
cookies, and rocks. Elmo gets mad and sad and all these things! But at the end of the day, no matter what... Elmo always says sorry. And so do his friends! I mean… can’t we all just get along and be friends?” Pasha groaned, taking another heavy drag on his trusty cigar, before stopping. Did that sound deceive him, or was that… the soft whimpering of George Bush’s Secretary of State and retired four-star general Colin Powell? The Vietnam veteran had been moved to tears by Elmo’s words. “Uh oh! Is someone crying? Elmo doesn’t want his friends to feel down! Because everyone deserves to be loved.” “No, Elmo,” Colin Powell sniffled. “These are tears of joy. You’ve awakened something in my heart. De Villepin, where are you?!” He stood up, diamond droplets falling from his face. He had called out to his bitter political rival, the French ambassador and poet Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, who had been weeping into his handkerchief all that time. “Oh Powell, you sloggy simpleton, I am sorry for everything. How could we let this whole Iraq business divide us for so long?” “Get over here, you damn frenchie!” The two ran across the UN Security Council room, hugging like old childhood friends lost to time. Every ambassador, from Australia to Zimbabwe, cheered in support of Elmo’s speech and the symbol of friendship. None of them had ever even conceived the idea that they could all just…“get along” or…“be friends.” None of them, except for the wild card Elmo—” Pasha was stunned. He ran to Elmo beaming, pulling out the cigar from his mouth. “I always knew you had it in you, my boy, this is why I chose you! I say, Elmo, with you as my right hand man, we’ll be going places,” Pasha said proudly and blissfully unaware of the confidential criminal investigation that would lead him to flee the US for Cyprus in the coming months. “You know, Pasha,” Elmo said knowingly, “if today has taught me anything, it’s that when you put your mind to it, you can do anything, like solving the 2003 clash of typically allied nations leading up to the Iraq War. Now come on everybody! Let’s sing a song.” Suddenly, every member of the United Nations in that room stood up. 168
They looked at each other, not as tools to be used for their own gain, but as friends and compatriots. “Come on, Elmo,” Colin Powell said. “Sing us a song. Sing us a song we can sing together.” “Please,” De Villepin said. “I am the biggest fan of your show, I watch it everyday after I come home late from a Paris worker strike.” Elmo looked around bashfully. “Oh, I dunno. I’m a little shy around my friends. Does anyone else wanna sing?” Pasha laughed and patted the red puppet on the back. “Elmo. You know me. And you know I’m a realist, I say things and I mean them. I’m not fucking pussy, okay? So believe me when I tell you, you’ve earned this.” And with that, Elmo began to sing, the United Nations Security council slowly joining in over time. “La la la la la la la la, Elmo ‘s world. La la la, la la la la la la Elmo’s world! Elmo loves his goldfish, his crayon too. That’s… Elmo’s… world!!! Hee hee hee.” Jack Allen G.
Teacher, teacher, teacher… Professor. TEACHER. Mr. Learning Man. Or I’m the learning man? Mr. Educating Man. General Educator, Colonel Learner, reporting for duty. The duty is what, exactly? To report precisely, on time and Matter-of-factly. Report on what? ANYTHING!! Anything but Sticky Food, Fast-talkers, Slow-walkers, Classical Music, Futuristic Fashion, Dull Peoples’ Passion, Temp Jobs, The Banks Robbed, Caramel Popcorn, The Midtown Mob, A Bald Man’s Scorn DVD Porn—HEY that section’s off limits, kid!!—Clothing-Too-Worn, Sweaty Subways, Baby Bein’ Born, Prom Dress Torn, Lady With Too Much Blush, Wallstreet Man In A Rush—and never talk about The Sad Woman Lookin’ Like An Abused Gray Mare Livin’ Alone In Complete Forlorn. Never her, take a different route. My assignment Was given, I aced it. Now quit it. Spit it, split it, rid yourself from those nasty complaints Picky, dusty and desolate. Isolated like they’ve been thrown from the sky into the desert! They aren’t of any good measure, Naturally boring and inert
To what I’m working on they don’t relate! Sickening, like some stew I once ate… Precise, On Time (?), and Certainly From A Firm Stance Here’s your Report Works over C’mon let’s Dance!!!!!! (you may critique, but please, don’t retort) Stella M.
Jesus sits in a cybercafé. He looks around, the room is empty. He puts his head in his hands. “If I turn on this computer,” he thinks, “am I surrendering myself to the inevitable? Am I giving in?” He closes his eyes, picks his head up. Why is he here? How can he define himself? Is he Jesus? Does he have a purpose? If he is truly one with the Father and the Holy Spirit? If so, what is the benefit in trying? With these questions in mind, he opens his eyes. He reaches down and takes a sip of bitter coffee that had been sitting in the pot for about two hours. “Wow,” he says to himself, “these humans really do know how to fuck up coffee.” Setting down the mug, he adjusts his hair out of his face and pushes the power button of the desktop computer. He waits a moment, and then another, and another, but nothing happens. He pushes it again, perhaps the first time he did not press hard enough. Still nothing. He rolls the chair back and looks under the desk to see if the plug is in the outlet. Sure enough, there it is, plugged in exactly as it should be. He sits back up. The screen is blank, all he can see is his reflection staring back at him. His beard needs a trim. He blinks and watches his reflection blink back at him. Jesus begins to think more seriously, did he truly pay his penance on the cross, come back from death, just for this computer to not turn on? Is God playing some kind of joke on him? Perhaps God does not even know where he is. In fact, he begins to think about how maybe God has had nothing to do with his entire life’s path. Why wouldn’t his actions reflect back on himself? Why does there need to be an external force that imposes truth on him? Jesus closes his eyes again for a moment, his reflection is bothering him. He wishes there was a convenient hole underneath the desk that he could, momentarily, crawl into. He needs to collect his thoughts. He can not remember how he ever made all the decisions in his life leading up to this moment, he can not understand what has led him here, to this very cybercafé. He ponders the idea that the inevitable has caught up with him. That if now he was one with the Father, one with the Holy Spirit, he cannot see a reason why he shouldn’t hide away somewhere. No reason why he shouldn’t sit at the
next computer over and see if that one will turn on. The office can handle a few days without him, he’s served them a lifetime. It all comes down to whether he wants to believe in something. He needs to think more about it. He can’t stand his reflection any longer so he turns his chair around. Maybe this is why pride is the deadliest of all the sins. Nina D.
Great Expectations “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Betsy had heard this phrase thrown around many times during her five years on the farm. She had never understood exactly what it meant. Every morning, just as the sun was beginning to peek through the window on the eastern side of the facility, workers would arrive and nod with shared weariness before grunting out the line. There was no grass in this part of the Dairy Farms of America, Inc. branch—the only grass she knew was from the small patches of sod tracked in on the boots of the working folk as they made their way around the barn in the morning or during their frequent rounds; she assumed any grass would have to be greener than the muddied bits scattered around the aisles. Every morning, as the wide doors groaned open and the industrial lights flickered on, she considered this “other side.” While the workers brushed off their worn pants and made their way around, pressing various buttons and hitting stalls with a crowbar to wake up the lazing Holsteins, she looked for the blades of grass in the mud to check whether they had gotten any greener since the day before. She never understood what it meant until now, that is. When Dairy Farms of America, Inc. cows reached the end of their five year tenures, their time was complete. Retired cows were escorted out the wide back doors of the hall in batches and sent elsewhere. She didn’t know where they went, but she always assumed it must be somewhere like the place displayed on the posters plastered on every wall of the hall. Those posters displayed a farmer with a woven sunhat and blade of straw in his mouth resting a hand on the crest of a fat, happy Holstein, standing in front of a nostalgic small-farm scene with a silo, red barn, and pastures rolling out of sight in the background. The grass looked very green in those pictures; Betsy imagined this was the so-frequently-coveted “other side.” And now—now it was her turn. She and the other weary dairy cows in her row were next in line to leave. They had put in five years of work, had been subjected to more than their fair share of discomforts, and the day had finally come when her row would leave the hall and all others would shift to fill their
place. The workers had gone around to each cow in Row A2, placing rope around their necks and stringing them together in twos—for safety purposes, Betsy was sure—and unlatching the steel bars of their stalls. The workers were rough, but Betsy was used to aggressive handling. Besides, she didn’t care much what it took to get them out of here. Regardless of how, she knew that her life was about to change for the better. Exiting the double doors, the air outside felt wonderfully cold on her face. She had never been outside before. She was born inside, and lived there for her entire life, but she was not resentful; being in that hall her whole life made the outside air feel that much fresher now. She gazed around, and the scenery was lovely. It wasn’t quite like the posters; the path she was being escorted down was dirt, and the sky wasn’t quite so blue, but there were open fields around her, and trees in the distance. The grass had brown patches, but it was still much more colorful and inviting than anything she had seen before. Betsy wondered if this was where they would be deposited. There was no red barn here, no older retired Holsteins, no happy farmer with straw in his mouth waiting to welcome them – but after five years with nothing to look at but the steel bars of her stall and nothing to listen to but mournful lowing, it still looked like something from a dream. But Betsy was in for a shock. Not only was she being exposed to the world, she was traveling! The dirt path leading out of the double doors, she realized, ended in a parking lot lined with trailer-bearing trucks. The cows, walking in a straight line two at a time, were being directed straight into trailers. When Betsy and the cow next to her reached theirs, she practically trotted up the ramp. She couldn’t imagine where they were going, or what new scenery might await, but as she found her way into a corner of the metal box and looked out the small square of window, she couldn’t stop thinking about how exciting it was to be a Holstein today, and just how lucky she was. After a long wait while the rest of the trailers were filled, made longer by eager anticipation, a rumble began. The smell of exhaust wafted through the window and between slits in the walls of Betsy’s rickety metal enclosure – they were off. While the other three cows in her group lay down on the rocking floor, 175
taking a well-deserved rest before the next phase of their journey, Betsy kept looking out the window. The bars were wide enough for her to stick her muzzle almost all the way out, and she marveled at the different smells that greeted her as they sped down the highway. The rich smell of corn as they passed fields overflowing with stalks of ears upon ears; a whiff of sweetness when they drove by a farmer’s market boasting bouquets of hand-picked flowers; the smoky smell of something familiar when they passed a restaurant labeled with the letters BBQ on a swinging placard. When she drew back to press an eye to the bars, she was greeted by a blur of rolling fields. Betsy could barely help jumping for joy when she thought of everything else she was soon sure to smell, see, and experience wherever they were heading. When the truck finally made a sudden sharp turn into a large gravel driveway, punting Betsy against the opposite metal wall, and slowed to a halt, Betsy had to remind herself that this was not a dream. As she had peered through the bars, the fields around her had grown increasingly green, the air more and more sweet. When the doors of her trailer opened, she nudged the sleeping cows around her—she was surprised they had even been able to catch a wink, with all the excitement in the air—and led the trail down the ramp. A row of workers were waiting with long sticks in their hand, helpfully directing her towards a pair of closed double doors on the other side of the parking lot’s dirt expanse. She practically ran towards them, testing out the joints in her legs which hadn’t been used enough in the last five years, and tugging heavily on the cow tethered to her with rope. She felt wonderfully free. She barely noticed the sign on the large ranch building’s exterior; the grinding and crunching sound of machinery coming from inside was drowned out by the sound of her own beating heart. She was the first to reach the doors. She stood tall, everything around her small and insignificant compared to the shining feeling of anticipation glowing and lifting her up inside. This was it. Betsy’s thoughts were condensed to one understanding: she was ready for whatever journey awaited. “The other side” was calling her. Joline F.
These Days of… Small sterling silver drops of tears When Crying Underground I recommend a day so hot, that searing heat outside Evaporates the way you feel. Forcing you among the green plastic bottles of Pellegrino And the cardboard boxes of budweiser. Black tea, half sweet, half dry like coffee-coated paper When Getting lunch On Fridays in September I can feel my stomach evaporating even now Giddily terrified I spend minutes pursuing To chase what feels impossibly never inevitable Soda cans pop before they hiss, chemical elements evaporating into equalibrum Indubitably incorrect But Distraction is tempting Ever so available, unregulated, lacking the checks and balances of the Softer studies Lucy G.
The Artist Jon’s studio was extremely messy. There were canvases, paintings, and jars of paint everywhere. There was spilled paint on the floor, and whenever Jon walked he would step in the paint creating footprints wherever he went. You could see how much he paced from the prints of his footsteps. Jon was working on a series of paintings on urban architecture. In contrast to the mess surrounding him, Jon strived to create order in his paintings. He was a geometric painter, and every line needed to be clear and straight. He would meticulously look over every stroke. He was so afraid that he would make a mistake or smudge a line. His eyes were glued to the canvas and his hands were trembling. All of a sudden, Jon noticed a small smudge on the canvas. The anger built up inside of him, filling his body. He took black paint and in a fit of anger, smeared the paint all over the painting. His heart was racing. He stood up and looked at his painting. He clenched his hand into an impenetrable fist. With all his might Jon threw the painting off the easel. He looked at it and felt a need to get rid of it. He grabbed the painting off the ground and quickly walked to his front door, flinging the painting next to the garbage on the sidewalk. The next morning Jon was taking a walk. He liked to take walks every morning. Taking walks cleared his head and enabled him to paint. He knew he was going to have to walk past his painting from the previous day. He was dreading it. As he walked along the sidewalk, he noticed that the garbage was still there, but his painting wasn’t. He didn’t think anything of it. If anything, he was happy that he didn’t have to see it again. Back at home, feeling refreshed, Jon started a new painting of an urban building. He promised himself that he wouldn’t make any mistakes this time. As he picked up the paintbrush he could feel his hand trembling. He started painting. He painted stroke after stroke slowly and carefully. After every stroke he paused to make sure everything was perfect. He was halfway through his painting, but his hand was trembling up and down, up and down. He was painting the windows when his hand lost control
and curved downward instead of staying straight. Jon got up from his chair and started pacing around the room. He kept pacing and pacing back and forth. He dipped his brush in black paint and flicked the brush over and over again across the canvas. He grabbed the painting, went outside, and threw out the painting with the rest of the garbage. The next morning on his walk, Jon noticed that this painting was also gone, even though the rest of the garbage was still there. He pondered. Did someone take his painting? That didn’t make any sense. Who would take his incomplete, imperfect painting covered with black spots? Maybe someone was using it for a litterbox for their cat, or something like that? He went back to his studio and tried to paint. He painted one stroke and then the next. The tip of his paintbrush hit the painting, like a broom, sweeping up the whiteness of the canvas. He looked at the painting and sensed that something wasn’t quite right. He couldn’t say what, but he knew it wasn’t perfect. His hand started to shake even more. After every stroke his shaking got worse. He dipped his brush into his paint. His hand was trembling. His hand hovered over the canvas to figure out his next stroke. All of a sudden, a drop of paint fell onto the canvas zig-zagging its way down to the bottom. Again, Jon dipped his brush into the black paint, and flicked his wrist as hard as he could, creating black blobs of paint. He put it with the garbage. But then, he wondered, would it disappear again? Where were his paintings going? He decided to find out. He hid across the street, behind an old maple tree, to see if anyone would take his paintings. One person walked by. Another walked by, another, and another. Just when Jon thought he was crazy to think that someone had been taking his paintings, a man in a dark gray suit walked up to the bags of garbage and stopped right in front of his painting. He looked around and took the painting. He walked right passed Jon and into the brownstone behind him. Jon followed the man. He crept up to the window of the building and tried to peer inside, but all the curtains were closed. Jon walked around the block pacing and pacing. He was about to go home when he saw a delivery man headed towards the man’s brownstone. He 179
quickly took out his wallet and told the delivery man he was the person receiving the food. He gave the delivery man the money for the food and walked onto the steps of the apartment. His hands were shaking. He rang the doorbell. The man in the suit came and answered the door and asked Jon to come in. Jon walked slowly, trying not to give himself away. He looked into the room and stared at the walls. All three of his paintings were hanging on the wall across from the front door. His ruined paintings were covered in black blobs. They were the centerpiece of the living room. Jon was overwhelmed. The next morning, Jon started on a new painting. This one was of the living room in the brownstone. His hand wasn’t trembling this morning. Jon blurred some lines, looked up, smiled, and kept painting. When he was done, he smiled. He took black paint and flicked some onto the canvas. He then put the painting outside with the garbage. Eli Berliner
Routine Tendrils of smoke curl from her lips, curl from the back of the bus idling on the curb. She sits, down coat pressed up against the window folded in frost and fingerprints. The scent of hot coffee permeates the air, air laced with exhaustion. She inhales stiffly, rubs her hands together. The M3 hasn’t budged from the stop yet, but the woman wonders what difference it makes. In response, the bus sighs & pulls away from the curb. Hannah B.
Did She Notice? I sit cross-legged on the cold hardwood floor of my closet The old lightbulb flickers and buzzes above my head But I don’t notice The folded stark white stool presses painfully into my thigh But I don’t notice The soft drone of music drifts over from where my phone is abandoned in the other room But I don’t notice All I see is the careful curly loops of her cursive The precious paper cradled in my hands Hot tears drip down my smiling face But I don’t notice All I see are her words Detailing her love for me I can hear her voice in my head Laughing at herself as she goes on tangents across the paper My shoulders shake softly with sobs But I don’t notice All I see is the itemized list Of all the ways she loved me All the ways I didn’t love myself My head hits against the peeling paint of the door with a thud But I don’t notice All I can think about is all the ways I loved her too
The way she laughed The way she made me smile The door cracks open and a sliver of light illuminates my tear-stained face But I don’t notice All I remember is that I never told her how much she meant to me But I hope she noticed Laiali T.
By her birthday— The peonies have dried. Petals flaking on stone. Phoebe B.
Lyla B., Portrait
sweet dawn dews on my tongue like bitter alcohol the type you hid in jars one winter, saying come on girl don’t tell girl it’s cold come inside don’t breathe in the night you were talking to someone else a memory, maybe someone crudely shaped together from yellow dyed parchment and spools of inky black thread that snapped in my hands as you held them so softly helped them so softly threading a needle through me, through my heart, my being stitching me together after i’ve become a pile of fabric scraps of junk and cloth that you saw something in like how you saw something in me and prodded at my flame brighter, burning, flame growing high beyond either of our control you were salt water to an open wound; i was oxygen to a forest fire unrelated but existing at the same time without ceasing to think of the other i’m ten when i’m thinking you won’t come back for me the sun shines it’s cruel grin onto my back on that day i felt so miserable that i felt the world was eating me raw and that it would not spit out my bones leaving something of me behind for no one to see
except myself, maybe as i stand in the fleeting dawn i regret all the regret i’ve ever felt is nothing compared to what you’ve made of me. “grandmother/summer, humming bird, soft hands.” Ed L.
Traveling Dinosaurs were gone, it was way easier for my friends and me to kill rabbits. Only issue was sometimes the rabbits would get caught in the hot magma surrounding us at all times- but besides that it was pretty smooth. My friend Ashley and I had a super solid system: Since the rabbits had combat disorder from their experiences with meteors, all we had to do was mimic the sound of a meteorite hitting the ground and the rabbit would freeze in fear. After that, we would break its neck and hold it over the lava for a quick dinner. The scent of a rabbit roasting is so comforting; it feels like home. Occasionally, a rabbit would escape as we got close, but after a second fake meteorite, they wouldn’t dare move. You would think mimicking a meteorite is easy, but it's an acquired skill. Took weeks of practice to get the rock to ricochet off the ground exactly as I desired. Once I mastered the skill, the world was mine. Shout out to the 1220s. That shit was bonkers. While the Mongols were robbing and pillaging in Kazakhstan, my friends and I were going out on the town every night. Miss those times. Although there weren’t any speakers or lights, I'll tell you something about people during the 1220s. They knew how to party. Every night, we would gather in the muddy, shit-covered hut of whatever dumbass decided to sacrifice their shelter, and we would shuffle around to the sounds of one person quietly humming for hours. Don't get me started on the annual washings we would have- watching the water turn black as we bathed was always the highlight of my cleaning. I didn't particularly enjoy putting back on the same clothes we had been wearing for a year right after, but it quickly brought me back to my natural scent, which I think is better. A less pleasant memory in my mind would have to be 1467. I had just recovered from the hecticness of 1303 when I was bombarded by the Renaissance. Don't get me wrong, I love a pretty dress just as much as anyone else, but the corset that came along wasn’t terribly pleasant. Now, I was lucky, I only broke a rib once… I guess I can’t really complain. Here’s the thing, I don’t understand why the sport of jousting has been canceled. People these days are so sensitive. If someone wants to get on a horse and hit another person as hard as they possibly
can, they should be allowed to. I will defend that until the day I die. The sport is so sexy to watch. I loved the splat as knights hit the ground, and the sound of the horses' hooves trampling over the armor. I didn’t particularly enjoy the blood, but as soon as the lances went up, I was ready for war. I can’t tell if it was because I wanted to participate or because I was attracted to those participating. A question for another time! 2690 was pretty good… Some high highs, and low lows. The idea of nanochips initially seemed smart (easier access to porn and asmr), but after a while it started to get a bit freaky. The other day I woke up and was building a structure with 200 other semi conscious people- upon realizing what I was doing, I called a hyperdrive home and went back to sleep, but the experience was kind of overwhelming and gave me a weird feeling in my stomach. I have a sneaking suspicion there is some weird mind control tech in the nanochips, but I don’t have any solid proof yet, so I can't raise it with my doctor. Fun fact, they learned how to cryogenically freeze people, so Kanye has been supreme leader of the universe for 600 years. Some cool things about 2690: you can order anything you want, whenever you want for free! And the best part is it comes immediately- and I mean within seconds. The only requirement is that you have to extend your nanochip insertion time depending on how large the purchase is. For reference, I ordered 2,000,000 dollars last week so they extended my implant by 3 years. Now, I have to stay here for at least another 3 years… But you know what? I take back what I said earlier, there are no lows, I love it here! Emilia M.
Chocolate Square Chocolate Square beckons me from its paper bed. “No…” I whisper, “Not yet.” Chocolate Square calls out to me, begging me to tear away its blue reflective garb. “Give me some time. I-I’m not ready.” Every bone in my body wants to grab Chocolate Square, to caress it, to place it between my teeth and nibble on it, but I just can’t. I sigh. “Look, I want to. I really do.” Chocolate Square looks at me, confused. From its surface, my reflection gazes at me sadly. “I’m sorry. I want nothing more than to taste your luscious sea salt caramel filling, but I just pounded down several cups of water and even just a nibble of your dark, velvety body will cause me to burst! I can’t. I can’t!” Without realizing it, I’ve already grabbed Chocolate Square and fallen to my knees. I’m cradling it close to my chest. I weep gently, and I feel Chocolate Square consoling me. “What about you, Chocolate Square? What do you want? Is being eaten really all you want to happen, or is it just what Ghirardelli has always told you will happen? You’re a free confection! You can do whatever you want! You, and you alone can control your fate, all 15 grams and 70 calories! What do you want?” I stop myself, verging on tears. Neither of us can speak. I stare at Chocolate Square, waiting for a response. “San Francisco, Founded in 1852, Ghirardelli Chocolate, Squares, Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel, Luscious Filling. That’s what I am. Sugar, unsweetened chocolate, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk(milk, sugar), palm oil, cocoa butter, milk fat, butter(cream, salt), sea salt, soy lecithin, sodium citrate, natural flavor, extracts of oregano, flaxseed, plum, and green tea(to preserve freshness), salt, vanilla extract. May contain tree nuts. That’s all I am. Everything I’m made of. I’m not like you. I’m not alive like you. I’m just a product, made in a factory, bought and sold until I’m eaten. I don’t know if I really want to be eaten but… but if I’m going to be eaten by someone, I’d rather it be you.” “Fine,” I eventually reply, “Fine. If that’s really what you want, I’ll do it.”
I slowly peel back Chocolate Square’s smooth shiny defenses, revealing it’s bare brown skin. “I’m sorry.” I place it between my teeth and close my eyes. Crack. Luscious filling floods my mouth. Dashiel B.-T.
For My Sister on Her Birthday Winter comes, and much has changed. The cheese and wine, left out on the table, have developed their sense of taste, and critique the art around them. Several small species, such as moths and guppies, have evolved, no doubt, to meet the mounting demands of our modern world. A sapling has taken up residence in front of a window, tapping on the glass. Oh my dear, how you’ve grown. Violet Demos
Daydreams of a Lonely God Swimming. Bright lights, loud ringing. Darkness and silence blinding, deafening, suffocating me. Binding me. And yet, it spreads out endlessly. Flying, swimming through the thick, dense void. Through its unbearability. Its burning cold. Its nothingness. When my back touches the ground, chills running up and down, I feel for the first time where I end and the dark begins. I feel how large it is, how small I am. How naked and alone and tangible I am. I feel, just beyond this high-flying mind, a body now bound to the ground. Its unpleasantries reveal themselves to me. The shames and desires that come with it. The feeling of adrenaline, cortisol, testosterone, and melatonin filling it with stress and heat and an incredible weariness. The feeling of being alive. And finally, the feeling that comes with ceasing to fly. The superficial pain of hitting the ground, and the much deeper pain of wax wings melted. This body entraps me. When I was just a mind I thought I was universal, a force, endless thoughts of endless length forever. Already, my body is deteriorating. Already, I feel its smallness. Finiteness. Around it, above the hard ground it rests on, the blackness seems endless. Empty. Pushing my body along the ground, I feel its expanse. I feel how it’s cold and smooth like stone, how strong and sturdy it is—though at their edges the bricks begin to crumble. Across those bricks I drag this fleshy vessel. After many painful seconds (or maybe it was minutes, or hours or days or years; what difference does it make in the dark?), inching myself along by pressing the heel of my hand into the floor, the stone bricks rise up out of the floor into a wall. I feel my way up it, sliding my hands as I go from lying to kneeling to standing to jumping. The stone wall does not end within my reach. My fingers can discern no cracks. An indescribable crushing feeling begins to bubble in me. I decide to walk around, hand gliding against the wall, searching for a way out. In only a few steps, the wall turns right and I must turn. A few steps more, and then right again, and then one more right and I will be back where I started. I’m surrounded, totally walled in. My cell is so much smaller than I could have imagined. That crushing feeling grows, crushing the strength from my legs and the
air from my lungs. I’m trapped, gasping on the floor. I need to get out. I scrape my fingers into the stone, praying to somehow dig my way out. I feel a heat dancing on the tips of my fingers and slowly crawling up. I pause and the heat fades but does not disappear. The stone bricks have not changed at all. Without thinking, I return to digging. The heat returns, but I keep digging. First it’s dancing, and then it’s biting. Then I realize that heat must be fire because it is burning me alive. My nails split and my fingers become raw. The stone bricks don’t move, even after I erode the skin of my hands into a frayed pulp. Something hot and wet and indescribably painful is leaking from my hands. And so I scream. I may have been screaming the whole time; that may have only been the first scream I heard. It rattles in my skull, echoing in my mind. Once the reverberations fade, that ringing silence returns, now even louder in the wake of my voice. It’s too quiet. I feel again how I am sitting in total darkness and quiet. I cover my ears and squeeze together my eyelids, but the quiet is too sharp and the darkness too thick. I desperately want to hear another noise or see something. What if this is all there is? What if there’s nothing outside of this empty room? That can’t be. There has to be something, I’ll make there be something. I push my eyelids closer together, and I think I begin to see a light. I see it now. The sun is shining down on me in this chamber. I see the sky turning pink to blue. This room isn’t a jail cell, it’s the world. Inside this cell, inside my eyelids, I make mountains rise and forests blossom. I see birds soaring above the sea. I see elephants marching as a pride of lions watches patiently from a distance. Watching them I feel a terrible nausea but a burning desire to be amongst them. I imagine a garden filled with animals. Rabbits, goats, snakes, lions and bare humans drink, eat, dance, lie down, and coil themselves around each other. I imagine myself down in the garden. I try to feel intoxicated by their warmth. Squeezing my eyes and ears shut, I can almost hear a woman laugh, see her smile, feel her skin on mine. Almost. I strain and scream and cry and try to feel my daydream, to make it real. I hear my wailing overtaking that woman’s soft laughter. I try to make it stop, to hush my sobs, to return to that garden, but a heat is rising off of me. An anger at how unreal it is. I struggle to keep thinking of the garden, but now a flaming 194
sword flies above a dark sky. I make the crouching naked men hurl their spears, dropping birds from the sky, felling the elephants, and soaking the garden red. I look on in horror and glee as I make the creatures of the garden bite and tear at each other, as rocks are raised and cracked down on heads, until they all lie dead and scattered beneath the apple trees. I see them all so still and feel sick. I imagine just me and that woman in the bloodied garden. I think of her smile. I imagine how she would cradle me, how she might laugh while wrapping her thin fingers around my throat, how painful it would be to asphyxiate. For just a moment, accidentally, I open my eyes. The illusion shatters and the ringing silence and chafing darkness flood back in. But now I notice a little crack in the wall above me. Though it’s the thinnest of cracks, a hint of light shines through it. Blinding light. This entire cell—my whole world—is pitch black, but that sliver of glare tells me that there is light outside of it. That there is an outside of it. I try to ignore that fact. I try to close my eyes again, to return to my garden or else to make a new one, but on the inside of my eyelids I can only see that crack. I try to think of forests and oceans, elephants and lions, men and women. Was that crack always there? It must have been. How did I not see it before? Up until that moment I first saw it, I now realize, I had not opened my eyes. And now that I have opened them, I can’t unsee that crack. I feel up to the crack, not looking at it for fear of being blinded, pushing my imbrued fingers through to the other side. On just the very tip of my index finger, I notice a gentle wind. I need to get out, to be in that wind. Straining not to panic, I press my fingernails into the wall with the renewed goal of digging myself out of this room. I know that my garden must be just outside these walls. Dashiell B.-T. .
today (tonight?) I watched the sunset with my grandfather. The son leaves when he’s closest to us. (angles) Mirabelle P.
scattered: blue highways I.
prelapsarian billy goats on blue hills, chewing the dried weeds like the ticket counter at Chuck E. Cheese did with your forehead pressed up on the side of the greased plastic cage, watching it as it sucked up each ticket, like nothing you’d ever seen before. you imagine the creatures, the mulch shuffling down their throats, the pricks clinging onto the pulsing pink you can almost touch the movement, the stickiness of green and spit making delicate and slick sounds. II. stucco on tar
black milk with the thick layer of fat on top creaming from the mid-august heat. blurring vehicles that fade even farther from the whimsical heat line. casual melting debris strewn perfectly on the sides, placed just out of the white paint boundary. little signs that seem small hung up so high, touching angelic wings of seagulls. your pupils rising and the eggwhite forming a sly crescent. the blue highway’s seasalt nauseates you, and you imagine falling to your knees and your elbow jumping to shield your vision from the bitter scent. you look out to your side, and the ocean looks like a bucket of sequins that doesn’t sparkle enough to force you to squint. you want to be dramatic for once. imagine: crawling out of the open car window and bending halfway and crunch-
ing your stomach, legs flinging frantically until they have shimmied their way out, and getting burns on your salty skin. little blackened imprints to remind you of your days at the beach resort. causing enough chaos to make others jolt awake on the wheel and look behind them with confusion as they pass you. there isn’t any space for your knees to lift up though. but how much you want to fly. the afterlife feels permanent. unlike the shifting car gears. the wind runs through your body and flattened bugs work deep into your skin. small bees flit through your eyelids they consume you, and you them. and their trails have been marked with little black dashes, a trail that will surely lead to a windshield. Anaka P.
reverse autobiography 2022 Singed hair, toes poking out of holes in socks, perfection is only an illusion. Playing guitar leaves calluses on fingers; it’s been a year of hopelessly searching for validation. It’s hard to believe we’ve grown so we keep tangible records of our development. Faint lines delineate changing height on once pristine walls. Old photos hang next to creased certificates and wooden gavels collect dust. Failure is only what we make it. Bergamot perfume and David Bowie. We must believe we are gifted for something in this world. 2021 A year of (forced) self-reflection. Pretend to “discover” myself, write convoluted queries and existential quandaries in Times New Roman 12 pt. font to be read by self-proclaimed detectors of ingenuity and something called “fit”. We devote ourselves blindly to the things we deem important. They call it tunnel vision. There’s nothing scarier than when we begin to lose sight of ourselves. 2020 Biden wins the election. Bubble in answers on a score sheet. A virus mutates and people die (evolution is nature’s deadliest weapon). Infections are unbridled, chaos veneered by impeccable growth curves and recalibrated standard deviations. Go on long runs and make bread for the first time. Accidentally kill the yeast. 2019 Wake up one morning and wonder why we structure life the way it is. Decide to make adjustments and fail miserably. Hazelnut k-cup coffee and ‘modern ethics in 77 arguments’. Aristotle’s 3 modes of persuasion— —written weekly on melamine. 2018 There’s a man on the 1 train who asks for money every day. Let suffering thicken
protective skin. 2017 Facebook hits 2 billion global users. Learn how to text dexterously using LG flip phone with buttons that make different sounds. Read books to understand experiences we’ll never have and decide to believe every family is equally dysfunctional. Adages scrawled on subway walls—Si te caes siete veces, levántate ocho. 2016 Jean shorts and flannel shirts, get lost in a whirlwind of shattering insecurities and who have I become. Grow distracted by material things, learn complex roots of real numbers, imagination matters more than knowledge. Encode Chopin’s ‘Fantasie Impromptu’ in motor neurons, ready to be retrieved to assert self-worth. 2015 There’s a man on the 1 train every day who asks for money. 2014 Sporadic effervescence, steady optimism. Notice trees losing leaves as weather changes and pink sunsets retreat. The Beatles and chipping pink nail polish, savor lazy weekend mornings. Best friends, notes in lockers, even loyalty has its limits. 2013 Take up the cello. 2012 Gyil mallets, cafeteria lunches, realize the transience of human existence. Write odes with markers on sketch paper to be marveled at by mothers living vicariously through self-absorbed children. Curiosity takes a selfie on Mars.
2011 There’s the same man on the 1 train every day. 2010 Sandwiches in lunch box, the knight moves in an L-shaped path. Play hide-andseek in the basement, watch the second hand tick. Fall and scrape both knees, pull splinters out of palms, wash grass stains from jeans. Why are we all so damaged? 2009 Sometimes the night makes strange sounds. 2008 Little blue crib and soft blankets. Smells become tangible. Baby powder, fresh diapers, pristine innocence. Barack Obama wins the election. 2007 Scooter wheels collect dirt, mind homogeneously restless. 2006 She, short hair, boyish, mischievous smile dances on moist lips. Brown bear, pink pacifiers, faltering hyper sense of self. We are never truly alone. 2005 Hurricane Katrina causes 1,800 fatalities and 125 billion dollars in damage. 2004 Let warm water clean untainted skin, succumb to nausea from cacophonous sounds. Tears turn to laughter as internal friction settles. The earth moves 1,000 miles per hour. Who will we become? Naya M. 201
A Dinner Party The table was a long blue oval, the paint flaking off in little chips. I caught the edge of a peeling leaf with my thumbnail. The first bite of meat was barely past my lips when the host first spoke. “Welcome, everyone.” He stood, but not all the way, because he hadn’t actually pushed his chair back far enough. So the seven of us waited, while he awkwardly shoved it backwards, the room filling with an unpleasant scraping sound. Having situated himself properly, he cleared his throat and continued. “Good evening. I have gathered you all here tonight because I felt we should get better acquainted. I know we work together all day, but that’s not the same as—” He was struck with a coughing fit, but it was soon over. “Sorry, I choked on some meat. It was quite chewy.” The meat was quite chewy. I had been chewing on it this whole time. “As I was saying, we work together all day, but that’s not—“ A thud interrupted him. All fourteen pairs of eyes darted to the owner of the other two, or actually one, for this woman had only one working eye. She had lost the other to her short-lived pet crow five years back, or at least that was what I had heard. The thud was because she had fallen to the floor, as she had accidentally sat too far forward on the edge of her seat. Her neighbor moved to help her, but she protested that he was fine, just fine, and returned to her seat. “As I was saying,” the host spoke up. “We don’t really, truly—” A screech came from the adjoining room. At some point during the fall, one of the guests had gone to go to the bathroom. We all hurried to our feet as the screeching continued, matched by those of the guest’s wife. They were both known to be a touch dramatic. The host looked begrudging as we left the dining room. We came upon the guest, being a man of seventy, wildly leaping about, an enormous book in his hands. “What is it now?” the host asked, accusingly. “A beast! A beast I tell you. An enormous, eight-legged monster crawling about!” His tie was flailing about like another limb. Another guest spoke up. “A spider?” she questioned, sounding bored. “Where is it? I’ll just kill it and you can calm down.” The man pointed a shaking, gnarled finger, and the woman bent down to look. “Oh, this little thing? Why, it 202
couldn't be more than—” she jumped, “Ow! It bit me! The little demon bit me!” She scrambled backwards and landed in a peach-colored armchair. “You know, spiders can be quite dangerous.” A small, raspy voice piped up. It was coming from the back of the group. “It could be poisonous. You could die!” “It could be poisonous? I could die?” The woman pondered this for a moment. Then her face broke with fear. “It could be poisonous! I could die!” “Now, now, let’s all calm down.” The host boomed, quieting the fluttering party. “Let’s look it up in my spider’s almanac. It must be around here somewhere…” He wandered over to the bookshelves lining the walls, and began grabbing books and tossing them aside. Soon, the whole group joined him, searching madly for this book. “I could die, I could die,” the bitten woman muttered. The room was soon a mess, and nothing had been found. Suddenly, the wife of the man who had found the spider cried. “You old fool! It was in your hands the whole time.” And the book was, in fact, clutched in his hands. He had tried to kill the spider with it in the first place. The spider was found again and promptly smashed to death. We all gathered around the squished corpse to call out identifying marks to the host, who flipped through the book. The spider was not poisonous, to the great relief of us all, so we returned to the dining room and the chewy meat. To the flaking table. The host began again. “As I was saying, we don’t know each other, not really at all—” Anna M.
Dog Surrounding the kitchen table were five white chairs, each with legs and a skeleton around which were woven thin plastic strings. Woven—the closest word, though these strings only extended in one direction, and lay so far apart from one another that you could stick your leg through them. The dog nuzzled the strings, staring through them as one stares in moonlight through the grates of a gate. Then, without warning—or, perhaps, the rustling fur of a dog in confinement is always a warning in itself—he sprang up, his head bursting through the seat of the chair and biting an incision into the hand of the woman above, who had been sitting, as always, on the chair’s edge. The woman gasped and the dog receded through the chair; the strings buzzed through an octave, back into place. The woman’s hand dangled in front of her for a moment: the heavy lines of blood winding down her arm in separate strokes, the tooth marks printed on her palm. Or no, she thought, perhaps they were only dappled, like sunlight, for look, they were fading already. She rose from her seat and towards the sinks on the other side of the room. There were two sinks, an amenity the real estate agent had mentioned several times. One was for cleaning and one for cooking. “But really,” a friend had teased, “one of these is for him. Or they’re both for him.” The dog growled in the corner. The drain was functioning properly for once, consuming the water directly rather than regurgitating it to collect in an ever-rotating mass. When she took the bar soap from the sink’s edge, it had dried onto a sponge absent-mindedly left beneath it, and now cracked to pieces in her hand. She grasped at the shadow of a sud or a bubble and wished for the clouds of foamy liquid soap she had grown up with. She wondered, turning and looking around the room, if perhaps she should decorate more, if everything was too bare and the corners too sharp. She had once painted a red bowl with pictures of orange trees and a sunny day, to keep fruit in on top of the fridge, or maybe to take down for a stew if she had guests over. She had had an idea once that maybe she might paint the kitchen 204
like this, too, if she ever found the time. She eyed the bowl now, its crumbs of kibble, its withered edges, its gnaw marks. She kept it under the table, so the two of them could eat together. She didn’t think of him as a dog, really. One doesn’t think such things until it’s apparent; but there he was, his fang-filled grin, the damply rumpled flesh and fur, the paws—the paws!—whose claws had soothed her many a time. He growled again and scratched white lines into the tiles on the floor. The woman wondered what the real trouble was. She went over the list: hunger, exhaustion, illness, depression. She wondered if she should take him to the vet. She wondered if she was his mother now. She had the sudden desire to be walked, to be guided on streets without knowing their names, or that they had names, or what names were; to be utterly cared for; to be man’s best friend, eating at his table, warm under his roof. An open bottle of milk was still on the other side of the room, and the sandwich she had been eating, looking limp. How long had she been standing here, thinking? How long before milk goes bad? She felt a chill in her fingernails: it was always too cold in this stupid apartment, and the heating bill was too high. On this day of all days, for the first time this winter, she hadn’t worn her gloves inside; her hands were exposed and enticing. Perhaps that was the real trouble: perhaps the dog only sensed her bad choices. Perhaps this was only some kind of admonishment. He was sitting, she realized, on the gloves; they were as pink as his tongue, bobbing like a pendant, calling her forth. From here the room seemed made to frame him and only him: the cabinets on the left, the window shades on the right, the tracks of dust along the vents. She hated this place, this cold, barren, box: the room where it happened, that could have been anywhere but would always be here. Caroline H.
The photograph I am so tired. My bones weigh heavy, sinking into my mattress. I watch the ceiling fan blades. They’re moving very fast, but the room is still hot. The heat hangs over my head and stifles me. I’m too tired to turn it off, so I won’t. I watch the fan blades again. Spin. Spin. Spin. The cat meanders over to the mattress. Gray, fluffy tail. My eyelids start to flutter closed. The cat walks over to the dresser. It opens its mouth, stretching its jaw a little. I gaze up at the ceiling again. The blades of the fan are plastic. One is slightly bent, and it scrapes against the ceiling for a brief period during the rotation. Spin. Spin. Sccrrrrr. Spin. Spin. Scrrrrr. The big gray cat is trying to scratch its chin against the dresser. It pushes against it. I can hear the soft purring. A little rumble. Spin. Spin. Sccrrrr. Prrrrh. Spin. Spin. Sccrrrr. Prrrrrh. I hear a strange thump. My eyes strain to open fully, and it feels like there are cobwebs between them, sewing them sticky and shut. I wipe them and there are little pus-green crusts. I would like to say that they are my tears, dried on my eyelids very poetically, but they are just the things my eyes make when I sleep. That is not the point. The point is that I open my eyes because there is a thump, and I want to see what the cause is. The cause is the cat. The cat has pushed the desk and there is one thing on the desk. Only one. It is a photograph, yellowing at the edges, of you and I. It is growing old, like me. The cat has bumped the desk and the desk has bumped the last picture of us together and I am watching it fall and I want so desperately to go catch it from falling and hug it to my chest but these heavy bones hold me down and I find that I am unable to move. All I can do is watch and it is falling, oh god it’s falling and why can’t I move I should move and it is halfway down and I can only think of us and how wonderful we were. I loved you and I think I still do. Why would you keep a picture on your dresser of someone you didn’t love? And I remember the 206
cafés and making fun of people’s coffee orders and the art galleries and looking at the stars, naming them after reasons we loved one another and giving each other presents and laying my head on your chest in San Francisco and I’m in New York now, why did I move away from you when I just wanted to be with you? And now it is almost hitting the ground and I am still watching it fall and I am remembering why I am in New York. There is a gash on my hip, cut open with a knife. It was the last present you ever gave to me. I am realizing you are not kind or loving and you were screaming at me and it was the most horrible thing and the dialing 911 but you had paid off the officers and they decided to look at the rip in the couch instead of the rip in my heart. And in the last moments before it breaks, I think about my being in New York and your grave being in Santa Barbara where you grew up, and I’m thinking about how when no one is going to be your savior how sometimes you have to save yourself. I turn away from the photo and stare back up at my shitty plastic fan in my tiny downtown apartment where I have nothing but at least I don’t have you. The glass of the photo frame will crack. I decide that I don’t care. Spin. Spin. Sccrrrrrr. Prrrrrh. Spin. Spin. Crack. Ari W.
west village There’s a homeless man who sits on the corner of Morton and Washington in a swivel chair, and he combs his hair every morning peering through car windows to catch a glimpse of his own reflection. You walk past him on your way to the cafe on Hudson street where you buy coffee every morning. The coffee is dark and intense and piping hot and it burns the roof of your mouth every time you drink it but there are some things we never learn. Walking down Hudson you pass the new Italian restaurant. There are tables out front with white tablecloths and scented candles and sprigs of rosemary as if to hide the fact that they are on a dirty sidewalk littered with cigarette butts and splotches of chewing gum. You walk past the sandwich shop and the place that sells bone broth and the meat shop that used to be a clothing store that used to be a cafe that used to be a bar. Next door the post office is closed. It’s Sunday. Passing Bleecker Street Park you remember the first time you successfully swung across all the monkey bars, and the games of hide and seek where you’d lie barely breathing under the slide. You remember the time you fell and skinned your knee, and when your mother told you not to lie in the sand pit because rats lived there at night, and the time the girl fell from the swings and broke her arm. Walking home down Hudson you wonder how many things have changed in this neighborhood over the years that you just never noticed because you were changing faster and you were absorbed by the things in your life that you thought were so important but really were minute and insignificant and you probably don’t remember any of them now and your accomplishments that you thought were so great because the people in your life told you they were but really they weren’t really those people were lying because that’s all anyone really knows how to do we’re so scared of the truth we’d rather pretend we are ignorant pretend we are dumb pretend we can’t see the obvious pretend we don’t know how to fix things there’s a homeless man who sits on the corner of Morton and Washington and he combs his hair every morning using car windows as a mirror and when was the last time you combed your hair and when was the last time you took a shower and thought about the fact that you were taking a shower and that the water was hot and that you had
a bed to sleep in and food to eat and coffee to drink in the morning and things to look forward to and a plan for your life and people you love and who claim to love you back and who tell you lies to make you believe you are important and special because they just want you to make them feel important and special because didn’t you know that relationships are just transactions and when was the last time you thought about how many things in this neighborhood have changed that you just never noticed because you were changing faster? Naya M.
Em I remember her in purple and blue The sharp sweet leavender of her platinum curls The light suede blue of the way she moved Long thin fingers, resembling my sister’s Big brooches and necklaces right out of the ’60s The way she’d make tea with only honey Never sugar Because it came out of the dishwasher easier Mugs with cats and twisting handles placed on the counter with emerald green sound She watched my little cousin walk for that very first time Smiling with massive teeth that glint like my sister’s That little girl that still speaks in bright neon green In the beige walls of that nursing home my grandfather said it was Em The cats And the death of the tree That would always make his world freeze Lucy G.
BFFS Do you still remember the smell of her perfume? She changed it now, but sometimes she saves the old bottle for special occasions, like the letters she writes to you, that coat the whole room with vanilla that smells a little like a car air freshener, but in a good way, because it’s gone in a second and you let the scent go again. Have you ever had a real best friend? You’ll know if you have, and you’ll answer yes, because that is the most potent love you can experience at sixteen. Tell me the spots in your memory where you can feel, like an itch, your neural synapses worried threadbare and you can feel the discomfort of what you can’t remember. Spin it over and over in the shower, and in school, and in bed. Remember the good parts and wash those years out like vegetables in the sink, scrub them with cold clear water and watch the dirt swirl down the drain, so much of it that your hands are caked with grime when you’re finished. What do you try to hold on to, and what do you wash away? Do you hold on to the day after Valentine’s Day, when every year the two of you would buy stacked up boxes of discount heart shaped chocolates and make a mess in her lobby because her mom thought the two of you were dating and wouldn’t let you upstairs together? What about your backup first kisses, back in seventh grade, because you both worried your real first kisses would be gross and uncomfortable, like how they always are in teen coming of age movies, so you staged your own first kisses from the romance books you’d read—at the circus, in the rain, underneath fireworks—platonic pecks on the lips so you could tell those stories forever. What about how you were the perfect teen friendship of books and movies, a fact that delighted you both, and so there were friendship bracelets and posters that said sisters for life and songs written for each other, and how exhilarating it was to live a story you’d read so many times. Her first girlfriend, your first girlfriend, the unspoken promise that you were both more important to each other than your girlfriends, how she’d never gone thrifting and you’d never talked to strangers and how you both played guitar and read tarot cards and how for a little while you both shared the same music taste before she spun nostalgically back to one direction and children’s music and you took a hard turn towards alternative folk that you liked but none of your friends did. How maddeningly, 211
unshakably close the two of you were, and how it almost felt like you shared a brain and a body, as if one of you took even one step back you both would collapse like a Jenga tower with its center removed. How even if you both went different directions you still always ended up in the same place—ma—be she was soft and you were emo, and maybe she liked self help books a little too much and your memory was short so you read the same novels over and over and over again, and maybe she always assumed that you had more friends than she did and you always assumed that she had more friends than you did and so both of you always felt a little lonely. Maybe the years spun on and on forever, until one day it seemed like you had known her forever but you and she had only been friends a few months, and the next you had been friends for five years and sometimes you would forget that you knew her at all and become so scared. Maybe when you were eleven you didn’t really understand money, and when you were older and you started to understand it you felt guilty for having it so you were constantly compelled to pay for lunch, and gifts, small things she wanted because your mom always gave you at least twenty dollars when you left the house and even though she always had money too, most of the time it was because she babysat or walked dogs. Maybe you felt a little unsettled at how readily she accepted things, without a real ruse where she would pretend to say she would pay you back someday at all, or any reaction other than blind acceptance. Maybe, even though it wasn’t really fair, you started to see parts of her mother in her—the way she shoplifted without any sense of irony, and how she was always okay with being the one to pick what the two of you did, and how she never really said thank you when you were always the one to come to Manhattan and she only came to Brooklyn once a year for your birthday party, even though it was an easy train ride for you and you knew it had to be that way because her mom wouldn’t let her take the subway, or go to therapy, or admit she had a girlfriend, and so most of the burden fell on you. Maybe sometimes you would feel tired of being her only real support system, especially after you went to therapy yourself and became more stable and didn’t need to text her fifteen times every day about how much you were both hurting. Maybe, even though it wasn’t her fault, you would sometimes ignore her texts 212
for days at a time until ten or twenty of them would pile up, and you could feel them gathering dust and cobwebs in your inbox, and out of guilt and worry and love, you would brace yourself and respond. You should forgive yourself for not being available all the time, and for never being the perfect friend. Best friends see each other too closely for any false images of perfection. They scratch and clash against each other, but they do it with love, and in the process you look back and see the growing pains of aging side by side. Having someone you trust the way you trust a best friend when you’re both teenage girls, and so fragile, and hurting so badly, gives you a scaffolding to grow, because, at least for you, being angry and unsure and frustrated at someone takes enough trust to know that they’ll still love you even if you’re not easy to be around all the time, and you know her well enough to know that it took trust for her too. Maybe your friendship isn’t perfect, and maybe it isn’t modeled after movies and books anymore, but one of the hardest parts of growing is creating an identity for yourself that is disentangled from Betty and Veronica, and The Gilmore Girls, and inspirational Instagram posts, and the endless narrative around how teenage girls’ lives are supposed to look. Maybe you don’t talk every single day, but still, neither of you have taken off your friendship bracelets that you bought from Barnes and Noble since you first put them on, back in eighth grade. Maybe in your memory she is laughing with her mouth open, and both of you are just starting to learn what it means to be a teenager, and her eyeliner rests an inch above her lash line, and the leggings that used to go down to your ankles only go down to your knees. Or maybe, more likely, that old version of herself is replaced with who she is now, and you see your face alongside her because it’s impossible to imagine the different ways that the two of you would have grown up without each other. Maybe you have bangs now, and she ditched her round framed glasses several years back, and both of you have settled into your skins and are doing genuinely okay. Maybe the frantic, codependent spark of your friendship that made you feel that the two of you were lost at sea together and she was the only thing keeping you together is gone, but you two are still friends, even if you’ve both done wrong to each other, and you can see her flaws and she has 213
people in her life that aren’t you. Maybe you can ask forgiveness of yourself for letting something so precious and intense go free to the open air, and think that maybe that isn’t betrayal, but a part of moving forward. Maybe the two of you will never be roommates in college like you planned because you both want to go to different colleges, but even if you don’t know any classic love stories about two close friends who facetime once a week from their separate dorm rooms, maybe that’s just because it the two of you haven’t written it yet. Phoebe L.
the mend a heart never beats for nothing. i learned that before you came around. the rhythm of life sounded so loud when i listened, the wind and the steps towards future. winter chills can warm the heart whistling in our ears whispering a doubt within. without you, i am whole. a heart waits for no one. i am not the exception. a cold hand is still a hand, you told me. we watched the leaves fall off the trees and i did not wait. neither did you. a letting go, a signature: yours truly.
after you, i am mine. a heart is only fragile if you give in. we all do. Eden F.
Firecrackers there’s something magical about walking in brooklyn in the nighttime there’s that spontaneous feeling, like you’ll be sucked in by the hypnotic orange of the lampposts and find yourself wrapped in a kiss with a young, dark stranger or maybe you’ll find yourself suddenly in the middle of a moment! an explosion flash mob of bodies like mind-reiki you pull invisible strings from faded years and too-loud bodies echo in the street, firecrackers of amity in forte allegretto or maybe you’ll find yourself taking long drags from a flaming chamomile immersed in cats, books, incense the lights warm and familiar locked in the eyes of a secret in the sacrosanct space between wake and dream moory memories unfogging, the deep eyes unwavering, a candle in the open window bass thumps in the next valley Lyla B.
SAINT ANN’S HIGH SCHOOL LITERARY MAGAZINE 2022 Saint Ann’s High School Literary Magazine 2022