Stuck in the Middle - Summer 2020

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S t uc k in

the e l d d Mi

Summer 2020

Stuck in the Middle June 2020 | | Vol 1, Issue 2 | | Love & Loss ©2020 Jennifer Walter and Ryan Gonzalez

Love & Loss

Frequently, we see the ideas of love and loss coexist. On their own, one might seem positive, while the other negative. But we're asking you to strip away those connotations and ponder: what experiences, interactions and people have shaped the way you perceive those ideas? Have you experienced a loss that was better for you than it was bad? A love that was more detrimental than uplifting? In your life, how have your interactions with others shaped your understanding of either idea, or the relationship between both? We asked our contributors to tell or show us what Love & Loss are through writing, photography, and visual art. Here's what they sent us.

1 3 4 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 19 21 23 24 27 29 30 31 33 34

Letters from the editors Crescent Moon Westing Illustration Untitled Parting Gifts For Sam Amicable A recipe for friendship Our Summerselves Illustration The Past I Left Behind Star Seeker Dad Photograph Diving Song The Ghost of Alexio Mancello Illustration A Month and Twenty Days After Give my Love to the Goodwill Photograph Contributors

SITM Vol. 1, issue 2

J.W. & R.G. Brooke Ogierman Rae Williams Clare McCullough Mer Lowry Audrianna Wichman Carolyn Lewis Eli King Rachel Kubik James Lieven David K. Hohenstein Rachel Garcia Eli King Rae Williams James Lieven Jennifer Walter Rachel Kubik David K. Hohenstein Carolyn Lewis Ryan Gonzalez James Lieven Summer 2020

Love & Loss in 10 songs 1. Walking in the Rain G Funkmammoth 2. Stolen Moments G Cautious Clay 3. The Rose Captain G Sea Wolf 4. Lately G Jamila Woods 5. I Wanna Love You G Just Friends 6. Location G Khalid 7. Liftoff G Discoholic, Matthew Clanton 8. Sarah Minor G Keaton Henson 9. Together G Diana Ross 10. Each Coming Night G Iron & Wine

We started working on this issue in February, which, by 2020's standards, feels like several lifetimes ago. Since we put out the call for submissions, Ryan and I quarantined together under state stayGatGhome orders, cut out almost all inGperson interaction with our friends and families, celebrated our first anniversary, and read dozens of reports about individuals who have died from the coronavirus pandemic and police violence. The country as we know it feels drastically different than it did a mere months ago GG but some things never change. The losses we experience, as well as the loves, are a constant. I want to be an optimist and say there is always love where loss is present, and vice versa, but sometimes we're left with one and not the other. That's how it often feels these days when we read the news (and in my case, report it) GG that the world just takes and takes, without letting up. Though our contributors sent us their work in a time when their heads may have been in a different space, I believe this issue will resonate with you, reader, even in the several lifetimes after the beginning of 2020. There's a smattering of emotions expressed in the poems, stories, and artwork in this zine. Our writers describe tumultuous parental relationships, tempting romantic interests, and deep, personal losses in their lives. If your heart is longing for something to feel, we hope you can find it here. Or if you're looking for a voice to tell you you're not alone in your despair, frustration, loneliness, or even joy, we hope you can find that here, too. Here's to surviving the rest of 2020, and leaning on the people and creative outlets that will get us through. 1

GJennifer Walter

When we first started working on this zine in February we never could have imagined the pandemic that would hit us. Love & Loss is this issue's theme and, of the two, loss is heavily felt In this new COVIDG19 world: the loss of socializing faceGtoGface, days and nights spent home. The loss of countless lives to the virus, leaving families in every nation torn apart. And in our own country, the loss of George Floyd, yet another black life snuffed out by a long depraved history of police brutality. 2020 has undoubtedly been a year that's pulled no punches but, in these times of countless losses, we often see people come together in acts of love and solidarity. Technology — hello, Zoom calls — has allowed many of us to stay in touch with each other and even strengthen the bonds of old friends we lost touch with long ago. Viral videos of neighborhoods clapping for nurses and doctors taking on the heroic task of fighting against COVIDG19, risking their lives every day for our own. Communities nationwide peacefully protesting with the aim of bringing about a better world with less corruption. While these times often feel hopeless, I see these beacons of light in an otherwise dark time and know that hope and love can come in many different shapes and sizes. This zine itself is a labor of love, formed by our love and appreciation for the arts and its ability to help others, and I want to thank you for taking a part in it. By reading this zine you've taken the time to show your appreciation for the arts and the work we've put into this publication. I'm incredibly grateful for that and only hope that, when you're done reading this, you continue to pass on the love to the next person in any way possible, no matter how big or small. .

GRyan Gonzalez


Crescent Moon Brooke Og ierm an

The tribulations of our days thaw when we find way into one and another’s embrace, The anticipation of our mouths interlacing is coated in sweltering molasses. You grace my frame with luscious courtesies. Take avocation in exhaling life into my jaw, The connectivity of our pulse feeding into a circuit — You nourish me. Dancing our figures in harmony, Wash me — Bathe me in this ecstasy. Submerge me in the crescent of your hips melting to your lap. I find your mind exquisite. Ascertain your body profound. Conclude your soul is steeped in chamomile, And deem your heart worthy.



Rae William s Whenever I go home I drive by Holy Apostles, the first cemetery I can remember. It’s near a narrow road that my KG8 elementary school gym teacher, Mrs. Lobitz, used as a track when my classmates and I had to complete the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in fifth grade. By lap four, I’d be sweating through my shirt — out of breath — while I imagined the dead sitting in their woven lawn chairs, lime margaritas in hand, “can I speak to your manager?” sunglasses on, and cheering us along. There’s a cemetery I went to while visiting my mom’s brother, Uncle Bruce and his husband, Auntie Bruce, in Oakland. It was strategically placed on the highest point outside the city — to give the deceased the best view of the ocean — or so the informational pamphlet told me — and so it was named Mountainview, though it’s hardly a mountain. Hillview would be more appropriate. Domingo Ghirardelli, the founder of Ghirardelli chocolates, is buried there— on top of that mound. His mausoleum is of a moderate size, second row from the top, three over from the large pyramid that looks like it could house King Tut. And I envisioned the Ghiradelli family out in front of their mausoleum, unwrapping their chocolates and watching the sun set over the city. My family went to visit my brother while he was stationed at Schofield Barracks. My stepGdad, Ed, brought us to a cemetery in Honolulu 4

located in the bowl of a dormant volcano dubbed “The Punchbowl” — a National Memorial Cemetery designed to honor WWII servicemen. His Uncle Clarence is buried there — his name engraved on a seemingly endless stone list. Ed stood in front of the colossal white marble wall, his finger pads resting on the engraved letters “Clarence Belter”— I saw his uncle standing with his fellow fallen servicemen in their dressG blues, forever saluting the American flag flying at halfGstaff. I lived in a city for four years with a cemetery that wasn’t named after anyone in particular. In fact, its name is extremely vague and echoes the laziness of the persons who endowed it as Woodlawn — what does that even mean anyways?— John Latsch, a Winona patron who loved the Mississippi, is buried there, on a piece of land that he oddly didn’t donate, and ironically lacking a clear view of the Mississippi. My freshman year of college I was assigned to write a research paper on a local landmark. I rented a bike and rode to the cemetery. I sat there — in the grass for several hours — the bike collapsed next to me, a pen and paper in my hand, observing the crypts and their surroundings. I remember feeling an overwhelming sensation of 5

comfort there, in the grass. I returned every year of my undergraduate career. Each time sitting in that same spot, watching people carry flowers, shed tears, and bury their lovedGones. When my parents and I roadG tripped to Memphis. I asked to stop at the National Cemetery just on the outskirts of the city — not so peacefully located next to State Route 14. Hundreds of plots from the Vietnam to the Civil War — the groundskeepers started to replace the worn beige stones in the back with fresh replicas — dozens reading “unknown soldier.” Toward the front, crisp white slabs with one side reading soldier and the other reading wife of soldier. We exited the car and glided onto the dry grass, waltzing with the departed — gently taking their hands and guiding them through the landscape. This cemetery, Holy Rosary, is located in Sigel, Wisconsin. It’s the cemetery that my mom visits almost every May 7th where she stands in front of her mother’s grave, tears in her eyes, hands folded in prayer. She puts her fingers to her lips and with a gentle kiss she sends her grief as she caresses the top of the prominent marble tombstone. She takes two steps to her left and performs the same ritual for her former husband, only his stone is petite and simple — 6

you’d hardly know it was there, tucked into the southwest corner of the cemetery, surrounded by plants, flowers, and the American flag swaying above. During my last visit I remained on the small sidewalk and watched my mom. Piecing together the scraps of images I’ve seen and bits of information I’ve heard about my father. I imagined him looking back at me. He’s 6’2, has curly dark hair, chicken legs that don’t support his bulky upper body, a firm jawline, freshly trimmed mustache, and eyes as blue as the Key West waters he was born near. He’s wearing the same shirt he had on the day he met me — the top button is missing because his chest literally burst with pride at the sight of his only daughter, causing the button to pop off — or so my mom tells me. That was eighteen months before he died by suicide. I was nineteen when I stood on the sidewalk just inside the cemetery gates — he smiled at me, but I couldn’t return the greeting. Several years have passed and now I stand yet again next to the familiar red brick church. I walk through the cemetary’s iron gates, step firmly onto the freshlyGcut grass and feel the very real and recognizable tug on one of my golden curls and I know he’s here — that he was waiting for me — that he’ll always be waiting for me.


Illustration by Clare McCullough


Untitled M er Low ry

I hope you’re riding around Chicago in that tiny orange car with the windows down and I hope you go to his little blue house and his mom treats you better than she ever treated me and I hope you aren’t jealous of Gabby the way I was because I’ve realized now she wasn’t the one I needed to worry about I hope he gets drunk and tells your friends he wants to marry you one day and I hope he surprises you on your birthday like the time he drove seven hours to surprise me on mine and I hope he cries every time he drops you off at the airport and I hope the sex is as good as you bragged about it being to me I hope you never have to pull over on the side of IG94 because the tears are blurring your vision too much to drive and I hope you never lay on your floor sobbing because you couldn’t even make it to your bed and I hope you never feel yourself breaking in half as you wonder what she has that you don’t I hope it was worth it and I hope you feel good about yourself knowing that you took away your best friend’s biggest happiness for your own personal gain And of course, I hope you’re happy But if you aren’t I hope you don’t come back to me Because I won’t be there 9

Parting Gifts

Au d rianna Wichm an I have a blue ribbon with cursive glitter letters. The ‘D’ in Dad is capitalized, as if that somehow makes the word more important. It sits on my shelf like a prize from the county fair, “Most Delicious Pie” or “Best In Show Tomato”, not a scrap snipped from a funeral bouquet. I have an ugly brown sweater. The men’s XL monstrosity is long since worn out, the sleeves threadbare and sagging, only making it look more like a rug than it did before. I have a photograph. My father and his father sit on a couch while I, four or five, play on the ground. My father wears a brown sweater that looks like a rug, and his plump body shows no signs of drugGfueled decay. I have an overwhelming drawer full of scraps of paper. Grocery lists on sticky notes and doodles on torn envelopes and anything else my mother told me to throw away. I don’t want to forget her handwriting when the day comes that things she once touched are my prized possessions. 10

Photograph by Carolyn Lewis


Amicable Eli King

clammy air mingles with wet cement scent lamp glimmers passed paved around the parking lot i will miss you (stay) me too (i can’t) good luck (i love you) thank you (i know) the pickup gulps you up growls awake jolts forward spins its spray sputters away (i know i love you i can’t stay) 12

A recipe for friendship Rachel Ku bik

A golden ring with pointy cat ears bought from a dollar store website and one to match, “marrying� each other on Facebook to prove to the whole world that yes, we were pretty much made for each other, but in the friend kinda way. Slurpees at 7GEleven but only on July 11 when it was free because at age 17 you will take anything you can get, for nothing. Watching movies and playing pool in the basement, where parents were not allowed, the same parents who knew better, that she was a free spirit and not one whose loyalty matched my own. Pictures of us wearing sun glasses with the tags still on them still hang on my corkboard along with the ones of us making stupid faces before prom. 13

I still have that yearbook message that went on a full page explaining how much she loved me. But the cat ring is gone – I sold it to someone who was planning on giving it to his girlfriend; I hope they last. You can always expect romantic relationships to fizzle, but you never expect your best friend to be only temporary


Our Summerselves Jam es Lieven

sweets make cavities and so do you blueberry pie every morning nightcap milk, deep fried dough catnaps, vodka, carpet duvets stained by night shadow washed skin clutches itself where sandy hair and juicy lemonade lay in july no rancor here just two arms holding each other up tidy sundown promises were never made but my bed will be tomorrow and the days after sweets make cavities i knew you would too 15

Illustration by David K. Hohenstein


The Past I Left Behind Rachel G arcia

I was stuck. Because of you. Because of me. Because of the love we had between us. A love that was immediately twisted and violated. I became trapped in your cage, A cage that was too small for me. Instead of breaking out, Fearing that I might shatter in the process, I shrank to fit behind the iron bars you made for me. I shrank in the name of love. I shrank In the name of complacency. I shrank In the name of selfGpreservation. There were days where I convinced myself I made the cage. It was my fault I was in pain. It was my fault for being drunk that first night. It was my fault that you thought you could use me as a sex toy for the next 8 months. I stayed in that cage for those 8 months, Shrinking until I was inches away from disappearing. Most of what was left of me were the things I hated about myself. The things I forced myself to be. The things I never really was to begin with. 17

I couldn't live like that person anymore. One moment more and I would die. I had lost so much of myself to this cage, But I refused to lose my life as well. The cage was not worth it. The few moments of joy were not worth it. You were not worth it. With my smallness, I slipped out in between the bars. I got stuck once or twice along the wayGG You made sure of thatGG But in the end I broke free. I got up and looked at myself in the mirror. How different I looked. How bruised I looked. How old I looked. But it was still me. With the bars gone, I grew outwards to fill the emptiness. I couldn't get back all the pieces I cut away, But I fostered the ones that were left behind. I loved my pieces. I healed my pieces. I sewed the pieces back together Until I could live as one once more. 18

Star Seeker Eli King

love for the idea of you was of the deepest lost in your ideal my smiling eyes knew yours fixed on stars mine on them crossed ideas are easy to love until you try our reality rarely idyllic sloughs off rapture rancid and sweetness sour distance money looks age a mesh offering no match for a day’s dreams goes toe to toe with flesh and bone most days most ways and the being of your being murdered the magic of you so futures i was seeing burned as do things untrue not that you deceived but i had believed that stars brought people together 19

but they don’t… now i think to be someone’s star would be the loneliest thing loved only from a safe afar to approach would to be that love’s ending



Rae William s Today I felt your infinite absence in the summation of my anger mimicking the water streaming through my fingers and splashing into the cast iron bathtub.

Can you hear me? Can you feel what I’m feeling? Your grandson bursts through the bathroom door, yelling “T T” (his threeGyearGold version of Auntie) “Why you have hat on?” I wipe my eyes, not wanting him to distinguish my tears from the tap water running down my cheeks — tugging on my showercap, “I don’t want my hair to get wet” — a forced smile preludes, “Buddy, can you please leave and close the door behind you?” He pauses, electric blue eyes lingering on mine before he walks out of sight, in the opposite direction of the bathroom door — returning, his 21

tiny hands bearing his bath toys. One by one he carries them from the counter and gifts them to me — frog — horse — cow — chicken — duck — owl. I line them up on the bathtub ledge. My face tightens and tears start to mix with water droplets again at the thought of this sweet boy and your never meeting him — he’s almost the age your son was when you died and left us. And I wonder, How will my brother survive it? Your grandson looks at me — I’m still sitting on the bathtub floor — my knees tight to my chest, arms now hugging my legs — “Thank you,” I choke out. He takes one last look at my showercap and waddles out of the bathroom — belly first — the door closes and my gaze is lured toward the lifeless pairs of six rubber eyes pointed in my direction.

Can you hear me? Can you feel what I’m feeling? 22

Photograph by James Lieven


Diving Song Jennifer Wa lter

i like my body when it is with your body [i like my body when it is with you]


i like very much the cracks

light streaming through

the window bathing us in blue peaks and valleys

and oceans and rivers and

misty pools to dive in i very much like



the gravityof your hands on the smallof my back wrapped around chest floating

we bathe



my cheeks

the of


in the same infinity i like very much



left on coffee


the book



cummings with one page


i like my body when it is with your body [i like my body when it is with you]


The Ghost of Alexio Mancello Rachel Ku bik

They visit you in the darkest hour, all of your lost loves. The trail of roses that was all sweet smelling but led to a giant pit of thorns unfolds again like the beard of Alexio Mancello, as only his beard could cushion you when you kissed him instead of scratch. And it bounces off your cheek one more time, Alexio’s beard, behind the path of lava that used to be the trail of roses, the route you traveled by night, again and again, looking for him or maybe looking for a safe headspace. The one he used to provide and no one has covered since. And you wake up silently and Alexio’s face is there but no beard. Between the ocean and the path of lava, listening to his favorite altGrock band in Portugal. Dazkarieh? 27

Have you heard them? say his lips without sound, say his mouth that moves, along with his bare face forming the words, soft like a spoon stirring yogurt. And you want to kiss his smooth face but you know it won’t be the same like you remember. But when you talk, your hairs still stand on end and there’s chocolates in the pantry and chocolates in your room, and chocolates in the living room. But you want Alexio’s beardless mouth to be focused on you and how delicious you look. You’ve understood it too late, how to not feel insecure about the way he admired you, but that’s okay. In the dream you go back to giving him a casual hug goodbye and no longer say “see you later.”


Illustration by David K. Hohenstein


A Month and Twenty Days After Caroly n Lewis

The roar of a motorcycle that makes me jump The tea spills at my desk The scream from the woman dying in the horror movie The soft bite of my granola bar The crash of a bowling ball The long, still c’ya later kiss The yelp of an unexercised puppy The scurry of a hamster The imaginary car crash The fingers running along the linen The real deadly car crash The blue heart emoji The shattering of a ceramic bowl The coconut soap that is running low The way I stare off when you care about me The way I drive to work My chest My face


Give my Love to the Goodwill Ryan Gonza lez

It’s time to take this guitar to the thrift store — the one I got years ago from you, a love I still sometimes miss you moved to windy cities while I stayed amidst these cream colored bricks I think of the night before you left saying we could make it work gambling on our love like we were eating expired yogurt but we didn’t communicate well the distance too long for the soup cans that carried our voices over strings you started drinking more and I started talking less; cracks started to show like the chips in this guitar we started fighting more, loving less, I ended it before 31

we ended each other I still miss you — but I don’t miss you; I miss the idea of you I miss you for the woman that you could be, who you might be now we were young and dumb and you probably loved the idea of who I could be rather than the real me It’s no one’s fault it never would’ve worked but sometimes I still wonder could we have fought less and loved more? talked more? drank less? All I know is this dustGladen guitar’s waiting to be played by someone other than me 32

Photograph by James Lieven


Contributors Audrianna Wichman knew she was a writer ever since her thirdGgrade teacher told her she used too much voice in her book report. After cultivating an appreciation for language throughout school, Audrianna attended Winona State University, where she annually contributed to Satori, WSU's literary and arts journal, and won two creative writing prizes in 2019. While taking a class at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Audrianna truly began to embrace her identity as a writer and has been chasing that feeling ever since. She enjoys creating in all forms, from writing, to makeup artistry, to teaGmaking from her own garden. Brooke Ogierman is a Writer, Designer and all in all, a maker. When their hands aren’t busy their mind is racing. They have been writing since childhood and has since found a love for poetry. They went to Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design where they studied graphic design and writing. They have a love for plants, hiking, and creating art and harmony in unconventional ways. Carolyn Lewis is a young digital media professional living in downtown Milwaukee. After growing up on a deadG end street in the Wisconsin suburbs she seeks to be challenged by her own and other’s stories. With too many audiobooks, sketchbooks and tabs open on her laptop; she wants to one day be a published author. And a 90GyearGold gamer and dungeons and dragons player.


Clare McCullough grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from Marquette University with her bachelor's in political science. Her hobbies include watching movies, playing guitar, reading, and hanging out with friends. She is currently based in Houston, Texas. She will talk your ear off about cooking, political economy, and international politics. David K. Hohenstein is a visual and poetic artist who has made a life in Milwaukee Wisconsin. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts since 2015, having earned his degree as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. David's drawings, painting and writing aims to express his understanding of the simultaneously physical and spiritual nature of our human experience. In his studio practice he works to transmit something of a subject's spirit onto a canvas or paper within their portrait. Eli King was brought into this world by a novelist, and it only makes sense that love of words was passed along in the process. As a storyteller, his usual toolGofG choice is music, but prose and poetry have always been some of his favorite means of selfGexpression. A recent graduate from UWGMilwaukee, he is the director of choirs at Greenfield High School by day. By night he is a songwriter, poet, casual essayist, armchair philosopher, and a lover of theatre. He is thrilled and grateful to contribute to this publication, even if the prospect of putting his thoughts down in a medium more permanent than sound is intimidating. 35

James Lieven is an aspiring designer who has always had a great appreciation for the arts. Somehow between the chaos of getting his shit together, he finds solace in the form of scribbling poetry, plucking stringed instruments, painting, or almost anything else that caught his eye when the mood struck. Originally from Milwaukee, he will be taking the Midwest with him as he begins graduate school in Colorado, where, unlike his house plants, he intends to continue to learn and grow to the best of his ability. Meredith Lowry, or Mer as she is known to most people, was born and raised in the cookieGcutter Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka, Minnesota and followed in her grandparents' paths by attending Marquette University in Milwaukee. How's that for alliteration? After graduation, she decided to stay in Milwaukee and reluctantly take an office job as a recruiter, since taking an office job is what one does after graduation. Two weeks later, completely miserable, she quit and went back to the grocery store she'd worked at in college as a full time manager due to some miracle of timing and is much happier. For the past few years, she has kept a Word document on her laptop entitled " poetryyyy??" filled with musings on life in and after college, some of which are being shared here for the very first time.


Rachel Garcia is a graduate student at Marquette University studying to become a Speech Pathologist. She grew up with a love of books and an appreciation for writing thanks to her parents who both have advanced degrees in literature. During her years at college, writing was not only a creative outlet to get away from school work, it was also a way for her to process everything that was going on in her life. Though grad school makes it hard to write consistently, she plans to continue writing for years to come. Rachel Kubik works as a reporter in Wisconsin, but has lived in Illinois and Minnesota for chunks of her life. She can't quite pick a favorite place and enjoys traveling and exploring new areas. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and writingGintensive English from Marquette University. Besides writing, she loves art and music and tries staying active. Sometimes, she still has no clue what the heck she's doing. Rae Williams is a native of New Berlin, WI. She draws her inspiration from uncomfortable encounters, haunting memories, and overheard conversations. She’s currently working in the Greater Milwaukee Area as a Marketing Specialist, waiting for the day Lorne Michaels discovers her childhood variety show home videos and recruits her to write for SNL. Some of her favorite writers include Amy ShermanGPalladino, Anne Sexton, Lucille Clifton, Olivia Gatwood, Saeed Jones, Susan Browne, and Tina Fey.


Cover font: Tox Typewriter. Book font: Morn. Recycling icon on back cover by Oliver Kittler from the Noun Project. All used under Creative Commons. Doodles throughout this issue by JW unless otherwise noted.

Thank you for reading Stuck in the Middle! We're a Wisconsin:grown zine seeking to amplify the voices of young people, ages 18:35, living in the Midwest United States .

We publish three issues per year: Spring, Summer and Winter. Full prompts and submission requirements are listed on our website. You don't have to be an experienced artist to join our community! We especially encourage unpublished writers and artists to submit their work during our open submission calls. We don't bite, and are always willing to offer constructive feedback, even if your work is not selected for publication. Visit our site and follow us on Twitter to stay up:to:date! Website: Email: Twitter: @sitmzine The Earth is on fire. The least you can do is recycle this zine.