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Kathryn Norris Social Media Manager Mia Merchant Managing Editor Lily Weber Secretary RJ Frankenberry Financial Manager Sree Vangala Events Planner 2
art & design committee
Elzie Doyle Creative Director
Sophia Petrucci Hollie Park Jesica Bak Naomi Desai Charles Madden Allison Choi
Natasha Khoo President
Zach Simon Tula Singer Melody Wooster Laveda Chan Sophia Wang Victoria Li Jamie Kaplan
Cover art adapted from “Lucid Dreams” by Natasha Khoo Copyright© Spectrum Literary Arts Magazine and respective authors. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of Spectrum Literary Arts Magazine and/or respective authors. Spectrum Literary Arts Magazine reserves the right to edit submissions for layout, grammar, spelling, and punctuation unless otherwise indicated by the author. Any references to people living or dead are purely coincidental except in the case of public figures. The views and opinions represented in this media do not necessarily reflect those of Northeastern University or the staff of Spectrum Literary Arts Magazine.
table of contents
A Letter from the Creative Director // Elzie Doyle
To Live // Sophia Petrucci Boston Mornings // Kenneal Patterson
Cities // Maya Maroni Good Morning Boston // Yanni Pappas
Sculpt and Bruise // Sree Vangala Monotony // Dane Saltz
Sharpie Hearts // Lily Weber Boston Mornings // Kenneal Patterson
Split // Grace Gilson Mirror, Mirror // Jamie Kaplan
Snow Globe City // Elzie Doyle Break Bread with Me // Ciarán Kiely
Fall (In New England), 2021 // Jesica Bak Quack // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed Spring (Tentative), 2022 // Jesica Bak
A Christmas Story // Lucia Berrera Disposable // Grace Gilson
Sunbeams // Kathryn Norris Parallel Lives // Charles Madden
Meeting with Hades // Charles Madden Feeling: You // RJ Frankenberry
The Road Not Yet Taken // Maya Baumann Lucid Dreams // Natasha Khoo
January in Diary Fragments // Sree Vangala
Refracted Perspective // Charles Madden
Obscurity // Yanni Pappas Sugar // Kenneal Patterson
Flossing // Laveda Chan Stained Glass // Yanni Pappas
Suburbia // Mia Merchant Good Boys // Elzie Doyle
Candid // Sabrina Ruiz Wild Animal // Yanni Pappas
table of contents (cont.) 4
Jellies // Mariana Toumazou Special K // Dane Saltz
My Hand Will Find Yours // Zach Simon Serenity // Elzie Doyle Circles // Dane Saltz
Afterlife // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed Circles (cont.) // Dane Saltz
Untitled // Kenneal Patterson
Happy Hour // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed The Night Café, 1888, Van Gogh, oil on canvas // Laney Nguyen
Dark & Light // Ava Rosen Follow the Light // Charles Madden
a letter from the creative director This issue marks the culmination of my first year as the Creative Director of Spectrum. Throughout the past year, I've witnessed growth within myself, the club, and the community, and I would like to express my thanks to everyone who was a catalyst through the Spring 2022 Issue. First and foremost, this issue is a tribute to our President, Natasha Khoo. The framework of the design is inspired by her piece, Lucid Dreams. Similarly, her leadership efforts throughout the year have helped shaped Spectrum, as she has reinvigorated the club by increasing member involvement and participation. Additionally, each publication is a tribute to everyone who submits and participates. The most exciting aspect of my role is being able to handle the art and writing of the community and create a cohesive issue that accurately expresses the sentiment of the season. I hope you see that your work is handled with care. I'm looking forward to the next issue and hope you all enjoy this one. Cheers, Elzie
to live // Sophia Petrucci To live without knowing seems ideal. I want to settle in for the long haul, to sink down into the dark, like melting into an old chair. Let myself be swallowed. I want to sit back into my body, drop the reins, and let her wander over pasture and field. Watch my strawberry-seeded skin stretch and fall and smile, never worrying about the lines that life prints here.
boston mornings // Kenneal Patterson
Cities // Maya Maroni Cities, they used to drive me crazy. All the tall buildings. Who lives in them? What are all the offices for? Do we really need so many Chandler Bing-esque transponsters? But on sunny days I understand the beauty of it all. The way each building shadows another, the facades a play between light and dark. Looking at those blocky brick buildings, the reds and browns are in such contrast to the sky above. Except for the windows. Brilliant blue reflections, they make the sky seem a part of the city. Sometimes I think I could just reach out to touch a square of sky and I would be swept up into it, becoming a part of the blue infinitude. 8
But inevitably, the sun moves along and those squares of sky fade into panes of glass. People turn their lights on and are silhouetted in those same window frames. And again I am left wondering the hows and whys of it all.
Good Morning Boston // Yanni Pappas
Sharpie Hearts // Lily Weber I’m not sure what’s different this time I’ve worn them before I pinch the stiff, itchy black lace between my fingertips The white label I branded with the black sharpie heart I thought it would be a nice reminder That I’d pick up this particular pair of underwear Sometime in the future and smile at the memory Instead I ball them up in my fist Feeling like that heart is being burned into my back I know it’s permanent marker and yet each time they come out of the laundry I can’t help but hope it will be washed away But I know better I know memories are stubborn They cling to my brain like Saran Wrap And no matter how hard I press my hands up against the grimy film It springs back into place I stare at myself in the mirror and That pair of underwear feels tattooed onto my skin in a way they weren’t that day
He peeled them away like paper Like an orange rind you Dig your nails into Rip away the skin and bite into the fragile fruit underneath Ruthless fingers prying like hot knives Burning into soft flesh My eyes are throwing up neon signs Blinking like traffic lights Screaming Do Not Enter But he runs the red light And makes no apologies My mind has already pulled off the highway But he’s barreling down the street full throttle No exits in sight Shirt off pants down Underwear tossed off the bed They stay on the floor until much later When I finally pull them back on Slowly Painfully Inch by inch I smooth them back into place And then back down again when I’m perched over the toilet seat They are stained with red
And the pink, fluffy robe I wrapped myself in When he left So I could feel embraced by something If not someone I shoved that pair of underwear deep Into my drawer And tried not to look at it I tried to forget it And its stupid little sharpie heart
Boston Mornings // Kenneal Patterson
And I can’t help but think about That stupid little sharpie heart Ink faded and bleeding Over the clean white label
But it ended up back home with me The lace frayed and tore But the memory stayed Stamped like a wax seal on an envelope I wish I could drop it in a mailbox And send it far away But it lives and breathes in my body Burrowing deeper and deeper With each passing day I frantically rummage through my head To pull it out But it’s already festered Like a velvet slick of black mold I’ve already inhaled it More times than I can fathom It’s more me than I am It’s more hurt than I can handle But I have no choice Pain is a seam sewn into the fabric of womanhood A seed sowed in each garden we tend And no matter how rich and luxurious the garments How delicate and fragrant the flowers Stuck pins and thorns prick thick skin like butter Maybe it’s our birthright To have little sharpie hearts Printed on the labels of our underwear If so, I hope it’s also our right to have them washed away Scrubbed out from history like a bloodstain in soapy water But I know better I know lost things have a way of being found again Whether we like it or not Memories are stains on the fabric of time And I wear them every day
Split // Grace Gilson
mirror mirror // Jamie Kaplan I look in the mirror every day. Every time I do, someone new stares back at me. Sometimes, the mirror tricks me into thinking that I am a star. That I shine bright, and everyone sees it. I see a girl who is being paid slabs of gold for her beauty, and is chased by the worthiest of suitors. Her big eyes are overflowing with warm honey, and voluminous strands of dark gold stream out of her scalp like the calm ocean tide on a clear summer’s night. Her skin has flaws, but is human; when the flaws are covered, it is perfect, and maybe even normal. Her body is small, smooth, and sunken. Desired, fawned over. It has been touched and loved, and this girl makes it known. Her stomach is flat, and people can see its hollowness. She is beautiful. Other times, I look in the mirror and see someone I hate. On these days, the girl scowls at me. Eyes once filled with honey are now pits of dirt being dragged down by heavy weights. Her hair is flat and dirty, and runs out of her scalp as if frantically escaping from a monster. There are lines on her hips marking the places where her fat rolls and skin is stretched. It is a body that is not shunned, but rather ignored. Most frequently, it is not only the physical attributes I see in the mirror that startle me. It is the fact that I see a grey, unrecognizable figure. Not a girl anymore; just the right amount of confusion and self-hatred to make the perfect potion for dismay. My vision is clouded. I ask myself,“why did I look so beautiful yesterday, and now I don’t even recognize myself? Is this how I have looked all along?” Today, I walked past numerous buildings with windows. As I passed these windows, I watched my reflection. My eyes followed the sliver of my stomach that was exposed in my low-rise jeans. My legs trudged forward, one foot slowly and carefully after the other. I watched my shoulders slouch weakly under the weight of my backpack. I tried, with all my might, to come off as confident, powerful, and noticeable. I’m afraid no one even looked twice. I keep walking past my reflection. As I watch her walk away from me, I do not know if I recognize her. I am drained, so I will finally ask: mirror, mirror on the wall, who am I going to be today? The fairest of them all? Or nothing at all?
snow globe city // Elzie Doyle 16
The soundtrack you agreed upon before this all began is forgotten in the shakes and staccato taps of spices flying in and out of the cabinets and pans.
The bubbles in the pot on the stovetop begin jumping, peeking over the edge at the fire below. The rattling boil of water on uneven coils backs the steady thump of dough on the granite as strength is beaten into it. A heartbeat, a melody, a series of deep breaths, a collection of sighs.
Step inside a closet-sized apartment kitchen alongside another body—a roommate, a partner, an ex. Inevitably stumble over and step on their feet while your hips check unclosed drawers; pray whoever had opened it had left it closed. Let your bones tremble with the silverware and watch bruises crop up like June blueberries at the points of collision. Four shoulders collide, fighting for the overpopulated and unsown countertop before you.
Break Bread with Me // Ciarán Kiely
Dancing in the kitchen is an industrious love, one with many ends. Today our love ended in soup and bread and the scent of a memory clinging to every room.
Dancing in the kitchen is not slow swaying; it is the “too much —” and the “not enough ---.” More than the hum of a song inseparable from soured pasts, it is a reimagined silence.
Let the rhythm take you. Let the clumsy clattering and battling settle into a dance of opening cupboards for another’s hands, offering a promise from the tip of a spoon—too sweet?—then raise your arms skyward, clutch an overflowing cutting board, knife still in hand, while a head and heart and set of hands tuck themselves into your ribs, shimmying to the oven.
Fall (in New England), 2021 // Jesica Bak I paint murals with my fingers and flip the pages of my books standing upside down And Fall means nothing to me right now I wander in lecture halls and speak gibberish with no one I stare at my footprints in the puddles and leaves I feel everything in last summer’s summer grief And I have a lot of dreams But I stand in lines for the hell of it, and want to know too, why a city with four million people never reaches out for me when I am walking blindly in the dark
quack // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed
I was always fit for the New England cold but tonight I am freezing over Oh, well, they can find my body with the ducks in the river
Spring (Tentative), 2022 // Jesica Bak This Spring I am thinking of Sylvia Plath: the sunlight, falling the hospital, white the tulips, red Will anyone think of me? All I study now are grand things— Who was, and how, where, and when were they, dispossessed, displaced, and disarmed? I raise my hand in class because, these seem like easier questions than the ones I exhaust myself with Like, Am I a writer or just a fantasist? One thing’s for sure, I was tricked! I thought Winter would depart, and was told the weather would get warm. But my boots still crunch on the melting snow I thought reading Aristotle would teach me the meaning of friendship But everything is too delicate, and I can’t hold onto anything, anymore, at least not long enough for it to stay I have magnificent visions for my life, yet can’t seem to get through the day
A Christmas Story // Lucia Barrera I can’t remember if I ever believed in Santa Claus. I think I must have — my parents say I did — but I can’t remember it. if I did at some point believe in a jolly, old fat man who brought me presents I did not ask for in the letters I shipped to the North Pole, it must have been traumatic to find out He didn’t exist.
but I can’t seem to remember this immense, paradigm-shifting moment. there is no conversation I can devote a therapy session to, no possibility of clarity courtesy of Sigmund Freud and his psychoanalysis I clumsily attempt to use on myself. and I think that if there is no moment that flips the magnetic poles of my childhood (no pun intended), then I surely can’t have believed in Him at all. this is one of many things I am currently thinking of, debating and dissecting in my head, formulating into grammatically-correct revelations because I am eighteen and angsty and my attempts to pathologize myself are symptoms of my attempts to convince me I hate myself. and when I tell my friends these revelations they laugh and ask me if I’m thinking of going back to therapy. so I tell my best friend that the world is a stage and I am just performing. and that I don’t think I’ve ever stopped performing and She pauses when I say this and for a second, I can’t help but think of what She must be thinking and whether She really knows me, even though She probably knows more about me than anyone else. and I think that if God exists, He must know me, but no one can ever truly know me, wholly and fully, and therefore, God must not exist.
I think now of Santa Claus and of the list He painstakingly keeps, knowing if we’re sleeping or awake, perfectly in-tune to our circadian rhythms, creating an eternal surveillance state for the entire global population that would make Cheney and Co. froth at the mouth. and I think that if He theoretically does exist and if He theoretically can see all, then He has to see me for who I am, His list conclusively deciding if I’m worthy of gifts or lumps of coal. and I want to call up the North Pole and demand to speak to Mr. Claus Himself. but I know that when He picks up the phone and asks me what the hell I want, my mouth will not be able to form the words to demand what I want, need, from the world. and I will simply cry because I don’t know if I ever believed in him, and there is no one on the other end of the line.
Disposable // Grace Gilson
Sunbeams // Kathryn Norris fly to houston on saturday and let the damp air seep out of your skin The sweltering nights you lay on your back, your brother moving carelessly in the room beside you your fingers on the steering wheel in the only home you’ve known, eyes far darker than the rocky skies you were born in your mother said it snowed when you were born the white misplaced in a season of red leaves and orange grasses, she held you with the soft white falling from the skies, teardrops of clouds melting as soon as it touched your skin melting in the orange popsicle skies, streaks of lilac and coral, paintbrush clouds staining your vision
Parallel Lives // Charles Madden
until you grew older, hair suddenly longer, the orchid garden behind your house crumbling, roots twisting and churning the seeping mud you stand on, soil aching in ebony dusk your brother older than you remember feeling at seventeen his shoulders broad and outlined in the light that streams through the front door his voice sharp and distant, like when you stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona skies scorching your cheeks and couldn’t find him in the bleeding red and brown earth that dusted your shoes fly to houston on saturday across the fields and towns that crisscross beneath you stories and heartaches reaching for you, whispering between the thinning air your eyes hazy and starless, sunbeams landing empty
Meeting With Hades // Charles Madden
Feeling: You // RJ Frankenberry
I’m over anonymity. Show yourself goddamnit If I must feel and feel and feel Each and every thrash From your cruel lips and cracked skin You at least owe me the pleasure of your name. I’ve grown tired of this Of your shit And all the distractions All the reflections Of each escape that numbs my mind and poisons my lungs While your unknown name burns in each pump of my volcanic blood I’m no stranger to your friends They’re mine too 25 We talk about you when we’re together When we’re in good spirit, Content and I But your presence lingers Like a forgotten history before an inevitable recurrence I search for you, In my head, my stomach, my heart, my hands Which is the plight You’re everywhere and no where I search for you Then forget I suppose that’s when you take the time you need to become whole again I just can’t allow anonymity Anymore, I can’t. All I want is the pleasure everyone else is seemingly gifted So when he crushes my heart and I realize I can survive without it Or when I have time on my hands but they’ve been full for weeks I can curse your fucking name and move on with my life.
the road not yet taken // Maya Baumann i am on the verge of a revelation that could be nothing, but could be everything, but could wither back into nothing at all. two roads diverged in a yellow wood. i have seen this crossroads before, innumerable times, and i took the path more traveled by. but now the other path is shrouded in moonlight, calling to me with a silvery kiss, and 26 the air is so warm i can taste it. this could be my chance to see what lies down that path, through the shadowy glen, but what if it’s not so beautiful? i daydreamt of the woods’ embrace, neither innocent nor fully sweet, but gentle all the same. in my mind i could always escape, come back to a few steps before the crossroads. i might not have that choice now. do you witness my perpetual dilemma?
sha ata /N
january in diary fragments // Sree Vangala 1.
Do I have to be a different person now?
new moon—she remembered my uncle’s birthday before we did, today—I should date her again, tell her I still love her
(09:28) dear God, it’s only been the third day of the year… why must Life beat old records for finding new wells of grief?
Nanna [my father] told me he would get Ma’s smile tattooed on his heart if he felt that there was someone who could get the light in her eyes right. We picked up orchids with the groceries for her.
they sang Lili Marlene on both sides of the war and died anyway
I wish I could write the way I think.
sift ⁷⁄₈ cup flour, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup cocoa, 1 tsp. baking soda, ¾ tsp baking powder, and ½ tsp salt. in another bowl add ½ cup shaken buttermilk or yoghurt, ¼ cup oil, 1 large egg, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¹⁄₃ cup black tea. fold in wet to dry. bake at 375° for at least 30 minutes.
calque words: terms and phrases that are loaned and translated over to other languages literally. like worldview from Weltanschauung or loanword from Lehnwort or foreword from Vorwort.
found my eleventh white hair
We skipped the wake. All my funeral clothes are still at the dry cleaner's.
asked barista for his favourite drink. so much whipped cream. caramel and anise taste like rain over her cool, soft lips—I shouldn’t date her, but I should call her
Nanna, I love you. Ma, I love you.
i would not have been born if it weren’t for two world wars and a partition
14. Trilingualism: I don’t look like I should know German. I do. God help me, I do. 15. Part of me is forever lost in translation. Part of me will be preserved perfectly. 16. eight cups of earl grey is too much 17. full moon. 2 weeks. my soul bleeds 18. My sister planned out her high school classes. Wasn’t she 8 yesterday? 19. I love the sound of my voice. I hate the sound of my voice in my thoughts. 20. they paused the war on Christmas Day and died anyway 21. heavy cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a pot. low heat. dissolve. heat off. fold in beaten yolks and cream together. pour. medium heat. sieve. cool. chill. churn. 22. My first tattoo: a star anise. My second: an orchid curling into my finger’s vein. 23. dreamt of the cake that i baked for her 16th. payment in kisses and perfection 24. 3 weeks. I’ll stop crying. I promise. 25. There is no such thing as a casual “I love you” in my native language. It takes my breath away every time I think about it. 26. called her. these are the days i’m grateful i saved a best friend, not a partner 27. Day 45 of local heavy cream shortage 28. Ma and I have bought so many flower seeds. She told me adores them because she loves how happy Nanna is in the garden every year, weeding and pruning and nattering away about the good dirt. 29. Dear God, a guy asked me if I believe in you. Ha! Ha. Who else would bring grief and war and love to Life? Who else? 30. perfection = ice cream + warm dessert 31. New moon. 4 weeks. Life goes on.
Refracted Perspective // Charles Madden
Obscurity // Yanni Pappas
Sugar // Kenneal Patterson There wasn’t a single person at Sprinkle’s that thought the old man was sane. He was always sitting there, at that tattered back booth, muttering to himself. Every day was the same— the man would wander in, confused, to the coffeehouse, dizzy and stumbling. He got there each morning, the moment the doors opened, as if he knew through some mystical intuition how to arrive right on time. In the summer, he would come as the sun graced the horizon, the birds chittering about as if to signal his arrival. In the winter, the little brownstone shop would open beneath 7 a.m. stars, and the man would somehow make his way in that early morning light, dark pearl skies just beginning to cast off shadows, and stand, shivering in the cold, blowing on his un-gloved hands in an effort to fend off the chill. He never spoke to anyone but himself. Even when he approached the register, he didn’t speak, but somehow the baristas always knew just what to make him. This honored knowledge passed down from employee to employee through the ages; there was no record of his first order. Each day, the same— a hot black coffee with a single sugar packet. He accepted it gracefully, silently, each morning. That’s how I came to know the old man, one brutally cold day in January, when I first started working at Sprinkles Coffee Co. It had been a vicious winter. There was a cold spell all up and down the Eastern seaboard, and people rarely left their houses before noon. The chill was so bitter that I often had to warm my hands above my toaster in order to fend off the hypothermia in my shoebox Brooklyn apartment. I was broke and lonely; I had been laid off only weeks prior from my downtown job at Harris and Holmes, a marketing firm. It was a tedious job, full of trite email responses and beige filing cabinets, but it kept me warm. The Christmas season ended too quickly, and January swept viciously over New York— a sudden blizzard, in all senses of the word. I had trudged home in knee-deep snowbanks before violent winds struck me and I was nearly blown into the posted notice, which read “Hiring Now.” The hours at Sprinkles were awful, and the starting salary was barely legal, but I was gracious for the lucky break. Days before, the electricity had blown out on our street and left me shivering in a ragged wool parka that I had picked up from the 7th street flea market. It was ugly but thick, keeping me lucid despite the freezing temperatures, but it couldn’t last forever. I had woken up with hardened fingers, bruised blue with the promise of frostbite. My long brown hair was streaked with ice. I caught up on sleep by napping in a CVS bathroom. It was there, with my aching body pinned against the hard tiles, that I forced myself to recognize my rock-bottom. I walked into Sprinkle’s the very next day, fingers crossed behind my back. On the walk over, I had stopped at the drugstore and pocketed a lipstick, sneaking through the register without them looking. I paused to glance at my reflection in the window, methodically applying the rouge to my lips. In Brooklyn those days, being hired for a job was a gamble, but it never seemed like the dice rolled in my favor. I walked slowly to Sprinkle’s, clutching my good luck charms, praying for a miracle. It’s not like I was qualified for the job. I had never worked an espresso machine before. But I’m a good conversationalist, and I suppose that’s all that really mattered in the end.
They warned me about the old man the first day I started. He looked unshaven and deranged, with heaps of ashen hair and cracked tortoise shell glasses. But I could tell that he had been handsome, years ago, before his body shook and his eyes glazed over, before he stood in random coffee shops murmuring nonsense. He always wore the same brown peacoat, which might have been fancier in its day, but now the buttons were tarnished and hanging from threads. He wore a black scarf, but no mittens, and I often wondered if it was because he couldn’t afford them. He always managed to drum up the $2.50 for his coffee, though, every day without fail. The order was simple; that’s what intrigued me the most. That plain black coffee with the singular Domino’s packet. He’d sit there in the booth, gazing not out the window but into the dim of the coffee shop, peering into the faces of passersby, eyes flitting from customer to cash registrant, never looking long. He’d sit, sip his hot coffee, and mutter, casting the occasional glance to the seat across from him as if he was talking to some imaginary figure. On a typical day, the coffee shop wasn’t a bad place for an old man to rest his bones. It wasn’t fancy; a far cry from the sleek, black marbled cafes in Soho or West Village, and it didn’t have the bumbling, busy buzz of shoppers hustling to and from their midtown jobs. But it was warm, and friendly, and the little red sign on the door almost always said “open.” The interior was small but cozy, and it had a mish mash of brown farm tables and rickety chairs. A few red leather booths were stuffed up against the North windows. That’s where the man typically sat, oblivious to the outside world, his eyes never torn from the little shop’s interior, through snowfall or rainfall or harkening disaster. I think if angels descended outside the shop windows, and there seemed to be an imminent Biblical end, the man would still stumble to the register for his 50 cent refill before facing the end of the world. My first week at Sprinkle’s was pretty typical. We decorated for the new year, hanging golden string lights from the wall shelves and draping gold tinsel around the newspaper stands. The shelves were stacked with books, accessible to any of our readers, ranging from Jane Austen to George Saunders and everything in between. None of the Sprinkles staff was convinced the old man could talk, let alone read, but rumors passed around of him leafing through Proust. Sometimes, he’d grab for a Sunday New York Times, his withered hands gently turning the pages before landing on what he seemed to be looking for. His rattling, skeletal frame would heave a sigh, and he seemed to wilt over the folded pages, a sunken shadow. He’d then mutter something again, his sad eyes clouded with fog, his drooping face drained of life and warmth. And he’d go back to sipping his coffee, now cold. Some of the employees thought that he’d see the photos printed in the paper and grow tired of the endless slew of disasters that screamed through the pages. But I think he just noticed the printed date and grew weary of the days that had passed him by. I quickly got into a good routine with my job. I was a natural at mastering monotony; I had done it for years in the corporate world. 6 a.m., arrive at the brass-knocker door, 8 a.m., open the doors to the awaiting customers– which usually included millennial runners that had done a victory lap around the neighborhood and returned desperate for their cold brew, and of course, the old man. At 10 a.m., I’d dust the photos lining the walls– a jumble of postcards, subway maps, clippings from famous poems, and an assortment of black framed photos documenting the coffee shop’s history. At 11 a.m., I’d help Jenny with the morning rush, and we’d greet the odd assortment of daily customers, from the NYU college students, donning green beanies and colorful scarves; the local stoners, who spent their days smoking on stoops and carrying weathered guitar cases; the tight-lipped residents, yanking on the leashes of their little white dogs; the businessmen, prepping for a day of punching numbers and maxing the company credit card; and of course, the newlyweds who lived on the corner, always making the trek together, beating snow off their boots, but who never left together– the husband always stayed behind and asked us to add a Bailey’s shot to his cup of joe. I obliged; I wasn’t one to ask questions. One day, I was in the middle of making a steamed chai, tuning out to the world as I paced around looking for the milk carton. I often daydreamt, constructing vivid stories of the passerby, imagining funny scenarios that could play out if I said something amiss; or constructing enchanting tales in my head, inspired by those walking past. That’s why I didn’t notice the old man standing right behind me. I jumped; the hot drink spilled down my blue apron and pooled on the wooden floors. He didn’t seem phased; his face was stoic. I’m looking for Shan, he said. His voice was lilted and gruff; he hadn’t spoken for days or even
longer. He spoke clearly, but I was at a loss to fulfill his request. I grabbed a towel from the counter and began to dab at the tea staining my front. I’m sorry, I don’t understand, I told him. What do you need? Shan, he said simply. It was the first time he met my eyes, and the effect was unsettling. He seemed to look beyond me, into some different realm, where he could see the ghosts of days past. Shan, he said again. Shandy? I asked. I’m sorry, I think we just have rum here, is that what you need? I can make a hot toddy. The man shook his head, disappointed. He returned to his back corner booth, muttering. I thought about the man all morning. My eyes constantly returned to his hollowed frame, huddled in the cafe’s darkest spot. I wondered what he was asking for. I wondered about the years that stretched behind him. Where was his family? His friends? Is this what happens, as you age, are you just abandoned and forced to confront the testament of time? But per usual, by the 3 p.m. rush, my thoughts became jumbled with latte orders, my hands flitting between americanos and cappuccinos, and I all but forgot about the strange interaction. That night, as I was dusting the black and white photographs on the North wall, I felt a bizarre emptiness overcome me. The sepia tinged photos were records of the past, withstanding decades. They were all that remained of the little shop’s history. One photo showed a little girl, standing proudly by the counter and holding a mug of hot chocolate. A plaque beneath the photo read, “Sprinkle’s first customer.” Another photo showed the shop fifty years prior. The little brownstone looked the same, still, with its awnings and arched windows, with the maple tree out front bent protectively towards the shop. But the bordering streets were completely different. The quaint pathways were replaced by thoroughfares; now, skyscrapers sprung up everywhere, rising from the ground like a robotic infestation. One photo showed a couple, seated on the front stoop, knees touching. The man smiled quietly at the camera, shy, but the woman was beaming, her arm thrown over the man’s shoulder. Both were dressed handsomely– the man in a simple but dapper suit, the woman in a wool skirt and a beret. The plaque noted that the couple were the founders of Sprinkle Coffee Co., which had come to be in the late 1970s. That couple had met on that very stoop, in fact. On a cold night in 1973, the woman had bundled up to face the Brooklyn chill and tread through the streets in search of food. She was poor and starving. Years before, the woman had emigrated from Ireland, fleeing the intense and dangerous Troubles that had swept the country. She had led her aging mother and father to a farm in County Cork, safe from the bullets ricocheting across Dublin windows, and set off to America with what remained of her hope. She spent the first few weeks in a girl’s home, run by nuns, which was a safe place to spend the night but provided little else. She ate little, numbing her appetite by sipping on piping hot tea; scouring the streets for pennies in the hopes of persuading the corner baker to give her the bread he’d otherwise toss to the birds. Somedays, he was sympathetic, but other days, he called her vicious names, and she’d walk back to the home emptyhanded, stomach rumbling but eyes dry out of defiance. She was frantically searching for work, and nobody wanted to hire her. She flocked to bookstores and museums, to the county clerk office and Italian joints, up through Chinatown and through the meatpacking district. After a month of searching, she was offered a position at Lance and Co., a button-making shop, for 40 cents an hour. Her hands were always pricked and bleeding from hours spent threading, but she was relieved. On the walk home from her very first day, pocket heavy with her first paycheck, she stopped at the local baker’s and watched his sneering face stunned as she bought his last pound of flour and stick of butter. She stored it in a little corner pantry in the little corner kitchen at the girl’s home. It wasn’t much, but she had dreams of becoming a pastry chef
herself. She kept her extra coins in a jar, saving up to open her own corner shop, and maybe even putting the angry old baker out of business. The first of the month came, a ruthless time with the imminence of bills and the looming worries that came with another four weeks alone. After paying her rent, she walked home hungry, her pockets empty. It was cold, but the city was bright with the winter glow, the distant lights of Manhattan illuminating a silver skyline. Even when she grew homesick, she clung to the shred of hope within her from when she first set sail for Ellis Island, a thrumming sense of purpose, as if some long thread was tugging on her, pulling her towards a greater fate. She meandered through the streets, thinking. As she rounded the corner, she saw something white on the darkened sidewalk below. When she stooped to pick it up; she couldn’t believe her luck. It was an old but unopened Domino’s sugar packet. She hadn’t earned enough to buy sugar for her collection quite yet, so she hadn’t even tasted its sweetness in months, and part of her wanted to empty the packet into her mouth then and there. But she slipped it into her coat pocket instead, her fingers trembling from the cold, content that the universe had shown her some kind of sign. It was on that very street, moments later, when she rounded the street and met James Miller, a construction worker, who was sitting on a little brownstone stoop and shivering in a patched up jacket. His hands clutched a paper cup of coffee, steam rising up into the night air. What are you doing out here, on a night like this? she asked him pointedly. She was worried about the stranger’s health; his lips had grown blue.
The man laughed, eyes meeting her’s immediately. He was very handsome, with an easy smile and pink cheeks, his face still bright and full from his boyhood. I could ask you the same thing, he said. I’m not the one sitting in the cold, she protested. I’m headed home. It was a lie; she was just wandering about, but the woman was somehow inclined to get the man somewhere safe. I’m plenty warm, the man told her. I have this coffee as my own personal heater. The woman crossed the street then, shuffling across an icy expanse to reach the man. It had started to snow, the flurries looked like miniature dancers in the white glow of the streetlamps. Snow had gathered on the young man’s cap, it rested in the girl’s eyelashes. The cold made it hard to breathe. That’s what you’re using it for? the girl asked. To keep warm? The man’s voice seemed slightly sad as he answered. Of course, he said. It keeps my fingers from freezing. But coffee is wonderful, the girl said. I couldn’t go a moment without having it. It’s barely drinkable, he replied. And I have to use it for the heat. Maybe I’ll try it when it’s grown cold. It’ll taste even worse then, the girl pointed out. The man shrugged. For some unspoken reason, they sat there, shoulder to shoulder, shivering against the January breeze. When the coffee stopped steaming, the man brought it to his mouth and took a sip. Awful, he said, laughing sadly. I’m not sure about you, stranger, but my luck in life couldn’t get worse.” The girl rolled her eyes. She was used to this; a man’s hopelessness. She had seen it in her father and grandfather before her. But she got her strength from her mother, from the empowered women in her ancestry. She took her scarf from around her neck and wrapped it instead over the man’s shoulders, cocooning him. It drew a soft look from him.
Don’t be such a downer, she told him. And then: a miracle struck her– she slipped her fingers in her pocket and removed the packet of sugar she had found. She grabbed the lukewarm coffee cup and dumped in the entire thing, swirling the cup. She presented it to the man, who took another sip, and smiled immediately. See? She asked him. Darling, sometimes when you’re low, all you need is a sprinkle of sugar. The next morning I had arrived early to Sprinkles Coffee Co. It was a brighter day than the last. For the first time in months, it felt as if the sun had truly emerged— not the weak, winter sun, but a warmer cloak of radiance, spreading across the shallow roofs and soaking into the barren trees. During my morning sweep, my eyes rested again on that photo of the couple. Nobody was in the shop yet— it was only 7:30. I quickly removed the photo from the wall to examine it closer. It looked the same as it had the night before; the beautiful and joyous pair posing for the shot. I flipped the frame over. Tucked into the back corner was a letter, hastily taped together. It read: “To commemorate the opening of our little shop. We’ve made it, my darling. Yours always, Shannon.” The scrawl ended with a little “xx.” When the old man arrived that day, shuffling in at 8 a.m. on the dot, I had already prepared his coffee. I could make his cup blindfolded now, it seemed etched into my very mind— piping hot with a sprinkle of sugar. I brought it to him as he unwrapped his scarf, undid his jacket and claimed his corner spot. Once again, he wasn’t phased by my movements, but seemed to accept the coffee thankfully. I hear you, I told him then. I understand. I know you’re searching for her— for Shannon. The man seemed to gaze deeper in my eyes. I had been the first to acknowledge his plight for what seemed like years. I gave him the letter, clasping his hand in mine. I hope you find her here, I told him. When I left, he was bent over the letter, hand still enveloping his steaming cup. I think he was crying, but for the first time in years, his muttering had stopped, and a quiet sense of peace washed over the little shop. He met my eyes as I was leaving, and nodded. I wondered if he had returned, every day, in search of his Shannon, lost and unable to find her. But he had found me instead, and I hope I was able to give him a little comfort, and a sprinkle of sugar, in his final days. That was the last time I ever saw the man. That night, I was offered a space in my friend’s apartment on the Upper West Side, and so the very next morning I picked everything up and moved out of my shoebox. I had to walk, with all my bags, up 19th street, pulling my suitcase behind me and dragging my duffel bag with my free hand. As I trekked, I thought of the little old man with boundless gratitude. If it wasn’t for him, and his founding of the little coffee shop, I wouldn’t have made enough money to begin my own life anew. The walk was endless, but by sunrise, I had made it up to my street, tucked within an unassuming but quaint neighborhood just West of the snow-crested park. I was desperate then, to make it inside somewhere warm, and I dragged my bags faster, wobbling slightly as I turned the corner. That’s when I heard a voice calling from behind me.
Hey! the woman cried, running up behind me. She was panting, out of breath, her curls enveloping her face and her cheeks tinged pink from the bitter chill. She had run to catch up to me. You’re dropping stuff everywhere, she told me. It was true. My suitcase had split open, leaving scarves and hats and gloves and mittens and books strewn over the icy pavement. The whole road was dotted with my belongings, stuff I had dragged all the way up 19th street. I cursed under my breath. Hey now, don’t get frustrated, the woman teased. I’ll help you pick up your stuff. She stopped low, her bright mittens reflecting in the snow as she scooped up something from the pavement. Then, she laughed brightly, holding it in her palm, and met my eyes. What’s this then? she asked, smiling softly. Why do you have a sugar packet?
Flossing // Laveda Chan Saccharine sweet hair that is stuck in the parting of my lips and flossed in between the gap of my teeth. I run my tongue across the strands and it cuts into my buds, I taste blood and sugar. I feel it wrap around the base of my molars, feel the blood fill the crevices made from the roots of my teeth, feel the roots of my hair dig deep in the indentions of my brain. Feel the sugarcane stems, long and hard that I cut away.
Stained Glass // Yanni Pappas 39
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candid // Sabrina Ruiz our days of sunshine have long grown sunken cheeks and sallow skin i was never blind to her blemishes but this is how i knew as i clung onto the drawing she made me that i still love her even if she was flawed in every way her hands as rough as her voice her tea brewed with emotional servings i force myself to remember why i said no to trying again one day my emotions will collapse but not tonight when i swing my head up to the sky and observe the stars that mirrored in her eyes when i held her i am haunted by our last goodbye we had yet to know but she is out of sight now it’s been a year and my loneliest one at that her sunflowers still bloom in my chest but for better or worse not all of them have wilted yet i hate that i still think about you.
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Special K // Dane Saltz She comes to me fluttering on weighted wings the room awash in amber light her fingers purple pry open my lungs so breathy relief may crystalize around my head its cool whisper in my ear take it easy take it easy
Jellies // Mariana Toumazou
take it easy
My Hand Will Find Yours // Zach Simon should this warm-blooded hand ever cease to explore your soul with ink, and under dirt lay it cold it would still feel your heart’s beat, the traced outline of your face, and though yours may seek to dry damp cheeks and cover lightless eyes, were you to reach out to hold it one last time my still hand would surely break 46 the ground above me to reach towards its eternal Home lest the very earth split in humble observance to grant us one, final, parting touch
serenity // Elzie Doyle
afterlife // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed
Untitled // Kenneal Patterson
happy hour // Mirza Nayeem Ahmed
The Night Café, 1888, Van Gogh, oil on canvas // Laney Nguyen my arms are twisted and my wings are clipped, so i make easy money off my insecurities, here underneath all the neon lights, my gaunt face is sharpened to cut through the blinding flashes of the clicking cannons. my wars are fought in wretched words, written down on these pages until i’m made of only metaphors, bones charred by lightning and blood bathing in guilt from my Father’s tears, seen only in glimpses through slivers of ajar doors. i give you my name, western and foreign against an ethnic face. a pitiful effort to fit in, and so i’ve left behind the ‘cloud’ Vân so poetic in Vietnamese, that my parents have given to others to identify me, but it never felt like my own, not even in the place i’ve once called home. i’m standing in the wreckage of my Father’s American Dream now, a shell of the person i wanted to be and a person i never was, flitting through identities like my downfalls are made for movie scenes, a little piece of humour noir.
dark & light // Ava Rosen so much thought fills the caverns of my intelligence but sometimes feelings are too big for words to describe so i’ll describe lightning as a similar spectrum
a drumbeat cry comes after the flash grief, pain it struggles to find grounding where does it belong maybe only to the sky and to those who brave the fury
dark & light sound & silence one before the other but one in the same one hundred yellow sparks conceive a dagger gone as quickly as it came but you’re sure it was there lighting up the storm for a moment you can make out the chaos wind and rain dancing to the thunder
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