SPIRES intercollegiate arts & literary magazine
S PRIN G 202 2
Copyright 2022, Spires Magazine Volume XXVII Issue II All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior written permission from Spires and the author or artist. Critics, however, are welcome to quote brief passages by way of criticism and review. This publication was designed by Jade Wang and set into type digitally at Washington University in St. Louis. Typefaces used are Kings Caslon, designed by Dalton Maag Design Studio, and Montserrat, designed by Julieta Ulanovsky. Caslon was originally designed by William Caslon. Spires accepts submissions from undergraduate students around the country. Works were evaluated individually and anonymously. Spires is published biannually and distributed free of charge to the Washington Univeristy community at the end of each semester. All undergraduate art, poetry, prose, drama, song lyric, and digital media submissions (including video and sound art) are welcome for evaluation. email@example.com spires.wustl.edu facebook.com/spiresintercollegiatemagazine instagram.com/spiresmagazine_wustl twitter.com/spires_magazine
Table of Contents LITERATURE 01 Jack Grimes
11 Arte Romero y Carver
25 Violet Cooper
04 Noor Ghanam
12 Erika Ezife
27 Cam Lind
05 Haley Joy Harris
14 Mar Hanif
30 Gabriela Martinez
08 Sarah Groustra
21 Elizabeth Zeng
09 Katie Schneider
22 Sabrina Spence
Just Before I Stand Up and Realize the Broken Bone Dancing for a Woman
watershed I, watershed II, watershed III
Ophelia is bored, so she tries her hand at a love poem. Solvents and Solutes
See I Hate Preparing to Remember Someone
Martha Christina and Other Magic Tricks
Wake Up Call
Song for Mending
A Broken Wing
Thoughts on Delinquency
ART 03 Emily Cai
13 Shiyeon Monk
06 Hannah Megery
20 Hannah Megery
10 Brianna Howard
24 Claire Szeptycki
I’m a Pig to You
From a Ghost
26 Arte Romero y Carver BackStaglS25
29 Susan He
Red and Blue Brain
COVER ART FRONT COVER
Andrea Ham Double Consciousness Washington University in St. Louis ‘25
FRONT INSIDE COVER
Eunice Kiang Desire for Freedom Yale University ‘24 Oil on Canvas Panel
BACK INSIDE COVER
Carina Zhang Donutsaurs Rhode Island School of Design ‘24 Digital Illustration
Eunice Kiang Endless but Almost Yale University ‘24 Oil on Canvas
Brianna Hines Lexie von Zedlitz
Adi Briskin Shelby Edison Kate Gallop Isabel Goldstein Sara Goldstein Jaime Hebel Gabbie Hetu Joy Hu Hunter Kemp Lena Levey Sophia Marlin Jasmine Mosberger Bei Qi Olivia Salvage Ella Sherlock Jordan Spector RL (Rachael Lin) Wheeler Grace Woodruff
ASSISTANT TO THE EDITORS-IN-CHIEF
Amy Hattori LAYOUT EDITOR
Jade Wang TREASURER
Gina Zubair ASSOCIATE EDITORS
Alexis Bentz Lara Briggs LITERARY EDITOR
Mahtab Chaudhry ART EDITOR
Campbell Sharpe PUBLICITY DIRECTOR
Letter from the Editors Dear Reader, With many returning members and some new additions, Spires staff spent eight weeks reading literature and reviewing artwork from undergraduates from across the country to create our Spring 2022 issue. Magazine racks across campus were filled with issues of Spires for the first time in two years, allowing other students to access incredible work from Fall 2021 in print. Staff could take home physical copies of their hard work and dedication, some of them for the first time since joining the magazine. We are delighted to once again share a tangible magazine with the undergraduate creative community and hope to inspire students to submit for future issues. This semester, we received one hundred forty-one literature and seventy-seven art submissions. We are extremely grateful to each creator for submitting their pieces to Spires and for entrusting us to review their cherished works. The selected pieces highlight an expanse of inspirations and interests from twenty-three talented artists and writers. These literature pieces showcase attention to relationships, trauma, and gender from nuanced perspectives. Readers will experience the complexities of tattoos, belly dancing, and maternal connection through poetry and prose. The artwork will shock, move, and inspire readers with their experimental nature and technical prowess. Brianna and Lexie have paved the way for a new and expanded group of executive staff through constant support and energy during meetings. Debating and reveling in submissions with my predecessors has been a great joy of not only Spires, but college in general. Spires staff is grateful for their authenticity, creative insight, and pursuit of community and wishes them, and our other seniors well after graduation. I am grateful to be welcomed by the staff and am thrilled to reunite with our editors currently abroad. We are thrilled to present this culmination of hard work from skilled submitters and devoted staff members. It has truly been our privilege to experience marvelous creative work and to lead an enthusiastic staff. We hope you find the pieces in this issue as compelling and thought-provoking as we do. Sincerely,
Lexie von Zedlitz Amy Hattori Amy Hattori Assistant to the Editors-in-Chief Brianna Hines & Lexie von Zedlitz Editors-in-Chief
Just Before I Stand Up and Realize the Broken Bone 1. I admit my summer at every glimpse of fifty degrees. Unfurled in lavender room at white desk, melting into bed and then into floor, finding myself a plastic bottle. Belly up on that fluffed bed, curtains gone, letting the sun add something to this rhythm: phone call from a friend every three days, books piling up on the windowsill, strawberries rotten and forgotten in the freezer. 2. I tell Jane I miss the second before the door was ripped open, flat fields tinged with thunderstorm, black cat buried under that oak tree I fell from on my sixth birthday. 3. He had a tattoo of an oak tree on his left shoulder; it fell into me every night of July. I tell her I miss the slamming screen door ingested into my parents’ torment. I sit on a video call to recount the times I’ve written my will, and who is visiting in the birds on my windowsill? I tell her I miss the wanting: when I kept up with Carr on Kammerer and Ginsberg’s cut the draggy extra bullshit and Kerouac’s Benzedrine branching out onto the Hudson. 4. I tell her I miss being a person called Obsessed. Where did I go when the trees were dormant, and the river was still? Professing a genius, I tell her I miss the life before I was a whisper in a hometown barely survived. Jane reminds me that it is her job to listen to me. 5. I walk in a circle, threefold, and then I call him. I listen to his voice stutter over declarations. I listen to him avoid the subject without realizing it. He tells me how it is to grow older and feel nothing. No ache. I look out onto the street, wet, and notice the lamp posts attempting to blind me with their green whispers. They tell me I am hollow in all this space. I wait to want this. 6. The waiting stopped in October. He said, There are not many things I know how to do. And I replied, I’ll spend my life trying to know the way you see green, how it slides off your periphery, where it is dark in the wry sun, where it yields to your touch, how you beg it, how you plead it into your throat, your occurrence, your blood. 7. For months I woke up in North Carolina with him in palm, raised through honeysuckle and split teeth. Feels like the morning I swerved the car on the way to the bakery, black SUV coming head on. 8. I say, You shouldn’t bring me up on dates. He wilts back into the carpet, sits upright once more, says, I will never marry if not to you. I will let my skin come undone, spread my own
ashes on the ground, wander the street lamps until my shadow resembles yours, until my lips are cracked and shedding. What a foolish thing to glean from twenty years of scraped silences and unbroken bones. 9. This is that old flat field, repackaged into boy, sled up from a lifetime of nervous shudders and mountain roads. I keep asking him to tell me I’m angry. He keeps doing it. 10. Touching is a trait; feeling is a disease. I will repeat it until he believes it. 11. I keep asking if today is the same as yesterday, if this October is the same as that July, if it matters. I ask until I become an impressionist painter attempting to make life into rooms of cherishing people. I let myself try to remember passion and that girl who knew it. Instead, I remember the daffodil hung on his wall; I draw cracks into ink print. 12. And then I wake up: beige room, blue desk, spring.
JACK GRIMES WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘23
In Memory EMILY CAI YALE UNIVERSITY ‘25 COLORED PENCIL
Dancing for a Woman Dancing for a woman, birthright of the Arab girl, dangling chorus of cheap coins on belly scarves violet gold, unraveling like a secret among a throng of screaming joy, tongues shifting within lips, separation calls to the void. Taking turns ritualistic like a prayer turned cold, sea of sweat glazing air, a vivid female centerfold; dancing for a woman, come dancing out of the womb dancing for a woman, ending only at the tomb. Dancing for a man, western-made belly dance, America’s Got Talent putting Howie in a trance, hips shifting back and forth like a car stuck in a ditch, sexy sells and perfume smells and breasts lifted like a glitch. Now in the Middle East, we dance like that too… Now in the Middle East, we dance like the westerners do. When we dance for a woman, breasts should sag like wet bread, the way woman was made, the way she should be instead; belly dancing woman made, woman loved, woman brought thieved by the western world, dancing for a man taught.
NOOR GHANAM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22
because searing winds picked up dust on the cul-de-sac & because skies were muddy in late afternoon & because i was en route home when i told you how i’d been cracked & because i needed to be treated as such & because we spoke of spirits as the door inched open & did not remain shut & because i’ve got this strange little graveyard in my head with so much impervious yesterday-ness & because i was a sponge or perhaps i was an unfiltered rock field
because the saturated scent of water on hot asphalt made days day-like & because the produce aisle felt so hopeful & artificial as we paced down it & because regret is not as helpful as remembering all that could not have been known & because when it’s late & i am alone i memorize the drives we took into the mountains when we were newly-picked & for the first time desired. & because the ground is an archive & because our feet were in sync & because our feet stampeded over dust tunnels tainting transmuting
because despite definitions of survival on television & in multiplanetary stories & from the mouths of muskrats— of constant conquests & hasty expansions— survival, to me, meant the incessant attempt to recognize myself & because the ordinary visionaries i hold in my back pocket have one common thread: a carnal, unfettered submission to precarity & because technology is not inevitable but rather a series of tools used for good or ill & because i understand the impulse to run from harbingers & because i once needed to know the underbelly of my own cavernous, delicate existence to know the vastness of my desire & because i learned my truest desire was never just to be seen by you but for this seeing to take us both somewhere other than here while our feet remain steadfast & tethered to this atlas-ground
HALEY JOY HARRIS WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22
HANNAH MEGERY WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22 OIL ON CANVAS
Ophelia is bored, so she tries her hand at a love poem. You’re pretty smart. I’m pretty smart. So this should make sense, right? [redacted]
I know myself. I know I am not interesting enough to die. One day, Millais will paint my portrait and I will go to the museum and I will stare at the canvas It is supposed to be a mirror, I think, a mirror up to nature I will not recognize myself. And maybe this is what you fell in love with, an image translated into an abstraction the thin body of a girl reduced to brushstrokes, nothing you can touch or hold. Oftentimes when a young person is asked if they have ever been in love, they answer I thought I was at the time. When I sat alone at the river’s edge you never crossed my mind.
SARAH GROUSTRA KENYON COLLEGE ‘22
Solvents and Solutes Skitter step through a conversation These words make puddles inches away How was your day? Little breaks in gla ss We only see each other Like fingers outstretched You pull me close, my waterlungs heaving . With each breath my stomach fills like a against yours. and you suck in your belly so our
(motherhood must feel like osmosis) We feel like glass scraped against each the loudest window you’ve ever seen. I study our shards pushing
away. We are a refle ction that’s always in motion: feed me the oxygen fast that I’ll forget you can forget the
enough what it was like to live in your water c sec tion.
(I remember when they cut the umbilical cord.)
A child is the wet paint glass I press my
in the stomach nes of my
weight of watercolor pools in the li palms to
hand, like stained
eyes and ask you to see each shard,
but you say you can only see the whole Are you okay? It was never about the breaks, mom, it was always about the colors.
KATIE SCHNEIDER WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘25
Through Thick BRIANNA HOWARD BOSTON UNIVERSITY ‘22 OIL ON CANVAS
See I Hate Preparing to Remember Someone like peach.
cause of the sour
in our muscles.
with the limbs
in the wind, in the fan, desperate
loose and you get still
and ask if this is our last i get still and lie
that pit, wood punctuation. at the end of
a real safe
thing, we had
domestic inside the window
i think about seeing you
but yknow we’d onlytoucheachother in a
pushing at flesh that is already being pulled in.
ARTE ROMERO Y CARVER WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘25
Dilemma My fingers strangled your hair thinking that was love Foggy pillows burst in the sky spilling torrents a million droplets slide between you pool together in a basin cupping the smooth sand between my tongue left specks of petrol in the craters of teeth sparking fires, licking my blue-hued lips engulfing the rest you reach out a hand pushing what remains of my charred body towards the sewer
ERIKA EZIFE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘23
I’m a Pig to You
SHIYEON MONK WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘24 OIL ON CANVAS
Martha Christina and Other Magic Tricks Me and Martha Christina were the only people who hung out at the Bookhouse. Instead of bamboo, the Bookhouse was carved out of the side of a hill, because the builders thought it’d last longer that way. I couldn’t read; I liked that it was chilly and the only place that didn’t smell like smoke and pork fat and round uncles and wet night jungle. Even when it was in full form, no one liked to come near the Bookhouse. It’d been owned by the last village headman, the one who used the cracks and corridors to hide young boys. After that, all the villagefolk in Srikaya silently decided they didn’t need another headman and that they didn’t need to go near the Bookhouse, which me and Martha Christina didn’t mind. Martha Christina said being a whore at Miss Santi’s meant it was hard for her to make friends in town, but she was never great with people either. Her face wilted like jelly in a way that made you look up or down or sideways, which was what men at Miss Santi’s did until they finished. “Give me that before it gets soaked in sweat, please” was the first thing she said to me. I was using The Tales and Tribulations of Khalid bin Walid as a pillow because it was two man-hands thick, leather-bound, and embossed in shiny florid letters. The book hurt to sleep on, but when I did, I dreamt about queens in mountains and flaming rocks and elephant armies. Martha Christina caught the book with one beefy hand and after that we were friends. Srikayans still like to avoid what’s left of the Bookhouse. They’re afraid of the hantu. They say when they walk by something pulls their hair. Some folks say they were pickpocketed. The imam’s son claims his woman was faithful, but after walking by the old Bookhouse, he’d find her nose buried between a new man’s legs every week. No one has the heart to tell him the truth. People think hantu are anywhere that scares them, and that’s hooey. Most hantu are shy and awkward in a bad way, and they all inexplicably smell like fried lamb and they won’t do anything anyone says if that anyone isn’t Tante Dewi, but none of them are pranksters—none of them are even malicious. Semar gives me advice whenever he sees me—he says that the sons of witches grow up to be presidents and that I can’t beg Martha Christina into loving me and that if I want to get strong I have to eat salmon twice a day. Semar knows all this because he was the first hantu, here before the village, before you and me, before the oldest gravestone, before your Nenek, before the old bamboo masjid and the new wattle-daub one—he planted the first paddies. He can tell you exactly how many footsteps it takes to pass through the forest. Semar is the shape of a garlic bulb, and the top of his head doesn’t even scrape my ribs. He’s ugly as all the demons you can imagine, with eyes that bug out like they’re screaming. And even still, Semar is the dullest hantu—all he does is tell the loam how much rice to grow.
The only hantu I’ve never seen is Tuyyul because you need a newborn to meet with him, and Tante Dewi doesn’t have any more. Tuyyul likes his newborns all fat and plump; he likes them to have teeth like porcelain and a rosemary scent. You can try to give him a low-character newborn with ruddy cheeks, but he’ll just laugh in your face and throw it back. I wasn’t Tante Dewi’s first newborn, but I stuck around the longest. Tante Dewi isn’t my real tante; she has no brothers or sisters or even cousins. Miss Santi’s girls were always making babies they had no use for, with faces of fathers they didn’t remember. When selling one off didn’t work, they stuffed its mouth with cotton, took the mewler to a clearing, and covered it to the brim in sand and soil, rushing away before they could hear any cries (or Tante Dewi, stabbing at the dirt with her spade). I’m the only soul she’s ever shared a home with. She brought me up in a fading bamboo hut that smells like mutton. It’s a half-day walk from the village, up the side of some slippery inclines and loose ground. When I was still young but big enough that she couldn’t sleep in bed without rolling into me, she made me a cot stuffed with dog fur and wet leaves. I only slept there when it was raining. It was close enough to Dewi’s summoning circle that whenever I would start to drift off, I’d get woken up by rattling beads or dragging bones or vials of lamb blood clattering and splashing. This was how it went. Her painted circle and trinkets for the hantu. She’d start screaming, “For Big Mas, for cantik-cantik, for Tuyyul, and The One With the Burials, for Missus Banjir, and Semar!” I’d make the half-day walk and see if they were selling drink. Because he was miniature and didn’t much care about getting hurt, Tuyyul liked to steal things. He’d slip in through cracked windows or just open the gate when you weren’t watching. He was shorter even than Semar, with a bat-eared face like a storybook goblin, the belly of a toddler, and luminant green skin. Semar says Tuyyul was a baby once. His mother was an undertaker who’d had four kids stop breathing on the table, then a fifth caught the bird flu barely two days dry from the womb. Had to bury them herself, unpack and seal up the corpses, go through the rites. So, for her fifth, she filled a pit with embalming fluid and held him in it. You never know what’ll hold someone in place. She’s long gone, but Tuyyul is left. Mostly, Tante Dewi would ask Tuyyul to steal the headman. Not the headman who had boys feed him olives in the Bookhouse’s damp tunnels, but his father’s father’s uncle, Pak Iskandar who’d been headman back when dolphins had legs. Pak Iskandar was prone to pocketing a something or two for himself out of the village pot. Everyone watched him strut around in new ‘dos every Friday. His batik would have bright blues and greens made from Kedirian wax, he stuck exotic feathers in his blangkon, and he never left the
house without a ring on each finger — facts that bothered Tante Dewi’s clientele enough that the baker, the old coot, and Iskandar’s niece each separately asked the witch to do something, offering her heirlooms and their firstborns in exchange for their coin back. Dewi swallowed the heirlooms and remembered the firstborns, then gave Tuyyul a basket of babies. Piece by piece, Tuyyul snatched scarves, then hats then batik then canes, until all he was left with were two sarongs, which he wore up tight to his chest. Iskandar stopped leaving his house altogether, opting to deal with issues via letter. Everyone forgot he’d been called Pak Iskandar and all the letters were addressed to “The Sarong Sultan.” *** More often than not, Martha Christina was a whore. Miss Santi’s didn’t pay but they had warm porridge with chicken skin three times a week. The brothel was the longeststanding structure in Srikaya, because they had built it on the other side of the hill, where monsoons and waves couldn’t reach it. The roof was shaped like a saddleback and made of thatched palm leaves. The entire building was larger than most homes and stilted higher off the ground than any of them. At night, Martha Christina slept in a room with three women old enough to be her grandmothers and listened to rain drip down the eaves. She hated the quiet of sleeping indoors. She told me even when she was glad to not be rained on, she couldn’t sleep without imagining a monkey howl. The only thing was, Martha Christina was a bad whore. Being ugly was fine, better even. But Martha Christina liked to mirror her man twitch for twitch, thrust for thrust. The growls he made came out of her throat as well, and men didn’t always like being asked who their father was. If they grabbed, she grabbed back with what she thought was equal force, but Martha Christina was a physical specimen, she was a head higher than most women and her arms were as thick as a durian at its widest point. What happened at Miss Santi’s looked like a jungle brawl and sent the men panicking into the street, half-naked and still tumescent. That was the first time Martha Christina had to stop being a prostitute. She picked up odd jobs lumberjacking and hauling cargo in from merchant ships, anything that needed a strong man. I think she liked not having to see the men, but time and again folks would ask her to stop working for them and she’d be forced to crawl back to Miss Santi. The second time Martha Christina had to stop being a prostitute wasn’t her fault at all, really. Some incense burnt down half the beds and there was no room for her. The third time, though, Martha Christina bit a man’s tongue clean off. An ustad. She’d been drifting in and out of sleep, and when she was in she was dreaming about satay, so she thought the man’s tongue was just a chewy cut of meat until the blood clogged up her throat.
I know why she couldn’t keep those other jobs. Budi down at the docks says she was a fine, sturdy worker and lugged everything on shore with quickness. Only: “She made me feel itchy.” He wasn’t the only one. Everyone says there was just something wrong about her. Not the whoring or the nose or the spiny attitude. There was just something you didn’t like to look at too long in the space behind her eyes. The sort of thing you walk away from because you know it’s no use trying to fix it. Martha Christina liked to hit me sometimes. Or maybe she didn’t like it but she didn’t hate it enough to find an alternative. I don’t want people to think she was blood hungry. She didn’t like violence. Martha Christina cried when the trusty war horse in one of her stories was ridden to death and needed an arrow through his eye to put him out of his misery. It was a silly sort of hitting anyway. Her hands were stubby like a fat boy’s, so when she punched it looked like a comedy. She must’ve figured that out at some point because she started to get creative—smacking me with hard leather books or stomping on my knee while I slept. “Can you maybe aim a bit lower?” I asked. I was dreaming about my father who had patchy red hair and no beard this time. Martha Christina’s heel in my leg woke me up as he was about to tell me where I could find him. I showed Martha Christina an already purpleblack growth where she’d been stomping. “That spot’s still a little sore from last time.” She didn’t like that much. “You’re making me lose focus!” Martha Christina was massive and beautiful, like a great bear with rippling layers of fat and fur. She would never figure out how to move in a body like that. Her two-ton shoulders were always pushed forward and her legs teetered the torso from side to side and they all struggled to balance themselves. When she sat, which she always did, legs splayed out because any other way was too cramped for her giant thighs, the ground spread out all the fat from her butt to her calves and the totality of her legs were as wide as melons. “You don’t respect me,” was something she liked to say a lot when she was upset. “You only see me as a whore and you only spend time around me because you’re a lunatic mountain boy who’s never had sex.” I hadn’t thought about that. I didn’t think it was true, but when I think back it’s hard for me to find why I spent so much time with Martha Christina. I liked that she read. Most days were spent in the Bookhouse’ main room, the one we had to carry torches into to see and all the tunnels sprayed out of and which had shelves upon shelves carved out into the rockface filled with Lakotan tomes and Milanesian songbooks and sagas of dukes who fought wizards and a comprehensive guide to the floral topography of every place that wasn’t the island of Srikaya. I liked that she almost always read about bloody emperors and the highest casualty
wars even though it hurt her to read them, even though she winced and white-knuckle gripped my hand as the Duke of Milanes tore the witch Ziggurax to flapping shreds and fed on her carcass. Too many folks read for pleasure, because they’re babies and ninnies who want to escape someplace else. Martha Christina read like taking medicine. And did it again and again because she had to. When Martha Christina hit me, she swore she’d never do it again. I didn’t believe her, but I believed that she believed herself, and that was enough. Tante Dewi never once got cross with me. I even tried. If you ever wonder why Srikaya gets tradesman on our docks, even though we have no saffron trading posts and no giant temples to Buddha and we’re infested with tigers and our air is prickly and even though Mount Merbabu is just lurking there, waiting to spew ash and magma, the answer is they get pushed here. Tante Dewi, from her ring of standing stones on the mountain, boils a pot of mashed candlenuts soaked in her blood, waves around the feathers of a black chicken (moving slightly west with each dance step), and chants “Innamaa yastajiibul ladziina yasma’ uuna wal mautaa yab’ astuhu-mulloohu tsumma ilaihi yurja’ uun” three times followed by “Thai seong loww kuan, tao kheh ngau” once. She wants Missus Banjir. Missus is a wisp of a hantu who makes “ch” sounds that feel like footsteps in a swamp and decides how wet each day’s air will be and where thunder and lightning go. A smarter witch might use Missus to teach Srikayans how to cycle through dry and rainy seasons like normal people. Tante Dewi just asks her to keep storms away. “The Antoni boys are spooked by thunder,” she said. And, “Bad storms will wash away the older masjid. Where will God rest his head?” “The Antonis were eaten by monkeys three years back.” I told her. Then I burned my foot kicking over the pot of candlenuts and she burned her fingers scrambling to pick them up. She’s never been evil, just a moron, I told Martha Christina. I told her she’s weak too, but Martha Christina doesn’t believe that someone who controls the weather and brings people back from the dead and holds the island in the palm of her hand could be weak. “Maybe you’re the weak one,” Martha Christina spits. *** I told Martha Christina how the village of asses made Tante Dewi leave. The town of Srikaya knocked on Dewi’s door, asked her brusquely to step out of her house, then set the affair on fire. They were doing their own spell, they said, summoning the hantu of peace, who needs a fire to burn for three days and three nights to be called. An elderly woman
creaked out of the crowd and looked at Dewi with sweet and savory eyes. She was the only one who spoke to Tante Dewi directly. “Minta maaf bu. Minta maaf.” She handed her a bundle of two tunics, a week of food, and porcelain prayer beads, then took the witch by the hand and led her up a half-day walk from the village, up the side of some slippery inclines and loose ground, to the hut on the mountain that smells like mutton. *** I told Martha Christina everything I’m telling you now. This was after Budi asked her to stop coming into the dock because he didn’t need help anymore and they’d yelled and fought and she’d stormed into the Bookhouse and torn apart two Majapahit-era diaries and didn’t say a word to me until she grabbed me by the collar and I was sure she was going to hit me but instead her head fell onto my head and I heard, “I’m not broken, I’m not” and the salt burned my tongue until it was dark and Martha Christina was asleep. I crouched by her head and whispered how weak everyone is. How even Tante Dewi can’t do anything special, really. When they talk about being touched or having the sight or whatever else, folks think it’s the woman herself puppeteering the tides or possessing people, but a woman is just a woman is just a woman, a woman isn’t a hantu, a witch isn’t a hantu, a witch is just someone the hantu like enough to listen to and, even then, only with the right gifts and ceremony. Martha Christina says I’m the weak one, not Tante Dewi. I think Martha Christina loves the idea of Tante Dewi, but Tante Dewi is pathetic. All she does every day is send away storms, so they won’t hurt the village of asses who put her on the top of a mountain. *** It turns out there were no books about Srikaya in the Bookhouse. I asked Martha Christina about it once and she said: “Other towns, I’ve heard, breathe so that their breasts rise and drag the arms with it. And when the flesh is struck, it scars over like burnt skin. Other cities breathe and say, ‘This is how you breathe,’ and then the body knows this is how you breathe. Other towns count their breaths. In Salatiga they carved statues for soldiers that stayed the night a thousand years ago.” In my memory, she wipes the sweat off her palm. Her voice is tik-tik-tik, rapid pecking. “There’s no memory in this village. It was underwater once, it’ll be underwater again. Floods and ash and visiting sailors take chunks and all that stays in common with this village and the one of her grandfathers is where she likes to sit under the stars.” MAR HANIF WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22
HANNAH MEGERY WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22 OIL ON CANVAS
A Broken Wing Robin make haste beat to take flight wobble now, your nook and thorn bush stretching shadow, beast matching beat like everyone before knew it was too early to soar like the battered wind clip up your beak the predator quickens its pace your peers above sing the goslings threw themselves off cliffs breaking into funeral choir for some, it was their last song—so teeter along maybe there is a precipice, inviting fall. The forest calls for an overcast. Is it wind drifting through your bones or dust?
ELIZABETH ZENG WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘24
Thoughts on Delinquency My grandmother told me that only delinquents get tattoos, that this is what makes me less lady-like. She doesn’t know that when I walk through the door I carry a purse on my arm and let it bounce against the soft flesh of my unmarked hip. I sit in the chair with my legs crossed and I let them dangle over the side to show off the subtle curve of my ankles beneath the fray of my jeans where the dust and the ink like to gather. I have a tattoo there, on the right side of my right ankle that dances when I do. When I wring my hands together, my wrists flex and my arms spiral with the memory of a buzzed needle. Each drop under my skin is no more expansive than the bottom of the ocean where each grain of sand is equal to each rip of my skin for the sake of my personal pleasure, everyone else’s public disgust, and the aesthetics of unsuspected delinquency where homage meets reminder and blacked out whimsy. In this palm of stained skin and electric tins is where I splay myself like ink running over and dripping into waiting mouths to cover their teeth stormy. I turn my neck and let the sun hit the space behind my ear and it warms me through the base of my skull and slides down the length of me like wandering hands dipped in honey—dark, and rich, and sweet; falling over dawdled injections onto expectant tongues drunk with the pitch of me. These liquid limbs are decorated
for hungry eyes to scan and gloved fingers to brush too tenderly to make blood under dark bandages, for midnight scripture to move as I move and preach divinity upon you. These lines are holy, etched into the body like a goddess bathed in liquid soot. Nothing could be more civil.
SABRINA SPENCE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22
From a Ghost
CLAIRE SZEPTYCKI UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA ‘23 LINOCUT
Wake Up Call I wake up in a cold sweat again. It is 5:37 am. My hair is plastered wet to my neck and my pajamas sag with the weight of perspiration. My limbs feel fragile as I lower myself out of bed. One wrong move and I could collapse right there. It is dark but I do not care to turn on the lights, I let my eyes adjust instead. I reach across the bed for my blanket and I feel my skeleton clutching to the skin. I touch my fingers to my back and sense all of the knots of my spine, risen, taut, protruding against my thin skin. I undress myself slowly, gingerly removing pieces one by one like a ritual. I unknot my pajama pants and they slip silently to the floor. My legs look so small and bare in the iridescent moonlight, like two poorly carved logs warped from age and wear. Next, I start to take my shirt off, pulling my arms under the sleeves, one at a time, pressing them to my chest and lifting the fabric over my head. I shudder as I do this. My hands and arms are cold and stiff against my warm chest. I have to move slowly. If I do not, my arms might break off and shatter. I glance at myself in the pale moonlight, my boyish figure. You would have thought that my frame would mature, that turning eighteen would have removed me at last from my girlhood. I look up and down my body. My long gangly arms hanging from my sides. My fragile wrists and the deep blue liquid pulsing underneath the opalescent skin, a faint sign of life. My long, slender fingers that stretch like phantoms into the night. My chest bone which pushes right up against the surface of my skin, you could knock and hear it echo. My small, bony shoulders and the ribs that peek through the surface. I wrap my arms around my waist and my back and squeeze. I am surprised by how small I can make myself. I think about how easy it would be to break my body. It would just take one or two strikes, and I would not struggle either. How is it that when I walk I can feel the bones grinding against each other, counting down the days until they will be put to rest? How is it that I can feel so fragile with such a young body? Why do I wake up like this on these fraught nights, with a body of glass?
VIOLET COOPER WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘25
ARTE ROMERO Y CARVER WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘25 INK, WALKNUT INK, PEN
Bug 11:02 PM Between eleven at night and one in the morning, the internet café down the block from Marin’s apartment serves only black coffee. It comes in a little styrofoam cup, which she cradles between her palms and carries to one of the open computers. She sets the cup gently beside the keyboard, opens her email, and begins a new message (Mom,). She is distracted by the clock ticking away in the corner of the screen. 11:07 PM The café is empty, everyone else having said their goodbyes to the fledgling internet and gone home, to parties, or escaped to the clubs. Marin takes her first sip of the coffee, and it burns her tongue. I’m writing you while we both wait because the only thing we have in common anymore is that we hate waiting. Do you remember the first homeschool group dinner you hosted? A spider crawled up my skirt at the table, and I locked myself in the bathroom for the rest of the night. 11:14 PM A teenager in a Mickey Mouse t-shirt emerges from the back room carrying a bowl of individually wrapped creamers. Marin peers over the monitor and waves him down. Whorls of cream dissipate into her coffee, and she brings the cup to her lips, but it’s still too hot to taste. I never thanked you for that trip to Michigan; I know you hate boats. I went to the upper deck of the ferry on my own and leaned over the railing. The water was dark and choppy; it looked so dangerous. I remember feeling grown. 11:26 PM Dick Clark’s voice emerges from the static on the corner TV, waxing poetic about how many people have gotten married in Times Square. It dawns on Marin that if she gets married, it will be in the next century. She takes a tentative sip of her coffee, and it fills her chest with a stirring warmth. You got me that dress for the group’s graduation in Stanley’s living room, the red sequined one that looked like it was covered in thousands of ladybugs. I was happy to be in it, but when I walked down the stairs, the happiness dropped out of your face. You must have realized I wasn’t trapped anymore. 11:38 PM The tote bag Marin had grabbed from her closet earlier that night droops beside her chair, and she reaches in to pull out her copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. She reads the first sentence over and over again and finds comfort in knowing that she’s not the only one thinking about time. I know you were worried when I decided to defer my admission and take the internship, but neither seemed that certain to me. All the interns went out to lunch at the end of the first week, and the director read us a poem he wrote about his mother. Everybody whispered about how gross it was, but I was jealous.
11:42 PM Marin’s fingers come to rest on the raised keyboard. She looks up and notices Mickey Mouse staring at her from across the café, his feet up on a corner table. When their eyes meet, his flicker in panic. She shrugs and offers him a smile, resigning to collective delusion. When I was in Mexico City that winter, I got a tattoo removed. Hiding it from you had become too painful, even though I hadn’t seen you since I’d left home. The woman who removed it asked me if I just wanted her to cover it up. When I told her guilt can’t be covered up, she reminded me that it can’t be removed either. 11:57 PM The coffee is tepid now, and Marin wills her taste buds to ignore the bitterness as she downs the rest in a gulp. Mickey wrings out the washcloth he’s been using to wipe down the counter. His eyes are glued to the crowd on TV, worshiping Dick Clark and his glittering crystal ball. Marin’s mind spins faster than she can type. I’ve been back in Milwaukee for a few months now. I took the California Zephyr, and for most of the ride I was reading the internship director’s manuscript. He wrote a lot about walking in the woods alone, conceptual stuff I didn’t understand. I dreamt of philosopher ghosts chasing me through the trees and missed sleeping with my head in your lap. 12:00 AM Marin sees the fireworks before she can hear them. They are so far away, rising over the lake in the distance, but she and the Mickey Mouse kid watch anyway. If you get this, I’m here. If you don’t, I’m sorry. Either way, the waiting is over. With love, Marin.
CAM LIND WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘22
Red and Blue Brain
SUSAN HE RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN ‘23 MARKERS AND COLORED PENCILS
Song for Mending I want to shriek melody of disruption until the wind promises to change direction. It’s biting all my blood vessels till they ghost. I’ll muscle my way home with dirt under my nails. I’ll ask for the softest touch you can muster. I’ll accept nothing less. I’ll accept no more sharp edges or the insistence that we are not all seeking. We’ve been quiet without shame. Please. Wail in my arms. Sing me relief. Oh, how sorrow lifts the veil.
GABRIELA MARTINEZ WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS ‘23