Touchstone 2020

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contact us Touchstone Literary & Arts Journal Stetson English Department 421 N. Woodland Blvd Unit 8300 DeLand, FL 32723














Touchstone 2020 literary and creative arts journal is a production of Hatter Network. Hatter Network is the student media collective at Stetson University. For more information, visit:




The Staff Bobbie Bonilla Brianna Morris Eva Martinez Jamie Pietrasz R’keria Davis Todd Hewling Tyler Kick

Executive Editor Jacob Mauser

Associate Editor Rene Campbell


Selection Committee Brendan Dunlop Aliyah Cruise Ashton Craig Daniel Crasnow Vivianne Skavlem Ashley Allensworth Allie Wilson


Faculty Advisor Andy Denhart

Special Thanks Crystal Baroni

Isabel Solorzano Ruby Rosenthal Jamie Pietrasz Rene Campbell Jacob Mauser

Splash Pages Bobbie Bonilla

Cover “It May Be Closer Than You Think.” By Zoe Boykin


Dear reader, I can’t tell you how happy I am to introduce the 40th consecutive edition of Touchstone Literary and Arts Journal. We had some big plans to mark the occasion. Some of these—a longer edition with more pieces and an entirely new section (Ampersand), and full-color splash pages (and some throwbacks to the original 1981 Touchstone)— ended up working out. Others—a star-studded release party, Touchstone-themed merchandise (is it still merchandise if you give it away?), and a bigger-than-ever spring distribution push—had to be cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19. But for you, reader, that is in the past. Our ongoing struggles have been thankfully left behind, and only our work—the things we accomplished regardless of these difficulties—remains to remember them by. To that end I would like to thank my team: the editors, designers, and everyone else who worked overtime, and from far away, to help put this magazine in your hands now. I would like to thank my associate editor, Rene Campbell, for her tireless devotion to this magazine and for putting up with me texting her at odd hours with things to do. I would like to thank our coordinator (and student media mom), Crystal Baroni, for helping us navigate the ever-changing landscape of 2020. I would like to thank our artists for putting up with


the inevitable delays in this process. I would like to thank our printer, Susan Sigman, for making certain this magazine could exist in physical form, regardless of the ongoing unprecedented global crisis. I would like to thank everybody who came to Uncouth Hour or submitted to Touchstone for giving us a community to support. And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank you, dear reader, for picking this book up. Touchstone has always been a labor of love, but in that respect it mirrors the artistic community whose works it hopes to spread. If you pour your very soul into a camera or a guitar or a paintbrush or a page, this book is for you. If you stay up till 2 AM reading, if you restart a song because you weren’t paying close enough attention during the intro, if you spend hours staring at paintings in a gallery, this book is for you. May it bring you joy on sunny days and rainy ones. To we, who work now under the veil of an uncertain future, those days seem far away. Reader, may you find them, and may this book accompany you there.



Table contents Poetry 11 you came and I was crazy for you - Brianna Morris

12 Uncouth - Ashley Allensworth 14 Love in the time of heteronormative bullshit - Ruby Rosenthal

15 Life of Towns - Joseph Williams 19 Restricted Depiction - Madilyn Amico &

Brendan Dunlop 20 and I on a soft pillow will pluck thorns from my heart - Brianna Morris 21 Your Story - Joseph Williams

22 Follow Me - Sarah Payne 24 And What Good Will Your Fear Be When

The Great Joy Comes? - Jamie Pietrasz 27 Sunshine and Rainbows - Daniel Hendrick

28 Island Girl - Gianna Cook 30 The T.V. Isn’t Loud Enough - R’Keria Davis 31 Promised Planets - Brendan Dunlop 33 What Came Over Me - Jacob Mauser ** 34 Four Letter Words - Rene Campbell **

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Visual 37 S A N C T U A R Y - Nikita Shinn 38 Curiosity Only Kills Cats - Alaska Gilmour 40 Walk in the Park - Isabel Solorzano 42 Technology - Faith Belflower 44 F L O A T I N G P O I N T - Gordon Silva 46 Organic Machinery - Marisa Ingram 47 1 in 4 - Nikita Shinn 48 Forbidden Fruit - Alaska Gilmour 50 Blaze - Kathryn Carter (CW- self harm) 52 antiquite - Gordon Silva 53 Self Portrait - Caitlin Bhagwandeen 54 It May Be Closer Than You Think. - Zoe Boykin * 56 Archetectonic Abstraction - Destiny Rodriguez 57 Superman - Faith Belflower 58 The Feeling of New Orleans Jazz - Marisa Ingram 59 Story Book - Faith Belflower 60 No War - Zoe Boykin 62 Oscar #1 or a Film Tangentially Related to the

Artist Whose Work Resides Within The Hand Art Center - John Levee

Prose 65 Blue as a Bruise - Sarah Payne 70 Excerpt From a Young Woman’s Journal - Rachel Myers 75 Country Trees - Allie Wilson 80 Hamlet 2020 - Vivianne Skavlem

Ampersand 82 Interview With Zoe Boykin

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** - editor piece * - cover piece

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& still, the desire for more than this simple escaping into word or sound or image. I no longer want to wander— would rather run until I collapse into the palm of your hand. I was born from summer’s shining rib, & since then I’ve had no patience for dullness. let me die with the slow-motion firework of youth still shining in my irises. don’t think twice, just make a promise. wring it out of the air & let me keep it in my pocket for stability, for when the rain falls again. I have taken so many chances & so many seasons have rotted inside me. a futile autumn, preoccupied, static spring with its mosquito-bite silence, a long day of winter chilling me to the bone. & still I sit under trees & wait for fruit to fall into my lap. I tear it open to compare all other sweetness to you.

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you came and I was crazy for you


Time exists in two forms: now and not. The past is a fog I encumber through The future a blur no glasses can correct. It frightens me. Week is the sea I cannot fathom. Presently for me to exist you must engage me. This room, your eyes are not enough. As it stands, these blank walls scream at me “You’ve done nothing” And reflect on the windows of your souls illuminated by the lights of your phones you’d rather notice than the girl pleading “Substantiate me.” Your applause is not enough.

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Broken Kaleidoscopic Angelic Close your eyes. The fuzz against the absence, the visual snow, Is the accent to the blue and green that explode after you wander into the fluorescence, Your gaze unfocused. When will you notice I am here In your life? The whispers, the mutters, the grumbles, the groans. I know you cannot wait a moment longer But please. Silence your phones And dim your lights as I wish you wouldn’t snuff mine. I can hear you.

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My affect affects your affection What you know and see through me Time does not exist. Expect me in the moment in my head where the world is alive With color

Love in the time of heteronormative bullshit RUBY ROSENTHAL

1. Surgically remove her feminism for this Thursday night. 2. Princess Diaries-it and take off her glasses, shake her hair out, and iron it flat. Pluck her unibrow, wax her pussy, shave her legs, her toes, and her hands, tweeze her chin hair until it bleeds. 3. Ecstasize her cheeks with your lips, drown yourself in a wishing well and stay there. 4. 3-D print her heart, place it in your hands, and remind yourself how that feels, over and over again. 5. Strategize a collusion of chaos, find yourself at Chick-fil-A on Sunday, and, this one’s important, give her that look no girl thinks actually exists. 6. Unzip her epidermis--remember--funny business is always appropriate. 7. Perform an Olympic-gold-winning figure eight around The Talk--don’t be weird about it. 8. Act like a politician. Blindfold your disdain and bathe in a pool of her pity. Appear platonic publicly. 9. Repeat.

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Town of Africa Jane Elliot. Songhai Empire. Bigger than the Western Civilizations. Hospitals already built. Kingdoms already born. Kings and Queens are made. It got left out of his-story. Town of America The universe made men, And men made kings. The universe made women, And men made queens. The only difference is the way you wrap the gift. America is my Momma.

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Life of Towns

Town of Universal Ether Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. You cannot stop it now, it is too late. Once it is in the ether, that is it. It is a force to be reckoned with. Get the popcorn ready. Town of Egyptian Soul Used and abused like never before. The resources of your land of which we stole. Empowers U.S. like never before. I am sorry to you and what I have done. I am sad now but I know everything gets a return. You never even got a thank you. I am sorry. We told a lie and never told the truth. I am sorry. Shield me from the rathe that is my doing, That of which I also stole.

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Is what I call them. Even though it is my chest that grows fur. It is my legs that are shorter. It is my lack of athleticism. It is my filth and my filth alone. That I will spew onto them. I know, I’ll just make you seem lesser than me. I am filthy, I just never knew it. If I am not superior to you, I’ll make you think I am. Town of Purple Trees Look at it. As it waves and vibrates. It is trying to tell you something. You are connected to its being. You are its being. Have you ever really looked? Have you ever truly listened? Have you ever truly lived?

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Town of Gorilla Family

Town of the Great Towns Act this way and you will get this. When you go home, act this way and you will be happy. As you grow up I will teach you to behave. I will teach you how to fit. I will teach you how to thrive. I will teach you how to survive. Just be clever. There is a power in you, if I do not mention it, you will not know it is there.

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coin is current, as was my need


Restricted Depiction

a women’s confinement in a stateless society

take my pensive portrait’s worth


my back to the water, my wife’s to the earth

a women’s soul confined in a shawl

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life is material clouds of black

and I on a soft pillow will pluck thorns from my heart BRIANNA MORRIS

Bloodstain the comforter. Lift my honest spill with a capful of bleach. Hatred is lined with purity: my clean teeth & spearmint silence. A grimace is just as white as a smile. Under the sheets, idle, neurons restless behind my skull, I turn the color of forgetting. Through shut eyes, I watch our bodies echo & fade, like the last words of a dying instrument. I have seen so much abandon, thunderous & blinding, rising to devour me at once. Depersonalize the flames & let them soften into smoke. Internalize the rotting lullaby. My body weakens at the seams, bright red & hysterical. I don’t get to wash my hands of this.

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So, what is this? The time Is now that we—make moves, See the beyond— Take it all the way to a simpler time— One where I was. Food was free Where I was, so was water That we drank all day; Now I have to pay to keep from dying. What race? Which show? This policy, that policy Limits and constraints on our babies That are unknowing This cannot be right. In the face of nature, In the face of mankind, In the face of my loved ones— I pray for a better day, I pray for no more hate, I pray for simple lemonade— I pray for our story, the one they never told.

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Your Story


It’s a strange tightrope I’m walking, But I’m all in for the ride. Oh fuck, she knows I’ve nowhere to go, I can’t just run and hide. But welcome to our parade, Where we work half as hard as we play. Singing in the car with my lady goin’ far, And we almost die on the way. I’ve learned to trust her intuition, That calcutive sense of direction, It leads me through the night looking left looking right, But it hasn’t lead me astray, yet. I choke on my own jokes as she Pokes fun at my personality, ‘Cause I swear my middle name is danger Not the virgin queen. We only speak in contradictions, Challenges and dirty words, We throw syllables like knives but none Are ever meant to hurt. I used to think I could walk through the fire if She were only holding my hand. Now I see that’s not something I need Just something I demand. But I know, if these words are the last I get to speak Goes to show, I made somebody laugh and someone was loving me.

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I’m making an ass of myself per usual And I’m feeling like I’m on fire. I’m embellishing stories but she don’t mind, I’m that bad of a liar. I remind myself to stay quiet, just so I don’t scream out loud. I feel it in my bones, this only drives it home I can’t control myself. So we laugh until we’re sick With tears streaming down our faces. We both know for sure this has to be One of our favorite places. For me it’s anywhere she comes alive With her sweet sarcasm and her sharp eyes. I’ve heard it all before so, no more I know I won’t survive, but I’m sure And I know, if these words are the last I get to speak Goes to show, I made somebody laugh and someone was loving me. Our adventures and our crazy dreams It’s like something off the silver screen, All I had to say was “follow me” All I had to say was “follow me.”

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With our adventures and our crazy dreams It’s like something off the silver screen, All I had to say was “follow me.”

And What Good Will Your Fear Be When The Great Joy Comes? JAMIE PIETRASZ

And What Good Will Your Fear Be When The Great Joy Comes? Says the priest in the garden behind the youth detention center In Georgia while I hold a shovel and I say I know oh I know while trying to avert my dry eyes From the descending sun and the garden I’m supposed to be building and the priest Says to overcome that fear, you must confront it and I Say I know but everything I fear is not here and I mean Here like in this Detention center with me while I avoid The work that God asked me to do and I mean Here like everything I fear that I can still overcome and not Run away from like a monster in a nightmare But I look up at the priest and he is a prism Of my anxiety I mean his worries spread worries And they are all vast and scattered around him and I know Then that everything he fears is also not here and the priest doesn’t ask But I still say hey man, I’ve got no cures, I’ve got no cures even though I have plenty

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in your garden and I say something lovely enough to make me forget my fears And he points towards the lurking shadows of hurting Boys inside their cells and says I see fears only as they are And I’m sure I did once too but I cannot remember how to these days And he says Attacks aren’t always about what hurts and I’ve learned I’ve learned Or I’ve learned once and now I write about sacred moments Like I will never belong to those moments again and the priest Looks me in the eyes and he points to the dark red locket Over my heart’s gates and he says the cure to everything you fear is in there and I’ve learned I’ve learned I can’t feel it, but I’ve learned and he turns my face to the water spout and says don’t overfill your cup and I know that he means the cup that I used to bring the plants what they needed to survive or I think I know that, but I still can’t stop panicking and I close

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Ways I’ve learned to cope with not being okay and the garden is still growing even in its Never-ending need for my company and the man’s palm has a Bridge inside I mean he has put it on my shoulder and here we are Bounded and unbroken and the priest says What plants are you putting In the garden And I say what I might say in my sleep I say all frustration Ends in mud and he says What plants are you putting

my eyes and I am crying behind the youth detention center and, when I open my eyes, the garden is taking anything that has branded me more fearful from my mind and pouring them into the translucent water and I am feeling this, and I know I am feeling this my grief over the boy who died in a car accident when he was coming to see me and my guilt knowing that I couldn’t say I loved him when he was in a coma and my fear of my next panic attack and my stress of not doing enough in the middle of any time I have been worried they were all there I felt their gravity and it was like being trapped under a layer of thick ice and once you know what it is to be happy it is hard to un-feel that which serves as a reminder that you were not always lucky and I am gasping into the universe and I pull a towel to wipe whatever tears are left and I see the priest working on the garden and I run over to him and call out his name and I say did you feel it did you feel it like I did, and he turns and looks into the light of a jail cell and he is bounded to a single worry now and he smirks and he says do I know you and he dismisses and carries his bible away into the night and I can hear the pages rustling even as I watch him disappear and I look down and the plants in my garden are still mud brown.

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You always told me that life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows And I never believed you You said life was just pain and heartbreak and disappointment and suffering and dread and strife and stress and mourning Life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows That’s what you always told me And I never believed you Until I saw beautiful galaxies spiraling above me Deer dancing in meadows in front of me Birds chirping an ancient song all around me The embrace of love after months of pain The first realization of peace in a sea of conflict The joy of being with someone you love Until I saw you realize how amazing you really are You always told me that life isn’t just sunshine and rainbows And you were right It’s so much better

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Sunshine and Rainbows


Island girl, Skin the color of the coasts, Hair a shade of jungle tree bark, Eyes to match. The girl is an island. She doesn’t speak the language, Her heart doesn’t beat with the sounds of a Puerto Rican night. Coqui, Coqui The Coqui is indigineous to Puerto Rico, Their croaks signify their own name, Loud and proud, As all true Puerto Ricans are. The girl is an island. She’s Americanized Unaccented english, Raised on white bread, Fried sweet plantains from Pollo Tropical. She’d never been until she was 11, She didn’t embrace relatives unknown, They called her a diminutive of her mother And she shied away from a response. La bebe de mama ay que linda eres How beautiful the baby of her mother is

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The girl is an island. She claims puerto rico Like the many cousins she doesn’t know, Coldly, separately, factually, Like a well wisher to disaster. The girl is an island. She tries, Stumbles, And tries again, Defiantly standing still. Island girl, She tries to make Cornmeal And Pastelitos, (Never try to make your own puff pastry.) She tries to know a land as hers, To reorient existence around what was a missing limb

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The girl is an island. Born from an unholy matrimony, No matrimony involved, A bastard, as archaic as it sounds. Birthed under a surname for a resume template. Jokingly called a gift from the white devil, Mother and father hold hands, A nice caramel vanilla swirl.

The T.V. Isn’t Loud Enough R’KERIA DAVIS

I was told to stray from false advertisement, but the FCC slits animal throats; PG ratings mute their screams. Animal Planet live streams a lion chasing their meal while we eat boxed chicken we never heard leap. Ronald McDonald turns the channel to kids playing in ball pits, helps our food go down better. The animal kingdom is deadly and there’s no advertisement. But everyone is fine with this. Wild animals always have blood on their paws. Humans, oil and a remote control to control our fantasies. Passing pastures isn’t the same with a murder apologist. But everyone is fine with this.

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“The Seven Days are written in our blood With hand of Fire. In some far universal Deep Did He tread Space And visit worlds beyond our blood-warm dreaming?” -“Christus Apollo,” Ray Bradbury The Something in the void, Radiant Waves of fresh photons Which speech had shone And flew through crafted space Through millennia these moments sing. All creation burns within memory And lights the days ahead. Wait some more, call ourselves As we smell the water of space And cry for rafts. Fire which warms the rocket-flowers And fuels creation’s growth Ask the mirrors of the clouds For new challenge to our comfort, And the humans in the heavens Find in the future to be ourselves.

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Promised Planets

Burning in aggressive peace, Littered and glittered with sparks Did He breathe vacuum And explore the spheres of night? Earth’s expanding context Beckons you to leave your wake, Contentment of the cared. A rebirth of Humanity Who break the bonds of gravity To swim to brightest shores

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What fills the void of night? Nightbird song or cigarette smoke Or secrets. How neat families (father in a suit, Mother a dress) keep Secrets like fine china, Covered only as deep (or nearly) As mulch over dirt in their Gardens. You could almost believe that It’s mulch all the way down. Dig a hole and the Sandy earth rushes to fill The emptiness. Can a void fill itselfHow the sound of a distant train Enters the night long after The train has gone.

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What Came Over Me **

Four Letter Words ** RENE CAMPBELL

Word One: not something Hallmark can sell for $1.99. sanctified only by stares drowning in alcohol, archaic coping mechanisms never seemed so helpful until barstools were taken like the breath wasted yelling at the youth babbling in boozy breaths on elm. Word Two: taste language on unfamiliar tonguesone day it will ruin everything not yet seen. intelligence is not genetic predetermined patterns; if that were the case green eyes would have rolled ages ago, tears cried months ago would not repeat in waves like a storming tide crying out for truth.

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Word Four: beyond burned bridges laughter is heard hazing heavy history. the way paperweights shatter in palms will open doors to flowered dirt roads. in exploration there is risk to be accounted for, but rather than ponder destruction, the only vexation is time wasted stumbling through streets with wrong labels. streetlamps ablaze with ashes must educate foreign footsteps to find each-other

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Word Three: it is the way teeth slowly sink into lips with a pause in breath which controls, a dark room lit only underneath a body never reaches for books in bedside drawers. millennial conversation calls it normal- to shake soda cans until the explosion is all that is left. but even then, the tables never turn.

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Curiosity Only Kills Cats



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visual Walk in the Park ISABEL SOLORZANO

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visual Technology FAITH BELFLOWER

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Floating Point



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Organic Machinery MARISA INGRAM

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1 in 4



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Forbidden Fruit



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antiquite GORDON SILVA

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Self Portrait



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It May Be Closer Than You Think.*



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Architectonic Abstraction DESTINY RODRIGUEZ

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The Feeling of New Orleans Jazz MARISA INGRAM

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Story Book



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Oscar #1 or A Film Tangentially Related to the Artist Whose Work Resides Within The Hand Art Center JOHN LEVEE

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Full film available for viewing under the “Online Content� section of the Touchstone page on

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Blue as a Bruise “How long did Marshall say this would take to hit?” Slumping onto her sleeping bag, Beth stretched her hands to the blue tarp ceiling of their tent, willing them to swirl and blur. Nothing happened. The aim of the acid trip was catharsis after crisis. Since the horror of Sophomore year had passed, Beth decided it was time to remove the root of her panic attacks through the homebrew psychedelic therapy heralded far and wide by psych majors: a tour of the “self ” with lysergic acid diethylamide. The initial fears she had were all about “Alice-in-Wonderland-ing” in her own memories and hallucinating, but after half an hour with the tab on her tongue, all she felt was impatient. It wasn’t like she had any experience with psychedelic drugs. Her expectation was to be roiling in the human selfconscious for the next twelve hours, sunset to sunrise. Marshall had told them to “buckle up for a wild ride” as he passed them the plastic bag before they departed for Blue Spring State Park. Sam scrolled through cooking videos absently on his phone, the sunset on the tent casting his face in a blue sheen. It had been a little too long since his tawny hair had been cut, and a little too long since he shaved his face, but he was still handsome. A timer disrupted Binging with Babish. “Alright, remove the tab.” “Even if this doesn’t work, it feels so good to not be at school right now.” Beth snuggled into Sam’s side, wiggling with how good it felt to be out. Any anxiety she had melted away on the road to Orange City. “I was stifled! I was dying!” Beth lamented, casting a hand upon her brow. “Oh, yeah?” Sam cackled, his fingers finding all her ticklish spots. She howled, legs flailing. Beth had tears of laughter in her eyes, leaking tracks down her face. For a moment, her memory held still, kept that snapshot of them laughing and

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didn’t want to let it go. The reason why she could love Sam forever was simple: she could be herself around him, silly and ridiculous and true. Last year she lived moment to moment, clinging to happiness for safety, but things had changed. They kissed and she smiled onto his lips. Slowly, she started to lose the purpose of the trip. The thought of psychological exploration was drowned in his kiss. When the drug started to take hold, she was lost in the impossible softness of Sam’s lips, in the silken texture of his hair, and in the warmth of his embrace. It was only when he pulled away that she started to notice something off. The color of the tent was stronger than before, and suddenly it didn’t seem like the sunlight coming through the interior was turning them blue, it was that they themselves were blue-born beings. Blue as a bottle of Dasani. Blue as Care Bears. Blue as a cotton candy Dum Dum Lollipops. He was blue and she was blue and when she touched him, they were blue together. “What do you want?” A voice rumbled out of Sam’s chest, but his mouth didn’t move. “I…I…don’t really know.” Her tongue was timid and stuttering. The flap of the tent started to shake, zipper bouncing with pressure. Beth found herself intrepid and reaching. The zing of the zipper became a broken record in her brain. There was a long, tenuous moment where the students looked up at the man and the man down at the students. “What do you want?” Beth repeated after the rumbling not-Sam voice, calling out to the stranger like he was a far-off point in the distance. Yet his face zoomed in, clearer and clearer, until they were almost nose to nose. His eyes were incredibly wide set apart, pupils blown, a Habsburgian underbite revealed his teeth…the miserable mystery of his teeth…what was left of his grin were gaps between thin bone hooks. The ghost of facial hair crested over his lip. A headlamp was fixed to his forehead by a Velcro strap, giving him altogether the appearance of an anglerfish. Beth hiccupped. Any other day and she would have stopped and asked questions. Any other day, her roommate’s gift of pepper

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spray would be deployed with the accuracy of her survival instinct. Perhaps it was the LSD that stopped her, that created mystery in the stranger with his vulture’s gaze. Sam pushed her from the flap and shoved the stranger hard. Beth’s wrist was grabbed and dragged from the tent so fast she barely caught her footing. A breath held in her lungs as she sustained eye contact with the man on the ground, as he watched her the sky faded from sunset to dusk. The light from his headlamp grew stronger until it became the rival of the rising moon. Sam forced her into a hellish race down the trail to the Spring. The skewed world made her feel lethargic even while she was sprinting down the trail. Darkness was descending in totality, trees wrapped around them as the trail got narrower and narrower. Beth did not look back. The only reason she knew that the man was pursuing her and Sam was because of the bobbling light licking the trees around them, creeping along their shoulders. Every breath she took caught on the fear of being touched by the man. Her mind turned out bombastic syllables of yellow panic. Don’t get raped-murdered-stalked. Please don’t catch me. All of a sudden, drops of water started to splatter against her forehead, quickly returning with a vengeance in downpour. Beth’s shoes filled and started to squish. The only illumination in the thick tree cover continued from behind. When Sam grasped for her again, it was with the sharpest yank to the right. The dodge turned into a tumble downhill until they were plunged into the Spring. “We have to get out!” Sam shouted in a whisper. Beth could feel the sandpaper skin of a manatee tickle her forearm. The only thing she could think of was a poster she had seen as they drove in: DO NOT SWIM WITH MANATEES, THEY ARE PLAYFUL AND CAN ACCIDENTALLY DROWN YOU. Scrambling onto the shore, Beth clung to Sam. They gripped the roots of a tree to keep their legs from the water.

Big clean gulps of air touched her lungs in blessing, but fear still clenched around her heart, making it throb. The bobbling light of the headlamp reflected inside raindrops and on the spring water to her left as the man shuffled down the hill. All she did was stick her foot out from the cover of the tree at the right moment. Without intention, it would have been stretching. The man gave a shout as he tripped unceremoniously into the water. Young manatees, fully awakened, began to play. Their grey bodies surfaced and dragged the man down with their weight. Struggle was communicated only in the spinning flickers of his headlamp underwater, before the beam of light went still. Beth began weeping. Sam’s hand shielded her vision, but she knew the body must have resurfaced. She knew it because the flashes of light from the anglerfish-man’s headlamp gave a few desperate tries at illumination before giving up, attempts glowing red between Sam’s fingers. Murderer. A strange man chased after them without reason, she used self-defense, but the word crashed around her brain. A headache blossomed in Beth’s skull, brain pulsing from crying. It was the new snapshot her brain refused to surrender, a man floating face-down in a romantic spring by moonlight… surrounded by the same friendly sea cows that drowned him. +++ Morning came, but Sam and Beth did not awaken to the bruised sunrise. LSD kept the brain from resting, repeatedly kicking it into gear…Beth gripped the steering wheel harder. She was worried that she might never sleep again after what she saw…what she did. They had packed the car as soon as they stumbled back to their campsite, eager to leave and tuck safely back into their daily lives. Sam put a comforting hand over hers on the shifter. There was effort in their grimaces, which followed the natural shape of grins, but without any spirit. She put it in gear. The road spooled out before them, winding through the

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park. As Beth began to back out of the parking spot, she looked in her rear-view mirror. A man’s eyes collided with hers in her gaze. A headlamp dangled from his hand. Thin teeth pushed up from his under-bitten smirk. That fear in the pit of her stomach was ubiquitous…pulled from incidents last year like thread through a needle eye. Beth feared that there was nothing that could stop a man from taking what he wanted. Not society, not law, not love, not God. That a man with desire would be exempt from every earthly deterrent, never needing a reason. In his face, she saw the guy last year, who followed her home. In his face, she saw the guy who befriended her and Sam, only to make a move on her after Sam had fallen asleep. In his face, she saw the guy who threatened their lives after being spurned. Who left shotgun shells outside their dorms and sent threats to Sam’s fraternity. The stranger’s face was a caricature of that guy. When Beth realized it, she couldn’t un-see it. Wide-set eyes became wider. An underbite became Habsburgian. The kindness he used to lure them transformed into the illusion of the anglerfish with its bioluminescent gem. There was clarity in her heart as she plunged into reverse. The image of the man burst and dissipated like smoke as the car backed through it. Sam pulled up the emergency brake, narrowly stopping the car from hitting a tree. Bullets of sweat beaded at her brow. Breath came in bursts, but she felt stronger with each one. Safety was an illusion too, but one she had some agency over. “Beth, are you okay?” Sam pushed the shifter into park. There was no room for concern over her engine, no room for anything in the hug he gave her, squishing her over the console and into his arms. Beth could feel his fear for her as he held her, as he stroked her hair and tried to calm her down. “Everything is going to be okay.” She told herself. For the first time in a long time, she believed it.

Excerpt from a Young Woman’s Journal RACHEL MYERS

I was nine years old when it started. There had been nothing different about that day. The sky was its usual blue, and my mother and I were going to the store. I stepped outside and my mom grabbed my hair and yanked me back in, yelling that there were vibrations and I couldn’t leave the house unprotected. She powdered my cheeks with ash, but I didn’t say this is why dad left. I was not as cruel then as I am now. Exiting the store, I saw it. I was riding on my mother’s back while she carried the groceries – she was exceptionally strong – and I glanced towards a gutter. I thought it was a naked child. But its gray skin hung off its scrawny frame in waves of wrinkles. It was on all fours, staring intently into the gutter with bulbous bug eyes the color of yellowed paper. It lifted a skeleton hand to scratch itself with absurdly long nails, twisting into coils. It yawned, revealing two sharp, vampiric fangs, surrounded by rows and rows of rotten teeth. I watched as it reached into the gutter, plucked some small trapped animal, and ate it. My mom didn’t see it. I didn’t point it out to her because I knew she would blame the vibrations and exalt her own wisdom. I didn’t want to hear it, but I would have to anyway eventually. The non-stop news coverage focused on how some people could see them, some could not. I saw them every day: climbing trees, perching on branches, crossing the street, peeking through my window. My mother also saw them. In one news interview, a man brought a creature he had trapped, and the anchors nodded uncomfortably, playing along, until finally they admitted to seeing nothing but an empty cage. I stared at the screen, at the gray goblin they couldn’t see, and I screamed. I was crazy, wasn’t

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A couple years later, in middle school, I was wandering alone behind the school building during lunch. I didn’t have any friends; obviously none of the non-crazies liked me, and us crazies avoided each other even more than non-crazies avoided us, because no one hates a social leper with the same passion as the social lepers themselves. I saw a Raisin running across the grounds like a hairless, wrinkly monkey. It let me get quite close, and I threw the uneaten crusts of my sandwich at it. The Raisin turned and stared at me, for a real long time, until I heard the bell marking the end of lunch and started back inside. As I opened the door, I glanced over my shoulder. The Raisin was still watching me. Around this time, I started wearing beanies every day because the weather seemed to be getting colder, the sky grayer. The first time a bite happened was in high school. I was getting stuff out of my locker when I saw a classmate, a non-crazy, walking with a Raisin latched onto his ankle. He limped, grimacing, but oblivious to what was causing him the pain. The Raisin was dragged along the floor behind him, apparently unbothered. The other non-crazies didn’t react, but one crazy gasped and screamed. I just watched him pass by. After that it was a common sight, Raisins hanging

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I? I was seeing things. I blamed my mother. The coverage started to die down. It was, after all, just the same story over and over again: another loon claiming to see a creature that clearly didn’t exist. Meanwhile, they continued to increase in numbers. I took to calling them Raisins, because of their wrinkled skin.

off of human bodies. They only bit non-crazies, who continued to deny the existence of the creatures even as they felt the sting of their fangs. I started having nightmares and took to sleeping during the day. This made it difficult to go to school, so I dropped out and moved out of my mother’s house because she was driving me insane. She had littered the house with ash. She claimed it kept the Raisins away, though swarms of them sat on her roof. I was sick of it. The nightmares stopped once I moved out, though the amount of bitten people – and the number of Raisins biting them – only increased. I distinctly remember going to the store and encountering a lady with a Raisin hanging from her face, the weight of the creature causing the flesh under her eye to start to tear away and blood to leak out like tears. I got a job as a receptionist in an office full of the bitten. I took the job because the dress code is so lax, I can wear my beanies. One day, a Raisin casually crawled in and leapt onto my lap. Disgusted and frightened, I pushed it off, but it jumped back on, curling up comfortably. Since it wasn’t biting me, I left it there all day. When I got up to go, it climbed nimbly up my arm – the cold feeling of its curled claws making me shudder – and perched on my shoulder like a parrot. It has lived with me ever since. My shoulder is its favorite spot. I hate it. I hate waking up with it curled next to my face. I scream at it, I throw it across the room, I kick it. Except for an occasional hiss or two, it never retaliates. One day I was walking home, my Raisin in its usual spot, when I saw a man across the street with his own Raisin. We stopped walking and locked eyes. My loneliness urged me to go to him. But as we stepped into the empty street, our Raisins hissed and screamed at each other. We turned and went our separate ways. When I got home, I pried my Raisin off of me with a

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A few months later I was on my way to my mother’s house to bring her a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I was the only one out, people rarely left their homes anymore. Raisins shuffled along in the road, blinking their disgusting eyes at me. Vultures circled in the gray sky. They follow me now because of my Raisin’s stench. My mother’s roof was covered in Raisins. Not a single shingle was visible. I knocked on the door, but she refused to let me in because I had one of them on my shoulder. I could see through a window that piles of ash covered her floor. I sat down on her front step and began to eat the pie with my hands, digging into the fleshy middle and lifting a fistful to my mouth. Vultures landed around me, disappointed that I was alive. My Raisin drooped lazily on my shoulder, paying no mind to anything. I felt my insides twist together into a coil as tight as the Raisins’ nails while the cause of all my troubles sat comfortably without any feeling of guilt. I began to cry and wail. I screamed through the door that this is why dad left us, telling my mother that she’s crazy, saying that she probably summoned these stupid Raisins, that the vibrations were all in her head, that she had made me crazy just like her. That was the last time I tried to talk to my mother.

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screech and threw it into the oven, turning it on. Soon the place was filled with the stench of burning flesh. My Raisin shrieked and clawed and banged on the oven door while I held in my nausea. After several hours, when my Raisin had fallen silent, I opened the door, only to find it was not harmed. Ever since, it has smelled like a burnt corpse. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night with it curled up on my chest, the putrid rotting smell filling my lungs and choking me, and I hope that it has died. But it always wakes up.

I saw a crazy the other day and attempted my first conversation in years, but they were disgusted with me on account of my little companion. I could’ve told them that seeing it every day makes me want to rip my eyes out. But I didn’t. I just went to work, listening to the bitten non-crazies bemoan how their youth has fled them before their time. They do age faster than us crazies. I don’t age at all. I have been alive for years and years now and I look exactly the same as I did the day my Raisin hopped into my lap. Each bleak day is like the last. They stretch on into the endless future. I blame my mother.

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Counting Trees For my parents, my move to college was like a knife to the heart. I’m the last child of three, so my move signified their official transformation into empty nesters. Tears have been more common around my mother than words. It wasn’t like I was going out of the country like my brother. I was only moving four hours up the state. It was only logical. This school offered the most financial aid, if the world worked differently I would be going to New Hampshire. Although, my mom might not make it if I was out of state. When my mom and I took off on the awaited drive up to the school, I had made a playlist of upbeat songs and my mom had brought tissues. It had taken a week for my father to finish his tune up on my truck, not that I minded, it was older than me after all. Driving away from my hometown, where I had lived my entire life so far, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. I glanced out the window as we merged onto the interstate. The trees blurred past, impossible to differentiate from each other as the car picked up speed slowly, but I already knew there were five hundred and eighty-one trees between the interstate and my house. There would be about six hundred more trees before my mom had used all of the tissues she had packed in her purse. Growing up, I never saw my mother cry. Back when I was six or seven, she always had a warm smile and smelled like the kitchen, where she spent most of her time. Our kitchen was one of the biggest rooms in our house. It had an island that I could never reach without my brother lifting me and a pantry that was perfect for hide and seek. It was off-limits when the stove was on because once my sister tried to touch the swirly lights on it and my mom got really mad. When I lived there, most of the days mixed

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together. In elementary school, I had no reason to worry about what day it was or what month it was. I had no worries in the world, no taxes or jobs or big assignments to stress over yet. The only reason I kept the year straight was to remember when my birthday was and how old I’d be. The calendar was basically Easter, summer, school, my birthday, Halloween, and Christmas. Everything else was some floating day in the year that I knew existed but didn’t put much thought into when it popped up. Every day was spent going somewhere in the car. My sister and I would argue about what movie to watch in the backseat and only get five minutes in before we reached our destination. Mostly it was to or from school. I only started paying attention to where we were going after my brother left the house. Then my sister got to ride shotgun, so I’d spend my time staring out the window and memorizing how many trees we passed between the school and our house, since they weren’t going anywhere. Two hundred and sixty-three. That’s how I know we were on our way home from school the first time I saw my mother cry. She had gotten a phone call, which wasn’t surprising because she used her phone a lot while we drove home. After she picked up the phone, she turned onto a street and parked the car. I was confused. I knew the entire way home and this wasn’t a road I had ever been down. I remember asking why we had stopped here, enough times to earn a slap on the arm and glare from my sister. We were silent, except for my mom on the phone. Then she was yelling. I looked at the trees outside. I thought about if these would count as on the way home since we’d stopped. That would add at least seven. It was windy and my birthday was coming up, which meant the leaves were littering the road like snow if it snowed in Florida. I looked up at the sky when I got bored with the trees. It was cloudy, but not rain clouds, just a lot of pretty, white ones. I rolled down the window to let the wind rustling in the trees fill my ears instead of the high volume conversation going on in front of me. Then my mom rolled it up with her control and locked the windows. We sat there for a while, my mom yelling into her phone and me staring out the window and my sister doing whatever it

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was that she did. When she hung up, my mom threw her phone into her purse. I looked up as she did, I wanted to ask when we were going home. The words caught in my throat when I saw her slump onto the steering wheel and let out heaving sobs. Her breathing sounded weird like it was too hard for her to fill her lungs completely, so she was stopping and going. My sister hugged her back, but I couldn’t reach, so I just asked who had called. That got me another glare from my sister. “Progressive,” my mother replied, lifting herself from the wheel and wiping her eyes. As she started to drive away, she kept taking deep breaths. I was glad her lungs were working right again. “I don’t know how I’m going to tell your father… we’re going to have to file for bankruptcy.” I didn’t know what she was talking about or why she got a call from a lady in a lab coat, but my sister looked like she had just been slapped in the face. That night was fun, though. I remember that because that was one of the rare nights that my brother pulled me into his room to play video games. I never got to play video games unless I begged all night and I didn’t even have to ask then. The next few weeks brought more fun days. Some days, we got to leave school early so that Mom could meet someone. I never met them because she’d drop us off at the house my grandma and my aunt lived in before she went to meet them. My dad played pretend with me once and showed me which walls of their house he would tear down to make extra rooms. One day, we came home to boxes in every room of our house. For some reason though, I just got yelled at for building a fort in the living room. Over the weekends, Dad let my sister and I paint walls on the outside of the house. He even let me climb on the roof with him to kick off all of the dog toys we accidentally threw up there. Then things started getting weird. I’d get home and wouldn’t be able to find all of my toys. Somehow they’d ended up in the boxes in my room and I had to dig them

out almost every day. Then I got yelled at and the boxes were made off-limits. Things started disappearing around the house too. One day, the pictures in the hallway were gone. Then all the plates and bowls in the china cabinet followed suit. I told Mom that I thought there was a ghost taking all of our stuff and she just looked around the house and sighed. One Saturday, we had a garage sale, which is usually fun because we get to look through all of our old stuff in the storage room. This time, though, I kept finding furniture from my room and from the house out in the driveway. I told my dad that we were selling the wrong things and we needed to put them away and he just laughed. The last day I spent in that house, it didn’t look like my house anymore. The walls were bare and all of the rooms were void of furniture and appliances. At first, it was fun because there was more room to run around and I didn’t get yelled at when I ran down the hall. Then my mom looked around and said, “Say goodbye.” I didn’t understand what she meant. We never said goodbye when we left the house. When we walked to the car to go over to my grandma’s, I looked at the yard because there were tire ruts everywhere from people parking on the lawn. Before I crawled into the backseat, my eyes found the orange and black sign at the edge of the road. “For Sale” was printed on it. I didn’t know what those two words meant then, but I did know that one of those signs had shown up when my friend down the street had left town. I knew it meant that no one lived in that house anymore. I don’t remember much of the time it took to move into my grandma’s house. It felt like we had no more than left our old house when there were rooms set up for all of us in theirs. The days still blended together for a while. I tried not to think about our old house, which wasn’t hard since we weren’t living there anymore. I just recounted how many trees it took to get home.

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Two hundred and forty-five. Everything was changing, but those trees were still there. I didn’t understand why we lived at my grandma’s until one day at recess, one of the kids in my class came up to me and said, “What’s it like being bankrupt?” I didn’t know what that meant, so he told me. As I stood there listening to him, a veil lifted off of my mind. I started asking a lot more questions after that day. It would be a few years until I fully understood what had happened that month. Slowly, the picture became more and more clear. Eventually, I learned to laugh at the jokes about my family’s income. It was easier than letting myself hurt over things I couldn’t change. I’d stop making birthday lists and start applying for jobs. I’d learn how to sew holes in my clothes and glue my shoes when they started to rip. I’d ignore my friends’ fancy cars and learn to love the character in my old vehicle. I’d stop counting trees. I wouldn’t need to anymore. So, as we unpacked my car at my dorm, I breathed in the new air and looked around at the trees and welcomed this next step. I wouldn’t be counting the endless trees between me and home. Soon enough this would be my home and I wouldn’t have to worry about how long it would stay my home. Then someday, somewhere else, farther away would become home, when I take the next step.


CHARACTERS HAMLET: Melancholic prince of Denmark SPENCER: A college junior. Easygoing and friendly SETTING: The nearly common room in an upper level housing dorm. TIME: Three in the morning. SPENCER: Hey man, can I sit? Your table is the closest to the outlet. HAMLET: Aye, but it is not nor it cannot come to good. SPENCER: Thanks bro I appreciate it! I have an exam I’m studying for that I put off. How come you’re still up? HAMLET: O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world! SPENCER: Oh gotcha. Yeah I had second thoughts about my major too. I started as a philosophy major, but I changed my mind second semester freshman year. Now I’m an international business major. HAMLET: There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. SPENCER: Dude I completely agree! I would be like sitting in class and my brain would just hurt. So what is your major? HAMLET: (Pulls skull out of backpack)

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O, that this too too solid flesh would melt thaw and resolve itself into a dew! SPENCER: Dude no way! I was in anthro last semester! I took it as an elective, but I loved the class. I can’t believe that your professor let you take home a skull cast. Or did you 3D print it? Actually that is a really good idea to practice the skeletal anatomy and osteology unit. Super hands on. I like your style. Is anything else on your mind? You seem overwhelmed. HAMLET: Must I remember? why she would hang on him, as if increase of apetite had grown by what it fed on: and yet, within a month- let me not think on’t- frailty, thy name is woman! SPENCER: Girl problems. I feel. But you’re a nice guy! Don’t worry about it. Love will happen when it happens, and there is no sense is rushing it. I know you’ll find a girl that’s good for you. I know it’s hard now, but I promise you’ll get over her.

SPENCER: Dude I am so sorry this bitch broke your heart. Not cool. But there’s no point in sitting around doing nothing. You gotta put yourself out there! HAMLET: No more; and by a sleep to say we end the heart ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, tis’ a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.


HAMLET: The pangs of despised love..

SPENCER: Yeah going to bed is your best bet. It’s hella late. Hopefully you’ll feel better tomorrow. Just hit me up any time you need. I’m in room 453. Goodnight buddy. HAMLET: Goodnight, sweet prince.

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one on one interview with Touchstone’s Cover Artist



s Bob Ross once famously said, “we don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents,” so did collage artist, Zoe Boykin, stumble upon her artistic voice. A freshman digital arts major at Stetson University, Boykin began her collage work very recently before submitting to Touchstone. Boykin humbly proclaimed that she has always loved art, “but never had the physical creative ability” to turn her ideas into drawings or paintings. Boykin harbors a deep affinity for old media, gathering most of the material from 40s National Geographic and Life magazines from thrift stores in downtown DeLand. The retro style of these print publications caught her eye: “I was really inspired by the artwork and photographs in them, like the ‘old timeliness’ of the fonts that were used in ads. I wanted to combine those elements.” Between the prints on her hands and a yearning for something other than school and life to occupy her mind, she began to cut out pieces of the magazine to create her own unique compositions: “I found that that was something that I could actually do and convey my artistic vision onto a piece of paper. That was hard for me to do before.” Boykin’s unintended success with her artwork just goes to show that creativity is an individual journey, and one that anyone is capable of accessing, providing they take a leap of faith. Her “happy accident” of collage making did not begin with pleasant times, though. Her first completed collage titled

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Written by Rene Campbell Design by Isabel Solorzano

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“Not a Victim” is partly composed of a cut-up letter regarding a police report that she filed.

Having to file a police report is not a light situation, especially not for an eighteen year old college freshman. For Boykin, to turn trauma into a work of art speaks to the importance of art as a vessel for one’s voice: “It started to help me with that situation, and then it turned into a hobby.” Although there is rarely a conventional path for artists to find their creative voice, her work proves that creativity can both heal oneself as well as speak to a larger audience. One of Boykin’s favorite collages that she has created thus far is featured in Touchstone. “Closer Than You Think” features a black and white photographed war plane in the left center of a colored background, with the words “Remember, it may be closer than you think” to the right side of the piece. To her, this piece not only specifically speaks to the ugly truth that the potential for war is a looming possibility, but also that in general the future is a place of unknown, sometimes for the worse: “[I used] that warplane to make it symbolize that war can sometimes be inevitable and something that you aren't expecting. It's definitely something that's an imminent threat at all times. We could at any time be subjected to something like that. So I was inspired by the recent events going on. Everything is a little bit closer than you think. And we're living in a history book right now. And it's something [the COVID-19 pandemic] that I never would have expected as a child. I kind of thought that like history was over.” Her work thrives on the contrast that this world has to

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I got a letter from the police and it had my name on it and it said, ‘you have been the victim of a crime” and I was like, “this is like, really troubling to look at on its own.’ I wanted to turn this into something that could make it pretty to me, so I just ripped up that letter, and then ripped up all the information they gave me and turned it into something that made me feel better. And after I did that I just couldn't stop doing art.”

Other works of Zoe Boykin include Not a Victim, Dissociation, For My Brother.

offer-the positive along with the negative. The photographs she takes from old magazines are the ones that catch her eye because of the artistry and beauty they display. “There’s a lot of stuff going on right now [in this world]. That's less than positive and I want my work to be a reminder that while these pieces are beautiful, there's some beautiful photography in this work, but it’s not all pretty- not everything is pretty;” she wants her work to be a balance and for her readers to feel the reality of their worldpeace as well as uncertainty. Another one of her pieces which is also featured in Touchstone, “No War,” also displays this message. Composed of old war maps with a World War Two warplane nose-diving into the piece’s ground, it symbolizes an end to wartime: “I really want to get across the message that peace isn’t certain, so we should appreciate it when we have it,”Boykin stated. Although self-expression through artistic means is a relatively new part of her life, Boykin has a very deep connection to art. She sees her creative process and final products as a way to deviate from societal norms and embrace the uniqueness that her personality carries: “My entire life I have felt like I have never fit in anywhere. So, I use my art to express that. My art is a really weird style, a different style than a lot of people make. I can't draw and I can't really paint too well, so I've never I can't even fit into the

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box of a “proper artist.” I'm not mad at that. I've always enjoyed that part of myself.”

“ “

I see art as a way to express yourself no matter how skilled you are in the basics. It's basically just what you can put into it and what other people can take out of it.”

Boykin’s unique vision is worthy of admiration. Her use of old magazines for collage materials is not only out of a love for retro art, but also partly out of necessity: “Because I am an artist, a lot of people think that I have a certain amount of privilege. They [people] wouldn't tell by just looking at me that I'm homeless. My current situation is that my parents are living in motel rooms. That’s something that affects my everyday life. I don't have access to funds to get materials for bigger art projects. That's why I get my $1 National Geographic magazines.” Not only is her work worthy of admiration, but her urge to be a voice for those who also share her personal experiences with poverty. In today’s society, a low socioeconomic status unfortunately correlates with labels and stereotypes that are frequently untrue, and Boykin hopes to be a voice to disarm those assumptions through her artwork:

Overall, artist Zoe Boykin and her artwork are testaments to the importance of art and creativity in our world. By tackling tough spots in her life as well as throughout history in her artwork, Boykin gives viewers permission to experience the world as it is: with no sugar coating of its pain, but also fair representation to its beauty. Her “happy accident,” the discovery of her artistic eye for the art of collage has provided a unique and commendable platform. Boykin will not only continue her artistic work, but also will be a strong voice for those who do not have the platform to have theirs heard.

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Poverty is something that has really affected myself and a lot of artists that I know… Poverty is something that you shouldn't be ashamed of. It’s really important to me that homeless people specifically get the attention that they need in terms of not being judged for it.”

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Colophon The 2020 editions of Touchstone Literary Magazine was printed by Abbott Communications Group in Maitland, FL, with a press run of 500 copies. Student designers created the magazine using Adobe InDesign and Photosop on iMac computers. The magazine consisted of 92 pages, and fonts included Adobe Garamond Pro, Cyberjunkies, and Advent. The 4-color process cover is printed on endurance silk paper. Touchstone features additional online content on, which is student created, managed, and produced. All submissions are reviewed, selected, and edited by the Touchstone staff and selection committee. All literary and artistic work featured in Touchstone is created by Stetson students. Special thanks to those who submitted their work and to all our supporters.

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