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The community arts journal of the Saginaw Community Writing Center and the Bay Community Writing Center Saginaw Valley State University 7400 Bay Road University Center, MI 48710

Still Life is produced by the staff of the SVSU Writing Center and students in the SVSU Art Department, and published by the SVSU Graphics Center. It features creative writing from residents of Saginaw and Bay counties, the counties in which the Saginaw Community Writing Center and Bay Community Writing Center reside. All submissions are considered for publication. Staff members are excluded from receiving any awards. Still Life is funded by a Dow Professor Award offered though Saginaw Valley State University’s Center for Academic Innovation. Still Life is produced using InDesign. This issue features Adobe Caslon Pro and Palatino fonts. Cover Art: “Violets Are Blue,” Malory Kochanny (Originally Gum Bichromate and Cyanotype) SVSU is committed to providing work and learning opportunities without regard to age, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, height, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, weight, or on any other basis protected by state, federal, or other applicable law, and to achieving its objectives in compliance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination.

Copyright 2018, Still Life. All subsequent publishing rights are returned to the artist.

Staff Editorial Staff

Samantha Geffert Kelsey Hyde Emma Kirsch Madison Martin Brianna Rivet

Visual Artists

Khairiah Alfaraj Fadk Aloqayly Nyesha Clark Nichole Crook Misty Grumbley Malory Kochanny Shayla Krygier Jamie Loubert Jenna Pini Cody Shrader Sarah Stedman Ashlee Tigner

Layout and Design Dillon T. Call


SVSU Graphics Center

Faculty Editors

Christopher Giroux Hideki Kihata

Table of Contents Editor’s Note..................................................................................... 5 “Signs,” Marjorie Talaga.................................................................... 7 “The Dust of Our Youth,” Bruce Gunther........................................... 8 “Still Life,” Shelby Bourbina.............................................................. 9 “Cheap Laptop in the Clouds,” Benjamin Champagne......................... 10 “To Whom It May Concern,” Arie Zaragoza....................................... 13 “Self-Awareness,” Darline R. Patman................................................. 14 “Wings,” Anna Grotelueschen........................................................... 16 “Six and One,” Madison Meter........................................................... 18 “The Difference Between Stillness and Dancing,” Jack Rechsteiner...... 19 “If You Could Pause a Problem,” Grace Hill........................................ 21 “Through a Glass Darkly,” Martina Leslie........................................... 22 “Heads or Tails,” Mikale Walker.......................................................... 24 “Spring,” Eric P. Nisula...................................................................... 26 “An Aubade: Night,” MK Wright........................................................ 27 “When Your Life Begins,” Amelia Schneider....................................... 28 “Turpentine,” Austin Bauer................................................................ 30 “Baby Timbs,” Jahdiel Wingard.......................................................... 31 “blue water to chicago,” jm blum......................................................... 33 “Still Life,” Ja’Niya Howard................................................................ 34 “Fall Ladies,” Cynthia Robinson......................................................... 35 “The Skeptical Sagittarian,” Lori M. Decker........................................ 37 “In the Clouds,” Chin Lee.................................................................. 38 “Golden Hour,” Zoey Cohen.............................................................. 40 “High Speed Midnight Drive to Heaven,” Jared Morningstar............... 41 “Hate,” Kendal Oster.......................................................................... 43 “Blind,” Tristan Harman.................................................................... 44 “A Better Mother,” Rikilynn Layher.................................................... 45 About Our Writers............................................................................. 47 About Our Centers............................................................................ 51 Acknowledgments............................................................................. 52

Editors’ Note Welcome to the inaugural issue of the community arts journal Still Life! As an art form, a still life takes familiar objects and helps us see them in a new way. For us, this collaborative project, which was funded by a Dow Professor Grant through Saginaw Valley State University’s Center for Academic Innovation, was meant to provide new opportunities for our students in new ways; on some level, it was a way to breathe new life into their college experience. For example, rather than just fulfill assignments for an Art class or for an on-campus job in the SVSU Writing Center, we sought opportunities for SVSU students to take the skills they were learning in new directions. For the SVSU tutors, this meant judging pieces of poetry, a much different task than providing feedback on a piece of writing in a face-to-face tutorial session. For the Art students, this meant creating photographs for an established publication, and for those students in Art 435 Alternative Photography, it specifically meant using procedures and techniques from the past, notably using Cyanotype, Vandyke Brown, and Gum Bichromate processes. The idea of a traditional still life, of objects posed for a picture, was also something we wanted to challenge. As communities in the “rustbelt,” Saginaw and Bay Counties often are sometimes viewed negatively by those outside the area. We know, however, that this place where we live, work, study, and play is still full of life. Our communities are marked by sites of growth, resilience, and creativity. Still Life offers just a small slice of that creativity. We sincerely thank all those whose work appears in this issue, and we congratulate the winners of the prize-winning poems: Shelby Bourbina (age 12 and under category), Chin Lee (age 13 to 18), and Benjamin Champagne (age 19 and up). We thank, too, those who shared their work with us. We wish there was room to print all the submissions. We are excited, however, to announce that Dr. Debasish Mridha of Saginaw has agreed to fund Still Life for the next several years. With that in mind, we urge our readers to keep writing and to keep visiting our website,, to see the schedule of creative writing events at the Saginaw and Bay Community Writing Centers, and to learn of our deadlines and submission guidelines for the upcoming issues of Still Life.

Hideki Kihata Professor, SVSU Art Department Christopher Giroux Associate Professor, SVSU English Department Assistant Director, SVSU Writing Center


“Windows to the Woods,” Shayla Krygier


Marjorie Talaga

Next door, the neighbor no one liked yelled out, “No trespassing.” Kids and dogs ran over his lawn, ignoring the no through traffic command. But we were too busy loving our first home, living on Sycamore Street, To care about peering into others’ houses. Our joy became a private road to the happiness we’d planned. We agreed that truth and honesty were the one way to our future. Days were good, bonds strong, promises fulfilled. But time can wear down The best efforts. We didn’t see the slow erosion of us until continue was a lost word. The crazy speed limit of our lives had been fast and foolish, pushing memories Back to the circles of red, yellow, green behind us. We forgot to remember the first heat of love, Seeing instead the pigment of the cowards we had become, refusing to forgive, holding on To the jealousy that exploded with the first sins of affairs. I was prepared to stop and start over; you saw only a dead end. We both knew it was time when breakfast was silent and dinner planned itself. But habit was reluctant to yield, to let go after all these years. Silence finally won, indifference followed, loneliness became a companion. You gave up and I left whatever was on the floor and in the cupboards. Nothing significant anyway, just the small dimensions of us, Reduced to trivial hello’s and goodbye’s. Outside, I saw there was no left turn, only right.


The Dust of Our Youth Bruce Gunther

The dust of our youth is out there, blown into forests and fields. Secret roads we once traveled now grown over or shaped into cul-de-sacs, a developer’s dream. The red barns sag and crumble inwards, and the fences surround rusted equipment, an old tire, weeds fighting against the sun. And way out there we have moved on. We laugh now at our youth, that time of such urgency. The ringing in our ears of a Friday night party now makes ripples on a lake another continent away. We look ahead to see how much time we’ve lost. Can you still see the fireflies along Sarle Road? The bloodied nose of a parking lot fight? Can you still feel a hand moving thighward in the cold afterglow of an October night? No longer seeking what we have lost during the slow movement of ancient glaciers melting in the hot sun at the rim of the earth.


Still Life

Shelby Bourbina

In my still life I stand in place When in this state It feels like we are here for days All of the thoughts that go through our head Why do these bad things happen? In my still life I stand still not being able to help anyone I stand still watching these people get hurt I stand still screaming at the top of my lungs for you to hear me I stand still trying to stop myself I stand still realizing I can’t help you Yet I still try In my still life I wait I wait for it all to be over I wait for them to stop trying to hurt us I wait for days, weeks, months on edge In my still life They don’t stop They don’t give up They don’t know that we try to help In my still life We know we will be safe We know who to trust In my still life


Cheap Laptop in the Clouds Benjamin Champagne

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Black and/or silver Backlit under the keys For typing in the dark Conjuring in empty space Microchips like little cities Cloud formations Once, when I was in jail, I laid on a picnic table and I could see only the sky. Freedom At birth the cloud was simple. Always a place for the imagination I have stored my secrets in the clouds. But not just my secrets. Ideas. Thirst. I have communed with electricity. Broke bread with ASDFJKL; All the things in life, Are controlled by not-things The generation of energy from algorithms Do it for me, press the button


At the stove, the steam rises Stir with patience Fog on my face But the microwave saves me time I get to the meeting quicker I save time, so I can use time The cloud account 7 billion people under weather patterns A deposit of imagination Circuits, Black and silver. Connections We wait for binary rain The information age to cool


“Sharp,” Khairiah Alfaraj

To Whom It May Concern Arie Zaragoza

Sing to me the words cotton couldn’t translate; I’d tell you grapes did better if it were true, Stains of purple-picked backsides, And those of colorless fruit. If you are asking me how one could resurrect themselves From a bed on the floor To one lined white, I’d tell you the difference between lightpost and protest. I can shout on paper or in streets. Either way, fingertips nailed to wooden splinters Could be the only way you’d remember me. I’d tell you the stories of fine wines That were drunk before picket signs. No one batted an eyelash. Cover your chest clear And make a memory of warmth that You exchange for my grandmothers. Your clothes may lie pure But that is not their beginnings. You embodied age into a generation That wasn’t ready.


Self-Awareness Darline R. Patman

Who am I? Who do I see? I believe it be me, a strong black woman with integrity, natural curly hair, style and flair, a sophisticated, educated, dedicated woman who loves the intellect to connect— that gets my attention to reflect or redirect, to give and expect to accept the utmost respect. Who am I? A dynamic romantic, a poetry-writing fanatic without panic, because my words can flow like an emptying semi-automatic, no intent to offend, or be dramatic. Because I am proud, but seldom loud among the crowd, and shy explains why, but that’s ok, I was born this way. A lady with class and grace, descendant of my black America race, which I embrace without disgrace, I know when to take a stand in place to speak on my rights in any case; yes, diverse situations I may face. Who am I? A woman of beauty, which coincides with my wisdom inside that fills me with pride, so my knowledge I choose not to hide. I know it takes a real man, a strong man, to handle my ride with stride, as we stand side by side.


Who I am? A woman, who, with all I experience, has resilience and will remain to sustain, through all struggle and pain. My strength I proclaim with no shame, and Darline is my name to fame, with many talents to blame. Who am I? A woman who puts God first— it’s a must! Because in God I trust!— which gives my life a plus. A friend, a mother, a woman of color, similar, but unique and like no other. A woman that is honest and true, through and through, with dreams yet to pursue, and these are just to name a few. Who am I you ask? All the above, strong as a lioness, yet gentle as a dove, and, most importantly, full of love.



Anna Grotelueschen

Golden outstretched wings Lift me to the sky Not afraid to fall.


“Untitled,” Nichole Crook (Originally Cyanotype)

Six and One Madison Meter

An old man sits on his front porch Nursing a Milwaukee’s Best; he thinks idly About cinnamon gum and a Ford Falcon he sold years ago. On his radio the Tigers are down six to one. The beer in the can is still pretty cold for such a hot day. Across the street, the neighbor kids have found out That playing dead to the dog makes her nip. They find this amusing. The old man, Whose liver-spotted hands were once tan and solid, Whose clear eyes inevitably gave way to a milky layer, Whose mind lags slightly when the topic moves from politics to riddles, And who perhaps doesn’t trust the rising price per pound of bananas, Surveys the late afternoon light. There’s an old man In all of us Who sits on a porch and holds fast to the old days, Who will outgrow the fears and set down the grudges, Who will know when it’s time to fold a hand. There’s also a child, who plays dead for fun. There’s a dog who can’t tell the difference. There’s a half-drunk can of beer on a hot day, And the Tigers always down six to one.


The Difference Between Stillness and Dancing Jack Rechsteiner

A triangle is the strongest shape that nature knows. Thicken one side, now you have a delta. A delta represents change, change like a river into a mouth. The Mississippi Delta is known for its cotton and its blues music. Delta is the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet. You take the triangle and prefer one side to the others. What was three is now also four. This is a type of strength. Dig into your skin, lay ink underneath, leave a triangle against your heel. Now you walk on top of the strongest that nature knows. Take ink, now mixed with blood or sweat or blues music, and dig into one side you prefer. Every step you now take is change. Every choice is still new in each movement. For us, there is only trying. The lights are extinguished so that the shape of the stage may change. With a movement of darkness on darkness, you are here and there and elsewhere. Three steps, but the audience is demanding a fourth. It’s blues, it’s blood, it’s a waltz.


“Crossroads,” Jamie Loubert (Originally Cyanotype)

If You Could Pause a Problem Grace Hill

The world is a place everyone believes is so beautiful Everyone thinks it is so pure What can hide in all the beauty, besides darkness There is so much pain in the wonder-filled life There is war, destruction, pollution and sadness It is never our fault, until it is A still life is my way of pausing everything You can put anything in a still life, anything at all In one place there can be war and killing While twenty feet away there is a girl just sitting and watching her still life In a still life you can stop, ignore the noise It is saying something to me “Your voice matters here and we can’t wait to hear what you have to say� We all have hopes and we all have dreams I can put my problems and obstacles in my still life and they help me believe that it could happen It gives me hope It sets me free from my worries and problems Nobody thinks they can change it, so no one does It just keeps going, the war, destruction, pollution and sadness I try to be still like my still life, but something always gets in the way I can never actually pause my life It is a downward spiral to a ruined world What is the problem for all the sadness? Is it us, them, it, or is it all of us, never one person I sit and watch my still life And watching helps me think And thinking lets me see We know we are the problem, but no one cares We know we could change it if we tried, but no one does We rely on leaders who rely on their assistants We do not do things for ourselves And that is what is going to keep our downward spiral going and going Until it is all over and the still life cannot help us any more But until then I will sit and watch and wait and think Think of what I could do to make a change


Through a Glass Darkly Martina Leslie

Everyone here is either black or white. Well, almost everyone. Some defy the odds and walk past me in shades of gray. Some are as crisp white as the full moon on a starless night. Some, like the dark beauty Niesha, tell me that you can see only their pearly smiles on a night so dark that it could swallow you whole. They think of me as an interloper because I say there should be color. “But we have color,” they protest. “There are millions of shades of black and white. You’re just not looking,” they say. They also know that I am from somewhere else. How I found myself here, I cannot tell. They look at me as if I am an undocumented alien from the star Alpha Centauri dropped here by an errant stork, and not as the practiced time traveler that I am, who lodged one night in Plato’s cave when he gave me the glass darkly, the glass that let me see Shakespeare’s musing of the unexamined life. We are all the warm color of human flesh.


“Refuge,” Cody Shrader (Originally Cyanotype)

Heads or Tails Mikale Walker

The polarity of my insanity is masking my sincerity; I can’t be happy. Like water lapping against my mime paint, I’ve learned to be silent, when I go under; I’m no saint, so the best I can do is combat the grey violence with empty bottles of pain and silence. I am bracing for a blackout that I’m always facing erasing the past that I’ve been making lately. I suddenly am clear-minded, like a length of twine, unwound. I am frosty glass that’s wiped away and no one longer thinks I’m crass. I suddenly find that everybody thinks I matter but this is more than a matter of me being made up of unwanted matter. It’s like I’ve put on a pair of glasses or wiped my old ones off that were grimy and shattered; I am finally a normal person who feels at home with the human race, and it’s no longer a race about who finishes in first place. Which man do I fight? Both are advancing in this war. I’m unsure of myself or where to turn anymore, trying to latch the door, but it falls off at the hinges, and my survival hinges on the contest of contents of comments no longer in my head. So when people call me a peachy perfect person, I know I’m poison at the core in person, and my purpose is not purposely protected in portions.


I am aiming in the dark without sight or scopes, scoping out the dark arena in the place I’ve accepted as home. I’m trying to make it up to them but I’m only moving down the ropes, groping for hope in a dark hole. Suddenly a burst of light flashes but burns back out, further supporting my doubt that the intervals are growing closer now. So it seems my condition has consumed me and that I’ve become the horror of a monster movie. Hope this gun helps to pull the light out and spill it onto me, as I grab the somber piece I keep encased with lock and key. Now I feel the coldness, as I press it to my head, the heaviness in hand is a heavy-handed plan, the figure masked by a paper bag. I hope I shot the right man.



Eric P. Nisula

Yesterday someone took soap and pail and washed the world, and then to celebrate had limbs of leaves unfurled. He washed the window, too: a huge blue pane, the sky; and everywhere, on grass, on tree the clean light lay. All this when but a week ago I’d seen grey dusk intrude, and now it seemed a never-ending day. My mood was sadness. Here upon my lap was placed a feast I could not eat, but shunned like some suspicious beast that will not eat what fallen flesh it has not killed, or had I by my own creations been too much filled? I made retreat into the palace of the mind, still stunned by brilliant light though I was blind.


An Aubade: Night MK Wright

I wait uneasily in the purplish light of Morning and Her optimism The gray clouds of an overcast sky are not unknown to Morning’s bright face She wakes and washes Her face gently Of my fretful darkness Showing through to the warmth of Her complexion and inexorable beauty Reds, Oranges and Her draining purplish Hues Shade Her blessed cheeks And streak through Her shining eyes All while Her smile shines down on Day I leave a dark crease at the edge of the horizon She will smudge it away And the brightest face of Dawn will have risen It’s not Her grace or rapid evolution that draws me But Her unbridled peace and even more so Her stillness Sleepless thoughts wander in Morning’s light I am a pawn of Night Filled with lowly unrest and deep longing The rising of Her loving face marks the nearing end of my plight At each day I am filled with awe at the sight of Dawn and Her steady rising.


When Your Life Begins Amelia Schneider

In my pouch I will carry hope. I will also carry joy; I will carry the hope of the new day And the joy of the past days. The days will begin to blend together In a blur of hope and joy and love. The time will begin to go by so quickly. When you leave, with all of your anger and burdens to be free, The days will be much different. They will be well spent, Not wasted on petty arguments, Or anger over something going wrong. The days will be spent enjoying what you have, Not what you don’t. When you release all the anger and the hate, You will begin to actually live your life. You will not be led in the world with hate or anger. You will be guided by the love and happiness. When you let go of your burdens, you will begin to live, And one day I hope I will not need a pouch to carry around with me. I hope that I would have learned to live.  


“Silence,” Misty Grumbley (Originally Vandyke Brown)

Turpentine Austin Bauer

I lay amongst green skyscrapers that stretch to the pastel blue expansiveness and puffy white marshmallow clouds I see above me. Look at my blues and greens, the earth says, my cardinals and yellow orioles. Turn away from the sulfur smell of gunpowder, rebel against the blood-stained dirt and turn toward my coral sands and my transcendental northern lights. Awaken to the beauty behind the eyes of each human being. Be the turpentine that melts staunch borders and edges into one brushstroke.


Baby Timbs Jahdiel Wingard

Baby Timbs cost sixty dollars; little tiny shoes for a baby that sits in its mother’s lap from sun up to sundown, for the baby that can’t read or write, that can’t talk. Boots for the baby whose hands are so small that it can’t even grip the silver spoon that its mother shoves in its face. Boots to save the baby that never leaves the hands of mommy, rescue it from the splintery floor that it can barely see. to keep Jack Frost from nipping at the toes that stay in front of the fire. Scraps cost a foot, bits and pieces of cloth to be tied loosely around the cracked feet of the man under the bridge, strung around the feet that have paced miles around the city that they built, walked for years around the borders that they fortified and secured out of brick and stone; the ground was molded under these feet, for these feet to tread on.


“Untitled,” Nyesha Clark

blue water to chicago jm blum

vistas approach, recede: wrong side of tracks, back side gang-graffitied warehouse forlorn bungalow, industrial dump, factory back lot turkey in soybeans, grain elevator, orange ditch lilies borrow pit pond sports pontoon, boat, fishing dock golden winter wheat, cattle cars, laundry on the line dead-end dirt road, public park, coal-fired power plant pickerel weed ponds, cow pasture, sailboat in an open barn house with grain silos rises above fields like a manor meadow of milkweed, farm implement graveyard, tree stand gravel pit, oil tank cars, industrial park, fire station county road black-eyed susans, miniature horse paddock elderly couple waves, hugs each other as the train pulls away


Still Life

Ja’Niya Howard

The earth weeps for attention but we STILL live LIFE Humans are being mistreated and receiving chastisement they don’t deserve And yet we STILL live LIFE BANG! A gun shot But the red trickling liquid and the lifeless body don’t matter, right? We continue to STILL live LIFE Our DNA is left on the empty plastic tossed away Onto the rolling not-so-blue oceans that wave We STILL live LIFE Maybe instead of being still we should move about Open your mouth and express your mind We all know America is divided, the Earth is polluted, and humans are malicious Until you realize that you are a STILL LIFE You just do your part in society When you realize Earth is broken, you will be set free Free to shout and jump for joy Pass on the knowledge Pass it on until we are a nation of free tongues


Fall Ladies

Cynthia Robinson

The ladies huddle together, Naked against the chill wind. Their garments lay in waves of ruby, topaz, and copper. Except the lady closest to me, She stands alone amongst the pines. The last of her ruby raiment held to her breast, A pool of carnelian satin at her feet. She’ll dance with the pines in their emerald tuxedos, With snowflakes swirling ‘round, The promise of her spring mantle, Waiting to be donned again.


“All the Difference Comes from Your Heart,” Fadk Aloqayly

The Skeptical Sagittarian Lori M. Decker

Looking back on a life of regrets, Rarely a smile, burdensome worries, endless frets, Branded the once rebellious middle child, Now an adult wanderer, angry and wild. Always searching, but still lost, Sacrificing self, but at what cost? Traveled far and wide, Still looking for a place to hide. Tucked deep in the cover of a northern woods, A life full of “ifs,” “ands,” “coulds,” and “shoulds.” Motherhood still just another milestone of doubt, Three children scarred from the inside out, Two absent fathers, not fulfilling their role, Leaving her adrift to bear the toll. Poor choices haunting her mind, Fatigue and unrest are all she could find. This beautiful loser fell fast, So hard to face when you can’t make love last. Countless addresses, men, jobs, and no place that feels like home, Once considered adventurous, now a loner to roam. Never free, living check to check, Feeling vacant and abandoned Like a shipwreck, Refused to make amends before dad died, She is the one with the forced smile, lying eyes, so dead inside.


In the Clouds Chin Lee

My mother smoked too much. Her lungs were all curled up flowering down like petals, left for me to gather in woven baskets. She said it was because she wanted to be so high she wouldn’t be touched by all the bearded men, who smelled like too many shots of whiskey and dirty money. They named her Ivy and said she wasn’t as beautiful as the others but would do, so she always cried even with tear ducts bandaged in vines falling into the bags of her eyes. Their hazel shades like sun rays seem to always rest along her waterline and as many times as I shook her they never woke. At night, she still held me in arms like broken branches and said “it’s time to dream” but her shoulders caved into her chest and couldn’t carry us anymore. I lost her somewhere on the way back leaving me here to pick up the petals, and each time finding only weeds in my baskets.



“Seasoned,” Ashlee Tigner

Golden Hour Zoey Cohen

cool fingers light on nitrogen’s shoulder ease shivering particle and quiet the vein. still oxygen fails to shudder at light’s passing. hydrogen compounds harden to crystal amplify the light. old rays take residence behind the eye shrivel and invite ice pick into socket.


High Speed Midnight Drive to Heaven Jared Morningstar

I fired up that ol’ V8 and it hummed along to the sound of the smoking Chuck Berry riffs on the radio as bright lights guided me to the highway, and as I broke free from the exit ramp’s grasp, I felt the power of Detroit Muscle in my hands as I squeezed the wheel tighter and the speedometer read 75 miles an hour and rising… Hail Hail Rock and Roll! I sang along to the music and the screaming wind outside, and my hands felt like ol’ Chuck’s blistered, calloused fingertips as I held on to that wheel like I was bound for heaven and had to get there before sunrise, and no promise of a good night’s sleep at a Holiday Inn was going to slow me down.


“Old Bones,” Jenna Pini


Kendal Oster

Hate, with black smoky eyes, Sings the song of death. A spear of darkness severs justice. Determination, lost and brutally slaughtered. Her heart dipped in black ink, Everything she loved died. Fear, slowly drowning in gray waters. Helplessness, hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce. Power, only hope can save her.



Tristan Harman

I walk the streets you only see at night Lined with shattered stones and heavy hearts Draped in shadows beneath the moonlight Making garbage out of art. I walk the streets devoid of sunlight With beat-up houses and boarded windows. Exhaust clouds gather and lightning strikes. Acid rain reaps what the residents sow. I walk the streets lit by neon signs— The bars, the clubs, the closed— Blue and red and red and white, The streets where the disillusioned go. I walk the streets too dark to see. Vagrants, vagabonds hide in the shadows With blackened spoons and sharpened teeth And shotgun smiles that let spotted gums show. I walk the streets you don’t see in daylight But daylight is what will make them shine. Sharp green grass and sun glowing bright— In the daylight, they are divine.


A Better Mother Rikilynn Layher

If only I had been a better mother to you— Gotten up early to make your breakfast instead of leaving it to your father— If I’d made you exercise more— Take your vitamins— Get your flu shot— You wouldn’t be lying here In this hospital bed On the 7th floor of the children’s ward at Covenant Hospital. If I had been a better mother You wouldn’t have lips so chapped they’re cracked A mouth too dry to spit Sunken black holes for eyes. A better mother would have stopped this virus in its tracks. Instead, the mother I am Lies in the dark On the cot beside you Making deals with God.



“Beautiful Chains,” Sarah Stedman

About Our Writers Austin Bauer is a poet, songwriter, and worship leader from Bay City.

Austin graduated from SVSU in 2016 with his bachelor’s degree in communication. He finds inspiration from faith, love, and nature. He is the author of one collection of poems, Naming the Animals, which he published in 2017. On any given day, you can find him spending time with his wife, enjoying a cup of coffee in downtown Bay City, or reading a book. When not gardening, painting, or playing the hammer dulcimer, jm blum may be found writing on a train.

Shelby Bourbina is twelve years old and attends Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy. In her free time, she likes to hang out with her friends and draw.

Benjamin Champagne likes Barthelme because it sounds cool to like

him, but also because he really likes the work, which is a perfect marriage. Sounding cool is good, but being meaningful is better. He is thirty-two and resides in Old Town Saginaw. He is a previous winner for fiction in the LAND contest for the State of Michigan and has been published in myriad small and university presses. He runs a DIY art space and sweats a lot because he is broke and really busy.

Zoey Cohen is a third-year student of psychology and creative writing

at Saginaw Valley State University; she is studying to work as a clinical psychologist. A poet and fiction writer, Zoey draws on a wide range of influences. Everything from Plath to Star Trek. When not writing, Zoey enjoys participating in and poking fun of pop culture, and she runs a great game of Dungeons & Dragons.

Lori M. Decker was born in Kingston, Michigan, where she lived and

attended school until graduating from Central Michigan University as an English major and an art minor. After graduation, she hired into the Swan Valley School District as a teacher of seventh grade language arts and art for students in grades six, seven, and eight. Lori remains at Swan Valley Middle School, entering her twenty-third year. Her passion, other than teaching, is writing in all genres, especially poetry. She has been actively involved with the Saginaw Bay Writing Project.

Anna Grotelueschen is a seventh grader at Handy Middle School in Bay

City. She lives with her parents, older sister, and two dogs. Anna enjoys a variety of activities in her free time. She likes to read and write. She enjoys playing the oboe, piano, and ukulele. She’s on her school’s cross-country and pom pon teams, and she acts in Bay City Player’s Youtheatre productions every spring.


Bruce Gunther is a writer, journalist, and a longtime Tri-Cities resident.

He’s a former sports editor of The Bay City Times and Flint Journal, was named the state’s top columnist by the Associated Press in 2010, and won several other awards for his writing before leaving newspapers in 2012. He became a full-time freelance writer in May 2016. He’s a graduate of Central Michigan University and lives in Bay City with his wife, Trish.

Tristan Harman is in his junior year at Saginaw Arts & Sciences

Academy. He has been writing since his freshman year. He is currently a part of SASA’s Model United Nations group and the school’s philosophy club, and is looking to join their robotics team as well. He likes snakes, the color purple (the color, not the book, but probably the book too if he ever reads it), games, and nature. He likes writing for what is says, not how it sounds.

Ja’Niya Howard attends Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy, where she is in the arts concentration. Her future goals include becoming a fashion designer, a writer, and a business owner. Her hobbies include writing, drawing, reading, shopping, and sleeping. Her biggest inspiration is her mom, and her favorite person is her grandmother.

Rikilynn Layher is a wife, mother, and teacher of the blind living in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Chin Lee is an alumna of Arthur Hill High School and Saginaw Arts

& Sciences Academy, where she was a part of the English language arts concentration for four years. During that time, she developed a love for poetry and now explores themes of nature, escapism, and adversity in her writing. She is currently a freshman at Central Michigan University majoring in psychology and minoring in child development, but in her free time she continues to write from her daily inspirations.

Martina Leslie meticulously hordes beautiful words like a jackdaw who

brings shiny baubles to its nest to examine them over and over, each one a treasure. She is a teacher of eighth grade English, Concentration English, and seventh grade Concentration Math at Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy. She has also worked as a commercial artist and writer for a Fortune 500 company in the area. She owned and operated a freelance agency in the Saginaw Valley for twenty years. Experience with writing has aided her in publishing her own students’ award-winning work. Mrs. Leslie received her bachelor’s degree in education from Saginaw Valley State University and her master’s degree from Concordia University.


Madison Meter is a Michigan native. In 2016, she received her B.A. from

Michigan State University with a degree in English, French, and sustainable agriculture. She is passionate about writing, French culture, and a variety of beverages, including but not limited to strong coffee, red wine, and IPAs. She has spent most of her post-graduate life teaching English in France. In the future, Madison hopes to continue using writing as a creative channel, drawing inspiration from home and afar.

Jared Morningstar is a ninth and tenth grade English teacher at the

Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy, as well as an adjunct instructor of English at both Saginaw Valley State University and Delta College. He is also a lover of literature and writing who has no problem accepting the fact that he is the second-best poet in his house. When he is not grading papers, writing poetry, and reading books, Morningstar has fun collecting music for his radio show, dreaming of another Route 66 vacation, and spending time with his incredible daughter. The Modern Library book of poetry became a sort of Bible to Eric P. Nisula when he was in grade school. He also began writing poetry at that time. In 1979, he joined the SVSU Music Department. In 1983, Dr. Nisula won first prize in the competition held by Poets of Now in St. Charles, Michigan. In 2004, his work was featured in The Rooftop Series published by Mayapple Press.

Kendal Oster is a twelve-year-old seventh grader at a great middle school.

Looking forward to getting a good education in literature, she focuses on getting good grades. She loves writing, art, music, and designing/creating house plans. She has a funny sense of humor and loves making people laugh. Her friends support her through tough times and love her the way she is.

Darline R. Patman was born in Detroit and now resides in Saginaw. She

works a full-time job and is raising three sons. She loves reading, writing, and making artwork. She recently had her first book of poetry published, and it is her dream to take her skills to a higher level and become a freelance writer and/or blogger. She knows it takes time and hard work to make dreams a reality, so she keeps working toward them with faith and hope. Anything worth having, she says, is worth working for.

Jack Rechsteiner is a native of the Tri-Cities. He is currently working

toward a degree in linguistics, and he describes himself as a “writer, adventurer, & renaissance man.” Most other people say “he’s pretty alright, I guess.”


Amelia Schneider is a joyful girl. On most days, spending time with her

would brighten your day, and she could most likely make you laugh. She likes to draw and almost always has a sketchbook with her. She loves to laugh and have a good time. When she gets sad, she doesn’t like people to know though. She tries to hide it to keep the attention away from her. Only her closest friends can detect when something is not okay. She is always bright eyed and ready for what comes her way.

Marjorie Talaga has been writing prose and poetry since childhood. She is

published in the Delta College art and writing publication Fusion and in workrelated magazines and periodicals. Two of her poems won both first and second place in a poetry contest sponsored by Delta College. Marjorie taught poetry to her students in the Saginaw Correctional Facility and created booklets of their poems.

Mikale Walker is a sixteen-year-old creative writer. He writes a mix of

poetry and prose, and is currently laboring over a novella. Mikale has always had an admiration for the written word and satiates this in a number of ways. His other artistic endeavors include drawing a daily web comic, making YouTube videos, and producing a web series. Mikale has received a number of other awards for his writing and is ecstatic that his piece will be presented for others to see. To see what else Mikale is up to, follow him on instagram@ puppetscomic.

Jahdiel Wingard was born December 13, 2000. He is a junior at Saginaw

Arts & Sciences Academy. He enjoys writing in any format, whether it’s prose, poetry, novels/novellas, or professional writing (essays). He is currently working on a novel, with the working title “Euphoria,” and you can follow his other creative endeavors on his new website:

MK Wright is an undergraduate student at SVSU. She is studying special

education at the secondary level and devotes much of her time to writing. MK is also Michigan’s 2017 Poetry Out Loud State Champion and National Finalist. A current student at Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy in the English language arts concentration, Arie Zaragoza has received awards in various poetry contests such as Scholastic Art and Writing (silver key and honorable mentions) and Michigan Youth’s Arts Festival (silver key). She describes most of her pieces as culturally or nature based.


About Our Writing Centers The Writing Center ( at Saginaw Valley State

University was established in the 1990s. Its mission is to serve Saginaw Valley State University by raising the level of excellence in student writing, at all levels and in all disciplines. To achieve this goal, the Writing Center provides one-on-one tutorial sessions, workshops, and various resources for students to develop their skills as writers and critical thinkers within the academic community and the community at large. The first of its kind in the state, the Saginaw Community Writing Center ( was established in October 2015. It is open the second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 4-8 pm at Butman-Fish Library in Saginaw. The Bay Community Writing Center (baycommunitywc.weebly. com) opened its doors in Fall 2017. Operating out of the Bay City’s Wirt Library, it is open the first and third Tuesday of the month from 4-8 pm. Both community writing centers are open to the public and the tutors who work in each location provide community members with feedback on any piece of writing for free—no appointments are necessary. The centers coordinate creative writing groups and hold a writing workshop each time they are open.


Acknowledgments Thanks to the following for their ongoing support of Still Life: • Poonam Kumar, Bob Lane, and the staff of SVSU’s Center for Academic Innovation • Helen Raica-Klotz and the SVSU Writing Center, Saginaw Community Writing Center, and the Bay Community Writing Center • The Saginaw Community Foundation • The Public Libraries of Saginaw and the staff of Saginaw’s Butman-Fish Library • The Bay Area Community Foundation • The Bay County Library System and the staff of Bay City’s Wirt Public Library • The staff at CounterCulture • Dr. Debasish Mridha • Andy Bethune


Still life 2017  

In January 2018, the inaugural issue of the community literary arts journal, Still Life, was released. This first issue features poetry from...

Still life 2017  

In January 2018, the inaugural issue of the community literary arts journal, Still Life, was released. This first issue features poetry from...