Tea Volume 24

Page 1


Literary & Arts Magazine

Volume 24


Literary & Arts Magazine Volume 24


24 was designed, produced, and edited solely by University of Florida

undergraduate students. The opinions expressed are those of our contributors and do not necessarily represent those of Tea editors and staff or University of Florida staff, faculty, administrators, or trustees.

Copyright 2022 by University of Florida’s Tea Literary & Arts Magazine. Tea, and by extension the University of Florida, has been given permission from the contributing students to reproduce the content of this magazine for use in physical and digital publishing, social media, and any other reasonable academic uses. Submissions are welcome from all University of Florida undergraduate students. More information can be found at tealitmag.com.



Editor In Chief

Photography Staff

Prose Staff

Alejandro Aguirre

Daniela Bendo

Art Editor

Poetry Editor

Lydia Mayhood

Gina Crespo

Art Staff

Poetry Staff

Isa Bairnsfather Chloe Copti Sydney ElDeiry Julia Fuentes Reese Johnson Madison Miguelez Kat Nguyen

Mary Hanson Ian Jackson Campbell Johnson Stephanie Perez Ayla Santos

Rayaan Ali Wesli Avidan Kyle Cunningham Imani Garel Nikki Kershner

Design Editor

Prose Editor

Julia Cooper

James Eschrich

Design Staff Ashley Hicks Haritha Kakani

Photography Editor Zoya Mukherjee


Advisor William Logan



Mentorship Program Director

Alejandro Aguirre

Dylan Gunter

Vice President

Podcast Director

Julia Fuentes

Sydney ElDeiry


Podcast Co-Host

Jupiter Jones

Kyle Cunningham


Podcast Sound Engineer

James Eschrich

Julia Cooper

External Activities Director Lonnie Numa

Events Staff Daniella Roque Madison Miguelez

Marketing Co-Directors Sara Barnes Gina Crespo


Prize Winners

The Palmetto Prize in Prose (“Letters and Latkes”) Tea considers all prose published in an issue for the Palmetto Prize. Padgett Powell—author of Edisto and The Interrogative Mood, among other important works, and recipient of numerous awards, including a Prix de Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters—judged this year’s contest. He selected Michael Sullivan’s piece for the prize. “‘Letters and Latkes’ delivers the small compulsions that make a boy like me want to read it,” Powell said. “I’d roll with Mr. Frog.” The recipient will have his name displayed on a plaque in UF’s English Department, along with all the other winners since Tea XIV. Earlier this academic year, Michael talked about his literary inspirations on Tea Party, the Tea-sponsored podcast. Listen to season one, episode three for more on the writer, available on all streaming platforms.

The Blackbird Prize in Poetry (“Feminism, Again”) Dr. Kevin Knudson established this prize in 2012. Named after Wallace Steven’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” the award has evolved from exclusively considering the published poems of UF honors students to considering all poetry in an issue. The recipient of various honors, including a Cholmondeley Award and an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, poet and translator Michael Hofmann judged this year’s Blackbird Prize. For it, he chose two honorable mentions: “An Eighth Sacrament” by K. Molnar and “The Beast” by Laurie Griffith. This year’s winner is “Feminism, Again” by Nicole Alberto. “It is a wonderfully orderly, dry, and evocative account of a woman’s role in society throughout history,” Hofmann wrote. “Evolving; unevolving—to use the kind of balance espoused by the poem itself. Each stanza, in 30 or 40 words, adumbrates an entire epoch. The reader is put in mind of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando–or at least half of it. The poem is economical without being schematic; harsh without being bare. Curt lines alternate with picturesque and richly caesura’d longer lines: ‘they bear children’ or ‘elbow grease’ with ‘philosophers ramble on and on, and they listen in passing,’ ‘Mary Shelley has a nightmare; Charlotte Bronte has a vision.’ The trenchant ending is both surprising and inevitable.”


Untitled Avery Cecere

Letter from the editor

Dear Reader, Our recent letters to the reader have emphasized the magazine’s evolution under the constraints of a pandemic. Self-preservation drove Tea despite the challenges of the past two years, even when the in-person traditions by which our editors and artists have historically built relationships were impossible to maintain. I owe many thanks to, among others, the editors, execs, staff, and cabinet. The last, created this year, was tasked with expanding Tea’s online and on-campus presence through events, accounting, social media and marketing, a mentorship program, and Tea Party, our new podcast interviewing student-artists and professionals. The cabinet members fostered a community beyond the page. Individuals had multiple roles, working on both the editorial and executive sides of Tea, which led to many nights of group planning. Thank you to all for trusting in me and showing how brilliant you are at innovating under pressure. I hope to remind you, Reader, of how your self has matured through these years of social isolation and turmoil. Avery Cecere’s photograph may serve as a symbol of what is to come: we stand holding the mirror while you ride ahead. Yours, Alejandro Aguirre Editor in Chief


Table of contents


Feminism, Again


Deadly Cherry Digital Requiem Jared Hogg


Coda Jared Hogg


Modern Pestilence


Double Feature

Isa Bairnsfather

Rae Riiska

10 11

Twin Peaks Rae Riiska

Mirage Emily Jacobs


He’s a Real Nowhere Man Julia Fuentes


said the news cycle...



Nicole Alberto

Jared Hogg



as long as they aren’t... Caroline Fruen

Caroline Fruen

Chanel Collison


Imperialism Erin Beck


Oliver Twist Grayson Williams


Curiosity, Killed Grayson Williams


The Lamp and Her Hands Julia Fuentes


Untitled Hanna Walters


The Beast Laurie Griffith


Four Inches Laurie Griffith


At the Top Nollin Eaddy

Table of contents


The March Equinox


Andrea Mendoza


Modern Diversions Stephanie Perez


Hour by Hour


Ama’s House

Hanna Walters

Hanna Walters


Kiko Display

Avery Morton


Within Reach...


Interesting and scary...


Global Warming


Birds of the Sea

Laundry Day


Lonnie Numa


Ian Dreams of Colorado


Andrew Watercolor




B(lack) H(air)

Alexandra del Canal

Sydney O. Jones

Ryan Montoto

Liying Wu

To Choose A Place to Land Bethany Ryder


Lydia Mayhood

Rae Riiska

Andrew Nordlund

Matt Lambertson

Marissa Balbuena


Places, Please

An Eighth Sacrament K. Molnar


May Flowers


Letters and Latkes



Nikki Kershner

Michael Sullivan

Chanel Collison

Feminism, Again Nicole Alberto they are traded away before trade itself is invented. long legs and wide hips for a goat and some berries, or something like that. they bear children. they stoke the fire.

they get factory jobs, wipe the soot from their brows. Mary Shelley has a nightmare; Charlotte Brontë has a vision. they marry a rich man, they marry a poor one. the local spinster feeds all four of her cats on the porch.

philosophers ramble on and on, and they listen in passing. they pour olive oil into jars, tie fabric around their foreheads. they have more children. or they swear themselves to virginity, get sacrificed anyway. Athena is just for show.

playing house is tiring. sad, beautiful women say sad, beautiful things and sink deeper into the bathtub. We Can Do It! polka-dot swimsuits, vacuum cleaner commercials. Get the perfect body by following these three easy steps…

handmaidens and servants and midwives. skirts over the knees, knees on wooden floors, elbow grease. my lord, my lady. Joan goes up in flames. Juliet stabs herself with a dagger.


shimmer eyeshadow, disco fever, Donna Summer, birth control. yes abortion, then no abortion, then yes abortion again, and so on. they sneak out of bedroom windows to meet with bad boys in leather jackets. “Girls just want to have fun.” it’s true. that’s all they really want. no equal pay. “No Scrubs.” i heard from my sister’s cousin’s best friend’s grandma that Tracy hooked up with Josh on Friday after the football game. what a slut.


Deadly Cherry Jared Hogg

Digital Requiem Jared Hogg

Coda Jared Hogg

Modern Pestilence Isa Bairnsfather Mother had cut the last strands of Daughter’s hair by the time the grandfather clock struck one. Mother was at her side, holding her hand and pursing her lips in concern. “Honey,” she started, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think the season would come so early.” Daughter stared straight ahead, gazing unblinkingly at the face of the clock. “It’s all right now. We can’t do anything about it.” She raised a hand to her head, feeling at her now-barren scalp. “Not even a pixie cut?” Daughter asked the same question every year, and Mother always gave the same response: “Nothing they can hold onto.” Daughter met Mother’s eyes, her expression resigned. Mother noticed they had darkened over the years. When Mother first held her, her eyes had sparkled. “We still need groceries,” Daughter said. “I can go again if I have the repellent. It’s fine.” “No,” Mother said sternly. “I’ll go. You have too many bites. Go wash up and remember to add lotion. It’ll help with the itch.” “I’ll feel the itch with or without it,” Daughter said. “Nothing to do about that.” There were many things they could do nothing about. Daughter started walking toward the bathroom door when Mother caught her arm. Mother grabbed a bottle from their shelf of repellents, perched to the right of the old grandfather clock.

“Just in case,” Mother said. “I didn’t see any come in earlier, but … just in case.” Daughter grabbed it, slightly annoyed. “There’s always at least one.” Mother watched her grimace. Daughter continued walking toward the bathroom but turned back in the doorway, tensing her shoulders. “Don’t stay out too long.” “I won’t,” Mother said, a small smile curling her lips. “Don’t worry about me.” Daughter hummed in reply, turning away, her shoulders still tense. She shut the bathroom door. Mother breathed in deeply, wiping sweat from her brow. It was an inopportune moment for the air conditioning to break; it was at least eighty degrees outside, and with the high temperature came the flies, and with the flies came the need to dust off her red coat. The coat was well-worn and tattered, its threads loose and its thick fabric coarse. The left breast pocket was stained from the time many years ago when, after a long night of attempting to explain the flies to a young and confused Daughter, Mother had spilled red wine on it. But what mattered was its function. Anything that kept the flies out was good enough. Mother placed the coat over her shoulders and buttoned up the front. Then, she pulled open the bottom drawer of her dresser and unfolded her wide-brimmed hat. It was designed to prevent bites to the face. She put the hat on her head, letting the


mesh fabric attached to the brim spill over her like a blackened wedding veil. On her way out the door, she grabbed her purse and placed a pocket-size repellent in the stained breast pocket. Then she grabbed her umbrella and breathed in deeply, mentally preparing herself to open the front door. Mother had learned that, during summer season, the best way to leave the house was umbrella first. She used her left hand to swiftly twist the doorknob, her foot to push open the door, and her right hand to open the umbrella. The sudden motion scared the flies off briefly, so Mother could make it outside without letting the swarm overtake her home. But she knew Daughter was right. There was always going to be at least one. Mother made her way down the front yard and turned in the direction of the store, which was only a block from their house. Mother had chosen the house for that very reason. Stores were relatively sparse in the area, and driving had never been her preferred mode of transportation. She hated when the flies infested her car. They were near impossible to remove. Yet its brevity didn’t make the walk any more pleasant. Mother closed the umbrella and glanced upward. There were the flies, whirling, twisting, dipping—eclipsing the sky. Their dark dance was accompanied by a whispering, buzzing chorus. When they spotted Mother, they swarmed down, pounding against Mother’s coat incessantly, like heavy rain. They went gripping and crawling and biting across her coated sleeves and legs. Mother had learned it was best to wear jeans on walks. Anything loose meant countless leg bites. But even so, the flies always found

a way, hungry and desperate as they were, and she still felt the occasional prick despite her many layers. Mother arrived at the corner store, opening the umbrella once again as she opened the door. It was no real use. The infestation was already uncontrollable. The season’s early arrival meant no planning, and no time to drape fabrics over the doorway as their usual. The aisles were filled with long coats, bald heads, mesh hats, and the frantic sound of spraying repellent. The only sound to counter the buzzing came from the manager, an older woman with a voice like lead. She had lived through countless swarms and was among the few left in the world still using the pots and pans method. She would ring up a customer. Bang. Clash. Ring up another. Bang. Bang. It hardly helped. The method had been debunked many times, but she was convinced, and her eyes lit up with youthful fire every time a fly happened to draw away. Mother pitied her, as did all the other mothers and daughters. Mother made the grocery trip quick. Only the necessities. She didn’t want Daughter to worry if she returned home late, even though she had spent the whole day worrying about Daughter. She turned in the direction of her house, grocery bags in hand. As Mother noticed how the peaking afternoon had worsened the hazy swarm in her front yard, she was flooded with memories from daybreak. Daughter had gone out that morning, before the sun had risen, in her short sleeves. Mother watched from the porch. It was cool outside, though not as cold as normal, and with every step, Daughter flicked morning dewdrops and scatterings of mulch across the front garden. There was contentment in her posture as she slouched


forward and glanced at the horizon, watching the moon’s quiet descent down the clear sky. It was a beautiful sight for Mother. Beautiful and rare. She longed to preserve it. Moving quietly, not wanting to disturb Daughter, Mother went to grab her phone from her bedroom. As she moved, she noted a hint of new warmth coming from the slowly rising sun. Confusion stopped her momentarily, but she reassured herself that swarm season was weeks away. She stepped back inside and grabbed her phone from her bedroom, unlocking it with a smile on her face. It was then that Mother heard a loud gasp, then a choke. Running from the bedroom to the kitchen window, she saw a writhing shadow where Daughter once stood. Flies swarmed around Daughter’s body, latching onto her exposed arms and legs. They coated her face and dangled from her short hair. She fell backwards onto the grass, her arms reaching toward the newly infested sky. With fear stabbing at her insides and ears ringing, Mother ran out with her umbrella and repellent, spraying and whacking and sobbing for a long, long time, until the flies finally relented and she could help Daughter walk back inside. The sight, the horror, would stay with Mother and Daughter for far longer than the bites they endured. If Mother had just stayed outside, even for a moment longer... With her hands now filled with groceries, Mother shook her head to rid herself of the resurfacing memory and started back towards home. It was best, in her mind, to remain in the present. Yet, even so, as her feet carried her down the bug-infested sidewalk, images of Daughter’s shaking arms reaching

upward flashed through her mind. She reached home and began sorting through the groceries, swatting at two flies that had found their way inside. Daughter came down the stairs and gave Mother a wordless embrace. Mother rested her head on Daughter’s shoulder, breathing in the smell of lavender from Daughter’s lotion. “Is the itching still there?” Mother asked, trying to pull away from Daughter to inspect the bites. But Daughter merely gripped her tighter, preventing the movement. “It wasn’t your fault, Mother.” Daughter whispered, letting tears pool in her eyes. “You’ve always been good to me. It’s really just the way things are.” Daughter kissed Mother’s forehead. Mother swallowed a sob. She buried her face in Daughter’s shoulder. “I know, dear,” she whispered, kissing over a bug bite on Daughter’s neck. “I know, but I’ll never get used to it.”


(left) Double Feature Rae Riiska

(right) Twin Peaks Rae Riiska

Mirage Emily Jacobs I shuffle down the narrow hallway that leads into our bedroom. The dark wood floors creak with each step. My fingers brush the wall, at the ready in case my old, tired body misses a step and falls. I remember building these walls nearly sixty years ago. Jim and I wanted to live away from the crowds. Somewhere private where we could work all day and lie together at night with no judgment from others. We are both inventors, you see. We bonded over our passion for gadgets and tools and soon after meeting, built a life together. This cabin is our sanctuary. We had a marvelous time here creating inventions that were always one step ahead of the day’s leading technology! We invented motors powered by wind. A computer that folded into a cell phone. The one thing we couldn’t create for ourselves was a child. We wanted a family. We were planning to adopt in 2031, but a national law passed that made it illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children. So, we never shared our technology with the world. We figured that if people’s mindsets were still in the dark ages, they didn’t deserve inventions made for a bright future. I just realized I’ve been standing at the doorway of our bedroom for some time now. I don’t remember why I walked in here. Oh, yes. The closet. Cardboard boxes line our room, making it hard to maneuver my way forward. Jim insisted on getting the damned boxes. Said I shouldn’t have all his stuff lying around after he was gone. But he’s not gone. He’s in

the closet. Ha! Jim would have laughed at that. In the closet, I find the projection device. Jim and I were working on it before he died. Its purpose is to help me remember. I have been forgetting lately. And coughing. I should call the doctor. More than aiding my poor memory, this projection device gives me the greatest gift I could ever ask for. My husband. I have been using it every day since he died seven months ago. Jim recorded himself using a device we invented that transferred his vocal tones to an automated voice. It sounds like he is speaking to me. Hearing his voice still sends chills running down my aching spine, invigorating me with new life. Jim also motion captured his body language and goofy gestures. The device, you see, is him. It projects an artificially intelligent version of my Jim, reminding me where the dog food is or telling me to lock the door at night. Jim can call the police if I have fallen or call my old college friend, Guy, on his birthday. Just like my Jim always used to do, now in holographic form. I pick up the machine and walk back into our bedroom. As I am navigating around the boxes, I catch a glimpse of the yard outside the window. Strange. It seems the trees have lost their leaves. I see them, brown and dead in a thick carpet wrapped around the trunks that once held them up. It is July. The leaves shouldn’t be falling until at least September. Maybe I’m getting the date wrong. I


continue out the door and into the living room, where I set Jim up. Just a simple voice command to activate it, his name. “Jim,” I whisper. The device begins to whir, the gears coming to life. The projector blinks on and a hazy image appears, like a mirage coming closer into view. It is a purplebrown color, with off-white edges. We weren’t able to fine tune the visuals before he went. The image, at first blurry, now clears until I can see every wrinkle on his muted cheeks. “Charlie.” It always starts out by saying my name. In a way, it kills me to hear it. In another way, I would kill anyone who would try to change it. Jim continues speaking, while I begin to make lunch. Max, as usual, trots in through the doggy door, slow because of his newly limping back leg. He has smelled the can of tuna I just cracked open. Max may be an old dog, but he can still smell a fire miles away. He walks across the room as if the very act troubles his bones. Max never used to hobble. Now, he drags himself in and out of the door with heavy breaths. I should call the vet. “Today is July 17th, 2078. The weather is partly cloudy with chances of rain from 1 to 4 o’clock. Currently, it is 54 degrees outside.” Jim used to read the date and weather off his cellphone, just like this Jim does. “What are you making?” “A tuna melt. Where’s the mayonnaise? I remember it was in the cabinet yesterday.” “You put it in the fridge, honey.” “Oh.” I shuffle over to the fridge. My mind is betraying me daily now.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Jim suddenly switch into a familiar position. Eyes heavy with worry and urgency running though his outstretched palms like electricity. My quick reflex catches him just before he can say it. “Destroy—” “OFF,” I bark. Some spit lands on the plate in front of me. I didn’t mean to be nasty about it. I just don’t care to hear his nagging. Even in the afterlife, Jim’s concern persists. I begin to fish out mayonnaise from the jar with my silver butter knife. I get a small white bowl with an attached electric spoon for mixing. My invention. The mechanical device whirs rhythmically, mixing the tuna at an even pace. Max’s labored breathing sounds thinner, and I glance over to see his stomach rise and fall. He is in pain. No. Coughing breaks my thoughts. Red in the tuna. I walk over to the cabinet to get another can. It is Wednesday. I wake up to a coughing nightmare. Bright red blood splatters onto the white sheets before me. Some would say it looks like art. I force myself up and gather the sheets to wash them. I shower. The icy water feels as if it is puncturing my thin skin. The razor Jim invented extends its metal arm out toward my face, nimbly shaving the paperwhite stubble on my cheeks and neck. After getting out of the shower, I get dressed and walk to the kitchen. The projector is still sitting on the wooden side table. I must have forgotten to put it back in the closet yesterday. “Jim,” I mutter as I make my way to the kitchen counter. “Charlie. Today is July 18th, 2078. The weather


is sunny, with zero chances of rain. Currently, it is 49 degrees outside. Yesterday’s reminders are ‘Call the doctor’ and ‘Call the vet.’” “Erase reminders.” I don’t remember making those reminders yesterday. And anyway, I don’t need to call anyone. We’re fine. “Destroy this—” “Delete message! Off, Off, OFF!” I shout, whipping around to glare at the boxy metal device. It is off now. “Stop it. Please stop, Jim.” I feel exhausted. I am fighting for what I love, but he is fighting against me. I need to figure out how to delete that damn message. I open a can of tuna and the smell of fish hits my nose. Max should be here any second now, with those sweet begging eyes of his. I empty the can into the electric bowl. He’s not here yet. I put down the butter knife. Maybe he’s outside. I walk over the front door and look out. Dry soil, bare trees, and no Max. I step out and call his name. “Max!” My voice is hoarse and grainy, straining to yell at its maximum volume. I don’t see him anywhere. Where could he be? Maybe a little bit farther into the forest. I walk in panic, searching with frantic eyes. “Max!” I turn a corner and see a small stream of water, but the water is black. I am seeing things. I shake my head and continue forward. I push through the trees, my hands using their trunks to stay balanced. Then, I see a bundle of fur up ahead. Nestled between a boulder and a tree trunk is my Max.

“Max,” I cry, desperately. He doesn’t move. I crouch down and see his face. Still. So perfectly still. Red around his mouth. Blood. Grief hits me like a bullet. I plunge downward. My head is in his fur, my fast tears soak his soft coat. I lift up my face and look around at the trees, wind whistling through their bones. I can’t leave him here. It’s cold outside. I dig my hands underneath his body, dirt scraping my arms and my fingernails. I struggle to hoist him up. He’s too heavy. I put my back into it and begin to rise. I got it. I scream something terrible as I lift up his frozen figure and hold him close to my thin frame. I walk. Miraculously, I walk. I walk through time like it is molasses, carrying Max back to the cabin. It takes all my strength and something more. A piece of me dies on that walk, just as a piece of me died sitting on the chair next to Jim’s hospital bed. What is left of me, then? The front door is open. I walk in, chilled and sweaty. I put Max down on the couch. I must call someone. Where’s the phone? “Jim!” “Charlie.” “Call… call.” Call who? Was I supposed to call someone today? “Never mind,” I mutter. I walk to the kitchen. What did I walk in here for? I notice the bowl of tuna sitting on the counter. Oh, yes. I was making a tuna melt. I begin to stir the fish and mayonnaise. Max should be here any minute. He can smell a fire from miles away, so you know he can smell this tuna. I look up. Oh, he’s already here. Of course, he is. Laying on the couch like a good boy. “Max, come here. I got tuna. Tuna, Max!”


He doesn’t move. Not even his stomach moves. I walk over to him. Jim watches my every move and I see his eyes turn wide and his palms outstretch. “Max?” He’s dead. He died. This morning. How have I forgotten? “Destroy this projection device.” I turn to look at Jim. I can only guess how ridiculous and miserable I look to him, standing over our dead dog, eyes wetting with tears and confusion and hopelessness. It is time I finally listen. “Darling. I am embedding this urgent message within our device in case you have forgotten. Before my death, we discovered this projection device emits toxic chemicals that will kill any living thing around it. The forest, Max, and you, my sweet love. I know we made this device so that you would remember me, but you must destroy it before it causes catastrophic harm.” My eyes scrunch shut and my head swings down. “Charlie, I love you more than you could ever know. I am not this device and although we fear your mind may forget me, I know that I will always be with you. I love you.” “I love you more,” I breathe. If I dismantle this device, I will forget Jim’s face. His voice. But he is already gone. His soul isn’t wrapped up in these gears. My Jim dances among the stars that turn in the night sky. “Okay,” I stutter. Okay.

I feel small and ghostly in this tiny cabin, like a distant memory. Without thinking, I speak to Jim. Not to the device, but to my Jim up above. “Wait. One last time. Play video number 12.” When we were creating this device, we filmed Jim dancing once. Sometimes, when I miss him so much it hurts, I dance with him. It is the closest I can ever feel to believing he is still with me. But now I know he is always with me. He is a part of me. Video number 12 plays, and suddenly Jim has a bright, warm smile. He reaches out his hand, I take it, and we dance.


He’s a Real Nowhere Man Julia Fuentes

as long as they aren’t rubbing it in my face Caroline Fruen when you act like a faggot, you beg for submergence. your blood is infectious, always. if you aren’t gulping cold water, you’re poisoning the well.

Charlie Howard 1961-1984, Matthew Shepard 1976-1998

the public echoes the epithets of murder. queer is a noun again.

question the motive, dispel rumors of hate as though scarecrows are a well loved thing, even their speculation denotes your sin. magicked up by sheer compassion. three men broke away from a bar that night, as if matthew shepard wasn’t familiar with and the sun still sang as it rose. the sting of frozen metal; as if those were the first vultures charlie laramie and bangor both glow with venom— nasty and bleak and indistinct from the rest of howard ever met. the world. unspectacular. hatred never shocks any of us, we feel our love extinguished. that fistful of flickering heart thrown in the river.


said the news cycle to the missing woman Caroline Fruen the blood always tastes like toothpaste—sticky necessity that I hate. when it grazes my already open sores, they seem to gulp. huge, heaving breaths of air. we were engulfed by the closure. your father cried, probably, and we might have said look at that. when your hands, wherever they are, stayed silent, I blamed you. your sanguinary absence. drag your bloated spirit from behind the swarm of trees. wash your soiled heels in the river bed. or I will kill you again. and again. and again.


Creature Chanel Collison

Imperialism Erin Beck Her fingers had flushed a blood-red With ecstasy and troubled dread Sensing trembling beneath the walkway’s crack, She said, “I’ll gift this snail with all he lacks.”

A child’s fingers, clean and new Plundered through the golden dew Unearthing a shell white, opaque A pretty snail for playing’s sake. Like chalk upon the sidewalk gray The shell-tip screeched on the walkway And with his soft head tucked away The snail heard giggles, loud and gay.

She displaced him from the rocks and grass To her windowsill, in a crystal glass Where there her ever watchful eye Framed him against the bluest sky.

A scratch now split the fresh pavement Thin, like slime under a ringing dent, And the child stroked the squishy hole Until a sob rose from the grating toll.

She brought him water, books to chew But words tasted of foreign construe So with a wordless language the snail knew He overturned his cup and flew.

“What’s that?” The child bent her ear Then paused, with (for a moment), fear But spoke aloud, “Snails cannot speak They’re irrational; naturally weak.”

Cleansed, he scrambled up the glass The sky above would be his, at last! An openness unbound by shell or cage The girl’s fist smashed him—the outrage.


Oliver Twist Grayson Williams I am a rope in my companion’s arms, ends fraying as he tugs desperately at the knots. He tightens the damn things. Mortality reminds us to live, he murmurs. It reminds me that one day, I will be a first and last, engraved in stone. I am a lake, frozen over in his arms. He gropes at the snake wrapped around my bicep, and I at the marks down his side before he tells me my fingers are icicles. I weep. He sees the night sky in every tear caused by a ruthless stroke of eyeliner. My dad had a stroke. He’s still breathing in a hospital bed. I hear the heartbeat monitor beep, and it stings like the tears I’m holding. Now, in my companion’s arms, I am no man. I am no companion. I am a clock ticking till my time runs out, till the doctor calls.


Curiosity, Killed Grayson Williams The evening painted the aging home peach, then ebony. The neighbors slept too early to hear Francesca da Rimini floating from the windows, or to wonder who could’ve started playing the record. A few residents from the neighborhood, however, were intrigued. From shadows and bushes emerged tomcats— black, orange, calico, all but ours. They stepped towards the porch, pawed at the worn mat (welcome home!) and clawed white marks into the French blue door, as if missing things had coaxed them there.

The calla lilies left upon Mother’s nightstand would soon flourish. Surely, our landlord replaced the rotting foliage I left in front of my window which I feared would break from a bullet. I’d never read Prisoner of Azkaban on the cold tile again, or pretend it was The Outsiders when Dad peeked in. I stuffed myself into the backseat of our Outlander. I knew this fate too well, as did my sister who had already Tetris-ed herself among the carriers of our three yowling cats. Mother echoed them as Dad locked those olive doors for the last time.


The Lamp and Her Hands Julia Fuentes The room smells like nothing to me, but it smells strongly of something to the little girl, and I can tell by the way she breathes. She sniffs like a puppy who trusts his nose more than his eyes. She is too young to have poor vision, and she is too young to play delicately. She sits on my lap, on her knees, facing me, but she seldom looks in my eyes. She plays with my hands like they are her toys, like they were made for her to discover. She studies my hand with her small brown eyes, studies my veins which bulge blue beneath my pale, wrinkly skin. Her mother scolds her, she says, Ame, don’t play with Nana’s wrinkles, but I let her play with them anyway. I used to do the same. I used to play with my Nana’s wrinkles when Jo and I came to visit. Our mom dropped us off and we rode the old elevator hand in hand and when the elevator said Ding! it opened its doors and we ran down the dark and narrow hallway with the dark green carpet and the pale wallpaper, down the hallway where, on a small wood table, sat a lamp with a yellow bulb and a dusty lampshade. That is all I remember of Nana’s, that and her hands.


Untitled Hanna Walters


The Beast Laurie Griffith She’s seven when her father first places the cold, black, unusually heavy creature in her small hands and tells her what the monthly stickers stand for.

But at seventeen, with her future waiting, there’s no time for games. When the man in a yellow visor lifts his crippled creature and lets it scream blankly into the pale, January sky,

It’s a game then, like in the movies her older brothers let her watch past her bedtime; where men laugh and point burnished beasts at the sky, lightning gilding them silver.

over the pounding of hundreds of spiked shoes; the swish of ponytails; her coaches baying “Pass her, Pass her!”— she finally understands the murderous beast’s message:

She’s thirteen when a man with a red scarf thrusts a beast’s mouth into a cracked window, lead spit tearing from the snarling creature’s red brass lips,

You should have run all along.

and rips her world in half. Somehow, she learns as long as she buys cheap, more importantly white, foundation from the CVS they’ll praise her for cradling a beast beneath her coat. 25

Four Inches Laurie Griffith My stomach tightens. I lift my arms, and my toes grip wood. I cannot fail. Never on this precipice, one foot over the edge. I don’t hesitate.

is too much room, and not room enough, on a balance beam. My feet, swollen, bitten by leather, blue and veiny, don’t fit. I like to think I’m in control here: four feet up and frozen; arms out, fingers flicked, chin up so I don’t fall.

I jump. Cool air rushes past my arms as my legs snap open into a perfect split. The beam slaps my feet. I am solid, for now. Don’t look away.

The mats growl beneath me, blue, square, scattered with an open maw of foam teeth and a tongue of barely kept promises, but I don’t look down. Chalk is the wind in my chest, sucking me dry, smearing my wrists, holding me, ensuring I don’t slip.


At The Top Nolin Eaddy After Chelsea Composite II, painted by Yvonne Jacquette (1995)

The time reads 8:35. Working men clock out, Night dwellers emerge, Cabs flood the streets Like yellow aphids. At the top, there is darkness, A shadow that goes on forever. The only light comes From the streets and windows below. A door with no handle closes, Shutting with it, My only way back. Life’s memories come rushing back As I sit on the edge, dangling my feet.


The March Equinox Andrea Mendoza On the first day of Spring, when the frost has thawed and the sun can be felt, people walk out in lightweight jackets and running shoes. They fill their nostrils with the cold Spring air as I lie down to die. It has always seemed impossible to survive the winter: my dry cough, cracked skin, and the glistening black ice that threatens to kill me every year. Last winter, watering my withering velvet plant, there was a weakness in my wrist; I am sure that winter will be the death of me. Falling icicles crush small animal skulls, runners choke on cold air; my dogs nip at my fingers and whine, and you would still be next to me, snoring in your sleep.


Modern Diversions Stephanie Perez

Hour By Hour Hanna Walters She wakes before us, brews coffee for the family, packs my lunch and makes my breakfast— the same routine for sixteen years. Slightly hunched, she cracks and winces as she walks my dog before the sun has risen. On cold mornings, she snuggles my feet into socks when she’s waking me, Water leaks from the ceiling, we scrub dishes by hand, use pliers to turn the sink on and off. so my toes are never as chilled as hers. The portrait of my mother on the wall For years I groaned about my exhaustion is warm, and the long days I endured at school. with ringlets and chubby cheeks— She never spoke out unless I asked forty years later why the bags under her eyes were so dark. sighs stumble from her lips, I sometimes hear her cry at night the numbers printed on taxes bleed but by morning together, and blue pen scribbles symbols she continues on, until the sun is eaten whole by the horizon. hour by hour. I grew up on substitutes: Whales instead of Goldfish and Fruit Rounds instead of Fruit Loops. Kids would ask: “why do your snacks taste weird?”


Ama’s House Hanna Walters alive, breathing today, although years later. Her eyes struggle to make words out of letters. She sits, nestled under a warm blanket, her tiny cat perched in her lap, while I read the newspaper aloud. She tells me to read page 4A, the obituaries, to see if there are people she used to know. Between sentences, I look up from the paper, and notice what used to be a soft hand flipping through storybook pages, now cracked fingers in a tight, shaking ball. I dart my eyes back to the words: the only thing left that time can’t rip from me.

A little bear’s adventures in search of his trousers are read over and over. My grandmother’s narration echoes off windows that lead to captivating sunrises, dewy blades of grass, and rippled water. Every morning, she brewed rich coffee, often spilling it on her shirt. She sat in the creaking rocking chair, with a clingy poodle underneath, so she could never rock quite too far. I cuddled into her tender chest, into pastel shirts. Leaned into stitched hyacinth flowers, a damp stain against my cheek, whiffs of cocoa beans mixed with sugar. Pages ruffled, words danced into saturated illustrations—of stuffed animals joining in unison to track down a pair of pants—


Kiko Display Marissa Balbuena

Laundry Day Lonnie Numa

Each fortnight, I wage war with my dirty laundry, provoked by its mocking stare from the far-left corner. I gaze upon the barren wastes of my ambry, Before I yield to the judgment of my washer. I throw myself in along with a touch of bleach; The following week, my world is bright. Saturated with starch; something loosens—my speech, gurgles from my mouth in a garish blight. I hardly notice I have nothing left to wear, the same sweater worn for three days; Ignoring the growing mound in my hamper. Shit—I’ve no detergent. Acquiescing to the burden of a stale sheet, the days idly go by.


Ian Dreams of Colorado Lydia Mayhood

Andrew Watercolor Lydia Mayhood

Airplane Alexandra del Canal

And now I can’t help but wonder if you were right all along, star-crossed lover of the sky with the wisdom to fear it. Maybe people aren’t meant to venture so far from home. Maybe these wings of aluminum and steel are no better than Icarus’s wings of feathers and wax. Suddenly, revelation. The plane breaks through cloud cover and brilliant beams of sunshine diffuse through the cabin, setting its contents alight. The walls look like dripping honey and the strands of hair along the edges of my vision become strands of lava. My rings reflect sparkling technicolor light onto the seat in front of me, a spot of color where, just moments prior, I contemplated resting my forehead and waiting to die. I marvel at the spectacle, basking in the celestial splendor before me until the last unconcerned passenger has shut their window—and it’s all worth it. You say your perfect evening is watching the sunset from one of the pristine beaches we call home, but God, if only you could see the view from up here.

The plane departs at 5:30pm, business as usual, and I’m thinking of you. Wispy clouds caress smudged windows as we ascend, obscuring the glittering sea and city below. Before long, the clouds suffocate each flash of blue, consuming the scenery entirely. Turbulence. Abruptly, the plane halts its climb. We float for a breathless moment as the heavens pass judgment on indifferent passengers, ravagers of the land and trespassers in the sky. My heart plummets and I remember your warning: The safety video is bullshit you’re fucked if an engine blows at that point might as well die quick all you gotta do is lean forward head against the seat eyes closed and just wait. I wait. The plane rises once more and the gooey weightlessness in my stomach vanishes. The icy dread lingers, though, prickling the nape of my neck and settling heavily along my spine. Because sometimes it really happens, you know. Engines fail and airplanes crash and people die and then there’s nothing left to say about it. Gravity doesn’t make exceptions for poets.


B(lack) H(air) Sydney O. Jones pulled over; tied up; pinned down; jailed in.

sure enough, it grows back. loc’d up from the bottom with strong roots and brittle ends.

not too kinky, straighten up— don’t block the view for the folks behind you.

protective styles, imported sew-ins, weaved together from track to track.

box’d perms, died and fried, with all the lyes packed inside.

systematic up-dues of the women in black.


Places, Please Avery Morton

Within Reach. Crossing the St. Clair River to Canada, just south of Port Huron, Michigan Andrew Nordlund Along the path that your legs seem familiar with, As if your ancestors had run it before, Guides you to a riverbed.

You hide on paths by train tracks, Tiptoeing like misunderstood mice, scared of the shadows you cast on passengers in saturated white trains.

A fiery star, blasts through the clouds, Guiding the way to where the tigers roam. The boat in the mist marks time like a semicolon.

Who plans to break your neck? Your gospel train passes, warm light holding your reflection in the window. Bodies in bushes,

Clouds etch forward toward hidden kingdoms. A halo glare rims your sight, as if you’ll reach Heaven If you take the tiny Black boat.

You see gashes on your face in the reflection. Your cries, drown the sounds Of bloodhounds in the distance. Fear of chaining down Your beautiful beast Stains your muscles.

Sore muscles, that originally seemed immovable, Find new energy. The shooting star guides You to the river bank to take a drink of blue water.

With your only pair of legs, unchained, Sprint instead of pause, into dense thorny bushes, Tearing into your flesh. 39

Interesting and scary at the same time! Ryan Montoto

Global Warming Liying Wu In childhood, there were only two seasons: summer and wishing for summer. It departed without notice. You fell asleep dreaming of cicadas, dreaming of being a cicada who joined a rock band because your voice was so cool. But when you woke up, the crisp air had an edge to it, battering your cheeks so they were red from the wind instead of the heat. The apples your mother had you eat after dinner were sweeter, if that were any consolation. But you never liked apples. Nor did you like the new music teacher, who played the piano while your class sang and then scolded you for singing too loudly. It was a weird song, you complained to your best friend, why are we singing about stars? Why can’t we sing rock songs and learn the guitar? So you were all rock stars at recess, air guitar extraordinaires. And jackets became a necessity. In the morning, your mother forced on a layer of thick cotton beneath your regular clothes even though you cried and clawed at your unwieldy limbs, at how stupid you looked. You were still sniffling when you got to class, although seeing someone else waddling in their cocooned state made you feel a bit better. But oh, how you wished for summer, for short sleeves and no school. You wished to kick the ball instead of the air, to laugh at someone tripping over themselves instead of being laughed at. That was how winter crept up on you, one

layer of clothing at a time. Trees turned into sticks and nothing chirped at night. To chase away the silence, everything and everyone was red and loud and busy. It all blurred into a season of crowded dinners and adults squishing your cheeks before magically producing pieces of candy from their pockets. You and your cousins crouched beneath the dinner table, playing with your new water guns until everyone got soaked and it wasn’t funny anymore. You kept sneezing the next day, and your mother hid the water guns. When it gets warmer, she promised. If only it was summer already. The snow melted to reveal the beautiful bloom of early spring days—according to the news, anyway. You didn’t get snow where you lived. You shed your layers. Skin that hadn’t seen the light of day for months could finally breathe. Like a cicada, you could finally emerge from the dark confines of your home and fly; you couldn’t wait for summer. Don’t be dramatic, your mother said, and stop skipping. You tripped over a rock instead. Unfortunately, you were wearing shorts. Blood bubbled up (bubbles!) on your knees before you could feel the pain. Mom was angry, but you didn’t know why. On TV, people got worried and cried when someone got hurt. Why did she yell instead of cry with you?


The scars never went away. You wore long pants to hide it, but summer was fast approaching. For once, you wished for summer to come a little later so your scars could heal. It did not. You wore shorts anyway. It was summer. You had wished for it for so long. Remember? Every summer, when the heat of the sun melted ice pops faster than you could eat them, you asked your grandfather for a cicada. The first time, your grandma ushered you into the kitchen, whispering and smiling. Grandpa had tied a red string around the belly of a cicada, who flew when startled, growing weaker with each flight. It was the coolest thing ever, you decided, after conquering your fear of flying bugs. You didn’t have a dog yet, and a cicada was the next best thing. You fed it, patted its shiny exterior, and cowered whenever it flew over your head—until Grandpa clipped its wings so you could pretend it was a dog. It made that clicking, buzzing chirp that you could never imitate. Inevitably, the cicada died. They all died. Conceptually, you understood death. Saw it on TV and heard about it in Grandma’s after-dinner gossip. Some summers, Grandpa caught a replacement. Other times, someone loosened the string and you all watched it crawl away. More often than not, you got distracted by something newer and shinier, and it died when you weren’t looking. You didn’t know how to deal with death. Someone else

took care of it. So maybe you deserve everything bad that happens to you after those sweltering summers. You’re paying for it. At every wall and disappointment you face, when you must deal with the consequences of all the things you never should have wished for, you remember the cicadas—chirping, buzzing, dying in the scorching heat.


Birds of the Sea Matt Lambertson

To Choose a Place to Land Bethany Ryder A half-moon stadium of sea grapes and egrets picnicking around the marshy pond. They only flock in winter here, swooping down like shrapnel— too close, too reckless, from behind these glass panes, free to soar anywhere they wish. Wind flows under feathered wings, honing navigation home. Necks ruffle up against the brisk; warm, huddle in their roost. The three o’clock sun beats down from its home in the heavens. They know no jaundiced Bible doctrine, nothing but nature’s sweet and violent song. Every sunset, they fly away. I do not.


An Eighth Sacrament K. Molnar A girl in my Sunday school took me aside and whispered that it was more respectful to let the host dissolve in your mouth than to chew it. The next communion, the nuns chewed me out for approaching the altar with my head to one side, watching the dust-filled stained light dissolve across the pews where the girl kneeled, lips softly pressed together, eyes closed in prayer. She laughed later when I told her that the nuns had it in for me. We snuck out when none of our teachers could see. When her shoe caught the lip of the sidewalk, the girl hissed something not quite a prayer. The following year, a new deacon brought us to school from the church, lecturing the class about the importance of Agape barely a week before stating God hates fags. The girl and I walked the garden path afterwards, two fags among the violets, letting our hands build churches between us as our mouths left each other’s agape.


May Flowers Nikki Kershner

Letters and Latkes Michael Sullivan Raoul,

Remember Mr. Frog, the little creature with all the spots? Well, you’ve never met him; you haven’t yet visited my home here. He’s featured in our correspondence before. You may not recall; you may have missed my mentioning him amongst the sheer quantity of letters we’ve exchanged. His spots really are magnificent, the most sublime hues of yellow and blue and red against his pale green skin. He’s had a variety of occupations, all at which he’s performed decently. He was an especially good fry-cook. Once, I even offered him a position as my private chef, but he declined on account of loving his personal lodgings too much to move. Every month or so, I still make the trek to his corner of the shantytown for a plate of his latkes. Throughout these visits, we’ve had a great series of conversations. I’ve rarely told you of them because he’s just a creature from the shantytown, telling shantytown stories. I didn’t think they’d interest you—many of them are a bit crude, honestly. Two weeks ago, I visited Mr. Frog and found him weeping over a cold, soggy latke and his frying pan engulfed in flames. Thick streams of mucus billowed down from his eyes and thick clouds of smoke poured up from the burner. I managed to put out the fire (it reminded me of when we were just beginning, the night you and I smothered our campfire because our only pump was spurting oil everywhere, though this was not nearly so dangerous)

and persuaded Mr. Frog to sob into my handkerchief rather than his plate. Mr. Frog’s grief, it turns out, resulted from his employment. I regret to admit I recommended him the position in the first place, though it would be presumptuous to say I directly caused this anguish. It started because Ms. Gorman, the owner of the Math Factory, was constantly missing her mail. In Sholatevka, missing your mail amounts to total forfeit of its contents. You must understand, the Postmaster is at the peak of her career. When she comes bounding from the old mill on her long, muscular legs and you do not meet her, she will not stop. Instead, she will crumple up your letter and devour it. The first time this happened to Ms. Gorman, she sunk to her knees and sobbed. Not only would the previous Postmaster never treat her this way, but the destruction of her letters constituted an incalculable loss to Sholatevka’s math production. One week, Ms. Gorman missed all her deliveries and the whole city was unable to do math of any sort. It was not so bad, we used simple emotion to figure how many potatoes for a flower and how many flowers for a latke and so on. Ms. Gorman, though, was terribly embarrassed and wandered about the streets pale and trembling. When she trembled her way into me, I suggested for her to hire Mr. Frog as an assistant. Ms. Gorman took my advice and employed Mr. Frog. He was a wonderful assistant, meeting the Postmaster each day, twice a day. However, since Mr.


Frog lived on the outskirts of the shantytown and the Math Factory is nestled deep in the city, he couldn’t make his own pickup times. I brought this up, but she waved the objection away. It was known the only letters Mr. Frog received were notices of late rent and threats of eviction from his landlord, Mr. Lilypad. A few days after Mr. Frog began working with Ms. Gorman, a very odd thing happened in Sholatevka. Just as the sun began to set, I heard a great rumbling from the old mill and a soft rushing noise below the street. The mill had not run since the inauguration of our last Postmaster, a portly man who used a belching machine to carry his loads. You must remember him. He came to us when we were considering setting up a branch here, claiming his machine and Ms. Gorman’s factory would create steady demand for our oil and coal. It all feels so long ago now, Raoul, since I moved to this strange city and you chose to stay in Vilna. Amongst the rumbling, I discerned a visual change in Sholatevka. The neon sign of Ms. Fly’s department store buzzed a bit brighter, and bulbous street lights I knew to be lacking fuel brightened without any supplemental kerosene. I hurried back to my apartment and, for the first time since I moved here, could see clear to the mill. While Mr. Frog worked at the Math Factory, this brightening continued—though only during sunset, and only for a brief period. But it is during this period that we saw most clearly, that we could penetrate the smog. You’d so enjoy the view from my balcony during the brightenings. It was during one of these clear sunsets that I found Mr. Frog in that smoky kitchen. After a

half-hour of comforting the poor creature and listening to his sniveling, I realized what had so blighted his spirits. However financial their contents, Mr. Frog missed his letters dearly. Apparently, he mistook their brash warnings as hidden romantic overtures. Every night he would hop home, open the door, and hang his head. Everything reminded him of Mr. Lilypad, of his shame for missing another beloved missive. The skillet on the counter brought back the first time he and Mr. Lilypad met, when Mr. Frog was a simple line-order cook and not the Senior Executive Vice President of the Math Factory. The toaster, the griddle, the potato-peeler, everything reverberated with the spirit of Mr. Lilypad, for they were truly his and only lent to Mr. Frog. The couch, the bed, the nightstand. All touched at some point or the other by Mr. Lilypad and now caressed by Mr. Frog. Worst of all was his gigantic filing cabinet, the only item Mr. Frog owned outright. It was brimming with letters, yet Mr. Frog always found a spare drawer for each day’s supply of Mr. Lilypad’s furious writing. Raoul, this cabinet is so vast you could fit an ocean within its depths and have room left over for a boat and a bottle of champagne. Remember that Dom Pérignon we shared when we went public? On this night of his worst desolation, he realized that he missed an entire week of personal pickups. In a week’s time, Mr. Frog can fill an entire drawer up with letters—such was the intensity of their affair, the frequency of Mr. Lilypad’s pleas. Mr. Frog never opened the letters—he would be too scandalized by the outpouring of love which he was sure Mr. Lilypad set down in them—but he did open


the drawers compulsively. Whenever he sat down to eat his dinner, Mr. Frog opened a drawer from a week which he chose by the pattern adorning his latke that night. For instance, on this night, Mr. Frog found himself staring at the faint suggestion of a sailboat. He believed Mr. Lilypad was sending him plans for a nautical elopement, and that these plans were currently sinking in Postmaster’s stomach. With more mucus brimming in his eyes, he told me he would get the letters one way or the other. I tried to reason with Mr. Frog, for he is a small, gentle creature who could stand no chance against our Postmaster, whose broad shoulders and bulging legs ousted the old Postmaster and his machine. He was adamant, however, and I began to plan a way for him to confront the Postmaster without risking violence. I don’t know why I felt compelled to protect him. I suppose guilt, or longing, or remembrance. Why did I follow you out into the oil fields? The next morning, Mr. Frog positioned himself in a bush by the mill’s entrance. When the Postmaster came out, legs pounding, Mr. Frog leapt from the bush and landed on her shoulder. She gave no indication of noticing him. I followed their journey with a telescope, though much of what I am writing I learned from Mr. Frog’s later account. He latched on to her through the shantytown (which was exceptionally awful since he was forced to watch Mr. Lilypad’s latest letter—the most earnest and sensual yet, all covered in bold type and bright reds—get eaten right in front of him) and all over the city until they returned to the mill. Apparently, it is much changed since I last visited. The new Postmaster

disposed of the portly one’s possessions, saving only the chair where he used to entertain Ms. Gorman. Oh, who could forget that scandal? I’ll write you that story, or perhaps tell it to you soon? Mr. Frog watched the Postmaster like he watched Ms. Fly, not letting a single movement, a single clue about the fate of Mr. Lilypad’s letters, pass him by. He licked his eyes every few seconds to make sure no mucus would obstruct his view. We expected the Postmaster would be exhausted from her route and thus would not threaten Mr. Frog. Apparently, she was perfectly energic. She kicked off her shoes, plucked Mr. Frog off her shoulder and plopped him onto the floor. He began loudly demanding for her to release his beloved’s letters from her gut, or else. She shook her head and motioned for Mr. Frog to follow her up a staircase. The mill is a large wooden building, with its highest point several stories above the ground. The Postmaster took Mr. Frog to where a vast window opens above the waterwheel. She leaned out over the ledge and opened her mouth. A great flow streamed forth. From the Postmaster’s throat came all the “A, B, C’s,” and the “Dear Mrs.’s” and “RENT DUE’s” and the “Dearest’s” she digested during her route. They ran together in an inky mass that propelled the wheel with such force the whole structure quaked. The Postmaster turned around, wiped her cheek, and picked Mr. Frog up. He croaked with his shantytown dialect, “Meyn mechayeh! Gone, gone!” The Postmaster clambered out the window, still holding the pitiful creature, and ascended to the mill’s roof. The wheel spinning and spinning, Mr. Frog croaking and croaking, the Postmaster climbing and


climbing. Soon they reach the highest point in the city. And what does Mr. Frog see? What became of his love letters? The wheel pumped a river of ink into an underground aqueduct, flowing toward the city. Where the aqueduct ran below the shantytown, lights sparked and skillets sizzled. Our mines and refineries ceased spitting their emissions. Mr. Frog could see friends dance in the street, old toads peel potatoes on their stoops, and young ladies brush their hair this way and that before young men with flowers tucked behind their backs knocked at their door. Where the aqueduct ran below the city, Mr. Frog saw the pulsing of nightclubs, the penning of letters, the embracing figures of Ms. Fly and Ms. Bear behind the bakery. He realized our brief moments of brightening came from the ink of his love! He rushed back to his apartment and called me over, telling me the story with all his ribbits and slang and excitement. As he spoke, the lights around us dimmed and soon died. Our smokestacks resumed, and the air clogged up again. But Mr. Frog’s eyes remained bright. He had a plan, the first of his own conception. If he gave her all his letters, the Postmaster could vomit enough to power the city for years. Initially I did not understand; Mr. Lilypad’s letters are his most prized possession, the devotion of a lifetime. Yet, his appeal touched me, and I found myself hiring Ms. Bear to carry his oceanic cabinet to the mill, where it remains for the Postmaster’s consumption and Sholatevka’s brightness. This new energy has completely replaced our own production. I believe we have been bankrupted.

Now, Mr. Frog writes love letters of his own to Mr. Lilypad and was not scandalized in the least when Mr. Lilypad did evict him, for he knew that soon they would walk hand in hand through the shantytown, above the aqueduct, all over the city, reciting together the most salacious lines of their romance. Seeing as our business is no longer viable in Sholatevka, I will be shutting down all operations to resume our own, personal affairs. I am leaving for Vilna tonight, at sunset. Yours soon, Tsietl.


2220 Chanel Collison

Artist Statements Nicole Alberto

Chanel Collison

Nicole Alberto is an English major who enjoys reading novels and thinking about ghosts. “Feminism, Again” seeks to highlight the back-and-forth progression and regression of women’s rights throughout history.

Chanel Collison is a multimedia artist that focuses primarily on ceramic sculpture and watercolor illustrations, creating fantastical futures that suggest positive co-evolutions of humanity and nature. Creature responds to our rapidly deteriorating relationship with the Earth, and visualizes the desire to coexist. 2220 imagines a future where the exploitation of the landscape drove humanity to near extinction. Out of the necessity to survive, the human race defied the odds and learned how to rebuild in the midst of destruction.

Isa Bairnsfather Isa Bairnsfather is a second year English major and linguistics minor. Her central concentration is creative writing, especially in the realms of science fiction and children’s literature. “Modern Pestilence” draws on the author’s admiration for Octavia Butler’s work in the sci-fi genre, along with additional influences from feminist theory and the tumultuous, anxiety-inducing nature of life in quarantine.

Alexandra del Canal

Alexandra del Canal is an English student at the University of Florida. She spends her days reading and writing, playing the piano, and daydreaming of home in sunny Miami. “Airplane” was, of course, written on a plane. The piece is a reflection on fear and triumph inspired by a conversation with a dear friend.

Erin Beck Erin Beck is an aspiring poet, short-story writer, novelist, and architect. An old soul, Erin believes she would have been good friends with Michelangelo, had she been born a male Medici in Renaissance Italy. While seemingly innocent with its playful rhyme scheme and quaint diction, “Imperialism” functions as an extended metaphor for the romanticized brutality of nineteenth century colonialism.

Nolin Eaddy Nolin Eaddy is a freshman studying electrical engineering at the University of Florida and who began writing poetry in an introduction to poetry class last semester. “At the Top” is based on the painting, Chelsea Composite II, by Yvonne Jacquette which was displayed in the Harn Museum of Art.

Avery Cecere

Avery Cecere is a multimedia artist based in Gainesville, Florida. Her work depicts a visual commentary of her perspective and experiences. Untitled was shot in West Berlin, Germany, on 35mm film in Sept 2021.


Artist Statements Caroline Fruen Caroline Fruen is a sophomore at the University of Florida. She loves singing and writing poetry. She is honored to have her work shared in Tea Literary & Arts Magazine. “as long as they aren’t rubbing it in my face” is about the murders of Matthew Shepard and Charlie Howard. Both were gay men who died in attacks motivated by homophobia, and their deaths shed light on the rampant bigotry present throughout America. “said the news cycle to the missing woman” personifies exploitative media outlets and their tendency to demonize female murder victims.

Sydney O. Jones For Sydney O. Jones, poetry is her ideal form of expression. She dreamt of the poem “B(lack) H(air)” and wrote it down for others to encounter the Black experience. Black hair is riveting; but being told how to style black hair is suffocating. “B(lack) H(air)” is a poetic double entendre that speaks to the intricacies of conforming to societal norms.

Nikki Kershner

Julia Fuentes

Nikki Kershner is a third year engineering student with a passion for art and writing. She can often be found romanticizing her life at a local coffee shop. May Flowers is inspired by a vintage photograph she found—she doesn’t know who the women pictured are or what their story is, but this painting is a sort of whimsical tribute to all the love that has been lost to history.

Julia Fuentes is a senior at the University of Florida studying English and theatre. She loves to read, write, watch films, and paint, though she doesn’t as frequently as she wishes she would. He’s a Real Nowhere Man is part of a larger collection where she explored personal identity through portraits. Here, Fuentes experimented with newspaper, tape, charcoal and acrylics. “The Lamp and Her Hands” was based on the fragmented memories of the author’s great-grandmother and her apartment. She was named Hilda Rivera and was called Nana.

Matt Lambertson Matt Lambertson is a fourth year undergraduate student pursuing an English major at the University of Florida, and has aspirations to attend law school. During the pandemic, Matt took up photography as a hobby, primarily photographing surfers and wildlife along the beaches of Florida’s east coast. Matt is inspired by the ephemeral nature of the prospect of photographing birds in their open seaside habitats. Birds of the Sea captures the beauty of these animals that refuse to remain stationary.

Emily Jacobs Emily Jacobs is a graduating senior, double majoring in English and theatre. She is currently manifesting a successful career as a writer, actor, and director of awesome things. “Mirage” is a love story between two men that Emily feels honored and humbled to write and explore. Love and loss go hand in hand, and she hopes this story illuminates both of those precious feelings.


Artist Statements

Lydia Mayhood

Ryan Montoto

Lydia Mayhood incorporates imagination and emotions into what she finds to be meaningful in her art and life. Ian Dreams of Colorado depicts the power observation and imagination have in our experiences. The dramatic landscape and wild mountain sheep in the background of the sleeping subject reference the idiom of counting sheep to fall asleep. Andrew Watercolor seems to simply depict a boy with a neutral expression. However, a closer look reveals bright colors in the subject’s skin and emotion in his eyes.

In an ideal world, Ryan Montoto draws, reads and/or does yoga before bed every night. The process of creating this piece was not a very conscious one—much like that of his other pieces. It’s called Interesting and scary at the same time! after the way Ryan’s mom described it.

Avery Morton Avery Morton spends most of her time reading and writing and trying to learn to live without expectation. Sometimes she paints too. Places, please is form study turned to an inquiry into colorism in America from her own (extremely privileged) perspective.

Andrea Mendoza Andrea Mendoza is a fourth year English major on the pre-med track. Although she has been reading and writing poetry for years, in her free time she also loves to spend time with nature, friends, and family. “The March Equinox” was written with the best-case scenario of her eventual death in mind. Although she hopes that day doesn’t come soon, it wouldn’t be so bad to imagine her last moments spent asleep in bed with her dogs and someone she loves nearby.

Andrew Nordlund Andrew Nordlund is an undergraduate at the University of Florida studying biochemistry and is aspiring to be a clinician in the fields of psychiatry and anthropology. Although interested in STEM related fields, he pursues other art forms including poetry and movement like dance and tricking. His poem was based on the picture “Within Reach. Crossing the St. Clair River to Canada, just south of Port Huron, Michigan” at the Harn Museum. The picture talks about the escape slaves made during the 1800s. The poem attempts to make you live the picture.

K. Molnar When choosing a patron saint for confirmation, K. Molnar picked Saint Joan of Arc instead of Saint Lucie in a moment of panic and to this day they still feel like they let down Saint Lucie. When they eat a communion wafer, they still let it dissolve in their mouth.


Artist Statements Hanna Walters Hanna Walters is a wildlife ecology and conservation major and English minor at the University of Florida. Vulnerability, love, and growth are her main themes when she writes poetry. “Hour by Hour” and “Ama’s House” have a special place in her heart because they are dedicated to some of the most influential women in her life: her mother and grandmother. Without their love and support, she may have never fostered a love for poetry. Hanna was in New York City with a best friend and decided to try out the Pentax k1000 for the first time. Untitled was taken in Central Park, and Hanna loved it from the moment it was developed.

Stephanie Perez Stephanie Perez is an interdisciplinary artist interested in making work about our relationship with the Anthropocene and the psychological toll that it can have on us. She captures this notion in Modern Diversions by depicting this distracted state of being that comes with everyday routine, and she explores how this state can make us more gullible and has us fail to question the long-term effects of our lifestyle on the environment and our own well being.

Rae Riiska Rae Riiska is a third year student from Saint Petersburg, Florida. She is a journalism major with a concentration in photojournalism. Double Feature and Twin Peaks were taken in Fall 2021. Rae loves to work with very low light and long exposures, portraying movement in stills is one of her favorite things to accomplish.

Grayson Williams Grayson Williams is a graduating senior with a passion for human rights and language in all its forms. You can find them experimenting with art, sipping on a chai tea latte, or (most likely) petting a cat. These poems both intertwine the past with the present, namely in their family’s influence on their growth and current self. Where “Curiosity, Killed” focuses more on the pain of leaving something behind, “Oliver Twist” focuses on that of being left behind.

Michael Sullivan Michael Sullivan is a Florida native. He stays busy completing Sababa punch cards and visiting his fabulous grandmother in sunny South Tampa. “Letters and Latkes” is for lovers.

Liying Wu

Liying Wu is an undergrad in materials science and engineering, and an occasional stamp collector. “Global Warming” is about cicadas, childhood, and how disquieting it may be to have your wishes come true.


special thanks

Tea extends its gratitude to the English Department at UF for its ongoing support. Sid Dobrin, Kenneth Kidd, and especially David Leavitt—one of Tea’s greatest advocates—helped develop a stronger, more fiscally sound plan of action for this academic year, and our successes as an organization in 2021-2022 should be attributed to that plan and the potential they have nurtured within us. As a part of the department, the MFA@FLA, its writers, and its creative-community leaders have helped introduce our magazine to larger audiences. Our advisor, William Logan, has a passion for Tea that inspires successive generations of editors. His sweetheart, poet Debora Greger, deserves thanks and praise for reading her poetry as the guest of honor at our inaugural Reading Series event. Thank you to Avery DiUbaldo and Tom Vasquez for making our presence known among the MFAs. Of course, special thanks to our two judges, Michael Hofmann and Padgett Powell (a returning judge), for reading under the time restraints of publication. We would be remiss if we did not mention Tabitha Hill and the Student Government Finance Office. Tabitha’s patience and kindness goes beyond her job, and her willingness to look favorably upon our budget allowed us to fund a podcast and attend the AWP Conference, among many other things. Most importantly, thank you to our readers and artists! You are our driving force. Continue to submit and read and submit and read.


Special thanks

Other special thanks to: Padma Adimula, Alex Aguirre, Cris Aguirre, Maykel Aguirre, Uwem Akpan, Rayaan Ali, Camille Bordas, Carmen Bou-Crick, John Cech, Jill Ciment, Stella Crespo, Omi Cooper, Todd Cooper, Suzanne & Steven Eschrich, Chance Freytag, Mirjam Frosth, Bari Gold, Kimberly Harris, Megan Horan, Juan Lam, Ange Mlinko, Gardner Mounce, John Murchek, Anjum Mukherjee, Anupam Mukherjee, Jeffrey D. Needell, Martha Rivera, Luna Rivera-Fuentes, Kelsie Rybak & Eric J. Segal & The Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida, JoJo Sacks & The Civic Media Center, Ghluam M. Shah, Andrea & the Space Allocations Committee, and Tim Smith.