The Starter - Issue 2: Connect

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Issue 02 // Summer - Fall 2021



Shared Space Do you see those stars out there? Each one, its own system, surrounded by worlds reflecting the star’s light, its energy. So many worlds out there, filled with creation energy. So many stars out there, sharing the universe. Sometimes, these stars swirl by each other, generating clouds that spin through space. Those clouds then swirl by others, brought together by the universal attraction. Gravity binds these clouds, these stars, over and over. What do you get when you swirl together all these systems? Nebulous stuff, isn’t it? Space stuff always seems that way. Big, out there, conceptual. But remember, you’re watching, holding, existing in a galaxy made with you and me.


brandon johnson washington, d.c. | united states of america


CREDITS

Issue 2: Connect

Editor-In-Chief Lead Graphic Designer

Derek Lin Brandon Johnson

Editorial Design Editorial Design

Brandon Johnson Derek Lin

Creative Consultant

Truman Meyer

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Copyright © 2021 The Starter. All rights reserved.


CONTENTS 6-7 Shannon Baker The Deserted Island 8-9 Dana Loo cape elizabeth fitchburg, wi day in and day out 10 Matthew Benson Benzedrine Sulfate 11 Derek Lin Monday Morning 12-13 Megan Kiernan Mezcla Coffee House Brand Identity 14-21 Annika Dome Nuvttohat Ravnene Creator Interview Little Treasures 22-24 Tomáš Dandáš The Light will always find you. Zabijak Toníček Dominik Matěj Románek 25 Brandon Johnson Glitching Rain 26-27 Jeffrey Lackmann Now Soup From a Chair 28-29 Mary Rice To 21 30-32 Derek Lin & Mary Rice A Conversation on Falling through Space 33-34

Gillian Klein Memory Is More Than a Dialogue Between Neurons


35-37 Iris Cäzilia Reds abstractions of love Obsolete untitled july 38-39 Claire Panus Ending of Fall


Shannon Baker

The Deserted Island There once was a man who wanted to find a deserted island and be alone with his opinions. He did find it, and it was not deserted anymore, and it was all so very beautiful and so He built a home there in the sand. It was made out of bamboo and gum trees—shady, quiet—and he could finally be alone with his thoughts. No one here could counter him, no one here could agree with him, no one here could say anything at all, because it was a deserted island. Almost. And he believed This is nice (But no—) Back in the city, the opinions had assaulted him, battering like waves against the shore of his mind—drumming against his ears and surging against his finger-pressed temples and leaking into his wide open eyes. He did not care for them— these other opinions not my presid— masks requi— gasligh— get the vacc— don’t get the v—

Enough. This is sweet

But here, on the deserted island—almost—the waves were still, the salt on his lips was warm, golden skin shone at dusk, and the ebb and flow of the sea was soothing—a gentle lapping against the sand, a cool breath against reverberating ears and burning temples and stinging eyes. (Wait—) No because This is peaceful Alone with his thoughts, only his thoughts, no counter, no challenge, no berating, no anger. Kindness. Peace. Rest. Gentleness. (But—) Shhh This is sweet Tolerance. Humanity. Peace. One mind. United we rest. Yes. (But—)

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He fidgeted. He was on a deserted island. But it was not deserted anymore. (If you have an opinion, and no one is around to hear it—)

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This is bliss (If you have an opinion, and no one is around to hear it—) This is bliss? (If you have an opinion, and no one is around to hear it—) This is

There once was a man who wanted to find a deserted island and be alone with his opinions. He did and it was but then they were not and it was all so very

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cape elizabeth Physical Art

fitchburg, wi Physical Art

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day in and day out

Dana Loo

Digital Art

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Matthew Benson

Benzedrine Sulfate Would this be the last time? The pilots scrambled into their flying coffins, launching from India into China. Venturing on the Skyway to Hell over the wreckage-lined Aluminum Trail, flung uncontrollably over The Hump. They popped a tablet into their mouths during emergencies, and only when ordered by an officer. Benzedrine Sulfate – the drug tablet that could relieve fatigue, and allow you to stay awake. When drops of fuel remained and temperatures plummeted, no search and rescue would come to stomp out their loneliness, only a foggy yellow plastic flask would offer any comfort. A synthetic cure made to escape the grasp of fatigue, supplied by the Air Force in WWII to boost morale and provide an unfaltering mental focus. A tablet that is known as the first amphetamine, now illegal to buy, sell, or possess – 6 tablets of crystal meth sealed within a flask in my hand.

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Derek Lin

Monday Morning Wake up to a new stranger in my bed. A familiar arm on mine. But it’s Monday. Need to get up. They mumble, “5 more minutes.” I can’t. I need to change. I need to get going. I know they still look good, even with that frown on their face— leftovers from a fitful night, when we were one. I long to be them, there, still in bed. I’ll miss me but I need to change.

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Mezcla Coffee House Brand Identity Branding/Logo Design

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Megan Kiernan

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Annika Dome

Nuvttohat Look northward, To where the sky— Formed from a skull, Filled with prancing lights— Stretches over forests made of fur. There was where My fingers traced the tarred wood, Of a foundation never moved, Never uprooted. Unknown words tickle my skin, My fingers stroke the shoe’s stiff fur, Its story musty, yellowed, and hidden beneath. Look to the heavens, Scattered with stars made of eyes. Pursue the paths trudged in the snow, Left by those who came before. After all, what remains of us When our words have been forgotten? Our tongues turned to dust, Our stories, no longer told?

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Ravnene They turn each stone over, Preening secrets From morsels Of lost truths; grimly probing every Memory and Thought, pecking everything apart.

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Creator Interview

Annika Dome By Derek Lin

Annika Dome is a writer, a poet, and an undergraduate student at Luther College. Annika is interested in writing about a lot of things, but what stuck out to me was their interest in mythology and belief systems. Mythology is undeniably cool, but it can serve purpose even today. In this interview, get a little context for the creation process of “Nuvttohat” and “Ravnene” and learn a little about Annika. Enjoy! Derek Lin: Who are you? Annika Dome: I’m Annika Dome. I’m a senior at Luther College and I am a triple major in English, German, and Norwegian. DL: Wow, why a triple major? AD: I’ve always loved reading and writing. I came into Luther knowing I wanted to do creative writing. I love both Germany and Norway, and am passionate about the languages of those countries. I’ve also been taking German since middle school, but I also came to Luther wanting to study Norwegian, so I ended up taking classes in both languages, and now I’m a triple major. DL: Well, that’s a way to do it. Why do you want to do creative writing? What’s your goal with it? AD: I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school, so I’ve always wanted to do creative writing. It’s my dream to someday publish a book of my own. Creative writing allows me to express myself and to spread awareness to what I care about, and make others care about these things too. DL: What sort of things do you currently care about and want others to know about? AD: Climate change. Gender equality. Really, having respect for one another, especially with the LGBT community. I just want people to respect each other. We have so much we can learn from each other. And mythology, I’m obviously interested in mythology. Unfortunately, with Norse mythology, it’s sort of fighting back against white supremacists who want to twist those symbols and stories for their means. White supremacists ruin everything. DL: True that. I assume that’s what inspired “Nuvttohat” and “Ravnene”? Or where did this interest in Norse mythology come from? AD: It’s always been an interest since I did some research for it in high school. I wanted to compare Greek mythology with Norse mythology and I got really into it. Norse mythology was just very different from anything I’ve encountered before. Reading the actual Norse

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mythology texts, or any mythological text from around the world, shows just how different people can see the world. It’s inspired me to want to learn more about all sorts of other mythologies as well. DL: What was the process like, incorporating these elements in poems? AD: I like allusions. It’s fun to play with them and see what I can create. They’re also a good way to convey what I’m trying to say. With “Nuvttohat”, I wanted to talk about permanence. Nuvttohat are boots made of reindeer fur, which I found in the Luther archives on a creative writing class visit. They were from a mission, in which some of the Sámi people came over to help indiginious people in northern America and Alaska regain skills in reindeer herding. Reindeer are very special in Sámi traditions and in their creation stories. The stars were formed from reindeer eyes, the sky was the skull, and so on. DL: Did you face any difficulties incorporating mythology and other elements? AD: Figuring out the voice. I wasn’t sure what perspective I wanted to write from to best represent these elements. I also had trouble condensing [Ravnene] to a short form. With Ravnene, I wanted the wording to be short like a raven’s croak. I thought about doing it in three parts as well, but I found that it felt more complete the way it is. DL: Was the process fun though? AD: Yeah! It was fun. I enjoyed looking at the different ways in how animals were represented in mythology. And it was also cool to look at animals in real life and try to mimic them into the poem. Watching corvids was a lot of fun. They’re so silly. I’m a big fan of them. DL: Oh, me too, actually! AD: They’re so smart. Did you know ravens can learn to talk? DL: I have heard of that! I’m personally interested in how their memories work, like how crows can hold grudges as a collective. AD: Yeah, they spread rumors too. If you throw a rock at one of them, all the crows in the area will hate you. DL: Corvids are fascinating. I’ve got to ask though— do you feel that you managed to achieve your intent with these poems?

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AD: I think that I managed to at least pull from the energy I wanted. I asked the questions I wanted to ask. I succeeded in not answering them. [laughs] I had more I wanted to write about with Ravnene but I also wanted it to be short. With Nuvttohat, I ended up liking it more during revisions. Revisiting it, I liked exploring how different cultures can see the world. Obviously the sky isn’t made from a reindeer’s skull, but what if it was? Thinking about other mythologies really lets your imagination branch out. DL: Revising Nuvttohat seemed to have made you like what was already there. Did anything new emerge in revisions that you liked? AD: I latched onto the idea of trees more and thought about how I felt when seeing the item I was writing about. I thought a lot about the memory of holding the boots themselves and of the articles I read of what had happened to the boots and how they got to [Luther’s archives]. I also thought about the word choice. How I could better capture what I felt and saw. DL: Any thoughts you would like to leave the readers with? AD: I think that it’s important to stretch our worldview. If you want to read about other religions, like say the entire Hindu mythology, it won’t challenge your identity. It will, at least I believe, strengthen you. This helps you see and understand how others see the world. That leads to seeing all the beauty out there. You’ll see more ways to think creatively and take a lot less for granted. In the end, you will have a deeper understanding of others as well as yourself. 18

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Annika Dome

Little Treasures Jane and I hop off the water taxi with no idea where we are, our faces pinched red by the Elbe’s river wind. Together we walk down the main path, salted wooden boards under our shoes. To our left are some sailboats tethered in a line off the dock, the hulls of the sailboats tapping each other every now and then like bored children. In the evening sunlight, deep shadows cut across the furled sails, and each boat is blanketed by a web of ropes that probably have purposes, but look decorative to me. Less than a week ago, I left Münster with my nine peers and traveled to Hamburg for our first of many group excursions in a semester-long exchange program in Germany through our college. Since it’s our last day, we’re free to explore the city until six, the time of our group’s dinner reservation. Hamburg is known for its high-class, luxury shopping scene. It was once an independent nation-state that amassed great wealth due to its role in the Hanseatic League–a collection of powerful harbor cities across northern Europe that created trade tariffs and taxes for merchant guilds. Jane and I, both on a college student budget, therefore knew that everything in the stores was outside of our price range. And instead of paying for a boat tour, we decided to ride the water taxi since we already had public transportation tickets for the day. But now, as our water taxi pulls away from the dock, we’re finally away from the center of the city, away from the harbor that reeked of fish and damp, discarded cigarettes, and able to spend some time apart from the rest of our group. We reach the stone path, worn smooth by time, and look both ways. “It looks more residential over there,” I say and nod to the right. “Let’s see what’s down the left path. We can always come back and go the other way if we can’t find something to do.” On our left as we walk down the path is a wall of short trees, their branches still leaf-barren. On our right is a short white wall, divided by the gated walkways that lead up to various apartments or condos. We chat and make jokes while walking on the path of hexagonal, stone tiles, pausing to look at a mossy stone pyramid. Then, we see the beach along the left side of the path. The Elbe brushes up against the rocky shore, leaving behind a strange mosaic of small rivulets in the sand. A handful of people walk along the beach, but the brisk weather left many looking for alternate forms of entertainment. The first step we take on the sand is magical, but it quickly turns comical. Our feet sink into the soft sand, and as we try to take a step forward, the sand buckles under our feet and we nearly lose our balance. Soon, each step becomes a chance to slip and get coated in sand. “It’s like how snow is, sometimes,” Jane says to me, laughing. I can barely hear her over the buffet of wind. “Definitely,” I say. The thought of Midwestern snow feels distant. Foreign. It isn’t long before we have to take a break and catch our breath. “Have you seen the road to that museum yet?” Jane asks. I respond in the negative. 19

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Eventually we start to climb over the rocks that dot the sand instead. The dark waves clap against the rocks before curling back to the river. We haven’t known each other for very long, Jane and I. We’d been together in all three semesters of our German courses at Luther so far and bonded over our common interests. Now, while living on the same street as my host family in Münster, she’s become one of my close friends–certainly the closest friend I have on the Münster program. I test each rock’s stability before moving forward by prodding it with my toe, putting a little weight on it, and then trusting my judgement. Occasionally I pause to dip my fingers into the water and let the chill that kisses my skin send a shiver through my body. “I think there’s something about growing up in the Midwest that makes people inherently good at walking on rocks along the water,” she says, and I nod. Suddenly, I spot a white bottle in one of the wave-scooped waterbeds. I dance over the stones in its direction, and nearly tip into the river, barely catching myself before my shoes submerge. You were saying? Jane laughs at me. I roll my eyes. The ripples of the waterbed are puckered into a peculiar honeycomb pattern. I frown as I pick up the bottle, its clarity and unfrosted surface disappointing. As Jane approaches, I point out the strange tide pattern and show her the bottle, and explain my hope of finding sea glass before throwing the bottle back into the river. Maybe it’ll be sea glass in a few years. “That might not be sea glass, but this is,” she says, bending down and plucking a perfectly frosted piece of sea glass from the sand. Like children on Christmas morning, we uncover more and more sea glass. It takes years of tumbling for a piece of glass to acquire that signature hazy appearance, and our shared passion for its subtle, natural beauty leads us to scour the beach and share our discoveries with each other. At least two hours pass by. Maybe three. My calves begin to ache, and Jane calls this soreness “grandma knees.” My hands are raw after hours of the Elbe lapping at my skin while probing in the damp sand. The pockets of my jacket are wet and bloated with sea glass and shells. I never thought such a concentrated abundance of sea glass could exist. My mind immediately constructs fantasies of how so much glass wound up on this beach. A pirate shipwreck, I think, smiling in my forgetfulness that I’m on a beach along the Elbe, nowhere near where the pirates I have in mind once plundered. Probably just old beer bottles, I think once I’ve checked in with reality. Still, I stand in awe of all the stories each piece of glass could tell. If it is a beer bottle, who drank from it? Why? Were they alone or with friends? Was it thrown in? Did it travel internationally or only down the river? Each piece of glass was once part of a life I’ll never know about. It interacted with someone I’ll most likely never meet. Part of me accepts that I’ll never know how these shards came to the beach, but the other part of me dreams of the possibilities. I look over at Jane. Her auburn curls keep blowing into her face and over her glasses. Running her fingers over the sand and balled up in a crouch, she occasionally uncovers a piece of frosted glass. Jane usually towers over me, but as we crouch together and harvest glass, we’re on the same level.

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A loud rumble of thunder rolls across the Elbe. Jane and I look at each other, then at the sky, waiting for rain to come from the bright heavens, hit our faces, and cut our excursion short. Then we remember the shipping port across the Elbe. The Port of Hamburg, where a flock of mechanical cranes transfer massive cargo containers on and off trading ships. I groan as I stand up, transferring the sand from my fingers to my dampened jeans. “I swear, I’m gonna smell like the Elbe for the entire train ride back to Münster,” I say. Jane laughs. “Me too.” We look back in the direction we came from. A little girl in a bright dress is bent over, looking for objects in the sand and running over to show her findings to a man we assume is her father. He encourages her to continue exploring, and they gradually pick their way down the shoreline. As she comes closer to us, we begin to leave some of our newer discoveries on top of the sand. We are in college, but she has yet to be in a classroom. She is still exhilarated by her discovery of walking and interacting with the world—as excited to stand up as Jane and I were to discover the sea glass. She deserves to find little treasures as much as we do, if not more.

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The Light will always find you. Digital Art

Zabijak

Tomáš Dandáš

Toníček

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Dominik

Matěj

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Románek

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Glitching Rain

Brandon Johnson

Digital Art

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Jeffrey Lackmann

Now Soup

The dented silver pot on the bottom shelf of the fridge has neither never been there nor been there forever. I am looking at it, thinking, and I have to twist my head like a confused dog. I’m seeing a ghost in the source code—still frames make the movie. Silence makes the sounds. Zero makes the One. “Yesterday’s soup,” dad says, “is even better today.” He heats it on the stove. I want to scream, “Yesterday’s soup was yesterday’s soup!” This is today’s soup. Always today’s soup. Forever and never. Amen. I must be slipping a bit. My full and dusty lithium pill bottles are laughing at me. But dad gives me a steaming bowl of borscht and I take it. It is salty and red and full of carrots and beets and dumplings. I let hot broth sit in my mouth to relax my tongue and seizing brain. Dad eats his. Ghosts and questions about the dented silver pot on the bottom shelf of the fridge are chased out of me by sodium, heat, and blood red broth. Dad shakes his head and smiles. “Yesterday’s soup is always better today.” His junky, old, and lovely life says eat and be glad in it. And the lithium I’ve stopped taking shuts its mouth. It’s yesterday’s soup today. And I’m hungry. Now soup. Soup now. Soupnow. Nowsoup—

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From a Chair I am porous like an old jungle hut, ribboned by ants, arriving or on their way through. Try as I might to shore myself up with towels and sheets for door sills, the ants end up inside. I am run through like a dead rabbit, unspooled by maggots tunneling me with tube-guts. I can’t ask them kindly to leave—or, I can—but they only speak maggot, where every word means eat. I am awash with the world like the shoreline of Lindisfarne, knitted and looped by tidal inbreaths and outbreaths, inbreaths and outbreaths. If I raise a rocky fist and curse the waves, they just wash it. When I think not to think about it, it’s only a weave of the flutter of larvae, the pattering sets of six small legs, the heavings of sea, and me repeating so loudly that I mostly fail to hear it— I am. I am. I am.

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Mary Rice

To 21

i’ve been planted, grounded, in the darkness of earth. growing, slowly, to show my worth. i’m too deep in the dark, stuck under its weight, too heavy to fight. not enough courage to reach the light. until a trickle, cool against my rigid shell holds me, till I’m broken. Exposing the true, delicate details of my skin. The cool pulls me up grazing the jagged edges of darkness. anxiety fear uncertainty Pulling, or pushing, my way to the top. but the cool trickles have stopped.

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Blocked from the surface, Blocked from the warmth of light. pulling or pushing? to reach the top

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Derek Lin & Mary Rice

A Conversation on Falling through Space I often feel as if I’m in the dark; pitch black. Spiraling between the days, where the dark is splattered by the smallest white glitters of hope. Too small, too smothered, by my own darkness. What can I do? What should I do? To reach the stars. A giant star reaches, touches, burns every part of my exposed skin. Sunscreen splatters into my hand, white cream of protection. I spiral it over my arms, my legs, noting again the relentless sunlight that has gone on for days on end. It’s tiring, staying in the sun. Soon, I let the night feel longer and longer, and I lie in bed just a bit longer, wanting to be on Earth no longer. My stars often disappear. Light clouds them over, until darkness comes again. Is happiness too far from my grasp? I’m trapped in this cage, in this darkness, but I see the light below me on even ground. In darkness, there’s light. In light, there’s darkness. So it doesn’t matter. I fall 30

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off the Earth into into into darkness. I’m alone. The dark, its intensity, frozen into my eyes. Until a sparkle, a light, brighter than the starlight I’m used to. Come, don’t leave. Stay. Oh, hi. Hey! Are you there? Are you the light, to my perpetual darkness? I beg, I plead, for the light I’ve never had. Tell me, what’s it like to have enough light to see? Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down. I didn’t expect to see anyone else up here. I’m not some light, I think. What do you mean you’ve never had light? Are you not from Earth? Earth? The light I see from below? I’m trapped in this darkness, unable to reach the light. Oh. I see. I might be trapped here too, then. I didn’t think I’d end up so far away. I guess if we’re both stuck here, I might as well tell you 31

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I was actually trying to escape the sun. It burned and burned and burned, until my body couldn’t stay outside and my mind couldn’t focus on anything but the heat. And now, it’s funny, now I feel very cold. “Far away” I have to admit, that I know this feeling. The cold, the dark, the very things that keep me trapped. How can I escape? To feel the warmth on my cool skin, even if it burns. It really does burn, but if I’m cold, I’m sure you’re freezing. (At least at night on Earth, I wouldn’t freeze.) We’re already falling, so what if we fall back to Earth? Here, grab my hand. I’ll swing you around so that the light below becomes the light above. We’ll pull each other up and fall back to light. Your hands, the first touch of warmth I’ve felt. Don’t stay, in the black sky, only dusted by small glitters of light. I want to fall, descend, dive, into this light above. The change from dark to light, from miserable to content whispers our names. We fall. 32

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Gillian Klein

Memory Is More Than a Dialogue Between Neurons Once I shattered a glass house. Filmed it, too. Clicked the film reel in place, my Stella & Eve Vintage Style Double Reel Pressed record with the tenacity of someone searching for an epiphany. Cross-legged, I see the sunset begging for the sun to rise. Obsessively. Incessantly. With maddening hunger. Striding into abysmal nothingness, I can’t embrace my space, area between head and toes Yet there are mountains which do not seek out forgiveness for the miles and miles of space they claim. The sort of stillness wherein the earth turns on its axis. I felt a monster releasing. Surfacing. A hybrid behemoth of a beast simultaneously shelter and warning. I desired this space within me to be free for new realities to manifest. I ricochet between the past and present In wonder...if I could forewarn my fourteen year old self would I? Or would I leave her wildly naive, With wonder, skeptical and blind to fears which draw on internal conflict to come? Infest the gardens of her spirit like weeds overcoming plot. Oh, how she’ll learn to breath whilst completely submerged in turmoil. She won’t know Jeans will fit two sizes too long but two sizes too tight on her thighs. Do not let the world play on your insecurities like playing a symphony in endless variations.

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In a world which extrapolates value and meaning in numbers. In currency, size, and weight. In reps, miles, and calories. Your life becomes more substantial when you choose what you want to give light to. Give soul to. Not give money or calories or pounds to. So would you save her? No. Because you embrace that which defines youth, as youth. For when you’re young, you don’t understand the concept of age and sadness doesn’t feel so sad. Not even the effulgent sunlight streaming through these glass walls could blind you to the need to retain her wide-eyed wonder As long as time permits. So in that glass box you belong to futile moments. You are engulfed in love, wrapped in your own tender embrace. You’re watching yourself as the film projects on a wall, suddenly no longer in the box. Observe this being as she shatters glass like throwing water to fire. Wholly consumed, she’s existing in an act of guided choices. Note the rocks darting, radiating, from her hands forging a kaleidoscope pathway of shattered glass. She’s had it all along the vigor, the capability, to break from the bond’s of her own demon’s hands.

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Reds Digital Art Iris Cäzilia abstractions of love

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Obsolete

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untitled july

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Claire Panus

Ending of Fall Brisk and bitter air Beat against bodies and faces. Charcoal colored clouds Loom just above the horizon Smells of smoke linger Sparks of crimson red, ginger orange, and medallion yellow Light up the dark void above Creating a comforting glow Leaves begin to break away They start to fall And glide Before they finally settle on the bare ground below Apple orchards begin to fill with couples Taking pictures and holding hands Or children begging for caramel apples And hayrides The fields are jam-packed with bright orange pumpkins, squashes, and gourds Smells of pumpkin pie and kettle corn consume the air People gather around the bonfires chatting While drinking piping hot cider and cocoa The weather is slowly changing Eerie, silvery, and dusty skies begin to settle In what was once a bright and shining place within the orchard Has slowly become barren and deserted Musty and broken-down leaves Lay helplessly and covered in muck From many frigid rainstorms Trees becoming naked And branches snapping Darkness coming sooner And sooner

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Winter is quickly approaching At the very first sight of snow The bitter air brings out a sense of cool and crispness Something that truly brings out the fiery warmth from within Ice sparkles and glistens underneath the wintry and nascent rays of sun And crackles beneath one’s footsteps Each moment reminding us of the blissful beauty of the frozen world surrounding us

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