The Aster Review Volume IV

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The A Aster ster R Review eview

2019-2020

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The Aster Review A LITERARY&ARTSJOURNAL

Volume IV // 2019-2020


Staff Editor-in-Chief Julie Bahr

Senior Editor

Managing Editor

Chief Financial Officer

Communications Chair

Aislinn Carr

Eleanor Mendelson

Kelly Chong

Ian Miller

Editorial Board Mary Todd Anthony Allison Bialas Abigail Clarke Alex Crayon Getty Hesse

Jaylen Jones Munashe Mataranyika Lilli Oliver Abby Tow Emily Tucker

Cover Image “Leeky Boat” by Katharine Young

Interior Layout and Design Julie Bahr

University of Oklahoma 630 Parrington Oval Norman, OK 73019


Contents POETRY 05 12 17 19 26 30 34 34 47 50 56 62 72

Formation of a Dream | Olivia Rahal Depression’s Juxtaposition | Lauren Skaggs Summer Night in Waldron | Brittany Thompson Jahreszeiten/The Seasons | Madison Penzkover Promises | Madison Jarboe Caught in a Blender | Lauren Skaggs Informed Consent to Your Elective Surgery | Sarah Alexander Tripping Acid | Sarah Alexander Sussistinnako the Solipsist | Lauren Skaggs Sweet Heat | Celia Bateman How My Ex Says My Name | Brittany Thompson Senior Viola Recital | Freya Downey The Undesirables | Emily Tucker

PROSE 08 20 38 54 66

My Father is the Reason You Have Déjà Vu. | Cole Deaver A Virtuous Body | Alex Crayon Daughter of Orisha | Bailey Brooks The Tadpole | Alex Crayon Johnny | Kayley Sockey

PHOTOGRAPHY 04 07 10 17 27 29 32 37 42 45 53 56 60

Lillie Lost in Her Own World | Jody L. Farmer Mountain Flora | Christian Newkirk Alaska Glacial Inukshuk | Brittany Thompson Dusk at Lake Tahoe | Brittany Thompson The Summer | Jordan Martin Wiggle | Helena Hind Life Comes At You Fast Like | Luis Juarez Discarded | Christian Newkirk Underwater Encounter | Manatsu Ueno The Trees of Mexico | Destiny Barton No One Came to the Party | Destiny Barton Flower Girl | Christian Newkirk Signals | Jacob Meves


61 65 67 70 71 74 75 78

I Think I Left My Glasses in the Car | Jewel Thompson OKC Lighthouse | Brittany Thompson Oklahoma Fog | Brittany Thompson Nature’s Gift | Kirabo Banya Caged | Jordan Martin Techno Power | Jordan Martin Midnight Cowboy | Jordan Martin Carson | Jacob Meves

VISUAL ART 03 06 13 14 15 16 18 25 28 31 35 36 43 44 46 48 49 52 55 57 58 59 63 64 68 69 76 77

Blind Love | Addie Kammerloche Mr. Western | Abigail Roya Hafezi Mess | Ashley Davis Late Night Drawing in a Candlelit Room | Blakely McDade Twisted Tree | Bethany Grissom Float | Ashley Davis Cheer Up | Abigail Roya Hafezi Cosmic Patchwork | Megan Figard Memory | Abigail Roya Hafezi Fragments of Ourselves | Kirabo Banya Red Mesa | Ben Murphy Okie Headline | Mac Mullins Green Stinkbug Winter Habitat | Ryan Godfrey Where Ideas are Born | Ashley Davis Deep Blue | Madison Doyle Warm Woman | Katharine Young Riverbend | Asha Chidambaram Estelle | Kirabo Banya Discovery | Ashley Davis Hummingbird and the Flowers | Elsie Wright Wash Away Those Years | Alayna Weldon Jambi | Alayna Weldon Inspiration from a Flute Concerto in G Major | Blakely McDade Katharine Hepburn | Katharine Young Office Break | Asha Chidambaram Lament (Autumn) | Addie Kammerloche Leeky Boat | Katharine Young Why Don’t You Scream? | Kirabo Banya


Letter from the Editor Dear Reader, As someone with a background in horticulture, I would like to have a chat about our name (please bear with me for the next 500 words). You see, for the past four years, we’ve branded ourselves around the idea that the aster is this small, sort of unassuming wildflower that just pops up in fields or in patches on the side of the road. This is highly inaccurate. The New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is an absolute queen among flowers: it’s stunning in bloom and brightens up every landscape with its rich lavender blossoms. These magnificent flowers are both large and showy, with some botanical species skyrocketing up to six feet tall, and can be used in everything from prairie restorations to rain gardens. Here’s the thing about the aster: it’s a bit of a late bloomer. While the roses, lilies, and poppies are all out of the gate in June, most asters don’t show their star-shaped heads until the fall. Yet, these vigorous blooms are a critical source of nectar for pollinators like monarchs, who rely on them to replenish their stores before migrating south each year. Even if asters get off to a slow start, their ecological importance cannot be understated, and they add a welcome pop of purple to the autumn landscape. As I was sitting in my apartment organizing this year’s submissions, I couldn’t help but feel the same way about our publication. I’m proud to be able to showcase a diversity of content and creators in this volume that I wouldn’t have thought possible three years ago when I first joined The Aster team. It has been an absolute privilege to watch our little arts journal grow and flourish to the point where I no longer have to explain to my peers what The Aster is, they already know. This year, in a time when we are further apart from one another than we’ve ever been before, art reminds us of our physical spaces and draws us together. I hope this volume of The Aster that you’re finally holding in your hands grounds you in a life of loving and understanding the people who share our spaces so that one day you too can blossom into a six-foot tall purple flower and light up the landscape with your majesty.

Julie Bahr

2020

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Blind Love Addie Kammerloche Embroidery

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Lillie Lost in Her Own World Jody L. Farmer

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Formation of a Dream Olivia Rahal Isn’t it ironic how pure elation may accept a formation? Body brimming with potential energy, hair whipping and succumbing to action, muscles tensed, toes pointed and calves sculpted, hands pinned behind, an excited catapult. Her fingers tingle, already basking in the dripping brook beneath her dancing cartwheel. She is captured, a prisoner of art, grace, and beauty (I did beg her forgiveness for staring), yet her image emits no sense of attraction, only action. Her body aches to dream in dance but her eyes are fixed in focus and lips hang disconnected in preparation, perhaps to taste what her fingers touch. Her elation reaches its form in her frozen leap, but mine in observing hers.

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Mr. Western Abigail Roya Hafezi Acrylic on paper

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Mountain Flora

Christian Newkirk

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My Father is the Reason You Have Déjà Vu. Cole Deaver My father is the reason you have déjà vu. I know that’s a strange claim to make, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. Everyone has experienced déjà vu before (well, everyone except me). You’re shooting the shit with your buddies, and then you think, “We’ve talked about this before.” But you haven’t. But you have. Like hundreds of times. Look, I’ll stop burying the lede. My father can rewind time. Crazy, right? Have you ever seen Groundhog Day? It’s like that. It’s a complicated process, and I don’t know all the kinks. But, that being said, I’ll give you some of the rules that I’ve managed to figure out over the years. 1. He can only rewind time to the second after he wakes up. Let’s say he wakes up in the early morning, and then decides to take a nap. Once he wakes up, he can’t restart the entire day. He can only restart to the moment he gets up from the nap. 2. It’s a voluntary process. My dad can choose when to restart the day. I’m not totally sure how he does this, but I know it’s a mental thing. 3. If he dies, the day automatically restarts. This is the one involuntary action that will restart the day. 4. If he dies in his sleep, then the day restarts to the last time he woke up. (How do I know this? We’ll get to that.) 5. PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY: I’m the only one who is conscious of the restarts. I’m the only one—besides him, that is—that remembers every single day that he’s restarted. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a family thing. (I’m his only living family member, after all.) He’s been able to do this for as long as I can remember, maybe since he was born. I know he wasn’t the first; after all, déjà vu has been a thing since long before he was around. My dad keeps a bodyguard around at all times, and if he repeats a day too often, then they start to remember. They start to experience déjà vu. Usually, that’s a good indicator that he needs to move forward. But sometimes he pushes it, and that’s when random guys and gals like you start to feel the effects. “Hey, I’ve heard that before.” Yes, you have. I’ve been trying to get this story out for a while. My dad’s abilities aren’t natural, and he doesn’t exactly use them responsibly. He’s made a pretty penny betting on horses and the Powerball. He’s had girls over, and if it goes badly, then he restarts the day. And if it goes really well, then he restarts the day. And my dad isn’t exactly a romantic, if you catch my drift. Of course, I’m the prick who’s caught in the middle. I’ve been dealing with 22 years of this, these

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restarts. My dad got invited to a Playboy Mansion party a few years back (perks of being a multi-millionaire, I guess), and he restarted that day fifty times. Two months I’m stuck in this shitty loop. So five years ago, I leave the house and try to go to the police. I know they won’t believe me, but I just have to tell someone. I go to the police station, and to be honest, I don’t have a plan. I just break down in the station lobby. So the police get my address and as soon as my dad sees the cop cars pull up, he restarts the day. He finally gets me to admit that I’m the one who called them. He beats the shit out of me for weeks (well, just a day, but you get the drift). I snap. I’ll just end this and move on. Consequences be damned. I buy a gun and unload the thing into his chest. Restart. I take a year-long beating for that one. Heh, bet he wishes he could rewind knocking my mom up. It’s clear that I can’t kill him. But maybe there’s a sort of “limbo” period while he’s asleep. Nope. Slitting his throat in his bed was satisfying, but it wasn’t worth the torture. I lost count of the days during that one. At this point, my dad’s getting paranoid, so he hires a bodyguard. A big ox of a dude he calls Paul. Not for himself; my dad’s invincible. But he needs some muscle to make sure I don’t rabbit. I don’t think he’s totally sure that I could convince anyone to believe what’s been happening to me, but I think he likes having a living punching bag around. Or maybe he likes someone who can prove he’s not totally insane. Either way, I need to get out. I’ve been wracking my brain for months, and it’s come to me. I don’t need to kill him. I just need to put some distance between us. If I can get far enough away from him while he’s sleeping, he won’t be able to reset me back to the house. I considered beating him half to death, putting him in a coma. But if I overdo it and he slips into death, then we could be talking a reset of months, maybe years. No, sometimes the simplest answer is best. Last night, I slipped a pill into his beer. It was a risky little maneuver, but I managed to pull it off. Once I saw that my father nodded off, I grabbed a steak knife and took out Paul. Now, I feel bad about that, but not bad enough to second-guess my plan. I’m writing this at a rest stop three hundred miles away. My car’s filling up, and then I’ll get back on the road. I know posting this is probably pointless, but what’s the harm? Hey, maybe someone out there has heard of this phenomenon. I mean, probably not, but either way, it feels good to get this out. My dad should be waking up soon, and no doubt he’ll try to reset. I have a feeling this is going to be the longest day of my life. I only hope he’ll finally give up. It might take years, but I’ll keep driving. Okay, the car’s ready. I’m gonna hit the road, but thanks for hearing me out. I can’t help but wonder: How many times have you read this before?

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Alaska Glacial Inukshuk Brittany Thompson

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Depression’s Juxtaposition Lauren Skaggs

tip – tap – drip – splat twiddling thumbs winking glinting in a dance lost from romance. My Hands are shaking. {AM I DEAD?} [No.] glassy eyes, i am blind yet i see vividly boney fingers tangle in my hair – strings to a violin, play a concerto about sorrow – YANK skeleton hands drag me to my knees. My skin, collides, pavement and I bleed, hot and steady. Sensations, thrum, is a buzz – an electric kiss pressed on the exposed nerve atop the crown of my head. {THERE ARE SCREAMS!} [Here is silence.] Drowning me in chaos [Swim in the serenity of emptiness.] {TOO MUCH, TOO MUCH. THE OVERABUNDANCE, DIZZYING AND STILL, SWALLOWING AND RELEASING ALL THAT DOES FULFILL!} [The world is full of juxtapositions, such as that of a ghost who still walks among the living.]

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Mess

Best of Visual Art Ashley Davis Watercolor and ink

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Late Night Drawing in a Candlelit Room Blakely McDade Alcohol markers

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Twisted Tree Bethany Grissom Marker on paper

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F loat Ashley Davis Screen print

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Dusk at Lake Tahoe

Brittany Thompson

Summer Night in Waldron Brittany Thompson Mist hangs in swollen air beneath a watermelon-hewn horizon Barn-wood tables soak up sweatbeads from heirloom glasses filled with sweet tea Uncle Jimmy’s rusted Chevy collection sleeps on a pine needle bed Visitin’ while the kids dart through chigger-riddled grass for lighting bugs Aunt Glenda gently drawls the secret to her belly-smilin’ baked beans The sky opens eyes one at a time, distant creek echoes with frogsong Day’s swelter sighs—a sticky cool breeze brings the skeeters out to drink A firefly tickles my palm as we leave

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Cheer Up Abigail Roya Hafezi Acrylic on canvas

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Jahreszeiten Madison Penzkover

Im Sommer denke ich, dass dieses Jahr Am besten wird, sehr anders als bevor. August kommt schnell; der Herbst, er macht es klar, Schmerz kommt. Ich täusche eine Freude vor. Im Winter hab’ ich oft ’ne dunkle Zeit. Die Sonne auch will nicht ihr’ Träumen enden. Die Tage strecken sich unendlich weit. Ein kleines Flüstern gibt mir Macht zu blenden. Der Frühling bringt für viele Neubildung, Doch ich muss meinen Samen wieder pflanzen. Der Geistergarten braucht ’ne Frischhaltung. Auf diese Früchte muss ich jährlich warten. Die Jahreszeiten gehen rum wie immer. Trotz allem, glaub’ ich, ohne sie wird alles schlimmer.

The Seasons

Madison Penzkover

Each summer foolishly I think, “This year Will be the best, much different than before.” The fall comes quickly and it makes it clear That pain will follow soon. My joy turns sore. In winter come the darkest times of all. The sun and I will both refuse to wake. The days stretch on, refusing to forestall. A whisper tells me I cannot forsake. The spring lets many new beginnings out But I must plant my seeds anew to root. The garden of my soul needs love to sprout. For my part, I must wait upon these fruits. The seasons keep their course, go round and round, And with them, joys which someday will abound.

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A Virtuous Body Alex Crayon

The child stood hunched in the basement, listening to the faint creaks leaking from above, wondering if the sounds descended from a distant heaven— though the child knew nothing of what heaven might entail. The basement was shrouded in a darkness speckled with blinking tongues of fire, candles casting a dim, ethereal glow against the shadowed walls like constellations glittering against the black blanket of night. But the child knew nothing of constellations or their stars, nothing of the sky or its bright denizens which light the outside world. To the child, the flickering candle-lights resembled the brilliant kaleidoscope of flashing color which appeared when the child pressed its eyes closed—like the blotches of pink and green and yellow which crept up the child’s fingers and across its hands, slowly invading the child’s body. Soon the child would be Transfigured to the Lord’s design; soon the child would be as radiant as those colors which blazed against the child’s tightshut eyes. That’s what Artist Father said. The child knew only the basement; only the pinpricks of candle-flame dotting the oppressive blackness; only the stinging, sweet aroma of raspberry candles and antiseptic; only the silence which smothered the child’s every thought. But the child had not always lived in Artist Father’s basement. Just after its birth, the child had been left to die at the bottom of a well. The child’s mother had lowered it down the hole in the bucket, wanting to avoid the guilt of tossing her baby down to its sudden, bone-cracking death. She hurried away before the child could start crying. Hearing the child cry would have made the child too real for her to abandon. Not long afterward, the child began to sob, and its wails attracted passersby who rescued the child and brought it to St. Jerome’s Orphanage, the only orphanage that would accept it. For the child looked like a ghost, an apparition, a mistake of nature. The child’s skin was translucent; underneath the skin ran a blue and red maze of circulatory highways. The child’s eyes were stained purple like asters. A rare form of albinism, a gift from the Lord. That’s what Artist Father said when he adopted the child—the perfect canvas, the child with skin to be dyed and Transfigured into a Virtuous Body for the Lord. Confined to the basement, the child grew like a wild thing, free only to itch and snarl and stomp its feet like a caged beast. Over time, the child learned to love its only companions, the lonely shadows which twitched upon the wall behind the candles’ swaying tongues of fire. The child loved the shadows and the child loved Artist Father even more. The child loved Artist Father even during the Transfigurations, even when Artist Father meticulously peeled the child’s skin from its body like duct tape pulled from fabric. Then Artist Father snipped at the stray connective tissue and lifted away the patch of skin, leaving the child’s bleeding musculature to breathe the dank air of the basement. And

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still the child loved Artist Father. Soon the child would fulfill the vision of the Lord, revealed to Artist Father in a dream; soon the child would become the Lord’s stained glass window through which He could peer into the world of mortals; soon the child would have a Virtuous Body. That’s what Artist Father said. Every day, Artist Father descended into the cavelike basement to feed the child and to remind the child of its divinely-ordained purpose. First Artist Father held open the child’s mouth and crammed into it the child’s daily meal—a platter of plastery raisin bread and a handful of cough-dry multivitamins—and then poured a warm stream of water down the child’s throat. Though scant, that meal was enough for Artist Father, enough to sustain his work of Transfiguring the child, enough to keep the child wan and bony and alive. Over time, malnutrition atrophied the child’s arms and legs; but the child had no need for arms or legs, only skin. Skin to Transfigure, to color and change, to colonize and conquer. That’s what Artist Father said to himself at night whenever doubt crept upon him like fog over a lake. Who was he to spurn the will of the Lord? After feeding the child, Artist Father would sit for an hour and give the child its daily lesson. Artist Father made the child repeat his name, Artist Father, over and over and over again. At first the child could generate only a jumble of garbled noise, an animalistic attempt at language. But after weeks, months of practice, the child learned to form the necessary sounds, learned to speak Prospero’s language if but a single name. Artist Father became a mantra, an oath, a prayer for the child to repeat into the swaddling darkness of the basement. Artist Father. Artist Father. Artist Father. Artist Father would sit at the top of the stairs to the basement, just out of sight of the child. And Artist Father would listen, revel in the forbidden thrill of sacrilege. He may not be the Lord, but he could feel like one. That’s what Artist Father thought. And the fog of doubt receded each time he heard the child recite his name. The first Transfiguration ceremony went like this: Artist Father started with the child’s fingers. The fingers were a point of connection, an object of agency which Artist Father intended to colonize first. For the child knew nothing of intimate touch, nothing of the love which spread from fingertip to fingertip and gave the illusion of freedom. The child is lucky not to know the pain of love. That’s what Artist Father said, though to himself or the child he could not be sure. After a long prayer, he began the Transfiguration medically, methodically. To immobilize the child, he injected the child with a potent paralytic drug supplied by an old friend at the hospital who knew nothing of Artist Father’s intentions. Artist Father had been a doctor, once. A respected surgeon. But he had lost his medical license after stopping to pray halfway through an emergency heart transplant. Prayer and piety are the only true ways to salvation, even on the operating table, even in the face of death. That’s what

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Artist Father said to his former patients, to the family of the man whose heart he had removed but never replaced. That’s what Artist Father said to the child and to himself every day. The child felt its body stiffen into unmoving rigidity. The child could only stare at the flickering candles, watch the shadows dance across the wall, and feel a primal scream gather in the pit of its stomach. The scream ripped from the child’s throat, again and again, each time ignored by Artist Father, acknowledged only by a twitch of his eyebrow and a resurgence of doubt quickly snuffed out by a prayer to the Lord. With a scalpel, Artist Father made the preliminary incisions, tracing the small section of skin to be removed, a rectangle contoured by oozing blood. Artist Father never removed more than a few square inches of skin at a time, for the child was to be the Lord’s mosaic. And to flay and tile and create the Lord’s mosaic must be done slowly, deliberately, with care to keep the Virtuous Body alive. Then he took a kitchen knife and sliced deeper into the small ridge cut by the scalpel, carving a canyon from which crimson wept. Carefully he pulled at the patch of skin, stripping it slowly away from the child’s body, trailing its progress with a pair of surgical scissors to snip away any tissue not already snapped by the peeling. Once, in a rush, he tried to rip away the child’s skin like a Band-Aid; the child had screamed especially loud then. But for Artist Father, the child’s screams were his accompaniment, the soundtrack to his work. Jesus had suffered indescribable pain upon the cross, and the child was to endure the same. That’s what Artist Father said to himself whenever the fog of doubt threatened to return. After the first Transfiguration was complete, Artist Father marveled at his work. Having dyed the small patch of skin, he had sewn it back onto the child’s right index finger—now tipped in azure skin glinting in the candlelight. Soon the child would become the Lord’s mosaic; soon the child would have a Virtuous Body. That’s what Artist Father said. And looking at the first shard in his living, breathing stained glass window, Artist Father believed it. Every week, Artist Father mumbled prayer as he worked, calling upon the Lord to guide his hand. But the child knew nothing of the Lord, nothing of religion or the promise of salvation. Artist Father was the only Lord the child had ever known, the Lord of ripping skin and forcing it back together again. The child’s body became a roadmap of scars cutting between flashes of crimson and azure, gold and mauve. Dyed skin encroached like a morning tide, slowly creeping up the child’s fingers, then the child’s arms, soon to drown the child in a mottled rainbow of color. Over time, the child’s love for Artist Father became tinged with confused growling at the ever-watching candles; with slight flinches from memories of searing pain and echoes of desperate screams; with the inexpressible Why? which haunted the unexplored recesses of the child’s clouded mind. But still the child loved Artist Father.

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After years of Transfiguration ceremonies, Artist Father completed the child’s Transfiguration, replacing the skin just below the child’s left eye with skin dyed orange like a fading sunset. The child’s face had come last, the locus of the child’s identity subsumed into the Lord’s vision, the last vestige of the child’s former self erased and replaced. The child now shone in the candlelight, its body covered in geometric splotches of color like a stained glass window at daybreak. The child looked otherworldly, an alien with its arms spread like wings and its violet eyes gleaming in the basement twilight. Artist Father, said the child. Artist Father. Artist Father. The child has fulfilled the vision of the Lord; the child has become the Lord’s mosaic; the child now has a Virtuous Body. It is time to leave the basement; it is time to display the child to the world; it is time to announce the coming of the Lord. That’s what Artist Father said. And in Artist Father’s voice the child could sense sweaty, carnal anticipation. Artist Father injected the child with the paralytic for the final time. He carried the child out of the basement and buckled the child into the back seat of his car, placing heavily tinted sunglasses over the child’s light-deprived eyes. The child’s arms were outstretched, ready to greet the world above the basement—paralyzed, frozen like a window in a winterbound chapel. Artist Father began to drive. For the first time, the child saw trees as brilliantly green as its left palm, saw sky as azure as its finger. For the first time, the child heard robins chirp to greet the morning, heard cars honk their horns and rev their engines. Then Artist Father turned a corner, and the child saw other people, saw unstained children skipping along the sidewalk. All this startling newness passed the child in an instant, and the child wondered, petrified, how the whole world moved so fast. Soon they arrived at the Oak Park shopping mall, a place of congregation and hedonistic, atheistic, consumerist folly. That’s what Artist Father said. In the parking lot, Artist Father pulled the child from his car, placed his hands under the child’s arms, and lifted the child above his head. Sinners! Sinners! Sinners! That’s what Artist Father yelled as he carried the child into the shopping mall where fluorescent lights and neon signs announced modernity to the child, dazzled and frightened the child with their glaring hues as bright as the colors which stained the child’s body. Many shoppers stopped to stare; some pulled cell phones from their pockets to take a picture or video; some laughed at the man with the painted child on his shoulders; some attempted to stop Artist Father, demanding to know what he had done to the child. But Artist Father ignored them, sure of his divine mission. Artist Father, the child said. Artist Father. Artist Father. Artist Father and the child pushed through the growing throng of agitated onlookers, ascended the escalator, and entered the food court, where the new smells of grease and ketchup assaulted the child’s nostrils. The child felt saliva pool in its mouth, felt the familiar pangs of hunger threaten to burst from its stomach. Artist Father wove through the congested mass of people and

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stepped up onto the top of a cafeteria table, still holding the child aloft on his shoulders. The child’s arms were extended like those of Jesus on the Cross, and the Virtuous Body was on display to the world. Sinners! Sinners! But the food court continued to jeer Artist Father, continued to demand that he let the child go. Sinners! Sinners! Sinners! But with every yell Artist Father heard the echo rebound against the high dome of the food court, felt his words crash back upon him like waves upon a rocky beach. And then the child yelled, Sinners! Sinners! Artist Father turned to marvel at the child, reassured—the child’s new word seemed like divine sanction, divine blessing. But the child stared down at Artist Father, its eyes swelled with rage. The paralytic drug had begun to wear off. The child flexed its stained-glass fingers; bared its teeth; growled, snarled, and spit; and then the child screamed at Artist Father, primal and guttural: Sinners! Sinners! Sinners! Artist Father froze for a moment before placing the child on the table and hurrying silently to the parking lot. He began to drive, and he drove away and away and away, kept driving until he could drive no further. Days later he reached the northern coast of Alaska. Heaven is northward, thought Artist Father. Northward in a manner of speaking. He stripped away his clothes and lowered himself naked into the freezing ocean, the icy water slicing at his skin with blades made of fear, cold like the slap of unpleasant memory. He began to swim, and he swam away and away and away, kept swimming until he could swim no further. Artist Father’s head dipped beneath the waves with a final surge of doubt, his mind overcome with fog. The child returned to the orphanage. There the child spent its evenings on the lawn, staring up at the night sky, tracing the constellations and counting their stars, reaching its arms up toward its newfound heaven.

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Cosmic Patchwork Megan Figard Collage

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Promises Madison Jarboe

we said we’d come back once the leaves had cleared and winter had set in to look for the ball we had kicked into the woods that lined the football field— poison ivy reaching in wild tufts, hungrily claiming nature’s dominance, swallowing children’s toys I was there today— not for any particular reason but to survey what was left of those old familiar grounds the woods are nearly cleared and, though it is summer, the ivy coils back, seemingly tamed, perhaps afraid to reach into what is now man’s territory I’m not sure why— it’s been ten years, after all— but I just wanted you to know I looked for the ball like we always said we would but never did it wasn’t there

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The Summer Jordan Martin

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Memory Abigail Roya Hafezi Digital

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Wiggle Helena Hind

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Caught In A Blender Lauren Skaggs

Have you ever felt like you are caught in a blender?

The metal blades whine, whirl, whirr. Their sharp edges cut you open, spilling everything that you’ve kept inside, everything you’ve let ripen inside of you. The only sound filling your head is the shrill buzz of the blender’s motor as it trembles on the kitchen counter. You know that you climbed into the blender on your own. You wanted to be opened up, wanted to spill everything that you’ve kept inside, everything you’ve let ripen inside of you. The only thing is, you hadn’t expected to be sliced, diced into small chunks and mixed with coconut milk and bananas, until you are indistinguishable from the other ingredients, until you are unrecognizable—but, hey, They can enjoy you now. I know I climbed into the blender on my own when I told you: I have a disability. I know, and I made that choice, the choice—that never really feels like a choice— to share myself with you. With all of you, with everyone I have ever told, everyone who has ever pulled me from the tree too early, before I’m ready, and put me in the blender before I’d made the choice. The choice to tell. Each question only provokes another admission; each reluctant explanation of my diagnosis only provokes another question. Each question is one of those slender silver blades, curved like my ribs, forcing their way into my chest cavity and splitting my rind. “You’re walking funny. You okay?” “Hey, is that a limp?” “What happened?” “Have you always walked like that?” “Huh- wonder why I didn’t notice it before.” “Oh, so you’re handicapped?” “Wait, so what is clubfoot?” “Does it look weird? Let me see, I wanna see it.” “Can they fix it? Is it fixable?” “That’s messed up! Can’t you do something about it?”

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I’m all juice now, a slush that goes down easier than the pit of seeds and fruit I once was.

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Fragments of Ourselves Kirabo Banya Ballpoint Pen

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Life Comes At You Fast Like Luis Juarez

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Informed Consent to Your Elective Surgery Sarah Alexander Cherry. Maybe. Crucifix. Light. It was a long night; a long night, But Mary, honey, it’s alright. God complex. Safe sex. Trilobite. Pray respects. Latex. Satellite. Blood rite. Eve’s fruit. Circumcision. Tough decision; tough decision. Living life through tunnel vision. Blind belief. Textbook. Precision. Bible thief. Dead ape. Division. So I’m going to make a cherry pie. List all ingredients, all reasons why. She says I’m a textbook schizophrenic, Someone should really call the medic. Cherry. Mary. Rosary. Peel. Life’s just a wheel; it’s just a wheel, All hunting for approval seal. Box priest. Bread. Eucharist. Last meal. Deceased. Dead. Is this all real?

Tripping Acid Sarah Alexander I have lemons, so pink lemonade, I think it’s better when its homemade. Popping the seeds out inside the sink, Scooping their bodies into the drink. Put in an ice cube, slink in the straw, I like it better when it’s made raw. But now I live with a lemon head; Citric acid is my daily bread, Consumed in kitchen, religion food, Making my own drink of solitude. The promised land and forbidden fruit, Contained in lemons of my pursuit. What is the cost of the perfect pink? Distilled to form the addict soft drink? It’s all a blur now; my nauseous brain, Rapid heartbeat, and general pain. Acidosis comes in doses, peel Back all the skin you no longer feel To make lemonade.

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Red Mes a Ben Murphy Oil on paper

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

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Ok ie He ad line Mac Mullins Screenprint

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Dis c a rd e d

Christian Newkirk

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Daughter of Orisha Best of Prose Bailey Brooks

Before the sky paled with the ascension of the morning sun, we rose from our beds. Our movements were slow and clumsy as we still half-dreamed. Despite the tropical climate, everything seemed too cold. The ocean breeze caressed our bare calves as we shuffled out of our rooms down to the lobby, covered by long T-shirts or wrapped in beach towels. The woman behind the front counter smiled at us, an artificial expression fueled by caffeine. The professor—our guide on the island—stood on the front steps, alert and patient as ever. We sensed her solemnity. The corners of her mouth weren’t tempted to smile, though something approaching pride resided within her thoughtful brown eyes. “Is everybody ready?” she asked after counting heads. Silent, sleepy nods answered. We followed her away from the hotel, down to the beach trail. Like ducklings in their mother’s wake, we walked single file. The stars remained brilliant above, reflecting off the glassy black sea. The birds weren’t awake yet; the only greeting came from the shushing water. It was the same trail we students had taken during our many trips to the nearby public beach, though this time the guys weren’t with us and we didn’t dare break rank to pick a ginep or guava. § I was young again, trailing behind my parents through the church. We shuffled through the crowd as I clung to my mom’s hand. The grey carpet was stained and flattened by the herds of believers that flocked there at least every Wednesday and Sunday. We passed the nursery and I plugged one ear against the assaulting wail of children separated from their parents. We followed the crowd, towards the sanctuary. § We arrived at the beach but trudged through the sand beyond the spot where we usually dropped our bags and stripped down. The cove was small but there was a rocky outcrop that bisected the beach and the shallows. Water smashed up against the craggy black rock, determined to wear away the sediment, one wave at a time. The surface sand was cool, but as we walked, our feet sunk down to the layer of warmth sustained from the previous day. Finally, we reached the far side of the beach and our guide folded her towel and clothes, placing them on a rock well out of reach of the creeping tide or the spray of waves. “Alright,” she said. “Everybody line up, facing the water, and hook arms.” We obeyed. Two on my left, two on my right. “Does everybody have their coins?” A chorus of metallic jingling responded.

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“Y’all remember the song?” We offered a barrage of noncommittal shrugs. Our guide seemed unsurprised but unperturbed. She took a breath and reprised the simple melody. Yemaya asesu, asesu Yemaya, Yemaya asesu, asesu Yemaya, Yemaya olodo, olodo Yemaya Yemaya olodo, olodo Yemaya It was lilting and old—no. It was ancient. Enduring. Our guide knew the song by heart—no. It came from her blood. § On certain holidays, I was expected to attend “grown-up church” in the sanctuary with my parents. Before the service began, my parents took me by the craft closet to select a few crayons and a coloring book as a means of keeping me quiet. We always sat in the first row on the balcony. Once I was situated with my supplies, my mom reminded me of the rules of “grown-up church.” I could sit on the floor but no hands against the pane of glass that separated the first row from a twenty-foot fall—someone has to clean that. No turning your back on the pastor—it’s rude. No asking when it would be over—the service lasts an hour. § The royal purple sky had lightened during our trek. Along the horizon, the rising sun began to burn off the periwinkle tint, leaving a fresh sheen of gold. We stood on the beach, arms linked, and began to sing. At the end of the first repetition, our guide stepped forward and strolled into the ocean. We paused a moment, in between refrains, panicked that someone would mess up a lyric, before taking a synchronized breath and starting the song from the top. Our guide didn’t flinch when the certainly chilly tide nipped at her toes. She didn’t stop when the water clutched at her waist. She didn’t stop when the water hugged her shoulders. She didn’t stop until the sea lapped at her throat. We squinted at her head from the land, curious and concerned. We sang through the song three times and then she disappeared under the water. I panicked for a moment, forgetting briefly that it was part of the ceremony she had outlined. She resurfaced a second later and began the more treacherous return to shore. You aren’t to turn your back on the sea. It was rude to the goddess—Yemaya—Orisha—Mother of Oceans—especially after She had just cleansed our souls of worry and doubt and negativity—after she had renewed our spirits. Slowly, our guide re-emerged, rivulets of salty water pouring down her dark legs and dripping from her short braids. Her path didn’t curve or meander as she returned to her spot in the line. The song started again and the next woman in line made her way towards the water. She waded out until the water hugged her shoulders and submerged herself halfway through the second repetition. She stumbled a bit, in the blind trek back to the beach but our guide reached out and helped her

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back into the line. The girl to my right went next. She stopped with the water wrapped around her waist. Her light brown arms floated around her as she stood in company with the sea. She dropped under after nearly five refrains. When she returned to the line, her chocolate curls were jeweled with droplets, her face was wet, and her eyes were rimmed red. § The pastor began and ended with prayer and sometimes, whenever inspired by a particularly powerful testimony, he would intersperse them throughout the service. If the pastor ever said the words Dear God and my chin didn’t immediately hit my chest, my dad whispered kindly but firmly, bow your head. I followed instructions, praying for my family, friends, teachers, and the family schnauzer, until I heard the hall chorus as one: Amen. Offering plates circulated throughout the congregation. My mom gave me all the coins from her purse, my dad a couple single bills and I dropped them in the bowl. § I plodded down the beach, my feet heavy in the wet sand. The seven silver coins clutched in my right hand no longer offered their calming coolness. Against my palm, I felt the warm, embossed portraits of three Jamaican national heroes: Bustamante, Manley, and Gordon. I expected the water to be a shock, for the chill to raise goosebumps and send chills rocketing through my frame. The sea was welcoming. Not warm but not cold. Neutral. I walked until I no longer felt the weight of my body—only the weightlessness of my limbs and the pressure of the water on my chest. It was calming, the sense of suspension. I forgot, for a moment, why I had ventured out. My toes barely brushed the shifting, sandy sea floor. Then, despite my skepticism, I found myself whispering to the water, as if it were sentient. If there is a god, why couldn’t She use water—the vast seas and oceans—to heal? I continued to whisper, but then felt a bit foolish. The waiting women on the shore couldn’t hear my conversation. At a normal volume, I apologized, “I don’t really have anything crazy or traumatic for you. Sorry.” I floated in silence for a moment, bobbing on the waves as they rolled and rushed towards the shore. With my mind newly filled with Caribbean history, I thought of the Africans who fell or were thrown overboard a slave ship to be at peace. I thought of those who made it to the Caribbean and were subsequently worked to death. I hoped for peace for them. For everyone I knew—and those I didn’t. I apologized again; it was a lot to ask. I closed my eyes and inhaled, relishing the calming resistance around my chest. How long had I been in the water? A minute? Five? Ten? With my heart ticking time in my chest and my ears, I reverted to my days in the church. Bless my family, bless my friends….Through the swelling, ebbing roar of the water and under the squawking seabirds, carried on the breeze, the evanescent lyrics found my ears again. …asesu Yemaya Yemaya olodo…

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I let my knees buckle. The sucking sound of water entering your ear is strange. Everything is muffled underwater, just the gentle swirling of the waves. I held my fist in front of my face and released the seven silver coins. Against everything I’d ever been told, I forced my eyes open and watched the silver shimmer and flutter and disappear into the blue abyss beyond my field of vision. I watched for a bit too long. My lungs burned and I kicked off the soft, sandy sea floor. The salt stung my eyes as I resurfaced. I braced my palms against my eyes, trying to press out the water. Breaths came more easily as I backed out of the sea’s grasp. My body felt heavy again, but it moved with the tide. I was certain I was moving in a winding, drunken line. I felt aimless, like I was floating again, barely touching the ground. A merciful hand—gentle but certain—grasped my fingers and guided me back into line. I smiled my gratitude as I rejoined the song. § After the final song of the service, the pastor thanked us for our attendance and encouraged us to greet our neighbors. My parents shook hands with nearby strangers and friends and encouraged me to do the same. Shyly, I extended my hand to the old man next to me. His hand swallowed mine in a dry warmth and his smile was infectious. We filed out of the sanctuary, picked up my infant brother from the nursery, and drove to a local breakfast joint. I drowned my golden pancakes in fragrant syrup, my crispy home fries in ketchup, and my flaky biscuits with thick gravy. I shoveled the food into my mouth until I couldn’t move, until my parents paid the check and carried me to the car. § We sang until the last woman returned to our ranks. Once we were all shoulder to shoulder again, we sang a full refrain. The sun burst over the line of the horizon, glinting and shimmering in our eyes. Our voices were tired, but confident from the repetition. The salt dried on our brown bodies, leaving our skin as rough as our throats. The last word, hanging on a lower note, seemed effervescent on the sea breeze, dissolving with the white foam on the waves. We remained motionless, one with the sand and sea and each other. Our guide broke the line first. Smiling broadly, she slung an arm around the student next to her and asked, “How is everyone? Ready for breakfast? They’re making ackee and saltfish.” It was all grinning and hugging and chatting on the walk back to the hotel. The guys on the trip had yet to rise, so we all sat down in the dining room, the heavy, greasy smell of fried dumplings wafting in from the kitchen. Two hotel workers emerged from the swinging kitchen doors. One carried a stack of mugs and a metal pitcher of Blue Mountain coffee. The other balanced platters of fresh cut fruit on her arms—refreshing green melons, peppery orange papaya, sweet golden mango. We piled the fruit onto our plates, suddenly and inexplicably ravenous.

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Underwater Encounter Manatsu Ueno

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Green Stinkbug Winter Habitat Ryan Godfrey

A Note from the Creator

Based on the stink bug’s natural winter habitat—leaf litter—this structure aims to improve the habitat of the green stink bug (chinavia halaris) by creating more protection from predators, wider square footage for the bug to land on (stink bugs’ biology makes it difficult for them to fly in a straight line), and a protected area for them to lay their eggs. The shape and geometric patterns mimic that of leaf litter while providing large “leafs” for the bugs to land on, and “cages” on the undersides of the two side pieces to protect the eggs from larger predators.

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Where Ideas are Born Ashley Davis Acrylic Mural

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The Trees of Mexico Best of Photography Destiny Barton

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Deep Blue Madison Doyle Weaving

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Sussistinnako the Solipsist Lauren Skaggs

Part 1. alone, spinning ceaselessly lines of the stars web of the universe weaving tirelessly, alone i pull gases into filament craft odors into something fine something tangible to weave a face from the emptiness i stare into my own eyes these secrets i already know an intimacy with myself takes form around me puts the emptiness inside me entrenched by nothingness, i am swallowed by the vastness spread as far as i can fling the string of my anticipation— it never catches, falling back into my hands i tie knots in my string, the filament of my desire to end the solitary confinement i was born into the design i thread is the only needle sewing closed the gap between emptiness and fullness

Part 2. finally, two parcels I graced and sang, sang, sang, of love and sadness and great joys until children born of my own gossamer come forth wrapped in the gauze of ivory twins, silken daughters I brought forth to end my loneliness did I end my loneliness or have I only prolonged happiness did I create my happiness or have I only weaved my loneliness i construct, i destroy, i am all fruit of my loom, the blanket woven of my hand, it is me alone, spinning ceaselessly lines of the stars web of the universe, weaving tirelessly, alone

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Warm Woman Katharine Young Ink and watercolor pencil

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Riverbend Asha Chidambaram Woodblock print

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Sweet Heat Best of Poetry

Celia Bateman

My family Used to remind me to stay from up underneath The Sun In the Summertime To prevent my skin from getting too black “We don’t want you to get too dark baby” They would say from the shade And now that I am older I understand that they meant to protect me From the consequences that come with this particular hue I understand That we live in a time when wearing this tone Is a crime And that in their prime It meant: Separation Isolation Segregation I understand That the Sun is unforgiving in Birmingham That the Sky and Earth have a special union there That they can’t stand to be apart The Sun and all her rays Reach out to embrace the Earth And sometimes She don’t know her own strength But ain’t that love y’all “We don’t want you to get too dark baby” And I know That they must’ve been so pleased Relieved When they came to know my mother With her loose curls And her yellow skin With her soft voice And her blinding smile I know they must’ve held their breath when I was born Know they must’ve hoped against hope Must’ve prayed their old prayers That I would produce the same Good Hair And Light Bright Skin

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“We don’t want you to get too dark baby” They remind me from the porch Cups full of sweet tea Voices full of fear As if this skin ain’t holy As if this Black ain’t magic As if it ain’t gold As if I wasn’t meant to be this bold As if we ain’t the Sun’s chosen people As if my curls don’t shrink up off my neck At the hint of sweat As if it don’t compact To serve and to act as protection from the Sun As if this skin don’t drink in light Taking it in In large greedy gulps Recharging this body Like it is built to do I am older now And the Sun has done her part in aging me I understand that Southern heat Is something sweet And I will not be afraid Of the Sun And all her rays

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Estelle Kirabo Banya Acrylic

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No One Came to the Party

Destiny Barton

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The Tadpole Alex Crayon I was sixteen when I killed the tadpole. Hannah and I had led our group of rambunctious campers down to the creek, which overnight had fallen to a shallow dribble. The wet July heat stuck to our skin like Velcro. The small children splashed in the water, throwing mud at each other and plastering it all over themselves. Hannah perched herself on a rock and opened her sketchbook. I sat on the trunk of a tall, uprooted elm tree and wondered what had the power to rip its roots from deep within the earth. “Alex, look.” A tadpole, half-submerged in mud, struggled to breathe, its mouth gasping circles of unfamiliar air. Bony legs protruded from its body like twigs. Hannah cupped the tadpole in her hands, lifted it from the mudbank, and placed it in the shallow water. But the tadpole could not swim. It floundered helplessly, its head bobbing above the water as its body heaved and palpitated. “It’ll never survive like this,” Hannah said. I scooped the tadpole from the water and carried it behind the fallen tree. I felt Hannah watch me until I disappeared behind the tree’s fan of gnarled roots. She didn’t stop me. But I didn’t stop me, either. I laid the tadpole on the hard-packed dirt beside the calcified tree trunk. For a moment I watched the tadpole shiver and suffocate, shake on the ground like a pebble during an earthquake. Then I placed the heel of my sneaker against the tadpole’s head. I felt the tadpole shudder through the rubber sole. With a quick stomp-twist I killed the tadpole next to the tall, uprooted elm tree. The tadpole’s tiny leg-bones crunched against my foot. The cracking of tiny bones entered my body, snapped and buzzed all the way up into my throat until I could not breathe. I left the tadpole there. As I walked back to Hannah and the kids and the creek, I ran my fingers along the long-dead tree-trunk. I no longer wondered about much at all.

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Dis c ov e r y

Ashley Davis Watercolor

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Flower Girl Christian Newkirk

How My Ex Says My Name Brittany Thompson My butterfly is perched on dry taste buds Lips wrapped around wings cocoon the Letters draped around the teeth Graze my name folded into colored stripes On the shingled roof of your mouth, paperTorn by last year’s tongue twister

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Hummingbird and the Flowers

Elsie Wright Sharpie pens

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Wash Away Those Years Alayna Weldon Acrylic on Masonite board

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Jambi

Alayna Weldon Watercolor, charcoal, & chalk pastels

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Signals Jacob Meves

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I Think I Left My Glasses in the Car Jewel Thompson

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Senior Viola Recital Freya Downey

I. Walton Viola Concerto Through different shades of blue your voice sounded Softly ringing against the expanse Looking up to see floating - love Lost in the navy The cerulean tone Dripping through my fingertips Outstretched and offering Periwinkle shimmering away

II. Schubert Arpeggione Sonata Low aching for the clown on the unicycle makeup melts to the white costume Covering the black pom poms Teeth showing through the reds, yellows of the lights Longing for flowers Carnations To fill the hole left by the acrobat

III. Bruch Romanze Tenderness, Fortitude Persistence, Saudade Fill the hall with a golden haze

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Inspiration from a Flute Concerto in G Major Blakely McDade Watercolor

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K atha rine He p b urn Katharine Young Digital painting

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OKC Lighthouse

Brittany Thompson

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Johnny Kayley Sockey

More than once had the phone rung that night while we sat around our mahogany dining table—Mom, Dad, Bailey, and I, with a spot left open for Johnny. As it rang, I kept thinking that was who it must be. Johnny must have been outside lurking among the pines that lined our backyard, tired, his tiny throat raw from howling. The first time it rang I watched my family, myself included, go tense. It brought me back to that starless night. To the sharp, cold, dry forest. To the first time we murdered Johnny. He laid perfectly still in the square grave we had dug for him, his milky eyes set on the crooked tree branches above. He too was tense, though not because of an all-consuming feeling of dread. A drawn-out moment passed before another series of rings began. I saw Mom look to her left where Dad sat, worry weighing down her youthful features. She was worried about herself. I was brought back to the memory of a family bonfire. There, between the flickering tips of the flames, I saw her share that same look with dad, hushly informing him that from then on he would have to be strong enough for the both of them. That evening I learned that Johnny’s body burned differently than firewood. And now, as the house phone began to ring for the third time, I started to feel sick. I felt dizzy, time now had the consistency of molasses and the smell of my mother’s slow-roasted ham, suffocating and wet. The soft pink insides of my cut were just a few hues off from the soupy mixture of what was left of Johnny in the upstairs bathtub. What was that warning about feeding a stray? Whatever it was, Mom had never paid any heed to it. She fed Johnny home-cooked meals, dressed him in cashmere sweaters and khakis, and in the end would always welcome him into the warmth of our home when he came back. And Johnny always came back. It wouldn’t matter if we buried him, cremated him, dissolved him. He would come back and Mom would always pretend. It was easier for her that way. To play pretend with Jonny. To think that he was her son and nothing more. You see, Bailey and I didn’t have a little brother. The woods were more Johnny’s mother than our own. He just strolled out of them and up to our back porch one day. He looked very much like a younger brother would, cherub cheeks and a gap-toothed smile. But little brothers don’t eat the family dog during a temper tantrum, they don’t stare at their older sisters from the foot of their bed unblinking until dawn, growling at the slightest movement they make, and they certainly aren’t able to call a house phone without any phone of their own. “Mommy?” We all looked to Mom, who looked to Dad, who laid his hand over hers.

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I wished we could stay like this; it was so much better than what would happen next. Like the last time, and the time before that, Mom’s resolve broke first. She was never strong enough. With my eyes, I pleaded to her not to do this to us again. I sat across from her, unable to speak or move in this slow moment. I was only able to watch as she slipped her dainty hand out from under Dad’s and got up from the dining table. Mom looked at us, told us that was her baby boy out there, then left the dining room. Maybe she had the right idea; maybe it was safer to play pretend with Johnny?

Oklahoma Fog

Brittany Thompson

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Office Break Asha Chidambaram Stone lithography

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Lament (Autumn) Addie Kammerlocher Embroidery

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Nature’s Gift Kirabo Banya

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Caged

Jordan Martin

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The Undesirables Emily Tucker

We were, once, the undesirables. Old McCarthy echoed back in the undesirable 1950s That we were threats from secret communist lands, We were compromised anywhere, and he would not compromise until we were squashed under patriotic anti-red military boots. (some of those boots crumbled) Back in the 1950s, an air traffic controller Lost his job in the land of freedom and money And consequently got it back when he was lavender-scared Away from his own condition of (un)desired emotion (but don’t worry, the Times said— the air traffic won’t actually be run beneath his undesired hand.) We were, once, the undesirables. In the 1960s, they served us their desirable justice Striking hot with batons and mafia raids. Our bloodstains flowed in the streets of San Francisco And our lovers sobbed, the agony of separated souls Sending us into driven oblivion. We were, once, the undesirables, when Our meeting places were ransacked by straight laced Blue men painting grey over undesirable rainbows until Back in the 1960s, someone with cheap wine Spilled on their dress screamed Why didn’t you guys do something! and then six days turned into nights of impassioned desire for justice. Still, even after smashed windows and molotov cocktails and bricks and punches We were, still, the undesirables. Back in the 1970s, we were undesired by the ones who said they wanted justice NOW, we were a legitimate concern, one that NOW considered us a disordered “ism” made up of cultureless desire We were just fire without a flame.

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Once, we were the undesirables! They threw us in camps and told us we were healed. Back in the 1980s, they pushed us into shock cages and gave us preventable headstones to cure the false disease of undesired love. Back in the 1980s, the theology of “ex-” took lives. We were the undesirables, once— Back in the 1990s, when boots on the ground were Shoved into the closet and they locked the doors and told us We were still undesirable, but at least we were tolerated. They sewed our lips together and told us We could live, but quietly. Once, a long time ago, we were the undesirables. Back in the— We were, back in the— Back in the last year, we were weeping air traffic controllers We were bleeding girls on the London metro, and Our boots have left the closet but are kicked off fighter jets because of our fearless pride in our pronouns. We are married, and we are jobless and childless and electroshock traumatized. And back in the—last week—we were told to “get AIDS and die” and we did, back in the 1980s, but Education was closeted, and we weren’t taught how to be safe. We were touchless. Back in the—yesterday— They wanted a parade for themselves, and we asked where was their back-in-the— when were their bricks and molotovs and why-don’t-you-guys-do-something against a corrupt blue Greenwich American system, and they said Where’s our love? our acceptance? And we said look down our throats and under our fingertips and back-in-our heartchained brainwaves Since that’s where we’ve felt it from back-in-those days to your modern crusade on our love we maintain.

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Techno Power Jordan Martin

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Midnight Cowboy Jordan Martin

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Leeky Boat Katharine Young Mixed media

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Why Don’t You Scream? Kirabo Banya Monotype

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Carson Jacob Meves

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Acknowledgments Volume IV of The Aster was made possible by generous financial contributions from OU’s Student Alumni Association, Student Government Association, and Office of Student Affairs. We cannot thank you enough for believing in our vision! Thank you to the staff at World Literature Today for lending us your conference room and unending support. We’ve missed seeing you all this year and can’t wait to deplete your stock of tea bags and paper coffee cups again in the future. On a personal note, thank you to the editorial board for sticking with me during the long workdays of sorting through submissions and sending out endless emails. Also, thank you for letting me put the elephant photo in the journal. It makes me really happy.

Julie Bahr

2021

To the writers, artists, editors, and readers who have made The Aster Review beautiful since the beginning, and to all those who we’ve still to meet in the years to come.