The Kudzu Review: Issue No. 69

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Fall 2022

Florida State University

600 W. College Avenue Tallahassee, Fl 32306 Copyright @ The Kudzu Review

A Note From The Editor

Dear Reader,

Since our founding in 1988, The Kudzu Review has published exceptional literature and visual art from undergraduate university students. We are proud to publish both the work of Florida State University students and undergraduate students from around the world. Our mission is to celebrate the diverse talent of emerging undergraduate student writers and artists while learning about the publishing process along the way.

With the help of our faculty advisor, Bridget Adams, our student-run editorial team works to edit and publish non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and visual art twice a year. The layout team is responsible for designing the magazine, print and/or digital. Our social media team promotes the magazine and engages with the broader writing community. Collectively, we have continued The Kudzu Review’s tradition of publishing, learning, and community-building.

Thank you to each section editor and editorial assistant for the hard work, thoughtfulness, discernment, and passion that went into publishing Issue No. 69. To the storytellers, poets, photographers, painters, and all other artists that have contributed to this issue: thank you for trusting us with your remarkable work, and we hope you continue to publish and share your art.

Banana Republic Diner Series Polymorphous Light Eruption Reaper’s Dreamer Youth
Me One Moment Daniel Um
Sean Faletti Through the Trees Espen Brante Franz Marc’s Blue Horses in Miami Mia Bonet Ghost Parade Mia Bonet Ruminations While Living in Florence, Italy E.C. Gannon The Sun Jessica Skull Still Life Resh Meck Stetna Chris Latham Transangelic Exodus MJ Brown Jessica Vayeira Moshe Hannah Hansted Noah Bookstein Rubén Darío Uribe Table Of Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 22 23 24 25 26 Pretty Little Thing Daniel Fairman 20
Forest Guardian Sundre Emilia Wonder and Sadness in Guanajuato Chris Latham Luna Hou Chris Latham Daniel Fairman Nīra Target Audience(s) Untitled Application for Friendship, I Guess Gone Shopping Things Are Looking Up Untitled 1251 Self Portrait Sun Shower Hue of Life Luminous Greatworm Gray Eyes Watching a Bluejay Mauzy Rubén Darío Uribe E.C. Gannon Chris Latham Mauzy Rachel Rose Christina Ramazzotto Jessica Resh Meck E.C. Gannon Carolyn T Andy Marlowe 28 29 34 35 41 42 43 44 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 Untitled Andy Marlowe
Untitled Jessica “While They Were Starting Families” Kiersten Kiara Wright A Glass of Papaya Juice Daniel Ardila Remember? Sophia Persichinj 55 56 57 58 59
Riding the Border Jenna Prunty

Give Me One Moment

Oil and Pastel on wood, 11x15”


The plane overhead ROARS, a flying tiger or lion, but good ol’ Archie’s louder; he’s raging, grounded with the fucking dogs in the dog park: cramped,packed,jammed,big,small,skinny,hairy, borzoi,beagle,bulldog,basset,boxers,bullies.

The whole place reeks to high heaven—every dog is shitting and pissing, bloody savages, but today, Archie, he’s sitting, fuming, watching the sun fall from the sky; what’s he thinking… does he want to fly? He could do it.

Beneath his wide brown marble-eyes, he’s not like the others (aside from his nasty temper, his puffed up chest, his unchecked bravado); that boy’s a thinker, a dreamer, if there was ever to be a flying dog? It’d be him.

But today, Archie forgets the Big Cat Plane, his dreams, he forgets the dog he’s not and the dog he is, because when the Big Dog struts over and looks at him funny, that chihuahua sees red, he gets mean, but Big Dog’s meaner.

Boy, does Archie go, a question going with him, grazing the underbelly of the plane overhead, of who he’d have been if he’d given himself the chance.

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Through The Trees

35 mm photograph taken on a Chinon Ce-4

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Franz Marc’s Blue Horses in Miami

Digital collage and pasted typography

Ghost Parade

Digital Illustration

Living in Florence, Italy

Ruminations While

For Collin

There’s a billboard telling me Jesus is the only cure for these primal urges. Richard is cutting his hair beside me, sprinkling his locks on the shoulder of I-95, heading southbound thru the secession state to satiate our desire for Tallahassee. There’s an Americana ineffable on this highway, in the menthol cigarette Richard is lighting as he says something about his theory relating cardio and punishment, calling himself Dostoevsky of the Carolinas. We’re interrupted by more stars and stripes hanging limply over another leggy advertisement. Why did you turn on the radio? he asks. Because I just can’t do it anymore, Richard, is what I say. I just can’t do it. He laughs.

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The Sun

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Skull Still Life

White charcoal

Resh Meck

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Digital Artwork

Transangelic Exodus

A Fiction Piece

Content Warning:

The following piece contains scenes of mentioned/non-graphic rape, bigotry, and pedophilia. Reader discretion is advised.

The thing about the Tennessee suburbs—they have teeth. Every day when Wren rides their bike to school they feel it, the jaws of their town about to snap shut. It always makes them pedal a little faster, feeling the autumn air tighten like that. It’s comforting and constricting in the same breath. James Takeda, Wren’s best and only friend, has just gotten the keys to an old pick-up with the fender hanging off. Both of them would beg and borrow their way to a bigger life. Wren thinks that’s why they get along so well. Layered chain necklaces, top surgery dreams, and the taste of other worlds on their tongues; that’s Wren and James.

There is no better brand of escapism for the modern genderqueer teen than theater. Cleetus Finch, their drama director, announces that he will hold a weekend retreat at his farmhouse up in Mimosa, land of the nobodies. He’ll work shop his newest play with a small, carefully chosen cast.

James leans in, doused in a halo of Old Spice, and says, “We have to go.”

Wren can already see them nestled in those hills, waiting to seize their chance at goodness, even great ness. Wren does not tell their mother. They know what she’ll say, so they lie and say they’re staying with James for the weekend. This way, allegations won’t stick to the walls of Wren’s house like flies on rotting fruit. “His wife is half his age,” their mom always says. “She was a stu-

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dent at your school when they met. He was teaching. Wren, that’s not normal.”

But Wren remembers the first time they stumbled into re hearsal as a lost little freshman. Finch shared his trail mix and showed them pictures of his kids. “Welcome to the family, kid.”

When they arrive at Finch’s beat-up farmhouse, Wren’s chest tightens with excitement. They dream of cities and theaters flooded with light, but they’ll take anywhere other than home. Right now, anywhere happens to be a house surrounded by poplar trees and acres of dead grass. James pulls out his phone to identify the sleek bird on Finch’s roof.

“Look, Wren,” he whispers. “That’s an osprey. Pandion haliaetus. You don’t see something like that at home very often.”

He’s gotten a lot taller these last few months and that’s without even starting T. Bandaged fingers from a botched attempt at woodcarving, one pierced ear, warm brown eyes, a ratty hoodie that smells like boy and friend and home. Wren is overcome with the urge to tell him how much they love him, but they settle for rubbing their fist against his head.

“Birds are lame, birdbrain,” they say. “You’re lame!”

There are six of them standing on the lawn, carrying suitcases, duffel bags, and boxes full of props. Wren feels like a doomsday prepper, ready for anything, barring a plague of locusts. Their red-dyed hair hides under a bucket hat that says Dad Friend, the one James got them for Christmas. And there’s Finch on the front porch, wearing a corduroy jacket and a tattered baseball hat, ushering them in with his crooked smile and comforting calluses. He claps Wren’s shoulder as they pass through

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the doorway.

“Hey, kid,” he says. “Up top.”

Wren grins and high-fives him; his laughter is husky and good-natured. For a moment, Wren remembers how much smaller they are than him, how his presence takes over a room.

“That was forceful! Got muscles from moving sets around?”

Wren flexes their nonexistent biceps. “Oh, yeah. Maybe I’ll forget the whole writing thing and just be a stagehand.”

“Don’t even joke,” Finch says, wide-eyed. “It’d be such a waste.”

He pulls Wren inside with the others a few seconds later, but in that liminal space, there is no one in the world except the two of them.


Auditions for Finch’s new show, Scenes from the End of the World, are up in the attic where his children aren’t al lowed to meddle. Wren settles onto a musty bean bag chair to watch Eden, the shoo-in for the female lead, and James. The other cast members wait off to the side.

“I’m not going to apologize,” James says, voice flat and shoulders raised.

Eden stares off into the carefully constructed distance, the space where the scene ends and the audience begins. Her face is contorted with spite. They are husband and wife, stuck in a post-apocalyptic bunker. Wren tastes metal and death in their mouth.

“No, of course not,” says Eden. “You think saving my life is enough, huh?”

“I’m not some heartless monster, Tabitha, I just…”

“You just what? Cheated on me?” Eden turns away and crosses her arms. Not acting, reacting. “Conse quences don’t just go away because the world ends.”

This is far from Finch’s best work, but James plays

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the role like he was born for it. Eden’s vowels stretch wide and airy like they always do when she acts. Five years from now she will be one of Juilliard’s top students, studying drama and music with the all-time greats. She and Wren will be good friends after college. For now, there is only the unspoken tension between the star and the support. Eden’s sights are set on bigger things, too. Wren can’t blame her.

Finch surveys them from the doorway. Every male char acter he writes is a fragment of himself. James acts accordingly. He grows bigger as he roughly grabs Eden’s wrists, eyes like an insect’s. In this moment, he has be come the mirror image of their teacher. “It was the end of the world. I was scared. Wasn’t thinking right.”

Wren has taken to watching Finch watch auditions. They can read his expression; tonight he wants to crush James under his heel and call it love. You’re my kids, he once told Wren after rehearsal. Love y’all even more than my real ones. Don’t tell ‘em. Everyone in the attic applauds, the noise seeping into the rafters. Finch doesn’t say anything. He loves a good dramatic pause.

“Guys, that’s what I’m talking about,” he says. “James and Eden aren’t acting emotions, they’re acting objectives. We should all take notes from them on commanding a scene.”

James grins ear to ear at the praise, but Finch holds up a hand.

“The only thing is,” Finch says, “You’re not believable as a cynical middle-aged man. You’re acting your ass off, but at a certain point it comes down to looks.”

James’s smile crumbles as soon as it is built. Everyone giggles when Finch says ass.

“I just don’t buy it,” Finch says, feigning pity. “Next to Eden, you look… flimsy.”

Eden flinches—the other edge of the sword has pressed


against her at last. Despite her incredible talent, Finch never stops talking about how tall and matronly she is, so she gets the leading roles wrapped in barbed wire. He swears up and down that it’s not because she’s Black, it’s not, but those are not the hips of Ginger Rogers or Julie Andrews. He’ll make her take her cornrows out for the show, but she will wear them to her first red carpet.

“Makeup could fix some of that,” Wren offers haltingly. “Lighting, too.”

“Son, I know you can’t help your situation.” Finch ig nores Wren and takes James’s face in his hands, who balks and tries to push away the thumbs on his cheekbones. No such luck. “But you’re just too skinny and small. That might pan out later, but it’s not gonna pan out here.”

“Can I ask, sir,” James spits out, “what role you have in mind for me?”

“Well, you’re an actor, right?” Finch strokes James’s face. “The most impressive acting you can do is sticking with the girls, at least until you can make yourself look like a guy.”

“I don’t have to look like a guy.” James’s eyes flash as he tries to rip away, but Finch’s hands come around his

“I know, James, but we want this show to go places.

James slumps, eyes downcast as he tries to avoid Finch’s gaze. His wrists come away an angry, brutal red. The casting notes blur in front of Wren’s face.

Wren knows Finch is not a kind man, even though he has smile lines and loves dogs. Loving something does not mean you care for it correctly. For example, he says he loves Wren but does not know what to do with them. He introduced Wren to camp and commedia dell’arte, Samuel Beckett and Sondheim, but their talent outpaces him.

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“Make the words sing,” he told Wren over their keyboard. “I know you can.”

If he ever asked, Wren would pull all their memories, bloody and slimy, from their skull. Here’s the song that saved their life. Here’s the vampire fanfiction that made them want to be a writer. Here’s the cast from falling off the auditorium catwalk. Here’s the moment when staring in the mirror they knew their body was wrong. Here’s their first kiss drunkenly shared with James on the local playground. Here’s the infectious laughter that followed right after. Here’s Wren’s life for Finch to pick

No one loves Wren the way they want to be loved ex cept James, who has just been methodically, gently ground into dust. Still, Wren likes being the favorite. Being in vincible. But Wren does not at all like how Finch grabbed James’s wrists in the attic. They dial their mother’s phone number but do not call. They don’t want to hear the betrayal and smugness thick in her voice. Maybe the fantasy of being known wasn’t wise after all.

After dinner, Wren finds James shivering in the bed of

“Jamie, you need gloves if you’re gonna be out here,” Wren says before they swing over the side and snuggle up beside him. He doesn’t soften into them like

“Rather be out here than in there,” James whispers. “I’m never getting a male role. Ever.”

Twelve years from now, James Takeda will have been on four magazine covers and cast for a main role in the new Star Wars trilogy. He will be the proud father of two chubby, perfect baby girls, and he’ll have long forgotten how Finch’s calluses felt against his skin. Now, though, Wren sinks.

“You’re out to everyone,” Wren says. “We’re out to everyone.”

“He doesn’t care about us.” James burrows further into


his jacket. “Didn’t you hear what happened with Eden last week?”

When Wren shakes their head, James sighs and turns his face away.

“He invited Eden to get dinner after rehearsal last month,” he murmurs. “Alone. His own wife is barely older than us. Where is she, by the way? Don’t you think that’s a little strange?”

“That’s bullshit,” Wren says, not quite believing their own words.

“The facts are right there, Wren.” James’s eyes look sunken in the darkness.

“He buys us ice cream after competitions. He lets us nap in the back room.”

James just wraps his arm around Wren and huffs out a long breath through his nose.


Wren’s laptop screen lights up the darkness as they fix Finch’s mistakes, careful not to insert themself into the narrative. Following directions is one of the most important things a writer can do, Finch once told them. They took it to heart.

Wren can’t wait to show Finch how well they’ve saved his work. It’s 2 A.M., shadows long across the hallway. They hurry towards Finch’s room. He’s probably not even awake, right? Wren might be dreaming, sleepwalking even. At any moment they’ll wake up, slumped over their laptop and—

Warm light trickles out from the inside, and a figure appears in the hallway. It’s James, curled in on himself. He’s in nothing but his binder and a pair of pineapple-print boxers, his pants clutched to his chest. He looks up, sees them standing there—his face crumples as Wren stumbles over to him.

Wren walks him to the nearest door and immediately

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locks it, hands shaking, eyes blurring over with tears and exhaustion. The laundry room’s lights blare on and now Wren can see the tear tracks on James’s face and the cut on his lip, the bruise on his neck.

“I fought him a little,” James rasps, “but it doesn’t matter in the end.”

“How long has this been happening?”

“Long enough.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Wren knows it’s the wrong thing to say as soon as it comes out of their mouth, but James just cracks a wry, sad smile.

“Because men don’t get raped, dumbass,” James says, then promptly bursts into tears.

They both spend the night huddled on the floor amongst piles of clean linens. James lets Wren stroke the bridge of his nose until he’s fast asleep. The excitement in his eyes when Finch announced his retreat hadn’t been a ruse. It was all real. Or maybe Wren just didn’t want to see the warning signs.

Wren’s guilt drags them sleepless into the woods. They won’t find any answers by scrolling on social media, no matter how hard they search for them. It’s terrifying, walking alone at night like this, but it’s a fear that can be labeled and tamed and controlled. This is nothing like the fear a man can instill. That kind of terror takes root and chokes life from the inside out.

Wren will grow up with a lot of trust issues. The paranoia will be so bad that James will wake them up from night terrors, holding them in his arms as they shake. What starts as an attempt to control this fear ends up becoming a successful career in writing horror movies. Wren excels at controlling tension in an audience. It started here, where they want nothing more than to make Finch feel this kind of bottomless dread. And they will.


Wren comes back from the woods with a plan and a stomach full of rage. James’s knuckles are white as he clenches his pillow, but he wants justice more than he wants a home and a family here. It’s easy to steal Finch’s phone. Wren bypasses Finch’s lockscreen with ease—his password is “Nora,” his daughter’s name—and they find exactly what they need. The camera is always hidden, perched on his desk in an innocuous place, and the subject is mostly James. Sometimes it’s Wren. As sick as it sounds, some of the most startling videos are the ones where Finch is bent over Wren, looking at their screen and guiding them through the writing process. Nothing sexual about it. Just power, pure and simple. After James sends the evidence to Wren and deletes the chat history, he lets out a deflating, almost hopeless breath.

“Where do we go now?” James asks. “Anywhere is better than here,” Wren says. “We could go to the police, but only if that’s what you want. Or, there’s a Waffle House a couple of miles from here. What ever you need.”

He chooses Waffle House; after all, what would the police really do? Wren throws their stuff in the backseat and queues their favorite album, the one about angels without haloes and mass queer exodus. They mumble the lyrics under their breath as James puts the car in reverse. Finch stands on the front porch in his pajamas, hair disheveled, mouthing get back inside like he has the right. Neither of them will ever get a real confrontation or an explanation. Disobeying this man, the closest thing they’ve ever had to a father, used to be Wren’s worst fear. But tonight is not like other nights. Tonight, Wren rolls down the window and screams, “Fuck you forever!”

“Yeah!” James yells, voice cracking as he shifts the truck into drive. “Fuck you for-fucking-ever!”

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In the end, this is a love story. This is James and Wren and Wren and James, tangled up as they laugh at YouTube videos and knock their knees together. Wren and James, painting each other’s nails, wiping each other’s tears, wanting, sharing, feeling. James and Wren, screaming for each other in their sleep for years to come. One day, James Takeda will become a household name. One day, they will both sit in the Tennessee hills and remember every thing in silence. Peace is hard to come by for a long, long time, but one day, Wren will write the end of this man. For now, they get the hell out of there and let the highway swallow them whole.

Issue No. 69

Diner Series

Acrylic paint on canvas primed with gesso

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You are a bluebird, come to roost at my back porch light And I am a 12-year-old with my father’s old BB gun he used to wave around.

You pluck and preen in my mother’s birdbath, As if you are a child trying to peel an orange, And I wait for a moment where my mother is not looking. You pick at the birdseed she leaves for you, While I eat the frozen dinner she left out last night. You sing in the cold hours of the morning when I get ready for school And I tug on my tight blue jeans, hairs standing up as the dew melts—

Past the car, Past the hole in his heart, And then I raise my father’s BB gun And point it at you Just like he did— Bang,

Issue No. 69 23 By: Hannah Hansted 4 feet × 6 feet Acrylic on Canvas Reaper’s Dreamer

Banana Republic

This is a place where the President walks the same strange, shimmering streets I struggled to understand. Show me a map of my country, I said. They pointed to the regions of my brain. It's a fertile land for rebels and bananas, but it’s not that we're crazy or less than you. We’ve only lost it in these quick revolutions, in dark dances with the Guerillas in our jungles.

There the soldiers were muttering: “Nothing is sacred.” We walked through the bamboo shoots where sunlight and death both glint between the stalks, scoping us out. When we were boys we put on a play about the Guerillas. My line was, “I know I’m only a runt but you see soon I’ll be a lion.” They beat me for going off script though there was never any script.

If only we had talked about Love from when we were born. Maybe we’d have learned that even in Fear we're in the presence of God, Amigo. When sitting in peace, silently waiting, getting to know each other under the terracotta, in the villa’s gazebo near the flowing water, sipping imported lemon Ceylon tea, know that to ask and wonder are jewels among our luxuries.

Why didn’t they tell us before? God's kingdom is like a thief. It comes when you least expect it and takes your whole life and treasure. If only we’d known during the raids! God knows, I needed a faith I’d lie down in the tall grass for. Only now in this late hour, I know somebody died for my sins. And God knows, I'm glad it wasn't me.

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Polymorphous Light Eruption

Made using scan lines

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Pretty Little Thing

Idon’t like killing things anymore, though we all do it, well, most of us anyway, like when a fat cockroach with its twitching black legs scurries into your room looking for a warm place to stay, and your blood boils but you gotta do something, I hate the crunch, the yellow in nards stuck to my shoe, or a mosquito landing on my arm, catching it in the act – splat - small burst of my own blood stained on my skin sayin’, “I gotchu fucker”, but it was bothering me, sucking my blood, so I killed it, you gotta be some special breed of tree-hugger to let a mosquito take your blood and flyaway, I mean, that’s just how they live, but these are ugly things, right, like pests, but I killed a pretty thing once, mom bought me a .22 rifle to keep me busy and I shot cans and bottles, hanging them up on a tree with a rope or set them up on a box and moved it further each time it got too easy and after a while it just wasn’t any fun anymore, not when you get too good at something, besides it was summer and I was out in the mountains and there wasn’t much to do so I got good at shooting, I remember my mom’s boyfriend’s brother showed up to dinner one night, the one that said he used to be an exorcist and told us we should leave the farmhouse on account of it being next to a graveyard, “Nothing to be scared of up here”, says mom, and I guess she’s right, even though she’d tell me she could hear weird sounds coming from the crooked trees and the crumbling gravestones at night, then mom’s boyfriend says he just wishes we could get rid of the damn crows ruining the crops, “Why don’t you make yourself useful and start shooting them before they ruin us”, he says, and I thought I didn’t wanna kill anything that big, not a pretty thing like a bird, even if crows are dark and scary-looking sometimes, but the next time I was out there shooting bottles hung from the tree

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I saw the silhouette of a bird flutter and sit on a quiet branch in the distance, and I thought, might as well make myself useful, so I aimed my rifle and put the birdy right between the iron-sights, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger, boy, that thing fell like a stone, I can’t lie, I felt damn good for a second, so I ran down there all excited and saw the thing – the tiny thing smaller than my own childish hands, bright yellow feathers, blue iridescent wings, soft white strip under its tail, now still, limp, dead beady eyes staring at me, I never saw such a pretty thing, and I was the one that killed it.

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Digital Artwork


Emilia and I have the same taste in music—soft, lyri cal, and sad. Before we know anything else about each other, we’ve decided to be freshman-year college roommates. Two days later, I will learn to angle my bedroom lamp so the least amount of light slivers beneath thedoorframe; to listen for the creak of my parents’ footsteps in the hallway as Em and I whisper late into the night. Curled beneath the covers, phone cradled in my hands like an offering, there are times I forget to process the words she says. Each time she smiles, a gleaming white moon in the darkness, the way her face colors and blooms is all I can see.

Em is an easy person to love. A week after we’ve met, she writes me a poem, one that floats and shimmers in my chest like a round, brilliant balloon. When she learns my first and middle names both translate to mean “moon,” she rechristens me “Moonmoon,” using the nickname every evening to wish me good night. She dresses too nicely, and laughs too freely, and loves with her entire self.

One night, months after we move in, Em and I will drag two pink saucer chairs onto the balcony of our dorm to watch the last lunar eclipse of the year. We are both in our pajamas, and the cold November air bites at our ankles and cheeks as we huddle together in the dark. It is nearly five a.m. when she will ask me, at the drowsy tail end of the night, if I believe in soulmates. In the moment, I will reel off all my usual answers: no, it’s complicated, I don’t know. It is only after she slips into sleep I will realize what I mean is, not until you.

What I don’t know, yet, is that Emilia is bipolar; that memories of trauma mottle her past like old skin; that she has attempted suicide twice. Even

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when she explains this to me over FaceTime, her face unnervingly calm through the screen, I still can’t quite reconcile the version of herself she describes—“broken,” “selfish,” “depressed”—with the person I have come to know. They flit back and forth in my mind, these two Ems, like opposite lanes on a two-way street: connected, but separated, too, by the double white line painted on the asphalt and the supposition that every driver on the road wants to live.

Sometimes, though, a collision is inevitable. Sometimes, all you can do is watch the fallout.


The third time Em tries to kill herself, I am away. I’ve gone home for the weekend, like I do every other week— and, in the process, nearly sentenced my roommate to death.

Monday morning, I creak open the door to our room to find Em still in bed, limbs tangled in her baby-blue comfort er. This in itself is strange: Em has a class at 9:30, and is almost always gone by the time I drag myself awake. Then my eyes adjust to the darkness, and I am acutely aware of how different everything looks from how I left it. Clothes and books and papers are strewn all over Em’s side of the room; I spot a pleated skirt slung over her sig nature rose-pink combat boots, her tan corduroy backpack crumpled carelessly on the floor. The pungent scent of salt-and-vinegar chips—the culprit a gaping bag on Em’s bedside shelf—wafts through the air.

I’ve just crept across the room to my desk, eyeing the lump of fabric that is Em for any sign of movement, when I hear a soft shuffling at the door. It’s Marie, one of my suitemates. Her face is gray and drawn, the skin beneath her eyes dark, purplish, like the beginnings of a bruise. Wordlessly, she motions me out of the room.

In the hallway, Marie and her roommate, Grace, recount

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to me the events of the past few hours in hushed voices. Last night, at one in the morning, they were just about to sleep when they heard an erratic knocking on their door. They opened it to find Em, shaking, body dwarfed by an oversized T-shirt, fist clenched around a small orange prescription bottle—empty. She’d poured the pills out onto her dresser, counted the exact number she’d need to overdose into her hand, and stopped. Felt the world sharpen, tighten, around her, lungs prematurely constricting. Dropped the pills. Watched them scatter to the floor like pearls. Stumbled out of the room, into the hallway, to Grace and Marie. Scared them half to death.

Grace tells me she hasn’t slept, that she’s planning to skip her classes for the day. “We made a plan to walk with her to CAPS this morning,” she says, twisting a lock of hair around and around her finger. “But I still couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop worrying that if I did, I’d wake up and she’d be gone.”

“We’re just so glad she told us,” says Marie. “We’re just so glad we were there.” Guilt gnaws at my chest, thorny and sharp. I’m not sure how to feel as Marie nudges Em awake, as Grace stifles a yawn and moves to hug her. I hug her, too, tight, like she might disappear—like at any moment, I might look at her and see through her skin to the bone. But, of course, she remains solid, opaque, un readable. My mind careens as we break apart; there are so many things I need to tell her. Words claw at my throat, ones I can’t quite dislodge.

“I love you,” I say finally, though the words tumble out of me on fawn legs, clumsy and bowed. “I love you so much.”

Em smiles. It’s not her real smile. Her features are wan and washed-out in the dark.

“I love you too, Moonmoon.” The words slip from her mouth so effortlessly it scares me.

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CAPS transfers Emilia to a general hospital for an indefinite amount of time. Hours later, it is one a.m.— exactly twenty-four hours since Em’s attempt—and I can’t sleep. Instead, I lie spreadeagled on my bed, counting gray speckles on the ceiling. The overhead lights—too harsh and fluorescent even on the best of days—glare brightly across my skin. It is amazing to me that their bulbs haven’t sputtered out; that I still have fifty pages of reading due tomorrow; that the rest of the world has simply chosen to move on.

I blink, once, twice; will myself to listen to the breath shivering in and out of my lungs. Suddenly, the hollow silence of the room feels unbearable. I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, survey the room as if for the first time. My gaze snaps to Em’s desk, to the papers strewn across the wooden surface. I spot a crumpled essay, marred with red ink, protruding from a jumbled pile of biology notes; a stack of books, tabs poking out from the pages, perched precariously in the corner; a barrage of Sharpies and highlighters and crinkled receipts littering the floor below. It’s a mess demanding to be dealt with—one, I convince myself, Em shouldn’t have to return home to. At a time when it no longer matters, I am desperate to make myself useful.

Over the next hour, I restore order to Em’s side of the room. I organize all her class materials by subject and arrange them in a neat grid on her desk, then straighten the books and knick-knacks on her shelf. Move, next, to the clothes heaped at the foot of her closet, folding and hanging and putting out of sight. Turn my gaze to her bed, and hesitate; the way Em’s comforter is slumped just so, I can almost imagine her body is still cocooned somewhere underneath. Then I shake the thought and climb up, sweeping salt-and-vinegar crumbs from her sheets. There is something perversely therapeutic about it all, this whole

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cold, clinical affair: in the waning hours of the night, I can almost imagine that in sorting out Em’s things, I am simul taneously sorting out something bigger. Like maybe I can learn to understand her again.

The last thing I do before going to bed is write a haiku. Over the next two weeks, I will pen nearly twenty more onto pastel sticky notes of every color, one for each day Em is gone, and tape them onto the cold metal frame of her bed. Em will leave them up even after she returns, telling me, many times, that she doesn’t deserve me as a roommate. I want to laugh every time she does. Want to tell her she deserves every kindness the world has given her and more—that when I stand beside her, beside her silver-mooned smile, I am not sure anything I can do will ever be enough.

Still, I find myself trying to love her; trying to pick up all these broken pieces off the floor.

Still, I wonder whether I do it for her, or for me.

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Forest Guardian
Digital Artwork

Wonder and Sadness in Guanajuato

We sit at the balcony of the second floor of La Trattoria. Javier, the smiling waiter, tells us his stage name is Bowie as he brings out a sizzling steak basted in onions and butter. He comes back with ‘banderitas’, one shot glass of sweet red clamato, one of silver Patron tequila, and one of lime juice – the Mexican banner.

While we eat, we see a couple across from us canoodling, the woman resting her head on his shoulder while they feed each other and make googly eyes, the sauce from the carbonara dripping down their lips. It is a nauseatingly romantic scene, but you can tell they are hopelessly and desperately mad for each other.

I make a joke about my girlfriend’s eyebrows looking like the McDonald’s logo and she gets up to go to the bathroom. I make this joke often and she never laughs at it anymore, but she never stays mad either. Javier sighs as he watches her go, comes up to the table, and tells me not to worry. He has a plan.

Below is the splendor of the charming Jardin Union. It is a clear night filled with laughter and joy, a tumultuous crowd celebrating life beneath the towering Juarez theater with its Corinthian pillars and statues of Greek gods, beside it the Church of Saint Diego, the façade an elaborate stone carving surrounded by pink faded walls and a great red cupola rising above it.

Little carts line the street with guacamayas, tacos al pastor, sweetened corn with chile, and different assortments which display the ingenuity of Mexican gastronomy. Competing mariachi bands, dressed in ornate black suits embroidered with

Issue No. 69

silver and gold ask passers by for a song. An elderly couple consents. The lead singer bellows the cathartic ‘grito’ as it resounds across the square, the trumpets and guitars join in. The couple takes each other’s familiar hands and sway from side to side, tapping their feet, enjoying their sweet embrace. It is enough to make anyone believe in love like when you see an elderly couple sit at a park bench holding hands in comfortable silence. A drunk middle-aged man dances with every girl he sees, switching from hand to hand. The girls humor him because everyone is happy. Costumed jesters holding instruments announce the ‘callejoneada’ tour will begin, where groups wander through the narrow streets of Guanajuato, this romantic city in the hills lit by pale glowing lamp posts, and drink as the jesters reveal the myths and history behind the fifty-two winding alleyways. Everyone is dancing, eating, or singing. It is like some big reunion of friends who simply haven’t met yet.

Annia sits down across from me. The poor joke forgotten. Javier returns with a cheesecake and winks at me, “For the lady. Excellent choice, sir.” This is his way of saving us and our relationship. Though I had no say in the matter, and I told her as much, she is just happy for the free dessert.

After the meal we walk down to the square half-drunk and dizzy from the crowd where the garden is lit by tall yellow lamplights giving the street an ethereal glow. The center of the square is full of Indian Laurel trees, the rich long branches providing a canopy, keeping it cool. Soft wind makes the leaves shimmer, even they express their delight. A brightly lit gazebo surrounded by roses is full of dancing children. There is nothing left to do but dance ourselves.

It is a good evening in the Jardin Union of Guanajuato.

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There is a small red bridge that overhangs a cobblestone road. On the bridge is a café where couples smoke cigarettes and drink Modelo. A student is reading her book and readjusts her glasses as she turns a page.

We stand by the bridge as the sun is setting, the light and shadow swirl and play on the faded colonial walls. The breeze is fresh and good. A handsome young man finds a spot under the bridge resting his back against the cool concrete. There is something sad about him. He seems lost in some deep musing, searching for something, his dark eyes fixed on the ground. His contemplation is interrupted by a deep breath and, strangely, he begins to sing.

Ya no estás más a mi lado, corazón

En el alma, solo tengo soledad

Y si ya no puedo verte

¿Por qué Dios me hizo quererte

Para hacerme sufrir más?

It is a sweet voice that fills the street with longing, the melancholy notes enough to make flowers weep. It is a lament to the loss of love his love. He says her name between the verses, the utterance of her memory burns on his lips. He remembers her as if in a dream: shared embraces, drunken escapades, hidden `kisses, to have found a counterpart to share the loneliness of the world, and then suddenly gone. He knows that she will forget him and perhaps, with time, he will forget her too, but not truly, not ever. She is a part of him always.

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He does not ask for money with his song. He only wants the world to feel what he feels in this raw moment of expression. Night comes and he cries under the bridge, only a few tears, and then he begins again. ...

I am at a café in the early afternoon nursing a hangover. I take a sip of my coffee when she appears before me. She is only a child dressed in pink; her legs shaped like parenthesis. She is raising money by selling candy to get treatment for her disfigured legs. Beaming on her face are the sweetest eyes I have ever seen, dark and endless, lost like a puppy tossed by the side of the road. I give her everything I have in my wallet and tell her she can keep the candy. She moves as if on stilts to the next table and asks again, and again, and again.

When I return a year later, in the same café, with a worse hangover, I see her again. Her legs are the same and it seems as if she has not aged a day. In the distance I see her ambling towards a woman. The girl gives her the stack of money. The woman nods at her, the girl reaches for a piece of candy, and she gets smacked across the face. She gets sent back into the street. I realize her legs will stay same and the city will stay the same. The woman counts her money as the girl takes her slow steps looking for the next group of tourists with the red mark of her mother’s love across her cheek. ...

Guanajuato is a mosaic on the hills, the tiles burst with flavor – stout colonial homes of navy blue and soft pink, a great yellow church at its center, a tall stone university with a vibrant college scene. To traverse it you must walk up hills and

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down hills, cross narrow roads, and streets without sidewalks.

We have lunch in a courtyard with a water fountain at its center. A woman strums the strings of her guitar softly. As we eat our meal of shrimp cooked in lime juice and chiles, I see a man walking across the courtyard. He has a cane and taps it quickly in an arc and wears dark glasses. I realize he is blind and begging for money. Most people pay him no mind. I wonder how he manages to survive in such a treacherous city where the loss of sight is a sentence to suffer. There are no protections for the dis abled here or for the old with tired aching limbs. Somehow, he goes on. Somehow, he finds a way through the darkness. Though he cannot see I notice it is everyone else who choose not to see him.


We wander these charming streets of a life lived not so long ago, a testament to the beauty and cruelty of colonialism, beauty etched with sorrow. We decide to walk up to the silver mines as it is a tourist attraction now. On the way there we see a jewelry store with an armed guard. Inside are beautiful gems and stones from other still functioning mines. A disheveled man with a long beard stands by the window and stares at a diamond ring. He does not blink. He does not move but stays there, eyes full of dead longing.

Hundreds of men were crushed and suffocated in the dark mines, paid a pittance for it. A statue outside the mines commemorates the widowed wives and abandoned families. There is a complex history here, too rich to be briefly described, as is the case with all of Latin America, a people whose wealth was the cause of its poverty. Rich in resources to be sold but even more so in labor to be exploited.



At the end of the day, I return to the same street with the jewelry store, and see the man, still, unmoving, a statue staring at the curse of his poverty. Then there is me, watching all of this, the man, the city, and the suffering of it all is reduced to a tourist attraction like the mines, to a man staring at a precious thing that he will never be able to afford.

Yes, there is a charm to this city, a sense of history, that important things happened here, and I am lucky to be here, to feel the ripple of time and man’s great yearning to discover itself. I ask myself how I can change things, in a place I don’t belong, but in truth I don’t belong anywhere. I am a tourist, a fleeting thing seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. I am not here to change things but for my own selfish interest disguised as a desire to learn and experience culture. They say the tourist helps stimulate the local economy of a place but we must ask ourselves what mechanisms and systems allowed it so that I could come here and not the other way around. Then I wonder how I would feel if I were stuck at home, treading the thin line between poverty and subsistence, when a group of tourists with their awful Hawaiian shirts, dark sunglasses, and sunburnt faces stare at me on my way to work and think to themselves, “Look, there is the man in great suffering. The poor thing.”

The Kudzu Review

Self Portrait

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Visual Typography
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Digital Collage Nīra

Target Audience(s)

I dedicate my poems to: the uncles that dodged Vietnam and died at the VA; the Greyhound station voices that told me I was too young to be anything at all; the Jerseyans that talk on the phone too loudly and with both hands; the nuns we watched commit suicide on cable television, the real meat of it interrupted by static and then a succession of lingerie commercials; the ranch hands with the raised skin (no one really cares if it’s benign); the mothers wallpapering nurseries with food stamps; the tourists eating vegan nacho cheese dip at the roadside attraction; the college student reading the sunday times in a hungover cafe; the gas station attendant with the winning lottery ticket in the back pocket of acid washed skinny jeans; and that comedian that knows I’m not talking about America but Americana, the art of contradicting, amalgamating.

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Luminous Greatworm

Digital Artwork


Sun Shower

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Photography on a cannon T5i

Hue of Life

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Digital Illustration

Gray Eyes Watching a Bluejay

The Kudzu Review

Gone Shopping

Issue No. 69
Acylic paint

Things Are Looking Up

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Digital Illustration

Application for Friendship, I Guess

If you’ve ever avoided conversations about cul-de-sacs ad nauseum, named your daughter after the woman you never finished writing, mused about the eloquence of your physics textbook, given inebriated soliloquies on obscure literary movements, refused to look at a map on a first or second date, thought about how they’d dress you postmortem, waited at an unmanned window after placing your order with the voices in your head, gotten high off giddiness while purchasing turkey sandwiches at a Mass Pike gas station, eaten a second dinner on a Tuesday night, or fallen in love with the ugliness of the American highway system in the way only a mother could, then I think we’d get along.

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Untitled 1251

Digital with Ibis Paint X application using an oil paint replica brush


Issue No. 69
Digital Photograph


Digital Photograph

Riding the Border

I’m afraid of what this summer will hold, I’ve spent endless hours praying and pleading For something to save me, but what if I go back to last summer in Colorado where the green forgets its own name almost like I did, back to when Death handed me his cane even if I was too weak to hold it with my bloodied wrists, hands hanging to my arms by the barest thread of skin my blood trickling down the silver lion head handle its mane now a blooming field of roses, the mahogany wooden shaft shining in a lustful scarlet, and when his cane snaps and I fall into the backseat of my car, my fingers staining the leather in a strawberry cabernet, Death holds his lips just over mine, looming on top of me in a silent tease for a touch that would make me crumble like ancient stone in the wind, a kiss that would draw the air from my lungs like smoke is pulled from the heat of a smothered flame never to return again – I reach for his face hoping to smear his pale moonshine cheekbones with the tips of my bloody fingers – I want to feel the cool grip of mercy let it fester and boil, sear the stumps of my mangled wrists into the allusion of a person, but then I inhale, and I am desperate for an escape now, I don’t know then if I was desperate for the sweet gift of his dark tongue, or for the chance to be sturdy on my own again.

Jessica Graphite and Colored Pencil Untitled

“While They Were Starting Families”

She was slicked up lightning under strobe lights on a Saturday night, palm-shielding her red solo rim from the boys of poison, or whispering sweet nothings into half-moon brackets for them. Everyone thinks her behavior is cataclysmic. It ripples seismic waves across her hometown, echoes like deep-layered brown noise and memories. But they don’t understand this is her counterculture renaissance. And if women must be the gatherers, this one gathers life before death, cuts her grass with gasoline, and never mistakes a horn in the distance as a fire drill for the rapture. And if she does bring it upon herself by guzzling so much caffeinated cyanide that it induces a forever dream, or if she sucks the nicotine down too fast and her final cough feels like soda crackers lightly smeared with Peter Pan, at least she can say that while they were starting families, she was doing everything to avoid a house of rust and hollowed wood.

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A Glass of Papaya Juice

Before he died my old man revealed to me his one Regret—the contemplation of a fallen leaf.

“Twenty-five seconds,” he said, “that were five too Many. I could have gotten to the bottom of that leaf

“In only twenty. Though as it is I’ve been late five seconds All the rest of my life.” He might’ve said something else

Like he loves me or “I’m proud of you, son,” but, oh well, There wasn’t the time for it, being five seconds too late.

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Issue No. 69 59
Fall 2022 StaFF Editor in ChiEf Madeline Paskow Managing Editor ThoMas harT faCulty advisor BridgeT adaMs Editor Michelle Benitez Editor Oliver Brooks Editorial Assistants Daniel Ardila Madison Hollander Anna Zak Taylor Tieder Pearl Ray Sydney Wills Riley Wilkins Sebastian Gael Cavallos Maxine Martinez Editorial Assistants Andrea Lopez Saige Kemeny Stefanie Urban Lexi Fuertes Chloe Harbin Carlisle Ziesig Sofia Desimoni Rhibi Henderson Karla Serrano Peyton Cook Fiction Poetry
Editor Jasmine Loriz Editorial Assistants Peyton Addison Rachel Lechwar Jake Aboulhosn Michelle Chadwell Victoria Huguet Grace Allen Nicole Sandoval Sarah Lerner Hannah Raisner Editorial Assistants Maria Diyaljee Malia Ludwick Riley Kayton Samuel Pittman Bridgette Lynch Olivia Arnold Laura Escher Hope Fell Editor Olivia Honan Editorial Assistants Jamie Soto Thomas Hart Editor Lili Verrastro Editorial Assistants Stephanie Dowd Savannah Monge Samantha Long Megan Schanker Mairyn Krause Bria Wilson Nonfiction Visual Art Social Media Layout Editor Tessa Mahurin

A Special Thank You To Our Generous Donors!

Roy and Lois Paskow Elisabeth Hope Harner Matthew Roque-Paskow Jacqueline Dubose Stephen Brooks Skip Horack Mark Spirtis

Barry and Jody Gold Edward Long

Want More From Kudzu? Read past issues on our website, Are you interested in submitting to our Spring issue? Check back at in mid-January 2023 for dealines and information on how to submit! Stay up-to-date on all things Kudzu via our social media @kudzu.fsu @TheKudzuReview @thekudzureview @TheKudzuReview Questions for the editor? Email

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