The Kudzu Review: Issue No. 67

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Florida State University 600 W. College Avenue Tallahassee, FL, 32306 Copyright @ The Kudzu Review

Issue No. 67 Welcome reader! As you explore the pages of this magazine, we hope, above all, that you are able to delight in its details. Inspired by stained glass masterpieces and kaleidoscopic patterns, we strove to design a magazine that illuminates the curiosities of life, and sparks playful imagination. We started with a desire to make every piece in this magazine shine, so that each might contribute to a larger and more extraordinary whole. We hope that we have achieved this goal, and that you feel inspired as you wander through pages of poetry and photographs, stories and illustrations. From cover to conclusion, this magazine is a testament to the literary and artistic passions of undergraduate students at Florida State University and beyond. We hoped to introduce wonderous new landscapes and challenging ideas in this issue, and invite you to venture through them—one page at a time. Sincerely,

The Fall 2021 Staff of The Kudzu Review

I Don’t Get the Experimental Jazz Wandering Thoughts and the angels sing Marie Curie

Summer Carrier

Olivia Howell

2 3

Alex Music


Victoria Perree

Through the Mulberry Bushes Blind Colors


Johnathan Smith

7 9

Victoria Perree

Rain Nuckelavee Knightress



Suffering from Writer’s Block in my Tallahassee Apartment Kirstin Soper


General Strike



Eddie Camara


Marena Benoit




Little Orange Boxes

Augusta Mansfield

Engrossed: Decaying Olivia Howell Path 777

Ethereal Isis

A Stroll Through the Woods Marian Mallow

23 27 28 29

Lucille the Chicken Marena Benoit


LACIATE OGNI SPERANZA April Meade Wolves and Ravens


Ashley Nix

I Know Too Much About Socks Sweets


Kirstin Soper

Eddie Camara


Olivia Howell

2017: Ame-Rican Mother Teresa

Andrea Figueroa-Irizarry Victoria Perree

33 34 35 37 41

A Woman Montgomery Meredith Marsh


Now That’s a Fruit Montgomery Meredith Marsh


Holy Shit Another of the Same Guy Montgomery Meredith Marsh


Now This Doesn’t Look Very Christian, Does It Montgomery Meredith Marsh


Dear Gill Rory Donohue and Katherine Grubb


In Appreciation of All Art, Everywhere, but Particularly the David Summer Carrier


404A7235.CR2 Jackson Seagraves


404A7303.CR2 Jackson Seagraves Skin-Tight Noland Blain Iceberg

52 53 54

Alli B.

404A0821.CR2 Jackson Seagraves


Melanie Bynum


The Straw Girl Christina Ramazzotto


Rebirth and Renewal




Melanie Bynum


Melanie Bynum

May and the Invisible Dragon A. J. Woods


P I N K Des


A Piece of Stained Glass Marian Mallow


Celestial Dress Karrington Simmons


Fly By


Eddie Camara

Fall 2021 Staff Letter from the Editor

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I don’t get the experimental jazz and maybe that’s the point. He describes it as: A call and response. At least, that’s how he describes it: like improv. And I think It sounds horrible. But I guess so does improv. Perhaps this is what making friends sounds like, A stunted kind of Call and Response. A crowd of musicians who don’t know just what to do with each other. A vocal solo that goes on too long, the drum interrupting. Instruments all trying to make sense of, lack of rhythm. Sense. Maybe I don’t get it, but it’s not really so bad, right? Not while we’re both here listening to it.




Watercolor, gel pen, India ink


Alex Music

I. seven in the morning, we awake to a house brim with chatter, four voices, essence of fresh bread persisting in the air we slip out the front door and evade that odd goodbye it is the season of the worry warts, so take that as you will but it is nice to think of avoidance not as a symptom, but the best vaccine we have for true danger is rare, that mindset something holy cherish the fear, wear it like you are a mannequin running in style II. across the earth, the canals sit a quiet blue-green undisturbed and void of garbage, no lounging bodies dotted on the embankment nature has grown new lungs, they say, or something less poetic but this will last only


as long as panic lingers and those lungs will crumble, like a sinkhole’s belly collapses within itself the earth did not send this like god sent those egyptian plagues this is not some warning this is just something we will live through and we can take whatever we want from that III. well, at the store now, there are big plastic shields between us and the cashier and walking through the aisles is like some fever dream; no one will look you in the eye! shoppers are quiet, moving quickly the intercom does not play top forty hits is it selfish to say that i miss the camaraderie of a Publix supermarket? it sounds ridiculous, and i do not think i would have ever imagined that coming out of my mouth IV. i find myself taking drives for driving’s sake pulling up to the drive-thru


window and ordering tea not for the taste, but to pretend for a moment that things are as they were then i park in the empty lot. a brown-haired woman idles left of me in her red subaru, probably doing the same thing i am she lights a cigarette and i start to cry yesterday i was watching a television show where two people hugged, and i thought to myself that’s against the rules before remembering it was fiction she breathes out smoke with the windows up, and i think of grief, and how it fills us.


Marie Curie By

charcoal and sharpie



By Johnathan Smith Nonfiction

allard ducks can fly up to 800 miles in a single day, an incredible feat made even more impressive by the oblong composition of their bodies, where about three-fourths of their 1.65-to-3.5-pound weight is held from the neck down. Their head makes up almost none of their mass, as mallard ducks are bottom-heavy. It’s the reason they waddle when they walk. I think I was five or six when a mallard duck started waddling around my grandfather’s birdfeeder in the spring. The little chickadees and sparrows had a habit of battling over birdseed, knocking food to the ground for the larger and less nimble creatures to feast on. The mallard duck assumed the role of that creature, making his way up the grassy hill, through the mulberry bushes, and onto that delicious patch of land for a dependable meal. I watched the mallard make this pilgrimage every day through the bay windows that faced my grandparents’ house. He was far more interesting than Sesame Street reruns. I’d already learned that the letter of the day was G. I didn’t have to settle for cartoons or puppets when I had the real thing right in front of me, pecking away at the earth, floating in the birdbath, green head bobbing up and down like an apple on Halloween. When the summer came, the mallard duck would make his way down to Covell Lake to socialize with the other waterfowl. This was a sad but regular development. Sure, it was disappointing to see my entertainment take off for warmer waters, but I knew he would be back the following spring, wings tired from 800 miles of flight, waddling up the hill. He was a regularity, a sign that the last snow had snowed and tulip buds were ready to pop out of the mulch. The mallard duck could count on my yard for a meal, and I could count on the mallard duck to be there. In sixth grade your head starts to change. It’s gradual at first—a thought here, a bead of sweat there, a dance with the devil that’s been coming for a while. This is scary because up un-


til this point life has gone pretty well for you. Elementary school built you up, let you be the cool guy on campus. It taught you how to appreciate musical theatre, even if the costumes smelled like mothballs and the face paint didn’t wash off for a few days. It taught you how to appreciate grass football fields, even if the painted concrete didn’t keep you from playing tackle. It taught you how to appreciate yourself and all the different emotional Legos that connect to make you who you are. But middle school is different. They don’t know you at middle school. You aren’t the cool guy. This seismic shift in your reality forces you to really think for the first time in your life, and when you really think, you think too much. You think so much that you become a kid on a corkscrew slide that doesn’t have an end, falling around and around and around, wishing you’d stayed on the monkey bars. While on this corkscrew slide, you convince yourself that you are gay. You only recently learned what being gay meant after watching an episode of Criminal Minds at your grandparents’ house. They don’t have parental restrictions at your grandparents’ house. In that episode, a girl named Alex is blackmailed by her brother into killing a teacher named Mr. Rosenfelt, all because he saw her kiss her best friend Lisa. You like the idea of kissing girls too, so you feel terrible for Alex. But you remember that Alex is also a boy’s name, and some boys like to kiss boys too, and what if you were one of those boys? Never mind that you have a huge crush on the seventh-grade girl with the pink hair who walks by you on your way to Math. Never mind that the idea of kissing boys grosses you out. From that episode on, you are convinced you are gay. Choir is probably your favorite class because you get to sing, which is almost easier than talking. Mrs. Daughtry is the teacher and also happens to be your mom’s best friend. You’ve got lots of friends in choir, a couple of guys you played football with, mostly girls who you sit with at the corner lunch table before school for


Blind Colors



acrylic paint and acrylic paint pens

an hour because mom is the librarian and she can’t be late. You understand the complexities of a middle school girl well. They tell you all the gossip, know that you won’t go spreading rumors, accept you as one of their own. Girls like guys who can listen. Mrs. Daughtry has you running through scales, low C to high C, up and down like a ladder. You still sit in the girls’ section, you can hit the high notes. It’s a point of pride. As you run up the higher steps of the scale, you see Diego Sanchez smirk and you realize you might be singing too loud. He’s probably just smirking because you were projecting. You’ve got good lungs, it’s what you’re made for—he probably doesn’t think anything of it. Say what you will to convince yourself, but it doesn’t stop those talons from creeping up the back of your throat, placing pressure in a part of your head you didn’t even know existed. They reach the back of your neck, playing with the nerves so you twitch three times. Your fingers start to play an imaginary piano, forcing out the poison through the nails, ring finger particularly active. Maybe he was smirking because he thought you were cute, you wouldn’t want to be mean and let him down. Maybe it’s because you were sitting with the girls, they all accept you anyway, why would they have to accept you, the people in Criminal Minds had to accept Alex because she was gay, that means you’re gay, no you’re not that doesn’t make sense, there’s nothing wrong with that, lots of your friends are gay, that means you’re gay, NO it DOESN’T, what is happening, you need to run, ask to go to the bathroom, men’s bathroom, it’s because you like men isn’t it, STOP. Sometimes you go and cry in your mom’s office when you get caught on the corkscrew. Better to hide away from the world, internalize it, don’t talk about it with anyone. Run all you want, no one needs to know about the corkscrew. Remember that. Evolutionary scientists believe that male mallard ducks developed yellow bills over their long and storied history as a way to lure a mate. The rationale is that a brightly-colored beak signifies a healthy diet and strong immune system, which are very attractive qualities in the duck community. When a female spies this irresistible homing beacon, she is drawn to its glimmer and implied strength. The beak is a symbol of stature, a hierarchy defined by the transformative power of nature.

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The mallard duck that waddled to the birdfeeder had a caution-tape yellow bill, so it was no surprise when another duck began to accompany him on his journey. This duck was demure in comparison, a range of brown throughout her plumage, dark and unassuming eyes, certainly no yellow beak. But the mallard duck found her beautiful, and now they ate birdseed together right outside those bay windows. I often wondered what would happen if I opened the door and crept up to the ducks, just to say hello. Nature documentaries told me they would run away, as most animals do when confronted with the large monstrosity that is a human. But I thought maybe, just maybe, they would know who I was. After all, they came back to my yard year after year, for the birdseed, of course, but maybe because they knew a blonde-haired boy was waiting for them to return. Maybe they knew that Pokémon cards were fun to play with, but without other kids in the neighborhood to battle, to trade, to play with, the cards lost their appeal. But who needed Pokémon when the real deal was right on the other side of the glass? Maybe the ducks came back because they knew that there was a blonde-haired boy that couldn’t figure out his place in a new world he was forced into and wanted to let him know it’s okay to be unsure. That everything would always feel like a little too much, but that wouldn’t keep the mallard ducks from waddling up the grassy hill, through the mulberry bushes, and onto that delicious patch of land. That even when they go away, they’ll come back. In eighth grade your voice starts to change. It’s gradual at first, a crack here, a squeak there, a slip into the realms of the man you’re supposed to be. This is scary because you’ve made a middle school career off of being a male soprano and hitting that high note that made Christina Albahadi scream while you sang “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz in a white T-shirt and black tuxedo coat and jeans. Your voice started to go down deep, and then your voice decided that it didn’t like that, so it quit; your voice

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decided that it didn’t feel like manning up and instead remained in a hazy veil of half-pubescence. You can talk, but you can’t really talk. You can sing, but you can’t really sing. You can pretend it’s natural, but it’s not. Fifth period science is right down the hall from your sixthgrade homeroom and it’s the best because, even though you don’t like science, you like Ivy Baumgardner, and guess what— you sit right next to her. You suspect that Mrs. Revier had something to do with it. She’s always been a little bit nosey. She probably caught you glancing up at Ivy from across the room, pulled a couple of strings on the next seating chart, and played matchmaker. You appreciate it. Ivy Baumgardner’s dad runs a shop that sells Christmas trees, but he probably didn’t want to name his daughter Pine or Redwood or Conifer so he went with Ivy, a different foliage, which was a good decision. Ivy is a little smarter than you and a little shorter than you and can sing even though she tells everybody she can’t. She makes you feel like there are orange beetles running up and down your arms. You like her and you want her to know that, but you’ve got to talk to her first. It’s not that you can’t talk to girls. You’ve always been pretty good at understanding the complexities of a middle school girl in a way your friends aren’t. So this shouldn’t be difficult. Besides, you heard from Kate who heard from Hannah that Ivy thinks you’re funny and a little weird but a good weird. So this shouldn’t be difficult. Turn to her and ask her about mitochondria, cell membranes, endoplasmic proteins, and let her talk. Then you don’t have to talk. Girls like guys who can listen. You start to warm the words up in your mouth, prepping your vocal cords like a viola that’s been in the winter storage room for too long, tune the strings for your solo, ready to perform. You open your mouth. “squeak” That’s not right. Squeak isn’t what you meant to say. Squeak isn’t what you wanted to ask Ivy. Come on dude, pull it together. She didn’t notice, she’s reading her textbook like she’s supposed to be doing, you’re not even supposed to be talking, Mrs. Revier gave you twenty minutes to study, c’mon man get it together, round two. You open your mouth.

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veilantares - 13 -

digital illustration

“crack” Ivy definitely noticed that time. She’s looking up now. She’s got really pretty brown eyes, like honey that’s been sitting on the windowsill for a little while. She’s looking at you, it’s showtime! You open your mouth. “ ” Nothing comes out. There is a blockade formed on the back of your tongue. The bricklayer has been busy, stones from bottom to top. Ivy smiles a little and looks back down. That’s good. She smiled, she looked back down—but what about the bricks? Only one thing you can do to a brick wall. Knock it down. Start pushing the sound out from your stomach, squeak, not that sound, find the manly sound, find the sound that kids with hair on their upper lips make, crack, keep pushing nobody will notice, what if they notice, everyone could be staring, look up NO, keep pushing, squeak, WHAT DID I TELL YOU, you better shape the hell up, your throat feels the invisible claw, that guttural hook, crack, your fingers are tapping up and down, imaginary piano, ring finger over and over, what the hell is wrong with you, jump off the corkscrew, why can’t you be normal, why can’t you WORK. Ivy Baumgardner’s dad sells Christmas trees. Remember that. Ivy Baumgardner’s dad sells Christmas trees and he didn’t name her Pine or Redwood or Conifer. He named her Ivy. Some things still feel right. Remember that. Mallard ducks form a bond with their mate in the fall, “date” throughout the winter, and mate in the spring. Although these relationships are not necessarily exclusive throughout the summer, the ducks always find their way back to each other when the temperature starts to cool. Like humans, mallard ducks enjoy having a partner to come back to when the snow starts to fall, a warm body, three-fourths of their mass, that will make the world feel a little bit less dreary. Someone to share breadcrumbs with. At fourteen or fifteen I stopped paying close attention to the dalliances of our ducks. Life was starting to get more interesting, interesting enough that I didn’t have to spend my days gazing out the window. Some of my friends were getting driver’s licenses, ready to wreak havoc on the potholed roads of South Dakota. Some of my friends were getting really into the weight room, where you could grind out the grit of life and impress women in the process. Some of my friends were getting drunk on the week-

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ends, sneaking Bud Light and foreign-sounding vodkas from their parents to forget that they were still kids for a while. I tried a little bit of everything, dipping a toe into each world, and decided that none of them were really for me. I found myself back at the bay windows, watching the feathered couple discuss the intricacies of their webbed feet over a feast of seeds and grain. In a strange way, I felt ownership over these ducks who spent the majority of their lives out of my sight. They returned to my yard, ate the seed off the ground from my grandfather’s feeder, existed for me and only me. Guilt crept into my stomach whenever I thought this, as it was foolish to think that the ducks only got their meals from that delicious patch of land. There were probably ten feeders, twenty feeders in the area that provided the same services, and ten kids, twenty kids watching from the window. But for those moments in the spring, I allowed myself to appreciate mallard ducks for their ability to return and return, season after season, always together, always around. In tenth grade your face starts to change. It’s gradual at first—a red mark here, a blackhead there, a preface to a game of oily Connect the Dots. This is scary because a lack of acne is one of the things you had going for you. You still have some baby fat, you’re not the most muscular guy on the football team, you’re just settling into a new haircut that you use mousse and gel for because that’s what your hairdresser Kaitlyn said to do and she’s never done you wrong but now it looks like you’ve got a blonde helmet. On top of that, you’ve got spots popping up everywhere, not your typical surface wounds, but dormant volcanoes waiting to erupt. You can’t live knowing that they could go off at any moment, so you take matters into your own fingers, pressing unaggravated mounds until they wake up. It’s better this way, where you get to dictate when the abrasions appear, regardless of how bad you make the damage. Acne is a part of life, you know that, you wash your face after you press. It’s a part of life even

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when Jake Jones asks if you have herpes after a particularly gruesome session on the left side of your lip. You raise your shirt collar up around your mouth, rest your chin in the palm of your hand—anything to cover what you’ve done in the name of prevention. Who knows how bad the next one could be if you leave it alone? Christmas with your Wisconsin family is always a mixed bag because you love your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins but they’re vegetarian and you are definitely not vegetarian. It’s still a good time, though. You sleep on the most comfortable couch in the basement. There are always chocolate-dipped peanut butter crackers in the garage freezer. They have DirecTV. It’s sleepy, but it’s a welcome break from the pressure of being sixteen. You’re sending stupid pictures back and forth with Natalie Davidson, who sits next to you in Biology and laughs at all your jokes even though you have the humor of a forty-three-year-old father of two. More importantly, though, you laugh at Natalie’s jokes, mostly because she’s funny, a little because it shows you’re listening. Girls like guys who can listen. It’s late and you’re sending stupid pictures and you notice a small white bump right between your eyebrows. It’s barely noticeable, Natalie definitely couldn’t see it, but you see it and that’s what matters. You drop the phone and head to the downstairs bathroom with the shower that never has shampoo so you settle for body wash. It has a bigger mirror with better lighting where you can inspect the damage. There it is, a whitehead, perfectly centered like a third eye ready to be opened. Knuckles first, you try to knead out the mess, gently, but with precision. That doesn’t work. Next, it’s the tips of your pointer fingers, starting from the sides of the imperfection, not the top. You get more out if you press from the sides. That doesn’t work. Only thing left to do is push harder, so you do. Put more force into it, use those muscles you’re supposed to have, the only way to make it better is to make it

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worse, push harder, you really can’t catch a break can you, push HARDER. You have pushed harder. In the process, you have scraped two layers of skin from the middle of your eyebrows and it’s now deep red like the bottles of wine in the pantry that you’re not allowed to touch even though you have wine at communion. Your fingers are shaking, plunking out an invisible melody, the hook is rising in your throat. You really messed up this time, that’s definitely gonna scar, no it’s not that deep, could still scar, what are you going to tell your parents, some bullshit about falling off the couch and scraping your head on the nightstand, you’re disfigured, good luck going back to school looking like that, how could you be so fucking STUPID, they’re gonna hate you for this, the whole school, your parents, yourself. It’s always worse when you press them. Remember that. It’s harder in the short term when you can feel them festering, waiting to blow, landmines in the skin. But it’s always worse when you set them off before they’re ready. Remember that. The average lifespan of a mallard duck is three to five years in the wild and five to ten years when domesticated. There are outliers, as a hunter in 2008 shot a mallard with a tag marked ‘1981,’ making it the oldest mallard duck ever recorded. There are outliers, but most mallard ducks don’t have the privilege of living for twenty seven years. Most mallard ducks don’t make it that long. My junior year of high school, the ducks didn’t waddle their way up the grassy hill, through the mulberry bushes, and onto that delicious patch of land. I would check every morning before I left for school and each evening when I returned. I would ask my grandparents if they caught a glimpse of the couple at any point during the day. I would pray, pray for the first time in a long time, that the mallard ducks would show up. The mallard ducks did not. I don’t know what I was expecting. Mallard ducks don’t live forever. In fact, it was a miracle that the ducks showed up as long

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as they did. But regardless of how I rationalized it, I still gazed out the window feeling like three-fourths of my weight was in my head, in the salt that crusted the sides of my eyes. After the hook had crept into my throat, after the piano had been played, after I had repeated the vicious cycle that sprung about every time the world would shift and I would have to play along, the mallard ducks were something to come back to. They couldn’t be around forever, but that didn’t stop me from believing they could be the anomalies. That they could be my forever. My senior year, a mallard duck waddled onto that delicious patch of land. His beak was different, a traffic cone orange, his head a little less green. He brought with him a demure friend that he thought was beautiful, and together they feasted on the birdseed that all the little chickadees and sparrows would battle over. I watched them through the bay windows that faced my grandparents’ house. They weren’t the same mallard ducks. They weren’t my ducks. But they waddled up the grassy hill and through the mulberry bushes, and that was enough.

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By Stagnant air free of dust mites and not the sound of a single footfall to burden me with company. The station as empty as an amphibian’s eyes. Railways lie rusted long unused. An arrival is a hopeless endeavor yet I see the man as I leave. His name is Rorschach and he is everyone I have never known. The universe, suspended by silver loops, bounces against my hip as I approach him. All around me, music. The melody of thunder and harmony of car horns. Raindrops smudge rouge I didn’t don. Left and right, buildings rise. An apartment complex with an overturned Shopping cart, left wheels still spinning, in its parking lot. The doctor’s office where Nurse Kelly sells special syrup to the good boys and girls of Stockton, a gas station With a funny bird on its sign. Half priced fudge and Cheesy pies strain the air with their fragrance. He stands under the bent Magnolia Street sign with gleams of cigarette buds scattered around his bare toes. His smile as beautiful and as sour as a string-less piano. His voice southern, not in the kind of way that growls like the engine of a truck hustling through mud, but the smooth stuff, drawing in all those dancing debutantes. The shadows of skeleton oaks engulf his being. My pace and heart crescendo. My heels click against the concrete like


like the annoying clank of my ceiling fan.

My pens falls onto fake wood, just as Lucifer fell from the heavens, and I sigh. My tools taunt me. The ghastly yellow highlighter brighter than the contents of my mind. 19

digital collage By


Breathing Welcome to my performance, I whisper to the moss-covered benches arranged like a small stage in the undergrowth of the forest. Welcome, all, to my performance. I say to the front bench with the missing board. Today, I am breathing. Yes, I know you are itching to see my compelling show. I lean down to tell the wisteria adorning the fenceposts. I have been practicing for this moment. I tell the space between the trees, I am filled with atmosphere. There is a chill in my nostrils as it changes composition. I feel the moss watching me closely as I place a hand on my stomach and chest to notice the way it rises and falls, she is letting the air in and out, The moss whispers.




digital illustration



Little Orange Boxes By


y mother has a little keychain with a single key on it. She keeps the keychain out of sight, tucked away at the bottom of our glovebox, to save our family from the flashbacks that come with accidentally brushing our eyes over the key. It may be silly to give such an innocuous object so much power, but just behind its husband door is the past we’re running away from, those sixteen years that we no longer talk about. I remember walking through the house the key belongs to and smelling the stale memories suspended in the air, so thick and flammable that every time we clicked a lighter, we would freeze in fear of flames erupting around us. Not that we hadn’t dreamt of dousing the floors in gasoline and dropping a match on the ground, wishing the house would burn and turn all our memories to ash along with it. One summer morning, waiting in a Panera Bread parking lot a year after we last left the house, the keychain caught my eye from our glovebox’s mess of documents and old sunglasses. I’d never paid much attention to the keychain itself. The only object besides the key was a small orange box, almost triangular in shape. It was awkwardly bulky, and I couldn’t understand why my mother, an artist who’d always surrounded herself with beauty and color, had kept it around for as long as I could remember. For the first time, I noticed a clear orb protruding from the smaller end of the box. Looking through it, 23

I saw a tiny, blown-up picture with a blurriness that suggested antiquity, a time long before I or any of my siblings had been born. Two girls posed together, both wearing denim jackets that clashed against their jeans. They had huge teased hair blowing in some ancient breeze that bent the flowers in a brick pot behind them. The girl on the right was my mother, almost unrecognizable in the absence of the wrinkles and scars she’d developed over the years. Looking at the smile on her face, I felt an uncomfortable stirring in my chest, perhaps a sort of nostalgia for the optimistic expression she wore. I wondered what the person in this picture was like and what she imagined the years before her would bring. What life did she hope to live? What dreams filled her head, and what would she think if she knew that she’d leave them all behind with this teenage version of herself, that they’d never live to see daylight? How would she react if someone told her of the pain she’d endure in the coming years at the behest of the men she’d love and the children she’d bear? The last time I ever walked through our house, months after my family had moved out, I’d found it eerily suspended in time. It reminded me of those parents who lose a child and leave their room entirely untouched, Sunday best still strewn about, bed unmade, almost as if they feared that to box up anything their child had touched would be to surrender to death, to accept that the toys would never again be played with and the clothes never again worn. Except children’s rooms became shrines; our house became a graveyard. The city had stopped delivering mail because my mother couldn’t force herself to the mailbox and 24

25 envelopes were spilling from the slot. Old cigarette butts sat in ashtrays on the eggshell-and-neon-green couch in the basement. My sister’s calendar was turned to September 2018, boasting a picture of a calico kitten. Pans sat dirty in the kitchen sink, remnants of one of my eight-year-old brother’s inexplicable experiments. Even the mice that had once populated our walls had long since evacuated, leaving tiny footprints in the dust. My family, making trips between the old house and the new apartment for weeks, had simply left one day and never found the courage to return. I thought once again of this young woman who only remains in pictures and little orange boxes, who’d grow up to breathe life into me and forget to save any for herself. I wished she would never discover that her greatest legacy would be this house— that she’d be preserved, not in playbills or biographies, but in floorboards warped from when the washing machine overflowed the day I left for college, in couches stained with urine from the dogs she’d adopted to fill a void. My mother’s story still litters the house disguised as objects and incomplete projects trapped in time. The lavender toy chest in my childhood room tells of an expectant mother, paintbrush in hand,

excitedly decorating for her first child. The living room walls are mostly gold, but beige at the top, because nobody was ever tall enough to paint above the windows after my father left. The front door has three deadbolts, one for each person who’d taught us that a knock can only bring bad things. Even now, the house tells a secret tragedy in ink visible only to those of us who’d been characters. I felt I spent a lifetime peering through this tiny orange box, my concentration only breaking when the passenger door opened, and my mother’s tired face appeared with a sigh as I turned the key in the ignition and drove away, dropping the keychain to the floor, never to think of it again.


By Olivia Howell Mixed media (acrylic, hot glue, tissue paper, metal wire, spray expanding foam, paper mache, air dry clay, cardboard, mini LED lights, costume witch hat)

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Path 777 By graphite pencil drawing

digital illustration


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By A caress from my father is like when someone forgets your name after you’ve already told them twice. In the garage he lays a tomato slice on his arm, the juice dripping down the rivets created by his arm hairs, while Lucille flies up and clenches her little yellow claws into his thick forearm, receiving her treat. Why don’t you pet her? He says. Her golden feathers reflect the dim light of the neon Budweiser sign like a sunrise in a stained glass church window, poised with regality in my father’s arms. I wonder what that feels like.

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By acrylic and charcoal 31



Ashley Nix photograph

Wolves and Ravens

By Kirstin Soper

Laundry spins in rows around me as I fold my clothes. A shirt. A skirt. A sock with no pair. It’s white and wide And has a small hole at the toe. It’s not mine. I run my finger over the sock’s seam and remember the man in the grocery store with a belly hanging below his belt and how he asked you boy, what’s wrong with your voice. That man didn’t know anything about socks. He didn’t know that sometimes socks aren’t socks at all. Later, you stood outside. Your hands clasped over your ears Waiting for the alarm to pierce your skull and echo off the sides of your brain when the microwave stopped revolving. Your hands were always on your ears. When the toilet’s whoosh was too much like a helicopter’s spinning blades or when the music shook you but not the car. There was a day when you cried, you cried, and I got the scissors. Your shirt’s tag had dug its teeth into the soft, pink skin on the back of your neck. I couldn’t cut enough but then I cut down too far and the whole collar unraveled. Sock seams were razor blades sliding against your toes on early mornings, cutting down to your bones and filling your sneakers with blood. So when you said

the bumps, the bumps

I took your socks and shoes on and off until the bumps were all gone.


By Eddie Camara


digital illustration

Dreamscape digital illustration


The following is an interview with Olivia Howell on her process behind the Issue No. 67 cover art. (Answers have been edited for brevity.) Find Olivia and more of her work on Instagram,

Introduce yourself! When did you first get into art, and what mediums do you typically work in? I’ve been drawing and creating art for as long as I can remember, it was my favorite thing to do as a kid and that love

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has carried on since. I used to primarily work with graphite, pen, color pencil, and watercolor but I semi-recently started creating digitally and, as of this semester, began painting with acrylics. Tell us about Dreamscape. What inspired it? What kind of messages or feelings do you hope to communicate with it? Dreamscape was one of two final projects for my Digital Foundations art class. We were given a few word prompts to use as inspiration, the one I selected was “alternate.” I considered the idea of an alternate world. It reminded me a bit of the music videos “Shelter” by Porter Robinson and “GIRL” by Daoko, so I kept those in mind as I worked. There isn’t some grand meaning to the piece, but I hope Dreamscape leaves people feeling inspired to explore their own imaginations, to see where it will lead them. What was your process for creating Dreamscape? Did you encounter any challenges while making it? Once I have an idea in my head, I like to make a rough sketch in pencil, then take reference photos. I sketch it digitally (I like to use Krita), then refine it. I’m a big fan of dramatic shadows, so I block those in next to thicken up some of the line art. I went in with flat colors, then a layer of milder shadows. I wanted to push the aquatic theme and sat her atop a giant jellyfish. I added in the fish, bubbles, clouds, the sun. Considering this was an alternate world, the ocean is instead made of lemonade, so I included objects and textures that would cue it to be that. Then I thought, why not make the sun into an orange? So I did. The whole process felt very stream of consciousness-esque, but I really enjoyed it. Do you have any aspirations or goals as an artist? Of course! One day I’d love to sell my work, but currently, I am aiming to be an art teacher. I’ve had such wonderful art teachers and I’d love to pass on that support.

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By Andrea





he day after the new president went into office, I was asked when I was going to be deported back to Puerto Rico. I was born in San German, a town on the west side of the island with steep hills and Spanish architecture and a family whose music drove my very soul. Though my skin reflected my birthplace, I moved to the states by the time I was four years old; everything else about me is just as mainland as it can come. Growing up, my mom taught my siblings and I about her own childhood in Puerto Rico and about our culture. We visited countless times, traveling the island’s narrow mountainside roads, absorbing its beautiful sights, and eating the delicious food offered to us. It was home to me—one stuck in my chest while my environment carried on. But, as I was quick to learn, the world around me spun differently when it came to the soil I was born on. My friends in school made the deportation comments out as jokes. One of my friends made me a drawing of a little dinghy on a flashcard, passed it to me during third period, and told me it was my ride. Another asked me if I’d be living in a box once I made it back. Everyone called my lunch my ‘final American meal.’ They all smiled from ear to ear as they said it, but not just because they thought it was funny – they completely understood the harshness of it, and they made sure to tell me as much. Because I was young, and because I was used to it, I took it in stride and joked right back. In biology class, however, while the jokes continued to be made and I continued to allow it, my teacher overheard us and thought to jump in. “So,” he said. “Are you taking a plane or a boat?” That one caught me off-guard. And it just got worse from there.

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2017 reminds me of the time that I had to explain to too many classmates that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, or, according to Puerto Rico’s welcome website, “a self-governing commonwealth in association with the United States.” ( ‘In association with’ is an official way of saying ‘officially entitled to and owned by.’ ) It also reminds me of the time that I had to tell them that I was born a U.S. citizen, not because of special privileges placed on me, but because I was born on American soil. “It’s not American, though,” someone once told me in response. But it is. It’s the tendency of Americans to suddenly forget that. Or – a more optimistic suggestion, yet just as disheartening – perhaps they just aren’t taught about Puerto Rico’s status. In fact, a study was made in 2017 where Americans were asked whether Puerto Ricans were granted automatic citizenship upon their birth. Think back to seventh grade civics, when we were drilled on the ways of obtaining birthright citizenship: having American parents or being born on U.S.-owned soil. The latter includes the fifty states, military bases, and – you guessed it – U.S. territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico. 2,200 adults sent in their answers. Only 54% knew Puerto Ricans were granted automatic citizenship. 2017 reminds me of something else: Hurricane Maria. My mom’s name is Maria. I think I made a single joke to her about the correlation, back before the hurricane made landfall in Yabucoa, my father’s birthplace. Back before the monster of wind and rain and death slashed into the island. Back before people began to lose clean water. Back before we lost contact with our family. Back before those polls. Hurricane Maria was ultimately categorized as a cat-5 by the National Weather Service; the storm’s highest wind speed hit 174 mph during its time in the Caribbean Sea. It slammed into Puerto Rico only two weeks after Hurricane Irma had made its own onslaught. The palm trees lining the streets and coastlines, once once symbols of paradise, had their leaves completely severed. Tall buildings in San Juan,

the island’s capital, had their boarding ripped out and shot around in the winds as added projectiles to excessive destruction. The surrounding white-sand beaches went from one of the main tourist attractions to roaring torrents that threatened to swallow the island whole as they crashed against piers and boardwalks. Even when Hurricane Maria finally relieved the island of its horror, it seemed as if the storm never left. After the hurricane wreaked havoc for over thirty hours, darkness paved the way for the months to come as the island’s electrical infrastructure was destroyed, leaving the entire island without power. Communications fell, leaving cell service and any phone-driven access to the mainland completely down. Seventy percent of hospitals were not functioning, leaving dozens of patients without oxygen or dialysis. Over a million lacked access to clean drinking water, and the supply chain for food and fuel access crumbled. The highways were covered in debris from fallen trees and mudslides, and the asphalt was cracked and ruined, forcing those who braved the trek of the interstate to swerve in time with each rip and tear of the roads. In the following terror, I never made another joke to my mom again. For days, we heard nothing. We couldn’t call my grandparents in San German to check if they were okay. We couldn’t hear my cousin’s voice telling us her updates. We couldn’t reach our uncle to ask what he knew. It became a privilege to be where we were, yet I grew angry – angry that the people whose culture I shared and loved were suffering while I stayed dry. I began to wonder when I would hear the coqui frogs chirping in the background of a phone call again. All we could do was stare at the Weather Channel, the only channel that covered enough of the story to satisfy at least a portion of our needs. When my mom got a message on WhatsApp from her aunt, telling her that my grandparents were okay,

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the house was okay, the town was okay…it was a sharp relief, not a gentle one. Like air rushing into your lungs after too deep of a dive. A week after Maria’s landfall, the island’s government reported sixteen deaths, including those of three elderly sisters who were caught in a landslide in Utuado. Later, Governor Ricardo Roselló reported sixty-four. These numbers, according to a study performed by George Washington University, only included those directly killed by the storm. When adding up the six-month-long struggle – lack of electricity and clean water, poor healthcare, continuing structural damage – the true damage of Hurricane Maria extends to an estimated total of 3,057 Puerto Ricans. 3,057 American-born citizens. “Every death is a horror,” President Trump stated, “but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here, and what is your death count? Sixteen people, versus in the thousands.” This statement was taken from his October 3rd visit to an aid station in San Juan, where he tossed rolls of paper towels to a crowd of onlookers. I remember watching a replay of it over my mom’s shoulder while she let her eyes drift shut, her nostrils flaring. “That was a real catastrophe,” she said. Why does Puerto Rico have to prove itself? Why is the death toll a controversy? Arguments surrounding the death tolls of Katrina only touch on the surface of whether there could have been more; arguments around Maria explode on the idea that there must have been fewer. Disputes arose over how to properly count death and whether or not certain deaths should be labeled as ‘excess.’ The discussion became a partisan back-and-forth between politicians as they blamed one another for the numbers and for trying to slander their names. There’s a blatant irony there that shouldn’t even exist, let alone be acknowledged. Before the numbers had proved to

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Victoria Perree

charcoal and dried flowers

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be much higher – right after the mayhem of a storm that hit my cultural home – my family and I were stuck in the States with nothing to do but gather as much help as we could. I was a sophomore then, less than a year after the presidential inauguration and over a decade since I had moved from Puerto Rico. I asked friends at school if they wanted to donate any clothes, flashlights, batteries, or hygienic necessities. I told them that we were going to send a care package when we could. I said that they didn’t have to, of course, but any help would be appreciated, no matter how small, and – “Where’s your boat?” “So is it like Atlantis now?” “Are you a good enough swimmer for that?” One friend even turned the water fountain’s spout around and let the clean water pour right onto the carpet of the classroom. Y’know. In solidarity with Puerto Rico. We live in an extremely nationalistic country. We teach our kids to stand to the stars and stripes every weekday morning to pledge their allegiance. But that same 2017 poll–the one where Americans were asked about Puerto Ricans’ citizenship–shows why those statistics from before matter. Of those who didn’t know about their citizenship, only 46% of Americans – four out of every ten– said they would support giving federal aid to Puerto Rico, an island of their own. The electricity didn’t return for the entirety of the island until nearly a year later. Still, over phone calls or future visits to my grandparents’ house in San German, we’d find ourselves freezing and waiting in anticipation after the lights would flicker; if they shut off, we never knew how long it would be until they came back. If the water was down, we’d bathe in the cold. We heard stories from our family in the east, the parts that were damaged directly by the storm, and we were told how they had to move fallen trees by themselves. We read stories, even years later, about how crates of water bottles were left in the heat on a runway for an entire year, or about how houses that were damaged from the storm still hadn’t been fixed, or how the roads were still barely drivable in some areas of the island. 46% is not the majority. Puerto Rico is not a majority. But the continued aftermath of an American catastrophe is telling.

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digital illustration By Montgomery Meredith Marsh

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- 44 By Montgomery Meredith Marsh digital illustration

By Montgomery Meredith Marsh multimedia digital illustration

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digital illustration

By Montgomery Meredith Marsh

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Fiction By Rory Donohue and Katherine Grubb Dear Gill, I went out for a smoke last night and saw a post of yours stapled to a wooden pole. It rained yesterday afternoon so I couldn’t make out most of the words, but I gathered that this is an advice column of sorts. At least, I think. That’d be embarrassing if I misunderstood. Advice is what I need. I’m not sure where to start. It’s my boyfriend … if I dare call him that. He has taken on a disgusting habit, one amongst many that I let go until now. His obsession with Utz has affected — wait, no — infected our relationship. It has festered into more than something that takes up space in the pantry. My pantry — it is full of Utz products, and we don’t even live together! He keeps “snacks” at my house, saying that he “loves these the most,” which he only informed me of with a rolling pallet stacked with

plastic tubs. His tongue is always orange. It tastes like plastic. I know this makes no sense, but believe me, I’d know. He walks around with little neon crumbs on his clothes. This is particularly noticeable because he wears all black. It’s an expression of my mind, Eleanor. I try to understand. I don’t have a problem with the all-black thing. That’s something I did once, too, of course, but that was back when I was in the seventh grade. It just looks silly and sloppy when there are specks of leftover cheeseballs all over him. I thought I knew him well — he’s studying philosophy, he is thoughtful and intelligent. I imagined a joined future of geriatrics and jelly, but the plastic tongue and orange residue are cheapening his entire person. I almost hope that isn’t what’s turning me off from him. I’ve told all my friends from home that I like him quite a bit, and they’re visiting in eleven

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days. I recently went into his computer. I wanted to see if he was cheating, if there was some way to get out of this stupid nightmare. What I found was even more troubling. He had been away for some time, only telling me of diligent work on his “thesis.” I decided to do what my mind told me not to do. I opened a file titled “Understanding Utz: How America Eats.” The first few pages were filled with legitimate research, academic fragments of that boy I fell in love with. As the pages progressed, the ideas became more and more foggy. The talk of cheeseballs became euphoric and sensual, sometimes changing font or type size. There were sixty pages. I almost wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t. The wooden desk became saturated with my tears. I still love the boy, the part of him I know I’d hurt if I broke up with him. I just cannot bring myself to love this version of him, though. Absolutely not. I’m lactose intolerant, actually. To a crippling degree. Picture me hurling my insides into

the bathroom sink. I guess that’s hard for you to do, since you don’t know me at all, or even the color of my hair. The other day, he asked me to dye it red, or even orange, and though the idea is completely repulsive, I have to wonder if this is because he’d prefer to make love to something that resembles the dust caked under his nails. God, I want to vomit. But Gill, please, you must understand my difficulty going through with the breakup. His eyes are still brown and he still says my name in the way that I love. We were walking through the park two days ago — the moment that I knew I could take no more. By this point I had come to accept his insanity, in whatever capacity that is possible to accept of a lover. He had become a sort of farce in my life, an image of academia’s greatest loser, one who reciprocated emotions as humanly as he could. We approached our favorite spot in the park, a hilltop above a sea of grass. We lay on a plaid blanket and looked on, holding each other tight. Venus sat crooning in the high sky of

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the southwest, and hints of green seeped through the blues and reds. The sun wedded the horizon, a branch-peppered palisade of oak and pine. The most sublime orange seized the sky. I looked at him with joy, and saw his eyes widen and water. He began swallowing and licking his lips, until he stood from the plaid blanket we sat on, setting me back down as I joined him. He sprinted towards that sunset. He sprinted faster than I’d ever seen a man run. I cried and cried as he disappeared into the trees. I’ve reached my limit. It’s been two days. I tried to read a book but I was just too angry. My roommate suggested therapy so I stomped the remaining cheeseballs into her mother’s Persian rug. I was hopeful that my plea would become a manifesto, that I’d have some revelation, but this hasn’t happened at all. I’ve thought of killing him, I’ve thought of calling his mother — I am disgusted over both. Morbid rage or complete indifference — do I act on one end of extremity or the other? The relationship has baked me,

dusted me, and swallowed me whole. I can hear my roommate pulling in, so I must attend to that now. I plan on dressing in all orange and waiting outside his classroom tomorrow. I plan on pulling him into my bed and strangling him. I plan on many things now, but more than anything, I plan on hearing a reply from you soon. Thank you.

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By Summer Carrier David in the vestibuleVestibule like vesicule and ventricles Vertebral canal. He is enshrouded By light. A circle that repeats again at the entryway. I swear I hear a heartbeat. I hear, too, he has stories—thousands. Somebody’s son. A beheading starting with the wrong armor, but a well placed stone. Maybe the story is supposed to read like glory in God. I just see glory in Men who believed in god, and wanted to be more than a brother. Somebody’s idea. Three artists, Neglected for thirty-six years. Two years (and counting) spent carving— I wonder if Michaelangelo saw In the marble. Any sort of technically impossible Reflection. In the vestibule— I like to think what I see is vascular. But I am not David. I am not Michelangelo. Even polished marble can never turn into a mirror. Understand, no, I’m not ever claiming to be so great— Still, still, for a moment I am not looking up. For just a moment, my eyes Are of unmoving stone and I am looking out. Actually, perhaps, I am claiming we are all so great. A thousand stories (and counting). We are all looking out.

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404A7235.CR2 By Jackson Seagraves

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404A7303.CR2 By Jackson Seagraves

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Skin-Tight By How tight is that, exactly; skin-clung shower steam, shaped approximately like you, but never tight enough. Even this measurement fluctuates despite the gulps of ice water before breakfast and everything else you do for it: the calculations; the scale that squats dusty in the corner. You do not need machines anymore, your feet calibrated like a cat’s paw to always know which way is down, how quickly the body goes there. Your body is untranslatable, a foreign airport where luggages thunk against each other, where languages clatter against elbows, an ever-lengthening body of tawny white corridors, crinkled bags of chips, groaning zippers, each wing of the body just another inch of heinous body. You are used to never understanding why you have to look like this: the long pale legs, like a spider’s; the stomach that dilates into round moons from a glass of water; your skin always the skin of a bulging suitcase. When everyone says you are getting too skinny, your feet tap against tile, desperate to arrive at that gate.

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Alli B.

colored pencil, paint pen, and acrylic

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By Jackson Seagraves photograph

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ANXIETY By Melanie Bynum linoleum print

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The Straw Girl By

She almost looks complete Lying down beneath a faraway little pine tree out on the hills Which sprawl out and spill away, overgrown with stories Of the whole world, of past travelers, gods and wild beasts Exhibiting its skill in weaving both joys and miseries And now this world is making someone new To be subjected to its charms and do anything but leave For in this state, nothing is freed But nobody is here yet, so nobody grieves She’s almost ready Thistles which grow in the place of the chest Are rustled by the wind every now and again And mimic the rise and fall of a breast Her skin is so white, she might be dead But against her cheeks are petals of red Against her eyes there are fireflies Which only glow in the darkest part of night But one needs more than that kind of light She does not yet have tears, ideas or rushing blood, any reason to blush Or a frame that could withstand terror, trembling or shaking To say nothing of the heart, which would shatter instead of breaking And with each pass above of the sun, her form becomes drier Until the faintest little spark could be the start of a great fire To curl her into ash, to cause her to wake In any case, to define her

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A bird flies in from over the horizon, he lands and nestles deep within the chest He’s only resting for a moment on his journey, never to return Still, there’s quite a presence in this little bird Bright yellow with accents of emerald green He is singing sweet notes Composed of an ineffable mysterium Visceral beats steeped in a sleep-deprived delirium A frightening and sweet melody from a flint and steel beak Pulled from a place both dark and deep, sharp enough to make one bleed It catches a bead of sun, hints at pains which are to come and reminds no one That life is a thing which hasn’t yet begun

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By Melanie Bynum

linoleum print

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Stressed By Melanie Bynum linoleum print

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invisible By A. J. Woods


CONTENT WARNING: The following piece contains scenes that imply domestic violence. Reader discretion is advised.


oneliness feels a lot like a thunderstorm. At least, it did in the moment that May Hanover stepped on the bus to attend her first day at her new school. She peeked out the window at her parents, who were watching her from the bus stop under a crumpling umbrella, waving nervously and trying to see her through the torrents of rain. “Bye, May! Bye, Circe! Have fun on your field trip!” her mom called, squinting through the rain, her coat pulled tightly around her scrubs. “Don’t feed into the delusion,” her dad muttered before turning to go back into the apartment building. ... For the past seven years, May had called Bay Ridge her home, but her father had suddenly decided to transfer police precincts, and now they were up the river in the Bronx. New York City is terrifying if you don’t know where you are. It is even more terrifying if it’s violently thunderstorming and you are starting first grade in the middle of the week knowing no one. At least May had Circe. Circe was her dragon and her best friend. She was scaly yet smooth, and her skin changed color depending on the light. Usually, she was translucent pink and blue, her scales tipped with purple. She looked like a sunset, a princess, an elegant monster. May relaxed in her bus seat,

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still clutching her backpack to her chest and shivering under her rain jacket. She could hear Circe’s wings flapping behind the bus, loud enough to be heard over the roar of the rain and the city. She had met Circe in her apartment in Brooklyn a couple years prior, and she had been her loyal companion ever since. May didn’t remember the exact circumstances: something about a slammed door, getting in trouble with her dad, and being sent to her room, and there she was. A perfect, tiny dragon, curled up on her pillow. A tendril of steam escaped from Circe’s nose as she snored. May had stroked her back gently, and the miniature dragon sleepily opened her eyes, unfurled her wings, and flitted in wild circles around the room while May tried to catch her. From then on, Circe never left May’s side. ... The teacher’s (Ms. Hammond? Ms. Johnston? Ms. Lindley?) introduction and first hours of worksheets and math lessons blurred together. She couldn’t hear anything over the rush of blood pounding in her head, feel anything but the shaking of her hands and hammering in her chest. Circe, now too large to fit in the classroom, stalked the halls, passing the window of the classroom and peeping in with her large yellow eye to make sure everything was okay. May’s heart rose every time she got a glimpse of her friend—her watchful protector. “Okay, everyone, pack up! We’re leaving for our field trip!” Miss Garfield? Mrs. Sonders? announced after they had finished their snacks. May was thrilled to leave this classroom full of strangers that kept shooting her curious looks. Just don’t look at me, just be my friend, just leave me alone, just ask me to play with you. Maybe they were just afraid of Circe. Circe had shrunk to the size of a Labrador by the time they got to the bus. She followed May to her seat and curled at her feet. May stared out the window as an unfamiliar New York passed, the chatter of her classmates going entirely unnoticed as she took in a new part of her home. She missed Brooklyn. But Dad had said that this move would be good for all of them. Mama didn’t agree; her commute had doubled to get to work in the hospital in Queens. Dad just suggested she get a new job, but Mama said she didn’t have a lot of control over which hospitals took nurses of her specialty. May and Circe had left the room before their opinions got too loud.

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... After an eternity, they arrived at their destination. The entrance to the Natural History Museum towered into the gray sky, still elegant despite the weather. If anything, the rain enhanced the beauty of the ivory building. Ms. Simmons? Mrs. Hogue? led the class up the endless steps and between the stately pillars, herding the group of small, colorfully clad first graders into a confused huddle among the bustling rainy-day museum crowd. They entered, the warm interior enveloping them. Circe curled deeper into May’s pocket, snoozing gently. As her classmates struggled with the zippers on their raincoats, May stepped forward, out of the throng of youthful chaos. Looming overhead rose the most beautiful and terrifying creature: the Allosaurus, a full-sized model of bones and teeth greeting the museum guests. May gazed up, mesmerized. He was as big as Circe had ever grown, even bigger than the time Mom had gotten home late from the hospital and had forgotten to text Dad. “Magnificent.” A girl with long, regal braids and round glasses stepped next to May, her gaze pointed upward at the haunting beast. “She’s so powerful. I’m Lupita, by the way.” “May. And this is my dragon, Circe.” May gently scooped the sleeping dragon out of her cozy pocket. Circe stretched, a tiny sneeze of flame escaping her mouth as she yawned, and snuggled back against May’s open palm. Lupita hovered over May’s hand, entranced. “What color is she?” “She’s all the colors,” May said proudly. “Mostly pink and blue and purple, though. Want to walk together?” “Sure! I’ve never met anyone with a pet dragon before.” Lupita fell in step alongside May as they followed Miss Raul? Miss Stetsonson? into the museum. ... The afternoon passed in a

brilliant blur. There was just so much to look at; they dozed through a presentation about Mars in the observatory, they cowered under a life-size humpback whale that spanned the length of the huge oceanic exhibit, they mimicked the roars in the dinosaur room, clustering in awe under the enormous T-rex. Maybe this new school wasn’t so bad. “I bet my mom would let you come over to my house after school, if you want! I don’t know if she lets dragons into the house, though. Maybe Circe can play with our dog! His name is Samson. He doesn’t really do anything, so it might be nice for him to have a friend,” Lupita whispered as they stood in a group, listening to a museum employee introduce the origin of man exhibit. “Okay! I would love to meet your puppy. Circe sometimes chased other dogs in the park when we lived in Brooklyn,” May whispered back. “Okay, you can just ride the bus home with me then! I’ll have the bus driver call ahead. Here,” Lupita paused, pushed up May’s sleeve, and wrote a phone number on her arm with a marker. “Now you can call my house after school.” She slid the marker back in her pocket. “You know,” Lupita continued, “my mom is the best cook! She always makes dumplings when it rains. She gets home earlier than I do, usually. She’s a teacher at Columbia. Have you ever been? They have a really cool field in between their buildings that sometimes we take Samson to when she has class. And she has whiteboards and candy in her office! Dad won’t get home till late because he has a long shift at the hospital tonight.” “Your mom gets home before your dad? My dad doesn’t like my mom to be at home by herself. He’s a police officer



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and she’s a nurse, though, so she usually works later than he does.” May zipped up her jacket and pulled down her sleeve as they prepared to reenter the storm. ... May could smell the soup from the stairwell. It smelled like Thanksgiving, like a fireplace, like the Nancy Drew series her mom read to her before bed when she didn’t have to work night shifts. “My home!” Lupita announced, fumbling with the key in her excitement. Excited barking came from just behind the door. Circe poked her head out of May’s pocket in curiosity. Lupita wrestled the door open, and they were greeted by an excited retriever, the most energetic dog May had ever seen. “Hey, Pumpkin, how was your day?” a warm voice called from somewhere in the apartment. The hallway was bathed in golden light, books lining one wall and family photographs and framed art (that was obviously done by Lupita) covering the other. May followed suit as Lupita kicked off her shoes and dumped her backpack by the door. “Good, Mama! I brought a friend home for dinner! This is May.” The girls rounded the corner into the kitchen, where a tall, lean woman with an apron that read, “Kiss the cook!” was stirring a large pot of simmering broth. The kitchen was a mess, with handmade dumpling dough, a bowl of filling, and open jars of spices covering the counter. Mrs. Aliyu turned to fold more dumplings. Her smile was as wide and bright as her daughter’s. Her coily dark hair was pulled into a bun on the top of her head, some curls escaping and framing her forehead in the humidity of the kitchen. “Welcome, May,” she grinned. “I’m afraid you’ve caught us in the middle of dinner prep. Here, you girls wash your hands and you can help me wrap some of these dumplings! C’mere baby,” she said as she wrapped Lupita in a hug, careful not to get her floured hands on her shirt. “My mom makes us dumplings sometimes. She learned how from her grandma in China when she was a little girl, before she moved to New York. Only, they’re spicy, and we don’t put them in soup. My dad doesn’t like spicy food, so we only have them when he eats dinner at the bar with his work friends,” May said shyly, wiping her hands on an embroidered kitchen towel.

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“Well, there are all types of dumplings. I would love to try your mom’s dumplings, and I can send some of these home with you for her to try,” Mrs. Aliyu said. The girls went to Lupita’s room while they waited for her dad to get home for dinner. Circe flitted happily around the bookshelf and toys that occupied the room, eventually snuggling in with the stuffed animals on the bed. The front door slammed. May tensed. Circe sat up—alert—her scales rippling as she jumped on the floor to stand at May’s feet, her head reaching May’s shoulder, and her wings the size of umbrellas. The door burst open and May flinched, but Lupita leapt up. “Dada!” “How are you, baby? How was the museum? Did you see the T-rex? Were you so brave when you saw the whale this time?” A terrifyingly large man swept Lupita up into a bear hug, the bottom of his scrubs soaked from his commute. He noticed May hunched against the wall and put Lupita down, kneeling to be eye level with his daughter’s guest. “You must be May. You know, we took Lupita to the Museum of Natural History last year, and she was scared of the whale. But we talked about it and practiced facing our fears, and it sounds like this time she enjoyed it! Right, baby? Let’s go eat, ladies. Oh, do I have some stories from the ER today!” May relaxed, and the girls followed him back to the kitchen. “Smells great, hon,” Lupita’s dad scooped up two steaming bowls from the counter and followed his wife to the table. He placed the bowls in front of the girls. “Let’s bless the meal, and then I want to hear all about this field trip.” ... After everyone had stuffed themselves with brothy chicken dumplings and the girls had recounted the details of the dinosaur exhibit, they lounged at the table as Mr. Aliyu washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Mrs. Aliyu leaned over May’s math homework. “Now look, with division, it’s not too hard. Remember your times tables, and just work backwards.” She shifted one arm around the back of May’s chair and pointed at the problem with her pencil. Her phone lit up on the table. “Oh, is it already seven? We should get you home, baby.” They gathered May’s coat and backpack from the front door,

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By Marian Mallow digital illustration

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By Karrington Simmons

digital illustration

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and Mrs. Aliyu handed her a warm Tupperware of soup. “Sam, honey, could you drop her off for me? I have to grade these tests. You’d think Columbia students would know how to balance chem equations by now, but here we are,” Mrs. Aliyu said with a chuckle. “Sure. Lupita, you wanna come too?” Mr. Aliyu asked. The girls followed him downstairs and huddled under an umbrella. “We don’t usually do this, but given the weather, you girls wanna take a cab?” He raised his hand and let out a loud whistle, hailing the yellow car to the curb. Thrilled, May followed her new friend into the cab. She had only ridden in a cab on very special occasions, and this seemed to be the perfect end to the perfect day. She placed Circe on her shoulder so she could enjoy the view from the car window. The ride ended too soon, and May reluctantly climbed out into the drizzle. “Want us to walk up with you?” Lupita asked from the cab. “It’s okay. I know where I’m going!” May waved and ran inside, taking the stairs two at a time. ... The door was unlocked. Dad never left the door unlocked, especially in New York City. He had seen too many terrifying things on the force to be anything but careful. She pushed the door open. The light was off. “Mama?” she walked into the apartment tentatively. The boxes still lined the walls, takeout dishes still on the counter. “I’m home?” She almost tripped in the dark, but caught herself. She leaned down to investigate, and immediately jumped back in fear. Circe, now a huge shadow behind her, snorted a fiery huff. May’s mom was lying on the ground, sprawled halfway between the kitchen and the hallway. Were they robbed? Where was her dad? Did they have another fight? Usually, Mama just had to lie down for a while after they fought, or spent more time in the bathroom and came out with her face powdered. But she was on the

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ground this time. May flipped on the light and let out a scream. Blood had crusted over her mom’s eye, and she looked worse than she usually did after she and her dad fought. She didn’t wake when May shook her, didn’t wake as May cried. Circe’s figure filled the entire hallway. May dialed 911 on the home phone, her hands shaking slightly. After speaking to the kind operator, she dialed the number Lupita had written on her arm earlier that day. “Mama, wake up, please,” she sobbed. ... She didn’t remember the ambulance ride. She didn’t respond to the EMT workers. She sat, numb, in the hospital room’s guest chair. Her dad was gone. Circe’s hulking figure, wrapped around her mama’s hospital bed as if it were buried treasure, for once did nothing to comfort her. She looked past Circe to her mama on the bed. She was so young, so unusually relaxed, lying in the clean hospital sheets, the moonlight illuminating her hair in a silver halo. If May squinted enough, she could almost blur the black and blue on the side of her mother’s face into watercolor, pretend the clotting blood was her smudged eye makeup. May was repainting her mama’s image in her head when Lupita burst through the door. “My mom got your voicemail, so we came as soon as we heard! Look, I wore my pajamas under my coat!” May’s damp face relaxed into a grin. “Mrs. and Mr. Aliyu, I want you all to meet my Mama. She’ll wake up real soon.” Lupita’s mom enveloped May in the warmest and most comforting hug she’d had in ages. “It’s okay, baby. We’ll wait with you.” May turned to her sleeping mother. “Mama, wake up. I want you to meet my new friend.”

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Fly By By Eddie Camara digital illustration

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FALL 2021 STAFF Mia Jackson Erin Slaughter



Kiersten Wright

Kristine Castillo

Andrea Figueroa-Irizarry Audrey Timmins Gabriela Laracuente Haley Pendleton Niall Williams Kirstin Soper Maria Castorena Maria Diyaljee Natalie Hughes Paola Quintero Patreva Brown Rosalind Helsinger Shawntia Nicholson

Joseph Martini Oliver Brooks Peyton Addison Kinsey Akers Emily Hyde Thomas Hart Albert Oleksy Emma Wasserman Daniela Vergara Zane Boyle Daniel Ardila Sophia Ivey

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Visual Art


Christian Latham

Roxy Rico

Ninah Gibson Alejandro Valentin Tessa Mahurin Solymar Estrella Ally Price Sommaiya Angrish Sydney Holzborn Eric Herrera

Audrey Laplante Haley Pendleton Shannon Driscoll Courtney Berardi Elizabeth Saint Jasmine Loriz Jacob Richardson Arthur Noriega Rory Donohue Grace Allen Madeline Paskow Courtney Swanson


Social Media Sabine Joseph

Mia Jackson Madison Maley Olivia Honan Thomas Hart Marlowe Dunn Flom Annabelle Chapman Ally Price Sydney Holzborn

Alejandro Valentin Maria Diyaljee Emma Wasserman Mai Shinozaki Heather Colbert Courtney Berardi Sophia Ivey

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Dear readers, contributors, staff members, and members of the FSU community — During your perusal of this edition of The Kudzu Review, I sincerely hope you found something within its pages to spark your imagination. As a publication that has been featuring outstanding undergraduate creative work at Florida State University for over 30 years, Kudzu works every semester to represent the dedication and ingenuity of a new generation of writers and artists. Very recently, The Kudzu Review has undergone what I like to fondly (and sometimes not-so-fondly) call “growing pains.” In just four months, our staff has doubled in size and now includes two brand new sections. These changes brought a host of new challenges to meet, but they also brought significant milestones toward Kudzu’s exciting future. Thanks to the new and talented Social Media team, our staff saw double the number of submissions from just one semester prior. We also saw our first ever international submissions come all the way from Universidade Federal do Tocantins (Brazil) and University of Queensland (Australia). Though FSU will always be our stomping grounds, it is a joy and wonder that Kudzu’s name is starting to be heard thousands of miles away from the Williams building. To my editorial assistants, thank you for jumping in headfirst, and meeting every challenge with enthusiasm and dedication. I have never felt more excited and humbled than I did meeting you all that first day in the Williams Common Room. To my Layout section, thank you for letting me learn on the job. I hope you are as proud of the beautiful theme we put together as I am! To my masthead, thank you for trusting me, supporting me, and

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responding to all of my late-night Teams messages. It is without question your faith and continued efforts that allowed my aspirations for Kudzu to become realities. To our contributors, thank you for entrusting Kudzu with your work. We know the sweat, tears, and disappointments you’ve endured to bring them to life, and we are honored to be able to share them with our readers. To our faculty advisor, Erin Slaughter, thank you for answering every email, inviting our most exciting guest speaker to date, and helping me push for improvements at a higher level. You have been instrumental in effecting real change. As Kudzu turns to some exciting new projects— including a hopeful return of our sorely missed print issues (fingers-crossed!)—I find myself returning to a sense of awe and appreciation for the community I have found on this staff since I first joined in fall of 2019. It is my greatest hope that Kudzu serve as a place for all of FSU’s creatives to connect and feel welcomed, and I believe we are seeing this community start to hit its stride. To another semester of great stories, both on the pages and beyond, Mia Jackson Editor in Chief, 2021-2022

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Read past issues on our website, Interested in contributing to our next issue? Check back at in mid-January 2022 for deadlines and information on how to submit. Connect and stay up-to-date with us on all our social media: @kudzu.fsu




Questions for the editor? Email

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