Round 2 Volume 12
the Laughing Medusa
The Laughing Medusa
Womenâ€™s Literature and Arts Journal Spring 2018
Boston College Round 2: Volume 13
The Laughing Medusa Editors and Council Editor-in-Chief Bailey Flynn Director of Submissions Taylor Puccini Layout Editor Tiffany Liu
Directors of Publicity Claire Kramer Celia Smithmier Web Editor Sonja Goldman
Untitled Canon Chimmey
Council Members Margherita Bassi Rose Dornan Ji-Won Ha Maggie McQuade Kate Oksen Christin Snyder Jordan Tessler
Optics Julia Nagle
Cold Warmth Nicole Maloof
If Words Could Paint a Woman Jordan Tessler
dionysianism Erica Mazzerelli
onyx Kate Oksen
Untitled from “Forever Fighting, Not Forgotten” Rebecca McGeorge
My Mom Doesn’t Pick Up Calls From Unfamiliar Numbers and I Know Why Kim Chook
Of My Likeness Margherita Bassi
Untitled Michaela Gacnik
Water Emma Winters
Green Point Claire Kramer
Akua Sarr Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Mary Crane and The Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA)
Richard Downing and staff at Flagship Press
Untitled Michaela Mark Find Me Margherita Bassi
Many Thanks For Your Support:
Peter Marino & Susan Dunn at the Center for Centers
Table of Contents
Come Into Your Own Emily Zhao
Thanks Julia Nagle
red Julia Nagle
After the Tone Sabrina Black
Untitled Canon Crummey
Untitled Michaela Gacnik
only blue talk Anonymous
Could You Stop by My Place? Shelby Grasso
Blend Emily Zhao
He calls my noodle arms Sonja Goldman
Draft Ellie Ray
Fire Girl Nicole Maloof
Ode to the Vacuum Julia Nagle
Loneliness, or dreaming Taylor Puccini
Abstraction No. 3 Kate Oksen
Innocent Obsession Anonymous
4/7/17 Berlin Kim Chook
fin. Claire Kramer
Boch Erica Mazzarelli
seventeen Celia Smithmier
POEM ABOUT HIM BEING PERFECT AND ME BEING AFRAID Kate Oksen
Shoshone, Idaho Sonja Goldman
Do you know me Erica Mazzarelli
Liminal Space Sabrina Black
Scranton Caroline Dragonetti
smile Celia Smithmier
siphonaptera vs. bath Kate Oksen The Common Common Life Caroline Dragonetti
love leaving your body Sonja Goldman
WE ALL BECOME OUR PARENTS AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE Julia Hopkins
Learning How to Mother Taylor Puccini
Misery Margherita Bassi
Broken Amen Claire Kramer
After Lilly Higgins
bacteria Celia Smithmier
Untitled Danielle Bellantonio
Vetigo Kelsey McGee
Poverty Waltz Margherita Bassi
Untitled Danielle Bellantonio
So we can reconnect since we last spoke Kelsey McGee
Variegated Christin Snyder
Untitled from “Forever Fighting, Not Forgotten” Rebecca McGeorge
Bear in the Big Blue House Kelsey McGee
Girl Unraveled Bailey Flynn
Joy Megan Stephenson
14 hours later Canon Crummey
Untitled (2015) Tina Tian
Untitled Emily Zhao
Little Voyager Christin Snyder
SIXTY-SIX PERCENT JUICE Kate Oksen
Cradle Celia Smithmier
Free the Nipple Megan Stephenson
An Airport Poem Taylor Puccini
Contrapposto Lauren Keeley
Tumbleweeds Jordan Tessler
Come Fly With Me Claire Kramer
Broken Girl Caroline Dragonetti
butterfly skeletons Ashley Trotter
Seating Audition, 2014 Sabrina Black
Audrey Julia Nagle
Untitled from “Forever Fighting, Not Forgotten” Rebecca McGeorge
Vapor Kelsey McGee
I Don’t Have a Valentine This Year Emma Winters
Jupiter’s Europa Christin Snyder
The Body Erica Mazzarelli
Everyone’s a little unfinished Nicole Maloof
Lilith Erica Macri
Around Me Claire Kramer
Before the Bombs Come Bailey Flynn
104104 Erica Mazzarelli
common sense Celia Smithmier
Paper Boats Margherita Bassi
pick me Anonymous
Night Murmurs Christin Snyder
Untitled Danielle Bellantonio
Paper Skin Kelsey McGee
Julep Emily Zhao
04.08.2017 Ashley Trotter
Mission Statement The Laughing Medusa seeks to engage the Boston College community with the artistic works of diverse women. The journal provides a safe space for talented young women to express and examine our lives.
A note about QR Codes: Sights and sounds are also art, and so we are always proud to include QR codes that, when you take a scan with your smartphone, will take you to the artistâ€™s work. We have included a spoken word performance in this edition.
We hope to emphasize and explore our collective humanity, and hope that all readers can see themselves in the pages of this journal.
Dear Reader: It has been a big and audacious year for the country, Boston College, and our magazine. As we’ve been gathering these pages over the last few months, there have been many moments to challenge and confirm what we stand for as the Laughing Medusa. We are proud to be reaching more of the Boston College community than ever before in such a context, and the impressive submissions we received this year challenged us to rethink who we seek to speak to on this campus. It is with pride and excitement that we release this 2018 edition of the Medusa, one that we believe represents our most complex collection of women’s experiences yet. These women are soft and hard, and they are everything in between.
The Laughing Medusa
We have had a wonderful time putting this year’s magazine together, and hope that your reading experience reflects that joy and compassion. It is our distinct honor to provide a space in which BC’s women can be authentically themselves. As always, we hope that the content you’ll find in this issue challenges you to think and maybe pick up a pen, camera, or paintbrush to create something yourself. We have our eyes set on bigger goals than ever next year, and we want you to be a part of it. The Laughing Medusa Council
Find Me Find me at the bottom of your drink when you raise your cup and see me across the room through the round film of glass. Margherita Bassi
Optics I want to be kaleidoscoped. See, I havenâ€™t been in love with my reflection since you twisted me in your hands. And Iâ€™m thinking that some color some shape some loose glass might do me good. Julia Nagle
dionysianism If Words Could Paint a Woman She likes wicker chairs with soft cushions sweet tea from Arnold Palmer and fantasy novels for the escape. Once, in 1999 she put on a swimsuit and swam in the ocean. Now she stubs her toes too often and always cries out in pain but used to take far worse beatings from words in silence. Sometimes I swear I can see her heart beating from between her ribs. She calls every child under the age of fifteen “honey” but talk back to her in class and you’ll wish you hadn’t. I know for a fact her hugs wield healing powers and she’d give both her kidneys to her kids. She always listens to premonitions that grow in her gut and can command an entire room of students with just one look. Now she has a bad knee and hates when dogs lick her toes but I know she’ll always choose to paint them fire hydrant red. Jordan Tessler
onyx when i was nine he could have died if not for me. i found him sopping and sodden and pleading his eyes shining like onyx like the black water around him his frail arms shaking and clutching to the beams of the bulkhead. after that night i never saw him again but i often wonder how many cuts and infections he got from barnacle scratches and rusting nails that seem to serve no other purpose but puncturing flesh and i don’t know how no one else heard this man so i spoke for him grabbing my parents as they waltzed to our parked car after dinner on the waterfront and i was calm. listen to heavy breathing and my mother yelping my father scooping this waterlogged murmuring shell of a man out of the marina like the girls at the ice cream shop scoop cones and wrap your hands in paper napkins and we wrapped this man in towels his teeth chattering like metal gates scraping gravel his words falling out of his wet mouth like ice cubes his tongue swollen like all he ever ate were ice cubes and he says how do you hang on when you just want to let go and i’m on a field trip to the cape may zoo and there are giraffes who could shatter glass ceilings and peacocks who could make me swoon but then there are sloths hanging clutching branches like bulkheads like beams and rusted nails now i’ve seen two sets of hands where the fingernails turn black like onyx and i’m trying to ask the sloth mr. sloth, do you ever just want to let go? but i can’t hear him over lions roaring and peacocks mating and water lapping and my mother humming baby girl tonight you were a hero and i’ve seen heroes before they know how to fly and how to fight and all i know is the difference between the whisper of the water and the plea of a dying man. mom? do you ever think it would be easier to just let go? Kate Oksen
My Mom Doesn’t Pick Up Calls From Unfamiliar Numbers and I know Why You’ve got some trust issues, Men and my friends and my therapist say And I always wondered How they knew Because I Didn’t know Never knew How not normal it was To think like my mother To fear like my father And damn, I’ve got some trust issues. I did not know That it is not inherent It always felt natural, To pull myself in The moment I stepped out of a building into the dark, gearing up for my long walk home. I can’t remember when Or how I learned to greet The street by Shrinking as I walked, Compartmentalizing As I passed People Distilling myself Into something denser, Harder, stronger And I hoped—more tough Like teflon Against unknown threat. 24
Suspicion pumped my veins As if by injection, Paranoia pouring over, gushing in Like the lights that spilled, Overfilled from the streetlamps Over our heads Hitting the concrete in a warm glow— I never knew, I didn’t know, that yellow light could feel so cold. My 10-year-old eyes Were specialized To draw shadows out of the dark Turning the wind into wispy hands Reaching out to clutch me I didn’t know Until I knew That little girl minds Can still conjure up fear Make drops of sweat Bead out of palms, Pump hearts to quicken pace Pump unspeakable thoughts To race I wish my little girl mind Would occupy monsters From the closet Like normal, And not spend time Turning over and under In my little girl mind The intricacies of rape I do not know, No you do not need to know The intricacies of assault To feel the depth The strength, the reach Of predator on prey 25
The weight of the male gaze X-ray vision, precision Contemplation Eyes on your body I didn’t know Then Why I have these damn trust issues Why my little girl mind Jolted me out of my Hello Kitty sheets Sweating and screaming 3 times a week I only knew that My parents whispered The world into my ear Or as I now realized, They whispered A version of the world Gilded with fear Always be on guard Always block your body Always remember that no one Can touch you, can hold you Can merit your trust Except for your family I didn’t know My little girl ears Drank those warnings up I was sipping on tea Steeped with trauma Hot, scalding Burning my tongue but They were whispering the world Into my ears Offering me trauma tea And little girl me Saw no choice but to drink. I thought This must be my mind 26
Creating its own torture To torment myself out of boredom An overactive imagination They’d say But today I know That trauma gets transferred in Subtle ways That wariness was borne into me From my parents— And theirs before them, Even if they didn’t know The effects that their own childhoods had carved in them And sometimes, I don’t know Because it’s easy to forget And easy to pretend that nothing happened When the entire country, My sweet but weary people Pretend That genocide didn’t happen As if that would wipe away the rouge Still dried beneath fingernails, In between floor tiles at Tuol Sleng And behind our eyelids. Because they don’t know A better way to cope Than to trample down trauma shove their way through The demons in their dreams bite their own tongues cover their own eyes Until trauma tramples them And I know That they don’t know How to talk about it. 27
They let me learn From books And the internet About the labor camps The killing fields The black uniforms The family members lost The starvation And disease Of the Khmer Rouge
Of My Likeness
My parents don’t know How to possibly Potentially Maybe One day Try To talk about that To say one word or two Or all of them, To let that tragedy and pain Pour out like street light Onto hard concrete
I’m sorry if I broke you— Or perhaps I made you, broken. Are babies begotten with cracked ribs? You say you are of my likeness, and yet you sing praises in the name of a being that Dirtied his hands in wet clay and Dragged his fingers through The hair of a universe he made, broken. And if I broke it, I am sorry. Margherita Bassi
I don’t know Few people know Do you know? The feeling of release When you permit anger and pain and restraint To meet heat To be melted by vulnerability Smelt down into lava Pour it out onto the street Leave it there like warm light. Kim Chook
Water I didn’t like the sand Just the Goldfish on the blanket Between my legs. My saliva soaked baby palms Snatched them up like an arcade crane That never missed And shovel-crushed them into my mouth. Crossing the boardwalk with its boards At an angle meeting in the middle Like an arrow pointing To the New York City skyline And trudging through the sand That’s cooler and darker Near the foaming shoreline. At its worst the sand slides through Your sandals white-hot on pale unhardened feet bottoms. And you have to run down to The first breaking wave And let its foam cover your toes. ***
My neighbor Jordan and I crouch Along the bank barefoot And peer like detectives over the baby tadpoles. We decide we are guardians of the precious things As their legs grow in. Creating a barricade of sand That slides in the spaces between our fingers, Soft from the washing of the creek, Protecting them from the wildness of world. We wash our hands in the light rush Our heads between our rolled up pant legs We walk across the one-board-wide bridge And pinky promise in Jordan’s cul-de-sac That we will check on them tomorrow.
The next day our tadpoles have died. In the mudslide from our collapsed wall. We try to fish them out and revive them under the rush. And I look at the green curtain of leaves promising life. *** The green curtain shields me As I squat with one hand in the sand behind me The yellow stream between me and the inner-lining Of my running shorts hits the sand and creates A hole and A small pool of its own. I pull my shorts up against the drip Of sweat along my back. Somehow my sweat pours down faster When I pee down here. I pull myself up from the bank Like Iâ€™m getting out of a pool. I pull one arm across my chest secured by the fulcrum of the other. And join my team on the other side Of the curtainâ€™s dancing shadow. Does it get easier with time?
Green Point that passenger seat burned my bare thighs the august sun came through your sunroof, trying to wake me up by the time we reached water, the air had turned on me hitting my red skin my teeth cried even in lukewarm sand your grandfather placed a bright green wool sweater around my shoulders that your nonna would never wear again it hung on my neck, and the chills spread to my womb my grainy toes lingering on hardwood later you came into me as i lay stiff i knew it was the last Claire Kramer
Come Into Your Own love leaving your body Maybe rope burn feels invincible on your skin it leaves a timestamp to declare the tortured power of your past that you hold pressed to the inward sky Yesterdayâ€™s light dissolves around your lightly burnt fingertips enough to sizzle water from necessityâ€™s grasp one drop after another some people call them teardrops: you name it love leaving your body Sonja Goldman
Lassitude When I awoke, lost in the familiar parking lot one-hundred-and-twenty-four minutes had passed. I traveled home by firemanâ€™s carry. It took more than one-hundred-and-twenty-four minutes in the bathtub for the black to turn clear. The internet told me what happened. When he passes he points and he laughs and it was one-hundred-and-twenty-four days ago. He has a girlfriend now. Canon Crummey A.M.K.
only blue talk
acoustic guitar and soft vocals bumped against my heartstrings, swirled like blue cotton candy threads destined for evenings spent on boardwalks and sticky chubby fingers of tootsie roll children. there were no grown ups around to wipe my hands and face and insides clean of whatever jazz you left inside me or details you kindly left out that morning i woke up naked and not afraid of you because i can’t remember parading around my apartment while the earth quaked i can’t remember what your mouth felt like i can’t remember the songs you sang me to sleep with you. i don’t understand which variables turned my dizzy periwinkle world into a hazy blacked out x-rated motion picture starring me and you. just close your eyes baby, cover your ears kids, zip your lips darling i don’t want to talk about this anymore.
Draft I make her raise her arm, signaling a taxi. I knew where she was going before she did, and I knew why before I decided she should be born. Should she be in San Francisco or New York? New York, definitely New York. So much opportunity in New York, which we both know, she and I, as she gets in the taxi to go to her first job interview. She won’t get this one, although she doesn’t know it yet, and God knows I can understand that. But after she gets the rejection call, she’ll be in that bar trying to forget the day. And she won’t pay for a drink all night after she meets Jeremiah, the best and worst thing to ever happen to her. “Do you want to get out of here?” “Alright.” Silly girl, although it’s my own fault. Maybe she isn’t to blame for living memories I only see in bad dreams. And now my hand is shaking, damn it. A great ink blot covers Jeremiah’s deceiving smile, satisfying yet unfit to undo the damage. Strange how easy it is to cross his name out as if he’d never existed, and wouldn’t it be so much simpler if it were possible to scratch out his life with a few strokes of the pen- oh dear. I’d better share Beth, the recipient of hundreds of midnight phone calls when I couldn’t even speak, the best friend any girl could ask for, written or otherwise. It was I who changed her hair from blonde to red, dark red like a sunset, in the hope that she’d have more spirit than I did. And she has that crooked toe that clicks in her shoes, a homey feeling when it comes down to it. And I gave her those eyes, stormy and grey, that she hates but that I knew one would come to love. Slender hands to grip the pencils, wavy hair to shield from the wind, and large feet to run when she needs to go. Three scars and a nightmare later, she’s back on her own, just in time to stop at that street artist on the corner in front of her favorite book store. That’s where he is, and they look down the street that leads to their future. She’ll be wearing a green scarf, and she’ll be holding “Slaughterhouse Five,” and pulling a wagon of flower pots. And 40
she can’t picture it now or why this is her future, but it is because I gave it to her. “So it goes.” “You know Vonnegut?” And so it does. It looks quite nice written there, doesn’t it, oh yes, I could almost be happy for her, given her childhood longing for the fairytale ending, and after all I suppose someone’s got to have it. The colors and tastes felt with each letter, vibrant yet stagnant as they wait for me to find that harmonious combination. Be patient, will you? When she was little, she broke her leg, no, wrist, falling out of a tree. She climbed too high, reached too far. But she only wanted to touch the little pieces of cloud before their fiery brilliance was painted over in dusky blues and winking nightlights. It was that moment, the glimpse of heaven before falling back down, that created her first painting. The fading tendrils of a bloody sun spiraled across the distant stars on the cast for her broken wrist, leaving no room for heartfelt signatures. She knew from an early age that hers would be the only name on her work. I write her a hole in a red sweater, torn near the collarbone, a little window for secret kisses from the laughing mouth she doesn’t know yet. She would’ve mended it long ago, but unfortunately a stray sneeze of mine blew her sewing needles and thread under the bureau. I really must do something about those spring allergies, but perhaps a talking mouse will make use of them, as they seem to pop up unexpectedly in fairytales. It’s a shame, the ones in my kitchen floor merely steal my food. But she would never set a trap, for fear of stepping on it in the dark, a horror story I wrote into her father’s mouth. As she sits in the taxi cab, I have her looking out the window, watching the rain make rivers on the glass. “Where to?” “228 Park Avenue.” It gives the illusion of having control over a life, even if it isn’t your own, and yet there’s no telling where you’ll be swept off to if you don’t keep your pen steady on the page. It’s like playing God, except nothing is perfect and nothing is eternal. But maybe it’s interesting, and 41
maybe someday there’ll be someone who remembers her life like I do, under the covers with a flashlight when Mother turns the lights off. I’ll remember it all and cherish it as I did on that rainy day by the windowsill. I built the hidden cupboard that she’d need to hide her wine when her mother comes to visit after my mother’s second DUI. And I built the factory that created her favorite tennis shoes once my father missed my final tennis match of high school. Her favorite chef on TV was born two towns away, where I moved in pursuit of my first job as a newspaper intern. The sunglasses in her glove compartment were the product of a one night stand during spring break of junior year in college. They’re the ugliest things really, I begged him not to wear them in public. I gave her these things before I gave her a name, because that is the hardest thing to give. How do you happen upon the one word that is to describe an existence? But it found its way eventually. I’ve written many rabbit holes, Alice. I hope— Ellie Ray
Ode to the Vacuum My favorite chore was vacuuming. Imagine me: pushin’, zoomin’! Across the tile —click clack, click clack— Once through the den, then a loop back. Through the family room, kitchen, and hall, always waiting for crumbs to fall. One fateful day, my vacuum died. I felt as if my hands were tied. I had to clean —it was my role. So I sucked crumbs ‘til I was full. Julia Nagle
Abstraction No. 3 4 / 7 / 17 / Berlin Split ground When it rose from concrete Spits grit when it speaks I didn’t know I’d feel so welcome By the mind-your-own-shit And ashen complexions on the bahn, The easy complexity of leather jackets, Pink hair, ripped jeans, triple piercings. Your plastic cards—nothing to “cash only,” Reminder that raw is realer. Drink on the street, on the train, in your face. On your walls, off the wall, graffiti prose and Universal Art. That’s global justice. Berlin, you Bruised knuckle wiping blood from a fat lip, Grinning all the while so we do not forget— Forgive us if we try— Who has marched beneath the gate, Who holds it up now. Kim Chook
seventeen batman cried out to the heavens and nobody heard but can we hear it now? it’s enough to drown the doubts of red on paper masks and depress costumed shoulder-bones and murmur another prime number from the timetables we learned in school but batman isn’t supposed to die with bullets and seventeen did and they don’t have doubts or shoulder bones or capes anymore because the worms got to those underground and their ears are decomposed and they can’t hear seventeen, seventeen, seventeen and now we buzz so it makes us deaf and i can’t hear myself anymore but at least my arms work. Celia Smithmier
Shoshone, Idaho she’s sixteen
mask old grievances but find a dull light to hide herself in.
rundown first floor apartment between 5th and james street only landmark, it’s an hour outside of Boise the man held the glass pipe to her colored lips, as his girlfriend looked on. Suck he hissed. She sucked and held on. Made eye contact with his girlfriend.
they say we control our despair wrapped up bliss we find it, disguised by layers
Now blow he whispered.
from picking the layers.
she blew the contaminated air from her lungs
she swears on her heart or something, Fingers to her chest: she’ll get out of here
and watched it unravel in the space in front of
But to walk the valley is only five minutes— and she always comes back
It was translucent gray and disappeared within seconds. like when your breath freezes mid-air: too warm to survive.
you have to pick away at them, she tells herself but all we find is a frozen girl Whose elbows are bleeding
The thirty year old does it again; he holds it up to her mouth. lips curl around the slick glass and she sucks. Holds. Blows. She left her sleeve in between the mountains. she lay in a mile of valley where the bees died, swept across the weeded floor. undeserving of a school so kids try smoking weed at age fourteen she’s crying now mildew stained blankets cover the mountains’ sharp peaks in the summer. She would like not to 48
Liminal Space The 3 A.M. bus is full of people who have traveled farther afield than they had planned. They stare without blinking ahead into tunnels–they have seen too much today already. One pair of voices struggles over the terrain of the motor’s rumbling, their conversation punctuated by manhole covers. No one wonders what language they’re speaking. A man takes a swig of wine or cough syrup. In the glare of the headlights windows blink awake, but behind them lies oblivion (the real dreams happen out here, on the front lines of existence). Some of the passengers have beds elsewhere, but they live here, where my eyes can’t quite adjust. My neighbor puts his arm around me and lets me pretend to fall asleep against his chest, a warm memory of the woman he loves still until our stop comes around.
Thanks He never let it past his lips. Or if he did, he spat it. A thick, tobaccoed tar delivered begrudgingly. Modeled by Dad: a mind and mouth sealed shut â€”storage units for dried leaves and addiction that craved dominance. He unhinged himself with a skeleton key tongue. Now he teaches other men how to chew us up to absorb the high then spit the filth.
Julia Nagle Julia Nagle
After the Tone I’m having trouble recalling the last digit of your phone number, so you might never receive this message, but I need to tell you that I just now remembered what I wanted to name you before you were born, but I am relieved that no one paid me any heed. It turns out I thought too much of myself, or too little of you: I’m sorry for handing down a world that didn’t fit, for not anticipating that you would grow taller than I am. You probably don’t remember, but you ought to know that I was the first person you ever laughed at. Meanwhile, I’ve lost count of the number of strangers’ voices I’ve heard reciting, “After the tone, please leave.” Sabrina Black
Could You Stop by My Place? Boxes. Boxes stacked on counters, boxes stacked on chairs, boxes stacked on rugs, boxes stacked on boxes. Maybe that would’ve been an easier sight to see after she had opened the front door, cracking the weather seal and letting the warm, stale air roll over her face. Easier than this, anyway. The cramped apartment seemed barely different from the times she’d been here before. The fridge was humming, and the toaster was plugged in. The TV was mumbling something about, “You’re my brother, But that’s impossible, And I need a new kidney.” The bed was still unmade. She hadn’t expected everything to be the same, but then of course it was. It hadn’t happened here, and the apartment didn’t care who lived in it – couldn’t sense what it had lost. The only sort of notice she had received was a call. It had been brief. They had more important things to do than make these types of calls, probably. “Hello?” It was unusually cold out for an afternoon in early March. She felt the wind’s icy sting around her neck, and she pulled her coat tighter around herself. “Evelyn Baker?” “Mmm.” “This is Dr. Daley from Saint John’s Memorial Hospital.” There was a pause. A knife was cutting through her. “We did everything we could.” The knife was twisting inside her stomach. It had continued to twist for weeks, and when the pain had become almost too much, it had stopped. The pain had stopped. The pain and the guilt and the anger and the fear and the sadness. It all had stopped, as it does when someone you love leaves you, whether of their own volition or not. She wouldn’t fall down the same path as her mother after her father had walked away for the last time. The method that led to Evelyn’s numbness was not one of substance, but one of resolve. They needed her to come to the apartment and take 56
what she wanted. They told her of charities that collected and sorted through belongings of loved ones when you couldn’t bear to do it. She asked for one to come tomorrow, but today was up to her and the single cardboard box she had with her. Standing here now, it was hard to say what was worth keeping. There were plenty of things that could bring up memories for the rest of her life. But she didn’t want memories. What she wanted was gone, and she would’ve left just then, she would’ve. But if she did, she knew one day when she was able to feel the pain of it again that it would be worse than before, and anyway, who else did Martha have that was going to come collect those worthless mirrors she loved so much? So Evelyn did what she could. She started by the front door, where a large and dusty mirror hung, its golden frame coiling like vines around the reflection of each guest it greeted. Evelyn avoided her own gaze as she pulled it down. It was lighter than it looked, and the gold was starting to peel from the frame, revealing a dull grey in the places it had been touched by too many hands. This mirror was the start of Martha’s collection. Evelyn remembered the day she had come home with it. “Where did you get that?” Evelyn was fourteen, and the previous night was closing for the community theater’s production of Snow White. It was Evelyn’s first time playing the title character on stage, but she already knew she was in love with the inflated reactions and the unreasonable emotions and the drama of it all. A twenty-one-year-old Martha was standing holding the evil queen’s mirror in front of her, her face glowing. “Isn’t it cool? I asked if I could have it after we tore down the set.” Evelyn eyes widened, and she felt her face heat up. “You were already there volunteering to pay for my costumes. Why’d you have to go and ask for more charity?” “You don’t have to hide from our past, Evelyn.” Her eyes were still fixed on the mirror she held. “Doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time staring back at it.” In the present, she went room by room, looking 57
over everything, but never giving a second glance. She finished with the kitchen. Nothing sparked an interest in her. She unplugged the toaster and swept loose bread crumbs from the counter into the sink with her hand. The refrigerator was almost empty, but she dumped the contents of milk and the juice cartons on top of the discarded bread crumbs. She threw the leftover meatloaf, the rotten bananas, and the other bits and pieces of food into a garbage bag, wincing at sour smell before tying up the plastic. The living room was just as void of anything that might be able to evoke feeling in her. She saw another of Martha’s mirrors hanging next to an overcrowded bookshelf. It was smaller than the other one. Its frame was a faded bronze that formed an oval just wide enough to reflect Evelyn’s face as she stepped toward it. A scraping sound informed her that her foot had knocked into a nearly empty cat food dispenser hidden in the corner of the bookshelf and the wall. She briefly wondered if maybe the cat had run away when its owner hadn’t come home. Part of her, a part a lot bigger than she wanted to admit, was more than okay with the thought. She kicked the feeder aside and glared at it as she grabbed the mirror. It had belonged to their mother, passed down from her own. Martha having the mirror would have been a nice sentiment, Evelyn thought, had their mother actually given it to her. But she never gave them anything. “I practically raised you.” These were the words Martha had used time and time again, usually trying to convince her sister that they weren’t so unalike. But they were. Just not in the ways that Martha paid attention to. Sure they both liked extra wasabi on their sushi, over enunciated their words when they got excited, and could stay up all night looking for that lost jigsaw puzzle piece, but those weren’t the things that had ever really mattered, at least not for them. Martha saw the good in things, and she cared for them, too. She was loving and nurturing, and that’s why it was always so funny, the idea that Martha practically raised her. The fact of the matter was Martha really had raised her. “How come all the other kids at school know their 58
daddy?” Suddenly it was fifteen years ago, and Evelyn was seven, and Martha had her sat at the worn kitchen table. Martha was standing a few feet away by the stove, stirring circles in a small pot. “You don’t want to know him.” “Do you know him?” Martha sighed. Before she answered, she poured what she had been cooking into a bowl and placed it in front of her sister. “I used to. He lived here before you were born.” “Why did he leave?” Evelyn asked, dipping her spoon into her bowl of SpaghettiOs. They were still hot, and as she leaned down to scoop some into her mouth, she felt the warmth and the dampness of the steam envelop her face. “He probably just couldn’t bear to watch us both grow up to be so much more than either him or mom ever will be.” Maybe Martha was right. A few years later their mother had stopped the rehab. She would always remember the day Martha had said Don’t you bother coming back any more. She didn’t come back, but she did leave that old mirror. Martha was only eighteen, but that was old enough to get social services off their backs. To pay the rent for the crapshoot they were living in and keep enough food on the table for three meals a day on a good week. She found out later that the owner of the corner-store had often given Martha a bag of groceries each Sunday. Martha stuck around to make sure her sister made it through those seven years until graduation. Evelyn had ended up with a full ride to college with the help of theater scholarships, and when she moved out, Martha could move on. At least that’s what it had felt like. Martha had moved into this apartment, which was close to a thousand miles from where they had grown up, and where Evelyn had graduated college. Martha found a new career, made new friends, got a new cat. That goddamn cat. Evelyn had seen evidence of the little nuisance today. There was the obvious: the feeder, the toy mice, the litterbox. But there existed alongside these items a certain 59
presence of mockery. Several times she had placed a small item – a stray remote or a loose stack of papers – on any surface higher than the ground, and turned her back on it only to hear the clatter as it hit the floor. She would whip around to see where it had fallen and find no evidence of the culprit. She hadn’t minded when Martha used to send her pictures of the cat. Even when she had dressed it up and given it a stocking for Christmas. It was when Martha had started to talk about it as if it were a person that she had started to resent it a little. You’ve never said you love him, Martha would accuse. He’s not your real kid, Evelyn would yell back over the phone. He’s the closest thing I have right now, Martha always answered. That stung. What happened to the days when Martha’s attention had been Evelyn’s alone? It was stupid to be jealous of a cat, it was. She knew that, of course she knew. But still, she always had been. Soon the bedroom was all that was left. It was also the room that took her the longest to go through as she desperately searched through every item, hoping to come across anything at all that she might want to hold onto. There were clothes strewn everywhere, a wilted flower in a vase on the nightstand, a set of babushka dolls in a line atop the faded oak dresser. Evelyn felt a drop of sweat roll down her face, and she cracked a window open, letting the crisp spring air break up the stuffiness. Martha’s last mirror was in here, but after she took it, she would be done. She would take the mirror, wrap it up with the others, and they would all inevitably sit in the trunk in her car for months while she slowly settled into her emotional numbness and forgot. She should’ve felt sadness, but she couldn’t feel anything. The mirror was in the corner of the room above an unimposing, limp cardboard box that was working as something like a makeshift coatrack. Written on the box, in all caps were the words, “MY OLD LIFE.” She knew it would’ve sounded overdramatic to anyone else, but she understood. She understood that it was almost impossible to comprehend how Martha had dragged the both of them from an existence so far from 60
winning life’s lottery that it was like their ticket had been lost before it was even entered in the drawing. The box was covered in dust where it had been free from the weight of discarded clothing, and it had obviously been used as a scratching post. She opened it gingerly, brow scrunched at the thought of what the contents might be. Her eyes closed at the sight of the item it contained. From inside of it she pulled a heavy ceramic vase. It was inscribed with a name and a date. The name was her mother’s. The date was last year. She weighed it in her hands. It was heavy. At the bottom of the box, there was a small piece of paper she hadn’t noticed before. It was nice, thick paper, and it was addressed to her. I’m sorry I never told you, the message read. She put the urn back in the box. She backed up and sat on the bed, not sure what she was supposed to think. Not sure if she was supposed to feel. She looked at mirror hanging on the wall. It was three times as long as it was wide, and the frame was just a thin black border. This one didn’t have a history, it had just been on sale. My mirrors aren’t a collection until I have three, Martha had reasoned. Evelyn had replied with, “All mirrors do is force you to look back every time you try to look forward.” Martha had told her to stop being so dramatic all the time. Now here she was, looking into a mirror and being forced to face her past. She found the irony beautiful. She sat watching the reflection of her face for a long time. She was the only one left. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.” It was April, almost a year earlier. They were sitting in Martha’s hospital room. She had been admitted the night before with chest pain. The stay would only total two nights, but what they didn’t yet know was that this would only be the first of several visits. Evelyn looked sideways at her sister. “It’s not that you hate green Jell-O, is it? I asked the nurse what happened to the red stuff from last night, but she wouldn’t talk.” Martha gave a tight smile. “No, no. I think I can handle the green for one more night. It’s something else.” Evelyn raised her eyebrows. 61
“About Mom.” “Ugh. One of these days, she’s going to get herself into a mess that even we can’t clean up, and then what? Do me a favor, will you? If anything ever happens to her, just don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” “I really think—” “What does she need? Money?” Martha deliberated. “Yeah,” she said finally. “She needs money. Don’t worry about it, though. I already took care of it.” The conversation moved on, and soon it was time for Evelyn to leave. “One last thing,” Martha called out before her sister reached the door. “What is it?” “Could you stop by my place and refill the cat feeder?” Evelyn tensed. “Sure,” she said through gritted teeth. Over the course of the next year, Martha’s hospital stays had grown longer, while Evelyn’s visits had grown shorter, unable to face the reality of what was happening. Now here she was, silently sitting on her sister’s bed like she used to sit in the waiting room of Saint John’s. It wasn’t quite the same, though. She wasn’t waiting for anything this time. Minutes passed, maybe hours too. At last, she felt something. It was just a sweeping of feeling, almost imperceptible. She lowered her gaze in the mirror, so she could see her feet. From under the bed crawled Martha’s cat. Looking at it now, she did not feel anger. But the spark of emotion was there. That was all she could ask for. The cat sat beside her, and she looked away. She looked at the box that held the urn and thought of her mother. She looked at the note in her hands and thought of Martha. Looking into the mirror, she imagined a green flash of jealousy in her eyes before switching her gaze to the set of smaller, glowing eyes staring back at her. “I guess it’s just you and me now.” She stood and scrutinized the cat. It blinked back up at her. Slowly. Deliberately. It gave her an uneasy feel62
ing, and she squinted back at it. It was an ashy grey color striped with jet black. The coat was slick, and it looked as if it could have been painted on. It began bathing itself just then. First it would lick its paw, then rub that paw behind the corresponding ear. The action repeated itself a dozen times before the cat stopped. It made a noise suddenly, and Evelyn jumped ever so slightly before feeling the urge to scoff at herself. She wasn’t afraid of it, of course not. She shook her head and moved back over to the box containing the urn and the note. The cat followed. “Goodbye, Mom.” She folded the cardboard flaps over the top of the box and interlocked them so that they would stay closed. The cat stretched and laid its front paws on the side of the box. Evelyn saw the claws splay out before they were being dragged down the side of the already roughed up cardboard. She felt guilty for a moment as she watched it happen, but then she turned her cheek, snatched up the final mirror, and walked out of the bedroom. She moved around the apartment collecting items she had left previously untouched. She picked up loose toy mice from beneath furniture, bags of food and litter from under the kitchen sink, the automatic feeder from beside the bookshelf. She placed these things in a box. They weren’t things that made the loss okay. They weren’t things that caused the empty feeling in her chest to fade. They weren’t even things that were unique to Martha. But they belonged with the thing that would remind her that she couldn’t push the pain out forever. She folded the flaps closed, just as she had done with that last box. She placed this box on the kitchen counter and went to find a pen. It only took a few seconds of searching to locate one, and when she returned her attention to the box, she found the cat sitting beside it. One of his paws was sliding across its surface in an attempt to push the box toward the counter’s edge, had it not been too heavy for him to budge. Moving to swat him away, she inadvertently brushed her hand against his fur. It felt soft between her fingers, and she found herself repeating the action, this 63
time on purpose. He began to purr, and she felt something close to affection. Uncapping the pen that was still in her hand, she pressed it to the top of the box and wrote, in all caps, “MY NEW LIFE.” These were the things she decided to keep. The mirrors may have meant something to Martha, but she no longer felt an obligation to hold onto them. She would leave them with the past and move toward something better. A new city, new friends, a new goddamn cat. Shelby Grasso
He call my noodle arms Sexy With a cap pointing backwards, I never understand why boys wear them this way. Maybe your unruly slick strands point from the crown of your head to your forehead, And you need to keep them unnaturally puddled backwards with some “organic” chubby gel Wear the hat for six hours, why don’t you? Take a look in the mirror: clean out your insides of whatever tarnished silver you contain Damn I look good Look at that straight hair pointing backwards Man, I have a nice face What a handsome beast He calls my noodle arms Sexy With too much eye contact. Baby eyes . He repeats it. Sexy I repeat Nothing. Any long body part on a woman is sexy Not just legs Goddamn Your arms I’ve said nothing. Sexy with the shake of a head. Goddamn
Sexy I pull myself up from the chair. A bit of sweat drips between my blades. Who taught you to talk? Your mother? Sonja Goldman
Innocent Obsession the glorified flower prized by society and ripe for the picking by the man who conquers her propriety
Lonliness, or dreaming Every once in a while I have a honey dream, one so sweet and warm it wakes me up; and I know things will get sticky later when I wonder if you know, if can you see everything resting in the set of my eyes; but between two pillows and wrapped in amber light it’s still easy to drink in the nectar— I let myself slip right back in. Taylor Puccini
they say it’s only natural something biological in it but is it an innocent obsession when it’s an exploitation of innocence there is power in knowing that no one else knew the moment I chose to be unified with you How beautiful the idea almost like a verse to say I lost my virginity not to you but to the universe
POEM ABOUT HIM BEING PERFECT AND ME BEING AFRAID After Max Ritvo i see planets in your eyes and teacups in your mouth like the glasses of ice water you bring me when i don’t ask and you hold my chin up in the early hours of morning and tilt my head like neptune’s axis to pour love and spit and fresh air down my throat i am dehydrated and you are water i tell myself to taste Kate Oksen
Do you know me
They called it the triumphant underground passing ripe coal between fleshy fingertips, and praise between lips and ear. This was the new America, the free America, a time to brag and boast. They called it heroic, the men who swarmed the hollow earth, chipping kinks in the soundless place their obliques bulging, toes oozing in their shoes, until their songs dismembered in a deeper darkness. They called it industrial excellency, misshapen, soiled, bodies uncovered, under the burning lights of the Electric City. Sometimes out loud now, between deli counter exchanges, And peace be with yous, they call it the new America, the free America, the Great Again America. Caroline Dragonetti
siphonaptera vs. bath when i wash my dog my old shaking dog i take him in the bathroom upstairs and the stairs they nearly kill him every time the pads of his paws cracked like spiderwebs like baseballs through window panes i hear his pain in the slip of his broken toenails scratching the stain of the creaking wooden steps but he wants to get clean just like the rest of us maybe it will make him feel more like the big dog on campus and he’s strong and he makes it to the bath only to be so old and tired and arthritic and creaking that he shakes for so long so long and i try to tell him it’s okay only to watch him piss on the shower floor because he can’t wait any longer his bladder like a balloon that’s given up urine mixes with soap bubbles and hydrogen molecules and he doesn’t know anything about that but the water tries to wash away the four hundred fleas he has crawling up his back and shitting in his dirty yellow fur i swear to god i just bathed him yesterday but they are relentless and biting and they don’t give a fuck they’re hungry for flesh they just keep fucking each other on this old dog’s back and laying eggs and eggs are hatching and babies are fucking and i’m spraying him with a vengeance hoping to wash the streams of blood leaking down his eyes and legs and off his back down the drain where most all of it will get caught in the clumps of hair and congealed conditioner that remain there and these bastards take seven days to drown and that just doesn’t seem fair and meanwhile these parasites are jumping on me biting my ankles and they’re so fucking small but they could take me to the ground and i’m talking shit about six fleas chewing on my toes but this poor old dog he has four hundred pests taking refuge in his skin in his bloodstream in between the spaces of his paws crawling on his crotch as if it isn’t someplace private as if his body doesn’t solely belong to him and we both stand in the shower naked and wet and shaking and pissing and bleeding together and i stare into his sad eyes and he stares back into mine and i weep for him because our bodies are both battered bloody battlefields and i weep for me because it doesn’t feel like either of us will ever get clean.
The Common Common Life Safety— Knowing the 99¢ coffee at Sunoco will always be 99¢. That the Casino is open Saturday night, and the Church on Sunday morning. That there will never be a Whole Foods, or anything whole here. That your granddaughter goes to Penn State and calls her sorority sisters Yins, when she’s drunk enough. Shelter— The dustless patch of floor skirting the Deli’s beer cooler. It’s the jug of half-finished wine, and the full one in the closet. It’s the club that prohibited smoking inside in 2014, but lets you drink noon to nine and drive home. It’s getting a Margarita at Arcaro’s to shake it up, and getting four to keep it exactly the same. Security— The sister that lives on East Moundin. It’s hearing that the bear hasn’t been seen in anyone’s backyard for a few weeks. It’s BonTon closing, and Macy’s opening. It’s the doctor who calls back after taking those scans you put off until after Christmas. It’s the son-in-law who discounts your root canals, but can’t make them hurt any less. Caroline Dragonetti
WE ALL BECOME OUR PARENTS AND WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE Learning How to Mother On the mornings I want to feel like a Grown Up, I rise early to make lists that I might not follow; to push a cart through rows of fresh vegetables and crypts of frozen things, which I know I shouldn’t touch; to dip my hands in bleach and cleanse away last week’s dust and dirt on white laminate. I do and do not want to be like my mother, Mary, so I call her from aisle six or seven to hear the sound of her voice telling me how long fresh bread and breakfast sausages might last; She recommends I cut up my meat and freeze it because I’m only one woman, who eats alone, but I should still eat well— sometimes it feels like she’s asking for too much from my inexperienced hands. I don’t know how to be a mother the way she has taught me to for twenty years or the way I’ve dreamt of since I was small: I bought two plants to feed with water the way that used to with my dolls, but when I wrapped them in soil and bathed them in light on a windowsill in Boston one lived and one died. Taylor Puccini
Julia Hopkins 76
After there is a girl on a bus who looks sad and that sadness is so expressed by how her eyeliner is not complete and stops right before the spot where it should be sticking out Lilly Higgins
So we can reconnect since we last spoke:
Poverty Waltz My grandmother said there was so much poverty it learned how to dance. That she walked barefoot to barn parties to avoid ruining her tango shoes. That she only let boys twirl her when the chaperone was turned the other way. My grandmother said there was so much poverty it sometimes asked her to waltz. Margherita Bassi
after Ada Limon
I’m sitting in the backyard drinking up sun. Today’s three-thousand miles from Boston and it feels refreshing yet suffocating to escape that chill. Still convinced cold is a vestigial limb, still feel the tingle now–I hate snow. But today warmth breathes in breeze, I forget it’s December, gold peels between slats of cornea. I’m sitting on the old swing set, rattling like dried bones and the grass underneath my feet is parched. Two weeks ago, fires blazed here. Last week, ash slid, homes and lives derailed as if a toy train demagnetized from its tracks. And no help here, our country has turned vindictive and criminal. There’s not much left. I want an arm around my shoulder, cheek-to-cheek, straddling the swings. Push our legs back and forth until we become naïve as we once were, water the grass with water we don’t have with water from our eyes and watch them plant something new, something else. You’d tell me keep swinging, feel the wind weave past our lips and just pretend we’re pushing up up up toward the good that’s left. Kelsey McGee
I am reminded of a story from a photographer friend. We moved to the city around the same time, two steamed summer months apart. I strained my boxes into a third floor walkup in the low belly of July while he breezed in with the first of fall. His name was Mason, a southern transplant who still spoke with the short, brute vowels and slow cadence of Georgia even when I saw him, years later, still living in Prospect Park. I always assumed, somewhat shamefully, that this was why he did so well for himself despite being a photographer in a city full of pictures and undergraduate students on every corner hiding behind their big, pompously bulky cameras and an older generation that remained firmly entrenched in the galleries. People liked to listen to him talk. People, of course, also liked his pictures—they wouldn’t have gotten to the talking part if they didn’t. He wasn’t usually prone to wild experimentation, and wasn’t popular enough when I knew him to be photographing glamourous, beautiful people. He took simple photos, sleek and reminiscent of something you couldn’t quite remember. The story I am thinking of was over a series of photographs he took of a woman standing in the backstage hallway of the Henry J. Peterson Community Theater in Queens. She’s dressed in a thin black turtleneck and leggings that hug her skin down to a cropped point around the calves. She has ballet shoes on, and she isn’t doing much in the photos. Posing in a few, holding postures. In others she is simply staring at the lens, and her face is plain and open with drawn, dark eyes, and she is looking at you—who are maybe holding the photograph by the corners so as not to even chance smudging her—as if everything is forgiven. But, you say, and she says, I know, I know. I saw. But you are forgiven. The series was featured in a small gallery on the West Side, where I first saw it. From there some critics took notice, and made the calls which got the pictures and some others of Mason’s featured in the local magazines. Then the exhibit was moved to Cheim & Read, where Diane Arbus was shown, and after that people began to remember his name when they heard it. I had dinner with him not long after the move, a big group of us tucked into the corner of a red and humid Vietnamese restaurant near the water. He was the darling of the night, and of the city, too, in that way that we were always chasing and 83
sometimes just barely burning our fingertips on before falling behind again. We jostled embarrassingly for his attention. When it finally became my turn, my minute at his elbow, I asked him what people said to him about the pieces. He had been reviewed in T Magazine a few weeks before, and I knew the response had been pronounced. I remember that he laughed. “They don’t fucking get it, for one,” he said. “They all ask about the girl.” “Who is she?” I asked after a self-conscious pause, aware of the despicableness of letting slip for a moment that you do not know all there is to know, that you are no better, not part of the club who take to fine art and style like animals acting in their single-minded, salivating way. But Mason smiled. “A friend of mine from art school. She’s a janitor at the Peterson during the day, that’s how we got in.” I must’ve shown something on my face, because he laughed again. “I know. That’s what everyone else thinks too. None of them can believe she’s not a ballerina. Never had a fucking lesson.” I went back to the gallery the next day, in the morning so it would not be crowded. I stopped in front of my favorites: one in which the woman was sitting, legs almost brokenly splayed out before her, back curved and forearms resting on thighs, another in which she had one leg bent and the ball of a foot pressed to the wall, looking back over a shoulder at something out of frame. She had long, elegant limbs and that face, that face, so frank in its cool sweetness. At the restaurant, Mason told me that responses in the magazine wanted to know what company she performed with, what modeling firm she was signed to, how he had found her. They could not fathom the falseness of their projection onto the photo and needed their image of the girl to be true, like children clinging to the greatness of their television heroes. Because they looked at the pictures and saw a pure thing, an untouched well of greatness preserved by some photo developing chemicals and Mason’s careful shutter, they assumed its truth. They were pulled to belief by the adeptness of his work and clung there, terrified and angry at the thought of letting go. In retrospect, this reminds me of my time with the Gatlan girls.
14 hours later And you said to me, my love, I wish I were a poet Because there is a beautiful line about your eyes That’d I’d write if I were. You said that it was as though There was a constant party going on inside them. But that maybe if you knew more words And a better way to string them together, Maybe you could do my eyes a real justice. And not this fake justice of tonight. Or this morning, Since it’s 2:30 am And you suppose it’s no longer yesterday. Canon Crummey
Bailey Flynn 84
SISXTY-PERCENT JUICE if a juice box is only 66% juice what the hell is the other 34%? doesn’t that piss you off that it’s 34 instead of 33? my dad says you start to feel old when the second digit is bigger than the first and i asked him if that meant when i turn 23 i’ll feel like a grandma and he said no you’ll be old when you’re 34. when my grandma was 34 she found a letter in her mailbox from the sister-in-law of my grandpa’s coworker at the vocational school down the street or something like that. written in slanted cursive, an urgent scrawl: HE FUCKS HIS SECRETARY. grandma says “dave, what does this mean?” and he starts throwing shit around in the greenhouse in the backyard he says “someone is blackmailing me” and i guess in technical terms that could be true if the envelope was black but it wasn’t. if mr. brown lives in the brown house and mr. blue lives in the blue house who lives in the green house? a botanist, probably. if mr. pink lives in the pink house and mr. purple lives in the purple house who lives in the white house? not my president. i wasn’t asking for your opinion because no one is ever asking for it. yesterday i went to the most beautiful art exhibition where painters and drawers and sculptors and actors just a few months older than me hung their most prized possessions on the walls. i saw their very souls scooped out from the confines of rib cages and dripping down the plaster like the impact of egg shell to suburban shingles on mischief night. ten minutes of enjoying this landscape. picture this: my collarbones stretching out to rounded tops of my sloping shoulders. then: tap tap. who’s there? eddie. who’s eddie? i’m talking about roller coasters here. you, sitting next to me. this is the worst movie i’ve ever seen but it’s on repeat. no one can turn it down i tell you MAKE IT STOP but the remote is missing. hopefully someone shoved it up eddie’s ass. you say he didn’t ask for that. i say, same bro. at one point i was 75% water. today i feel like 66% juice. Emily Zhao
Contrapposto “I am beautiful, O mortals, as a dream of stone” – Baudelaire
Free the Nipple
My body is cast like a George Segal sculpture. The orthotist’s wet hands land on the jarringly bony protrusion of my hip. The casting material, three to four inches wide, is wrapped up into cylinders like tape, then unraveled and soaked in the murky water bucket. He places the sopping pinkish gauze onto the hipbone, holding it in place while wrapping the rest around my torso, the strip ending just short of the steep curve between my nascent hips and waist. My only job is to stay still and not take any deep breaths; I am mummified up to my sternum. It smells like latex and chalk, feels like a wet washcloth soaked in hot water and rested on the eyelids to ease a headache, all of the heat escaping in a matter of fifteen seconds. It is now cold and damp, but hardening. Standing there, at Shriner’s Hospital for Children in West Philadelphia, at age thirteen, I imagine what it would feel like to be completely set in cast, and what pose I would assume. Simply standing straight, I think. Seal up the potential energy of motion and wait for a crack in the mold. I look down and notice the slight bulge created by one of my left ribs, a casualty of my overgrown ribcage. It doesn’t bother me at this moment, the casting holds everything tight and vertical, two things I realize I will never be. I stand, eyes forward, wait a few minutes. It dries like the bright white stucco on my neighbor’s house and creates a sprinkled mess around my feet. He slices the casting with a swift vertical motion and my body cascades out of the stillness. Fixed meets fluid. No longer stable. The center will not hold. Everyone has a body, but experiences it in an intensely personal way. I’ve always been fascinated by the queerness of identity structures, about how they often comment on one another in alienating terms but underlie human relationships. Maggie Nelson uprooted any notion I had about gender conceptions and, at the base, identity-driven
treatment of fellow humans in her book The Argonauts. Her circular, fluid narrative strains undermine the rigid, binary thinking that exists in our society. She often takes a “universal” bodily experience (pregnancy, breastfeeding, aging) and places it adjacent to a more socially reprehensible or misunderstood one (anal sex, erotic feelings while breastfeeding, testosterone injections, etc.). “Is there something inherently queer about pregnancy itself, insofar as it profoundly alters one’s ‘normal’ state, and occasions radical intimacy with – and radical alienation from – one’s body?” The body as a vessel to feeling and empathy; Nelson reframes the notion of “queerness” without generating a polemical tone. She applies the term beyond gender. A small example of a larger tendency: ignore the reality of my own nonstandard body and jump to the conceptual, heavy lifting with the mind only. I fear that if I think too hard about the functionality of my body, I’ll realize it’s breaking down. Or worse, that it’s irreparably strange.
and tote cameras and information pamphlets. It is the first time that I have seen a sculpture, really seen it. As the tallest in the pack I look ahead to the atrium where the David basks in natural sunlight, but I decide to break off from the group and continue to study the Slaves. Each compresses to one side under the weight of the marble, a hip sticking out. Ever since I hit puberty my right hip juts out ever further to one side, in a similar way, and I can feel a similar pressure from above. I slip my fingers into my belt loop, apply a light pressure, and try to realign the bones. My muscles aren’t strong enough to hold the pose, so I submit to the natural way of things, my body shifting back into line with the crouching sculpture. These four substandard models of figuration pave the path to David, the paragon of physical beauty. I am struck: suddenly it is not a question of beauty – for the sculptures, for myself. It is a question of not feeling an obligation to turn my body into something it’s not, and doesn’t need to be.
It is April, and that August I am scheduled for a spinal fusion surgery, even though my two previous surgeries served to thwart the progression of the curve. As I meander through these Italian museums I am grateful for the subtle ache in both my knees; it reminds me that I can walk, that the scraping of the growth plates temporarily stabilized my spine. The second surgery was less directly related to my scoliosis, but fell under the general diagnosis that everything holding my body together is, will always be, either too flexible or too rigid, creating a permanent state of imbalance. An overgrown rib cage compromised my chest wall, so a surgeon cracked it with an elegant power tool, shaved away the cartilage and resituated it. The doctors say the scoliosis won’t get any worse, but my framework is warped and thus visually off. It warrants the twelve-hour operation and two-month recovery time, they tell me. I am in Florence now, and I disagree. The Slaves should never be finished. If I wanted classical beauty I’d look a few feet down the hall to the fourteen-foot man with the strong hand, holding a sling over his shoulder.
In the corridor leading up to the David at Galleria dell’Academia there are four non-finito marble sculptures by Michelangelo. They are called the Slaves or the Prisoners and David towers over them, disinterested and looking the other direction. The half-formed figures are writhing in the marble, the torsion of their bodies contrasting with David’s restful stance and slim physique. To me they are more remarkable, their unfinished quality evidence that the sculptor has to generate life from a stone. Their power comes from an imbalance, and a will to escape the surrounding marble. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. Not merely set free, breaking free by their own volitions. The patient steps away from the doctor and slave escapes the master. I make these observations in a huddle of sixteen other students from my high school. We are all wearing variations of the same outfit–J.Crew blue jeans, soft pink sweaters, functional flats, flats, gray French loop scarves– 90
*** Contrapposto: Contrapposto, (Italian: “opposite”), in the visual arts, a sculptural scheme, originated by the ancient Greeks, in which the standing human figure is poised such that the weight rests on one leg (called the engaged leg), freeing the other leg, which is bent at the knee. With the weight shift, the hips, shoulders, and head tilt, suggesting relaxation with the subtle internal organic movement that denotes life. *** I didn’t get the surgery. It is late January, a few days after my twenty-first birthday, gray and overcast but not bone-chillingly cold like it is back in Boston. I wear faded black skinny jeans with a black peacoat and a black scarf. For the first time in my life the jeans are long enough to wear a small cuff without exposing too much of my ankle. All white sneakers make me feel very European and keep me from being sucked into the ground with the rest of the blackness. The rose bushes are barren but I don’t initially notice their spindly branches because my eyes dart upward, to endlessly reproduced Thinker and beyond to the garish gold dome of Napoleon’s tomb. It is my first visit to Musée Rodin and my first thought is, “Why is the figure leaning his right elbow across to his left leg? That’s not natural.” The sculptures fill each room, some in glass boxes, others simply elevated on pedestals. Victor Hugo in clay, plaster, bronze, marble, clay. They are human life, fixed, but suggest fluidity. I go for class and I go by myself and I bring my friends then I start forget who brought me here, and why. Dante’s Divine Comedy is portrayed in “The Gates of Hell” but so is a copy of “Je suis belle” (the sculpture, not the Baudelaire poem). The first room is virtually windowless and has Rodin’s early works. My eyes follow the line of natural, cratered marble at the base and then all of a 92
sudden, a smooth face emerges, angelic with eyes barely closed. Her hair is ribbed than is sucked back into the rough marble, maybe with the rest of her body. A woman dreaming herself into existence. But the sculptor’s voice reverberates out from the stone: witness my genius, its process. Even with the etches and heavy base, it is probably the most classically beautiful sculpture in the museum. The next room is hexagonal with wood paneled walls, but it is bright – a floor to ceiling length window is flanked by two antique water stained mirrors. The natural sunlight swaths the sculptures in luminosity and refracts off of the chandelier. The works are now unpolished and sometimes contorted, yet each sculpture is evocative in its own way, an unfocused manifestation of the psyche that isn’t found in any neoclassical sculpture at the Louvre. The statues there are smooth, god-like, and unapproachable. They are cold. But right now my hands are burning—to caress the weathered bronze, to animate it with my touch, to trace the path of the sculptor. On my way out, I zoom in on a sculpture of a woman cast in dimpled iron, titled, Femme accroupie. Crouching woman. Her right knee brushes her right shoulder blade, and her mouth kisses her kneecap. Her body is unnaturally compact, as if she were trying to fit into an imaginary box – torso twisted to the left, head craned to the right, limbs lost in limbs. Her extremities, almost exact copies of my own, fold into one another effortlessly. My eyes follow the precise line from her right knee to the point of her left shoulder. It’s crossed by the path from the tip of her ear down the bulging tendon of the neck to the opposite knee. What many see as unnatural flexibility is suddenly natural, almost elegant. Even though the iron is rigid there is an indefiniteness to her stance, as if at any moment she will stand up. Yes, she will unfurl her right leg and coax it out of the shallow hip socket. There—the pure pain of hip dysplasia, exacerbated not by the contortion but its natural release. So I’m afraid to disentangle myself and stretch into the pain, but I try, and she looks like a dark flower, opening up to 93
the world, a phantom of a beauty I don’t know to exist. They become stranger: a wall of hands, a cathedral of two hands, a woman praying without hands. Religion as artistic creation and who is God? I do not scale back but zoom in on the disproportion, ribs cantilevering with the urgency of seeing more, up close. The intricacies of the sculptures are not noticeable in my photos but I take time to study the craggy surfaces, to feel the extra weight on my own body: in my right hip as it settles deeper into its socket the longer I stand, on my chest wall, still straining, years after the operation, to expand with each deep breath. My counterparts are inanimate, but the brute materiality of sculpture is restless, corporeal, imperfect. They are moving. *** A few months later, a joint Picasso-Giacometti exhibit opened at Musée Picasso in the Marais neighborhood of Paris. I didn’t know anything about Giacometti, but I knew he was a sculptor, so I went. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) brought the human figure back to art in the time of abstraction during the 1950s. I start to wonder if we lost sight of it during the war, not daring to beautifully depict the living amongst the abundance of ravaged bodies. But what about the disabled bodies? The injured bodies? The bodies that lived through the physical atrocities—neither beautiful nor ravaged— just scarred from the earnestness to live. Post-World War II technologies advanced our abilities to fix the body’s abnormalities, both functional and aesthetic. The norm was moved again, and sculpture launched from this point, always a step ahead. Take the strange and go stranger until you run into beauty again. Giacometti had a fascination with legs, torsos, breasts, and heavy feet that translated into sculptures of walking men, standing nude women, and busts. I look at them in Musée Picasso and they seem lonely and alienated: a scattered group of spindly brown figures, punctured and 94
heavily eroded. The fragile remains of the human spirit, some art critics say. But they are stable and stand straight. Tall Woman II (1960) is nine feet tall with sinewy arms and wide hips that flow from a narrow waist. Her weight seems to gather at her hips then settle in the huge feet. My body is proportioned in the same way, and I suddenly feel self-conscious. I want to shrink, to feel each vertebra in my spine compress into one another. Or to submit to the curve, to have its C shape snake into an S until my torso is many inches shorter, and my waist swells outward, smoothly in line with my hips. This is how I must look in the world. Stretched and over-imposing, a half-formed womanly shape. I will never be able to stand that straight for that long. I don’t see why anyone would want to though. More off-kilter, but just as stable. The doctors never seem to understand this. I remember when they wanted to frame my spine with a metal rod so that I wouldn’t be able to bend over again. I told them no; I would rather be a Slave than be destined to the rigidity of a Giacometti sculpture. I like the lanky figures because they are strange and existential, but quickly realize there are more expressive possibilities of the organic life of asymmetry, a different breed of stability in movement. *** I am an in an unusual position as a maker. Or rather I myself am an artist of sorts, deciding on my own form in the way that a sculptor lovingly shapes his clay. I squared up to the doctors and carry the decision with me, alone. It is heavy. I never realized the weight until a few months ago, in Paris, amongst the non-living. Giacometti carries the weight of his decisions in the clunky feet of his sculptures, Rodin in the density of his non-finito marble. It sounds like a dangerous idea: to use art as a backdrop for major decisions about my body. But I did, and it’s still hard 95
to conceptualize exactly why the sculptures bore so much influence. It has something to do with transcending easy ideas of function, I think. Something to do with searching for a balance of rigidity and flexibility, rather than sacrificing one for the other. And, of course, with seeing beauty in the strange. The distinction between what artists do and what humans do is permeable—there is constant movement between the two. Sculptures, in essence, are human life, fixed, but they still suggest a fluidity. There are doors to art where I wouldn’t expect them. Say, through the eyes of a young girl in a strange body…acting as both the sculpture and sculptor. ***
ished or permanent or profound. Because the reader craves not just the truth of words, but how to arrive at them. And I am a reader, not quite a writer. Fixity/flexibility Mind/body Myself/world Finding balance in a slash Words in flux—fluid words Lauren Keeley
I don’t know how to end this essay. The words bled onto the page before I knew what they were saying, what connections they were making. It was a scary experience. An essay is a polished thing, a structurally sound configuration of floating ideas, a synthesis of elements, related or not. Isn’t it? Words have staying power—that’s why great texts are perpetually circulated. Most people think of words as a means to make something enduring, even irrefutable… But I take issue with the inseparable relationship between permanence and true words. Because I believe that what I am saying is wholly true, even if it is subject to change. A paradox that I’ve come to accept. Because I am subject to change to age to grow. Because I stood outside of the words for so long, not daring to write my way into it. But I knew what craved the page. And how messy it was. And how it wouldn’t be pol96
butterfly skeletons Come Fly With Me
A long time back, when men needed golden wreaths placed upon their heads in order to grant them power, dancing was still the same. Days pass like the pages in early cartoon animation and the clear cut edges of the way things used to be fade. Boys love boys and girls love girls and if one felt such a compellingly strong urge, they could ink the skin of their face the soft orange shade of early sunset. But the clashing of hands above checkeredwood dancefloor paneling remains the same. The human heart, so Iâ€™m told, fights against the cure of death. And so we dance. The elegant and the lavish, the small and the subtle, all fit in among the firecracker finger touch of waltzes and foxtrots. And so sometimes, when the thick layers of daydreams catch at me, I imagine dance halls stuffed packed with people palpably pulsing with energy. And at night, with my dream fabric in streaming colors, the men wear white suits with pointed epaulettes and I fall, landing on their angled points, bruising myself. Ashley Trotter
Misery Of dark lashes so long summerâ€™s petals could rest their corpses on their lengths, Of the face that launched a thousand ships. There are glass shards in your oceans And there is no salt in the tears from your Blue eyes gentle. Margherita Bassi
bacteria the blackbird crows and it is four o’clock in new orleans. its song drizzles on ice-cream-cone people melting in the sun whose legs are crisped sherbet orange while their toes dangle over a heated tub and they chatter their dentures over what’s-for dinner and who-is-that and why-is-the-service-so-bad even though that bird could have shit on their heads. instead, it’s shitting on the people on bourbon street who sit on human piss and margarita spills and the sticky filth of discarded wealth while the melting cones don’t know that pseudomonas aeruginos is nibbling their feet that flop in golden chamber pots and they don’t hear the jazz that founded new orleans and they know that could-have-done smokes easier than should-have-done but not that the dirt of unwashed hands is cleaner than the purest of palms, palms which a man spreads over crowds on sundays and touches melting minds who step on shattered bottles while others soak in bourbon to the noise of false teeth and bacteria feet, but the blackbird only crows, and it is four-oh-one. Celia Smithmier
There are some days I just want to stay inside myself. Cut the funny business, act like the person I was raised to be. I’ve stopped writing on the lines in my notebooks. When I close my eyes, I see yellows and purples, aged bruises, and I wonder if anyone else can see them too. Yesterday, I was sweet, but in actuality I resented the fact. I imagine my insides—pink intestines, the fair’s blown up slide, tendons slacking and clenching like an old brown leather belt. This makes me uncomfortable. When I buckled myself in the car, I never expected to come here. Sometimes I think about intuition and those unknown words in my mind. Where does one begin living. Some is trial and error, even birds need to take that first leap. But most is instinct, that unspoken conversation the body has with nature, with the particles in the air, with the silence between words. What I want to know is how the French choose their bakeries, there must be ten on this street. And I want to know math— I never quite understood the relation between figures one cannot grasp in their palm. How long it takes to steep tea. What is the right ratio between water and leaf. Or more: When is one ready to drink said tea. But mostly, I want to look up at the sky without feeling vertigo, at this massive, unattainable thing. What I see when I’m no longer awake. Kelsey McGee
Variegated In my optometristâ€™s office countries are these sizable colors, splotches on a carpet. I use them to gauge the dilation of my pupils, the curvature of the borders and the clarity of the titles. I lose America, the rest follow. It becomes an impressionist painting, a string quartet, mostly primary colors, poppies and dandelions offset by a deep blue cello. Eventually itâ€™s a contemporary piece, all-together abstract, a capella. No bounds no names, a simplicity unearthly. Magnificence inter The doctor calls me into her office -rupted. Iâ€™m sent home with a silly pair of disposable sunglasses Christin Snyder
Bear in the Big Blue House
was a TV show I watched as a child before I learned to wiggle my nose I did not love in time to the locks of my own blue house, before secrets groaned awake, like that one time I caught my father texting not-my-mother but wiggled my nose and it hid in its cave. Bears don’t always live outside in Southern California because the drought is too strong and we kill what we do not know. No, we invite them in side past parents’ bedrooms and promise not to tell if they don’t, wiggling our noses in the hopes they never do. Kelsey McGee
Untitled (2015) When I was ten, I was told that I was the paragon of pariahs, Because I was built like a ruler and had legs like reeds, And no boy would ever love a girl who was sown like a weed. It was a throw down in the playground, Not the doghouse of society, And yet I still felt the soft ground Beneath my feet give, as if I weighed more than reeds and rulers and seeds.
Hoping to see something familiar, Don’t be shocked If your mouth is full of lead, And there’s cotton in your head, And it’s someone else looking back at you Instead.
When I was fourteen, A boy who knew no better told me I was a gem, An unbreakeable diamond, a stone, a prize A crystalline form of the stars in the skies. It wasn’t the playground anymore, But it still wasn’t society, And I still shake down to my core, Remembering how I ran, I can Still feel how I kicked those stones like they wouldn’t hurt my skin and bones. When I was seventeen, I told myself “everything will be okay okay okay”, And the mirror mimicked back in a tortured rote, As if that was the real secret to staying afloat. The playground is in my head, And the doghouse is in my mouth, And a graveyard of the dead Resides, it hides In the valleys between our teeth and lungs and minds. But I will be eighteen this August, A milestone standing tall enough to cast a shadow; Because in the horizon, all I can see is light, And the solid ground under your feet is not soft, And the stones you kick may leave bruises, But the truth is When you look in the mirror, 108
Little Voyager On the days that 3pms keep you securely fastened to your bed, choking your arms and legs safely inside the mattress at all times, I want to you to giggle at the impending loneliness of it all. Lonely, on a pill of 7.6 billion bodies, the only orb inhabited in light years and light years.
If anything, you will never know the sensation of being one, of being a pureness of your own. You are the imprint of two before you, in flesh and mind. Instead, please pity the Earth, fated to both precede and proceed us, pity the Voyager 1, which wonâ€™t meet another celestial body for 40,000 years, which will float on and on announcing us, a long dead people, to foreign life. Think what it is to know deafening quiet, what it is to know a hollow dark sea, to see the very fabric of time bend at the will of a dot. And somehow, you, little being, inkling of 20 years, find it isolating to hear the laughter of your kind resonate your window, because you canâ€™t make it your own.
Tumbleweeds Wind Witches are meant for the desert Diaspores made of seed and stem that break away from their roots at the slightest breeze.
An Airport Poem After two years and three months, I believe Boston has finally begun to seep into my bones:
But if you search, you won’t find many in flight. Instead they reside within colored boxes lining suburban streets behind perfected patches of petunias and mailboxes with perky red flags.
Now I can hear Midwestern music— a hard A that vibrates in my ears after months out East. Yet, the rattle of the T-train, all noise and no sound, can’t quite reach me like our vowels,
Their homes have locks on them two or three at least to keep the bad men out tall, dark, and handsome and keep their daughters in.
the ones that fall from my tongue when I’m nervous and I talk fast; I’m glad they still taste familiar. North Eastern winds feel different on my skin from those famous Windy City winds; and maybe it’s that they’re stronger with more whip and whistle between the trees,
Until the day the girls grow old enough and are pushed outside fast as a car along the highway and are told to go find one of those bad men just one and build a house with locks to do away with Tumbleweed Tendencies.
But probably it’s that I know when I’m here I can’t crawl into a warm Ford or Toyota and fall into a mellow backseat-sleep, while mom or dad drives us home. I guess I’ll always miss waking up in my driveway. Taylor Puccini
They may be hard to find but they’re there cloistered behind front doors and suburban lawns latched onto shopping carts and seats at PTA meetings. Their voices buzz as softly as hummingbird wings but if you listen closely you might just hear them scream.
Broken Girl Seating Audition, 2014 Your second-chair sneer is a C# striking my temple and reverberating. It must have been tormenting you through all those hours of blistering practice, the terror that your fingers were tearing on unattainable dreams. Eventually the perverse ecstasy of straining until you snap must have culminated in only the repetition of imperfection that could never resolve into anything but self-hatred. Perhaps people were not meant to be musicians. The pitch of perpetual disappointment resonates with meâ€” still, you should not have resorted to sabotage. Sabrina Black Caroline Dragonetti
Vapor Of my sister, her blueness, the way fog takes breathandpressesfingertips tenfold over eyes— but not in a bad way, though.Sheswims in an ocean unreachably intangible butstronglypresent.Darkb lue in her words light blue in her thoughts and turquoise inheractions.Icanfeelit crawlingonmyfingersnow. Julia Nagle
Everyone’s a little unfinished
Jupiter’s Europa A silent film. Indigo stretch marks. Oxygen bloodlines. Effervescent life lust? Some think so. Thick waxen ice. 100 miles coarse. A callous. She arms herself, not for atmosphere for solitude. Virgin Queen Artemis—tide tamer unprobed. Humanity salivates, foams to conquer. She fixes a mark between our brow, to kill this rabid hound. The bow string sings leave me be. But a face can launch a thousand ships if we ignore her scowl.
Nicole Maloof Christin Snyder
Before the Bombs Come My mother says I’m a planner, and my father says Murphy’s Law, so on Sundays I rise before you wake and pack us lunches for the end of the world— clementines and sandwiches with the crust cut off. Lemonade, grainy with sugar.
Around Me When my hair kissed the tops of my ears You stood me outside And told me to taste the air You can feel the snow coming Down the quiet roads you would pass the time Our favorite rocks and trees are still sitting Waiting Under blankets in the backseat The wheels turn underneath my ribs Seatbelt parts jab my pillowy belly Pavement eventually gives in to Rubble Pattering against the doors, we ran Down the icy wet grass Our legs coming back to us as You breathed in the lake Opening Scrapbooks on creaky weak tables Tracing our small clothes with your nails As the paint on our rocks fades away The new beams trample the grass You stand outside and feel the snow Coming
We make our own drills: you stand in the kitchen and yell, “I loved you, I loved you!” while I stand in the bedroom and echo it back. We practice getting faster and faster, knowing that on the real day there will be less time for these things. On clear afternoons we climb onto the roof of our building, sit in sticky plastic lawn chairs, tangle fingers and squint for atom clouds on the horizon. You mistake a bird call for the whistle of metal shells and my throat shackles shut until you press your lips to it.
I imagine what loving you will be like, after. How I will reach up, drag a thumb across the grey ash of your lip until I find the pink underneath. How you will make the daily sirens into a song, and we will dance wild in the kitchen while the city wails for cover. I try to imagine what loving you will be like, when there is no you anymore, or no me (if we do not run fast enough, if it comes while we are sleeping, if—) but the dust gets in my eyes. At night when I dream of whistling
and burnt hair you lay over me like a rainstorm to wash off radiation, say, â€œWhen they come I will not let them touch you.â€? This is love in the time of something worse than cholera, I think. We listen. We wait. Bailey Flynn
Paper Boats common sense behind aged cardboard and painted scraps, my grandfather kept a jar of common sense. i found this jar at nineteen when i learned that time was slippery and cascaded to the bottom of an hourglass like stone and that lungs were finite and could quit. his plaster-coated fingernails shaped vases from the pulpy mess of youth-bred years while his wife rubbed his aging muscles, her lips painted deep red to match the Italian wine they’d shared at dinner. and they masked him up with glamour, spattering blank walls with chaotic memories of a time less structured—women loved and lived and lost, children clinging to teenage hands ridden with immaturity and inexperience, snippets of insignificance remembered so much better with age— but he had told me once that when he died he would go nowhere because life was a wisp of a thread strung between every corner of the earth and because God was a lie made for the rich but art was a truth made for the poor. and he kept this in a jar of common sense hidden behind aged cardboard and painted scraps, and everyone saw delusion. Celia Smithmier
Today I bartered with a man in the bazaars of Rishikesh, India for a garnet ring. His shop sat behind foggy glass and tarnished silver; dogs appreciatively licked the beads of the skirt I wore, the skirt that tripped me as I stepped over the threshold he swept with obsessive strokes of a shedding broom. Lightheaded from the heat piercing my temples and scared of the men that shadowed me on either side of the Ganga I wanted to scream that it’s not just the dust in the arches of our feet that he must guard against, but also the particles that mix with the sweat on our skin and cling to the lengths of our eyelashes and line the half moons of our nails— But I assumed he didn’t speak English. I wanted his smile to be like a poem: Stark white teeth against chocolate colored skin but I also assumed the only paleness of him would be the white triangles of his eyes, as he eyed my tattoo as I eyed the religion painted gold between his brows. I imagined splinters in his fingertips, like the ones scarring the knees of the beggars I could look at, quickly, but not see. And maybe if the cleaner he used on my ring could pour from the cracks in the sky in the wake of lightning, our eyes would water less from the haze that muffles the thunder. How to say I am tired,
I am far from home, In Hindi. But the paper he drew from his pocket, I could read. And even if I couldnâ€™t, he would tell me, because he spoke English. The sheet he showed me will never be folded into the paper boats I watch barefoot children sail beneath the suspended bridges; The script was cursive and said that the dog who pushed his wet nose against my toes has a home waiting for him in Canada, and the one that liked to chew the bells of my sandals is eagerly awaited for in France. If only all the strays in the streets of Rishikesh might find their way behind the foggy glass and tarnished silver to the man with the shedding broom. And I think that if I tried to clean this nation with silver polish, the dust might melt but the land would burn.
Today I bartered with a man in the bazaars of Rishikesh, India for a lesson in poetry that is not the shape of the smile, that teaches failure is not the dust of the streets, and now I hear verse in the garnet of my ring. Margherita Bassi
After Sylvia Plath
It’s getting quite brisk in your mausoleum. I mean, museum. No kinetic sound to resonate in my porcelain, I couldn’t coo as sweetly as the clouds that have you now. The balloons I’ve been sending never seem to reach you. I can’t remember to find it futile to float them at all. I have left the window ajar, so that you might descend in your Victorian nightgown, like Wendy, pulled in by a strapping Peter, teaching your womanly ways to the lands of eternal inexperience. Somehow London is sick-lic-ly ironic, finding release in the wrong men, in a forced connection to antiquity. And we’ve done the same. One call, out from our soft bedding we stumble to them, to each their own sleazy poet.
Sylvia, us daughters are freezing. Hooked by our broken brains, My fat gold watch sends me to the repairwoman about three times a week. Yours sent you to the sky. 128
Paper Skin I lead the farm to the forest, the dog’s fur, lamb’s wet wool smell starving baptism, smell unleavened dirt. I lead my grandmother, not knowing what she leaves. She lingers on my back, paper skin, mottled ink. We climb, I lead. There is no path, there is no watcher in the trees, we watch for footsteps. I lead her eyes, not knowing where she sees. She stands
supple as memory dappled with disease, sore sweet drowned last year, the last ravenous, barefoot cracked lips, breath aching for whisper. how I’ve grown? can’t you remember? recurring thoughts: cows out to pasture, brothers burn in flame. stench of life inescapable. She watches rain, folding into ash, slide down the cliffs in her youth
at her stove, recounting, repeating. What is the sound of the place not there? Every night passes
what will never return of the brothers, bouncing, beautiful, alive. regret in fresh mud,
another day. We pray for the future, not knowing where she is hidden. Pinprick lights through lace
change turns the last coin. if we return. we cannot afford, opaque, pure.
trees, reflect on skin. My skin, only mine, soft.
Forgotten, unloved, carrying weight.
Light cannot reflect what is not there to see. Kelsey McGee
04.08.2017 You can buy me for a night. Take the large and heavy bills Spit from the 24 hour ATM And shove them Into all the hidden topography Of me you want to explore. Cause right now I’m sucking water Outta a straw Tryna drown myself From the inside out And I could use A torturous escape. And you— Don’t drink til you Wanna actually remember my name. Wander with thirst Across the desert of lust With me, Let your skin Suck tight against your Bones and veins It gets so dry. Your eyes Red and spiderwebbed from it. So close them. Just one night And if you let me show you Peace You won’t have to pay For the shape Of my wasted body.
Rebecca McGeorge Ashley Trotter
I Don’t Have a Valentine This Year
I remember the clear snot dripping With that one little air bubble That you sniffled up so we could keep kissing. I was halfway sick the night we met In that club. And shouted over the music for 45 minutes before you asked me to dance. I kept giving you the kissing look Even though I knew I was coming down with something I kept giving you the kissing look. Kissing you was a test of tip-toed leg flexing That stretched the endurance of my calves And the stale parts of my body that needed water. I didn’t really come down with something until after You kept me up all night Because your body was too big to leave room for me. And then there was the bringing we woke up to, And I threw your jeans at you like we were fighting Because I didn’t want you to die in fire. The day after the morning after you came over And I asked if I could still kiss you Even though I was definitely down with something low. And you said Of course Because army men don’t get sick And you kissed me and I said You sounded like a tool and I hoped you got sick.
And you did get sick but Somehow you were still all better before me And moving on before my congestion was gone. Ashley Trotter 134
After Kiki Smith
roughened bronze dares not breathe, hiding or hunting first wife creeps unseen. ice eyes turn back each visiting gaze as she waits, poised to snatch an infant or to take one more man. man and woman, He created us both, but your second sculptor knew the deserter should not grovel. she cast you limb to limb, craned your neck forward, mounted you to a white wall; shrouded female anatomy to set you free. free Lilith, were you forced to breach Eden’s gates—or did they beg you to leave? why let yourself be a scholar’s unruly seam, a biblical oversight resented in man’s memory?
We welcome original submissions from all Boston College women in the forms of poetry, prose, creative nonfiction, and visual art. Correspondence can be sent to: email@example.com. All pieces under review remain anonymous. We look forward to hearing from you!
memory that hides within me. she crawls a descent to hum in my ear: littlest of Eves, if obliteration is your fear, I suggest you remain all He calls pure. Erica Macri
You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing. Hélène Cixous