__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

the laughing medusa


2


The Laughing Medusa

Women’s Literature and Arts Journal Spring 2020 Boston College Round 2: Volume 15

3


Laughing Medusa Editors and Council Editor-in-Chief Celia Smithmier, she/her Directors of Submissions Maggie McQuade, she/her Lexie Slotterback, she/her Event Planner Christin Snyder, she/her

Directors of Publicity Jennessa Bryson, she/her Emma Campbell, she/her Web Editor Izzy Baldwin, she/her Council Members Margherita Bassi, she/her Rose Dornon, she/her Francesca Von Krauland, she/her Ji-Won Ha, she/her Grace Nadia Chandra, she/her Genevieve Robins, she/her Amaya Sangurima-Jimenez, she/her

Many Thanks For Your Support: Mary Crane and The Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA) Akua Sarr Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Peter Marino, Jacqueline Delgado, & Susan Dunn at the Center for Centers Mark Pinkham and staff at Flagship Press

4


Table of Contents Pie Face Beatriz Elizalde she/her

Cover

A Study in April, 2020 Celia Smithmier she/her

14

Stuck and Afraid Catalina Corson she/her

15

Color Therapy Christin Snyder she/her

16

Lost & Found Rose Dornon she/her

17

The New Wave Natasha Zinos she/her

18

In Conversation With Sappho Justin Janesko they/them

19

love will be the death of me Jennessa Bryson she/her

20

Dysmorphia Sam Kramer she/her

21

Chanel Girl Beatriz Elizalde

22

What You Will Learn in the Psych Ward Kelsey Miller she/her

23

5


Meanwhile Sarah Ricks she/her

31

fighting about healthcare on a ride home from Maine, my 21st birthday Christin Snyder

32

la douleur exquise Lexie Slotterback she/her

33

Frozen Bread Beatriz Elizalde

34

market woman. Izzy Baldwin she/her

35

Oil Tracks Grace Nadia she/her

36

Toxic 37 Sam Kramer On Grieving Emma Campbell she/her

38

I Paint What I See Natasha Zinos

39

Satiation, 1916 Genevieve Robins she/her Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread Catalina Corson adulthood Isabella De Palo Garcia Perez she/her

6

40 41 42


Self Portrait of a Girl Brushing Her Teeth Sienna Remick she/her

43

Funny Warhol Beatriz Elizalde

44

Seasonal Gabby Eshelman she/her

45

The Microwave Celia Smithmier

48

Brain Activity Graydon Wood she/her

49

the thoughts give me the creeps Jillian Mercer she/her

50

OphĂŠlie Est Morte Natasha Zinos

51

ickysticky Jennessa Bryson she/her

52

Pen-man-ship 53 Maggie McQuade she/her Relax 56 Emma Campbell the night i meet my body Lexie Slotterback

57

Killing Kind Emily Pollock she/her

58

7


A House Divided Rose Dornon

59

La Sagrada Familia Sam Kramer

60

Kiss Shengua Zheng she/her

61

Kneeling at the Altar Emma Campbell

62

self portrait, 1926 Isabella De Palo Garcia Perez

63

In the Neighborhood Graydon Wood

64

An Open Letter to the Scared Black Girl Farrah Way she/her

65

The Hands Evyenia Coufos she/her

67

all i see are ships Kelsey Miller

68

Sea Change Emily Pollock

8

70

When it was spring Mary Brooks she/her

71

mount carmel, 1986 Lexie Slotterback

72

my mother, the optimist Rose Dornon

73


Woman With Bone Emma Campbell

74

Cannibalising Metabolism Sam Kramer

75

Off With Her Head Alexis Rulon she/her

77

la petite mort au bord de la mer Lexie Slotterback

78

And Still I Hope My Mother Never Reads This Maeve Christ she/her

79

Lisa Needs Braces Evyenia Coufos

81

Tucking Into Breakfast Sam Kramer

82

“What you were will not happen again� Jillian Mercer

83

Bliss 84 Graydon Wood fried chicken is like jazz Jennessa Bryson

85

Banana Boy Beatriz Elizalde

87

Strawberry Ice Cream Lexie Slotterback

88

riverbed Kelsey Miller

89

Burning Woman Emily Pollock

90

9


gravedigging Jennessa Bryson

91

Revolution Shengua Zheng

93

Self Portrait Sienna Remick

95

Joggers: burgundy, bought in the boys section Christin Snyder

96

patriotic Jennessa Bryson

97

Ventilation Christin Snyder

99 100

Sleepy Anonymous Nowhere, With Nothing To Do Margherita Bassi she/her Zoomin’ Emma Campbell

10

101

Back Cover


Mission Statement The Laughing Medusa seeks to engage the Boston College community with the artistic works of diverse women and nonbinary artists. The journal provides a safe space for talented young artists to express and examine our lives. We hope to emphasize and explore our collective humanity, and hope that all readers can see themselves in these pages.

11


Dear Reader: Our magazine has always been a labor of love. Beginning as an all-women’s publication in 1992, the Laughing Medusa has provided a safe space for underrepresented writers and artists, who often find their voices overshadowed. As you can imagine, we’ve hit some speed bumps, big and small. Since the beginning, we have fought — and still fight — to claim our space on campus and demonstrate to our community why women’s writing deserves its own unique publication. Now we, along with the Boston College community and the world, are facing a global pandemic. This time of uncertainty, fear, and sadness has led us to look for inspiration in unexpected places. After all our lives were upended, we found strength, humor, beauty, and determination in the work submitted by Boston College students. We were moved by how our contributors transformed their personal experiences into forms of artistic expression. Thank you to all of our contributors who fostered creativity in chaos and inspired us to move forward with publishing, even in these circumstances. 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. Though these times are uncertain, we know that art is healing and that we found solace in creating this year’s publication. We hope that you find the same within these pages. The Laughing Medusa Council

12


The Laughing Medusa

13


A Study in April 2020 consider a bookshelf at six a.m. to the right, straight edges, curved pages, confidently organized, placing allan before poe and harding davis next to hawthorne, and a 1988 crossword puzzle in between, half-completed, completely finished, and to the left, some papier mâché. today’s agenda: at eight, you will learn that you have o-negative blood, so lesson one: lock it up. protect your scratches and glove your hands because your sister or your cousin or you might need every drop when lungs choke blood or you immaculately conceive in ten secondsdaysyearsorcenturies. let’s play! i’ll dress up. just pretend i’m your freezer-burned fish downstairs. mom says he deserves a proper burial but the ground is too hard in minnesota always and funerals are illegal and not socially distant. lesson two: no one cares about dead minnows but mothers do because they’re mammals. an example? dog barks that fifteen times seven is one-hundred-and-five, is she right? as a centenarian, it’s acceptable to place her in a stroller like an arthritic baby doll and ignore her shivering spindly legs - because, lesson three youth has the life expectancy of a zebra fish from petco and though you can freeze fish next to dinosaur nuggets and rainbow popsicles it always disintegrates into the gooey, offensive residue layering the bottom of the white plastic and warping the container so the ice cubes won’t freeze anymore. ding, a timer! i think it’s noon now, sorry for getting distracted - but WAIT - silentium - let me peel my lips from paper casing and allow the dewy residue to soak my face, dribble down my chin. i examine myself through a buckled mirror. you - can you see my teeth or did i ruin my own sculpture? Celia Smithmier

14


Stuck and Afraid

Catalina Corson

15


Color Therapy Looking out from your shoulder, the scenery is an inkblot test, I scan the inky void of the sky reprinted in the slippery lake. And across the way, the red lights of cars move up and down the road as if they are small rockets shooting up into pristine nebulas into a universe of powerful gradients, of soft, curling purples and pinks, blooming, expanding like food coloring in water. I can’t help but think space must be warm, perspiring even, with galaxies dancing drunkenly in a bacchanalian revel, objects tugging at and brushing inches past each other, erotically fumbling through ruptured time. I hope it’s like the bustling and brilliant way you see music, with silky orange strings or citrus yellow piano chords, broken up by fat percussive marks, and cut with a red streaky voice. When my buzzing face can feel the side of your sweatshirt again, I realize how the universe is wrapping around you, in your night eyes. I can see all of us pulsing and pounding away in each of your capillaries, as they surface for oxygen. Christin Snyder

16


Lost & Found I wonder, would anyone notice if I were to take you? Red top, silver stripe, shiny and sleek, but subtle refinement. I imagine I see a few etches marring the facade— perhaps at these seams you’ll begin to rust. Here your steel outer layer will part, chips flaking, metallic exterior molting. Your liquid interior, of which I’m confident I can name, categorize based on sight even, will leach out, like the water seeping from beneath the succulent standing on my windowsill when I overcompensate for poor mother-tending, leaving behind a pool of tepid fluid, a ribbon of curses, and a paper towel quickly thrown in the wastebasket in the corner of my room.

Rose Dornon

17


The New Wave

Natasha Zinos

18


In Conversation with Sappho Two millennia, maybe three, and yet I hear her whisper to me. Her mouth is broken and cracked but there’s space still for words to flow. New roots spurt from old openings, wrap around a once pulsating tongue of stone so wild flowers may grow; joy to the honeybee. Nature plays along her neck, vines hold her in sweet embrace, but the nymphs miss when her touch was warm and tender. Like her, I want to be held in the spring. If not, winter.1

Justin Janesko

1 If Not, Winter is the title of a collection of Sappho’s poetry and fragments, translated by Anne Carson.

19


love will be the death of me they will find me in the Common sprawled-out, fingers stiff, petticoats scattered, clutching an old love letter to my once-heaving bosom. dying stars will reflect in my glazed-over eyes before the paramedics take me away and the stragglers who gather will wrap their scarves tighter around their necks, shake their heads sadly as they tsk– love has been the death of her, they will say to themselves, to the ground, to the curious pigeons. after i am gone they will open their romance novels to the bookmarked page, buy lacy black lingerie for no one in particular, swear that it was they who the handsome man in the flower shop winked at.

20

Jennessa Bryson


Dysmorphia I lie in bed with a sore back, puffing smoke from a pen So I can relax. But muscles clench around spine And a voice itches the deepest crevice of my mind. I pick at everything. At my face, at my toes—my bones. Fingers ghost behind to press into sheets of swollen muscle. Thumbs delight at ridges of popping vertebrae. Get back get back get back Wrong you’re wrong you’re Until a shoulder cracks in a socket. I lie there in bed, back aching and twisting all wrong So I define my behavior—an addiction and compulsion— And demand those damn hands to stop. But they ghost to the stomach And prod at ribs, curl under (where they are crooked) and pull up— Click-pop, click-pop, click-pop And a hand grinds into sternum, noticing every groove And palms grip hips and everything is wrong you’re wrong And my spine is still aching and it’s wrong twisted wrong and I’m scared to look in the mirror because I’ll see every convex fundamental, But instead I see a man and he’s all angles and I can’t I can’t even breathe right Because I broke my back And my skin is scarring and my ribs are loose And that’s how a friend of my brother punctured a lung. And I can feel my heart pumping under my breast and Is this what a heart attack feels like? Someone died. Those glass eyes are not my eyes and that body is not my body. I crawl into bed and breathe more mist, promising myself I can’t be addicted to being touched by someone else. Sam Kramer

21


Chanel Girl

Beatriz Elizalde

22


What You Will Learn in the Psych Ward Nashwa will come up to you early morning while you’re still disoriented from the whirlwind of being whisked into unknown beds and don’t yet have your contacts in. She will tell you to stay away from Kelly. “Kelly— she seems okay in beginning,” she will whisper, clutching your arm, “but she flips.” Nashwa will snap her fingers and nod at you to be sure you understand. You will not. “Like...she’s violent?” you will ask, throwing glances over at Kelly whose two front teeth have a large black smear across them. You will later find out it’s because she does not brush them, something she is very sensitive about. Something she yells and curses and slams doors at the nurses about, calls one nurse old over and snarls at her that she wouldn’t understand. For now, Nashwa will shrug her shoulders and leave you in a surreal, mystical place of not knowing. They will call the boy who’s leaving the day you arrive Z, and he will tell you how to get your phone back: “Just say you always do your homework on your phone. You’ll only get it for an hour, but it’s better than not at all.” That afternoon, you will watch him walk through the two vault-like doors they wheeled you through late last night. You will hear the doors shut behind him with dramatic, metallic finality. Nashwa will find you again, over by the puzzles with your cranberry juice and the news playing softly in the background, a situation which will distinctly remind you of your grandmother’s retirement home before she died. She will find you there with tears streaming down your face. You did not know it was possible to actually be bored to tears. You will try and hide them from the nurses (who come around with notepads and look at you through glass windows) because you are acutely aware of confirmation bias. You will remember watching a TedTalk about it once— the conclusion was that, once presumed to be crazy, it is incredibly hard to convince people of the contrary. You will hyper-analyze everything you say and do. Nashwa will sit very close to you and tell you how to get out more quickly: “The first couple days, I wouldn’t leave my room. I didn’t know nobody. But you want to leave, must show the nurses you’re okay,” Nashwa will motion around the com-

23


mon room. “Must be in the open,” she will nod and smile. A man will then come sit next to you: “This is Aneesh. He is good. He is alright.” Aneesh will split the patients into two groups— the normal ones and the loonies. He will ask you if “loonies” is an offensive word, and you will tell him it probably is, but he will continue to use the term anyway. “There are the people like you, me, Nashwa. Phil and Carlos are good too. Normal in the head. Then, the loonies: Kelly, Matt, Jeff, Jessica.” Aneesh will make his eyes go big and rotate his finger round his ear— “Crazy.” Matt will come over then and sit across from you. You will think that all you need to know about him is that he is a white man with dreadlocks. You will be wrong. He will like talking about himself and like explaining things to people even more. He will remind you of a mad scientist who has grandiose delusions about himself and his failed experiments. Matt will tell you about Bitcoin, unprompted: “Does that makes sense? Can you understand that?” Nashwa will try to correct him on a particular point, and he will tell her he can’t understand her— “Language barrier.” He will then ask Aneesh and Nashwa if they know who Mike Pence is. Aneesh will tell him. Matt will exclaim, “Yes, very good! U.S. citizenship for you.” Then, turning to Nashwa, “None for you.” Kelly will wander over from where she was lurking behind the windows, and Nashwa will start giggling: “She gets jealous. She likes him.” You will look up at Kelly. “Can I help you?” she’ll hiss. “What are you looking at?” You will say “nothing” and laugh into Nashwa’s shoulder because you will not know what else to do. You will feel a little bad about it. You will feel like a popular high school bully laughing at the uncool kid except you are in a psych ward and the uncool kid is just a very, very mentally unwell person. Once Matt and Kelly are gone, Aneesh and Nashwa will continue to talk about who likes who in the ward. When Aneesh’s back is to you, Nashwa will make eyes that suggest you and Aneesh should “be a thing.” You will do your best to not look at her like she is crazy. You will not feel that way about Aneesh at all, and even if that wasn’t a factor, you will think that it doesn’t bode well for any relationship to start in a psych ward. The course of the conversation will turn to how Aneesh needs to find an American wife to stay in the country. You will

24


politely excuse yourself as Nashwa continues to giggle and look at you. You will think about reminding everyone that Aneesh has a girlfriend back in India, but you will believe that that will be treating the conversation as if it had some credibility to begin with. Instead, you will hope you managed to hide your bewilderment at how you ended up at the center of the conversation and hide out in your room until dinner. Your roommate Joanna will not get out of bed for the first two days. You will believe she is “that kind of depressed,” the stay in bed all day kind of depressed. She will tell you later it is because she tried to take her life with too many pills. She was in the E.R. for three days. They almost had to put a breathing tube down her throat. But you will not know that until later, and before you are able to learn those things, you will walk into your room after lunch and see her bed empty for the first time, see the bathroom door is closed, hear her head banging against the wall inside. You will feel like you are tattling when you run to get the nurse. Will feel like you are a very uncool kid who “can’t hang” with the incrowd, but you will not know what else to do. Over the course of a week, you will learn not to miss outdoor time. It will only happen three times a day, for fifteen minutes. It will remind you of recess when you were a little kid if recess took place on the roof of a hospital in a 12 foot by 30 foot pen. You will sit on the bench for the first couple days and refuse to pace like the rest of the patients. The two nurses who are in charge of watching the patients will sit across from you, and you will find some solace in that you are the only one who mirrors them. But soon, you will give that up and pace like the rest of them, empathizing deeply with the tigers you used to watch obsessively stalk the length of their cages at the zoo when you were a child. You will listen in on Kelly’s and Matt’s conversation as they walk. Matt will instruct Kelly to stop “having her visions.” “I used to have them,” Matt will say, “but I forced myself to stop.” “But why would you ever want to make them stop?” Kelly will ask in dreamy disbelief. “They’re so entertaining. I could watch them for hours.” “It’s not good to see things that aren’t really there.”

25


“They’re the best part of my day. They’re better than real life.” “Did you take a shower yet?” “No.” “You said you would yesterday. You’re taking one today.” “Ok.” A couple of days later, you will be bringing Joanna with you wherever you go. 9 p.m. outdoor time will roll around, and the two of you will sit on a bench together under one of the floodlights, watching the little games people make up to entertain themselves. Phil will be crossing his feet at a diagonal, placing them within the confines of every other board of the patio. Suddenly, you will notice Kelly making a beeline for you, and you will panic for a second, looking around for one of the nurses in case something goes wrong. But she’ll draw up short. “Are you new here?” she’ll ask Joanna. “No, I’ve just been in bed.” “Oh, well, your hair is glowing,” she’ll smile, her eyes a little out of focus. “It’s really pretty.” “Thank you.” Kelly will not say goodbye. She’ll just sort of float away. “It must be the floodlights shining on it,” you’ll say. Joanna will nod. “That was so sweet.” You’ll nod. A different night, Phil will invite you to pace with him. He will tell you about his three sons— a college will be recruiting one of them to play ice hockey. Phil will also share his theory with you about the psych ward: that your stays here are supposed to be as miserable as possible so that you’ll never want to come back. You’ll laugh and say maybe, and he’ll hand you a stick of Big Red gum. Later, in one of the programs led by the nurses, he’ll share his theory with the group. The patients will laugh. The nurse leading the group will look very confused. That first night in the ward, you will sit next to Aneesh, waiting for your roommates to come visit. “They’re bringing me my clothes!” You will wiggle excitedly in your chair. “I’ve been in this a gross amount of time.” “How long?” Aneesh will ask. “Coming up on 48 hours.” “Oh. That’s nothing. That’s fine.”

26


You will think it is most definitely not fine when you can smell the perspiration on your t-shirt. Days later, you will notice that Aneesh never wears anything different and will wonder if you offended him. You will then remind yourself of when Kelly screamed at him repeatedly that he was a terrorist and accused him of trying to kill her and will think that perhaps, if you did offend him, he has forgotten by now. Your roommates will appear, unannounced, in the doorway, like children you thought died in war. You will scream and run to them. Haley will cry when she sees you— that will be one of the reasons you start to cry too. The other will be embarrassment. You will wave at Rebecca over Haley’s shoulder as you continue to hug her. Rebecca and Paige found you that night — Haley was away for the weekend. You did not mean to make her feel like this. A nurse will accompany all of you to your room, dumping the bags of things they brought for you on your bed. “She can’t have that,” the nurse will say, taking your razor. “Sharps,” she’ll add in explanation. You will remember that word being used to describe Aneesh. “He’s on sharp-watch,” a nurse had said. You had put two and two together— his bandaged arm with spider-legs of metallic stitches menacingly jutting out. You will sit with your roommates in a private room and dish on the drama of the hospital wing as if it was a soap opera. You will show off the bruise blooming in your inner right elbow, yellow and plum and evergreen, and bitch about how you were woken up at 6 a.m. to get blood drawn before you had even had time to brush your teeth. Your roommates will say you got the bruise because you were too tense when they stuck the needle in, and you will say, oh, most definitely, I’m petrified of needles. You will then make eye contact with Jessica who is walking past the small submarine window of the room. Framed within its circumference, she will flip you off and whisper her own name as she continues to walk by. All of you will giggle uncontrollably in disbelief. You will not like being left behind when your friends finally leave. You will not like that, to the nurses, they are college students and you are a patient. You will not like having to ask to

27


use the shower. But you will like how it makes you feel like a person again, even if it is just for a moment. Your friends will visit you every night after their classes and bring you food that is not hospital food, and your parents will call you every day. Only with them will you feel free to cry angry tears, a petulant child. Only with them will you express how angry you are that you are here, how you feel like a prisoner, how horrible it is to have so much free time but have absolutely no freedom. But what you won’t say is that, if you weren’t depressed before, you definitely are now— even blinded by frustration and bitterness, you will know that it is not true enough to say, that your parents will not find it as funny as you do, that they just might believe you. Instead, you will hang up the beige, plastic, hallway phone, with its tight little coil-spring leash, back up on the wall and try not to picture yourself in an orange jumpsuit. You will tell yourself you’re being dramatic. One day the fire alarm will go off and you’ll peek out of your room, looking both ways down the hall like a little prairie dog, popping its head out of its hole. No one will seem concerned. No one will act like they hear it. You’ll walk down to the nurses’ station, and a nurse will say, “The problem’s a couple floors up. We only have to evacuate if it’s directly above us or below us.” You will wander back to your room and fall asleep to the sound of the fire alarm. When you wake up from your nap, it will be silent again. Matt will tell everyone he is being discharged today and every day. Nashwa will whisper to you that he’s been saying that since before you even showed up. Aneesh will cross his arms and shake his head. Then, on Friday, it will be true. Matt will be discharged before you, and you will not understand why. A new woman will be admitted, and she will be a good substitute. For the rest of the week, she will take Matt’s place as your entertainment. Alexis will be in her late thirties and will hit on every guy in the ward, even on Carlos, who will tell her he is nineteen. It will not matter to her. Aneesh will come sit by you and whisper intently that Jeff and Alexis are in the bathroom together. Instead of just telling you that she is giving him a hand job, he will act it out for you as if that is better. “You can just tell me, you know.”

28


“But you are so young. It would be so weird.” But then Aneesh will tell you the things he overheard Alexis say to Jeff anyway. He will also tell you things that feel less relevant like how Jeff shits the bed every night and how one of his Tourette syndrome’s ticks is to yell that he doesn’t want to die a thirty year old virgin. Nashwa will tell the nurses on Alexis, and Aneesh will be mad at her. He will say he just wants to be a good friend to Jeff, but you will think he is not being very honest with himself about his intentions. For one, he rarely calls Jeff by his real name. He just calls him “The Fatty.” For another, when he found out about Jeff and Alexis, the first thing he said was that it was the best fucking day of The Fatty’s life. You will think that that’s a pretty sad outlook for anyone to have on Jeff’s life, but especially for someone who’s trying to be his friend. Regardless, for the rest of your stay, Alexis will be followed around by a nurse and herded away from the men. It will be very entertaining. While you are doing your puzzles, Aneesh will come sit next to you and tell you why he is here. Afterwards, he will expect you to tell him the same. “Why are you here? You are too happy. You are too young.” You will whisper something he won’t be able to hear, and he’ll say “what,” and Nashwa will come into the common room and interrupt you, and you will be relieved and mad at Aneesh. This will surprise you. Will make you wonder what the difference between you and Aneesh is, why he could tell you what happened to him without hesitation and you could not. But you have already told so many people— the therapist at your college, the psychiatrist and the doctor and the nurse in the ER, the doctor and the nurse in the psych ward on duty the first night you arrived, and the new doctor you were assigned to the next day. Halfway down the line of medical professionals, you had wondered why they didn’t just make a fucking Google doc or something so they wouldn’t have to keep on asking you to replay that moment over and over again. The story will not be yours anymore, and you will not be sure it ever was. You will remember, back in the fifth grade, when you thought you might’ve liked Daniel B. Haleigh had told the entire class, and in that moment, you were sure that you never had

29


liked him. Maybe it was the same. You will not feel like the girl in your own story. You will feel misidentified and embarrassed when people try to tell you you are. On Monday, you will finally leave. You will be very excited because you will have finished both the puzzles you started, so you can leave with a sense of accomplishment. You will feel bad when Joanna starts crying and tells you she doesn’t want you to go when you are alone in your room together. You will feel even worse for knowing you will not miss anybody at all and wonder if that makes you a bad person. Maybe it was too much for you, to be surrounded by people who hurt like you hurt. Maybe you tried to identify with the nurses more than the patients because you did not want somebody else to be responsible for managing your pain. Maybe you wanted to listen to others stories and not share your own because it meant you had the knowledge, the power, the role of extending compassion and not receiving it— and for some reason, that made you feel strong. Maybe, but you will not be sure. What you will know is that it takes a great deal of humility that you don’t have to share those things with someone. You will be afraid that when you walk out those two giant doors you were pushed through in a wheelchair a week earlier, you will start crying from freedom and joy, but you will not. You will walk out like nothing happened at all. You will walk out like you’ve walked out of doors your whole life. You will step outside into the autumn air and wait for your ride to take you home. Fall will look like it always has. You were afraid you might’ve missed it in a week, but it will be like you left it, red, yellow, orange— burning. Kelsey Miller

30


Meanwhile

Sarah Ricks

31


fighting about healthcare on a ride home from Maine, my 21st birthday A frozen pouch of pina colada is seething, decongealing in the backseat cup holder, acidic and syrupy, in a timelapse—in our sour sweat bath. It looks like something you might put in an IV drip on daytime television, or find in a glass beaker in some lab, like a plot-hole-filling-antidote, a serum for a nondescript affliction in a shitty sci-fi film. Later, in golden hour light, it resembles an urostomy pouch, freshly kidney-cleaned, a transparent sickly yellow. I still drink it, soaking my tongue with its pineapple sugar and hoping its effects are as medicinal as it tastes. When the skylight shifts to an evocative red, and vibrates through the pine trees, it fills the car until we each erupt, foam, and spew brassy toned comments about money, bills, and hospitals. She, further revoking civility, can’t go on respecting me in my state—socialist or tipsy. My heavy head returns the rattling of the backseat window, and my nails trace bumpy circles on my forehead, they imagine plucking out each unruly nerve ending like eyebrow hairs. Christin Snyder

32


la douleur exquise i am scorching writhing under the heat of Ra’s blistering rays aching for them to touch to press to reach yearning for more than passing flame. he promises to stay but when the night falls i am left lonely, grazed by moonlight, but without fever. when he returns in the morning he scorches my skin with kisses burns to the touch and flushes my pallid cheek. he apologizes for the pain but i never feel more alive than when i am inflamed. i beg him to stay the night but he slips through the window, leaving me in the dark, beautiful and lonely and longing to burn. Lexie Slotterback

33


Frozen Bread

Beatriz Elizalde

34


market woman. he called me fruit-fleshed. ran a lousy finger down every limb. said it was better to have peach skin, leaf-sprout bones. they were better for bending. after spearpointing a thumb through my left breast, a green mango knitted together and replaced the vacant cavity rooted in my chest. unripe and a toothbreaker. a lesson told, soon after: no man will ever make a profit off of your heart if they can’t digest it. Izzy Baldwin

35


Oil Tracks

Grace Nadia

36


Toxic “Before nourishment there must be obedience.” Eduardo C. Corral I gulp and cough, spit Flames, ash so dead it’s cold. You pick up my smoke and sip From cupped palms, my putrefaction, My grief. Liquid turmoil gargled Mouthwash, cleaning the farthest folds Of your throat. I inhale you, Swallow your exhales, Moist, drinkable life-air, so we can start Again. A gulp, a cough, vomited fire Spilling swirls around our champagne flute Fisted hands. Your other clasps my cheeks, Thumb burrows a well into my jowls Pointer jabs a bruise into my temple. My lips open, Parting teeth and face, Plasma trickles— A dreg of fire, A limp river. Please... Dust my mouth with one swipe of your finger. Lean forward, Kiss my mended neck and whisper... Sam Kramer

37


On Grieving Your funeral was an unfortunate High school reunion. My exBoyfriend from middle school swept Me into his arms as I cried. Who would I hug next? Your mother? Your brothers or your sister? What do I say when they all look like you? When I heard people whisper “Emma looks like Laura too,� I wanted to melt into the floor Because you were my sister, not By blood but by love and the parlor door Seemed mountains away yet I crawled to your altar and placed A smoky quartz next to the frame of your face. Emma Campbell

38


I Paint What I See

Natasha Zinos

39


Satiation, 1916 walt’s parents killed him when he was seventeen years old, which is rather odd considering they themselves were little more than corpses. it was two years from the start of the fast, the fourth friday of lent, and he had but only returned from the dúlamán collecting when mother sunk a curved blade usually reserved for the sunday fish carving into his lily-toned gullet, fileted him with her mundane artistry as she so often did the pollock. father dug a hole in the absinthe soaked back yard with a spade that predated even the unrest (which to mr. lynch’s estimations had no beginning and hardly an end in sight), next to the potter’s field where bran and the mother of god laid, and fed his son to the sons of the earth, but they spit his lean clockwork out like chew-rotten teeth or over-brewed tea. the neighbors wouldn’t have made a fuss if walt’s blood didn’t leave their lawns in a pallor and the o’donoghues’ cat hadn’t choked on the paper-thin cartilage of his left ear. mrs. mees, a ritz cracker soaked in boiled water, aired the block’s grievances and her carpets, so walt’s father sold the corpse to a film student with a cigarette smile for a half handle of dark liquor, though he would have preferred cash, or even some fatty bacon. it was, after all, the paschal season, and isaac had begun to unravel. Genevieve Robins

40


Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Catalina Corson

41


adulthood i can’t hold pencils anymore. a woman with pin straight silver hair and a withered scowl set behind vibrant colored tortoise shell glasses and told me in no uncertain terms were we to be as bold as my friend that bore the name to ever use a pencil in her class. ink stained the tips of my fingers, sunk into the woven fabric of my service council backpack which had been given in place of a christmas meal, scribbled into the sides of the odyssey as i waste time before a volleyball game. her withered scowl follows me into the crux of juventud. the grip of my hand aches from where i’ve been holding onto my words until i drop the pen altogether, switch to my thumbs and spend seven months writing someone else’s love letters from across the globe. the pen collects dust under my bed until i’m ready to pack for college and someone throws themselves over my shoulder and tells me to try again. i think it’s been so long that the ink must have dried, must have spilled and slipped into the cracks of the hardwood. but i take the chance, i pack it under dollar tree ramen and a bag of sharpies, hoping that one day i’ll work up the courage to pull it out again. Isabella De Palo Garcia Perez

42


Self Portrait of a Girl Brushing Her Teeth

Sienna Remick

43


Funny Warhol

Beatriz Elizalde

44


Seasonal As a barista, I’ve touched a lot of espresso. Dead espresso, cold espresso, forgotten espresso, spilled, sloshed, steamed espresso. Espresso on my chin, espresso on my brow, espresso on the toes of my boots and the tip of my tongue. Acidic caffeine clinging to my hair, my skin, my clothes, my socks, my fingertips, my towels, my pillowcase. Espresso chilled, espresso boiling. Espresso with milk and espresso with m*lk. Espresso with almond, with soy, with coconut, oat, dairy-free creamer. Half-and-half, 1%, 2%, 110% sure we don’t have skim milk, but I was never good at math. Espresso with sugar, both artificial and raw, and espresso with liquid sugar in a variety of sickly sweet tastes. Espresso with vanilla, with hazelnut, with caramel, with peppermint, toffee nut, pumpkin spice, white chocolate, bittersweet chocolate. Espresso with caramel drizzle, with mocha drizzle, with no drizzle, with extra drizzle. Espresso with ice, espresso with light ice, espresso with no ice. Espresso with just enough ice so the customer can go to the condiment stand and pour milk in their cup in order to avoid paying for an iced latte. I don’t get paid enough to stop you! They laugh. Then they feel bad. I make myself laugh. They feel worse. We fill the air with words so the silence doesn’t say what we can’t. I’ve been better. The weather has been better. The Patriots have been better. Better? To make your drink better you’d have to tell me what’s wrong with it. Too much foam, not enough foam. Too hot, too cold. Too sweet, too bitter. (Too salty? Too spicy?) Thank you. I’m sorry. Can you repeat that? Thank you. You’re welcome. Thank you. Excuse me. Our chip reader doesn’t work. Excuse me. Our credit card machine is down. Swipe again. No, swipe. Our chip reader doesn’t work. Swipe again. Swipe. Yes, our chip reader doesn’t work. No, we’re out. We’re out of oat milk, we’re out of lemonade, we’re out of half-and-half, almond milk, white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, time. I’m out of time, it’s 10:30 pm. I clock out. I lay down. I get up. I clock in. The corner in the back room underneath the burnt out bulb, inside the milk fridge, under the hand dryer in the

45


bathroom, the storage closet, that room with all the wires and blinking lights that we spread conspiracy theories about to pass time: those are the best places to cry. Snap, snap, snap. Make it snappy. Excuse me ma’am, miss, bitch. I’m late for work, for class, for court, for church. I have a meeting, I have a presentation, I have a test, I have a quiz, I have an exam, I have homework. I’m in a hurry, a rush, a flurry, a fluster. Busy, busy, busy. We’re busy, why are you standing around? If you can lean, you can clean! The back of my pants are always soggy from having to sit down to clean the cabinets so you don’t watch me bend over. You supervise leer at me anyways. You know my phone number, my bank routing number, my social security number, my address. You tell me you like my hair, have you done something different with it? Is that new lipstick, new perfume? No, I’m the same, and you are no different. And this is just same old, same old. You walk me to my car. You put your hand on my back. You smile. You tell me I’m a good girl. I say thank you, because you sign my checks. The second stall from the left, that’s the one I usually throw up in. Not if, but when. When I spill something, when I take my pill on an empty stomach, when I see you. I throw up, flush, and sit on the toilet to look at my phone. I text. I scroll. I tap. I write poetry, grocery lists, Snapchat captions. I type, type, type. I check my email. Park Pharmacy – 5:32 pm – FINAL NOTICE: Your prescription is ready for pickup New River Counseling Services – 8:00 am – Reminder of Cancellation Fees Professor Marks – 2:32 am – Re: Extension for Final Paper? I delete my emails. If I can’t see them, they’re not real. I wash my hands. I don’t look in the mirror. If I can’t see me, I’m not real. I tell myself it’s the season. Something about gift wrapping and anxiety, something about snow days and depression. Our seasonal drinks are peppermint hot chocolate, and toasted marshmallow, and warm sugar cookie. Would you like to try a sample? Would you like whip cream? Would you like

46


sprinkles? Would you like it hot or iced? Would you like me if I was hot? Is it good? Am I good? Do you like it? Do you like me? I forgot about the schedule. I forgot about the deadline. I forgot about my appointment. I forgot breakfast. I forgot to pick up my prescription. I forgot lunch. I forgot about the extension deadline. I forgot dinner. I forget my name. I can’t feel my hands, except when I burn them, then I can’t stop feeling my hands. I forgot your coffee. You certainly didn’t. You tell me I’d look better with a smile, but we’re all out. I’ve used up all my smiles saying hello to you, saying I’m sorry to you, saying thank you to you. I give you a smile so you’ll give me a tip: you tell me to get a better job, but leave the jar empty. It’s just seasonal. The work, the weather, the depression. It’s cut hours, it’s snow storms, it’s the lack of vitamin D. I drop the steamer into the pitcher, press the button, and put a scream into your milk. You say thank you. I say my pleasure. Gabby Eshelman

47


The Microwave I thought about writing something for you, to curse you, to smite you, But all I can think about is how much I hate nachos. I flip tags on liquor bottles, Avoid aisles with tortilla chips, Scream at cans of black beans and whisper to shredded cheese that though I can buy blocks of cheddar I still remember those fine-tuned, methodically flimsy scraps Which you flung lazily across the plastic, haphazardly aiming at my microwaveable plates But not caring if you touched the chips or the floor. Lately I’ve been sustaining myself on multiseed crackers and raspberries And coffee that you never drank with me And applesauce which you hated and My microwave has been dry for months, But I’ve been using it to heat up edamame we bought months ago Which I still taste to have some semblance of a fucking reminder of you And for the record, I can’t order sushi either. Remember how you used to order special soy sauce, Request brown rice over white, And I’d have to run outside and pick it up while you sat in a stupor, Locked into the television, But at least you paid for my meal? Once you gave me a green hat that causes electrocution, When we were drunk on five-euro chardonnay, And when I first considered my future for the next five years, It shocked me for the first time And I removed it. Now I place it on my head and recalibrate my shoulders to fill your absence, Shaped around the crevice your waist would fill between my blades and elbows, And I cannot tell if I feel fat or slim But at least I’m not eating your shitty nachos anymore.

48

Celia Smithmier


Brain Activity

Graydon Wood

49


the thoughts give me the creeps i’m not sure how you’re doing but can only hope that it’s not nice wherever you are i hope it’s cold and rainy like the late nights on your bedroom floor with nothing but a sheet between us, our souls muttering this is never going to work out. i’m not sure if you’ll ever be happy or if you ever were but i can only pretend that you smiled when you were deciding which bukowski books to gift me for christmas. i’m not sure you ever finished those short stories or if anyone but the bottom of your closet was going to read them or even like them. they didn’t have much emotion behind them like the back of your father’s chair that’s still sat in the living room 5 years after he left your mom. i’m not sure if i’ll ever forget the shapes of your freckles or the scar under your tattoo or the spelling mistake in your ribs and some nights i want to but other nights i want to see-see you not just see you i want to SEE you. i’m not sure if you still play that dumb card game or if you’re still wasting your money on cheap beer and bus tickets with no rechargeable card but if you’re ever in boston i’ll let you swipe mine or maybe we’ll cheat the system like you cheated me and walk through the gates together. fuck the MBTA. i’m not sure you know that you hurt me 10 fold and i tried to hurt you once but i bet it didn’t feel like crushed fingers or a torn shirt. i bet it felt like a bee sting and you’re not allergic so it didn’t last long and you’re so strong it probably didn’t even burn but i wish i watched you puff up and cry for help because i’m the only one who owns an epipen. i hate the way the air felt around you and how it didn’t matter if the heater was broken or that your shower drain never let the water down fast enough. i can’t miss you but i can miss walking on the inside of the sidewalk, the way my stomach walked in on itself when you looked at me with hunger, how the passion was there but it was bodies on bodies on bodies on sheets on bodies and no, we’re friends, no, we are just friends. and friends can tell secrets but only best friends will keep them and i never promised you anything and you never promised me anything but i kept your secrets like a promise and you kept your patience for a day and that’s why i’m writing this 3 years later because i never understood that there wasn’t a we but a me, and i can’t even consider you a you. i’ll pull out my phone and type your name and erase your face but still look it up every 4 weeks to see if you’re showing it with someone new and you never are, you never are...you never show your face anymore but you never showed your face then either. i can’t remember if we just did not take any pictures together or if i deleted them all in a drunken rage but i wish i didn’t on nights like this when the wine makes me want to recover my old back ups and see the shape of your freckles and the beer cans on the floor. i wake up and feel nothing but remorse.

Jillian Mercer

50


OphĂŠlie est morte

Natasha Zinos

51


ickysticky you are my lifeblood. my single leaf of arugula on a hot summer’s day. the pinecone at the top of my pinecone pile. the lint in my belly button i threaten to burn your apartment down with after an argument. you are stubborn and creamy as plaque and i can’t go a day without waking to your butter-yellow smile. you sweat through the sheets (even the roughest cotton) move them to tears you brilliant pore-ator. eloquent as phlegm-hocking at a wedding tasteful as the spinach marinating in my teeth. all crust and fuzz a discount baguette you are russian roulette my precious spaghett i twirl your hair around on a fork just to make sure you haven’t died. you are my sticky, my accomplice, racoon paws covered in strawberry jam. not biscuits&gravy but the singular roach brown and crispy in the frying pan. subtle as a splinter the sneakiest of picnic ants you are stretch, thanksgiving pants. the gum i swallowed yesterday squelching through my small intestine. you are forthcoming as pus plump as a raisin obtuse as a blackhead and also gossamer, the first ray of dawn. you are violent geometry, too bony for an angel to snatch so you’ll never be raptured. instead you sit next to me on the couch and cackle like a goose as i find an olive in my bra for the third time this week you are okay i guess Jennessa Bryson

52


Pen-man-ship None of the pens in my house work anymore. Every time that I need to write something down, I open the drawer underneath the counter where our landline sits and rummage through it, grabbing all the pens that I can. I find the nearest envelope or take-out menu and begin to test them. The pens leave their last faint traces of black ink on the paper, and although in their useless state they belong in the trash, I return them to the drawer. I keep them because I believe if I scribble in the corner of the page hard and fast enough, I will see ink flow again, and maybe the pen will come back to life. I want to believe that all my dead pens will one day write again. Maybe I just need to be scribbled and ink will flow out of me to create something beautiful, but these days my ink has turned to blood like water into wine. When was the last time that I was touched that I didn’t bleed? I guess that means that I still work, but blood doesn’t create anything beautiful. It stained my new pair of panties that match my bra that pushes my chest into something desirable. The guy who took me home on Friday night had to see me mismatched because of it. It broke his heart that I did not dress that morning just so he could undress me, even though I tried my best to. That I did not take the time to consider how he would feel about my ugly panties, even though I never wanted to bleed at all. I know it’s my fault that I bleed when I’m touched. I know that it’s my fault that I have to wear bras too. A boy in middle school told me that he could always guess a girl’s bra size, so when he told me I looked like a 32-B I accepted it as my gospel. When he asked me to be his girlfriend I texted him yes, and when we broke up a week later, I still apologized because I hadn’t thought that he would need more than my open arms. I’ve grown up since then, once I understood that hugs must become kisses and kisses are supposed to move south, so I bought more bras, size 34-C this time, to feel like I had accomplished something in my womanhood that actually mattered. My other great achievement: I got my nipples pierced. A woman with a shaved head and a tattoo of a mandala on her scalp shoved a needle through that part of me that is most delicate so that when I take off my now size 34-C bra I don’t feel disappointed, which is really saying that now a man won’t be disappointed. It’s supposed

53


54

to be a surprise for those worthy of undressing me, although I find myself telling everyone I know, because really everyone that wonders is worthy. I am edgy for this and fearless too. I’m not scared of needles or pain. I am not scared for you to touch them, go ahead, it feels better now more than ever. Don’t mind the blood. One time a man ripped out one of my piercings, and after he left my room at 5 AM I sat on my bed and stabbed myself to put it back into place, maybe because I had paid sixty dollars for it or maybe because my nipple looked naked in its natural state. Vulnerable and still bleeding. One boy was too scared to touch, too scared of hurting me, so I pulled his fingers down to the part of myself I still don’t know how to name. At first his fingers grazed in the way I always imagined fingers could, but then he preferred to shove his fingers inside of me instead. I let him; I breathed heavily and squealed in delight even as all of my blood seeped out of me, turning me into a corpse. I might be dead but at least there’s no more bleeding and he can fuck me like he wants to, without having to pretend that he needs my squirming body beneath him to feel me, to revel in me, to love me. What if I had said no before he pleasured me and killed me and fucked me and loved me? I stand in front of my mirror and force my tongue upward to the roof of my mouth and release it downward to formulate the consonant, but I get stuck on the vowel. I try to imagine my voice and I can’t because I can’t remember the last time I heard it. There was one moment in the woods when I picked up my phone and my mom said hi and I said it is so good to hear your voice right now. Maybe I could speak in her voice and I could say no but then I think of how she paints her nails red instead of blue because my dad likes red and he doesn’t like blue and I think that no voice is still better than that. My dad hates that the pens in my house don’t work. He will throw them away, even without a scribble. Maybe he’ll do the same to me one day once he realizes that I’ve forgotten the sound of my own voice and bought my own bras and let a boy fuck my corpse. I would float among the rotting banana peels and the brown guacamole that fill the trash in our kitchen, with the chocolate chips my mom pours out just so she doesn’t eat them, all sprinkled on top of me. There are worse existences than to be smothered in chocolate.


Though maybe he will try to scribble me and will find a little ink left in me. He’ll put me back in the drawer, where I’ve lived my whole life, and where I’ll wait again for another pair of masculine hands to grab me. A pair of hands in need. I will form the letters the hand writes and maybe then I will finally be beautiful, the vessel for someone else’s creation. Maybe the hand will even keep me after, consider me a good pen, a sturdy pen and put me in his backpack. He will leave me there until he needs me again. I’ll always be there, I promise baby, I need you to save me before I dry out. Promise that you’ll scribble me. Use me and use me again, remember I don’t say no. At least don’t forget about me. At least throw me in the trash if you lose faith and smother me in chocolate and I’ll always think about the way your hand held me tightly and made my ink finally flow and I’ll be thankful for it. Bury me in your duty, I’m yours. I’ll try not to bleed out in your pocket, but if I do, leave me there in your pants and throw me in the washer, and I’ll finally be clean. No more blood. No more ink either, but again there are worse existences. Maggie McQuade

55


Relax

Emma Campbell

56


the night i meet my body all i can see is curve, unwanted undefined waves of flesh the billows caress my bones gently but i wish i could peel them up, watch the layers of skin come undone, plasmic as Christmas ribbon, bloodied and beautiful. i crave symmetry but my right tit is bigger than the left and I think my left cheekbone is more defined than my right and I am praying to Whoever that They may alter my design but I know that some night i will greet my body and not want to rid my skeleton of the excess. I will praise my waves for their strength and the resonance of their crash, acclaim my asymmetry as hors concours, and admire Whoever’s craftsmanship in adorning my body with festive, fleshy ribbon. Lexie Slotterback

57


Killing Kind

Emily Pollock

58


A House Divided Imbued with royal manner, royal decree: the body politic. Every natural urge, woman’s thought: the body natural. Every red moon now, as my body aches, separates, grows, I think of that diadem and the orb your fingers grazed— beneath those mink robes did your blood flow softly from your body? When you proclaimed yourself a mother of a people, not a person, did you ache for companionship? As you wove your tapestry, of flirtation, courtly diversion, did you press your gathered hearts gently to an empty breast? Letting them slide through your grasp like so much sand? A castle of romance, threatening to topple as the tide rolled closer. You were mother enough, wife in duty— although perhaps children’s laughter pierced rather than pleased. But in 47 years not a single portrait included a face other than your own, a solitary reflection, one doubled only with your presence. Rose Dornon

59


La Sagrada Familia I was afraid to write A poem about light About the sun rising— Gushing red blush Into the pores of buffed White columns. I was afraid to write A poem about God About Grace laced In a photon—floating Through green glass As we climb midday. No black ink Pressed in paper pulp Will breathe chapel air— And photographs only Show color and shade. But to write on light! Voices waltzing on hymns Circling through canals My ears— Only cling to shadow God exhaling—you Stretched in the saccharine Indigo of nightfall. Sam Kramer

60


Kiss

Shenghua Zheng

61


Kneeling At The Altar I beg, “Make me a beautiful woman.� Shattered mirrors fracture my tired hands, Pumice-stone grind on braille-printed arms, Tweezer pull, Sticky wax like flypaper between my brows, Pomegranate juice dripping from razor thin shaves,

Is this beauty?

A manufactured, mass-produced goddess?

Am I not Aphrodite herself When I rise from my swan bed With pear prickled limbs, Olive oil hair? I no longer dance with the devil That is the perfect self.

I ease into my skin Like honey into wine. Emma Campbell

62


self portrait, 1926

para frida: “te amo más que mi propia piel” beauty of a portrait is lost in opulence. backgrounds: noisy, hazy with bright colors, empty meaning. the lady next door is as regal as the goddesses of old. mama says her gaze is as strong as sugar cane, her fingers elongated by grace. i see a glow, orange with death and petals from calendulas. her hair like tar and mud slick after a rainstorm, eyes holding freshly harvested cacao, deep set beneath brows carved in lines of marble and dirt. the lady’s jugular is thick with ancestry, history of lost people. hands hold brushes that age into power. Isabella De Palo Garcia Perez

63


In the Neighborhood

Graydon Wood

64


An Open Letter to the Scared Black Girl Dear {insert name here}, The first grade. I can remember attending school with a pink old navy collared shirt, a perfectly hemmed khaki skirt, and two pink bows in my curly-patterned hair. As I walked into class that day, I received so many compliments on my outfit from my friends and teachers. However, the one comment that I will never forget was when the tiny blonde-haired Abby approached me and said, “Wow, you have nice hair for a brown person.” In response, I happily replied, “Thank you!” As a six-year-old girl, receiving any comment about your appearance cannot help but make you feel special. But should I have been pleased with what she said? At such a young age, I can’t blame myself for not knowing how to respond to her remark because all I wanted was to be liked by everyone in class. However, I do find myself frustrated for not calling her out. Abby said that I have nice hair for a “brown” girl, like all black girls’ hair isn’t beautiful. Perhaps I am a lucky “brown girl” because I have a Hawaiian and Dominican mother that gave me the genes to have beautifully curled natural hair. But, I would never say my hair is prettier than another one of my black peers. Some girls have flowy wavy curls, loose curls, or the extreme, kinky curly hair. All black people have different hair types that are unique to their ethnicity, and regardless of what is the color of our skin, all hair is pretty. The fourth grade. I was in science class, talking to my dirty-blonde haired, green-eyed friend Carly. Once class was over, we were walking through the school gym and began to have a conversation about who we thought was the prettiest girl. We kept going back and forth, naming people until she randomly said, “I don’t think black people are pretty.” Being a young black girl myself, I was kind of confused and didn’t know how to process it, so I just said, “I understand that,” and continued our conversation.

65


I guess I was at a loss for words because I don’t think I understood the significance of what she was saying. I could only assume she thought that all black girls are this dark-skinned, biglipped, curly-haired person who can never be compared to society’s conventional image of beauty, an image of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed white girl. Although I didn’t say anything at the time, I now know for a fact that her image of the black girl is wrong. The black woman is an attractive person who comes in all different skin tones, has all different hair types, and a beautifully sized mouth. It is this woman whose beauty not only lies on the surface but also can be found in their incredible wit and intuition. Black is beautiful. Love, Farrah Farrah Way

66


The Hands

Evyenia Coufos

67


all i see are ships I. your elbow is a ship. a great hulking cavern, big blue whale’s belly, pitch black, convulsing, smelling of krill caught in lice comb. your inky veins bulge blue beneath phyllo dough skin, flaking. II. the birds gutted out the belly like your daughter’s hands wrist-deep in turkey, white bone, much cheaper than elephant ivory, formed a rag-tag, jagged stonehenge in sand. you said you’d seen it once, took my hand, ran it over the small ribs, each one, a bristle on a brush, bending against my child’s thumb. III. when you sold your house, you gave me your ceramic bird collection. a week after you entrusted them to me, i broke our favorite bird, the one perched on its nest, three blue eggs, bright and shiny like hard candies. i cried when i told you. you kissed me with old lady lips, got lipstick on me. i asked if you’d paint my nails. you smiled. IV. give archimedes a bathtub big enough, he’ll predict the sinking of the titanic. not enough room in the ocean to hold both haul and underbelly of ice. pink toes disrupt my sentences, the places where captains sail slowly.

68


the ladies at the nursing home lower your cracking crow’s body in, all angles and wings. you don’t recognize me, it’s been so long. you don’t recognize me, your daughter reminds you. you don’t recognize me, you never do again. but how could you forget your daughter’s face, the stranger cradling your head, crying into your wild, white hair? how could you, when she cannot forget yours? VI. your daughter is a canary, coated in a light layer of dirt, kicked by the careless boot of a miner. you and she are used to letting them wear their muddy shoes around the house. (mom hates it when i say i don’t want to get married. she doesn’t know that i do, but i am afraid of the rugs being ruined.) your daughter is curled up in bed with you. she is little spoon. you, a boat. everything is a boat. everything is a passenger. your ribcage heaves slowly, slowly, slower. it belongs to a shot wolf. your daughter cradles into cavernous cathedral, hallowed — hollowed out belly, haul of ship—there is none of you left to displace. a baby wolf keeps warm while the heat lasts, the lungs collapse. curls up in bed with you, holds your age-spotted hand, a fruit dropped and dropped again. i stand in the doorway, tug at the loose string hanging from my t-shirt sleeve, try to break it off. my hand slips, un-hemming the cuff.

Kelsey Miller

69


Sea Change

Emily Pollock

70


When it was spring Dull headaches in the car. Hum of NPR and the musty smell of cigarettes. Grandpop in the front seat. The small three forced in the back but it’s warm and snug and I fall asleep. Wake as the car slows. Clean air gleaming petals and lawn cutter that mows and and I feel Spring inside come out of me fluttering butterflies sunshine and cinnamon buns. Sun too bright cinnamon too sweet. Then I took all three but now I’ll have just one, please. Mary Brooks

71


mount carmel, 1986 mother sits on the Then couch, Now bed, father stands, towering over her tired frame. she cradles the bump in her belly, her sweet, nameless blob. she is begging him to get a job— no, a real one— with benefits for beautiful blob. bartending kills her ankles, swells them until she stumbles into a greasy man who uses bump as an excuse to touch, rubbing up close, sliding hands under her shirt— father yells, accuses— but there’s a brokenness in her eyes that sends him stormily to the pier where he will find himself broken too, all for lovely mother and cursed bump. Lexie Slotterback

72


my mother, the optimist Sometimes I justify, maybe it’s the way she was raised. The bad man, who we don’t talk about anymore, or her job, where she’s underemployed. Or maybe it’s the years of her youth she sacrificed on the ‘altar’ of motherhood— the role of domesticity that fits her like the itchy sweater from your aunt on a Christmas long-forgotten, the one you fear to give up because, what would the family say? She wasn’t born for this, and she never settled. While telling me her life is falling apart she still wants me to know: I still believe people are really good at heart...I have to. Rose Dornon

73


Woman With Bone

Emma Campbell

74


Cannibalising Metabolism Whatever this body is, it is not woman. Hands clasp elbows, bind and hook under ribcage. Hug concavity of gut. You turn in the mirror and see the profile, a montage of curves and angles. It bends forward-- chin down and spine up making the reflection a crone or a skeleton or an ancient species of extinct reptile. All on display. But never you. Breathe through back rather than lungs. Floating ribs push out with each pull in of oxygen, expanding and fanning but still clinging against the spine. You are an angry crow puffing feathers of bone and flesh. You decide to like this image. This unnatural, greasy image of glossy wings and ink-black plumage. Bones shift under skin and press against freckles and petal-soft back, tissue thinning until ribs meld and breach surface like humps of whales rising for air. These bones break skin. These bones make armor. But. Whatever this body is, it is not woman. Fingers prod broken wings, soft lobes of the abdomen where kidneys rest. So vulnerable. Skin so porous and so thin. Unblemished and unprotected. Symmetrical organs exposed. Made soft by rays of liquid sunshine like well-cured leather. But there is no sunshine. There is no sun. There is linoleum and UV light. Artificial glare and a two-way looking glass. You, a frog hunched by a bog—underbelly soft and pale, fragile as the yoke of an egg. The only thing preventing you from spilling out on the tiled floor is a membrane single-cell-thick. Ribs are gone. The front of the trunk is as open as those kidneys, and intestines and lungs pulse and beat at the sting of a draft, a draft from a vent and an electrical socket, and a breath.

75


They reach down hang down with no basket of bone to cradle them. It aches. It tears. It is bitter as cold. You decide you no longer like the image of the body, a bird, expanding in fury. Your back reaches up but the rest falls down. You gasp and drop. Saliva floods mouth. Tongue unfurls against back of teeth. Jaw hangs open in limp scream. All wetness from eyes pool at curve of cornea. The salty drop pulls and strains and— It is as if you are looking through the lens of a magnifying glass. You see yourself in that water. She reaches up to you. Whatever this body is, she is not woman. Her tears collect in her eyes too, but they float out of her like bubbles and with her irises the wand. Spheres of tears dance towards you playfully like dandelion spores in wind. But when they meet your own, which are saturated with brine and not as clean as soap—

They pop, They fall, And they rain down on her. Dousing that face with water that burns acid-warm.

The lens of the microscope cracks, the mirror shatters, and the connection brakes. Every tendon in your body snaps like chilled rubber bands, and you crumble into her outstretched palm. The collapse is absolute. Your limbs click in her hand like rolling dice. Your head hangnail to her unclipped talons caught by a rope of your hair. Whatever this body is, she eats herself.

76

Sam Kramer


Off With Her Head

Alexis Rulon

77


la petite mort au bord de la mer i suck salty sea film from his soft, pink head i taste depths, plastic polluted and perfect he says i don’t have to swallow. but i drink until i am full of brine he moans, crashing, frantic— and when it is still, i think that if my lungs were to be flooded with salt and sea and fish shit and him, i would happily sink. Lexie Slotterback

78


And Still I Hope My Mother Never Reads This It is so painful that I have to clench my fists and grind my teeth to keep from yelling, “Go see a fucking therapist!” simply because I was taught not to say anything at all, if all you have to offer is vicious— even though vicious is the only word I could use to describe the way you taught me to speak to my reflection. “Ten pounds turns into twenty!” I wish I could write one of those novels right now, the kind that leaves you with a better understanding of love and family and forgiveness and gentleness and how to be so honorable and good that you can love the person who doesn’t deserve it. But I don’t want a fucking agape latte right now. Right now I want to write My poem that is cruel and nasty and detestable and says everything I wish I had screamed at you but didn’t. I didn’t because what if you die tomorrow? or what if it is wrong of me to appear so ungrateful for the person whose arms held me in that green rocking chair by the window as I wept? And besides, perhaps I have once done just the same as you have and I am in no place to cast my fiery glare in your direction. In that novel, our heroine would be cruel like Me but only until it is revealed how wrong of her it was.

79


If this were that novel I would be the heroine: refuse to hurt you with these words, and burn this page. But I will not. For this is just a moment—not a beginning nor an end, and it is okay for me to feel so foul and have that foulness be read. Because I did not sit here with this pen to teach. I sat here to tell you to go see a fucking therapist. Maeve Christ

80


Lisa Needs Braces

Evyenia Coufos

81


Tucking into Breakfast In cafetorium, my breakfast is eaten. Eggshells sundry scattered across a plate Scratching in the chest, a cry made latent. And coffee, silty sludge dehydrates dehumidifies Until I am dry, the husk of a woman Buried beneath the salt and the sand Grains that wedge their way into each pour. Trim fat from conversation—just call me whore Of damp concrete and dusty runoff. Isn’t it strange? Wash and scrub clean cuff Expose forearms so grounds-steeping rivers run clear. A gruesome spectacle so you can stop and stare— Stare strange—watch me gulp and inhale water Until each of my cells bursts like hearts led to slaughter. Sam Kramer

82


“What you were will not happen again” 3 years later and I can still feel the paper clips linked in my stomach, a sad attempt to hold me together, tangling my insides with a string of lies. That first December you used staples in the form of an invitation to your sister’s wedding; 7 months in the future. February brought tweezers that left more than scabs. How do you rinse off metal? When I pick at my skin sometimes I find pins and think of the ones on your Too old backpack, and of that night you Wanted to stick blue into my hip At 2 AM. They poke and prod whenever I think about your mouth. There’s a scar on my left leg from when The radiator snake hissed and Spat love into my flesh. How do you erase ink? 3 years later and I still remember the slanted ceiling, the rubber band door lock, the broken record player, the graveyard of beer cans, The unmade bed. Your morning voice dragged words like regrets across the floor. Scruff itched my face but kissed with a gentleness only found on a twin-sized mattress. Your window was always open, Everything else was closed.

Jillian Mercer

83


Bliss

Graydon Wood

84


fried chicken is like jazz give me the grease. the spickle splatter sputter spizz ofthe deep-fryer, the amber orchestraic filling full the fluorescence, the slight sticky of the booths. give me crunch divine golden waves petrified butter crisp oil oozing and my sigh divine as i polish my shiny fingers. give me the consequences. the betrayed arteries clogged beyond redemption, the bulge of paunch after every 12-piece meal, the guilty conscience when i dwell on the flour-breaded fate of chickens everywhere, the subsequent veneration in hallowed joints as i savor reverently the livers, gizzards, sodium, sacrifice. dinnertime calls. two doors down a jazz band starts up, its grease drifting smooth across the bayou aromatic and singular, saxophone test solo signaling the show to come, the 4/4 moan of the senses which will not relent until the blessed ooze of the juice after the initial crisp, and the thunk of the plastic basket as the waitress sets it on the table with a knowing smile. oiled-up, frenzied, tongue swirling, sucking, scooping the marrow, in the chaos of savor my savior i swear i hear the leader say this first one’s for you, baby,

85


girl with the basket of six drumsticks, four wings, two thighs large sides of mashed potatoes and coleslaw, five crumpled napkins already on the table, little grease stain on your blue dress, left shoulder– yeah, you– here’s to your true love: may the rest of new orleans find it, too Jennessa Bryson

86


Banana Boy

Beatriz Elizalde

87


Strawberry Ice Cream She sits on the couch, shoveling spoonfuls of strawberry ice cream into her smiling mouth. My mother is beautiful when she is carefree and cross-legged. “It’s always best like this you know?” a musing, not meant for me, but I cannot resist asking, “What do you mean?” “Ice cream. When it’s straight from the carton.” Cradling the carton of Breyer’s in her frozen fingertips, she looks as if she is holding her prized possession, as if she would choose to save it from a burning building, despite its inevitable melt, just so that the hope of placing it onto her tongue would survive. No ceramic changing the setting, no transfer changing the temperature, no added frills or toppings. “The less you change of something, the more you are able to love.” Her sudden epiphany halts my sterling silver spoon just as it reaches my parting lips. I do not ask, “why, then, did you let my father change you?” or, “how do you still sleep next to him when he starved your smile until it turned to mask?” I do not ask if she thinks my father would choose either of us to save from a burning building, because I do not wish to hear the answer. My father, who, despite his icy exterior, lives in the breath between fanning and extinguishing a flame. He could shake the earth with his laughter or his fists. He has left our home in ruin as a product of both. I say nothing, words are not enough to encapsulate the sorrow and shame spiraling in my stomach. I say nothing, but instead offer the skeleton of a smile, replace my burning questions with frozen sugar, and try to ignore the bitter taste in my mouth that wasn’t there before. Lexie Slotterback

88


riverbed cold cold cold stone cold, coke can cold cold plastic wheel, shampoo bottle, foot pale as cadaver, fatty underbelly of toe, glass, cold cold cold scarlet sea anemone branching, violent willow, storm-beaten slo-mo, submerged in water, swallowed up into mouth of vacuum, greedy, roaring, poised just above the city — first dust, then umbrellas, finally people go flying up into cold cold starry, cold full, cold empty, warm cold? spring, cold cold — fall leaf floating down the river, resting on some washed up shore. i roll my pants back down, over scraped kneecaps, jeans clinging, stiff, rigid, to my calf, ankle, fat snake packed back into dead skin, too small. Kelsey Miller

89


Burning Woman

Emily Pollock

90


gravedigging the dead air seeps into my nostrils, sinuses, sulfuric, anaerobic, curiously cardamom. flesh biscuitlike dissolves as though dipped in spiced tea, reveals glimmers of bone as river-pearl in the jordan, its water rumored to heal to halt decay and i wonder about the prices of flights to tel aviv in march three years ago. if i were to lie here for a day, a year still silent perhaps the decayers and the decayed would not suspect i am delayed deluge requesting refuge from my own refuse. underbrush felled the flesh would fall away from the floodwater uncovering my riverbed, memories marbled and mineral, corpus calcified, cinnamon, someday

91


it’s raining now, worms all strewn about. it’s cold. november. my jeans soaked with runoff. i’ve gotta get home and make potato soup. it is what i do on thursdays. it is what you would’ve done, too had the mississippi been the jordan, had your levees held. i will put two bay leaves in the pot, one for me, one for you: father, daughter dead, undead broth and blood and bread a river delta between us Jennessa Bryson

92


Revolution I was eyeing this ethnically ambiguous guy when I was preparing turkey for our $9.99 lunch special at my counter the other day. He had grey eyes and I thought he was eyeing me too. He walked past my aisle. I believed a smile was coming out of the configuration of my facial muscles. Yes. I also believed he was going to walk past in front of me again based on the configuration of his facial muscles he directed towards me before he disappeared. That flirty little smile. I believed he would come all the way around to my counter with his careless little strides and pretend to order from me, just to chat up. Yes. The turkey was steaming hot as I chopped them open. Yes. He would ask me: how has your day been did you have lunch what did you have? I don’t know. What did I have for lunch? I would not know what to say. I do not have lunch anymore if he meant about 1/3 portion of daily food that is consumed between the hours of 11-2. I think it is because I have my headphones on for too long. I have my headphones on for too long so I lost grasp of what people were talking about or what was really happening. You know how good they make headphones these days, something ergonomic, all the paddings that fit your head shape, soft silicone ear buds that perfectly seal your ear canal, and noise canceling technique and all that shit. I was trying to remember the grey in his eyes. Do real eyes even reflect color like that? They are grey, but not like a cloudy, foggy, watery kind of grey. They are grey, like cement, dried beach stones, dead moon shards, too solid for a living person. I can see up close if he was wearing contact lenses since I was sure he would come over again. He was not there when I cut through half the breasts. Cut through the joint to separate bones from the bird. Poke the knife into the cavity above the chest to slice breasts in half. Cut meat off the left chest. Cut against the muscles into horizontal pieces of a quarter to half inch for serving. Juicy and steamy all over the tray but my salivary gland did not budge. Cut into the right side and he was still not there. That was when I decided I needed to know if he was wearing contact lenses or not. Jake, I said, can you take over for me real quick. I need to go, it is a matter of truth or reality or

93


what is really happening and what is a lie. What are you talking about. I need to go. I strode out of the counter with greasy gloves on my sweaty fingers. If needed I would spread open his eyelids to see what was really in there. I combed through the supermarket, aisle by aisle by aisle, so I do not miss this little flea with grey eyes. Hey, you. Where are you. Why are you not turning back to my counter. No. He disappeared. No. I ran to the front of the shop. I would kick open the door and barge out if the door was not automatic. That is when I saw the little flea, lying on the ground on a stretcher. An ambulance was parked on the side and people were asking questions. I was furious. His eyes were shut with a tight frown. I was furious because now I could never know if he was wearing contact lenses or not. I lost again. I think it’s because I had my headphones on for too long. I think someone is starting a revolution somewhere and they just forgot to tell me. Shenghua Zheng

94


Self Portrait

Sienna Remick

95


Joggers: burgundy, bought in the boys section Track pants, trackies, tracky daks, close relative of sweatpants, “brainchild” of Emile Causet, simple knitted with stretch. Windpants, sportswear, tearaway, tapered, worn on Olympians, flowing on their frames draped, like heavenly statues. “Jogger Pants are Taking Over Menswear” Business Insider, 2014. Cuffs at the bottom like the 90’s, MC Hammer’s gold metallic, bouncy and spry harem pants from the Arabian Peninsula. They were stolen by Paul Poirot, master coutier, master thief, who helped 1910 take culture for Western High Fashion, haute couture. Mid-century, the feminists needed lithe, wide pants for bike riding, for mobility, taking inspiration from the uniforms of swiss sanitariums for movement dynamism— maybe that’s why they call us crazy women. Now the pants have only sporadic revivals of their loose fit freedom, but this very moment at American Eagle, they live only in the boy’s section. Christin Snyder

96


patriotic against the cool geometry of the bathroom tile the bloodstain on the pad blooms imprecise, the feathered edges a cardinal in the snow, a rose in a river. this blood is not blood from gore, not blood from war, i remind myself as the grating brashness of the president’s voice from the tv in the living room filters in through the cracks in the closed door saying the airstrikes this time around were to put an end to war, a strike to end all wars, to protect our great nation and our freedom and our fireworks and firearms and i sink to the floor and drip a little. a spider swift and graceful spins its silk in the corner by the mirror and i think the president seems like just the kind of man who’d crush something gossamer and delicate and alive with the rubber of his shoe without hesitation as long as there were people around to see and say after that he is a big man, huge, the biggest of all the men, and yet blood is not on his hands, not caked under his fingernails, not dripping, soaking, staining, smelling, no, he would, will never. i held a gun in my hands once, only once– under the industrial fluorescence of a shooting range– i had an excellent grouping and the manager, watching from the back, asked me if i had ever considered a career in the military putting it to use,

97


serving my country. my next round was the worst yet on account of my hands shaking so bad from the patriotism of it all. the spider finishes its web. it catches the afternoon sun that comes in through the blinds and i wish i were a rose to soak it in as i stand up from the floor, change the pad, go to the sink, try to wash the america off my hands. Jennessa Bryson

98


Ventilation Yesterday I went to bed reading under cold navy light, falling into an article about a daughter and her father, whose violent coughing fit was delivered over skype, as she sat at home praying through a distorted webcam. Burgundy wine soaking a tablecloth, his blood and body shed onto a gleaming white gown, before the Rapture of being snatched away to some hidden realm of the ICU. I rustled around phlegm in my chest and realized the four humours aren’t actually very funny as I collapsed into dense gripping sleep. Imagery arrived in breaths and brackish waves: all of our lungs overflowing, flooding, even the sickened Earth heaving and shuddering, loosening us from her, until all we could do is dead-man’s float in the ever-frozenness of open space.

Hail Lungs full of Grace, our love is with thee. Blessed are though amongst organs and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, life. Holy Atmosphere, Mother of God, pant for us now and at the hour of our death

Awakening with the wash of morning, I study how my ceiling is speckled with white acne and varicose water stains, veiny and root-like. They pace under my eyelids, moving as I blink, until my skin is the pale stucco and mauve plumbing, suspended up above my bed holding the stale blue walls together, with a stable bracing. And I wonder how we will perform the gentle botany of tending us back to ourselves. Christin Snyder

99


Sleepy

Anonymous

100


Nowhere, with Nothing to Do You say, Let’s go to a place with white curtains and wooden floors to walk barefoot, where the ocean quietly mumbles outside our window, or perhaps there are trees whose star shaped leaves tap against the glass. I say, It should be a place that is nowhere, with nothing to do. We’d lay in a bed of cream and mahogany carved with seashells and birds and we’d trace the wood with our fingertips when we raise our arms and stretch our legs and I’d ask if you remember that time, we swam naked in the sea, with the sun heavy on our shoulders and the Mediterranean in our eyes. You’d kiss me like you did then—and then we’d watch the stars, and we’d name every constellation we never have the time to notice because now we live and breathe cement and stone but not if we go to the house that is nowhere, with nothing to do. We’d do it all slowly. Wondering if God exists and screaming his name and the devil’s down valleys of red poppies. Let’s go to a place where the wind and the earth and the sun speak in different tongues and we’d speak the language of touch and teeth while they chatter about us. It should be small in a big place and maybe I’d say I feel like a child again but also as old as the trees whose ribs are orbited with centuries of rings.

101


I’d ask if you remember that time we both cried in the theater lobby. In this place that is nowhere, with nothing to do, you’d ride a bike and I’d ride that same bike by sitting on the handlebars and you’ll lean forward and you won’t mind my hair in your face as you whisper, “Do you believe in soul mates?” We’d both say no but we’d sit before the temple of coincidence that brought us here, at this time, with these scars on our bodies and these stains on our fingertips knee to knee breast to breast. I’d ask if you remember that time we ate cheap burritos in that stairwell in that library in Paris, when we thought we knew each other—and we did—but somehow it was like the first time again. But nowhere is like neverland and nothing is like everything is like those places that tickle our collarbones in dreams. You ask me if I’m still scared of the dark. I say yes but I turn the lights off, and for a moment it is as if we were in a place that is nowhere, with nothing to do. Margherita Bassi

102


We welcome original submissions in the forms of poetry, prose, creative nonfiction, or visual art from all Boston College female or nonbinary students. Correspondence can be sent to: bclaughingmedusa@gmail.com. All pieces under review remain anonymous. We look forward to hearing from you!

103


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

Profile for The Laughing Medusa

The Laughing Medusa, Spring 2020  

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded