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THE MILL The University of Toledo's Literary Magazine Fall 2019


LETTER FROM THE EDITORS

FALL 2019 The Mill serves as The University of Toledo's student run literary magazine. Our purpose is to publish the finest creative works by the student body. These pages are a result of a collaborative effort by students and for students. Every decision we made regarding its content, layout, and design was a testament to our commitment to giving students a voice. We believe every student has the right to create and are proud to be the University's outlet for poetry, artwork, essays, and more.

K. Crossman / DeMia Fench / Michal Smelser / Loni Stouffer / Maddy Vasko /Â Inma Naima Zanoguera

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Cover photo by Carlos Washington


TABLE OF CONTENTS

POETRY

FICTION Siren Story

by Hannah Myers

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Thump Nothing Green Can Stay

POETRY Medusa to Perseus

by Olivia Manias

6

Little Treasures Sola: A walk to the car

FICTION Vibrance

by Victoria Kochan

6

POETRY Singing The Blues With A Smile On My Face

by Jessica Witt

Precious, Cullen, And Grandpa

by Jessica Witt

Gentle Conformity

by Alex Joyce

owner of a body Everlasting Dreadnought

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8 10

by Olivia Manias

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by Alex Joyce

11

13

by Michal Smelser

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by Alan Gray

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by Haley Hagans

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Not-Quite Villanelle for the Not-Really by Michaela Pasztor Religious

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Midnight "Eyes"

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by Alan Gray

ESSAY EPISTEMIC BONFIRE

by Inma Naima Zanoguera

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POETRY "I am all" coming home

by Elisha Davis by Michaela Pasztor

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FICTION Two Pounds

NON-FICTION

by Olivia Manias

by Olivia Manias

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POETRY

ZYXWVUTSRQPON MLKJIHGFEDCBA

by Hannah Myers

12 dysthymia

by Michaela Pasztor

31

(With)Holding

by Michaela Pasztor

33

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TABLE OF FIGURES

PHOTOGRAPHY Water & Rocks

ARTWORK by Carlos Washington

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Faceless

by Taylore Haas

11

Face

by Arya Nair

14

Fairy

by Tori St. Claire

14

by Taylore Haas

by Eryn Briscoe

7

by Hannah Myers

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by Eryn Briscoe

9

Bird

by Nusrat Nasir Tania

18

16

Floating

by Madison Linenkugel

20

by Nithya Sundar

16

Woman

by Madison Linkenkugel

24

Building

by Taylore Haas

22

Strawberry

by Eryn Briscoe

26

Building

by Nithya Sundar

22

Witch

by Madison Linenkugel

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by Carlos Washington

24

by Nithya Sundar

32

Wheat Field Sunset Chipmunk Chandelier Skyline

Bonsai River

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Siren Story by Hannah Myers Hear the sailors screaming? The blood wrenches out of their chests as the woman, lips vividly red with that pomegranate paint, bites into their eye sockets like apples. Her tongue is a snake, creeping in and over her teeth to make them swoon before she bites.She’s getting closer to me, sauntering down a line of five men and me at the end, the only woman. We’re on our knees, hands tied behind our backs with thick, seaweed binds. My heart wrenches just as I’m beginning to vomit. The waves tower above us with every wind gust rocking the ship. We need free workers to man the ropes! The men’s eyes shine as she makes her way along the deck. First, they struggle. Get away before the mermaid sucks out your soul. She sucks the lights out, right before us and, yet, we still fall into her eyes like a rocketship floating past the stars. Nick’s eyes-. “Nick!” I scream to my left as I notice his eyes glossing over, awaiting her to come closer. His body shakes for a moment as he blinks and seems to regain a sense or two at the sound of my voice. He looks at me, staring for a moment before a wave knocks us on our backs and sprays my guilty puke all over our legs. I don’t apologize. Instead, I curse him for wasting time, staring… He’s blinking back at the woman’s legs. Her hair is shining gold above her dark scalp and soft skin. Skin. She’s ripping the skin off their necks with her jaws. Her eyes are glowing red.She has lots of jewelry, three rings on each finger, some connected to her wrist with chains and others on the tips of her fingertips. Pearls line her hair as if glued there, because the wind whips her hair and nothing falls loose. Bare feet… A tight top, showing off the bottoms of her…Gitche Manitou. Great Spirit. Jesus Christ! She’s pulling a strap down and getting closer to a sailor with wide eyes. The others howl with obvious jealousy. The dead ones, past their turn, lie on the ship, blood pools mixing into salt water. She’s getting closer to my brother. “Nick!” But my voice comes out in a slur as she throws the golden breastplate over the taffrail. Then, she throws the second man down into the ocean, heaving his body over as easily as dumping the chamberpots. His screams rip through the air, but his eyes remain milky as he hits the sky and then a surge of deadly waters crack his skull against the bow. Getting dizzy. The ship is rocking wildly now. “Mmmphmnnnghhh,” I groan, trying to get Nick’s attention. “Della,” someone to my right says. My name. “What happened to your knife?” James’s eyes are wide. He’s pulling at the seaweed, grown from the deck above our legs and around our bodies. The growth tightens until I'm struggling to even gasp. My lungs are on fire.

Continued on page 4

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But isn't she just so… beautiful? I can’t focus on James’s voice, feeling that sinister feeling once again. The woman is one man away from Nick. James is screaming his name, telling him to fight it, but even James is getting misty eyed, now that she’s only a few meters away. Her bare feet point in his direction, and are dry despite the entire ship being slammed by the crashing waves. It’s just the four of us now, my family and the beast. Where… Did James mention a knife? Where’s my knife? The sky spins. I probably had a knife; that sounds like me. My name evades my memory for a second. She touches James’s shoulder, but doesn’t touch her lips to him, as she did to kill the others. The siren laughs at him, her voice like lava. And liquid silver. “What am I going to do with you?” Another giggle. She turns to me and I gag out the rest of my nervous swooning. James has gone quiet now, but my vision is too dark around the woman to see him.She runs her fingers through my long hair and chills run down my spine. “The females are usually much more hostile at this point,” she says, to taunt me. “I’m about to kill your brothers, don’t you see? Don’t you want to, I don’t know, spit at me, take few jabs?” She must not yet realize that I’m not immune to her power. This must be her first experience with a girl like me.Of course, I want stand up and fight for our lives or talk her out of this, tell her what real love is and why we’re more powerful than her, which we would be if I weren’t so… so… “Ghnkk-.” It’s like she’s pulling my voice out of my throat through my heartbeat. She rolls her eyes. She must have been ready for a little more fun than me just grunting. I bet she makes the women feel stupid for trying to save the men, and then throws them off the ship for backtalk. James whimpers. “Dell-a,” Nick persists. “I can’t!” The siren leans in and whispers something foreign, menacingly sweet, in my ear. I melt into her, letting my shoulders hit her skin and my nose rub into the crook of her neck. She inhales. “Della, stop!” James screams. It’s too late. My lips are just starting to graze her collarbone when the blow comes in. It’s like a hard punch to the stomach, except the shuddering and loss of breath doesn’t subside when she pulls away. Because her shoulder was keeping me upright, I slumped forward into my knees. A glint comes from her hand. It’s a long silver dagger, and there’s blood on the tip. And on her hands. And pooling at my knees. She could have killed me the same way she killed any of the other crew members but, maybe for the first time in her life, I might have startled her.

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photo by Carlos Washington 5


Medusa to Perseus by Olivia Manias I run a sanctuary for blind girls, you know, They study my face with their plump fingertips. They search for monstrosity in my wrinkles and thin lips And I do not flinch when they touch my teeth and eyelashes. They never find what they look for. They ask me, “Do you really turn men to stone?” And I tell them, “I am a sculptor.” They study the stones and ask, “Who are they?” And I answer, “They think they are heroes. ”I’m a caretaker, Every hair on my head has a name now: Every hair fed, stroked, and loved. Athena hisses at me, tells me to “Murder And Die” and I Stay on my island, welcome the needy, And live. I stand watch at the shore, in case Poseidon Will try me again. Will lure my well watched girls. Sometimes I hope he does, I hope I have the honor Of petrifying the ocean. You men challenge me because I dare be, But never have I looked at you with ugliness. Only a glittering eye that speaks “You cannot kill me, and you cannot kill Us.” I have ended many this way, But never have I held a head aloft Save my own. Can you say the same? I only point my sharp chin and fingers at Olympus, demanding “Look on me, ye cowards, see what ye have done, And turn to statues that turn to dust!”

Vibrance by Victoria Kochan

I explode with energy; my eyes solar flares, my teeth bared in a halogen beam. No one can stand to look at me; my vibrance burns retinas and boils flesh. If I blaze bright enough, everyone will believe I'm okay, because the sun breathes fire yet is unscathed. Then you came, calming my fire-eyes with your soft gaze and closing my blistered lips with a kiss. "You needn't be the sun," you said. "Only stars can burn without pain." Only, you didn't take your own advice because, like the sun, you set. And left me to shine away my sorrow.

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artwork by Eryn Briscoe

artwork by Hannah Myers 7


Singing The Blues With A Smile On My Face by Jessica Witt It's easy to sing the blues when everything but the sad runs away, and it's easy to smile when a heart folds over itself, galloping with passionate joy, but can you sing the blues with a smile on your face? Can you dance in the rain when you want to cry, letting the water soak up any hints of tears? Can you compose a symphony, while your mind is blank? Can you hear the silent whispers that no one can even touch? Is it merely a ramble to say that the voices that are silent can also be the loudest, though unheard?

Precious, Cullen, And Grandpa by Jessica Witt I remember fragments, her purr, your goofy smile, his wheelchair speeds, Her luring everyone to sleep by laying down on their laps you, before Mass, standing and talking to us The way he always joked: his marriages were World Wars Her curling up to cuddle, you serving in white Vestments for Ignite His Hospice bed, light green hospital gown, smoking a cigarette outside without permission Her laying under the vans only coming out by petting and patience you training my little brother to be an MC Server he sitting in his wheelchair by the library waving  her, one night, resting on the picnic table instead of coming in you, at the fair, in line with Sarah        I shown you my new bracelet before it faded he going to the hospital during Cherry Fest weekend her serenely convincing people that they like cats you just being there And, I miss all three of you: Precious, Cullen, and Grandpa.

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artwork by Eryn Briscoe

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Gentle Conformity by Alex Joyce Gentle conformity, Graces the mind of a form, Buried deep within the skull. While the clock winds down to Minutes Seconds Hours Years And then eons, You find it quite… relaxing. Imagine this, See the black hole forming, Like a parasite, Like a burden. The trick is, That that is the truth. The truth of the mind of our world. Gentle conformity. Separation from the soul. The black hole is you, A spot in space and time So desperate to be free, To consume. But you are held back. We all are. We are all locked in gentle conformity. Our wrists are bound, Our mouths are gagged.

For this is what is best. The black hole eats light. And it would eat society, If it had a chance. Remember, the black hole is you. Just sit back, Let us tell you what to do. I know that you understand, That stars do not last forever. That there will be an end. Those who take and never give, Will be those that survive. But we will have our shining, Brilliant deaths. While black holes waste their eons. Some of us will be like you, Cast into oblivion. But is that what they really are? Or did I just disguise them, So they will be accepted? As you waste away. It does not matter, As even black holes will die, Someday.

owner of a body by Olivia Manias I once thought these thin whiskey wildfires that stretch proudly into cold and fear to be ancient Irish curses planted up my arms. That the waterfalls that first flash white then stream red over the wrinkly plains of my fingers were no more than hangnails. Not too long ago the armory of onyx battleaxes, halberds, greatswords were just eyelashes. The cornucopia scattered below them, the tangerines, plump apples and furry peaches and strawberries plums pomegranates were called “freckles”. I used to agree with those who looked into my eyes and saw goldfish, not bettas.

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Everlasting Dreadnaught by Alex Joyce A blank slate with hollowed eyes, Was formed from the sallow lies. To what end this slate would matter. Unto its death. An unfillable and dissonant clatter, Hear the sounds ringing around you. Hear them wail and toil. As the fields lay bare, And the seas boil. These words hold little meaning. Not conveyed in the hearts of men. But in resonance forever propagating The universal truths of meaning and reason. Should these words find purpose Unto the day that emerges from the useless dawn Into the last epitaph of night. Screams are the only way to communicate In what the reapers have brought. I fear to see what you will bring to the table My everlasting dreadnaught.

photo by Taylore Haas 11


ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA by Hannah Myers

That’s what adults do for fun. Read books that don’t align with their morals and then complain. I lived my life in isolation for many years and that worked, driving my writing and poetry into a gusto of scientific poetry or, perhaps, poetic science. Nothing about art is included in the form. But at the end of a decade or three, I, like all writers, realized that work is destruction is frailty is cheap. In a turn of my shoulders, I yearn for another human being. I cup my hand over my nose and mouth, then breathe in to smell my sweet coffee breath. Other people probably won’t like it as much as I do, so I pop in a piece of gum, not to chew, but to suck on. Chewing is too obnoxious, but the scent is necessary. I hit a bump on the road and coffee hits the cap on the plastic cup, dripping through the crease. I yell at the laggard cup, “Don’t spill coffee on my car!” The world owes me a million dollars. I spend every day in a routine of goal-oriented activities. Destination. No journey. 1. I can’t wait to finish this chapter of the book, so I can get on to the next one. 2. I can’t wait to finish this shift, so I can get my money and pay for the house I merely sleep in, so I can be ready for the next day of work. 3. I can’t wait to finish this mile, so I can be a pound less than before. At the end of every night, I spent all of today wishing for tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll do the same thing. I was always angry as a kid because Hershey didn’t make a purple M&M. I write that down somewhere, to later be crumpled and forgotten, but not thrown away. That’s what adults do for fun. Write books that don’t align with anyone’s morals and then complain.

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Thump by Olivia Manias With veins and scar tissue And stretch marks and tendon I stitched you to my heart, and there I wanted to keep you warm forever. I wanted you to know how loudly it beats, and how Slowly It beats When you Are with me— how fully it beats and how Wide it expands, As if to burst, Like a father at Thanksgiving. “sleep, sleep,” i whispered to you. “sleep, sleep,” with every patient thump, the beat to the quietest most primitive lullaby. “sleep, sleep, if you let me, i will hold your troubles, and cradle them in the treetops of my mind, and i will dress them up and tie bows around them with every shooting star i can pluck out of the sky tonight.” but you didn’t hand them over, preferring to wrangle them in your sleep and tame them with wear and pass them only into the hands of your beautiful, prophetic children. “I love you,” I would think to myself in the bottom of the bottle, “But I do it so wrong.”

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photo by Arya Nair

photo by Tori St. Claire 14


Nothing Green Can Stay A Variation of Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay by Michal Smelser This is what nature’s questioning first: is the grass green because the sun is the color of gold? Is it her job to find the answer to that hardest question, or his to cast a hue by his light and to convince the grass to hold? How could one convince her That there is value in his shining early and not to turn the leaf’s skin to brown; to keep me the shade of a stem which holds a flower? That question is for nature, but her choice has been made: to be the only one to make the choice. So I must wait an hour. Green was an ugly color until then. I never thought the new-grown leaf more beautiful than when it subsides down to the lovely, rich, and warm brown of a fallen leaf. Something changed, so when I went to Eden, my heart sank when I knew that to change was to lose my lovely brown. It was grief. I sit now, just so, watching the golden glow of dawn, knowing that as the ray goes through air and down to the grass, that the green leaf is to spring what the dawn is to day.

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photo by Taylore Haas

photo by Nithya Sundar

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Little Treasures by Alan Gray Lifetimes of memories contained in the wooden box. Trays stacked inside like stairs to my past. Each felt lined compartment holding items of history. With glassy eyes I hunger, To be the small boy of my dreams again. Thick white fog of morning, cool on my skin, like an icy veil, In my lungs, the fresh clean air of the wilderness heavy with the smell of pines. The slap of waves as the water rhythmically beats against the hull, Engraining the little fishing boat in my mind like a painting on a gallery wall. Practiced reverent care like a methodic ritual as we select the days bait, All battered and tooth marked from battles, like weapons in an ancient armory. The multitude of colors, like rows of brilliant crayons, Their design equaled only by the unique names by which they are known. Flatfish, Slopenose, Goldfish, Pikie Chub, Porkbutt, Kee Wig, Pecker Head, Torpedo, Serenade, Swimmi’n Frog, Slick Stix, No-No, Rattli’n Splash, Flapper, Yellow Jacket, Wee Dee, Neverfail, Floater Frog, Bulldog, Zig-Zag, Crackleback, Trout Plug, Pearl Wobbler, Pal-o-Mine, Ladybug, Pikaroon, Nemo, Lipped-n-Wiggly, Humdinger, Silver Minnow, Big Tom, Glasseye, Wigglefish, Drop-Chug, Blue Lucky, Tin Liz. I watch intently as they are tied onto lines and thrown into the lake. I feel the spray of the cold water on my face as we battle underwater beasts, The heavy reels sing with stripped line as they run like submarines, then break water. With a heave and a flurry of adrenaline the monster is captured. Trembling fingers now laid to rest, an end to finite times. No longer used, their owners long gone, like vacant buildings in a row. A lump rises in my throat as I long to hear their voices once more.

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artwork by Nusrat Nasir Tania 18


Sola: A walk to the car by Haley Hagans Sola- feminine form of solus alone; by oneself (formerly used in stage directions) My sisters High stress fist clenched Fast paced walk turned sprint My sisters Heartbeat burning Towards the car Heart stops Head turning My sisters Hold your mace grip your keys Use your knife Use your scream My sisters Familiar fear In one moment We disappear My sisters For you and me I shed tears So many gone So much to fear My sister Be safe dear

Not-Quite Villanelle for the Not-Really Religious by Michaela Pasztor I met god in Warsaw, in a garden in my dreams, and god’s name was [REDACTED]. Last winter a red butterfly lived in the couch of my apartment twenty minutes outside Warsaw. When I was little, I whispered my prayers. When god didn’t answer, I named the butterfly [REDACTED]. I had a layover in Amsterdam and I got so drunk I swore I was walking the streets of Warsaw. At the corner of Leide and Świętojańska I met myself and they told me their name was [REDACTED]. When I was twenty two I boarded a bus to nowhere and met God in Warsaw, and her name was my own. for Eryka 19


artwork by Madison Linenkugel

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Midnight "Eyes" by Alan Gray The small boat glided across the water like a U-boat in an old war flick. For light, only two candles, set down at our feet. The sound of the electric motor, only a whispered vibration in the silence. The cool night air collecting in droplets as the soft breeze finger-painted on the metallic surfaces. A rhythmic slap, as small ripples caressed the aluminum sides. The feint orange glow of a lit cigar, seemed oddly out of place, Yet comforting, with the sweet smells of cherry, vanilla, and cloves. Quiet reflections of our friendship, stared down upon us from the heavens, A billion friends across the sky, separated only by the Milky Way. I wondered if this might be our last trip together to God’s country. Slowly we deployed our lines, letting the lures trail out behind us. Settling in, with rods in hand, waiting for the telling taps before setting the hook. One by one, we landed our catch, with a quick snap of the rod and the clicking of the reel, Taking stock of weights and lengths, Narrowing our search, midnight predators on the hunt. The shinning eyes of our prey, luminescent orbs from the deep, It was all about the Walleyes that year. Finally, with the metal chain strung between us, Our efforts displayed proudly, Smiling from ear to ear like friends who would never drift apart. Memories like trophies for all to see.

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photo by Taylore Haas

photo by Nithya Sundar

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EPISTEMIC BONFIRE by Inma Naima Zanoguera We have always been the displaced children of displaced children, Tethered by distant rivers to abandoned lands, our blood’s history lost. —Faisal Mohyuddin (2018) like the wandering souls of those who perished with an unfinished earthy business, our ancestors who passed on did not simply vanish. they remain trapped in realms parallel to ours, their untold stories a corpus of joys and reveries solemnly whirling underground, awaiting exorcism. but this you were not taught in school, of course. as your enlightenment education would have it, he who has vanished is no more, and oceans were formed so man could cross them: pinta, niña, santa maría (1492); henrietta marie (1699); la amistad (1839); windrush (1948). so-called-important events are given a date, thus ascribing to them a spirit of finitude, and you’re told to put the past in the past. yet, like the quiet desperation of peace-seeking ghosts, the imminent disaster of geopolitical partitions made on a whim continues to haunt you. grievous echoes of recent histories slowly coalesce above your head, darkening and thickening until a drop falls on your cheek, prophesizing the unimaginable storm to come. how many history lectures casually erased the traditions running through your veins? how many curricular checkpoints forced you to trade your body for a pass? too many, too often. you adapt, of course, you assimilate. and, because seventeen years of european education are not for nothing, you master the art of whitewashing your past, your future, your hair, your grammar, your everything. until suddenly you find yourself making faustian bargains in the backseat of a rotting american car, trafficking trauma stories for white consumption like your mother didn’t raise you any better. unsustainable. in fact you may have readily plunged into the darkest depths of despair. only one day you learned somebody had felt similarly about the assemblage of eurocentric nonsense with which they’d infested your schools—he’d baptized it orientalist bullshit—and at that moment the lonely singular became a generous plural, a struggle we could endure in each other’s company. one useful thing they taught us: when trouble comes, close ranks. and so we did. when the inevitable storm erupted, it caught us on guard. and while ancient olive trees from tindouf to nahalin are shaken out of their earth-sockets; while every bayonet, canon and pellet gun makes our bodies a target; while this urge to revolt injects streams of venom into the canals of our wrists, sliced open by papercuts; only then are we led to our purpose in these catastrophic times, namely: to exorcise the silenced voices of our ancestors from the dungeons of the earth; to tell their stories as they’re written on the very walls of our ribcages; to procure dutifully that our writings be addressed to our children, and to the children of our children; and that the raging fire of our narratives burn every single godforsaken, core-curriculum, history-fucking-book ever written. yes—we state, in our revisionist manifesto—oceans were crossed; no, you will never wrap your mind around the number of people they murdered. but, inexplicably, some of us survived. with nobody’s permission and against all conceivable odds, we have come to regard every last melanated cell on our bodies a self-enclosed little miracle to be wildly celebrated. and we have come to see ourselves as the truthtellers of the dead. we, whom ocean-crossings made impossible and possible; we the engineers of so many aftermaths; we the bearers of futures that may just be better than this shit-mess of a present; we the offspring of hostile deserts and hearts of darkness and rivers of blood—we, we, we the displaced children of displaced children, what can anyone ever know of our hidden anguish, but ourselves?

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"IÂ am all" by Elisha Davis I am of many multitudes. Power, strength and strife I can over come. Temptations that try and tear me Down. Down, false hope, and limitations. Will not confine me. For I am limitless. These shackles can not bind me. I have no boundaries. You can not box me in. These mental walls They want to hide me But swiftly I refuse. I break them down. With these thoughts placed deep in my head And these words I shelter in my heart. I let my truth be heard. I can not be silenced For my voice is forever.

Because me, I am forever. Never will I ever die Not just a lame bag of bones. I am soul, I am spirit Stars in the heavenly sky. I am wonder I am grace. An enigma wrapped in flesh And dipped in blood I am the universe. I go long, far and beyond. For I am the wind Blowing swiftly through the trees And the sun warming the earth With my bright beams of Intellect and golden rays luster I am the pen And I let my ink be spilled Over this nation made of paper I am the kite Flying securely through The winds that's crash against my sides I am. I am. I am. All.

photo by Carlos Washington / drawing by Madison Linenkugel

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coming home by Michaela Pasztor I feel like a cicada underground for years leaving only to scream, have sex, and die Sit in a McDonald's parking lot Drinking shitty vodka out the bottle the kind that tastes like nail polish remover and doesn't do shit but give you a hangover You're not drunk til you can't feel your teeth your tongue or depressed And I still feel her smile like a switchblade sharp and painful and graceless and messy I am the earth sturdy and predictable and prone to bouts of destruction Commitment issues look beautiful in lipstick and pink leather jackets She is powerful, leaves makeup stains on my pillow case in point: opposites attract The light catches the keys she holds between her knuckles but she looks more dangerous sleep-blurry and smiling When I said I love you I meant I would follow her to the ends of the earth like a shadow If she asked. Dry cheerios from my grandmother’s china dry wine from a second grade coffee mug I can still taste her like an echo on my tongue. Menthol and strawberries

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artwork by Eryn Briscoe 26


Two Pounds by Olivia Manias Through the heavy pounding of the jackhammers from the mall construction behind his house, Arlo almost didn’t hear the quiet knock at the door. But he knew to listen for it from the loud thuds that were unmistakably Mrs. Penelope’s wooden leg hitting the rickety front porch. “Good evening dear, could your parents please spare a cup of sugar?” the old lady Mrs. Penelope asked him as he greeted her on the porch. He flew to the kitchen, knowing, as the whole neighborhood knew, that Mrs. Penelope bakes the most perfect pastries the world has ever seen. He didn’t want to delay their being brought into the world by asking for permission. He scooped a heaping cupful from one of the jars on the counter, then licked his finger and stuck it in, collecting the crystals on his sticky hands. Expecting the instant bliss that is sugar to a bored eight year-old, he put his finger in his mouth and was caught off guard by the dry taste of salt. His face reddened in secret embarrassment as he poured it back into its jar and used the still salty measuring cup to steal some granular sugar. A small breadcrumb trail was left behind him as he dashed back to Mrs. Penelope. He grinned widely at her, pulling his cheeks to his ears in hopes that his cooperation would win him a share of the treasure. “Thank you so much, sweetheart,” she said as she extended her empty bowl and rustled his tawny hair. He dumped the sugar in and stared at it, dreaming of its future. “Say,” she whispered as she arched her creaky back to get close to his ear, “Would you want to help me? I’m doing something very important, and I could use a bright helper like you.” He nodded furiously and pursed his mouth into a tiny smile. “Thank you, Arlo, I knew I could count on you.” Mrs. Penelope swung her stiff peg leg back down the front steps of the Richters’ porch and Arlo dipped ahead of her to take her hand as she hobbled. He accompanied her to her house two doors down. It was a squat little house with fading red paint, and he hadn’t been inside for a long time. He remembered her cat Proudhon, and couldn’t wait to return. His excitement made the journey feel unbearably long. He would run out in front of her, then stop and wait as she caught up. Once they finally arrived, she walked into her kitchen and emptied the bowl she was holding into a bigger one, which already had one cup of sugar in it. She reached into her cabinets and produced another small bowl, handing it to Arlo. “We need four more cups. I can visit the two neighbors to the right of my house if you visit the two to the left of yours. Do you think you can do that?” Again, he nodded furiously. She ripped a small piece of paper off a notepad, and wrote in a careful, curly script: ‘cup of sugar?’ She held it above Arlo’s bowl and released it. “Alright… go!” she said as it landed.

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Arlo took off to the Russells’ and knocked on their door. Lean, muscular dogs yapped at the windows. The broad shouldered, red-haired Mister Russell’s footsteps pounded back at him through the floor before he opened the door and filled its frame. “Hm?” he grunted. Despite his gruff appearance, Arlo understood that Mr. Russell appreciated his presence and took a shining to him, because Mr. Russell was never expected to talk to him. He realized that it had been quite a while since he and Mr. Russell had not spoken. Arlo stood on his tiptoes to extend the note to the towering man. He gently took it between his sausage fingers and held it close to his face before folding it in half and returning it to the boy. He took the bowl to his kitchen and came back with it filled. He slowly lowered it into Arlo’s squishy hands. Arlo smiled cordially, and Mr. Russell smiled back subtly before closing the door again. Arlo sailed down the street against the spring wind back into Mrs. Penelope’s home. He poured out the contents of his bowl and left again for the O’Malleys’. He hesitated in front of the deteriorating porch before building the courage to knock. He heard the arhythmic clicks of Jess O’Malley’s short heels stumbling to the entrance. She blinked a couple times after opening the door. “Oh. Hey Arloooooo,” she sang. Her breath smelled sour and the buttons on her shirt weren’t all matched to the right holes. He passed her the note. “Yup,” she said as she walked to her kitchen. Arlo got antsy as he stood by for a full minute. He looked back, wondering if Mrs. Penelope might beat him in their unspoken race. Jess returned with a half-filled measuring cup and reached through the torn screen door to turn it over into the bowl. He nodded and smiled politely to her. “You’re welcome, li’l guy,” she mumbled as he hopped down her steps. He waited until he was in front of his own house to place a pinch of the mystery ingredient on his tongue. As he feared, it was salt. Not knowing who lived beyond the O’Malleys, he dumped the salt on his lawn and went in to his own house to fetch another cup of sugar. Now paranoid, he took another pinch from the bowl, but this time it was sweet. He stole another pinch, this time for himself. He ran back to Mrs. Penelope’s and waited impatiently for her there, bouncing on her floral couch, imagining what kind of desserts call for six cups of sugar. Perhaps she was baking something nice for the whole neighborhood! There was a stack of handwritten letters on the little table next to the couch. Arlo glanced around to make sure he wasn’t under surveillance. He picked the top one up and even when he deciphered the flowery cursive, he was disappointed to find that it was in a different language. “Mew,” he heard behind him, and he leaped off the couch, flustered to be caught sticking his nose in Mrs. Penelope’s business. He replaced the letter and turned to stroke the lanky oneeyed cat that he hadn’t seen in so long. Proudhon purred loudly and batted at his hands playfully. He heard Mrs. Penelope slowly thump back in and add her own sugar to the pile. Arlo watched her cautiously pour the great sum of sugar into a brown paper bag, which she put into an empty purse sitting on the kitchen table. “Let’s go, Arlo,” she said with a sweet smirk as she placed the purse strap on her shoulder and gestured towards the front door. Arlo cocked his head and leaped off the sofa, taking the old woman’s arm. “Thank you for helping me, sweetheart.”

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Knowing that Mrs. Penelope had a basic understanding of the sign language alphabet, he released her arm and walked backwards in front of her, signing “d e s s e r t ?”“ Oh, Arlo,” she laughed, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the only desserts we’re making tonight are the just kinds.” --Although it was getting dark, a couple construction men remained on site. Mrs. Penelope approached them as Arlo hung back. “Excuse me, sirs, I was wondering if it would be alright for us to take a stroll around here. My grandson, you see, has always wanted to be a construction worker, and has grown incessantly curious about how you build.” Behind them, Arlo smiled widely, as Mrs. Penelope had instructed him. “Aw, hey there,” one of the workers waved to Arlo. “I mean, we were wrapping up for the day, but we wouldn’t mind showing you two around before we go.” The other worker smiled agreeably. “Oh, I’d just slow you down,” she said, “Don’t bother with me. But I greatly appreciate it, sir, how kind of you! I’ll wait over here. Be good, Logan!” she said as she pinched Arlo’s cheek and hobbled over to stand by the cement mixer. --“Thank you for pretending with me,” Mrs. Penelope said to him on their way back. “You were a very good helper. I didn’t have the money to spare for an extra bag of sugar, I’m saving whatever I can so I don’t have to let go of my house when those capitalist pigs try to buy up our neighborhood next…” She smiled warmly at him, and he wondered what kind of pig a capitalist one was. His appetite stirred by the unfulfilled promise of dessert, he wondered how their bacon tasted. “Always remember, Arlo… adding a measly two pounds of sugar to cement will make a whole ton of concrete unusable,” she said with a sly wink. “I learned that from my anarchy days back in France.” He didn’t know what she was talking about, and didn’t really understand what had happened except for that they were now bonded by this secret. Despite not knowing what the secret was, he knew that the secret existed. He felt privileged and powerful. It gave him the guts to ask her something that he had always wondered. He tugged on Mrs. Penelope’s dress and pointed to her wooden leg. “Oh, that’s a looooong story,” she said to him as she ruffled his hair some more. “I could tell you if you come over tomorrow. And, you know, thanks to your help… perhaps I don’t need to pinch my pennies so tightly for a bit. While I tell you that story, we can make some brownies too. Sound good?” Arlo nodded with a grin.

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artwork by Madison Linenkugel

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photo by Nithya Sundar 32


(With)Holding by Michaela Pasztor When I was young, the shadow creatures roamed parking lots and tunnels and abandoned buildings whose doors all emptied to the same clearing. They would steal my tongue, split in pieces and shared among them like communion wafers, the last planted between my lips to grow like a weed for the next taking. And they sang me their stories. /// The boy with the dandelion seed necklace shares with me his kneecaps and I with him my teeth and elbows and between us we trade our three eyes often enough to forget whose color is which. /// Jaw pried open, agape and willing, I once pulled my tongue from my maw and gave it. Hunched and rasping like sheets of metal the shadow-crawlers cried and buried it whole. We played charades on this night, laugh open mouthed and tongueless. /// On his birthday, the dandelion boy gifts to me his right lung and asks for nothing in return perhaps the hollow between my third and fourth ribs

except

I offer to return his lung or to trade my tongue in its stead. He takes both for his trouble.

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/// A tongue plucked from a low hanging branch overflowed my teeth. I sat with the trees and watched the shadows disappear while the violet-pink sky grew blue. I met the shadows again, in passing mirrors and the corner of my eye. And they smiled at me, toothless and three tongued, /// I followed him and he took me

Home

/// The three tongued shadows creak like whispered grievances for my silence and pull from the ground my tongue. When I offer them six tipless fingers and my remaining teeth they laugh openmouthed watery tongueless. I sit silent, watch the trees disappear, the violent sky. /// I met a boy, bruises blooming under his eyes like tongues, to whom I offered my fingertips. He kept them on a chain around his neck and called them dandelion seeds.

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Contributing Authors and Artists

Eryn Briscoe Elisha Davis Alan Gray Taylore Haas Haley Hagans Alex Joyce Victoria Kochan Madison Linenkugel Olivia Manias Hannah Myers Michaela Pasztor Nusrat Nasir Tania Michal Smelser Nithya Sundar Carlos Washington Jessica Witt

The Mill Literary Magazine Fall 2019 35


Sponsored by The University of Toledo English Department and the Edward Shapiro Fund for English Composition II

photo by Carlos Washington

Profile for The Mill Magazine

The Mill Literary Magazine Fall 2019  

The Mill is The University of Toledo's literary magazine, highlighting the best poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art from the UT community.

The Mill Literary Magazine Fall 2019  

The Mill is The University of Toledo's literary magazine, highlighting the best poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and art from the UT community.

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