The Paragon Journal Journal of Creative Arts
inside: see texas reckoning / interview with lynne reeder / gin & jesus
The Paragon Journal Journal of Creative Arts
The Paragon Journal: Journal of Creative Arts – Summer 2017 Part 1 Cover Art courtesy of Unsplash Text set in Merriweather Text set in Times New Roman Heading and Subheading Text in Times New Roman All authors/artists retain the rights to their work. All work that appears in this journal has been published with the author/artist’s permission. ISSN 2470-7775 (print) ISSN 2470-3834 (online) Want to be published? Submit your work to the tenth issue of The Paragon Journal. The deadline is December 1st, 2017.
The Paragon Journal editor in chief
copyÂ editor graphic designer intern
kelleigh stevenson chris shearer emily bartholet
TABLE OF CONTENT IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE Letter from the Editor A Fading Evening After Walking on the German-Named Trail in Indian Territory Lost to this World 5,000 BTUs Library Card 1313 Russian Baths Shadow Daddy Comes Home at 5 Postpartum, Day 41 Children in the Sky Fruit Bowl Interview with Lynne Reeder Butterfly Lenses Crossroads Interview with Jamie Wriston Colbert See Texas Reckoning Gin & Jesus How to be a Poet and a Bartender Limerence Contingent Occurrence Psalm of Yonkers The Angry Driver My Plastic People Red Sky The Pillow's Plight Scaling Mountains at Three A.M. In Dreams Alone Time
Letter from the Editor The past few months have been full of hectic decisions and constant reading. The Paragon Journal is proud to announce that we have decided to work with other authors that want to start their own literary magazine. We will be helping them get started with their marketing, as well as hosting their issues on our site once they are published. Our literary family is growing and we couldn't be more appreciative of the support we have received. Anapest and Echo are the two newest literary magazines that we have decided to help bring into the world. Veronica Bruce (Anapest) and Henry Scully (Echo) have both shown us amazing potential when they approached us about starting their own magazines.Â
But seeing that we are helping other writers pursue their dreams we are halting our chapbook and novella publishing. We will be releasing select titles this upcoming year, but not all of titles that we had originally hoped.Â
Other than publishing, The Paragon Journal is saying goodbye to our summer intern. Em Bartholet has been one of the greatest assets that we had during these hectic times. We wish her the best in everything that she continues to pursue.
Without further ado please enjoy our ninth issue!
Austin Shay Editor-in-Chief
A Faded Evening James Piatt While walking slowly along A dusty furrowed road in the Dim twilight shadows of the Day’s parting moments, I Watched a thin line of Beautiful colors forming Like a montage of opulent Memories strewn on the edge Of ecru parchment: Images Materialized before my eyes into a Surrealistic Monet painting that had Been pressed through a long narrow Orifice in the sky’s horizon:
I observed the splatter of the Diminishing sun’s colorful Hues painted upon heaven’s Canvas, vanishing abruptly Into a dim perspective, and Sensed a sudden finality as it Journeyed along the horizon’s Ebbing pink edge fading into Oblivion, and I became Aware of the fleeting existence Of time:
I resumed my twilight walk Speculating about life and Death, as brilliant specs of Light began peeking through The black velvet mantle, Lighting up the sky like tiny Kerosene lanterns flickering Through the darkening hours Of the emerging night.
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After Walking on that German-Named Trail in Indian Territory Christopher Stolle
You ate what this land provided.
You wrapped yourself in summer’s gifts to help you outlast winter’s thievery.
You needed to learn what hunger was before you could try to solve it.
You needed to know your own skin before you could enjoy another’s flesh.
You taught yourself how to track any creature, and you were the first to chart each star’s family tree.
You handed down dreams and platitudes and scars, and you marveled at how blood is as vital as rain.
You invented etymology to give everything names to capture your feelings of instant gratification.
Your tongue became your history book, your dictionary, and your guide to worship.
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But what you revered became costumes and masks for others to wear on their own skins and claim as their own ethos and pathos and logos trinity.
You endured incessant disease and sickness and your childrenâ€™s deaths before you discovered preventions and panaceas growing around you.
You created the original tea bag and herbal cigarette, and you tucked serenity behind your lips.
We walk these ravines and zigzag paths, becoming as invasive as what surrounds us: wild bergamot brewing, honeysuckle and thistles to sweeten dispositions, and compass plants we should allow to force us to reconsider which way weâ€™re going.
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Someone felt confident enough to push you away from home, desecrating all your beliefs, to build this fort where we honor those who went to war to protect rights many didn’t think you deserved.
When we hear cicadas singing, you taught them their words. When we taste sunburnt berries, you gave them their tartness. When we feel heat and wind, you breathed them into existence. When we smell unbridled storms, you harnessed their petrichor.
You wrote the origin stories for every rock and leaf we keep ignoring with our footsteps.
In some future I can’t imagine, whatever comes after us cannot continue to neglect where you came from and what you achieved despite every barrier pushed into your paths.
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This fortress and this history and this poem will only matter if our progeny remember your names and your struggles and how poetry will save us all from extinction.
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Lost to this World Andrew Mengel
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5,000 BTUs Katiy Heath
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Library Card #1313 Valery Petrovskiy
I came across a scrap of paper after moving aside a bookstand…
on the last page of an interim certificate – I would say on a paperback it was made just of tissue paper −
I discovered the address of my fellow writer I had jotted down once
when he moved to a new place: …Bates St. Irvine, CA
he relocated and soon after he was gone…
By now my library card 1313 expired.
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Russian Baths Valery Petrovskiy
in countryside they measure time by drum and tun in Russian baths one counts time from a bathing to another
they gauge Russian baths by a bucketful of water ten into a boiler four into a cold water tank and two more left in a dressing-room as a reserve
bathing in Russian baths is a kindred affair folks visit Russian baths at neighbors’ as guests then after they have a get-together recalling the old man who set up the bathhouse
they drink home-made ale from out of a cask while time beats in the drums around
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Shadow Valery Petrovskiy
in my shadow I discerned dad’s figure
in the morning he paced in front of me by day he walked side by side to me
and towards evening he followed me close at my heels stepping silently
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Daddy Comes Home at 5 Sofia Scarlat
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Postpartum, Day 41 Iris Orpi
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Children in the Sky Michael Lee Johnson
There is a full moon, distant in this sky tonight,
Gray planets planted on an aging white, face.
Children, living and dead, love the moon with small hearts.
Those in heaven already take gold thread, drop the moon down for us all to see.
Those alive with us, look out their bedroom windows tonight, we smile, then prayers, then sleep.
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Fruit Bowl Colleen LeBeauÂ
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Butterfly Lenses AM Roselli Boil it down to the edges of the pot and a residue will remain where the crabs died. I once thought all crabs were born red ’til I saw the Jersey blues, blue and beautiful. Thrilling lowering twine anchored with raw chicken necks. I didn’t see the birds die. There are chickens born to be dead, for mouths with breadcrumbs and butter.
Of those blue beauties, I thought we attached something profoundly remarkable like the time I saw my first dead cicada and assumed it was a prehistoric fly.
Childhood, childhood eyes of marbles and butterfly lenses. The pot went onto the stove that night filled with clean water, sparkling like the ocean. That day the sand that was too hot. The powerful riptide we almost drowned in but didn’t, because of the large rope which looked oddly like the very same rope we pulled the blue beauties up from the ocean floor, their homes– their claws becoming their chains.
into the pot
I hear the screaming, whistling like angry bleeding wind. Bleeding wind right there in the summer cottage kitchen with its lighthouse curtains fluttering in a moist evening and salty breeze. My stomach lurches. Blue, red, all colors boiling together.
sickness and seasoning not your salvation
as your blue shells turn fire red, purple specks melting off indigo thumbprints vanish as if you never had any sort of life. Bright, engine red screaming silenced into a meal. This is the day I learn all crabs are not born red. This was the day I learned when to break my butterfly lenses.
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Crossroads Kelleigh Stevenson
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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
Jaimee Wriston Colbert
Talented author Jaimee Wriston Colbert has written multiple short stories and novels, including Wild Things Shark Girls, and Dream Lives of Butterflies,as well as received numerous awards in the literary world. After growing up on the warm sands of Hawaii, Jaimee decided to pack up and head to New York so that she could teach future generations the art of creative writing. Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of meeting Jaimee on several occasions and she agreed to give me a quick interview before
By Emily Deimler
heading off on an end-of-summer vacation.Â
Photograph Courtesy of: www.jaimeewristoncolbert.com
Emily Deimler (ED): As an aspiring writer, one of the more difficult things I face is finding some sort of inspiration for my own writings. Where do you pull or find inspiration for your stories?
Jaimee Wriston Colbert (JWC): I’ve always been a “nature” writer, in that place, whether a particular country, region, town, etc. for me is as significant as character. In much of my work, place is character, and characters are developed and made complex within their relationship to where and how they live. My novel, Shark Girls, was mostly set in Hawai’i (where I’m originally from), and it depicted island life, how deeply island culture is affected by the ocean surrounding it. A young girl loses her leg in a shark attack and changes in profound, mysterious ways, which delves into Hawaiian mythology. I did a huge amount of research into shark biology, and the ocean eco-system sharks are a part of, in the same way I researched and wrote about the disappearing prairies in my book Dream Lives of Butterflies, set in St. Louis. Because my characters are a part of these environments, their lives and consciousness are affected in much the same ways we humans are affected by where we live—both in the immediate, our towns, cities, and on the larger-scale, our planet. I can’t imagine writing a book that doesn’t connect with nature, anymore than we can divorce our human fates from nature. And given how endangered “nature” is becoming on our planet—we have recently passed the carbon tipping point, I see it as an imperative to feature some of these themes in my fiction.
ED: Other than lack of inspiration, there are multiple challenges that writer’s face every day. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your own writing?
JWC: Finding time to do it!!! That’s the short answer, but really it’s THE ANSWER. When I have time to write (only in the summer for the most part), whatever is challenging me can be worked out by what we must do as writers—write! Keep at it; feel free to let it be bad, until it’s not. Put in the hard work, and that, of course, takes time.
ED: Teaching can be a difficult thing. It’s certainly not something I can see myself ever really doing, but I hold great respect for those that take up the profession. What are some of your favorite, or even your least favorite, things about teaching?
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JWC: Teaching fiction writing keeps me fresh as a writer. A ‘talk the talk’ sort of thing, where you feel a part of the greater community of writers and readers, and can also give back in some way to newer writers trying to find their voices, help them to get a foothold. Plus, I can get them reading! The number one requirement for being a writer – be a reader first.
ED: I don’t think I would have even dreamed of being a writer had I not grown up reading almost anything I could get my hands on! It was my favorite hobby. Speaking of, outside of writing and teaching, how do you enjoy spending your time?
JWC: Reading, hiking, the ocean when I get there (and I make a point to get there at least once a year), hanging with my cats, watching birds and other wildlife, and visiting or chatting with my family. I also must confess to having become a television series addict. Never saw this in me, but boy do I love bingeing on a good, compelling story with fresh, complex characters. During the school year I can only do it on weekends, given the amount of student work I am reading, but in the summer I can go hog-wild. However, for the month of June I take a vow of being completely TV-free and read constantly, a new book every other day. When June is over (and throughout the year) I only turn on a TV at night; it depresses me to see one on when it’s daylight. Write! Go outside! Walk! Smell the air, look at the clouds, listen to the birds. I love wildlife and the outdoors, and the bonus for me as a writer, is that so much of it inhabits my story-world. I find inspiration from it.
ED: The outside is a beautiful place. And it is so much easier to think freely without the distraction of reality TV and advertisement jingles. I have to say that you’ve had quite a difference in the outside world, moving completely across the country! What was your experience in leaving your home state to move the entire way across the country?
JWC: I get very homesick at times, of course. But I love my job, and unfortunately one’s dream job and dream place don’t always come as a package! Moving does open your eyes though as a writer. My new book Wild Things takes place in upstate New York, and I would never have been able to write it – to get a sense of the beautiful, rural landscape, and the way of life in an area that was once prosperous and now struggles (since so many of the good manufacturing jobs disappeared) —if I hadn’t been living here while writing it. Page 43 | The Paragon Journal | Interview
ED: Tying right back into the inspiration of your writings. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the courage to move that far away from what has always been ‘home’, but I know that traveling to new places is something I will never cease to enjoy. Jaimee, thank you so much for your time and answering these questions with me! Hopefully your answers will give some insight to our readers, showing them new ways to try things and prove they are not alone in facing difficulties in writing.
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See Texas Reckoning Traci Godfrey
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Gin & Jesus Nicole Lourette
Every year was the same frantic dash to Burlington to grab matching Easter outfits. The same lace, same pastels and white patent-leather shoes. Then an even quicker Our Father, holy Trinity on the forehead & chest before pictures in front of the Maple tree.
Now, I am in no mood to rush to Burlington & scavenge through their less-than-mediocre selection of shoes in women’s size 10. A strappy pair of sandals, a wide-brimmed hat, a generous gin & tonic on the front lawn of cigarette-smoking heathens as the neighbors yell He is Risen.
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How to be a Poet and a Bartender AnnaMarie Little
Work late into the night, write later. Have a crisis because it’s 3 AM and you’re exhausted and all the major league guys wrote about going straight through the night. Bukowski slung boxes at the post office all day and wrote until sunrise, how? Doze. Rub your eyes. Doze.
Choose a drink, drink it a lot. Try bourbon and coke. Realize it gives you bad hangovers. Try manhattans. Realize they taste like shit. Try martinis, gin and tonics, seven and sevens, realize they taste like shit, too. Settle on vodka. Straight vodka. Cheap and mighty. Vodka is the elixir of the muses.
Write a love poem to vodka. Sweet, constant companion. Your cup overfloweth.
Scream at the man who reaches over the bar to grab you by the ponytail. Cut him off. Warn your coworkers about him. Tell his friends to fuck off when they say you’re overreacting. Sit in your car after work and cry about it. Write a poem about it. Read it to your roommate. Drink about it.
Send your work to the magazines, literary journals. Smile politely when they notify you that they “are grateful for your submission, but won’t be using it for this issue.” Submit more. Smile more.
After work, drink vodka while your friends drink wine. Drink three to their one. Drink feverishly. Drink as if your life depends on it. Wash your face in the bathroom and write a bad poem about solitude while they talk about wedding planning.
Read Tennyson for the first time crouched in the corner of the bar as you wait for the old Vietnam vets to finish their Budweisers. Read L for the first time. Tear it out and put it on your wall, a shrine to his pain. Stand back and look at it. Try to write. Fail. Feel a little better about it this time. Page 60 | The Paragon Journal | Creative Nonfiction
Wonder if you are an awful writer, if your friends are just humoring you. Send your work unsolicited to two professors who are willing to be brutal. Submit more. Wait. Read through old poems and rename them “Trash.” Cry about it in the shower. Have a smoke. Drink about it.
Read your work to your lover, your roommate. Be validated by your roommate’s indignation that They would dare not publish you. Submit more. Remind yourself that wanting it doesn’t make it.
Be aggravated that your boyfriend isn’t as excited about your writing as your roommate. Feel bad that all your poems are sad. Assure him that he makes you very happy. Smile dutifully when he scrutinizes your face.
Allow him to come to you in the thick of the night. Lay on your back staring into the darkness and think about your other lovers- vodka. poetry. bukowski. rejection? Be grateful that you do not occupy this bed alone.
Write a snotty poem in your head about the baby boomer asshole as your shake his “Maker’s Mark Manhattan, up, I suppose (sinceyoudon’thaveanydecentwhiskieshereanyways) and I want to be able to see the ice crystals on the top, honey”
Count out loose change for a gallon of gas. Take long showers and let the water beat down on your neck. Put lotion on your peeling feet. Sleep hard.
Drink more. Laugh casually when people comment on how much you drink. Define yourself as a “heavy drinker” and not an alcoholic. Solemnly nod when your coworkers make jokes about alcoholics.
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Tell someone you trust that you are an alcoholic. Do not fully believe it. Choose not to think about it. Begin making offhand jokes about being an alcoholic. Laugh louder than whoever you made the joke to.
Write a poem about alcoholism. Show it to your lover. Be embarrassed when he looks concerned. Feel uncomfortable when he probes, feel relieved when he dismisses the subject. Laugh about it. Drink about it.
Read Plath while you wait to clock in. Read Whitman on your break. Read Cummings after your shift. Put your head in your hands and ask why you can’t write like that.
Contemplate how poetic it would be to burn all of your poetry. You’ll never get published anyways. Decide that’s too melodramatic. Have another drink.
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Limerence Sanjeev Sethi
For some pareidolia is a pastime. You can’t upbraid them for their downtime distraction. Fear is pable in capillaries, in small clothes: boner has a mind of its own. It responds to riffs. Your light flashes in lightlessness. Behind the bravado I harken your hesitancies. I realize this is not recitation in puerilities. Ritual of memory permits me its ruse. We meet in its brow.
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Contingent Occurence Gary Glauber
It is a mystery of flux & electrons. Each moment a new beginning, one that language might undermine as we follow, seeking only to recognize.
We fail to communicate, awkward silence filling precarious maze of shared ignorance. These are secrets of dreams & lives lived. There is language, process, orders to follow.
This is the hot precision of sunlight illuminating a dark room’s corner, streaming like sin into hidden crannies, then dissipating, ambition into sleep.
Close touch is shared nuance, slow parade next to tranquil ocean, a means of becoming unbecoming, a love letter unopened on the bureau, a kiss that looms & hovers, unrealized, a lifetime writing pleasures unknown.
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Psalm of Yonkers Gary Glauber
Every trip to the city is a narrative of nostalgia, the elementary school, the synagogue, the street where I lived, the overpass where she walked her feisty dog, the police & fire station where Matt Dillon filmed that movie, the woods where my exploring itch got three of us lost for hours, the place with the skanky strippers across from the raceway, that false IDs gained us access to in latter high school days. Like unread pages of a book on a distant shelf, memories gather dust, aging like fine wine or cases of beer destroyed in happy rites of passage, before kegs & college. Kissing in cars, hanging with friends, believing in the power of dreams. It forces an inner smile. I drive by in silent salute, a million stories to relate, & the dawning knowledge that some of these robust & ribald adventures will never ever get told.Â
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The Angry Driver Rajnish Mishra
He presses pedals, rushes fast, Drives impatiently, Angrily past plastic, glass and metal. Cuts through slow, slimy snails, driver’s bane, switches lanes, swerves, then goes slow and blocks their lane For revenge. He drives with geometric precision, with a drive to drive, eyes of tiger, half-a-smile. Lingering fingers or eyes on screen, not his way, his style is simple, not a moment extra spent on road. Rage erupts when he outdrives, with a war to wage every moment. How could he, she, or they, delay him for a second? Mon semblable, mon frère? You know him. Don’t you?
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My Plastic People
Red Sky Ann Christine Tabaka
Red skies, blue promises I remember you when the lilacs were in bloom, you held out your hand
I was lost in your history of castles and white knights, begging for another caress, only to be discarded
Dragged through the darkness like a frightened child, the ocean called to me by name I answered with a sigh
Like so many dandelion seeds I was scattered adrift, nothing left to give, but a red sky
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Pillow's Plight Ann Christine Tabaka
The pillow has suffered the onslaught of my restless night harboring within itself secrets of my sleepless dreams torments from another lifetime
Poems written on discarded paper scraps upon the floor ink smears upon the tear-stained sheets I awake to a vision of a yesterday that never was
Nightlight piercing the dark I sit up and write once more too many thoughts and vague images wanting to escape the confines of my mind I am unable to sleep
Drenched with night tears my confidant releases the impression of my weary head I arise freeing it from its charge it guarded me well My pillow has endured another night
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Scaling the Mountain at 3AM Addela Bransford
I first saw The Lord of the Rings movies in a dim-lit sanctuary. My sister’s friends were hosting a marathon at a local church, and I had been graciously invited. I sat next to my sister. Her friends sat in front, leaving rows of vacant pews behind us. Encircled by white walls and stained glass disciples, we watched the extended versions of the films, pausing only for restroom breaks.
In that endless blur of hobbits, wraiths, and elves, one scene stood out to me. There’s a point in The Two Towers when Frodo, the hero, doubts the purpose of his quest. He wonders if he can fulfill it. Sam — an ever steadfast friend — tries to encourage Frodo by giving a speech about how the “shadow” they’re under is temporary. Sam insists they must hold on.
“What are we holding on to?” Frodo asks.
“There’s some good in this world,” Sam answers, “and it’s worth fighting for.”
The speech moved me. I leaned on my sister’s shoulder and held back tears as if I’d heard a convicting sermon.
Years later, I gave a similar speech to my closest friend. They lay atop an old sunken mattress and clutched my hand until the color drained from my fingers. They muttered how sorry they were: sorry for getting me involved; sorry for asking too much of me; sorry for making me stay up with them on this night when they should’ve been dead. I told them it was okay. My hand was numb and my eyelids were heavy, but I didn’t mind.
“Don’t give up,” I said. “Tomorrow is a new day. There is hope. You’ll be fine.”
My friend shook their head “no.”
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Jesse and I met as volunteer actors in a local theatre ministry. I usually played bit roles: a nameless townsperson, a background servant, a merchant with one or two lines. Jesse often played supporting roles too, but they shouldn’t have. They were one of the best actors in our group. At first, we only talked within the larger scope of the theatre. When we decided to spend time one-on-one, it was a short leap from acquaintances to friends, then again from friends to close friends.
Even though Jesse was younger than me, I admired them. They always walked into theatre rehearsal with a smile. They were glad to see people and gave everyone their full attention. They had a clever sense of humor — more Monty Python than American sitcom. Their hair fell in gentle waves past their shoulders, and their laugh might as well have been a song. The freckles across their face looked like constellations. Their eyes shone bright, brilliant and alert.
A routine developed when we started to hang out. We would meet at Starbucks, sit outside, and talk over iced lattes, the desert sun flushing our faces. No topic was out of bounds. We covered our schoolwork, our crushes, our latest obsessions, our future dreams. Jesse recommended books to me. I kept track of movies they hadn’t seen and made an alphabetized “To Watch” list. We joked about dumb things that don’t seem so dumb in hindsight.
“He’d never like me back,” Jesse once said after telling me about their latest crush.
“Why?” I asked.
“Look at me. I’m a mess.”
“No, you’re not!”
Jesse laughed. “He’s like a swanky five-star hotel in the Bahamas. I am the Motel 6 across the street.”
The nature of our conversations changed one night. We were in my Jeep, on our way to meet the rest of the theatre group for pizza. I drove in silence.
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Traffic was scarce for a summer evening; the hum of the engine lulled me. Jesse folded their hands and gazed out the passenger window. When they spoke, I felt slightly in a trance.
“Can I tell you something?” they asked.
“Sure,” I said.
They paused, took a breath, and told me they self-harmed.
A jolt ran through me. We came to a red stoplight and I slowed the Jeep to a halt. I turned to look at Jesse. They stared ahead, out through the windshield, stoic except for their quivering bottom lip.
Jesse didn’t fit the stereotype I held of those who struggled with depression. They didn’t mope, or brood, or dye their hair black and sit alone in corners, away from crowds. They wore short-sleeved and sleeveless tops. I later learned this was because Jesse didn’t cut their arms much — mostly, it was their thighs and stomach.
I remained quiet and confused until the stoplight turned green and I had to focus on the road. Why are they doing this? I wondered. What’s so terrible in their life they feel the need to cut their skin? I told Jesse I was sorry, and I would pray for them. They thanked me. I also said they could talk to me at any time. Silence lingered the rest of the way to the pizza parlor, and once we got there, Jesse returned to their usual cheerful self.
From that point on, Jesse would text me whenever they felt the urge to cut. It never happened during the day. Their pleas for help all began the same way: “Will you pray for me?”
If I was in the middle of something, I’d drop it to coax Jesse out of picking up the nearest razor or sharp key. Talking helped, they said. At least they could unburden their mind. They vented about how their mom put unfair pressure on them; how their sister made them seem inferior; how they stressed over life, school, and whether or not people liked them.
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“People love you!” I would say. I would point out how the theatre’s younger actors looked up to Jesse as an example. Sometimes this made them feel better. Other times, it made them feel like a horrible role model for self-harming in secret.
One late autumn night, I busied myself with math homework while my parents watched a news program in our living room. I sat at the edge of the sofa, my textbook and papers sprawled on the cushion beside me. My iPhone rang. I stepped outside to take the call. Moths swarmed the fluorescent lights on our porch — I swatted them away and watched as storm clouds hid the full moon.
I answered my phone. “Hello?”
Muffled sobs. Jesse. Between gasps, they told me they were parked at the Wendy’s five minutes from my house. They’d almost driven off a bridge on their way home from youth group.
I hung up, rushed inside, grabbed my car keys, and told my parents I would be back later. They warned me not to stay out too late. I sped to Wendy’s, thankful no cops were nearby, and found Jesse’s car with its headlights on in the middle of the parking lot. When I pulled up next to them, I shivered. They hunched over their steering wheel. Their hair was matted, wet and tangled. I couldn’t see their face. Their whole body heaved as they drew rasped, uneven breaths.
They’d always had suicidal thoughts, they confessed, but lately the thoughts had gotten worse. The violent fantasies were more vivid. More frequent.
After they calmed down enough to drive home, I decided it would be my job to convince them life was worth experiencing. I would be the Sam to Jesse’s Frodo. I would, and did, remind them that there was joy, God loved them, and everything would get better. I thought if I hammered enough optimism into Jesse, one day they might respond. Maybe I could raise them out of the darkness they’d settled into.
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When I got back to my house that night, the lights were off and my parents were in bed. A note was taped to the television stand: “Knock on our door so we know you’re home!” I gathered my math papers and textbook from the sofa. Halfway down the hall, I stopped to knock on my parents’ bedroom door, then I went to my room and sat at my desk. I spent the rest of the night finishing my math assignments. I would pull more all-nighters as Jesse and I began to text well into the late evenings.
The more we talked, the more Jesse spiraled downward. Any advice I gave was refuted.
“Your mom will come around,” I would say.
“She’ll always think I’m a disappointment,” Jesse would retort.
“Don’t compare yourself to your sister. You are your own person.”
“I’m not as good a person as she is.”
“The future is nothing to be scared of.”
“I can’t do this anymore, Addela.”
At the community college we both attended, Jesse approached me one afternoon and asked what I’d do if they had a plan to end their life. I felt impelled to ask if they did have a plan. They nodded. Thursday of that week. They had a location in mind: a park where they used to play Ultimate Frisbee. They would find a sturdy branch for their noose and sway above the withered grass until someone happened to find their corpse.
“No,” I stated. I wouldn’t let that happen. After our classes on Thursday, I said, we were going to meet up and have a sleepover at my house.
This is it, I thought when Thursday rolled around. Tonight is the catalyst. Jesse will get better. They’ll wake up tomorrow and be glad they’re alive.
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The start of our sleepover went as usual. We watched a movie. We ate ice cream. We reviewed the script for our next theatre production. After a while, Jesse became less lively. Their shoulders dropped; their voice softened. Around nine o’clock, Jesse said they wanted to sit on the floor and think. Nine-thirty was when they had planned to commit suicide.
I sat on the carpet across from them. Earlier, they warned they didn’t know how they would react when this time came. They said they might get mad at me. They did. Their lips curled into a sneer. They scowled and balled their hands into white-knuckle fists. Their voice, when they spoke, was deep and accusing.
“Why did you stop me?”
Because I loved them, I said. Because life had meaning.
Because God didn’t put them on this earth just for them to cut His plans short. None of my reasons were good enough. Jesse rocked back and forth and said they shouldn’t have been there — they should’ve been at the park with a rope around their throat. They needed out. They couldn’t take the pain. They wanted to show everyone who’d hurt them that careless words had consequences.The start of our sleepover went as usual. We watched a movie. We ate ice cream. We reviewed the script for our next theatre production. After a while, Jesse became less lively. Their shoulders dropped; their voice softened. Around nine o’clock, Jesse said they wanted to sit on the floor and think. Nine-thirty was when they had planned to commit suicide.
I sat on the carpet across from them. Earlier, they warned they didn’t know how they would react when this time came. They said they might get mad at me. They did. Their lips curled into a sneer. They scowled and balled their hands into white-knuckle fists. Their voice, when they spoke, was deep and accusing.
“Why did you stop me?”
Because I loved them, I said. Because life had meaning.
Our mental tug-of-war continued. Then Jesse’s mood changed from angry to apologetic. They said everything was their fault.
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Their eyes grew red and teary. I scooted closer and wrapped my arms around them. They cried, twisting in my embrace so their forehead pressed against my chin. I stroked their hair.
Eventually, I stood and left to get a spare mattress for Jesse to sleep on. I set it down in the center of the room and made it up with a sheet, blanket, and pillow. I suggested we try to get rest. Jesse agreed. They got comfortable on the mattress, then asked if I would stay with them until they fell asleep. I kneeled on the floor and took their hand.
For hours I stayed. Jesse tossed and ranted. Time eluded us; all the rest of the house was quiet. As the minutes crawled, Jesse and I lost track of how long we had been awake. We were in our own space, our own atmosphere, separate from the rest of the sleeping world. My hope faded as I saw no dramatic breakthrough taking place. Jesse seemed worse, not better. What had I done wrong?
At that point, I tried to give my rousing speech. Don’t give up. Tomorrow is a new day. There is hope. You’ll be fine. Jesse didn’t believe any of it. How? Why couldn’t they see it was a good thing they’d be alive in the morning?
They drifted to sleep at last. I pried my hand out of theirs and tried to restore feeling to my fingers. I collapsed on my bed and wanted to sleep right away, but I couldn’t. My exhausted gaze wouldn’t leave Jesse’s face. Where did I fail as their savior? I put so much time and energy, so many tiresome nights, into helping them. And for what? I was the only person who knew about their struggles. If I didn’t rescue them, who would?
In The Return of the King, the last film in The Lord of the Rings saga, Sam and Frodo surmount their last obstacle: Mount Doom. Not far up the mountain, Frodo falters and tells Sam he can’t go on. Sam says he might not be able to carry Frodo’s burden for him, but he can carry Frodo. He lifts his friend on his shoulders. He scales the mountain, bearing Frodo’s weight in addition to his own.
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Jesse fought to climb their own mountain. I offered to carry them. When that didn’t work, I pulled them by the arm. No matter my efforts, they’d hardly make progress before they tripped and fell back to the base. I joined them there and stared up at the peak. Both of us were worn out. Stress welled inside me. I didn’t know how else I could get Jesse to the summit.
From behind, God put a hand on my shoulder and whispered for me to stand down. The weight wasn’t mine to carry. He had to be Jesse’s Sam. Not me.
When I fell asleep that Thursday night — though by then, I’m sure it was Friday — I dreamt God swept Jesse in His wings and flew them to a hidden oasis. Jesse drank from the spring and was refreshed. Their skin, scarred with thin marks from razor blades, glowed. I watched from a distance beneath the shade of palm leaves and knew I hadn’t carried Jesse anywhere. They, in all their beauty and radiance, had called upon God, and He had answered in faith.
Jesse would conquer their mountain one day. I knew they could make it to the summit, even if it took years; even if I had to stay up with them for many restless nights. When Jesse set their flag atop the mountain crest, I would celebrate with them: not as their savior, but as their friend.
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In Dreams Alone Ravi Samuel
I dream an escape from dreams: rasp of voices merging as dirges sink stones and sand, proclaiming: the meek will not inherit the earth.
My oblations fester like a plucked hyacinth, rejected and squashed on a drizzly day, while fire and rain share the need to share and The Earth unearths a secret--a distorted face, revealed by morning, infected by night--
I know it's mine. I can unknow it.
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uX ettolrahC - EMIT
Page 79 | The Paragon Journal | Visual Arts
Contributors Addela Bransford is a recent college graduate living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She studied creative writing at Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, and hope to continue developing her writing in the years to come. Gary Glauber is a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and former music journalist. His works have received multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. He champions the underdog to the melodic rhythms of obscure power pop. His collection, Small Consolations (Aldrich Press) is available through Amazon, as is a chapbook, Memory Marries Desire (Finishing Line Press). A new poetry collection, Worth the Candle, was just published by Five Oaks Press. TRACI GODFREY’s writing credits include screenplays Hotter Than Georgia Asphalt, Spitting Image, and The Pink Perfection. Among her stage plays, Sweet Texas Reckoning has been honored as the First Place Winner in the Panndora Production Festival 2016, the New Works Of Merit Playwriting Contest 2015, and Chicago’s Artemisia Theatre Festival 2016. As an actress, Traci is best known for her long- time roles on Law & Order Criminal Intent, and As The World Turns as well as numerous roles on the New York, London, and Regional Theatre stages including The Chaos Theories by Oscar Winner, Alex Dinelaris. Kaity Heath is a Brooklyn-based writer, currently studying fiction and creative non-fiction in the Writer’s in New York Creative Writing Program at NYU. Michael Lee Johnson, Itasca, IL. nominated for 2 Pushcart Prize awards for poetry 2015, nominated Best of the Net, 2016. MICHAEL LEE JOHNSON lived ten years in Canada during the Vietnam era. Today he is a poet, freelance writer, editor, publisher, photographer who experiments with poetography (blending poetry with photography), and small business owner in Itasca, Illinois, who has been published in more than 935 small press magazines in 33 countries, he edits 11 poetry sites. He is also the Editor-in-chief/publisher of poetry anthology, Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1530456762. He is also Editor-in-chief of a 2nd anthology, Dandelion in a Vase of Roses released April, 2017: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089 Michael is the author of The Lost American: From Exile to Freedom (136 page book), several chapbooks of poetry, including From Which Place the Morning Rises and Challenge of Night and Day, and Chicago Poems. He also has over 134 poetry videos on YouTube. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1545352089 Colleen LeBeau is a thirty-something undergrad at Rhode Island College where she is majoring in English/Creative Writing. Previously, her poetry has been published in Shoreline, the college's literary journal.
AnnaMarie Little is a student pursuing her Bachelor's in English from the University of North Georgia. Nicole Lourette is a poet and event planner from Rochester, NY. She now lives in Pittsburgh, PA after graduating with her MFA from Chatham University with concentrations in poetry and travel writing. She travels both for work and her own sanity as often as possible and hates peanut butter. She is an editor for Pittsburgh Poetry Review, and her work has been featured in IDK Magazine, Public Pool, Vagabond City Journal, and elsewhere. Andrew Mengel is a writer, teacher and recent graduate, receiving a BA English Writing degree from Moravian College. He currently live in Prague, Czech Republic. Rajnish Mishra is an Indian poet. Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer living in Chicago, IL. She is the author of The Espresso Effect (2010) and Cognac for the Soul (2012). Her work has appeared in dozens of online and print publications all over Asia, Europe and North America. She was an Honorable Mention for the Contemporary American Poetry Prize, given by Chicago Poetry Press, in 2014. Valery V. Petrovskiy is an international writer from the Chuvashia region of Russia. His prose has appeared in journals from around the world, and he is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist to the 2012 Open Russia Literary Contest. He is the author of short story collection “Tomcat Tale” (Editura StudIS, 2013) and eBook “Into the Blue on New Year’s Eve” (Hammer and Anvil Books, 2013). He has his poems published in Blue Lyra Review, Fine Flu Journal, Poetry Pacific, The Missing Slate, Generation Magazine, BRICKrhetoric. Valery lives in Russia in a remote village by the Volga River. Dr. James Piatt has published, 3 poetry books, “The Silent Pond,” (2012), “Ancient Rhythms,” (2014), and “Light” (2016), 4 novels, “The Ideal Society,” (2012), “The Monk,” (2013), “The Nostradamus Conspiracy,” (2015), and Archibald McDougle PI: An Archie McDougle Mystery (2017), over 1,000 poems, 35 short stories, and 7 essays. His poems have been nominated for pushcart and best of web awards. AM Roselli is a writer and artist who lives in the Hudson Valley, New York. She has a collection of poetry, Love of the Monster, published by Door in the Floor Publishing, 2016 and is available on Amazon. She previously served as an art director at Prentice Hall. Since 2014 she has been blogging at anntogether.com. R.A Samuel is a writer of prose and poetry from Ibadan, Nigeria. Sofia Scarlat is 14 years old and a sophmore at 'Gheorghe Lazar' National College in Bucharest, Romania. Her passion for writing flows through in her short stories and essays, which she has had published on her personal blog, as well as in both
Romanian and international magazines. She is currently working on her first book and planning a trip around the world. Jose Seigar is an English philologist, a highschool teacher, and a curious photographer. He is a fetishist for reflections, saturated colors, details and religious icons. He feels passion for pop culture that shows in his series. He considers himself a traveler and an urban street photographer. His aim as an artist is to tell tales with his camera, to capture moments but trying to give them a new frame and perspective. Travelling is his inspiration. However, he tries to show more than mere postcards from his visits, creating a continous conceptual line story from his trips. The details and subject matters come to his camera once and once again, almost becoming an obsession. His most ambitious project so far is his “Plastic People", a work that focuses on the humanization of the mannequins he finds in the shop windows all over the world. He has participated in several exhibitions in Tenerife, and his works have also been featured in international publications. Sanjeev Sethi is the author of three well-received books of poetry. His most recent collection is This Summer and That Summer (Bloomsbury, 2015). His poems are in venues around the world: Mad Swirl, Olentangy Review, Peacock Journal, Indefinite Space, Yellow Mama, Serving House Journal, The Penwood Review, The Tower Journal, Poetry Pacific, London Grip, 3:AM Magazine, With Painted Words, and elsewhere. He lives in Mumbai, India Kelleigh Stevenson is a seventeen-year old student at West Perry High School working on her senior year. She's a published poet and author who stands as the editor-in-chief and president of the school newspaper. She frequently writes and hopes to share her work more often. Christopher Stolle’s poetry has appeared in more than 100 magazines in several countries, including most recently or forthcoming in the “Burningword Literary Journal,” the “Tipton Poetry Journal,” “Flying Island,” “Branches,” “Indiana Voice Journal,” “Snapdragon,” “Black Elephant,” “The Gambler,” and “Sheepshead Review,” and in five anthologies. He has also published two nonfiction books with Coaches Choice: "101 Leadership Lessons From Baseball’s Greatest Managers" (2013) and "101 Leadership Lessons From Basketball’s Greatest Coaches" (2015). He works as an acquisitions and development editor for Penguin Random House, and he lives in Richmond, Indiana. Ann Christine Tabaka was born and lives in Delaware. She is a published poet, an artist, a chemist, and a personal trainer. She loves gardening, cooking, and the ocean. Chris lives with her husband and two cats. Her poems have been published in numerous national and international poetry journals, reviews, and anthologies. Chris was selected as the resident Haiku poet for Stanzaic Stylings. Charlotte Xu is currently living in Pennsylvania.
Published on Aug 17, 2017
The Paragon Journal is an online literary magazine that specializes in helping to springboard new writers and showcase established authors.