Poetry & Song Writing Contest Winners Featured Poet
Michael Henson Featured Art from UCBAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gallery exhibit
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One of the best values in higher education. • An authentic University of Cincinnati education and student experience. • Tuition that’s half of most other colleges. • Nearly 50 degrees and certificates.
COLLEGES UNIVERSITIES Page 2NATIONAL | Blue Ash Review
The Blue Ash Review, a publication of University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College, edited by Rhonda Pettit, is made possible by the UCBA Deanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Office, the Department of English and Communication and the UCBA Communications Department. We welcome comments and contributions all year round. For more information, contact the editor at UC Blue Ash College, Department of English and Communication, 9555 Plainfield Road, Blue Ash, Ohio, 45236. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Rights to the work herein revert to the authors, and may not be reproduced without their permission. Previous issues are archived online at www.blueashreview.com.
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Table of Contents
10 10 12 14 15
Michael Henson, UCBA Feature Poet They All Asked about You Genesis How Did I Get Here? (An American Parable) An Interview with Rhonda Pettit
Cierra Hamm, Thank-you, Stranger
Takyhia McCrory, My Prayers for a Stranger
20 21 22 22 23
Cindy Dominguez, The Other Kid
24 25 26 28 29 30 38 39 40 41 42 43 44
UCBA Poetry Contest: College Students Bridget Berg, I Take My Daily Motivation without Creamer and Some Milky Way Moriah Krawec, Black and Ruby Amy Manning, Get Out of There Now Paige Haste, Draws Me In
46 47 49 50 51
UCBA Song Writing Contest Antonio “SP!R!T” Spiritoso, Fly Away
Please Help and God Bless
Heaven Barger, Asking for It Heaven Barger, Once Heaven Barger, Hands Heaven Barger, bed
Lizzy Craig, Rubies and Diamonds UCBA Poetry Contest: High School Students Kyle Trimpe, Where I’m From Sara Rani Reddy, Your Prison Kyle Trimpe, Inner Demons Sam Dexter, Peering Through the Panes Sam Dexter, Death’s Debts Sam Dexter, Lennon Vision
Terrance Calhoun, Like Wine Sydney Grace, Surviving the Wilderness Sydney Grace, Family Album Blues
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52 Ancestors 53 Zaire Parrotte, You Must Have Been 54 Cassandra Harrison, Young and Restless 55 Michaela Hughes, Bernice and Walter 56 Yosief Tzeghai, The Invasion and Persuasion of Eritrea 57 Emily Begley, Wordless 58 Emily Begley, To My Family 59 Emily Begley, Poem at Four 60 2015 Scary Story Contest Winner 61 Taylor Morgan, Not You 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76
Aly Sauer, This Body Is Mine
Gaps + Overlaps
Poetic Extractions Emily Begley, High-Speed Impact Chartrae Durham, Song of Solomon Chartrae Durham, You Feel What? Sydney Loebker, [My Dear,] Zachary Bus, We Feel We Are Small Jason Patterson, Down Here Yanick Ivenso, Help, Not Wanted Lydia Sullivan, Therapy Abbie Collins, Beautiful Zachary Bush, Black Holes Andre Cifuentes, The Wonders of Social Media: A Manifesto Write Around the Corner
Special thanks to
Willis Music and the
SoundWorkshop Recording Studio
â&#x20AC;&#x201C; co-sponsors of our annual Song Writing Contest.
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Editor’s Preface Rhonda Pettit
The increasing educational emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and the corresponding reduction in Arts and Humanities requirements in universities across the country, is a problematic and well-documented phenomenon. This shift in educational and civic values tends to put advocates for Liberal Arts education on the defensive; but worse, it supposes a wall between these two broad and essential areas of study. In fact, the Arts and Humanities have always been influenced by and in communication with the various STEM disciplines, and the best writing and oration that conveys STEM discoveries has been produced by scientists well versed in the literary and visual arts, philosophy, history, foreign language and culture, and political and social sciences – Rachel Carson, Richard Fortey, Stephen Jay Gould, and Neil diGrasse Tyson come to mind, but there are many others. STEAM (STEM + Art & Design = STEAM) programs are addressing this issue to some extent, but are likely only part of the solution. Even when all schools can afford the technology STEAM programs currently require, we will still need the kind of deep reading, writing, and discussion a Liberal Arts program provides. Information can be instant these days; knowledge still takes time.
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At UC Blue Ash College, students, faculty, and staff can broaden their access to what Jerry Harp calls “the many languages of the Liberal Arts”* through a range of free, faculty-led programs conducted on campus and outside of the classroom. The UCBA Film Club, led by professors Jody Ballah and Matt Bennett, provide screenings of American and foreign films in support of other programs: First Year Experience reading themes, Arts & Humanities Month, the History Club, European Studies, and National Poetry Month. Each screening includes a post-film discussion among participants. Professor Timothy Forest organizes the Liberal Arts Speakers Series, featuring UCBA Liberal Arts faculty, visiting speakers, and panel discussions. Topics are often linked to current events, anniversary dates of important historical events, or with the annual Peace Conference held on our campus. The visual and digital art departments are also active partners in this venture. Since its opening in the fall of 2014, the UCBA Art Gallery led by professors John Wolfer and H. Michael Sanders has offered a series of juried exhibitions and faculty shows, including the cross-disciplinary collaborative works of the 2014-15 Creative Arts Faculty Learning Community. The creative work of these faculty periodically appears both on and
in between the pages of the Blue Ash Review. Student writing always figures prominently in the Blue Ash Review, highlighted by our contest winners. Our thanks to these area high schools – Elder, Ludlow, Shroeder, and Ursuline – for participating in our high school poetry contest. Kyle Trimpe from Ludlow took first and third place, and Sara Rani Reddy from Ursuline took second place. Congratulations also to their teachers, Kristen Collins (Ludlow) and Catherine Schellhous (Ursuline). Antonio Spiritoso from Covington Catholic High School took first place in our song writing contest, judged by Professor (and musician) Mike Roos, and co-sponsored by Willis Music and the SoundWorkshop Recording Studio in Florence, KY. In our college poetry contest judged by Professor Claudia Skutar, all four winners came from Professor Robert Murdock’s poetry workshop: Bridget Berg (1st), Moriah Krawec (2nd), Amy Manning (3rd), and Paige Haste (HM). Taylor Morgan won the Scary Story Contest, sponsored by the UCBA Writing and Study Skills Center.
cludes general submissions of poetry and fiction, including poems about ancestors uncovered by students in the African American Literature Survey course, and found poems generated by a poetic extraction exercise. Our featured poet in this issue is Cincinnati author and musician Michael Henson, winner of the 2014 Brighthorse Prize in Short Fiction. Michael visited our campus as the guest poet of our Poetry Café in March 2015, performing two of his songs and reading from his poetry book Crow Call, and his award-winning fiction, The Way the World Is: The Maggie Boylan Stories. An interview with Michael, two of his poems and the lyrics to one of his songs are included here. To watch a full version of the interview, including an original song performed by Michael, go online to http://uctvonline.pegcentral.com and select “English Department” programs. The cover of this issue as well as the images within it are excerpts from the Gaps and Overlaps exhibition of interdisciplinary collaborative works by UCBA faculty in 2014-15. To see the entire catalog and panel discussions, as well as other gallery exhibitions, go to www.ucblueash.edu/ artgallery. – Rhonda Pettit
Other student writing in this issue in*Harp, Jerry. “Liberal Arts, Multivalence, and Global Communication” Academe (May-June 2015) 35-36.
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Please Help and God Bless Its 6:37 p.m. at the corner of Reading and Dorchester, a pair of fingerless gloves hold a cardboard cry for help, with a blessing from God in return. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a guilty game while the traffic lights turn. We sheepishly look at him, and avoid his glance when the time comes, as he casts a hopeful eye at our luxury vehicles. Please light, just turn green and set us free. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 19 degrees Fahrenheit But none of us feel the cold nor the hunger nor the shame. We blast the heat and pass the time waiting, thinking of our dinner plans for the evening. His sallow face illuminated by the longest red light in history. Please just turn green already. Set us free.
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It’s 6:39 p.m. The light turns green, allowing our horde of vehicles to escape from his hungry eyes. Some of us escape the guilt without question. I, myself, fixate: his soft blue eyes scraggly salt-and-pepper beard every possible past possible family. How did he get here? It’s 6:50 p.m. I am home, mindlessly staring into my fridge mindlessly staring into the television mindlessly wondering when someone – someone else will give this blue-eyed man a blessing and receive his divine blessing in return.
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They All Asked About You
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I went down to the city of light, they all asked about you. The preachers, the sellers, the man with pale flowers, the cops gliding by in their big white cruisers, they all asked. The prostitute sighing her continuous sigh, the girl with one eye bruised, the children of the cobbled alley, the postman with his heavy news, they all asked. They all asked about you. I went down to the city of the sea, they all asked about you. The mussels and starfish, the sharks and the barnacles and the otters in their castles of kelp, they all asked. The fishermen winching at their sodden nets, the women stitching at the shore, the cold gulls above them, screening the sands, and the briny things clustered in the scuds of foam, they all asked. They all asked about you. I went down to the city of oblivion, they all asked about you. Someone mumbled through an opium haze. Someone muttered through an alcoholic mist. They all asked. The boy lowered his bag of glue and the crackhead his pipe of dreams. The needle-freak set down his shivering spike and a girl let smoke drift from her mouth.
Each addled neuron knew your name. They all asked. They all asked about you. I went down to the city of poets, they all asked about you. In iambics and sestinas and in yawping free verse, they all rhythmically asked. There was one who risked all for seven broken lines, and there was one who stood coughing in an empty tower, and there was one who built pyramids of abstract syllables, and there was one whose voice was a broken trumpet. All of these and a chorus of lyrical Greeks, they all asked. They all asked about you. Then I went down to the city of earth, they all asked about you. The ants and the centipedes, the pill bugs and slugs chewed out the words with their loamy mouths. Mute as the mole in their vegetal manner, they all asked. Even the dead, in their earthen cathedrals, lit their dark candles and chanted for you their continuous psalm. They all asked. They all asked about you.
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Genesis The formless earth had separated into dry land and the waters and the waters had divided into the waters, fresh and salt. Then God found a place He could settle in and work. He spat into the clay and stirred a little with his finger and all manner of slithering things began to wriggle in the mire. They wriggled and warred and coupled and split and devoured and grew and multiplied. Then ---Go! He thundered. And that was the first word. The wriggling things slithered into the grass. They wandered and coupled and devoured and grew and multiplied until some stood and walked a two-legged upright walk. They looked each other in the upright eye and spoke the second word, which was a word of blessing. The walking things wandered and warred and coupled and blessed and multiplied and blinded their eyes with the smoke of sacrifice, then spoke the third word, which was a curse. Half-blind, they cursed and spat and scribbled in the clay and all manner of words wriggled out of the mire like a hatch of caddis. The new words warred and coupled and blessed and cursed and multiplied. They begat whole swarms of otherwords in great random lexicons, untamed dictionaries, glossaries, thesauri, whole genealogies of the begetting of words that swarmed and wriggled in the open air in search of all manner of things to become. Page 12 | Blue Ash Review
There were words to bless and words to curse and words for daily use like goat and knife and brother like tent and wind and stone like bread, like wine, and the ninety-nine names of God. The embodied words warred and coupled and cursed and multiplied. They built their tower and saw it crumble and they scattered to the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s far corners, the blessings and the curses together and the names of all things that could be named borne on the tongues of the walking ones and in the darkness of their minds. They worried and warred and coupled and cursed and blessed and multiplied until the earth was flooded with words like ark and deluge and dove. Then one spat his word onto the wall of a cave. One found the word for brush and another found the word for chisel and they brushed and chiseled onto wall and tablet. Yet another stained water with a word and scratched on parchment with the stem of a reed. From his god-place, God watched the paths of the wandering words --how they warred and cursed and blessed and coupled and he willed that the words ---and his Word--be brought together in a book. And the book was as honey in the mouth. And the book was bitter in the belly. And the Word was hidden in the words. Volume 23 | Page 13
How Did I Get Here? (An American Parable) Lyrics to a song written and performed by Michael Henson at the 2015 Poetry Café. I woke up on Main Street With a basket on my head. My stomach was a train wreck. And my brains were made of lead.
I can see I’m not alone On this road to rack and ruin. Father forgive us, We know not what we’re doing.
How did I get here? What ever did I do? What happened to my common sense? And where’s my other shoe?
How did we get here? What ever did we do? What happened to our reverence? And where’s that other shoe?
I don’t know how I got here And I don’t know where I’ve been. It must have been the Kool-Aid It might have been the gin.
I don’t know how I got here. Just where did I go wrong? To wind up on this sidewalk And to sing this endless song?
How did I get here? What ever did I do? Where did I put my relevance? And where’s my other shoe?
How did I get here? What ever did I do? What happened to my innocence? Is that my other shoe?
I don’t know where I’ve been And I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what time it is Or the kind of seeds I’m sowing. How did I get here? What ever did I do? How did I lose my reference? Who took my other shoe?
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an interview with
michael henson by rhonda pettit
Ohio native Michael Henson is the author of several volumes of poetry, including The Tao of Longing and the Body Geographic (2011) and Crow Call (2006), as well as several books of fiction. The Way the World Is: The Maggie Boylan Stories won the 2014 Brighthorse Prize in short fiction. He is a member of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative and a co-editor of their literary journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel. Michael visited our campus as the feature poet of our 2015 Poetry Café. The following is an excerpt from the interview that followed his visit. To see an online video of the full interview, go to https://uctvonline.viebit.com and select English Department programs. RP: Michael, you started your reading at our Poetry Café with your poem, “They All Asked about you.” What is the origin of that poem? MH: It has a funny origin in a way. I heard on the radio a song that said, “I went down to the Audubon Zoo and they all asked for you.” It was a goofy song, but it wouldn’t get out of my head. So somehow that odd origin led to this other thing that became that poem, and where the rest of it came from, I have no idea. It just entered my head.
RP: So it was the rhythm of the language initially, the phrase, that jump-started it? MH: Yeah, the phrase. It was a silly song, but it wouldn’t leave my brain until it became this other thing. RP: You open a lot of your readings with that poem – why? MH: I did it once at a reading and it seemed to get a tone that I wanted, so I just kept doing it. It seems to get people’s
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attention, and it seems to settle people into a listening mode. I don’t believe in talking a lot when I read, I just like to read. So I like to start by reading a poem. RP: Of course, you don’t exactly read the poem, you recite it. One of my students commented that she saw this man walk up to the microphone and start talking, and then she realized, That’s a poem! And she was fascinated by that, by the performance of it as well as the language. MH:
Well, that’s good to hear.
RP: You mentioned that your poem becomes this “other thing.” What “thing” did it become in your mind? MH: Well, I don’t know what thing this has become. It’s become something for me but I don’t know if I can express what exactly. At one stage I thought it was a love poem, but I read it to a friend who is a Trappist monk, and he thought it was a prayer. I think it’s a cross between those two things and a reaching out to whoever is listening at that time. They all asked about you. It seems to bring people together. That’s a goal I have in poetry, and that’s what I think all good poetry, all good writing does. It brings people out of their separate places into some kind of common spiritual experi-
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ence. That’s something I’m looking for. RP: Let’s talk about Crow Call, a book that was inspired by Buddy Gray who died, almost 20 years ago now. How did your friendship with Buddy evolve? MH: Well, I was living in Over-theRhine and doing some community organizing, and he was an activist there and we met at a meeting. Where we really began to work closely together was on a community newspaper called Voices. We did that together for several years. Later I moved out of Over-the-Rhine, and I didn’t see him that much, but when I did, it really meant something. He was there in some key moments. When I went through some really hard times, he was there. I just happened to find out that he’d been shot, and was able to go see him at the hospital. He’d already passed and it hit me in a really deep way. RP: You said that his death left you speechless for a time and that writing the poems in Crow Call helped you get your voice back. Can you say something about the process of that? Did certain poems come quickly, and others later? Does the organization of the book reflect the order in which they were written in any way? MH: No, the poems are not in any chronological sequence. I sorted them
out according to themes. I could talk normal talk, but to talk about Buddy and what he meant, and the death, I literally could not speak. I found myself writing these poems, though, and I hadn’t written very many poems. I wrote mostly fiction. But writing the poems was kind of freeing. I could say what I wanted to say in a very open way. At some point I realized I was writing a book, and I realized I had to write certain things that helped structure it as a book, not just a collection. RP: I noticed the poems in Section V are a little more hopeful than other poems in the book. Did you plan that from the beginning or did it evolve naturally from the writing? MH: I don’t know anymore how that worked. It’s funny that you ask that because somebody just recently asked me, Do you ever write any cheerful poems? And I had to say, No, I don’t think so. But just finding that little thread of hope is what I look for. I tend to write about fairly grim things, I guess, but I don’t want to leave it there because that’s not what I believe. But I don’t want to deny what’s really going on, either. So I tend to push that edge just a little bit until we get some hope. RP:
novelist, you’re also a musician and song writer. What is song writing like for you? Is it different from writing poetry? MH: It’s different because it rhymes. I don’t usually rhyme in my verse. So I have to go through a different process to structure the word part of it. For the music part, I start out with chords, lay out a pattern of chords. If it’s a weird song I’ll start with minor chords. If it’s a bluegrass song I’ll go with the I-IV-V. RP: Do you start with lyrics or a melody first? Or does it depend on the subject? MH: It depends. Sometimes they come together, sometimes they don’t. I had lyrics for a long time and finally decided to find the music for them, so I hummed them going back and forth to work until I got the sound that resonated correctly. RP: Long commutes are good for songwriting because there’s not much else to do while you’re sitting in a traffic jam on I-71. MH: Yeah, and cell phone technology makes it easy to record them. I’ve had many a tune that went in my brain and out of it because I didn’t record it.
In addition to being a poet and
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Thank-you, Stranger I was sitting inside the gazebo at Eden Park doing my homework. I was so caught up in my equation that I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t notice a man come and take a seat next to me. Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s that you doing? Arithmetic? the man asked. Uh-huh, I answered. You make sure you finish, he said. Look here. I looked at him. You make sure you finish, he said again. His clothes were tattered, he smelled like alcohol and he looked tired but not in a sleepy way. His life had been hard. I sure wish I had finished high school. He pulled a small flask from his jacket took a swig and disappeared.
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My Prayers for a Stranger I drive, he walks. I eat three times a day, he only eats one. I read my statistics book, he reads his newspaper. I lay on the couch, he lays on the pavement. I eat at lavish restaurants, he eats whatever he can find. Every morning he waves to me, I make sure I always wave back. I feel for him, every day on my way to school. I have so many things that he doesn’t. I pray for him every day and I’m sure he prays for me. I pray his circumstances change, and he prays someone will give him change. At least that’s what his sign says.
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The “Other” Kid A classroom full of blue eyes. Blue eyes were pretty on TV, but not these. These eyes pierce through me. What did I do? Go home, they say, back to where you came from. I am not an alien. They see the color of my skin, the color of my hair, the way that I speak. Like a bottle of water and oil. I, the oil. They, the water. We do not mix. At all.
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Asking for It She was asking for it is what they always say with alcohol-tinged breath and the sexist comments they find humorous they think because of the length of her skirt or the size of her breasts that her ambition in life is to please them they don’t think that they should ask before they slip a hand up her skirt or before they yelp hey sexy on the street while she is walking to work she knows they are spineless and mindless but she cannot say what she thinks they don’t really care about that anyway, and she knows it she cringes at the idea of explaining to her friends why she has to carry a knife because she is afraid she will be attacked in the cool moonlight of summer they don’t realize their misogynistic words withhold her from following her dreams and her fear keeps her from setting down her drink at the bar she knows that even if she proves that he raped her the police won’t care and his friends will laugh at her and her friends will pity her and she will be filled with hate and reminded of all the men that laugh at rape jokes while she closes her eyes, trying to forget she is reminded every day that they think feminism is a dirty word when she wants to scream it at the top of every mountain until their ears bleed she remembers that she will never have the same salary as her male coworker so she answers his questions and ignores his harassment and pretends she is okay with it they think she is asking for it when really she is asking for respect and for equal pay and for the ability to choose what she wants to do with her body and to be taken seriously and to be looked at as more than a release of sexual desire and for them to realize that she is a person and that she is intelligent and she is beautiful and she is powerful and she is everything and she is every woman and she is NOT asking for it.
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Once my mother told me that I shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t show my body. I was young, maybe 13, but I still remember her words, and now my body is something that empowers me. We are taught that we cannot show our skin for our skin tells the secrets about who is underneath it. Showing your body means you think less of yourself like giving it up on the first date, they say, but my body tells the story of me: the scars, the marks, the warmth and cold of me. But I am not my body, I am not the muscle or the freckles. My body is the story but I am the storyteller.
Hands Gripping your wrists like ropes Around your throat like a Christmas scarf In your hair like new shampoo Veins exposed like mountains of skin Grasping like old memories that wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let go Touching like a cashmere blanket Remembering like your own
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bed i watch you turn in and i wonder what you think when you see regular old me i feel your tears cover my duvet and i wonder why are you crying when you are so beautiful i watch you eat takeout Chinese and stain my pink pillows and wonder if you have laughed today i creak under the weight of strange men and i hear your sadness with every sigh i feel you toss and turn when your pills don’t work i wish i could help you drift off to a place where we are together a place where you are happy and i am real i cannot help but notice your absence, thinking, today must be a good day i hear your pulse beat like a drum through tangled sheets and i think of all the things you’ve seen and have yet to see but i have only seen you and your pain and the life that doesn’t seem big enough for your wild heart i hope you’re daydreaming of me late in the day when the world is too much and you need me feel my comfort and forget we are not the same
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ucba poetry contest college students
Image: H. Michael Sanders. Josephine (detail), PageRhonda 24 | Pettit BlueandAsh Review electrostatic print from collage with digital text, 17â&#x20AC;? x 33â&#x20AC;? (2015)
Bridget Berg 1st Place College Contest
I Take My Daily Motivation without Creamer and Some Milky Way You sitting at the square kitchen table. Coffee black, burnt toast, the daily news. I peek from the corner to catch a glimpse. You sat among the morning sun light, with stained glass figures above your halo. I wish I would have confessed more physically that you were my sole reason I got out of bed. Instead, I am forced by unwelcome means to tell the stars, because now that is where you take your seat. So, I hope with all thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s left of me that the stars declare what I could not.
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Moriah Krawec 2nd Place College Contest
Black and Ruby She’s only fifteen; Dad’s gone, school’s out, and she clings to the Gateway bus’s pole like a cat sinking her caws into the couch. To onlookers, she must have seemed dead inside as she recalled last time she saw Mom, around daybreak. They boarded the PATCO line together; Mom still frazzled and fried flipping burgers at 3:37 a.m. and daughter nervously clutching a blue drawstring bag stuffed with only a few notebooks and last night’s half-finished algebra homework. Will dinner be served tonight? What is there to life if she will be just like Mom in 15 years, if she can’t get up to a C in math? One stop before she got off, A disheveled man came up to Ruby. Hey girl, I’ve got your back, he said, with all the bravado of a country radio star. Give me $30, and I will solve all your problems with a little help from my friend Black. The proof was in the sandwich bag in his hand: All but empty, with only a few grams of coal-colored powder in one corner. What did Ruby have to lose? She swapped her only $30 with him and she got Black.
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As Ruby departed, she shouted, With one huff of Black in Camden’s back streets, all your troubles will be obsolete! Once Ruby was walking home, she breathed Black in. She was struck by a heat wave. That warmth and fulfillment became a cold compulsion. Those lines of Black in her nostril became bruised pinpricks above her elbow. And through those track marks, her soul slowly evaporated. She’s only fifteen; Dad’s behind bars for selling heroin, Ruby hasn’t gone to class in three weeks, and when she is between fixes, she thinks she’s better off dead.
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Amy Manning 3rd Place College Contest
Get Out of There Now I sea baths like borrowed stillness the banging on the door muted to dull and enveloping implosions, water cascading like fire roaring. First burn on immersion becomes sweetly breathtaking as I sink further, further. Shouts garbled above water like foreign tongues to my aqueous ears. Here I am ancient and collective. My hair descends and flares silently softly around my scalp as a diadem does. Eyes closed I feel space expand and all threats muted act small inside my magnitude.
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Honorable Mention College Contest
Draws Me In There is a type of peace that fills the room when you gaze into a flame. The wall of warmth that pulls you close at the same time makes you want to fall away. A hypnotic trance your place upon staring at the flame, unconsciously leaning forward, unaware how very close. Eyes locked ahead, never look away. Red, yellow, orange and blue creep over the sight of the room. Clears the mind of everything close. The thick, grey perfume of a moonlight evening is never pushed away. Lungs chalked with ashes. For fresh air there is no room. But whipping back and forth, up and down, is still the flame. Come back into reality now. You have gone too far away, although it may seem you never left this tiny little room. Back into this place where in the wall there is a flame. And nothing ever feels close.
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Rubies and Diamonds Cassidy was my wife, the one person I get to spend the rest of my life with. If I had known what would have happened to her, I wouldn’t have wanted to start a family. But, it was something that we both wanted, even though Cassie knew what she would have to go through. The ring on the fourth finger of her left hand dug into the skin on my hand as she squeezed, trying to distract herself from the pain she was going through. Rubies and diamonds sparkled from the lights in the room. Her cries hurt my ears, but I understood why she cried. Her long blonde curly hair was now masked brown and plastered to her forehead and neck. She cried for more drugs, but she knew that it was too late for the epidural that she chose not to have. Two long agonizing hours later, there was a screaming baby attached to her chest. A baby that was my new daughter. My wife laid there, tears streaming down her face as she kissed our newest family addition. This baby was my life. Tiny Tabitha Rose entered the world at 1:32 in the morning. Cassie sighed, trying to get a good glimpse of her as the nurses wiped her off with a towel. “She’s actually here.” “I can’t believe it.” I told her, rubbing her shoulder and kissing her sweaty cheek. “You did great, Cass.” The nurse took Tabitha away from Cassie, who kept her brown eyes on our baby. My wife looked at me, resting
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her hand on my cheek, her fingers rubbing my scruff. I hadn’t had time to shave, since we had been in the hospital for the past week. She chuckled, nodding towards the door. “Nick, you should go home. Get some sleep, ok?” “I’m not leaving you.” My gaze remained on her face as she watched our daughter, squirming and screaming from the incubator. “Or her.” Of course, Cassie knew this, but it didn’t stop her from chuckling. “She’s already got Daddy wrapped around her finger.” This made me chuckle. “Mommy, too.” “But, we knew this was going to happen.” “As soon as we found out we were expecting a girl.” I kissed her cheek, then decided that I should go refill my coffee. “I’ll be right back, Cass.” I left the room, letting the whole situation sink into my brain. Absent-mindedly walking to the cafe, I saw the barista who knew me by name. I smiled as I greeted her, ”Hey, Scarlett. Fill me up?” “Sure, Nick. Any news?” She asked, filling my cup up again for probably the fifth time since we came to the hospital three days ago. “I have the world’s most beautiful daughter.” I said proudly, holding my chin up high.
“Well, congratulations to you and your wife!” She smiled, “What’s her name?” “Tabitha Rose.” “Beautiful name for a beautiful girl.” I sipped the coffee, which was now scalding hot. After paying for the refill, I grinned at her before I went back to the “Thanks.” Four Years Later “Daddy! Daddy! Wake up!” My young daughter jumped on my back, immediately waking me up from the deep slumber I was in. With a groan, I rolled over and wrapped my arms around her, “Why, good morning, Tabitha.” A giggle. “Good morning, Daddy!” “What are you doing up so early, my little ruby?” I asked her, giving her cheek a peck. “Today’s Mommy’s birthday…” I didn’t say anything to her, just nodded. Ever since we lost Cassie to a drunk driver a few years back, I brought Tabitha to the grave every July 14th. Tabby cried every morning for a month when Cassie didn’t wake her up. We each would write letters for Cassie and privately read them to the headstone. Then, together, we would cry at Cassie’s grave.
I still wore my wedding band, because I still considered myself married; my wife was just taken away from me too early by a stronger power. Today was going to be the same as always. Red roses and white baby’s breath, the two colors on my wife’s wedding ring, and two people crying over the loss of a loved one. Looking at my daughter, who was still in her matching Hello Kitty pajama set, I set her across from me, brushing some wild curls out of her face. “You know what to wear, right?” She nodded, her blonde curls shaking from her movement. “My red dress and black shoes that make noise.” Knowing that she was going to put her Mary Jane’s on, I smiled at her. “That’s a good girl. Well, I guess we should get dressed, huh?” I asked, then tossed the blanket off my body. A rush of cold air made my leg hair stand up and chills appeared. The small girl skipped out of my room, eager to get “pretty for Mommy” as she puts it. I couldn’t help but smile. Tabitha was almost a spitting image of Cassie, all the way down to the way her blonde hair twisted and coiled around her face, which made me happy. I walked to my closet, sliding all the clothes to the opposite side, where the gray suit waited, just like every July 14th. This was the suit I wore on our wedding day, Cassie’s favorite. I pulled the white
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shirt over my head and tugged the slacks on one leg at a time. Then, standing in front of the mirror, I just stared at myself for a few minutes. Shaggy brown hair that desperately needed to be cut made me look older than I was, the wrinkles around my blue eyes didn’t help either. I stared there, only six years ago I wore this suit on one of the best days of my life. “Daddy! Aunt Lily is here!” Tabitha called for me as I brushed my teeth. Lily is Cassie’s younger sister. We try to get her to come visit her sister’s grave with us, since she was Cass’s only sibling. This year, she agreed to accompany us, which made Tabby happy. She was almost the exact opposite of my wife. Poker straight, fiery orange hair with bright green eyes and pale skin, that’s Lily. She was wearing a nice black knee length skirt, which made her legs look even skinnier than they already were and a red sleeveless shirt that matched the color of her maid of honor dress she wore at my wedding. She walked into my room as I put the jacket over my shoulder, “Hello, Nicholas.” The drive to the cemetery was silent, just like usual. Tabitha knew that this was a hard time for us all and knew how to behave accordingly. In her car seat, she held onto the flowers that she always wanted to place on the grass in
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front of the tombstone. Every once in a while, I’d look in my rear view mirror to see her nose buried deep into the roses, inhaling and exhaling with a big smile on her face. I parked the car at the entrance, then we walked the almost half mile to my wife’s grave. Tabby asked me how old this person was when they died or what was happening in my life when they passed. Lily chuckled, since some of my answers were made up just to see the eyes of my daughter light up with amusement. While we walked, there were big holes in the ground around the spot where Cassie laid and all over the section of plots where we picked to put her to rest. From my waist, Tabby looked up at me, “What’s that, Daddy?” “I’m not sure, Tabby.” I nodded my head towards the car, hoping Lily would get the message. Luckily, she understood. “Tabby, did you remember to bring your card for your mom?” The girl looked around, then frowned, “I…I think I left it in the car.” Lily chuckled, then took her hand, “Let’s go get it.” As they started walking, Tabitha turned to glance at me, “Daddy?” I just nodded, telling her that she needed to get her card. While Lily kept her occupied, I went to check out the hole. Careful not to get my shoes
muddy, I tip-toed into the grass, looking for the familiar tombstone. When I found it, my mouth fell open. The stone was there, claiming that Cassie was a beloved mother, wife and daughter, but that wasn’t the odd part. The hole that we saw, was directly in front of Cassie’s stone. Her casket wasn’t there, which meant that my wife’s decaying body was not there either. I spun around, trying to locate the groundskeeper, but couldn’t. I did see a young lady across the way, but when I called out to her, she turned and walked away. Even from where I stood, her long blonde curls spiraled down her back, even though it was in a ponytail. I ignored her presence when I heard footsteps coming towards me. Tabitha was running up to me, “Daddy! Can I read my letter to Mommy now?” I caught her in my arms before she could peer down into the hole. I jerked my chin towards it, motioning for Lily to look. “Not quite yet, little ruby. The landscapers have to do some cleaning around Mommy before we can read our letters…” My daughter looked devastated and I felt awful for having to lie to her. Lily gasped when she glanced into the hole, then came up to us. “Come on, dear. We should go before they start getting grass all over your pretty dress.”
Lily took Tabitha from me, then began walking to the car. I told them that I’d catch up. I needed to talk to someone who was in charge about the apparent grave robbing that included my wife. However, when I went to the desk, I found it empty. Today was Saturday, so that could explain why there was an absence. Dragging my feet, I went back to the car, feeling the sweat drip from the back of my neck from the hot July sun. My Tahoe was a good ten feet from where I stood and I could already feel the two pairs of eyes on me as I greeted it. As I opened the door, a big rush of cold air from the A.C. hit me in the face, instantaneously drying the sweat on my forehead. Explaining the situation to my sister-in-law, I knew that Tabitha would be confused. “Daddy?” I smiled, something that just happened every time she said that word. “Yes, little ruby?” “What happened to Mommy?” Once we got back home, Lily told me that she’d help Tabby take a bath. I just nodded, then went to my office, claiming that I had to finish up some work that I forgot about yesterday. She knew it wasn’t true, but didn’t say anything as she escorted her niece into the bathroom. Before I knew it, I was sleeping. A tugging at my sleeve woke me up,
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then a little voice, “Daddy! Come quick!” Hearing my daughter’s voice, I shot up in my desk chair, swiveling around to see her. “What’s the matter, Tabitha?” “It’s Mommy. She’s in my room.” Knowing that this was impossible, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, then let her lead me to her room. Lily was perched on the bed, her shoulders shrugged, claiming that she didn’t see it. I saw nothing out of the ordinary, so I peered down at her, “What, Tabby? There’s nothing here…” “You don’t see her?” Tabby seemed disappointed, then turned to look towards the wall, with hands on her hips. “I told you he wouldn’t see you either.” I pulled my daughter closer to me, her shoulder blades against my thighs. “Tabitha, there’s nothing there.” Then, I brought my attention to Lily, “Do you see anything?” “Not a thing.” Her eyes were wide, bouncing between me and Tabby. Clearly, she was freaked out by what was happening. “No, Daddy! Mommy is standing right there!” She pointed, her voice rising with anger. She tore away from me, then her attention went to something that I couldn’t see. Her fingers were a good inch apart, like she was holding
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hands with the air. It was weird and I didn’t like it. Tabby glanced up, “Don’t you see her, Daddy? She’s holding my hand.” I shook my head, “No, I don’t, sweet pea.” “Tabby, I’ve told you that nothing is here. It’s your imagination,” Lily explained to my daughter. Tabby’s blonde eyebrows furrowed together at her aunt’s comment, then she looked up, “But, Mommy sees you.” There was a rush of cold air by me, then a whisper. “Nick.” I jumped. “What was that?” Tabby didn’t look surprised, she just smiled, hoping that I saw what she saw. “It was Mommy.” “No, Tabitha. It wasn’t.” Lily was raising her voice, but I glared at her, which made her stop. “That’s impossible…” I looked down at my daughter again, but this time, I saw her. Cassie was standing there, wearing the same black leggings and old torn up red sweatshirt that she usually wore on Saturday. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail, but I still could make out the curls. She looked real. She looked alive. She smiled at me, waving her hand. “You’ve done a good job with her. She’s beautiful.” “What are you doing here?” I
asked her, not sure if she could actually hear me. I was sure that this was a hallucination. There was no way in hell I was actually looking at my wife’s ghost. Her voice was soft, even the slightest breeze would mask it. “I know why they moved me.” I looked at Lily, who spoke up. “Nick, there’s nothing there. You’re just making this worse for Tabitha.” Turning my attention to my sister-in-law, I nodded. “Lily, take Tabby with you. She can’t be here.” The little girl cried out, “No, Daddy! I wanna stay here with you and Mommy!” “Come on, Tabby. I’ll buy you some ice cream.” Lily reached to take the hand of her niece, but Tabitha didn’t want to go. She ran to me, wrapping her arms around my legs. “Daddy, don’t make me go.” I sighed, then dropped to my knees, so I could peer into the crystal blue eyes of my daughter. “Just go get ice cream with Aunt Lily.” Once they were gone, I tried to focus on my wife, but her figure was so transparent that it was extremely hard to find her. “Cass?” “Follow me, Nick.” “It’d be easier if I could see you.” Right when I spoke, a picture frame on my dresser floated up into the air. I gulped, knowing that it was her, but it
still freaked me out a bit. Then, I realized that this was her way of leading me. I heard her chuckle in front of me. “Tabitha really got beautiful, Nick.” I sighed, “I wish I had you to help me.” “You don’t need me.” In front of me, I could just barely make out her ponytail, swishing across her back as she drifted. “Cassie, where are you taking me?” I wasn’t real sure where she was headed, but with the sun going down soon, it was getting colder. “Is that the suit you wore when we got married?” Her voice was still just a whisper, like her lips were by my ear. It gave me chills. With a nod, I felt the tears well up in my eyes. Then, I remembered something. “Cass, do you hear the letters we write to you?” “Yes. It is the one thing I look forward to every year.” “Can I read you this year’s letter?” Up ahead, I saw her figure stop, her image becoming clearer now that she wasn’t moving. She turned to me, then spoke again. “Of course.” I took a deep breath, then pulled the envelope out of the pocket in my jacket. Breaking the seal, I revealed the letter that I poured my heart into, as I did every year. “Cassidy, today is your
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birthday. The worst day of the year for me and Tabitha. Usually, I tell you what you’ve missed from the past year, but that doesn’t matter. You know that Tabitha is beautiful and smart, just like you. Seeing her play piano like you used to makes me cry every time her small fingers press down on the keys. I see you in every curl on Tabby’s head, every red piece of clothing that reminds me of the ring I put on your finger when you agreed to spend the rest of your life with me. You were my life, Cass. But, when you left me forever, you gave me a little piece of yourself to hold onto and to remember you by. I treasure Tabitha. She’s the best thing to ever happen to me, but you knew that… She wonders all the time what our lives would be like if you were still with us. And, frankly, those are the hardest questions I’ll ever have to answer…” I paused, thinking of an old memory. “You were so surprising, catching me off guard was one of your favorite things to do. Even as a ghost, you scared the bejesus out of me…” Then, I went back to the letter, “I’ll never know what our lives would be like, but I know that the addition of you would bring great joy to them…” I trailed off, closing the paper to show her that I was done. “Tabby wrote her own letter, but she’ll probably read it to you later.” “I miss you, Nick.” Her words made the tears fall on my face, creating
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little streams on my cheeks. They fell into my mouth, the saltiness was bitter. “Let’s keep walking.” I sighed, then agreed with her. Wiping my face helped me see where she was going. She was headed towards the cemetery. “Cass?” “Trust me; it’ll make sense.” Instead of taking me into the cemetery, she led me to the groundskeeper’s house, which was located right next door. Cassie’s grave was in the closest section to the house. Around it, there were canals dug into the ground, completely surrounding the house. They were also filled with water. I was confused, wondering if what I was looking at was important in some way. Not being able to locate Cassie in the dark, I spun around. “Honey?” “Over here.” Her voice came from the cemetery, then I saw her sitting on her headstone, one leg politely draped on top of the other. “Now do you see? They have to move me, Nick.” “That’s it?” She nodded, shoving both transparent hands into her transparent sweatshirt. Her eyes glanced to the ground. “I have to go, Nick. Give Tabby my love. I love you.” In the blink of an eye, she was gone. I spun around, not wanting to believe that I lost her again. “No! Cassie!” I fell to my knees, feeling the dew from
the grass seep through my pants where contact was made. Quietly, I sobbed, but there were no tears escaping from my eyes. “I love you, Cassie.” ********* “Nick. Wake up.” Lips were by my ear, a soft whisper. I groaned, keeping my eyes shut, and rolled over, closer to it. “What?” “The baby. It’s your turn to change her.” My eyes shot open. What baby? “Huh?” When I looked back at the person who was lying in bed with me, I had to do a double take. “Cassie?” “What?” “You’re alive?” “What the hell kind of question is that? Of course, I’m alive, you doofus.” There was just a ghost of a smirk on her face as she tugged her baggy shirt down since it probably rode up while she slept. “But, seriously, go change her. I’m exhausted from last night.” I couldn’t move. What was happening? I turned to her, “But, you’re dead. I saw your grave.” “Honey, you were dreaming. You always sweat when you have a bad dream.” She nodded to my forehead, then I wiped the back of my hand across it.
When I put it back down, it was damp. Cassie was right. It was all just a dream. Tabitha was an infant in between us in our large warm bed. Cassie was laying on her right side, facing me and Tabitha. Her left hand was on the pillow next to her face, the rubies and diamonds on her wedding ring sparkled from the morning sunshine. I couldn’t help but smile. My wife was still with me; she was going to help me raise our daughter. She hadn’t left me. At least, not yet.
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ucba poetry contest
high school students
Image + Overlaps, Ferdinand and David Hartz. Frictionless Object: Ball Distribution, photo of screenshot (2015) Page(top): 38 Gaps | Blue Ash Ted Review Image (background): Gaps + Overlaps David Hartz. Frictionless Object, photograph of drawing, 24” x 36” (1999)
Kyle Trimpe, Ludlow High School 1st Place High School Poetry Contest
Where I’m From I am from crocheted yarn blankets from Disney Channel and Yu-Gi-Oh cards I am from delicious cheesy lasagna and salami rolls on Thanksgiving I am from park slides and dirty pants from sizzling monkey bars and blistering hands I am from playful weekend trips to Nana’s house (in place of an absent father) I’m from unforgiveable acts and unspeakable pain that still plagues my dreams I’m from fist fights and shout battles from holes in the walls and the lone tree in the front yard I’m from locked doors and you’re grounded from an unfinished basement and roller blades I’m from hurricanes of hatred and mistakes made from sweaty drunk lust (complete strangers who met at a party) I’m from an artificial Christmas tree from placid porcelain dolls’ smiles I’m from a broken world with broken nations with broken homes with people with broken hearts
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Sara Rani Reddy, Ursuline Academy 2nd Place High School Poetry Contest
Your Prison A cold, impersonal ringing reverberates in your ears and a voice yells at you to get up. You trudge out of your bunk, still groggy from sleep and wait in line for the bathroom When it’s your turn, you walk into the bathroom, turn on the fluorescent light, and lock the door, leaning on it for support. You slink over to the sink, and look at the face in the mirror: a sad, pale youth with dark bags under her eyes, which ask their reflection, Why me? What did I do wrong? Someone bangs on the door for you to hurry up, so you splash cold water on your face, put on your uniform, and shuffle out of the bathroom. You grab your chains, put them on and feel them weighing your back down. Struggling to keep your balance with the heavy burden, you board the bus to take you to your first day at the main penitentiary. You look among your fellow prisoners, trying to decide which one looks the least bloodthirsty to sit next to, but find no one and sit alone. All through the ride, other passengers size you up to see if you’re good enough to talk to. Finally, you arrive. As you step down from the bus, you find that you’re being weighed down too much, so you adjust your chains so that your book-bag doesn’t sag so much. You readjust your uniform and make sure that all the buttons on your kilt are buttoned. The bus-driver shouts to everyone, Have a great first day of high school, ladies! and you walk to your prison.
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Kyle Trimpe, Ludlow High School 3rd Place High School Poetry Contest
Inner Demons I didn’t cut myself, I promise. It was the demons, they barraged me out of nowhere I thought I was rid of them I was wrong They never leave They always blitz after my heart, trying to devour its shattered pieces They extended their claws down my throat Wrenching the food from my stomach Then stuffed me, instead, with paralytic pills Incapable of resisting my mouth was fastened shut With stitch and eerie needle They put me on exhibition while tormenting me Carving horrid names into my flesh I couldn’t do anything but watch My hurricane-forced silent scream never passing my lips They deemed me irrelevant and moved on with their demented lives I gradually regained control over my body, able to move I then ambled through their museum of agony to freedom One of them lingered on the threshold, hindering my escape I must fight, I told myself It lunged at me and shoved me to the ground Then on top of me, it tried to slash my throat To release the words I could never say I put up my arms to shield myself from its blows Inevitably, it sliced these wounds you see into my arms Please believe me I’m not the one with the claws It was the demons
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Peering Through the Panes Looking out the window Reminds me why I have these glasses. Outside, the treeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s branches sway In a blurred breeze,
Like wide, brown brush strokes Upon a skin of canvas These are the things I witness With my near-sighted eyes,
Animated critters are chasing One another playfully, Swinging from one bushel of leaves To the next with ease,
But my frames allow me to peer Through these smeared masterpieces Of Picassoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s optical labyrinth. Although this enhanced vision
But not everything is so clear. Beyond the fence that stands Its ground, twenty-five yards from My windowsill,
Clarifies what I witness, I still challenge myself every day To visualize what I can without the panes. Unfortunately, Life still drifts about Like lethargic clouds And racing hares.
The beautiful, various hues The world has to offer Begin morphing into Eight-bit jigsaw puzzles. Colorful birds, insects, and flowers All meld into Colorful blobs, blurs, and smudges. The trees themselves come together
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Death’s Debts No one’s there. A mother and father sleep in their bed Like nothing’s watching them. Clattering and shaking themselves awake, Protruding nightmares and fears hide Within their minds and sheets. The darkness is still dark A night light still offers radiant salvation Not a single gasp is uttered, And the only heartbeats to be heard Are their very own. The little footsteps sound like thunderous applause Running throughout their ears and veins, Leaving every door in their house wide awake. The stairs haven’t remained vacant for several years– Children’s laughs and movements can be heard Echoing up and down the creaking wood. One child was lost from a swerve into The oncoming traffic lane. His brother had run away from home Into the arms of an encroaching forest Unaware of the wolves waiting beyond Every tree’s deceiving visage. In reality there are no disturbances, Yet these parents sit in bed Waiting for some relief to the troubling fact That they are no longer asleep in their own world.
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Lennon Vision Inspired by my experience in the 2015 Summer British Study Abroad Program offered at UCBA Help? This submarine is sinking My walls are bleeding yellow, Floors flooding with painted dreams Stained footprints covering those happy faces The screaming hands and voices Leaving me unable to hear Deafening the world as if a physical appearance Mattered more than my music ever did. Records flying through blurred fields Constantly changing facial expressions with Each rack of songs being added on Revolving circles with no endings, Six-cylinder loaders spinning feverishly Being ready to blow my mind away Just one hammer swings back and forth, Must get my daily hits in before Another sun wearily wakes up.
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Double-headed walruses gnawing On abandoned strawberries while Cracks spread throughout My egg-shaped head– I once thought this was what I wanted But no one will let it be– As it is now, I can’t feel the red-brick wall’s height any longer, Lucy warned me to take an umbrella She mentioned how pale I looked, though it Didn’t penetrate my yoke Which now streams over a stoned brook. Hung-over hedges are covered in my shame The once smiling, slightly burnt wood with A Norwegian after-taste is proof enough– Cynthia didn’t understand why You know, but oh no I’ll have to remember my Shears next time Otherwise they’ll realize This is just a grave, An open cell from the outside but with Enclosed bars that keep me from escaping– How much longer am I to imagine this reality?
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ucba song writing contest Special thanks to
Willis Music and the
SoundWorkshop Recording Studio
– co-sponsors of our annual Song Writing Contest.
Image: Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders. Two Scat Poems (detail), PageGaps 46 +| Overlaps Blue Ash Review electrostatic print from collage with digital text, 17” x 33” (2015)
Antonio “SP!R!T” Spiritoso Winner, Song Writing Contest
Fly Away Intro: I would spread my wings and then I’d fly away to the sky in the night where stars are bright and they blind my eyes with the light of your face evermore and you know my heart begins to soar Chorus 1: Shine so bright like the stars today spread my wings and then I’d fly away Just to be where you are I would fly away, fly away, fly away with you Bridge 1: Fly Away, fly away, fly away just to be where you are I would fly away, fly away, fly away fly away with you Verse 1: Now I’m flying up into the sky I’m soaring to the limits that I never could have tried and I always would have thought that I’d be living in the darkness the picture’s so clear like a camera is the artist Yeah, but I guess there is a reason you know you always gave me something real to believe in everybody said my dreams were never coming through I guess they all just never met a person like you I guess they all just never had a dreamer like you I guess they all just never had a smile like you got the cries like you, and the eyes like you I’m relevant, and sellin’ it, I do it for the hell-of-it I guess it came, I knew that they’d be tellin’ it every single day of this lie isn’t true so every single day of my life is for you for you
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Chorus 2: Shine so bright like the stars today spread my wings and then I’d fly away Just to be where you are I would fly away, fly away, fly away with you Verse 2: Got my mind soarin’ way above cloud nine I’m a-flyin’ to the sky and leaving everything behind Imprisoned by the world, but I’m breaking from the bars come and see the world girl, come and see the stars open up your eyes and see what everybody dies for look into a mirror and then you’ll see what I fly for got my heart beating to the rhythm of the bass got my body soaring from the tempo of your grace melodies and harmonies are flying through my head like the way you always did, but the feeling isn’t dead (far from dead) bring me to your world, never drop me on the ground make my heart race every time I hear the sound all I see is clouds when I start to look around never felt alive like the way I do now Chorus 3: Shine so bright like the stars today spread my wings and then I’d fly away Just to be where you are I would fly away, fly away, fly away with you Bridge 2: (Guitar solo) Chorus 4: Shine so bright like the stars today spread my wings and then I’d fly away Just to be where you are I would fly away, fly away, fly away with you Page 48 | Blue Ash Review
Like Wine I’m fine like wine. Red, white Yet one of a kind. Blue stripes of strikes, Pressed down my spine. If you want good quality, Sir, stand in line. Don’t keep me upright, I swear I don’t mind. I’ll stay in the dark, And shine in mine. Because just like wine, I’ll get better with time.
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Surviving the Wilderness Where will I live in the Wilderness room, this 10 x 12 spare bedroom crypt of memories? Aunt Betty occupies the bookshelf, kept company by Tom Swift and Jesus Christ. My father’s younger self occupies the wall adjacent – his log cabin, his Harley Davidson, his Labrador retriever, his solitude. The wall across from my father is occupied by my grandfather who is smirking into the distance. My memory once embodied a lantern, but I fear it burned out and now there is no room for me in my father’s 10 x 12 crypt of memories. Where will I live? Now the only remnants of me are stowed away in the closet with others long forgotten – my baby shoes my first medal. Aunt Betty, the ghost of my father’s past, and my Grandfather have all discovered the trick. You have to die to survive in the Wilderness.
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Family Album Blues A family album holds all the answers to where you got your looks. Houses Polaroid prints to warn you, Never get married in Vegas. Preserves the old war stories that no one dares to speak of. A family album is a map. Trek through centuries starting from black and white to sepias to yellows to color to find yourself. A family album is a heavy weight to keep you caged by mud and blood of ancient family disputes. Thank God I will never be trapped on a page next to ancestors and predispositions traditions religions. I am unbound, an unpredictable orphan.
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ancestor poems Students in the Survey of African American Literature I class researched their ancestors and selected three to use in connection with their essays about texts from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Students used the factual and anecdotal information they discovered about their ancestors to speculate what those ancestors might have thought about the ideas and issues in the texts. They also wrote poems about their ancestors. A few are included here.
Image: Gaps + Overlaps ,Jamie Albert, Robert Murdock and Kevin Oberlin. Interference, photographs with digitally manipulated text overlay (2015)
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You Must Have Been – for my great-grandmother Ethel McQuire – You must have been a strong black woman For you woke up at the crack of dawn everyday Taking care of yourself and minding your own business Making sure nothing and no one will stand in your way You must have been a colorful black woman For you married a man named Pink Russell I know your life has been far from bliss For I know all you had to do was hustle You must have been a private woman For we don’t even know when and where you were born Even your husband’s death date is unknown The day that would most likely be mourned Despite all this, you must have loved yourself For you kept your maiden name of McQuire You must have been worried about what legacy you left But don’t worry, knowing your history is my desire
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Young and Restless â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to my great-uncle Otis Ross, born in 1910 in Ohio â&#x20AC;&#x201C; I am the other man in the house But such a title comes at a cost I am the other man in the house But am the only one employed I am the other man in the house I am this and not by blood I am the other man in the house But my toil seems in vain I am the other man in the house Progress seems a dead end I am the other man in the house A house full of partial skilled women I am the other man in the house But I feel like the only I am the other man in the house What good that I can read? I am the other man in the house What good that I can write? I am the other man in the house So young, unaware and blighted I am the other man in the house Yet I feel so lonely I am the other man in the house Hold a grudge so strong I am the other man in the house And soon I will be the only I am the man of this house â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a house filled with partial women, stagnant progress, a constant circle of doubt and fear. The more we live the more we become estranged. I am the sole man of this house and still, though they have died, life is the same. I know it does not matter, but Otis is my name.
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Walter and Bernice – from deep in the Jim Crow south – They comin’ baby. Who Daddy? The white men. What white men? Don ask so many questions chile! But da— What I jus say? . . . now honey don cry Jus . . . jus listen to daddy. Okay. Good. White men comin for me. Daddy gonna go hide in the woods. Now baby when they come don tell ’em where I gone Yes Daddy. But da— Now baby I ain’t got much time. Can you do it? You don wan your daddy to die? No Daddy! No! Good girl I love you—shit— Baby they here. Tell ’em I’m gone, tell ’em I ain comin’ back baby. Yes Daddy—bye Daddy— God please watch ova my daddy—
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The Invasion and Mesgun’s Persuasion of Eritrea Mesgun Hagos, my paternal great-grandfather and a member of the Eritrean Armed Forces from 1912-1926, reflects on his life We’ve lived this way for 500 years. It seemed as though the Italians came overnight. And soon enough we faced our fears In the midst of fight or flight. Many left home as sons And then soon turned into men, Many saw the ends of guns And were never seen again. It’s clear now we have one choice, To seek a compromise. This is our chance to keep our voice, And hopefully our cultural ties.
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Wordless There is nothing more sullen than a Silenced expression; A feeling that canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be felt; An undocumented moment. Without a written word, Time whispers through our fingers Dissolves into the wind, Bending flowers at their stems As we pursue, and fail, to catch it. what is tangibility without remembrance? When words fail, They rip at the soul, As poltergeists, Digging spindly fingers into What is already harvested.
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To My Family If I showed you a photograph of myself, Would you recognize me? Would you see some aspect of yourself In the medium, honey-blonde hair That I wear in a ponytail, Or in the blue of my irises, Cerulean, Nearing a cold shade of violet? I see your life in black and white; Would I be able recognize you? Is there something invisible that Ties us together, Or were we intertwined haphazardly, A cosmic collision that we feel binds us, Whether by want or by necessity? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not sure what I would say to you If we were to meet; A photograph, perhaps, Does all the talking for us.
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Poem at Four Before the car pulled away, I was convinced I would be in it — That I would reclaim the seat I had piled with Zebra-striped folders and a Neon-green book bag. I held on to my mother’s arm and Wondered where the time had gone. She cooed my name, And we walked to the door hand-in-hand. Dozens of other children Crookedly linked arms with their mothers and fathers, Some smiling, Some tear-streaked and wide-eyed. I let my mother go unwillingly. She was gone. I faced a new world I had no wish to be a part of — One that had an open door but that Contained too many questions.
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scary story contest An annual tradition, the UC Blue Ash College Scary Story Contest garners frightful submissions from students.
Images (clockwise from top left): Gaps + Overlaps, David Freeman and David Hartz. Approximation 5, mixed media (2015) Gaps + Overlaps, David Freeman and David Hartz. Approximation 3, mixed media (2015) Page 60 | Blue Ash Review Gaps + Overlaps, David Freeman and David Hartz. Approximation 6, mixed media (2015) Gaps + Overlaps, David Freeman and David Hartz. Approximation 1, mixed media (2015)
Winner, 2015 UCBA Scary Story Contest
Not You I wake up aching all over. I keep still, thoughts buzzing through my mind while I try to assess the situation further before moving my body. The mere act of keeping still made my bones sore and my muscles tighten. I exhaled deeply, trying to ease the immediate worry that flooded my conscious. Mistake. Big, big mistake. My back spasms, my lungs feel ready to deflate at any moment, and my brain assaults my ego holding nothing back. “You dumbass, why would breathing deeply NOT feel like that if keeping still takes up all of your energy?” I have come to peace with the fact that my brain is in fact not a brain at all, and is a misplaced asshole living out its God-given duties. I can feel that my bottom lip is split to the point where I will most likely need stitches. It is dry, which makes the pain feel incredibly worse. I finally open my eyes completely, trying to figure out where I am. A ceiling fan, light blue walls, and the soft sheets beneath my aching body tell me I’m in my very own bedroom. But, where is my husband? It’s daytime, so he must be at work. Was I here in the morning? Does he think I’m missing? Did he call the police? My mind cannot deduce any sort of reasoning for my current state. I realize now that I must try and get up to go see how much damage has really been done. I move a toe. Not pleasant, but not
terrible. I move my ankle, much more intense of a pain. I don’t know if I can walk on that ankle well enough or not, so I test the other. To my relief, it’s not as bad as I think and I hope I can rest my weight on it. Next, I try to bend my leg at the knee. And, as fate would have it, the good ankle is paired with the bashed up knee from hell. I try and slowly push myself up onto my elbows, and this is when the realization hits. Someone did this to me. There is no way this was an accident. The pain and the injuries don’t quite follow falling down the stairs or tripping on the sidewalk. Trying to push myself up onto my elbows proves much more difficult than I could have imagined. Both elbows are bruised to the point of being simultaneously purple and green. After an agonizing ten minutes, I am able to sit up. Although after sitting up, I wish I was lying back down. The pressure on my ribs and lungs makes it terribly difficult to find oxygen even though I’m encompassed by it. I slowly move my legs over the side of the bed, and begin to try and slide down to the floor to crawl because I simply cannot walk properly. I slide down slowly, pain engulfing me completely and making me feel as though I am burned by flames. I finally reach the floor. I lie on my stomach, once again pushing against my ribs, and hearing them move beneath
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my weight in the slightest way makes me heave and almost vomit on the floor in front of me. I use my arms to drag myself slowly, agonizingly to the doorway in my room. That’s when I notice that the television is on. A camcorder is plugged into the television. All I need to do to see what is on this camcorder is to reach it and hit the PLAY button. My stomach sinks. My eyes begin to water. My hands are shaking even more now from the suspense of who in their right mind shattered my body this way than from the pain. At this point, I toss the pain I feel to the backburner and crawl my way to the camcorder as fast as I can. I had to pull myself up a little to be able to reach the PLAY button. With a loud yell, I lift myself and hit the button. It’s dark, and oddly quiet. The screen seems almost completely black. Then, a small light. A flashlight. Shining on me as I’m asleep. My heart begins to smash into my ribs, and my lungs just may explode. I’m shaking like a leaf; a defiled, broken leaf. A hand reaches out to touch me and I cringe, anticipating the blow before it happens. It doesn’t. A hand reaches out and slowly strokes my hair. First with their palm down, and then with the back of their hand. They lean down and kiss my cheek, and at this moment I kind of wish they would have hit me instead of kissed me.
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I think I am going to vomit. I hit pause, hold my gut and wipe my tears. I have to watch the rest of this video to see who did this to me, but a large part of me doesn’t want to bring myself to do it. Again, I exhale deeply and my ribs scream at me for it while my back spasms more than it has since I have awoken. I close my eyes, hit play, and then open wide to see who is to blame for my mangled body. More blackness, more silence. Finally, my bedroom is lit up. I hear the sink running in the background. And then, a man’s voice. “Don’t want dirty hands for this. Couldn’t get you dirty. No, not you. Not you.” And then, my heart stops. I recognize that voice so easily. My field of view is disrupted and I cannot see out of my peripheral vision. Sweat pours from my skin, and my mouth is a sun kissed desert. That voice belongs to my husband. The video continues to play, and I feel too destroyed to keep watching, but I am too petrified to move a muscle. The camcorder is set on the floor at this point, all I can see is my husband’s legs and feet walk up to my sleeping body. People often say they don’t like hearing their own voice on a recording or video because it sounds bad. Hearing yourself scream, though, is another matter.
This Body Is Mine Stop telling me how to look. I’m tired of my head being filled with thoughts other than my own. I’m not a Barbie. Don’t think you get to undress me. I can do it myself. My stomach doesn’t have to be perfectly flat. Its purpose is to hold my organs in place. My legs don’t have to look incredibly sculpted. Their purpose is to take me where I want to go. I don’t need to straighten my hair every day, I don’t care who dislikes my curls. I never bothered to check what the magazines say my body type is, It’s mine and I happen to like the way it is. It’s my own business if I take care of my body and ensure my own health; If I dress up and wear a lot of makeup, It’s for myself. Stop telling me where I find my self-worth. I refuse to apologize for wearing a bikini when I’m a size ten in pants. I will wear horizontal stripes if I think they look good on me And it doesn’t matter what you think about it. And heart-shaped sunglasses even though my cheeks are round. I will whole-heartedly disagree with society’s views And can unapologetically love myself in the process. This body is my home. This body is strong. This body is mine.
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Poetic Extractions One of the outcomes of the Creative Arts Faculty Learning Community was the application of a writing prompt promoted by one of its members, H. Michael Sanders, as an exercise in two of the UCBA poetry workshops taught by Rhonda Pettit. Following a presentation by Professor Sanders, students were assigned to select and read a piece from a gathering of news articles, reviews, essays, online texts, and published letters, and circle words and phrases that caught their eye and/or ear. They then used these words and phrases to build a poetic extraction poem. This type of “found poetry” allows students to set aside common sense and logic, and instead respond to language alone in an effort to generate fresh or unusual combinations of text. Students are under no obligation to generate poems that make rational sense, or that are true to the subject or meanings of the text from which they extract words and phrases. Poetic extractions draw to some extent on a student’s spontaneous response to language, are wide open to interpretation, and reverberate at times with their own internal logic. This kind of experience with spontaneity can spill over into other projects, whether or not they are language-based. If Poetry were a keyboard, poetic extraction would be the Refresh button.
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High-Speed Impact Poetic extraction from Arden Dier, “Why the Earth Gets Stronger When a Meteor Strikes,” in www.newser.com (April 18, 2015) What happens during a high-speed impact? Answer, Experiment, Drop. Become stronger when pressed together. Propogation. Low-intensity impacts are fake. A force like lightning bolts Pushes its way through a crowded room. Rearrange, Get out of the way. Ramming into angry people. Try to run — You’ll end up under pressure. Could you survive? A high-speed impact is polarizing, Deeper and faster than predicted, A meteor strike on the Earth.
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Song of Solomon Poetic extraction from “The Song of Solomon” 1:1-17, Online Bible, New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witnesses) Kiss me Your expressions are pleasant Let us run Be joyful Praise your expressions Rightly, I am dark lovely Stare because the sun gazed upon me I wrapped in veil liken you my dear one to spending the night among the vineyards Your eyes are beautiful Delightful.
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You Feel What? Poetic extraction from Bruce Holland Rogers, “Alternatives” in The Sun, July 2014. So, off the couch! She thinks you feel blue. Conversation takes effort. Excuse yourself. Sure, this fatigue doesn’t return love, but you sink into words you know you wouldn’t live. Sink deeper, reach oblivion because what you need is improvement, difference, strength. And pull it together! Once your path is different, Eventually you recognize the unreal.
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My Dear, A double poetic extraction from Vincent Van Gogh, Letters from Provence (1888-90), Martin Bailey, ed. I have finished painting a memory. The colors: green, orange, red, violet, black Suppose you even deliberate the color to me. The figure stands out, which is an impression of those in a poem. The same way in music; bizarre lines selected may fail, but present it to minds as a dream in reality.
The luxuriant background is holding today. I remember living happy from pure imagination.
Do not fail to return. Embrace you.
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We Feel We Are Small Poetic extraction from Vincent Van Gogh, â&#x20AC;&#x153;To Theo, ca. 20 May 1888â&#x20AC;? in Van Gogh, Letters from Provence (1888-90), Martin Bailey, ed. I am down here. Here nature grows melancholy. And loneliness . . . The unsatisfied bear. I have two still squares, Pale blue and white, Pattern covered . . . With wild fullness of life And remains that lack desire. Soul hitched with the sun. And for free . . . By death you drag along. Believe in the future. Cheat death in a dream. With skies all coming . . . Coming so close to life We feel we are small.
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Down Here Poetic extraction from Vincent Van Gogh, “To Theo, ca. 20 May 1888” in Van Gogh, Letters from Provence (1888-90), Martin Bailey, ed. Down here, I should grow attraction Impressionists were unsatisfied Blue enamel milk squares of pale white on an earthen tray Three lemons covered with blue cloth Six different yellows will always come back You’ll be hitched with the sun and the act of procreation Drag along our faith, good old Coror Skies and yellow landscapes which means one feels truth For us who are not inclined so close to death A hard link in the chain which we enjoy more than the spring.
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Help, Not Wanted Poetic extraction from “Weight of His Words,” an article about rapper Kendrick Lamar by Joe Coscarelli, New York Times, March 22, 2015. A life of sin by embracing a butterfly. People actually had previously been saved for fame and riches To pimp listeners’ escape, From opportunities for sin and self-doubt. A wider outwardly political violence, To bring a kid out of survivor’s guilt. The dangers of my vibe begins By God’s word to purify hope or at least an alternative. But in the streets of emotional insularity, It comes from my perspective. As a guardian angel, he smokes a decade long. But the flying lotus sections, misusing thy influence, thy powers. Who has taught artists to voice your disciple? I know pouring my soul on you might not free a friend Because the flesh is plain like solemn lights when knowingly soft-spoken. So your mentality state is hash. Conscience padded by hurt and betrayal Sealing the other side of the door Isolating all irrelevant noise Nothing but vibrations on the rim of the ear.
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Therapy Poetic extraction from Bruce Holland Rogers, “Alternatives” in The Sun, July 2014. You are blue. An excuse goes on for months and you feel worse. You can’t live a good life, she says, and you can’t know they are wrong. You torment pain and sink deeper. How is finding ammunition too exhausting to contemplate? Wishing for an end to happiness but you don’t believe that’s you. That’s you. You choose to be you. And you understand.
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Beautiful Poetic extraction from Kat George, “10 Reasons to Love Your Thighs Exactly the Way They Are” in Huffpost Women, www.huffingtonpost.com/bustle/ Feb. 18, 2015. well-documented generally accepted women have a love-hate relationship with their bodies it isn’t good for our souls to be constantly bombarded with images intended to prescribe beauty every woman should possess near-impossible proportions and near-unachievable flawlessness thigh gap dream sold to young girls disproportionate rationing of perfectionist imagery sadness caused doesn’t matter if there’s an inch of space or if they mush together from your vagina to your knees your thighs are beautiful because thighs are inherently beautiful useful, strong it’s high time we started celebrating our bodies the way they are reasons why you should love your thighs: you have them, they are real, you can feel them. Be happy to just have them good cushioning for wrapping your legs around someone’s hips someone, somewhere loves them you deserve to be loved – all of you, love yourself and your thighs because they’re beautiful
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Black Holes Sometimes I lay in my sheets Staring up at the popcorn ceiling: My personal constellation. I make out faces and shapes in the shadow-rimmed specks And when my ceiling fan spins They are dancing Like the natives that used to inhabit this land Under the trees that used to breathe the wind from their lungs And the stars that were more than a dream. They were an intricate tapestry engraved in the sky. Before my white ancestors cut down the trees to plant corn And then dug out the corn to build vinyl houses All the same shade of brick, Before we stained the sky with smog And drank the blood of the dirt that was never ours. Yes. Make room for the free. So enslaved by our lives we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t stop to gaze at the stars that weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve crushed. It makes we sick. It makes me weak. All I can do is lay in my sheets Staring up at the popcorn ceiling: My personal constellation.
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The Wonders of Social Media | A Manifesto Appalling Social Media! Life was better when no one cared. Strangers are nonexistent. I don’t want to know about your cousin’s friend’s aunt’s life story. I’m sorry, should I care? Do I have to pretend that I’m interested in your day? Because after all, nothing happened yesterday! Privacy has no meaning. My life is not an open book. Quit crying about being ignored, Get a grip. The world does NOT end when one’s Facebook status isn’t overwhelmingly diverse! Life will go on! Shocking I know! Social Media is full of politics. A hive for the buzz of gossip. A breeding ground for the sting of life’s miseries. How has communication come to this? Broken messages, riddled meanings. Progress is in reverse! Why the hassle? I guess friending someone is better than talking to them. Makes sense.
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“. . . I found that you can take your first idea and make it simpler, or even give it a whole new perspective. Some of the poems that I revised were difficult because I was attached to my first drafts. However, I found that there were ways to keep some lines and make others better. It took a lot of thought and effort to make them what I wanted so it was hard to change . . . . “ – Sydney Loebker
“Poetry has power.” – Takyhia McCrory
“I know that I want to have my works published in the future. I want to be able to share my writing with whomever I can. I have also learned a significant amount about revisions. I have learned that sometimes I will have to be brave to make a poem powerful. If a poem is not working, I need to have the courage to restart it.” – Zach Bush
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“Perhaps I should have spaced these poems out more and let in more air. But that’s not my style anymore. The best work comes from being under pressure; after all, that’s how diamonds are made. I do my best work when it’s 2 a.m. when I know that I have to be at work at 7 a.m. and am vexed to the point of tears.” – Sydney Grace
“Although I had written poetry before, I feel as if I didn’t know . . . how helpful critique from other people can be. I think that learning from others when it comes to developing strong poems is very important because they are seeing it from a different point of view. I learned a lot from my classmates . . . .” – Heaven Barger
“Writing poetry is extremely difficult, and the challenge of creating a meaningful piece of writing in a small amount of words is one of the aspects of poetry that make it so endearing.” – Emily Begley
a collection of student poetics “It’s OK to be
about your feelings (in a poem).” – Heaven Barger
“In my revised copy I thought more about a family album as a verb – what does it do? What significance does it contain? This is how I cut out details and tried to be more concise.” – Sydney Grace
“One aspect of being an artist is to have confidence in your work. Another aspect of being an artist, as I have learned, is receiving critique on your work. Michael Henson said to be prepared for rejection.” – Chartrae Durham
“I am the museum’s curator who welcomes the world with open arms.” – Sam Dexter
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gaps + overlaps The exhibition Gaps and Overlaps presents a collection of creative works produced collaboratively by faculty from five different disciplines â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Art, English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, and Music. Working in small groups, faculty members thus brought to their project various gaps in knowledge about disciplines not their own, as well as the shared purpose of creating something new. The process of creation varied: some projects required careful planning while others emphasized spontaneous compositions; some projects generated new texts and images while others applied previously created ones; some applied cutting-edge technology while others used scissors and glue. Brains were taxed and genres crossed. The result is an array of works using a broad range of forms or combinations of forms: sculpture, installation, written and musical compositions, audio, video, performance, photography, and collage and other works on paper. These works invite the viewer, as their construction invited the artists, to experience the synergy of artistic collaboration across creative disciplines. A complete catalogue of the exhibition is available on the UCBA Art Gallery website at ucblueash.edu/about/community/art-gallery.
PageGaps 78 +| Overlaps, Blue Ash Review Image: Ted Ferdinand and H. Michael Sanders. Nothing, 3D poem â&#x20AC;&#x201C; stereo lithograph (screen render) (2015)
Images (clockwise from top left): Gaps + Overlaps, Jamie Albert and Kevin Oberlin. Busted, mixed media installation (2015); Gaps + Overlaps, Jody Ballah and Ted Ferdinand. Red Flowers in Flanders Fields, virtual poem (2015); Gaps + Overlaps, Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders. I Lick My Lips Before I Speak, electrostatic print from collage with digital text, 17” x 33” (2015); Gaps + Overlaps, Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders. Poet Rebus No. 5, electrostatic print from collage withVolume digital text, 17” (2015); 79 23x 33” | Page Gaps + Overlaps, H. Michael Sanders. Three Graces, electrostatic print from collage, 11” x 17” (2015); Gaps + Overlaps, Rhonda Pettit and H. Michael Sanders. Nail Angel No. 1, photograph, 11” x 14” (2015)
Cover image: Gaps + Overlaps, Jamie Albert, Robert Murdock, Kevin Oberlin and Sue Sipple. Should We Keep His Teeth?, mixed media (2015)
Department of English & Communication 9555 Plainfield Road, Blue Ash, OH 45236 www.ucblueash.edu
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