Upper Dublin High School | Volume XLIII | Est. 1975
Editors’ Note: We are delighted that this 43rd edition of Rhapsody has made its way into your hands. It’s all thanks to you, our student writers, artists, and photographers, who have shared with us your vision and let us showcase your unbelievable talent. Each of the works you’ll encounter in this magazine reflects one of the following themes: decay, growth, and bloom. You’ll find that the magazine is organized into the same three categories, in the order that these phenomena occur in nature. We hope that the pieces, carefully crafted, hand-picked, and finetuned, will provoke you and resonate with you. We hope that you will consider their platforms and challenge their ideas. We hope that you will feel everything we have felt while building this year’s remarkable issue. On every page there are little buds sprouting, realities that were once mere thoughts. We leave it to you to nurture them. Warmly, Kyra Lisse and Alina Miao 2017-18 Senior Editors
EDITORS AND STAFF Senior Editors:
Kyra Lisse, Alina Miao
General Staff: Mira Ahuja, David Cai, Annie Cheng, Caleb Cho, Jackson Confer, Andrew Duan, Kevin Duan, Thomas Emma, Jeffrey Fishman, Robert Frazier, Michelle Furmansky, Annie Han, Louis Hoffman, Josh Hong, Katherine Hong, Austin John, Cecily Johnson, Priya Kaneria, Elijah Kim, Eiline Li, Lauren Li, Bryn Malizia, Stefan Obradovic, Julija Paskevicius, Adina Rom, Kayrah Shah, Zizi Taditi, Jason Won, Eileen Xiao, Hannah Xiao, Arwen Yoon, Emma Yoon, Kyra Zamborsky, Anna Zhao, Jane Zhao 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS Poetry & Prose Deep in Dirt Faded Colors Tilted They Found her by the River Wile E. Coyote Never again. Worn to Nothing Technological Revolution Untitled The Dream 19 Months Annie Thirst Deciduous Transcendence I Bow to Thee in Absolution Porcelain A Dictation on the Etiquette of Gift Giving 120 Boylston Maine Past the Night House Rules Mindâ€™s Eye To Look Behind
6 9 10 11 14 19 20 22 25 26 29 30 32 33 40 43 44 47 ~ 48 50 53 54 57 60
Belinda Jin Jerry Li Joshua Hong Connie Liu Stefan Obradovic Cecily Johnson Bryn Malizia Stefan Obradovic Anne Liu Michelle Furmansky Annie Cheng Lauren Li Hannah Xiao Alina Miao Stefan Obradovic Michelle Furmansky Kyra Lisse Robert Frazier Kyra Lisse Ben Fischer Robert Frazier Kyra Lisse Katherine Hong Connie Liu
TABLE OF CONTENTS Artwork & Photography Charcoal Digital Photography Digital Photography Oil Paint Digital Print Ink Watercolor Marker Digital Photography Ink/Marker Ink Ink/Marker Linoleum Print Oil Paint Oil Paint Oil Paint Pencil Oil Paint Digital Photography Acrylic Paint Mixed Media Sculpture Linoleum Print Oil Paint Colored Pencil To Look Behind
7 8 10 13 17 18 21 23 24 27 28 31 32 39 41 42 45 46 49 51 52 55 56 59 61
Priya Kaneria Emma Yoon Jason Won Haley Rasmussen Rebecca Pendleton Austin John Grace Wang Austin John Cecily Johnson Sarah Tang Grace Wang Emma Yang Karolina Bocul Rachel Tilson Judy Zhong Danielle Amada Taylor Kang Judy Zhong Jason Won Jane Zhao Sarah Tang Sarah Tang Skylar Richman Priya Kaneria Yuna Jee
DEEP IN DIRT
I imagine that one day I’ll be dead and gone—my face all sewn-up and pumped full of formaldehyde to make me pretty before they bury me six feet deep in dirt. My father is an embalmer, but even if he’s still around, I don’t think he’ll have it in him to be the one to piece me back together like a puzzle. He’ll leave my hamstrung corpse in the hands of some trusted friend who will drain the blood from my veins and fill me with chemicals that smell like pickles and rub me with cream and makeup to keep me moist (oh, how I loathe that word) and beautiful. I don’t know if “keep” is the appropriate term for that—I have never been considered beautiful, or really even pretty; my features are plain and unassuming with a too-large nose and crooked teeth and very thin, drawn-out lips. I am not quite ugly, but getting there. My funeral will be open-casket, and the people who once knew me and loved me will gaze at my peacefully still body as they sit in uncomfortable leather chairs wearing their uncomfortable funeral clothing: long black gowns and suits saved only for the dreariest of occasions. I am sure that some will cry, maybe even weep, as my sister stands at the podium and says a few words. And then they will close the lid and carry me out and lower my waxy, doll-like body into the grave where I am to reside with the worms and beetles that I had once been afraid of. At the reception, some ignorant bloke will tell my mother that it had been a beautiful ceremony, but he is wrong. “Beautiful ceremony” is for weddings, not funerals. Never funerals. My death will not be beautiful; my death will be a burden. And when the snow turns to slush and the flowers start to bud, I will be nothing but a memory for a few scattered, lonely hearts. I will be the wound in their chests that strikes once or twice a year, a bruise that never heals but only hurts when pounded too hard. Sometimes it is better just to forget. 6
Emma Yoon 8
Light shone through the domed, transparent ceiling of the mansion, reflecting off the wrinkled face of the proprietor. His gaze ran up the bronze columns, past the intricate geometric patterns in the yellowing stained glass, past an old manâ€™s reflection in the metal beams, until it settled on a simple wooden chest. Such an ordinary plywood chest it was, out of place in the ornamented mansion. Signs of rot and water damage covered it from top to bottom, its once-bright marine paint having faded long ago. But the man had preserved it. It was at times like these that nostalgia came knocking: the man thought of his first paycheck, once stored in that very box. Check. All of those savings. Check. The deed for this house, once crisp as a dry autumn leaf. Check. The marriage certificate, birth certificates for John, Eric, and Jane. Check, check, check. Memories surged through his mind. What a lively place this home once was, buzzing with noises, footsteps, the frantic screaming of young children. Then the first letters from college, wedding invitations, holiday cards dwindling one by one .... Check. And he is alone now. As ritually as ever the old man opened the chest. Like his mansion of pillars and stained glass, there was nothing inside.
TILTED There once
were two m
en and a roc k,
Who were c
lose like a fo
But Man On
ot and a soc k.
e pushed M
Man Two fe He tumbled
all the way
off the dock
THEY FOUND HER
BY THE RIVER
Back when the days were long and night seemed to never come, we used to play pretend, me and this girl. I would be her fearsome knight in shining armor, except my armor was really just a shipping box and my steed was really a mop. She would be the classic “damsel in distress” with toilet paper as her flowing train and her crazy knotty hair pulled back into a braid. As a rule, we’d always play hide and go seek. I’d count to a hundred and maybe skip a few, open my eyes, and go looking for her. Throughout those summer days I searched for her at our usual places. The mom and pop store where you could use penny change to buy as many sweets as you could stuff in your pockets. The diner where you would see the cool kids hanging out entrenched in cigarette smoke. The playground with its rusted swings that weren’t really good for swinging anymore, but we liked to pretend anyways that if we could get high enough (we never did) and jumped off, we’d be flying like birds. She was usually in one of those places, either hiding behind a bush, or a store aisle, or underneath a seat. When I saw her goofy grin, with her two front teeth busted out, she’d jump out and hug me. “My prince! You’ve come for me at last! I was so scared!” she’d cry out, but always with too bright of a smile. --One day, I couldn’t find her in any of those places. It was as if she was never there after all. That after all this time, she was only a figment of my imagination, sprung from the monotony of the summer heat. As the shadows grew longer, everything seemed to morph into some kind of monstrous version of what it once was before. My bare, scraped knees ached, and the cardboard armor was a poor protector against the cool summer winds. I felt tears threatening to overflow, and I bit my lip. No, a prince must be brave. If only I could be that brave, but really, it was all pretend anyways. Perhaps she had hung up her crown and gone home. 11
Later that night, when I was about to fall asleep, I heard a rapping on the door. Sleepily, I trudged down the stairs, in a daze. Without thinking, I opened it. Maybe my parents had come home, they were often late. However, to my surprise it was her. Except she wasn’t smiling. “Where were you? I was so...so scared.” she was hugging herself tightly, shivering. “I waited for you, I trusted you, you broke our promise!” Her gaze, a sword, pierced my heart. “I’m sorry, I thought you had already gone home!” I said insistently, rubbing my eyes to make sure she wasn’t just a figment of my imagination. She seemed different from what I remembered: no toilet train, no plastic tiara, no youthful glow from summer days long gone. Her hair was twisted and wild and had debris in it. Her bare feet — grimy and caked in mud. “No, no, you didn’t you left me there in the cold and I kept on waiting and waiting, and waiting and you never showed up! You were no prince! You were a scaredy-cat and a ninny and… and… and I hate you! I hate you I hate you I hate you so much it makes my blood boil I hate you!” she stepped into my house, and with every “I hate you” backed me closer and closer to the wall. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I was scared it was cold and no one was around and I had to go home to eat dinner and… and… my parents said it was too dangerous for me to find you at night and—” It was a long and dreadful night. The next day, I tried to find her, but much like the day before, I was met with nothing. But at night, at night I’d hear her, knocking on my door again. And again. And again and again and again and — I stopped opening the door altogether. For a while I slept blissfully, but on the last day of August, I heard a gentle knock on the door. It was one of those late summer nights, the kind where your thoughts are drowned by the rhythmic pitter-patter of rain, that I heard her familiar raspy voice. “Let me in! Please, I’m begging you, I won’t hurt you again! It’s not your fault you couldn’t find me, it’s not your fault I disappeared, I promise, please….” her voice cracked and flickered, like an old decrepit 12
television set: “please forgive yourself.” As I heard her broken record player voice echoing the same things again, and again, and again, saying those things I desperately wanted to hear back then, I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to open the door and see nothing there.
Haley Rasmussen 13
WILE E. COYOTE
It’ll work this time ... It has to … I spent the better part of nineteen hours crafting this mural on bedrock And three full days before that laying pavement, redirecting the winding desert road so it would End abruptly at the foot of my masterpiece: A rock wall, Painted to look like a tunnel, An optical illusion, A way out, But there is no way out of here. My name is Wile E. Coyote and I am so hungry, Inexplicably stuck in this lifeless desert. My only companion? A mindless blue bird whom I’m forever doomed to chase. To whom all laws of the universe bend, and then break. I am hours of flight suits, Or a working magnet, Or a lit fuse short of supper. And I deserve it! This is my existence. Compulsively ordering one ridiculous contraption after another Even though I am onto the people at ACME, I know you are screwing with me! 14
I’ve left my imprints all over this desert. I’ve been pancaked, Incinerated, Run over, Diced and buried. I’ve accepted my failure with only simple signs pulled from invisible back pockets, Begging for your empathy As if it will cushion what comes next. And whoever fancies himself my maker was cruel enough to imbue upon me The knowledge of how things are supposed to be: Rockets fire upon ignition. Rocks roll when the pull is great enough against them. The trajectory of catapults is not arbitrary. Predators Catch Prey! Can you imagine how it feels? Your best laid plans crumbling around you, Peering into the mouth of fate only to have it blow up in your face! It’s enough to make you wonder If it’s better to be a perfect physical specimen than it is to be bright, If all the times you’ve spent lost in thought have been a waste When all along it’s been easier to just run.
I am a super genius And I can’t capture a flightless bird who grins as I drool for his flesh. I keep at it as if the next bow will fire the arrow instead of me. As if the poisoned bird seed will somehow end up in his mouth instead of mine. It is the curse of an addict to chase the thing that destroys you. But until you’ve done it, Until you’ve launched yourself off of thousand-foot-cliffs for that thing that you love You will never understand the gravity of my plight. This is it, the culmination of my mania. This fake tunnel is the best I can do. And when the dust settles I will stand firmly on red sand, His broken blue neck clenched between my teeth. This time it will work ... It has to ...
Rebecca Pendleton 17
Austin John 18
Youâ€™re sitting in a circle, and a glass ball is being passed around. Each person cradles the ball tenderly before passing it to the next person. The ball never exits the circle. Your trust is a silent force, the drive behind the deepest of friendships, something that is never spoken of, but is always implied. Each time the ball reaches you, you embrace it a little tighter, linger a little longer, and reluctantly pass it along. You watch with guarded eyes as everyone is more and more careless with the ball, too confident in the idea that it wonâ€™t ever break. But then it does. itâ€™s
s h a t t e r e d.
There once was a girl who danced among the milky way She was not a star, or a moon, or a planet. Just a girl With a burning flame inside One so strong and bright it consumed her But it sparked so often that she was immune to the pain The girl danced To escape the deafening silence of her thoughts Lost in a world of perfection Dull and untouched by her grimy fingers Her eyes full of hope as she cradled the moon to her chest And though the fire burned, the night would strangle the flame Enclosing her in darkness, trapping her sorrow until it crushed her Engulfed in the shadows, she waited in thunderous tranquility Moonbeams left her damp face glittering Beautiful yet full of despair And no longer could she dance. The light within her, flickering so dimly, failed to contain heat She curled into herself, so frail and cold, So cold not even the sunâ€™s embrace could warm her. She was no longer the girl who danced with fire, The girl who held the moon and Sprinkled stars into the sky by waltzing among the constellations The girl who never feared the dark Until the constant night ceased to surround her And it was then that she realized the fire no longer burned.
REVOLUTION There once was a milkman named John. He woke up each morning at dawn. Delivered the milk, white, smooth like silk, and just like that, poof, he was gone. His friend, the mechanic named Sean, large iron hammers would spawn. The metal he’d strike ‘till it looked like a bike and for 35 dollars would pawn. His janitor friend, who was Tom, hated to clean after prom. The debris he would sweep, five hours would weep, yet the scene still looked like a bomb. Tom’s cousin was Dylan the cook. His ladle he expertly shook. A spoonful of grub, each man to his tub, feeding each crook after crook. Bill, his best man, was the plumber. He’d fix broken pipes in the summer. Oh woe is he the musk of the pee, this job, he thought, it is a bummer. There used to be an electrician. Live wires he’d fix as his mission. Each Monday he’d come back down to the slum, now no longer has his position. 22
The quarry is left with no miners. The Earth they would morph like designers. The coal, silver, gold all now seem old as they spend all their days in recliners. The farmers, they all are outdated. The prairie each of them vacated. With all of their stock they lived on sidewalk, welfare they each now awaited. Each worker would lose his blue collar working for less than a dollar. The computer, it stayed, the job market strayed, and year after year it was smaller.
Austin John 23
your journey has been all rigid and unforgiving tripping ankles and twisting fingers choking words and slipping phrases i’m sorry that the world didn’t hold you as sweetly as gently as safely as you needed it to
humans fall. they trip, roll ankles, break hearts, collapse inevitably. but being human, mistakes are innate. you are one of them. i am sorry that the world held you from being that. thank you, thank you for bringing the world some light that saved the sun thank you for your kindness that touched hearts you’ll never know thank you for having your heart beat even if not for long
i’m sorry that the scrutiny of a million eyes hurt you in ways i can’t imagine i’m sorry that i couldn’t save you like you did for all of us please. take a breath. breathe how you’re supposed to, how you wanted to, how you should’ve been able to
i won’t let you be lonely. not in this world, nor the next, or the one after that. you will shine against black skies rising from the ashes to become our brightest star, our most shining moon
sigh into the arms that will never stray from your side find solace in the warmth that was too far out of grasp clutch tightly the joy that slips so easily
you won’t be forgotten.
Last night, in between sleeping positions, drooling on my pillow, I dreamt of you. It was unintentional, to be sure, yet you wandered into my subconscious as if it were your home and you were destined to settle there. In the dream, you lay on a forest green couch that was fuzzy and worn, splayed out like The Creation of Adam on your side, exhausted and alone. They had just finished digging into your pale flesh with their scalpels and stents, and you were waking from another drug-induced heaven that reality could never provide for you. You were staying in the room next door to mine. It was in a hotel, two stories high with a terra-cotta roof and pale, mustardpainted walls, with red hibiscus flowers adorning each doorway. From the windows, children played on giant swings lighted in a bright pink ambiance and laughed their laughs of wonder and excitement. I was visiting you to keep you company, and we proceeded with our usual banter and playful teasing, all the while observing the children below. You flinched as wave of pain crumpled your organs once more, and I reached out to place a hand on your forearm so that you could hold on to our world. In that touch, I felt what thousands of books and poems and songs had failed to perfectly capture: my heart fluttered and waltzed to an incredible speed and wished to turn its cage to ruin. Then, slowly, you reached down and clasped my hand with yours, and I sat there feeling things people should never be allowed to feel, feeling our closeness seep into my skin. We stayed like that for a while, just talking and watching and touching, until regretfully, my slumber ended, and I was back in my bed sheets and you were still gone. 26
You were a bird and I was your feather. You preened me every day, kissing me with your words, bathing me with your smiles. You told me I was your most gorgeous, resilient feather. Without me, you could never fly. Without you, I could never live. I drank up your words like honey and savored them when the air turned cold. What you said to the others, I didn’t hear. But I didn’t need to hear another word to know that I was (and would always be) your one and only. Sometimes the winds were harsh and you became tired. I understood that you couldn’t spend time to preen every day. I missed you, but love is sacrificial, and you told me that my understanding was my greatest virtue. But sometimes dirt hid in my cracks and dust seeped into my soul and I would inevitably falter and let you down. What would I be if not your one and only? As the seasons changed, I grew and wilted. Your sugary words rang in my ear, but I’d lost my sweet tooth. I wondered again and again, who would I be if not your one and only? I thought perhaps I would be free. Nineteen months later, I don’t fly anymore. I miss the thrill of you (and sometimes your debonair smile too). The feathers you’ve lost in all the rains and hurricanes mourn the loss of their flights. “I was his one and only,” they cry to me. “He said he’d never let me go. He promised.” I feel their hearts, for their words are also my own. But I do believe that the only promise one can make is that one can never trust another to keep promises.
Annie is fifteen going on sixteen this summer she will be serving Coca-Cola and coleslaw dressed with a short checkered skirt and a patent leather smile. Annie with her frizzy auburn hair and smudged mascara, trying desperately to force her size 6 feet into size 8 heels, she fell too quick before reaching the end of the sidewalk. Annie changes the water for the hydrangeas unknown relatives send her dying Grandmother twice a day, just to be sure, she says it gives her a feeling of control, but she doesn’t know where she’ll go once they die. Annie asked me to take her to a party, one with loud music and spilled-over punch bowls illuminated in the faint blue glow of phone screens. she’s never drank with anyone but herself and she doesn’t kiss boys, but just to see what it’s like, y’know. Annie’s teachers are concerned, analyze her like she’s Holden Caulfield, she’s failing 4 out of 6 subjects, but not English, or French, she speaks of recovery like it’s a dead language, but she pronounces every word perfectly. Annie’s favorite color used to be a plum purple, but now she can’t see it without feeling the bruises raw on her back. I know this because she read her poem to the class, on Thursday I left detention early to tell her to call me if she ever needed anything, she smiled, pausing for just one moment, before leaving me marooned in the dimly lit lobby room, saying, everything would be okay. 30
Emma Yang 31
Her image glows Against the darkness of my basement Above the tangle of wires and dirty socks under my desk She looks so beautiful I look closer At that pixelated smile and static billowing hair I swipe right.
Karolina Bocul 32
At the end of fourth period, Mrs. Jones tells us we must learn to be magnificent and joyful. Magnifique et joyeux, she says in that laughable French accent of hers. I can’t say I’ve tried it myself. It’s not that I don’t want to be magnifique et joyeux. I don’t particularly want to either. It reminds me of last month when they cut down the oldest tree in the city. The tree had been interfering with power lines for the past twenty years and counting and had already gotten more pieces hacked out of it than a hunk of cheese at those sorts of fancy cocktail parties. Then it caught a disease or something must’ve been wrong with it because it started rotting and falling apart and the city council came in with their contractors and cranes and sawing machinery ready to tear the the thing down. That’s when things really started getting messy ‘cause some do-gooder protesters decided they would hold hands and sing and weep around the dying tree before the mayor drove over and talked about learning to let things go after their time is past. Then he said violators would be arrested and fined five hundred big ones for loitering. Most of them left after that and the tree was cut down. Speeches had been given. Tears had been shed. Most of us just didn’t care though. I certainly didn’t care about some waste-of-space tree and same goes for the magnifique et joyeux she’s talking about. I stare at Mrs. Jones’s saggy skin and arboreal clumps of gray hair and imagine telling her that. I can’t though, not unless I want to hear her prattle on and on about the gentrification of Minneapolis or some other vapid, useless topic until I want to put a hole in the wall and wrap my hands around her and wring her tiny little body for what it’s worth. The bell rings and we all rush out to leave and then ten minutes into lunch Bobby sitting next to me chucks raisins at the back of know-itall Matt Spruce’s head and we all laugh when he looks around like a 33
puppy trying to figure out who kicked it—I guess this also counts as a magnificent and joyful occasion. Magnifique et joyeux. As far as I know, Mrs. Jones has never set foot in France, let alone said the words right. I know ‘cause the people on the black and white late night shows with the subtitles don’t sound the way she does. I know ‘cause I see her cornering the French teacher down the hall talking his ear off about the Arc de Triomphe and Napoleon, and he smiles down at her when she babbles on but his foot does the tapping thing it does when someone wastes his time and he’s too polite to say it. And she’s probably never had the money to do anything like travel. Otherwise she wouldn’t be teaching a bunch of city kids or living in that onebedroom apartment with the paint chipping off the walls and the rooms smelling like mothballs and dental floss. She’s like that dumb old tree, rotting in the same place, only if she was she’d be trying to fly away like the birds on her branches and trees can’t fly. Anyways, on the way to Chem II, she passes by us in the hallway and looks at me with a twinkle in the mud-colored eyes behind her horned rim glasses frames. I want to scream but I bite my lips and keep my mouth shut. The last time I’d felt the weight of her stares was a week ago when she caught me bumming cigarettes off the construction workers down the street. Not caught—saw, witnessed, glimpsed—whatever. I wasn’t doing anything wrong for her to catch. Besides, they weren’t for me, I told her. Which was true, ‘cause they really weren’t. She had paused for a moment, like she was thinking on something important, and then smiled—it made her face go even more like a crumpled paper bag and I didn’t think that was possible—and told me to go to her place for afternoon tea. Feeling that look more than seeing it, I’d never got so angry in my life. I wanted to cuss her out, spit in her face, tell her I’d sooner drink piss than her stupid tea. But something in me I don’t know what decided to follow her up 34
the whole three flights of rickety metal stairs on the side of a building one step away from crumbling to the ground. The entire way up I stared at the thin pantyhose sagging at her ankles. I could see her veins through them and they ran bumpy and pale and green like the underside of a leaf and made me want to hurl over the railing. Then I spent a few minutes standing in her small living room, staring at a black ant crawl up the wallpaper with the graying yellow roses while she went to the back and came out with tea and some wafer crackers that had probably been fresh around the time she was born. She put them on a table and I didn’t touch them but I did sit down on a couch that sank until I could feel the broken springs through the cushion. Mrs. Jones didn’t try to speak and somehow that just made things even worse, just the two of us sitting there in silence and we were going to stay like that forever and I would die there like that and years later someone would come in and find two white skeletons with dust on them sitting across from each other over afternoon tea and just when I couldn’t stand it anymore I saw the picture frame on the wall. There was a darkhaired man in it who looked kind of youngish but it was hard to tell. I pointed to it and asked her who he was. She told me it was her son, her only son, and he’d grown up with a head in European clouds and had loved la culture et l'histoire des Français so much that he left to study in Paris. He had mailed her the picture six months later. I asked her where he was now. “He died there,” she said and didn’t say anything more after that. Her eyes watered behind the horned rim glasses and her lips curled a little upwards but not in the way a smile makes them curl up and she looked frail then, like she could’ve been blown away by the wind leaking in through the window that made her entire place drafty. I thought about her dead son in the foreign land, wondered why all this time she’s never visited him over there or just had his funeral here. She must’ve had her reasons then—maybe she couldn’t and maybe 35
she just plain didn’t want to. Couldn’t bring herself to go see his grave because seeing would be admitting and she couldn’t do that and she didn’t want to take him away from the place he loved more than his own mother, no she didn’t want to do that. I wanted to ask but knew I shouldn’t, that I’d be crossing some kind of invisible forbidden line and the cops would be there waiting to take me away. Instead I blurted out, “If I were him, I’d at least bother to die closer to home” and I regretted it the moment the words came out and I gulped down tea as if to swallow them back down and it tasted awful and burned down my throat like it was acid. I stood up to go to the door after that because I knew I needed to leave, needed to leave soon or else something bad would happen and I would start to understand the floral dress-wearing old lady who was just as washed out as the dye on her dress and then I really would be trapped forever. ‘Cept when I reached the door she’d somehow caught up to me and clutched at my arm and her voice went all soft and sad and urgent. But I didn’t want to hear it. I knew what was coming, had been through it more times than I wanted to count. I didn’t meet her eyes either— didn’t need to see the sad helpless look they all give, the one that says “I pity you” without the actual words, especially coming from someone like her. I tore myself away and slammed the door so hard it rang in my ears the entire way home. I ignore her for the whole week afterwards but when I see that twinkle in the hall, I get restless and itchy the whole rest of the day. I find her after school and warn her not to tell anyone or else I’ll do something to her I don’t know what but something real bad. She gives a wheeze that could’ve passed for laughter in another life and tells me to come visit whenever I feel like it and hobbles away and doesn’t see the way I glare at her hunched over back.
Turns out I don’t have to worry about Mrs. Jones snitching since she doesn’t come to school the next day and never does again. The school holds a memorial service honoring their oldest, most esteemed teacher, but I guess now that spot goes to Mr. Wheeler across the hall who’ll probably retire once all the white hairs finish falling from his pale, veiny scalp. None of the kids wear black and none of the teachers feel much like teaching. The principal calls everyone down to our crappy two-bit auditorium and there he wipes his sweaty forehead and gives a speech and there’s tears from some teachers and the younger kids who haven’t had a chance to grow mean yet. Most of them just don’t care though. Some way or the other, Mrs. Jones decides to haunt me past the grave. The funeral invite arrives in the mail two days later and when I see it I want to tear it to shreds and burn them in the kitchen stove but something in me I don’t know what makes me pocket it and go to my room and take it out and read it. On the way home from the ceremony with the crumpled paper still in my pocket I pass by where the old tree used to be. They still haven’t finished clearing it all out and there’s a big ugly stump smack in the middle and broken branches lying in the dirt everywhere. Some leaves are still green and they sway with the wind like they remember when they had made up parts of a tree. And I remember too, that all this time I’ve wanted to know why they cut down that tree and couldn’t just wait for it to die in its own time and in its own way and why those people cried so bad when it got cut down when they didn’t even know it. If Mrs. Jones was still alive and kicking, she would’ve said some nonsense about forest ecosystems and the circle of life that would make me feel like wrapping my hands around her and wringing her tiny little body for what it’s worth. Only I can’t anymore and somehow that gets me even angrier and I want to punch a hole in the wall and then it hurts so bad—hurts and hurts until I don’t want to think anymore. But I find myself thinking a lot more now that Mrs. Jones is gone. I think about the tree hacked to pieces and taken away, the way she had 37
whispered to me before I slammed the door in her face as if she was revealing some great secret that I never got to hear. But I find myself thinking a lot more now that Mrs. Jones is gone. I think about the tree hacked to pieces and taken away, the way she had whispered to me before I slammed the door in her face as if she was revealing some great secret that I never got to hear. And I think about her son sometimes, wonder what kind of burial he got and who went to his funeral in France and I picture him over there, lying dead and cold and all alone in the dirt of a country he loved enough to break his mother’s heart. It’s not that I don’t want to be magnifique et joyeux. It’s that I don’t know how to be. I imagine looking Mrs. Jones in her mud brown eyes and telling her that. She’s dead now though so it doesn’t matter. And lying there in the casket by herself, looking small and frail like that time she near faded away in her own apartment, she didn’t seem all that magnificent and joyful to me. But she must’ve been. Magnifique et joyeux. I think about those words, replay them over and over again in my head and imagine Mrs. Jones years ago doing the same thing with those foreign, foreign-sounding French words, mouthing the unfamiliar syllables like they were a prayer of atonement and wail of sorrow all at once. And sometimes—just sometimes, I think that one day in the future, maybe when I’m saggy-skinned and liver-spotted and dumb like she was, I’ll go visit France. Maybe then, when I’m looking at the Eiffel Tower or staring at his plain off-white gravestone marker or sipping snails or doing whatever the hell they do in France—maybe then, I’ll be able to shed tears for the dead tree in the neighborhood and let myself mourn the loss of Cecily Jones.
TRANSCENDENCE As I sit here, I look around and see my best friends who mean the world to me. There is no place I'd rather be than with you, and you, and harmony against a great big grandfather tree— the oak that leads to poor old me. Entwined we are by the twigs of destiny— a basket weave of fate. The strings of Life, an epiphany— dancing like marionettes. We did not choose to play this game and yet we move the pieces. I wonder why we stray today. I hope we stay cohesive. Together it was us that ran and now we sit in peace. Are these our dying moments or are we yet to release? It is in these moments that I recast a constant renditioning of the days we outlast— an endless repetition of the days we’ve blown past, our crowning achievements, our defining pitfalls, all the short stories held within these deep halls. Cap and gown I sit here, contemplating the beauty of what lies ahead and I see you, and you, and harmony. 40
Danielle Amada 42
I BOW TO THEE
I bow to thee with absolution. I kneel before you, dirt collecting on the translucent skin exposed by the rips in my jeans. Bind my sinning hands with a chain of roses inked in gas stations. As you hold my wrists, feel my pulse beating, Drumming away in harmony to an arsenic waltz. We were the Great Triumvirate: Slavic blood and Roman sweat and the tears of Brooklyn. But Rome has fallen, and all thatâ€™s left are crumbling marble busts of merchants no one remembersTheir pale eyes missing pupils and vigor and the shame of their yesterdays. I breathe in the stench of sorrow as the regional rail whisks me out of your hands and into A decaying chair in a bodega in Brighton Beach. The collective selfishness of the Earth has damned me from birth, But I do not mind. The damned are better dancers. Your moonrise eyes deny me, as they always have. I pray to you for forgiveness. I offer my hands and the freckles on my nose in exchange for your pardon. You accept the trade, but now without palms and wrists and fingers, my chains slide off and I am no longer bound. I bow to thee with absolution, And a liar's heart set free. 43
Diana’s crown is on the floor again Her eyes bloodshot and throat sore Diana wears a smile again No different than before
So Diana’s locked the door again Outside the public eye Her reflection is a thin black hole And she’s swallowed up inside
Diana’s on the scale again Frowning at her feet She’s a princess on her pedestal Who cleans up nice and neat
Diana stops to wonder How she ever got so weak She rises from the bathroom floor And decides it’s time to speak
Diana’s being praised again By all the magazines They say she’s looking beautiful And beautiful she seems
Diana’s plate is full again And she’s learning how to cope She sets her fork and lifts her crown And soon she’s tasting hope
But alone with the porcelain throne She’s struggling to survive She pulls her knees into her chest And yells surrender cries
Diana’s told the world now About the battle in her mind Diana wears a smile again— One for real this time.
The enemy’s still attacking Taking all but skin and bone She keeps her armies stationed And fights it on her own
Princess Diana 1961-1997
Diana’s carrying burdens Like phonebooks on her head She’s idolized by everyone Except the one in bed Diana’s being nudged again By the seamstress and the cooks They say she’s looking rather frail And rather frail she looks
Taylor Kang 45
Judy Zhong 46
A DICTATION ON THE ETIQUETTE OF
I refuse to write a thank-you letter. The whole concept is preposterous and I will have no part in it. When a gift is bestowed upon me, I accept it then and I deliver a sincere, strong, and soulful thank-you. But when I am expected to write one, days after the fact, when the original emotions have been drained from my soul, the thank-you you receive will be devoid of true meaning. The whole procedure screams of your vanity and your vigorous stupidity and absurdity. You demand for me to meet on your terms and I refuse; we duel on my lands, on my time, on my whim. The gift-giver has no say. He gives the gift and relinquishes right to the mighty. And so I did not write you a thank-you letter for the gift you gave me, and after I reciprocated the favor and gave you one, and you said right then a thank-you, an understanding was thought to have been met. But now you defile it; you have sent me a thank-you letter when I did not give you one. You have declared war on my civility and degraded my sensibilities my dear sir, and so if it is a war you want then I shall deliver. I will give your wife new roses to plant in the garden, I will give you an expensive nine iron, I will give your son a brand new toy train, I will give your daughter a bright pink bow, and I will give your dog a fresh, juicy steak. Youâ€™ll never be able to stop writing thankyou notes, your hands will struggle under fatigue and age, your penâ€™s inkwell will run dry, your spirit will erode until you see the truth. No more cards, no more lies, no more absurd dances of social stature. We can finally be free.
I was fifteen when I found My little wonderland, Where the big, bustling city (Which I loved deeply) Gave way to the garden, To this place where fairies must live I sat on a sun-coated bench Armed with a notebook, some fresh-squeezed OJ (c/o the Thinking Cup), And a smile, too I smiled for the verdant, the divine, the beautiful (Which was everything) I smiled for the father who breathed nature into his boy (Itâ€™s a male mallard, Matty! Itâ€™s a male mallard!) I smiled for the swan boats and the electric sky And the tree bark and the lapping water And for myself, too Because I think I had some sense That these were the greatest days, The days spent traipsing Boylston Through cigarette smoke (The thrill of not getting run over) And surveying aisle after aisle at CVS (Respite from the heat) The ones spent inside words Embracing them, bound to them Navigating through them without much aim The ones with Belgian waffles And a Chinese best friend And laughter Mostly laughter Universal and true 48
The days like these, Swept up in the fairy dust Of the Public Garden, Where home is never far Because itâ€™s everywhere. Because itâ€™s here.
We carry shells. Sand. Smooth, silky, blueish sea glass. Maine is not merely a place—one could say it is a feeling deeply embedded in our DNA. It is a picturesque, tiny slice of Americana where the dreams carried by immigrants prove true. We carry a dream of rocky coastlines. The soft ding of a buoy forming an inseparable alloy of sound with steady drones of ocean waves. Chirping of seagulls break the monotony with their cacophony. We carry sights, but I carry a smell. It is a sweet smell of harbors. A lobsterman, pulling in his catch of the day leaving it to bake in the sun as the salty sea air caresses their deep red shell. This smell of rotting lobster mixes with the scent of fresh-baked bread from Standard Baking Co. It’s a soft perfume, a fragrance I carry with me as I walk the sand of Fowler’s beach. I pick up a stone as my mind begins to wander in the smooth shape. Seamless. Eroded. Crafted by a scrupulous god. There are sounds. The flat sound of a rock falling to the sea below. Plop. The waves circle it, sounding like a rusted washing machine— uneven beats that eventually ease to a standard four-four time, similar to a train taking me back to home. This is nothing like my home. There is no order here, nothing to adhere to. People go about their days with ebb and flow. Golf carts and rusted pickup trucks create whistles and clunks as they go to pass. The houses are just a part time locker for those to sojourn to after days end. During the days, everyone resides on the beach. Playing in the fine red sand which sticks to every surface. I stand on the edge of rippling tide pools observing the patrons. Like a scene out of a McCloskey book, children digging for clams heave mounds of sopping wet sand over their shoulders recklessly hoping to find at least one to cook for supper. Lobster boats dart in and out of the Hussey Sound, captains jeering as they pass one another. This is the home I know. 50
My father approaches me and puts a hand on my shoulder as I stare into the crest of a wave carrying strips of seaweed. “That’s the Aucocisco,” he says in a surefire voice. “Your cousins are on that boat.” A fog horn blows. A cool wind blows across the beach. I breathe in. It is the scent of peaches and roast pork. Bunker and the soaking wood of flotsam. As I open my eyes, the boat meets my gaze. In big bold lettering: “Maquoit.”
Sarah Tang 52
PAST THE NIGHT I seem to live in an alley, Hidden away from the light. It is cold and artificial, Kept away from Heaven’s sight. Only once have I gone from here, Seen the darkness unfiltered. Blends of brilliant and pale white— My life’s message delivered. To toil away and search the stars, I leave the alley and Earth. And gaze into the vast endless To fulfill my life’s rebirth.
It used to frustrate me that this is the only body I’ll ever occupy. It’s not like buying an apartment in Philly knowing full well that, in two years’ time, you’ll give it all up for a cookie-cutter in suburbia. You can’t rent by the week, or day, or even second. It’s a lifelong commitment. You’re confined to two square feet of you, grounded with the same lanky limbs and daily routine and boomerang thoughts. You’ll only ever know your own experiences; the house in which you reside now is the one that will house you always. But what happens when the place gets old? When you decide that you’ve had enough, that this game of Monopoly has gone on far too long and you’re ready to play something else? The truth of the matter is, there’s no way out. You’re stuck with this body until it’s reclaimed by the earth, at which point none of it will matter. Until then, your home base is marked with permanence. Luckily, permanent does not mean fixed. You’re allowed— encouraged, even—to make modifications. That means ample time to explore, to change, to open the shutters and spruce the place up. Your body lies under your jurisdiction. You may decorate, pare down, clean and clutter. You can sit back and let the dust collect, complacent with boredom, or you can tear up the carpet, and—who knows?—maybe you’ll find a layer you never knew existed. It’s all about accepting your long-term residence and working with it. Gaining confidence in it. It’s embracing the fact that, yes, I’ll always have these hands and feet, but my mind is ever-changing. I’m limited to a single body … so what? I have a thousand identities to choose from. I will evolve in this shell. There is no set course for me. This isn’t Monopoly. It’s Life, and I may move in and out as I please. It’s the place I can rent by the week, or day, or even second. I make the rules; I roll the dice. And right now, call me crazy, but I’m cashing in. 54
Sarah Tang 55
Skylar Richman 56
This very place is the crossroads of the seasons. Here, the winds brings gifts of foliage. Here, Old Man Winter grumbles, blowing blizzards about. Here, Demeter rejoices as she is reunited with her daughter Persephone, who frolics around, laughing. Here, life comes and goes. Here, this is the place I call home. Though I have lived here for a bit of time, there is much that I don't know. So, please, if you will, bring up a chair, and let me tell you a story. One day, a stranger told me a rainbow had come. I asked what a rainbow was. He replied that it was all the colors blending together. How this gift comes after the furious and roaring punishment of dark clouds and strikes of lightning. How it was like threads of analogous colors woven together to form one of nature's treasures. He must have noticed my puzzled expression when he said a rainbow was like looking through a kaleidoscope. After all, it was a toy I have never owned. So tell me: how would you describe the rainbow? They say red is the blaring siren of a fire truck passing by. So, is it loud and frightening? Is it sweet like the crisp apples found during the amber autumn? How smooth and glossy they must be! They tell me orange is the leaves carried away from their homes by mischievous winds during a brisk autumn. Watch them gently touch down upon the welcoming ground and be reunited with their brethren. I recall my mother scolding me for playing around in such dirty leaves as a child. But I didn't care. They tell me yellow is the sun. Is it warm and comforting? The very essence from God that first sprouted life here? Running around, dancing while being bathed in the golden rays. That person was me. 57
They tell me green is the stubby grass underneath my toes. It's soft, a carpet on Earth created by Nature herself. This gift was the reason bare feet could exist. And it was the excuse I could give my mother for playing outside without shoes. They tell me blue is the vast and freezing ocean. On the surface, it seems like an unforgiving home, but deep underwater, is an explosion of life. All sorts of creatures live in these waters, from squeaking dolphins to exotic plankton. I always wanted to dive under these waves, but my mother always said no. They tell me indigo is the jeans we wear. So, indigo is tight but fitting? Rough but smooth? Filled with holes but durable? I remember wearing them despite my mother's pleading. They tell me violet is the flowers my mother would bring home. I remember those blissful days. She would hand over the flowers to me. And when I smelled them … oh … how phenomenal! Smells of the blossoming spring and the sticky summer. After hearing all of this from the stranger, I walked outside and lifted my face towards the sky. I could imagine the colors in my head. The blaring siren. The smell of autumn. The sun’s warmth. The stubby grass. The vast ocean. The tight jeans. The thriving flowers. All blended together into one masterpiece called the rainbow. It's a beautiful day outside, isn't it? How I wish I could see it.
TO LOOK BEHIND Once, you recalled: airy laughter streaking like shooting stars across a velvet canvas with a scarlet yolk spilling over the brim dispersing into infinite particles constantly orbiting to the cadence of your mud-caked sneakers endlesslyâ€”over and over and over as the ocean waves come crashing down into your chapped lips your smile is seen only through the thickets.
Yuna Jee 61
The 43rd annual edition of Upper Dublin High School's literary magazine, Rhapsody.