UNDERGROUND ART & LITERARY JOURNAL FALL 2021
Cover Art: “In the Open” by Cameron White “With all the social upheaval of the last few years, I believe one thing has emerged for many people, myself included. There is a new unbridled openness in the world. As a 19-year-old art student, much of this change has been felt on a deeply personal level. Coming into my independence at such a delicate moment has resulted in me reflecting on society’s trauma on my inner world. “In the Open” depicts the contrast between emotional turmoil and liberation, as well as where they intertwine. The topographic nature of the painting exposes this bittersweet feeling with varying textures, cracks, and valleys, molding into a chaotic spiral of emotional purging.”
Adviser Bryce McNeil, PHD
Underground is the undergraduate literary journal of Georgia State University. Production of the journal is funded by student activity fees. Issues are provided for free to all Georgia State University students, staff, alumni, and guests. Underground retains first publication rights for submissions accepted by the journal. It is our understanding that all rights for pieces in this issue remain with Underground until they are published, at which point all rights revert to the artist or author.
© Underground 2021 Georgia State University
Underground adverb 1. Beneath the surface of the ground. Noun 2. Georgia State University’s Creative Collective
Editor’s Note 25 Park Place, room 2447 in Atlanta, Ga. A place where you’ll hear different minds talking over each other, pairing art pieces together and singing along to whatever song Spotify played next—we never notice when the playlist has ended. A room where all your ideas can be heard with no judgement and all your art is taken apart, analyzed, and put together again for hours, giving those of us who create this journal, a reason to continue falling in love with art and the minds of those who create it. At the end of every semester working here, I get my dose of reassurance that the day I chose this path, is a day I would never go back and change a thing about. To the individuals who are a part of this journey, whether that be staff, contributors, or the girl from my Anthropology class who so kindly helped me put posters around campus, you are the voices, minds, and hands that I hope can be heard, seen, and felt forever, at just the flip of a page. Thank you for keeping me afloat. With all my love and gratitude, Your Editor in Chief, Paula Valero.
C O N T E N TS PROSE/POETRY STELLA GARRET
Whitness 18 My God 21 Safety 24 KATELYN HECKLER
Letters to J
Black Noise Ocean Men
Is it Wierd that I Drew A Circle with My Shoe? 40
Guilt 56 ADAM SPRAGUE
Early Night Coffee Shop 3.24.16 Cancer in the Era of Covid
Dirt Palace 53 59
Negro Streets At Dawn Are Also Black
Loser 39 Tuna 42 Little Prince 70
ART EBONE HARRIS
Untitled_ Transition_Part 3
our neighborhood, our strength
I’m Tired But Hopeful
Something of Nothing and Everything
How Sick 36
Long Day 68 RICARDO MARTINEZ
Dear You 71
PHOTOGRAPHY NICOLAS VISBAL
The Comet Cement
Amber 44 Adhis 46 Ajasia 48 Mia 50 HUNTER HALL
Helping a Friend
MUSIC LIL VYL
OTHER STAFF CONTRIBUTIONS
Spotify 10 Collage
SPOTIFY The Underground team gifts you this playlist combined of tunes to accompany you while you explore the journal.
And this collage made by everyone on staff of their favorite 2021 work.
The Comet By: Nicolas Visbal “An undergraduate student at GSU pursuing a degree in English (Creative Writing) and a minor in Film and Media. I write poetry, prose, and fiction.”
Untitled_Transition_Part 3 By: Ebone Harris “The third visual art piece of a series that has yet to be named.”
Refraction By: Stella Garret “A self-proclaimed creative writer and poet currently pursuing an undergraduate English degree at Georgia State.”
I stare at her— that girl whose face is so eerily familiar, and yet, I can’t quite place it. I reach out to her, and I brush her hair aside. “What would it take for you to love yourself?” I ask. “Everything,” the girl in the mirror responds, “and nothing all at once.” Reluctantly I take a step back, as does she. Tears forming in her eyes and overflowing, pouring down my cheeks. “what’s the matter?” I ask. “It’s just you,” she responds, her voice trembling, echoing in my ears. “I will never be as beautiful as you.”
La Femme By: Zoie Olive “Une fille d’essence et de beauté à travers. l’explosion des couleurs.”
Witness By: Samantha Partridge
Made into His bitch. You confirmed. Choked. You ignored. Squeezed. You talked. Spit on. You jeered. Tripped. You participated. Pinched. You repeated. Slung over His shoulder. You wanted. Locked in His car. You barred the door. Raped. You salivated. He bragged about His conquests. You all coveted His glory.
Letters to J By: Katelyn Heckler “Part of the Underground team.”
I’m sorry it wasn’t enough to play, to laugh, to smile, to care little hands trusting, caressing rough worn fingers. I’m begging you to listen imploring you to see me, the disappointment is insurmountable How did we get here?
Despair By: Daniel Lopez “To express, to feel, to try so hard, this is it. No matter how many times you may try your hardest but end up failing regardless of the effort. Sometimes I just want to rip myself to release myself, just to release all negative energy out of my body and have a fresh start once more, to love without fear, to try without expectations and to walk without fearing to fall.”
My God By: Samantha Partridge
“Let me help you, my child. You are my lost lamb. Sacrifice yourself to me” The scissors cry out. My body cries out. My mind cries out. My god calls to me. I’m drowning in an ocean of tears. The devil yanks me down into the depths of myself. My god is suddenly there. Gently extending a hand to me. He is true strength. “You can be strong, you need only be like me.” I can’t. “Take up your weapon.” I grab the scissors. “Raise it up in remembrance.” I find a spot on my torso. “Banish her.” Blood drips. “Feel me.” I chuckle. This is raw. This is primal. This is God. I chain the devil up in the corner, she whimpers. I spit on her. “She’s a Jezebel, my child.” My god smiles at me. He truly sees me. Blood drips. I lick it while staring at Him. I drain the ocean. “What a good little lamb.” I am made in His image.
Black Noise By: Sōl Swenson “Sophomore and English major at GSU”
I wake up with a dark cloud about my head. A thin, looming veil buzzing around me. The eyes of the cloud look down and threaten me to look back. Particles of the whole all whisper to me, beckoning me to let them in so they can feast on rot as I rest eternal. I fight the voices and get up out of my bed and walk along the thin carpet and refuse to look myself in the eyes in the mirror. Damn the mirrors. People are walking in this life mirror to mirror, waiting to get a long look at themselves. They are all monsters. Self-adorning apostles of the religions of themselves. I feel lighter in the shower. The cloud above my head has lifted. It is still here, but the water acts as a barrier and I feel safe here. I stay safe and think of nothing. The pleasant white noise of the water gushing onto the porcelain-plastic brainwashes me. The warm water fades as the minutes fly by. Cold water invites back the cloud and I make my way out and dry off —brushing my teeth with my back to the mirror. As I dress, there is nothing but dark, frantic, shallow buzzing. If the shower was white noise, pleasant and warm, the cloud is black noise, disturbed and malignant. I think the cloud hates my outfit. As soon as I loop my belt around, the black noise grows louder and closer. It taunts and belittles me. The noise must be telling me how gross and ugly and unoriginal I am. Unoriginal, that’s too far for any college student. I rip the leather back off my jeans and whip it over my head in defiance. The noise subsides for a second right as the metal keeper at the tail catches the lower back of my head and a muted shriek escapes me. The cloud wastes no time. While I grasp my head kneeling down it draws towards the wound. It must smell an opening to my thoughts because the noise centers around where I hit myself and seems to be feasting on the site. I go to feel the mark and it is wet. Pulling my hand towards my face, I smell iron and see red. I am scared not only of my deepest and shallowest thoughts but also of blood. I am terrified of blood.
My equilibrium starts going off-kilter. My head bobs up and down a bit and below the dark static buzz of the cloud nearing the back of my head I hear my breath growing faster and shallower. My heart beats faster and I realize how that must mean more blood because the heart pumps the blood and the blood comes out of my head and the cloud will come into my head. And then my eyes shut. I wake up with a moody buzz in the back of my head. I’m left-cheek-down on the scratchy carpet and my roommate pokes his head into the room. “Hey I heard some-Woah dude what the fuck, are you okay?!” he says. It’s kind of annoying that he came into my room again without knocking, and he’s overreacting. It’s just a little scrape. “I’m fine man. Just bumped my head a little. Heads bleed a lot.” I tell him. “No, no, no. What’s up with all the flies around your head?! What the fuck is that? How long have you been down here?!” he cries. I don’t get it. How does he see that? I’m grabbing at my bed and getting up as I explain, “No man. What are you talking about? That’s just like a metaphor. It’s a cloud, not flies.” “What?! No, it’s like fucking flies sucking your blood or some shit!” he screams. I’m scared, but I don’t touch the blood because I’ll pass out again. Confused, I speed walk to the mirror with my neck sunk down a bit and I try to ignore the sound of swarming dark noise infesting UNDERGROUND
“My equilibrium starts going off-kilter. My head bobs up and down a bit and below the dark static buzz of the cloud nearing the back of my head I hear my breath growing faster and shallower.”
my mind. I look in the mirror and nearly pass out again. “What the fuck! I thought it was all a metaphor! Get some Raid or Clorox or something!” I yell. My roommate scrambles for supplies under the kitchen sink and mutters curses as I scream curses and look under the bathroom sink. I grab a bottle of peroxide and some toilet paper and get up to apply both to my wound. Turning around to yell to my roommate to forget the Clorox because that’s for mirrors, I am met with a thick line of Raid Multi Insect spray right in the eyeballs. My roommate keeps spraying at the flies above my head while he grabs me and walks me to his car, apologizing while I scream. He drives me to the emergency room and convinces me to tell them I sprayed myself. I tell him that it doesn’t matter either way, but he persists. In the E.R., my head damages are cleaned up and I clear my roommate’s name of the crime. The doctor asks me if there’s anything else I want checked out while I’m here. “Well, I think I’m depressed.” I explain. “How does it feel?” he asks. I tell him, “It’s like a dark cloud following me around. Like it’s black noise blocking everything else out.” He responds, “Well, that could have been a side-effect of the swarm of flies.” “Right.” Back home, I shower, and it doesn’t feel as good as before. I take a handful of Tylenol PM and go to sleep at 8. I wake up with two pink eyes and what feels like a dark cloud about my head.
Safety By: Samantha Partridge “I am a freshman at Georgia State and I’m currently a political science major. I plan to go to law school to become a social justice advocate. I’d like to concentrate in civil rights or advocacy for victims of abuse. I have always been very passionate about helping other people. As a survivor of abuse, I’ve found that writing about my experiences is the most therapeutic and productive way to deal with my trauma. I hope to be able to put emotions which are often too difficult to describe into digestible literature.”
Are we safe? I would do anything to receive even a remnant of gold from your treasure. I was not allowed to share in that bounty. You wouldn’t let me forget that. They guarded it and you tirelessly. Sometimes you’d come down to me from your throne. But only to etch “I am your king. Your god.” Onto my heart. The first time it happened was before you even dared to call me “my bitch”. I had already been witnessing how they worshiped and protected you. I wanted to taste this sweet nectar you must have been excreting. My spirit had not yet been broken in. I revolted against your rule once. A mistake. I thought I was cultivating my own treasure for a moment. But you were the only one who held that. I’m still paying reparations today. “Apologize Samantha.” They attacked me first. “You hurt him.” You allowed me to worship and they could not fathom my deviance. “He hurt himself over you.” I saw the bloody knuckles later. Their words were splitting. My reality left clouded. Your treasure was a beacon. I got on my knees. They watched. Waiting hours on end to make sure I wouldn’t retaliate. “I’m so sorry.” I meant it. “I hurt you.” Regurgitate. “I don’t deserve you.” Please work. “Good apology Samantha.” I see hope. “I thought I might have to choke you out against the wall.” The clouds thicken. He accepted my apology. I am giddy. My first bit of treasure. Yes, we are safe. UNDERGROUND
Meditation Pt. 1 By: Layla Amar
“I am a self-taught Palestinian American artist focused on exploring communication with the self immediately after extended dissociated states. My work details the process of articulating experiences within the traumatized brain while working through the inability to label intense sensations. Overall, my mixed-media art investigates the relationship between my inherited trauma from my Palestinian ancestry and my individual trauma and lived experiences.”
Ocean Men By: Sōl Swenson
“A sophomore at Georgia State, majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing.”
Imagine an ocean. Think of silk ripples going about your side, Dirty estuaries where nothing comes ashore, Black and White obituaries, Full of people who loved the sea, Sterile and cramped ossuaries, where mine and theirs, our bones, might meet. Imagine an ocean. A catered ship is out to sea. Men here on vacation, Fishing for a thousand dollars a day, So peacefully, they sit and catch, gut and eat, rip, and send the bodies back for other fish to see. Imagine an ocean. You feel fish playing all around you, You are at peace, You cannot seem to think of any troubles, As your bloated, mangled, sheet white body, Stares for eternity, Into the sea. Imagine an ocean. Is it not lovely?
SEBASTIAN SOLER Filmmaker . Artist . Producer
What inspires you to do art? “My love for film! I love movies and character development. Being able to portray them in my own way is really interesting to me.”
What got you into pixel art? “I started doing it for fun as a kid and I got back into it now as an adult, just to get my mind off of stuff. It’s very relaxing but definitely not for everyone. It’s very methodical and slow but I enjoy it. I really enjoy creating mirrored images and having these characters inspire to make them into pixel art.”
What’s your creative process like? “I’ll grab and image of the character, create a color scheme and figure out the size and then I place the beads from top to bottom. It usually takes me between an hour or two.”
Infinitely Bitter Figures-Sebastian Soler Synopsis: The figures go to war against their owner, new arrivals, and a threat that has hidden in the shadows since before their arrival...
Tremendously Bitter Figures-Sebastian Soler Synopsis: A climactic showdown commences between an elite battalion of action figures and the toys who must defend their home until the very end.
Extremely Bitter Figures-Sebastian Soler
Synopsis: A group of action figures must unite to stop a new rogue figurine from unleashing certain doom upon the household.
“Bitter Figures” Trilogy I am a self-taught stop-motion animator. I animate and edit my own short films, as well as complete sound editing and compose the score. I began this project on January 11th, 2021 and completed it on June 11th, 2021. The total number of frames running at 16 frames per second was 5,582. This was by far the most challenging animation/short film I have ever worked on. Incorporating myself into the production was an immense challenge, besides the fact that I had to complete the film before a deadline. However, this provided me with the opportunity to learn new special effects techniques such as “masking,” as well as learning how to properly use green screens and lighting effects. The music was another fun part of this production, as the score
is over 14 and a half minutes long and incorporates several different genres of music. This is the final animation out of three, from a short film trilogy called “Bitter Figures.”
The Terminator - Pixel Art “This project took 5 hours to complete. It is composed of 1,566 beads placed on a pegboard and fused together with an iron. The colors I used were: Light Brown, Brown, Dark Brown, Orange, Light Orange, Sand, Dark Red, White, Light Gray, Gray, Dark Gray, Black, and Black & White Striped Beads. The completed project measures 10.5” inches wide and 11” inches tall. I’m really fond of how this iteration of one of the most well-known science fiction characters was completed. This is one of my main products on my new Etsy Store “Relos Designs.”
Black Panther Pixel Art
“This project took roughly 5 hours to create from scratch. It is composed of 1,663 plastic beads placed on a pegboard and fused together with an iron. The five colors I used were: Black, Silver, Dark Gray, Gray, and Light Gray. The completed product is 9” wide and 13” tall.”
Square/Squid Game - Pixel Art “This project took 3 hours to complete. It is composed of 1,065 beads placed on a pegboard and fused together with an iron. The colors I used were: Pink, Light Pink, Dark Pink, Dark Gray, Black, and White. The completed project measures 7.25” inches wide and 8” inches tall. I am a fan of the new Netflix hit “Squid Game” and it was an enjoyable process to re-create one of the most ominous groups of characters in the entire series. This is one of my main products on my new Etsy Store “Relos Designs.”
Captain America / Falcon Pixel Art “This project took 4 hours to complete. It is composed of 1,493 beads placed on a pegboard and fused together with an iron. The colors I used were: Dark Blue, Red, White, Gray, Dark Red, Light Gray, Dark Gray, Black, Brown, Dark Brown, and Gloss Pink. The completed project measures 8.25” inches wide and 12.25” inches tall. I personally love this depiction of one of my favorite heroes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because of the vibrant colors his new uniform displays. This is one of my main products on my new Etsy Store “Relos Designs.”
Venom/Carnage Pixel Art “This project took roughly 6 hours to complete. It is composed of 2,707 plastic beads total and was created by placing these beads on a pegboard and heating them with an iron. The colors I used were: Black, Dark Gray, Gray, Light Gray, White, Dark Red, Red, Dark Brown, Brown, and Light Brown. The completed project measures 10.75” inches wide and 9.75” tall.”
Music “It’s Like That” “I gained the inspiration to compose this song from listening to fast-paced music while exercising over the summer months of quarantine in 2020. The jolting rhythm is meant to “hype up” the listener so-to-speak. I deeply enjoy composing songs with a higher tempo. The developmental process is just so much more invigorating and active in contrast to composing a song with a more mellow tone. Furthermore, I don’t normally work with vocals, but I had a pleasant time incorporating the clips into this piece, as I felt that they flowed smoothly with the overall energetic tone the composition portrayed.”
“Ring of Fire”
“The compositional process for this particular piece was difficult for several reasons. At first, I thought this song was going to belong to a different genre, but my creative process took over and it essentially became a complex blend of traditional music and dubstep. I used instruments such as the kalimba and bongos and mastered them digitally to enhance their overall quality sound and have them transition more smoothly with the electronic aspects of this composition.”
“What’s Your Damage?” “This composition was inspired by a project I was assigned in my Music Technology in high school. We had to research the #1 hit Billboard song of the year for every year in a decade of our choosing, and write three aspects from each song that struck us musically. Naturally, I chose to research the 80’s. After completing my research and carefully examining the ten hit songs from the decade, I took the characteristics from these songs that I had written down, and applied them to a composition of my own. This is the final product.”
I don’t eat pork now many reasons but when child me smelled maple streak o’ lean luring me to the table I couldn’t help but get a plate full How sick. Lemonade I can still appreciate but now every other form of this citrusy taste seems tainted from chicken piccata to lemon cake Only because I was sick that one time A real stomach ache. I don’t drink soda now Many reasons but when child me Opened the two liter of Coke guzzling Like half of it for bubbly guts I couldn’t help But get another sip How sick. An occasional burger I can still appreciate but now red meat turns sour in my fridge and yes I know world hunger is an issue Someone bought this for me. A real guilt trip.
How Sick By: Dylan Shoemaker “This poem showcases how tastebuds change as you grow.”
I don’t eat Hershey’s now many reasons but when child me attacked my teeth with these sugary sweets I could help but get a cavity A baby tooth I ended up swallowing How sick.
Tell Me By: Lil Vyl Holding the South Side of Atlanta down with a vengeance, Lil Vyl pulled up on the scene late 2017, and has since released five solo projects. His camp produces the majority of his music independently, but has worked with platinum producers and Grammy award winning engineers such as Brandon Thomas, Fletcher Vaughn, SenseiATL, TrapMoneyMelo, and more. Currently he is a senior at GSU, and majors in English. This song represents the longing to be loved, but realizing self-love is the ultimate comfort in a dog-eatdog-world. The concept of someone telling you everything you want to hear, but showing you the opposite is the worst. “Praying for my enemies, I’m only fighting time.”
Mixed media collage
By: Claredon Sharp
our neighborhood, our strength
Loser By: Nicolas Visbal “A traditional sestina written in pentameter with nonspecific, syllabic verses.”
Hey! Wait! I remember you! Yeah you! Man, remember me? Come on, the third grade? Bro of course, you do! We hung out every day. Dude, it’s been years! Remember high school? We were in the same class with Mrs. Finch. She’s the worst! Aw shit, those were the days, when we were kids. I heard you gotta wife! How are the kids? There’s so much we have to talk about! Man, remember the trip with my parents? Worst vacation ever! You got seasick! Bro, you puked everywhere! Remember we were supposed to go with Brooke, but she bailed. Dude your wife is hotter than her anyways. Dude, I got a job! Remember when we were kids we ate at Rocco’s every night. We were legends there! I wait tables there. Man, you should stop by for a drink and tal—Bro you’re busy? I get it; work is the worst. My manager’s always on my back. Worst job ever but you know; work is work. Dude have you heard what happened to Stacy? Bro I heard she’s a mom now with sixteen kids. Seriously! I heard it from Paul. Man, remember him? He was such a tool. We’re all grown up now. Aren’t we? I mean you were the biggest loser in school. School’s the worst. But now, you’re all grown up. You’re like a man now. You got a suit, family, a home. Dude, I wish I were you. I wish we were kids. You never call. You never text. But bro!
No worries! I get it! Work is work, bro! Me wait tables, you run business. We were nobodies, you and I when we were kids. We thought that teachers, parents were the worst but now, you’re just like my dad: a suit. Dude we fought The Man. But today, you’re The Man. Growing up is the worst thing ever man. Dude, I wish I was younger, like a kid. Bro, why don’t you miss the children we were? 39
Is it Weird I did a Circle with My Shoe? By: Kayanna Welch “I’ve been facing difficult times lately, seemingly one after the other. But I’ve come to find the different areas of my life, that I feel safe. That I feel Love. The Highest Importance: My Bubble...”
My little Bubble… is where I’m safe. from the world from people from judgement. In My little Bubble… I have fun. I laugh the most. I cry the most. It is how I recuperate the most. In the sims… my little bubble… is a 6x6 room… closet included… I Have Created… a beaver’s dam, a bird’s nest, a warm cacophony of blankets on a cold February night It is small… & it does get messy… Is it weird that I made a circle with my shoes?
Tuna By: Nicolas Visbal “A short story about marriage, love, and lack thereof.”
“I didn’t see you come in from work last night.” Sally sank her steak knife into a freshly cooked tuna filet. The blade crunched through the buttery crust of the meat and clinked the ceramic below. David pretended like he didn’t hear her. “Doesn’t it look good, Sal?” 42
David pulled out the cushioned chair, laid a Coors on the wood with no coaster, and plopped down behind his plate. His white button-down, now half-a-size too small, untucked itself from his gray slacks and relaxed around his handles. He grabbed a sip from his can and read the afternoon post that was laying on the semi-set table. His eyes would not dare leave the politics section. He cut the tuna with the side of his fork and bites into the tender meat. “Christ! It’s under-seasoned!” David spat out the tuna onto his mashed potatoes. He grabbed the white linen at his side and started wiping the grease from his bristly lips and chin. “Really?” Sally said with a mouthful of fish. “It needs more garlic. You must have the worst palate if you didn’t know that.” “I think it tastes fine as it is.” “It’s not good enough for me.” David picked at his teeth with his fingernails and stood up. He pushed his chair back into the table and went to the cupboard to find the garlic. “D, this is the same recipe we always eat. You made this tuna yourself.” Sally said as David was rustling through the cabinets. He looked back up and stretched his back, taking a deep breath. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.” David walked back to the table.
“Maybe, I’m just tired of tuna.” David cut off another bite of fish and swallowed it with a wince and went back to his paper. Sally looked down at her tuna. It was speckled with pepper and basted in a buttery sauce. They stayed quiet for a short minute while David read. Finally, Sally spoke, fully furrowed. “If you don’t like the tuna, just don’t eat it.” David chuckled with his mouth full. “I can’t,” He raised his finger from the beer towards her, swallowed, and cleared his throat. “I’ve already committed.” If David took the time from his paper to look up, he would see that Sally was staring at him, itching to ask him questions. “You used to love tuna,” Sally said. “What was that?” David looked up, but his eyes were still planted on the post. Sally put down her fork and knife. “You used to love it. You were eating tuna when I met you. Hell, I had to kiss your fish mouth at our wedding.” David rolled his eyes. “I don’t know how to explain it, dear. Some things just don’t feel the same anymore.” “What do you mean you don’t feel the same?” David lowered the can from his face. “Have you seen this? Looks like Jones is leading in polls. What a crook.” “What makes you say that?”
“Sally… he’s a liar. Just a bunch of empty promises. I’ve told you about this a million times. You must not listen to me.” Sally put her hands over the napkin on her lap and started playing with her fingers. “Do you ever lie to me?” David finally looked up at Sally. “Of course not, baby, no way,” He looked back down at Sally’s plate to find it barely touched. “Did you lose your appetite?” Sally twirled her engagement ring on her finger. It wasn’t flattering, but it was all the money that David could spend. She knew then that he loved her. Sally looked back up at him. “Did you lose yours?”
He ate another forkful of tuna mixed with potatoes. “I lost it on the first bite, but I’m not letting it go to waste.”
Illustrations By: Infinity Coleman
Amber By: Maia Helvy “What was the first memory you have of realizing your blackness and womanhood was less valued in our society and how do you think your creative outlet helps you break through the norm?” 44
“I think the first time I realized how undervalued my existence as a black woman was is when I first started to reflect on my experiences in the K-12 education system and even my college experiences. There were jokes openly made about my race and skin color without any repercussions or even reactions from my teachers and peers. Anything you could think of, I’ve probably heard. It was so normal for them.” “I’ve only ever painted black people, mostly black women, and I think that has been a subconscious self-reminder of the beauty and value of my blackness and my womanhood.”
By: Maia Helvy “What was the first memory you have of realizing your blackness and womanhood was less valued in our society and how do you think your creative outlet helps you break through the norm?” “I remember seeing a white girl in pre-k wearing pigtails and I went home asking my mom to give me pigtails the next day with my natural hair. After showing up the next day in class, I realized the difference in beauty standards related to race and how I couldn’t be perceived as beautiful like them. And many examples proved my theory throughout elementary and middle school. In middle school, I got really depressed and had to see a school district therapist in the seventh grade because of my frequent episodes. I was an emo-bookworm-poetry-writing straight-A student that was also perceived as gay. My friends were not indeed friendly, and I thought I was fat when I was a size 6. But those things weren’t the main cause of my illness, it was my own fear of never being perceived as the person I know I am. I was frustrated and devastated figuring out kids my age would not even give me a chance, because of their own assumptions of me and mostly how I looked. I honestly thought life was some sort of a sick joke going to school and learning about equality, empathy, and kindness when school is literally divided by cliques and popularity food chains. My foreign parents at the time
failed to understand my dilemmas as they grew up in Kenya where the kids were of the same race and wore uniforms under strict rules. Journaling was my only medicine to help with the sadness that came from me feeling completely misunderstood and unworthy of people’s time. I wrote unconditionally and unapologetically for only myself, a way to beautifully explain my emotions which made me feel untethered from the world. Writing taught me that true beauty came from within someone’s soul, not their face, or clothes, or what their body looked like. When I had to go back to therapy my junior year of high school because my depression had spiraled again, writing reminded me of my power and value as a black woman. It’s still hard some days, but it’s crucial to remind myself that I know myself, I fully love myself, and that’s all that matters in a world which does not reciprocate that love back.”
Ajasia By: Maia Helvy “What was the first memory you have of realizing your blackness and womanhood was less valued in our society and how do you think your creative outlet helps you break through the norm?” “Middle school was the first time I became aware socially of what it means to be a black woman in today’s society. I believe it’s the transition between adolescence and adulthood when young people understand how big of a role race and gender play in everyday life. It could be the way you and your black peers are reprimanded more harshly by teachers than your white ones, etc. Or noticing that it’s only ever girls who get dress coded for their clothes. My full awareness of the intersectionality of womanhood and blackness came later in life. Freshman year of college, and even now, I’m trying to learn how to navigate a world that disregards black women and judges us for everything we do. The media’s portrayal constantly spreads false narratives about black women through stereotypes that affect how we are treated, whether we are hypersexualized or masculinized.” Best said by Malcolm X,
‘The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.’ “It’s no easy existence, but I often find strength in knowing that I have my family and friends and an abundance of black women in my life that are here to support and guide me. Additionally, being in a band and making music, specifically playing the bass guitar, has been a massive outlet. It has allowed me to express the frustrations that I cannot communicate freely in the world without scrutiny. Learning bass has introduced me to so many peers that I can confide in and share my experiences. It has allowed me to form a community/safe space where I can exist without the expectations or stereotypes society puts on me as a black woman.”
Mia By: Maia Helvy “What was the first memory you have of realizing your blackness and womanhood was less valued in our society and how do you think your creative outlet helps you break through the norm?” “I don’t really have a first memory. It was (and is) more so of a deep-seated knowing that reinforced through your experiences. Sometimes you’ll forget, but then something will happen and you’re forced to come to terms with it all over again. Sometimes I am not even sure I see myself as a black woman in this weird fucked up way. I have so long tried to separate myself from black womanness as I struggled (struggle) with internalized homophobia, misogyny, and racism. Art has allowed me to just view myself as a human first. It allows me to process these experiences and feelings. It’s a powerful thing to be able to create something beautiful and when you’re told your whole life that people like you aren’t beautiful, it’s empowering to create art that you’re essentially taking back your power and creating your own narrative.”
Beyond Repair By: Sudo X “This song is about the hopelessness I feel about our future. It can be hard to cope with it sometimes, and it feels like we won’t be able to fix our situation. Although I feel this existential dread, I try to take things one day at time, even though I’m barely keeping myself together while doing so. Maybe one day something will happen that restores my hope, but until then, I’ll feel like this world ruled by bandits is beyond repair.”
Early Night Coffee Shop 3.24.16 By: Hunter Hall
Awake. Can’t move. Breathe. The smell is familiar. Control my lungs. Capable. Grab the sheets around me. Open my eyes. Blurry. Not black and white. Shades of grey. Taste. Lick my lips. Nicotine and blood. I need to leave. No shirt, no shoes. Turn on my stomach. Reach around me. Arms length away is my phone. Slide it into my back pocket. It is still dark out. Fingertips. Arm is numb. Bruise on my face. Heart is slowly beating. Try three times to stand. Limp over broken glass. Grab my wallet from the desk. Find my keys in my jacket. A bit torn, a little wet. Look at my hands. A shade of blue. I’ve never been great with colors. A familiar song playing in the background. Otis, no idea the name of the song. Reminds me of my dad though. Bless that poor soul. Never stood a chance. Take a piece of glass out of my foot. Find my cigarettes under a body. Shake. I guessthree left. Find you across the room. If you were awake, I’d tempt you with a smoke. If I didn’t have to leave, maybe I’d dissect your mind. Maybe if I weren’t so blue. Find a sweater. Red. Find a beanie. Grey. So many shoes. Find a pair I can slip on. Steal a lighter. White. Drag my foot. Drag myself. Flickering light. Where did everyone go. I’m alone. Dark room. Stagger down the stairs. Tears in my eyes. Dehydrated. Chipped tooth. Sprained thumb. Bleeding temples. Empty thoughts. Full bowels. Dirty sinks. A man stares at me. Fumble for my keys. In the car. Phone dead. Clock off. You’re off. Close my eyes. Headlights. The sand feels nice between my toes. Blue eyes. Heavy chest. No sun.
Negro streets at Dawn are also Black By: Maximilian Lloyd “I’m a transfer student, and I was looking for ways to feel more involved in the school as well as showcase my art.”
Byzantium is full of searching scribes Downtown got neon lights and shiny stones wrapped around the necks of real stars I am ashamed to say maybe I am remiss to say I’m more interested in the image of poet than what poet got to say In most cases I must disclose or relinquish my racial self when I because I must write the poem I’ve hurt my eyes reading I’ve left fashion for forest green sweaters and clothes harder to run and fight for my life in and I have the dirtiest hands Things I told you I’d never tell got reworded My hair is a brilliant mess you’ll have to forgive me
Helping a Friend By: Hunter Hall
Guilt By: Joy Ahn “Creative writing major and and a first year staff member for the Underground literary magazine.”
is what you feel in the moment and think forever, oh forever.
i will turn back, close the door, and pretend to have never seen
it is a cold cavern dripping thousands of meters down. see a pit of vipers at the bottom, the type who burrow deep inside and make a home.
think painful like unnatural painful. think breaking your own bone, think having your own goodness bloom a rot from the inside out.
and place His obol on your tongue.
parasitical in a way you need,
(see a snake eating eating eating until it is nothing) what is guilt? it is raising your hands to the clouds-sun-stars, pleading— oh mister Blue Sky, won’t you break me, oh break me please i am not a church kid but i’m feeling the Itch again mister Blue Sky smiling in his mister way, spreads his hands out with the coin. you taking it to promise—
and you will be here again, Oh even mister Blue Sky gets lonely in a house with the clouds-sun-stars so Child, Do Come Visit Me Again. see a snake eating eating eating until it is nothing, nothing, oh nothing.
Cement By: Nicolas Visbal
Dirt Palace By: Adam Sprague “@Spreggo is a visual artist studying studio arts at GSU. Before transferring to GSU, he spent two years at the Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston. After moving to Atlanta, he has established a budding career in fine art, illustration & design.”
As I walked, the scent of thawing black dirt rose from fallow fields and lawns, recalling early memories of making earth castles beneath a middling tree in my nana’s yard. The artless structures of dark soil and snapped sticks would, I had imagined, be summer palaces for pillbugs and ladybugs alike. After a long winter of smelling little but the indefinable scent of snow and ice interspersed only by wafts of warm wood smoke, the earthy odor of dirt seemed all the more intense. The street I was on had been paved and completed with crumbled concrete sidewalks and curbs. Patches of crusty snow still skulked in the shadows—spots where the newly radiant spring sun could not yet reach. As I passed, I shattered them with the toe of my snow boot and delighted in speeding their return to liquid. Slate gray syrup buckets were already tacked to the trees, a sign of spring. Sap, I thought, wiping my nose, runs in the same season as snot.
Cancer in the Era of Covid By: Hunter Hall
Soft flickering of the fluorescents, A faint glow of monitors and the hum of machines, The distant happy chatter of bored workers, Muffled groan and a hand tightens its grasp of another. Warm comfort in a cold bed, Cool heads and heated discussions. Wiping a tear away, Cleaning up the hair off the pillow on breaks, No need to feel embarrassed, Your family is here. Well, we wanted to be. For what shouldn’t be, is difficult to fathom. And how we should be able to react, contracted. instead, Missed phone calls, missed facetimes. Walking the hallways, only companion being rolling vitals. Differences and indifferences, the staff has too many concerns to keep up. Questions unanswered, thoughts of love unrequited. A coma, two strokes, congestive heart failure. Oldest brother comforting the middle, and a mother sobbing downstairs. A kid not knowing where he is. That’s what came to be.
Keyes By: Adam Sprague
love? By: Liz Bramlet “A freshman at Georgia State starting her pathway to a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. She has written many short plays and has many larger works in progress and hopes to use her time in college to help these projects come to life. After college, she hopes to be a scriptwriter.”
fireworks crackled in the sky, making psychedelic flowers of saltpeter and charcoal. the setting was stupidly perfect for your goal. trembling, you held back a confession. a confession that i anticipated. in a time where i would quake with fear, at the terrifying thought that i’d forever be the bridesmaid, i let you in. babbling and twaddling, your voice was a cacophony of subjects that failed to interest me. your passion, unmatched. your oblivion, too. whining and moaning, you declared that i was the only person in your corner. up my ego went, like a satellite into space, even though i knew that wasn’t true. sometime in june, an epiphany came to me. love as i know it isn’t the rabbit to my wolf. how stupid of me to chase it. never would i starve to death from a lack of love. i had confused love for something else. i suckled off of your teat for the milk called attention. until eventually, i decided i was full. think me shallow, say i used you. but you didn’t love me either. you were the world’s worst comedian. and me? the only member of your audience.
Closer By: Elisabeth Offer “I’m a sophomore pursuing a biology degree. Despite my selected major, drawing is something very essential for my emotional well-being and I often utilize it to express myself! This sketch was done solely with a #2 pencil and some basic sketchbook paper over the course of a day or so. I would say the piece represents a lack of emotional intimacy and a yearning for a relationship that transcends the physical.”
Something of Nothing and Everything By: Kelsey Dorawa “A prose piece meant to explore the nature of a newborn black hole. Nearly personifying a black hole was a challenge, but it was a fun challenge, as I hope the piece will reflect. I hope to continue my journey into the writing world by becoming a published author. It has been a dream of mine since I was little, and I know that to achieve that goal, I have to start somewhere, so here I am.”
Void. Nothing but an endless tug on everything and nothing, something always hungering for more yet never satisfied with what it has. Seemingly nothing at the end of something grand, something that dies, something that once breathed and grew and lived, and when it ate its final breath, it exploded in a glorious array of blues and reds and whites and oranges, and it lanced its glory across the void in a splash of destruction that would later bring about new things for nothing to consume. Yet that nothing was, in fact, something. Small. Infinitesimal. A blip in the expanse of everything that would inevitably outlive the somethings around it. Edges tinged by the pull nothing had against everything, even the blues and reds and whites and oranges from its previous life that it desperately called back into its open arms. A golden ring like a halo around its surface, a vow from its partner to never forget what it had once been. A silent kiss from something that made it feel more than nothing. It was not enough, however sweet the promise, for this nothing had an appetite more demanding than that of the something it had once been. It slunk through the void easily, being mostly void itself, gnawing on blues, devouring reds, consuming more and more until surely it was more than nothing, surely it had to become something, and then it did. Not because it already wasn’t something, but because it realized it was something different from everything that still had a place. A purpose. It was a something that pulled on everything. A something that sunk into the gentle embrace of everywhere because it could. Because everywhere was here, and here was nothing. But that nothing was something. And that something, though void, once knew of golden beauty and fateful passion, and it slept in a bed of everything, everywhere, until the end of time.
Im Tired But Hopeful By: Noah Beich “My mother is a Russian immigrant named Yana Ivleva. My father was born and raised in America, his name is Jeb Beich. The odds of me being born Muslim with the middle name Abdurahman seem highly unlikely. Yet my Muslim identity, like my middle name, shapes me at my core. The religion of Islam provided me access to an entirely different world, one that taught me I can use my innate privilege to stand up for those who don’t posses the same luxury. These are the people who today in America are shunned and discriminated against not only by other citizens, but also by the institutions that create the infrastructure of America. Consequently, growing up resembling a “white” American on the exterior, but having a deeply rooted part of my identity outside the white American church going majority, greatly informs my voice as an artist and what I hope to accomplish. This part of my identity was the diving board for a world of exploration into social justice.”
Grave By: Trevor Harris “My friends call me Kazu and I’m a Senior at GSU working on my Creative Writing degree. I appreciate a kind ear and voice to my poetry; I hope you all have a good read.”
How can I wait by your graveside when you are no longer there? Pulse, a mere beat within a buried heart. Alongside the grave is the comical set of flowers, Usually a pair of tulips, but no, these flowers are merely roses. Looking at them I see the clever ordinance within. We planted roses, grew them in the summer, and watched them die in the winter. To me, our lives aren’t just beautiful will o’ wisps, but eternal lights that glow even when glowing isn’t conscious. As our lives glow and dim from character to character, I only hope to remember the moment I shared at your grave, smoking a cigarette.
NICOLAS VISBAL Writer . Photographer. Teacher
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is not as concrete as I would prefer. Sometimes I plan projects meticulously only to end up scrapping the entire concept. Other times, I wake up with a sudden urge to create, and I type for hours on end– it is here where I feel I do my best work.
I enjoy working in restricted and limited mediums. I don’t like having limitless control, and I invite outside factors to participate in and “corrupt” my art– this is one aspect that draws me into film photography. Limiting myself to writing specific poetic forms, limited points of view, and manipulation of language/syntax. I enjoy challenges.
When I get possessed with the urge to write, I either eat unhealthy amounts of bread and ramen, or I eat nothing at all in favor of a strict coffee-only diet. I recommend neither. I juggle a lot of interests at once, so if writing poetry or prose does not fulfill my artistic itch, I switch to a different format like photography or music production. This way, there is a constant momentum to my creative process that mitigates writer’s block and keeps me somewhat sane and satisfied.
Film photography is exhilarating, and I find its patient, slow, ad costly process very rewarding compared to the satisfaction of writing a short story. Therefore, I often stress in poetry and prose, and whenever I plan to submit my work, it usually rests a year before submission. In that time, I constantly revise and edit until the written work fits my criteria– if it ever does.
In all my artistic endeavors, I must be brutal and honest. I enjoy exposing aspects of my life. It’s not my priority if people relate, sympathize, or disagree with my expressions. What matters to me is that I express myself honestly.
What do you hope to do with your work in the future?
What inspires you to do your work/ where do you find inspiration?
I hope to teach in some way in the future. Post-pandemic, I was a primary education music teacher and experienced great fulfillment teaching classes. I love to write, film, and create, and If I find myself in a career that favors those qualities, I’d be grateful. As it stands, teaching is my current passion.
For me, writing poetry and prose requires patience and attentiveness– my surroundings can randomly inspire me, and I find myself writing in inappropriate and odd circumstances. It’s like a muse suddenly lures me to the page: blink, and I’ll find myself writing for hours, completely withdrawn from my environment, and enveloped in the need to create.
I draw from my personal life to write and create, and the people closest to me inspire me the most. My fiancée has always supported me, and even if my poetry and prose seldom reach a romantic tone, she influences all my work deeply. I have a brother that always augments my creative process, and any collaboration with him invigorates my inspiration. I’m thankful to have a large family that I wouldn’t change in the slightest.
How did you start making art/ figure out you liked it? I think that my brother and I were bred to create. I can remember as far back as the third grade where I’ve found outlets to express myself. At middle school, I spent my days in class writing “a novel” about supernatural creatures and a heroic young adult protagonist in his journey through the afterlife. I still own that novel today, and even though it’s precisely the type of book you’d expect a twelveyear-old boy to write, I knew then that writing was a part of me.
The Comet .............12 Loser .......................39 Tuna ........................42 Litlle Prince.............70 Cement....................57
Long Day By: Eris Crosswhite “An English Major at Georgia State University, currently in his sophomore year; He enjoys stories and reading. This short story aims to depict our sameness in humanity by means of an argument between two dissimilar friends.”
“I’m tellin’ ya, Grom, yer—” “No no,” Grom calmly interjects. “On the account of nearsightedness, I’d have to disagree. Just the other day, I spotted a podgy calico cat making swift work of a sizable alleyway rodent. I reckon it must’ve been no less than thirty yards away. No doubt, all those who know me would describe me as a tenacious man.” He shifts his weight, assuredly prostrating himself on his stool. “And I ain’t disagreein’, but that don’t mean yer only that.” Grom’s eyebrows furrow at the notion. “How could one describe me as anything but? Nearly twenty-eight years I’ve relentlessly toiled, God be my witness.” Eddy chuckles at his attempt to gloat. “Ya must be one’a his favorite mules by now!” Unamused, Grom raises his finger toward him. “You bastard you—” “Jokin’, jokin’,” Eddy’s grinning visage fades to earnestness. “Men like that oughta be respected, ‘s just that hard work…” Grom gazes at him, puzzled. “What of it?” He dismissively redirects his attention from his friend. “Jimmy!” he barks. “Pour me a drink, please.” “And me,” Eddy adds. Across the counter, the bartender instinctually grabs a bottle of Courvoisier as he moves in front of the men. “The same?” Grom promptly scoffs. “What else?” Jim slides the drinks across the worn oak of the bar, the men grasp for them before the liquid can settle in the glass. Their usual cognac’s pleasant, fruity flavor quickly dispels the looming tension of the discourse. Fixated on Eddy’s remark, Grom breaks the silence between them. “Eddy, you know, we’re an odd pair.” Eddy stares into his empty shot glass, hesitant to entertain the assertion. “…And why’s that, Grom?” “Isn’t it clear enough?” Eddy stares at his friend, confused, as he grapples with the impliUNDERGROUND
cation. He signals the bartender for another round, briefly pausing before he speaks. “It ain’t.” “Come on now, Eddy. I’ve just been promoted to head of sales. That old auto-shop of yours… It’s been past its prime for quite some time.” Irritation builds visibly on Eddy’s face. “And what the hell‘s that s’posed to mean?” “It means” —Grom downs his second shot—“that you ought to stop pretending as if you know a thing about hard work.” Emboldened, he continues his tirade. “I wake at the break of dawn and get myself down to the earliest train six days a week. I work twice as hard as the next man and twice as long! I return home only when there is no trace of the sun’s presence in the sky! Marge and the kids—they never want for anything. I make sure of that every day. Hard work is sacrifice. When was the last time you sacrificed a damn thing?” “Stop yer lecturing. Sacrifice? ‘Course it is, ya dunce!” Eddy throws a third shot down. “When was the last time you did something besides sacrifice? Ya work so goddamn much ya can’t do anythin’ else!” Eddy reaches for the bottle and haphazardly pours himself another shot. Grom snatches the bottle from his hands to refill his glass, spattering the counter and floor. “What does it matter! God knows I do my job as a husband and father to the best of my ability.” Eddy laughs mockingly. “God? Yain’t been to church in years! Ya spent the last million Sundays drinkin’ wit’ me!” “Well—I take care of my family! He ought to recognize that—or to hell with him!” Fuming, he downs another shot out of frustration. Eddy downs another shot as he stares at him, ready to deliver another jibe. “Ya sure yer kids even know who ya are? Ya may as well be a ghost!” “Bah! How enjoyable can it possibly be to spend time with your family when your business is running in the red? Enlighten me!” “Better than enslaving m’self!” “Then why the hell are you here with me!?” The two men freeze as they look upon one another, bewildered, inebriated, and exhausted. “...Dunno... Long day?” Following a brief pause, bubbly, irrepressible laughter erupts as the adversarial demeanor of the drunken pair melts away.
Little Prince By: Nicolas Visbal “A poem about fatherhood and kinship.”
I am not your beautiful rose. The one you tucked in blue starlight covers, and read The Little Prince as if I were your own. I am not your prodigal son the one with golden hair now blackened, balding desert on the spot you kissed Goodnight.
I am your firstborn, dirt-worn and toiled like bedtime books you’d read to me– your pride and joy forgotten. I am your royal liar, unseen snake and sword in hand, armor soaked in sand. I lie through my false teeth that I would be the bigger man, but a rightful king. I am not
Dear You By: Ricardo Martinez “Philosophy Major. Enjoys walks on the beach. Lives an hour away from campus. (Yes, the drive is awful.)”
Shot down at the door. Date of Birth: Around 11:39. L I T E R A L L Y Dear you: do you work? Do you hold your Eyelids shut? We all slow down, holding our Breath though we also cry, a lot. Funding Was dug up and here are the results: slide hair In between your thumbs with a ¼ inch pointing Forward always and find that old lighter in Your pocket still red. Hold with the grace Of a car grasping a newborn. Inch it Closer and closer; your hair recoils, Fragrance chokes your eyes and I have to go to the bathroom.
Cravings By: Joy Ahn “A magical realism short story that reflects upon the author’s own subcultural relationships to explore themes of conformity, assimilation, and spirituality among Korean American mothers.”
Ms. Baek could talk to ghosts. Or rather, ghosts could talk to her. Not to be mistaken, she had tried plenty. Ms. Baek was no stranger to the occult. Her grandmother, before having immigrated to America in 1955, had been rumored to have found modest standing as a medium in the humid, slow-moving districts scattered around the old Atlanta area. Three or so generations of chicken scrawl etched onto the backs of pocket bibles were stored at the very bottom of her closet bin, archiving the corrosive grievances and exotic fancies of nearly every lofty American in Fayetteville, young and old. They were an easy and easily fascinated crowd who, even decades after their beloved woman’s passing, still endeared the most recent Baek by face, if not by name. And in all frankness, Ms. Baek relished in it. She was a lonely woman, in the way all older, not quite comfortable, not quite childless ajummas were. But unlike them, she was “well-liked.” In America, it seemed the best thing one could be was “well-liked.” There was never a moment of faster happiness than when she would stroll along the concrete plazas of Alpharetta, perhaps with another woman whose children knew hers, and have an American toss her a winded greeting as they passed. “They know me around here,” she would cry, girlish and fluttering her hand at their departing back. “Oh, I’m quite well known around here.” So when she caught the inkling of ghosts about, she welcomed them with little strife. “Eat, eat!” She smiled, setting a porcelain plate of dried
persimmons in front of her bathroom door. Her ghosts liked small spaces, and Ms. Baek assumed they also enjoyed the coolness of the porcelain when in Georgian heat, just as she did. The door seemed incredibly keen on swinging open on the stillest days, beckoning for her care. Ms. Baek blew the steam off a cup of citron tea before also setting it down. She would wait to see if the cup would be emptied before giving more. When she went to check the next morning, the persimmons were disturbed, like they had been gnawed on by a rodent before being promptly abandoned. The teacup was also upended. They were picky things, but Ms. Baek had already been a mother of two mousy daughters. She would adjust. The other mothers from her church were great help, as they always were. They met biweekly at a café—a group of the same slightly stiff, slightly plump women at the right heavy age where little scared them, and the things that did scare them were little. The musk of tropical scented tick repellent and sunscreen formed a cloud above them like a ghost of their own. Like good Christians, they did not believe in spirits, and they did not believe Ms. Baek either. But in America, it seemed that one did not need to believe in something to care for it. There was a silly little phrase they would echo to each other time and time again, like an inside joke. One of the mothers, called Mrs. Yoon, had first heard it from the lovely, shrill-voiced women who flocked around the Southern Methodist Church from when she lived in Cummings. Hate the sin, love the sinner. She wasn’t quite sure of its meaning, but the ladies smiled their white, bejeweled smiles as they said it, so it must’ve been something nice. UNDERGROUND
They all felt it described Ms. Baek’s situation perfectly. “Ghosts are always children in America,” Mrs. Yoon complained. “Girls with blood dripping from their eyes. I tell you, I can’t sleep when I see something like that. I don’t know how it came to be so popular here! They’re always putting out movies with the scariest, smallest girls as their ghosts, crawling out of mirrors and wherever.” “In that case, I don’t know a single American girl who likes persimmons,” added another woman, Ms. Song. Hye-jin, the youngest one, suddenly grabbed Ms. Baek’s shoulder and gave it a swift shake. “Try giving chicken nuggets! Chic-ken nuh-gets!” she insisted, her plump white face ecstatic. “Ever since Daniel went to school, all he’s been asking for is chicken nuggets. He eats them in the cafeteria and leaves all the food I pack for him alone. Now, he wants them again, but nuggets. Just nuh-gets, he says!” “Like cutlets?” Ms. Baek asked. Her daughters did not talk to her about food. “Fried?” “Baked. Look in the freezer section next time. At the big store.” And so, the following day, Ms. Baek bought a family sized bag of nuggets from a supermarket five miles from her usual vendors. The place was bright and loud, just like the packaging. She followed the directions on the back mathematically, but the nuggets themselves still cooked up sad, all beige and rocky. She had to thoroughly sprinkle it with chopped green onions and a delicate circle of sesame oil before she was satisfied. To her delight, when she returned the next morning, all that was left of the offering was a mound of shriveled onion tops. The sesame oil had soured overnight, but Ms. Baek was too overjoyed to fuss about the stench. She laughed, breathless, and
clapped her hands. The next day, on another ajumma’s recommendation, she gave them pineapple. It was Ms. Baek’s first time buying one. It was one of those heavy, sharp-skinned American fruits her mother did not like to keep around the house, disliking the sugary musk it permeated well before its ripeness. But it felt special to Ms. Baek—food that was not hers. When next the churchwomen congregated at Ms. Baek’s house for an evening of Earl Grey and chess, she beckoned them first towards the bathroom door. The plate sat empty, and Ms. Baek picked it up, aglow. “You see? You see here?” she cried. “They know me here. I’m well-liked! My God, I’m well-liked!” And the bathroom door weakly shuttered, like the wind itself gave her a nod.
“But in America, it seemed that one did not need to believe in something to care for it.”
Paula Valero- Editor-in-Chief
Infinity Coleman- Production Editor
“A woman. Yes, but a million other things as well.” - Virginia Woolf
“Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring: ‘How to Build a Boat.’” —Steven Wright
Paola Herrnandez- Literary Editor You only have what you give. -Isabel Allende
“youth is wasted on the young!”
“Kiss the cook”
“Say you trust me but peep when you’re fallin’ back. What?” -Lil Uzi Vert
Hunter Hall “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”
“be gentle with yourself.”
“Let us live for the beauty of our own reality” -charles lamb
Ava Marinelli “Don’t dream it. Be it.”
Adam Sprague “Always be hydrating.”
Production Editor Notes I truly enjoyed putting this issue of the Underground Journal together this semester. I wanted to tell a story through color, or the lack of color in some cases, within each spread to accompany each piece. This journal is the visual representation of a raw and open emotional rollercoaster expressed through color, shape, and the amazing work submitted this semester. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Your Production Editor, Infinity Coleman
“remember the rainbow eucalyptus & how we both wished we could paint. then learn, without me, paint the dirt that talks to you, where i am, too.” -Craig Heyne, Resting Place