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Renaissance The Writers’ and Artists’ Magazine of Wayne Community College Goldsboro, North Carolina Volume 34, May 2018


This thirty-fourth volume is dedicated to our newest little editors: Mia Tuck, and Nancy and Phillip Merrill

Student Awards

Front Covers........................SarahWhipple Whitney Joyner Back Covers.........................Whitney Joyner Art.......................................Tamaya Williams Prose ...................................Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot Poetry .................................Hope Mitchell


Jeff Williams Dean Tuck Ashley Merrill, Associate Editor Rebecca Hardin-Thrift, Associate Editor Rosalyn Lomax, Editor Emerita Marian Westbrook, Editor Emerita Kathryn Spicer, Editor Emerita

Acknowledgements Staff

Theresa White-Wallace


Danny Rollins and Angie Waller

Wayne Community College Foundation Adrienne Northington and Emily Byrd

Office of Communications

Jessica Meadows, Katrina Bolton, Kenny Stern, and Brent Hood

Student Government Association and The Artists and Writers

No part of this magazine may be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2018 Renaissance Views expressed are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of this institution.


Table of Contents


Roll of Thunder Tamaya Williams


Athena Stacia Weed


Snow Day Dylon Bryson




Cold, Dark Place Nathaniel W. Barwick

10 11

12 13

14 15 16

17 18 19 20

22 24 25 26

Northbound Tamaya Williams The Fire of Life Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot




Technique Is Everything Lyndsey Parnell


29 30

Woe to the Generations Hope Mitchell


Tuesday Sylvia Spencer Yellow Lizard Britney Sawkiw


Mourning Whitney Joyner Temptation Whitney Joyner

33 34 35 36

Awakened Sarah Whipple Spring Whitney Joyner Blue-Eyed Boy Madison Murphy Six Colors Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot The Future Is Female Whitney Joyner


Boys vs. Men Whitney Joyner


Where I’m From Joshua Foy Trouble Man Tamaya Williams By the Bay Stephanie Lam


39 40

Outside In Hope Mitchell Best of the Worst Films: Trash Cinema Leigh Read Wrinkles Max Schilling Une Femme Deanaletta Seif Cognizance Sarah Whipple Portrait of a Second Son Dylon Bryson Only Women Whitney Joyner Gazelle Cristal Villanueva Pick and Choose Hope Mitchell Piano Jazz Craig Cohen Eustace Negro Tamaya Williams Secrets of the Zen Garden Britney Sawkiw Water Lilies Jenna Berry Barning Tobacco Becky Grady Lily Gracelyn Gurley The Clowness Cha-U-Kao Fastening Her Bodice Lindsay Davis Fiona Heather Dupree

Reminiscence Hope Mitchell Pearl in Oyster Kaleb Ginn

41 42 43

I Am Mine Whitney Joyner

46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54

Awoken in a Sunrise Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot

44 45

69 70 71

A Bronze Bond Nathaniel W. Barwick

Orchids Emily Hudson

73 74 75 76

Tentacle Shake Omar Acevedo-Trejo A Frozen Memory Joshua Foy Instinct Jesus Quiroz Opposition Sarah Whipple Eye of the Tiger Stephanie Lam Scars Omar Acevedo-Trejo Death’s Ashes Heather Dupree



Tolerant Sarah Whipple


June 9th Antwan Short

60 61


Angie’s Frida Sarah Whipple

Provoked Sarah Whipple

56 58

64 65 66

Friend Ruben Munoz

The Face of Extinction Britney Sawkiw Math Anxiety Diana Stoudt

Omar’s Snake Sarah Whipple Sea Turtle Cindy Tamayo

Iguana, Champion of the Green Emily Hudson


David Close-Up Stacia Weed Alligator Whitney Joyner Kaleb’s Cacti Sarah Whipple The Last Job Kiondra Lewis Condemned Nathaniel W. Barwick Goldfish Whitney Joyner To the Ones I Left Home Weston Hersey Egg Carton Whitney Joyner Avocado Britney Sawkiw Mother’s Love Whitney Joyner Majestic Peacock Dalton Bryson

Tamaya Williams, “ROLL OF THUNDER,” Acrylic

Tamaya Williams, “Northbound,” Acrylic


The Fire of Life

“That was a close call,” Chief mumbled thoughtfully after a lingering puff. “Usually electrical fires are so quiet people never know that they’re in danger until their house is burnt around them.” It seemed as if her father offered a spiritual explanation for their safety, yet only small words of faith and miracles drifted toward her. Chief nodded, gesturing to the burnt carcass of the electrical box. “Whoever heard this needs to be rewarded because a minute later this whole side of the house would have gone up in flames.” Her father agreed solemnly, his attention now attracted to the scorched siding encasing the box. Chief shifted his stance in deep consideration. His eyes roamed the house almost as if searching for a soft spot. He pointed the smoldering cigarette to a single wall above the box. “That section would have been the first to go.” Her heart stopped. That was her room.

Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot Her feet hit the solid floor with such speed that an unexpected twinge feathered across her toes. With a groggy mumble and sleep-smeared eyes, she hobbled toward the window. The noise grew louder as she pressed her head against the fresh morning glass while each breath held onto the faint popping noise that threatened her from below. Perhaps, it was the weight of her dreams or the serenity of the night that plagued her body, for at that moment the sound of a starting fire did not register as threatening but merely a nuisance that held her from sleep. Whatever the reason, as her feet traveled unconsciously down the stairs, her mind drifted consciously back to bed. That was until she saw the smoke. Thick, voluminous clouds attacked the glass with such virtuosity she stumbled backwards, not by the smoke’s force, but of her own materializing fear. The sleep in her body was drowned in adrenaline, and within seconds, a siren melody kissed her ears, and the presence of red and white softened her breathing. Outside, tarnished yellow coveralls speckled the lawn and clumped together around a smut-blackened box that dangled open, dejectedly. Exposed wires glinted with such urgency that it was almost as if the singed, thick wire resting at the edge of the box was trying desperately to hide its ugliness by melting away from its onlookers. Amongst the dull yellowness, her father appeared. His hair stood on end, and whether it was from the narrow escape of a near electrical fire or bed-head, she could not tell. His naturally loud voice offered moments of a serious conversation as he spoke to a burly man that introduced himself as the Chief firefighter. A freshly-lit cigarette dangled ironically from Chief ’s lips.

The sleep in her body was drowned in adrenaline, and within seconds, a siren melody kissed her ears.

The first time that I ever felt remorse was a few years after I quit ballet. I quit on a lazy whim with the thought that perhaps after ballet I could do something greater than leg exercises. However, I forgot to tell myself ahead of time that I would not even make an effort to do anything worth mentioning. I spent my free days immersed in books, and at the time this seemed as if it was a larger investment in my future. I was later diagnosed with asthma due to scarring on my lungs as result of a terrible case of pneumonia I contracted when I was five and half. Following my diagnosis, I was prescribed the universal treatment used to counteract any ailment, which is also known as exercise, the very action that I assured myself I could give up. Perhaps I should have ignored myself. I spoke with one of my friends in the previous year. She was a very headstrong and liberal-minded individual in high school. She had always been known for speaking out even when her thoughts


were not welcome. However, after seeing her, I noticed a dullness that had settled in her soul and a sadness that strangled her movements. While walking from class, she often spoke of world issues and generally rude people, but it was almost as if spite had swallowed her whole. One day she spoke of God whom she believed was genderless and purposeless. I looked away, afraid to even breathe wrong, and said goodbye as we approached the parking lot. I dove into my car and prayed all the way home. I still regret my silence that day. I used to have a small group of commonplace friends who grew with me throughout childhood and into our teen years. We shared general secrets but never true, personal ones. The week before graduation, one of my oldest, and upon reflection, sincerest friends invited me to her graduation party a few days before she planned her trek to a distant university. I lied and told her I could not go, but I could have if I wanted to, if I was a true friend. I chose to watch a pathetic film in theaters instead. I should have gone because I know I will never truly see her again.

Another wave of cigarette smoke slipped through the air creating thick tendrils of what she never had, and like life, the gray turned to nothing. Perhaps at that moment she understood what it felt like to have one’s existence ripped at the seams only to be sewn back again, so that the lesson of not taking life for granted could be learned and never forgotten. Waves of realization and perspective mixed with rivers of gratitude and disappointment, for she had never thought about the life of her mind and soul until now; therefore, she stood rooted in wasted time. She had never made an effort to improve when needed. She had never spoken through the silence. She had never made time for those who mattered. No, she would not have died during that fire. She was already dead. The cigarette fell from Chief ’s fingers as a black sole smeared its remains into the earth. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. �



Stacia Weed, “Athena,” Charcoal

Technique Is Everything

in and out of the stage doors. “And then I go like…” I slide my left foot back into fourth position and extend my arms, careful to keep them rounded and at chest length. Pliéing as deeply as I can, I launch myself into a pirouette that sends me careening into a fellow dancer on her way to the stage. “Sorry!” I try to whisper, but my shrill voice bounces off the stone walls. Mrs. Mary appears behind me in a flash. “Lyndsey, get in your spot and be quiet!” A sticky heat surrounds her; she’s been running around all night, guiding the production along with a tense hand. I turn to go but stop when I feel her tap my shoulder. “Hold on; your halo is falling off.” She fastens the halo back to my head with bobby pins, accidentally jabbing my scalp in the process. “Now go back to your spot and stand still, okay?” I sulk back to my place in line, careful to avoid my classmates’ sneers. I messed up cuz I didn’t spot, I grumble in my head. That pirouette would have been perfect, if I had looked where I was going. As I trudge along, the dressing room door opens, and a girl much older than me glides out. I gasp as she steps into the light: the Sugar Plum Fairy. My group has danced with her every night for the past week in rehearsals. She flies across the stage like scattered flower petals, her tutu blooming around her with every step. Gems of mauve and scarlet glisten on her gold silk bodice, and her pointe shoes…true beauty is witnessing the Sugar Plum Fairy dance in pointe shoes. She springs up on the very tips of her toes, rapping her wooden soles on the stage floor with each inconceivably high arabesque. The spotlight illuminates her, making her glow from the tip of her tiara to the soft pink satin of her pointe ribbons. The glow still surrounds her in the dark hallway. She smiles down at me, the sparkles in

Lyndsey Parnell

Dreams are funny things. Everyone has one; some people have two or three. They hover over us, always a decision or two out of reach. Like hundreds of other girls, I was once dead set on becoming a ballerina. The thought pervaded my childhood, spurred on by watercolor paintings of elegant dancers with their arms raised high overhead, their feet poised in a perfect passé. No other pastime gave me the same pleasure, and I threw myself into every practice, delighting when rehearsals ran overtime. I attended every summer camp, using breaks in class to practice new combinations. With every cell in my body, I knew I was going to grow up to become a professional ballerina. I was young then— about eight or nine—and terrible at standing still. Ten other girls and I were chosen to be angels, elegant creatures who danced with the Sugar Plum Fairy in the annual production of The Nutcracker. Onstage, I was as elegant as they came, much to the relief of my teacher, Mrs. Mary, who had the privilege of witnessing how I really behaved every week in class. I never meant to cause trouble, but, somehow, I always did, like the time I smacked a girl in the face while perfecting my grand jeté, or the time I answered a girl’s phone when she was performing during dance camp. Those were not acts of elementary-level evil; I was simply accident prone with good intentions. But tonight was going to be different. Tonight, I was going to be on my best behavior. No one could say I messed up because of my inattention, and none of the injuries suffered during the show would come from me. My plan was to rehearse like a madwoman in the middle of Paramount Theater’s cramped backstage hallway while a constant stream of girls rushed

I turn to go but stop when I feel her tap my shoulder. “Hold on; your halo is falling off.”


her eyeshadow catching the faint blue light of the TV monitor mounted on the wall. “I saw you practicing earlier,” she whispers to me. “You make a very good angel.” I almost lose my breath and manage to stammer out a quick “th-thank you!” Before I can revel in her praise, the line of angels starts to move. We trickle onstage to the sound of horns, the Sugar Plum Fairy’s words ringing through my head like cymbals. We fly through our choreography as a single throng, fluttering across the stage like butterflies. Clara and her Prince dance in front of us; the Sugar Plum Fairy dances beside us. For four short minutes, everyone on the stage flows together, including

me...and I swear the Sugar Plum Fairy smiles directly at me at least once. Ten years have passed since that night, but I still get chills thinking about it. When the curtain closed, everything went back to normal, and, after three more years, I left the dancing scene. I’ve tried several times to rekindle my old flame, but it never burns quite as bright. I have a new dream now, one that led me to trade in my ballet slippers for character shoes. Dreams are funny things; sometimes they go away completely. Sometimes they morph into other dreams. Now, with every cell in my graceless body, I know I am going to be a professional actress. ❖

Nathaniel W. Barwick, “Cold, Dark Place,” Graphite/Charcoal


Dylon Bryson, “Snow Day,” Charcoal/Pastel

Woe to the Generations Hope Mitchell

Do you remember when your hand was the size of her pinky? When your head equaled the circumference of her hand, When your mom held you in a tight embrace on your birthday And five years later, on that same day, When your sister sang you to sleep during a hailstorm, When the rattling thunder was the boisterous soundtrack to her beautiful melodic croon And ten years later, When your gift was a yipping pup, When you watched his little legs grow plump and his face transform from age And twenty years later, When your hands were bigger than hers, When your head was bigger than it ought to be or so your mom said When the world grayed and you wrinkled, And smiles weren’t happy, And hugs weren’t warm, and you weren’t there When life went on, But in a slower pace than you remembered, A runner at the end of the marathon with a broken heart for the finish line?


I licked my lips. I stared into the mirror at the reflection looking back at me, wondering who that was. Was this really me? Was this really my new life? Then there was no sound throughout the house. The vomiting noise had stopped. There was no sound of the clock or the birds outside. There was silence, dead silence, and that was never a good sign. I quickly made a beeline for the back door. I didn’t bother to stop and take the time to look for him. Was he even still home? Had he left? Was he even still alive? I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. This was just another normal Tuesday morning in this marriage. The closer I got to my freedom, the more alcohol I could smell. The stench grew stronger and stronger. It made a sharp pain in my gut. It was then that I knew he was alive and well because only the good die young. Sneaking out the back door quiet as a mouse, I was careful not to let the screen door slam shut behind me. Freedom was magic. It was beautiful. The raindrops kissed my face one by one to welcome me hello. It had been three days since I had been outside. Freedom was my everyday goal, but it was a rare occasion that didn’t always happen. But this was my Tuesday. I didn’t want to spend another day of my cherished freedom at school; no one would ask the obvious question in their minds. They would just stare. Cosmetic cover-up is an amazing thing. But today is just Tuesday, and it’s raining. Today is not the day I will get my everlasting freedom. Today, I will go to school because it is Tuesday. ❖


Sylvia Spencer

It was any other Tuesday, just another dark morning after a depressing night. Before my eyes could even open, I could taste where the blood had pooled inside my mouth over night. I could smell the strong bleach. The aroma burned my nose with every breath in I took. And it was only Tuesday. The king-sized bed felt empty. Where was the extra body heat? Where could he be? For a moment, I felt relief. Could this be real? Could I finally be free? Maybe he was gone. Relief was a magical feeling. As soon as it came, it left again in a blink of an eye, the sound of vomiting interrupting my thoughts. The noise echoed through the walls from the bathroom. I hated that sound, but I loved what it meant for me. It was Tuesday, and there was a world outside of this home. That world didn’t stop turning for anyone, much less for me. Life went on, and school was waiting for me. I forced myself up from the sheet-less mattress. Immediately dizzy on my feet, I had to be careful not to step on any broken glass from the mirror or the empty bottles. I forced myself to look into the broken mirror, to look at the reflection. No matter what I told myself, the mirror always told the truth, the ugly truth. The bruises formed a pattern over my body, an abusive rainbow of blues, purples, and greens. My bottom lip was cut and swollen. I felt a burning sensation every time

The bruises formed a pattern over my body, an abusive rainbow of blues, purples, and greens.



Britney Sawkiw, “Yellow Lizard,” Acrylic

This Year’s Cover Art Whitney Joyner “Mourning” Acrylic

Whitney Joyner “Temptation” Acrylic


Sarah Whipple “Awakened” Acrylic

Whitney Joyner “Spring” Acrylic


Madison Murphy, “Blue-Eyed Boy,” Pastels

Six Colors

Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot

The exquisite corpse dressed in orange tangerine Turns her back yet speaks as a queen The sneering crowd dances like flies around her She blocks the door. It should have been yellow Yellow was the color of her prodding eyes Yellow was the color of her wistful lies A grey boy runs by, train and pain in hand, racing towards the door Fear, hate, greed, and shame prey on the young who try to run But the bodies stand stiff as the helpless flee She blocks the door. It should have been white White was the color of his bouncing curls White was the color of his innocent hands A purple man stands above her Head in hands, tear-stained soul, he cannot pray With each jolt and tremor he sinks deeper into life But he cannot climb over man’s fate She blocks the door. It should have been violet Violet was the color of his whispering thoughts Violet was the color of his strained talk Hand in hand they all run together To the Father To the Son But day turns to night, black turns to white There is a LIGHT But we block the door.


Whitney Joyner, “The Future Is Female,” Charcoal/Pastel

Whitney Joyner, “Boys vs. Men,” Charcoal/Pastel

Where I’m From

after George Ella Lyon Joshua Foy

I am from the land of the wild spirit The place of unbridled freedom I am from the land of buffaloes Always near, as strong and content as statues in the fields I am from wide open ranges of red dirt and rocks Where tribal customs pack around fires I am from deep orange sunsets and bright swaying fields that never end From dryness and heat, sunlight and warm colors I am from powerful storms that tear at everything and leave nothing The only way to break our calm I am from where cornbread is the staple of every meal The place of the pecan pie I am from gardens of black-eyed peas Squash, as yellow as the sun, and okra, always tall and proud But I am from a land that wasn’t always calm Where freedom was taken and held from reach I am from the place of the forced walk And from where the dirt is forever a reminder of what stained it I am from the land of the crushed spirit The freedom that was never free



Tamaya Williams, “Trouble Man,” Acrylic

Stephanie Lam, “By the Bay,” Acrylic


Outside In

Hope Mitchell

Beautiful lies that trace from mouth to mind from head to toe and heart to soul Precious quirks that make a human into a person a beast into a civilized shadow and stark contrasts into beauty I almost believed them those undeniable whispers the optimistic thoughts I forgot about that unmistakable fib My beauty lies it pierces me from the inside out from heavy head to crooked toe and broken heart to sickened soul My precious quirks that mistake my peculiarities molding a thudding machine into a heart transforming all those fatal features Back again are those scrutinizing eyes wrecking me from toe to chin from fragile bone to uneven skin reflecting my outside in.


Best of the Worst Films: Trash Cinema

Leigh Read

Movies are one of the most powerful sources of cultural influence in human history. They shape societies. They can depict historical events, tell of an adventure, terrify audiences, or be so abysmal that we can’t help but keep watching—these movies are called trash films. Trash films are typically horribly written, have dreadful acting, and have the most terrible production processes so that you genuinely feel bad for the people involved. And yet…why do people pay so much attention to them? There’s a fine line between trash films and actual comedies. Comedies that make you recoil in second-hand embarrassment are funny because they know what they are. They intend for the audience to laugh at the characters’ misfortunes. A prime example of this is the movie Napoleon Dynamite. The main character, Napoleon, is a traditionally nerdy 16-yearold boy living in Idaho. Throughout the film, Napoleon and other characters find themselves in situations that would make the watcher either cringe or laugh. This is because they’re laughing at the characters, not the actors. Trash films are on the other end of the spectrum. They don’t intend for the audience to laugh but are hilarious anyway. They have bad acting, writing, and production, but people find them enjoyable or interesting because the filmmakers try oh, so hard to be serious. The movie Manos: The Hands of Fate is widely considered one of the most horrible films ever made, which, might I add, the word manos is the Spanish word for hands. Yes, the title of the movie is essentially Hands: The Hands of Fate. There are countless times throughout the movie where the camera lingers far too long, suspenseful music builds up only to lead to nothing, and some scenes add nothing to the film. The entire movie was filmed with a camera that could only record 32 seconds at a time,

which caused problems for the editors. They didn’t even bother to use double-recording. Instead, all audio was added after filming, including the dialogue. Only a handful of people supplied the voices, resulting in many of the characters sounding identical. The truth is, the movie isn’t fun to watch. It’s fascinatingly boring. The only reason it gets as much attention as it does is because it’s so bad. Watching these kinds of movies leaves you with so many questions, like, “Why was this movie made? How was it made? Why did anyone agree to be a part of this?” It captures your attention and curiosity, and you delve in deeper. It starts to get discussed amongst others–even admired–because it’s such a pile of trash. If you’re at all familiar with “so bad it’s good” movies, you’ve probably at least heard of The Room. It’s the most bizarre, interesting, and terribly hilarious movie I’ve had the displeasure (and pleasure) of watching. There’s one main thing that stands out about the movie, and it’s none other than Tommy Wiseau. The man himself is a phenomenon. He not only directed The Room, but he also produced, wrote, and played the main character of the movie, Johnny. The plot of the movie isn’t terribly interesting or intricate: Johnny’s fiancé, Lisa, gets bored in their relationship and cheats on him with his best friend, Mark. Johnny eventually finds out, Lisa leaves him, and he commits suicide, thus ending the movie. Oh, and Lisa’s mother has breast cancer, but that’s no big deal. The acting and writing are lackluster and melodramatic, but the performances are comparable to a train wreck. You can’t look away–it pulls you in with Wiseau’s alien-like performance. He has an unrecognizable accent that makes him deliver his lines bizarrely. There are multiple iconic lines such as: “Everybody


betray me. I fed up with this world!”; “You are tearing me apart, Lisa!”; “I did not hit her. It’s not true. It’s bullsh*t! I did not hit her. I did NOT. Oh. Hi, Mark.”; and my personal favorites, the chicken noises:

Really, I have no idea what happened. I’m guessing Wiseau had chickens on the mind the day he wrote the script. The best way to describe the bizarreness of The Room is in the words of Tom Bissel, coauthor of The Disaster Artist, from Vox’s video, “Why People Keep Watching the Worst Movie Ever Made.” Bissel puts it this way: “It is like a movie made by an alien who has never seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to him.” Trash films are a work of unintentional art. They have atrocious writing, acting, and editing so bad that groups of people come together to analyze why they’re so bad. In some cases, they become laughably bad, i.e. The Room. This doesn’t make them comedies, however–they’re just bad movies. Comedies are intentional. They intend for the audience to laugh. Comedies and trash films are alike, and yet, very different. ❖

Billy: What’s the matter Bran, are you chicken? CHIP! CHIP!!! Johnny: Ha, ha!! Chicken, Peter. You are just a little chicken!!! Chip!!! Chip!!! Chip!!! Mark: Ha, Ha!! Squeak!!! Squeak!!! Honk!!! Little Chicken!!! Billy: Please?? Come on. CHIP!!! (BILLY AND JOHNNY MAKE CHICKEN NOISES AS THEY FLAP THEIR ARMS.) Mark: (MARK STARTS PRANCING AROUND THE ROOM, CLAPPING HIS HANDS.) HEE-HAW!! MOOOO!!!! RIBBIT!!!! PRA-SKWWWAAAWWW!!!!

Works Cited “Why People Keep Watching the Worst Movie Ever Made.” YouTube, uploaded by Vox, 14 June 2017, watch?v=k27mr6p-yhY. Wiseau, Tommy, director. The Room. Wiseau Films, 2005.

END SCENE Johnny: You bastard! You betray me! You are not good, you are just a wimp!!! I’ll get you, you just wait!! You chicken!!! CHIP!!! CHIP!!! CHIP!!! CHIP!!! (CHICKEN NOISES.)


Max Schilling, “Wrinkles,” Charcoal


Une femme

Deanaletta Seif

I am gentle. I am tough Student and teacher Girl and woman Adult and child Some call me prim Still others say I’m shy People love to assume they know Even when we’ve never spoken I walk among my peers insignificant But one-of-a-kind Misunderstood and at peace My voice is clear, my intentions are well An ongoing and ever-present Change pervades my every move Spontaneous, calculated Ordinary to the naked eye Intriguing only to those with vision My hair is long Draping my shoulders My cheeks are roses Unnoticed, I stand before them


Sarah Whipple, “Cognizance,” Charcoal/Graphite

Dylon Bryson, “Portrait of the Second Son,” Charcoal

Whitney Joyner, “Only Women,” Charcoal

Cristal Villanueva, “Gazelle,” Graphite

Pick and Choose

I almost forgot my heart That fist-sized machine Echoing out its unending rhythm I need to make it smaller Then, I can give in to you

Hope Mitchell

What if I wasn’t me? Yes, well there would be much to change What if I could fix my everything? Now wouldn’t that be strange? I could build myself Brick by brick, nail by nail Then, build up my wooden walls I’d block you out Make you want me Because that’s all I’ve ever wished to be Someone who’s wanted

Ready the pry bar, Raise the hammer, Time to shatter What beats forever Crash Oh no, something’s wrong It won’t shrink Or budge What’s up with it?

Sleepless nights I thought of you And how to fix myself to get to you

Steady the needle, Start the drill Nothing will work Now, that’s weird

So I played a game of pick and choose I reaped and sowed I changed for you I created a perfect rendition of me, Just for you

Looking back, My heart still oversized in my chest If only I had noticed this one detail before If only I had remembered that one thing I couldn’t change

I altered my hair And eyes to match your solemn stare Now, onto my height I made me so that I might Be everything I was not Now isn’t that a great plot?

If I could fix my everything, I would And now that I know That I can’t Well then, I’d Rather Just be

I rewired my brain So that I could think right Fixed my glitches, Tied up the loose ends, Made that perfect wiring Perfect, again


Well, look at me now Just as you wanted No, wait, Just one more thing 30


Craig Cohen, “Piano Jazz,” Acrylic

Tamaya Williams, “Eustace Negro,” Acrylic

Britney Sawkiw, “Secrets of the Zen Garden,” Acrylic


Jenna Berry, “Water Lilies,” Acrylic


the direction that the tractor was moving. This allowed the cropper to pick the leaves as he or she approached the plants, wrapping their hand with one swift motion from back to front. The other person was a looper who tied the tobacco leaves to a one-inch square, five- or six-footlong stick with twine. I was a looper, so as the cropper handed me the leaves he or she had just picked, I would tie them to the stick which was positioned in a hole in front of me. The first bundle would be tied to the left of the stick; the next would be flipped to the right side. This motion continued, alternating from side to side until the stick was full. In the mornings, the tobacco was wet with dew, so as I flipped the tobacco, the dewdrops would splatter in my face. In the afternoon, when the tobacco was dry, the gum from the tobacco would make me so sticky that each time it touched my arm, the tobacco would pull the tiny hairs. When a stick was full of tobacco leaves, I would tie the stick off with a slip knot, and yell “Stick!” so the person piling them on the trailer (or tobacco truck) behind us would know to grab the stick, and I could reach up and grab another from the rack above my head where they were stored, insert it into the stick hole, and begin again. As soon as the trailer was loaded down with sticks full of tobacco, the whole crew would head to the barn. Most tobacco barns were tall, square, wooden buildings. The outsides were usually either galvanized tin or some sort of green tar paper with wood stripping. They had tin tops and tin shelters on at least three sides. Inside the barn were tier poles. They were placed just the right length apart to allow the sticks to hang securely, but too far apart for me to straddle. As the taller helpers positioned themselves on the rounded tier poles inside, those of us that were too short for that job

Barning Tobacco Becky Grady

One of my most vivid and favorite memories from childhood is working in tobacco or “barning tobacco.” From the age of five or six, I was working in one of my three uncles’ tobacco fields. My mother always said that “idle hands were the devil’s workshop,” and there were no idle hands in her house. In the days before the Internet, before electronic games, back when there were no cell phones, children were taught to work. My first job was to follow behind my Uncle Norman’s tobacco harvester and pick up the scattered leaves that had dropped. Some of the leaves were almost as big as I was. I would carry the leaves to the end of the tobacco row and hand them to an adult to loop on to a stick when the harvester was turning around to go in the opposite direction. As I grew, so did my job duties. I could not wait for the day that I could ride on the harvester. The first tobacco harvester I rode on was my Uncle Billy’s “poor boy” harvester. This was a red monstrosity made mostly of square metal tubing. The top was a beige canvas wrapped around the square tubing and back again. I can still smell the blue grease that was gobbed on every moving part of the harvester. This scent was mixed with the smell of diesel fuel exhaust from the tractor, which putt-putted along as it pulled the harvester full of the crew who were ready to harvest the crop. The harvester had four separate sections that straddled the tobacco rows. Two people sat in each section of the harvester. One person was a cropper. The cropper picked the leaves off the plant. He or she sat low facing

The smell of cured tobacco reminds me of so many of the good, hardworking men in my family...


poked the heavy tobacco sticks upwards. It was sort of an assembly line. The result was a barn full of green tobacco ready for curing. After we filled a barn to capacity, we picked up all the trash and fallen leaves. I would head to the looping horse, a wooden frame built to hold a tobacco stick, and ready-loop the leaves that had been picked up. The others raked the ground around the outside of the barn to rid it of any fire hazards. Then the older members of the crew placed the burners on top of the fittings which attached to underground pipes inside the barn. A metal shield was placed over the burners to prevent any leaves that might fall during the curing process from catching fire. Each burner was lit to make sure it was burning cleanly and properly. A tin thermometer was placed inside each door to keep an eye on the temperature. It usually took between four and six days to cure the tobacco. Tobacco had to be cured at a slow rate, first, to keep the barn from becoming too hot and burning down, and second, to keep just enough moisture in the leaf to keep it from becoming dry and crumbly. After the barn of tobacco was completely cured to a golden brownish color, we would begin taking the tobacco back out of the barn. First, we loaded it on a trailer, and then we

Gracelyn Gurley, “Lily,” Charcoal

hauled it to the pack house. Once we were at the pack house, the sticks full of cured tobacco were put back on a looping horse to remove the tobacco. I would pull the slip knot to loosen the tobacco, and I would quickly remove the tobacco from the stick in a motion that sort of resembles milking a cow. The tobacco was then tied up in burlap sheets or tobacco sheets. Then the bundles were stored inside the pack house until the tobacco buyers were at the warehouses in town. I loved being at the barn because it always had an earthy, sweet scent of cured tobacco. The smell of cured tobacco reminds me of so many of the good, hardworking men in my family who are now deceased. It is a comforting smell. I sometimes catch a hint of the cured tobacco I remember as a child when I am walking by a tobacco shop. It always brings back memories of the good old days. Yes, the days were long and hard. Tobacco barning was a dirty job— my mother would make me strip at the door before I came inside the house afterwards—but it taught us the value of hard work. I long for the good old days, the days my children and their children will never have the pleasure of knowing. ❖

Lindsay Davis, “The Clowness Cha-U-Kao Fastening Her Bodice,” Acrylic

Heather Dupree, “Fiona,” Acrylic

forget what I once had when I was young, when I had everything. I slump out of my cot, my fragile bones creaking louder than the aged coil springs that make up the stiff mattress. My dreams diminish as I follow the trail of an oppressed soul that sulks through this building each morning. I focus on ignoring the pain that bolts across my feet as I teeter on my shattered memories, careful not to fall into the melancholy abyss that exists beneath the fragments. Sharpened hopes stab at my heels even when I flee from them, and I reminisce on all the times we had together. The love we felt, as if of unsurpassable strength, caused us to break the bounds of reality. Forgotten fears blurred the image of our perfection. I thought we were the ideal pair, a bright match burning our way through the world. It felt like we were the last two pieces of a million-segment puzzle, to only be completed once we found each other. What a stunning vision we were! Regretfully, I let my adolescent mind fall weak. Indeed, we made a brilliant spectacle, always portraying a bright fondness to those around us, but in every masterpiece, there are chips and fractures, seen or not. It is to never be forgotten that even perfect circles can be drawn from a shaky hand. I am quick to remember when we camped out in my parents’ back yard, and you hugged me so remarkably tight; it was like you never wanted to let go. And when you did, I distracted myself with the familiarity of your lingering warmth while you engaged yourself in the contents of my wallet. How foolish I was! I had walked the fine line of your frigid deceit, without caring where we were going, without considering how we got there. No matter how old I get, I always wonder how an admirable man like you became the


Hope Mitchell

I remember riding in the passenger seat of your azure-blue, 1980s pickup truck, kicking up a vortex of dust behind us. I can still feel the coolness of the vinyl seat cover against my sweaty skin and smell the sweetness of the Carolina air. I can even recall the way you drove with utmost confidence. Forget ten and two; you maneuvered with flawless precision, one hand at 12 o’clock and the other dancing out the crank window. You were bold, and I was a shell of a person. All I knew was how to follow, so I lost myself in the bluegrass music that blared in my ears. Today, when I listen hard enough, I can still pick up the melody that had floated from the windows and billowed out in never-ending spirals, beating so loud it was as if it was seeping from every corner of the earth, instead of humming through an exhausted, illegally-attached radio on the dashboard of that old truck. Even in the most vibrant instances of my life, as an elderly woman, I am still haunted by those priceless forget-me-not flowers you bought me the evening that we first glimpsed each other, swaying to the strumming of the guitarist’s chords in our local music store. Every so often, your name pushes into my thoughts and rips me open, exposing my heart and the gaping space you left. Occasionally, when I wake up from my country dreams and am thrust into my crestfallen reality—an unkempt room in my daughter’s urban apartment—the smell of that rural air escapes my nostrils. I struggle to reclaim that bucolic fragrance, imprisoning the last dose of breath in my worn lungs to filter for any scent of you. Suddenly, it is lost, and I

...but in every masterpiece, there are chips and fractures, seen or not.


inhuman beast to my hidden beauty. When I trusted you, you forsook me. Anytime I needed you, I was ignored, but I didn’t mind because I thought you were all I had, until you “borrowed” everything else. I wonder how such an irrefutable dream became such a horrid lie.

I have been taught that the mind plays tricks, which, in turn, trick the mind. You see, I made you my reality and pardoned my fantasies from surfacing. Maybe actuality is better than implanting false hope; maybe in certain ways, your jaded bluffs were good for me.❖

Kaleb Ginn, “Pearl in Oyster,” Graphite/Charcoal


Ruben Munoz, “Friend,” Graphite/Charcoal

Whitney Joyner, “I Am Mine,” Graphite/Charcoal

Sarah Whipple, “Angie’s Frida,” Acrylic

Nathaniel W. Barwick, “A Bronze Bond,” Charcoal/Graphite


air like a wet blanket refusing to dry. She was sick, very sick. And I dreaded every time I knocked on that dark oak door, uncertain and afraid of what I would find when I stepped through. “Clarisse, dear.” Mrs. Maple sat near one of the large windows. A lace curtain was pulled open, welcoming the bright sunshine. It spilled onto her shimmering hair in a brilliant red blaze, mimicking the wildfire that was inside her and shone through her pale blue eyes. Before, Mrs. Maple had never looked a day over fifty; now, age seemed to crash against her in a brutal wave. More than once she had said that death had a heavy weight, but only was it now that I saw the strain in her soft smile and tired bones. She claimed she was ready, but I was not. “Sit down.” She patted the window seat next to her. I sat slowly, suddenly aware of the tears threatening to spill over my cheeks as I saw a glimmer of her tired soul in those kind eyes. “I woke up this morning with a strange feeling of peace and sweetness, Clarisse.” She smiled quietly to herself as if she knew a secret I did not. “I believe I am going, dear. I can feel the worry of the world slipping away.” The sob I had carried with such a heavy heart flooded my cheeks in thick rivers. The tears held the weight of knowing this whole summer my best friend was going, leaving me for an eternity, and I was helpless to stop it. Her hand patted my arm gently, waiting until the tears ceased to continue. “I am ready, my friend, to see God and hug my mother and little brother. I have lived my life the way I found most fruitful and kind. Why cry at my life’s sweet end?”

Awoken in a Sunrise Sarah Elizabeth Barefoot

“Good morning, Miss Swain.” Calem opened the door with a grim expression. Even from the doorway I felt the darkness seep from inside, extending its gnarled fingers in my direction. I involuntarily took a step back, banging one of Mrs. Maple’s many overused flower pots. “What is it?” I asked as Calem’s eyes hardened. I clasped my now-shaky hands behind my back, unsure of where to put them. Was it happening? Was she going? My hands suddenly became too confined; they dropped uselessly to my side as he shuffled back inside without a word. Without thought, I raced after him. “Calem, is it time? Is she going?” But he was gone without a word, and I was left to stand in the marble front room alone. The light was bright despite the curtains’ hard might to obscure the outside world, a wish Mrs. Maple had had since I moved to Walnut Grove at the beginning of the summer. By coincidence, I met Mrs. Maple in the brilliant grove next to her house. The woman was a dear old lady that had silver satin hair and smelled of soft lavender. Many in the town referred to her as the hermit angel, but her generosity exceeded the name, and the hermit had become more than just a whimsical creature; she was my friend. My best friend in Walnut Grove. But from the moment I had met Mrs. Maple, something imminent had hung in the

...[sunshine] spilled onto her shimmering hair in a brilliant red blaze, mimicking the wildfire that was inside her...


I stared at her, unable to muster the words I wished to speak, ignoring the silent tears rimming my heart. “Some people die in a great accident or at the end of a gun. They wither away in their youth or live a life without the knowledge of their purpose. I am blessed, I know where I will go, where I have been, why I am here, and why I will leave. I was given the chance at many things, and whether I took the right path I may never know. But I was given the chance to choose it, and for that I am eternally grateful. I find peace in the rain when others do not, and in sunsets and moonrises. Even in the simple things like a child’s laughter or a bird’s sweet cry. I am blessed to die right here in the sun, to be awoken by a sunrise. So you see, my dearest friend, all is well as it was yesterday and the day before.”

I spent the day with Mrs. Maple taking in her favorite things: the tiny grove that had contained our evening walks, and the milky white kitten she passed on to me; her yellow knit scarves with bright green snowflakes, and the worn blue Bible she was never without; her collection of misshapen plants that would not stop growing; and the moment when she had spoken of her sweet childhood with misty eyes. Whether I was ready for her to leave or not, it was not up to me. Therefore, our last hug was long and slow and full of remembrance, full of love. As I rose to leave that day, the sun had turned the sky into a crimson, pink sea with waves of tangerines and speckles of a violet wind, and I suddenly felt her peace as the sunset laid for rest. And Mrs. Maple slipped away to be awoken in a marvelous sunrise.❖

Emily Hudson, “Orchids,” Graphite/Charcoal


Omar Acevedo-Trejo, “Tentacle Shake,” Graphite/Charcoal

through the room. What had once been nearly perfect was now too cold for me. I closed my book, and as soon as I looked up, I saw my brother’s arm outreached, holding a blanket. Again, no words were exchanged, but I was very thankful as I took the blanket and covered my legs to start reading again. I found the words increasingly difficult to focus on. Usually, I was submerged in some faraway world, but that day I couldn’t focus on the book. My brother had given me a blanket. It wasn’t a big moment, but he had known I was chilled. He knew, without any words, how I was feeling. We fought as only two brothers could, all the time and with a fierceness, but that day I couldn’t stop thinking about that tiny gesture. He knew I liked the cold, but he knew at that moment the cold was too much. In a world frozen in time, where everyone else no longer existed, he showed that all the fighting, teasing, and harassment meant nothing. Deep down, we were brothers. No matter what, he would care about me. No longer able to focus on my book, I set it aside and watched the leaves twirl around the yard in the breeze. I thought about my short life up until that point. All the times I had unnecessarily gotten him in trouble, teased him, fought with him over every tiny thing I could find to fight over. Yet on this cold morning, he didn’t care. He knew when I was uncomfortable and did his best to fix it, on this, a day like any other. Did this mean that on any given day he actually did care about me? That the fighting wasn’t because he was bad but because we were children? My thinking was cut short as he called attention to his game; he had made something and wanted to show me. I turned to the screen and listened as he described

A Frozen Memory Joshua Foy

It was a calm morning that I woke to, a cold morning, but a calm morning. I’d slept in later than usual, but it was a weekend and held no consequence. However, the rest of the house was still asleep even then. It had been my habit to walk to my little brother’s room when I would wake, and that day wasn’t any different. Upon opening the door, I found he was awake as usual and playing his favorite game. No words were spoken as I sat down next to him and opened my book. It was a day just like any other, but it would open my eyes to something I would remember forever. The quietness was what I always noticed first. It was as if we were frozen in time. The entire house was silent as he always turned off the sound to his game in the mornings. Nobody moved about, and there were no exchanged words from anyone, not even in any other room. It was during this time that it was as if we were the only two people alive in the house. Even though the others were just a door away, they didn’t exist. Even his dog lay motionless beside the bed, only a slow rising and falling of her golden chest to alert that she was, in fact, still breathing. Her breath came out in tiny puffs of fog. The the window was open and the ice-cold outside had leaked into the room. To many people, the air would be too cold, but to my brother and me, it was nearly perfect. The winter hadn’t just started, but there was still a long way before it let us out of its grasp, resulting in a very cold, very calm room. I had been reading my book for several pages when I felt the breeze come sweeping

We fought as only two brothers could, all the time and with a fierceness...


his new building. It was magnificent. Many hours had been spent on just the tiniest of details, resulting in an overall beautiful piece to add to his collection of houses and structures. I watched and advised him on different things to do next. My thoughts now fully turned to his game. I quickly forgot about the blanket. I wouldn’t think any further on it until that night when I would lay in bed and go over my day, remembering the tiny act of kindness that had shown me so much. It had really been a moment frozen in time, where we were the only ones left, and I learned that even if you lose everything in your life, your family will still be there for

you. No matter how many things turn on you or are forever lost, the only one that will not be is your family. I’d like to say that day made me completely change towards him, that we never fought again, but that would be a bold lie. We were brothers, after all. The one thing that stands out to this day is that he still sends me pictures of what he creates. Whether they are big creations like that day or tiny minute sketches, I love it all. He still shows to this day that no matter what happens, no matter how many times we fight, we are brothers. We will always be brothers. He will always care about me as I will always care about him. Family will not be forgotten.❖

Jesus Quiroz, “Instinct,” Graphite/Charcoal 49

Sarah Whipple, “Opposition,” Graphite/Charcoal

Stephanie Lam, “Eye of the Tiger,” Acrylic

Omar Acevedo-Trejo, “Scars,” Pastel/Charcoal

Heather Dupree, “Death’s Ashes,” Gunpowder on Canvas

Sarah Whipple, “Provoked,” Charcoal


Britney Sawkiw, “The Face of Extinction,” Graphite/Charcoal


as I take the seat prescribed to me. My name is on a white piece of construction paper on top of a pile of stapled paper, my test booklet, and a pencil. The rest of the desks are occupied in short order. “I got this!” I say to myself, still feeling optimistic. “Yeah, this is going to be easy peasy!” myself concurs. The room seems warm today, so I remove my sweat jacket to be sure I’m more comfortable. I rub my clammy hands on my jeans so I can grasp my pencil with a firmer grip. Some teacher I’ve never met comes in the room and explains the usual rules—no cheating, no calculator, no notes. All she is saying is okay by me! I’m not going to need any of that, anyway! We are given the go-ahead to start our math tests. “I can DO this!” a muted, disembodied voice reiterates in the back of my brain. Competently, I write out the algebraic equation simplifying, identifying all the coefficients, and solving problems one through ten with ease, reinforcing my determination. I reach for my French vanilla coffee protein drink that’s not where it normally is. My mouth is a desert. No drinks are allowed in the room. Forcing saliva to return to my parched palate, I swallow a few times. Glancing over the next ten mathematical statements, I’m suddenly aware how truly warm this room has gotten. I peek up, but the woman has gone. I guess opening a window is out of the question. I’m gulping for my confidence to come back, which has gone into the quarantine along with the knowledge on how to solve these specific sets of algebraic equations. I feel the first tingle of sweat pop out, like teenage acne garnishing my forehead. My worst fear is not passing this test and the humiliation that goes with it. Doubt is laughing in my face

Math Anxiety Diana Stoudt

Today is the day. Today I’m going to pass my math final exam for DMA 040 Expressions, Linear Equations, and Linear Inequalities. I made sure to study hard, completing all assignments three times over, and I got good sleep last night. I have positive vibes beaming brightly as I walk to my car. I know I got this! “I got this!” has been my mantra for over a week now. I’m excited to get to my test, fly right through those questions, and pass! Woot! Woot! Go me! Cheerfully singing Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass” while I drive Ian, my son, and myself to school, I am confidence personified! I pull into my regular spot in the parking lot. My feet dance through the parking lot into the school foyer, making my way to the staircase. I command the two floors of steps, open and hand off the door to the students behind me, and head around the corner. There is the classroom: the room where I’m going to pass my math final! My heart is slamming inside my chest wall. I’m sure it was the sprint up the two floors. The whirl of students zipping to and fro, being directed to where their testing will be conducted, is pure chaos. Words of support and nervous joking overlap, gushing from too many lips, disturbing my train of thought. In a way, I think it’s sort of condescending, like they all think each of their friends needs a confidence boost because, well, we’re all too stupid to pass on our own merit! My mantra is quickly fading’s sort of condescending, like they all think each of their friends needs a confidence boose because, well, we’re all too stupid to pass on our own merit.


at my own ineptitude. I smell Degree and realize that it’s me! I’m sweating profusely! My stomach rumbles. I’m not sure if I want my drink or to throw up. The clock reads quarter past the hour, and I’m stuck on number fourteen. Trying hard and failing miserably, I shakily write out the formula for the equation: -3(x +1) - 57 + 67 -9(x + -8). “Could someone please tell me again how I need this in my life?” I cry out soundlessly in absolute frustration to no one in particular. I quietly sigh at my circumstances. I peer over my glasses that have slid down my nose. Half of the class is gone, and the other few that are left are flying through their tests like a plane riding the jet stream. Forcing oxygen into my body, I inhale deeply. I work the problem as I have been shown; parentheses go first. Negative three plus negative one is on the left side. Negative nine x plus negative seventy-two is on the right. I match up all the like terms to each side. My body has made a river running down my back, through the crevice of my buttocks to finally pool where I sit in my chair. Just freaking terrific! Not only will it feel like I’ve peed my pants, but it’ll look that way too! Where was I? Back to math. MATH=Mental Abuse To Humans. I make myself laugh, or try to. I still have some time left to crunch out as many more equations as I can.

I figure I’ve pretty much solved the problem. The problem is nothing goes with it! I write “No Solution” and start panicking. Collective tributaries course down. My nose is dripping and there are dual pools filling my bra. I should have worn the stupid sports bra. I re-check my work again, seeking any flaws that might be there. Am I forgetting something? Did I remember my positive and negatives? I leave number fourteen and try to get faster. I’ve slipped into a time differential. Time seems to be speeding up, or I’m going slower and slower still. Looking at the clock, I only have eight minutes to finish fifteen questions. Furious at my failure, quaking inside, begging every god known to man, I pray, “Let there be a fire drill!” My vision blurs with unshed tears. I just want to shrivel up into an infinitesimal ball and dissolve into nothingness. I turn in my incomplete math exam to the woman as she calls, “Time.” Holding back my anguish, I need to breathe. I want to run for the bathroom, but I don’t. I am able to make it there with little interaction from anyone. Splashing the refreshing, cool water on my face, a freed tear merges with the water dripping from my jaw into the sink. Tomorrow I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, and re-enroll in the same course. Today, I’m a flunky of math. Oh! How I loathe Math! ❖

Furious at my failure, quaking inside, begging every god known to man, I pray...


Sarah Whipple, “Tolerant,” Graphite/Charcoal

Sarah Whipple, “Omar’s Snake,” Acrylic

Cindy Tamayo, “Sea Turtle,” Acrylic


questioned, “You feeling ok?” He replied with the most pitiful, “I’ve had better days.” We had a little more small talk in passing, but it was time to get to work. I supported the F-16 Fighting Falcon Squadron from Germany. As we got in to work, I noticed a still-sluggish Anderson. “Hey, man. You sure you don’t need to go to the room?” I asked. “I would but, Airmen Ford is off today,” he replied. They were the only two from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base supporting the helicopters. I knew how to fix all of his equipment, but I wasn’t sure how to navigate his line. Without a thought, I said, “I will drive your line for you if my leadership says it’s ok.” Boy, why did I do that? He was so pleased when Master Sergeant Garcia replied, “Just make sure Short knows your route.” It was all of about an hour of training before Anderson was off to his room. “Thanks, Short,” he later replied as I dropped him off to his room for some well-needed R&R. Shortly thereafter, I was posted up on my new side for the day. I didn’t come to his side often. I felt like the new kid at a high school sitting on that side, waiting to pick up and perform quick fixes on aircraft equipment as need be. I kept hearing a ton of laughter and vulgar language coming from this one room in the back, but no one dared go in. It was about an hour into my shift. I heard sirens that I had never heard go off. Before I could even look around to see what to do, there were five brolic guys coming from the back room “guns a blazing.” Seconds later, I heard a helicopter, and they were out. I was in such amazement at what I had just seen. These were Pararescue (PJ’s), the Air Force equivalent to Navy

June 9th

Antwan Short

Looking back on my military career filled with milestones and memories, I find it rather difficult to choose one moment that leaves me with the storied “What was I thinking?” feeling. While serving my nine-plus years in the United States Air Force, I had the pleasure of traveling the world in many war efforts. I have temporarily deployed to the sandy plains of Kuwait, hiked and grilled out on the Turda Gorge in Romania, and driven with no regards for the speed limit on the Autobahn in Germany. However, I’ve discovered when looking back on my career, it’s not the traveling that comes to mind. Alternatively, there are details from everyday events: working on numerous pieces of equipment, guiding and mentoring younger airmen, and leading by example in adverse situations. One memory that comes to mind belongs to a day, Wednesday, June 9th, in the dusty hills of Kandahar Air Base where I had just arrived about a month earlier. I wasn’t too familiar with the area, but I was an excellent navigator, unfortunately for me that day. It was six a.m., time to rise and shine for another 12- to 14hour shift with hopes of not getting hit by one of the multiple mortars throughout the day. While standing in line for breakfast at the tactical coolers known as mermites, holding my food, I saw Sergeant Anderson. “Sergeant A!” I yelled across the tent known as our chow hall. “What’s up, man?” he replied. I noticed he didn’t look too well. I immediately

Before I could even look around to see what to do, there were five brolic guys coming from the back room”guns a blazing.”


like nothing had just happened. But this call was different. It wasn’t known until arrival; they realized the fallen being picked up was their other half, stationed at Kabul. The hit alone was such a lucky shot. The Taliban had no success prior to this moment competing with our air superiority. All members were dead upon arrival. These weren’t just regular casualties. Those guys had to ride back with four of their deceased brothers, men they would have given their lives for, men they had spent countless hours together with in close quarters, sometimes for months on end. When those PJ’s arrived back to home base, there was no joking or laughing. All I saw were flags being folded in preparation to honor their fallen. I left roughly an hour after the incident and was never able to go back even to say goodbye. Being prior military, I have been privy to quite a few things in my life, but after going all around the world and seeing so much, I will still never forget the hot, humid day of June 9th when Staff Sgt. Michael P. Flores, 1st Lt. Joel C. Gentz, Staff Sgt. David C. Smith, and Senior Airman Benjamin D. White lost their lives fighting for a freedom that so many of us take for granted. I wanted to tell this story instead of any other personal experience because I truly felt people may not know the sacrifices made on the daily by all members of the Armed Forces.❖

SEALs. “I have to meet those guys,” I said to myself as not to look like a groupie. I knew I would have to see them as they needed my equipment for their aircraft upon arrival back. It was all about twenty minutes before their return. Immediately after servicing the aircraft, I went back inside with hopes of meeting these heroes. Yet again, the door was closed. I didn’t finish in time to catch them, but I wouldn’t let that deter me. I started networking, finding out who knew the PJ’s. It didn’t take too long before I saw one of my gym buddies, Senior Airmen Hancock. I convinced him to introduce me. Upon meeting the crew it was nothing but a brotherly atmosphere. I played UNO with the guys and watched TV in their own personal tent. They said their other half of the crew was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through talking with them, I learned that they took turns responding to calls with the Army Rangers. Despite being bombed numerous times within the hour and having cubed beef for lunch, I thought, “Today was a good day.” Then that call came in over the radio “Enemy insurgents struck an Air Force aircraft.” Just as before, the PJ’s were up and out; it was their turn. But what no one knew was who the victims were. These guys had seen multiple deaths and dealt it out and had come back and hit me with a “draw four” in UNO

The hit alone was such a lucky shot. The Taliban had no success prior to this moment...


Emily Hudson, “Iguana, Champion of the Green,” Prisma Color/Watercolor


Stacia Weed, “David Close-Up,” Acrylic

Whitney Joyner, “Alligator,” Acrylic


Sarah Whipple, “Kaleb’s Cacti,” Acrylic


Mia, a better life. With an eerie suspicion, I noticed a distinct chatter that came from the vents of the room next to mine. I sat up on the edge of my overused mattress, put my head in my hands, and focused on the faint voices from the adjoining room. “Look man, I know that Tip would have wanted her to have his cut, but I’m getting low on funds.” The voice resembled PJ’s, so I quickly sprang up and grabbed my pistol from the side table and cocked my revolver. As I inched closer to the vent, I overheard a desperate PJ, “Cocaine and hookers don’t pay for themselves, Leo. I admit it man, I went way too fast and too hard, and I didn’t know what I was doing. If I just had a little more cash, man, I could pay off Raul, I could get us a better crib, and we could be living like kings in Rio! What’s this we gotta lay low until the heat wears off bull, huh?” I steadied my breath, channeled my adrenaline, and focused in on what the traitors were plotting against me. “What she’s trying to do is give it enough time for her to take Tip’s cut and put it in some secret account, while we sit back and let these bed jockeys entertain us. She thinks we’re stupid, man. Listen…10 million dollars split between the four of us, right? That would amount to 2.5 million dollars each, am I right? Tip was a casualty; a foot-soldier is always expected to take that risk, man, but do you think it is fair that she is sitting on 5 million dollars, and me and you gotta split 5 million? Come on, Leo, think about this; we could easily overpower her and get her to tell us where she stashed her cut,” PJ exclaimed as if he had been mulling the scheme over since the beginning. Tip had taught me that scores like these don’t bring families together, they rip families apart, and he was the big homie; he kept us in line. I knew that eventually these fools would turn on me. But I never anticipated when that day would come because I thought that we were all in this game together. However, when there are millions of dollars in cash and hardened, ruthless criminal veterans in the mix, the only thing there is to trust in this game is myself. “Wait a minute, man. Please don’t tell me you

The Last Job Kiondra Lewis

“When you’re playing with just luck in a game of chance, don’t ever expect to win…Gotta have skill.” Blue and black and white poker chips swarmed the air as Giovanni flipped the solid wooden poker table. He then immediately took cover behind the table, retrieved his .22 semiautomatic pistol from his brown leather holster, and took aim at Tip. Instinctively, I chose to protect the man that I considered to be my boss, my mentor, and my best friend, and I readily braced myself for the bullet. I took a hard dive to the floor and managed to crawl behind the wall of the south-facing room. Tip did all he could to protect me; from the sound of the barrage of bullets flying from his glock 19, I knew that Giovanni and his gang were eliminated. Leo and PJ already made off with a least ten million dollars in poker chips. Tip and I just had to make it out of there alive. I made an attempt to push myself off the floor, but the bullet that pierced my right shoulder caused great agony. In my peripheral vision, I witnessed Tip take out the hotheaded coward Giovanni with a bullet to the neck and chest. Tip elegantly fell to the floor in a puddle of his own crimson blood. I had no time to mourn; I ran as fast I could to the rendezvous point in the desert while shedding a trail of warm tears along the blurred path. I awakened in a long gasp and a cold sweat from my hazy nightmare. I owed Tip my life as he had taught me everything I knew about the scamming business. He always said that this was going to be the last job, and that he would finally get out of the game for good. I basked in the moonlit glow that poured from the small window of the Brazilian roach motel me and my crew were forced to hide out in, and I tried to distance myself from the survivor’s guilt that haunted me in my nightmares. We had been holed up in a small, cheap motel in slums of Rio de Janeiro for several months, as planned. What wasn’t planned was the untimely demise of Tip and his share. I was determined to give his daughter,

I basked in the moonlit glow that poured from the small window of the Brazilian roach motel…


my feet could carry me, but risk being spotted by my double-crossing partners; I could surrender and offer to split up Tip’s earnings evenly, but still risk being ruthlessly shot down; or I could wait for space and opportunity, peek inside the window, and take aim at the treacherous backstabbers. The door flew open, and as I heard Leo tiptoeing around my room with his gun drawn, I paid attention to the sound of his footsteps to keep track of his location. I did not care much for Leo, but he was a sharpshooter and an enforcer, which was the sole reason PJ enlisted his help. I needed to take him out swiftly; this was paramount if I wanted to survive this standoff. This was my last job; making it through this last hiccup would send me on my path to financial liberation. However, this was one of the riskiest situations I had faced, and I needed more than luck to make it out alive; I needed skill. I heard Leo stepping closer, and I was sure that he noticed that the window was left open. I took a deep breath, stood up directly to the left of the window in its blind spot, darted my eyes to lock onto Leo’s frame, took aim, and let off two accurate shots in his chest. I hopped through the window quickly and took cover in the shadows. “Give it up PJ! I heard your plans! I can give you enough to pay off Raul, but that’s it!” I explained as I scanned the room. The adjoining room door was left ajar, so I swung it back with my weapon drawn. “Tip’s money belongs to Mia, PJ, and I can’t let you have it.” The bathroom door in the adjoining room was cracked open, and PJ’s silhouette was cast on the floor in the moonlight. I rushed the bathroom with my gun cocked, and PJ stood trembling with his gun pointed at my face. “I’m sorry, but I need this more than you do!” shouted PJ. In slow motion, I took a lunge forward and tackled him into the bathtub where his gun flung free from his grip. I quickly sprung back, grabbed his gun, and took aim at his face. Then he said to me in a weak whisper, “You killed Leo…If you kill me, Raul will come for your head.” I then heard sirens blaring in the distance and knew that I had a quick decision to make—do I spare his life, or

been holding weight from Raul. He ain’t the one to be screwing around with out here!” Leo exclaimed in an aggressive tone. “Shh! Come on, man. Keep it down!” PJ whispered. “We’re gonna end up rotting is some South American hellhole prison behind your foolishness! PJ, I know you’re not this stupid, but how much do you owe Raul?” Leo asked. “Look, I don’t owe him that much, and listen, you don’t even have to worry about it, man. I got myself into this mess, I can get myself, you heard me? It’s just that, after we’ve been here for seven months…We’re in Brazil! The women are gorgeous here! Drugs are plentiful and bountiful, and you know I got a problem. I just get bored sometimes, and…” “How much?!” Leo impatiently interrupted. “200 thousand dollars, Leo! He fronted me 200 thousand dollars to cover the debt on the table, man, and that’s not all. I spent most of it on coke; I thought I could make more money back that way, but the locals don’t trust foreigners with the product, man, so I…I started using real heavy. The worst part is that I would have paid him back, but I’m sitting on my last one hundred grand, and I couldn’t afford to pay him back. What do you say? Are you with me or not?” I waited by the vent to listen for some sort of confirmation of an ambush. After three seconds, I rushed to grab what bills I had, stashed them in my backpack, and quickly threw it on my back. I crammed my feet into a pair of loosely tied sneakers, grabbed the yellow duffle bag with Tip’s cut inside and slid it on my shoulder, and quietly darted towards the opened window. The instant my hand touched the brick on the outside of the motel, the doorknob of my room jiggled with rapid force. I slowly fell out of the window, falling lightly on my hands and feet to prevent any thudded noises to blow my cover. As the door loudly sprung open from the force of PJ’s kick, I ducked underneath the frame of the window. I had a choice to make: I could ether run away with my earnings and flee the motel as fast as

Tip had taught me that scores like these don’t bring families together, they rip families apart.


punish him for his greediness? With a smirk, I said, “You owed Raul. You couldn’t pay him back if you wanted to, remember? I think that Raul was planning to cut his losses, anyway. If he wasn’t, you wouldn’t be so desperate to rob me and your boss’s kid. You’re despicable, PJ. The pigs will be here soon, and unfortunately for you, I can’t take the chance of you ratting me

out. I could never hold up well in a South American prison. If I ever find your share, I will let Mia know that her uncle PJ wanted her to go to an Ivy League college.” I shot PJ one time, right between the eyes, jumped through the window of the shanty bathroom, recovered my bags, and ran as fast as I could.❖

Nathaniel W. Barwick “Condemned” Charcoal/Graphite


Whitney Joyner, “Goldfish,” Acrylic


you, Mars, for such a nice welcoming party. I step into my pod, and I hear the airlock seal. I am finally able to take this uncomfortable space suit off. I swear they wanted to make this thing harder to take off than trying to break into Fort Knox. I finally get free of my suit. My first duty, as I see it, as one of the first colonists of Mars, is to introduce these Martians to some good music. I slip in my Guns N’ Roses CD and let it play. These Martians aren’t going to know what hit them. My second duty as one of the first colonists of Mars is to get some food in me. As I walk out of my pod, there is a mirror on the closet door. I stop and look. Standing, looking back at me, is a man. He’s so handsome, tall, and fit that it’s almost unbelievable. In fact, it is. I, Jonah Watt, am just your everyday astronaut. Conquering planets one day at a time. I found my way to Mars because I am one of the only people who understands Mars’ chemistry, so yeah, I’m pretty great, not like I toot my own horn or anything. I make my way into the mess hall. The humongous Olympus Mons rests on the horizon in all its Martian glory. Commander Walker is already in the mess hall with Alexander Wright, the “Martian” engineer. Alex is a very analytical thinker, always tinkering, the generic engineer type, no surprise there. I ask Commander Walker, “What’s on the menu?” He responds in a monotone voice, “Well we have to keep our rations straight, so you can have one protein bar.” He is such a lovable guy, is he not? I grab my one protein bar, and I head back to my pod. As I am walking, I am going over in my head my journey here and my journey ahead. As the chemist on the Mars team, it is my job to take samples of everything we find, figure out their compositions, and take notes on them, so we, the puny Earthlings, can better understand the big mysterious Red Planet. Mars’ days last a little longer than Earth’s days. We arrived at 1200, and it’s been a little over two hours, so it should be around 1400. The Sun

To the Ones I Left Home Weston Hersey

I step out after 115 days. 115 days. It’s been 115 days since I’ve left a footprint on land, seen the sky, or have been under a protective atmosphere like a chick under his mother’s wing. Now I’m under a wing again, a big, red, unbreathable wing. Ahhhh, Home Sweet Home, or at least it is home for the next two years. The sky is red; so is the ground. Rust is everywhere. Oh, sorry. I meant soil. No wonder this place is called Mars. It looks like it has been ravaged by the god of war himself. Two moons linger on the horizon, but they aren’t perfectly spherical like Earth’s moon. They are just two potatoes in the sky orbiting the barren red planet. I force myself to become accustomed to my new environment, my restricting spacesuit and the musty air it gives me to breathe, and my “living” pod and its cramped space and tunnels, but it’s the best SpaceX and NASA could do, so I’ll take it. The rovers that came before us have already set up our camp. They have built our pods and loaded our supplies, so once we arrived, unloading was fairly easy. The crew and I prepare to enter our pods. The overly enthusiastic Dr. Lucy Hamill, the “first Martian Doctor,” is way too excited to climb into her pod. “Aren’t you guys so excited?” she exclaims. “We are basically the same as Christopher Columbus and his crew!” “Yeah, I guess. Except this Christopher isn’t the leader,” jokes Christopher Certa, the biologist who took on the daunting exploration of Mars. He likes to call himself the jokester of the group, but no one else calls him that. He enjoys raising everyone’s spirits through bad puns and poorlytimed jokes. Our captain, Commander John Walker, is stern and one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen. He commands us to enter our pods ASAP. Apparently, a dust storm is approaching. Thank

These Martians aren’t going to know what hit them.


still blazes bright as it filters through the red sky. It’s amazing to think that the Sun I am seeing now while standing on Mars is the same one I see on Earth. The day of arrival is intended to be an easy day. NASA and SpaceX wanted to make sure we at least lasted a couple of days. Since I have made my first step on Mars, my time has mostly consisted of wandering around Home Base, eating, and listening to good ‘ole GNR. So far it’s just like Earth. My thoughts are interrupted by Alexander coming over the intercom, telling us the approaching dust storm is here. We have trained for this several times before we arrived here. The protocol is for us to lock all the doors, check the seals, and wait it out. Typically, the storms last only a few hours, so that means team bonding!!! That was sarcasm if you didn’t catch that. It’s quite hard to put attitude through paper and pencil, or paper and keyboard, or…whatever, it doesn’t matter. I decide to stop trying to avoid the inevitable and go to join my fellow crewmates in the mess hall. They are all sitting in a kumbaya circle, and there is a spot next to Commander Walker just for me. Yippie. “About time for you to show up,” Chris remarks. Lucy chimes in, “But we are glad you are here! This is going to be so fun!” Alexander has nothing to say as he nervously walks around checking seals for the fifth and sixth time. I take my spot in the circle. We all start talking about the plan for the next few days on Mars. The procedures and sample taking is a-plenty. Chris, in a solemn moment, says, “I miss everyone.” This must have been on everyone’s mind because even Lucy becomes sad as she thinks about everyone back on Earth. That’s the price you pay, though, to be a part of the expansion of humanity. It takes sacrifice to move to a whole new planet that no one has ever set foot on. I’m not the happiest about being sent on this journey, but I understand the severity of the dangers and the dependence humanity has on our success, and who could say no to that?

After we finish longing for all the people we left behind, we decide to actually get some work done. We separate ways to complete all of our respective duties. Alexander goes to check the structural integrity of the pods in the storm. Lucy has to make sure that the medical bay is prepared just in case anything goes awry. Commander Walker begins to send communications back home to let them know everything’s A-OK. Chris has already collected soil samples, so he is off to run a variety of tests on them, and “me,” you ask? Well, I, the great Jonah Watt, have to run tests on some ice we found under the surface of the ground. Just the typical mad scientist life. Fun Fact! Dr. Frankenstein is actually my cousin. Yeah, I know. I’m incredible. I enter the lab, and Chris is already in his hidey hole with his dirt. I walk over to the various ice samples and grab the chemicals to mix them with. I don’t want to bore you with the grueling details, so I’ll just dumb it down. I take the purple liquid and mix it with the ice, and I get big boom. Big boom means it has the same components in it as Earth’s water. This is a good thing. We already knew this before we got here, but they wanted me to replicate it to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. By now it’s dinner time, so we have some baked potatoes and a block of freezedried ice cream. Yummy. After dinner it’s lights out; I walk back to my pod, and I turn my lamp on. My head is spinning with so many thoughts, so I play the Beatles to calm my nerves. With “I Want You” playing in the background, I can get everything in order. I plan out the days ahead and go over the day that I just went through. I can’t believe that I am on another planet. As reluctant as I am to be here, I have to admit this is a pretty amazing feat. I’m nervous about everything ahead, but, hopefully, it’s nothing. Well, it’s time for me to sign off. I am Jonah Watt, first Martian chemist, and I hope to God I come back home.

That’s the price you pay, though, to be a part of the expansion of humanity.

P.S. I am starting to talk to myself on Mars…It’s lonely on this planet. ❖



Whitney Joyner, “Egg Carton,” Charcoal/Graphite

Britney Sawkiw, “Avocado,” Acrylic


Whitney Joyner, “Mother’s Love,” Acrylic


Dalton Bryson, “Majestic Peacock,” Acrylic


Index by Author or Artist’s Name

Acevedo-Trejo, Omar

Grady, Becky

Scars – 52 Tentacle Shake – 47

Barning Tobacco – 35

Gurley, Gracelyn

Barefoot, Sarah Elizabeth

Lily – 36

Awoken in a Sunrise – 45 The Fire of Life – 3 Six Colors – 15

Hersey, Weston

To the Ones I Left Home – 71

Barwick, Nathaniel W.

Hudson, Emily

A Bronze Bond – 44 Cold, Dark Place – 7 Condemned – 69

Iguana, Champion of the Green – 63 Orchids – 46

Berry, Jenna

Joyner, Whitney

Water Lilies – 34

Alligator – 65 Boys vs. Men – 17 Egg Carton – 73 The Future is Female – 16 Goldfish – 70 I Am Mine – 42 Mother’s Love – 75 Mourning – 12 Only Women – 28 Spring – 13 Temptation – 12

Bryson, Dalton

Majestic Peacock – 76

Bryson, Dylon

Portrait of a Second Son – 27 Snow Day – 8

Cohen, Craig Piano Jazz – 31

Lam, Stephanie

Davis, Lindsay

By the Bay – 20 Eye of the Tiger – 51

The Clowness Cha-U-Kao Fastening Her Bodice – 37

Lewis, Kiondra

Dupree, Heather

The Last Job – 67

Death’s Ashes – 53 Fiona – 38

Mitchell, Hope

Outside In – 21 Pick and Choose – 30 Reminiscence – 39 Woe to the Generations – 9

Foy, Joshua

A Frozen Memory – 48 Where I’m From – 18

Ginn, Kaleb

Pearl in Oyster – 40


Munoz, Ruben

Spencer, Sylvia

Murphy, Madison

Stoudt, Diana

Parnell, Lyndsey

Tamayo, Cindy

Quiroz, Jesus

Villanueva, Cristal

Read, Leigh

Weed, Stacia

Friend – 41

Tuesday – 10

Blue-Eyed Boy – 14

Math Anxiety – 56

Technique Is Everything – 6

Sea Turtle – 60

Instinct - 49

Gazelle – 29

Best of the Worst Films: Trash Cinema – 22

Athena – 5 David Close-Up – 64

Sawkiw, Britney

Whipple, Sarah

Avocado – 74 The Face of Extinction – 55 Secrets of the Zen Garden – 33 Yellow Lizard – 11

Angie’s Frida – 43 Awakened – 13 Cognizance – 26 Kaleb’s Cacti – 66 Omar’s Snake – 59 Opposition – 50 Provoked – 54 Tolerant – 58

Schilling, Max Wrinkles – 24

Seif, Deanaletta Une Femme – 25

Williams, Tamaya Eustace Negro – 32 Northbound – 2 Roll of Thunder – 1 Trouble Man – 19

Short, Antwan June 9th – 61


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