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VOLUME I

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Fiction • Non-Fiction • Poetry • Art

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Senior editors Managing editor

Assistant editor

Fiction editors non-Fiction editors poetry editors art editor Design editors Social media editor


A letter from The editors Dear Reader, Over the course of this last semester, our editors have considered what it means to candidly and openly explore the darkest parts of the human condition. We asked our peers to submit pieces that delved into the hidden parts of their consciousness. We asked them to treat this magazine as their confessional. What we received is a sometimes painfully honest compilation of pieces that writers have created to liberate themselves and so generously chosen to share with us. Through them we have come to understand the trials and tribulations that face our generation. Through them we have brought light to these issues. Through them we have learned that we do not have to endure alone. We hope you find solace. Sincerely,

Nicole Pagliari and Skyler Barnes Senior Editors of Witness Magazine


CONTENTS Bear witness In Our Image . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rebecca Carey

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To Lose God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sarah Weeks

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Flower Tongue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Madalyn Whitaker

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A Gift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ava Gripp

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Approach thE witness History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jordan Brendeland

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Roots . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nicole Klostermann

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What’s In a Name? . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kimberly Williams

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Posionous . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kathryn Raver

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A Gateway to Jenna . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rana Hewezi

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For (but not to) Jeff Tweedy . . . . . . . . . . Katie Prinz

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Called to witness Survive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Anonymous

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The Times I Cry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cassandra Chia

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Yirah: 11/16 (Cheshvan 5777) . . . . . . . . . . . . Kai Kiser

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art & non-fiction

bear witness

Rebecca Carey

“Rocks, Water, and Moss” by Ethan Fagre we’re in my room it’s Saturday I don’t have to work I have enjoyed doing nothing. I’m on the mattress he’s on the floor sprawled out like the rabbit inside her house she never comes out because she’s shy but don’t we also never come out unless we have to go to work or get food or get weed? It’s similar we’re similar we’re animals with utilized technology.

page not in the ground or in the woods, my skills are not between the hairs of a rifle scope but the meaning of a letter and the superfluous nonsense of stringing of words together to create meaning and meaning is relative, but definitions give common meaning give language give mutual understanding gives translation provides they’ve computerized it making me essential un-essential newspeak bi-n’airy like a feather like a bird can a computer think of that?

Technology is god then? It’s a question among many and none of them mean anything they have no significa no importante pero I wonder.

A computer can make art so why not.

How did I end up here my life constantly surprises me I surprise me I didn’t intend to end up here but I had the impulse and acted on it?

A computer is you but smarter. A computer is what you could be if you shed what makes you organic and become immortalized in binary.

I have the impulse to smoke weed to kiss him to go to work to make money to buy more weed and food and rent because I have to have money to live and I don’t necessarily like that but I can’t grow my own food so I pay for it my skills are in an office on a computer on a

But we built them? Are our gods more archaic than we? God supposedly made us in His image. AI in our image, robot bodies built in likeness to ours. Our Zeus is not less evolved than Einstein. 05


Sarah Weeks

“Sorrow” by Sophia Ross


fiction

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Tony lost God in a mall parking lot. He didn’t mean to, the concept of religion hadn’t been on his mind while heading to the mall. Instead it had been on things distinctly less than religious— namely Carol Piper’s lips and when it would be a good time to kiss them.

“Where is what?” he asked stupidly, wishing he could sound more suave, but having no idea what the girl was screeching about. To be honest, he had only been thinking about the best way to kiss her, if he should close his eyes as he got close, to be like movies, or leave them open so he didn’t accidentally bump noses, like he knew Mike had done, even if the other boy was too scared to admit it.

Going to the mall hadn’t been his idea for a date, but his friend Mike said that you could eat at the food court and wander around to stores, and maybe even buy a little bracelet or necklace or something to make the girl happy, and then on your way out she would be pleased enough to kiss you. He had thought it was a great idea, because he already knew Carol talked through movies, and he didn’t really want to waste his money on a real restaurant. So they had come to the mall, with his mind solidly on his first kiss.

“The necklace!” She wailed, twisting her body in a rather impressive way so she could scan the floor of the car. Dully, he did the same, although he was less worried than she when he didn’t see the gleaming faux gold by his feet. “I’ve already lost it!” Tony wondered if it was his fault. He did have a lot of trouble with the little clasp, the lever cheap and delicate and needing a very precise touch. He had struggled with it for longer than should have been necessary, and if Mike ever asked – which he wouldn’t, but just in case the detail needed recounting – he would say it was because he wanted to smell Carol’s strange mango shampoo. But he was relatively sure the little hook had finally gotten in the loop. Maybe. “We’ve only been between here and the mall,” he finally said, reasonably. “It probably fell off in the parking lot. We can look for it there.”

It had been going well, too, the food court was cheap and Carol had decided to wear heels, so they didn’t have to walk around too much. He had found an inexpensive necklace in the window of some store he had never heard of, and she had cooed and let him put it on her, trying to calm his shaking hands as he pulled her soft, blond hair to the side. He had thought maybe he would kiss her then, but then she was complaining again about her feet, so they had headed for the car, where he was sure to kiss her. Almost did, too, had started to lean in, lips pursed and ready for contact when –

“Would you really help me look?” Carol looked over to him, and in rising horror he realized her eyelashes were dotted with tears. Maybe he should be happy the necklace he bought her already meant so much to the girl, but it only doubled his guilt. It probably was his fault, after all. How long before she came to the same conclusion he had? “Thank you so much, Tony.”

“Where IS it?!” It wasn’t what he had been expecting, so Tony pulled back. Carol’s eyes were full of such panic and she was clutching at her own neck in a strange, perverse way. For a second he worried maybe she hadn’t thought it was a date at all, and she was about to hit him and call him a pervert, and then no one would want to date him, and then her words finally caught up to him and he realized she hadn’t said to stop at all, but rather asked where it was.

He quickly leapt from the car and raced to the passenger’s side, wanting to look good in the moment so when she realized later what he had done, she would also remember how nice he had been, opening 07


bear witness doors and helping her look. He held the door for her and expected her to get out immediately, but instead she didn’t budge, head lowered in silence. For a second, he thought she was weeping, and cleared his throat before saying a small, “Carol?”

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“Oh, right. Okay.” He didn’t know what else to say to that, but he didn’t want to let silence fall again. He flailed for a question, something, anything to keep the conversation going, “So what religion are you?” Oh great. Smart.

“Amen,” he heard her say before finally beaming at him. “It’s okay, I’ve prayed to God that we find this necklace. He knows how important it is to me. We’ll be able to find it.” With this renewed faith, she hopped out of the car and began searching the ground, leaving him to shut the door in a strange fog.

“I’m Christian.” “Oh, great, yeah, me too. Yeah,” Tony wet his lips. “What kind though, like Catholic, Protestant-”

He didn’t know why her words affected him, they weren’t anything new. He went to church with his mom and sister every Sunday, they prayed and said their ‘Amens’ and read parts of the Bible. His sister talked all the time about praying to God for one thing or another, or thanking God for a particularly nice sunset, or asking for His guidance before she took a test. And he did it too, almost instinctively before bed, thanked God for the good parts of his day, asked Him for help in things that worried him. There was nothing foreign to him about her actions, and yet, something felt different.

“Protestant. I go to the South Baptist Church over near Angelo’s.” Tony knew where that was. Faintly. He knew Angelo’s was the pizza place he and Mike would get for movie nights, but they always ordered delivery. Suddenly, though, he could picture a little wooden building, with an obnoxiously large white cross on the top, and Carol inside, in a pristine dress, head bowed and praying to not step in any puddles and ruin her new shoes. What if— and the question was nothing he had ever considered before, but it came so naturally it didn’t feel big at all— she was the right religion, and all others were wrong, and her prayer for clean shoes was answered, but the prayers for food and shelter went on deaf ears because they weren’t right?

He trailed behind Carol, looking downwards in a halfhearted attempt to help search. There were puddles of water on the ground he hadn’t noticed when they had first left the mall, and the oils from a nearby car was turning one into a mottled rainbow, somehow rotten in the dying rays of the sun. He wanted to point it out to Carol, the disgusting beauty of it all, but he refrained. It was still a first date, and he didn’t want to be known as the guy who thought oil was beautiful. That would be weird.

Suddenly, Tony really hoped they wouldn’t find the necklace at all. “That’s cool. I go to Spirit of Christ.” “Oh, Jennifer Marlow goes there.” “Yeah, we were in Sunday school together when we were kids.” She always had her hair in a ponytail that seemed too close to her scalp to be comfortable. She tried to join the choir but couldn’t hold a pitch so they gently directed her to ‘help out with the kids’

“Where do you think you lost it?” he asked, if only to fill the silence, and then winced at himself. Obviously she didn’t know. If she knew where it had fallen off, it wouldn’t be lost at all. Carol seemed to follow a similar thought process. Although her voice was faint as it turned away from him, he could still make out, “I don’t know. All I remember is you putting it on me near Victoria’s, and by the time we got in the car, it had fallen off.” 08


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bear witness thought this was God’s work. The sky, the puddles turning into gold, the necklace laid perfectly in the bottom of the one they were standing above together. And maybe it was. If there were no coincidences, this was God’s plan, bringing them together, or bringing her the necklace, or giving her the happiness she prayed for. But why did she deserve this? Why this stupid necklace? What about Mike’s mom, who looked worse and worse each month, who was now bald and half her original size, as if aging in reverse into a delicate, dying child? Tony didn’t think about other people a lot, because he wasn’t them, and so he didn’t care. But he wanted to think he did, because he wasn’t a bad person, and he knew people were dying of starvation and being poor and stuff. And maybe he hadn’t really prayed for world peace, or an end to starvation, but Carol probably hadn’t either. If her prayers could bring her a stupid necklace that had cost a few dollars, could she pray to end world hunger? Was her God the only God, or was her God just especially focused on mall parking lots?

instead. She probably also prayed for better grades and missing necklaces. The conversation ended there. Tony’s attention drew away from the ground as the sky began to change colors, lighting the twisting, once rain-heavy clouds, and washing the world in burnt gold. Even the cars in the car park, a testament only to human laziness, looked like gems under the light. “Hey Carol, look at that,” he murmured, wanting to share the moment. Inside there was a swell of something— be it wonder or faith or awe— and he tried to hold onto that, remembering the majesty of the feeling. “Look at the sunset.” She did, stepping closer to him, over a large puddle of what seemed to be molten gold, clutching his arm before she could fall into another puddle. For a second, they watched together, the clouds slowly twisting to fit the unearthly expectations of the fading sun, the pinks and purples rushing in to tinge and blend into the yellows and oranges. It was as if God himself had sat down with a paint brush to give Tony a reminder of what He stood for. This was what he gave praise for, this was what he thanked God for in is prayers, this was–

Carol was still looking at him, and he thought that probably now was a good time to kiss her, because the sky was blossoming with color, and she probably thought God had brought them together, and it was the equivalent of fireworks exploding in the distance, but he couldn’t really bring himself to think about her lips anymore. He was struggling with something that felt slippery and never-ending, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to go that far inside himself. Things were unfair, if he had to lose his God, his assurance of the world, but things would also be unfair if he had to keep a God like Carol’s. Her God rescued necklaces for pretty white high school students, and let people who lived in the Middle East die over religious beliefs that weren’t even their own, sometimes even the same people who believed in Him, and there was something wholly wrong about that.

“Tony look!” He didn’t know why he expected silence, but the sudden noise from besides him startled him into looking. Carol dropped his arm to kneel by the pool of reflected color, reaching in to draw out the missing necklace. She gazed up at him with her gleaming eyes and her beautiful lips and never seemed so vile as she said rapturously, “God has provided.”

He was mad at this God, who left him no choice but to believe in inequity or to not believe at all. He was mad at losing this part of himself, because that was how it felt; not realizing, or coming to a truth, but just losing. It did feel true, but maybe that was only because a part of him, some part in his chest that

Something slipped. Something he had clutched to, white knuckled, inside of himself just slipped away as he looked at the necklace. It seemed so perfect, and he could easily see why she would have 09


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once squeezed with overwhelming faith in certain moments, was now empty and gaping for new emotions to fill him. Maybe that’s where the hatred came from too, and the hollowness. Like he didn’t turn his back on God, but instead God had walked off on him. Something in his face must have showed Carol she wasn’t getting that kiss, because she straightened and put her hand on his shoulder, gazing at him in her doe-like innocence and pouting lips, “Tony? Is something wrong?” And Tony had to plant his feet firmly on the ground and pretend like everything was okay, because everything WAS strangely okay, the world hadn’t exploded into pieces around him and that was almost worse, and tell her, “Yeah, I’m fine.” And somehow, awfully, he was.

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fiction


poetry

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Madalyn Whitaker The roses he gave me still sat in a ceramic vase. White on all sides, iridescent in the sun. It was one my mother made. A vase of wilted roses. It seemed more appetizing than the thought of him on my tongue. So I plucked the flowers, one by one. Popping each petal into my mouth. I washed it down with the water they drank from. I found it more satisfying than simply throwing them out.

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art & non-fiction

Ava gripp

“Colorgirl Doodle� by Cameryn Berridge A few years back, I went to a concert and a new city for the first time. I wanted to look good for this event and so you, being my friend, let me borrow your necklace. It was just what I needed to finish off the look. It was a thin chain whose scratched metal did not match my undertones, but it did make me feel like I looked better than everyone in the room, which is all I really cared about then. I returned my item of confidence and smiled at you in secret flashes when you wore it. Our friends did not know of our transaction. I preferred business that way.

stop apologizing for everything. You bought me my own piece of jewelry too. A gold nose ring that made me feel beautiful. It was not gilded and like you, gold down to the core. I wore it in the shower and it never corroded. It matched the undertones of my skin perfectly. I would have loved it just the same if it did not. You loved me above all else, so you surprised me with the real thing, even though you had little-tono income. With no money for dates, I laid on your mattress. While you made music, I took pictures of myself with my shining object that made me yours.

You began to say nice things to me and flash back at me across the room during parties, before the party. You touched me in gentle ways that were alien to me and tucked my hair behind my ear. You told me to

The nose ring hung happily, never to be taken out or replaced by something new. I was giddy at meeting 12


non-fiction

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someone who encouraged me to be me. But the seasons changed, and the metal made the tippy-top of my nose cold. I do not know how it happened, even with my hair tucked behind my ear I could not see you nor find you anymore. With our friends, I tried to spot you and flash my eyes at you. My eyes were left wandering. I did see hazy drunkards bopping to music, but the tracks they played did not feel as bright as yours. When strangers complimented me on the beauty of my jewelry, I would bleakly respond “thanks.” And steer the conversation to how the seasons made the days short and navy. I wanted to tell them its true origin and who gifted it to me, but I didn’t. The nose ring is great. Really, I am grateful— I swear. I am mad solely because I got used to your gentle touch, and I do not know how to be alone. Singularity is now alien. Now I apologize to me because I could not make you stay. I tried hard, and thank you for the gold, but I wish I had you back. I cry in the shower with the gold that doesn’t corrode, and I know the feelings of missing you is like jewelry. Sometimes I wish it was plated, so I could rid myself of you. I dreamt the jewelry turned my nose green. Happily, I had a metaphor for us. But I woke up on my mattress in silence, without your music. I pulled out my phone camera and saw no change in quality. What I want is to throw the nose ring to a place I can never find it—like a crowd at a concert. Although, every time I am scared it has fallen out, my heart drops, and I scatter to find it. Nothing can distract me until it is safe in my possession again. The gold shines at me and I find it, hold it, return it to its place. I am embarrassed for scattering. But it is all I have left of you: the boy who taught me that jewelry does not actually mean anything.

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photography

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fiction

Jordan Brendeland

August 21, 1999

can barely move her elbows—she doesn’t mind the closeness—but because circular tables are better for conversation. It’s harder to engage in conversation when you can’t see everyone’s face, and as a result, the table has been split off into two separate ones.

“Mitchell, don’t throw her so high!” He thinks he’s untouchable, indomitable. Shelly is no longer sure if that’s how her husband always is—how he’s always been—or if it takes him a few beers to get there. But she does know that her Julia’s bones are tiny, fragile, like a bird, soaring out of reach.

Julia wants to lean over her plate to join the lively debate about the newest Star Wars movie that’s happening on the other end of the table, but Anya has pinned her down with a pointed look.

Mitchell doesn’t seem to hear her over their daughter’s delighted squeals, “Higher, daddy, higher!”

“So, how’s Miles doing?”

Julia is entirely unafraid of the ground. Why should she be? As long as she’s with Mitchell, she’s invincible, too.

To the untrained ear, Anya’s voice would seem casual. It sounds as if she were asking out of politeness, but Julia has been friends with Anya for six years.

The Don’t you dare! dies on Shelly’s tongue. It’s useless to yell at Mitchell again; he is wrapped around Julia’s little finger. He launches her into the clouds. Rather than watch her plummet back to Earth, Shelly glances around at the faces of her extended family. They all watch, somewhere between amused and terrified.

“He’s fine,” she answers through gritted teeth, knowing where this conversation is headed, but feeling powerless to stop it. Normally, it’s easier for Julia to remember that Anya is just looking out for her, but today it feels like she’s testing her. Like she somehow knows that Julia hasn’t heard from Miles all day; that he might not be fine after all. That Julia’s food has remained untouched because her stomach is in knots just thinking about it, but Miles is always saying that he hates that he makes her worry, and she’s trying not to for his sake, but—

The air is pulled tight as they wait for Mitchell to falter, to drop her. He doesn’t. Saturday 6:07 p.m. The table is only meant to seat six, but all eight of them are wedged into the corner booth. Julia wishes they’d been seated at one of the round tables with chairs. Not because she

“I think Julie’s good for him.” Liv, always encouraging, pipes up. She reaches under the table and squeezes Julia’s hand. Julia 16


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is grateful until she sees Liv’s eyes. Her face can be read like a book, the words she didn’t say are stamped into the creases in her forehead, etched into her sympathetic blue eyes.

fridge, which is otherwise empty, telling herself that she can microwave it later when it doesn’t feel like her stomach is full of lead.

Too good, they say. I think Julie is too good for him. Still, Julia twists her cheeks until she reaches something like a smile.

The feeling had only gotten worse with Anya’s parting words: “I wish you would take care of yourself the way you take care of him.”

October 3, 2005 The Vikings are playing on the flat screen, but Julia isn’t paying attention. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is propped against her knees. Harry is about to enter the maze, but it’s taking forever because her dad keeps putting his big hand over the pages.

Julia’s eyes drift between Gossip Girl and her phone. The episodes roll by without Julia knowing what’s happening. She’ll have to rewatch them later, but for now, she just needs the background noise. When her phone finally buzzes on the cushion next to her, the tension that had built in Julia’s shoulders eases.

“Come on, do you really love your book more than you love your dad?” He’s always been so dramatic, jumping from one extreme to another. This trait seems to be hereditary. Crossing her arms, Julia issues her own challenge, “Do you love football more than you love me?”

But only for the second it takes her to read who it’s from.

“I love you more than anything. You know that.”

Dad: Saw the picture of you and the girls on Katie’s Facebook! Glad you’re out having fun. Love you

“What about beer?” She giggles as her dad’s eyebrows knit together and he raises a hand to stroke his chin thoughtfully. “How about… How about you grab me another beer from the fridge? Then I can love you at the same time.”

Trying not to be annoyed with her father for not being the person she wanted to hear from, she typed out a quick reply: Yeah, I had a great time! Love you more.

Saturday 8:41 p.m.

After hitting send, Julia’s fingers hover over the power button, if only to stop her obsessing. Instead, she turns the volume all the way up before going to bed.

The rest of the girls had piled into an Uber after dinner, heading to their favorite bar for vodka cranberries and drunken air hockey. The unopened roll of quarters at the bottom of Julia’s purse feels heavier than it should by the time she gets home.

May 25, 2009 They start off the day at Sportsman’s, but the regulars call it Sporty’s, and because they know her father so well—or maybe because it’s 11 a.m.—they let her come in, too. The air is a decade-old cigarette,

She’s not in the mood to go out. She puts her uneaten enchilada and rice in the 17


approach the witness lingering smoke and dust settle like a film on her skin. Patty is behind the counter today and she frowns when she sees them walk in, Julia’s fingers twined loosely in her father’s as he guides her through the bar, but offers a tight-lipped smile when she notices Julia looking.

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The officers are starting to recognize her, she thinks, based on the way they nod or raise their hands in a small wave as she passes by. Officer Bowman is behind the front desk again. She keeps her eyes trained on the chipped wood, rather than the man behind it when she says, “I’m here for Miles.”

John is hunched over the corner stool, like always. His bloodshot eyes rove over Julia’s cutoffs and tank top, and he tells her she’s getting very pretty. She sips on Shirley Temples, while dad talks to the few people that are here on Memorial Day. By the time his last drink is gone, they’re late to Aunt Linda’s barbeque.

But he already knew that. Bowman offers her a weary smile before leading her back. “Nobody pressed charges,” he fills her in, glancing over his shoulder. “And he didn’t leave the bar this time, so there’s no D and D tonight.”

The truck plays pinball with the highway, gravel grinding under the tires, the coins in the cup holders rattling with the rumble strips. Julia’s fingers are locked around the handle above the door, the other hand is clenched around her seatbelt. Dad laughs at her, jerks the steering wheel—on purpose this time— and they slide over the dotted lines again.

Thank God. They can just go home. “You came!” Miles springs up from his seat as soon as she comes out from behind Officer Bowman, smiling at her as if there isn’t dried blood on his face and neck, soaked into the t-shirt she got him for Christmas.

Dad reaches out with a lazy hand and flicks the tip of her nose, “What’s the matter, pumpkin?” When he gets out of the truck, he forgets the keys in the ignition. Julia turns the truck off, and drops the keys into her uncle’s palm, calmly requesting that he hides them. He nods and points her to the backyard, where everyone else is already eating and playing badminton.

“I said I would, didn’t I?” “No, you said, ‘Next time I’m leaving you to rot.’” She’s surprised he remembered. It’s been a few months, and she had to help him into the car that night. Julia glares at him pointedly, “You said there wouldn’t be a next time.”

When she goes inside to use the bathroom, she finds him alone in the living room, snoring loudly on the couch. She takes the bottle of Advil from her aunt’s medicine cabinet and leaves it on the coffee table next to her half-full water bottle. She makes sure to set them where he’ll see them right away and kisses his forehead before heading back outside. He doesn’t stir.

Bloody knuckles brush over her cheek, “I’m sorry, Jules.” Still cupping her face, Miles leans in to kiss her, but Officer Bowman is still present, watching closely. Julia turns her face, and his lips, still sticky with blood, land on her cheek instead. She meets Bowman’s tired eyes, and she can’t shake the feeling that she’s disappointed him somehow.

Sunday 1:33 a.m. “I’ll be right there,” she assures, already sliding out of bed and into her sneakers. She doesn’t take the time to run a brush through her hair or change out of her pajama shorts and Miles’s old t-shirt before she drives to the station.

Miles reels back, looking at her as if she’d been the one to hit him, and a new guilt washes over her. “You have blood on your face,” She lies, wrinkling her 18


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nose. Well, it’s not a lie, but it’s also not the reason Julia turned away.

“I was—” She cuts him off in a small voice, “I know where you were.”

Just like that, Miles’s smile is back, elastic and unbothered. “I know, I know, I’m sorry. I was jus’ hoping you’d kiss me better.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Wait,” Julia studies him, eyes narrowed. “Are you still drunk?”

“I know you are.” “If you don’t want to come visit next weekend…” He trails off, and she’s never heard her father sound so unsure of himself. She doesn’t like it almost as much as she doesn’t like the idea of him sitting alone in a cell all night. She’d rather see him on the couch next to her, splitting a large pepperoni pizza and making bets on whether or not LSU will beat Bama in the Championship this year.

He thinks for a second. “Maybe a little.” September 15, 2011 “Did you talk to your father last night?” Julia’s mother says by way of greeting. She shovels another spoonful of Cheerios into her mouth, not bothering to swallow before answering, “No.”

“Of course I’m coming.” Sunday, 3:56 a.m.

He didn’t call her to tell her goodnight, which was unlike him. “Did you try to call him?” There is something in her mother’s voice. It’s almost like she’s taunting her.

“Thank you,” Miles says softly as Julia cleans the last smear of blood off his neck. She tosses the washcloth into the trash can. The stains won’t come out, anyway.

“Yeah, twice.” He hadn’t answered, which was even more concerning. She’d stayed up most of the night, worried.

She offers Miles her hand, pulls him off the ledge of the bathtub. Once he’s on his feet, Miles links their fingers together and squeezes her hand.

The trap snaps shut in the form of a cell phone. The screen displays a list of local arrests from the night before.

“I’m sorry,” he says again, leaning down to rest his forehead against hers. Up close like this, Julia thinks she can see the bruise as it continues to blossom along his jaw. She reaches up and runs her thumb over the discoloration.

“They take your phone when you get arrested,” her mother explains. Her dad’s picture seems to leer at her, next to a brief list of charges: Public Intoxication, Aggravated Assault, Battery Against a Police Officer.

“I know you are.” She lets him kiss her this time. Gently and only for a second, careful not to break the tender skin.

“That’s why he didn’t answer you. He got arrested again,” she says it almost gleefully. Julia’s father finally calls later that evening, “Sorry I missed your calls last night, Pumpkin.” “That’s okay.”

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Nicole Klostermann

“Prints” by Ethan Fagre winter bit through the building with ice-sharpened teeth in the expanse of December when neither of us had heat your place or mine either way we were bluish wine stain shadows on the walls and dust on the ceiling chill sneaking under the door and up into the sheets muffled voices of people sliding outside your window and mumbling of your sleep talk lips pressed to my neck searching for summer in the wisps of your breath skin struggling to recall unbearable warmth near suffocation thick thundering July that dropped rain on your glasses a light speckling at first then a full fervent storm knowing now the prairie where we sweated and swayed was a desert of dry frozen stalks but the radiating red heat of your cheeks as you told me bare bodied the worst thing you’d done was still here and I’d told you not quite a lie but maybe a wish the knowing wouldn’t change how I saw you but I saw you dressed only in shame and something twisted inside me something not yet love lodged inside me and took root in summer tendrils expanding still despite hostile air curled now as we were into the heat of each other 20

art & poetry


“Thumbelina” by Cameryn berridge


approach the witness

non-fiction

Kimberly williams

I hate saying my name.

every coworker, every friend, and every Starbucks barista calls me Kim. Because that’s how I introduce myself. Because I hate saying my name.

My dad named me because my mom got to name my older sister. He claims that there wasn’t any reason for it. He just liked the name. I got my middle name, Ann, from my grandmother. I don’t know whose decision that was. It ended up being very appropriate given that I grew up to be a lot like her.

I love my name. I love the way it sounds. The click of the K, softened by the hum of the M, the pop of the B, the growl of the R, and the whip-like snap of the LY. I love the way my name rolls around my mouth. The rise and fall of my tongue against the roof of my mouth, the rise and fall of my lips, mirroring the ebb and flow of a wave. It’s a sweet little melody that has come to embody who I am, how I perceive myself, and how others see me.

The name Kimberly is of Old English origin, derived from the name of a town in Northern Cape, South Africa which was named after a place in Norfolk, England, by John Wodehouse, a.k.a. the first Lord Kimberely. Supposedly it means “from the wood of the royal forest,” but don’t quote me on that. Etymology is complicated and not my forte. My mom calls me Kimberly. My step-dad, his mom, and my little brother call me Kimmy. My dad calls me Kimber and whatever ridiculous nicknames he can come up with, like Kimberella or Kimberoni. But every classmate, every teacher,

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But it’s a melody that I only sing in private, a song


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that I yearn to be serenaded with while I settle for a half-hearted ditty in its steady. I hate saying my own name. It may be ridiculous and insane, but my chest tightens in fear at the thought of it, and I don’t know how to reclaim it.

Apparently not. This absolute distrust of my own senses made it impossible for me to say my own name in public. I was always so afraid that I’d pronounce it wrong, stumble over my own name, and embarrass myself over the simplest, most basic information one should be able to communicate about themselves.

When I was in third grade, my teacher decided that I needed to be in speech therapy because I wasn’t pronouncing my R’s correctly. I didn’t hear anything wrong with them, and my mother didn’t hear anything wrong with them, but my teacher insisted, and they’re trained for that sort of thing. So I started speech therapy. I don’t remember many details, because this happened quite a while ago, but I do remember how it felt. It felt embarrassing, to have to leave in the middle of math class to go sit in a cubical, almost like I was in time out, just so I could practice my R’s. It felt futile, repeating, repeating, repeating my R’s and not hearing any difference. It felt frustrating, being told to roll my tongue back, further and further and further until I felt like it would rip off, and I’d choke on it.

I pretend to prefer Kim to Kimberly. When teachers ask which I prefer, I always say “I don’t care which.” I do care, but I can’t say “call me Kimberly,” and I can’t bring myself to say “I like to be called Kim” because that’s a straight up lie. Maybe someday I’ll conquer the fear and introduce myself properly, saying “Hello, I’m Kimberly.”

In fifth grade, I got a new speech therapist. I don’t remember his name, but he was much nicer than the first lady. He tried to make it fun for me and Keeley, the only other student at my small elementary school that needed speech therapy. Keeley was a nice girl, and we were friendly, but she needed a lot more help with her pronunciation than I did. I felt embarrassed to be lumped in with her, and guilty for not wanting to be associated with her for something so stupid and insignificant. When I was told that I was done with speech therapy, I was simultaneously relieved and pissed off, because I didn’t sound any different than I did three years before! At least not to my ears. But I didn’t hear the issue to begin with, an issue which was apparently fixed, so could I even trust my own ears?

“Geometric” by Carolyn Warner

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art

“hummingbird� by Cameryn berridge

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Kathryn Raver

“Sleepy Gal Pastel Study“ by Cameryn Berridge hemlock. symptoms include: respiratory failure, muscle paralysis, increased heart rate, dilated pupils.

opium. symptoms include: euphoria. He tasted bitter, like black coffee, but I drank him in as though he was the sweetest thing to ever touch my lips. Every touch, every kiss, every whisper incited a bliss like I had never felt before. It was as though every time we were together, we were floating, far out of the reach of anyone who would dare to pull us down. No one warns you that these moments of elation are simply the calm before the storm.

From the moment I saw him, it was like the breath had been seized from my lungs and the words had been stolen from my mouth. He was beautiful, in the deadly sort of way, but captivating— I couldn’t look away. His touches left me trembling, his kisses trailed like fire across my skin in a way that made my heart feel like it was about to explode in my chest. I should have known, right from the start, that he was slowly killing me.

tolerance to the effects of the drug increases quickly.

there is no known antidote.

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fiction

nightshade. symptoms include: delirium, confusion, hallucinations, loss of balance.

cyanide. symptoms include: nausea, dizziness, rapid breathing, weakness.

I was blinded by him. Our love was a delirium­— a blur of bliss and anger, light and dark, apologies, stinging bribes, and “I love yous.” Looking back now, I should have recognized the symptoms. I had lost control of myself— I stumbled and staggered through the days, weeks, months, so caught up in him I could hardly hold on to anything else.

He was gone, but the reminders of his existence there refused to leave my mind. The thought of never seeing him again should have elated me, but instead it squeezed the air from my chest, left me lightheaded. I laid in bed, cried, screamed, and drank until my thoughts were nothing but a black and muddled mess. survivors of serious cyanide poisoning may experience heart, brain, and nerve damage.

its toxic properties lead to impairment of cognitive functions, such as memory.

arsenic. symptoms include: irritated skin, abdominal pain, loss of feeling in limbs.

strychnine. symptoms include: agitation, apprehension, restlessness, rigid muscles.

As I look in the mirror now, I hardly recognize the red, tear streaked face that stares back at me. My throat is raw again, this time from screaming at myself. I feel . . . empty. It’s as if a bottomless pit has opened up inside my soul, and not all of the memories of him combined can fill it.

He screamed at me, and I screamed back until my throat was raw. Every day was a cycle of hitting, yelling, scratching. Sleep was rare – I tossed and turned in a half empty bed night after night, long after he had stormed from the apartment for the fourth night in a row with a frightening fire in his eyes. My brain raced around in circles – would he come back? Would he hurt me again? What could I do to fix this broken mess that had once resembled love?

heart disease and neurotoxicity are possible after prolonged exposure. He was poison— but there are no warning labels on boys like him.

those severely affected by strychnine poisoning are unlikely to survive.

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Rana hewezi

Act like the sunrise; grasp for the light until the darkness is cast away They say tears grieve the words that remain hostage to the mind. A merciful action that allows one to hear what remains unsaid.

the life that was embezzled from Death’s unforgiving hold. The talk of the community could just as easily be whispered into Death’s ears.

In English, tear, has many meanings. The first that comes to mind is the salty residue emerging from the eyes. Yet, I always thought it was interesting that it is also used to describe something that has been ripped. Or torn. Generating something that was no longer whole. Except it was pronounced {ter} instead of {‘tir}.

There is a common expression in Arabic used to escape the scrutiny of the people. Imshee gam bel heta. Walk alongside the wall. Despite the natural push towards deference as a woman, everything in Mama’s nature went against that mentality. Her upbringing. Her etiquette. Even her namesake.

They were identical in my eyes. In Arabic, tears are pronounced dumueh. It resembles the word dam, meaning blood.

She was named Noha. Brain.

4

Most people are unaware that Mama had three siblings. Like Baba, she too could relate to the tainted deeds shared intimately between Loss and Death.

At her time, a woman in Egypt was meant to be admired for her beauty, her kind manner. My grandparents wanted Mama to be admired for her thinking. 4

While Baba was raised in the spotlight, Mama preferred the security of the shadows. She grew reserved in fear of Death’s impenetrable eyes.

Although hating the limelight, Mama often found herself within it. Her odd preference to pants rather than dresses or skirts. The audacity to speak to a man, as well as look him in the eye.

Cautious and innocent. To attract attention to oneself was to compromise 27


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Independent. A scholar first and a wife second.

4

Like Mama, I was raised to be outspoken and deafening. To both strangers and loved ones alike, I was known as the girl who spoke her mind.

She was a popular talking point in her hometown. She possessed the kind of beauty that ran scarce. The unprecedented kind. The unrivaled kind.

A man’s mind in a woman’s body, they said.

In a world that was dedicated to subduing a women’s words, Mama’s mouth burned bright.

“No, better. A woman’s mind in a woman’s body,” Mama often replied.

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When family and neighbors scoffed at my backward manners, Mama’s smile was heavy with praise.

My grandpa was called a fool for loving his daughter with the same ferocity as an Egyptian man loved his son. When Mama left Egypt for France on scholarship to obtain her PhD with her husband and newborn child, it was those who were once in opposition who truly felt like the fools.

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When Issam died at the ripe age of one year too young, Mama embraced the stereotypical expectations of both man and woman.

In the end, it was the sun that led to his downfall. He contracted a diarrheal disease. But it was the dehydration that killed him. My mother was two years too young. Too young to understand. Old enough to sympathize. Old enough to recognize the dimness in exchange for the sunlight.

In her, my grandparents saw the son they lost. When Ahmed came along shortly after, Mama had already gotten accustomed to her appointed role that it now became her adopted identity.

My grandparents say he had gathered too much attention. Had been too perfect.

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A taunt to Death’s name.

I was 11 when Mama told me about Issam.

And Death always has the last word.

As a young girl, the only Death I knew was the one scattered inside the binding of my books and the movies my television harbored.

4

It stormed on the day Issam died. Even the sun was mourning.

He had not punctured my reality. Though he had caressed it. Al-hamdu lelah.

When the sun emerged from the clouds the following afternoon, it burned with a tenacious luster.

Despite my ignorance, Death had been very aware of me. It wasn’t until later that I recognized how close.

What had been taken was now returned.

Issam appeared to have swallowed the sun. Everything about him was bright. His golden locks. Bright green eyes. He was my grandma’s double.

In the brilliance, my grandparents’ tears shined red. 4

“Do you miss him?” “I don’t remember him.” 4

I had just turned 10 when the same sickness that took Issam befell me. 25 years later. The summer of 2008. My family and I were visiting Egypt for the first time with my brother. We were used to falling ill with each visit, but nothing to that degree.

People often stopped on the streets to stare at him. He did not possess the typical Egyptian characteristics. Black hair, dark eyes, and sunbleached skin. Like caramel.

In 10 days, I had forfeited 17 pounds. My grandma could not bear to witness my transparent suffering. To her, she was losing Issam for the second time.

It was said that he controlled the sun. It fed him. Indulged him. My grandpa said Egypt had experienced its driest and warmest summer the year Issam descended on our terrain.

I was afforded the advances in medication. 29


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Nine extra years to my name. And a chubby disposition.

non-fiction

4

In Islam, when a family loses a child, the child is said to escort them to Jenna, the paradise. Their admission to an afterlife lacking the suffering residing below.

What Issam lacked, I possessed in excess. I faced a different fate. Mama says that it was my figure that led to my salvation. Sugar was on my side, just this once. My age outweighed Death’s restless vicinity. My weight and medication triggered his dismissal.

One of the few to witness Allah and all his glory. 4

In Arabic, Issam also possesses several connotations.

4

I didn’t understand how tomorrow could appear for some while others still lived in yesterday. It surprised me how deep-rooted Pain could nest. Pain wore as many masks as there were phases of the moon. While I recognized some, I was a stranger to the others.

Safeguard. Protector. Saint.

Mama said she hoped I would stay this way. Untouched.

At the time, she had simply liked the name. Unknowingly, my grandparents had deduced Issam’s fate.

She assured me that Pain possessed one shortcoming. One foe. Time. “The greatest blessing Allah has given us is our ability to forget. With time, old wounds heal, allowing new ones to flourish.”

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Many years later, when I asked my grandma if she had been receptive to the meaning, she said she had not.

His fate became a testament to his name.


photo essay by katie prinz 00


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photo essay


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“Broken Iron� by Carolyn Warner 35


Called to Witness


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“Moving Garage Concrete” by Ethan Fagre

ANONYMOUS

art called to witness


called to witness

Dream what is a dream? it’s a bedroom door closed just enough it’s calloused fingers encircling delicate wrists plush lips everywhere never asked for it’s too-big hands covering mouths bloodstained sheets it’s remembered pressure between thighs it’s whisper to keep still bruises too hard to explain to mom it’s a flinch when shown affection a twist in the stomach a knee jerk reaction it’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare and its face is around every corner she turns

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poetry


art & poetry

called to witness

“Women” by Carolyn Warner re·cov·er·y r ’k v( )rē/ Noun e e e

1. the shakes in the middle of the night months later as you wake up from a dream. 2. caressing your scars as you dress in the morning. some days wishing them away. others putting them on display. 3. the shakes in the middle of the night months later, years later as you wake up from yet another dream. but you know it’s not a dream. 4. not showering for days. not eating for days. 5. answering your unopened texts. opening your curtains. 6. neverending.

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called to witness

Breathe Tongue clicking as I stare ahead There’s a tightness in my chest Am I breathing properly? I count to ten-in, ten-out My phone stays on my thigh, I’m careful not to bounce too quick Bloodshot eyes. Sleepy, sad? The screen lights up Am I breathing properly? I count to ten-in, ten-out It’s not in my face but in everything else The flinch when his hands touch me The clamping of my thighs The lack of height in my shoulders and neck The hiccup in my breath Am I breathing properly? I count to ten-in, ten-out

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called to witness

fiction

Cassandra chia

1. When I think of you and I together in bed at night with the curtains wide open, mouths open, eyes open.

6. When I left that pregnancy test in the bathroom of your mother’s home because the double lines were haunting me.

2. When we spent hours in your car with our seats reclined all the way back, teenage hands fooling around underneath the blanket, and belly aches from laughter at a joke that we were going to write into our vows, but couldn’t.

7. When I lost the baby. 8. When you found out that I chose to lose the baby and left me in the middle of the Walmart parking lot with a I wanted to be a dad.

3. When I can’t stand thinking I’m not good enough and you sense it and you do everything in your power to make that feeling go away and it sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t.

9. When you said to my face that I was messy complicated insane not who you thought I was in a slow and calm way like you scribbled it across the backs of your eyelids at night ever since we slept in separate beds.

4. When we fight about what we’re going to name our children and it turns into some ugly thing because we can’t see our future lives as having the same shape.

10. When you left me a goddam letter even though you never wrote a letter in your life stamped and all like you were planning on mailing it to me but thought that was too fucking much.

5. When I just want to go to sleep but you won’t let me because I never answered that question I’ve been avoiding for the past three weeks now.

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poetry

called to witness

Kai Kiser This was going to be a poem about the transition from melancholy to contentedness. It was going to be about the triumph of deep voice and wide shoulders and facial hair. It was going to be about hope, for you, for your future, for the future of people like you.

back with their head between your knees and a bite mark on your chest. You feel safe around them, so you tell them the first of your three secrets. You don’t believe the compliments you’re given, so they tell you the good things about you. They talk about their last boyfriend, how the things they loved about him are the things that make up most of you.

But as you watched the polls and performed keriah, mourning certainty and safety, the original piece, it began to feel frivolous. You trashed it, deciding to write a poem about fear and rage. A poem about questions: How long will you be safe holding your partner’s hand in the street? When will using a public restroom once again become an act of unlawful rebellion? And the kids you counsel every week—the ones who remind you so much of yourself—how many more of them will take their own lives?

My ex, they tell you one day, he was really grossed out by body hair. Well, then, you reply, if he ever tries to mess with you, I’ll take off all my clothes and hug him. They tell you later that that was the moment they fell in love with you. It happened gradually for you, growing each day you saw them and each day you didn’t get to.

But you’re not strong enough, not now, to write about racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia…

You never thought you could feel this way. That kind of cliché has no place here, except that it’s true. You fucking sap.

These days, all you’ve been able to think about is them. That one person. You think of the summer you both met—when your chest was healing beneath ace bandages and you were locked in a battle of wits with a ten-year-old. You think of the green and purple in their hair, touching it the first night you kissed. You shake. You say it was because of the awkward position in the front seat of the car. They say you were nervous.

You think of their support through your weekly injections and their similar goals. And through second puberty, you developed the bacne that they always try to pick, the wide shoulders that make your older shirts pop open, and the blunted feelings that make it hard to cry. Your muscles come on suddenly as you crush the eggs that you try to pull out of the fridge. You don’t want to hurt your partner. They remind you that they won’t break.

You always figured yourself the knight, the top, the stone butch. You didn’t need weakness, you didn’t need support, and—let’s be honest—you didn’t need an orgasm. You were strong. That’s what you were supposed to be. Strong to protect, to please, to keep others safe.

They’re true, you tell them, the stereotypes about teenage boys. All I can think about is sex and facial hair.

But you’re comfortable with them, laying on your 43


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art & poetry

“Go FiGURE” by Sophia ross Shit, wait ‘till I get on the stuff; all we’ll be able to do is fuck and stroke each other’s beards.

safety, the possibility for marriage—is thrown into question.

I love you so much.

We’ll figure it out, you say. I got you.

And you trust them not to mock you, so you tell them the second of your three secrets.

The next day, it’s your turn to break down. You feel the darkness of depression circling the edges of your mind, and you’re too tired to fight. And they ask you to let them be the knight. And you yield— you yield—because you’re sure they’ll protect you. You hide behind their shoulder, and they keep you okay.

You think of how you were the first person to call them handsome. They were the first to do the same for you. And together, you watch the world and laugh at the expectations once leveled at you both, at the people you once tried to be. Heteros, amirite? Rimshot. And you trust that they will see you for who you are, so you tell them the last of your three secrets. The night of the vote, there’s a group of you— partners, friends, acquaintances, strangers— drinking and sobbing and holding each other. When they call Florida, that’s the first time you see your love cry. You hold them until morning as your future—your healthcare, your meds, your

We’ll figure this out, they say. I’ve got you, too. This poem, it was going to be about the triumph of deep voice, wide shoulders, and facial hair. It was going to be about fear and rage and uncertainty. That’s not what you wound up writing, though, is it? And though you never much cared for love poems, that’s exactly what this turned into. Because in the face of terrifying change, it’s having them that gives you hope.

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Witness  

Over the course of this last semester, our editors have considered what it means to candidly and openly explore the darkest parts of the hum...

Witness  

Over the course of this last semester, our editors have considered what it means to candidly and openly explore the darkest parts of the hum...

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