staff Editors Shaondell Black Matthew Byrd Armani Harris Kali Johnson Jasmine Kirby Brandon Lane Managing Editor Jennifer Steele
*Cover Art designed by Kali Johnson
YOUmedia Chicago始s Official Teen Arts & Literature Magazine For You. By You.
CONTENTS POETRY Shaondell Black
Broken Soul, Buried Neglect
Snapshot of Me and My Twin Sis
We Were Born Without Time I Want an Honest Poem
Testimony of the Streets
Creative Non-Fiction & Commentary Matthew Byrd
Looking for the Promised Land
Songs of Our Summer
Photography & Graphic Design Dan Brasic
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The Vision Telefono The Cave Split Personality
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35 36 37 38
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Living Dead Tragedy Beyond Comedy Autumn Tree Tropical Girl Vegas
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14 15 16 17 18
A Letter from the editors...
Dear Readers, What does it mean to be a teenager in America today? Yeah, I know this sounds like a corny essay prompt. The type of prompt given by adults who want to focus on whatʼs changed since they were teens and nostalgize about how much more awesome their generation was as teens. The same adults whoʼll create such gems of realistic media on the teenage experience as “Twilight” and “Secret Life of the American Teenager”. Well, at YouLit Magazine weʼre a magazine written by teens for teens. This magazine was created because teenagers need a place where their voice is not only heard but is taken seriously. Teens need more media that isnʼt condescending or claims to speak to all of our experiences. Hopefully you will find that YouLit Magazine meets this goal. Sincerely, Jasmine Kirby, Editor
Broken soul, buried neglect Shoandell Black There was something in the walls, the feeling of utter neglect. No sound, no call. Look into the depths of this dark world and see my soul dead, no hope at all. Do my words confuse you? Read between the fine lines of rotten poetry spilled onto a keyboard, and like pornography let the picture remain inside your head forever. I'm not who you want me to be. As a matter of fact you don始t take the time to look inside and see this burning soul filled with disbelief. No faith, a hole inside my chest burning with distaste for your reasoning beyond giving the ugly more than less. Fearless, my journey is dark
and the light is dim. Inside no wind chimes, no hymns of blind faith which for you has long been gone, into the dark corners you built my heavy faith upon. Now that the placebo effect is no longer working, you say close your eyes. Why? The face I once saw, the fake medicine is gone and I have no choice but sit, wonder. Dwell. Ponder. The reason why I believe in you no longer.
Snapshot of me and my sis Dan Brasic Cathy and me Taking our first breaths only Iʼm a grumpy old man frowning while sheʼs Smiling with eyes wide open Embracing life as a Father finding his long lost son Sheʼs brought that grumpy old man Out of me plenty, through times of Mom! She hit me! or No! I need to use the computer! But not yet once have her eyes failed To pull me out of my crabby Iʼm-not-in-the-mood shell Sheʼs softened my mean old heart Like making me protect her And the rest of the girls from the Evil boys on the recess playground
Or those deep late night Talks about God and life To this day, I look at that very same picture and I See what life could始ve been like If it were only me in that frame, just a grumpy old Man wandering through life alone It is then I can see that Grass is not always greener As we start to part to big and better places After 18 years of seeing each other始s faces I pack up all the memories from then to now Hoping to feel free till I see her again With those same hopeful eyes That never disappoint
songs of our summer Caleigh Tully
Lake Geneva Country Club. Louieʼs. The 700 Club. Majestic. South Shore Club. Each millisecond the feeling grows as the car speeds towards our destination. Sybil Lane, Shore Haven, and finally the Chicago Club. The winding tree-lined drive brings back memories of my childhood spent playing in the woods and splashing in the creek. The tennis court appears and my smile only widens. My mom parks her car in the usual spot, right in front of our white and green house that matches the other four. All identical, all perfectly lined up in a row, white wood with green trim. I am out the door before the car is even in park. I bolt to grab my bag that probably weighs more than me. It contains everything I will wear all summer: dresses for concerts, swimsuits for days spent on the pier, tennis whites, dress clothes for Sunday mass. In three quick steps, I feel the familiarity of the grey stone path leading to our house beneath my ! feet. I know every cranny of this path better than
I know the back of my hand. It is where I scraped my chin the summer I was nine while diving for a fly ball. It is where I first rode my bike. I glance left and I see it is still there just as perfect and as clear as ever. Lake Geneva. Finally. Summer. I am almost home. I sprint to the door of our house, ramming it open with my shoulder. My nasal passages fill with the smell of fresh cut grass and pinewood. Summer. My heart pounds as I lunge up the stairs while pulling on the railing made of boat rope. Its familiar texture makes the hair on the back of my neck stand tall. Nothing can stop me now. I reach the third floor, gasping for breath and drop the heavy brown canvas bag on the cozy carpeted floor of my bedroom. My fingers fumble to unzip it and pull out the only piece of clothing that will matter all summer—my bathing suit. I fling pants, shorts, and shirts all over my room until it is in my hands. I put it on and the feeling grows. Summer. I am almost home. 7
! I sprint back down the stairs, flinging my shoes off as I shout, “byeMomIamgoingtoSybilLaneIloveyou,” not even waiting for a response from her. I run through the porch and into the backyard, still unable to slow down. My bare “winter” feet feel the blades of grass beneath them as I dart up the hill and onto the path. My city feet wince at the pebbles. Shoes do not exist at the lake. Give it a week and you have summer feet, calloused and worn. ! I pass Shore Haven and the big, white house with blue trim. With each step I get a little closer, just a little closer to home. My feet burn as the hot asphalt lands beneath them, and with that I know I am almost there. I can see them now. Their backs are turned, but I know itʼs them. I pick up my pace and they hear me coming. The smiles on their faces widen. They begin making their way towards me and then I am home.
! Home. Home is wherever Iʼm with them. Man oh man theyʼre my best friends and Iʼll scream it to the nothingness. Home is summer and the five people who mean the most to me. ! Now that I am with them, I am home. Finally. Summer. Everybody has been waiting for the
summer sun to shine. It is finally here. The summer sun is here. Suddenly life changes. It is the simple things in life like when and where. It is about living in our bathing suits and going out at night. We spend our days surrounded by water with the sun beating down on our backs as we lay out on Stack of Tʼs, the turquoise Cobalt. We spend our nights star gazing and making crazy things like potato canons. Summer is six in the morning wakeboarding runs as the sun glimmers on the clear water. It is zipping across a thin sheet of water and searching for something more, searching for the meaning of life. Summer is never backing down from a challenge. It is extreme tubing. Summer is laughing so hard you cry. It is sharing the secrets you never thought you could tell anyone. Summer at the lake is about living in the moment. Summer is dance parties to Taylor Swift and singing at the top of your lungs. It is freeze pop eating contests. Summer is the thrill of inventing new tricks on a Wave Runner. Summer is love and heartbreak. It is knowing that whatever happens you have five people who truly love you — agape love. In summer, good times never seemed so good. We do everything together. On those long summer days, we are inseparable. We are adopted into each othersʼ families.
! Summer is the memories I will never forget and those five people who were always right along side me. They taught me to love deeper and speak sweeter and give forgiveness that Iʼd been denying. Someday I hope you get the chance to live like youʼre dying, like tomorrow was the end and youʼve got eternity to think about what to do with it. What should you do with it? What can I do with it? What would I do with it? I would spend it with my best friends in Lake Geneva. We would dangle our feet off the clean, crisp white dock as our toes grazed the water. We would climb the steep Majestic Mountain at sunset, looking out over the valley and onto the magenta, violet, and orange sky. We would take the boat out at night, snuggling close together and looking onto the bright, starlit sky searching for shooting stars. We would go to one more Dave Matthews concert at Alpine Valley, laughing because, for us, it is always funny the way it is. We would be together. All of us. Conor McCarter. Joe Busch. Caleigh Tully. Kylie McCarter. Julie Muskat. Katie Grady. Forever and always. We would hold on to that feeling. We would never let it go
because in our hearts, it is always summertime in ʻSouthern Wisconsin. Song Credits: 1 Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros—Home 2 Jon Troast—Lake Geneva 3Kid Rock—All Summer Long 4Jon Troast—Lake Geneva 5Neil Diamond—Sweet Caroline 6Tim McGraw—Live like youʼre dyinʼ 7Dave Matthews Band—Funny the Way it is 8Taylor Swift—Forever and Always 9Journey—Donʼt Stop Believinʼ 10Kid Rock—All Summer Long
testimony of the streets Armani Harris Imagine a landscape of lights A jungle where the grass is grey and unyielding Trees made of steel and glass. Where the predators and prey wear similar skin Only divided by their need I am an orphan of these streets My companion, the echoes of feet climbing down fire-escapes Of shadows cast by dull streetlights The shots of glocks and AKʼs consuming their prey Hidden in the bleakness, Out of sight, out of mind I watch My home is the back ways of the city Those holes not seen by the tourists The alleyways not taken by urbanites. Forgotten by those who live in here, To comfort themselves at night With the illusion of “living in safety.”
I am just another one of those that you pass by everyday An untouchable, in no class or caste Defined as homeless; though I have home A place more dangerous than concrete huts and log cabins most hide in Though no one will remember me when I'm dead Quote the words I said Not leaving behind a legacy But a testament to the truth of those you label â€œhomelessâ€? Of more than tags and grafs Of quarters and dimes Or music in subways There are no innocents in this life Only those that choose And those that let others choose for them Those who slit their writs and hold cold steel up to their head letting their finger twitch just enough And those that push through the darkness and despair To try and find a life of their own
I am no man of God No leader of men Just another prey learning to adapt in this metropolis I call home I am the same as the killers, thugs and thieves, I now call family though my morals are still intact I wear their skin, and learn their ways But still I walk alone Concrete jungle is my home. Till death do us part.
5 Designs Kali Johnson
artist statement Iʼm very passionate about my art. I believe that art was a God-given gift to me and is a part of my life that will never go away. Iʼve been drawing since third grade and started painting in sixth grade. Then I adapted to graphic arts freshman year in high school. I can only imagine where my creative intellect will take me next; only time will tell. In my opinion, my style of art is a mix of urban and randomness. Most of the time when I create art I donʼt necessarily plan or think about what I create. I just go with my instincts. I kind of feel what I will create, but I donʼt necessarily think about what will look good with what. Sometimes I do for art assignments at school. Thatʼs probably the only time I really think about what Iʼm going to draw.
Tragedy Beyond Comedy
Jump Dan Brasic
! The icy wind from the brutal winterʼs night sliced through Billʼs paper thin jacket as he took a step to the edge. Peering down that hundred foot drop, his palms began to drip with sweat despite the cold weather. ! Bill used to roll his eyes every time he heard that someone was depressed. “Honestly,” thought Bill, “Why canʼt people just get on with their lives?” He was in for a surprise. Six months ago, Bill made a sudden U-turn when his dad, Chuck, decided to leave his mom for another woman. ! In appearance, Chuck was a true man. He stood 6ʼ2” with a hefty build and worked as a banker in a high sky rise downtown. After investigating Chuckʼs mysterious business trips to only-God-knows-where, Bill and his mom slowly peeled back the shallow layers of Chuck only to discover the woman he had been sleeping with for a year and a half. Bill !
responded in the only way he could. Withdrawal. Hatred. Suicide. ! It was 4 am, and Bill stood over the city bridge that hovered over a giant river. Chunks of ice floated in the dark water below, which had to be 10 degrees at most. ! Bill took a deep breath as backed up to— “Your shoes are untied,” said a hoarse voice suddenly. ! “What?” Bill angrily turned around to see a man on a bench smoking a cigarette. ! “Before you jump, you should tie your shoes,” said the man. ! Bill asked, “Now why would I want to do that?” ! “Because,” said the man, “you might trip before the jump and ruin your attempt completely. The last thing you would want would be waking up in an emergency room to your mom wondering why you were out at 4am.” 19
! “My mom doesnʼt give a ratʼs ass where I am right now,” said Bill. “And what is it to you anyways?” ! “Iʼm just trying to help a brother out,” said the man. ! Bill got a slightly better look at him as the man stood up. He looked to be in about his mid 40s, a little younger than his dad, but he had the same cocked expression Chuck always had. ! “Well, I donʼt need your help, and Iʼd appreciate it if you just left me alone,” said Bill. ! “Youʼre the one that invaded my space. Iʼve been here for the past three hours,” said the man as he put out his cigarette. ! “Well, what the hell are you doing here at 4 in the morning?” ! “I could ask you the same question,” said the man.
“I uh—I uh—guess,” Bill stuttered as he nervously scratched the back of his head. ! Confused and curious, Bill asked him, “Did my mom hire you to follow me around?” The man chuckled. “Iʼm just a soul passing through.” He put on his baseball cap and said, “Your mom will be expecting you soon.” He disappeared out of sight on the city lit street. Confused, Bill took another glance at the river and felt his stomach growl for food. No suicide was going to take place that morning. As Bill made his way to a diner downtown, the Sun began to rise. Passing by a newspaper stand, Bill glanced at the front-page of that morningʼs paper. ! “Thatʼs him!” Bill exclaimed as he saw the picture of the man that had just saved his life. ! Bill dashed for a copy and fumbled to
! “Listen old man,” said Bill, “I donʼt need you or anyone else telling me what to do with my life.”
page 6. Bill read: “Derrick Willis, age 43, died last night around 8pm in the Hudson River as he jumped in to save his teenage son, Josh, from drowning. Josh survived, but Willisʼ body was found along the bay about an hour later.” Speechless, Bill stared as the man at the stand asked, “Are you going to buy that?”
“Now listen to me, kid,” the man said sternly, “I donʼt know what youʼve been through, but I know that you have a family out there that cares about you. You got your whole life ahead of you. The last thing youʼd want to do is waste it in that river.”
Looking for the promised land An analysis of Bruce Springsteen’s albums from Born to Run to Born in the USA
Matthew Byrd ! Narrative in music is usually relegated to concept albums. Tommy (1969), American Idiot (2004), Dark Side of the Moon (1973), 21st Century Breakdown (2009) are all examples of this. It is exceedingly rare to find themes and narratives stretched over multiple albums. The exception to this is the five albums that Bruce Springsteen made at the golden era of his career. From Born to Run(1975) to Born in the USA (1984) Springsteen told a story, not only of the struggles of the American working class, but a much broader story of the passage from naïve adolescence, to realistic adulthood. ! Born to Run, Springsteenʼs breakthrough album, is often considered to be a contentless album of fluff. However, beneath the optimistic music lies a dark underbelly of pessimism. The characters in Born to Run are at the beginning of a journey. In “Thunder Road” and “Born to Run” ! singers are trying to convince their lovers to the
join them. In “Sheʼs the One” and “Backstreets” the singers are beginning to navigate the journey which is love. Beyond the youthful appeal of a glorious runaway scheme lies a dark underbelly. The characters are running away from a “town full of losers” as the protagonist exclaims in “Thunder Road”. This can be interpreted as, through Springsteenʼs own upbringing and the singerʼs vernacular, as a poor working-class town where the majority of the residents live in destitute conditions, their lives boring and dull. These characters were born into poverty and raised in harsh family environments. They are street kids who are trying to escape the cycle of poverty they have seen their entire lives. They have become hopeless idealists because the harsh reality which surrounds them is too hard to accept. The music beams of grandiosity and hopefulness. However, as the album progresses, tracks like “Meeting Across the River” and “Jungleland” begin to reveal a dark side to the 21
youthful optimism expressed in the album. “Meeting Across the River”, is a dark film noiresque song which seems like it came straight out of a Humphrey Bogart film. The saxophone swoons as the piano darkly does its magic. The singer is a young petty thief, coming to the realization that his life is going nowhere. He is lured into committing a crime with his friend Eddy which could yield him an enormous payoff. The risk is high and while the conflict is left unresolved, the somber tone of the song gives an indication that the character will fail. He is also hoping that the payoff will make his girlfriend, who is threatening to leave after the protagonist pawned her radio, to stay with him. This conflict with women is a theme which is explored throughout Springsteenʼs catalogue and it starts in this song. The runaway dreams of the earlier songs are gone and harsh reality begins to set in. This process is finalized in the albums final track. Jungleland tells the story of teenage hoods, living out the runaway dream of Born to Run. The “Rat” and the “Barefoot girl”, the two protagonists of the song, could very well be the same couple fromBorn to Run. The song is filled with screeching guitars and grandiose saxophone ! solos which give the feel of a freewheeling life. 22
However the runaway dream ends when the Ratʼs life of crime ends with an operatic finale. He is gunned down by the cops, and the barefoot girl must now live on without her lover. This pessimistic finale to the album is Springsteenʼs goodbye to the unrealistic dreams and expectations of Born to Run. It is also a commentary on the lack of realism in rock nʼ roll music. The line “The poets down here donʼt write nothing at all / they just stand back and let it all be” referrs to the death of the Rat. Springsteen makes a very profound statement on American entertainment. He says that rarely are realistic themes of pessimism and despair ever portrayed in America. Instead, a happy, naive image of life is sold to Americans and Springsteen responds in “Jungleland” by saying real issues are being ignored by other American songwriters and artists. He would explore these themes in his later albums. ! Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978) is all about the journey that the characters from Born to Run take from adolescence to adulthood. Darkness could not be more different than Born to Run. The grandiose sound of Born to Run is gone, as are the pseudo-bohemian
ideals of Springsteen. They are replaced by a leaner, more down-to-roots rock sound. The eclectic style of Born to Run is replaced with harmonicas, screeching guitars and a more natural saxophone sound. The noise is rougher, dirtier, and more down to earth than Born to Run. Darkness is Springsteenʼs first adult noise. The opening tracks of both sides of the album, “Badlands”and “The Promised Land”, are songs which still carry remnants of the optimism of Born to Run, but are much darker than the songs on Springsteenʼs previous albums. Instead of the hopeful expressions of freedom and love which defined the first album, these songs stand defiant against the hopelessness the characters have encountered as they grow up. Both are raucous anthems with screaming guitars and fierce drumming, conveying the defiant fury of the songs. In “Badlands” the character is beginning to realize the world is not what he envisioned in Born to Run. He is “caught in a crossfire” and is recognizing that he is going to be trapped in the same cycle of poverty that entrapped the people around him and he is “spitting in the face” of it. He is trying to reclaim the dream of Born to Run, but doing so this time with hard work instead of running away. “You spend your life waiting for a
moment that just don't come / Well don't waste your time waiting” the singer exclaims. He is mocking the values of Born to Run, saying they are unrealistic and do not work. That line is a microcosm for the entire album. “The Promised Land”, the opener of the second half of the album, echoes similar themes. His is “itching for something to start” in his life and is tired of the dead end life he has working in his fatherʼs garage. “I ainʼt a boy, no Iʼm a man”. The protagonistʼs insists. He has grown up and has shed the skin of naïve optimism which defined the first album. However, he has not yet shed his optimism, as he still “believes in a Promised Land”. He still believes in a better life, but it gets farther and farther away from him each time he looks. ! As the album progresses, the characters look back on their lives. “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Factory” examine the two sides of the characters relationships with their fathers. Adam Raised a Cain is a brutally hateful song. The lyrics are screamed by an intense Springsteen, the guitars are louder than ever and the drums are hammering away as the character shows his utter contempt for his father. The character is worried that he will become his father, worried 23
that he will “walk these empty rooms looking for something to blame.” He is worried about becoming his father in “Factory”; working his whole life in back-breaking labor, all for nothing. The unresolved issues between the characters and their fathers are heartbreaking, and no solace is found in their day to day lives. Lives filled with either petty theft (“Prove It All Night”), brutal workaday realities (“Streets of Fire”) or simply wandering in the night, looking for purpose (“Something in the Night”). ! The true meaning of Darkness is hammered home in the closing tracks to both parts of the album, “Racing in the Street” and the title track “Darkness on the Edge of Town”. “Darkness” is a defiant middle finger to the pessimism expressed in the album. The character has lost his wife and his money and has seen his share of dark times. However, he vows to be on “that hill” because he “canʼt stop”. The hill is assumed to be a remnant of his old life in Born to Run. It is a place of sorrow mixed with joy, and it is all the character has left. The hill is the remnant of his broken life. “Racing in the Street”, a slow piano balled, which may be Springsteenʼs greatest song, is a pessimistic tale of a poor man who drag-races for money. The character 24
describes the type of people who show up at his races: “Some guys they just give up living / and start dying little by little, piece by piece. / Some guys come home from work and wash up / And go racin' in the street.” These are people who have only known poverty and will continue to know poverty for the rest of their lives. They need a form of solace in their lives. Then Springsteen does something interesting. He shifts focus to the lover of the protagonist. Instead of portraying her as a trophy, which is what most rock songs do, he portrays her as a complicated character, one who is tiring of the poverty that she exists in. Her love for the singer is being broken, not only the distance caused by his late-night racing lifestyle, but also by the poverty she lives through. She cries constantly, mournful for the loss of the days of innocence and fun of when she first met her lover, the Born to Run days. She has wrinkles around her eyes, she has grown up and the consequences are startling. She sits on the porch and stares stoically out into the night with all her hopes and dreams crushed. The singer describes “shut down strangers and hot-rod angels / rumbling through this promised land”. The Promised Land, described in the eponymous song, is now
seen as a place filled with people like him. People trying to reject the awful realities of their broken lives with meaningless races which delude them into a false sense of fulfillment, when in fact their lives are ruined. The line is accompanied by ghostly oohs, giving off a funeral-like feel. However, not everything is so gloomy. The character and his lover are “gonna ride to the sea / to wash these sins off our hands.” The sins are the sins of running away from responsibility, the sin of believing that all dreams do come true, of believing that happiness can come from simply waiting for it. These characters are ready to redeem the sins of Born to Run and try to create a semblance of a happy life. And that is what Darkness is all about. It is about the realization that the expectations of youth are unrealistic and foolish, and that, as unfair as that may be, it is time to grow up. " The River (1980) is a continuation of Darkness. The themes of The River, and how they are conveyed, are almost carbon copies of the themes in Darkness. Many of the songs on The River were outtakes from Darkness and the two albums are very similar thematically. Like Darkness, The River is about growing up;
however unlike Darkness, The River takes a turn towards desperation. The characters are seeing that their dreams, their promised land, is slowing slipping away, and the characters are either trying to avoid it or trying to forget the fact that it is happening. This explains the mixtures of fun, rockabilly-esque tracks such as “Cadillac Ranch,” “Crush on You,” and “Sherry Darling,” and slow, musically sophisticated tracks such as “The River” and “Drive all Night”. These songs are often considered frivolous, but that is just looking at the songs on the surface and individually. “Sherry Darling” shows the singer trying to outrun the responsibility of driving his girlfriendʼs mother to the unemployment agency, a metaphor for the harsh realities of the Carterera recession, and instead simply drink beer and have sex with his girlfriend. In “Cadillac Ranch,” the character is trying to channel the youthful appeal of his idols by trying to escape the doldrums of working-class life by buying a Cadillac. Part of Springsteenʼs continuing metaphor of cars being used to try to escape responsibility. The “frivolous” songs when put together, show characters realizing that their promised land is slowly fading away, a fear expressed by the singer in the song “Fade 25
Away”, in which the character tries to tell his estranged girlfriend, a symbol for the Promised Land, he doesnʼt want their relationship to fade away, even as the distance between the two increases as the song fades out. ! Solace exists on this album. In “Out in the Street”, the singer accepts his working-class life and responsibility and realizes that it is not horrible. With responsibility comes security, a good time is still to be had, the singer is taking his girlfriend for a Friday night out on the town. The song is an anthem, and strikes a perfect mix between the serious songs and silly songs of the album. While it is not the dream envisioned in Born to Run, this precursor to Born in the USA shows that solace can be attained. This is a rarity on an album that descends into a bleak, pessimistic nightmare. In “Drive All Night”, the singer just drives around all night, mourning for the loss of his love, his dreams and happiness. Wanting the girl whoʼs “got his love” the narrator longs for the promised land, but knows he cannot attain it. So he simply drives. In “Wreck on the Highway” the singer witnesses a literal wreck on the highway, which becomes a metaphor for a broken life, which the character stays up all night worrying about. Then, there is “The River”, the title track which hammers home
the hopelessness of working-class life. The character in “The River” comes from a workingclass town, perhaps the “town full of losers” from “Thunder Road”. In fact, the characters in The River could very well be the runaway couple in “Thunder Road,” the singers “ride out of the valley” and “down to the river” and obvious metaphor for the promise of Born to Run. The promise of an easy fun-filled life, without worry or responsibility. However, as the characters experience an out of wedlock pregnancy, shotgun wedding, and a low-pay construction job, the singer still goes down to the river, hoping for the dreams of his youth to be fulfilled. As the recession takes his job,and the distance between him and his wife increases, the river slowly dries up, mirroring the erosion of his youthful dreams as he is now stuck in pessimistic workaday reality. That is the realization that definesThe River. The hopeful realism of Darkness is now replaced by the realization that they have hit rock bottom, and the dreams of Born to Run are unattainable. The ghostly “oohʼs” at the end of The River mirror the ghosts that the characters have become. They have entered Nebraska.
! Nebraska (1982) is a hellish album. It is defined by purposeless nihilism, death, insanity, hopelessness, and suicide. Nebraska is the characters of the previous albums hitting rockbottom. It is a bare folk album with few signs of hope. Electric guitars, pianos and saxophones are replaced by acoustic guitars and harmonicas. Only one track has an electric guitar, “Open All Night”, a Chuck Berry-esque surrealistic trek through New Jerseyʼs industrial landscape. Nebraska is Springsteen stripped down to his bare roots, just like the characters. The opening title track tells the tale of a serial killer, based on real-life killer Charles Starkweather, who could very well have been a character from Born to Run. He describes his murderous escapades as fun, wanting to escape the dull, dead-end lives which surround him. He cannot obtain Born to Run, so he kills instead, the next best thing. Before he is electrocuted, the jailor asks him why he killed; he responds “I guess thereʼs just a meanness, in this world”, the line which justifies the actions of the “heroes” ofNebraska. These characters are at rock bottom. Victims of Americaʼs class system, a system which they cannot explain, it is simply a meanness which keeps them from their dreams. These are characters who realize that not all
their dreams can come true and have tried to make their lives better. Yet they cannot, chained to a working-class lifestyle by a system full of robber barons and tycoons. Springsteen has said that this album was inspired by Howard Zinnʼs A Peopleʼs History of the United States. The inspiration is shown through the bleak picture of American life observed through Nebraska. A laid-off autoworker in “Johnny 99” goes on a killing and stealing rampage, driven to desperation by the death of the American middle-class. In “Atlantic City”, the singer is driven to organized crime by the lack of opportunity in pre-revival Atlantic City. In “Mansion on the Hill”, the singer reflects looking at a mansion in his youth, dreaming of escaping his poor life, and failing. In “Used Cars” the singer reflects on his father, cursing out his poor life, and realizes that he is ending up just like his father. In “State Trooper” the singer moans to the state trooper “Maybe you got a kid maybe you got a pretty wife, the only thing that I got's been botherin' me my whole life”. The singer regrets how the only thing that he has ever gotten in life is sorrow, regret, and poverty. In “My Fatherʼs House” a very important event happens in the father-son dynamic building through the previous albums: the son, sad that he cannot come to
peace with his dead father, accepts that he must become a good father in order to finally bury the ghosts of his past, a theme that will become more prevalent in Born in the USA. In “Highway Patrolmen”, an operatic tale of the distance between two brothers, one who has accepted responsibility, similar to the protagonist in “Out in the Street” and the character who has and hasnʼt descended into a life of crime. This song highlights the central difference between the two types of characters in Nebraska: those who have given up and those who havenʼt. In “Open All Night” the character is still determined to reach his girlfriend and fulfill his dreams. In “Reason to Believe,” the albumʼs closing track, the singer observes several people finding solace despite the utter hopelessness of the situations that they are in. At first the singer views this as funny. As the song progresses he stops calling it funny and accepts that people must find some reason to believe. This stand against the nihilism and destruction of Nebraska begins Born in the USA.
! Born in the USA (1984) is the somewhat triumphant finale to the story which began in Born to Run. Born in the USA is extremely different from almost every other album in Springsteenʼs catalogue. It is an extremely pop-
flavored album, filled with more synthesizers than Springsteen has ever used before. H o w e v e r, b e n e a t h t h e p o p p y m u s i c a l arrangements lies a realistic yet hopeful theme that ties together the narrative that began in Born to Run. The title track opens the album with the tale of a broken Vietnam veteranʼs struggles adjusting to civilian life with his working-class background. The singer says he has “nowhere to run / ainʼt got nowhere to go”. Heʼs trapped and sick and tired of it. ! The characters in Born in the USA are tired. They have been through rock bottom and have seen heartbreak, sadness and hopelessness in their lives. They are ready to move on from the tragedy of Nebraska and want some reason to believe. In “Cover Me” the singer exclaims “I've seen enough I don't want to see any more.” They are tired of the bleakness of their world and wish to find solace in their lives. They find that solace through sex in “Iʼm on Fire” and through also reflecting on their past. The characters are now mature, in their 30ʼs, and can now reflect on their youthful days with some perspective. A majority of the songs in “Born in the USA” are looking back at the days of youth with a knowledge that they were naïve and foolish. “No Surrender” and “Glory Dayʼs” are
nostalgic, yet realistic, retrospectives on the exciting days of young love and high school. They realize that they cannot live their entire lives like they are seventeen, and now that they have accepted that, they can move on. ! The characters have also found solace in their relationships with their fathers. In “My Hometown” the singer, a father himself, looks back fondly on his father and looks to raise his son in a similar way, showing respect for the father he hated in the previous albums. In the end, the characters are trying to hold back the night of Nebraska and song sums that up more than “Dancing in the Dark”, a moody dance tune with a great sax solo. The singer is frustrated with his life, as he has been since Darkness, but all he can do is love his wife and dance in the dark which is what all people do at one point or another. Despite the madness and pessimism which surrounds them, people somehow find happiness in it all, by dancing in the dark. Born in the USA exists to wrap up the narrative and to bring the listener closure. While it is not a happy ending, per say, it is the ending that most people get in life. It didnʼt turn out the way they planned it at seventeen, but it turned out all right.
! In these five albums lie a tale of living through the hells of poverty, the struggles of maturity and, in the end, growing up. That is the main thread that ties these albums together. The characters experience the growing pains that all people feel. While they might not be as rough as Nebraska, it is still tough to grow up and realize that the optimism of youth is a fallacy. However, not everything is doom and gloom, and that is what the characters realize at the end of the albums. The story is about realism and the journey people take to attain it.
We were born without Jenzo DuQue Dust covers the first layer of what we have and that's not a whole lot to begin with just a glass frame with stars smiling moons and other nostalgic things that keep the two of us safe when we fall. I miss you—we make eye contact all the time so it feels like youʼre sitting with me, hands on my shoulders; a picture perfect mirrored image. It's just I can't forget your worn skin and how serene it was, those gaps in between your mountain range teeth, so like the holes in my memories voids that fill my childhood and (now especially) my heart. Did you love me? Did we get along before you decided that ! 30
maybe you and God deserved some one-on-one maybe, even though we were born without time, that we'd have really liked each other. I like to think soâ€”and I like to think that you'd think so too.
i want an honest poem
I want an honest poem, where “I did it on purpose” and “Yes, it's my fault” are dutifully wed, wrapped in a honeyed moon and in a few years an “It'll never happen again” poem is born. Truthfully, I could use an honest poem, so that emotions can gaze upon metaphors with unconditional love, and tell them those jeans are not flattering, and say so because they care. Yes, I dream of an honest poem, so that similes are not subtle but as potent as the scent of another woman's perfume or loud like lipstick stains on a white collar. No, I don't want my similes to stay silent for the sake of the kids.
I want a poem so honest, it cries. With tears woven in stanzas and stanzas woven in tears; a Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting poem where, what we've seen and where we've Ben Affleck's our sensitivity and it is not our fault poem. We are just victims of ourselves poem. I want a deliberately honest poem, that admits even though all the world is a stage, the audience Jekylls us from time to time to the point of Hyding ourselves and we can't help that sometimes we give in poem. We all wear masks poem. Any doctor can see that. I want a poem so vulnerably honest, that it, â€”hesitates before exposing its soul and
st-st-stutters when it talks to a pr-pr -pretty girl and asks a lot of questions when it's nervous poem why are we here? where do we go? why is it I would do anything for you, even write you an honest poem, but you can't seem to return the feeling? â€”poem I want a poem so free of deceit, you say our hearts beat the same, and even though we can't be together we always are poem. You feel like home poem. But we're not like that poem. So maybe I just want a love poem.
4 Photographs Dan Brasic
artist statement The word photograph, in Greek, quite literally means "light drawing", and I do just that: I draw/paint with light. I like to call it "light painting", and this style particularly strikes my fancy because of the amount of control it gives me. I can make myself appear in a frame twice, reveal half of a person, draw interesting shapes, lengthen shadows, and so on. I feel like I have the ability to defy the laws of nature (without relying on fancy photo editing software). I also like the edgy sci-fi look of light paintings. Generally, I try to think of the craziest ways to expose light that isn't normal to your average everyday photograph. For inspiration, I bounce ideas off of others who dabble in light painting. Every so often, I'll spontaneously think of a great idea on the spot, capture it, and strike gold. The creativity, however, doesn't always flow, and that is just the natural artistic process subject to the ebbs and flows of imagination. Light painting has to be done in near-absolute darkness; otherwise, the photo is completely overexposed. The whole idea is to leave the camera's shutter open on a steady surface, such as a tripod, as long as needed to manipulate light in the desired way. An LED or small flashlight usually will suffice as a light source, but at one point, I used a huge 10 million candlepower flashlight. Focusing the camera and waving the light in the correct way are definitely the most difficult aspects of this type of photography. It also doesn't hurt to have someone with you: for company and an extra hand to help. The dark can sure be intimidating at times, especially when everything is pitch black. If you're looking for a new type of photography, give light painting a try, and see if you like it. Who knows? You might find an entirely new ! world of possibilities open up. 34
dramatic irony Alethia Love
! I sit on a bench waiting for the train. Itʼs only twelve degrees in Chicagoʼs loop and if the train doesnʼt come in the next seven minutes my eyelids will freeze shut. ! The train pulls in and I hustle aboard, grateful for the heat that rushes up to meet me. I sit alone and look out the window, trying to focus my thoughts. It seems as if every time I ride the train my mind flashes back to the day when this all began. The day my life turned to hell. ! It figures that it was a Wednesday. Not only was it Wednesday, but it was February and raining. Iʼm a quiet girl. The way I see it, if I donʼt bother you, then you donʼt bother me. Seventeen years this worked for me. Then my life turned upside down. ! I was standing in my school's entryway trying to think of a way to get out of actually walking inside. Thatʼs when I saw my best friend Ricarnell running down the street. To tell the ! truth, it was the first time Iʼd ever seen him run. 39
He didnʼt run in gym, he didnʼt run for the bus, and he surely didnʼt run for the fun of it which is what I thought he was doing at first. It only took about fifteen seconds for me to realize that he was being chased. Despite the cold, Ricarnell was only wearing a thin jacket and it blew out behind him as he ran. Later I would remember that detail clearer than anything else, when I would lay awake at night rejected by sleep. ! Suddenly he stopped and turned his head to look at me. The last thing Ricarnell ever said was my name sharp and piercing over the sound of the wind. ! “TAMMIE!!” ! After that came the quick, blast of a gunshot. The man chasing him, who Iʼd only glanced at once, was holding a gun. The school bell rang and I gasped as Ricarnellʼs body fell to the ground. Now, every time the bell rings I shiver.
! The train reaches my stop. I walk through the double doors, off the platform, and onto 55th Street. I scan the street as I zip my coat. It has been months since Iʼve been to this street, but it hasnʼt changed much. I jam my hands into my pockets and start walking west. ! Thereʼs no snow on the ground, just the damp look everything in Chicago has when the weather drops. I only walk four blocks, but in that time I get three whistles, two calls of ʻAyy shawty whatʼs up”, and one “DAAAAMMMMNNN!” In response to each I walk faster. I only turn to look over my shoulder four times during this walk which is a big improvement. A few weeks ago it got to the point where I was looking over my shoulder so much I was practically walking backwards. Why? I feel as if someone knows that I have it, and theyʼre going to run up to me on the street and take me to the police station. ! Iʼm going to my grandmotherʼs old house. Two months ago she moved to Florida and my aunt, Lynell, moved in. Since then Iʼve only been back to the house once. I donʼt like Lynell very much. I wouldnʼt be going to her house now, but I needed to get away. Three days ago my mother was on the phone with Lynell. She mentioned ! how much I needed to get out the house. She
said that it seemed as if the house was smothering me. Lynell offered to let me stay with her. I didnʼt have any other options so three days later, here I am. ! I turn the corner to see the house sitting in the middle of the block looking exactly as it had the last time I was there. The house is all brick with two floors and a basement. The porch stretches across the whole front of the house. I donʼt know why, but I expected it to look different somehow. Standing on this porch I feel the bliss of every good thing that ever happened to me here. That night in 7th grade when I got my first kiss, my grandmother bringing cookies out to me in the summer, the very first time I saw Ricarnell. He used to live only three blocks away. I close my eyes tightly as that last thought floods over me. I ring the doorbell. ! I stand in the cold for another three minutes before I hear a familiar voice ask, “Who is it,” from the other side of the door. ! “Itʼs me!” I yell back, and as I finish the word ʻmeʼ the front door swings open. Aunt Lynell looks different than she did the last time I saw her. Her naturally dark brown hair is now streaked with blond and light brown. A diamond stud has taken up residence in her nose, and 40
hanging from her ears are a pair of silver hoop earrings. Lynellʼs natural eye color is dark brown, but hazel eyes stare back at me from the other side of the screen door. All sheʼs wearing is a short light blue bathrobe that has her initials embroidered on the upper left in a light pink cursive. One thing that hasnʼt changed is the perfect butterscotch skin that Lynell and I share. ! “Hey Tammie, how are you doing?” she asks me as she opens the screen door. Her voice is smooth and sweet. Lynell is always respectful, even if she is crazy. ! “As well as I can,” I answer, stepping into the house. ! Hanging from the windows are the same curtains that grandma picked out years ago. Theyʼre blue with yellow Gerbera Daisies. I was only about six years old then, but I remember the trip to the store for the curtains and how grandma told me repeatedly that we had to find the “perfect coverings”. ! “And how about your mom, dad, and your sister, Adrina?” Lynell asks. Sheʼs standing in front of the front door. ! “Momʼs doing fairly well, started going to yoga about three weeks ago. Itʼs all she can talk about. My dad is the same as usual. Heʼs always 41
been big on routine. And Adrina? She joined the cheerleading team not too long ago. She loves it to death.” ! “Thatʼs good to hear,” Lynell says as we walk into the living room. She sits in the middle of the floor, pulls her knees into her chest, and rocks back and forth. ! From the living room I can see the kitchen which also looks pretty much the same except for a new refrigerator and stove. I let out a sigh and sit down on the couch behind Lynell placing my bag on the floor at my feet. I close my eyes and try to relax, but when I close my eyes I can see its polished silver frame sitting in my bag. Iʼm exhausted from the stress and anxiety of the last few months, and I still have one more thing I have to do. One more day and I can walk the streets without looking over my shoulder. Lynell giggles. I open my eyes and look at her, not seeing what was funny. I hadnʼt spoken out loud or made any strange movements. Looking at her I realize that her eyes are still closed. I shake my head as her giggling gets louder and slightly hysterical. Her eyes never open. I re-close my eyes and try to tune out Lynell. My thoughts drift back to Ricarnellʼs death.
! ! I never made it into the school building that day. After Ricarnell was shot it was just me left there with his limp body. I stood there staring at him from the school door for maybe three minutes. Tears leaked from my light grey eyes as I stood there in shock, and then I ran. I ran for all I was worth to my grandmotherʼs house, my grey `and white Nikes hitting the ground hard like hammers—quick like a heartbeat. I was sure someone had heard the gun shot. Someone would walk past or look out their window, and I didnʼt want to be there when that happened. I didnʼt want to be standing there when someone saw the body. I couldnʼt run into the building and tell anyone. I couldnʼt call the police. They would want to know where Iʼd been when he was shot. How could I tell them Iʼd been standing right there? How to explain why I hadnʼt been in class? What if they wanted me to describe the killer? Pick him out in a lineup? Yes I had seen him, but did I get a good enough look to describe to other people? I donʼt know. The questioning would be unbearable, and I knew I wouldnʼt be able to handle them pressing me for details. Details I didnʼt have. In the back of my mind I knew I would be questioned anyway. Not as the only witness to
Ricarnellʼs death, but as his best friend, though this didnʼt stop me from running. I needed time; time to get my mind right, time to get my story together. ! My grandmaʼs house has always been my get away spot. I went there almost every day after school. I was surprised at my own rational thinking, but I used it all up in my decision to run. When I got to the house I sat on this very couch crying and crying without interruption from my grandmother. She didnʼt even ask me what happened. Somehow she knew that I needed to cry it out. While I cried I could hear her in the kitchen whipping up something. I had no idea what she was doing until she came out of the kitchen with a really big cookie. It was chocolate and had almonds in it. She placed it in front of me and quietly told me, “Do what you have to do.” She didnʼt actually find out what happened until the next day. The streets were abuzz with the unexpected death and all the major gossipers were on alert. The next morning I protested having to go to school, but my mom wouldnʼt budge. At school that day I found out that Ricarnellʼs death had been on the news. I hadnʼt exactly been in a television mood the previous night. I floated through the school 42
hallways like a lost soul. I felt as if everyone was watching me. Waiting for me to “crack”: burst into tears, screaming his name. I never did. ! My thoughts are interrupted by someone saying “Wake up Tamm,” very loudly. I groan and open my eyes to see Lynellʼs face above me. I give her an annoyed look. ! “I wasnʼt asleep.” ! A smile flashes across her face and she slowly rolls her tongue over her top teeth. ! “What time is it?” I ask slowly, my voice layered with irritation. Lynell looks at me as if she doesnʼt understand why I would ask such a question. Iʼm thinking about hitting her when she finally answers my question. Itʼs 11:30 P.M. ! I notice for the first time that all of the lights in the house are off except for the one in the kitchen. I grab my bag, stand up, and walk over to the kitchen to the turn off the light. I know my way to the guest room. ! The bag I brought with me is a black onestrap and itʼs packed to bursting with clothes and the essential things I need for day-to-day living. I heave the bag from my shoulder onto the full size bed I would be sharing with myself. I take out my sleeping clothes and, after changing, lay down in 43
the bed. I still have Ricarnell and what I went through because of his death on my mind. ! ! Two days after Ricarnellʼs death I found myself face-to-face with a murderer. There were three ways I could have gotten home that day. The first was to catch a ride with one of my friends, though I am technically old enough to drive I have yet to take the driving test and get my license. I wasnʼt in a chatty mood that day and I knew that anyone I caught a ride with wouldʼve wanted to talk about Ricarnell. They would have questioned me until I was ready to explode and then told me they knew how awful it must be to have your best friend killed. I didnʼt want to go through that. The second was to take the bus, you have to love public transportation, and I usually do, but all of those loud kids would have made me want to jump out a window. This left me with the third and final way which was to walk. I wasnʼt carrying a bag so I didnʼt have to worry about it slowing me down. I figured this would be my best bet so I started down the street. ! Since the shooting I hadnʼt tried to picture the face of Ricarnellʼs killer, so I had no idea whether or not I would be able to recognize him if
I saw him. Yet when I turned a corner and he suddenly stepped out in front of me there was no doubt in my mind that it was him. He was taller than my height of 5ʼ4” by about six inches. His eyes were dark brown almost black and had bags under them. I could tell that it had been awhile since heʼd had a full night of sleep. His black hair looked odd with his caramel skin. There was a scar over his left eyebrow that extended to just below his eye. The expression on his face was very doubtful, as if he wasnʼt sure of himself. Without thinking I reached out to punch the man in his face, but he expected my reaction. He grabbed my wrist and pulled it in a circle, forcing me to turn around until my back was facing him. Once I had my back to him he grabbed my other wrist. He had a grip like death. He leaned in to whisper in my ear. ! “You saw me. Yes, I made a mistake, but everything wouldʼve turned out all right. Then there you were, standing out in front of that damn school as though you were waiting for us —the only witness.” I could hear the desperation balancing on the edge of his voice making it sound like a plea. His voice was rough and deep with just a hint of a southern accent. As he whispered in my ear he slowly pulled me backwards into an alley. His breath smelled
strongly of weed. There was also a faint trace of peppermints as if heʼd tried to cover it up. I wanted to scream as loud as I could, but I couldnʼt find my voice. Fear had sealed over my throat, and I could barely breathe. I tried to kick him as tears started to run down my face. Unfortunately that only resulted in me losing my balance and almost falling. The manʼs grip didnʼt loosen the slightest. ! He continued to pull me. We were well into the alley by now, and I had no idea where he was taking me. Suddenly I was turned and stuffed into a car. I tried to get out while he walked around to the driverʼs seat, but there was no handle on the door. It could only be opened from the outside. There was no control for the tinted windows either. I sighed in silent frustration. ! “So what do you want from me?” I asked, after the man climbed into the car, my voice cracking slightly on the word want. He ignored me. ! I laid back in my seat not believing the week I was having. We rode in silence for maybe a half hour before we turned into an alley and around the back of a house. It was a small one story. The yard was nothing more than dirt and trash with a light sprinkle of grass in spots. The
silver gate came up mid-thigh and had a huge tear in it. The two neighboring houses were vacant and boarded up. The neighborhood was unfamiliar. By this time my I had long stopped crying and my voice was hoarse. He was gripping my wrists tightly before I was even out of the car. I didnʼt scream. I didnʼt have the energy. ! He pulled me backwards across the yard and into the back of the house. The back door was unlocked, though he locked the door after we entered. The first thing I noticed about the inside of the house was that it was cold. The temperature was around thirty-five degrees. We entered into a bare kitchen except for a half full coffeepot sitting on the counter. I got only a glimpse of the living room before I was pulled down a staircase I hadnʼt noticed to the houseʼs basement. ! The basement was nothing more than a really big room. The concrete floor was cracked in places, and the temperature was several degrees cooler. A wooden floor-to-ceiling pole sat in the middle of the room and tied to it was a grey metal folding chair. More rope laid on the ground to its right. Three minutes later the man hand my arms and legs tied to the chair. 45
! I jerk awake and find myself in Lynellʼs guest bedroom. I must have fallen asleep. Judging by the way the sun is beaming through the windows it's around nine-thirty or ten in the morning. I smile as I sit up realizing that Lynell has already left for work. I take a forty-five minute shower seeing no reason to be in a rush to start the day. After I get dressed and eat breakfast it's around 11:30am. I don't have to be there until 5:00pm. Restless I wander back into the guest room and absent-mindedly tidy up the room. I stop and sit down on the bed when it gets to the point where Iʼm cleaning things that don't need to be cleaned and straightening things that don't need to be straightened. After a minuet I wander into the living room to watch some T.V. hoping that it will distract me until five. I flip past several channels before finally settling on the food network. My mind is practically buzzing with impatience and anxiety. The steady drum of the cookʼs voice is soothing. ! My mind drifts as I watch the cook prepare crab cakes until I'm not seeing the T.V. anymore. I'm back in the basement. When he finished tying me up he took a deep breath. It was obvious that he was proud to have succeeded that far in his plan. He told me that his name was Harry. I looked at him strangely
feeling the dried tears crack on my face. Why would he tell me his name? I said nothing. Harry stood in front of me wringing his hands. He was nervous. I cleared my throat. ! “What do you want?” I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. Did he want me to promise not to tell? I hadn't planned on telling anyway, but so what if I said I wouldn't tell. There was no way for him to know that I wouldn't break my promise. ! “I want your help.” He said. If I wasnʼt tied to a chair I might have laughed. As it was I just looked at him like he was crazy. ! “Youʼre kidding right?” ! “You know how I said I made a mistake? Well because of it I am in a bad spot with the higher ups. I need to do something to get me back where I was.” He looked at me expectantly. ! “I donʼt understand,” I said flatly. He sighed. ! “Hereʼs the story. I am a part of a group-" ! “A gang?” ! “No, itʼs a group. Now the guy that you saw killed-" ! “Guy? He was my best friend!” That caught Harry of guard. ! “Wait, what?”
! “The guy you shot in front of the school was my best friend!” My voice cracked as a few tears hurried down my face. ! “Ugh! Just great,” Harry said sarcastically, “This just keeps getting better and better. Well, your best friend, he got one of our men killed. The way we saw it the only fair thing to do was kill him.” ! “How, how did he get one of your men killed?” ! “ H e f o u n d o u t s o m e d a n g e r o u s information. Instead of keeping it to himself he decided to share it—with the police. They tried to arrest my friend, he resisted, and they shot him. He didnʼt survive.” I shook my head. ! "Your man got himself killed, but yeah, that sounds like Ricarnell. Heʼs always been overly innocent.” He gave me a questioning look. ! "Who is Ricarnell?" He asked. I frowned slightly. ! "Ricarnell was my best friend and three days ago you killed him.” ! “Strange. Thatʼs not what I was told his name was.” ! “What did you call him? Nellie?” I responded sarcastically. ! “Almost, but not quite,” Harry said, completely serious, “I knew him as Nelson.” My
heart cracked and my face went vacant. Iʼd given Ricarnell that name years ago. Weʼd been sitting on the swings and somehow we got onto the topic of fake names. Weʼd both given each other what we thought were perfect. Iʼd given Ricarnell the name Nelson. Weʼd only been in seventh grade. Why had Ricarnell given these people that name? ! Harry was so caught up in himself that I doubt he even noticed my reaction to the name. ! “Anyway Nelson—Ricarnell—he was standing on a wall and I was pointing a gun at him. He started to scream. He screamed and screamed and wouldnʼt stop. I yelled for him to shut up, but he wouldnʼt listen. I had to do it. I pulled the trigger, but it didnʼt hit him. He had turned and ran right before I shot at him. I was supposed to tie him up before I shot him, you know? But I hadnʼt done it. I didnʼt think it was necessary. That was my mistake. It was my fault that he ran out the front door and down the street.” ! Harry dropped his head trying to hide the anger at himself that was shining in his eyes. ! “They make it seem easy in moves, but in reality it was god awful trying to shoot him while he ran wildly down the street. Plus, I didnʼt want to risk hitting anyone else by accident. Not to
mention I donʼt like wasting bullets. I chased him for blocks, maybe even a mile. Then when we turned that corner he stopped and called a name —your name—and I had him. I had the perfect shot, and I took it. You saw.” ! Harry was fidgeting a lot: playing with his hair, touching his face, fixing his clothes. “The higher ups are very disappointed in my poor judgment. My, ʻrankʼ has gone down, which is where you come in. The next thing that happens is we hide the gun—not get rid of it, just hide it. I figure if I let them know I have that covered I will be on the road to working myself back up to where I was,” He stopped and looked at me for a long moment before continuing, “I need you to take the gun I used to kill your friend for the next three months. In exactly three months, I want you to meet me and give it back.” ! ! “Take the gun? Why me?” I asked. “Well, you were his best friend and the only witness to the murder. Who would expect the gun to be with you?” ! “ H o w d o y o u k n o w t h a t I w o u l d cooperate? What would stop me from turning the gun over to the cops?” Truthfully, I was scared of the answers. At my questions, Harryʼs face changed. His eyebrows furrowed and the shining
anger in his eyes was completely focused on me. His top lip curled up in slight disgust. The look on his face reminded me that he wasnʼt someone to mess with. He was, after all, a murderer. ! “If you donʼt cooperate, people die. No, not you, the people you love. You donʼt want to cross me, us.” I shivered, and Harry smiled. ! “Iʼm not saying that Iʼll do it, but if I did where would I meet you at?” I ask him. ! “I wonʼt tell until after you agree.” I nodded, that was fair, but something had been bugging me about this situation. ! “How did you find me?” ! “Find you?” ! “How did you know where to wait for me? How did you know I would turn onto that block?” ! “My little secret,” he said with a smile. I had just known that walking would be my best bet. Talk about ironic. For the next five minutes neither one of us talked. I was trying to find a way out of this ʻfavorʼ, only God knew what Harry was thinking about. My entire body slumped forward when I realized there wasnʼt anything I could do. If I turned in the gun to the cops that might get rid of Harry, but what about the others? There was a chance that Harry had been lying but that wasnʼt a chance I was willing to take. ! “Fine,” I said quietly, “Iʼll do it.”
! “Perfect.” Harry said and turned up to go upstairs. Weʼd been talking in relatively low voices so his footsteps were shockingly loud. I could hear them above me but I didnʼt really pay attention to where they were going. I was exhausted from our conversation. When he came back downstairs he was carrying scissors. He cut my ropes very slowly. On the way back to the car there was no death grip. He didnʼt touch me at all; actually he barely glanced my way. I guess he figured I wasnʼt stupid enough to run. He was right. He parked in the same alley heʼd pulled me into earlier. Before he let me out he turned to me and handed me a brown paper bag that had been hidden under the passengerʼs seat. ! ʻDonʼt open it until you get home,” he said to me very sternly, “Inside is the address of where you are to meet us, and bring the gun.” I closed my eyes as I nodded. I reached out with my eyes closed and took the bag out of his hand. I made no other sound or comment as he came around the car to let me out. He opened the door and said quietly, “See you in three months.” I didnʼt reply, just started to walk away. I heard the car door tap closed behind me. I slid the bag into my jacket and swiftly walked home. 48
! That was exactly three months ago. Every day since then Iʼve been looking over my shoulder. It feels as if everyone knows. It seems as though every time someone looks at me they are thinking: She says she was his best friend but she wasnʼt. If she was she wouldnʼt be hiding the gun that killed him. This gun has been driving me crazy. I can always feel its presence even if itʼs rooms away. ! One night about two weeks after the gun had been pushed into my life I decided to examine it. It was the source of so much of my pain I had to see it. See what all the fuss was about. Though I had the gun for two weeks I never mustered up the courage to open the brown bag. It was sitting in the bottom of the back of my closet in a royal blue duffel bag. I made sure my door was locked and got the duffel bag out of my closet. I placed it on my bed and spent several minutes just looking at it. I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths before finally reaching in a grabbing the brown paper bag. ! The first thing I noticed about the gun was that it was cold, and nothing like Iexpected it to be. It just didnʼt look like a murder weapon. Maybe I found it too lightweight to be able to kill someone. I didnʼt want to admit it, but the gun
was beautiful. Something about the way the silver reflected the light. I forced myself to remember that it had killed my best friend. My hand trembled as I placed the gun back into the paper bag. I was startled when my hand brushed against something. It was a scrap of paper with an address scribbled across it. I had completely forgotten about the return address. I set it on the bed as I put the paper bag back into the duffel and returned it to my closet. I picked the address off of my bed and placed it at the bottom of my jewelry box. That was the only time I ever saw the gun. ! I come out of my daze and Iʼm still sitting in front of the T.V. in Lynellʼs living room. I check the time on my phone. Itʼs almost four. I stretch as I stand to turn off the T.V. Iʼm not sure when Lynell gets off work, but I donʼt want to be here when she gets home. I grab my black one strap now emptied of clothes and filled with other useless things. I head out the door with the gun at the very bottom of my bag. ! Maybe Iʼve been watching too many movies, but I expected the meeting place to be an old abandoned warehouse or anything other than this. Iʼm standing in front of a two story house painted light pink with blue trim. The stairs
are very narrow and a light grey color. I would laugh, but Iʼm too scared. ! I go up to the door and knock, one… two…three. Almost immediately, the door swings open, but it isnʼt Harry that answers the door. Itʼs a slightly overweight man wearing loose fitting jeans and a black t-shirt. In his hand heʼs holding a Miller Lite beer bottle. His eyes look as if theyʼve seen and absorbed all types of hatred. ! “So youʼre the girl,” he says and without waiting for me to reply steps out of the entrance and motions for me to enter. In the living room, Harry stands alone. I can hear other voices, but I canʼt see anyone. I turn around looking for the man that let me in, but heʼs nowhere to be found. I turn back to Harry. ! “How have you been doing?” He asks me as if this is a social visit. ! “Fine,” I choke out my voice groggy, “How are you?” He ignores my words as if I havenʼt even spoken. Instead he reaches out to me. I slowly unzip my black one strap and reach down into the bottom. I feel the brown paper bag, but still I hesitate to pull it out. The crinkling of the paper bag seems loud enough to echo in my head, though I doubt Harry even hears it. As soon as I pull out the paper bag, he snatches it out of my hand with such force that I flinch
backward. This Harry though the same person is different from the man that kidnapped me. This is the confident Harry that shot Ricarnell. There is no trace of the anger that radiated from his eyes before. Instead theyʼre calm. His face was blank, almost vacant when he watched me enter the room with mild interest. He rips the bag open to make sure the gun is actually in it. He examines it thoroughly, and when he seems satisfied looks up at me and smiles. ! “Thank you,” he whispers and turns to leave the room. I let him leave. As soon as heʼs out of the room I hear footsteps behind me. I turn to see the man that let me in beckoning for me to walk over to him. When I reach him, he turns me toward the door and points, I get the idea. I walk out of the house and onto the porch, turning back every few feet. What if they follow me and kill me anyway? It isnʼt until Iʼm several blocks away from the house that it hits me. Itʼs over. Itʼs finally over. Tears come to my eyes as the feeling of freedom overwhelms me. I smile and run toward the bus stop.
Show me Jack Doyle And she went on and on and on. Now donʼt you start telling me about that great trip to Cancun the guy there that was really nice, sporty, cool, friendly that waiter that was really cute, funny, starry, crazy that cave that was sorta spooky, scary, damp, clammy. No, donʼt tell me a damn thing I will not listen, Iʼm Kanye West You canʼt tell me nothinʼ Show me. Show me your poem. Yeah, go right on ahead Show me your daydreams of Whiskey, women, and the west coast Yeah, show me your nothing thoughts ! 51
Your something memories And your everything dreams Show me all of it. But when you do, Donʼt tell me you like apple pie. Show me grandmaʼs kitchen, the subtle Smell of clove gum, and how the warmth of soft gala apples is matched only by her – a little too tight of hugs. Feed me alliteration tasting Fresher than the freshest fruit in France Greasier than the greasiest gyro in Greece Hotter than the hottest horseradish in Hungary And donʼt you dare tell me a single thing Show me.
contributors Shaondell Black attended Steinmetz Academic Centre in Chicago, IL. While poetry is one of his talents, he is also a gifted filmmaker. Dan Brasic has been able to call Chicago home his whole life. After much soul-searching his senior year of high school, he decided to attend St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola University Chicago to discern the Catholic priesthood. He is in a unique situation because he is in the seminary on a university campus, which gives him the best of both worlds. He is currently majoring in Philosophy, but his passions are include, but not limited to, photography, film, literature, and God. Matthew Byrd is a junior at Jones College Prep in downtown Chicago. He participates in the Library of Games Podcast at YOUmedia Chicago. He is a voracious writer, reader, film-watcher, and all around loser. !
Jack Doyle is 18 years old and attended St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, IL. Jenzo DuQue is an 18 year old Colombian who is currently attending the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. He is hoping to go into Pre-med (fingers crossed) and specialize in Neuroscience/ Psychiatry. He is a Chicago native and has attended school in the city all his life, but moved to Crown Point, Indiana when I was fourteen. Commuting was not fun. He enjoys writing in his free time and prefers to compose non-fiction. However, he finds fiction works to be the most interesting to read. I Want an Honest Poem was written for his Creative Writing class in high school during his Senior year. Armani Harris is a senior at Walter Payton High School and serves as Editor of YouLit Magazine, and a junior mentor at YOUmedia. He loves to read, write, and creates graphic design.
Kali Johnson is a 17 year old who attends Kenwood Academy High School. He wishes to attend Calarts for college in hopes of being a amazing freelance artist. He feels that art is a great form of expression in a visual state. He loves to create pictures that express his feelings and loves to make landscape. He is a senior at Kenwood Academy in Chicago. Alethia Love is a rapper, singer, writer, poet, and lyricist. She is a junior at Kenwood Academy in Chicago. Caleigh Tully attended St. Ignatius College Prep where she was enrolled in a creating writing class that helped her develop her as a writer and individual.
mission statement Created, edited, and contributed by teens, we are a magazine where teen writers and artists come together to promote both their work and topics relevant to teens. Our talents our pushed to the limit; giving credit where credit is due. This is a magazine where our art, whether it始s writing, photography, graphic designs or anything else, is our identity. If you are a high school teen and would like to submit work to YouLit Magazine, please visit our Submission Guidelines at www.youlitmag.tumblr.com . We accept submissions year-round.
acknowledgements We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this issue of YouLit Magazine, the Chicago Public Library, YOUmedia, Digital Youth Network, and the MacAurthur Foundation. For more information about YOUmedia please visit www.youmediachicago.org .