by Logan Campau
Our letters are drenched in life,
An ink that clasps our being
But reveals our faults,
With our hidden strokes
And careful movements,
We open as to be accepted
But often get distant,
For too soon can be painful
Timing is important,
Sprawled across our parchment
Are the fundamentals,
So compose your style
Clash with the pain,
Embrace the love
For life is your quill.
by Amanda Martin Sandino
I knew you once
We somnambled on
Across the dreamscape
Full of glowing steam-
powered street lamps
We were a gaslight romance
Wearing goggles with green lenses
piloting mechanical monsters
with large firefly eyes
and escape hatches in the feet
we comingled our bloods
cut open our gloves
on an orrery’s moon
promising to avenge each other
for each and every wound
How were we to know our promise
would extend beyond the collective sleep mind
to plague the waking imaginations with thoughts
of a romance yet unconsummated
the taste of machine kisses on our mouth
by Shahrzad Mahmoudi
by Chris Cooper
“My mind wandered blindly as my thoughts became thin
And I laughed quite carelessly at the dangers within
But as I danced on the edge of this glass, half full
My world was sent spinning as I slipped and I fell…
My legs grew soggy and it was then I could tell
That this glass, now half empty
Had been my own hell.”
– The Gingerbread Man
by John Mulinski
I just found out I know nothing.
I was surprised, because I thought I knew better.
Not knowing better, I can’t imagine anything worse.
by Mercie Metcalf
They Were Called Pack Rats Back Then…
She kept everything. Or at least she tried to. Pictures, chipped plates, magazines, clothes that shouldn’t have even been worn in 1931, broken furniture…everything. It’s all going to be worth something someday. Her mother’s ripped and bug ridden cookbook? Vintage. The pieces of her father’s broken pipe? Keepsakes. Creepy and depressingly naked Cupie Doll? A collector’s item. She was sitting on top of a fortune she just knew it.
He Was No Ol’ Yeller, That’s for Damn Sure…
It was a hunting dog, a hound dog. Her father had been very clear that she and her brothers were not to play with him. They still had to walk him and give him baths, but they couldn’t take him inside and she wasn’t allowed to let him sleep on her bed. With a coat as shiny and red a newly pressed penny, he would sleep outside in the small wooden box her father pieced together. He liked the peanut butter crackers she’d sneak him from her lunchbox. One Thanksgiving he made off with half a turkey while the family slept off their full bellies. Tiptoed the bird down to the basement and ate it bones, beak, stuffing and all. Somebody stole him.
Brother Job Was Sick So Long, the Flesh Fell From His Bones…
She’s always cooked. Cooking was how she made many of the friends she had today. It was always a curious thing that no one rung her bell or darkened her door until dinnertime. Learning wasn’t a choice for the only girl-child in a house of six. Her grandmother would take her home every weekend and they’d sew and bake teacakes for the entire family. To this very day she can’t get them to taste as good. Her mama showed her how to make hog’s head cheese once, only she didn’t know that the head part wasn’t just a clever name. It wasn’t done until the eye popped out easily with a fork. Remembering how she used to sit in a hot kitchen, listening to her mother and grandmother gossip about all the unmarried, unwed, churchgoin’ girls while watching her food stare back at her still makes her eyes go a little misty.
Eatin’ Peas With Your Hands
Her father was a carpenter. In the many piles of newspaper clips she kept because she was certain someone would find them as interesting as she did, was a picture of a man with caramel colored skin and huge hands guiding a saw through a piece of wood as easily as any captain could steer his ship through a calm and unbroken sea. She had five brothers that were supposed to follow in his footsteps. Her oldest brother, who once out danced James Brown at one of his own concerts, ended up in Vietnam using war tools instead. The one after him preferred reading romance novels to the pretty white girls he worked with, that is until a dark road and a few police officers reminded him that it was still 1969. The meanest one that liked to take just one sip out of every cup before her tea parties, told the government he could walk on water to avoid his brother’s war and they made him take anti-crazy pills until he believed it. She asked her father to teach her how to use his tools and he told her no girl could. Even though they’ve rusted, she keeps those too.
Feminism didn’t make it passed her front door until college. Her brothers were big and handsome, free to come and go at they saw fit once they reached high school. They were football players that made all the local papers and made her parent’s chests swell with barely contained pride. Always the Rudolph to their reindeer games, they never let her tag along when venturing out after the streetlights came on. She used to listen outside their doors while they talked about dirty things like the girls they had sex with in the lockers of the mostnotorious high school in Milwaukee and she couldn’t wait to taste that kind of freedom. The summer before her freshman year they told her mother she had to go a school across town.
You Wanna Write a Movie?
There were a million things a woman as smart as her could’ve done. She started college with nothing more than a $50 dollar contribution from her parents and confidence that being smart was all it took. When she wasn’t working or studying, she would daydream about her graduation day. Her mouth practically watered with anticipation for becoming a world famous seamstress, whose clothes were worn by the likes of the dearly missed Miss Monroe and the ever elegant Diahann Carol. She out sewed the girls with the better clothes and the better pocketbooks and never let the care packages her mother would send to her younger brother but not her be a distraction. She minored in psychology to better understand why a man as smart as her second oldest brother would jump off the roof and run down the street naked, but her heart was in her clothes. In her junior year she met a man who didn’t know what Rock and Roll was and gave her heart to him. He moved to California and she dropped out nine months into her senior year.
A Real Pity
There had been times when her home was filled top to bottom and she couldn’t get through her front door without a bit of fancy finagling. She buys things to prepare for the mansion on the hill that her children will buy her because they were supposed to. She took care of her mother who forgot her name and how to go to the bathroom and she’d take care of her father if he thought she could. She has a way with words, nurtured by Sunday sermons and long nights with a six-pack or three, that few others could touch. The minutes on her phone are used to regale her youngest with slurred tales of how she could have saved the world. Her voice rises until the tiny speakers start to crack in protest. The thirst for being right has outlasted all of her lovers and talents, leaving her nine sewing machines dusty and the rooms that overflow with fabric, bought with rent money, untouched. Nearly six decades old, she’s sure that if she waits long enough, speaks loud enough, and owns just more than enough, the world will hit the reset button she never found. Memories of being a mother, daughter, Black Panther, and savior help the whiskey keep her warm while her children put more miles between her and them. She still hasn’t realized that all memories are the past, every single one.
By Nicholas Klacsanzky
I rise with the city
because I am one of its lights.
A miniature brick building,
darker without dawn’s snoozed head,
reaches up with its red-webbed fingers
like a passerby with balanced attention
in the flurry of watch strokes,
clicking inside the minds of those who think
they were responsible for their waking.
Speaking of waking, I haven’t.
My eyes are misplaced anchors to the words I write.
I open them when I know the poem is written
out of its moment.
by Cassidy Lenger
I’ve been reading Descartes in my sleepless mornings
in my mornings with crusty eyes
half broken heart
and storm tossed sheets
with my legs running to nowhere
red-eyed meeting the sun rise
that immeasurable beauty,
that window to the divine
James said I think therefore I am
there are no thoughts with copyright on truth
including those we see and hear
I’m fairly certain G-d speaks with me
Then James said:
Glory, glory, glory
I’ll take in each and every one of you
because you all find a use
when put in my hands
until, you are my hands,
I say thank you,
and worry be damned
by Shahrzad Mahmoudi
by Melissa Pighin
Picture, if you would, a man. –Or perhaps less of a man, for there was no substantial proof of his actual existence. But this detail aside, he was accepted as real. That is to say, that people knew him (–or rather knew of him). He had managed to make himself the most distinguished man in all of Normandy, yet had done so without saying a word to anyone.
He was a man of deception and illusion. These traits were all too fitting for his career, but one couldn’t help but to wonder how he had found it possible to stay so incredibly under the radar. He was hardly ever mentioned in the tabloids, simply because there was nothing for the paparazzi to say. He never wandered the streets. In fact, no one had ever seen him leave the manor. Not even to perform a show. Yet the general public had reached the understanding that there could be no truth in such an allegation. His talents were displayed on a regular basis around the area and tonight specifically, Martin Merrel was attracting eager viewers at le Paon Majesteux.
It was intermission and a crowd waited anxiously in the lobby, sipping cafés and chattering inaudibly about the tricks they had just witnessed. Impossible happenings involving mirrors, trap doors, and smoke that the eyes and mind could not logically connect. The lights blinked twice and the group gradually receded back into the theatre. Once everyone was comfortably perched in their velvet lined chairs, the show commenced. Monsieur Merrel strolled loftily on stage and, as usual, was greeted by a roaring applaud of approval.
“Merci, merci. You are all too kind.”
A grey box was rolled onto the stage by his assistant. It was normal enough and had a door on the top.
“Pay attention. You might miss something.”
The audience chuckled, for it was very rarely that the mechanics of Merrel’s tricks were understood. The magician opened the door and lent a hand to his assistant as she climbed the footstool and descended gracefully into the wooden box. The door was shut, locked, and Martin Merrel waved his hands grandly:
A soft pop could be heard. Suddenly, the scene was blurred by a multitude of smoke. When the distraction had cleared, the stage was eerily sparse. No man stood grinning back at his admirers. The box had flapped open and there sat a peculiar puppet on a metal chair. A closer look revealed that it was indeed not a puppet, but a skeleton. The audience let out an exhilarated flood of clapping—expecting the clever man and his assistant to appear to their astonishment in the back of the room or the aisle way. Heads whipped around and smiles were exchanged, as if viewing some absurd party trick.
But the stage remained bleak and giddy grins of delight soon faded. Something was wrong, terribly wrong, and the lights of the house went up to confirm the validity of this concern. A harsh voice came over the intercom:
“Bonsoir Mesdames et Messieurs, do not panic. I ask that you leave through one of the exits located on either side of the theatre, s’il vous plaît. We are having some technical difficulties and will be unable to present the remainder of tonight’s show. We apologize and humbly ask for your understanding. You can be reimbursed at our box office beginning tomorrow.”
And so, the crowd despondently shuffled out of the building wondering what exactly could have gone wrong to tarnish a man’s otherwise flawless career. Details surrounding the curious act would not be concealed for long though. By Monday morning, the press had printed a relatively lengthy article on the much-speculated event. The assistant had been found unscathed underneath a trapdoor. She had apparently been waiting for the magician’s cue to make her reappearance (–a cue that never came). The whereabouts of Merrel were unknown; a fact that was entirely meaningless and typical of this man.
But the intriguing and somewhat nauseating aspect of the situation, was that the morgue had identified the skeleton as belonging to a real human body and not a stage prop, as originally presumed. The skeleton possessed a distinctive jaw line, an intimidating height, and flat feet that were strikingly similar to none other than: the missing Martin Merrel.
by Jill Dewald
Without him. Without his body. Without his mind. Without his thoughts. Without his words. The words that stung, the words that pleased, the words I can’t forget, the words I don’t want to forget. Without his family, his sister and mother…a relief. Without his irresponsibility. Without his addictions. Without my addiction to him. Without his arms around me in bed. Without his need for me. Without the helpless, childish stare of his blue eyes. Without his love for food, for cooking, for eating, for discovering. Without his intelligence. Without his stupidity. Without his lack of thoughtfulness. Without mercy for him. Without his sense of entitlement. Without his trail of mess. Without smiling as I picked up those dirty clothes. Without the sound of him chewing with his mouth open. Without rubbing his back. Without him in bed. Without his arms. Without guilt for leaving him. Without the frustration of seeing what I want and knowing I’ll never have it. Without pain when I think of him. Without wanting what I am without.
With control. Finally.
How will I live now?
Missing him. Loving him. Remembering him. With regret.
by Harrison Pierce
The pen runs dry once more.
Words are little more
than scratches on paper.
Its meaning is lost.
This drought in the air
surrounds us as death,
ever present, ever watchful,
Some say this water is sweet…
I taste dust and murk.
This concern grips me tight
as questions continue to ask:
What is this? What is this?
Light removes all shadows but those held within.
Something I cannot release.
This fear instills doubt yet again.
Yellow menace I cannot foil.
Here, there, anywhere…
Goodness and mercy fail for me.
This doubt remains.
What was finished has become undone.
The prospective future has become blind.
The stairs are gone!
The stairs are gone!
by Samantha Barron
by Ani Dorsett
by Spencer Reed
he said “I’d love to” the way
most people say “over my dead body”
but all she heard were the words
and she wondered what went wrong
she said “sure, sounds fun” the way
most people say “what were you thinking?!”
but all he saw were her lips
and he wondered why she left early
he said “let’s go now” the way
most people say “bad dog!”
but all she heard were the words
and she hoped he was okay
she said “call me” the way
most people say “I need you, I love you, we were meant to be together!”
but all he saw was a chance to let go
and he hoped she’d forget about him for a while
he said “goodnight” the way
most people say “I’m afraid I care too much and it will make me run”
but all she heard was the word
and she was afraid he didn’t care
she said “I love you too” the way
most people say “I’m tired and you’re bothering me”
but all he saw was her back
and he was afraid nothing would ever change
by Jessica Louise Hoffart
He walks into the room
time stands chaotic
blood rushes to places
I didn’t know it could
I call him
a book is written
a poem appears
He sees through me
the words written
on my heart
pulls them through
fingers to paper
Too much sometimes
I run from the burn
Not a muse
for he is
I put down to live
Too much inspiration
I may be left
for new words
by Patricia Reed
somewhere between the click and the inbox
the words are turning blue
like they couldn’t bear to stand coming in
black so they stole sky
or got wet on their way to me. when they come,
I know that they are blue jays
flitting in the box and waiting. each jay resting
on empty space. it’s the blank white
they perch on, little legs tethered to nothingness
which probably makes this easier
for you. Dorothy sings for Frank at the Smooth Talk
but now it’s me who has to be frank.
how many of us sending out black signals
are receiving them in color now?
as if this phenomenon were a product of a mood–
blue for a lack of strong emotion
or for calming the nerves, but then why is Viagra
blue? because nobody is sleeping now.
you’ve sent three hundred and sixty-eight
all written in perfect lines
waiting in perfect space.
by Jo-Anne Antoun,
by Amanda Martin Sandino
let the roses float
then sink into those black
and foaming waters
bringing just the stems
with thorns that cut away
bits of finger flesh
placed into a vase
fed with river water
where all their beauties
bled and flowed
like angry souls reaching
out from a river of
la llorona’s tears
by Katie Joy
Ballet shoes spinning, arms moving, beauty
Motions with meaning, swaying left to right
Circular motion, dancing lace, no thoughts
No pain, Oh how I wish I could dance free
She moves without a smile or discomfort
Concentrating on her motion, turning
Her hair neatly in place, mirror to wall
Ballet shoes, how beautifully simple
What a perfect escape, uplifting music
Flowing through her veins, she beams feeling sound
Transporting her to a garden of soul
A garden of ballet shoes, innocent
Satin lace dancing on a wild river
Peaceful, at one with herself, pink ribbon
by Scott Le
by Scott Le
by Ani Dorsett
My feet are wet from waiting for you. Everyone thinks I’m waiting for the bus, which I board daily at 8:45, but I’m secretly waiting for you. You damned sprite, you’re always late! I check my pocket watch.
You’ll be here in five minutes. I straighten my coat, tie my laces. The bus is coming. Where are you, you bitch! It stops at the light, 20 meters away. Suddenly, a figure cloaked in red flies across the crosswalk, coat billowing out behind like a cape, shoes in one hand, school books in another. So free, so silly. You screech to a stop right beside me, and put on your shoes.
One day I will say hello. The end of the term is coming soon. My schedule will change. We board the bus. I am angry at you today—for almost missing the bus—so I board first. You cut it very close.
But, what if you sit behind me?
I fumble with the fare, drop my pocket watch, and let you pass by. Picking it up, I see you’ve taken the last entirely open seat. I will have to sit next to a disagreeable, powdery, old woman. Our love has lasted a total of two quarters now. I have to say something. My luck will not hold out.
We’re almost there.
What classes are you taking? Where do you come from? Why do you wear shoes you can’t run in if you’re always late?! Someone pulls the bell to stop, and we pile up down the aisle.
Hey. Did you drop this?
My world ends. Stop.
by Mari Nichols
A woman’s outline was painted urgently onto the body of a girl
in slashing red brush strokes.
She didn’t notice then: the adults observing,
deconstructing meaning in thoughtful stage whispers.
It wouldn’t have mattered.
She had no appreciation for art or animus
and no patience for the obscure.
Yet she believed all abstraction was obscure.
Girls mature faster…
A vague warning when she first heard it,
but by then she knew it as a vile lie.
Already the boys wanted mature things
with an urgent curiosity once kept hidden behind oak trees.
Now it slithered up their legs, tangled in their hair,
and marked them with its musk.
She wanted only to know
how pigment gave art life,
and why the woman was so frantic to escape
that she rained in long, sad droplets from from the girl’s pores.
She wondered why a vine grew from nowhere
binding her innards before emerging through her throat.
In retrospect, she will note the moment
and call herself ma’am.
by Steven Fawcett
by Hannah Mason
Hey baby hey
They say ‘Nothing lasts forever’
But I’m on your team
Even if your team is garbage
Who wants to be seen
Walking through the band entrance
I’ll walk with you
I’ve got fitty-eight twos
I’ve got a short straight
I’ve got nothing
I’m coming from behind but
I’m on your team
And I play for keeps
Hey baby hey
by Cate Foster
by Natasha Haining
by Jasleena Grewal
Pass, inhale, hold, exhale.
I like obscure bands too.
I graffiti their names
Onto concrete never seen.
Take another hit.
Like me, like me, like me.
Palms together, bowed forehead.
I know what each of the ten gurus did
For Sikhs like me. And I can make chai
Like my mother.
For the Sikh man I marry.
Like me, like me, like me.
Bring x to the other side. Divide by 6.
I can help you with your math homework.
And I balance my bank account.
Like me, like me, like me.
Overdrawn every week
Chalking the sidewalk corner,
where I saw my addicted brother
at an all-time low
Forgetting to sweeten the chai
Listening to radio hits.
And I think I like Buddhism better.
Me, me, me
I met a soda-drinker
pop music listener,
who held my hand at the Tibetan monastery.
Not keen on calculus,
But I tell him,
I love you, I love you, I love you
Happy New Year.
I can’t wait to marry you.
We, we, we
by Natasha Haining
*This should be kept in a diary, an excerpt from my unconventional young adult mind.
Sex. Sex. Sex. temptation, my body, self control, envy, anorexia, consistency.
I should revise my obsession, which I formerly stated was Coke. I didn’t think of it at the time when we were assigned the free write. Or maybe I didn’t want to think of it. It’s an odd thing to talk about.
I love it, yet
I have no use for it.
Just adore it. Simple. Easy. That’s that.
In high school there was a girl who had vinyl red Steve Madden pumps. I loved them. I wanted them. She referred to them as her, “come fuck me shoes,”
My cousin envied the same pair of shoes and told me that “If it was acceptable in public she would wear nothing but those pumps and lingerie everyday, everywhere.
And so it began
My love of lingerie
It can be hoochy, elegant, simple, overly jeweled.
A friend of mine, in an attempt to stay abstinent until marriage only had ratty whitey-tightys. Every time I see I her, I remind her, at least you have fancy underwear now. I can’t imagine the immediate relief of slipping into smooth satin as opposed to stiff cotton. Whitey-tightys, no more! Unless, that is, they’re fashionable.
“Why do you even have a thong?” The question my mother’s friend asked her before throwing the inappropriate snippit of fabric into the trash. Obvious reason: no underwear line. Sex (her mother thought): NO just for the feeling of feeling pretty.
It’s a secret.
No one knows.
You know that you feel just a little bit more elegant, sexy, sophisticated, naughty because of whatever it is that you have hiding under a too short skirt that you wear to a club or a bland jumpsuit used for changing oil.
When looking at a pair of lacy underwear my cousin, 18, said, “I know what those are for, when you’re married.”
Her older sister and I tried with no success to convince her otherwise. She insisted that they were gross and unnecessary. Such a naïve existence, such sheltered thoughts.
Is it odd to sit in your room and revel in how comfortable you are in the newest Victoria’s secret bra? Or that when I was on Bourbon Street one goal my friends and I made was to get lingerie (from that specific street) before departing. Is it odd that the only thing I bought on the walk of the stars in Hollywood was a few new pairs of underwear from Fredrick’s of Hollywood? The last souvenir I would purchase during my sojourn around the country? *in regards to the trip…everything in the states is secure, we found no evidence of aliens or anything stranger than Bikini Barista stands.
Someday. I’ll get married, I’ll have a use for lingerie. Some day it will bring pleasure to someone else who isn’t me, and for however short amount of time I’ll actually wear it. For now, I’m content to keep it secret, and just mine but, some day it will find a place. Somewhere outside the confines of my dark washed jeans.
I swear. Naked chefs are missing out all over the place. One day, one week, I vow.
by Mari Nichols
When it was young, The Story wanted to tell her
with elegant wrinkles in the final chapter.
Gentle lines that framed her eyes with wisdom and sadness–
not cracks that split her face and whispered of capture,
nor crevices to remind a gentle reader
of furrows like dried Arizona mud,
dug by the wild madness of the sun.
By the time The Story became the story,
it asked the narrator to leave editing
to the children or to another day. She agreed.
She could let the climax stay, though discrediting
her truth: lives not plotted intersect long before merging.
She feared only that the gentlest would read
of destiny between the lines.
Soon enough, a studio was completed
in one bare room marked by a red glass door,
somewhere between the attic and the root cellar.
There, the story danced on the parquet floor
while waiting for her to begin transcribing.
Instead she paused to ask, “But who will write the end?”
as though she hadn’t wondered it before.
And as though it hadn’t also considered this,
the story shrugged and gently, gently offered
before mutely deciding she needn’t write at all.
With an elegant pirouette, the final elegy renounced,
it danced her through a vast hall.
Spinning, she found it easy to ignore memory
as it fell from the stairs and dared her to catch up.
Now danced, she doesn’t care to understand
why life tried so hard to convince her.
Instead she paints rivers and moist Arizona mud
on glass with colors that wouldn’t dare to occur.
She ignores the narrative when it chants
and she can’t find the straight lives that once intersected
so she doesn’t try to paint the people or their truths.
Through gently wizened creases, she sees the irony
of pigment drying on stiff brushes
as she tells The Story, climaxes too.
Words pause; hopeful she’ll give them consideration.
In time, the end will offer its own narrative
but she will be too busy painting life between the lines
to hear the storyteller.
by Kelle Grace Gaddis
Reservation of mud,
cattails and mosquito swamps
lost territory, lost people
It’s not sleep,
when you can’t wake up.
Copper brown eyes
like pennies in the mud;
lost to give luck
to the rich.
Red, yellow and turquoise trinkets
miniature totem poles;
tourists watch poverty dance,
to a foreign beat.
The Star Spangled Banner or
I pledge allegiance to. . .
minds going damp,
wet wool and
spirits turned to shadows
behind missing trees.
by Kat Seidemann
Your white fleece has marked you
with time’s swift lip prints—
your kiss good bye.
No matter how fastidious your grooming
nor how strong is your heart
your placid days are limited
(You have us to thank for this)
You amble pale, glossy floors
passing or meeting
other slick silvered brethren
all destined for demise.
As hoarfrost carpets thaw
your journey becomes tremulous.
Should you leave your bitter home
in search of sustenance or succor
avoid wandering near us,
you bring us terror–
reminding us of our own frailty
and our responsibility
for your quickened end
We trespass and hope to plunder
the precious inheritance
hidden beneath your frosty floorboards
while you still exist–
but out of sight and if possible
out of mind.
Forget your glamour, your grace,
your fine adaptability, forget
the ferocious care of your young.
Accept that the ground is no longer
stable beneath your pace.
Allow yourself to slide into
the torrid waters of your last days.
You have us to thank for this
by Kristina Vinberg
by Deborah Caplow
by Patricia Reed
shadowed by pigeons, the iron bones
opaquely phlegmatic under the tickling ash trees.
her rails lightly fingered by a passerby
queen’s brail wrought with beaks and pinions
they cluck at her arches, at her bluesy smoke glow,
at her sinewy legs, smooth masonry inexhaustible
beneath the bright flashes cleaving
to her as diatoms under the sunlight.
a torchlight sentry cannot deny him his gawking
only stands there threadbare against the throng
quietly pointing the possibility of another way.
by Spencer Reed
mirage covered blacktop, she floats over, hazy, her gift; a whisper
by Natasha Haining
by Harmony Gonty
by Harmony Gonty
by Jasleena Grewal
You’re in love with my disease.
Thinning hair falling over
protruding ribs and jutting hips
when you’re over me
I’m frail and delicate
like your favorite celebrity.
Size zero doesn’t talk too loud
But I don’t want to be like her.
Crohn’s made me that way
And you love me that way
Waiting for remission
To gain back thirty pounds of
happiness, hair, hips.
And scream, with my loud lips,
that I am a stronger woman.
If then you do not want me,
I will find a stronger man.
by Gwyneth Boyer
by Teppei Sato
by Joshua James Smith
Conceive of, or contemplate of, something not present with intentions to create a subject for perception in your eyes. The pretentious life form of social class, undeserved importance or distinction of people is unnecessary. Creativity of the mind creates innovative artistic paradigm shifts. Do as you see to imagine.
Imagine impossibilities for pleasure. Imagine failure for results. Imagine this world as a dream and waking up is paramnesia. A dream in which this world we live in is a past life of our future beings.
Be as you will, refrain from losing focus of your temporary existence in an ambiguous world. Remember that what you see is how you imagine it.
by Aaron Sebenius
I’m running from something. I never know what, but it’s always there. Sometimes I look back with the intent of figuring it out, but back that way, the sky darkens with the unwanted unknown. I do know the feel of the marshy ground as my bare feet squish through the mud, the feel of the reeds scratching my legs as I cross the shallow stream. The water is cold, refreshing with the sun beating down on my neck. I have to get away, so I run for a long time. By the time I reach the other side, the sun rides low on the horizon, but its beams have only intensified, as they often do. My pace slows, not from exhaustion, but with the knowledge that what’s chasing me will also stop for the night. I meander my way through a meadow, enjoying the smell of the grass, moving towards a gentle downward slope. As I reach the crest, I see an old manor by a cluster of evergreens.
I approach the manor cautiously at first, but it has a safe feeling to it. I know this place, but from where, I can’t remember. I take the first step, leading up to the wide porch, and my eyes are assaulted with double images. I see the manor before me, old and abandoned. The porch hangs limply, paint peeling or gone altogether, overgrown with moss and ivy. But I also see the porch as it was, a ghostly image overlain on the present, a pristine version of the same porch, well swept, hanging herbs dangling along the rail. I catch a faint whiff of lavender as I make my way up the crooked steps. I’m never sure if it’s real, or just a memory. I stumble slightly upon reaching the top step, and reach out to steady myself on a post. I feel the rough flakes of paint crumble beneath the pressure, and the smooth paint from long ago. As I make my way to the door, the boards creak beneath my feet. The feeling of nostalgia is almost palpable. I know this place, but I cannot place it. I press lightly on the door, and it swings open silently, on rusted, brand-new hinges. I’m glad it’s dry here, there’s no smell of rot, and it looks like the place is mostly intact. To my left are the stairs, leading to the upper level. I look around the rest, but it’s all vague. Not decrepit or decaying, just in disrepair, but also perfect conditions. I blink a lot; the double images are confusing.
As I take the first step of the stairs, my vision blurs slightly. I remember, and can’t help but smile. A little orange kitten bounds down the stairs, chasing an unraveling ball of yarn. I lean back and watch him play for a few moments before blinking away the image and continuing my climb. I reach the middle of the stairs, a small platform missing boards, but they don’t hinder my step too much. I shake my head as I hear a low yowl from the top of the stairs. I think it’s part of the memory at first, but it happens again, and I look up. An orange tom looks down the stairs at me, green eyes intent. Sitting beside him and staring just as intently, is Her.
“You came back!”
All of the sudden, she’s in my arms, nearly tackling me with her forceful hug. She looks up at me, the smile so evident in her blue-gold eyes. My mind is torn asunder, memories flashing in front of my eyes faster than I can keep up. I know her, but I have no idea who she is. She retreats a step.
“I knew you’d keep your promise. We can finally be together.”
I gaze back at her for a few moments, and then it all clicks into place. She’s older now, than the memories suggest, but so am I, I guess. It’s been a long time. I remember everything, all at once. The life we had, why I had to leave, why I still can’t stay.
We talk for what feels like days, wandering through the house, the tom always nearby. She tries to convince me to stay with her, and never understands that there’s nothing I would like more than to be by her side. I do so wish I could stay.
by John Mulinski
If by chance you find a wish that somehow proves our dreams exist, then will this world o’ ours be missed?
by Kat Seidemann
Awareness, a bubble rising through the sweet thick cream of slumber to burst upon the burnt sugar brittleness of morning. Yet I do not open my eyes. Each day I wish, I hope, to descend back into the warm custard comfort of dreams. The clock casts its malicious green stare about the room. I evade its antifreeze intentions, which attempt to ooze past my guardian lashes and under my heavy lids. Like a child, I trust that if I cannot see its face then I am hidden from its view, but I know I cannot resist its siren song for much longer.
Another green-eyed glower creeps upon me. How does he always know? Surely, it is not the simple shallowing of my waking breath. My heart trails a conga-line from its proper place and dances madly in my throat. Perhaps it is this relocation, this movement that catches his feline attention. To him my heart is simply limping prey to be turned into another plaything. I should move before those velvet gloves, which hide swift crystal scimitars, find my vulnerable flesh once again, but these blankets hold my curves like flowering meadow grasses hug fertile sunlit ground. How difficult it is each morning to pluck away these night-scented blooms to pave space for the day’s highway.
I become aware that the silkworms of sleep have been busy. I recognize the feel of their handiwork at the corners of my mouth, on my teeth, over my tongue. After such industriousness, they have gone to rest in the bellows-caverns of my lungs, but one sigh, heavy with morning-acceptance, will drive them out. Only their grimy cocoons will remain, clinging, until I can brush them away.
As they do every morning, it is my limbs betray me with their battle cry against gravity. They twitch and tingle with the daily urge to rise up and defeat this epic foe. I am thus induced to succumb to morning. I can only hope that verticality will quiet my wayward heart and send it back to its proper place. I blink and with my usual shudder, stretch, and sigh I throw off body-warm blankets. I am awake.
by Aaron Sebenius
I didn’t name the cat, my dad did. But somehow she became my cat. She slept on my bed every night, curled up somewhere random, near my head or my feet. I slept on the top bunk, so I felt special that she made the effort to get up there. Her name was Meow Meow. Called such for the way we found her. She was a feral cat, living under a pile of construction debris outside my dad’s shop. Eventually, after hearing her pitiful cries, he managed to coax her inside and feed her. From then on, she was still a feral cat, but as close to domesticated as you could get her. Curled up, she felt so warm. A little too warm, really. Somehow, she got pregnant. Some other feral cat in the area, we guessed, but we had no real idea. But still, she would come up and sleep on my bed. Even when her stomach bulged with kittens, she would still do it. Something about my bed was a comforting place for her. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to something slightly wet near my feet.
I scrambled out of bed, being extremely careful while I found the ladder, and went into my parent’s room to get them up. The kittens were here, but I didn’t remember hearing them moving or anything. I attributed it to me being tired and having just woken up. “They shouldn’t be born yet, let’s go take a look.” That sentence will forever be burned into my memory. We went back into my room and woke my brother up as we climbed up the side of the bed to look at the kittens. But it’s not actually kittens that we find. Just Meow Meow and three small heads. Later, I discovered that cats eat the bodies of prematurely born kittens, for the nutrition. Still, I cannot forget my revulsion when I pulled back those covers. I think we burned those sheets. Had I my way, I likely would have burned the entire bed.
by Cate Foster
your fatal mistake
was assuming I would
show pity when
we don’t do that
uncertainty breeds defensiveness
attack me when I am
cold, naked, barely awake
and I merely make the
water scald and
rinse you down the drain
* the Money Spider, native to Great Britain
by Aida Lasher
by Nicholas Klacsanzky
Wanted it to be natural – a fact
in a guidebook about India,
or the acceptance of an insectile fragility.
But no one hears a voice
through a broken lantern.
Silos of blank poems
are empty to pursue division –
how a word tastes when injected
through reading sight – elongated tunnels
of light, their tips securing a painting out of canvas
on childhood wallpaper. Art is never
art. Coincidence has as much clarity.
by Jessica Hoffart
staring at the ceiling
slipping through my fingers
moving bed side to hallway
as I try to
they depress the passion I yearn for
Puzzling a puzzle
dreamed up within dreams.
heat filled with perplexed reciprocation
turned me around on myself
without saying a thing
the page is
I cannot scare
He has never felt need or want.
I stand under
a hot shower of thoughts
feeling an empty space
that he has left behind
looking for the
power the words
he has stolen.
by Ani Dorsett
1. The immature green pod of the kidney bean, eaten as a vegetable.
2. Since when are beans immature? Do they not act their age?
3. If I don’t eat it, is it not a vegetable? If I were to drink it, would it be a fruit?
4. Also called string bean, stringless bean.
5. Crunchy and delicious.
Origin: 1940–45, Americanism. A little green pod grown on a grandfather’s farm; may house aliens.
From the Rat’s Mouth: After George Ella Lyon
by Patricia Reed
I am from the sand,
from salty ebbing Dreamland
I am from lightening bugs trapped in a Mason jar
(luminous dance lulling me to the hum of land.)
I am from hibiscus blooming magenta,
the palm tree that smacks
me with her flowing arms.
I am from lemon ice pops and two-toned fluorescent socks,
from Publix and Second Time Around,
potato salad and Dad’s Root Beer,
from hurricane snacks and sticky vinyl seats.
I am from Carol and Victor,
I’m from the yeah, yeah, yeahs
and the what about the time crop.
I am from the bread and the blood,
the confessional box,
and agony Jesus nailed with a loincloth.
The South County Fair and the Mouseketeer ears
silhouetted against a firecracker sky
of shuttles never launched,
barracuda jaws, and pelican throats
engulfed in saltwater
and stinging my eyes.
by Peter Freeman
I remember the day my mother told us she had breast cancer. I was 19 years old. I was busy watching something on TV, and didn’t pay her much attention. She tried to explain the seriousness of what was happening, and I ignored her. I was too busy watching what was on the TV. She started crying. I didn’t change. I knew that she’d be alright. I didn’t have to worry. She’d be around for years to come. She cried. I felt little. She left the room, and I didn’t follow. I didn’t feel sorry, I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel urgency. I let her leave the room.
Letter to a Texas Lady : After Julio Cortazar
By Mercie Metcalf
How’s the garden? Are you still trying to find a way to kill squirrels with peppers? You’ve always had such an impulsive and ambitious nature. Not much follow-through though. I think at this point it’s more endearing than anything. Anyways, college life continues to trudge along as the world ends. You’d think an impending apocalypse would inspire lighter workloads but there’s more ever. I was just thinking earlier about how untidy it all is. Not that I’m a particularly neat individual. You of all people know of the affection that grew in me for the invading vermin of my childhood room, but that’s neither here nor there. What I mean is that if this impending doom business turns out to be nothing more than a steaming pile of mass hysteria, we’ll all go separately.
By the way, I heard that old woman that managed to get you struck down by a moving vehicle finally made her way out of this world after a little more than a century. I don’t know whether to send condolences or congrats. The few times I saw her she smelled like death and looked like horror but I know that you were content to listen to the moaning as she looked through the window to watch for the reaper’s arrival, so sorry, I suppose. You told me you wanted to write a book about her. It’ll never happen because of the follow-through thing but I thought that was a sweet gesture to contemplate making. I wonder who is going to be responsible for her personal effects. You told me that she didn’t have much in the way of family. Do you think she lost many people before she became one of the lost? One hundred years is a long time so I’d bet quite a huge sum that there were many a memorial for her to attend.
Again, back to how messy that is. You’re there and I’m here and the first one is there but not and the second one is all the way over here. Our little family of four is so isolated now, which is a shame. It seems really unfair for one of us to leave the other three to cleaning up and tidying the loose ends. Even worse would be three of us leaving one of us behind. And what of our things? The first, second, and myself don’t really have a great deal so I suppose it wouldn’t be that much of an imposition, but you, like the old woman, have nearly a century’s worth of odds and ends that fill that fire hazardous shack of yours to the brim. By the way, I should mention that I was watching TV the other night and have concluded that you’re a hoarder so you might want to get that looked at. Anyway, none of us would be capable of keeping even half of what you acquired. Which leads me to the conclusion that we all should just go together. I’d be much more comfortable being unfair to a bunch of strangers.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy living, when not dealing with the hereditary depression (thanks for that), and would avoid any disruption of it for all of us permanently if I could. But of course there’s the world ending and your hypertension and my allergy to nuts and the first one’s future battle with type 2 diabetes and the second one’s determination to drive her husband to murder-suicide. The odds of us going when they go or them going when we go are very slim, really. Still, it would be nice to be united in this, especially since we’ve grown apart. I suppose this letter has gone above and beyond morbid, but I’m not suggesting we dig a mass grave and pass around the same cup of Kool-Aid, or green tea preferably since I’m on a health kick, in order to bond as a family. I guess college life, the end of days, and the new multivitamins I’m taking have me longing for our final hours to be less messy together than our lives have been while we’re apart, so…yeah. Anyway, take care and I’m sure you’ll outsmart those squirrels soon.
by Kim Sharp
You remember being picked up from your grandparents’ house, climbing into your father’s yellow pickup, asking where your mother was. You buckled your seatbelt and sat silent on the drive home. You remember a particular smell, like boiled hotdogs and cheap plastic.
Shock therapy and
leave for weeks on end.
After asking too many questions, you learn that her first depressive episode came shortly after you were born. Postpartum depression developed into manic depression. Your entrance into this world set forth a chain of events that led to everything you have since experienced.
Little brown bottles
sit in perfect rows in your
by Kat Seidemann
bursts of blue-grey anger
black lines of quixotic revenge plots
spatters of leftover hope
ellipses of things left unsaid
from end to end– vertigo
an impossible texture
of yellow bile, lavender bitterness
a fiery corrosion of longing
the pure white of loss
struggle to find meaning
within this Jackson Pollock
by Jasleena Grewal
As a hypersensitive Pisces, I have my crazy emotional spells from time to time. But, when I consult the astrological rules of the universe via a trusty Google search, I realize that your charming social tendencies as a Libra conflict with my need for quiet intimacy. There is no denying the accuracy of our stars when I think about how terrified I was sitting in your basement with your deadbeat bohemian friends, blazed and sexed-up out of their minds, watching deadbeat bohemian comedies that I never found funny. I wonder why we never went on a proper date. Don’t Libras romance their partners with dinner and wine? The Pisces in me became desperate. I’m sorry that my parents walked in on us that time when I secretly invited you over to watch cheesy Indian soap operas with me. I thought we were having our first real date, until they crashed it.
Maybe always missing the birdie in fifth period was cute. Maybe it was endearing how I always remained in the lowest ranked court, no matter how much I tried to improve my hand-eye coordination. Endearing, how you purposely lost your matches to hang out at the bottom. Top-court jester wooing the peasant princess. I power trip when I remember that your tiny ex-girlfriend said my hips were “so big!” during swim practice; but, once upon a time, you chose mine over hers. And you supported my wildly boring and uncool dream of becoming a botanist. Beast gifted Belle a giant library; and you would lead me to the glass doors of a giant green-house.
Rankled with indecision to send the letters I’ve written, torn-up, and twisted, I scour Yahoo Answers to find that you should never write closure letters to your ex. “Ex” defined loosely, because we were never in a relationship. Rather, you were the first boy who took a committed chance on me. You stood up for me when your friends scoffed at the shy brown girl who stumbled into your circle of progressive hipster geniuses. When my self-loathing was at its peak during embarrassing teenage years, you let me know that I wasn’t as lame as I thought I was. It was like wearing a secret, sacred amulet that empowered me to survive the school days and hallways. If people knew about us, hysteria would’ve ensued. But, we flew under social hierarchy’s radar. For a cute and popular hipster geek, you were really nice to me. Except for the time you called me Sasquatch. Size 8 is the most common shoe size that women wear, FYI.
Signed, stowed, not delivered,
by Jo-Anne Antoun
by Christina Monahan
by Denise Calvetti Michaels
1. How could I pour into four walls everything my pen wanted to say?
No house was ever big enough to write in.
I return home, cover tables with first drafts on unlined paper.
Wrens rise from birch, transformed to scrolls of chalk.
When I awake from this dream the leaves outside my studio window are falling.
2. Maybe it was near the water.
Did I say I was running away to write?
3. Some would say we failed—the walk to the clearing—pursuing the poet’s life.
That was yesterday.
When summer struck the steeple we didn’t know we were beautiful.
by Mercie Metcalf
Somewhere down south, where the sun got higher and the education funds got lower, sits a grubby little project called The Ward. The streets weren’t paved in gold, no sir, in fact, they looked greasy and the sidewalks were warped, cracked, and neglected. The trees were a sadder sight with their droopy leaves and pitifully thin trunks. Even the grass couldn’t muster up enough energy to be anything brighter than a dry brownish green.
The people in The Ward all lived in tiny boxed houses placed close together like Legos, each equipped with rusty window unit air conditioners that futilely tried to blow away the heat that was trying to melt every one away. Each little box had a screen door that snapped closed as the dwellers tried to figure out if it was hotter inside or out, and there was always dust in the air. But just because The Ward wasn’t much to look at didn’t mean that the people were unhappy. It just that The Ward was a certain type of place for a certain type of person. From the drunks that liked to preach at the corner stores to the mangy, panting dogs that sought shade underneath the parked cars to the women and children who gossiped and giggled the days away, the people weren’t too happy or too sad. They just were.
Tucked furthest to left of the least dirty street was the house that belonged to one little Miss Big, well her family anyway. Miss Big was the cutest thing in hand me down jeans, with fussy brown hair that was combed and brushed and oiled into two fuzzy puffs that looked like Mickey Mouse ears. Her legs were long and her knees were ashy, but Miss Big was the shortest tall child in The Ward. Some of the older girls who wore their skirts short and popped their gum loud, would tell her that she was too little when Miss Big would ask to play hopscotch or jump rope. And Miss Big would just dust off her knobby knees and puff out her flat chest and say, “I’m Big.” Pretty soon the whole neighborhood would hear her little proclamation and the people would shout back.
“You too big for me!”
One day Big Mama sent Miss Big out to play while she put Big Baby down for his nap. The little girl was hopping her scotch, jumping her rope, and minding her very own business when a man came skulking up to her mama’s screen door. His hair was braided and he had tattoos of women in their underthings on each arm. His pants were saggy like one of Big Baby’s diapers. He had skin the color the mud turned when the white dust of the graveled driveways started to blend in; he smelled like hot onions and sour milk. Miss Big didn’t like him not one bit.
She ran and stood in front of her door and puffed her chest out before his crusty hand with its dirty nails could touch the latch.
“Who are you and what ‘chu want?” she asked with a glare.
He looked down at her, then smiled with teeth stained with a thousand cigarettes and laughed with breath hot as a thousand of The Wards meanest suns. Miss Big was short and he was tall, tall enough to cast a shadow over the whole front door. The shade felt warmer than the sunlight.
“My name is Sincere and I’ve come to see Big Mama, little one,” he said smirking. “I’m gonna make her my queen.”
“I’m big and you ain’t no king,” she responded.
Sincere laughed again and reached into one of his drooping back pockets, the movement causing his muscle shirt to lift up over his rounded gut so that Miss Big could see his boxers. They were black with little red dancing devils, naked as the day they were born. After digging for a bit, his hand came back with a crumpled and smashed pack of cigarettes and a solid gold lighter. He lit one up.
“How you know I ain’t a king? Have you ever seen a king befo’ little one?”
The lighter glinted as he took in a great lungful.
“I’m big and there ain’t no castles ‘round here for no king to live. You. Ain’t. No. King,” said Miss Big.
The man started to look a little angry. He glared down at Miss Big as he released the smoke through his chapped lips. Miss Big glared right back, folding her skinny arms in front of her puffed out chest. Sincere must have found something funny about her sweet, but glaring face because he smirked again and brought the cancer stick back to his lips. After a few inhales, he bent down so that the two were face to face and exhaled those fumes and his funky breath right into her big brown eyes.
Miss Big didn’t even blink.
“Let’s strike a bargain, little one,” he began with a whisper. “I’ll give you three tries to prove I ain’t a king and if you do it, I’ll give you this here lighter.” Sincere held it up to her nose. It was the shiniest thing she had ever seen.
“I’m big. And what if I cain’t proof it?” she asked.
Her eyes darted from the lighter to his eyes and back. “Well if you cain’t prove it, then that means I’ma king and I’m gonna make Big Mama my queen.”
Miss Big had a dilemma on her ashy little hands. Something was telling her that, king or not, this Sincere meant her big little family no good. He was nobody’s king and she was all Big Mama and Big Baby needed. She knew telling him to go away wouldn’t work ‘cause even though she was big she wasn’t as big as him. But it seamed that Sincere was as wealthy in brains as he was in hot water, or else he’d have known the moment he laid eyes on her that she was no fool. She looked down at his worn out sneakers.
“It’s a saaad and sorry king that gotta walk everywhere he go.”
Sincere stood up abruptly and his smirk melted away like an ice cream cone on the sidewalk. He flicked the cigarette to the pavement and ground it beneath his heal. “Shit, that don’t mean nothin’. I got a hundred horses on the corner, too tired to take another step ‘cause of all this heat. I’m just lettin’em rest while I come get my queen, little one.”
Miss Big looked at the holes in his pants and the stains on his shirt.
“I’m big and I wouln’t go ‘round callin’ myself no king with clothes as nasty as yours. You get that dirty from the corner to here?”
The man looked down at his clothes. An offended expression covered his face. He rubbed at his nasty shirt and pulled up his pants a little, looking at Miss Big with eyes that seemed to turn black with hate and anger.
“That don’t mean shit, either little one. You keep talkin’ ‘bout how I look but that don’t mean SHIT!”
Sincere dropped down again, except this time his movements were jerky and he was a little closer than he was before. So close they were breathing the same breath and Miss Big wanted to upchuck. He held up his gold lighter once again and shook it in front of her eyes as he spoke.
“You so smart, you explain this. This here lighter, belongs to a king and that gold is as real as you and me.” He tapped the metal with his index finger and let yet another smile spread across his face, but this time it was triumphant…and a little feral. “Tell me how I got a lighter fit to belong to a king if a king I ain’t, little one?”
The little girl pursed her lips, and appeared to be thinking deep on Sincere’s words. There was no doubt that any king would be proud to own a lighter as fine as the one the man held in his grubby hands. Sincere smiled wider at the girl’s silence.
“That lighter sure is pretty,” she stated and tapped it with her little pointer finger just as he had, “and there prolly ain’t one finer. That lighter belongs to a king.”
Sincere’s yellow teeth parted as he began to laugh, rising to reach for the door’s latch.
“But…you ain’t no king and I’m big.”
Miss Big watched Sincere’s face go slack before it morphed into an ugly(er) mask of rage. He seemed to grow bigger and his shadow became blacker. His milky, muddy skin suddenly had a red glow and even the house began to sweat as the heat took a sharp climb up. Sincere took a great big breath, as if to let out the loudest roar he could, and his lips pulled back– turning his smile into a vicious, yellow snarl. His fist wrapped around the lighter, rose into air, blocking out The Ward’s sun like an eclipse.
She watched the wannabe king’s body tremble and his knuckles whiten. She watched him take breathe in and out like a wounded dragon. She watched him watch her and she didn’t blink. And just as quickly as his anger swelled him into the monster before her, Sincere deflated like an untied balloon. His fist opened and the lighter fell to the ground.
“All right, all right.” He was nodded his head and held his palms up in surrender. Then backed up slowly. “You too big for me,” he said and turned around to walk back down the road that brought him.
“I told you I was big.”
“Yeah, well get yo’ big behind inside and wash up for lunch,” said the voice of Big Mama behind her. Miss Big spun around as her mother finished tucking something into her apron.
by Harrison Pierce
In a simpler time Alex, Shawn, and Trevor would fish. It was something the three boys thoroughly enjoyed and it was something they all held skill in. Trevor was the oldest of the three and wisest at the sport, yet never seemed to out fish the younger two.
They were neighbors in a small town in Arizona you could hardly find on a map. In fact, their town was so close-knit it seemed as though everyone knew of any event within it. As such the boys, Alex and Shawn, were shocked to learn that Trevor enlisted in the army.
Two and a half years later Trevor was home and his two best friends drove from their high school to congratulate him on his return.
Shawn drove. He always drove. And Shawn always drove his cherry ’87 Mustang. He bought it after working all summer once Trevor left. Shawn worked all summer, six days a week, seven hours a day, bagging groceries. He knew what car he would buy and who he’d buy it from since the day he took the job. Shawn had to work into late September to fully reach the desired price of the owner, but he managed to accumulate the funds, paid for the car outright, and drove it home three days before October.
He quit his job the following day.
Alex never drove. Shawn wasn’t even sure if Alex had his license or even if he knew how to drive, though Shawn never gave him much of an opportunity to drive anywhere. He always assumed he would drive and that was always how it was, ever since that third day from October two years ago.
“Damn it’s hot out,” Shawn stated. He glanced over at Alex who simply nodded in agreement. Shawn was never one for conversations, or at the very least he was never sure how to start them. “How long do you think he’s going to stay for?”
Alex shrugged, “Six months, maybe nine if he’s lucky.”
“What did he do again? Disarm bombs?”
“He was an interpreter,” Alex corrected him.
Their drives were never too talkative and as such Shawn always kept the radio on, even if ads ran. He could never stand that sort of silence; it set him off guard and made it impossible for him to anticipate whatever news his friend might bring. It reminded him of the night Alex told him Trevor had enlisted. He was quiet then as well; not simply as if he had nothing to say, but more so that some urgent matter held the forefront of his mind.
The same matter was why Trevor was never the best fisherman of the three young men. His mind would wander and dwell on matters at home, with some girl he dated, or of his studies. Shawn was the best because he knew what he wanted and strove to gain it.
No one else seemed to be out on the roads even though it was three in the afternoon. The absence of others bothered Shawn as well, as it only reminded him of how desolate it was there. He wanted nothing more than to leave his home town and Arizona in the dust as soon as he graduated.
The air conditioner in his ’87 Mustang was never enough to keep them cool and as such the windows were rolled down and a warm breeze washed over them.
“Are you worried about exams?”
“No,” Alex murmured.
“I am,” he lied. “The advanced chemistry final’s going to rob me of sleep.”
Both boys knew it wasn’t true.
The cherry ’87 Mustang slowed to a stop at a four way intersection and waited for the light. No one else waited and at the same instant no one passed by. They simply sat at the edge of the water and waited for the signal to reel in.
“Do you think he’ll have souvenirs for us?” Shawn joked.
“That isn’t funny.”
“Sure it is.”
“He’s probably just glad to be home.”
“Who wouldn’t be?”
They waited for the sign, yet it remained elusive.
“Do you think he’ll stay?”
“Not now, but after his next tour.”
“I don’t know,” Alex sighed, “It all depends on how long the war continues.”
Shawn hadn’t taken the war into consideration. He couldn’t recall what spurred it in the first place, though he vaguely remembered September eleventh as he was hardly nine years old when it happened. From there it seemed as though they’d always been at war. And no matter what Shawn read in the papers or heard he never believed it would end. It’d raged on for nearly a decade and all Shawn saw in it was a lost cause.
It was as if they tried to reel in leviathan and refused to cut the line.
“It’s useless isn’t it?”
“How can you say that?” Alex snapped.
“Well it is isn’t it? We’ve been there for so long yet nothing’s changed.”
“We’re capturing terrorists.”
“But what does that do for us?” He looked at Alex, “We catch one and ten others surface afterward. It doesn’t end.”
Alex frowned and said he was going to enlist.
The light changed yet nothing moved. Shawn couldn’t look away from his friend. “What are you talking about?”
“In July,” he stated, “I’m joining the military.”
“Why? What would you gain from it?”
“I want to help.”
Alex stopped. He watched as the streetlight turned and turned again. It remained on that pale red for what could have been forever before he confessed, “You know I’ve written Trevor since he left, right?”
“Well I have.” He looked cross at Shawn and asked, “Why didn’t you?”
He looked ahead, “He wouldn’t have cared.”
“He would have.”
“Oh don’t tell me that,” Shawn spat. “What good could it have done anyway?”
“Well what are you going to say once we’ve arrived?”
Shawn failed to answer. The light turned green and he drove once more.
He felt as if he’d lost another friend. Alex sat not two feet away from him yet already seemed beyond the ocean. Shawn remembered when he saw Trevor off, how he looked, what he said and failed to say, and that as Trevor left he believed he’d lost his friend for good.
He’d read all about a soldier who died because of friendly fire and how all it took was one misstep or one small twitch of the wrist and the soldier was gone. It’d happened before and it would happen again too; it wouldn’t end.
“Are you mad?”
“Why the hell would I be?”
“Because you think I’m throwing my life away.”
“You are aren’t you?”
“Damn it Shawn, not everyone knows what they’re going to do in life,” Alex told him. “They need help so I’m answering the call. What are you doing?”
Shawn looked right on ahead and muttered, “I’m living as long as I can. Going there’s nothing beyond suicide at this point.”
“Oh grow up Shawn.”
He remembered the last fishing trip they took together. The three of them drove out to the coast of California and fished off docks for a week. They fished, met girls, ate hearty American food, and camped under the stars.
That was two years ago.
“You could enlist too.”
“Oh shut up Alex.”
“You don’t want to fight for your–”
“I don’t want to fight a losing battle,” he barked. “I’m not as senseless as you two.”
Alex glared at him and asked, “Remember that last trip we took? Out to the coast? Who dug that hook out of your leg after you fell on it?”
“What about when your car died on the trip home? Who walked the three miles to get gasoline and water for your car?”
“And how about that fight you got yourself into outside of that restaurant in Nevada? Who stepped up and pummeled those jerks?”
“How the hell can you say he’s senseless?” Alex then admitted, “I’m joining because I want to be as strong, courageous, and kind as he is.”
Alex was already gone and both of them knew it. Shawn knew that whoever they’d meet at Trevor’s house wouldn’t be the friend they saw off, it wouldn’t be their old fishing pal. And as soon as Alex left it’d be the death of one more good soul. Shawn knew what the war did to people. His grandfather served in Vietnam and from what he’d learned from his father the war changed him. It broke his grandfather. It would break them all in one way of another, Shawn knew it.
“I’m not joining,” he mumbled.
“I never said you had to.”
“Well I’m not,” Shawn told him.
“Are you afraid?”
“I think you are.”
“I’m not a coward,” Shawn snapped, “I only know that if I left I wouldn’t return.”
“You’re not going to die Shawn,” Alex said as he rolled his eyes.
He shook his head, “Part of me would.”
Shawn slowly approached Trevor’s home and rolled to a stop outside. He set his Mustang in park and looked at the white house with the well watered green lawn. He remembered playing with water guns when they were all kids with some of the other neighborhood children. Their team was always the strongest, the fastest, the most tactful, and almost always won.
He didn’t feel that way anymore.
Alex unbuckled and started out of the car before he looked back and noticed that Shawn hadn’t killed the engine. “Aren’t you coming in?”
Shawn remembered the last thing he said to Trevor before he left. He said he’d look forward to his return. Now Trevor was right there, but Shawn didn’t believe it.
He shook his head, put his car in drive and said, “I’ll see you around.”
“Wait, Shawn, come on.”
“No,” he barked as his eyes shot to Alex, “You’re leaving and I don’t want to be the one who waits to hear about that final bullet.” He grit his teeth and shook his head. “I’m sorry. Just tell Trevor I’m happy he’s back and that I’ll see him some other time.”
Alex shut the car door and Shawn sped away.
Shawn and Alex would graduate together and would see Trevor once more. Beyond that moment Shawn would leave west while Alex and Trevor would end up leaving around the same time in mid November. At that point Shawn would have found a job in California as a janitor at a high school while he worked his way through college.
The three boys would never talk again.
by Olivia Yin
by Hilary Warren
by Spencer Reed
peter, more man than a boy
watches darling walk away
recalls how she looks in flight
looks up to the sky
darling is five days away
rain drumming on the roof
peter recalls how they built this house
their second one together
rain clouds, grim companions
peter, lost in the library
the second one since she left
dreams of tiny wings
peter, lost once more
chasing murky memories
of glitter and paper Mache
wishes he could go home
chasing half remembered faces
peter thinks of darling and his life before
he forgot the voices of home
and the one who rescued him
peter thinks of tiny wings
dreams of glitter and pirate ships
forgets darlings voice, their home
dreams of one who will save him
looking up at the sky
peter, counts the stars
slips out of his shoes
begins the journey home
by John Mulinski
A bet is placed upon my worthless head
To test the strength of God and Man
For on my mortal life I swear
To face the lord in deadly dare
But fueled by blood and dependent on breath
My life was owned by Him, and with it, my death!
Upon hells fire a plan’s conspired
To surpass my feeble mortal power.
Flesh and bone now cast in steel
The immortal man has been made real
Fueled inside from ungodly hate
In despise of human fate
The immortal thing approached the gates
To God I address, “step forward my Lord,
I’ve been courteous enough to meet at your door.”
And as the clouds parted from a thunderous storm
Arose the First in most perfect form.
Mightier than any clergyman’s notion
The universe distorted with each motion.
I raised my finger to meet his eyes
To call to him his planned demise.
And to my declare God only laughed.
“Do you deem yourself a god in match?”
“A god?” I chortled. “I’d say not as such.”
“But rather relieved of God’s deadly crutch.
Sacrificed the mortal for Almighty Machine
So in my own strength resides my belief.
Go! Take to arms your infinite power.
Told forever shall be the tale of the man that made God cower.”
Each pair of eyes drilled into other’s
Resembling rivalry of two brothers.
The shadows of God matched by man,
Danced across the sky and land.
The seas grew fierce, they roared and cheered.
For Lord Poseidon’s win drew near.
Immortal man so drunk on pride,
Made a slip off heaven’s side.
And pulled on down by his own girth,
Into the ocean fell all his worth.
His limbs seized up eyes frozen shut,
The twisted wreck his rusted gut.
The immortal man was still alive
Imprisoned in his metal prize
Forever trapped where dreamer’s trod.
Within himself his self a God.
by Cate Foster
by Jessica Hoffart
She wanders – wanders through hallways – wanders through rooms – checks door handles – looks through windows – through hallways – hallways to more hallways – that lead to other rooms – that lead to different houses – she wanders – down stairways – down spiral stairs – down – down – down – the stairs lead down – to a kitchen – to a living room – to a door – leads to a door – leads to a door that opens up – leads down stair – down a staircase – down a dark staircase – the darkness opens up – opens to nothing – opens then closes – closes in and closes – then nothing – it all falls away into warmth – into pillows – into a bed – falls into wakefulness
She wanders – wanders though hallways- wanders through rooms – wanders through kitchens – wanders through living rooms – wanders through bedrooms – over and over again the wandering – staircases and old furniture – wanders and searches – searches for something – searches for something she doesn’t understand – she wanders – down stairways – down spiral stairs- down – down – down – the stairs lead down – to a kitchen – to a living room – to a door – leads to a door – leads to a door that opens up – leads down stair – down a staircase – down a dark staircase – the darkness opens up – opens to nothing – opens then closes – closes in and closes – then nothing – it all falls away into warmth – into pillows – into a bed – falls into wakefulness
She wanders through a hallway- the hallway turns into a stairway- the stairway lead down- down leads the stairway to another hallway- leads to another room- to another house- the hallway leads to a different house somewhere miles away- she looks for something- looks for anything that will lead somewhere – she wanders down stairways- she wanders down- down – down – leads to a door- to a living room – into a bed room- she waits- looks in the closets – stands there and waits- waits to find something – she is not scared as she wanders – she is scared as she walks through another doorway- she is not afraid- is she afraid – is it okay that she is scared as she wanders the houses – is it okay that she is scared as she wanders the hallways – the hallways that lead to doorways – doorways that lead down to stairways- is it okay- is it okay that she is afraid as it all falls away into warmth – into pillows – into a bed –she is afraid as it falls into wakefulness
In wakefulness she wanders – not through hallways- not through doorways- in wakefulness she does not wander through darkness – she does not wander through doorways that lead to stairways – in wakefulness she is not scared as she wanders- in wakefulness she waits- she waits and wanders – she waits and wanders through the day – wanders through time and light – while she is awake she wanders and wonders – she wonders what and why she wanders in the darkness at night- she wanders and wonders what is beyond that next door- while she is awake all she thinks about is being asleep – she thinks about sleep and wonders what she could find- In wakefulness she wanders – not through hallways- not through doorways- in wakefulness she does not wander through darkness – she does not wander through doorways that lead to stairways – in wakefulness she is not scared as she wanders- in wakefulness she waits- she waits and wanders – she wanders – down stairways – down spiral stairs- down – down – down – the stairs lead down – to a kitchen – to a living room – to a door – leads to a door – leads to a door that opens up – leads down stair – down a staircase – down a dark staircase – the darkness opens up – opens to nothing – opens then closes – closes in and closes – then nothing – it all falls away into warmth – into pillows – into a bed – falls into wakefulness
In her sleep she dreams- dreams of walking hallways –walking hallways and looking for something – looking for something she is not sure of- something lost but not forgotten – in her sleep her dreams wake her to something deeper- she wanders – wanders hallways- wanders through hallways that lead to stairways – the stairways are long and intricate – the hallways she wanders always lead her to stairs- the stairs she always finds lead her down- down – down – the stairs she always climbs down lead to a darkness- and at that end- there is an end- sometimes there can be an end- the stairway is long and intricate that leads down down down the hallways she wanders- and in this end – in the end there is a door- the end leads to a door – a door that is closed – she sees someone- down the hallways she wanders she sees someone at the end- someone at that end looks small- down at the end of the hallway is a small someone looking through a peephole- at the door closed in the end she is the peephole- around the door at the dark end of the hallway is a small somewhat looking through her- darkness surrounding the doorway only light streams through the peephole at the end of the hallway- at the end of the hallway- she is the small someone- she is the peephole- she is the light
by Harmony Gonty