By: Elisa Sturkie
Linda felt a bead of sweat roll down her face as she watched her husband pull the trigger. She saw him tense, bracing through the kickback, and watched in ear-plugged silence as the hunter-orange skeet shattered against the sky, fragments sailing ever away from each other, suspended in the blue. A second later she heard the dim crack of the gunshot. She sipped on her spiked pink lemonade, wishing for a moment that she could pour the cool liquid over her neck. Lord knows that heat in the South Carolina summer was no joke. Her clothes were stuck to her body with sweat, and she felt the ground beneath her feet baking, like clay in a kiln.
Linda’s eyes flicked out toward the marsh in the distance. Some water fowl circled about the edge, dots of white motion against the brown reeds. They squawked over and over again, calling to each other, and she marveled at how strange they looked opening their mouths without the sound. She liked watching the world go by in silence.
A tap at her elbow made her jump. Her fingers scrabbled by her ears, pulling out the plugs. The world flooded back in—now in synchronized sound and technicolor—and, just for a moment, she felt sick with it.
“Linda, babe, I’ve been hollering at you for five minutes. You got those things in too tight,” her husband said. He gestured at the cooler by her side. “Pass me a beer.”
“Rob, why’d we come out here today? It’s boiling,” she said, gingerly picking a can out from the ice. The sun was a physical presence, an uninvited guest on their country-shooting date.
“I thought you wanted to see why I spend so much time out here. Thought that was what you said in therapy,” Rob answered.
“Yeah, but it’s an oven out here,” she said. “Besides, you’ve only hit one so far. This isn’t what you do every day.”
Rob brushed an anxious hand through his hair. “I told you, I’m growing cotton on George’s back field.”
“Well, where’s the cotton then? All we’ve done is shoot clays.”
“Oh, you don’t want to see that, it’s just some bushes. And I know you don’t like the outdoors too much, and I just thought maybe this would be—well, nice. For us.”
Linda suddenly felt that the heat was unbearable. She fished some ice out of the cooler and held it to her forehead. Rob shifted next to her, fiddling with the safety on the gun. She knew he was playing through strategies and had settled on his favorite—waiting her out.
“He never even shot a shotgun, never got the chance,” she said finally, once the ice had melted into nothingness against her forehead. The words held no meaning, but she said them anyway.
“Most seven-year-olds haven’t gone shooting,” Rob answered gruffly.
They stared out at the marsh. Linda was forcibly reminded of the birds, circling and circling, opening their mouths but never emitting a sound.
“Let’s check out the cotton,” she said, reaching through the ice again, this time for her own beer.
They packed themselves back up into the car and drove down a twisting dirt path. Linda fiddled with the AC, but the slow stream of air coming from the vent did nothing to counter the weight of the heat around her. Cotton farming,she thought, is ridiculous. There is no way he can turn a profit on it, no matter how often he comes out here to tend it.
But she glanced at Rob’s lined face, his hair, now with a touch more grey at the temples, and kept quiet.
“Here it is,” he said, gesturing out the driver’s side window. A small plot opened up between the sprawling oaks, not much bigger than their SUV. Linda blinked, taking in the scraggly bushes lining each tilled row.
“Oh,” she said, looking out the window.
“Yeah,” Rob said, clearing his throat. “It’s not too many, right now, at least, but we’re really just trying to get the pH figured out. Before, y’know, we plant any more or anything.”
“Uh-huh,” Linda said. She opened the car door, stepping out into the hot sun once more. Rob spent at least two hours every day at George’s plantation.
“And this is the only thing you’re doing out here?” She had never asked what he did, was never curious, but now she found herself wondering.
“Yeah, I mean, pretty much. Sometimes I help out with some of George’s other projects, y’know, this and that.”
“Mhm, right,” she said.
Tending twenty cotton plants does not take two hours every day.
“Why didn’t you want to show me these at first?” she asked. She pulled a stem off one of the plants, crushing her fingers through the coarse cotton until she found the seeds inside.
“I just didn’t think you’d be interested,” He answered, a hand rubbing the back of his neck. Linda looked at her husband, and then down at the mess in her palm. Three little cotton seeds sat at the center of the white fluff, exposed.
“I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” she said.
“Well, the nearest one is George’s house,” Rob replied, “But that’s—”
“Good, I haven’t seen George since the wedding,” Linda spoke over him. “It will be nice to see him again.”
“Um, sure, okay,” Rob said.
In the car, Linda asked if George had remarried. Or had any girlfriends.
“And, what’s his daughter now, 27? Where is she living? I’d hate for him to be out here all alone all the time,” she said, picking at the the seeds in her palm. One of them was shriveled and black, but the other two looked a healthy light brown. She pushed them around, trying to get them to align.
“Heather passed away earlier this year. Killed herself,” Rob said, as he pulled up in front of the old plantation home.
“Oh, that’s terrible. I’m so sorry for George,” Linda said, her voice brimming with concern she didn’t feel.
“Don’t say that to him,” Rob said. “You always hate it when people say that to us. Don’t do that to him.”
Linda’s eyes met Rob’s for the first time in months. She nodded.
Inside, she said hello to George, who looked much older and sadder than she remembered. Although, she guessed, she and Rob must look older and sadder to George too.
“Bathroom’s back that way,” George said kindly, pointing her down the hall. She didn’t actually have to use the bathroom, but she washed her hands anyway, savoring the cold water on her palms. George’s hundred-year-old house, it seemed, didn’t have AC, and Linda wondered idly if she’d ever be cool again.
Just then, something caught her eye. A Spiderman toothbrush sat on top of the sink, its little child-sized bristles almost too painful to look at.
“Michael, are you sure you want the Spiderman one? What about this one, it’s got more bristles, see, for big kids.” “No, daddy, I want Spiderman.”
Linda felt the pit of her stomach drop.
Outside she heard a high laugh, bell-clear and bright. She closed her eyes, then turned to the window.
A little girl was running toward the house, a small pack of dogs at her heels. Linda heard the screen door slam. She pressed her ear to the door, her heart in her throat. She felt like she might choke on it, throbbing so thick and close to her airway. Her eyes felt hot and sharp.
“Uncle Rob! Uncle Rob, guess what I caught today.”
“Oof, hey there kiddo. What’d ya catch, huh?”
“Hey Mikey, kiddo, wanna play catch?” Rob said, lifting Michael up by his armpits. “I’ve even got a Spiderman baseball just for you.”
“Uncle Rob! Put me down! Why do you always pick me up like that? It’s a frog, and it’s even got slime on it. It’s so cool.”
“A frog! No way.”
Linda dug the cotton seeds out of her pocket. Hands shaking, she tried to make them fit, but they wouldn’t line up no matter how she arranged them.
“Didya have fun at school today?”
“Have fun at school, Mikey?” “…Daddy, I feel sick.” “Micheael? Michael, sweetie, breathe for me.”
Linda felt a hot tear track down her face as she listened to her husband replace their child. She felt tense, bracing against the sink, and watched, wishing only for silence, as the cotton seeds swirled down the drain.
By: Jordan DeLawder
The swallow gathers golden tinsel
to build her babies a palace.
My friends and I have been driving for weeks,
going nowhere in particular.
Sucking in ungodly amounts of air.
We blow past rust towns in search of prettier things
(hanging laundry, tire swings).
One day, I will have children to wake me at first light.
We will pick dandelions
and admire their yellow.
we pass a billboard with strange cadence:
NOT EVERYONE DOING IT
VIRGIN UNTIL MARRIAGE IS GOD’S WILL.
To me, family is a capsule.
A semi-permeable object.
How strange it seems when contrasted
with the solidity of asphalt
or the rigidity of capital letters.
I say farewell to this land, for now.
I am enough for myself, for now.
With the birdsong in my heart,
I string together dreams, like tin cans.
Attach them to the bumper
and clink-clink-clink all the way home.
By: Sonya Bhatia
With unholy screams
conformity still whispers
into your eardrums
A stroke of a brush
pearly whites, glistening pinks
bury ashes of shame
Golden, boastful glimmer
the tangible in your palms
but your nerves are numb
a hollow drumbeat
that gnaws on your skin
By: Nasrin Lin
hortusand cultūramake horticulture,
literally, garden cultivation, that is, a branch of agriculture,
art and science in one, meant
to be appreciated as one.
poems about hortus, or garden,
are as abundant as snowflakes
coating a sea of pines and spruces.
take William Blake
who went to the chapel
where he used to play
on the green by the Garden of Love;
an ocean away,
a haiku was composed
for a Zen garden perfectly manicured
at mathematical precision.
where are the poems
about cultūra? first thing
that comes to mind
about horticulture is not cultivation but
wordplay. the witty Dorothy Parker once said,
“You can lead a horticulture,
but you can’t make her think.”
there is even humor
in horticulture but
where is the cultūra?
but the garden is nothing without cultūra.
take Monet’s beloved Giverny,
a garden, a home,
an iconic impressionist milieu,
the Japanese bridge, the water lilies,
the wisterias and azaleas
designed for the eye
designed for the mind
designed for the paintbrush
like a flora and fauna symphony,
and voilà––The Waterlily Pond, Green Harmony.
still––why is it that
the end product
is spotlighted more
than the process? or so it seems. you see,
hortus cultūrais an orchestra
and the symphony needs its intermezzo
as well as its finale.
By: Liam Knox
Urge them to their demiurge,
canyon-bellow those bellied yellow,
accept naught but an echo
Crush Whitman’s spider underfoot
still noiseless? still patient?
Nah, never that, I’m off the hook,
what’s over there? ha, made you look
just some bombed Potemkin villages
didn’t stop to pillage, nothing worth
I got damned, gotdamn did I
get zoned, get high, get low
crest to trough, like McEnroe,
uncouth red-eyed but shy hiding
under capsized boat, don’t mind me
I’m just drowning. But you can float, so
tether me to your nether regions
paddle to the beach, we don’t need
a reason to save ourselves for a day or two.
The heat from our love turns the sand
to glass but you can’t feel glass
between your toes.
So I form more grains from ink and dread
and sprint through them, howled gibberish
coursing through the divots.
Now I’m trembling,
coiled in a seething machine,
wondering how it can be less than real when
I can feel it,
cold and roiling,
crying softly with me.
By: Joseph Caplan
Here’s to Mr. Brightside,
and here’s to Wagon Wheel
here’s to the Remix of Ignition
and here’s to Hey Ya!
Vibrant melodies became bland repetitions.
Nostalgic surprises turned to boring expectations.
But I’ve had enough. Alright? Alright? Alright? Alright? Alright? Alright? Alright?
Songs from our past get ruined when blasted in damp basements.
At first it’s a novelty. “Coming out of my cage, and I’ve been doing just fine,” we chant together whiffing scents of $14 vodka
But the very next night, we find ourselves drunkenly repeating the same mantra, “Gotta, gotta be down, because I want it all”
Party after party and basement after basement we mindlessly, robotically output “It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?”
How did it end up like this?
How did it end up like this!
A time I used to know The Killers inspired memories of youth. Shyly asking Carson to be my 6th grade girlfriend. Road trips for soccer tournaments and Latin competitions. Getting my older brothers grounded for making fun of my Runescape account. Mr. Brightside was by my side through middle and high school, but now he’s something new.
Now, Mr. Brightside breeds smells. Musty scents of mildew. Breaths of the first stages of alcoholism. Sweaty, sour odors of college mating calls.
The lyrics remain the same, and the chords never change, but damn you Tufts you’ve made Mr. Brightside lame.
I just can’t look.
It’s killing me.
Foreword on Love and Its Ontology
By: Ben Papp
Based on the evidence of preliminary research, I must report
That my love for you is constructed of reasons.
An intricate network of reasons, each following,
Passionately and unanimously,
From a great deal of observations and due process.
My love for you is an effect, borne of a cause.
A cause which itself was an effect of another cause.
Thanks to banal regression, the present circumstances are essentially arbitrary.
Please find solace that it could not, at any point, have occurred another way.
The ways in which I can observe you are inherently limited.
I will always to have the potential to learn more about you,
As you are inherently more informationally nuanced than my working model could ever be.
It follows from this that new observations could threaten to challenge the model.
This is as it should be.
Good theories are not ones which cannot be proven wrong.
Good theories could at any point be proven wrong, yet consistently are not.
If you’d prefer a hypothesis which was ultimately self-evident, I apologize.
I am not presently interested in integrating such metaphysics into my line of thinking.
Prior firsthand evidence, albeit anecdotal, has motivated my research to other areas.
That being said, should you find yourself presenting such a hypothesis,
You would most certainly find me in attendance.
If this abstract worries you about the falsifiability of my affection, rest.
Only fools claim a thoroughly rational rationale,
But I’ve been presented with a great deal of evidence,
And needless to say, you’ve made a very strong case.
It is this author’s opinion
That this field is an excellent candidate
For further research.
By: Ella Brady
All the horns go
And we both swell,
You turn to me and I see your eyes have
Filtered me into a retro tv screen
Here I am recorded and imprinted
Here the music becomes a lustful poisonous gas
Look how we have ruined
Morning After Structure
By: Jordan DeLawder
At 2 a.m. it is difficult to transcend the past
To cleanse my acid-wash view of things
Thank god, he left a light on for me
to sleep soundly, hugging my tiny frame.
We had our nights separate
Since the neighbors built a third story,
morning light no longer pours into my bedroom
like milk diffusing into black coffee.
I dream heavier, rise later, cling to what I know…
You slept somewhere else last night You are happy with her
I hold that hurt in my left hand I hold that joy in my right hand
A good friend is ambidextrous
An easy soul is always decathecting
There is tension in my body from holding two opposing truths
Emmett asks me, Where is the center of it?
The center of the structure.
Here’s what I see:
Two friends dunking their heads into a bathtub. Bodies not touching,
but faces sharing space in displaced liquid.
The same aquatic laughter
bubbling up to the surface.
There is no structure after submergence.
No one calls it an eating disorder if you’re fat
By: Hayley Long
Some days I try to tuck my fingers under my ribcage
And get a literal grip on myself
When that fails because there is too much muscle, skin, and fat
Fat fat fat
In the way
I resume my diet of stale-flavored spit and crisp air
But some days, I eat everything
The food in front of me, you, and him
I feast upon the meats and sweets that find themselves in my path
And then later, when I’m Atlas carrying the world on my shoulders
And I cannot take it any longer
I take to my knees in front of a porcelain throne
Where I am the queen
And also the jester
Laughing as I cry before spilling my guts out to the only thing that truly hears my troubles
Sometimes the cycle doesn’t repeat
Sometimes I eat normally and I feel okay and I don’t have to purge my troubles
Have my depression manifest itself into something real, something disgusting that I’ll have to flush down later
And make sure no one hears me creating
I must be purified from the inside out
Sometimes I feel okay
And then sometimes I look in the mirror too long
My eyes drawn to the muffin top made of muffins that I ate after I was told my mom had died
Suddenly sometime between 3am and 4am on Monday, July 31stwith no warning
I see the cellulite painted upon my thighs as if my five-year-old niece took watercolors of pale and lighter pale to my skin to practice her art
And the stretch marks around my arms that look like creases in my boyfriend’s pants, extra dark because I don’t really know how to iron and I may have definitely burnt the material
My skin is a roadmap of failed diets and overeating because it’s okay to eat when you’re sad right?
But what about when you’re always sad?
Some days I find love in the paths and curves of my map
But some days I wish I could erase it all and start over with a blank slate
A small slate
A small blank canvas of beauty
Because all things beautiful are small, right?
Until I get a grip on myself
And my life
And my fucking canvas
My knees will continue to ache as I lean over and divulge myself of everything in the only way that I don’t feel judged
And maybe one day
I’ll have cleansed myself enough, be purified enough
To actually be clean
By: Allie Morgenstern
Flesh of cream
freckled with gray scars and bruises
A forehead, trenched with worry
A peel that can easily be torn
by a dirt-caked nail of a strong hand.
A hand that once held her in its flattened palm
and gently revealed a hidden layer
bubbling with rivers of sweetness.
But the streams are run dry
by a hand that drains the zest
squeezes out every last drop of vitality.
An uncomfortable stuffiness settles over the crumpled rind
Like musty boxes of stuffed animals stowed in the attic
like thick almanacs forgotten in the corner of the library
like the only kid without a construction paper valentine
she wallows in solitude,
overcome by bitterness as she withers away.
Pantoum: My Mother
By: Ella Brady
Time was tight when we were young
my mother the meditator
told me to slow down and find the peace
so every sunday we lived in the silence
my mother the meditator
also my mother the meteor
so every sunday we lived in the silence
following the crash landing of yesterday
Also my mother the meteor
plummets through the wreckage of “Hurricane Ella”
following the crash landing of yesterday
she becomes my mother the martyr
time was tight when we were young
plummeting through the wreckage of hurricane ella
my mother the martyr
told me to slow down and find the peace
By: Hannah Kahn
You make the times we’re not together
Feel like they don’t count,
Like the months between sleepaway camp,
Like I never even left.
Like the autumn nights I slept in other boy’s’ beds
And held their dry winter hands
And broke their callow spring hearts
Were transient apparitions,
A ghost story we almost believed.
How foolish to think I strode a new road,
When I was just a bit lost
On my way back to you.
Missing you was like driving past camp in shrill December,
Sort of shocked it still exists when I’m not enveloped in it;
It looks so different in the snow.
And I don’t long for it just yet,
Because I see it for what it is,
Graying grass and lonesome bunks,
A placeholder for my young summers,
Not a home.
But coming back to you
Is riding the bus to sleepaway camp in June.
And I’m a little older but not enough that it worries me,
A little older like color war captains and extended curfews,
Like sneaking out to meet you on the baseball field,
Culpable only to the stars.
Like nothing really matters
Not here, not yet.
I tie bows with the knots in my stomach,
Giftwrapped meticulously for you just to tear them open,
Knowing Adirondack summers are hot and short,
Knowing lakeside love notes fade fast.
But coming back anyway
Always coming back, anyway
Just to sit beside your campfire swelling like a song
And to wear sweatpants
And to warm my hands
And to feel like I belong.
* * *
I left this poem unfinished all summer,
Just like I leave everything with you.
So I come back to you,
Like riding a bus to sleepaway camp in June,
Backseat of your car, crawling over the seats, back to you
Back of your neck where it meets your hair, as soft as I remember, back to you,
Back to the boy who knows me best.
But every time I come back to you
I remember why I shouldn’t:
that distinct loneliness you only feel
When you’re not supposed to,
When you’re not really alone
When he’s there, but he’s not.
It swallows me whole
Every time you drop me off,
Even when you kiss me goodbye
(Especially when you kiss me goodbye).
At camp, I learned the craft of being alone.
I painted a folding chair chalky pink
And it dried on our porch,
where it stayed and stained.
When I was in it,
I was a fortress with a force field with a moat filled with poison,
Beware of pink chair,
Stay back. Far.
I practiced shutting others out,
And I got goddamn good too—
Of course I did,
I learned from you.
I finally aged out of camp,
Heaving sobs as the hills rolled out of sight,
But now that I’ve left, I could never go back.
I simply don’t count down to you anymore.
I live in whole years, not jagged summers.
In museums and grocery stores and bars,
Not bunks built from sweaty back seats.
I live in the real world with real men with real jobs,
Who don’t psychoanalyze my bad days
Or present compromise like a powerpoint,
Who don’t lawyer themselves out of love,
And negotiate their way back every time.
I live in shifting seasons,
Drinking in the browning smell of leaves
And the scent of snow before the first flake even falls.
I live in bunk notes on your bed,
Letters from cities you’ll never visit.
You’ll read them twice and save the envelopes.
I won’t reply.
I live in moments spent alone,
Pink chair moments, just like this,
And I crave them like I once craved you.
You make the times we’re not together
Feel like they don’t count.
Now I know that I want them to.
read this Or fall in love
By: Claire Freeman
Or he probably has bad morning
and ketchup stains on
too many shirts
Or I bet he forgets
to brush his teeth some nights and
Maybe goes two days without
He probably eats too many calzones, anyway
I’m sure the pizza fat clogs
veins and contaminates pheromones
Or some shit and
that is not
Boyfriend material, you know.
By: Ethan Resek
I think about statues, how faded is as faded ever was,
and how really, I don’t want this old beast crawling forth,
this forgotten tumble blowing in through time. I
want to be swaddled on the couch
with something akin to puerility
or triumph that surrounds my whole,
usually right? I occasionally
look to the stream of starburst placed in front of me.
Or just the window of cobalt black.
I forget my grandfather’s real name.
I’ll probably want to forget everything soon,
reality or not. I remember that
there was a building on my block at
home. Moss and lichen covered it,
the many-headed rattlesnake
holding on like it’s a child,
shrinking it into, I
I am in an organic
yet humane slide down the play-
ground wee, wee it never stops,
spinning and spinning to that,
who-knows, person somewhat like
skylines abound, hearts pulsing;
I look forward to being
a child, running amok
through the map of time and
to the yellow flowers
By: Fiona Sharp
I pluck a bee’s feast
yellow is his favorite
those ones with the tiny blossoms on top
but only knows the Turkish name
I don’t bother to look up the English
I want to keep my backyard foreign
it’s nicer that way
they look like tiny yellow vaginas
he tells me I have a dirty mind
but he sees it too
baba always tore them out
they were just weeds
I only picked the stems
the roots still buried
so they can grow back
weeds have a way like that
he wakes up crying
dreamed that baba tore him out
like his weeds
the yellow flowers are in a glass
beside the bed
When did you know?
By: Liam Knox
In the night she woke softly
to a sound like someone
trying not to make a sound,
louder than dropped shatterglass,
intent below unsuspecting night,
and saw him through flitting lids
folding the clothes they had
left for the morning.
He must have been tortured,
but he wanted not to seem finicky
or nervous un-cool in post-coital slumber
of cigarette-sharing cricket air,
so waited till she slept
and his back was clean and strong
his breathing even
and he sighed when he was done
contentedly so she shut
her eyes to let him lay back, unknowing
how deep her love grew
as he tried not to wake her,
un-beckoned moonlight in his hair,
clothes folded on the dresser.
Poema de Love
I don’t believe in a lengua común.
Hay demasiado espacio entre the lips, the ears;
the words, lospensamientos; los pensamientos, the thoughts.
No hay nadie que pueda communicate, not properly,
not even nosotros. Pero ah, tú y yo—
Todavía no entiendo our peculiar pidgin,
how it formed, como continuá cerrando la brecha
entre tus pensamientos, my thoughts; my thoughts y tus pensamientos.
I feel like the nightingale cantando a la chicharra que canta to the nightingale.
No podemos entendernos, pero we both sing for eternity.
Sisyphus never understood Death, y la Muerte nunca lo entendió,
pero los mismas chains bound them
and they share the same curse: nunca descansar, nunca parar.
Ninguno quería hacerlo. And neither do we.
That’s not enough for a lengua común,
pero es suficiente for two of them.
No puedo creer en una common tongue.
There’s too much space between los labios, las orejas;
las palabras, the thoughts; the thoughts,los pensamientos.
No person on this earth can comunicar, no verdaderamente,
tampoco nosotros. But oh, you and I—
I still don’t understand our encantadolenguaje macarrónico,
como se formó, how it continues to close the gaps
between your thoughts, mis pensamientos, mis pensamientos,your thoughts.
Me siento como el ruiseñor singing to the cicada that singsal ruiseñor.
We don’t understand one another, but nosotros dos cantamos para la eternidad.
Sísifo nunca entendió a la Muerte, and Death never understood him,
but the same cadenas los ataron
y ellos compartieron la misma maldición: to never rest, to never stop.
Neither wanted to. Y nosotros tampoco.
Esto no es suficiente para una common tongue,
but it’s enough para decir que te amo.
dos fuerzas tiran de mi alma:
la virtud y el vicio
el dolor y el placer
la luz y la oscuridad
la abstinencia y la indulgencia
la rasgan en dos partes
la tela de quien soy es tirado tenso hasta que hilo por hilo
el lunes soy una novia cariñosa
el martes soy una alcohólica
el miércoles yo leo mi biblia
el jueves fantaseo sobre lo prohibido
el viernes mi vida es perfecta
el sábado duermo, con una resaca
y el domingo
yo soy un ejemplo y una mentirosa a los que me admirarían
A metaphor about my mother and a storm drain in Kuala Lumpur
By: Jeremy Caldwell
Black Stone Beach
By: Allie Morgenstern
Father (from the series “Roots”)
By: Sophie Pollock