Click here to check out the print issue of Issue 2.
Table of Contents
Greenland – Alex Eliasen
Tilt – Zack Mintz
Bildungsroman (girl hangs rainbow flag in freshman dorm room) – Katharine Bowers
In Love with a Voice – Ellie Locke
Caroline’s Lake – Alice Hickson
Five of Cups – M.A. Waskow
(Untitled) – Phyllis Njoroge
For When Friends are Far Away – C.A. Schwartz
I Wanted to be a Footballer – Karishma Chouhan
There Have Always Been Ghosts – May Hong
Today I’m Fine with That – Aditi Kocherlakota
Reciprocity – Aberdeen Bird
Mercury – Jeremy Caldwell
Trisomy 13 – Madison Reid
University Hearsestory – Jonathan Innocent
Fruit Snacks – Joseph Harmon
Entertainment – Isabella Urdahl
Swan-Song (to the collapse of lungs) – Sarah Walsh
To Smile a Silly Smile – Jeremiah Sears
Grandmother’s Drawings – Ethan Resek
Now: New – Hunter Silvestri
There is a Truth and it’s on Our Side – Nasrin Lin
By: Alex Eliasen
Skies are dark and hued
Boots crunch deep in ice and wheat
Brother died today
His boat was tied tight
Bodies are found at the docks
Fish caught this morning
The grey has seeped in
A sickness the town can’t rid
Each month another
Homes quiet and shut
How to tell a country lives?
Listen to the wind
Water moves, earth shifts
Its people are all silent
Winter never ends
By: Zack Mintz
Sometimes I forget how good lemonade tastes
without vodka mixed in. Citrus stings
your tongue as Sun beats down from above.
Needless to say, it’s warm out and my knees are burning and
I could not care less.
Some giant long ago came this way
unbeknownst to the woodland creatures clinging to makeshift homes
and marched right up this hill, I promise you.
The trees bend under the weight of our mistakes.
The grass knows this and more, so it grows tall, stalks
stock-still save for the breeze that so effortlessly
sways and twirls as it pleases, forceful indignation.
How many sunsets have glazed this scene tangerine?
How many more until waters pour from the corals below
and take with them footprints and misplaced energy?
Acoustic perfection is difficult to attain.
Even organists will attest that marble
is too frigid to bear the brunt
of notes and soliloquies, of rampant sermons
or gilded show tunes. There lacks an understanding
of how to move without breaking, how to change
while remaining whole.
Bildungsroman (girl hangs rainbow flag in freshman dorm room)
By: Katharine Bowers
I took it because it was free and bright
and those are things that I’d like to be, too,
beside the window and under the almond blossoms,
catching hallway eyes and
telling my secrets. racing my fears
on hamster wheels, so many
poems that my pen runs dry
and it feels like I’m not wearing my shirts inside out anymore,
like I’ve just figured out how to tie my shoes
and not trip on the laces
because I’m a cutting of jade
from my grandmother’s garden,
grown in weathered leather,
the warm and dusty,
the damp and
the dark of my mother’s expectations,
gasping for dry air and
sun-baked terracotta, finding
benches and bluegrass
and butternut bisque,
I grow up and out,
filling petals with watered ink
to write words that won’t evaporate
on this sand-warm sidewalk I’ve been treading.
I breathe in colors deep and full.
In Love with a Voice
By: Ellie Locke
She, too, had once owned the language that fell from her mother’s tongue. It had risen within her like breath, flowing from the heart and through the chest to brush against the back of her throat, a whisper of wind caressing her mother’s face.
Nowadays, she often found the words stuck. They’d bloom from her core, but then fix themselves to the roof of her mouth or jostle against her teeth. ‘She could hear the spill’ when she spoke, the words diving from her tongue and cracking on the floor like China leaping from the cupboards.
“Mama?” ‘The trouble with words’ is they must be used again and again for the brain to cement them in memory. Her mother spoke to her in the language of those who built walls that snaked across continents, the people who cast glittering explosions of color into the night sky and draped themselves in cloth that moved like water. Others found their language harsh, but her mother spoke in a voice that glowed like cooling embers.
“Yes, my love?”
“Why doesn’t Baba speak like us?” Her father was descended from those who ‘entered the most loved waters’ like they were their own. His people had erased civilizations with their diseases and families with their names. They lay claim to others’ belongings with a language borrowed from many, their tapestry woven from stolen threads.
Her mother ‘wore an unconquerable face.’ Her father would never understand the rise and fall of their daughter’s language, the way she ‘picked like flowers’ each syllable from within her chest and presented them in a bouquet of blooms.
“It isn’t practical,” she says.
The girl ‘received this new world slowly,’ forgetting the taste of words that had once filled her mouth like warm tea. People only responded to her father’s favorite sounds, the ones formed in her cheeks and swimming through her teeth and perched on her lips, thin and jagged like ice. His world was the same. Cold and dark and sharp. To return to the language of her mother felt wrong, a disservice to the waters that had carried her from wake to sleep on a golden stream.
“Please speak with me,” her mother now begged from the shore, watching the river churn and break against its banks, the current carrying her daughter away.
The girl couldn’t meet her mother’s eyes and see the language she once knew within them. Instead ‘she swallowed their absence,’ dark, freezing water filling the space they once inhabited. Her father’s words had grown inside of her like a tumor. They lodged in the back of her neck and spread down her spine, snaking through her arms and twisting around her fingers, tightening across her legs.
What did manage to escape only shattered at her mother’s feet.
Inspired by/with quotations from The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje.
By: Alice Hickson
It was Will’s idea.
and the therapist.
It’s part of the grieving process.
We filled a jar with our tears,
and waited for them to evaporate.
Will put his letter in first,
then a bunch of rocks from that summer,
so it would sink.
I wish I still believed in magic.
I didn’t write a letter.
I wanted there to be space
for your soul to squeeze in.
When he throws it
and it hides itself in the mud,
I want you to find it,
and try to fit in.
I will come looking.
I will come to collect you,
Five of Cups
By: M.A. Waskow
She, shattered, at the kitchen table, sits
With empty heart as heavy as before.
She’s motionless, for there’s no point to move——
To rise, there’d be no lightness in her step.
Were she to speak, her voice would hold no tone,
To leave, she’d never find a better place.
She blinks, and there is nothing in her eyes
As vacant, they stare at the growing mess.
It started as a trickle, some small crack,
The mug’s white sheen replaced by darker hues,
As out dripped coffee, gently trailing down
In slow black beads to swim about the base.
The echoes of the clock swim in her ears;
It’s ticking to the movement of the drink
As now it streams about, to reach the edge,
Where quickly it then splashes to the ground.
She watches them, each drop, as down they fall,
And listens to the rhythm of the time
That passes by each second that she sits
And waits to feel something to move her mind.
She’s trapped within her body, statuesque,
As motivation’s absence holds her still
Against her hopes to stretch, to clean, to change,
And time and coffee drip and tick on by.
By: Phyllis Njoroge
Worn out basements
Telephone pole laces
Resting bitch faces
There is power in narrative
In erasing heritage
In gerrymandering carriages.
Our world will have you believe
That positions of power
Only go to a Steve
Or a Bill
But how many Bills
Would control bills
If we had gotten our bills
For our labors unpaid, still
Our world will have you think
That just girls love pink
And our boys don’t feel blue
And, criminals are Black.
But which is more a crime?
40 Skittles in a bag
Or 40 slashes to the back?
Hoodied men more attacked
Than hooded men.
This country is yours?
Is the owner the one who builds it
Or the one who burns?
Burning through resources
Leaving no stone unturned.
Except the gravestones,
From which you turn away.
Every. Single. Day.
And you worried about
How uncomfortable you’re feeling?
— white tears
For When Friends are Far Away
By: C.A. Schwartz
buy three packets of dark chocolate chips from the Giant Eagle supermarket. eat four, and bury the rest into the soil in your backyard, pushing them gently into the loose earth next to the geraniums. take your indoor cat outside and allow him to stare at the dirt, until he twists around to stare at the sky, until he twists around to stare at you and meow like you’re going to let him down so he can run away five feet onto the neighbor’s driveway and wait, frozen, for you to pick him up again. lay down on the grass to look at the clouds. twitch every time you think there’s an ant crawling on you. when there is an ant crawling on you, put it gently on the chocolate-chip soil. water with lemonade and the glitter from the inside of one of your grandmother’s snowglobes. take two garlic cloves, your favorite pencil, and a note from your childhood best friend. put them in a blender, and turn it on. place the dust you’ve made in a circle around a stovetop burner on which should rest a tea kettle filled with grape juice. go through the house and open all the blinds and doors. turn off the lights. if it is day, look through the window and wave at your neighbor. if it is night, pretend the faces watching from outside the glass are not there. turn the stove on, and watch what you’ve made go up in smoke. take the ash, and gently press into the refrigerator:
pull taffy from the trees like // the blood, you know, the pig’s head,
oh the way it sank // when you called her name out,
the crystals that form in the curve of the sandbank,
the crystals that form // sometimes, i feel the sunlight and i think of you,
crystalline, sunlight, the way it feels in the blood in the marrow in my bones,
slow echoes // does the ice form // did you take the bubble wrap
and pop it too close to your dog again // did you see the deer outside your window,
milky eyes // the blood, you know, the deer’s head,
oh the way it sinks // when i forget to think of you,
the way your voice is a song that i knew // before i knew,
before i knew;
pour the juice out of the tea kettle, mix with gelatin, and place in the fridge, being careful not to disturb your writing. sleep. in the morning, take it from where it hardened, and pin it to your front door. watch it drip in the summer heat. look at the sky, and imagine what the stars would look like, if they were here.
I Wanted to be a Footballer
By: Karishma Chouhan
In war, there are casualties. Here is where they rest.
I woke up, covered
in the charcoal ashes of my mother
my lungs coated with my father’s;
I could remember Shaytaan’s arrows piercing my town,
sophisticated hell-fire: a bitter rain
but I couldn’t remember where my football
So I crawled, not for life, life
disappeared after the second year the sky was muddied by the devil’s birds.
for the inconvenience of dying, with nothing in my hands
can’t die, my football is still hidden under
the rubble; it will fill
my empty hands, give me respite
from the devil’s mercy.
Mercy is all I ask for now,
for what is an orphan boy to pray for
when he has lost his innocence to war.
There Have Always Been Ghosts
By: May Hong
The cab drivers here reserve the right
to smoke out of their cars; pale foreigners
here are called ghosts.
San-li-tun, three old lis newly filled
with so many so-called ghosts and international lights rushing
to cross, clutching Pocket Beijings, onto the next:
City unforbiddened, but who
will stop to count the twigs frozen with its moat?
What temple of whichever heaven does not bury
ancient knees knelt begging?
These walls have been said to be seen
from space, a snake hardened in the cold
shovels and bones embalmed, the great
hurt of wives and daughters
who built the architecture of adventures.
Reaching the top of Ba-da-ling, in huffs
of visible breath. With ungloved hands I trace the cold
tamped earth and they scream at the touch.
Today I’m Fine with That
By: Aditi Kocherlakota
In the beginning of the summer, my piss was dark brown, but many other things were happening. The laundry machine in my house had started to shudder, and the bottom of my backpack had a slow-growing hole in it, cautionary.
Summer in Pittsburgh meant that the little kids stopped coming to bus stop outside my house in the morning time. It meant that my roommates and I would watch the news at night and complain about the heat together, and pretend not to care that Jake never put the toilet seat back down. We pretended not to care that we all ate different cereal from each other.
When my piss turned brown, I figured it was from all the weed I’d been smoking, so I flushed the toilet twice. I worried that my roommates, who already disapproved of my pot habits, would see it. I spent more time staring at ceiling tiles than I did going to the grocery store, and my muscles felt sore and stiff. I worried that my roommates, who already judged me for having Cheeto dust on my fingers all the time, would think that my muscles had forgotten how to act right. Turns out my body had decided to stop metabolizing fats or something.
At the hospital, I was diagnosed with CPT II, which made sense because my father was an Ashkenazi Jewish male and a carrier of the genetic disease. At least my real father was, the one I found out about that day in the emergency room.
There were always many things that I did not know. Firstly, my nose was big enough to grow potted plants in, and it had to have come from somewhere.
I had always known there were secrets. I accidentally saw that my mom was ten years older than my dad on her driver’s license. That’s when I knew that they wouldn’t sit me down when I was 17 and tell me their love story, because their love story didn’t smell like linen.
My dad was a choleric man and did not lack a sense of urgency, especially at the airport. When we missed our Christmas break flight, my dad stood in the center of the airport in his Hawaiian T-shirt and cargo shorts, yelling about how he was going to reveal the family secret.
My mother stayed silent. Dad, the plane’s already in the air.
I had gotten two things out of Craigslist—a weird roommate, and a weird job. It was the first place I went to after we came back from the hospital. I’d be working on a paint crew in Jersey, painting all kinds of stuff, painting insides and outsides of houses, and walls too.
There were houses to be painted in Pittsburgh. I know, because I counted them on the train. That’s what my mother said when I told her I’d be gone for the summer. She couldn’t say much, on account of the fact that I had a different father than I had thought my whole life. Maybe she could tell me to pack a toothbrush.
The farther we headed from Monopoly City, the more I saw. There was the one-story house on Sawyer with the peeling mango paint. There were no-name houses in every cul-de-sac that could use a coat of eggshell white.
Instead, I was headed to Summit, New Jersey like I had a mission, subletting with a 35-year-old woman who wore large earrings and smelled like sweater fuzz. I was 20, but I was young in other ways. I had just gotten my driver’s license that summer. I had been living by myself at university in Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t a real adult. I lived in a baby city, in a LEGO house with LEGO bricks, and ceilings too low to ever be taken seriously.
I didn’t understand why there were so many people on the train. New Jersey didn’t seem like a destination to me.
I was the only girl on paint crew, the youngest of a group of fixer-uppers. There was Jun, who had just gotten fired by the research lab he worked for, and who carried a lunchbox with two big compartments and four small ones every day to work. He was a sloppy painter, so he helped the electrician and moved furniture out of the way instead. There was Indila, who was rather beautiful except for some unfortunate features, like greasy bangs and chapped lips. Then there was Dylan, who wore New Balance sneakers but was in-demand in some strange way. He knew it, too, because whenever he entered any conversation everyone’s feet would turn towards him, open-face. There was something about the fact that he was 27 that made me feel like I was in middle school with a pink puff glitter pen, journaling about my hot teacher or something.
The four of us would play card games at Dylan’s place. I didn’t really know what I was doing there, in a house that made me feel like the whole world was my backyard. I’d stick around after everyone had left. He took this to mean I was interested in him, and there weren’t too many other girls on paint crew, so he was interested in me too. We played a lot of card games, which is what you do when you want to be around someone but can’t really stand the sound of their voice. It was kind of romantic, like when you make eye contact with someone through bookshelves.
He made me feel like I wasn’t the protagonist of my own story, like I saw the entire world through the lines of graph paper. I loved him before I knew many things about him, like what his mother’s name was or whether he could piss in a straight line.
Everything I knew about my parents was Michigan. They were in school taking tests with fountain pens. This was a time when they were both where they were supposed to be. In Michigan, she might let a helium balloon float away, and my father might console her. He’ll play her music that sounds like Blackberry ringtones, and she’ll allow it. He’ll pick wild violets for her off the side of the road, and it’ll be romantic because he’s never watched a romantic comedy before.
This is before I come, mudslinging. This is before I throw carrot mush at the wall and cause chaos in mall food courts. Later, my father will close the windows of our fabric-interior Honda civic, and accidentally crunch my index finger. His eyes will become soft, and this is when I will know for the first time.
On my last night in Jersey, everyone was in a sour mood, all for completely separate reasons. It was merely unfortunate—everyone had gone home early. Jun had spilled orange juice on the deck of playing cards, so Dylan and I sat in the center of the yard instead, smoking.
I had just washed my hair and it had risen like yeast, snarls over my shoulders in the humidity. He raked it back affectionately, with his big, knobby fingers, like it was taking up too much space.
I lit the bowl effortlessly and took a long hit, feeling the vapor hitch and snag on the walls of my throat, but I did not cough. Wow! he laughed. You must really hate your parents.
I couldn’t choose when he had lost respect for me. Maybe it was when I told him I still didn’t know my right from left sometimes, or that I didn’t know if Trenton was North or South from here, or when we had sex on his kitchen table.
His hand was wet from the condensation on the glass of orange juice, and it was on my thigh.
You know, I said. I could be back next summer. We could talk on the phone. And I could visit.
Avery, you’re cool, okay, he said. I’m just not looking for anything right now.
You’re 27, I said loudly in my head.
What have I done? I’ve dropped hot coffee on slushy ice, I’ve pranced around on freshly laid grass, and now my guppies have eaten each other.
I have to go, I told him. I have an early train to catch tomorrow.
Okay, he said, and I imagine us married somewhere, in an apartment much smaller than this house, where the bathroom is five feet from the kitchen. We wouldn’t know the previous tenants by name but would have an intimate knowledge of the way they lived, from the stains they had left on the carpet. I would buy extra-plush toilet paper instead of 1-ply, and he wouldn’t even notice.
That morning, I stood at the platform waiting for my train that had been delayed.
The next train is coming, and people bunch around me, wrist-watch-checkers, suitcase-hoisting do-gooders, sweetie-don’t-eat-all-those-goldfish-it’ll-spoil-your-dinners.
The fast train pulls in, and they are all gone, hurtling away. It startles me, even though I knew it was coming all along.
By: Aberdeen Bird
I’d like to make you feel like a canning jar
in the process of canning
Pressure cooked and peachy
Nectar pectin and mush
fruit spittle dribbling
over your lips and blowing
sugar spit bubbles
Drag a sponge down your spine
Capped now and bathing
Rattling now and waiting
steam screams and quaking
Fall flat retract
into disappointed fruit guts
where they lie suspended as you jellify
Perched on my counter
after I pat you on the head
toss you a towel and say thanks.
By: Jeremy Caldwell
The sun didn’t fall for fifty-eight days
And I broke my ears and my eyes
Straining after a celestial body
Tinted pink and pockmarked
By fathers too proud to let you stray
And shed feathers over brighter skies
For fifty-eight days
Was I cloudless enough for you?
The year ended it eighty-eight days
And by then the freckles
Were too far away to count
I’ve never disliked constellations before
But when you took me to see the moon
I closed my heart and roared past another
The car didn’t stop when I left
My mind on a lamplit street
One street light more beautiful
Than every star I couldn’t capture
Because in the glow I wasn’t scared of you anymore.
The drive lasted two minutes
And eighty-eight days.
A year had passed.
How pathetic it feels
To have the ability love you
Only after you leave
How enraptured I was
With worldly pleasures
And unread messages
To notice the spiderweb
Cracks in the train station walls
I sat on a suitcase for eighty-eight days
And left when the year was over
By: Madison Reid
By: Jonathan Innocent
I remember when I was a kid, anytime I would get hurt or sick my grandmothers would have medicine for me
Their drugs were stored within the cabinets of the pharmacies I’d call their kitchens… I remember just sittin… I remember just listenin
Nana would be reminiscin… bout HERstories bout Black bloodlines, Black and deeper than the black sea –
As Grandma would boil black herbs and invoke black spirits to enliven the essence of that Black tea –
They gave back Black to Black me.
Whether it was with that organic face cream to eliminate the blackheads and acne
with the rich Jamaican cornmeal porridge and Haitian Labouyi –
I was indulged by these Black queens.
But soon it seemed… their lessons and blessings could not compete with the lessons of oppression
Now, when I get sick or hurt…
I must go to Babylon school, learn Babylon laws, and respect Babylon’s “Police”
Oppression is a locked chamber of sickness, and Babylon hinders my release
I have been sent from grandma’s pharmacy and enrolled in white man’s university
And instead of pursuing ME and my HERstory, I’ve fallen sick with the poisonous pursuit of HIS degree
The Babylon Doctorate, to him I go and see, searching for the remedy to my misery…
And look at what the fuck he gives me… his well concocted stew of Politrickery
I tell him what I really need.
I need to be Freed.
And listen to what he tells me:
“Freedom ain’t FDA approved, but I’m sure your insurance covers you if you’d like to get your cancerous desire for freedom surgically removed.”
By: Joseph Harmon
I am writing this while I sit on the porch and eat my daughter’s fruit snacks. I’d rather have something else, but this just happens to be the way it has all worked out, and I am content with that.
So much is running through my head right now. It blurs and distorts into one, like lights from speeding cars, like people speaking too fast in conversation. My hand can’t go fast enough to get it down. It’s a problem.
Some kids are driving by at molasses speed. Their music pulses from their windows, forcing the glass to inflate with the notes. Their heads bob in the shadows of the back seat.
I try to look sort of mean into the distance so they will know to pass by.
They do. They were never interested.
The fruit snacks are the ultimate achievements of my daughter’s world. They are prizes for doing things she is supposed to do: her homework, her full night’s sleep, her basketball games.
She loves them. She unfolds the silvery packet so carefully, guiding the tear across the plastic with her tiny fingernail. She picks them out one by one, arranges them by color around her palm, and savors each one as she leans back on the patched sofa.
It makes me smile to see her do this. It makes me smile to see her happy so easily.
Are you wondering if I’ll tell you why? Where her mother is?
I promise you’ll figure it out.
Before She left, She told me not to make so many promises. She called me a solicitor, forcing flyers under her door, handing her coupons in the street. Empty grin, biting deep in the corners of her words, Empty purpose when the flyers run out.
So I won’t use her name. You don’t need it.
I don’t know what to do with my daughter’s hair. I’m a little embarrassed for her at games, where I can see it tangle like yarn around her shoulders as she jumps. I think the other girls notice. I wish they would swoop in and teach her what to do. They all have bright clips and beads of their own, which sometimes clatter to the gym floor after practice.
I think they’re withholding information.
She is in bed now, probably tossing and turning until the sheets twist around her legs. She hasn’t been able to sleep for a while. I tell her to look at the ceiling until her eyes get heavy, which is what my dad would tell me to do. He was less patient than me, and maybe this is the problem. She always complains that staring doesn’t work; she sees shapes forming on the ceiling. One time she said she saw something shiny, a little silver edge, and thought it was a knife cutting through the plaster.
So I went, “No one would cut through the ceiling.”
And she went, “I know, I checked. I touched the silver spot.”
And I went, “Why?”
She said, “To make sure.”
Sometimes she falls out of bed during a bad dream, and I have to run up there to make sure she’s alright. Then her dreams must leak into mine, because for the rest of the night I do nothing but save her. She falls out of trees with her head aimed for the ground. A stranger leads her to his van. She’s frozen in the path of a speeding truck. Of course I am prepared for these things. If she starts to cry, I rush through the house in the pitch black to reach her. She is safe within seconds, but the next danger is already waiting to jump out.
Writing that made me paranoid. I’m going to go check.
I checked. I also fell asleep on the couch, and that was nice. I had the kind of sleep where you sort of blink back into existence, your rest is barely a blip and before you know it you are awake again. This makes me feel ready for a second. I can face everything. The tasks start to build up as I make her breakfast. The counter is covered with bills that need paying. As I gently pry her from the warm cocoon of her room, I am a little jealous. I wish for her problems. I wish I could do her homework instead, play on the monkey bars, chatter with a little circle of friends. She’s a very lucky girl.
And she also isn’t, of course I know that. I drape her arm around the back of my neck and carry her out of bed. She doesn’t really want to go, but she doesn’t fight me. She knows it’s time to get up.
The curve of her profile is almost a mirror image of her mother’s, softened and shrunk.
I think about what She said once.
“She doesn’t like me,” She said a long time ago.
“What do you mean, she doesn’t like you?” I said then. “She’s your daughter.”
“She’s cold around me. She doesn’t like it when I hold her.”
“She loves you. Of course she loves you.”
“I can’t even cook for her. She doesn’t like my food.”
“I can cook. Don’t worry about it.”
“How is someone like me supposed to have a daughter?”
“I think you’re just not used to it yet.”
“No,” She told me, shaking her head kind of slow, like She’s seen someone dying on the street corner. She has to be respectful, knowing that She will leave them behind and forget them, but still, it’s so unfortunate that they had to end up this way.
“What are we going to do today, Daddy?” my girl asks me after she finishes her breakfast.
“I’m gonna go to work,” I say, and then try to boost up the optimism. “And you’re gonna go to school and see your friends. You’re going to have a great day.”
“Okay,” she says.
Outside there is an empty bottle of whiskey in the middle of the sidewalk.
And then I have a great idea, so I reach down to shake the last drops of liquid from it. She forgot her coat inside, so I send her to go grab it. I’m writing this quickly now.
“We’re going to take a little detour before school,” I’ll tell her.
She’ll ask me, “For what?” because she’s always curious.
I’ll ask her if she knows what a message in a bottle is.
“It’s when someone needs help,” I’ll say, even if she knows. “They put some writing inside, cork it up tight, and it floats to somebody far away.”
So I’m driving to the cliffs at the edge of town, and I’m going to let her throw it, because she has a great arm and the coach keeps telling me I should have her practice at home. She’s going to throw it as hard as she can, and it will make a tiny splash as it enters but nothing special, nothing dramatic. We’ll see the light bounce off it and know that it’s floating. It will start to move slowly, pulled back a little, and pushed forward, pulled back like it’s teasing us, and pushed forward again. We’ll be able to see that it’s moving, it’s leaving, it will find you somewhere.
I’m writing my address. I know you’ll get it, and I know you’ll know what to do. I’ll be waiting and she will too, my little girl, the girl that makes me so proud. She’ll come back to the car in a few minutes, after letting all her clothes slide from their hangers and pile up on the floor. She’ll be swinging her coat, and she will look so happy as she does. It will take her a couple tries to pull open the door, and when she does, she will buckle herself up and I will tell her where we’re going.
I’ll invite you inside, because I’ll know you just from the look on your face. You will be smiling and a little scared, but you will have the bottle in your hand.
I’ll crack open a beer for you and we’ll talk like old friends. I’ll offer you some fruit snacks because they’re the only food we have in the house right now.
They’ll be your reward for finding it, for reading it, for coming all this way. I hope it’s okay that I’m telling you that up front. You should be proud of yourself. My girl will show you how you’re supposed to eat them, sorted into color and eaten one at a time, held up to the light to see how they glow, and then chewed, slowly, like the next one might never happen.
By: Isabella Urdahl
Swan-Song (to the collapse of lungs)
By: Sarah Walsh
The spring is wound, and it will uncoil
by itself, it does not matter how much residue
sticks to your forearm, how many
new motions you found
to slip your hands inside of, how you chew
bendy straws instead,
now, for years. Tragedy is clean,
restful, flawless. Everything is
and known. This is not a melodrama,
which is to say, all are bound to their parts
and it does not matter
about the broken systems. That we all suffer
this. It does not matter about the men, it does
not matter about the deaths. About how she will turn
sixteen and her father will collapse
at a family barbeque,
and he will die laughing.
Or how she will turn sixteen
and get sent away
to Arizona, away from the vandals and lowlifes,
the older boys who only want one thing. It does not
matter why she starts or why she continues
or that at 19 she will fall in love with an older boy,
with big, calloused hands, tall and afraid of losing
her, who will call her his
golden precious. He will convince her
not to become a Ford model or prima ballerina,
will want her grasshopper legs to himself and if she’d’ve
become a ballerina, he was right, she would’ve left
and would’ve had to quit. I would’ve been born to her
a different year, with a different father, in a prewar apartment
in Manhattan. When she turned 40 she would retire
with cracked feet her podiatrist would call
worse than an 80-year-old’s and springtime lungs,
and we would move out into the sun, hot enough to
blister and I
would snap the bones
back into place and hum Tchaikovsky
for her, she would feed me
like a cygnet until I was all the way grown,
but this did not happen, and so it does not
matter. Instead, I wait, and she gives birth
to two young men, the first born
afflicted by that same curse,
little blue-eyed creature, the bright candle in every
crowd, he will wear a golden paper crown
on his 1st birthday and will be destined for standing
ovations, will die on our blue-tiled bathroom
floor before he turns 30. It will not matter
why, or that he wanted
to get clean, or that we only buy
the deaths we are sold.
It will not matter
the 12 different types of cancer that start
with the letter a, alone, and nevermind
ripened pears, the laugh track
and commercial gloss,
whose fault this is. It will not matter
how she filled the home
with sunflowers and could hold
her breath a pool-length
underwater. All are bound to their parts.
I do not know if I have what it takes
to live past 50, anymore,
if I am already unredeemable. I don’t know
if I want to.
To Smile a Silly Smile
By: Jeremiah Sears
I cannot know where I will go when sleep comes rolling in
so shall I drown in texts?
so shall I leave the books unstacked
and wear the winter on my skin
as plastic printed bags chagrin
as flesh on flesh or walrus hacks
as idyl thoughts breed idle snacks
as idols rot in negligence
for chocolate burps or losing sleep
I skip back up the steps…
O bed, consider me well fed, o healthy hollow hapless mattress
my spilling mates are men
Their stories come and go in tens
of seconds and to thirds of thought
it’s not the cracking stuff of yore
yet still delightful at my door
depressions on the sea-foam pad
of mattress mine and tired mind
I find that sex eludes my glance
or often when I find the chance
it dances right around, away
so never do I deign to say:—
“ought I to kiss you now, today?”
my bed, depressed, and oft undressed
by feet and toes, so lonely grows
for company of different sorts
as benches beg for men in shorts
to smoke cigars, to play guitars
or take to charts for mapping stars
and wrap the world around their thumb
to pop it like a razzy plum,
and smile a silly smile.
By: Ethan Resek
I have one of my grandmother’s drawings
hanging on my wall. A triptych down the highway, done for me
before grandmothers or triptychs or memories of gucks
on the highway even really existed.
(I should probably specify that a guck is what preceded
trucks for me. I do wish the magic of that childish word
stuck around for the “real” thing though. Hence I maintain:
gas stations would fit better if they smelled like fruit roll ups
or like when grave roses sit in grass for so long their scents switch.)
I touch the painting when I’m scared.
— I don’t actually. Poems are just fickle, lying things,
and I don’t do anything. At least it feels like it sometimes.
Every time I write in my journal, I write “love
yourself” at the end because I never remember if I
truly do or if I just let myself divide into an afternoon, an evening,
a morning of
Trucks rush by in sepia, and I sit with my earbuds,
eyes half closed.
By: Hunter Silvestri
You are alive, Now.
But Now is notoriously fickle, is an incorrigible prankster, is up to no good, and sometimes that rascal called Now will not treat you so kindly, will not set you in such a comfortable seat, will not love you and let you keep learning.
Sometimes there is a Now in which you die. It is the slowest thing in the world, to die, and yet it will hit you so quickly. You will know it when that final Now arrives, everyone does. It is a chemical thing, something about hormones, a feeling unique and singular and final and you will recognize it and have mixed feelings because everyone does, because life doesn’t feel like an ending thing, because you will be angry and scared but thrilled, somehow. This is something New. The Newest Now you will ever have known. The mind has a certain inertia, it buzzes, and even if you are blown to smithereens that buzzing does not stop in a single instant, it breaks down, it devolves, and every part of your mind knows that feeling of death to its core and resists, resists, because resisting death is all life knows, and that’s what you are, life. So you will think, and you will live, and you will strive mightily to make your last moments into something. You will remember. The past, the past, your childhood, the feelings of helplessness and wonder, adulthood, grief and insurmountable joy, yourself as it changed, your friends as they changed, your Nows as they flitted in and out of consequence, in and out of memory, in and out like breaths, like breaths, like your last breaths.
But you are going Now, you’re dying too fast, and these memories aren’t coming quickly enough to hold it off much longer. There are walls in your mind, rules and paths you have always followed through your nebulous subconscious but they have to go away because this is too slow, and you are alive, and to live is to resist, resist that darkness closing in. The memories transfigure into dreams, into a world of half-thoughts and of feelings. You see your divinity, you speak to your loved ones, you speak to yourself, and you wander and try to make sense of this place. Your lucidity is shot for a while, but then it isn’t, and you seem to wake up without leaving the space of the dream, and you know again that you’re dying, and the dream turns bad, turns bitter, claws at you and you claw at it and the world is getting bigger, bigger, but losing focus. Who knows how long you fight? Sometimes you lose that lucidity again and simply live in that subjective reality, simply breathe and love and have your life there. But then control returns. This is your place and you have power over it but you are so afraid, so lonely, and you crave the return to that dreaming stupor where your subconscious has the reigns and you can forget, forget, your coming death.
Of your physical body, who knows what remains—who knows if a millisecond or a million years have passed—here, you are timeless and finally know, finally realize, finally read the fractal patterns surrounding you and join conscious with subconscious. You follow the world that your mind creates down, down, finally embrace that final flight and push yourself toward the smallness, toward the last remnants of light, and at the bottom something is created. I don’t know what. I don’t know if you’d last in there—the moment is so brief, the light so dim. But maybe you find something New: the Great Subjective, the billion other glimmerings, the life. Or maybe you just imagine you do. But by then you’ve escaped Now. I think there’s forever over there.
There is a Truth and it’s on Our Side
By: Nasrin Lin