By: Train Schickele
I did not know what I was supposed to do.
“Excuse me … Ms. Corgan, what are we suppose to do?”
The most hateful glare I had ever seen arose from her desk. She had black tuft for brows and old, serpent eyes, pointy lips and angry looking creases in her cheekbones. Red-nailed claws wrapped around her pen like a scorpion. I felt vultures perched in the corner of the classroom, hungrily stretching their necks over my young corpse. By her veiny hands, a bright, red apple made of clay sat on her desk. It matched her nail polish. I wondered if she made that apple. And did she have gold leaf in her earrings? A shiny bronze pendant beneath her earlobes made me think about a statue in city hall, and I began to think how city hall wasn’t that—
“Do you listen? I have said what to do three times.”
Her voice was not soft. It was raspy … or choppy. It was a coarse voice, but not as bristled as it was stern. Her voice stabbed me. I began to answer, choking between my chest and eyes, stuttering for an ans—
“Class!” she called.
Every 2nd grader from planet Earth turned their head to look at me, the peasant, shivering in front of Ms. Corgan’s throne.
“What are we suppose to do?” she crowed.
The class answered in unison like a lifeless children’s chorus. And I could not hear them. I could not understand. I listened hard. I listened close. But I could not translate the words. I was crying. But no one could see that.
I turned back to Ms. Corgan in hope that she would repeat the directions once more. Her face had grown darker, and when I saw her spearing glare, a most hateful glare, I turned on my heel and walked to my desk saying,
“Oh. Oh yeah. Of course.” And yet,
I did not know what I was supposed to do.
I clasped my hands between my legs and hung down my head, dripping tears on the waxy-wood table. Ms. Corgan would sometimes tussle the hair of her students. If I could have this blessing, all my life tasks would become trivial. I wanted to make her proud—to impress my greatest fear.
The corner of my watery eyes spied around the classroom. Angelica had construction paper. I could hear scissors clipping. I saw the butt ends of pencils and I could tell that Hayley was writing. We had put up paper screens to hide our work. Spying was never easy, but I had become good at it.
I took out some construction paper from beneath my desk and began to fold. A frog? A crane? I did not know how to fold animals. I knew how to make a paper airplane, but not a very good one.
I began to fold after observing moving elbows. When the paper walls came down, my vultures spread their wings. The class had written nouns and verbs on slits of paper and folded them into little books. On my desk: a half-crumpled, one-winged, paper airplane. Angelica snickered and Cary, a girl with blue and orange hair, laughed out loud. I did not persist with my work.
Ms. Corgan talked with me after class.
“This listening problem is really an issue,” she said, as I focused on the center of her nose. Could she notice that I wasn’t actually looking at either of her eyes? And could pigeons nest in her perfect, black shrub of hair? Wait, pay atten—
“Are you listening?”
I had dug my own grave.
“Yes.” I told her.
“What did I say?”
I had dug it very deep.
“…I don’t listen,” I said.
Ms. Corgan reconciled for something. But I could not hear what she said. I watched her pointy lips move.
I left my paper airplane on the desk with only one wing. Inside the folds of the plane I had written: “I am sorry. I think a rock fell on my head. And it is hard to listen.”
The next day, Ms. Corgan tussled my hair.
She did not know what she was supposed to do.
But she did the right thing.
By: Damen MacDougall
I wake three times, or just
the once – I can never tell
anymore the nature of what it is
I do in bed when my eyes
Winter’s watery light has ceased
its trickling through
my windows, now stoppered by night.
Glancing at my brass chest –
here and there pitted
with blossoming rust –
the clock reads 6pm,
its digital display verdantly
I cast off my throw
and my comforter, my fingers
scrabbling for purchase on a third
that isn’t there – heavy
blanket – intangible, yet
Veiled still by that leaden presence
I rise – sighing – the blanket
whispering as it trails
across the floor, as if
Darkness settles like dust
on the profusion of things
in my possession – my empty apartment
brims with things. Dust
settles on them like darkness, too.
I look at the clock – 5am.
I crawl into bed, still wrapped
in that blanket, piling on the comforter
and the throw for good measure.
I look once more at the clock
and think to try again
“Aurora” by Erin Gardosh
By: Charles Hess
There was an island once, somewhere in some forgotten hemisphere, which carried a curious people on its back as it waded through the endless ocean; that ocean was, to that quiet folk, an ocean of permanence, a cautious and inquisitive body, a force through which Nature was contained. Those people only knew that island and that ocean; those people only knew that world and that space around it. Then, one day, the breathing waves spat forth a device from its weightless foams: a framed and gilded mirror, no larger than the oval of a coconut. It was fortunate that the first man to find it was a sagely wanderer; it was convenient that he did not try to free the man inside. The man then retreated to the center of the island and built, with shoots and palms, a modest hut. As the years circled the sun, the people rumored the man to be some strange Shaman; they would often visit him, one at a time, to see his magical device. Look into it as deeply as you may, he would whisper; there is always something more, he would repeat. Everyone that looked into the glass saw themselves and marveled that they could now know the details of their own faces. This was enough for them to acclaim the Shaman and his wonderful instruments. It would be years before the Man, a common villager that had visited the Shaman many times before, would enter again into the light of the palmed hut. He had seen himself in the glass hundreds of times before, but he believed in the Sage’s words. He believed there was something more. So, on this particular visit, the Man looked as deeply into the glass as he could. He looked into his eyes; he saw himself looking into himself. He then exited the hut and wondered what he would see if he looked into his eyes in his eyes in his eyes. The Man then realized that the Sage was correct. There is always something more.
By: Monica Chen
Their friendship develops like the tuning of an orchestra. A single violin plays and slowly, slowly more are added in until the harmonies swell and fill the room. They’re in the same high school. Same grade. Same chemistry class. Their parents are friends so they see each other at parties. They sit next to each other on the couch in one house, at the dinner table in another, on the floor at someone’s potluck, on the bed at another’s graduation. His gaze rests on her a little too long when he should be paying attention to the movie. She giggles and brushes her hair behind her ear.
Harmless, her mother calls him. Harmless, her brother calls him. When he sees her, he sees the sun, whole and bright, warm and strong. When she sees him, she sees bruises and blood. She sees force and pain and a man as old as her father who shouldn’t have but did anyways. When he tries to hold her hand, she flinches and pulls away. She apologizes and apologizes and says it’s not him. She’s just not comfortable with physical affection. He doesn’t push her. He never pushes her and yet all she can see is force.
All he wants to do is take care of her. Find out why she’s so sad. How could someone so bright, so warm be so sad? Her smile may be his favorite sight in the world, but it’s so rare. So rare. He tells her jokes when she cries. Her laughter is breathless as it escapes from her mouth. She looks up at him with her deep brown eyes and whispers thank you’s in his direction. He sits next to her when she cries. They greet the silence like an old friend and she thanks him for always being there. He tries to hug her when she cries. She squirms out of his reach and apologizes and apologizes and wishes things were different.
He tells her he loves her. He’s never felt like this before. He tells her that he would never hurt her and that she’s all he needs. He tells her that he loves her. She tells him not to. She tells him she’s too broken to be pieced back together. He can’t piece her back together. She loves him too. She loves him too, but she’s not ready. She has to figure herself out, solve her own problems. She tells him that one day she’ll tell him why she’s like this. She doesn’t. He tells her that he’ll wait for her. He doesn’t.
By: Timothy Swenarton
I forget about my brain’s unpopular appetite. Call it voracious amnesia. It really doesn’t care for time or location, either. An unpicky eater. It knows to wait, fester, bide its time. It hungers for words of a certain order. A collection of syllables laid out in a pleasing feast. From this desire, my brain and I have developed a cooperative parasiteness. We both know each other’s weaknesses, but exploit them when most necessary– when most hungry. Only, as of late, it has been feeling starving; an empty void of craving and needing and waiting and feeling.
In the natural flurry of a shopping spree, I inevitably find myself standing in a dressing room. This room is perceptibly different, in that it has an abundance of space. I bunch my trial clothes in the corner and begin to undress, running my socked feet against the purple carpet and imagining the circles I could run in here. There are no rules to the back world of dressing rooms. Consciously, we have divided public and private space into gendered areas, but here, born from necessity, boys and girls can try on clothes in rooms right alongside each other. Almost as if they are equally human. In the room beside mine, a boy is dressing in a variety of clothes his mother has picked out for him. If I don’t make any noise, I can hear the gushes of air he swallows in hopes of fitting into smaller clothing. Then, the creak of the swinging door as he presents himself. I never see their faces. Her tisks and tutters can be heard next. Oh, no no no. This just will not do. Guilt begins to creep in. All the other stalls are empty, and they most likely don’t even know I’m here.
“The presence of a highly attractive person can make others around them feel worse. Members of your sex will hold your looks against you if you are attractive and successful, according to work by German psychologists. If you are accomplished and unattractive, they found, heterosexual people of your sex tend to attribute your success to innate talent. If you are good-looking, however—a sexual competitor— they will more likely chalk your achievements up to luck.” – Laura Curren, writer for Psychology Today.
It’s negativity. That’s the weakness my brain knows too well, but also the substance that it pines. It likes to chew over phrases. Bite and bite. Crunch and crunch. Escape is melodramatic. I would never say I need to escape. But, between you and me, I need to escape.
My father sits in his leather chair. The one that has cracks running through the cushions from overuse. The one that will conform only to the shape of his rear, taunting me to try and fit. He doesn’t have a clue. We go weeks without speaking and I love those weeks. It’s a comfortable silence that fills me more than words. The hypocrisy sustains the void. Me.
I know. I want to tell him I know, I’m just worried. Worried what curved mouths say behind my turned back. Worried that I’ll misspell the word fine. Worried that I can see my value best when the lights are turned off.
About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18.
“A nationwide survey of college students at 2- and 4-year institutions—found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.” – National Institute of Mental Health
An era of apathy has ended, now replaced by an age of disassociation via mathematics. Who is hiding behind the percentages? Shadowed faces cast their eyes downward. Just another number.
The mother came back with more clothes this time. Leaving wasn’t an option yet. My socked feet now felt as if they rested in glue. I heard how her eyes could cut and I’m afraid of drawing blood. The boy let a quick sigh slip through his teeth. The mother did not speak. A ballistic yell gathered itself in the back of my throat. A plea to make my presence known. To pay the bill before my brain had even ordered its meal. She threw the clothes over the door and the whole process began again. The creaking of the door, my brain beginning to drool. Zippers began to unzip faster; buttons began to pop quicker. Until, finally, the door creaked a last time.
Long after they had left, I sat in the dressing room feeling scattered, forgotten. The spacious stall now seemed filled with dense, unbreathable air. My mind consumed.
by Erika Walsh
When my mother was pregnant with me her retinas became detached
It was as if her eyes were attempting to crawl out of her skull to avoid the sight of me
Those eyes look at me now with love and no shame, but first impressions still count, don’t they?
They had to cut open her stomach to bring me to light
the cord connecting our flesh was wrapped three times around my neck
Her body was trying to destroy me
It knew I was not ready
Her body knew more than her brain and forget her heart,
It still beats in sync with my own.
Remember when I ate poison and the room melted into my skin?
You told me “darling you are just like me”
You told me “we are the same we are the same”
But my mind is too abstract to be diagnosed and shoved inside of a metal box
I do not want to be soothed and oppressed and sedated by antidepressants and mood stabilizers
Some days I do still choke on the idea of life but mother what is “prescribed” is not what is best and
Mommy doesn’t know best mommy only knows how to follow the leader.
Mom I never meant to call you words fit for the dirt underneath my fingernails.
Those ugly words were born inside of me and I did not know how to make them silent
I only knew how to open my veins and pour them out of me.
When you had your first sonogram the doctor wrote you a prescription for permanent eviction.
There looked as if there was something terribly wrong inside of my skull and maybe giving up on me would be the best way to go
My father stormed out in a rage and you followed him
to a doctor who told you that everything was going to be just fine.
And you called me your miracle baby, because after all we had been through, I was alive and healthy and isn’t that enough?
But what if you had taken the first doctor’s advice? What if you had torn me out of my warm chrysalis before Light could save me from the darkness of nonbeing?
I cannot help but think that the circumstances surrounding one’s beginning will in some way reflect their end.
And, for some time, I could not help but resent you for making me live in a world where I felt unwanted
every night I’d wrap curled fingers around my own neck, just trying to check for a pulse.
my eyes always looked like black holes and I found myself wishing I could hide inside of them.
But now I feel that I am worthy of life
and now I can maintain conversation without choking on my tongue
and now when the birds sing I want to join in
and now all I can do is apologize for the demon that lives inside of me. She is resting now.
all I can do is thank you.
Every day I am breathing is a miracle.
It is enough.