Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Our Layover in North Carolina

I write because of things like postcards / I write
because they fall out of things like the crease of my
favorite book / where I keep my place / and they
remind me of things / like the time that we spent
together / that day

at the airport / we spent nearly five minutes deciding
which postcard we wanted during our layover that ate
away hours in time only measurable by tic-tac-toe / so
much tic-tac-toe / and cut-throat polish poker

we shuffled through the postcards / running our
fingers over each and every one/ I picked this one
because of the sparkles / you picked me because of my
devotion to words

you put the card on the counter and turned to look
back at me / you told me that we were only once in a
lifetime but that someday somewhere you hope to meet
me again in another / for the third time / and then we
left North Carolina

-Catherine Buckley

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

The Gardener

In pale starlight, the Gardener danced
Uneasy steps in foreign trance,
Following absolution’s thread,
Fearing desertion: puppet’s dread.
But on she dances, smiling wide,
While Luna’s pull dictates the tide,
And Sol looks on from today’s edge,
For in the void, all parties pledge
Allegiance to each other’s pull:
A vice-grip on the Gardener’s skull.
She only wishes to be free,
To dance like comets in the sea
Of stars that lie beyond her binds—
She wonders what out there she’d find
If she could break her ties with Sol,
Instead explore places untold.
But to Sol, she’s forever bound,
Constantly dancing ‘round and ‘round
A greedy ball of gas and flame,
Sucking her in to burn again—
Each pass she makes, barely a miss,
Forever stuck in loathsome tryst.
Daily perform her dance she must,
Though Solfire could make her dust,
For in the searing heat of Sol,
She keeps her garden from the cold,
And without Sol, the Gardener fears
A nothingness beyond her years.
So chained to Sol she has to stay,
For as the night melts into day,
Her flowers bloom, her creatures rouse,
Unaware of their Gardener’s vows

-Ethan Kinal, ’21

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Hierarchy of Dreams

I had a dream 

I was Taylor Swift’s best girl, riding the wave of normalcy, living under my parents’ name. I asked her if she’d want my spare bedroom to be decorated so she could put her feet to rest. I wanted her to relax. The flashing lights are not your best friend, and neither is your biggest fan. 

I had a dream 

I was in a well-lit prison, where there was no sight of grey. Only the silver ash of my best friend, a clairvoyant getting slivers of images to my freedom. She painted the landscapes I’d get over in my journey to civilization. The prison guard took them away, then slipped them under the pillow the night of my escape. 

I had a dream

I was kidnapped, in the land next to Wiccalocan, the private school of my dreams. I told them I liked it when they touched me, that they were my family. My best friend took the spare iPod and recorded our location, looking for some wifi to connect to to call for our help. 

I had a dream 

I was invited to a party at a cabin in the woods, with pretty blonde girls. I couldn’t see their faces. I really wanted to. Ask them if it’s too much, when the boys bothered them for some fun. I couldn’t stand the taste of rum and coke. The coke was too sweet. 

I had a dream 

I was yours. You, the one with soft words and harsh eyes. Scanning my x-ray-worthy bones, milky calcium and innocent eyes. Give me your sap, your shame, and I will give you my naked truth. 

Was it a dream? 

When you asked me what I really meant by that?

Was it really a dream? 

The glow in your eyes when I challenged you, or was it really true? 

Toppled like lego bricks, you build in my body like a benign cancer. 

I’m trynna be down, but all you do is build me up.

Was it worth washing me down in your cup? 

What is it about me that makes you bow down? Yet tackle me like they do in the Superbowl? 

I had a dream 

I won prom queen. Wasn’t a dream but  sure felt like it. A sensitive poet, at the top of something, not quite sure if ever useful of evermore life’s woes. A crown sits on my head, and on top is the halo you placed on that heavy thing. Heart as light as a feather, the serpent in my womb slithering all over your snake. 

I had a vision

Of a snake, coiled up and shiny black, like silicon black silly putty. Speaking of, you turn me into something like that. My words flow out like poetry when I am with you, my body’s muscle memory uncovering the angelic facade I carefully created to avoid incrimination around the reptiles. I hope they can’t tell how much I want to be defiled by your hungry fingers. 

I had a dream 

You were my poet. Mine, like Taylor Swift sung. I used to hate that bitch; now I see her light as if a spell was cast on me. 

Speaking of, do you believe in ghosts? 

Or only the things you cannot see?

When you said you didn’t believe in souls, 
I saw something shine in your chest. 
I called it mine. 

FOrm form form
Right, if I am your poet.
Or if you are mine

I cannot go on covering my shameful lust with pride
It might be fear, clinging on like mice
On the side of the road, 
Two tiny kittens hugging in an oyster
Clasped on my skin
Clashing dissonance
Is all poetry? 
There is no such thing as sense with you
No so much deadbeat
Or even Beat Poetry
Flappers with wings
You said my wings,
You said, you said 

Stretch it out, they said
(You said) 
It left you feeling hung, 
I’m trynna get you sprung

Anyways, the poetry must, well, you see, 
It must not be so fast, so elusive like it’s fleeting away
Ballet flats, strings intertwining light as my heart
(too fluffy)
I hate you, God!
(too aggressive)
I want you 
(too… porno…)

make sure it makes sense, 
people don’t like torture, 
I beg to differ. 

I’m scared of a lot of things
And a lot of things is you

-Helen Rahman

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Beach Rose

Rings in my bones
Orange in my lungs

I once had spongey, sea green flesh

I pissed in the sand,
Goaded the waves, 
Battled the tide,
content that I would lose. 

On a Sunday, the ocean came knocking
with imported skys
and electric sea foam

I answered. 

Knowing I would only be choked while my lungs had air
and cold until my hot blood chased it away

I grew gnarled in surrender.
Gnarled. 
With pink flowers and calloused buds. 

I have no more use for my salt hardened skin
Or my knotted bones

-Sophia Larson, ’23

Categories
Fiction Spring 2021 Edition Writing

A Question for the Wall

He sat across a portrait painted from glass. He had spent the day debating whether he could justify a trip to the museum just down the street. Before he ever felt a decision was made, he found himself in this small, derelict room. The motions are always a blur. Steps on concrete, a cold press of hand to metal, an exchange of cash. Perhaps a school was visiting that day. Maybe tourists were visiting, he supposed. He couldn’t really remember, and found it hard to justify his current position. The truth is, he never actually wanted to go to the museum that day. But sometimes the walls of your house become too much to handle. Sometimes the couch just swallows you a bit too deeply, and the walls just seem to cover up some impossible truth. So you have to take the initiative to leave and find something to occupy your melting thoughts. Even if leaving is unbearable, the sun bites a bit too harshly or the light offends your eyes, anything’s better than letting the doghouse tangle you in. 

Those were the sort of thoughts he used to explain this sluggish vacation. The museum’s interesting, he thought. It has all sorts of varying and interesting things to consider, he thought. What he doesn’t know, or maybe what he doesn’t want to recognize, is that art doesn’t mean anything if you don’t let it in. After about an hour of staring at nothing, thinking nothing, he found himself sitting across a portrait painted from glass. It was in a small side room, in a hallway separated from all the main exhibits. The portrait was of a man he didn’t know, but he briefly considered what that man must be feeling. Would he hate me? Would he like me? What would I say to him if I saw him in public? The portrait’s glassy eyes stared back, they stared straight into him as if to say, 

“you already know the answer.”

He suddenly felt uncomfortable, and decided to leave. He decided that that was enough time spent at the museum, he should go home. No, I can’t go back home, he said aloud, I shouldn’t. I’ll go somewhere else. I’ll walk into town. And do what? Spend money you don’t have? Sit around for an hour? It’s always nice just walking, don’t you think? There’s nothing wrong with that. 

So that’s what he decided to do. The only problem being, since he pretty much drifted around with his mind drowning in a fugue state for a few hours, he had no idea where he was, and had no idea how to get out of the museum. Everything looked unfamiliar and foreign. Streets with no names and buildings that stared back in words he didn’t understand like postmodernism, impressionism and expressionism. Sure, when someone says it you pretend to know what they mean, but you never actually cared enough to look into it. Paintings tend to know when you’re lying. 

Finally. The exit. He heard the entire room whispering to each other about him, and he wondered what he did to deserve the ridicule. His mind went blank, and the walls closed in again. 

Did he go on that walk into town? Who knows, certainly not him. He just found himself at his desk, thinking about how tired he was getting. Did he receive a message from one of his friends? Did he eat? Did he do anything? Does he do anything?

-Nathan Balk King, ’23

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico

There-
The soft green-gray misting of a tropical backyard.

The cement floors, old construction, wooden, sheet metal tool hut and,
Rain… softly.

Pleasant cascade, a blanket of refreshment,
The place of home on the isle.

I walk out,
Flip-flops, small splashes,
No shirt, just shorts, warm-water-falling,
5-minutes shower, carribean typical.

The Sun, not hiding, not shy, just behind the foggy,

for a moment
The house behind me is tall, on stilts, we are on a mountain, surrounded by palm tree, vine, and
lush.
Steep incline, but vegetation abound, peaks in the distance,
The whiff of brown dirt, and fallen coconut,
Moistened palm branch, and rounded guanábana,
Cracked soda, indoor steam,

It’s family here.

Concrete, wood doors, metal bars on windows,
Rails, colored cement, cool tile floor, air conditioning, heat, but not dry, and
Soft couches, never silky, they don’t need to be smooth, they’re kind.

-Jorge Biaggi, ’23

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Not My Decision

not my decision.

not yet.

thief, knight of night.
he steals
those i don’t know,
personally.

toying with me.
circling.
seething death.
his has roamed around

my life.

he will decide.
no one knows 
what he looks like.
reaper, shrouded in darkness.

i’ll never know.
and if i did?
i would never tell you.
that’s not my—

-Sydney Burke, ’23

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

Notes Left on Wooden Bunk Beds

Thick Louisiana air smacks my skin and says
honey, time moves so slow here even the river strolls.
And so I roll up my sleeves to welcome the mud,
not knowing that we were already old friends.

We ride through New Orleans neighborhoods in the back of pick-up trucks
while we pass by homes without walls and dogs without collars.
In some houses, all that’s left is the plumbing, a singular bathroom sink.
We try to keep our balance going over bumps,
avoiding dumpsters and piles of bricks, branches, drywall, and siding.
The bed of the truck creaks under our weight.
A maroon Chevy lays stuck between cement and a loblolly pine.

I look out from the balcony decorated with beach chairs and familiar faces
while an orange hue seeps through the street lights and into the night sky.
In the morning I hammer nails into wood into blue tarps into roofs.
The vibrations shudder up my arm but
we cannot have leaking leaving brown splotches that cost too much.
In turn for our work that feels less like work and more like faith
we receive bags of salty chips and slow, southern thank you’s.

And so I read notes left on wooden bunk beds telling me
about how a city can change a person,
about how we must trust the process and timing of life,
about how moments and places like these
will show you some sort of something,
whatever it is that you may be looking for,
but I don’t write mine.

I don’t write mine until the ceiling cracks from the weight of my ancestors.
I don’t write mine until the light shining in from my window fades to a static grey.
I don’t write mine until I’m home again with a roof and walls and it does not feel like a home.

Time moves much quicker here.

-Catherine Buckley

Categories
Fiction Spring 2021 Edition Writing

The Other One

The coffee shop was busy this time of day. Too busy. The morning sunlight glinted off the bronzed wood of the sign above the doors, silhouetting the patrons seated at the tables within. The lone android paused with his slender, plastic-grafted hand poised to push open the door.

For several moments, he didn’t know why he had stopped. Perhaps it was a malfunction in his arm? He’d taken care to troubleshoot his joints before making the walk down the riverside market, so nothing should be amiss. Yet there he stood, frozen in place, in time, like a fly caught in amber.

“They clearly aren’t closed…” muttered a man to his right. The android craned his neck to observe the couple glancing oddly between the crowded shop and him. Furrowed brows…frowns…dissatisfied expressions! He was clearly doing something wrong.

The android forced his static arm forward, shoving open the door with perhaps more force than necessary and letting himself inside. The array of sensations startled him—the bell tinkling daintily above his head, indicating to all his arrival; the distinct aroma of coffee beans and wafting vanilla from behind the countertop; the undulating waves of human conversation blending into a hopeless muddle against his sensors.

The lone cashier barely glanced up at him, too busy writing down the next customer’s order in the long line before him. Lest his joints froze a second time, he hurried to a window booth just recently vacated by a mother and her squealing toddler. As he sat, fingering a small cookie crumb, he both glanced at the dusty wall clock and checked the timer he’d set in his internal computer.

Five minutes. He would have arrived sooner had the marketplace not been so crowded. It was a mistake not to anticipate the popularity of human interactions on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet it was the only day he could arrange to meet with—

“Welcome to The Grind! Cup ‘a coffee, or something exciting?”

The android risked a glance at the waitress. Chewing on the tip of her pen, half her attention was fixed on the notepad already dark with ink scribbles. He kept his eyes trained on the pen, just in case she happened to glance up at him.

Don’t look them in the eyes. His extensive research leading up to this day had warned him of this. The emotions writ within eyes was a telltale sign of humanity. Only a second’s gaze would reveal the glint of machinery behind his own.

The waitress sighed. “Listen, mister. You see the line? If you’re still deciding…”

The android jolted back to attention. Right, she had asked a question. What to consume? He quickly surveyed the other patrons of the café. A woman sitting at one of the round tables, jotting down notes with a latte stationed beside her hand…the man in the business suit at the booth just past his own, shouting into a flat phone while handling a small, clear glass of what could only be alluring espresso…the bedraggled young man on one of the stools, typing away furiously on his laptop while sipping a black, heavy drink—coffee. Now there was the Golden Fleece of drinks, the worshipped treasure that had so claimed the hearts of innocent passerby. It was the drink no one would question, certainly not his visitors.

He spoke the magic word, like a prayer in the breeze. “Coffee.”

The waitress didn’t even look up. She made a little scribble on her notepad and went to greet the newest set of customers.

Now, all that was left was to wait. The android awkwardly folded his hands together on the table, the gesture awkward compared to the humans busying themselves with their phones while waiting for their own drinks. He had no need of a phone—not when his motherboard could access the Internet as easily as a human clicking on an application. And, well…it wasn’t like he had anyone to speak to, anyway.

But that might change, he reminded himself, his circuits sending zaps of electric excitement throughout his body. It was the reason why he had stationed himself in this coffee shop in the first place: crowded, yet commonplace, normal. The perfect place for a group of human friends to meet and engage in conversation and camaraderie.

The android had successfully managed to infiltrate a small pod of humans. Or, perhaps infiltrate wasn’t the correct term. Too militaristic. Oh, if he messed it up when the others were actually here—

The bell atop the door jingled as three college-age customers swept in on the edges of a conversation, the morning breeze skittering discarded napkins at their feet. The android took one glance at them and thought his joints would freeze again. It was time to see if all his research paid off.

He forced his arm to move, extending it in a standard greeting to get their attention. The three of them—two boys, one girl—jostled one another as they made for the booth, tucking themselves into the worn leather seats with an ease of familiarity.

“Got here right on time, huh?” Markos nudged the android’s metal side. His eyes widened; he proceeded to dig his elbow deeper. “Wow, you’ve got some abs. You work out?”

The boy across from him, Adrian, rolled his eyes behind his glasses. “Stop making him feel weird.”

Quicker than the android expected, the waitress appeared once more at the foot of the table. Her eyes brimmed with excitement—old friends, he guessed. “Welcome back, gang! Usual drinks?”

The trio mumbled their affirmations, but not without warmth. As the boys struck up a debate on the ethics of pointing out if one has “worked out”, the android’s vision strayed to the girl. Her name was Cara, and her fingers were fiddling with something on the table, a bit of machinery that she dismantled and reconstituted, over and over. Her skin was pale against her freckles; she spent little time in sunlight, despite the warm embrace of summer just outside.

That is something we have in common, the android mused.

“…your name again?”

He turned to see Markos looking at him sheepishly. The android had not recorded the ongoing conversation; he had no idea of the context. Markos took the weighed pause as an answer and blushed. “Sorry. I suck at names. And we only met you the once…”

Adrian, as if it was his cue, rolled his eyes a second time. “It’s Capar, right? Pretty unforgettable name, if you ask me.”

“Capar! Right, right…weird name. That Greek or something? Reminds me of capers, the food. You know?”

“That doesn’t make you sound clever, you know.” Adrian smirked.

Capar. CaPAr—Conscious Processor Android—was his technical name, with a few extra English letters thrown in to make it sound more human. But he didn’t care for the conversation. Something had locked his gaze on Cara’s deft fingers, screwing and unscrewing the bolt of her little machine, moving almost unconsciously.

“Pipin’ hot!” In the span of a breath, the tray-brandishing waitress efficiently deposited their drinks down before them, nary a ripple disturbing the surface of each. Adrian smacked his lips at the sight of his mocha, Markos throwing his hands up in excitement as he cheered his cappuccino. The android’s own coffee sat expressionless and steaming, a black mirror. And for Cara…

An elegant cup of herbal tea. 

“Tea?” the android blurted out. The choice had betrayed his expectations; surely, someone with such unconscious energy would be turn more toward a drink with high levels of caffeine. But silence fell in the moments his outburst as Cara’s gaze slowly lifted up, her fingers ceasing their rhythmic dance. Fool. The stranger he acted, the more they would suspect something off about him, and the more likely it was that he would ruin any chance of being normal.

Cara took the moment in stride, owning it in a way he could never achieve. “What’s wrong with tea? Too delicate for you?”

His internal fan whirred rapidly. Own the moment. “Your energy level…does not correlate with your drink.”

Another pause. Markos leaned on his arm, sipping his own drink while observing him. “You know, there’s something about you I can’t quite put my finger on…something mechanical.”

The android’s computer whirred in panic. In the blink of a second, he calculated all negative outcomes to this scenario, all centered around the possibility of discovery. They would abandon him. Word would spread, and he would lack human companions, allies, in a world like this…

There were too many outcomes. He was overloading on the near-infinite gestures, expressions, words, that could shift the tide of opinion. Humans and their complexities; how did they survive one another?

Yet, as he picked through his options, he noticed that Cara was staring at him in a way that wrested all attention, with what he realized was intent. Don’t look them in the eyes, that was the golden rule, but Cara’s gaze was as strong as a directive.

He saw it, then. The glint in her pupils—that subtle gleam of a mainframe. The way the sunlight caught her skin, as if it was more plastic than flesh. And the small smile at her lips, almost calculated—indicative of one who has studied and mastered the art of human expression.

Finally, her fingers, once more taking up the rhythm of assembling and dismantling. The movement was almost automatic—mechanic.

“Come on, Markos,” Cara said smoothly. “It’s not like he’s some kind of robot.”

Markos scoffed, blushing. “Well, duh. But that would be sick.”

“…Sick?” the android questioned.

“He means it would be cool.” Adrian crossed his arms. “You sure you’re not a robot? Everyone knows that.”

Not hip doesn’t equal robot.” Markos threw an arm around the android’s shoulders. “But if he is a robot, maybe he can help me with calculus homework.”

“I don’t think anyone can help you with calculus homework.”

“Try me.” The android spoke with ease, without thinking. Cara shared a secretive smile with him.

Markos howled with laughter. “The robot’s got some competition in him, huh? We’ll hit up the park after this. Maybe someone can finally beat Adrian’s smarts.”

Adrian tossed back a bit of his hair. “I doubt that.” But the android saw eagerness flush in his expression.

They drained their drinks quickly; the android managed to consume all of his coffee (though he couldn’t taste an ounce of it), and the other android did the same, sipping her tea with practiced ease. Once they had finished, they stood from the booth, leaving bits of currency tucked beneath their cups for the waitress to pick up. As Markos and Adrian bickered on their way to the door, the android paused before Cara. An expression of gratitude was in order.

“You have my thanks,” he said. He was still practicing his genuine inflection, but words were words.

Cara slipped her mechanical toy into her pocket, pausing to tuck the strap of her purse around her shoulder. She shook her head, but it was not without a soft grin. “Oh, little brother. You still have a lot to learn.”

-Meera Ramakrishnan, ’22

Categories
Poetry Spring 2021 Edition Writing

La Balada Ruidosa de Santa Cecilia

Listen.

Breathe, and listen.

¡WEPA!

A passion beat, the battery of a drum-roll and the blaring of a trumpet.
Loud, deep, in the valleys below, the holiest choir of music, people’s music,

Blasting from the open windows of a bouncing Boricuan car.

The rumble is a Beat,
That familiar rhythm of pulsating drums and screaming synths.
It is an ode to freedom and volume, bombastic sound and shaking car speakers.
The quick scratches of a vinyl and the loud tongues of roaring rap lyrics,
Speak like horns of Fire,
Engulfing-

With heart, they tell stories of home and of hustle,
Of people and of person,
Of loneliness and of loving.
With the roaring echoes of pride, and passionate power,
Their own anthems yell “TÚ ERES GUASA, GUASA!” or “CUÉNTALE!”

These,
Are Victory Chants,
Battle Hymns,
Tradition,
and,

Algo.

Though some ears, they turn.
And many will scream back in agitation,
They are simply fearful of the sound of freedom ringing.
Afraid of the power,
Afraid of the difference,
Afraid of the meaning,

Of an island born LOVE of vibration.

But, The Fearful, they’ve forgotten something.
Forgotten el sentido that these rhythms bring,
And, sadly, never realize,
That lives worth leading do often bother each other.

So Listen.

Stand! And LISTEN!

To what exactly these massive Hymnals mean to Me.

I was born in the land of grapevine and olive oil, the fragrance of nobility not an unfamiliar.
I was raised into a life of power, prestige, and beauty, but I chose the path of sack cloth for faith.
This humility frightened my parents, who had me married off, but in my own piety I prayed,
I prayed to prove my husband a person of civility, his body christened by my own request.
He was enlightened, and remained honorable, and in sheer adulation of our devotions,


I sang.
Our wedding ceremony was one of riches, clanging chalices and overflowing drink,
But, in the midst of festivity,
In the heart of sheer warmth and intimacy,
I heard it.

First it was the timbre of a voice, rich and clear,
Singing the sweet praise of a blue sky above and a brown earth below.

Then came the shrill ring of a symphony of string,
Carrying bold plucks and waves of awe-inspiring, lushous, vibration.

Soon after, cacophony! Rumbling drums and uproarious percussion,
Inspiring the bodies and souls of the reception to jump, leap, and gyrate.

By then, the temperature had risen, and it was plain to all that this adulation, this Worship,

Was something different.

It was shameless, liberated, violent, and free.
It held volume, sweaty passion and vocal significance.
It was sound, symphony, and praise fried into one.
Loud, filthy, and fun rhythms of lifeblood and self, it was, in essence,

Divine.

No more did holiness need to be confided to the realm of silence and servitude.
No more did shame and punishment need to accompany those who sang their praises aloud.
Since this moment, this Music, was far greater prayer than any twisted mystic could grant,
And, to me, this revelation meant something (or to you, my children, Algo).

I think of this something as I hear the love and glory that pours out of an open car window,
Sweet pounds and pulses of electronic warbles and a bass-kick beat filling the air with presence.
I think of this something as I see the lone guitarist string their solitude into a humid night’s sky,
Poems of loss and adoration leaving their lips in a downpour, their sincerity a sign of clarity.
I think of this something as I witness the foundation of a casa shake, quake, and crack,
The pounding of a thousand eager feet, the vocal unity of a hundred rising voices, just too much,
Too Holy,
For the mortal bindings of an Earth dangerously appreciative of silence.

Now,
Why is that?
I ask you each,
As a Martyr.
And nothing more.

-Jorge Biaggi, ’23