Make Room

Make room in your afternoon schedule to enjoy Fiora Elbers-Tibbitts’s poem in Parallax-Online.

I. Unearth

I cut an umbilical cord today. Plastic,
raw, weakly bound to an animal found
buried in my closet. Long ago

in a den, a taxidermist
foraged its seams for loot, wary
of sewing attachment. Thievery

turned to alchemy. I coddled the rabbit
on a leash, buttons to gold. Its belly
swelled with rainwater, bliss, later maggots.

II. Suspend

My bed’s canopy was a canvas. Violent foot paddles
launched a thousand upside-down ships, tufting waves
that fondled buckets of treasure.

Calmer seas invite grief. Pebbles for a game of hopscotch.
I catapult them through spilled milk; the sheet’s cerebral
film engulfs my wishes in three jumps.

III. Retreat

I built a shrine to her garden trestle on my bureau.
She harvests vines, I harvest dead flies. Our symbiosis
feeds off of order in pairs.

We share shut windows. Trapped pests
and leaves clonk the glass: prison inmates
surviving by the ebb of our dinner bell.

By Fiora Elbers-Tibbitts
A senior creative writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

Sea Cucumber

Read about Alexandra Lewis’s narrator’s discussion of cucumbers with her therapist in the short story, “Sea Cucumber.”

When I was little, I only ate cucumbers. My mom tried to put them in salads and on sandwiches, but I’d pick them off and eat them alone. He asks me why I’m talking about cucumbers. I kick my shoes off the side of the couch and rub my toes against the fabric. I tell him his couch is the color of a peeled cucumber and I think about the way food tastes with pill coating in my mouth.

The air in his office smells like sea salt and onions. Sometimes, I tell him, I think about drowning myself. I tell him that everything happening has happened before, and that I watch myself contribute to it. I inhale salt water, and he asks me if I’m breathing heavily because I’m agitated, and that agitates me.

In the bathroom, I gargle a handful of sink water. I see a different person in every mirror, but if I could cut the skin off my face I’d find myself. I’m a product of my repetition. Back in the office he offers me coffee, tea, and I think about what fish drink. If you put them in a tank of beer, would they get drunk? If you walk sixty steps from the left wall, you can make it to the right one, but he calls this pacing. I stopped counting out loud. Eighty-six weeks ago I would have called it crazy, but now I’m just waiting for a finger to tap against the glass.

I tell him that I lost my virginity sitting on a baby changing station at a truck stop, and when it was over I felt like a mother and a fetus and a whore and a queen. Is the predominant difference between a sea cucumber and a land cucumber that one can sustain itself and the other needs a vine? He doesn’t answer. I lie on my back on the love seat across from him and wonder what his home life is like, even though I’m not supposed to. If I stare at the ceiling for too long, I start to see big gold triangles and when I close my eyes, they stay there and glow. In my dreams I swim out of my skin, but when I tell him about them he calls them nightmares. Sometimes I’ll look up and see the sun behind a skin of waves.

He taps his pen on his clipboard and I ask him what his ideal day would be. He asks, without answering, what mine would be. When I say a day underwater he asks how often I think about killing myself.

“How often is too often?” He writes this down. I bring my knees to my tummy and hug them—fold my chin into my chest. “Did you know that fish never close their eyes?”

“Hmm,” he says, and looks at me like I’m leaving something out.

I tell him about when I was thirteen and tried to make soap. I dumped a pot of boiling water on my foot and I had to use a fake name in the emergency room so that they couldn’t bill our house. He asks if that upset me and I feel inhuman. I try to count how many seconds I take on each breath to gauge my agitation.

I ask him to identify key differences between happiness and unhappiness. They say I have a chemical imbalance. Fish can sing, you know, I say, and he nods–hits his pen against his chin. He asks me how I occupy my time here outside of our sessions. If something could make me feel anything, I tell him, I’d do it every day.

I am a half-dead fish, floating on top of the water, watching patterns of pelicans. I’m waiting for one to swoop me up and cradle me in the bath of its beak. I sink further into the crease of the couch cushions and feel like I’m in a cucumber coffin.

I think about killing myself three times a day, exactly three, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s why I don’t snack. He writes this down, and I take a deep breath.

 

Alexandra Lewis

Alli Lewis is a high school writer from Michigan and Ohio, and she goes to Walnut Hill School for the Arts. She would like to dedicate this piece to her late feline companion.

Artwork by Diana Ryu

 

Sunday Dinner

Fiora Elbers-Tibbits describes the cliché Sunday dinner in her brutally honest and satirical prose piece, “Sunday Dinner.”

The family comes bubble wrapped, prepped to eat over synthetic discourse.
Prayer first. The future’s passed around; patrons pile on the collection
plate. The oven is hot and the timer cheats. Women leap at the beep,
unrehearsed in their assembled domestic burst. Another spring chicken:
underdone meat, dry like chalk. She’ll learn. The men are robust with
compensating promises, raises and grease simmering at the table, lingering
green outside the confession booth. They lurch. A bubble pops and the
curtain drops. Chairs adjust, scrape back singed skin. Faith and heat
converge.

Fiora Elbers-Tibbits
A senior creative writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

Art by Florence Liu

Megabat

Come hang with Emily Kessler.

I’ve never had a headache. Common
misconception. I’m bloodless, pale
lipped as toilet-sick kids. Hanging
isn’t as hard as it looks. No, my bane
is calcar: the wing-stretcher bone,
brittle as early-March underskin.

Born to tree fork and white
eyes in nighttime, swing now
between fists. I swaddled
alone in my own wings,
bit fruit, slept upside down
huge in broad daylight.

Strand of tibia, elongated
tooth. Those are bones too.
Hello to the space my body
wants and sorry
from a long line of skulls.

 

By: Emily Kessler

 

Emily Kessler is a senior at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, MA. She likes corn muffins, moose tracks, and League of Legends. She likes dogs that people point to and say, “That dog is a horse.” She has short brown hair. 

 

Robin the Noble

Sabrina Melendez battles gender norms in her modern twist to a heteronormative fairy tale.

My dearest Princess Delilah,

            I have been watching you for months through this window. I know that sounds a little creepy, but I promise that I looked away every single time you were changing out of respect. That being said, I think you look beautiful every time you dance quietly to yourself in front of the mirror, or read that one text book on molecular biology, and that little twitch you’ve got below your left eye is just adorable. I love you dearly, and I think that if you consent to marrying me, I could make you very happy. If you’re interested, I will come at once to your aid and rescue you from the tower. Please send word immediately through this carrier pigeon.

                        Yours truly,

                        Robin the Noble

 

Dear Robin the Noble,

            Thank you kindly for your letter. I think its sweet of you to like the twitch below my left eye. I’ve always been self-conscious about it and I haven’t been able to leave the tower to get it checked out. Before you come to rescue me, though, I would like to know a little more about you. Like, I don’t know, what do you look like, and what’s your favorite color, and what would name a pet guinea pig, and so forth.

            Sincerely,

            Princess Delilah

 

Dearest Princess Delilah,

             I have brown hair and blue eyes and white skin, and all ten fingers, and all ten toes. My favorite color is fuchsia, and as for the guinea pig I would name it Cornelius Bernard. I would want to endow a guinea pig with a magnificent and noble name in order to make up for the poor animal’s size, and the seemingly insignificant, perhaps even embarrassing, role of being one’s pet. I would always address it by its full name, saying “Here is your breakfast, Sir Cornelius Bernard,” or “Do let me clean out your cage, Sir Cornelius Bernard.”

 I hope this letter has served well enough, and I do hope you are still interested.

            Love,

            Robin the Noble

 

Princess Delilah was, of course, still interested, and sent word right away that she would most definitely like Robin the Noble to rescue her from her tower. Princess Delilah waited many weeks for her sweet Robin, and was beginning to become a little doubtful, when she finally heard a knock on her bedroom door.

“Just a minute!” she said, and ran to the mirror to fix her hair before posing herself perfectly at her desk, molecular textbook in hand, angling her face towards the door in such a way that she was sure, would display the twitch below her left eye. “Okay, okay, come in.”

And there he was, inside of her room, perfect brown hair, perfect blue eyes, and he would’ve probably had white skin too, had it not been for the scorch marks all over his face and arms.

“Princess Delilah!” he said, and got down on one knee to bow to her highness.

“Robin, my most noble!” squealed Delilah, throwing the book to the floor and jumping with glee. “You’ve made it at last!”

But the man rose, scratching his head. “Robin? I am no Robin. My name is Prince James. Perhaps you’ve got me confused with another?”

Princess Delilah did not understand. “Another? What other?”

“Well, princess, I know you can’t see because your little window points conveniently in the opposite direction, but the front door of your tower is guarded by this huge fire-breathing dragon. Perhaps you’ve got me confused with a suitor who failed to get past it. Either way, I got past the stupid dragon and so technically, I am to marry you.”

Princess Delilah clasped her hands as tears welled up in her eyes. “But… My dearest Robin… Do you mean to say that he is dead?”

“I know not this Robin, but I saw the dead scorched bodies of many men lying along the pit that leads to your front door… I’d say if he hasn’t come yet, he’s probably dead.” At this, Princess Delilah collapsed the ground and began to sob into her hands.

Prince James got to his feet and found himself standing awkwardly in the room, not quite sure how to go about cheering up his bride-to-be.  “I mean—I’m not so bad, am I? I’m rich, charming, handsome” At this, Princess Delilah cried even harder. “Geez,” he said, scratching his head. “How do you know this Robin anyway?”

Princess Delilah lifted her face, wiping away tears, still beautiful despite the blotchy redness of her tear-stained face. “He- He sent me letters.”

“Well how much can you really tell about a person from a letter?”

“Well, he’s funny and smart and loving and accepting, and and and his favorite color’s fuschia.”

“Fuschia?”

“It’s like a pinkish-purplish-blue.”

“Don’t you think that’s kind of girly?”

“A color’s a color. Besides, what’s wrong with girly?”

Prince Harris chuckled. “Well, no girly guy’s gonna be able to get through what I just got through back there with that dragon.”

“And why not?”

“C’mon, don’t make me explain.”

“Well, what’s your favorite color?”

“Blue, I guess.”

“That everybody’s favorite color. What would you name a guinea pig?

“I don’t know, Fluffy? Squeakers? Miss Piggy?”

Princess Delilah sighed again.

“What’s wrong with those names? What else would you name a guinea pig?”

At that point, both Princess Delilah and Prince James heard footsteps running quickly up the tower stairs. Princess Delilah jumped to her feet. “Do you hear that? It must be Robin, coming for me now!” Prince James rolled his eyes. He thought about bringing up the whole first-come-first-served rule, then drew his sword instead in order to challenge the oncoming suitor. But Princess Delilah didn’t even notice, for she was too busy staring at the doorway. They both stood staring for several minutes, until Robin finally made it all the way up the winding stairs and into Delilah’s room, at which point Princess Delilah let out a gasp and Prince James dropped his sword. For there was Robin, perfect brown hair, perfect blue eyes, perfect white skin, visible even beneath the ash and bloody wounds, but Robin was a woman.

Princess Delilah and Prince James stayed frozen in shock, their eyes fixed upon Robin, whose body was covered in steel armor save for the helmet which she carried with one hand. Everything else was caked with soot or blood, but there she stood, ready to battle a thousand more dragons if they got in her way. Then, she turned to Prince James and recoiled, dropping the helmet.

“Seriously?” she said. “I’m second?” But they merely continued to stare. “I—I spent so much time training. I swear, princess, I’ve tried to beat that stupid dragon of yours thirteen times, but I barely started fencing a few years ago, and well I could get past it sure, but killing it was a different story.”

Killing it?” said Prince James. “You killed her dragon?”

“Yeah. That’s what you’re supposed to do, isn’t it? Kill the dragon, marry the princess…”

“I thought it was just get past the dragon, marry the princess.” They both turned to look at Princess Delilah.

“R-Robin? Is that you?”

“It’s me.”

“But-but you’re a…”

“A what?”

Prince Jamess, suddenly regaining his confidence, laughed a little. “Why, you’re a woman.”

“Yeah, I’m a woman. I didn’t think that would be a—wait—is it a problem?”

Princess Delilah nodded slowly. “I mean, it’s not that I don’t—I mean I just, I’m just not… like that.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I don’t really… go for women.”

“Go for… Oh, you mean you…” Robin suddenly understood, but the lump in her throat grew so large she could hardly speak.

“I’m sorry.”

Robin looked away, trying to hold back the tears welling in her eyes. “It-It’s fine, I mean, maybe I should’ve put that in the letter. I guess I just assumed…”

Prince James laughed again. “Why would you just assume something like that?”

Robin’s face turned red as she stood ashamed and embarrassed in the middle of the room, her heart ripping to shreds. She turned to leave, but before she started walking, she twisted once more to look at Princess Delilah. “Your, um, your little eye twitch… It’s even more adorable in person.” And with that, Robin turned to walk back down the stairs from which she came.

But before Robin could go down a couple of steps, she was stopped by Princess Delilah. “Wait!”

Robin halted. “Anything you wish, princess.”

“Maybe we can start over, huh Robin?” Princess Delilah smiled shyly. Maybe we could just be… friends?”

Robin smiled sadly and nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s fine.”

“How would you like to be my lady-in-waiting?”

Robin thought about it. She would be around the ever-gorgeous Princess Delilah every single day, doing anything in her power to make her life a little easier, to make her a little happier. It was all she ever wanted. She accepted the job immediately. Princess Delilah then ran back up the stairs to Prince James and agreed to marry him as Robin stayed halfway below on the same step, drawing sloppy hearts on the soot of her helmet.

 

Sabrina N. Melendez

Sabrina Melendez is the 2013-2014 senior editor of Parallax Literary Journal. She enjoys writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, dramatic fiction, and songs. She is  from El Paso, TX, but likes to identify as a Puerto Rican because Puerto Rico is a far cooler place to be from than El Paso. Aside from writing, Sabrina likes to play piano, sing, spend hours in the ceramics studio, and make puns that inspire others to leave the room. 

Art By Eunji Kang

Sorry

Rachel Hertzberg’s “Sorry” examines the often tumultuous patches of the relationship between Mother and child. Far from simple, this poem explores many familiar feelings and evokes a strong sense of nostalgia and sympathy.

You come from transient men.
Men who join the priesthood without warning
and run away to Florida and sell houses that weren’t theirs
but you come from women who are solid.
Women who fold their arms and
stare at you like Washington stared at the Delaware
like you are just something to be crossed
women you don’t talk back to
who stop at the grocery store after a funeral
who sew their own clothes and
keep leftovers for months to be stewed on some anxious winter evening
Women who tell you who you are
leaving you with the feeling
that you did something wrong.
All the recanting in the world
could not repent for the sin
of trying to correct them.
You are starting to look like your mother
Your features are carved by the same hand
Your nose is the same bridge; your eyes are the same river
Your fingers are the same half-closed drawbridges.
One day she notices your shorn hair
and your bare eyes and she says
Are you trying to turn yourself into a boy?
She says you have grown sullen, rebellious, dishonest.
But she does not see how the bones of your face
have grown strong as her own.
All of your apologies are backward glances
they are checking for monsters in the dark
they are stockpiling canned corn
they are knitting a suit of armor out of steel wool
they are whispering in the darkness
          so quietly
          so still
          your voice trembles, a fawn that does not know how to return to the forest
I will write down all your apologies
inscribe them in ebony ink and encircle them in gold leaf
bind them with red leather and velvet.
I’ll deliver them by hand to your mother’s feet,
so that she will know how you love her.

Dear Junior Year

Congratulations to Tenaya Berndsen for winning Honorable Mention in this years IAA Non-Major Contest.

She is unblemished,
As they say…

But blemished she is: Blemished is her mind,
Her inner eye.
His snaky kingdom, an intruder to her peaceful bliss, Mourns the mere chance it did not take To be a globalist movement under her blithe skin.
His every will, willing to appease, His every word, sweet nectar to mine ear.
And inner ease be his tremulous desire, That which she brings not into his life, But smothers with her accusations so.
She is not what I am, divine perfection of a woman.
This, misconceived, is not what I am but what she is.

As she hurts him so, she sees it not,
For her selfishness overpowers her being.. Draws Confidence For her selfishness eats her whole. He sees not that she hurts him so, Still ignorant pertaining to detecting evil. But the lights, they falter, And eyes strain to adjust.
And his cheek bones, defined by sorrow, Are jagged Not unlike my
heart.


He knows not what damage she has done,
For broken he is and the fault accredited to her.
For her grubby fingernails have defaced my poor, sweet angel..
Dare I call him so His innocence she robbed, if he ever was innocent at all.
I know not what damage he has done,
For broken I am and the fault accredited to him.
But repress I my sorrow, endeavoring to cushion him. Attempting to heal his feeble heartbeat.
May I save him if I sweep aside the wool Shorn Off His Back?

By: Tenaya Berndsen

Vialpando

Hannah Malik’s poem, Vialpando, explores the idea of childbirth and loss.

The mock-orange tree
looks pale as the flattened scar,
the heath upon which the heathen
screams.
The bough’s extent
graces the cropped and furrowed sky
of cloud and celestial smiles.
Dusk,
as the wail
clips pigeon wings overhead.
The winter breath a
silent re v
                        er
                                i
                                       e…

Top orange flame a hanging amber drop upended like the slaked mind drunk on hyacinth monkshood, heather, blossoms- opened- a jaw with whiskers, the honeysuckle. A sweeter smell against curlequed rubbings, rubbings conceived by the skull, the pale stretch of glossed-over belly: the woman, barren. Autumnal flesh never tasting spring but always chased by winter-
-Skoll, a raking claw to dispose of the blossom which knew no scent but citrus and hunger, no breath. Breathless. He stands beside her, greying hair and hands against her pelvis, she looks to sea in the growing dark. Her eyes a selkie’s greenish hue and knuckles white with hunger for what could have been. What was? What spoken spell beneath her branches could propose the blood and not the name, this woman with no heir.
No bosom full and glowing, pressed upon by the tasseled heads of fog and bitter smells from the locusts upon mock orange petals, fallen without aid of air to glide. She smiles. Her paling, nakedness exposed- the cold ripped her o f h e r b l o o m and took whatever happened, -in a night above the sea, beneath strains of stars- away.
Her branches trailing into dark, her squarish chin quivering as she grows bent by the winter wind that bites her heels. He calls her back, afraid, hands soaked in blood and nails caked with soil. She has already withered. He leaves a mock-orange leaf to seed.

By: Hannah Malik

Oh Writers, Writers

Ana Garcia explores the desperation of writer’s block in her beautiful and comical Non-fiction piece, “Oh Writers, Writers.”

Ana Garcia explores the desperation of writer’s block in her beautiful and comical Non-fiction piece, “Oh Writers, Writers.”

My words are gone. Sitting among crumpled papers, suffocating characters’ voices, vanishing landscapes and tangled stories with every sheet of paper torn off the notebook spiral. The lights are dim, stains of bergamot tea and coffee decorate the tables and the cups are dropped around the room, some of them broken and the porcelain pieces are scattered on the floor, making company to the cigarette butts. Really fancy. I stare at the computer screen with red eyes, big bags growing under my eyelids, evidence of the days gone by. Yeah, it’s both depressing and amusing.

The characters, their eyes, dilemmas and tragedies are still spinning in my mind. It’s not a joking matter when I say the thoughts weigh on my head, the fingertips going numb of hitting the keyboard so many times. Gathering courage, I re-read the last few paragraphs I’ve written so far and I hate all of it. There’s not a single line worthy of rescue. The rage takes over me, reverberating from within my ribcage, later cursing my limbs, which leads me to flip my desk, and sincerely surprised, because as I said, I’m a writer, and I am not strong enough as to do such a thing. The laptop bounces on the floor but doesn’t break, thank god because my novel process is in there. The feeling of regret immediately takes place and I attempt to clean up the mess. Yeah, picking up the cigarette butts will do for now. I open the window to let the sunlight in, but you know what? Let’s not, the sun reflects on the computer screen and it’s painful for the tired eyes.

I sit back on my armchair. Yes, now I’m prepared. I can do this. I’ve suffered enough, so now the words should start slowly flowing, true writers create their masterpieces like that, right? The blinding white from the Word page attracts my sight and the hypnotizing process starts again. Yeah, I see it. The setting is perfect, the characters come well together: the hero with a despairing story, the villain’s just fascinating, and the tone I’ve planned for this is the cherry on top of my cake. Feel jealousy, my readers and fellow writers, because this is the story that will change generations. Now, just how to word it? I am a fucking writer and my biggest obstacle is writing.

Truth is I cannot write just like that. Look at me, I’m using the word “like” way too many times, ugh? I cannot even speak properly. I am supposed to have an extensive vocabulary and have a gift for storytelling. I can’t even, like, explain myself. For all I know, I might not even be a writer. Great stories don’t make great books if they’re not successfully portrayed in the readers’ uncreative minds. Workshops and master classes have denominated it as “writer’s block” but after years of experiencing it, leaves you thinking it’s lack of talent. Still, I lead a writer’s life: drink, smoke, read, write, erase what you just wrote, drink when you realize it was not so bad, read some more, and on Fridays I’d attend slam poetry readings. That’s when I learned part of my problem: the lack of confidence I had in myself. Because if I was that girl with curly hair that used to go on stage every week, my words would be poetry. And if I was that guy with the planked hats my work would sound original and sophisticated. The problem is my words and my hands, they just do not… work their magic. It was like being ready and eager to fly, but still needing to find pixie dust or your feet will just stay frozen to the ground.

So the antidote was to write fearlessly, according to my genuine self then. It did not work, my dear readers, because it was just part of the problem. I wrote a lot more than I used to, but I wrote really crappy stuff in a failed attempt to be sophisticated. I’d unfold crumpled papers that I had written before and they were so much better than they used to be. My work used to be honest, and it transformed into a pretentious vomit of long words.

And now this is me. Sitting across the table, trying to figure out how on earth to get back my words. Writers go through this all the time right? Despair enforces their art… although, if being like this is the only way I’ll become a good writer, maybe I do not want to be an artist anymore, not if it brings all this exasperation and pain.

My head hit the keyboard as a groan escaped from my throat, of pure redemption. My words are gone… oh wait, that’s actually a good line for a story, or even a poem. I am a writer, and it’s almost required for me to hate my work, but maybe it’s not so bad once my fingers tremble and hit words on the keyboard.  My words are gone…

By ~ Ana Garcia

Inhale

Congratulations to Alina Pontius for winning Second Place in the Parallax Non-Major contest!

[box]

I have arrived.  I am home.

I am clay.  Shape me. Press me.

I arrive and feel thumbprints, a potter’s wheel spinning on its axis.  Meet a stone on the street, I will swallow it.  Smooth—weighted–past my lips.  Esophagus clenches.  Take it down.  You have pressed heavy gold coins deep into my firm.  I carry them.  I carry you.  I lift myself.

I am repulsive.  I am radiant.  Push your fingers into my body and out my buoyant heart.

I am clay.  Shape me.  Press me.

My self,  She  is box-shaped.  I am made to hold your treasure.  Place your ball of thread, your brass lungs, your purple-bruised eyelids into me.  I am the moment before a breath.  I am a glint of lemon sun.  Do not look at me.  I can only be tasted.  I carry these things within and surround.  I carry them.  I carry you.

I have arrived.  Shape me.

 

By: Alina Pontius[/box]