Hymnody

Katherine Vandermel balances the simple and the lush; the ethereal and the physical in her visceral and poignant piece, “Hymnody.”

Aria
When I was alive, Zerlina’s aria
rang in church, not mine.

Her voice, soft & sexless.
My voice, a bullet
ricocheting off the chancel.

They were God’s songs, beaten
into pink pavement.

Apoptosis
I brewed spirits to forget the taste 
of the Italian lyric.

Manipura became my catholicon—
a bead strung on blue tantra thread.

After prayer, each bead bitten, swallowed. 

Inside, they lived as tapeworms
spoiling the meat of the ribcage.

My appendix carried grenades.

Exorcism
In Heaven, children sing the body holy—
pretzeled legs & braided hands, cheeks 
grinding against mahogany.

I join them because God visits 
often. I want to feel Him 

around my throat, to be baptized
clean as a soprano. 

When he’s gone, we smoke at the altar.

Spirits unwind from our cigars, staining the body 
like wet bourbon on silk.

Opera
After exorcism, my lungs fermented. 
Mouth full of ashes, tongue pulled by light.

From the spaces in my bones, a new hymnody.

Children following
my voice.

 

Katherine Vandermel is a writer who thinks of writing as painting: each word imbues the world with coloration. She loves music and a good, warm croissant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, and National Poet Quarterly, among others, and has been recognized by Behrend College and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She edits for Siblini Art and Literature.

Visual Art by Dawn Jooste. 

Of This Skin

In her poem, “Of This Skin”, Angel Benjamin creates visceral imagery that explores the details of the largest organ of the human body; skin.

shout out to the largest organ on the body;

a jewel of melanin and sunlight,

 

where rifts have been driven through,

marked up like tiger stripes.

 

housing our souls in armor

battered from time’s pain,

 

it has embraced the clumped earth

and slept on the ocean floor,

 

reaching outwards from the bloody west

to the hollow east.

 

though familiar with metal’s tongue, 

it still dances in glitter

 

for its light illuminates my mind, 

has shown me futures where I

 

can step through that same gate, 

and revel in sharing the worlds I create.

 

it has walked, shouted, praised, and hollered

what an elastic thing

 

as our permanent fixture, a shield,

from the water’s grip and the tight rope clips

 

as our reminder, 

for it’s no mere shadow in the mirror

 

it’s a lens, 

and we are afraid of it.

 

Angel Benjamin is in eleventh grade and lives in the old state of Maryland. Her work was recognized for the first time by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for regional awards. She likes to create worlds, both imaginary and real.

Visual Arts by Audrey Carver 

A History of Drowning

In her prose poem, “A History of Drowning”, Pearl Reagler retraces her personal history of swimming by using very beautiful details and a series of intriguing events.

When I first swam, I was five. My swim coach was named Cricket and she taught me to breathe every four strokes. One, two, three, gasp, one, two, three, gasp.

 

Nobody knows when the first human swam. I assume they drowned and people kept drowning until swim lessons were invented.

 

It’s funny to me that many people are so scared of water. It makes up most of our body. We grew into our bodies in the liquid of our mother’s womb. People say water births are ideal because they provide the smoothest transition from the womb to the outside world. The child leaves it’s growing place and transitions to a place that’s similar. Descending out of itself and into itself.

 

When Missy Franklin, a gold medalist in the 100 and 200 backstroke, swam for the first time it was like destiny. It was like I was born in the water, she says. Like she was returning to the womb, descending back into herself spiral by spiral.

 

When the flowers in my backyard are almost open, but not quite, I like to grab the petals and peel them open. Pressing the soft layers back–I have no time to wait for nature. The flowers need to bloom now, while I am still here to see them.

 

I understand that this is cruel and pointless.

 

When I was little, I learned to count very quickly. I counted my steps to get everywhere in school. I knew that it took exactly 102 steps to get from my classroom to the cafeteria, and 90steps to get from there to the library. I learned to count because I had to. How else was I supposed to fill the empty space in my mind. The ambiguity of a walk through school poked holes in my body and made me sick.

 

Because of this, I joined swim team. Structure is good, my mother says. Now, I can learn how to make things feel better. I can learn that the more your legs burn the softer they are after a shave. I can learn that it’s possible to ignore the spasms that come after one has held their breath too long.

 

There are four strokes that are legal in competitive swimming. Freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, and breaststroke.

 

Freestyle was a race horse, full of beast and muscle.

 

Then there was butterfly. Butterfly is the stroke made most popular by Micheal Phelps. It is not as easy as he makes it look.

 

Backstroke is the scariest stroke to me. You can’t see where you’re going so everything has to be timed perfectly. You need to know exactly how many strokes it takes for you to get to the wall before you flip or else you’ll crash against the wall. My number was three.

 

Then there was breaststroke. I could ever understand it. It was always my worst. Cricket taught me to kick—turn legs out, chicken feet, parachute, snap jaws closed. My ankles couldn’t turn out all the way and catch enough water for me to pull myself forward.

 

When you start swimming you begin to become acquainted with the most successful people in your sport. Allison Schmitt has a gold medal in the 200 freestyle. She is 6’1 and cannot stop smiling in the interviews that I watch. For some reason, I found her very annoying.

 

There were trees that grew over the pool I swam at. They would drop pine needles and leaves into the water. They would get caught in your suit and cause little pink pricks to form all over your skin. Sometimes I would take the needles and weave little bracelets. Other times, I would throw them at people. Once I hit my best friend square in the back. The needle pierced a scar that she got from jumping a fence in the 6th grade. Now on top of that wound, there was another smaller one. Little pink pricks forming.

 

On my tenth birthday I stopped all other sports and outside activities. I swam six times a week, for at least an hour and a half. I noticed that another girl is getting private lessons. I decided I should do those too. I decided I was going to make the Olympics in 2020. I would be 16 by then. Plenty of time to improve.

 

Micheal Phelps made the olympic team when he was 15 years old. In the 200 fly he came in 5th overall. I’m sure he wasn’t satisfied by this. My first swim coach used to say, a good athlete is never satisfied. You should never look at the people you beat, only the people who beat you. I always liked winning. Usually it was pretty easy. But when it wasn’t I was incapacitated. I remember one morning we played a game and the objective was to get across the pool in as few breaststroke kicks as possible. The record was four. I was stuck at fifteen.

 

Micheal Phelps now has 28 olympic medals. 23 are gold.

 

Most people I knew loved swim meets. Another opportunity to win was very welcome. I never felt that way. Swim meets were terrifying to me. When I got too close to the edge, the tile on the bottom of the pool blurred and formed a goats pupil. I wanted to vomit but I never could. I could never throw up at a swim meet.

 

Micheal Phelps tried to race a shark after his final olympics in 2016. He lost. He even had a head start. Pathetic, a woman next to me whispers. She’s not talking about Micheal Phelps. She’s talking about her daughter who is struggling to finish her race. She flounders in the water, lagging behind the other girls. It’s like she’s not even trying.

 

I could never lead a lane at swim practice because I couldn’t count laps. I had many other things to think about. How I had to breathe on this stroke, blink twice for every leaf on the pool floor, apply the exact same amount of pressure to each leg pushing off the wall. I suppose my teammates were better at multitasking than I was.

 

Once I tried to count laps for a friend instead of myself. She was swimming a long event at a swim meet, the 800 free, which is almost half a mile of swimming. Because of this, the athletes ask friends to count their laps for them. Counting laps is pretty simple. You stand at the end of the pool and hold a long pole. At the end of the pole are large plastic cards with numbers on them. For every lap, you flip a card and when the swimmer is turning they look up and see how many more laps they have. When I was counting for my friend I got distracted by the tiles on the deck and nearly dropped the pole on her head.

 

I chased down a boy I liked and hit him on the arm with a branch from a rose bush. I felt guilty about this for a while. Watching his arms under water, seeing how little pink lines had bloomed. When swim practice went on too long, I would lock myself in the bathroom. Staring at beetles crawling on the locker room floor. Watching little pink lines bloom.

 

In May of 2015, Allison Schmitt’s cousin commits suicide.

 

I cut my hand open at the bottom of the pool. A bee sting in between my toes. A stabbing pain in my shoulder.

 

When I was little my friend had a pool party. He said he could run, run faster than any of us under the water. He cut the soles of his feet open on the bottom. Little rivers of blood pooled on his pale skin. Even now I can’t forget it. I can never let my feet touch the ground. I have to tread water for hours.

 

Tiles are very important. Every time I finish a set there are four tiles I have to touch. One, two three, four, one, two, three, four.

 

Micheal Phelps has gone a year without skipping practice.

 

My mother learned to tread water in the YMCA pool by her house in Virginia. She was never the strongest swimmer. Too anxious, she says. Instead she played tennis. I was never as good as you, she says.

 

Micheal Phelps is pulled over for doing 84 in a 45 mile zone. He failed two DUI tests in a row. After that day he lays on the floor of his apartment and thinks about drowning. In an interview years later he admits, I was in a dark place, not wanting to be alive anymore. His coach, Bob Bowman said, I thought, the way he was going, he was going to kill himself.

 

Micheal Phelps older sister should’ve gone to the olympics. Unfortunately, like her brother, she lay on the floor for days, trying to hide her broken back and blue body.

 

I am very good at counting. I count every stroke I take. I can make it across the pool in fourteen. My coach wants me to make it eleven.

 

Missy Franklin has lost air in Rio. To her, it feels as though she has run out. Her coach removes her from the relay race she was supposed to swim on. She watches from her hotel room as they win the gold medal she was set for. The carpet under her suffocates her body. She folds back into her throat ring by ring.

 

My last swim meet was unplanned. After making finals in the 200 free I walked up to my coach and told him I was never swimming again. The only thing that disturbed me about the encounter was how unsurprised he seemed.

 

The first time I almost drowned I was jumping into a cold lake. I had a life vest on but when the water touched my body I was certain I was going to die. I hadn’t swam in two months. My cousin had to pull me out and I lay on the boat deck in shock. As my aunt explained that the cold currents came from the mountains nearby, my cheek melted into the warm metal like an ice cube.

 
 

Pearl Reagler is a student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas. Most of the time, she likes to write poetry and screenplays. She also enjoys photography and film.
Visual Arts by Sumin Seo 

Grace Katharine; an ode to your senior year.

Sophia Robles—winner of the $25,000 Parallax Poetry and Fiction Scholarship Contest to attend Idyllwild Arts Academy— has a skill with both storytelling and the poetics of language. “Grace Katharine; an ode to your senior year” beautifully paints a portrait and writes a narrative of teenage struggle and familial bonds. With gripping imagery and a voice full of authenticity, this piece captures the pain and triumphs of a girl in her senior year of high school.

Grace Katharine; an ode to your senior year.

To my eldest sister–

 

I have sat front row 

to watch the human body 

rot from the inside out

 

            because growing up, 

           my sister was overweight and had eczema,

           so the world mistook her

                  newfound small frame 

                           for a miracle diet that had cured obesity in three months, 

                  rosy patches scabbed over in grey, 

                           for the winter itchies turned cherry red by her scratching,

                  yellow fingers with divots at the seams, 

                           for the time she dated a smoker to make mom mad 

      because

                  she was eighteen, and 

                  it was her senior year, and 

                   her knees had finally stopped aching from carrying 

                  an 80-pound tire swing at her waist, and 

                  she finally had someone more than just a lunch table friend

      because 

                  a university acceptance 

                  made her hollow eyes glow

                  for the first time since she was three; 

                  after special ed classes induced by seizure medications 

                  had promised her nothing but the back door

     because 

                  she was finally happy and the world followed suit; 

                  the stars aligned and she held them tight in her hands.

 

But the night emergency room doctors said, 

           “Ma’am, this is not right.

           The patches are not eczema 

          and the needles in her bones 

          are not from running too far too fast.”

 

I knew. 

     Her lilac-lacquered lips 

     were not from

              the lavender bags mom tied at our bed posts or

              summer nights when our bedtime remained 7:30 or

              the year we moved coast to coast or

              the time we broke the neighbor girl’s nose or 

              midnights when we drove to corner stores for candy corn, or

              from a lavender bushel with petals decaying in her pockets,

              left to reminisce on our summers in the cherry belt. 

 

My sister once told me

beautiful stories 

are the ones where 

tragic things happen to beautiful people 

and yes, our hearts may have broken 

but they will grow again.

 

 

 

Sophia Robles is the winner of the 2020 Parallax Poetry and Fiction Scholarship.  She is currently a junior at Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy (SASA) in the Creative Writing Concentration.  Sophia’s work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing, Michigan Youth Arts Festival, Theodore Roethke Foundation, Perspectives Literary Journal, and more.

Art By: De Zhen “Jeremy” Xu

Two Poems by Pearl Reagler

Pearl Reagler’s poems, “Night Walkers” and “cicada women”, express an authentic and creative use of imagery. Through her powerful use of vivid details, Pearl paints scenes and emotions that bring to life interesting character relationships.

Night Walkers

I have not yet learned how to sleep through the night.

Houston Texas, and then some. Under the oak trees. By the pool white flowers melt like snow.

The air still fits over my body like a second skin.

And the crickets chirp.

And then the rain would pound. It didn’t stop easy. I’m walking down a suburban street, towing a wooden beam behind me. On my phone a man wades through water, clinging to his kayak.

Did you know that there are more stars in the sky then there are grains of sand on every beach in the world? I do.

On my way home a man speaks to his wife on a black berry. He accuses her of something. And I assume she answers.

And the crickets chirp.

There were hills made of dirt in the lot across from mine. A new house about to be constructed.

When I was little, I used to slide down the hill, and scrape my knees raw and red.

There’s a chandelier in my bathroom. It hangs over the four footed tub, heavy, waiting.

I took a picture of a walnut on the deck. It was cracked open and raw, still green on the inside. After I took the photo I ate it and it was bitter.

The grass here is a dry hairbrush, the roads are a ball of tangled yarn.

Cows eat their own shit in a field speckled with star dust. The owner pulls his whip out. The water is poison.

My sister puts her spurs on.

And the crickets chirp.

You’re driving in a car with the freeway backed up. The cars stop moving entirely and we are stuck in a stand still. You bang your head on the steering wheel.

I can’t live here anymore.

You tell me about how you saw a dead horse on the side of the road the previous month.

It was disgusting, fucking disgusting.

A car cuts us off. You slam on the break and curse.

Look at this fucker! Some people need to learn how to fucking drive! Can you believe that?

No, no I can’t.

Honestly.

Honestly. What else am I supposed to say?

Can you believe these crickets? They’re so loud.

On my street there are no sidewalks. The street melds into each yard in the rising summer heat. The night time wanderers can’t sleep walk.

One day on my run, I noticed a white cat venture out into the middle of the road. It’s nose lifted smelling something. I assume it was an incoming storm.

And as it was paused a man in a huge truck with rimmed wheels came flying down the road. I dove for cover, but the cat did not. He was smashed under that truck’s wheel. His insides worming into his outsides like the guts of a ripe berry. I assure you that’s how it happened.

I watched it myself.

 

cicada woman

Under the humming of insects they were married. My mother tasked me with the photo taking. Very embarrassing. Almost worse than photos being taken of me. My thin elbows jutting out. First pimple still stained red on my cheek. When adults turned to meet my eyes, their pupils said, who is this child? Why is it pointing a camera at me? Where is the professional photographer? Where are its parents? Is it ok for me to keep drinking in front of them? I wandered the festivities in a sleep haze, plagued by seeds of prepubescent insomnia. Meanwhile my cousin bragged about a romance film that her mother let her watch.They had sex a LOT, she says, it’s like really gross. We sat in a pile of dead grass and sucked the juice out of worms. Ah yes, I murmur, I’ve seen it too, yes I have, so gross, so gross. Later we went firefly hunting. Running through the tall grass, our mouths stained by chili powder. I had to keep pulling up my shorts because I didn’t have the hips to fill them out. It was my first time seeing fireflies. We have these in Houston, we have lots, I say, trying to look unimpressed. Finally we caught one, squirming, in my cousin’s palms. The lights shone through her thin fingers and tinted them red. Inside her clasped hands I could see the body.

 

watch the inside of

a cicada woman, damp

blood sucked by night lips

 

Pearl Reagler is a student at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas. Most of the time, she likes to write poetry and screenplays. She also enjoys photography and film.

Visual Arts by: Johnson Anthony 

Two Poems by Vera Caldwell

In “Diagrams of Knots” and “Evening With West Texas and Alzheimer’s”, Vera Caldwell’s experiments with form to create deeply meaningful aspects to poetry.

Diagrams of Knots

                                                                          My eyes are lopsided like used tea bags

                                                      and my fingernails are picked into grey, upturned crescents

                                           by the time the sun has set.

                                   I reach into my deep blue sheets to find:

                          what-ifs like diagrams of knots,

                    abandoned requests for wisdom I don’t have,

              acres of misspoken wit,

          an elaborately constructed fantasy

      in which things are infinitely vibrant

   seem warped as if through a reflection

  in a mall fountain—I am haunted.

 In the light of this paraphernalia,

 I cannot sufficiently engage

 in anything of use.

   I recline in the yellow lamplight

     like a tiger head rug,

       conscious that my mouth hangs open,

           issuing myself correctives

                 that turn over every minute like paperwork

                        boring my eyes into the pictures on the walls

                               as if I could find some respite in them

                                        and hazily marveling

                                              at how I’ve ever been able to handle

                                                                                               the morning.

 

Evening With West Texas and Alzheimer’s

 

Oma stirs her melted ice cream,

spills a little on her plastic placemat:

 

Daddy, Lolly, and I got these bowls in Alpine at a tiny store just down the road from our house, during a stormy afternoon, when the sky had turned purple and the trees were trembling. We’d just taken the Thunderbird for a drive around the mountain and we wanted to do something special. Daddy saw these bowls and loved the blue enamel. I put the bag between my feet for the drive home, as the rain was starting, and they began to shine in such a beautiful way, with many different colors, that at first I worried the enamel was made of some sort of poison. I’ve never seen them shine like that again. Daddy said the altitude was so high and the atmosphere so thin that we got more radiation from the sun than other places, that it must have touched the bowls somehow that day.

 

with shaky hands she picks up the blue bowl from Costco

puts it by the sink

and disappears out the front door

to sweep the driveway for the fourth time that day

a few minutes later, we see her looking up at the dark sky

broom forgotten loosely hanging from her hand

her figure now smaller and shrouded by trees

 

Vera Caldwell is a sophomore at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. As well as writing, she plays guitar and composes songs in her band, Nobody’s Daughter. Some of her favorite writers include Mikhail Bulgakov, Stanislaw Lem, Patti Smith, Ocean Vuong, and Fleur Jaeggy.

Art by Sherry Huang

Two Poems By Yejin Suh

Yejin’s work dives into the complexities of self-conflict and observes the world with tremendous attention to detail. These two poems layer profound imagery and tone to convey personal and family struggles.

GUERRILLA

Each cut: a strategic battleground placement. Trenches
in the war. Burrowed and deep, one after another—
this one dedicated to myself, this one to her, this one
to the strange and terrible shapes battered within me,
fingers pressing out from inside my body, purpling. This one
nicked recklessly in the first wave, and this one
carved painstakingly over miles and miles of stalemated time:
hunched over in the bathroom sink, a body so disgustingly
unmarred; a smooth expanse of skin waiting for war. Blood bubbling
in tender formation. I told her it was a rite of passage,
that she might’ve done it too, once, when she was young,
or at least with the cradled thought in her head. I interrogated myself
over and over again on sanguinary doctrine. The plan:
drown the enemy in crimson grooves. The plan:
hurl Molotovs down the gaping line. The plan:
deploy a daisy cutter to flatten forests, the arteries
of oak roots and wildflowers, stinging. I can wince now
at the thought of a blade ripping through me, at the burning
and scabbing that follows. Back then, I never
winced. Back then, I wanted to cut down to the bone.

 

JOHN F KENNEDY ATE MY AUNT

Musica Universalis is the Music of the Spheres.
The religiosity of Ancient Greek scholars
towards the dance of celestial bodies
overlapping, echoing, spinning music,
a concentric clockwork of proportion too divine
for human ears. When I listen closely,
I can never hear it, but I can hear
stellar revels, an Earth’s sorrows, lost things.
I confess to watching a single burgeoning star
in the sky and accepting its fate. I confess
to losing parts of my body in hungry travelers’
nooks, airports. I remember my father a digit splayed
across the intersection where we parted ways,
his polo like crimson crumbling under my fingers,
his flesh near mine but already a decrepit ghost lingering
within old photographs. This quiet melody
halted when he cleared the gate: Boarding flight number
zero seven three octaves is there a resonance
for an indefinite loss? A code? If I had looked
more closely, pressed my ear upon the sounds, might
I have cracked it? Beat at it with all the vigor
of a wartime cryptanalyst matching letter
to number to note, barricaded beyond reasoning
and resistance? I couldn’t look him in the eyes,
not until I knew the signs and the motions to keep
someone in a static breadth of land, to say one thing
and mean another. I’ll see you in Paris, he said, in London,
up the Oratory. Years and years later, we’ll meet
as strangers, inconspicuous, humdrum visitors,
back to back aside the Mona Lisa, on opposite sides
of a park bench. Like the movies, except we won’t
be listening for a key to save the world, just
each other. A cipher simpler than Morse
and more grueling than Voynich to unravel
is the beating of a human heart to another
that hums a chord of its own, silent to everyone
but the closest. Now I can barely remember
if it was substitution or transposition, in his
language or mine, polyalphabetic or mono. I lost
the exacts, but a human head can save a tune for
centuries: LaGuardia consumed my father.
John F Kennedy ate my aunt. Newark Liberty
swallowed my grandmother whole and I lost all
of them to white forsythia and volcanic islands ringing
the Yellow Sea. I wait for them to signal me,
though their lights dim across oceans. I know,
when my father knocks back a constellation or two
of intoxicating night air, he is drunk on galaxies
on the other side of the world. But I think,
in the quiet of my nights and his early dawns,
we pause for poetic order—
we hear the Music of the Spheres.

 

Yejin Suh is a junior in New Jersey. She has been recognized by the Scholastic Awards. Her work appears in Crashtest Magazine, The Eunoia Review, and Just Poetry.

Art by Florence Lui

Two Poems By Ivan Josic

In these poems, Ivan Josic demonstrates excellent employment of imagery to captivate a reader. With vivid details and authentic, dark tones, these poems exemplify the power of tangible imagery.

Litany for Humble Birds


i. Tendons warped around the 

     minutes we were emperors of 


ii. palindromic nights. Organs

    of the hour lay vivisected for us &


iii. through grey leather houses we

     carried pigeon skulls decorated


iv. with dust I documented myself 

     let swallows roost along my tongue


v. guiding your blackthorn fingers 

     you plucked sour cherries from 


vi. the base of my neck: lily-stained. 

     Our mouths ran vile with sour spit.


vii. Demand of me my body.

     To the woods to cotton rows 


viii. where we danced in the shadows 

     of giants with eyes like oil slicks &


ix. bristling in pillbug armor 

     I spoke your red name: Tanager.

 

 

In My Dreams I Saw Serpents

Before, I imagined myself in half-states.

     Gears tumbled from the backs of my 

knees. I offered no resistance

ecstasy of the lonely Machine

trill of the dying saint.

 

I wrote poems in clay & heard the 

tick of my heart. An immaculate 

consumption; black bones peeled back 

to their hooks.

 

Listen! Lord Clockwork

     I shook to brass branches. My sword:

the eclipse of my spine. Golden-crowned.

Rain-weary.  I maimed the kitchen tile dragon, 

& took its skin.

 

Ivan Josic is currently a junior at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts for Creative Writing in Houston. He has been previously published in the Austin Bat Cave Anthology. When not writing, you can find him wandering his neighborhood, where he often finds inspiration for his work.

Visual Art by: Grey Stevenson

Composition of Columbus

In her poem, “Composition of Columbus,” Sarah Nachimson creates a sinister quiet presence in small town life, while developing an intense sense of nostalgia and yearning.

A.
This is a beginning
under the oak trees

where midwestern
boys burned their throats

with their father’s liquor
bottles. Girls came to

kiss at night, leaving cigarette burns
to scatter the ashes of their innocence.

This is a beginning in the quiet town
where we know real architecture

and real sounds of bullets. Both arch
over our heads and we embrace

these strange halos.

B.
This is a resolution
that we’ll leave the soil

where southern twang top
sour songs like syrup.

where everyone knows how to
strum a guitar,

and every girl sings Dolly Parton
for the elementary pageant.

This is a resolution
that we’ll fly to great cities

where skyscrapers make
us feel minuscule.

Magnificent things will seep into our minds,
all the urban ideas and emotions.

A.
This is a return
to the town where she never

thought she belonged. But
mother’s hand grew feeble,

fingers like brittle bird bones.
Father drove off into the

southern night years ago,
gone when the midnight ink

drenched his silverado.

Sarah Nachimson is an emerging writer with only a small scattering of published pieces. She hails from sunny California and is currently a sophomore at Yeshiva University Los Angeles Girls School. She is a reader for Polyphony H.S. and an editor for Siblini Journal. Her writing has been recognized by numerous organizations, including Scholastic, and published in the Los Angeles Times and New York Jewish Week, among other places.

Visual Art by Audrey Carver.

Blue Eyes

In “Blue Eyes”, Hannah Han creates beautiful settings and characters through her detailed imagery.

In an old Chinatown classroom

she uncaps dried markers

and folds scratch paper.

I lean forward to see her name,

pinned, crooked, to her shoulder.

Yihua.

That’s a beautiful name, I tell her.

She shakes her head.

You should

call me Charlotte.

 

Six years ago I drew only thin girls

in floral dresses. They

always frowned with

purple lips and porcelain eyes.

Each had a name,

sprouting across the

page in inked plumes:

Anastasia, Evangeline, Coletta.

 

She drops a chewed pencil into my hand.

Can you draw me?

With graphite, I sculpt her eyes,

round as lychee seeds.

Do you want me to color them?

She nods, hand hovering over

a torn box of washable markers.

She picks up a blue pen.

Blue? I say. Are you sure?

She pries open my fist,

an oyster of flesh, and lays the

marker inside, a still-warm pearl.

 

In the bathroom, I hung my drawings,

pencil smearing with soap.

Each morning as I brushed

my teeth with sweet toothpaste

and bent to spit out foam,

I flinched at my reflection.

 

She watches as I uncap the marker,

the plastic click echoing.

I fill each bullet-sized hole

blue.

 

I was lucky.

During my elementary years,

I was surrounded by freckled

dolls packaged in silk bows.

But for ten years, I forgot

the color of my own hair and eyes.

I held only icy marbles in my palms and

and four-syllable names with rolled r’s

that I could not pronounce.

 

She smiles, takes the drawing,

scrawls Charlotte at the bottom,

tucks it into her bag.

 

Bye, I say. When she turns, I drop the

brown marker into her backpack.

 

Keep drawing, Yihua.

 

Visual Art by Heidi Songqian Li.