A Letter from Gloria

I can’t remember what I am doing here.

The flickering lights above me tell me they don’t either.

And the lady, whose eyes used to choke me with memories, is staring at the door,

mimicking the opening and closing of the past as she rocks back and forth.

I wonder if she hears the echo of footsteps

or the buzz of whispers stuck in my left ear.

Maybe not.

 

The door hasn’t opened in a long time

and the cold linoleum hallways swallow 

dust instead of tears now.

The shadows still come to shake my hand,

which is nice because the lady only stares.

 

The corners of the room are scorched from fires I don’t understand.

I find that peculiar because the saltwater has reached my ankles.

I kind of like the water. I can see my bones rocking back and forth,

and that’s how I know I’m still real.

 

But the lady in the window is crying so I yell for her light

but my yells turn into murmurs and the murmurs turn into shadows

that pulls me down into the water.

 

So I bang my fists on the window and so does she

and I guess she is strong because the mirror shattered.

The shards of my mistakes tickle my skin,

laughing blood,

as I wade in the water of my tears.

 

I still don’t remember why I am here

but I hope someone opens the door real soon.

Bless your heart,

Gloria

 

Laura Ospina is a sophomore at a boarding school in Massachusetts. In her writing, Laura likes to explore how her family and Colombian heritage have shaped her identity. Besides writing poetry, Laura enjoys reading and learning about constitutional law.

Visual Art By: Samantha Jui-Yun Su

Two Poems by Nathan Lee

the king’s road

i don’t want this poem
to ache. i want to think

about that dusk as tenderness
instead of something with       teeth.

let me just tell you
about the asphalt, the white sycamores,
the silver car engines singing a river of light.

i was standing on the sidewalk,
breath dripping onto the dark earth, thinking

about the red scrapes of road burn
on tanned thighs.       how a car crash

ing into a boy will
smash his head and
snap       his spine into match

sticks, maple leaves, so many scars like
tire tracks smeared on concrete.

but
there was the cool evening breeze

and someone’s golden lab, his limbs joyfully askew,
is chasing his ratty tennis ball near the edge

of the road. that’s
this road going nowhere,

this road leading my body home, this road shattering
into a tunnel with a prism of color       at the end.

ignore
the bitter taste of       gasoline. i’ll tell you instead

how summer lingered in the air thick

enough to bite.

how through
the slender green pines across the street

i watched the sun paint
a watercolor goodnight.

Worm Moon

Imagine this: the stars
in your rearview mirror
are closer than they appear.
In the spring dusk,
the ripe apricot moon
kisses the asphalt.

Those stars, that moon,
the same bright fires
that lit up the night
when we tore ourselves
from the water of history. Now,

nothing is real but
the wind in your lungs
from the open windows,
the lilac freeway speeding by.

You grasp your breath in your palms
as it hums a holy melody;
your heart a bass beat
through the radio. Tell me again

how memories are anything
but half-remembered stories;
how love is the opposite of forgetting.

And oh, to be hand-in-hand and balancing
on the tender edge of desire.

Tonight, you sit in your car and let
the songs you loved back in middle school
blast out the open windows.

Tell me how you can still sing along.

Nathan Lee is an emerging transgender poet. He is currently a high school senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California. His work is forthcoming in Polyphony Lit and Lambda Literary’s collection Writing Out of the Closet and has been published in Celebrate Creativity, a local anthology.

Visual Art by: Johnson Anthony

Two Poems By Caroline Coleman

graduation

It’s summer now so the call of the trains
bounding in the distance is closer
and the loudspeaker of the neighborhood pool
drifts through my window in between dusty sun.
She comes to me, railroad irises, 9:30 air,
cigarette clouds shirking their celestial duties.
Her fingertips are wise where I am not,
but here she is, flush with hairpins and lips tangled.
Flyswatter dreams and basement couches
mark the precipice of our staged world;
stage left: she cut her window screen and rained
stage right: the subway blues, always running,
always late. They say all the world’s a stage,
but all the world’s a macabre diorama of
my childhood fantasies, home address laced
in tongues and her, hitched in outer space:
fleeing lines and a cast party queen.
I turn the light on and the fan sings spoiled,
so I keep and devour in the dark.
There’s a two-year warranty on the corpse
that keeps screaming the family dynamic
hearse. Keep me in mind at the fork in the road,
toss a coin in my sullen ear, say something
to smother these early morning fears of perpetuity.
The tracks in the woods are silent, but
you can hear her departure in the birdsong:
the wicked echo in the bones of the station,
our lonesome whistles in harmony;
you can hear it like an audition tape acting
as stitches, like the shrieks of a fallen dancer,
like the syncopated footsteps of the mailman
in his last throes of communication,
his final steps leaking from his honeyed throat
in perfect cordial dial tones.

party portraits

the honeyed rising fills the shutters in between measures
reaching us in our huddled gasping bedroom

stately shouts creep from the basement roughly
every hour or so, dancing with the kitchen timer

the thermostat grows jealous and forms hardwood volcanoes
my tears simmer on igneous cheeks and run back groundward

we play three-story merry-go-round on the railings
all sorts of vocal leaping into non-stick pans

the martyr is praying in the bathroom
later she will shotgun a beer in canonized ecstasy

but for now she asks god to pierce the holy clock hands
and shorten the pendulum so her beloved swings back faster

the nighttime zephyr uncurls all the windows
and whistles from the very heart of the matter

the house never fully sleeps nor fully swings
the door handles and sock drawers rattle into jitterbugs

while the clown in the attic composes a symphony
all in minor, locked out of the dance hall

or having misplaced the entrance for a tin of lemon squares
and the bodyguard for the soft-spoken summer spiders

there are no eyes here which see the color of rage
but just because it hibernates doesn’t mean it sleeps

still, we make merry, and I officiate in full gusts
the light of the morning too much for the feeble instrument

I call them out one by one to be wed on the porch
and in the meantime, the pancakes burn

a spell of damning truth, what can be understood and not said
and the reverse, and drive, and park, and forbearing neutral

all leading towards the endless conversation home
to swim for land or call a taxi? finish the sentence or jump the fence?

I murmur damp soliloquies into the shoulder of your sweater
unraveling the harness that keeps your name etched in mountains

and forging bronze apologies for mere identity theft
the arterial jailers fell upon their knees for forgiveness

which comes only after bottling the rest for later and much coaxing
the silver-laned queen drives her fur coat home

and sleeps upside down, toppled by worldliness
she knew every language except opening and closing

it is her birthday, which comes every other century
and with much paunch and circumference

she stands atop the rails and sees a tongue slinking
thick with turpentine and a thousand never-closing eyes

it cuts corners and divests lonely maidens of their wits
fast and painless as a hailstorm, musical as the belly of a snake

I am ears to the ground as the grass sings envy
drinking songs to the birds passed out in the bath

where does intimacy live if not here?
some country greenhouse lane, strolling 12 bar blues

you: in women’s clothing, me: a coroner
the windows shut with molasses and still frostbitten

party portraits bathed in dawn, pennies for the erratic painter
sparrow song for the sunken half-full mugs

they towed her car on her 17th birthday and now she wanders
the backstreets looking for candles to blow out

my bedroom is a pale anemic impression of the real thing
I’m a parlor dweller I guess, refusing pearls left and right

in between changing the record I hear the neighbors whispering
but my friends are floating countertop, sweeping the races

and now the record is spinning conquered heartbreak
well—it’s unreleased, this conquering

but I can march and form garden gnome ranks any old day
today is the hole in time’s second-hand pockets

the secret to spinning and keeping balance
to sit round robin and not demur, to chew and mean it

even if it requires a little manual loosening
twenty-dollar bills and terra incognita time of morning

I want to see my love taken apart so I can build for once
see how he works, see what ticks in him and why

he cancels lunch and walks too quickly and shows early
and maybe with the operating table bare I’ll see

what went wrong, and why my heart no longer beats in his jaws
the discord like a dead bee in a soda can

after they leave I hear my mother’s breathing again
from the middle-class freeway down the hall

my brow has gathered icicles overnight
to be melted with the intensity of her moderation

knowing what the headstone says doesn’t help with the dying
but the ambiguity elbow greases my strung-out reflection

the clocks are out on strike but there’s a sneaking
into my rusted liver via the closet door

there’s a suspicious lack of blood on the floor
but punchy bluntness litter the depth of every angle

every unused rich kid soapbox obstructing the exit
the backstage pass like the upstairs at a party

party’s got to end, like the failings of the decade
the shot glass is still warring with the highball

and the roads all look the same down here
mid-morning hinges on goodwill regardless of intention

I’ll remember their sleeping faces in celluloid for as long
as eyes read between the grain and find breakfast

I can see summer from the window facing the street
and spring with it, on bicycle, going out for the day

at the latest possible sunset, she’ll go home to mother
with bruises peaching her howled mouth

and make up excuses for why the sky is so green this year
and why the flowers two-step to jazz drizzles

whittle my prospects in a cradle downstream
for someone’s more loving hands with longer fingers

better for reaching heart-itches in the subcutaneous
do the seven rivers of hell really slink upstream?

and do I? I want to be better at cooking breakfast for two
and seeing the sun for each ray, infinite in an inconvenient direction

so even when I’m scrubbing ceaselessly and skipping lunch
my house holds more river water than I have to give

and was built on top of words laced the old-fashioned way
with more whole hands than fingers can count

Caroline Coleman is a student and writer in the DC area, interested primarily in poetry, theatre, and film. She has also published work in Haloscope Magazine.

Visual Art by: Cherry Guo

(un)reality – Three poems by Allison Stein

liquid state of matter(being)

let’s go swimming, you say, 
a heat-scorched dragonfly
(who goes in memorable movements to sip the fresh sunlight

beneath the softlapping surface the lake shines wild green
and your ears are whorls of precious jade.
you burble through the delicate-draped light,
             (diving to wrap yourself in the dim)
down here our skin looks wondrously unnatural as we link pinkies
                          and trail our heels through the silt.

               pulsing storms in the eddies of our slippery bodies.
               how grotesquely powerful we are here
                           where no gravity exists
                           and we do not recognize the silken moss growing from our scalps
                                                                 and lingering behind us in the tepid water.
we are alien, perfected by unrepentant green,
vivid things tiptoeing on the rim of a boundless heaven.

i run out of breath faster than you do 
and drift to the surface like a film in reverse:

                                                 lips spit out clear water and hands brush hair back from shining 

                                                 face–
          back rises through the membrane into forgotten air–
slowly up up with hands grasping for the bottom– 

let’s drink, you say
dirty shoes off exposing ripped sock, 
your head sparely haloed by string lights
(but you are less iridescent than ever)

lovely you hands me vodka in red-knuckled, apathetic fingers.
        clear like tap water, smelling of bare collarbones and average late nights
                       and through it i see the everyday pink of your cheeks
                       and the places where your cheap earrings have scarred your lobes.
you and i are no lake creatures and no gods.
here we are, natural beings, sipping nothingness.

 

 

 

half an instant of light

we paint cities on the palms of our hands / and press them feverishly along the edges of the sky / knowing they will wash away in building hurricanes. / (we can hear their eyes blinking, their weight heaving through wet air) / fragility smells like crushed lavender, don’t you think? / how lucky, how cursed we are to be minuscule                  (timewise). / if you are a baby mayfly and i am the corner of the briefest cloud / can we ever hope to last longer than this holy-handed present? / and if we are so sweetly fleeting can we ever be anything but lovely? / we climb to the tops of cherry trees / until we can no longer see earth or sky. / (just the smudges we left with our chrism-oiled hands) / really there is nothing before or after us. / this you say to me with your fingers in your ears, / smearing skylines over your blushed cheeks. / (darling darling i long to hang streamers from god’s front stoop with you.) / (darling my darling i will stay with you forever / until we blink our eyes and the world erupts into empty—– / how awful and beautiful it is to stretch time ragged / breathing hard and fast to fit infinite life into half a second. / your head so cleanly haloed by tangible wind. / the sun rises and sets while we eat one overripe cherry. / is this not life? / is this not the span of the universe? / are we not occupying all the time that will ever exist? / look at us choking on luminous air. / our bodies burn out, quickly, quickly. / for the slowest of seconds we wind our fingers through the shuddering void.
darling, darling.  it is time to go

 

 

 

photo album, with you everywhere

here is me squeezing the last toothpaste from the tube
          hoping that when i slit it open, i will not find you
          sleeping on the silver foil, a neon, too-familiar thing.

here is me slicing an apple into messy eighths,
          hoping the overripe nectar will cover the taste of you: 
          stardust (which is all just heavy metals).
 
here is me peeling off my eyelids and soaking them overnight in contact lens solution
          praying that when i stitch them back on,
          your face will no longer be etched in this most fragile of skin.
 
here is me staring at my wall from which all lavender has bled out
          trying to rub my neurons raw enough
          that this will stop being your brain, too.

 
here is me losing my balance as i walk along the curb

here is me waking up to a tree burning scarlet in the yard. 

here is me trying to forget you.

                              (here is me wishing i had said goodbye.)

 

Allison Stein is a 17-year-old student living in Pennsylvania. She has been writing stories and poems since the age of two or three. Her work has previously been recognized nationally by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and published in the Ralph Munn Literary Anthology as well as several smaller publications.

Visual Art by Guo Cherry. 

Layers of Self

The marks of my creators surround me
With no inch left bare
My soul carved by sculpted hands
A dichotomy of pairs

In the sea of my skin
Mother and father leave their mark
My every feature blurred
A rendition of art

Two variations of the self
Devoid in common thread
Have woven an artful piece
A testament to words unsaid

I am molded in the image and likeness
Of those who came before
My very visage and limbs
A shadow well worn

My gown of paint and clay
Is a shroud to the truth within
For although my self be old
It remains my very own

 

Lauren Kim is a writer of both poetry and prose and resides in New Jersey. She draws inspiration from small nuances in the world around her and aims to magnify them in her writing. She is a junior editor for her school’s two literary publications. An avid reader of classical European literature, she melds the literary voices of past and present to project her voice on themes of importance.

Visual Arts by: Yixuan Luo 

Fish Magic

Based on a Paul Klee’s Fish Magic

It is the mirk of stained glass that glows by a slice
                                                                                                                        of moon.

Gaunt elegies speak of a desolation beyond the edges
                                                                                                                        of era.

Generation upon generation–genealogies betray the birth
                                                                                                                        of seed.

The ambiguity of a barren clock transfixed at IX:
Even the fish await the tearing of the veil.
Hands clasp dust. Ash taints scale.
Threads of exile weave into a silent cloak.
Only time will tell.

 

Lynn Kong is a sophomore at Cary Christian School. She is co-president of the Holocaust Literature Club there. She adores Dostoyevsky and Flannery O’Connor, and just about every line of epic poetry. Part of her is always lost in Amsterdam.

Visual Arts by Rudy Falagan

 

 

 

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

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 

Grace Katharine; an ode to your senior year.

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

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