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

A Conversation With Peter Twal

Peter Twal is a Jordanian-American electrical engineer, and the author of Our Earliest Tattoos. His poetry collection won the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize (University of Arkansas Press). His poems have appeared in The Believer, Poem-A-Day, Best New Poets, Kenyon Review Online, West Branch, Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and elsewhere. Peter lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and newborn son.  

 

Rome Smaoui and Claire Kim sat down to interview Peter about his recent poetry collection Our Earliest Tattoos. After Peter’s poetry masterclass at Idyllwild Arts Academy, the Parallax team had a variety of questions about his work and his sources of inspiration. 

 

Q: When did you get into writing?

 

When did I get into writing? It sounds silly but the first instances of writing for me, I was probably four or five. I used to write little prayers. I grew up in a Catholic home, so that was something that I thought a lot about. And so I wrote little prayers. Probably around when I was in middle school, I got into writing poems for the first time. They were terrible, they were trash poems. I think in a way that we all probably kind of struggle in the beginning when we’re just reaching for things that we’re not sure are even there. It was probably around middle school, but I didn’t really get serious about writing until I was in high school, and then later in college where I kind of had to make a decision about whether I wanted to study engineering or creative writing. Ultimately, I chose engineering, simply because I knew I wanted to do both, and I knew I wouldn’t get an engineering job without an engineering degree–that’s the way that companies work, unfortunately–but I always wanted to go to grad school for writing, and I’m really glad that I did. 

 

Q: Why did you choose science and engineering as a career path instead of writing? Does this ever inspire your writing?

 

So like I was saying, it was part practical. Where I just felt like I wouldn’t be given a shot as an engineer without a degree. And it meant a lot to me to pursue that, because it was a passion to me, as a kid. Just tinkering with things and interacting with the world in that way. So even though I was going for an engineering degree, I was doubting it the whole time. I think it was my sophomore year, and I was getting into courses that were intentionally designed to make you fail—they were really hard classes—but more importantly, I remember my sophomore year, I got a 33 on a circuits exam and I went home distraught because I had never done that poorly on a test, and I told my parents “I’m done, I’m not doing engineering, it’s not for me. I’m going to study writing,” and my parents, in their infinite wisdom said, “Okay… but why don’t you just keep going and see where it takes you. And you can still do poetry in grad school, but just stick with the engineering for a little bit longer.” I think that was a real gift. I ended up learning a lot from engineering and that segues into the writing portion. I don’t think my writing would be what it is without my engineering degree, and my appreciation for math and science, and how things interconnect. I think of circuits, specifically. I try to apply that to my poems, because in circuits you can constantly point to power sources. You can point to moments of resistance. Other elements that hold energy and voltage. That’s how I write; that’s how I try to write, at least. I try to map everything out on the page in the way a circuit looks, maybe. Where I understand what it’s trying to accomplish to the best of my abilities, and then build a plan from there. 

 

Q: Each title in this collection is a lyric from “All my friend s” by LCD Soundsystem, what inspired you to use those lyrics? Other than the titles, where do you see the song appear in the collection? 

It’s a really tough one. In 2012, a couple friends came over, and we spent some time together. We had a really nice evening. My friend, Drew, played that song for me and I loved it; it really struck a chord in me. I thought it was a beautiful song, I thought it encapsulated a moment that I was in really well because the song was all about growing apart from people, and I think I was realizing at that time, a year out of college, that I was growing apart from a lot of my friends. Friends that I cared about. And I took friends for granted. I took for granted how good of friends we were and how it wasn’t necessary to communicate all the time, because I knew they were there, I knew they were my friends. So the further I moved away from home, the more I started to write these poems. I felt like it was something that pulled me back home. It reminded me about a lot of people that I loved, and at the same time it reminded me about the distance between them and I. Last September, my friend Drew died. The person who introduced me to the song. And it was a shock to the system, different from anything I had ever felt. It reminded me of what I loved so much about that song, and what I loved about Drew, and how important it was to me that he was one of the people who introduced me to it. Aside from the lyrics, the way that I see that song appear [in the book] is: I think the book deals with grief; to me it’s a series of elegies to a band that had broken up before I had ever gotten to see them live—but then they got back together and I did see them— It was a series of elegies in the way that I think that song was an elegy to a past life, as well. I was writing elegies for the band, I was writing elegies for the people I love, I was writing elegies for friends that I simply thought were separated from me by distance, and I didn’t realise that it was more than that, that it was only a matter of time before they were gone. I didn’t take full advantage of the time I had with them, maybe in the way that the speaker in the song didn’t take advantage of the time he had with the people in his life. 

 

Q: Why did you choose to write sonnets? What was the process of writing/deconstructing these sonnets? 

 

I think sonnets are one of the earliest forms of poetry that I dabbled in. I started writing them when I was in college, and I just thought that they were so compact and neat. There are obviously the really popular Shakespearean and Petrarchan forms, but there is a long history of people who have tried to take the sonnet form and adapt it to their own style. I felt a calling to do that. So, I wrote all of these poems, and they were all fourteen lines to begin with. I knew that they weren’t sonnets by definition for many other reasons. Sonnets have different formal elements like an “if/then” structure to them, that I liked and enjoyed working with in my poems. So like I was saying, at the core of it, they were all fourteen line poems. When I began the editing process, a lot of those poems got a little longer, and most of them got a little shorter, and probably about half of them ended up being fourteen lines. I wondered if that still meant they were sonnets? I think that kind of got me thinking about form in a new way, because what is it about a form in poetry that says “Yes, you are a sonnet” or “You are a ghazal (غزل)” or any other form? I think there are elements that are maybe more important than others, but I think my poems are now haunted by the sonnet form. To me, that doesn’t make them any less sonnet-like, and even if these poems remember being sonnets at any certain time, I think to a certain extent that still kind of makes them sonnets. As tough as it was to cut away some of the more formal elements that I thought proved that they were sonnets, it kind of opened up a new realm where I felt free to put the form of the sonnet in service of my poems, as opposed to putting my poems in service of the form. 

 

Q: How did you decide on incorporating such unusual characters such as death, God, and the Mars rover? 

 

Going back to growing up in a religious family where—I mean as an Arab— religion is almost part of your identity. It’s something that I still think about, it’s something that I still struggle with, and I am constantly negotiating what I believe with myself. I’m still trying to figure out what my fate is in my life, and what its role is at that given time. So in this book, it was kind of an opportunity for me to work some of that out. It’s easiest for me to understand God and death as concepts when they are brought to my level, which is being that of a human. A human in this current age and being kind of shallow—or mischievious, or needy—the not great things about being a person, that we all kind of do. It was also a chance to poke fun at myself, because in making God or death say something in the book, I was thinking back on things that I had said or done in some fashion. There are only a few instances of that because I think I tried to make God and death way more…bratty. So that was the idea behind that, it was about how I can take these grand concepts and bring them down to my level so that I can understand them a little bit better. As for the Mars rover— aside from my obsession with it at a scientific level— I think I had a few poems in the book where I had essentially tried to make the Mars rover out to be a God figure, where they’re far away and in communication with humanity in some way, but never present. Always watching, always in echo. To me it just seemed like a connection I felt like I had to make between those two characters. 

 

Q: How do you think your poems address modern technology and ideas in relation to timeless poetic themes like love and death? 

 

I guess, thinking about technology, characters are constantly texting in the book. I came into the texting game very late, and I text like a ninety-four year old man because it’s heavily punctuated, so I would text how I would read off from a page and would be like, “Yeah, that sounds like a sentence.” When I tried to put that into the book, it forced me to relax some of those tendencies, those twitches, and how they I guess are related to concepts like love and death. It goes back into bringing it down to a new level that I don’t typically interact with. I think these are very lofty concepts that we think of as hard to understand, but the technology is so embedded in our lives and we don’t find that hard to understand at all. However, when we talk about love or death, it seems like this far-off thing that we can’t really grasp as a larger presence in our lives. 

 

Q: How do you think your poems deal with the idea of permanence vs. impermanence? What made you feel drawn to this concept? 

 

Wow…these are all stunning questions. The poems deal a lot with grief and I think grief is a permanent thing in my life. Whether it would be people in the past and mourning them or people that are soon to pass, like in this book, there are a couple of folks who were really important to me as I was writing these poems. Maybe as I was writing this poem, I was working through this idea of impermanence and letting it go. Memory is something that is permanent, but also impermanent, and it’s constructed by both us and our surroundings. So we have this idea that memory is pure, imperfect, and untouchable, and it’s always not, it’s always tainted. When we make the connection in our minds, we begin to appreciate the parts that are permanent, which are emotions that are attached to the memory. Maybe going back to my point on grief, it’s a different way to understand what we’re taking with us and how we shape ourselves with those things that we take with us. 

 

Q: What is your favorite period of literature, or genre, and why? Are there any other genres you feel particularly drawn to?

 

Favorite genres of literature—definitely poetry! But if we’re talking about periods, when I was in high school, I read a lot of romantics, romantic poems, and I was so struck by them. How vivid the imagery was and how much they felt. I think sentimentality gets that grab in writing or art because it’s perceived as being like weakness, or it’s also an engendered thing, but I love sentimental writings, and I think the romantics were seen as the sentimental group. So back then, I was really struck by that. I haven’t really read much about it since, but that’s probably the group that I still appreciate. 

 

Q: Are you working on any new projects? 

 

So, I read four poems last night at my reading, that were new, and that were not in the book. If I’m being honest, I haven’t written much new stuff for a long time. I don’t know why it has been difficult. I think now within the past years, I moved, started a new job, my partner and I had this new baby, and I think a lot has changed, so a lot of how I moved through my life has changed as well. I typically used to go to one spot at a coffee shop and write. That was how I did it, and I can’t do that anymore, so I’m having a hard time getting back into any form of consistent writing. So, long answer, I don’t think I have any projects right now. I have a lot of poems that are cooking and a few that are finished, but I don’t know at this time if there’s anything more than a stack of poems, pages, and I’m okay with that. I’m okay with letting them sit, spend some time together, and work themselves out to a certain extent. I think every time I come back to them, I start to make new connections, and I think a new project will come out of it eventually, but I can’t say that I have anything other than a few poems at the moment. 

 

Q: When you were writing this collection, did you have a particular target audience in mind? Who do you hope will read this collection? 

 

I think I talked a little bit about this yesterday, about the way I had to relearn what it is to be an Arab body at this current time. As a kid, I let a lot of things go that I took for granted and didn’t think enough about my role in society, the responsibility I had, and what it was to be an Arab. So, when I began to edit this collection, that changed, and I hope now that other folks in my community who maybe grew up in a similar way that I did without realizing how Arabs are being portrayed in popular culture and how they are depicted in the news. I hope other folks, who don’t realize how harmful some of those things are— as I didn’t when I was younger— would encounter this and maybe gain something from it. 

 

Q: What advice would you give to the growing writers and poets?

 

I think two things. One, reading is writing. Even if you’re not putting something on the page, but you’re still taking in the work of others, you’re participating in writing in some way and you’re learning. I didn’t think that enough when I was first starting out. I thought writing was me sitting there, putting words down and I didn’t read enough other poets until a poet that was very kind and helped me a lot at LSU (Louisiana State University)—where I was for my undergraduate— shared a quote with me. She said, “The relationship between reading and writing is like eating and shitting.” The other thing is that, even if you’re not reading, writing is always happening. Writing does not necessarily have to be an active thing at all times. If you’re walking around and absorbing the things around you, and taking notes on them, you’re still eventually contributing towards writing. For weeks, I would jot things down that happen around me, whether it would be things that I would see, things that I hear, and I would eventually sit down and think how these pieces fit together, if they do at all. So, there are a lot of different ways to write, and I think in this society that we live in, there is an emphasis on production and producing work no matter what you do, even if it’s not about writing. “You’re only worth on your current output” is a thing that we’re taught, and it’s really terrible. I think writing could push back against that, where you don’t have to be constantly producing poems or stories to be a writer or to be at any given time.

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.

Ivy Prison

Julia Cook contemplates social expectations in her vivid poem “Ivy Prison.”

Perfectly manicured nails claw at ivy wrapped iron
Flawlessly maintained cuticles
Cultivated during hours of never-ending lectures
Perhaps on Proust or Bohr or the Meaning of Life
Peel and crack beneath the institution’s fiery underbelly

What happened to this girl?
Bedroom wallpapered with certificates and honors
More awards of merit than rooms in her expansive high-rise
A violin ―never practiced, never prized
Yet somehow always perfectly performed―
Leaning against a petal-pink window lauding skylines and promise

Her path was paved before she was born
Her conception an unspoken agreement of the creation of a legacy
How effortless her journey must have been
How painfully, obviously, unbelievably simple
A beacon of light illuminating a gold-paved path
How dare she think to complain

So she sits in a prison of her own submissive making
A leader in print, a child in practice
Her mouth sewn shut by years of watching friends and neighbors
Envy the privileged, nauseating life she leads
That she would give anything to escape

Julia Cook was born in Edison, New Jersey and moved to Norwich, Vermont when she was six years old. Now, at fifteen, she is spending a year abroad in Passy, France, nestled in the valley under Mont Blanc, where she is exploring French art, culture, and language. When not writing, Julia enjoys singing, acting, reading, cooking, learning, and playing with any animal in her sight.
Visual art by Heidi Songqian Li. 

Deaf Republic: A Step Beyond Protest

Deaf Republic, by Ilya Kaminsky, follows the story of a war-ravaged town, where after the tragic shooting of a deaf boy by a soldier in the street, deafness becomes a form of protest.

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky: ISBN-10: 1555978312. Price: $11.00. Published March 5, 2019.

Ilya Kaminsky´s Deaf Republic is a brilliantly-crafted book of narrative poetry that moves through a sad and deeply thought-provoking plotline, inspired by Kaminsky’s own experiences in Russia as a child. It follows the story of people in a fictional town using deafness as a form of protest against violence and war, after a soldier kills a deaf boy in the street.

The depictions of violence and love throughout are eerily and astonishingly beautiful. Kaminsky creates a terrifyingly dreary and oppressed feeling throughout the book, while also highlighting the beautiful relationships and hope the townspeople continue to have despite the violence and oppression they are surrounded by.

As the poems go on and the story progresses, the townspeople who do not give up their protests are taken away one by one if they show signs of deafness. Despite this, protests continue in a silent fashion, while the responses of the soldiers grow more and more violent and intense.

The poems themselves are experimental. For example, “Dramatis Personae” is an early poem in the book designed to introduce characters in the collection. Kaminsky is also unafraid to say what he means, sometimes very intensely such as in the poem “As Soldiers March, Alfonso Covers the Boy’s Face with a Newspaper.” One of the lines within this poem is “We see in Sonya’s open mouth / the nakedness / of a whole nation.” The poems progress the overall story, and while in general the story is quite heavy and sad at times, each poem also adds a surprising and delightful level of dark humour, shocking language and profound descriptions of the violence.

Deaf Republic does not fall into the tropes of what is popular in poetry right now, which is mostly geared towards younger readers and is generally humorous, or give an air of shallow meaning masquerading as powerful. Instead Kaminsky goes for something different, using humour in an intelligent and meaningful way, and using illustrations subtly. Deaf Republic explores traumatic topics and heavy storylines beautifully rather than making the reader feel bombarded by violence. One thing that Kaminsky does well here which is important is including love in a story about war. War often tests our ability to maintain love, positive feelings and peace within ourselves and our homes while we’re experiencing violence outside of them. One of the most important things to remember in times of war and violence is to keep a sense of love or joy in some way. Kaminsky highlights this importance through the relationship described in his book, and the townspeople in general.

Kaminsky, who is hard of hearing due to a misdiagnosis of mumps at an early age, incorporates sign language in conjunction with deafness and protest, through simple and beautiful illustrations of sign language throughout the book. These drawings add to the poems without the poems becoming reliant on them.Overall, Kaminsky provides readers with a beautiful experience with Deaf Republic. The themes and plot can, at times, be related to current issues, and the book does an amazing job of bringing hope out of a traumatic situation. We could all learn a lot from the townspeople of Deaf Republic who put their lives on the line in the name of hope and love, and who refuse to give in to oppression.

Not Coming

T.I., an incarcerated poet, brutally writes about one of the many nuanced pains of being behind bars as a young adult. His unique diction makes for a heartbreaking read.

It was a lot of events in my life
I thought people wasn’t going to show
When Amari was born
Keva, Shay-Shay, and Major was my only support in the room
I thought my mother and my father was going to show
I thought my friends was going to show
Only friend that came was Day-Day
Visits was at 7:00
But 6:59 the screen didn’t pop up
I knew ain’t nobody coming
Going in my room thinking
Who was the visit supposed to be
It wouldn’t matter
Because ain’t nobody come for me
By: T.I.
T.I. is a 17 year old who is currently incarcerated. He discovered how much he loved to write while behind bars and uses it to express himself.
Visual Art by Cristobal Alaya

A Woman at Veradero

Madeleine Quirk beautifully captures the essence of a woman in Varadero. Her unique use of imagery creates a reflection that will resonate with you.

At 15 I watch her buy Cuban cigars
and I can tell that she carries the taste of smoke
wherever she goes. Its richness hangs
about her like sleep,
a golden mist of many suns and hieroglyphs:
she reads hands and cocked hips
like they are a language that is not dead,
only resting.

When she breathes tobacco dust,
it is not escaping but returning to the earth,
to the leaf and the burnt orange field.
I think for a moment,
I should cover myself in a blanket of fertile soil
and only ever bathe in rain,

but I remember I have heaped
my bags with some sea glass
I found alone on a murky beach
and held to my eye, looking inland from the shore.
Miles away a stone-carved saint
scowls at the skyline smog.
She smacks a stick of chewing gum
and cracks her teeth on concrete.

It comes from deep caverns
in subterranean whispers
and it comes on the breath of a woman:

return.

By: Madeleine Quirk

Madeleine Quirk lives in Kingston, Ontario. She is in her senior year of high school. In her spare time, she enjoys reading poetry and singing with her choir.

Visual art by John Michael Dee