Red Planet

In this piece, Delany Burk explores fires and the devastating landscapes and after effects of them.

and they say
that mars was once like earth
but now i see mars is earth
blackened red and barren
and once mars burned as we do now

and it’s always california
the blazing state
the deadly scorching state
the martian state

and people are fleeing
from cities, from homes
from smoke and choke

and they say good for her
fighting back
but it’s futile
and within 30 years our planet will black and blue

all salt
and ash and embers
blue melting sea
and red, sizzling land,
sinking, sinking, sinking

 

Delany Burk is a four year senior at Idyllwild Arts Academy who loves watching the stars, drinking coffee, and getting snuggly in cold weather. In her writing, she enjoys exploring the philosophical, scientific, and emotional side of writing.

Visual art by Reah Eunji Kang.

Tilt

Tilt explores a taboo subject seen through the eyes of a small boy. Ashira Shirali uses a childlike voice to depict the hard realism within the piece.

This summer Mummy, Daddy, Bunny and I are going to visit Grandmammy in her house by the sea. We don’t visit Grandmammy often. Mummy says it’s because she lives so far away.

When we visit Mummy lets me and Bunny play at the edge of the water near Grandmammy’s house. Bunny gets all fat and bloated and then Mummy has to put him out to dry. Mummy says best friends can’t be stuffed toys but I know she’s wrong because Bunny is mine. He always wants to play the games I think of and he never laughs at me like the boys in school.

The last time we visited Grandmammy I was only in kindergarten. Grandmammy told me she’d buy me a chocolate sprinkle cone if I tell Daddy that I want Grandmammy to live with us. Mummy was angry when she found out. I didn’t get ice cream and we came back three days early.

I like looking out of the window to see the big trees at the side of the road. There are only small trees where we live. Mummy points out pretty birds and a little monkey sitting on a rock. The monkey acts very funnily, jumping about and scratching itself. I yell out, “Mummy, it’s touching its bum!”

Mummy says the monkey is acting in this Shameful Way because it isn’t intelligent like me. I look away quickly from the monkey which doesn’t know not to show its Private Parts in front of others.

We finally reach Grandmammy’s house. When I enter Grandmammy smiles and says, “Who is this handsome young boy?” I laugh and run to the other room to sit on the bed and watch Scooby Doo while Daddy and Mummy talk to Grandmammy.

During dinner, Grandmammy puts rice on my plate and says, “Such a shame that he has to grow up an only child.”

Daddy says, “We’re a happy family of three.” I feed Bunny some of my rice.

“Those who cannot do better must be…” Then Daddy is yelling at Grandmammy and Grandmammy is yelling back. Mummy is

trying to get Daddy to sit back down. Bunny falls off his seat.

Daddy goes straight to bed without clearing his plate. I ask Mummy if Daddy wants to play I Spy but she says no, not right now. Grandmammy says she can play with me, but I say no, thank you and sit with Mummy and colour my notebook.

On the last day of our visit, I make sandcastles till Mummy says it’s time to pack. I run in, put my clothes in my blue sailor backpack, and try to run out but Mummy stops me. I have to wait there while she and Daddy carry our bags to the car.

I sit on Grandmammy’s blue sofa and swing my legs. Grandmammy keeps strange things on the side tables – little stones from a riverbank, a mood lamp, a prayer wheel from Tibet. Grandmammy doesn’t have any toys or comics.

Bunny and I are playing cross and noughts with my red jumbo crayon when Grandmammy comes into the room. She starts taking out jars and boxes and putting them noisily on the table. Mummy says it isn’t polite to make so much noise but I don’t say this to Grandmammy because I don’t want her to feel bad.

I know I have to listen to Grandmammy because she’s older than me. I stop and make more crosses.

“You’re acting like a cat in heat,” Grandmammy says in an odd voice. She’s looking at me strangely. I look down at my notebook paper. I wish Grandmammy would go back to moving the jars. I wish Mummy would come back into the room.

I try to focus on my notebook. But Bunny falls off the sofa and I’m trying to win the game and I’m used to shaking my leg when I sit.

Grandmammy is yelling at me now. “Stop it! Shaking your legs means you want sex. Is that what you want?”

I stop doing everything at once.

I feel like when Vicky from class hit me on the head and I couldn’t breathe or think, I just waited silently for Mummy to come get me. My eyes are burning. I nod like a puppet.

Grandmammy said the s-word.

The Dirty and Wrong Thing you shouldn’t say.

The Secret Thing grown-ups do in movies after they take off their clothes, even though you should never show anyone your Private Parts.

The Very Shameful Thing you cannot say.

The Chinese paintings on Grandmammy’s walls are tilting. It makes my head hurt. I want Mummy to come and take me away like she did after Vicky hit me. I want to go far away from Grandmammy who says these Terrible Things.

But my arms and legs aren’t working so I just sit there.

Mummy and Daddy come to take me to the car sometime. They say bye to Grandmammy. I say bye to the plant next to Grandmammy’s feet. Grandmammy says she hopes we visit again soon. I hope Daddy forgets the way to Grandmammy’s house.

The small pebbles in front of Grandmammy’s house are jumping. My Lightning McQueen sandals are tripping over them so Mummy takes my hand. My eyes are open too wide and I look at the dancing pebbles so Mummy doesn’t notice and make me repeat the Bad Thing Grandmammy said.

In the car I open the window and look out. Mummy asks me if I want to sing a song. She asks if I want to play I Spy. I pretend to sleep and she stops asking.

I feel like I’ve fallen in a very muddy and smelly puddle. I don’t touch Mummy’s hand when she gives me a sandwich so the dirt won’t get on her too. When we get out of the car to go home I see the sandwich fallen on the floor.

Only at night, when I’m pouring shower gel and water into my ears do I realise that I left Bunny behind.

Ashira Shirali is a high school student from Gurgaon, India. She loves books, music, good food and the colour blue. Her work has been published in Teen Ink and Moledro Magazine.

Visual Art by Paulina Otero

By The Sea

In By The Sea, Francesca Ciampa illustrates the beauty of the seashore during the evening. She uses vivid imagery to broaden the reader’s senses.

Above, dark wood planks;

Slats, sticky with resin, below;

Sky and sea beyond;

The sun moving away, around;

Shadows playing behind its back,

Dancing in the gray half-light of dusk.

 

Dark fuzzy shadows growing above;

Below, a creaky chair rocking lightly

On two curved feet;

Two luminous green eyes,

Wicker groaning under four paws;

Darkness dancing on a porch

Half-hidden in the gray-black cloak of dusk.

Gray light rippling on the bay;

Glimmering on its silky surface,

Soft and cool as smooth satin.

A boat’s rhythmic light throbbing:

White, and lonely as an owl’s hoot, and

Night looming behind gray fur,

Growing to consume the pale dusk.

 

Francesca Ciampa is a junior who is a fan of all music styles, and is continuously writing snippets of poems late at night. Her poetry and art have been published in the Glass Kite Anthology and the Cicada Magazine. 

Art by Yixuan Luo

In Memory of Emzara

Fiora Elbers-Tibbits describes her view of a world about to end in her short poem, “In Memory of Ezra.”

The world is ending soon, my love. In two
days’ time, tectonic plates will chatter teeth,
collide, muss up the golden mean, imbue
God’s weariness with fractures underneath
the sinking sea. I want to take an old
approach—dear Noah and his ark, infused
with elements of television: bold
and artificial roses grown, tokens used
to pair off passersby whose urge to pro-
create ensures our race’s breath. Relieve
me, knead me, slip and drag me into co-
existence. Skip the rite, forget to grieve.
Ignore the trembling ground and seizing foam;
I’m waiting in an empty house, alone.

By Fiora Elbers Tibbitts
Fiona is a senior creative writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

Artwork by David Gordon

 

Sea Cucumber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Alexandra Lewis

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

Artwork by Diana Ryu

 

A Part Time Midwesterner’s Perspective of Robinson Alone

Erin Breen uses her geographic perspective to review Kathleen Rooney’s poetry collection, Robinson Alone.

Kathleen Rooney. Robinson Alone. Gold Wake Press. 2012. 132 pages. $12.95. ISBN: 9780983700142.

Kathleen Rooney’s Robinson Alone is a collection of short poems that tell the tale of Robinson, a man based off a character in Weldon Kees’ poem “Robinson,” a poem which describes a man’s dog observing his master’s house once “Robinson has gone.” Following the character Kees created to a tee, Rooney takes us through Robinson’s life from his “middlewest” beginning to his stints in New York, California, and various road trips throughout the United States. Rooney brings to life Kees’ character from “Robinson” and gives him a life that is so real it can be easy to forget that Robinson is not a real person.

Coming from the “middlewest” myself, I could understand Robinson’s intense desire to leave the place exhibited in the poem “Robinson’s Hometown.” In this poem Robinson retained his desire to return to his hometown once he left, a sentiment I found to be incredibly accurate. As my history teacher once said, “The Midwest is the kind of place you miss.” Of course, Robinson would have his moment of exultation once outside the limits of his small town, but regardless of who you are or what your personality, the Midwest will creep its way back into your thoughts, leaving a melancholy that I found in Rooney’s book. It is easy to show one’s desire to leave. It is much harder to ingrain in a piece an inexplicable longing for an escaped hometown.

After Robinson’s move to New York City, the best characterization of the Midwest’s pull is when in “Robinson’s Parents Have Come to the City for a Visit” Robinson’s parents visit and “Bells in the tower of the church next door bellow the hour./The Our Father pops into his head unbidden; he’s not a pray-er.” The repercussions of his parents’ visit can be seen immediately after the visit in the following poem, “Robinson Sends a Letter to Someone.” Robinson takes a break from the city. We can see Robinson grappling with his desire to both be away from and return home in lines like, “Robinson/desires-& tires of-the semi-/constant public performance/required,” “Late of NYC, he’s really/from the late Great Plains, the great/American desert, the sea of grass/that has no real sea,” and, even in one of the final poems, “Out West,/in the hinterlands, no one/ever walks. But after work,/Robinson’s a one-man parade.”

Rooney did such a good job of capturing this unattainable sentiment that her Robinson immediately resonated with me, and it was not until writing this review that I knew why. This collection is perfect for anyone born of the Midwest, though I doubt coasters could fully understand the sentiments, having not grown up in the distinct salt-of-the-earth, bread basket culture that is hard to pin down and entirely unique to the American Midwest. Robinson’s story is both ordinary and vastly intriguing, one that everyone should discover.