A Vicious Culture

Lisa Zou uses the powerful metaphor of animals in the wild to make a powerful statement about violence in today’s culture.

In Nairobi, we let in the lions and take up fear—

and now the river welcomes the lunge

and cut and danger and spilling.

 

You need to learn how quickly the distance vanishes

between the men and the lions. I am the ticket buyer; “Lion,

give me two pounds of human carcass.” Hesitate—

 

death awaits. On the sidelines, a woman drinks bloody sangria,

suddenly her eyes stumble open, her limbs compressed to fractions

by the beasts in a pool of red meat, the stitches of her bones untangled.

 

Somewhere, the lion sees the tremble and chases.

Somewhere, the handsome man mourns the name

of his lover and the sky wears grey a shade darker

than the hair of the clapping audience. We watch the lions attack

the fighters, pouncing upon a hungry crowd, twisting their spines,

stroking the desert terrain awaiting their next targets.

 

You cannot go; you need to remain abstinent from violence,

sweep the remnants of lost martyrs, forgive the lion who swallowed

your sister’s fiancé, as he cried out “They have made lions’ meat of me.”

 

We stood silent as small children with smaller hands

offered water from the curve of their palms and

a new peace swept through the lions, their tongues parched.

 

You need to learn how quickly the lions

hunted those human beasts in Nairobi,

how the lions gulped the water, drop by drop.

By Lisa Zou

Lisa Zou is a Mesa Community College Student in Chandler, AZ. She is the winner of the Mount Mercy Creative Writing Contest and has been published in the National Poetry Quarterly, the Paha Review, and Canvas. She enjoys reading short stories in her free time.

Artwork by Yiting Ruan

Aroha (pity)

Stephanie Bennett expresses nostalgia as she takes us on a journey around houses decaying under heat.

Dirt roads and ragged clothes on
emaciated children, pitied by those
cut from the soil, rich with compost,
in the West.

Streets paved with potholes,
and blood pools, seeped red
with road kill, that will
find a new home inside
the stomachs of those without one.

Arms ache raw with
rotting bug bites,
dark feet scarred with
untreated gashes.
Hot nights endured
with dreams of a
modern heaven known as
air conditioning.

Houses decay under heat,
swelling feet find relief
on a stranger’s tapa cloth.
Close your eyes. Imagine
a world where the brown
dirt that cakes your skin
runs down your body in muddy swirls
that will disappear down a drain.

Wake up to the moonlight.
Sweat slick on your skin,
thick cream on your feet,
cicada’s call from the night,
and covering your body is
a white cotton sheet.

Stephanie Bennett is an Australian student currying studying Creative Writing in the United States.

Art by Florence Liu 

I’ll Sing to Both

Sophie Coats explores the intimacy of music and family memories in her poem, “I’ll Sing to Both”.

 My father dances to women
singing jazz, black birds and blue
jays. I dance to the sound of his
footsteps and stand on his black
 
penny loafers. We don't talk
about my parents' childhoods except
for Midwest winters, but I wonder if they played
jazz on vinyls, what it sounds like when it gets scratched
       if the sound still echoes.
 
My mother doesn't like jazz or
poetry. She listens to Sheryl Crow
on broken CD players that skip my favorite
parts in the summer, and I want to sing
 
to sunshine and sadness, but my mother
says I'm no good. So I listen to Alicia Keys
on my sister's portable CD player that isn't broken and pretend
she is singing to me, calling my braided hair beautiful, while I wait
        for the click of my father's heels back from work.
 
My teacher says she doesn't trust the new
ipods, says they can't sound like records
on Sunday afternoons. It's just not possible
that something so tiny can hold so much.
 
My father doesn't know that Uncle
Kracker's song Follow Me is about adultery
so I download it along with Sheryl Crow's
album, but I sing to both when no one
               is watching.
 

Sophie Coats was born in Texas, but raised a Jersey girl. Junior year of high school, she traded out
public school life for the boarding school experience at Interlochen Arts Academy where she studied
creative writing. She was awarded a gold key for flash fiction and a gold key for poetry in the
Scholastic Art and Writing awards. Her work can also be found in the Interlochen Review.
Art by Sarah Little.

Two Poems by Zahava Lior

Zahava Lior’s poetry takes us through the memories of a blurred childhood and the Modern Museum of Art, making us re-think our definition of truth and art.

On Size and Truth

1.
In her dream last night
she looks inside a dusty chamber
with walls echoing
not yielding
she wants to be her mirror reflection so badly
but her voice just comes back
again
and again
through that glass and coated silver.

Then she hurries through the water
the antechamber and the sand
scurrying out, out of
the cliffs
and the rock face.
That image is only a small glimpse.
Mother asked: “Is it like looking at a pinhole of a sweater?”
“Of a blanket,” I said.
(Well, it’s hard to say
when you stare into absolving water and dust.)
It’s funny you mention size:
I was once predestined to marry
a man I had never met.
He told my mother fresh sweet lies
about his past
the sad fate it was to me, her precious little girl. (Sweet little good girl)
Mother asked, “How many lies did he make? A dozen?”
“A thousand,” I say.
(Well, it’s hard to remember,
they seemed so real).
It’s funny you mention
truth:

2.
I had this itch to see you last night
when the white picket fences in Iowa take on a bluish sort of hue in the
fading light
and the birds and trees stoop down to trees–
I wanted to see all of you
when I stopped
and realized
that you were just about
as convincing to me
as the lies I told myself to sleep,
(for how could I be sure when the little holes seemed so precious?
when I loved the thought of you, not you?).

 

On Museums and Freesias

The MOMA guarantees
that you will see
at least one new piece
every time you visit:
I’m looking at a blue stained
miniature marble house on a pedestal
it looks like my childhood
it smells like Copper and wine

I’m looking at some nude paintings
filled with apples and pears and a tabby
I am reminded of my virginity
and the solidity of touch.

he takes me into the main art gallery
and the attendants scold us
we’ve been trying to eat French fries
where they won’t let us
we’re trying to do something different

there’s a homeless girl who just walked in
and who doesn’t know
what art is.
the man who composed “living trash”
is visiting his own installation
and volunteers her to stand
in the center of the room.

she thinks they must want her
as a part-time employee
or the janitor
but I wanted to tell her
to run out of the doors
and save herself
before they make an excuse
to call her greasy hair
a tragic masterpiece.

so we ate or fries in peace that day
out on the front steps,
not inside the museum,
we kissed and
held hands in a simple sort of way
our foreheads touched and we smiled
at the innocent reminder, because
we knew what we really wanted to see,
the Freesia smell of comfort was by my side
and it was enough for me.

 

Zahava Lior is a 10th grader who hails from Los Angeles and attends the Hamilton High
School Academy of Music. An avid writer, Zahava aims to pursue a singing as well as a writing career. In December 2014, Zahava released her debut album, performing 13 of her original songs, “Keriselle Box” available on iTunes and CD Baby. Her poetry can be found on her blog, www.goldenstarpoetry.com.

Art by Sterling Butler

Caribou

Emily Boyle uses her thick and cunning diction to enhance her unique and vivid imagery of a twisted relationship in her poem Caribou.

He, a practiced piper

Poked holes in my windpipe

Teased notes of seduction

From this homemade flute

Caught you with a butterfly net

Weaved from my hair

And locked you in my ribcage

The bone splinters keep you

Still

Check the back alley dumpster

His drive­through graveyard

Take his leftovers

I

Am his leftovers

Give him my skull

So he’ll stop asking for head

He never looks down anyways

Wrap yourself in my hide

To mask your scent

Between subway rides

And under park benches

When he asks for your tongue

And he will ask for your tongue

Cut out mine

Keep yours locked behind

Teeth stained yellow and red

Empty my stomach of the acid

Forced down my throat

Swallowed by bruised lips

Fashion a drawstring pouch

Tie it shut with braided ligaments

Run

In case he catches up

Pull the pins out of my ovaries

Don’t forget to throw

Before they explode

Into ovum shrapnel

That scared him more than me

Bind his wrists with my small intestine

After the explosion

Set fire to the kindling that was my hair

Carve the fat from my chest

Marinate it in the remnants

Of my menstrual blood

And make him swallow

By Emily Boyle

Emily Boyle lives in Beaver Island, Michigan, and attends Interlochen Arts Academy as a senior. 

Art by Jules Ventre

A Tale of Two Countries

Soren Gran makes the distinct connection between the fight for freedom in 1776 to the fight for freedom in the modern world in his poem, “A Tale of Two Countries.”

One country, two Americas

One person, two dollars for few,

One dollar, two people for many.

America fought for rights two centuries ago

Now a new battle arises

Instead of dirt roads, urban avenues

Instead of muskets, picket signs

Instead of Lexington, Selma

Instead of backing down, try again,

Instead of six hundred, try twenty-five thousand.

Another battle for democracy, for equality, for freedom

New Founding Fathers stand up

King, Malcolm, Parks take the place of Washington, Revere, Hancock

The reiteration, reemphasis, of “All men are created equal.”

A letter from jail to remind people.

A boycott to prove people,

A song to unite people.

But the fight for freedom was no simple protest.

It was a war, sometimes fought like a war.

Sometimes graves were filled like it was a war,

Sometimes people lost control.

During this war the Watts Riot

Left a stain of red on dotted canvas.

A sea of nonviolent protest disturbed by waves of violence.

A war not just for rights but for acceptance.

To make sure there were no more Emmett Tills.

Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, took a different approach.

A different approach from the March on Washington, the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The Black Panthers were condemned for the violence

And Martin Luther King Jr. won a Peace Prize

But maybe it was the Panthers determination, desperation

That were more effective than King’s composure.

Maybe it was a balance between peaceful protest and Black Power.

“Whatever it was, it worked.”

Did it?

There have been so many Emmett Tills.

Rodney, Trayvon, Eric. Not the faces of the past

But the faces of the present.

We still fight the same fight

For equality under the law, an end to discrimination.

Maybe it’s not possible, but that does not mean we should give up.

So the faces of the future don’t have to fear.

We shall overcome,

Someday.

By Soren Gran

Soren Gran is a junior at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. For his school, he plays soccer, writes for the newspaper, and participates in extracurricular organizations including Latin club and Academic Challenge team. He enjoys traveling. Last summer, he participated in a State Department program through which he visited Singapore and Malaysia.

Art by Fangjun “Kay” Qu

Masi-America

This is a review of ‘Pig Park’, an incredibly relatable novel by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, depicting a lovely summer story about the hardships of a failing town just outside of Chicago, and the families trying to keep it alive after its economic downturn.

Pig Park” by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

 

“I thought myself into a circle-or maybe a knot–like a dog chasing it’s tail. I arrived at an impasse. Like I said, even if things didn’t work out, at the very least my friends and I would get to spend our last summer together. It was something like my last meal or–since I’m the Cinderella of crumbs–having a fairy godmother grant me one last wish.”

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, of El Paso, Texas, has written a lovely summer story about the hardships of a failing town just outside of Chicago, and the families trying to keep it alive after its economic downturn.

After the lard company left Pig Park, many of its inhabitants left with it. The high school shut down, businesses lost customers, and everything seemed to be going wrong until the last man making money offered up a way to save Pig Park. “A pyramid is little more than simple geometry. Two triangles here, two triangles there. I can lead the construction project,” he said and waved his hand. The grown-ups huddled together. Colonel Franco had hit on it with fewer words: a crazy plan had to be better than no plan at all. They were desperate enough that they decided every girl and boy would report to the park to help Colonel Franco with the construction.”

If you’re thinking that manual labor is not the way you’d want to spend your summer, you wouldn’t be alone. But for Martinez’s protagonist, Masi Burciaga, it was the perfect excuse to get out of her family’s bakery and into the sun with her best friend, Josephina. Unfortunately for Masi, Colonel Franco moves all the girls inside temporarily to write letters telling government officials all about Pig Park and La Gran Piramide. Masi, unsure of how to ask complete strangers for their attention and money, writes dozens of drafts before deciding on the two brilliant sentences that she thinks will save her town:

“So a bunch of us want to hang out, build a pyramid in the middle of Pig Park and save our neighborhood. Are you in?”

Pig Park is an incredibly relatable story that deals with everything from boys to divorce, baking to disease, in the eyes of a fifteen-year- old girl one summer where everyone seems to be getting the short end of the stick. Martinez does a fantastic job bringing up all of the beautiful, tiny, everyday details like burnt toast and melted chapstick to relieve the reader of the intense topic of a failing economy and its stressful repercussions within individual families. Pig Park is a great read with a great message about appreciation and rolling with the punches.

“Are we going to be okay?” I looked at my dad. My dad couldn’t give a simple answer to my question because he was hopeful. He was willing to gamble, but it wasn’t just up to him or my mom or me. Our entire neighborhood was on the line. The Nowaks, the Sanchezes, the Fernandezes, the Sustaitas, the Wongs and everyone else had as much of a stake in this. One thing was clear. This wasn’t MesoAmerica. MasaAmerica maybe. Or even MasiAmerica.”

 

By Kathleen Johnson

Town

In her winning piece for Parallax’s Horror Contest, Eleonora Beran-Jahn takes us into the world of a mysterious small town where the night brings more than just the moon out. Also congratulations to Hannah Hardy whose art won first place in the Visual Art – Parallax Halloween Horror Contest.

This is a town whose colors crawl from the shadows
Of nicks and corners.
Dust rolls up
The encapsulating outer walls of the town every other Tuesday,
The walls are 100 feet tall and there is no wind here
Ever.
Peter and Lee are getting married
In the Jonsons’ inn on the west side of town:
Date, unknown.
I have never met Peter, Lee or the Jonsons,
Nor have I ever been driven to count
The number of rocks that make up the city’s walls.
The graveyard is very beautiful
When the sun peeks through the angry gray brushstrokes
That people call clouds,
All of the flowers are the same color.

The town holds a meeting every year
To determine how many people live
Within our protecting walls,
I do the headcount, the number is always
25.
No one really knows
What their neighbor’s face looks like;
No one really cares
To try and paint portraits around here.
There are just as many alchemists
As there are mercenaries in this place,
There is no jail,
And both services cost the same.
The Jonsons open the inn at 7 am and close at 12 am,
Just in time to prevent Richard from walking in
Pushing an empty stroller.
The bar is open 24/7.

Scratch that,
There are 26
People in this town,
James lives down in the well,
He gives us water and we breathe him air.
The church’s people have had to move the chapel
12 feet East every year
To make more room for the cemetery.
Its been 70 years since I tried to leave this place,
I am the sheriff,
Business here is slow, the undertaker gets more business than I do.
There are always 26 people,
Everyone else
Never stays “around” for long.

Sometimes I can hear ‘everyone else’ sing,
Their monotone pitch of pain gives roses their rose.
It is January when they gain strength
And melody turns into the screeching
Of nails drawing against wood.
It must be beautiful what they do
In their tortured years bellow the dirt.
Once James murmured me to help them,
He said their noise was making him cold.
I told him I couldn’t
For shattered throat moans are not considered my jurisdiction.

By Eleonora Beran Jahn

Artwork by Hannah Hardy.
“Self Portrait,” Parallax Horror Contest Winner

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

 

Post-Partum

Explore the postpartum world of Sofia Haines’s delicately crafted poem that uses gripping imagery to effectively convey a story.

Touch my home. Touch my
walls and tablecloth and the coat I bought my son; he
will be a small blue boy, blue like paint,
and his round hands
spell out something like milk or salt.
I want him to sleep in the crook of an avocado.

 

Night breaks but does not open.
you are a beautiful woman
said the blue boy. Now, once he is here,
I see that he is blue
like an egg in the dark.
He leans in from a window that wasn’t
there before, kicking his toes against the wall
as he looks at the pink boy in the cradle.

 

Open this jar for me, I ask.
Our yarn has been cut, but open this jar for me:
see, it is filled with childhood and melted
plastic.

 

By Sofia Haines

Sofia Haines is a senior Creative Writing major at Walnut Hill School for the Arts.