Autumn Begins at Miller School by Ben Allen

Lose me in the famishing forest,
whose azimuth leaves pull me
down, and forget my Northern Star!

Remind me of a time when
mulch trapped itself in sneakers
and you gasped at Mama’s tongue

The season writes a signature
with the stinging of your passing
through sacred youth into

the dark, which Autumn whispers
in my ear knells the tower’s bell,
droning empty hours aside



Ben Allen is a junior pursuing a Humanities Major at Miller School of Albemarle. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Maverick, Miller’s literature and art magazine, which will publish its first issue in the fall of 2023. He is also the Senior Editor and writer for The Bell Tower, the school’s news magazine. His work has previously appeared in the Crossroads IX anthology.

Visual Art by Jiho Kim

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Lion Heads by Sydney Heintz

A Study of Birth, 1996, opaque and translucent watercolor

There she was, clutching a pair of buttocks that is, her painting of buttocks, and giggling with the fervor of one having deliberately defied some code of acceptable behavior. In that kiosk aching with smoke, the ad appeared to me in a kind of divine light, sudden and piercing. Yet it was not her girlish laugh or the choice of subject which piqued my interest. It was the incredible perfection of the buttocks themselves. At the first widening of the hips, a pattern of violet bougainvillea broke up the skin in a daring, spring fashion, while an anonymous back sunk into a void of dark sun. In fact, the painting was the furthest thing from crude: it epitomized the Platonic gene which, as I would discover, permeated through all her work. She had achieved in rendering buttocks noble. It was at that moment, in the fastapproaching night, that my elevenyearold self decided to start painting lessons.

The Doors, 1996, latex paint on wall

The studio was uncomfortably close to the tracks. Pulling up in the car that first day, all I could register was the metallic ring of a train being roped towards some violent place in the direction of Lausanne. As it departed, I myself began to drift towards a bleached structure, clinging all the while to my mother’s open palm, and more than a little white. Overhead and unnoticed by me at the time, there was a sign (Le P’tit Pinceau) pinned to the concrete like a forgotten doll. This was the place.

Sketch 1 of 4, 2052, blue pencil

In 1903, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “more unsayable than all other things are works of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” I have trouble with this. After all, even art, our most desperate attempt at penetrating reality, is inevitably eroded, morphed, and mistranslated. Our souls become misshapen; our eyes witness the appearance of the ugly trace of time, la maladie ultime. Only to the artist himself can the work appear transcendent. And although their truth may continue to live inside it, it will be invisible to all others.

Red Scale, 1996, acrylic on canvas

The teacher introduced herself as Mirabelle. I learned her surname only later, from her paintings, signed M. Desrosiers. And truly, the person was as vivid as the name: she was short and red, as if her small body would not always be able to contain its share of blood, and one day she would burst, fountainlike and magnificent, onto one of her canvases. I had just met the creator of The Buttocks, a living descendant of Circe’s. It was the beginning of my hopeful conversion to the art world.

I was quickly disillusioned when the sorceress laughed at my idea of a painting (an owl swooping onto an invisible subject) and led me to a carboard box brimming with prints of popular internet searches. Above this first floor muddied by the latest tornado of paint there was a second consisting entirely of a narrow, indoor balcony. The effect was one of a staggering upwards motion, as if I was about to be launched from a rogue circus canon. It was on this second floor that all the students’ chef d’oeuvres were hung to dry. Mirabelle’s works, however, were constrained to the first floor, and could therefore be observed up close. Whether this was intentional, or the canvases had simply been too large to move upstairs, I didn’t know.

Judgment Day, 1996, graphite

It was in this open, wooden universe that I would undergo The Test. After I had carefully selected my modèle, a macaw on a black background (already in this absence of a surrounding world do I detect the beginnings of Mirabelle’s influence), I was handed an oversized apron and shown to the table with the other kids. Then, nothing. My mentor swept away as fast as she had come, her petite figure disappearing into a mass of students like a small apparition. I was alone with an unprimed canvas.

To an elevenyearold, this laissezfaire method is nightmarish. In the years to come I would observe the same phenomenon occur with every new student, watching the moment of dreadful realization pierce their expressions, needlelike and deadly. And thus would begin the Darwinian experiment: which of the pinkfaced protégés would survive in this world of pungent smells and infinite cabinets? Which would gather the courage to take their first steps?

Sketch 2 of 4, 2052, blue pencil

Every artist must come to accept the fact of their own unoriginality. It is the first, perhaps most essential step of the creative process: to accept the fact that every idea, every thought, every image that passes through their head has most likely gone through someone else’s at a certain place and point in time. Only once this burden of originality has been lifted can the artist begin to find their art. Only then will they create their millionth of treasure, and it will elate them beyond anything else in the world.

Lion Heads, 1996, oil on canvas

It was at break that I bore witness to the most extraordinary ritual. At 6 o’clock sharp, all the students began to drift toward an easel at the back of the studio. On it was a painting of two, enormous, disembodied lion heads. It was one of Mirabelle’s and was regarded, I believe, as something close to holy. Around this time too, shafts of light pulled through the shades and illuminated the portrait in dancing, uneven patches, as if through the stainedglass windows of a church. The whole event ended within minutes, as we then bounced in a similar fashion around the room, gorging ourselves on various displays of technical mastery. By the end of break I was feeling joyfully light and took a few more cookies for the journey back to my seat.

Untitled, 19962005, polymer paint on wood

Mirabelle’s work consisted almost entirely of animals. In fact, she specialized in horses. At any one time, dozens of them could be found exhaling their oily smoke into the room. Their sheer realism was astonishing. Yet never would I see her actively work on the beasts. They acquired instead a life of their own, as if mothered by Mirabelle and then left to finish themselves. Quickly my idea of successful art was defined by exactly this: immaculate precision and softness of demeanor. I had yet to realize, of course, that I was being immersed in a uniquely conservative strain of art, a type of art which worked only in an anachronistic fashion, cutoff from modernist influences. Remembering that first day, bent over the box of prints, I had only a landscape or animal to choose from. True, later, the odd modest abstract would appear from time to time, yet it was perhaps in these vaulted flashes that the conservatism revealed itself the most: a flash of light in blazing azure, the swirl of metallic color…

Sketch 3 of 4, 2052, blue pencil

Instead of “art for art’s sake”, I believe the current attitude to be better reflected in the phrase “art for beauty’s sake”. This first struck me while reading the literary magazine of a university in a Jersey town over a summer holiday. The writing was chocked gold, mirroring, it seemed, a garden slathered in sun. It struck me then that plot was a thing of the past. We had returned to the birth of man, a sticky Edenred creation of God. And to call it realism! But perhaps they were right. Perhaps the world has simply become too ugly to write about faithfully.

A Study of Death, 19962005, ink on A4 cream paper

It was the act of painting itself which enveloped me in a state of ecstatic monotony. My mouth slackened; conversation became impossible. I could think of nothing but the canvas in front of me. In fact, all I could do with any kind of success was listen. So, during those long hours of creation, it became common practice for Mirabelle to tell us about her childhood, casting us, it seemed, into a trance of imagist being. The story came in fragments, in a kind of Proustian association that would suddenly come to life and whip us all into the browning living room of a household in 60s Quebec. Her father I imagined as faceless, her brothers fragile. Often the stories were riddled with tragedy, or a violent desire to escape. As the years wore on, I became increasingly intimate with the details of this artist’s troubled past. What struck me most, however, was the incredible disparity between her narrative and her art. Her landscapes were serene, her animals sleek and powerful. Not a storm cloud was to be seen in any of her works. And slowly I understood: it was her way of finding peace.

Sketch 4 of 4, 2052, blue pencil

Years later, I was at an interview when asked about art. The question caught me offguard, in the way that questions catch you offguard when youve overprepared something else. I was asked, more specifically, how the written word differed, or not, from a visual medium of expression. Can a threedimensional, multifaceted world be expressed in black characters on a page? Can a thought, the pinnacle of an idea be fully formed on a canvas? I still do not know the answer to this question, or whether I will ever be able to answer it. After all, how can one describe art, the most unsayable of things?


Sydney Heintz is a senior attending high school in Switzerland and is trilingual with English, French, and German. She is an alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio and has been published in the Write the World Review. When she is not writing, she can mostly be found learning orchestral parts (too late) and reading her self-curated literary canon, which she hopes she will finish before beginning studies in English Literature at the University of Cambridge next fall.

Visual Art by Sylvie Mizrahi
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Death of a Frying Pan by Olivia Burgess

Everything is in grayscale
at least, before the sun is let out of its pen.
Most mornings, I catch myself standing in the ears of the wind,
listening for melting leaves and the desperate call of bogged drain pipes
in those final few minutes where it’s not night, but pre-day.
Some things like to stay quiet, folded, patted down. The voice inhabited gains volume,
Raucous, like my own folded megaphone singing
Notice me ! to veins and valves and passing cell traffic on my streets.
My bones are setting like scum on a sauce, no fault of
pectin, agar agar, or the fluidity of daylight.
Winter threatens gently, with a curled fist of ice, makes me too firm, too solid, too sorry –

To resist, I race the tick of the clock from the mantelpiece,
pore my eyes open with matchsticks, tear off fingernails like ancient games with daisies.
Frazzled guitars keep finding my eardrums,
and I start to wear more brown.
Sometimes, I smile at myself in the mirror,
thinking: today, I look like the tree in the back garden. A figment of nature’s strength.

The back door handle is fading,
and I take that too personally
along with the three other frying pans
too heat-scarred to bear the cold.
Cast away, cast iron, coat on.


Olivia Burgess is a 17 year old poet raised and residing in the UK. She has a smattering of publishings ranging from a short story chapbook to forthcoming work in Potted Purple. When she’s not composing poetry (usually based on herself, nature, or her muse) she likes to engage in the art of cooking and tell frequent unnecessary jokes.

Visual Art by Lilly Choi
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On Writing about “Home” with Caylin Capra-Thomas

Caylin Capra-Thomas is the author of the poetry collection Iguana Iguana (Deep Vellum Press 2022), as well as two poetry chapbooks, Inside My Electric City (YesYes Books 2017) and The Marilyn Letters (dancing girl press 2013). Her poems have appeared in journals including New England Review, Crazyhorse, Pleiades, Colorado Review, 32 Poems, Copper Nickel, Washington Square Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center and the Studios of Key West, and she was the 2018-2020 poet-in-residence at Idyllwild Arts Academy. She is currently a PhD student in poetry and nonfiction at the University of Missouri.

Following a master class with Caylin Capra-Thomas, Josephine Sporte and Inseo Yang sat down to ask questions about her experience writing Iguana, Iguana, her debut book of poetry.


1. How and when did you first get into writing? Why poetry?

I think I was always a writer. Even before I could write, I would dictate stories to my dad and make him write them down for me and staple them into little books. I started out, I would say, as a storyteller. I would make those little books, stand on the fireplace, and just force my family to listen to me tell totally insane, incoherent stories that were always very bloody for a little kid. Then, I was in sixth grade writing a novel in my notebook that was very tragic. Things really took off for me when I was an undergraduate and I started reading contemporary poetry because I really didn’t know that poets were alive. The poems that I read in English class in high school were mostly Robert Frost and some other dead white guys. So when I found out that there were poets still and that one could be a poet, that really changed things for me. Reading has always been a big influence on my own craft. So, I would say I’ve always written. I don’t even remember starting, so I don’t know why it happened, and I think poetry just sounds so good and feels so good. I really appreciate it as the medium that is most focused on distillation and the weight of each particular word, having a role to play and its own sort of sonic pleasure. I think the pleasure and the music of poetry are what drew me to it. 


2. Since you got into writing by storytelling and writing a novel as a child, do you find a narrative thread to follow when writing poetry?

I think I tend to blend elements of lyric and narrative. I do appreciate having narrative moments in a poem. I think that they can be grounding and anchoring, to have somebody doing something or saying something somewhere, because a lot of times a poem can be this other animal– this esoteric, mystical experience. And,it’s just nice to be able to have something to hold onto while you’re reading. So, I appreciate poems with a narrative bent. I think that I have a number of poems that have narrative elements, but I don’t think that I necessarily sit down and say, this is a story that I want to tell. I tend to follow the poem to the extent that I can, to follow the music, which is something that I adapted from Richard Hugo, who wrote a book called The Triggering Town. He has this line where he says something to the effect of, “There are people who believe that truth should conform to music. And there are people who believe that music should conform to the truth.” What he was saying is that truth should conform to music, which is essentially saying, let what sounds good, let what gives you sonic pleasure be the driving force of the poem. 

A poem isn’t nonfiction or fiction, but it’s this other thing that can blend elements of both. So if you are writing about a personal experience, if you are the “I”  in the poem, the speaker, you can change that Honda to a Chevy if it sounds better. Nobody’s gonna come knocking on your door asking you why you lied about the Chevy. If you sit down and say, there’s a specific thing I want to say and I need to get the poem to sound good while it’s saying the specific thing, that can both be very challenging, and it can also kill off the possibility of what the poem might have become if you had just followed it and seen where it went. Because if you listen to the poem, follow the music, and make decisions informed both by sense-making narrative impulses and sonic pleasure, you can get to someplace unexpected. I think that’s often what I’m trying to figure out. I guess part of the reason why I don’t tend to sit down with a thing I want to say is because I don’t know. What I want to say in the poem is how I sort of translate myself to myself, and to others.


3. What is your advice for young poets who are trying to get published?

Don’t let the business end of things get you down. Trying to get published involves a lot of rejection, and that can be discouraging, but everyone experiences it. I’ve had a lot of rejection. I don’t know any writer who hasn’t. I think that fortifying yourself for the experience of rejection is important – and I know it sounds kind of cynical and defeatist. I don’t mean it to be. My hope is for new and young writers to stay in the joy of writing and stay with what brought them to poetry, or whatever it is that you write. And if the other stuff starts to cloud the thing that brought you to the joy of creation, put it aside for a little while and just try to find your way back to the part of it that nourishes you. Because if it’s not nourishing us anymore, why are we doing it? 

Also, on the very practical level, I would also advise you to stay engaged with the literary landscape. Stay engaged with literary journals. There are so many literary journals out there. Find the ones that you like, read them, and see what they’re publishing. Is there a journal you love that you feel like your work would shine in, that you feel like your work would fit in? So on the practical level, just staying engaged with reading and the literary landscape can be really sustaining, because then you’re also participating in it. 


4. I read in the interview you did with Poets&Writers that Iguana Iguana was completed over a seven-year period. How was it revisiting and revising the work you wrote in 2014? Were you constantly revisiting those works that they felt familiar enough, or did it feel like they were poems were written by strangers?

Strangers come up a lot in the collection. The idea of strangers, whether that is the stranger you encounter or the stranger that you are, or the stranger within, that idea was how I was finally able to access a through line and a coherent thread to bind the poems together. So that was probably the most important part of the process in it, going from being just a bunch of poems that I wrote over seven years into being something a little bit more cohesive as a book. 

When I was revisiting some of those older poems, a lot of them had felt settled to me for a long time, partly because they had already been published. You can still revise a poem after it’s been published in a literary journal, but I had stopped thinking about them, and then when it came time to fit them into this new thematic thread that I had, I did have to change some of them. For example, there are a couple of poems that used to be in the second person addressed to a “you,” often to an ex or some sort of significant other. It wound up being the case that the book wasn’t about that kind of  “you” anymore. It wasn’t about the people for whom some of the poems had originally been written. So I just took them out of the second person and put them into the first person. That made the poems kind of new and strange for me again. I think finding some little bit of strangeness within yourself, some little corner of your own soul that you didn’t know existed is one of the profound aspects of writing poems and also one of its pleasures. Some of the poems pretty easily transitioned to being about a singular “I.” Some of them I had to cut because they were very much about a relationship or another person, and they just didn’t fit anymore. So, there are plenty of poems that were in the original version of Iguana Iguana that are no longer included. And that was hard because they were poems that I liked and felt good about, but they just don’t exist in this book. And that’s okay. 


5. We read a few of the poems in Iguana, Iguana, and we also read the poem titled “Iguana, Iguana” included in the book. Did you name the book after the poem? Why do they share the same name?

The collection had a couple of different titles. A third of the poems came from my MFA thesis manuscript. And so the book had the same title as I gave it when it was an MFA thesis manuscript for a while. That title was All Lit Things Predict Their Own Demise. I spent a little bit too long trying to make the book fit the title instead of trying to find a title that fit the book. Once I had this new lens for the collection, I really needed something that better reflected it. And so I had a couple of options. My editor, Sebastian Páramo, suggested Iguana, Iguana early on. And at first, I rejected it because I was like, it’s not really about iguanas! I wrote the poem Iguana, Iguana in Key West, and there are a couple of other Florida poems in there, but I didn’t want the book to be a Florida collection, since it’s a collection that was composed in many places. I was worried about a title that would constrict the way those places were reflected or compiled or something. But after a while and after a couple of other titles that just didn’t quite fit, I started thinking about the way the manuscript employs doubling, the idea of the alter ego as a double of the self that is not quite the self, the past life as something that is the self, but not quite the self. This kind of recursive action that the poems take, sort of moving a little bit forward and then doubling back in on themselves. Repetition comes up a lot in the poems. So the phrase “iguana, iguana,” just started to fit the themes of the book. Some people do think it’s about iguanas, and I just live with that. Somebody who bought it said he was buying it for his wife who worked with reptiles. I was like, “Okay, I don’t know what she’s gonna think of it – it’s not really like that, but cool!” So, it has become like a de facto mascot for the book, which is also really fun. I can just do two lizard emojis to refer to it in shorthand.


6. What part of you do you think inspired you to write about strangers and address strangers in your work?

On a very direct logistical level, I moved a lot over the course of the seven years that I spent writing this. I moved from Montana to Florida to Ohio to California, to Missouri. That meant that every year or two, I was a stranger all over again, introducing myself to new people again. I was constantly being made to reexamine myself from the outside. Also, I think that there’s also this infinitely mysterious core in all of us. We all have this kind of totally unknowable part of ourselves, which we start to know through art, poems, or whatever your self-expression is. We are all mysterious, even to ourselves in some ways, like when you write something that reveals something about your own mind or your own feelings. Like, oh, I didn’t realize I felt that way about this particular thing that happened 10 years ago. I think that there is a little stranger within all of us, who is strange even to us. 


7. All right. So relating to the topic of home, having lived in Idyllwild for some time, did any of your experiences here make it into your writing? Which home of yours did you find the most impactful?

The poem “Knowing” on page 45 is Idyllwild scenery at its core. The poem starts, “I watched the fog pool in from where I stood on the path. I could see a dog, a lab mix, rush to his person on the field below, at my feet on the path, stood my own dog, meringue white, and all around us the fog, smoke-white and curling up like a French inhale.” I was coming down that path from Husch Field. Above Husch Field, fog would always settle otherworldly. I just had a moment and I was watching, I don’t remember who it was, somebody playing fetch with their dog. So that poem is very Idyllwild. “Whiteout” is also a poem that is very Idyllwild inspired. “Like something true, the snow came and obliterated the world. What I thought was the world – the pines, the sky, my wooden walls, the roads that take me away from myself, the walls, the pines.” The trees loomed pretty large in my psyche and my imagination about this place. And there was a wild snowstorm on Thanksgiving of 2019, and I think that’s when I wrote this poem. Idyllwild definitely makes it in. 

I would say the place that feels the most impactful – I only lived in Florida for a few months, but the landscape was so drastically different from anywhere I’ve ever lived. Even though I didn’t particularly like the physical discomfort in Florida–I was always hot and sweaty– it was just a very strange place, which can stir up poems. Montana might have been the single most impactful place that shows up in the collection, because it’s where I started writing the book, and where I really found a wonderful writing community and learned a lot of what I semi-know about poems. I always feel kind of wary of saying I know anything about anything. But, to the extent that I know things about poems, that’s really where it solidified into something that feels like a body of knowledge. Any poem that has Massachusetts or Vermont, that’s where I grew up. So those are often poems of homesickness because that’s where my family still is. They were all impactful in their own way, but they made different kinds of impacts.


8. Are there any problems or projects you’re currently working on? And if you have one, how did Covid 19 affect your work?

It was a weird couple of years we had there. I was in Idyllwild when Covid started in March 2020. I said goodbye to the students I worked with, maybe on March 11th. We thought it was gonna be a five-week break and then I’d see them again. I was like, well, not goodbye. I’ll see you in April. That was false. And, I found it very difficult to write in those first few months, just because of so much psychic static over the news and the peril and the dying. So it was a little too intense for me to write much at that time. 

When I left Idyllwild and moved to Missouri, I started working on prose poems, which is a form that I hadn’t really written much in before. Initially, they were poems of frustration and poems that dealt with the sort of existential despair that can come over one as a working artist in the world. I started writing them in the summer of 2020; it was a time when we were all questioning what our actions meant, what kind of care we owed ourselves, and what kind of care we owed one another. So I think I was just having an existential crisis, both as an artist and a person in the world. Then the second movement that I started working on the next year deals more with ideas around the eternal subject of home, mothers and mothering, being mothered, questions around care, some light ecological existential despair as well, thinking about sea level rise. A lot packed in there. That’s kind of been my most recent poem project. 

When I was here, I was working on poems in the voices of different cryptids and creatures. I put that away for a little while and I plan on going back and revising those soon, because it is a full manuscript at this point. I just need to find another anchor point, another thread. So, I have to go back and revise with some intention there, which might involve writing a lot more poems, or a few more poems, we’ll see. And then I’m also working on nonfiction. Those are my projects. I’ve always got more cookie jars than I have hands and never quite enough time to eat the cookies. 

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Two Poems by Amber Kim


     Hush. Crept the Junebug in the middle of summer,
in the middle of nowhere. Where the windows were stained with rain
marks, dripping and seeping inside the sills. Hush.
Cries the mother. Where tree branches thickened &
fruits fattened to be harvested in autumn. Rain-
drops leaking through damp roofs, I pictured rain
                    litter the playhouse we built
               one summer’s day. Granola bars eaten in one bite and
                    gushed down with lemonade.

     Hush. Wept the willows. When I peeked
through the cracked holes in the wall; peeked
through the moonlight that quivers, that shudders against the doors; peeked
through the silhouette of another, that traces a back arching; peeked
at the warmth that radiated in the center of my palm.
                         They say
               the steam still eats me,
               drinks my lips & kisses my lids.
Inside the porcelain bowl,
we drain each other,
gather light by the window
& let it drown to our necks
until we were full of each other.


                         The Lady speaks in exasperated sighs.
               Sighs that carry onto the next breath
          & onto the other. She lingers
by the armchair.
We wait
in broken syllables of silence.
          Lay-dee. My lay-dee.
     Ma-lay-dee. Me. Lay-dee. Doesn’t speak often
but when she does, she does it in doses
         Hush, hush.                     Withers the nightingale & her feathers
plucked. Cries the mother. When she clutches                                                                                        on the edges of their hair strands                                                                                                               sprawled on their blanket. Hush.                                                                                                                                                Hush.                                                                                                                                                 Hush.

Crept the Junebug in the middle of summer,
in the middle of nowhere


Red in Harmony

So I am sitting for the last bus stop to town,
it’s raining, no nothing, no umbrella on me
I dig in my pockets, couple of bills and some coins,
I walk down the aisle, see the seat at the back empty,
I sit down, pull off my bag, and sleep.
Sundays, I am dancing in the red room,
velvet gown stitched on me, holding up champagne
talking nonsense, laughing discreetly,
I popped another aspirin before I got here,
I think I’ll take another when I’m home
“When do you think we’ll see each other again?”
Probably never but I smile, “Soon.” It’s January
and stars are bursting, I grab my shoulder,
and decide my bones ache. It’s February
and I hide under the sheets with my toes peeking. In May,
I’ll get to see my sister and her husband,
I should visit my mother before she calls.
I stop by the grandma selling yesterday’s produce
on the side of the street in her truck, headlights
still flickering, she keeps forgetting to fix it,
I ask to buy the rest of the apples,
molded and brown but who cares,
I carry two tons
weighing on me, slipping away
inside the night.

So I am riding the last taxi at night to home,
it’s snowing. “When are you going to come home?”
It’s my mother in her hoarse voice, cracking,
I lean on the window, watching kids
drunk, vomiting. “Soon.” Then watch
the rest around them spit their saliva like
trying to inseminate the hard dirt. “I’ll be there”
It’s December and laughter trickles out
from me, from lips. “I’m here.” January breathes,
I’m still at the bus stop waiting,
my head leaning too far into the road 


Amber Kim likes exploring loss in writing, whether that be a loss in identity, person, or place. She is currently a senior and lives in South Korea with her loving cat, Mango, and is an amateur photographer.

Visual Art by Alice Park

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Womanhood by Snigdha Dhameja

when i think of womanhood i
remember my mother’s frost white sari draped on the bed. 

i dream of a loose-lipped girl from my future who will take me down through life and pick fresh apples from the trees that line its lanes. i think of the voice from the cracks of the walls that whispers and calls and shrieks at midnight, with husky demeanour and a quiet harshness that whipped around and sung me to sleep sometimes. 

the body grows to accommodate the soul, and mine rested in the soft bumps of my bosom at thirteen. there was something inside me that circled and shook and rattled, but i kept it to myself. sometimes the voice spoke through my mouth and breathed my air, but soon

we became one and the same. almost a woman. part of a w(hole).

but to attain womanhood was to grow up. to hold the world by your fist and smile at it. when i was fifteen i thought i had it all; but the divine feminine wasn’t fully mine
because i remembered smelling the fragrant afterlife
of the rose petals at her imminent shrine. 

i planted my flowers in the soil and the force inside me watered it
with my tears. i hang my age around my waist like a towel, waiting
to be old enough, big enough to tread the deep ocean waters of the life i’ll encounter. 

i know my womanhood is entombed in my anger, my desire to be taken seriously like her or
that one or any women in the world who seemed happier. i feel like i am rusting in this shallow steel embrace, this coldness of life without bearing the softness i’m supposed to bring.                                                                                                                           (who)manhood.

bid my time for an hour in the ashes; i am meant to be a
cleansing force. the world will turn to rubies and more. a true test, for a true being.
i walk out to the world still made of soot. 

today i grow.
the mirror shows me a face encased in gold. i bring a gun out of my purse and
cry about my impending doom. womanhood!
i shoot the sky with a bullet, and all that fall are rose petals.
the men sweep them up with their lashes,
and i am taken away.


Snigdha Dhameja (she/her) is a 17-year-old high school student from Bangalore, India. She’s always been passionate about writing, but even more so about expressing the splendid, morose, and chaotic events of everyday life.

Visual Art by Anisiia Isaeva

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Chores by Avah Dodson

time for chores dad hollers from the kitchen so loud we can’t even pretend not to hear ~ we trample begrudgingly from our rooms ~ the dishwasher shiny and metal and loud opens with a clang the dishes rattling together hot watery air billowing into our faces we pile clanking plates on plates shake out the tinkling silverware delicately pick up the knives because dad told us to be careful and we remember when we watch mom slice into vegetables the sharp edge parting the flesh so smoothly ~ whining and groaning we clamber down the stairs with a mountain of clothes shove them into the machine press the right buttons never low speed never high speed normal water pressure medium soap we listen to the whir and watch the clothes spin in the ancient machines because we’ve come all the way down here already and if you blur your eyes the colors of the fabric mix and blend together like paint on a wheel ~ unload the dryer shove the clothes back into the hamper and lug the mountain of clothes up the steps one at a time thud thud thud slowly until we reach the top and then bliss as we dump the clothes onto the couch and jump into them reveling in their warmth like baked bread right out of the oven like the extra blanket at our feet on colder winter nights mom shouts get your dirty bodies off my clean laundry but we ignore her for just a minute more to savor that warmth ~ ducking under the sink to grab new trash and recycling bags and hauling the filled bags outside to the chilled air making us crave being back in the comfort of the air of the house ~ the air humid with the sounds of voices whirring clanging rustling thuds and smelling like mom’s lavender perfume like dad’s burning toast because he always burns the toast like my brother’s gross feet because he leaves his socks lying around the house and I hate and love this air the air I breathe the air they breathe the air that fills my home to the brim and wraps around me like the clothes from the dryer



Avah Dodson is 14. Her work has been recognized in the Bluefire 1,000 Words Contest, the Royal Nonesuch Humor Contest, the Scholastic Writing Awards contest (National Gold Medalist), and the Sarah Mook Poetry Contest, among others. Her works have appeared in Incandescent Review, Echo Lit, Stone Soup Magazine, Voices de la Luna, Skipping Stones Magazine, and others. She currently is a Prose Contributor for Incandescent Review and lives in California with her family and two adorable tabbies.


Visual Arts by Meicen Deng
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On the Sunny Side of the Lake by Willem Parker

An Astronaut’s Day-Dream

Dad is the only man on the moon.
Preparing for his solo ascent
into the cold winds and their tides, for the moon-gulls and his precious french fries
spreading his space blanket
by the pod. There aren’t any clouds
to pass over the sun. There isn’t any fire for warmth.
So he watches the stars roll, and heats up by naked sun rays.
His highschool friends get out their telescopes; ready
to tell him he’s gone too far.
But Dad’s gotten out his classical guitar
to hear the notes bounce around the system. Their calls are mute.
And he’s playing
awful slow. Every song is a sad song on the moon.

You were Parker, at Wells Fargo
escaping 2008, work was unfair
to the clients, made you red giant, sun brother. Were you
unhappy. Were you scared? You were
Jimmy to your grade school friends, playing baseball
never much uttering a word. Only saying
(to my Uncle Joe) We suck.

James to your first coworkers
you were sifting the cabinet, working the cash
driving to patients with bottled hope in an old van, blue buttons
beer belly, and armed with an unfinished degree.
It wasn’t much good. But finishing school was worse.

Parker, there’s a runaway meteor headed to you. The intercom spouts. Like a faraway echo,
you toast a melting popsicle to the sky. There’s no one to run from
and nothing to chase.
I try to jump up high, to give you a sign
but you always just nod and wink.

You are Dad
I’m held in your arms, witness fighting
to keep us from problems, like yours
dropping out, smoking, drinking and
being wholly ignored. There wasn’t much to rebel
and no rebellion for that matter. That was worse.
I know we are a war. I know we are made that way
I know we are a normal family, and now
I know we are a family star, spilling in the crowded galaxy
like green-yellow sand drifting quietly with the sea.


If I Were A Grizzly Bear

I’d need two seats on an airplane
a job with hibernation leave
steel toed boots
and heavy berry shampoo.

I’d work as a cook
but get sacked
for raiding the fridge.
Hanging up my long hair net.

I’d be accepted to any college for diversity, scrawl
on every page, and break every pencil.
Though academics are no use to Grizzly bears.

I wouldn’t fit under any umbrella
but walk, (two feet), claws clacking
the sleek asphalt. Thinking,
all the time, I have four feet.
I am a stranger in a raincoat,
filling in with man; unbelonging.
Too big or too tall,
house-inhabiting; wild cave completely kept from my mind.
There’s a beehive in my backyard. A strong spruce keeps
it safe, I have a fear of heights anyway.

I’d find it in a TV. Bears hunting
dancing their river dance. Eating hungrily
hopefully, saving for the winter. Holing up
and snoozing the cold away. Resting again
awaiting the sweet spring – or the rich summer.

The hive, buzzing, bumbling,
at the top of the tree; I’m afraid.
But honey is sweeter
the higher you are.
And I’m in love with
eating honeycomb

The spruce perfume reminds me
I used to play guitar
But now the wood’s scarred, and I snap strings easily.
So I leave it by the tree
escape to the woods beneath
the newly wed dress of fog.


I Am Mushroom Food

I won’t be buried in-case,

or protected by gray cement
meant to defend
the colorful plate I am, awaiting
my final mold.

In eastern Oregon,
below the dirt,
beneath the green canopy sky,
tangled with the roots,
there is a thing

a thing so old,
it might be the oldest

Armillaria Ostoyae
the fungus that lives
and grows
and devours

and whispers wisdoms to each other
I want to know. 

The day when I die
I will be buried
next to the oldest thing
the pinkish-white roots extending their helpful arms
around me. They dig
far into the ground; descending
to tap the wisdom wells, hoping
I’ll be full on learning and they’ll
be full of nutrients.

After I die I’ll be a new parent
sporing young hungry
honey mushrooms; I’ll be proud 
when they find their way in the spruce.
When they deal
by breaking down every
unanswered question,
familiar meaning,
cruel hand and
bring us together for once. 



Will lives in Hamden, CT, a student of Hamden High School and ECA. He has received two silver keys from Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for his writing. Will aspires to be a full-time poet and singer songwriter, and spends most of his time on his guitar, reading, doodling, walking or thinking.


Visual Art by Anastasiia Terekhina

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