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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My Namesake by Chloe Basch

A tangerine
Savored in juice or whole
Seldom served as a middle name.

 

Flakes of white
And a shell of supple epidermis;

 

A seed-chipped tooth
Beckoned by whispers of sweetness.

 

Round to be juggled,
Round to be prodded.

 

Titan-saffron
Under the beaming hospital bulbs
Which crackle and spark

 

Wishing to escape the confinement
Of all-knowing glass;

 

Waxen pale
Under the grit of the obstinate clementine sun.

 

Scapulas flash
In insight of their hindrance.

 

Your tongue splits its syllables
Into gelastic pairings of giggles

 

A sound never enshrined.

 

My name bears no romance,
Burdening no fame

 

Blooming from the teeming seams
Of my jaundiced-yellow veins.

 

 

Chloe Basch is a sophomore at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry. Chloe grew up in Manhattan and is passionate about impacting change through the written word. Her writing has been published in various publications including Creative Communications, Poetic Power, The East Hampton Star, and Bazoof Magazine. She is the recipient of the Scholastic Award Gold Key for her poetry. She was recently awarded a grant from Riley’s Way to amplify the voices of Ukrainian teenagers displaced by war. Chloe believes that words create our world and that the ability to write freely in society is a basic human right and one that allows for connectivity and powerful change.

 

Visual Art by Anthony Johnson
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How to Ride the 14 Mission Bus

1.
Avoid the loopies; if a nearly naked man
begins bathing himself in milk by the folding origami doors,
run. Or if a ravenous lady bites into your shoulder
for a mere morsel. Or if a man with RDA (resting drunk attitude) and
a skullet, enveloped in a power puff bathrobe,
describes his tumultuous love life
with the most unneeded details.
Or if a guy playing air guitar in a cascading cream ball gown
offers you a lollipop from deep in the flounces around his crotch, say no.
Or if a man cleanly removes his shirt and begins slathering himself
in slickening lotion. Avoid all eye contact.
They’ll just start talking to you more.

2.
Ignore the irrational, irritating teens,
infesting the back of the bus
like the stench of bubblegum vape and piss,
chucking half-open bottles of neon Gatorade at passersby,
tip-tapping random folks like woodpeckers
on a tree. And if they profusely repeat
“Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday,”
when you know in fact it is not your birthday, or when
they chuck bouncy balls at you, and even
though it shouldn’t be unbearable, you have the urge to punch them.
Instead, flip them off and run, knowing full well
they are much older and much stronger.

3.
Don’t be a dick. If a triple sweatered old lady
heaves herself onto the bus, and lurches towards your seat,
freighted with torn pink plastic bags
bearing broken bok choy and broccoli,
then you must stand. Especially,
if the bus is like a can of stewed tomatoes,
all mushed together, practically red sauce.
Or if a life-sapped mother trails by
clinging to a stroller, a boiling tea kettle of sorts
delicately adorned with lavishly looping leaves
and inside a ceaseless screeching,
then quickly make way.

4.
Escape.
Plow through piles of people rushing in
like ants to the nest before rain.
Dodging elbows, backpacks
and deafening debates
as you hurdle to the shit decorated sidewalk
shout ‘Thank You!’ to the driver.
This is non-negotiable.
Stuck in an endless loop
of bathrobes, tossed gatorade and screeching,
this simple courtesy might do them some
good.

 

 

Jude is the product of his Chinese, Indian, Native Hawaiian and bi-national US and UK heritage. Jude’s unique background and multicultural perspective enables him to contribute to the broader conversation on race and diversity. This background deeply informs his poetry, written while a Junior at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts Creative Writing Program in San Francisco. His work is influenced by writers he greatly admires, Frank O’Hara and George Saunders. He is working on a novel that he hopes to publish before turning twenty-one. 
Visual Art By: Sherry Ruohan Huang
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This Isn’t Worth The Ink

This isn’t a poem. I’ve never written a poem before. You’re crazy.
This is a duck, a mallard man with a beetle for a head. You’re holding him, this
Fowl fellow with a yellow beak, as one might hold a hoagie, ready to bite, and
You complain about his lyricism? You’re crazy. Your brain is on strike, protesting
Working conditions, a little tiny thousand-neuron black lung march
With little tiny thousand-neuron National Guardsmen on their way to break it up.
The tiny working man has thrown off his tiny chains and extended his tiny
Still-raw hands in tiny kindness, and you critique his verse? You’re crazy.
Your stomach’s in your fingers and that is why you’re holding this avian American,
Thumbs salivating, because through feral eyes this is all just
A hoagie with mayo and mustard.

 

William Bittner is a high school junior from Birmingham, Alabama. He enjoys writing absurdist and natural poetry, essays, and short stories. He has received several awards from the Alabama Writers’ Forum.

 

Visual art by Samantha Su

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what the ear did not

a wisp of wind stalks the air. 
off the edge of suspicion, 
the ear complains 
in solemn impatience: 
you, give up your games. 
Mystery leaks a grin, 
knowing what the ear did not. 
It breathes again 
this time, enough 
to push an ant off a cliff. 
It touts Truth’s treasures 
teasing the ear 
to the point of eruption. 
in Violence’s disapproval 
haymakers fly all around 
catching nothing 
but dead air.

 

Michael Nguyen is a high school senior in Sacramento, California. Aside from writing, Michael enjoys playing chess, tennis, and reading classics. 

Visual Art By: Lea Bronnimann

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Of Dead Dreams and Elegies

Midnight of my
Eighteenth birthday, I
Rippled into a foreign forest,
Water-drowned, rebirthed
Myself as a haunted
House.

Seven times, I
Submerged my head
Beneath the patchwork
Quilt of decaying leaves, holding
Prayer within the gums
Of my teeth.

I had hoped for something
A little less
Hollow.

On nights, when
The moon dripped light, aged
Paper lanterns hung
From wire constellations, lost
Dreams played hide and seek
In the caverns and creeks.

Three months, I
Hinged the corners
Of my bloodied mouth on the edges
Of a violent river, allowed
Fish needles and molded
Iris petals to soil
My organs
In hopes of drowning
The small things within.

But in the water,
Their call echoed.

 

Lydia Bae is a high school senior in Bellevue, Washington. She writes primarily poetry. Her writing has previously been recognized in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Foredge Review, and the Apprentice Writer.

Visual Art By Lea Bronniman

 

Three Poems by Eric Pak

Like My Father

 

When you told me I acted just like my father, I thought it meant I sported veins deflated by tar, scavenged for some twenties to fuel hunger, prayed to the toilet every night just to collapse on ceramic tiles.

 

When you told me you took care of me like my father, I thought you would have to scrape me off the floor of a gas station bathroom behind the Indianapolis Zoo, listen to the fading oscillations of heartbeat monitors, and bite your nails until four in the morning as the doctors fumbled through the halls.

 

When you told me I looked just like my father, I didn’t know I collected abscesses injected with abyssopelagic ecstasy, studied the mazes of flushed skin for the next needle, and balanced upon thinning marrows.

 

When you told me I lied just like my father, I didn’t know I sold the family ring for another hit, sifted through the crowds of junkies at the corner street, or told myself “just one more.”

 

If you tell me I will be just like my father, my veins will siphon until the ends tie shut and the pallor in my forearms begins to frost the skin like the sleet coating the chrysanthemums behind the Indianapolis Zoo.

 

 

Broken Tides

 

When it’s Monday morning, you will walk out the house and invent new features that you do not dare show at home: gentle hands, a painted smile, anything to abandon your true self. You will think about our walks on the Santa Barbara coast. The way the grains seep through your boned toes or how the waves beat at your ankles because you cannot stand on your own. You will clutch that flask in one hand, the one rinsed by war, the one trapping your wife’s pleas. In the other, expired meds you were supposed to take. You will try to keep the flask closed ‘cause you know Mother’s cries fill dead space. But when the day grows old, you will take a swig, the sleight of hand will chip away your soul and the ferments will bloom from your mouth. You will not recognize his sunken eyes and the red florid off skin, his weighted gait or legato’d words. When he fades, you will think about how Mother abandoned you. Perhaps you will wonder why you chose her like how a farmer picks their favorite hog or how a soldier aims at free will. Maybe, you will even think about the waves on the beach, glazing her wounds as she walks away.

 

 

Heirloom Recipe

 

  1. Visit the market past the bamboo stalks where azaleas cling to thin air and swindlers grift the crowd.
  2. Among the distant chatters and leaking floors, pick out the Napa from the vendor with calloused hands.
  3. When you reach home, wash the Napa with water, careful not to let any leaves drift to the mud.
  4. In the kitchen, fan out the leaves so they resemble the crescent moon the day Appa fled the village on his tricycle.
  5. Flick the salt in the veins like how the dirt spiraled in the air as his rubber tires carved the road.
  6. When the skin around your nails begins to shrivel, imagine they are Ginseng roots: Health, Luck, Prosperity.
  7. Mix the shards of Gochugaru from the hills of Jeolla-do with the ingredients from Halmeoni’s garden, where the back gate lay open: ginger, garlic, fish sauce, shrimp paste
  8. Knead the ingredients into each leaf so they turn crimson like the hibiscus fields that Eomma fled from.
  9. Fold each leaf into the clay pot behind the Mugunghwa trees.
  10. Bury the pot in the ground and sit by the window, watching the swallows flit by and the firs flutter while you wait and wait and wait.

 

 

Eric Pak is a 17-year-old Korean-American living in Thailand. He has lived in diverse countries around the world and aims to share his experiences through his writing. His works have previously been published in K’in Literary Journal, The Paper Crane Journal, and The Cathartic Literary Magazine.

Visual Art by Nahyun Sung
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Unpublished

Our heads were meant to be upside down 
but instead, we published our brains to the moon.
I rejected the softness
of blonde moss sprouting from my scalp,
let it land like drizzle
upon my warped toes. 
I was the clock as your shell developed
inside our reddish walls, the way they stirred us
into each other. Into ourselves. 
My fingers like beheaded worms
newly learning to squirm on their own, 
trying to stay alive 
when they cannot yet live –
We scolded my morphing body
for I was not ready to be upside down.

We are no longer in the womb 
I am reminded daily. 
My head is now buried in blue moss
like a weighted saddle on my spine,
as I emboss my teeth into my knees
spitting myself into puddles, enough blood to breed mosquitoes.
Your shell sighs as you hobble beside me
under the moon who’s still editing our brains. 
The moon who critiques our fetal language,
the slouching of our sentences,
the wasting of our words.
We have permission to squirm slowly now
and remain blissfully unpublished. 

 

Hazel Fry is a sophomore in creative writing at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in San Francisco. They have work published in Synchronized Chaos, The Weight Journal, and Tiny Day, the smallest ever newspaper, and have performed their poetry at the Youth Art Summit in San Francisco. When Hazel is not writing, they can be spotted cuddling their three cats, holding their python, feeding their tarantula, or rescuing insects from being squashed. 

Visual Art By Victoria Han Nguyen

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Migraine anti-lamentation

Something here will not survive. Yet somehow I feel like
I’m going to live forever. A gentle tingle pulses in my skull
letting me know I’m swaying through a moment of diseased
euphoria. Have I fallen? Do I remain standing? My feet seem
to float above the ground. Ache in the back of my head like an
axe signaling my death throes. I don’t know what I did, God,
but for Your forgiveness I extend my eternal gratitude as I falter
with my knees readying themselves, bending toward the ground
like sunflowers that face their master, the sun, my knees, my knees
just knowing, knowing, knowing they’re going to collapse any moment.
My lips are the purple of a rare, majestic butterfly I’ve only
seen in stock photos. My bare toes are soaked in foamy water I
can’t see as I trip over wooden chairs that deteriorate on the
floor with a spectacle of clangs. Yet somehow I feel like I’m
going to die today, right now, immediately. I don’t know where my
bed is and the columns of light that filter in through the blinds
never seem to be enough through the blunt force trauma that
comes solely from within. Mother would be proud of my ability
to describe my pain, boycotting the scale of one to ten. My next
reunion with her will likely have me under a white sheet the entire
time. I think I’ve found the bed through the confusion and apparent
darkness in the confusing space between blurry vision and seeing
nothing at all. Wounds speckle themselves on my body like a toss
of dizzying turpentine on a perfectly pastel wall. And when the abysmal
joy subsides I notice that when the sunlight strokes the floral
bedsheet at the golden hours of the day, the butterflies tiptoe through
the window. If only a butterfly could ask my mother to help me stand.
I am stuck on the floor with my knees bleeding and perhaps broken in
an orchestra of convulsive agony. Something here has refused to survive.

 

CA Russegger is a high school student from OB Montessori. CA loves visual art, writing, history, and literature very much, and spends all day with these things. Can be found with many, many stacks of books of many, many genres—Shakespeare is always a guilty pleasure.

Art by Lee Jessica 
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