Two Poems by Ellie Elrod

to myself, by well bucket. 

 

i want to be gentle right now,

coax the coal burning down your

throat out with sweet tasting bait,

words like “it’s okay that you didn’t

complete your assignment tonight,”

“it is fine to not have eaten today,”

“i don’t hold this against you,”

 

but please know, i do;

not like a knife to your neck,

but like my hand on your back,

because when hope seems out of

stock, locked tight behind the

confines of your body, 

i will build and be the factory, 

shipping straight to 

your fingertips’ home address, 

though i know they don’t hit like home right now, 

but trust me, they are, 

because they are my home 

too.

 

you are my blood, my best thing, 

i will stop what seeks to kill you, 

and that includes yourself.

 

so when every step towards the bathroom 

to shower feels like it’s ploughing 

through the thick mud of gutless life,

 

when the water in your eyes 

reflects off encouraging words like 

the ceiling of our atmosphere,

 

when you are too tired for poeticism, 

 

know that this is not the first time

you have met rock bottom, 

and that does not mean you are friends, 

but we both know the freeze of that floor

too well to sleep now.

 

i have been your mother and your father, 

tucked your body into the crook of my elbow, 

carried you out of caverns far sharper than this one,

and all you have to do for me, right now, 

is breathe.

 

fill both lungs with all you can take, 

and when it comes time to exhale, 

know it is only to make room for more.


portrait of a burning manufacturing plant, or a tribute to the trans women in my community

the woman swaying down the sidewalk

does not like to be stared at. she likes to be

known, and to be understood. in

the sunlight, you would know that eyeliner

is more golden than yellow and the tar

they tried to stick between her fingers

is thicker than any blood, but not thicker

than the skin she’s grown in the time since they left

her. they would say the womb has walls, not wings,

that the body has bounds it must fit in,

that she is anything but herself. yet there is

nothing permanent about the flesh, nothing

so lively about it but the sweat, the words.

the salt on body that comes from belief in action.

the syllables screamed over crowds of unbelievers until

someone heard. heard sylvia. heard danica.

heard a breath louder than the insults.

she stands out, her style a crown, a shield,

and a sword all in one. her flair, unlearned, is born

of things that predate and outsmart the old world

schema. she is the new world in a hot pink dress

and blue pumps, built from by-law breakers, makers

of space, long nights that seemed endless for people

with the wrong clothes and the wrong heart,

covenants of culture, painting the colors

flying above our heads, and when i look

between her smile and the flag,

i can see the resemblance.

 

Ellie Elrod is a Charleston-born poet and movie aficionado who’s currently attending Berkeley Center for the Arts as an 11th grade Creative Writing major. Their works have been published in The Post and Courier, The Maze 2020, and Desk Gum (Goose Creek High School’s Arts Magazine), as well as being awarded by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and MUSC. A lot of their time is spent attempting to learn French, Korean, and Guitar.

Visual art by: Sebastian Bateman 

Tagged :

Between the Lines

One
The violin is in your hands, pale as the tao we shared, stuck to the soles of    our teeth

It is at your side, with the shiny brown varnish, the moment we share:  surreal

Like the one picnic, red and white cloth between our legs, day cotton.                 golden sunshine streaked

on cheeks flush with first love’s embarrassment and shine like your music

Except our cheeks are white now, Snow White’s dove circling

As I watch you from the third seat on the left 50 feet above the life stage

a forgotten shadow

A stranger once again, like two years ago

 

 

Two
You start singing with your bow, the black air pooling and stuffy,

spotlight on your freckles, tiny stars painted on the sky that is your face, tanned

I remember. You have 7 freckles, three on your hooked nose,         Imperfectly flawless

The notes on the page floating off in your fervor and concentrated effort

 

 

Three
The music starts slow and cautious, the space between your body and my flowered bosom

Your eyes mixed with dusk and honey, the dawn of something new: perhaps

You smiled, a sideways C, flattened, even when I put on shades, my mask in tints

But you peeled off the pain and anguish floating to the surface, vulnerable

You were connected to me in thick strands and blood

Perhaps I should’ve disappeared, my weight crushing your will to live weightless

Even when I screamed in the war for redemption, numbness spreading in the blotched lake

Your index finger digs into the string born,                                                            Dark and dissonant chords ascending upwards as if there is no time left to waste

You stayed, hugging me close, a bear hug on my torso’s curve

Even when I thought my arms too thick

My skin too pale and oily

And my hair not straight enough like the pretty ones

Feeling returned to my body, yours

Mind stronger than will

Shielding me from the wailing gale on our house, intruders

From the bottomless abyss so carefully chosen lest I slip

That fragment my mind into pieces you sewed together

Again and again

 

Four
You play the fourth movement, the mist and uncertainty fading with new phrases

Reaching the climax of our story, my head resting on your beating chest

The melody tugging at the fated strings that ties the mask to the melted face

This is the piece that we call ours, our relationship’s course in an arch
And paper thrown

Sitting on the long piano seat, the keys gleaming with promise, salty perspiration mixed with dry paint

Not marred with me hurting you, love our white lie, teeth out

My secret in your electric gaze on mine, straining for truth in the lie

Of course I’ll never kiss and tell, watching you now, my throat condensing in waves

Crescendos and fortes outlined on the faded linen sheets,

The energy rising and falling with moving notes gliding across silver strings

Rough and shallow, destined to flow and run out,

And move us in the moment of passion we call lover’s curse

Yet we persevered, a foolish youth’s dream

It was an illusion in the heat

 

Finale
Every piece has a beginning, middle, and end I think

Your hand catching the stream of tears from my eyes,

Free and drowned

There is silence in tone, a space where I once fit perfectly

And when you bow, a tear trickles down your frosted cheek that I once kissed

Alas I had long left the auditorium and your heart in between the notes and bars

Behind your smooth mask of apathy, fist in heart

You smile and it’s done, as fast as it started like the end of a movement

The end of us, the word sounds weird and

We are strangers once again

Passing shadows in the moonlight as our witness

The symphony ends, the moment gone with the spotlight

 

Jacqueline Wu is a writer from Long Island, New York. She is a contributor and editor of the acclaimed magazine, Cinnabar. She has also won several art/writing competitions, previously recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She is forthcoming in Body without Organs and Remington Review, among other publications, and she hopes to be able to continue to inspire through her work.

Visual Art By: Ayala Cris

Tagged : / / / / / / / /

The Wrecked Classroom

They were on a field trip.

They sat still in the cabin as in the classroom.

‘Stay still, stay still’

 

The children were still as ordered,

like screws waiting to be assembled on a conveyor belt.

Wearing their life jackets, they waited.

But it was a factory form of capitalism.

‘Move, move, move’,

If someone had said this,

if only they had opened the doors and windows,

that classroom would not have become a grave.

 

They were on a field trip.

Name tags and bags,

floors of shattered classrooms

all floating in waves.

Each child had a beautiful name,

but for those who wanted to keep the ship,

it was a name of unknown existence.

They had parents who loved them,

but their ends were the same, all the same–

a cold, broken, dead body.

The three words they would have urgently

spat out, which became bubble letters.

“I’ll miss you.”

They were locked in the water jail,

wearing the shroud with a fake name;

‘life jacket.’

 

They were on a field trip.

But you taught them death

There are still children in the classroom.

The legs that cannot escape from

under the desk, under the chair.

Fingers found broken.

Nails scratching the window.

Now I wonder

Whose hand holds the axe to break the window?

 

I–Death

 

They ask children to stay still.

‘You’ll be safe,’

they reassure them.

Children joke

Titanic,

their final traces on this very world.

 

Laughter fades to uneasiness,

selfies become keepsakes,

phones record voicemails,

jokes give way to necessity,

fingers lock between hands,

teeth clench in silence,

water replaces air.

 

Waiting. Worrying. Confusing. Grasping. Fearing. Trembling. Panting. Shrieking. Struggling. Stumbling. Pushing. Hurting. Moaning. Groaning. Clutching. Choking. Shoving. Bellowing. Banging. Smashing. Scraping. Breaking. Wailing. Gasping, gasping, gasping for air,

then silence.

Stillness.

 

II–Rescue

 

Birds fly over the wreckage.

They send men on a mission–

to punish the sea with oxygen.

Underwater Santa Clauses

carry gifts of theurgical breaths,

and nectarous lullabies of singing bubbles

for lost children to follow in the dark,

and dive into the blue,

where the rampage of evils

has just ended.

The sea, frightened by the men

stops its singing of death’s prelude.

 

Hands seek hands.

Heavenly prayers–the luscious song of bubbles

flow through cabin and aisle mazes,

calling the lost souls of innocence.

Rooms camouflage into water jails,

souls forever to be imprisoned.

 

III–After

 

A sad butterfly sits on the chest of politicians,

a sad butterfly who has lost its place and cannot fly.

I cannot bear to place that ribbon on my chest. 

 

 

Yunseo Cho is a junior at Branksome Hall Asia, an international school in Jeju, South Korea. She has been previously awarded a Gold Key for her writing in Scholastic Art and Writing 2020. She wishes to further her passion for theatre and literature in the upcoming years. 

Visual Art By Rita Ruan 

Tagged : / / / /

Two Poems by Mollie Schofer

2wice

So I’m looking at you and you seem like the kind of person that likes to do things twice. Your eyelashes furl like a shivering sundew–no, Sundew. Your Sundews furl then unfurl and catch only the flies low on serendipity, serendipitous–serendipitously they fly higher and higher, out of the reach of the sSundews feeding on the serendipidless.

 

There is a third kind of heartbeat, you know. It sounds like a terciopelo’s warning: do not sink your calves into my teeth. Unfortunately, people neither listen to terciopelos nor heartbeats. Only the hollow inhales of veins and fingers, and the subsequent feelings of vivacity.

 

So you turn to look at me, with those sunSundews. You turn to look at me and I see, through the curtainous coverings of your corneas (those capitalizing congregates of copious concealment), your reciprocals of light and not darkness. Your reciprocals of light and not darkness ask me: how do you feel about velvet. And I reply: it’s soft. And they say: thread some through your ears and let the rasps of rasping scales hide your heartbeat. So I threaded some velvet through my ears and let the rasps of rasping scales hide my heartbeat. But to my astonishment, the scales didn’t rasp one bit. They sounded like cotton, and I knew they were imposters. I must get them out, I must! So I ran to the water and dunked my head in. It soothed the rancid itches in my ears. It soothed the rancid itches in my head and throat and pupils.

 

My eyes filled with water and it backwashed through my tear ducts, and I was clean. Resurfacing, the velvet in my ears turned to seeds and I shook them out and I was free. Running, the water left my body and sweated down my cheeks and thighs and I was

empty.

Breathing, the beats in my heart rattled around my diaphragm and tendons and I was

full.

Stretching, the teeth in my calves fell into the mud and the core of the earth and I was

alone.

 

Honestly, it was energizing.

 

So you’re looking at me and I seem like the kind of person that comes out on top: clean, free, empty, full, alone, energized. But empty and full cancel each other out, and so do free and alone, and energy is null unless you have strength, so I’m just clean.

So you’re looking at me and I’m looking at you and we really don’t see each other at all,

do we?

No, I think we’re both wrong, in the end.

 

2 Much Toad

 

When I die, my body will be warm for just a few seconds

In that time, an old toad will lay her eggs in my mouth

And they will hatch into tadpoles

                and tadpoles

Which will swim in my saliva

And live off of the bacteria on my teeth

 

And reproduce, as toads do.

Generations will never know of a world without teeth, or esophaguses.

They will pass down the stories: first there was tongue, then there was wet

              Always tongue first, then wet.

After religion, they will create art

And paint the insides of my cheeks with the juice of the spinach stuck in my teeth

Soon, everything will be green.

 

Everything will be green, everything will be soft and salivating

They will write on my cheeks with spinach script:

               Don’t be such a stickinthemud

They are of course referring to me, their god

However it is inevitable that one young tadpole will get bored and curious

And stare into the depths of that cavern that always stares back

And dive in, down down down

 

It will boil in my stomach acid, but that is what martyrdom entails.

Others will follow, and they will succeed where the first did not

They will colonize my throat, my stomach, my intestines.

 

I will be thoroughly toaded.

And they will smile, and write on the lining of my gut:

               Tomorrow will be even better

And they will forget

That everything must end eventually

And they will be warm for just a few short seconds.

 

 

 

Mollie Schofer is a young writer from Southern California. Their poetry was most recently published in Inkblot Magazine, Heavy Feather Review, and Orange Cat Review. They are currently a student of creative writing at Orange County School of the Arts.

Visual Art By: Jiwon “Lily” Nam

Tagged : / / / / / / / /

Aquarius Rising

Blades of grass douse your socks

in cold, mud-filled water

 

Moonlight pours over the sea,

waves dancing in the spotlight

 

Your eyes follow the moonbeam

up to its origin and you stare, bewildered

 

Arm stretched, you trace Orion’s belt,

Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor too

 

You become entranced as you

piece together the story of the stars

 

Lungs fill with air but you stop,

unable to articulate the sensation

 

Shocked by the familiarity

you immerse your senses once more

 

The reminiscent feeling permeates

it bathes in each crevice of your fist

 

You begin sinking, submerging yourself in

what was believed to be unknown

 

And as ambiguity saturates your soul

the droplets caress your skin

 

Strung together by magic, by history

a story told by time

 

Kaylee Morris is an 18-year-old senior in high school at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences who plans to study Environmental Analysis at Pitzer College next year. She is a passionate jazz vocalist, dancer, actress, and artist. Morris has always enjoyed creative writing but just began focusing on poetry this year while taking a Creative Writing class under the instruction of poet Lauri Conner.

Visual Art By: Cherry Guo 

Tagged : / / / / /

when i talk about the moon

i do not mean/ the sweet crescent-shaped thing in the sky/ from the cartoons we used to watch on channel twenty-four/ that glowing thing the princess drifts to after she swallows the magic pills/ and becomes immortal/ after the bad guy breaks into her home and gravity breaks/ like window pane/ i say moon and mean the moon the old poet bids his brother to look at on the nights they are not together/ the nights the moon cracks into two faces and falls out of/ old vending machines/ i saw the moon hanging by the skin of my heart the second time i broke it in the sink/ trying to make it paler than it is/ in the stranger who watched me watch him flit in and out of the subway window/ as it shudders and tilts to one side & there’s one night every year when my mother does not cook dinner/ she stays in her room with the door closed and watches the moon rise and set on the back of her eyelids/ i imagine it must look so peaceful/ and so white like my grandfather when he entered the room in an expensive suit/ and came back out in a metal ashtray/ i saw the moon sitting cross-legged on his femur when they pulled him out of there but nobody else did/ because there was so much water in their eyes/ dandelions bloomed from their sockets & i watched them get smothered/ by hands on which their carnage left an endless trail of ruined tutus/ i wrote a poem on my hand today and/ it too blossomed to the size of the moon so i/ get it if you don’t want to hold onto my hand anymore when the subway/ shudders/ i promised someone i would miss them today you see/ but i’m not sure what i mean when i say these things/ like when i say immortality i do not really mean the one who hogs all the seats/ who chews with his mouth open and gets off one stop too late/ anyway it is getting late in the station now and gravity/ is snapping each femur as the sidewalk/ bends/ so here/ take my swollen hand and what fingers you can still find while/ i hail a taxi and pray that it arrives before the streetlights come on/ and i explode into one thousand dandelions

 

*Cultural note: The beginning of this poem references a Chinese folktale. A princess and her husband are gifted with pills that make them immortal and enable them to fly to the moon. They promise to eat the pills together someday. One day, a jealous man breaks into their home and forces the princess to hand over the pills, but, in the moment, the princess swallows all the pills so the man will get none. She flies to the moon where she lives forever without her husband.

 

Henie Zhang is a high school senior from Shanghai. She is the editor-in-chief of the Zeitgeist Literary Magazine and can often be sighted fiddling with a camera or trying to keep her plants alive with debatable success. 

Visual Art By: BaS

Tagged : / / / / /

Roots

i.

uncle used to climb mountains.

he was a lion: the king who emerged

from unnatural mountains composed

only of gunpowder and the orders

of one man against another.

his skin is a map composed of ghosts

and places and ancient stories-

it is older with this knowledge,

but the strong golden of his hands

still holds remnants of the old summer’s striking sun.

ii.

grandmother was a pearl right out of the sea

when she stepped onto the land of the free.

grandmother sowed the seeds of the most beautiful

flowers. she planted them in crevices where light

was a stranger; she wove them in her hair.

i carry grandmother’s flowers, i keep the seeds in my heart.

i know she watches me by the sea where she stepped.

iii.

my father runs through smoke. through the dusk

he dodges ghosts and the cruel tongue of fire-

and leaves; a hero to the glass children and their mother.

father made castles out of autumn leaves and music out

of thunder.

father finds light in the dark: he chases the sun as

he carries me on his strong back.

i feel him as he holds his kind hands out- i

think of father’s golden heart.

he echoes grandmother. they both plant flowers

in the core of dark soil; a new beginning.

iv.

the canyon that is my skeleton,

the pang of my copper heart

preserved against the tough rock of my rib.

it is a song for them.

Katherine loves to write because it serves as both entertainment and a learning outlet for her. She currently serves as the editor of her school’s newspaper and literary magazine. Katherine’s writing focuses on her family, her favorite places, and anything else she finds interesting. Her favorite form of storytelling is poetry because she loves to experiment with all of its different styles. When she’s not writing, Katherine is either watercolor painting or reading a good book.

Art by Garfield

Tagged : / / / / / /

Elegy

 

A rosy infant once crawled upon a barren Earth,

tread a well-worn path of hackneyed poetry;

yet preserved in that nebulous memory

was a lone amber honeysuckle

by a motionless pond in a verdant carpet meadow

where the eternal thought of Spring

is timelessly encapsulated in stale air.

 

A silver toddler once traversed the gilded threads of this Earth,

balanced on a precarious tightrope

weaving fine gossamer webs

and slippery satin miracles

and a trail of ashen snowdrops bloomed in her wake;

 

A milky girl once walked this Earth

and sugared cherub hands close by plucked stars from the night:

twisted them into wistful notes

strung into a honeyed lamentation on the lyre

more intoxicating than love itself.

 

In memory of her

they brewed a pungent weedy tea;

In memory of her they grew a swollen peach;

In memory of her

they hung a twisting diamond shard,

suspended it beside the quarter moon

and called it their masterpiece–

and so it seized the light at a scintillating crescent angle

and yet it was

a little too sharp, a little too adamantine

whose reflection will never be quite right;

not for an effervescent being.

 

There once was an earthly girl glowed just a little too bright

so they burned her down, like a brilliant star,

with the tip of a searing flame

and ignited her soul,

and it caught aflame;

a white, warm light that was a sea of milk-threads–

woven into the frangible tapestry

of a tangible life.

 

There once was a phantom girl who was the dangling pear

on the branch of the dreamy willow

that exists in the poem only

a fragile image given too much power;

then one day she was stripped raw,

smoldered in molasses sunlight

submerged in incandescent dew: silent pleas that might have

fractured heretic hearts

if only their timbre wasn’t a silver-lined metaphor.

 

Time moved like a ghost

And in their remorse

they plucked a delicate plum for her

and it was wonderful in Spring–in the idyllic garden they made–

but when Summer came,

it was singed white cheeks

and charred pale lips, preserved forever in amber:

 

There once was a girl released into a cruel world by eager hands

when all she knew was love and caress–

so she never could have lived past Spring

not even in the poem: but instead

surrendered to the first stroke of Summer sun

in that transcendent way

of melting stars like butter

or withering skin like prunes

and lost youth like love

 

So when the tidal wave came just for her

(the rosy infant, the silver toddler, the milky girl)

she was not afraid,

felt nothing at all when she leapt off the crumbling surface of this barren Earth:

caught her soul of light in a guileless Mother Sea embrace

that swathed her in a starry quilt

and shuttled her home at last.

 

In the epilogue, we can only ever dwell on younger days

the flimsy, flinty promise of a brighter day

that lingers in still air like the perfumed sizzle of Spring:

exists in a memory, or was it the poem?

 

In the afterlife, it was an eternal dream from which she never could wake,

in which little honeysuckles grew, amber and lonely;

when the weathered Maker and the rosy-lipped Doll

and everyone who once

crawled tread walked this bitter barren Earth

could whisper pretty things and sing lush songs

about a girl who burned–forever.

 

Avery Lin is a 10th grade student and Balanchine ballet dancer. She lives in New York City with her mom and her younger brother. In her free time, she enjoys creative writing, watching the Noggin channel and staying up late reading all kinds of fantasy.

Art by Dawn Jooste 

Tagged : / / / / / / / /

A Letter from Gloria

I can’t remember what I am doing here.

The flickering lights above me tell me they don’t either.

And the lady, whose eyes used to choke me with memories, is staring at the door,

mimicking the opening and closing of the past as she rocks back and forth.

I wonder if she hears the echo of footsteps

or the buzz of whispers stuck in my left ear.

Maybe not.

 

The door hasn’t opened in a long time

and the cold linoleum hallways swallow 

dust instead of tears now.

The shadows still come to shake my hand,

which is nice because the lady only stares.

 

The corners of the room are scorched from fires I don’t understand.

I find that peculiar because the saltwater has reached my ankles.

I kind of like the water. I can see my bones rocking back and forth,

and that’s how I know I’m still real.

 

But the lady in the window is crying so I yell for her light

but my yells turn into murmurs and the murmurs turn into shadows

that pulls me down into the water.

 

So I bang my fists on the window and so does she

and I guess she is strong because the mirror shattered.

The shards of my mistakes tickle my skin,

laughing blood,

as I wade in the water of my tears.

 

I still don’t remember why I am here

but I hope someone opens the door real soon.

Bless your heart,

Gloria

 

Laura Ospina is a sophomore at a boarding school in Massachusetts. In her writing, Laura likes to explore how her family and Colombian heritage have shaped her identity. Besides writing poetry, Laura enjoys reading and learning about constitutional law.

Visual Art By: Samantha Jui-Yun Su

Tagged : / / / / / /

Undrawn Self Portrait

Undrawn Self Portrait

  1. The heart cracks into yellow yolk & white as it throbs through Instagram.
  2. The body walks to its reflection and squeezes itself shut.
  3. The ears tuned for sourness savor silence before they turn on & the mouth groans at
    the loudness of the world.
  4. The brain breathes out a sigh as yesterday’s burdens are borrowed again.
  5. She mumbles about the crumbling capitalist cycle, tasting silence in return.
  6. She peels the banana & she wonders if one day, she’ll shed her skin & be silent.
  7. She consumes Radiohead’s Nude & the heart shatters at “you paint yourself white, and fill up with noise” as she imagines herself with an invisible paintbrush.
  8. In a family of scientists, the creative one chokes on the wrong genes.
  9. In her skull, there’s no more space for the pulp of afterthoughts.
  10. In the dark, she silently cracks herself open until she’s all shell and no yolk, again & again & again.

 

Sara Cao is a junior at John Burroughs School in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently involved in her school’s newspaper, literary magazine, and Science Olympiad team. Outside of school, she is passionate about social justice issues, writing, drawing, listening to music, and eating Shin Black Ramen. Through her poetry, Sara strives to heal and inspire people who relate to the overall messages of her poems. 

Art by: Diana Ryu

Tagged : / / / / /