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.
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.
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.
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
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 Catarina Rudge
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
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
Midnight of my
Eighteenth birthday, I
Rippled into a foreign forest,
Myself as a haunted
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The ceiling smelled like old lace and the sigh of a dying star. Hovering there, I peered at the nun who glowered at me the same way an ancient, grizzled tiger eyes a young hyena. I threw my head back and cackled with the lubricated mirth of my cynical father’s lauder. My gaze travels to the lush forest of palms and cedars on my desk. Beneath their foliage of entwined fingertips and toes, a meticulously groomed garden of doorknobs, seashells, and Abbey Roads overthrows its gardeners and cracks beneath the pressure of a violet spotlight. A city, bedecked in the afternoon-kissed tears of ancient pearls, rises from tangled vines. The gates at Babylon Fall to children with water pistols and all around them, the baseball stadium erupts in a chorus of that forgotten anthem of constellations exchanging words in passing. The crowd departs, babbling beneath the sea of dried rose petal confetti. They return to homes of spun sugar and formaldehyde. They fill their goblets with diet pineapple juice and something from an angel-shaped bottle. Everyone is more palatable when they are sedated, and I am no different.
Caroline Adams is an eighteen-year-old high school student living in New Jersey and going to school in New York City. She’s studied creative writing at Columbia University over the summer of her sophomore year and is currently finishing her senior year at Loyola School.
Visual Art by Yuga
Jeannie Kim is a high school junior from Chicago with a love for poetry, reading, and playing the flute. She is a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards gold medalist, and her writing has also been recognized by the Genius Olympiad and the It’s All Write Teen Writing Contest. In her free time, she is usually editing submissions as an editor for Polyphony Lit or listening to music.
Art by Saki