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.
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
Because I am young
I secure a mirror tightly to my bedroom wall
But I still see shadows cut fragments,
Fractures form in the dark of twilight, where stars hide
Themselves beneath this cloth we call universe.
Through heavy eyes, the glass begins to sway like
A grandfather clock, my restless mind begs for sleep,
Or begs for dreams, or begs for dreams to bleed
Into reality, to wake once more in a better dream.
I’d like to say I trust the universe. I hold her hand
Like my own mother’s. My age holds no
Significance. I am afraid of separation, drifting
Somewhere lonely, in some empty sea.
Destiny is seductive.
It points to a place and commands you go there.
And so, you do.
My life-line diverts as I wake, wandering
Towards some heaven I can’t pronounce.
i. Night on the Galactic Railroad — Miyazawa Kenji
grandfather is rushed to the hospital
as I wait for him to awaken
I sit on a leather stool beside a window overlooking
a soulless city of iridescent noise and raucous cars
on my phone, I read the book—
the kanji are simple, easy for one like me who speaks
its themes of death,
the endless sky,
and liberation of true heaven
make me whisper to my unconscious grandfather, fresh from a stroke,
“this book reminded me of you.”
ii. Naomi — Tanizaki Jun’ichirō
we know with some degree of certainty that
he will die
within the next few days
and I go out to a nearby mall
and buy a book— Naomi, Naomi, Naomi!
it is disgustingly raunchy
borders on the pathologically inappropriate
the English translation, though, is lyrical
yet still so hilarious.
I can nonetheless tell how badly
its salaryman protagonist would love
to live again
to begin again
to love again
I tell grandfather over his
in the ICU,
“you would be so disappointed if you knew
I was reading this.”
he’s brain-dead, he won’t care what I read
iii. Dogra Magra — Yumeno Kyūsaku
once his body has died with his brain
I return to the grotesque, surrealist comforts
of eclectic creatures like Yumeno
reading it online on my phone during his
fluorescent, Sprite-filled funeral with
hopelessly slow internet
through my tears, barely comprehending complex kanji
and incomplete, aberrant
sentences that repeat in
presenting its message of parlous life and rebirth, the insanity of
being alive and being dead and being in the womb
that motivate me to lean against a
stretcher-like thing, not quite a coffin
and screech ugly, incomprehensible sounds to match Yumeno’s
meaningless, yet so unbelievably integral, onomatopoeia
before the memory sprints away and
all I know is the silver-scarred dust you
return to the womb
now I remember what to say
“in another life,” I tell you, “we’ll meet again.”
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.
Visual Art by: Dawn Jooste
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;
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?
They ask children to stay still.
‘You’ll be safe,’
they reassure them.
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,
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.
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
When I was alive, Zerlina’s aria
rang in church, not mine.
Her voice, soft & sexless.
My voice, a bullet
ricocheting off the chancel.
They were God’s songs, beaten
into pink pavement.
I brewed spirits to forget the taste
of the Italian lyric.
Manipura became my catholicon—
a bead strung on blue tantra thread.
After prayer, each bead bitten, swallowed.
Inside, they lived as tapeworms
spoiling the meat of the ribcage.
My appendix carried grenades.
In Heaven, children sing the body holy—
pretzeled legs & braided hands, cheeks
grinding against mahogany.
I join them because God visits
often. I want to feel Him
around my throat, to be baptized
clean as a soprano.
When he’s gone, we smoke at the altar.
Spirits unwind from our cigars, staining the body
like wet bourbon on silk.
After exorcism, my lungs fermented.
Mouth full of ashes, tongue pulled by light.
From the spaces in my bones, a new hymnody.
Katherine Vandermel is a writer who thinks of writing as painting: each word imbues the world with coloration. She loves music and a good, warm croissant. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alexandria Quarterly, and National Poet Quarterly, among others, and has been recognized by Behrend College and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She edits for Siblini Art and Literature.
Visual Art by Rose Reiner
Grace Katharine; an ode to your senior year.
To my eldest sister–
I have sat front row
to watch the human body
rot from the inside out
because growing up,
my sister was overweight and had eczema,
so the world mistook her
newfound small frame
for a miracle diet that had cured obesity in three months,
rosy patches scabbed over in grey,
for the winter itchies turned cherry red by her scratching,
yellow fingers with divots at the seams,
for the time she dated a smoker to make mom mad
she was eighteen, and
it was her senior year, and
her knees had finally stopped aching from carrying
an 80-pound tire swing at her waist, and
she finally had someone more than just a lunch table friend
a university acceptance
made her hollow eyes glow
for the first time since she was three;
after special ed classes induced by seizure medications
had promised her nothing but the back door
she was finally happy and the world followed suit;
the stars aligned and she held them tight in her hands.
But the night emergency room doctors said,
“Ma’am, this is not right.
The patches are not eczema
and the needles in her bones
are not from running too far too fast.”
Her lilac-lacquered lips
were not from
the lavender bags mom tied at our bed posts or
summer nights when our bedtime remained 7:30 or
the year we moved coast to coast or
the time we broke the neighbor girl’s nose or
midnights when we drove to corner stores for candy corn, or
from a lavender bushel with petals decaying in her pockets,
left to reminisce on our summers in the cherry belt.
My sister once told me
are the ones where
tragic things happen to beautiful people
and yes, our hearts may have broken
but they will grow again.
Sophia Robles is the winner of the 2020 Parallax Poetry and Fiction Scholarship. She is currently a junior at Saginaw Arts & Sciences Academy (SASA) in the Creative Writing Concentration. Sophia’s work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing, Michigan Youth Arts Festival, Theodore Roethke Foundation, Perspectives Literary Journal, and more.
Art By: Heidi Songqian Li
Diagrams of Knots
My eyes are lopsided like used tea bags
and my fingernails are picked into grey, upturned crescents
by the time the sun has set.
I reach into my deep blue sheets to find:
what-ifs like diagrams of knots,
abandoned requests for wisdom I don’t have,
acres of misspoken wit,
an elaborately constructed fantasy
in which things are infinitely vibrant
seem warped as if through a reflection
in a mall fountain—I am haunted.
In the light of this paraphernalia,
I cannot sufficiently engage
in anything of use.
I recline in the yellow lamplight
like a tiger head rug,
conscious that my mouth hangs open,
issuing myself correctives
that turn over every minute like paperwork
boring my eyes into the pictures on the walls
as if I could find some respite in them
and hazily marveling
at how I’ve ever been able to handle
Evening With West Texas and Alzheimer’s
Oma stirs her melted ice cream,
spills a little on her plastic placemat:
Daddy, Lolly, and I got these bowls in Alpine at a tiny store just down the road from our house, during a stormy afternoon, when the sky had turned purple and the trees were trembling. We’d just taken the Thunderbird for a drive around the mountain and we wanted to do something special. Daddy saw these bowls and loved the blue enamel. I put the bag between my feet for the drive home, as the rain was starting, and they began to shine in such a beautiful way, with many different colors, that at first I worried the enamel was made of some sort of poison. I’ve never seen them shine like that again. Daddy said the altitude was so high and the atmosphere so thin that we got more radiation from the sun than other places, that it must have touched the bowls somehow that day.
with shaky hands she picks up the blue bowl from Costco
puts it by the sink
and disappears out the front door
to sweep the driveway for the fourth time that day
a few minutes later, we see her looking up at the dark sky
broom forgotten loosely hanging from her hand
her figure now smaller and shrouded by trees
Vera Caldwell is a sophomore at Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. As well as writing, she plays guitar and composes songs in her band, Nobody’s Daughter. Some of her favorite writers include Mikhail Bulgakov, Stanislaw Lem, Patti Smith, Ocean Vuong, and Fleur Jaeggy.
Art by Sherry Huang