issue four

Sluggish Summer Love  by Riley Nee
Untitled by Lucia Quinn
Persephone and Hades by Olive Cape
Red by Olive Cape
Distance by Maitri Kovuru
Dina by Maile Smith
SILENCE by Cami Gomes
The Other Sun City by Iris Eisenman
Dog Ears by Ananya Vinay
Inner Rebel by Ananya Vinay

The Ash Tree City by Ananya Vinay
The Neighborhood Nomad by Ananya Vinay
First Love by Cami Gomes
Constellations and Origami: Part One by Lucia Quinn
A Heartfelt Letter To You (And The Things I'd Never Say Out Loud by Iris Eisenman
This Winter Is Cold. by Maitri Kovuru

The Ash Tree City

by Ananya Vinay

A rattling in the window frame

A quivering of my chair 

For a brief moment

The foundations of the world are breaking

But then silence rushes back in 

As quickly as it vanished 

Somehow nothing changed and everything changed

Bright light emanating from my computer

Telling me there was an earthquake in Nevada

And the intertwined fault lines grated against each other 

A tremor escaping the San Andreas and reaching the Central Valley

Yet barely imprinted on my mind 

Just another earthquake 

Just another fire 

No bright flame of disbelief or shock 

       But the firmness of inevitability held in place 

That they’re going to come and then go 

Often within minutes or days 

But what doesn’t leave is the oppressive sun 

Knowing that it gives life but sometimes takes

Through beads of sweat streaming down my face 

And counting the seconds as lethargy drags out the drowning 118 degree heat 

The air conditioner whirs in a feeble attempt to resuscitate the cold 

Or a memory of moderation

Of a time when there were seasons

But that’s no more

Fall is draftier than summer 

Nor do the leaves turn orange and yellow

Signaling a warm and familiar change 

A change of season and a change of mind

And spring gives a drop of rain sporadically 

searching back through a camera reel 

For the tap of droplets on the floor 

To quench the thirst of the sky 

But no such mercy comes 

No matter how much we beg 

Retreating to the sanctuary of air conditioning

Whenever and wherever possible 

Strange adjustments for strange times 

Yet a yearning for the fresh smell of rain 

That I read but can’t picture 

But the loud taps turning into thuds 

Storm into my mind

Of raindrops hitting the sidewalk, hanging over the cafeteria 

Like the prickly shell of a porcupine 

Or perhaps an elixir that ran out too soon 

Still a brief respite drowning the heat in damp glory 

In every moment on 

Joy at the slightest frost 

Running down the stairs to feel the chill of hail 

that melts in my hands

Too ephemeral but aleatory enough 

There are no happy mediums here 

But snow and rain soften the extremes 

Just enough for the cold relief of satisfaction 

From scorching heat and flames

From the earth crashing and rolling

From the fear that a reprieve will never come 

Yet I’ve found that my body’s thermostat has adjusted to the vast divide 

Cold when it’s perfectly medium 

90 degrees barely making a mark 

 A shell that holds firm no matter where I go 

The weather isn’t ideal 

But it’s home

In a specially unpleasant way 

And that’s how it will stay

So I might as well smile 

At a drop of rain 

And delight in the wind 

And retreat to the air conditioner 

When the heat steals my spirit 

Sighing in relief at 80 degrees 

And taking in the sky 

As the sun sets, pink and orange and gray 

A watercolor of dark and light 

A bundle of contradictions trapped within its infinite depths

Till the summer ends 

Along with rumors of smoke 

And winter comes again 

The Neighborhood Nomad

by Ananya Vinay

Arched black stripes 

and bright green eyes 

Weaving across the edge of a wall s pilling between two delicate sides 

Not quite belonging 

but marching in all the same

Stepping between perfectly manufactured lawns

and overgrown trees 

Mottled pebbles on scattered dirt 

bending in to the map of the world 

as it once was 

For time to speak stories of journeys embroidered in fabric 

Seconds bleeding into minutes

And I peer into a dark screen 

Wondering who goes here

And if they see the miracles of the sun too 

Head turned upright at echoing steps 

Only to find a waving hand 

Ordering me to leave 

Not here do I belong 

Not in even green and rows of bushes 

a place of bright red, blue, and purple

Noisy, bustling life I once had 

lost in claw marks at a cage 

with hands that reached in trying acceptance 

But they never let me into their hearts

They said I’m cold 

that I’ll never be man’s best friend

Did they ever give me that chance?

And now, I wander between yards 

hoping for someone to drop a morsel 

A hope that further descends with every instant

I know I’m myself 

I would do anything 

For a bowl of food unscrounged and a caring touch 

People in their gilded cages lock me out 

And lock themselves in 

And I’ll wander

Free to discover the wonders of the untamed world 

in suburban yards and crowds of ankles 

For small dots of meat and water leaking from a pipe 

It’s hard now but I’ll step forward in the quilt

        To the next sinuous path

First Love

by Cami Gomes

I met you twice and knew you long before knowing you. I don’t remember quite when, but I have this very early vision of you. You, under a tree. The tree where we would play hide and seek around. You, clutching your diary with all your might. I used to wonder what you wrote in it. You, the kid that carried books around. You, who always amazed me. We were young then, seven, maybe eight.

            Everyone ran around and screamed, as kids do when they are given a chance, but you’d sit and read, or write, or simply watch. Every now and then you’d join, and when you did, you were fast. You’d run with the boys or from them and hide in the best spots - the ones only you could find. We all cheered when you’d win.

If I close my eyes for a second or two, I can look at you drawing. I can see your lips, tightened, grasping for concentration- you still do that sometimes. Your skirt would crumple under your legs as you fought for a comfortable position, shoes sparkling when you touched the floor.

I can see you dancing at our school’s talent show. Pink shirt, flower tiara, and a Katy Perry song about California or candy, I can’t remember. Dancing, which looked more like casual bursts of energy, and failed attempts at replicating a YouTube tutorial. Beat-up wooden floors cracking under your weight, heavy velvet curtains absorbing the sound: we watched you dance.

Everyone loved you, I know that too. All the kids and even the teachers found you fascinating, and how couldn’t they? You were different.

I can see us running through the woods behind our school. I remember bloody knees, crippling roots on the ground, and pain that would heal in a day or two. I miss that.

Do you remember those days? The way the sun would blaze and stain the stones on the ground? I remember the heat. The way sweat would cover our bodies and drip from our skin long minutes after being outside. The classrooms in our school had old air conditioning units attached to the windows, boisterous and useless. The summer flies would fly in crowds over the grass, and kids would be bathed in bug spray by their teachers or parents. Not even shade was a promise of relief in the summer of 2013.




            The second time we met was in a room. We didn’t talk much despite being in the same class for five years. It was dark and musty, a utility room.  From a dusty window that carried spider webs in its corners, the room glowed from the outside in - unlike the first time seeing you, the sky was dark and threatened the down-pour of the century.

            You sat on a box filled with scrap paper for future art projects, carton creasing with your weight - bending you towards me. I have an ephemeral memory that suggests I was getting dressed for something. You looked at the crooked glass and said: “How did Superman lose to Batman? I mean… He is Superman!” I shrugged. Superheroes were never my thing, but I learned then that they were yours. I had to agree with you, much from the fear of saying something dumb, or for the wish of impressing you.

            We left the storage place behind after a few minutes. I’d be lying if I said I remember what we were doing, I don’t. From the moment you sat on the cardboard box, the room had only one function: introducing me to you.

The days that followed seem to stretch for a long period of time - though I know they barely exceeded six months.

 You showed me the grimoires you hid under your bed, our bellies warm as we lay in your carpet - TV whispering non-sense into the room. Later that day, you taught me how to make flower crowns, but we settled for clipping petals and saving them in tiny vials of glass.

Occasionally, one friend or another would come looking for us in the woods, “You coming to the mall with us?” You made reading during lunch sound a lot more pleasurable than just fooling around. We switched telling glances, and I’d shake my head, “Maybe some other day.”

Our school’s food was far from any Michelin-star restaurant, but the rice and beans never killed anyone, and the eggs were particularly good on Thursdays. It didn’t take much to figure you had a tough time eating. It never bothered me to wait till you were done or to leave my plate half full when you finished too quickly. I’d watch you play with your food and silently wish you’d eat some more - in the end it didn’t really matter.

During torrential storms, we’d curl in my bed, computer highlighting our skins as we clung to the blankets. When the clouds rumbled, and the generators boomed with re-charged force, I’d wish you’d always hold me this tight: your face on my chest and hair under my nose - legs tangled together, and hands reaching for each other. You smelled like Johnson’s kids’ shampoo for curly hair, despite your hair not being curly at all.

 I remember you dragging me into the rain - screaming as we ran. I still have that picture of you; hair wet, clothes heavy, and annoyance in your eyelashes as we waited outside. We entered the auditorium amidst a play; dirty glances and your laugh echoing down the rows of people.

 Sometimes you’d search the air for things only you could see, brain smoking with thoughts, and then you’d laugh at nothing. I’d ask you what had made you laugh, then you’d giggle a bit more and say, “I haven’t got a clue.” I’d laugh with you. 

We talked more than our teachers would’ve liked us to. Displaying blank notebooks at our desks that weren’t empty at all. In between the lines, in invisible ink, we’d be sharing thoughts and secrets.

It was easy being with you.                  

            When we were given a chance, we’d run away together. Not out of school or anywhere dangerous; usually to the woods or behind the lunchroom, somewhere quiet where we could be alone. I remember how comfortable the gravel became after laying in it for a few minutes, warm from the sun and laughter - molding to us.  I remember laying in your lap and you in mine, telling each other what we dreamed about: a house in the Italian Campagna and a town where people loved a bit more. The Sun would filter through the leaves and puddle in light around our bodies turning our skin sticky and sweet. Me braiding your hair, and you picking at the grass around us. Birds humming all the things I wish I could say to you: look at me, can you hear all the things I can’t say? Can I kiss you? We should lay here a little longer. Life was perfect then.

            I left you, and our “small town” one year later. We are older now, seventeen and three years into being away from each other.  Sometimes I still call and sometimes you still pick up, “Hey, I missed you,” I miss you too. It’s been so long I think I forgot your smell.

I wonder if you remember us. I wonder if the heat clings to you as it did to me and if the broken windows, birds, and rain reminds you of us. Sometimes I think you were the first person I ever loved.     

Constellations and Origami: Part 1

by Lucia Quinn

Silence. Complete and utter silence. What else could a person expect from Saturday detention?

No teenager would genuinely enjoy being there. This isn’t any Breakfast Club bullshit. It’s six high

school students in an abandoned classroom for seven hours, and a mediator who looks like she should

be at a Christian summer camp.

There is really nothing to do other than to observe the silent scene. It’s exactly what Veronica

has realized.

There’s a blonde boy with his finger in his ear. It’s quite apparent that he’s using it as a q-tip,

and is wiping his earwax on a red hoodie. The girl next to him is anxiously picking at her cuticles. She

looks relatively put together, but Veronica is able to see the trickles of red running down her thumbs.

She almost wants to rub her hand over hers, as a silent “it’s alright,” but she doesn’t need the camp lady

to add an hour to her punishment.

There’s a large boy, still in SpongeBob pajama pants. His head is on the desk and she can’t see his

face, but it’s relatively obvious he’s asleep. He also smells like cigarettes, but seems kind. The other boy

has a book under his desk. It’s a tattered paperback, and Veronica can’t make out the title. Regardless,

it’s obviously been loved for a long time. She’s pretty sure he works at the library. He’s in the very back

with the final student, the last girl.

She’s the only one bold enough to be doing something in plain sight. On her desk is a stack of

Post-It notes, and she’s folding them into different shapes and creatures. It’s slightly mesmerizing,

watching her make this paper crane. Veronica can see the concentration in her brown eyes, and the way

her face clenches, pulling her mouth to her nose.

Even when the mediator leaves a few minutes later to use the restroom, her concentration is

unbroken. Fold, fold, flip. And then she repeats. It isn’t until the slam of the door upon the mediator’s

return, does her concentration break, and she looks up to see Veronica staring. And with a silent smirk,

a twinkle in her eye, she returns to her work, leaving Veronica a spluttering mess.


It isn’t until 11 am until the students notice a pattern the mediator has followed, she leaves

more and more, and is now only checking in for quick moments. It’s in one of these moments after she

leaves, that SpongeBob pants boy decides to speak.

It’s not really anything, but he offers introductions, and names are revealed. His name is

Jordan, ear-wax is Evan, but Veronica decides he’ll be ear-wax to her. The girl who was earlier picking at

her cuticles is Anya, and she’s stopped messing with her hands, instead opting to pull at the hem of her

sweater. The boy who Veronica is now sure works at the library, introduces himself as Wesley. But she

doesn’t care. She’s been patiently waiting for the girl in the back, and now she gets to hear her speak.

When she speaks it’s raspy, but rolls out of her mouth with ease. “Lyra. Like the constellation.”

Lyra. It’s her new favorite word, and Veronica wants to repeat it for her whole life. She wants to be able

to call for Lyra everyday, just to hear that beautiful name come out of her mouth. And maybe to hear

Lyra say her name too.

In the midst of her daydream, a conversation has started between the detainees. It’s about

Wesley’s book, which Veronica can now see is Flowers for Algernon. She remembers having to read it in

seventh grade, and hating it. She’s not sure why the boy is so enraptured with that book, and Evan has

decided to point that exactly out. But instead of critiquing the book, he’s rambling about how much

he hates to read. And while Veronica doesn’t want to be mean, she understands that perhaps he’s just

not bright enough to comprehend the story.

“Maybe you’re just too illiterate to understand it,” a voice snickers, “It’s not that hard.”

Veronica smiles, Lyra put her thoughts into words that slid off her tongue with ease. Lyra’s

comment has the boy red in the cheeks, and Jordan laughing loudly. Even Wesley and Anya are smiling.

From there, the conversation is able to progress. Veronica doesn’t really pay attention, instead

opting to watch Lyra’s hands flip and fold the Post-its. She’s amazed how a butterfly comes to life at the

raven-haired girl's fingers, even while she’s distracted. Veronica is lost in a daydream of what it would

feel like to have those fingers run through her hair, or hold her face, scrape down her back, or even to-

Her thoughts are cut off by someone calling her name. “Sorry, what?” She mutters, ears

turning pink at the humiliation of being caught.

“Want me to teach you?”

It’s Lyra. Veronica looks around, wondering who else saw her staring, but realizes the others are

deep in their own conversation. Her face is genuine, and Veronica can tell that she really doesn’t care

that she was staring. She actually wants to show her.

A Heartfelt Letter to You (And The Things I'd Never Say Out Loud)

by Lucia Quinn

Your girlfriend likes to text me on my birthday and on Christmas, she's sweet like that. (Sweet in the way that saltines are salty. If you ate too many you’d choke.) You’re so sweet to her too. I can see why she loves you. To love you now is easy. 

It was hell to love you then. Does she know you were anything but sweet to me? (You may have been at first, but bitterness set in by our second time around.) I hurt you. I regret it. You hurt me too, though, maybe worse. And I loved you when you hated me, masked behind a “joking” sneer. Idle silence was your shoulder devil’s plaything. (The jokes weren't funny to me or you. The jokes were for the sake of what was left of our touch-and-go status quo.) I loved the monster lurking beneath your golden-brown skin. I wouldn't mind the terror a second time around. Better a familiar beast in our small pond than treacherous uncharted waters. (What a waste, after all. I know your favorite band and the lilt of your laugh like the back of my hand. Must I learn all those gruesome details with someone new?)

I'd take you back in a second, and I’d have time on my side, and familiarity as my guide. (I still hear your breathy humming when that one song plays, that hallucinatory harmony louder in my mind than the singing leaking from my tinny speakers.) I know you more than I’d like to. And you know me. (You’ve let it slip that I’m still on your mind. Why else do you still listen to the playlist I made you?) We're too familiar, too tethered.

But now that you and her are together, is it just an invisible string that ties you to me?

Tug on it whenever you want, I'll come when you call. (Sharing a chair with you today was second nature. The slightest touch at the hip and muscle memory took over, but don’t worry. I reminded myself to not melt into you.)

 This time it's easy.

To love you is nothing at all.

This Winter Is Cold.

by Maitri Kovuru

It's cold outside. 28 degrees Fahrenheit. And I haven't been feeling the same lately. I've

been trudging through the cold, all alone in the dark. Wolves surround me, trying to exploit my

vulnerabilities and attack me, but I feign strength long enough to escape by a hair. And what

about the other deer in the herd? Do they listen when I tell them of my narrow escape? They

turn a blind eye. It’s as if they see everything except my reality. Can’t they see that I’m stranded

in a blizzard? Why is everyone acting as if it’s spring, and all the ice has thawed and mingled

with the pristine water of the river? Why are they acting as if I am prancing through a meadow

with wildflowers behind my ears and the sunlight warming my body inside and out? It’s as if I’m

concealed in a glass box; they can see me but they can’t hear my pleas. I try. I try to give them

a glimpse into the snowstorm that I am enduring, the wolves I am running from, the injuries I’ve

suffered alone, and they show not a single flicker of concern.

“Why do you dampen your eyes?” They ask. “Everything around you is in bloom. You’re

in bloom. It’s spring! You’re doing your job so well! What care could you have in the world?”

And it is then that I must answer, not aloud, but inwardly to myself, because no one else

will listen, “How can it be spring when I’m frozen in an eternal winter?”

The worst part is—I actually love winter. The silence of the snow, the whisper of the

wind, the brightness of the billowing clouds. And our laughs as we try to build a magical

snowman—I love those the most. It hasn’t snowed in quite a few winters, but it seems to be

pouring snow this time around. It’s as if all the snow that meant to visit in previous years has

been collecting in the skirt pouch of a young girl in the clouds, only to be let go of now, in one

billowing sweep, as she brushes all the snowflakes of her childhood off of her silky skirt in one

glorious avalanche. And yet, this is the winter you’re gone, and our laughs can no longer be

heard echoing in the silent air like the tinkling of windchimes. This time, I’m alone. All my

dreaming of snowball fights and writing to Santa about white Christmases are coming true—he

mustn’t have received the letters until now. The only thing missing is you. How am I to enjoy this

gift without you when it was always intended to be shared with you?

I am sad to say there is no one else I can share it with either, and so I am damned to this

wonderful, serene winter, but this time, I will only feel the cold pricking at my skin, and the

silence will be a curse rather than a blessing, for I will have to fill it with my thoughts, and all my

thoughts in that moment will be of you.

So as I sit inside, mind already on you without the silence of winter forcing it upon me,

and stare out of the window at the bare ground, not yet tucked in by a thick blanket of snow, I

swear I can see us, running around the trees in the yard and climbing upon the mailbox; and I

can feel the soft comfort of tears slipping down my cheeks. I don’t brush them away just yet; I let

them visit awhile, for I know it will be long before I am alone like this again and lost enough in

my memory of you that I will let myself truly relive those moments that I can never regain.

I yearn to see your rosy cheeks and dark skin, darker than mine even, in the flesh rather

than in a picture frame or through a screen. I wish to hear the sounds of our laughter carried

away in the whistling wind and our screams as we dodge one anothers snowballs. I wish to see

you gathering snow for a magical snowman, and to see the satisfying look on your face when

we finish building him. I wish to feel the burst of energy in your hand when we high-five to

congratulate ourselves on our brilliant, artful teamwork. I even wish to hear you complain about

how I dragged you out into the cold to conceal the smile in your eyes, which lets me know just

how grateful you are that I did. I yearn for us to sit by the heater afterwards, warming our hands

and feet, cupping hot cocoa mugs and raving about how frigid it was outside.

But I know none of that will happen this winter. And I know now that even though I’ve

braved blizzards before, they were always enjoyable with you, disguised as friendly flurries. I’m

so used to sharing winters with you, especially the ones I always prayed for—the ones like this

winter with all the snow imaginable for snowball fights and forts and angels. But this winter is

different— this is the first winter that I can truly feel the cold.

thank you for reading issue four <3