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
Sluggish Summer Love by Riley Nee
Untitled by Lucia Quinn
Persephone and Hades by Olive Cape
Red by Olive Cape
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 smell of summer clings to the air, as a warm night beckons. A breeze floating through an open window to reach me. Calling, insisting I make the best of this early July evening. I've wasted enough daylight hours as it is. The unbearable heat of the day, suspended once the sun faded from view.
I texted her nearly forty minutes ago. Checked my phone every three minutes until the gray speech bubble appeared at the bottom of the screen. As soon as she responded with a "yes" and offered about twenty minutes before I had to be ready, I threw on old sneakers, made sure my hair looked okay and slipped out the door. Now I wait, on the corner of my street. Bouncing my leg anxiously, seated on the curb, I trace the scuff marks on the tips of my green converse. The summer air carries music from houses over, and hollow laughter. The kind of laughter only elicited from tipsy adults, seated around a fire, making bad jokes about America's political climate. The increasingly polarized right and left making appearances through their voices. Strained in disagreement, stubbornly seated in their own blinding opinions.
I sigh as I watch cars pass, turn the corner to the highway and disappear. A couple of kids play basketball on the dead end street, a pair of bikes tossed to the side. The taller one holds the ball up high and giggles with delight when the shorter one whacks it from his hands and they chase after it like puppies. I watch as they tussle for the ball again, grappling with one another and letting out high pitched yelps. So I didn't notice when she snuck up behind me. Ruffled my hair and hugged me from behind. "Idiot." I mutter as I bury myself in her embrace, my face in her hair that smells like oranges and soap. She shakes her head at my empty insult and kisses me on the cheek. Begins to walk down the street and drag me along behind her. “C’mon.” She says, and turns her back to me. I follow. Our fingers weave through one another, impossible to tell where one hand starts and the other ends.
Let the haze of sunset envelop us into a dream-like state. We wander just because we can. I trace the bridge of her nose with my eyes, her subtle jawline, and rosy cheeks. She’s beautiful.
The thud of our sneakers on pavement cut through the eerie silence of a nine o'clock summer night. With arms slung around shoulders, and fingers linked through fingers, we venture through a neighborhood to which we don't belong. One we yearn to leave someday. Move on to bigger things, and brighter lights.
We fill the spaces between us with complaints of our parent’s mundane existence, make fun of their hobbies, idiotic middle-aged lives. She smiles in the fading light, and her hair frames her face perfectly, falling in glorious golden strands.
And it's all perfect for a minute, the two of us here. Or at least seemingly so.
Lost in each other's stories, arms, and embraces. Lying in a field. Body against body. Skin touching skin, we stick to each other, sweat like glue. Smiles contagious, exchanging exhales of liquor heavy breath. The empty bottle she brought from her parents stash, discarded to the side. Looking almost lonely lying there, bugs stuck to the cap.
For a moment we can forget about the impending doom of high school's end. Forget about the fact none of our friends know I belong to her, and she belongs to me. Forget about the long sleeve shirts that hide scars running up and down our arms. Forget about the girl who jumped in front of a train, and the mess she left behind. Forget about the fact that one of us is down a friend. Forget about the girl’s parents who sobbed through the funeral. Forget about parents who don't understand. Forget about our helplessness to stop any of it.
For a moment, we can be perfect while the world falls apart. Her hand in mine, mine in hers. Our glassy eyes looking through one another and for the first time seeing it all.
Exchange sloppy wet kisses, play shitty music. Laugh about nothing, feel cool breezes and grass tuck us in. Two girls lying in a heap, waiting for sleep. For a moment in this fading summer dark we can be fine.
Mirjam Joenssen could easily be described as an adapter. She has had an adaptable personality her whole life, a trait often needed when your fathers job takes you all over the world. Perhaps if you wanted to be more crude, you would call her a corporation brat. Moving from Germany, to Japan, back to Germany, then to America, all before the eighth grade, is really a big reason for adaptation.
As a young girl she resembled her mother, with an oval face, and honed structure. A sharp nose, scattered with freckles, fit her face well. Her hair was the shade of fresh baked Pfeffernuesse, and fell to her shoulders in straight simple locks. Most often, she wore a bright pink jacket, which now, one could easily tell was from the late eighties.
She had a wild imagination, creating the craziest worlds, games, and ideas for her and her friends. When she was in Germany, she created treasure hunts for her friends, and sold all of her moms clothespins with her best friend Melanie. In Japan she would climb on the roofs and jump across the little border from house to house with her friend Marcus, in Japan. She made the most of it, wherever she went.
School was sometimes difficult, especially in America. It was hard being an immigrant, especially in America. Children are cruel, and they’re even worse when someone is different. They made fun of her accent, and her lunches. They made fun of her name because it wasn’t something American, like Jennifer. They even would yell at her for not standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance, which let’s be honest, is a pretty dumb thing to state every damn morning. But she adapted, never ashamed to show who she was and made it through high school in America.
Eventually the time came for her family to move back to Germany, and even though Mirjam’s homesickness hit her in nauseating pangs every day, she decided to move to Milwaukee and finish her college education at Marquette University. She had already started, majoring in English, and she had met a boy. She was different than she was when she was a little girl. She had lost her freckles, her hair had darkened, and her cheekbones were much more prominent now that she was older. She had adapted, and as much as she wanted to go, she was in love, and she knew that Timothy was the one she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. So, she said goodbye to her parents and brother, and continued her education.
She had made friends who loved her company, Jerod her best friend, his girlfriend Michelle, and her boyfriend, Tim. With himself, Tim brought his other friends to their group. His childhood friends, Pat Nelligan, who ended up being their daughters godfather, Pat Crotty, KT, Nick, and Sarah. Mirjam graduated from college with flying colors, and a masters and bachelors degree.
When she went back to school for her Doctorate, she switched is up and moved to Lafayette, Indiana after she received a full ride scholarship to Purdue university, where she studied psychology, a different path than her previous english major at Marquette. There she met one of her best friends, Michele Collins.
By the time she turned 24, she married Timothy Quinn, and became Mirjam Quinn. They lived a happy life, and in 2005, she got pregnant with her first daughter. She was born on a freezing cold day in December. However, Mirjam was still studying at Purdue, and was a new mother. She could have taken the easy way out, and dropped college and become a stay at home mom. But she adapted, and continued her education, all while caring for Lucia, who never really cared to sleep.
When her daughter was 18 months old, Mirjam finished her education. She had proven to the world that she could adapt, even form the craziest situation the world had placed her in. She was a fighter. From there she grew her family in Chicago, where she started her own private practice, which is well-known in Chicago.
My mother fought and adapted to every single damn card life dealt her, unfair and fair. She built a life for herself in unfamiliar and different situations. She adapted. And I’m proud to call her mama.
i learned about persephone and hades when i was young.
i wanted to emulate her beauty, long hair tumbling down my back.
i would be that perfect, and most beautiful girl.
i would fantasize about a boy finding me in a meadow,
his dark eyes would light just for me.
but that boy never found me.
and i realized i didn’t want him too.
she found me instead.
not in a meadow - on a street corner.
my hair wasn’t tumbling down my back - it was knotted around my knuckles as i cried into my knees.
i wasn’t persephone and she wasn’t hades.
we aren’t a greek love story.
we are our own and untold thing.
she thinks i’m perfect.
and she is my everything.
i’m not persephone.
and she’s not hades.
and i have never been more in love.
tw: slight mention of blood and cuts
shards of mirror on the ballroom floor.
it punctures my fingers, draws crimson blood.
red roses once beautiful and fresh,
are torn from their stems,
leaves and petals scattered.
i see a myriad of reflections,
but none of them are me.
i lost who i was a long time ago.
i think back to a time these flowers held life - a time they held promise.
i think back to a time when i looked in that mirror and saw love - saw lust.
but all that remains are the bruises on my face, the blood on my fingers, and that broken mirror on the ground.
her fingers trail down my back where my low crimson dress left it exposed.
we are turning through an empty ballroom, the chandelier leaving an eerie shadowing following our figures.
i know what’s coming - i see it. we both do.
i look into her eyes.
“beautiful” she whispers.
my red lips part slowly.
“this won’t end well for you,” she says, warning in her voice.
Distance. The silent killer. It might not be killing us. But it’s killing you and it’s killing me. Sucking
all the air out of my lungs, leaving me gasping for oxygen that isn’t even within reach. Every
breath is shaky, shallow, as if I’m trembling, cautiously trying to cross a disintegrating bridge,
and the slightest misstep would cause me to fall to my death. I’m so close to the other side, two
feet away from the other side of the canyon of our love. The bridge we’ve built across our
distance is crumbling, and our perseverance is crumbling with it. You’re right there on the other
side. I can see you. I can feel your breath. I reach out my hand, brushing your soft fingertips.
One more step; I’m close enough to grasp your hand. Your fingers close around mine, pulling
me to the edge. But I let out one breath too heavy, and the bridge collapses, almost taking me
with it, but your hand saves me, like one link in a chain connecting me to life. I slip. Your palm
slides an inch over mine, losing some grip over my hand. And then, I feel the cool air caressing
my skin, and your face getting smaller and smaller in my vision, as I slip. Your hand is now just a
wisp, a memory. I flail my arms for a moment, but then I just rest. Finally, it’s over. The yearning,
the pain, the useless hope. As I plummet to the bottom of the canyon, I feel tears escaping my
eyes. Missing the touch of your hand, the burning gaze from your eyes, the caress of your love.
If only I could’ve held on longer. Then maybe you’d have wrapped my body with yours, like a
warm cashmere sweater, drying my tears. But for now, I just continue to fall, waiting for my back
to hit the ground so I can stop feeling this pain. This stabbing in my heart; it’s not worth it.
I remember when she left me four years ago. I remember the last pick up from school in her silver Subaru, shining in the afternoon sun with 80’s music drifting through the cracked window. I remember the last time we’d walk into the house together, dragging my backpack and asking her to help with my things, each of us slowly stepping into the back door. I remember that subtle feeling in my eyes, like they’re burning and keep catching fire, and holding back the emotions I felt as much as I could.
Four years ago, Medina Lane said her goodbyes for the last time, and I was empty. When it got to the point where she had to leave my house and drive away, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and hugged her as I sobbed. I was now taller than she was, towering over her small figure as I held her, remembering when it used to be the opposite. I gripped her until I finally had to let go, watching her rosy cheeks and high cheekbones, stained with tears, turn away from me.
She drove off in her Subaru, heading to Roseville, California, two hours away. I watched her through the window as she moved down the driveway, waving as I wept on the black pavement, my tears showering down like the raindrops on that ironically stormy day. Her face still glowed with a happiness that never ceased, despite the sadness that engulfed us both. I only saw the back of her head now through the back window of the car, her dark brown hair always neatly cut right before it reached her small shoulders, curling inwards at the bottom as though her chin is a magnet and her hair metal. I blinked, and she was gone.
Medina is forever a part of my family, despite not being related to a single one of us. We share no blood, no DNA, only the years of memories that tie our lives together like shoelaces. She was my nanny, caretaker, and second mother throughout my childhood. I saw her more than my own mom, who was busy at work most days.
She was nicknamed Dina, a name I would call, shout, and laugh over the years. Aside from her glowing face and magnetic hair, I remember her smile and her eyes. The lines around the edges of her eyes crease when she smiles, and it is contagious, making me want to grin at whatever it is that’s making Dina smile. Her eyes are darker than her hair and don’t sparkle. Instead, they are deep and powerful, having seen the world for decades longer than I have; they are black pools of knowledge.
Dina is a passionate person. She was passionate about taking care of me for the majority of my life, responsible yet delightful enough to make me respect her but see her as my biggest friend. Now that I am older, she is passionate about other things as well. She never truly wanted to retire, resisting her husband Ken who was ready to quit working and move away; so she keeps busy. Winning bocce ball tournaments left and right, making pancit and other traditional Filipino dishes daily for family and friends, traveling as much as she can with Ken by her side, and staying active, healthy and happy. Her spirit is admirable. She continues to care for another young girl in Roseville because caregiving is a part of her soul.
Snippets of my younger years with Dina occasionally re-appear in my memory. Playing in the neighborhood park and having her push me on the rickety swing. Doing legos and crafts on the grey rectangle table of the playroom. Stealing snacks out of the kitchen and her reprimanding me, but later buying me a cheese danish and vanilla bean frappuccino after my Taekwondo practice. Lovingly taking my dog Bear, a white, medium sized Shiba Inu and Mini American Eskimo mix, out on walks in the streets nearby and watching the pink and red leaves drift to the ground in autumn. My childhood was filled with Dina. My childhood was Dina.
Despite her time as my nanny being over, we still keep in touch and visit when possible. As she now lives far away and my parents don’t like driving that long, Dina and Ken picked me up a few summers ago to bring me to come and stay with them for a few days in the Roseville hundred degree weather.
Dina had stopped coming to my house every day a while before, so spending so much time together again was strange, as though reading my favorite book as a kid all over again. When driving up, I wrote down every song that played on the radio station ''The Bridge'' in their silver Subaru. I had grown up listening to classic rock hits in that car and my family didn’t pay for these stations, so a wave of forgotten moments crashed through my head as Crosby, Stills & Nash played peacefully in the car as we sped up the highway.
That was the first gift Dina gave to me that I got to appreciate again–experiencing culture from a time before I existed, and a music taste that mirrors my father’s. The next few days were spent joyfully as I was reminded of so many memories that I had forgotten. After that, it was bowling that gave me the same rush of recollection. I used to spend hours with both Dina and her husband at the bowling alley, back when I was too young to aim and needed bumpers; I still lost to her every time.
We returned to the place of my defeat, and I was prepared to redeem myself after remembering my failure as a little kid. I lost, to no one's surprise, as both Dina and Ken were legends at bowling and laughed at my frustration. However, the failure came with an hour of reminiscing, forgetting how much I enjoyed this activity. I owe Dina for my win against the entire class in bowling at my start-of-eighth grade party a few months later.
The rest of my stay was filled with countless more moments like those. Dina making the Filipino dishes that I used to eat regularly was a highlight, and I brought back home the recipes and forced my parents to start making them. At night, we all watched SpongeBob together on their pullout couch, a pastime that I used to do whenever I came over to Dina’s place, and ate multi-flavored, homemade jello that she made. We went swimming, walking, eating; anything and everything to make my stay fun and unforgettable, as Dina often made things. I got to bring back home everything that made up my childhood, and got to experience it again for one last time, even though I hope to go back soon and do it all again.
Caring about me was all Dina needed to do. From that, she brought me more joy than an obnoxious, ignorant child should’ve deserved. She is more family than many of my other actual family members will ever be. She is more than family itself. She is a friend, a role model, and a beautiful person.
It broke me when she drove away in that silver Subaru for the last time four years ago, and her driving away from my most recent visit brought back that same pain. I had to watch again as she left me, hair glinting black through the window and smiling her beautiful smile at me until she was yet again out of sight.
I’ve heard the same question my entire life:
“Why are you so loud?” Screamed my brother from the other room.
“Why are you so loud?” Asked most of my teachers.
“Why are you so loud?” sighed my grandma as we walked down the supermarket.
The question, though sometimes rough, had never hurt me. It grew to be annoying at times, but I usually just shrugged and answered a simple, “I don’t know…” I always had too much to say and too little time to do it.
But I’ll never forget when you asked, “Why are you so loud?” I won’t forget because, this time, I had said nothing at all. I’ll remember this because you were the last person I wanted to hear this from.
A flag and, “Why are you so loud?” I remember being so proud. Looking at its colors, hanging heavy on our walls. The unforgiving humidity in the air sticking it to the stone - Transpiring vivid red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. “Why are you so loud?”
Me sitting on the floor, brushing my hair: “I don’t know...”
I talk a lot, it’s true, but I don’t usually say what I want to say, and at that moment, I suddenly had nothing to say at all. But I wished for something different.
I wanted an apology. I longed for a, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.” I had never dreaded silence as much as I did then.
Silence. That was the way you dealt with things. Silence, so quiet and yet so loud.
You looked at me, pajamas on, and your hair wet from showering. Silence.
And then you left.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to say, “No, mommy, I’m sorry. I’ll take it down if you want!” I wanted you to come back and hold me. I wanted to lay in bed with you and smell your perfume. I wanted you to say, “shh, it’s okay. It’ll be okay. I love you just the same.” Silence.
I heard you crying that night. Silence.
Soon, the silence was louder than I had ever been. It followed me like a shadow and crept into my “loud” being.
Silence in the car after telling you I also liked girls.
Silence at the dinner table after you said, “We should have taken you to church more.”
Silence after: “What will our neighbors think of this?”
Silence after I told you I met someone.
“Why are you so loud?” I hate silence.
New Mexico is called the Land of Enchantment, but where I live, it is often called the Land of Entrapment. I could ask somebody my age where they want to live when they grow up and the standard answer would be “anywhere but here”. Most adults say they love the sunsets. In the evening the sky turns into a watercolor masterpiece of pink, orange, and purple and clouds roll in after a long day of the clearest skies you've ever seen. The backdrop of the infinite blue sky is a reminder of the days of the wild wild west that is so often associated with the southwestern United States, but my city is a modern oasis that sticks out like a sore thumb in the midst of shrubby deserts and sweeping vistas. Albuquerque, my hometown, is a dusty land of urban sprawl, like a glass of water spilled onto the dry earth, the water splashing up the base of the mountain and spreading into the valley past the not-so-grand Rio Grande river. Developments seem to never end, a new neighborhood is built every month, and the city slowly stretches west, creeping further and further from the river that gets lower and slower every year. I can practically feel the water system straining on those 100 degree summer days.
Our house rests at the base of the mountain in the far east corner of the city. Trees, parks, and the best schools in the best neighborhood in town create a lovely veneer just barely thick enough to make you forget about the man who was murdered and had his head used as a soccer ball downtown a few days ago. The crime rate, homicide rate, and America’s worst education are just a pentimento of poverty that can quickly be painted by stepping into the Northeast Heights. You can still hear the police sirens, but they squeal so frequently and faintly that they blend in with the birdsong and the breeze. It is a lovely suburb, but lovely in the sense that you would struggle to find an ounce of culture past a certain block. It’s lovely in the sense that you get the peace and quiet of the neighborhoods, besides the various machines and power tools that your neighbors are constantly running. It’s lovely in the sense that to find a decent restaurant you need to drive 15 minutes into the city. My neighborhood has nice, broad streets perfect for riding your bike around, except for the fact that the hills are so steep that only dedicated cyclists would ever dare.
When my peers say they want to be “anywhere but here”, I hope they only mean the Northeast Heights. My love for the bustling downtown areas is never fully ruined by the small fear of being the victim of some crime or car accident. The city is a cultural crossroads of Navajo and hispanic cultures that comes to a crux in the historic old town that’s dotted with statues of conquistadors and ancient missions from the 1700s that the Native Americans sit outside of and sell their jewelry. The culture is within the clash. The hallmark of Albuquerque is the heat. Whether it's the brutal summer sunlight that boils everything beneath it and melts you into the asphalt, or the tongue-burning green chile that is inescapable in New Mexican cuisine, the heat of the city is so pervasive that you can smell it. It comes wafting out of every restaurant, and it’s in the smoke of the chile roasters that sit outside of every grocery store during chile season. Dust and exhaust mingle with the oppressive heat of early July when all the outdoor events coincidentally take place, which makes it hard to have fun before sunset. The occasional thunderstorm is never taken for granted, and the wonderful earthy smell of rain feels like a sigh of relief. The heat is gone in wintertime but it is dry as ever even in the cold, my hands mirroring the cracked ground of the arroyos. My city in the desert is one of isolation, and it's fitting to call it the land of entrapment. Whether you're suffocating from the heat or falling apart in the dry cold, at least you get to see a beautiful sunset.
Memories are in the corner of the room
Adjacent to the desk
Forming pile after pile of reminders
Of who I was and am
Some have spines facing me
Others only have the corners of white
Some pages have their corners folded in
The journey of reading frozen in time
Stains and tears on the pages
Patterned covers that bring back nostalgia
When I flip through the pages
For Christmas presents and visits to bookstores
For a time of innocence
That I can’t get back
At the same time, pangs of regret
That the happy tales of dogs and fairies
No longer strike my heart in the same way
The bookshelf that has resisted all efforts
To organize itself, decrease entropy
No themes, only age and accumulation
A specific book is a needle
In that impossible maze
But to peek in without expectations
I find what I need and more
All the past times crammed into a corner of a room
Easy to find, hard to appreciate
And when I look, not mere pages printed with words
But afternoons curled up on a flowery sofa
And my mother’s voice echoing in my ears surrounded by the familiar warmth of blankets
An ever-present friend
Characters that come to mind
Even when I don’t have the ink in my hand
Words not just mere letters
But reflections of thought
Thought that continues to reflect back
Ever twisting and mutating
The memories of these books I continue to come back to
Knowing that it is more
Than a unorganized shelf
But a stockpile of what is and was in my mind and heart
A whir of busy gears in a crowded mind
Caught up in the small knots in the large net
Hidden detritus buried under
The veil of mundane reality
Carried away by it all
and I forget the sand in my toes
The splinters in my finger
Tugs in so many directions
So we forget ourselves in life’s thrall
Living in unplumbed happiness
Forgetting the wounds that don’t bleed
Fill your lens with rainbow
At the price of the gray
A hand reaches out for someone
or something that listens to unspoken misery
And hears the void beneath glittering chatter
Someone who sees what you’re blind to in the dark
Who tells you you’re an inferno in the night sky
your smile eclipses the sun
Tells you to bring the dark from the seafloor
And silence it with a candle
Standing there through the swim
Brings white-hot clarity to your mind
To see what was always there just covered by inadequacy
A winding path
Can’t see the turns
Knowing you’ll be there for every step
No matter the turns the cracks in the road
Together we’re enough
for all the stones life throws
thank you for reading issue one <3