by Cami Gomes
Three fourth’s of all lies are harmless flies we let slide through our lips, but one out of those four carry in their wings cruel truths. Invalidated truths that decay like their veracity as they take flight. Our words hold the power to summon demons, fae that tickle the future with their nimble fingers; subpoena of misfortune and rain, for delight and mischief.
The city always felt like a haunted past to me, strangers in paradise and their (f) lies circling the air. We were silent, broken phonographs in the rain, singing the same broken melody, pretending since Saturday that everything was okay. We could be friends had we tried, exchanged wet socks for warm scarves, but though we were all able, we hated the other side. We were wrong, always standing on the edge. Everyone was only dying to live. Somewhere in a garden one of us would stand in the days to come, then they’d wish to exchange some of their guilt for the drenched coats in the old cafe, but there had always been more sins than the clothing rack could hold. Strangers in the rain are people that disappear in the fog, flies in a web hoping for paradise lost: fearing the next horror, but falling then falling again. Maybe that's why we keep our dreams in a box, to keep them safe, to stop them from growing wings and taking flight like the f(lies) we let go. Let our hearts be like our dreams, we hold them in our wooden ribcages, weak shelter to the rain. But thankfully 3/4s of all lies are harmless flies we let slide through our lips, and maybe this was all one I just couldn’t keep.
In The End
by Maitri Kovuru
Calling my name,
i am distracted.
A pair of hands
A pair of lips
Touching, caressing, yearning
i am wanted.
Sea of street lamps,
Cold, glowing windows
i am suffocated.
I am alone.
Distracted, but not content.
Wanted, but not valued.
Strife at Sunrise
by Ananya Vinay
A Golden Shovel after Maya Angelou’s “Awaking In New York”
Dusk settles a yawning sun as to will
the world to fall in tidal wind
yet no devil robs the heart of whirlwind sleep
Spinning stars abandoned by dust plead with
broken words for the descent of a starved city
Untiring roots hold the captive dark
out blaze Orion’s ephemeral reign and
smolder the vial of ochre venom, a
battle for blood-stained lotuses of war
Harken from the welkin the light glow of dawn
as souls seep from trenches unheeded
Mother Earth’s palms curl in, aching cries will
pierce the sharpest wall of the wind
wide eyes steal the coming deluge of sleep
A march of gleaming metal crush dashing comets with
glee, silence bursting jazz in a plummeting city
the azure clouds never turn astute gazes on
fallen limbs below, envelop the earth and
veil darting buds seeking an
oasis as morning gleam engages cold night in war
dew drops beckon the ecliptic to rest below triumphant dawn
spirits ascend furrowed trenches, flames nevermore unheeded
by Olive Cape
August was auburn hair which was once long, but is now cut short. August was that hair falling across your face, and I would want to tuck it behind your ear, let my hand linger on you and feel the heat radiating from your body and into my fingertips.
August was the smile that wouldn’t leave my face, when just the mere thought of you flickered across my mind. And thoughts of you always flickered in my mind, like the candles I light and don’t blow out, even when I go to sleep. August was the pure bliss that consumed my every cell, setting every sense of fire, exciting… and warning me.
August was facetimes that didn’t end, where I would awake to the sounds of iced coffee being poured into a cup crackling with ice. You were the first person I could ever fall asleep around. I’m still too scared and on edge around anyone else, but you made me feel safe and loved and cared for, even from hundreds of miles away.
But, now, August is just another month that bled into July and September and I can’t even remember the date I met you. Because you’re gone from me. You say you’re not but I feel it. We grasp onto each other, fill our texts with broken promises and words taken for granted. But suddenly the distance feels like the distance it always was. And now you are a person I once said I love you to; the first person I said I love you to.
I used to worry about thinking about you too much and wear down our memories together to nothing, and become meaningless from overuse. But I was scared that if I didn’t think about our memories we share at all, you would forget me and I wouldn't even have memories to solidify where our existences intertwined. You didn’t forget me, though. But, now I’m just a memory: someone who you used to mention to your friends, someone who you would wake up with the clink of coffee hitting a glass filled with ice, a person who you once said I love you to.
But, still I feel your artificial presence, because we never said we were done. Because we never said we were anything in the first place. No, instead we said we were each other’s everything. A sentence that felt so good to hear and feel then, but now it’s just a sentence that allowed us to not define us with words and tangible meanings.
And, I know, I’m going to stop writing this in a few moments. And you’re going to text me I love you and I'm going to say I love you more. Because we are everything to each other. We are everything so we can get away with doing nothing. So we can get away with us being in between lovers and friends and old acquaintances who once knew each other a couple Augusts ago.
The Fairy Outside My Window
by Julian Heidelberg
Every night, a fairy peeks from behind my paint-crusted window panes, like a children’s book character twinkling into animation. When the sky outside shivers to black, and my robe-clad mother raps on my locked door in a speechless goodnight, the fairy fades in from the starlight and stands between the listening lilacs. I can make out translucent wings sprouting from either side of his pale neck and black lines like cereal-box mazes sectioning off small, rounded shapes on it like a dragonfly. Around his thin, pale neck hangs a partly-seen dress that billows like a pillow-cover on a clothesline. His tiny, doll-like lips are plumply curved into a delicate wrinkle of patience. Peering at me from between my curtains are two swirling, emphatic eyes. His eyeline sends static electricity threading through me.
The moment the digits on my clock dance to midnight, he speaks to me. The words that follow echo from behind my walls. His voice is melodic and hushed; he’s trying not to wake my mother.
His sirenic words usher in an invitation: “You can be free if you come with me.” His glare targets me, eyelashes spreading off the side of his face. Lightning pulses through me, spiderwebbing scars down my back and vibrating every molecule in my red-hot blood. His painful gaze burns me for minutes on end until he points his eyebrows disappointedly and pushes off, retreating into the billowing curtains of night. The somber aura that rushes over the room in his absence leaves me a fish flopping for air. Every night, throwing my bedsheets off me with such force they feather to the ground, I rush towards his abandoned post with a white-knuckled grip on the window sill, searching for him in the prim yard. Just as rational thought begins to give way to mystical impulse, and I force the wall’s mouth open, I see the shadow of the fairy in front of the moon, diving towards the dark, wooded forest beyond my fence. I slowly squeak the window shut, afraid to challenge the forest, an immortal mythical beast.
Walking into high school for the first time made me feel like I could never go back to the comfort of home. I have a vague, quivering recollection of that first day, a world that sped past me into the untouchable annals of memory. However, I can recall every follicle of lint that flaked through the air during Physical Education. Hanging from the church-rounded ceilings were ancient banners advertising fifty-year-old national championships. They cast a waving shadow over the empty coliseum of bleachers that surrounded me. The coach slapped his hands together, squawking for us to dump our backpacks against the wall. From around his neck hung a spit-slick whistle, tired and rusted from years of angry use. A sweat-stained tank top was tucked clumsily into cargo shorts, which curtained veiny, wrinkled legs. His voice was husky and delicate with a tone as if he had just finished crying. On one side of the glossy court, tall boys with bloated pecs were unraveling their shirts over their broad shoulders, revealing beach-scorched skin and gym-trained chests. In their shoulders, I could see muscles clash and overpower bone. When the ball sank through the hoop, they smiled and flexed their arms, yelling in self-satisfaction. One of them, whom the teacher familiarly called Riley, was taller than the rest and had triceps that seemed as large as my head. He smiled and joked with the rest of the boys, but once he turned his back I could see his face decay into thoughtful dissonance. His unplucked eyebrows and short hair told me that he was fighting femininity with every atom in his existence. Muscle didn’t exist in my chest, only unhaired paleness and skin-wrapped ribs.
Long after the fairy has left the window, the forest pervades my dream-chamber during the dark hours of the night like a cloudy gas. In my sleep, I clamber through the window and chase the fairy, running through air so damp it feels viscous, dirt sticking to my dew-wet feet. I sprint until the soft grass gives way to mulched forest-bed, each step unpredictable and dangerous; concave one step and sharp the next. I can see the fairy flying from tree to branch like an indecisive bird, trying to escape my longing clutch. Behind the puff of a pant in cold air, trees tear from their roots with tense snaps, and the maple leaves stick to a rising, amorphous blob that grows higher than the toppling trees and vibrates in an intense groan, one that rustles the leaves of the fallen trees like wind. The fairy laughs like a hyena, lost and echoing in the thick forest. The growing amoeba sucks the forest into its skin, and when the ground begins to crumple and slip beneath my feet, I run back towards my yard in a haze of terror, dodging trees and jumping over their roots like a skittish animal. I fling myself over the white fence that surrounds my yard, clambering desperately towards my open window. Every time the balls of my feet dig into the moist soil, I can feel the monster getting closer. His step shakes my balance, his breath laps at my hair, his roar shoves its way through the air; suddenly I’m flying from the ground in his gargantuan fist, watching my diminishing house slump into the forest, and then I’m alone in my cricketing room, laying in moist sheets.
Sleep no longer felt like a needed rest but instead another exertion. When the fitful tinkle of wind-chimes woke me up each morning, I felt anemic and dizzy. I tried to pay attention in class, but I never stopped craving the fairy’s sugary presence. I could see his eyes in the Expo hieroglyphics my pre-calculus teacher etched into the board. I could see his eyes in the weighty descriptions we read in literature, in Shakespeare’s Puck. But, perhaps most prominently, I could see the fairy’s eyes in the murky, mystical lakes of Jamie’s gaze. Jamie captured my attention for months. I could feel a cottony underside beneath the shell of his abrasiveness, and it only revealed itself when nobody would notice. I looked at him whenever I could, trying to catch his attention as he had unknowingly caught mine. From time to time, I caught him steaming a starlit, confused glare down at me.
On Fridays, we played dodgeball. The muscular boys throbbed at the chance to demonstrate the cruelty of their strength. A white, uneven piece of rubber tape was stuck to the floor, separating pubescent-haired torsos from mesh tank-tops. Like a whistling arrow, the piercing howl of the teacher’s whistle cracked through the air, starting the game. Rubber balls shot like meteors from side to side. One overthrown ball flew from the court and rolled beneath the bleachers. With no disappointment, I sprinted from the game to retrieve it. By the time I had made my way back, I was one of two teammates left. The other shirtless boy tossed me a nervous look.
When there was a lull in the competition, my teammate said, “You aim for him. I’ll try to take these two.” He threw a hand to the other two heaving orcs. While he whispered this plan, Riley muttered something in his teammates’ ears, causing them to sneer with supreme brutality. They each gripped their rubber balls and, with clockwork synchronicity, launched them directly at my teammate, who grimaced as he dejectedly stumbled towards the stands. In a moment of pathetic hope, I arrowed Riley with a desperate eye. For a quiet moment, the jeers of the benched players hushed, the boys stopped grinding their sneakers emphatically against the floor, and Riley seemed to float in time like a balloon in a pool. I saw a silent thought flutter through his mind, one of thunderstruck sympathy. Our moment ended when his unarmed friends jeered at him, and the typical brutish mask cloaked his condolence. His gargantuan arms tensed in anticipation, and in a magnificent slingshot, clocked me between the eyes with a rubber ball that felt stone. My skin felt fuzzy like all the blood had gone out of it. The overhead floodlights crept their way through my vision so all I could see was bright white, and I collapsed.
When the world felt sober again, I had been moved into a dark closet. Above me towered plastic shelves of first-aid kits, wooden bats, and multicolored plastic balls. I laid in a makeshift bed: thin towel as a blanket, foam back-roller as a pillow, and a gingerbread-scented candle which threw an orange sheet over a shirtless figure in the corner. The meager light surrendered above his carved chest.
“What happened?” I asked, rubbing my eyes with the palm of my hand. He didn’t respond, just kneeled to see me closer. When the firelight subsumed his head, no face was visible: instead, a veined neck met quilted fabric; a ski mask that opened around eyes so mystical in the firelight they looked glass. Through the thin orange light, swampy blue-green irises peeked at me, flickering slightly into the dark. He hadn’t spoken and his face was all but covered, but I knew it was Riley because he beheld me with a familiar sympathetic look. He stood with his back to the door, staring at me with untrained possessiveness. I instinctively pushed myself against the wall, pulling ripples into the towel beneath me. He placed his hands in front of him like an ape and crawled until his cologne snuck into my nostrils. He placed his large hands on either side of me, leaning over me with lustful eyes. His pupils had transported me; royal green-blue birds chased around in an unclouded orange sky. The warmth above my body cooled for a moment as he leaned over and blew out the candle. His eyes vanished in the dim, and I felt like I was in space, beyond the atmosphere and circling in quiet black. All I could feel was Riley’s breath on my neck, warm winds tickling Saharan dunes. He whined close to my ear, a squeal of desperation and subdued ardor. His hand wandered to my chest, left unclothed from dodgeball, where his calloused finger tapped my uppermost rib. His fingers moved with unskilled delicacy down my chest, tapping each bone until he met my concave stomach, where he pressed his palm forcefully by my belly button, shooting hot breath from my parted mouth. He adjusted his head so he was breathing into my mouth, taking in all the air he was forcing out with his weight. Then he waterfalled an insidious puff, taking the air I had exhaled and twisting it into heady nicotine rolling over my cheek.
I squeezed my eyes shut in consternation. Hair from an unshaven chin was a sharp knife, teasing along my neckline. A hand gripped my bony hip hard enough to leave purple traces. Plump lips pressed themselves against my indrawn waist. Suddenly, like a summer shower, the pressure on top of me dissipated into the air. When I opened my eyes, the dangling lightbulb flickered to life, illuminating an empty room impregnated with the religious ruins of passion. The room still smelled like gingerbread, but the candlelight no longer blew the room into fantasy, and I laid alone on the dusty linoleum. I rose to my feet, stumbling and unable to catch a full breath of stuffy air. When I grabbed the shelf next to me for balance, it leaned over to the opposite side of the room, hailing me with cardboard boxes and plastic globes. They bounced around the room like fleas, and when I careened the door open, they trickled into the misty darkness. I drunkenly followed them, the sound of my squeaking shoes flurrying against the lockers. The hall was a dark, behemoth throat, with a uvula of light swinging in the dim. I carried myself until the glint became glass doors, and pulled them open, feeling a whip of chill across my naked torso. When I stepped into the cold, I heard the clank of the door behind me, scraping the linoleum until it locked into place.
It was warm and wet. The sky looked like you’d never expect it to that late at night, with grey moon-strewn clouds. The pavement outside the school was craggy and chill on my bare feet. The pavement curbed at a curling street. On the other end of the street, the oaks that encircled the school stood like thousands of soldiers, leaves like cottony clouds. I noticed fireflies zipping around beneath it, lighting bark and vine in fleeting light. I saw a firefly light skin, and another one light hair, and another one a smooth calf. The insects circled the figure in such a thick crowd I couldn’t see beneath them. Streaking light rang through the misty gray like a lighthouse. With feverish synchronicity, the band of fireflies snapped and formed a thick halo like the moon’s reflection in a river. The fairy stood facing me, still as the trees that stood by him, and with just as much grandeur. The wind blew his silky slip-dress against his chest, outlining soft ribs and a thin waist. His wings absorbed the firelight and glowed in reverence for the nature around him. Peeking from an elvish face, his crystalline eyes shone like stars. The same wind that blew against him, outlining nudity beneath a thin gown, rushed against my back, so powerful it felt like I was flying. Leaves on the pavement skidded towards the forest, a scraping which blended with the buzzing of the fireflies and the rushing of the wind between the leaves. I turned around to see the titanic school behind me and then watched it retreat into the darkness as I walked back towards the forest. The road’s granite was sharper and coarser than the sidewalk, but the wind made me feel like it wasn’t beneath me. The wind rushed between my collarbones and beneath my feet, making me a paper bag caught in the current.
“You can be free if you come with me.” A soft expectant echo rose from the forest. Each leaf, each glinting firefly, and each desperate weed sang the words with passion and expectance. I crunched the dewy grass beneath my feet, smelled the musk of sap, and hurled myself into the woods, falling into the biblical arms of the smiling fairy.
thank you for reading issue seven <3