Letter from the Editor: Spring 2019

Dear Readers,

Welcome to our tenth issue of Voices & Visions centered around the theme of “Power.” The journal is excited to explore this topic through the pieces presented, which span from poem to prose, drawing to photography. This issue in particular has a range of pieces from both domestic and international women’s colleges and girl’s high schools, which we hope provide our audience with unique perspectives on this topic. The issue includes work from both students and their teachers, from Rwanda and Australia, as well as from women’s institutions throughout the United States.  We hope that these international perspectives on power will be interesting and illuminating to our audience.

We exist today in a world that is fraught with issues around power: Who has it? How can we give others access to it when it has been denied to them before? What does it feel like  to be under the power of others?These questions take on more resonance when they are answered by writers and artists from women’s colleges and high schools throughout the world. . Through these submissions, we hope to present a range of intersectional perspectives on power, ones that not only illuminate the negative aspects  of power, but also the ways in in which power exists outside of human structures and norms, a reminder that solutions can still be found in our art.

Camille Butera
Editor-in-Chief

Factory on Grove Street

By: Gabriella Tucciarone
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

A red, bumpy, peeling-paint kind of factory.
The windows at night peek on the empty streets.
The light from the furnace in the factory flows into the road
Reaching the end by the bridge, where the light eagerly tries to climb.
On cold nights, the light shivers in the wind and hops within itself for a little warmth.

One particularly cold night, the old and stern furnace was mad with craving, and it began to eat itself.
As I was en route for home, I saw this old and nervous building begin to taste itself.
The flames licked the inside walls.
The windows clouded with smoke; they no longer peeked for empty night-time walkers.
Slowly, the flames ate the ivy that clung like veins.
The leaves on the ivy exploded like capillaries,
Into small bombs of ember that left small stains of ash on the sidewalk.
The furnace belched a giant puff of smoke as the roof was catapulted into the sky.

I noticed that the entire building was winking as it collapsed onto itself.
The wooden frames were shaking as its knee started to give.
The building had started bowing, and dipped down to bid me farewell.
As I put my hat on and walked away, I looked back at the trembling turmoil of a once great building and dear friend.

 

A Lack Thereof

By: Sarah Grissom
Mt. St. Michael’s College, Ashgrove, Queensland, Australia

For the 23 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Wandering eyes skimmed over the fifth and youngest child; her average grades were nothing to cheer for and her friends were merely companions with whom she could chat. School had passed and no one’s gaze ever lingered long.

The leaves were falling crisp and dry upon the dusty summer front lawns, where a lack of water meant lengthy days, leering and lamentable. Making her way slowly along the towns centre in her bland south-of-the city suburb, filled with unruly characters, she fit right in. Her clothes just like the rest, almost threadbare from talented and tainted generations alike, passed down through the years which barely scratched the surface of satisfactory.

For the 76 mediocre years in her life she had flown under the radar. Amounting to nothing more than predicted, amounting to nothing like what she had hoped. Resting weightlessly on her bed she passed, just as unnoticeably as she was born.

A Seat at the Table

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda  
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

This table…
Where is the table?
In a bar with men at 10 pm,
Sipping beers or wines or spirits.
Which she can’t.

My spirit sinks.
Tall, round, no arm rest or padding:
Her seat at the table.
Her rear doesn’t fit on the chair.
Her face oval like an egg.
Her skin spotless.
Shifty eyes, tight lipped.
Her lean figure is stooped so far,
She might be tying her laces.

My soul nosedives,

Scans around; their faces…
Vultures ready to feast
Ever hungry beast,
Each one of them.
She, the misplaced prey.
They are about to play
Introductions game: Name, Position, achievements.
Her, Lame Mrs So, Marital status, number of kids.

Our inspiration plunges into the sea bed.

Squeezing or shoving to get a place at the table?

The Praise of Power

By: Sophie Kamariza
Akilah Institute, Kigali, Rwanda

My mother is knowledge
Not only fetched from college
When around, no barrier can stop me
Even carrier won’t promote me
I don’t care for levels or positions
And I won’t be scared with oppositions.

For me, no need for sense of protocol
My presence brings all control
I influence the whole world
Because difference is all I need.

Though walking silently in the yards
Following my fans everywhere
My crown is not hard to wear
For all those pursuing me for years
My footprints last forever
Whoever accepts me can’t lose favor.

I am called Power
Not roaring, but blowing even to the poor
All traces of towns are mine
When I hide I am not gone
When back I am multiplied by nine

In front of difficulties I find possibility
Never caught in doubts during confusion
All because belief is my infusion
Catch me, own me and get dominion
Save me, protect me as a good companion
Make me a priority: authority will come toward you

for glory

By: Kerry LeCure
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

i. the lust

consider: a girl with a smile like starshine, who straightens her hair with shinbones, has teeth like ivory. she drags her fingers across her clavicles leaving pale red streaks, her voice is whisper-soft, wonderful, even—or is it full of wonder? i don’t know, anymore—but it leaves tiny earthquakes in its wake. she is quicksilver in the marrow of my bones, but it’s difficult to breathe when she’s murmuring words into my thighs. i think that she paints her lips with blood, that her organs are made of pure surgical-grade steel, but it becomes so hard to tell when she’s got one hand in my hair and the other under his shirt. she ate my heart on a wednesday. i never got it back.

ii. the sloth

he traced words along your spine when he thought i wasn’t looking, languidly, wanted to eat you whole when your clothes were paint-splattered. i never told him that i’d noticed, that i didn’t care, because the way he reached for you was nauseating. instead i breathed lazy smirks and half-hearted sighs, hummed along with the bark in your voice, leaned into the callouses on his fingertips. i loved him, too, but it was the way that his heartstrings tangled around themselves for you that kept me quiet.

iii. the greed

we let ourselves be consumed, or maybe—we consumed you, endosymbiosis. you love the blood and grit of the bandages between your fingers, because it reminds you of a time when you were so powerless, he loves the way sweat slides down his chin, i love the sound of change hitting cement, and we’re the mob, now, knocking down doors. or rather—you’re the mob and you’re knocking down your own doors, forget about who you were, who you are, who you will become. you try so hard that i forget, too, even when his hands are on your hips, even when i’m reminding you to breathe, breathe, breathe.

iv. the gluttony

you wrapped your fingers around his shoulder blades. i’ve heard they were knobby and cold and i would know them in death. you were all teeth and shit-eating grins, bite anyone who got too close (kiss anyone who got too close). his tongue was wicked, sharp, paper cuts against bruised knuckles, globs of blood rolling down fits and chins and you savored every moment of that, soaked it up, because it reminded you of yourself, like how you licked your hands clean when they got too dirty when you ate his heart for breakfast. ate my heart for breakfast, but that’s the part they forget. that’s the part everyone forgets. it’s easy to forget because you’re always wanting more: breathe in, breathe out, remember that to take a step forward, you’re supposed to take five back. or something like that. it’s been so long.

v. the envy

i missed you like a limb, he missed you like he’d miss his own heart. it’s quiet these days with only the rain to keep us company, sometimes when the moon is halfway across the sky i catch him with your paintbrushes, his eyes running mad. sometimes i wish i was as selfish as you, a pack-up-runaway girl made of stardust, sometimes i wish he’d cling to my hand the way he clung to yours.

vi. the wrath

he wakes up sometimes and won’t talk for hours, only paces and tries to work through the white-knuckled frustration, and when i say he needs to get over it, he’ll tell me that we’re the same, he and i. we’re the same, we share the tension in our fists, our jaws, our shoulders. we’re bruising touches, clashing teeth, blinding smiles, keep it all bottled up until it’s too late. i haven’t seen him like this since he first saw his mother’s reaction to his girlfriends, plural, because we’re all a little selfish, we all wanted until we couldn’t take anymore, except now you’re gone and he pulsates red-hot rage and i’m only made of quiet fury. i don’t miss you anymore, but i’ve heard he does. you forgot to call.

 

vii. the pride

i do not forgive you for filling up all the spaces of my heart, but sometimes i forget that you didn’t asked me to—forgive you, that is. and when i kiss you, you taste of the stars and the sun and the moon, but you murmur into my skin that i am bruised knees and crinkled paper shoved into pockets. you remind me that it takes two to tango. that my toes are just as bloody as yours. my bones creak in the evenings, sharp pops and blurry cracks. they feel so old these days, but i let you pretend they sing songs for you.

Open House

By: Jas Ganev
Castilleja School, Palo Alto CA, USA

Sunday.
The slamming of car doors,
The trudging of feet through mud,
The screeching of rainboots against a “Welcome” mat.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
The shaking of realtors’ hands followed by
Fake smiles, false stories, and made-up names.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.
The whispers behind half-open doors,
The click of the camera,
The delighted laugh echoing through the halls.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions. Creating her temporary fantasy.
A beacon of light shining through billowing white curtains
Onto the glistening marble floors,The flights of spiraling staircases,
The hundreds of hand-carved doors.
Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time. Exploring mansions.

The widened eyes that become slits, shifting from awe to anger and greed,
Knowing that this house will be someone else’s,
Yet we will still drive by again and again.

Sunday. Mother-daughter bonding time.
Are we bonding, or am I bound to you?

Sunday.
I want to go home, Mommy. I want to go home.

Breaking Through

By: Hannah White
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

Breaking Through_HannahWhite.jpg

Artist Statement: My photographs are autobiographical in nature, influenced by personal memories, emotions, and current experiences.  They revolve around issues of identity, change, and being out of time. Breaking Through is a self-portrait that signals the possibility of removing self-barriers and scars of the past and moving forward.  

Remembering and Forgetting

By: Elizabeth Wayua Ndinda
English Instructor at Akilah Institute, Kigali Rwanda

For a long time, I could only think of what I had been told to think. And this is what I had been told: To remember my past as that is how I could know how to plan for my future. Growing up next to a dumpsite ensured that I had the sites putrid stench almost woven in to my DNA.

First there was the fetid smell of rotten banana peels; the ones that could break your kneecaps if you slipped. Then there was the rancid smell of rotten avocado which had been crushed my scavengers in this rainy season to ensure the perfect mix of green black and the brown of mud. Next there was the smell of decaying pads…which sometimes had big clots hidden within them, some thick yellow pus or even little feces. It appeared as if human being buried not only their wastes in the dump but also their souls.

There were also babies’ diapers. They came with all sorts of cargo. From liters of pungent Urine, to runny green diarrhea, to the firm yellowish type that you could easily confuse with pawpaw. Some rodents usually did…eating gleefully.

One day, a street child visited the landfill on a different mission, Instead of scavenging for food, he had a sack; ready to harvest. I remember wondering why the air stung my nostrils. My nose ached. Why could he not just put me down? Through a hole in the sack, I looked longingly back at my home, my filthy stinking comfortable home.

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

As the site of my home grew dim, I ached. From the shoving and pushing of everything the urchin had picked, I was almost squashed. The weight of the other stuff was almost overpowering. …I must have slept for a long time or lost consciousness because the next time I came to…there was an excruciating pain in my chest. This was completely alien to me. For a fleeting moment, I wondered why all those men of the cloth had lied to us about heaven, the afterlife, paradise. Did I really go to hell? Where was the fire? Could there be pain in heaven.

My eyes slowly gained focus on the familiar objects that had been uprooted from the garbage dump. Instead of enjoying the air, I ached for what I had always had. How I miss my stinking hole. Tears well in my eyes, nostalgia is almost killing me; then I remember:

 

The neck gets sore from looking in one direction.

 

My very existence depends on whether I remember or I forget. What should I do seeing that I do not even know how to choose?

A Bird in Hand

By: Emma O’Neill-Dietel
Smith College, Northampton MA, USA

I tugged at the braids coiled around the back of my head. They were thick and itchy and the bobby pins made my head ache. The church was sweltering hot and my black dress draped heavily across my knees. I had asked Maeve if I could wear shorts, and she said no, because it would be disrespectful. Maeve also braided my hair, since Mom was too busy getting ready. She was probably also too busy being sad, since it was her sister who died.

My aunt Eileen always wore her hair down. Maeve liked to braid it when she was my age, but Aunt Eileen always let me undo the braids when Maeve was finished. “Freedom!” she used to say when I finished. It made us both laugh. Aunt Eileen had long, smooth hair that was brown with little stripes of grey at the top. My own hair was frizzy and the color of the dirty linoleum tiles in my elementary school hallways.

Maeve saw me fidgeting with my hair and swatted my hand away. I glared at her. She took my hand in hers and squeezed, a little too hard to be friendly.

“Can I please undo it?” I whispered. Maeve pinched the skin on the back of my hand. I almost cried out, but I stopped myself just in time. Music swelled—well, it was too dreary to swell. It really just got louder and sadder, if that was possible. The men sitting in the row in front of me stood up and gathered around the casket. Maeve loosened her grip on my hand. I inched my other hand towards the back of my head as the men lifted the casket and began to carry it down the aisle. People around me shifted in their pews to watch them leave so I did too. I saw Uncle Frank, cousin Theo, and a few other men I only slightly recognized lifting on either side of the enormous wooden box. It didn’t really seem like Aunt Eileen was in there. If she was, she would pop out like a jack-in-the-box and make us all laugh at how dramatic we were being.

While Maeve’s head was turned towards the men, I used my hand that wasn’t pinned under hers to yank the bobby pins from my braid. They came out with little clumps of hair still attached. The men carrying the casket that was somehow holding Aunt Eileen reached the doors at the back of the church and my hair finally fell out of its coil. It was still braided, but I could almost feel the strands of hair unbraiding themselves. They were reaching out like plants growing towards light. I extracted my other hand from underneath Maeve’s and began to use both hands to unweave my hair. Maeve suddenly snapped back towards me.

“Fallon!” she hissed. I heard a soft thud as an attendant closed the doors behind the men and the casket. The pastor began speaking again but I couldn’t pay attention. Maeve was furiously pulling my hair back into place. I could feel the stare of a church lady behind me hot on my neck.

Maeve finished fixing my hair just as the pastor instructed us to make our way out to the cemetery behind the church. Maeve shoved one last pin into my hair where it jabbed at my scalp like a sharp-beaked bird. She grabbed my hand and I tried to wriggle away to no avail. I was much too old to hold someone’s hand, even if that someone was my sister and even though we were at a funeral where it seemed like everyone was holding hands and hugging. We filed out of the pews and joined our parents, who had been sitting in the front row. My mom was holding a tissue up to her eyes and my dad was holding her hand in both of his like a small and wounded bird. He was holding it tightly but in a way that meant she was protected, not captive. When he saw us he let go of her hand with one of his and put his arm around both of our shoulders.

“Come on, girls,” he said. “Let’s see Auntie Eileen off.” We walked outside in an awkward family clump, too close together to step normally. Maeve finally let go of my hand when we got to the hole for the casket. I saw her wind her fingers together and pick at her cuticles. If Mom had been watching she would have said something, but she was too busy staring blankly at the hole in the dirt.

“Remember when we used to play here?” I asked Maeve.

Maeve shushed me. “This is still a funeral, Fallon.”

“I know,” I said, “I’m not stupid. I’m just saying, remember how we used to play hide-and-seek behind the gravestones? That was really fun. Maybe someday kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s gravestone.”

“Don’t be morbid, Fallon,” said Maeve.

“What does ‘morbid’ mean?” I asked. My dad looked down at me as if he had just begun listening to our conversation.

“‘Morbid’ means something that is related to death,” he said. “What do you think is morbid, Maeve?”

“Fallon was saying that she hopes kids will play around Aunt Eileen’s grave someday.” Maeve looked at me and then back at my dad like I was a baby and she and my dad were both grown-ups.

“I think that’s a wonderful thing to hope, Fallon,” he said. “I think Aunt Eileen would like that very much.” My mom nodded, looking up from the hole in the dirt.

“Aunt Eileen and I played in this cemetery when we were your age,” she said.

“I didn’t know that,” I said. I tried to imagine my mom and Aunt Eileen when they were my age. They were only two years apart. From pictures I knew that my mom looked a lot like me and Aunt Eileen looked a lot like Maeve. If I concentrated really hard, I could pretend that I saw Aunt Eileen as a little girl poking her head over a gravestone and smiling at me. Her smile went up to her eyes the way that Maeve’s did when we were younger. The more I thought about it, the more the imaginary girl smiling at me looked like Maeve, not Aunt Eileen, and then when I looked at the casket my first thought was that Maeve was inside it. For the first time since Aunt Eileen had died, I started to cry.

My dad noticed and he knelt down and lifted me up into a hug. I wrapped my legs around his waist like I had when I was much smaller. My mom reached past me to hold Maeve’s hand. When I had finally stopped crying and my dad set me back on the ground, I saw Maeve squirming her fingers out of my mom’s grasp.

Burnt

By: Srinidhi Panchapakesan
Agnes Scott College, Decatur GA, USA

I don’t get sunburnt, no matter how long I’m outside.
Maybe some people just can’t burn,
but I think my ancestors must have
befriended the sun thousands of years ago
and she gave us the gift of brown skin
so that she could shine as bright as she wanted
and we would only get darker,
while the people who invaded our land
would burn.

Fall 2018: Letter from the Editors

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the ninth edition of Voices & Visions Literary Journal, themed “Perspectives.” This theme is specifically important to our journal this season, as we have brought in three new staff members, all Smithies: Kayla Sylvia, Martha Terry, and Lily Sendroff. Expanding our staff has added new ideas and points of view to the journal.  This year,   Voices & Visions has relocated to Smith College’s Lewis Global Studies Center, and we hope that new contacts there will expand our international reach. This past season, we were read by readers in over 110 different countries.

This issue has some exciting  art, media, poetry, and prose from both girls’ high schools and women’s colleges. In the selection process, it was especially interesting to see the many directions in which our featured artists and writers took the theme of Perspectives. Perspectives can be imagined through points of view, through experiences, identities, through words and images. Additionally, the perspective you bring as an audience is crucial to how you interpret a piece, and openness to new perspectives leads to unique new insights.

We hope that our journal can act as a forum for these different perspectives, and that the works we present will allow you, our readers, to reflect on and expand your own perspectives.

Faith De Castro, Issue #9 Editor-in-Chief

Kraken

By: Mya Alexice

Barnard College, NY, USA

you come

from the root krake,

meaning an unnaturally

twisted creature.

I could never pinpoint where

you began and where you ended,

always a writhing thing—

spiral staircase, sea

serpent drawn on an old map

half body arched up, the other

hidden in green water;

curling, coiling around me.

 

when i try to latch onto you,

to grab you by your oily neck—

it’s like trying to catch smoke.

 

I see you— there— slithering out

of reach. Nothing but a wet

dream, a tentacled lover easing

back into the abyss.

were you only myth?

 

did i truly see you that night?

do i light a candle at my bedside

table, hoping you’ll catch its

glare from the window?

do i set a bowl of water on

the sill, a small sea for a

weary, travelling snake?

do i offer a companion,

a believer, above all a

witness to your lore?

Morning Steam | MRO

By: Madeline Olson

Mount Holyoke College, MA, USA

I have not yet learned the meaning of Māori yet,

 and i don’t think unknowing foolish anymore

        only a wise risk of lingering instead

 

            but i do say this     sometimes i harbor things in life

                                      such as the rain i let drain          in my mouth

                                      before clearing  grey                       swallow

                                      such as

                                        the morning                                 the

                                             kawakawa                          tea steam

                                         climbing the cup to dance up

                                                 into the air twisting

                                                          its fog tail

                                                             steamy

                                              languid

                                                         unbothered

i  mistake     this morning mug steam                         

for clouds over     Lake Wakatipu    could mistake it for         

the chalky air     over its  neighbors :  The Remarkables           

Cecil Peak  / Walter Peak / Ben Lomond / Queenstown Hill        

              so when i recognized       this fog in my tea steam i learned 

                          i am    not the only harborer               

          because when morning lull starts breaking

          it is te iti kahurangi, rising, unfettered

    the landscape   was bustling   we spoke    it informed me

    morning too   could be treasured  simply because it safeguards,

                                                                                               simply because it exists.

And so  the other day  i bought a $39 ticket to meet

these chalky    clouds    as i ascended the houses

started falling,

                         red

               yellow

                            brown like feathers

                            floating dissolving

                                                             compressed from sight

                                                             while gondolas scaled the mountain

                                                                shearing the treetops

                                                             one

                                                             two

                                                             three

green                                                                

brown                                                        

white                                                 

                                                                     red 

                                        yellow

                                                                          brown like feathers

there are no more houses left once i ascended the 790m peak

Look! Says my neighbor over the rail

Look! means to see how the clouds shepard

the wedged yellow and red houses, tucking

it only cries, you fool!

Look! means to see that maybe these clouds hang on their own time and

       these mountains, these mountains are backbones

seated around the lake, the water, one silent muscle

                      the soleus, the rectus, the tendons of nature’s body,

                                    tendons of time.

And even though the clouds are thirsting,

and it is so temperate in this creation,

it’s okay to worry, the clouds whisper

to confess,

                 i don’t know if this morning

                 steam comes from the clouds or

                 from my breath

 

but i do believe

in dwellings existing together.

Maybe believe in harmony too

and the wind,  is a steel pipe that whistles,

tunneling the ears              howling them clean

releasing echos that spool  upon

teardrop water                            

                  the coniferous trees, an army,

                  marching  in tempo alongside me   

                  to witness the clouds, saying 

                  this is our sacred whenua

                                       and that’s why the air feels

                                     so fresh up here.

You see, i am not the only harborer  the tea steam,

is not simply air sublimating      and this chalky hillside,

 

 this chalky hillside is the sanctuary

for the stranger beside me

The Road

By: Emma O’Neill-Dietel

Smith College, MA, USA

I.

            The road was too wide. Natalie’s favorite Willie Nelson song was playing at top volume, yet Jessie could still hear Erin crunching on potato chips a few inches away from her ear.

            “You know the next exit, Jess?” Erin shouted through a mouthful of Frito Lays, her feet wedged against the glove compartment.

             Jessie nodded, feeling too sick to respond. She knew she should probably pull over and let Erin take the wheel, but despite her white knuckles and churning stomach, she preferred to be in charge.

            Natalie and Erin had nominated Jessie as the primary driver on the journey from Pittsburgh to the Grand Canyon, and she had been more than happy to oblige. It was her car after all, a brand-new green pickup truck that set her apart from all the other students at their college. She assured her friends that she genuinely loved driving. It was the open road she couldn’t stand.

           When people talk about the Great American West, they always dwell on the open road. People describe it as something grand and gorgeous and all-American. No one ever mentions that along the panhandle of Oklahoma, the plains of Texas, and the desert of New Mexico, there are stretches of road that seem as barren and foreign as the moon. These gaping spaces in the landscape made Jessie feel entirely alone, even with her two best friends in the car.

            Willie Nelson crooned on, lamenting about lost love, reminiscing about times gone by, and charting new adventures on—what else? —the open road.

             “On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again,” Natalie sang along, trailing her hand out the window. The open road made Jessie want to close herself into a box and never leave.

              When she looked out at the expanse in front of her, she had a sensation she knew all too well. It was the same feeling she’d had when she visited the library as a little girl, and realized that she would never be able to read every book on its shelves because new books were constantly arriving. It was the same feeling she had when she thought about how many nameless bodies laid buried and forgotten in ancient graveyards, and how deeply unknowable they all were now. It was the same feeling she’d had when she imagined the beauty of every possible alternate universe in which she did anything other than follow her high school boyfriend to college.

            It was crushed diamonds slipping through her fingers. It was a world too big to hold, a sun too bright to see. She felt as if she needed to peel back her eyelids to take in everything that was in front of her. She needed to split open her body just to take up enough space to exist.

           She convulsed involuntarily. Her arms jerked the steering wheel to the side. Natalie and Erin screamed, but Jessie remained stony-faced.

           “What the hell?” shouted Erin. Her shoulder slammed into the window as the car veered to the side of the road and lurched to a halt.

           “Is everybody okay?” asked Erin as she took stock of the car. Her voice was far louder than it needed to be in the suddenly still car. It rang out desperately over the soft strumming of Willie Nelson that still fell through the speakers.

           “Fine,” said Natalie shakily.

           “Jessie?” asked Erin. Jessie slowly unlocked the driver’s side door, unhooked her seatbelt, and stumbled out of the car. As soon as she was free, she stomped on the ground, desperate to feel her feet make contact with something, anything. The ground was unyielding, and her feet left no mark, so she turned to the next largest thing she could find: her truck. She raised her foot and felt a solid crunch where her steel-toed boot met the driver’s side door. She yelped and fell back, clutching her foot.

           “Jessie!” Erin shouted. She scrambled to untangle herself from the seatbelt and pushed through the passenger side door. Natalie sat in the backseat, her chest heaving. When Erin joined Jessie outside, she found her retching on the side of the road, hobbling on her injured foot. Willie Nelson serenaded her through the open car door.

           “What the hell was that?” asked Erin. “Are you okay? You looked totally spooky right before you crashed us. Like you were about to pass out or something.”

“It’s just…” gasped Jessie, still bent over, “I couldn’t… I don’t know.” Erin put a hand on her back tentatively.

             “You’re alright, Jess. Nobody’s hurt. The car looks fine… except for that.” She eyed the dent that Jessie had made. “You could probably get that fixed, right? It’s all good. Why don’t you get in the back with Nat? I’ll drive.”

           “Okay,” breathed Jessie. She was surprised to hear her own voice fill the space around her like a shield. It was the only sound to be heard for miles. Sometime in the moments after they had run off the road, Natalie had turned off the Willie Nelson album.

II.

        The road is too wide. It stretches into infinity, wider and wider, going against everything I know about perception.

When my daughter was first born, she cried and cried when we drove. My mother had told me that the gentle motion of wheels against road would soothe her, but it was just the opposite. The first time I took her in the car, we were driving to my mother’s house down the highway that cut through the cornfields between our Pennsylvania towns. I looked into the backseat and saw my baby’s eyes fixed on the road in front of us. Her face trembled with a fear that I recognized immediately: fear of a dead end, fear of paralysis, fear of finite space. Her eyes were tracing the long, flat road and saw it shrink to extinction on the horizon. In her mind that dot was our destination, and we were destined to crash.

           But we didn’t crash, of course. Perception worked in our favor, and what once seemed thin as a thread opened wider as we reached it, wide enough to let even a dented, secondhand pickup truck pass through comfortably. My baby learned what all babies must learn: what looks like an end is only a continuation. A heart isn’t broken when it breaks. Her mother isn’t gone forever when she leaves the room.

           Now the road is too wide, and I’m heading towards its unending sprawl with no baby in the backseat and no heart left to break. I left her in her crib this morning. I tiptoed in to kiss her on the forehead and she shifted in her sleep. Had she woken and looked into my eyes she would have paralyzed me, trapped me there in her room, held me to the floor beside her crib, and I would never have gotten in this car or out on this road. But she stayed asleep, so I kissed her and slunk from the room.

           I should have done this before she could speak, before she could cry out “Mama,” before she had grown to think that I would always come back when she called. My own mother will be there by now, ready to pick my baby up to bring her to the nursery school where she works. She will let herself into the house expecting to see me sitting at the breakfast table with my baby dressed and eating beside me. Instead she will find my baby crying in her crib, still in her pajamas, alone and unfed. I focus on the road and try to let the picture in my mind fly out of the open passenger window.

           The road is so wide it eats up the periphery of my vision and consumes my mind as well. All I see is road.

           The road is my future, and it is swallowing me whole.

III.

           The road was too wide.

           “Are we there yet?” my brother Neil asked.

           “No.”

           I felt my breath being sucked out of my lungs, through the car window and into the abyss.

            “How about now?”

            “No.

            Neil stuck his hand out of the window and waved it, fanning the open air into the car.

           “Stop that,” I said. “The air conditioning is on.” I slammed hard on the button to roll up the window. It shuddered but remained open. It would be a miracle if our busted pickup, dubbed the Green Giant by Neil, made it to Colorado in one piece.

            “Mari, don’t bother him,” my mom said.

            “Yeah,” said Neil, “it’s for my closet-phobia.” My mom nodded.

             Ever since my seven-year-old brother had had a panic attack inside the elevator to my aunt’s apartment, he had been seeing a therapist for anxiety and “closet-phobia,” as he put it.

             Before Neil’s diagnosis, I had thought that things like claustrophobia and anxiety only happened to emo teenagers and aging psychotic poets. After he was diagnosed, I began to look for signs of mental illness in every person I knew:

              My eighth-grade teacher. My elderly neighbor. My older cousin.

              Myself.

              I was convinced that the very existence of anxiety was giving me anxiety. Neil, however, seemed less bothered by his anxiety than any anxious person had a right to be. In the seat next to me he sang a song he had made up after his first visit to a therapist. She had given him a worksheet to begin writing down the “tools” she gave him to deal with his anxiety.

              “Closet-phobia, closet-phobia, use your toolbox so you don’t explodia,” he chimed to himself.

               “Close the window or I’ll make you explodia,” I muttered.

               “Why do you care so much?” he whined.

               “It’s bothering me,” I said. “It’s not like driving in the city. Bugs could come flying in here.”

                “I like bugs,” said Neil. The car picked up speed to pass an enormous truck.

                “My papers could blow away in the wind!” I cried, clutching my sketchbook to my chest. “Everything could blow away.”

                 “Everything? Like what?” asked Neil. “How?”

                 “There’s too much space out there,” I said. It was true. Back home in New York City, cars moved slower than Neil could walk, and everything was held securely in place between the skyscrapers. The farther we drove away from New York and towards our new home in Colorado, the looser the world became. Cows roamed unfenced. Pages ripped themselves from my sketchbook. The road sprawled for what felt like years with nothing to tame it.

                  I could feel Neil watching me watch the scenery go by out the car window.

                  “I feel like you have the opposite of closet-phobia,” said Neil. “The Earth is too little for me but too big for you. Is that because you’re growing up?”

                  “That doesn’t make sense,” I said. “If I’m growing up, everything should seem littler. Like how you used to not be able to reach the sink in the bathroom, but now you can. You got bigger and the world got smaller.”

                  “No,” said Neil. “When you grow up you have to think about bigger things. Like taxes and the news.” I heard my mom chuckle from the front seat. “The world does get bigger,” Neil said. “Maybe you’re just not ready.”

                 “Then what does that make you?” I asked.

                 “I guess I’m just ready too early. I gotta wait for the world to get bigger before I grow more.”

                 “The world will be plenty bigger in Colorado,” my mom said from the front seat. “Plenty of space for both of you to be as big or as little as you want.”

                  Off in the distance I noticed the peaks of mountains that seemed to rise out of the ground like alien skyscrapers. Maybe the roads in Colorado would be held in after all; not quite as tightly as the skyscrapers would hold it, but just loose enough for Neil to feel comfortable, too.

Bubblegum

By: Bethany Velarde

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

Letting you read my poetry is

 

8th grade hallway

 

Giving away the last piece

Unwrapped

 

Squished and fingerprinted

 

Letting it hit your tongue and dissolve

Chew and churn

 

Watching you

 

Smack your lips to my hurts

Pop my words

 

Bite marks in a thin sheet

Bubblegum

In Season

By: Emma Sachs

Agnes Scott College, GA, USA

             It began, I think, with the fruit trees. The ones planted by my father, holes dug by hand, in a last attempt to woo my mother into marrying him. At least, that’s the way he always told the story. She had flirted the edges of his world for years. A flower child turned arborist, whose family came from the same Steel Belt that had treated my father so kindly, his money held no interest to her. But my father planted her a dowry that she could not refuse. It was grown just off the back of the house in long and tilting rows. At the front there are plum trees, five of them, the European kind that grow into dark, palm-sized ovals – puncture the skin with your thumb, though, and you’ll find the flesh is yellow and sweet, sticking to your lips like sap. Next to them, finishing the first row, are the July Peaches: two trees that still have a slight lean to them, bending away from each other. My mother called them the “bickering brothers” competing to see who could ripen first. On some especially competitive years, the July Peaches were really June peaches, weighing heavy branches with golden circles just as the cicadas began shedding their skins.

             The second row, my mother’s favorite, is entirely made up of figs. They are Brown Turkey Figs, the kind that give not one, but two crops a season. The trees produced so many of the dark, seeded, fruits we could not keep them all. After hauling several baskets to the local grocery eager to take her donations, my mother usually resorted to drying them. Filling the oven with trays of sliced figs, sprinkled with salt and basil. She dropped the shiny, hardened slivers into glass jars, lining the back wall of the pantry to be eaten all winter. Just as the fig trees were my mother’s favorite, I think she was their favorite as well.

            The year she left us, there were no figs. I still tended the trees, then, hoping that she would realize her mistake and be all the more grateful we had kept up her orchard upon returning. When the first and second fig harvest times past with not a single fruit,  I remember searching under the leaves and along the ground testing the temperature of the soil. As dramatic as it sounds, I believe they were mourning her departure. As if they knew the hands that pruned their branches belonged to someone else. As if, like me, they were just as angry she did not pull them up from the root to take with her.

              Behind the figs, my father had planted three pear trees, Sunrise Pears, the kind that bloom red along the bottom when ripe. My mother dubbed these her “blushing ladies,” saying they were flattered by the sun’s affection. They are the sweet kind, sweeter than the hard, woody pears you’ll find in a produce aisle. Perfect for jam, or compote, or to be eaten on the walk between the tree and the house leaving sticky fingerprints over the screen door.  Next to them were the persimmons. Wanting the thick, almost apricot-like flavor that my mother once mentioned, my father borrowed his brother’s truck and drove nine hours to Indiana to buy the two seedlings, just sprouting out of the plastic buckets. They grow taller than the pears now – though the fruits are small. The secret to persimmons that no one bothers to tell you is that you have to wait until they are overripe. So soft to the touch that your fingers bite easily into the orange flesh. That’s when they’re at their sweetest.

            Behind the third row stretching out one tree extra in each direction were the mulberry trees. Protector trees, they’re called. Not fit for eating, my mother told me, just good enough to keep the squirrels and birds satisfied: a peace offering. Although, I found the tart bite of a still green mulberry devilishly delicious. Especially as a child, it was almost like stealing, like taking something that belonged to the beasts and not to the house. A fruit that was not my mother’s. I would shake the low branches, dropping the berries down into my gathered shirt, keeping my pilfered harvest in a plastic tupperware box under the sink.

             There would be other plants later; like strawberries that grow beside the front porch, a bed of zinnias and dahlias and forget-me-nots along the driveway, a knot of blackberries out against the property line, wildflowers (dandelions and buttercups specifically), all across the front lawn that I never bother to weed. But at the beginning, it was just the trees. Back then they were wispy and leaning against the rake poles, tied together with shoelaces. It would be almost half a decade before the little limbs grew heavy with fruit, but it was enough for my mother. The promise of an orchard to tend and of life to grow at her fingertips. I don’t know if she even thought about whether or not she loved my father. I don’t know if she would have cared even if she did think of it. She loved the trees, the freedom from her family, the way the front hedges hid the white farmhouse (and all that grew behind it) from view. It was her own secret Eden – my father just came as part of the deal.

           I often think that she had me as a way of returning the favor of the trees, like payment, an evening of the scales. Or, on the days in which my anger (if you can really call it anger) is especially biting, I wonder if I was simply a way to entertain my father so she could live her life as separately as the four acres would allow.  My father wanted a family, and my mother wanted to be left alone. I was planted in winter, grown in the spring, at the same time as the rest of fruit, but pulled from my mother’s womb a whole week late, overripe, already having missed the last of the persimmon harvest. From the beginning, I interrupted her schedule. I’m not sure she ever forgave me for that.

           Her plan, if keeping my father occupied with an infant really had been her plan, worked better than expected. I was colicky and underweight and in need of constant attention. In those first months, my father rarely left the house. He rocked me so frequently that both his wrists swelled with carpal tunnel. He took a leave of absence from managing the finances of the mill,  disconnected the phone – back then it was as easy as pulling a wire from the wall–so that the ringing wouldn’t dare wake me. He locked us away in the top of the house, singing hymns and pacing through the halls all night so I would sleep, and slowly forgot about all that existed past our hedges. Some days, I am sure, he even forgot about my mother. You see, that’s the key to all of this. Even now, after all these years, I know that no party is blameless. But, it would be easier if I could pin it all on her. I could label her as flighty, as lacking maternal instinct, as possibly even sociopathic and be done with it all. I could pity my father and validate my anger, and get to work forgetting I ever had a mother. However, the strings of our lives are never so easily untangled. No, I see the fault knotted in all of us. In my mother’s inability to see beyond herself, in my father’s capacity to ignore everything that did not fit within his plan, and even my own unwavering need to be seen. We were all ruining each other, cutting off circulation. Can I truly blame her for leaving?

            Now, the memories of her are sporadic flashes. All washed in that bright color and fuzzy edge of childhood sight. The sharp ache of the sting from the bees that hung around the blossoms like waiting suitors, the knock of my father’s boots across the wooden floor, and the smell of my mother’s hands all earthy and wet with the slightest hint of sweet. The way my mother’s hands smelled is what I remember most. Some days, when the longing is heavy inside me, overripe and oozing, I will go to the garden store. They know me there and let me wander through the mulch and planting soil aisles. Some days I cry, but most days not.

             Still, I don’t know why it was the trees that got her, why she was so enwrapped by them. I have spent three decades trying to understand. She told me once that growing something made her feel a bit like God. There was a selfishness there, a desire to be the only one responsible for the production and upkeep of the trees. That should have been the first sign that my mother would eventually leave. The day she started feeling more like a gardener than a deity, she would have to move on. I just assumed that when she did, she would take us with her.

                It took my father too many years to realize my mother didn’t really want to be a mother. Her trees were children enough, requiring her watchful, present eye and ready hands. They were ministered and tended to while I was left to just be. Sometimes I wonder why she didn’t have another baby. A brother, perhaps, someone to occupy my time and my father’s time, pulling the eyes away from her once I was old enough to no longer be an ever present distraction. I think he would have liked to have a son, my father. Maybe it was the thought of being pulled away from the garden that stopped her, of having to hold another suckling infant to her breast as she walked the rows, tugging out dandelions with her spare hand. Maybe it was the those weeks and months when a mother was necessary, when my father’s well-meaning but often unknowing demeanor wouldn’t be enough for a little human new to this earth. Whatever the reason, it was just me. Sprawled on the entry hall floor coloring sheets of computer paper as my father smoked his pipe on the front steps, watching the mail truck drive slow past the house. Just me and him, walking carefully behind my mother as she dropped a worm infested plum or a dead branch into one of our waiting buckets. Clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth as if dissapointed by the tree’s inability to ward off all predators.

             During the summer months, the entire back half of the house was off limits, the kitchen overtaken by canning and drying, the dining room a holding place for the baskets of harvest yet to be sorted for quality, and the back porch home to all the different things she needed for pruning, and plucking, and weeding, and watering. Sometimes, when she started baking, the front room became off limits as well. The top of the piano covered in tin foil bread trays and pie tins, things we would never eat and, just as they began to go stale, would eventually be delivered to neighbors and churches. My father and I wandered the top floor of the house, unsure of where to settle. We both learned to exist in the spaces she didn’t take up, silent in our efforts to disrupt her as little as possible. Perhaps, even then, we knew that was the key to keeping her happy. On the days my mother would load up the back of the minivan with crates of whatever she deemed ready for the farmer’s market, my father would occasionally sneak out into the yard. I never followed him for his quiet determination was alarming. But I would watch, face pressed to dormer window in the upstairs bathroom. He would walk in and out between the trees, sometimes pausing to run his hand along the rough-edged bark. Back then I thought he was admiring them, getting a closer look at the jewels my mother so closely guarded. Now though, I see the bitterness, the way it was rotting him from the inside. He hated the trees, the things that had brought my mother to him in the first place. How terrible it must have been, to know the only thing tethering his wife to her family, her home were a few rows of fruit trees. And how frightening to love her still. Because love her he did, I am sure of that. Even though some days I cannot even bring myself to love her, my father was as faithful as a dog, desperate to be fed from the hand that hit him. Skin and bones, showing up at her feet every evening, even when he knew there were no scraps to be had. I think he always expected her to come around. That she would walk through the door, handprints of dirt along her linen pants, look up at him, and realize that after nearly twenty years she was in love with him. Up until the end, when his mind slipped in and out between that hazy place of understanding, he loved her. Once, when I stopped by the home to visit, he thought I was her. He began crying so hard, I had to call one of the nurses in. It wasn’t until I made it back to my car, my throat wrapped in some invisible vice, that I realized I was crying too. I don’t think from sadness, but from the sheer weight of his own desire, and the way the words he shouted stuck to my skin. You’re home. You came home. I knew you would.

             When she left, he broke wide. I saw the moment it happened, the way he fractured along all these fault lines.

              On the day she left, her car and all the clothes from the guest room she had overtaken were gone, everything else left exactly as it had looked that morning. Well, there was a note written on the back of a shopping list and tacked to the fridge with a “Great Job!” sticker. I imagine her searching through the kitchen drawers to find tape, in a hurry to leave before my father and I returned home. She didn’t even know we kept the tape in the hall closet, she had never needed it before. I don’t know what that note said, he never let me read it. I’ve looked for it a few times since then, but never found it, not even when I was boxing up his bedroom. But there was a note, and her house key on the hall table, and that was it. He pulled the note free, hard enough to rip the sticker, leaving the left and top points of the star still clinging to the fridge. I followed him as he walked towards the backdoor, looking for her through the trees. She was not in the orchard, a stack of the mesh bags she used for harvesting lay piled at the base of one of the pear trees, fruit still hanging from the branches, ready to be picked. He left me there, feet slapping quick through the yard around the the driveway as if she might pull back in, a paper bag of groceries tucked under one arm, smiling. I waited, halfway between the trees and my father, suspended. The back door hung ajar. There was a slight breeze, not enough to shut it, just enough to push it ever so slowly, squeaking on its hinges. It sounded almost as if it was crying.

               I turned ten in August, and the beehive had been knocked loose off the oak tree growing along the driveway in a particularly bad storm that ripped through the windgap our house was built in. With the hive destroyed, the bees swarmed. Covering an entire column of the back porch, the sound of them a constant low hum. They were there for three days, waiting, like me for my mother to return. But she did not, and on the fourth morning I woke to find them gone, all but one. The queen had gotten trapped in the kitchen window between the screen and the glass. I watched her struggle for a moment, the distant sound of my father’s footsteps hollow overhead, as she knocked herself again and again trying to escape. Eventually I opened the window, letting her out into the kitchen. She flew quick and anxious in a few circles around the room. “They’re gone”, I told her. She didn’t seem to understand. “They left you”, I repeated. Eventually she calmed, and I considered opening the backdoor to let her out. But the sound of the squeak would have brought my father downstairs. And I could barely stand to be around the new, half-empty version of him. The way his eyes were always searching, looking for clues she did not leave. So I let the bee stay, watching as she settled onto the white of the counter.

            She moved along the slick surface until stopping at a small spot of something yellow. A drop of whatever preserve my mother had been working on the morning she finally decided the trees were not enough for her, that her life of growing and tending had become tedious. I couldn’t tell what it was from the color, so I carefully reached out my pinkie and swept up half the drop, leaving the rest for the bee. Touching it to my tongue, I immediately recognized the bright tang, the sweet of persimmon mixed with the tiniest bit of peach, and a few sprigs of rosemary: my father’s favorite. I opened up the cabinet just over head and found four of them that were no longer warm to the touch. I pulled out one, feeling the beveled edge of the jar with my fingers as I turned it, watching the thick liquid glint in the sun, like precious topaz or amber. The bee rubbed a foot through the drop on the counter; it was the last ounce of my mother. I heard a slam from upstairs. I imagined my father, still calling my mother on repeat with no answer, throwing the phone, the cord pulling it back like a tether after it hit the wall. From where I stood I could hear the heavy breaths of a sob. That sound had become familiar, yet something about it was still terrifying.

              And in that moment, hearing the echoing sound of the grief that now sat in our house become a tangible fog that could be grasped and molded in my palm,  the preserves were no longer beautiful. Instead, they were sickening and reminded me of pus, a symptom of a festering wound. I slammed the glass down hard against the counter, the shattering sound startling me. I watched, though, mesmerized, as the sweet liquid dripped down onto the floor, pooling on the counter, glistening amongst the shards of broken jar. It took me nearly a full minute to see the body. I eventually did, spotting the unnatural twist of a tiny leg. The bee had been there still when I threw the jar, and she lay, crushed, under one of the largest pieces of glass. A tiny body,  the fuzz on her thorax slicked back with the preserve. Whenever I think about the bee – and she still creeps into my mind now – I am thankful that before my anger killed her, she got to taste the fruit.

That Rule Was Begging To Be Broken

By: Olivia Handoko

Smith College, MA, USA

That rule was begging to be broken

Y’know the one about women?

Of conformity for cat calls and

Gift-wrapped shoulders and legs?

How about “no” to breastfeeding?

How about “whore” for “too revealing”?

I’m sick of these notions, they’re too unappealing.

I am a nonconformist of a woman

The one that daunts you in your wake.

Come at me with your “don’ts” for women–

I’ll show you my scars of everyday crusades.

I’ve battled tirades of piercing tongues;

Of sharp fingers engraved into skins.

I’m supposed to be hidden beneath them

Because I walk like I’m a woman

Because I walk like a human being.

But I stomp these woman feet of mine

To tell you “That ain’t gonna be me,”

Nor will it be any woman in this world

‘Cause that rule was begging to be broken

When women marched for gender equality.

I Forget

By: Kate Bruncati

Smith College, MA, USA

The words are right there

Hanging in the strands of my gray hair

This problem is something I can’t bear

I just can’t reach them; this illness is unfair

Who’s that? I remember that face

Where am I? I remember this place

My memory is losing the race

As past knowledge dies with no trace

Who am I? What’s my name?

Why can’t I win this twisted game?

This disease is all to blame

It leaves me frustrated, burning like a flame

My brain is empty and no answers are coming out

I stomp my feet and start to pout

This is some sick memory drought

Wait, what was I thinking about?

I shake my head and pick up a photo

Who’s that pretty lady in it, though?

There’s no resemblance to show

But those eyes have a familiar glow

I ask the nurse who’s standing by the door

After showing it to her, her face grows red, more and more

Of course, I don’t know that I’ve seen her before

Or that she’s my sister Lenore

I drop the picture and walk away

Leaving behind a memento in such a careless way

For in that picture stood my daughter Kay

Smiling on her gracious wedding day