Ephemeroptera: Rising for a Single Day

Abigail Dustin
Smith College, Northampton, USA

9 x 12, Acrylic, 2020.
Mayflies, of the order Ephemeroptera, hatch from their nymphal form to live as flying adults for but a day. Their whimsical appearance, ecological significance, and starkly transient lives make them popular among artists and naturalists alike. To me, they serve as a reminder of the inherent significance and beauty in rising to meet each day.

Rambling

Sijia Ma

Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA

I took a self-portrait in the swimming pool where I once drowned, the place where I once dieted, and the corner where I once dreamed. My ongoing series titled Rambling, documented my childhood experience of drowning, encompassed by nightmares and fear. I hope to unravel the contemporary mental health crises, diet culture, and social media isolations by re-situating myself in various settings. From droning, dieting, scanning, and alternatively dreaming, I regard those self-portraits as a process of searching through my identities. From frame to frame, I feel empowered as I sewed pieces of my personality to every Image I make. Through the process, I was able to confront my deepest fear and justifies its value.

From Northampton to Philly, With Love (And Yeast)

Emma O’Neill-Dietel
Smith College, Northampton, USA

i. state street

Most people don’t keep yeast packets in the ashtray of their Honda Odyssey, but on the day my dad came to bring me home there they were, wedged between his Swiss Army Knife and a pile of parking meter quarters. He had called me when he was a few minutes away to tell me that he had to stop at the store first to see if they had any yeast left.

“Are you making bread when we get home?” I asked. It seemed like the strangest thing to do at the moment, but within a few days it would seem that everyone I knew was baking bread. My dad explained that we were flat out of yeast and it was apparently nowhere to be found in the entire city of Philadelphia. So while he had come up north to take me home, his equally important mission was to secure some yeast. He grumbled at the amateur bread bakers-to-be who had pillaged BJs and Trader Joe’s of their yeast supply ahead of the impending apocalypse. But fortunately there was a bountiful yeast supply at State Street Fruit Store, thanks to the year-round population of professional bread-baking lesbians inhabiting Northampton.

When my dad picked me up, I stared at the yeast as we drove out of the parking lot and past State Street. The little packet had the same color scheme and bold font as a 5-Hour Energy bottle. I would have mistaken it for medicine or chemicals if I didn’t know better. The packet screamed “FLEISCHMANN’S RAPID RISE INSTANT YEAST – FAST ACTING.” It made me uneasy. I don’t know where I thought yeast came from before that day. I think I always pictured it in an old jelly jar on a grandmother’s pantry shelf. I turned one of the packets over in my hand, trying to feel the contents through the glossy exterior. My hands were shaking, so I put it down and closed my eyes.

ii. hungry ghost

On the edge of town we stopped at a gas station and my dad tried to coax me to eat something for the first time in days. He presented me with juice, cheese, chips, pretzels, until finally he pulled out a massive paper bag from Hungry Ghost, our favorite bakery in town. I could smell the fresh bread before he opened it, and all of a sudden I was hungry again.

He launched into his customary presentation of the bag’s contents. He took pride in listing off food items, whether he had bought them or made them, whenever our family was together.

“You’ll see in there I bought some muffins, they’re cranberry and pecan, and there’s a danish too. There’s a loaf of rye, and another one, I’m not sure what that is, it might be a—” I took the bag out of his hands and unfurled the top. I tore into the first loaf I found at the top of the bag. I heard the clunk of my dad slicing a block of grocery store cheddar with his Swiss Army Knife on the center console. As fast as I could eat the bread, he was supplying me with slices of cheese to eat with it. I tore off chunks of bread with an urgency that left me covered with crumbs for the rest of the drive.

As I ate, I remembered a book I had read as a child, in which a girl uses what little money she has to buy bread for a starving woman and child on the street. As a child I imagined the famished woman eating a loaf of Wonder Bread, bleached and spongey and flavorless. I didn’t understand why the people in the story treated the bread like a decadent cake. But sitting in my dad’s Honda in the gas station parking lot, I understood that good bread, especially shared with someone you love, was nothing short of life-affirming.   

When we got home, my dad stashed his yeast packets away. We had little need for home-baked bread. Like my dad and his yeast, I squirreled away the bread he had brought back from Hungry Ghost. I ate slices of bread with cheese or jam or butter or just plain and toasted. I worried it would go stale, yet each day I made my slices thinner and thinner so it would last. There wasn’t much use in trying to slow myself down though. I ate that fleeting tie to my life before like it was air.

iii. sarcone’s

In my family, no one really reached the bread-baking stage of quarantine, despite my dad’s abundance of yeast. Spirits were so low in our house that even bread dough wouldn’t have been able to rise. My dad made frequent trips to Sarcone’s, our local bakery, just to have something to do. He knew without asking to buy me the little fist-sized dinner rolls and the pepperoni bread that I had loved since I could chew. I sat out on our deck with him, me with my bread and a podcast, and him with his bread and an adventure novel. I don’t know if my dad understands the way my stomach turns when I’m anxious, but he knows my favorite bread, and most of the time that’s enough.

Doormat

Akanksha Bisht
Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi

This poem is based on my college experience when I joined the council. It’s a story of the emotional ride that reduced my identity to zilch and how I am fighting the demons within in this lockdown.

Long Long ago there was a doormat,

It was dainty and modest,

Just like the society expects it to be, 

Serving the master sans song of praises

Having self-effacing rendezvous with the guests

Saying “Welcome” to those who stepped on her soul,

Crushing her to the miniscule took its toll,

The filaments bounced back in their adolescence,

But that anguish was not evanescent,

The doormat was I,

It was a three-year long dalliance,

With self-hate, pity and petty grievance

In solitude with the voguish folks

Dwindling to a butt of jokes,

Yearning for validation,

Losing ephemeral pleasures in this trepidation,

Still healing the stinging reflections,

Scrambling to rise from the dungeons,

Staggering steps excite the one who despise,

Nonetheless, nothing can stop me to Rise!

Banana Bread

Lola Anaya
Smith College, Northampton, USA

mix the wet and dry ingredients separately
flour, baking soda, a pinch of salt
eggs, brown sugar, butter
bananas
let’s go bananas
mash the bananas
mash away uncertainty, find clarity
blend together the pieces of you
ingredients to make a reflection
rebel rebel goes bananas
boy or girl? no matter, just batter
fold it all together
in a big bowl
maybe add some cinnamon to taste
or walnuts for crunch
add a smile and do not pick your acne
do not
don’t
okay maybe just once
you say that every time
anyway back to your regularly scheduled baking
put it in the oven, tucked away in the heat
just wait
it will rise

Musings on Two Women’s Bodies

Mariana Middents
Cottey College, Missouri, USA


“Musings on Two Women’s Bodies” compares the bodies of a young love interest and a donated cadaver dissected in a lab. The poem highlights the similarities and differences in a dead body and a living one, and showcases the ways in which the physical form is beautiful both during and after life.

Yesterday I heard the unmistakable sound of hemostat tapping on bone – 

The spinous process of a cervical vertebra of a woman we have named Doris.

The professor’s smart rapping on the back of a dead woman’s vertebra

Telling us, yes, we had uncovered bone

Through motions of a scalpel that removed muscle in such a way that I was reminded

Of pulled pork sandwiches and the laughter of a younger time.

Yesterday you were beautiful – 

That moment you fluttered down to the bottom of the deep end and touched the textured floor,

Two graves deep.

And you were beautiful when your toes gripped the bottom and your knees bent and your thighs flexed

To propel you back to me.

You were beautiful when you broke the surface with one arm outstretched

And gasped in a lungful of air and panted as you pulled your goggles off your face.

Everything about you is beautiful,

Even the alien rings your goggles left behind,

And even your tangled mess of hair when you wrestle the swim cap off to let the pink dye breathe,

And even your crisscrossed lines of pale skin on tan feet because you wear sandals into December.

And you. 

You are beautiful, 

Even when you dive to the bottom and I watch you from under the chlorine surface,

But I can’t bring myself to join you there.

The human form was something I appreciated from afar –

Something I pondered in museums

And chased alone in my bed at night.

But the bodies of women were something I never had the freedom to explore

Until I spent three hours each Thursday in a tiny lab,

Crowded around a woman who wasn’t named Doris in life.

Skin of the shoulder is thick, but skin of the upper back is thin.

I haven’t felt it warm,

But the papery skin of ankles and feet slips from its attachments

To adipose and to vessels that criss-cross her foot

Like the straps of sandals she doesn’t wear anymore.

Her thighs have softened in old age, 

And I have seen the evidence of this,

Removed layers of fat from her and placed it in labeled bags

Like gifts to be kept safe in a padlocked freezer.

I have seen the nerves that wind from the cervical vertebrae into the brain,

And all I can think about is touching you there – 

On the back of your neck, 

Sending shivers that echo into your toes.

I have felt the skin wrinkle, tug, thicken,

And all I can imagine is discovering the skin on your body – 

Perhaps you would be laid out as she is,

While I touched you.

I have seen the inside of the second middle phalange after an electric bone saw’s slice,

And all I can picture is your hands – 

Reaching towards the surface of the water,

Reaching towards me as I mirror you,

But never touching.

Men

Sajada Parker
Agnes Scott College, Decatur, USA

men.

I want a man who sympathizes with the plight of women one who embraces the scars that are made to please him one who dedicates his time to learning

about the intricacies of a woman’s body

not solemnly for his pleasure

i want a man who touches inequity

in the cracks where the dust of victims lay

i want a man who curses the systematic racism that lingers around when i am in suburban stores

i want a man who loves regardless of sexual orientation regardless of the composition of my face in the morning one who is passionate about our world

and the ecosystem of the two of us