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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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

Waiting

By: Callie Swaim-Fox

Smith College, MA, USA

The place where I am living tries to tell the story of my life so far. It does not hold memories.

It does not yet hold memories.

 

But that is okay. I breathe that down and trust that the memories will come.

I do not feel God here. I do not yet feel God here. I trust that she will speak through this place. But, so far, she only speaks through home. What does that mean about God? What does that mean about home?

The story of my life told by this place that barely knows my name sounds like the girls laughing in the hall upstairs while I do homework. It is told through my daily naps and the photos on the wall that spell out “CLE.”

This place does not know me yet. Still, she will tell you that I was the first person to visit her archives this year. “That was all I needed to know,” she says with a smile.

This place has only held me for forty-three days, but she has heard all of my secrets through the window of a psychologist’s office on Main Street. This place tells the story of my brokenness, but she didn’t do any of the breaking.

She did not yet do any of the breaking.

This place does not wipe away my tears, but she does absorb them. She calls to a city far away and tells her to bring tissues. When this place where I am living tells my story, she holds out her hands to show you the tears as they pool in her palms, but Cleveland has already wiped them up.

This place tells you that I don’t sing much, but she is lying. She knows that she is lying because, although she cannot hear my voice, she can feel how much I miss it.

This place where I am living cannot tell my whole story.

This place where I am living cannot yet tell my whole story.

But she waits.

 

We are both waiting.

Spirare

By: Tatiana de Villeneuve

Smith College, MA, USA

When things are illuminated, life is beautiful. Luminosity is, indeed, a wonderful thing. You are anchored in your body, and that body is easy to please. You only have to honor the integrity of your senses. The bad smells bad, and the good is to be luxuriated in. You feel your senses acutely and realize that you were blessed with them because they make you into a deep participant in life. Others have their senses, too, and you share yours with them. Social intercourse is your way into earthly heaven. This is a difficult endeavor for some, and it makes peace of mind seem far from your grasp. So here’s to still fighting for that light. Some harder than others, it’s all part of what makes us different.

I often wonder if other people sit around thinking about what other people do. I often do. That sentence is as complicated as the thought process itself. I wonder if other people feel inexplicably distanced from everyone else, or even from themselves. It’s weird to think that you are a stranger to yourself, and yet that describes me. My feelings are mostly “fake news,” as Anna Akana has said on Youtube. It makes me unsure of what instinct to trust. Furthermore every human interaction is mediated by what the “norm” is and let’s be honest, most of us don’t fit the norm. So how do we know when we have actually connected, reached in and messed up someone else’s insides? Some philosopher, that I can’t remember the name of, said that the scariest discovery one makes is the discovery of the other, another just as complicated and capable. It is the most humbling discovery and yet it’s scary as shit. Basically… hell is other people.

So let’s get poetic for a minute, shall we?

Let me spew some feels…

Another breath taken is another chapter written in your book. You’ve been slapped in the face by rejection; tickled by success; whirled through the washing machine by indecision.

You have taken leaps of faith, only to fall a tad bit short and plummet into the soft, waiting darkness. People tell you: “You’re one year closer to your happy ending, buddy!”

Look around. Let all the destruction, all the grief, the sheer hopelessness in the world shatter your heart into a million crimson shards. Let that little beggar girl on the street make you want to crawl into bed and never go out again. You sit there with a cigarette in hand, trying to smoke this pain out. You look deep into her eyes, wondering how different they are from yours.

Let your tears soak your soul until you’re nothing but a tangled mess of nerves and veins and trembling sobs. Somehow sorrow and despair is so inviting; let sadness pull you into its warm, welcoming embrace and whisper sweet nothings in your ear.

Then glance up, and look at the sky. Instead of giving up on this dreadful race, the sun struggles to break through the horizon every damn day, just so we don’t cease to exist. That little beggar girl has a smile even more radiant than the sun. Feel the faint stirrings of hope yet?

Right about this time, pick up your phone and give happiness a quick missed call. Go hug anyone who makes you want to keep breathing. Drink a glass of reasonably strong alcohol, and try to taste the weightlessness. Feel it trickling through your throat and sprinkling your insides with life. Smile so hard that your lips go numb. Kiss another so much that you become one.

Just get off your bed and breathe in your beautifully flawed existence. If it’s a new day, you might as well make it happy.

 At the end of the day, we are all just clumps of flesh filled with an endless pit of complicated feelings.  I’m learning to not keep it all bottled up and just speak my damn mind. Experience all the bad and the good there is to feel. Never be afraid of being vulnerable.

Staff Post: “Solution” by Beth Derr

As the person with the honor of writing the first staff blog post, I thought I’d share this poem I wrote at the beginning of this school year, which I feel encapsulates the unique nature of the adventures of being a student at a women’s college.  Less than a hundred days away from my graduation, I’m appreciating my Smith experience more and more, and I’m so going to miss this women’s college environment.

Solution

Sweat-soaked and scalp-strained
from hot days and high buns,
we are drawn to the river,
after dinner, after dark.

The path is smooth; we need no flashlight
the moon is a crescent; it peers through the leaves.

Clothes shed, shoes kicked,
our toes sink into silt
we slip underwater,
icecold and sweet.

The river is smooth; there is no current
the moon is a voyeur; it makes our skin shine.

Skin cooled, clothes dripping
from our blissful solution,
we walk home without towels
Drips in the night.

The pavement is smooth; there are no potholes
the moon is a classmate; it laughs in the sky.

Post-Partum

By: Sophia Giattina

Smith College, Massachusetts USA

*Salmon fast during the entirety of the annual salmon run, never questioning their Darwinian instincts, nor their own mortality, as they rush to spawn on the graveled river beaches.

Steam coats my pebbled floor.
Naked
streaming river water,
your scent ripples off me,
drip
aaaaaaaadripping
aa                            down my creamy linens.

Slowly                 I run my hands along the dip you left in bed last night
and I remember what you taste like,
up your back spilling kisses, those
rosy tinges scaling down your upturned belly
like riptide. You are gorgeous. I

was gorging
before slow nursing, silver sips,
suckling your finger tips –

I will be
aa           the one to die
first.

Kept                      upstream, a piece of the churning,
a ritual burning
through flesh, teething
into curdled fat, unstrung muscle

Watch over
my milky skin, hung damply across bloated sand, those loose
baby sacs
aunburdened.

A Vision of Venus

By: Natalia Perkins

Smith College, Massachusetts USA

 

eyes with the twinkling

of a kindling-kind-of-evening– her palm

churning your embers–She

is the stem you rub

between your thumb

and finger to squeeze

that sweet serum from. She

will bloom and bloom again

weaving around stones, up

through the spaces between

your toes

in the barefooted months. She

is crushed clove

buds in the alcove

of a neck, and dried fruit:

so plump and ripe she slumped

to the earth, sipping sunbeams

like champagne. moonlight beckons

celestial shifts, the waves round

her ragged edges and roll away to reveal

The Woman, as natural and glowing

as a pearl, a miniature moon

for our dim world.

Katabasis

By: Emily Powers Ender

Smith College, Massachusetts, USA (alum)

Imagine that you are driving down a road in rural Tennessee. The baby sleeps feverishly in the back seat, but that’s no matter – you’ll be home before she wakes. You wind down the mountain and emerge in farm country, the slim fingers of the Cumberlands hedged around you. You know that you must have passed into northern Alabama at some point, but no sign welcomed you; this winding country road did not merit the effort. The late-afternoon September sun peeks through heavy trees, and the ever-present mountains follow alongside you at a distance.

You’d think that it would be beautiful, but it isn’t. It’s just road. Mile after mile with nowhere to turn around, no driveway, no intersection, just road. And it goes on. From nowhere to nowhere, with nothing in between. The dust clings to the windshield, and through it you notice that the fields look tired—beaten down, perhaps, by the heat. The mountains rise like pimples out of the earth. You cross the bridge over a small river named after some venomous snake. It smells. You pick up a railroad track running parallel to the highway and believe that you would give your eye teeth for a gravel driveway to turn around in.

You find the town that you were hoping for – a settlement large enough to have merited a place on the signpost thirty miles back in Tennessee. Or so you thought. It consists of one main street and no lights; its only noticeable intersection is at the railroad, where cars are lined up four deep; the train has caught up to you. Where did those cars come from, and where might they be going? Not here. The obligatory “antique” (that is, junk) shop and beauty salon are closed for the day. Only the bar is open, Confederate battle flags adorning its windows, its walls weathered in a way that resembles, you imagine, the faces of its clientele.

Can this be America?

Can this be the same country that is home to one of the world’s largest cities, where, in any given neighborhood, you might hear two dozen languages spoken—including the native tongue of your grandfather, whose immigrant parents knew no English but saw that their son went to law school? Where a beneficent deity presides over a sprawling metropolis and begs to be sent your poor, your tired, your huddled masses?

Would she welcome the poor and tired masses who dwell in defiant ruin here? This place could not be farther from that other, with its immigrant dreams, its museums and theaters, its reams of educated people. Even the harshest realities seem worlds apart from where you sit. In your progressive little soul (bless your heart), you will believe that you have died and gone to Hell.

Your heart sinks as you realize that neither Google nor Siri can quickly recognize where you are, but can you blame them? You scarcely know yourself. At last, your iPhone informs you that the quickest way home is back the way you came, back across the stagnant river, back past the tired farms and pustule-shaped hills, over the endless road.

The only way out is back.

What America did you have, Walt Whitman? There is no resolution to the cognitive dissonance; this place cannot be the same country that you know. You never left your car; crossed one small, stinking river by way of a natural landmark; met no one; traversed no border that you could perceive, yet you entered a foreign land. You are now a stranger in hostile territory, which is still, somehow, your native country.

Your palms sweat as you grip the wheel and realize that your head has hurt for the entirety of this drive; the baby stirs, fusses, goes back to sleep. You cross over the Tennessee border – Tennessee is more generous with its signage – and at the quarry are met with a confusion of white dust and shifting mounds, rusty elevators and railroad tracks. From this side, you can see how the road continues back up into the mountains. From the other side, coming at it level and amid the farms, you had slammed on your brakes in a panic, believing that you had reached the end of the road.

Time did not change the land in your absence. You’d thought that it would be beautiful, but it isn’t. Your sojourn into the wilderness has left you puzzled and drained – drained like this land, with its tired fields and blemishes for hills, its huddled masses who want nothing to do with you or that other America.

Yet you can’t quite bring yourself to see the strangers who inhabit this place as beasts of a breed far different from your own; you have nothing in common—you scarcely speak the same language, and it seems that there is more that divides than unites you—but the divorce is not yet final and there is peace in the thought. Your heart and vehicle begin to ascend; you have reached the mountain road shaded by a wealth of trees blocking out everything around you but the rising pavement—the beautiful, winding road that leads to civilization, to home, to somewhere.

Then it comes to you. The source of the peace. Perhaps it was the bend in the road but, in any case, you know now how the contradiction is to be resolved. You smile at its simplicity, its sheer impossibility. The baby stirs, opening her wide, refreshed eyes to meet yours in the rear-view mirror. All shall be well:

You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.

Learning to Drive on Lower Highland Lake

By: Brittany Collins

Smith College,  Massachusetts, USA

I’m sixteen and sunburned. To my right, there is a line of birch trees straight as tooth picks. They stand tall like candles on a birthday cake of shore. Somewhere, a baby laughs. A fire burns. All is relevant.

Months ago, I sat alone in our family car with the engine off. My legs stuck to the seat as I held the wheel and sang to the stereo, peering through my window at stratus clouds above.

What does it mean to steer?

“It’s not the time of day that makes a trout want to eat; it’s the water temperature.” *

Serenity is watching a salmon sky give way to stars and bat wings. It is knowing how to resist. Knowing to keep still. In a metal boat on Lower Highland Lake, water seeps through invisible cracks—just enough to cover my Converse, to remind me of temporality. My seat shifts as worms twist in a plastic bucket. Expectancy abounds.

“Early anglers in Hawaii would embark upon lengthy fishing trips in dugout canoes provisioned with bananas… The farther they went, the fewer the fish, causing some of them to mistake correlation for causation.” **

Seated behind me, oars in hand, is my second cousin and his wife, Joan. Together, they craft a balance of humility and strength—outwitting the perch, getting tricked by sunfish. My iPhone is wrapped in a plastic bag tossed deep into a vinyl pack. It does not beep. My line bends into a delicate parabola above the water, cast and waving fast in the wind as we wait.

In the car, in my drive, I knew not how I would meet the road; how I would learn to stall and stop, to do K-turns when no one was watching. Our mailbox was an iron wall, a thorny thicket that I could not surpass.

On the lake, however, I do not see roads. I do not hear music, save for the bobolink and sparrow gossiping overhead. Three people in a boat and nobody is talking, for we are learning the language of quiescence, its syllables punctuated by the plunk of stones and the bubbles of creatures stalling beneath us. They gasp; I gasp; we keep out of sight.

At last, a tug. My “clown pole,” orange, leans towards luck. It is the same pole that caught plastic fish in the backyard of my childhood, sturdy as I cast its hook into soil; the pole with which my five-year-old hands pierced gummy worms—the red and clear kind—at a local fishing derby, determined to win. I think for a moment how proud it must be—my lovely clown pole—bright against the muck, just trying to fit in.

And then a flopping tail breaks the water. It is a rainbow trout, a fighter. The sinews of my wrist strain against its pull. We are wary of each other. My cousins chant encouragement from behind, and it feels as though a bird is caught on my line, a confused lark that was always meant to fly. Now is its chance, as it is mine and the clown pole’s, the three of us caught in a triangle of hope.

My forearm interrupts the potentials of this scene, shaking as the fish flies towards our boat. I say “flies” because it’s nicer than dangles; hangs; suffocates; the truth of the matter.

The trout is heavy and jeweled. I cannot control its path. My cousin, equanimitous in a linen shirt, watches as its tail comes closerandcloserand

                                                          SMACK

                                                                  Into his face!

He spits a fishy spit and grins, unfazed, at my flurried apologies. The fish bangs beneath us, muscular, and I do not think of its babies, or its gills, or the stratus clouds of our faces peering down into its home. I do not think of Elizabeth Bishop, or tinfoil eyes, or scansion. I can’t.

Cousin Dave hands me the oars, and I begin a rick-rack path to shore, but we stop. He knows. We peer at our rainbow in a box. It’s OK, he tells me as we take the fish from its pile of ice cubes and toss it into the water. It was never meant to fly. Or, if it was, it is not my duty to say so. Who puts a rainbow in a box?

Sometimes I think
of how nice it must feel
to slide through the water unseen.
And sometimes I think
of the water itself, slick
and cool and constant.
Sometimes I feel
the copper sand
the mica and algae and gems of the deep
but then I remember
hooks hanging down
in all the nice places
with worms of temptation
a floor of skeletal crayfish cast
in a sepulcher of sand

and I suppose

that we aren’t so different
that fish and I
gliding and dodging
dangling perils
potentials for change

they gasp; I gasp; we keep out of sight

but sometimes I don’t want to think
about mortality
or morality
or mentality

I don’t want to feel
like an ogre of the deep
or a plankton, either
I just want to float
like a lily on its pad
to wait and wade
where there are no hooks,
no crayfish,

just
the trout
just
me

calm

but we must move on.

So.

I sit muddy on a park bench licking a spoon goopy with fudge. The outlines of my cousin’s eyes are cast against woodlands, dusky and deep. Joan tells me about Scrabble; the VHS tapes that she borrowed from the library; her blueberry pie. Dave razzes my unsteady hand as I suck a cherry from its fluorescent stem. An owl darts through fir trees.

I’m sixteen and sunburned and in need of someone who can teach me how to drive– who will exhale when I slam on the brake, nod when I say I knew better. Somewhere, a fish swims, scarred and smooth. The skeleton of a crayfish puffs against sand as a toddler jumps through the water, clumsy. A bobolink cries. It was not meant to swim.

A teacher appears with tackle and toolbox; he does not flinch at a fish to the face. “David,” says Joan, “you will have to teach Brittany to parallel park, to look over her shoulder as she changes lanes.”

Correlation. Gummy worms.

Causation. Iron.

Months later, on an autumn afternoon, I’m in a denim jacket and leather boots, copper leaves flying around me. “Ready for the crooked bridge?” David asks. A creek laughs below as I learn a new kind of trust. We are not on but above water, and something is cast within me. Deep and lingering, it pulls against the strain of what I used to know and what I am coming to know. David talks about Moby Dick and antique car shows as I clutch my wheel, cautious on this beaten path—all pothole and gravel.

“Ready.”

* J.D. Bingman, owner of Wild Trout Outfitters
** Brian McGeehan, owner of Montana Angler Fly Fishing