• Creative Writing

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    Thinking

    by Erika McLitus

    STOP.
    endless looping arguments,
    paradoxical logic traps leading to
    p a n i c k e d
    fatalistic conclusions,
    misjudgments,
    brooding.
    STOP.
    you don’t know
    everything w*o*n*d*e*r*f*u*l
    doesn’t just disappear
    even if THAT did.
    trust.
    choose to be optimistic
    because you want to be.
    don’t smother the hope
    that’s fluttering inside,
    trying to twist a maybe into a certainty.
    believe
    because you want it to be true.
    Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

    Simple Living at The Alternative Café: 9/29/11

    by Taylor Jones

    Ask yourself one question: “Have you ever smelt that oddly comforting, musty air that puffs out from under the cushions when you fall into the warm embrace of a leather couch?” Well if you sat in the front row at the Alternative Café last Thursday to hear folk singer-songwriter Kenny Chung and Texas rocker Daniel Whittington, you most likely would have.
    As the audience mingles, I sit down and talk amongst new friends, one being Jordan Levine, the sixteen-year-old drummer hired by Daniel Whittington. While we wait for the show to begin we talk about bands we both admire including Neutral Milk Hotel and The Raconteurs, in addition to the unique art that fills the room. Studying the café’s new exhibit “Images of the Real World” by Czechoslovakian street artist, Ales Bask Hostomsky, I find myself entranced by the abstract urban images he uses to depict the clash of social struggles and political propaganda he’s encountered between his life in the Czech Republic and the United States. Leaving my post on the couch for a while, I stroll around the café until the lights dim and I know the show is about to begin.
    Opening the bill tonight is Pacific Grove artist Kenny Chung, a young singer-songwriter on the rise. Chung kicks off his set with an original folk song called “Talkin’ Early Mornin’ Ramblin’,” displaying his multi-instrumental talents by playing acoustic guitar, harmonica, and singing. In this song, Chung channels the energy of one of his greatest influences, Bob Dylan, narrating a social commentary about how people needlessly fight and argue with each other, because at the end of the day we are all human and we all have far more similarities than differences. After a round of applause from friends and passerby drop-ins, Chung begins to play “My Woman,” a song about unrequited love. This blues shuffle describes how he gives his woman all he has to give, but nevertheless she treats him like an animal, alluded to by such imagery-evoking lyrics like “she makes me sleep in the stables.” The shuffle pattern of this song is driving throughout, and as a drummer I think incorporating a rhythm section would solidify the effect of the beat and make the groove of the song more defined. Next, Chung covers “I Don’t Live In a Dream” by Jackie Greene, another one of his favorite artists whose set we saw together at the Santa Cruz Blues Festival. After studying Greene’s song, Chung didn’t just cover the tune on a whim, he really took the time to capture the intended emotion of the song and put himself in the place of a man recognizing reality. Ending with his newest song “I’m Still Here,” a piece filled with much dynamic movement and a chorus resembling an early Neil Young, Chung demonstrates that his songwriting is improving with every show. After the performance I interview Chung about his music, and he states that his latest song entails how a lot of his friends have moved away to college, and he is “still here,” going through his own kind of schooling making friends and connections while learning about the music world first hand. He says that when people graduate high school, they don’t always keep in contact as much as they’d like to, but it’s only natural because everyone is out starting to live their own individual lives. Appropriately, Chung’s EP titled Simple Living is a collection of songs written during his time in the Monterey Peninsula and can be downloaded via Bandcamp.
    Strapped with his polished acoustic guitar, Daniel Whittington takes the stage for the second act along with his three band mates Marc Davison on guitar, Brett on bass, and Jordan Levine on drums. Only their third performance with this lineup, the group plays what Whittington describes as “Texas rock,” which sounds a lot like the down-to-earth, easy listening aspects of Ryan Bingham. Obviously comfortable on stage, Whittington demonstrates his southern hospitality and talks to the audience like he’s just playing a show for some old friends. This personal aspect of his performance really enhances the mood of the show. Davison, rocking a FDNY sticker on his Fender, utilizes a plethora of effect pedals to create his own polished, graceful sound like a country/soul version of The Edge from U2. To complement the guitarists of the band, Brett on bass and Jordan Levine on drums hold down steady grooves together to support Whittington’s melodies. As Brett plucks a consistent bass line on the second song, Levine drifts into a second-line feel on the snare and creates a steady blend of rhythm. While introducing his song “Talulah,” Whittington jokes “this song is like one of those ‘choose your own ending’ books” since he felt the lyrics could either be about a baby or a prostitute. As the tune progresses, Davison’s electric guitar adds layers of sweet honey-like tones to complement Whittington’s acoustic performance. Although Whittington’s style is very polished and impressive, his compositions tend to be consistent in slow songs that don’t contain enough elements of movement. As an artist, you have to keep the audience’s interest with frequent musical changes in order for them to maintain interest. After “Talulah” the band starts to pick up the pace of the set and plays some heavier rock songs, as shown by Levine who plainly enjoys changing the beat and thumpin’ those toms. The band ends their show with a song called “Taking You Home,” on another rockin’ note and bids the audience goodnight, telling them about their CDs for sale at the merch table. Whittington’s latest album Private War and additional music is also available via Bandcamp.
    By the end of the show, Kenny Chung’s EP titled Simple Living represents the relaxed folk and blues atmosphere the Alternative Café provides tonight.

    See all of Taylor Jones’ music and entertainment writings at trudeaupublishing.blogspot.com

    Links:

    Talent

    by Erika McLitus

    You take the gibberish on paper
    And turn it into art,
    A long string of letters, symbols, numbers,
    Making a pilgrimage to the beautiful simplicity
    Of the Answer,
    Lovingly framed by a graphite box.

    I hear you speak of your half note and whole notes,
    Of beats and breaths
    I watch your mad-genius scribbles
    Flow across your crumpled binder paper canvas
    Writing in a language I wish I spoke,
    Writing music.

    I listen to your tales of
    Fearlessly manipulating wood,
    Delicately crafting a meal I would bungle,
    Gently encouraging earth to take a certain shape,
    Running like water,
    Smoothly melting into a higher octave…

    I watch you,
    And then I’m burning,
    Yearning,
    Wishing that I, too,
    Had a secret world
    To share.

    Grandfather Clock

    by Lawrence Haggquist

    History unfolding,
    like a dinner napkin on the lap of time,
    the world evolving,
    beyond the days when Tasmanian tigers prowled their way to extinction,
    through dust bowl doldrums when your pendulum stopped swinging for a time
    and moved West on wagon wheels with the rest
    of all they could salvage.
    Relishing the days of youth
    when champagne spilled freely from flutes
    and your brass belly swung just as freely,
    like the gold locket from the bridesmaid’s neck
    when she did the Charleston.
    They packed you up for a while,
    and some even thought you were dead.
    like Havisham’s ensemble,
    tangled in cobwebs
    abeyant near a decaying cake.
    You missed out on the Twist.
    Didn’t have time for the Gold Rush either.
    A relic, defunct, departed…

    Until after Grandma died
    when they found you in her attic
    peeled the dusty blanket from your aged frame
    and brought you back to our “chateau” in suburbia
    where Mom and Dad wedged you in the corner
    next to the CD tower from Walmart.

    You stand there like a soldier at attention,
    awkward in our living room
    chin-tucked
    pilasters at your sides
    thumbs on pant seams
    too tall for everything
    tic-tocking your way through
    a re-run of Married with Children,
    or maybe Three’s Company

    while I lick Dorito cheese powder from my fingers
    and philosophize from the sofa
    how the hypnotic swing of your pendulum
    reminds me of the tide
    and, somehow, of Matt Arnold
    sitting on Dover Beach
    or spaghetti sauce on a dinner napkin.

    Beach Bonfire

    by Skyler Lewis

    I watched the tantalizing flames
    shoot up sparks in the cool night sky
    as fiery tongues lick the sides of the pine.

    I watched the sun depart its post
    splash celestial paint across the clouds,
    the sea its final nighttime shroud.

    I watched the dune grass sway in time
    with wind’s rhythm and whispered rhyme.

    I watched the beach pass into night
    the crowds departing with the light.
    I felt the world spin fast around
    this sand so still, without a sound.

    To the rain, who dances on my windowsill

    by Skyler Lewis

    To the rain,
    Who dances on my windowsill:

    When I struggled, you pushed against me.
    Wind’s fists landed hard against my face,
    Icy fingers sent chills all down my spine,
    Battered, weakened, fatigued by your swift pace,
    Water soaked my hair as I sought the dry pine.

    You slicked my road, you drenched my home,
    Savagely you danced upon my windowsill.

    But when I sat alone, you cried with me.
    Water drops ran softly down my cheek,
    Your constant rhythm lulled me to sleep.
    Tenderly you danced upon my windowsill.

    And when I ran, you ran beside me.
    My feet splashed puddles up into the air,
    As your cold pushes kicked me into life –
    Your cool elixir washed away my strife.

    You refreshed me. You renewed me. I went home
    To watch you dance your dance upon my windowsill.

    The Kimchi War

    by Seo Kang

    With my curiosity getting the better of me,
    I peek into a large pottery container that my grandma dug out of the ground.
    Seeing light for the first time in three months,
    the red hairs of my dear, jar-bound friends seem to shine and glisten as I peer in at them.
    In awe of their beauty, I open up the jar a little more,
    only to be repelled by their collective stench.
    As I back away from the kimchi urn,
    my grandmother smiles and holds my hand.
    Together, we open the jar and liberate those pickled cabbages.
    With excitement, I watch as Hal-muh-nee frees the innocent prisoners,
    soon executing them with a large kitchen knife.
    This altruistic sacrifice of my friends makes me wonder…

    After three months of suffering in their dark confinement,
    my kimchi friends finally see their freedom.
    But freedom is always fleeting.
    They are destined to be sliced up and devoured.
    These brave, fallen soldiers.

    I am greedy! I am hungry to devour! I am guilty!
    Yet my guilt is quickly overcome,
    and my battle with conscience is done,
    when one slice of that scrumptious offering,
    lays itself up on a bowl of hot sticky rice.

    Contrails

    by Kory Milar

    A long white trail across the sky
    Like a brush stroke slowly painted
    Upon a limitless blue canvas

    I look down for a moment
    Lost in creativity

    When my gaze meets the sky once more
    The creator has vanished into the sun
    And the blue has begun to engulf the
    brushstroke
    A fleeting message, one straight line
    A single scar mars the azure skin of the
    universe…
    and then it’s gone.

    I like to pretend, for a moment
    That God was bored up there
    So he ran his finger, ever so slowly,
    Ever so gently, along the barrier,
    Between Heaven and Earth.

    Cross Country

    by Emily Marien

    Have you ever run until you felt like the muscles in your legs were going to rip, your throat craved water, your face burned, you felt your heart beating in your ears, your chest throbbed for air, or until all you could think about was struggling to put one foot in front of the other?  Have you ever run so much that you would have rather fallen down, broken your legs, passed out, or hit your head on the cement than continue running?  Have you ever measured the steepness of a hill according to how much pain you felt in your legs?  Have you ever been fearful of sand? Have you ever hated the sun, the hills, each blade of grass, and every grain of sand?  Have you ever prayed that each twig, root, divot, or rock you passed moved into your foot’s way to trip you?  Have you ever run so much that every time you pass a spectator, you would give your life to switch places with them?  Have you ever been so grateful for shade that you purposely slowed down just to cool off, at least, until your omnipotent coaches yelled at you to go faster?  Have you ever run so much that when you finally crossed the finish line, it felt as if you had been running for days?  Have you ever run so much that when you finally stopped to sit down or drink some water that you were never happier in all your life?  I have.

    Blue Marble

    by Ozzy Demir

    You! Yes you, the blue marble
    Why are you so corrupted?
    Why are flowers dying within you?
    What made you so wild, so blood thirsty?
    At the end you always liquidate all of us anyway
    You! The blue marble
    On you we are all different but the same
    From top to bottom, all around
    Why aren’t we accepting this?
    Yes you! The wicked, corrupted, unlucky blue marble
    But there IS good in you
    Where the flowers meet with green grass
    Where the sunshine warms your aged skin
    Where water flows through your land
    Shall we perish blue marble?
    Shall we?
    Perhaps you know a way to circumvent
    The disasters and wars and much, much more
    Still you live and breathe like a veteran
    That gives us hope
    Inside the colored swirls
    That fascinate the children peering into your blueness

    Life in the Clear Lane

    by Jade Hage

    Imagine life in crisp high definition
    A pure life, without toxins polluting the blood stream
    Why dabble and stumble?
    Imagine a family. A whole family. Not broken, or poisoned, or unhappy.
    Life lived to the fullest, not marred by the grip of addiction, or stained by the vices of
    Experimentation
    Why risk it…risk it all to get buzzed, to get high.
    Imagine life in a safe world
    Driving without fear of drunk drivers
    Imagine a world safe for everyone
    A world without lethal temptations
    A world in which drugs and alcohol are not sold like candy
    A world where the youth does not struggle under addiction’s yolk
    Imagine a world where the news is not dominated by drug wars
    Where the media does not corrupt children’s minds with thoughts of drugs, drinking, and
    Irresponsible sex
    A world cleansed of abusive parents, shattered families, and unhappy children
    Imagine escaping from the darkness of despair and basking in the sun
    Free from the clutches of
    Demonic addiction
    IMAGINE!

    To Me, To You

    by Lindsey Morin

    To the infected girl pulling up her skirt,
    To the children with old, sunken eyes,
    To the parted lips waiting for something that will never come,
    To the umbrella craving the rain,
    To the empty picture frame,
    To the boy that jumped,
    To the eyes shut to reality,
    To the unwanted hugs,
    To the blank walls,
    To the illegible graffiti,
    To the broken guitar strings,
    To the girl skinny dipping alone,
    To the hand with nothing to hold,
    To the shoulders with nothing to hold up,
    To the lost mermaids,
    To the inevitable end,
    To you,
    To me,
    Welcome to the machine. *

    * inspired by Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine

    I Come From Facebook

    by Lindsey Morin

    Where I come from, anger is shown via caps lock,
    Conversations terminated by colons and parenthesis,
    Followed by infinite less than threes, LOLs and OMG and integrated into the overrated,
    That that should be terminated
    A site with which us teenagers lovingly call Facebook.

    It’s on our computers, on our phones, on our hands and on our minds
    And it binds and grinds and we forgot what we left behind,
    Our world of secret handshakes and kickball, a where it’s okay to call,
    Instead of LAWL on my wall

    We write what’s on our minds till we bleed,
    What we want, what we need,
    It all goes up on the live news feed for the whole Facebook world to see,
    And we poke and we poke treating pokes like coke,
    Addicted to the satisfaction like the words we once spoke,
    Updating and liking since the second we woke

    So why not sign up and try it it’s free,
    Then you can IM or message me,
    But neither you nor me,
    We couldn’t foresee the social networking social problem that has been decreed,
    But now I’ve got to GTG,
    So copy and repost if you agree.

    Small Flame

    by Seo Kang

    Recalling the memories of my childhood past,
    I angrily remember the emptiness inside.
    The voids I felt from my “father’s” absence; they all too fast,
    Wash over me until I only feel a pang of pain – a stab in the side.

    Walking into the familiar coffee place,
    All suddenly feels hostile and foreign.
    For I cannot build up the courage to see the face
    Of the thief who taught me how to mourn.

    Sitting opposite the one who gave me grief and loneliness,
    In statuesque silence with a shield over my heart;
    Yet looking into the culprit’s eyes, a replica of mine, I cannot miss
    The intangible bond that now cannot part.

    As I grasp my father’s calloused and harsh hand, it all too soon,
    Kindles a small flame of love in my soul as we walk together under the moon.

    Relationship 101

    by Morgan Brown

    A blank piece of paper is the sign of a singular mind.
    Who voluntarily buys a blank piece of paper anyway?
    No one wants to stare at that piece of paper every Valentine’s Day, scarfing down those little Sweetheart candies that taste like chalk, and wondering why they’re all alone.
    At least go for the lined.
    Or graph paper if you’re feeling sexy.
    A lined piece of paper is
    Structured.
    Predictable.
    Dependable.
    Friendly.
    If you fall off of one line, the next will always be there to catch you.
    And if you’re clueless enough to fall off of the last line, well,
    Then go out and buy an unattractive robe and some granny panties and start spending your money on office supplies that will never let you down and will always be near and reeking of Meow Mix…
    For the normal, attractive, outgoing, fun people who are willing to put themselves on the line and who don’t always start with the story of that one time they saw Kim Kardashian picking a wedgie…
    I always recommend graph paper.
    For one thing, the boxes come in different sizes.
    And you can choose to execute carefree math all night long and throw away the graph paper in the morning,
    Or you can begin with something more delicate, like the fundamentally confusing, hard to understand, boring and annoying at times, but looks good in a swimsuit, and is totally worth it in the end theorem of Calculus.
    Something you’re a little scared to tackle at first? Yes.
    Something that makes no sense at all sometimes? Definitely.
    Something you can’t wait to fully understand so that you can begin to fully appreciate & explore its boundaries? Indeed.
    But graph paper is the only thing that makes the trip to that one Office Depot with the annoyingly bright fluorescents worth it.
    You certainly wouldn’t want to head to the check out lanes without at least putting the graph paper in your cart and making a few trips around the store…
    Sure, they have a never-ending supply of lined paper in stock to keep you company, take you shoe shopping, and have sleepovers with.
    And there’s always a blank page for those select few who’d rather die alone.
    But stacked up neatly
    In the very front of the store
    In shiny red and pink bins that smell like breakfast in bed and long walks on the beach…
    Graph paper will always be Buy One, Get Some Free.

    Power Struggle

    by Erika McLitus

    How strange to feel the shift within,
    not like a tremor or a tempest—
    though I have them in abundance—
    no, more like a shuffling of cards:
    the queen is now before the jack, the ace before the king.
    So strange,
    to think of the ordered and important pieces
    of you
    rearranging themselves within the confines of your mind,
    risking that the order which surfaces
    will be a distortion, a perversion,
    hastily thrown together by chance or design.
    And if the pattern changes,
    so does the definition.
    I have to wonder,
    which facet of my psyche will emerge victorious,
    eyes jaded and melancholy and proud,
    dangling power from a string tied around her finger.

    Testimonial of a Nameless Soldier

    an allegory to wildfire by Lauren Dykman

    I was born into the rough hands of hard times. The fields were dry, food was scarce, and the economy had gone to pot. Most working class people just hardened their muscles against the plough and waited for relief. But not me. I believed every man needed something to hope for.
    My hope came in the form of a man. He spoke so ardently, struggled so violently to the top, that I came to worship him like a god. He bewitched me, and many other men, with promises of wealth, strength, and riches until we thirsted for better lives. He said he knew the key to the success of the economy, and the path to crown our country as King of the world.
    Our moment in power came suddenly, as an assassin’s blade felled the former ruler. Quickly, my faction took power, and I felt the reality of promised riches.  We had all the money and food any person could want, and more. But I failed to see the dark reality of our regime. Past the gilded splendor of our capital city, farmers pushed harder against their plows, dropped to their knees in starvation. We had not strengthened the economy, we had merely taken and stolen and consumed.
    The man I had once worshipped began to appear a tyrant. The stronger he grew, the greater his appetite for more land, more land. Next he promised us the country directly to the west, promised that God predestined us to take it, because we were kings meant to rule the world. Being a young greedy fool, I agreed.
    Legions of men took up guns alongside me, raised the battle cry, and marched upon the peaceful, mountainous country to the west. When we arrived, we found no roads, no riches, no city, just small, scattered, native villages.  The Tyrant ordered us to take everything. He cared not what small insignificant prizes he won. He wanted nothing more than the world. And of course, we obeyed.
    Along the path to the coast, we destroyed everything. Ate or burned crops, bunked forcibly in farm houses, consumed the wealth and warmth of civilian hearths, and sent stolen money back to the Tyrant so he could live like a king. We ransacked towns, took peasant’s beds when we grew tired, and took advantage of their women. The people never tried to stop us for they feared the guns slung forever over our shoulders. Just as the Tyrant had promised me, I had wealth, power, and anything in the world that could be taken. But with hundreds of miles behind me, I grew weary.
    The Tyrant had sent campaigns into every country on the continent. His strength grew exponentially, and nothing could stop him. I took bullets, and walked on with the metal wedged in my flesh, branded by hell. I took on a limp, grew tough and sinewy. I fought, but I no longer had wealth. I was just another soot-stained soul, eyes hardened against violence. Each battle grew bloodier. I shot without thinking and watched bodies crumple, I massacred entire families while keeping a face as hard as stone. The towns in our wake no longer stood, but slouched and sprawled across beds of rubble, nothing standing but scorched chimneys.
    When we reached the sea, we anticipated victory.  A great cheer rose in our ranks, because we knew the continent belonged to us. But when the cheer echoed away, the world felt just as untamed, and we stood at the edge of an endless sea, and behind us, a labyrinth of crumbled civilizations.
    It quickly became apparent that, although the world belonged to us, we no longer had wealth, and no longer had power. Workaday people camped in the cold, homeless, the economy sat, rotting and stagnant. The Tyrant used up all the resources on the continent during the war. Took everything. Crumbled humanity.
    The end came rapidly then. Our empire, too large to support, imploded upon us. We sucked and sniffed out the last scraps of money from our commoners, but the economy and the conquered nations refused to cooperate. Our force, once so malignant, lost everything when the Tyrant took his last breath through pneumonia-ridden lungs. The man had once been my hero, but when news of his death reached me, I felt nothing but relief.
    The continent no longer belonged to us. I suppose it never had. With my leader dead, I looked back on the past and recognized futility. As a soldier, I had nothing, not even a free will. Only after the war did I realize that I had been a prisoner, not the kind behind bars, but the kind forced to kill. When the Tyrant died, I sat in a crude coastal military camp. Upon learning of the loss of our empire, I stood, grabbed my humble little pack, and simply walked away.
    On the long trek through now hostile country, I passed through one of the towns I had pillaged. The tumbled walls jutted out like teeth, only chimneys remaining erect. The morning light cast silhouettes through smoke from small campfires. Emaciated dogs slunk from one foundation to another, and equally scrawny children crawled from gaping basements to watch me with a level of suspicious wariness beyond their years.
    Around a corner, I caught a glimpse of a woman I recognized. With a pang, I remembered I had taken advantage of her during our raid in a nearby town. I had not forgotten her, because her beauty and resilience had stood out to me. Now she had a fragment of a brown military uniform tied around her head to keep her hair back, and she bent over a rusty metal bowl, rhythmically washing clothes with a baby tied against her back. As I watched her and the son I had forced upon her, I could not remember getting any pleasure from harming her, and wondered why I had done it.
    It occurred to me that the common people were always stronger than the armies that conquered them. The common people woke every day, went about their chores, and never failed to rebuild the empires that leaders trashed. I respected the strength of the nameless woman, for she brought my child safely through the depths of war, carried her burden with dignity, and now stood washing the town’s clothes in the midst of crumbled ruins. For a fleeting moment, I wanted to call out to her, but bit my tongue and decided to leave. Before I could make a move, though, she looked up from her work, and with the greenest, most beautiful eyes I had ever beheld, she leveled her gaze on me. Her face was so hardened and rugged, I blushed in fear and covered my face in shame. Then I, the all-powerful warrior, conquerer of nations, turned and ran away through alleys of my rubble.  In the outskirts of town, children played in and around old military wagons, wearing rusty guns, and hardhats. Our supplies had been reabsorbed by the people, and now would be put to use to rebuild.
    I suppose, if I had been wiser at the start, I would have recognized a pattern: Empires grow heedlessly fast, and stretch their limits to a breaking point. Greed brings the downfall of greed, as all resources get consumed. I know I have no excuse for my actions. I know I will never forgive myself. My only scrap of hope now lies in the people, because I trust them to rebuild this empire, and lay modern foundations where the old ones once stood. As I walk away into the solace of obscurity, I leave the world in their hands.

    Where Nothing Else Is Real

    by Samuel Goldman

    It doesn’t rain when I cry
    Clouds don’t follow me like they do in the movies,
    When I’m down, sad, and cold
    There’s no downtrodden background music
    Biding its time, playing across the pan-screen
    I don’t get to burst instantaneously into song, while the people around me
    Suddenly begin a synchronized dance routine that no one practiced
    There will be no one on my front lawn with a fistful of pebbles
    And a boombox with my favorite song playing quietly
    The night will, in fact, end
    And my parents do care if I run off with someone at 11:00 PM
    Not to return until the early morn’ after crashing on their bed
    Life is not an imitation of the sweet teenage love that
    Hollywood loves to fabricate

    How to combat the drowning reality?
    Threatening to lure me to belief with its
    Hook of fantasy until
    I drown on
    False hope
    And
    Illusions
    of
    Grandeur?

    I will hold up against the suffocating
    Crush of reality and its
    Lack of things
    Going
    My
    Way

    I will put on my headphones and
    Drown reality in the sound waves
    While singing along
    Off-key

    True, no one will dance in the street
    And there will be no magic background music
    But I can dance by myself
    And my own music
    Will serve
    Well
    Enough

    I will wear my out-of-style
    Secondhand
    Clearance rack
    Mass production
    Jeans and tees
    With pride

    Self doubt will not rule me
    And fear will not blind me

    I will grin proudly while
    Walking the halls
    Ignoring stares and mocking laughter
    Nothing and no one can hinder my
    Hopes and dreams

    It’s just that sometimes
    We all
    Need
    A
    Little
    Push
    Forward.

    Leaves

    by Brianna Sanders

    There they go
    Tickled from their branches
    Breathless with laughter
    They dance on the wind
    Stirring up strong scents
    Appeasing to the eye
    Rich like earth
    Vibrant like pumpkin
    Light as a cardinal’s wings
    They twist and twirl
    Suspended by mirth
    Joy prevents the performance
    From cutting itself short
    But finally
    All too soon
    The performance is done
    The actors lay sleeping
    Their props strewn about
    Still beautiful, now tedious
    The stagehand picks up the pieces

    Pens

    by Eugenia Wang

    I smoke pens like cigarettes
    Melt the ink and plastic and breathe in the poison
    My lungs are black like they’ve been written on.

    I breathe it out ten times worse,
    The smell of burning rubber staying where I hold the grip
    And black spit drips down my chin and grays my paper
    To stain my hands like cancer.

    This is a quaint thought
    Written in ink because my mouth is black and stuck together.
    I hold a pen between two fingers
    Then between my teeth.
    I never gave it a second thought.

    I smoke pens like cigarettes
    Is what I maintain
    I supply ink veins supply my brain.

    Love

    by Erika McLitus

    They say that love is the noblest of human emotions:
    I disagree.
    Nor can I support that giving into it will set you free.
    Love is neither sweet, nor gentle.
    Those who think so have never given love, only received it,
    They have never probed love’s shadowed corners and secret hideaways
    Never visited its perches in the hearts of sadists and in opium dens,
    They fail to realize it lives in the little spots of tarnish on the Grandmother’s silver spoon just as it resides in the shining golden palace.
    And so now only its shining, cracked veneer,
    dainty and insufficient against its vicious opposition.
    Fools:
    Love is a bully with pockets full of silver nickels and copper pennies,
    desperately trying to fill the emptiness.
    Love is a legion of warriors with swords drawn,
    triumphing through sheer brute force, overwhelming our defenses. Love is a mother fighting for her children’s survival with teeth bared.
    It will grow in deserts and push through dirty concrete,
    and will wither even the most resilient blossom
    that dares to sprout up from the same earth.
    It rakes hearts with barbs of steel,
    hefts boulders and tosses them at the windows of our consciousness,
    It stings more than contempt,
    hurts more than ridicule,
    it lies and cheats and steals.
    Love can color the world in brilliant Technicolor hues
    Or pull the curtains, and leave it blacker than the moonless night.
    Love does what love chooses
    Without regard for those left broken and bleeding in its wake.
    Love is not fair.
    It sears like fire and freezes like ice,
    leaving its victims gasping behind.
    Love decides who is jilted and who is embraced,
    who hopes on and who loses faith.
    Its highs touch places no drug-induced delusion can reach,
    and its lows tear rifts in the fabric of outer space.
    Love is impatient,
    love is cruel,
    it envies and it boasts,
    and yet…
    love is everything.

    My World

    by Arwa Awan

    I belong to the world
    of your imagination and my reality

    Where dreams are knitted
    Yet illusion is denied

    Where desires are made
    Yet wishes endlessly die

    Where everything is possible
    Yet nothing is doable

    I belong to the world
    Which flourishes with happiness and hope
    Yet withered by it’s own sadness

    Where the discourse is inevitable
    Yet eclipsed by an unbearable silence

    Which holds extreme significance
    Yet unimaginably trivial

    I belong to the world
    Which shuns your presence
    Yet rests all upon you

    Our Home: A Radio Clock

    by Julia Marsh

    If the world were like a radio clock and God were asleep in his bed, I figure each time we cried out in alarm, “Wake up!” he would pound the snooze button and cry, “Five more minutes!” and roll over tremendously under his blanket of stars and moons, and would in turn knock over his glass of Milky Way which sat on his nightstand, and we then would feel meteoroids and rocks and clutter and debris falling upon our heads, so that we would cry out again, “Wake up!” and the radio clock would blare in God’s ear; obnoxious tunes off the FM station, reports of mayhem down on earth, songs of country artists, commercials for roofing companies and seafood restaurants would sing with the volume turned to ‘high’, but again God would call, “5 more minutes!” and his heavy fist would pound the snooze button, so fearsomely that the entire clock would fall off his nightstand, whirling down through the universe, as if in a tornado, with nebulas and nebulous stars and suns and planets spiraling by, and just before we, the radio clock, passed through an immense black hole, God would reach his muscled arm out from underneath his rocket-ship sheets, and catch us, place us back upon his nightstand, next to his lamp whom we call the Sun, and return to his snoring state, only to reawaken 5 minutes later, by an ever alarmed radio clock.

    Perseverence

    by Natalie Hulet-Sandblom

    I know God has a plan
    He has a plan for everything and everyone
    We must not doubt Him
    We must not doubt His plan

    Although I can never stop thinking about her,
    About her lifeless legs dangling from the wheelchair
    I know I must not doubt God’s plan

    But when I see her tears
    It hurts to know his plan may not become clear
    For a very long time

    She is strong and hopeful
    And she knows that she must believe He is watching
    But how can she not have doubt
    When all she wants to do is dance –

    Dance just once,
    Do just one pirouette,
    Leap just once across the dance floor…

    How can a dancer ever fully express her inner-feelings again
    If not through movement?

    She was a dancer
    A beautiful dancer
    An artist of movement
    A beautiful artist of movement

    Now she must hold her head high
    And show that inner-grace
    That every dancer possesses

    She is a fighter
    A beautiful fighter
    And with God by her side
    She will fight to the top
    She will never give up
    Because she is not a quitter
    She is a dancer
    And dancers keep pushing until they have reached perfection

    I, too, am a dancer
    A poet of movement
    And every move I make now
    I think of her
    In every routine I rehearse,
    I see the empty hole where she belongs

    She is a dancer
    A beautiful dancer
    And I know that one way or another
    She will be back on the dance floor with me someday

    Boo

    by Morgan Brown

    Do I scare you, America?
    Segregation. Agitation. Regulation. Hateful nation!
    You cannot break me.
    My blood runs thick with the tears of my ancestors.
    The tears they wept because you shut down public education instead of simply allowing them into your schools.
    You disgust me.
    You filthy, irresponsible, hypocritical democracy.
    What did I ever do to you?
    Oh, that’s right.
    I took care of your children.
    I tended your fields.
    I spilled my blood for you.
    My blood runs thick with the tears of my ancestors.
    The tears they wept because you made them stand for you when they had just finished a hard day of work and wanted to rest their aching feet.
    How dare you!
    You hateful, ungrateful, disdainful brat!
    Proud to be an American?
    Proud to be an African-American.
    Do you think that you are superior to me?
    Fabrication. Abomination. Discrimination. Damn nation!
    My skin is beautiful.
    My blood is free.
    My blood runs thick with the tears of my ancestors.
    The tears they wept because of you, America.
    Land of the free and the home of the brave.
    Eventually.

    To the poet who fears the pen

    by Holden Jide

    I
    To the impressionable imbecile who thinks one can “be a poet and not even know it:”
    I hold you in the deepest disdain.
    To claim poetic knowledge at a whim,
    Without knowledge of rhyme or refrain,
    Is like spitting against the wind,
    And trying to avoid the returning rain.
    The source of the vengeful tempest is the breath
    Of the painfully belittled, bellowing poet
    Who feels the sting of your utterance, that dagger of death
    Which sinks into his heart as it mocks, “And I Didn’t Even Know It!”
    Alas, I fear that each moment this murderous motto is muttered again.
    O you arrogant, titular whore!
    Learn a lesson from they who fear the poetic instrument-
    They, who at first scribble, dread the critic’s drumming upon their door-
    They, who are plagued by the pen’s inky hiss,
    And instead of making a serpent and a paper kiss, watch it slither to the floor.
    Recognize that ‘poet’ is not a title simply self-proclaimed one day,
    But is a dangerous, double-edged sword, a worrisome word
    That turns Man into God, hands Him his clay,
    And subjects His creations to the interpreting herd,
    That endless sea of readers and re-writers which flows forevermore.

    II
    To the poet who fears the pen:
    Believe me, I have felt your helpless rage,
    But ‘poet’ is a practice – that which must be earned!
    Throw your inhibitions aside and put that perilous pen to page!
    And as you collect dust, perched in a café seat, longing to learn
    The steps of the poetic dance, you must get out of your head!
    Wade through the thick sludge of your ideas
    And solidify them with pen, before they wither dead!
    I assure you, as a ‘poet,’ I—

    Have I been talking to myself again?

    Success

    by Erika McLitus

    When you’re young they tell you to reach for the stars.  They make it sound like if you stand on your tiptoes you can brush the fabric of night with your fingertips, as if those cruel points of light were no more elusive than the box of sweets on the highest shelf.  They scream at you, “Reach!” while smirking from the sidelines with dead eyes.  Even as those around you turn to ash…still reaching…still reaching…even as others grasp their stars and ignite, still they push you higher…higher.  I touched a star once, for a moment.  They screamed in exultation below, but the light blinded me; the heat scorched my skin.  So I let it slip through my fingers, and the crowd let me fall.  They turned their backs and cursed my name.  Now I wish that I had never reached at all.

    Winding Solitude

    by Morgan Brown

    Swathed in a mantle of darkness
    Drenched by the steady pulse of His tears
    My lonely mind wanders
    Writing and erasing and drawing and erasing and nothing
    Is accomplished
    The disquiet of my soul erupts
    Whispering and screaming and crying and screaming and nothing
    Is heard
    His tears mingle with my own in startling disparity
    I surrender to the authority that is not mine
    And float down the river of sorrow
    Intricate and overwhelming
    Convoluted and devastating
    I am not alone
    My tears are the river and the river is His tears
    Hours elapse
    Days pass by
    Months slip away
    Years are left behind
    Ending and beginning and commencing and terminating
    Sorrow weeps inconsistency
    Our precious minds unite to grapple sorrow into submission
    Acceding to resiliency and altering our perspective
    Is imperative
    Writing and dreaming and drawing and believing
    My mind is no longer lonely

    Unbreakable

    by Jorden Thomas

    Memories spent reminiscing
    about the past when things
    were different are floating
    away now. Reality has struck
    the heart of every individual
    and silence strikes back
    with a force never before seen.
    Lives have been affected by
    the mistakes of youthfulness
    and the dreams of the wise.
    Yes, our community has
    been affected. Yes, we find
    ourselves experiencing an
    uncomfortable sense of calm,
    our breaths deepening and
    our eyes filled with tears. Do
    I know them well? No. Am I
    liked by them? I don’t know.
    But they are classmates…
    They are people with whom,
    for the last four years, I have
    gone through the epic
    journey of high school. The
    times are rough for those
    who sat in classrooms with
    them.  The times are even
    more difficult for those close
    to them.  And for family
    members, the pain is
    unimaginable! Tragedies of
    this degree always strike in
    unexpected ways and at
    unforeseen times.  This
    tragedy just happened to
    occur on a rain-slicked
    highway in the darkness of a
    Sunday morning.  Now, our
    mourning must travel a road
    that will end in triumph over
    an event that is already life
    changing.  To my fellow
    students: I give you my
    undying respect. To my
    community: I give you my
    condolences.
    We are Breakers…We are
    family…We are strong.
    We are unbreakable!

    The Palm Tree

    by David Chung

    there the palm tree
    stands laxly
    near the shining baby blue
    shore with its thin
    feathered
    evergreen plumes
    providing
    life-giving shade
    to the
    marooned mariner

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