Beating the Odds By Hailey McMichael

Beating the Odds

What I didn’t know before
was how unlikely it is to be alive right now.
Mel Robbins says the odds we are born are one in four trillion.
Dr Ali Binazir says the odds we exist at all are basically zero.
I figure these odds
should come with some sort of gratitude
a celebration perhaps
I could say that we ought to be more thankful
to stop and smell the coffee and the roses and the four trillion other metaphors
we use to tell each other
to breathe.
But really
sometimes beating the odds
causes my heart to tremble in my chest
my feet are dirty and my toenails are cracked
the coffee burns my mouth
the roses die too quickly
asleep in their beds
the weight of the world is so much
I have to drag my breath in with aching fingers and a dry tongue.
So sometimes
I think beating the odds
looks like sitting in the dark
not to see the stars
or hope for the morning
or fulfill a Mark Frost prophecy
but to sit in the dark
and let myself
be.

By Hailey McMichael

Biography:

Hailey McMichael is a current senior at Muhlenberg College, studying English and Dance with a passion for creation through choreography and poetry. She hopes to continue to work in a creative field post-graduation, as well as moving into the field of education. Hailey has lived in many different states around the country, and continues to travel in search of truths… and she continually finds her heart searching for more stories to share. Her Instagram is @haileyj16

Oracle By Annie Freshwater

Oracle

Walk the river with me. Listen

for the cry of a night heron, mimicking
the muted wail of trains that did not pass
through here. If you see

Cassiopeia’s trembling reflection
on the water, you’ll meet your soul-

-mate at the street fair next Thursday, between

the stall that sells jewelry made
from tarnished spoons and the glassblowing
tent. The river demands

an offering: a memory from before

you knew how much you’d miss this city.

By Annie Freshwater

Biography:

As a poet and novelist, Annie Freshwater explores the ways in which we populate our inner and outer landscapes with ghosts of our own making. She holds her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Redlands and her MA in English/MFA in Creative Writing from Chapman University, where she was honored with the John Fowles Center for Creative Writing Award. She is a lover of mythology, philodendrons, and decaf coffee. www.anniefreshwater.com

A Judicial Procedure By Sevde Kaldiroglu

A Judicial Procedure

The mother holds the kid’s hand
The mother and the kid walk
into the courtroom

The father stands
across from the kid
and the mother
and the kid and the mother
listen

To the father
speak
and the judge listens
and the audience
and the mother
and the kid
with eyes widened

Stranger men stand
up and speak
about the father
about the mother
and the kid
the kid sits
quiet

and still
the judge speaks
everyone quiet
and still
the judge speaks
and silence

The mother holds the kid’s
hand the mother and the
kid walk into
the hallway the mother and
the kid walk into the street the
mother and the kid walk the mother
and the kid

still

By Sevde Kaldiroglu

Biography:

Sevde Kaldiroglu is a creative writer from Istanbul. At age 17, she was the youngest author of a memoir collection published in Turkey (Yitik Ulke Publishing, 2012). She’s received multiple national youth awards for her poetry and essays. She holds a BA in English, Creative Writing from Stanford University where she served as the editor-in-chief of Avicenna Journal for three years.

Iris Hollandica in a Tyrolean Botanical Garden By Hailey McMichael

Iris Hollandica in a Tyrolean Botanical Garden

I walk among the white flowers and I see myself in them.
I walk among the white flowers and see my
mothers nieces sisters in them.
out of the crack in the broken brick
a bud appears, iris hollandica
dripping with tears,
looking down on fallen figures littering the ground.
yet it blooms.
yet it blooms.

whispers of children pull me forward
toward a white wall in fertile coffee ground sprawling
iris hollandica, petals split three ways
moonlit womb exposed to the imposing
picking petals in pockets without question
yet it blooms.
yet it blooms.

built on the backs of iris hollandica returned to coffee ground
built on the backs of satin bedsheets and hollowed out bones
larkspur spines, stark against the sand
medicinal leaves heal viruses and sore irises
she smells like fresh mint and abstraction
the soft breeze paints her petals with attraction
but greedy fingers grab and grip, rip and the white is stained with soil and ants and time
yet it bloomed.
yet it bloomed.

By Hailey McMichael

Biography:

Hailey McMichael is a current senior at Muhlenberg College, studying English and Dance with a passion for creation through choreography and poetry. She hopes to continue to work in a creative field post-graduation, as well as moving into the field of education. Hailey has lived in many different states around the country, and continues to travel in search of truths… and she continually finds her heart searching for more stories to share. Her Instagram is @haileyj16

Erasure Collage, January 2021 By Katie Kemple

Erasure Collage, January 2021

My nine-year old would like to look
through the pile of New Yorkers
by my bedside to find items for her
school assignment: a vision board.
She gravitates toward the covers
depicting popsicles on a hot summer
day, pastel pink and purple trees.
To stay awake (it’s nearly 10pm),
I flip through issues next to her,
traveling back through time to 2019,
2018—cartoons of bustling desks,
people passing on streets unmasked,
an exterminator lifting a stranger’s
mattress. My daughter cuts out
a photo of rocks. “I like rocks,” she says.
Even though, it’s increasingly hard
to convince her to go outside to see
the real thing. People leave painted rocks
in our neighborhood now, “Be Kind”
one lectured me from the ground.
My daughter prefers to explore
imaginary worlds: Minecraft, Harry Potter,
and Sponge Bob. I’m kind: I let her.
She finds an illustration of a deck
of cards, an owl, cats, a toy car. Snip.
Snip, snip, snip. “Getting late,” I say.
We close each one, but now they each
flash gaping holes. The loss arresting.
I remind myself that the images have only
been shifted, and mean more popsicles,
trees, and rocks for my daughter’s
collage. But, something permanent
is gone. It doesn’t have a name.

By Katie Kemple

Biography:

Katie Kemple is a mostly vegan person raising two kids, an elder pug, and a carnival goldfish in San Diego. She’s married to the love of her life. Her poems can be found in The Elevation Review, The Collidescope, The Racket, and Right Hand Pointing, among others.

hala’s knock knock By Sevde Kaldiroglu

hala’s knock knock

a knock on the door and
she enters the room

define: penetrate

go into or through
(something)
especially with
force or effort.

she informs me
of the name of
my husband

define: marriage

consensual
relationship
recognized
by law

she tells me what
will happen

(to me)

tells me where I will live

define: live
remain alive.


with whom

tells me what to____ a man
how to____a man

define: please

used for polite requests
or questions

how to be(come) a woman

white sheets

blood stains

define: pure

free
of any contamination

but hala
I say

wherever his house is
can I take my dolls with me there?

By Sevde Kaldiroglu

Sevde Kaldiroglu is a creative writer from Istanbul. At age 17, she was the youngest author of a memoir collection published in Turkey (Yitik Ulke Publishing, 2012). She’s received multiple national youth awards for her poetry and essays. She holds a BA in English, Creative Writing from Stanford University where she served as the editor-in-chief of Avicenna Journal for three years.

Francesca By Hailey McMichael

Francesca

she started off small.
blue teeth
from cotton candy
dripping down
bow tie
lips.
her hands licked the edge
of the sun
and the world
belonged to her.

it couldn’t
contain her wide
blue eyes
ready to receive the gift
of blue skies and plastic
horses and blue rock candy
from the dollar store by the school
sometimes she would see her face
in the rainbow
parking lot puddles
and laugh and laugh and laugh
at the blue
it turned her skin

and her skin
kept changing after that
time pulled at her hair
and her fingernails
and at her nose
and
somewhere along the parkway between
bare belly buttons
and sadness
she grew
too large for the world.

it tried
to contain her wide
blue eyes
to give her a gift
of plastic
cheekbones and tv commercials
and blue feelings and supermodels
on the billboard next to the school
and once she saw her face
in a rainbow
parking lot puddle
and remembered how she used to
laugh and laugh and laugh
at all of the blue

the water rippled and stared back
at her
and slowly
she began to recognize
the sky blushes blue with her.
she feels
she laughs and laughs and laughs
she carries it.

the world.

she carries it,
holds it
in her eyes for you.

By Hailey McMichael

Hailey McMichael is a current senior at Muhlenberg College, studying English and Dance with a passion for creation through choreography and poetry. She hopes to continue to work in a creative field post-graduation, as well as moving into the field of education. Hailey has lived in many different states around the country, and continues to travel in search of truths… and she continually finds her heart searching for more stories to share. Her Instagram is @haileyj16

when we first met By Katie Park

when we first met

when we first met, you were humming a song
which i thought was cliché
but it was good enough for us.

how could you know the songs of my heart?
i could only watch hopelessly
as my feelings were drowned in a haze
of regret, anxiety, and fear

and you could never know
how much i loved you
how my heart beat for you

and even now i wonder
three years is a long time.
what if you meet another girl
one who is beautiful
would you run your fingers through
her locks of gold, and compare them
as you never did mine?
her beautiful blue eyes-
could mine hold a candle to them?
would you even think of my eyes?

do you think you could remember me then?
would you kiss her the way you never kissed me,
her mouth sweeter than anything in your wildest dreams?
would you hold her,
sing that cliché song to her,
listen to her giggles as your thoughts
melt into a unified love,
where i would be a passing glance
in a world of your own?

as i stand now with my broken heart,
i desperately try to remember
the few moments we had,
and i soon realize

i can no longer remember that song
from when we first met

By Katie Park

Biography:

Katie Park is a first-year Computer Science student at New York University. In her spare time, she enjoys recording music, reading historical biographies, and writing depressing poetry.

Depression Medication By Zizheng William Liu

Depression Medication

Too tired to outlast
Or ever pass the thick
Tyranny of daylight,

I lay still on this dewy
Morning in a foggy depth.

My faded recollections
A shell

Of what could have been
Had they not caged my lucidity
In a glass house—

The tender hollows
Of the sense searing drops

That set my flesh
Ablaze in a haze of
Their unbecomings!

But by god,
I’ve been tainted
At her loom
O doctor!

The red nurse with needles
Unasked to notice
My faintings in the waiting room.

She nods me gently,
Pacified by the haze

Of the thin unravelings
Frayed as the addict in me

Shrouded in
A fabric gown.

I could sleep for years
In the cloud-like film
Of those indictments.

By Zizheng William Liu

Biography:

Zizheng William Liu (he/him/his) is a student from Houston, Texas who loves to write fiction and poetry. When he’s not writing, he also enjoys snapping the ever-changing world around him with his Canon Rebel camera.

Silence By Elizabeth Shippen

Silence

The first time you told me,
I wrote her for you.
The child who would never
be, her hair red like fire,
her face dusted with freckles.
And in my story,
I made her a phoenix,
so that each death was also a birth.

Sometimes I wrote her
as a small mischievous child
stealing cookies from the kitchen
when your back was turned.
Or then again older
in a flat in New York City
searching for the perfect
recipe for hot cocoa.

And other times
I wrote her with wings
and a sword of flame,
brave and unrelenting,
and each death was just a pause
in a long and never-ending
adventure.

But ink and paper are nothing
compared to flesh and bone,
and moments in the dark,
when the world is asleep
and she reaches out to you
with warm tiny hands
needing to be held.

So I let my words turn to ash
and forget how to speak
into that silence that grows
until it suffocates
and you stop telling me.

And we are left with nothing
but ash and silence. 
Burden

It won’t be me who has to carry it.
In the end, I won’t carry much at all.

Pain: I can take pain.
I already know what it is
to walk each day on marbles,
to place my feet down carefully
with every step as though
the bottoms have been beaten
and the bruising hasn’t healed.
It doesn’t stop me. Each morning,
I still get up, back onto my feet,
knowing there are people who
depend on me to be standing
and it gets me through the pain.

Disfigurement: that would hurt
my pride. My vanity wrapped
in practiced nonchalance
would crumble in the face of it,
but still, that’s not my biggest fear.

What I fear most
is what I might become
to my son.  
Becoming

Long before you were born
I was afraid of it, the fierce
love of motherhood
and how it can devour
a woman.

I imagined my dreams
and years ripped away
by the relentless
jaws of motherhood.

So now as I hold your tiny
hand, I am surprised to find
that I’m still here.
Not gone or diminished,
simply full of something new
and different.

By Elizabeth Shippen

Biography:

Elizabeth Shippen is a wife, mother, and Agile Product Manager in the Information Technology industry living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Born in the D.C. Metro area, she grew up in Virginia before moving to Massachusetts after college. She has a Master’s Degree in English Literature and a Graduate certificate in Digital Studies from Salem State University. She completed her undergraduate studies in English and Creative Writing at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Her poetry has been published in Harmony Magazine and The Dickinson Review.