a surrender

Kate Griffin

the first day back
I laid in the grass outside
and marveled at the birds.
they were hidden in the branches above,
but every sound belonged to them
this space was theirs.

I had forgotten what it was like
to have your world
overwhelmed
by the music of another species–
bright trills and calls
chirps soft at the edge of consciousness
melodies and duets following some unknown rule–
so I laid there
and listened.
I memorized their patterns
rolled their names over my tongue
chickadee
blue jay
ruby-throated hummingbird
eastern mockingbird

I laid there,
until the weeds began to
sprout through my fingertips
no one knows how they got there
but they show up anyway,
every spring
I watched the mockingbird return
every hour
to the same bush
where he would open his throat
and cry with joy
and I felt myself ache
as the buttercups began to bloom
under my toenails.
the bees came then, their fat,
fuzzy bodies gliding with such quiet
I watched them alight on my nose,
which was by this point,
covered in dogwood blooms.

enter: the hummingbird.
the urgent thrum of his wings cutting through
the clover winding its way over my ears
his throat was so brilliant they call it ruby,
call it bloody,
but all I smelled was sweetness–
maybe it was the strawberries
creeping their way up my calves.

the cicadas began to
burst through the ground
wings shaking off their
seven year slumber
monks joining the orchestra
after years of silence–
no wonder their drone
was so deafening.
the first one molted
left his exoskeleton clinging
to my finger
i thought about crushing it.

the mockingbird returned
and I swear he had been listening to me.
I stared at him
at his place atop his particular bush
and he stared at me
and I could feel the questions
he had for me
but by then,
the hollyhocks had filled my mouth.

a daffodil burst through my chest.
I closed my eyes.


Kate Giffin is a poet and post-bacc neuroscience research assistant. Her poetry can be found in Shooter Literary MagazineThe Health Humanities Journal, and Glintmoon. She has lived in nine states and a U.S. territory and is currently calling North Carolina home. During quarantine, she kept herself busy reading, gardening, and cooking recipes from new cuisines.

pretty

Laney DeBrabander

i look down at you with the word pretty at the tip of my tongue
i don’t say it
i remember the last boy i called pretty
all sharp mouthed and angry
he tells me boys can’t be pretty
my protest dies when i see the look in his eye
and i know it is not up for discussion

this is how i come to fall in love only with boys who paint their nails
and who put their hair up like kids
with none of the bumps smoothed out
i fall in love with the soft edges that won’t cut me when i try to reach out
i fall in love with the small smiles of your kisses
not just the shape of your mouth

i fall in love with the fact that you can pin me down
and i still feel more free
than when the look in his eyes tells me to shut my mouth
i guess i swear too much
and that’s only okay when other people do it

i learn when to let go
i tell the boy with the long hair that we are just friends
and i wonder which box do i put my cowardice in
is there a difference between protecting yourself and shutting everyone else out?
if so, i do not know what it is
when even pretty boys remind me
what it means to be a sin

handsome*, sorry
i wash pretty out of my mouth like a bad word
i forget that there is no god here to protect me
from boys who know it all
or my body being poised to fall right off the edge of the map
and i wonder where in the bible does it say i am so disposable
throw me away in last week’s trash
move on

i learn to fall only for boys who cling to things
you bury your face in my shoulder and i know
you will not let me go
you tell me you miss me between kisses
and hey, maybe there’s hope
maybe you were never taught to keep your hands in fists
and your feelings in your throat
i am used to boys who vomit guilt and fall apart in my arms when no one is looking
boys who could never admit that the next day

i learn to fall only for boys who do not lie to me about whether or not they have a problem
i learn i cannot bottle things up
like the liquor he told me i wasn’t allowed to drink
being drunk is a sin too, didn’t you know?
i fall in love with boys who do not use the bible as a weapon
the sharp edges of the paper may cut my skin
but what does that matter when i’m already in shreds
i fall in love with boys who do not think they need weapons to use against me
boys who bring tape to put me back together
but step back when they realize i already have glue

i never wanted to be fixed
and you listen when i tell you that
which is new
i am used to being in love with boys who say they can save me
and leave me wondering what it is that i need to be saved from
there is nothing wrong with being broken
it doesn’t make me any less whole
you believe me when i tell you that
and when i find the scar on your shoulder
you are not afraid to tell me what it’s from

i learn to fall only for boys that i think are strong
and i think that you are strong
because you are capable of telling me the moments when you are not
you do not zip your jacket up past your chin
and hope that closing yourself in will somehow make it easier
though you do pull on your shirtsleeves when you’re sad
the same way i do when i’m sad
and i think, perhaps, that this is actually real
and i am terrified to let you out of the box that i put you in in my mind
because i do not know what will happen
i do not know what will happen with us but more importantly i do not know what will happen with you and i know better than to fall in love with a ghost story.


Laney DeBrabander is a junior at Aquinas College studying Psychology with a minor in English Literature. She began writing poetry as a way to express herself, which evolved into writing poetry as a coping mechanism. This particular poem woke her up in the middle of the night, and she couldn’t go back to sleep until she got all of the words out.

Urban Predator

A.R Jones

Ankles bloody with
angry blisters, rug burns
chafing the inside
of my thighs — you
followed me until
I could no longer walk,
until I am nothing more
than an animal’s ribs
gaunt from your
reaping.

You consumed me
whole, stripped the
flesh off my arms until
the veins became wilted
flowers. Left my bones
to dry and decay as I
tried, tried, failed
to stand.

Knees locking,
3 a.m sweats
where I dream
of your hands.
Linoleum cold on my knees
as I hunch over white
stained porcelain. Empty
stomachs on a tempest
mind. Find Me
in the water stains.
Lose me in the
Storm.

This name of mine
lost its meaning.
There is no sound —
a forgotten
rhyme.
Nothing of me
left for even
the vultures to pick —
I am merely
an unmarked grave,
dying daisies titled
“What if…?”


A.R Jones is an aspiring author who dabbles in both poetry and fiction. She’s a college student who plans to enroll at Grand Valley University for the fall semester. She intends to major in Secondary Education with a specification in English so she can pursue her goals of teaching high school English. However, she fully intends to chase her dream of being published and putting out inspiring work. Her two largest influences are Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.

My Panic is Real

Rachel Kramer

I have anxiety
I’ve battled with it for 9 years and counting
I go to therapy
I’ve gotten the diagnosis
And I’ve gotten the help

My anxiety causes panic attacks
I can’t breathe and I can’t see
And nasty thoughts fill my head
I was just 15 when I got diagnosed

It wasn’t until 2 years of therapy had passed
that my parents decided to try and help
They got me a dog, a good, strong pup
I named her Cassie, and I loved her

A year after I got Cassie, I decided it wasn’t enough
I would have panic attacks away from home
When Cassie was nowhere near me
in a store where she had to wait outside
or in school every day for years

Still living at home, I depended on my parents
I couldn’t make Cassie an official Emotional Support Animal
at least not without my parents’ money
If I could, she could follow me anywhere
Eventually, my begging paid off, Cassie could be trained

After 2 years of demanding work, Cassie was certified
Finally, she never had to leave my side, I never had to worry
At least that’s what I thought
But so many places don’t allow Emotional Support Animals
They’re treated differently from other Service Animals
Hotels, restaurants, stores, and even my work said no
I felt lied to, tricked into feeling safe

I felt so trapped, missing out because of a dog
I couldn’t go places with Cassie
I couldn’t go places without Cassie
I’ve never felt so held back by an animal
It was so frustrating!

It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t her fault
She was there to help me, not hold me back
It took some patience and understanding
but I knew that Cassie was amazing
I love her
Without her, my anxiety would have taken over my life

I’ve had panic attacks in school
I remember them clear as day

They’re looking at me, I know it
I look crazy sitting here alone
They’re looking at me, I can tell
It’s because I have no friends
They must all hate me
I can’t see clearly, everything is dark
I think my heart is going to fall out
Is this what a heart attack is?
They must all be looking—
I feel the nudge of a cold nose
I dig my hands in the soft fur
I stare deep into the brown eyes
I feel my troubles melt away
My heartbeat slows and color returns
I see backs of heads; no one is looking
It’s just you and me, and now I feel fine

Going to school every day is hard
Meeting people is hard, they only see a dog
She brings in attention, but it isn’t all good

Cassie is my Service Animal
I have anxiety and panic attacks
Yes, I’ve been diagnosed
No, I’m not just looking for attention
Yes, she is trained
No, you can’t pet her
I’m sorry, please stay
She’s working, you can’t distract her
No, I didn’t mean to insult you
I’m sorry, please stay…

Finding real friends was hard
Finding a home was harder
I remember searching everywhere

What a nice house
A good place to call home
Quality utilities, and at a fair price
A cozy feeling, I know lazy Sundays await
I’ll talk to the landlord
Get the papers straight
Oh, that’s a new sign
I must have missed it before
“No Dogs Allowed,” that’s what it says
That dirty old sign, they’ll take my dog
They make no exceptions, even for you
I can’t breathe when you’re gone
I need you
We’ll have to keep looking
We’ll find a real place to call home
Somewhere we’re safe and can live as we please

If people knew how hard it was
Then there wouldn’t be so many problems
Then I could study hard and focus
Then I could live my life alongside others
Then I could find a place to call my own
Look past the dog, see the person

mirror in the sky

Shaun Steverson

clouds are the eyes of the sky.
the sun, like ourselves, has a soul
and through the clouds you can see it, just like mine.
gleeful fluffy whites, often shift to darkness.
and when the rain falls the heavens cry.
rain turns to thunder, tears into screams.
thunder is a cry of anguish, they struggle, they try.
clouds open up, the mouth taking in the whole.
sun light, sun rays, sunshine, bright.


Shaun Steverson wrote this poem during one of the writing sessions at the poetry club he co-founded with Derek Fosbender. The structure is Magic 9: “abacadaba” and describes the connection each person has with the natural world and how the both of them reflect each other.

To the Girl in Gym Class (2002)

by Amber Walker

I’m sorry I stole your $5
But I was hungry
Those days were long
The ones with no food
But I made it through
Thanks to you
To the girl in gym class
I truly am sorry I stole your $5
But something in me tells me you knew

 


 

“An inside look at childhood hunger / poverty and survival. High schoolers are looked at as more independent and self-sufficient, and some schools don’t pay attention to their low-income students. That was my experience. When my mother was on drugs, we never had money for lunch. We’d be so hungry, my brother and I. So I stole money from a classmate to pay for our lunch that day. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I felt I needed to do it. This is an apology and a thank you. Even though I believe she knew.”

A Mother’s Love

by Andrea Hamlin

Among the bluebells and buttercups
beneath the chickadee call
along the stream marked by birch
Mother and her babies wander above all

Plucking up trout
and skillfully eating berries
Mother teaches them
always keeping one eye wary

On nice days, when the weather grows warm
Mother takes babies to the big lake
where the shore they are standing on is the only one seen
and someday the water will be a distant land’s namesake

One morning is different, something has changed
Mother calls babies close and stands up to sniff
her black eyes grow fearful and reflect bits of orange
something smoking and sharp is what she whiffs

To the mighty lake
Mother and babies are bound
come my children, we must swim across
Mother prays that they will not drown

Be strong my children, though the waves are cold and harsh
I love you so, with all my heart
we must swim hard throughout the night
do you promise you will never part 

As lake and sky became one
and Mother could see no more
she pushed her weary body to continue swimming
and had to trust her babies would find the shore

When daybreak arrived
Mother could see that she was alone
after she crawled onto the sand
heartbroken, Mother emitted a piercing moan

Mother wandered the strange land
day after day
can you hear me my children, are you coming 
here is where Mother will forever stay

On the highest hill on the highest dune
Mother sits to rest
still calling her children
where she can see the water best

Mother waits while the roses bloom
while the chickadees learn to fly
she waits while the dune grass grows brittle
and colored leaves fall through the sky

Mother waits while the days grow short
while the air turns cold
her black coat turns white from snow
Mother waits, as she grows old

On her dune above the shore
Mother succumbs to sleep
the land keeps her safe and tucks her in with a blanket of sand
in Mother’s heart forever, babies keep

The land felt Mother’s sorrow
and brought the babies home
where they shall remain forever
close at reach and free to roam

Years later, Mother’s love can still be seen
on the shores of Lake Michigan across the crystal waters serene
and if you are quiet you will hear the call
of a Mother’s heartbreak with a love to heal all

 


 

Andrea Hamlin graduated from Aquinas College with a degree in nursing. In addition to having a passion for the sciences, she also puts high value in the arts and plays violin in the school’s chamber strings group. She writes poetry to give literary life to the beauty she sees and experiences each day. This poem is very special to her because she gets to retell an important legend in Michigan’s history and she loves looking out over the Great Lake at the Manitou Islands and imagining the story.

Respectability

by Kat Tan

My bones are shivering out an old song
The melody is respectability
The chorus is bowed head
The hook is silence
Yet niceness did not save me
did not erase my stateless ethnicity
disarmed my ability to fight
kept me decent, like model minority

The news anchors conduct the choir
they teach the words to this song
In this song, the rebellion is a riot
the corporations are the victims
And I recognize the tune
that tames the tongue and raised fist
turns a march into last week’s traffic jam
judges “Black Lives Matter” for the audacity of a declarative sentence
This is a song that demands lives lived as question marks
like someone’s curled up son
like the arch of a grieving mother’s spine 

There’s no rest when the verse is of generational mourning
and funerals we expect to one day attend
Save the date instead for a different kind of melody

We are no longer asking but taking
No longer begging but burning
Forget respectability
We sing a song of resistance

Historically

by Jessica M. Barnard

…here in my village which masks as a city
in times when a building is taken by flames
nothing but plantlike will sprout in its place.

The hotel, the house, the hardware store,
each lives below ground as stratigraphy does,
compressed to a layer of old history.

Crops make money, so they may live,
spreading their limbs on deforested plots
as a checkerboard seen from the sky far above.

But buildings make breadth, not bread. They are
created in clamorous crowds of construction,
and can’t be chopped down and replaced

in the way that lackadaisical landowners burn
ten thousands rows of orchard one night,
and turn their roots to history.

Profit is planted in the hollowed-out space,
but buildings live longer than a harvest moon,
so if they die, we keep them that way.

My town knows no change but crops
out infrastructure to make room for money.
It grows on trees, here in my city. But

we make plans, nowadays, of transformative schemes.
These changes, their roots draw their energy deep
from the aquifer betwixt those layers of ash,

which fertilize the roots of the money trees.
This pattern of preference, of profit, of pride,
it feeds us and fuels us, historically.

 


 

Jessica M. Barnard attends Grand Valley State University and is majoring in writing and minoring in anthropology. She writes poetry as a way to reflect on her surrounding world and to practice with the music of language.