Volume 42 ~ 2019
Look at Him
He trots through the halls,
Is a prized thoroughbred
Among wild horses.
A smile, a wink,
He thinks he’s got them all fooled.
He almost does.
“Look how dreamy he is.”
“Isn’t he so cute?”
“Don’t you wish you could be
With a guy like him?”
As if the thought of
merely existing alongside this boy
Could make my heart beat
Like stampeding hooves.
It did, once.
I’ve wasted my time,
Waiting on the other end of a screen
In the dark of night
Worshipping at the feet
Of someone who says
“You’re pretty” in a bubble of green
But can’t say it to my face.
I would burn down buildings for him
He wouldn’t waste
a match on me.
I can hold stars in my palms,
Move mountains with my stare.
My green-eyed glory
Far outweighs any blue-eyed boy’s charm.
I am the cathedral
That will never crumble
At the hands of
When he looks my way,
The memories shake me.
My foundation is too sturdy.
He’ll have to try harder than that.
I turn, walk away.
My emerald ambition too powerful
For him to hold onto.
They say, “Look at him.”
Look at me.
The December night is deep and the air bites my cheeks. As I march down the empty sidewalks, I can see the sprinkles of snow in the dim light of the street lamps. I trudge through the drifts and feel the snow seeping into my socks. My destination is worth braving winter’s chill.
Finally, I arrive. Cracked concrete stairs lead to two heavy wooden doors. I gaze at the beckoning stare of a stone lion, perched on a column at the front of the steps. He guards the treasures hidden inside this ancient building, and I run my hand along his smooth body as I walk up. I remove the chains from the doors, push them open with a groan, and quickly slip inside, out of the night.
Inside, I take a glance at my surroundings. Shelves are filled with dusty covers and worn pages, everything untouched and silent. Cobwebs lace across the high ceilings. Windows let in light from the world outside, just enough that I can make out my spot. I make my way to a table, turn on a reading lamp, and start my search. I stack book after book on top of each other: red, blue, and green covers worn from use. I stroll through the stacks, blowing off dusty spines and adding them to my pile. When my arms are full, I return to my desk and sit down. With a deep breath, I open the first page.
Lightning bursts across the sky like a firework and thunder crashes through the building. Water begins spilling in and overtakes the hardwood floor around me, and I lift my feet and crawl onto the table. At the end of the library, I can see a white mass swimming smoothly through the rough waves. Without warning, a boat crashes through and I can see a man at the helm, shaking his fist towards the sky as his ship heads straight for the great white whale.
I close the book, and the water drains, the ship and whale dissolve, and the lightning does not flash again.
This is my magic; my secret place. Every book I open, it’s more than reading it; I can watch it happen right before my eyes.
I flip open another cover, and the library evaporates. Now, I am in a beautiful building with ceilings so high that they seem to touch heaven. Colors collide on the walls forming robes of silk covering skin. Above me, a man lays on his back, uses his paintbrush to blend pigments and create the most magnificent mural I’ve ever seen. I stare as he paints history, soft Italian sunlight spilling through the windows.
Another story shows me a fiery black dragon crashing through the side wall, spitting flames over the stacks. The heat hits my face, and I duck behind a shelf. I know that it can’t hurt me, but when the library shakes from his thunderous footsteps, I quiver like a child.
In another, I see teenagers sprinting around the library, yelling, chasing, and hiding. I turn my head, and a girl with braided hair shoots an arrow past my ear.
Yet another shows me harsh S.S. officers leading crowds of weary people. Their gaunt faces are pale and pained. The striped clothing they wear seems to simply hang on their skeleton-like figures. Snow pelts the ground like rocks, but the night and the air is dark around us. They have no shoes. I want to help them, but I know I can’t.
I take the last book from my stack and gently open the cover. For the first time, everything is silent. At the end of the library, a dim green light glows like a lonely star. Across from it, by the doors, a man in a black suit locks his eyes on the beacon. Slowly, he reaches his arm out to it, as if longing for it. I can almost feel his heartache.
I can see the early morning sunrise in the windows now, and I know it’s time to go. I push open the doors, and creep back into the real world.
The lion is still perched on his stoop, and I brush my hand down his side once more. It almost looks like he’s smiling.
Ode to the Grand Prix
You were manufactured in 2000,
Bought, used, and sold three times.
Somehow you made it to me
The summer I turned 16.
When I looked at you,
I felt freedom,
Your Pontiac power
Coursing through my veins
They called you “Redfire Metallic”
Probably the most metal name for a car color
And together, we took on bumpy gravel paths,
open asphalt trails.
You’re not an off-road vehicle
But anything is possible if you dream.
No snow, ice, grass, or mud up to your wheel wells
Ever stopped you.
The sun circles around us,
And “Redfire Metallic” fades to burgundy.
Your dents look deeper than
Both of us are changing,
But I want you to know something
Before we part.
Even when I hated your radio,
It still played the melodies
That made me
Even when your windows
Broke and could no longer roll down,
I could imagine the fresh air
Still liberating me with each drive.
Even when I placed
Two car seats filled with kids
In your backseat,
You never minded their noise.
Even when I cried
Into your soft steering wheel,
Your windshield wipers
Schwooped the tears away.
Even in the dead of night,
You let me sit on your hood
Watch the stars
countless rabbits and birds.
Still, you protected me each time.
Soon I’ll hang up your keys.
The sound of your engine
Echoing in my heart.
Warm cement porches and soft summer evenings are always a good combination. Her legs stretch out before her as she lets the hum of insects invade her ears. In eighteen years, nothing has comforted her like this place. She gazes at the creamsicle sunset lowering behind cornstalk covered horizon.
She has always had this view, but it’s more important to her now. Her moments here are fleeting. Soon, she will be separated from this place by two and a half hours on I-80, her class schedule, and the feeling that she doesn’t belong there anymore.
The sun continues to sink, and she hears the jingle of a dog collar from behind the house. The yellow lab approaches, and rests his head in her lap. It only takes a few strokes across his smooth fur for his brown eyes to close.
Inside, a massive suitcase lies empty on her bed. She’s supposed to be packing right now. But what do you pack for something like this? How do you fill your bags with supplies to help you start over? It’s all just so much easier, right here, on the front porch.
Night comes, and the dark sky serves as background for the millions of stars hanging above her. She imagines herself plucking a few from the sky, attaching them to strings, and attaching them to the ceiling in her dorm room. She focuses on the lawn in front of her. An ember glows in the soft green grass. It floats toward her, its blinking yellow light a beacon in the night. She reaches out, clasps her hands around the insect. It glows between her palms, and when she releases it into the night air, she watches as hundreds of others appear. They waltz through the field. Her heartbeat gives rhythm to their dance.
With a sigh, the dog leaves his spot on her legs and curls up in his red-roofed house. She watches the fireflies for a little longer. If only she could drop this moment in a jar and hold a lid on it forever.
She leaves the porch and slips back inside, still feeling summer air on her skin.
After her first year away, she walks the streets of a city that doesn’t know her name. She’s grown comfortable with starless skies and the streetlamp glow. Tires speed past her on paved streets, no gravel or dust clouds in sight. The sunsets are still beautiful, but they’re harder to see behind buildings.
She strolls without looking up from her phone. At eleven o’clock, the city is still aglow with excitement, voices rising above sidewalks like smoke. They pollute the air, blanketing the sky above. She doesn’t even notice the noise anymore.
She takes the path straight to the center of the place she knows best. The feeling of familiarity washes over her, and she heads straight to the center of campus, to her favorite patch of grass. In this spot, she can hear the nearby fountain and watch the activity all around her. At this time of night, the sidewalks are empty. She can hear the commotion from the sorority houses down the street, but in her spot, the world is quiet.
She lays back, and feels the grass tickle her neck. A whole year had cycled through. It wasn’t as scary as she thought it would be, but she is exhausted by the amount of life that she lived.
However, there’s something always at the back of her mind, a string pulling at her soul. She’s learned to ignore it, but lately, it’s been harder to push away. She misses the feeling of home, the open horizon and the sweet dog. She closes her eyes, and it almost feels like she’s there again.
A feeling on her arm rouses her. Sitting up, she glances at her down and begins to smile. A blinking firefly sits on her arm, like a shining memory. With a sigh, she looks up at the sky. It’s almost like she can see the stars again.