Issue No. 5

A note from our Editor:

Editing for Issue No. 5 of Underscore Review has been an interesting shift in the content submitted by artists for review in Issue No. 5, Underscore Review introduced themed submissions. Artists are challenging “what is home” at a time in America when people are trying to figure out exactly where that is. As in previous issues, Underscore Review serves as an emerging outlet and safe space for healing in all art forms. I continue to be amazed with the artwork put forth by young artists and the hard work and dedication put forth by the Underscore Review staff.

Arzelia Williams, Underscore Review Board President

Essence Smith

The United Kingdom

Heaven is a place where:
my life matters
and yours does as well

women get paid the same as their Male coworkers
a place where women are seen like Women

immigrants can live freely
and vote
and walk down the street without being yelled at

everyone can live united
a kingdom
where everyone stands

hand in hand

(1) i was rinsed
(2) i was baptized
(3) in the flowing water

(4) my soul was cleansed
(5) my flesh was restored
(6) in the flowing water

Essence Smith is a Boston native who is currently a freshman at Excel Academy Charter High School. She is a varsity volleyball player and is hopefully will be joining the girls basketball team. She has yet to take over the world with her realistic and universal poems.

Troy Public Library Teens

by Raul Dutta

I drew a line in the sand―or no,
scratch that― sketched a line
on a paper
perhaps with a 0.5mm dull grey lead.

I trusted that the invisible hand
will set straight the paper to match
the course of my lead.

I erased a couple times
and drew straighter but
the smudge of my eraser
left many gray blobs
but it was getting late
into the night and so
I didn’t bother fixing it.

My Rolls-Royce was alone
in the parking lot.
I turned on the radio.
Some guy in one of the nearby
cities or something cheated
or lied in some financial scam
or something. Can’t say I blame him.

As I drive back,
neon black light bulbs
hang from the street lamps
over the highway to heaven,
or hell
honesty, it’s too dark to even tell.

by Rashika Rao
for Raymond

A boy named Hercules
once taught me how to find
the constellation Raymond.
It’s hard to see in the dark- most things but
stars only glitter at night.
It’s when the blue skies are overhead
that the lights in the sky are
drowned out in a sea of CO2;
they’re still there though.
We just don’t look closely enough.
Gazing out,
into the night, I can almost pretend
Raymond is written in photons.
But constellations are designations
and asterisms are unofficial,
and who could blind the bond of
that Mama who lost her tail for her son?
He shines the way to salvation.
I never loved him.

The Man on the Moon
Mustafa Arif

The shining light to everyone’s delight,
stares at you only after day in night,
we all have seen it glow in the sky,
so have our ancestors with their own eye,
it is always there for us to gaze upon,
never once have we said it has gone,
the man who’s carved always see’s you,

he never turns his back even when he’s blue,
he circles around us like a parent,
his movement has never once been errant,
the time we spend to live and learn facts,
he sleeps to once again act his act,
what we find as a time to be pleasing,
he circles us again and is beaming.

By Varalee Sakorikar

If I tell you
A sad poem,
Why is it that
You will grasp it
If I told you
Of the beauty
Of the world,
Would you condemn
This poem?
Calling it
‘Unlike any other’?
Or perhaps saying
To your friends,
‘Are you sure this
Is even a poem?’
How have we gotten
To this point
Because how dare I
Express my happiness
Or anything
But my angst
Through poetry?
Mainstream restricts us,
Causing us to feel
Almost like our
Happy emotions
Are not worth it.
Joking poems,
Funny poems
Have been taken over
By our pessimism.
We write about
Those suffering
In the midst of the war,
Those dying of hunger,
Or of cancer
And fail to look at the good:
A homemade batch of cookies,
Made especially for you,
Sitting there on the kitchen counter
With the right amount
Of sugar and chocolate;
The leaves on the trees
Turning a beautiful shade
Of red,
All in one.
Why have we
Allowed popular culture
To dictate our creativity?
Command it enough
To make us feel miserable
Even in the best of times?
I ask of you:
Pay attention.
Change our poems.
Make yourself remember
What it is to be happy
When you are sad
By writing about it.
Give yourself
A glimmer of hope
When all seems
This is our time.
With each line
Of every poem,
We can make
Our outlook on
Our world,
Less cynical
And overall
More receptive
Towards happiness.

Graffiti at Night:
inspired by Tarfia Fizullah
inspired by Vievee Francis
By Vedika Aigalikar

Your hands envelop me into a familiar embrace.
I smile, unsure after our last fight.
You stained me.
Your thumb caresses mine.
The wind in the air broke my fall and the leaves of hope fell on my back.
Our autumn dance and the hues of yellow, red, pink and purple swirled around my feet.
The tiny ballerina statue broke that night.

“How about a drink?” I shake my head no but you hand me anyways.

It was your hands. I was the canvas. My words failed me.

My lips are purple and as I get up to leave, you hand me your jacket. “Cover the art”

I want to go home but the whiskey vapors of your breath long me to stay.

Flash. I see red.
I see a jacket.
“Is it yours?” An unfamiliar face. Yours.
Flash. Your offer me a drink.
Flash. I turn to go.
Flash. I’m alone on the ground.

I painted myself purple. You stained me red. I burned your brushes but I still can’t find my pen.

It was autumn in Michigan and I fell amongst the hues of leaves at your feet.

You scathed me and I was eternally one of your works.

You clench my arm. Someone is wailing in the distance. Why is there water on my face?

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Remember my jacket? It’s just in your head. Remember our statue? Clumsy you, you fell down the stairs. I was……..finger-painting. It’s just in your head. We were going to own a white picket fence.

It happened the way it was supposed to. You shook your head,

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I shook until my words were no longer silent.
Trust Fall
Jenny Boudon

You know, the feeling you get
when you slip, and miss a step
going down a set of stairs?

You play a daily trust fall with yourself,
but the catcher’s dropped you more times than you can count
But what choice do you have but to draw from that
childlike trust every time you get out of bed?

I’m driving. I’m looking ahead, cool, collected, calm.
The coldness of the steering wheel against my palms,
thrumming on the windshield from the rainfall, all
is well.


“I don’t know, I’m sorry.”

Lois Batu

The feather drifts in the breeze
The words, “follow the hope”, echoes off the trees
Wishes tear and dance through the low spirit seas
And catches eye of the feather at freeze
Slice the beastly crystal to bits
Let the hope fly in the gloom and be free!

Sammy Saperstein

The night I finished Calvin and Hobbes

8:00 Tuesday night
Mom knows
I gave a hollow “goodnight” as she closed my door,
knows even though it’s bedtime,
I couldn’t resist an invitation from Calvin and Hobbes
for another adventure

Stripey’s clutched under arm,
he’s the closest I could get to a real tiger
in the limits of the afikomen hunt,
and I feel his heartbeat thumping along with mine

Nana sent me an email yesterday (FWD:FWD:FWD: UNBELIEVABLE TIGERS)
Indian zoo raised these beauties vegetarian
for the petting zoo of a lifetime
and Mom claims it’s not real
but she’s never been

One day, I’ll grab Stripey and
the coin collection Grammpa helped me start
and we’ll go there,
run faster than light across the oceans
and when Earth gets too boring
it’s Sunday on Saturn’s rings
Monday on the Moon
all of August on Andromeda
I’ll beat a black hole in a staring contest
till my eyes turn back into stars

Mom’s back
time to sleep now,
time to dream of tigers

It’s a magical world out there



Sammy Saperstein: I’ve written everything from short stories to personal profiles to poetry, giving me a unique perspective on all different types of writing. Last year and the year before I took creative writing classes and was a member of Citywide Poets. These opportunities allowed me to both write within many different genres but to read pieces from others working alongside me.

Ivory Fields

To Nas
By Ivory Fields

I see you now at 6 years old
playing with your wrestlers
in the living room, as you idolize
Spiderman where you father should be.

Your marvelous eyes shine brightly
as you show me how you elude gravity
with you death defying flips.
tricks that you’ve copied from television
because no one around here ever does
anything worth your cursory attention span.

Now we eat candy while you’re doing
your homework and you’re so excited
when you discover that ff-oo-xx spells fox
and it makes me wish someone would ff-ii-xx—
fix this family for you, You’re so bright
and it’s so sad to see how easily your light
could be extinguished by something
as close as your last name.

It makes your solo battles of good versus evil
all the more real and you can’t even see
the symbolism. Constantly chastised about
your wondering mind as you inquire to matters
that even the adults in this family can’t
figure out, and yet I feel as though you know
all the answers if anyone would just listen.

I look into you little brown eyes and see
unshed wet white flags that I hope
you never have to wave. Surrendering
a part of me in the name of genealogy
is never what I wanted to be and what I am
is not what you should have to become.
Hurt, broken, and abused should not—
will not be your characteristics. So this
is for you Nas. Your bright eyes
still twinkling with hope. Be you.
Be different. Be what they don’t expect.
Live up only to your own expectations.
Follow only your own dreams.

Most importantly, love all those
that can’t understand why
you took my advice.

But whenever you feel hollow
and the end looks so far way.
Play back my words and relish
in the fact that I’m already proud
of you at just 6 years old.




Ivory Fields is a naturalista from Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from Cass Technical High School in 2015 and is currently attending Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant. This upcoming school year will be her sophomore year as a Chippewa studying Psychology, Journalism, and of course Creative Writing. When she does not have her head in the books she is exploring her many interests which include singing, dancing, and reading and writing novels and short stories.

Ivory first found poetry in middle school by simply writing about things she saw, but she truly fell in love during her first open mic in 8th grade. She joined Citywide Poets her senior year, performed in Louder Than A Bomb with her team, and went on to be published in the 2015 Mindfields anthology. She believes that being able to create a new world in a story is the world’s greatest superpower, and one day hopes to stand alongside some of her favorite superheroes as a literary hero herself.

Bryesha Edwards

It Was Supposed to Be
By Bryesha Edwards

On singing in America

It was supposed to be my escape
It was supposed to be the light of my day
It was supposed to be my hero
It was never supposed to be the pits
Of the earth

It was supposed to be my childhood
It was never supposed to be a burden home
They say you can’t sing everywhere PLEASE

It was supposed to be my Harlem nights
Not make me want to fly away


Bryesha Edwards is a Detroit School of the Arts student and Citywide Poet during the 16/17 school year.

Ashley Rae & Eldric Parks

Ashley Rae and Eldric Parks

Ashley Rae and Eldric Parks are two members of the Detroit Youth Poetry Slam Team that traveled to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2016. “Niggas” is a group poem written to celebrate black culture while addressing the issues the black community faces when viewed by our oppressors.

Mason Simpson

Closed Casket Hymn

Of death and its silent coming
Slender fingers grab at ankles
Cover mouths
Close eyes

Death considers every final breath a blessing
Biting down on cold blue lips
At the end of someone’s last kiss
Eyes open; the person sighs at last.

The end
Smiling without teeth
Heats stop
And death walks towards his next catch

The parents: they take a bow.



Mason is a CMA student exploring poetry daily.

featured youth artist: Jõsá’Lynn Lee

adult featured artist: Cassius Tae