Issue No. 6

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu By Gwendolyn Shingles

The foreign words that came out of the rabbis lips were like a soft melody unknown to me. I stood with those around me, staring at the prayer book in my hand, seeing symbols that looked like art, but that flowed through my mind in an incomprehensible jumble. I felt alone as I stood and moved my mouth with no sounds escaping. The syllables seemed to slide up so easily from the throats of those around me.

“Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu” (blessed are you our God) finally a line I knew. My mind flashed to the dark room of my grandmothers house, my family and I crowded around the menorah, uttering the traditional prayer of lighting the candles. I held in my hand a lighted candle carefully going from each candle and watching it as it lit up with a flourish.
I closed my eyes and imagined that the lights were dancing behind my eyelids, missing the the warm tingling feeling that engulfed your whole body on Hanukkah. Suddenly the thoughts disappeared and my mind flashed to a smaller, darker room, not lit up by candles, my tiny head pressed up against the door, whispers coming from the other side of it.

“Our children need to be raised with religion.,” my mother whispered.
“They are being raised with religion, two religions.” my father whispered back.

The fact that the people around me were sitting pulled me back to reality, and I smoothed my dress as I sat back in my seat. A man sitting in front of me, kippah fell off his head and he bent down to pick it up, kissing it before placing it back on his head. I looked over at my grandmother who was sitting next to me, her dyed blond hair straightened and curled in her normal way. On the other side of me sat my younger brother his eyes closed and head slowly leaning to the side, my father, who sat to the side of him, was shaking his shoulder trying to wake him up.

My mind wandered to the feast awaiting at home. I could just hear the latkes sizzling in the pan, hot oil popping up from the contents. I could taste the oily salty potato contraption hitting my tongue my mouth bursting with flavor. I sighed.
Suddenly, my heart contracted, as I remembered my mother two miles away sitting at home, a home separate from my father. There divorce final for more than two years. She would not be able to join us for the mouth watering feast that awaited us. I remember once my father told me a story of when he and my mother first got married.

“I was at a friends house,” he had said, “and was sitting outside with the dad of my friend. And the dad was talking to a rabbi about how people like me were ruining Judaism. Right in front of me, I wasn’t sure if he knew I was in a mixed marriage or not, he was talking about how mixed marriages should not happen and how they were killing the Jewish religion.” The rabbi of the temple asked us all to rise again and repeat after him in English. I stood up, listening to the words of the Rabbi, and repeating them back with the rest. Something I could actually do.

There was only one time in my life where I had consistently gone to a temple. Before going to the temple I had had to come in and speak to one of the people that ran the temple. Sitting there, nervous and awkward as always, I had fumbled with my hands silently as the women explained what I would be learning at the temple.

It had been really hard for my dad to find a temple that fit his beliefs and that did not always speak hebrew when doing their services. Finally he was able to find a temple that fit his expectation. There was only one downfall that we would soon come to learn.
After we discussed what the temple taught and what I would be required of if we attended the temple, we got to the issue, well the issue in their minds, of my upbringing in two religions. They avoided outright saying it, but I understood what they were saying. To attend this temple they did not want me to practice two different religions. My dad had been livid stating that it should not be their say in what religion I was able to practice, nor how many. We still ended up going to the temple and, to their dismay we still practiced both religions.

Multiple times during our days at the temple, my dad got into arguments with the rabbi. The temple grew to dislike us, and continued to preach that children should not be raised with two different religions. Every night, after going to the temple, I would have to listen to my father rant on and on about how the temple wasn’t accepting and how they had no right this and they had no right that. In the end, somehow, my dad had convinced them to be more accepting of those who wanted to practice two religions. The day after we were told this, we never came back because my dad had fallen into a deep depression and no longer felt like taking us.

People always found it hard to believe that I practiced two religions. They always thought that because I was born to a Christian mother, that I too had to be Christian. As time went on I became tired of the same old questions I was asked. “So you celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas?” “Do you go to church and temple?” “How can you possibly be two religions?” As hard as it may be to believe I identified myself as both religions, one big blend of the two. And in many ways this was plausible. There was a large amount of similarities between the two religions, they worshipped the same God and had the same principles. They both used the old testament to teach their religion.

Even though in my heart I knew that I was and would always be an identifier of both religions, my brain still had its doubts. As I sat there, in the temple, for some reason I still felt out of place. The people around me would go home with a mezuzah on the front door. They would put their hands to their lips and then touch the mezuzah and then they would go inside and there would be their family of Jews. One Saturday they would have sabbath and I would be home with the lights on working on homework.

They would go to the temple every weekend and no one would question why they were there. They would sit in a temple and would be able to speak along with the rabbi and understand what he was saying.

And I, I would be at home with my split family and my culturally missing life, and yes I would feel as though I was one with both, and yet I would feel like I was neither.

I sat there with my hands in my lap, my shoulders hunched, the foreign words filling my ears, and tried to remain as unseen as possible.

Bio for Troy Public Library Students: These pieces are written by teens ages 13-18 who participate in the writing community at the Troy Public Library. Teens who participate in the TPL Writing Club do so because they love writing and they want to share their passion and ideas with other young people.

Poetry contest Runner Up: Three poems by Madelyn Neal

Dear God #1

Show me your grace in the 2.3 seconds it takes my grandfather to recognize my face. Or the inevitable instances where his customary greeting, -who is this? -Your favorite granddaughter. becomes a veritable misunderstanding. Who?

Show me your mercy in the quivering tip of an urgent ink pen- Tortured by time spent and the time needed. Etched in paper, seeped into remarks about the weather.

Ask me why I have trouble honestly loving you, and I’ll point to the grandfather who refused to write me a letter, and then to the one who wrote me two to compensate.

Because how can they both exist through you?

Or the aunt that would rather see me than hear from me // Reassuring herself I look nothing like her baby
— but I open my mouth and distort her illusion

In the way I slur my Ss cautiously like a yawn — or sidle side to side, an exaggerated smirk overcompensating. Hip jutting out to support a small boy / unclipped nails clawing at my arm but not

Understanding why he’s holding on so tightly. I am the age she last was.

I could show you a pedigree of contradictions Supply you with reasoning as to my disobedience Bullet
pointed. You would show me yours. We are both Ego:

● A long line of women who seem to birth us
○ Then become irrelevant.
● Men who gave us a name
         ○ Our distrust of those who open car doors for us, And our perpetual misinterpretation of who you’re supposed to be.

Between Me and You Inspired by Bei Dao. For Lex

Between Me and You Inspired by Bei Dao. For Lex
Between me and you Grief is a lazy thing But judgmental nonetheless. \\ it tsks, air hissing through the gap in its front teeth:
You didn’t call her enough To cry in public | to post a picture | to hold a squirming, giggling piece of her.
Between me and you You’re the pretty face I’m the disappointed Grace Neither one of us a hand to hold
I’m not the beauty our grandad always wanted. But when you took a long nap I saw a plastic, powdered doll in a wooden box [buried under flowers, exaggerated mascara, swollen hands – phantom tingling when your grandmother squeezes your fingers]
A stunning imitation Incites A feverish pitch / a hitch in grandad’s exclamations He’s still hoping that telling you you’re beautiful
will bring you back.
Between me and you Your 3 year old One arm wrapped firmly around his Gigi Stretches a finger or two out to you But still doesn’t wonder where you’ve gone.
Between me and you
I’m the half-baked blessing Cooked up by a minister who got my name wrong- Wondering if it still counts,
Catching religion on a technicality.
I’m the eager traveler Thinking your spirit can’t catch up to me overseas // or find me in a hotel room
A mind-numbing distraction A week-long pause giving me just enough strength to Breathe. But it’s past midnight And here I sit in the dark Praying to be like you But hoping that will never happen.
Between me and you I see nothing so horrid about my own body Until schoolmates call me ‘average’ And atone for self-esteem issues With a smile and a shrug toward societal reign It’s normal for teenage girls to see an unpleasantly oversized
Imposter. Squinting at them through a sheet of glass.
But ironically,
what is not normal is to accept a compliment
And nod in agreement-
Confidence is a faux-pas among vulnerable people.
Between me and you They say if you don’t have a relationship with God, you must Be in Hell. But I don’t see too much about your life that was sinful I just see a girl, Trying to fix a woman’s problems. Making it worse instead of better.
Between me and you I’ve forgiven you for what you did Even though I saw your mom cry over a picture frame of your slacken handprint
Your brother stare, Your dad stand there, Your grandmother sit and gossip // wringing 21 years in her hands // unconsciously
tearing at your smiling face // inaccuracy. Your grandad cry.
An uncle to carry you An uncle to care for you.
And a baby not to know why You lied When you wished him goodnight And promised to see him in the morning.
Between me and you There’s less distance now Than there ever was before. Ironic. Years too late. And everything in between.


Untitled For Alexis Marie

The only two phrases I can utter With any confidence in their accuracy Are as follows:
“So it goes.” And “God bless you, Mr. Thomas Hardy.”
Because reading your unfortunate novel is To arrive at the very end and conclude that I’ve understood nothing at all.
So I read it again and I asked you what it all meant
What was the point?
Why did it hurt?
But you shrugged, “Who knows.”
And I watched your heroine die With resignation. and shame. But was it hers or yours? I did not recognize my own Tess Where she lay in her wooden box. And though she shouted at me “I am. I was! I wanted to be.” I did not believe her.
If our imperfect bodies are our temples
Mine is blotched with wilted sunflowers // etched with the silhouettes of time spent at the zoo // a perfect scar from where I fell off the top bunk – laughing too hard – stage whispers from a Thanksgiving holiday – muffled from inside our tent – timed bedtimes forcing us to abandon our half past ten reverie //
Empty insults, hope after all.

Madelyn Neal Bio: Madelyn is a high school senior who will be attending Miami University the fall of 2017 and has previously self-published a book entitled Project: Hope, that describes the plight of refugees once they move to the States. She is an aspiring poet who is passionate about literature and creative writing, as well as coffee, 80s movies, and travel. Her favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Jane Austen, J.D. Salinger, Charlotte Brontë, among countless others. Madelyn hopes to have her first collection of poetry published in 2018. Madelyn is the runner up in Underscore Review’s first ever Submission Contest in Poetry.

I Was Living the Life… A short story by Julia Genord

At least, that’s what it looked like to everyone else. I was liked by all of my superiors. I had plenty of friends. I had exceptional motivation, but still had a lot of fun with life on the side. I was as put together as they come. Oh yes, I had it all figured out.

When you look at a person, you generally focus on the things you want to see. Take Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” for example. To the untrained eye, it looks like a lovely picture of people spending a day at the waterside. Nothing too special about that; just your average weekend, right? But if you take a closer look, you’ll find that it is actually composed of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots, meticulously placed to form a full image.

I believe people are the same way. At a glance, you see a whole image, a complete person. But if you look at the subject through a microscope, or even just a magnifying glass, you’ll find all the bits and pieces that make up each person. And sometimes… you may find that the pieces making up that perfect person are really just pieces of glass fallen from a broken mirror, a broken person.
I was one of those mirrors. At one point, I was a shiny, new, full-length mirror showing off my fancy frame from where I proudly hung on the wall. But as time goes by, things happen. The elements kick in, and suddenly the mirror isn’t so shiny and new anymore. It’s broken in places, dirty, hard to see though. People don’t waste their time looking into rusty mirrors.

No one wants a broken mirror. They bring bad luck.
Which is, I assume, why I’m single.

Eighteen years. For some, it’s the age they fall in love at. The time when they finally meet their soul mates. Me? Ha, don’t make me laugh. For me, it’s the number of years I’ve gone without aging.

Each year, I watch more and more people start aging as they meet their soul mates. All my friends are off and married. My family looks at me with despair. They wonder when I’ll find love. Well dammit, maybe I don’t want to find love. I don’t need your looks of pity. Maybe I’m perfectly happy alone.

Happy. Yeah, that’s a great word to describe me. I hope the sarcasm was noticeable. Whatever. It’s not like its anything new.

My alarm clock rings, but I’ve been awake for some time now. I push myself out of bed, telling myself that today will be better. It’s going to be beautiful outside. Maybe I’ll take a walk. That always seems to lift my spirits, even when it seems impossible.
I throw on some clothes, making myself look presentable. I open my ‘front door’ and step onto the staircase just outside. I live above my café. It’s been in the family for several generations now, and according to my mother, it’s my duty to carry on the business. I unlock the door and flip the sign from closed to open. Michael will walk in any moment now.

Michael is my best friend. Really, my only true friend. He’s worked as my employee for years. When we were teenagers, we started our first jobs waiting tables here. Now we run the place in an almost-partnership. Not only is he a good businessman, but his good looks bring customers in, which is not something to scoff at, not with this economy. Honestly, without Michael, I can’t imagine where I’d be. He’s always been there for me, and vise-versa. He’s a great guy. Now, you wait just a moment; I know what you’re thinking. Don’t go jumping to conclusions here; I’m not going to fall in love with Michael. He’s inherently gay, business skills and all.
I hear the bell chime as I’m tying my apron strings.

“Guess who found you a husband!” It’s not even a question anymore. He comes in every day, without fail, proclaiming the same thing. Eighteen years later, this dating game hasn’t worked once. But it’s sweet of him to try.
“Hmm… let me guess. Tall, dark hair, bright green eyes…two piercings? Enjoys long walks on the beach?” I pretend to rack my brain predicting the details of this new love interest.
“Long walks in the park, but you were close.”
I sigh. “Sounds more like your type than mine.”
He winks at me. “You’re right, sweetheart. Already got the digits. Hope you don’t mind if I use them myself.” He pulls out his phone to input the number.
Rolling my eyes, I turn back to the cash register. “Go right ahead. It probably wouldn’t have worked out for me anyway.”
“Aw, Christie, come on. One of these days, I’ll catch you a winner, I promise. But until then, Eric and I will provide enough entertainment to keep your mind off things like that.”
“Eric, eh? Already on a first name basis?”
“You know it, sister.” He walks behind the counter to set out the menus.

The bell chimes again and our first customer walks in, his nose buried in a newspaper. He’s a regular, and takes his usual seat by the window in the corner. Michael goes over to him and strikes up a pleasant conversation while taking his order. I get ready to prepare some sort of breakfast for the man, all the while thinking of what Michael said about Eric. ‘Provide enough entertainment to keep your mind off things like that.’ Is it really that bad? I’m not heartbroken over not having a man to spice up the romantic side of my life. Trust me, that’s the least of my worries.

Michael finishes taking the order and leaves the man to relax in his booth. Joining me behind the stove, we work to create a waffle lighter than air itself. Inconspicuously, he presses a small orange bottle into my hand.

“You didn’t take them this morning, did you?” He whispers as he stares into my eyes, silently hoping that his suspicions are false. I shake my head. I didn’t take my pills yet today, and although I thought I was hiding it well, Michael can somehow always tell. “Go. I’ll cover this. Make sure you drink plenty of water afterwards.”

I head off to the bathroom, bottle in hand. I take a Dixie cup out of the holder and fill it with water. Opening the bottle, I pour two small pills into my hand. It’s always seemed funny to me that something so small could make such a big difference. I swallow the pills hard, chasing them with a swig of water. I always try to pretend I can feel my mood lifting as soon as the pills hit my throat. Twenty-some years of antidepressants and I still play these mind games with myself.

Back at the counter, I see that we’ve accumulated a few more customers. A young woman wrapped up in the warmth of a good book sits alone. A man holding a briefcase, tapping his foot anxiously, sips his coffee. I’m not sure that more caffeine is a good idea in his case. I’m pulled from my thoughts by the bell from the opening door. I glance that way, spotting an elderly gentleman holding the door open for his wife. They could be in their eighties, but they still bring an air of youth with them.

Michael goes to greet them, and I watch from my place behind the counter. The couple looks so happy together, catching each other’s gaze with sparkles in their eyes. They move around each other with ease, probably due to years spent in the company of the other. Michael motions for me to come over.

“Good morning sir, ma’am. How may I help you?”
“Oh, we just wondered who that lovely lady behind the counter was.” The lady speaks with a smile and kind eyes.
“Oh, gosh, well thank you.” I blush, not expecting a compliment. “I’m the owner, Christie McMire. It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”
“Well Ms. McMire, it’s clear you run a tight ship here. No nonsense, am I right?” The lady still speaks with soft eyes, a sly smile creeping across her face.
I laugh. “Well, I certainly like to think so.”
The man speaks, “well young lady, we’re very impressed with you.”
“Thank you. How long have you two been together?” I blurt it out, not sure where the question came from. Embarrassed, I try to back track, but I’m stopped when they both chuckle.
“A long time, my dear. We’ve been married for 61 years. Started dating, oh…4 years prior? Yes, I think that’s right. Happy together ever since.” The lady spoke while her husband watched her, love evident on his face. “It takes time, but you’ll get there.”

How she knew I struggled with that, I’m not sure, but I was glad she said it. Watching them…something changed in me, and I’m not sure why. It’s not like they’re the first older couple to cross my path. In that moment, I realized that I wasn’t done with love. I hadn’t given up yet. I want what they have. I want to be with someone forever and always. And I’m willing to wait.

Back behind the counter, I turn to Michael.
“Find me an Eric.”

Bio for Troy Public Library Students: These pieces are written by teens ages 13-18 who participate in the writing community at the Troy Public Library. Teens who participate in the TPL Writing Club do so because they love writing and they want to share their passion and ideas with other young people.

Diversity Disease by Annie Barry

There’s a disease called diversity and I think my age has got it
We want you all, yes you in the back, to have caught it
Now some of you had it, but then you grew up and forgot it
You tried some remedies, you forgot about old memories, you left behind the miseries you used
To call sunday morning hangovers
And let the bosses take you over
So you bought a new range rover
With the money you bought when you signed your life over
To the cubicle in the building where they know of you as a push over
The day you quit doing drugs
You took out your earplugs
And listened to the uniform calling
They spread you like butter
Into the bread
That you’ll later on refuse to break
All because of those conformity newsletters you’re emailed
daily from daily mail and vogue Magazine
In the fifth grade I did a replication project for my class
I chose the topic of conformity
I spoke of the white picket fenced houses
All painted white
To match the color of their skin
I talked about the bodycon dresses the women wear
That only look good if you’re thin
So everyone goes to the gym
Only to sit around in
their white picket fenced in Painted white houses
Having dinner parties
In their white bodycon dresses
With the thin bodies they got from spending their free time at the gym
All to lean up against the new granite counter top while drinking gin
And all of their guests are just as totally cult as they are
Wearing Michael kors rubber flip flops because they just went and got pedicures together so
That they could talk about how Cindy is totally ruining her life by staying with her 3rd husband
And gossiping about each other every time one of them goes to the bathroom
In the fifth grade I did a replication project and I chose the group of women that my mom
Watches on tv as my topic
I said that they’re all the same people and every episode is just a bad sequel to the last because
Nothing new happens
Women up in the gym
I’m talkin’ the ones that go only to drink their smoothies in their lulu lemon workout outfits
The ones that go to take selfies and send to their friends
And then jump in that mercedes benz
One of them says she’s going on a diet so the other goes on a cleanse and the other spends
Her weekends doing P90X
They compete with the number of steps on their fitbits
These ladies are all the same
So i’m tryna spread my disease called diversity
I wanna get adults to dance without their heels in a club of swing dancers not pole dancers
Wear a dress that your friends haven’t seen in every ad
And use words that perplex people past present perfectionism
Let the poets of the youth inspire you
We’re not all like the kids you hate
And I’m trying to spread it to all those parents who didn’t give their kids the disease called diversity

Bio: I’m a sixteen year old poet. I’m a varsity cheer captain. I’m a repertory theatre props manager. I grew up in a catholic school; i’m a methodist. My brother went to the most strict jesuit high school in my city; at the time, he was atheist/agnostic. I know diversity better than the back of my hand. This poem speaks of people who are far from diversity in this world.

Night Shift by Annasofia Padua

CONTENT WARNING: This piece contains language/content that may be sensitive or triggering in nature. Please take caution in reading further.

Andrea was six minutes late as she tried to quickly make her way through the kitchen. The familiar echo of Hispanic men arguing over soccer, failing to enunciate all but their home countries perfectly, awaited her.
“Excuse me, guys,” Andrea let out in a giggle
“Hey Andrea what’s up?” Diego said, followed by greetings from two other men.
“Nothing much, only on my fourth amazing shift this week got three beautiful ones to go!” she said sarcastically while she put three fingers in the air.
“Damn I feel for you. Hurry though, Francisco came in here complaining you were late again.”
“He can suck a big one I practically live here,” she responded as she walked away.
When she got to the registers, she saw Francisco rushing towards her from out on the floor. “43 needs a Coke and a ham and cheese empanada.”
“I just fucking got here,” she said under her breath.
“What?” Francisco responded.
“Don’t worry about it, Paco. I’ll ring it up. Wait.. That’s not even my section.”
“It is now, Juan needs the money tonight. You come in late, you don’t have the privilege of working the busiest section. That’s just how it is and you know this.”
She stared at him blankly for a few seconds then said, “Did you transfer the tables already?”
“Yeah Leila left at five on the dot so I stepped in, you know you have to get here on time she has a second job.”
“On the schedule it says Vane was day time section 2?”
“She called in sick.”
“Stop complaining, put your apron on and get to work.”
The five o’clock humidity seeped through her clothes as she tied her apron around her waist and tucked in her shirt, proceeding to pour a Coke. At the same time, she skimmed through her tables for the night. None of them looked too promising. During her greeting run, she would say “I’ll be with you in a second.” to most of the new faces, and “Hola como están, vuelvo ahora con el agua,” to the regulars.
It seemed everyone was in a good mood, her big smile returned with even bigger ones. A happy customer makes the night flow, no matter how busy it gets. She liked being a server, thinking was limited to polite responses and having excellent time management. There was a world outside of that restaurant, and a much simpler world inside of it. The truth was, she was actually a person with a thousand things to worry about, but at work she was just the friendly waitress.
The man at table 43 was facing the other way but as she approached, his features all came together and wrapped themselves around her worst nightmare. Almost letting some of the coke spill as her hands shook, she placed it on the table and said, “What are you doing here?” her voice shook as much as her hands.
The man looked up with a seemingly practiced smile and said “I came to see you. You won’t answer my texts or my calls, so desperate times call for desperate measures.” She looked into his green eyes, his tight haircut and the tribal tattoo on his right arm almost made her flinched in response.
“I’ll come back with your empanada Sir.” is the only thing she managed to let out, and as he tried to get another word in she was already half way across the restaurant.
In her experienced, fast paced walk she hid an attempt to flee, to walk out through the same back door she came in from. Of course, she had been doing this for too long to not go through any other feasible, un-fireable solution.
The green logos on the black shirts of the servers walking past her, barely legible, her section, everyone else’s section, the tv’s, the brown booths and wooden chairs, everything she saw every day, overwhelmed her. There was too much color in the dullness, too much light in the dimmed lightbulbs, too much sun coming in through the glass windows. The restaurant was huge and suddenly it became so small, but ever expanding with each step, that did not end her up in front of Francisco.
Finally arriving at the registers she was greeted with “Andrea you okay?” said Chelsea, a tall red head with the kindest voice in the world.
Stopping only to ground herself before it all became too much, Andrea said “Yeah I’m fine, have you seen Paco?”
“Yeah he was just in the kitchen.”
She walked through the entrance to see him pacing back and forth, infornt of Bo, the most problematic waiter; another issue had clearly gotten to him first.
“Andrea, I’m talking to Bo, give me a second.”
“It’s important!”
“What?” He yelled.
“I’m not taking 43 give it to someone else, that’s my ex!” Andrea yelled back. Francisco and Andrea had developed a special kind of respect for each other in equally exchanged yelling that usually doesn’t occur between servers and managers; no one got away it but her.
He looked at her the way he always looked at her before saying no to her requests so she interrupted his trip to “No” Town, a specially named, made up home town given to him by a bus boy who used to work there. “I’ve been working 7 seven shifts in five days for a month now, I pulled a double yesterday, c’mon cut me some slack”
Bo leaned in from behind Francisco and said “I would take it but I’m slammed” “I’ll switch with you don’t worry” she answered.
“No” Francisco said quieting them both. “I’m dealing with something right now I don’t have time to transfer your tables.”
“Well, you don’t have to, I’ll ask Chelsea she wouldn’t mind doing it under my number.”
“She’s slammed too, Andrea. Take a deep breath for now I’ll figure something out when I’m done dealing with this,” He said, turning around to face Bo.
Andrea didn’t know how to deal with Sergio besides from avoiding him, but she would have to do it that day. She grabbed the empanada and some waters for the other tables and walked out with her chin up, a tear threatening to fall before she could finish another round. She walked through all of her tables except for 43, giving out waters, taking down orders, in a robotic manner. When she was done with that she looked at her note pad and didn’t remember anyone asking for the things that were written down. The empanada still in her hand, she rushed towards Sergio’s table and pretty much dropped it in front of him, saying, “Here you go” and trying to walk away.
“Wait, Andrea, did you forget I like ketchup on my empanadas?” he said.
“I’ll come back with some” a smile rose, trying to push back a tear from rolling down her cheek. She couldn’t help thinking about the many times he’d make her get up while they ate meals, she had prepared. He’d ask for things one by one, salt, ketchup, pepper; she’d get up for each one. The one time she refused to, he smashed the plate against the floor, and forced her to clean it up. It happened to be an empanada.
When she came back with the ketchup and tried to place it on the table without looking at him, he grabbed her by the wrist tightly. “I miss you, Andrea, I know you, you don’t look happy, you can’t be happy”

“Sergio it’s not about that, please don’t do this here” She was frozen over like if his grip was a pause button. He wouldn’t let go. Her thin arms looked helpless next to his, her caramel eyes, weak against the green of his, her naturally tan smooth skin pure, in contrast to his tanning bed, orange, complexity.
“What is it about huh, you can’t just forgive me for not being perfect? Are you too good for that now, it took a month for all your feelings to just go away?” He paused, expecting her to reply. When she didn’t he continued
“I know I’m not perfect but I can work on it, we’re going on three years now, I can’t see a future without you”
“We were.” She said in a low voice, looking down at her wrist, which he hadn’t let go of.
“What?” He scoffed. “It couldn’t have all been for nothing!” He squeezed her wrist tighter.
She said nothing in response except for, “Please let me go.”
He finally did, his practiced smile turned into a grin which turned into a frown. “This is burnt. I don’t want it. Bring me another one” he said.
Sinking into her past she let out what most of their discussions led her to say “Okay, I’m sorry.”
Everything went from too much to nonexistent. A numbness that started at her wrist, made her way through her body and her steps, one in front of the other, seemed to hit no ground. All she could think about was how you can just stop feeling like a whole person with a simple exchange of words, how she had gotten all sorts of customers saying all sorts of things, but when absolutely anything rolled off his tongue, it hurt. She rang up all the others, not knowing where she was at, not caring. She stood by the registers looking over her tables making sure everyone looked happy, and they were getting their food on time, but her eyes always ended up at his table for far too long.
His composure was so relaxed, but put together, what was attractive before was now menacing. He ate his empanada slowly, looking forward. He didn’t really like Hispanic food, or Coke for that matter. After a while during their relationship, he stopped doing anything that he didn’t want to without there being consequences. There more she observed the more she realized, nothing about this was unplanned. This was meant to send a message; he wasn’t asking for forgiveness, he was demanding it. As she stared he slowly turned to face her, took a sip of his coke, looked her in the eye, and then immediately put it down.
What was so powerful about a man sending a message with the kind of food he orders? It was stupid, she felt stupid. Rapidly her heart started pumping; it was gathering strength on its own. No one should feel like this, she thought. He was a monster but he was no god, he was a lion but she didn’t have to be prey.
Snapping out of it she walked up to Chelsea and said, “Please cover my section, I have to run to the bathroom.”
“Yeah, no problem, don’t take too long, though.” She walked into the kitchen, yelled “Move!” and watched everyone step aside, without questioning it. In the bathroom, the huge mirror served as a reminder that she was indeed human, no less than anyone. She remembered she wouldn’t drown because she knew how to swim, she came to the conclusion she always came to after reading her favorite quote: “I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Christopher Reeves
It finally echoed inside her head without escaping through a gallery of excuses. She was stretching out her hands screaming “help” while everyone was doing the same, in their own way, facing their own struggles. She printed out his check, grabbed a to go box, and walked over to him.
“Here’s your check.” She placed down the check. “Here’s a to go box for your empanada.” She put down the box “I want you to leave me alone.”
“Are you actually talking to me in that tone? That’s not what a proper waitress would do.”
“A proper waitress also doesn’t have a video of you slamming her head against a wall, which her friends begged her to show the police. Get the fuck out of here”
“Oh so you’re threatening me now? You want me to tell your manager you told me to get the fuck out, I want to speak with him, I’m being treated very unfairly”
“Oh, yeah? Well I’ll go get him in a second, he’ll come right after I show it to him. I’ll also let you in on a little secret, he’s a big fan of calling the cops when people don’t want to leave.” She walked away and went up to her other tables asking how their food was, asking if they wanted dessert, when she finally turned around to face him, he was gone, and there was a 10 dollar bill on the floor.
The night passed smoothly after that and a few minutes before last call, Francisco asked if she was okay.
“I’m sorry about earlier. Bo had cursed under his breath at table 12 and they heard him. Then they complained about the food, saying they wanted a refund, Al never showed up so the dishwashers were super slow. I really don’t like making you guys deal with people you don’t want to deal with.”
“I dealt with it, it’s just that I’m not actually bruised all the time because I’m clumsy.”
“Why didn’t you say anything? I’m so sorry; I would’ve kicked him out right away.”
“I thought I wouldn’t have to, but it’s okay. You learn how to do something new every day.”

Bio: Annasofia Padua is a Senior at Miami Arts Charter majoring in creative writing. She has written work in fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and more. Anna is a big nature lover and enjoys being outdoors.

3 poems by Anna Wawer

The Aztec

I need no knife
To stab your arrogance
With open palms- I tear you open-
I wrench out your stomach
And you can’t wriggle free
You can’t wail out
I don’t let go

I am evil you may say
But the sun must turn the wheel again
The sun must turn the wheel

Leave your heart alone a while
I delight in the petty rhythm
It plays-
Faster- and faster! – quivering vocals
Slash your throat

I am evil you may say
But the sun must turn the wheel again
Must turn the wheel-

Choke upon your own words
I expose them-the lies they are-
I pry them open-

And dripping lips of soundless words
Spill out apologies, spew forgiveness-

Upon the temple of scarlet beauty
Behold heaven’s vengeance!

A furious breath from above
Splatters your fate
Into red patterns-
Feral Flowers-

What a savage garden to lie in
Veins of the rocks
Your arteries fill
Your blood enriches, your death throes thrill-

Perhaps I am evil- a demon from hell

But the sun had turned the wheel again
The sun had turned the wheel.
The Tavern of the Night Traveller

I have fallen asleep
By the sea
Where waves
-Those architects of sorrow-
Mould thoughts like sand on the beaches

They wash in
Tides of raw farewells
And swirl them into rock pools
That cavity my heart

– Companions of the Soul-
There’s so few of us who don’t abide
The rules of distance…

Do you sleep now too?

Let our breaths unite in the sky

Up in the Tavern of the Night Traveller

We will drink for Memories
And dance for our dreams;
Twirl with Saturn rings
And laugh
At wishing stars

Let’s raise our chalice now.
Gulp down love
And get drunk in friendship

Oh! And we will shoo away our sadness
Crush it underfoot
While entwined in Tango of longing
We become weightless

In the Tavern of the Night Traveller
I will be waiting for you

Lament of Water

I am liquid to them.
They admire my movement
Set in motion by every step
By every quiver, every breath;

I fill a glass, a puddle.
I shine among sunlight
Or torchlight in the darkness
I cast shadows and play
Hopscotch with their shadows-

They cry to my voice
Moonlight breaker in the dark!
I blanket ceilings
In sapphire stardust

I project beauty that surrounds me
But on my own, I am nothing to them-
They look at their own reflection
Or looking at me they are reminded
Of someone else-

Even though
Their castaway lovers
Could not hear hearts quiver
And mirror it in waves,

They could not-
By simply being near-
Know the course of sleepless nights.

They could not feel-
Wavering melodies
Upon aimless hands

It hurts:
That the essence of me;
Is too liquid to touch.
Too liquid to feel.
Too liquid to see.

Bio: An eighteen-year old, first-year university student in the United Kingdom, with a passion for science and martial arts. Has lived in Poland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and has a huge appreciation of nature. Often writes of strong emotions concerning betrayal and loss.

The Blue Plastic Mug - A short story by Raagini Chandra

All throughout my life I was sectioned off into the group of rejected models that didn’t fit the image of popularity or likability in elementary and middle school. I was brown-skinned and outspoken, smart and not afraid to show it, and from the minute one of my family-friends said hello to me on the first day of school I had sealed my own fate: I was part of the brown crowd. This membership was, as originally intended, binding for life and a host to monumental impediments throughout the rest of my career in the Troy School District. Impediments I was not aware of in the beginning. I did not know back then when I gave her my friendship that I would be alienated from the rest of the “normal” kids. I did not know that I wouldn’t be invited to any of the parties that the rest of the class was invited to because I wasn’t part of the right clique. I didn’t know my outspoken temperament would lead me to be further ridiculed and cast out of a group that the entire middle school only considered to be subpar. I didn’t know that I would be branded a freak, for being myself. There are many, many, stories that give color to the terrible path I have trodden on, but for the most part I have attempted to block them out of my memory. Until last week.

It was the day of flyer-drop for the fall play and I was taking a sophomore, Nick, around the city and we were dropping flyers off at all of the houses to advertise. As tradition dictates I took him to Starbucks afterwards to hang some more flyers and to get some coffee and maybe a cake pop. That was when I saw him walk in behind me. When you see a school entity in a place that isn’t, well, school, they tend to stick out like a sore thumb. He saw me, popped the earbuds out of his ears, and jamned his phone into his jacket’s pocket.
“Hey Joey!” I waved. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have noticed this encounter but I had recently started paying more attention to the dozy but pedantic boy in my English class. The reason was that my friend had mentioned to me not too long ago that she was somewhat interested in him and so I tended to keep him within my cross-hairs a millisecond longer than usual. I was the ever loyal best friend and had taken with great conviction the burden of observing my best friend’s crush. I was kind of shocked when she mentioned it to me the first time because he is someone that we have both known for years, but I almost immediately decided that I was on board. I liked Joey, I didn’t understand completely why at first but something about him made me think that he wasn’t a bad guy. He was smart and had a direction which he wanted to go in and yet he wasn’t overtly didactic to the point where he snorted AP classes like cocaine.
It was this reason why I sparked up a conversation with him.

“Hey Raagini,” He said as he walked away from his mother.
“Getting coffee?” I awkwardly intoned. Despite the fact that it had been several years since my elementary school days, I still had some trouble carrying on a conversation with a mildly attractive, somewhat charismatic, white boy. But I pushed myself to continue the conversation, I had taught myself how to appear charming and well-adjusted on the outside while middle school Raagini sputtered and drowned under the weight of her own self-criticism.
“Yeah” he threw his words away, “gotta stay awake for those college essays, am I right?”

This was good. It was territory I felt comfortable sliding into. The conversation beyond that was very normal. I was just another one of those conversations that leaks into everything a high school senior eventually talks about. After he got his coffee and said goodbye I drove Nick home and thought about him. I wondered if he still had the blue plastic mug.

Every time I thought about Joey I always wondered if he kept the blue plastic mug. It wasn’t anything special at all, just a coffee mug made out of plastic which had rubber raised letters to spell out: J o e y. I had given it to him way back in second grade. I used to fear that the people who used to know me back then would expose how much of a loser I was to the new group of people I surrounded myself with. It wasn’t exactly that I was a loser, but once a perception is created it is extremely hard to change it. My mangled connotation spelled social suicide for anyone who would dare to make friends with me back then because kids were cruel. And Joey wasn’t much different, though, I can’t say that I blame him. Leonard Elementary School was a dog eat dog world and if you weren’t chasing the popular boys with Melina DiMambro or playing gigolo with Sofia Salinas you might as well not consider yourself a girl. A viable girl anyways. And I, of course, wasn’t. Joey happened to be one of the boys that was being chased, the virtual center to Kollyn Beaulieu high school quarterback. There were a group of about seven or eight boys that everyone knew. The big three: Kollyn, Joel, and Joey were in Miss Burton’s second grade class with me, and it was absolute hell. I was a leper who had chosen to make friends with a girl that everyone turned out to despise and I learned that it clearly wasn’t a wise decision on my part much too late. And as Kollyn, Joel, Joey, Melina, Sofia, and the rest of the pretty people created a “family”, us brown-skinned seven-year olds were inconspicuously tossed behind the glass as the TV sitcom of a perfect life took place in front of our eyes.

One day, Mrs. Burton announced that a guest would be coming to our classroom and teaching us about…something. The details have seemed to escape me as the years have gone by but I remember that he was absolutely astonishing. Whatever he was talking about magnetized my attention as well as the attentions of every single second-grader in my class. The end of the presentation resulted in us being provided with the best thing that we could have possibly been given. Our own individual plastic hourglasses, so that we could practice the “something” he taught us by ourselves at home. I spent the rest of the day tapping my little nails on the plastic surrounding the yellow-capped hourglass. It was magnificent. Each white crystal fell down in such a soothing and smooth manner that my easily-distractible mind was immediately taken with the treasure. I wanted to touch it, I wanted to feel the sand rolling down my skin and into the creases between my fingernails and the pads atop them. I picked at the cap that enclosed the hourglass. It did nothing. I picked harder. Still, nothing. I stuck it in my mouth and attempted to pry it off with my teeth and the cap instantly popped off and sprayed white sand into my mouth and every crevice of my t-shirt and face. I let out a moan but instead of sounding like a shriek it sounded more like, “nyaahh!” because I was attempting to not let any of the sand make its way down my throat. I almost began to cry because not only was I the only person in my entire class who no longer had an hourglass, I was also covered in sand and spitting it into the sink while everyone else watched.

The rest of the day I sat huffily in my chair and tried to look like I was focused on my schoolwork while Sherli, a nasty girl whose mission was apparently to make my life a living hell, came up to me and showed me her hourglass.

“Raa-genie,” she taunted even though she knew full well that that was not my name, “look at my hourglass, it’s blue and it’s so cool!” She poured the sand back and forth for a while which prompted Melina, Kollyn and the other boys and girls in the class to remember their little artifacts. Soon, everyone in the entire class had gotten out their hourglasses and were giggling and laughing and playing with them while I stood, once again, behind the glass while the TV show aired leaving an unloved and pathetic girl in its wake.

Being the superhero she was, Miss Burton noticed my expression and looked around at the rest of the room. When she realized what was happening she came up to me, “Raagini are you okay?”
I shook my head no.
“Are you upset because you broke your hourglass?”
I nodded again, “It’s just not fair! I didn’t mean to break it! And now I’m the only one who doesn’t have one”.
Clearly struggling with how to handle me, Miss Burton put her hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry kiddo, but Mr. Something left and we don’t have any extras, but I can ask everyone else to put theirs away if it’s bothering you that much.” She asked me sweetly.
I looked over at Shirley and her eyes sparked. “No way” I thought. No way was I going to give the class any more ammunition that they could use against me, another reason to hate me.

“Um no. Miss Burton they can still play with theirs.” I stood in resignation because I realized that whatever decisions I made from there on out would be in service to the popular regime. I was already too weird, too loud, and too indian, I couldn’t be too whiny as well. If I wanted any chance of being allowed in the family I’d have to bide my time and make them like me. I was naive back then. I didn’t realize how hard perception was to change. It takes years to convince people that you’re not what they originally labeled you as and even then I still see some mean kids from middle school try to bring me down the way they used to when I believed that I was nothing. It is almost worth the satisfaction I get when their eyes widen in realization that I am so much more. But back then I was ever-hopeful that the smallest act of “coolness” could get me off the hook and so I wallowed in my sadness. Until Miss Burton walked over to my table hand in hand with Joey. I barely even talked to Joey because he was on a completely different level. I couldn’t even begin to fathom what he wanted to do with me.

Miss Burton smiled down at me and said, “Joey has something he wants to tell you?”
My cheeks burned, “Okay” I answered meekly.
Miss Burton gave him a cue after which he said, “You can have my hourglass”.

I sat there completely slack jawed. What did he just say? Did offer me his hourglass? The questions grew branches inside my mind, and each bloomed with a deeper possibility. Did he just offer to become the only one in the class without an hourglass? Was a member of the regime actually being… nice to me? All of it seemed too good to be true and as fireworks exploded behind my eyelids all that I could manage to push out of my mouth was, “what?”
Joey sniffled, “Raagini”. When he said my name, it sounded almost lyrical. I truly believed I had never before heard my name spoken without some hint of sarcasm or vindictiveness from the mouth of a popular person ever before. “Do you want my hourglass?” He asked again.
“Yes” I found myself saying, “Thank you thank you thank you” I repeated in rapid succession. This gemstone lying in the dust of a million broken bottles left me unscathed and I was forever changed. I looked back up at him, “thank you so much” I said earnestly.
“Sure” he left and went to sit next to Joel.

He didn’t understand, I was sure of it, he didn’t understand the magnitude of what he had just done for me. This boy had single-handedly reaffirmed my belief that maybe someone in the world didn’t see me as some sort of pariah. I had to thank him… somehow.

A couple of weeks later it was suddenly christmas break and my family decided to take a trip to the Kellogg factory. It was filled with spinning bells and lighted whistles and so much cereal. We stopped by the gift shop before going home and I naturally had to run my fingers across every item in the shop. I saw the section with the named souvenirs that never seemed to have a name more exotic than John Smith, but I walked over anyways. Some part of me still held onto the idea that one day, maybe, my name might be on one of those useless flashing keychains. Instead I was struck with a very different epiphany when I saw the plastic mug section. I, of course, immediately drifted my fingers to the R section and after being discouraged by about twenty Rebeccas and fifteen Rachels my eyes wandered over to the Js. I saw it. A play-doh colored plastic mug that said Joey. An image of the boy popped into my head when I saw the mug and although I hadn’t even thought about him much over the past month the hourglass incident came back to me. I grabbed the mug and clomped my boots over to where my parents were looking at necklaces and toy cars to bring home to my four cousins.
I pulled on my mom’s pant leg, “Amma”, I asked, “can I buy this mug?”

She picked it up and gave it a once over before questioning, “why do you want this? Who is Joey?”
“He’s a kid from my class, he was really nice and gave me his plastic hourglass one day so I want to get him a thank you present.”
She told my dad what I had said and he frowned, “you don’t need to get him anything”, he told me, “he was just being nice”.

Exactly. Nicety from someone like him was so completely foreign to me that the very fact that he attempted something meant the world to me. It gave me hope and I felt like that hope could not go ungifted. I vehemently argued my side, leaving out the fact that he made me feel special just by making me feel normal, and got them to agree to buying the present. Discussing this story with my parents now I found that they had no idea that I was being so heavily isolated in elementary school. I had done a good job of hiding it from them not because I didn’t want to trouble them, but because I had lived in injustice for so long that it began to feel like normality. When we got home I laid the brown paper package on the kitchen countertop and waited eagerly for school to start.

The new year began, and with it came rushing back all of the old reminders that I wasn’t equal at all. I forgot to grab the mug the first week, and each day I would look at Joey with sweaty palms. What right did I have to feel this connection with him when every recess I would stare on at their extended game of house willing them not to notice me. I walked the track with the two friends I had, played spies, and wondered how I could have possibly convinced myself that I could be seen as a friend instead of someone less than. The next week passed and this time I only “forgot” to take the package to school. I couldn’t imagine the kind of ridicule I would face if I actually brought it in and presented it to him in front of the rest of the class. I shuddered at the thought. What if he was busy talking to Kollyn or Joel and suddenly this weird girl came up to him and gave him a plastic mug. What if they accused me of liking him? There is nothing that could make a second grade boy run away faster than the rumor of a crush.

By the third week of forgetfulness my mom began to get on my case.
“Raagini, why aren’t you giving that kid the mug?”
“I forgot”, I replied quietly.

Another week passed.
“If you don’t give it to him tomorrow I am going to throw it away,” she sentenced me with her ultimatum and I was powerless to disobey. The next morning I walked over to the kitchen counter, picked the brown paper bag and slipped it into my backpack. There was a cloud of stress and anger at my mother brewing the entire bus ride to school. I put my backpack up under hook number three, pulled the package out, and waited. After about three hours of excruciating lessons we had silent working time. This was it. I went to Miss. Burton’s half-moon desk and asked her if she could ask Joey to come to the library. In elementary school, the library was a small part of the room with a rug on the floor surrounded by baskets with appropriate-level books in them. She asked my why I needed him and didn’t bat an eye when I replied that I wanted to give him something. So I went into the middle of the reading circle and sat down criss-cross applesauce. I could feel eyes on me as my classmates wondered what I was doing on the floor. But they eventually got bored and went back to their work. Miss. Burton walked over to Joey and whispered into his ear. There was a look of confusion plastered on his face for about ten seconds before he got up and walked towards me. I stood up with the brown package in my shaking hands. I took a deep breath.
“I wanted to thank you for giving me your hourglass the other day, it really meant a lot to me so I got you this”, I shoved the mug into his hands.

He opened the paper and took it out. “Oh”, his face scrunched up as he examined it like it was some sort of foreign object. I worried for a second that he thought it was contaminated with cooties or something worse. He looked back at me and his reply was curt, “thanks”.
It’s been years and years since that moment but every time I see him I always wonder if he kept the cup. I have no idea. For all I know he could have made fun of me with his friends during recess and dumped in in the trash can, or he could have taken it home to his parents and shown them proof of his good deed. Wherever the cup is now doesn’t matter, it served its purpose. After that day I wasn’t afraid to go after what I wanted. There were insecurities, of course, but I was reminded that courage could always be found if the need for it was strong enough. Joey is a different boy now than he used to be and I am a different girl, we were bound by a moment of kindness which he probably doesn’t even remember. In the months after the Blue Plastic Mug affair I spent nights contemplating whether it was a stupid thing that I had done. But now, I only look back on it with fondness. It reminds me that I went through so many horrible lows, so many people who hated me for no reason other than the rest of the world had told them to. It reminds me that despite the perception and the irrational stigma attached to me, for a moment, someone saw beyond it. And they saw me. Joey saw me drowning and threw me a line, and I’ve been holding on ever since.

Bio for Troy Public Library Students: These pieces are written by teens ages 13-18 who participate in the writing community at the Troy Public Library. Teens who participate in the TPL Writing Club do so because they love writing and they want to share their passion and ideas with other young people.

Old Sea Ropes by Alex Dean

It was a Sunday morning
When I sat on the dock,
Staring out to sea.
Around my wrist, a ragged rope,
Tied there to remind me
Of the missus walking alone,
Of the church bells tolling in the distance,
The beginning of a sermon
She had told me not to miss.

I often wondered
When the rope would snap,
Would send me tumbling forwards, into the sea.
Free. As I wanted to be.
I yearned for it this time,
I wasn’t going back –
But the old rope,
As I strained against it,
Held fast. Creaked and groaned,
But kept me there,
Sitting on the dock.

I glared at the rope,
The ragged rope,
Tight around my wrist.
And there, on my finger –
A silver ring,
Dull and dirty,
Mocking me.
I stared out to sea,
At the empty expanse,
Waves licking the foot of the horizon,
Stretching far away –

But I tore my gaze away,
Stood up and sighed,
Then slowly began to traipse
Toward the steady church bells.
The rope loosened
As I walked from the docks,
They let me go
But I wasn’t free.

Communications & Media Arts CityWide Poets Site

Broken Heart
by Zuri Jamal

It’s broken.
Your heart in pieces, shattered, only to be fixed by the breaker
Who promised to never let go
Who promised to be there
They left. Grabbing your heart, looking away and smashing it, breaking it into small tiny pieces.
Your fragile heart. Now in pieces. Never to be fixed.
Everyday you see them with someone new
Treating them better
Loving them more
Better than what they ever did to you.
Your heart yearns for them
Pulling you toward them.
Thinking of them day in and day out.
In your head, you are still with them and refuse to accept that it’s over.
You pretend that you don’t.
Knowing he’ll never feel the same way, knowing that you’re only a friend to him
Only a friend that you used to mess around with.
You want him back,
But you can’t have him, so you tried to bury the feelings.
Your heart yearns for them to come crawling back.
Your heart cries for them to return.
Your heart wants them to fill a hole.
But they are kryptonite to your Superman.
They are poison to you, but your heart doesn’t care.
You still love them, after all the bullets they have shot at you that has entered your body, piercing your heart and making you bleed pure red blood.
You wonder what you have done wrong, and say it’s all our fault.
That you’re just a waste of space.
That you shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t be existing, that it’s a mistake that you’re alive.
But sweetheart, it’s not.
You are beautiful.
You are loved.
You are worth it.
You deserve so much better.
And you will find it.
To all my broken hearts in this world, let someone so much better fill your hole with unbroken promises and undying love and happiness.
Let someone show you that you are worth every breath of air, let someone treat you like the angel and blessing that you are.
Let someone show you that you are not a disappointment, not a mistake, not a waste of space.
Let that person show you what you are worth.
You will find your happiness.
You will find your peace.
And you will find your life.
Like me.


Erasure of “Alive” by Sia
Alonzo Macoin

I was born in a thunderstorm
I grew up
I played alone
I’m playing on my own
I survived
I wanted everything I never had
Like love
But I survived
I had a one way ticket to a place where all the demons go
Where the wind don’t change
Nothing can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you’re taught to cry into your pillow
I survived
I’m still breathing
I saw my life in a stranger’s face
And it was mine
I had a one way ticket to where all the demons go
Where the wind don’t change
And nothing can ever grow
No hope, just lies
And you’re taught to cry into your pillow
But I’m still breathing
I’m alive
You took it all, but I’m still breathing
I have made every mistake
That could ever possibly make
I was in pain but you never noticed
I told you that I would never be forgotten
All in spite of you
I’m still breathing
I’m still


Where Is Our Freedom?
by Jõsá’Lynn Lee

Where is our freedom?
Holding hands with our oppressor?
Dangling dangerously from a 30ft building ?
Hiding behind all the problems I’ve been trying to run from?
Where s our freedom?
Drying up like raisins in the sun?
Dancing in the moonlight teasingly?
It seems to me no matter how far I reach….
Where’s our freedom?
Maybe it’s always been in us.
Maybe our freedom was beating in our hearts
Maybe our freedom was God giving us people like sojourner truth
Maybe our freedom was in Malcolm X voice
Maybe it was in Angela Davis fist
What is freedom
Freedom is
Is Peace
Is speech
Is God.
Freedom is loving yourself
Loving others
Loving your enemy
Freedom is defined as
the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved
Where is our freedom
Is it being beaten by a crooked cop
Is it being beaten down by all these racial slurs
Boy, negro, nigger, nigga
I thought being colored was supposed to be a good thing but people are using it to lynch us right in the middle of the street, in our own homes, around our own people. Sadly those People who have died, has to be made examples out of. We’re suppose to be scared, we’re supposed to be in our place. Run from who? Hide from what?
Where is it? Freedom?
Maybe it’s being stepped on by society
Maybe it’s just a thing you hear about in Maya Angelou poems
Maybe our freedom is too busy trying to find its own freedom
Maybe it’s somewhere hanging from a tree like a strange fruit
Maybe it’s been beaten with a bat then dropped in the bottom of the lake
Maybe it’s been beaten to death so bad only it’s mamma can identify
Maybe we’re being selfish but I don’t care because obviously 40 anchors weren’t enough
And it never will be, nothing will ever replace the things you did to our ancestors.
And nothing will be able to take back what you are doing to us now.
Of course freedom won’t be found today or tomorrow but somebody gonna have to break these chains off me because I ain’t going back!
Where is our freedom?

Bio for CMA students: Communication and Media Arts High School holds weekly Citywide Poets sessions with workshop leaders Devin Samuels and Brittany Rogers. This group is a proud and loving family representing the West Side of Detroit at Louder Than A Bomb Michigan in 2017.

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