What Is Water? — Sonam Kshatriya

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

“What Is Water?”

Soft as lush green
Hard like the truth
Strong enough to knock down the city
Sweet enough to satisfy a desert thirst
My soul is thirsty
For living water
The current overpowers
Waves thrash upon rocks
Guide boats at sea
Sea of forgiveness
Ocean of love
River of living water
Well of peace
Streams of joy
Fill and leave my eyes
As I cry out to you
Immersed in water used to baptize
An outward sign of testimony
An inward sign of grace, from somewhere within
You are my living water
I shall never thirst again.

Sonam Kshatriya is a student of Brookhaven College who was encouraged to submit these poems by my creative writing instructor. Her only hope that this work inspires others to live their lives for God and it encourages positive change in our world. “All glory belongs to God,” Sonam says.

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Volume 3 Online Journal

April 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Thanks to submissions from many authors, poets, and artists, as well as the work of our editorial advisors and layout team, Volume 3 is now online. We hope you enjoy it. You may wish to click “View this document on Scribd” under the embedded PDF, because you’ll be able to zoom in using the plus sign for easier reading.

Remember, we’ll be posting work for Volume 4 as it’s accepted, so check back here often for more art and writing.

Soy las raices, las yerbas, soy cultura, soy leyenda – Brenda Solis

July 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

Soy las raices, las yerbas, soy cultura, soy leyenda - Brenda Solis

Hold – Suvi Mahonen

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Warmth, beginning, bubbling, rolling, advancing, exploding, diminishing, subsiding, retreating, gone. A harsh sound. I must not eat this to be more. Brittle deep thirst red salt and copper tang liquid lumps. Footsteps coming down the stairs. I get in the pantry but the fridge door will not shut. Something must be there but who can ever know? Focus. Light through narrow gaps grows wider now shifting they close. Don’t resist the cost is high, must leave.

34 installed - Alfredo Salazar

Sit propped up. Keep this pose. Arms cradling. Face tilted down. Looking at my son. Muscles ache with forced immobility. Almost there. Deep inhale, then exhale. Half inhale, hold your breath. Don’t blink, let your eyes sting. Only my heart has motion now.
It begins: his skin colour is the first to change. Dull dusk of blue turning pale even a slight pink. The sloughed patches on his cheek and neck shrinking, re-epithelialising without scarring, now smooth. The weight of his body—no longer cool—transmits warmth through the blanket onto the length of my forearm. A sudden rise and fall of his tiny chest as he hiccups, and again, then draws in his first breath.
My own lungs start to feel the need.
His eyelids squinch shut as his head begins to move, this way then that in the bend of my elbow, knitted wool tickling my skin. I sense the warm puffs from his nostrils on my exposed flesh. Red lips purse into a small O, sounds of sucking as his cheeks hollow. A faint tack of tongue on palate. He suckles the air just short of my nipple. It stings in anticipation. Colostrum oozing, forming into a droplet, running in a rivulet down the underside of my breast. I yearn to lean forward. I cannot. If I move all will be lost.
Deep in my chest the pressure is building—an accumulation of carbon dioxide in my lungs. The need has grown into pain, the burn starting to overwhelm, my throat spasming in an effort to override the urge. Don’t give in. Hold on. Keep concentrating on your son.
Mouth still searching, he begins to cry, face and neck flushed, rubicund with the effort. The vision of him is blurring, distorted by the watering of my unblinking eyes. His lips so close, almost on my nipple, just a fraction to the right. If I can hold on till he suckles then I know it will be okay. There’s vigour of movement in his body as his tiny curled fist rises, wavers in the air.
Air, air, it’s agony now. Bright white sparks of scattered stars curl crazily across my vision. The beat in my ears pounds. I silently scream—Timmy, take my breast, pull from it sustenance so that you can go on living. He is close but not there. Strength in my arms seeping, I am going to drop him soon. Eviscerating pain now endemic, colours fade.
My head falls forward with the expulsion of air then a great inward gasp. Neck arched back, eyes closed—I cannot get enough. The euphoria of oxygen rushing into my lungs. When they have reached their capacity I blow out, pant in, out again. One more breath in, measured now. I stay like this, relief abating.
I can tell before I look.
The absence of movement—but of course more than that. The cool instead of heat, the dull weight of his body, head tilting at an impossible angle. And his face, oh his face, with those dusky blue lips and the angry red sores where death has started its decay. Between his partially open eyelashes I can see his irises and pupils.
They look back at me, unseeing.
There is pain, I know that much, what else lies here I choose to ignore. In this darkness I await the return of what is due to come. Let me go, I need to sleep, turn the light off as you leave.

Oedipus Loves Electra - Alfredo Salazar

I give up.
It’s time for lunch, I must have slept in. If only they would keep quiet I wouldn’t have to worry. Who let them into my bedroom anyway? Why can’t they leave me alone? If they won’t I will need to remind them of my rest.
Blood, so much blood, help me Gavin, what’s happening?
Thick fatigue keeps rolling over me, pushing me under, so dense I can’t rise.
Copious flow like a faucet, dark red pooling in a puddle between my thighs.
It’s time to try. Will yourself. You know you have a finger on your arm.
He had rushed to the door and roared for help.
There is noise. I must be here. Concentrate. Move your knuckle just a tiny bit. That is all it needs.
An alarm bell sounded.
Wake up. I’ll close the blinds myself. What’s that smell? If I can only open my eyes I will see.
People ran into the room. Raised voices.
Nerve, muscle, tendon, bone, I can’t get my finger to work.
She grabbed Timmy from out of my arms.
I break through this layer only to find another. It keeps on swamping me. I drift. All over the bed, splashes on the wall. Pain of Dr Russo’s fist up my vagina, pushing down hard on my uterus with the other.
Stickiness of my eyelids. Some light now. She must have come back. Excuse me, Can you tell me where he is? Must speak louder. The expression on the midwife’s face as she stood over me, squeezing a bag of fluid. Sound of metal on metal, fading away. Throat so sore, can’t cough. Something’s in it. Cannot move my lips.
Very hard. Try again later.
Pain, parch and itch in my throat as I lie here with my eyes closed. I swallow. It hurts. Footsteps, murmured voices, a short sharp laugh. I could ask someone for water but then I would have to face the next. The rolling wheels of a supermarket trolley. Why is it here? Several rhythmic whoosh tchs, whoosh tchs. An almost subaudible grating to my right.
Dr Russo had jabbed the long needle repeatedly into my abdomen, trying to get the bleeding to stop. In, out. In, out. I’d screamed, I remember that much. I’d screamed until my vision blurred. Then blank.
The back of my throat burns with each inhalation. Not that my throat is the only source of pain. My whole body feels like an atlas of discomfort, each place clamouring for relief. The space behind my eyes pulses, my left forearm and hand tingle, my neck is crinked, and within my lower belly there is a deep, stretched, wrung-out twisting.
Dry, so dry, I can no longer put it off.
‘Water.’
No sound comes out. Gluey eyelids as I try to open them. Harsh neon light—too much—I let them shut again. Count backwards from ten. Move my head to the right. Slowly. Careful of the neck. Try again. A shape rises by my side.

Oedipus Loves Electra detail - Alfredo Salazar

Fingers and palm gently across my forehead.
‘Fiona?’
Gavin’s voice. I’m safe.
His body shades my eyes from the light. I blink several times to clear them. Vague forms begin to shift into focus.
I make an attempt to lift my head from the pillow. Dizziness hits me. Nausea worst than anything I’d ever experienced in pregnancy roils up through my chest. I swing to the left to hang my head over the bed’s edge but a barrier of metal bars gets in the way. Too late. I retch. It seems to go on and on—an accumulation of spasm. Throat stinging, my belly aflame, a hand rubbing clockwise in the middle of my back. When the tide subsides I stay here, cool metal pressing into my forehead.
Opening my eyes I see Gavin’s hand holding a blue kidney dish under my mouth. A small volume of green drool lies in its base. Something else appears in my visual path. Blue-trousered legs and a pair of flat leather shoes.
‘This will help with the nausea,’ a female voice says. I feel a tug on the back of my left hand. ‘You need to be careful. We don’t want the stitches to pop.’ The legs and shoes go away.
I slump slowly back on the pillow. The motion sets the room rolling again so I shut my eyes against it.
Bad taste in my mouth.
‘Water,’ I say again, this time out loud.
I hear movement, a faint tinking and the sound of water pouring. A moment later Gavin’s hand is on the back of my neck as he helps my head up. I take a few sips from the plastic cup, nursing the liquid down my throat in small swallows. When I have had enough I shake my head and rest back down again.
Something else has happened but I’m not sure what. Memories resurface. The late night drive to the hospital. My rising panic as the midwife kept repositioning the CTG probe over my belly, trying to find a trace. Dr Russo coming in, confirming the news with ultrasound. Not sleeping. The induction the next day. My fits of weeping as I pushed, giving birth to a child already dead. Holding Timmy. The bleeding. Now this.
This isn’t the labour ward. The sounds of this place are different. No screams from adjacent rooms, or shouts of encouragement, no babies crying. Here mainly the monotonous workings of medical equipment—whirring, ticking, the occasional beep. I think it’s a place to avoid if you could.
What is that grating? I open my eyes slightly, allow them to accustom, then look. A crimson bag hangs from an arm of a pole. Dripping blood into a burette. The thin red plastic line snakes down, hanging then rising up to lie taped to my right forearm, curling into a cannula on the back of my hand.
On the same side of the room Gavin stands against a windowless wall. He is wearing the same blue Levis and polo top but they are rumpled, not fresh. Stubble is on his neck, cheeks and chin. The room’s neon light highlights the sprinkle of dandruff on his shoulders and the sagging grey folds of skin around his mouth and eyes. They are looking at me.

I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am - Alfredo Salazar

‘Do you want some more water?’
I shake my head.
‘If you’re feeling hungry I could ask them for some juice.’
I shake my head again.
We look at each other.
He touches my right hand, avoiding the cannula as he does so.
‘Get some more sleep if you need to. You’re probably still feeling groggy.’
Turning my head I take in the surrounds. Three plaster walls and a tall curtain on runners. Two rows of fluorescent tubes in the white corklike ceiling above. In the corner opposite a sink and soap dispenser, behind Gavin a low-set chair. To my left is another IV pump, the fluid running in this line clear. Also on that side an LCD monitor on a swivel stand, numbers and multi-coloured lines continuously skimming across its black screen. Cords extend from the underside of the monitor towards me. Two thin blue ones connect to stickers on my chest, and a grey one loops across my bed to join a flat plastic peg on my left index finger.
There is a small gap between the curtain and the wall. Several metres away I can see a portion of a workstation and a nurses upper shoulder and ear. She has short black hair. Behind her there is another curtain.
At the foot of the bed is a broad white propped-up board on a stand. Although I know it’s not, it reminds me of an easel. But what’s in the room doesn’t matter. Something has happened and I’m afraid.
‘What stitches?’
Gavin turns away, drags the chair closer, sits down. He grasps the railing on his side and tries to move it. It rattles but stays where it is.
‘My mistake,’ he says. ‘These ones use a lever.’
There is a clack as he lowers the rail with one hand. Then he reaches over to take mine in his.
‘Do you want to see Timmy again?’ he says. The whites of his eyes are crisscrossed with fine red lines.
‘Where is he?’
‘In the hospital’s mortuary.’
‘Why?’
‘Don’t you remember?’
I nod.
He squeezes my hand.
I look up at the lights, the smooth long tubes of white fluorescent gas.
‘What stitches?’
‘Are you sore?’ he asks me. He is still not answering my question.
I close my eyes. I ache all over but the worst of it is concentrated over my lower belly. There it’s more than sore. It really, really burns.
Slowly, not wanting to pull on the IV line, I place my left arm under the sheet that covers me. I inch up the cotton gown until I reach the hem. I catch it and move it upwards, the tips of my fingers running over the skin of my thigh, over a rubber tube between my legs, and my pubic hair. Above this something big and crinkly has been stretched across my belly.
I open my eyes but I don’t want to look.
‘What happened?’ My voice is a whisper.
Gavin’s other hand comes up and rests on my knee. It’s as if he’s holding me down, trying to keep me still.
‘You had a massive postpartum haemorrhage.’ The tone of his voice has risen, is strained. ‘I was really scared. I felt so useless just standing there.’
I want to say something to comfort him. But my lips don’t move.
‘They had to do everything. That’s the sixteenth unit of blood you’ve been given. You lost so much you became coagulopathic.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘It wouldn’t stop. You almost bled to death.’ His hand on mine is damp. ‘You’ve been in ICU for the past two days. They just extubated you this morning.’
That explains my throat. But not the stitches. I keep watching my husband’s eyes.
‘Dr Russo took you to theatre. He had no choice.’ The eyes drop. ‘He had to perform a hysterectomy.’
His gaze returns from his lap. His eyes are on my face but they avoid looking directly into mine.
I stare at the tiny pockmarks on the tip of his nose. Golf-balled surface. Cold inside, hairs rising, goose bumps over my arms and legs. What does it mean? What does it do? What does he want from me? Blur at the edge of my vision, the dryness in my mouth returns. I think they’re coming to get me but I have nowhere to hide.
Gavin shifts in his chair, shoulders forward. Furrowed eyebrows, flaking skin. He says something else but I don’t hear.
Ring the buzzer. Tell the midwife to bring Timmy back. It’s dangerous in here, we have to get out.
Unhook me, pick me up, you need to take me away.
More lip movements from Gavin but he doesn’t get up from his chair. I don’t understand. Why is it up to me?
I adjust my body. Close my eyes. Settle my shoulder blades. Arms by my side. Prepare to be still. If I do it correctly things will change.
Almost there.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Deep breath in.
Hold.

Beautiful Bliss – Michael Constantine McConnell

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Yes. I still chew the echoes of each kiss

we shared, the first time our bare feet touched

or our legs nakedly braided. Sometimes,

the salt of your knuckles still splits my tongue.

I believed in seasons, never thought

we would end. Each day without you begins

sober; I no further understand nights

of dreaming your body next to me.

Sometimes, my tears leap at you; a thousand

violins erupted from my stomach

when I found you. Sleep, please, sleep like nothing

matters. Leave your mourners empty, cursing

God. Wake up each morning reflecting

children in your perfect little eyes.

 

Vera Barnett – Classical Plastique: Birth of Venus

Dance For Me – Jareb Parker

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

He came to our school in a swirl of sequins and chiffon. I sat enthralled as he spun around the gymnasium floor like a god of twirling color. As he moved, I imagined myself as such a master, this prophet of entertainment plying his craft in front of fifty impressionable teens sitting in awe of his skill. I had never seen anyone move like that. His name was Graham Williams and he took my heart that afternoon one magnificent dance step at a time.

“I’d like you all to thank Mr. Williams for coming to Gramercy High School today,” Principal Johns said as Graham gave a magnificent bow and a flourish. We all clapped, and it was over.

El Musico - Frank Guerra

Williams was a local celebrity. He now ran a theater and dance class at the rec center on Parker Street, after a brief success on Broadway had run its course. Now he danced in purple sequined tights to Grand Funk tracks in our gymnasium. I didn’t care. I had found an idol.

Me and my best friend David Yow had a two-man dance crew of sorts and were looking for new moves to incorporate into our routine. We were inspired by wild tales disco troupes at glamorous parties, of Studio 54 and living life like we thought we ought to. Money, booze, drugs, we wanted it all and we figured dancing was our way into some sort of fame. We had practiced for weeks and in two days the school was hosting a talent show.

I had read about Graham’s showcase on a flyer in the cafeteria, though it took some convincing to get David interested. As usual, it took April McAdams to get him to do anything.

“She’s going?”

“Yeah,” I said. “She asked if you had plans or something.”

“I guess it couldn’t hurt,” he answered. “Does he do anything other than the hustle?”

Classical Plastique: Girl in a Field - Vera Barnett

April met us there. David and me were smoking cigarettes and leaning on the gym’s back wall looking as cool as we could. David was better at it. He was taller, muscular and had filled out around the time most boys do, while my body grew at a rate slower than a redwood’s. I was short and awkward and very aware of it.

“Hey fags,” she laughed as she walked up to us. “Got one for me?”

David pulled a smoke from behind his ear and handed it to her.

“This is going to be terrible. But better than algebra, I guess.” She shouldered me aside, leaned against David, and ran her fingers down his chest. “I’ll save you a seat,” she whispered in his ear before she sauntered off.

David ground his butt on the bottom of his shoe.

“Come on,” he said.

I followed, noticing the difference between his hips and April’s, the way hers swayed where his were solid and much more inviting. I watched as I trailed behind them.

After the show, me and David walked to my house.

“It was okay. The hands, the spins, we need more of that. But most of all,” David stopped and made his point with a finger in my chest, “no more of this Olivia Newton John shit. We need some real music.”

He wasn’t quite as impressed with Williams as I was, but he was starting to see what it might take to be famous.

I had designed most of the choreography for our routine. David mostly just cut what he thought didn’t work. That usually meant fewer feathers or outfit changes and less chances for anything that involved us touching hands. How we were supposed to spin and gaze into each others’ eyes without holding hands, I had no idea. So I concentrated on the steps.

We practiced in my basement. A dirty orange couch, a record player, and a full wall mirror were the only witness to our efforts.

“Three, four, and step and finish,” I panted as the track ended.

David was smiling and I knew he liked the steps I had added. He hopped over the back of the couch and sat cross-legged, pulling a bag out of his pocket. He laughed.

“Do you really think we have a shot?” He licked the paper and lit a match. “You’re pretty good at this, you know,” he said with a smile.

David looked brilliant. Still winded, he took a long drag and coughed it out. I sat next to him and took the joint from his hand. Our knees were touching and I leaned back and closed my eyes.

“We could be good together,” I said. “We make a good team.”

Angelita y Cato - Frank Guerra

“And move to LA, be actors or somebody so famous they have to make up a new name for what we are,” he laughed.

“We could be huge. Think of the money, the parties,” I agreed.

As I smiled I noticed that our hands were touching. I don’t know how mine got there, or for how long, and I looked at my fingers, wondering what they thought they were doing. David had stopped laughing and was staring at me. He pulled his hand away slowly. The only sound that got through to me was my heart pounding in my ears so I didn’t hear him the first time.

“I said I should get home,” he stood and put his things in his pockets.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, man,” he said.

School was long and painful the next day. Time passed slowly and David was nowhere that I could find him. I passed April in the hallway after lunch and she smiled at me. It wasn’t a nice smile.

“Good luck tomorrow,” she snorted as she passed me.

That night I practiced alone. David’s parents were tired of me calling and told me politely to find something better to do with my time.

I went to the basement and put the needle to my favorite record.

“Sing to me, Barbara,” I whispered.

It was harder to dance alone when you’re used to a partner but I practiced until my thighs burned.

I fell asleep on the couch that night. With a beer in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other, I dreamed of David and of being a star.

The Heart - Cheyenne Dreiling

I walked to school alone. The talent show was in an hour and my stomach was in my throat. I walked into the school auditorium and asked where I was supposed to go. I was pointed backstage where the other performers were stretching and talking quietly. I found the place David and I had agreed to meet, and still there was no sign of him.

The auditorium grew silent as the first act began. The curtain rose and my breath caught.

There he was. He and April McAdams stood hand in hand on stage, heads bowed. She wore a white dress and he a white suit and tie. “Jungle Boogie” began, and they danced, with April moving her hips and tossing her hair as David twirled around her looking to all the world like John Travolta. He spun and stepped just like I had showed him. I was a beat ahead of them in my mind and my mouth moved unbidden to the lyrics. But they were good. Better than I was willing to admit. His hands gripped April’s waist and he lifted her in finale above a heaving chest and a triumphant grin.

That should have been me panting and smiling beside him basking in applause, I thought. But as it was, my number, our number, was scheduled next and I was alone.

I walked slowly on stage, I went to my place and I waited. I thought of Graham Williams and how he stood alone that day, fearless in bright sequins under a blinding spotlight. I held him in my mind and tried to steady my heart.

Graham would have been proud.

My music played and hesitantly I began to move. I was scared and lonely so I imagined my David like he was when we were together. I remembered him and I danced like there was someone next to me who cared for me. I performed each step and sway like he had been there all along. I remembered how his body felt against mine and I remembered the dreams we had once shared.

I forgot I was alone. I danced with David and I danced for David. Then again, I had always danced for him. I would never have the courage to tell him so, and he had chosen April over me. But I knew I had always loved him and I suppose when I got a bit too close, that’s when he finally realized it.

Baby Steps – Laura Lam

July 25, 2010 § 1 Comment

the little girl climbs up the stairs.

The blue door looms, the tiny hand

knocks, knocks, knocks, and waits for daddy.

The blue door opens─but too fast!

The little girl wobbles and falls

backwards, tumbling and twirling

like a marionette, strings cut.

Daddy cries and crabwalks, crabruns

down the stairs. Just before the ground

she is caught, lifted high. Unharmed,

the parents hug and kiss her.

But was the door blue? But were the

stairs that high? She was falling down;

how could she see him follow her?

Afterwards, did the little girl

cry, or did she smile? Try as

I might, I just don’t remember.

The Young Poet Rumi - Skip Noah

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