“The Fabric of Our Lives” by Amanda McPherson

1863 The Emancipation Proclamation

1955 I will not change my seat

1963 Thousands marching for what they believe

1920 Harlem screams “We have a new beat”

2008 Welcome President Obama

1954 Separate is not equal

1963 I have a dream

 

History is not linear.

And without diversity, there is no true history

Because history is a tangle of events

That go in and out of existence

Becoming current when in the consciousness of someone’s mind

And going extinct when the world stops thinking about them.

This begs the questions,

Is history part of yesterday, or today?

 

Diversity is key to unraveling history.

Because like Philomela,

Those who’ve lost their tongue to speak

Are left with the duty of weaving the past

The world tries to hide.

And if we hide our past,

Our victories lose significance.

 

This victory is that it is 2016

The world is not colorblind!

We see the shades and flaws and beauty of humans,

As diverse and interconnected as the shades of a sunset.

No, we are not colorblind,

But we are learning to embrace the palette of humanity with open arms.

Like Martin Luther King Jr said,

“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

And we are learning.

“Walking Toward Yes” by Mike Tucker

The author would like to acknowledge Ram Dass from whom the idea for the poem came.

 

a walk in the woods

tangle of branches

surrounded by trees

each one is different

the tall straight oak

the crooked maple

the wise and prickly pine

the one with few leaves remaining

the sickly one

the robust one

the evergreen

I love each tree

I accept each one without judgement

 

a walk in the city

crowded sidewalk

cement and neon

synthetic forest

surrounded by people

each one is different

the tall one the short one

the dark one the light one

the healthy one the sick one

the rich one the poor one

the one who has not had time to find out who she is

the one who speaks a language that I can’t understand

the one who worships a different goddess

the well- dressed one with the broken heart

the one who sleeps on the park bench at night

can I love each one?

can I accept each person  without judgement?

yes

yes

a resounding yes

I can love them just like I love the trees…

 

but the best part of being human is that

when the music plays

we can all dance together

and not only accept

but celebrate our differences

 

listen

listen

my whole human family

 

they’re playing our song

it sounds like love and inclusion

and the singer tells a beautiful truth

so gather here

and tell your own truth

each of us is on a journey

won’t you come and dance with us…

“How to Save a Life” by Stephanie Eberly

It’s the same routine every day, and today is no different. Anne wakes up to the sound of her alarm playing ‘80s rock music, slams her fist on the machine to make it stop, and slides her skinny legs out from under her warm Star Wars blanket. Her pale feet hit the cold wooden floor, sending a shiver up her spine. She grabs a pair of jeans and a graphic T that were carelessly thrown on her chair the night before and slips them on. With shuffling steps she makes her way to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. That mirror. Oh how she hates it. Sometimes she just wants to punch the wavy reflection and watch as the pieces shatter on the tile. Instead she glares at the sickly face peering back at her and goes to work uselessly trying to beautify the face she was born with. Cold water splashes, a pink towel dries, mascara darkens lashes, blush colors pale cheeks, contacts go in and come back out, glasses are placed, and the door is opened.

She walks down the creaky steps of the ancient house and into the kitchen where her mother stands over a sink full of soapy water. Anne thumps a bowl and spoon on the table and pours Reese’s Puffs until little pieces roll onto the table. She opens the refrigerator door and sticks her nose into the milk carton.

Her nose crinkles, and bile forms in her throat. “Ah, gross! Mom! The milk is bad again.”

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” she says without looking up from the pan she’s washing. “You can always pick some up on your way home from school today.”
“Nah.” Anne pushes the door closed and tosses the rotten milk in the trash can. “Whatever, I’ll eat dry cereal for the third day in a row.”

“You need to eat more than that. I can tell when you’re losing weight.”

“I’m fine,” she says, pushing the concern aside, and swipes the full bowl from the table, spilling little peanut butter and chocolate balls all over the floor. “Darn it.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Her mother turns from the sink, her hands covered in suds. “I’m going to ask one more time. What did you say?”

“Nothing, okay? Just get off my back!”

“What did I do, huh?” It’s like something inside of her snapped. “All I ever do is take care of you. I cook, I clean, I work my fingers to the bone to make sure you get an education, and this is the thanks I get?”

“Mom, don’t. Just don’t”

“Ever since your father left, you’ve treated me as if I’m just a maid.” Her mom dries her hands and leans on the counter. “I’m your mother, Anne! Your mother. I’m sorry I couldn’t get your father to stay, but I’m doing the best I can!”

“Don’t!” Tears form in Anne’s eyes, and she presses her palms against her skull. “Don’t bring Dad into this.”

“But that’s what it is, isn’t it? It’s your father. You think I wasn’t a good wife to him, and that’s why he left. Isn’t it, Anne?” She turns to the window above the sink. “Come on, just tell me. I can take it.”

“Agh! I can’t do this with you right now.” Anne slings her backpack over her shoulder. “I’m going to school.”

Her mother never looks away from the window, as she clenches the countertop so hard her knuckles turn white. “Don’t forget your lunch.”

Anne grabs the brown bag sitting so innocently on the white counter, and the screen door slams behind her.

It’s always brought back to Dad. Two years ago, he up and left them one night, no warning, no note, nothing. He packed his bags and left. Ever since then, Anne’s mother has always been so self-centered, bringing every conversation back to “Oh, woe is me.” It’s pathetic. Doesn’t she see that her daughter is struggling, too? Growing up without a father isn’t exactly easy. The older kids see her as being weak, a wimp. She won’t—no—she can’t cry in front of them, so she puts on a mask to disguise the pain inside.

Anne kicks a piece of garbage along the sidewalk in an attempt to vent her emotions. But instead the garbage seems to evade her, and her leg goes out from under her, bringing her smack down onto the concrete. A couple of kids across the street point and laugh at her struggle. This day just keeps getting better and better. Sometimes she wonders if life is really worth living, to deal with all of these dumb people and their stupid ways every single day. Maybe it would be better if she just weren’t here anymore. No one would miss her anyway, and the world would move on.

These thoughts are pushed out of her mind as she approaches the front steps of her high school. Taking a deep breath, she enters the halls that are sure to one day suck all life out of her. Ignoring the crooked looks and stabs in the back, she moves through the crowd to find her locker. It’s located between Jamie, who doesn’t say much, and Josh, a football jock who only cares about his muscles and hair.

Josh is showing off his biceps to a group of cheerleaders as Anne approaches. He raises one eyebrow and nudges the blonde beside him. “Watch this.” As if Anne couldn’t hear him from a mile away.

He shoves her locker door closed, almost catching her fingers. “Hey, Anne. I’m surprised you actually came to school today.”

Anne bites her lip and clenches her fists. “Why do you say that, Josh?” If looks could kill, he’d be dead.

“Oh, you know, because the Comic Con isn’t for a couple of months yet.” Josh and the cheerleaders burst into a jostling laughter.

Anne feels her cheeks get hot. She self-consciously covers her Captain America t-shirt with her math books as she moves away from the lockers. She barely takes two steps before Josh slaps the books out of her hands and beneath the milling feet of the crowd. He proceeds to snatch the brown bag lunch from her hands and peer inside.

“What’d ya bring me today, geek?”

Kids all around her start to laugh. Little cliques chuckle to themselves and begin to murmur. They all know the daily routine. Anne brings the bagged lunch, Josh eats the lunch, and Anne goes another school day without a meal. Her hip bones protruded further out than last week.

Josh pulls out a napkin on which letters are scribbled in bright pink. “’I love you, sweetie. Love, Mom,’” he reads. “Aw, look who’s mommy’s little baby.” He puckers out his lip, tauntingly waving the paper in front of her.

She tries to snatch it from him, but he’s too quick. How could she have forgotten to take out the napkin? The one time she forgets… The napkin is pulled from his raised hand and passed around the newly forming circle of high schoolers. Laughter erupts. Fingers point. She can feel the anger boil inside of her, threatening to spill over and burn everyone around her. Jaw clenched, she leans down to pick up her books that are newly decorated with dusty footprints.

As she goes to stand, a field of white blocks her view.

“Want this, huh? Do you?” There towers Josh. He must really want to push her buttons.

Before she knows it, tearing is heard, and his outspread hands hold the pieces of what used to be her mother’s note.

Anne’s world goes blurry as her head fills with rage. Not her mother’s note. She can barely keep her body from shaking, and before she knows it, her fist digs into Josh’s chin. He slams into the lockers behind him, the shock knocking him off his feet.

“That’s how you want to play, is it?” His forehead bulges with anger as he regains his balance. “Come here, ya little pipsqueak.” He swings at her, but she dodges to the side, the books flopping to the floor once more.

She knows she will regret this later, but all she can think about now is how sweet the revenge tastes. Summoning all her strength, she lunges onto the jock’s back. Her arms wrap in a headlock and don’t let go.

Josh claws at her arms and takes a few wobbly steps backwards, struggling to get breath. Since the beginning of the fight, people have formed a circle around them, their fists pumping in the air.

Within a split second, the cold metal of the lockers slam into Anne’s back. Sharp pain shoots up her spine and numbs her already blurred mind. She feels her grip loosen, and she tumbles onto the ground.

Like an angry grizzly, Josh towers over her limp body. She can’t help but chuckle. Never has she seen him this angry, and today, it was because of her. The little pipsqueak. A surge of pride pushes out her chest.

“I’m gonna wipe that smirk right off your face, geek.” The last thing she remembers is his large fist coming at her face, then everything goes black.
——
Anne sits in the principal’s office, holding an icepack against her brand new shiner. Her head throbs with pain, but her heart beats with adrenaline from the fight. The fight. She actually fought Josh. She lost, sure, but she couldn’t help but feel a hint of pride.

The office door opens and in walks a balding, middle-aged man who looks like he ate one too many cheeseburgers. “Hello, Anne. I heard you got yourself into a fight earlier today, is that correct?” His eyes search the non-bruised part of her face in an effort to get a response. Upon receiving none, he pulls out a slip of paper from his desk. “You know we can’t let this go. There will be consequences.”

Anne continues to press the cold pack against her flushed skin. She doesn’t really care what this man is saying; she just wants to get out of the cramped quarters.

“Josh has been temporarily removed from the football team in an effort to curtail his temper.” A pause. “Anne.” He leans forward in his chair. “This little fit of yours will cost you two weeks of suspension. Do you understand?”

Two weeks. Maybe she could end all this drama during that time. All she would have to do is get the razor…

“We called your mother. She’s on her way.”

Anne snaps back to attention. “What?! My mom?”

The principal just stares at her, his hands placed calmly on his desk. “Yes, your mother. She will be here shortly to pick you up, and I’m sure she will have a few things to say about your suspension”

Her grip on the icepack tightens. “You didn’t have to bring my mom into this. She doesn’t care.”

“Oh, I’m sure she does, Anne. She’s your mother after all.”

“No. You don’t understand.” She can feel her whole face flush and her pulse quicken. “She. Doesn’t. Care.”

“Anne, now calm down.”

“No! Don’t tell me to calm down! All you people and your dumb ways. None of you understand. You don’t know me. You don’t get what I’m going through. I just want to get out of here. Two weeks to rid myself of all this crap! Good riddance!”

She rushes out of the office before anyone can stop her. Tears blur her vision and cause her to weave through the hallway. Somehow her free hand finds the door to the girl’s bathroom, and she stumbles in.

She grips the edge of the counter. From behind her crooked glasses, she scans the face staring back at her in the mirror. There she is, the good-for-nothing geek that everyone makes fun of. With that black eye, she’d be the laughing stock of the whole school—not like that’s anything new. What is the point of her life, when all anyone ever does is yell and laugh at her? No one cares that she is crumbling inside, that all she wants to do is rid herself of this pain.

She thinks back to her bathroom, to the razor blade sitting all innocent-like on a shelf hidden behind that awful mirror. Just one swipe across her wrist, that’s all she has to do. And then all this pain can be gone. She imagines it hovering over her veins, so close to taking the life from her. But the bathroom door opens, and her thoughts disappear like a vapor.

“Hi.”

Anne gives a quick start, her darkened thoughts temporarily pushed back in her mind. A short, stocky blonde girl stands behind her, peering at her with green eyes. It’s one of the “smart, pretty” girls. The ones who ace math tests and raise their hands to answer every question in science. The ones who don’t care about lowlifes like Anne.

“You’re Anne, right?” The blonde searches for a response, but upon receiving none, moves toward a stall door. ”You know, I’ve always thought your love for Marvel is pretty cool. Don’t listen to what Josh and those girls say. They’re just jerks.” She smiles softly at Anne’s reflection. “You’re really pretty…even with the black eye.”

Anne stares back at the blonde, stunned into silence.

The girl looks down at the tiled floor and searches for something else to say. “See you when you get back?”

When she gets back? News travels fast. Anne finally gets her lips to move. “Yeah.”

“Cool. I’ll see you then, Anne.” She gives her an understanding smile before disappearing into the stall.

Yeah. Maybe she will see her in two weeks. She will. And now, Anne will look forward to it

“Young, Wild, and Trapped” by Danielle Eyler

Behind closed doors, Kathleen glowed just like her mom had said she would one day. Outside of her room, Kathleen walked around with her head down and her long hair hanging in her face. Her mother would no longer speak to her. Her father glared at her as she walked near him. Her ten brothers and sisters were not allowed to speak to her either. It broke Kathleen’s heart to see her family filled with so much hatred and disgust towards her. She prayed every night that things would get better, but it didn’t happen.

“Mary, come here now!” Kathleen’s mother would scold as the little five year old tried to run up to her big sister. The family had been torn apart by Kathleen’s rebellious actions. She didn’t want it to be like that, but that’s how it had to be. Kathleen hung her head and scurried up the stairs.

She shut her wooden bedroom door and slid against the wall onto the cold hard wood floors. She glanced down at her large baby belly and smiled as if life were perfect. “I’ll take care of you sweet baby.” She didn’t know how she was going to do it, but she was determined to do it. She was going to raise this baby whether her family wanted to support her or not.

Kathleen sat there for a while and prayed just like she had every day. She prayed for peace. She prayed for a healthy baby. She prayed that her baby’s father would save her from the family that no longer loved her. Buzz. Buzz. Kathleen ran over to her nightstand. She grabbed her cellphone which she hid from her family. The screen read, Alan. “Hello. Please come get me. I can’t stand it here any longer. They won’t even look at me or talk to me. They hate me,” Kathleen cried out in a whisper.

Kathleen glanced up at the grandfather clock that sat in the corner of her room. Her father had made it for her when she was just a little girl, along with a wooden chest that stored her first handmade outfit, crocheted afghan, and hair clippings from her very first haircut. The hour hand had just struck seven o’clock, so it was no surprise that Alan was calling. She held the iPhone 6 up to her ear that Alan had bought her after finding out she was pregnant. “Keep this with you at all times. If you ever need help, call me. If you ever feel signs of labor, call me,” Alan told Kathleen as he gave her his old phone that he kept connected just for her.

Alan always called every night at seven o’clock. That was his break at work. He would call to check on her. He would ask about the baby.

“Be ready in two hours. I get off work at nine. Only bring what is necessary. We won’t have a lot of room,” Alan stated. He thought back to the night he had gotten Kathleen pregnant. What a mess he had gotten himself into, but he knew he had to take care of it just like he was raised to do. “But, damn, it would be really easy to just walk away. Change my phone number. She’d never be able to find me,” Alan thought to himself for a brief second.

“Okay, I will,” Kathleen replied.

He worked as a bartender at the bar that sat on Main Street. He had started working there when he was 21 years old. His parents discouraged him from doing it, but he had always been the rebellious one and decided to do it against their wishes. At the time, he had been in a serious relationship with Hannah. She was the waitress that had shoulder length blonde hair, long eyelashes coated in mascara, and boobs that were popping out of her low cut V-neck shirt. All of his friends had been so jealous. “How’d you get a hot one like that?” They would tease him. Alan’s family, who attended church every Sunday, didn’t care for the reviling way she dressed. They had thought that Alan could bring something a little bit classier home. But, Alan was “in love.” He had fallen head over heels for her. The only bad thing for them was that both of them had crazy exes that constantly tried to create drama between them. After all, neither Alan nor Hannah had a good track record with relationships, so it shocked their friends when they celebrated their one-year anniversary of being together.

Alan had just left work. He worked a long eight hour shift that day. He was ready to get home to his downtown apartment and open up a nice cold can of beer. He was storming down the sidewalk. He had been frustrated all day. Hannah was bitching at him all day about stupid little things. She just loved to stir shit up between them when nobody else was. His cell phone buzzed. It was a text from Hannah that read, “I’m done. Goodbye. You aren’t worth my time.” Alan rolled his eyes and just texted back, “K.” He was so over her crazy personality. He turned on his street and that is when he noticed Kathleen dressed in her floor length, floral, homemade dress. Her old, black sneakers stuck out like a sore thumb. She was the complete opposite from crazy, sexy Hannah, but something about her innocence attracted him instantly.

He walked towards her and noticed the wooden cross that hung around her neck on a piece of twine. Alan couldn’t help himself but to approach her. “Hey. I have something good back at my place, want to come?” Kathleen was confused. What could he be talking about? A new bible? A new hymnal? A new handmade dress? After all, those were the good things in her life.

“A bottle of liquor is waiting back at my place for us. I’d love to get you back to my place and pour you a fruity little mixed drink.”

Kathleen quickly hesitated. She knew she shouldn’t talk to him. She knew she should turn around and walk the opposite way. She knew he was up to no good. But, she was scared. She felt like she couldn’t say no. She took a step and began to follow Alan back to his place.

That’s when it all started. Kathleen quickly fell for Alan. He was a rebel. He wasn’t like the men in her community. He wasn’t like the boy up the dirt road that her mom always swore she would marry. He was different. He was an outsider. He wore ripped up jeans and V-neck t-shirts. He wore a black leather jacket. His black hair was styled and not just covered up with a straw hat. He had a cigarette lit at all times.

They walked back to his place. She briefly thought about what she would tell her parents when they asked why it took her so long to go to town and get the fabric. “I’ll just tell them that I couldn’t decide which ones to buy,” she thought to herself as she cautiously held his hand and made her way to his apartment with him. The door opened and she had never seen anything like it. A large flat screen television hung on the wall above a gas fireplace. The large L-shaped leather couch filled the living room. Stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops light up the kitchen. The open floor plan and red painted walls modernized the space. The wood floors looked as if they were brand new. Kathleen was in complete shock. She had never seen anything like this. It was decorative. It was colorful. It wasn’t boring.

“I’m Alan. What’s your name, you little innocent beauty?” Alan asked as Kathleen observed every detail of his apartment.

“Kathleen.”

“Okay, Kathleen, can I pour you a drink?”

Kathleen quickly felt nauseous. She never drank before. Her parents never drank before. Drinking was terrible! But she didn’t know what to say except, “um… I guess. What will it do to me?”

He giggled at her innocent little remarks, but poured her a drink anyway.

Kathleen began to feel giggly and light-headed. It didn’t take long for Kathleen to be lying on his couch, cuddled up to his cologne-scented shirt, and running her fingers through his thick black hair. “Tell me about yourself, Kathleen.”

Kathleen started, “I live in the community. The Mennonite community. As you can tell, I have to wear these long, homemade dresses. We don’t have any electronics. And I’ve never drank alcohol. We spend our Sundays at church with our community. We work in the fields way too much. And, being the oldest, I have to take care of all the little rascals while the parents have bible study every Wednesday night.”

“Shit, that sucks.”

Kathleen continued to sip at her mixed drink and they sat there and got to know each other. She felt so relaxed. Kathleen was nervous, scared, excited, and feeling crazy. She had no idea what was happening, but she didn’t want to stop. She never felt like this before, but she liked it. His hand rubbed her leg and she felt like she was falling in love. She looked up at him and smiled. Alan thought that was his sign to make the next move. So, he slowly took off his shirt. Tattoos covered his arms. He began to undress Kathleen. Kathleen quickly grabbed the blanket that sat on the back of the couch and covered her body. Her wooden cross got tangled in her hair as he slipped her dress off, but he continued anyway.

A few weeks had passed before Kathleen’s family asked her to return to town, which gave her a chance to find Alan and talk about the night they had shared. They were nervous about asking her to go because last time she didn’t make it home until the fabric store closed. But, they believed her. After all, she was their oldest baby. She had always been so sweet and innocent. And her dedication to the community and to God outweighed every slight concern.

Ding. Dong. Knock. Knock. Knock. She anxiously waited outside on the small porch. Her knees were wobbly and knots formed in her stomach. She prayed that he was home. She couldn’t stop thinking about that night they had shared. The night she lost her virginity to a man she had just met. The night she lost her virginity to an outsider. And worst of all, the night she betrayed her community by having sex before marriage.

The door swung open. His face lit up and he stuck his hand out. She grabbed it and went inside. “I thought I would never see you again. I had no idea how to find you. I thought about you every day,” Alan explained to Kathleen. He had been telling his friends about her ever since the night they hooked up. Although Hannah had texted him that night after work and said she was done, she was back begging for his forgiveness the next day. Alan couldn’t take her back, though. He could only think about that sweet, innocent girl.

“I felt the same way, but I remembered where you lived. My parents finally ordered me to return to town to buy a few things, so I knew I had to come find you,” Kathleen responded.

It was early in the morning and Alan had been getting ready to go to work, so he called in sick. He couldn’t go to work not knowing how or when he would see Kathleen again.

Kathleen ran to the bathroom and shut the door. She fell to her knees in front of the toilet and got sick just like she had almost every morning for the past few weeks. “Lord help me!” She silently cried.

“Kathleen? Are you okay?” Alan yelled through the paper thin bathroom door.

“NO! This can’t be happening. It can’t be true. What if she is pregnant?” Alan thought to himself.

Kathleen stumbled out of the bathroom and lay down on the couch. She began to explain to him how sorry she was for coming to his apartment and getting sick. She told him how this had been happening every morning and she had no idea why. She felt exhausted.

Kathleen was terrified. She had no idea why she felt so sick lately. She wanted to leave because she felt so embarrassed, but she wanted help, too. She wanted to feel better, but she wanted to run.

“Are you pregnant?” Alan shouted. “Damn. This can’t be happening. We only hooked up one time. But, really, you were so kind and beautiful. Your innocence glowed throughout the room. I couldn’t stop myself. But, honestly, I can’t have no baby with a girl like you. My friends would freak if they found out I got the Mennonite girl pregnant,” Alan continued to ramble.

Kathleen just looked at him with complete shock. She had no idea what he was talking about. She was determined that she wasn’t pregnant. She began to fill with anger. “Why is he saying all this stuff? I’ll never come back!” She thought to herself.

Alan reluctantly gave her a phone and told her to call him if she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen stormed out the door. She was in complete denial. She couldn’t be pregnant.

A few weeks had passed and during that time, Kathleen walked to the general store to pick up a cheap pregnancy test. She took it. It read positive. She couldn’t believe it. She called Alan and told him. He was shocked, but he knew he had to help her because that was his child.

Throughout the pregnancy, Kathleen would talk to Alan during his break at work. She would tell him all about her day, the doctor’s appointments that she had for the baby, and the way she had been shunned once her parents noticed her pregnant belly.

Kathleen was often haunted by the memory of her parents confronting her the day they noticed she was pregnant. They had both come into her room without asking or knocking. They stormed in. Their faces were red. Her dad was furious. Her mom was scared.

“You little….” her dad yelled. “How could you do this to our family? We know you have been trying to hide this from us, but we aren’t dumb. Tell us the truth right now,” her dad scolded as he stood right in front of her.

“How could you do this? We raised you better than this!” Kathleen’s mother cried out.

Kathleen didn’t know what to do. She had been trying to hide the pregnancy for five months now. She had begun to sew her own dresses just so that she could make them larger and more likely to hide the forming baby bump. Kathleen spent most of her time in her room, alone. She only came downstairs when her mother called her for dinner. Kathleen had totally distanced herself from her family, because she knew this was not a good situation that she had gotten herself into.

“I’m pregnant,” Kathleen cried. Tears rolled down her bright red face.

Her mother continued to cry after Kathleen confessed to her parents. Being her mom, she wanted to hug her and tell her that everything would be okay, but her husband had different ideas. Kathleen’s father grabbed his wife’s arm and said, “Let’s get out of her. We don’t need to be in the presence of someone this terrible. She betrayed us and she will pay for this.”

Kathleen buried her head in her pillow and cried. But, she was thankful that they hadn’t kicked her. She knew she had no place to go.

Kathleen’s bedroom was on the second floor of the farm house. A balcony wrapped around the first and second floor of the house. She quickly gathered her belongings in a duffle bag that her mom had made her when she was just a little girl. Pregnancy test. Bible. Hymnal. Wooden cross. Family picture. Cell phone that Alan had given her. Pink, blue, and yellow color swatches. Picture of the dream nursery. And the baby bible that she had purchased in town the day she found out she was pregnant. Kathleen slung the duffle bag full of her most important items onto her back. She slipped on her black sneakers and continued to her bedroom window. Luckily, it was warm outside, so her bedroom window remained open all week long. The small breeze blew through her room. Her hair blew back in her face. She grabbed the hair tie off her wrist and threw her hair into a tight bun.

She struggled to make it through the window. She pushed and squeezed. She had no idea how she was going to get her eight-month-pregnant self out the window.

Her big belly made it tight to get out through her bedroom window but, with a little extra strength and determination, she was out the window and standing on the balcony that she had once used to sit on as she read her bible. She stood there for a minute and caught her breath. She tiptoed around back to the staircase that went down to the ground. She made it to the ground without anybody noticing. That’s when she began her journey to escaping the community. Kathleen waddled up the dirt road; Alan was parked at the end of it. She waddled as fast as she could but, honestly, she was exhausted and worn out. She had also been experiencing a few contractions here and there. She continued down the dirt road. At the entrance of the community sat the white, jacked up Chevrolet truck that Alan drove. She slung the door open and hopped into the truck. They drove off into the sunset as if it were a scene from a movie.

They had returned to Alan’s apartment. The town was lit up. Couples were strolling around the streets. Some single girls were gathered in a cluster at the steps of Alan’s porch.

“Excuse us,” Adam exclaimed.

The girls quickly moved but their eyes remained on Kathleen. Kathleen waddled up the steps in her long, worn out, homemade, floral and plaid dress. She stepped on the back of her dress as she walked up the stairs due to a bad tear in the back of her dress. The single girls, dressed in their little dresses, continued to stare at Kathleen and whisper about her.

“Did you see those girls’ faces? They were like, why the hell is a good looking hunk with that plain girl?” Kathleen joked as she plopped her duffle bag on the couch.

Alan just laughed. He hugged her and she kissed his check. Kathleen was still terrified, but she finally felt free. They were together. Away from the community, away from the judgments. At eight months pregnant, Kathleen was exhausted and ready to lie down in bed. After all, sneaking out of her home would have been exhausting for anyone. Alan had offered to rub her back since she was experiencing extreme lower back pain.

Laying together in bed, Kathleen and Alan began to talk about the future. “So, I know this may not be important, but I couldn’t bring any of my dresses, and honestly I don’t think I will last in this town if I continue to wear my dresses. So, can we go shopping and get the baby and myself some new outfits?” Kathleen asked. Alan smiled at her and she instantly knew that meant yes.

Kathleen began to drift off to sleep. She was tired. But, she was still scared. She had so many things running through her mind, but she tried her best to just relax and close her eyes. Although she didn’t know it, Alan felt the same way. He was terrified.

“AHHHHH! AHHHH! ALAN! Come here! I think I’m having this baby,” Kathleen screamed. Alan was in his closet getting ready to go shopping for Kathleen and the baby. He hurried over to the bed, noticing that the bed was wet, grabbed his truck keys off the nightstand, and helped Kathleen make her way to his truck that was parked alongside the road.

By the time they had arrived at the hospital, the nurses had a wheelchair ready to rush Kathleen back to the delivery room. Alan remained by her side as they welcomed the small, five pound four ounce baby boy into the world. Minutes after the delivery, Kathleen explained to the doctor that she was still experiencing pain and contractions.

By ten that morning, Kathleen was holding their five pound baby girl and Alan was holding there five pound four ounce baby boy. She looked over at Alan who was glowing. “Can you believe this?”

It felt as if the whole world had just stopped right in its tracks. Both of the young adults’ lives had changed drastically. It really didn’t even feel real.

The nurse came in to check on Kathleen and the babies. “I have the paperwork here. Did you decide on names?”

Kathleen and Alan smiled at each other, “Yes!”

“Solomon is our baby boy. Delilah is our baby girl,” Kathleen told the nurse as she began to fill out the paperwork. “Both are biblical names,” she explained.

Kathleen and Alan held their babies. They survived that first night in the hospital. It wasn’t easy, but they did it.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Alan answered, “Come in.” Alan’s mom and dad had arrived at the hospital. They had never met the mother of their grandchildren before, and she was completely surprised to see two babies in the room. “Oh my gosh! Two? You didn’t tell me!” Alan’s mother exclaimed.

“We didn’t know. Kathleen wasn’t able to get a sonogram during her pregnancy. The doctor in the community who monitored Kathleen and her pregnancy checked the heartbeat but never mentioned that he heard two. We were very surprised, too!”

Alan’s parents both came over to the new parents to hold the babies. They cuddled them and lit up as they held their new grandchildren. Kathleen was filled with joy, but part of her was sad that her parents weren’t there to meet the twins. She knew they didn’t approve of her situation, but these babies were still a gift from God. “How could they not want to be a part of their lives?” Kathleen wondered.

“Rust” by Mike Tucker

lonely crunch of snow

wasteland of rust and trees

littered with tires and washing machines

a wreckage of ruined cookware and siding

beautiful as weeds

and sprouting like tumors

we live in a rural wasteland  of rust and trees

red-orange bleeds into dirty whites then rotten browns

and crushing grey skies

which fall on shoulders hunched against a brittle morning chill

sharp and deadly as old barbed wire beneath a crescent moon

we seek the medicine of vulture

we seek the healing ways of snake

to purify      to revive

as we eat our dead and shed our skins

and drink from poison cups

 

to breathe life back into an earth we have almost wasted

in our adolescence of machinery

frozen footsteps fall

and stubbornly remain

echoes of last night:

a fracture of hazel eyes and dubstep

beats             glitching like a mob

all night long

then crashing into frozen morning

and you safe and naked under quilts at home where it smells warm like rice

and

the faucets drip so the pipes won’t freeze

 

and me in this wasteland of rust and trees

each limb a twisted mudra

each bare branch a silent prayer

crying out

feed me the stars’ icy beauty tonight

“Facts about the Animal Kingdom” by Amanda McPherson

When holding a small snake,

Experts say,

You should let it lace through your fingers

To prevent injury

Maybe then that’s why

Your fingers were intertwined with mine like a constrictor

To prevent one of us from being hurt

Though I have never been sure who

Experts also say

Prolonged eye contact is a sign of aggression

To most animals

And despite this fact

You still held my eyes trapped with yours

Like the ocean blue breaking down the deep, dark earth

It was inescapable

And it was the most beautiful kind of fighting

Did you know that penguins mate for life?

But neither of us have flippers,

I suppose,

And maybe that is why

You didn’t feel obligated to stay

“Sestina for Eve” by Mike Tucker

She’s trading apples for Eden these days

on those gray streets where her drizzle does run

so close to the hot foul breath of the beast

dripping but softly with flowers his words

delirium zebra stripe fire in her eyes

blindly we swallow the secrets of stars

 

And you kept whispering, whispering stars

cross eyed with pleasure sweet halcyon days

Lucifer’s fallen right into your eyes

chin up adam, we sure had a good run:

I spent much of my life wrestling with words

stuck in this garden between angel and beast

 

What can I give up this lent to the beast?

fig leaves, sins and your pocketful of stars

but I could not answer with naked words

barefoot beautiful oblivion days

faster now faster with fireflies she’ll run

headlong straight for the bright whites of your eyes

 

Open them open them open your eyes

all wrapped up in furry blankets of beast

kick off your shoes those wet colors will run

quicksilver fish in gutters full of stars

fall down in these last days our lost daze

when I fell in love completely with words

 

And you went to war so fiercely with words

aiming spoken arrows right at my eyes

foxhunts with hot girls- I’m almost there days

far past garden gates they call me the beast

flung down from heaven in a rain of stars

moonlight and mercury my winged heels run

 

Into this myth I will dive swim and run

scapegoat hanging on the cross of your words

she’s penetrating my heart full of stars

I’m far beyond gone with that look in your eyes

slaughter me slaughter me slaughter this beast

bring me forbidden fruit or say goodbye days

 

We run unmasked past serpents’ crystal eyes

where words just like honey slay the hidden beast

and stars burn for you on eve’s snake charming days