By Diana Mellow for Start.Write.Now
Cassandra raises pigeons. “Yes,” she says, “I am one of those New Yorkers.” Above her apartment it sounds like it always raining, their footsteps are so rapid. She likes to imagine the birds as raindrops sometimes, when the heat is sweltering and her son is fast asleep beside her. It is too hot to even sit up, so she lays with Sammy and stares at the ceiling, past the ceiling, her mind latching onto their dirty wings. Then she remembers it is time to feed them. She climbs the attic stairs with a tired confidence, a bag of stale bread in her hand. When she sees the pigeons, her fantasy is shattered. They are mangy, graying creatures. She crumbles the bread along the cement, watching them fight for it. She wishes they would fly away sometimes. There are so many of them, and if they flew all at once, it would bring a beautiful gust of wind. They would look like large, morbid butterflies.
“Your son is failing the second grade.” The words come as a shock to Cassandra. She thinks her son is beautiful. Sammy has long, dark eyelashes that cast shadows on his cheeks. He is always asking questions, and he gets angry when he doesn’t find their answers. Cassandra pictures him at four years old, taking apart his miniature electric cars to see how they worked. The long black wires curled around his fingers. She remembers his look so clearly, as if he were devouring a slice of the truth.
“What subjects is he failing?” Cassandra asks.
“His reading scores are far below average. He can’t keep up with the other children in his writing skills. His math scores are decent, but I know he could be performing better.” Mrs. Hasselhoff is a large woman. Cassandra is equally impressed and disgusted by her. She has large glasses, a large nose, and rolls of fat hanging off her chair. Cassandra has always been afraid of being fat. Even as a young girl, years before she could have imagined giving birth, she tried every diet possible. She halted the intake of all carbohydrates, then started up with nothing but them. She turned vegetarian, vegan, microbiotic and gluten-free before she finally stopped trying. She decided, instead, to avoid mirrors.
“What is he like in class?” Cassandra directs the question at Mrs. Hasselhoff’s second chin. The glasses make her nervous. Mrs. Hasselhoff folds her pudgy hands on the desk.
“He is unresponsive most of the time. He does the majority of his work, but I can’t recall any time he participated in class. He interacts very little with his classmates. His detachment concerns me.” Yes, Cassandra thinks. I know exactly what you mean. She crosses her legs. Just like his father.
“Alright. So how can I help fix this?” It is a question she asks herself too often. At bath time, when the drain is clogged with Sammy’s black hair and the water refuses to recede. She asks it when she is climbing the stairs to her sixth-floor walk up, hair pushed behind her ears, looking for ways to avoid the leaks in the walls and the uprooted floorboards. On the subway, when her train is delayed. There is too much fixing to be done, Cassandra thinks.
By Jackie Knight for Start.Write.Now
When caught in a dire - world collapsing - cats and dogs living together - everything you’ve ever known is a lie situation the best thing to do is make yourself a sandwich. A cold sandwich with thin slices of meat and inch thick tomatoes on whole wheat bread. Don’t cut the crusts off. Keep them on and dig your teeth into the tough brown skin and sesame seeds. Don’t put ketchup on it or mayonnaise or mustard. Don’t toast it. Don’t Panini it. Don’t melt the cheese in the microwave. You may cut it in half but only in one swift incision from the top left corner to the bottom right. If pickle slices or lettuce leaves fall onto the counter leave them until you are done then treat those scraps like fallen angels as you lick their residue from you index finger. Don’t use a plate or a napkin or a T.V tray. Stand up with you feet apart and you elbows flirting with the kitchen counter. Don’t clear off the counter. Don’t move those Chinese food boxes or magazines sprawled out like exhausted fat men on a sunken couch. Let the sandwich roll on your tongue and introduce itself to all of your molars. Let it play in your cheeks before it cascades into your breast bone and rib cage. Let every bite be as indulgent as a fast food commercial where the burgers are constructed like works of art. When you are done give yourself a moment to melt into the tiles and slip under the fridge.
By Annalee Tai for Start.Write.Now
Mother who bore me
lifted my sunken soul
above her head with a shrewd secrecy
and shattered it against the cold stone
as father watched mutely
gazing through reds of stained glass
Lover who seranaded me
sang sweet hymns
when not with another
poking at a flame to weak to errupt and burn his hands
as he scorched mine
everytime he crept a-hush under covers of quiet
as i soundlessly wept
Sister who taught me
succumbed, stricken to sickness
and irreversible stillness
that pierced my ears
and haunted my heart
Benevolent God who lead me
along paths of false hope
of faith and miracle
who showed me his worst silence:
that which comes when noise is most needed
when answer is asked for
Beside my bed as night falls
an inner mutiny prevents my knees to bend in prayer
to a god who plays with a faith
pressed and pounded to a pulp
he putters with in his palm
From my neck
an icy chain
that swings the cross
falls to the floor
and hits the marble
like a strike from the belt
like screams of infidelity
like her clock’s last tickings
By Sanjana for Start.Write.Now
fingers of a violinist,
heart of a boy.
strings across a golden bridge;
a sound you can’t avoid.
tread manhattan streets.
together they speak,
in a language i can’t reach.
By Diana Guo for Start.Write.Now
I rarely remember the bridge and that only lonely evening, where the season was changing its colors, and I stood, like the children stood on snowy days, looking out the window, at those two flocks of geese soaring past the city bridge. I rarely remember the section of the bridge that are your big eyes and straight nose, a smiling mouth with two dimples, the dimples of the boys that are very sweet, but I do not remember this bridge any further. Easily as the boats sway from dock to dock, the waters cover the time of our life.
Under our aimless boat is another world, a world split when we made that decision under the heartless sun. The river covers the time of our life and the fisherman’ paddles dissolve our moments sometimes. I keep my eyes closed because I want to break like a fever, of the way the soft river makes way for everything.
In the transience of the seasonal changes, we have all lost someone.
I told you to forget me, forget the way our movements merged with the twisted arch of a soaring forest, forget the crimson explosions of the print of the breakfast table, and most of all forget how my eyes seem to cave in and cast shadows as loud as the fighting couple next door. How the emptiness of your expression is as silent and as loud as the screams of the people falling down buildings in terminal velocity, I have forgotten. I slide my metro card over the sensor, the automated door accepts my existence as a mechanically designed sensor detects the weight of my body, and I am assured that I am still alive. The matter in my body, the billions of ambulant cells and atoms swerving like an early morning of new york city, promises me that I am still breathing like the surface of a burning map.
How long has it been since I consciously remembered to forget that you swallow my ghost…
By Noah Miller for Start.Write.Now
I happen to live
in Manhattan, so I’ll tell you about
Manhattan. A few days ago was the
school, where we
took the chemistry regents.
After it some people asked me how hard
they thought I thought it was.
I just said that it was a typical regents.
I got together with four friends.
We went to a diner,
ate sugar straight out of the packets,
consecutive hours of video games.
in the evening, I headed home.
It was the first hot day
of the year.
I was wading in heat.
I went underground
to the subway and it got slightly cooler.
To get home I always take the 1 train to Grand Central, then transfer to the N/Q/R train.
On the 1 train, a man gets on board.
He is shortish, has a yellow tank top, a large crayola blue camping bag, curly hair, and lean muscles.
A little dirty.
He doesn’t sit down, he swings himself back and forth on a pole. A few stops later he does sit down and laughs annoyingly loudly, with his hands covering his face, saying, “Ohh, that’s great! That’s just so great!” So yeah, he’s crazy. I’m wondering what stop he’s getting out at. When it’s Grand Central, I hastily rush out of the car and head up the stairs. I look behind. I don’t see him. I look forward, and then he runs right in front of me, cutting me off. “Oh man,” he says, talking right to me, “You were really fast, but I was faster.” I don’t respond. He looks a little disappointed. I don’t think he would have harmed me, but really what else can I do but ignore him.
Now, when you’re in Grand Central, transferring from the
1 to the N/Q/R,
two paths you can take in the station.
I see him go down the shorter path.
I know that he’s probably going on the
that I’m taking.
I walk down the path that he didn’t and get to the platform.
I can’t spot him from where I am.
I catch the Q and have an uneventful trip to Union Square. I think about Union Square. I recently learned that Adam Brodheim, a Senior (who just graduated) on our school’s robotics team lives near there. I know that because we both went home after the same end-of-the-year robotics meeting a few days prior. We took all the same trains. It was awkward. I’ve never seen him in the neighborhood, but we must live close to each other.
I get out at Union Square.
It’s warm, so the Occupy Wall Street protesters are out.
At least the crazy ones.
A lot of the sane ones have given up, but some weirdo’s still stick around.
And who do I happen to see but our
He must’ve beat me out of the exit,
because he was already
deep in conversation
with a tattooed man by the time I saw him.
I tried to avoid him
(although I think he did see and recognize me)
but I did pick up one line from the conversation.
The yellow shirted man said,
“I now know what our bodies are for. Our bodies are weapons.”
He seemed excited about this.
I walk quickly, I don’t want trouble.
As I walk across Union square, I see an old man try to talk a woman who looks like she’s never seen him before. He looks like a protester too. As I come to the end of the block, I have to wait for the traffic light before I can cross the street. The woman is next to me, and that man has followed her. You can tell he’s not normal from his speech patterns.
“Nobody ever likes me,
nobody listens to me.”
The woman is middle aged and cynical. She’s not threatened. She ignore him. He continues.
“Nobody ever talks to me.”
She annoyedly responds, “Maybe it has to do with the way you present yourself.”
He puts his hands on her rolling bag and starts feeling it. She doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t look like he’s trying to steal anything.
I’m really unsure just what he’s doing.
The light turns green and I cross the street, abandoning the duo.
A few blocks down, walking perpendicular to my direction, I see Adam the senior.
Wow, I’m psychic.
“Adam! Adam!” He looks at me, and is just as surprised as I am.
By Rachael Scott for Start.Write.Now
Sometimes our dreams are peaceful things like slants of light fall over eaves.
Sometimes our dreams are fitful things, violins with broken strings strangling silence with their pains
Sometimes our dreams are phantom pains. Striking up in brilliant strains like ice runs through our veins
Sometimes dreams are cold, a field of unfledged snow, white and even thin and low.
Sometimes I dream and can not know.