19. 6 years, and sometimes I can’t see anything except the radiation machines that clank against each other, metal shrieks ringing in my ear. 6 years, and I still cry myself to sleep at night. 6 years, and there’s always someone, somewhere, saying PTSD isn’t real. Just get over it.
18. It’s been 5 years. They say I’m safe now. They say it’s over.
18. Legal age. I can vote now. Does the world want me to change it? Do I, even have that right?
17. Oh my god! They took me! Ivy-bound.
17. Applying for college. Will Harvard take me? But they’re so good. Should I even mention the cancer?
16. My friend Vanessa said the scar on my chest looked like I got heart surgery. I was so scared. What if she found out?
16. I can’t tell anybody, right? What if they treat me differently? I don’t want all my friends to be friends with me out of pity.
15. My hair’s so short; I wear a cap everyday to school. Mom talked to the teachers, so they let me wear it in class too. I’m so embarrassed.
15. New school. New faces. Will I be okay? Why did I leave Hunter?
14. Chemo ends in March. They make me ring a nice bell to show I finished treatment. It’s shiny. Does that mean it’s over? Can I go back to my life?
14. I can’t walk in a straight line. My flute lies on the ground, abandoned. My paintings drape over the basement table. Mom and Dad shove my baking tools in an empty drawer.
13. Everyone wants me to say something. But I don’t want to say anything. My throat hurts. Do I have a voice? I think Grandma is asking me something, but I can’t hear her.
13. The surgery is tomorrow. I’m scared of this hospital. This place is weird and looks too bright. My eyes are angry. There are purple butterflies on the walls.
13. I ask Mom why my head hurts so much. Because she’s my Mom. She has all the answers. She looks at me, sad. She doesn’t have an answer.
13. My head hurts. Ow. This really hurts.
13. Jack of all trades. That’s what Grandma calls me. She says she’s proud of me because I can play piano and flute and I can bake yummy stuff and my art is really pretty and I do really good in school.
12. It takes 3 hours to travel to school every day. There’s so much work. It’s ok, though. Mom says it’s the best middle school. Mom knows everything.
11. I got into Hunter! Finally, wow, this took so long.
8. Little brother doesn’t want to go to kindergarten. He’s crying by the window. I go and calm him down.
7. Grandma says I’m her favorite because I can do so many things.
3. I can’t sleep without Mommy. I piddle paddle to her room. Mommy and Daddy are talking, loud but whispering, quiet but angry. I fall asleep outside with my blankie.
Haley Sui is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Creative Writing and Neuroscience. She is an active member in her college’s acapella group and dance club, as well as a fervent writer for the university’s science newsletter. When she’s not studying or working on club projects, Haley enjoys listening to lofi music and writing personal memoirs.
Afternoons I visited her, and
beneath the rainfall on her roof
cotton blankets wrapped around us I
drank in each of her syllables. She helped me
find the right shape with my own tongue,
giving my hand a squeeze when I got one right.
Half my words were nonsense. She pretended not to notice.
I envied her vocabulary, and hoped one day I would be able to
jinx her with a word like inconsequential or trivial or barbaric and
know what it meant. You’ve probably guessed I
loved her. So I stuck around like the smell of
mulch in her backyard. I remember she took
me there once to smell the jasmine. She
never minded when I pronounced the word wrong
or forgot which flowers are feminine, so I thought she loved me back.
Pity me. Imagine the
quiet tears I shed when I finally
remembered the shape of those words.
She had helped me sound them out
thinking they were for someone else.
Time after time I practiced until the
vortex of sound opened up to me and on
Wednesday I told her I loved her and the
xenial melody of her voice responded
yes. That’s how you pronounce it.
Chloe Kerr-Stein will be studying Writing and Literature at UCSB in the fall. She has studied at the California State Summer School for the Arts and the Kenyon Young Writer’s Studio. She has been published in the 826 Quarterly, The Junkyard, and the Bay Area Book Festival’s Youth Poetry Anthology.
My nails are shining Lavender,
I’m afraid you don’t see me.
I wish someone would rub
Sunburnt arms with aloe,
So I could tell them I wasn’t sore.
I felt the love’s weight
As I tried to breathe
With no woman pressing into me,
Once I stopped the chattering TV.
I can feel the weight, lost,
Like I starve myself, so far
Inside does love carve.
I would sit outdoors,
At a warming bench all light time,
To hear “Hi,” receive “Hello.”
Hugh Cook attends University of California, Santa Barbara, studying Writing and Literature. He has authored a collection titled The Day it Became a Circle (Afterworld Books). His poetry has been published in Tipton Poetry Journal, Ariel Chart, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Blue Unicorn.
Well, I was walking trying to mind my business
and guess who came by on his bike!
Yes, it was him and his hair was short,
if you can believe he’d let someone cut his hair.
He stopped to call my name and come beside me,
walking his bike and the chain came off.
Do you mind waiting just a minute?
And I waited, because there is something about his voice
I’ve always liked, and I wanted him to walk
beside me, asking questions people don’t ask.
Do you go to New York a lot?
I said I did, sometimes, but I don’t like it there.
We should go. In the summer.
He even went so far as to ask where I was walking,
so I said to get my ears pierced, and he asked
if I had any other piercings on my body,
as if he’d never seen me naked.
But no, I said, I only have them on my ears.
Then he was away on his bike,
and for a sudden moment it was the fall again,
when at the crossroads as he walked me to the doctor
I said I knew the rest of the way, and it was raining,
and I saw his eyes afraid before he turned and ran
down the street, catching the arrow green.
Sophie Cohen is a rising junior at MIT, where she studies mathematics and creative writing. She is a writer for MIT Chroma Magazine, and a teaching assistant for calculus. An active member of her sorority, Alpha Phi, Sophie leads the fundraising effort for the Boston Walk to End Lupus Now. Her favorite poet is Brigit Pegeen Kelly.
Love was pressed between
Stained smudges of downy diction
Creased along the edges
Bent over backwards
Then folded forward
Sealed by the weight of waxy hope
Sent with a flick—
but the sun beat on
So it flut ter ed
Hitting the water
A distraught Icarus.
The whole of its failure upon it
Contributed to its
The inky black deep.
Kristina Gibbs is an emerging writer from Tennessee pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English and minor in Linguistics. She has previously published in Speaking of Marvels and North of Oxford Review. When she is not reading or writing, you may find her clambering over both hiking trails and paint brushes.
We all have ways to weigh ourselves.
Eden’s way: stay in motion.
She would still the silence by
praying to God, eating her vegetables,
journaling in the achy fog of morning.
She would lean against the counter when she stopped.
Chairs were much too comfortable.
I never saw it was defense
until I, too,
heard bees in my head.
I see myself in Eden’s race
against the unfair haste of silent time.
There isn’t ease in inner peace
when a piece of you is missing.
Kayleigh Macdonald was born and raised in San Jose, CA. She is a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Communication and a Minor in English.