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Runner-Up: The Land of Orange and Black by Kaitlyn Teach

Runner-Up: The Land of Orange and Black by Kaitlyn Teach

In the land of orange and black
You must take care to not look back
Flaccid bodies, chagrin smiles
Find the man in the black coat
Take note, and stay a while

Reaper’s sharpened farmer’s scythe
Brings the facts of death to light
Catch his eyes with your own two
He is embarrassed; caught in the act
“Look back!” he says to trick you

Do not listen to his shouts
Never, ever turn about
In this midnight forest clearing
Know your enemies and friends
Here again, see Death’s eyes leering

He moves behind you swiftly now
And causes you to turn around
Nothing good comes from not listening
You thought I lied? Well how
There, now, your moonlit blood is glistening

So, take heed in my warning
Hide your face until the morning
And you will never come back
To the land of orange and black
I promise
Runner-Up: Rest Area? by Jake Kemman

Runner-Up: Rest Area? by Jake Kemman

Thanks to everyone who submitted to our Spooky Story/Poem Contest! Here is one our two awesome runners-up! Check back tomorrow to read the other one, and then on Halloween to read the winning entry!

Rest Area?

by Jake Kemman

The whine of old tires over slick concrete pierced through the cacophony of silence surrounding a worn and pitted highway. The air dripped with fog.

A royal blue flash in the highbeams marked the passage of a rusting, tortured sign nearly obscured in the mist.

“Good, it’s here today” noted Custodian Michael, as he turned into the rest plaza.

The little man’s stout figure looked about 50, his eyes to be 25, his ghost white hair, slicked into a short ponytail, to be 70. A creaky smile wormed across his face as he tapped the brake on his squeaky little antique pickup.

It did nothing. But he didn’t seem to be concerned as he coasted off the exit ramp precisely into the 3rd parking space. This was where he always parked.

Custodian Michael took a breath and stepped out onto the surface of the otherwise empty parking area. The air smelled as it always did.

Mothballs.

Michael waded through the closeted air towards the tiny information center.

A young man with close cropped hair wearing a state-issued custodial uniform stepped out from behind the information counter when Michael entered. His skin was paler than death.

He looked Michael in the eyes with a pair of gigantic pupils and nodded slowly.

Michael smiled in return, and without a word the pale boy turned and stepped out into the fog. Michael watched him glide down the sidewalk out of sight.

“Must be new…” Michael thought to himself.

An analogue clock behind the counter read 5:30. Michael made a note of that before walking to the custodial closet across the lobby to ensure it was still locked.

It was.

As always.

Nobody knew where the keys were.

Rumor had it that Frankie knew where they were, but Michael doubted it. Frankie was Michael’s closest friend; he knew Frankie would tell him if he knew where the keys were.

Not that it mattered.

The bathrooms were always pristine anyway.

Michael spun and walked to the map dispenser.

It was full.

As always.

Nobody ever took any of the maps.

A sudden whirring sound alerted Michael. He turned quickly to face it, just in time to see a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew fall into the drawer of an antiquated vending machine.

“Oh, It’s just you, Frankie. How long have you been awake?” said Michael.

“You woke me up with your relentless humming!” said the vending machine.

The voice was soft, and charming. Hints of a Carolina twang were noticeable on the ends of his words.

Michael hadn’t realized he was humming again. He usually only hummed when he was feeling especially inquisitive.

“Say, where did you go last night? I came out to see if the new kid was on duty, but the sign was gone and I had to find a place to turn around on the other side of the ridge,” said Michael.

“Just a little bit of sightseeing,” Frankie chuckled.

Michael sighed.

The dented snack machine showed no emotion, but Michael could feel the disembodied voice beaming at him from beyond the gritty folds of reality, just as it had when they first got to know each-other, so long ago. Michael still taught saxophone in the basement of a local community college.

That was before The Reassignments.

Michael sighed again, longer this time.

That dingy little music room in the damp basement of the art building was like a second home. He missed the evening walks down the musty stairwell and past the custodial closet to the stained and battered soundproof chamber at the end of his hall.

He missed his frequent stops at the code-mandated vending machine that lived in the moldy corner next to the heat plant across from his door.

He missed the one sided conversations he would use to pass the time as he would decide on his order; he always took forever.

Michael knew every inch of that machine, every quirk and malfunctioning button, every item; they never changed.

They still haven’t changed.

Michael remembered the day The Reassignments came down; he was slotted among the first to go.

Michael remembered his solemn walk down the musty stairs after the form-printed letter showed up in his post office box, freshly stamped with the seals of the college president and State Inspector’s office.

Michael could do nothing. Nothing but shuffle over to the vending machine, and go about his usual routine, pretending that everything was fine until his travel authorization came through.

He remembered inserting a rumpled dollar bill and blindly dialing a number on the faded keypad. Something he never did.

Nothing happened.

He tried again.

Nothing.

Defeated, he turned and slumped against the dented frame of the machine. It was too much.

“I’m not giving you popcorn until you tell me what’s wrong.”

Michael nearly blacked out when he first heard the voice.

Frankie’s words echoed through the cavernous memories Michael had accumulated over the years. The rolling tongue snapped him back to reality.

He realized Frankie had been off on another rant while he’d been caught living in the past.

“The highway inspector has to learn sometime to stop screwing us over by sending so many new janitors!” Frankie grumbled.

He was serious.

Frankie was never serious.

If Frankie was serious?

Michael never wanted to see a day like that again. His pickup still smelled like bleach from their frantic overnight trip. He laughed, briefly, at how much Frankie hated riding in the back.  “At least he was thorough,” Michael thought. The exasperated inner tone threatened to leak out of his mouth.

Authorities still haven’t found the remains of the campus administrative staff.

“Frankie, the highway inspector doesn’t even know you exist! All he ever sees is a dilapidated vending machine with expired root beer!” said Michael, trying to defuse his friend.

“All he ever sees is another reason to tear us down! You know that can’t happen, Michael!” The anger in Frankie’s tone was not directed at the little man.

Before the conversation could continue, the unmistakable rumble of a late model Mercedes rang like thunder through the soggy air.

“Speak of the devil,” uttered both friends.

Frankie turned eerily silent as a pair of neon blue headlights rolled into view; the fog-refracted light cast a ghostly aura inside the tiny lobby before winking out.

A door slammed, and a short, wide man, barely of Michael’s height, in a tailored suit, hastily made his way to the lobby entrance.

Michael stared at him with a neutral expression.

“WHERE IS THE NEW CUSTODIAN?!” shouted The Inspector.

Since The Inspector took over The Department, Michael had never heard him say anything in a voice that wasn’t loud enough to be heard over the roar of a lumber mill.

Michael shrugged a response, knowing it would aggravate the stocky inspector.

“WELL?!”

“He left?” said Michael, purposefully quiet.

“LEFT?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!”

“I got here a little early, and I guess he took it that meant he could leave. So he left.”

“HE WASN’T SUPPOSED TO LEAVE UNTIL 11:00! WHY DIDN’T YOU STOP HIM?

Michael shrugged again, softer this time.

The Inspector flushed red with anger. Having hated Michael with a passion since before their first meeting, he searched briefly around the room for something to pick on.

He found nothing.

It was pristine.

As always.

Nothing was ever dirty.

This time, he didn’t care.  “THIS PLACE IS FILTHY! QUIT SLACKING! I’LL BET THE NEW CUSTODIAN COULD DO A BETTER JOB! I SHOULD GIVE HIM YOUR SHIFTS!”

Unfazed, Michael shrugged a third time.

The Inspector, disgusted, turned toward the vending machine nestled in the corner.

He fumbled awkwardly in his wallet for a $20 bill and presented it to the old machine. Despite the information sticker that claimed otherwise, it gladly vacuumed up the crisp note like a hungry dog.

The Inspector dialed for a bag of potato chips and leaned against the machine, trying to remember the breathing exercises his doctor had recommended.

Michael smiled as the bag stopped just short of the ledge, and $19.00 in change failed to accumulate.

The Inspector furiously pressed the coin return lever.

Nothing happened.

He slapped the side of the box with a meaty hand.

Nothing.

He shook the machine on its stubby legs.

Nothing.

He repeatedly slammed a fist against the glass partition.

It cracked.

The sound rang like a gunshot through the moist air. Michael’s previously raucous laughter immediately ceased. His face turned to slate.

“You… Shouldn’t… Have… Done… That…” Michael whispered.

The Inspector had lost any remaining vestiges of inner calm. He turned to face Michael, jamming a pudgy finger in the solemn face of the custodian.

“YOU KNOW WHAT?!”

“YOU’RE FIRED! FOR FAILURE TO PROPERLY MAINTAIN VENDING EQUIPMENT! I’LL BE CALLING IN A REPLACEMENT THE MOMENT I GET BACK TO MY OFFICE!”

He stormed out, unconcerned with the damage he had caused.

A car door slammed, and the ghostly headlights resumed their shine.

Michael turned to face Frankie, ready to plead with him to find a different solution.

It was too late.

The lights in the display case flickered angrily, the previously serene white now a crimson scream.

The machine shuddered, Frankie’s voice no longer emanating from within. The pencil-thin LCD display above the coin slot scrolled furiously, it’s welcoming message gone.

“N0T AG@1N!!1! NEV3R @GA1N!!1!”

Michael turned back to the front windows and stared into the fog. The shadowy outline of a Mercedes teetered on the edge of invisibility.

Michael walked to the front door and flipped the lock.

He never locked the door.

There was never any reason.

The Inspector eased out of his double-parked space, mist billowing and dancing around him. He was oblivious in his rage.

A massive shape disturbed the fog behind the silver Mercedes, eyes glowing acidic green.

Michael knew it all too well.

The Inspector tore off through the parking lot, the mists of anger clouding his already poor vision. The towering quadruped bounded after him, a flash of rippling muscle and bared teeth. The mountains surrounding the little parking lot echoed with the yowling of a thousand wounded lions.

It didn’t take the brief sound of a warbling car alarm, or the screams of rending metal for Michael to know: The Inspector never found the exit ramp.

The Burning Boy by Zon Fatima

The Burning Boy by Zon Fatima

[[Winner of the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]

The burning boy had been on the news for years now.  Every morning, right after I grab a banana from our sorry excuse for a fruit basket and right before I slip into my ratty sneakers to walk four and a half blocks to school, I make sure to glance at the TV.  My grandmother always sits on the left end of the love seat facing the rickety old television set, walker set out before her and shoes placed inches away, right off the rug.  God bless her soul, should she ever decide to move and allow me to see the whole TV from the door without blocking the bottom right corner.  But, I’m never too worried about her.  For the past four years, all of America has only been worried about the burning boy.

This morning, Anderson Cooper straightened his papers and takes a shuddering breath as he looks into the camera.  Everyone always gets a little nervous when they talk about the burning boy.  “Four years ago, second grader Wallace Trevor was burned alive in a car accident that killed both of his parents and his younger brother.”

My fingers tighten around the banana.  An old, familiar chill, one that was born four years ago, the night Wallace’s burnt body was on the news for the first time, crawls up my back and houses itself into my neck.

“With third degree burns on 75% of his body, Wallace shouldn’t have made it alive through the accident, according to Dr. Courtier,” Anderson continued. “Miraculously, however, he was able to survive Hundreds of operations and countless hours of excruciating pain later, here we are, on January 16th, 2017, witnessing Wallace step foot out of the hospital for the first time in four years.”

Like that, I forget all about school.  I forget that if I’m late one more time, I’ll be cited for detention.  I forget that I have a surprise birthday party for a teacher that I have to attend.  I forget it all as I step around the couch to sit beside my grandmother and my eyes fixate on Wallace on the TV screen.

I like his shirt, is the first thing that comes to mind, as my eyes glaze over his Avengers shirt and shift to the rest of him.  He stands on the front steps of the children’s hospital, holding the hand of his 22-year-old sister, the only family he has left.  And they look so happy.  His sister has tears in her eyes.  She’s a round women, wearing a matching shirt and a long, black skirt with frills that should’ve been left in the last decade but at the moment, no one cares.  We’re all happy for her, happy for her and her brother.  Wallace Trevor, the burning boy.

He’s 11 years old now.  His arms are wiry and the small patch of black hair he has is matted with sweat as he stands in the Orleans heat.  For four years, the stories of all his operations were everywhere and now, everyone can see their results.  To say he looks good would be putting it nicely.  Grafts had to be taken from any salvageable parts of his body to create and plaster the skin over his burns.  Doctors flew in from all over the world to give this boy at least a semblance of the handsome face he once had.  But that’s all it really is, a semblance, and not the best one.  Tight, shiny skin is stretched over his face and his arms, the only naked parts of his body to the cameras at the moment.  Over the years, some people could barely stand the sight of him because in full honesty, it was alien, to look like that.  “If this is a price for his life,” his sister said defensively into the cameras one day two years ago when the rest of America was asking if she was happy with how her brother was looking after all the surgeries, “then, I will pay it over and over and over again.”

Rectangular glasses are perches on Wallace’s’ nose. With one hand tight in his sister’s, he smiles, stretching the new skin on his face, and shies behind her frilly skirt. And like that, tears spring up in my eyes.  My trembling hand finds my mouth and I press down to keep from sobbing. Four years we were all rooting for this boy to live. Four years we only saw blurry pictures of the operating room.  Four years we lived off of a photography of him on his sixth birthday to pass the time. And here we all are, watching our alien hero standing on the steps of an Orleans hospital, shy and wiry and eleven years old with a brand new set of skin. And I promise you, cross my heart and hope to die, that right now, he’s the most beautiful boy on the face of the planet.

So what if I might have to pass on the opportunity of going to college to take care of my grandmother?  So what if my father lives in the Hamptons now and left us in this old townhouse in Baltimore after the divorce? So what if I can barely keep a C in Calculus? So what? So what? So what?

Right now, I’m looking at Wallace Trevor, a boy I don’t know, a boy whose story is reverberating through the chests of everyone in the world, a boy I’ve been stealing fleeting glances at on the TV for four years, and I’m seeing him smile and hid behind his sister and looking absolutely alien, and right now, I’m the happiest person in the world.

The Hospital Man by Alyson Flora

The Hospital Man by Alyson Flora

[[First Runner-Up in the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]

Lungs ache. Eyes squeeze shut. From the fourth bedroom on the right, a fit of coughing erupts, echoing down the hall and across the ears of the orphanage. Beneath her sleepy tangle of sheets, a young Julianne stirs at the sharpness of the noise. She is only two rooms away, and miraculously, the only girl of nine woken. She suspects that the boys in the next room over have not been woken either, despite their greater proximity to the sound. Maybe the others have simply gotten used to the constant buzz of hacking and groaning, or maybe they’re just too tired to care. She yearns for the day that she too can sleep through the bitter breach of silence.

 

Suddenly, a new noise arises. A commotion of sorts. Muffled voices, shuffling feet. The floorboards moan throughout the building. She waits for the all too familiar sound, and soon enough, it comes. A rhythmic rapping against splintered wood. The metallic click of an unlocked door. Heavy steps into the house. Julianne quietly shakes off the linens that hold her to the bed, and sneaks toward her bedroom door. It is poorly fitted to the frame, and allows her a small opening, out which she can peer into the hall. Lining her eye up with the luminescent gap, she spies the source of the footsteps. Lead by Miss Marie, the makeshift mother of all the children, a large man is marching up the hall. She recognizes him as the hospital man. Miss Marie says that he takes the children to the hospital when they get too sick to stay at the orphanage. Julianne decided long ago that if she ever had to go to the hospital, she’d request that a less-scary man take her, preferably one that wasn’t at least twice her height. As Miss Marie and the hospital man make it to the last room on the right, the thought strikes Julianne that one of her friends is about to leave the orphanage. The children who go to the hospital never seem to return. Miss Marie had once explained that they go to a new home once they’re all better again. She was happy to hear this at the time, but now, the permanence of her friends departure seems to finally sink in. She simply must go and say goodbye.

 

Slipping down the carpeted hall undetected, Julianne heads to the room that the hospital man has just entered. The door reads infirmary. She sighs, wondering why adults must use such terribly large words for such easily phrased things. It is simply a sick-people room. Easy as that. Pressing against the door, Julianne walks confidently into the room. But perhaps a bit too confidently, as she walks straight into none other than the gigantic hospital man himself.

 

“This ain’t no place for a child miss.” His gravelly voice declares through his nest of a beard. Julianne springs back in shock.

 

“I… I sure am sorry sir,” she replies, voice shaking, “I only wanted to say goodbye, if you could just show me where…” But suddenly, she sees him. The child departing to the hospital, asleep in the hospital man’s arms. A freckled little boy by the name of Henry. He’s only been in the orphanage for a little while, but Julianne can’t help but feel as if she’s known him all her life. “Sir…” she continues, “do you think you could wake him just long enough for a goodbye?” He says nothing, simply glancing back as Miss Marie, who has been standing silently behind him for the entire ordeal.

 

“Go to bed, Julianne.” Miss Marie says, voice faltering as she speaks.

 

“But Miss Marie, I just-”

 

“I said go to bed Julianne! Now!” Miss Marie has never raised her voice like that, at least not at Julianne. But despite the sheer volume of the command, Julianne can’t help but feel that the underlying tone was something other than anger. She doesn’t dare look deeper.

 

“Yes ma’am. Goodbye Sir, Goodbye Henry.” The hospital man nods solemnly in response, and Miss Marie simply turns away.

 

As Julianne walks back to her room, a whisper catches her attention. The voice is calling her name. It’s coming from the boy’s room. Turning back to be sure Miss Marie isn’t watching, she follows the calls into the bedroom. As she enters, she finds fifteen pairs of wide eyes staring back at her.

 

“Julie!” someone calls.

 

“Did you anger Miss Marie?” asks another.

 

“Shh! She’s right down the hall,” Julianne whispers, “keep it down or she’ll really get angry.” The boys all nod in compliance. Julianne smiles at their willingness to obey, despite the fact that she seems to be the youngest in the room.

 

“So,” she begins, “ it all started when I saw Miss Marie and the hospital man walking down the hall to the sick-kids room, and-”

 

“Who on earth is the hospital man?” a voice interrupts, much to Julianne’s disapproval.

 

“The man who takes all the sick kids to the hospital, obviously.”

 

“You think Miss Marie can afford to send us to a hospital?” another voice laughs grimly. “She can barely afford to put food on the table!”

 

“That’s enough, Thomas,” one of the oldest boys interjects, placing a hand on the younger boy’s shoulder. Thomas shrugs it off.

 

“Are you all just going to stand here and let her believe the fairytales Miss Marie has shoved into her head?” continues Thomas. “How come Julianne doesn’t have to face the truth like the rest of us?”

 

“She’s young,” the older boy replies, “it’s simply the innocence of a child’s mind.” Julianne’s face drops.

 

“I’m old enough to know!” she exclaims, drawing a silence from the room. The older boy shakes his head, but Thomas flashes a devious grin.

 

“If you insist,” he whispers. And before anyone can stop him, he’s at Julianne’s side, hands cupped to whisper into her ear. “There is no hospital, Julianne. That man’s taking them to the morgue.”

 

Color Blindness by Jaina Peveto

Color Blindness by Jaina Peveto

[[Second Runner-Up in the 2016 Hub City Teen Writers Contest]]

Honestly, the fantasies in my head are far more interesting than real life.  Though to be fair, I spend more of my time in them than I do the real world.  Like right now, even as I sit in the orthodontist waiting room, I am also in another land with Sir Connor, my best friend and constant companion. Quite possibly my only friend.

My mother interrupts my musing.  “Are you nervous?” I can hear the tension in her voice.  “Not really,” I say.  As I’ve never seen braces before, I’m not entirely sure what they are.  And it’s rather difficult to fear something when you don’t know what you’re supposed to be afraid of.  “Are you sure?” she insists, and Connor and I both laugh.

“I’m sure, Mom.  Trust me, I’ll be fine.”  I was more nervous during my first appointment, when I wasn’t entirely sure how the orthodontist would react to my vision impairment.  When I was afraid he would treat me like the last one, who had acted as though I was less than human.  I fiddle with my cane as Mom continues rambling.  “I know it’ll be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll grow used to them. And it’s only for a few years at most.”  “You sound more nervous that I am.”

“It’s a mother’s job to worry,” she says.  Feeling rather bad, I hold my hand out. She takes it and gives it a squeeze.  “But I’m sure it will be fine.  Most people have to get braces.”  “I’m sure it will be too,” I say.  We sit in silence for a few minutes, and I let myself draw into Connor’s world.  I hear whispers and feel my mother bristle, but I ignore it all.  I’m used to it.  They follow my everywhere.  After all, a blind blue-haired fourteen-year-old girl is bound to seem out-of-place.  But I have grown accustomed to it, and so I pay no attention until I feel a tap on my shoulder.  “Why is your hair blue if you can’t see it?”  The voice is a young one, maybe five years old. Though it takes me out of Connor’s world, I am not irritated.  I enjoy making up silly reasons for children.  So I lean toward her and lower my voice.  “It’s because that ridiculous dragon made it so.”  “What? How could a dragon turn your hair blue?” She sounds confused.  “It’s a really long story,” I sigh.  I lean back I my chair.  “I’m not sure you’d want to hear it.”  “Oh, yes I do!” Without any warning, I feel her crawl onto my lap.  Mom’s grip on my hand tightens. “Larina…”she says quietly.  But I pull away to hold the young girl.

“If you insist,” I say.  “Last year I was battling a dragon with my good friend Sir Connor the knight.  The nasty thing had stolen all of the chocolate chip cookies in the town, which of course made everyone very upset.  So we got on the back of Connor’s horse and rode to the dragon’s castle.”  “The dragon lived in a castle?” she asks.

“Why, of course it did!  I laugh.  “Where else would a dragon live?  Anyway, we rode to his castle and knocked on the door.  The dragon itself didn’t answer, it was much too busy for that.  But a little girl, maybe five years old, answered instead.  Her voice was soft and sweet like a light breeze, and I instantly took a liking to her.  As did Sir Connor, of course.  She asked what we were there for and I told her of our problem. She seemed greatly troubled, saying the dragon was a good master and he would never dream of doing such a thing without reason.  So she led us inside and we found ourselves in an audience with a dragon.”

“Wow!” she says in awe, and Connor squeezes my hand.  I squeeze his back and continue weaving my tale.

“The dragon’s voice was loud and booming, and Sir Connor informed me he took up half the room.  At first we tried being diplomatic, and carefully explained exactly what the problem was.  The dragon did not seem troubled one bit, claiming the cookies were now rightfully his.  We tried again, but he could not be moved.  I felt Connor stiffen at my side, and before I could react, he was challenging the dragon to a duel! They went at it for a minute until I realized the room was beginning to grow very hot.  I jumped on Connor, avoiding his sword, and saved him from the scorch of the dragon’s flame.  I began to grow angry, and would you like to know what that means?” There’s a pause, and I feel her nod. I lower my voice to a whisper.  “It activates my magic.  All blind people have it, you know.”

“Really?”

“Yep,” I say.  “But unfortunately it comes with dreadful side effects. Being angry, I did not fully think through my actions. And so I cast a spell that would make the beast the size of a kitten.  But it also turned my hair blue.”

Before I can tell her what happened next, we are interrupted.  “Helen, Dr. Yoon is ready to see you.”  “Well, that’s my sister.  I better go,” the girl says, and she wiggles off my lap. She pauses.  “Did that really happen?”

“Sort of,” I admit.  “Sir Connor is real to me, but maybe not anyone else.  And I dyed my hair blue so people would stop asking about my blindness.”

“Oh.” She considers it.  “You should write a book.”

“A book?” I repeat. “Why?”

“Because you’d be good at it,” she says.  “I know some of my friends would want to hear stories about what it’s like to be blind.”  And she walks away, leaving Mom squeezing one hand and Connor the other.  I am alone with my thoughts once again, and I think maybe not everyone is all that bad.

 

 

“walking toward yes” by Mike Tucker

“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…

 

 

 

 

 

The Fabric of Our Lives by Amanda McPherson

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.

 

(Amanda McPherson performed this piece for HCC’s Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Celebration on January 18, 2016.)

 

 

Faustus by Kaitlyn Teach

Faustus by Kaitlyn Teach

One time, so many years ago,

I bartered my immortal soul

To gain that which I didn’t know

And what left me only human

 

I called on Mephistopheles

To wait on me, as I should please

Until he should my soul to seize

And carry me off to Hell

 

With a pact of my own blood

I gave him what I thought I should

But never fully understood

The cost ‘til it was too late

 

For books and knowledge, childish pranks,

For wealth of knowledge, I gave no thanks

I only have a youngling’s angst

For that which I bartered away

 

Learn from me this, if nothing else

Never to shortchange yourself

For an immortal soul to sell

Is a hefty price to bargain

Cut Like Me by Amanda Hart Miller

Cut Like Me by Amanda Hart Miller

Baby feet kick her ribs but she still has all of them not like Adam. Her organs busy knitting baby limbs, rows of stitches can’t drop a stitch they must be perfect. Back when she was a little girl her mother folded her wings bought her hoodies sewed into them extraordinary inner wing-shaped pockets tucked them neatly. As a woman-girl in a dirty bathroom she begged him to make her like everyone else, cut off my wings cut them off cut them off. She took a picture to jail them in a frame: bloody wings on grimy tile. Babygirl’s wings flutter-swim inside and grow lacy.

(Originally published in PANK)