“Notebook” by Heather Wallen

When your soul is screaming
Like it sometimes does
When your body and mind are in a war
That you can’t remember asking for
But you must have
Because they seem to think
You gave them the permission

Put it in your notebook.

When your head feels three times bigger
Than it did at breakfast this morning
And you’re doing that thing again
That nervous tick you have
You know the one
Yes, that one

Scratch it into your notebook.

When your voice keeps getting louder
So much so that you feel yourself deafening
But no one seems to be listening
When they keep paying no attention
And you’re contemplating your importance
In a world so preoccupied

Scream it at your notebook.

When there are things you need to hide
Things no one can ever see or know
Things you need to acknowledge but
You aren’t quite sure how to
Those vile horrible things
That no one should ever carry

Bury them in your notebook.

When you need a constant friend
An unrelenting confidant
A responsible secret keeper
And binding promise
One trust that can never be betrayed.

Turn to your notebook.

“How it Feels to be Fat or Why I’m Allowed to be Pretty” by Elizabeth Malone

November 14th, 2015 was the first instance I can remember feeling beautiful. Draped in a dark blue gown, the bodice sparkling slightly like faint stars just before dawn, I looked in the mirror and realized: I am pretty. It hit me hard, almost scaring away the thought. It almost made me default to my previous mindset that because I am fat, I’m not allowed to be pretty, and that foreign feeling consumed me for the rest of the evening. For the first time in my life I was undeniably beautiful.

It all started at the age of 6. I had chubby cheeks and more of a tummy than the other kids. We were playing pretend on the playground one afternoon and there had to be a monster to hide from, so the other kids appointed me. When young me protested, I was met with a chorus of laughs. One of my “friends” turned to me and said, “But you look like one!” I asked why they said that and the reply was simple, “Because you’re fat and we’re not, so you’re the monster!” With that, they ran off squealing and giggling like the children we were. Perhaps the intent was innocent, only thinking of wanting to play the game, but I cried anyway. From that day on, the adults on the playground pitied me and would often keep me company as I watched my peers pound upon the asphalt parking lot that served as whatever your imagination made it.

“Kids are mean”

“They’re just jealous, sweetie”

“Well you know what they say, sticks and stones…”

The private Catholic school soon became my personal hell. The teachers, the priests, my parents all preached about a God that loved you. A God that wanted you to be happy. A God that no matter what would watch over you. If all of this was true, one question in my mind remained: Why would God do this to me? Make me like this? Make the people around me so cruel? And while, at the time, I was still wholly devoted to the Church, I grew distant from the idea of “God’s everlasting love.”

By the time I was nine, I was invited to all the parties through the year, and was promptly ignored at every single one. This was also the age of every diet I could get my chubby little fingers on. Protein diets, Smart Ones, not eating at all, and countless Weight Watchers meetings later and my hatred for myself and the people surrounding me only grew deeper.

In third grade, my worst nightmare became a reality: The Presidential Fitness challenge. Push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, pull-ups, sprints, and the dreaded mile run. When the pull-ups challenge came, I tried to hide because we had to go up one by one in front of everyone. The harsh yellow of my shirt, combined with my big stomach, did not lend itself to my cowering.

Soon, I was pushed forward onto the chair and told to hold onto the bar above my head. The chair was dragged from under my feet, my knuckles turning white and I willed myself to tug upward; the next instant my fingers could no longer clasp the cold metal and I fell. My face growing red, tears forming in my eyes as I landed less than gracefully on the dirty gym floor. Not waiting for the teacher to say anything, I ran away, back to my corner. Back to being invisible.

The horror continued when a girl, far more athletic than I, looked at me laughing and said “You’re such a cow.” The rage in my little nine-year-old heart led me to do the unspeakable. I hit her, shoved her against a wall. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I was pulled away from her. The girl was ultimately unharmed, and we were both reprimanded with no recess and extra prayer.

I started feeling as if God had truly abandoned me. I prayed and pleaded with Him to make my suffering stop, or at least to give me some guidance to get through it. I continued this for years on end, and rarely did I get a response. I grew distant from the Church as well as my peers.

I was learning quickly that to be fat is to be ugly. To be fat is to be untouchable, unlovable. To be fat is to walk through life a paradox; sticking out like a sore thumb and being completely invisible all at once. We are told that fat is a word filled with venom and hate. “Fat” is one of the many words whispered in the chaos of self-loathing, yet it is screamed to me on the streets. To be fat is to be shamed into only eating in hiding. It is to try and will the pudge off your body. It is to be ashamed of the food you eat, the things you wear, the way you walk and talk. To be fat is to be ashamed to exist.

The years following were about the same. The same self-loathing. The same jeers of disdain from my classmates. Their hatred for the way I looked influenced the way I looked at them, and more so the way I looked at myself. Through the next years, I only ever caught glimpses of happiness, like the time when we ran the mile and I was the last one running, and everyone ran with me to cheer me on until I finished. Or when I was on stage singing and no one could deny that I was talented. Or even when I was taken in by the older kids in my sixth grade year when they saw how estranged I was from my peers.

The next year, with my older friends gone to the high school, my depression only worsened when I found myself, once again, completely alone. I didn’t want to be. I had yet to accept that sometimes being alone because you’re different is okay. I was a square peg being shoved in a circle hole, and the harder I tried to shove myself into it, the more it chipped away at who I was. I came home every night and cried, sometimes for hours. It was the year of true hatred. It was the year of losing weight for all the wrong reasons, and in all the wrong ways. It was the year of promising everyone “I’m fine.” It was the year of too many tears. And it was the year my parents decided that I wouldn’t be returning to the private Catholic school.

Eighth grade was my first year in a public school. It was the first year of healing. The first year of making friends. The first year of figuring out that I really was talented. It was the first year someone told me they loved the way I looked, and meant it. It was the first year of eating when I was hungry, and having no shame about it. It was the first year of finding “my people.” It was the first year the I had fun in a gym class. It was the year I got into Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. It was the first year I felt even a shred of self-worth.

November 14th, 2015 was the first instance I can remember feeling truly beautiful. Draped in a dark blue gown, the bodice sparkling slightly like the faint stars just before dawn, I realized: I am pretty. It hit me hard, almost scaring away the thought. Almost defaulting to the previous mindset that because I am fat, I’m not allowed to be pretty. Looking in the mirror, I decided that I would no longer be a walking paradox. I would no longer be defined by a number on the scale, or the names people called me. I am Beth, and that is enough. I am happy. I am fat. I am undeniably beautiful.

“Distance” by James Kemman

Please, love, do not fear the distance;
For our futures are surely entwined,
The oceans of space how they glisten.

Although I was not raised a Christian,
I still pray to some form of divine,
Please, love, do not fear the distance.

I often feel like a sailor on mission,
Striking out in unwavering line,
The oceans of space how they glisten.

This is not a war of attrition,
But still I fight hard to press forward through grime,
Please, love, do not fear the distance.

Money has not effect on my vision,
The trips will all turn out just fine,
The oceans of space how they glisten.

Separation is a temporary condition,
10,000 miles no object to time,
Please, love, do not fear the distance,
The oceans of space how they glisten.

“Weeping Willow” Matt Longerbeam

when I think of that day
it is the soft brown of her eyes
that I remember most vividly,
the setting sun reflecting
in their tearful glistening
it was a warm day in Spring
yet I recall shivering inside
chilled amid an emotional ice storm
I was so young, so impetuous
unprepared to fully consider the future
naïve to the ways of regret
now, from time to time
I walk passed that secluded spot
maybe just to visit with
that part of myself
that I left there
without even realizing it
on that long ago day
under that willow tree
where we said our goodbyes
in sad and quiet voices
under that willow
where, like a damn fool
I left her weeping.

-2 Sept 2016

“Better Written Than Admitted” By Portia Dobrzanski

How hard it is to breathe
when the echoes of my heart beat violently
against my bandaged lungs
and sorrow desiccates my wounded bones

How hard it is to luxuriate
in the crowds that compose celebration
when their numbers only magnify my loneliness
and morality is slandered by the malevolence of their ambitions

How hard it is to think
when the pills that were meant to fix my quandaries
dance their dreadful song with throbbing intensity
and calamity shrouds my memory

How hard it is to speak
in the gracious tongues of my past
when nothing could ever palliate the sting of their hissing tone
by which my throat has since been scorched

How easy it is to pretend
when it only takes one smile to terminate their screaming accusations
and laughter paralyzes their blistering lips
cling to the masses and misfortune shall never visit

So go on, darling
Cover up your scars
Numb your pain
Suppress your thoughts and hide your bruises
Play their game
but don’t ever try to win it

Who could love the girl
with tired eyes and a broken soul?
And who could love the girl
whose heart seethes disaster from its cracks
crying out for relief from the shatter?

No one cares to hear your story
No one will stay to dry your tears
The truth may bring pain
But no one could ever love the girl who hurts.

“Winter Blues” by K.E. Shea

Winter is a time of joy
for people who are cheery,
yet the days are dull and dim
to the souls of the weary.

Yes, December distracts you
with holidays and some fun.
But how does one carry on
when celebrations are done?

Living in winter is like
being damned to Asphodel;
you merely exist and breathe
in this bleak landscape you dwell.

Without the sun’s light and warmth,
waking up becomes a pain.
When you’re greeted by the cold,
and a dark, withered terrain.

How I envy evergreens,
and cardinals in the snow.
For they continue to thrive,
even in seasons of woe.

For days, I’m weak and tired,
life drained by the cloudy sky.
I struggle to exist like
a flower about to die.

I pray the Lord give me strength
and to wipe away the tears.
For I know light will return
and heal me when spring is here.

“Battle Scars” by Michelle Dean

I’ll never know the horrors of what he saw.
I’ll never understand the pain that remains.
All I know is the after effects have him flawed.

The airplanes flying overhead at night,
The sound of a loud bang,
All send him into a mode of fight.

I see him here beside me but he’s not really here.
His mind is far off in the distance,
And I never know if I should stay or disappear.

His empathy has departed,
I can’t tell if he even cares.
He says he loves me but leaves me brokenhearted.

I try to help but it seems impossible and so tough.
He lives in a world of his own,
Shutting me out, making me feel I’m just not enough.

What has that place done to him that I can’t understand?
Why am I being punished for staying by his side?
This is a life only known by those loving a military man.

“Beauty-ful Beast” By Esther LoPresto

“Make sure you get it right this time, Mindy,” he tells me as he settles into my chair. “Use more waterproof stuff. Yesterday’s rain nearly washed it all off.” His angry tone has become familiar.

“Sorry, sir.” Quietly, I close the door to the salon’s only private room.

“I have a reputation to uphold, woman!” He pounds his fist on the arm of my chair.

“Yes, sir, I understand. I mean no disrespect, but you were in a hurry yesterday.”

He sighs. “I know. It’s my own fault. All of it is.”

I start sorting through various cosmetics at my station in front of him. His vacillations between anger and sadness have become common lately. I catch a glimpse in the mirror as he uncovers his face: long, tanned fingers pushing back the black hood, removing the large, black sunglasses. He has brown eyes, a warm caramel brown. His fingers hesitate to pull off the black mask concealing the lower half of his face. He sees me watching him. I quickly duck my head and collect the necessary makeup and brushes.

Another sigh. “You try my patience, Mindy. But you’re the best in the city.”

I start applying the makeup. His face is several shades lighter than the rest of his skin. It’s my job to make sure no one notices that.

“And you’re the only one who has seen this.” There’s disgust in the word as he gestures to his face. “As such, I can’t reveal it to anyone else. The press would have a field day.” He closes his mouth and eyes as I layer on foundation. It’s three shades darker than the skin of his face, but it matches his coloring elsewhere. “Do you know what I’d do to you if you let word get out?”

“Yes, sir.” I pick up a pot of concealer, mixed specifically for his face. “You’d send an assassin after me and they’d never find my body.”

He laughs, a nice sound. “You got that right.”

My brush hesitates and I can’t hide a smile. I know it’s just an exaggeration; I’d keep his secret even without the fake threat.

“What are you smiling for?”

And the nice moment is over.

“Sorry, sir.” I neutralize my expression and get back to work.

Minutes pass in silence as I add more and more layers of fake, hiding the real man. Normally, we do talk a little. I’ve gotten to know the person he hides underneath the layers of fake; the truth that the cameras, the press, and the fans don’t see. He hides a caring heart, a slightly timid, introverted personality under the harsh mask of celebrity. He’s only a year younger than I am, and we live such different lives.

“Admit it,” he says, breaking my thoughts as I add on the final touches. “You’ve seen it. You think I’m hideous, don’t you?”


“Don’t lie.”

“Well…” I take a step back and look at the work I’ve done. With practice, I’ve perfected this look for him. A look that matches the face he had before. I’d studied pictures of him before the accident, chosen all the right colors to match his skin tone. I filled in what he lost of his eyebrows, and helped the hairs grow back. Noticed the nuances to highlight his sharp nose and cheekbones.

He’d seen the accident. Called the fire department. Risked his life to save the children in the meantime. None of them should have survived. The children were safe. And this man in front of me… he made it out with second and third-degree burns, still healing from the worst of them. Except for one covering most of his face. There was no healing it. Only surgery could fix it, which he planned to do when his schedule allowed. Until then, it was my job to hide it.

Celebrities’ faces are their money-makers. Without the face that everyone has always known, he’d be out of work. He hates his face because of the burns. He hides it under masks and makeup so no one will know. No one will see that good deed either.

I don’t know why I do it. I take a makeup-removing sheet and swipe it down his nearly finished face.

“What are you doing?!” He jolts up and grabs my wrist, not tightly.

Rather than anger, I see fear in his eyes. Fear that someone will see the scars I’ve revealed.

“You shouldn’t be ashamed, sir. It was a brave thing you did. I think you’re trying too hard to hide beauty inside a beast.”