winter heat

a quill publication
fall 2014

Dedicatory Poem
Road: hurtling across planes,
tearing acres of wheat, meets
dry bone of plateau.
The glinting sun strikes bone, and
rips up burning asphalt.
Someone’s tracks press
into grooves left from the sun
footprints in footprints.
Books walk on sidewalks and
boots on the moon, tracking in dirt.
Swimming in pages
drops of words are people
open-mouthed and hungry.
Yearning University dialogues
built up from brick-a-brac
sweating and spelling
syllogisms of winter-heat.
Characters make characters
like open-mouthed mimes and
a boy who bemoans lamentation
All their movements unbinding,
thoughts unwinding.
These made up people
Reality replicas
Still read so real.

table of contents 

Pause . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Julianna Lewis ’18
For Rest and Rain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Natalie Edwards ’18
Tuesday Afternoons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Sarah Bonanno ’18
Untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Eliza Graumlich ’17

Monsoon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Hassaan Mirza ’17
Untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Arhea Marshall ’15
Untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Bo Bleckel ’18
Washerman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Hassaan Mirza ’17
Lost, Found . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Rachael Allen ’18
Bless Her Heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Julianna Lewis ’18
Untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Sarah Bonanno ’18
Doug . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Eliza Graumlich ’17
Pick up, order . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Hannah Rafkin ’17
Achromatic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Osa Fasehun ’18

Drainpipe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
Eliza Graumlich ’17
Bacteria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 29
Raisa Tolchinsky ’17
Untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Benjamin Bristol ’17

Soy un cardiólogo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Wylie Mao ’18
Alayo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Wylie Mao ’18
Guestroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Eva Sibinga ’17
Nightmare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43
Sarah Drumm ’18
How to Remain Holy and Pure, or How To Not Rob Your Future
Husband of What’s Rightfully His . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .44
Eliza Graumlich ’17
Miriam Fracka Takes a Walk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Ben Torda ’18
Tattoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Raisa Tolchinsky ’17
Gemini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Julianna Lewis ’18
The Moon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Carly Berlin ’18
Siddhartha, Twelve Years Old . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Hassaan Mirza ’17

the quill fall 2014

Julianna Lewis ’18
creeping alley cat,
damp calico fur brushing
against you as it paces,
you feel small in
an increasingly
small room, a giant rubber band
‘round your ribs, squeezing, cracking,
a furry tail
drags across your nose;
you sneeze; you realize it’s
gone. The room falls to freezing.
How will you move
forward? The room still
shrinks. You do not. Fur floats in
the air, hesitating still.


For Rest and Rain
Natalie Edwards ’18
For rest and rain and clouded, birdless skies,
No thanks is given; only prayers for sun.
But overcast and dreary days I prize.
Those who wake and will the sun to rise
Pour praise on light, but dry their wells do run
For rest and rain and clouded, birdless skies.
Those who greet the grayness with their sighs
Note not all nature’s colors—just the one,
But overcast and dreary days I prize.
Beneath a film of dew Earth’s beauty lies;
A reverent poet’s work is never done
For rest and rain and clouded, birdless skies.
The hazy shade of morning may disguise
The mountains ere the showers have begun,
But overcast and dreary days I prize.
I meet the day with dim, sleep-softened eyes
And smile at the lack of morning sun,
At rest with rain ‘neath clouded, birdless skies,
For overcast and dreary days I prize.

the quill fall 2014

Tuesday Afternoons
Sarah Bonanno ’18
The artificial blue flames lick the bottom of the red
kettle, and she turns the heat up exactly two clicks, making the water
dance, inside the pot. The gas from the stove coats the kitchen with a burnt
perfume. She waves her hand in front of the spout to feel spits of steam,
and she sighs, anxious to drink her tea.
The handle clangs against the pot, the perpetual loose
screw the culprit. She sifts through the cabinet, debating between loose
leaves from the tin with the missing cover and the dent in the side or the red
bag that has to steep for three minutes to create the strongest tea.
She opens the dishwasher, looking for the mug that holds the most water-the one that curves like a bowl and has a chip on the rim -- and the steam
circles her hand and kisses her eyes. She jumps from burnt
glasses and plates on the top rack. The burnt
bottom of the kettle sizzles and she shakes a tea bag loose,
swinging it by the string, waiting for the steam
to sing through the spout. She grabs the red
screwdriver to fix the handle so when the water
finally boils, she can finally pour her tea.
Every Tuesday, she prepares her tea.
It became her meditation despite her burnt
finger tips and tongue. No holy water
could cleanse her thoughts as well as this ritual that she loses
herself to. Her daughter in her favorite red
dress skips into the kitchen as the steam


shoots through the spout. The steam -always the single sign she can drink her tea.
She maneuvers around her daughter, brushing her hand over her daughter's red
hair before turning off the burner.
Not wanting to lose
time, she pours the water
into her chipped mug, water
tearing down the side of the kettle. The steam
fogs her glasses as she inhales the sickly bitter loose
leaves from her favorite tea.
Unaware, her daughter yelps, nursing her burnt
fingers, from touching the red
kettle. The mother pours water into her daughter's own tea
mug. An ice cube fizzles in the steam so her daughter won't burn
her tongue. Losing her time. And finally returning to her own chipped, red mug.

the quill fall 2014

Eliza Graumlich ’17

Hassaan Mirza ’17
The smell of sizzling cardamom seeds wafted in the empty house as her spoon
moved among onions turning soft and translucent.
She tipped the bowl containing the chicken, garlic and ginger in the frying pan
and the oil stopped hissing. Wiping her hands on her apron, Rashida looked
at the clock. It was almost three, though from the dusty kitchen window, the
sky was the color of dirty old socks, woolen with heavy monsoon clouds. The
minnow-shaped leaflets of the neem tree were breaking away and swirling in the
wind, set free before the thunderstorm. If she weren’t so old, she would undo the
braid that held her knee length hair and run onto the lawn, leaving her korma
burning on the stove, her dupatta blowing in the air, out onto the street where
the children had gathered waiting for the rain in their shorts, holding their
cricket bats.
The garlic was burning.

She whipped round to find the clock’s large hand on two. Quickly, she turned
the fire off and vigorously scraped the black garlic cloves stuck to pan, remembering how her mother used to scold her when she was a girl: “Rashida Begum
you’ll end up burning your husband’s house, you wretched thing.” No great
harm was done, though. She had been cooking korma for sixty odd years in
this same house. She had watched her sisters serve tea to prospective mother-inlaws and be approved; she had known cancer barnacled on her mother’s breasts,
whisky burning in her father’s throat. Nothing had been burned down. She had
grown old in these four mildewed walls without the husband her mother had
promised her, outliving them all. This korma too, had survived.
Rashida reignited the fire, and grabbed the spice wheel from the shelf. Using her
hand, she scooped and sprinkled one spice at a time— turmeric powder, cumin,
garam masala, ground chili powder, salt, black pepper— into the pan, stirring
the concoction the entire time.
She felt a sneeze building up, a small storm within itself, fueled by spice and
color itching on the inside of her nose. Her head rose higher with each gasp,
preparing for the moment, eyes closing in anticipation.
There was no sneeze.
Well that was anti-climactic, she thought, faintly angry. She liked sneezing; often
as a child she would poke her sharpened pencil in her nostril, gently rubbing
the graphite on soft moist tissue to instigate a sneeze. Her mother used to smack
Rashida whenever she found her doing this. She probably thought she was trying to find boogers to eat; Rashida chuckled as she thought of it now.
And then, faint, somewhere from within the cobbled streets of the old mohallah came the first azan. Soon, broadcast from speakers that hung like giant ears
on slender minarets dotting the vicinity, the calls to prayer slowly filled the sky,
as if each was an echo of the first one, a word or a verse behind. Then they grew

the quill fall 2014
stronger and louder, chasing each other, tumbling into each other. But in a
pleasant way, Rashida thought. She imagined people walking towards mosques
with umbrellas clutched under their armpits, just in case it started to rain on
the way back. The children always forgot, though. Once she had seen one of the
street children running away in the rain with a newspaper on his head, like a
deer with something stuck in his antlers.
The chicken was almost cooked. She poured the cream and set the fire on low.
She watched it starting to bubble for a while, then sliced almonds into narrow
cuticle-shaped pieces and set them aside for garnish.
The girls better eat this. McDonald-munching monkeys. Amina, their mother,
prided in the fact that they never chewed their bones, that they left the marrow
unsucked, the cartilage untouched. Wasteful little witches. She would keep them
in place if she was their mother. She would rap their knuckles if they refused
to suck out marrow because “it looked like a mealworm.” She would ban their
cartoons and their McDonald burgers if they forgot their umbrellas at home and
came back dripping like wet dogs on the carpet, or down with a cold. Spoiled,
ill-bred bitches. And of course they were late again. No respect for the old hobbling and making korma for them. She looked at the clock. It was about three
thirty. Just then, she heard the gate open and a car drive up the ramp.
The front door opened and the girls came running in, piping “Dadi! Dadi!” in
piercing voices.
Amina had probably told them to call her that, even though she was their
grandaunt, not their grandmother. She didn’t mind, not even when they tugged
at her clothes, brandishing water filled plastic bags containing goldfishes. Amina
followed them, holding a big brown bag of groceries. Rashida looked down at
her apron to find it colored all shades of red, yellow and orange from years of
making korma. This time a white patch near the hem was turned orange by the
turmeric powder she tried to wipe off. She gave a weak nod towards the girls.
Shrill things, she thought.
“How are you doing, Aunty Rashida?” Amina asked, touching her forearm.
Rashida looked at her niece’s stale-fish eyes, her professional bun, and greasy
skin-colored lipstick, and thought she was no better than one of those NGO
women with their big purses and their feminist agendas they kept thrusting in
people’s faces. Manipulative money makers, the bunch of them.
“Your eyes looked tired, dear,” she told her, retracting her arm, to ladle korma
onto Amina’s plate, “you should take better care of yourself.” She motioned towards the plate. “I gave you the leg piece you like. Enough?” she asked, “Would
the girls eat this or would they order burgers again?”
The girls could be heard squealing like wild piglets from the bathroom over the
sound of the shower filling up the bathtub.
“Aunty, you know they always eat korma at your house. They have only ordered
McDonald’s once,” Amina spoke in the tired voice children use when they think

they have read more books than their parents. She opened the hot box letting
out the trapped steam and the smell of rotis. “Where is the cook?”
“Ramzan? He is on leave. Second time he’s killed his father to go back to his village. Bloody liars and cheats, all of them.”
“Oh Aunty no, Ramzan left work, remember? Two months ago. What happened
to the new boy?”
Rashida was annoyed by this obsession with worker boys. She was on the verge
of telling Amina that her desperateness to find a man was getting the better of
her post-divorce declarations of independence, on the verge of saying “I think
you really want a man inside you, dear.” She let go of a soft chuckle. She looked
up to see Amina staring at her like a confused owl, her head slightly tilted.
“Is the korma any good?” Rashida asked.
“It’s delicious” her niece replied, beginning to eat. “I have put the new groceries
in the fridge. I also bought you some of the halwa that you like.”
Rashida remembered the bucktoothed girl with the same big sunken eyes who
in this very room had clung to her legs once, not wanting to go home. She was
a strange child, always pestering Rashida to read her stories from the Arabian
Nights or teach her to cook while the other children were outside climbing the
neem tree or breaking bones. Amina didn’t like the other children and they
certainly didn’t like her. They called her “Toadgirl” or “Locust” or some other
animal name when she looked out from the kitchen window to watch their play.
In fact, Rashida might have been the closest friend Amina had until she left for
boarding school at the age of eleven. Thirty odd years had passed since. There
was a time when Rashida thought Amina would come back from school one day
and start living in the old house with her, a companion and a successor.
“Will you come back with more next time? Just staples. Just until Ramzan comes
back. Thank you for the halwa, though.” Rashida paused. “But you will bring
more groceries next time, right?”
“Like every other fortnight? You know I will” Amina touched her arm again, and
this time she actually looked concerned, “Aunty you seem a little off today. Are
you all right? Are you taking your cholesterol medicines?”
“What are the medicines for old age?” Rashida muttered before taking a deep
breath. “I will pay you for the groceries,” she finally said.
And at that moment, Rashida felt like an empty shell— an eighty year old virgin
(what would she ever know about having a man inside her?), her bones threatening to splinter inside their casing of drooping flesh. The flies liked sitting on her.
“Aren’t the girls going to eat?” she finally said.
It was raining, clouds coiling into knots. The neem tree was going mad, unable
to contain all its sardines and minnows. The girls were splashing the water in the
tub recreating the storm for their goldfishes.
“They ate just before we left for the supermarket. Rimsha! Fizza!” Amina yelled,
“I’ll go call them.” She got up.
“I’ll get some more korma.”

the quill fall 2014
Rashida came out of the bathroom and saw the girls sitting with Amina on the
sofa. They were dressed in matching clothes even though they weren’t twins. In
Rashida’s mind, they were both the same, both sporting their father’s squashed
nose on their thin faces. One of them held a small camera and was taking pictures of her face. The other was slumped on her mother, probably complaining
to her about the food. When Rashida came in, both the girls looked up at her
strangely. Had she done something? She wanted to ask them what they were doing staring at her like shameless women. Had their mother not taught them any
etiquette? Instead, she slowly moved towards them with a smile.
“You girls had fun with the fishies?” she said, trying to sound cheery. They kept
staring at her, unmoving. Utterly shameless.
“Come on, girls, it’s time to eat,” she tried again and motioned towards the dining table.
There was no korma there.
Did she forget to bring back more? Rashida was a little confused but didn’t want
to ask them. She didn’t want Amina to think she had lost her cuckoo.
“Aunty we ate before coming here. Didn’t I tell you?” Amina said, “We just came
to check up on you.”
“So you don’t need any more korma?”
“No, we’re fine. I brought you some groceries.”
“I know and I’ll pay you too. But the thing is I made korma for you all day. Did
you order McDonald’s again?”
Then she noticed a man sitting on the divan in the back. He had a suit on. The
son of a devil had a three piece suit on in this scorching humid mess.
“Aunty Rashida? How are we doing today?” he said, leaning forward in his seat
and giving her the kind of smile a doctor would give a patient reviving from a
“I said ‘how are we doing today, Aunty Rashida?’” he repeated, more slowly and
loudly this time.
How did he know her name? Maybe he was some new neighbor. Or was he
Daud’s boy back from England? Maybe. She felt odd seeing a man sitting on
that divan for the first time in 20 years. She felt as if she was being tricked into
doing something.
“I’ll get some korma,” she mumbled and rushed to the kitchen as fast as she
In the kitchen, Rashida felt more in control of herself, away from those vultures
staring at her face. Gawking at her as if she was a creature about to die. And look
at Amina lying like that! Not caring about the food Rashida had cooked, refusing it just to please this stranger. And as for him, why had he ogled at her as if he
pitied her? And in her own house! Uninvited bread breaker. Probably just rang
the bell, pretending to play good neighbor after smelling her korma from his

window. And of course you could count on Amina to welcome him. “Sit on my
grandfather’s divan, no please, sit on my lap if you like!” She probably thought
welcoming in strange males was another one of her rights as a free woman.
Rashida felt cold sweat on her forehead. Wiping it off, she spotted the pot of
korma on the island. A serving bowl lay next to it. She imagined the red korma
filling the curve of white porcelain, pieces of dead chicken sliding in and bobbling in oily gravy before drowning.
She realized how she hated eating korma. It smelled of funerals and weddings
where no one showed up, leaving the family to gorge on the abundance for
days. Suddenly she almost wished the korma had burned. She should have left
it on the fire for hours, leaving the yogurt to coagulate like mucus and dry out,
the chicken to shrink and combust, the red spice like gunpowder, the kitchen
reeking from its holes, her mother’s ghost exorcised by the smell of burnt garlic.
No one would have lied then. No one would have come bothering her. Upset,
Rashida looked up at the window where the bluebottles bumped their heads
repetitively against invisible barriers.
The sun was out, merciless.
The sky was a cloudless expanse with no shelter for the birds, the air sweltering
and thick, making light form puddles of mirage water on the road. What happened to the rain puddles? The neem tree was calm and dry, not a leaf moving.
Had it all ended so suddenly? Without a single earthworm driven out from the
soil to shrivel like a black noodle in the sun? Where were the children? She went
up to the window and put her hand on the glass. It was hot to touch. Against
it, the liver spots on her arm looked like burnt flies. Rashida felt vomit in her
mouth, tasting of half-digested korma.
On a sudden impulse, she heaved the giant pot from the island and hurled it
upside down in the sink. The red gravy bled out into the sink. An old shoe that
belonged to her father and a few bones fell out. The laces of the shoes had glucks
of tomatoes between them. Oil caught the light and diffused it into metallic
hues. Where had these come from? Was this black magic or some sick joke? She
was about to vomit on them. Instead, she opened the tap and left hot water scald
the sink.
Maybe this is why Amina had refused to eat? What was happening? The clock
read three. She wanted to hurl the old shoe at the clock. Liars, thieves, all of
them. Two faced swines. Traitors, cheats, big mildewed warts, tyrants, cheap
bread breakers. She wanted to burn down the house. She saw the paint curling,
walls turning black; the family pictures alight, her mother coy in her disappearing wedding dress, her sister holding a medal—nothing but soft ash crumbling.
The neem tree would look through the window onto a landscape of ruin and
fear fire in its bark.

the quill fall 2014
What was happening? Rashida thought frantically, the breath stuck in her
throat. What game were they playing with her? That oily toadeye witch is after
the house; she was lying and manipulating so she can get the house for her
snotty bastards and her new lover. Rashida heard commotion in the living room.
She was probably flirting in front of her little girls, teaching them the “modern”
ways— corruption and lewdness more like it! Yes! She stopped to listen. No,
they were coming after her. The water had filled up the sink to the brim, her
father’s one shoe lonely at the bottom.
Before she could move, Amina was in the kitchen. Her kohl bled into her eyes, a
possessed spirit. Just then the azans started crowding into the silent space of the
sky. Was it midday again? How many days had slipped past her?
“Aunty what’s going on? What are you doing!”
“Leave me alone!” Rashida yelled. She coiled backward, wanting to run out
of the kitchen in the direction of the neem, and onto the big road, feeling
hot cracked asphalt on her own cracked soles and stumble wherever it led her.
Amina blocked her way.
“Aunty, look at me! Are the neighbors telling the truth? Are you making korma
every day now? Why don’t you tell me anything? Why are you making korma
every day?”
Rashida stopped in her tracks. She stood there, a toadstool withering, an almost
dead thing. She remembered the fridge full of korma— in silver dishes, in
Tupperware jars, bowl and bowls of korma, lined up to the ceiling, bursting out
the door. Korma in her mother’s Royal Albert teacups in the showcase, korma
sloshing in the powder room basin, korma fizzing from old coke bottles left
in the storeroom. She had run out of ingredients at some point. Some korma
had meat in it; some had her sister’s cut up saris, bus tickets or pages from the
directory. Some had onions bobbing whole and squelchy, dentures, a single long
wispy hair floating lonely in a sea of oils.
Amina moved to hold Rashida’s hand, to hug her, “Come inside, talk to Dr.
Chaudhary. You see him every fortnight, Aunty. Remember?” She gently patted
her back. “Ever since the day I brought you halwa. He’s here to help. What’s
bothering you today?”
Rashida hated being thumped on her back. But there was tiredness in her bones
and she didn’t protest. Her eyelids hung low and heavy over dim eyes. She didn’t
know what to believe. What was bothering her? It was as if she had left her body
for some time, or her body had left her, and now she felt like a stranger returning to her limbs and creaking joints, in strange gloves that were a size large. Her
mind had lost its sharpness. She kept staring out the window, waiting for the
rain, or at least a sneeze.
She wondered when she’d be able to make korma again.


Arhea Marshall ’15

the quill fall 2014

Bo Bleckel ’18

Hassaan Mirza ’17
for Saddiq Kashmiri
Talking pairs of jeans
that tell me how to touch them,
how to bathe their 100% cotton skin,
how to send them spinning in the eye
of lonely laundries on low humming
and not let the burn of Clorox touch their papillae,
how to hang them on clotheslines
like the cheeks of an old man
to dry the soap smelling sea in their wrinkles.
They tell me their story,
how they were loved first
by the man who had created them “since 1982”.
Like God, he thought about them incessantly
in his dreams, nude pictures hanging in the gallery
of his mind, denim raw,
stitched by the hands of Bangladeshi children
who would forget work and play,
and finger the cloth as if it could speak.
Oh how they had lain huddled with others they loved
rubbing their legs against each other,
while the stores closed shop and lights turned off!
They tell me their desires in the dark when I slip my jeans off,
caressing my thighs, whispering like leaves,
pleading as they hook themselves onto my feet.
Keep us on, keep us on for a minute more!
For we are hollow and need the warmth of limbs.
For we are hungry for the smell of our Baba.
For we love you and you aren’t lonely aren’t lonely
in this town of voices.

the quill fall 2014

Lost, Found
Rachael Allen ’18
Around 1994 my dad’s baseball cap flies off and lands somewhere in the Atlantic.

By now, the fish will have nosed beneath the bill of the cap, their bodies

curved where the skull fits.
Around 2000 my baby cousin is born. He’s small and crumpled in my aunt’s arms.

My cousins and I cradle gift shop flowers and watch, wary. When my

mother asks if I want to hold him, I instead pet his bald head, gently, like

a dog.
Around June I’m unfolded on the cold concrete of an unfinished basement, waiting

for the laundry. It’s my mother’s birthday and through the window I see

her in the garden. I could, should, help her, but it’s cool down here. And

besides, upstairs in the refrigerator waits a cake I bought that I know she’ll

smile at and only I will eat.
Around 2010 I eat a mango in my papa’s kitchen. It molds too easily around my

fingers’ grip, leaving dents. My papa’s still smiling and I know later to-

night he’ll make dinner for my nana and then quietly stay up until she’s

asleep. I’m suddenly afraid I can’t care as much as he does. The mango

pulp rises in the back of my throat and I swallow it quickly.
Around 1998 the Christmas tree falls on me. We’ll rope the tree to the wall every

year after that. I won’t remember this moment but for stories my parents

tell me.


Around 4pm my mother’s favorite song comes on. I stop eating crackers and listen

to her, seeing her shoulders bend deeper over the pot on the stove. There

in the curve of her shoulders must be the Catholic school jumper straps,

the hands of boys she’s forgotten, the things she hasn’t told me and the

things she’s forgotten are worth telling. I don’t know how to ask her all

this. I watch her eyes tear from the steam.
Around New Year’s Eve my cousin’s dog runs away. I pull on my rainboots,

following behind my barefoot cousin. We find the dog curled around

a mailbox, sleeping, as if comforted by being in the marked territory of

dogs past. My cousin carries him home in her coat, holding my arm so as

not to slip on the ice.
Around lunchtime my mother tries to teach me Italian. My papa listens to the

news in the other room, rassling with the dog. I practice holding the long

“l” in bella and then I cry mannaggia along with my mother as the cutting

board slides off the counter. She frowns at me for swearing, then starts to

laugh, before the knife starts to slip off the counter. My mother juts her

hand out and catches the handle. I cry out, then laugh.

the quill fall 2014

Bless Her Heart
Julianna Lewis ’18
Sweet tea on the porch,
chirps, a low buzz
Pearls gleam and summer
dresses steam, damp
with sweat in the
humid evening.
Bless their hearts,
God bless, a whole
‘nother year gone
and still they sit,
lethargic in the soupy night,
swatting off mosquitoes,
drawling about friends,
family, the neighbors down
the street.
The kids play in the road,
tossing a football and
forgetting that the heat
means they’re supposed
to stop being children;
finally, mama calls them in
and the night is left to the bugs
humming in the still hot night.


Sarah Bonanno ’18
she balances the 4th of July rocket ice pop between her sticky fingers
the red bleeding into the blue
the blue running into the white
and the sugar
down her arm
and onto the dirty napkin on her lap
as it melts between her hands
she bites off the red
and lifts her chin to tilt her head
letting it fall into her mouth and onto her hair
her teeth now red
her face now blue
the ice pop stick melted to her fingers.

the quill fall 2014

Eliza Graumlich ’17


Pick up, order
Hannah Rafkin ’17

the quill fall 2014

Osa Fasehun ’18
“Part of my past is part of my pain”
That’s the maxim for us African slaves, even today
I need a stronger heart.
No darkness deep in my soul;
It’s only on my skin, but this world prefers to ignore
My dreams get bigger; the world gets colder
Trayvon got killed before he got his diploma,
Walking down the street with some skittles and Nestea
Got slain by a man thinking, “He’s a threat to me”
…Before we Fade to Black, all he does is scream
A boy who wasn’t even eighteen,
He must’ve been through hell conditions,
Afraid to die, but he was hoping that someone would listen.
“Dear God, can you hear me?
Send my body back to my fam’ before my Mom worries.
Dad thinks I’m on my way; why’d I have to die this early?”
The Emmett Till of our time; he wasn’t even flirtin’.
But his death wasn’t fair; that is for certain.
Months pass, as we assume that was just a one-timer.
A white man sees Jordan Davis pumping gas,
Blasting noise…rap music in his car.
After just one warning, he pulls out a firearm
Pow, Pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, POW
He’s shot at 9 times, another is gone,
And yet another black Floridan teen unarmed.
His body’s flown back to Georgia where his mother is torn.


We know it happens often; We don’t want to remember,
Back when they dragged Mr. Byrd’s body. It wasn’t dismembered,
Rather beheaded
By the pickup truckers back in ’98 who said, “I’d do it again,”
With no effort.
Or Amadou Diallo
Do we need 41 bullets to stop a man?
That was a reckless plan.
Or Sean Bell, 23; around 50 runs
From a 9 mm (millimeter); they had to reload at least once.
So when I ruminate on the “The Stand your Ground” laws,
Just a defense to slay the blacks who Seem raw,
“He gotta mean walk. And plus that ghetto talk”
It causes so much fear; I wear my skin for Halloween.
I’ve had enough this brutality
It’s changing my mentality
Where is the equality? I’m glad to be me:
A black student, IQ of Einstein at his peak,
But some see my skin and fantasize a menacing physique.
I’m in my car so police see “black & weak”
When I yell at the police that like stopping me,
Momma, don’t be mad at me.
I was driving at 30 so my tenacity,
And virulent aspersions might lead to a fatality!
They even question our President’s nationality,
So no matter how high I go, there’s loathing and calumny.
That’s why there is something that I’d rather be…

the quill fall 2014

Eliza Graumlich ’17

Raisa Tolchinsky ’17
For Benjamin
There is no perfect thing but light
Moving underneath darkened waters.
As we drive to the dock,
The road is a horror movie, my feet are bare.
You explain the precision that resides beneath
The slimy shores. Your pale body slips through
The glassy simplicity, and I wonder how best
To measure you or I: with heat, or words, or
Tangled film. All I know is that
The beautiful must be looked at with the smallest of
Across the shore the trees are billowing. It doesn’t feel quite
Nighttime although it is much past midnight. We are still barefoot,
damp skinned.
I reside to a quiet kind of panic, imagining all that must exist in the
Zooplankton glow when they are disturbed, you say. And I desperately
Wish I did the same, that I would emit starlight when I come across
the blackness
Found within whatever is
Peeling and unremembered.
You splash your feet and I watch what is, even as it fades away.
I wonder if we are even seeing anything at all, and yet
I am grateful for every pinprick of light, for the smell of water,
For salt and space and September beginning.

the quill fall 2014 

Benjamin Bristol ’17
He was a deacon who always slept with the lights on. He lived with
six pigs in a stone house at the end of the road. There was a little
lichen-clad fence with a rusty latch around the front yard and a stable
in the back. He’d lived there for almost twelve years. A gothic seminary education and a bad breeze brought him to a rocky outpost of
cold religious fervor.
The town of Rigby is nestled between hills on a windy plateau,
which borders the Sea on three sheer sides. It is a peninsula,
joined with the water by an unending fog. The grasses are damp in
the daytime and frozen at night. The summer is a constant grey light
and in the winter there are fewer than three hours of sun. The winter
days would be completely dark if it not for the moisture--ice crystals
suspended in the air reflect light and repel darkness. The dirt road
leads to the church, which is made of large rocks left by a glacier ten
thousand years ago. Everybody attends.
Damon came home around five to a setting sun and icy
windows. He hurried down the twilit street to be welcomed back by
a noisy gate. He went through a round door, kicked off his boots, lit
the wood stove, lighted candles in windows, put on the tea kettle, put
out a pan, and went to the pantry.
“What to do, what to do” he said, eyes dancing on the shelves
of food: bread, eggs, pickled fish, onions, potatoes, radishes, cheeses.
He thought for a minute.
Three eggs fell into a pan and he began to slice some radishes.
“When I hear my belly ring,
that’s when its time to laugh and sing,
‘cause the dinner song will fill me up- with joy at least until I sup” he hummed.
The only other noises in the house were the gentle rattling of
glasses and pots, moved by the wind outside, and a faint grunting:


“Oikos!” said Damon, looking up from his food. Damon
heard him through the wind; he was always tuned-in to his pigs, but
especially Oikos, who had been sick.
He left his eggs and put on some layers before going out the back
door. There was always a lamp burning in the stable. It was a warm
home, insulated with large bricks of hay. The pigs shuffled around when
Damon walked in, except for one that was lying against a hay bale in the
corner. Damon went and knelt beside him.

“Hello my love.” He looked into Oikos’ eyes and stroked his
stomach. A couple other pigs came to check on them, sniff and snuggle
Damon’s armpits. He seemed to be doing ok. The grunts were grogginess,
Damon figured--it looked like he had just woken up from a nap. “Good,”
he said, encouraged by his bright eyes. When a pig gets sick like Oikos did,
its eyes get foggy and grey. Full, reflective and black, they seemed better.
Damon got up and fed them, bringing a small bowl to where his friend lay.
“My turn,” he said. “Bless you, beauties. I hope the wind subsides tonight.”
They grunted and ate.
He returned to the kitchen and put some cheese on his eggs. He
took the seat closest to the stove, and looked up at a wooden cross hanging
above the side door. Before eating, he sat with his hands crossed for several
minutes. The glasses clinked, the pots clanked, and the heavy cross knocked
gently against the wood frame of the door as a gust passed through the
cracks of the house. Damon shivered and ate.

the quill fall 2014


Alayo (above)
Havana, Cuba. Part renaissance thinker, part dreamer, with a dash of grandfatherly wisdom and a charm that seemed to have no limit, Alayo had what
Hemingway would have called grace under pressure––a sense of courage and an
autonomous spirit. With a sometimes uncertain food supply, his studio is lined
with works created with improvised materials and sometimes without proper
Wylie Mao ’18

Soy un cardiólogo (left)
Havana, Cuba. “Era cardiólogo antes de ser artista”
“I was a cardiologist before I became an artist.”
Wylie Mao ’18

the quill fall 2014
Eva Sibinga ’17
Libby crashed the family’s minivan on her way to ShopRite. It was a
light blue Honda Odyssey and when they found Libby, her hand had
slipped itself into the pocket of her winter coat to clutch the coupon for
$4 off a family-size pork tenderloin. In addition to the lacerations on her
face, neck, and knuckles from the broken windshield, the reddish band
of a bruise across her chest from the halting force of her seatbelt, and
the concussion, there were four small bloody crescents across her right
palm, inflicted by her own self-manicured nails after the accident while
she waited for someone to open the driver door of her car. These were
the most minor of her injuries, but they were the slowest to heal, and the
ones that made Steve’s skin crawl when he thought of them.
By the time he got to the hospital that afternoon, Libby had already
spoken with the doctor and been told she should stay overnight. “For the
concussion,” she said, looking up at him from the pastel bed.
“I thought they didn’t need to wake you up for those anymore?” he said.
“The doctor said they want to be safe,” she said. He sat by the bed and
put his hand on top of hers, which had a white bandage wrapped around
the palm. She didn’t speak, but Steve was used to that. They spent a lot
of time together in silence.
After a few minutes there was a knock on the door and a tall, black
haired doctor came in. He walked all the way to the foot of the bed
before looking up from his clipboard.
“Hi, folks, I’m Dr. Nissim. Just wanted to come by and see how you’re
doing, see if you have any questions. You’re Libby Mackenzie?” She nodded, her mouth a little tighter than before. Steve knew she disliked the
name she had taken. “I sound like a child,” she had told him.
“Okay, Libby, it says you’ll be staying the night…”
“Yes,” she said. He looked like he was about to say something, but
thought better of it and closed his mouth.
“Is she okay?” Steve asked.
“I’m fine,” Libby said.
“This is a straightforward mild head trauma,” Dr. Nissim said. “Everything we usually test for— vision problems, headache, vomiting— came
back saying Libby will just need some rest for her concussion. The
bumps and scrapes will be gone in no time. Now, do you folks have any


“No, we’re all set,” Libby said.
“Excellent. I’ll be around to check on you tomorrow morning, and in
the meantime just call the nurse if you have a problem.” He flipped the
page on his clipboard and was already studying the next sheet as he left
the room.
“I thought you said you already spoke to the doctor?” Steve said. “Didn’t
he tell you to stay the night?”
“A different one,” she said, not looking at him.
“Okay,” he said. “Well, do you want me to stay here with you? I’ll call
Tabitha to babysit longer— I’m sure she would agree to put the girls to
bed and sleep in the guestroom.”
“No, no, that’s ridiculous— she’s too young. And it would be so expensive. The copay is going to be hard and I’ll be fine here by myself,” she
“Libby, we can afford a babysitter for the night. I just want you to be
“I just want— I’ll be— I would be more comfortable knowing that Sidney and Becca have you at home,” she said.
“Okay,” he said.
He left the hospital at six. Twenty minutes later he pulled into the driveway alongside Tabitha’s car, took his briefcase from the passenger seat
and walked up the back steps to the kitchen. His daughters had seen him
pull up, and were waiting for him by the kitchen door while Tabitha sat
at the table.
“Tabitha told us what happened!” Sidney said. “We’ve been waiting for
you to get back.” She stamped her foot in six-year-old impatience.
“Is Mommy going to have a cast?” Becca asked, holding his pants leg.
She was four, still tow-headed and tiny. She liked to be picked up and
carried around, set on his hip so she could cling to him like a monkey
while he walked around the house. She held his leg with one hand and
reached the other up, opening and closing her fist in the universal sign
for “uppy.”
“No cast, but she has a concussion. Like a bad headache, so we’ll have to

the quill fall 2014
be quiet and help her,” he said, swinging her up. “Hi, Tabitha, how are
“Good thanks how are you?” she said. He was never prepared for her
good manners. They were immediate and consistent and made Steve feel
that he knew the kind of person her mother was, although he had never
met her.
“Doing okay,” he said. “Have you eaten dinner?”
“Yes,” Tabitha said. “We had pasta and carrots, and apples for dessert.”
“Great,” he said. Balanced, as always. He set Becca on the kitchen counter and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. “Forty?” he said, handing it to her.
She nodded. “Thanks very much, Mr. Mackenzie!”
“Thank you, Tabitha. Have a good night,” he said, and thanked God
that she could drive now and he did not have to spend fifteen minutes
chatting and sweating in the car with this 12th grader, while she combed
through her mop of curly hair with her fingers and he thought of lawsuits and wondered if she was the kind of girl who would lie for attention.
“When will Mommy be home?” Becca asked, inching towards the edge
of the counter so that he had to pick her up again.
“Do we get to be her nurses?” Sidney asked.
“Mommy will be home tomorrow. I don’t know if she’ll need nurses—
let’s ask her tomorrow if she needs help.”
“I’m a great nurse,” Sidney pouted.
“I know,” he said, putting a hand on her head. “What do you want to do
until bath time? We can do drawings, or play, or build with blocks?”
They decided to draw at the kitchen table, and after a few minutes Steve
swapped his drawing of a brown bear for a proposal he had to read for
work. He was a consultant at Atlas Property Management— he had
tried to explain this to Sidney when she interviewed him for a first grade
project, and sighed at the prospect that she would probably be in college
before she actually understood what his job was.
At 7:30 they went upstairs for bath and bed. Steve read to both of them
in Sidney’s room, until Sidney struggled to keep her eyes open and Becca
was soundly sleeping. He kissed Sidney goodnight, then picked Becca
up, marveling as always at her small light bones, like a bird’s. In his arms,
freckled and weathered by forty-odd years of living, she was next to
nothing. He laid her gently in her bed and pulled the covers up over her,

kissed her softly on the forehead and left the door ajar behind him.
It was not even nine. Steve went downstairs to the kitchen, thought
about calling Libby. He didn’t want to wake her if she was resting, and
what would he tell her anyway? Their daughters were unfrightened, in
general, and Libby wouldn’t be worried that they were not okay. He
made a gin and tonic and stood against the counter to drink it.
Should he call just to say he missed her? To ask how she was doing? To
ask what had happened? Libby didn’t like that kind of thing, at least from
him. She didn’t like to be touched in public, or “made to feel helpless.”
She, more than any person he had ever met, liked to be alone and unquestioned. He hadn’t had the courage to ask her about the crash while he was
at the hospital, because he knew she wouldn’t want him to and there was a
part of him that did not want to know.
Eventually he picked up his phone. “Hi Jill, it’s Steve. Just wanted to let
you know that Libby’s in the hospital—nothing serious, don’t worry—
but I’ll have to take the day off tomorrow. Well, today, I guess, when you
listen to this. Anyway, I’ll be in touch about the Goldman proposal, and
you can let Allen know I’ve reviewed it. Thanks, and bye.”
He poured another gin and tonic and took it into the living room, where
he put his slippered feet up and stared at the TV until his head began
to nod onto his chest. Then he switched off the TV and the downstairs
lights, and headed upstairs to put on his pajamas.
The bed was too big. He lay on the left side, felt distinctly cold without
another body beside him. He got up after several minutes to raise the
thermostat, but even then slept restlessly.
The next morning, a Friday, Steve went back to the hospital after dropping Sidney and Becca at school. He and Libby waited in her room for
Dr. Nissim to come give final instructions before Libby was allowed to
After several minutes, Dr. Nissim strolled in. “So sorry to have kept you
waiting, folks,” he said, without looking up from his clipboard. He rattled off several questions about Libby’s head, vision, and overall feeling.
Her answers accepted, Dr. Nissim said, “Come back for a follow-up appointment in two weeks just to check that everything has healed the way
we want it to. Any questions?” He paused for a moment, waiting with
his mouth slightly open. Neither of them answered. “Libby, I see you’ve
already been cleared with Dr. Santoro. Alright then, folks, have a great

the quill fall 2014
day,” he said, and exited.
Steve looked at Libby, and again could not find it in himself to ask her.
She had already changed into the clothes he had brought her, so they left
the hospital directly.
“How do you feel?” Steve asked, once he had helped her into his car.
“Fine,” she said, rubbing absently at her right palm with her left hand.
“How are the girls?”
“They missed you last night,” he said, “but they seemed okay when I
dropped them off this morning. Don’t worry.”
They didn’t speak for several minutes, and soon passed the place on
Route 22 where Libby had crashed the day before, which Steve had not
thought to avoid until they were almost there. He wondered what the
crash had been like, what would happen if he let his tires follow the
wobbling skid marks off the road. His eyes followed the streak of light
blue paint along several feet of guardrail to the pile of black plastic debris
at the base of a telephone pole, remnants of a crunched bumper.
“Lib?” he said quietly. She didn’t respond. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened,” she said, looking straight ahead.
He made sandwiches for lunch when they got home, and the two of
them sat at the kitchen table to eat. Steve was filled with questions for
her, but he was not the sort of man to try again, having been put off
already. Libby finished her sandwich and rubbed absentmindedly at the
part of her palm that could be reached without moving the bandage. He
began to clear their plates, but she stood up.
“No, let me. Thanks for lunch,” she said, taking their plates off the table.
“Are you sure? If you’re tired or anything just let me do it,” he said.
“Really, I feel totally fine,” she said.
“No headache or anything? They kept you overnight so I thought it must
be awful,” he said. She stood with her back to sink and looked at him.
When she answered her voice was much softer than he expected.
“I feel much better today, I guess.”
She washed the dishes and he got his laptop out to do some work at the
kitchen table. There was a message on his phone from Jill, wishing Libby
a speedy recovery, and an email from Allen, wishing for his speedy return
to work. With a sigh Steve began composing an email in reply. Libby
went upstairs to call their insurance company.
Steve found after a few minutes that he had been staring at the same half

sentence for some time, watching the cursor appear and disappear. He
shook his head to clear it of the thought that had been nagging at him
all morning. Even so, a minute later he had only added a comma to the
He looked over his shoulder, opened an Internet browser and quickly
typed “santoro chester county hospital.” Dr. Leanne Santoro was the
first result, psychotherapist at Chester County. This was the doctor who
had told Libby to stay overnight? Steve felt his skin flash hot and then
clammy. She had not told him, even when he had asked directly quite
by accident, and he had little doubt that she would continue not to tell
him. He cleared his search history and closed the browser, then finished
his email mechanically. He could hear her walking around upstairs, and
her muffled voice still on the phone.

That afternoon, he and Libby both went to pick their daughters up from
the bus. The girls ran to Libby and she crouched to gather them to her.
When she stood up again, Becca reached to be picked up and before
Steve could say, “Mommy is tired,” Libby had lifted Becca onto her hip.
Sidney took her other hand, and the four of them walked back up the
street to their house.
It was November, but still not too cold to be outside. Steve still had work
to finish but Libby went outside with Sidney and Becca, to build fairy
houses at the base of a half-dead pear tree at the edge of their backyard.
They were happy at this for over an hour before coming inside. Libby
went upstairs to lie down and Steve let the girls watch The Jungle Book
while he worked and then made dinner.
Libby came down to eat with them, and after dinner she gave the girls
their bath and put them to bed while Steve cleaned the kitchen. After he
had started the dishwasher he settled down in front of the television with
a gin and tonic. His back hurt from sitting in a kitchen chair for most of
the day. Several months ago Atlas Property Management had spent thousands of dollars to get an ergonomic desk chair for each of its employees,
and although Steve had thought the investment unnecessary, it seemed
he could not go back.
When Libby came downstairs he muted the TV. “I’ll make you a drink
if you want one,” he said. She rarely accepted his favors or help, and he
was not surprised when she said, “No, I’ll do it,” and headed into the

the quill fall 2014
They watched a movie but had missed the first ten minutes and Steve
found his mind wandering the whole time. After a while she said, “I
really liked that,” and he realized that it had ended. He got up to make
another gin and tonic, and then they sat on the couch in the living room
and read, which was how they spent most evenings at home.
As midnight approached, they went up to bed. He was already in bed
when she came in from the bathroom. She climbed into bed and he
said, “I missed you last night.” She smiled and kissed him quickly, then
moved to her side of the bed.
“I’m tired,” she said. “I’m just going to turn out the light, if that’s okay
with you.”
“Of course,” he said. “Goodnight.”
“Steve, stop.”
“What,” he said, eyes still closed, his throat thick and dry with sleep.
“You’re snoring,” she said. “I can’t fall asleep.”
He turned over without opening his eyes, swallowed and closed his
mouth, and was aware of her unsleeping breathing for a few minutes
before he drifted off again.
In the morning her side of the bed was made, sheets tucked away from
him and the memory of a sleeping head shaken out of her pillow. He
went downstairs in his dressing gown and found her sitting at the
kitchen table, weak blocks of November light streaming on her back and
through the glass of water beside her.
“Lib? You’re up early? What are you doing down here?”
“It’s the bruises on my leg,” she said. “Every time you pulled the sheet it
hurt and I woke up.”
They set her up in the downstairs guest bedroom, right off the living
room where Sidney and Becca sat together on the floor in another small
world, dolls set up all around them.
“This seems more restful,” Libby said, standing in the guestroom to
contemplate the bed, which looked large and luxurious but was actually
two hard twin beds pushed together and blanketed as one. She opened
the curtains, which had been closed since Steve’s father had died and
vacated the room six months before. “A couple of days, just until these
bruises heal.” She looked at him, rubbing the half-moon scabs on her
right palm. “Just until the follow-up appointment.”

He stood in the doorway and flicked the light switch. The overhead light
did not respond and he turned from the room to get a light bulb.
He said goodnight to her at their bathroom sink before she went downstairs. He lay down to go to sleep but could think only of Leanne Santoro, and was awake for so long he began to wonder if he might’ve fallen
asleep and reawakened.
Much later he sat on the edge of his bed, still in the restless suspension of
sleeplessness and trying to convince himself that getting up and walking
around would bring sleep.
He put his slippers on and padded quietly to the door, then down the
hallway past Sidney’s open door and then Becca’s. At each he peered in
to make out the shape of a small curled body under the covers before
continuing to the stairs. He kept his body against the wall so there was
no creak.
There was no light coming from under the guestroom door. He turned
off the dim light by the stairs so that he stood in near total darkness, not
wishing to wake her with light from outside the guestroom. He put his
hand on the doorknob and turned it carefully, feeling the mechanism
disengage from the doorframe before he pushed slowly. The whirring of
the dishwasher in the next room had stopped, and the only sound was
the rustling of trees outside. He closed his eyes and listened for other,
quieter layers of the silence to emerge, until he could hear her quiet exhalations, steady and unmonitored. In the distance, he heard a car door
slam. Goosebumps rose along his arms and neck, and he pushed the
door farther and slipped into the room. He let the handle un-turn and
then let go of it, feeling quite distinctly the loss of its support, as if he
might fall in the dark with nothing but the sound of her breathing with
which to locate himself.
He stood there in the dark, an intruder. Her breathing was soft and
strong and unconscious, like that of a child waiting to be carried from
the backseat up to bed. As he stood there listening he felt tears prick in
his eyes and anger make his mouth turn because he had never heard her
sleep so well before. The longer he stood still the more he felt he was
reeling. He gave a cough and she didn’t stir. He wanted to say her name,
call it out and slam the door and show that he could wake her, but his
throat and his hand refused to comply. He would never wake her, never

the quill fall 2014
test the depth of her sleep tonight, never leave her even though she lay
there sleeping better in their guestroom than she ever had next to him.
He would never leave her.
He stood there a minute more, then shut the door carefully once more
and walked back up the stairs, along the wall, back past Becca’s open
door and then Sidney’s, back to his bed where he lay on his back on the
left side of the bed, not moving, for a long time before falling asleep.
When he woke up in the morning, it was to the immediate memory
of his venture downstairs, and the feeling that he had only just fallen
asleep. With a groan he lifted himself from the bed, put on his dressing
gown and made his way downstairs. She was in the kitchen, sitting fully
dressed at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the paper in front of
“How did you sleep?” he asked.
“I feel so rested,” she said, with a smile he had not seen in a long time.


Sarah Drumm ’18

the quill fall 2014
How to Remain Holy and Pure, or How To Not Rob Your Future Husband of What’s Rightfully His
Eliza Graumlich ’17
“Give up pleasure for Lent,” your older sister whispers to you with a sneer.
“That’s how to stay holy and pure.” You’re not sure if she’s joking or not.
You’re a good girl, third eldest daughter in a family of eleven. You eat fish
on Fridays and do the sign of the cross whenever you hear the screams of an
ambulance speeding to the hospital on the hill. You and your siblings’ first
and middle names are all borrowed from saints. Your dad teaches at Saint
Mary’s and your mom is a chauffer. Pray that you won’t grow up to be like
Spend middle school perfecting your cursive and talking to girls about
other girls. Walk to church every Sunday and Wednesday and Saturday, too.
Sneak makeup from your sister’s drawer in the bathroom and shave hidden
little spots on the backs of your legs with your father’s razor to see what it
feels like to be a woman. Ask your older sister about getting her period and
if the blood hurts and watch her cheeks turn that same color. Try on her
bras when she’s not around. Wonder when you’ll be allowed to start wearing
them. Purposefully spill food on your undershirts so that they’ll need to be
Spend high school hiking up your plaid skirt a little more and talking to
girls about boys. Walk to church every Sunday. Pray for your own bedroom
and more time on the phone with your friends and freedom from babysitting. Pray for a cellphone and a Facebook.
Meet a boy. He’s only four months older than you, but a year ahead in
school. Glace at him sometimes, with a finger in your hair like those girls
on the billboards on the highway. Think of him as you sit in biology class
learning about plant reproduction. Think of him as you write JMJ at the top
of your papers because those are his sister’s initials. Think of him instead of
Him as you’re listening to rock music. But don’t talk to him because you’re
not a slut.
Talk to your friends about him, instead. Gush about his hair and eyes and

how you can sometimes see a sliver of the waistband of his boxers when he
raises his hand and his shirt comes un-tucked. Tell your friends to tell his
friends that you think you might like him but you’re not sure. Worry that
his friends might tell him.
Sit next to him in Mass one day. It’ll be an accident, of course. You’ll walk
in late, sleep still in the corners of your eyes, and it’ll be the only seat left.
He’ll try to play footsie with you. Stare straight ahead. Don’t acknowledge
him, even when he nudges your elbow with his and smiles. Listen to the
priest talk about sanctity and truth while you finger the crucifix on black
cord around your neck. Wonder what the boy beside you would look like
naked. Wonder what the girl in front of you would look like naked, too,
then blush and recite Latin conjugations in your head.
Wait a few months. Keep thinking about the boy. Almost say hi to him
once, but decide not to.
Get excited about the next school dance. Count down the months and then
the weeks and then the days. Get sad when the boy doesn’t ask you to be his
date. Realize that no one else you know has a date, either, but remain sad
Get ready for the dance with all of your girlfriends. Wear a skirt that comes
down to three inches above your knees instead of the usual two. Forget to
button the top two buttons on purpose. End up buttoning them anyway
when your sister points out that you forgot.
Drive to the dance in your family’s Astrovan. Watch your sister switch on
the radio and turn the dial from classical to today’s latest hip hop and r&b.
Listen to the word “sex” at ninety-five decibels and want to disappear. Be
appalled. Be embarrassed and turn bright red and try to hide it with your
hands. Isn’t she embarrassed? Why won’t anyone change the station??
Feel relief when you step out of the car. Do a sign of the cross without
thinking. Sneak past the nun in the doorway because you know she’ll
measure your skirt. Sway to more embarrassing music in a tight circle of
your girlfriends. When you start to get sweaty, step outside the humid gym,
drink some punch, and say hi to your best friend’s mom. She’s chaperoning

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Go back inside and sit on a folding chair. Get up to sway with your girlfriends again when they ask you to. Watch as they’re picked off one by one.
See the boys whispering amongst themselves, conspiring. See them walking
over, placing their hands high up on the waists of girls that they’ve only ever
interacted with in dreams, and swaying with them.
As the girls around you get picked off, sway harder. Sway until you’re the last
one without a partner. The other girls are still close, but preoccupied. Finally
the boy puts his hands on your waist. He holds you so lightly that sometimes he’s only touching your blouse, not even pressing into the skin underneath. Dance like this for a few songs, swaying side to side, picking up your
feet just slightly. It seems like he might be holding you closer now, but you
can’t tell. Look over his shoulder at your friends dancing just the same and
smell his deodorant. It’s the same one your brother uses. Get closer to him.
Your chin almost rests on his shoulder. As your bodies slowly press together,
his leg inches between yours and you think you feel the outline of—
“Save room for Jesus!”
A nun shakes her head at you. Embarrassed, run off to join your friends
Months later, he’ll ask you to be his girlfriend. You haven’t gone on any
dates, but it’s not like your parents would let you anyway.
Walk to the house where he’s housesitting a few years later. Feel yourself getting wet and wonder what sex is like. Know that this may be your only opportunity to experience it. Images of an ugly bare stem come to your mind.
Bargain with yourself. If you only have sex once, you’ll still almost have a
full rose. No one can tell the difference of one petal.
Realize that your mother would kill you if you ever had sex, so resolve to try
anal upon his suggestion. Be worried sick about pregnancy for weeks.
Give up pleasure for lent.

Miriam Fracka Takes a Walk
Ben Torda ’18
It was a bright day. The sun shined down. And Miriam Fracka was in no
mood to take shit. She was in no mood to deal with anyone who picked this
day to approach her and involve her fine self in his problems. The day stayed
bright, the sun glinted off the freshly melted asphalt. It drip-dripped fat
black tar onto stepping shoe bottoms and further ate the spat-gum, which
ground down into the swamp. She swung out in her footsteps, down the
pink granite stoop, into the streetscape. The door behind her smacked hard,
loud, into the doorjam. Miriam Fracka smiled, tooth-glints fighting against
tooth-glints to reach the outside world. She liked that smack-sound. It told
the world who was coming. It said, Miriam’s here – back the fuck off.
The day was hot. The sun beat through the one cloud dumb enough to stay
in the sky. And Miriam Fracka was in no mood to even hear of other people
dealing with shit. She had enough of that already. Her cousin had called at
five fifteen in the morning, sobbing away: “He left me. He treated me bad.
He ran off with a bitch. He never had any money.” Miriam Fracka had only
one thing to say:
“It’s five fifteen in the morning.” She hung the fuck up.
That was no way to wake up. Not only was it five fifteen in the morning, it
was someone’s shit being thrown in her direction. Her cousin knew what
was coming. That boy was no good; Miriam had told her, Miriam’s sister
had told her, Miriam’s Aunt had told her. The grocery lady, who eavesdropped, told her. If the girl didn’t listen – her fault. Don’t, though, wake
Miriam Fracka up with these complaints. Miriam Fracka needed her sleep.
It is called beauty sleep, and Miriam loved her beauty sleep. She took it by
the napful.
She passed on, the store signs trying, like mosquitos, to bother her and
make her eyes tired. They jumped out at her, but Miriam Fracka was in no
mood. She was in no mood to be sold to, she didn’t need anything, she had
what she wanted. She kept up her stride, swinging her hips and popping
heads and eyes. She didn’t want signs making her eyes tired, but she happily made other peoples’. They didn’t call her Miriam Fracka for nothing,
she knew what she had. And the eyes, from windows and shops and passing
cars, confirmed what she didn’t need confirming.

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The day was humid. The sun baked off the sidewalk and broiled people
in their polyester, cotton, and wool suits alike. Miriam Fracka was in no
mood to even see someone and their shit. But, walking through the baking
sidewalk, she passed by two shits; she could tell by their stances. They had
felt the heat and the way it broke into their minds and fucked all around.
Miriam Fracka could spy the two about to fight. They were screaming about
God knows what – probably one stole another’s milk or something. Miriam
Fracka did not care, nor did she care to see this shit flying in all directions.
She walked by and scuffed her throat, the two grungy-ass boys, sweating in
the burning sun, turned and Miriam stared. She looked her “Don’t you dare
fuck with me look,” and it shot out, flying like a bullet-crack through the
air. It hit them and they stumbled back. Miriam Fracka stood there and gave
it to them once more. She was in no mood, and the two screaming boys
were trying to sully her day by tossing their shit at Miriam Fracka. It wasn’t
going to happen. Miriam Fracka wasn’t going to take it, and so she gave it.
She gave it back twenty times more than it came in. She walked on.
Johnny Yups came out of the shop. Johnny Yups and Miriam were about as
different as could be. Johnny Yups sold flowers in his bodega. He sat and
stared out into the streets. Johnny knew what was going on, at most times
he knew everything. Other times he pretended not to. He liked Miriam
though. Miriam Fracka was a woman who got her shit done. She always
paid Johnny up front, she sometimes even bought a potted plant.
“Miriam Fracka, hot day now isn’t it?”
Johnny Yups never gave shit. And to Miriam Fracka, that was about as best
as could be.
“I’m sweating Johnny, I’m cooking.”
“It’s the humidity more than the heat.” Yups paused, touching the wilting
flower petals that melted under the green-housed warmth. ”You have to stay
cool though.”
“I know Johnny,” Miriam wheezed out through her constricted lungs. “I’m
trying, it’s hot though. That sun won’t shut up.”
“Uh huh,” Johnny smiled just a bit, “take this cold drink now,” handing her
a dripping Coke. He paused again and looked, down the street shimmering with rising heat, at something in the haze. “You stay cool now, you stay

“Johhny Yups.”
Miriam walked off.
The day stank. The sun burned up all the good smells and left just rot,
sweat, and grime. And Miriam Fracka was in no mood for shit of any kind.
She was hot, she was tired (five fifteen), and she was dripping with sweat.
This wasn’t Miriam Fracka, she was not meant for this shit. She was about
ready to call it quits, but she had to go to the laundry, her clothes were
about ready to be picked up.
Hot as she was, Miriam wasn’t going to let some heat beat her about. She
was Miriam Fracka, she had taken worse heat than this and come out with
a shining blue-ribbon. No, she was almost there (the Coke was finished
and trashed done right) and that meant AC swaddling her in cold. She was
going to make it, the only sign she wanted to see was up ahead. She needed
just to finish up this block, step after step.
Then – suddenly – shit entered into Miriam Fracka’s life. The shit filled
up her frame with the view of seeping sweat. The shit popped up from the
stoop she was about to pass. And the shit dripped with grease – what he
called his “charm”.
“Well shit, if that isn’t Miriam Fracka,” the voice slicked, with as much oil as
the dark-hair strands cemented down with product-mixed-sweat. “How are
you baby? Tell me how it’s going.”
Miriam Fracka would not have stopped, but Ruddie Flanks crowded the
sidewalk with the cologne cloud he applied by the bucket mornings and
“Tell me what you’ve been up to, what has that bad self been doing?” Ruddie looked Miriam from toe to head. “You’re still as fine as ever, “ he purred,
smiling with one side of his crooked mouth and winking at one mad fucking face. “Don’t scowl now at your Ruddie, I’m just trying to get reacquainted with someone I should be acquainted with.” He smiled again. “You can’t
blame me. Tell me how your fine self is getting on. Let your Ruddie take
care of you.”
With that Ruddie Flanks reached out to stop Miriam who was trying to

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push on by. The day was bright, it was hot, it was humid, and the steadily
enclosing street stank like a swamp-sewer. Miriam Fracka had been woken
up, been cooked alive, had heard and seen shit try to enter into her life –
and she had fought it off. She was in NO mood for shit, but this day felt
the need to expel it in her direction. Miriam Fracka was in no mood for
shit, and she was not about to take it.
With a smack Miriam turned, on one heel, beads of sweat flew off toward
the stripped lines in the street, which were peeling under the pressure of
the heat rising from below. She turned toward Ruddie Flanks. The street
paused, the cars stopped with wheels still turning, dogs who were silent
barked and those who were barking turned silent. The world knew that
Miriam Fracka had had enough. She was in no mood, and her mood was
only getting worse.
With a smack one slippered foot shot out. She did not flinch, she just
stared, eyes raging with a turnt up hate. Before Ruddie knew what he had
done, Miriam Fracka put him down to his knees, hands clutching at his
newly swollen groin.
There was a breath. The heat-pressure, which had built and bred since the
sun topped over the buildings in the morning, drained out in a sudden
swell. A single breeze swept the street from front to back, and each onlooker
sensed that this reprise was going to be the last one for a long time.
“Fuck off. I am in NO mood,” she spat at the groaning Flanks. She bent
down, compressing the air between her face and the man on the ground,
and whispered into his blocked-up ear, “You would not know how to take
care of Miriam Fracka.”
She rose, turned – one heel again – leaving a moaning Flanks on his face in
the grimed-out street, asphalt meeting his skin and clutching on. Miriam
Fracka walked her ten steps, opened the door to the Laundromat, entered
in. She smiled as the door smacked into the waiting doorjam. Miriam
Fracka was here, and she was going to enjoy the AC.

Raisa Tolchinsky ’17
There is the bonsai tree on his forearm. “Conor” across his wrist, his own
name branded deep into his veins. His father’s birthday stamped onto his
thigh. He is sure his blood is black from all the tattoo ink. He read of skin
suffocation, of people being covered and dying because their skin couldn’t
breathe. If this was true, he would already be dead. Faces covered his biceps,
and there lived a woman on his chest that posed like a stripper. There was a
whale on his left ass cheek, roses down his legs, quotes across his cheeks and
a bee behind his ear. They stared at him in the supermarket. They took out
their cameras and pretended to look past him. Children craned their heads
in strollers. He had almost no skin left to mark, but still he couldn’t stop.
He went to his mother’s grave every Friday afternoon. In the corner a
woman was talking to a stone. Her hair looked like cirrus clouds and her
voice was plain and burnt. It was distracting. There was always some kind
of distraction here. He pulled out the photo tucked into his wallet. He went
here every Friday, but he could be sitting anywhere and feel the same blankness.
The sun was harsh against his pimpled face, the sky so light and empty.
He tried to think of pressing his cheek against the fleshy curve of an upper
arm, or a skirted bathing suit, or warm hands. These were all the things that
he remembered about other people’s mothers. But they were not her. Sometimes
he would even think about cancer for hours a time, imagining multiplying
and diseased cells. It scared him that he longed to remember sickness,
and it scared him that if he could, he would dig up the grave, just to see her
face. What kind of son would do that, would dig up his own mother?
The gravestone was cold against his back and the decaying roses smelled
like a scratch n’ sniff sticker. Conor threw a tangerine at an old gravestone
and watched the pulp slide down its side. Once when he was little, Conor
grabbed the hand of his friend’s babysitter and tried to get into her car,
thinking it was his own. His father always retells the story at Christmas,
amused: Conor’s oblivion, then his tight grip on a strange lady’s hand, and
finally, his little shocked face. Of course Conor can’t remember this. But he
was sure it wasn’t as funny as his father made it seem.
At the tattoo parlor he brought in the picture. He couldn’t forget Joey’s
mother Angela. She looked like someone who could get cancer, and then
she would die, and then she’d become a stranger, too. Angela had soft grey
hair and a fat face and made him spinach dip, and the family photo he stole
from their living room glittered threateningly in the tattoo artist’s hand.
“Is this a special lady?”
The tattoo artist winked at him. Conor could see straight through the
gauged holes in his ears to the other side of the shop. It smelled like urine

the quill fall 2014

and latex. Conor looked up at him to answer, but then he heard a strange
buzzing sound and he could feel the tattoo gun shattering his skin. The CD
on the speaker was skipping. The artist’s eyes moved like hummingbirds.
Ms. Montgomery called his father in for a meeting the next week.
“Mr. O’Hallohan. There seems to be a problem.” His father cleared his
throat. He looked like a prisoner in the chair, his long legs touching the top
of the desk.
“Just look at his math notebook. This is unacceptable.” Next to the equations
and symbols, the margins were filled. Etta has red hair it looks like
warm weather and Ms. Montgomery has an apple on her desk what kind of
fucking teacher actually has an apple on her desk it looks like blood and all
I want is a peach I haven’t had a peach since summer and I had coffee and
eggs this morning like every morning my father looked like he was going to
cry when he read the obituaries he can’t stop reading them my tongue feels
like wet velvet. Conor clenched his hands to hide the blisters from gripping
his pen. He was thinking of Angela, newly inked on his chest.
“What do you have to say for yourself, Conor? Do you think it’s acceptable
to write rude things about my fruit, of all things? To expose your father’s
personal details in your math notebook? You need to stop writing everything
down.” Conor was silent and so was his father, who was poised on the edge
of his seat now, licking his dry lips and pressing his palms onto the beige of
the desk. It looked like a misshapen whale as it creaked under his father’s
Bill the tattoo artist never wore a shirt when he did his job, and he never
asked why, only asked where and how. He grinned wide enough that Conor
could see a gold molar. There was a naked woman on his bare chest, and she
was posed so that her breasts hung down.
“Back for more, eh?”
The picture of the lumpy whale was one Conor spent a long time looking
for, but when he found it, it was exactly right. He lay on the table with his
pants pulled down. The whale was to be forever swimming on his left ass
cheek. Heavy metal music played on the stereo, and Conor closed his eyes
and thought of how ridiculous it was that tattoo parlors in movies were so
accurate to the real thing. He grit his teeth as he felt heat rising from his
backside. He didn’t like the faint lines of dirt under Bill’s fingernails.
The notebooks were piling up underneath his bed, and his hands were callused
from the pen, but his father thought it was from working out. Conor
had started wearing his shirts buttoned to the collar, worried his dad might
see the gray cloud of Angela’s hair if he moved the wrong way.
“You look good, son,” his father said over breakfast. Conor noticed there
was a scraggly bonsai tree in the living room that coincided with the magazine
article in the bathroom that said plants attract women. His father didn’t

date but he wanted to, instead he read medical encyclopedias on Saturday
nights. Not dying was his passion, which is something you couldn’t exactly
put on an online-dating profile. Conor brought his notebook to the dinner
table that night and recorded what they were talking about and eating.
His father asked to hear some of his writing, so Conor read him a poem
about being young and being old and how whales don’t know that there’s
a shoreline. It was a shit poem. Conor knew it was a shit poem. After he
finished reading, his father attacked his steak like he was scared it might get
up again.
“It’s a nice poem. I like it.” And he went back to chewing.
Bill didn’t say anything when Conor asked him for a filet mignon on his
hip. He got a lot of strange requests and this was only one of them. Besides,
it distracted him from the fact he made most of his money inking butterflies
on lower backs and four-leaf clovers on ankles. Conor got a discount
for coming back six times in a month, and Angela was finally no longer
red and puffy because he put lotion on her every night before he went to
sleep. But Heidi and Karen were still fresh, covering his chest. Heidi who
smelled like gin, Karen who always yelled up at Henry from downstairs. He
failed the swimming unit in gym class, skipped every single day. Nothing
could get him to be naked in that sweaty locker room, where all the boys
pretended they weren’t looking at each other when it came time to change,
but where they all looked anyway. He didn’t want Adam or Joey or Henry
to see what he had done. He stopped going to their houses, stopped making
eye contact in the hallway. If his shirt moved the wrong way, they would see
their mothers looking back at them. And if they all wanted to go swimming
in the reservoir at night, he would have to take off his shirt. All the boys
in the summer walked around in only shorts, and Conor couldn’t do that
anymore. These faces, they were permanent.
There were roses on his upper thigh now. His father always brought roses
to the grave, so Conor decided they must have been her favorite flower. He
could not remember his mother, but he knew all the facts by heart. They
were all he had and he made lists of them: that she liked Beethoven and had
huge feet and once burned her eyebrows off making soup. These were the
things he was told, and he would ink them on his body as soon as he could.
He believed everything except that she never had a boyfriend before his
father, who told him this so proudly that Conor couldn’t question it.
There were many things he couldn’t question, like how every Wednesday,
Etta from his math class was supposed to tutor him, and how three weeks
ago she took off her shirt in the parking lot behind Blueberry Joe’s Pantry
without him asking. She smelled like honey.
The bee behind his ear hurt more than any of them, and he made sure his
hair was long enough to cover it. Bill and the staff at Good Faith Tattoo
Parlor knew him by name now.

the quill fall 2014

“That boy is a strange one,” Bill’s assistant whispered to him after he inked
it, cleaning off the needle stained yellow and black. Bill shrugged, and the
stripper’s breasts on his chest moved up and down.
Conor was most afraid of Etta seeing the tattoos. Etta who was beautiful
and funny and had small hands and who told him she liked her hips. She
was sensible. She didn’t want children.
“Not me,” she told him. “Too much work. I know it already.” She always
had a calculator and Band-Aids in her bag, and he loved this, but Conor
didn’t consider whether he loved her or not because that meant she’d be
considering it too (by the transitive property, which she taught him when
they used to actually do math). All he knew was if you start to label things,
if you try to call them yours, then they fall apart, especially if you’re sixteen
and it’s summer and you get to kiss a pretty, smart, red-haired girl.
Etta didn’t have any piercings, not even her ears. She certainly didn’t have
tattoos. She told him this when they went to the movies once and the theater
was completely empty. He felt like he could ask her anything, sure that
the swelling music and sporadic gunshots in the background would cover
up any awkward silence.
But this time when his hand started to creep up her shirt, she did the same,
sliding her hands up his chest. The darkness did not make it okay that she
was touching all of his tattoos. Did his skin feel different? They were so
permanent, and he was so stupid. Not once when he was getting them did
he think of Etta. And now he wanted to explain but there was nothing to be
done but push her hands away and start the car. He felt the overwhelming
need to apologize for his erection and for having his shirt on when hers was
off. He felt so naked even with all of his clothes on. But there was no empty
movie theater with swelling music and so he couldn’t say these things. Etta
looked away. Outside, the sky was chalky and white. A clean slate.
There were fewer and fewer places he could hide them and he was running
out of room. He saw Bill more than Henry and Joey and Adam, and their
mothers started asking his father how he was doing. They hadn’t seen him
around lately. Ms. Montgomery’s red F’s were branded on his lower back
and so there was no need to turn in sheets of paper to be reminded of the
way they looked.
He started going to the tattoo parlor instead of the graveyard on Fridays.
Sometimes just to watch, even though this wasn’t really allowed. There was
nothing Bill hadn’t already heard, nothing he hadn’t seen.
“I can’t remember anything about my mother,” Conor told him, while Bill
was sketching out Psalm 91 for some lady’s stomach, practicing the lettering.
His hands were so steady. For he will command the angels concerning you.
“Yeah, can’t remember mine either. She took off one night after drinking
too much. I think that’s the way it went. My brother told me she was a total
zombie. Can’t really remember my dad, either.” His hands didn’t even waver

as he said it, and Conor didn’t speak.
“Etta is dating Henry now,” he said to Bill, after he handed him her picture.
As Bill inked, Conor told him of how Henry’s skin was unblemished, how
Henry knew how to fix things, how he could run a mile faster than anyone
else Conor knew. When Bill did Etta’s red hair, the ink trickled down his
body and it looked like he had been shot in the heart.
When he got home, Conor stood in front of the mirror. He took off all his
clothes and looked at the colors and the way his skin was peeling like split
ends. His body felt textured under his fingernails, like he was growing taste
buds. What would Etta say, if she saw him? If he tattooed her favorite equations,
the ones she called graceful, would she find him graceful, too?
“Conor? Conor, what do you want for…?” The door flew open. He didn’t
have time to grab his towel. His father’s knees. His father’s dry palms. His
father’s dark eyes. They looked almost rainbow, shiny from the reflection of
all the color Conor contained now.
“Jesus Fucking Christ….” There was a pause that could have been twenty
seconds or five minutes. Conor finally reached for his towel and his father
sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands. Conor already knew he
wanted to forget this moment but that he never would, that he certainly
didn’t have a right to. He wished there was a movie on, some kind of extreme
violent scene that had nothing to do with this. Finally Conor spoke.
“Did she have any tattoos?”
His father didn’t answer.
“Conor, who is on your body?”
“Did she? Did Mom have any?”
“There’s… there’s Lasik removal surgery. We’ll figure something out, we’ll
call that ad on TV, you know the one? With the music…?” His father would
always rather call a specialist than react.
“Did you forget, too?”
He’d kill his father with his bare hands right now just for one memory: how
she smelled, or one day at the park, or a soft hand bandaging his scraped
knee. He’d do it right now.
His father looked like he wanted to hold him and smack him at the same
time, and because he couldn’t decide, stood up to go, moving so slowly it
looked like his knees were about to give out. Conor lay back on his bed. He
wouldn’t need to go to Bill tomorrow. He’d remember today.
No one stared at him at the tattoo parlor. It was like its own ecosystem,
people coming and going, requests big and small. When a tattoo was messed
up, Bill soothed the customer and offered them a gift card for next time,
never apologizing for the permanency of his error, or his bare chest and dirty
nails. Good Faith Tattoo Parlor was self-sustaining, resilient. Conor liked it
there, and when he asked Bill for an apprenticeship, Bill just laughed and
said, “What have you been doing all this time?”

the quill fall 2014
It had been months since the first tattoo, and he was out of space now. His
skin was so colorful that he felt like he was his own race. His father talked
of trichloroacetic acid at the dinner table and wouldn’t look at Conor’s face
because it was not the one he was born with. Trichloroacetic acid, reaching
as deep as the layer in which the tattoo ink resides, and cryosurgery and
excisions and lasers. His father talked of all these things, but Conor wouldn’t
dare reverse everything he had done.
He went back to the graveyard on Friday, passing Blueberry Joe’s. Etta like a
distant memory, the smoothness of her skin. His entire face was inked now
and sometimes he felt like couldn’t breathe if he thought about it for too
long. Even the sunlight made him feel fragile.
He opened the gate to cemetery, the wind shaking the leaves of the maple
tree, and he stood by her gravestone. An old man muttered to a grave in the
corner, but Conor didn’t care anymore.
He didn’t think of cancer, and he didn’t try to remember her. He just examined
his own arms and legs. It was hot, and he took off his shirt. He felt like
he should apologize to the old man, but not for his tattoos. Just for taking
off his shirt. He didn’t mean to be disrespectful.
A tattoo on his stomach caught his eye, of a date in block letters. Where
did it come from? He did not remember getting it. What happened August
10th? What happened that moment, so important he must tattoo it? He did
not recognize his own skin.
Conor sat, panicking, and leaned back against the gravestone, hoping the
cold stone would feel soothing. It felt hard to breathe and he squeezed his
eyes shut, trying to remember that day. Something poked his back and he
looked down. A bouquet of roses, already wilting in the heat. Conor picked
them up.
The memory came so fast he almost didn’t realize what it was. A slender
ankle and a large foot flexing. Toes painted bright red. His small hands
reaching out to touch the faded tattoo of a rose.
It felt so far away that as soon as he saw it, he wasn’t sure he had seen anything
at all.

Julianna Lewis ’18
1. All the lights make it look like
our poor little city is finally going
The greens line up like soldiers &
you gun the engine, saluting.
We speed off,
comets in a green mini coop,
& your laugh echoes away with the exhaust,
glowing ethereal
at 70 miles an hour.
2. You are lost & I wish
you would take me with you.
You are wind, tracing fingers
through my hair, ears,
leaping away, out, gone.
You want to be the stars,
trailing icy light,
radiant in your aloneness.
You forget the tragedy of the constellations.
3. “What would happen if we just
kept going?”
Your lips move but you already have
the answer.
This life holds you so fleetingly,
I only hope to keep you from floating off,
a balloon — I am the wrist
you are tied to.


The Moon
Carly Berlin ’18
Do you remember the day we made love on the moon? Maybe it
wasn’t the moon, maybe it was just a rock face with craters and
a lake off of I-20 East, and maybe we didn’t make love, but we
thought about it, in a crater far enough from the road that we
convinced ourselves we were alone. The pictures we took on the
moon didn’t turn out, because we carelessly left the flash on, and
cameras don’t need flash on the moon. On the moon we were
far from our friends who showed up outside of our houses too
late on Friday nights, blasting the oldies radio station, convincing the neighbors they were satiated with alcohol they hadn’t
gone near. I didn’t wear a watch on the moon, our stomachs
were our clocks, or at least they were supposed to be, but they
proved untrustworthy, and we got sunburned on the moon, or
maybe that was just me. And when we decided our day on the
moon was finished, we packed our cameras and our Nalgenes
and we returned to earth to eat dinner with your family (didn’t
I meet your grandmother and didn’t your brother beat us in
Scrabble?) and we talked about love and foreverness and you
drove me home and my parents were up waiting and watching
a movie we wouldn’t have liked to ask me about our day on the


Siddhartha, Twelve Years Old
Hassaan Mirza ’17
Forever kept indoors like a houseplant
that withers in light unaltered through windows,
he grew economically, with a slight sunward slant,
looking out at trees thrashing their minnows.
At dinner, the Elders talked, hands
lying about, wild pheasants at the dining table
while he sat silent by their command,
picking mango peels, scraps of politics and fables
to muse about in his bed, constructing concert halls,
the geometry of temples, the loci of the kingdom,
giving faces to voices that spilled from the Walls,
angling sunlight in crooked streets in his wisdom
not knowing the discord of the market place
where children with broken limbs sang for money
or outside the city, the leper colony where each face
was bubbling pus, waiting for life to ooze out like honey
or the dead that lay burnt to ashes in heaps
but the Ganges had rejected their remains.
He was the blind in his bed, burnishing leaps
of light over the golden expanse of his domain

Hayley Nicholas ’17
Eliza Graumlich ’17
layout editor
Sean Moran ’15
Stevie Lane ’15
Hassaan Mirza ’17
Jake Reiben ’17
Emily Simon ’17
Preston Thomas ’17
Rachael Allen ’18
Carly Berlin ’18
Mac Brower ’18
Casey Chase ’18
Natalie Edwards ’18
Caleb Gordon ’18
Victoria Lowrie ’18
Ben Torda ’18
Sarah Jane Weill ’18
faculty advisor
Professor David Collings
“Bound,” Hannah Rafkin ’17
“Boots,” Shannon Deveney ’18
The Bowdoin Orient
MPX Publishing
The English Department