Dance of the Mechanical Marionettes

By Krystael Castro

“Await no more a word or sign from me.

Your will is straightened, free, and whole — and not

To act upon its promptings would be wrong.”

I. Authenticity

She felt such hatred for herself and for this world

and has, therefore, committed suicide and a massacre;

for when one hates, one kills.

It was an attempted escape—or a conditioned excuse, perhaps—

To not love thy neighbour or even the God in the heavens

enough to follow His teachings,

As scripture would hold it,

For that Love is what keeps us sane and righteous.

But the vision was to break free from from this

Uneigentlichkeit—

Uneigentlichkeit erfülltes leben, dass von diesem kam geworfenheit.

(This might include religion, but that was not for her to decide as a truth for all, should she believe it to be).

And so she is trapped in a battle with “fate” as she tries to grasp a life of

Eigentlichkeit—

Eigentlichkeit.

Our hearts will forever yearn for it

Until it is finally achieved.

II. The Struggle

She sank slowly into a dream

It accepted her wholly as she faced to embrace it.

She arrived at an infinitely dark room;

Its walls you could not see,

But one made of frosted glass

Made visible by a warm glow that existed beyond it.

All that she ever wanted was gathered there

(though what she saw was uncertain).

Her body moved towards the glass,

Her hands clenching a hammer,

She attempted to shatter it;

Not a single crack did appear.

She gave up and she stared

Into that glass of haze,

An indiscernible, filled space and

She knew.

She saw it and she knew.

Unclear through her eyes,

But clear in what she felt,

A happiness completely her own.

III. Danse pour moi

Chains, shackles, heavy, cold metal

On their hands and feet—

And even as they may not take notice to them—

There are shackles on their heads;

the holy temple of all that is perceived,

They take a firm hold of their bodies,

securing them on this ground

Limiting the boundaries where none should be

(Except in a place where love for one another is not fostered,

Which is a hatred allowed to run loosely in this world—with insufficient penalty).

We move just as the slaves we are

Of Time, of Times, des temps, et les circonstances—

the circumstances of the world

in which we were birthed.

“Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay

To change your day of youth to sullied night.”

Bright days of adolescence have been darkened quickly with

The masses of screens and expectations built by generations past

Turning all people of flesh and bones into

cold mechanical robots with eyes transfixed

Lifelessly, submissively; they are

Everyday robots in control; mechanical puppets

in the process of being sold.

Bones and bodies

meant to be built for strength, creativity, and

The self-governed pursuit of authentic happiness and fulfilment—autonomy—

They exist here,

Only to give in quickly to the strings of society’s puppeteering.

Cold hands and sinister smiles look down on them,

“Danse pour moi, mes petites marionnettes!”

Lifelessly, submissively,

they dance.

“Danse pour moi, mes petites marionnettes!”

IV. Surfacing

She was sinking back into the dream,

But she felt awake;

She was in control.

The dark room felt cold,

But the light on the frosted glass drew her in;

She walked forward.

She touched the glass and immediately felt

Its warmth that spread—not only to her hands—

But filling her head and her chest and she felt

An enlightenment;

The glass shattered,

she danced, she danced

She walked through it,

she danced, she danced

and she smiled

she danced, she danced.

Imposter Syndrome

By Tatiana Bogdanov

There’s something strangely dehumanizing about staring at a beige locker, ass aching as you sit on a cold, waxed tile floor.

Your bag sits beside you, dirty from all the bus floors and classroom floors, heavy from the textbooks.

All you can do is sit and stare.

What’s the point of it all?

At the same time, it’s like you’re all too cold and all too hot, the sleeves of your sweater don’t reach far enough to cover your hands.

A science textbook lays strewn on the floor, a clutter of information that’ll make its way to your brain only for you to forget, and relearn it all when you need it the second time.

People mill around.

People talk, they laugh, they work and work all around you and seem to be unbothered by thoughts and feelings.

Other people sit on the floor beside you, and they’re intensely focused on their phones. They’re alone, but they’re not alone.

Mouth agape, you don’t notice;

you don’t feel exactly free, you’re bound by deadlines and friends and perhaps boyfriends or girlfriends;

obligations to talk and fill up empty space, and feel the anxiety bubble up when they don’t do the same.

Are you too taxing on other people?

Underneath your feet, the ground is ungrounding.

You wear fashionable shoes, yet they feel unnatural.

Something plays over the announcements,

but the din of the crowd lulls you into a sense of somewhat security, so you ignore it.

There’s at least one notification on your phone where somebody left you on read.

You yourself have left at least five notifications on read.

The anxiety still stirs somewhere within you, “what did I do wrong? Do you not want this relationship anymore? Is this it?”

Thoughts play on a film reel in your brain, the same pictures you’ve seen thousands of times in a variety of different places.

Nerves feel quite frayed, to be quite honest.

Who has time for all of these feelings? All these emotions that make life just that much more complicated; what if you could just detach?

Without anything to distract you, without anything to numb the pain of apprehension, it’s all maybe a little too much.

Never enough to tell a person, to seek out a helping hand, a friendly face, a hug. Oh no, that would never happen.

But it’s always just a little too much too handle.

Perhaps it’s the dissociation from what’s a paranoid idea, a good thought, and a nightmare-fueled jolt in bed.

Maybe it’s the way you forget the meetings, the events, the things you have to do, in favour of not having to think about them right then.  

Possibly, it’s the way you can sleep for twelve hours and wake up exhausted;

or maybe it’s the countless nights you can barely sleep at all.

And if you’re being really honest, you’ve stopped caring about taking care of yourself. You load your backpack with the world,

and carry it on your shoulders even though that’s a one-way ticket to back problems.

You have chips and ice cream for dinner,

not particularly caring about the calorie count or the sodium or the sugar.

You stray away from food for days,

stomach too full with something indescribable.

You were once good.

You were once a force.

The golden kid, with the bright future, the passionate voice, the eyes full of hope and dreams.

You were someone.

You loved the little things.

The excited tingle in your fingertips when you saw your ferns on your desk.

The smile of someone that wasn’t too bad themselves.

The deep seated satisfaction of doing well on that really hard project.

The shiver when that good chord hits.

Now.
Now you’re a shell.

Now you’re unrecognizable to yourself.

The drive has driven away.

What is this?

Who are you?

Who are you really?

A fraud?

An imposter?

You say you’re good at things, but are you?

Oh, you’ve lost your touch.

Where is the golden kid hiding?

Wouldn’t it be great to be an asparagus fern?

By Tatiana Bogdanov

Wouldn’t it be great to be an asparagus fern?

To sit on someone’s windowsill and grow and taste the sun and be watered as soon as your soil is dry?

You don’t have to think, you just do.

You won’t spend time with writer’s block, sitting at a computer

Mashing meaningless words into a google doc to find the order you like them in

Flipping through songs so fast you barely hear the melody, looking for the one that’ll inspire you

You won’t spin around in a chair, fiddling with a pen and then folding up a star shaped sticky note

Looking at the random shopping bag on your bed, or the unflipped calendar on your door

You won’t fiddle around with the wire of your headphones and wonder why you’re not outside

You won’t have ten tabs open on your laptop, one for each different thought you had

You won’t spend time reading the poem so far that you have out loud, hoping that you get to read it to people, in an awkward turn of events

You won’t restart ten times because you want to write a different thing, each one more and more cliche

Making you question why anyone tells you, “you write good”

You won’t run your hands through your greasy hair, mostly because you don’t have hair or hands,

Because you’re getting a headache from the staleish air inside

You won’t bounce, or try to bounce, the hockey ball that you have,

The one that you didn’t shoot up the garage roof

You won’t have to have writer’s block, causing all of this

Writer’s block when you’re feeling happy no less, which makes writing hard

Cause you can’t do teen angst

But then again, you’d be called an asparagus fern, though you don’t grow asparagus,

Which is lame,

And your most prized possession would be “pot”

And not the kind that makes you high

And all you’d do is sit, and watch the time go by,

As your owner gets their thoughts out,

No matter how much they wish they were more impactful and meaningful and deep and world-changing,

Maybe about crime? Or sex? Or love?

Or bringing light to an issue that they take close to heart?

But, nah.

They have to go with the thoughts that are positive,

That feel as positive as they do right now,

That feel like sun warming skin.

Because the assignment is due Monday, and they have diddly-squat

Maybe it’d be nice to be an asparagus fern.

With it’s feathery leaves.

Calm.

You’d get to be a graceful, delicate little plant.

Poised.

It’s a good deal.

But then again, you wouldn’t get to cry or laugh or shout or scream or tear your hair out or sing your heart out

You wouldn’t get to be so frustrated you have tears in your eyes and so anxious they spill over, you wouldn’t get to be so loved, no matter how wacko your owner is with you, the asparagus fern

You wouldn’t get to travel the world, or stay right at home, or kiss anyone, or touch anyone (even though they might touch you, which will give them dermatitis), or feel the burn of a good run

You wouldn’t get to do anything really, but taste the sun, and take in water.

So maybe we should just aspire to be like the asparagus fern, for now.

Creative Writing: Scorn

By Justin Shapiro

I – HIS WRATH
For years he walked the ides of the free, turned
to ashes by the men of yield, slayed
by killers without names, the spawns of Tempter.
Riddled theirs minds of disease and plague, dawn marked a day of their nightmare.
Leave now, he said, Anne our children we will meet, sacred
lands become dirt with fields of their blood.
The children lay dead in the streets of the village,
masked men watched over with arms.
They will toss carcass from windows, he said,
Zu Shenatir would lie proud.
Fourteen children, a fortnight of death, from the depths he rose again.
The Wolf of Bedburg feasts on flesh, staining the stones below the tavern.
Peter darling, where is our son? What has happened to our son?
The night grew old, he whispered so faint.
The boy has brains, only a fool would ignore.
The man followed a voice of a soulless being,
then centuries ahead they would go.
A woman hanged from the branches, swayed
in the wind far above, past the dirt roads in the centre of Rome.
Six hundred stiff, and Tofana to blame, what a woman to come of this crime.
Throw stones at her feet, they watched as she bled, suffered much worse
than poison she passed.
It was no colder than a sword, deep in her sheath,
death was unkind but certain in time.
Killed those hated, and the error was clear, hanged in the streets
in the centre of Rome. The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his greed was beyond this realm.
II – HIS GREED
Morning sparked like the gold on his dresser, filled
with riches not shared or earned.
Undeserved, now marked with a cross, the night was a crimson sky.
Crassus would have burned in the village for rent,
with a light turned the tides of war.
Parthia brought him riches, and his greed would arrive, he was struck with a feeling of haste.
Soon came his death and the end of all wealth, seized
from Valhalla, tasted the sweetness of bliss.
Buried far below, in the fourth circle of Hell.
Inferno once protected by his screech, foul cries,
Virgil, he spoke so wisely of his pain.
His words can be heard by mortals in hades.

Papé Satàn, papé Satàn aleppe.
He sang the words from the void, a cloud, the youth of the abyss rung loud.
Arose Sixtus IV, faceless to lords.
A lie, a toxin, the vermin of men.
Taxed brothels, a fraud of an untrue paradise, hiraeth cried from the souls.
Sent to the Centre he was condemned for the ultimate,
the worst of all sins defined.
Roads of stone and marble, stacked
in rows beyond the walls of castles, sieged
by armies of deformed. Bodies blackened, skin spotted and foul,
spread from town, they feasted with pests of waste.
Farewell, they said, burning the dead, darkness leaked from the orifice.
The only hell lives on Earth, where smoke burns of skin.
Children born with marks,
Red stars of flame, born
With only sorrow, and pain would follow their words.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his memoir was beyond this realm.
III – HIS MEMOIR
A cold night was alone, a ring in the sky, burned
holes of pain and their terror, marked
with flames in cosmos where the hounds would cry, blinded
the towns of horrors to come. Came for men with blades, sent
for the woman soon after, the town was watched by the gods. A bolt struck
his chest, the ground blackened with ash, his eyes shed light through the clouds.
Dare to defy my supremacy,
Dare to mock my creation, dominated
this world as I have, I have laid eyes on aversion much worse.
My bolt will cleanse the hatred, deep within your heart,
it will melt away your flesh and bone beside the cross of gore. All sin within, all blood and ache,
you are blessed with more than mercy.
The Titans, they clashed in the skies, the wars raged on above.
Never show them mercy, until this faithful day,
where the immortal disobeyed his nature.
Seas turned to blood, and oceans to bones, Virgil
will lead the soldiers of shade.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his love was beyond this realm.

IV – HIS LOVE
Her eyes spoke with pain, her lips cried of grief.
She was fair, and spoke songs of love.
Her breath shapes the tides, her face, a spell to
all men who lay eyes. Throwing swords for a glimpse at her locks of polished gold,
men fought wars for a place at her side.
I cry to you my love, he said,
your beauty is far beyond the tales,
far beyond the songs and paintings, farther
than the heavens above. Past Olympus,
the walls of your birth, my eyes see past your unparalleled beauty.
The nine muses are not worthy of the eyes bestowed,
upon your face, your body, an immortal façade.
You mock my descendants, the immortal divinity? She spoke so true.
No mockery in my word, only admiration for your cause,
he answered, only passion in his heart.
Come to me my son, and a son you are,
nothing more or less, one must live with desire.
Your love for me, another feather on my wings,
another man to aid in flight.
I will walk through the gates of hell for you, he said,
past the Hydra, its heads eternal like my love.
Your greatness, a place at your side, a greater blessing than life itself.
You speak with kind words, yet your actions deceive.
Travel to the depths, where dusk burns through dawn.
Speak to the man with the head of flames,
his eyes, obscure, bloodshot with agony.
My son, only hatred you will find,
your belongings worth no more than the dirt you walk.
Your swords, but a spike in his foot, leave them here with a watchful eye.
I am far from a servant, he cried, yet my love will endure.
I will confront the spirit,
for I am nothing but a shell, born
with an everlasting flame.
I am no less than this evil you speak.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his trial was beyond this realm.

V – HIS TRIAL
Merriment over screams of terror,
flesh melts from their skin, blackened and grey.
Condemned for the defiance, rooted deep within their bones, temptations
ignored by none.
Ghostly lights swarm the skies of dead marked stars, red
figures of hate gloom beneath scorched earth.
The cries of innocence, insane sense of sanity, those
who accept their fate, bleed in warmth.
A ship of flames floats beyond seas of ash,
into rivers of infection and waste.
He stepped towards the gate of blood and stone.
You come so soon, whispered ever so faint.
Does pain stimulate your essence, my friend?
For I am the essence of pain, for that there is wealth, I am certain of it and all.
Open the gates for a man of courage, let me gaze upon his face.
Only a man, no sword or dagger, do you mock an immortal being?
Mockery is not a craft I partake; I am here for a message of truth, he said.
The figure sat in a throne of limbs.
A divine one spoke of your presence, she told
stories of your pain, your power and will.
My will and power?
Defined in a class so black and white, do
you mistake me for a mortal man?
The figure stepped from his throne.
There is hatred in your mind,
you must enter what is left of mine.
Your pain, but a fraction, the ice above water.
The truth is what you seek, so be it.
Kneel before me, only then, it be told.
I will not kneel, not now, not ever for a spirit of hate, he said.
Never for a spirit of suffrage, a troubled
soul of immortality, beset by its existence.
He stepped away, towards the gate.
I have seen the truth, what it is that you fear.
A soul filled with pain, freed by death,
yet you are immortal and sealed for all.
Trapped in your nightmare, an eternity of pain, cursed with the absence of death.
Eyes red with fury,
the spirit, struck with anger, it vanished into the flames.
The man had seen the age, he
searched for the bridge, his fate was beyond this realm.

VI – HIS FATE
Pain of no truth,
hate with no cause.
The answer was clear,
his glass once shattered.
A dagger to the heart, the blow of death,
a dark entity, with the unfortunate gift.
Death, in that he is blessed.
His hatred, immortal, body a vessel of age.
Only death cures the broken, destroyed,
what burns inside, every breath that enters,
every word that exists, regret any and all of his days.
He has met the divine, seen the night far below,
those who are cursed in their diamond skin, the immortal.
All living dead.
It is the dead who live,
barbed arrows stick from their heart, unable to bleed.
It is his wrath that acts,
greed who speaks,
love that guides.
It remains in death, and in that he was certain,
then brushed his heart with a silver blade.

Creative Writing: Sweet Rosemary

By Lana Glozic

Rosemary frowned all too much.
Rosemary clenched her jaw
Awake to aching pains at night
Rosemary, whose boiling temper
Waged a war inside her brain
Octavian vying for the throne
***
“Mother,” I ask, “Why is there blood
In that bag of flesh? In the ice box
It looks so pale.” She says,
“There’s always blood when it thaws.”
It’s always been this way.”
She serves it with plum sauce.
We ignore its time at the butcher’s.
***
And so to honor King Kennedy,
They forgot that human kind
Was built on war and grapeshot;
It looks ugly on a young girl.
The doctors set her under
A pale white light softly whirring
To pay sweet Bassanio’s debt.
The scalpel descended. They asked

Her to count to ten, mowing the Capitoline
Into a lovely green pasture
Where stood a medieval neighborhood.
***
In its place they dropped a frothy white wedding cake
For all the town to watch and gasp. La dentiera.
But when they begged the doctors,
“Oh, do let us in! What’s inside!”
Gloves scrunched in their hands
They said “There is nothing, nothing, nothing,
Only a doll face.” And Rosemary laid there
With half the crumbling ancients and
Half a set of false pearly teeth.
The quadriga heels to a sky
That does not answer.
***
“O my son Absalom, my son
My son, Absalom! Would God
I had died for thee, O Absalom,
My son, my son!”
Her head was caught in
The boughs of an olive tree.

The Number Three: A Poem & Short Story

By Vanessa Ifepe

In three days, I realized three things.

I hate the number three, I’m impulsive,

and I might have loved him.

Only two things out of those three things are relevant to us.

On the third day of school, I saw him but, of course, he never saw me. I wanted him to.

In the third period, the only seat left was the one next to me and he sat in it. He said hi to me and after three awful minutes, I replied. If I could go back to that moment, I would have kept my eyes straight ahead and thanked myself later.

At 3:00 pm, three weeks later, my mom called saying she suddenly couldn’t pick me up and luckily, he was there. He offered to drive me home.

I still, to this day, don’t know what compelled me to accept his offer.

After thirty minutes of driving in utter silence while both of us pretended to be focused on the road, he finally took a deep breath and asked for my number. For some god-awful reason I still can’t identify, I gave it to him.

At 3:00 am, after three hours of what seemed to feel like a timeless phone call, he said he needed to get to know every part of me. I told him he was the third boy to ever say that.

On our third date, we laughed, and I had this feeling that he wouldn’t have a hard time tearing down every layer of me until I was completely vulnerable.

Unfortunately, I was right.

After three months of playful flirting and signs that I didn’t quite know how to read, he asked me to be his.

I remember feeling like the happiest girl in the world and without a second thought, I nodded in acceptance. In that moment, it felt like I finally had something that would last forever, something that no one could take away from me.

This time, I was wrong.

Three months go by, and he started acting distant. The three-hour timeless conversations turned into thirty minutes of dead space where all I had to make sure he was on the other line was his breathing. But that became enough because I was lucky if he even bothered to answer the phone. In the third period, the greetings stopped, and soon he moved his seat. After school, my mom had to start picking me up again.

He chose that girl I told him to stay away from to be his lab partner because he thought I was just paranoid. We went three weeks with no contact and that included eye contact until he finally texted me the two words that would shatter my heart.

“I’m sorry.”

I knew what that meant.

On July 3rd, I saw him at a party with her, and he didn’t see me.

Just like on the third day of school. From anyone on the outside, it would have looked like things had always been that way, but the truth was, it had been so much more than I could even explain.

For three days I was a drunken mess.

I was awake for three hours at most, tossing and turning when I wrote and deleted desperate texts I wanted to send him.

When the tears had dried, I settled on one simple message. “I hate the number three.”

– Seen at 3:05 am.