Archive for January, 2011

Virus, by Samantha Bielicki

You are the virus,
You hacked your way in,
Burrowed into my brain
and soaked through my skin.

Now you’re nearly everywhere,
Tugging at my heart and soul,
But for the first time in a while
I’m starting to feel whole.

Am I wrong to feel this way,
Or are they wrong to judge?
For some reason with you near,
I float rather than trudge.

I know I’m better off without you.
I could pull a match and strike it.
I’ll admit, you’re bad for me,
But I’ll also admit, I like it.

That Girl, by Samantha Bielicki

That Girl

She’s the girl too sad to cry,
Too down to shed a single tear.
She just holds it all inside
Locked away with fear.

She’s the girl too scared to scream,
Too terrified to yell
So she’ll just bite her lip,
Hold her tongue, and she won’t tell.

She’s the girl too mad to care,
Too angry to give attention.
So she’ll keep it to herself
And not give it a mention.

She’s the girl that goes unnoticed,
You probably look right past her.
She looks fine from the outside,
But inside she’s a disaster.

Samantha Bielicki

Facebook Bullies, by Serina Moreland

I used to think of myself as a connoisseur of being bullied. Being the youngest of three, I was often the target of little attacks, such as butter in the hair while I washed it, or tacks in my favorite seat when it was time for dinner. Sometimes, I even drank soda laced with a huge amount of salt and pepper, or even had to cut strands of my hair off because gum had been stuck inside my winter hat. Bullying helped shaped me into who I am: a person who understands and cares for others when they’re feeling pressure from home or school, and one who vowed to raise her children to respect one another and to not hurt each other. They would be all they have in the world after I have left it. Love would keep them together, not guilt or memories that were not so fond because all they did was fight.

There are times when I wish bullying was non-existent, but if not for bullying, I would have never became close friends with Suzie. Suzie was a very pretty girl, abnormally so. She had long, blonde hair, and she always took care of herself. She was popular, but always found time to spend with me and all of the other people who really weren’t as high on the totem pole as she was. Imagine being popular in college; it was a feat, but Suzie pulled it off while still remaining humble.

I remember the time when she first signed up for Facebook. She and I sat down, figuring out our profiles, adding each other as friends almost immediately. We checked and looked for others of our rag-tag crew, and if they weren’t signed up, we made them. It wasn’t like twisting an arm, they were happy to. And to be honest, it was a fun time in my internet life.

Since Suzie was popular and beautiful, random people would add her, and she would accept with no problem. Her friends became my friends, and it trickled down the ladder as such. We also gained friends by playing games, joining groups that we had interests in, and eventually we branched off. There were things that I liked that Suzie did not and vice versa. It was like that with all of us.

Eventually we lost touch. Suzie had too much going on in her life to try to hold a social life as well. She had her overload of classes, a side job to help with the bills at her house which she enjoyed, a boyfriend whom she adored and whom she actually met through the social networking site. Every now and then she would call me to say, “Look at my post! It’s pretty darn funny!” Or “Hey girl, did you see what he said about me on my wall? I love him so much!” I was happy because she was happy. We had that type of friendship that we no longer needed to keep in touch.

Only a few months before she had called me crying. Her boyfriend, the one whom she loved, met a girl from that same circle of friends that we all shared. She was worried that they had done something with each other, and she begged me to look at his profile page.

“Just look at what he wrote to her. Tell me if you think that it’s suspicious,” Suzie cried.

I couldn’t help but agree, not only because she was my friend, but because she was right. Later I found out that Suzie gave him an ultimatum. Remove the girl, clear out your facebook account, or leave. And he did so, no question.

It may seem that I am confessing about a relationship that worked, and that there were no problems to this, but that’s wrong. No more than a week passed when she called me once again, crying.

“Girl, look at my page. Did you see with that girl wrote?”

I looked at her page and saw the foul language written there, and the gang of others who had joined in on the bickering. The bickering went back and forth, a few of Suzie’s friends, and a few of the strange woman’s friends. All tangled in a web of hate over a guy’s love for Suzie.

“Please say something on that post. Just so that I know you’re on my side,” Suzie pleaded.

“But I am on your side, Suzie. I just don’t know what to say,” I told her, and I was honest. I couldn’t say anything to those people.

“What type of friend are you? All you have to do is post one little stupid comment,” Suzie said.

“No, Suzie, I’m pretty busy, can I call you back?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, and hung up immediately.

I had a mind to apologize, but I didn’t want to get tangled into that mess. It was a disaster from the start, but I didn’t know it at the time.

Suzie and I hadn’t spoken for a month before she called me, and when she did, she sounded so tired. She told me that she and the guy had broken up, and that he went with the other girl, the girl who was on her page, yelling at her. I told her that I was sorry, but she wouldn’t hear any of it. She tried her best to sound strong, and told me that she didn’t need him anyway. He was no good and a cheater. I gave her praise when I should have given her a shoulder.

Not too long after that phone call, I decided to actually check out my Facebook account to look at her page. Something had urged me to. I saw everything that was written there. The cursing, the profanities, the rumors, the way the girl and her friends continued to hound Suzie even though the ringleader had gotten what she wanted. Suzie never commented, but everyone else did. Some took up for Suzie, the others laughed and pointed, some joined in on the Suzie bashing.

I called her immediately and asked her why she didn’t say anything. But she was too busy to talk but wanted to see me later. I allowed her to hang up the phone without so much of a protest.
It couldn’t have been any more than two hours later when she called me, crying profusely.

“Did you see what he put on my wall?” She asked. My heart dropped as I heard her. This cry was worse; it felt like the end of the world.

“No, let me look.” And look I did. I would be a cruel friend if I repeated what I saw on her page. But when I saw it, I cried but I did not dare let Suzie hear me. “Oh my god,” was all I could utter.

Suzie continued to cry, she couldn’t speak. I couldn’t speak. She just cried. After a few minutes, she hung up the phone without another word. I didn’t bother to call her back; I didn’t bother to visit. I just sat and watched the comments build and build underneath her ex-boyfriends post.

There is nothing that I regret more than hanging up the phone and not getting up and out of my chair to go and see Suzie because I received a call in the morning that she had taken her life. There were a few notes, notes addressed to me and her parents, and a few other people who I can’t mention.
She said to me, “Thank you for being a friend, I love you.”

I remember breaking down in tears as I had read it. What kind of friend was I who didn’t tell her what she should have done? If I could rewind time, we would have done things differently. We could have kept our social networking site to our little circle of friends because some friends do grow apart and wonder. We could have ignored the whole thing and gotten rid of those who caused us pain with their words. I could have hugged her more. And I could have been there for her. And I could have told her that no matter what they said about her and to her, she was beautiful.

I thought myself to be a connoisseur of being bullied. It was too bad that I couldn’t help one person important enough to me cope.

Caught in the Spotlight, by Tyana King

Two Poems, by Nicholas Whitehead

A Dream I Had One Night
I can feel it
From the deepest pit
Of my guts
My darkest frustration
With everything
every damn thing
My biased-for-me place
This thing
begins to boil
heats my center
And begins to rumble
Vibrating my core
I can feel it claw
Tearing out of my throat
A scream of such magnitude
Everything in the world becomes silent
Everyone, everything around me
Fades slowly into whiteness
Only I am left
And now my voice is gone

Weighted Down
She writhes in my arms
And wets my t-shirt
With her angry tears
Staring with frustrated eyes
Demanding that I know
That I realize
How obvious her need is
For her it is so crystal
So perfectly apparent
And yet why do I continue doing the wrong thing
How could you believe I’m hungry?
You just changed me
Put me down
Pick me up
Carry me over there
Make things better
One by one I go down the list
Console, console, console
Hold, walk, swing
Feed, change, play
Futile, all of it
So along we go
I try, she cries
Hours pass
After one hundred years
She goes heavy
Twice what she weighed before
Today was a rough one
Intense is the frustration
Of not knowing how to fix
Doubly so
Is the thought of such powerful love
Such affection without bound

The Mother Hens, by Gena Silgen

Just like the mother hens corralling their little chicks to safety, we cautiously led our line of preschoolers through an important rite of passage: a visit to the pumpkin farm. “Don’t run away from the group!” “Stay away from the back of that animal.” “Don’t step in that pile of…. Oh, no!” There we were, a gaggle of moms, pecking orders and clucking rules.

And then there was William’s dad. Instead of his mother, William’s father had volunteered to tag along with his son on that crisp autumn outing. A child to chase, a farm to explore, and a pumpkin to hunt had sounded like an easy respite from a fast-paced adult work day. But little did he know that we’d be hunting for more than just pumpkins that day.

Away we went, on a hay wagon pulled by a tractor through fields and forests to the back of the farm in search of the perfect orange treasure. “I found one!” “But mine is too heavy to carry all by myself!” “Can we go back now? I’m hungry.” We loaded our pumpkins into the wagon and started back towards the barn. William’s father, however, had a different plan. Itching for adventure, he waved the group on and told us that he would like stray from the flock for awhile to caper in the fields with his son.
Back at the barn, just as each mom hovered over her hungry chick with a snack, William’s dad casually arrived. “Did William come back with someone here?” he inquired. The moms exchanged glances and slowly shook their heads. “Not a big deal,” he responded. “I’ll go back and locate him.” A few minutes passed, and this time William’s dad returned with a more worried expression. “I think that I need to ask for help. I can’t find him.”

Like skilled military soldiers, the moms sprang to action. A few were chosen to stay behind with the nest of chirping preschoolers. Another group of us dashed out to the fields and began calling the missing boy’s name. “William!” we crowed by the horses; but no response. “William!” we bellowed by the farm equipment; but, again, no response. “William!” we cried by the other school groups, but still no response.

And then I remembered a youngster’s favorite game: hide-n-seek. By us loudly seeking William, we were perpetuating his innocent hiding. So I tried a different call: “William, your daddy really misses you.” To this, a distant reply, “I right here.”

I gasped. My heart pounded in my chest. My feet pounded the ground. I called again, “William, your daddy really misses you.” And, again, the anticipated reply, “I said… I right here.” I darted toward the little voice. I had discovered our missing boy! A chicken coop, with a confused-looking hen and a dirt floor, had been safely harboring the curious child.

I ducked into the small shelter, scooped him up, and raced back out to exclaim, “I’ve got him! I’ve got him!” Hearing my excitement from across the farm, William’s father flew over to meet us as the other moms jumped in unison, flapping and clapping their hands. With his little one tucked safely under his wing and a huge wave of relief, he looked around at all of the moms and uttered his first thought: “Please… don’t tell my wife!” His request was returned with a collective all-knowing grin from the mother hens. William, and William’s dad, had definitely learned their lesson.

Sunday Morning, by Donna J. Sreckovic

Norma Exferd walked into St. John’s Lutheran Church in Townsend, Wisconsin, holding her Bible. St. John’s was the church of which her husband had been treasurer, and where some of her six children were married, baptized, or eulogized. Many smiling faces greeted her. Everyone in town knew her or was related to someone who knew her. She was my grandma.
She took her usual place in the first pew on the right side and set down her rarely-used tan handbag, a handbag which usually held nothing more than a once shiny gold compact, some folded Kleenex and a pen from the Suring State Bank. Her long gray hair looked like cotton candy pulled up into a bun, and it was held in place with two tortoise shell combs that framed her deeply creased face. She wore her Sunday best—a light-green, knee-length dress with white polka dots and a matching jacket that had three-quarter sleeves. Grandma’s only jewelry was her thin gold wedding band, a Timex watch, and a rhinestone brooch. Support stockings and tan orthopedic shoes from a mail-order catalogue completed her outfit. Townsend was unincorporated then and didn’t offer much for shopping.
Quiet chatter surrounded her, and she felt at peace. She had lived a hard life. Growing up poor on a farm and raising a family of six on a farm, Grandma always made do. She was full of grace. She admired the beautiful wood carving of the Last Supper displayed below the pulpit—the one she had donated several years earlier in memory of her beloved husband, Hank. She never complained of the pain from a hump on her upper back—especially painful when sitting in a wooden pew.
Looking down at her wrinkled and age-spotted hands folded in prayer atop her matching well-worn King James Bible with dog-eared pages, Grandma drifted back in time.
Her clear, blue eyes welled up with tears as she reminisced about all those who had left her. She always accepted God’s plan. Then she smiled with pride, counting in her still-sharp mind five surviving children, seventeen grandchildren, thirty-four great grandchildren, and seven great great grandchildren. She marveled at the technological changes she had witnessed over the past ninety-six years, from the classic Model A and Model T cars that used to be stored in a shabby wooden shed to the light blue Ford pick-up truck that only Grandpa drove.
Rich organ music resonated throughout the simple church–“I Know That My Redeemer Lives” brought Grandma back to the present. She picked up a hymnal, turned to page two hundred and sixty-four and began to sing. Her heart sang too, and she praised God for another Sunday morning.

A Simple Man, by Tyana King

It all started about twenty-one years ago, at an army base in sleepy Imperial Beach, California. There was a small, serious man named Carrol (yes, Carrol) James Kloster who helped build fighter planes, but always dreamed of being a baker. He went by the name of Jim for obvious reasons. He grew up on a farm in Minnesota and was raised by a hard-working German couple who barely spoke a word of English. He met a young woman named Janice Marie King, a loud, outspoken woman with two young boys name Ronnie and Kevin. She joined the army at the age of 18 to get away from her strict southern mother, who believed the only proper career for a woman was that of a full-time wife and mother. Her second husband, Ronnie Harrell, was horribly abusive. She was on the run, and Jim Kloster was happy to be her knight in shining armor. He had just gone through a nasty and bitter divorce and had full custody of his teenage children, one girl and one boy, Julie and Andrew. Jim and Janice fell in love. When Janice got pregnant, they tried to make it work, but Jim didn’t want to raise another baby at the age of 55. Janice moved to Milwaukee to care for her dying brother, confident that she could raise her three children—Kevin, Ronnie, and Tyana on her own. This is the story I heard all of my life.

Growing up I always wanted to meet my father. I fantasized about him swooping in and taking care of me, about living in California and about living a care-free, privileged life. I fantasized about not worrying about money or dealing with my mother’s crazy mood swings and outbursts. I fantasized that, if only he were given the chance to know me, he would be enamored, that I would be his golden girl, and that we would be a father-daughter team the likes of which the world has never known. I fantasized that some day he would come to his senses and rescue his long lost daughter from the horror he had left her in. I waited a long time for that day—until I became a teenager. After 13 years of waiting, I was pisssed off at everyone, really, but especially at my father—that low down snake in the grass who abandoned me, and who I imagined was living it up somewhere in California. He used to send me a birthday card every year, and every year it had a crisp 20 dollar bill in it. My mom would take me to Toys ‘R’ Us and I could get whatever I wanted. But eventually the cards stopped coming. I wondered if he had forgotten about me, if he had a new family that he was showering with love and crisp 20 dollar bills. I imagined a young girl my age who had my ideal life and my father on the other side of the country. I blamed him for everything that was wrong with my life.

When we arrived in San Diego International Airport, I felt sick to my stomach. Suddenly, I couldn’t remember all the things I’d rehearsed in my head to say to him. My tongue felt glued to the bottom of my mouth. I thought that upon seeing him, I would explode with emotions. I thought something might be triggered, informing me that, yes, this is your father. He is connected to you. I thought I would at the very least recognize him. I thought I would feel something. But, after stepping off the plane and seeing this short, stern man with leathery skin, all my built-up emotions vanished. In its place was curiosity. Was this the mythical man I had seen in my dreams? This was him? Looking back on it now, I can’t help but chuckle a little.

The first day consisted mostly of small talk. No one wanted break the thin ice that existed between me and father. My father was nearly 70 years old, and his mental sharpness was wavering. His wife, who was a bubbly, six-foot tall Dutch woman, explained he’d had a stroke years back and his brain never quite recovered. Often when you spoke to him you had to say things twice. He thrived on routine. Every morning, he ate a breakfast of potato bread toast, two poached eggs and a seemingly bottomless mug of black coffee. As he ate his sensible breakfast on their outdoor deck, he’d work on the daily crossword until he was satisfied it was complete and correct. Then he would hop on his bicycle and ride for two hours, stopping only once to visit a coffee shop where the staff knew his name and his order by heart. It was hard for me to believe that this incredibly ordinary man was the same man I had demonized for so long.

One day, my father told me about his parents. He told me that up until they passed a year ago, he used to visit them every summer in his RV. This seemingly charming piece of information made me explode. I wondered why he’d never stopped to visit me. I couldn’t believe that we were in the same state at the same time on so many occasions. Suddenly the distance was no longer regional. He just plain didn’t think about me too much, except on Christmas and my birthday when Sharon reminded him to mail his yearly cards. I told him how his absence had hurt me, how volatile my mother had been while off her medication we could no longer afford, how my step-father only spoke to me to yell at me. I said some things I didn’t even mean. My tongue was no longer glued to my mouth. Once I started I couldn’t stop. He stared at me with a concerned look on his face.

Finally, he said, “I had no idea your life was so difficult. I thought your mother had it under control. I thought she had married a good man. I didn’t want to interfere.” Somehow, this answer was enough for me. He was simply following his routine. He was not the type of person to reach out to a child thousands of miles away if he thought everything was okay. He was not the warm, loving father I’d always imagined when I was a child; he was not the cold, distant millionaire I’d created as a teenager. He was just a man. An old, simple man who liked predictability and routine. He liked to follow a plan. I was never part of his plan, so I never became part of his routine.

Staring out the window of my father’s tan Chevy pick-up truck, I felt a sense of calm and relief. I was returning to Milwaukee. For the first time in my life, I knew who I was. I no longer fantasized about this glorious life I could’ve have with my father if my parents had only stayed together. I was no longer split in half-one black, one white. I was not my mother’s daughter or my father’s daughter. Finally, I was a whole person. Although my father could never give me the relationship I’d always wanted, meeting him brought new meaning to my life.

A Canvas of Silence, by Donald H. Schambow

A canvas of silence

holds hostage the frozen tundra.

Cosmic lamps twinkle in the galaxies.

Planets chase their ethereal peers.

Giant pines cast shimmering shadows.

Migrating moon illuminates

a nocturnal doe, silhouetted.

Survival of the Fittest, by Dennis Wiedenhoeft

         Much goes unnoticed in the city. The citizenry is conditioned to block acknowledgement of litter in the gutters, and packed into the sewer grates; creating stagnant pools of water, shimmering prismatic colors from the oil-patina. They never look down the alleys at overflowing refuse cascading down the sides of large dumpsters. They don’t want to think about the byproduct of consumption, but this isn’t why they don’t look into these recesses. If they did look, they might see the life forms that have taken advantage of these places, or be forced to witness someone requiring help. He depends on this.

            During the hours of activity, the alleys provide him refuge. At these times, he sleeps or hides, waiting. He knows this is not his time; someone may see him, take notice, take action, and prevent him from pursuing his need. The need is all he has and all he wants to fulfill. He doesn’t know where it comes from, or why it’s there. He only knows the pain and distress of not slaking it. The need is life, all-consuming. In the past, he tried to go without answering its incessant call; it almost killed him.

            A part of him used to wonder why the need must be served, but it has been a long time since he has had these thoughts. This voice is mostly lost, along with the recollections of a carefree time that he spent with his brothers and sisters, when he understood a part of family and togetherness.

            While he waits, such thoughts almost eclipse his consciousness, but the need manifests in a pang, knotting his guts, focusing him on the future when it will be his time: The nighttime.

The night, with its long inky shadows, is his need’s accomplice. The city grows quiet; activity slows to a crawl. Only the rare cab or solitary vehicle travels the streets. The homeless become more active, and so does his prey. A few late workers, and bar hags and hounds can always be found out and about.

            He looks out from his hiding place with the daylight waning. He sees a corona of light from the setting sun above one of the rooftops, and knows it won’t be long before it begins. Another pang roils through his guts and demands tribute.

            After the sensation passes, but before the time is right, he wonders why the need must exist. Why is it so powerful? He often thinks this is all he is, all he is reduced to, the slave of need. Often, he loathes himself, and what he must do to suppress the need. There never seems to be an end to its desire. The only respite is the exaltation during the act and the brief period afterward. It always returns, demanding, wanting, craving.

            It is time, and before the need can resume its urging, he sets out. He moves along the sides of buildings in the darkest shadows. It feels good to move after the long day of waiting. He feels the grace in his motion. He is aware of the silence of his passage and the perfection of his stealth. He approaches the corners of the buildings, searching. No opportunity has presented itself, but he is not discouraged. The time will come.

            Then he sees her. He halts all motion and just observes. He has found that even without the aid of its hearing or sight, his prey can have an uncanny sense of his presence, and he does not want to lose this chance. She is by a corner of the building, just slightly in the alley looking out toward the street. She has not reacted to his presence in any way. To be safe, he waits a bit longer, and watches.

            In the most fundamental sense, he loves his victims; without them, he would be destroyed by the need. He admires the sheen of her brown hair. He inhales through his nose and believes he can ascertain the musky scent of her life-force passed on the breeze. He shivers in the rapture of anticipation. She is not the most comely of specimens, but there is a subtle beauty to her short limbs and up-turned nose. She will serve the purpose.

            He moves forward, and his stealth fails him with a rare mistake. He kicked a small pebble from the loose blacktop. After rolling a short distance, the pebble produces a couple of slight tinkles of sound; they sound to him as loud as drops of rain on a tin roof. He looks to her, gauging any reaction. Her head has risen and is inclined toward the alley. He imagines that she is trying to guess if she really heard anything. She resumes her vigil, observing the street. He cannot discern her purpose for being here and doesn’t try.

            The unaccustomed faux pas has awakened the need, which demands he take action. He charges forward. He comes up behind her, and before reaching her, withdraws the stilettos. He is very practiced with these instruments; they are extensions of his hands, and he fears no mistake. At the last second, she becomes aware of him and tries to move. It is too late; the first stiletto sinks into her lower back, not a perfect strike because of her attempt to flee, but enough to snag and stun her. The second one impales her neck and will surely kill her in time. He hopes that she doesn’t die too quickly for that can defuse some of the pleasure.

            With his weapons still in her flesh, he drags her deeper into the alley, where he can finish with less chance of being noticed. Now, more comfortable with the setting, he goes to work. Holding her with the one weapon in her back, he withdraws the other from her neck. Her heart sprays a pump of arterial blood out of the hole, and he knows he must be quick. He prefers to have the time to play with and humiliate his prey, but that won’t be an option here. He uses his freed weapon to rend a great gash down her belly. Before her insides can spill out, he shoves his face into the wound.

            He bites into the still living organs. There are many satisfying pops as his teeth pierce the cellular casings of the organs. The blood still pumps and soaks the spaces of the removed anatomy and marinates the remaining tissues. The need inundates the roar of the blood in his ears, but now it carries a message of bliss and contentment, not pain and discomfort. He consumes until there is nothing desirable left. He looks at the husk of the thing he devoured; it is hardly a vestige of what it once was.

            The receding bliss of fulfilling the need leaves him empty. The need is gone; the bliss is gone. All that remains is awareness that he is not proud; it’s not pity; it’s not regret, just a vague lack of understanding the necessity in this action. He returns to his skulking knowing that it won’t be long before it’s back, demanding its tribute, and whether he likes it, or not, he will answer its call.

            He goes on, and the city goes on. No one notices his actions or the carnage they leave behind. All are focused on their need and are too busy paying homage to it. The time passes, and he grows old and frail. One night on the hunt, he realizes that he is being hunted when a more able predator sinks its teeth into him. Even facing his death, he is ambivalent, because it will end his need. Still, the city and life move on without out him, never aware of the passage of this solitary alley cat.