Political Animals

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Noah Keates

Listen to this populist politician sticking it to the rich: “[T]hough they abuse their wealth in every possible method, they cannot, with the utmost efforts, exhaust it.  While for us there is poverty at home, debts abroad; our present circumstance is bad, our prospects much worse.”

No, it’s not Bernie Sanders. It’s Lucius Sergius Catiline campaigning in the Roman consular election of 63 B.C.

Cicero denounces Catline. Cicero denounces Catline.

In politics, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Those running for office are always looking for what they think are weaknesses in their opponents, and that’s why we hear so much about Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, Donald Trump’s casino dealings, and so on. It was just the same in ancient Rome, right down to the sex scandal. Catiline himself was accused of an unholy dalliance with one of the Vestal Virgins.

But it’s also true that today’s politicians could learn a thing or two from the ancients.

For a start, there was far less passive-aggressive hypocrisy.  In place of the snide pot shots we hear nowadays, such as Donald Trump criticizing Carly Fiorina’s facial appearance, we had Cicero, the great Roman orator, informing Catiline that he was “the root and seed of all evil” and that he intended to “rid the world of the disease of a man that he was.”  Maybe this unadulterated directness would be healthy for our 2016 election; a taste of Roman-style banter would certainly spice up the current race.

Certain contenders have already warmed to the idea of resorting to Roman rhetoric, notably Ted Cruz who stood before the Senate recently and delivered nearly word-for-word one of Cicero’s most famous speeches against his rival Catiline, with slight pronoun modifications to instead attack our current president.

Will quoting of the great Roman orators improve the discourse of our current political arena? I doubt it. The great leaders of the Roman republic, such as Sulla, Cicero, and Caesar, felt a freedom to confidently speak their minds on all matters of the state.  Political leaders led their followers through audacious and inspiring speeches that came from the heart.

Our modern-day candidates pale by comparison. Today it is the parties that mold the candidates, with each presidential contender desperately attempting to be perceived as the ideal Democrat or Republican.  Perhaps in this respect Donald Trump has channeled at least some of the positive influences of Roman politicians simply in his boldness to say whatever he wants, however off the mark these comments tend to be.

This epidemic of modern politicians losing their personal identity to assume the identity of their party connects fairly directly to the problems plaguing our government today.  It is certainly difficult to find national pride behind men and women who struggle to even piece together their own personal points of view. Where Rome was able to construct the greatest empire in history on the shoulders of individualistic men striving to pursue their own agenda, the success of the U.S. falls to 435 representatives, 100 senators, and one president each trying to navigate his or her way into the good graces of the party—not to mention the lobbyists.  While a multi-continental empire may not be a healthy end goal for our nation, a bit of Roman directness and audacity from our politicians would certainly be a welcome change.

Noah Keates is a senior at Bancroft School, Worcester, Massachusetts.  His interests are history and politics, especially concerning Europe, and he hopes to study political science in college.

Photo credit: ROMAN SENATE: CATILINE. – Cicero denounces Catiline (c108-62 B.C.) in the Senate. Line engraving, 19th century.. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 6 Jan 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1676740/1/140_1676740/cite

Journal Offers $1,000 Prize

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

The Worcester Journal announces the establishment of the Not Man Apart Award for writing published in the Journal concerning the relationship between our planet and humankind. The prize of $1,000 will be awarded from time to time to a Worcester Journal author who, in the opinion of the editors, has produced memorable and insightful writing on this subject.

The purpose of the award is to encourage the young writers for whom the Journal was created to consider the natural environment–our approach to, use of, and duty toward it, how we are both connected to and separated from the natural world,  and what we should take from it and what return. Writers may approach the subject through journalism, fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, photography, or art.

The phrase “not man apart” is taken from the poem “The Answer” by Robinson Jeffers. The poem is a consideration of how an understanding of the organic wholeness of nature can be a comfort and a strength in an imperfect world. We seek from submissions the passion and authenticity of the poem, not imitations of it.

We are deeply grateful to the continuing generosity of the Judy and Tony King Foundation.


Dad’s Haircut

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Joshua Lampert

Hulton Archive / Archive Photos / Getty Images / Universal Images Group

Hulton Archive / Archive Photos / Getty Images / Universal Images Group


Sundown. I’m wearing a short-sleeved shirt, and the October breeze whips the bare skin of my arms, I’m playing with a friend on on the patio of his house. Mom’s outside in her car, honking the horn. I’m eight years old, and I just keep playing. Soon, the clanking knocks on the door and doorbell chimes interrupt our game. “Donna’s salon in thirty minutes,” she says. “We’ll be there in forty if we’re lucky with this traffic.

 We arrive without my once asking, “Are we there yet?” It’s late.  The autumn crescent moon and the luminescent lettering of the salon’s name above the overhead awning are the only diminutive sources of light that struggle to illuminate theblack sky. The stained-glass door pushes opens right to left onto a warm-colored hair salon, and my eyes inevitably wander towards the only occupied chair.

 To my surprise, I recognize my father’s Pierce Brosnan type hair. Letting go of mom’s hand, I eagerly swerve through the chairs in the waiting area and run to my father, who stares into the mirror, patiently awaiting a haircut. I immediately wipe the “good to see you” kiss off my forehead and I scoot my way onto the neighboring seat. My eight-year-old torso sinks into the soft cushion of the pitch-black barber chair. Mom rifles through her pocket book for a pack of tissues. She fumbles with the packet until it opens. She keeps the tissues on her lap, resting on her cross-folded legs.

 Donna the hairdresser reaches into her drawer, grabbing the buzzers instead of scissors. A mistake? Quiet, pinned against my chair, I watch my father swallow his saliva and grip the cold, metal handles of the chair. Donna purposefully  plugs the clippers into the outlet and turns them on. They inch toward my father’s head. My jaw has dropped. I crack a smile. I have never seen my father with any other hairstyle, never mind a buzz cut. I begin to laugh; my mom cries. 

 When I was eight years old, my mother and I went to the salon. We watched as Donna shaved my father’s head and his Pierce Brosnan hair fell to the floor. I had no idea that I was witnessing the beginning of my dad’s journey into a ten-year battle with cancer.

1Joshua Lampert is a senior at Bancroft School., Worcester, Massachusetts, and plans to attend Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, in the fall.

Photo credit: Barber Shop. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 4 Jan 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/115_2835844/1/115_2835844/cite

Dublin Diary

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Jason Boulay

Dublin has successfully woven a thread connecting her turbulent past with the celebration of her present. Modernization has transformed this once strife-torn city into a vibrant metropolis rivaling the romance of Paris and the spectacle of Rome. A cosmopolitan city alive with prosperity, an inviting warmth, and a rich tradition, she openly embraces her darkest hours in addition to her  poise and beauty. An increase in tourism has contributed to the economic boost Ireland has enjoyed over the past decade. Dubliners have welcomed the influx of new visitors, sharing with their guests Dublin’s unique culture, trendy shops, and above all, Irish charm.

Statue of James Joyce, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland,/ Roy Rainford / Robert Harding World Imagery / Universal Images Group

Statue of James Joyce, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland,/ Roy Rainford / Robert Harding World Imagery / Universal Images Group

I visited this spectacular city during St. Patrick’s Day week, 2012. Dublin was as welcoming as she was secretive; her famous landmarks were both filled with beauty and cloaked in tragedy. It was humbling to walk the same streets, and patronize the same pubs, as some of literature’s greatest voices. Although Ireland’s capital city offers many wonderful experiences, the most rewarding for me are those that combine the beauty of modern Dublin, her literary contributions, and her troubling past.


“And this is where Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford said their wedding vows,” the teen-aged tour guide informs us. He offers this information begrudgingly, as if he were saying, “Welcome to McDonalds, may I take your order please?”  

Joseph Plunkett / Wikimedia Commons

Joseph Plunkett / Wikimedia Commons

              Plunkett's cell / Jason Boulay

              Plunkett’s cell / Jason Boulay

If the novelty of the Irish brogue and its cadences had passed, I very well may have felt insulted at paying nearly ten Euros (about $11) per ticket to tour Dublin’s infamous prison, Kilmainham Gaol.  

Our group takes turns peering into Plunkett’s seven-foot by nine-foot jail cell through a small hole in the doors.  The iron door is chipped and pocked, and its heavy sliding lock has been frozen in place by decades of neglect.

We are on the ground floor of the three-tiered prison. Iron spiral staircases are located on both sides of the cellblock. They allow for quick access to all levels, while also adding a touch of architectural beauty. The dome shaped ceiling amplifies our voices, just as it once echoed the cries of the inmates.  

As we walk along a cold, dimly lit corridor, the lights flicker. The walls are a faded granite-grey and made of individual stones cobbled tightly together. We pass through a small doorway and out into the damp March air.

Place of execution for Plunkett and other leaders of the Easter Rising / Jason Bouolay

Place of execution for Plunkett and other leaders of the Easter Rising / Jason Bouolay

The setting sun creates pink tones and warm orange hues that shimmer against the dreary clouds. The sun dips below the mountainous crescent shaped wall that surrounds us. From a distance, the wall appears to be a single slab of stone. As we get closer, the eroding contours of each block, welded together by the passing of time, become clearly visible.

The guide speaks up again. “Within seven hours of the joyful marriage ceremony Joseph Plunkett was executed by firing squad for his part in the Easter Rising of 1916,” he said. “He died right here.” He points down at the densely packed earth.

He continues: “He was one of fourteen political prisoners executed for their participation in the rebellion. The first, executed in the wee morning hours of May 3, 1916. The last, in the late afternoon of May 12, 1916.” He still seems to be  contemptuous of his work.

The place where these fourteen men looked up to the cloudy Irish sky for the last time, exhaling their final breaths for Ireland’s independence, is marked with a small black cross. An aged bronze plaque lists their names and dates of execution.


Joseph Plunkett was once a ranking member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, a group considered terrorists by the authorities.

Now, Irish citizens, and tourists alike pass through Joseph Plunkett Train Station during their daily travels through Waterford City, an hour south of Dublin.

The train’s window frames the picturesque emerald landscape as the locomotive chugs up dew-kissed hillsides and down lush country slopes. Flocks of white sheep graze. They show little interest in the large train that shakes the earth below their hooves. They are simply content with the limitless supply of damp grass that God has bestowed upon the Irish countryside.  


I walk along the streets that frame the Liffey. The moonlight glistens off her tranquil waters. Lovers walk hand in hand admiring her beauty, as they must have since time immemorial.

Temple Bar, Dublin, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland (Eire), Europe/Sergio Pitamitz / Robert Harding World Imagery / Universal Images Group

Temple Bar, Dublin, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland (Eire), Europe/Sergio Pitamitz / Robert Harding World Imagery / Universal Images Group

I turn down a cobble-stoned road and into the Temple Bar District. The narrow sidewalks, full of tourists snapping pictures, are alive with accents and languages from around the globe. Aromas of food and drinkt fill the night air as the crowds pack the restaurants and pubs. Street performers play traditional Irish music as onlookers celebrate the Irish night with laughter and dance.


Reportedly, the Duke public house was a favorite of  Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. Its facade s a work of art. Gold accents stand in contrast against its black exterior walls and matching awning. Lush plants crowd the flower-boxes outside the second-story windows. Their leaves, stems, and flowers spill over, hanging down just enough to partially cover the sign’s gilded lettering that reads, THE DUKE.

Walking through the narrow door and into the large barroom, I’m ushered into an era long since passed. Rich mahogany covers the walls, ceiling, benches, and bar. Supple leather wraps the stools and fireplace chairs. Legendary Irish Playwright  George Bernard Shaw is said to have once danced on these floors.

In the far corner, across from the empty stage, a couple sits in a dark bot lost in conversation. The six round-top tables lined against the windows are filled with small groups of strangers. After several rounds of ale, and perhaps a few whiskeys, the strangers will become one large group of friends.  I pull out a bar stool and settle into its soft, well-worn leather cushion. Seated next to me is a stocky gentleman whose feet, far from touching the floor, dangle in the open space between the bar and the hardwoods.  He adjusts his gray houndstooth Paddy cap and motions for me to lean in. He tells me an animated tale in a heavy Irish accent, of which I understand less than half. I listen politely, laugh, and order a pint of Guinness.

The bartender pulls a pint glass from the mahogany shelf and slides it under the black tap. He slowly pulls the tap handle, allowing the dark Irish stout to pour—only stopping the flow briefly to let the foam settle. Placing a silver pouring spoon over the mouth of the glass, he once again pulls the handle. The thick Guinness hits the spoon, smoothly running off until the liquid is level with the rim. After letting it sit for a moment to develop a head, he slides the pint across the bar. With a slight nod,I take a sip, silently toasting to Oscar Wilde’s loyal Swallow and the lead heart that would not melt.

Jason Boulay is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan from 2002-2003 as a military police officer, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. He is a senior at Bryant University, in Smithfield, Rhode Island, RI, double majoring in political science and communication, and minoring in management.

Photo credits: Statue of James Joyce, Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland, Eire. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 6 Jan 2016. 

Temple Bar, Dublin, County Dublin, Republic of Ireland (Eire), Europe. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 6 Jan 2016. 

Of a Man Drinking Wine

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Thomas Matthews


Young Man Drinking ,Bartolome Esteban Murillo (Attributed) National Gallery, London

Young Man Drinking ,Bartolome Esteban Murillo (Attributed) National Gallery, London

He drank wine all night of the 6th, and kept thinking of her: freckled flesh, her lovely black dress, a combination stronger than any wine he ever drank. He thought of her smell and became lightheaded.

Drinking straight from the bottle like the winos do, he heard her laugh and the hairs on his arms stood up as a chill went spiraling down his back. He shook his body in an attempt to rid himself of these intruding thoughts. He took a swig. He remembered the nights she drank wine, always red, and he heard a saxophone’s cry come creeping through his open window like a gust of wind from the street below. He remembered the nights they danced together in a close embrace. He got up and grabbed a box of matches, lit a candle on his desk, watched the flame dance for a moment and, as the wax slowly melted, emitting no scent, finished his bottle of wine.

“Don’t leave it lit,” a voice called out.

He licked his thumb and put it to the wick, suffocating the flame, walked over to his rickety bed, climbed inside, and slept alone.

Contributing Editor, Thomas Matthews, is a Senior at Clark University where he majors in English, specializing in Creative Writing and Journalism. 

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Photo credit: Young Man Drinking. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 4 Jan 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/107_3351221/1/107_3351221/cite

Lost and Found and Lost

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Akriti Sharma

Boxer puppy. Andrew J. Martinez / Photo Researchers / Universal Images Group

Boxer puppy. Andrew J. Martinez / Photo Researchers / Universal Images Group

My brother and I were beside ourselves with excitement when the local dog kennel called to say our Boxer puppy was ready for his new home.  Eager and impatient, we pleaded with our parents that they take us with them to go pick him up. My younger brother, Karan, was ready almost instantly, loading the car with toys and the dog basket we’d gotten to make sure everything was perfect for our puppy’s arrival.

My mother drove us through the narrow, winding streets of Kathmandu, expertly avoiding the countless motorbikes that wended their way through the traffic and the children and stray dogs that came running onto the street without warning. My brother sat beside me and went over the names he had in mind, not quite sure which one he liked best. Rex? Bruno? Or the staple name for a dog in Nepal, no matter what breed: Kaleh. He crossed off names from an imaginary list on his palm. “This is hard,” he said, “I want his name to be unique.” When we finally got our puppy twenty minutes later, Karan took one good look at our new family member and settled with the oh- so- original name for a Boxer puppy, ‘Tyson’.

Tyson was the youngest member of our family of 13, counting my parents, me, my brother, our four-year-old German Shepherd, Lucky, five fish, and two turtles.  My parents claimed that our house was one lizard away from a zoo.

Tyson was a brat, cheerfully indulging in the pastimes of eating, chewing, sleeping, and pooping whenever and wherever he felt the need. He bullied Lucky terribly, but Lucky did nothing about it. Tyson never sat on the ground, always preferring the softness of Lucky’s tail. When Lucky tried to get some sleep, Tyson would paw at him and yelp until he woke up.

One day, Tyson went missing. We roamed the streets calling out his name, over and over again, into the dead of night. For a week, we searched in vain. I posted flyers around our neighborhood, offering a reward to anyone who found our beloved pup. A month passed. My brother sat by his window at night, calling his name, straining to hear a response. He’d  asleep with his cheek pressed up against the cold window pane.

One Sunday morning, my mother got a phone call from a young child with an American accent. In one breathless sentence he explained that he had seen our flyer at the local bakery and noticed that the dog was peculiarly identical to the new boxer pup his gardener had “adopted.”  In a couple of minutes his mother took the phone from him and apologized for her son’s impatience. My mother spoke to her for a good fifteen minutes before she hung up.  She had a broad smile on her face as she turned to me. “Go get your brother,” she said, “and let’s bring his darling back home.”

Amazingly, the address was only seven houses away from our house. I passed it everyday on my way to school. My brother had stood before it countless times crying out Tyson’s name.

I rang the doorbell and was greeted by a middle-aged woman and a young boy, not much older than my brother, clinging to her waist. He pushed past his mother. “My mom asked me to get croissants this morning and I went with grandma but then I saw the picture of your dog and I knew it was him so I told grandma we had to come home quick and then”–he paused, drew in a deep breath–“I came running home and I forgot to get mom’s croissants! I called you because if anything happened to my dogs, Layla and Rose, I’d be very, very sad,”

The mother explained how their live-in-gardener had brought home an adorable puppy six weeks ago. He said that he was going to resell him. He was becoming too much of a hassle because of all his eating, chewing, pooping and relentless yelping. She turned to my mother. “I knew something was a bit off about that, he didn’t even have an answer when I asked him which kennel he got the pup from.”

In their garden were two beautiful female dogs, a Golden Retriever and a cream Labrador. Posed perfectly between them, sitting on both of their tails, was our brat.  He was bigger, but looked the same. He perked up when he saw us and stared for a while, inching towards us. My brother could barely contain himself. He ran and simultaneously flung himself onto Tyson, who, in quick response, somehow managed to do the same. The other two dogs began barking, creating quite a ruckus.

My parents told me when I was younger that if you are determined to find something you really want, you’re bound to get it. At that point, it didn’t matter if it was my brother’s cries and prayers that got us our puppy back or just the kind-heartedness of another curious child, because our family was finally complete again. All thirteen members of our little zoo.


About a year later, I was in the kitchen pretending to help my mother as she fussed over dinner. She asked me to call my brother in, but I found the front lawn deserted. I stared at the wide open gate and got the sick feeling that something was wrong.  I heard my brother scream, followed by a high-pitched howling.  I found them both two blocks from my house in the middle of the street.  The dimming yellow light emitted by the dying streetlight revealed a bloody body pulling into itself as it convulsed in pain. Our neighbors were on the street now, pushing to get a closer look.

I don’t know how I managed to pick up an injured dog and a crying brother, and walk home, but I did it somehow.  

Tyson was paralyzed. About a month later, we put him  to sleep.

Akriti Sharma is a senior at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts, majoring in Economics. She grew up in Kathmandu, Nepal, and has been volunteering many years. She loves books and dogs, and she greatly misses her two German Shepherds back home.


Photo credit: Boxer puppy. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 16 Dec 2015. http://quest.eb.com/search/139_1914154/1/139_1914154/cite


A Brutal Kind of Leaving

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16





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by Lana Bella



tufts of wool,

red signals amid blue whims

of careless fingers,

she is a moving trajectory

holding on to my hand,

on the roads I’ve walked many miles

staring into men’s eyes,

bemused at their sadness,


PICASSO: LES DESMOISELLES. - Pablo Picasso: Study for Demoiselles d'Avignon. Watercolor, 1907. The Granger Collection / Universal Images Group

PICASSO: LES DESMOISELLES. – Pablo Picasso: Study for Demoiselles d’Avignon. Watercolor, 1907. The Granger Collection / Universal Images Group

her hands, 

holding the tea cup now,

avoiding the lipstick trail splaying 

to disappointment,

her lips, 

careful to sift through

the loose tea leaves and tepid water,

giving pause where

the weight of sighs is chained

to the bottom like anchors,


clicks of joints announce

her clumsy push from the table,

I turn back,

fastening still to the length of her city,

but it seems I am looking 

to a distant place 

where all past recedes to,


old souls float near each other

as if asleep, pale, dark faces,

all beautifully shaped,

exploded like dandelion plumes in wind,

and yet,

I am no longer welcome there,

for the woman I love most is wearing all

the bodies I left behind–

Lana Bella has published in many literary journals and has a chapbook forthcoming from Crisis Chronicles Press. She divides her time between the USA and the coastal town of Nha Trang, Vietnam. As a Featured Writer, she is willing to correspond with poets seeking advice on matters related to writing and publishing. She may be reached at lana.bella@rocketmail.com.


Photo credit: PICASSO: LES DESMOISELLES. – Pablo Picasso: Study for Demoiselles d’Avignon. Watercolor, 1907.. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 16 Dec 2015.  http://quest.eb.com/search/140_1646718/1/140_1646718/cite

Thrity Umrigar’s The Weight of Heaven

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Sahar Jaafar Al-Keshwan

Frank and Ellie, Indian immigrants to America, are shattered when they lose their child to a sudden illness. They return to India, where they believe that they will find healing and consolation.  However, they have great difficulty surviving in and re-assimilating into the culture of India. In America, theysuffered discrimination, but in India they are faced with a culture shock that makes them question their own identities. Thrity Umrigar’s novel The Weight of Heaven (HarperCollins, 2009), delves into the complicated world of people who feel like immigrants in their own country.

When Frank gets a job managing a factory, he thinks that he will help improve the villagers’ lives. But he is challenged by, and eventually comes to hate, the culture of the town. The Indians around him, meanwhile, dream of America as the land of promises and opportunities. Frank knows that America is not what they imagine, but he is helpless convincing them otherwise. As a result, Frank “finds himself floundering in a country that seems increasingly foreign to him.” He feels that he has more in common with the American soldiers in Iraq, who also think that they are coming to another country to save its culture and life, but who end up with a “contempt and hatred for a culture they had come to save but was destroying them.”

Ellie also suffers from a clash with Indian culture. She volunteers as a therapist for women “trapped in a cycle of violence,” hoping that she can improve their lives. She had envisioned a bright and exotic life in India, while the truth was that the Indians suffered and struggled to earn their bread. “What could she ask these women to do?” wonders Ellie. “Go to the gym to combat depression? Take Prozac when they could barely afford wheat for their bread?” Ellie thinks that her experience in America could help the Indian villagers in her home country, but the Indians do not appreciate her purpose and dream of going to America, as it represents India’s “suitor” for them.

One reviewer, Sandip Roy, says, “Umrigar does not provide pat answers. Instead, to her great credit, she presents India, not as some passive, helpless victim, but as its own agent, smiling at its rich American suitors and manipulating them at the same time.”

The reader might consider the theme of this novel to be the cultural and psychological clash between two cultures. However, Umrigar also implies that, like Frank and Elie, Americans invade other countries under the guise of offering assistance. Indeed, this happens to Frank and Ellie, who are both victims of American colonialism. They emigrate to America to seek a better life, then return after their son dies to recover and heal, but again they fail. Their loss of their son could represent the loss of their identities, which they can find neither in America nor in India.

Umrigar also successfully shows the conflict suffered by Asian Americans when they return home. They are haunted by their culture and their memories of their home countries, but they are also haunted by their newly adopted culture in America.


Sahar Jaafar teaches English in Baghdad and is pursuing a Ph.D. in American Literature.



Keep Listening

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Mohamed Ali Elmaola


Motorway toll booths. TRL LTD./SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Universal Images Group

Motorway toll booths. TRL LTD./SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Universal Images Group

I know you know the routine too.
The glass shield mechanically regresses to its hidden holster.

You give me your price.
I silently complain.

I pay you regardless.
I pay you for your pleasure-less act of passive passage.

No smiles where there is no joy,
No words when there is no time,
No eyes when there is no person.

I grunt as I lunge forward.
You sigh as you take it in.
I give.
You press.

Our hands meet.
And the enchanted exchange has ended.

There lies no love
In your purely constant and repetitive business.

you transiently turn,
To the next customer,
My begging, soulless successor,
That awaits his turn at the toll booth.

Mohamed Ali Elmaola is a sophomore studying Psychology at Clark University, Worcester, Mass. He is also the owner and co-founder of the Worcester Soccer House, a program that offers free soccer clinics to young people.

Photo credit: Motorway toll boothsEncyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015.

What the World Could Be

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Kayla Zenk






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Masks Created by Tomea Fiorenzo, Italy, Cortina d'Ampezzo (Belluno), Private collection/Mondadori Electa / Learning Pictures / Universal Images Group

Masks Created by Tomea Fiorenzo, Italy, Cortina d’Ampezzo (Belluno), Private collection/Mondadori Electa / Learning Pictures / Universal Images Group

What if

we could all


our insecurities.

                 What are you hiding from?


There is love to be.


 Are like a blockade.

Take them down.

Or will we ever


that point.


        Will it ever be?

 Or have we forgotten

 what is most important,

what it is

we are here for.


              I’m trying

         to show you.

Kayla Zenk is an English major at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass.

Photo credit: Masks Created by Tomea Fiorenzo. Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 16 Dec 2015. http://quest.eb.com/search/135_1589003/1/135_1589003/cite

In the Forest

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16
Mist rising above the Searsburg Reservoir, in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont, in fall.

Mist rising above the Searsburg Reservoir, in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont, in fall.

by Emma R. Collins

The silence of dawn hung on the wisp of a fragile breath. The cool of the night, wet and heavy with a slow, steady rain, sank into emerald moss as though to quench a great thirst that had hollowed the earth. The water in the air settled with dense wings around her body. She lay supine in a small hollow. The world was cast in grays, hanging, suspended between time. Tendrils of ether that promised something whispered blurred the crossroads between heaven and hell. The darkness of a jade so deep it was endless slipped between the black, soaking trees. The slightest drip, drip, drip stilled the world with a gentle metronome.


Sam took in a long, slow breath. The earth was in her skin, the water in her hair. She sank down deep into the forest’s bosom. She was a petrified lover stupefied and naked beneath her damp jeans and heavy jacket. A chill had settled deep in her bones, aching her joins with sweet motionlessness. For hours she lay there, still.

Eyes wide open.

Thoughts of blood and the smell of animal singed her memory. The nausea she had once felt was now a thrill, a hunger deep in the pit of a barren stomach. She shivered in the atoms of her being to think of the kill she would take today, in the hours before the sun’s still birth. The grays began to creep, ailing into shades of gossamer white that turned the watered blacks to sleek slate.

Her heart was steady. The rifle nestled into her shoulder was as solid as the world she gripped. Her hands were numb, but they were poised to the hair trigger of an instinct. Her eyes flickered and, as the forest woke, Sam felt it all in the core of her spine. Soon, she would know it in every hidden place of her body.

She stepped into the small depression where once a river had run to sip at the sweet, pure trickle of the rain-swollen creek. She was small and lean, with a long, elegant neck. Her eyes were as black and smooth as river stones nestled in fertile mud. The rain had mussed her auburn coat and Sam could imagine where the small fawn that would never be would nestle into its mother’s softly rising side.

The doe dipped her head to drink. Further down, her herd materialized like memories from the wet underbrush. Sam inhaled, exhaled, and her wrist creaked as she readjusted her scope. She watched the large ears of the doe flicker this way and that, listening to birdsong and the water that drip, drip, dripped. Five in all, with a handsome buck. The doe moved to sip from a deeper pool and the smallest flicker of her tail flashed white.

The bang sent the deer wild. They scattered like leaves. Gone, like the ghosts they were, they left their sister to bleed. Sam bowed her head to the earth and trembled. It was a goliathan effort to rise to her feet after being one with the soil for so long. Her clothes weighed ten thousand pounds and she could feel rivets of water warmed from her body running down the inside of her thighs.

Her hands shaking, heart pounding, she shouldered the heavy black rifle with the handsome cherry wood stock. Her blood was alive and the wetness in the back of her mouth began to slick her tongue as she picked her way carefully to where the doe had dropped. Fifty yards and the blood smelled rich as it soaked into the earth.

Sam knelt to rest a hand on the still-warm shoulder. The small black hole that wept had punched through the heart, neat and clean. The doe’s lovely onyx eyes were still opened wide, staring now at a place Sam could not see. She settled her rifle and drew rope from her pack. The doe was smallShe tied it at the rear hooves and began to pull. Sam dragged the warm carcass from the small creek. With one end of her rope anchored by a small rock, she tossed it over a tree that suited her purpose and began to pull.

The sun had risen and the world was gray as though it meant to snow. The fog still moved in careful steps as it circled between the trees. It hung back with nervous witness as the sweet child of the wood was strung up to drain. Sam drew her large knife across the doe’s supple neck, quick and hard, just as she had been taught. The red-red water flowed sweet and heavy. The smell was toxic. Sam took a small breath and closed her eyes, her red-red knife held with white-white fingers.

Contributing Editor Emma R. Collins of Ashby, Massachusetts, studies English and Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and hopes to become a literary editor.

Photo credit: Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015.



Challenging Everest

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Emma Collins


High above the world stand the peaks of mighty mountains, beacons for humble humans to come and prove their strength, courage, and resilience. Humans are unable to turn away from Mother Nature’s challenges, driven by some unquenchable need to conquer and claim her. But in all her wild glory, she does not go quietly into that good night of submission.

Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak at nearly six miles above sea level (29,029 feet, up there with the cruising altitude of a commercial jet) has claimed more than 250 lives. In all her cold, barren, thin-air rapture the mountain attracts thrill-seekers from across the globe every year to risk their lives for glory. While most deaths are attributed to avalanche, such as the 2015 avalanche triggered by the 7.8 Nepali earthquake that claimed 22 lives on the mountain, many more were horrific climbing accident tragedies.

Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest chronicles the events that took place on May 10 and 11, 1996, when a freak blizzard struck the mountain while climbers were attempting to reach her summit.  The movie follows Adventure Consultants, a company that offers professional guides to take climbers to the peak. The commercialization of Everest’s summit is a controversial topic that continues to draw criticism today; the bodies of climbers who perished on the ascent still line the path to the summit. Rob Hall, played by Jason Clarke, first popularized guided Everest climbs and lead a team of climbers during the 1996 events. ) For those unfamiliar with the historic disaster, the following information may spoil the movie.)

Eight people perished in the blizzard, including Hall, whose body still remains on the mountain.  Adventure Consultants lost four clients. The movie tells a story of human error, survival, and loss.  For those willing to accept historical events being glamorized for Hollywood entertainment, Kormákur offers a stressful adventure that may often leave one feeling breathless with the thin air of impossible peaks.  The cast is well chosen, although at times there are lengthy scenes of excessive emotional examination that, while offering a heart-wrenching look into the events, can feel heavy handed.  The truth behind the story offers enough emotionally charged reality.

The movie’s portrayal of Everest shows beautiful, barren landscapes contrasted with lush and untamed wilderness, a contrast that underscores the foreignness of one of Earth’s most treacherous landscapes. Scenes of home life, specifically the domesticity of the family of climber Beck Weathers (played by Josh Brolin), help to articulate the almost familiar tone in which such a monumental tragedy is told. These were not strangers beyond the reach of mortal men: they were simple people with extraordinary dreams. Kormákur offers basic medical terminology to help articulate the impossibility of the human body at 30,000 feet, but it is through the sounds of labored breathing, pained cries, and frozen, half-dead stares that the challenge Everest is made plain.

While many specifics surrounding the climbers’ deaths may never be known, it is nonetheless heartbreaking to watch as those men and women, all seeking glory for different means, perish in the face of the unthinkable. Several aspects of the story Kormákur chooses to tell almost cause fury in the watcher, as some climbers die in the face of others’ ignorance. To go into this movie looking for a Sunday evening relaxation is to be foolishly misinformed of just what the story entails.

Entertaining? Yes.

Heartbreaking? Even more so.

Everest attempts to articulate something Hall himself died trying to instill in his climbers: respect the mountain. For in an instant, she can hurl you into oblivion.

Contributing Editor Emma R. Collins of Ashby, Massachusetts, studies English and Psychology at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and hopes to become a literary editor.


Why Maria Edgeworth Matters

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16

by Sean O’Rourke

Believe me, I know. A nineteenth- century novelist may not seem the sexiest subject in the world. But try this: think of Maria Edgeworth as a woman who attempted to exert her influence far beyond the boundaries that her patriarchal society had set for her, who worked in a rebellious and war-ravaged land, and whose own life was threatened by a massive uprising that would define political life in her country for the next century.

Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth

Edgeworth was a descendant of English settlers, long since integrated into Irish society,  known as the Anglo-Irish. These people were often Protestant and landholding, but they occupied a liminal space: they were neither entirely Irish, nor were they entirely English. This put her and her family in danger when the Irish rose up in 1798 and she was forced to flee her estate by oncoming rebels. She also became one of the most influential novelists of the early nineteenth century despite, or perhaps because, she was marginalized, both by her ethnicity and by her sex.

She certainly does not hold this influence today though. Writers like Dickens and Austen have stayed a part of our literary canon and continue to influence writers and readers. Edgeworth has fallen by the wayside.

Turn your mind then from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. Today we’re dealing with issues like sexism, xenophobia, and racism. Look at our election process. Look at how political careers are bolstered by these qualities. Look at how we allow ourselves to be divided even from people within our own country, by race, by religion, by politics, even by gender. We’ve seen many tragic instances recently of the desolation left in the wake of denying the basic humanity of our fellow human beings. In the light of viewing our broken world, I’m made even sadder by Edgeworth’s exclusion from our literary canon.

I challenge you to go to your local library and take out Edgeworth’s Ennui and read it. Look at how people in nineteenth century Ireland were divided by religious differences, by political differences, and by racial differences. See how women were excluded then as they often are now. And then look to see how much of these problems within the novel are caused by a stubborn refusal to communicate with one another as equals. In short, Maria Edgeworth identifies a lack of conversation in her society.

You see, Maria Edgeworth, since she was an Anglo-Irish landlord, was able to have conversations with a great many people: people of her own class, English people, and Irish people, tenants, and landlords. She conversed and from that found a philosophy of equality between English subjects and Irish subjects. She was not what we would now identify as an Irish nationalist, but she believed in equality for those oppressed subjects living under the crown.

Part of the problem with oppression is that it silences people. Many Irish were not allowed the power to converse in parliamentary debates because they were Catholic, or because they were not educated enough. In addition, since the Irish parliament in Dublin dissolved itself in 1801, there was no real political power in the hands of the native Irish and with Irish landlords. Religious, and economic differences also unofficially barred them from having many conversations with the Anglo-Irish and the English, especially due to the fact that many Irish people only spoke Irish, having never been taught English. Maria Edgeworth, however, through her book, is a champion of the conversation that was so repressed in this period.

In her book, the narrator travels to Ireland and has many conversations with other Anglo-Irish lords, with his native Irish tenants, and even with a loyal Scotsman who proves to be one of his greatest allies. These conversations lead him away from the philosophy of violent repression and towards a desire to educate his tenants and improve their lives and he only learns to do those by actually talking to them as equals. 

It seems a simple, perhaps even obvious solution to many systemic societal problems until you realize how little it actually happens. We are cloistered in our neighborhoods, in our jobs, in our college campuses. Our class system may be less obvious, but that does not make it any less damaging to those who get ignored and whose voices are silenced by our lacking the knowledge that having open and honest conversation could remove this silence. We could use a bit of education by Edgeworth.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that having the odd conversation with people you don’t usually talk to is going to end all violence and produce peace and harmony amongst all religions, nationalities, and economic classes. However, I think by seeing how Edgeworth uses conversations to overcome the boundaries, that we might be better able to deal with issues such as racism, sexism, and xenophobia more adequately, more peacefully, and more compassionately.

That has been one of the great joys of reading Edgeworth and reading in general. It’s one of those old ideas that your English teachers keep telling you over and over again: that what you’re reading is still relevant today. It’s one of those things we hear over and over again, take for granted, then fail to truly consider. With Edgeworth, the power, relevance, and potential application of literature becomes quite clear. This is what makes her so interesting and so incredibly important.

Sean O’Rourke is a senior at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Mass. As an English major, he is a part of the Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society and aspires to teach English at the collegiate level.

Photo credit: Portrait of Maria Edgeworth. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015. http://quest.eb.com/search/300_209998/1/300_209998/cite



Panic Button

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16
 Assunta Del Buono / John Birdsall MR / John Birdsall Social Issues Photo Library / Press Association Images / Universal Images Group

 Assunta Del Buono / John Birdsall MR / John Birdsall Social Issues Photo Library / Press Association Images / Universal Images Group

by A.J. Andrews


Mom fell off the bed today and fractured her distal humerus, commonly known as the elbow. A knock at the door in the early morning caused her to startle and jump. Doc says she’ll wear a ring fixator on her upper arm for the next couple months, or until the bone and soft tissue heal. Nothing major.

Mom’s at Brookdale Oceanside Senior Living Center near San Luis Obispo, where grassy knolls tempt drought and panic buttons rest around the wrists and necks and in the hands and bed stands of the aged and infirm. She should have moved to Brookdale eight years ago, when she had two back-to-back massive heart attacks. But she was too proud. It wasn’t until her cardiologist told her she was at high risk for another heart attack due to her 86 years and declining health that she conceded.

Upon reluctantly moving into Brookdale, she acceded to the reception of a panic button only if she could place it on her bed stand instead of around her neck or wrist.

The ergonomic panic button fit comfortably in her wrinkled and vascular right hand, the same hand that held mine and dissipated my insecurities as a child. I’ve imagined her last seconds in my mind more than once since I was a child, but I never imagined the panic button. Or the cat.

One morning at the door of her apartment, unit E7, she found a caring couple inquiring if the Siamese cat seen wandering about the Whispering Oaks section of Brookdale was hers. Apparently the cat had a fondness for E7, and had been seen loitering around the unit for several weeks. Perhaps a former owner had lived and died there.

Mom has an unfavorable history with cats, specifically the Siamese that belonged to her first husband, whom she married at the age of 15. Her husband hated women. He was a trainman, a stiff-haired miser, set in his ways. This was in Appalachia in the 1940’s, home to the good old C&O railroad, hauling coal with enough swingin’ dicks to shovel it.

His savings accrued compounded interest, and he amassed a moderate fortune. The Siamese cat, he felt, was his lucky charm.  He was a drinker and a fighter and an abuser. He was superstitious at home and a Christian when he went to jail. He and that cat were kindred souls in meanness, perhaps brothers in a former life. He told Mom he found it on the train. She liked neither of them. Mom considered cats feral animals who take and do not give.

One night back in Appalachia, alone, with waddling baby girls 11 months apart in age drifting off to sleep, and her stress slowly ebbing, Mom took a seat in the living room to spend an hour before the children’s father returned from work.

Sitting in her chair with an opened King James in her lap, she saw the curtains covering the closed transom window—which was about eight feet from where she sat—swaying. I can only explain what happened next as an acute stress response. On the babies’ father’s liquor shelf sat an antique crysta,l Irish-cut brandy decanter. She grasped it by its neck and swung and thrashed at the curtains until a couple or several or many resounding thunks and piercing shrieks prompted her to stop. With heart racing and mind following suit, she thought, “I got ‘im,” and the curtains ceased to sway

From the ledge of the window fell the cat, making a final thunk on the trampled-thin nylon carpeting below.

When the cat woke up it didn’t walk right. Pondering an explanation and dreading retribution, she remembered it was her husband’s night to go to the The Depot, a hole-in-the-wall for trainmen to congregate and drink and get a woman or two before they went home to the wife and kids. So she had a few hours to spare and some laudanum to calm her down and help her feign sleep before the creak of the door and stumble of work boots on the kitchen floor signaled his arrival. But in the drunken man’s stupor he wouldn’t notice anything different about the cat.




Back at Unit E7 in the Whispering Oaks section of Brookdale Oceanside, there was movement at the transom window was open a few inches. No breeze to note, but the curtain swayed. A Siamese cat put his svelte head in through the curtains first, and, not sensing danger, contorted herself in such a way that she slipped through the opening and proceeded to plant herself on the polyester-upholstered chair that sat beside the bed stand that held the panic button. Mom’s anxiety set in at the sight of the cat, her heart rate increased and the dreadful pain she at first attributed to her broken elbow spread to her chest and neck. The cat watched, licked its forequarters. The panic button beckoned, but was not pressed.

She looked at the cat tenderly, smiled, and went to sleep.


A.J. Andrews escaped Los Angeles to live in relative obscurity in Eastern Europe, where he milks goats, makes cheese and writes about challenges of human condition. This is his first piece of fiction.

Photo credit: Older People. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015.

A Taste for Tea

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16


Anna Liebling


I was never a tea person. Ever since I surreptitiously sipped my father’s iced coffee at the age of three, I have preferred the comforting smell of those oily, roasted beans. Tea can certainly be shared with a grandmother, and used as a sure remedy for a stomachache, but, in essence, all it consists of is hot water and some leaves. My apathy towards tea was exacerbated when my parents took my brother and me to live in India for three months to broaden our perspective and showing us that our comfortable, American way of life was not found everywhere. In India tea is as embedded in the culture as the bindi, that mark the foreheads of women.

For the first half of the trip, my family and I lived in the northernmost region of India in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains and stayed with a woman named Yaan Chen. Tea was made on her two-burner stove more times in a single day than I make my bed in a month. The first time Yaan Chen served me tea, carrying it on a tray, smiling, and saying, “Tea, Miss?,” I politely accepted, although I was not too keen on drinking it. Yet when that steaming cup of impossibly sweet chai slid down my throat, it was like drinking mother’s love in liquid form.

She served us tea several times a day, and for the first few days I enjoyed every hot, dense sip. However, after a week, I yearned for my familiar mug of coffee, and soon, even the sight of a teacup made me feel queasy. I accepted the chai anyway, because Yaan Chen had been so kind.

But one day, when Yaan Chen reverently bent over with her heavy tray of tea, I said, “No thank you. I’m really full.” Her smile faltered for only a moment, but it was enough to make me feel as if I had leveled a mortal blow. After repeated refusals, though, it became easier

Despite Yaan Chen’s struggle with English, she was able to communicate with us through her love and compassion. When I impertinently displayed my American teenage exasperation to my parents in front of her, she seemed to tacitly understand and never judged. On quiet nights, she invited my stepmother and me to cook dinner with her, showing us how to roll the flour for the chapati bread and pat it flat between our clumsy hands or how to fill the momo dumplings with just the right amount of vegetables. Yaan Chen laughed with us when our momos flopped over.

At mealtimes, she made sure that our plates were filled before she ate, and if she did not think that there would be enough for everyone, she would not eat, saying, “Oh, no thank you ma’am, not hungry.” Living with Yaan Chen showed me the virtue in being selfless and loving, peaceful and still.

At the end of two months, it was time for my family and me to continue our travels. On our last day with Yaan Chen, the air was filled with sadness. For the last time, our hostess prepared the tea. This time, when she offered her tray, I accepted with a sincere smile of gratitude for her many kindnesses. It was then, as I put the cup to my lips and drank, that it struck me that I genuinely regretted those weeks in which I had denied this drink, this ritual. I realized how much I would thirst for Yaan Chen’s steaming hot cup of chai, and even more, her omnipresent smile and the motherly affection that was steeped into every cup. Gratefully, I drank.

Anna Liebling is a former Clark University student now completing a degree in Environmental Studies at Naropa University, Boulder, Colo.

Photo credit: Tea. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015.

La Nevada/The Snowfall

Uncategorized, Winter 2015-16


by Anna Liebling


La Nevada


Mi anhelo por ti es como la nieve–

cae levemente, pero acumula cada momento

con la intención de quedarse un rato.

Me enfrías los huesos y los puntas de los dedos,

y me haces ansiar el calor de tu aliento,

que es visible en el aire frío y me recuerda a


                         Snow Covered Mountain Framed By Snow Covered Evergreen Trees Against A Blue Sky; Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

                         Snow Covered Mountain Framed By Snow Covered Evergreen Trees Against A Blue Sky; Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada


The Snowfall


My longing for you is like the snow-

it falls lightly, but accumulates every moment

with the intention of staying a while.

You chill my bones and my fingertips,

and make me crave the warmth of your breath,

which is visible in the cold air and reminds me

to exhale.


Anna Liebling is a former Clark University student now completing a degree in Environmental Studies at Naropa University, Boulder, Colo.

Photo credit: Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 14 Dec 2015.