Gay But Not Happy

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

By Diana Holiner

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Women Running on the Beach, Summer 1922./ De Agostini Picture Library / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Women Running on the Beach, Summer 1922./ De Agostini Picture Library / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


As a minority, you tend to look everywhere to see yourself represented. Whether it be in movies, books, TV shows, music, or life, there’s something comforting in knowing that you can see parts of yourself in others. It does get discouraging though, when all the people you look at are dying or unhappy. This is the struggle that queer girls and women face every time that we try to find a character that we can see ourselves in. Finding LGBTQ+ characters in today’s media is hard enough–in their most recent report on TV, GLAAD has reported that LGBTQ+ characters make up only 4.8% of the characters on broadcast TV–but finding ones that stay alive is becoming close to impossible.


Killing queer women has become so common that it has its own trope: Bury Your Gays. The trope Bury Your Gays goes back centuries, and is unfortunately still in full use today. TV Tropes ( describes the trope as one where “gay characters just aren’t allowed happy endings.” While it makes sense that in older works this might have been more prevalent–especially with lesbian pulp fiction where one author was told that the gay characters were not allowed happy endings–it seems like there is no need for it in 2016. Yet, turn on a TV and you will see lesbians dying left and right. When we look at our favorite queer women characters, they’re either getting shot by a stray bullet (Lexa, The 100), getting killed by guards (Poussey Washington, Orange is the New Black) or dying in car explosions (Nora and Mary Louise, The Vampire Diaries). And these deaths are just within the last year. It’s obvious that some queer characters will die, but the rate at which writers have been killing them off compared to straight characters is appalling. From the 1970s until now, there have been 162 deaths of queer female characters on TV, out of around 380 queer female characters altogether. That’s approximately 42%.


Many say that these characters were killed off for so-calledshock value, but the thing is, it’s not so shocking anymore. It’s normal. It’s common practice. A shocking thing would be to have a queer female character be alive, happy, and in a healthy relationship, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in TV at all. According to an article in Autostraddle, which studied queer women in fiction, 35% of shows have dead lesbian/bi female characters, and 84% of shows don’t give lesbian/bi female characters happy endings. We constantly see ourselves dying, being written off, or being heartbroken. While TV networks might pat themselves on the back for being progressive enough to include queer characters, all that progressiveness goes out the window when the writers and showrunners decide that they’ve had enough. It’s not progressive to show a lesbian character, hype her, bring in a huge LGBTQ+ audience, and then simply kill her off. It’s not progressive when we are only included to be killed. Some might say that at least we’re getting representation, but this representation does not befit us. It is time wewere given hope.


When first accepting that they are queer, a lot of queer youth will look to anything to see themselves represented, and it’s disheartening to know that queer youth will see their representations die. We see too much of white, cisgender, and straight characters on TV, when what we need to see are characters of color, transgender and nonbinary characters, and queer characters. It just might help those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. As Larry Wilmore said on the Nightly Show after the Orlando shooting, “unlike other minority groups in America, LGBT people aren’t born into a home or a family that shares their minority experience.” A majority of LGBTQ+ people can’t simply turn to their family for support, so they turn to fictional characters, but it’s a real kick in the face when we see all of these characters become neglected.


The message that TV show runners are giving queer women who are desperate to see themselves represented is that we can be gay in the sense of being queer but we cannot be gay in the sense of being happy.


Diana Holiner is 20 years old and is part of the Dynamy Internship Year program. She is originally from Dover, Massachusetts and is now living in Worcester. She interns at Worcester Magazine and the Worcester Journal. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, singing, and eating ice cream.

PHOTO CREDIT: France, Paris, Women Running on the Beach. Photopgraphy. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 25 Jan 2017.

Two Poems by Melissa Mason

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

You’re Innocent When You Dream


You look so innocent when you dream,

with the pale yellows and baby blues

swirling and caressing the curves of your head,

your neck,

your shoulders,

your hips,

gently comforting your busy mind.


Cool pillow absorbing your thoughts

and maybe your tears.

Your eyes flicker, your lips part,

roll over and your breathing slows.

Nothing can touch you.

Nothing can harm you.


You’re innocent when you dream.


Flowers - By Remizov, Alexei Mikhailovich / A. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts / Culture Images / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Products Only

Flowers – By Remizov, Alexei Mikhailovich / A. Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts / Culture Images / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Products Only

Stress Flowers



Eyes closed.

Deep breaths.

Drag and curve and dip.

Twisting grey lines

folding in on each other,

whispering across the page.

Their gentle pitter-patter

tickles your ears,

your hand gracefully guiding,

forming beauty only chaos

can grow.



Melissa Mason is an English major with a focus in Creative Writing and an Art minor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She hopes to be anovelist one day, though she also enjoys writing short stories and poetry.

Photo credit: Flowers. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 24 Jan 2017.

Waking up to Privilege (A Little)

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17


Elizabeth Rose

  Todd Gipstein / National Geographic Society / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

  Todd Gipstein / National Geographic Society / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


On the first night you brushed your teeth huddled around the blue pila, a large square concrete sink with three chambers. You were a gringo family honoring your oral hygiene despite the absence of running water. The water stored in the central chamber of the pila passed your visual cleanliness test, with the moonlight glancing off its ripples, but you knew that bacterial microbes lurked. No splashing of toothbrushes or cupping your hands to take a swig.

Instead, you shared a few drops of bottled Evian bought at the Atlanta airport by your teenage daughter. When the Evian ran out, your husband used Coca Cola. You were 4,000 miles from home and about to teach English in Guatemala.

As your family brushed you contemplated the pila. The four of you could have climbed into the central storage chamber, becoming immersed to your armpits.


Running water was unpredictable in the central highlands where the indigenous Maya live. When the water ran, it was wisely stored in advance of tomorrow’s trickle. The pila was imported by the Spanish who placed the first fountains in a central spot in every town square. As the population grew the people placed private pila in the courtyards of their homes. At that time they had agua pura. Except for centuries of greed, wars, genocide and land grabbing, the water that night in your pila would have had a fighting chance of purity. Nothing in the natural world could have out-competed man at creating such a colossal catastrophe.



As you gazed at the southern constellations you missed your usual line-up of Big Dipper, Little Dipper and Orion’s Belt. But you reassured yourself that you could do this homestay with an indigenous family for just two weeks.

You were already an expert at crapping in the outdoors, if need be, and had brought a supply of toilet paper in a giant red suitcase. You had backpacked in Colorado, lived in a Spanish cave, hitchhiked through North Africa, bicycled in China and slept on a haystack in Ireland. You had the resume to qualify and this wouldn’t be insurmountable.

But it would take you days before you noticed the five-gallon blue bottle of agua pura the family stored in full sight in the kitchen. When you noticed you had to laugh, a small rueful laugh at your own blindness. It was a replica of the Belmont Springs bottle from home and yet you had missed it in your summation of objects in the kitchen.

Like a coloring book that asks the child to find everything mismatching in the picture, the sheer number of surprises was mind-spinning. No gas, propane or electric stove, an unplugged empty refrigerator, no spigot of running water and the buzzing cluster of flies congregated around the bowl of breads meant for your breakfast. A glance to the ceiling revealed open electrical wires. This was a kitchen called upon to feed four families, and now yours, three meals a day.



You were sad when you first saw your room, smelling of old tortillas and beans. Like a jail cell, no window or closet. No fitted sheets on the bed, no pillows, no bedspread. You wanted to reach your white hand back through time just six hours, before your luggage was packed in the trunk of the Lexus, and open your well-organized linen closet smelling of Tide and grab a fitted set.

In the WC you faced a truth of your visit: Your hosts had never been to a Bed, Bath and Beyond, and why should they need to visit? A single industrial sized nail made a reasonable, though minimalist, toilet roll holder.




You quickly got yourself in hand and began to adapt. You learned to bunch up a blanket and spread a towel to simulate a pillow. In the mornings, you drank lukewarm apple tea and ate small round sweet breads selected from the bowl on the table. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, from giant boxes with the signature red rooster, were consumed with warm powdered milk. Over time, the small green squash, called quiskill, and a chicken bone in your soup became a treat.

You delighted in the bustling streets brimming with smiling people. You liked the dusty switchbacks crisscrossing the green hills between pińon pine, avocado and cedar. You laughed at misshapen trees on every hilltop that reminded you of Dr. Seuss. The hills were spotted with smoke clouds rising from open fires and stoves that reminded you of Little House on the Prairie, but soon you admitted this was another romantic fantasy. The cardboard shacks with aluminum roofs were nothing like log cabins, and the open fires in the living rooms created respiratory illnesses, a leading cause of infections in children and death in the elderly.

You looked into the eyes of the passing women, carrying lumpy mystery bundles on their heads
, and said buenos dias
every morning and buenas tardes every afternoon, starting at one minute past noon.

At your lodging you heard 13 people all live underneath one roof without shouting. You saw uncles and aunts hug nieces and nephews, giving kisses just as loving as those given by the mamas and papas. You witnessed joyful reunions between adult siblings every Friday night, following five days of separation because work was in the capital, hours away. You saw the children play in the courtyard, digging with a spoon or flipping a plastic object. Once the littlest girl, just two, pulled down her panties to wee in the dirt. Her five year-old cousin stopped mid-game and, with a gentleman’s flourish, helped her yank her panties up before resuming their play. You witnessed a Saturday morning fiesta-day when 18 women, babies and children crowded into the kitchen and women patted out tortillas while others nursed babies on the floor telling jokes and gossiping.


On your return, while laying over in Atlanta, you used the bathroom just to celebrate the toilet paper flushing away. No longer would you have to store it in the little basket with the swinging lid. You ordered a green salad to extol the return of vegetables to your diet. You sat near a white family with three kids, all wearing baseball caps and trendy t-shirts. “Sit there and don’t move,” said the man, as he pulled too hard on the boy’s chair. The boy cried through his meal while no one offered consolation. Like leaving a trance you never knew you had entered, you missed the quiet murmurs redirecting restless children at the dinner table.

At home, you were both relieved and distressed. You had to reconcile a legacy of emotions. You were embarrassed by how tough you found the physical challenges and inconveniences. You were sad that your new friends might never have a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, hot showers, clothes washer and dryer, coffee pot and a stockpile of food in a  working refrigerator, common conveniences in your country. You were guilty of impatience with delayed service in foreign restaurants. You shamed yourself for judgments of the poor. You assigned goodness to the poor everywhere—the ‘halo effect”–creating a kind of noble savage scenario. You knew your lifestyle was thievery, stealing more than your share of worldwide resources, despite your own efforts at recycling and driving a low emissions vehicle.


You were happy to reunite with your kitchen with its potable, fluoridated and chlorinated water that flowed any time of day or night, and not just on certain lucky mornings. You filled a glass and drank the cool clean water that tasted like privilege.

Elizabeth Rose is a non-fiction writer based in Massachusetts.  She has published in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Newburyport Daily News, Newburyport Magazine, and the Northshore Jewish Journal. She is an MFA candidate in Lesley University’s Creative Non-fiction program. This article is the preface of her book detailing her experiences as a woman of privilege working in Guatemala.

Photo credit: ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 20 Jan 2017.


Grieving is an Art

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17





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Kanani Foster

Schiele, Egon 1890-1918. 'Trauernde Frau' (mourning woman) / akg-images / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

Schiele, Egon 1890-1918. ‘Trauernde Frau’ (mourning woman) / akg-images / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


There is an airy humdrum whirring in the hospital room; wires hang and twist from bed to monitor and wall in a ceremonious blink of intermittent lights. Unlike the preconceived image of an omniscient heart monitor counting the moments between life and death, all is quiet.

My grandmother is curling in on herself slowly with each passing hour. Her heavy folded lids twitch while her soft dark hands paw at her face, and I am reminded of a fetus moments before entering the world, unaware of its surroundings and even its own self. She doesn’t hear my teary hiccups.

When I entered the room I called her name, apprehensive of even touching her. Last night, before the ambulances came, she did not recognize my mother, her own child. She screamed and pushed my mom away, frantic in the moment of not knowing, and then somewhere between her old couch to this hospital gurney she no longer responded to us. I am terrified of putting my hand on her shoulder, but I finally do. There is nothing here.

Sitting on the chair in the corner, I am acutely aware that this will be my final moment with my grandmother.

The only other death that had touched my sheltered life was a childhood friend. I could not remember the last time we spoke, but I did remember the news breaking over the school that day. That moment was only a point in my life, a marker to pinpoint how our paths were not explicitly joined, and neither her life nor death affected me directly.  It was simply a moment that made me sad, because I was acutely aware that I would not ever see her again.

This is different; I am watching a gentle death. It is astounding in the artistry and skill that is slowly taking place before me as organs find rest, the blood begins to slow, and breaths are pulled farther apart. I am sad that I am watching my flesh and blood wither. I am sad that I will never speak to her again. I am sad that I will not miss her as much as I should.

This death fills me with remorse to the opportunities I missed.

                        The knowledge and history that is gone.

                                    The relationship I could have formed.



 It’s hard to look at the withered man beside me. He is stripped of any bit of pride, vanity, and perhaps even his sanity at this point. My grandmother’s mouth hangs open like an old Japanese ghoul and I try to distract myself with the thought that, if spirits exist, hers had floated from her mouth like a soft exhaling of smoke. I suddenly have the urge to open a window to let her free.

 â€œWake up, Ma, wake up.” He is gently shaking her. I coax him into the chair next to the bed that he has already occupied for the past week, waiting. The wait is up and I am almost glad to feel the stress bleach itself from the room with a new shade of grief.

Over the past months we have watched my grandfather falter in speech, physical ability, and memory, yet in this moment he is more aware than I have seen him a year. He may not understand the complex renal system failure that claimed her, out but he feels the loss. He felt it when the realization dawned on him that these were her last days.



I guess it’s selfish, but I haven’t visited my grandfather in two weeks now. I can’t bring myself to unless my mom pushes me to the small cabin across the way, muggy, full of his resounding grief. He has a compulsive need to fix the blinds that are not broken, and when he does my mom will whisper that the dementia is a blessing. I still can’t look at it that way.

My grandfather flutters between a drugged oblivion of minute details and past lifetimes to stuttered confusion at the here and now. Some visits he ignores me, staring blankly at another old Western film on AMC that he has surely seen within the past week; other times he paws at his leathered hands, stuttering in his excitement for this meager 30 minutes of company.

Like most people, I don’t stay very long.

He doesn’t get many calls and obsesses over the two times a week my mom takes him out grocery shopping, counting the days till he gets to go out again and do something. Busy work, it’s what keeps him going these days.

The cabin is unbearably humid as he always liked it, pretending he was back home in Hawaii or Florida, and sweat rolls down my neck as I try to talk to him. It has only been a few hours since our listless drive home from the hospital, yet my grandpa is completely focused on the shades covering the sliding door. At least he has that damned dog, I’m grateful for it even as it yaps and nips at my heels. He’d be lost without it.

The sliding door shade glides on a track that his stick is repeatedly poking and prodding,

                  “It’s stuck.

                        It’s stuck.

                                    It’s stuck.”

It’s not. He is relentless though and I try to think of something that might bring him to me and away from desperate thoughts of fixing something that’s not broken.

I ask, “What’s that tattoo of?” the ink on his body is faded blue on a canvas that is soft and crinkles like tissue paper. This tattoo seems to be a knife with what might be a hand holding it.

 â€œI was stupid. This was my- my first tattoo.”

The tattoo was ugly. Badly drawn with ink that faded quickly; he might as well have gotten it in prison with a safety pin. I point out another, one that his shirtsleeve covers. This tattoo is a piece of history; a black skull with air force wings and a banner overhead reading “Billy”.

 â€œI designed this. We, we all have it.”


œSixteen of us. We were in the same–”
He stutters, trying to remember.

 â€œGroup? Platoon? Squad?”


I point out another that his shaking fingers begin to sweep, this one being a red rose. It’s a cover-up job–lying underneath it, coiled in its petals is his ex-wife’s name that my mother has forgotten and he refuses to utter. I wonder how Grandma felt about it. Was it something they bickered over? Or something that was never spoken of? Another is the word Hawaii on his forearm, his social security number on his left shoulder, even his name is splayed across his arm. As we point and unveil new sketches of his own history I feel him begin to let go of his grief and reminisce on each moment in time he has saved on his body; each mistake, each victory and each love.



Grieving is an art t unique to each person. My grandpa burned all of her clothes three days after she died, sprinkling the lawn with the ashes. My mom had her actual ashes sent directly to her brother in Hawaii–“It’s what she would’ve wanted”but I know that holding my grandma in that state would’ve been too much for her. She sat by my grandmother’s side till her chest finally caved in, refusing to rise again, and that’s closure enough for most.

I cried like everyone else but somehow still managed to crack a joke sitting in front of my grandma’s body; her mouth unhinged and eyes shut, earning me a sharp look from my mom till she began to laugh and cry once again. It was sad but my life continued on after we left the hospital, leaving me to wonder at my grieving.

I miss her. I really do.

I miss the little things though the most; her genuine interest in my life, her sticky rice that seemed stickier than most sticky rice, her long-winded stories that never concluded.

One day, at the Asian Art Museum, seeing the walls hung with ornate silk kimonos decorated with golden threads spun into peonies and koi, another memory returned–my grandmother clambering down from the upstairs of her cabin holding a parcel. Inside were her own kimonos from Japan, an airy blue with white flowers and a heavier white with gold flowers coating the bottom trim. There was no time or reason I would wear them, but I held them close.

Standing in the museum I foraged my mind for the kimonos’ whereabouts; my parents’ house in the closet, under my own bed, in storage? I didn’t know. It rattled me and I felt like a foreigner to this heritage and culture. I felt as silly as the white girls dressed in kimonos and sloppy geisha makeup waiting for the museum’s Japanese fashion show. I had lost my grandmother and a piece of my heritage.

My great-grandfather came to America on a tiny boat from Japan, ready to pick pineapple on the islands of Hawaii to save money and become someone. I remembered all this but I forgot his name, he would always just be someone now.

Later I call my mom asking if she remembers esn’t. Mizaki? Maybe Matsu? She has to think on that. There is no use in asking my grandfather; his speech is falling away along with the ability to even recall his last meal.

It is all slipping through the cracks.



Photo creit:

E.Schiele / Mourning Woman / Ptg./ 1912. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 20 Jan 2017.

Rabbit Games

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

Rachel Santarsiero

Dead European Rabbits / Niall Benvie / Nature Picture Library / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

Dead European Rabbits / Niall Benvie / Nature Picture Library / Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

I don’t remember the night my big sister went crazy, but I’ve been told about it. Mama said that Sissy didn’t have all the screws tightened in her head, and that’s why she attacked me. The only thing I can still recall is someone yanking all the hair out of my head and pinning my ankles to the ground. Oh, and the screaming. I still don’t know if I was screaming or if Sissy was screaming or if Mama and Baba were screaming, but I know it was loud and made me cry.

Sissy wasn’t like that all the time, though. She had good days. Like when we stood in the creek behind the back shed and squealed with laughter as tiny fish slithered between our toes. Or how we’d lie in bed at night and she would sing those folk songs that I loved so much. I wish those moments lasted forever.

She had bad days too. Like when Mama told us to set the table for dinner and she smashed all the plates. Or the times I woke up in the middle of the night to her scratching my arms and legs until I bled. She told me that her friends told her to do it. I never saw Sissy with friends. I’m pretty sure she has friends tonly she can’t see.  

I’ve been in the hospital since the attack. Mama doesn’t let Sissy visit, but I know Sissy didn’t mean to hurt me, so I’m not mad at her. Sometimes she just can’t control herself. I hope my screws never come loose.

* * *

Years ago, when I was seven and Sissy was eleven, we were playing in the meadow behind the woods that led away from our house. The tall grass tickled our bare legs as we danced. Sissy’s two long braids hung down her back and glimmered in the setting sun. Mama would be getting things ready for dinner soon and probably was waiting for us to set the table.

“We’re going to play a game.”

“Oh but Sissy it’s getting late, and Mama is going to worry.”

“Ready or not, here you come.”

“We really should get back.”

“Ready or not, here you come, play with us, let’s have some fun.”

I hated when we played that game. Sissy would run into the woods and hide while I would lie in the meadow with my eyes closed and arms outstretched.

“One, two three…”

The air was getting colder and the sun began to dip beneath the hill.

“Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three…”

Mama would be worrying.

“Eighty-eight, eighty-nine, ninety…”

Sometimes I’d wonder what would happen if I just left Sissy in those woods. Maybe if she lived in those woods instead of in our house she wouldn’t make Baba cry or give me scratches that she told me to keep secret from Mama and maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about falling asleep before her. But I went to find her anyways. I always did.

As the tall grass thinned and the woods began, I scanned the tree line for her. I looked at the tops of the trees first because sometimes she likes to hang from the highest branches. She would swing in circles way up high and I’d be on the ground praying that those branches wouldn’t snap.  My eyes shifted to the ground. It was getting dark.

“Ready or not, here I come. I’m playing with you, you’re having fun. Olly Olly Oxen free, show yourself, you’re scaring me. Come out, come out, wherever you are, you’ve taken this thing way too far.”

I wanted to be brave so I sang every word loudly because it made Sissy happy when I did, but the tune sent a tingle down my spine. I took slow steps and purposely snapped twigs and crunched leaves to make my presence known. My words rang through the forest and seemed to hang in the air. I sang and sang but heard nothing except the applause from the whistling leaves of the trees. She was nowhere to be seen.

“Olly Olly Oxen free. Sissy, please come out, you’re scaring me.”

I raced wildly through the woods. Long shadows melted into the ground and the sounds of creatures hummed from the darkness. The first few beams of the moon shone through the trees.

“Sissy! Please, I don’t want to play anymore!”

 I heard a snap of branches behind me and whipped around.

“We have something to show you, I really hope you like it,” she said, eyes twinkling.

She skipped down the path, her braids bouncing. Her steps were light and airy as she seemed to dance around every rock and trunk and branch, while I trudged behind and struggled to follow. She stopped abruptly when we reached a break in the path. Legs rooted to the ground, she swayed in her spot for a few moments like she had done before.


She stopped and pointed at the ground. Five bloody rabbits were laid in a neat row. Their eyes had been gouged out.

“Do you like it?”

“Sissy this is not nice. We need to go home. This is scaring me.” But that’s when her eyes narrowed and her lip quivered and her cheeks flushed. I reached out a shaking hand to comfort her with, but she slapped it away and growled.

Sissy came home late. I was already in bed.

“I’m so glad we could play today,” she said. “We had so much fun, didn’t we? Let’s do it again, let’s do it again soon.

She rummaged around the room for a few moments, climbed into her bed, and began breathing heavily as her special Sand Man pills put her to sleep.

When I awoke the next morning I heard Sissy singing in the backyard. I sat up, and let out a scream as I saw five dead rabbits on the foot of my bed.

* * *

I’m still not sure why I can’t go home from the hospital and see Sissy. I miss standing in the creek with her looking at fish and I miss her folk songs. One time I asked one doctor when Sissy was going to visit, but he didn’t answer. He just gave me another shot and I got really sleepy.

Yesterday I heard the doctor talking with Mama and Baba. They talked about upping my medication, so I think that means I’m going to be sleeping even more now. I was hoping they’d mention something about taking off these things around my wrists that are binding me to the bed, but they didn’t say anything about it. Hopefully I’ll be able to go home soon.

* * *

Mama and Baba have stopped visiting. I think they’re scared of me. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but it’s okay because I have friends to keep me company now. The doctor is really interested in my friends and asks about them all the time, but they don’t li
ke to talk when he’s there.

When the doctor isn’t asking about my friends, he’s asking me about Sissy. He keeps asking me if I remember killing her, why I killed her. Whenever he asks me this I just shake. I can only shake.

My friends tell me it’s okay I killed Sissy the night she tried to attack me. It’s okay, they whisper, because she killed those rabbits and she scratched my arms and legs and she made Mama and Baba cry and she scared me. She had it coming. Sometimes I can’t stop crying though, because I don’t remember anything about that night besides the yanking of hair and the screaming. But my friends always remind me that it’s okay. They tell me that she couldn’t control herself and I was sick of being sisters with someone who had loose screws. But at night when my friends get quiet and I get lonely, I miss talking to Sissy.

Olly olly oxen free, please come back.

Rachel Santarsiero is a at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Massachusetts, studying Civil Engineering and Professional Writing, and International Studies. She loves to combine the technical world with the humanities. She is the Executive Director of the non-profit Cross-Cultural Competence and is working toward a career in writing.

Photo Credit: EUROPEAN RABBIT. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 17 Jan 2017.

Attention Hog

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

Rachel Santarsiero

Love, Desire and Death - By Georges Barbier / Bridgeman Art Library / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

Love, Desire and Death – By Georges Barbier / Bridgeman Art Library / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


The first time I saw him after the breakup was at that girl’s wake.

You remember her, right? That pretty, curvy brunette that sat behind us in Composition? She wore those too-short shorts, even when it was cold out and snapped her gum obnoxiously before she spoke. Her heavily outlined eyes narrowed to slits during class discussions as she would feverishly concoct counterarguments to the class’s decided opinion. God, how that pissed me off. Such an attention hog. Well, apparently last Monday she was doing 102 down Woodhaven Ave and crashed into a telephone pole. I still can’t remember if she made prom queen or runner-up last year though.

Just the other week in class we were discussing The Tempest and whether or not Prospero had ultimately been the true king of the island. He raised his hand confidently while I sat there memorizing the shape of his upturned chin and his tousled hair.

“It’s evident Prospero is the victim of the play, and is merely trying to re-establish justice on the island. He single-handedly rights all the wrongs of the island and therefore is the true and rightful king.”

He was always coming up with stuff like this in class, and I was admittedly mesmerized, entranced. The class, too, seemed to be under his spell as each student nodded in agreement. Then snap, snap, snap from the back of the room. Our heads twisted around only to lay eyes on her crossed arms, cocked head, and overworked jaw.

“You’re kidding me, right? I mean, no offense, but you must be joking.” She looked around for support, but the class did nothing but stare back in disbelief. She, however, continued without hesitation. “Well, to be honest, everything you’re saying is pretty pretentious. It sounds like you took that right from Sparknotes.”

Nobody spoke. I looked to him for some sort of retort, an argument, anything at all, but he gave nothing. A vein swelled in his forehead and his cheeks flushed.

Snap, snap, snap.

“Personally, I think Caliban’s the real king.” I over-exaggerated an eyeroll in hopes he would see it, but he just stared straight back at her, blood obviously boiling despite his efforts to keep composure. “I mean, who the fuck—oh, sorry Mr. Hart—does Prospero think he is? Caliban was there first and his mom ruled the island way before Prospero even got there. You’re kind of just being an asshole if you think Prospero is the real king.”

And that was Vanessa Cleaver. She possessed the rare combination of being both popular and obscure, a code that made her intimidating to younger, fashionable girls and mysterious to older, confident boys. She and I moved in different circles throughout high school, but I couldn’t help feeling quietly envious of her. Envious of this defiant, Caliban-supporting, gum-chewing girl who died doing 102 down Woodhaven Ave.

I was still waiting in line when I saw him up ahead of me. Saw him and felt my lungs collapse. Saw him in that black button-down I got him when we went to Cape Cod and those khakis his mom was always telling you to throw away. Saw him and felt my heart leap in a way that it shouldn’t at a wake. Our eyes connected, and I felt an electric current run through my body. Before I knew what I was doing I was walking out of line and walking right up to him. He looked at me like I had food in my teeth or something and couldn’t understand why I was cutting all these people that were waiting to kneel by this dead girl’s closed casket. I still couldn’t tell you why I walked up to him that day, but my feet started moving and I wasn’t about to stop them. I stood in front of him, awestruck.

“Hey.” Really, that’s the best I could manage?

“Um, hi. H-how are you?”


“That’s good, that’s good to hear.”

“How about you, how have you been?”

“I’m all right, this is…this is all just so weird, you know? I was just talking to Vanessa the other day in class, and now…”

Wow, really? There I was just trying to ask him how he was doing after the breakup and all he wanted to do was talk about Vanessa.

“Yeah, it’s weird,” I repeated mechanically.

“I mean ,I just can’t believe it, I’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”

“Yeah, yeah, I guess. How are we though?”

I blurted it out before I could stop myself.

“Are things okay between us? I’m just not sure if we should talk about things now that we’ve had a little time to—”

“Are you serious?” He took a step back. “Vanessa’s dead. She’s dead, and our breakup is what you’re worried about right now? That’s pretty fucked up, even for you.”

I stood there, dumbstruck, unable to respond. I stared back at him, searching for something to say, anything, but I was frozen. When I remembered how to move my body, I slowly turned without another word and returned to my place in line.

I stood in that line for an eternity before I reached her. My soles were sore in my too-small heels and my dress felt awkward around my shoulders, like a hug from an elderly relative I didn’t want.

I couldn’t believe him. Why didn’t he care about me? How could he be this cold, this selfish? I made a mental note to try to talk to him again at the funeral. That’s three days from now. Maybe he’d be more receptive then.

When it was finally my turn to kneel, I stayed there for what I felt was an appropriate amount of time. And as I stared at her closed casket, I was half expecting her to be in there grinning and snapping her gum in her too-short shorts, flipping carelessly through the pages of The Tempest.

Attention hog. You remember her, right?

Photo Credit: Love, Desire and Death . Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 17 Jan 2017.

The Game

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

Adam Maarij

Soccer ball in net, close-up (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images) / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

Soccer ball in net, close-up (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images) / Universal Images Group Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


I stand on the dirt of a soccer field and watch the world become more still with each gust of wind. It whisks away the heat of my body and seemingly my color–makes me ashen, much like everything else in this dead field. Neither grass nor trees are spared, their glorious bright green and warm brown simply gone.

I’m always early for practice. Few people are here, including my coach. Usually more come half way through, but I figure today is too cold for most of them.

The year began with a bright fervor, teammates coming in an hour early to get into gear. When practice began each one of them would skip ahead the line, doing exercises again and again, with little regard to the ones behind them; They only cared about becoming better.. The sun was bright—too bright, obnoxiously so, sticking its rays like needles into our eyes, adding a layer of tan to the rainbow of skin colors on our team. That was fine. Even when the cruel field threatened them with its perilous bumps and holes, changing the trajectory of the ball, and sometimes ankles, that was fine, too. They would still push themselves to the very limit—every coach’s dream team.

A few weeks later, though, after a couple of games, their ardor would dwindle, like the passing of fall into winter. Not a rush, but a gradual process, one our coach did not notice but everyone else did. By the time it was the last quarter of our season, only half of the team would regularly show up.

Which was nothing knew. They were good, and this is how winners end up–arrogant, apathetic, foolish,  It didn’t both me, even seeing my teammates laze away the precious talent I would give an arm and a leg for. OK, maybe there was a bit of hate.

I always came back, whether I wanted to or not. I tried to give up, I really did, but it wasn’t my choice anymore. My mind is fully awake only when the ball is under my feet.

I stare at the scans on my knees, the bruisers of my feet, at the scrapes on my thighs. I listen to  my ankle’s popping noise when I walk downstairs. Yet my body would not listen. It had to come, a to practice.

So here I am again, still standing in the cold, still incapable of leaving when all others do.

A soccer ball rolls up to my feet.

“Hey! You up for a two-versus-three?

“Always,’’ I answer.


Photo credit: Soccer. Photographer. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 20 Jan 2017.

Grace and Frankie: Worth a Watch

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17

Lillian Cohen

Via Facebook

Via Facebook

Much like the critically acclaimed Gilmore Girls, Grace and Frankie fits its prospective audience perfectly, keeping a slow but steady plot, filled with laughs and minor drama–perfect series to binge watch when you’re sick or just need a day to relax. Directed by Betty Thomas and created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris in 2015, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin star as women who begin to live together and become unlikely friends after their husbands, played by Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen, come out as lovers. Lily Tomlin was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2016 for this role.

It all starts with a nice dinner together, in public, the perfect place to make a spectacle of yourselves while you wives throw food at you and yell after you tell them about your 20 year affair with each other. Obviously that wasn’t how Robert and Sol expected it to go, but Grace and Frankie have never been those to do the expected. That’s part of what makes their living arrangements, sharing their beach house, so odd. They’ve always been those ladies who gossip behind each other’s backs to their mutual friend Babe and smile to each other’s faces. But now, being put in the same position, they realize that no one else can truly understand the feeling that their entire marriage and life was a lie.

We also see the development of Robert and Sol’s relationship before and after their marriages, finding out the secrets that they hid while together in secret.

Not unexpectedly, the couples’ children also have a hard time adjusting, not knowing which side to stand on.

The overall cinematography is pretty good. It’s shown from far away, much like the cameras on a sitcom, so that one can almost observe what’s going on. There are no close ups really. This gives a stage-like effect that really adds to the overall show, not trying to draw viewers into the show but presenting  them with the story.

 The sets are present character and quirks of the characters. Frankie has her own meditation nook at the beach house, with a hanging woven chair and hippie-patterned pillows on the floor. Grace and Robert had a pristine house with nothing out of place, looking like r a picture from Good Housekeeping.

Throughout the series, the plot stands not only as a commentary on feminism and family values, but also on aging and how one’s life changes as we age. We experience what it’s like to be a female CEO of a cosmetics company, an elderly gay couple, a different race than your parents, and how the people in your life changes who you are. It’s definitely worth a watch.

Lillian Cohen currently attends Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Massachusetts and is an active member and Chapter Board member of the United Synagogue Youth organization. She enjoys writing and is an intern at both the Worcester Journal and Worcester Magazine.

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4 Your Eyez Only

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17


Tazwar Ferdous

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia


After a two-year hiatus, platinum-award winning artist J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only Only transitions from his predictable discussions of fame and fortune to bringing his listeners into the dark and moody realism of social problems, nuanced with a sense of hope and change. He describes his new role as a husband and father and contrasts that with the life of a fictional African American man who is forced to balance a life of crime and parenthood, ultimately forcing him to leave his family.

     Cole has eschewed the noise of mainstream hip hop, producing a melancholic sound with somber and organic instrumentation. The project begins with the song “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. A depressing trumpet is played in the background and bells are tenaciously shook as Cole sings  “I see the rain pourin’ down…”The sorrowful mood is further conveyed in songs such as “Ville Mentality” and “4 Your Eyez Only”.

    He introduces listeners to his wife and newborn daughter in the songs, “She’s Mine, Pt. 1,” “Foldin Clothes,” and “She’s Mine, Pt. 2.” After a long self-exile from social media and hip hop music, he sheds some insight on what kept him occupied. In “She’s Mine, Pt. 1”, Cole eulogizes his fiancee, and ultimately conveys what she means to him. The song is reminiscent of his much older love songs, such as “Dreams.” But orchestrally, it is very somber and deviates from the traditional hip hop sound, suggesting he has found new and authentic love. He further conveys his love for his  fiancée in the song “Foldin’ Clothes,” in which he raps about the smaller things in life, such as folding clothes.  In “She’s Mine, Pt. 2,” Cole sings of his new role as a father, and how precious his daughter is to him, questioning whether he is “worthy of this gift”.

    Cole also illustrates the perspective of, presumptively, his fictional African American friend struggling with poverty, creating a harsh and callous mentality. This serves the purpose for his song, “Immortal,” which reverts to Cole’s usage of aggressive flow and rhymes, this time over an eerie beat, creating vivid imagery of crime, death, and drugs. He then proceeds to illustrate the callous mentality that develops as a result of such social pressures by affirming that “real” men do not break down or die from them, hence the title “Immortal.” In the outro of the song, Cole makes an insightful point from his own perspective. He remarks how so many are influenced to think that the only way to be successful is to play in the NBA, become a rapper, or deal drugs, thus restricting them from reaching their full potential. However, in his song, “Changes”, Cole provides a sense of hope and maturation for these problems.

    The final song is “4 Your Eyez Only,” an emotional track with a duration of 8 minutes in which Cole reveals the purpose of the entire album. In the previous song, “Changes,” Cole reveals the name of his fictional African American friend, James Mcmillan Jr. In the majority of “4 Your Eyez Only”, Cole raps from the perspective of James, who is leaving an important message behind for his young daughter. In a pessimistic tone, he expresses how he “can’t visualize [himself] as nothing but a criminal,” and voices his premonition on how his harsh lifestyle with crime and drugs will result in his death. He also mentions how the cops have a presence in his neighborhood, which may be referencing police brutality in America. Through this verse, J. Cole reveals the true reality behind a life associated with crime, and how these lifestyles can emotionally affect men, regardless of how “real” or “immortal” they might seem.  The last verse is told from Cole’s perspective, and he concludes that the album is a message left behind from James to his daughter. He finishes 4 Your Eyez Only by remarking that his father was a “real” man, not because he was involved with drugs and crime, but because of his passionate love for his daughter.

There are a few problems. The vague transitions between his perspective and James’ perspective is confusing. Throughout the album, Cole raps from James’ perspective, only to rap from his own a few lines later. His transitions are often abrupt, and it’s also difficult to distinguish them, considering both of them often talk about their daughters. This obfuscates the overall purpose and message Cole is trying to convey. Also, explicitly revealing the entire purpose of the album in an eight-minute song prevents his listeners from recognizing for themselves the album’s subtleties. Lastly, 4 Your Eyez Only is comprised of only ten songs. This may leave some fans unsatisfied, considering Cole was inactive for 2 years.

    And yet, the album as a whole provides a comprehensible picture of social problems facing African Americans while revealing the positive changes in the singer’s life. Also, he finally deviates from the traditional hip-hop sound, which may please the fans who are eager for change. 4 Your Eyez Only proves itself to be a worthy album.




Ain’t No Keeping a Good Child Down

Uncategorized, Winter 2016-17


Paul Grams

July, Kate Greenaway's Almanack For 1895 1894 Greenaway, Kate / SuperStock/ Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only

July, Kate Greenaway’s Almanack For 1895 1894 Greenaway, Kate / SuperStock/ Universal Images Group / Rights Managed / For Education Use Only


My gramma was the meanest lady     ever

lived     scare brother and me right half to death

to hear her     never she hug you lessen you

been good all day     she make you go to be

alone while brother heard the story out

the storybook     and you gon hafta wait

for brother tell you later     find it out

my gramma when she strop us makes us     wait

hands on you ankles while she think how bad

what you don done don hurt she feelings     ever

so often she gon see you run wrong way

through Elma yard cross town     and brother too

sit on the sofa look     at books all day

gramma so mean     we darent even put her in

them fantabulous stories we told     when we kept in

 Paul Grams set out fifty years ago to be a famous writer, never got close, and spent 30 years teaching in the Detroit Public Schools. He has kept writing in the basement all these years.


Photo credit:

July KATE GREENAWAY’S ALMANACK FOR 1895. Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 20 Jan 2017.