Traveling in Italy as a Poet


I spent the last semester in Florence, Italy, which seems like a long time ago. I returned to my hometown of Bhopal, India, in mid-December still confused about my time there. I thought that choosing to learn Italian or to choose Italian literature as one of my fields of study in college was an impulsive choice on my part. In hindsight, however, given the fact that I was reading works by Elena Ferrante, Italo Calvino, Jhumpa Lahiri and Antonio Tabucchi around the time, it doesn’t seem to be such an impulsive decision now. I don’t know why I decided to go to Italy though. I was happy in New York, a city where I think I truly belong. I didn’t want to leave New York and yet I passively wanted to spend some time in Italy.

My Italian was alright when I got there: I loved listening to Italian music, I could read some short poems in Italian and I could sustain small talk in the language. Yet I never imagined what it would be like to be surrounded by the Italian language, its differences and dialects. When I first arrived in Florence, I realized what it means for a world to be somehow written and formed by a language. Squares became piazzas, train became treno, and other words permeated from the landscape into my own imagination, on to my own tongue and memory. I recalled the world differently, I came to know its greetings differently; the lens through which I saw the world began to fade away and made way for a new one. Today, as I write this in New York, I find it difficult to go back to the way in which I used to look at the world. I have fleeting thoughts in Italian more often now. This afternoon, I had a small thought in Italian and immediately found myself scribbling it onto a piece of paper: Nel mio cuore, c’è un lago.

What does it mean to have a lake in one’s heart? I am not sure at all. My hometown of Bhopal has a lake that I think of when Bhopal emerges in my thoughts or dreams. It is strange that Italian is becoming the language that carries these thoughts of home to me. It is strange that Italian is becoming the language that can so succinctly and accurately describe almost instinctively what my heart is and consists of. How did I get here? Where did this language come from? And how did it become the language of my heart? I lack the most accurate answers to these questions but I think they don’t have accurate answers either. Maybe Italian will not be the only language of my heart and maybe there is another language that knows my heart better. For now, however, I am at peace with these thoughts I harbour in Italian. As a poet, I know that my relationship with language is an intimate one. It goes beyond the realm of love or romance; it exists within the realm of friendship. For so long, Italian and the experience of speaking or writing it and thinking in it, felt strange, foreign. But I have come to realize that like any other friendship, it is one that blossoms with time. Like any other friendship, you grow to be comfortable with it and like any other friendship, a language can make you feel less lonely.

In Italy, the Italian language became my friend. I didn’t have my closest friends with me in Florence and though I now think my childhood was very lonely, loneliness is now something I find painful and almost intolerable. But, on the other hand, I recognize that loneliness is a excruciating yet essential part of writing, and of being a writer. I feel lonely when I conceive a poem but not after I have delivered it. Once it’s on the page, I have something to look at, something to hold on to. In Italy, as I reflected on this practice of writing, I realized that the arrival of language into my mind and on the page is what truly dispels the darkness of this loneliness. With Italian as a third language, I had received another friend to populate the space of my mind, the depth of my heart. Even when I was travelling around Italy, my companion, who had a different temperament than mine, made me feel lonelier at times. It was then that I was forced to keep turning back to Italian, to language and words as way to continue living and thriving. Loneliness can be depressing and isolating and the lack of words usually makes it worse. But with another language, I feel as though I have a way to look at the world even when I am submerged in the depth of the lake that is in my heart.

155389164570624267DEVANSHI KHETARPAL is a sophomore at New York University, majoring in Comparative Literature with a minor in Creative Writing. She is from Bhopal, India, and currently lives in New York. She works as an application manager for The Speakeasy Project, poetry reader for Muzzle Magazine and an intern at Poets House. Her poetry collection, Small Talk, is forthcoming soon from Writers Workshop, Calcutta. She is a recipient of the David J. Travis Undergraduate Research Fund from NYU Florence and her work has been published in Best Indian Poetry 2018, Transom, Aainanagar, Vayavya, TRACK//FOUR and Souvenir among others. Website:

Interview with Linda Ashok and Jamel Brinkley

Our blog editors, Maria Prudente and Joanna Cleary, were interested in interviewing writers about their obsessions and repulsions and how they influence writing. Scroll down to read their interviews with two writers we love, Linda Ashok and Jamel Brinkley.


Maria Prudente: I find that writers need to return to their obsessions in their work. Do you write about your obsessions and, is it challenging to find new ways to write about them?

Linda Ashok: I am not sure about what is implied by obsession. Are you referring to recurring motifs? The thing about my writing is that I never have to think too hard and I mostly go with the flow; writing is quite organic for me as I extract elements from my unsettling dreams. In this process, there are elements that appear quite frequently but they neither demand anything nor dictate. 

MP: Are you ever driven to write about what repulses you? How do you fight the urge to not write around it but through it?

LA: Like anybody else, I am repulsed by any kind of violence but I do write about it because it is therapeutic for me. It helps me to see the underlining of what we perceive as violence. It also builds familiarizes the readers to recognize violences they experience in their personal or public spaces.

Joanna Cleary: As a Communications and Branding professional as well as a writer, how do you think the increasing role of virtual reality and communication in our lives has affected your creativity and creative work? 

LA: Well, virtual reality has built and broken our lives in many ways. In my case, I leveraged virtual reality to expand my creative pursuit; I lived places before I literally travelled to those places. Imagining I am in a certain place, imagining the lives of people local to those places, helped me manifest my desire to live those places in real life through positive affirmations. I experienced their poetry, their struggle, their joys through virtual reality. So yes, it contributed a lot to my writing while also exposing me to a lot of toxicity that affected my mental health in several ways. That I am currently dealing with social anxiety is because of being overwhelmed by the duality of people as seen on social media vs real life. And of course when your life is affected, it does reflect in your work too.

JC: Can you speak to what inspired the title of your 2012 book of poetry, whorelight

LA: My book came out in 2017. I imagined a different name for it and that was whorefrost. But over the four years of its preparation, I found a mention of ‘whorefrost’ somewhere on the net and that really upset me. I wanted to have a unique name to my book. So I continued brainstorming until one day I coined ‘whorelight’ to define how light streams into our darkness, sleeps with it, and leaves everything illuminated. I feel it is akin to those sex-workers who somehow fill in a lot of void in the lives of their customers; and therefore ‘whorelight’ talks about many such moments and experiences that prostituted to fill the many spaces in my life forever inquisitive about meanings.

MP: I was so moved by your poem, ‘We Two Women Can Father A Child.’ Can you elaborate on how that particular piece came to be? 

LA: A certain phase of my childhood happened in the company of my biological mother and my step mother. My mother was too courageous to share her family space with my step mother and she did it to help my dad manage his finances better. In the wake of the world being more accomodating of non-binary relationship, that childhood experience of mine acted as a prop wherein I imagined my mothers discussing how they alone can father me without my dad being around. It is also a depiction of my queer sensibilities imagining two women fathering a child with more considerate human values.

JC: When I read “chew my tongue like a cannibal/ eating a red, fleshy berry” from your poem, ‘Tongue-Tied,’ I was  struck by the theatricality of language. Do you ever perform your work live?

LA: I do. But to myself. These poems are not for a listening audience as the kind of patience they have wouldn’t be enough to simulate the interior theatricality of the poem or poems as such. And even if I am given a very patient and perceptive audience, I would still refrain from performing it as these are very intimate pieces. 


Maria Prudente: Writers seem to write a lot about their obsessions. Maybe that obsession is a place or a type of person. A writer I know constantly writes about going back inside her mother’s womb. Do you write about any of your obsessions?

Jamel Brinkley: I would say I do, but I’m usually not aware of that fact until after after I’ve written and I can retrospectively look at my work to truly see what I have done. For example, only in hindsight did I see that in my book I was writing about, and obsessed with, families, brotherhood and male friendship, masculinity, and love of various kinds.

MP: Are you driven to write about what repulses you? How do you face that challenge head on?

JB: I think I’m driven to write about what fascinates me, about what I have questions about, and perhaps that sometimes means writing about what repulses me. I think the challenge is making sure that what I’m writing about is interesting to me, so if feeling repulsed is the only response I have to a character or action, then I probably won’t write about it. Complicated or even contradictory emotion is key in driving and sustaining my interest in any story.

Joanna Cleary: According to your website’s description of your collection, A Lucky Man, the work “reflects the tenderness and vulnerability of black men and boys whose hopes sometimes betray them, especially in a world shaped by race, gender, and class—where luck may be the greatest fiction of all.” Can you speak to what luck means to you? Is it an obsession or a repulsion, or both? 

JB: I wouldn’t say that luck is a repulsion; maybe it’s something like an obsession. On the one hand, luck, or the idea of being lucky, is one that I mean to take seriously in the book. I hope that every story contains at least one moment of genuine joy or pleasure or grace for my characters, the kind of moment that makes one feel lucky to be alive. On the other hand, or at the same time, I do mean my invocation of luck to be seen with some irony. For the protagonist of my title story, for instance, luck comes to mean something painful. His life hasn’t turned out the way he expected. And the idea of being fortunate, of being blessed by fate, means that his sense of deserving good things in his life is a lie. What I’m talking about now isn’t unrelated to the myth of meritocracy, which, for some reason, so many people in this country believe in wholeheartedly.  

JC: According to your website, you have many literary events and workshops coming up. Can you speak to how you find that participating in these events influence your work as a writer?  

JB: It’s a real pleasure to meet with readers of my work and with those who are interested in reading my work, and it’s fun to meet with people who are devoted to the writing life. That said, there is a difference between being an author (a public figure) and a writer (a private figure), and participating in all these events has pulled me away from writing. I’ve felt less like an artist than a promoter of my own work. In response to that feeling, I’m learning to be a little less precious about the conditions I require. For example I’m learning how to write in the sterile environments of hotel rooms and, at times, even on airplanes, instead of always needing my apartment, my desk, my coffee mug.

JC: Can you tell us about your current writing fellowship at Stanford?

JB: The Stegner Fellowship is a two-year gift of time and money for which I am very grateful. I benefit from the amazing writing and insights of my peers, the other fiction fellows, when we meet for workshop every week. And we all benefit from working with the Stanford creative writing faculty, with incredible people like Elizabeth Tallent and Chang-rae Lee.


Author of whorelight, LINDA ASHOK is the 2017 Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow in Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Chichester, UK. She is the publisher of RLFPA Editions, Founder/President of RædLeaf Foundation for Poetry & Allied Arts that funds the annual RL Poetry Award (since 2013), and the founding editor of the Best Indian Poetry series. For features, press coverage, published works and more, visit



Photo credit: Arash Saedinia


JAMEL BRINKLEY is a graduate of Columbia University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has received fellowships from Kimbilio Fiction, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Stanford University. A Lucky Man is his first book. He lives in California.

826 LA

Inklette’s blog shall be featuring organisations, groups and individuals from all across the world that work to promote creativity among children and underrepresented communities. 

We would like to thank 826LA for being a part of this initiative. Special thanks to Art and Photography Editor, William Higgins. 


From the Crazy World Down Here                      

Deisy Garcia


Dear grandma,


I miss you a lot and I wish we could be together right now. People from el rancho would tell my family, “Oh! She looks just like her grandma!” And I only saw you when I was eleven months old, basically a baby. I don’t have many memories of you.

I have a short, faint memory of you, grandpa, and your son—my dad—when I was running around in the summer where there were crops and dirt. You were all running around, you were giggling and laughing, and so was I. But I still love you a lot. Cancer dragged you out of this world and God knows why. And a couple of months later my dearly loved grandpa took flight and went to the wonderful paradise with you. I just miss you a lot, and I hope to see you one day and be with you forever and ever, and laugh and play with you and grandpa.

I wish that we were together, with grandpa too, and never ever be separated.


From the crazy world down here,                                   

Deisy ❤

Just One Day

Samuel Luis


All I know is that I used to be a nice kid that would do his work and was focused on his future. With time, that vision I had about myself faded away. Now it seems like I don’t care, but really, inside me I feel bad about myself. When I try to refocus and try to get back on track, it seems like it runs away from me and I go back to not caring. The teachers’ words come through one ear and come out from the other. My mom tries to talk to me but sometimes I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know what it is. I want to get back on that track of success. I argue with my mom a lot now and I feel bad for my mom because she has to deal with me. I feel sad and worried about my mom’s health, she works hard to support us since my dad left to Mexico, not caring about us. That’s why I just wish  I could go back in time and try to change stuff I did. Change something. Change what I did wrong. At least just change one little small thing that would change my future, my present, my past, change something in time. Then I think about it, maybe this is how my life is supposed to be. Maybe God decided to make my life take this path. On times when I’m sad I tend to believe maybe God doesn’t exist, maybe he is just fake. I have asked myself that question and can’t come to the conclusion of whether he exists or not. Why does my life have to be like this? Did I choose for my life to be like this? Maybe I’m looking at my life from the wrong perspective, maybe I need to think deeper. Just maybe I need to think better about my life. All I know is that I will one day change and will get back on that track of success that I seek, and will become that kid that I once was. Not the same but similar. Just one day I will seek what I’m seeking: peace between my thoughts and my feelings. Just one day all the arguing with my mom will stop and there will be peace. Just one day I will have peace. Just one day.

Blue Nail Polish

Nadia Villegas


Blue nail polish has a big meaning for me

To others it is just a color

To others it is just nail polish

Blue is my favorite color

After all, blue is the most popular color in the world

Yet that is not why I like blue nail polish

I believe that blue nail polish transcends gender and sexuality

I am surrounded by people wearing blue nail polish, whether they are a boy or girl


This is amazing because blue nail polish allows you to express yourself

No matter who you are


Yet there are ignorant people that think it’s not right for men to wear blue nail polish

How can such a small little jar of the color blue bring such discrimination?

There is no law or rule anywhere that says men can’t wear blue nail polish

Yet people find it a problem

Why do stupid people start opening their big mouths by calling them gay?

Blue nail polish is freedom

Blue nail polish is expression

Blue nail polish is defiance

Blue nail polish is ignoring what other people think and staying true to yourself

Who Is “Pretty”?

Michael Rodriguez


To be “Pretty” takes responsibility,

Cute is Ugly’s best friend,

But Is Ugly really a thing?

You can not call another “Ugly” if you

Can not look at yourself as “Pretty”

Pretty is Perfection,

The real you, it is the best version of you.

Pretty is Reflection,

Reflection on any major events that make you unique.

Pretty is Effort,

The more effort you put to think you are “pretty.”


Pretty is Thoughtful,

Thinking of others can affect you more than another.

Pretty is Time,

It takes time to call yourself reliable.

Pretty is Youthful,

Unite with any generation showing purity and youth.

It Has No Meaning

Daniela Martinez


Have you ever had someone tell you, “You’re ugly!’’ or, “You are NOT pretty!’’?

Lies, LIES!!!


I mean no one, NO ONE, was born good looking or perfect.

“Pretty,” that word can make you feel better or sometimes worse. To me, the word “Pretty” really doesn’t mean a lot.

All the time, ALL THE TIME, I used to get bullied, and all because of that word.

People tell me that I am ugly, that no one will ever go out with me. I mean, some girls say, “Who needs guys anyways?!’’ I totally agree. Dating can wait.

But times change and people change. Time changes when you don’t expect it and people change when they hurt you verbally or physically.


I was too scared to go to school because I knew that once I stepped into class, I was going to get bullied. I always heard that they called me names behind my back. When I was at school the only thing I could think about was getting home. By the time I got home, I cried like a baby. And ‘til this day I feel that I am dead on the inside. Thanks to those people, I am shy around people, I am not social, and I am quiet. People that know me don’t know that. Now they know. I am just dead on the inside.


I can love my family and friends, but the people that hurt me—NOT EVEN ONE BIT!!! Every time I see them I feel like I want to torture them for every moment they made me suffer. I don’t want anyone suffering like I did. I just heard that my friend got beaten up by a tenth grader. I heard how they called him names. People that go through that: SPEAK UP!!! Don’t stay quiet the same way that I did. It is NEVER too late to say, “STOP!!!”

Who has the rough face now?

Lily Rodriguez


I was bullied when I was little for a lot of reasons. I hit puberty at a young age, especially acne. I never had the ability to control how my body was working. I never wanted all the other kids at school to make fun of me because my face was not as smooth as theirs. All the other kids would tell me, “You need some Proactive.”  I did in fact use Proactive, but it only made my face breakout even more. I tried all the acne products, like Proactive, Neutrogena, and even used a lemon. My mother told me to stop touching my face continuously. My mother eventually ran out of money to buy all these products and gave up for a while. It seemed like everywhere I would go I was never safe from these judgments. I began to think that it was not natural for a second grader to be taller than other children in the class, and to have a face that was rougher than all of the other children’s smooth faces. I even began to take birth control pills in the fourth grade! I had to follow so many rules, like not eating certain things at certain times. For example, not eating two hours before taking the pill and waiting thirty minutes after I took the pill to eat. I hated my skin. It was not natural. As I got older, my acne started to fade away; however, the scars still make an appearance.


Ciro Benitez


I remember a time when I truly missed someone. It’s usually not a good feeling when your pet dies. There are times when you have bad days and all that cheers you up is your pet. My family had a guinea pig, our second one. We adopted her from Petco, four months after our first guinea pig died.


She was really cute. I loved her so much that at times it was torture for her. It felt amazing every time I held her, fed her, and overall being with her. When she was dying I felt as if my heart was torn out of my body and thrown into a chest, never to be opened ever again. I felt sad but my eyes didn’t even water. She was struggling to walk in her cage, she couldn’t keep her balance and her whole body would tilt over when she tried. I attempted to feed her but she couldn’t chew. My mom was by my side and maybe that’s why I didn’t shed at least one tear. I don’t like crying in front of others, not even my family. At some point, Barbie––that was her name––just stayed in one spot. She was still breathing but I knew she wouldn’t be moving from that spot. My mom put a big towel over the cage and I went to sleep that night in the same room where my guinea pig was. I will forever remember Barbie and of course every other pet companion I have had or will ever have.

My Thoughts on Prison

Nasim Zarenejad


Prison is a place with a lot of personalities. At first you only see delinquents and rebels roaming around the hallways trying to act tough and brave. But if you took a second glance and understood each and every person carefully, you can see that most of them don’t have a simple life but a complicated one. Each and every person has their own story, which brought them to that bad place known as prison. They all had a reason to come to that nightmare and they need help. They committed a crime because of a mistake they wish they had never done, or because of an urge for a pleasure because they couldn’t control themselves.  Regardless of whether they regret what they did or not, they all need help emotionally and mentally. I believe that prison should not be a punishment for their crimes or mistakes but a somewhat “school” where they all could learn to understand and fix their problems.


Top places I want to go to

Milanka Patterson


The top places I want to go to are Paris, Hawaii, New York, Florida, London, and Guatemala. There are probably many other places, but I want to go to those for now.




Paris is such an amazing place and I want to got here because of all their amazing food and of course, to see the Eiffel Tower. I also know there’s lots of things about modeling in Paris, so that’s another reason to go!




I want to go to to Florida because it’s very beachy and summery like Hawaii. I mostly want to go there because of Disney World and to go to Miami and see an alligator in somebody’s pool.




I want to to go Guatemala because there are lot of volcanoes there and I really want to see a volcano! Plus, I have family there and I heard they have beaches with black sand––I want to see that! It also seems very adventurous and I love adventures!




I want to go there SOOO BADLY! I will one day. It’s super beautiful––all the animals, the beaches, and all of the different activities. I can’t even explain how many things I would do, all the pictures I would take.


New York:


I also want to go to New York because all the headquarters for acting and modeling are there. Plus, all the lights! The fashion shows! Everything!!!




I don’t really know why I want to go to London, but I do and I guess it’s because of the queens and kings. I think that’s cool.


How would I get there?


Whenever I travel, I go with my family. But as I get older maybe my family won’t want to be traveling all the time. So instead, I would want to go with my best friends! Imagine going on plane rides, staying in hotels, going on adventures in a city you’ve never explored before with the people you love! That is my ideal life and how I would want to spend it!


Luz R.


Mexico is important to me and my family because Mexico is the place where my mom, dad, uncles, aunts, and cousins were born. My mom and dad were born in San Sebastian Tutla. They left when they got married, and haven’t seen their moms and dads in a long time. Whenever I go there they take the trip seriously because instead of them going to Mexico, they send us to visit the family. Whenever we go to Mexico they get sad because they would like to see their families.

The Lake

By Xavyer Fletes


There is a myth that people tell of the forest in Pikoro Village. They say in the heart of the forest is a big lake that is full of life, animals, and plants. The lake is said to have a magical essence of a celestial spirit who was once a king. He was the king of the Fiore region. He was the greatest king ever, he made sure the citizens were never in poverty. He made sure everyone was healthy. The kingdom was at the highest point of its renaissance, but the prince was jealous that everyone loved the king and had never paid attention to the prince. The prince took the king’s life, poisoning him with a box of vipers. He put it in the king’s bed and in the morning the king was dead. When the king died the spirits had given him a second chance, but in another form; he would be a lake and control what happens around it. The king wanted the people who drink from it to have some kind of power, so they can carry on his legacy and capture the people who are ill-hearted. To get there is a treacherous journey. Only people who pass are pure of heart, but the people who are tainted are usually not able to come back in one piece, mentally or physically. The king is able to tell who is pure of heart by making a series of challenges they have to pass. He can sense the essence of good-hearted and tainted-hearted people. The king makes sure if they are good-hearted by the test he lays out. The ones who do get through in one piece (which are tainted) would run at the chance of power and destroy everything at sight. The lake has one more defense of action. The sirens would drag the tainted-hearted to the deepest part of the lake and never let them go. The good-hearted people who drink from the lake are granted any power their heart desires.

Venice Beach, California

Ashla Chavez Razzano


The salty sea air of Venice Beach, California drifts through the beach town’s streets and past my window. The sun is covered in gloomy marine-layer this morning, like every morning, until the warmth of the afternoon burns through the grey. I spend my time on my roof, balancing above the incline. Balancing above the longtime-locals that roam the streets, artists and surfer and skaters alike. On my roof, I gaze at the streets’ movement and distant buildings, trees, and mountains. At different times of day, the scene changes, reflecting the change in mood of the community. My favorite time to be here is dawn, when the fresh scent of day is soft and cold, and the dim blue sky is slightly illuminated by the oncoming sun (5:35 AM). Soon the morning becomes noon and the warmth of the day reaches its peak. Summer, and weekends, the crowds of locals and currents of tourists run through the neighborhood, holding skateboards and backpacks full of towels with sand stuck to their flip flops. This is when chatter fills the air, with my neighbor’s “oldies-radio” playing loud from their front yard. The day is anything but still (3:17 PM).


By the evening, my neighbor’s radio has been turned off, and behind my home I see other locals chain smoking on outside tables, holding conversation as the sky darkens and their windows’ lights create shadows under their tapping feet. With the dozen or so restaurants and bars and cafes on my street, there’s still a distant chatter. It’s calm and soft, but surrounded by movement (6:53 PM).


Did you know…

Estefania Flores


You grab

the ball, you dribble

and you shoot. You throw

the ball after you aim, and

eagerly watch the round sphere, hoping

it will go through the net. You can’t

travel or kick the ball. You

cannot even dribble with

two hands. Yes, I play basketball.    

I don’t look like the kind of

girl that plays a sport. But… I’m #14

on the court, don’t judge.

MISSION STATEMENT:  826LA is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. With this in mind, we provide after-school tutoring, evening and weekend workshops, in-school tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. All of our programs are challenging and enjoyable, and ultimately strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.

My Adolescence in Google Searches (Please Erase When I Die)

I am nine years old when my misery forces me to Google: “ways 2 not wear a bra”

Something is on Dad’s mind. I know this because of the way his hand hovers over the key in its ignition, the hesitation that keeps his lips apart. His expression is a mix between thought and discomfort, where his eyebrows meet the wrinkle that is smack-dab in the middle of his forehead. “Your mom told me you have to start wearing bras,” he announces, with an air of authority that he is not sure he possesses in this moment.

The color drains from my face. I’m haunted by the training bras that Mom bought for me, all of which are some variation of a neutral color. “Crazy colors will just show through your shirts. You don’t want anyone seeing that,” she tells me. They sit in the corner of my room in a department store bag, untouched, save for the one I wore for a half-day before declaring my contempt for my cotton prison.

Ushering in the bra means boys talk to me more and stare longer. My best friend, Kayla, declares her jealousy and talks endlessly about how she can’t wait to get a bra – a pink one, with lace, just like the one her big sister wears.

My chest aches when I run in gym class and my transition into puberty is obvious when the room is a bit drafty. I’m painfully aware that I’m the only girl in my class who has developed so quickly, so young. I walk with my arms crossed unnaturally over the mosquito bites I call my breasts, my own bra made out of flesh and bone.

“It’s just something you have to do when…” he takes his sunglasses off, stows them in a compartment above his head. He is not looking directly at me, and I’m grateful for that. “…Well, when it’s time. You don’t want boys noticing things they shouldn’t notice.” He sounds just like Mom. I wonder if mentioning that will amuse him.

I don’t want people to notice that I’m not wearing a bra as much as I don’t want them to notice I am wearing a bra. It’s the point of no return; if I made bra-wearing more routine, what’s next? Will I have to do my taxes and sit at a desk and find a husband? Will I have to kiss him and share a bed even if he takes up all the space? Will we get divorced? Will there be a custody battle? Will he have them “every other weekend”? I’m not ready for what I think is the inevitable fate of every person coming into adulthood.

Dad asks me if I would please promise him that I will do as Mom asks so she can get off his back. They haven’t been married for seven years now and are blindly feeling their way through “co-parenting.” Sometimes they talk on the phone, but when things are strained, they send passive aggressive emails that they think I don’t read when I’m allowed to have my allotted thirty-minutes-a-day on the computer.

I pick at a scab on my ankle and, in desperation for an end to the conversation, promise him. His wrinkle disappears. “Good, good,” he chants. “That’s very good.”

We retreat inside where I watch Cartoon Network. Dad makes me a root beer float. A peace offering. Or a mutual agreement of silence on the matter. I can live with both.

I am ten when my eagerness prompts me to Google: “when will I get my period??????”

I notice something curious when I pull down my pants to use the restroom: a quarter sized spot, brownish-red in color, like rust. Oh, no, I think, fumbling out of my underwear and tossing them down the laundry chute. Mom is going to be so mad at me. 

Only five minutes after I discard my shame, Mom is standing in the doorway of the room I share with my twin sister, Morgan. The incriminating evidence – white with multi-colored stars and that damned copper crotch stain –  dangles from two fingers. She looks like a detective who is keen on finding the culprit.

I am scared shitless.

“Whose are these?” She has her Mom Voice on, which translates into meaning business, and there’s no good cop to bail me out.

I think of a lie becauseI do not want to admit to Mom that I lapsed on the hard work she put into potty-training me. Ten-year-olds don’t have accidents, I reason, because we are practically adults now. “Not mine,” I tell her. Her focus then turns to Morgan. I effectively damn my sister to interrogation, and it feels good.

Mom pulls her to the restroom. Morgan, confused, maintains her innocence.

“Do you know what’s happening?” I overhear Mom ask, her voice making those hitch-pitched squeaks that it does when she’s stressed.  When I’m mad at her, I mimic those squeaks to myself, reenacting an argument in my favor. “You got your period.”


That changes everything. I’ve read the coming of age books – the ones where the protagonists develop those sacred mounds of confusingly erotic fat on their chest and get the guy – with the same reverence that some read the Bible. I often wish for my period and no longer reject bras. Now, I’m wearing real ones with padding even though Mom thinks I’m too young for them, but is too exhausted to argue against it. I want to be like the sophisticated, beautiful women I see on the television. I want to feel womanly, whatever that means, and escape my lanky, awkward body. I want to shave my legs like Mom does, and I puff my chest out when I walk to make my breasts appear bigger, and I want to put on makeup, and style my hair, and say things like “whoopsy, it’s that time of the month” or “this wine is a good vintage, isn’t it?” and “let’s do brunch!”

I’m positive my period is the first step to being womanly. And makeup. And brunches. And C-cup breasts.

My head pokes through the doorway. Morgan is sitting on the toilet and mortification stains her cheeks an apple-red. A small, cotton torpedo is in Mom’s hand while she reads some paper instructions aloud, pointing at the illustrations as she goes along.

Time to come clean, to confess my crime. I clear my throat and put on a deeper, more impressive woman’s voice.

“Mom? I actually think that underwear is mine.”

Despite my tenuous confidence, the end of my sentence ends in a high-pitched squeak.

I am fourteen and desperate when I Google: “how to get boys to like you”

When the teachers wheel in the television stand for students to watch the coveted Bill Nye Science Guy, or when there is in-class group work, there is a game that 8th graders play. My assigned seat is with three boys, and the one that sits directly next to me – Eric, who almost exclusively wears shirts that are too big for him – likes to play this game with me. He rests his hand on my knee and, slowly, always slowly, approaches my upper thigh.

The boys will contend that I Am Not Like The Other Girls, not stuck-up or prude or annoying.  I laugh at their “your mom” jokes and the drawings of anatomically incorrect penises. I listen attentively to their stories about smoking weed with an older cousin, or the chick that lets you touch her breasts underneath some school stairs (she insists on not taking off her bra, which is, apparently, a really big bummer).

I pray Eric doesn’t go much farther than what he usually does, that he doesn’t become too bold, because I know I won’t stop him. A confident piece of myself wants to let Eric know how uncomfortable it makes me. But I have no voice, and I am not there yet – I Am Not Like The Other Girls, and the Girl Unlike Other Girls knows that it’s just a game, nothing serious, lighten up.

When class is dismissed, the game is done, and the skin on my thigh is red-hot and dirty. I am relieved that it never goes too far, but this is the price that you have to pay to be Not Like The Other Girls.

I am willing to pay it in full.

I am fifteen and terrified of hellfire when I ask Google: “Will I go to hell if I have sex?”

Mrs. Nguyen sits crossed-legged on the floor, beaming at my Church youth group. She is the mother of an outgoing girl named Grace who sports a band t-shirt of religious music that I don’t listen to. Once, I joked that I am always able to tell the difference between secular and non-secular music within five seconds. In return, Grace said that I was so funny, but the skin around her eyes didn’t crinkle when she smiled, and I didn’t feel so funny.

Mrs. Nguyentucks her pin-straight dark hair behind her ear before she starts to talk about relationships.

“Your purity is the best gift you can give your future husband,” Her demeanor changes into grave seriousness. “You can’t just give it away to anyone; a woman’s virginity is special from God.”

She makes eye contact with every single one of us, and I’m pretty sure she is reading my mind. Does she know about my curious Google searches? The responsibility of where those internet queries take me are replaying in my head: pictures and videos that were the source of a virus on my brothers’ computer years ago. Shame creeps into my face and burns like hellfire.

“If you’re reckless with your gift, what will you be worth to your partner? Don’t you want to give your special gift to him, and not someone who doesn’t value you as a woman of God?”

God terrifies me. I think I love Him, but it is the kind of love that is born from obligation. During worship, when I observe my friends shaking and crying about their relationship with Him, anxiety creeps inside the bottom of my stomach and rises like bile, paints my taste buds with acid. I close my eyes and pray hard during the songs that praise Him. I want to cry. I want to experience God the way my friends experience God, but I can’t.

God is all around me, but not in the way Mrs. Nguyen tells me He is. He doesn’t come to me in dreams or burning bushes. I see Him when Mom creeps in, late at night, when she wakes up five a.m. to get us ready for school and to go to work, only to return at 10 p.m. from night classes, to eat a bowl of cereal and to do it all again tomorrow. I feel Him when Dad grabs my hands and guides me across the grocery store parking lot and his callouses and the rough, dead skin of his hands rub against the smoothness of my own and I am reminded of his twelve-hour shifts at Honda and the online classes and how he goes out himself to chop the wood for his fireplace.

God is the electric buzz that runs from my heart to my inner thighs when my first kiss touches the small of my back. It is the taste of victory when an older boy wants me. God is the thump thump thump of my heartbeat in my throat when I’m alone and begin to get to know my body.

He is the shameful excitement of doing something that wrong. He is the kiss on my forehead when I fall asleep watching television. He is shaking legs and fingers clutching pillowcases. He is baked mac-and-cheese and canned pears for dinner. He is delicious shame.

When Mrs. Nguyen leaves, we all sit in silence, still digesting what she said.

I go home and contort my body around Mom’s handheld mirror. I wonder: if God’s most precious gift is in-between my legs, couldn’t he have made it look prettier?

I am sixteen when I search: “losing your virginity”

My friends have told me horror stories about losing their virginities. There is Laurie, at the age of thirteen, to a boy who was eighteen on a football field. A last hurrah, he contends, before he goes off to college. He promises he loves her. He swears he will visit every weekend that he is not studying or doing the things that mature, collegiate guys do. She says the stadium lights were still on but the bleachers had been deserted for a couple hours, only candy wrappers and soda cans left behind. She says she bled a lot, she says he never did call.

Then there is Britany at sixteen. Britany tells me it was so uncomfortable that she could not stop crying even though, at the time, she insisted she was fine.

“It was like someone was inside of me, banging around my insides,” she cringes with the type of shudder that overtakes her whole face and I think she may be there again before she snaps her bright blue eyes open.

“Wasn’t someone, technically? Banging around your insides?” I ask, genuinely confused. She glares at me. I inwardly chastise myself and further avoid satiating my inquisitiveness.

I do not hear good stories, justa plethora of inexperienced hands applying inexpert pressures in unintelligible places, a dash of the hurried covering of exposed body parts at the sound of a garage door, and the occasional “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” followed with an “I’m so sorry, that doesn’t usually happen, we can try again in fifteen minutes?”

No, I do not hear good stories, but I know they exist. They must exist. I despise the notion that there is no toe-curling, no laughing because you’re comfortable and minimally embarrassed, no accepting that your satisfaction rests in impossibly incapable hands without reciprocation, and that is just how things are. It reinforces that Mrs. Nyugen is right, and in the past couple years, I’ve realized that I desperately want her to be wrong. She still insists that sex is inherently shameful. Sex is inherently bad. Sex is only beautiful when it’s in the marital bed, between a man and a woman, when they are exchanging their “pure gifts” as a testament for God’s love.

I’m not entirely sure why, but I desperately want her to be wrong.

Romanticism is the only thing that gives me faith in sex, in spite of my own virginity. It’s one part a desperate feeling that sex might actually be pleasant, and another part fear. Fear of porn. I am no longer curious-for-curiosity’s-sake about it. I avoid it when I can, circumvent tempting keywords when I spend my time on my family’s computer.

Maybe because it makes me self-conscious: I am short, not long-limbed, with frizzy curls, not bleached blonde extensions, and I am on medicine for acne (that I, for some reason, had to sign a waiver at the Dermatologists stating that I won’t sue if I get pregnant and my baby has physical deformities as a side-effect) and do not have their smooth, poreless skin.

But wait, no, that’s not it – that’s not it at all.

I’m starting to think my faith in Good Sex has a lot to do with the fact that I’m different. I do not want to assign myself to these unsatisfying intimate moments. Maybe that’s why I avoid porn. Because as much as I’m looking at the men, I’m looking at the girls, too. And I don’t think Mrs. Nyugen will approve of that very much.

I am seventeen when I get my own laptop and put in the Google search bar: “bisexuality”.

I lay in Caroline’s bed and watch her get dressed. She’s not the first person I am intimate with, after a year of self-struggling, but she is the first woman. She is a little older, pretty with long hair and full lips and skin that tans easily. She brings me a glass of water and watches me lift the glass to my lips.

“Everything okay?” Caroline asks.

Her bed is not a proper bed: if you fold it, it transforms into a futon. If you concentrate, you can feel the metal bars through the mattress. But I don’t mind. She’s a freshman in a college, and I will be in a couple months, too. I’m ready to leave my hometown, and I hope to feel the metal bars of my own shitty bed, too, because I know it’ll be mine, backache and all.

I shrug. “I don’t feel any different.”

She raises a brow, leaning forward. “How did you think you’d feel?”

I blink, taken aback. I haven’t considered that, not really. Sex was never painful for me, and this time was no exception to that. I don’t regret my first time with Caroline. In fact, I hope this isn’t the last time we get to spend time together. She is kind, and thoughtful. She is polite to my friends when they invite her out for dinner and she makes conversation between the dinner rolls and salads that are 25% lettuce and 75% Caesar dressing. To top it off, she used to be the only openly queer person in my school, a gay goddess when I was a junior and she was a senior, making me wrestle with the dichotomy of wanting to be her or deciding if I wanted to be with her.

“I don’t know,” and it’s the truth. “I don’t know if I should be in pain, or if I just bought my one-way ticket to hell, or if I should feel…” The words swam unguided in my brain.

“Should feel, what?”

“Feel bad, I guess.”

Caroline frowns. She puts her arm around me, her palm rubbing circular motions into my upper arm.  My mother does the same thing when she knows I’m upset. “Do you feel bad?”

“No,” I say. “No, I don’t.”

KASEY RENEE SHAW is in her final semester at Ohio University and is pursuing a B.A. in English. She has been previously published in Sphere Literary Magazine.

Period Dramas And Soul Food


Recently, I was talking to a friend about how monotonous holidays can get at times, and she told me I needed “soul food,” and god knows what that even means, but I decided to heed to the advice and try to do things that would “feed my soul” on some foundational level I can’t fathom. Basically, I tried to be your unusual carpe diem Instagram aesthetic poster girl, delving into painting and journaling and nature photography and whatnot (none of this is to take that I’m somewhat criticizing or judging a particular way of living.) The happiness provided was fleeting, and I ended up focusing more on the watching good movies than most, and from movies I went to period dramas, and that reminded me of my long lost love for them.

There’s this shot in the little-known period drama called Bright Star wherein Fanny Brawne, the heroine, stares outside her window as in the wind blows in, the drapes rising and falling against the blinding sunlight. The shot is complimented with the tune of a violin, and as Fanny lays down on her bed, you can almost feel the dreaminess of the shot pervading through the screen, and the calm spreading over you. It’s beautiful, but not to a degree of hurting: just the right amount, the right music, the right shot, all of it coming together to create an effect so enrapturing and raw that you feel like you’re falling asleep.

I was around fourteen years old when I first saw Bright Star, still a starry-eyed teenager who indulged too much into Austen and those daydream fantasies for her own good. Period dramas can be way too fancy in their conception, cultivating the years-old adage of a hero and a heroine, both of them are oh so in love and are separated by the shackles of reality. The idea, of course, is to get you rooting for the couple – whether it’s through including scenes of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy standing in the rain, fighting and throwing carefully constructed dialogues at each other faster than we, the casual commoner, can think them in the 2005 version, or the way too many smirks given by Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland in the television film. Some of these effects end up being charming, some not so much.

Yet the naturalistic atmosphere, the subtle romantic feel, the empire waistline gowns, the formal manner of speaking – all of these give these movies a feeling of being unreal and reinforce the fact that these dramas are so far cut off from reality that the difference is out of this world. Hence, the experience is completely immersive – rather, in the first few period dramas I’d watched, I spent more time trying to decipher the dialogues than anything else. I’d say these dramas take themselves too seriously sometimes, but for me as a teenager, watching these was perhaps like watching my daydreams come to life. That part compounded the satisfaction, and my natural gravitation towards them.

I’ve always felt period dramas as a work of art, knowing how elitist, or narrow they might be. There is something to say about the manner in which Keira Knightley walks in the beginning sequence of Pride and Prejudice, or the image of Ben Whishaw climbing and lying on the treetops as John Keats in Bright Star, or the famous Colin Firth scene where we see Mr. Darcy go swimming, seeing him in an entirely new light (if you know what I mean). They’ll always be my favourite way of wasting time away, and if that puts them in the category of soul food, then I guess I can’t argue.


SMRITI VERMA grew up in Delhi, India. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Adroit Journal, Coldnoon, B O D Y, Cleaver Magazine, Word Riot, Open Road Review, Alexandria Quarterly, Yellow Chair Review, and The Four Quarters Magazine. She is the recipient of the 2015 Save The Earth Poetry Prize and enjoys working as a Poetry Editor for Inklette and Poetry Reader for The Blueshift Journal.

Here’s Why Art Is Never Easy


If you thought it was going to be easy, it’s not. It never was.

When musicians are complimented on their compositions, it’s not their talent alone you’re applauding. You’re cheering for their story, you’re cheering for all those moments they split their hand open on the strings of their instrument, bathing its wooden body in their blood. This ritual is what makes up their music.

How a pint of blood loses life, turns into a mess which must be doused in industrial solvent to be removed, becomes a stain which looks like spilling wine on ebony, while the instrument slowly takes a life of its own, screeches and screams and tugs at our hearts like a newborn come into this watching world, that’s how music is born.

Art always had its story.

Every photograph, Polaroid or digital, plastic or gigabytes of memories and moments, it all came from a story. The story of a woman standing in front of a bulldozing crowd, with beating heart that trembles but never runs.

The belief that what she stands for is worth standing for, even in the face of a stampede or reckless bullets striving to find target. The story of a toddler smiling, eyes wide, cheeks wrinkled, the first moment one realises our bodies aren’t bodies but a circus of human emotions, that they can flex their muscles and make someone laugh along, stretch their throat into producing cries which brings people running to attend to their needs.

Years later when the toddler would grow up, they’ll learn how easy it had been all along to stand on trembling legs in front of a lover walking through the ruins of their spirit, how it feels to become a roaming tongue stroking sparks into fire.

Every poem tells a story.

Every brush stroke on naked canvas talks to you. You’ve only got to listen.

If you thought it was going to be easy, it wasn’t.

Nothing is.

Our love is an apartment on fire and we run around in circles trying to find an exit hatch, or a room in the basement where we’ll be safe when the flames run out. Our lives are struggles, to bear witness, to speak out, to stand for something which we believe is worth standing for. If you thought it is easy, it isn’t. But easy, isn’t always beautiful.

The artists will tell you that.

150001269352842.gifNILESH MONDAL, 23, is an engineer by choice, and poet by chance. His works have been published in various magazines and e-journals like Bombay Literary Review, Café Dissensus, Muse India, Inklette, Kitaab, Coldnoon Travel Poetics, etc. He was one of the winners of Juggernaut’s Short Story Contest in 2016. He currently works as a writer for Terribly Tiny Tales and Thought Catalog, as prose editor for Moledro Magazine, and is an intern at Inklette Magazine. His first book of poetry, Degrees of Separation, (Writers Workshop), was released in June 2017 and debuted at #2 of the Amazon Bestseller list of Poetry.


The Rainbow Faucet

“Daddy’s home!” my brothers and I screamed every night at the sound of his car door slamming shut. We never let him walk more than two steps into the house before we nearly tackled him to the ground. We hugged him, of course, but we had ulterior motives. My dad used to smuggle our favorite candies in his pockets and it was our top priority to find them as soon as he came home.

Every night he played the same trick: “Oh, sorry guys, I forgot your candy,” he said with a smack to his forehead, and then we shouted in unison, “No you didn’t!” We then searched all of his pockets to find our candy and squealed when we felt the plastic slip between our fingers.

We developed tactics for the most efficient pat-downs to find our treasures that put any cop to shame, and these were perhaps the only moments we worked best as a team. Each of us was responsible for one pocket: Ryan and I handled the pants since we were the shortest, and Billy and Markie ransacked the jacket because they were taller. My parents laughed as we attacked him and threw our candy into the air after the excitement of a successful hunt. My brothers got Kit-Kats, Snickers, and Reese’s, while I had a love affair with M&M’s. It didn’t matter if Dad tried to spice the game up by placing our candies where the other siblings would find it. We always swapped so everyone had their favorite. These battles dated all the way back to when I was three years old, and they are the earliest and fondest memories I can recall from my childhood.

My mom constantly complained, “You’ll spoil their dinner,” but he never did. My stomach was bottomless whenever I ate M&M’s. To me, my dad was just a really tall, strong kid who liked watching Spongebob and singing “Video Killed the Radio Star” in the car with me. On weekends when we didn’t have the anticipation of him returning with our goodies after work, he sometimes took me out to run errands then rewarded me with a little pack of M&M’s. One of my least favorite errands was going to the Sear’s Auto Center with its noxious rubbery fumes when my dad went to get his car serviced. That didn’t stop me, though, from memorizing where the vending machine was located. All he had to do when he noticed my patience diminishing was slip a dollar bill into my tiny claw when we held hands and I’d immediately take off. Whenever we went grocery shopping, my eyes became lasers that I trained to sort through the vast stacks of candies in the checkout line and target the M&M’s with inhuman speed and accuracy. I’d stealthily throw a pack onto our pile of food, thinking my dad never noticed, despite the big smile on his face.

Sometimes I ate my M&M’s by color, starting with the reds and moving until only the brown ones were left since they were the most boring. Other times I ate them slowly, one at a time, giddily savoring the cracking between my teeth as I tasted the sugary contents inside. At my most charming, I’d eat a huge handful and let my mouth crunch louder than my shoes when I walked on gravel. To this day, my favorite way to eat M&M’s is by putting them in my mouth one at a time and sucking until their shell melts, leaving me to relish the chocolatey goodness.

One fateful day when I was three, I came up with a brilliant idea for a new way to enjoy M&M’s. It was a Saturday, which meant I spent the whole day running errands with Dad in exchange for some M&M’s. After a long day of driving across town, he parked at a gas pump to fill up the car. I thought that if my mouth liked M&M’s so much, then why wouldn’t other parts of my body enjoy their company, too? Once I heard the gas sloshing into the car, I shoved several  mini M&M’s up my nose. I sat for a minute, waiting for them to melt and reveal their chocolatey contents so my body could enjoy it, but nothing happened. Life as I had come to know it ceased to exist after I realized the M&M’s were stuck in my nose. In those few minutes of perhaps the biggest betrayal of my life, I went from being carefree to realizing I was probably going to die. The feeling of having one of my airways cut off made me forget completely that I had a mouth to breathe from. I felt the foreign objects poison my body. Picking my nose in an attempt to dig them out only pushed them further up. With each inhalation, my lungs ballooned in preparation for the strain as I tried to launch them from my nostrils. With each exhalation, I realized how much trouble I was in when the M&M’s refused to budge. I listened to my dad talking to someone outside and I had no clue what I should tell him when he came back in the car. I could wait and see if he noticed, but that came with the risk of him getting mad at me, or I could avoid his glance and keep this secret stowed inside me forever. The dilemma was too tricky for a toddler to handle, so I sat with my companions lodged up my nose and banged my head against the seat in frustration as I waited for him to come back. I wanted to gauge his mood to determine if I should confess or not. The door opened, and I looked up at him, helplessly strapped in my car seat.

“Nicole?” He erupted with laughter. Suddenly I moved to the defensive.

“What, Dad!” I barked.

He angled the rear view mirror to where I could see my reflection and I gasped. Hues of brown, red, yellow, orange, green, and blue leaked out of my nostrils from a self-inflicted rainbow faucet. I joined him in his laughter for a moment and then remembered the gravity of the situation.

“I’m dying, Daddy.”

“Oh, Coley, no you’re not,” he said between laughs. He grabbed a tissue and started rubbing my face. He pinched one of my nostrils and told me to blow. I was half free. He pinched my other nostril and told me to blow again. At last my nose unplugged. I sat in awe of his ability to save my life on his first try. I viewed my dad as the most powerful superhero, and he probably thought of me as his damsel always in distress. “Well, now mom is definitely going to know I gave you candy when she told me not to,” he said as we admired the artistry of my newly stained skin.

Two years after this incident, I broke my leg in the middle of playing a hardcore game of stuck in the mud. I jumped off a ten-foot-tall jungle gym platform in order to escape being tagged “it.” I was the last person standing, and no way was I about to let some boy get in the way of that. After tragically learning that I could not fly, and, worse, that I was not indestructible, I had to change a lot of my priorities in life, like refraining from leaping off of tall things when boys approach me, something that has proven quite difficult as an adult. On the bright side, after I got my purple cast molded to my leg and was informed that I would be the most popular girl in school since everyone would want to sign my leg, instead of receiving the standard lollipop, the doctor gave me M&M’s that my dad most likely slipped into his white lab coat when I wasn’t looking.

Instead of feeling crippled during my weeks of hobbling, Dad let me feel like the superhero. Every day he scooped me up and walked around while I dangled from his shoulders so I could soar six feet in the air. My food upgrade made my flights much better than the time I flew to Disney World. Instead of receiving withered peanuts, my flight attendant knew better and handed me my favorite chocolate snack. As part of our game, Dad pretended he lost me, even though my aggressively purple cast hung right in his face and my stubby fingers yanked his wavy brown hair.

“Coley, where are you?” he hollered. I answered with shrieks of laughter as he spun wildly searching for the source of the cries, but still being careful not to drop me.

“Oh no, I think she’s gone!” he said to make me erupt into more laughter at his feigned cluelessness. After a few minutes of hysterics, I decided to show him mercy and reveal myself by shoving an M&M into his mouth.

“What! Did this fall from the sky?” he shouted, still oblivious to my presence. “Oh, Coley! I’m so glad I found you!” he said after he finally looked up.

“Daddy, I was on your shoulders the whole time!”

“You’re right,” he said. “Do you want to stay up there?”


“Just don’t let me forget that you’re up there again.”

“Okay,” I said, crossing my fingers behind my back.

NICOLE MELCHIONDA is a recent graduate of Stetson University where she majored in English with a minor in creative writing. There, she worked closely with award-winning poet, Terri Witek, and journalist,  Andy Dehnart. In February, she is moving to China to teach English.