When Elements Collide & Organic Bananas

(When Elements Collide) Alexandra Mazzola is a chronically disabled creative artist who enjoys painting, drawing, and writing. She wishes to become an art therapist someday, working with the youth and adults with disabilities, to help them overcome their struggles and feel hope and strength. Her passion and purpose in life is to make everyone she meets smile and feel loved. Wherever she goes in life, she brings her big heart and positive personality, in hopes to make others feel true happiness.

(Organic Bananas) Marissa is a visual artist that finds excitement in everyday environments and material. Her artwork elevates the ordinary and allows items to be seen for something other than their original function. Marissa graduated with her MFA from Brigham Young University and now shares her love of art with her own students.

Mardi Gras & Harmony

by Phyllis Green

 

Phyllis Green is an author, playwright, and artist. Her art can be found at ArLiJo 123, Gulf Stream magazine, Novus, New Plains Review, and soon in CALYX, Aji, I 70 Review, Rip Rap, and Cinematic Codes Review.

Translation of Relics

by Elizabeth Tervo

"The Fall of the Albatross" by Sydnie Poulsen
“The Fall of the Albatross” by Sydnie Poulsen
With apologies to Giorgi Lobjanidze and to Rumi 


“Our knowledge is but borrowed.
It is a problem for our souls,”
wrote a poet in a faraway language
translating an even farther away language
which is the tissue of fairytales: I will never know it.

So I read it wrong and I understood instead:
“our souls are but borrowed,
they are stolen.”
In the gap between one language and the next language
is a mystery, so I sat down to write.

Later that day I was standing 
between one stone and the next stone,
on the wet green grass in the cemetery
and the borrowed souls milled around in my mind.

We waited while her body was lowered
then we did not know what to do, because
they never fill in the earth while we are there—why?
Please, do it, cover her up, keep her safe.

I turned away and saw the hearse in the line of cars
and I thought, it is waiting for her,
to take her back to the church and then home.
She will need to rest, such an old lady.

Idiot! I saw her go into the ground myself.
She is not going anywhere.
We came to the cemetery, today, with her,
and the flowers, and the tears, and the crowd
exactly on purpose to leave again without her.

The uterus is the hearse
that carries us into this world
and leaves again, empty.

We like to stand up and call our souls “ours,”
but we are only borrowed.
In the gap between the one darkness 
and the next darkness is a mystery, color, life.

 

 

Elizabeth Scott Tervo is a Presvytera, or Greek Orthodox priest’s wife, at St Sophia Church in Washington State. She has published poetry and stories in the New Haven Review, the Wheel, the Basilian and other journals. Her memoir The Sun Does Not Shine Without You, about the time she spent as an exchange student on the eve of the breakup of the USSR, came out in 2021 in the country of Georgia by Azri publishers.

(Art) The photographer wanted to depict the moment in Coleridge’s famous poem Rime of the Ancient Mariner, where the albatross is shot; this action in the poem prompts a chain of events, and this photograph captures the haunting effects of the tale. This ballerina is draped in a shroud, like a ghost, representing the death of the bird and the tragedy of the loss of innocent life.

Vibrations Through Wire and Air

by Kirsten Burningham

"Uprooted" by Samantha Snyder
“Uprooted” by Samantha Snyder

As a college freshman, I stretched my wings, and it was irritating to feel my mom’s desire to tether herself, ever so slightly, to me. I took pride in how little I needed—perhaps, even, how little I wanted from her. I can’t remember exactly what was bothering me about our last phone call; perhaps it was simply that she called, interrupting my socializing with her interest in my life. Whatever the reason, I was festering, and her needs were pestering me, so I walked from the back row of my Intro to Sociology class, passing metal-backed and spring-seated chairs, to the front of the auditorium for advice from my professor.

 After a brief description of my angsty mother-daughter relationship, my professor asked, “So, when do you call your mom?” 

A simple question, really. But the answer that formed in my mind pummeled me like a tidal wave that still today tumbles me senseless in its undercurrent. 

“Only when I need money,” I responded. 

**********

Alexander Graham Bell’s mother was hearing impaired. As a child, Alexander would speak to his mother forehead to forehead, so close she could feel the vibrations of his voice. Did she understand the words he whispered into the wisps of her hair? Was the closeness—having him near and sensing his vibrations—was that enough for his mother? For him? I imagine his hand curled around the back of her head, interweaving between strands of her hair as he purred into her temple. 

**********

I am now approaching forty-years-old, and as I look back, I can say, “Of  course, I’ve always needed my mom.” But because of the elemental role she played in my life, I couldn’t then see my reliance on her in the compounds that were forming into my life. I leaned on her for support, but told myself I was running free—my strength, my grit alone, got me to my destination. Like a child’s prayer that is at first a parroting of a parent’s bite-sized phrases, adjusted to their ability to repeat in full—our lives are mere impressions. Only later do they become independent and individual. But how does one know when a mother’s phrases end and a child’s personal prayer begins? When did her bedrock, formational words finish and my unique petitions form? The lines are blurry at best, and it’s been easy to write her out of my story of growth. If it weren’t for her soft “please bless this” and “thank you for that,” would I even know how to pray?  Or why to pray? Or when to pray? Would I know how to live?

**********

I made my first phone call from our faded mustard-yellow rotary phone. It was attached to the wall above our wood stove fireplace in the kitchen. My mom guided my hand to show me how each digit had to go all the way around the circle to connect. You had to be patient when dialing on a rotary phone. It could not be rushed. She had every relevant number from the phone book memorized, so I would wait for her voice to cue the next number and then pull it over with a satisfying zip. 

**********

One night, when I was about eight years old, I was sharing a mattress on the floor with my mom while on vacation. We were exhausted from traveling, but I watched as she lay on her back and prayed. I’d somehow imagined up for myself a towering, indignantly regal God who expected nothing but a quivering bow, who would only ever hold an audience with the profoundly obedient. My mother’s prayer, which some may measure insouciant, was, I felt, a deeply spiritual devotion: a spirit of the law of transcendence that challenged my basic and pharisaic notions of prayer. So the lesson I learned in that moment wasn’t really to pray—she’d already taught me that. It was that God hears us even when we are tired, even when we know we should kneel up but can’t muster the energy, so we send up a wish, a hope, a need, a soft call to the divine, before we sink into our mortal slumber. I prayed more after that; I even sent up the sloppy prayers I would have previously thought too unfinished for God. 

**********

The first flip phone was introduced when I was eight years old, but I wouldn’t own one until my first year of college. That first year of college was like middle school on steroids. I was testing truths and pushing boundaries to see if they were really where my parents said they would be. Some boundaries were more flexible than I had imagined, others I was still working out—like how often I really needed to call my mom, and how often she should be calling me. Others were exactly where I had been taught they would be, though I’d occasionally feigned ignorance. However, at least one truth was reiterated for me on a deeper level. I remember standing in the football stadium endzone, my phone’s qwerty keyboard clicking like an incantation. After selecting the name of the person I wanted to contact, I stood spellbound when the right person answered. It weirdly strengthened my faith. Though I wouldn’t have acknowledged it in this way at the time, it was like seeing my mother pray while flat on her back, almost casually, but knowing she was heard, and knowing that she knew she was heard—wherever, whenever, and however. It seemed that if that little pressed cube could spit forth an almost exact duplication of my voice through invisible airwaves to the precise location I desired, then yes, God did hear my frantic and mostly fervent prayers, and They even heard the sleepy yawning prayers, maybe even the prayers I forgot to say.

**********

Famously, the first words spoken from a human voice and transmitted through wire were sent from Alexander Graham Bell, who bounced them across the laboratory to his assistant, saying, “Mr. Watson, come here. I need you.” Later, in a demonstration, he would say, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want you.”

Come here. I need you. I want you. I believe those words summarize the increasingly throbbing core of every phone call I made to my mother after my professor’s question exposed my self-centered blindness, my ignorant, toddler-like use and abuse of my mother’s forbearing, swaddling voice. Slowly, heavily, I exposed the many layers of need I had for my mom. Money was merely the most urgent, superficial, and salient demand that peaked above the icy waters. Below the surface, my needs matched and then outsized her own. Increasingly, I wanted to draw her forehead closer to mine, to hug the soft wave of her hair to me, and whisper my vibrations, my resonance, so she could feel the truth of my need. 

Eventually, I called her on a steady, rhythmic basis. Just because I wanted to, because I needed her advice with this wild thing called pregnancy, and then with the downright deception of breastfeeding. (I mean, some women make it look like eating chocolate, or taking a stroll in the park. I, on the other hand, was being devoured and chased down by wailing sirens.) If I called and my mom didn’t pick up, I knew her phone was at the bottom of her purse or the battery was dead; she never upgraded past a flip phone’s three-hour battery life. So, I would immediately call my dad—never to talk to him (bless you, Dad. I love you, but you’re terrible at phone conversations). After the obligatory salutations, I asked him to please pass the phone to Mom. 

Calling my mom became a preamble to talking with God. I’d wrestle a tough topic out with her on the phone, and then I could take a clearer picture of my challenge to God. It became uncomfortable to go too long without talking to her. She patiently listened to me as I tacked awkwardly through the early headwinds of motherhood. She was my safe harbor as I voyaged through the tumultuous swells of bearing and raising children.  

I had a three-year-old who played like Houdini, and Mom understood my anxiety. I’d call to tell her how he had escaped through the locked backyard fence and played chicken with the FedEx truck to cross the busy road. I laughed and cried with her after reading a neighborhood Facebook post about a little lost boy. That same afternoon, probably while I was sucked into my chair nursing the baby, my son had apparently waltzed out the front door and let himself into the first unlocked house he could find. We now have a top lock on our front door eponymously named the “Eli” lock. 

Being an independent, disconnected daughter lost its smack. The increasing weight of children depending on me had me smarting for my own freedom to simply depend on someone else. I wanted more and more to sink into my mom’s lap, to tuck my head into the crook of her neck, to let her caress my hair and soothe me back to sleep. I could rest on the other end of an eternal phone call, curling and uncurling my fingers in the cord, just to sit with her voice.

**********

The last good phone call I remember with my mom when she still sounded like mom, was about three months before she passed away. She called to check in on Eli. With unusual urgency and clarity, she told me she loved Eli so much, that I was the perfect mom for him, and that she was sure he would grow up to do great things. “Just hang in there, honey,” she said. 

Then, in November 2020, we gathered as a family on a Zoom call. Did Alexander Graham Bell imagine this future for his technology? Images of a whole person soaring effortlessly through the air to fill a visual square for other squares of people with ears and eyes to behold? 

We received the news that this really was it for her. Again she lay prone, lightly covered over with a hospital sheet, feet protruding, her hands clutching the sheet and fisting together over her heart. There was nothing left to do; the cancer had settled deep in her bones, and like a lion leaping for the jugular, it slashed her throat to bits. She could hardly emit sound. Her vocal cords turned from velveted tapestries to scrub brushes, the abrasions scraping away at her lovely soprano. Phone calls became nearly impossible for her to bear.

**********

So, when do I call my mom? 

Never, now. I try to. Instinctively, I pick up the phone; she is still on my favorites list. I have four saved messages I’ll never be able to delete. They end with her cheery, “Love you, hun, thanks, bye-bye,” her voice crackling through the recorded airwaves, cracking a little on the bye.

During my first few prayers after she passed away, I felt like she was somehow on the other end. It was as if God rerouted the prayer because They knew she was the one I was really trying to dial. I kept forcefully pulling the numbered circles all the way to the end, anxiously waiting for them to bounce frenetically backward, begging her to answer. Mom, come here. I need you. I want you.

 

 

Kirsten Burningham is a first-year graduate student at Brigham Young University studying British modern literature. Her research interests include ecological and motherhood studies. She teaches a first-year writing course for the university and delights in helping (often reluctant) students develop into passionate communicators. Outside of her on-campus work, Kirsten and her husband, Steve, have five children, and together they love to hike, read, and explore the world. (Mt. Kilimanjaro is next). 

(Art) Samantha Snyder is a mixed media artist who was born and raised in the Central Valley of California. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she spent the next several years teaching elementary school in Texas. She is currently working on an MFA in Studio Art at BYU. Her artwork is greatly inspired by her and her family’s time residing in the Pacific West. Her work consists of a variety of media, including collage, artists books and prints. Samantha currently resides in Utah Valley with her husband and 3 children.

Two

by Chloe Allen

"Forever" by Phyllis Green
“Forever” by Phyllis Green

I don’t remember you.

I should, shouldn’t I? I should see you in my own reflection—in my eyes, my nose, my smile. Does it make me a bad sister, a bad twin, do you think? For not remembering those moments when it was just us two, when you were my world, and I yours? When in our own unborn existence, you were the one I knew better than myself?

Losing the other half of myself ought to have left a mark. A scar. Something broken, at the very least. Don’t you deserve that? A visible cry out to the world so that someone other than me and my parents would feel your absence?

In my head, you’re a girl. I’m sorry if that’s wrong. I should remember, but I don’t remember. We would have shared a room and stolen each other’s clothes and talked about boys and driven each other absolutely insane. I would have been jealous of your nose, and you would have been jealous of my eyes, and you would have told me in high school that my glasses were a bad fashion choice even when no one else would. And our great-aunts would get us mixed up and we would roll our eyes because we aren’t identicalbut we wouldn’t ever say anything. And I think you would have been loud. Someone ought to balance out the silence I speak at any given moment. But I wouldn’t have minded. You would have said what I wanted to when I was too afraid to open my mouth. 

But instead, everything is quiet. Four siblings, and somehow it isn’t enough. 

Did you know that Charlotte didn’t know you existed until a couple weeks ago? You would have been her sister, and she had no idea. Is that my fault too? I should have talked about you more. But what do you say when your other half is a stranger? I wish I knew.

Somehow, in the lottery of life and death, I lived. And you left. I don’t blame you. But that doesn’t change the fact that every day I do the things you never got to. There’s nothing quite like feeling air effortlessly move through your lungs, somehow giving your body strength. But you don’t know that. You never got to pet a dog or go to prom or jump on a trampoline or rollerskate or drink water or scream or tie your shoelaces or run until it feels like your heart is going to explode or go to school or hug our mother or dance. You never got to live, to experience this beautiful chaos we call life.

So, I’ll live for you. You can come with me.

Let’s go.

 

Chloe Allen is an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, where she obsesses over the English language with her fellow editing and publishing majors. She enjoys reading, singing, and watching The Great British Baking Show, and has recently discovered she has an intense aversion to writing about herself in the third person. After graduation, her goal is to become an editor of fiction novels, so that she can read for the rest of her life.

(Art) Phyllis Green is an author, playwright, and artist. Her art can be found at ArLiJo 123, Gulf Stream magazine, Novus, New Plains Review, and soon in CALYX, Aji, I 70 Review, Rip Rap, and Cinematic Codes Review.

One Clear Voice

by Celisa Fullmer

We were lucky to even be there.

Beating diligently overhead, the sun penetrated the plains with a dry heat, contending with gusts of Albertan wind in periodic spats. It whipped at our ponytails and howled in our eyes, yanking the moisture straight out of their blurred corners. It quarreled with the truck’s engine, drowning out its mechanical protests and hurling grasshoppers toward the windshield.

For how remote and foreign it was, our destination might as well have been a distant island. Our truck sailed through a sea of grain. Fields of wheat billowed on either side, hushed not by the wind like we were, but by a reverence I couldn’t quite quantify. The land radiated as if the sun itself had plunged fiery tendrils deep into the soil, defiantly rummaging beneath the plains for gold, before evaporating in a gentle retreat, leaving gilded stalks in its wake, each glittering with grain. 

When I was assigned to serve in rural Canada, my untraveled mind defaulted to a snowy log-cabin scene with a moose somewhere in the background, not the never-ending flatness of blonde fields, not a dome brimming rim to rim with gold—and I definitely had not anticipated Hutterite colonies. 

It was rare for the Hutterites to invite outsiders, let alone missionaries, into their private corner of the world. The boundaries of colony property were not treated lightly—nothing about their lifestyle was treated lightly. Laura Baxter and her husband, local members of our congregation, had long been neighbors of this particular Lehrerleut branch. Through shared experiences in farming and ranching, the Baxters had earned the Lehrerleuts’ trust and the privilege of visiting in person, on the mutually unspoken condition that religious conversation remained off-limits. My companion and I had spent weeks helping the Baxters with their cattle, and Laura had grown fond of us. It had been her idea to entreat the Lehrerleuts to give us a tour.

Our truck rumbled onto the property in a procession of dust, cotton seeds, and abnormality, attracting a flock of curious Lehrerleut women. Two men with wide-brimmed hats stood to greet Laura. My companion and I hopped clumsily out of the back seats of the truck, awkwardly lingering behind as Laura’s ecstatic sheepdog circled our legs. Besides the fact that they lived in religious colonies and made exceptionally good bread, I knew very little about the Hutterites, and I became keenly aware of my ignorance. 

The women stared at us—amiably, but with obvious fascination. They stood in a cluster of blue skirts and polka-dot bonnets, all with freshly-washed faces and hair up in conservative, middle-parted buns.

I suddenly became self-conscious of my boots, my jeans, my uncovered head. In their eyes, these were men’s clothes. I stood there, feeling oddly defiant and a bit naked: my hair high in a ponytail, my shirt pleated, my jeans form-fitting, my eyes lined with makeup.

Like a heathen.

Laura and the colony leader gestured for my companion and I to join the throng, explaining that the girls would show us around the property. For how warmly they enveloped us, an observer would never guess that my appearance probably appalled them. The younger girls bustled excitedly around us, telling us their names and inquiring after our own, as if this simple act would officially make us friends. Though my companion and I, as missionaries, typically went by Sister, it felt more fitting to tell them my first name. The girls had never heard a name like Celissa before and were intrigued by the idea of my parents simply making it up because they liked the way it sounded, rather than choosing one from the Bible.

Next thing we knew, we were being whisked about the property. We visited the homes first, all uniform and utilitarian—not one decoration on the freshly painted walls, not a single speck of dust on the gray slatted floors. One family had a Roomba, and absolutely brimmed with glee upon demonstrating to us how the marvelous contraption worked. To the Lehrerleuts, home was a sacred space, and cleanliness truly a sister to godliness. Any technology that aided in that effort was a welcome gift. Already my misconceptions had been corrected: they were not exactly like the Amish.

This mentality of efficiency also accounted for their immaculate schoolyard, central to the perimeter of their homes. I stared at the playground; its minimalistic toys and rigid equipment were so different from the messy wood chips, pinchy-chained swing sets and fluorescent, static-shock-inducing plastic slides of my childhood. Nearby, I noticed a wooden scooter lying on the ground, painted green with the name “Thomas” in white. 

“Can I ride this?” I asked abruptly, lifting it upright. 

The girls laughed at my unintended joke. “That’s a boy’s toy! Girls don’t ride those!” But one of the older women smiled and shrugged, quite ready to let me make a fool of myself, so I gave it a go. Kneeling to fit onto the tiny contraption and peddling around in wobbly circles, I once again became conscious of the liberty of movement afforded by my pants and boots. The girls laughed and laughed! To them the act appeared so contrary, so ridiculously masculine, as to be downright comedic.

We moved on from the playground to the school, with its rows of tidy desks, absent of what was surely an attentive, obedient troop of children. On the front wall hung an alphabet chart in German cursive. All around us hung sheets of the children’s own impressive renditions of the cursive, along with endearing crayon doodles. The young woman leading the tour happened to be the schoolteacher; she explained to us that Lehrerleut girls could no longer attend school once they turned fifteen years old, but that they could sometimes continue in education by instructing the children in the basics of mathematics and reading. 

“Amanda wants to be a teacher, right Amanda?” the teacher asked, turning to address a teenage girl with deep brown eyes and dark braids. Amanda nodded shyly, smiling.

The girls asked us if we had ever gone to school, and what we planned to do after completing our missionary service. My companion responded that she planned on becoming a nurse or a surgeon, which won smiles and nods of approval. A bit uncomfortably, I explained to them that I studied rhetoric and literature, and that I hoped to become a professor one day. Nodding gravely, one girl said, “The only way to go to university is to leave the colony.” The others nodded silently. I made a mental note to ask Laura about that exchange later. Amanda looked up, her brown eyes piercing me with their depth; she seemed to be searching my face for something. 

Our group quietly shuffled out of the schoolhouse and into the dairy barn, where we ran into a handful of young men tending to the cows. The girls whispered excitedly as one particular boy walked by, tipping his hat.

“What?” I asked eagerly, “Who was that?”

“Jacob,” one girl replied while the girl next to her blushed and covered her smile, staring after him. 

“He and Rebecca are cour-ting!” said another in a singsong voice, and the others exploded into giggles. Pretty soon all of them were telling us about the boys of neighboring colonies, who was seeing who, and who would be married soon.

I grinned. Missionaries don’t date while serving. I had missed girl talk.

After that, it was on to the nursery, then the hospital, and the bakery and the butchery and the dining hall and the warehouses and chicken coops and the stables—all of it an absolute whirlwind of foreign familiarity. Somehow, it felt like a long-lost home and another planet all at once. We spent the entire day learning about their lifestyle, conversing easily, and strolling pleasantly. 

I was stunned by the massive machinery they had for drying meat, plucking chickens, making bread, and harvesting corn. For the level of isolation they strove to maintain between themselves and the worldliness of modern society, the Lehrerleuts were certainly masters of efficiency and consistency. One had to admire it. From their top-of-the-line farming equipment to the meticulous mechanics of their lifestyle, every gear and cog knew its place.

Finally, we arrived at the church, with windows and pews as pious and polished as a Sabbath sunrise itself. There, the eldest girl explained to us the practices and purposes of their fundamentalist Christian faith, rooted deeply in Germanic traditions of worship. They listened with fascination as we explained how we taught people about Jesus Christ and helped prepare people who wanted to be baptized. 

One girl asked my companion and I to recite our favorite Bible verses. Fifteen pairs of eyes expectantly lit upon us. My companion spoke her favorite verse in German, which won her a reverent round of applause. I recited Isaiah 53:3-5. The girls clasped their hands to their chests, overjoyed at our shared ability to recite from memory verses about the Savior. Perhaps not all outsiders who came to tour the colony had such similar beliefs. 

“Come,” they said eagerly, “You must meet the others before you go!”

And so our tour concluded at a construction site, a home being built for a newly-wed couple, following the exact same pattern as every other home. Teenage boys and their male mentors tracked sawdust back and forth through the framework, carrying planks of wood and hammering at door frames. The pounding and shuffling ceased when the women arrived; tipped hats and respectful nods accompanied us into one of the nearly completed rooms. We sat on the empty white floor and some of the boys joined us, lining all four walls, sharing cups of water and bags of popcorn for their snack break. From the cheerful chatter and back-and-forth banter, it was easy to tell that they were all good friends. 

Suddenly, Laura suggested that the group of youth sing for us. I thought it an odd request, but they enthusiastically complied.

One girl began singing, her voice strident but confident, setting the tone for the others to join in. By the second phrase, I recognized the tune. It was not a hymn, as I had subconsciously anticipated, but the late-90’s ballad “One Clear Voice” by Peter Cetera:

Whole world is talking, drowning out my voice
How can I hear myself with all this noise?
But all this confusion, just disappears
When I find a quiet place, where I can hear

One clear voice, calling out for me to listen
One clear voice, whispers words of wisdom
I close my eyes, till I find what I’ve been missing
And if I’m very still, I will hear one clear voice

Their voices brought my mind to the wheat fields, rising and falling in tides of resplendent harmony. Each stalk a sweet sound, collectively: the symphony of the plains. Here, in the middle of nowhere, their own sacred privacy filled their lungs—lungs adapted to the virgin atmosphere of a haven untainted by the chaos of the world—distilling upon the air like audible, crystalline waves. A unified sea of gold.

One clear voice—I knew that voice. It was the same voice I had followed my entire life, the same voice that had brought me to Canada, the same voice that calmed my heart and heightened my joys and numbed my sorrows and silenced my fears. And the same voice that reassured me, in that moment, that there were people who still believed in Christ, people ready to tell the world all about Him, people who loved Him.

All too soon, the song ended. As we gathered back at Laura’s truck, the girls teased that they would be more than happy to sew us dresses and bonnets to properly outfit us. One even invited us to learn Germanic cursive in their school, alongside the five- and six-year-olds, which they found hilarious. They begged us to stay. A part of me—I couldn’t explain it—yearned to stay. This place was such a spiritual haven compared to the world we would soon return to. They wished us blessings as we searched for people to teach. How they beamed as they hugged us! And oh, how I needed that.

Saying goodbye was harder than it should’ve been for people who had only known each other for a day. And yet—even though I knew I would likely never see them again in this life—it felt powerfully introductory to a certain unspoken chapter of sisterhood. Something deep within me knew that these women had a place within my frame of experience that would extend far beyond this single day. From now on, my understanding of and questions about what it meant to be a woman would be gently sculpted by their unexpected influence.

We drove away from the property, the wheat fields nodding farewell to us with newfound intimacy. Laura broke the silence by saying, “Pretty different world out here, eh?” We agreed. 

“That was amazing,” I said.

Laura nodded solemnly. “They have an impressive lifestyle.”

After a pause, I brought up the conversation in the schoolhouse. 

“Ah, yes,” she said, “Yes, you ladies were certainly exotic in their eyes! Lehrerleut girls don’t often leave the colony. I’m sure the idea of university absolutely boggled them.”

“Do you know anyone who has left?” I asked. 

“The colony? Oh yes,” Laura said. “George and I are good friends with several who have left. One young man, Jeremiah, told us that it all used to drive him so crazy that every morning he would run, just run. He’d run to the edge of the property and stare out at the fields, wanting to scream. He finally left. So restless. It’s hard out there but most of them make it; they figure it out. Has a beautiful wife and two kids now. They seem very happy.”

She continued, “If men leave the colony and happen to want to come back, they have to consult with colony leaders and work things out. If women leave, they can never come back. That’s why so many of them simply stay. Security and community.”

I looked out the window, unsettled. Something about the image of that boy, driven to madness, screaming into the wheat-field void, felt so eerie. 

For the rest of the trip home, my companion sat in the front seat chatting with Laura. I lounged in the back of the truck, pensive. Despite how fascinating the day had been, a strange surge of concern settled upon my mind like the cloud of a summer storm, vast and bleak. The type of sky-sized cloud that seals its grayness from one horizon to the other, blanketing squalls of heat into fitful dust devils. The kind that hangs ominously but refuses to precipitate, clutching the dry ground below while garish light beats upon its back above.

I had nothing but profound admiration for the Lehrerleuts. It had been an incredibly eye-opening day. Those girls were some of the happiest, most delightful people I had ever met. 

So why was I bothered?

To this day, the sound of their singing is as freshly sutured into my mind as if I’d been with them just yesterday. It was the most magnificently raw sound I’ve ever heard. They were searching for “One Clear Voice” amid a world of turmoil. They’d established a lifestyle entirely centered around preserving and heeding that Voice.

So why did their voices both enchant…and haunt me?

They seemed so happy; were they happy?

Was I?

A summer storm did roll in, later that day. My companion and I returned home, waved goodbye to Laura, prepared for bed, said goodnight, and knelt to pray. Jealous of  my already-unconscious companion’s steady breath, I knelt in the darkness alone. Slowly, I began untangling my thoughts by thanking the Lord for the experiences of the day. Tentatively, I prayed that someday we would understand. I wasn’t sure who “we” was, but the identity of a Christian woman has always been slippery, vague. Indisputably, there is joy in the life of a mother, a sister, a believer. But I couldn’t help but wonder whether, like the golden sea of wheat—planted, raised, and hewn for consumption, year after year—it didn’t matter how rich a soil was, if the harvest was always the same.

Were roots for stability? Or immobility?

This cloud of consternation followed me into bed, rumbling, unsettling. Someday, I thought, staring up at the ceiling, someday. I didn’t know what it meant, but it felt fitting.

I closed my eyes, listening to the thunder above, and all of a sudden—blessedly—it began to rain.

 

Ever since she could hold a pencil, Celisa has loved to write everything from poetry to essay. She currently works as a content writer and will graduate this spring with a degree in Professional Writing. Her husband is the joy of her life, and everything they dream of together revolves around a future family.

A Car Ride, Beastie Boys, and John Lennon’s Ghost

by Evie Darrington

"riot grrrl!" by Evie Darrington
“riot grrrl!” by Evie Darrington

NO SLEEP TILL

BROOKLYN!

Count of 15 on the beat keeping time, head nodding and finger tapping—

Your cup holders carry expired coupons, the dented tiara from when you were crowned prom princess (you swear you ran as a joke), and those tinted circle hippie glasses, the ones with the scratched lenses from when we went as John Lennon (and not his ghost, mind you) and Yoko Ono to that one dinner with the family with the boy with freckles that I talk about too much. You wouldn’t let me put you in that dingy bed sheet because you said you looked too much like Jesus. The ghost of John Lennon frowns down disapprovingly from heaven (or hell? Satan has yet to claim rock and roll as his own), clutches the still-bleeding bullet hole in the center of his chest, adjusts his wire-framed glasses and decrees that dressing like him is in fact offensive, and maybe a little sinister. Even if you’re using a seemingly harmless bed sheet to do it.

The crimson patches in your cheeks, red like freshly-scraped knees or premature rebellion. The boys are especially loud tonight; Mike D. sounding brassy, MCA a little brash, and Ad-Rock bold. I savor the bite of each new verse and swallow. 

And these days are cherry-scented chap stick flavored, like the beat up lipsmackers from the seventh grade that I have at home crammed in the very back of my desk drawer behind the three different pairs of tangled earbuds and the stupid love poems I wrote about you-know-who. I got a haircut and chopped it short short—it slashes off at about my chin in a straight blunt line, but it isn’t like the time Dad buzzed my head in the kitchen of our old house and the collar of my hand-me-down pj shirt itched red-hot with short shorn hairs for weeks. The dull dim years of high school whisk out of sight on this canyon road and ahead is crisp and shiny and brand new. My head hangs a couple feet above the rushing highway; I stare up at the expanse of sky and the tiny pinpoint of stars, stretch my arms out and inhale the vast mountains in cool shadow looming overhead. I breathe it all in until my lungs ache with icy pine-stained wind and try to reason with it to stay for as long as possible—thirty seconds, sixty seconds. The song ends, the boys never making it to Brooklyn. A minute thirty. I exhale.

 

 

Evie Darrington is a sophomore at BYU studying graphic design. She is from Seattle, Washington, and the rare instances it rains in Utah make her think of home.

Wild Geese

by Abby Knudsen

“Fallen” by Nicholas Rex

Within an hour after slipping off the little cliffside, she accepted that she would die there, among the juniper trees and sagebrush and sand. While she lay there on the rocks at the bottom, unable to stand, she grazed her fingertips over the familiar place where her left ribs should be. A few ribs protruded under the skin, unfamiliar, and every time she allowed air into her lungs, the left side protested violently. In exchange for air, she set her chest on fire. She tried to call for help but couldn’t breathe enough air to yell louder than speaking volume. She couldn’t stand, either—her left leg faced the wrong way, and her calf was torn open by bone.

It had been a mistake to go off the trail and think she could find the waterfall by tracking the sound. She realized now that it had been an echo, probably from nowhere nearby. She had been careless to wander and careless to lose her footing in a place with no cell reception.  

So, with only her arms, she had crawled in the direction she believed the trail to be, leaving a stream of blood behind herself, until she could no longer continue from the pressure on her punctured lung. And as she had crawled, with thoughts circling of her parents and sister and of food and water, she couldn’t help but remember her favorite poem—the one that says, “You do not have to walk on your knees / for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.” 

If only, she thought. If only it was that easy, to walk on knees rather than crawl with arms. 

But she could still repent, she knew. If not for punishment, why else would she have been put here? She stopped crawling, rested her head on her backpack, and spoke her guilt from the bed of sandstone and sticks, rather than the traditional deathbed she’d always imagined. I’m sorry for not going to church, she said. I’m sorry for telling Amy I loved her, even when I didn’t. I know—I should have gone to Mom’s funeral and helped Dad with the house. I’m sorry. What else do you want to hear? 

And then she called for help again with her lung splitting open, even though she could barely whisper. There had to be someone—maybe someone else who had wandered far from the trail, looking for the waterfall too. But the amount of air she could breathe lessened, lessened as her lung depleted, and she could do nothing but lie there and repent. The sun fell behind the mountain, and she watched it from her sideways view, wishing she could reach out to hold it in her hands and stop it. 

She kept her eyes to the sky, looking instead for the wild geese that Mary Oliver said would be there, high in the clean blue air. But they didn’t bother to show. Only the vultures circled—just a few at first, then a whole flock, pacing in a circle in the air.

With such little oxygen flowing through her body, her mind was lightheaded and her vision began to blur. In a way, the vultures almost looked like geese—geese, if they were circling around to come and save her, to scoop her up and fly her home.

She closed her eyes and let the world go on.

The vultures were kind enough to delay their approach until after she had taken her last shallow breath. Then, as one, they stooped around her and tore away at her body, grateful for their fortune. They peeled away her skin first, hardly savoring it in order to devour the fresh flesh still warm inside her. The vultures’ beaks and chests stained red, and blood pooled on the sandstone. Then they flew away, satisfied. 

They left behind her shredded bits of clothing, along with her skeleton—the only parts of her that the rescuers would find. And when she could not tell her own story, the broken bones would.

 

 

Abby Knudsen is a senior at BYU majoring in editing and publishing and minoring in creative writing.

(Art) Nicholas Rex prefers to refrigerate his milk and eat his cereal cold, as do most people. Despite this characteristic, Nicholas Rex likes to think he is different from other people. He is also very interested in God, or the absence of God.

A Few Miles Off

by Ella Jakobi

"Unknown Body II" by Katelyn Field
“Unknown Body II” by Katelyn Garcia

“How far are we?” she asked.

“Only five hours from,” he replied.

“Great.”

“Great.”

They had been married for about a year and would not be together for much longer—a fact they both knew but were hesitant to admit. No one wanted to be the one to say it first. To be branded the one who ruined things.

A landscape of red rock and blue sky washed by the windows. It was the sort of view that was beautiful only for the first thirty minutes. Afterward, all that either of them would think—but not say—was how awful it would be to break down in the middle of nowhere. They wondered who would die first.

He was certain she would, by thirst. Or starvation.

She also thought she would die first but figured her death would arise from a tumble from a red-rock cliff. Or the bite of a diamond-headed snake. Or they could stumble upon an ancient civilization holed up between the I-90 and I-122, where she might be sacrificed as a beautiful woman. She thought of how her husband might weep if he saw her bleed. Oh, how he would weep then.

“Babe?” he said, breaking the silence.

“Hm?

“I love you.”

“Sweet. I love you.”

He drove thirty miles over the speed limit, but there were no black-and-whites to stop him. He did not want to wait around and play the patriarch if their car did break down: Everything will be fine, he would say. Calm down, even as he would watch his wife wither like a husk before him, scratchily complaining until her last breath.

His eyes blurred over the road, but he would not admit it. The last thing he needed was for her to drive. That would have been so much worse.

She thought about helping with the driving, but knew that even if he pretended to sleep, he would keep his eyes half-open so he could watch the road and ensure that she wouldn’t get them in an accident. Which wasn’t really the point, was it? She checked the dirt under her nails and looked pointedly out the window. If there was an accident, it would be an accident. She would try her best, but it would never be enough for his high standards.

Great, he thought, looking from the corner of his eye. She is upset again. Always always always ups—

When she said, “Look out!” it wasn’t a warning but a lightswitch, shifting the world to a whole other color: one brighter, like a surgeon’s chair. Suddenly more alert than he had ever been—even on that day in fifth grade when a soccer ball hit him in the face and he was certain he would die—he slammed the brakes. The car screeched on that toothpick road. 

It was only as they slowed that he realized he wasn’t sure what they stopped for. 

“What did you see?” he asked. Hands tight on the wheel. Heart rate ready to kill something.

She did not answer.

“Babe. What. Did. You. See.”

She lifted one shaky finger and pointed to the side of the road. There, lying on its side, was an escaped milk cow, toppled over on the edge of the asphalt, its hide the color of ruby wine. Long departed, it seemed to be. 

Even from a distance, he could count four of its white ribs, poking out through stripped flesh.

But sitting behind the cow, and suddenly rising, emerged the head of a calf. 

Brown, skinny, its cheekbones hauntingly sharp. Its beetle-black eyes yawned in their direction, blinking gently. As if the blinks were blown kisses.

After a moment it rose, and that was when they noticed patches of its legs were pink. And festering. It looked toward them, but did not walk. After a moment, it cried in their direction: a small, thirsty cry.

“Pity,” she said.

“Why did you tell me to stop?”

Her defenses were already up; her tongue was a knife behind teeth. “Well, it looked like it was more in the road, babe. Like, in the center. The road weaves, you know.”

The road had not weaved for miles.

He knew this; she did not.

See? he told himself. This is why I am driving.

“Poor thing,” she said, pressing her fingers against the car’s window—as if to touch the calf.

“Yeah.” He paused. “Do you want to help it?”

Her brown eyes trailed over the scene for a moment, her bottom lip trembling. There was so much she wanted to say.

“No, babe.” She shot him a weak smile. “It can’t be helped, can it?”

His jaw tightened, and he looked away from her. It was much easier to digest the image of the diseased calf on the side of the road. “No. Can’t be helped.”

“Should we hit it?” she asked. 

First, he processed it like a joke. Second, he toyed with his seatbelt at the shoulder. Then, “You want me to wreck the car?”

“I was just thinking we could tap the calf!”

“Tap the calf?”

“You know, knock it over. Doesn’t look like it could run far anyway, Babe.” Her lip trembled all the more. “Seems like an awful way to die. Young and confused. Might as well end it quickly. Not…drag it out.”

He thought on this, or rather, pretended to think on this. But he was the one driving, and he shook his head. “Better for things to die out naturally. Not to rush nature, you know. More respectful for it to pass away on its own.”

“Pass away?”

“Sure.” He lifted his foot off the brake and let the car return to movement. The calf watched them slip by. “You know, death’ll be so easy, so simple, for something young like that. Like falling asleep. It won’t even realize it’s happened until it has.”

They continued down the road, and he accelerated the car, this time to thirty-five miles over the speed limit. At that moment, he decided that he was going to sit on the balcony of their hotel—alone, after she was asleep—and think about the calf, good and hard. To see if this was the right choice.

Minutes ticked by in the car, as slow as an apple dries in the autumn sun.

“Babe?” he said.

“Hm?” She was still looking out the window, in the direction of the calf.

He attempted a smile. “I love you.”

She adjusted in her seat, folding her arms and holding her breath, as if noise, any noise, would be an argument. She looked at the sky far away from him. “I love you, too.”

 

 

Ella Jakobi is a writer in Utah county who has never been married, but tends to write about marriage quite a bit. She enjoys aimlessly driving, boiling eggs, and rearranging the pillows on her couch so they look JUST right. She fervently believes everyone should write stories, even if they don’t show them to anyone, because, often, you can only find truths about your mind in the stories you tell yourself.

(Art) Born in 1996, Garcia grew up in Cache Valley, Utah and is in the process of receiving her BFA in studio art at BYU. Her artwork centers on meditative interactions with the land, through the use of her body, documented through video, photo, and installation.

Thetis

by Courtney Lehikainen

"Sister Vol. 2" by Nicole Konecke
“Sister Vol. 2” by Nicole Konecke

Her name was Thetis, and she was from the sea. And like the sea, she could not die. She ebbed and flowed, her mood changing with the centuries. At times she beat the rocky cliffs into sand relentlessly, drowning sailors and sending ships to the bottom of the sea that was also Thetis. Sometimes she was smooth and placid, movements precise and sometimes barely there at all. She was too uncaring, nearly unfeeling, and always undying.

His name was Achilles, and he was from the sea. But he was also from the land, and that was the problem. The land could be beaten into submission, devoured by waves and floods and rain. Thetis had killed many from the land, had personally eaten miles into the cliff faces that dared touch her. He was from the land, and he was from the sea. He was not like his mother.

The birth was simple, though to Thetis most things were. When she realized the child needed air, she was frightened. What was this creature that she had created, half one world and half another? If Achilles were not so beautiful she may have killed him then. Her sisters wanted to, eagerly reaching for the bundle in her arms. But he had a head of dark curls like hers, and amber eyes. She waved their sharp fingers off, confused at herself, and made for the light above.

She hid him in a cave on the surface, where cold rock and water met. He floated on the surface in her arms, and she hated that she loved him. Such a fragile thing with wide eyes and red blood running through his veins. So hungry and so small. They thought she was crazy, her sisters. He will die soon, they told her. His life is but a moment. You are unending, Thetis, leave him. She had tried. She left him in the cave for two days, once. Hoping she could resist the urge to return. But his weak cries were carried by the sea to her ears, and she clutched him and promised not to leave again.

He was not growing as the other land children seemed to. She tried to get him to eat—fish and seaweed and even some seabirds. He would not take them and seemed to be dying before her eyes. She was growing desperate. This small thing, this accident that she had made, she could not save. She began to watch the people on land, the father and his followers. She saw the children they raised, healthy and pink. But she also saw the way they killed each other, the diseases that took the children, and the fear on their faces as they died. She did not feel bad for them. She had killed many. But she would not let them kill her son.

That is what brought her to stand on the bank of the river, feet unfamiliar with the feeling of land but steady. She held him by the heel and dipped him in the river. Please, she pleaded. Make him steel. Make him metal. Make him live. This thing, this child who should not exist. Please make him live. He did not have the strength to cry, though he flinched as he entered the water. She wondered if it burned his mortal infant skin. Even still, she dipped him twice, to be sure. He was raw and red when she pulled him out of the darkness, hardly moving. 

His father found him on the beach, cradled with seaweed and feathers. Thetis was nearby. He is a monster, she told Peleus. He belongs nowhere. The man gathered Achilles in his arms. He belongs with me, he told her. He is my son. Thetis’ eyes flashed. Then he is yours to keep or kill, she replied, for I am no mother. Peleus nodded in deference, fear evident on his face, and Thetis turned back to the sea. She did not look back at him, but four men from the land drowned that night, and the mother who was not a mother felt no pity.

His name was Achilles, and they killed him anyway. He did not even live very long. The fragile child became a hero and then the child was killed. 

Her name was Thetis, and she was from the sea. And she was his mother. And she could not save him.

 

 

Courtney Lehikainen is a senior in the photography program at BYU. She specializes in fine art and darkroom processes, but will always have a love for words. Courtney was born and raised in Modesto, California, though she now resides in Utah Valley,

(Art) Nicole Konecke considers the turbulent shores of Lake Michigan home, but finds temporary residence in Providence, Rhode Island where she attends Brown University pursuing a degree in Literary Arts, recently celebrating her first publication in the Indy, a Brown/RISD literature and arts journal.