The Long Plight

Jeffrey McClure

Use knowledge to see a much greater light, 
To see the world a new in one’s brief stay. 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight.  

Learning helps those who yearn for deeper sight 
To open one’s mind and to see all they, 
Use knowledge to see a much greater light. 

Those in deep struggle often quit their fight, 
To sink in defeat and confess dismay, 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight. 

The wisest scholar will teach in delight,  
And like a student, their mind goes astray.  
Use knowledge to see a much greater light.  

The learner attempts to reach greater heights, 
Like a bird soars against the wind away 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight.  

To you, dear reader, pick your pen and write. 

Do dare to recall this message, purvey, 
Use knowledge to see a much greater light, 
Wisdom is a tool that aids the long plight. 

Into the Garden

Jeffrey McClure

In fruitful lands afar you frolic faithfully free,
crawling carefully, captivating, God’s bliss.
Bound to dirt you kick yourself loose,
from earthly chains, from judgement.
Upon silk you lay, dressed to comfort,
as mosquitos fly and flitter freely.
Grassy fields afar consuming all sight
A brief breeze of serenity,
flows through your dark hair.
A vast vivacious valley vacating all sorrow,
you lay lightly in bountiful bliss.
On a hill afar, an old distant dwelling,
catches your memory’s gaze.
Lavish love consumes your heart,
as you peer into the heavens above.
A blue sky illuminates the Autumn grass.
Still you lay, ever so freely.

The Mantis

Chasity Massey

An orange Autumn glow cast upon me as I sit alongside you
Birds sing a soft chirrup, the cool wind dances and a life hides within your graveyard flowers.
Nothing more than baby mantis reminds me God’s creatures will always find a way. 
A minuscule being brings a new comfort
I now know;
Even within mourning and disarray
There is mayhem when life ends 
Then a stillness for only a moment 
Before, life blooms again and the world slowly begins to spin
My grievances fade away

The Great Race of Astir

Ashley Lasseter

“The winner of this year’s fiftieth annual great race of Astir is Jackson Merrit! May we all strive to do as much as Mr. Merrit!” The crowd boomed with zeal as Noah noticed an older man standing away from the crowd in the shade, solemnly looking at the ground, with his hands shoved deep in his pockets. Noah tapped his friend’s shoulder and asked, “Presley, who is that guy, and why is he standing alone? He looks quite solemn.”

         Presley looked at the man and replied to Noah, “That guy is Mr. Holmes. He used to win this race very year! But rumor has it that the last year he won first place, a bad tragedy happened as a result of a fight he had gotten into with the mayor. He disappeared from town for a week. Ever since that week, he was shunned by the mayor, forbidden to ever compete in this great race again. Many town members won’t speak to him now. Anyway, I have to head home, I’ll catch you tomorrow, Noah!”

         Noah stood and observed Mr. Holmes, processing what Presley had told him. Noah decided to have Mr. Holmes over for tea and discover whether the rumor was true or not. As he approached Mr. Holmes, he noticed a single tear fall from his face. “Mr. Holmes, hello! My name is Noah, and I was wondering if you’d like to come over for tea?”

         Mr. Holmes cut his eyes, shocked that anyone had noticed him. Looking at Noah, he responded, “Thank you very much for the offer, young man. But I’m afraid I cannot join you today, maybe another time will work better.”

         Mr. Holmes grabbed his coat to leave as Noah responded, “Sir, if I could ask you one question, then?”

         Mr. Holmes paused and replied, “All right, go ahead. I suppose I have time for one question.”

         “Great,” Noah replied. “My friend told me you used to win this prestigious race every year, and that all the townspeople looked up to you as an inspiration to always do more and more each year. So, I was wondering how come you are standing here, all alone and off to the side in the shadows?”

         Mr. Holmes took a deep breath and gazed at the townspeople parading Mr. Merrit down the street. He turned towards Noah, and gestured for him to sit down with him.

“Noah,” Mr. Holmes started, “your friend was quite right in saying I used to take first place, ten consecutive years, as a matter of fact. But the last time I took first prize, that evening, something life-altering took place. I made it home, and I collapsed. A young lady that delivered my mail found me the next morning and took me to the hospital in the town next over. I had a near death experience from years of neglecting the rest my body needed.

         “You see, in such a quest of trying to keep doing more and maintaining the pride of my first-place position, I almost ran myself into my grave at the age of thirty. My week in the hospital granted me much time to ponder and process all of this, and when I was released, I immediately went to the mayor to petition that we shut down such a dangerous race. The mayor seen fit to shun me and my plea, however. He was so irate, in fact, he forbid me to participate ever again, and spread a rumor about the situation that remains to this day.

         “I tell you all of this to leave you with one point. Noah, you will be able to participate in this great race of Astir in two years when you turn eighteen, but I plead with you to not participate in the safety and health of your wellbeing. I learned the hard, dangerous way that while it is good and honorable to keep our hands busy, we must also find the time to rest when it is needed. It is better, rather than trying to do all things, that we do fewer things well. Noah, find those things most meaningful and fulfilling to you, and take pride and pleasure in pursuing those. Work diligently, but rest, and make sure to take care of yourself. There will only ever be one Noah granted on this planet, and Astir should be proud to have those that focus on doing fewer things intentionally, well, and with excellence, rather than parade those that neglect caring for themselves in pursuit of the town’s prestige and attention.”

         Noah nodded and was pleased with the answer Mr. Holmes provided. Thanking Mr. Holmes for his time and advice, he turned to go home. He made the decision not to participate in this great race, but to find the things he could do well, and vowed to take care of himself.

         “Noah,” Mr. Holmes called out, “I’ll take you up on the offer for tea sometime. Let me know when you’re available.”

         Noah nodded, smiled, and waved goodbye at Mr. Holmes as he started his journey home to ponder the thoughts Mr. Holmes had left him with.

A Hopeful Farewell

Hayden Lanier

Life was going fine
Everything just the same as always
But then the bad news came
And with it many painful days
Life was tough then
And though things were seeming well
In the end we had to say goodbye
Goodbye, a dark farewell
Farewell, my dearest friend
Didn’t want to say goodbye
I know there’s a reason for everything
But why did you have to die?
So young, so full of life
Jubilantly radiating rays of joy
But now that you are gone
Only sadness I have let myself employ
But alas, I know there’s hope
Because I know I’ll see you again
No matter what the world says
I know that death won’t win
Through Jesus and through him only
We all may conquer death
Then we enter God’s perfect kingdom
As we exhale that final breath
So although I’m filled with sorrow
And my soul is stained with grief
This earthly pain I’m feeling
It couldn’t be more brief
Because although we knew life here
In Heaven we will see
No more pain, tears, or sorrow
Perfect forever life will be

The Field

Tristen Garner

The crowd cheers
The band plays
Faces everywhere
That’s how many others there are
At least that’s how many play
Yet it feels like I’m the only one
All this chaos yet for me it’s silent
Yet for me no one else exists
In the moment
No one
I can’t feel the wind blow
Or the sweat rolling down my body
To me it’s all still
Everything around me has no purpose
Only I matter
The clock ticks down
Seconds minutes hours go by
For me it’s like time is frozen
I step on the field
Everything changes
Stillness prevails
Complete calm

Domesticated Drafts

Tristen Garner

As I write, pencils snap, words smudge, and lines intersect
I choose to create or to execute
I make the very work you inspect
This final creation lays still
Fate sealed with a final word
The hole was dug and now filled
The once living document now dead
Never again will it live or breathe
The final legacy stuck in your head
The chaotic beast put to rest
Finally tamed words on a page
A new work for the modern age
Never will they see the living beast
Only on tamed ideas can they feast

Fl-206 E and A1A

Kayla Elliott

I’m one ocean out of many – waves hitting
shore, consistently but without intent,
tides at the mercy of the moon and its alignment.
The sunrise bringing promised picture-perfect
skies, light reflecting off the surface, concealing
any dark secrets that may lay deeper,
too deep to want to uncover, that’s why only
five percent of me has been explored.
That five percent, still quite dangerous,
sharks, jellyfish, currents so strong
they can pull you right out, unable to make
your way back to shore, so you never go further
than waist-deep, usually just there to lay on
the sand, reading, tanning, and maintaining
your self-image. When the weather begins to
drop, I’m left behind for warmer,
more comforting things, but at the first sign
of spring, conch shells echo the whispers of
“Can we go back to the beach?”

Still Here

Kiersten Dolecki

Do not tell me flowers have blossomed from where I have been wrongfully touched,
I know there aren’t flowers. It’s just skin, it’s always been my skin.
I’m tired of making collages, so that maybe, just maybe, my trauma will jump out the pages.
Maybe she’s hoping some hidden meaning will be in those photos,
But they will only ever be pictures I cut out of the latest magazine.

She cannot undo the scars on my back,
She cannot undo “flowers” that have blossomed.
She cannot go back in time and change the fact,
That the word “no” excited him more than the word “yes.”

But I think that’s okay, for in the morning the sun still rises and the birds still sing,
Their songs battling the clutches of the silence that guides my grieving mind.
I don’t grieve for me, I grieve for the kid in me that I have lost.
I grieve so heavily that the wind and the rain look for that kid too.

Yet I lay in my dimly lit room, where blankets protect me from the demons under my bed.
They grasp at my feet, begging to pull me under, but I won’t go,
I’ll never go. Because I still have legs who walk me towards greatness.
I still have a heart who aims to encompass all.

I will never go because I am needed. I am worthy.
I am the love that so many people aim to have, and I have come way too far.
I am here because of all the things I did for myself.
I am here despite all the things they never did for me.

I hope they know that when you shatter something,
Gluing the pieces back together in a different way can make it all the more beautiful.

Let My Children Tell Their Children

Meagan Booker

         The hospital bed was smaller than I had expected it to be and much firmer. I could feel myself sweating from nerves and excitement as I sat under the thin white sheet and smelled the freshly cleaned room in the birthing suite. I had watched plenty of “positive birthing” videos in order to mentally prepare myself, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.

         Ever since I can remember I knew I wanted to be a mother. So, when my husband and I found out we were pregnant we were so excited. When we found out we were having a little girl, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t stop dreaming about all the tea parties and dress ups we had ahead of us.

         Weeks turned to months and slowly my wardrobe shifted from size small rompers to large t-shirts and sweatpants I stole from my husband’s closet. He still hasn’t gotten back a hoodie I took from him. My emotions were growing along with my tummy and a precious life was kicking around inside of me. I will never forget that feeling. The feeling of her little legs running across my stomach. I could feel her very much alive inside of me, and I could even sense her personality. The Doctor said she would be a cuddly baby because she liked to snuggle up to my bladder. It’s crazy how well I already knew my daughter and how connected I felt to her. I’d sing to her, and her dad and I would read her stories so that she would know our voices.

         I had made my birthing plan, and everything was going accordingly. That is until I got a phone call from my brother.

         “Hey Sis. I need you to come down to the gym like now… Your husband blew his knee out playing basketball.” He said in a worried tone.

         “What? How did it happen? Is he okay?” I asked in shock.

         “I don’t know. Just get down here before they take him to the hospital.”

         “Okay I am on my way!” I said as I shoved the last bit of burger into my mouth and jumped in my car.

         I kept thinking, “Don’t get too stressed or you will stress the baby… stay calm for the baby.” My husband was the director of a summer camp for kids and my younger brother was working with him. The camp was about ten minutes from my house, so I made it there just before the ambulance. They rushed him to the hospital, and I had to follow behind them in my car because of COVID policies. I felt like I was in a Fast and Furious movie trying to keep up with the ambulance that said it wouldn’t drive too fast so that it wouldn’t lose me.

         My husband tore the patella tendon completely off his knee and had to have major surgery. This was not on my birthing plan at all. He wouldn’t be able to drive me to the hospital and I, nine months pregnant, had to deal with all my pregnancy stuff and take care of him. Thankfully my parents lived close by and were able to help. 

         I finally got to forty weeks and after a few contractions had come and gone I was sure I was going to go into labor at any moment. A week went by and still… nothing. I went to the scheduled Doctor’s appointment and the Doctor said, “The baby is doing good, but if you haven’t gone into labor by the end of the week, we will have to induce you. It’s safest for you and baby so she doesn’t stay in there too long.”
“Inducing her really wasn’t in my birth plan.” I said hesitantly. “But if it’s what is safest for her then I will do it.

         I was so incredibly ready to have her out in the world and in my arms, I couldn’t wait a day longer. Another week went by and still, my baby was swimming in my tummy with no plans to come out. So, the hospital told me to call them at 6:00pm so that they could officially tell me to come in for the induction. Knowing the day and time I would give birth made me so much more anxious than not knowing. Having the hospital keep delaying the time I should come in due to not having enough rooms available made it worse.  It ended up being the next day at 9:00am that they finally had a room available for me.

          There I sat on that firm hospital bed beyond ready to hold my little girl while my mom braided my hair. My husband sat by us looking more nervous than me.

         “All right mama,’ said the nurse, “We are going to put you on Pitocin to help your body go into labor. There is a small chance this could lead to you having to have a C-section but that just comes with the inducing process.”

         As soon as the nurse left the room, I remember looking at my mom and husband and saying, “Oh no. I didn’t prepare myself for a C-section.”

         My husband rolled over to me in his wheelchair and put his hand on my arm. “Hey, whatever happens, God has got you and He’s got our little girl.”

         His words calmed me as I thought about how God was in control of a situation that felt so incredibly out of control.

         Being a parent seemed as scary as it did wonderful, and I found myself going through major anxiety thinking about all the things that could go wrong. All of a sudden, a simple task had so many potential dangers attached to it. I couldn’t even imagine myself carrying our baby up the stairs without fearing tripping and falling. Then in the midst of all my fears I remembered that God is in control of the uncontrollable. My mom and dad did everything in their power to keep me safe, but still there were things they couldn’t control. Like the time I should have died in a four-wheeler accident at seven. God can control the things we cannot and remembering this gave me peace. 

          Everything was going smoothly, and the major contractions had started. It was getting close to the time to have my baby. The nurse came in, looked at mine and the baby’s vitals, wrote something down and then left the room. She returned with the doctor who then said, “Your baby’s heart rate is fluctuating due to the Pitocin. This is dangerous and if this continues, we will have to rush you into an emergency C-section to get your baby out.

         Tears swelled in my eyes as a mother’s worst fears clouded my every thought. “What if something bad happens to my baby? A C-section is so scary… what if something bad happens to me? Oh, my goodness, my poor baby.” These words spilled out of my mouth as my family tried to stay calm for me. I could see they were just as worried behind their gentle smiles.

         My mind felt like chaos when the song “No one ever cared for me like Jesus” by Steffany Gretzinger started playing from my playlist on my phone. It got to the part were the lyrics said,
“Let my children tell their children. Let this be their memory. That all my treasure was in heaven, and you were everything to me.”

         I remember hearing that and praying to God that that would be what my children would remember about me. I prayed that my baby would be safe and that her heart would stabilize so that she could live to love Him and tell her children about Him and His love for us. Listening to that song and praying to God gave me so much peace despite my fear. I told my mom and husband to pray, and they told the rest of the family. We joined together in prayer over our little girl and I trusted in the Lord.

         The nurse came back and said that her heart rate had stabilized and everything was going to be okay. After twelve hours of labor, it was finally time to push. My mom held one of my legs up and my husband held up the other, and within a few minutes of pushing, my little girl took her first breath. I was holding the greatest miracle I have ever received. The Lord answered our prayers and blessed us with a beautiful, healthy baby girl with a head full of black curls. Even with the stresses of life as a new mom that make it seem like I have a thousand things on my plate, I am reminded of God’s love when I look into the eyes of my baby. Her smile gives me so much peace as I think of my God in whom I can trust with all things.