The Procrastinator

Eva Cruz

Did you know that bats
are the only mammals
capable of true flight?
Or the human
circulatory system
is over 60,000 miles long?
To think
I have enough rope inside of me
to squeeze the Earth twice.
Get this! The man who
invented German chocolate cake
wasn’t even German.
He was actually from⸺
When’s that paper due?
Isn’t it due in a couple hours?
Don’t you think
you should be
typing your paper?
I sigh and exit
out of my Google
search about flying squirrels.
I just need
a good introduction sentence.

A Cowboy’s Dream

Eva Cruz

            “You know, when I was a little boy, I lived on a farm,” my dad said after taking a bite of his oatmeal.

I looked up at him with a dribble of cereal milk slipping down my chin, “You did? What did you do?”

          “Well,” he started, “I got up every morning, put on my cowboy boots, and walked out to the muddy pen where we kept the pigs.”

          I frowned, “Ew, I bet they smelled gross.”

          He laughed, “Yeah. It did a little, but they were always happy to see me. Grandma always got so mad when I splashed in the mud with the pigs. She would grab a hickory stick and chase me down. It was worth it though.”

He smiled and took the last bite of his apple cinnamon oatmeal. After a few moments, his smile faded. He stood up, grabbed both of our empty bowls, and took them to soak in the sink. He looked out of the small window like he was searching for something.

          He turned to me with his smile once more, “Hey! Do you wanna’ watch a John Wayne movie together?”

          “This movie is called The Shootist. Did you know it was John Wayne’s last film?”

          “Oh wow, I had no idea,” I said.

          “Yeah, it’s ironic how he plays as a famous gunslinger who is dying of cancer because in real life, he was actually dying of cancer. He died less than a year after the film was released”

          When John Wayne pulled out his revolver, I saw the excitement in my dad’s eyes. The eyes that yearned for action and adventure. The ones that longed for the wild of the west, wishing for whipping tumbleweeds and loose dirt under boots and spurs. The ones that want fast horses, chasing bullets, and whiskey by a fire under the moonlight. But his eyes were tired, just like John Wayne’s. I snuggled into his chest as we lied on the couch. He grabbed my hand, and I felt the roughness of them. They were rough like the men chewing tobacco and starting saloon fights, the men ranching cattle months at a time, and the men working all day for their family. They were dry and cracked like the earth under horse clops and covered wagons⸺ my very own cowboy.

          I walk to my dad’s shrine in the hallway and place my hand on his urn, stroking the black metal where he now rests. Next to his urn, his framed picture. The picture stares at me with its bright, blue eyes and long beard. I can hear his laugh in my head. Near the shrine is his white cowboy hat and bolo tie. I pick up his hat and trace its brown brim. It tips to the side when I set it on my head. A hat I will never fill. I wish he were here to wear them again. To wear the empty slippers forgotten by the front door. To watch John Wayne movies with me. To sit in the vacant chair at the head of the dinner table. I so long to feel his rough hands once more.

          I hope he is off somewhere riding horses and chasing outlaws. Or drinking whiskey and singing My Rifle, My Pony and Me from Rio Bravo. Or chewing tobacco and breaking bottles over some guy’s head. Or even feeding pigs and splashing in the mud on his grandmother’s farm.

“The sun is sinking in the west
The cattle go down to the stream
The redwing settles in the nest
It’s time for a cowboy to dream.”

-Rio Bravo

The Little Monsters

Kaitlin Creeger

         I had just deleted all my social media apps and the tiny monster called Addiction prodded my brain with irrationality, screaming at me for being so stupid, so careless.

          Realizing it is not working, it tries to help me rationalize reality.

          The voice of Addiction has been nothing but air. It has no face and no body, but it has will and determination to get its way. So, when it speaks after I committed such a horrendous crime, it tells me this: “It’s all right. You can always reinstall them. But you should do it now. Can’t you see your friends are missing you right now? Imagine all the texts, all the interactions you could be having with complete total strangers!”

          I almost give in. “No. This is for your own good,” I tell it.

          “But then why are you regretting the decision?” tempted Anxiety. Where Addiction is seen as strong and brute, Anxiety is gentle but a pest. “Addiction is right. You are missing out so much.”

          I shake my head. “Cut it out. I do not need social media.”

          “Liar,” they say in unison.

          I sigh. Addiction and Anxiety poke my brain, demanding going back to what I am used to, not this terrifying abyss I have put all of us through.

          A day goes by.

          “You can’t hold on forever,” Addiction chimes in. “Look at that YouTube app! All shiny red and calling out your name. You know you want to make yourself happy, so go watch some gaming videos. Come on, just a tiny little one?”

          Anxiety cannot help but overhear. “You are making yourself stressed and it is making us stressed. Please go back to normal. I cannot bear the tragedy of this change! I think I might die if we keep going!”

          Their will grows powerful by the second day. They beckon at me and deals start to be forged. Addiction is the first to strike me a deal. It tells me only a few hours and all will be better, it will listen to my authority afterwards. Anxiety agrees, telling me it would make me better than I am now.

          I consider it as I stare at my phone.

          And I take the bait.

          When I come to, I am exhausted. “What battle did you two put me through?” I complain, shutting off my phone.

          The next morning, Addiction speaks to me. “Don’t you feel better. I sure do. And look! Anxiety is only in a fretful sleep. She is much calmer now. Can we watch some horror videos now that you are awake?”

          I reach for my phone then pull back. “I’m not so sure. You said you would listen to me now, and we should not keep going down this route. I feel awful from yesterday.”

          “Nonsense. If I am happy, you are happy. Win-win situation!”

          “No. This was not part of the—”

          Anxiety wakes up. “You seriously think you can function throughout the day realizing all you are missing? Your grades will plummet.”

          I groan. “You are not in—”

          “You will get even more depressed. You need more endorphins than what little you get from exercise and writing. Just one video. Ten minutes on Instagram. Come on,” Addiction begs.

          “You know it won’t harm you,” Anxiety adds. “You have to listen to Addiction’s reasoning. It will help us all.”

          I look at my phone. The desire is so tempting, so strong.

          Only ten minutes, that is all. I can survive ten minutes, and besides, it will make me happier than I am now.

          I start to reach for my phone once again.

          What am I doing?

          My fingers unlock my phone. I look for Instagram’s shiny square app.

          You do not want this. They are telling you lies.

          But I believe them.

          But you are believing fakery.

          Addiction and Anxiety chant their happiness as I enter Instagram’s algorithm.

          I see nothing has changed.

          Is this really making you happy?

          I am scrolling, scrolling, scrolling…

          I am frustrated, bothered, and toss my phone on my bed.

          I stand and protest, “That’s it. This is ending now.”

          I stride to my laptop, log in, and go to social media.

          Anxiety screams at me to see reason while Addiction criticizes my decision.

          I pull up all my social media, and one by one, I delete the accounts.

          Addiction growls once I am finished. “We had a deal.”

          “A deal not worth keeping—”

          Anxiety mentions, “It is fine. There are preprogrammed social media apps on her phone. We can live with what you did. You have others on your phone so it is fine. Totally fine…”

          I grab my phone, and stare at the preprogrammed apps. YouTube and Instagram, my main addictions. I uninstall the updates.

          Instagram is inaccessible without an account.

          “That’s fine. YouTube still exists—” tries Addiction.

          YouTube works, even without an account. Then the Update Now page appears and there is no click off button.

          Addiction sputters. “But…we need—you can’t do this. This is not fair!”

          “Listen here my little monsters, I am in charge. If I want to use YouTube it will be for my purposes in life, not to create the fake happiness that leaves me a zombie. Addiction, you do not need this to fuel you. Anxiety, we will be fine without it. You all will move on with your problems and find new ones to pester me about. But for social media, I am the master, and the authority is no longer yours to control.”

Tracks of Time

Jacee Clowers

         It’s Sunday evening. The half-lit sun is slipping over the edge of the mountain as I cut carrots in my kitchen. Chop. I force my knife through a particularly stubborn carrot and notice how the serrated edge has carved little tracks on the orange disc, looking almost like a plowed and planted garden waiting on its harvest to emerge.

         Butter is slowly melting in the bottom of the dutch oven on the stovetop, and I wonder what it must feel like to take my time. To slowly become, or unbecome in the butter’s case.

         Everything feels so fast. I don’t have to tell you that. We live in the same fast-paced world with the same fast-occurring issues and fast-forming opinions. You know as well as I do that nothing takes its time.

         The carrot that I’m chopping took its time. Eighty-ish days ago, a farmer planted some seeds in the ground. He didn’t do it by hand; they have equipment for that now. But nevertheless, he planted them. And he waited for eighty days to see if what he’d planted had actually become anything. Of course, about ten days in, small sprouts popped up above the dirt to assure him that everything was going according to plan beneath the surface. But still, eighty days. Eighty days to know if his work would come of anything. Eighty days to see the fruit of his labor.

         I can’t even wait eighty seconds for the butter to melt before I take out my wooden spoon and push the yellow lump around in the pot, hoping it’ll somehow melt faster. I do this until all that’s left is a yellow liquid waiting for something to be done with it.

         In go the carrots and the onion. I wait again for the onions to turn translucent and the carrots to soften. I stir. And I stir again, wielding my spoon like a wand and willing the vegetables to do as I please, even though, of course they will not.


          The vegetables vibrate in the bottom of the pot, and I stir them enthusiastically,  ready for the next step — spices. All I need are two bay leaves, half a teaspoon of thyme, and four cloves of garlic diced. Garlic. Oh yes, I forgot the garlic.

         It takes a few minutes to strip the cloves from their skins. Once I have, I press my knife, a different one than before, onto each one until they shift and crack under the pressure. Then I dice. And I hurry because this should have been done ages ago and how was I dumb enough to forget the garlic.

         It goes in with the other spices. And I stir now only because the recipe told me to, not because I’m hurrying. And I congratulate myself. This is what it means to take one’s time. I look over my slightly tilted nose, happy with myself because in the one minute that I have stirred this pot, I’ve managed to master patience. Time is no enemy of mine.

         I let the garlic simmer as I prepare to pour in the broth. The sizzling fades as liquid splashes into the bottom of the pot and sends vegetables swirling until they settle once again. Then it’s time to wait, this time for the liquid to simmer. Perhaps patience has not been mastered after all.

         So for now, I take out my phone and I scroll and I scroll and I wait for something to happen as I see what is happening to everybody else.

          Moments later, I check the pot and find myself frustrated. Not simmering yet. So I crank up the heat and demand that it does, and I think about how long it took to defrost the chicken and how long it took to chop the carrots and. . . .  What was all that hurrying for? Just to sit here. Waiting for time to pass.

          And indeed, whether I like it or not, there will be time. There is time. Too much of it and too little of it all at once. On normal days, I do nothing but complain that there isn’t enough time for me to do all the things I swore I’d do. Or if it is enough time, then there isn’t enough energy. But today, when my energy is sufficient (after my afternoon nap), and I have a surplus of time on my hands, all I do is make chicken soup and complain that it’s taking too long as if I had something else to do.

          I hear movement in the pot. As the liquid bubbles, once-white shards of onion float effervescently to the surface to alert me that they have finished cooking. It’s time to put the chicken in.

          When I check the pot mere seconds later, the chicken has already begun to turn white on the outside, and suddenly I’m glad. I’ve nearly made it to the end of the recipe and somehow managed to make up for lost time.

          It’s a silly notion — lost time. It insinuates that time can be found. I know we use that phrase: “I found some time to do __________.” But it’s not like I could be strolling along down the sidewalk and see a loose time lying on the pavement, waiting for some lucky person to pocket it. I couldn’t drop it in my piggy bank to save it for a day when I’m late for work or when an unprepared-for due date suddenly arrives.

         Time marches on, unaware that it has been lost or found or too quick or too slow. We are the changing factors. It’s our unreliability, our refusal to sit still and then our desire for stillness when things seem to be moving too fast, that makes time our enemy. It’s the same logic a child uses when he, knowing what bees do, chases one in his backyard yet is surprised when it actually stings him. Time does what it was created to do — to consistently tick on. Time doesn’t change; we do.

          And that’s the very reason we find it so oppressive. It reminds us of our inconsistency, our unreliability, our recklessness. We hate it because we realize we’re the ones at fault. The ones who fail to fit into the form. The ones who neglect to do what we were created to do. Time is not our adversary; we are.

         And yet, even with this logic, I still fail to think correctly about time. I still try to find it or worry about losing it. But I never allow myself to enjoy it, to sit beneath the turning wheel of stars that neither worry whether they have arrived too late or too early.

         Before I know it, it’s time to add the noodles. Salt and pepper. Soup is done. I hear footsteps on the stairs.

          “Whatever you’re making smells great.”

          “Thanks. I’m sorry it took longer than I expected. I bet you’re starving.”

          “It’s fine. I lost track of time anyway.”

         We sit, each with a bowl in front of us. I watch him through the steam rising from my bowl as he crumbles a couple saltines into his, and I do the same. Minutes later, we clear away the dishes, and I pour more soup into tupperware for lunch the next day.

          “Thank you for taking the time for this. It was delicious.” He kisses me on the temple and walks away, not knowing the effect his words have had on me.

          I look down in the pot in front of me, full of the fruits of my labor that I took my time for. And I think, did I really take my time? What would it be like if I had? If I had watched the onions assume a golden, transparent hue as the butter and the carrots melded with them in the pot. If I had waited with anticipation to smell the spices gradually mingling. If I had left the temperature alone, allowed nature to do its job and nourish me in her own time. Would I feel differently if I had accepted the consistency and relished in its stillness?

          As I stare into the pot beneath me, I search out a carrot and find one. It somehow didn’t succumb to the heat or the incessant stirring. It’s still round, but now it bends between my finger and my thumb. If I look intently enough, I can still see the little rows created by my knife’s serrated edge. And I imagine that time does the very same to us, slowly etching its mark onto our lives. It is evidenced physically by lines that appear beside the eyes or on the brow or upon the backs of the hands. But more deeply still, time carves us out within, demanding we do what we were created to do, to be content beneath the spinning of the stars.

she said // he said

Anna Chen

She sees the dark stormy clouds paint the sky black.
She’s filled with loneliness and despair every night.

She watches the rain tap on the window as it starts to pour.
She watches and waits in terror of what’s to come.

She feels her demons rising.
She just wants to feel safe again.

They are here, she said.
The monsters are here.

He sees her drown every night.
He longs to keep her whole.

He watches her fall apart.
He watches his world fall apart.

He’d save her if he could.
He’d do anything for her.

I’ll be your safe haven, he said.
I’ll keep you safe.

Feminism in Chinese Characters

Yuan Changming

妇:lady is a woman who has overthrown a mountain
好:wo man spelt as one word simply means good
妙:young women supporting each other are always wonderful
嫁:to marry a man is for a girl to have her own family
妖:weird would be a woman if she goes broken
姣:  handsome is a woman standing with her legs crossed
婢:maid is a girl who is by nature humble
婵:beautiful is she who remains single
娘:mother is perforce a lady who is good and kind

Stargazer’s Dream

Isabel Borgers

I did not know the darkness
the darkness knew me
told me of the stars
told me of the moon
told me of the night
I remembered these celestial secrets
as I drove home from the field
my sky-watching refuge

The constellations seemed
imprinted on my eyelids
each star still shone in my mind’s eye
as I lay down on my bed
I continued to gaze at them

When I opened my eyes
I stood on a radiant path of
thousands of star-like orbs
their luminescence nearly blinding
I raced alongside light
thinking of the stars and their paths
across the heavens

And I made my own voyage
through this ethereal world
joined with the stars
in their eternal cycle
they taught me of darkness
and I now know it
as I had not known before
I closed my eyes and felt the brilliance
surrounding me

The constellations still fresh
in my mind, I opened my eyes
to the largest star of the Milky Way
shone in my window
and I thought about the events
of the night in wonder
and tried to recall
what the stars had taught—
but all I could clearly remember
was the cobblestone pathway
reaching across the heavens


Isabel Borgers

At first, darkness.
then sun, brilliant, orange, warm sun—
pours up onto the mountain
floods through scattered pines

I catch some in cupped palms
as it washes over my face
eyes closed in wonder
I feel the warmth all through me

The orange I have caught
seems liquid in my hands
so I raise my hands to my lips
and, cautiously, sip

Light fills me
causing my thoughts to shine
the light purifies and reveals all—
yet I feel no shame, for I am forgiven

The radiance has since faded
but sometimes,
when the sun emerges
from behind the mountain
I remember, and feel renewed
once again.

Storm Dance

Isabel Borgers

I lay in bed and listen
wind and rain beat the house
drawing me to the window
I look through a few blind slats
at the storm
a ghost of a spring hurricane

Even in the torrents of rain,
streetlamps illuminate
the fury of the storm
each lightning flash
reveals different snapshots
of the storm

I see the small river
of the street rain dances
on the surface of the water
the rain falls in sheets
indecisive, shifting directions
every few minutes

Hanging from
a neighbor’s porch
a pot of ferns swings in a wild circle
as I watch, it reminds me of
a child on a tire swing
desperate for a thrill

Further down the street
the willow, the willow dances
in the turmoil
its branches reach
after the wind
and it becomes the storm

Softly, Sorrow Came

Isabel Borgers

When the sorrow came
it did not startle like a piercing wind
in the newborn autumn or
materialize like a
dust devil
sudden and harsh

It came like the first snowfall
deceptively gentle
even as it buried alive
green things yet awakened
foreshadowing the barren days

Like an early spring wind
it came without warning
promising warmth
and peace
only to betray a turn to winter
and sadness

Softly, the sorrow came
disguised as quiet melancholy
or an ephemeral shadow
but it rested
like a dark bird
and would not leave