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Pretentious - Michala Salazar (SEA selection)

Sometimes When You Touch Me, I Cringe - Michelle Lockhart (SEA selection)

Godly Clean - Michelle Lockhart (SEA selection)

Insight from a Teenagers Mind - Priscilla Portillo (High School Creative Writing Contest winner)

Light in August:  A Ballad - Jenny Shao (High School Creative Writing Contest winner)

The Desktop:  An Anthology - Amanda Brost (High School Creative Writing Contest winner)

In the Universe's Attic, You Find a Chest of Haikus -  Neya Johnson (High School Creative Writing Contest winner)

Pretentious by Michala Salazar

Thousands of pages
I have never seen
rest on my shelf
on my dresser
on my floor

Pride oozes from my pores
as I say, "Yes they are mine,
I know them, of course"

But the pages do not
recognize my face
and I cannot recall a word
from their everlasting ink

Sometimes When You Touch Me, I Cringe by Michelle Lockhart

“It’s fine,” I promise: my jaw hanging open like a trap door.
I don’t mind; I don’t mind; I don’t mind-
your hands spreading slowly across my thighs.
The first time I tasted mango, someone neatly sliced the golden flesh
and slipped it into a crystal glass.
The first time I loved mango, I ate messily, crushing to skin to my mouth,
letting the juice run to my knees.
You kiss me carefully and it’s fine.
You hold me to your lips like a crystal glass, try not to spill,
and drink me slowly.
It’s not as sweet, but I don’t mind.
I am learning how to love- how to paint,
to hold the wrist steadily and stand straight and breathe evenly.
We give up so much in the compromise.
I trade wolves for baskets of shining fruits.
s o f t , s o f t , s o f t , s o f t , s o f t , s o f t , s o f t
e n o u g h  f o r  h i m
(and still, I sneak mangos and break them against my skin.)

Godly Clean by Michelle Lockhart

My grandpa lives with a woman in a Chicago apartment filled with Asian paintings and pots and statues and scrolls.
She’s from Greece.
Sometimes you catch the glimmer of olive oil on her wrists and spreading tree branches at the edges of her eyes.
Now she lives in America and decorates like the Chinese.

Some people run from their culture.

A friend says she has to fight everyday just to have a voice.
I yawn and the trees bend.
I have nothing to say.

An old woman working at my mother’s office wears a woven bracelet from Africa.
She says that some women there sell bracelets to keep from going into prostitution.
Whoever wears one in the first world is a helper; a hero.
Scared women in Africa stitch bracelets to grace the wrists of white women.

Blues and greens and browns- maybe some yellow and some like split pea soup,
maybe a bit of red around the edges:

I try not to
judge people
based on the color
of their Eyes.

Sometimes a good deed seems dirty.
White sand doesn’t stick to this white skin; I am godly clean.
     (It seems dirty somehow)
Parting my lips to whisper…
     (It seems dirty somehow)
I feel the world listen
     (It seems dirty somehow)
I struggle to find something to say.
It’s hard to speak
     (with all this dirt stashed between my bleached teeth)

Insight from a Teenagers Mind  by Priscilla Portillo

Reputations or mass manipulations
Do I choose to believe with my ears or do I believe with my eyes
Look in the world, you see leaders with character
With status, prestige, stature, position, and esteem and we see the things they do
The people they mock because those that they mock are the ones that believe in with their ears
They choose to listen to their peers flowing with the norm
Like they weren’t born with their own mind, their own thoughts, they are their own person
But they choose to believe with their ears they are the ones whose eyes are never filled with tears
Because they don’t see
That these leaders with high esteem want to
Isolate not motivate
Regulate not aspirate
Decimate …
America is one of the greatest countries I’ve had the privilege of living in because see I know I have these rights and they are blatantly written for those who were forbidden
To speak out
To covey ideas that weren’t part of the brain washing conformity
That this isn’t necessarily what we do normally
Look with your eyes and realize that these are real life lies
And I can no longer live this way because see my third eye is open and my ears are shut
And I choose to believe with what I see because actions speak louder than words right?
And I will fight, protest, object, and challenge til the day that I die.
So I cannot deny that this American dream is being ripped up from the seams all because
We no longer live by the famous words “I had a dream” but by the idea that we
Should separate ourselves from those who are considered “un-American”
Which doesn’t make sense because see there’s no official language, race, and religion
So why do we still have the wrong vision that women belong in the kitchen, Muslims equal terrorist,
Mexicans steal jobs, and you wonder why there’s all these mobs because we believe with our ears
And not with our eyes and that’s why my patriotism is about to die

It’s been this mass projection to give the youth
An obsession over possession
That this generation is oblivious to problems of the world
Were so fixated on diamonds and pearls
That we fail to realize with these eyes where problems lie in this world.
We rather put our guns up than
Raise our daughters and sons up
Rhythmic American poetry
Let me rap this out for you
If you saw it from my view you would see that the problems of this generation bothers me
They use words that lack a message breaking down words word to etymology
My analogy is that rap don’t have the same significance but the difference is
Tupac and Biggie rapped about reality but in actuality all anyone cares about is the salary
Promoting drugs, money, and genitalia, man let me tell ya but that’s a different story for a different day
But let me spin this off in a different way kids is some countries get no lessons meanwhile we in the streets protesting
And I don’t know whether to interfere or stay on the sidelines but it hurt me to watch them destroy the environment like North Dakota and the pipelines
I don’t know whether I should be someone that stands up and speaks out or be that person to follow the guide lines
So wrapped up in being Instagram famous instead of just being nameless.
We worry about our phone service instead of giving back and doing that community service
But my purpose is resurrection
I wanna resurrect the mindsets, the music, the environment, and the education
All due to miscommunications and lack of motivation I feel like we waistin
An amazing generation that could have so much innovation but there’s too much imitation

Word to Alisa
Superstitious a mystical, ungrounded, and unfounded belief
That is completely oblivious to those that do not believe because
See they adhere and they tend to avert from those that are too much of an extrovert
Because they exacerbate instead of emancipate their mind
They lack introspective and tend to abhor instead of
Show others and the world compassion
But that is why they deviate from this seductive belief
Then they are seen as a traitor and not a prayer
They don’t do the right thing and accost and that’s why they wind up so lost
So instead they’re forced to collude and they become these crude people
Who are viewed as nothing more than a metaphoric pervert who is so wound up
In this promiscuous mind set and end up dead in their head
Might as well call it post mortem and see the cause of death is a biblical flood of the mind
Known as antediluvian which is internecine to both sides of this
Superstitious ungrounded and unfounded belief
Between the non-believer and the unseen
So the unseen tries to prevaricate in an unmannered way word to pro tempore
Because were really all place holders in this moment of life so don’t
Let those who try to force their beliefs on you kill you inside

Light in August:  A Ballad  by Jenny Shao

A baby was abandoned on Christmas Day
And became an orphanage’s burden
Christened as such, but his real name unknown
His identity from the start, uncertain

Five years into bleak orphan life
Young Joe craved something sweet
He sneaked into Miss Atkins’s office
And was witness to a love scene

When the dietitian pulled back the curtain
Who was there but little Joe
Furious and frightened, she called him “nigger”
For the first time, his race, exposed

This early memory of pain and fear
Linked to possible lineage
Set a foundation for future resentment
Toward women and racial heritage

In bed awake at night, he’d think
Somethings gonna happen to me
The world tried to mold him and prejudice hold him
But all he had wanted was peace

Then plucked away from all he knew
By the McEachern family
He was renamed but in his heart remained
Joe Christmas, a shred of identity

Like militant Michael on Godsent mission
McEachern prayed over his son
But the obedience he forced and the lashes he struck
Created resentment for religion

His adoptive mother spawned a worser hate
Though she offered caring and nurture
Reminded of the past, all Joe could remember
Was Miss Atkins shouting the slur

Then he let Bobbie Allen into his life
Their relationship, intimate
He confided in her his racial doubt
But his trust she betrayed in the end

In bed awake at night, he’d think
Somethings gonna happen to me
The world tried to mold him and prejudice hold him
But all he had wanted was peace

Into the barn his father did storm
Before Joe swung a chair at his head
Just as his father had swung his belt
Joe gave into violent whims in his stead

Years later find Christmas roaming the country
Through Chicago, Detroit, and beyond
Fitting not with the black people nor with the white
Made sick with desire to belong

Finally Joe made his way to Jefferson
Taking with him all his distress
His hatred of women and rejection of submission
He found himself a new mistress

Miss Burden, she tried to take charge and advise
But by doing so, Joe felt threatened
In wanting control, he killed his latest lover
A boy turned fugitive, tormented

In bed awake at night, he’d think
Somethings gonna happen to me
The world tried to mold him and prejudice hold him
But all he had wanted was peace

He’d carried his life like a basket of eggs
But now he was tired of running
He was caught not twenty miles from Jefferson
The end of Christmas was coming

The death blow dealt by Gavin Stevens
Was a duty claimed by a soldier
Eager to see some black blood spilt
But the town, in the end, saw no closure

In the struggle between a man and the world
Joe died but with a cost
While society cheered, their pariah, dead
At long last, it was them who lost

The echo of him would remain in the town
Musing, quiet, steadfast
Like Joe, it’d never be able to shake
The hauntings of the past

In bed awake at night, he’d think
Somethings gonna happen to me
The world tried to mold him and prejudice hold him
But all he had wanted was peace

The Desktop:  An Anthology  by Amanda Brost

Tea Bag
Unique, swirling tendrils of creativity.
Of hope.
Hopeful ideas.
Open-minded creativity, made to order.
Strength? A preferenceーpersonal.
Perpetual potential for perfection.
Plunked unceremoniously into a cupーa mugー
Crystalline droplets of water, splooshing over the rim.
Resting buoyantlyーhesitantlyーanticipatorilyーon the surface,
Before slowly, languidly beginning to steep,
Both absorbing its surrounding medium and bleeding the essence of itself onto it…
Into it.
Inseparable intermingling. Irreversible influence.
Palatable particles permanently infused, even upon their artist’s withdrawal:
Swinging pendulum, suspended precariously over the open-air,
Free-wheeling about the aroma-laden mist, roiling through miniature skies, until…
Excess drops find their misguided way to the formica below,
Spattering desktop, paper, tea-soaked…

Instrument of divine ability; multi-purpose. Multi-faceted.
Crafty for its user; crafting for him.
Shaping the self; possessing the awesome ability to refurbish its master with stupendous skill.
Powerful and strong, leaving behind more than just an inky splotch.
A lasting impression.
Apical tip chisels into fresh, innocent surface, trailing concave grooves in its wake.
Injurious interloper, carving away at the adolescent canvas…
Etching out invisible obstruction to make way for yet unspoken truth;
Ironically spilling its own blood as compensation,
Up and unto its blotchy demise, trailing evidence of its handler’s purpose. Thought. Emotion.
Ingrained, irrevocably, in the wounds it has made; an undying symbol of individuality, vitality…
Before either a final, curlicue flourishーor a sputtering stop.

Paint Brush
Non-stop. No stop. Unceasing… skillful, loving strokesーelegant flourishes.
Functionally useless without its codependent mateーtherein unorthodox? Orthodox?
Self-righteous hypocrite.
Rightfully alluring as its own entity, standing polished, tapered, true.
Crowned with a splendorous mane;
Stained with the diffident pastels, monochromatic shades, and fiery hues of life’s experience.
Yet, in the throes of living, covered upーburiedーby layer, upon layer of suffocating pigment.
Unbreathable lacquer, smothering all notion of individuality… allowing, still, for creative expression.
Glorious masterpiece.
For, in acquiescing to the blindness of the dark, a unique and beautiful tool finds itself capable of becoming the creator of the art.
Colors bend, shapes meld, and one individual uses its obstacles to invent an artistry.
To bring into existence.

To remove from existence.
Existing, itself, solely to expunge… to erase.
Delete from existence.
Purging, cleansing, whitening the marred foundation.
Fresh, empty, open opportunity… desecrated by mistakesーmissteps in graphite.
Ruinous strokes of misspoken thoughtーdamning ideas…
Or a simple misspelling.
To be able to turn back time; to reverse a regretーinvaluable advantage.
Small. Mighty. Courageous.
Fearlessly sacrificing itself; shaving away its very essentia for the righting of wrongs.
Re-writing of wrongs.
Healing wounds etched softly in ash; Treating scars imprinted heavily in obsidian.
Its purpose: To lift, away and away, into the Nothing, relieving entirely of the burden of existence.
Dissipating into the ether alongside its offensive target. Objectionable mark.
Polished. Demolished. Abolished. Scrubbed, and rubbed, and twisted out of being.

Twisted into being. Lovingly... Turbulently... Into shapely curvature.
Functionally pleasing; aesthetically functional.
Being twisted until existed…
Melted down; chemically liquified; cooled and hardened, until subsisted.
Superheated, before cosmetically transformed.
Functionally transformed.
Chemical, physical shift.
Bentーsculptedーshaped into an involuntary, indentured servitude.
Designed for one useーsingle, simple purpose; a genius’s toolー one million and one uses.
Versatile utilization. Impossible possibility.
Swirling tendrils of creativity.

In the Universe's Attic, You Find a Chest of Haikus   by Neya Johnson

There is a cold world
Hidden above sound and light
A doorless attic

Where candle smoke blooms
Flowers in a cloud garden
No wind to pluck them

Night’s wilted whispers
Muted by a mortal’s step
Cemetery’s song

It has ossified
It does not decay or die
Neither does it breathe

Dead on the river
Weeds and flowers grown between
Pale cobweb fingers

A bird on its back
A bird that had never flown
A bird never born

Ink birch silhouette
Against a frozen ash sky
Branches encase light

In a field’s center
Lies a rotten chandelier
It came from nowhere

There is no escape
No creator, no ending
It all simply is

May My Last Words Be a Sonnet
In my last words, may my life be redeemed
May light travel from my heart to my tongue
Whispered in bed or in agony screamed
However old, I will be much too young
With my last strength, I’ll conjure a sonnet
So beautiful I’d wish the world could hear
But, oh, cruel world, with no people on it
Oh, cruel God to make them all disappear
My corpse, of course, will be left un-enshrined
These words, both mine and the last of mankind

It appeared from nowhere
No one to see it
Was it there
Rotten chandelier
Ageless antique
There was no light
to make it seen
No sun
no stars
to see
Was it Really
Brass and wax
Twisted arms
Cold and tarnished
Smooth and solid
No one there to feel
in place
Candles half melted
cand les never blown out
Candles half melted
Never lit