Spotlight on the students of....WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED with Amy Grace

In life, there’s a fine but permanent line, separating what we keep and lose, what we say and don’t say, what we remember and what fades.

Every photo we make is an act of love for this world. 

A defiance and homage to time. 

And every picture has a story behind it. 

Often, one we never get to hear.

Written and Illustrated is about sharing our stories, not swallowing them down.

Art is the best way to tell the truth, for many of us.

There are the facts  - and then there’s what moved us, changed us, made us feel.

No one ever knows what we hold inside, unless we let it out.

Never perfect, always important.

I am ever moved and impressed by the sheer guts and grace of my students - their honesty, differences, fresh eyes, revelations, formidable experiences, and willingness to stretch their comfort zones and use their talents to understand themselves. 

And to make pictures of it, say it out loud.

It’s a profound experience to be the one sharing, and to be the audience.

Written and Illustrated runs for 3 weeks, this October 2-22. You can register HERE starting August 22nd at noon EST.

This collection of student work is the first of more I hope to share…

Amy Grace | Instructor of Written and Illustrated

 Sometimes I want to let fear guide me. She reaches out her hand and I want to take it, climb into her hot air balloon and disappear.   I'm too honest for them, they won't let me be myself and all that bullshit.   What would it solve? What am I running to?  Nothing, Nothing, nothing.  Trust is here for me. She is standing behind me. I didn't see her. When she hugs me in a deep warm embrace, I remember how loved I am.    Tatiana Johnson

Sometimes I want to let fear guide me. She reaches out her hand and I want to take it, climb into her hot air balloon and disappear. 

I'm too honest for them, they won't let me be myself and all that bullshit. 

What would it solve? What am I running to?

Nothing, Nothing, nothing.

Trust is here for me. She is standing behind me. I didn't see her. When she hugs me in a deep warm embrace, I remember how loved I am. 

Tatiana Johnson

 Mother’s Day is upon me. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom always – I get two little ones up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.  It was already late  enough, and a wild night,  and the road full of fallen  branches and stones.  But little by little,  as you left their voices behind,  the stars began to burn  through the sheets of clouds,  and there was a new voice  which you slowly  recognized as your own  -Mary Oliver, from The Journey   Sarah Kieffer

Mother’s Day is upon me. I often forget about it; not about celebrating my own mother, of course, but about that fact that it is now a day for others to celebrate my contribution to their life. I am a Mom always – I get two little ones up for school each morning; guide them through dressing and eating and brushing teeth while cramming folders and lunch boxes into back packs. I wait at bus stops. I take breaks from working and baking to fold laundry, change pillow cases, pick up toys. I make dinner, I help with homework. I am a story teller, a song singer. I close my book at night when little feet quietly make their way into my room, needing hugs or more songs, or reassurance in the dark. I am always listening, checking, double-checking, holding, awake while sleeping, hoping, helping. But still, somehow, I forget I’m the Mom. Because there is still 10-year old me inside, singing along to Amy Grant all afternoon and lost in Nancy Drew stories. Fifteen year old me is there, dreaming about boys and crying over journal entries. Twenty year old me is over-spiritualizing her life and trying not to bounce every check she writes. Twenty-five year old me is married and can actually sleep through the night without being afraid. Thirty year old me is pregnant for the first time and finally seeing a therapist. And now there is almost 40 year old me, the woman trying to make sense of aging while still so aware of all the other, younger Sarahs lingering inside. Not Mom, then Mom, then both together, for the remaining miles of the journey.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own

-Mary Oliver, from The Journey

Sarah Kieffer

 Everything That’s Wrong With Us and Our Battle With Life   The earth under my head feels grounding. The scratchy grass tickles the back of my neck. That brittle, Australian grass everyone has. It doesn’t need to be watered. "Save Water. Every drop counts".  In front of my eyes. And miles away, clouds threatening. Rolling. Their unrivaled domination of the sky. Then they are the sky. There’s nothing but their slow crashing.   A tiny escapee descends. It’s final dance ending on my lip. Bravely disengaged from it’s source. Adventuring to the unknown below. Now part of this planet’s human moment. Tsk, where’s my umbrella.    Hurrying back, hoping to dodge the inconvenient deluge or momentary shower. Either way, my suede shoes and leather skirt can't get wet. A week’s wage each. Organic leather. Bred indoors to be soft wearing.   I trip over something as I round the last corner home. Looking back, over wind licked and rain specked hair across my cheeks, I see it was two plastic bags full of grass cuttings.   Back inside my four safe walls, freshly painted with acrylic white. Aircon on. Droplets already gone, quickly dried from my face. Nature accepts it's impermanence. Understands the fragility of life. No life without death.   Tap, Kettle, Cup. Hot, sweet tea on my tongue. Milk from our local dairy. Rarely, but with a soft west wind, I can hear the mother cows' sad chorus. Aah, the steam in my lashes. Heaven.   I can’t shake the vision of those bags though. That intervention. A human. Must have known better. Wrapped the grass in plastic. Nature’s course now suspended. Garbage truck driver waves hi on Mondays.    Discarded, buried. Long after that gardener is laid to rest, the grass is still waiting. For it’s captor to crumble. So that it can rejoin nature. But never without it’s eternal plastic virus.    Chilli yaps. Her irritating, staccato signature. Like white noise echoing in my ears. What must the neighbours think. My doomy daydream violently interrupted by this soaking wet dog.   Rose Punch

Everything That’s Wrong With Us and Our Battle With Life 

The earth under my head feels grounding. The scratchy grass tickles the back of my neck. That brittle, Australian grass everyone has. It doesn’t need to be watered. "Save Water. Every drop counts".

In front of my eyes. And miles away, clouds threatening. Rolling. Their unrivaled domination of the sky. Then they are the sky. There’s nothing but their slow crashing. 

A tiny escapee descends. It’s final dance ending on my lip. Bravely disengaged from it’s source. Adventuring to the unknown below. Now part of this planet’s human moment. Tsk, where’s my umbrella.  

Hurrying back, hoping to dodge the inconvenient deluge or momentary shower. Either way, my suede shoes and leather skirt can't get wet. A week’s wage each. Organic leather. Bred indoors to be soft wearing. 

I trip over something as I round the last corner home. Looking back, over wind licked and rain specked hair across my cheeks, I see it was two plastic bags full of grass cuttings. 

Back inside my four safe walls, freshly painted with acrylic white. Aircon on. Droplets already gone, quickly dried from my face. Nature accepts it's impermanence. Understands the fragility of life. No life without death. 

Tap, Kettle, Cup. Hot, sweet tea on my tongue. Milk from our local dairy. Rarely, but with a soft west wind, I can hear the mother cows' sad chorus. Aah, the steam in my lashes. Heaven. 

I can’t shake the vision of those bags though. That intervention. A human. Must have known better. Wrapped the grass in plastic. Nature’s course now suspended. Garbage truck driver waves hi on Mondays.  

Discarded, buried. Long after that gardener is laid to rest, the grass is still waiting. For it’s captor to crumble. So that it can rejoin nature. But never without it’s eternal plastic virus.  

Chilli yaps. Her irritating, staccato signature. Like white noise echoing in my ears. What must the neighbours think. My doomy daydream violently interrupted by this soaking wet dog.

Rose Punch

 We almost died getting to Lost Creek Campground. Died a thousand times in our imaginations: toppled off cliffs, slipped spiraling down corkscrew turns, lost and found and lost again in the midsummer dark. When we got there, the camp was closed, but the angels were having a party. They said, “sure,” we could stay the night. So we trespassed under the pines. The colors ate up the sky, thick and alive. We could feel them in our bodies, through the pressing clouds – purple, orange, magenta, gold.      My last thought before sleep was of the world – a watery memory of itself – suspended in a single tear.   Jaime Greenberg

We almost died getting to Lost Creek Campground. Died a thousand times in our imaginations: toppled off cliffs, slipped spiraling down corkscrew turns, lost and found and lost again in the midsummer dark. When we got there, the camp was closed, but the angels were having a party. They said, “sure,” we could stay the night. So we trespassed under the pines. The colors ate up the sky, thick and alive. We could feel them in our bodies, through the pressing clouds – purple, orange, magenta, gold.    

My last thought before sleep was of the world – a watery memory of itself – suspended in a single tear.

Jaime Greenberg

 We are such collectors. Collectors of memories, of comforts, of reminders. Of things that make us feel something. Not because of the value that the thing itself holds, but what it reminds us of.   These photos are from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Chemicals and paper. But the reminders that are mirrored on these slips of paper are my heritage and my story. The photographs belong to my grandfather. I have borrowed them to scan, to preserve, to distribute.   I love this photo of Momaw tending to their property. The soft greens, the pale blues, the faded red of the mower. It was taken sometime in the summer of 1968, developed in January 1969. Before they planted the tree that would one day hold our tire swings. Before they moved her mother in next door so they could take care of her easily in her last years. Before they had to install the ramp for Momaw, just so she could get to the door. Before they sold the house to move closer to the hospital, just in case Momaw had "another little spell" with her heart. Before the new owners put an ugly red roof on it, painted over the green siding, ripped down the cabinets and took out walls. Before the white outbuildings were leveled and every one of these trees were chopped down.  See that garden behind her? That was the very soil of my childhood. My Popaw and my dad tilled the garden, plowed the rows and planted the seeds. Popaw tended to it every morning and afternoon. Momaw picked the cucumbers, canned the beans, shucked the corn. My mom helped dig up the potatoes, slice the radishes and snap the beans and make strawberry jam. Eventually, my sisters and I helped plant those wrinkled corn seeds too. We sat under the maple tree with the women, dish towels in our laps and paper bags rolled down beside us and laughed and listened to stories as we shucked the corn. We sat cross legged on the green astroturfed porch, watching cars drive by as we pulled delicate strings and broke green beans into thirds and tossed the pieces into a Tupperware bowl. We did not like picking cucumbers because the fuzzy leaves made our legs itch. But we liked to help her make and eat pickles. We chose fresh tomatoes for slicing every day, lined them up by size on the porch steps.    A lot of what I learned about life came from that garden, those days, those people.    The photos from those days are my anchors.   Fires give you no time to prepare for loss. But hurricanes do. When Irma was headed our way in September, I gathered all of our home videos, our family albums, our hard drives, and these old photos from my Popaw. I slipped them into crude black trash bags, tucked down inside plastic totes with lids. Protection from water, just in case the roof collapsed or the windows blew out. The totes went into my car, and we carried them into a friend’s safer-than-ours house a few miles away. We took only our real treasures: our pets and our people, our photos and videos, the hand-stitched quilts she made and gave to us, a box of memories and letters and truly-irreplaceables, the kids' chosen loveys from their babyhood, food and clothes to last a week.    Everything else, stayed. Anything that could be rebuilt or replaced or rebought, stayed. Furniture and books and appliances and kitchen gadgets and those toys they just had to have, the decorations I put all that thought and effort into, the televisions and the computers that we spent a small fortune on… we determined it all to be “just stuff” in the end.    Just stuff.    The hurricane could have it.    Stacey Woods

We are such collectors. Collectors of memories, of comforts, of reminders. Of things that make us feel something. Not because of the value that the thing itself holds, but what it reminds us of. 

These photos are from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s. Chemicals and paper. But the reminders that are mirrored on these slips of paper are my heritage and my story. The photographs belong to my grandfather. I have borrowed them to scan, to preserve, to distribute. 

I love this photo of Momaw tending to their property. The soft greens, the pale blues, the faded red of the mower. It was taken sometime in the summer of 1968, developed in January 1969. Before they planted the tree that would one day hold our tire swings. Before they moved her mother in next door so they could take care of her easily in her last years. Before they had to install the ramp for Momaw, just so she could get to the door. Before they sold the house to move closer to the hospital, just in case Momaw had "another little spell" with her heart. Before the new owners put an ugly red roof on it, painted over the green siding, ripped down the cabinets and took out walls. Before the white outbuildings were leveled and every one of these trees were chopped down.

See that garden behind her? That was the very soil of my childhood. My Popaw and my dad tilled the garden, plowed the rows and planted the seeds. Popaw tended to it every morning and afternoon. Momaw picked the cucumbers, canned the beans, shucked the corn. My mom helped dig up the potatoes, slice the radishes and snap the beans and make strawberry jam. Eventually, my sisters and I helped plant those wrinkled corn seeds too. We sat under the maple tree with the women, dish towels in our laps and paper bags rolled down beside us and laughed and listened to stories as we shucked the corn. We sat cross legged on the green astroturfed porch, watching cars drive by as we pulled delicate strings and broke green beans into thirds and tossed the pieces into a Tupperware bowl. We did not like picking cucumbers because the fuzzy leaves made our legs itch. But we liked to help her make and eat pickles. We chose fresh tomatoes for slicing every day, lined them up by size on the porch steps.  

A lot of what I learned about life came from that garden, those days, those people.  

The photos from those days are my anchors. 

Fires give you no time to prepare for loss. But hurricanes do. When Irma was headed our way in September, I gathered all of our home videos, our family albums, our hard drives, and these old photos from my Popaw. I slipped them into crude black trash bags, tucked down inside plastic totes with lids. Protection from water, just in case the roof collapsed or the windows blew out. The totes went into my car, and we carried them into a friend’s safer-than-ours house a few miles away. We took only our real treasures: our pets and our people, our photos and videos, the hand-stitched quilts she made and gave to us, a box of memories and letters and truly-irreplaceables, the kids' chosen loveys from their babyhood, food and clothes to last a week.  

Everything else, stayed. Anything that could be rebuilt or replaced or rebought, stayed. Furniture and books and appliances and kitchen gadgets and those toys they just had to have, the decorations I put all that thought and effort into, the televisions and the computers that we spent a small fortune on… we determined it all to be “just stuff” in the end.  

Just stuff.  

The hurricane could have it. 

Stacey Woods

 Who are we now?  What is left of us?  It feels like     We have been eroded away      By the course of our life.    Julie Guertin

Who are we now?

What is left of us?

It feels like   

We have been eroded away    

By the course of our life. 

Julie Guertin

 Dear me,  Slow down.  Look up.  Breath.  Pause.  Life is going to be full of wonder. But if you keep hurrying along, you will miss so much of the beauty among the chaos of everyday.  You are young and naive.  You think you need to keep pushing full ahead.  You think you have to follow some predestined path on the journey of life. But you don't.  You may have grown in the most traditional of family ways.  You may still be hurting from watching your parents marriage collapse, your family home crumble, and the life you knew fall apart. But do not let this define you.  The traditions that you have learned - keep them close, but don't let them hold you down. They are a part of you - but they do not own you. Do them because you love them, you feel them, and they bring you joy. Let the expectations go.  You have freedom - let it carry you.  Only too soon will you make big decisions - some of which you will question and challenge for many years to come.   Please yourself.  Take care of yourself.  Be mindful.  Love yourself.... and love will come to you in many unexpected ways, in many forms, in glee and sorrow. It will carry you through.  Love,  future me   Allyson Ell

Dear me,

Slow down.

Look up.

Breath.

Pause.

Life is going to be full of wonder. But if you keep hurrying along, you will miss so much of the beauty among the chaos of everyday.

You are young and naive.  You think you need to keep pushing full ahead.  You think you have to follow some predestined path on the journey of life. But you don't.

You may have grown in the most traditional of family ways.  You may still be hurting from watching your parents marriage collapse, your family home crumble, and the life you knew fall apart. But do not let this define you.

The traditions that you have learned - keep them close, but don't let them hold you down. They are a part of you - but they do not own you. Do them because you love them, you feel them, and they bring you joy. Let the expectations go.

You have freedom - let it carry you.

Only too soon will you make big decisions - some of which you will question and challenge for many years to come. 

Please yourself.

Take care of yourself.

Be mindful.

Love yourself.... and love will come to you in many unexpected ways, in many forms, in glee and sorrow. It will carry you through.

Love,

future me

Allyson Ell

 I called you from the payphone at the corner store, but there was no answer.  Headed up the Delaware highway in your rusted out blue pickup  Drove the stick shift while smoking my cigarette  Barefoot,  t-shirt, cutoffs  Flicked the embers and drove by the glow from the moon,  It was a long way, it was our way  Kicked up the dirt from spinning tires, on the long stretch of barren road  Pulled into the gravel drive after a long night  Spent the summer sleeping on the pullout  There was nowhere to hide  It was a six-pack of another time ago.  Some days I’d like to burn it all to the ground, watch those embers float off into the universe. It's history,  it went down like this.   Elizabeth Huffman

I called
you from the payphone at the corner store, but there was no answer.

Headed
up the Delaware highway in your rusted out blue pickup

Drove
the stick shift while smoking my cigarette

Barefoot, 
t-shirt, cutoffs

Flicked
the embers and drove by the glow from the moon,

It was
a long way, it was our way

Kicked
up the dirt from spinning tires, on the long stretch of barren road

Pulled
into the gravel drive after a long night

Spent
the summer sleeping on the pullout

There
was nowhere to hide

It was
a six-pack of another time ago.

Some days
I’d like to burn it all to the ground, watch those embers float off into the
universe. It's history, 
it went down like this.

Elizabeth Huffman

 I like keeping everything. All of my kids baby clothes, photos, mementos, any cards or letters people send me .. I am basically a packrat. I can give something away if I know someone will use it and love it. Not a true hoarder but I am very sentimental. In December we had a fire near us (did not affect us) but I had to pack just in case .. and made me think .. and all I packed were my hard drives with photos, my laptop, my jewelry and some documents and passports. Told the kids to pack their school uniforms and an extra change of clothes and that was all. It was not freeing but anxiety provoking but as I looked around I knew I could not take it all and really I took stock in what was important, and only our lives were.This trait comes from the fact that I have very little from my early childhood. I lived in India with my grandparents until I was 5 and then came here to live with my parents and besides some photos to document that time and my memories, no one saved any of my "stuff".    I am sharing a picture (believe it or not) of a pencil that I saved when I was in elementary school in NJ from Kindergarten .. I even made a box for it back then and wrote in calligraphy that I learned in 4th grade and was so proud of .. It's my way of honoring that sentimental child I always was .. even at that age. I forget that I have always been that way .. and that having kids did not make me this way! Even a simple blue bitten up pencil has a special box and place.   Rohina Gandhi Hoffman

I like keeping everything. All of my kids baby clothes, photos, mementos, any cards or letters people send me .. I am basically a packrat. I can give something away if I know someone will use it and love it. Not a true hoarder but I am very sentimental. In December we had a fire near us (did not affect us) but I had to pack just in case .. and made me think .. and all I packed were my hard drives with photos, my laptop, my jewelry and some documents and passports. Told the kids to pack their school uniforms and an extra change of clothes and that was all. It was not freeing but anxiety provoking but as I looked around I knew I could not take it all and really I took stock in what was important, and only our lives were.This trait comes from the fact that I have very little from my early childhood. I lived in India with my grandparents until I was 5 and then came here to live with my parents and besides some photos to document that time and my memories, no one saved any of my "stuff".  

I am sharing a picture (believe it or not) of a pencil that I saved when I was in elementary school in NJ from Kindergarten .. I even made a box for it back then and wrote in calligraphy that I learned in 4th grade and was so proud of .. It's my way of honoring that sentimental child I always was .. even at that age. I forget that I have always been that way .. and that having kids did not make me this way! Even a simple blue bitten up pencil has a special box and place. 

Rohina Gandhi Hoffman

 i long for a calm life  a field of giant hydrangeas   watered by pure rain   Alena Nobs    

i long for a calm life

a field of giant hydrangeas 

watered by pure rain

Alena Nobs

 

 I took this photo in April as I rode on a small boat, very low in the water, crossing a big river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was regretting taking the boat as I was imagining being tossed carelessly aside by one of the big passenger boats criss-crossing in front of us and my subsequent disgusting death by drowning in the sewage-filled river. At this moment, my shutter button became my life preserver. I clung tightly to my camera and became one with the beautiful man steering boldly into his future.    Shelly Han

I took this photo in April as I rode on a small boat, very low in the water, crossing a big river in Dhaka, Bangladesh. I was regretting taking the boat as I was imagining being tossed carelessly aside by one of the big passenger boats criss-crossing in front of us and my subsequent disgusting death by drowning in the sewage-filled river. At this moment, my shutter button became my life preserver. I clung tightly to my camera and became one with the beautiful man steering boldly into his future. 

Shelly Han

 My earliest childhood memories are all little pieces of sand reflecting a too bright sun  No one spoke the same language... and I, so dreamy, didn't even try to parse out meaning.  I let the YiddishRussianGerman wash over me like the water I loved, like the sand pouring out between my ocean sticky fingers.  Time was endless, and I was so patient, so much more patient than my children  The ENDLESS dinners, with me trying to gag down food until my grandfather, thankfully, would take my food from my plate onto his so I wouldn't have to sit there with the "5 more bites before you can leave the table" over and over and over  Summers at the pool by the long island sound.  Allowed to go onto the sand, but not into the polluted ocean waters.  Cold mornings as I slid my tiny body into the water for swim club  Sitting under my grandfathers drafting table, or watching him paint or sitting in the red of the darkroom "helping" to work the enlarger, sitting up on the table so that I could pull the metal strand to turn the big red bulb on or off  Sitting under my mothers sewing machine, listening to swears and threats lobbed at the big noise machine that wasn't sewing correctly  Summer camp, endless freedom, dirty dusty woodland trails to the metal swing set.  No one telling me what to eat, a summer of saltines and sugar water, swimming in the lake, songs around the campfire, sneaking out to go to church with the church going children.  I loved it there, until you forgot to pick me up on Saturday after I was gone for a month.  When they had to call you to come get me, and so you came on Sunday.  I was 9, and you forgot to pick me up  It all goes south from there.... taunted at school, bullied at a time when bullies ruled and "just ignore them" or "he does that because he likes you" was the norm  Staring out the window during, the endless, stomach churning, hours in school.    Too small,   too small   too small.    No I am not going into Kindergarten, I am 10, I am going into 4th grade, they already held me back because I am "too small" and now I am "Bored and not living up to my potential" This blue Benji lunchbox is for fourth grade, not kindergarten.   car rides in the old blue woody station wagon.  Sleeping in the back with the window down on the way to Florida.  We ran out of gas, Daddy had to walk away to find gas.... We ran out of money, we had to get off of the highway and avoid the tolls, it was gas or tolls   new school, again, still the smallest in the class, never have to wonder where I will be in the line when we line up by height, always first, or always last, whichever order they were going in.  Always someone saying "what's for dinner???  Shrimp!  ha ha ha ha" Or picking me up, don't pick me up!  But I always like to think back to the endless summer days, my grandmother and her other giant busted friends in the pool, me in the sand, watching it slip gently through my fingers, slowly finding it's way back to the ground, filtering down, with the sun sparkling in the sky, and my sticky blond curls in clumps on my head.  Just waiting to go get a lime ricky with my grandmother   Phyllis Meredith

My earliest childhood memories are all little pieces of sand reflecting a too bright sun

No one spoke the same language... and I, so dreamy, didn't even try to parse out meaning.  I let the YiddishRussianGerman wash over me like the water I loved, like the sand pouring out between my ocean sticky fingers.

Time was endless, and I was so patient, so much more patient than my children

The ENDLESS dinners, with me trying to gag down food until my grandfather, thankfully, would take my food from my plate onto his so I wouldn't have to sit there with the "5 more bites before you can leave the table" over and over and over

Summers at the pool by the long island sound.  Allowed to go onto the sand, but not into the polluted ocean waters.  Cold mornings as I slid my tiny body into the water for swim club

Sitting under my grandfathers drafting table, or watching him paint or sitting in the red of the darkroom "helping" to work the enlarger, sitting up on the table so that I could pull the metal strand to turn the big red bulb on or off

Sitting under my mothers sewing machine, listening to swears and threats lobbed at the big noise machine that wasn't sewing correctly

Summer camp, endless freedom, dirty dusty woodland trails to the metal swing set.  No one telling me what to eat, a summer of saltines and sugar water, swimming in the lake, songs around the campfire, sneaking out to go to church with the church going children.  I loved it there, until you forgot to pick me up on Saturday after I was gone for a month.  When they had to call you to come get me, and so you came on Sunday.  I was 9, and you forgot to pick me up

It all goes south from there.... taunted at school, bullied at a time when bullies ruled and "just ignore them" or "he does that because he likes you" was the norm

Staring out the window during, the endless, stomach churning, hours in school.  

Too small, 

too small 

too small.  

No I am not going into Kindergarten, I am 10, I am going into 4th grade, they already held me back because I am "too small" and now I am "Bored and not living up to my potential" This blue Benji lunchbox is for fourth grade, not kindergarten. 

car rides in the old blue woody station wagon.  Sleeping in the back with the window down on the way to Florida.  We ran out of gas, Daddy had to walk away to find gas.... We ran out of money, we had to get off of the highway and avoid the tolls, it was gas or tolls 

new school, again, still the smallest in the class, never have to wonder where I will be in the line when we line up by height, always first, or always last, whichever order they were going in.  Always someone saying "what's for dinner???  Shrimp!  ha ha ha ha" Or picking me up, don't pick me up!

But I always like to think back to the endless summer days, my grandmother and her other giant busted friends in the pool, me in the sand, watching it slip gently through my fingers, slowly finding it's way back to the ground, filtering down, with the sun sparkling in the sky, and my sticky blond curls in clumps on my head.  Just waiting to go get a lime ricky with my grandmother

Phyllis Meredith

 If I place my thumb  on one side of the bridge,  and a finger on the other,  then I can feel you.  Your heartbeat pulses;  I can almost hear your laughter.  I let go; work to do.  Quickly I return to me.  To the smile held long past its honesty.  Jaw clenched with conflict  in the trap of current time.  Tonight the night guard will cover his shift.  Work to undo the damage done  from the battles fought between us.  Since this time last night;  when I felt you.  Your beloved rhythm of wonder.  You say that I've forgotten.  But I have not.  I swear - I am still you.  It's just that there is now so much  to lose.  Too much.   Erin Hughes

If I place my thumb

on one side of the bridge,

and a finger on the other,

then I can feel you.

Your heartbeat pulses;

I can almost hear your laughter.

I let go; work to do.

Quickly I return to me.

To the smile held long past its honesty.

Jaw clenched with conflict

in the trap of current time.

Tonight the night guard will cover his shift.

Work to undo the damage done

from the battles fought between us.

Since this time last night;

when I felt you.

Your beloved rhythm of wonder.

You say that I've forgotten.

But I have not.

I swear - I am still you.

It's just that there is now so much

to lose.

Too much.

Erin Hughes

 First, there was darkness. The train so bright against the blackest black that all I could do was stare back at myself. We were driven underground, the train car rocking to and fro like a mom shushing an anxious baby. When we arrive we climb out and up, blinking in the dim lighting, herded forward so that all we see are the backs of those in front of us. The hum in the distance mingles with the shuffling of our feet, a cacophony made into melody by the buzz of energy that quaked in the concrete. And then we were there, here, everywhere. The center of the very center of the world. I emerged looking up at constellations bathed in green, perched above a sea of bodies. It didn’t take long before I was swept away.    I fell in love 16 miles north of Manhattan. But it was on those street corners where first love became something lasting. Aquarius stood watchful as I ran against the current into open arms. 16 miles too far a distance, eight hours apart torturous and slow moving. A string connected us on this commute, laid down on the tracks, covered in centuries old soot, to bring me there to that spot. Every time.    Through the years the buildings echoed our laughter, shielded us from the cold that we tried to drive out with our bodies huddled close. Even the memories are fast moving, swept to sea. That concrete island that held so many of our secrets and our joys. So much of our longing floating up with the steam and noise.    From a distance, I felt that pull. Even through the heartache of a city laid gutted and torn, broken and weary, I felt that hope you can only feel in the city. The only city that doesn’t need a name to be known.      I return now as a stranger. The string connecting me to another place far away.  But Orion can still find me in the midst of those bodies. And he smiles, like we have a passing secret long buried in the deepest corners of our memory. It’s a secret we keep, a hope that springs eternal every time I come back to the place that, though never home in the way we’re used to, was home to the purest parts of my soul, to the dreams that I only found strength to utter in its streets.    Elaine Palladino

First, there was darkness. The train so bright against the blackest black that all I could do was stare back at myself. We were driven underground, the train car rocking to and fro like a mom shushing an anxious baby. When we arrive we climb out and up, blinking in the dim lighting, herded forward so that all we see are the backs of those in front of us. The hum in the distance mingles with the shuffling of our feet, a cacophony made into melody by the buzz of energy that quaked in the concrete. And then we were there, here, everywhere. The center of the very center of the world. I emerged looking up at constellations bathed in green, perched above a sea of bodies. It didn’t take long before I was swept away.  

I fell in love 16 miles north of Manhattan. But it was on those street corners where first love became something lasting. Aquarius stood watchful as I ran against the current into open arms. 16 miles too far a distance, eight hours apart torturous and slow moving. A string connected us on this commute, laid down on the tracks, covered in centuries old soot, to bring me there to that spot. Every time.  

Through the years the buildings echoed our laughter, shielded us from the cold that we tried to drive out with our bodies huddled close. Even the memories are fast moving, swept to sea. That concrete island that held so many of our secrets and our joys. So much of our longing floating up with the steam and noise.  

From a distance, I felt that pull. Even through the heartache of a city laid gutted and torn, broken and weary, I felt that hope you can only feel in the city. The only city that doesn’t need a name to be known.    

I return now as a stranger. The string connecting me to another place far away.  But Orion can still find me in the midst of those bodies. And he smiles, like we have a passing secret long buried in the deepest corners of our memory. It’s a secret we keep, a hope that springs eternal every time I come back to the place that, though never home in the way we’re used to, was home to the purest parts of my soul, to the dreams that I only found strength to utter in its streets. 

Elaine Palladino