Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Poetry

Empty Carcass

by Hailey Stoner

I never quite understood why people choose to have
open casket funerals. I guess they want
to remember their beloved in the best way.
Even if it means remembering the empty carcass.
Remembering a house no longer inhabited.

Today, I am at my great grandmother’s
funeral. I am standing in the funeral home,
opposite the open casket.
Red and blue lights shine down on her.
An arrangement of pink and purple and white flowers
sits on the bottom half of the casket.

I have to remind myself
to breathe in. Breathe out.

She’s beautiful. Her thin, grey hair is
curled. She’s wearing a blue and purple flowered
dress. A cream shawl lays over her shoulders
and arms, covering her wrinkled skin.

I want to burst into tears.

Again, breathe in.
Breathe out.

We weren’t very close, but I can’t
stand being next to the casket.
She’s hollow. The mortician removed her
furniture, contaminated the house,
sealed the door.  

That isn’t her.
There is no rise and fall
of her chest. No movement
behind her eyelids. She isn’t asleep.
Isn’t warm.
Her heart is not beating.

That isn’t her.
It is only the cold, stiff body,
that everybody wants to remember.

Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Non-Fiction

Around and Around

by Hailey Stoner

The air was sweet. Two robins chased one another from one tree to the next. Sunshine drenched the sky and the tree branches hung low, heavy with thick, green leaves. The tulips in the front flower bed swayed gently with the breeze. The mailman filled the mailboxes on the right side of the road, then moved to the left. I sat in the front window and waited for the mail truck to disappear around the corner. Then, I tore open the garage, hopped on my bike, and rode up and down the street, waiting for the other girls to join me.

Our houses sat in a triangle, my house on one side of the street, Hannah’s and Kassidy’s on the other, separated with an outsider’s home in between theirs. We didn’t see much of the people inside that house, but their lawn was always freshly cut and remained a deep, dark green almost year round. We never knew it was possible for grass to look that perfect. There were ten houses on our road. To the left of the triangle was the twin’s house, and the Hispanic house. To the right of us was the Lorenzen’s, the haunted house that terrified us, the old couple in the yellow house, and the people who always had cars coming to and from their house.

Our garages were always open, exposing all the internal organs for everyone driving by to see. They could see the tall, wooden shelves filled with lawn toys in mine, the couch and table in Hannah’s, and the seven foot tall Santa Claus in Kassidy’s. We would sit at the table and Hannah would teach us how to play blackjack or go fish. We tore down the toys from the shelves in my garage and hosted cornhole tournaments, but we avoided Kassidy’s garage at all cost. The Santa Claus never settled well with us. It felt like his eyes followed us, no matter where we stood.

This road witnessed many scraped knees and elbows. It was the trail that led Kassidy from one house to the next during Girl Scout cookie season. It was a canvas for our sidewalk chalk masterpieces and the road that lead us to school in the mornings. It was where we all met to start our night of trick-or-treating on Halloween. It was where we all met during the summer and ran around on the boiling pavement in our bathing suits before piling into Kassidy’s mom’s minivan to drive us to the pool. It’s where we could do whatever we desired.

Rolling down the hill in my front yard before the bees made their way to the sprouting weeds was the best thing to do. All three of us lined up at the top and layed down in the grass that was soft, yet somehow tough at the same time. Once we were in position, one person counted down. When we heard ‘go,’ we wrapped tight and pushed ourselves as hard as we could down the hill. The entire world spun around, and around, and around. We mercilessly crushed every poor dandelion that happened to be in our path and all the tiny bugs hiding in the tall blades of grass. It was only seconds, but it felt like minutes passed when we finally reached the bottom.

I shot up to make sure everybody knew I was the first to reach the bottom and it was a big mistake. As quickly as I was up on my feet, I was on the ground. The world still spun even though I stopped rolling. But once everything finally went straight, I stood up again to claim my victory.

I basked in the glory. My win made everything seem a little bit brighter. The grass looks greener, the sky bluer, and the birds sounded a little louder. A car drove by and we went silent, waiting for them to pass, making sure they couldn’t steal our secrets. Then, we raced to the top of the hill, ready to do it again.

We thought we’d be able to this everyday, for the rest of our lives. But we didn’t know that you’re not allowed to roll down hills after elementary school. Or jump in the rain puddles. Go on Easter egg hunts. Be excited for Christmas morning after Santa came the night before. I didn’t know that friendships would get complicated. Or the old couple a few houses down would die and the Lorenzen’s would move away. Or that my parents would divorce and we’d all go to different high schools.

I didn’t know my world would always be spinning out of control, even though I haven’t rolled down that hill since fourth grade.

Posted in 2018-2019, Issue 02, Poetry

Hagerstown As A Destination

by Sara Malott

I sit at a high-top table by a big open window
Looking over the streets of my birth place
I look up and I see blue skies finally
A promise of an eventual spring.
Around me are stoic brick buildings
Older than anyone I’ve ever met. Across the street
Award Beauty School, rusted hanging white sign
Above a school that has been closed for ages
And I am reminded that there was a list at one time
Claiming our city to have the third largest collection of ugly men
In the country. Satisfied customers stroll out of the age-old
German restaurant, doors held open by rusty bolts and miracles.
A man in a blue-buffalo-checked shirt
Walks through the middle of the road and inspects each car
He passes. A stop sign is angled directly towards myself
And I am worried that I am exposing somebody’s secrets.

The ground below me is all concrete and pavement. The
County commuter bus stops for no one while a balding man pushes
A double stroller down the sidewalk with only one kid.
I will leave this library and go home soon to a neighborhood
With houses that do not have TV satellites hanging by a thread
From somebody’s window. I will go home to a neighborhood
Where people still hide their drunk crumplings behind the bedroom door.
In my neighborhood there is only mowed grass and flower beds.
You will not find cop cars or cigarette butts on the streets.

Yes, I was born here
Yes I call this place my home but I have been lying to myself
For too long. I do not know what it is like to ride a bike
On these streets after sundown. I am not around to see
Lost souls shooting up in the back alleys. I am still taken aback
When I see people without homes talking to themselves
On the streets in mid-day. This is not my home
I am but a visitor. So today, I write this poem as one
Would make a scrapbook documenting a beautiful vacation.
I am a tourist. Here are the attractions.
I will be back soon.