Update for Creations 2020

Dear readers,

The times we are living in are quite strange, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we are going to give up on this wonderful publication! We will be publishing online as well as sending out print copies to the contributors. We are also hoping to host a virtual launch and reading towards the end of May, so stay tuned for details!

The submission deadline has been extended to May 1st. Happy creating!

Cheers,

The 2020 Creations editors

 

 

 

 

“Snow Was General All Over Ireland”: The Identities of Joyce’s Dubliners

As part of the Literature Profile Integrating Activity course, students write a 10-page paper. These two excellent papers, by Genevieve Daigle and Eric Neilson, are the presentation versions delivered at the Literature Profile Conference. This year’s conference programme appears in the final pages of this journal.

Written by: Eric Neilson

James Joyce’s 1914 short story collection, Dubliners, handles the topics of family, religion, and marriage, among others, in its depiction of urban Irish life. Joyce wrote of- and during- a period of historic tension in Ireland (Corcoran 57). In examining this text, I aim to uncover Joyce’s conception of Irish identity. Earlier interpretations of the work focus on motifs of paralysis and epiphany in the stories. Other interpretations consider how Joyce’s ordinary characters react in response to both the political environment, and Irish religious tensions. The text, I will argue, synthesizes all these components into a complete picture of a paralytic Irish national identity, both at the social and personal level, in the early twentieth century.

The most pressing aspect of Dublin at this time was the divide between Protestants and Catholics. Historian James S. Donnelly outlines the history of this opposition. During the seventeenth century, an anglophone landed elite established political, economic and social dominance of Ireland. They were conferred “possession of three-quarters of [Ireland’s] land” (Donnelly 240) by England’s Charles II, who also acknowledged the Protestant Church of Ireland as the established church, despite the native Catholic majority. Catholics launched many campaigns against the Anglo-Irish, including petitioning admission to the Irish Parliament, which they achieved in 1829. A new Irish-Catholic nationalism began to brew, becoming a veritable movement by the late nineteenth century. The tension between the burgeoning nationalist movement, largely Catholic-driven, versus the unionist movement, who favored English influence and was largely Protestant-driven, defined late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Irish politics, and thus informs Joyce’s Dubliners.

Dubliners’ depiction of Irish identity is, according to Canadian author Paul Delany, steeped in Joyce’s personal indictments against “the Catholic Church, the colonial ruling class, and the indigenous collaborators with that class” (257). Delany offers an example in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” where nationalist candidate Mr. Tierney’s supporters “recognize that he will betray the Nationalist cause once he is elected” (262), and so the issue of Irish independence is, for the politicians, a lesser priority, despite their celebration of former nationalist hero Parnell. The story paints the nationalists as corrupt and obsessed with the mythos of their own brief history (263).

Early readings of Dublinersdescribe two key motifs: paralysis and epiphany; both are essential to Joyce’s conception of Irish identity. Joycean scholar Florence Walzl argues that the theme of paralysis is supported by the fact that “thirteen of the… fifteen stories take place at the end of the day, at twilight, or actually at night” (223), when most people are stilled by sleep. Walzl goes on to highlight the age progression of the collection’s protagonists, ascribing different paralyses to each age bracket. The protagonists of the first three stories are children, and their paralysis manifests as the stifling of “emotional and psychological development of self as preparation for [adult] life” (222). In “The Sisters,” the boy narrator partially rejects religious society after the abrupt death of Father Flynn, his priest, who once embodied “knowledge and religious authority” (223) but is now maligned by the adults. As the sister Eliza remarks, “the duties of the priesthood were too much for him. And then his life was… crossed” (Joyce 9). Father Flynn’s connection with ominous paralysis is also explicitly highlighted in the first paragraph when the narrator gazes into the priest’s window and utters the word “paralysis” (1).

“Eveline” is the fourth story in Dubliners, and the first with a young adult narrator. Prior to Eveline’s journey to Buenos Aires from Dublin with her partner Frank (Joyce 29), she stops short at the dock, unwilling to board the ship. Walzl describes her behavior as becoming trapped by a “mistaken sense of obligation” (224-25) toward her violent, overbearing father. “Counterparts,” part of the next bracket of adult protagonists, features a man who takes revenge upon his son after he returns from his tedious office job where the “petty tyranny” (226), as Walzl describes it, of his boss stills his desire to rebel. Ultimately, a kind of paralysis afflicts each of Joyce’s protagonists, no matter their age, underscoring the sweeping nature of the Irish paralysis Dublinersinvestigates.

However, the characters often realize their ensnarement, and scholars such as Gerhard Friedrich term these moments epiphanies. For example, the disillusionment of the boy in “Araby,” upon his realization he is late to the market to purchase a gift for his neighbor Mangan’s older sister, is an epiphany, as he visualizes himself in the third person “as a creature driven and derided by vanity” (Joyce 26). The climactic epiphany of “The Dead,” in which Gabriel Conroy describes himself as “a ludicrous figure” (209) in his jealousy for his wife’s teenage love-interest who has long since died, echoes, according to Friedrich, the epiphany in “Araby” within a mature context (425). Gabriel and the boy respectively undergo disillusionment regarding their romantic impulses. However, despite their awareness, their predicaments do not resolve themselves.

The factors which most reliably produce paralysis in Dubliners are the Anglo-Irish economic and political hegemony, and the self-defeating, sterilizing habits of the Irish nationalist movement. The latter is explored in “Ivy Day in the Committee Room” through the character Henchy’s bleak declaration that “Parnell… is dead” (Joyce 121). This statement is both factually true, as nationalist hero Charles Parnell died in 1891, and, as Delany writes, symbolically true, because Parnell’s mission had been forgotten by the self-serving nationalists. Crofton, the committee room’s sole Protestant, declares Hynes’ celebratory poem on Parnell “a very fine piece of writing’” (Joyce 125), a final judgement which scholar Emily C. Bloom argues subtly asserts Crofton’s superior political power (7).

Dubliners also condemns the habits of Irish Catholics, assigning them partial responsibility for their sense of paralysis (Haughey 355-56). In “Two Gallants,” the protagonist Lenehan’s modest ambitions, which signify those of his Catholic peers, are embodied in his “listless” walk, “morose” gaze, and desire to “settle down in some snug corner,” all of which emphasize his pessimistic attitude borne of “his own poverty of purse and spirit” (Joyce 48). Essayist Jim Haughey lists the numerous allusions in “Two Gallants” to the inescapable architecture of Protestant Dublin which “surrounds” (358) Lenehan and his companion Corley during their excursion.

Finally, Joyce’s narrative style prompts the reader to experience something akin to the paralytic crises of identity that beset his characters (Corcoran 63). Literary scholar Mark Corcoran analyzes Joyce’s use of ellipses to amplify ambiguity (63). The earliest example of this technique is in “The Sisters” when Old Cotter describes Father Flynn’s ailment: “I think it was one of those … peculiar cases …. But it’s hard to say ….” (Joyce 2). The boy narrator cannot understand their uniquely adult discourse, and so, Corcoran argues, this disconnection from the adults’ conversation precipitates a crisis of identity in the narrator, just as it precipitates confusion in the reader (65). “After the Race” exemplifies a similar notion. Joyce moves from unbiased narration (Corcoran 69), such as when the protagonist Jimmy is simply “seen by many of his friends” (Joyce 35), to a more limited narration, with Jimmy’s meditation on the pleasure of “return[ing] to the profane world of spectators” (35). Jimmy’s constricted viewpoint becomes clear when he outlines his goals: “notoriety” and “the possession of money” (Joyce 35). However, the narrative voice often fluctuates upward from such ruminations to declare facts such as, “Farley was an American” (37). This fluctuation results in his lacking narrative independence (Corcoran 69). Ultimately, Jimmy has little control and is effectively paralyzed in both his ability to tell his story, and in his capacity to affect its outcome. Corcoran concludes that Joyce exposes the “limits of human knowledge” (70) to underscore the impact those limits have on a society in crisis.

Dubliners enacts Joyce’s model of Irish identity, synthesizing the root factors which lead to social and personal paralysis.The text explores such factors as the divide between the Anglo-Irish Protestants and the Catholic nationalists, the petty, unambitious intentions of some Irishmen, and the fallout of English economic imperialism over Dublin. The resulting animosity and fear of these components of paralysis form Dubliners’ principal conflicts. Paralysis is embedded in both character and setting- in both Dubliner and Dublin. Despite moments of clarity, in the epiphanies, characters are not afforded escape from this quagmire, and Joyce’s vision becomes grim. Thus, Irish identity at the time, just as Gabriel Conroy’s personal identity, metaphorically “fad[es] out into a grey impalpable world” of snow, which serves to freeze and smother “all the living and the dead” of Ireland (Joyce 212-3).

A Feminist Defense of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew

As part of the Literature Profile Integrating Activity course, students write a 10-page paper. These two excellent papers, by Genevieve Daigle and Eric Neilson, are the presentation versions delivered at the Literature Profile Conference. This year’s conference programme appears in the final pages of this journal.

Written by: Genevieve Daigle

To our modern social sensibilities, William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (1580-1582) is easily the most disconnected and uncomfortable of his comedies. Though there is no consensus as to whether or not The Taming of the Shrewcan be considered a feminist piece, I propose that it was, in fact, a piece of proto-feminist work. Despite the initial scruples a modern audience might feel regarding the play, through an analysis of the ways in which the play subverts the standards of an early modern audience, an analysis of how Katherine is an outspoken dominant female figure and of Shakespeare’s treatment of women in his other works, I will argue that The Taming of Shrewis in fact a piece of proto-feminist literature.

Contemporary critics of Shakespeare have often found themselves looking upon The Taming of the Shrewin a critical light, and for good reason. The premise of the play, a woman who is “tamed” by a man, certainly runs counter to the values that modern feminism has taught us to uphold. Katherine, by the very fact of her taming, seems to be the antithesis of what a contemporary audience would consider a strong, independent female character. Indeed, as psychoanalyst Marvin B Krims reflects, when faced with a theatrical production of the piece, “we enlightened folk in the audience may find ourselves squirming in our seats, asking ourselves just why we had found such behavior so damn funny” (Krims 53). This reaction should be considered fairly normal because, to a contemporary audience, the behavior Petruchio displays in regards to Katherine and her taming could easily be considered abusive. In fact, literary scholar Emily Detmer likens Petruchio’s “taming” of Katherine to Stockholm syndrome, a syndrome where victims develop trust or affection towards their captors or abusers as a means of survival (Detmer 284). Much like an abuser, Detmer explains that Petruchio “isolates Kate from those who could intervene on her behalf, and […] threatens her survival” (Detmer 284). Though a contemporary audience may be inclined to read their interactions in this abusive light, the reactions of an early modern audience would not have seen Petruchio’s actions as abusive. Wife-beating as a form of subjugation was widely accepted in Elizabethan England (Detmer 275). In The Taming of the Shrew, however, Petruchio never once lifts a finger against Katherine during his taming. In fact, the only person among them to use any physical violence is Katherine, which would have been an incredibly visceral example of female disobedience to an early modern audience. The absence of such physical violence in the way Petruchio tames Katherine, though not a forward-thinking concept by our standards, is indicative of Shakespeare subverting the expectations of an early modern audience and anticipating future social and political movements to abolish the practice of domestic violence.

Another way in which Shakespeare subverts the expectations of an early modern audience is through Katherine’s strong intellect. Consistently throughout the text, Katherine exhibits a considerable amount of wit and intellect in her verbal exchanges. This is particularly highlighted during her initial interaction with Petruchio. Before they meet, Petruchio confidently proclaims that through his wooing, he will tame Katherine when he says “So I to her and so she yields to me, / For I am rough and woo not like a babe” (II, i, 126-129). However, as soon as he meets Katherine, he quickly finds that his wooing falls short in the face of her wit and strength of character. Their banter challenges the dynamic of a man being necessarily a woman’s intellectual superior by creating an atmosphere in which the reader is uncertain of who in fact retains the dominant position (Smith 300). Another example of Katherine’s wit and intellect occurs in Act IV when the two later travel back to Padua. Petruchio continues his “taming” through further verbal banter by proclaiming that the sun is in fact the moon. Here, Katherine seemsto submit to the mental gymnastics that Petruchio is proposing. However, it is far more probable that Katherine has in fact simply conceded to humor Petruchio in his little game. Indeed, critics such as Velvet D. Pearson have suggested, counter to what Detmer argues, that Petruchio is in fact playing a game of wits with Katherine to allow for “an intellectual freedom unavailable to many Elizabethan women” (Pearson 286). This argument posits Katherine not as a victim of abuse but rather as an active, intelligent participant in a game of wits: one that Petruchio allows and encourages within Katherine. Further proof of this occurs in the final scene, when Katherine has an exchange with a widow. The widow, offended at Petruchio’s remarks, turns on Katherine and attempts to make a fool of her. Katherine never misses a beat, however, and Petruchio, confident in his wife’s wit and intellect, is even willing to wager that Katherine will win the argument, which indicates that she has never lost this aspect of her character. These moments of Katherine’s intellectual superiority further point to Shakespeare’s care in depicting women as being far more dominant than audiences of the sixteenth and seventeenth century would have expected.

Katherine’s strength is not restricted only to her wit, however. She is a woman who has strong opinions about her plight and that of other Elizabethan women. Katherine’s status in the play is likened to that of a mere commodity to be bought and sold. This is especially highlighted by the fact that Petruchio proclaims he intends to find a wife with a large Dowry. This situation, however, is something that Katherine herself vehemently objects to. In fact, she fights this plight and accuses her father of trading her away as if she were a less desirable commodity or a prostitute when she says, “I pray you, sir, is it your will / To make a stale of me amongst these mates?” (I, i, 57). This moment, seeming at first glance to be part of how she acts “shrewish,” is in fact a powerful display of her outspoken reaction against her situation and a rejection of patriarchal control. It is also an obvious protest against a situation many if not all Elizabethan women would experience.

Not all scenes can as easily be interpreted as acts of patriarchal rejection, however. Critics such as Dale G. Priest continue to argue that Katherine’s final speech in Act V of the play, no matter how one attempts to deconstruct it, ultimately “reassert[s] the patriarchal order” (Preist 31). As Pearson suggests, however, the perception of whether Katherine is a broken woman at the end of her taming or a liberated woman relies heavily on the direction and performance of the play (Pearson 236). This is particularly the case with Katherine’s final speech. Despite the fact that her speech is seemingly an outpouring of wifely subservience, if the play is directed in a way that signals Katherine has not lost her vivacity, the speech would be delivered with confidence and power. This supremacy is further highlighted by the fact that Katherine’s speech is the longest in the play, thus showing us that Katherine never loses her outspoken character.

Perhaps the most compelling argument for The Taming of the Shrewas a proto-feminist piece lies in the Induction and the overarching implications it makes. In the Induction, Sly, a beggar, falls unconscious and a lord decides to play a trick on him. They pretend that Sly is a lord and treat him as such. When he awakes, at first Sly resists this new role imposed upon him. However, as the scene moves on, Sly settles into his role as a lord and ultimately submits to it upon learning that he supposedly has a wife. This entire interaction highlights the way performativity is essential to Katherine and Petruchio’s entire relationship (Smith 297). In fact, as literary scholar Amy L. Smith highlights, “this scene is less about the lord’s power than about how through enacting subjection the wife can establish a powerful position of her own” (Smith 298). Similarly to the page who pretends to be Sly’s wife, Katherine, through her own performativity, often enacts a similar power over Petruchio. Continuing with the reading that Katherine never in fact loses her power and wit and is simply performingthe role of a good wife, then not only has Katherine tricked Petruchio as the page has tricked Sly, but she retains a position of power over her husband. In this way, Shakespeare subverts the standards of the time and positions Katherine as a powerful, independent woman.

A further example of how the Induction influences the perception of Katherine and Petruchio is in regards to the relationship between male masculinity and the role a woman plays in the way it is defined. The Induction shows us that it is only when his supposed “wife” submits to Sly that he truly takes to his position as a dominant figure in the situation (Smith 297, 298). This model of superiority and assertiveness of masculinity is present in the dynamic that Petruchio and Katherine have. Although some argue that Petruchio arriving late to their wedding is one of the first steps in his “taming,” it is also a symbolic loss of his supremacy and respectability. As he ridicules himself at the wedding, the other men look upon him with distaste. In fact, Batista himself, who was once so eager to wed off his eldest daughter to Petruchio, makes no attempt to hide his distaste with his future son-in-law. In fact, Petruchio seems to completely lose his ‘gentlemanly’ attitude as soon as they return home. It is only in the final scene, once Katherine has made her speech and Petruchio has “proven” his dominance over his wife that the men come to fully respect him. However, as discussed earlier, his actual superiority is not necessarily authentic, as in the case of Sly. It is thanks to this comedic set-up that Shakespeare’s ridicule of masculinity becomes most apparent. Just as an audience member is meant to view Sly’s assertion of dominance and masculinity with ridicule, we are asked to view Petruchio’s plight in the same fashion. Shakespeare shows us the misplaced importance men give women as a way of defining themselves in the eyes of others. This anticipates a very modern facet of feminism that expresses the urgency for men and women to define themselves not in regards to the roles that gender norms dictate but as unique individuals.

Though The Taming of the Shrewcan be considered a more difficult play to attribute a feminist reading to, I would like to argue that Shakespeare was in fact also himself a proto-feminist and that this play was never meant to present women as weak, subservient creatures. Katherine, as shown above, is a female character with a strong will, wit and self-worth. These are hardly unique traits when it comes to Shakespeare’s female characters. Juliet in Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo and Juliet (1597), is an example of one of the most intelligent, independent women in all of his plays. Juliet herself is in fact just as rebellious, if not moreso, than Katherine. Though Katherine criticizes her father, she never betrays him or her family. Juliet, on the other hand, actively rejects her family and rebels against their wishes for her to marry Paris. Her wit and strength of character, much like Katherine’s, often put her in dominant positions. One such example is in Act IV, when Juliet goes to see the friar, and runs into Paris. During their exchange Juliet continuously spins her words in a way that is never quite a lie nor ever truly quite the truth. In this scene, she is given a far more dominant position than Paris, much the way Katherine is given the dominant position in many of her interactions with Petruchio.

Othello(1604) is another play in which Shakespeare includes strong female characters.Shakespeare gives Emilia, Desdemona’s maidservant, a powerful feminist voice. In Act V, Emilia defies Iago, a patriarchal figure, in order to defend Desdemona in female solidarity. Shakespeare presents her defiance as an act of courage, strength and virtue despite the fact that it is an act of wifely disobedience. This depiction of female disobedience is a far cry from what Shakespeare’s audience would have considered proper.

In all of these examples, however, it is important to note the way Shakespeare has framed the way his female characters enact their agency. Art, no matter its medium, often pushes social and political boundaries. Shakespeare is no exception to this. In Elizabethan England, however, social norms and values forced Shakespeare to reconcile how far he could push these boundaries whilst still allowing for these plays to be successful. Had Shakespeare written Katherine’s taming as one of abuse and her plight one to pity, not only would he have removed all of Katherine’s agency but the play’s underlying message, which is one of female strength and individuality, may not have been received as positively. This is also true of Juliet and Emilia. Juliet’s rebellion against her family is framed as an act of true love, not one of outright familial defiance, thus allowing for an Elizabethan audience to more readily sympathize with what would otherwise have been seen as deplorable. As for Emilia, her defiance of her husband in the final act is framed as a defense of Desdemona’s womanly virtue (class notes). Shakespeare, clearly the proto-feminist writer, carefully constructs the situations in which his female characters display their agency and Katherine is no exception.

Shakespeare consistently presents strong female characters as having agency, be it Katherine, Juliet or Emilia. Though The Taming of the Shrew can seem misogynistic and sexist to a contemporary audience, Shakespeare lived and wrote at a time when more progressive feminist values were non-existent. However, this did not stop him from consistently challenging the values of his time regarding the treatment of women. Katherine is meant to be a character of strength, intelligence and outspoken wit. And thus, The Taming of the Shrew should indeed be seen as the proto-feminist piece it has always been.

On Wednesday’s We Wear White

Written by: Sheena Macmillan

Ivy Davis is the new President of the “free world”. She’s 47th in a line of all female Presidents. From my spot at the very back of the stadium, I look to the giant screens on the side of the stage to see her face. She stands in the middle, behind a podium, lined by all of her Ministers. All women. They wear bright gowns with long trains; they wear short skirts with their natural hair cascading down to their knees; they wear dark blue suits with flowers sprouting out of their cuffs. On the stage everyone is represented. Every skin tone, figure, hair texture. Except, when you pan out the image of proud women waving to the girls they wish to empower and inspire in the audience, you realise there is a lack of men. Where are they, you ask? They are with me, out of sight, at the very top of the stadium. We wear white shirts and white pants with white shoes, and sometimes we wear white jackets too. If we’re feeling spunky.

My name is Aaron Smith. I work as a nurse at the Grey House, so I get to take care of President Ivy if she gets a cold or something tragic like that. It used to be called the White House, but former President Violet changed it to Grey to symbolize how most problems aren’t just black and white, but there is a large grey area in between that should always be taken into account.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a doctor, specifically a surgeon, but all my friends and family said that I was living in a fantasy if I thought I could make it as a doctor. They said nursing would be more fitting for me, you know, since I’m a guy. In school, all the other nursing students were male. Just across the hall there was a classroom filled with the newest doctors in training. They were a huge class of at least 100 students, 90% women. It always seemed to be like that though. In the engineering programs, in the law programs, in the science programs, the classes were always 90% women.

My dad always told me stories of when he was young and in school. How university was a place where men flourished. Where every other guy was on the path to get a degree in something expensive, like medicine. He always told me stories about how horrible his life became when the Empowerment Movement began. The Empowerment Movement started before I was born, and its purpose was to bring the women of the world to their full potential and out of the oppressive hands of the patriarchy. All of the roles were switched. Women were given more roles of leadership, women were taken seriously in serious situations, and they weren’t harassed in the street for wearing that cute dress they’d been saving for a nice warm day like today.

________

Ron stands behind a pot in the Grey House kitchen, cooking up something for the President’s supper. He’s my friend, Ron. The only guys in the Grey House are either chefs, nurses, or cleaners. The only reason why I’m closest with Ron is because he always hooks me up with some great leftovers from what he’s made that day.

“Ron! Ronnie Ron The King himself what it do Mr. Ronster!!!” I yell.

“My man! My man, my man, my man, you look nice! White is such a good colour on you.” Ron answers.

“Yo I can’t lie I was feeling this look. White on white on white is my new thing.” I look at Ron’s outfit, “Mate, how could you do this to me we’re wearing the same thing! We can’t both be in all white or we’ll look like fools.” Ron laughs, “You know what it doesn’t matter if we wear the same thing, cause I know I look better than you.” Ron stops laughing.

“C’mon man you know these are my nice white pants don’t hate on my swag.” Ron is on the defense now. One the the Secret Service agents pokes her head into the kitchen. She calls for me, says the President isn’t feeling her best.

I walk towards her. “Any specific symptoms?” I ask.

“She’s very nauseous, and she’s got some cramps in the uterine area.” She’s walking quickly in front of me. She escorts me to President Ivy’s bedroom. She opens the double doors and we find the President laying on her side in the middle of her bed. She’s clutching her stomach and her face shows she’s in pain.

“Are you on your period?” I ask Ivy.

“No, it’s been at least four months since my last period, maybe even five.”

“And you didn’t think that was weird? To have missed so many months?”

“Well no, I mean I am a very successful career woman. I am under constant stress because of my job, so naturally I miss my period sometimes.”

“Alright, what I’m gonna do is give you an ultrasound to see what’s happening in your stomach since you’re so nauseous. Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.”

I walk over to her bedside and turn her onto her back. The same Secret Service agent from before brings in all the things I need to perform the ultrasound. As I pull her shirt back to expose her belly, I can tell it’s more swollen than usual. I want to ask if Ron cooked up an extra large lunch today, but decide against it. I put the jelly on her stomach and fire up the ultrasound machine.

“I’m just looking for anything that shouldn’t be there, like a Lego or the Declaration of Independence, you know?” I pause. “Woah.”

“What’s wrong?” Ivy asks with obvious concern.

“I gotta ask, four to five months ago, were you sexually active?” My eyes move from the screen to meet Ivy’s. She’s lost all colour in her skin.

She exhales, “Yes.” I look back at the screen and examine the ultrasound more. I look at the small fetus growing inside of her and see something I know she won’t be happy with.

I exhale, “It’s a boy.”

She’s crying now. So filled with disappointment and regret. She’s having a son. She’s mumbling about how she’s always dreamed of having a daughter, of raising her to know that she can follow all of her dreams, of giving her all to her daughter and making sure that her daughter loves every ounce of herself because she is perfection. But, she’s having a son. What is she supposed to do with a son? Teach him how to do laundry? She doesn’t know how to do that. Teach him how to keep a happy home and cook balanced meals? Make healthy snacks for his ringette team? She doesn’t know how to have a son. She’s never thought about having a son. She sits upright and dries her tears.

“You know, when I was younger I wanted to be a doctor.” I check to see if she’s looking at me; she is.

“I wanted so badly to be a surgeon but everyone told me I would be setting myself up for failure. My biggest regret is listening to them and going into nursing instead of being that 10% in the classroom. In school I was always taught that the

Empowerment Movement happened so women could live to their highest potential. But what about my potential? I should be offered the same opportunities that women are offered. I should be able to tell my parents that I want to be a doctor and not get laughed at.

“Creating equality for women isn’t switching the roles of leadership and having a matriarchy instead of a patriarchy. Creating equality isn’t oppressing the oppressors. The boy growing inside you deserves the best. You are the President, you should be setting the example. I believe in his ability to be an engineer like I believe in your ability to change how men are treated in today’s society.

“Let your son wear what he wants, don’t restrict him to white. Let your son think what he wants, don’t restrict him to domestic affairs. Let your son be athletic, let him play the sports he wants. Let your son be. He is blossoming just the same as a daughter would. He is growing strong because he knows you are the right mother for him. Don’t set your son up for failure even before he knows what adversities he faces.”

President Ivy looks at me with understanding eyes, like she is surprised I can speak so eloquently. She turns to the Secret Service agent, “Get me my tablet, we’re having a second Empowerment Movement.”

She Got An F In Sex Ed

Written by: Sheena Macmillan

At 12 years old they say,

“Be abstinent, that’s it!”

In sex ed class they say,

“You’ll need a mother’s wit.”

At 14 years you feel

A feeling new to you

Something new at your heel

Cherry red, so brand new.

At 16, it happens

An act you never knew.

16 and it happened

What does this mean for you?

At 17, she’s here

A baby all for you.

At 17, she’s here

Cherry red, so brand new.

He is older, 18

He left without word.

“I’m only just a teen!”

The memories are blurred.

You are 20, she asks,

“Mommy, where’s Daddy?”

She’s 2 years old, she asks,

“Do I have a Daddy?”

22, you feel it.

She always asks questions.

Can she understand it?

Just loosen the tensions?

23, you tell her,

“Your Daddy was no good.”

Will he ever know her?

If he’s out of boyhood.

 

Whisked Away

Written by: Yi-Wen Lin

They had promised “Till death do you part,” but he never understood how cruel of a sentence that was. No one warned him that in most cases death wasn’t sudden; in most cases death was long and ugly. He also neglected to realize that maybe he didn’t want to part, especially through death. What if he wasn’t ready to give up her wispy voice or the soft brush of her skin? What if his heart literally ached at the thought of not seeing the shimmer of her burnt-honey eyes every day? Why didn’t anyone warn him that finding love could also lead to a cold bed with too many pillows and far too much space?

It was getting to the point where he wasn’t sure which days were worse: when she was so frail and weak that he thought a speck of dust would crush her, or the days where she was laughing at the sink while doing dishes; hope restored.

They both lived for the good days. The surprising days where she welcomed guests, asked him to go for a walk with her, or played house with the grandkids. The days where she was the first one up, and he flashed back to when they were in their thirties, and she rushed around the house to kick the kids out of their beds for school. The days where the wheelchair was forgotten because her legs remembered how to carry her. The more of those days she had, the less they believed the doctors.

He couldn’t remember the last “good day,” though. It couldn’t have been that long ago, could it? A week? Maybe two? No more than a month, right? Why did she have to have good days if most were bad? Why did it look like she was winning her fight when the next week saw her the frailest she’s ever been? How could she eat a hamburger with a pile of potato salad when nothing wanted to stay down two days later? Why couldn’t he protect her from this?

That was his job, wasn’t it? It always worked before. She was in trouble, and her Knight in Shining Armor saved the day. That was the deal.

She’d give him the strength, and he’d use it to protect her. She hated her work? He’d help her find a better job. She was nervous about getting pregnant? He helped her get in shape as they ate healthier. She was running on two hours rest? He took the kids for the weekend. The house was falling around them? He’d fix it. They were running out of money? He’d take an extra job. No matter what was wrong in her life, he always managed to find a solution before. Why was he failing now, when she needed him most? A husband’s protection wasn’t supposed to have only a forty-year warranty.

She didn’t seem to care anymore. She’d shush him and cradle him like he was one of their children. She’d tell him that he needn’t worry. She’d kiss the tears from his eyes and give him the same thin smile she was wearing when he first met her. Their nights were spent with her reminding him of their years. She’d laugh about how terrified she was when their middle child had flipped his bike and broke his arm. She’d coo about their wedding night. She’d get fired up recalling the horrible neighbor they had who used to let his dog crap all over their yard. She was done making new memories, and just wanted to reflect on the ones they already had.

He wasn’t done, though. As much as he tried, he wasn’t done. Whenever she talked about their first dance, he only thought about them sleeping away from each other because her legs could no longer climb the stairs to their bedroom. Her reminiscing about their children starting high school would remind him that she wouldn’t know their grandkids as teenagers. She’d complain about how fat she had gotten after giving birth to their youngest, and he’d silently beg for her to get even half as heavy again.

He wanted his curvy wife who spent her days working in a bakery – sampling all the bits that baked off wrong – and her nights covered in mud from her garden. He wanted the woman who had a dance in her step as if she were listening to music every minute she was awake. He wanted to remember her strong and young and rosy, like she’d be able to do with him.

He would always be strong and virile in her eyes, even with the streaks of grey throughout his hair. He’d always be him to her. It wasn’t fair that he had to be left with this shell of his wife. It wasn’t fair that he had to watch her wither away when she didn’t have to watch him do the same. It wasn’t fair that he still had a good twenty years left, and she was going to leave him alone.

He had forgotten how to be alone. He had forgotten how to not have her with him each day. Who was he without her? Was there a him without her? He wasn’t supposed to find out. It was the two of them. It’s been the two of them since they were eighteen. Now she was leaving him, and he’d have to figure out who he was. He was too old to figure that out.

This wasn’t the agreement. This wasn’t what he meant when he agreed to “Till death do us part.” She was his strength, and he used it to protect her. He was her sanity, and she used it to guide him. That was the deal. Now she was weak, he failed as a guardian, he was going insane, and she wouldn’t be around to help him find his way. It was all wrong.

He never should have agreed to “Till death do us part.”

 

Remnants

Written by: Yi-Wen Lin

Lips are sealed in suffering quiet.

Wanting, needing that long overdue kiss.

Having an internal erupting riot,

lead me into the never-ending abyss.

Needing, wanting to escape through the trees.

Leaving at sunset in late summer’s June,

with the flourishing of the smooth green peas.

Yet beneath having wrinkles of a prune.

It was for all of one month,

in the heat of the blazing summer,

the frantic kisses and hidden glances,

I think you called it a summer fling,

but no,

it was a whirlwind romance.

 

Lazyboy

Written by: Alyssa Greene

It was 8:00 o’clock on a Sunday night. I relaxed on my fully reclined lazyboy dressed in sweatpants, a large tee, and a robe that made me blend into the chair as if I belonged there. I curled up even more into the chair as the wind groaned outside, causing the branches of the birch out back to tap against my window. I didn’t realize I had fallen asleep, my eyes were closed for what felt like a second when I was woken by the sound of water trickling inside my apartment.

In one smooth motion, I had rolled out of the chair, the wrinkling of the leather loud as the rain. I quickly made it down the short hall and into my bedroom. It was dark, and as my eyes adjusted, the only light source was from the window which brought in a mist of grey to glow across the room. When I finally opened the lights, I noticed the water that was dripping in from the window and onto the floor. I rolled my eyes as I headed to my closet to grab the bucket that was used for this exact reason.

Once the water problem was temporarily fixed, my mind was at ease. I fell into my bed, back first, and focused on my breathing. It was unsteady despite the calm hum in my head. With only moving my neck, I was able to peak at the alarm clock on my night table. It was 8:41. The red numbers burned my eyes.

I knew she’d be here by 9:00 o’clock. My stomach uncomfortably shifted at the thought of her driving in the rain. I forced myself to focus back on my breathing. I felt my chest rise and fall over and over again and closed my eyes for a second.

When I reopened them, she was sitting at the other end of my bed. She never touched me. She was all dolled up in a green shirt that hung off her shoulders and tucked into a jean skirt. Her hair was naturally curled, and only slightly dampened from the rain. In her soft voice she told me about her day, whatever had happened at work, and the lunch out with whoever. The play by play and I barely listened.

She mentioned a late night snack, which perked up my interest. We left my bedroom and I slowly followed her into the kitchen. She showed me ever so proudly the display of fruits she set out. I was immediately turned off, but after hours of awaiting her company, I sat at the table with her.

She forced me to eat. Small portions of healthy food. Every meal came with a lesson, what the food is doing for my body, how every meal counts, and the disgusting idea of cheat days. She could talk about nutritional facts all night. I didn’t care for it. I found myself tuning her out again and focused on her mouth pronouncing each syllable of her words. She was mesmerizing.  

I often imagined myself with her. Though it would never happen. I imagined a future where I’d lose all the weight, she would be so proud and fall in love with me. We would go for bike rides together or go for heathy picnics in the park. And if ever we happened to bump into someone we knew, we would tell them how happy we were, and the success story. I would be skinny and strong and happy, and she would love me.

That was only a dream though, and I was brought back by her ushering a plate of pineapples in my direction. I looked at it and stood up from my chair, walking towards my lazyboy without saying a word. Within a minute she followed me.

I remember her bringing me a blanket and turning on the TV, setting the volume to barely a whisper. She came close to me on the side of the chair and bent down. I looked at her. She had never been this close. I wanted to smile but I was scared she would distance herself if I did. For a moment, eye to eye, all I could think about was how repulsive my loud breathing was.

Then she spoke. Her voice broke as she said she was leaving me. She couldn’t do the night-shift anymore, and had too many patients. This time, I actually listened. She told me she was engaged and needed more time for herself and the family she was trying to make.

I realized then, I didn’t know her. I never knew her. I only idealized her and her private life. She never loved me, though I can’t say I was surprised. But she was leaving me. After 2 years, she was just leaving. We hadn’t reached any goals she had set, and she was just going to leave.

Then she hurt me more than I ever though she could. She said she was only keeping her patients that wanted to help themselves. As if I wanted to be overweight, as if I never tried. She didn’t know me. For 2 years, every night, and every morning, 9 pm till 9 am, this stranger took care of me. She told me she would stay until I found someone else. I acted angry but I was sad more than anything. I shifted away from her, and looked at the TV. She stayed bent down on my side for a beat, then walked over to the TV to raise the volume. She apologized once again and left the room. I heard the guestroom door close shut and let out a breath.

I knew for now, if I needed her, all I had to do was call.

 

Lydia

Written by: Kelly Lamb

When I was born, I was brought straight from the hospital to a mansion that I believe is still worth more than every other home in Ohio combined. It was satirically grandiose, with three times as many bathrooms, bedrooms, and garages than any family of five could need. It was also isolated, the only other building for five miles in any direction was an abandoned nunnery. The only way to get to our house was through a series of winding yet well paved roads that lead to a long route leading to the highway. Our driveway could only be spotted thanks to a small red mailbox that stood on a post of wood with the word “Lakes” painted neatly in yellow. That wasn’t our real mailbox of course, but my mother insisted we kept it because it was “the only homey thing we owned.”

My mother was a simple woman with a mystery of a childhood. After she married my father, she never managed to adjust to her new luxurious life. I don’t blame her. When she was raising my sisters and me, she refused the help of a maid or nanny; their qualifications were not worth the creation of distant relationships.

I agreed with her mailbox statement, and we shared the same disparity with our lifestyle.

My sisters, Eva and Carlie, took after my father in that regard. They embraced our wealth with open arms and enjoyed shaming my mother and me for declining a ride on the gravy boat. My father gave us presents and let us get away with all kinds of nonsense that we shouldn’t have. Yet, my childhood was still sheltered. Television was for watching Sesame Street, and once I turned fifteen I was allowed to watch the 7 O’clock news, then then the 11 O’clock when I turned 16. My parents also had control of the people I chose to be friends with. I hated all of them by the time I was 14.

My mother had always been upset that I had inherited my father’s dull, off white complexion and his single shade dark brown hair.

“You’re so lucky you got my eyes,” she would always tell me in her low, smooth voice. My mother had eyes as stunning as Caribbean ocean water, while mine were simply blue.

I grew tits the summer after my 12th birthday, and an ass soon after that. Every morning I would stand in one of the bathrooms and my mother would spent half an hour fussing over my face, hair, and body.  My mother got me four pairs of lace underwear with matching bras, a vanity set packed with makeup, and a curling iron for my thirteenth birthday. She thought it would make me feel better.

My sisters were naturally beautiful, like my mother. They didn’t need as much help as I did. Every day of my four years of high school, my mother would haul me into the bathroom and 6:30 in the morning. She pinned up my hair, smeared my face with foundation, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and eyeshadow that made me look like a different stripe of the rainbow every day.

 

Gideon

Written by: Emily Der Arakelian

When he came to, his vision was blurry. His eyes adjusted to the darkness around him, and his heart began to race. He recognized the objects surrounding him; cardboard boxes of various sizes, crumpled snack wrappers, there was even an abandoned shoe in the corner. Although the objects were familiar, his situation was completely unexpected. He’d never seen this small room before, yet he sat in the middle of it at a metal table and chair set.

           He tried to stand, but he only slammed himself back into his seat. His feet were chained to the ground. He felt around his seat for some kind of switch, or a key, but only felt the cool, grimy metal of his chair.

           He tried to remember what led up to this moment, but his mind was almost completely blank. The last memory he had was of his wife holding his daughter in her arms as he kissed her forehead before they left the house for the day. He tugged his legs against their restraints, but he could barely feel them as it was. His breathing picked up as he attempted to assess his situation.

           The room suddenly lurched left, and had his hands been cuffed as well, he would be lying on the floor. With what little feeling he had in his legs, he felt the floor beneath him rumble and jump. His table and chair, firmly nailed to the floor, stayed put. The room lurched again, and it felt as though it had picked up the pace, wherever it was going. Everything in the room, besides him and his dining set, slid around the small room. A small box fell off the top of a pile and hit him across the face. As the box slid to the other end of the room, he noticed the corner of it was splattered with red. He felt around his face for the first time and felt the warmth of blood from his freshly split lip before he saw it drip onto his shirt.

           Why he was being held captive is a mobile, small room, he didn’t know, but he was going to get himself out. All around him, everything was just out of reach. He assumed the boxes were all empty, since the only noise came from the jangling of the chains holding his feet back. He tried yelling, but only a pathetic excuse for a whimper came out. His hands went to his throat, where he noticed for the first time were bruises. Looking down his arms, he saw more. His stomach and chest were a sunset of blues and purples under his shirt. He could only imagine what his face looked like. He closed his eyes and tried to regulate his breathing. He bent down and tugged on the chains again, but it was no use.

           The floor stopped rumbling as he slowly started to regain feeling in his legs. He heard a muffled conversation coming from outside and the sound of footsteps on gravel. The doors of the box truck to his left opened, and he recoiled at the sunlight flooding in.

“Look who’s awake,” a man spoke.

“Mike. Car,” a second man said. The doors slammed shut and he tried once again to scream but his throat only cramped in response. The doors opened again and the man, Mike, stepped into the truck and grabbed his face by his chin, turning him towards the light. He felt his fingers squeeze his chin, creating more bruises. He tasted blood fill his mouth. Mile grinned down at him. His mouth was full of pearly white teeth and his eyes gleamed. “Remember me, Pretty Eyes?”

           He squinted and attempted to focus on the man. He didn’t know if it was due to his lack of memory, but he didn’t. He shook his head, as much as he could have while still in his grip, and the man laughed.

           “Look at him. Pathetic. Come on, sit up straight.” Mike grabbed him by the shoulders and repositioned him on his seat. He tried to speak but could only groan. “Hal, hand me my gun.” He heard the clinking of the gun as it transferred from one man to the other. He felt the cold metal press against his temple, but could only make out the sunlight glinting off the slide, too scared to turn his head to get a good look at it. “This is what you get, Gideon. Can you understand that? Next time one of your buddies tries to play one on me, they’ll have you as an example of the consequences.”

           Mike turned the chair to face him and he could finally see the stretch of road behind the truck. An empty highway in the middle of nowhere was his best guess at his location. He no longer heard Mike yelling threats at him. His threats and insults sounded like they came from far away. He heard the wind whistling through the grass and the creak of the back door on rusty hinges. He thought of his daughter, who had just started walking, and would only get to remember him through photographs. He thought of his wife, who was at work and relying on him to cook dinner tonight. His eyes lazily refocused on Mike, who was pressing a gun to his head with a smile stretching his lips, and hoped that whoever this Gideon was, he was appreciating his freedom.