Caught in Transit: Spring 2016 [April]

Cara Miller [Course Adviser]: English Professor

Cara enjoys writing, reading, teaching, eating stale Halloween candy, singing along with the car radio, and being with her family — but not in that order. Working with the Literary Arts Magazine has given her a new appreciation for students’ creativity and task management.10410769_795030837245349_5858383965174524655_n

Kate Brock [Senior Editor]: Senior Creative Writing &
Music Business Double Major

An avid NPR addict, chocoholic, and cappuccino connoisseur, Kate spends her free time researching for her first novel and dancing the Time Warp. (Just to relieve stress.) She personally finds that the best pick-me-up in her writing routine is a dry cappuccino.

Noel Marquis [Copyeditor]: Sophomore English Major, Journalism Complimentary Major, & Writing Minorwordpress picture

Noel finds comfort in British television, chocolate cheesecake, and bonding with her fluffy orange feline, Peaches. When she isn’t busy crafting a new fantasy plot, she can most certainly be found wandering amid the shelves of her nearest used book store.

Jordan Schmidt [Copyeditor]:

Jackie Grondahl [Art & Design Director]: Sophomore Visual Communication Design Major, Cinema Media Arts and Writing Minor

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Photographer by day and designer by night, Jackie loves to capture life through her lens. She’s a writer of poetry & prose, a dabbler in doodling and watercolor. If you ask her to coffee, she’ll probably say yes.

Compass

By Abby Johnson


The kitchen smells like tea and stale pizza and cut grass. If Mae was going to label summer by smell, it would be this mixture of things: this swirling fragrance that seems to have no home except wandering through summer days. She sits on a stool at her kitchen counter, trying to focus on the paper before her, the nearly blank page she is supposed to be filling with words. Still, she can’t help looking out the window at the Midwest fields around her quaint little apartment complex. The land seems gilded in the midday sun, the soft gold of wheat growing strong after the right amount of rain. The breeze wafting in through the propped open window is warm and dry. Her mug of tea is almost empty, just the tea bag sitting sadly in the last half-inch of the deep brown drink. The pizza she ate straight out of the refrigerator for lunch is half finished and pushed out of the way from when she lost interest in eating it. The page still sits mostly blank in front of her. Blank but for a couple sentences partially written and then scribbled out across the top standing between her and pure white emptiness. She writes another couple sentences and then crosses them out too, and she realizes it just isn’t going to happen right now. There’s a voice she wants to hear, and it’s not her own. Today is the day Avery’s bi-weekly letter comes in the mail and she wants to meet it at the post office.

She leaves everything spread out across the table, grabs her camera and her beaten up old converse, and hurries out the door and down the stairs at the front of her complex. Around her apartment building is the outskirts of a small town, nothing too modern and nothing too rustic, just the ordinary gas stations and family-owned convenience stores and other apartment buildings. She always thought she’d leave, but she had lost the urgency that she saw in others. She just wanted to watch the land around her through the sunrise and sunset of each day and somehow create stories to make other people feel alive. She had considered the possibility that she only said she wanted to leave the Midwest because she thought it was what she’s supposed to say, but then there are days like this when she wonders what it would be like to walk out her front door and see a different world, somewhere far-off and foreign and entirely hers to absorb and spit back out as narrative. On days like this she can feel the omnipresence of home and the banality of Midwestern hospitality slowly leaking the life from her stories, but she doesn’t know what to do about it. She has responsibilities here. She has her parents to care for and all her friends who live in this area with newborn babies that she wants to grow up calling her “aunt.” Sometimes she wishes she could keep pretending to herself that she only wants to leave because everyone else does. Sometimes she wishes she could erase that distant world that she has created in her mind, the world that she dreams of. She used to think that it is hard to build a world, now she knows it is much more difficult to destroy the idea of one.

She walks out into the field, pushing back the wheat to make space for her body passing through it. The world turns entirely to gold around her, except for the brief glimpses of cerulean sky above. It’s this kind of casual trespassing that reminds her of summers long past, the days of exploring with Avery when they pretended they were Lewis and Clark discovering this land for the first time. She always let him be Lewis, leading the way, and in return he would make sure she could keep up with his pace, her legs being much shorter than his. When he went overseas she lost her map and her compass, the thing guiding her in any direction except aimless wandering. She pictures him sometimes, surrounded by desert and looking over his shoulder expecting to see her following him as usual. She pictures him in his barracks at night about to fall asleep, and she knows he would love nothing other than to be here with the responsibilities she can’t find a way to be content with. His letters always make it worthwhile though. He praises her for her diligent care of mom and dad and never talks about the danger and honor of his own sacrifices, like she’s the real hero between the two of them. She won’t risk letting him down by implying that there’s anything more she might want out of life. She can’t follow him where he has gone, but she can wait here until he comes back. She can tell quiet stories about the home front for a couple years until her time comes. She can pretend she is happy here, especially when she sometimes is.

When she finally reaches the end of the field, she steps out onto the edge of the rough-paved roads leading into the more active part of town, if a post office, mom-and-pop grocery store, and a bank can be considered active. She crosses the three short blocks standing between her and the post office. When she steps through the doors, Gloria greets her with a wide smile and the beginning of a conversation. “Mae, dear, how are you this fine morning?”

“I’m doing well, Ms. Gloria.” She puts on her best patient smile, hoping beyond hope that this conversation will move quickly so she can get her letter. “How about yourself?”

Gloria’s deep southern drawl always stands out against the clipped sound of the midwestern speech pattern the rest of them share. “It’s a glorious day, isn’t it just? It’s like a gift all wrapped up in sunshine.”

“Yes, it really is. I just stopped in here to see- “

“To see if you’ve got any letters from that brother of yours. Of course, let me just look in the back for you. It really is inspirational, the sacrifice that your brother is making for our country. We honor his service here. You know that right? You know that we’re just so proud of our little Avery out in who-knows-where fighting for these United States of America.”

“Yes, of course, Ms. Gloria. I’m sure Avery feels the town’s support like a comfort.”

“I sure hope that he does, that boy of ours. Sorry, I’ll get right on about finding that letter.”

“Thank you kindly.”

She went through the door into the little room in the back, and in a couple moments she returns with the envelope carefully in hand and gives it to Mae. “And as for you, young lady. I hope you know that there are people here who would take good care of your parents if you were to leave here.”

Gloria’s tone confuses her at first. The words sound like an accusation of negligence, but the tone is gentle. Somehow Gloria has read something in her that she has not shared even with her closest companion. Is it that obvious that she doesn’t want to be here?

“Thank you, that’s good to hear.”

Gloria smiles, “Just remember it, child. Even if it’s not now, there will come a time when you’ll want to leave, it’s the nature of the young. Remember it’s not just Avery that the town supports.”

Mae leaves in a haze, unsure of what to think about the exchange. For so long she has locked herself into this place and these people, because that’s what you do when you love the place you were raised. She has been constantly disowning the parts of herself that long for the new and the bright, relegating those thoughts to the realm of fantasy and delusion.

The prospect of leaving is too grand to grasp all at once, a concept swirling incoherent, strange, and out of sight above the atmosphere. She stops when she gets back to the wheat field that provides a shortcut back to her apartment. Instead of going back into the field, she sits on the lip of the road and tears open the envelope. Multiple sheets of paper folded over each other and scrawled all over with her brother’s awful handwriting tumble out into her hands. She opens to the first page and begins reading. It’s full of the usual tidbits of information, short stories about his days that avoid all connection with where he is or what he’s actually doing. Then he talks about home. He begins telling a story that sounds unfamiliar.

“Do you remember the time we went out past the edge of Farmer Joel’s land, past where mom and dad had told us we could explore. I kept wanting to go back home, nervous that mom would somehow know that we’d broken their rules, but you wouldn’t turn around. You just kept walking and I had no choice but to follow to keep an eye on you. Eventually we made it to a stream, or what I imagine now must have be a stream though at the time it seemed about as big as the Nile. Then you wanted to build a dam across it so we could walk across. You worked for what felt like forever on that dam. I tried to help but you told me to keep watch, this was your creation entirely. I’ve been thinking about that day a lot recently. I keep thinking about how much I wanted to build a dam like you did.”

She had no memory of that day, but he told the story with such recognition and so much detail that she had no way to doubt his recollection. Was she really that girl? She had labeled herself the follower for so long. She always imagined herself following in the footsteps spread out before her, hoping that one day she might finally reach the horizon. Only now did she realize that all these years she had been defining herself differently than Avery had been defining her. If this was the story he told himself about their childhood, her as the adventurous and the leader and him as the cautious follower, then maybe she could find a way to be that child again. Only now did she realize that if she continues following someone else’s footsteps, she’ll only ever reach someone else’s horizon.

Avery continued his letter with other more familiar stories and the usual well wishes to mother and father. Then he signed off by saying, “Keep building dams, little sister.” With that one sentence she knew what she had to do next. She stood up from the curb, dusted off her shorts, and started walking in the direction of home.


Abby Johnson – Student at AU, Majors in English and History, Minor in Writing

Abby loves recording and preserving memories in the form of narrative, language, and images and hopes to do that work for the rest of her life. If you need her she’ll be either reading or drinking tea with her friends.

323 S. 8th Street

By Kate Meadors


Being an only child sucked.

That is an edgy statement. My mom hates the word “suck.” She also says hate is a strong word.

My older brother, Davis, had recently gone away to college – two miles down the road. It felt like he was worlds away. I had no idea how much I relied on him until he was gone. I guess I should have appreciated him more when he was home.

In my facebook messages to Davis, I was brutally honest. I complained. I said “suck” without receiving a 37 minute lecture on vulgarity from my mom.

Kate Meadors            2/5/11, 9:09pm

Since your departure our household has begun to practice almost nursing-home-like procedure. We go to bed. We wake. We eat, poop, pee, and rarely go out. And all under the monitoring eye of head nurse Kathy.

Getting a message from Davis was often the most joyous part of my day.

Davis Meadors           2/7/11, 5:09pm

WHY HELLO THERE…. I THINK I”VE HEARD YOUR NAME BEFORE… OH yeah, you’re butthole aren’t you… that’s right

Such went most of our conversations. He called me butthole. I called him turd tube. He called me anus sauce. It was comforting to know that someone was there for you. Particularly if that someone was the brother you admired more than you cared to admit.

Davis Meadors            3/1/12, 9:05pm

Are you going to do anything for YOUR spring break?

Kate Meadors              3/1/12, 9:05pm

I get to stay at home and pack up all 16 years of my life. With mom and dad. My friends are headed everywhere.

Davis Meadors            3/1/12, 9:05pm

ANT WEEK! YAY FOR ANT WEEK!

Kate Meadors              3/1/12, 9:06pm

What the devil…

Davis Meadors             3/1/12, 9:06pm

I want to see you lift AT LEAST 50 times your body weight by the end of the week.

Kate Meadors              3/1/12, 9:06pm

????

Davis Meadors            3/1/12, 9:06pm

That’s what I mean. You will look like ants… ya know, carrying things across the yard. You really should catch on to these things. They’re not exactly rocket science.

We were moving out of the only home I had ever known and into a rental house next door. Over spring break. Our home wasn’t even on the market, but a family randomly called wanting a viewing. I thought there was no way they would make an offer on our house. I thought wrong. As overwhelming as the prospect was for all of us, my parents sensed that the Lord was guiding us, as a family, to build a new home outside of town. And we were going to build it ourselves. I was excited that we had the opportunity to start this new adventure. But I didn’t want to move. I loved my home and I was perceptive to the memories it contained.

On the last day of the move, I didn’t know what to do. I found myself in my brothers’ closet, gasping for air between sobs. The small space was empty. The clothes, sports gear, Hot Wheels tracks, and dusty baseball trophies were gone. An air-soft BB embedded in the plush cream carpet reminded me that this was once Edward and Davis’s retreat and had been off limits to me, the little sister.

My thoughts were scrambled by anger. I didn’t know how to deal with this. Instead I cried and thought about this closet. Memories of hide-and-seek, stealing Pokemon cards, and spying on my brothers. I closed the door and flipped off the light. Sitting in the corner hugging my knees to my chest, I could have been a younger version of myself. The girl who hid when she was upset so that no one would know. Or to make them feel worse when they found her. But that didn’t work; my family was too rational.

As I thought about these memories, the nostalgia was too much. I couldn’t escape. I was angry, hurt, and sad. I had never been this sad.

Davis and I were calling this the Spring Break from hell. It was an apt name. The drastic aggression of the label made me feel better – it justified my frustrations. When Mom and Dad asked, Davis agreed to stay home and lend a hand with the move. His presence would help. At least we could hate ant week together.

I was supportive. I was helpful. I packed my room in discarded boxes from the University Dining Commons. I scrubbed the pencil scribbles from under my window. I helped Davis clear out sleds, tools, and lumber from the snake-infested shed. I cleaned the kitchen cabinets inside and out. I used magic erasers all over the house, erasing the magic of our imperfections. Erasing the us from these comforting walls.

All week, I had been doing and doing and doing. I avoided everything that would reveal my true state of being. I blared music from my ipod, smothering unwelcome feelings. I was rational. I prided myself on not being ruled by emotions. Maybe this resulted from countless times when my whines or moodiness produced the response “Just be a man, Kate!” from my well-meaning older brothers who I respected so much. I knew that my feelings were childish and insignificant. I knew that this wasn’t a big deal. I knew that this was the right thing. I knew that I didn’t like change. I think that I knew too much.

This move was a big deal. But I couldn’t accept that as truth because it was so much easier to convince myself that it was merely an insignificant event.

Two years, dozens of trips to Lowes, thousands of nails, and three pairs of stained jeans later, we moved into our new home. Despite the horrors of installing insulation, caulking around exterior windows, and painting for weeks on end, I wouldn’t trade the move for an easier life on the corner of 8th and Indiana. As my family spent days working together, we built more than a home. Bricks and mortar don’t tell the story of our family. The story of our family is hammered together by memories of shared time.

Every Sunday, Davis and I go home after church to eat lunch with mom and dad. We sit around our old table in the new house and talk. We talk about lazy summers at the little league ballpark and cozy winters reading aloud in the family room. Hours pass without notice as we share our stories.

As I anticipate a future when distance is a barrier to family dinners, I want to be the girl weeping in the closet again, trying to soak in every sentimental detail. I sink with the knowledge that our memories will gradually drift out of view. But unlike that girl, I don’t want to convince myself that the details in my life are merely insignificant events. Because perhaps it is the current moments – wonderful little mundane ones that are special to us and us alone, that we will remember and long for in the future.


Kate Meadors – Student at Taylor University,  Major in English Education

Kate is currently enjoying a course in Renaissance Literature and working on her senior paper. Her hobbies include wheel throwing ceramics, goofing off with her roommate, and getting some R&R with her dog, Ophelia.

 

There Are No Semicolons In This Poem

By Abby Johnson


There Are No Semicolons In This Poem

Semicolon summer with hazy days

closing in like a castle of ferns.

Semicolon summer dancing in foreign places

and crawling across state lines.

 

Urban hearts rearing against southern souls

And the Midwest is the only place

these bones have ever returned to.

City streets leaving tire tracks across patchwork skin.

 

Semicolon city marking the distance between two thoughts.

Semicolon city dividing days into sectors, and boroughs, and districts.

Remember to punctuate the breaths you take

with the streetlights as they flicker,

reminding you to slow and to stop.

 

Wander streets you have never seen

and leave no footprints to remember you,

but think of the view from the restaurant window

and the golden green street that exists out of time

and the smell of spices scattered across the floor.

 

Mercurial nights, shifting quickly from black to silver

And skinned knees kissing cement.

Voices cracked open from hours of pouring forth

And the restless ache synonymous with sitting in the backseat.

 

Semicolon breaths hollowing out chest cavities,

and semicolon chests turned skeleton key.

Locks springing open

and bags ready to be unpacked and emptied and left deserted.

Semicolon sleep marking passage of time and rites of passage

and passing notes like highway signs

marking miles left behind.

 

Semicolon smiles spread lightly across the rise and fall of days.

Happiness like photos left to look at

Discussion over breakfast

that tastes nothing like goodbye.


Abby Johnson – Student at AU, Majors in English and History, Minor in Writing

Abby loves recording and preserving memories in the form of narrative, language, and images and hopes to do that work for the rest of her life. If you need her she’ll be either reading or drinking tea with her friends.

The NCAA Tournament through the Eyes of a Senior in College

By Andrea Miller


Lately, my Facebook feed has been full of friends and acquaintances talking about the NCAA basketball tournament. I cannot seem to escape the constant references to brackets, upsets, and underdog teams. Even my boyfriend has been texting me updates about what teams are winning and losing. Admittedly, I know very little about the teams in the tournament myself, and as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I found myself feeling a little exasperated about the whole thing. I am not participating in any sort of competition for which I will be rewarded for a winning bracket. I am not glued to the television watching games, or constantly Googling scores. Nor did I download the special NCAA app to my phone. I found myself thinking I am a senior in college, and I have more important things to do with my time than spend hours watching basketball each day!

A week into the tournament, I found myself believing that the ritual of NCAA tournament-watching was not in any way related to my life, but as I thought more deeply about things related to the tournament, I discovered that there are actually several parallels between the NCAA tournament and my life as a senior in college.

My Bracket is a Bust

One of the most common points of discussion related to the NCAA tournament revolves around discussion of brackets. Everyone from professional sports analysts, to casual Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 7.09.45 PMviewers, to zoo animals, fill out their brackets in the hope that they finally will have the perfect bracket (when in fact, the odds of filling out a perfect tournament bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion). What does this have to do with being a senior in college? Well, most college students, myself included, often develop a “plan” for our own lives: I’m going to accomplish this, and then that will lead to this, and ultimately I will end up a champion doing exactly what I want to do!

I had mentally filled out a bracket of all of the steps I would take in order to get where I want to go. And everything was going to go exactly the way I thought it would! This wishful thinking very rarely works out. In fact, like an upset early on in the tournament, even our most confident plans have the chance of falling apart.

Speaking of Upsets . . .

Michigan State was picked by many people to be the overall winner of the NCAA tournament, yet the team lost in the first round. Many people (including several people in my family) were devastated. Things did not go according to plan!

This reminds my of the time earlier this semester when I thought I had found the “dream job.” After stumbling up the job posting online, I read the job description and I thought, “It’s as if this job was created for ME!” It was exactly the type of work I wanted to do, it was in an area close to where my boyfriend lives, and it would pay a salary that would support me. I sent in my application, resume, and cover letter, and waited. I was so confident that I would receive a call to come in and interview for the job. I began to daydream about my future job. I wonder what my co-workers will be like! I wonder if I will be allowed to wear jeans to work?

You can imagine my utter disappointment when I received an email from the company stating that they would not be considering me for the job. I was shocked. I thought I at least deserved some consideration, but as it turns out, I didn’t even make it to the second round! It was a major upset in my eyes. My dream was dashed, and suddenly, the plan (much like a Michigan State fan’s bracket) was ruined. Nothing was looking the way I predicted it would.

Be Ready for Surprises

There is always that one team that comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone by doing more than anyone ever anticipated they would. In the game I have referenced above, No. 2 seed Michigan State lost to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State. Sometimes things just don’t work out in the ways people expect.  

I find this idea has been true in my final year of college as well. Unexpected opportunities can arise that seemed inconsequential at first. Sometimes opportunities that you wouldn’t necessarily rank highly end up coming through in big ways.

For months prior to my final semester in college, my mom had been encouraging me to speak with some people that she is connected with through her job as a Marketing Director at the hospital in my hometown. I tended to blow off these suggestions, thinking that I would be able to make my own way without her help. I thought it seemed silly to talk to her work associates because I would have to reveal that I only knew about them because of my mom. But as time passed, I began to learn more about what I would like to do with a career after graduation, and I was forced to consider that perhaps this networking was actually a good thing to do. I swallowed my pride and asked my mom for the contact info.

As it turns out, the option that first seemed so unappealing to me opened up doors in ways I could have never imagined. Because I took a chance on a lower-ranking option, I find that I am advancing in my “tournament.” The chance that I took has resulted in a job opportunity and other connections that I’m sure will prove to be important in the future. I guess the old idea is true: you shouldn’t discount the underdog.

The tournament isn’t over yet, and neither is my senior year of college. There is still time on the clock, and I am curious to see what ends up coming out on top.


Andrea MillerStudent at AU,  Major in English

Andrea Miller is a senior English major from Richmond, Indiana. She has been passionate about writing for as long as she can remember, with creative nonfiction being her genre of choice. As Andrea wraps up her final semester at AU, she has plans to enter the big, bad adult world to pursue a career in freelance writing.

My Favorite “Trumpisms”

By Ethan Utterback


The 2016 Presidential election has been nothing short of absurd, and absurd may even be on the humane side. For starters, the GOP nomination started out with 12 candidates at the beginning of the primaries—no, your eyes did not deceive you, I did say 12. The other thing, or shall I say person, that makes this year’s election even more bizarre is a man who goes by the name of Donald Trump. All of this Trump-induced chaos has led to many comical incidents, and I am here to share with you, the lucky reader, my favorite “Trumpisms” thus far.

Trump said to his supporters during one of his rallies that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and [he] wouldn’t lose voters.” Wait, what? Did he actually say that? Does he realize what he just said? Yes, yes and well, I’m not totally sure. The scary thing is, he’s right—he probably wouldn’t lose voters. I used to burst into laughter at the hilarity of these types of statements months ago because I thought eventually, people would wake up and recognize the fact that this guy is insane; but my loud laughs have shifted to very nervous half-laughs, like the kind of weird laughs you let out when your new girlfriend’s parents ask you a really uncomfortable question.

Any Republican running for president knows the importance of winning the majority of the evangelical vote. A poll that came out about a month ago on Politico.com showed Trump having 37 percent of the white evangelical Republican vote, and he was leaps and bounds ahead of second place Ted Cruz, who garnered 20 percent.

This past January, in hopes of appealing to the evangelical populace, Trump spoke at Liberty University—the biggest Christian college in the U.S. At one point during his speech, he said this phrase: “Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame.” Two Corinthians. I repeat: Two Corinthians. Not Second Corinthians—Two Corinthians (last time, I apologize). Now, I am no Biblical scholar, but come on, man. Is it that hard to know how to pronounce one of the most widely recognized books in the Bible? Also, equally funny, the verse reads, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Oh, what a handy verse to choose, sir. And what is the whole ballgame? I am so confused.

Finally, though not as recent and seemingly unrelated to his presidential run (but still definitely the weirdest thing that he could possibly say), let us not forget that in 2006, Mr. Trump said in an interview with the ABC talk show The View that “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” There are so many emojis I wish I could use right now. Maybe the straight-faced emoji, maybe the wide-mouthed emoji or maybe even the emoji with no face, because I have no idea if I even have a face or expression to respond to that statement with. Like, why? Even though he was probably and hopefully joking (insert praying emoji), why would someone ever say that?

Though I would feel much more comfortable if I were watching him on a stage performing stand up comedy with this same material he has been using for the last year, I still hold some hope that the people of America will splash some water on their faces, brush their teeth, do some other normal morning stuff and wake up. And remember—we are gonna build a wall, and it’s gonna be a great wall.


Ethan Utterback –Student at AU, Major in English,  Minor in Writing

My name is Ethan Utterback. I am a junior English major with a writing minor. Also, I hope Donald Trump doesn’t get mad at me when he reads this. He will read this, right?

On Funky Bones

By Kate Brock, Syford Poetry Contest Winner


On Funky Bones,

We nestle in a corner, the

Space at the base of

The pelvis. We know

The older couple

Approaching stares.

Their eyes scrunch up like

Raisins, angry raisins.

            

On Funky Bones,

Where we lose shoes

Hopping from one white-black-

Fiberglass-plywood structure to the next,

We skitter and scramble

On depictions of dry bones.

Wee babes perched atop the

Skeletal figure.

 

On Funky Bones,

The artist sits. He surveys his work.

Cocking his head,

The grass caresses each curve

Of faux-human frame.

Small children

Prance on each limb

Like Skittles on a tabletop.

 

On Funky Bones,

We tumble to the ground

Gasping for breath and

Laughing at the movement!

We see lady bugs the color

Of cherry Tootsie Pops

And bees with honey-colored

Stripes. In the grass is silence.


Kate Brock – Student at AU, Major in Creative Writing and Music Business

Kate’s addiction to Dr. Pepper and dark chocolate only encourages late night reading and writing alongside leisurely afternoons spent listening to NPR podcasts. She is excited to pursue her masters in Creative Writing at University College Cork in the fall where she will chronicle her Irish adventures once more!