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RAVEN- Issue 15 (December 15, 2020)


Image Source: Tom Hart/Flickr



QUALMS

Written by Darshini Poola

The drop didn't trickle down my cheek,

Not this time.

The frozen pang of rejection,

Etching its cruel gash on my skin.

As it painfully ripped my conscience,

Shredding pages of my identity.

A diary I could never call 'mine',

A quill ne'er left untethered.

Blotting in a hand that feigned,

Beneath the pretty vizard of assent.

Deleing fragments that embodied me,

To play a character I perceived not.

A chameleon who lived for the nod of validation,

Switching shades to the point of pallor.

I'd waxed into a stranger,

An alien in my own empire.

Apologetic for being myself,

Engulfed by reckless abandon.

A girl who worshipped truth like a child,

Was here, blatantly lying to herself.

Fatigued by the wont to fit in,

Fearing to be deemed as a pariah.

I'd contorted till I could bend no more,

My joints locked in distortion.

Moments of confounding emotions,

The twain of hope and agony.

My marrow needed healing, my soul, solace.

Shackles splintered by the psyche's ire.

Outraged by the injustice,

By abuse, by shame, by guilt.

A deafening cry thundered in my head,

A call that still echoes today,

"You are enough!"




Author Biography: Darshini Poola is a writer and artist. They love composing poems that carry a simple yet profound message, as well as create digital images to accompany the posts. Check out their work on Instagram.


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Charade

Written by Ashley D. Escobar

The photograph, if I could describe it you, was perhaps one of the greatest moments I have captured in my life. Not a memory I was a part of, I only bore witness to it, but a document I needed to create to obtain the physicality of what I saw in my own hands. I won’t bore you with the details of what my day was like before the incident; you never see the exact few seconds leading up to every scene in a film. I’ll tell you this––the sky was sunny and bright, but you could feel a sort-of cloudy dread nearing us. Doom or gloom, it doesn’t matter. Something impending, something that obliged to take its time.

I crossed the street, waiting for the little red man in the crosswalk to turn green beforehand and felt my palm itch for the very first time. The botanical garden had a sinuous path one must cross to find the entrance. Dirt paths winding every which way, trees to block out the little sunlight that January provided, and frigid marble statues that I could feel watch over me as I found the glass door.

It was warm inside, no longer necessary for me to carry around my leather coat, but all the locker doors were locked. I found it strange, considering I didn’t see a single soul around.

I started in the arboretum. Surrounded by woodsiness indoors even though trees stood outside the tinted windows. All sorts of roses, all sorts of colors. I guess I found some solace within plants, one I couldn’t find in myself.

I heard a pair of voices above me in the tropics as I watched lotus flowers float atop lush lily pads. I felt like I could drift away on this wooden platform and disintegrate into the humidity, leaving nothing but a few traces of sweat behind.

I’m playing footy tonight

I know, I’ll watch

You always watch

Why don’t you just stay home? Take a bath

The sky’s still bright

It’s too cold outside

One of the voices carried their weight down the stairs, ensuring the other that their footsteps will and should ring throughout the greenhouse. The reverberation of a sound only heeled boots could make.

I woke up on the terrace with a view of the sweeping lawn. Pillows of white fluff hung over me. All the tables and chairs felt used, slightly adjusted to the individual’s liking, despite being empty. A naked angel continued to play the flute.

Two ambulances crossed the walkway. Orange vans with their blue lights flashing. Except no sound to be emitted. They moved a couple of meters apart, in what I can only call slow motion.

As they moved, behind them, the two voices from the pond stood apart on the grass. The one with moppy hair covering his eyes placed both hands up in the air. Then the game started.

A shuffle to the left, a pivot to the right. They curved their legs trying to tackle one another. An ambulance would block my view for a few seconds, and then I would see it. An image of two lads brushing their feet against the air. Swooping towards something imaginary. A sprint to the other end and then one big kick. They looked up to see where the ball had gone.

And it was a deafening silence I can never seem to trace.

Author Biography: Ashley D. Escobar studies Human Connection and Solitude through the Lenses of Literature, Philosophy, and Art at Bennington College. Her work was selected for the 2020 Catherine Morrison Golden '55 P'80 Undergraduate Writing Fellowship in Fiction. She has been previously published in MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture, The Claremont Review, and Die Bärliner. People watching is her favorite hobby, along with taking trains without any particular destination in mind.


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Space in Time

Written by Bob MacKenzie


Once upon a time in the future

the final frontier had no limit,

worlds not yet dreamed waited

starships on five-year missions.


Once upon a time not long ago

lovers asked for a little space,

landlords offered space to rent,

space was easy to give and take.


Boldly go where none has gone before,

in the space of these two metres

seek and explore this strange new world,

new life and new civilization.




Author Biography: Bob MacKenzie has been published in more than 400 journals across North America and internationally, and in numerous anthologies. He’s published seven books of poetry and has won local and international awards for his writing. The group Poem de Terre released seven albums of Bob’s poetry performed over original music.


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The Last Leaf

Written by Aida Bode

Lara opened her herbarium and flipped through the tinged pages, looking at the leaves, dry, yet green. Their appearance of life was unsettling, so she closed it, but quickly opened it again to see the leaf on the last page. That leaf was the elusive reason she didn’t collect anymore. At only 6 years old she was too young and full of want to understand that there is a rationale behind a decision. But, at that moment she just didn’t want to collect any more leaves and that’s it. And yet, that leaf was appealing and repelling; it made her feel pity and fear, and she didn’t like either feeling.

Looking at the delicate green body, she noticed at the tip where the stem elongated, the damaged edge from what she had heard was the rub of a rope, and gently caressed it. The leaf was cut off from the tree and had fallen. She found it the afternoon that a woman in her building went mad – at least that’s what she heard, and she believed it because the woman cried and screamed a lot. Lara had often crossed paths with the woman in the corridors of the building when she’d run up and down the stairs, and the woman always seemed so kind, until she’d go inside her house and then the screaming would start.

Lara was confused how this petite woman, with gray hair, small round face, eyes that seemed to smile while at the same time void of what the smile was about, as if their joy was somewhere behind the object of their sight, could scream as loud as she did. Lara had only heard her soft voice, almost whisper like, and she’d only say to Lara “My little girl… my son is playing, too.” Lara knew the woman had two sons, but they were old, or at least that’s what she thought, because they were tall and one of them had a girlfriend, while the other one had just returned from the army, but she had not seen him since the day she found the leaf.

She kept the leaf because it was from her favorite tree; a tall poplar by the side of a main road, that ran right in front of the building. She’d sit under its shade and look across at the wide barley field that stretched all the way to her grandfather’s village, where the ducks were probably quacking in the streams, her few friends were playing jump-rope, and the sun didn’t set, for there was no mountain there, so it stood still and would just close its one eye and sleep for night to come.

When she wasn’t outside, she would sit on the windowpane and look at the tree and everything that it showed her. One morning, when she wanted to go to the window her mother shielded her eyes and said that she couldn’t go near it. Lara had noticed there were people around the tree, the man from the first floor who always put his finger on his lips to tell her to be quiet when she’d sing as she’d play outside, a woman from the fourth floor who had kissed her uncle one time, a few other people from another building, and the woman who went mad with her husband. There was commotion and loud voices, but she didn’t understand what was going on. When she asked her mother why she couldn’t be by the window, her mother simply said, “There’s nothing to see. Nothing has changed since last night that you looked out the window. Go play with your dolls in the other room.”

***

She closed the herbarium again and went to the window as if trying to forget and remember the day she got the leaf. The poplar was different. It was missing a branch, one where she’d often climb and jump. Looking at it, she remembered that one of the neighbors had said something about a rope around the branch, and she had hoped that perhaps someone would put a swing on the tree, but that didn’t happen. Thinking through the different words she picked up from people that talked either in the streets, or in the corridors, or even at home, she remembered something about someone who was found hung at the tree. She then was convinced that someone had hung on a swing, but because the tree was too close to the road, the swing was removed as soon as it was put on so that children wouldn’t go and play.

***

That afternoon, as soon as her mother left for work and all had quieted down, Lara went to the tree. Her friend Rita joined soon after and the two were looking at the cut branch, and the one leaf that seemed to have escaped all the uproar of the morning.

“I know what happened!” Rita said proudly.

“No, you don’t!” Lara responded just as proudly.

But Rita didn’t continue because her mother called her. Rita froze for a moment and said in panic, “we should not be here!” She then ran as fast as Lara had ever seen her run. Lara picked the leaf, held it by the damaged stem, twirled it gently, and decided to take it and keep it in her herbarium. The leaf was the last piece of the branch that had held her while she played. It had made the biggest shade for her and had seen all Lara’s tricks, how she hid when playing hide and seek, how she cried when her best friend wouldn’t go out to play. She held on to the leaf thinking of all the other ones that were taken away, how they had not gotten sunlight unless the wind blew and moved those higher up for the rays to get through. “Did the wind know if the leaves were grateful to her?” she thought looking up while also realizing that the top leaves didn’t have where to lean anymore. The branch was gone, and the tree seemed to have lost its center. “How will the tree look in the fall?” she wondered, bringing to mind the thorny crown that creates around the tree as it loses its top leaves, while the lower ones seem guilty of not having fallen yet.

***

Since then, Lara and Rita had not spoken again, and Lara had been happy with the vague explanations her own imagination had provided. She went to the tree a few more times when her mother was not around and noticed how the mad woman would look at her from the window, and when she’d leave the tree and go home, the screaming would start.

Lara took the herbarium in her hands again and looked at all the leaves one more time; all green, dry, and in perfect shape, except the last one – green, dry, – and damaged forever – in her little herbarium.



Author Biography: Aida Bode is a poet, writer, and translator from former communist Albania, whose works have been published in a variety of online and print magazines. In 2017 Aida was a Pushcart Nominee by West Texas Literary Review.


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MY CELESTIAL BODY

Written by Ariyo Ahmad


My liquid body is a graveyard of hopelessness and homelessness

Where the tree of evil grow before it overwhelmed this wretched world

A handful of fallen falcon – taken from the recipe of my empty bone

I burn countless candles that my future night might not be moaning below

The evening cloud; a dead star

Night were used to fill up the bottle of tomorrow –ocean of tears

With eyes opened wide like eyes fisted on by a sliced portion of onion

My hearts have grown weird wings that beat the heavy win; a night wizard

I have hold on to the rosary- alone like the moon- stammering some takbir (praising the name of God)

That change the point of my mouth and trembles my heart like thunder

I ate the black seed of mecca – and dance my mouth to the snow like coconut water

I mount mountain Arafat, with my bare-less legs to burn my sin into an escaping smokes

I walked through safah and marwa like Abrahams wife –

But my body is still an autumn abode of grief- maybe there lies my greatest triumph




Author Biography: Ariyo Ahmad is a Nigerian poet and art lover who chose poetry has a great medium to express his feelings about life to save the world and make changes in human. He has his poem published by Mad Muse Magazine, Tealit Press Magazine, also his poem accepted for publication in the forthcoming mixed-magazine publication. He loves reading and writing as his hobby.


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Passenger 4649

Written by Rachel Wade


She is something else. There’s an aura about her, spiritual and untouchable. The train is crowded but she inhabits her own space, an inch of airless vacuum shielding her from them and they from her. Short and slight, almost elfin, with pearlescent skin as if made from porcelain - a hinged doll, skillfully crafted.

Hair so dark and straight and glossy it could be a wig, cut at harsh angles with one side longer than the other, edgy but chic. She must work in music or fashion or conceptual art. I check her fingernails for signs of paint but they are clean and short. Written on the back of her hand is 4649. I cannot tell if it is a tattoo.

From her wrist a charm bracelet tinkles with mock gold kawaii characters matched in movement by the swing of her earrings - huge circular wires with dark wooden octagons threaded through. Perhaps she made them herself - a jewellery designer, a retail buyer, a vintage lover, an ardent traveller.

She is wearing a suede pinafore dress with an oversized worn denim shirt, thick tights or leggings, and leather boots that must be small enough for a child. Two straps across her shoulders belonging to a small rucksack. Every item is black but she is glowing, iridescent, and I am the moth to her flame.

Standing by the carriage door, she leans back against the pole as strips of muted yellows, greens and greys blur behind her. She looks down, absorbed by an expensive phone embellished with miniature pearls arranged in a swirl. I do not mind that she is distracted. We are all here and somewhere else.

One thumb types, and I want to know what kind of language she speaks. I imagine her to talk in riddles and puns, collected cliches tinged with sarcasm as she slips between English and her ancestral tongue. Perhaps I could find her online, but she is probably using a social networking site I have never heard of.

The phone is pocketed into her dress, the trinkets chiming softly while her eyes scan the carriage. I long her to look at me. I need to see the colour of her eyes. I hope they will be grey - not the colour of storm clouds but more like polished silver, cold and precious, unlike the browns and blues of the boring people.

Her gaze never lingers, as if there is nothing of interest to see here - just shapes and colours blending into one, a stage for her performance: life as a living mannequin. I can see her face in full profile now - the pointed chin, narrow nose and high cheekbones, like a supermodel only better because she is real.

She could be a he or a they - labels seem irrelevant when you are this unique and this exquisite. Aged fourteen or forty or any place in between, I cannot tell, I do not care less, nor where she is from or what her background is. In this moment, she is wholly present, fully formed, perfectly preserved in space and time.

I am falling for her. I want to be her and be with her all at once, greedy and possessive. She has pressed pause on my existence, stilled my thoughts. I have not blinked since I saw her. Finally, her eyes nearly meet mine, focused on a sign above my head. They are not grey but green, dappled like an Impressionist watercolour.

Suddenly everyone in the carriage shifts. The landscape has changed. The blurs have become muted as tracks and buildings replace fields and woods. The squeal of the tannoy makes me start and people flurry into activity, reaching for their bags and coats and suitcases, shuffling awkwardly, grumbling apologies.

She does not move, so nor do I. Here’s a familiar station, the engine sighing as it slows. The doors open and she leaves - just like that. A cord has been cut between us and I cannot grab it in time to hold on. She is among the crowd, one of them now, hustling into the bustle of the platform, directions turning, bodies merging.

There is a person waiting - taller, dark skinned, cropped hair and a violent smile. Deadly beautiful. They embrace, clinging to one another as if long lost. She has been mine for a moment, but now she is just another somebody. A nobody. Like me. We shudder to a start, the carriage rolls away. My last glimpse is of their kiss. And I am water again, melting helplessly, craving, waving goodbye.



*Author note: In Japanese, the numbers 4, 6, 4, 9 are pronounced individually as yo, ro, shi and ku. When said together as yoroshiku, the phrase means nice to meet you. (source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_wordplay)



Author Biography: Rachel is a copywriter and storyteller from North Yorkshire, UK. After graduating with a BA and MA in English, she went on to work in heritage, marketing, human resources and teaching alongside freelancing as a journalist. Rachel continues to contribute to online and print publications as well as writing short stories. She is currently working on a second novel.

racheltyping.wordpress.com | twitter.com/rachel_typing


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autumn Written by Anna Fuselier

when the sun sets through the trees and its rays paint the streets in orange, yellow, and red i recall you it must be the way the light disappears slowly at first then picking up speed how the world cools, and the warmth whispers equal parts love, and finality i’m going now




Author Biography: Anna is a business owner and lifelong nonprofit and education professional. She is a Fulbright alumna to Bulgaria, and language is as close to her heart as travel.


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