Scholarship Competitions

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2020 Scholarship Winners

Cole Simon

Olivia Johnson

Interlochen Arts Academy – Senior

Judith Lang Creative Writing Scholarship Award

The Snowglobe

Fiction

Winter rolls around in fragments: a first bite of genuine cold, a wet, gray snowfall. Slush turning ice turning black ice. It’s November and everything is white. When this winter rolls around, Fernanda takes out her soccer cleats and crunches her way to class. Bundled in a red wool coat lined with faux fur and embroidery along the hem (very Nordic, almost comical), she toddles down frosted stairs, through halls with club posters plastered to their brick walls.

When her mother calls midway through her 18th Century in Central Europe class to say that her grandmother wants to go for a drive later, she leaves to soundlessly cry in the hall. The professor is forgiving.

Camera lapse. The film recoils.

Winter rolls around in fragments: a first kiss at Melanie Cottontail’s Halloween party, slipping on the campus promenade. Slush turning ice turning slush once again. It’s October and everything is dying. When this unwinter rolls around, Fernanda stows away her fall boots and orange knit sweaters, wears white instead. Swaddled in an extra-large leather jacket from her father, she clambers down frosted stairs, through blank halls with nothing yet plastered to their brick walls.

When her mother calls to tell her midway through her 18th Century in Central Europe class that her grandmother doesn’t like the cold anymore, she leaves. The professor is forgiving.

Camera lapse. The film falters.

 

Winter rolls around in fragments: a first failing grade from Dr. Wright, a last glimpse of what was summer-autumn as she leaves home for college. Leaves turning gold turning chocolate bronze. It’s August and everything is still clinging to life. When this unwinter rolls around, Fernanda unpacks her belongings from break-down boxes, carefully unwrapping the newspaper swaddles of her Sea World snowglobe and other breakables. Enveloped in orange knit sweaters, she saunters down gray-stoned stairs, through bustling halls with Welcome New Students! posters plastered to their brick walls.

When her mother calls to tell her midway through the 18th Century in Central Europe to say that her grandmother thinks that it’s time to head back home, she collapses in class. The professor is forgiving. Fernanda comes to in a lecture hall full of whispering, bug-eyed undergrads. A red beard asks her if she’s eaten breakfast and offers her a Cliff bar. She cries in answer. Hot tears pool into her hands like deconstructed snowflakes, like snowglobe glitter, winter slush, the space between notes in “God Only Kn––

Camera lapse. The film rewinds.

 

Winter rolls around in fragments: a first––pause.

In this moment, a new memory crumbles back into itself. Fernanda receives her acceptance letter in April and visits her grandparents several weeks later. Modena is a beautiful place to be in summer. They take her out to cafés and hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurants with thin, handsome waiters. Before supper one evening they wander through the Mercato Albinelli, sampling prosciutto, ricotta, tangerines. Crates of apples, tomatoes, squash, walnuts, and dark plums greet them at every turn of the market, a vendor with a smiling, tanned face welcoming them with a warm buon giorno! They split a bottle of grappa, passing it between them as they walk out into the street, past yellow bicycles and young, perfect women chattering like squirrels in rapid Italian.

At one point, her grandfather points out Forno Rafaella, a bakery on the corner where he used to work in the sixties, and regales them with stories of angry, icing-mustached customers, an entirely new flavor of birthday cake he invented with his best friend, Vincenzo (which he refused to tell the two women), how he’d bike to and from home every day at five in the morning and return to Maria late in the evening after the last loaf was baked for tomorrow’s selection. On particularly late nights, Nonno would bring her stolen flowers from hotel window boxes, stuffing the bouquets into the back of his trousers, flush against his back, as he rode down dimly lit cobblestone streets.

Fernanda smiles and hugs her grandmother who’d grown teary-eyed and smacked her husband’s arm, muttering a small buffone under her breath. The elderly Italian only smiles back, links his arm in hers, and whispers a soft anche io vi amo as they walk on. Fernanda closes her eyes, squeezes her nonna’s hand in hers. She marvels at its warmth, but it doesn’t last long. Soon a red warmth is bleeding down between her fingers, clasped between their hands.

Warmth is the glass peppering her grandmother’s body in the After where it lies lifeless––freckled with blood––in the snow. When her eyes open, the image disappears, quick and sudden. Modena slips into gray. Her grandfather gives her a grim Mona Lisa smile and tells her a story about Forno Rafaella, flowers, Maria. Silly polpetto, were you even listening?

Camera lapse. The film gives way.

 

Winter is a state of being in this in-between place suspending her between shards of glass and glitter. She rolls around in it until that summer slows, rewinds, picks up, flashes through spring, through other winters, through time spent studying over high school nonsense and sweat-polished conversation with her first love, soccer fields, Sea World, a different visit to Modena, her driver’s test, after.

After.

Fernanda brings her hands to her head, tearing through her sun-lightened hair. The memory rolls around in fragments––black ice, a damning phone call, a scream or two, glass pockmarking the snow lining the road. The steering wheel is here between her sloppy notes in this classroom in the 18th Century in Central Europe; it’s here in Sea World, where dolphins dive through a worn leather hoop; it’s here in Modena, served to her al dente in a shallow bowl with marinara and fresh Parmigiano; it’s here, alive in her grandmother’s cold hands as she reaches over her lap to take control of the station wagon, then, beautifully, ripped away.

Camera lapse. The film recoils.

 

Winter rolls around in fragments: a first drive along the shoreline, a day with Nonna while her grandfather shares supper with old friends two hours away in Minneapolis on their trip’s last weekend in the States. Slush turning ice turning black ice. It’s December and everything is dead. When this winter rolls around, Nonna asks a sixteen-year-old Fernanda to take her for a drive to see the snow-ridden landscape of the lakeshore, a rare treat for her. Fernanda accepts, lends her grandmother a plaid coat, and they set out, taking her father’s station wagon. They drive down frosted roads, through blank tunnels with nothing yet graffitied on their brick walls.

At one point, Fernanda tells her grandmother to open the glovebox to reveal a snowglobe with Minnesotan wolves racing through trees on the hand-painted base. Something to remember, a gift. Nonna leans over the center console and kisses her granddaughter’s cheek. “God Only Knows” plays through the grainy car speakers and they sing along, smiling off-key. God only knows what I’d be without you . . .

When her mother calls to tell them Nonno won’t be home until tomorrow morning because of the icy roadways and begs them to turn back, that a newly licensed driver shouldn’t be driving in such dangerous conditions, Fernanda hesitates. The ice does not forgive this.

Camera lapse. The film plays.

And she watches, helplessly, as the wheels commit themselves.

Cole Simon

McKenna Landrum

Grand Traverse Academy – Junior

A Front Street Writers Student 

William R. Montgomery Fiction Scholarship Award

Excerpt from Starlight

Fiction

Mayala had never seen anything like this in her entire life. All of her life, the Drenth had talked about the surface like it was the Realms of Fire and Shadows itself. A dead wasteland with a ball of fire in the sky that burned the victims below into ash. Even when it became dark, there was a ball of silver fire with thousands of tiny flecks of cold flame. No one could escape the bitter, burning light. The surface was a place that could fit in the Inferno Realms.

Mayala never knew how wrong a person could be until she saw this.

It was night, as Pepin had explained to her. There was a crescent shape in the sky that gave off a soft, silver glow. Mayala remembered Pepin saying that that was called “The moon.”

But what amazed her the most were the stars.

The Drenth said that there were thousands of them. She had to disagree. There were millions of them! All of them twinkling in the sky, seeming to be in an endless dance. They didn’t seem cold, at all! They seemed soft, gentle, warm.

Free.

The stars seemed free, happy in their spiraling dance. They didn’t have a care in the world. They didn’t have to worry about pain, sorrow, fear, anger, hatred, or anything negative.

Mayala felt free, too.

She felt free of her dark past, free of the rejection of the Drenth, free of the hatred of Drena, free of the pain, free of the anger.

“I’ve never seen one stare at the stars like you are right now,” said Pepin. Mayala returned the grin tenfold.

“Did you even glance at the surface?” Pepin asked. Mayala finally looked down from the sky. As she did, she let out a gasp.

Never had she seen something so big. The land went on for so many miles that Mayala couldn’t see the end of it. Even though it was dark, Mayala could see many different greens from the top of large, brown pillars. She pointed to them and glanced back at Pepin.

“What are those?” Mayala asked.

“Trees,” Pepin said, grinning.

“Trees,” Mayala repeated the word to herself.

“A large group of trees, like this,” Pepin motioned towards the land below, “is called a forest.”

“Large group of trees is called a forest,” Mayala whispered. She looked back at Pepin. “Can we… Go explore it? I mean, I’ve never seen this, but if you’re too tired and you want to rest…”

Pepin gave her a mischievous grin. “Tired? Never! Race you!” Pepin dashed down the hill, although he knew Mayala could easily outdistance him.

Mayala didn’t even run down the hill. She backed up, then leaped off the flat peak that she was on. She expected to land onto cold stone, but was thrown off guard by the soft ground below her. She looked down at it, noting how moist and soft it looked. She crouched low and felt it with her fingers. It was very damp.

“What’d you do, leap off the peak?” Pepin panted as he slowed to a halt next to her.

“Pretty much,” Mayala said with a teasing grin. She took a pinch of the brown stuff and showed it to Pepin. “What is this?”

“Dirt, or soil. It can be called both,” Pepin replied. He picked a green sliver from the ground. “This is grass,” Pepin said.

“Dirt, grass,” Mayala said, memorizing them. Suddenly, something brushed her shoulder. She nearly had a heart attack, sending Pepin into a fit of laughter. Mayala saw an oddly shaped piece of… Green paper…?

“What’s this?” She asked, not wanting to touch it in case it was deadly.

Pepin couldn’t answer, he was laughing so hard. “The look… On your face… It was priceless!” Pepin said between breaths. Mayala scowled at the Halfling.

“Ha. Ha. You’re hilarious,” Mayala said in a sarcastic tone. “Now, what is this?” She pointed at the odd green thing.

“It’s called a leaf, and it won’t hurt you,” Pepin said, still chuckling. Mayala plucked the leaf gently from her shoulder. She studied it and noticed just how much detail the leaf had. It had many different veins ebbing from the center. She looked up at the trees and saw many leaves on them. “So, do the leaves attach themselves to the trees?” Mayala asked.

“They grow on them,” Pepin replied. “Leaves are essential to trees. They’re the tree’s source of food.” Pepin gave a shrug. “Don’t ask me how, I don’t know.”

Mayala looked at the leaf in wonder. Just this one little leaf gives back to the tree. It’s almost like the leaf is saying “thank you,” to the tree. Amazing! Mayala looked at Pepin, beaming.

“Thank you, Pepin, for taking me here,” Mayala said. “It’s more wonderful than I could ever imagine.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Pepin returned the smile. He glanced up, his smile widening.

“Mayala, you want to see the sunrise?”

“The sunrise?” Mayala repeated, glancing curiously at the grinning Halfling. He turned and dashed away. She quickly followed. They came up to a clearing.

“Watch to the east,” Pepin said, grinning. Mayala squinted in the direction he was pointing. It just looked dark.

“Pepin, I don’t see-” Mayala began, but then, the sky towards the east began to lighten from black to a dark blue. It was brightening more and more, the blue turning into purple, the purple turning to pink, then to red, then to yellow. Never had she seen so many colors in one moment.

Then, the sun began to rise.

It was just a small sliver at first, but then it rose higher and higher. It was so bright that Mayala could hardly look at it. She raised her hand to shade her eyes. Pepin did the same.

As the sun rose, the sky began to turn to a bright blue. Mayala realized that her mouth was open from amazement. “That’s… That’s a sunrise?” Mayala asked in a small whisper.

“Yes,” Pepin said in a similar tone. He looked up at her. “Did you like it?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Mayala responded. “It was beautiful.”

Pepin smiled and looked back towards the east. The sun was now pretty far from the horizon. Mayala, though she loved it so much, couldn’t bear the light much longer. She threw her hood up to shade her eyes from the light.

“Come, Mayala. Let’s go back to the forest,” Pepin turned and walked back into the forest. Mayala followed.

The forest looked much different in light. That’s when Mayala noticed the sounds.

There were so many sounds! There were whistling sounds, chirping sounds, the sound of wind blowing through the leaves on the trees, Mayala couldn’t keep track of all the noise. It was so unlike the silence of the Dark Labyrinth. Mayala loved it. She loved everything about the surface.

“Come on! We’ve got a lot to see!” Pepin called. Mayala shook herself out of her thoughts and grinned, dashing after her Halfling friend.

Cole Simon

Erin Evans

Bellaire High School – Senior

A Front Street Writers Student

Community Foundation Leslie Lee Nonfiction Scholarship Award

The Love Came from the Mess

Non-Fiction

The digital clock on the oven reads 1 a.m. It’s Valentine’s Day, technically. In the kitchen, small rivers of melted chocolate cover plates and flow onto the counter and floor. Every millimeter of the counter is glazed with at least $40 worth of powdered sugar, frosting, and crumbs which I lost all control over circa 11 p.m. Bowls, spoons, spatulas, measuring devices, and decorating bags drown in the mess, choked by various batters and waiting to be rescued. Pots with burnt remnants of whipped cream sit on the stove with bowls atop them—I decided this would be a good idea since I refused to make actual double boilers. It was not. A mountain of dishes towers up and out of the sink, threatening to crash at any moment and wake the entire family by clamoring against the cement floor. This has become a typical Valentine’s morning for me.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day meant strawberry shortcake for breakfast, gluing lace around hearts of red construction paper with my mom, dinner at my grandparents’ house, and the five-layer, heart-shaped cakes my twin sister made, topped with heart-shaped candles and cream cheese frosting. Though she claims the frosting is our well-known recipe, I am certain it’s actually my sister’s best-kept secret, as it has never tasted as miraculous and creamy as on those cakes. As I got older, my family’s Valentine’s Day traditions began to fade. All that remained was strawberry shortcake and greetings of “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in the morning, which tried to sound cheerful but hardly managed it because it was 5:30 in the morning and no amount of love was going to change the fact we had to go to school. This day became a blank slate. During my freshman year of high school, I took advantage of this to create a new tradition. And if I’m being honest: this was a desperate feat of bribery to pressure people into liking me.

You see, eighth grade was my first year attending public school. I was horrified to find that my few friends had other, closer friends, and did not want to spend their every waking moment with me. It wasn’t until partway through ninth grade that I became truly part of a friend group. By then, I had already come to the conclusion that I was not of any value to others.

Unaware of the concept of not caring what anyone thought, I figured I might as well fit in with the crowd and under-appreciate myself as well. I had killed any self-worth I had, but still held a fragile yet persistent hope that I could somehow claw my way into other people’s hearts, scrounging scraps of validation. I tried to show how worthy of appreciation I could be at every possible opportunity. I was the person who guilt-tripped herself into getting up to respond to texts, even when I was half-conscious and it meant disturbing the cat, because if someone wants your help and you don’t respond, they will think you are useless and hate you forever. On Christmas each year, I argued with myself over which was worse, the suffocating stress of spending my life’s savings on things people might not even like, or the fear of their disappointed faces if I didn’t give enough. Overspending conquered every year. This low self-esteem—combined with a tendency to make overly ambitious plans, not to mention ones that required long-lasting commitment to spontaneous ideas—gave me the idea to make my friends something on Valentine’s Day, showing them my love while forcing guilt upon them if they ignored me for a single second because I was now the greatest friend they could possibly hope to acquire.

My sister had stopped making cakes years before, despite my pleas for her to continue. She claimed that just because she had two 90-pound backpacks of differential equations homework and had slept two hours in the past week, she didn’t have time to make me elaborate cakes. Though my baking often resulted in apple-flavored sludge leaking all over the freezer (granola bars) or smoke billowing from the oven (pretty much everything besides granola bars), I figured that if she could no longer carry a Valentine’s tradition, it was time for me to start one. While typical Valentine’s gifts include roses, chocolates, and cards, the holiday was still definitively associated with cake and cream cheese frosting in my mind. My friends were not getting chocolate and flowers, they were getting heart-shaped miniature cakes. I was just that great of a friend.

My first cakes were all the same: vanilla cake with pink frosting, cut into heart shapes with the only heart-shaped cookie cutter we had, a way-too-small piece of metal that gave the cakes the demeanor of teenagers at their most awkward phase of puberty, nearly twice as tall as they were wide but trying their best to look like they belonged. Feeling a bit awkward, I carried them into school on a single plate, where they leaned at precarious angles.

My friends said they loved the cakes, despite their resemblance to melting skyscrapers caught in a strong wind. But vanilla cakes with all the same frosting weren’t extravagant enough for me anymore. The next year, I let each of my friends custom-design three cakes, using forms I made on slips of paper. If there was a way to further complicate the cakes, it was with those forms. Friends specified the type of cake, frosting, cream and fruit filling, chocolate coating, and writing on top of each one. That year, I made eighteen cakes. I spent the evening two days before Valentine’s Day making vanilla and chocolate cakes, cakes with chocolate chunks, and gluten-free cakes as well as four different colors of frosting. Every time I thought “This is insanity; I don’t need to do this,” I kindly reminded myself that if I stopped, I would be abandoned by everyone I knew and loved. Cooling racks covered the dining table by the time I was done.

The small cookie cutter was no longer up to my ever-rising standards. I found a strip of scrap metal smelling of sawdust and epoxy in my dad’s workshop. Using the vise attached to the workbench was a struggle for my twig-like arms, but I managed to bend the metal into a heart shape, about four inches wide at the top. I taped the ends together with masking tape, then washed the new cookie cutter extensively before allowing it to come in contact with food, mildly paranoid by how long it had been in a workshop surrounded by substances not meant for ingestion. Still, any amount of poisoning by way of wood glue and dust was worth how much nicer the cakes looked.

Each one consisted of two layers. This meant 32 heart-shaped pieces had to be cut and individually wrapped in plastic wrap. We didn’t have plastic wrap. There were tears. I had to walk through the woods to my grandparents’ house to borrow theirs, tripping over tree roots in the dark and getting snow in my boots the whole way.

I cut and wrapped the cakes extremely carefully. It had already reached the point in the evening where my desire to sleep was becoming greater than my desire to show people I loved them, and although I didn’t resent myself for deciding to make everyone three cakes yet, I knew if I broke even one and had to make an entire new cake, I would. Luckily, I got all of the cakes wrapped and safely into the bottom of the refrigerator without breaking. My dad, who was more than a little concerned for my sanity, offered to clean up for me. He was used to coming to the rescue of my sister and I after our baking projects took longer than planned, leaving powdered sugar-coated disasters in their wake. Thankfully, my mom, who wanted me to learn the consequences of my decisions and did not care whether I got a healthy amount of sleep, was not inside to witness this.

The next day I filled the cakes with cream and strawberries and covered them with frosting or chocolate. This involved wasting an entire bag of chocolate chips while trying to figure out how to make them melt enough. My sister told me to add milk, and since she is not me, I trusted her. The chocolate became a lumpy paste and had to be thrown away. I banished my sister from the kitchen. I let her back in when she told me to use heavy cream instead and the chocolate became quite pourable. I then spent at least an hour writing inside-jokes, names of celebrity crushes, and “I love you” with frosting that night. I had a vision for these cakes: frosting perfectly smooth and uncontaminated by crumbs, perfectly centered writing glistening on top. Unfortunately, I renounced cursive as a child. This made fitting “Leonardo DiCaprio” on a three-inch cake while my hands contracted carpal tunnel from hours squeezing a decorating bag an even messier task.

By the time I was done, it was technically Valentine’s Day. I still had to clean up. (My mom made sure I knew it was my job that night.) I had a plan when I started baking to “keep the kitchen clean as I cooked.” This is always the plan at the beginning. That idea was thrown to the wind the instant a speck of powdered sugar landed on the counter. I figured I might as well give up and let the kitchen become an even more hopeless disaster than the previous year. I had not washed the pots I heated cream in before making double boilers with them and turning the stove on to high heat. Needless to say, all the remaining cream quickly burned, filling the kitchen with a noxious smell. I will never forget the blackened char I had to scrub out of them. By the next year, I knew better than to intentionally burn ingredients, which was progress when it came to my baking skills, but the kitchen didn’t look much better. Even so, the cakes made it safely to their cupcake boxes in the fridge. The mess they had caused would never be seen by those who enjoyed their beauty.

My cake-making tradition was not as original as I would have liked. Cakes were used hundreds of years ago to ensure people’s gods didn’t turn against them. I suppose I made mine for a similar reason. I wanted my friends to feel loved, and I wanted to prove to my past self that I could continually be better at Valentine’s Day. I thought: “I’m the friend who makes all of you cake every year. You can’t stop being friends with me, because then you won’t get cake.” I also made them, I suppose, because a holiday was an excuse create a tradition—an opportunity I could not pass up.

I thought my tradition of making cake was unusual—after all, I didn’t make your typical chocolates—until I discovered the supposed history of Valentine’s Day. The more I learned, the more concerned I became. In ancient Rome, the Pagan festival of Lupercalia was an annual event on February 15 which often took place in the Lupercal cave. A group of Roman priests began the festival by sacrificing at least one male goat and a dog. In modern times, we simply sacrifice our dignity, or in my case, my time and sanity. Two of the priests’ bodies were then smeared with the blood from the animals and washed with milk. That is the origin of the colors red and white to represent Valentine’s Day, which makes me all kinds of uncomfortable. The festival also involved randomly pairing couples together, many of whom ended up falling in love and getting married. Lupercalia originated from a legend of two brothers who were raised by a wolf after their father tried to drown them. It celebrates the wolf who raised them. Romantic, right?

While the sacrificial violence of this festival lost popularity, the idea of a celebration for love returned with the help of St. Valentine, a Roman priest during the third century A.D. He is said to have secretly married couples who were in love, even after the Roman emperor, Claudius II, made marriage illegal, believing it made men less willing to join the military. When Claudius found out Valentine was aiding people in love rather than war, he sentenced him to death. Valentine was executed on the now-famous February 14. This day is entirely surrounded by violence and bloodshed, and I can’t help but wonder if our celebrating love is not simply making up for the pain of our ancestors.

The cakes I make continued to get more extravagant each year. I couldn’t risk my friends getting bored with this tradition. Besides, I had received some worried looks when I distributed cakes the second year.

“I love them,” one friend said, “but one is enough. We don’t need three.”

Still I added more types of cake, more frosting, better cake-designing forms with even more options. Not only was I unwilling to go backwards when it came to extravagance, I had to justify the dread I felt when I looked at the kitchen at the end of the night. This was accomplished not only by how nice the cakes looked and how much my friends liked them, but by the satisfaction of getting home from school, taking my own cake to my desk, cracking the coat of chocolate with a fork, and finding the cream and strawberry filling inside. There is something enjoyable about knowing I am doing something people will appreciate, despite the dreaded cleaning process and imminent mistakes. In fact, I think I enjoy something more if I know I have gone through emotional pain and exhaustion in order to accomplish it. I become that much more appreciation-worthy, even if I am the only one who knows how much turmoil went into what I did. I wonder if St. Valentine felt this, secretly marrying couples even as he knew he could be punished. Maybe he, too, was seeking appreciation from these people. Or maybe he is better than I am: maybe he merely wants to do something kind for those who loved each other. They must have been grateful to him. Maybe that was why he risked and lost his life for other people’s love.

Every time I appeared on one of my friends’ doorsteps with a small, red box filled with cake, my stomach sank with the thought of them rejecting my offering of love. Each time, though, I watched their faces light up as I handed over the cake, wishing them happy Valentine’s Day. That feeling was enough. For the first couple years, they may have been awkward to see my sleep-deprived face behind a stack of cupcake boxes approaching their home. But I think that by this point, my friends have become so used to me spontaneously going overboard that they enjoy the cakes. I certainly hope so.

At some point, my cakes stopped being a literally unhealthy coping mechanism. The realization that I had friends in the first place—that I was not completely worthless! — hit me like a brick around junior year. Of course, by that point it was too late. The cakes were my tradition. I couldn’t stop making them. At that point I just enjoyed accomplishing something. I continued to struggle with appreciating myself; this was my way to earn my own coveted validation.

St. Valentine was willing to be put to death for love that wasn’t even his. I’ve considered, as I’m sure even the most emotionally secure of us have at times, whether I would be willing to die for the people I love. I haven’t been able to answer this, simply because I can’t imagine a situation where this would not be ridiculous. But I will continue to make my loved ones a worrisome amount of cake, and to, as Valentine did, show my appreciation for love itself.

Cole Simon

Athena Gillespie

St. Francis High School – Senior

A Front Street Writers Student

Robert and Marcy Branski Poetry Scholarship Award

An Elegy to My Father’s Mother

Poetry

I never met my father’s mother,

but I feel her everywhere. 

 

Wrapping myself up in the thick wool blanket she made,

blue with little white sheep covering it.

 

I sneak into my mother’s closet, standing on a wooden stool to reach the top shelf.

A book of poetry on rough, thick paper, written by Faith Gillespie.

I lie on my stomach on the matted carpet, leafing through page after page.

“42 copies,” the first page reads.

“Mother of none, in labour, rocking in labour, wracked, giving birth to herself. No one sees her.”

 

My grandmother writes of how they used to kill witches.

Death by pressing.

 

I can almost hear her voice reading the line, “I said I was a lover not a fighter. Well, I lied. I know it’s both or none.”

 

I run my fingers over the textured art printed next to the poems 

on the handmade French paper.

Only black and white images,

clouds, zippers, waves.

 

I lie on the floor for hours,

only getting up when I hear the sound of the garage door opening and a car door slamming shut.

I gently place the book back where I’d found it,

knowing I’d be back soon.

 

I never met my father’s mother,

but I feel her everywhere.