masthead | social distancing creative writing contest | letter from the editors
Cover By: Will Draxler
Anonymous | The Academy at Charlemont '22
Anonymous | The Academy at Charlemont '23
Alison Blakeslee | Mohawk Trail Regional High School '20
Juliet Corwin | The Academy at Charlemont '22
Will Draxler | The Academy at Charlemont '21
Rachel Friedman | The Academy at Charlemont '23
Claire Grunberg | The Academy at Charlemont '20
Malia Hanes | Frontier Regional High School '21
Chanina Kosovske | The Academy at Charlemont '23
Ella LaMee | The Academy at Charlemont '21
Zanzy Rice-Reeves | Hartsbrook School '22
Rory Sweeting | The Academy at Charlemont '20
Third-Year Spanish Class | The Academy at Charlemont
Katarina Tobits | The Academy at Charlemont '20
Seamus Turner-Glennon | The Academy at Charlemont '22
Leo Wurgaft | The Academy at Charlemont '22
Welcome to the spring 2020 issue of 2-West! We are proud to feature a diverse collection of incredible work in our third issue. Due to school closures and social distancing, we are finding new ways to foster creativity and collaboration between young writers in Western Massachusetts. This June, we will be holding a series of live readings on our Instagram account! It will be both a chance for writers to share their work in their own voice and an opportunity for questions and discussion within our community of readers and contributors. Enjoy our newest issue, and please check out @2westmag on Instagram for more information.
Thank you for reading!
The editors of 2-West
I was born with butterflies in my chest
My walls expand and contract furiously
My butterflies’ wings expand and contract
Butterflies surrounding me
Her butterflies protect her
While they suffocate her
They allow her to breathe
They allowed her to breathe
While shards of glass entered their wings
They fought for her
A body lying helplessly in
Stripped of skin
Salted winds whip over the body furiously
Until the glass
Is forced to the center of that body
As an arrow forces itself upon any surface it desires
So that when
Deceivingly immortal butterflies awake
They can conceal the glass
And fight again
The butterflies save her
Until who once was me
is nothing but glass
So distracted by your presence that sheets fall off the bed and
Everybody in the house crawls to sleep unnoticed
I am watching you sit there pixilated
Busying your hands
You don’t understand why I won’t let you see my girlish grin and giggle
I am not sure that my charm will carry through the screen
I ask you to make me a playlist
What I mean is
If I can’t come to you then I want to have something tangible attached to your memory
I want it to be sampled from your stale bong water bubbling
I want it to be the songs I catch you humming as you maneuver through your thoughts
And I want it to sound the way
The Temptations: “My Girl”
Made me feel when it would play over the speaker once during my 8 hour shift
Because for 2 minutes and 52 seconds
These anticipating hands could pause
Something always assured me you’d be out there
I ask the moon
What do you know about love?
My tongue trips over my overbite
The storm clouds part and surround her
A pearl in an oyster
The night sky is an ocean
When the American flag whips relentlessly in the parking lot
I could’ve sworn it sounded like waves crashing
Notice how the wind sounds like water searching for lower ground sounds like cars speeding up
Legate hill sounds like applause for songs I’ll never get to sing
Notice my grief is the cycle of precipitation
Lonely is another word for sad like water and snow
Notice the moss appeared dry but I’ve soaked my socks
My sneakers are caked in mud
I am so far from the ocean
What do you know about love?
You’re just a baby
Lackluster wisps of quiet emotion seep
underneath my nails which i try so hard
To keep clean of your silent hope that life
Continuously presses up to them
Dull aching claws at my emotion that
The hopeless part of my brain feverishly
overlooks, drowned in pounding music, but
The cold mask always cracks, eventually
Tipping the Scales
The snow falls heavily
is not passive,
Covering the world
in a frosted rage
Silence is temporary
As my true voice
yet irredeemable in its volume,
My hands dull
and pale as bones
Because an untreated wound
becomes easily infected
and following suit
are the mind and eyes
It starts as a thought
an idea, reinforced
into the mind
by the goddess herself
like growing bacteria
spreading to the subconscious
It distorts reality
turning water to wine
when there was no water
to begin with
and once you've fully succumbed
to the driven force of delusion
are you promised paradise
as I look into the mirror
the irony of the dead of winter
being the fire growing inside me
full of only hatred
for that which I can see
I know is real,
and that which I can feel
I seek to destroy
But what is left
of a corpse who has no value to begin with
what is left
but an empty husk of bones
shivering in isolation
in the eye of the storm
after Stacy Szymaszek
face is burning problem where
it gets red without
* * *
I sit with friends in a restaurant
want to tell them SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS
WE ALL HAVE THEM AND ARE OKAY
I feel my shoe laces burn holes in feet want to complain but don’t
* * *
yesterday man walks into library I’m behind the desk
says “I was walking across the bridge phone in pocket
it drops out lands on ice it’s floating on the ice on the Deerfield river
and I gotta use a computer here! I gotta email my girlfriend”
I set him up at the computer and he forgets the password to his
* * *
JUST CUT THE CARROTS OKAY CUT THE CARROTS
I am in my house with three friends I tell them to BE QUIETER but
I think I forgot to say it because they do not get
it is my annual rereading of Franny and Zooey but I skip
I make a friend read it she says she read most but
returns it the 33rd page dog-eared
IF THERE’S DISTANCE IN MY WRITING IT’S DISHONEST
* * *
I try not to write about myself too much
a teacher says it’s SOLIPSISTIC
and it was like last year but now it’s necessary :
otherwise I will
* * *
friend keeps being “in a mood” what crap! I said nothing
in car but wanted to scream SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS
WE ALL HAVE THEM AND ARE OKAY
it has always been okay for some friends to mouth off but NOT ME
NOT ME but
I guess that is old reputation
I am going to college and should shake it
like maybe I’ll grow
three feet there and
like the height
* * *
dream : in telling my friend what I didn’t mean to tell her I embarrass
reality : having monopolized the aux cord and imagined dirty looks I
get home from school I GOTTA WRITE THAT PAPER
so I just
plop on the bed
listen to Adrianne Lenker sing about how THE TOY IN MY HAND / IS REAL
and count the extra beats in
I watch a movie with my mom I never watch movies I keep thinking
I have a cold and then it goes away can it just let me know???
I spent ONE AUTUMN WEEK (seemed like three) reconsidering college apps
was gonna apply elsewhere sometimes I see a clerk
at a shop
and want to cry
my bullet journal is my lifeline
I better not lose it
* * *
every time I’m in one town I avoid one bookstore
but end up in it every time issue being
I’m going to college there next year and don’t have $$$
fling your body across the empty pool
swallow the deep lies that have been filling your mind
follow the white lines that you drew for yourself
watch as they lead right back to home
home is where the heart is
where the heart is is where the heart burns so empty so deep
but there’s a parasite within me
digging into my every move
every part of me is vandalized
private property they say
but when they stomp on the dirt
destroying every regulation that you ever created
watch as the flowers wilt
in your hands
no matter how hard you try
the sun won’t come out again
instead you lie
in a puddle of your disappointment
for your mind is corrupted
by the beings that call out your name
in the night
they grasp for any form of life they can get
but you’ll shut the book
and start the day all over again
The Mischief Maker
I wish I were as great as the mischief maker
For every step I take it takes three
For every leap I make it takes flight
I know my place,
But the mischief maker it has no place
It leaves when it wants to
And travels to places where I cannot go
Where I can see true beauty
But never touch it.
Unlike the mischief maker.
The Last Elephant
straw-color Ground Grass Hills
*step* thump. *step* *step* Thump *step* thump.
*view* Prairie Prairie TREE
*step* thump *step* thump *step* *step* thump Thump Thump.
woody trunk *look up* Fleshy Leaves
pain pain pain
*step* THUMP *step* *stepping* THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP. *turn*
large albino Monkey Stick
*stepping* CLUMP Clump CLUMP clump thump *falling* WHUMPH
smiling kindly furious eyed large albino Monkey
*see* *see* *see* *see*
WHERE SEE NO SEE NO SEE
no see. See none.
There's a Million Stars in the Galaxie
Mike Rodgers rode his brand new Ford Galaxie 500 onto the dirty streets of New York City. He let his arm dangle out the window and tap the light blue doors. He rolled the car into an empty parking space in front of his brownstone in Chelsea. The Rodgers family lived comfortably thanks to Mike’s father’s will. Mike was a gym coach for the local elementary school and the back of his new car soon held several items of abused sports equipment. He was a generous father, and when his son wanted to impress his new girlfriend with a nice car, Mike tossed him the keys. The car withstood many date nights, several breakups, and many mistakes. One night, Mike drove to the bar to meet his buddy, Nick. He left his car a block away and hurried through the light rain into the bar. The two men talked and laughed, ordering drink after drink. After three beers, a glass of scotch, and a martini, Mike started chatting with a woman sitting alone. Mike bought her a couple of drinks and soon they were stumbling down the sidewalk to the car. He took her home a while later, then accompanied her to her apartment for more scotch. That hadn’t been the first mistress he’d taken. Thanks to his intoxicated state, Mike’s wife had no trouble deducing what had happened when he returned. Within the month she packed up and left, taking the car as punishment. But driving the car she’d been betrayed in was difficult and she sold it, taking the money to start her life again.
Jackson Nivil signed his name Jimmy Hawkins and gave the salesman back his clipboard. After all, Jackson Nivil had just spent a night in prison after totaling his car in an illegal drag race in Queens. He tossed his briefcase in the backseat of his used Ford Galaxie 500 and drove to his first client of the day. He’d be Jimmy for the day. At least until he got out of the state. Cash was not hard to come by for Jimmy— sometimes he surprised himself by how much money he swindled out of desperate addicts for some tainted powder. He smoked as he drove, the windows kept closed until he had to throw the cigarette away. He liked how the smoke smelled. Jimmy pulled in front of a fire hydrant, grabbed his briefcase, and jumped out of the car. He ran into the apartment building, ignoring the doorman, and squeezed through the closing elevator doors. He pressed the button for the fifth floor. Jimmy ran a hand through his hair and hugged his briefcase to his chest, tapping his fingers on it. His eyes darted over every person, from the black heels of a housewife to the cap of a young boy. He shifted from leg to leg and opened and fiddled with the combination lock on his briefcase, ignoring the annoyed and confused looks from those around him. They reached the fifth floor and Jimmy jogged down the carpeted hallway to door 79. Someone sneezed behind the door and it opened a moment later. A disheveled man answered the door and his eyes found the briefcase before his mouth found a greeting. He murmured a hello to Jimmy while watching the case hungrily. Jimmy began to speak, but the man put a finger to his lips and pointed inside. There was someone in the apartment with him. Jimmy began to walk away motioning for the man to follow him, and he did. They went back to the ground floor, past the angry doorman, and into Jimmy’s still-running car. The man picked out his drug, took some for the road, then handed Jimmy a stack of fifties. Jimmy tapped the powder into a small paper bag, then handed it to him. The man stared at the contents, then tucked it away in his robe before scurrying off into the building. Jimmy pulled out onto the street towards the nearest empty street and never saw the man again. Jimmy loved drag races. He loved the thrill of nearly clipping buildings, spitting smog in the face of the other cars. He wanted to see how well this car was on the open road. So, he took her for a spin around the block. Jimmy lost control of the car, taking a 90 miles-per-hour corner, and went on the sidewalk, scraping between an old building and the bus stop awning. He pulled out of the tight squeeze, scraping off half the paint in the process, and decided it was time to see his next client. Jimmy did the same thing he always did when he saw a client: pulled up along the sidewalk— this time in front of a closed jewelry store—left the car running, went into the apartment building, found the apartment, did his job, then hopped back in. But, while Jimmy was only on his second client of the day, his brand new, used and recently banged up car was stolen.
Danny Basin was proud of his car. He’d worked hard for it. In order for him to convince his dad to let him drive, he had to get a job, get a car, and get at least a C in math. He had a job at the gas station, he’d gotten that C in math thanks to his “friend” Rodney, and someone had left a nice Ford Galaxie running on the side of the street. He wasn’t going to pass up such an opportunity. Lacy was impressed. She sat in the shotgun, nodding her head along with the music playing from the radio. Danny turned his eyes off the road for a second and grabbed some beer in the back. He offered her one, before gulping down his own. It had taken a lot to convince Lacy to go out with him that night. When he pulled up to her house in the suburbs, she’d been less than impressed at the state of the car. It looked like it had been through a lot. The interior reeked of cigarette smoke, there was white stuff all over the floor, the outside was a bit banged up. What once might have been a pretty robin’s egg blue, was now a scraped up, dirtier blue. Lacy finally agreed and then began to drive out to the country. Danny drank his fourth beer and gripped the steering wheel harder as he tried to keep the road in focus. Lacy pulled out a pack of cigarettes from her purse and put one in her lips. She leaned towards him. She wanted a light. Danny found his lighter in his pocket and looked over at her to light the cigarette. He felt the car swerve and pulled it back onto the correct side of the road. He pulled at the seat belt around his waist. It was tight and uncomfortable. He unbuckled it and enjoyed his freedom. Lacy left the windows closed as she smoked. It burned Danny’s eyes, but he didn’t dare ask Lacy to stop. Whatever made her feel comfortable. His vision blurred and he rubbed his eyes. Danny got onto the bridge and drank some more beer to wet his mouth. He could almost taste Lacy’s cigarette. Lacy watched the river out her window, remarking on the beauty of the water. The road moved and swayed and Danny closed his eyes, dizzy. When he opened them, it was in response to the sound the car made smashing through the fence on the side of the bridge. The car sunk just slow enough for the young couple to figure out how to escape, but fast enough to drown them before they could. The car joined too many others at the bottom of the river, the water washing it of its history.
Quarantine Diary (feel free to heavily, heavily edit this if you feel like it’s too NSFW)
Day 1: Just finished loading the last of my 864 rolls of toilet paper into the bathtub. I don’t even know why I bought so many, only that I had to rush home because an angry mob of Karens was chasing me down. I’ve locked all of the doors, restocked the fridge, and have a list of like a thousand movies and TV shows to watch for god-knows how long I have to spend cooped up in here.
Day 2: Called my parents. They’re doing fine, but they seem to think that this is all a hoax by the Democrats to impeach Trump. I stopped the call before they could start some political argument. On the bright side, I’m really getting into “House of Cards,” though I cringe whenever Spacey’s on screen, which is like 90% of the show.
Day 5: Uh oh! The boss wants me to do some online conference call or something. Since I want income, I reluctantly obliged, but turned the volume on my TV up to like a hundred to indicate my displeasure.
Day 12: Ticked off my first five shows. This morning, I was going to make myself some lasagna when I noticed that the fridge was like a third empty. I’ve started rationing now, down to two meals a day, maybe one if I get past half of the original stockpile.
Day 20: Aaaarrggghhhh!!! I just lost my job. The economy’s torpedoing, so they decided to “trim off some of the fat.” Is that supposed to be an insult? 168 lbs is respectable. I weigh less than half of the kids in the average fifth grade class. Screw this! And speaking of fat people, wonder how Trump’s screwing this up.
Day 37: Aaaaaaaaaaaaand there goes my last show! Everything’s still shut down. I have nothing to do. And yes, future reader, I could probably do what you’re doing, but I’m a simple man, I don’t think I own a single book. Also, I never bothered paying for anything other than Netflix, ‘cause damn that whole streaming wars bull. While I wait for my parents to respond, I’m gonna try and look for new job listings.
Day 54: Down to a third of my original food supply. I got a job, though. Some French firm that professes to sell organs online. At first I was like ‘this is really sketchy’, but then, I saw that it was just church organs. No one’s going to church anymore, but I was like, screw it, I need the money. Got Duolingo to learn how to speak to my colleagues. P.S. My parents haven’t called in weeks, and I’m starting to see shadows in the hallway at night.
Day 69: Heh! Had my first meeting with my coworkers today. We all spoke in English for the most part, but this one hot girl, I think her name is Emilie, encouraged me to learn some more French. I’ll try writing some down here: Bonjour, je suis Terrance. Vive la quarantine!
Day 91: I lost 30 pounds!!!! Who knew that only eating the crusts of a single loaf of bread for the past 29 days could do that. But I need to be ready. Because today my mom came, but she looked different. Rabid, almost. I didn’t let her in. Has the virus mutated? I don’t know, I stopped following the news when the Italians overthrew the capitalist system and named the Sandwich Man I saw when I went to Pisa for work a few years ago as their king.
Day 100: As my 13-year-old niece who I haven’t seen in over a year would say, omg happy 100!!!!!! Lately, I’ve been having private conversations with Emilie, and she’s told me I should start writing down stuff in French. For example: le mort péage vient de surpassait trois million.
Day 136: Emilie and I are engaged! This is the best day of my life! Also, je pense chuis voyant plus zombis!
Day 160: chuis écrivant exclusivement en français maintenant en préparation pour le marriage. Mais chuis en bas au dix bouffe articles, et le télé juste montre friture.
Jour 205: Emilie et je vient de passe un plaisant heure du cocher conversation. Je pense elle effectivement vient dans ma chambre, textuellement marchant hors de l’ordinateur. Mais tout je voyait quand je réveillait était le' même vieux blanc murs.
Jour 227: C’était censé le jour de nos marriage, mais quand je rappelait à Emilie, elle juste disait quelque chose en quelconque baragouin langue que sonnait comme ‘Faque of you crezi pevoeutte’ et prétendait qu’elle jamais encore parlait au m’hors d’œuvre. Je vient de revevait virait, le zombis sont partout, chuis tout à court de bouffe, à moi.
Jour 254: Ce vient de venait à l'idée que chuis ne écrivant pas en grammaticaement correct français, juste quelconque mots bricolé d’un mot pour mot anglais translation pour l’intention de sonnant intègre. Les ombres sont de retour, ils sont frappent sur ma port, chuis mangeant toilet paper, à moi!
Jour 300: L’horloge s’arrêtait. Je perdu voie de temps. Rien je peux mange, je mangerai, même si je vomis il retour. Pourquoi suis j’encore écrivant ce, l’Internet s’éteignait jadis.
Day 339: I’m going back to English now, ALL QUARANTINE AND NO PLAY MAKE TERRANCE A DULL BOY ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE TERRANCE A DULL BOY yadda yadda yadda, I’m not that insane TERRANCE GO CRAZY I’m making use of this time HELP I’VE RESORTED TO COPROPHAGIA Just staring blankly out my window DON’T GOOGLE IT IF YOU STILL HAVE INTERNET
Day 365: Woo-hoo, happy quaranniversary. I’m morbidly underweight, living in squalor, subsisting on pigeons that I catch every once in a while, haven’t spoken to anyone since I got fired. Well guess it’s time to hand myself over to the zombies. Their moaning’s starting to sound an awful lot like, “pay the goddamn rent already.”
Day 420: Terrance would have laughed at this, but I’m above this. I’m Ophelia, Terrance’s sister. If you’re wondering where he went, he’s fine, gonna leave the hospital in a week or two. If you’re reading this in the distant future, the coronavirus pandemic peaked at around the point where he “got a job.” Mom and Dad recovered; others weren’t so lucky. When we were told that it was safe to leave our homes, Mom went to go and talk to Terrance, but he wouldn’t open the door. Then we tried to call him, but he never answered his phone. After several months, his landlord got involved, but I successfully persuaded him to hold off on eviction until I could get through. We never did, but still we kept coming to his door, begging for an answer, until one day he ran out, skeletal, wearing nothing but underwear, covered in a reddish-brown substance that makes me nauseous just to think about. We immediately took him to the nearest hospital, which transferred him to a mental health center due both to his insanity and to the fact that they were still recovering from the pandemic. While they were treating him, the police gave us access to his diary. I’ll finish this off by clearing a few things up: firstly, Italy doesn’t have a Sandwich King, he’s a democratically elected leader who just so happened to formerly advertise for a sandwich shop. Second, the French organ firm that Terrance claimed to work for doesn’t exist, and I suspect that he was so mad by that point that his mind started to rip off Joker, which he had apparently watched on repeat for twelve straight days. And I shouldn’t even have to say this, but there are no zombies, the world is fine. Bro, I love you, hope you have a full recovery.
My Friend, Do Not Die
translated from the Spanish
THE ACADEMY AT CHARLEMONT'S THIRD-YEAR SPANISH CLASS
Amiga, no te mueras
De Pablo Neruda
Amiga, no te mueras.
Óyeme estas palabras que me salen ardiendo,
y que nadie diría si yo no las dijera.
Amiga, no te mueras.
Yo soy el que te espera en la estrellada noche.
El que bajo el sangriento sol poniente te espera.
Miro caer los frutos en la tierra sombría.
Miro bailar las gotas del rocío en las hierbas.
En la noche al espeso perfume de las rosas,
cuando danza la ronda de las sombras inmensas.
Bajo el cielo del Sur, el que te espera cuando
el aire de la tarde como una boca besa.
Amiga, no te mueras.
Yo soy el que cortó las guirnaldas rebeldes
para el lecho selvático fragante a sol y a selva.
El que trajo en los brazos jacintos amarillos.
Y rosas desgarradas. Y amapolas sangrientas.
El que cruzó los brazos por esperarte, ahora.
El que quebró sus arcos. El que dobló sus flechas.
Yo soy el que en los labios guarda sabor de uvas.
Racimos refregados. Mordeduras bermejas.
El que te llama desde las llanuras brotadas.
Yo soy el que en la hora del amor te desea.
El aire de la tarde cimbra las ramas altas.
Ebrio, mi corazón. Bajo Dios, tambalea.
El río desatado rompe a llorar y a veces
se adelgaza su voz y se hace pura y trémula.
Retumba, atardecida, la queja azul del agua.
Amiga, no te mueras!
Yo soy el que te espera en la estrellada noche,
sobre las playas áureas, sobre las rubias eras.
El que cortó jacintos para tu lecho, y rosas.
Tendido entre las hierbas yo soy el que te espera!
My Friend, Do Not Die
By Pablo Neruda
Translated by Nick Clark, Ruby Chase, Elaina Gibb-Buursma, Cristy Kasbo, Lane Moore, and Leo Wurgaft
My friend, do not die.
Listen to my burning words,
Words that only I can say.
My friend, do not die.
I am the one who waits for you in the starry night.
I am the one who waits for you under the blood red sunset.
I look at the fruits falling onto shaded earth.
I look at the dewdrops dancing on the grass.
In the night the thick perfume of roses
dances around the immense shadows.
Beneath the southern sky, the one who waits for you when
the air becomes like kissing lips in the afternoon.
My friend, do not die.
I am the one who cut the rebel garland
for the woodland bed that smells of sun and forest.
The one who brought in my arms yellow hyacinths.
And torn roses. And blood red poppies.
The one who crossed his arms in waiting for you, now.
The one who broke his bows. The one who bent his arrows.
I am the one who on his lips holds the taste of grapes.
Cleaned clusters. Animal bites.
Who calls to you from the flowering plains.
In the hour of love I am the one who desires you.
The afternoon air rings through the high branches.
My inebriated heart staggers beneath God.
Sometimes the uncontrolled river bursts out and and cries
its dwindling voice, growing pure and tremulous.
The blue complaint of the water, resound and dusk.
My friend, do not die!
I am the one waiting for you in the starry night,
over golden beaches, over brighter times.
The one who cut hyacinths and roses for your bed.
Lying among the grasses I am the one who waits for you!
I held a dream
And in my voice it cried:
“Blow you white sands
And sail forth!
Through the crowded streets of
Pool noodles and sunlight!”
That I was being watched
I dove into the water.
The summer filled my eyes
I staggered like a shadow
I mustn’t let the light
Into my thoughts
I merely need it to see.
Keeping words in my head,
I fell through
The words keep me company:
Love, being lost
Utterances of simplicity such as:
I love you
And in this way I drift and gallop
But these words, these friends
Fell out of my head like water,
And despite my efforts
I inevitably soon forget.
I came to music
And I was in my own home
And I thought:
“This is the live experience”
Folks I did not
Playing and singing with
Was the quietest
And I noted:
The percussion must ne’er waver:
The quietest ones are the steadiest.
And we talked of outer space
And there we were
Voices like bells
Ringing clear from our lips
“It is I who brings the white sand!”
The voices fade
And I wonder
Will my dreams remember me
When I am gone
I awoke and it was Thursday
It always snows on Thursdays
So I stayed in bed.
A shirtless boy runs his fingers through watches through my window glances at my dirty laundry on my floor late afternoon sun kisses his face like I did last night he scribbles in his worn notebook
I remember we waltzed in my room the perpetual cave at midnight I retrieved my bottle from my little secret floorboard my shoes came off I pressed my palm into his chest collapsed into my armchair rolled onto my floor and slept there
His muscles are too big for child’s I sit back after walking in the breeze like some white dress-clad nymph we sit in silence tick tock goes my clock night casts its blanket over the sky
His lips close around his cigarette to prove some worth exhales I watch almost wanting something
I shake those thoughts away offer up splendidly a drink and “Shut up, you’re not who I want” for good measure
My black eye makeup drip drip drips away with my tears cigarette sears into my thigh but I didn’t mean it
I’ve never loved someone without telling them
My walls are littered with words
His hand grips my arm twisting me as he pleases
His yellowed teeth spit out my name
His breath makes those thoughts return and
This man is no longer a boy.
But I will tolerate no silence.
My scars will fade with eternity.
His amber eyes will please me no longer.
I will burn my sticky notes my taped up memo pad pages my thoughts and poetry in my backyard while my red dress fits perfectly.
I will remember I was independent strong looking like an actress holding the power of grace in my wine glass filled with water.
My clothing won’t hide my sloughed-off chest running wild chase those birds to his clouds that were above his house on his day in his year of our lives.
Nothing I say will make sense to him anymore dies in my arms looks at me looks at me smiles to the liking of a word I spoke fades to the earth but will be reborn when I walk into that big empty room after my last show which I will never do again.
My carpet will be cleaned my walls scrubbed my arm chair replaced to get rid of his smoke stench as I leave for college boxed up with a bow to forget what we had I will move to a different state and what I will do there I don’t know I just hope he doesn’t follow.
I will only leave behind the sharpied song lyrics in my bathroom lest I forget what melodies melted with my youth.
I will walk down my ghost town streets once more my sunglasses atop my head my hair whipping in the warm breeze.
I will say goodbye and it will be scrawled into his worn notebook.
Throwing Knives at Aliens
There’s a scene part way through Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers—you know the one. Ace Levy (Jake Busey, the disappointingly sane son of Gary), a relatively new recruit to the Mobile Infantry, a twenty-third-century military organization controlled by the United Citizen Federation. Levy and a group of near-identical male, caucasian cadets in their early–mid twenties, all clad in drab gray uniforms topped with berets, are being trained in knife-throwing. Ace’s throw proves itself to be weak and his arrow falls to the ground, missing his target entirely. He becomes frustrated with the exercise itself, challenging his drill sergeant on the validity of the exercise itself, asking what the point of knife throwing is in a military dedicated to the extermination of enormous bug aliens using twenty-third-century military-grade weaponry really is. In response, the sergeant throws a knife directly through Ace’s hand, stating that “the enemy cannot push a button if you disable his hand.”
There are a lot of things Verhoeven utterly nails in this scene, but one that seems to be discussed less is this: Ace is more or less right. We’re often told that war “isn’t like video games,” but the war that actually matters in a contemporary setting kind of is. Whether or not we like to admit it, we could cut out probably half of our troops in the U.S. without materially changing much beyond our bases being empty. The overwhelming majority of our military action takes place via drone strikes and remote missile attacks, largely carried out on civilians overseas. Warfare has been nearly entirely redefined from what it used to be known as, and it’s been on that trajectory since the First World War. As we develop more and more sophisticated methods of mass slaughter, the traditional idea of the soldier becomes less and less legitimately necessary for war to exist. And this isn’t to argue that I’ve figured out something here that the U.S. government is still in the dark about—the military is not only very well aware of this reality but is probably the single biggest practitioner of this style of warfare worldwide.
So why do we even bother hiring even half the troops we currently do? There are a number of reasons. The first, and most simplistic, is this: the U.S.A. is, and has been for quite a while, the largest empire in the world. We are both imperialist in the Leninist sense (imperialism as the most evolved form of capitalism) and in the traditional sense of quite literally being a capital-E Empire in the manner of the British or Mongolian empires of old. But, to truly maintain an empire, it’s as important to maintain support among the citizens as it is to maintain control of the territories controlled overseas. Not just lazy complacency but actual rabid support and enthusiasm about the expansion and maintenance of the empire. Realistically, no working class American is gonna get actively excited about what we really do, and that’s where The TroopsTM come in. The specific combination of the constant reminders from nearly all forms of mass media that the troops are heroes, they should be celebrated, they’re out there protecting us from transgender Muslim Nazis or something with the fact that you can talk to a soldier and, on an individual level, that person may be a nice human being who likes the same her as you or something is a pretty potent little propaganda stew, one that the U.S. propaganda market has taken full advantage of, in at least some capacity, dating back to the early 1900s if not earlier.
But the troops exist for another reason as well. Effectively, they serve the same purpose overseas for the U.S. that the police serve domestically: sociopolitical control. But, while the U.S. police force exists primarily to protect the sanctity of private property both materially and conceptually, the military serves the interests of global capitalism and imperialism. We station soldiers in countries we have a vested interest in economically. We send our soldiers into countries like Grenada and Chile to send the message that if you dare to consider the use of economic resources and capital in a way that is designed to benefit the people as opposed to leaving them to rot in the name of international neoliberalism we can and will inflict horrors upon them whether they like it or not.
And, even though we know that we could just bomb these countries we so often choose not to, because at the end of the day the things that CIA agents and U.S. soldiers can and damn well will do make a bombing sound fun by comparison. Because that’s the real secret to all of this: it’s about conditioning our troops to be as cruel as possible in the name of capitalism and in the name of the U.S. empire. It’s about throwing knives at aliens.