The following piece is an “experimental nesting story” written by F. Sebastian Baker. Like its Russian doll namesake, “Matryoshka” contains several similar layers, each a little more revealing than the last. Read it below.
F. Sebastian Baker
“Fool’s Luck?” The cashier arched a skeptical eyebrow.
“It’s my wife’s favorite.” Sharon Hayashi placed her money on the counter. “Today’s our anniversary.” After waiting for the man to ring it up, she tucked the bottle carefully in her purse and walked out of the store, smiling up at the sky. It was a beautiful day. Sharon whistled along with the singing birds as she strolled home at a pace with no hurry in the world, savoring the early September foliage. The jade-green leaves were just beginning to show signs of gold, and though the sun shone brightly there was a cool, refreshing breeze in the air.
She decided ‘breeze’ was too gentle a term, when it snatched the wide-brimmed black fedora right off her head. “Hey!” Forgetting the trees and the birds, she ran after her hat as it danced through the air, teasing her with every dip and swerve, always just barely out of reach. Continue reading
This poem was written by Heather Babin, a Clark freshman. Through the use of wordplay and internal rhyme, she explores the relationship between anger and sadness, and the struggle to find peace. Read it below.
can i be mad
can i be mad.
can i be venge
ful. full of sad
bursting out and
in fistfuls that
fitful minds keep
at peace splat
on the ground.
can i find peace
when war is not
real for release. Continue reading
Emily Tornquist is a senior at Clark University majoring in English. During her study abroad in England at the University of East Anglia, she began her honors thesis. She is exploring “non-patriarchal modes of readerly orientation,” specifically a form called “creative criticism.” In this excerpt, she imagines the pond in her backyard growing up as the “messiness of literary engagement” and “tries to position herself in relation to all that.” Read the introduction below.
I turn to Rita Felski, for her work The Limits of Critique sounds promising in offering another position to inhabit in relation to text. Felski immediately faces the task of critiquing criticism, something that runs the risk of Ngai’s naming of stuplimity as a way to subvert transcendence. She calls for a ‘redescribing,’ rather than an inherently suspicious reading of a text.[i] At the edge of the mud, I can breathe, knowing that I am not trying to find fault. I’m not trying to search for something hidden. Felski suggests that ‘rather than looking behind the text […] we might place ourselves in front of the text, reflecting on what it unfurls, calls forth, makes possible.’[ii] I am sitting at the edge of the mud and staring into its dimples and bubbles. To place myself in front, am I turning away? To be in front is to imply that there is something behind. ‘In front of’ seems hierarchal. I turn my back to the pond. How can I be open to receiving anything from the text if it is behind me? Continue reading
The following poem was written by Clark Writes editor Bruno Lieto. Inspired by the oppressive effects of seasonal depression and the healing power of sunlight, “Moonsilver” uses enjambment to allow ideas to flow through multiple lines, and personification of natural elements to convey their emotional associations. Read it below.
Gentle sunlight doesn’t hide tear-streaked
Cheeks as brilliant reds spill over the sky.
Illumination calls to attention every
Thought that chased sleep away
Throughout the night;
Every last hesitation, every lost lover ever
Held within, every stroke of soft fingers
Against softer skin; all tainted blue by
Overbearing moonlight that binds
Them in ghostly shadows. Continue reading
The following excerpt is from “These Five Walls,” a novella being written by Sam Marlinga for Clark’s Creative Writing Capstone. In these first few pages, we are introduced to the novella’s discontented and drug-dependent protagonist, whose rambling stream-of-consciousness narration stands in sharp contrast to the terse dialogue between him and his “best-friend-slash-drug-dealer.” Read the beginning of “These Five Walls” below.
Content warning: suicide, substance abuse
These Five Walls
“In the fight between you and the world, back the world.” – Franz Kafka
I wake to the sound of ticking while splayed haphazardly on my dingy couch in my cramped apartment wearing yesterday’s clothes with curtains drawn and sunlight peeks through just enough to burn my eyes and irritate my hangover as I tock my head up to search for my phone among the viscera of clothing, food, and other miscellaneous items on the coffee table and floor of the so-called “living room.” The ticking stops as I remember that I don’t actually own a clock that isn’t digital and I pause to realize that it must be late afternoon already since my window faces due west even though I’m much too far from the horizon and I forget about looking for my phone for a second. I move an old sweatshirt and find it staring blankly up at me with no message even though she said she’d have called or at least had the decency to text by now and I shiver as I glance over to the empty pill bottles strewn next to the mostly-empty vodka and gin bottles and an empty pack of cigarettes that I don’t quite remember smoking since I quit, or tried to apparently, over a year ago. Continue reading
This short story was written by Heather Babin, a freshman here at Clark. In this piece, she explores complex themes of familial love, what it means to be human, and the inevitability of time – all through the relationship between Fate and his adopted daughter.
Conner and Fate
There are millions of people running, but he stands still. A stumble toe over twig—a splash of mud-water from a passing car—a voice in their head, saying “It is time to come home.” He has time for them all. He is there when they look up from their fall, when they stare down into the puddle that has just drenched them, when they lean over the edge of a building and contemplate. He twists their thoughts so transfixingly they barely notice when there is nothing below them. He is a master, plucking strings and twitching the handle-cross just so to make them all dance. They don’t dance together, but he controls them all. They don’t run together, but they run the same.
He is playful, almost. There is a sweet urgency moving his being toward every incident that inevitably ends in his arrival. There is a craftiness in how he takes his time with them. Some of them he lets evade him for years. They never skip his mind, and he is always on theirs. There are those who run faster, of course. Have power and control of their own objects, flimsy though they may be. The equalizer sees to that. He toys with them, of course, but some have no conscious for him to tug, or guilt for him to trip. It never grew in. There is an empty space in their minds that he cannot fill, try though he does. He shakes them off. They are not his concern. They have lied themselves into being, and they will lie their way out, and they will lie in their polished coffins, and he will collect their bones to sew to his robe. Continue reading
This short story full of distinct characters was submitted by Owen Connell, a senior English major at Clark. When the brusque and jaded Marcus finds out that his favorite bar has a new singer, he cannot hide his displeasure. When Isobel takes the stage, Marcus’s mindset is altered in more ways than one. Continue below to dive in!
This piece employs some racial slurs to accurately portray the attitude of the main character during the period in which the narrative is set.
The world kept shifting in and out of focus, like torn film running on a damaged projector. The air smelled of piss and whiskey, while the thick cigar smoke hazed the lights in the room.
Marcus steadily picked his face off from the scratched table, the sticky booze covering its surface peeling off his stubble like Velcro. He lifted his glass to his chapped lips only to find that it was long since empty.
He lazily raised two fingers.
“Jackshon,” he loudly slurred out. “Gimmee-uh-gimmee ‘nother rounda whishkee on the rocksh.” Continue reading
Jess Hoops, a senior English and Philosophy double major, has been the Editor-in-Chief of Clark Writes since the end of her freshman year. She is also President of Clark’s English Honor Society, a writing consultant at Clark’s Writing Center, and an editorial consultant for a literary agency in New York City. Although Jess spends most of her time working with other people’s writing, she enjoys crafting the occasional poem and has placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in Clark’s annual Prentiss Cheney Hoyt Poetry Contest.
Her poem “Immortality” was inspired by the writing style and “tone of playful irreverence” frequently showcased in the work of Emily Dickinson. Jess describes the poem as “forcing a ton of legendary quests for immortality and conceptions of the afterlife into the same space so I could poke fun at them on equal terms, while still demonstrating my intense interest in them.” Read “Immortality” below.
How simple – how impossible
To turn the sands of Time –
The hourglass – Infinity
If placed upon its side
To blunt the blades of Atropos
All mortal fools desire
Late Summer feeds these fever dreams
‘Til Winter – bids retire
A few relapse those final hours
The ‘glass remains upright –
They are but moths bewitched by Flame
Their light dimmed – seeking Light
Others are blind – their whole lives through
And pay the ‘glass no mind –
Assured it is a bauble they
Will someday leave behind Continue reading
Thank you to all who submitted to our Fall 2017 contest, and congratulations to our winners:
First Place: “Gold” by Mal Sklar
Mal is a senior majoring in Studio Art and English and therefore enjoys reading, writing, and painting in oils. They primarily write sci-fi and fantasy, particularly in short story form, and they are currently working on a series of queer poems.
Second Place: “In the Red Kitchen” by Matt Wall
Matt enjoys reading the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman, and writing short sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fiction. He was elbows deep in ink for NaNoWriMo 2017.
Third Place: “Wings” by Davina Tomlin
Davina is a very tall, ballroom-dancing, tea loving sophomore from Oakland, California. She likes writing about women who dance on the edge of normal.
Find the winning submissions below.
“Many years ago I was quite young, only two or four hundred by my count. In that time it was the fashion for young dragons to take a princess, the same way it was a fashion for your ladies to wear white to be wed.”
The knight was silent. His armor glittered blue-black as a beetle’s shell.
The dragon unfurled its wings, dislodging a heavy, slithering slide of gold. The chamber was the size of a cathedral, and yet the thing’s wings brushed the singed tapestries before they were so much as half-spread. It shook its shoulders, rattling webby leather, before settling down. It draped its tail across its front claws, gold reflecting dully against the scales of its belly.
It put its huge face rather close to the knight and he resisted the urge to take several steps back. He focused on its nearer eye, as focusing on both proved to be beyond him. It was great liquid thing, amber-colored, a rich gold lit warmly from within. Its breath stank of flowery incense and, smartingly, of sulfur. Continue reading