editor: antara bird
editor: han lynch
editor: clara fletcher
letter from the editors
Did you trip and fall leaving Penrose again? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. Here’s some tips and tricks to minimize the damage after you’ve already hit the ground.
Let yourself cry! We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it, and we promise it’ll make you feel better.
Cover that rip in your jeans with a DIY patch or some embroidery. It’ll show everyone how artsy you really are.
Or, if you don’t want anyone to know you fell, use hydrogen peroxide to get the blood out ASAP.
Milk the pain, get all the attention you possibly can from it (they sell crutches at Walgreens).
Sue the hell out of Whitman and make them pay your tuition. You deserve it.
Whatever you do, don’t pick at your scabs!!
Hope and pray that it’s a cool scar and a better story.
Find solace in these pages; we’re all a little clumsy sometimes.
Flashback to that one time you tripped on a stray soccer ball at your peewee soccer game and embarrassed yourself. Don’t forget that someone came and kissed away the pain!
Think about who helped you up and dried your tears. Write or create some art about them and submit to our next issue “quarterlife is: in your corner”.
Stay safe out there,
–Megan and Alissa
It’s October and it’s time to scrape my knees. It’s time to fall off my porch and rip a hole in my best jeans and sit until the cotton hardens and the blood dries to a rich brown. I don’t know what else to do. I crocheted some hearts and dropped a class and read a book of essays for fun and moved into a new house. I’ve decided what’s in (dark red knee-high boots, chutzpah, apple cake) and out (the word “problematic”) but I’m still looking at the world through a layer of gauze. I have to scrape my knees.
When I do, I’ll slow down. I’ll wince when I stand up and again when I rinse off the flakes of blood; it’ll take a little longer than normal to get into bed.
I don’t mean that I want it to hurt. I mean to say that it feels like I’m falling behind if I stop for a moment and that I can’t stop consuming everything around me; I mean that I need something to slam into me and hold me still as my skin itches as it grows back a little shinier and pinker than it was before.
on living in a body-shaped ugg
late last august, i was sitting on mt. rainier’s third burroughs with the emmons glacier sprawled, shimmering, beneath me. it was sweating in knife-edge streams, water beading on its surface like perspiration, wheezing like a chain-smoking grandma with wind in her yet. as the sunlight flittered across the surface as if it was carried on the backs of schooling sardines, i could see a million tiny faces winking in turn — baby-faced, round-eyed, droopy-jawed, eyebrow-furrowed, laugh-lined, and eye-crinkled. it was beautiful and irresistible.
“i really don’t see what i did wrong”—
is what i said, after i had tiptoed to the edge of the burroughs (after i had begun a glacier-bound downward scramble, after i had mistepped and put my weight on a rock that was loose like a wiggly tooth, after my body had tumbled to the foot of the emmons glacier).
as i fell, my heart must have gotten ahead of me — fallen out along the way. i like to say “i gave my heart to the mountain.” either way, my heart took a beating just like my body, but mt. rainier wrapped me up real fine anyways. she wrapped me up like ralphie’s little brother in “a christmas story,” so protectively tight that i couldn’t feel the ache of my bones or the sting of the scrapes on my back, my elbows, my knees. it’s like she’d decided those last impressions of seracs and crevasses, on top of the undulating hollows (the gentle crests of the hills that cradle my house, the water-filled three-section basin of the puget sound), the lace-edged gaps (the way the ground froths green with lichen, moss, banana slugs in the wetness of winter rain), the shallow snarls (the smooth black-rocked breakwaters that the burlington-northern-santa fe railroad runs across, the ridgeline of the olympic mountains when viewed looking west across the water).
i say she wrapped me, but her knots were none too tight. it’s me holding on – clinging tight, like an old-fashioned belle gathering her skirts about her. and what woman could weather the shame of being seen in public without a petticoat, bloomers, stays? not me — not yet. so, wrapped in my skirts, my 4mm neoprene wetsuit, i have been unable to feel since i drove over snoqualmie pass and decided to grit my teeth, zip in, and lace my stays tight.
someone asked: “what does it feel like?”—
to which i say: my body has imposed a uniform texture: the prickle of grass, the roughness of bark, the ache of gravel underfoot, all feel as forgiving as gauze. everything feels like the softness of a pottery barn quilt or the faux-fur throws my mom got everyone for christmas one year — it’s like i’m cocooned in a body-shaped ugg.
someone asked: “how do you deal with it?”–
well— in the dead of night, i slip into the anderson f-sec bathroom. i leave the lights off, so the room is enveloped in a uniform darkness. i turn on one shower, as hot as it can go. then, i turn on a second shower, this time ice cold. i turn on the third shower, lukewarm. i strip, then run naked between the three showers, relishing in the indulgence, the absurdity, the excess. i stand beneath the hottest shower until my skin wrinkles, hissing, shrinking in the heat, the steam rising from my skin, hot air filling my lungs like smoke; then i slip into the second shower, and gasp, my chest heaving involuntarily with the sharp intake of breath. i grit my teeth against the cold, my lips and toes turn blue, and i begin to shudder violently. finally, i step into the lukewarm water and feel nothing except phantom sensations of heat and cold. it’s reminds me the hot-cold hot-cold rhythm of swimming in the puget sound in the summertime.
or— (also) in the dead of night, i wade into the duck pond, fully clothed so the folds of my jeans, my t-shirt, my button-up, bob sodden about me, like i imagine milfoil caresses the bodies of the lake-bottom mermaids. i stuff my pockets full of oyster crackers, saltines, and sandwich crusts, and once i’m kneeling in the center of the pond, i scatter them around me (slowly, so it lasts). it’s worth it, if only to be surrounded by the warmth of avian bodies, to be unable to hear anything except for the ruffle of feathers, the ripple of water, and the quacking of ducks. it is indulgent and selfish, but at least i’m amidst a natural geography that begins to feel familiar— wherever you go, there will always be ducks.
but— i worry that i’m only brave enough to feel the hot and cold of too many showers, to be surrounded by flocking ducks, because they fit into the shapes my heart already bears.
sometimes, i take a deep breath, and i dare to peek under my wetsuit, my christmas story snowsuit, my tightly laced stays, and i see exactly what i am afraid to see — unmarked skin. the scrapes and scars of mt. rainier, of the puget sound, of seattle, of home, are fading. still, i gather my skirts about me, but that doesn’t change my need to be acquainted with, to feel at home with, to scrape my knees on.
daydreaming of an abundance of sharp edges
Salt in the Wound
On my face
Slides and sings
Into a salty sea
Tears are tasty
Fulfills my tongue
My smacking lips
As it drops to the corner of my mouth
And I lick it from the side
But my lips are chapped
Their wounds are old
Works its way into every crevice
Making sure the hornets die
I want these tears
I need them to clean
And my eyes
All cry with desire
For a way to cast my troubles away
I need to
send them on a raft
And let them drown along with me
Just long enough
just long enough
to remind myself
That I know how to swim
so I can watch them sink
Here and now, I return to this journal that has far overstayed its welcome. It smiles at me like always as I fall into its paper blankets and walk through my life in deliberately placed, yet endlessly flowing steps, like brand-new burbling spring water splashing down a rocky hill, hitting its God-ordained mark every step of the way.
I water-fall onto the stones and skin my knees on the way down, scraping myself open to pull something out, leave it behind, and let it wash away in the new stream. My knees bleed, but it feels good to have that physical sense that I’ve done something; that I’ve put my heart and body through a human experience, the experience of running and feeling free and falling– failing– but still feeling alive enough to know that the running was worth it; that I’ve felt my corporeal presence more deeply, laid my skin bare on the world.
I collapse headlong into this new, changed life, tears streaming down my rocky cheeks, love pouring out of me and replacing itself with that deep purple: a hollowness, a plum with no flesh or pit, a deepness into which I could fall and never climb out from – the walls are slick with spring water – despite the fact that I find myself at home in caves. It’s not a bad deepness, I promise. After all, the spring water flows into the cave, but it always flows out again.
Once there was a girl who tripped and fell and planted her knees in the asphalt. She was stubborn and steadfast, and the skin on her knees would not yield to the street, and as she skidded across the pavement her knees dug up a great swath of ground, long and deep enough that you could look into it and see all the layers of the world peeled away, that you could jump into it and fall right to the center of the Earth. It bled smoke and fire, and a great mound of magma rose up and spread out over the wound and cooled into a great towering mountain. And from that day forward the girl learned to surrender to the earth when she fell, lest she awaken that fire once more, and the next time she tripped, she left skin and blood on the ground and walked off to tend to her poor knees. The moral of this story is to take the pain you are given and to disinfect your wounds.
Once there was a boy who tripped and fell and planted his knees in the asphalt. He scraped and tumbled and rolled across the street until he came to a stop, and when he got up and dusted himself off he saw he had left what seemed like a mile of skin and blood smeared across the street. Then the boy went home to get some bandages. That night, all that skin and blood in the street peeled itself off the road and coalesced into a thin, hollow thing with the shape and skin of a boy but nothing to fill it inside. The wind battered and buffeted it back and forth and it crumpled and stumbled as it tried to stand upright, but even so, it managed to get up and walk away into the night, and where it has gone I cannot say. The moral of this story is to leave no trace.
Once there was a street and many young children ran across it and walked on it and tripped and fell and left part of themselves there. The street took from them flakes of skin and drops of blood and gave little in return, being covetous of every black chunk of asphalt. But even so, in time, the passage of cars and feet and the wear and tear of footsteps and raindrops and the shifting of the earth stripped away the street, piece by piece, and tree roots grew down into it and left it cracked and broken. It was repaired many times for many years, until there was no longer any will to maintain it, or no one left to do so, and the street faded away until it was no more. And the street thought it unfair that they should take only a bit of skin from the children’s knees, a small thing, easily parted with, but that they should be so cruelly chipped away until they were nothing, trod upon by no one, traveled by no one, tripped on by no one. I do not know what the moral to this story is, other than that perhaps some things fade faster than others.
Normal people's knees
have these grooves,
so with their bending needs,
their knee cap never moves.
I am not so lucky;
my grooves are simply flat.
Patellar instability is sucky,
and that's my thoughts on that.
The kitchen floor is slick with shadow
In the midst of it, a woman stands with sunken eyes and sallow skin
A family plays cards with open hands
The oldest child ends the game with the whole deck
A twin bed stands in the corner of the room
Its owner off to school as the leaves turn to fire
Then ash and dust
It sags in the middle from years of catching
In the mattress and
Tears on the pillow
Cry quietly, so that the pieces of your soul soil the pillow
Bring it on the train to your future
A place to wash it
And remember the time your father
Spilled wine on the white tablecloth
Misconceptions About Growing Up
I thought people who paid taxes couldn’t skin their knees. I guess I was wrong because here I am limping home, worn to the bone, walking alone, like usual. The bandaid they gave me when I fell is loose on my skin, threatening to come off at any second. Maybe the IRS didn’t get the memo? I didn’t remember how calm you feel when you’re bleeding. People around you are freaking out, your blood’s leaking out, and you’re just standing there, waiting for the panic to die down. Maybe that’s it. Taxpayers can still skin their knees, but they know how to handle it. They’re like, “I pay my taxes! A bit of blood is nothing.” It’s so warm on my skin. The blood. I hope it doesn’t stain my jeans. I hope I don’t get audited.
Healed Skin, Summers Wake
Fall comes in quiet
On the few paper-thin zephyrs that reach me here.
I wake one morning to find summer’s grave,
Gone cold, silent for days.
Those summer scrapes,
Full of dirt from the front stoop
That is no longer mine,
Torn open by tall rocky bluffs I no longer climb,
Kissed by a warmth
That left me when summer did,
Fade to scabs;
Pink flesh overpours to fill them,
Molten rock flooding the ocean floors,
Sending them slamming into the western seafront.
I had wanted to keep them
With the dirt from my mother’s garden under my fingernails
And the woodsmoke that hung in my hair;
Now they all lie in summer’s woven casket
With my neglected wooden swords
And the wildness that once lived in my breath.
I am left with nothing but new skin on my knees
And empty hands,
Grass stains on my white skirts.
I rue the day the present shunned the past,
The smooth young skin overtook the clotting scabs.
I pray for floods now,
For windstorms or fire,
Some remnant of the wildness
I once held in my lungs.
fifteen is tenuous and easy to sway (all it took
was shy eyes and words of praise). the fall
shouldn’t have been a surprise, but a december
behind closed doors spread into a january carrying
the newest open secret, heads leaning over
unfamiliar cafeteria tables, the unfolding restricted
to weekends and midnights. to no one’s surprise
but my own, the cards collapsed over three days
in february, two time zones and fourteen hundred miles
the consequence. just as callouses faded, they grew
thick again the first week of august (because
another promise was broken, but this time there
would be no imagined future to soothe). sixteen was
harder to sway, but no less lonely.
I skinned my shin a few weeks ago. My apartment has a frontyard for dogs to dig up nothing, and the grass is partitioned from the sidewalk by a mountable ledge, unless I’m in jeans. Sometimes, a pedestrian will be nearby, and I’ll walk the path around the ledge. Twice, the ledge’s edge has skinned my shin, and once, my pantleg protected me. The other time, my neighbor’s dog lapped up my blood.
When I was small, my mother would take care of my cuts with disinfectant, tissue, a bandaid. Injuries were shameful as a child, as signs of carelessness, as something to be reprimanded for. My mother noticed the slightest alterations to my appearance, like a hawk studying imperfections in the water. Like a pet plant, my health directly reflected on her quality as caregiver.
When I was twelve, as I was covering first base, my face ran into another kid’s head, and I broke my nose. My mother wholeheartedly despised the kid, the kid’s parents, their entire family tree. I enjoyed the attention. And for some reason, my brother broke his nose twice, playing the same sport.
Injuries are good practice for death, with messages scribbled on your cast instead of your casket. My nose used to bleed a lot — like, I could use up a tissue box in a sitting — but that never felt fatal. Over the years, I’d heard a lot of stratagems to stop the bleeding, but I can only recall the one in which you should tilt your head down and pinch the top of your nose. Let it bleed out.
In high school, as a senioritis symptom, my friends and I cycled a lot. The most exciting part was finding bikes for those of us that didn’t have one. Scavenging ranged from borrowing bikes from the school’s lot, borrowing bikes with permission from underclassmen, or finding neighborhood bikes blissfully unlocked. I borrowed a friend’s bike, which looked like a unicycle even though it had two wheels, with a handlebar that swayed to the slightest breeze. I paid no heed to its fragilities, pedaling impatiently up a ramp until its tires gave in, and my wrist caught our bodies. We cycled til night, I went to the hospital the next day and wore a cast for a few weeks.
Parable of Growth
You skinned your knees
You spilled your milk
Your mother is yelling
The blood's on the floor
“It’s staining the wood”
The milk is wasted
“Don't be so careless”
You're all grown now
Put on a bandaid
Soak up the milk
The blood will wash out
“I can handle this”
The glass didn’t shatter
“It will be okay”
a moment borrowed
the gravel lodged in my bones from
a lifetime of ineptitude has led
to a strange ache
beneath my skin.
i’m sorry i can’t go out tonight,
my knees have come undone
and are laying at my feet
in a puddle
of saltwater, and i’m
not quite sure
where i want to go from here.
sticky and raw against the sheets of
your twin-sized bed; my wounds weep, but
i’m contemplating whether or not
i need more milk and if my
rabbit’s foot fern is going to survive
through the semester.
no time for juvenile injury!
i dove off a rock into
a clear blue pond, yet still
i cut myself on a hidden ledge.
i swear to god i checked
before i jumped–the water
was pristine and undisturbed–
but i seem to find a place to batter
myself no matter how
child-proofed the room is.
perhaps i’ll just start
keeping a bandaid in my back