Poetry Feature: Cool by Pino Pograjc

my body needed to cool,
i begged snow to cover
the scorching concrete

he stood before me and i sizzled,
his breath froze
the oleander blossoms,
introduced the sun to the grey
of thunderclouds

our tongues were not compatible,
he spoke of feasts,
of bodies on display,
of preparation for consumption

i spoke of rest

as he was fucking the daylights
out of me
i thought
there must be
a better way

Pino Pograjc, born in 1997, is a Slovene poet. He is currently in his last year of dual-subject MA studies of English and comparative literature at the University of Ljubljana. In 2022, the newly-formed, alternative publishing house Črna skrinjica (“Black Box”) published his literary debut, Trgetanje (a portmanteau of “trganje” and “drgetanje”—“ripping” and “shivering” in Slovene), which received the award for best literary debut at the 38th Slovene Book Fair. Pograjc is also part of the selection jury for the Ljubljana LGBT Film Festival, the oldest film festival of its sort in Europe.

Fiction Feature: Touch by Stephen Wunderli

I knew the moment he leapt from the train. Here he was, mid-stride, airborne and about to fall. Of course, he’d been falling for years. He could feel the shame unraveling behind him like the cords of a parachute with no chute, just fibers leaving his body, finally. He wasn’t unattractive, not his fault. And his clothes were not what you would expect a young man jumping from a train to wear. They were clean, no miles of desperation ground into his elbows, his knees, the side of his body he slept on. No. Let’s see if we can read the cords as they unspool and float above him: a woman, standing against him. He touched her on the wrist. She smiled at him, her hazel eyes, his blue, really blue at the moment. Anyway, she understood his shy heart without asking. That’s what he loved. That and her skin. He loved how it responded to his fingertips, rising, electrified, aching as if it was the first time she’d ever been touched. The whole of his body craved touch, fingertips on the inside of his forearm, his own fingers thrumming her rib cage to life. Her hip against his. Touch. Not the way the grown man had touched him when he was a child, groping him hungrily, even drooling, making the then boy hard and ashamed. The boy recoiled, never touched anyone again, until her. Her hair was unashamed; it draped her face, a shade to be drawn back. He traced the vein on her neck leaving a wake of goosebumps. He longed to kiss her ear, to let his tears roll down her cheeks and pool at the base of her neck. She pressed her body against his. It was summer, and the heat made their bodies warm. He felt her shape, so different than the grown man’s that held him down, nearly drowning him in dark stench. She smiled at him, at his reaction to her body. He looked down, ashamed, trembling. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s okay.” The tears came and dropped useless to the ground. Even her feet were perfect, delicate, at ease in the grass. Her fingertips touched the tears from his chin. He quivered. She pulled politely away and they sat in the shade watching shadows and feeling the wind that mocks lovers’ touch, brushes hair away then leaves amid anticipation. He wouldn’t talk. She was patient; she collected her hair and tucked it into the back of her shirt so that he would know he didn’t have to talk, although she must have wanted him to. She must’ve wanted him to touch her again; she took long breaths at the thought of it, his fingers on the side of her face, tracing her shoulder, pausing, not sure which path to take. “I should say something,” he whispered. She leaned into him, just slightly, making it safe. But a stench rolled in from the underbrush, and he pulled away. He didn’t sleep for three nights straight, afraid of himself. He is just one of many stories I could tell you. No one at school saw him leave. No one saw him abandon his hand-me-down car next to the rail-yard. His rapid heartbeat driving the train forward. I saw him standing, the steel doors thrown open, hating even the wind touching him. But hers was different, wasn’t it? I can see it in his eyes as he falls toward me. The stones just below my surface. I am shallow. He scatters me into a million diamonds hurtling upward, each imprisoning the sun. It’s beautiful, the end of penance.  

Stephen Wunderli is a writer living in Salt Lake City. He is a past director of Writers at Work, a writing conference in Park City, Utah. He has published several children’s books, mainly with Henry Holt & Co. He most recently published a short story with The Kalahari Review.

Poetry Feature: The sun shines brighter when I am hungry by Celeste Vandegriff

The sun shines brighter//when I am hungry//and the air tastes pure//like I am taking my first breath//I am so aware//that I am a living//breathing//human//thing//with potential burning white-hot through my flesh//early hunger is a delirious//roaring//high//like the raw electric joy that rises//when my breakfast starts//and ends//with a few swallows of warm coffee//it does hurt//the hunger//but the crawling stomach pain//transforms into//productive pain//workout pain//A-plus pain//first-kiss-nausea pain//proud pain//like my mother telling me my diet is working//like the roller-coaster-adrenaline of scale numbers dropping//dread drowns elation//as the blue-white morning fades//into golden afternoon//here//I must face a deep shame//I dedicated myself to hunger at eleven//I am now twenty-one years old//I have made it past lunch exactly once//it was a sugar-high happiness//yet//today//like every day//of the past ten years//I eat//if hunger is flight//food is burial//food sticks to my throat//chokes me//like hospital-grade nutrient sludge//drying up the caffeine//the purpose//the high//food settles into my stomach//like silt at the bottom of a polluted pond//I have bested much of myself//I have muted my mind//censored my tongue//forced my feet//along paths I did not want to take//yet my stomach//always wins.

Celeste Vandegriff is a pre-med biology student in her senior year at Towson. She has shown her dedication to Towson and its surrounding community through years of work as a Writing Center tutor, EMT, and domestic violence hotline volunteer. Vandegriff is in the Honors College and chose to minor in English to find people to talk about books with. She is president of the knitting club, vice president of Original Blend A Cappella, and writes in her free time to relieve stress.

A Conversation with Morgan LaRocca

By Carolin Harvey

Milkweed Editions is an independent literary press based in Minneapolis. The press is a nonprofit organization that emphasizes unique stories of individuals and communities from around the world.

Morgan LaRocca (they/she/them) is the publicist at Milkweed and a 2018 graduate of Towson University’s English program. I had the opportunity to chat with Morgan about their experiences as a publicist and their time at Towson. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

CH: So how did you get started with Milkweed in 2022?

ML: Let’s see. At the time, I was doing freelance publicity. I was friends with professional buddies, for lack of a better word, through the Minneapolis community. The publicist had approached me about applying to be a publicist there and kind of work below her. I was pretty content with freelancing at that time, so I didn’t apply. But then she left, and I went in, and the conversation quickly went from freelancing to an interview for the position. And then I got offered the job, and it seemed like a really good fit. So I decided to take their offer, and I’ve been there since July of 2022. 

CH: Congrats on that! What’s it like working remotely?

ML: So, I wanted to come back to Baltimore for quite a few reasons. Let’s see. I coincidentally started dating someone who lives here, and we didn’t really want to do long distance. A big part of it, too, is that Jeannie Vanasco is a huge mentor of mine and creative collaborator. I also wanted to be closer to her, to be able to do things at Towson, and help people from my own community in Baltimore. I decided to negotiate to work remotely, and they went for it, which is great. I think it’s really strategic for a publicist to be on the East Coast because I can take media appointments. I can go to New York pretty easily for them. The way that my remote work works is that I go back to Minneapolis three times a year. So I’ll be there once in the fall, once in the summer, and once in the spring. I don’t go in the winter.

CH: Yeah, I don’t blame you.

ML: I really can’t function in the winter there.

CH: Very fair.

ML: It’s very nice to have a lot of focused work and then to have these really meaningful months at a time where I’m engaging with my team. It just has worked really well for the particular situation that I’m in.

CH: That’s great. What’s a typical day like for you?

ML: I think that’s kind of the best thing about being a publicist is that it really varies, and I’m someone who needs that in my life. But often I’ll be working on media sends, doing research, or putting lists together for books. I will create and design press releases, write letters and pitches. I do database entry collecting all the reviews about our books. I run our Twitter, which is really fun. I do a lot of event outreach, asking venues if they have availability on their calendar and coordinating all the logistics around events for authors. A lot of it is just being the communication hub for everyone. Answering any questions that authors have is a huge piece of my job. And then I do all of the awards. Next month, the National Book Award is due, so that’s going to be a big month. Yeah, I think that’s kind of a day in the life of a publicist pretty generally.

CH: And do you typically work seven days a week, or is it more the typical Monday through Friday?

ML: In full transparency, that varies. I am the sole publicist for 28 books, which is a lot. So depending on where we are in the season, sometimes I work seven days a week, sometimes I work five days a week. There’s a lot of encouragement to log off when it’s time to log off. I think that the tricky thing is, for example, if The New York Times emailed me and the editor there is on a deadline, or the freelance journalist there is on a deadline, and that’s on a Sunday night, I don’t really have a choice. So that’s just something that I’m always navigating: how to set realistic boundaries and also get the work done. I think that’s not a unique issue, especially for publicists and especially for anyone that’s working in a nonprofit. I like to be transparent about that because I think it’s something that people have to take into consideration when they’re trying to figure out what they want to do as a job.

CH: Thank you for being so candid about all that. What’s the most important aspect of being a publicist to you? 

ML: I think the most important aspect of it to me is ensuring that the book is honored and really understood when it’s received into the world. You’re helping someone’s dreams come true, for lack of a better word. It just feels good when a review comes in, and the reviewer really gets it. Or there’s an event that creates this deeper connection with the reader or the person who’s joining the author in conversation. And the book then kind of takes on a different life off of the page and really gets to be in the world in a new form. Just to know that some of my thought-work has had a small part in the way the book is moving feels really satisfying to me. 

CH: That’s awesome. Now transitioning into your time at Towson—while at TU,  how did your career goals and interests change over time?

ML: I was a speech pathology major. At first, I was really interested in languages, but I think I was someone who wanted to have a clear sense of a direct connection to my degree and to a job. And then I switched over to English because I just realized that I really loved to write, and I wanted to use my college experience as a place to be a thinker and to be in a community. I didn’t ever really think I was going to be able to do publishing. I think I secretly, in my heart of hearts, always wanted it, but I didn’t think it was something that someone like me could do. I think there’s always this sheen around publishing that it’s kind of for the elite in some way, or, like, you have to know someone to get into it. So, I had really shut that door for myself, and I ended up taking an internship at a financial publishing house. But through that work, I was like, wow, okay, I have a broader sense of how publishing works. Not like literary publishing, but how the sausage is made a little bit. I took a class with Jeannie, or Professor Vanasco, and at that point, I was a huge follower and fan of Tin House. So, I read a lot of Tin House on my bad days at Barnes and Noble. I followed them on Instagram and all of a sudden, Jeannie’s face just kept popping up on their Instagram.

CH: Oh?

ML: It was really funny. It was actually like this very zoomed in picture of her, and it was just like a panel on their Instagram. And I was like, “Why is my professor’s face plastered all over Tin House’s Instagram?” Bizarre. And then, as you probably know, Jeannie was publishing a book with them at that time. I think this was for The Glass Eye, so this is like a throwback. I went up to her after class, and she explained that she was a forthcoming author. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, I love Tin House—it would be so dreamy, something inconceivable, if I was able to work there—I would be obsessed with that.” And she said, “Oh, well, you should apply to the internship.” And so I did. And then I got it, and I moved to Portland.

CH: Wow.

ML: Yeah, it was a big jump. I graduated a year early from college, so I kind of treated that year as my fourth year of university and was like, this is a learning experience, and I’m going to go all in. Basically pay tuition to myself and invest in myself in that way. 

CH: Oh, that’s super cool. What advice would you give to students looking to pursue some kind of career in publishing?

ML: I think my biggest piece of advice is that you deserve to be there. Even if you’re just starting out in any career or field, knowing that it’s not something that was given to you, it’s something that you’ve earned. And because of that, you can advocate for what you need, even in an entry-level position. Oftentimes, publishing is the type of industry that I felt very early in my career that I just have to do everything that I’m assigned to do very quickly. I can’t say no to anything. I’m just so lucky to be here, and I can’t really set boundaries for myself. And I think that there are great ways to be able to kind of advocate for yourself when you get into the job, so that you can keep it sustainable for yourself to learn and grow.

CH: For sure, yeah, that’s great. 

ML: So that’s always my pep talk to myself.  I’m advocating for what I’m capable of offering, instead of just feeling like because I landed the job, I have to do anything that’s thrown my way very intensely. We all have capacities, and I think that that helps an organization, too, if you’re able to communicate when you’re at capacity. I would also say it never hurts to ask. People are always excited to do informational interviews or just connect and hear about what’s motivating you. And most of the time, if someone doesn’t respond, it’s not because they don’t want to, but maybe because they’re too busy, and you can always nudge them. I think especially in publishing, it never hurts to ask and come out of a space of curiosity, especially when you’re first getting your bearings.

Poetry Feature: TODAY JUST FOR YOU by Jane Costain


                             (a found poem courtesy of email spam)


You might find this interesting.

                                      There are bridges only the bravest

        would cross in star-spangled style.

                                                    In the decades since monumental 

          explosions, this is big. Worth the wait. 

                                                               There is still time. But now you better hurry. 

Attractive Russian Women Looking for Love!

                                 You might want to take a closer look.

                                                   We have some recommendations for you.

                       Meet your match today.

                                    (Three-ways are even better.)     

                                                                             Make the most of your summer.

                                                                       Stream in the sun.


Jane Costain is the author of the chapbook Small Windows (Main Street Rag, 2018) and has privately published A Dozen Centos. Her work has appeared in various literary journals, including Plainsongs, The MacGuffin, Pinyon Review, and Iris Literary Journal. She has a master’s degree in the creative arts in learning from Lesley College and has taught in public schools for over thirty years. She lives with her husband, Gary Moore, in Denver.


The Many Forms of Grub Street

By Cora McDaniel


In early March, I met with Felicity Knox, the assistant university archivist at TU’s Special Collections and University Archives (lovingly referred to as SCUA) to talk with her about the history of Grub Street

For those who aren’t aware, archives (including ours at TU) play a vital role in the academic community. They meticulously collect materials of historical value in order to preserve and protect that which would otherwise be lost to the everyday chaos of life. These materials can range from yearbooks to student newspapers… to old editions of Grub Street. If you go to the SCUA website, you can see, laid out before you, digitized copies of every Towson literary magazine published from 1952-2022. These would eventually culminate in the Grub Street we know and love today. 

As part of my conversation with Ms. Knox, she offered me the opportunity to hold in my hands some early editions of our student literary magazine, each of which had different names. I saw copies of The Publication, Towers, and The Talisman—each of which contained vastly different artwork and literature. Much like Grub Street has today, there was always a poetry and prose section, however the art wouldn’t appear in the magazine until the 1952-53 edition of The Publication

Strangely enough, the most interesting sections to read through were the editor’s notes and the front and back matter of the magazine; this was where the voices the magazine’s staff came through most, and the drama (when there was any) was published in well-hidden niceties and dreadfully formal language. The magazine’s first name change, for instance, occurred because of a conflict between Towson’s student newspaper (The Towerlight, an organization which still exists today) and The Publication

In 1956, The Towerlight (known then as The Tower Light) published an article which stated that the literary magazine should change their name to something, “more stimulating, and yet in keeping with the nature of the magazine.” After some deliberation, the name Towers was eventually decided on—and changed, once again, soon thereafter. Students on campus kept confusing The Towerlight and Towers (another wonderful moment of historical drama), thus compelling the magazine to change their name yet again. It would take more than 30 years for the magazine’s staff to finally settle on the name Grub Street. I found the process of reading through the magazine content beyond interesting. Eventually, I was able to see a story come through in my head. That’s the beauty of archives—you’re able to see a picture of the past that might otherwise not exist if an archivist hadn’t bothered to save it.

As with any materials held within an archive, its content can say a lot about the time period from which it was collected. Art made in the ‘70s would, naturally, reflect much about the cultural and historical happenings of that decade. The same can be said about Grub Street, in all of its wonderful and weird forms. So, if you’re interested in learning more about our phenomenal archives on-campus and Grub Street, read through a few of the older editions of our magazine. It’s fascinating. 

A review of Darren C. Demaree’s the luxury

by Elizabeth Forrest


In his newest book of poetry, the luxury, Darren C. Demaree explores the emotions and conflicts of navigating an ecological apocalypse. The book holds 59 poems on 59 pages—each divided into three meditative tercets that spill over with anger, frustration, and melancholy. The poems in the luxury are less about the natural world than they are about Demaree’s anxiety about its destruction, maintaining an anthropocentric lens throughout the collection. It is a bit like a found-footage horror film, with ragged heavy breaths and snatches of conversation and the deaths that occur off-screen—amorphous and terrifying. 

The pieces evoke frustration and a sense of impotence in witnessing a world that is changing due to a tide of human inaction. Demaree interrogates the ethics of our collective approach to stewardship, writing  “we know winter windows / all darken motherfuckers / are still using coal here // & may the flood find them first” (p. 37). There is the palpable friction of chafing against those you share a world with but not the same ethical perspective: “give me green land // or give me a culture that doesn’t roast the damn world” (p. 20).

In his uneasiness about the fate of the planet lies a desperation for the future his children will live in, which manifests as a sort of existentialism through parenthood. In his poems, Demaree examines his own choices and their environmental impact. Toward the end of the collection, Demaree confesses, “maybe having children / was a mistake…. i / needed them but my needs are / bringing forth the ocean” (p. 56).

One need only look around for a more explicit illustration of the world on fire. Not long after the publication of this book, Demaree’s home state of Ohio experienced a very public demonstration of environmental disaster when 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed, releasing hazardous materials. An eco-horrific landscape of billowing black smoke and raging (though purportedly controlled) fires realized a collective fear of catastrophe by human means. These concerns are readily accessible to anyone paying attention to their environment or paying attention to those who study it. In the luxury, Demaree empathetically models an ecological self-consciousness and self-examination for all of us living and dying in the anthropocene.


Nonfiction Feature: The Acolytes by Eva Niessner

Close your eyes, and imagine.

You are a 12-year-old girl and real boys do not like you, and you are not sure if you like them. But the ones in movies—the ones in films and TV shows, the ones in fantasy and sci-fi stories, the ones with wings and horns and fangs and elf ears—you like them. You like when they are nice, except you also like when they are mean. They’re hurting, maybe. They need someone to be kind.

Your heart beats faster when you think about being kind in this way, to this kind of person. There is something growing an inch a day inside you like a well-watered sunflower. There is something reaching for the light, and you do not know what it is named.

In real life, you know that boys will laugh at you or ignore you altogether. You have a moon face and a bob that curls up unstylishly. You exist at two ends of the academic spectrum, either raising your hand with feverish desperation to be called on because you know the answer or doodling or reading under the table because you cannot be bothered with long division. You don’t know any of the members of *NSYNC, and you can’t tell any of them apart. None of them can do magic, so you don’t really care. You check out fat books from the library and delight in how hard it is to fit them in your backpack. You are, in short, a hard sell to a boy your own age.

But your girl friends who also like elves and pirates and vampires, they don’t see anything strange about you. They can be just as loud, take up just as much space, when they see you in the hallway. They invite you to the movies and then to sleepovers so you can debrief over the men, men, monstrous men, the stranger the better. 

In real life, they like you for who you are. The stranger the better.

In real life, you start devoting yourself to female friends in a way that other girls do not. 

Do you like the male characters that you have all bonded over, or do you like the bonding with the girls more? Do you like writing longhand in the notebook about how they will fall in love with you all and take you to live in a mansion, or do you like the way they are delighted by your stories? 

Perhaps they are the same plant, a cluster of shared roots, but these feelings sprout separately, and they do not look connected from the surface. 


Imagine you are in high school and you can’t decide if you’re gay because you still pine for the men you see in the movies. You play at dating boys. You want them to like you, but when they do, you start to hate them. When they show you attention, you feel smothered. You notice their every flaw with scientific precision. You break up with your first boyfriend at your locker because you don’t even want to look at him anymore, even though he never did anything wrong. When you tell him it’s over, he makes a face that you’ve never seen before.

But you’re boy-crazy, right? Can you still be boy-crazy if you only want boys that can never be attained? You think maybe you’re girl-crazy too, but that is the part you do not say out loud. No one seems directly opposed to it—your parents voted for Obama and spin David Bowie records, and your grandmother speaks fondly of the gay men she worked with at a now-extinct airline. Still, you feel a little dizzy when you think about telling people you’re girl-crazy. It is easier to talk about elf men. It’s a little easier to believe that you will be the queen of his kingdom than that your feelings for someone else might be returned.

You want to believe this isn’t all there is. Boys who tell their sisters they’re fat, boys who share their girlfriends’ nudes. Boys who flirt with you as a joke, the joke being no one ever really would. Boys who follow your friends home until they agree to date them. Boys who do not know their girlfriends’ birthdays or eye colors. This can’t be all there is. Please, God, this can’t be all there is.


Imagine, now, you are in your twenties. You are openly bisexual. You are in graduate school. You’re doing what you love, right? You’re doing what you love? 

You’re studying creative writing and you’re going to teach and your dreams are coming true and you are so stressed that you have developed a persistent twitch in your left eye. When you look up reasons that might be happening to you, Google says that it may be caused by caffeine intake and anxiety. You have just received word that a family member checked in to an inpatient mental health facility, and you understand that now is not your turn to break down. Maybe next week. Maybe after this paper.

Really. You are doing what you love. Promise.

By now you have decided that you do not want an ordinary man at all, and your youthful attempts to date them look silly and costume-ish, like when you used to wear your mom’s homecoming dress, pretending to be a bride. You talk to women online. You meet people who don’t really fit into any kind of gendered category. You flirt. For the first time in a long time, you are pursued in a way that feels good by people who are your own people. Imagine a dog who keeps turning back to make sure it is being chased, a dog grinning as it runs. You like being chased. 

But it is the imaginary men who have brought you together. They are the reason you have met. They are the ones you’re escaping with, when the reality you’ve always desired is now making it hard to inhale all the way. You all felt the same way about the same men. 

There is a word for this now. Fandom. You aren’t unusual, now, people like you, the acolytes. All of you together, plotting their every move, making them kiss, making them beg, dressing them up like paper dolls in war uniforms and tuxedos and chain mail. Which man, you ask by creating these works, is most like you? Which one can you make most like you? When you write, who are you inhabiting? Who could love you like they love him?

You do not really doubt that you are a girl, but these men are not solid forms, they can be stepped into, they can be worn. You can give him life, in your stories, and he can give you confidence. You can imagine—you can imagine someone might love you with the piercing desire that this man, whichever one you’re thinking of, has been loved. He is not even real but he is so loved, and you are real but he has been exalted by a thousand keyboard clicks in a way that you can’t even get your head around. If he has died in fiction, he has been mourned in real life. If he has killed or maimed or betrayed, he has been forgiven. This, say the acolytes, pointing to a man who has committed atrocities, is my baby.

It is not strange to you that the other fans you talk to were brought to you by these sorts of men. The people you meet might also like baking and houseplants and true crime, things you enjoy independently of this fantasy world, but you would never have found these friends if these men had not been the chapel in which you all gathered. It is not strange to be connected by how you will hurt these men, in the privacy of your fiction and in the public square that is online fandom. It is not strange to bond over stories where they cry, where they lose one another, where they hate one another, where they cry again. These works are offered up to the crowd like a sacrificial lamb, tied and presented before a blade. 

The spectacle can be overwhelming, but it sends your blood rushing. It reminds you of being a girl and thinking about placing the bandage on the monster’s wound, how it might growl and pant and flinch but not run away. It reminds you of studying art history and seeing saints, dazed and sobbing, ecstatic at the sight of what no one else could see. You could be on the shuttle bus or in a common area on campus, but in another universe, waiting for him to appear, him, him, on your phone, in your head. 


You meet someone online. You meet a person who sees you like a medium sees ghosts. They see you like you have never quite been seen. At first, you imagine you need to put all this away, for their sake. You’re loved romantically by a real person now, so what do you need with your silly little monsters and villains? But no mad scientist can truly destroy their own creation, and you have spent years, decades, breathing life into these imaginary men. You cannot kill your darlings, not this late in the game.

And maybe you don’t have to. Your beloved is no stranger to this game. Maybe they like the same sorts of monsters and men. Maybe they have more to show you.

They teach you about space programs and about horror films. They’re a writer too. They wax poetic about Stephen King. And they show you Twin Peaks

Smarter people than you have had smarter things to say about the show for years, and you’re so new to it. The coronavirus has been making headlines for months by the time you get around to a show that was airing before Desert Storm. But you are struck by one thing above all others—the way that the unreal can be made real by force in this show.

If everyone believes in the same thing, isn’t that thing real? Maybe the show is a metaphor for abuse, for family secrets, for the way that girls will cry out for help in a thousand ways and never be heard. Maybe the world is simply cruel, and girls will be used, and the harder they try to name their own terms, the harder they will be trampled. Women in Twin Peaks suffer endlessly. Madonna and whore, sinner and saint, they suffer. 

Maybe that’s the way of the world, the real world.  

But maybe this show is also a warning and an invitation. We can create our own reality—at our own risk. 

You are loved by a person who encourages you. They are excited to hear about how your day went. They let you cry about the trivial and the terrible and hold you tight. This isn’t all there is, you want to tell yourself as a girl. There is more than a life being flirted with as a joke and a death wrapped in plastic. There is love, and it is real. 


You were imagining someone, all this time. If you are a certain kind of person. You were imagining a character that you loved in a way that felt like staring at the sun. And you still love them, even if it’s been years, decades, even. You may have a mortgage and a cubicle and a spouse and a Labradoodle and children and a Honda and a membership to a gym you never go to, but you also have him, living inside you like a dormant gene. You may never show symptoms again of your girlhood obsession, but he will be there, caught like popcorn in your teeth. 

Will you let him live inside you peacefully, or will you evict him by force?

Open your eyes.

Open your eyes, and maybe, just for a second, he will be standing in front of you.


Eva Niessner is a graduate of the Towson University’s Professional Writing program and specializes in creative nonfiction. Her work has previously appeared in Grub Street, and she has also been published in Baltimore Magazine.  She lives in the Baltimore area with her partner and cats. She enjoys ghost tours and caring for plants. 


Review of Lillies on the Deathbed of Étaín and Other Poems

By Chase Hollobaugh


Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín and Other Poems is the latest collection of poetry from Irish poet Oisín Breen. The collection contains two long-form works as well as four shorter poems. 

As someone who has traditionally only read short poems, I felt the long-form works were an adjustment, but their effect was not lessened by their length. My favorite of the two is “The Lovesong of Anna Rua.” The poem begins with the lines:

                     “Ha-ra-hao-  Ha-ra-hao- Rah-Hao- Ha-Rah-Hao-

                      Ha-ra-hao- Ha-ra-hao- Rah-Hao-”

which creates a sense of chanting in the poem. Breen continues this throughout the poem, using different words and phrases as each section develops. This singsong nature takes full effect, backed by added spaces between sounds, when the speaker says: “Anna- Aye-Anna- Aye-Anna- / Aye-.” Some of these chanting lines do get hard to parse, however, as Breen uses hyphens to create long strands of words that run into one another, such as with 


While these lines do require the reader to pay more attention to the poems, they serve to break up the ideas within, and allow readers to pause in between Breen’s sections of dense imagery. For example, Breen writes:

“Melancholias, forced fixed euphorias, thrills, spills, and

hackneyed blue-eyed boys and girls who, sunning

themselves, with ice-cream dripping down their noses,

as their faux-saintliness has gravity itself inverted,

conceive of nothing other than being like and unto one

and other”

in section three of the poem. From the first word, a reader’s mind is drawn into thoughts of sadness, only to be thrust back into a sense of joy with the paradoxical “euphorias.” The image of children enjoying ice cream is then thrown into contrast with the accusations of “faux saintliness.” The additional image of inverted gravity adds a surreal quality to these lines, and obfuscates the image of children playing in the sun and enjoying their ice creams. While these layered images can make the poem hard to parse, they do not make it impossible. If nothing else, a reader could get lost within the images, trying to imagine each and every scene, before connecting it back with the rest of the work and the meanings of the poems. While getting lost may affect reader enjoyment, it did not negatively impact me as I read through the poems.

If the long-form poems are intimidating, then the shorter poems will offer a more familiar option to readers of short form poetry. “Six Months Bought with Dirt: the Bothy Crop of Arranmore” may still seem intimidating to readers expecting short line lengths, as its stanzas more closely resemble paragraphs, but will no less offer an engaging reading experience to anyone who takes the time to imagine the pictures Breen is painting throughout each stanza. Lines like “They knelt in the dirt, above the worms, and seedlings / Dampened off, pressing their hands beneath the earth, seeking / A grip” create haunting images of farmers clutching at the ground, pulling it apart to tend their crop. These dense stanzas come together beautifully in the last three lines as well, as the speaker condenses the thoughts and motion of the poem into a succinct and lasting image.

  My favorite short-form work in the collection is “At Swim, Two Pair.” Once again, Breen constructs an eerie image as the speaker describes the declining marine life he is watching swim across the water. The poem repeats the line “Two pair, where once moved a score and six” at the middle and conclusion of the poem. This line, when combined with “mother, sister, and kin” in the first line invokes an image of 26 women swimming, as their number is slowly reduced to four. When combined with the animals mentioned in the last stanza, the image shifts to fish or other marine life that are hunted as they travel along waterways.

While much of the poetry within Lilies on the Deathbed of Étaín can feel heady and overwhelming with imagery to the reader, it rewards careful readings with an equal amount of depth. The collection boasts re-readability as well, as new meanings spring forth from the reader’s focus on different aspects of each poem. All in all, the collection contains a wealth of expansive imagery contained within six poems.

Poetry Feature: Lonely Asteroid’s Ode to a Rover by Chloe Ziegler

Follows: Curiosity Rover Sings Happy Birthday to Itself


I’ll kiss you like the autumn
sun to a horizon, just
at seven. 
And I’ll miss you like lost
stars in smog, just  
past heaven. 

Curiosity does best me when
I hear you sing alone oh

My Dear, I won’t be long. Just   
hold your galactic gates till
dawn, and remember how 
I love you.


Chloe Ziegler is a senior attending Towson University who has had works published in Towson High School’s Colophon. She has gained several years of editing experience while working on both schools’ literary magazines. This is in pursuit of a lifelong passion for literary journals and writing that began in a second-grade after-school poetry workshop. As shown in her poem, she is an outspoken feminist and activist via her literary works and also on social media.  Chloe is also featured in Volume 72.