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NEw Writers' Issue

Enjoy the wonderful application pieces from the newest writers on our team!

Sunflower Girl

By: Luce Cada

    There is a girl with a sunflower crown nesting in her hair, a girl who stands in the fields. A girl who dances
with her bare feet in the dirt, weaving in and out of the flowers.
    Even if she is deathly scared of bees and spiders and everything in between.
    There is a girl who loves the earth but also loves what the world has created. A girl who stands with nature
but also stands with people, takes a stand on her own.
Even if she gets beat down for her stance.
There is a girl who loves music, who can never live without a melody in her ears, in her mind. A girl who
needs technology, being born in an era of gadgets galore. A girl who has little access to the media but defies her own boundaries anyway.
    Even if she gets in trouble for it.
    There is a girl who has high walls, higher than the towering sunflowers around her. A girl who stopped
letting people in after letting them in too many times, a girl who learned to keep to herself.
    Even if it means being alone.
    The girl with the sunflowers thinks too much. She thinks too much about herself, of her friends, of the
Universe. She thinks of the vastness of it all, how great it is, how small she is. How she is here, how you are here.
    The girl with the sunflowers says, don’t look at me like the sun. She says you don’t look at the sun in
wonder. She says you squint at it, the glare of the light boring into your eyes and skull until you grow blind.
The girl with the sunflowers says, look at me as the moon. She says that, even though I am the sunflower, I
am the moon. She says that you look at the moon in awe, gasp at how full it looks on certain days but wonder why it is gone on others. She says that you gaze at it for hours and wonder what else is out there. She says that the moon is bright in the night sky, but the sun just makes bright things brighter. She says that the moon is the light in the dark, but it goes away sometimes.
    She used to dance carelessly with the flowers, but now she tiptoes carefully, worrying about everything.
She used to sing and be confident, but now she sings quietly in case they remind her that it’s just a hobby. She used to worry about the past, but now she worries about the future.
    She wants to remember every memory, every second of her time. She wants to go through every single
heartbreak, every single laugh, every single fight and survive. She wants to have a forever with the entire world,
even those who don’t even believe in the same things that she does. She wants nothing to end.
    She doesn’t want to forget.
    The sunflower girl wants to bloom, to blossom like everyone else, but even when there’s enough rain and
there’s enough sun, there isn’t enough room - there isn’t enough time. There aren’t any chances, there aren’t enough seconds - nothing is enough.
    The sunflower girl isn’t the same as she was in the past, but they still call her by her old name. They call her
younger version, they call the version that they want her to be. They don’t call her by the name that shows how
she’s grown, grown with the yellow flowers.
    She’s a wonderer, a wanderer, a seeker, a helper. She’s a wisher, a dreamer, a writer, a dancer. She’s everything, yet she’s just one person.
    She follows herself, but she also follows the Sun.
    She just wishes that the bees - things that aren’t her sunflowers - would follow the Sun, too.

The Song and Silence of the Women-Flower

By: Trisha Iyer

Author’s Note: the quote used in this piece is from Christian Dior describing his ultra-feminine (and
uber-wasteful) post-WW2 “New Look”. A while back, I read a news article spotlighting Dior’s first
female creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, who mentioned this quote and said that in her collections,
she wants to move the focus away from the soft, feminine fashion archetype to a more realistic,
empowered one. Dior’s vision is both flattering (as you’ll tell from the piece, I love fashion, and I think
the flower dress silhouette can be so beautiful) and locking them into the role of accessory/eye candy.

This piece is an exploration of beauty standards turned toxic (well, more toxic than currently). And, oh
yeah, down with the patriarchy.

    This time, they came for Senya.
    Word travels quickly in Tulip House: gossip is the one way to keep our mouths practiced in the
movements of speech. Ines knew first. (She’s the youngest and still sobs at night from homesickness. We shouldn’t hear her: the walls are thick with tapestries. We usually do.) To blink away the latest tears, she stepped onto her balcony (Margaux planted soothing jasmine for her) and saw the officers, scurrying into Senya’s room . . .

    I can imagine them, a swarm of fire ants in their bloodred uniforms. As Ines finishes the tale, a patrolling officer passes—”To support our delicate flowers through this emotional time”—so she hastily sips from a gilded teacup. Margaux and Laila split a cake, and I drizzle honey in my tea. But it’s a fake sip, a wax cake, a sprinkle of cyanide. Lopsided and mechanical, like the smirking half-curtsies we owe to lower-ranked girls. Senya’s death begins another mechanical day. Ines has a singing lesson, and Margaux, a dress
fitting. (the King’s birthday ball tomorrow)
Laila and I visit the garden.
So few of us left. What plagues Tulip House?
News of another suicide will race through the capital today, and everyone will wonder.
I lift a rose to Laila’s nose, and she smiles. We hold the image for a moment, two gorgeous girls
with hairpin thighs and waists like whispers, caring about nothing. We’ve clawed and starved our way
into Tulip House to earn that right. A suicide is not as unseemly as the truth. I don’t know details, but it’s always the same: she had everything, but wanted more. (the King doesn’t like that)
    Senya’s maid is reassigned to me.
    From the chin up, she is lovely (darling freckles). But her neck rolls and folds. Tree-trunk legs and no waist. This is how they sort us, from High House to commoner to worse . . . Her hands writhe with tiny words. They travel up her pillowy forearms to her elbows. The slave oath is written across her skin 
(henna, modified for permanence) Tulips aren’t allowed tattoos. Blemishes detract from our beauty. I shift through my closet for a dinner gown.

    “What’s your name?” I call as I walk through. She winces.

    “Oh. You can’t speak to me.” I ponder a lurid violet number. Her latticed fingers twitch.
    I laugh. “What do you suggest?”
     She flits around. I gape as my maid whips through the tulle and silk, finally settling on a seafoam
dress. Like the violet, it unfurls from the waist in a round skirt, though this one is not as full. My eyes the
letters adorning one wall, our gospel shouted from the past: I drew women-flowers, soft shoulders, fine waists like liana and wide skirts like corolla. Flower or no, the dress is thrust at me. Her arresting gray eyes flash, not at all servile. She opens her left palm and points to an inked word: please. It swirls around my hips majestically. I am enchanted. I look enchanted . . . enough to be in Rose the highest House of all.
She’ll make my gown for the ball? She blushes, blinks her feathery lashes. Then, presenting an  elbow: of course.
    As I enter the ballroom, they gape.
    No full skirt tonight: my fiery gown flutters straight to the floor. (dress descriptions are the only thoughts we’re allowed)
    But fashion is the only thing we can care about, so the only thing to wage war with. (a rebellion, a risk) Visionaries never worry about demotion to Azalea, or worse, Daisy. They are Roses. The King asks me to dance.
    “Maye, is it?” he asks finally. He knows my name. “Your dress looks . . . rosy.”
    We reach the last formation. He twirls me and assesses me. Then he produces a signet ring, its
Rose crest glinting a silent question.
    The violin shrieks the final note.
    The clock pounds, stretches out each second.
    Her gray eyes drift through my mind.
    I nod. The King smiles as his eyes sharpen.
    The carriage wobbles over the final cobblestone. I burst out and run to tell her the news—
(to say goodbye?) It is too quiet. I don’t hear her pattering around the bathtub or humming while drawing the
curtains. (the balcony . . . )
    There she is. Face painted by the moonlight.
    Sprawled on the stones. Fresh henna, thick and soft, has crept over her neck, her mouth, her
nostrils. I was too loud. Now my maid is forever silent.

    I picture the fire ants crawling over her . . .

Woven Memories

By: Jasmine Li

    When I first learned to knit I felt like I was floating on air. I was settled on the pull-out sofa in a cozy eighth floor apartment, my grandmother beside me, coaxing my fingers to manipulate and manage the yarn and needles in the most efficient way. I had in my hand a pair of cold, metal needles, wrapped a hundred times by a thick, red yarn that felt almost staticky to touch. I imagined I was speeding along the stitches, feeling like I was once again slipping across the hardwood floor of the narrow hallway with my sister, both of us donning slippery socks on our feet. In reality stitches were dropping left and right, but that did not cross my mind until I cast off the stitches, finding myself looking down at a cluster of disorganized loops, some stretched out, some barely clinging on, feeling a wave of disappointment wash over me.
    I started knitting around seven years ago and have been knitting ever since, but not continuously. Everytime I pick up my needles and yarn, a wave of euphoria swims around in my mind. Eventually, though, usually after a period of about two months, the inspiration to knit dwindles, and the materials stay untouched in a fabric basket underneath my bed. It’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself.
    For the first time in seven years, I’ve been knitting nonstop for about three months now, with no end in sight. Almost every afternoon I’ll find myself settling into a nice nook in the study, the sunlight pouring in, and my half finished sock nestled happily in my hands. I can feel the sunlight warming the back of my neck, and I smile softly as I see it illuminating the miniscule stitches that slowly get worked up with each movement of my hands. And everytime I do so, I can hear my grandmother’s stern voice, her sighs as I panic over a small knot in the 
work, her gentle manipulation of the work as I look on, and definitely the promise of a large bowl of watermelon after a particularly grueling session of needleworking. Sometimes I can almost hear the Chinese period drama playing in the background as I carefully inspect my progress with the textured, mauve sock, feeling like someone had just reached up and drawn a rainbow over my head, and it was shining light and sending inspirations of color combination into my brain. Other times I feel a knot settle in the depths of my stomach as I find myself longing to be back in the strict but careful nurturing of my grandmother, who now shuffles the day away watching television, playing chess, and cooking in the company of my father in a tiny
apartment in Anhui, China, too far away for my mother, sister, and me to giggle at their bickering and too far away for me to feel the warmth enveloping me as I hug them tightly, gently teasing them for their short stature even though that was passed on to me.
    As I pull the finished socks on and settle under a mountain of covers, I cuddle with my bright pink teddy bear, adorned with the knitted wool sweater, carefully crafted by my grandmother, that first propelled me to ask for knitting lessons.


By: Ada Praun-Petrovic

A car passes, then two.
This one red, that one blue.
Each in a rush with a singular goal
That swallows my line of sight whole.
But in a flash, each car passes by
Gone in the blink or two of an eye.
And in between cars I manage to see
Opposite the road, a very small tree.
One that may grow and flourish with time
Maybe I’ll stick around
To watch its journey sublime.

    The childhood nursery rhyme replays in my head, the stressed and unstressed alternating beats lulling me into a dreamy stupor. I sit on the park bench for god knows how long, watching the road and nearly falling asleep. The longer I sit in peaceful solitude, the more I feel my shoulders relax, releasing the tension between my blades. I consciously unclench my jaw and take a deep breath. Slouching, I support my head in my hands, the pressure from my knuckles stretching out the skin on my cheekbones. As my head dips, nodding off yet again into a weary, tired sleep, I shake myself awake. Jesus, it’s almost dusk already. I came out here at noon. I force my weight onto my feet, slowly standing. As I twist the cracks out of my back, I feel like an old man, even though I’m only in high school.
    Wearily trudging back to the dingy little flat of the family I’m staying with, I brace myself for either the angry shouting or the aggressive silence punctuated by the clink of beer bottles that’s bound to greet me. This is the second foster home I’ve been in since my mom overdosed when I was ten. When I tell people that, most of them think I must have had a terrible childhood with a distant and unloving parent, but that’s not how I experienced it at all. I idolized and worshipped my mother, the way that most little kids do before they start to see all the cracks and blemishes in their parents’ carefully crafted facades. Only, unlike most kids, I didn’t get the privilege of slowly discovering those faults and learning to love the real her on my own terms. No, the whole fantasy came crashing down all at once when I came home from school one day to find her twitching on our battered, torn sofa, foaming at the mouth. In one single moment, my mom, my forever, was gone. I realized the woman I had loved never even existed.
    From there, Child Protection Services placed me in a foster home run by a single lady who bore a really striking resemblance to Ms. Hannigan from that musical, Annie, that’s been remade so many times the most recent version barely even resembles the original. One thing is 
constant across all iterations of the story, though: Ms. Hannigan is a bitch. Anyway, about a year ago, she got married - a real shocker if you ask me - and decided that running a foster home just wasn’t the life for her. Strange as it sounds, I almost regretted leaving that chapter of my life behind. It had become reliable. I knew exactly when Ms. Hannigan binged Netflix, when she went out to buy cat food, when she day drank. I knew when I could toe the line and spend an extra hour or two with my friends, and I knew when I had to be the most obedient child you ever did see.
    I really like the new foster home, though. Well, not the family: Alicia and Burt are a couple in their thirties who use the welfare checks they get from running a foster home to fund their alcohol addiction. Despite the less-than-ideal living conditions, though, I made some amazing friends here. Ones that will last a lifetime. But even though they’re the best - well, the only, friends I've ever made - I don't get to see Abby and Carlos outside of school too often because they live on the opposite side of town, and I prefer saving my money for instant ramen dinners instead of the bus. Even so, they’re always a beacon of hope for me whenever everything feels awful, which is most of the time.
    I genuinely don’t know what I would do without them; I imagine my life would fall apart. In a world where waking up in the morning is a chore, where I count the seconds every day till I can go to sleep again, where I’m just waiting, exhausted, for time to pass, my friends keep me going. When the harsh, piercing sound of a vodka bottle breaking on the edge of a wall starts my day, when the thought of another convenience store meal makes my stomach curdle, when my school counselor looks at me as if my entire existence is nothing but a failure... the thought of the mischievous, sarcastic twinkle in Abby’s eyes and the arrogant smirk that lives on Carlos’s face keep me going.
    A small feeling of warmth blooms in my stomach as I imagine my friends’ idiotic faces, but the angry honk of a car wipes the obliviously happy look off my face as I catch myself carelessly stepping off the cracked sidewalk onto the road. Sighing, I backtrack, wait for the beat-up Honda to pass, and allow my feet to continue to guide me home.
    As I turn the corner that leads onto my street, my footsteps fall heavier, clinging to the pavement as if they want to hold me back. I ignore the familiar feeling of dread that the small, wood-panelled house always engenders. As I force my newly heavy legs to climb up the steps to the porch, my hand reaches out for the rusty doorknob, and pauses. The house is eerily quiet. Concerned, I peer over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of Burt’s familiar dirty sneaker hurriedly disappearing around the next corner. Brow furrowed, I open the unlocked door of the house and step inside, my breath catching in my throat.
    For a moment, I just stare. Stare at Alicia’s lifeless body slumped against a wall, half a
broken beer bottle protruding from her neck, where thick crimson oozes onto the floor. Then, I
turn around and vomit.

. . .

    I’m sitting off to one side of the porch steps, surrounded by the commotion of police bustling around the scene. One of the officers just took my testimonial, leaving me to stare blankly at nothing. Still in shock, I focus on the flashing lights of the squad car, illuminating my face in stark contrast against the dark. Red, blue, red, blue, red, blue, red, blue. The colors swallow my vision, overwhelming me, so I don’t see a new car pull up. Red, blue. Out of the vast, blank expanse of red in my mind, I see a figure emerge, and it’s Abby... but the colors flash again and she’s gone. Carlos appears in front of a background of blue, and suddenly, he’s gone
too. I’m never going to see them again.
    I’m snapped out of my trance by a stern woman peering down at me through her glasses. My eyes dart from the new car parked in front of my house to the uniform she’s wearing. The CPS agent coughs, clearing her throat.
    “What’s your name, kid?”
    I look up, tears brimming in my eyes.

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