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Ekphrasis
by Katelyn Roth

Maybe you wrote a poem, but I couldn’t
work a pen on that bench we shared, our sides just
breathing against each other, tips of sleeves meeting
and quivering back into place unwillingly.
This was a hard bench, and you were solid next to me,
all rigid angles encasing a whirr and a buzz.

Maybe you wrote a poem; I wanted to see something
in the painting on the wall, but the strong blue square
was you, down to the sloping edges, and the bright green
streak across the middle of the piece was all nerves
and laughter and there was a pink sheen to the thing
so it glowed and hummed right off the wall.

Maybe you wrote a poem, but this was a poem,
and you are the poem and who could write
a poem with that glowing pink sheen
in her head?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katelyn Roth
graduated from Pittsburg State University with degrees in Creative Writing and Psychology. She has been previously published in the campus literary magazine Cow Creek Review. Currently, she resides in Pittsburg, Kansas, with her husband and dog, working at an insurance office while on hiatus from her Masters in Creative Writing.

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Seventeen
by Sunil Sharma

voice breaking
facial hair
a thin line blackening the upper lip
few pimples on that pale face
eyes gazing into future  — like some gypsy fortuneteller
in an exotic tent in some European location!

casting off that angelic smile and kid-innocence
entering slowly — a forbidden realm
naughty adults teaching secrets of a wide wicked world
full of doubts, yet overconfident of winning the universe!
getting rejected/finding balance
going out/acting tough

floating in a dream world
yet —
cramming for chemistry, physics, biology
aiming to become wealthy and super successful
in a highly competitive world.

IMAGE: “Self-portrait as a young man” by George Frederick Watts (1834).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Moving to the second decade of a short life is like a roller coaster ride. Years getting blurred. Flying away on a fast wind. Bewildering changes –biological, emotional, psychological. World — an open university. Rough and tumble of life ordinary, yet certain dreams and energies! Well, 17 is a magical year — transition stage into early adulthood.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mumbai-based, Sunil Sharma writes prose and poetry, apart from doing literary journalism and freelancing. A senior academic, he has been published in some of the leading international journals and anthologies. Sunil has got three collections of poetry, one collection of short fiction, one novel and co-edited five books of poetry, short fiction and literary criticism.Recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012.  Another notable achievement is his select poems were published in the prestigious UN project  Happiness: The Delight-Tree-2015. He edits English section of the monthly Setu, a bilingual journal from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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In the World at 17
by Rowan Johnson

At seventeen, he stayed at the Polana Hotel in Mozambique, with swinging palms and the biggest and bluest swimming pool he had ever seen; and then the desperation of the streets outside—rusty old vehicles covered with all kinds of garbage, strewn all over and stinking. Old and weathered women who could barely walk, carrying barrels of water for twenty kilometers every day, just so their children could have a drink.

The next day it was Austria, simply trying to find a toilet. The helplessness of not knowing German; the exhilaration of being a foreigner, a stranger asking directions—a child, knowing nobody, with an intense fear of peering over the edge of that mountain outside. The simple peasant girl who led him back to her room in the dead of the Austrian night, after more than a few too many Jagermeisters; a potent combination for a young boy. Her hair was fantastically black, longer than his arms.

And so he had his memories: the discovery of new, untouched lands, new faces and places, the feeling of real snow, the taste of Alpine water from fresh streams. This was his world—this was the life that he had always known.

PHOTO: Polana Serena Hotel, Mozambique.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rowan Johnson holds a doctorate from the University of Tennessee as well as an MA from the University of Nottingham, England. His work has been published in Two Thirds North, 4ink7, Passing Through Journal, Wordriver Literary Review, GFT Press, and the Writers’ Abroad Foreign Encounters Anthology. He has also written numerous travel articles for SEOUL Magazine.

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Mis-Taken
by Shoshauna Shy

It wasn’t like sleeping with the friend of a friend’s friend (which translated means sleeping with a stranger), because we knew each other, occupied the same circles, half-flirted now and then. But not enough spark on either of our parts to get a flame going, let alone a blaze. Then we found ourselves in sleeping bags away from the others, and in our chill half-sleep, moved closer together. We went skin-on-skin, and soon hit our heads against that cellar ceiling called No Chemistry, No Appetite, No Combustible Lust. I wouldn’t say I was offering myself, but more that I was borrowing from his better future. Borrowing him from the throes of some sweet lady. One day, she would want him very much.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, at 17.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece of flash fiction is 122 words. I was 17 during the Sexual Revolution of the late 60s-early 70s when you did not wear a boy’s ID bracelet while going steady, or even go on dates.

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ABOUT THE THE AUTHOR: Shoshauna Shy is the author of four collections, the most recent having won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poetry has recently been published by RHINO, Main Street Rag, Carbon Culture Review, and First Class Lit. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a finalist for the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid poetry prize sponsored by Winning Writers in 2015. Her flash fiction has been published by 100 Word Story, Fiction Southeast, Literary Orphans, A Quiet Courage, Sou’wester, Thrice Fiction, Crack the Spine, Microfiction Monday Magazine, Every Writer, Red Cedar, and Prairie Wolf Press Review. Read more at PoetryJumpsOfftheShelf.com.

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The Dressing Room at Neiman Marcus
by Tiffany Buck

I am a size 2 and I look good in clothes.
The dressing rooms at Neiman Marcus; on the tiered stage in front of the three-way mirror I declare my plans.
I will live in London after college and be an artist of some sort.
The man I marry will be noble, he may be the lowest form of nobility, but by God he will be noble.
After two years in London, and every other weekend in Paris, I will become fluent in French.
Children? Depends on what kind of nanny I can get.

The world is full of promise and possibility at 17.
My wish today is to go back to that Neiman Marcus dressing room, try on a $5000.00 dress and believe that the world is my oyster.
What a beauty 17 is.

PHOTO: Resident Magazine (December 2016). — Katrina in Elie Youssef blush dress and Oscar de la Renta earrings @ Neiman Marcus (Room by Sasha Bikoff).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Creatively, I go with what grabs my attention first. It has to be organic. If I manically search for inspiration, I will usually not find it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tiffany Buck is married with a spirited daughter who will be 17 in just 14 short years. She is a former librarian and lives in the foothills of Appalachia. Currently she is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys writing and making cosmetics. She hopes you will enjoy her reminiscence of her seventeenth year. Tiffany is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Myself and my daughter Carter Frances on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia (May 2014).

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Souldier
by Ryan Stone

The Harley was midnight polished chrome,
three years of saving — a gift to myself
in the spring of seventeen.

I donned leathers as my birthday broke,
left the house that was not home
and rode out into morning. Rode

until I landed, beneath the steely gaze
of a drill sergeant who forged men
from boys of seventeen.

He shaved away my dreadlocks,
found a fractured soul beneath,
broke it down
then built it up,
stronger,
more complete.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo was taken on my first training exercise in the Northern Territory during my initial posting to the 1st Armoured Regiment.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I bought my first motorcycle from money I’d earned over a few years of paper-rounds and other after-school employment and devotedly saved for that singular purpose. Shortly after I turned 17  I joined the Australian Army and took off around Australia. I learned many valuable lessons about myself that year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ryan Stone is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. He has worn many different hats — barman, soldier, cop, firefighter —  but poet is the one he enjoys most of all. His poetry has been widely published online and in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. Most days you can find him running through his forest surrounds with a loyal German Shepherd at his side.

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Of Death and Flies and Summer
by d.r. sanchez

The buzzing is back
Fruit flies invade the kitchen
Honey on a little plate
Wine vinegar in a small cup
My desire to kill is strong

Damned little flies make my head spin
Make me gag

Like the summer of flies
The summer the fire-red sunset
Laced its way through the curtain of flies on my bedroom window

The summer I cried myself to sleep most nights
The summer before senior year of high school
The summer my Irish Setter exploded internally after a botched procedure
The summer of divorce
The summer of death

Of my dog
Of the two hundred and seventy-seven flies I smashed on my window
Of my parent’s marriage
Of childhood

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: With Grandma and Mom, at Grandma’s (1978).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes a thought or memory refuses to let me sleep until I coerce it to page. Other times I must delve deep to find it. All too often the fleeting flickers of the ones I most cherish vanish. This particular piece haunted me off and on for decades. It began as an essay to purge a lingering ache. A friend from my writing group insisted that it was something more. After some sleepless nights I was able to face the flies again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Debra Sanchez has moved over 30 times and has lived in five states in two countries…so far. She leads and attends various writing groups in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area and also hosts writing retreats. Her writing has won awards at writers conferences in various genres, including children’s stories, poetry, fantasy, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Several of her plays and monologues have been produced and published. Other works have been published in literary magazines, newspapers, and anthologies. Visit her blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Innocence and white wine
by j a farina

white turtleneck
tight black corduroys
yardley scented
with twiggy eyes
you step towards me
in the basement semi-darkness
of your birthday celebration,
alone — you hold my hand
in my constant dream
of innocence and white wine,
that i repeat , as i walk
the reality of now empty streets
counting the places
that you loved
as i held your hand
Eau de London scented
and sigh shadowed eyes

PHOTO: The author at 17.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: j a farina is a retired lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. He has been published in many anthologies in Canada, Europe, and USA, as well as in numerous poetry journals. He is the author of two published books of poetry, The Cancer Chronicles and The Ghosts of Water Street.

 

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Out of the Depths
by Stephanie Han

Here I learn to sing for love: St. James Church, Florence, Italy, 1982.
Out of the Depths. Aus der Tiefe.
Bach knew that voices peel notes, scatter petals before gods.
In foreign lands, terrain is the body.
Journeys: steps among walls from autumnal kilns,
red wine that stings,
cobblestones that beat boot leather,
dust of clay and time.
Here, an old world of art and gods.
Here, an alabaster youth towers,
crowds gather, transfixed:
The Madonna’s electric blues, the child’s peach fists,
halos, halos everywhere.
This air shouts love and belief.
Passion: the faint bite of a cigarette nipping dusk,
March cold whipping the back of my knees,
a quiver and kiss, a penance for longing.
The thrill and release, crisp smell of hope,
embrace of supple flesh,
passion so wide, skin barely holds it.
Memory is now.
What is Love, but an ancient bridge over an ageless water,
flocks of birds that hurry to the heavens,
a sky that echoes your eyes?
In youth one knows its purpose: the creation of memories,
urgent, desperate, alive.

* * *

Such things follow me to China.
Here, continents and decades away,
I push back memory’s cloying scent and salty sweet
to stay alive. All is half-done.
What to do now, but to sift and store.
My love from the past remains
in a box I will always carry:
This is what it means to have innocence.
And what of love now?
A familiar traveler, a wanderer,
a man of rage and longing,
a rough rock of intelligence.
Poetry is difference, the unknown.
We unfold like origami; the lines remain.
Then was the creation of the map I came to follow.

* * *

The compass rose blooms and points,
directs us to deserts and possibility.
Now I know the gravity of love,
how it breaks and mends,
its flowers and soil,
the cracking of its perfect wood,
the thirst of its jagged roots,
the light it demands and gives or
Death: this ocean surely comes.
I have moved countries again. Again.
Time, time, from one cradle to another.
Love—bound in this place and a man without a country—
began in the hiss of summer’s heat,
through the eye of an Empire’s possession.
This East swallows, and I am one of its minions,
a small snack, a witness, nothing more.
I dreamt of everything then, as I do now.
This, this boat, ferries me over the water
anchors my belief, delivers me on hands and knees
to dreams that pour from my flesh,
to love that awakens again. Again.

IMAGE: Concert program, St. James Church, Florence, Italy (March 21, 1982).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about being 17, touring Italy with a school choir, and falling in love with a young American backpacker. Years later, he emailed me the choir program. Later, I fell in love again while traveling through Hong Kong, and thus began my peripatetic existence between cities, countries, and places.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Han’s debut short story collection Swimming in Hong Kong was the finalist for the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction as well as the Spokane Prize. She is City University of Hong Kong’s first English literature PhD, and her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and literary criticism have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies. She divides her time between Mui Wo, Lantau, Hong Kong, and Honolulu, Hawaii, home of her family since 1904.

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A LiveJournal Entry at 17
Daniella Levy

Some things are too sad even for tears.
You just sit there, staring blankly at the wall,
your heart dutifully pumping on
just to spite you.

Sometimes you sit there across from a friend who needs something,
anything,
who needs to be cradled in everlasting love and comfort,
and you want her to be happy so much and you just can’t give her that happiness.
Some things are taken away from people…
and some things take themselves away from people,
and what do you say when she’s left there,
heart torn to shreds,
wanting only for things to be normal again
and you know they never will be?

She tells you not to cry,
but as you watch her dissolve into tears you can’t help it,
and there’s nothing in your heart other than her right then—
there’s no you,
no world,
nothing,
just her and her pain,
and all you want is for that pain to go away
but it doesn’t,
and there’s nothing you can do.

Some people you can know your whole life and never really know.
Some people can turn the tables, just like that,
flip the coin and—
suddenly the rest of the room is drowned in light
and you see something ugly,
something you never wanted to know,
but something she must tell you
because she has been destroyed by it.
And you stand there watching
and she sits there hurting
and you keep telling yourself that you can’t judge,
you can’t judge,
you’re just an observer,
a heartbroken outsider.

And you sit in silence for a while,
and she begs you to make her laugh,
to tell her something happy,
and you dive into that world eagerly just to see her eyes light up once more,
and you feel like the whole world just lit up three thousand watts
and you wish it could stay that way,
but it won’t.
And she looks you in the eye and tells you to please not tell,
that it’s something that has to be kept within the walls of your soul,
and she knows it’s hard to contain such a secret
but I must do it for her.
And I promise
because I know that’s what’s right;
all those who have to know
already do.

Don’t ask me to tell.
Because I won’t.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: A selfie before they were called selfies. In my room in Rehovot, Israel, age 17 (June 2004).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was composed from a LiveJournal entry I wrote when I was 17 years old, about a conversation I’d had with a friend. Only line breaks were added. Not a single word was changed.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniella Levy is a writer, translator, and educator living in Israel with her husband and three sons. She is the author of Letters to Josep: An Introduction to Judaism, and her debut novel, An Ancient Whisper, is forthcoming from Kasva Press. She blogs about Judaism and life in Israel at LetterstoJosep.com, and about resilience in the face of rejection at The Rejection Survival Guide. Her poetry, short fiction, and articles have been published in English and Hebrew in Reckoning, the Jewish Literary Journal, Pnima Magazine, and Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression & Empowerment of Women as well as websites such as Kveller, Aish.com, and Ynet News. Connect with her at Daniella-Levy.com, and follow her on Twitter at @DaniellaNLevy.