Serenity Stokes

Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 12 in by 9 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]

Ode to My Pen


The actualizer of ideas

The grasper of concepts and dreams

Weary as you may be move forward

And backward

And up and down

Don’t forget to rest

Whether it be because the well of motivation

Is drying or overflowing

But don’t wait for the idea to come

Dance to all of the mistakes you can make

Live your short life

Knowing the more you do

The sooner you bleed out onto this page

And never be remembered

But never let it stop you

Never let it be the reason

You are careful with what you choose to say

What you choose to leave behind

Know that what you are giving your life for

Will not be a grand sacrifice

Will not lead to your fame or infamy

You do this to save one person

To save many things

To try and make it more tolerable

This life

That equals thousands of your own

You are not the first

You will not be the last

But in this moment

You are the only one

When I throw your empty body away

Or drop you

Or lose you

Or loan you out

Know that what you have done for me

I needed

And that you were all

I could stand to lose

In this exchange

I will never forget

To leave sentiment out of this

Attachment is a bad quality

To have in this relationship

I will not remember you

But I guess you could say

I loved you


I am 18 and just visiting

When I stumble across home

I have always been bad with memory

But there is something about this dry heat and

Broken down store fronts still frequented

That screams so gentle I cannot choose

I cannot choose to ignore or acknowledge

Before I am enveloped in this horizon

Broken and jagged

Like mountains are supposed to be

I am supposed to be here

I was raised

Far away from where I was born and

I am far away from birthed but

I am home

These deep breaths

Don’t smell like home

Not at first

It doesn’t smell like smog

My home

Smells like rain

In the middle of a drought now

Teasing and punishing

As if to say

Where have you been all your life

My home looks like the mountains

In the distance are so tameable

I feel powerful here

Like I can take a few choice steps

And have conquered ground under my feet

Yet I am starstruck by these trees

These palm trees that beg to be read

Like they hold the future

Because they do

They hold my future and my past and my heart

My home is held in these palms

Author’s Note: This is what I was going for..This is from a pop culture workshop and is black out poetry from Taylor Swift’s Blank Space… This is a conversation between someone who is very very sick and dying and the person they love.. The person who is dying is saying what they regret and that they have nothing to give and the person who loves them is just holding their hand and loving them until the end…

Blank Space Blackout

Where you been

I could show you



I thought


You mistake love”

Play money

A magazine


I know you

I’m dying

Grab my hand

I can make the weekend


It’s worth the pain

I’m insane

You know

Young and reckless

This breathless


Crystal kisses


Find out the worst is yet to come

Perfect storms

Filled with thorns

God you’ll come back a nightmare


Tell me it’s worth the pain

They’ll tell you

I love you young and reckless


I’m insane baby

I only want love

Don’t say ya only want love

It’s torture

Tell me it’s over

Young and reckless

This breathless blank space baby

Hunter Arias

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]
 A Short Manifesto

The way that I want to speak about homelessness would make me look like an evil person. The undertones in my voice would give the impression that I was demonizing them.

They are not evil.
But humans will be humans.
It is human to live by only your values, yet is is also ingrained within our primal reason to give.
If someone wants to give to those whom they believe are needing their help, don’t impose.
If someone feels it is not their duty to be giving, don’t impose.
If someone wants to adopt a foster child because they believe God called them to do so, don’t impose.
If someone wants to get rid of the little person living inside of them, don’t impose.
Authority is there to enforce laws, but laws are biased toward authority.
To give power to someone who only seeks power is a suicide of our rights, our morals, our actions.
There will always be charity, just like there will always be greed.
But extremes on either side of the spectrum end in disaster.
Don’t become a disaster.
Live in moderation, and set your own standards.

Apple Blossom
          My roads have too many manholes. They may be excessive, but they grant my citizens access to the underworld. A glimpse of what lies beneath the comfort. They are all successful, hardworking, diligent people, but still live in poverty. Not the kind of poverty that makes you go out on the street and beg, but the “poverty” that society says they live in. The kind where people live within their means, go to the market to get bread and the ice truck to get ice. They have jobs that pay little, but give them more than enough satisfaction.
          This city is ripe with passion. Passion of the mud, the sweat and tears that drip from their tired bodies. These drips fertilize the trees that bloom outside their open windows. It fills the apartments and houses with a fragrance that perfectly embodies their souls. These little apple blossoms of people play RCA Victor Johann Sebastian Bach through ribbon amplified speakers. The sounds compliment the pollen and white petals in such a way that gives them a soothing resurgence of gratification for their hard day’s work.
           As if they needed any in the first place.

Becca Human


[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]

On The Occasion Of Graduating High School And Realizing That In Two Months You’ll Be Leaving The Best Friends You’ve Ever Had

Reminiscing has become our favorite pastime.

Half our sentences start with the word


these days,

like we’re trying to hold onto something.

I’ve written this poem four times. I can’t hold onto anything

that describes what it’s like to be leaving.

But here’s a try:

we are driving down the highway,

windows down, music up,

this is how it has always been.

Sarah searches for a new song, and Alex,

driving, comments she won’t have a car in two months.

Alexsei says she won’t be in Nebraska in two months.

We know this. Hardly any of us are staying here.

We have the states memorized:

Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia.

A mantra.

Sarah stops, as if the music won’t cooperate,

and it’s just wind whipping through and around us. We don’t say anything for a while

and it feels empty.

This is what it feels like:

meeting up with Rachel, Jenna, and Liza at Village Inn.

Summer joins us, late as usual,

steals food off our plates,

this is how it has always been.

Our waitress, familiar after years of Free Pie Wednesdays,

asks us about our summers;

all our stories have the same ending.

Our waitress says she’ll miss us.

Who else, she says, will cram into this corner booth?

This is what it feels like:

I haven’t known loneliness since the seventh grade.

I’m not ready to meet it again.

For now, we are warding it off with the weapons we are familiar with:

Wal-Mart parking lots,

Village Inn hash-browns,

concert tickets and exhaustion.

I know this can’t last forever.

I’ve been thinking a lot about expiration dates. How they

shout up from the backs of milk cartons

and friendships. About how

you can’t ignore them. They are not a

suggestion. They are a reality.

Still, this is one I would rather forget.

On Opposite Cities

I am a citizen of two cities. They sit

opposite each other, inversely and directly

proportionate, I am a member of both at once,

I never know which one will greet me

when I wake up.

On some days, I wake to the gray steel

and smooth silence of Solitude.

I walk the streets and find nothing but

quiet, and the buildings are made of

iron that is cold and somehow soft to the touch.

Sitting in Solitude is to recharge. To find peace in the

emptiness. When I am here,

I am finding myself.

Other days, there is a shout or a crack,

and my eyes open to loud colors,

bright noises seeping through thin walls.

The streets of Company are full of walking disasters

pretending as people. They call to me

and pull me in, there is always

dancing and singing and

music blasted from the tops of towers.

Company is adrenaline, freedom, danger.

When I am here,

I am losing myself.

When the sun drops lower towards the horizon,

things change.

Solitude’s silence becomes threatening,

a low hum of paranoia,

the iron buildings cast long shadows

and it feels like weakness,

it feels like loneliness.

Company’s colors fade,

the sun falls faster and the brightness melts into black,

nothing has harmony. It is chaos,

it is overwhelming.

When the night falls,

I leave the cities

and walk into the desert

where I can see them as what they are,

both looming over the sand and the heat,

opposite and balanced.

I sit cross-legged.

This is where, a citizen of two opposites,

forever enfolded in contradictions,

I let myself be.

Ashley Marco

Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]

Ode to the Shorts I’m Wearing Right Now

I remember sitting in the seat behind the passenger seat of my grandparents’ car

My older sister driving in traffic for the first time

My legs sticking to the tan leather as she successfully switched lanes, a first, a new greatest accomplishment

That night I slept in my shorts

My wonderful, size 18 high-waisted shorts from Forever 21

I slept at the bottom of my best friend’s bed, her monster feet digging into my side

I wore my shorts for three days straight

Which, admittedly, is pretty gross

But I felt like summer

I felt like the soles of feet burning on hot cement

Like chlorinated water dripping out of hair

Like picnics in pajamas at the park down the hill

And it was all due to a pair of shorts

How many girls tried them on, I wonder, in the fitting rooms at the mall?

How many turned away from them at the thought of their exposed thighs?

How many decided they didn’t need them?

Shorts are not said to be anything special

But to me

They are heat and sweat

Not from exertion, but from the sun beaming down from the sky

A too-bright hello

They are laughter and fireworks

And pink lemonade

They are dares from friends I haven’t seen in a month to drink straight lemon juice

Or to lick a stick of deodorant

They are the soul of summer

And I will wear them in the autumn and the spring

To remind myself how much I love the summer

And to feel my legs sticking to leather seats

Danielle Callins

Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges]

azThe Inbetween
The whispers of a soul
mend a broken home,
kissed by loving memories.
Frozen in time with a heartbeat.
If only to be ripped,
from the pocket, of being alive.
Pages swear to never hurt.
The next time, won’t be loving.
The necklace is no longer the sign of destruction,
but the lamppost of hope.
Shown as together,
but underneath the surface-
utterly shattered.

The Lonely Road Home
The loving whispers of home,
broken and hurt.
The silence of a heartbeat,
frozen with memories.
If only to be alive
pages could kiss
the children ripped from their childhood.
In the pocket of lonely children
you shall find a necklace.
This necklace is the lamppost of dreams.
Because the street of reality is a lonely one.
Too lonely.

Ode to the Dining Room Table
I have an
odd love
for my dining room table.
Maybe it’s the familiarity
that brings the family together.

It is the bearer of
news bad and good,
of disappointment and permission.

It is there when
needed, and
there when wanted.

It held my hand,
through times of darkness.
It was there.

The tattoos of the past
will always show,
like memories of the time lost.
knife indents,
colored spots,
bleach marks,
burn patches,
and so much more.

It is the glue
that keeps us together,
perhaps forever.
For this, I will always
love, my dining room table.

Today was not yesterday.
Today is not tomorrow.
Today is Today.

No one knows
what will happen next.
Because it is now.

The day is full of possibilities
of both tragedy and victory.
Of laughter.

Live for today.
Move past the sad moments.
Embrace the happy ones.

Live for  you.
Not for the person beside you.

Make your own mark.
Create your own signature.
Find your own, love.

Because Today
is a new, day.

Keep Out
No Trespassing
Do Not Enter

Signs are just
until you mean

We put up signs
to protect ourselves,
from the pain,
that has yet
to come.

Enter at your own risk.
Fines double in construction zones.
Keep your arms, legs, and heads in at all times.

That is all we want.
That is all we desire.
But is it really?

Or is it love?
And that love
is dangerously
too happy
for our hearts and minds
to comprehend.

Tiara Crites

Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.

[Copic markers and pencil on paper. 9 in by 12 in. Illustrated by Katharen Hedges.]


I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know how to fold my hands and beg air to keep my family safe,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that the raindrops from the sky,

as they explode against my window,

sound like whispers

and I know that the leaves rustling above my head sound like soft Latin,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that grass makes my skin itch for freedom

and mosquitos believe my blood to be their divine nectar

and bees just want to be left alone to make honey,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I know that my instincts were damaged in my fall to earth

and pain is what keeps us alive

and heartbeats are what make people into music,

but I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

But I do know exactly what a prayer is.

A prayer is

plants struggling up from the ground like

the first words from a baby’s mouth.

A prayer is

a reminder of things past,

a photo album of memories,

like relics of what happened before you could see,

like history books of creation,

like redwood trees.

A prayer is

the last breaths of animals now extinct,

dire wolves and sabertooth tigers stepping aside

to let lizards like thunder inherit their earth.

You’re a prayer, too.

You’re a prayer like

chittering squirrels are a prayer,

like lilacs,

like paint is a prayer to the fingers of an artist.

You’re a prayer

like violins are prayers

like a secret is a prayer for loyalty.

You’re a prayer

like golden sun,

the sound of cherries bursting in your mouth

like red.

You’re a prayer.

A prayer is

the softness of the winds fingers on your skin.

A prayer is

pens smearing ink on pages to form words.

A prayer is

the light of the stars,

like streetlamps in space.

A prayer is,

a prayer is,

a prayer is.

Advice for Those Who Want to be Writers

The most important thing about writing,

or being a writer,

or even pretending to be a writer,

isn’t the words.

As a writer,

you’ve got to remember to take care of yourself.

I’m as guilty as anyone else when it comes to forgetting to stay hydrated,

but you will suffer,

and your writing will suffer,

if you don’t remember to take care of the body spitting out the words.

You have to nourish the garden growing the ideas

and the blood forming the words.

You’ve got to love yourself the same amount as you love

the worlds scratching themselves across your pages.

Even if your can’t feel love for yourself as you exist away from your pen,

go back and read the words that have managed to free themselves from your hands,

remember the way your heart beat as they fled,

remember the love you felt for them that day and every day since you let them go,

remember that


were the one that brought them to life,

remember that it was your hand

and your brain

and you

that painted that masterpiece of the written word.

Realize that it is still a part of you even if you no longer control it.

Realize that this is how you love yourself when you can find no other way

or no one else to do it.

Realize that this is how you soothe your soul and

realize that other people will love and hate these parts of you,

but you loved them enough to let them go.

So, the most important thing about being a writer is to love your words,


and no one else’s,

because loving yourself is important.

It opens to the door to love other things,

and that,

that loving,

is what writing,

being a writer,

or even pretending to be a writer,

is about.

Baby, You

On August 18, 1998,

the galaxy shook as the, ahem,

Crown Jewel, of the Crites family was thrown into this world,

screaming at the top of her lungs,


and everyone around her only heard healthy wailing.

If I could go back for a moment and tell her that she was,

in fact,

ready, I wouldn’t.

Because that would be a lie.

But, if I could tell her something, it would be this:

Baby, you are not ready, but that is okay.

Because, in just over three years you are going to be given a brother,

and you are going to name him yourself,

and he is going to be a little punk,

and it will probably be your fault,

but you are going to love him like God loved Adam.

You are going to love him like nebulas imploding,

and shells from tanks piercing the armor on your chest in an effort to demolish your heart.

You are going to love him like you have never loved anyone else,

like you will never love anyone else,

because you will watch him grow up to be a lovely young man,

and while he may not always be the precious little brother you started with,

and while he may not always be nice,

he will always be yours.

You cannot say that about anyone else,

and maybe that is why you will love him like the sky is falling.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be rocketing through your twelfth year on this planet

when you realize that this new place will be good for you.

You will be unaccustomed to clean air and friendliness,

but you will eventually get over the need to have stare-downs with people for dominance

as you make eye-contact with them in Target.

You will learn to smile at strangers and detect changes in the weather using only your sinuses.

You will learn how to paint smiles on your lips and pretend you’re okay

when you can feel yourself coming apart at the seams and starting to fray at the corners.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, when you are approaching your fourteenth year,

death will fall at your feet in the form of your Abuelo dying.

You will have never had a blow from the Grim Reaper strike so close to your heart before,

and you will cry like you have Niagra Falls in your eyes

for a man who was more of a Grandfather to you than your real one and that’s okay,

because the moment you stop experiencing feelings like they’re natural disasters

is the moment that you are no longer yourself.

You will be able to feel his loss tucked underneath your ribcage, up against your spine,

every day of your life.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be almost fifteen when you find what you are made of.

You will be sitting in an auditorium with a hundred other kids, and you will be starstruck.

You will be the only one starstruck.

There will be kids that you will come to know on that stage reading poetry from

the deepest, most hidden parts of themselves, and you will ask someone,

who, looking back, was probably Quinten,

for his autograph

and you will take a flyer from someone who introduced themself as Stacey.

At the base of your sternum, you will know that this is what you should be doing.

Baby, you will be sitting in a library with forty other kids, and you will be starstruck.

You will not be the only one starstruck.

This man will inspire you to pick up a pen and write your first poem, aptly titled,

This Poem Sucks.

Your blood will boil, and your bones will scream what your mouth cannot,


You will perform your sucky poem and, for the first time in your life,

you will live.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be a little more than fifteen when your Pre-ACT

starts catching the eyes of colleges from around the country.

Colleges will send you more mail than you know what to do with.

It’ll feel awkward throwing it away, like throwing away your future,

but it’ll feel just as awkward keeping it up in your room,

letting them taunt you with a tomorrow you cannot seem to taste or see or touch.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you will be sixteen when your perception of yourself turns into

a kaleidoscope of terms that your parents do not understand.

You will hold each term, each color up to the light and then up to yourself.

You will look at them in the mirror and try to decide which of them looks best on your skin.

You will decide on one and then change your mind and decide on another.

You will change your mind again and again until

you settle on the palette you’ve been dancing around for three years.

This picture of you that you’ve been working on will finally seem to be in the right shades,

but this masterpiece will stay under your shirt until you think the time is right.

Accepting yourself will be the hardest easy thing you’ve ever had to do.

Baby, you still will not know what to do, and you still will not be ready.

Baby, you’ll be on the verge of seventeen when you find the answer you’ve been struggling for:

poetry is not about the frilly things.

Poetry is about the gritty stuff,

the sand crunching and grating between your teeth,

the stuff you poke at with toothpicks and your tongue and your toothbrush

but just slides in deeper between your teeth until you learn to live with it in your mouth or

it dissolves and leaves you with phantom discomfort.

That is what poetry is about.

Baby, you will be on the verge of seventeen when you dip your hands in ink

and forget how to write prose with your fingertips.

It’ll feel like your brain is baking,

and your head is full of yeast,

and you will rise and fall,

you will rise and fall.

You will be blessed by poet saint Stacey Waite,

and you will be cursed by the demon of writer’s block.


you will be transformed into a raven to leave black ink marks on parchment with your wings.

Quoth this raven, this is your re-birth.

If I could go back and tell her all of this, I would.

I would tell her anything and everything that would make her life just a little bit easier,

but she’s a baby.

She would forget my words and it wouldn’t make a difference.

She still wouldn’t be ready for the world that’s facing her,

for the world that takes soft little baby girls like flowers,

and forges them with rough hands into women hard like diamonds,

because flowers are fragile and easy to crush under muddy workboots,

but diamonds can only be cut by other diamonds,

and that’s what it takes for a girl to survive out here.

So, she still wouldn’t be ready, but that’s okay,

because I am.