The Venom Within

Written by Jake Hays

It’s been 3 days since I’ve left my bed for anything other than the bare necessities of life- plus the occasional gluttonous indulgence, cycled with unintentional periods of starvation, stemming from my inability to rise from my bed: my throne. There is nothing more comfortable than my throne: its warm embrace to my cold body, the softness of my sheets against the callousness of my skin, and the sweet caress of my pillow against my pained head. It’s my haven, a heaven in a world of hell, although it’s a double-edged sword, just like everything else in this world.

My doctor says I’m clinically depressed, which I believe to be a perfectly rational reaction to the evil in the world. It’s hard to be a human being. In my throne I don’t have to worry about the minutiae of life or anything else besides what I’ll eat next, at least on the good days. On my good days I take my Xanax before my comorbid anxiety can consume me; on my bad days, I spiral into a panic— convincing myself I’m not real and that I’m about to die… usually from a heart attack but sometimes more exotic ways such as being struck by a stray bolt of electricity (which honestly doesn’t seem all that bad). The heaviness in my heart is the first symptom, a feeling of a 50lb weight being laid on my chest. Then my heart starts to race as a cold sweat begins to engulf my body. It creates a positive feedback cycle, where anxiety begets more anxiety: until my Xanax can kick in. It’s a cycle of suffering. I have no motivation beyond the basic drive to eat and drink; which even that, I sometimes fail to fulfill. Everyday I wonder when I’ll reach my final straw, when the stress and suffering will become too much. 

I have no one. My one love died too young, a victim of cancer’s long, painful kiss of death. My parents were also blessed to have graced the presence of the proverbial grim reaper. All the friends I’d had are either dead or I left with nothing said. I’m alone, secluded to the confines of my throne. They think that pills can fix profound suffering; I’ve tried MAOI’s, SSRI’s, SNRI’s, TCA’s, Atypical Antipsychotics, every Anxiolytic ever created, and even Beta Blockers and seizure meds— none of which have worked. Even the best of meds, at best, can make me rise from my throne for an hour at a time. 

At some point in life you come to a realization, none of it matters. We’re inconsequential to anyone except ourselves; we’re minute compared to the vastness of the world. I have nothing but suffering here, so I’ve decided it’s time that I shed my last tear.

With every ounce of energy I have left in my body I rise from my throne for the last time. I grab the snake that I’ve kept in my closet all these years, hoping it would get better, but I’m just as hopeless and lost. The world has given me nothing but pain and regrets. I hope soon I’ll be reunited with my lover, although I think I’ll more likely simply cease to exist. I wrap the snake around a hook in the ceiling; willingly, I oblige to its venomous bite, although the snake didn’t doll the final blow, rather it was the venom within that was the root of this great sin. It was always just the venom within.

The Sunken Cathedral

Beneath rolling waves forgotten house rests, 

Where bells once did ring now lies in silence,

These once strong stones now in blue they are dressed,

Stained glass depicting thoust who is highest ,

These crumbling walls worn by the maritime,

That which was once grand is now quite humble,

Bright greens and reds dimmed by the hand of time,

Towering spires now turned into rubble,

Once warmly received by those near to her,

Now toss her to the depths of solitude,

Gifts of shame and sorrow they do confer,

The dark wolf once overcome now renewed,

Words of woe and sorrow they do speak true,

For thou now rests beneath The Blue Danube.


By Seneca Crosby

I never appreciated the light before I was plunged into the darkness. Over the weeks the Dark has morphed into a thick cloud of shadows. Its hands hold me down and pull me further into the darkness. The air around me is so heavy I can barely lift my head. Recently, the Dark developed a voice. It whispers in my ear and forces me to remember. Remember his face, his touch, his words. 

The more I remember the more the Dark looks like him. Its words hurt more now. “It’s all your fault. You wanted it.” “They will never listen to you.” Its grip tightens on me as I believe it’s lies. I close myself off from reality and huddle in the Darks’ cold arms. I fear it as much as I feared him. If I left he would hurt me. So I stayed.

I stopped fighting it and eventually, its face changed to a less familiar one. It told me that it was called Death. It told me that if I went with it, all my hurt and pain would disappear. Every day I stepped closer to Death. It promised me happiness with it. It promised to destroy him, to remove his fingerprints from my tattered spirit. I wanted to forget him more than anything. I wanted the memories and the hurt of his aura to disappear. I trusted that Death was the solution. 

Death cared for me more than anyone else did. It certainly cared more about me than he did. He only cared about my body, about what I could give him. He only took from me, and the one thing he gave me was pain. This pain haunted me and stalked my soul. He had beaten me down to the point where everything around me seemed bland and drained of color. I was told to let it go and move on. 

How could I move on when he was wrapped around my every thought? How could I move on when he still walked the same halls I did? How could I move on when Death promised me a relief that moving on never could? Death’s argument seemed more and more compelling as the days droned on. I was ready to make my decision.

     “I’ll go with you.” I spoke up to its blank face. I told hold of its frigid hand and almost jumped back in surprise. I had expected its hands to be warm and comforting. I had expected to be relieved to be with Death. All its words came crashing down on me and I realized it’s lies. I pulled my hand away from it and turned away from it. I didn’t get far until I felt the overwhelming pain from him. All the memories that had been frozen by Death had melted back into my brain. I felt colder than I had been with Death. 

Again, I was compelled to take its hand and follow it. I would rather feel Death’s glacial hands than live with the memories of him. I didn’t trust it, but I trusted it more than I trusted my own soul. I trusted that he could save me and that was worth all the pain. I stepped towards it again but before I could reach for its hand, an intense warmth overcame me. I looked behind me and a figure of light descended from the sky. 

She was beautiful. She took hold of my crippled soul and gave it hope. She led me away from Death and helped me back onto my feet. She was the true friend Death was pretending to be. She reminded me that no matter how dark and hopeless the world seems, the light is always around the corner. I haven’t seen much of Death much lately, nor have I felt it’s cold aura. Light has helped me back into my true self. I was fighting to win and I won thanks to her. She saved me from myself and gave me a reason to keep moving forward. Sure, it was hard at first, but I leaned against her for support as I took my first few wobbly steps away from Death. I have gradually started to understand that Death was lying to me. That what he did wasn’t my fault and that he can no longer haunt me. I’m free from him and Death, all because I turned my head towards Light and believed that she could save me. 

Scenes From a Gap Year Under the Scabbed and Cracked Skin of the American Pastoral

By Henry Tegethoff 

  1. (Veracruz, MX)

Your blond god has fallen to untouchable vileness 

What does he care for the atom bomb, the bed bugs, 

the friendly financier waiting to repossess my delinquent flesh?

The dull beauty of my filed-down teeth,

straw soaked in animal piss,

Mouth full of blood and disinfectant,

I wash my hands in an old enamel bowl.

All of us, blown from east 

Fallen leaves gather west:

the front wheel reflectoricepack and cigar smoke

the worn leather couch,

thrown down the walls.

Sleeping in a cattle car

a wheel sparking under us

running an iron rail gauntlet 

Lights from home pulse hollow in the distance,

Like neglected coal, a pile of dampened embers


II.  (Orlando, FL)

Yr blue love shining

Everywhere, sun-star, wailer

Hissing summer lawns 

Brilliant, beautiful 

The golden rosary beads 

O ever weeping

Yellow river mist

Nothing distinguishable 

Primordial, empty.


III. (Atlanta, GA)

Linoleum tile hallways, stiff and starched in white light 

The boys kick the ball 

Far across the field-

Lonely, the goalie waits.

Charming little bedraggled prince

Pleiades, spiders scrambling outta sinks

Flowers aiming crookedly

Geese cutting straight 

Clouds bouncing empty 

A telephone pole a hundred miles high

With buzzing wires of transcendence 

The cheap-movie sticky-floor echoing bliss

The Spanish moss anthill orange juice bliss

The rubber-scuff orange-glowing asphalt-champion bliss 

The midsummer of our lives

Folding beneath a molten moon

The bliss is heavy on my lids and I sleep 


IV. (Franklin, NC)

Dead in heaven

Earth a swirling meat wheel

And the mothers the only ones

To smile at me;

They know I’m someone’s son 

O old man, whom doth my garden keep

The things that you have seen would leave most men to weep

Tirelessly you work, and nothing do you reap,

Apart from all my dreams, which you harvest from my sleep

You’ve taken all I had now, and made it all your own

And saturated, now, is the garden you have grown

All the other fields lay barren, apart from Meter’s throne

My dreams, noble fruitions, that humbly you’ve sewn

Now both we lay, at our humble garden’s edge

And the smallest stars began to perforate the sun’s setting edge,

While lassitude, in its brilliant softness,

Begins to settle in Six feet beneath the daisies, in rest of mortal sin


V. (Cannon Beach, OR)

I’m running towards a winter sun

Hurdling down a cold red road for the sea 

Tonight I’ll stretch full by the fire

And drink from a black and starry stream.

Tomorrow I’ll make brute music from the pounding of my heels on packed earth!

The tall prairie grasses are sighing; our loveblown bannerets mourn in vain.

A birdless heaven and a lonely seadusk, kicking off my boots and falling to my knees in the spotted sand.

The moon weaves a web of silence,

Lambent waters brood the passing of another sullen day


VI. (Lone Pine, CA)

Outlaw poetry?

Poets walkin’ outside the law,

Spewing bloodstained words

Life can only be lived forwards, but can only be understood backwards

Trembling hands,

Jaws set firm,

Facing down the roar as they sow fields of their innocence,

The winners of the game romping around in their dry daze.

The losers weep

Cheap blood suckers gnashing in their consciousness 

The self loathing gangsters kicking the asphalt mud

Glittery-gold heaven’s angels sputtering around whistling gleeful 

Everybody wants the same chimera,

The sawed-smooth sun-swept sierras

Everybody’s spoonfed champion jumping from the top 

We stand trembling in our mortality boots, the drizzles of religion falling on a burial field, the grim mouth planted, the satin of the earth coffin.

I could write it on walls across America- Dove in wings of peace, great Noah menageries, moonshine eyes and milky minds, dead dogs with shiny claws

They will all go up to heaven from where they are,

Like golden phantoms of angels in gold strap we go hitchhiking the Deus Ex Machina to heights apocalyptic and divine

It’s sick and soggy and perfect.


VII. (Marietta, GA)

Last night I played tennis with Jonathan

In the bleak brown traffic air

In the mortal Golden eternity 

In the dead silent coyote dogma 

It’s a thin Dixie white and worn,

From Virginia slims, drawn and torn

An emasculated visage, plain and dry

Braids tracing backs, feet are spry

The minute can’t be trapped in nets of cold,

But it can be snapped at frantically

And clamped between the pages of a journal,

Like a firefly at the mercy of a child’s whim

They all know themselves

Be it beast or jackal or love,

And they pry at the nails of their late Sunday nights 

Clawing at the crystal clarity of all their worlds 

In the church they light the candles,

And the wax rolls down like tears-

The band sounds like typewriters, 

Chickens scratching at my mortality

Plundered, betrayed, sold

crookedly they face a dark enclosure 

Baptisms, marriages, masses for the dead

What if birds aren’t singing they’re screaming? 

And roses are more than instruments of pure contradiction?

What if when gods come walking out of the living things,

Madness lifts its wing and covers half my soul?


VIII. (Bailey Island, ME)

The silence of god,

 The unbearable silence of god. 

The chatter of man, the silence of god.

This is the way it was,

While I was waiting for your eyes to find me.

The crucifix satellite tower

Stretching over the asphalt trenches,

Eric dolphy war whooping

For it’s a beautiful cosmos,

And a beautiful sea we sit watching 

As it crawls in lazily.

You rolling in your sand dune sleep

I basking in my completion,

 soaking in your enumerations


IX. (Murfreesboro, TN)

Ballerina purity,

How we meet today

Internalizing subtleties 

A movie night, a slumber party

Halloween on a tire swing

Our heads are drunk and empty

Take another walk by the scene 

Of all the haunting pleasantries 

I think I gave too much

But finally I understand your seasons

You speak in shallow sentences

Miraculous repentances 

For God is a dancer, nimble and busy

And if stay us dead in heaven

And our limbs should intertwine,

Shutter your stars, bleak and lazy

I’ll be back for them soon.

Self-Destructive Selfishness

By Gloria Wu

We live in an age where popular, mainstream ideas have emphasized loving yourself and accepting yourself for who you really are. Now, I am not against the movement of having people grow in confidence and happiness.

But what happens when we focus on ourselves in a selfish way may often lead to the opposite of happiness, and ultimately contributes to snowballing insecurity.

When I look around, I realize how much of a norm it has become in society. We post Instagram photos and ponder how many likes we can rack up. Not just photos, but posts of just ourselves. Whether it is a selfie of a face with makeup, or photos obviously just showing the world our body, posts on social media is just that. Like my recent! Comment and support! Yourself, myself, herself, himself. We are so self-absorbed, trying to prove to “others” of our worth, looks, or charm- whether or not “others” will actually care. We catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Smile! Flex! Pose! Stare at yourself for as long as you’d like until you are satisfied. The spotlight is all on you. And that’s the problem these days. We -the Gen Z- have been raised in such comfort that focusing on ourselves is all we have ever done. Why is that a problem? What’s the big deal? The deal is, all this energy focused on ourselves has given us nothing in return but stress, anxiety, and insecurity. Sure, our parents may have been insecure when they were our age. Everyone has gone through it, it’s totally normal. But what makes our generation so different? Is it self-love? Is it this so-called self-love that makes someone more insecure than they already are? Is it self-love that kindles FOMO (fear of missing out)? Is it self-love that ignites anxiety attacks?

The source of all these issues is actually self-centeredness. Self-centeredness and self-love are two completely different things. It’s unfortunate to see how common depression and anxiety is, and although they may be caused by traumatic events or genetic probability, I believe that we make our own problems. So much attention and detail on ourselves make us our worst critics. Directing all our attention on our flaws, short-comings, grades, and relationships definitely contributes to worry and fear. And this accumulation of worry and fear causes unhappiness, anxiety, and depression. Growing up in an environment of convenience, one small issue can lead to negative overthinking, ranting, and even panic attacks. Why is this happening to me? Why does everyone hate me? Why am I the only one? It may be a stretch to say that body image issues, eating disorders, depression, and even suicide may stem from this typical natural human tendency, but negativity is definitely contributing to these ubiquitous problems. So this kind of narcissism, or self-absorption, is actually what leads to self-destruction. The prosperous middle-class of America may seem to have it better than countless others compared the rest of the world, but we are still unhappy. And that’s the irony, the more we focus on our own happiness, the more unhappy we become.

To prevent the escalation of our own issues, let’s first focus on things that aren’t our issues. The world will keep on spinning with or without our issues, and the sun will still shine, and God is still good. This isn’t an active approach. I’m not saying to sit next to someone you don’t know at lunch or ask your friends to talk about their problems. This is a mental habit that gradually takes over your actions. Your thoughts always change your actions, but your actions may not necessarily change your thoughts. As you focus less on yourself, you may come to terms with yourself with peace. You don’t have to be your own slave. You don’t have to burden yourself with what YOU want to be (it’s probably actually what “others” want you to be, which ultimately doesn’t impact you until YOU allow it to). You are in charge of yourself. This may seem confusing, trippy, or cliche, but spending less energy on yourself (in a self-absorbed manner) can actually give you confidence you’ve never had before. You don’t have to think about yourself because isn’t that kinda tiring? Doesn’t it get boring? It’s much more meaningful to be a positive influence to other people because the spotlight doesn’t have to be on us anymore. We don’t need it.

So what do we need? We are all selfish people with an empty void to fill. We are in need of things greater and more meaningful in order for us to flourish. Find a passion, whether it be a sport, instrument, or other hobbies, and be good at it. To invest in this as well as the people around you makes your life more balanced. Your free time is in your hands. Rather than staying up late scrolling on tik tok, think about what you want your life to be like. Make it meaningful. Make it have an impact. Now is not the time to feel fulfilled with yourself, neither is it the time to indulge in the easy comforts of the twenty first century. It’s time to focus on the goals way bigger and way ahead of us. It’s time to grow. So let’s put aside the petty little trinkets we so adore and challenge ourselves to become more mature, stronger, and more selfless, investing ourselves in our studies, our goals, and our community.

Sonnet of the Times

By Lily Cox

Sonnet of the times 

You want future generations to fail?

Because you don’t seem to notice the heat.

The fires that make endangered species wail.

And the world leaders only mind to tweet.

It seems to us that you would rather sit lazily 

Instead of working to save your children.

Because you print one side conveniently,

Cutting trees, cutting years by the billion. 

The global temperature rising to highs,

And a million lost at battle front. 

But you say we are fine, that’s just lies. 

And we will prove to be the strong forefront.

But it is your choice not to save our home,

Well then we will have to save it alone.

The Watchdog

By Rebecca DeMouey

It was a quiet night. The only sound was the jingle of the dog’s collar as he walked around. It was his job to watch for intruders in the night, as he had done forever. It had become habit. Someone comes to the door, the dog barks, the strangers leave. Now the dog waited, although nobody had come to the door for almost a year now. He wondered why there were no visitors, but a dog can only do so much thinking. So, there he waited, continuing the job he had done for years, just hoping for a little excitement again. 

There was a reason for the lack of guests. Eight months ago, a warning letter was sent throughout the town, describing a serious threat. In the corner of the letter was a small paw print. Nobody knew when or what was coming, but they fled anyway, desperately attempting to escape the unknown. Everyone left except the dog and his owner. The man could not leave the home he grew up in. That was all that mattered to him. As for the dog, he just wanted to please his owner and remained a vigilant watchdog each night.

The rumored enemies never came. Instead, the town was eradicated of its inhabitants, who never returned. The owner rarely left the house, only to bring back food and supplies when they were needed. However, this day was different. It was still early morning, around 4 a.m. The owner took the excited dog on a leash, and they started down the sidewalk. They reached the local store and stocked up as usual. This time, however, they did not return home. Instead, they began the journey in the other direction to find the missing town.

The air was cold on this December day, and the steady gusts of wind kept the owner shivering. Although he had a coat, the brisk, dry air pierced his face. The dog didn’t mind the cold, as his fluffy coat of long hair blocked most of it out. He trotted contently beside his owner, who was tense. They continued on for a few hours until they reached an old cottage at the end of a street. It was dark and eerie, but the owner didn’t have much of a choice on entering when the dog pulled him to the door. The door was unlocked, and as they stepped inside, the air instantly became more bearable. The dog kept pulling towards a smell, with his nose close to the ground. Then he found it: a little black cat.

Initially, the owner was suspicious. He couldn’t believe a cat had been living alone all this time. However, as he approached the cat, it appeared famished and scrawny, so the answer was apparent. The owner gave the frightened cat some pet food he had packed for his dog on the journey. He then decided to look around the house for any clues. All he found were some pictures and a few black pawprints that lined the floor and the table near the typewriter. The house seemed to belong to an old woman, as the framed pictures dated back to the 1940s. He wondered if the lady had also left because of the warning. Instead of lingering in the strange cottage, the owner took his dog and a little suitcase from a closet to hold the cat, and they were back on the journey.

The three continued down the path toward the unknown destination, and they walked for most of the afternoon. Now, the sky darkened as the sun was almost set. It was getting late, so the owner decided they would need to find a place to stay for the night. Shortly after, they came across a small yellow house that seemed much more inviting than the old cottage earlier.

Inside, the house was dark, but the lightbulbs luckily still worked. There was a faint sound from above, and the man warily checked it out. When he entered the room, there was an old radio playing some music, giving the house a little more warmth. To the owner’s surprise, a little green bird was perched on a branch in a cage across the room. It was watching him as he walked closer. 

“Bed-time,” the parrot squawked. It startled the owner, but he oddly found it comforting. It was the first time he had heard a voice in almost a year. The owner found a bed to sleep in, and he allowed his dog to come with him. However, the dog wanted to sleep by the door. He would wait through the night to keep his owner safe, as he had done his whole life. 

In the morning, the man found a portable bird cage, and the four of them began the journey once again. Only this time, it was not long before they heard sounds in the distance. It was laughter, children, a school bell. They continued toward the sound and found a class of little children running around a playground. 

“Hello,” the owner called, as he waited behind the fence. A teacher turned around and saw the man. She seemed startled, but she approached him anyway. 

“Hi,” she replied. “Can I help you with something?”

“What is the name of this town?” the owner replied. “I have been on a long journey from home and I am looking for the town that the people fled to. If you know what I am talking about, will you lead me to the them?” 

“I’m sorry, but I cannot help you, sir,” she replied. “You should get going now.” Suddenly, the woman began frantically gathering the children inside as she glanced back at the man. 

The owner knew he would have to be stealthy if he wanted to figure out what was going on. He took his three traveling partners and his bags around the fence to the front of the building. It appeared to be housing much more than just school children. He was mistakenly welcomed inside by a small child.

It was not welcoming after that. “Everyone hide!” a man hollered as he saw the owner. In that moment, everyone in the building ran into hiding. This was not just a school. There were families gathered together, with beds and furniture set up around the floor. Then the owner figured it out. This was the place the town had fled to.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I am only looking for my town.” They did not move. Of course they could not trust an intruder, especially in a time like this. The owner began to formulate a plan to convince the people he was not a threat, but then his fate quickly changed. Out from his bag, the parrot began to squawk. 

“Hello, hello. Today is Monday,” he said, although it really wasn’t. Everyone remained in hiding, except there was a small voice coming from behind a chair. 

“Max?” the voice said. “Is that really you?” A girl stepped out from behind the chair and stood staring at the bird. She instantly lit up in a smile and ran toward her beloved parrot. 

“I can’t believe it’s you!” she exclaimed. “I never thought I would see you again.” Then she faced the owner and asked, “Where did you find Max?”

“On my way here, I came across two empty houses,” he answered. “One was your house, the one with Max inside. The other was an old cottage with a little black cat living there.” He expected to see an old lady step forward to claim her kitten, but nobody appeared. Instead, the cat jumped out of the man’s arms and darted toward a thin brown door. It pushed its nose through the opening and raced out. After a moment of silence, a series of meows echoed throughout the building. The man hurried down the hall to find the cat standing on a pile of letters in fine typewriter print. The one on top, however, was familiar. It was the message of the threat to the town from almost a year ago. The owner almost ignored it as he had received plenty of these letters before, but something caught his eye. There was a familiar black pawprint stamped in the corner of the letter, just like the prints found in the cottage with the typewriter and the black cat.

When the owner ran back to the main room, the people were all gone. Confused, he jogged back to the room with the letter, and it was suddenly gone too. All that remained on the desk were pictures of three houses: the owner’s house, the cottage, and the yellow house, each stamped with the same black pawprint. Connecting it all, he realized the cat had been responsible for everything that had happened in the past year. Now the animal was long gone. Perhaps it had moved on to its newest town.

Themes from Lit AP

By Audrey Regan

My teacher said,

I’m grade one

That I am not the brightest

She told me “You can’t spell,

School isn’t something you’ll do well.”

I asked my mom if she was right,

“I can talk and read and write.

I just don’t know where vowels go.”

She told me don’t explain when you can show.

Testing, finally my time had come.

I shocked her when I wasn’t dumb.

At long last I’d have my place,

In a reading group that was my pace.

But I didn’t get that spot once more.

My tiny jaw, it hit the floor.

I asked “why,” my head a whirl.

She said, “You’d be the only girl.”

I believe that when I first felt cheated,

Like all my work had been deleted.

My brain meant less because I wore pink,

My curly pigtails meant I couldn’t think?

I think maybe that is why,

I have always felt such a need

To prove myself to the masses.

Why I stopped dressing up and wore my glasses.

I hunkered down and I began

A long, elaborate, revenge plan.

I wrote more than any peer.

My journals filled up every year.

I worked until I became

The kid that doesn’t seem the same.

Because I liked to think and read and write,

But long ago I set my sights.

I’m not great I’ll bluntly say.

But I earned the score I got in May.

I still can’t spell and that won’t stop.

But this is the clearest I’ll see the top.

I’m not so average when I do my best,

I think any teacher would attest.

So, from my seat in AP Loy,

In all the work that I submit

I really hope that you can see

What this subject means to me.

One day I hope I will return,

To the women who left the harshest burn.

She’ll say “Audrey it’s been so long.”

And I will say “You were wrong.”