Saturday, January 30, 2021

Things Change. Things Stay the Same. We Carry On.

We all thought 2021 would be a better year, and . . .well . . . it may be that we have started off on the wrong foot.  But there is still lots of time left in this year, and if there is one constant in life it is this:  Everything changes. What changes will this year bring?  For you? For our school?  For the world around us? 

Uncertainty can unleash creativity, and we hope that you'll enjoy this month's edition of the magazine.  We also hope that you are taking time to write and record the wild ride of this new year. Remember to share some of that with us by submitting your own work for publication. 

Artwork by Jacob D., Grade 8

The Adventures of a Teen Caught In a Pandemic

The day is March 13th. It’s currently lunchtime, but I’m staying in Mr. K’s room to review before a math quiz. I’ve heard the rumors about a new pandemic arising globally, but like everyone else, I did not think much of it… until ten seconds later.

“Rayan, the championship game’s canceled”, my teammate, Jack hollered across the hallway while I was peering at my notebook through the open door of my dark green locker. I quickly put my notebook down and ran towards Jack.

“No way, you’re kidding me,” I said in desperation.

“No joke,” he replied, “They’re having a team meeting in the cafeteria, but since we stayed in we could not hear any of it; the only reason I found out was when I was picking up my lunch." My heart felt as if all the possible anxiety and stress just arrived… and I had a math quiz in 20 minutes. Great, great stuff Rayan, I thought to myself with a small hope that I was dreaming, and this news had not struck me as the freight train it was. I started walking back towards Mr. K’s classroom.

“I heard your little championship game got canceled; that’s unfortunate,” Mr. K said with a smirk indicating his usual sarcasm. I ignored and tried to start and focus on my geometry terms. 30-60-90 Triangle Theorem and Properties, I slowly read to myself. I could not remember any of the theorems nor any of the properties. This sums up the day pretty well, can’t wait to blank out on the quiz in five minutes because of the uncertainty of our game, I enviously thought. The bell rang and immediately, I stepped out of the classroom to try to gather more information on the situation from my friends and teammates. I saw our team captain Jake, who also happened to be in math class with me, walking towards the classroom.

“Jake is the game off?” I said enthusiastically, eager for a quick response.

 “Yeah, it’s actually off bro; it’s BS,” Jake replied. I quickly nodded and stepped into class, so I was not counted as late for the period. I was still processing everything that happened. The quiz was a complete blur; I still have no recollection of how it went since we never got it back due to the pandemic. My last and final class for the day was Spanish. I waddled through the hallways, avoiding eye contact with everyone in my way. Nothing was out of the routine in Señora Kincus’s 7th-period class. Señora gave the players on the team kind words of encouragement as always, but I still could not believe I was going home on the bus in 20 minutes. The whole atmosphere was a bummer. I tried my best to focus, but as the bell rang, I just wanted to do my best to get out of there. My arm slowly pushed against the door as I exited with everyone else behind me; eager to get home as well.

“Don’t forget about our quiz on Tuesday!” I heard Señora say on our way out. No one acknowledged it and the class at large kept sauntering on their way to the locker areas. Little did everyone know this was the last time they would see their lockers for an exceedingly long time.

Beep Beep Beep, my alarm rang. I slowly got up and clicked the “Stop Alarm” button on my phone. My body ached from the chest and legs; I could feel the stiffness in my bones and body. I eventually gathered enough willpower to get up and get ready for the day ahead. In the moment, I was not expecting to arrange anything significant, solely go to the gym for a little bit, watch TV, read part of my summer reading book. I started walking downstairs and peered at my phone that read “11:29 AM.” I quickly ate breakfast and asked my dad to drop me off to the gym for a few hours.

“Remember your mask,” my dad hollered from the car. I grabbed my mask, bag, and water bottle and left for the car. 20 minutes later, I stepped out of the car and headed towards the YMCA entrance. I’m going to try to lift for the initial 30 minutes then conclude with basketball for the preceding hour or so, I thought with speculation in my mind. I entered the fitness center with a not so pleasant greeting,

“You need your mask on upon entrance, please.” Ah yes, I partially forgot about the fact that we remain in a worldwide pandemic that could not escape anyone’s mind or actions. Slightly embarrassed, I place my mask on and secured it to be above my nose. Almost everyone had a mask on; some maintained it hanging down below their mouth while using workout machines which was understandable. I remember thinking to myself, wow this is the world we live in at the moment. Masks everywhere on every occasion. Restrictions on restrictions. You could not escape the virus. Its remnants are with you wherever you go and whenever you go. I could not believe looking back that this was only believed to be like a 2-week minor inconvenience. Nobody would’ve thought that it would’ve extended to everyone looking like surgeons and some going to the extent of hazmat suits.

I ended up only lifting for 20 minutes in the beginning because I saw friends working out on the courts. When I exited, I was sweating, and my hands were closely clenched on my water bottle which only had a few more sips left to offer to my drained body. By the time my ride pulled up to the entrance, it was empty, and I slumped down in my seat and grabbed a Gatorade from the side holders next to me. When I returned home, it was 4 pm sharp. After an hour of sitting on my phone, I honestly did not feel too tired. I asked some neighborhood friends if they wanted to bike around for a little bit. They agreed and by 5:30 we were all together. We did not know what direction we were going; we just kept going down random roads and crossing streets on our bikes till I pointed out that we were on Holicong Road. We all looked at each other; no food nor water, like scavengers eager to find something of value. The boredom of the pandemic and all the closings had gotten to us. I quickly took out my phone and pulled up Google Maps to make sure we were going the proper direction. We started along the road with our bikes slowly but surely making it up the first hill of the 14 long miles ahead of us.

After thirty minutes of biking along and across a few more busy roads and unnecessarily fast motorcyclists, we arrived at an intersection away from the big “H” at the front of Holicong. As I looked behind, I could observe even bikers wearing a mask, and a few people in their cars had masks on as well. That’s how everything was now; precautious with face coverings on and it’s something everyone had gotten accustomed to. When we ultimately got to Holicong, we biked down the empty parking lot only to make a loop near the gym entrance. We could see the empty football field, which still had remnants in my mind of the packed games that everyone has gone to at least once in their high school years. I restrained for a few seconds to regain my breath while my friend was already going ahead and back into the road to consider making it home before it got dark. That’s additionally the moment I recognized that water is always essential on bike rides and we suffered a lack thereof. I gradually positioned my foot on the pedal, turned the gear down a few levels, and started pedaling back the way we started. Brutally tired and hungry, we all just wanted food and some kind of beverage. No one had any cash or masks so there was no chance to pick up anything at the Wawa nearby. We undertook the hasty journey back and by the time everyone said their farewells, I was exhausted. I ran into my house and snatched the first piece of candy and bottle of water I laid sight on. I reflected on the extended, perilous day and thought about how different life was from that one random Friday in March; to now with millions of lives impacted in one way or another. A day for the history books, I thought with a hushed silence throughout the house.

by Rayan T., Grade 9

Artwork by Anya M., Grade 9

The Autobiography of a Reader

Books are like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David sculpture; they are simply works of art. We seem to take for granted the true power of books, painting a picture in our minds, forming a true friendship with the characters, and tearing apart our emotions: sadness, joy, or anger. The authors are the artists, creating magical, vivid masterpieces with every word. When you read, you get lost in the author’s world, walking beside the characters, seeing and feeling everything they do. Books are not just for reading, they are for experiencing.

I could see the crisp, white moon through my window, floating in the endless black sky. The lamp next to me emits its soft glow, following me as I climb into bed. I place The City of Ember on my lap, opening to where the fading blue bookmark stood. My eyes scroll through the pages and soon, I am lost in my book. As I wander through the pages, my heart beats faster. I hold my breath as I turn the page, too excited to see what would happen next. My eyelids start to flutter, like a monarch butterfly’s soft, delicate wings. I shove the bookmark between the stiff pages, toss the book carelessly onto the floor, and fall fast asleep, like a cat resting in the sun.

            Never before had I encountered a book so engaging, one that I just could not put down. I never realized that just a few simple pages of words could suck you in so deeply and never let you out. The City of Ember helped me appreciate books much more than I had before, opening my eyes to other, more advanced novels I would read in the future. It allowed me to read with a clear, open mind, a fresh canvas awaiting the brush strokes filled with color. Now, I finally saw how incredible books could be.

            There I sat on the rough, forest green carpet, my legs crossed and my back straight as a pencil, ready for the story to begin. Finally, the teacher sat in the rocking chair, white flakes of paint chipping off from past adventures she had read. She opened the book and began to read, her loud yet soothing voice, echoing through the classroom. Page after page, my eyes grew wider, like a bright yellow sunflower blooming in the morning light. I was filled with joy as a smile inched across my face. My sticky 8-year-old hands clenched my Cotton Candy lollipop, getting smaller with every lick. My entire class stood still, too engaged in our story to say a word. The room was silent, like a dark forest on a windless night, not even the wolves howled at the moon.

Artwork by Olivia Z., Grade 9

    Although I was in second grade at the time, this particular book still sticks with me. I realized for the first time how an author can draw a picture in your mind through their astonishing words. I finally began to learn that books were not just ordinary pieces of paper, they were truly works of art. This book placed so many images in my head that it almost felt as if I were there. I could feel Ivan’s silky black fur between my fingers and Ruby’s trunk brushing against my arm. I never knew a book could do that until I read The One and Only Ivan; it helped me discover author’s beautiful imagery in many novels I would read throughout my life.

            Books can teach you a lot of things, like how to connect with the characters or how to imagine what the author is writing, but most importantly, they teach us the power of words. Words can break us, comfort us, engage us, and help us experience life with the characters. Words can do anything, both good and bad, we just have to appreciate and live everything the author gives us. Without powerful words, books would be nothing, the beach without sand or the sky without birds. Books need valuable words, or else, they will drift away, like a lost shell, vanishing into the endless sea.

by Lila S., Grade 9

Monday, December 21, 2020

The Closing of a Memorable Year

 As frustrating and painful as COVID-19 has been for everyone, it has forced us to slow down, think, and -- with a stroke of inspiration -- write about these wild days at the end of a mad, mad year.  

December reminds us that time moves forward, a new year awaits, and like all books, things come to an end.  The reflections we publish this month not only capture a moment in time, but a mood, an era.  We hope you enjoy reading this month's publication.  


The bitter tasting word burnt my tongue   

As it rattled  

Out of my mouth.  

It set off ringing from eardrum to eardrum,  

Making me fume,  

But it was inescapable.  

I peered down to see the phrase  

inscribed across a firetruck red dot under my feet  

As I waited in line to buy a single roll of toilet paper at Target.  

I looked up to see blank masks  

Acting as a canvas for the unspoken word.  

Like the word was a baby goose  

And I was its mother,  

It followed me.  

“COVID-19” was everywhere.  

by Cassandra K., Grade 9

Artwork by Kate I., Grade 9

I stared outside the sad window of my apartment, looking out below at the empty streets. The once bright outside was now dark, reminiscent of all the cold dilapidated cities within apocalypse movies. Well, it was basically an apocalypse. A virus spreading and wiping out humanity is often the plot for many an apocalypse movie. And while it isn’t completely a mass extinction, like in movies, the amount of people outside would make one think it was. Only a few stragglers wandered the streets, avoiding each like the plague (literally). The occasional car passing by frightened those, showing the anxiety and fright hidden underneath the masks they wore, both physical and metaphorical.

            Turning from the window, I plopped down unto the small couch squeezed inside the apartment. I stared at the ceiling, remembering of the past bright lights. The first day of seeing center square, the bright advertisements and lamps lighting up the sky. The busy sound of traffic, people talking and walking, the city itself seemingly breathing and living. Compared to now, that was a distant memory, a light fading away, the once living city, the “city that never sleeps” now dead. In place of the shining city was simply a dead husk of what it once was.

I close my eyes, trying to remember the comfort of the complicated, diverse, bright city New York that was famous, not this one that is cold and leaves a chill down ones spine from the loneliness, the tension, and the pressure in the air. Sighing, I continue to do what I had been doing for a while now, what with the quarantine and the like. I turn on the tv and start looking for a movie. A movie to allow me to escape this reality. I select a movie and begin watching, trying to leave behind the cold, empty, city even if for just a small, brief period of time. The movie starts, and the memory of world outside fades, my mind now occupied with the flashing colors, blinding me from atrocities on the outside for a few moments.

by Nicholas B., Grade 9

Artwork by Olivia M., Grade 9

Stained Rugs

Like an exquisite, white rug,

stained by colorful juices,

everyone has their imperfections.


And the tragedy to discover,

our own role models have stains:

dark colors emerging from their walls

of flawless white.


But what if…

what if we appreciated these colors?

We all acquire stains:

blues, purples, and reds,

that paint our surface.


Let us embrace our stains

and wear them with pride.

Because after all,

what’s the fun

of a blank rug?

by Chantal V., Grade 9

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cold Season, Warm Welcome

 It has been a start of the year like no other, and the first edition of our online magazine has been slightly delayed!  But we are glad you have come to join us in this space.  We have already enjoyed a memorable online coffeehouse event, our opening editor's meeting for the year, and some time to come together as a team of writers and artists.  But of course it is your submissions that make this annual online magazine what it is.  We hope that YOU will become a part of Sevenatenine by emailing submissions to your English teacher or to one of our student editors. 

Enjoy this preview of the excellent work we will share this year on Sevenatenine, your Holicong Middle School literary magazine.  


How silently they come

Drawn off branches

To lay a carpet on the ground


I imagine a sandbox in this leaf

Mixed with fire and sun

Colors gleaming

Rough, colorful, dry


Curled like the ends of my hair in the wind

Dancing as the wind brushes by

Till no more.

by Inaya K., Grade 9

Artwork by Jane H., Grade 9


Spills equal disappointment,


s p r e a d s
and soaks through every layer of you. 

Like ketchup sprayed on a white shirt.  

Spilling on something you love, 
from someone you love.
their kindness now covered by the smell of coffee. 

S1 Ep1: A Dunkin Donuts Disaster

well, they spill too.
Meeting someone for the first or the hundredth time,
slooooow and controlled words suddenly jolt,
and you begin to tell them about the pimple on your forehead,
your hopes,
your dreams and aspirations.  

by Zoe L., Grade 9

Artwork by Molly P., Grade 9

Artwork by Molly P., Grade 9

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The End of the Year As We Know It

Well, the year took an unusual turn, which interrupted our usual publication schedule.  Still, we are happy to bring you two memorable memoirs to make you smile at the end of this year as we enter this time of reflection and pause to consider all the things we are grateful for despite our tumultuous end of the year.  Thanks to Ava, Anthony, and Charley for sharing their work with us in this final post of the year.

Photograph by Charley W., Grade 9

The Mystery Man's Shoes

When I was six years old, I shook my bloody hand with a random man. Turns out, we live together now.
              Hours earlier, it began with curiosity. What does he look like? What does he sound like? Is he nice? This mystery man was in our house: Taking up time with my mom. And I can’t even meet him.
              My parents had been divorced since I was two. It had always just been the two girls, so my mom and I were inseparables. About four years after, my mom started “talking” to someone. I was only six, but I was not happy. Some man I didn’t even know was coming over, and I had to stay in my room and sleep. Now even though I was extremely eager to meet this person, I stayed in my room like a good girl and respected my mom and her little “friend”.
              As my mom tucked me in bed, I could tell she was antsy. And then the doorbell rang, and my door slammed shut. My mom rushed out of my room and forgot to turn my nightlight on. This was a strict routine broken for some random person. Already a red flag in my head. At the time, my nightlight needed to be on for me to sleep, so I quietly got out of bed. It was so dark; I was swatting around trying to feel for the switch.
All of a sudden, I knocked over my collection of Dr. Seuss books right off my bookshelf, where it hit me straight in the nose. I could immediately feel the blood ooze out. I quickly ran out my door, straight to the bathroom. I felt fine, but my nose did not want to give up. I could hear laughter under me. My mom told me not to come downstairs because she didn’t want me to meet the mystery man yet, so I was alone and panicking. From the stairs I knew I could stand near the balcony where I could peer downstairs and possibly get my mom’s attention. I sat in the bathroom trying to stop the blood thinking of all the ninja moves I could do to get to my mom, but also knowing I only have one hand with the other holding the tissue firmly.
              About an hour had passed, and the blood did not slow down. At this point I could feel it drizzling down my throat as I would quietly gag. I finally gave up and peered over the edge of the stairs like a spy. I kept watching their feet move from the kitchen to the living room. My number one thought at the very moment was, “I really don’t like his shoes.” When I was done my shoe critiquing, I could see the man walking out where I could get a clear vision of him. I shut my eyes immediately when he came out like he was Medusa. I wanted to play it safe, just in case my mom could tell I saw him. She somehow knows everything.
              I stood there for another hour. Thoughts raced back and forth to the pace of my feet. Finally, I realized I need help.
              “Mom…” I called down.
              “Ava!” my mother shouted surprisingly.
              “I’m really sorry. I hit my nose and I—”
My mom looked at me and saw the tissues piled into my face like a cushion. She ran upstairs. Mom to the rescue! I explained to her what had happened. She laughed and helped me stop the blood. After cleaning my nose, my mom brought me downstairs to finally meet the mystery man. After all this, she knew she couldn’t keep me away. I was brought downstairs where I shook my sweaty hands full of dry blood with Dave. My stepdad of almost 10 years. I made sure that he never wore those shoes again.
Growing up with a stepdad was difficult for me at a young age. I missed my mom. I missed my dad. I was jealous that my mom had another focus. It turns out, having a stepdad is one of the best things that had happened in my life. I had someone else to take care of me, to take care of my mom. I was introduced to my love of snowboarding and traveling. I learned how to toughen up, and standup for myself. I got the opportunity to grow up with a father. Even if I just call him Dave. Now I have to do it all over again, this time with a stepmom…

by Ava L., Grade 9

Photograph by Charley W.

The Summer Tree

It was a perfect day to go to the tree that beautiful summer afternoon. Birds were singing their joyous and playful songs, the flowers were in full summer bloom, the sun was up and smiling down at the world, and the soft hum of cicadas finally coming out of their shells created a warm, comforting environment. “This is a great day to go out into the woods!” 8th grade me exclaimed to my aloof brother, who was too busy playing FIFA on our Xbox to care about what I was saying. “Maybe I’ll go out to see the tree today again…”
          “The tree” was an irreplaceable staple of our woods, which resides right behind our backyard. It’s not any ordinary tree; however, it stands miles above the rest, wider than all the others combined, and there was one thing about it that really made it stand out as one in a million, quite literally. During a thunderstorm a few summers back, it was struck by lightning. But instead of falling over or catching fire—as trees always seem to do—it did something seemingly impossible and utterly inexplicable. All of its bark exploded off of its exterior, like a bomb that only touched the exterior of trees, leaving the white wooden interior exposed. The branches were desolate and void of life as well, without leaves, bark, squirrels or anything at all, looking like daggers pointed to the sky in rebellion against the forces that made it like this. And somehow, whether it be through luck or some sort of undiscovered magic, the tree continued standing proud like the god-defying giant it is.
          Ever since I found the tree when I was in 6th grade, I made it a yearly summer ritual to make my visits often to the tree, where I’d sit down on one of its collapsed, smaller and more unfortunate brothers and read a book or examine its black burn marks on its white skin, stretching up, down, left and right, like veins on a leaf. Making sure that the area around the tree stays clean has always been a chore for more, but one that I generally enjoyed doing. Making sure no weeds got too close to it, ensuring no one left their litter around, and especially making the ground a good place to sit down and chill out with a bag of chips and some entertainment on a hot summer day.
          This time around, for the second time that week, I had decided I would go out with my phone, earbuds, some snacks, a towel and a book. “I’m heading out now!” I called to my parents, who were still asleep on this calm, uneventful day. Once all my things had been gathered, I left the house. Through some thorn bushes, over our creek, taking the route of another tree that had fallen, and through a small make-shift path of dirt and stones, I reached the tree.
          Once I had made it to my destination, I looked up at it, admiring its resilience and stubbornness, refusing to fall down despite its suffering. It was a source of inspiration for me. I laid my towel I brought over the ground, took my earbuds out, and started reading my favorite fantasy book as some Twenty-One Pilots played loudly in my ears while I bumped my foot softly to my favorite song of theirs, “Bandito”.
          I still have no idea how long I read for. It was likely multiple hours on end, since I was nearly finished my book by the time my phone buzzed. “Anthony, come home soon, we’ll be having dinner in a couple minutes”, the text message from my mom read. As soon as my eyes finished reading the screen, I was already standing and packing my things up. Since the walk was fairly short and I still had ten or so minutes to get home, I took my time walking back. Appreciating the scenery, such as the other trees, small canopies created by hollow bushes and the winding creek, I slowly trekked my way back home, back through the walkway, over the creek and through the thorns, when my house came back into sight.
          I walked in and was immediately greeted by a loud “Anthony, wash your hands before you sit down” from the kitchen, even though I always did that and there was no need to remind me of such basic human decencies. Either way, I was calm, relaxed and we were having chicken a la king for dinner. I was perfectly content with that day, and slept like a baby that night, my thoughts filled with peace, calm, and trees.
          Ever since then, I’ve learned that whenever I’m stressed or angry or filled with any other negative feeling, I always remember that tree, because in the end, I learned that when I’m feeling down, I’ll have somewhere to escape to at any time. Whether it be my bedroom, the internet, with friends or the dead center of the woods with my favorite tree, having somewhere to go when I just need to let my feelings out always has and always will feel good.

by Anthony M., Grade 9

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Gray Sky Days

When the sun appears to be in hibernation, the days are ripe for reading.  That's why Sevenatenine editors bring you two longer pieces this month -- including a poem, an essay on the bipartisan system, and a Stephen King style horror story -- to get you through the depths of winter and into the spring.

Artwork by Emily K., Grade 9

Let’s take a journey,
Into the unknown.
Where the destination,
Is never really shown.

Let’s take a boat,
Or a bird or a plane.
Where only this ride,
Will never be the same.

It’s like running away,
Having a clean start.
No path to take,
Only tearing you and your sections apart.

Or it could be in your mind,
Drifting off to thoughts.
Or sucked to space.
Where there are only dots.

Wherever this destination is,
Surrounded by people or completely alone,
It’s will always be a journey,

Into the unknown.

by Anonymous, Grade 9

Artwork by Emily K., Grade 9

The Bipartisan System
       In his final address to the American people as President, George Washington said, “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." Quite frankly, I don’t care what your personal political beliefs are. You are entitled to your own beliefs and so am I. Whether your beliefs align with my own or not, I can tell you one thing: If you are not willing to have a conversation with someone about your beliefs and defend your opinions, then you are not a free-thinking individual. You are simply another casualty of the partisan war that is polarizing our nation, blinded by the leaders sowing hatred into the fabric of our democracy.
       Our nation’s democracy was designed to allow the people to be represented, with the idea that every individual would be heard through their vote. George Washington condemned the idea of a bipartisan system due to the divide it had caused between the nation with the first two political parties, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans. Even at the end of the 18th Century, those from different political parties would distance themselves and avoid eye contact; it was clear that the nation would destroy itself through political parties. Realizing the fatal mistake the nation had made, Washington used his farewell address to inform them of the dangers of political parties but to no avail. This issue has evolved over the years, with the political parties changing names and ideals upheld, yet the theme is still the same: one half of the nation pitted against the other. The bipartisan system has further polarized the nation, leaving voters with a feeling that they must pick one side or the other. Especially in modern day, the parties can come to no consensus or compromise, leaving Congress locked in a stalemate yet to be broken. With our democratic process at a standstill and change unable to occur, the democracy we value so dearly has become ineffective.
       There was a period in which the bipartisan system was effective. Throughout the middle of the 20th Century, the Democratic and Republican parties were forced to be centrist in order to find common ground and have Congress function. In recent years, politics have been degraded to a savage game of tug-of-war between the right and left – with each becoming more extreme as time wears on. This leaves many voters with a feeling that the candidate representing their party does not share the same views as them, and the truth is that many do not share the same extremist views as their party depicts. Mind reeling, heart tearing, the average voter will make a decision at some point in their life to what party they pledge their allegiance. Despite not sharing their party’s views, many will blindly follow them simply because they wish to be a part of something.
       Political parties have warped the democracy designed to represent the people into a system where you are one or the other, with no in-between. Don’t get me started on the media. Demonizing politicians – both left and right – of being either Stalin-loving communists or white supremacist Neo-Nazis. The media, powerful and cunning, are simply another weapon in the ongoing war between the Republican and Democratic parties. They have increased the divide, brainwashing the American people into hating politicians who may not be so different from themselves.
      The American public act as if third parties don’t even exist, or they may genuinely be oblivious to the fact. It isn’t simply a decision of red or blue – there are plenty of other parties vying for recognition that are simply treated as a joke by most. The parliamentary systems of many European democracies are admirable for their myriad political parties, that aren’t simply right or left, but with more selection to choose from depending upon your personal views. The very colonial powers we broke free from over 2 centuries ago have overtaken us in the very political system we pioneered in modern day. I therefore stand with President Washington, forever condemning the bipartisan system, no matter what parties are the dominant two now and in the future. . .

by James S., Grade 9

Sweat Stain
            Sitting alone behind his desk in his private office, Howard was sweating. As the vice president in his branch of the accounting firm he worked for, Howard was a very busy man between the hours of nine to seven every day, with a thirty-minute break at one-thirty for lunch, and a two five-minute bathroom breaks. The rest of the day was spent hunched over at his desk, working like a dog; he would consistently bounce back and forth between working on his computer and filling out the masses of paperwork that were delivered to his office daily. When he transitioned to working on paper, he was sure to put his computer into sleep mode to save the valuable and expensive resource known as electricity. Completely absorbed in his paperwork, it was not until he was finished signing his name on the corpses of lord knows how many trees that he looked up, and in the reflection of the black screen in front of him, he saw a small dark circle forming on his shirt under each of his arms.
            The bluish circles, small and barely noticeable, were a rarity for the man behind the desk. The last time he broke a noticeable sweat was about six months ago when Ashley asked about, well… he didn’t quite remember. No matter, it wasn’t that important. Dismissing the thought of the sweat with a physical wave of his hand, he simply flicked on the fan that he kept on his desk, which was usually reserved for the summer.
            As he turned his gaze to the corner of his desk to turn on the fan, his eyes caught the picture he kept on his desk of himself and Ashley. He allowed himself to observe the picture of the smiling duo that was taken on the Ocean City Boardwalk three years ago. He looked into the eyes of his former self -- the free-spirited man who vowed that he would not ever allow his career or his work to take over his life. He had promised himself that he would make time for Ashley, who he held in his right arm in the photograph, both of her arms around her beloved father’s neck. He allowed a smile to spread across his face, remembering the good old days. He noticed that the beginning of his left arm was visibly stretched outward, and the remainder of it was extended out of the photo, holding onto something.
            Upon noticing this, the sweat circles on his shirt began to expand, and he became aware of small beads of perspiration appearing on his face. Something was missing from the photo. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. Now taken by an overwhelming yet weary curiosity, he picked up the frame and examined the picture. After about a minute of searching, at last he noticed a manicured hand around his right shoulder in between the space between his body and his daughter’s.
            Hands trembling, he desperately racked his brain for the answer as to what – or who – was missing from the photo. His hands, now shaking at a mile a minute, told him that his brain did, in fact, know the missing piece, but it was buried in the deepest depths of the id.
            For a moment, he closed his eyes, took a few deep breaths, and decided to calmly search his brain and his past for who could be missing from that picture. Slowly, he inhaled, and exhaled, in and out.
            In and out.
            In and out.
            In and – his eyes flew open in a flash. He bolted up in his chair, which he had been slumped in as he meditated, and the picture which he had been grasping flew from his hands and crashed against the far wall of his office, sending shards of glass flying all over the place, with one piece nicking his left palm and drawing a bit of blood, just a little more than a papercut would provide. When the frame hit the wall, the photo was released from its glass and wood prison, and descended slowly to the ground, like a freed bird savoring its first glide after being released from a cage.
            The small circles under his arms had grown even larger, and Howard, who was now trembling all over, rose from his chair to clean up the wreckage. Trembling with fear, his heart beating fast enough to worry any doctor, he moved the anvils on the end of his legs where his feet should have been one in front of the other, growing ever closer to the sight of the mess.
            At last, he reached the site of the wreckage, and looked down to survey the damage. In front of him on the floor were perfect concentric circles of broken glass shards gradually getting smaller as they moved towards the focus point of the wreckage, with the picture lying upside down on top of the physical frame. As he surveyed the damage, he noticed the very thing that he had feared: There was a fold in the picture. 
            He bent over and gently picked up the picture with his index finger and his thumb, nicking a few of his fingers on the glass as he did so. With the precision and care of a surgeon performing an open-heart surgery, he turned the picture over in his hands and unfolded it to reveal the memory he had put so much effort into erasing from his mind.
            Standing on the boardwalk were Howard, his smiling daughter in his right arm, and his happy wife standing on the other. This was the last picture they had taken together before what happened.
            One week after that photo was taken, the day was just like any other. Howard would get ready for work while having his morning smoke (he allowed himself one cigarette every morning so he could fulfill his craving daily but wouldn’t appear unprofessional); his wife was getting ready to take their daughter to preschool, and their daughter was watching The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Then, Howard would wait to leave for work until his wife had returned from taking her daughter to school (it was only a ten-minute round trip) to kiss his wife goodbye and leave for work.
            On that day, when his wife returned, he snubbed out his cigarette, tossed the butt in the trash bin that they kept next to their bed, kissed his wife goodbye, and departed for work. His wife was alone in the house.
            At work, he had called home to alert her that he would be able to come home early tonight but was met with no answer. Fair enough, he thought, she probably just doesn’t have her phone on her right now. I’ll make it a surprise then.
            He proceeded to drive home, whistling all the way at the prospect of having a nice early evening away from work. On the road home, a scarlet firetruck, speeding and sirens blaring, barreled past him. Poor soul, whoever’s house that is, he mused, that kind of thing can just sneak up on people when they least expect it.
            Irony is a cruel thing.
            He pulled onto the street on which he lived, a bouquet of flowers that he had picked up as part of the surprise sitting on the passenger seat, and his eyes beheld that same firetruck that had passed him on his drive home trying to save the house of a poor soul. His poor soul.
            Frantically, he stepped out of the car, and ran up to one of the firemen stationed around the house to keep people from staring at the business that was going on at the house.
            “What’s going on here?”, Howard asked the fireman.
            “Nothing to see here, just carry about your business.”
            “I live here!”, Howard shouted in a near hysteria, “This is my house! What happened here?”
            Howard was then informed that earlier in the day, a neighbor had made a 911 call to report a house that was on fire. They had not discovered what had caused the fire yet, and nobody was reported injured or killed.
            Once again, irony demonstrated its cruelness. At the same instance that Howard was informed that there were no casualties, a fireman emerged from the inferno, carrying the limp body of his wife. As the fireman walked out of the house, Howard turned his head to see what was in his peripheral vision – as is the natural human response – and screamed a scream so heartbroken and hysterical that it sent the neighbors running to cover their children’s ears.
            Later, Howard had woken up in a hospital bed, a cast around the foot he had broken while straining against the firemen trying to hold him back while he tried to rush back into the house; he thought that his wife could still be in there, and that what he saw was just a twisted joke played by his imagination.
            While in the hospital bed, he was informed that the fire had most likely been caused by a cigarette butt that had been improperly disposed of. Howard took a moment to process this information, then the waves hit him. He started shaking with uncontrollable guilt and grief. He was kept in the custody of the hospital for three days past his scheduled release due to his unstable mental condition.
            The doctors reported that while in the hospital, Howard suffered from hallucinations. Based on what they could make out from Howard’s random screams and near incoherent sleep talk, he was seeing his wife, burned and charred from her untimely passing.
            Despite his doctor’s almost pleading recommendations, Howard refused to speak with a therapist about the day that he lost his wife. He had committed to locking the memory out of his conscious mind and bringing up the memory lying on a couch in a shrink’s office wouldn’t do him any good. It was just too painful to remember.
            So, he forgot.
            When he finally was released, he arranged for the best funeral that he could afford for his wife. After a two-week period of mourning, Howard continued removing the painful memory from his mind. He busied himself with his work to keep his mind off of what happened, he grew distant from Ashley and hired a nanny to look after her for the most part because she reminded him too much of her mother, and he made a point to remove his wife from any and all photographs he had of them.
            So, he forgot.
            He forgot his wife.
            He forgot about the bond he once shared with his daughter.
            He forgot how to be happy.
            And now, standing in his office, the memories of his wife flooding back to him, he was snapped out of his semi-conscious daze by an abrupt ringing that echoed throughout the building. That could only mean one thing.
            Fire. Again.
            After a moment of hazy confusion, Howard dropped the photo and flung open his office door, certain that he had to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. He ran out of his office, broken glass crunching under his feet as he moved, and into the long hallway with large, windowless doors on either end.
            “Hey!”, Howard yelled into the hall, “Is anybody there?”
            He had been out sick on their last fire drill day, and as a result was unsure of the mandated escape routes in the building. Hoping that he would find someone who did, he started banging on office doors, hollering for someone to come out and show him the way. After doing this on about six or seven different doors, he realized a shocking truth: The hallway was deserted.
            Alone, Howard’s fight or flight response kicked in, and he began sprinting down the hallway towards the door closest to him, desperate to find the quickest escape route possible. As he was running, he asked himself, where in the world is everybody?
            Then he noticed the circles of sweat under his arms, rather large now, and had a pretty good guess as to where everybody went. The fire alarm had been blaring for a good while now, and Howard must have missed it in his confused daze.
            As Howard approached the door, he stuck out his hands to shove the door open when he collided with it, allowing for him to escape without stopping. He lowered his head like a bull, and collided with the door in front of him, opening it to reveal a wall of roaring flames.
            In his momentum, he was carried about two feet in, feeling like a ten-foot tidal wave of heat had collided with him. In fact, the heat hit him with such force, that he was thrown onto his back and halfway back into the hallway in which he came. With the frantic speed of force only a man in danger can muster, Howard scrambled backwards into the hallway, doing a less elegant version of the crabwalk. The door slammed shut behind him, leaving him lying on his back in the hallway, with his pant legs on fire.
            Remembering what he had been taught in elementary school, Howard stopped; he had already dropped and rolled to put out the small flames on his pants. Wasting no time, he rose to his feet and began running to the door on the other end of the hallway. He was still sprinting but was more careful this time and was not charging like a bull.
            Stopping in front of the door, he took a deep breath, and pushed the door open with just the force of his arms. In front of him was a sea of oranges, yellows, and reds, seeming to stretch all the way up to the ceiling. The wave of heat hit him once more, just as powerful in its temperature, but did not knock him over this time. He stood there, mesmerized by the fire, which possessed a sort of twisted calm despite the danger it represented.
            Standing there, watching the fire, a hand suddenly shot out and gripped his shoulder hard. The hand was just as hot as the fire, if not hotter, and Howard opened his mouth in a silent scream, but no sound came out. The hand gradually increased its pressure, causing Howard to sink in pain until he was on his knees.
            On the ground like some sort of prisoner, Howard watched as two legs emerged from the fire, followed by a torso, followed by the face of Howard’s late wife. Howard stared up into the face of his wife, beautiful in its youth, just as he remembered her.
            But as he watched, the face began to change. The chiseled and smooth skin began to bubble and blister, with parts charring black and falling off onto the ground in front of Howard, sizzling as they hit the ground.
            Howard’s wife offered a grim smile with her burned and deformed mouth, now missing multiple teeth, and gave the hardest squeeze on the shoulder she had given yet, causing Howard to scream in unimaginable agony.
            Howard stared into his wife’s eyes, alight with the reflection of the inferno of which she came from. For a moment, he listened to the dry and gasping breaths his wife took, a result of her life being terminated by flames. Words forming on his mouth, he looked up to say something, anything, to her, but a white-hot finger was pressed to his lips to silence him.  He was held in this position for Lord knows how long, and eventually the pain became so much to bear that he felt the need to close his eyes in a grimace.
            He counted to ten in his head, one Mississippi, two Mississippi… and opened his eyes. He found that the pain on his shoulder and lip had been assuaged, as the intense heat and pressure that would have turned coal to a diamond was no longer there. Nor was his wife.
            Kneeling there, confused, he threw his head into his hands and wept. Now this was the second time that he was unable to say goodbye. What he would have given for just two minutes, a minute, thirty seconds, a word of conversation would have met no limits. All he could have asked for was to be with her for just a bit longer.
            As he sat there, he heard the subtle creaking of metal from down the hall. Slowly, he rose and turned to face the door at the other end of the hallway, which was beginning to bend towards him from the intense pressure of the heat behind the door.
            Before Howard could make a sound, let alone get out of the way, the door came flying of its hinges and down the hall at the speed of a bullet, and collided with Howard head-on, sending him flying backwards into the flames beyond the door that his wife emerged from. He landed in the midst of a sea of flames, and as his clothes began to catch fire, he heard the door slam shut behind him.
            By the look of it, he would get to be with his wife after all.

by Liam S., Grade 9

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

The Shortest Month

While February may be the shortest month on the calendar, the dreary weather tends to make it drag.  And this year we get one extra day!

To help us all pull through to the spring, we submit to you a few good poems and works of art to consider and enjoy.

Artwork by Dylan H., Grade 7

When I Was the Greatest

When I was the Greatest,
I could hold up the world,
Hold it in my palm,
And watch the children frolic and play.

When I was the Greatest,
I could do anything.
Push the boulders, skip the pebbles,
And watch the never-ending glory.

But when you left,
Slipping out of the front door, and away.
Like the sun, over the horizon.
I could only watch the stars appear
Far away…

As I close my eyes.
When I am the Greatest,
I will hold up the world.
Hold it with both of my hands
And listen to the cries of despair.

When I am the Greatest,
I will do everything.
Break the boulders, gather the pebbles,
And feel the never-ending burdens.

When you come back,
Walking in through the front door,
Like the sun, over the horizon,
I will always watch it shine brighter,

For me…

by Charley W., Grade 9
Title inspired by Jason Reynolds

Artwork by Clare P., Grade 9

What I am For

I am for late nights on weekends,

Up talking and laughing,
Going to bed late and smiling.

I am for weekends of excitement,
A small, sweet taste of freedom
In a sea of salty work

I am for traveling and sightseeing,
Being a tourist in new places,
Adventures await at each stop along the way.

I am for bright sunshine,
Dimness and sweet moonshine glow,
Puddles of light in precious drips and drops.

I am for waking up early
At the jarring sound of an alarm,
Not wasting a second of the day.

I am for laughing and joking
All of the time,
Milky-white teeth always showing.

I am for games and relaxation,
The shuffling of cards,
The thrill of striving to win.

This is what I am for.

by Faith C., Grade 9
after the poem "Silver-Lined Heart" by Taylor Mali

Artwork by Noah B., Grade 8

an unfortunate circumstance

I imagine a boy
crouched upon the curb
staring into a puddle
its waters dark and dulled

He sits in a city
large and daunting
its tall, grey watchmen

The boy pokes the water
it ripples
and its surface clears for just a moment

Time passes
the silt settles

and the boy gets up
and leaves

by Jackson S., Grade 9