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

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Turning of the Year

While the pundits debate whether the decade ends 12/31/19 or 12/31/20 -- there was no Year Zero, after all -- we hope you'll enjoy a warm beverage and a few snatches of writing and artwork from our talented contributors.  And if you could use a little inspiration for your own writing, check out "Burning the Old Year" by our current Young People's Poet Laureate, Naomi Shihab Nye.  Submit your work for Sevenatenine to your English teacher, and next month you could see your name published here!

Artwork by Lila S., Grade 8

The Orange Wood

A house stands in the orange wood.
There lives a man, heart full of good.
He is so kind, he is so fair
He lets nature roam anywhere.

His house holds an open door
The wildlife crawls upon the floor.
And when the sky turns black as lead
They rest around his sleeping head.

by Evelyn W., Grade 7

Artwork by Emily K., Grade 7

Face of  a Faker

His name conjures bravery;
one that swells to tell a tale
but shrivels to fear 
in milliseconds without fail.

Voice glazed with inky, manipulative lies
Soft-spoken, deep as oceans
yet carrying wicked falsehoods, 
like an actor's own notions

Words, seducingly so, are transparent
like a hive's sweetest honeycomb
with a drop of the deadliest poison, 
man has ever come to know.

Every step, guilt curls in my stomach
coming through in high tides,
waves rushing upon me
with no one I'm able to confide.

Strings pull and twist to loose ends,
leaving me alone to fend,
but friends can help to mend
the wounds left by the guilt I tend

Wound which could've been stopped
if I had stopped amends
to the complicated man who once was a friend
making a facade of make-believe pretend.

by Emily K., Grade 9

Artwork by Arina S., Grade 9

Friday, November 29, 2019


As we close out the month of November, each of our poems have to do with vision, what we see and perceive in the world around us, and perhaps what the world around us perceives in us.  Keep playing with words, sketching, dreaming, and creating, and please share your endeavors with us at Sevenatenine.  We love hearing from readers both in the comments section and in our submission bin.  

I Never Stopped Watching

I never stopped watching
Snow hangs on my arms
Like a child on the monkey bars
Leaves crack as two students stomp
their feet barely the size of an acorn
Waiting for the bus

They played store in my branches,
Toys bought for free
Laser tag games
Hidden behind my trunk
He chases her until she is down to a single glowing life
But, because he is him
He didn’t fire again

Snow melts away
Boots forgotten in the closet
Children pick flowers
As they wait for Bus 624

She hid in my branches
Book in hand
Hidden from down below by my leaves
He kicked a ball at the curb
She slowly looks shorter
And shorter
Compared to the boy,
Who no longer needs to jump to touch my branches

The air smells of sunscreen
And flowers fully bloom
624 drops off its students for the last time
Excitement escapes the door
As the driver pulls his lever

An ice cream truck every other night
Ringing with bells and corny music
That to this day makes them both smile
Bonfires with extra s’mores
That remind them of their favorite trip as kids down toward the shore
Then, shopping for a new pencil case
And debating whose scissors are the brightest shade of blue

More leaves drift away
They rake piles and piles
Saving them to jump in when the time is right
But the bus pulls in before they can take the leap

Her Halloween decorations adorn the house
Yet his house stays bare of all colors
A monotone in their world of bright lights
One irrelevant Thursday,
Pumpkin seeds still on the ground from their carving
The truck pulls up
Bigger it seems, than the house itself
His whole world loaded into that truck

I watched them grow
Until I couldn’t
I’ll miss you.”

by Calli P., Grade 8

Artwork by Audra S., Grade 8

Beads in Sockets

Beads in sockets.
I stare at the bird in the mirror,
Its wings are moving rapidly.
Its cursed words come out only in strings, with a tapping at the mirror.

Beads in sockets.
I tap back, only for the eyes to disappear.
The rest melts away, and I am standing,
Staring at the empty reflection.
No more wings.

With a small whisper, my voice finds the cursed words that the bird was chanting.
"Who are you? Why are you here?"
Beads in sockets.

First my feet, and then my arms, my mind crawled into the mirror.
There I met the bird. It moved like me and breathed like me.
It spoke, "I am you."

Beads in sockets.
The eyes stared back at me.
Strings on a marionette,
It looked plastic.

I heard a faint phrase.
"You are me."

by Esme H., Grade 8

Artwork by Claire P., Grade 9

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Just In Time

We are back, and we are happy to be here after some early October technical glitches.

This year our team of student editors is excited to bring you the best Holicong has to offer in artwork, poetry, and prose.  It all starts with this post and our annual coffeehouse on Friday, November 1 (doors open at 6PM).

We hope you will join us here each month as a reader and for our upcoming live event! We are thrilled to have snuck in our October post . . . just in time!


She cries and she weeps
Her children dying at her feet
The future is bleak
What happens when nothing remains?
She tried to save them
She gave them fire so they could stay warm
She gave them wood so they could stay dry from the storm
But they took the wood and cut all the trees
They just wanted more
And they used fire to burn all of her gifts for them into the ground
And they continued to conspire
Using fire to take more
So, she cries and she weeps because her children are dying at her feet
She gave them power so they wouldn’t have to cower
But they glowered and took more
Saying she hadn’t given enough
So she gave and gave and gave
But suddenly, as she was weeping for her children
There were no tears left
They had taken all her water
She tried to help them
But they stole her body
Soon she was condemned
her life was fading
And they still kept taking
Now she is dying
Silently watching and lying on the floor
She tried to give them her world
But they just wanted more

by Eva F., Grade 9

Up Here

I trudge up through the knee-deep layer of soft gold. The plastic toes of my boots are the only thing keeping my body facing the blinding light ahead of me and over the ten people behind me. Skis strapped to backs, tips of boots shattering and compacting the small flakes of white. I hear my bones chattering in my body and I feel the wind whipping over my cheeks, my wrists, that one section of skin below my ear that I can’t seem to ever fully cover with the fleece that runs from my chest to the bridge of my nose. And yet the blood rushing to my face does nothing to keep me warm. I think I might just be too numb to feel a difference.
Tears glass over my lower lid and seem to freeze, turning my vision of what lies ahead of me into gold, blue, and black blobs. The blue grows above me, black diminishing in my peripherals, gold sinking to my feet, and I stop in my tracks, lactic acid pouring into my thighs and down my leg. I exhale crystals that blow off over the trees and join the clouds. Ice caps over giants that reach into and grab onto the sunlight, trees rippling as a gust weaves its way through the stretching arms of each evergreen.
Up here, the air sits better in my lungs. Up here, the sun pours over the skin that escapes the layers I wear. Up here, the heat that rises up over my neck to my face fills my chest with accomplishment.
Kick. Snap. Kick. Snap.
Push – and I’m off.

By Claire P., Grade 9

404 Error

Unfortunately, that page could not be found;
See, the fabric of time has been slowly unwound.
Some data may be lost, and it may belong to you,
But fear not! For the government knows just what to do.

They’ll send a ship to space to rewind the quantum string;
in theory, this will have us set and regain everything.
But one misstep could cost it all and end life as we know it,

And just in time, at that, we’ve got some diagrams to show it.

Trajectory is crucial, and such applies right here;
‘Tis one basic parabola, of which we have no fear.
“Now wait a minute,” you may ask, “is that not a black hole?!”
Such is why we’ve got a robot and not a human soul.

If all goes well, we’ll soon be off to a land we do not know;
We’d hope by then the rip in time has largely ceased to grow.
Will this tall tale go on longer? Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore,”
Just be warned about the risk before you dread that 404.

by John M., Grade 9

Monday, June 10, 2019

Two Authors to Close the Year: Maddie and Maddy

As the school year comes to a close, we are featuring some narratives of reflection and artwork that are also a little indicative of students’ minds as the school year comes to a close. We hope that at the end of the year, you feel related to, a little amused, and most importantly thankful for the time you spent in Holicong this year. Happy reading and have a great summer! 

Artwork by Nicole S., Grade 9
I Hate Personal Narratives

            A personal narrative is defined as a prose narrative relating personal experience usually told in first person. However, I define a personal narrative as the ultimate conglomeration of tedium, trepidation, and disgust. Quite simply, the personal narrative is my kryptonite.
 Every year in elementary school, I was forced to construct some pretentious personal narrative. Each time though, my body was overcome with dread, for my demise was in sight. For about three consecutive years, I wrote the same. exact. story. It was a poorly constructed tale of how I almost got swept out to sea. Each time I had to write the narrative, a small part of me wishes I had been. My teachers always utilized the same ritualistic chant: “Dialogue! Imagery! Dialogue! Imagery!” I am still convinced that they banged drums on a desert island in their fearsome narrative cult, for I have never witnessed any other human beings so feverish from dialogue. As a middle school student, I thought my personal narrative days were far behind me, buried deep enough to survive a nuclear apocalypse; the utter cheesiness and standardization could not hurt me anymore. Two weeks ago though, my world came crashing down.
It was an eerily quiet morning: the birds did not chirp, the leaves quieted themselves, and the sun hid behind the clouds just enough to spy on an unsuspecting ninth grade student heading to school. The calm before the storm had arrived, but I was too naïve and sleep deprived to realize.
First and second period had dragged by excruciatingly, and my eyelids flickered with exhaustion; my teachers probably think I have a medical condition, for when they begin to teach or read off a tragically misspelled PowerPoint presentation my eyes reflexively blink one at a time, causing them to gander at me with genuine fear and concern. Luckily, third period English class, the turning point of my day, was about to begin.
Following the bell, I rushed out of advisory and speed-walked down the long, sardine can-like halls to the Promised Land. As Mr. Vogelsinger tranquilly began to read the Poem of the Day, I heard the angels singing in beautiful harmony. Little did I know that this paradise would morph into a raging hellscape. 
Then, he said it. Mr. Vogelsinger uttered those two horrible words that brought forth darkness on the world. They came out in horrifying slow motion, “Today we will be starting our personal narratives.” I heard a record screech in my head and the internal shrieking of my suddenly atrophied soul. Why, God? Oh, why? What did I do to deserve this torture, this punishment?
My heart sank audibly, my eyes bugged out, and I sputtered, “No!”
Mr. Vogelsinger sounded like someone hopelessly trying to sell a bizarre kitchen appliance on an infomercial, “Also, this counts toward a large portion of your overall grade, so make sure it’s good.” An odd image of me as a senior citizen in ninth grade English class flashed into my head. How would I ever pass? The rapid countdown had begun: I had to come up with an idea. 
For days and weeks I wandered in a desert of uncreativity. Every so often I would see a beautiful idea glistening in the sun, but it was always a mirage. A dilemma arrived. Anything worth writing was either unfit for a school environment, violent, traumatically boring and overused, or severely uncomfortable to share. I began to type psychotically, but it would always end up being erased out of shame. 
After a week of failed attempts, I begged my mom for help while we were in the car. “What should I write about for my personal narrative?” I asked her desperately after explaining my dilemma.
She pondered over my words for a few seconds before saying, “I have the perfect idea! You should write a story about how you kicked Max out of the womb.”
"I don't think that will --"                                                                                              
She swerved the car with enthusiasm, “Oh! Or you can write a story about Devin pulling down every single display at Kmart!”
“Is this a joke?” I asked, for I truly could not tell. I definitely asked the wrong person.
For the next few days after our conversation, every time she would do something weird or the family had a meltdown, my mom said, “You should use this for your narrative!” or she would chirp, “I’m giving you more stuff to write about!” The dysfunction only continued. 
Physically attempting to write the piece was mentally draining. As I began to type, my fingers suddenly became paralyzed with fear: they were lost, abandoned, and without hope. They itched to let the words and the feelings flow, but they were trapped deep inside. My invincible walls would not crumble. The blank white of the empty word document burned my eyes.
Every so often a story would begin like a baby deer learning to stand; however, it was always shot down by cheesiness, underwhelming, and overnarration. My mind fell into a state of anguish and disarray, What is wrong with me? Why can’t I write something so simple? Is my life really this boring, this empty? For many days and many nights, I made countless failed attempts to create my masterpiece. The searing pressure and anxiousness only increased as my accidental procrastination continued.
         Suddenly though, my mom hatched the perfect idea, “Madi, why don’t you write a personal narrative about how you hate personal narratives?” The stars aligned, the angels sang down from heaven, and a wonderfully bright light illuminated the living room. The wheels of creativity had begun to turn.
       Bob Marley once said, “Being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure.” For me the most difficult part of writing a narrative is the forced vulnerability. Because of this, I, along with many others, go into a self-preservation mode which ultimately detracts from the quality of the piece. Although this form of writing is extremely strenuous, the challenge is necessary to understanding my writing journey and life journey. By changing my mindset on a small scale task like the personal narrative, I can learn to adapt to anything life throws my way. At the end of the day, we are our biggest obstacles. The only way to triumph is by consciously choosing to take the hard way and forget our fears, even if it is merely a personal narrative.   

by Maddie G., Grade 9

Artwork by Ali. H., Grade 9 

Regular Girl

                “I’m NOT doing that again. Last time I tried, I think I threw up when I got home.” I shift my weight from one foot to the other and try to sound resolute; it’s useless.
                “That’s because you were sick; you’re going. I’ll show you what to do and won’t let you fall.”
                This seems highly questionable since Kristina, my best friend since preschool, stands up to my chin. She is nimble and close to the ground and I … am not. Her dark eyes pierce my skull awaiting my assent, but all I envision is a catastrophe in super slow motion---the flailing arms, the desperate hands grasping at an unsympathetic wall, the awkward hips writhing to regain a center of gravity, the frenzied legs straining to stay upright, all crashing into a humiliating heap. Tangled on the floor, my legs refuse to unwind, weighted down by wheels of stone and stiff leather that locks my ankles straight … roller skates. Who ever thought this was a good idea? I squeeze my eyes tight and open them to the present reality of Kristina’s expectant face.
                To my surprise, I hear myself say, “OK.”
                The Frenchtown Roller Rink is a sight to behold. Unlike its competitors, which nestle in industrial parks, this rink perches high on a hill overlooking the Delaware River encircled by miles of green space. Rolling up the slope, our minivan wheels kick up gravel and crunch on the stones beneath. The river below packs the air with oxygen and the surrounding pastures allude to spring. The milky, blue-roofed building stretches across the summit, and I suspect the owners reside behind the shuttered windows on the second floor. As we enter, large metal doors groan and our noses transition from outdoor fresh to damp and musty. It smells a comfortable kind of old, as our eyes adjust to the dim light in the cinderblock room that holds the ticket booth.
                “In-line or regular?” The woman behind the plate glass speaks through a hole like the Wizard of Oz speaking into his microphone. Her slightly overbleached hair frizzes from her hair clip, touching the glass as she leans forward.
                “There’s two kinds of skates?” I fumble.
                She peers through her rose-rimmed glasses and assesses that I am definitely a “regular skate” girl; in-lines are for experts. I slide my money under the glass in exchange for a “regular skate” token and enter the rink.
                Kristina grasps her in-line token and nudges me toward the skate counter. The tousled teenager who glides behind it expertly sprays an unholy amount of shoe-freshener into interminable rows of skates. He smacks his gum, grabs a just-returned pair, and tucks the laces inside.
                “9 ½,” I quiver.
                Within seconds, a tired pair of skates clunk onto the counter. They are the color and texture of an old camel with faded orange wheels. The coffee-colored laces are inexplicably long, and I wonder if he will ask me if I would like them frayed or knotted; all appear to be one or the other. We find a seat amidst bountiful mounds of sweatshirts and backpacks. Feet slide in, laces crisscrossed, and I swallow my fear. Kristina grasps my hands to help me stand, and I roll diffidently onto the rink.
                Hand over hand, the half-wall is my new best friend. I grasp it tightly for one quarter of the rink, before I realize with horror, that the remaining loop has regular walls with no railings. Kristina urges me forward, and I hug the bluff with the fingers of a mountain climber.
                “One-two, one-two, one-two!” Kristina chants as she floats across the floor. “It’s not that hard. Just push your legs up and out. Try to gliiiiiiide across the wood.”
                “I’m trying!” I proclaim with firm determination as my bulky skates clomp on the shimmering rink. I free myself from the wall’s gravitational pull for a few seconds until, BANG! A whirling spin, a clutch for the cinderblocks, for anything, followed by a tumble over Kristina’s small frame. I attempt to stand, but this results in a session of repeated stumbles on the floor. True to her word, my friend boosts herself up, and extends her hand to help. Little by little, my crashes transform into stumbles, and my clunks transform into something like a glide.
                I finally feel sufficiently confident to look up from my feet and note that the rink actually matches its YouTube description: “164 feet long by 74 feet wide of pure roller goodness.” The walls splash with a 1990s Solo Cup theme in teal, dusty purple, and lemon yellow, and the skaters within reflect a similar diversity. Lap 9: an agile 8-year-old flies by at rocket speed – backwards. Showoff. Yes, I feel intimidated, but I press on. Lap 12: a 50-year-old man, with long, layered hair and 1970s shorty-shorts rounds the corner with a flourish, but I am undaunted. Lap 16: the mime-like, goth guy with striped leggings passes me with a rush of air; scary, but I keep my nerve. Lap 22: the gray-haired rink official prods the skaters to leave the rink for a game. I take my cue to rest and use the bathroom.
                The bathroom is the pinnacle of the new skater’s experience. First off, you should know that door locks, soap, and paper towels do not exist. Bring a friend to hold the door and antibacterial wipes. Second, beware of toilet paper strands strewn on the floor like streamers after a party. They not only trip you up, but tend to trail behind your skates. (I don’t discover my straggling festoon until lap 25.) Third, know that the decrepit bathroom with its cloudy mirrors is probably designed to discourage you from lingering, and get you back on the rink. This proves an effective strategy. I exit and skate 20 more laps to the music of “Fireball,” “Cha-Cha Slide,” and “24K Magic,” among others. I coast under disco lights, fall under limbo bars, and count 3 changes in the skating direction. Kristina and I finish blistered and exhausted, but I have learned to skate.
                With my newfound skill and confidence, I grow to love the Frenchtown Roller Rink. I love the snack bar, with its two hot dogs slowly rolling on the cooker and the low level of popcorn that sits in the glass popper all week. I love the vending machine covered with fingerprints from “almost falls.” I love the game room with its faded pinball machines and its claw machine filled with under-stuffed animals and wax vampire teeth.  I love the lady behind the snack counter that looks astonishingly similar to the lady behind the ticket counter, the lady in the music booth, and the lady replenishing lost quarters in the game room. I tell you, that lady runs the place.

                For all its quirks, the Frenchtown Roller Rink holds a warm place in my heart, probably because it turned my fear of roller skating into a fun, retro experience. It is here that I stretched to try something intimating, and my friend stretched out a hand to offer support. The place reverberates with an acceptance of all types of people and all levels of skill. I also hold it in high esteem, because it embraces its community---its bulletin boards are plastered with posters of fundraisers for sick children and messages of support for their speed skating teams.  In a world of industrial businesses, I hope this place remains standing as a beacon on a hill that welcomes “regular skate” girls.

by Maddy K., Grade 9

Artwork by Alita L., Grade 8