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Tributaries: Spring 2023

Online creative writing journal publishing DSC student creative output - from poetry and stories, comics, illustrations, drawings, photographs, paintings, songs and videos

Visuals in Thumbnail

 

Josie Crowder "Jellyfish"

 

 

Catherine Romo "Rice Paper Butterfly in Nature"

 

 

Joshua Cruz "Dead Thoughts"

 

 

Catherine Romo "Lago Montebello, Chiapas, Mexico"

 

 

Josie Crowder "Dolphins"

 

 

 

Catherine Romo "The Quad (Dalton State College)"

 

 

 

Megan Baker "Springtime Beauty"

 

 

 

Jennifer Dawson "Temple"

 

 

TOC for Written Work

Table of Contents


​Poetry


"Dornroschen" by Anthony Rosillo

"History" by Gregory Nations

"Thank You for Your Service" by Will Hinch

"Timeless" by Karla Hernandez

"Canine Teeth" by Lily Price

 


Fiction


 

"The Erl Queen" by Reagan Brady

"A Changed Life" by Austin Hudson 

 

 

Poetry

"Dornroschen"

by Anthony Rosillo


 

Dornröschen was…

                        Older than time, and her fair skin could age no more. She wanted to die.

            In the north, her people lay cursed on the streets in eternal slumber, neither dead nor alive, their minds forever captive to Dream till Judgement.

            One day a prince would venture there and find their bodies in every corner. Through his journey, he would pass near them and leave a prayer. He’d make his way to the castle to find her.

            Until then, she dreamed on her Eternal Throne of true love’s kiss and her freedom from this Hell…

                        Once upon a time.

 

"History"

by Gregory Nations

 

Look at the streets of stone

And the buildings of old

Where family linage was honed

And many stories were told

Generations have put up a good fight

But it didn’t all happen overnight

No, it was slow and painful

Yet, they were oh so faithful

So do not be ashamed of being poor

Do not feel like you deserve more

Your family has been through enough

And that is what makes you tough.

"Thank You For Your Service"

by Will Hinch

 

I wake up in a sweat again

The clock says 3:05

No point going back to sleep 

With these thoughts running through my mind

My knees and back voice their complaints 

As I shuffle to the couch

Uncle Sam’s 10 years behind me

But not all of me made it out.

 

You say thank you for your service

And I don’t know what to say

For me it was a way of life

Not something to be praised

I know I’d do it all again

If they ever called me back

Only the dead have seen the end of war

The rest of us are just trying to live…with the past.

 

The hardest part of civilian life

Is feeling so alone

My family tries to understand 

But you only know if you know.

I wouldn’t trade a thing

To watch my kids grow through the years

But I’ll always miss that family

Born of blood and sweat and tears.

 

You say thank you for your service

And I don’t know what to say

For me it was a way of life

Not something to be praised.

I know I’d do it all again

If they ever called me back

Only the dead have seen the end of war

The rest of us are just trying to live…with the past.


My body may be broken

But this warrior's heart beats on

I'm doing the very best I can 

With this man I brought home.


You say thank you for your service

And I don’t know what to say.

For me it was a way of life

Not something to be praised.

I know I’d do it all again

If they ever called me back.

Only the dead have seen the end of war

The rest of us are just trying to live…with the past. 

"Timeless"

by Karla Hernandez

 

For every second I think of you, everything feels timeless

I’m back to where we first met, so young and careless

There I saw you down the hall

My heart fluttered each time I saw you 

The breath was stolen from my lips when our eyes met

My hand inching towards you

Nothing compared to when you were near me, and my peripheral vision was nonexistent

My heart belonged to you, and I’d like to think yours was mine too 

The way our eyes locked and nothing else seemed to matter

That unique smile only for me that made time stop

Time froze over

It never fazed us

until it did.

For every laugh we had, an argument was made 

The angry words, paired with a timeless kiss 

All the tears shed amounted to the comfort of our embrace

Every year that went by, we deteriorated slowly

So slowly and unnoticed. 

Was it me? Was it you? Was it them? 

I’m back now 

Then I saw you down the hall

My heart rapid fire each time I saw you

My breath quickened in your presence uncontrollably

My hands shake unconsciously

Frozen where I stand 

Trying my hardest to forget about you, my peripheral vision begins to get distorted and blurry 

My heart was always yours, but yours was never mine.

"Canine Teeth" 

by Lily Price

 

I am an exposed nerve stinging at the gumline

            I am pressing paper

Tissue against my teeth

            And I bite

Like my old dog when she lost her sense of sight.

            I can use my senses too, you know

I have this bad dream sometimes

            Where my teeth fall out

In the bathroom mirror

My dreams have been convoluted lately,

Labyrinthian and slow as old film

            I practice gratitude;

I buy expensive mouthwash

            I’m a salted slug

Under the supermarket lights

            Swishing astringent,

Spitting straight

I take good care of myself now.

Fiction

"The Erl Queen"

by Reagan Brady

 

We lived in a great blue house.

It was as big as the sky was blue, and when the clouds grayed, the house, too, would shut up its doors, fold in its walls. I would drink hot drinks and read books, gathered up in covers, safe from the dangers outside.

But other times, I would run, barefoot, without a care, spinning and laughing even as rain sliced my skin. It was so cold, that I was sick with pneumonia soon after. But it was a piece of freedom, of childhood, that I will never be able to get back.

My grandmother told me stories of fairies, of how they lived within the hollows of trees. We had an expanse of forest just behind a gurgling creek, and there I would climb, up into this giant tree, who had a long, thick branch extending down against the ground. It was as though it was an arm reaching, inviting. My greedy fingers dug into the bark, and I would climb up on all fours, before perching myself like a bird, waiting on the company of the fae.

I do not know why I longed to be whisked away by tricky, fantastical creatures, with their glittering wings and beady eyes. All I know is I was a kid with scraped knees and bruised arms, who never quite learned to brush her hair, a wild child, who never, truly, felt like she belonged, except for when I lounged in the trees and read adventurous stories of a life I’d never live.

A woman appeared one day.

We lived in a sleepy, New York town, a place where not many tread. And so, this woman, with her Southern accent, was as out of place as a pecan in an apple field. She was thin as a reed, or the harmonicas we played in class. Her bones were as skinny as a heron’s, with their long, winding necks, and looked about as fragile.

I didn’t know who she was, not at first. I hadn’t seen her in five summers. And I was only 7, so that was practically an entire lifetime.

Thanksgiving came, and she stayed. My grandmother busied herself in the kitchen, and the whole house smelled of cookies and pies, of corned beef, and candied potatoes. Even my father, who worked most of the week states away, was with us. We ate until we were overflowing, I ate until I was sick.

My father left again, with a kiss on the head. But still, the woman stayed.

She began to read to me, in the widow’s watch, just above the attic. An entirety of earth sprawled out beneath us, frost fogging the glass. I always loved stories.

I’d always longed to be someone else, somewhere else.

Christmas came and went. We had a tree large enough to brush the ceiling, nearly scraping at the chandelier. The whole house smelled of pine. And the needles couldn’t be swept up for weeks after the fact.

I remember hiding behind the rails on the balcony, looking over the living room, and hearing my father argue with my blonde-headed aunt about whose present was whose.

Santa wasn’t real that year. But my sister got a beautiful doll, as tall as she. I didn’t breathe a word to shatter her excitement.

Our house was huge, with rooms as countless as dwarves’ caverns, the same I read about in a book. Or as many as there were gold pieces in a dragon’s lair.

One of my favorite rooms was the one that belonged to my aunt Gillian. She had a waterbed, and at times, when she wasn’t there, I would go and play on it. I’d jump and shake, feeling the mattress sway and bob beneath me. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend that I was surfing the waves above a thousand bloodthirsty sharks or curious dolphins. I imagined fish, with fins bright as gems of turquoise, ruby, and emerald, and reefs that bloomed on the seafloor like flowers.

The balcony, the same one from before, was also where I raised my moths. We had chickens, too, and I would tend to those as well. We had to ensure they had their heat lamps to keep the snow from eating their toes. But moths were a gentle sort of thing, a transformation.

We’d order cocoons from some faraway place, and there I would sit, cross-legged, anxiously awaiting splendid green wings unfurling from their resting place. It would take days. Weeks, even. But I kept a careful watch over each one, tidy and safe within their enclosures. And when the time finally came, I dubbed each a name.

I remember a certain day, a specific day, but only in flashes. A day that disrupted the normalcy I’d become adjusted to, with the lady that read me books and would cuddle with my sister and I each night. She was our mother, though I was hardly sure I knew that yet.

I was checked out of school and awaited her in the office, my legs swinging in a chair. My feet couldn’t touch the ground unless I scooted unnaturally down. I sat there in confusion, watching my legs swing, my pink sneakers scuffed, and laces untied.

When the lady finally came, she gave a smile. It didn’t quite reach her eyes.

Before I could even ask, she just said, “We’re going to the parade.”

I knew what she meant, of course. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was a yearly event for my Irish Catholic family, though it was all the way in Boston, and we lived in upstate New York. Even I knew that the distance between the two places was considerable.

And so, it made sense to me that we would be leaving ahead of time.

I followed her out to the car. It was a silver sedan, with a man in the driver’s seat. I’d seen him once, a few months ago. He stayed with us briefly. I didn’t think it strange; my grandparents had so many friends, and many people would visit for holidays; I couldn’t possibly remember all their names or who they were.

My sister sat in the back, a Barbie in each of her small, pudgy hands. Her hair was as blonde as the woman’s. Mine was darker. It always had been.

I didn’t know that all of our clothes had been packed into the trunk. How could I have?

I just slid into the car, unquestioning.

We would drive for hours after that. There would be stops for bathroom breaks and stops to get food. And we stopped, for a night, at a hotel to sleep.

My mother removed two clunky black batteries from the back of two phones, hers, and the man’s. I didn’t think to ask questions. Why would I have?

After that stay in the hotel, we stopped less frequently. I didn’t recognize anything; a uniform stretch of highway yawned out before us. I traced shapes on the window when my DS finally died. Never had we driven so long before that it had died.

I thought it was strange. But I was a good child with learned obedience. I didn’t question. I just nodded off to sleep.

It was only when I woke did I realize something was so very wrong.

When we had finally arrived and I stepped out of the car, I was shocked at the heavy warmth of early March. There was little bite to the air.

And the house was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was built like a castle, a majestic rock structure. Behind the house were expansive green hills, rolling out farther than I could see. And there were cows—cows!—that roamed about, their black hides shiny in the late afternoon Sun.

“There are lots of fairies here,” my mother said, taking my sister’s hand in hers. She pointed off into the distance, at a winding trail that led off and into a thicket of trees. “Look, see? There’s a fairy walk.”

My sister nodded, her thumb in her mouth. She’d always had such big, round eyes, such a deep blue they looked as though they were going to overflow with tears.

We never did get to go on that fairy walk.

We went inside the house. I was struck by the sight of a grand staircase that curled around and around. My sister hovered beside me, ever my shadow.

I almost missed the woman who stood at the base of the stairs. She regarded my sister and me with a dismissive look and instead stared behind us, at the woman. The same who’d read me so many books.

The man, who I’d nearly forgotten about, pulled the sharp-boned woman aside. She looked as though if she sneezed too hard, she would break right in half. They talked in hushed voices, things I couldn’t hear, because I was soon led away.

The next two days were a blur.

I thought of my father. Of my grandparents, the chickens back home. Who would take care of my moths with me gone?

If I asked about the parade, about where we were, I was met with nothing but silence. It was as though I hadn’t spoken at all.

My sister slept beside me each night. When she asked me questions, I didn’t know what to tell her. I would wander outside to explore.

I’d feel the grass between my toes, and my fingers, too, when I reached down, pressing the blades between my thumb and index. It was too cold for frogs most the year in New York. But we weren’t in New York anymore.

There was a pond out back of the grand rock house and a pool and a pool house, with its own bedroom, kitchen, and living area. I wasn’t interested in swimming or lounging on the chairs by the poolside.

I crouched down at the base of the pond. Mud squelched under my feet. It was chilly, but I was used to colder. I waded farther into the water, soaking in it up to my knees, my pants growing soggy in the murky green.

There were massive bullfrogs, tiny tadpoles, and turtles lazying about. I scooped up a few tadpoles in my hands just to watch them, water puddling in my palms. I was quick enough to catch a few frogs, their slimy skin slick against my hands. They had great, big eyes and warty bodies, with yellowed underbellies.

I held each with great care before allowing them to slip back beneath the depths.

I didn’t spend all my time by the pond.

I didn’t talk much to the man or the other, bony lady. But I wandered the length of the house and discovered a place fenced-in from the outside with wire screens. Ladybugs swarmed the porch, tiny legs scurrying, clinging to the mesh, an infestation.

Their red shells were like little beads in the dying light, the black spots on their backs staring at me, a thousand judging eyes.

I could’ve reached out and crushed them, felt them crunch between my fingertips.

But I didn’t.

Patiently, all I did was watch. The air was almost sickly with their stench, a sort of nauseating sweet, or like candied nuts.

A boy approached me. He was younger than me but older than my sister. He had a round face. I’d seen him around the house, before. I didn’t know who he was, but I’d helped myself to some of his toys.

He tried to kiss me. I pushed him away.

I left the porch after that, and didn’t come back.

The last day at that house, all was still. My mother was bundled up in blankets, asleep. She was sick, the man had told us, my sister and me. I thought it odd, but didn’t say a thing.

My sister and I found Sharpies and walked up the grand staircase. We uncapped our markers, mischievous grins on each of our faces. Together, we scrawled all over the pretty walls, covering them in indiscernible black scribbles. Those would stay forever, or at least until they were painted over. We’d left our mark on this place, at least temporarily.

If we were scolded for that, I don’t remember. Because all too soon afterward, there was a commotion outside. I peeked out one of the many windows, pulling apart the curtain.

Black cars and vans crowded the driveway, swarming like nasty, black beetles. But with their flashing red-and-blue lights, I knew immediately what these were.

I got my sister, and together, hand-in-hand, we hurried down the stairs toward the mile-long driveway, which had made me feel so far away. People with vests exited their cars, their vans. They’d stirred up dust, and I blinked it out as I watched, moon-eyed. The glaring sirens seemed to fade to a hum in my ears.

I didn’t fully understand what happened after that. My sister and I were hurried into a van by people with guns at their waist. If I looked over their broad shoulders, I could see my mother, though I wasn’t sure I knew it then. She was talking to a similar officer, if you could call it talking. She was only placidly nodding. Her face was hollow. Her eyes were empty.

My father awaited us at the end of the driveway. I hadn’t grasped what had happened, young as I was, but I accepted his hug all the same. He didn’t let us go for a long, long time.

Older now, I know things I didn’t back then. Fairies don’t exist. Magic isn’t real. But if an odd woman beckons you forth—even if it’s your own mother—don’t you follow, lest you, too, be swept up by The Erl Queen.

           

"A Changed Life"

by Austin Hudson

 

Alexander and, his just-found-out-about-pregnant wife, Elizabeth are driving back home from vacationing in the Bahamas. After a long day on the beach and finding out the news of going to be a dad, Alexander’s heart was filled with joy and excitement. Alexander and Elizabeth are living in the upper class of society, so they couldn’t wait to buy the baby’s first suit and teach him proper manners.

Alexander was a formal guy, clean shaven, with slicked back hair that was as black as the night, and always has on the nicest clothes to wear. Elizabeth has straight, long brunette hair and always wares some type of dress, with a beautiful white pearl necklace around her neck.

On their way home, they encounter an ocean of cars on the highway, backed up from a wreck that just happened. The married couple didn’t feel like waiting, so Alexander got off at the next exit in order to get home faster, unknowing that it could be the last road they ever took together.  

      

Miles down the road, the GPS takes them up a mountain that they never seen before.  

 

Elizabeth said with a frightened voice, “You might want to turn around, babe. I don’t like the looks of this.”  

 

Shortly after, she quits talking; the GPS turns off. Alexander picks up the phone as a notification pops up, it read, “no signal.” 

 

 Still driving up the one lane road with the bright lights on and no streetlamp in sight, Alexander replied, “We should be fine. We’ll just follow the road up till it leads us back down the mountain and then we’ll know where we are again.”  

 

They continue to drive, but right before they reach the top, a screeching sound is heard nearby. A car, heading the wrong way on the road towards the couple, wraps the corner and loses control. Right when Alexander realizes the car is heading in their direction, he quickly jerks the wheel, trying to dodge it. The narrow road didn’t have enough space for the couple to turn, causing them to tumble down the hill. Crashing into trees, flipping too many times to count, the couple just had to hold on for their lives until the car came to a stop. 

      

Silence filled the forest as Alexander tried to comprehend what had happened. He rubbed his eyes to regain focus as he looked over to the passenger seat and shouted, “ELIZABETH!”  

 

He shook her body, “Wake up; we got to go get help!” As Alexander’s heart ponds with adrenaline, he grabbed her wrist to feel for a pulse, and he put his head against her chest to hear her heartbeat. However, all Alexander heard was the sound of emptiness. As tears flooded down his face, he cried out for help. “If anyone can hear me out there, call 911!”

As his voice echoed through the woods, not a soul was around for miles. Alexander climbed out of the car but instantly fell to the ground. A sharp pain coursing through his leg. As he looked down, you could see his ankle snapped in two.

He knew he must try to find someone, so he instantly remembered watching the National Geographic channel with his wife about a year ago on how to make a splint. He crawled over to the truck of his car to grab the backpack he had in there from vacation and pulled out his retractable metal detector. Alexander unfolded it and broke it in two, just long enough for his leg. He then took off his tie and wrapped the pole around his leg in order to keep his ankle straight. While he hopped on one foot, as the other one slightly dragged behind him, he began looking for help. 

      

Alexander continued to walk. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find anyone that night. As years past Alexander had to learn how to survive in these woods by himself. He was used to high end meals such as caviar and the most expensive steaks you could find. Now he would just settle for which bug looked the most appetizing that day. Dehydrated as he struggles to keep water in his system. Alexander approached a hill. He looked up at the very top and notices a human-like figure standing there admiring the sunset.  

 

Alexander thought to himself, “Could it finally be? Is this someone that can help me?” He started charging up the hill screaming, “Hey you! Stay right there. I’m desperately in need of some help.” While Alexander’s muscles tensed up and ached in his legs, he wouldn’t give up. He finally reached the top of the hill and grabbed the man’s shoulder to turn him around. “Hey sir. Can you help me, please?”  

 

The man wearing a nice flannel button-up shirt with slacks staring back into Alexander’s eyes replied, “Wow… you look rough. Are you ok?” 

     

 Alexander replied, “No I’m not ok! My wife and I were in an accident that sent us tumbling down this mountain. I’ve been searching for years trying to get out of this place, but it seems like it just keeps going forever.”  

 

The stranger asks, “Where’s your wife now?” Alexander tried to hold in his emotions.  

 

With a scratchy voice, he said, “She didn’t make it, dies on impact.”  

 

The stranger grabbed Alexander and wrapped his arms around him to give him some comfort.  

 

Once Alexander felt fine enough to stop crying, he backed up and questioned, “So you can help me?”  

 

The man replied with only one word, “No.” 

 

 Alexander heated, “Why not? Didn’t you just hear me? I’ve been here for years now!”  

 

The man quietly leaned over and said, “Because I’m not real.”  

 

Hesitant, as Alexander stared at him. “What do you mean you're not real?”  

 

“I’m only a figure of your imagination, Alex. You created me to help you cope with the loss of your wife.”  

 

Disturbed with what he just said, Alexander gets angry. “Don’t talk about my wife. You never knew her!” As he balled his fist up and threw a punch towards the man’s jaw, there was no contact. Instantly, the man disappeared and was never to be seen again. 

     

 Heavy breathing as Alexander walked days on end with nothing but a backpack and a hiking stick. Alexander was almost unrecognizable now with his long, nappy beard and grown out hair. The smell of death reeked from his torn clothes, barely hanging on by a thread. He tried to recollect his memories of how long he’s been walking through this cold, dark forest just to find a single road. However, it’s been too long to keep track.

He forged shelter out of branches and plants for the storm approaching tonight. As he put the final branch up, he lied down and slept until the weather passed. The ground started to moisten with the sound of rain slapping on the dirt. Alexander heard a tiny sound in the distance. He raised his head to look around, but, when there was nothing to see, he went back to sleep.

There was a cracking sound heard in the distance as the roots of a tree started to pull out of the ground, falling towards Alexander. He jumped up as quickly as he could but still wasn’t fast enough to make it out in time. As silence filled the woods, Alexander’s heart pounded one final time. 

     

 Darkness all around as Alexander heard a beeping sound in the distance. He slowly opened 

 his hazy eyes to look around him and saw a sign in front of him that reads “Emergency care.” With a wondrous look on his face, he looked to the right and asked the only person in the room, “where am I?”  

As a tear rolled down her face, his wife, Elizabeth, replied, “Honey, you’re awake!” Filled with relief, she continues “We were in an intense accident.”  

 

Confused, Alexander quickly replied, “Yes, the car crash… but you died? I felt your pulse myself. You weren’t breathing anymore.”  

 

Elizabeth, shocked by what he just said, “No Honey, on that first flip I flew out of the windshield right before you went rolling down the hill. The man who was driving towards us sprinted out of his car to check on me and called for help on his phone. The life force got there right in time and had to resuscitate you back to life. You’ve been in a coma ever since.”  

 

Paused, as Alexander took in all the information, he reached for his chin that’s now cleanly shaved. With doubt flowing through his mind, he questioned her, “How long have I been out?”  

 

She grabbed his hand firmly as she tried to choke out the words “five years.”  

 

Alexander threw his head back, whaling, as his heart pounds, trying to figure out what’s real anymore. Nothing left in his mind to think but “If I had just given up sooner, would I have still been with my wife?”  

 

As Alexander laid there, he heard a child-like voice, “Daddy!” Alexander turned his head to the door of the hospital room, and there stood a 4-year-old little boy with a bright look in his eyes and a grin from ear to ear. 

Visual Arts

"Jellyfish" by Josie Crowder

"Rice Paper Butterfly in Nature" by Catherine Romo

"Dead Thoughts" by Joshua Cruz

"Lago Montebello, Chiapas, Mexico " by Catherine Romo

"Dolphins" by Josie Crowder

"The Quad (Dalton State College)" by Catherine Romo

"Flowers" by Megan Baker

"Temple" by Jennifer Dawson