The week before he would've graduated our friend Sam went up into the tree house and never came down. No argument. Would not argue. Would smile, nod, even seem to agree. Would stay. And yes, okay, we'd all loved the tree house. Big windows, curved elegance, the whole thing shaped to the black limbs like they'd reached out to hold it. Still, though. A plaything. A house for a child.

Like the tree, we grew around him. Went to colleges, joined fraternities, battled substances, earned degrees, jobs, wives. Sometimes going back there, climbing up to plead with him. Disappointed as always to find him in there, reading same creased comic books, strumming same four guitar chords, smiling same dumb contentment. And each time climbing down a little heavier, a little achier, shaking heads and sighing and compulsively checking time.

by Andrew Blevins

The corner of the well worn piece of paper pokes out of a pocket, forgotten. A swiftly scribbled lyric? A clipped Cosmo article? A half-completed crossword? Its identity is no longer evident as it lies crumpled and tossed aside in order to avoid death by washer/dryer.

by Katie Dennison

The green house will always be home.

by Tareva Johnson

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. My mother would always quote the Mother Goose rhyme when we would make the long trek from New York to Georgia every summer, or when we'd drive back from the grocery store. Every time I journey out, I expand to take in the world only to find that when I return, I invariably contract; I am a kid reading Mother Goose again.

by Maggie Shawcross

Home, the source of solace and refuge. Cottage, room, bed, nook- immaterial things. Rather, defined by people who grant the presence of shelter. Offering contentment during the best of times, guidance through each day, and support at the end of a storm.

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by Molly Berg

fire and roots

Half-heartedly singing as she put Adi Thalam on her lap, keeping beat in music class and sitting cross legged, her foot touched her lesson book, and this did not go unnoticed. Silence, not quietude.

Pay your respects.

What?

Touch the book with both hands, and bring your hands to your eyes, like Aarti: how you touch the fire and bring it to your eyes in prayer. Respect knowledge. She went home and stood on a book for the single, humbling feeling of touching it and bringing flames to her eyes.

Her mother tongue was spread thin across the ocean and this act was special; kindled and ashamed, she never purposely brought her feet to a book again, but found her cradle.

Her roots have grown too big for her pot and to replant is to reclaim, ignited.

by Meghana Ramanathan

a bedtime story/a story told in bed

J and D saw it was a beautiful day, so they went out for a drive. Of all the roads they could have taken, they picked the scenic highway going up the mountain. Now this scenic highway was really scenic, with rich green forest darkness on the left and guardrails to their right with no real use, on impact their car would just punch right through and they would fall into air and layers of blue ombre mountain for miles. They drove for hours and their hearts lightened as they went.

Would this be a story, though, if a wizened man had not stopped them in the road and asked for the password? If a gale had not whipped up suddenly and sent them running to the trees for cover? If the forest floor they slept on had not been damp and dread? If they had not happened on a shallow lake warm as bathwater with darkness at the bottom? If they had not been promised a way back home?

by Christine Pardue:

Desperté con el planeta tierra entre mis manos. Se podía ver las hormiguitas. De la nada, se empezó a desintegrar, dejando mis manos manchadas de carbón.

by Oriana Valencia

His hands were dry, so when they tightened around the bar, a creak escaped from between his fingers. He stared out the window. They were black—except for the occasional ghost of a tunnel lamp for the blue shock of loose wires of a train about to jump the track. He watched the reflection of the woman he had followed into the subway car—her black skin, her sheared hair, and her old copy of Bel Canto—and cursed the madman that stood between them. He had his hand down his corduroy pants and was screaming for everyone to get out of his house.

by Mekisha Telfer

A crowd of moths gathers outside my bedroom window, barely visible in the fluorescent-trimmed darkness. Beautiful and ghastly, they spiral and tumble, their wings beating frantically upon the humid night air and amid the steady jig of the cricket's chirp. Even though their bodies are light as pockets of dust, they thump heavily against the roof gutter like fragile Kamakaze planes. First one, then another. Crashing, fumbling and clinging to the brick wall, alighting in grooves helter-skelter: freedom delighting in shelter.

by Lori Keong

About the Authors

For writers' biographies, please see the masthead.