Wednesday, May 31, 2023

My Dad’s Eyes by Casey Williams

I hate looking into your eyes because it pains me to see what’s there.

It was happiness, joy, and pride at my accomplishments, but I see that that’s gone.

Instead, I see disappointment, judgment, and resentment, though you claim the contrary.

Those eyes that used to brighten in my presence have dimmed.

Those eyes that had warmth towards me glazed over in coldness.

Those eyes that once delighted in me see me as hopeless.

Those eyes that used to make me feel loved now dismiss me.

Those eyes belittle me every time I say or do anything strange.

Those eyes put me in a box.

Those eyes reflect a brain that thinks that I can’t possibly do anything good.

Those eyes hurt me, but you think I’m too dumb to see.

Those eyes dislike everything that makes me me.

Those put me in a box and want to lock me inside.

But those eyes aren’t the only ones I live under.

Because I have eyes on me that will see me grow.
First-person biography: I am 30-year-old aspiring writer from Georgia. I have ADHD, anxiety disorder, and depression. I am underemployed. I live with my family. I have friends. I’m in a relationship. I’m a Christian. I am not giving up on my life.

Friday, May 26, 2023

The Autumn Ghost by Hannah Wunsch (Review)

A black and white photo of a female med student standing near a patient's bed, manually pumping a ventilator balloon so a child can breathe. Another student (a man with glasses) sits to the left of her. The title is in white with the subtitle near the bottom in small, yellow text.

Note: I received this in order to review it.

The subtitle of this book (How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care) is incredibly accurate. Did you know the first true ICU was created in Denmark by an anesthesiologist who realized the benefits of such a department because of what he saw during a polio outbreak in 1952? We also have modern blood gas tests due to the necessity of frequent pH checks of polio patients' blood.

The story is structured a bit like a medical mystery. A lot of the focus is on a hospital called the Blegdam, the only contagious disease hospital in Copenhagen. The author even goes through how hospitals in the city helped hide Jewish people and assisted the Danish resistance in World War II; the war shaped alliances between doctors into the 1950s. A good amount of the narrative goes into the deluge of polio cases during the aforementioned summer of 1952. 

I thought this book was going to be dry, but it's actually full of life and many interesting tidbits. Most people introduced (researchers, doctors, and patients) in this book have photos and pieces of their personalities sprinkled in. The reader hears what happened to them after the disease left their lives and what came next, if anything. Not all endings are happy. 

The medical terminology and inventions were presented in a way I understood. It was cool knowing what industries gave the medical field certain innovations or improvements.

Medical experiments on animals were brought up fairly often. If you're the type of person who doesn't want to read how animal testing leads to breakthroughs or setbacks in the medical field, you might need to skip this read. It goes far beyond the typical experimentation on mice. Another thing that might upset readers is the trial vaccine given out at schools/homes for the "feeble-minded" with no guidelines in place (or, at points, consent); but there are only two brief instances mentioned. 

A lot of historical context is given, especially if there was a device or concept floated around well before an equivalent is introduced in the 1940s or 1950s. For instance, the idea behind the iron lung existed way before the ones we currently think of were on the market. 

I learned a lot from this book and don't regret a minute I spent reading it. I even learned the story behind the creation of the boardgame Candy Land. I recommend this book.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Two Poems by Rebecca Upton Hayes

On Life with Pain

The pain snakes through my body
starts in my feet/makes its way
up my spine stops in my shoulders

Others don't understand
They are used to having pain
in one place at a time like
if they stub their toe or bang
their knee against their desk

I hurt for no reason and any reason
and every reason

I take Lyrica hope for salvation
Hope it will eliminate these aches
Free me from this cycle of pain

I make plans anxiously because
how should I know how I will feel later?
And I worry others think I’m flaky when
I cancel like I’m lying about feeling
too achey or exhausted

If I was lying I’d come up with something
more interesting
If I was faking anything
I’d make it all more interesting
than this
Hashimoto's Disease, 2018

i stare into the blank spaces of walls at hospitals
i ignore the flowers
this place feels too bleak for such beauty

i could count how many times i’ve been here this year
if i checked my records on the account the hospital gave me
but i’m afraid to find out

in the MRI waiting room we’re all there
for the same thing,
so doctors can take pictures of our brains
and tell us if we’re normal
i didn’t mind having it done
but i wish they picked a different Pandora radio station

the doctors think i’ll be fine if i keep taking my new medications
this could be comforting but it isn’t
i want to feel better now,
i’m sorry if that seems a little unreasonable
okay, i’ll shut up now, i’ll stop asking questions
sorry doctor
yes, i’ll take my pills every day

the pins and needles come back all the time
sometimes i feel heat when i shouldn’t
i want to play guitar i want to do anything
other than massage my own aching joints
i hate that this has become my life now
they promised it would get better than this
nobody tells you what to do when it doesn’t

Biography: Rebecca Upton Hayes is a writer currently finishing her degree in Disability Studies at CUNY School of Professional Studies. Her creative and academic work are inspired by her experience living with disabilities. You can find pictures of her cat and her creative work on her Instagram at

Friday, May 12, 2023

Two Poems by Kat Falacienski


(I was once asked what kind
of animal I would want
to turn into, which species
would unsheathe
my self
And everyone else was going hawk
and wolf and lion
And I chose
a honeybee)

(And I imagined
someone asking Why? Bees
don’t live long

And I thought about
how Jacqueline Woodson
once wrote that on paper,
a butterfly never dies
And I’d like to think
she’d extend
the same grace
to me)

At home, I know the insects
only by their sounds.
The high-pitched hum
that sounds more like
a machine
than a living being.
The batlike squeak
and rustle of wings.
The fwt of someone
jumping and gliding
and landing.
The ones in the junipers,
clicking constantly
like invisible rain,
busy in the way
that only
small things
can be.

is how I wanna be:
heard but not seen.
the food network

The lady on the food network has red hair, the color of cinnamon in the evening. It’s just past eight a.m. and my eyelids are gooey as I blink beneath bare fluorescent lights. She is demonstrating how to make food to watch the Super Bowl with, food you can scoop into your mouth without looking, food that is just pleasurable enough to relax your tongue but not so good that you have to close your eyes. 

I had no idea the Super Bowl was even happening.

Two hours later I have not left this building. Instead, I am lying on a chair that is pretending to be a bed, my arms and legs scrunched up tight, staring at a tame blue wall through the threads of a blanket. I couldn’t breathe before. I felt like I was falling, the air yanked from my lungs so fast they nearly turned inside out. Now, the tips of my toes have touched something solid; now, the contents of my chest have settled. But I’m impatient: I mean I haven’t been down here that long, right? I wanna claw my way back up. I haven’t missed much, right? I wanna rewind, go back in time. Back before all of this happened. Back when my hair still shone cinnamon red in the soft evening sunlight. Back when I thought that things like this only happened to other people. 

I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

But then, I remember the lady on the food network, remember the way she slit open a plastic bag of Chips Ahoy cookies, plopped several flavors of ice cream into the bag, and drowned the whole thing in sickly syrup. Then she gets a spoon and just starts eating right out of the bag. Look, she says, a portable sundae. In the blue room I close my eyes and finally feel a little lighter. Not because I’ve seen the light or whatever, but because I suspect that behind that TV smile, behind the shimmering hair and the symmetrical face, the lady on the food network with her gooey go-girl sundae is most definitely tasting the bitterness of her own lipstick. 
Biography: Kat Falacienski is a student at Colorado College. She has been published in Teens Resist, Affinity Magazine, the Catalyst, Cipher Magazine, Leviathan Magazine, and YOGURT Culture Zine. She has also been featured in Quincy Hansen's book Shake It Up! How to Be Young, Autistic, and Make an Impact.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Book Review: These Gossamer Strings by Allegra Pescatore

A blond, white woman sits on the grass by a river in a faded denim-colored robe. The sky is dark with reddish clouds. A small, white dragon sits behind the woman facing to the left with its tail curved into the water.
I received a copy of this book for free.
There will be minor spoilers of the series (including this book).

Elenor has less than three weeks left before she faces a tribunal for her father's murder and must complete the rite that ensures she stay on her throne. As if Elenor didn't have enough to deal with, her mother is still missing, her diabolical aunt threatens the life of someone she loves, one of her best friends wants to kill her, and she's going through a flare.

Her allies have secrets and loyalties soon to be revealed:
Gabe's heritage might save the continent or damn it.
Daemon's wicked past comes back around.
Fedrik might be Elenor's savior or executioner.
Her mother both loves and hates her.

All the pieces are in play for the final installment of the first arc of the
Last Gift series.

There is a fair amount of action in this book: Chase sequences, battles of magic, explosions, and hand-to-hand combat all occur. Everything is described with enough skill so I knew what was happening without the passages being repetitive. There is torture in this book but far less than the novel where Gabe was kept in the dungeon.

Everyone's motivations (whether complex or simple) are fully presented as they act. Those of moral ambiguity (like Dae) are given the leeway to inhabit or change who they are. I can see even the minor characters as full people in my head, and it's not just because they are described as physically diverse. I will say I wasn't thrilled with the outcome of two characters: Prince Cassian and North because I felt like, though their motives made sense, they left me with a sense of wrongness.

All the various settings are still gorgeously described without bogging anything down.

One of the gripes I had with the first book was not knowing much about the motivations of the main villain. But this book puts so much in perspective as we get to know Elenor's mother; she has so many secrets connecting the dots on Elenor's father that it felt like we finally got a real look at what drove him. I still hated him at the end (and his wife somewhat, too) but still.

The book goes at a good pace while leaving room for character development and surprises. Every chapter felt necessary. 

Elenor and Gabe have more than one discussion about the use of her painkiller. As her physician, he often tries to warn her away from a higher dosage because of the potential risks. She argues that she's taken the drug for over thirteen years and knows her body's limits. I thought this debate (one chronic pain patients have all the time) was an excellent inclusion. To his credit, Gabe never accuses her of being an addict or threatens to take her meds away.

There are large threads of hope, perseverance, found family, and redemption even during the darker parts of this series which I appreciate... especially since some sections can get quite grim.

If you're expecting a neat bow on the ending, you'll be disappointed. While some of the threats are gone by the epilogue, some manage to escape and others appear at the end. This series is definitely far from over. But I loved it, recommend it, and can't wait for the next arc!

Friday, April 14, 2023

Chemically Unbalanced by Gary Bloom

There is a chemistry experiment
Going on in my head.
The synapses are not firing
Serotonin is sinking.

I am popping Prozac
Like it’s from a Pez dispenser.
Norepinephrine is depleting
The pendulum is swinging
Toward mania.

My shrink says
It’s chemical warfare
And whips out his prescription pad
Like a weapon.
Biography:  Gary Bloom grew up in Minneapolis and attended what is now Minnesota State University- Mankato, where he studied sociology. He has been a teaching assistant in a psychiatric hospital, a driving instructor for spinal cord injury patients, and a computer programmer. His articles and poetry have been published in newspapers, magazines, and websites, including Kaleidoscope Magazine, Breath & Shadow, Serotonin, Milwaukee Magazine, The Buffalo News, The Grand Rapids PressArt Times Journal, and Black Diaspora. Many of his poems are about depression, which he has suffered from since his late teens.

Friday, March 31, 2023

Life and What Drives Me by Spazzy Crafter

Two knit baby hats are on a transparent table. One is a blush pink and the other is blue with hints of purple.

I was born early one morning in late July in the southern part of Wisconsin. Mirroring my normal enthusiasm for life, I arrived twelve weeks too soon at two pounds and twelve ounces. The doctors didn’t give me a good prognosis; if I survived, I wouldn’t be able to chew gum or even swallow.

I spent the first month in the NICU. One of my parents stayed while the other was home with my older siblings. When I was finally released from the hospital, I weighed just barely over two pounds more than my starting weight. I wore Cabbage Patch doll clothes for the first six weeks of my life.

This year, I enter the period of life people affectionately call the “late thirties”. I survived beyond all obstacles.
I began loom knitting two years ago and had an idea: I'd donate preemie hats to local hospitals. It's my way of giving back and has helped me find a sense of purpose. It’s a way to keep the little ones warmer and more comfortable while surrounded by the bright lights and invasive tubes.

I have a whole bag of momentos from those early days, though I obviously can’t remember them. Someday, I hope my hats end up in other people’s bags and boxes of memories, and that they can hold them in their hands decades later.