Anna Stenka 2016

Poem:     Pulse

Poem:     Twin Bings

Poem:     Taken

Poem:     Understanding

Story:      December Air

After "Originally"

Girls with Dragons and Teenage Blues



The earth never settles;

it moves, constant. Fresh soil’s dug up

and replanted where new life grows

or the dead forever lie.


Edward Sotomayer Jr.

Stanley Aldomovar III

Luis Ocasio-Capo

Juan Guerrero

Eric Rivera

Peter Gonzales-Cruz

Luis Vielma

Kimberly Morris

Eddie Justice

Darryl Burt II


Some see rows of freshly planted peonies, 

sprouting from restless earth.

We see columns of headstones

crowning graves of kings and queens.


Deonka Drayton

Alejandro Martinez

Anthony Disla

Jean Perez

Franky Valazquez

Amanda Alvear

Martin Torres

Luis Wilson-Leon

Mercedez Flores

Xavier Rosado


Why were they, Mother Nature’s royal offspring,

made to settle in this shifting earth? 

Now, we are left to fathom why

their reign ended.

Gilberto Menendez

Simon Fernandez

Oscar Aracena-Montero

Enrique Rios Jr.

Miguel Honorato

Javier-Jorge Reyes

Joel Paniagua

Jason Josaphat

Cory Connell

Juan Valazquez


These kings, these queens, these rulers 

were shot down, forced from land 

once ruled with rainbow scepters and

an iridescent love of life. 


Luis Conde

Shane Thomlison

Juan Chevez-Martinez

Jerald Wright

Leroy Fernandez

Tevin Crosby

Jonathan Vega

Jean Rodriguez

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala

Brenda McCool


Despite weapon-like fear ensnaring her kingdom,

the restless earth never ceases. Her humble,

dancing children rest deep within her breast,

and we fear she has lost her pulse.


Yilmary Sulivan

Christopher Leinonen

Angel Candelario-Padro

Frank Hernandez

Paul Henry

Antonio Brown

Christopher Sanfeliz

Akrya Murray

Geraldo Ortiz-Jemenez


Twin Bings


I am here to warn you about Twin Bings.

A candy filled with promises of peanuts

and chances of chocolate, but don’t be fooled;

tales of torment surround these treats.

With every savory bite of cherry flavor, 

you will miss basketball games and forget birthdays.

You won’t notice it at first; it will come in bits

for with each bite your bitterness will grow,

washing down nougat with nothing 

but Busch Light and military memories.

There will be no warning: one day, you will

crunch down on a savory bite and think

“Ehh, my wife and kids aren’t that great.”

and you’ll walk out the door, candy in hand.

Twin Bing wrappers should have a warning label:

“Caution: contains peanuts and poor parenting skills.”




Sarcasm and strawberry

milkshakes fill his mouth, 

but words never fail

to fall out. Around

his heart is a wall

built strong, even I

find it hard to break

these barriers down.

Bitter anxiety

brings him to a halt.

His shouts used to pluck

at my tuned heartstrings.

Swinging so high, I 

reach for cloudy sky,

but his fears talk me

effortlessly down.

Bruises as marks of

love; blackened eyes make

my fears real. Taken

from my grasp, I’ve lost

both weapon and shield.




Blasting heat from open vents encompasses our beings

as we fight off chills from February’s evening air.

Parked in the darkness, light emitting only from our

dimly lit phone screens in an attempt to hide the

secrets we share. Huddled over hushed whispers,

we read graphite scribbles through eraser shavings

on a page once white, but now eternally stained

by shadowed smudges and scarlet ink. This is where

our inner thoughts recede; in the places we sit, between

empty pop bottles and Subway receipts. This is where

we erupt into volcanic explosions of intellect and emotion.

This is the life raft that we find ourselves reaching for, time 

and time again, only to be cast out once more by lack of words

that can’t seem to find their way into mouths or minds. Here, 

where our harsh breath fogs up windows, not letting others see

how we rip open our ribs and let our guts spill over. Here, 

silence is as much of a friend as sound. Here is where

I feel safe; behind locked doors and between outstretched arms

that entangle me. Like ivy over brick, they show me how

easily I crumble. Here in this safety net of spiderwebs,

their written words remind me that notebooks can offer haven 

and backseats can be a home. Sit here a while longer and 

read with me your darkest thoughts so that I may understand you.


December Air

     Jamie turns away from the mirror at the sound of my voice. “Are you sure you have to leave for Florida?” She adjusts a crop top with an ugly floral pattern that reminds me of old furniture. “And are you sure you wanna wear that top? It looks like you cut out a piece of fabric from your grandma’s couch.” Jamie rolls her eyes and turns back to the mirror to try and arrange her ‘messy bun’ to be less, well, messy.

     “Yes, I’m sure. My uncles have been planning on this for months and good, I hope so.” The sass in her voice makes it very clear that she could wear a burlap sack as a dress and not care. “Now should I wear these floral shoes as well? Curtains gotta match the drapes you know.”  Jamie throws her head back, laughing at her own joke and then realizes her mistake when her hair tumbles out of the bun.


     “I’m just gonna miss you, that’s all. I mean, what am I supposed to do during Christmas break when my best friend is in Florida? It’s not fair at all!” She rolls her eyes and motions for me to pass the brush to her that rests beside me on the bed.


     “You could always hang with Andrew,” she replies. I can hear the smirk on her face even though I can’t see it. “He always wants to hang out!”

     “I know, but I can only stand so much of him at a time. Plus, he started smoking and if I keep hanging out with him it’s gonna make it harder for me to quit.” Andrew is Jamie and I’s best friend, and don’t get me wrong he is great, but he also has a tendency to be very loud and annoying. I mean, he is funny, smart, and sweet, but at times my headaches get headaches from listening to him go on and on about the most recent events that happened at work.

     “Last week this guy came in and was complaining for over an hour that his steak was too salty; too salty. When I told him that was too bad and I couldn’t give him his money back, he paid but then tipped the waitress and told her to buy Gordon Ramsey DVD’s for me to watch and learn how to cook!” This was just the latest of the incidents that happen at the restaurant where we all used to work, Andy’s. Jamie and I waited tables for a while there but got sick of our sexist boss, so we quit and were done with the place. Andrew, however, doesn’t seem to care and constantly feels the need to inform us of everything going on there.

     Jamie puts her hair back up in a new bun, tighter this time. “I know, I’ve started smoking when we go drive around together and I need to stop. My mom is gonna realize that the smoke smell in the house isn’t just her. But shit, you’re right. If I have to listen to one more story about whiny wait staff or broken dishes, I’m gonna burn that place down myself.” She turns to me and smiles again. “I think we just need to find him a girlfriend.”

     I roll my eyes and lie back on the bed. “I think we need to find me a girlfriend.” I pick up my phone that lays beside me and check for notifications.

     “Anything?” Jamie questions with eagerness in her voice and a new and improved bun crowning her head. I shake my head in dismay.

     “Not a single thing.” A week ago I downloaded a dating app called Her. Her is an online dating community for girls only. I’ve been messaging a few girls on the app that I was slightly interested in, but so far no one has gained my attention. I lay back on the bed with my phone above me, scrolling through profile after profile of girls on this app, but still not seeing anyone that really sparks my interest.  

     Sighing, I put down my phone and sit up on the bed. “I think it’s useless. I will never find love. I will just live alone forever with my dog and two cats in a country home in Germany.” I dramatically throw myself back onto the bed. “Oh woe is me. Alone forever!”

     Jamie puts down her stick of eyeliner that she had been applying and throws herself onto the bed beside me. “Don’t worry,” she said. “Remember our deal?” I can’t help but smile and nod my head.


     “When we are both still single when we’re thirty, we can get married then. I mean it will be perfect! You can still have your cats but I don’t know about the dog...” I roll over and hug my best friend tight, hoping that if I squeeze hard enough it will make 2 weeks and 2000 miles seem like less of a distance.

“Are you sure you have to leave for all of break?  I have no idea what I’m gonna do!”  She smiles at me again and hops off the bed to pack up the makeup that litters the floor in front of the mirror.

     “You’ll find something, I’m sure. Have a little fun.” I pick up my phone and began scrolling through faces again, profile after profile. “Maybe try and find a hot date when I’m gone.” 

I sigh once more. “I suppose I could try. I don’t know. I might just go to work and sleep the entire time. Doesn’t that sound fun?”

     Jamie shakes her head at me and puts her makeup bag in her suitcase, zipping it shut. “I mean if you want to be boring and have no life, sounds great!” She looks back to the mirror, trying to see herself from all angles. “Does this top really look that bad?”

     I can’t help but grin and reply, “No, it looks great, but I think it’s still a little cold for here. Maybe wait till you’re actually in Florida to put it on?” Jamie slides into a jacket and grabs her suitcase from the ground.

     “That’s better. Definitely warmer.” She looks in the mirror again, making sure the jacket won’t clash with her floral flats. “You ready?”

     “I suppose,” I answer, climbing off the bed and slipping into the boots that rest at the foot of the bed. We walk down the hallway from her room to the living room where her grandma is waiting.

     “Are you ready?” her grandma asks. “We’ve got a long drive you know. I’ve been packed for the last few hours and your uncles are waiting on us!” Jamie glances at me with obvious annoyance.

     “Yes, I’m ready,” she says. I walk her out to the running car and grow jealous of the warmth when I open the rear door to throw her bag inside. I glance over and see my own car, sitting in the cold and start to feel bad for my fingers when I have to drive home. I slam the car door shut and turn to Jamie.

     “Be good okay? Keep your purse close, don’t take anything a stranger gives you, wear sunscreen, and always keep your phone charged. I expect snapchats during the trip.” She meets my worries with a tight hug.

     “Alright, mom,” she says sarcastically, still holding me close. “I’ll text you when we get there.” She lets go of my grasp and climbs into the vehicle. “Bye, I love you!” Her grandma says goodbye to me as well.

     “Bye guys, be safe!” I shut the door behind her and watch as they back out of the drive and head down the street. I walk across the street to where my car is parked and get in, starting the vehicle. What to do…

     I pull into my driveway and check my phone. The girl I had been talking to on Her was now not responding. What a surprise. I open up my texts and start a new message. I type in the name: A-N-D-R-E-W. “Hey wanna hangout?” Send.

     I sit in my car using the wifi I barely receive from my house to flip through the dating app once more; profile after profile. The sky begins to darken and heat begins to escape my vehicle. Swipe, swipe, swipe, ding. Andrew messages me back. “Yeah sure, I’ll pick you up.” I wait in my car just a few minutes before I see Andrew pull up in my rearview. I crawl out of my vehicle and brace the bitter wind against my face before jumping into his car. 

     “How’s it going?” he asks as he backs out back onto the street. I shrug and lean back into my seat, watching my access to wifi slowly slip away. “Do you want a smoke?” I look over to see the open pack staring me in the face.

     “Sure, thanks.” I grab one and light it up, cracking my window just slightly as to not let out too much heat. I take in a long puff and begin to think while listening to Andrew go on about the new waitress who just started last night and already spilled a pitcher of water on a customer. I check my phone again. No new messages.

     I think back to last winter break and try to remember what I did and how different it is from this year, but I can’t remember what I did. All I can think of is how Jamie is in Disney World and I’m still dateless. Instead of enjoying sunny beaches or romantic dinners, I’m stuck in town driving around with Andrew, blowing cigarette smoke out the cracked window of his car and noticing that smoke appears to be thicker in December air.