“Best Friends” by Iman Ilias

“Best Friends”
by Iman Ilias

It is true what they say
At the end of the day
Friends will pick you up when you fall
Best friends will push you back down and laugh

Many ponder the significance of this proverb
What does it mean?
Friends will make you feel like a queen
And it’s for friendships like those
That we are so keen

Polite people,
And polite friends
Will be very amiable and very sweet
And at a party
They’ll be the first to greet

But when you are close to a person you know,
No such formalities should be bestowed
For it’s friendships like these that you’ll never outgrow

They will laugh at you
And point out your flaws
And even shove you to the side

But that’s what they’re for
To teach you that you’re not perfect
But that’s fine
They accept you the way you are

They joke
Sometimes crudely
To show that they are comfortable with you
They’re fine being their most embarrassing selves around you
And they know that you won’t mind
Their jokes or their personalities

Because that’s what best friends

“We Are All Different” by Iman Ilias

“We Are All Different”
by Iman Ilias

We are all different
Look different
Act different
Learn different
Think different
Feel different

We all come from different places, and form our own opinions
We all feel and think differently about different things,
We all have different ways of doing the same thing

Some like vanilla,
Some like chocolate.
Some indulge in pleasures, some have no choice but to work without stop

One can find blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes
One can find straight hair, wavy hair, curly hair
One can see tall and short,
One can see light and dark

There are those that speak English,
There are those that speak Spanish,
There are others that speak Chinese,
And others who speak Hindi

And some people who just won’t see certain things the same way

But we can all compromise
But we can all understand
But we can all appreciate

And we can find flavor in each other’s food
And eloquence in each other’s tongue
And beauty in each other’s countenances
And logic in each other’s opinions

Even though

We are all different

“My Life and Diversity” by Debkanya Mitra

Without color, our world is bleak,
Cold, and unforgiving.
There would be no smiles,
Our identities would be tangled in a veil,
Which would suffocate our spirit.
But we have color,
And I can’t imagine my world, my community,
Ever lacking it.
Diversity is being different,
Not feeling different.
I am the face of diversity,
Though diversity has many different faces.
Maryland is where I was born,
And if anyone asked me where I was from,
I would say “Maryland.”
I don’t look like everyone else,
But that’s okay.
I’m really lucky,
I’ve gotten a chance to see my state…
The Eastern Shore is magnificent,
With its towering waves,
That could drown all of us,
But it doesn’t.
I’ve stood on its sandy banks,
And felt its magnitude,
While the sun smiled at me.
The Chesapeake Bay is alive,
There is a touch of prosperity left,
We’re letting it thrive,
But we’ve hurt it in the past.
I remember its currents vividly,
My teacher told me that it was estuary,
A long while back.
Pollution had hurt the bay,
She had told us,
Pollution, and overfishing,
I was determined to fix it all that day,
I haven’t succeeded,
Not yet.
Baltimore is my golden city,
In its harbor,
The star-spangled banner flew,
And our national anthem was written.
Baltimore was where Freddie Grey died in police custody.
I was driving through Baltimore that day.
I didn’t know.
That city is America,
And in America,
We have good cops,
And we have good people,
And we don’t want to let racism come between us,
But sometimes we do.
Baltimore is a diverse city,
And Baltimore is rebuilding itself,
And we the people,
Are recognizing our flaws,
But we won’t forget.
I’ll remember,
But I’ll learn,
My America will learn.
I’ll sing,
I won’t stop singing.
Baltimore’s not far away from our county,
But even if it was, no one would forget, right here.
Our county is built on acceptance,
And unity.
Because I’m different,
We’re all different.
When people look at me,
They don’t realize,
That I’ve never lived outside of Maryland.
I look Indian,
They see that,
I’m proud to be Indian, too.
A memory I would like to share with everyone is Holi.
I celebrated it on the fields outside of our temple.
I am Hindu, and Holi is a festival celebrating spring.
We sprinkle colored powders on our heads,
We through them at our friends,
We laugh together.
Another memory is the festival of lights,
Like Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa,
Diwali is celebrated in the winter.
My family hangs up lights,
And we light candles,
In India we lit fireworks.
I was in first grade,
When I saw the skies light up.
I’m an actor, too,
I’m captivated by the world.
Every role, that I’ve taken on,
Has taught me something.
Recently, I acted in a Bengali Drama,
About change, social change.
I played the role,
Of someone originally against it.
At the end,
My character understands,
And holds up a sign,
Which reads, “We are Charlie,”
While another actor must hold up a sign,
That says, “We are Avijit.”
Charlie Hebdo,
Is a magazine in France,
That was targeted by terrorist attacks.
Avijit Roy,
Was a man in Bangladesh,
Who was killed for blogging his ideas.
My character realizes,
How we need to stand up for each other.
I’ve seen a lot in my life,
And what I have seen,
Has enlightened me.
I don’t want to live in a world,
Where color has been forgotten.
I don’t want to live in a world,
Where color is what we fight over.
And to make this world that I want,
Enriched by color, but not torn apart,
I have to start talking louder.
I can’t leave everything for when I get older.
Let there be humanity, faith, and the prosperity of all.
Diversity is the unstoppable journey, that brought me right here.

“Fall” by Debkanya Mitra

Fall comes with leaves,
More beautiful than flowers,
And grey skies.
Fall is the season of harvest,
While the bleak ground,
Is decorated with the remains,
Of shattered memories.
Trapped in the empty theatre,
Are our materialistic ideas of change,
I’m the only one,
Who hasn’t watched its premier.
I think that I’ll watch it,
When my world,
Has no colors remaining.

“The Storm” by David Villani

It was a warm, sunlit October day, and I was calmly fishing for sardines on my boat, the Tempesta, as I had always done. I was laying out the nets, a tedious, painstaking task. All of a sudden, a bored croaking voice spit into my radio. I jumped at its abruptness, and angrily let go the line. I walked over, irritated at the timing.

“This is the Coast Guard, there is a large storm headed your way. Dock immediately. I repeat, dock immediately.”

This did not alarm me, as I very frequently got such messages. These so called “large storms” usually amounted to five minutes of rain and a few gusts of wind. I was not even contemplating going back. It was five o’clock, so if I was to go back to dock, my fishing for the day would be over. Worst come to worst, I would simply have to weather the storm. I returned to laying the lines, all while unconsciously humming a tuneless song.

After forty minutes of hard work, I sat down on a barrel and took out a cigarette. The sun was sinking into the sea, painting the entire sky a golden, orange hue. As I lit my cigarette, I gently rubbed my temples. I had throbbing headache and I was dead tired, but I was not feeling miserable. It had been a very profitable day, and I was thinking of going back to dock early. It would be an hour to shore, and I was extremely hungry, as I had forgotten to pack a supper. I inhaled sharply, releasing the smoke in small puffs. The calm sensation of a day well spent soothed my aching body, and I smiled in spite of myself. As the smoke filled the air around me, I coughed lazily. I resolved to head home after a few minutes, and I slowly got up. As I leisurely glanced up, a sight made my blood freeze.

A terrible wall of silent storm clouds was advancing menacingly towards the Tempesta at impossible speeds. I cursed loudly, and ran towards the helm. As I rushed over, I tripped on a rope. I rapidly scrambled to my feet, mumbling obscenities, and set the boat in motion. As the engine slowly sputtered to life, I looked at my compass and set my course to shore. If I didn’t reach the harbor in time, there would be hell to pay. I tragically thought of the coast guard’s warning, and my disregard for it. This storm was definitely not going to be five minutes of rain and a few gusts of wind, I thought with distress. I turned the boat east, and set it towards the coast at full speed. I looked back at the fast-approaching storm clouds and a part of me knew it was futile. My boat reached a maximum speed of twenty kilometers per hour, and that storm was easily going at sixty. I also noted that it was about two kilometers away. It was nearly futile. I had to try, however.

The grey storms enveloped the sky, and a cruel darkness descended on the previously bright sky. A cold sensation pervaded the air, and the mysterious, salty smell of the ocean filled my nose. The almost magic spirit of the tempest assaulted all my senses. It felt almost living, in a way. The storm was like an evil horse, tearing across the sea, craving death. My death. I ran away quickly, but not quickly enough. I was driving the boat with my back to the storm, but I could feel its ghastly cold hands clutch at me, not quite reaching me, but getting close. I silently prayed, begging the Virgin Mary for my life. I was scared. I was scared like I had never been scared before.

Suddenly, approaching in the distance, I spotted a light. I enthusiastically cried in joy. It was a lighthouse! I thanked the Virgin for sparing my life. I was saved! The light peacefully moved towards me, and in the process, it shone on a huge rock. My hands suddenly clamped together. I realized why the lighthouse was there. The lighthouse was there to warn sailors about the famous Sant’Angelo Reef. It surrounded the lining coast for miles in all directions. I was baffled, as I was about fifteen kilometers off of my destination. I had strayed north. Many sailors much better than me had died trying to navigate the reef. I was doomed. If I continued in that direction, my boat would be torn apart by the razor sharp boulders, and I would surely drown. I had to turn around, and turn around quickly, or my death would be even more certain.

As I spun the boat around, I cursed. I cursed God, I cursed Mary, and I cursed myself. The lighthouse had given me hope, but instead of salvation, it only offered more danger. What a cruel trick had God pulled on me. I gripped the helm so tight my knuckles turned white, and then cursed some more. The storm had practically reached me by now, and rain was already drenching me. I did not care. I wanted to live, obviously, but my chances were slim. I had nowhere to go.  I had a reef of murderous rocks on one side, and a vicious tempest on another. I had to go towards the storm, or the wild winds would smash me against the rocks.

The waters were filled with great waves, and I was in constant fear of being capsized. Suddenly, a lightning bolt struck my mast, destroying it in a burst of wood. I was shocked by the abruptness, and an awed curse slipped my lips. All around me, waves were pounding my boat like hammers, and heavy rain was falling down from the heavens like fiery meteors. The sky was pitch black, with angry clouds blocking out the dying sun. My boat was floating helplessly, its mast shattered into a thousands shards. I was at the wheel, holding on desperately for my life, in fear of a wave that would tear me off into the sea. The dark green ocean was zealously trying to snatch me of my boat and to drag me to its mysterious depths.

I looked all around me. Shattered glass and wood was surrounding me. My boat was in a miserable shape. The rudder has snapped off. Huge, looming waves crashed over the bow and hit my face with furious passion. The salty taste of the sea filled my mouth. The storm showed no signs of calming, and only increased in power. My mind was leaping from thought to thought, like a monkey in a tree. I could not focus on anything. The boat was being tossed around on the water like a rag doll. The raging, implacable force of nature was throwing itself against me with full force, and I was helpless before it.

I returned to the matter at hand. Now was not the time to have existential crises. I gripped the helm harder, and looked ahead. All too close, I saw a huge wave, searing towards me. It was three stories high, and it stretched out as far as I could see. It had a teal tinge. The sailor inside of me was scrambling to save myself, frantically grasping at the helm and sending power to the engine. It was absolutely futile. The wave was simply too strong. As the boat glided over the sea towards my boat, I gave up. I simply closed my eyes as the wave exploded around my boat with a thundering roar. And suddenly, there was no more.



“Nothing” by Annie Tang

Nothing can’t be anything
Or nothing could be something.
No one can do nothing
Only nothing can do nothing.
But you can change nothing
Or leave nothing as nothing.
Then something becomes nothing
Nothing is the forbidden pit of darkness
Something is the bright open air and light
But when something turns to nothing,
The walls become slick and one becomes trapped.
In the end, nothing is nothing
Nothing can’t be anything
Something is something,
And something can be

“Hope” by Emma Lin

Out of all the darkness,
There is light,
Out of all the discourage
There is courage,
Through all of the sadness,
There is happiness,
Out of all the anger inside someone,
There is a spark of excitement.
That is it’s name,
Out of everything there is hope.
When you’re discouraged,
You can’t find a way out of anything,
Hope is always there,
Even on the most saddest days,
The most stressful days,
Hope is there,
Burning brightly like a candle inside of you
Melting away your fears and anger
For when you have no weapon
Hope is your weapon.

“I am Ethan” by Ethan Tucker

I am Ethan.
You may not see me as able or think that much about me, You may not understand about the way I learn or see.

The reasons why I am so quiet and don’t say much at all, why I am walking so mostly strange and seem so very small.

I learned a little different than others, but I am definitely able and when I type, you’ll see, I am truly very capable.

Too much loud noise, trees without leaves set me over the edge. I hate being alone; I am happy surrounded by friends.

I try to control my body but it means I can’t let myself go, I have to work hard at it; it’s an impulse I can’t control.

Rice and beans with hot sauce and jalapenos on everything I eat, Sometimes thinking of the things I’m eating can pester me.

I hear everything so loudly, it all rushes SLAMS right in, This often makes it extremely hard to dilute… everything!

“Look at me!” “Sit calmly!” and “Eat neater!” are things I can’t stand to hear, These things are always far as the salt sea dances, it’s clear.

I didn’t mean to make a mess or spill that drink again, Mom, Some things are difficult for me, so please can we remain calm?

My heart is as enormous as the sun and so bright is my smile. I really travel far to go the extra amazing mile.

My brain works differently than other guys but one thing remains true, I am really as intelligent as you.

Sometimes my body won’t do as it’s told.
Always feeling like I’m autistic definitely gets old.

Please don’t think of me as different or accept me as less, I’m just like other guys, trying to do my best.

“Land of the Brave” by Dallas Carson

Leo took a long drink of water from the canteen, as he leaned against the oak tree.  Two weeks.  It’s been two weeks since he left the orphanage, and he’s been roughing it ever since.  He didn’t know if he regretted his decision or not.  I mean, sure he didn’t know anyone there, and the overseer lady could make Hitler want to hide under his sheets, but Leo forgot to remember that the real world is full of dragons, orcs, and wargs.
What?  Oh, you thought that this story was gonna be realistic?  Too bad.  You see, Leo lived in a world where the “Real world” merged with something out of a Lord of the Rings book.
Leo moved a hand through his chestnut hair.  So far he was doing pretty good for a 14-year old.  Before he left, he snuck into the overseer’s study, while the old hag was sleeping, and scrounged up enough money to buy something for self-defense.  An old, rusty broadsword.  It wasn’t much, but it was something.  After that he’s been hiking all over the country, fighting off beasts, ducking the guards, and eating nothing but almost stale bread and the occasional slice of beef.
Leo looked ahead to where he was supposed to go.  In front of him was a forest.  A “haunted” forest as one would summarize it.  It was indeed creepy.  The black and gnarled trees, the only things visible through the thick fog, raising their twisted, leafless branches up to the sky.  The mere sight of it was enough to send the bravest warrior screaming.  Not to mention how it was rumored to be infested with wargs.
Unfortunately for Leo, the town on the other side of the forest was the only sign of civilization for miles, and he needed supplies and a place to stay.
The temperature lowered and he shivered, pulling on his jacket, trying to keep the warmth in.  It would be dark soon, and he didn’t have the proper shelter to survive the cold night.  And let’s face it, if you were dressed in nothing but a t-shirt, jeans, and zip-up hoodie, and you’re so thin one could see your rib-cage, you’d freeze to death.
It was official, he needed to brave through the dark woods before sundown. With a heavy sigh, he slung his pack over his shoulder, made sure the broadsword was secure at his side, and trudged on into the evil forest.  He just needed to make it through the thicket before nightfall, without running into any monsters, easy as pie.
It only occurred to Leo, three hours later, that he had no idea how to make pie.  He was still marching through the forest, exhaustion evident on his face.  Many of the mutated tree branches were still trying to reach out at him, trying to scratch off his face.  He just avoided them as best as he could, desperate to make it out alive.  It was night time, or at least, that’s what Leo could assume, for the thick fog blocked out any trace of the sky.  He hadn’t run into any monsters so far, that was a good sign, but his insides were frozen solid.  He gritted his teeth, trying to maintain normal body temperature, and sallied on.
It was then that he came upon the scene.  He noticed that the trees were starting to thin out, for a moment, his heart filled with hope.  He then looked ahead, and realized that the trees were just as thick as ever.  He looked around and realized why the trees thinned out here.  He was in a wide area, where the trunks were all ripped right off, leaving nothing but splintering stumps.
He looked around and saw, to his stomach-curdling horror, corpses.  Yes, corpses.  Littering the ground, around the stumps, were the skeletons of fallen warriors, the flesh on their bones picked clean. Their boney faces somehow managing an expression of pure fear.
Snap!  Leo froze, in pure terror, and it finally dawned on him.
Crunch!  He was in something’s territory!
Grrrrr…..  And something just came back, after an unsuccessful hunt!
Bark!  At that sound, Leo barreled out of the way, just before a huge figure pounced onto the spot where he just stood with so much force the ground shook.
Once Leo got up his bag fell to the ground, and he drew the broadsword.  In front of him was what one would call a wolf, except it was much larger.  It was bigger than Leo, and that was saying something, since Leo stood at 5 ft. 8 in.  Its white fur stained with dirt and blood.  Various broken spears and swords stuck out of its sides, showing the weapon of each warrior that tried in vain to kill the beast.  Red eyes flashed in the dark, while yellow, dagger-sized, fangs were bared.  This was a warg, but then again… this was big, even for a warg!  And then there were the aforementioned “weapons in the side” was not a common thing either.
The creature pounced, and Leo barely got out of the way in time.  In a quick reflex, Leo made a diagonal slash across the warg’s side.  It howled in pain briefly, but then shook off the gash like it was a paper cut, and snarled at him.  It then began chasing him around the area, snapping and snarling the whole way.  At one point, Leo decided to retaliate.  The warg made another leap at him, mouth wide open.  Leo swung the sword, horizontally.  The monster once again howled, and once it stopped, what once was saliva drooling down its mouth, was a red liquid.  It glared daggers at Leo with hate filled eyes.
Leo visibly gulped and, though it was cold, he began sweating.  It was clear he could not win this fight easily.  So he did what any person with common sense would do.  He ran.  He ran his legs off.  Any branch that was in his way, he hacked it off with his sword.  He heard the warg giving chase knocking down all the branches with its immense size.
Leo knew he was in trouble, the warg no longer wanted to hunt him for food.  It just wanted to be rid of the pesky little gnat that violated its territory, permanently.  This was the thrill of the hunt.
Leo would have kept running, but the trees were starting to thin out again.  Once again Leo hoped it was the way out, but once again his hoping failed him.  Ahead of him the ground somehow came to a complete stop.  Leo skidded to a halt, his toes just over the edge, flailing his arms to regain balance.  The pebbles he kicked over the edge in a hurry fell down into the dark abyss, echoing off the walls.  He managed to find his feet again, and stumbled backwards, getting to a good, safe place to get a better view ahead.  The ground, apparently, had run a crack right through it.  A giant empty chasm in the middle of the forest.
Leo turned around to see the trees getting trampled over by an unstoppable force, the warg.  As Leo guessed, the warg lept through the trees and stuck the ground like thunder.  Leo once again struggled to regain balance to prevent falling over the edge.
The warg realized its prey was now cornered, so it decided to tease it.  It stalked forward, slowly, savoring the kill.
Leo gripped the handle of the sword so hard his knuckles turned white.  He knew only one way out of this.  He took a deep breath, and charged.
The warg was surprised by this.  This was one of the scrawniest morsels to enter its territory.   And here it was, no advantages, no reinforcements, barely anything to defend itself, charging at something clearly superior.
The warg was so astonished by Leo’s bravery/foolishness that it failed to react in time.  Leo slashed the sword across its face.  The warg was blinded, and howled in pure pain.
Leo couldn’t believe his luck!  He managed to get a good hit!  In an instant, he bolted for the wood.
But then the warg pounced.
It all happened so fast.  Leo heard growling noises and turned around.  He saw the warg in mid-air, arms outstretched, eyes on fire with pure fury.  Leo ducked as fast as he could, but it wasn’t fast enough.  One of the wargs claws grazed his right arm.  And since the warg’s claws were so huge, boy did it graze.
Leo was pulled along with the warg with powerful force.  He tumbled and scraped across the gravelly ground, until skidding to a halt.
With a very dizzy mind, Leo sat up, and immediately regretted it.  He was hit with a wave of excruciating pain.  He found out why when he looked at the several gashes along his right arm.
He then looked up to see the warg getting up.  His first instinct was to go for his sword.  But then it dawned on him.  He turned his head to see his sword lying on the ground, where he dropped it, several yards away.
He stood up to retrieve the sword.  But then he was forcibly reminded of the warg when it pounced again.
He was ready for it this time though, and he dodge rolled out of the way.  Thus leading to how the warg’s fangs sunk into the tree trunk where Leo’s torso once was.  The warg tried to free itself, but the fangs had sunk into the wood too deep.
Leo backed away hoping he was safe, for the time being.  But by this time you should know Leo shouldn’t hope for things like that.
The warg tore the tree from the ground by the roots!  It unhinged the dead plant from its jaw, and threw it at Leo.
Leo ducked just in time.  The mighty trunk sailed over his head and crashed behind with a great “thud!”
Leo looked over his shoulder to see how close he was to becoming a pancake, but then he noticed something else that wasn’t there before.  A long wolf fang.
The warg licked the spot where its valuable weapon once was, and decided to take its frustration out on Leo.
It pounced again.  What Leo did next was a blur of adrenaline and instincts.  He whipped around, grabbed the fang embedded in the trunk, and with strength he didn’t know he had yanked it out.  The warg grabbed onto Leo and pushed him back with deliberate force.  Leo chose that moment to strike.  He took the fang and, with all the strength of he could muster, shoved the fang through the left side of the warg’s chest.
The beast went limp for a moment.  That was all the time needed to careen right over Leo’s head, collide headfirst to the ground, snap its neck, and sail right over the edge of a cliff into the chasm below.
Leo sat there, breathless for a moment.  Only one thought on his mind, “What the heck just happened?”
He then decided to brush it off for the time being.  He had to get out of this forest!  He got up and staggered to his sword.  He was feeling unusually light headed.  His vision blurred.  His wounds!  He was losing consciousness from blood loss!  He kept staggering.  Almost there.  He could almost touch it!  He reached out to pick it up.  He collapsed.
-To be continued

“Imperfection” by Meera Shroff

An Excerpt

An old Honda wearily swerved off of the highway, and the Jones family finally pulled at a cheap, dingy looking motel. They exited the car.

“Robert, open the trunk for me. I need my purse.”

“Yes, yes..”Mr. Jones exhaustedly clicked a button on his key, inattentive to Ms. Jones or their daughter, Amelia. Amelia had jumped out of the car, and her foot was buzzing like bees, and she started hopping around the parking lot on one foot.

Ms. Jones kept a subtle eye on the two of them, and deftly snatched a insignificant looking plum colored bag out of the trunk, along with her purse.

“Let’s go, Amelia!” Ms. Jones grabbed Amelia’s hand and pulled her towards the motel.

“You coming?” She asked Mr. Jones.

“I’ll have a quick smoke, don’t wait for me.” He replied, leaning back into the car to get a pack of cigarettes.

Ms. Jones eyes flashed, “You bet I won’t wait.” She muttered.


A Tesla, gleaming with disuse, revved into a small motel parking lot. Ms. Wellington looked disdainfully at the small motel.

“Why here? Why do such talented individuals like ourselves have to go to such a deplorable place?” She wailed. “We are not like such commoners!”

Mr. Wellington looked sadly over at the husk of the woman he had married. The dramatics had always been there, but riches had ruined her. “If you can place a charging station nearby, we wouldn’t have to stay here.”

With a sniff, Ms. Wellington stepped out of the Tesla first. After glancing over at Ms. Wellington, who was currently spritzing some citrusy perfume on her wrist, Mr. Wellington took a small jade bag out of a compartment. He slipped it into his coat pocket, then wrapped an arm around Ms. Wellington who slapped it away.

“You mustn’t ruin my makeup! We’ll show those people how beauty is really done.”


Two children, a girl and guy, walked into the motel parking lot. At a passing glance, they looked average, normal even. Upon further looks, that’s not so true.

The girl wore a bright sundress, with a floppy sun hat shielding her face from view. The boy wore a dark leather jacket with a t-shirt advertising some obscure band underneath, and his arms were littered with bracelets.

“Paul, why don’t you wear some color for once? You look so drab with just black.” The girl wondered aloud.

“The same reason that you never wear black, Edith,” He said sharply.

The two walked, continuing their banter, pointing out the obvious opposites between the two. It was almost as if they wore, said and did what they did with only the purpose of annoying the other.

The siblings both held one more accessory, hidden from each other’s view. In Edith’s too tall sunhat, there was a false bottom and an azure bag laid there. Paul had a pale, sky blue bag, merely hidden in one of the leather jacket’s many pockets.

“Sometimes, I just despise you, Paul.” Edith said.

“Oh, I always despise you, Edith.” He mocked.

They walked through the doors in silence.