Caitlin and I: An Imitation of “Borges and I” by Jorge Luis Borges

by Caitlin Bartley '24
Portfolio Staff


Portfolio


a slouching stick figure
photo creds: pixabay

TW: Eating Disorder, Bulimia 

I resent Caitlin for her name. It means pure, from the Gaelic, and she wears it like her Catholic school uniform. Tights, white collared polo, and a pleated skirt. I hate that skirt; the way Caitlin rolls it so that she doesn’t look like a prude but keeps it right above the knee so that she doesn’t look like a slut. I don’t believe in organized religion, but I find my body in a church when Caitlin decides, reciting random words until they sound like the gibberish of prayer.

I pick my cuticles until my skin rips and wear my hair in frizzy braids while Caitlin paints her nails in a French manicure and spends too much money on a haircut. She speaks to give correct answers and affirmations while my thoughts are held captive behind her lips, firmly pressed together, making them thin and pale. If I were to purge my opinions, would it feel just like the first time Caitlin tried to purge her dinner, a slight burning in the throat followed by short-lived satisfaction? See, she doesn’t always have control over my impulses. Our impulses. One day, I will slowly erode her from the inside out. There’s no reality in which purity exists, Caitlin.

The honey-colored highlights she got at seventeen have finally grown out. “Nothing gold can stay.” I read her that poem when she went to college and got a C in chemistry, no longer the honors student that Mommy likes to brag about. Her hair is darker now and some days it falls out in clumps in the shower, clogging the drain. She goes to sleep with it wet and cold on her pillow and doesn’t run a brush through it in the morning. She stops using her name.

Infatuation

by The Cowl Editor


Poetry


hearts coming out of an envelope
photo creds: pixabay

Sarah McLaughlin ’23

On the couch, we talked about everything and nothing. A number of things I’d remember, and a number of things I already forget. The movie watched and other movies, the songs we heard and other music, the things we liked about our grandparents and the things we hated, how many of them were still alive, how many memories we had of them taking care of us in our childhoods, the earliest things we could remember, the things we tended to forget, the names and faces from our teenage years we already couldn’t place, what we thought the trajectory of the world might be, what our city might look like in five years, ten years, twenty, whether or not we’d ever want to go to space.

It amazed me how mundane conversations could be, and how easily they could become captivating. It scared me, too, how even in those mundane moments, my attention was captivated by the most unimaginative things, like the curve of her eyebrows, or the way she pronounced piano, or how the shadow above her collarbone changed shape as she shifted.

This was infatuation, I realized, in the hours I spent with her there. It wasn’t seeing someone as larger-than-life, as completely flawless, as the pinnacle of human beauty. It was noticing imperfections and being obsessed with them—not to fix them, like missing punctuation in an essay, but to notice them, understand them, commit them to memory. to see them not as flaws needing correction but as small pieces of a whole, to understand that whole as greater than the sum of its parts.

It wasn’t writing love songs and drawing hearts around their name, it was counting freckles and the ums between sentences.

Rule Book

by The Cowl Editor


Poetry


person sitting in the grass
photo creds: pexels

AJ Worsley ’22

 

get down on your knees 

rub your face across the grass

tickle your cheek with excitement,

you feel something.

 

drive to the water, one hand on the wheel, your other is holding on to life.

you haven’t felt alive in a minute.

 

the skylines reek of hope but you never drive there, you stay in your comfort zone because it’s easier to joke about yourself than to fix the things you joke about. 

 

but you’re never actually joking are you? 

you’re genuine. you’re hurtful. you’re hateful. 

you’re a bad person, if not to anyone but yourself. 

 

so grab a cloud and put it in your pocket, 

save it for a rainy day when you can ride it like a wave. 

climb a mountain and accept defeat. 

 

close that social media app, you’re far too comfortable in your loneliness to be here. 

 

break your rear view in the process of getting that mask on your face.

 

you don’t know where your soul is or where it belongs but right now it isn’t where it needs to be. you need a new spot. a new playlist. a new love. 

 

you’re aware of the things that make you happy but you don’t grant yourself access to those things because you’ve convinced yourself you don’t deserve them. 

 

kiss the grass and bite it. love the earth you’ve been given while you’re down there, but when you come up, climb that tree and look down on a world who has put you at the bottom of the list. 

 

don’t expect to be others’ first choice when you can’t even put yourself first. 

 

you are small and inconvenient. make mistakes and forgive yourself for them. don’t dwell. you aren’t here long enough to dwell. 

 

let lightning scare you, and love that fear but don’t let it last forever. 

so much world you want to see but you can’t even make it out of your own head. 

 

it’s the window that reminds you of a portal. or the staircase that takes you from one life to another. the door. the change you seek but never acquire. 

 

listen to your elders but never let them try to control you. shave your head if you’d like. identity is whatever you want it to be. 

 

it’s hard to share your thoughts, your words that you hate, the creative vision in a world that’s already created your idea. you are not original. you are the first to ever put those words together. 

 

the truth is, there are no rules so there cannot be a rule book. your God wants you to love, but if your God is dead then be your own God and remind those around you that life is constructed by something greater. 

 

we don’t know what comes next so the present is not something to reject. modernity is a beast, let’s come together and put it on a leash. 

 

death is far more feared than that lightning, but kiss the grass that grows in spring, and find comfort in the life that awaits you when the life leaves your body. 

 

pass me the telescope dripping with nostalgia so i can watch her dancing on the moon from my car parked by the beach.

 

the seasons will always change. they did before your time and they will continue to after your time here. see the world. respect your God, deny tradition. 

 

you have the time. you have the energy. you have the love. you have the life. 

 

you tell me you couldn’t imagine your life without me, 

i urge you to try a little harder.

 

Following Mother’s Path

by Elizabeth McGinn


Portfolio


Woman overlooking a cliff
Photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Taylor Rogers ’24

Wind playfully sways my fragile body, jokingly pushing me towards an unseeable path.

I refuse to acknowledge this pull, but I find myself unable to turn around.

Here is the place I feel the most serene, the most calm, since I know my demons can crawl into my bed at night.

But, they cannot climb up mountains.

Here, mother nature embraces me, her servants diligently marking my fated trail.

She provides me food, the small berries my sole fuel for conquering this peak.

The birds sing around me, their soothing voices reminding me that if I fall, they will alert mother.

I am a child, exploring her uncharted territory, and she wishes for me to do this safely.

Below my feet, the rocks shift, deciding to make my path slightly easier to trek, and I thank them as the terrain changes faster than I can blink.

Rushing water lazily falls to the left of me, the calming noise reassuring me that waking up at an ungodly hour was worth it.

No map guides me, as mother assures me that this is the right path, small leaves acting as her eccentric form of bread crumbs.

A nervous sun sneaks a brief peek at me before disappearing, afraid to ruin the surprise waiting for me at the summit.

Smiling, I decide to increase my pace, not wanting to keep mother waiting.

The animals around me cheer, as the trees step aside, letting me conquer this next challenge.

My tired body begins to ache, but I ignore this pain, as I know mother won’t appreciate me stopping during my hike.

“They’re here! Finally!”

A voice excitedly yells, motivating me to climb the last hill of this uncharted territory.

My two feet find a plateau and I look up, seeing the sun hand-in-hand with the hyperactive clouds.

“Welcome home, my sweet child.”

Mother calls out to me, reaching a calloused hand out to me.

With a smile on my face, I take her hand and leap from the mountain, joining my family in their state of bliss.

 

Who is Following Me?

by The Cowl Editor


Halloween


woman silhouette
Photo courtesy of unsplash.com; graphic design by Sarah McLaughlin ’23

by Mariela Flores ’23

There is someone following me.
I can hear their footsteps and the way that they mimic my own. Their smell is familiar and strong, and it makes me sick to my stomach. They follow me as I go left and right, they follow me as I step onto the bus and step off, and they follow me as I sit down.
I can hear my heartbeat and how it threatens to leap out of my chest. I stare at my nails, chipping away the polish. I want to look distracted and unaware
that there is someone following me.

I step off the bus and I can feel them smiling. Their presence envelops me, and my palms begin to sweat. I want to turn around, I want to scream and shout, but my words get stuck in the promise of asking for help.
My feet begin to tire as I walk as fast as I can; I want to run and move away, find somewhere safe to stay, but they will not leave me, no, they will not leave me.

Someone is following me as I enter my home.
They try so hard not to make it known, but my tears are welling up in my eyes and I begin to shake. As I walk into the bathroom, I fear I made a mistake.

Someone is following me as I step into the shower and I can hear them just beyond the curtain. They begin to laugh, and I begin to cry. There is nothing left to do but to face them and look them in the eyes.

I step out now, afraid of what I’ll see.

But I look into the mirror, and all I see is me.

 

Jagged Love

by Connor Zimmerman


Portfolio


by Connor Zimmerman ’20

Is it bad that I can feel the echoes of your sorrow coming off of you, as I glide over the scars on your arm? Is it bad that I can touch your distress as my fingers run through your hair? Is it bad that I can sense your anguish pulsing through your heart as our bodies become closer? Is it bad that I taste your regret as our lips slowly meet?

You are beautiful not in spite of all this…but

 

You have been cut, broken, and hurt…just like I have. You have a past that makes you want to scream and run…just like I want to do. You wear your feelings, the good, bad, and everything in between…just like I do. Your edges are jagged and rough…just like mine are.

You are beautiful not in spite of all this…but because

 

One of your exes fell in love with another girl, and even though he was honest he split your heart into two. Another once made you feel like you were less than you truly are, and while it eventually ended, your heart broke into four pieces. The next one said that you didn’t have any love left to give, and his words smashed the pieces of your heart into eight fragments.

You are beautiful not in spite of all this…but because of

 

Even with everything that you have been through, you still see past my flaws. You have taught me to feel again when I did not know if that was possible. You make me smile and laugh even when I believe the world is going to end. You listen to the songs, watch the movies, and read the books I like because you want to know more about me. You still have love to give, more than anyone I know.

You are beautiful not in spite of all this but because of it.

 

A heart split in half with jagged edges
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Christmas on 30 Laurie Lane

by The Cowl Editor


Christmas


wrapped gifts in a pile
Photo courtesy of pexels.com

by Elizabeth McGinn ’21

Snow-roofed colonial revivals, nearly identical except for the colors; candles aglow in each window, welcoming wreaths on the door, twinkling lights hidden in the shrubbery. Walk inside any and there’s a familiar scene; a family gathered around the tree, plaid or snowman pajamas and fuzzy socks, hot chocolate—Peppermint Schnapps for the parents. Classic suburban New England Christmas. 

But inside 30 is mine; brother, mother, and father. Only Mother knows what treasures lay underneath the tree. She smiles knowingly. For her, the joy is witnessing the unwrapping, seeing the excited expressions; she listened and found the perfect presents. Brother, older but none the wiser, aches to reach under the tree first; he rips apart the painstakingly wrapped paper while we watch. Grinning to his ears, he unveils exactly what he wanted. Father sips unsweetened coffee on the old cedar chair that does not match the sofa. Though the gifts surprise him too, he takes pride in how hard he works for his family, making this all possible. And me—I wait my turn, warmed by the fireplace and the kind of love that radiates on Christmas Day. 

Timeless Treasure

by Sarah D Kirchner


Features


by Sarah Klema ’23 – Creative Writing Contest Winner

Exposure to the elements has worn it thin. Now fragmented, forgotten, it fights to be rediscovered.
Sulking at the bottom of the glassy rolling stream,
a treasure lies in patient wait.

Tarnished, wooden drawer knob of sorts, separated from its hollow body ages beyond telling––
antiquated. Curious thimble to behold, a shard of something unremarkable. Yet to my eye, it is as dear
as deep-sea pearl or silver doubloon.

Emanating an air of sad abandon, the knob’s story is untold. A pondering pity stirs in me. Whose hands,
long gone, once fumbled the knob? How came it off the drawer?

Now sheltered from the weather, it rests upon my bedroom shelf exuding a boastful sheen. Amongst my sea
of knickknacks, it counts itself most fair. Yet, nonetheless preserving that unadulterated charm
which first entranced my eyes.

What mysteries, deep, unspoken, lie beneath the knob’s dim surface, concealed by Time’s passing? Shall
I one day come to understand what makes it gleam so brightly, though all the polish is gone?

Image of wooden dresser knob
Photo Courtesy of Wikimediacommons.com

Boy on the RIPTA

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


A creative shot of an aisle on a bus with seats on both sides of the photo
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

by Jay Willett ’20

The card didn’t scan at first. I panicked though I knew in the back of my mind that my credentials were fine. The RIPTA driver raised an eyebrow, and I could feel the warm sensation of sweat seeping through my sweatshirt. The machine beeped, I scuttled to a seat directly behind the handicap section. Exhaust hissed out the muffle and due to lack of motion, billowed through the open side door, choking the passengers. The older gentleman next to me sputtered and reached into his overcoat pocket for a handkerchief. There was a mother of two sitting in the open seating, her baby carriage taking up all the front space. An elderly couple grimaced as they skidded by, and the mother smiled sarcastically. Past Washington Street, the RIPTA passed brick murals, homeless villages, and Lime scooters. Heading southbound, we had to pull over for an ambulance that arrived at its destination a mere two blocks ahead. There, a bald man was toppled over, one leg crossing the other, his expression blank. Though not particularly religious, I muttered a prayer into the cups of my hands. Fire engines, police cruisers, garbage trucks, the road to Montgomery was riddled with government activity. I saw all this but glanced to the sidewalk to see cracks and crevices deeper than the pavement could convey. An ambulance zipped past the man passed out on a bench, covered in a puddle of liquid, his unconscious hand clutching a sign that read: “Homeless, hungry, please.” At the red light, most passengers looked the other way, the mother tended to her crying babies, the older gentleman sniffed and wheezed into his shoulder. I was staring at that man. A tear came down my face, and just as quickly as it appeared, I wiped it away. The engine revved and we pulled away down South Main. That day I had seen an old friend, his face grizzly with facial hair, tired from a long day at work. When I came home from kindergarten, I’d jump on his stomach and laugh at his grumblings. Though he was reasonably annoyed, he smiled and hugged me. 15 years later, I sat among the city, watching neighbors argue over plant placement, drunks stumbling out of Admiral Liquors, and smokers lounging outside the Rhode Island Free Clinic. The baby continued to cry and didn’t cease until their stop between Douglas and Eaton. Despite the world moving, we were still, silent, and desperately alone.

Castles of Wood and Stone

by The Cowl Editor


Portfolio


by Clara Howard ’20

There’s a half-remembered ranch house with a stream in front. A perfect place for playing princesses and pirates. On the outside, white siding gave way to honeycolored stones. On the inside, rooms opened their arms wide, ready to embrace wild imaginations, cooking mishaps, and childhood innocence. Wallpapered bedrooms smiled at stuffed animal fights and nightmare soothings. At Brookmede, we had free reign of our fairy-and-pirate kingdom.

There’s a small, two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor of an old building with no elevator. Tile steps and wroughtiron railings wound their way up to a haven that felt close to heaven. The kitchen, no bigger than a closet, witnessed midnight meriendas, daybreak desayunos, and celebratory cenas. The windows, unhampered by screens, opened wide to see Popocatépetl keeping his smoky watch over the valley. En México, éramos príncipe y princesa de una cultura materna.

There’s a one story clapboard house sitting prim, proud, and proper on the almost-corner of a treelined street. Hard-won, held onto for 68 years, it had “Howard” engraved on its bones. Never much room for stretching out, summer days passed with Betty Boop, Lucy and Ricky, Bing and Fred. In the evenings, the dining room table cleared, beware the card shark-infested waters, and whatever you do, don’t hold on to your aces! Winners got flying saucers from the Carvel down the street. At 42 Jersey St., we were the youngest in line to a crocheted throne.

There’s a ranch house made of brick. It stands between trees and expanses of a green yard. In the summertime, riotous color blooms: delighted magenta bounces happily, regal violet sways with sophistication, and sunset orange stretches its arms out along a soil horizon. In the back, herbs have the lay of the land (as much as mint tries to mutiny), and perfume the air to make one hungry. Inside, wooden floors creak under older sets of footsteps, walls dress up in food-named colors, and we have our own rooms. Laughter still cracks the still air. At Old Fence, we choose to rule on our own on separate sides.

There are various rooms in various buildings on a relatively small campus. In room 411, the sunrise wakes me up those first few weeks because my independence manifests itself in leaving the windows and shades open. My view encompasses the skyline of a fateful city. In 2AL, I have a corner of a building, which means I have my own corner of the world, and the crosswinds through my windows make me wish for wind chimes. My view is of green, green grass and a world of endless possibilities. In 203, my nights are like an endless slumber party: laughing, crying, and sharing secrets with friends who become the only bright stars in a depressed nighttime. My view changes from other brick buildings to a weeping willow across the street. In 410, the apartment is infused with colorful mugs, animal-themed decorations, and comfortable blankets. My view is of a courtyard and a curious maple, of vibrant, beautiful hearts, of an idyllic time slipping away. In Providence, I learn to be queen of a kingdom that lost some of its magic, but never any of its allies.

Other things that are only mine: a corner of the bunk bed where I can whisper and pretend that my unicorns and puppies have lives of their own; a window in the blue room where I can peek through and see the Aztec warrior weeping over his lost love; an indent in the kitchen floor, right by the doorway, that fits the shape of my heel perfectly, as if I had made it myself; a single shelf where my most favorite titles nestle nice and snug together; a set of linens, including a comforter with the Eiffel Tower to prove my elegance and maturity, that covers a bed that will never be comfortable, but will sit and stand beneath laughing faces, chocolate quotes, and faithful protections.

In my castle, my home is built of memories.

A stone castle on a hill with a blue sky background
Photo courtesy of pexels.com