Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Share Your Gifts!

We started MU Voices in 2009 to reflect the myriad voices in the diverse and colorful Madonna community. In the fall 2013 issue of MU Voices, you'll see beautiful photography by Marian Gonsior, Betty Jean Hebel, and Cheryl Pullen. You'll read evocative poetry by Matt Tochman, Josh Bloom, David Laing, Sharonna Johnson, and more. You'll also experience disturbing but powerful essays by Valerie Sawyers, Aron Walls, and Hannah Faber, to name a few.

Please feel free to post encouraging comments to our writers and photographers. We all benefit from an appreciative audience. You can comment on this blog if you have a Google account such as gmail.

If you have not contributed to MU Voices, please consider doing so for our winter 2014 issue (deadline: March 14). We accept poetry, song lyrics, fiction, creative non-fiction, plays, reflections, artwork (as long as it's scanned and sent electronically), photographs, and even video links. We'd love to include an even broader swathe of our Madonna family. Every voice matters.

Frances FitzGerald, editor

Street in China, by Marian Gonsior


Leelanau Vista, by Marian Gonsior


Garden Fireworks, by Marian Gonsior


Salt Lake Sidewalk, by Marian Gonsior

Aron's Journey, by Aron Walls

Is what you consider normal actually normal? I lived where people stayed up all night blasting rap music and police never came; where in the morning I would find bullet remains on my grass. Well, this is my city: Detroit. My name is Aron and all I want to know is why did my life have to turn out like that? The thing is, my life was anything but normal. Growing up I was never really a good kid in school.

In school I would always get into an altercation that would end with me on a trip home with a short-term suspension in my hand. My mother would always beat me with a belt for getting into trouble, and I would promise never to get into trouble again, knowing I was lying. The thing about me was I always wanted to be the cool kid, or the tough guy. I had no friends and no one showed even the slightest sign that they wanted to be my friend. So I decided to be the tough guy. I then thrived to become the guy everyone feared.

 I turned so corrupt that the same day my mom would put me back in school after a suspension, I would be walking home with another suspension within a matter of hours. As I walked home, all I thought about was how powerful I felt fighting and nothing else. When this kept happening, my mother had gotten tired of me and gave up on me being anything in life. I just never cared about her feelings; all I just wanted was to be remembered for the good I did or the bad. Even when she gave up on me, she still punished me, for my mistakes, and when she got tired of punishing me, she started calling my uncle. My Uncle Nig was stronger than her. My uncle, who worked all day lifting steel, would not only punish me by chasing me around his house, swinging a belt at me and not caring where it hit, but he also cut off my braids.

He and my mother kept giving me bad haircuts just to punish me. I would be so embarrassed that I did not want to go to school, walk out of the house, or even look at my family members. I hated my uncle for a long time, and felt as if he took away my manhood and my pride.

What they never realized in my family was that I was bullied. I hated how I had to defend my pride at school, just to come home and have it taken away. Because of that pride I tried so hard to defend, I failed a grade. Yet every day, I still acted tough, as if nothing was wrong.

Every day I went to school, and I had no friends and very few acquaintances. The few people who talked to me would only talk about video games for a short period of time. People who wanted to prove they were better than me would taunt me. They threw bars of wet soap from the restroom at my face, pushed me in the hallways, call me names, and even spit on me. All I did was give people what I felt they had coming. I believed I was the punishment they deserved and  received. I was getting hit at school, just to come home and get hit again. I hated my mother and my uncle for a long time. All I thought about day in and day out was killing them for not understanding.

As time went by, my hatred grew. Day in and day out for years, all I saw was my uncle beating me for getting into trouble. After a while, I grew to despise him. His very existence enraged me. Every time I looked at my uncle, I was enraged and felt as if I was going to die if I did not take him down. All I could smell was my blood when he was around, but I also felt as if as if I was worthless. I felt like I was nothing compared to him, and I knew that it was the truth. I say this because I knew I could not win and I knew that physically I was weaker than him, and because of this I hated myself even more than I hated him.

When I entered high school, things went even further downhill from there. During the first week of school I already had people who hated my guts, but I never really cared.  Within the first couple of weeks I had gained some acquaintances from all different grade levels. By the time the third month of school came, I was hustling snacks with them, charging everyone outside of my group double what I had paid. One day a guy named Ice stole some of the snacks and ran while I was talking to a teacher. What he did not realize was that I was angered easily. My acquaintances and I found him in a bathroom stall and beat him until we saw blood.

During my 9th grade year, all I did was fight and skip school. Almost every day I was supposed to be at school I was ether at the mall, downtown, or at my friend’s house playing video games. My grades were so low, my cumulative GPA for 9th grade was around a 1.0 on a 4 point grading scale. When I did get suspended for fighting I had to stay home, take a thrashing from my mother or uncle, and clean anything that was dirty in the house.

During my 9th grade year, my family had a get-together for Thanksgiving. I sat in the room next to the adults, just listening to everyone talk. I failed to understand how I had become the topic of the conversation, but my mother was telling everyone about the latest Aron screw-ups in school. My grandfather, who never has much to say, spoke. He was telling everyone, “That boy is never going to learn. He is just stupid.”

When I heard him say that, I jumped up and walked into the room so he would know that I heard him, but he didn’t care. All he did was walk up to me, look me in the eye, and say, “You will never graduate high school; you will never be anything. You will die in the street like a dog.” All I did was grimace him and then I walked away. As I walked away, I heard him tell my mother, “That boy is too far gone. It’s over for him.” I had never even realized how far I had been falling, and even if I knew, I would not have cared.

 It wasn’t until 10th grade that I made a change. I was sitting at one of my acquaintances’ house, doing nothing. I don’t know why I was thinking about him, but all I could think about was my granddad. All I could think about was him making fun of me, laughing at me, taunting me.

I imagined him standing over my grave, laughing, saying I was nothing, saying I was never anything, and it enraged me. The thing different about this situation was that I wanted to prove him wrong. I wanted to graduate from high school and laugh in his face, as I thought he would do in mine. At this time, I had already moved, and no one from the hood knew where I lived, so I just made the change. I changed my number and begged my mom to enroll me in The Academy of Public Leadership At Cody. This school was small and everyone knew everyone. The environment was friendly and I actually felt as if I belonged there.

The problem that I faced now was the classes I had failed. I had failed nearly half of all the classes I had taken up until that point, and just thinking about them made me want to quit. But I did not. I stayed after school every day of my 11th grade year until 8:00 p.m. just to make up some of my classes. In 12th grade I had to stay after school every day until 6:00 p.m. just to make up my work.

My original plan was only to graduate from high school, but after people saw me trying so hard, it was different. My principal, Mr. Mathews, my math teacher, Ms. Raye, and my counselor, Ms. Meyers saw something in me that most people never saw a glimpse of. They saw my potential and helped me get into college.

My life has been far from what people consider normal, yet I am proud of my mistakes and everything else. I am now a Madonna University freshman. I also graduated from high school with my last two report cards being a 3.8 on a 4 point scale. I would never have made it to where I am if it was not for all of my bad experiences. Even though I have changed my life around, I am still defined by that one moment when my granddad said, “That boy is too far gone.”

Monday, December 2, 2013

Her Grimoire, by Danijela Zivadinovic

Waking up in the morning and getting out of bed was the hardest thing he had to do, let alone leave the house. Clouds turned grey, causing heavy rain to fall, pounding on the windows. Keeping focused wasn’t any easier, either. Every second became harder. A day later after he received the news about his beloved witch, he wished more than anything to see her again, to say words he had forgotten to say. An hour later, he arrived at the memorial site and parked the car. He sighed deeply.

Taking a few steps forward, he reached her grave and knelt down. Reaching with his thumb, he lightly traced the engraved letters, reminiscing. His eyes shut tightly. In that instant, a spiritual hand rested on his shoulder, except he could not feel anything. The ghostly figure of his witch knelt beside him.

The man started to talk. “How can I talk to my favorite witch about feelings when I kept them buried and never opened up before? How can I admit to secrets when this whole time, I led you to believe something different? You are truly someone special. You and I have history. That’s a starter. I had a nickname for you. The nickname is little bird, my little bird. I want you to know that I always cared about you, even if I had excuses for why I didn’t. Those reasons were just a cover-up. The truth is, I kind of love you. I just lived in denial at the time because I knew if I got too attached, everything would change, and now it has.”

She took a deep breath as she looked at him. He felt a waterfall of tears streaming down his cheeks. She said, “I am closer than you think. Even though I appear dead to you, that does not mean I am gone.” She couldn’t remember a single time when he looked this devastated. “You showed me enough,” she said quietly.

Suddenly, he did the unthinkable and grabbed the Grimoire, turning to a page that had a spell. He read it a few times to memorize how it was done. He said the words for the spell, focused, concentrating. He had to do this right because if not, there wasn’t an “undo” option. Seconds later, he felt himself being pulled into a new dimension he couldn’t recognize. Everything about the place felt unfamiliar. He blinked once and then a second time, eyes glancing everywhere. He turned himself around, only to see his witch present. The Grimoire belonged to her.

 “I needed to see you for the last time because I never said goodbye, and I want to do that now.” He spoke with a neutral tone and stepped closer. “I don’t know if it’s too late or if it will ever be too late to tell you things you do not know. All of your friends told me they got to see you for the last time, and I didn’t have that opportunity. If I had known you were in trouble, I would have sacrificed my life for you in a heartbeat. No questions asked. I feel like I failed because I wasn’t around when you needed me the most, and for that, I am truly sorry.”

 Although he apologized, she did not feel it was necessary at all. She looked up at him. “You have nothing to feel sorry for. I lived my life for as long as fate wanted me to, and then it was my time to go.”

He stared at the ground while he responded to her. “It’s not fair. You are a young and beautiful
woman who had her life taken away. There is so much you did not get to do and experience.” He sighed deeply.

Perhaps she did not understand why he was feeling like this, but she knew he had to move forward. “I want you to make me a couple of promises, please.”

 “I cannot accept your death. I do not want to live without you. Can I just stay here and be with you?”

 She shook her head in disagreement. “No. I am sorry. You deserve to live to the fullest and die of old age. If I allow you stay in my dimension with me, it would be very selfish of me. Keep in mind, I am thinking of what’s best for you.”

 He flashed back to the time when she went missing one day in the woods and remembered how relieved he was when he found her. The first thing he remembered saying to her was, “I could hug you right now.” His arms were opened wide as he waited for her to come to him. The moment she did, he was happy.

 “What if that is not what I want? What if I want to live in the new dimension with you?” he asked her, hoping to change her mind.

She remained silent for a few minutes and took a deep breath. “Life is not about having what you want. Life is about expecting the unexpected.”

“I wish it were me who died instead. You are going to miss out on so much because I wasn’t able to keep you safe.” A thought crossed his mind. “Is there a reverse spell we can perform?”

Even if there was a spell, it always had a price. “Maybe, but doing spells can cause problems I know from memory. I would not suggest it to you.”

After the witch spoke, he took a dagger and aimed it at his heart. He just wanted to die and never live another day without the love of his life. His body was shaking in fear. He brought the dagger closer and looked at her. “This is for you. This is for us,” he told her with a whisper. His eyes were closed.

He moved the dagger inside his flesh a little bit, making blood ooze from the wound. “I’d rather bleed. It’s the best thing to feel.”

Before he could go any further, she snatched the dagger away. “No! Don’t you dare think about it. This is not the answer. We will meet again in the future.”

 His time with her in this new dimension was only fifteen minutes, which wasn’t very long. He couldn’t imagine a world not involving her. This terrified him more than anything. He felt like he was trapped in a nightmare. “Will I see you again? I do not want this to be the last time. Please tell me there is hope.”

She smiled warmly at him. “I will exist in your memories, just as you will in mine. I won’t ever forget you.”

They embraced each other tightly, tears forming in both of their eyes. He didn’t want to let her go; she didn’t want to, either. Time was running out. Before he knew it, he emerged into his own reality, alone.