Letter From the Editor

2018 Issue

Dear Reader,

It was an honor to be editor-in-chief of this year’s issue of the student literary and art magazine and to work alongside such an amazing staff that made it all possible. I would like to thank everyone who submitted their writing and artwork for consideration. The staff and I truly enjoyed the experience of reviewing the creative work of the SUNY Plattsburgh community, and ultimately the decisions we had to make were very difficult.

Our magazine underwent some critical changes for the 2018 issue, and I am proud to have been a part of making those changes. The 2018 issue of our magazine marks its launch as North Star Literary/Arts Magazine. We made the decision as a staff to disband the name “ZPlatt” after we discovered, while reading Slavery and Freedom in the Mid-Hudson Valley by Michael E. Groth, that our former namesake, Zephaniah Platt, the founder of Plattsburgh, was the owner of a slave named Tone. It was also found by Plattsburgh town historian, Jerry Bates, that Platt owned a second slave named Cato during his lifetime. This year’s magazine staff has made the decision to denounce Platt’s actions in the changing of the magazine’s name. The name “North Star” is a reference to the pole star, which was followed by escaping slaves, and served as a beacon of freedom. Through this decision we hope to encourage others to take similar stances against emblems of discrimination.

It is our hope that North Star Literary/Arts Magazine will continue to be a creative forum for the students of SUNY Plattsburgh for many years to come.

Sincerely,

Sara Ransom

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Non-fiction: Wood Cracks Cranium, But Not Heart

2018 Issue, 2018 Nonfiction

By: Anonymous

A blow to the head.

A crack to the cranium transits down the spine, taking a left-hand turn across the shoulder-blade. It runs out of fuel on its’ way to the heart.

As I grasp the back of my head, I hear a hardy laugh. I know that laugh. As a child, I could find my way around an entire grocery store just by following that laugh. The way each chuckle is interrupted by an asthmatic cough. And every cough, though scratchy and piercing, has a vibrato comparable to a friendly blackbird.

I turn to see my father, yellow teeth on display, holding a wooden spoon. What a drunk.

That allegorical crack oozes fond memories of the man who raised me. The man who ripped-off the training wheels of my very first bike with his bare hands. The man who worked three jobs and still made it to all my soccer games. The man who told me to be brave and to fight. My dad, the hero.

That crack opens wide and bacteria infects those fond memories. The righteous laugh that guides me with song-bird rhythms becomes the shriek of a raven, preying on its next rat. The strength of a super-hero becomes the brutality of a monster lying beneath my bed. The lack of sleep from working so hard turns him into a zombie and now… now the very thing that tells me to be brave makes me more scared than ever. I am a child frozen in his presence. My dad, the monster.

When the crack begins to close, when it looks like it’s getting better, the infection festers. It cannot be healed without proper care. Yes, my cranium has cracked.

The heart, however, does not split open like the cranium. Instead, it shuts itself in. It holds on and grasps tighter. It grows cold, but appreciative. The heart, once free and unfastened, becomes a vault; nothing goes in, and nothing goes out.

I do not let anyone enter anymore, but my love for you will never perish. The heart tells me that you are human, as am I, and you have tried, as have I. Though closing itself-in means shutting the rest of the world out, it will forever remember the love it no longer feels. The love of the man, my dad, the human.

 

Non-fiction: Southern Welcome

2018 Issue, 2018 Nonfiction

By: Cheryth Youngmann

A young man ambles toward us. He’s about my age, handsome. My small town instincts kick in: I smile, all buoyant warmth. And then— he’s moving fast, too fast. He’s in our space now and I feel Jordan coil to move. But the boy, he has Sarah by the arm and he’s shaking her, and he’s got something black and silver. He hasa gun, I realize too slowly. Cold seeps through my dress despite the midday Tennessee sun. He has it pressed to her stomach and he’s shouting something.

“Give me the bag, give me the bag!”

I freeze, afraid to move. He could hurt her— kill her—if I move too fast. She tells him, “I don’t—man, you don’t want to do this, you don’t want to do this.” The boy is shaking, fumbling with the safety. Jordan realizes, knows this kid isn’t kidding.

“Sarah, give him the purse,” Jordan says slow and quietly. Sarah understands the second time, and jerks her shoulder. The purse strap catches on her wrist; the boy yanks violently. It’s free and so is he. He’s running the way he came. He throws something black: Sarah’s phone. With it clatters the gun. Jordan charges, screaming, “we’ve got you, we’ve got you.” Fear splinters through my being. My brother is about to die. The boy makes it to the gun first and—  

he takes off running again, doesn’t take the time to shoot.

Somehow I have Sarah’s small frame pressed to me and suddenly it’s the three of us huddled in a desperate echo of the embrace they welcomed me with an hour earlier. We call the police on Jordan’s dying phone and wait. These minutes are agony; I’m finally still enough, feel the pounding signs of terror all through my body. Jordan tries to make Sarah and me get in the car, but we object.

“You’re my little sister.” Then to Sarah, with something desperate in his voice, “You’re my wife.”

We get in the car.

I panic, claustrophobia closing in on me in the backseat.

AAA pulls up. Visceral waves of relief flood my system, but I scramble out of the car to tell the man—Derek, I find out—to leave, it isn’t safe. He doesn’t. I could kiss him for it. The only thing that stops me is a dim understanding that it would be rude. A police car pulls up. The next half hour is all, “He was about twenty, black, yes. About 5’8. Wearing gym shorts with silver trim.” His shorts and gun match, I note stupidly. I’m glad I don’t say it aloud. There’s a flurry of officers, of questions. And then, a lineup. Jordan, Sarah, and I sit in the hard plastic back of a cop car.

“Any of these boys?” They’re of all ages, early teens to mid twenties. No, we say. He’s not here. They drive us by again. But no, the kid who held a gun to Sarah’s side is definitely not with the boys who stand mutely in front of one of the small houses lining the street. I look out at their impassive faces, restlessness swirling my stomach. This feels wrong. A child trots out the front door of the neighboring house. He’s maybe five. He holds a toy lightsaber in his hand. It’s red and tiny, just right for his silver-dollar sized fists. He looks at the lineup, at the seven police cars with whirling lights crawling through his block and turns. He arcs the lightsaber it in the air. I almost vomit. “He’s not here.” I say it more loudly than I mean.

Because of all the images that sear into my memory, this will be the one that haunts longest: a little boy so used to violence he just continues to play while armed cops stand— hostile—by his brothers, neighbors, mentors.