Humans feel every second of our lives, and both prose and poetry attempt to capture this shared experience in new, profound ways. To read something that contains no hint of “feeling” words, and still to say, “That is me”—this is great writing. The recognition of a limit, then a push. Del Valle High School writer Mariah, who crafted this week’s Unbound selection, shows us the following things, all at once—desolate longing, sadness, hope, peace. None of these particular “feeling” words can be found anywhere within her story, and they fail to capture its true magic. Instead, there is the expressiveness of the landscape, the simple motion of cuddling with a dog, and the sound of other, “different” people rushing through life as the narrator stands still. Perhaps, behind their movement, their lives contain the same, deep wells of stillness. As they wash the dinner dishes, as they brush their teeth at night, as they climb into bed, they are all feeling. What are these feelings and where can they be found in the world? Mariah points us in the right direction.

In the Country

The Ford’s tailgate groans as Shiloh and I hop up onto our permanent yard sofa with its Texas license plate rusting and falling off. Idly, I pull the white fringe from the holes in the thighs of my faded navy jeans, and I stare out at the barren fields in front of me. I sigh as the sunset fades away into an amber-red soup over the desolate land around me.

I pull Shiloh into my arms and rest my head on her broad, golden shoulders. She barks and tries her hardest to lick my face. We’re two soldiers on an escape mission. A tin can clanks off a rock behind us. Dad’s angry, and he’s kicking all his belongings around again as though kicking things will fix his problems.

The raw smell of dirt wafts up in the fierce north wind that often caresses our trailer. Shiloh whines, frightened. I look absentmindedly over the cracking horizon where wet brown mounds with green tufts once existed. I think of excited voices, laughter, honking, shouting, begging, crying, singing, and the brushing by of all the city folk miles away as they travel down the bustling sidewalk of opportunity.

Mariah, twelfth grade, Del Valle High School


Summer Looms

The sun sailing unhindered through the blue, cloudless sky; parking lots and car hoods so hot you could fry an egg on them; afternoon retreats to Barton Springs. Summer is definitely coming in Austin, or at least some days it sort of seems so. As the city heats up, we become more observant of the things we wear and the things we carry out the door with us every day. It makes us judge the value of those things, determining whether they’re worth the extra burden in the oppressive heat. In this week’s selection for Badgerblog, author Mariah shows us that these decisions are about more than personal comfort. They’re about the “overriding” need to “feel cluttered.” Congratulations, Mariah, on writing such a potent poem!

What I Carry

The things I carry are important
but replaceable. So there is no need
to carry anything at all,
but the need to feel cluttered is overriding.
I carry a chongo,
my ring, ID, a rubber foot, a mirror, and some perfume.
I carry the chongo in case the feeling of hair
on my neck on a hot day becomes too annoying.
I carry a ring on my middle finger.
I’ve carried it so long that when I take it off
you can see the white outline left behind.
I carry a school ID because
it’s a sin to leave it at home on your bed.
I carry a rubber foot I bought
from a package that cost me 60 cents at Wal-Mart,
and I carry it because I forget to remove it from my things.
I carry a mirror in case of a runaway eyelash,
but otherwise its useless. Lastly, I carry
perfume because you must always smell inviting.
Notice that a cell phone isn’t on my list
even though I’m a teenager.

Mariah, eleventh grade, Del Valle High School

Real Magic

Fairy tales are always liberating to a young mind—the colorful, distant lands and clear principles of valor and courage open the imagination to magical, alternative universes. But as time and age force our attention toward “real world” concerns, we lose sight of these fantastical possibilities. This week’s selection, a poem by KayCee from Del Valle High School, reminds us that the world of fairy tales is not merely a place of fiction, but that the people and places we encounter every day are just as full of wonder and romance as the imaginary kingdoms where our young imaginations so often sought escape. Congratulations KayCee for composing such an insightful poem!


Every girl’s dream is to be a princess,
A princess of a distant country,
Wishing for her prince to come rescue her.

It’s the same in high school.
Everyone wants to be the most popular,
Wants the handsome quarterback boyfriend.

But the truth is:
Being popular is not that important.
(Don’t look at me like I’m stupid!)

Not all guys are quarterbacks,
And you really are the popular princess
In the country of your friends.

KayCee, ninth grade, Del Valle High School

Memorias de Niños


I remember the church bell at six
When my dog howled on cue, and
I remember that big old dog and the big old witch
Who changed my life forever.
The little thugs in the pharmacy
Who pelted me with water balloons.
They even used a cannon.
The fountain of Lauma with strange magical powers,
The deep secrets of the jungle,
Where relaxation and desperation are the same.
The poor streets of Lurigancho, where
You wouldn’t go after 8 unless
You wanted to get jumped by ex-cons.
I remember “Negros y Cholos”
(don’t freak out: it was a restaurant).
The President of the Republica de Peru (actually Japan)
Who was the reason for me being there.
Professors Carlos y Gladys,
The only teachers who broke me.
The mountains of El Altiplano
Where even an eagle gets air-sickness
(don’t laugh: it’s so cold up there, you can’t even pee).
I remember the day great-grandma died,
The only time I actually cried.
I remember the challenges I face today,
And every time I face them, I remember
All these memories and laugh
(please remind me of these the day I get married).

Jhon, eleventh grade, Del Valle High School

Dumb Luck Survives

“Sir, exiting subspace now.”

“Hot dam. . . .” Lt. Kari mutters as a battle unfolds on her sensor plot. Outside the Leviathan-class cruiser, lasers and cannons fire madly as missiles and flak light the darkness of space. On her plot, a wave of Basilisk- and Dragon-class destroyers crash against an equally formidable wall of the enemy’s Demon- and Relsh-class ships. As the bridge watches, the Gaians break off their attack as the Shelkn wall cruses more than half of them.

“Dear God,” a tactician officer whispers as crippled ships run into subspace, leaving the others to face the oncoming wave of Shelkn destroyers. Slowly, the green contact signatures disappear until only one remains.

Captain Helsh watches the viewscreen as a single Dragon-class destroyer breaks through the line of enemy ships. Triguns, beam cannons, and turrets flare madly as she returns fire to those engaged with her.

Helsh acts quickly. “Get me the name of that ship as well as a link.”

“Aye sir!” shouts a young ensign, going about his new task. Already the deck vibrates as the Peacefinder engages a small Cain-class cruiser.

“Sir! It’s the Desertrunner. Comm link open now, sir.”

“Admiral Lish, are you all right?”

“What the hell do you think? We’re just eating ice cream and cake over here. Want to join us?”

Helsh smirks at the admiral’s reply. “Sir, come to point six-eight-one left down; we’ll meet you there.” The noise on the other bridge intensifies as alarms go off; then, “Understood. Desertrunner out.”

Helsh looks down at the navigations officer. The man salutes and says, “Six-eight-one left down, aye sir.” A Rakshema-class cruiser shudders on their viewscreen as missiles slam into its engines. The burning hulk sinks beneath the Peacefinder as it plows through a field of expanding atmosphere and scrap metal, the roar of weapons ringing in everyone’s ears as the sound crosses the debris field.

The Desertrunner reaches the meetpoint just as three bright lights herald the coming of Demon-class destroyers, eager to rip the damaged Dragon apart.

“This is bullshit!” Helsh looks up at Kari’s outburst. She notices his cocked eyebrow and says, “Sir, we are arriving at the meetpoint, but there is no way we can take on three Demons!” Helsh sighs. “Call for fighter and bomb escorts; we can’t leave the Desertrunner.”

Already missiles scream toward the Demons, shattering armor plating and ripping apart vital systems. The tactician looks up and shakes his head. “Not even good enough, sir. Reading a two percent drop in hull integrity for that destroyer.”

Helsh shakes his head and turns to the communications officer. “Tell the Desertrunner to make for the nearest safe zone. All hands full ahead!”

The eight-thousand-ton cruiser speeds forward, spewing missiles, laser, and flak. Three thirty-four-thousand-ton destroyers fire back at the Peacefinder in one violent wave.

The cruiser tries desperately to evade the deadly attack, reaction thrusters lighting its hull, but is too slow. The bridge shakes violently as the ship absorbs part of the attack, shields flaring. The crew drops to the deck as a missile slams into the forward shield quadrant, the explosion ripping through and tearing the hull apart.

Helsh hears a strangled curse above the alarms and explosions as his own voice shouts, “Jump out now!”

Slowly the proximity alarms fade as more and more of the Peacefinder slides into the blessed abyss of subspace.

As the last thud of weapon-fire fades from the deck at their feet, Helsh looks around the bridge. The communications officer lies on his back, blood seeping from a hole in his chest. Looking at his console, Helsh notices the sharp protrusion, slick with blood.

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from “Artists’ Statement”

I am Mexican Por Vida.
I have been called Chicana cuz
my skin is light.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
My words are the blood that ran through the veins of my dead mother.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
I have been called a sureño.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
My words are the blood that runs through the veins of my father.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
Where I come from is a vida loca.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
Mis palabras son de mis padres y llevan la sangre de mi Rasa en mi corazón.
I am Mexican Por Vida.
My words are nomads wading through the strong current of the Rio Grande.
I am Mexican Por Vida.

Stephanie, tenth grade, Del Valle High School