A Lesson On Fire by Morgan Noll

A brief history lesson:

In the 1920s, the National Fire Protection Association found that many people were misinterpreting the word “inflammable.” Many did not know the word meant the same thing as the more recent adaptation, “flammable” which means “capable of being easily ignited.” The NFPA advocated for the use of “flammable” on all labels, in hopes that this version would be more widely understood and could reduce the risk of injury.

An oral history:

The first time I told him I took scissors to my skin,

He got angry

And at first I thought it was out of love

I wrote a story about colors as emotions

About how confusing it is that love and hate are the same shade

There weren’t just red flags

There were fire alarms

Telling me to get the hell out

But like my father I have selective hearing

I could always hear the ringing,

But I blocked out the sound

The first time

He came in my mouth without asking

I couldn’t tell if it tasted like desire or disgust

Actually, it tasted fucking disgusting

But his face showed desire

So I wondered who was reading the situation wrong

As I spit in the sink I was worried

About making him feel

Undesirable and maybe,


The first time—

He was my first time

So I learned it all from him

Or so he likes to think

That he lit the fire between my legs

But I knew I was learning it wrong

I learned in church that it wasn’t as good after the first time

And wouldn’t I want to give my husband that first time feeling?

I learned that every time I let a man take me,

I was letting him take away from me

I learned that I would become

Undesirable and certainly,


The first time I finally got him to admit

That he cheated on me

I felt both victory and defeat


Because I knew the whole time


Because I now knew it was over


The USDA Forest Service defines controlled burning as, “any fire intentionally ignited to meet specific land management objectives, such as to reduce flammable fuels, restore ecosystem health, recycle nutrients, or prepare an area for new trees or vegetation.”

I still keep my heart coated in gasoline

But this time,

I’m holding the match.

The Cost of Living by Haley Hodges

Side effects may include depression, heart break, anxiety, love, hatred, friendship, disappointment, relief, nausea, bleeding, bruising, laughing, falling, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, exhaustion, exhilaration, losing friends, burned pancakes, an angry cat, claw marks on your neck, disagreement, the impulse to climb a mountain, a stolen stop sign in the back of your friend’s car, Gilmore girls on repeat, arguments with your mom, pulling out your eyebrows, picking at the walls, an unhappiness with the color of your hair, frustration, chocolate cravings, cramps, burning when you pee, not fitting in, stubbing your toe, crumbs all over the goddamn carpet, overeating mac and cheese, food anxiety, hysteria, screaming, yelling, stress, people who don’t care, forgetting to turn in assignments, trying too hard, encountering people who are better than you, not remembering the difference between affect and effect, the love of dogs, burned tongues, hang nails, low sex drive, friends who lie, food poisoning, vomiting, mocking, soggy tacos, dirty laundry, bad memories, trouble falling asleep, nightmares, pleasant dreams, indecipherable dreams about Seinfeld, dry skin, sore throat, sneezing up blood, chills, knee pains, people moving away, fucking up, fucking up a lot, cats licking your nose, congestion, fixation, dissatisfaction, aggressive coughing, and, in not so rare of cases, death.

Haley Hodges is a graduate of Drake University’s class of 2019 with degrees in writing and news. She writes in most genres and forms but aspires to be a novelist. Currently, Haley writes in the journalistic realm with work published in different outlets including Drake Political Review, The Times-Delphic, The Left Hand Valley Courier, and Urban Plains. 

The Myth of Apollo and Daphne by Hallie O’Neill

Femininity has been subjugated by man since the beginning of time. Take a look at classical mythology: the ancient discipline is ripe with stories of gods manipulating mortal women and goddesses alike into sexual rendezvous, messing with the natural order of things in order to get what they want. Zeus can change into any animal he wants so he can allure by deception, and many other gods and demigods cast curses on their women to take away their agencies: they become animals, plants, monsters, you name it.

There’s this one myth that I keep going back to, the myth of Apollo and Daphne. In this one, it’s the female who does the shape-shifting. It begins as follows: Apollo, a god, notices Daphne, a young nymph, when walking through the forest one day. She’s stunning, so of course, he immediately falls in love with her. Set upon seizing her for his own, he chases after her. Daphne, however, has already committed to lifelong chastity under oath of the virgin goddess Artemis. As Apollo closes in on her, Daphne quickly prays to her father, the river god Peneus, to destroy the beauty that entices Apollo, and soon her body twists and transforms into a laurel tree. Though her beauty still prevails in her tree form, all Apollo can do now is embrace her trunk and fashion himself a crown of laurel leaves in her remembrance. As a tree, Daphne escapes Apollo’s sexual advances and maintains her virginity while still upholding her extreme beauty.

But there’s a catch that isn’t really talked about in this myth: Daphne’s tree form does not completely spare her from Apollo’s advances. Sure, it protects her from rape, but the tree’s appearance is still as beautiful as her nymph body was—Apollo still feels affection for gorgeous Daphne. In poet Ovid’s original translation of the myth, Apollo proceeds to touch her branches and kiss the wooden bark as if it were tender skin. His ability to tear off some of her branches to craft a laurel wreath to wear upon his head suggests that he retains his ability to dominate her after all. Some critics call the wreath his “consolation prize” as a result of the chase. At any rate, he still wins something. But what is Daphne left with? She loses her agency and her ability to be mobile after her transformation, and he succeeds in his quest to capture her. The myth in itself is a chasing game in which male Apollo is the hunter and female Daphne is the prey. She must sacrifice her very being in order to escape the danger of what would be her rape. It is difficult to say whether or not Daphne triumphs in the end, because although she preserves her virginity, she still does not fully escape Apollo’s unfettered desires, and she still loses a crucial part of her—both her human-like body and the branches Apollo rips from her trunk.

Now picture this: a new Daphne. When walking through the forest one day, the god Apollo notices her, but today, she notices him too. They’re both thinking, “you’re beautiful,” which in this context basically means “you’re sexy.” They approach each other slowly and start to talk, no frantic running or chasing, and they really hit it off. He pours libations, and they both drink. Daphne’s a virgin, but she’s not really interested in pledging her cherry away to some goddess in the sky. Honestly, she’s pretty horny, and she feels ready to go for gold. Apollo couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Apollo’s presence brings out a boldness in Daphne that she’s never really felt before, and she asks him, “Do you want to go somewhere?” That “somewhere” becomes Apollo’s apartment, then his bedroom, then the sheets upon his bed. He repeatedly caresses her face and hair, the softness a far cry from the rough textures of tree bark and leafy branches, saying, “You’re so beautiful. I’m serious.”

And then, with Apollo, whom Daphne had only known for about thirty minutes, the inevitable happened. Her very first time. It was just about everything she hoped it would be. Apollo kept telling her that he wanted to see her face while they fucked. He kissed her chest over and over; he said he loved the pureness of her mortal body, not yet explored by man. Daphne played with his necklace; he played with her nipples. She bled on his sheets. She told him to keep going until he got what he needed. He asked her if she was okay over and over again. She responded with “yes” each time. One hour later, he held her against his chest and stroked her naked back. She cried a little, but not from feeling sad. Maybe she just needed to process the transition from one phase of life to the next. He let her, and he brushed the drunken tears from her cheeks. He held her hand and walked her back to her little home in the forest, giving her a gentle 3 a.m. good-night kiss before parting ways. All this from a complete stranger, and a god at that. Daphne was hopeful. So sex can be this good. Men can be this good. Who knew.

After this, Daphne kind of gave her body away to Apollo to manipulate how he liked. He was a smooth dude, and Daphne basically did as she was told. After all, she was brand new at this. She didn’t want to overthink it, didn’t want to ruin things. Because this love affair with Apollo stretched and extended; it gave her something she’d never had before it. Everything about her he loved: her ass, her lips, her breasts, her skin, her teeth, her pussy. He told her what it felt like to be inside of her. She’d never known what she was like inside; she didn’t know it could feel like something significant. Like something worth talking about. She coveted this admiration, this fascination with her body that no one before him had ever expressed. She felt like an absolute treasure, no longer ashamed of her mortality.

Sometimes, he referred to her as “my queen.” Her, a mere nymph, suddenly a queen. She absolutely indulged in that shit—all the undivided attention he gave to her. He liked watching her face when he played with her clit, and she liked watching him right back. He wanted to see her reactions; she wanted to see how much these reactions pleased him. It turned him on, feeling her shiver all over and hearing her cry out while her face morphed into contortions of electric joy. She relished in the new sensations he showed to her. She had always wanted to be wanted like this. Maybe she was just afraid no one else would love her in such a way; maybe she was afraid she wouldn’t find an admirer as devoted as he is—was.

But this type of intimacy—this “friend with benefits” tagged transaction—never seems to progress neatly, neither in ancient Greece nor in modern day. What Daphne wanted and what Apollo wanted just didn’t always align. She wanted the pleasure, the admiration, but she knew things between them could only exist in a bed. And now she was curious—she wanted to branch out. Find other gods or nymphs or centaurs to drive her wild. But he was starting to get protective of her, as if he wanted her all to himself. Daphne could sense it in the kisses he placed on her forehead, in the invitations he sent asking her to come over for dinner, in the gifts he offered to buy for her. Every time he accidentally said “I love you” when they were tangled up naked, an amalgamation of limbs both mortal and immortal. Daphne always corrected him, “No, you don’t,” she’d tell him, kissing his lips into silence.

Eventually, Apollo figured out what he had to do to win her undivided affection. He had to take away the most valuable thing Daphne had, and then maybe she’d be his forever. He had to start by shaking her at 6 a.m. and climbing on top of her still-sleeping body, putting something inside of her that had no business being there under circumstances such as these. How could he make her his forever? She was all at once a laurel tree, immortalized by his intrusion. She’d never be able to leave him now, he thought. All he had to do was reach the very deepest core of her trunk, the most intimate, most vulnerable place of her entire being. Her place. A place she didn’t fully understand yet but a place she loved dearly and kept mostly to herself.

Apollo still wears a stolen crown of her leaves on his head, but look at how bountifully she can grow even without that branch he ripped away from her, even with that stain of his greed nestled deep inside her core. In the depths of winter, she shrivels a little from the memory of him, but then spring comes and she blooms so magnificently. She stands strong and sturdy, and she’s able to drink in sunshine and tether herself into the ground and cast shade over the nymphs who dance joyfully in circles around her base. She feels a need to protect them, now.

Trees change from season to season. They are remarkable in their ability to shapeshift and withstand a wide variety of extremes from the dynamic environment around them. There is so much happening underneath that peaceful, seemingly static outer layer of bark. Enough to form scar tissue each autumn so their leaves can drop, produce hormones to prevent the threat of winter dehydration, and protect these same cells with lipids to prevent them from freezing over entirely. They learn how to protect themselves with each overturning cycle. Then comes the tree’s spring, and all good things with it. Life regenerated in full bloom.

Still, as ever, the laurel tree is prone to subjugation. But Apollo didn’t know what a tree was capable of. He didn’t know that trees have secret powers.

Hallie O’Neill is a recent graduate of Drake University with a degree in writing and anthropology-sociology.

A Journey through the Heart by Drew Rankins

The return of the robins is one of the first signs of an upcoming spring. A winter that always seems to last longer than the past years yields to the unpredictability of March, April, and May. Soon, the flowers and tree buds follow. The oppressive yet welcome heat of the dog days of summer were always my favorite.

The death of the canary in a coal mine is one of the first signs of trouble. If the miners under the Earth didn’t get out soon, they would follow the canary into death’s embrace. I always wondered what was worse: slowly losing access to life-saving oxygen deep underground, or slowly rotting from the inside from black lung disease.

It was supposed to be an easy assignment; just draw the human heart. We had every cross-section and diagram imaginable in our textbooks for reference. The lazier, yet more clever students just printed out images from the internet and traced them. I wasn’t about to cheat myself out of learning about the heart though. The nonstop messages coming into our class group chat gave me every opportunity to take the easy way out, but I was taking a principled stance against tracing. Besides, it’s just drawing, we don’t need to re-design the damn thing. How hard could it possibly be? I could probably even finish this before the Bulls game tips off.

Another message in the Facebook group chat came across:

Megan: hey guys just in case you cant print pdfs heres a screenshot of the dorsal view.

Followed by:

Noah: who tryna smoke? i traced that shit at lunch and my bro just got a g.

The people who were blowing up the Facebook chat with printable diagrams didn’t bother to study for the exams either. They were the people who passed around answer keys from their older siblings who had taken the class before, so this was nothing new. They’ll get their comeuppance when it comes time for the AP exam.

One of the most important organs in our body deserved my respect and full attention. I could feel my own broken heart pumping away, delivering plasma, red and white blood cells, platelets, and oxygen all throughout my body. The network of veins showed a healthy blue color on my skinny wrists. It made the task of applying IVs very easy for nurses, but it also made me look even skinnier. There was still a tiny round scar from the last IV dotting my wrist. Usually I can handle the needles without any problems, but this one ached for months after it was taken out. It’s a little different when it has to stay in your arm for a week.

Where do I even start with the heart? I’ve been looking at it for hours now and it’s slowly becoming a maze of interconnecting valves and chambers without a clear starting point. I just need to look at it with fresh eyes. I’ll finish watching this Bulls game then get right to it. In honor of Derrick Rose’s third edition of “the return”, I bought a pair of his signature shoes. Maybe I should get a late-night game in. That would definitely clear my mind. I’ll see what Jake’s up to. I wonder why this urge to play basketball never hits during the day. Maybe it’s because the porch lights simulate the bright lights of the United Center during a late spring playoff push. Considering my heart, this would likely remain a fantasy. But maybe if I kept practicing, my skill would outweigh…

No, I need to do this. If I have time after the assignment, I can play some ball. Senioritis is really a bitch. I wish it was May already, I’m already basically in college with my AP classes. Maybe the tracers had the right idea.

Okay, I’ll just print out a picture for reference. The textbook’s pictures were way too detailed and it’s just confusing at this point. I can start with the aorta, it’s one of the biggest and most important parts of the whole heart. It’s also an area I’m very familiar with. It’s brought up every six months when I go to my cardiologist, I should be a borderline expert at this point. Start with the arch, coming from the left ventricle, and dispersing down the torso. There’s the valve, tricuspid in almost everyone else. Maybe if they have to go in there again, there will be a technology to make it tricuspid. I hope I have some time to rebound before they go back in though.

Maybe it’s not senioritis that’s distracting me. Am I still dependent on the oxycodone? I’m still adjusting to a life that’s not centered around doses of the drug. My days were spent keeping track of the four-hour periods while on the drug. The dull pounding in both my head and chest were reminders of normal life, and I wanted desperately to escape it. If I think about it hard enough, the feeling returns. Like gears grinding together without oil, every joint and muscle in my body prodded at my mind for relief. Suddenly, every thought somehow connected to the drug. I can’t operate without it. The pain is nothing compared to this mental crutch. I don’t even feel the scar anymore, yet I need relief. My muscles felt like they were ready to quit on me forever if they didn’t receive their medicine. But this wasn’t medicine, this was poison.

I turn up the speakers on my PC to hopefully drown out the voices in my body. The background study jazz wasn’t enough, I needed something new to grab ahold of. Kendrick Lamar was just popping onto my radar; I’ve been learning new things about his sound every day. To Pimp a Butterfly was becoming the anthem to my semester. The extended metaphor of a caterpillar metamorphizing into a butterfly felt emblematic of my journey into college. I was ready to take a leap of faith into the unknown, ready to learn things about the world and myself but most of all, I was ready to break free from my cocoon. The album could not have come out at a better time in my life.

What else does Kendrick have? I didn’t have much time to think, I needed my reality to be music right now. Shuffling his discography on Spotify brought me to “Chapter Six”. Losing myself in the soothing verse and silky-smooth delivery, the refrain “Pray that we make it to 21, 1, 1, 1…” echoed in my mind.

A crow’s caw is the chilling anthem of late fall; the last warning call of retreat for life before the long winter takes hold. Dying leaves and creeping frost often accompany the harsh sound. The crow is often a resident of the graveyards.

A sparrow’s song has a unique way to ease you out of a heavy sleep and into a sunny morning. It’s a beautiful reminder that life exists outside our human world, and we are all related through the journey of life. When added to the other birds, a chorus of wonderful noise reminds me that summer will return, no matter how long the winter.

Drew Rankins is a 22-year-old environmental scientist and writer from the Chicago suburbs. As a recent graduate from Drake University, he plans to enter the environmental science field to work on habitat restoration and local ecology. He has worked on restoring native prairie habitats in Iowa and wetland ecosystems in the Chicago area. His writing tends to focus on fictional stories but also features personal non-fiction exploring his life experiences.

It’s Not Me, It’s You: A Series of Unfortunate Douchebags by Anna Walters

College is funny because you can watch friends go in and out of serious, committed relationships while somehow managing to never make it past the “What are we?” stage with countless douchebags for four years straight. At least I like to think it’s funny when alone in my room meant for four people on date night. Well, date night for all my friends but what is so accurately described as “me time” for yours truly.

Yeah, that’s right, ME time.

Time for ME to do things, alone.

Oh wait, I already have plenty of that because I am alone.


Crap, I’m lonely.

I don’t mean I’m alone in the sense that I have no friends or family that care about me and love me unconditionally, because that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have plenty of people that care about me and love me and support me endlessly. But, because I’m selfish and jealous and honestly always a little bit salty I still want more people to love me. Well, person. One person (I’d like to think I’d be a monogamist if I were ever presented with the option). Continue reading “It’s Not Me, It’s You: A Series of Unfortunate Douchebags by Anna Walters”

Simple Moments That Make Life Memorable by Rachel Wermager

This collection of stories comes from three generations of women. The stories show the strength of a marriage and family, and how often these things are built on the simple moments that make life memorable.  

For Grandma and Papa: you showed me what love and happiness looks like.  

Grandma: I arrived with my family in Brady, Nebraska when I was a junior in high school. Naturally the first thing I did was look around to see what the boy situation was. When I first laid eyes on him I noticed his quirky smile and blue eyes. But, unfortunately at that time, those blue eyes were looking to someone else.

It wasn’t until after he graduated high school and went off to college that we went out ice-skating together. He was a perfect gentleman while we skated out at the river.

I guess we just clicked because we went together thereafter.

Continue reading “Simple Moments That Make Life Memorable by Rachel Wermager”

Reflections from a College Senior by Cali Tonnesen

As I enter the last few weeks of college, I can’t help to reflect on my experiences. I’ll be completely honest and say that this was not the best four years of my life, I mean moments of it were great but if this is as good as it’s going to get, that’s a bit terrifying. Did I go about college the wrong way? Should I have done things differently? Sure, I have regrets, I probably should have come to college without a high school boyfriend because in hindsight that distanced myself from my friends. I should have spent more time out of my dorm room. I probably should have lived in my sorority house and became closer with my pledge class. I should have gone out more. I should’ve explored Des Moines every weekend. I should have just said “yes” more. But who really knows the right way to do college. Does anyone else feel like these four years are hyped up more than they should be?

Did I fail at college? Continue reading “Reflections from a College Senior by Cali Tonnesen”

Two Bad Things by Nora Balboa

When my childhood dog died, I cried for three days.  During those three days, I probably slept a total of six hours.  I was nineteen years old at the time and had gotten that dog—Princess—when I was three years old.  I was devasted.  I could tell you exactly what I was doing the day that she died.  I could tell you that I had on my high school English honor society shirt.  I could tell you that it was roughly 9:40 pm when I let her outside and her legs stopped working.  I could tell you that when the vet told us it was time he was wearing green scrubs and that when she tried to look up at me for the last time as she went to sleep there was one brown spot in the white of her left eye.

When my grandpa died two months later, all I remember is that when my mom called me from the hospital and told me in a tear-choked voice that Grandpa was gone, I said, “Oh.” Continue reading “Two Bad Things by Nora Balboa”

Oreos Are Just Cookies by Sydney Moore

An Oreo. To some this is a very delicious cookie. Crunchy chocolaty outside that seems to melt in your mouth and a silky-smooth crème filling. This is the (black) cookie that craves (white) milk. It is perfect for when everything is going wrong and just one package would be good enough to solve all the problems in the world. However, to some an Oreo isn’t just a cookie. To some it’s an insulting nickname. To me, an Oreo stopped being just a cookie a long time ago, now it means black on the outside, white on the inside. An Oreo is what I’ve been unofficially called since sixth grade, but to be honest the not so subtle racism started when I was much younger than that. Continue reading “Oreos Are Just Cookies by Sydney Moore”

Turns Out, I Would Risk My Life For A Grade by Olive Riley

For one of my classes I was assigned a piece on a pop-punk band that had started a tour around the United States. I had never heard of the band, or of the venue for that matter. Neither of those things surprised me because I am not an avid pop-punk fan, and the music venue is in a town an hour north of where I live. So I thought there should be no reason to worry about what I might get myself into. This was my last journalism class, and I didn’t want one of the last memories of this degree to be me half-heartedly working on an assignment that I had no passion for. Plus, I had done fairly well in all of my courses; I wanted to continue that pattern if I could. I was going to do my damnedest to make the experience of completing this piece something that would equate to more emotion in the final piece.

The day of the concert I looked up the address of the venue, but found nothing. I thought there may have been a chance the owners were old-school and didn’t believe in using a website; I wasn’t sure what the pop-punk crowd was into. I opted to call them instead. A man picked up and I asked where the venue was. Instead of giving me the address he asked who I was. Strange. I told him I was a student trying to cover a band playing there, and that I had gotten his phone number from one of my classmates. He asked me if I was the police. I told him no, and he begrudgingly gave me the address. This worried me a little bit, but not enough to deter me from going. I did the thing that all people who get killed in horror movies do; I justified everything creepy that happened by concluding it was just coincidence.    Continue reading “Turns Out, I Would Risk My Life For A Grade by Olive Riley”