What Inspiration Does

We all looked up to you,

The one who made it out.

So we wanted to be like you,

Seen and admired in every house.

Then you showed us what it takes,

And some of us began to doubt.

But some stayed.

Calmed their minds, 

stilled their thoughts, 

disciplined their bodies, 

and listened to your wisdom.

Yet in this group of dreamers, 

A bigger dreamer was amidst them.

Someone who clinged to every word that exited your mouth,

Every idea that left your mind.

And, on his own time, he began to start his grind.

His view on life changed and he knew what he wanted from it.

And he planned every day, every night with a great mapping

And he knew, no matter what, his hunger to be great would lead him to the summit.

And with this peace of mind, he was truly happy.

And then you passed away.

And the world mourned your name.

But everything would be okay.

Because when your idols turn idle

And the composer is decomposing

And the athlete is descending from his dunk

And the king bows his head

And the philanthropist is dead.

Your name will live on in the people that you touched.

Rest in Peace Kobe & GiGi Bryant

By Bishop Coleman, Class of 2021

Me, Myself, and I

Kaylee—

Athletic, caring, happiness, determined

Sister of Allie, Evan, Kaitlyn

Lover of the Eagles, my puppy, and soccer

Who feels joy playing soccer, nervousness in the dark, and boredom reading bad books

Who needs happiness, kind people, and sports

Who gives laughter, support, and happiness 

Who fears the dark, spiders, and bandits

Who would like to see cancer vanish, equal pay for women, and love for others 

Who lives at the end of the road in a small town

—- Shaw

By Kaylee Shaw, Class of 2023

Bee in the Bonnet

I could see his face was shinier than porcelain as it dripped with reflective beads of sweat. They continued to ask me questions about it, but how could you reply to the fact that your dad was a murderer? He sat there still trying to dig the blood from under his nails and on his palm. His face looked overwhelmed by the events of the night. He had gone from being Raven Mortuus to Raven Mortuus, “The Murderer.” I sat staring blankly at the officer in front of me wondering why her hands were so stiff, as if struck with rigor mortis. What was I supposed to do? Just forget it happened? The magnitude of events slowly and surely ate away at my conscience. 

The approaching investigator came and took a seat across from me. He attempted small talk to ease the tension in the room, but it would not work. He asked me how long my dad had been drinking. 

The words oozed out my mouth ever so slowly, as if afraid to escape, until I could finally muster the strength to speak. “Fourteen years,” I said.

That poor little boy was on his way to school.  Dad, why did you do it? I knew it was bad, but never like this. Why did you have to force me into the car with you and give me that sweet pity talk you give after you’re done cussing out mom and beating her like a rag doll? Those two seconds were the fastest of my life. Hearing the loud thump on the car bumper and seeing that poor innocent boy’s head flick backwards in a motion faster than my eye could ever keep up with. All the blood could fill a pool, and the streams of tears I cried could fill another. Oh god if only you could see the boy’s face. I kneeled down to see if he was still breathing. I prayed to myself that he was still breathing. My hands were the color of Mars, a bright crimson, and I tried to wipe the blood off on my shirt as I cried. But even through all my remorse, you sat there untouched, undamaged, and unbothered. How could you hit that poor little boy and even worse, not even feel guilty about it? Through the waterworks in my eyes I turned towards my dad and no longer recognized the person looking back at me, for all I could see were a pair of eyes, dark circles of the abyss. I directed my attention elsewhere, to the side of the little boy’s bag. There lay a beautiful, awe-inducing flower: a lotus. I picked it up and for that instant, I was drawn in by its beauty. It was so precious and delicate. I was immune to all external, for nothing was more important than this lotus. Soon after, the flower withered away in front of me and all at once, reality came rushing back in. Of course, I thought. Death often induced more death. Why was death like this? So abrupt and solemnly devastating. 

I looked into the broken glass mirror behind the investigator and gazed upon my shattered reflection. I looked through the window of the room door and saw a stroller. Nobody was standing near it, and it was just empty. My eyes grew wide and red, and tears leaked down my eyes as I remembered the little boy that dad had hit with the Suzuki. I pondered over the life that poor boy was meant to live and how I couldn’t ever give it back to him. An apology would’ve been fine for me, the chance to say sorry both for me and my dad. Just giving him the chance to see his mom and dad one more time would have sufficed.

Dad was still drunk and wasn’t aware of what was going on. He stared blankly past the investigator in front of him. His eyes were dark portals of macabre vision. The investigator pressed him for answers. However he was only answered by grumbling and groans. At this point, Dad was a lost cause.

When the police officer escorted me back to the house, Mom was sitting on the couch drinking a can of Budweiser. The smell of the house was reminiscent of weed and various beverages. A deep anger engulfed me and I quickly found myself screaming at my own mother. 

My eyes narrowed and I let the words take me over, “Don’t you know what Dad and I have just been through? What are you doing with your life?” I screamed. 

Why was she sitting here as if oblivious to the events Dad and I had just gone through? The sheer thought made my blood boil. She scolded me in a condescending tone, the same way Dad would when he knew he was in the wrong. That only exacerbated the situation further, and I became resentful towards the both of them. She’s just as bad if not worse than Dad, I thought, and soon after we continued the bitter rally between the two of us. 

Mom walked over to me in her discombobulated and meek manner. Her face was grey and her lips were cracked. She rested her hand on my shoulder and muttered that I go to my room. I shoved her arm off me and marched on to my room still in a frenzy.

As I walked upstairs I kicked one of my mom’s beer bottles on the ground and hurried off to my bedroom. I slammed the door so hard the knob came loose and the house rattled. I jumped onto the bed and pushed the side of my head into the dingy cotton pillow. My eyes began to water dramatically and my nose began to run. Several minutes of solemn weeping passed, and my vision became fuzzy through the blur of tears.

I turned my head to my window, and I saw a bee flying above me in my room. It flew around me in a graceful and effortless manner. It buzzed like it had a secret to tell me. My first instinct was to kill it, but after everything that happened I couldn’t muster the courage. Closer and closer to my body it got and I just laid there. I genuinely thought I was going crazy at this point. Was it weird to be jealous of a bee? It flew around so freely and purposefully, yet didn’t have much direction at all. My eyes widened and focused on the bee as I had no tears left to cry. I traced its every movement with my eyes and began to smile. I admired it and envied its beauty. The bee circled the room one last time and hurried out of the small tattered window it had entered. As I watched the bee exit,  I took a long, passionate, gaze at my book bag. 

I knew what I had to do.

By Alpha Bah, Class of 2020

The Longest Train Ride

December 11, 2017, began as a typical day in New York City and the rest of the world, but to me it was my birthday. I had never been the type to go all out for birthdays, so I got ready for school and walked five minutes to the C train like I always did.

At the station, I swiped my green, student metrocard and stood at the platform, blasting music through my ear buds and feeling a little more joyous as the lyrics and music enveloped me. The train pulled into the station relatively empty as usual, and I took my seat ready to head down all the way to 42nd Street.

This ride, however, my train stopped at 59th Street and stayed there. After around ten patient minutes of waiting, I heard the conductor address us passengers through his intercom. “This train will not be making any further stops. All passengers, please exit the train and wait for the one directly behind us. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

When you’re a New Yorker like me, you come to understand that most of what comes out of conductors’ mouths is false. I was fully aware there was no train directly behind us, so my next step was to try to find a different way to get to 42nd. Luckily, 42nd Street is one of those stops where literally every train heads, and from 59th Street I could easily transfer over to the 1 train.

So that’s what I did. But, when the crowded 1 train pulled into the station, I realized that something was not quite right. New Yorkers know that when a train is over-crowded, something’s wrong. I squeezed into the train car anyway, and after the doors closed, the train did something upsetting to any New Yorker: It skipped stations at 50th and 42nd, then went straight to 34th. Walking out, I could tell everyone felt as as flustered as I did. What was going on? I thought. Why today of all days should the trains be messed up?  

As I waited on the opposite side for the uptown train to 42nd Street, I checked my phone and knew I was going to be late. My friends were experiencing similar problems, some not even able to get on a train because of how crowded they were. I felt my face clench and every sound around me fade into the background of my own irritation. The train pulled into the station, and instead of getting on, I turned around and made my way above ground to walk the eight blocks to school.

As I approached 42nd, however, I became uneasy at the sight of so many police. I was smack in the middle of Times Square, so their presence wasn’t uncommon. However, something about this moment felt excessive. Everywhere the men in uniform stood stiff and unmoving, definitely more than your average street cop. Shields the length of entire human beings, masks revealing only their eyes, and assault rifles ready to engage at any moment. Unsettled, I walked past dozens of them surrounded by barricades and police tape that blocked my path to school. 

“Excuse me,” I said to one of uniformed men. “How can I get down to 11th avenue?”

“You’re gonna have to walk around, kid.”

I gritted my teeth and asked what I had been too scared to ask. “Um…What’s going on?”

The officer responded, “We’re trying to contain an incident that happened earlier today in the subway.” 

And with that my awful suspicions were confirmed.

Something worse than your average train delay had occurred. Certain that was the most information I would get out of him, I thanked him and worked my way around the barricades to school.

***

I arrived around 30 minutes into my 2nd period class to see that no one was there. My teacher let me leave, as there was almost no one in class, and so I headed downstairs to the cafeteria in hopes of finding someone I knew. There I encountered my friend Amy at a table in the far back by herself. Her attention was glued to her phone until she heard my footsteps. She ushered me to hurry over. 

We sat together watching a video on her phone. Everything happened so quick. One moment everyone was walking in the tunnel with their usual swiftness, and the next moment a smoke-filled explosion sent everyone running. As the smoke cleared, a man could be seen lying on the ground, and a flurry of armed cops stormed in. They inspected the man and cuffed him, after which the video stopped. Amy and I looked at each other with round, worried eyes, full of anguish like lost puppies looking for their owners.

Slowly throughout the day, more people entered the building. Almost four periods in, our principal came on to the loudspeaker and made an announcement. “Excuse me faculty and students, parents have been notified about the status of today’s earlier incident, and no one will be penalized for missing school today. If your safety is a concern, you may call a parent to escort you out of the building. Otherwise classes are cancelled and all students should take the time to catch up on anything that they might need to.” 

It wasn’t too long until most of our friends arrived, and the dreary worries of the attempted suicide bombing were overshadowed by the cheers and laughter from my birthday. It was as if it hadn’t really happened and everyone was ready to celebrate. Or maybe we were celebrating that no one was killed. Either way, as soon as I left those school doors that day, things cheered up as I reveled in another full rotation around the sun.

***

Later, we learned that there was an attempted pipe bomb attack at the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street, a hotspot where many people travel between trains. When checking the times, I realized I was on the train right after the attack, which is why my train went out of service. The man claimed to have terrorist motivations, specifically ISIS motivated. There were no deaths, but four people including the attacker were injured. It made the world feel a lot smaller in terms of how safe I felt. And although nothing actually happened to me physically, the idea that the whole incident was so close to me makes me think about what could’ve happened. In the end, I am glad nothing too terrible happened. And that is the perspective I choose to look through when I think of the outcome of this entire situation.

–By Alpha Bah, Class of 2020


Experiment Gone Wrong

Sirens blared and white strobe lights emerged from the factory down the block. The TV aired an emergency broadcast. “An experiment gone wrong,” was all I heard before venturing outside and into the chaotic streets. People were falling left and right and no one knew why. A woman on the phone with police yelled, “It’s a rat! It’s spreading a parasite! How can those scientists let this happen? All the damage they’re causing is outrageous! They’ll be getting a call from my lawyer tomorrow!” All of a sudden there was a burning pinch at my ankle. I went cold.

–By Molly Jackson, Class of 2021

Game, Set, Match!

Tennis has always been a big part of my life. Throughout high school, I’ve been a proud member of the girls tennis team, and my passion for the sport has only grown since becoming a senior and making the varsity team. While I’m not the best player on the team, I have my own personal set of skills that work to my advantage, and I have played many good (and bad) matches because of my unique style. However, one of the most memorable games I have ever played was at the Burlington County Open this past autumn, and it shaped the way I play and view tennis. 

On a cool morning in September 2019, the girls tennis team huddled eating warm chocolate chip cookies baked fresh by one of our teammates. The bus was late (again), the freshmen were inside filling our water jug, and Emmanuella and the coach hit a tennis ball against the wall. When it finally arrived, we all bundled into the back and gabbed, each adorned in our uniforms and tennis sweatshirts. The scent of Coach Nevitt’s coffee was aromatic and wafted to the back of the bus, making the atmosphere welcoming and comfortable. Driving to the designated meeting place, Veteran’s Park, took about an hour.

When we arrived, we put our bags down at our traditional tree, near which roughly twenty courts surrounded the official hub for announcements. That’s when we discovered we hadn’t brought any of the necessary materials: new tennis balls, scorecards, and the community water bottles. So we went to a court picked at random and stretched and hit for a while, then gathered to hear the lineups. I was scheduled against Pemberton’s third singles player, Gabby. She was nice but had a competitive side to her, which I had seen at our scrimmage almost a month earlier. We had ten minutes to rally, and Gabby opened up a new canister of balls. The lid popped off with a click, and she handed me one of the fluorescent-colored spheres.

The rally started off fairly normally, with regular playing followed by practicing our serves, but then her coaches came over. They stood at the far end of the fence, so they could watch both her and their first doubles’ matches. Their loud, laughing voices rang across the courts. At first their presence didn’t faze me, but my perspective changed when the match actually started.

I lost the first point after getting to deuce, but I knew I could bring it back because my serves are decent, but my returns allow me to win points. The game went back and forth for a while, with the score 4-3 in my favor, when a Pemberton coach walked to our side of the fence to watch.

“It’s all about the serve, Gabby. That’s what I like to see,” he said, shouting loud enough to make birds scatter. She was serving after tying the game, 4-4. I began losing my patience with his every cheer and clap mocking the skills I had worked so hard to develop. However, I was determined to not let him get to me, and by focusing my energy on the game, I succeeded in gaining back the upper hand. As we switched sides, the second coach and some of her teammates who had already lost their matches came to watch our match.

“Take those risks, Gabby!” Her coach was irritated with the current score, 7-6 in my favor, since my opponent had lost two points in a row. By now, my coach had come to watch as well, but he remained still and silent, like the calm before the storm. I could tell his blood was boiling over their remarks, but he maintained control.

When the score became 8-9 in Gabby’s favor, my teammates gathered in a wave and sat, talking among themselves, oblivious to my need for concentration. 

“Shh! I’m glad you’re watching my match, but you need to be quiet,” I said.

This next point would determine the entire match, and I did not want to risk it all. Unfortunately for Pemberton, I won the point. We were told the match would end with a tie-breaker, first to seven with a two-point difference. As I drank my water I tried to steady myself , but my hands shook. Two hours had passed since the tournament had begun, and my body was starting to shut down. Forcing myself to continue, I took my place, ball in hand.

A hush fell over the crowd as I tossed the ball high and started the first point with a serve. A nice rally commenced, until the ball was hit into the net. The winning side cheered for their girl, and the two switched sides. The tie breaker was tense, with loud cheers from Pemberton, and more subtle cheers from Palmyra. It was the last point, and back to my serve. I hit the ball, but Gabby returned it fast, a powerful hit to the opposite side of the court. Somehow, I was faster. Without much thought, I decided to take a risk. Cross-court returns with a backhand are almost never a good idea because too many things can go wrong. However, in that moment, the stars aligned. Gabby wasn’t expecting the angled shot and attempted to get it over, but her body placement wasn’t right. I met her at the net where I shook her hand, a thrilling match finally over. My body weary, I picked up my equipment and left the courts.

While my team cheered, the Pemberton coaches came down on her hard, practically yelling at the poor girl for not taking more risks, but I knew she had. We both did everything in our power to win that match, but only one victor could arise.

“That was so intense! You played great! We’re so proud of you,” my teammates said. I was glowing with joy at what I had accomplished, yet exhausted from the effort.

“I’m third singles, Palmyra versus Pemberton. I won 9-9, with a 7-5 tie breaker,” I reported to a match official, who then told me I could have a short break before the second round. In that second round, I was pinned against someone who was in a higher seed-ranking than Palmyra, and I lost pretty quickly, but I didn’t care. I was overjoyed to have even made it as far as I had, and I remember smiling throughout the rest of the day because of it.

I think back to that match often, and I consider that win to be one of my biggest accomplishments. It’s not necessarily that Pemberton was a fierce competitor, or that making it past the first round was that big of an achievement, but I’m proud of myself for all that I did because I know what it was like to be on the court that fateful day. Overall, the tournament didn’t affect my tennis career or determine anything special, but the memory of it will always linger in my mind because it helped me gain confidence in myself and my skills, which I have channeled in a positive way to other aspects of my life.

And for that, I am grateful. 

— By Alyssa Rimanthe Schweiger, Class of 2020

I’m John, I’m probably dead now

My name is John. I’m short and 38. The disease broke out roughly two weeks ago and everyone’s becoming corpses. Apparently the rats are the catalysts. They have black fur, big claws, and bloodshot eyes. I found an apartment building yesterday. I’ve taken shelter there, but one thing happened. This morning when I woke up, I noticed that I had cuts and scratches all over my legs. I’m pretty sure it was the rats. I’ll probably die soon, so I want to give you some tips. Sleep with one eye open and kill every single one of those lousy rats.

By Dean Fort, Class of 2023