Neglect, Regret, and Reflect on the Black Roots by Ama Asamoah

Curls and coils surrounded by the straight

Left out in the purified world
Incapable of integrating with the commoners
Desperately wishing to fit in
Willingful to endure pain for change

Multiple hands attacking the nappy beast
Clear droplet upon the scalp temporarily reduced the grip
Tugs, pulls, and yanks from the metal comb
Puffs of hair hit the ground
Tears and yelps released to the open
Disposal of excuses for an escape
Swivels away from the malicious hands
Blades found in the young executioner’s grip
Clumps of lifeless coils staggered across the tiles
“Ama, what did you do to your beautiful hair?”

Long curls and coils resurrected
Still surrounded by the straight
Constant begs for the transition to purification
Many nos and maybes but finally a yes
Finally granted a chance for acceptance

Thick white paste splattered on the black roots
Scalp sizzling, curls unraveling
Quiet tears from the burning sensation
The thick curls and coils transitioned into straight silky strands
The tears replaced with a grateful smile

Daily and repetitive strokes from the scorching hot iron
The slightly curled follicles steamed to death for approval
Smiles as the strands easily transcended down the comb
But, eye contact with the person of the unknown stole the happiness
Who was I?

12 inch straight strands fell gracefully to the ground
The reflective mirage of the unknown became familiar
The curls and coils sprung to life
“Ama, what happened to your hair?”
Her matured hands clenched the silver shears and said “I made it beautiful again.”


2016 Final Thoughts Winner – Painted White by Havanah Becker

Painted White
by Havanah Becker

I open the drawer of my white desk
in my white room in my white house,
which is one of many in my white town.
I am tired of being surrounded by such
blinding white.
I search in my dark drawer until I
pull out my secretly perfect palette,
that everyone tells me to clean,
smeared with colors bleeding
into each other.
I gaze at my white canvas, and when I
reach for the paint,
my finger becomes the brush,
and I, the canvas
to paint, to mark up,
and stain every perfect white thing
with my imperfections.

2016 Art Contest Winners

Top Entry – Cover Image for Collab Volume 44 – Art by Stephanie O’Neill


Top Entry from a Junior – Cover image for 2016-17 British Literature Textbook – Art by Emily Sateriale


Top Entry from a Sophomore – Cover Image for 2016-17 American Literature Textbook – Art by Laura BarreraFarm


Themed Contest Winner – Anti-Hatred – Art by Sophia Lupo

AAA-pocketwatchThemed Contest Winner – Personal Identity – Art by Jillian Sullivan


2015 Final Thoughts Winner – Unlimited by Michael Seleman

by Michael Seleman

I’ve always been the son, the student, and the brother. Three primary and definitive roles, accompanied by many more, have determined my being through a long list of social guidelines and expectations. All that I was, I was relative to others, i.e. parents, siblings, other students. Report cards, academic awards, and extracurricular achievements gave me the validation needed to fuel my complacency. The person I was beyond these primary roles, mattered not, because this was all I needed to be, or so I was told, and “success” always seemed so readily accessible.

That is, until I dared to commit likely the most drastic act of teenage rebellion humanly possibly; I grew out my hair.

For most of my life I’ve been neatly groomed, per my parents’ request. Never was I permitted to set foot out of the house without my hair, a lofty centimeter in length, combed “presentably.” And for a while, I was perfectly content with this; I’m sure I looked quite spiffy with my conservative haircut, one that proved immutable even in the face of the most powerful gusts of wind Mother Nature might throw my way.

But suddenly, and rather inexplicably, I felt restricted, contained within the metric boundary of my hair. I wasn’t one to express myself through a risqué hairdo, but it irked me that I had never satisfied my curiosity to experiment. Cutting my hair seemed to be inhibiting something more than just hair growth.

Months passed, and having now refused three appointments at Ray’s Barber Shop, my hair had grown to an unprecedented length. Though they dared not force my hand, my parents and friends alike were adamant that a haircut was long overdue. Yet every time I stole a glance at my bedroom mirror, I was surprisingly pleased. The miniature Afro (Egyptian genes at work) was here to stay.

But why bother maintaining something so trivial? Admittedly, it wasn’t the hair that captivated me as I looked briefly into the mirror. It was the man, barely recognizable, that stared back at me. His physical appearance hadn’t notably changed (a haircut, or lack thereof, only goes so far). But for once, he didn’t seem the poster-boy student, son, or brother that he had previously been. For once, he seemed something more, an entity in himself, something dynamic and thus undefined. And he stood with a self-assurance uncharacteristic of the young man who had previously fulfilled these roles. The significance of so trivial a change in my appearance was by no means correlated to its scale.

In growing out my hair, I had exercised my autonomy ever so slightly, thereby altering my self-perception in a manner that I wouldn’t understand immediately. I had seen previously through eyes not my own, through those of my community, my parents, etc. But now, I looked with my own eyes as an individual in the truest sense of the word, one that need not be classified as one thing or another to find purpose. I was, rather, I am my own.

I no longer define myself as solely the son, the student, the brother. Who I am, who every human being is, is more than a list of positions, relations, and achievements. Accordingly, the individual, dynamic in nature, has the capacity to distinguish himself, and often strives to do so through the pursuit of a passion, ironically with its own roles or titles. It is when the individual allows these roles to define his essence that they become limiting factors of his identity, rather than those which empower him to thrive in the relationships and opportunities allowed him daily. I want to study biochemistry, maybe even pursue a career in medicine, but I don’t want my concentration or any title that I may achieve to limit my perception of myself. I am unlimited, and that affords with it a passion that no titular pursuit can ever bring.

2014 Short Story Winner: Clueless by Yaju Tuladhar (an excerpt)

She’s mad at me.

I don’t know why. I don’t even remember how. It’s just one of those fights, you know? Where you fight over something so stupid and small but your pride and ego gets in the way and suddenly it’s tug-of-war with your feelings until one of you breaks and apologizes? Yeah, I’d say that’s what’s happening. Love is complicated, I guess.

Marissa sits as far as she can from me on the couch. Her face is solemn and she is watching the television—I don’t know what she’s staring so intently at, it’s on a damn commercial.  She hasn’t spoke to me since forever.

“Hey,” I say, looking at her. She barely looks at me. “Hey, I’m sorry, okay? I love you. I don’t even know what we were fighting about.”

I must’ve said the wrong thing because she doesn’t even nod or give me any sign that she isn’t mad anymore. No “it’s okay, babe!” or “I’m sorry too, Leon”. I sigh. I’m getting tired of this. I wish back in college I just went out like my friends and got unattached to girls and just partied, but no, I had to decide to go get coffee and do my term paper that specific day. I had to sit by the window and have this cute girl reading her thick book sitting a table away. I just had to fall in love with her, didn’t I?

“Okay, I get it. You’re mad. I’m sorry that you’re mad and I’m an idiot. Please let me off now,” I try again. She barely blinks. And suddenly she stands and shuts off the television, eyes starting to water and all, and she goes off into our bedroom. Okay, let me correct that. Her bedroom since I can’t find my clothes or things anywhere in there anymore. She’s officially kicked me out of there.

Girls are so damn complicated. They want you to say you’re an idiot and when you do, they just ignore you. But it’s okay. We’ve had worse fights.

I sleep on the couch that night.

Surprisingly the next day, I have no back pains, which is pretty surprising because I always do on the couch. Marissa continues to ignore me. She walks by me and acts like I’m not even there. I know I should do something—buy her flowers, get her chocolate—but I’m angry now too.

At night, I hear her crying in bed. It’s loud and I know she’s doing it on purpose. I feel bad. I really do. But, I don’t want to go in there and have her yell at me for coming in and then get more mad at me. I don’t know what to do anymore. We keep going in circles.

On Sunday, the home phone rings and before I can get it, Marissa jogs over to it—completely ignoring me, by the way—and picks it up. “Hello?” she says. “Hey, Kelly.”

She sounds sad and depressed even if her best friend is calling. I know she’s trying to make me feel bad. She wants me to know it’s my doing that is making her so unhappy. She wants me to get on my knees and beg my life for her to forgive me. Well, not happening. I always apologize. It’s always me. She gets to be angry and throw objects at me but I can’t be angry at her?

Kelly and Marissa talk for a while and eventually I stop listening.  I do hear bits and pieces like how Kelly will be over tomorrow with food and rented movies to cheer Marissa up. They’re ganging up on me, I swear.

2014 Poetry Contest Winner – Lonely by Julia Rabazzi

by Julia Rabazzi

Alone is not always lonely, and
lonely is not always alone
Never have I felt more lonely than when standing in a crowd of people
wanting only
to drown myself
in an imaginary world
or playing my favorite game–
pretending maybe somebody will notice me here
pretending I could gather up the courage to talk to a person besides my friend
pretending maybe I could lose all self-consciousness and just dance like nobody else is there
But I am not that person–
The person I wish I could be,
I hope I could one day be.
Instead I will stand in the corner
too scared to put myself out there,
too scared of what others will think of me
too scared of change.
Instead I will stand all alone surrounded by people
Where I am at my loneliest.