Eva Vesely is a 15-year-old sophomore at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She has been published in the Creative Communication Spring 2017 poetry anthology. Most of her free time is spent being an editor for her school’s newspaper, hanging out in local convenience stores, teasing her cat, and learning how to play the drums.
spring with you
are those birds
calling behind the
glass? or did i
forget to turn my alarm
off this morning.
i stare at yellow
to the wall
nothing but cheap paper
long withered with age.
you said some things that
and i pressed the pain
against my ribcage
wringing out all
i could muster
before stringing it
up to dry in
She kept the jars in her attic, atop rows upon rows of shelves. Each jar was lined up neatly like teeth. The room was silent and still, a vacuum in her house, apart from the trapped umbras shifting behind thick glass. Other than that, the jars were completely uniform. Eight oz. mason, she ordered them in bulk online. She crawled up to the room in the morning, after school, right before bed. She unscrewed the lids with lilting fingers, as if the jars would crumble to dust in her palms at any sudden movement.
Of course, she labeled the lids herself, so the one with “Home” written on it in careful cursive was only significant to her. When she wrote, she brushed her pen atop the surface gently, as if she were kissing the eyelids of a sleeping lover. “Home” had an umbra floating inside with an easiness to it like a breath of fresh air. When she unscrewed the lid and hovered her nose just above the rim, it smelled of hydrangeas, lemon peel, and a sweet tang that tickled her nostrils.
Her favorite jar was “Ski Lodge 2006.” Inside it sat the squat, welcoming scent of cocoa, tobacco, and damp musk. Sometimes she opened the jars two or three times each, leaving the attic and then immediately crawling back to it again. Other times she only arranged them, adjusting each jar just so, crooning to them like a mother. Time claimed her memories with its gnarled fingers, muddied them, or dug its talons into their precious details. But the jars always remained. Unaltered. Tiny anchors of her past.
It was the morning after Christmas when she first noticed a white van parked across the street from her house. “NorthLab Inc.” was written in official blue letters on the exterior. A man with a thick brow and a grave expression sat behind the tinted glass, staring straight ahead.
She didn't pay him much attention, her mind occupied by the new addition to her collection. Its umbra flickered festively, lapping against the walls of its container; wrapped up neatly inside of it was a robust blend of chestnuts, tree sap, and her grandmother’s carpet.
But the van made several more appearances over the following days. It was always there in the morning, the engine switched off, the pale sun gleaming against its headlights. Silent and sinister. After she returned from school it left in its place a vacant patch of asphalt almost as dank as the vehicle itself.
A week later she came home to find her library of jars gone.
She remained with the top half of her torso bobbing above the trapdoor in the ceiling, unable to move, her chest crumpling like the discarded tinfoil of a school lunch. The shelves were empty and barren, the silence in the attic collapsing in on itself an infinite number of times, an acidic compulsion that seemed to last for eternity. Then the horror settled in the pit of her stomach where it fermented into panic, a shuddering heart, a seeping cold that clung to her skin like cobwebs, forcing her body upwards through the trapdoor in an attempt to escape it. She directed her legs to the back right corner of the room, knees buckling. Her fingers clawed desperately at one of the floorboards, suddenly impossibly stubby, inept. Finally, she managed to pry the board open, revealing the most beautiful sight she had ever laid her eyes on and that she would ever see again: one solitary jar, nestled safely in a bed of straw underneath the wooden floor. A gossamer sigh escaped her lips, her entire body thawing instantly. She pressed the jar to her chest, murmuring comforting gibberish to it, humming the same made-up tune over and over again. The label reading “Saturn” burrowed into her sweater. Its creamy umbra flickered gently inside, lambent with celestial mystery.
A Conversation between Eva Vesely and Courtney Felle
1. Thanks so much for talking with us, Eva! Before we delve deeper into your writing, can you briefly explain the inspiration behind these pieces and how they developed as you wrote?
Hello! It’s a pleasure to be doing this interview with you, thank you again.
“spring with you” came to me on one of the first Saturday mornings of spring. I was sitting in my room, listening to the birds chirping outside, and wondering why such a cheerful sound was driving me crazy. I wanted to convey that sense of feeling caged in, miserable, and jaded in your own bedroom, a place that should be a safe haven. As I continued to write, I expanded the focus from images associated with a bedroom to the speaker’s relationships outside those four walls, the root of their negativity.
The inspiration behind the story was a little more incidental. At the time of writing it, I was fascinated by the sense of smell, and how it could trigger such vivid, buried memories. I was in a store, exploring its collection of scented candles, about an hour before I sat down to write “Sample #6S.” The story kind of wrote itself, and I managed to finish it in one sitting.
2. Both “spring with you” and “Sample #6S” are incredibly vivid in the images they conjure, from wringing out pain like dirty clothing to hydrangea-lemon spirits in jars. How does visceral imagery create new layers and emotions in writing? Does this differ between poetry and prose?
I think that vivid imagery can convey emotions that can’t always be expressed through narration, thoughts, dialogue, etc. I always admire when an author can make me feel something with their prose without me knowing exactly how or why, while still integrating these emotions into their main themes. When I write poems, they usually center around a specific image, and the idea develops from that original line. On the other hand, when I write fiction, the images are used as a tool to fully develop the impression I’d like my readers to have.
3. In “spring with you,” you associate spring with a stagnant sadness, a place to hang your pain before it dries and begins again. This is a reversal from what we typically expect: spring linked to healing and winter linked to pain. What inspired this shifting, and how do you see it complicating the poem?
The shifting in “spring with you” was inspired by the disappointment, frustration, and confusion anyone feels when they expect or want to feel happy, but can’t. When this happens, there's a sense of waywardness that begins to develop, a feeling of “what now?” By using the juxtaposition of sadness and springtime, I tried to give the poem depth in a relatable way.
4. On the topic of spring, something that Marriah and I discussed when we first read “Sample #6S” was how it produces its own landscape. It feels like this story has an immersive world around it, one where we can enter the atmosphere fully, where we can imagine if not necessarily see other narratives. How does the idea of landscape play into both “Sample #6S” and “spring with you,” especially given that both feature a large amount of nature-based imagery?
While “Sample #6S” mainly focuses on the main character and her attachment to her collection, there’s also another storyline unfolding in the background, which helps build the setting and world that the plot is occurring in. “spring with you” is similar in the sense that it also introduces narratives that aren’t obvious or explicit. It mostly consists of the literal images of the bedroom and springtime, but the relationship that is referenced at the end is left up to the imagination of the reader. I think that this is a good technique to drive writing forward, especially if it’s on the shorter side. The nature-based imagery functions to ground both pieces, and bridge the gap between what is known and unknown to the reader.
5. Maheen especially loved the softness of the line “you said some things that hurt today” in “spring with you.” Sometimes lines that profess emotion this bluntly can come off as vague or cliche, but here, it hits the perfect tone of simple honesty and sadness. How do you mix your vivid, unique scenes with moments of pure vulnerability like this? What makes a statement like “you said some things that hurt today” work in a piece?
While some of my pieces begin as a specific image that I expand on, they can also initially be a statement like this. Usually, it’s a line that popped into my head and stuck, kind of like a song lyric. I think blunt lines like these are necessary to balance the imagery because they seem spontaneous, while the imagery is meticulously chosen and arranged. Simple truths like these can also reveal the inner workings of a character in a way that images can’t.
6. Both of these pieces fade into a reckoning of healing, hurting, and moving forward despite everything. Is there something to be said for how this process factors into growing up at large?
As we grow older it’s easy to exaggerate, romanticize, or even repress the past. I think while healing and moving forward is really important, you also have to be honest with yourself and your pain. If you fully come to terms with it, accept it, and take something away from it, that’s how you can grow as a person.
7. Much of “Sample #6S” discusses how we rely on memories to carry us forward, re-entering the mindsets of our previous selves to temporarily relive the past (as comfort, as healing, as progress). If you could bottle anything from your life right now to keep pristinely intact for your future self, what would it be?
If I could bottle anything it’d probably be the memories of my friends and family. Technology isn’t always enough to connect people, and as a result, they can grow apart. I’d want to always remember the warmth, support, and love they’ve provided and continue to provide during this period of my life.
8. What advice would you give to other young writers?
My advice would be to keep a running list of observations, imagery, and future writing ideas; this is really useful to get your creative juices flowing on a daily basis. That being said, put less pressure on yourselves. Usually the pieces I’m proudest of are written when I get a sudden burst of inspiration or motivation, not when I force myself to write.