Alma has been awarded a 2012 ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award for her composition Full House. This piece was premiered at the Killingworth Jazz Night Out event in February.
For her senior year, Alma has been chosen as a participant in Choate’s Signature Academic Program - Capstone. This program enables students to concentrate on a yearlong project and to choose courses pertinent to it. Alma’s project will involve writing poetry in English and French as well as writing incidental music for the reading/performance of the work in the spring of 2013.
Check out Grammy In The Schools' website featuring Alma! For information: Click here!
I enjoy the minute before the hour strikes best.
The previous fifty-eight I have spent at rest,
yet I can convince myself that not a moment was wasted.
A lot can occur in sixty seconds,
though the dirty laundry in the next room beckons,
and the dinner I made is yet to be tasted.
I’ll memorize the location of each tiny star.
I’ll finally learn that Beach Boys tune on my guitar.
I’ll buy fresh magnolias from the florist outside my door.
To replace those whose paper petals fall
to the tiled floor.
I’ll win a staring contest with the cloud across the street.
And wouldn’t it be a feat
to solve the rivulets’ maze on my window pane?
I’ll circle my favorite word in my favorite book.
And I’ll find out what exactly life took
When she went away.
I’ll find her somewhere in this city.
Perhaps no ladder reaches her window, but have no pity:
To reach her,
I’ll build a tower.
But alas, it’s already the hour.
“Pray. God’s too busy to decode your silence.” The billboard screamed at me from across the avenue. I wanted to scream back.
“I’ll ignore deities whenever I want,” I mumbled. “So fuck you.” I guess blaming is a little different than praying; I’m no expert on the nitty-gritty details of theology. I just want those Bible-thumpers to shut the hell up.
The billboard was just a small part of it all. Ever since some evangelical group moved into LA on a “Mission to Save,” things started cropping up everywhere: massive billboards with intrusive block letters, countless flyers aggressively stapled to telephone poles, wooden tables on every corner offering chocolate Virgin Marys and a mailing list signup sheet. They called themselves The Angels’ Saviors. They thought evolution was the Devil’s brainchild. They thought the world was going to end in the next twenty years. And, of course, they thought God would only save the Saviors.
I had learned to ignore them. For the most part. I don’t know why I was so irritated by the billboard that day. Sure, it pissed me off when it was first displayed, but eventually the neon yellow sign just became a part of the landscape. Maybe it was the weather. The air conditioner in my car had given up the ghost a few hours prior and the humidity made it feel like I was breathing Jello.
After an interminable half an hour of punching my horn and cursing at whichever driver could hear, I finally pulled into my steaming driveway. As soon as I walked into the heavenly embrace of my central cooling, I popped open a Bud and ignored the ever-growing pile of memos on my desk as I had been doing for days. I flicked on the TV and plopped down on my side of couch; I say my side of the couch like I’m still sharing it with someone. I suppose the habit is ingrained in me. Some sort of muscle memory. Besides, the pillow on the left side still smells faintly of her perfume, which instantly triggers an odd mixture of nostalgia and repulsion.
As usual, there was nothing on. A bunch of meatheads tossing around a football, a reality show featuring vomiting teenagers clawing at each other’s eyes, a talk host flaunting his blindingly white teeth and falsely bronzed skin as he interviewed a woman whose parrot had called for help when she was having a seizure. I settled on a celebrity gossip show. God knows why.
As a woman with bleached blonde hair informed me of the status of Brad and Angelina’s newest adoption, I felt my mind drift away from my living room and into the dangerous territory of memories.
She used to hate these kinds of shows; she thought prying into others’ lives was shocking. “How can you stand these invasions of privacy?” she would demand. “Turn it off or I’m not watching with you.” Some days I would. Some days I wouldn’t. Didn’t matter now. I wondered where she was. Probably behind one of those corner tables, hawking those chocolate Virgin Marys and the Earth’s impending doom.
We hadn’t spoken since that awkward occasion when she swung by to pick up her clothes from my closet.
“So, how are you doing?” she had asked as she sniffed her USC sweatshirt and threw it in the dirty laundry pile.
“Just great,” I replied, forcing a smile on my face. “I’ve really had a lot of time to focus on work and stuff. So…it’s been great.”
“And how are you?”
“I’m doing really well. You know, the Saviors are just amazing. They welcomed me with such open arms. I’ve never felt more confident about a decision in my life. You know, Greg, I really think you should give them a try.”
I snorted. “You know that would never work, Karen.”
“That religion stuff? I’ve never bought into it. You know that.”
Karen sighed. “Well, like I said before…I just think your religious core is off balance.” She rested her hand on mine, making goose bumps materialize on my forearm. “Just get in contact with your inner spirituality. Start with a small prayer before bed tonight. Think about all the things you are grateful for and thank God for them. Then maybe you will see reasons to join the Saviors.”
She left pretty soon after that. She even left me the flannel shirt we both loved so much.
The doorbell interrupted my thoughts. The sound of the blonde woman’s nasal voice came back to me: “ – and they are just coming out in droves, Joe. Why, just the other day, I got a chocolate Virgin Mary of my very own! Isn’t that smashing? I just can’t wait to sign up for –” I muted her mid sentence, clenched my fists, and took a tremendous breath before lifting myself up off the couch and opening the door.
From his neon yellow polo, his overly eager grin, and his clipboard, I should have known he was a Savior. However, part of me was still lost in my memories, so I made the deadly mistake of letting him open his mouth.
“Hello, sir. My name is Garth and I’m one of the Angels’ Saviors. I just want to offer you a chance to join our mailing list. All you have to do is sign here – “
I made a move to close the door, but he stuck out his freckled arm to stop me. He must have been a new recruit.
“Now, just a minute, sir. I’m sure you’re very busy, but as Hebrews 13:1 says, ‘Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’”
I tried the door again, but the little twit’s arm held fast.
“Still not convinced? Maybe I can tempt you with some chocolate.”
Without waiting for a response, he thrust forward a chocolate Virgin Mary, which had already begun to grow sticky through cracks in the foil.
“As I was saying, we’d like you to join the Saviors. All you have to do is sign up on our mailing list and join our weekly meetings.”
“Look,” I said. “I’m really not interested in this.”
“Have you even given it a chance?”
I took a deep breath to quell my impatience. “No and I don’t need to. Religion and I just don’t mix and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave me alone.”
A slight flush that could not be attributed to the heat appeared on his cheeks. “Now sir, never shun thy neighbor. You may have just doomed yourself to an eternity of damnation in only twenty years time. Why don’t you want to be saved?”
A drop of sweat dripped off my nose onto the chocolate in my hand.
He shook his head. “Sir, I think your religious core is off balance.”
No deep breaths could help me then. It was a plague. That’s what it was. A plague that had infected so many in LA until even those closest to me were afflicted by this delusion, this religious bullshit. And the Saviors were the rats, biting anyone who came near, maliciously spreading the virus. I took steps forward as I unleashed my fury into his ear and brandished the chocolate figurine in his face. Onto the porch. Down the front steps. Onto the pavement.
I should’ve stopped at the curb. Looking back, I wish I’d had the sense to stop and finish my rant on the sidewalk. But it was as if I was possessed by another being, one of rage, of frustration. As I stared into his unblinking blue eyes, as I pressed forward, as he tripped on the curb and fell into the street, I wanted nothing more than to verbally pummel him into the ground, to tear his perception of the world to shreds. I wanted to beat the Saviors.
The car was going at least 30 miles per hour over the speed limit. We both looked up at the shriek of the tires, but it was too late to move. It all happened so fast that all I heard was the dull thud on impact. The car tossed him aside like a rag doll and his body struck the ground several feet away, blood blooming from behind his head as I looked on, helplessly guilty. Appearing in the blink of an eye, men in white said he died painlessly and whisked him away in a flash of red and blue.
I didn’t pray. I figured God was too busy to save his life.
She shivered softly beneath the forest green bedspread he had draped over her. It was the blanket she always complained about. The one that made her scratch her skin, the one she threw to the floor in the middle of the night.
“Daddy…where does snow come from?” But he did not hear her over the blustery wind shrieking beyond the window. So, clearing her throat, she tried again.
“Daddy, why does it snow?”
Because sometimes the Earth goes cold. On the inside. Perhaps a young boy in swimming trunks finishes his lemonade and throws the ice cubes in the ocean. Perhaps the smoky haze billowing from the iron factory across the lake blocks out the sun’s rays. Perhaps the Earth’s favorite star stutters and fades. Or disappears overnight, leaving behind the Earth and their child, the atmosphere. The afterglow of the star is etched into the back of his eyelids and cloned in the face of his daughter. He cannot say how proud he is that she brings so much life. He cannot tell her a beautiful bedtime story. He cannot even buy a blanket to replace the one that makes her skin itch. So the Earth must make everyone else cold. It’s the only way he can get warm.
“Daddy, you’re not answering me!”
He tucked the blanket around her shoulders.
“Not tonight. Go to sleep.”
Black Still Lingers
Be still –
For that onyx blanket has descended,
And into her arms I have ascended
To find myself among kin –
And the din of frenzied life subsides,
For now my sister – the Night – presides.
Be tranquil –
As her ebony arms extend so far –
Limbs speckled with a coterie of stars.
Palm to palm – each other’s twin –
We witness darkness together,
Independent and without tether.
Be rested –
Those who bestow the hours upon a dream,
A universe so firm that it does seem
To be absolutely real –
As real as the certitude of dawn,
Forcing us – evermore – to fly on.
Be happy –
Those who bestow the hours upon the mirth.
The company of each other is worth
More than any treasured gold.
Laughs ring through the chambers of their hearts,
And while they dance – Night and I must part.
Be assured –
My sister and I protect you and all,
Blanketing each chest that rises and falls.
As long as darkness abides,
We soar – as quickly as the hours pass
Till the Sun reveals his eye of brass.
Be blue –
When the horizon, grasped by Dawn’s fingers,
Converts you to gold, though black still lingers –
The last vestiges of Night.
But I know mere hours of daylight’s roar
Divide now and when we fly once more.