by Natalie Brennan //

This piece was originally published in Issue 1: Secret Edition (Spring 2022). To see past print publications, click here.

Months I won’t get back
When I slept with your silence
And danced with your ego
I let your words hang like hooks in my chest

I was a net
And your insecurities buzzed like flies
Catching my breath in your mirror
Burned like shards of glass in my lungs
In your library of lies, I collected dust
volumes of being cherished, valued, loved

Your secret lies there too

I won’t tell them
the way your words, your sex
would drip like hot wax
Burning guilt onto my skin
Convincing me
To exist was to owe you pleasure

I won’t tell them
All the money I spent
To scrub away your stains
To bleach and dry my sheets
Your idolization dissolving off
But the residual grime, the sting of being bled dry
Lingering, like dust in the air

Rug burn tattooing my knees
Commiserating with the shower head
as it saw me
while you just watched, tangled under covers
your fingerprints soaked into the light switch

I was your sounding board
And you bounced the names of my friends
Off my bare chest
Dreaming of your future endeavors
While shattering what could have been mine
in some sort of twisted performance art
The audience remaining silent
As their mouths were full

Your secret tried to scream its own name

I won’t tell them
how easy it was for you
To transmit your disease from person to person
Like some sort of cold, calculating tick
Latching onto her care
As soon as you had sucked me dry

I won’t tell them
About your validation cravings
How you foraged greedily for new sources
while you already had it all
You took a knife to someone who loves like no other
And reopened her wounds
She inconsolably bleeds
Yet still shows you more kindness than you deserve
Showed you more kindness than you’ll ever see again

I won’t tell them
how you couldn’t protect either of us
From your lack of satisfaction
So you burned both of us
And left us to deal with the flames
Leaving a trail of damage
As you smolder, monstrously

I would wish you nothing but peace
If I believed it was something you’d find
Pity is not even something I could force myself to feel
Yet I am grateful that we are clean from you
But don’t worry.

I won’t tell them.

Secret Pain

by Aditi Hukerikar //

This piece was originally published in Issue 1: Secret Edition (Spring 2022). To see past print publications, click here.

Where do secrets and pain intersect? For me, my pain became my secrets: not only did I internalize my pain, keeping it a secret from the world, but I tried to deny my pain in the hopes that I wouldn’t feel it anymore. Maybe I was trying to keep it a secret to myself.

The best kept secrets might be the ones you never tell, but they also become the most painful. I can’t share my pain the same way I could share a more mundane secret, but I can try to share the way that it felt, the way that it still feels, and maybe that would be enough.

I learned the hard way that the only thing more painful than keeping your pain a secret was taking the risk to share it and not being believed.

Even now, I write vaguely, I ask rhetorical questions to an unknown reader because if I were to give answers the secrets I have guarded for so long would no longer be mine. Because when I made the mistake of letting my secrets slip, what I got for my troubles was worse than the years of pain I had experienced before. I learned the hard way that the only thing more painful than keeping your pain a secret was taking the risk to share it and not being believed.

“Maybe I handled my secrets so well that my struggles and pain weren’t even believable,” says the nicer part of me. But the hidden anger that I harbor knows better, and it rages on because all I can hear are the same people who contributed to my pain telling me that I don’t deserve to claim it. But if my pain was always a secret then of course, how could anyone understand what it felt like if I never showed it? Or was it that I always showed it but they didn’t want to see it so it stayed a secret by force and not my choice?

These words are dedicated to the secret pain that has persisted through so many stages of my life. This is an ode to silent tears behind closed doors, to learning how to swipe my fingers quickly under my eyes so nobody could tell I was crying in public. This is a love letter to the girl who weakly insisted that her puffy eyes were from allergies in the dead of winter, who learned early that the only way to guarantee that you weren’t hurt is if there was nobody around to hurt you. This is for the fake smiles and caked on makeup, for the sickly sweet “I’m great” in response to a casual “how are you?” Because my pain has always been a secret, because the alternative would be to appear weak or crazy, and when people get the chance to label you as one of those, it leads to a whole new type of pain that becomes harder to keep secret.

As women, we internalize our pain because the second that even a bit of negative emotion peaks through, it becomes weaponized against us.

It’s a tale as old as time. As women, we internalize our pain because the second that even a bit of negative emotion peaks through, it becomes weaponized against us. If she’s crying, it means that she’s too sensitive, that she’s not strong enough to overcome her challenges or that she can’t be trusted with serious responsibility. If she’s angry, or even the tiniest bit frustrated, then obviously she’s a raging bitch who makes it difficult for anyone to deal with her.

But the timing starts earlier, starting from the compliment, “she’s such a quiet child,” or “she’s so mature” for the kid who doesn’t talk to anyone. We praise silence, we praise secrets, and we praise keeping any sort of pain internalized, because we learn how showing pain is punished with more pain, so we try to reduce the pain, but it reverberates inside of us and amplifies. What do you do when you want to scream your secrets instead of whispering them but you can’t? And why can’t you?

Maybe you can’t because you understand the consequences of letting your negative emotions show. You’ve learned from the time you were young, either directly or by watching others, that there are consequences for letting your pain show. Even though women generally tend to express their emotions more, negative emotions tend to be internalized among women, including young girls. A large part of this is how women are treated when they show emotions like anger or sadness, being told that they’re “too-sensitive,” which leads to less emotional expression and fuels this vicious cycle of repressed feelings and hurt.

Essentially, we’re fueling a culture in which women learn from a young age that only positive emotions are acceptable to show on the outside; still, joy isn’t the only emotion in existence. It’s impossible for us as humans not to feel hurt, sad, angry, or a plethora of emotions all together. So why do we place so much emphasis on never feeling pain, as if it were some kind of future rather than an unachievable goal?

Keeping all this pain to ourselves without letting it out lets it fester inside of us, turning into something more sinister with the capacity to cause longterm damage to our bodies and minds.

Besides the overwhelming frustration of having your pain and accompanying negative emotions belittled or brushed off, keeping in negative emotions causes a multitude of mental and physical health issues. Accumulating emotional stress can lead to mental illnesses–like depression and anxiety—as well as heart disease, intestinal problems, and more. Keeping all this pain to ourselves without letting it out lets it fester inside of us, turning into something more sinister with the capacity to cause longterm damage to our bodies and minds. So yes, letting out your pain might seem daunting, and you might be intimidated by the thought of the repercussions. But with the expense of your own wellbeing, the alternative is no better, and you owe it to yourself to accept your pain and all the emotions that accompany it for nobody’s sake but your own.

Secrets hurt us, not just the ones we keep about others but the ones we keep to ourselves. If we pretend that our pain isn’t there, if we try to hide it away in the back of our mind and mask it with fake smiles and honeyed words, we end up hurting ourselves. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to hide their pain for others’ benefit, because it’s unfair to force ourselves to take on the resultant threats to our health.

Let me tell you one last secret. There’s something I’ve always wanted to hear about my pain, something that nobody has ever told me, and right now, I want to make sure I tell it to you. If you are holding onto any secret pain, I want you to know that I believe you. I believe that you’ve struggled, that you’ve been hurt by those things you seemingly brushed off, and that you’ve so desperately wanted to release the ugly flood of emotions that you have held back for so long. I’ve divulged the truth behind my pain to you, anonymous reader, and only ask that in return, you allow yourself to accept your own truth and stop keeping secrets from yourself.

Works Cited

Chaplin, Tara M. “Gender and Emotion Expression: A Developmental Contextual Perspective.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 16 June 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4469291/. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Greene, Mark. “Women Are Better At Expressing Emotions, Right? Why It’s Not That Simple.” Yes Magazine, 28 January 2016, https://www.yesmagazine.org/health-happiness/016/01/28/women-are-better-at-expressing-emotions-right-why-its-not-that-simple. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Hendel, Hilary Jacobs. “Ignoring Your Emotions Is Bad for Your Health. Here’s What to Do About It.” Time, https://time.com/5163576/ignoring-your-emotions-bad-for-your-health/. Accessed 9 March 2022.


by Franchesca Alamo //

This piece was originally published in Issue 1: Secret Edition (Spring 2022). To see past print publications, click here.

The Sunday after it happened,
I walked seven blocks south
Where evening Mass was underway

And though I sat in the very back,
Something I never do,
I did not once remove my gaze
From the altar’s written icon

From Mary’s hands, soaked in Blood
Pouring from a diamond Wound
The Corpse, and the Cross
The Virgin shattered there

Who would not run away from that? I thought,
Who would not choose a bloodless love?

I returned to my apartment
Without my singing or my dreaming

And once there,
In the company of millions
I alone wept upon my feet.

I lose all willpower

by Kelly Anderson //

This piece was originally published in Issue 1: Secret Edition (Spring 2022). To see past print publications, click here.

Cake in the shower, in the driver’s seat
Buttercream on the seatbelt, playing on the radio
Cake on the bad days, cake on the Mondays
I can frost any cruel man in sprinkles
And light his advice on fire
Watch waxy smile liquefy
Happy birthday to me
As he explains how candles work

Yes, Please Give me Tips on how to be More Appealing to Men!

by Natalie Brennan //

Do you ever find yourself needing advice from the nearest man? Do you often wonder just how to appeal more to the male-gaze? Oh, but it is so hard to get any sort of advice from a man ever! Have you noticed just how incredibly hard it is to get their attention, and that accidentally looking at them, walking by them, or doing absolutely nothing at all often does not cut it?

If you aren’t considering your own desirability and its relation to your worth throughout the day, here’s your reminder to worry about it more!

Thankfully, you don’t even have to be looking for advice for it to be given to you. This was fortunately my case, as I returned from a day of studying at the Arts Library. Everything about my demeanor seemed incredibly approachable: whether it was the bags under my eyes, my backpack weighing down my shoulders, or my desire to take the world’s best nap. But of course, the one thought on my mind was how to appear more desirable to the next guy that enters my life. If you aren’t considering your own desirability and its relation to your worth throughout the day, here’s your reminder to worry about it more!

Returning to my dorm on this certain eve of a study session, I was more than delighted to find an unknown friend of a friend lounging around. I was even more delighted to hear him ask me if I had ever been to a fraternity house on campus. I was afraid that this question would result in nothing but small talk, so I of course did not try to escape to my room to avoid being asked any more questions about my weekend activities. I answered him honestly, and regretfully, that no, I had never been.

“But you’re a girl. Come with a group of you and you’ll always be let in.”

How interesting! I had, of course, never heard of any sort of ratio ideology before at these sorts of social events, and was hanging onto every word he was telling me. I appreciated the fashion advice he gave me too, sort of a “less is more” mentality. This was good because I never actually dress for myself, and only dress specifically to appeal to the male gaze. I’m glad he caught onto that. I informed him of my usual party attire, prioritizing my comfort, and then did not try to make a dash for the stairs to my room.

“Just be genuine. That’s how you pick up guys. Talk to them, a lot, and be genuine.”

REALLY? Was that the answer to this age old problem the whole time? Just be genuine? My mind had never been so blown open. How did he read my mind like that? I didn’t even have to tell him, and he knew exactly the question I was asking, the question that we all are wondering every second of the day. I just had to be genuine to appeal to men. What a piece of advice! This was so convenient, as of course my next move that night was to attend the nearest frat party, with all intentions now of being completely genuine.

It’s not everyday that you’re given such solid advice like that from a guy, unprovoked, while minding your own business!

I couldn’t thank him enough, nor did I have the words to express all of my gratitude, so I just silently walked up to my room, awestruck. It’s not everyday that you’re given such solid advice like that from a guy, unprovoked, while minding your own business! It’s certainly not a universal experience for any non-men out there. But I can’t help thinking of his advice any time I’m getting ready for any sort of function now. Just be genuine. Who could have thought of that one? I only wish I could have given him some advice in return.

Buying Clothes: It’s a Cinch

by Claire Mullen //

We’ve All Been There

Have you ever found yourself crying in the Kohl’s dressing room? Or trying on a heap of clothing and none of it works? These seem to be common struggles, but buying clothes as a woman is really easy. I really don’t see what people are complaining about. Let’s go over some aspects of the fashion industry and I’ll explain why what people are saying is nonsense:

We Don’t Need Pockets

For one thing, I am not at all bothered by the lack of functional pockets in women’s pants. Sometimes the pockets will be completely fake — just stitching to emulate a pocket — or the pockets will be so minuscule that they can’t hold anything except maybe one penny. As prestigious fashion designer Christian Dior once said, “Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration,” and he couldn’t have been more right. As women, we are far too fragile and dainty to carry our personal belongings ourselves– we need men to carry them for us.

Sizing Makes so much Sense

Sizing is so consistent and logical across all brands and stores. Sure, you may be a size small in one store, a 26 in another, and some stores have absolutely nothing that fits you properly. However, this, of course, is not a problem with the stores but with women instead. We are all made to be the same size; nothing beyond or in between. However, if you are on the hunt for an on-trend brand with a diverse range of sizes, Brandy Melville is your one-stop-shop. With sizes like “one size,” “oversized,” and absolutely nothing else, Brandy Melville accommodates all sizes and shapes of women and girls. 

Pleasing Men, Pleasing Men, and Pleasing Men

Last but certainly not least, are you worried about how other people will judge what you are wearing? Sure, that plain T-shirt and jeans may be comfy, but, most importantly, will it cater to the male gaze? Pleasing men in what we wear is very important; the male gaze must be satisfied. Women, of course, should never choose what they want to wear, whether that be a dress and heels, sweats with coffee stains on them, or a “Damn I look good” T-shirt because women’s opinions don’t matter.

Not So Easy After All?

In sum, with all these complicated rules, sizes, and expectations, finding clothes really is a cinch! The problem is, however, it’s only a cinch when you can completely change the meaning of “cinch” to something more like “arduous and simultaneously embarrassing.” Everyone needs clothes, so why does finding the right clothing have to be so difficult? If only the fashion industry could see that, then maybe clothes shopping would become less of a hardship and more of a delight.


by anonymous //

my ex-girlfriend told me
she wanted us to get back together.

how do i tell her i
didn’t just survive the breakup,
i thrived?

i didn’t grieve 
because i wasn’t experiencing a loss,
i didn’t cry
because there was nothing to be sad about;
i found great friends and a brand new job
i started studying for tests (and acing them)
i ate alongside my classmates (and enjoyed it)
i finally felt free (of her)

her, on the other hand,
she cried
every day,
all over her finsta
about how much she
loved me and
missed me and
hated me and
loved me;

how could she not?

i was the one who broke her heart.

i was the bad guy,
i was the one who said
“we need a break”

even though this is a breakup poem
and breakup poems are supposed to be written by the victim.

we were best friends first,
(as they always are)
the ones who unfailingly
texted “good morning” and “good night”
asked each other if our days went well
and comforted each other when they did not

we were an epic love story,
all of our friends were jealous
and they admired
us. we were going to last

until one day
in the middle of the summer
i woke up
feeling nothing for her
and the next day
and the next day
and the next

until i couldn’t just ignore it anymore,
it couldn’t just be something
in the back of my mind
pushed deep down because
i wanted us to remain:
in love?

we tried to remain best friends,
because how could you live without your best friend when
breaking up with your girlfriend?
but there’s something so wrong about
shit-talking your ex to your best friend
when your best friend is your ex,
and the boundaries between
girlfriend and
bestfriend had
blurred so much they were
impossible to untangle.

we were best friends first
until ‘we’ became ‘me’ and ‘her’
and ‘us’ became a chore because
‘we’ overstayed its welcome
and it was impossible to remain ‘best’ or ‘friends’ anymore, so

today, when 
my ex-girlfriend said
she wanted to get back together with me

i had to accept my fate
as the villain in our epic.

A Sad Girl’s Love Song

by Leio Koga //

Slyvia Plath left a literary legacy behind her, although her story is quite the tragedy. Plath was a brilliant student but struggled with severe mental illnesses from a young age. By the time she was 30, Plath was well-known in the literary community. She was known for her confessional style of writing and poetry; her pieces were described to intensely portray her mental anguish, volatile emotional state, troubled marriage, poor self-image, and unresolved conflict with her parents. Plath wrote some of her most famous pieces, including, “Daddy,” “The Bell Jar,” and “The Colossus,” during the worst mental state of her life. She fell into a deep depression and committed suicide when she was only 31. 

I was exposed to the power of Plath’s words when I first read “Mad Girl’s Love Song” during my senior year of high school. This poem is about someone who is going through heartbreak and suffering from mental health issues. The poem, though very abstract, clearly depicts the dangers of living within one’s mind all the time, especially when one’s thoughts are clouded by heartbreak and pain. Plath draws on the idea of how romance is not romantic at all. The way Plath writes, love is empty, unfulfilling, and possibly, all in one’s head. While she wrote this poem when she was just 20 years old, I could clearly see her internal, emotional turbulence of heartbreak and unrequited love. I wanted to recreate this poem as a reflection of the anguish and pure sadness that her words made me feel. 

A Sad Girl’s Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead

Trapped in a vision of the infinite ocean

The vicious waves of your love I tread 

The breeze whispers like a lover, but I was only mislead 

I am the waves undeniably drawn back into your deep, perilous sea 

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead 

Your anger is a storm—fast but calamitous— I always dread

Each time I mend my broken pieces just for your disaster to strike me again 

And leave my soul in shreds

God topples from the sky, hell’s waves rise and crash, and I hang on by a thread

But the raft tips over and I thrash, sob, curse your name  

I wish I made you up inside my head 

I fell for the way your surface sparkled, but instead

Your love was the world of secrecy underneath it 

Chained to an anchor, darkness consumed me whole but still, for you, my heart bled 

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead

Trapped in a vision of the infinite ocean 

And at the bottom is where you are, on a throne created from my tears of pain  

I wish I made you up inside my head

A College Student’s Pandemic Survival Guide for Staying in School

by Alice Kenny //

I want to start this piece by saying that this is supposed to be fun. 

The truth is that I have no idea how to do this. I don’t really have any secrets to dealing with all of the big and terrible things that have come with a global pandemic. I’m not sure that anyone really does at this point.  I can’t offer support to students who are struggling to pay for their classes, who are worried about having a safe place to live, who are stuck in jobs that endanger them, who are worried about getting sick or about sick friends and family members. I wish I could. The best I can do is to say that college is stressful. I don’t think anyone imagined this level of fear for our mental, emotional, and bodily safety going into it. But here are a few things I’ve learned after more than a year of doing this. 

  1. Get outside every day if you can

This is a big one. I don’t always honor this one myself, but that’s sort of how I know it’s a good one–because I definitely notice it when I don’t get outside during the day, and especially if I don’t for a couple of days. Ideally, I like to go for a run, talk a long walk or bike ride, or spend an afternoon in the sun with friends. However, I don’t always have the time or energy, so I sometimes make do with just literally stepping outside. Whatever the weather, I try to take myself outside, even if that just means being a few feet from my front door. It helps me feel more grounded. 

  1. Be kind to yourself

Treating yourself well is a good rule of thumb in general. But especially during a global health crisis, it’s helpful to try to remember that you are living through a global health crisis. If you procrastinate, or sleep in, or eat two boxes of mac and cheese in a row (not from personal experience), don’t judge yourself too harshly. Things are harder than usual, and therefore, you should be kinder to yourself. This thing isn’t over, and the longer it goes on, the greater the toll it takes, at least for me. Don’t forget to take care of yourself in the best way you can right now. 

  1. Make a schedule of your deadlines

Logistical tips can be sort of annoying, but this is one that I find to be super helpful. Whether it’s hard just getting by in your classes, or you’re thriving, it’s never a bad idea to make sure you know when your crunch weeks are well in advance. Especially now, I’m really grateful I have this protocol to follow. I’ve been having a hard time not procrastinating and staying on top of everything, but sticking to the bare minimum of getting my assignments done on time works well for me. I remind myself that things won’t be this hard forever, and I try to just hang in there. 

  1. Take advantage of Zoom University

Zoom U sucks. Pretty much everyone agrees. But just because it’s not ideal doesn’t mean there aren’t things about it that are kind of nice. I try to make myself a nice breakfast most mornings–and sometimes I do it while I’m in class (please don’t tell my professors). I can go for impromptu runs in the middle of the day with my housemates because I don’t have class, and it’s easy to just change into workout gear when you’re already at home. I’m taking classes with earlier start times than I normally would because on a bad day, I can take them from my bed. Yeah, this whole COVID thing is pretty awful, and it’s exhausting and scary and just really draining. But there are some silver linings if you’re a student right now, so try to take advantage of those while you can. 

However, this semester in particular, I’m also learning to give myself a break. Saturday afternoons have become my time where I just get cozy, drink tea, and watch a movie.

  1. Listen to your body 

The idea of listening to yourself may not seem very controversial, but I actually think it sort of is. University students, especially Cornell students like myself, are taught to push ourselves, to always give 110% to our assignments, to not procrastinate, and to manage our time well. We’re told that if we do all of these things, we’ll be successful. Honestly, in general, I haven’t found that to be untrue. I do strive to do all of those things. However, this semester in particular, I’m also learning to give myself a break. Saturday afternoons have become my time where I just get cozy, drink tea, and watch a movie. There are days where I stay in my pajamas all day. I’m not saying you should procrastinate, or shouldn’t work on your time management, because I do think those practices can be very helpful for dealing with stress and improving your mental health, but don’t let them work against you by beating yourself up when you “waste” a few hours watching Netflix in bed. 

  1. Put on an outfit

This one is short. Get dressed. It doesn’t have to be every day, but for some reason, showering, getting ready like I’m leaving the house, and putting fresh clothes on makes a huge difference. I highly recommend giving this a try if you’re having a tough day, week, or year. 

  1. Curate your space

Another simple suggestion. As college students, dorm rooms are supposed to be these temporary spaces where we sleep. They’re usually not really built for hanging out in. Everyone always says don’t study where you sleep–but, obviously, that’s all changed now. I started out my academic year in a room the size of a closet. I don’t live in a dorm, but most students aren’t living in the most luxurious of accommodations in general. Still, it’s helpful to recognize that you spend a lot of time at home, or in your room. Find ways to make the space work for you–putting up a new poster, buying some ambient lighting, picking wildflowers, getting essential oils, a humidifier, or whatever makes your space more appealing to you. 

Everyone else in the world is going through this, even if our experiences are different.

  1. Talk to friends and family

You’re not alone out there. Everyone else in the world is going through this, even if our experiences are different. Keep in touch with people that bring you comfort so you can support each other. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out to old friends you haven’t talked to in a while, or people you want to get closer to. 

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others

We’re all in this together, but we’re not all going through the same thing. Don’t imagine your circumstances are identical to everyone else who seems to be thriving. They may be struggling in ways you can’t see, or maybe they’re doing great. But that doesn’t mean you need to be doing great, too. COVID impacts people in different ways depending on circumstances, background, resources. If you’re scrolling through social media, don’t feel bad that you haven’t learned a new language or found a new best friend in the past year. Just try to be okay with where you are without making a comparison. 

  1. Mask up!

Lastly, put on a mask. We all just want this to be over, and being careful now means that we can start thinking about a time when we don’t all have to be wearing masks all the time; they may be annoying, but the annoyance is a small price to pay to protect the health and safety of our communities.

Glass Ceilings Shattered

by Maria Siciliano //

First woman to… is all you hear as glass shards fall to the floor. 
Trailblazing, innovating, and mold-breaking
Are the womxn who shatter glass ceilings
And stand in places never stood in by womxn before. 
And the womxn who defend, uphold, and guard their worth,
Are the same ones in living rooms and at dinner tables
Listening to the not qualified…deserving…capable…
Always there to pick up the glass shards, found scattered on the floor. 
First Female, Black, and South Asian-American 
Madam Vice President, Kamala Harris
“We not only see what has been, we see what can be”
But just not her…people don’t like her
And we forge on, gathering up the pieces – we are not held back anymore. 
First Female to officiate a Super Bowl
NFL Official, Sarah Thomas
“Now that’s how you tackle a glass ceiling”
She made absolutely terrible calls…
Onwards, but watch where you step. 
Both trailblazing and glass-ceiling-breaking 
Are the womxn who lead the way.
And we pick up the shards and follow close behind
To leave a safe path, for all womxnkind.