Iron Cages

Helplessness is a state of mind

In which no man can ever find

A state of assurance, large or small,

Yet he desires to conquer it all.

Helplessness can consume you; devour you

In whatever you try your hardest to do.

You want every mountain to move,

And by this thing to prove

That you can succeed, then rest.

But all is hindered by helplessness.


The Bold, the Black, and the Broken Octaves

It lazes on the music stand, dangling its

Feet, laughing heartily at its ability to

Frighten me. Another day waltzes past,

And another potential practice session drops

Shamelessly into the black pit that beams with many

Similar days. My hands feel dry and stiff–

A physical reminder plowing through my mental barricades

That tell me practicing is optional—a mere choice,

Just like eating or setting out on a jog.

The score, ferocious in all its presto-filled

Glory, lies open atop the piano, emitting

Vibrations of guilt each time I saunter past.

Oh, the respect it demands of each of its

Victims… its willing, frighteningly obsessed



A foreigner to her homeland, she tingles with anticipation over the fact that she stands seconds away from her first step into the culture that she always believed she would love. Today, she will finally touch the country that her parents call home—her home that she has never known. Having spend the entirety of her eighteen years buried deep in the heart of Eastern Europe, she has grown up having traditions without roots, foods her mother prepares that have no place in the culture around her, and a sense of wonder at why her parents would remove her from the home that they constantly speak of and seem to love. Her birthplace no longer remembers her; it has been sixteen years since she left, and she spent her childhood never knowing why it has be so. Her life has left her suffocating under the weight of dueling worlds under one roof.

Clutching a small, black carry-on by the handles, she steps gently over the plane’s threshold into the jet way, taking care that her long, tan winter coat is properly aligned with her coordinating dress. She pulls her shoulders back, adding height to her naturally tall and slender build, and raises her head with the confidence that proceeds her every step. Her short, butterscotch hair falls at a flawless angle around her collar as she gets closer and closer to stepping out into the chilly embrace of a wintry New York City.

She inhales, prepared and determined to make this place her own, having thought about the arrival and upcoming adjustment for months. Though change had always been her enemy, she was convinced that the timing reigns ideal for what she believes will be the anecdote—a life brimming with answers, which is the only way her parched questions may be quenched.

L a n e y

Finally–a school small enough where she can get the long sought after attention she believes she deserves. Of course, she is proficient in what she does, but all perspectives considered, she is spectacular neither academically nor in outward appearance. Her world is her music. This is her isolation, her turmoil, and her scrumptious success, all rolled into one glorified sphere. Her music lessons began at the young age of seven, and ever since she breathed out her first scale, people around her have been telling her of her great talent and success. She could do whatever she wanted, she was told. Although with the lift of a finger she could have become the CEO of a major corporation or ran for senator, the humble career of a music teacher was what she chose to bless with her efforts. Like so many countless others, her inspiration–her main motivation for pursuing her heart’s yearning–was her fifth grade music teacher, who even now holds a place of high esteem in her heart.

She is a senior now, about to accept a position as an assistant band director at a high school renowned for its music program. With this realization ever-present in her mind that has brought her so much success, she, with her caring and born-to-be-teacher heart, observes the younger college students floating helplessly around her. At once she decides to take pity on them and bless their searching little souls with her guidance and attention. All things considered, she IS the role model to which all of her music teachers will make references for years to come. Additionally, she began formatting her own private lessons after her first semester, telling her teacher in which areas she would enjoy improving. Soon after this, she began selecting her own etudes and warm-up routines based on her intense yet casual research.

Her complaints rely on how much time she labors in the practice room each day. She takes on each new trial and difficult passage with a stoic, impenetrable expression and knows that no matter how much time it robs from her, she WILL succeed. Because she is undefeatable.


Each day arises and melts away as easily as ice on a warm, hard floor. With every new day she remains the same—stationary, willing herself to move, yet comfortable with the way life has found her. The classroom where she spends numerous hours of her day welcomes her first and foremost out of all the other students, for she is always early to class, afraid to miss any new development that may desire her attention. Soon, though, her fellow students begin to arrive, chatting freely and laughing about the latest and funniest YouTube videos. She tilts her neck toward them, hoping to share in their conversation, as if a simple smile their direction might motivate them to summon her to come over and laugh with them. She turns in her chair and faces their way, but no one manages to catch her gaze.

The lecture begins like clockwork, as it does each morning at 9:30 when the instructor, who seems never to be in a hurry, meanders into the room. Literature classes always follow the promptest of schedules. T.S. Eliot is the subject of today’s meeting. A quarter of the way through class, the instructor begins rationing out portions of the late great author’s poems to be read out loud. She sits the furthest away from the first reader, but finally her turn arises like a wave in the ocean.

Clearing her throat briefly, she glances down again at the words on the page that her eyes have already skimmed over at least five times–just to ensure that no mispronunciation is committed. She begins reading her seven lines aloud and consciously forces some sense of emotion into her voice as the words dive out of her mouth. Her voice quivers, and her eyebrows weaken when she raises them in order to assist in her understanding of the passage. In addition to the slight quivering her voice betrays, her words sound like she is speaking them in a hollow cave. The effect is not alarming, but subtle, as if a layer of cotton lines her tongue. This, however, is her smallest concern, and a small concern it is indeed.

She keeps an eye out for the finger that she’s placed carefully at the end of her last line incase she accidentally reads too far. Decreasing her words per minute, she reaches at long last the final syllable and breathes a silent sigh of relief that the task is finished.