Moss (Photo by James Qualtrough)

Writing, photography, and more from the Jeanette Sarkisian Wagner Teen Wrinting Workshop at the John Jermain Memorial Library

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Welcome to Moss

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Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories, and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole, he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.

We used this first page from Cannery Row as inspiration to capture our town of Sag Harbor. See some of the work that resulted.

Untitled by Alex Kamper

Welcome to Sag Harbor. Seep down Main Street, past historically hollow street signs and golems that crush and deflate like silk scarves. Allow yourself to be hung on the clothesline or pretend your body is the leg hair blowing, garment-drying wind. Buy a coffee from a friendly face that knows your name and what you did last night. In the summer allow your hand to reach for the ignition and migrate to the beach – lost but always spotted in the metal buffalo herd. Walk through neighborhoods and fall so in love with what was that you don’t know how to live in what is. Put your lips around paper and inhale the resentment of adolescent ancestors. You were never young, and you won’t be old until you’re down at Oakland. Stare at windows you’d rather be staring through. Number 27. A brown shingled erection. A black market, a castle, and a cathedral.

Child of the Oceans by Nick Banks

The gentle tug of a child’s arm on his mother’s.
the wet spray of his cry
like brine in flight.

his hugs, a comforting warmth in the sun.
his breath, a sea breeze, tracing its caress across me.
foamy locks curve across my forearm
cawing of a gull’s choked cries in the rain.

Untitled by Nick Banks

A flicker across our grinning faces
bombarded by violence.
the screaming
the scratching
the aching.

All that hate must go somewhere.

Contorted faces of anguish
our bodies hung on invisible hooks
puppeteered by menacing shadows.

The House Across the Street by Hope Taglitch

On the street I grew up on, there were oak trees the sunshine would flicker across, so gloriously in the summertime they would be scorched red when autumn came. One of these oaks resided in the sea-sized shade of some lady who lived across the road from us, a crone of trifling memory whose name escapes me. I will not attempt to chase it.
I don’t really remember her, but I do remember hearing stories about her. She was said to have loved dogs and hated people, especially, as my dad liked to remind us, children. But apparently, he forgot all about our reclusive neighbor’s intense dislike of singing and laughter and all things remotely pleasant the day me, my three sisters, and about ten friends were playing “Tickle Tickle Tee” with Dad on the trampoline.
“Tickle Tickle Tee” involved jumping aimlessly about like fireflies released from a jar. Dad would be butt-bouncing and crushing our hopes of balance the second his toes hit the ground, pushing us and tickling us with all his might. Dad was a strong, decibel-disconscious New Yorker whom my mother at once adored and resented.
She never showed up on the trampoline to play Tickle Tickle Tee with us. Her place was more in ordering the pizzas we’d be devouring in mass quantities at the end of the day.
Anyway, this obscure neighbor of ours showed up, her frizzy bottle-red hair visible through the tops of our cracked old picket fence. And she screeched words that I’ll never forget, words that define most of my dad’s life to this day:

Bikes by Chance Sevigny

I can’t discern our passing scorn

Whether the road, the blacktop worn
Was cause for any silent plight

And also, in their patent rage
The man, or men who wrote this page
Which deserved the mantle ‘right’

And now I walk, not speed, nor drift
Across an inclined ocean cleft
And startle at a passing noise

And even if well-wishers taunt
Or a scarred panthera haunts
I know these bikes weren’t made for boys

Musical Awakening

By Gabrielle Gardiner

“To us?” he offered with a heartwarming smile that complimented his deeply tanned wrinkles. “To us,” I replied definitively, grinning as I lifted my narrow champagne glass to clink his ever so gracefully. As we sipped and gazed out at the glistening bay, listening to the subtle chatter of people nearby enjoying their meals, I couldn’t help but think of how lucky I was to be celebrating the achievement of my lifelong dream with my best friend.

You see, a decade ago, I would have thought you were crazy if you told me that my father and I would ever have such a close relationship. Because to be honest, before my father sent me away, I never really knew him. Throughout my childhood, my mom had always been my hero. Back then I had only seen my dad as a workaholic; the picture-perfect businessman straight from the offices of Wall Street who cared more about his career than his family. I remember constantly wondering why my mother had fallen in love with such a boring, serious man when she was his polar opposite.

I’ll always remember the time my mother and I built a tree house together when I was just seven years old. It’s still at the edge of the property where I grew up, weathered from years of Pennsylvania precipitation. As an adventurous second grader with a sky wide imagination, I had begged my parents for my own hideaway among the canopy of branches in our cherry blossom tree. My father originally said he would install one, but the weeks passed and his excuses only became more pathetic. So one weekend when my father was away, my mother and I set to work ourselves, piecing the tree house together, plank by plank. As simple as it sounds, it’s one of my fondest remembrances. To this day, my father still lives in our large house on that property, which is so rich with memories of her.

My mother had been everything to me, so when I heard the news of her death as (more…)

Looking up

By Emma Brannen

You don’t need someone to tell you it’s okay
You don’t need the sun to brighten up your day,
Don’t need valentines to know that you are loved,
All you need’s the smile you keep inside your heart,

Don’t need to be asleep to make your dreams come true,
Don’t need to see the world
To know your home will follow you,
Don’t need your medicine to make the pain subside

Cuz laughter cures it every time… so
Hold your head up high
You’ll always find the sky,
Though it may take a little time,
It’s never easy to plant the seeds and make them grow,
Gotta fail sometimes to finally know,
Give it time to let your garden grow

Don’t let your self be taken over by your fears,
Don’t need your fairytales to make the evil disappear,
Don’t let your problems base the way you live your life,
The grass is greener on your side.

The Spirit of Resistance

By Jake Merrell

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.–Thomas Jefferson

Occupy Wall Street is entering its fifth week of resistance, and the press has had its fun. I know there were Communists there, but it feels like Fox News missed the end of the Cold War. How did we ever come to dub protest class warfare? What makes students feel free to hold a publically-announced meeting solely to ridicule the protesters, at the decided exclusion of liberals? These are lessons from Political Maneuvering 101—check out Nixon’s campaign against Jerry Voorhis—but we can’t keep relying on ideological rhetoric to make our decisions for us. Communists aren’t just the old enemy of Capitalism; they’re the classic sign of deteriorating economies. That feels infinitely more interesting than the observation that hippies attend protests. But it’s not just the media that likes to overreact. Look at our own school; with mention of a dedicated anti-liberal Conservative Club, we should be concerned about how the dialogue of politics is playing out. I checked out the protests with friends last weekend expecting to find it an interesting case of ineffective resistance, but found my presumption to be way off the mark. So we have to be open conversationalists, and here’s where we’ll start.

Let’s take this seriously. Students like us are at an age where we can’t help but demonize as soon as we can criticize. So we have to drop any preconceived notions we might have about the potheads in Zucotti Park (the same potheads enforce a stricter drug and alcohol policy than Taft). Paul Gilding, an Australian environmentalist and author, would say that the decline of the economy is the result of pressing up against the limits of economic expansion. According to Gilding, we are entering a “Great Disruption” where ruthless economic growth has coupled with a weakening democratic process in such a manner that is unsustainable and self-destructive. And as the fuse on Wall Street burns, where (more…)

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Photo by Emma Brannen


Girl with black sneakers and blue flower ring sitting on grass in front of wooden fence.

Click to see larger.