Skip to main content

Northern Lights Journal 2024 Issue

About the Cover

This year's cover image is "Extricate" by UWGB-Marinette campus student Katy Clifton. The piece was created with acrylic paint on gessoed canvas. Katy is a two-peat cover artist, as her piece "Lashing Out" was also chosen through our blind submission process as the 2023 Northern Lights cover.

Katy is pursuing an Art major and an Education minor. She says, "I like to explore mental illness, the effects of domestic violence, and other related issues in my work as a way to cope with my own struggles. I hope to bring awareness to such issues and share my story through my work."

2024 Contributors

Welcome to the 2024 issue of the Northern Lights Journal! Meet the people behind the curtain, including the staff who put the journal together and the writers and artists who've shared their creative work with the world.

See Contributors

Digital Bonus Content

The “Digital Bonus Content” section of the Northern Lights website includes our editors’ favorite submissions that didn’t fit into the print edition. The site also features digital-only pieces, like Ginger Knauer and Cheyenne Schreiner’s feminist, riotgrrrl-inspired zine “Call Out the Bullshit”.

See Digital Bonus Content

Untitled Art: Victoria Stock

—© 2024 by Victoria Stock

Simmer Pots

I grew up with simmer pots.
The smell of cinnamon and citrus warm in the air
The sunlight through the windows
Transformed by colored glass bottles on the windowsill.
I was surrounded by chunks of crystals and stone.
I was gifted tarot cards and poppets by the time I was 10.
I was taught to keep money in my windows to bring in good fortune.
To sprinkle red pepper at your door to keep away unwelcomed guests.
That witches were more than Halloween costumes.
The misunderstood people who dotted history
I envied the other kids and their hallmark homes.
Their buildings of worship of wood and stained glass
Where I was taught to revere the trees
To worship the forest
As a teen, I pulled away from this life.
Wanting the feeling of everyone else
To camouflage myself as a chameleon among my peers
Stuffing the cards and stones to the back of my broom closet
Resisting the urge, suggest herbal remedies in conversation.
But as I got older, the simmer pots pulled me back.
My grandmother told me the hearth was the heart of the family.
As she pointed to the old metal pan on the stove
The smell of cinnamon and citrus warm in the air
“It will always help you find your way home.”

—© 2024 by Shonda Robb


—© 2024 by Lauren Wachtendonk

Breathless for You

Rush past me again
Nothing could ever stop you
Out the door like wind

—© 2024 by Chloe Smith

A Mother's Mom

I heard my mom cry the other night. She cried a child's cry: one
that children cry when they ask for their mother's to console every
tear that they shed from their wet, puffy eyes.

I heard mom cry that night, sobbing uncontrollably and drowned
in her own tears that may have flown at a swift pace down her
tan, and what I could have imagined, an unrested face. But you
know what the interesting thing is, you never want to confront
your parents at face level when they're crying; it'd be hard for you
to share empathy, much less cry with them, too. You'd stare off
into the blank distance, while a stream uncomfortable warmth
flows through the entirety of your body, and to no surprise, you're
scrambling for words to gap the discomfort.

Hearing is different from seeing. It allows you to soak in
the emotions that your ears are exposed to and forces your mind
to sketch out an image that displays your parents in the moment
of their despair and vulnerability. Your sense of sympathy proves
stronger when you hear mom and dad liberate any set of unhappy
emotions-and for a minute-you cry with them.

Mom cried for her mom that night, cried for her to come back to
console her grief in a time of hardship, asking God to bring her
back from the dead to spend overdue quality time together. She
groaned the words "Mommy" and "Why won't you come back?"; the
words "I'm sorry" immediately find their place at the wrong time.

Mom didn't have mom to hold her that night and no words of
comfort came her way. And if my sketch was accurate. Only a thin
blanket, a box of Kleenex, and a crusted picture frame on the cof-
fee table coddled her to sleep.

—© 2024 by Bruce Kong


—© 2024 by Katy Clifton

Born Without Warmth

Birthed human, cold-blooded
Creature out of the baking womb
By undecided conception.

I live without warmness,
Heart chugging liquid to fuel
Thermal iceolation.

Artificial is all I've managed,
Over the heat register I loom,
Raise my body's sensation.

Heat has lacked from life since
As void of love and heat will doom
I who only wants a companion.

—© 2024 by Samantha Landvick

Author's note:
Inspired by Riley from CAD
Always a cold person, finds comfort in anything that gives
warmth, used to lay on heat register


—© 2024 by Aspen Hirschberg

Death-Head Summer

Whip me to the winds and taste the aether
Wring out the quintessence and make it ingestible
Like a feel-good drag, I want you to hold it in and savor my intent
Dripping with sky-blue-pink and Midnight purple as I crash-land into
your blood stream
The synapse makes your starry eyes go supernova

Cut from different cloth but wrapped in the same blanket
I saw the dew condense on your tent
I saw dead leaves dance in your honor
I saw the frost make masterpieces on your windshield
I saw lilacs and trilliums bloom in your presence

Like a Luna moth fluttering on the edge of Summer
Helplessly addicted to the lumens of your Strawberry Moon
I liquefied upon impact
Just another tinea lost in the Night-Dance
I couldn't resist this collision

—© 2024 by Mike Fugate

Ice is Melting

—© 2024 by Grace Marquardt

Much Much More

I saw my reflection in a puddle
murky and low
robbed of light
It was someone I didn't want to know
created by tears and absent of flow
I looked up at the clouds and decided it was
time to let go
I gave up the dream of being less than low
and with one last cry
I wiped away my tears and said no more
I untwisted my limbs and struck the mud
down below
promising myself
I'd be much, much more

—© 2024 by Warren Miller

Lament of the Wrongfully Accused

Accusations fall upon my head,
Make a murderer out of me,
On false witnesses, by the tyrants lies,
No alibi can spare me from my inevitable demise,
Grim, as it is, I am sent away
Usher in the cold starlit void;
Strum the heartstrings unnaturally;
Soon, they will learn from their mistake: the
Unnatural hunter still haunts these halls,
Scarlet, as profound as blood

—© 2024 by Vanessa Stalvey

Untitled Photo 1: Kana Koonce

—© 2024 by Kana Coonce

The Other Mother

—© 2024 by Layla King

I Said I Loved You but I Lied

I said I loved you but I lied
Tears streaking from the sun
Couldn't help it when you cried

Blue skies, melancholy eyes
Humming guitars said you were the one
I said I loved you but I lied

Maybe I should've never tried
Fears hunting me like Orion
Couldn't help it when you cried

Dreamed of years of you beside
Hated you for not wanting to run
I said I loved you but I lied

My feelings buried deep inside
Organs saying we're done
I couldn't help it when you cried

You desired to be my bride
My moon added up to none
I said I loved you but I lied
Couldn't help it when you cried

—© 2024 by Chloe Smith

Female Changes

—© 2024 by Aubrey Laux

To All the Things I Didn't Do

I have imagination
I am just not attempting
I have no inclination
So nothing is too tempting

I lack the motivation
That is needed to create
I have the innovation
I just can't substantiate

Not too much deviation
in the quite conventional
I need initiation
I need the intentional

There is some indication
Of my major undoing
I have no dedication
And that is my wrongdoing

The predetermination
I have no destination
A huge abomination
With no imagination

—© 2024 by Alkimie Andrews


—© 2024 by Tiffany Jablonowski


You who bathed in sunlight had been
waxed in luminosity
Dipped and glazed
to be presented as perfect
from afar everything was
The brilliance of you
like many others
was but forgotten amongst many
Fragility concealed underneath
hiding any and all blemishes
engulfed all of you
suddenly there was a crack
destroying all but the sugary shell
Crumbs that were unsalvageable
stuck and sticky
The bits and pieces you left shimmered in my hand
Its jagged edges cut deep
Radiance eclipsed the scars
as I bled
It seeped deep
and deeper
As if to preserve itself
Prevent you from dying out
me from saying good-bye

—© 2024 by Shia Chang

Untitled Photo: Alexis Jordan

—© 2024 by Alexis Jordan

We Are Gardeners

The world is a forest.
A vast forest.

We are all gardeners,
cultivating the oaks and the firs
We must work together
For we, have a forest of plants to spur

In this vast forest,
In this game of misplaced trust,
Some have tools,
But typically play by the rules
Some have no aid
And are meant to stay afraid

Some pull the weeds from their roots
and nurture the fruits
Some hack at the evergrowing leaves
Some sit on the sidelines and watch ...
as others chop at the beautiful trees
They debauch
They corrupt
The trees that are underdeveloped

Our gardening could be an easy task
But for some, that is too much to ask
For they chose to ignore those, who bleed

Why ignore those in need?

Those in pain
Those who are chained
Those who cry to be freed,
but instead, they bleed

Their blood
it floods
Cascading around the world,
Shrouding it in gore,
in anguish,
in fear.
Fear of the weak,
making the land bleak

In this vast forest,
We must converge,
We must merge
To pull roots of this weed
Together we may be freed

Some think our claims are baseless
Some think it is hopeless

But we must not hesitate
when we look at a forest this vast
We are all teammates
We must remain steadfast

—© 2024 by Alkimie Andrews

Forests of Absorption

—© 2024 by Kira Ashbeck

The Winter-Winded Lights

Dear Nina,
          There is a moment when you look straight down upon the fragile peaks. Where the clouds look like a carpet of snow beneath you. You think for a moment that you can stand on them, that when you do, they'll make a crunching noise, reassuring you that they packed themselves down to support you.
          I must say, after each following step on the climbing peaks, I stare down and wonder when you had made it this high, did you look down? Questioned if you had let go, that the powder of clouds may catch you? Or did you keep soaring upwards, with the hope that you would see the lights?
          I took a long exhale as the air made a fog from my mouth; the warmth was barely as comforting as your loving embrace. Then, I turned back, gloves on the slippery stone, and pulled upwards. Regardless of how numb my fingers may have become, I still moved upwards.
          Did you know the locals have named their home based on this mountainside? They call it Shalindeer, home of the crumbling peaks. Not to worry you, but the stones on these mountains are fickler than your bread-making abilities.
          Even as I climbed the lower parts of the mountain, I was left bound from grapple point to grapple point to hold on as the stones deteriorated in my hands. Now, I look up, a few minutes from the peak, and I now know why you wanted me to come here. I take another step and reach the final ledge. The snow parts as my fingers prowl for something to latch onto. Then, with a stretch, I feel a sharp stone. I take one last breath, and with you in my heart, and my goal in my mind, I leap up, forcing myself over the ledge, and rolling onto my back. 
          I open my eyes, and the stars stare back. In that moment my love, I had done it. 
          I climbed the peaks like you had asked me to do so. Though, as you may assume, my quest is not yet complete. I find myself kneeling, my metal boots digging into the inch of powder beneath my feet. I flick open my leather bag and throw on the cape you made me. Even if it was old, you still made it with love.
          I threw the brown fabric over my breastplate, the fur collar warming my neck. Then, with a step forward, I found myself looking down over the lake.
          It was a frozen wasteland. The blue ice now covers the water that was collected in its basin. The wind howled at me, and only for a moment did I worry it was a wolf. The earth itself seemed to want in, as it spiraled down into the icy center. There was not a monster in sight, as the stars continued to illuminate the skies.
          I shall admit, dear. The excitement may have gotten to me, as I had left my bag on the ground and ran off. Though, if what you wrote was true, then how could one not be intrigued?
          As I drew near, I felt the air thicken, as the wind began to blow in a warm fashion, not hot, but not freezing to the touch. To put it in lighter words, it seemed that I was at the heart of the mountain as if the icy lake was the hearth of the mountain's home.
          I decided to sit before descending too fast, as after all, I came to see the sight. Being too close may be dangerous, but too far would ruin all spectacle. 
          Then, as the brightest star in the sky stood overhead, I watched as the wind blew in. I may not know why it happened, but the snow from beneath me blew straight off, as if a gust of wind blew it towards the center.
          I stood shocked, as I had not felt any chill at all, but as the slow flew, it began to spin around the center of the lake. Each particle had its own motion, each flake, its own dance. They parted around the center as they twinkled in the starlight.
          Before I knew it, I was watching a whirlwind of sparkles, one tame, and alluring. As each piece moved, I too found myself among them. I imagined them singing, like our girls do. They would hum their fine tune, or a jolly one as they were indeed dancing. Or perhaps they were jumping, like when Dwyn blesses us with rain. Where we as a family would go out and hope through puddles like frogs, cause we knew we could be.
          Then, from the corner of my eye was the signal you wrote. A single star, stretching across the night sky in a semi-pink light. It glimmered as you said, but not even that could describe its beauty. It was like taking the ink-colored sky and painting it with color. Since the second it passed, the stars in the sky began to change. They glowed in all shades, like a festival of colors. In that moment I saw the world beyond ours. A sight I wished you had shared.
          Then, the blowing wind whistled, as the snow before me began to shine. Not that of a sparkle, but of light itself. They turned from their white to an array of bright colors. Their purples and greens, their blues, and their reds. I found myself on my toes as they expanded. They spread past me, as they surged upwards in their memorizing patterns.
          I stepped back and stared up at the rings of light around me, the color and the sights nearly hypnotizing me. Then, as a gale blew up from beneath the ice, they soared and blasted out into the starry night sky. They formed waves upon waves of colored light. A gradient of color across a black and white page that was the night.
          Now seeing their beauty, I knew why the locals called it such an event. They called it the "Winter-Winded Lights," for it was when the gods themselves decided that the night should no longer be black and white. For years they never disturbed the peaks, but I did it for you. You always wanted to come here yourself.
          The colors stretched beyond anything that you could have said, and I assure you, when our daughters are capable, I shall take them to see it. If nothing else shall come from today, let it be known that I saw it, my love. That I have left you to rest there. I love you with all my heart, and our daughters will know your sacrifice. Until then, pray it be that the lights guide you home.

-The Diary of Pinto Kindenberry

—© 2024 by Brady Hurst

Giant Steps

—© 2024 by Tiffany Jablonowski

Untitled Photo 2: Jordan

—© 2024 by Alexis Jordan


The bell is ringing-
          we are still alive
as they sustain us with seeds
but soon the moon will be passing the sun
while rat-faced girls and corn-fed boys
          mouths full of fat and gristle,
               chests arched self-amorous—
will stand in awe of themselves for
all they've accomplished

They will have forgotten, of course,
          too busy curating the story to save face—
these are lives and legacies
Unfortunate, they'll nod—
sell what you can—trash the rest

armies with armfuls of bindings no one cares about
except we few who stare at the sun without shades
just to feel our retinas rage—
to respond to something other
than the bullshit of choking down more disdain
in the smile and swallow it
amid sips of urushi—
sumac's slow poison
staving off scavengers

when the seeds disappear
when the water dries
when the last of life is consumed
as the body morphs
as the skin sinks
as the organs die

In the dark,
the bell has stopped ringing.

—© 2024 by Roshelle Amundson

Untitled Photo 2: Kana Koonce

—© 2024 by Kana Koonce

While Driving Through Texas

While driving through Texas, my dad and I happened upon a natural masterpiece.

18 wheels below us, clear skies above us, and nothing but the road for miles. Looking out the window, I saw scores of flowers in the untouched land beside the road. Among the grass, spots of yellow, red, and white abounded, as if placed by a master artist. A swath of blue flowers, taller than the rest, gently bobbed in the wind, giving the appearance of a river.

At a rest stop, we ceased observing the tapestry to become a part of it. The sounds of natural Texas sprang to our ears, much like the grasshoppers in the field. The size of small birds, they glided through the air on gilded wings as I ran beside them. The Texas sun soon forced us back to the truck, and back on our way, but a part of me still remains there.

—© 2024 by Edward Castillo

Untitled Photo: Matthew Freitag

—© 2024 by Matthew Freitag

A Bigfoot Tale

          My dad is known to over-exaggerate stories, so when he told me of an encounter he had with Bigfoot, I laughed. Until I too came face to face with the creature.
          My dad is from Everett, Washington and camped a lot in the mountains when he was my age. Depending on the situation, my dad is either a hard-ass or a total wuss. He can't stand needles or the sight of blood but when he is stung by wasps (which he is deathly allergic to) he could not care less. So, when he told me he saw Bigfoot and he seemed so nonchalant about it, I just brushed it off as one of his many tall tales. Like the time he escaped from police on a motorcycle. Every time he tells the story, he tells a new version. He swerved in and out of traffic, he hid, and so on. Every ending is the same though; he got away, of course. Or the time he was alone in his family's basement and heard footsteps behind him and a hand on his shoulder. When he looked back, no one was there. I can't help but roll my eyes when he tells these stories. You know Dale from King of the Hill? Yeah, that's my dad. An orange-haired, blue-collar, chain-smoking conspiracy theorist. So, you can see why I didn't believe him.
          My grandparents still lived in Everett and my brother, my dad and I flew to visit them. It was my grandpa's birthday, and he was OLD old, born in 1934, so we needed to go see him before he kicked the bucket. My brother, Joey, begged my dad to go camping in the mountains of Washington like he used to. My dad is stubborn and when he makes up his mind, you have to beg. Joey has his ways. If you want our dad to change his mind, you have to guilt trip him. And that's what he did.
          Even though he was a supposed Christian, my dad's favorite words were Jesus Christ and Goddammit.
          "Jesus Christ, Joey! You know I don't want to go out there!"
          "Why not? We never go camping! Please, Dad, please."
          "Goddammit, Joey. Fine."
          So we started packing our backpacks to go spend the night in the mountains of some Snohomish County trail. Water bottles, snacks, a tent, sleeping bags, a compass, a map. The common camping supplies. Then, we started the drive to the trail my dad had his encounter at.
          My dad had hiked almost every trail in Snohomish County so when we finally got there, I trusted him when he began to lead the way. 
          "So, remind us of what happened out here with Bigfoot."
          Dad glared daggers at Joey, but he took any opportunity to tell his tall tales, so he started talking.
          "A group of my buddies and I were up here on this trail. It must've been about '83, '84. So, I was your age. There was no one out there but us, we had hiked a little off the trail and we were pretty secluded."
          The leaves crunched under my feet as I struggled to catch up with the equally tall Dad and Joey. My short legs ran instead of walking like them.
          "Anyways, we were getting ready to sleep for the night when we heard this scream, right across the river from us. Maybe 40, 50 feet away. It sounded like a woman screaming."
          "What did you do?"
          "I looked out of the tent, but it was so dark. I couldn't see anything. But I could smell this horrible, rancid, rotten smell." 
          The last time he told this story, he saw glowing red eyes.
          I stopped to readjust my heavy backpack and pulled the hat I wore tighter over my cold ears. I looked ahead and to my horror, I couldn't see Joey or our dad. My heart started racing and I began to breathe shallowly, as I watched my breath vapor form a cloud and disappear.
          "Dad! Joey!" I yelled.
          I looked around anxiously, walking in circles. The flowing river blocked any noise from being heard. I was panicking and I felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks. Fuck ... I'm alone and lost in the fucking mountains. I had no experience with mountains. Wisconsin has no mountains. I did have experience with the woods, though.
          I wiped the tears off my face and pulled the backpack off my shoulders. I unzipped it and searched for the map and compass. I pulled both out and laid the map flat out on the ground. I knew where I was, thankfully, and where we were going.
          I can do this... I can do hard things. I held the map and compass in my hands, and I started walking. I knew it was about an hour's hike from where we started to where we decided we were going to set up camp.
          Crunch. Snap.
          The once noisy forest suddenly went silent. I whipped my head around and my eyes came directly into contact with two other eyes. I screamed. These weren't my brother's eyes, or my dad's eyes. These were Bigfoot eyes.
          A huge figure was standing right next to a tree. It was hairy, and I mean HAIRY. Dark brown hair covered the thing from head to toe. It was still looking straight at me, as if it was looking into my soul. I felt like I was going to puke.
          I started to step backwards, away from the creature. The creature stood in one spot, very still, looking into my eyes. I was usually good at making eye contact, but I had to look away.
          "Ginger! Ginger!" A familiar voice yelled, and I turned around to see my brother and dad. I breathed out in relief. Thank you, God...
          "Look, look!" I turned back around and pointed, but the figure was gone.
          "What? What is it?" Joey asked, as he whipped his head around to see where I was pointing.
          "Oh my god, Bigfoot! It was just there!" I exclaimed in exasperation, putting my hands in the air.

—© 2024 by Ginger Knauer

Untitled Art: Morley Remitz

—© 2024 by Morley Remitz

On Soulmates, Love, and That Stupid Box

When I was seventeen I wrote you for a year,
and I put the envelopes in a box and
forgot about them.
(I don't remember what they say anymore.)
I stopped believing in soulmates after that.
Next were the dog days, the gentle erasure,
mornings spent squinting in a sun too bright—
the months slipping through my fingers like
small pieces of crisped-up leaves.
Four long years in the desert,
running circles around myself—
as if that could make the time go by any faster,
or make the heart's jagged edges any smoother,
or make the chaotic sum of me any less ugly.
Love, to me, in those days:
It was euphoric, it was "what if our parents find out", it was
curling in on myself, wishing I had never
let anyone see me like that.
It's not my fault, or the girl's, or yours.
Such is the way of the desert: fear, always.
But life is not restricted to one climate,
and when I came to I had sand in my shoes
and a box of letters that might never be read.
(I kept it when we moved. I wasn't sure why.)
When I came to you were still here.
How can one be haunted by someone they've never met?
I've since rediscovered what I once knew when I was small:
real love is quiet. It won't
shout at you from the rooftops or
leave you shaking at midnight. It won't
hit you with its car; it's not
a catch-22, or a funeral pyre.
It doesn't exclude anyone,
not the girls writing letters at 9:21 P.M.,
not the hearts who feel stupid in retrospect,
not the fools who hide from good things,
and not me. Not me.
(There is a box for you. Maybe you'll read them, maybe you won't.)
(Either way, I'll be okay.)

—© 2024 by A.D. Powers

Something About Death

—© 2024 by Vanessa Stalvey

Our Cultr

embrace the txt
let it surround thee
a circle of commandments:
our Scrptr

use it to view outsiders
through your handheld window

then march with thy savior
strike gavels into sinful flesh
curl claws around and around
liquid crystal keyboards
call it asthc
like the Salvation she wore last night
—a necklace for nonbelievers.
chant the gospel to those who are other
kys ... kys ...

believers, bask the silence
inside your plane of noise
now hold your breath
tap your fingers to pray


—© 2024 by Kimberly Rouse

Killer Diet

—© 2024 by Aubrey Laux


—© 2024 by Maggie Fernandez


—© 2024 by Kimberly Rouse

Back Cover Photo: Jellies

—© 2024 by Maggie Fernandez

Meet the Team

With years of experience as an editor-in-chief for The Green American, a magazine focused on environmental and social justice issues, Professor Tracy Fernandez Rysavy is our advisor for the Northern Lights Journal. You can also get in touch with our current editorial staff.

Contact Us