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symposium stories to soothe your soul an arts and humanities students’ council publication

volume 2 issue 2 spring 2015 Copyrights remain with the artists and authors. The sole responsibility for the content in this publication remains with the authors and artists. The content does not reflect the opinions of the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council (AHSC) or the University Students’ Council (USC). The AHSC and USC assume no liability for any errors, inaccuracies, or ommisions contained in this publication.

letter from the editors sto ry / store / n. 1. an exchange; the sharing of an experience, either verbally, through writing, or pictorially 2. the first step to empathy 3. an account of events that allows the listener to experience them 4. the means through which we come to understand and identify ourselves and each other 5. an account of imaginary or real events designed to entertain, inform, and/or inspire 6. the foundation that fosters all human relationships and interactions 7. the potential to incite powerful change 8. the reason why what we study in arts and humanities classrooms is so important


Maryam Golafshani

Academic Managing Editor

Serena Quinn

Creative Managing Editor

Gordon Haney

Copy Editor Layout Editor

Eric Zadrozny Calyssa Erb

art by Alanna Sulz

Sun Alessia Mastrorillo Your body is a stage and most days I know you wake up with the same script because so do I. I do because monotony is easy and progression is impossible and the only thing we can both plead for and promise is that it will be predictable, because predictability is weak. You can start the car as long as you have the key, you can plunge into the waters even if they are raging as long as you can swim, you can bleed as long as you know you will always shed red, but no. Most days I don’t look into your eyes because they lie to me and you were such a good liar. The sun retreats and with every twinkling star the rays of light call every hair on your head, every crease in your palms, every pigment in your skin, every fibre of your being to the center of the stage and you are so beautiful. You are always more beautiful than the moon. I sit on the edge of the earth and my back is to the sky but I promise all of my senses are with you. I always wanted to be beside you. Most days all I needed was for you to feel me and maybe you did but maybe that wasn’t enough. Maybe I needed to be the torrential rains that put both planets to sleep, or maybe I needed to be the quaking ground that ruptured the volcanoes, or maybe I needed to be the glittering daylight that shone through your curtains in the early blossom of the morning but instead I was nothing at all. I was never anything and you were everything and you were the simplest of paradoxes because you made me whole with the fragmented pieces of your heart. Most days you never belonged to me because I let you fly. I burned to watch you fly over the lapping waves of the sea and the blooming daisies in the fields. I’d watch you over and over again in my mind dive off pyramids and kiss the sands, as you floated over the specks making the blistering heat feel more like a warm hug. If I could take your wings and trap you in a cage I would have because those confines would make you feel freer than the tops of towers you were standing on. Most days I didn’t need you with me but I wanted you there. And I’m sorry I’m selfish and I’m sorry I ask for so much but I am only selfish for you. I wanted every ounce of you to melt into every ounce of the earth I wanted your laughter to be my lullaby I wanted your broken veins to map out the rivers for me I wanted your flesh to show me that scars are strokes of strength on the canvas I wanted your wide arms to be the light at the end of my tunnel I wanted you to stand at the peaks of mountains and yell, “I am free”.


art by Tabitha Chan

The Girl of the Loom Rayna Abernethy On either side of the Songhua river lie long fields of rice. A road runs by the river to the town of Jilin. Reapers working in the rice fields early in the morning hear a song echoing clearly against the murky water. They stop from piling sheaves to listen, whispering amongst each other: it is the girl, the girl of the loom. For, around the bend in the river, there is grey house with four twisted cheery trees like towers, and inside sits a young woman. At the very top of the house, in a small room, the girl sits weaving rugs in her loom night and day. Downstairs the girl can hear the radio; words and mandolin distorted by the bamboo walls. Occasionally she will hear her father: his grunts of displeasure at a news announcer, or his hands sifting through rice - the sound like pebbles sliding down a tin roof. He comes upstairs to bring her meals of rice or simple fish broths. He never says anything more than “keep working”. His high forehead and deep set eyes drifting over her unfinished threads. To amuse herself the girl sings. She sings songs she hears on the radio. They are patriotic songs of warriors and beautiful women. Sometimes she makes up her own songs; her inspiration comes from the people walking to Jilin. She will sing of farmers pulling carts, of market girls in red cloaks, hunched over woman carrying babies. Since her loom and stool are placed on the other side of the room, away from the one, cramped, window, the girl watches the outside from a small mirror that hangs above her loom. The yellow spotted glass relaying a backwards world, but the girl does not notice. She watches the shadows of the world appear. It is like watching the wind. She only stops weaving to go to sleep on the thin mattress of hay on the floor. One day, a man rides by. His own sound precedes him. Before he enters the mirror the girl hears the bells on his horse; their ringing are promises of intangible joy. In the sunlight the man glows. His broad brow, his black hair, the saddle he presides over, even his horse’s hooves burn copper. The man sings as he goes by. The girl could no more describe the feeling his voice gave her than she could describe a smell. The girl leaves her half finished rug and runs to the window. In her haste she knocks the loom and it smashes into the wall, cracking her mirror. She is still at the window when her father comes upstairs. He runs over and snatches the girl’s forearm, dragging her back to her stool. “What do you think you’re doing, girl,” he yells, his body bristled like a hissing cat. “I... I...I’m sorry, father.” “I need that rug by the full moon, and you waste my time staring out a window. No matter, I will be rid of you soon. I have found a husband for you, it is our neighbour, Su-Heng. His wife has died, and he needs someone to take care of his children. You will be married tomorrow, and you will wear this. Keep working.” The father places the traditional red hanfu on her mattress, then leaves to go back to his radio. The girl looks over at the splintered mirror and feels like she has been cursed. She paces the room. “I am half sick of shadows,” she cries to herself. She waits until her father clicks the radio silent and shuffles into his bedroom. She puts on the hanfu in the moonlight; swaddling herself in rough cotton and sashes until she is ready. She descends the stairs and walks outside. Down at the river’s dim expanse she baptizes herself with rocks; placing them in pockets, and folds. She turns her glassy eyes to Jilin for one last look, then she walks into the river. She sings as she does so. Her robes flowing to the left and right, trailing out behind her like wings. In the morning the man with the horse leaves Jilin, riding past the grey house again. Down from the grey house, on the shore of the river, there is a tangle colours; of red dress and pale skin. He stops to check to see if the girl is still alive. People walking to Jilin stop to converge around him. They are drawn to tragedy like birds to seed. They whisper amongst each other. Who is this? Could it be? The girl of the loom? The man with the horse turns the girl over. Her lips are the same blue as his robes. “Poor girl, she has such a lovely face,” the man says, before riding on.


art by Yara El Safi

Because of What You’re Not Rebecca Serena When I was just tall enough for the top of my blonde bangs to pass my mother’s hip, I was full of questions, but I suppose we all were at that age. The problem was, I couldn’t ask my parents. They were incredible, but hopeless when it came to anatomy and sexuality. I am eighteen and have yet to have ‘the sex talk’. Naturally, I turned to my kindergarten teacher. She was tall and shy and useless at controlling a class of three to four year olds. I knew that, in theory, I was supposed to respect people with wrinkles, but she was so scattered I couldn’t help but see myself as her superior. I marched toward her, small chin pointed so high I had to peer down my nose to look at her muddy brown eyes and coarse hair. Before she had time to welcome me, I posed my question as if I was queen and she my advisor. “What makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl?” I questioned. Her eyes widened slightly and she began blinking rapidly, her short eyelashes barely visible as she did. “Well,” she stuttered. “Boys have a penis, and girls don’t.” I stared at her blankly and waited for her to continue. Obviously, girls do not have penises. I knew that. That was why the boys wouldn’t play with me. However, instead of elaborating, she turned sharply and announced story time and proceeded to read simple books with large letters to my illiterate companions. My jaw loosened and my mouth separated slightly, shock written across my face. That’s it? Naturally, I was unsatisfied, and so my quest began. Later that day I huddled with the smarter girls in the grey, wet bathroom, invited to their group for the first time. There was always a toilet with the seat up and we whined in mock disgust as we decided there must be a boy using our bathroom. I knew it was just the cleaning staff, but I enjoyed the unified complaining. It made me feel like I was part of something, even if I had to learn to giggle. We whispered quietly to each other, trying to decipher what exactly was going on ‘down there’ and what it was called. Someone said the word ‘vagina’, which was the first time I had heard it; we assumed it was slang. It was a simple question, but I wasn’t asking about anatomy. I wanted to fit in with the girls — because I didn’t — but I didn’t know what being a girl meant. All I knew was that to be a girl, you weren’t a boy, and this question stuck to me like fresh gum to a shoe. I masked my rough edges with polite smiles and quiet apologies each time I let my self slip through. That was how it was for the years before I was able to shed my prescribed gender traits and found my identity between the genders. I did it despite being told that I was who I was because of what I was not.

Est-ce que tu speak le français? Jared Boland Souvent, on entend les histoires des professeurs dont les étudiants ont continué avec leurs études en français, et ces histoires se finissent toujours dans la même façon : « Et puis j’ai reçu un courriel d’un de mes étudiants de premier cycle qui a eu un entrevue en français et qui a gagné un emploi ! Bravo ! » Et ça, c’est une belle histoire qui pourrait convaincre une étudiante qui s’intéresse au monde de business ou quelque chose pareille de suivre un cours de français. Oui, il est utile de gagner un emploi, tout le monde en a besoin. Mais quand j’entends ces histoires, j’entends un courant sous-jacent un peu plus menaçant. A moi c’est une histoire d’avarice. D’ignorance. Tu veux étudier le français pour gagner un emploi ? Le français est une langue avec une histoire riche, avec des peuples uniques au monde. J’ai entendu raconter une fois le danger d’une seule histoire, et je crains que cette seule histoire du français, l’histoire de l’ancien étudiant, ne soit pas suffisante pour les étudiant.e.s d’un monde de plus en plus connecté. Imaginez pour un instant si l’on promeut n’importe quel autre domaine d’études de la même façon que l’on promeut le français partout. Imaginez pour un instant si l’on promeut n’importe quelle autre culture de la même façon que l’on promeut le français partout. Il faut absolument rappeler que dans les années à peine dans le passé les droits des personnes qui parlaient le français (et bien les autres groupes linguistiques) sont beaucoup plus diminués et beaucoup moins valables qu’aujourd’hui même au Canada. Il faut absolument rappeler que ces groupes linguistiques trouvent encore des problèmes dans la société canadienne à cause de leur langue utilisée. Si vous n’avez jamais entendu le poème Speak White par Michèle Lalonde, je vous encourage de le chercher et de l’écouter. La première récitation de ce poème s’est passée en 1970. Il est maintenant 2015. La semaine où j’ai composé cette rédaction était une semaine de faire conscient les étudiant.e.s de Western des « micro-agressions ». « Est-ce que vous étudiez le français pour gagner un emploi ? » « Est-ce que vous pouvez dire quelque chose en français ? » « Pourquoi est-ce que vous étudiez le français ? » « Est-ce que vous voulez devenir un enseignant ? » « Ahh oui, le français c’est bien pour travailler au Canada. » Toutes ces phrases diminuent mes études. Je ne dis pas à mes amis en business, « Ahh oui, le business c’est bien pour gagner beaucoup d’argent, » ou à mes amis en science, « Pourquoi est-ce que tu étudies la science ? » (et en ce domaine-ci, il y a tant de micro-agressions. Je pense à la question assez fameuse, « Est-ce que tu vas faire le médecin ? »). Il est agréable d’être curieux par rapport au domaine d’études dans lequel vos amis se trouvent. Il est agréable de poser les questions à propos d’une culture que vous ne connaissez pas ou que vous ne comprenez pas beaucoup. Mais ce qui n’est pas forcément agréable c’est d’interroger les intentions ou les désirs ou les plaisirs de quelqu’un d’autre. Quand vous ne respectez pas un domaine d’études qui se concentre sur une culture, vous démontrez une grande ignorance de cette culture-là. Oui, j’avoue que c’est difficile de se souvenir qu’un domaine d’études est lié à une culture. Plus difficile encore quand on se concentre sur les aspects très abstraits dans nos cours. Mais je vous encourage de respecter les personnes qui étudient le français et de ne les pas poser les questions qui se concentrent sur leurs intentions de ce qu’ils vont faire avec leur diplôme après leur premier cycle. Je vous encourage de suivre les cours qui examinent les cultures du monde, directement ou indirectement. Je vous encourage de suivre un cours de français ! Mais, il faut que vous compreniez que le français n’est pas un remplacement suffisant pour votre curriculum vitae.

art by Veronica Clarke 6

Who Kayla Vanstone Life is the “final word.” Though my lover Thrust a hand through me And took a beating heart. When I wander Away his fingers wind-blown weeds impress my palm. Not His fingers as a Concrete necklace to offer the “word” sans breath. his innocence (as mine) in a surprised flash of teeth while my soft, imperfect hourglass navel moves with gentle breath instead of panic of the chaos of space—empty and everything. Not the ember whips of

His words. His stone spire fingers catching in my willow hair worse than wind to drag me back. he will soothe my wounds a cool balm, sweet like ripe, fuzzed peaches picked in summer’s sun. he creates a coma of blankets to hide with me. I wake before him and wonder At how he does what I did not. His pincers sink into my skull (the driven-nail headaches) deeper still my slow torture. But he protects my wounded wayward life.

Career Day Elizabeth Nash When I grow up, I want to be a dog. Every meal is the same, but there’s the Oh-joy-oh-joy-oh-joy moment Of just being able to eat. Waking up, there’s the possibility Of a hug or a pat or a pet And there’s maybe some beauty in that. Trot-trot into a room, and everyone smiles Eyes half-flick from the TV to you And use you as a fuzzy footrest.


When others are sad, just a lick or a nudge Can wipe away the tears or fears and nightmares And leave them with a half-turned grin. Better yet, you get to be a living garbage disposal Of scraps and small pieces of anything That taste finer than any wine. Years later, my mother told me it’s not commercially viable to be a dog So I became a lawyer instead (but I get to be a dog on weekends).

art by Michelle Bunton


Bedsheets Melody Mastache I’ve been rolling in bed sheets for a shot at peace the mental monsters cannot penetrate the moans. I’ve been rolling up paper for a decent breath the burning embers still my aggression. I’ve been rolling onto tile for a grasp at porcelain the acrid sting of bile reminds me of my worth. I’ve been wanting: reaching, retching, ragged. Any symbol of balance, any sign of chaos. The gravitation pulls from my temple, engulfed in the half smiles, the quirky habits, the excitement of introducing me. I’ve been running in dirt, mud, wet cement. The trails you blazed are the tracks I follow but these tracks aren’t live. I’ve been running from my nightmares as long as I remember. Except for that one moment of silence when your forehead touched mine. I’ve been running toward a future without you. Ruined. Ratty. Repelling. Grasping at smoky silhouettes and whispered whims. We burned hot, but steamed; Blazed, but smoked; Grew cold, and froze. Distance and drugs. Cigarettes and rum. Razors and words just as sharp. Keep me away. You don’t want this.

art by Alexis Pronovost 10

Rachel Goldstein

Ecstasy in Madness The lights were flashing, the tension mounting. People surrounded us as we pushed our way to the front. A sea of people, cigarette smoke clinging to the tide. The dull roar of a large crowd in a small space. And we were there, the front of the crowd, our bodies hugging the gate. That twisted iron that kept us from him, that and time. And time passed, and the lights started dancing and the people followed suit. And we raced, and we experienced it, all of it. And the floor started vibrating to the beat of our eardrums. And he opened his mouth; he drowned out the beat and he promised not to let us fade into darkness. But that was all the time he was given before it took over, that pounding in our head. That liquid sound that people call noise, that sound that kills troubles and drowns worries. It was the sound that makes you forget and the sound that loses you, that lets you go. And some people call that sound forgotten time, and some call it wasted time, but it was our time and it was not wasted and it cannot be forgotten.

OM the tree was levelled, its loose and flailing veins soldered; they put a Stairclimber on its hallowed print, the waxed, bruised plot of earth. we ascend, but there’s no Glimpse of Heaven. the rungs were stripped, and to birch towers remained.

Joseph Simpson

the continent, from which all maps were drawn, and soon began to draw itself beyond the page eroded; choosing never to be found.


We’re open Come in. The pink neon sears the beholder. There is shelter, We can stay underneath, And need only drill deeper Rip through the arteries. We’ll never need to go higher.

art by Cara McCutcheon

Shorts Hannah Wilcox

Depth Air hurtled through her nose to her lungs, filling them on last time. Then she slipped, tumbled below the surface. It was dragging her down, calling her to the murky darkness. Her clothing heavy with water, pulled down on her shoulders. The cool black water tingling her throat as she drew it into her lungs.

Giants There is a forest growing in my head. Birds nest in my hair, mice fill my ears, rivers run through my eyes. Butterflies fill the canopies in my skull, their colors flashing behind my smile. This is my world, my secret world.

Six Pushed by society she jumped.

Flowers There is a darkness inside, buried under my skin, hiding beside my soul. It has been there for a while now, growing, poisoning, and invading. It is a flower of sorrow, a flower filled with poison. An inky darkness sitting on my appendix. It spreads, leaking, cracking and flowing through my veins. Invading my red blood cells. It stretches and expands its thorny branches deep into my bones, eating at my marrow. Fueling its ravenous growth with lost dreams. The flower’s roots spread out, intertwining with my spine. Weaving in and out of my vertebra, squeezing between. Small dark fingers winding up my nerves, twirling them around and around and around the darkness. The poison reaches my brain, extending into the frontal lobe, taking happiness with it. The invasion has taken years; the flower, fueled by a lifetime of disappointments, is grown, finished. If I were to slice my finger, you could peer inside and see the infectious darkness, woven so perfectly throughout my body. The blood would drip out tinged with inky blackness. It is perfect, really, such intricacy. The de-weeding is impossible now, an inoperable flower. All the tugging and pulling, it will not ever leave, one cannot excavate a flower of this proportion. The smallest fraction forgotten and it will grow again, stronger, mutating. There is a sensation, a squeezing that comes with it, its searching for more fuel, emptying me of my hopes, my joy. It takes it all, leaving the harsh unrealistic world. A world filled with flowers of depression.

art by Tabitha Chan 13

Modern Romance Jennifer Nangreave “I don’t think you’re listening to me, Charlie,” my mum says. She is ladling potato soup into a bowl. She isn’t looking at me. “You’re not going to meet that girl again. Put it out of your head.” I sulk around the fruit bowl, toying with some half-rotten plums. There’s a small flock of fruit flies gathered around the gummy pearls of juice that cling to the split skins. Harvesting sugar. I wave my hand and they take off, a tiny ravenous cloud. “Get the fly paper,” my mum says. “And throw those plums out. They’re past the point of edible.” Globes of dense nectar, they burst in my hands when I am halfway to the bin. I let out a cry of disgust. “It’s just juice, Charlie, Christ. Mop it up.” Never any sympathy from my mum. I smear plummy flesh into a paper towel, toss it in on top of the skins. * “I wish I could speak in emoji,” Helen says. She still has my hand in both of hers, pulling my arm taught between us, a straining rope. My knuckles are tucked into the divot below her sternum. I can feel her breathing. “What emoji would you be saying?” I ask. I almost can’t get the words out, my breath gives out and the last words are almost too quiet to hear. She strokes my wrist. My arm. “Heart-eye, heart-eye,” she says. Laughs. Her eyes tracking the path of her own fingers to the crook of my elbow. “Over and over again.” We stand there together for a long moment. Too long to even fathom, it feels like years before she lets go of my hand and opens her arms for a hug. It is weird and unfamiliar when I fit my body to hers. We stand for another impossibly long moment, gradually relaxing into it, softening to each other. “You’re not at all what I pictured,” I find myself saying into her shoulder. She’s taller than I thought, and I tell her so. “You’re shorter than I thought,” she answers, and I can feel her laughing through her ribs right into my own.

art by Carly Mellows and Miracle Collins { Winners of an art contest for London high school students } 15

Beautiful Masks Leanne Hord He spent many of his days around young male soldiers. Inspections provided a thrilling sense of satisfaction. Reinhardt could spend hours looking into the greasy reflections of polished army-issued boots, up and down broad chests defined by a clean row of brass buttons, to biceps encircled by the blood-red band of Nazi Germany. His own uniform oftentimes felt ill-fitting. He hid this from the masses by standing tall, and by sparing no one. Upon taking charge of the Secret Service branch of Hitler’s party, Reinhardt Heydrich had become very adept at guarding his secrets. He had earned the distracting nickname of ‘The Hangman of Prague,’ and fittingly destroyed his inferiors without an ounce of interest or remorse displayed on his features. Heydrich was careful, but he was still a man. He had married his wife, Lina, at a time when she was more invested in the dream of the Master Race than he was. Her fair skin, bright face and golden hair had turned out to be extremely discordant with her ruthless temperament. In the eleventh year of their marriage, upon moving to occupied Prague to a palace once owned by wealthy Jews, she took to carrying around a riding crop to keep the help in line. Her coldbloodedness pleased Heydrich more than she had ever been able to please him in her wifehood. Of this, Lina was well aware. Lina, knowing the importance of knowledge as protection and power, was all but blind to her husband’s desires. She was also very aware of the heightened laws her husband’s political alignment was enforcing with beatings, arrests, and imprisonment. To be a criminal deviant under the Nazi’s rule was to be rightfully tortured and killed. To be a sexual pervert occupying a position of power in the Nazi party was to betray the very authority that had given him his livelihood. Lina, a woman of action behind a façade of loyal kisses and caresses, knew that she must embody the spirit of the Party for her husband. She knew that she must expose him to his own weakness if he were to remain of use to his country. She executed her plan on a blustery December afternoon, to the sounds of ice pellets ricocheting off of the windows like bullets. She involved no one but herself and the boy, cognisant of the fact that any outside awareness threatened her own security. By the time her husband arrived home, the peroxide bottle and scissors were buried in the disposal bin and the house sat silently on sturdy haunches, as if awaiting an attack. “Lina, where is dinner?” Heydrich entered the living room where his wife was seated, expecting the usual smell of a warm meal. “I’ve got you something better.” “What do you mean?” “You cannot fool me, Reinhardt. Ich bin deine Frau. I am aware of what you want.” Their glances met in a collision of fear and steely tenacity. “You know my loyalty. You can trust my silence. You are expected presently in the cellar—the room in the back right corner.”


Lina stood and left Reinhardt alone in the living room. His pulse raced and his mind mulled. Rationality eventually won out against the panic. His search for justification ended with his wife: his brilliant, dedicated wife. How rude it would be to thwart such gentle understanding, such loving generosity. He made his way down the stairs, exchanging his ornate surroundings for the rough, grey blocks of cement that made up the basement walls. The temperature dropped by degrees. The room Lina had chosen was padlocked, with the key resting in front of the door. He entered slowly to the sight of a young boy standing in the corner. He was tall and slim; the spaces beneath his cheekbones hauntingly hollow. Above, his eyes glistened in the dimness and thick strands of white-blonde hair protruded from beneath his peaked cap. Stricken, Reinhardt studied the boy’s fingers as he raised his hand in salute. They were long and lithe, like a musician’s. The boy’s waist, cinched with a brown leather belt, looked small enough for Reinhardt to encircle with his hands. Stepping forward, he moved to do this. His hands landed on the wool of the uniform as his eyes landed on the boy’s. The young man did not flinch, but let his eyelids slip down, leaving violet veins flickering beneath waxed-paper screens. This, Reinhardt knew, was beauty. He felt it in the ache of his bones. He reached up and brought the boy’s hand from his forehead to his side. Cast off were the rigid rules of the outside world and the stiffness of cruelty in the public eye. Reinhardt felt his resolve being soaked through with something that was part warmth, part acid. He felt it crumbling inside of him. His face softened as he took in the perfect form in front of him and let whispered words of praise fill the dank cellar air. The boy was unresponsive, his face steeled like a soldier’s. Reinhardt dared to lean forward and brush his own plump lips against the boy’s chapped ones. Blood pounded beneath his scalp, cotton filled his mouth. He moved his hands to the boy’s arms, pressing his palms aggressively into solid biceps. Weakness crept along Reinhardt’s thighs and down into the joints of his knees, causing them to buckle. His movements were propelled by a ravaged animal that had been locked away inside of him for too long. The boy trembled. Reinhardt’s only mistake was looking too long at his face. The realization struck him with force. The boy’s eyes, once opened, revealed a dismal dung-coloured brown. His ears, once hidden by his cap, reached away from his face like those of a child’s puppet. His hair, which had before appeared Aryan blonde in the darkness, now seemed all too obviously bleached. His nose was unmistakeable. “What is your name?” Reinhardt shuddered. Lina’s smug face lurked in the back of his mind. The boy swallowed slightly and shook his head, as if obeying orders of silence. Reinhardt was not one to be humiliated. He flew forward, locking both hands around the boy’s neck and forcing him against the cold cement wall. The crack of the boy’s skull against the rock echoed through the room. “Tell me your name.” “Ya’akov,” the boy choked. Reinhardt dropped him. Ya’akov. A Jew’s name.


The boy morphed in front of his eyes as old, repeated dogmas filled his head with rage: disgusting, dirty, hideous, trash. He had been deceived. Fury drove Reinhardt’s boot into the fallen boy’s side and propelled a swell of spit from behind his teeth to the side of the boy’s face. “Revolting,” the commander seethed. Anguish curled its black tentacles around Reinhardt’s gut as strings of stinging insults repeated themselves at a deafening volume in his mind. As he continued his assault, he became aware of the fact that the barbs of his insults weren’t ripping away at Ya’akov. They were tearing through Reinhardt’s own skin. He stopped. He was overwhelmed, for a brief moment, by the memory of pallid corpses clogging the ravine at Babi Yar. He had stood before them, the first of his victims, with arrogant pride. Had it been wrong to find that image, all of that destruction, glorifying? He looked down at the young Jewish boy in the German uniform, curled in on himself at Reinhardt’s feet. Had it been wrong to find him beautiful? Had it been wrong to find any of them beautiful? He knelt next to the whimpering boy. Ya’akov—he was no more than a child of sixteen. Emotions ebbed and flowed wildly within him as he thought of the thing’s he’d done, and the things he wanted to do. He placed a hand on Ya’akov’s bony shoulder. The boy was breathing heavily: moist, obstructed breaths that suggested his mouth was filled with saliva, or blood, or both. He needed help. What weakness, Reinhardt thought. What a disgusting, low display of weakness, of need. There was no room for weakness in his life. His grip on the boy’s shoulder tightened, and in a swift movement he yanked the boy onto his feet and slammed him into the stone wall. “You will never speak of this to anyone,” Reinhardt hissed into his ear. It was not enough to trust him. Reinhardt’s dagger was out of his belt in seconds, the boy’s mouth wrenched open and his tongue withdrawn. The sounds he made were feral. The fingers would be next. Never again would beauty obscure the reason of Reinhardt’s world. He knew his place, and this Jew would, too. It was well past twilight when Lina heard her husband’s footsteps on the stairs. He entered their bedroom with hunched shoulders and bloody hands. He looked at Lina. The muscles in his face quivered pitifully. His eyes confirmed that every detail of her plan had gone accordingly. He said, finally, “He is downstairs. You may send someone to clean him up.” Breathlessly, he held Lina’s gaze for seconds more before retreating. He went to his office and retrieved the files for the Auschwitz initiative, leaving a series of rust-coloured fingerprints on the paper. He worked through the night. He worked to make sure that no beauty would ever exist to tempt him again.

art by Yara El Safi 19

October 21 2014 Bailey McKenny Is Jesus going to save you From a man with a gun. Is good breeding and a Peaceful upbringing Going to remedy What he’s done? Is a man in a uniform Telling you it’s alright Going to ease your mind. Will you sleep tonight? If a bomb drops in Gaza Or Israel or Vietnam, You still go to work, Go to school and Make love to your man. If a madman with a rifle Walks into a bar It sounds like a joke Until you’re left with the scars. We live in oblivious fear Of what’s around every turn. We pretend it’s not true, But every moment we burn. It’s never what you want to hear It’s not what you want to say.

But you walk around dead, You do it every day. It takes the promise of mortality Staring you in the face, To realize you are alive And that this is a terrible place. You’ll never leave here happy And never get out alive. Sooner or later the reaper finds you Or someone with manic in their eyes. You can point fingers in any direction But you better look at yourself first. No matter what else happens You are all you have on earth. You can’t just blame the man Who believes in god And has a different name. You can’t just blame The man driving the plane. You can’t just consider Where we are in time or space. You have to look back At all we have been, And how we got to this place.

The Evanescence


Samarra Goldglas

Tamara Spencer

“Hey,” you say, your fingers trapping mine, like wet puzzle pieces, too swollen for their home. “I missed you.”

We read our horoscopes in the dark. “They’re scary accurate,” you say, pizza-mouthed and filmy-eyed.

You’re looking at me, but there’s a sailboat in the distance, and white birds with their hooked noses dive-bombing the water. The sun is toasting the back of my sweater, and I pry my hand from yours, lifting it to obscure that burning star, millions of miles away. If we were close enough to see the true size of the sun, we would probably explode: cracking and popping like mustard seeds, dancing on a hot skillet. I stare at its reflection in the water, filling my vision with black shadows of light. Why is it that you seemed so much bigger when you weren’t here?

Cosmically speaking you’re a paper cut filled with hand sanitizer, the overwhelming stench of lavender in a public bathroom, dirty words at inopportune times. I have called a dozen 1-800 psychics trying to figure out what it is about you that makes me think of Galileo performing a strip tease, Big Foot in a sundress, Swiss army knives for finger tips. We are what we become.

art by Lydia McClory

First Strains Michelle Baleka A de-familiarization of sound and music “…Voice,” his lips shape the word, a low current of sound chasing the movement of the letters. Voice…is that Henry’s? Stunned tears well up in my eyes. That’s what he sounds like. This is what sound is. I have always longed to know the un-seeable colour of the vibrations, the trappings of breath around the motion of frustrated lips. Henry speaks again. It is nothing but strange, mushy noise. Meaning escapes me, so I focus on his mouth, reading the contours of his moving lips. “Hello,” he repeats it several times. A glimmer in his hazel eyes urges me to try. My tongue is a heavy, frozen thing, stuck to the bottom of my mouth. A quiver races through my lower lip as I stare at him with wide, helpless eyes. I don’t know how to talk. I’m too scared to try. What if I fail the sounds? I’m not ready for it yet. A light current huffs from his lips. It is higher than Voice, slanting and bubbling. The image of water tumbling over stones floats up in my mind. Henry’s muscles twitch, lines appearing at the edges of his eyes, shoulders shaking. Laughter. This sound must be laughter. I feel my lips curl upwards at the edges. I like Laughter. I wonder what mine sounds like. Is it similar to Henry’s? Will it be as pleasant as his? I wonder how different Voices can be. “There’s something I have to show you,” Henry says. Although Voice is still incomprehensible to me, I detect a shift, a change in…what’s the word? There’s a certain weight to Voice, a certain upwards slant. I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to express, but something about that hue of Voice excites me. The heart within me lurches into a rapid pulse as an electric thrum skitters through my veins. He takes my hand. The steadiness of his makes me notice the shakiness of my own. A cold slush of unshed tears frosts my vision as I follow him out of the hospital. The world of noise is overwhelming. It buzzes always in my senses. The gift of my cochlear implant. Does it ever stop? My chest tightens. I don’t know how to absorb the noise. Each one bites at my nerves. I jump at everything. Beside me, Henry laughs quietly. A scowl presses over my features. I lift my free hand, fingers weaving in furious sign language as our thunderous footsteps batter my ears. Everything is so loud. How can Henry stand it? “Just wait. You’ll get used to it. Sorry,” he signs with years of practiced ease. A tight smile squeezes his lips. There’s a glint in his eyes, a nervous spark, hooded by an uncertain shadow. I’m sure he’s wondering if I’m truly ready for whatever it is he has to show me. A loud, high scream. I jump and squish myself against his side. “Car horn,” he explains rapidly before urging me on. I find it hard to move for a moment. My nerves are thumping in my fingertips, sending shockwaves of discomfort over my arms and spine. All these things I’ve read about but never understood. Footsteps. Car horns. Birds. All this endless noise… An ache begins to pulsate in my forehead. Gritting my teeth, I follow Henry to his candy-orange car. The door closes with a bang. Shoulders pinched up towards my ears, I slowly settle into the seat. Buckling up with shaking fingers, I bite my lip and watch as Henry turns the keys. They make a soft sound that seems to match the colour silver as they clink together.


art by Emma Bluemke A jerk, a familiar rumble, and a low, gritty river of noise. It suits the vibrations I’m attuned to feeling in cars. Engine’s Voice, it seems. Henry reaches for a dial on the console and pauses, offering me a slightly shaky smile. “Ready?” he asks with Voice instead of the sign language I’m so comfortable with. A brief hesitation, then I nod. My hands curl on my lap, fingers buttoning against palms. I’m terrified of this world of noise. What is it that the dial controls? What is Henry about to expose me to? It must be louder and more grating than any of the other things I have heard today. Why else would he be so uncertain? Henry is never uncertain about anything. Something…unexplainable leaks into my implant. Something I have felt the vibrations of many times and never understood. Something I have always felt deep inside me and longed to know as everyone else did. I don’t understand it, but something inside of me – my soul – it does. It feels the sound on a level I can’t fully grasp. Tears flood my eyes. I stare at Henry in shock. So many different noises. But they do not clash. They blend. Their beauty is beyond anything I have ever witnessed in my life. I never want these sounds to fade. I want more. “Music,” Henry says. The language of the soul.


my thanks to the gardener Morgan Lucas some days the clouds aren’t there the ones with the silver in them some days the sun is too hot in the morn when you see people gasping and sucking on rocks some nights the land is too dry the ground extending its brown wrinkled fingers to the sky for a sip

but sometimes my words can be water buckets splaying like grass on a page and their gloves clench inside my lungs scoop chunky pieces of dirt and burnt worm and i can exhale and then (only then) it can rain

Ornithologist Robyn Obermeyer When I was just a child with hair untamed and a ripe red blush still growing in my cheeks, I thought that I could talk to birds: especially to the spring robins who hopped up close to me looking for crumbs. I’d coo at them on my walk to school, save a crust of toast from breakfast to crumble in my hand as I went. They always followed, and on my way home I’d tell them about the pretty blonde girl who called me ugly when the teacher’s back was turned.


I’d tell them how I was sure there were oceans in her blue eyes, tempests that could swallow sailors whole. I told them how I thought she’d soon swallow me too. It seemed so clear then that their responding twitters were sympathetic; they were a bastion of friendship in a world that seemed empty and cruel. I realize now that they were only ever looking for food.

art by Jes D.A. Gonzalez

Gossiping Buildings Samah Ali Some days I wonder how my Somali-self ended up in an arctic wasteland while concrete buildings gossip about my foreign, fragile skin. In such weather, I scurry from building to building with no interest in the staying outside a second longer. But one desolate evening I heard a hopeful soul chase after me following a night of Reflections from my university’s Black Student Association. The soul’s feet sped up behind me. The fresh snow made mine slide back and forth. The wind bit my face as I slowed my pace, foreshadowing the bitter sting that would remain with me. “Hey!” A new acquaintance called. I slowed down and allowed him to catch up. An East African man: tall, skinny and mirrored my medium tone complexion. We begin to walk again. Our feet synchronized while his heart skipped and mine stayed steady. His voice quivered as he stumbled over his name again. We had met fifteen minutes prior. I winced through the wind, trying to hear his monologue through my thick, wool scarf. He incorporated our discussion from the Reflections: talking about approaching black women and how the timing was weird. I could read his thoughts in his eyes. Flattered and scared, I watched the words slip out of his mouth. “I was wondering how I could get your number?” Without pausing, I gave it to him. Accomplished, he whipped around and returned to the building we just left. I stood there and let the flurries cover my flustered face. Why did I give him my number? I had no romantic interest with this man. And what did I owe him? Did I package my number as a gift for his good behavior? Rewarding his efforts for approaching a woman of color, hours after discussing the oppression and neglect we feel on campus. It was all too timely and I didn’t like how it sat with me. I grew up in a culture where my male cousins were babied and my female cousins were raised to be independent; all too often the boys would vegetate on the couches as vegetable soup wafted from the kitchen where us girls would slave away. We were brought up to be breadwinners and bread makers. Yet most of us were stuck in our late twenties trying to find eligible equals. We were told to aspire to marriage. We were also told to get an education. Rarely did we find someone who checked all the boxes: smart, Somali, cultured and contemporary. We didn’t work this hard for our degrees to be trophies. We didn’t work this hard to be providers for ungrateful, older men. We didn’t work this hard to be used as birthing machines. We were smart and we were going places. But this East African boy made me question my opinions on how boys were raised: allowed to coast through life until forty when they were ready to procreate. I saw myself as a mother: standing in a baa’ti cooking chaptis as my young boys used my degree as a placemat. Babying my boys past the age of majority. Allowing them to slack in life and reward them for clean plates instead of college degrees. Enabling the same process of being given everything and giving up when something doesn’t go your way. I was babying this East African boy. Giving my number away as gesture of encouragement. All too many times, men feel intimidated approaching women, especially women of color, and I gave this boy my number for incentive. The Reflections we left that night talked about the negative stereotypes we associate with black women and I didn’t want to perpetuate them. We were the mammys; the fuck-but-don’t-tell girls; the fetishized bodies; the angry black girls who deflected men with a single glare. We were fierce. We were intimidating. This identity translated to East African girls. And I didn’t want this stereotype to persist. I had an obligation, as a Somali woman, to give my number away to inflate this man’s ego. This subconscious compulsion was a product of my environment and I couldn’t help but fall along with the cultural


art by Alanna Sulz

values I had always detested. I wanted to say no. I wanted to say no for all the women who had to resort to default weddings with men twenty years their senior. I wanted to say no to the future I saw myself in. I wanted that East African boy to know that not every East African woman is intimidating, but not every woman will say yes. I didn’t want to baby this boy like his mother babied him. I wanted to say no, but I found myself saying yes because my culture told me to. But I know my answer won’t help him in the end. And I know my answer will keep him coasting until another woman says no. After a day or two, he stopped messaging me because I stopped the cycle. He still greets me when I see him but I know nothing will ever happen. It feels good to wipe the flurries that once blinded my view. Now the buildings have nothing to gossip about.


Winter Sleep Jasmeen Siddiqui “Star light, star bright...” I was eleven and looking out the window of my parents’ van again, “Only star I see tonight.” Sucked back into my quiet yard as a van rumbles by a street over. I wish to be with you, companions in the spinning sky. I imagined how fast I was moving still in my night covered corner— I thought about how night isn’t really night, it just is. Space. Infinity. Without light. We just happen to be lucky enough to be close to a star. As the sky slowly shifted, my star was sucked behind my house... I wished on an airplane. I wished to be with it, though, and I didn’t change my wish. To be up and away— but away isn’t really away unless you consider this place a place. Then you’re just going, not away, just going. The glow of the moon leaks onto its dragging veil and I pull my own smoky threads out of my lungs and weave them through the light so it won’t shine too brightly on me. The smooth, thick blanket of snow covers the ground in front of me and I feel my shoulders sink. It’s so perfect, not a crease or a fold in its sheets, and a promise of a day’s end. I unzip, the air pouring into my chest, swirling around my neck. My coat collapses around my heavy black boots. I kick them off and let the crunch press between the knit of my socks. The grip of my jeans unwillingly crumples, tugging at my ankles with concern. My fingers move at a pace too slow for the workings of a button so they curl around my collar and pop, pop, pop the black spots off of me. The freeze curves around my limbs like the sky around the earth, and I am so tired. In front of me lies a royal sized bed and I am its Queen so I stride into its centre, slow, smooth, and I can already feel its warm embrace. I slurp in some space and sigh it out from my knees, to my hips, to my shoulders, to my cheeks. Sunken in my soft, white bed, the colour finally fades and I can hear my breath echo back to me off of my frozen silhouette. Everything is quiet except for the spinning sky. I close my eyes and feel everything tighten, then release.


art by Cara McCutcheon

Jes D.A. Gonzalez back cover art by Alanna Sulz

front cover art by

Symposium II.II.  
Symposium II.II.