Editor-in-Chief: Jessica Jones
Artwork Editor: Anne Gu
Managing Editor: Trebecca McDonald
Layout Design: Wake Coulter Anton Volovsek
Literary Editor: Jasper Nee
Blueprint is made possible by the support of: University of Michigan Central Student Government Arts at Michigan University of Michigan College of Engineering University of Michigan Rackham Student Government University of Michigan Engineering Council ArtsEngine Blueprint (est. March 2010) is a student-produced literary magazine on the University of Michigan’s North Campus. Our mission is to collect the artistic creations of the North Campus community, composed of the students, staff, faculty, and alumni of the College of Engineering, Stamps School of Art & Design, School of Music, Theatre, & Dance, and Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning.
Star Trail Shiyang Deng Photography
即使我 们 凝 视 漫天的繁星 ， 也无法体会星迹的美 丽 ， 因 种美来 自于内心深处的平静。 If you stare at the stars in the sky, you may not be able to appreciate the beauty of their trajectory because the beauty comes from within your heart.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor have long been considered an island of erudition, but North Campus is an especially curious region, populated by unusual folk. On North Campus, the very air is thick with the exhaust of ideas in motion and the lines between art and engineering are irrevocably blurred. Robots and CNC machines turn the incorporeal visions of artists and architects into physical monuments of student imagination. PVC pipes and aluminum molded by engineers become experimental instruments for free-thinking composers. Entrepreneurial scientists consult designers to transform ingenious gadgets into aesthetic, saleable devices. North Campus is defined by evolutionary innovation, because its habitués are, at their core, creators. Every subset of the North Campus community—newly-minted freshmen, veteran graduate students, tenured professors, and programs staff—is represented within these pages. Every North Campus unit—the College of Engineering, Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning, Stamps School of Art & Design, and the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance—is on display during our 2nd Annual Celebrate Creativity Art Show, held in the Duderstadt Center Gallery. This magazine is not composed of simple ink; it contains the life-force of North Campus, distilled and patterned from cover to cover. On behalf of the incomparably talented staff of Blueprint, I am proud to share with you our annual showcase of undiluted creativity, the élan vital of North Campus, Issue 4 of Blueprint Literary Magazine. Jessica R. Jones
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
TABLE OF CONTENTS Beauty
Cascades and Glass Globes
Cascades On Nonesuch Shale
Green Tea by the Sea
A Plaza in Granada
Mark J. Kushner
Nighttime at the Dusseldorf Airport
Mark J. Kushner
18th Century British Soldier
Fantasy Map of North Campus
Kaelynn R. Clolinger
Just A Mile Down The Road
Fortune Cookie Advice
Journey of Life
Syfith Jeet Singh
Salute the Sunrise
Jessica R. Jones
My Fifth Metatarsal
Birds and Falls
In the Shadow of the Foothills
Trail to Nowhere
Breanna Jamille Johnson
Man vs. Nature
Days in the sky
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
SPRING JEFF LOWE / POETRY With the opening of a window the world came alive. This window was blocked by a tree Yet the earth was illuminated in a refreshing way. Every detail could now be seen It was seen through the scent of freshness in the air, It was seen through the ears, with calls from playful birds and footsteps of fellow beings, It was seen in the warmth that enveloped the room The sun was once again alive and its dependents had received its vigor. The clouds parted with reverence to the sun And all beings had come out to feel the warmth. Yes, a new beginning was spawning on this day.
Beauty Susan Montgomery Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
// I created the armature for this mosaic from aluminum wire, plumbers epoxy, and copper wire. The mosaic is made of iridized stained glass, stained glass, and fresh water pearls. This is my first and only sculpture, to date,
that I have created from scratch. A Murano flower glass bowl gives my butterfly some balance and depth. My goal for this piece was to bring fond memories spent in my garden inside.
Pacific Seahorse Shonda Bottke Mosaic Art
Pacific Seahorse is made of art glass, stained glass and millefiori. I began creating this piece with the intent of donating it to the Aquarium of the Pacificâ€™s Sea Fare Charity Auction 2013. Unfortunately, one of my old friends passed away before I could complete this
Imaginative Butterfly Shonda Bottke Mosaic Art
mosaic for the event. The piece has evolved from the original concept and I have decided to enter this piece in ArtPrize 2014 and dedicate this mosaic to my friend Kimberly Kendrick. She was a beach buddy and also loved the ocean and itâ€™s inhabitants.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Niagara Falls Yu Yin Photography
// Cascades and Glass Globes is a part of a Dale Chihuly exhibit at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, MI, late Sep. 2010. Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 1/100 sec at f/5 and ISO 200, 57mm focal length
Cascades and Glass Globes Mike Stander Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Cascades on Nonesuch Shale Mike Stander Photography RIGHT
Green Tea by the Sea Shonda Bottke Mosaic Art
// Shot on the Presque Isle River just upstream from where it enters Lake Superior in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.
The prominent layered rock formation is the Nonesuch Shale, 1.1 billion years old, that outcrops in Michigan and Wisconsin.
This mosaic is made of a recycled, slightly damaged teapot I purchased at a thrift shop, green marble chips, found seashells from Oahu, Hawaii, freshwater pearls, and hemp cord. I love the ocean! I created
this mosaic because I miss the beach and I enjoy green tea. So, I utilized the shape of the teapot to create an organic beachcomberâ€™s paradise.
BRUGES CRAIG TENBUSSCHEN / PROSE
he asylums were once grand feats of architecture, standing as monuments in a strong and stable economy. They comprised two buildings, Brody and Bruges, who mirrored each other on the west end of a lake. Bruges, also the name of the lake, was built with thick insulated walls, constricting rooms, and small windows to encase the deep-layered illnesses of the state’s unsalvageable. The second building, Brody, had open and well-
lit rooms for higher functioning patients. Both were built to set a precedent that the city wasn’t dying—that it was modern and significant in the state. They were landmarks of a positive change—that is, before the economy fell and they became victims of the decline.
From the road, you could see the two stoic buildings, four stories in
height, built to give a feel that they were in tune with the lake. The city focused on its surface for years, but then as time generally does to vibrant things, it became a blight, and it seemed to disappear after an up-and-coming suburb was placed on its border. Tore down about a century after it was built, the lot of land surrounding the lake became tighter and tighter, and the lake stayed secluded and hidden in the small forest that encased it.
Soon after the demolition, the lake became taboo in the city. Growing
up my siblings and I were always told to stay away from it, and we listened. Everyone feared and hated Bruges, especially my mother who used it as a fuel for her hate of the city. She’d tell stories of the asylums’ closings and how they turned the city darker, always saying she’d have left if it weren’t for the Arterial Drew Pompa Visual Art
financial burdens. Scarred by three divorces, and left with four kids, she had all the excuses she needed to blame her burdens for keeping her in the city limits. She spoke of it frequently at
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 family dinner. She’d sip her wine and curse all night.
It was late April, and I was in my senior year of college when I finally
trekked to Bruges. Parking on the edge of the asylums’ dense tree line I walked into the elms. The water whispered through the trees, and when the lake was finally visible, I could feel something from the still water. It didn’t waver with the slight wind but rather intensified with each step. In an instant, the words of my mother’s stories resonated as I looked across the water; I felt that all the sounds that should exist in nature fell silent in the toneless gray of Bruges.
The lake, when made, was set to the same angle as the two buildings
that rested on its edge. Its surface was arched on the east end, but V’d on the west end to create an unlikely symmetry for the patients; from an aerial view it looked somewhat like a baseball field. I walked towards the V, and when I reached it and finally stood at the harshest angle I looked into the water and felt that it was absolutely lifeless. I turned and stepped away to the thick brush, where I could see that there were still concrete shards and blocks spread out like shrapnel from a battle that the demolition crews had lost. With what happened, I assume they just wanted to get out of there as fast as they could.
The closing of the asylums was abrupt. There was a sickness behind the
walls that was never broadcast out to the neighboring community until its last year. The people of the city always assumed it to be where bad things happened to patients, but they never dug deeper because that was just a stigma from television and books, and Brody and Bruges always passed their inspections with flying colors. I say that now, but the newspapers were all up in arms when Mr. Jeffries quit the asylum after working there for only one week.
Mr. Jeffries was an architect who was hit by a disintegrating economy.
He was laid off after 10 years with a prominent company, and in an instant he became like everyone else looking for jobs in the city. The recession shattered classes of people, dropping all into the same resume pile for a job everyone was overqualified for. I have to believe this is how Mr. Jeffries got his job at Bruges. He had come from a local consulting firm working as an architectural drafter. The town quit building, and instead started to work on making their current buildings more efficient. He knew his workload was slowing. He figured that maybe he’d
Bruges have to go back to designing homes for well off families, and not Meccas for new businesses. He felt comfort in knowing that he always had this to rely on. It was his 20 years of experience, and his confident attitude, that let him feel he would always be employed. When he applied and never heard back, depression hit. His safety net wrapped around his assets and squeezed. He sold his car, and then he took out his second mortgage just to survive. It lasted, and he felt his confidence stretch and twist over his familyâ€™s head before it snapped and poured his fears over them. They were drowning with nothing left but the fragments of a man they once knew. From a high-end architect to a food stamped number, he would watch the wanted-ads like a hawk. He would edit his resume to pander to the needs of the job. No responses. No interviews. He was about a year unemployed when he finally circled this ad: -WantedGraveyard shift Bruges Asylum Minimum Wage
His resume was taken once again to the drawing board. He took out
20 yr architect, and replaced it with the collegiate sports he had tried out for and never made. It got him to the interviews, and the employers must have thought his recent shift to twice a week workouts were really the remnants of a linebacker who hadnâ€™t touched a weight room since his glory days. Jeffries got the job.
He was hired into Bruges, into the custodial position. He was told that
he would be cross-trained to assist in major issues so that when an opening came he could get a major pay increase. The newspaper articles never said anything about the training. I know he worked there for a week before he went to the police. The question was always there with me, whether Mr. Jeffries was just thrown into the sickness, or if the personnel hid their attacks and brutality at first and then slowly eased it out to him.
His family, when interviewed on the news, said he was the best man
they knew, that he was honest and pure. You believed them immediately, which is
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 why the people of the community, especially the unemployed, rallied against the asylums. The catalyst for the city’s terror was that Mr. Jeffries had brought a video camera to work.
The tape was always the most intense part of my mother’s story. She
said the video was quick with dicey edits. A reporter had acquired the tape. During the broadcast, they could barely describe what they had seen: “A crime! Possibly deaths! Rape! Torture! Horror, horror at Bruges!” She said the tape still plays in her head every time she walks into a dark room or a light hits her vision too quickly.
The clip was a little over a minute long. The first scene, she said, was
of two bodies on the floor, one naked with their hands slapping the wall. Loud screams echoed but sounded distorted through what is assumed to be Jeffries’ shirt. The video lens was covered on its edges at all times. It was hidden in a slit under the armpit of his shirt. Of the two bodies, one stayed moving while the other only flinched as water sprayed across it. The room was still and then sparks were seen flashing in the room. The shadow of the man throwing the water stayed on the screen even as the sparks disappeared.
Second was a close-up of a younger man sitting on a steel chair, crying
as blood poured out of his mouth. Objects blurred as they flew across the screen. When the objects missed they made little noise as they hit the padded walls. He’d scream into his chest each time he was hit. In the few throws that were shown, the man was knocked out or at least stopped yelling as he was pummeled.
The final scenes my mother said were as shocking as when she saw JFK’s
assassination on live television. She said none of it should have ever been shown, but what happened last was unimaginable. Even after the wine, she would only tell us that there wasn’t a noise other than the victim’s hands rubbing against the steel of the beds. She said the eyes never blinked in the screen; the pupils just darkened. The last victim was raped, tethered to the ends of the bed. She never went farther than that, and for that I was thankful.
I couldn’t tell in the archived newspapers if it was just one individual
in the tape or multiple people. I had thought that the graveyard shift would be the sanest, that the freshest workers would have been forced to work the nights. It was true to an extent, but there were a few individuals who relished the night,
Bruges and it was in their control that the darkness spread through the minds of the workers. After the video was brought out, it showed for a half a day on the news before being taken down by the police. It was never shown to the public again. The asylums were closed within a week of the video’s leak. The patients were displaced, and their families were never truly given closure from the darkness they heard about in the court proceedings. Mr. Jeffries was a saint to some, a hero to others, and a dead man to the families of the individuals who were jailed by him. He was considered missing a year after the asylums was taken down, concluded dead a year after that.
I stared into the trees and wondered what other darkness the asylums
had known. Three shifts a day, of decayed souls that enveloped the mentally handicapped innocents of Bruges. I tried to think of something happy, something different, but I couldn’t pull away from the darkness in the water. That by itself drew me in.
The Jeffries house lay on the edge of the asylums’ lot. Susie Jeffries, the
daughter, was the only member of the family left in the city. Her house looked disheveled with a tattered American flag hanging to the right of the front door. Layers of paint, both chipped and faded, covered the house. I knocked on the door and listened for footsteps. When it opened, she looked to my face and then to the trees behind me.
“Can I help you?”
“Hi…I’m a student and I’m taking a forensic science class and I’m
wondering if I could ask you some things about the asylums?”
She leaned into the edge of the door and slowly pushed it forward with
her shoulder. It creaked and I backed away. I could feel blood start to weep from my nostril.
She gasped, “Are you okay?”
I wiped the blood with the back of my hand and started to turn.
Defensively, “I’m fine, it’s from a dog bite.”
She asked, “Is it serious?”
The door was more open when I turned to look at her again.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
“It’s fine, it just gets worse in dry air like this.”
The wind from the lake pocketed at the door.
She spoke loudly over it, “Come in, come in!” I stepped into the house
just as the flag started to fall limp to the passing gust.
In those first few steps in her home I felt the asylum stories becoming
more real. The room was dull, with two couches and a group of pictures of a young family collected on one wall.
“I’ll get you a Kleenex.”
“Really it’s fine, sorry I came, I should go.”
Thoughtfully, “People used to always come, just wait here.”
She walked down the hallway and just out of sight. I breathed in the air
of the Jeffries’ house, and let the blood fall back down my throat. She came back with a box of Kleenex. “This dog bite, how’d it happen?”
“It’s stupid, just a bad day.”
“I’d like to hear it, it must have been something if you’re still bleeding.”
“It happened a few years ago, it’s all kind of hazy; I only remember parts
She directed me to the couch, and I sat, getting uneasy as I gave her
some of myself. “Its name was Oskar,” I started quietly.
“It was such a weird night. I was supposed to go see a movie, and all of
my friends were meeting up to have a couple drinks first. I got to the house and everybody was downstairs. The water heater was broken and we ended up working on it for about an hour but there were too many of us to really do anything and pretty soon my friends started going upstairs. At the end, it was just me and my friend’s dad working on the stupid thing. I remember being annoyed because someone yelled, ‘Dude, your beers are getting warm,’ and everyone laughed. We got to the last pipe and found that there was some seal missing and we couldn’t finish, so I ditched and went upstairs.
“My beer was just sitting there. So I sat, opened it, took a drink. All of
a sudden their dog puts its head on my thigh. It was a cool looking dog, seemed nice. So I scratched its ear and bent down saying hello.
“And then I’m not really sure if I know what happened,” I said.
“For some reason it seemed like my dog. I put my face really close to
it, I guess too close to it. There were these flashes, and the weird thing is that I couldn’t hear anything. Everything was just black, black with white lines going in and out. And then my left eye didn’t want to open and there was blood everywhere. I thought somebody punched me. When I could see, I could see the dog was covered in blood, and I got up trying to act like nothing happened. My eye was still closed, and I couldn’t really walk.
“I don’t know how, but I made it to the bathroom. The water was still
off, and my friends were all around me talking but everything seemed so far away. When I looked in the mirror there was too much blood on my face. It was pouring from everywhere. I couldn’t even tell what was going on. I put toilet paper on my face and it just filled with blood. My eye started twitching and my hands shook on my face. It hurt so bad.
“They didn’t call an ambulance. So on the drive I kept trying to keep the
blood from getting on the car seats. My body kept shaking, and shaking. I couldn’t figure out what happened. My face hurt so bad. I was breathing through my mouth because the blood was everywhere in my nose. I was so lightheaded.
“At the hospital they asked me what happened, and I couldn’t talk.
Clint’s mom was there, and she said, “He was bit in the face by our dog.” I don’t think I even put together what happened till then. After she said that, I reached for my face. I didn’t know what was cut; it felt like my eye and my nose. God, I’m shaking just thinking about it.
“That was the worst pain of my life. The nurse kept holding my arm,
trying to get it to stop shaking while they were stitching up my face. It’s hard to say what that dog’s teeth did. One tooth caught in my nostril, and it sliced through to the other side. There’s a vein in there and that’s where most of the blood came from.
“Then here,” I said as I pointed just under my left eye.
“The other tooth went right in here. It caught on the bone and then
sliced through my cheek until it ripped through my nose too. You can see the line if you look close.”
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Susie leaned in and said, “I’m so sorry.”
“Nothing you can do now. It was fourty-four stitches, and it doesn’t
hurt anymore, but my nose is still screwed up. When that vein healed, the scar pushed it to the edge of my septum. Now when it’s dry or cold it breaks open and everything tastes like metal.”
I looked at Susie. “They killed Oskar about a week later. I still feel bad
about it. He didn’t need to die.”
“Are you still afraid of them?” she asked.
“For a while, but it went away. It just happened so fast you know. I
always thought I’d react quicker. When I saw the stitches I couldn’t believe it. I still look in the mirror and think I’ll look like I used to.” “Hmm.”
“He might have had his reasons though; he was a rescued dog, probably
beat to hell,” I said.
“Some things can’t be rescued.”
It looked like something collected in her mind and we paused.
“I think you should go,” she said.
“Thanks for the Kleenex, and letting me in,” I responded as I got up.
She had stayed on edge the whole time we talked and seemed to soften
to me after I finished. She thanked me and said to stop back in a few days. I did.
In the weeks that passed, Susie became more real to me.
She was a teacher at the second largest elementary school in the city. She was petite, dark haired, dark eyed, and respected in the community. She had a grace to her that made it hard for me to see myself asking her anything regarding her father’s death. I never openly asked her about the asylums, but instead she would sometimes add unsettling comments when we were both silent. She’d said once, “That week was horrible. I’d hear my dad crying in his room while my mother yelled that he had to leave Bruges.”
“Did you hear what he said after?”
“No…maybe, I was young and he never talked to me about it. They were
just words coming through the light at the bottom of their closed door. I used to sit with my face on the wood floor at the other end of the hallway and try to be a part of their conversation. I wish I still could be.”
“It’s all unbelievable, I can’t imagine anyone absorbing that,” I
“You don’t have to imagine it, no one should.”
“Do you think it was him in Bruges Lake?”
“I know it was.”
“I’m sorry, I should have never pried, I can go.”
“Yes, please, but please come back.”
She didn’t want to talk about what happened a few years back
when two divers decided to go into Bruges Lake. The lake was known for its undetermined depth and general nature to be cold, yet divers were always drawn to it, especially when it became quarantined during the investigation. After the police didn’t find anything, they opened it back up, but the caution signs still stood and the people of the town continued to follow them. To prepare, these divers dressed in their warmest wet gear, and in their second descent, somewhere around 40ft they found a discharge pipe. At the top of the pipe there was a thick plastic bag, heavy with an object inside wrapped over and over. The bag was held in the top of the pipe, with two holes through the steel and a string tied through it followed by a knot on top.
The bags were as cold and mysterious as the lake, and sealed with the
least amount of oxygen possible. At first, the divers thought they were cleaning up the lake, but as they released the rope and felt the weight of the bag their minds raced to figure out what it really was. When the divers brought it up to the surface and off into the sand they pulled out their diving knifes to slice the bag and see their bounty. I figure they really felt like treasure hunters, masters of the
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 dark Bruges Lake, but instead they were just another process for Mr. Jeffries’ slow decay in this world. They tore the bag open slowly, and as the first leg was pulled out they ran. They sprinted in the 90-degree summer with the warmest wetsuits through the brush out to the streets. One of them made it for a 5-minute run, before he passed out from the heat, shock and exertion of the moment. The other ran to the road and waved down a car with the tank still on his back.
I figure he passed out soon after. After having my face torn by Oskar, I
felt I understood the exhilaration and that there was not much more a body could take before it accepted shock. They said the head, hands, and feet were missing from the body. Everyone in the city knew it was Jeffries, but there was nothing substantial left to identify him. It was so close to a mafia style murder that the law disregarded that it was related to the asylums’ shutdown. The clean cuts, and the intricacy of the body down in the water for well over 10 years, made the case sound. The people of the town and even officers felt the law failed the night the case was closed. I’ve looked through the newspapers for the original case, but I rarely find the information in as much depth as what my mother told me. I suppose it was how the times were and just take her word.
The lake, no matter what time of year, was always murky to me, dark
with small channels of dirt and darkness flowing within it. I threw rocks into it, passed time looking into it, but never in my life had I ever touched Bruges Lake. I let it hold its mystery and maintain its own fury. At times I thought I could hear it calling out of the water. The pain and murders would echo and climb through the changing pressures. I’d picture the still water and look deep into the surface and wonder why the wind never caused a ripple.
I made a point to see Susie every week. We’d talk about the tape,
and what little she could remember of her dad’s statements about Bruges. She became calmer and calmer with me the darker I got. I felt a connection to her, and it seemed she did with me too, like two bastard children forming a bond of hate against their abusive stepfather. I looked forward to seeing her. We became something hidden; closed behind doors.
She asked, “Are you okay? You look pale.”
“I’m fine, my nose has been bleeding.”
“Oh, well lean your head back.”
“I think that’s the problem.
“The doctors asked if I swallowed the blood or spit it out. I told them
I try but some days I can still feel it in my stomach. They told me I had to stop ingesting it.
“It’s making me sicker,” I said.
“Can you walk?“
“Yeah, that might make me feel better.”
“Let’s walk the lake then?”
“Are you sure?”
When we first met, Susie told me she never walked the lake. I was afraid
to go now because I thought she would break. The pains were the closest for her; the rest of the city had given up and let the darkness of the asylums fade into the forest. As we walked, I looked to the trees and felt that they had all curled inward toward the water. The trails were designed in a tightening spiral, and with each turn came a darkness that clung to the elms.
She didn’t talk until we got to the trail, and then she spoke of her father.
“God, he died when I was seven, what the hell are you supposed to do
when your dad dies then?”
“I don’t know, it’s not supposed to happen.”
“It does though, it did, it’s not fair.”
“I agree, it’s just…”
“Why did it take a week? Why didn’t your dad go to the cops the first
“It took him a week to stop it forever, what else would you want from
him, he came home as an empty shell and hid from us. It broke him, and then they killed him for it.”
“I’m sorry, but an entire week just always seemed unnecessary to me.”
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
I don’t think I talked anymore on that walk, and from what I know now
I wish I had. I had always thought that Mr. Jeffries waited longer than he needed. It confused me. It didn’t make sense to wait; the patients were only getting hurt more.
That night I dreamed of Bruges. The dream followed two things, a
demon in the asylum and Susie’s father. In my dream the patients of the videos were only attacked by shadows. The room was blurry, and everything was off white with blood raining from the ceiling. I looked to the first shadow and saw a lens hovering in the outline of a man. It was pinned against the wall, with blood collecting on the lens. I stood, unable to move, and next to my feet were two naked bodies lying in the fetal position. A black sphere moved around the room, and rested softly on top of one of the bodies. I saw a flash, and watched the sphere float to the wall and disappear in the shadow. The shadow then walked forward, a dark figure that reached with one hand to my throat. I stared into the lens, and in it I watched the blood drip out of one of the patient’s mouth. A finger from the shadow appeared from the shoulder of the being and moved forward toward my eye. It followed the scar from my eye down to my nose and blood poured across the floor. I tasted metal and salt, and then woke up.
My nose was bleeding. I cursed Oskar and then leaned my head back
before getting ready for class. I went to my morning class and received a text from Susie. We hadn’t talked since we walked the lake; it had been about a week. The text read:
“I’m done. I’ll show you where they put him.”
I responded immediately, “What? Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right there.”
I rushed out of class, and on the walk to the car I felt another text
vibrate in my pocket, but was too afraid to look at it. I drove directly to her house and saw her car was gone. The American flag was wavering, and as if the wind was telling me where she was, I knew she had gone to the lake.
When Susie cut her wrists, she let the rivulets of blood course out of her
body. It seeped, congealed, and became less viscous as it hit the wind and layered
Bruges on her body. It saturated her jeans and then channeled down through the leaves. When I stood over her, I felt that this was my second Oskar, another moment so overwhelming with pain that it was impossible to understand. I placed my hands over the split seams on her arms hoping to stop the blood. As I did, her body sagged into the crevice of the tree. I pulled her back up, and I could feel the heat on her back that was missing from her arms.
I reached into my pocket to see her last text:
“Don’t worry about me, he’ll be with me. He was a good man. He was a
I must have called the police, but I don’t remember that. I remember
being taken to the back of a police car. The officers said that I was still screaming when they got there, but I only remember doing it once. In fact, a soothing silence overcame my mind after I looked past her arms to the dilated pupils of her lost body.
I wish I could tell you that the rest was a blur, but with the police car
lights flashing, everything came in two-second intervals that pulsated through my nerves. I sat with my body arched forward away from the back of the seat with my head resting against the window separating the officers from me. My hands were handcuffed. I rubbed my face side to side on the window to break the vein. I wanted pain. After it broke, I swallowed in big heaves pushing the blood into my stomach. They asked me my name, but I didn’t talk. The next 16 seconds would be the systemic end of my life. The police had taken my license and were running my information. One officer read my name to the other, and then he radioed it in.
My name was said back over the radio, and it went something like
this—“Thomas Hatfield, born Thomas Mason, age 23, born in Adrian and resides there currently.” The car stopped dramatically and the radio fell silent. The cops along with my own ears let the information settle; I knew the last name “Mason” as much as they seemed to. If the radio was right, I had the same last name as the “demon” of Bruges, the main assailant that was executed after the trial. He was undoubtedly the reason why my mother had always damned the city, the asylums, everything. The two policemen pulled me from the back seat and my body let it all come in. I watched without feeling any of the kicks to my chest. The
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 boots of the officers fell with tremendous force on my rib cage.
I made it to the police station, but couldn’t talk. I could barely breathe,
and the contusions and breakage were all hidden under my clothes. No one believed me when I tried to say it. So the blood seeped from my nose down my throat. I breathed shallow breaths, and held my hand over my chest. Somewhere around five ribs had broken and one pierced my right lung. I died that night, my soul first and then soon after my body.
When the police pulled Susie’s body from the tree they saw that she
had started to dig a hole underneath her. On a whim, the officers dug deeper and found another plastic bag. In it were the final contents of Mr. Jeffries. They were not as well kept as his body from the lake, but they had just as much impact on the city. It would have been relieving for Susie to have this out to the world years ago. I would have wondered how she knew they were there. I would have asked, and she would have told me.
“The bags showed up on our doorstep in the first year that he was
missing. There was a note that said if anyone were to find out about it, the same would happen to my mother and me. We buried it one night, and then I never came back until we walked Bruges.”
// Craig TenBusschen, an alumnus of University of Michigan,Â graduated with a B.S.E. in Mechanical Engineering. He has always enjoyed
writing. Even now as an engineer, if you peeked at his work notebooks, youâ€™d find them bordered by notes for new stories.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
// Granada in the summer is hot, dry and filled with tourists. Finding a shady plaza beneath the balconies is reason to rest and compose an image. This photograph is a panoramaÂ constructedÂ from 3 images taken with a Nikon D7000, and processed with Microsoft Image Composite Editor, Adobe Photoshop, NIK HDR Efex Pro 2 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
A Plaza in Granada Mark J. Kushner Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
MY EARTH MATTHEW ROBERTSON / POETRY
This ball of dust that coalesced
With all it stands to my defense
I ride, it flies through empty space
to give us all a fighting chance
where only waves of light pervade
itâ€™s will against the solar winds
and particles that lost their way
and shelling, steady to resist
The gas it trapped is wrapped around
In thunder only it gives in
and saves me daily from the cold
to catastrophic force it bends
those particles it singes signals
but one alone is not the end
now again to it I owe
in long but sure, it lives again
Moon Shadow Shonda Bottke Mosaic
// This mosaic is made of art glass, iridized glass, stained glass, dichroic glass, moonstone, and recycled/found lead. This piece is my take on a solar eclipse. Rather than putting a black dot over the sun, as one would see during an actual eclipse, I
decided to create an artistic interpretation of the surface of the moon from various photos of the moon. Dichroic glass, the random whirls of art glass and the various bits of recycled lead with dichroic glass represent space clouds and plasma.
Unknown to any of itâ€™s kind
In trust, a special charge to bear
it sails alone in wonder not
I hold a secret down below
but only duty on itâ€™s mind
in need of me, that without care
a simple plan, as if it thought:
the universe may never know
To life I serve, as mine is shared my purpose built on what I spare in taking heat, and taking hits to guard my fragile living heirs
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
FEATHERS CONNIE ZUO / POETRY Feathers ruffled, fluffed up so high Puffed up, though he’s hardly a puffin Stuck up, though he’s hardly a peacock Shrunken nut, a skull staggers under the weight of An ego gone wild Stunted wings flourish as imperiously as the beak That rivals New York City with its allergy to sleep. That’s where he’s headed, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley Goldman Sachs, Saks Fifth Avenue, A dull, yellowing beak hides behind gilded talk
Nighttime at the Dusseldorf Airport Mark J. Kushner Photography
Shaken, not stirred Gelato, not ice cream If birds had fingers, heâ€™d snap at the waiter. That brittle twig had given him warning enough And as a kinder season beckoned to the brood of robins The bird plunged headfirst Finally revealing his weak, knobby legs A gift to the neighborhood tabby Who later complained of Too many feathers.
// The airport at Dusseldorf, Germany seems to shine at night â€“ the interior is a crisscross of steel beams highlighted by spots. After the
last flights arrive and depart for the evening, the airport becomes very quiet, and invites one to take a closer look.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
18th Century British Soldier Anthony Dedakis Visual Art RIGHT
Fantasy Map of North Campus Kaelynn R. Clolinger Visual Art
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Inculpability Demi Outman Visual Art
GRACE TREBECCA MCDONALD / POETRY you had been so many places i don’t know whether you had purposely obscured your father’s face, or if you just liked the scenery at dusk. hope was the blurred red sun in those grainy photographs. mornings when you woke still protected by the sleeping bag zipper, the glowing embers of your innocence, the undisturbed sleep. and all i remember now is our shadows on the pavement your impervious stare i had wished the giving would stop. relics from road trips, those leather bound pages: though there weren’t enough words —not enough to save you you found ways to freeze time into paragraphs. somewhere, the binding of a journal cracks, the ribbon frays.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
JUST A MILE DOWN THE ROAD ZANDER MICHIGAN / POETRY Just a mile down the road is the place where I was born It’s dying and filled with grief It’s cased in shadows, gray with ashes It can’t get no relief Do you need a passport to go down there? Tell me is it safe? I will keep my doors all locked In fear for my life No one smiles, no one laughs No one sings a tune Front porches are empty and babies are hungry In all hours of the afternoon Teenagers can’t read too good The police don’t even care They’ll just arrest you and then they’ll undress you I hope you’ve got underwear I say with a frown, “Why is it so?” With hopes that it will change My ma said, “John, don’t ask questions why. It’ll always be the same.”
I got to thinking and I got to wondering What it feels like when you die And how it feels for all those folks Who have no home tonight So I sat real long and I thought real hard About how good my life has been There are people one mile down Who havenâ€™t got a thing
Campfire Mike Stander Photography
40 BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 My fair city has been so good Been kind to me, I suppose But people live in squalor and sell themselves for a dollar Just a mile down the road I wish I could fix these kinds of things By singing in my songs But these thoughts don’t work too well If no one sings along If everybody sang or hummed or yelled These dreams would all come true Because sometimes music’s all you need To bring the best out of you Now my story’s done, but my city’s not It’s got a long way to go Through the rain and the humid heat And the next day it’ll snow I don’t want to say farewell Because I’m not going far Today might be as dark as night But we always have tomorrow Just a mile down the road
// Campfire was shot while backpacking at the Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area in the Huron National Forest near Alpena, MI. The “lakes” are actually beaver ponds, and we’ll quite
often hear beavers slapping their tales on the water at night. It is a sound you’ve got to hear to believe how loud it can be, like a large boulder being tossed into the pond.
Adventure Susan Montgomery Photography
Adventure is a photograph that was taken at the Lachay Nature Reserve in the coast of Peru. Itâ€™s an amazing place in the middle of the desert where every year the flora regenerates, fed only by the mist
that comes from the ocean and hits the mountains. I took numerous photographs of paths throughout in the park, aiming for one that conveyed that beckoning sense of adventure. Enjoy.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
FORTUNE COOKIE ADVICE CONNIE ZUO / POETRY I smell chicken, and I walk straight into the trap. A battered copy of TIME brandished in self-defense is not enough to convince Mom that Iâ€™m terribly busy and did I mention that I like your sweater and, oh wow, the kitchen is so crowded, I had best get back upstairs.
43 Lonely Yin Yu Photography
Marched to the stove with a spatula at my back, Given a wooden spoon and an ultimatum: Make spaghetti. A more reasonable goal surfaces: Survive. White steam shrouds my incompetence. Would one classify my eyebrows as steamed, blanched, or scalded? Where is a welding mask when you need it? The pot gurgles over in rebellion, Unhappy under the reign of an utterly unqualified monarch. My bamboo scepter is revoked, And I am reassigned to a game of fetch. Holly drops her chew toy to smirk, I drop the bag of spaghetti. Fortunately, the vacuum has no qualms about eating raw noodles, And I mask Momâ€™s fury with the hum of our Oreck. I crouch low, Thinking this would make good fortune cookie advice: The song of the vacuum is far more melodious than the outbursts of an angry mother.
44 BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
REBIRTH JEFF LOWE / POETRY Here I sit, alone with my mind. My hearing temporarily blocked by the throngs of a common cold, but this is no common cold. It leaves me a prisoner to my own thoughts. With no escape they sit inside of me bouncing back-and-forth in my head with each collision more powerful than the last. It is apparent that the time will come when my thoughts will explode releasing me from the strangle hold of my fictional world. I will be thrown back into physical existence with a more keen perception of the events around me. The weight of the world no longer clogging my mind. I eagerly await that moment, for it is then that I will be reborn.
Journey of Life Syfith Jeet Singh Visual Art
// This sketch was inspired by life in general. You start from your home, dreaming about the way to reach the stars with infinite possibilities lying ahead of you. However the road of Life is twisted; at every step you have to
take chances and make choices that define who you become, either good (right) or evil (left). You suffer through heartbreaks and you may fall but no matter what you blossom out of the thorns to the end of the road.
// This photo was taken at the crack of dawn at my familyâ€™s farm in Kentucky. At this time of day, the only sound I could hear was my own heartbeat and the slap of
my grandfatherâ€™s WWII flag against its pole. I had the sense that I was the only one in the whole world witnessing this moment, and it was glorious.
Salute the Sunrise Jessica R. Jones Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
MY FIFTH METATARSAL CONNIE ZUO / PROSE
ometimes it seemed my sister and I were growing up in a jungle of filthy, grimy animals. Snot and salty rivulets dripped down other children’s faces as they grabbed scraped knees and bruises, but Angie and I returned home every day with our corduroy dresses and bones intact. While our neighbors were flipping over handlebars on the steepest street in our Detroit suburb, Northville, Angie sat safely tucked away in
her world of fuse beads, braided bracelets, and typical 90’s children’s crafts. I was generally rowdier than my older sister, but the worst injury I suffered was a wrenched-back toenail in the seventh grade. Even then, I don’t remember the panic associated with a big toenail bent at ninety degrees but instead the delicious, to-go sushi lunch I ate in the backseat of my mom’s Sable on the way to the hospital.
Six years after the incident, the backseat of my mom’s car was no
longer decorated with Disney stickers but crammed to the top with cardboard boxes. I was leaving home for the University of Michigan. That first night of college, I stared up the ladder at my bed with wonderment. My mom had swaddled the school-provided mattress with white sheets and a white, lacy pillow, and it gleamed like an artificially whitened tooth in the fluorescent lighting. Covered in beads of late-August sweat, it was as if I were lying on a dense storm cloud. I wasn’t homesick or nervous, just hot and expectant. I was waiting for college to really start the way some girls wait for their Prince Charmings.
The next morning, I realized that at five feet and two inches, I didn’t
have what it takes to properly decorate a room with Christmas lights. Lightly placing my left foot on a dresser shelf, I tested my weight and trusted that
49 wooden board for a few, long seconds. Then, I was on the ground, the string of lights slapping the ground like a whip. I gripped my foot in shock, but my life has always been filled with accidents. I was already standing again by the time my roommate rushed over to untangle my legs from the blinking lights. Now that I think about it, it was probably a sign.
On the Sunday before classes began, I spent thirty minutes on makeup,
an hour waiting for Nikki to consider every possible combination of shirt and skirt in her closet, and half an hour taking pictures before the six of us girls finally left the dorm. Sammy, DU, Fiji, Pike. Nikki named frats the way a geography bee champ recites world capitals. We scurried up and down Washtenaw Avenue in a pack, each party, each new acquaintance, each red cup blending into the next. Nikki and I have been friends since the sixth grade, but we had just met the other four girls a few days before. Nevertheless, Jen, Sarah, and I were already linked arm in arm, and Jen was halfway through the story of her rich ex-boyfriend from Rhode Island by the time we pushed through a small crowd and were ushered inside Pike by the door monitors.
Suddenly, I turned around, and Jen was on the floor. Picking through
abandoned plastic cups and crushed beer cans, Sarah and I hauled her off the sticky, beer-coated floor. From both sides, frat boys stumbled toward Jen more out of concern for themselves than for her. “Hey, you need to get her home,” one of them tapped Sarah’s shoulder. “We can’t be responsible for her.” I have never been in a physical fight, but helping Jen was the closest I’ve been. Arms flailing, legs as weak as a newborn deer, and clammy palms grasping at my hair, Jen did not want to be saved, and she most certainly did not want to leave the party. Right arm slung around my shoulders, Jen bobbled like a buoy between Sarah and me as we lurched across uneven grass. Suddenly, possessed by a spurt of squirming and mumbling, Jen yanked at my neck and brought us both down on the pavement in a tangle of sequined party clothes and flat-ironed hair. Untangling the mess, Sarah propped us both back up the way you’d build a card tower in a wind tunnel. The side of my left foot screamed for my attention, but I kept walking.
The next morning, I woke up in another friend’s room without Sarah
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 or Jen but with a foot swollen to the shape of a mango and nearing a shade of purple that girls order prom dresses in. I decided that I would have to call 911. First, they sent a cop who looked about my mom’s age but lacked all maternal qualities. She stared at my foot, poked it a few times, and decided to phone the most useless paramedics on the planet. Then, waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she talked to my groggy, still-in-bed, half-naked friend about Ohio State for twenty minutes. Finally, the paramedics arrived. After a bit of squinting and unfortunately more poking, one wisely proclaimed, “It jus’ might be broke.”
And so I headed to the emergency room on Labor Day. I went to Mott’s
Children’s Hospital instinctively, forgetting what eighteen means, but they sent me to the adult emergency room. College classes had not even begun, my clothes hadn’t been unpacked, and I hadn’t even ordered textbooks yet. Somehow, though, I was lying on a hospital bed with a broken foot, trying to remember my health insurance information. Still, I was by far the jolliest patient there, speeding through the hall in a wheelchair and taking pictures with the nurses. Leaving the emergency room with my left foot encased in a gray, plastic boot twice the size of a normal leg, I stumped around like Captain Hook with friends, taking pictures and joking to ease the occasional pangs of pain.
It wasn’t until that night that I realized what having a broken foot truly
meant. The ladder to my bed that was once a nuisance was now a hazard. I scaled it clumsily using my remaining three limbs and collapsed onto the cheap mattress. By the fourth rung, watery eyes gave way to a torrent of tears. I had never broken a bone, but there I was with a fractured fifth metatarsal. I thought about how I couldn’t wear heels anymore. I thought about how Miss Cecilia first explained the word “metatarsal” in her Brazilian accent during ballet class, scrutinizing our tendus and teaching us to find grace in our feet. I thought about how I had never really gotten hurt before, how Jen didn’t even text me.
By day, I wore a wide smile and my plastic boot. Friends started calling
me “Boot,” and my dad affectionately renamed me que zi, “little cripple” in Mandarin. I was shuttled to class in a short, white bus for invalids of all sorts. Broken ankles, torn ligaments, and shattered arms—we swapped injury stories
My Fifth Metatarsal the way war veterans talk about their scars. We limped off the bus in a parade of broken toys, the least injured holding the door for the rest. It was hardly glamorous riding the short bus, but I almost felt like a celebrity. Everywhere I went, I was questioned about the boot. Classmates, a middle-aged Notre Dame fan, a guy passing out coupons for five-dollar pizzas, and the homeless man outside Urban Outfitters all wanted to know. I actually didn’t mind telling them; at least it was something I knew the answer to. Lately, there were not so many things I knew the answers to, and not just “which way is State Street?” or “what is the change in mechanical energy?”
By night, I sunk my face into my pillow as if it’d smother the panic
that begged me to freeze time and run home. I gripped the dark green Ralph Lauren tag on my pillowcase as if it’d take me back to Northville, where the neighborhoods have gates and need passcodes for entry. I had gotten so sick of seeing golden retrievers on every lawn, Starbucks on every desk, and an iPhone in every hand. Yet, I now wanted to be back where life was as predictable as my parents trying to hide Christmas presents.
My bone slowly fused itself back together over the weeks, and my
patient nostalgia became anger. I was furious that the doctors didn’t have a magic pill or operation that could fix my foot, and I was furious with myself. Flat shoes, flat sidewalk, flat-out stupid. But then, why did this not happen sooner? How could I have assumed that my bones were unbreakable? It had never before occurred to me that I would break a bone. Now that fear had wedged its way into my mind, anything was possible. I could fail a class or take the wrong bus. I could choose the wrong major or not get a job. Fear emanated from my broken foot, and I wished the rosy Christmas lights above my head meant I could go home and sip hot chocolate and eat snow from my front lawn.
The Christmas that I was five years old, my dad decided we would not
be enjoying the snow in our front yard but the snow five hours north at Boyne Mountain Resort; he was determined to teach us all to ski. My dad left China when he was twenty-three and managed to get himself to Houghton, Michigan in the name of higher education. When my mom followed him a year later, the first thing
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 she did (after getting her ears pierced) was to buy winter boots. They were either from a garage sale or Kmart—I don’t remember. But I remember countless stories about how the snow in Houghton would pile up taller than my dad, how it draped like a white, linen tablecloth and tucked away the landscape, cloaking the tiny town until the Victorian houses and old brick cottages snuggled under the snow and only peeked their chimneys out. Conjuring memories from before my time, I trusted my mom’s judgment when she wrapped Angie and me up in thermal wear and goggles and snow pants, fussing over our scarves and gloves until we almost crumbled under the weight of all the clothes.
My dad laughed to see his little one transformed into a pile of clothes
resembling the Michelin man and laughed even harder as I attempted to ski. I first stood sideways and poked gingerly at the snow with my ski poles as if I were searching for bombs. Then, I proceeded to step sideways down the mountain. My dad finally convinced me to go down the hill facing front, but when I realized how fast I was moving, I quickly speared the ground with my poles and sat down, too petrified to continue. To this day, I have never suffered a skiing injury, but I’ve grown used to watching the occasional troupe of ski patrol officers rush toward a stubborn pine tree and its victim or the icy half-pipe. I assumed that if I did break something, it’d be while doing something adventurous or risky. So I was always thinking, always deliberate, always cautious.
I always checked the answers to math problems twice and pressed the
lock button on my car keys until my car honked in confirmation. When I walked across campus, I remembered the myth that anyone who steps on the bronze “M” will fail their first blue book exam. I still sidestep the “M,” but I’m no longer reassured about the future. Senior year of high school, everyone tells you that you are going places and that you will be successful no matter what you choose to do. They make it sound like you can’t go wrong. Sipping beers under white, grad-party tents, they tell you that the next four years will be the best years of your life. But they don’t tell you how going to college just thirty minutes from home can still be terrifying and overwhelming. They don’t tell you that every next turn is a one-way street in Ann Arbor. They don’t tell you how breakable you are, how you could choose the wrong one-way street. Everyone says to find what you’re passionate
My Fifth Metatarsal about and everything will be fine, but it’s hard to believe in formulas for success now.
When I went back to the hospital for an appointment five weeks after
Labor Day, I was relieved to be greeted at the door and guided to Mott’s Children’s Hospital. I ogled the colorful lights and under-the-sea themed wall stickers with bigger eyes than the toddlers around me, and I took two suckers on the way out. But the appointment was too short. A doctor and his student walked into the room, poked my foot, made a couple jokes, and were on their way. I couldn’t stop asking them if I’d be completely healed, if I would be completely back to normal. They let out Santa-esque chuckles and patted my back, showing me x-ray pictures and giving vague advice for a future they’d never know about.
The fifth metatarsal is tiny and isn’t vital for survival. Yet, breaking it was
like cutting the tape in front of a world of uncertainty. I wish I could grab a set of ski poles, plant myself in the ground, and stay cushioned in the snow’s embrace like the red brick cottages in Houghton. I wish I could go back to the doctor’s office and demand more than an x-ray. I want them to pull magic crystal balls out of their white coats and show me my future and tell me that all of me, not just my fifth metatarsal, will be okay.
// Connie Zuo is a freshman studying business and engineering. She loves cats and sushi and hates getting out of bed.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
REMEMBERING JANUARY TREBECCA MCDONALD / POETRY Memories of deep snow and icicles— days when not even ripped snow pants dared to deter our embrace of winter storms. We’d do jumping jacks flat on our backs, making angels only to climb out of them, one of us pulling the other out of the mold. I see little kids zipped up in hot pinks and turquoise, little eskimos crossing the street and I’m reminded of you, and how winter would whip our faces and howl in our ears, Us, two rebels against the cold.
Sky Blossom Yang Wei Photography
// Just try to hang in here. Spring is coming! Itâ€™s about time to smell the sky blossom.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Cool Waterfall Mike Stander Photography RIGHT
New Horizons Vinayak Thapliyal Photography
// Shot on the Presque Isle River just upstream from where it enters Lake Superior in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It was a bright, sunny day and I
had to employ every trick in the book to get a slow enough shutter speed for the silky water effect. Canon EOS 5D Mk II, 1 sec at f/32 and ISO 100, 200mm focal length
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
ECSTASY UNRUFFLED NIKITA LOMIS / POETRY As I sit in solitude, recollecting memories Obscured by the shadow of time, A blend of countless thoughts Surface from the depths of my mind. Gone are the days of childhood When innocent friendships blossomed; When playtime enlivened dreary evenings, Relieving the mind of burdens When every morning unfolded The beginning of a new chapter; When the fading of the daylight Ended with echoing laughter. When little eyes gleamed with dreams, Oblivious to all adversities. When nothing was more hurtful Than bruised and bleeding knees. When the heart rejoiced spells of rain With exuberance one could not fathom; When life seemed a joyous melody And not a soulful rhythm. As the solemnity prevails, Perpetuated by profound silence, I feel blessed to have lived The beauty of these moments.
Adwoa Lizzie Hyde Visual Art
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Solitude Susan Montgomery Photography
// Solitude was taken at the Lachay Nature Reserve in the coast of Peru. Itâ€™s an amazing place in the middle of a desert where every year the flora regenerates, fed only by the mist that comes from the ocean and hits the mountains. Only very gnarled trees that
can capture the moisture can survive in this harsh environment. I tried different crops to adjust the relative position of the tree and the fraction of sky to evoke loneliness, and edited out some longer grass to add to the treeâ€™s isolation.
Birds and Falls Yin Yu Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
MAO VICTORIA WU / PROSE
f only I could pull off what my cats get away with. When my cat Tuffy smashed a five-hundred-dollar, collector’s coffee table, all she had to do was whisk her brown-striped tail a few times and turn her fearful, clear blue eyes toward my already softening mom. Yet, when my older sister Anna and I broke a window while throwing rocks at a hornet (great idea, I know), we were exiled to our sixty-year-old neighbor’s house to sit indoors and watch Civil War documentaries
all day until we were worthy of supervision-less play again. When my other cat, Oreo, dislikes the turkey tidbits in her cat food, all she has to do is flick a paw, disgusted, and wait for my dad to hurriedly open a new bag of salmonflavored snacks for her to sample. And to think of all the times I’ve wished for my plate of limp, mushy eggplant to turn into chocolate cake. It’s not fair, but I can’t complain for too long—I too adore our family cats.
I was seven years old when we adopted Oreo, and I dressed for the
occasion in a white shirt with a pink, sparkly, cartoon kitten printed on it. It was from Limited Too, a store that sells little girls’ clothing and the associated “coolness” at prices like thirty-five dollars for a T-shirt. I later learned by eavesdropping on my parents at night that my dad had been laid off, and we shouldn’t have been shopping at Limited Too or shopping much at all. But a little girl’s birthday is a little girl’s birthday, my mom argued.
Anyway, I was waiting at the door with Anna when my mom
came home from work without her usual briefcase and with a maroon, plastic kennel instead. On October 17, 2002, my family of four Star Trail Shiyang Deng Photography
welcomed a black-and-white tuxedo kitten aptly named Oreo. My mom fussed over the weeks-old kitten, scolding Oreo while actually adoring every movement of her sharp, little
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 claws. My dad was the happiest, even happier than Oreo in a box of packing peanuts, as he told us about the kitten he raised as a boy growing up in poor, politically-tumultuous China. For once, my mom and dad were in agreement over something, and our family quickly centered on our newest addition as we became cat obsessed together.
A year later, I went to a classmate’s birthday party with a wrapped
present and returned with a calico, blue-eyed cat that the host family no longer wanted. Neither my mom nor Oreo was particularly receptive of this new cat at first, but Tuffy grew fat alongside Oreo as we pampered them both. My mom’s grumbling about five-dollar organic milk and canned albacore tuna gave way to smiles with every purr or meow. We were happily powerless against their soft, padded feet, the little pink dots of toes and noses, the coarse tongues, and, best of all, the warm stomachs humming like little lawnmowers. From afar, it must’ve been a funny sight—this Asian American family coddling two fat cats, cradling them like babies, letting them sit at the dinner table, and nestling faces into thick fur that smelled like home, comfort, and faint Fresh Step cat litter. But our two cats have become more than just pets. Whenever the dinner table tension becomes too much, I simply abandon the cold rice I have been poking at and run to my bedroom where somewhere, under the bed or inside the laundry hamper or on top my just-washed sweater, I find a fuzzy lump of a cat. Scooping up Oreo or Tuffy, I march triumphantly to the kitchen where pursed lips are replaced by begrudging smiles of adoration. Sleepy eyelids blinking in complacent confusion, these cats have no idea that they are one of the last remaining links between my mom and dad.
Even halfway across the globe, cats still work their magic on my family.
You see, my maternal grandmother, my Lao Lao, practices cat worship as well. When she found out that some neighborhood kittens had fallen into a sewage hole and that my dad, who just happened to be visiting at the time, was the one who rescued them, we never heard the end of her ballad: “Zuo Jun Ba Mao Jiu Le!” My father saved the cats. And the cats are saving my Lao Lao, too.
She is a tiny, wizened old lady who refuses to socialize with the
neighbors, wear anything but black, or cook anything but potatoes. Although my
Mao mom urges her to try celery or carrots or anything with a speck of nutrition, Lao Lao refuses out of peculiarity and stinginess. Yet, she buys only the freshest, most expensive fish for the neighborhood cats. She throws a rag over her wild, stringy hair in a kitchen so hot that it threatens to cook you right along with the fish, not making dinner for herself or my grandfather, Lao Ye, but for her beloved cats. While my Lao Ye visits a Buddhist temple and plays mahjong with the old men downstairs, Lao Lao keeps to herself and visits her shrine—a pile of broken cement blocks and thrown-away newspapers where the cats live. These cats are the only things that can lure her out of her apartment. Since the car accident that’s left her struggling to walk, she’s been saving her toothless smiles and the energy it takes her to get down the stairs for her two daily trips—one to the market to buy fish and the other to feed the cats. It’s a sacred journey to her, and when I ask to go, she crinkles her face and shakes a hand. My mom agrees, “It’s too dirty. You stay inside.”
Finally, after days of begging, Lao Lao shyly brings me along. She taps
her cane against the wall of the garbage pile: “Zhar.” Here. She says it with a mixture of pride and apology, not sure what her youngest granddaughter will see in this heap of cracked clay pots and cinder blocks leftover from a nearby construction project. Flies and mosquitoes have also made this their home, but Lao Lao doesn’t seem to notice the buzzing or the unforgiving humidity, although she wears long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in hundred-degree weather. She begins to call the cats in her nasal, piercing tone, and four black-and-white kittens come scampering out from under a broken lawn chair. Lao Lao continues her sing-song dinner cry: “Mao, Mao, Mao, Mao!” Finally, we see the kittens’ cautious mother and a lazy, white cat that she says is the mother’s son from last year. Lao Lao keeps telling me to go back, that it’s too hot, but I stay and watch the cats devour their gourmet meal of liver and sausage. She never once pets them but observes and laughs childishly, clapping her wrinkled hands a few times. She squats the way the Chinese do, with their arms draped over their knees, and lovingly berates her cats. “Don’t you know how much that cost, Cat?” she points a gnarled finger at the kitten who doesn’t finish his share of liver. Lao Lao sighs as the cats lay down for an evening nap and says that she wishes she could see
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 my own two cats. I know she actually means that she wishes she could see me for more than two weeks at a time, every three to five summers. I tell her that one of the kittens looks like Oreo, and I see her try to smile for me. She says that she’ll pretend it’s my cat from now on. She picks up a twig, traces some lines in the dust, and flings it away tiredly. By the time we leave, I sense that I’ve accumulated upwards of fifteen mosquito bites. Lao Lao and I later count twenty-six swelling, itching lumps, but she dabs ointment on my arms and legs with an air of approval. Somewhere in between her exclamations of “Aiyaaa” and “Ni Kan Kan Ni” (look at you!), I hear relief that someone else understands this faith of hers. I have been to her temple, and I know it is real.
I never accompany Lao Ye to the Buddhist temple, but I watch him
return from it in the afternoons. Lao Ye has survived two strokes and a car accident, but this doesn’t stop him from zooming away to temple in his electric wheelchair, fearless among motorcycles and cars alike. At one point, I see him dart between two taxis, either too deaf or too nonchalant to be bothered by the furious honking, before disappearing into the smog and traffic. One afternoon just a few days before I am set to return to the States, Lao Ye comes home waving a scrap of paper and grinning. He offers it to me first, then laughs uproariously as he remembers that I can’t read Chinese. My cousin, Dou Dou, sets down her toddler son and picks up the paper, which is from a widely respected, blind soothsayer. You will live to age 83. When my cousin reads this part, Lao Ye beams. By then, he says, I too will be holding a little one. He smokes a Marlboro and peacefully ignores Dou Dou as she berates him for not bringing her to the soothsayer with him.
The next day, she takes me on a trip to the largest local temple instead
to light incense for her son, De Ze. Dou Dou married into a family of Chinese southerners, and my mom rolls her eyes as she says that Dou Dou’s becoming just as superstitious as they are down south. I hold little De Ze’s hand as we follow the click-clack of his mother’s high heels through one set of tall, red doors, then two more. We’re looking for the temple of a god that De Ze shares a name with. Dou Dou kneels in front of the statue she’s looking for, and I don’t blame De Ze for abandoning my hand and retreating in terror. It’s a warrior god’s statue, and everything from the thick, tar-black eyebrows to red-and-blue painted face is
Mao intimidating. Dou Dou finishes lighting her incense, but when we step through the next circular doorway into a garden courtyard, she realizes that this shrine before us is actually the one she was looking for. I guess it can’t hurt to light a little more incense.
Next, we stop before a shrine of a god of marriage, and this time Dou
Dou double-checks the sign before kneeling. I ask her if it’s a little too early to be praying for her two-year-old at the shrine of marriage. She shrugs—we’re here anyway, might as well. I wonder if anyone prayed for my parents. There are no wedding pictures in my house, no letters from friends congratulating my newlywed parents, no tacky picture frames that say “John and Bonnie, Forever and Always.” However, there is a Bible. It’s not so unusual to find one in a home, but in my household, the Bible’s flowery, cloth-covered binding contrasts sharply against my dad’s books about Python coding and physics. It was given to my parents by a group of intrusive missionaries when they were graduate students in Houghton, Michigan. I’m pretty sure my mom only kept the book for its pretty, cloth cover. If my parents had read this book, maybe gone to church, would their marriage be something else today?
One night when I was in the eighth grade, my parents fought worse
than ever. Anna and I were scream-sobbing, my mom was spitting words I couldn’t hear over my own fear and pleas for them to stop. I once saw a play on a school trip and scoffed at the leading actress, a woman pretending to be mad with grief; who actually clutches their hair like that and falls to their knees? But now, I was the one tearing at my own hair, choking on screams, digging my nails into my face in anguish. Suddenly, my dad lunged headfirst at our brick fireplace, looking for a way out of a marriage and life that had both become hell to him. There was a thud and a scream of pain, but at least not the crunch of a shattering skull. I kept praying in my head, little made up prayers that I repeated over and over. I had never been to church and only to temples while on vacation, and then as a curious observer. But I called to Buddha, God, Jesus, the manyarmed statues I’d seen inside temples, anyone. I asked them to protect my family, adding in fancy words to try and make it sound like a real prayer. Maybe if I said
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4 Our Father then this prayer stuff would work. In desperation, I thought of the untouched Bible on our bookshelf. I thought about how my cousin prayed at the wrong shrine, how the soothsayer calmed Lao Ye’s fear of dying too soon with a simple scrap of paper. I thought about my Lao Lao stepping down four flights of stairs with a lame foot, swinging her bag of meats and fish. I wondered how in the world the neighbors couldn’t hear us, why no one had called 911 yet.
I don’t know after how long, but it finally stopped. In a living room of
silence, my dad and I sat on the couch with my mom hovering nearby. He rubbed his head. There was no blood and he could speak and drink water. Anna had run upstairs to the computer to google the nearby hospital’s phone number. She said we couldn’t call 911—what if they took Dad away? When my father stood up and walked to the kitchen, I followed like a timid shadow or a king’s slave-servant, trembling and blank-eyed.
There, in the middle of the kitchen floor, sat Oreo. My dad knelt down,
broad shoulders and back blocking my view of her, and said Mao the way Chinese children say it when they are first learning to talk. I nodded and repeated it like an approving teacher. A forty-something-year-old man and his thirteen-yearold daughter together finding relief in repeating this monosyllabic, elementary Chinese word—Mao. Across the oceans, my Lao Lao is limping toward the trash heap. I hear her calling—Mao, Mao, Mao, Mao. This is the prayer I was looking for.
// Victoria Wu is a pseudonym. The author wishes to remain anonymous.
Untitled Marissa Linne Visual Art
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Trail to Nowhere Forrest McKinney Photography
In the Shadow of the Foothills Forrest McKinney Photography
Vertebrae Forrest Mckinney Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
// When it comes to ‘science’ and ‘research’ in the media, how much is fact and how much is fantasy?
Perception Helen Lai Visual Art
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Be Yourself Breanna Johnson Visual Art
Man vs. Nature AnneMarie Mueller Sculpture
// Inspired by my father who collects chess sets, this set was made in conjunction with an English class called “Literature of Climate Change.” It aspires to address the variability of the ongoing conflict between humanity and nature, particularly when it comes to humanity’s impact on climate
change. The roles of the specific pieces are implied through the hierarchal structure of a chess set and through comparison across sides. There are over a million ways a chess match can play out, just as there are over a million ways that the conflict between man and nature can play out.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Days in the Sky Yin Yu Photography
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
ARTIST BIOS Shonda Bottke
Photography / Faculty Shonda Bottke is a mosaic artist and staff member at the College of Engineering’s Graduate Professional Programs. Her mosaics have been featured at numerous galleries, art shows, publications, and charity auctions. As a mosaic artist, she gets inspiration from nature and the minutiae in everyday objects. She looks for the unique qualities or hidden spirit of the glass she’s working with and uses that as the catalyst to create an organic and fluid mosaic. She tries to incorporate at least one recycled item into each mosaic she creates and utilizes various tesserae (materials) into her mosaics to help create depth, perspective, and hopefully breathe life into her work. Shonda’s ultimate goal for each mosaic is to create an interesting and dynamic piece of art, capturing one’s emotions and expressing her passion for the ocean, nature and conservation.
Kaelynn R. Clolinger Visual Art / Junior
Kaelynn Rose Clolinger is a junior studying both Civil Engineering and Art & Design. She does just about everything in 2-D art, and also spends her time working as a freelance artist. In her spare time, Kaelynn enjoys doing things with her friends and family, who continue to be some of her biggest inspirations.
Photography / Graduate Student Shiyang Deng is a student in engineering school, and also a natural scenery inclined photographer. This young man wants to capture the beauty of the whole universe, somehow.
Visual Art / Graduate Student Lizzie is a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering. Her mother, an artist specializing in oil painting, inspired Lizzie to draw often as a child. Lizzie enjoys reading, rock climbing, drawing, and making collages. She hopes to work in global health.
Breanna J. Johnson Photography / Junior
Breanna Johnson is a junior in Aerospace Engineering who is planning to work in the Space Industry after graduation. In addition to art and engineering, she’s been playing the viola for 11 years and flamenco guitar for 8 years. When she’s not doing that, you can might find her dancing West Coast Swing or Salsa!
Jessica R. Jones
Photography / Graduate Student Jessica R. Jones is a aerospace engineering graduate student who loves looking up.
Mark J. Kushner
Photography / Faculty Mark J. Kushner is on the EECS faculty at the University of Michigan. He began his photography in a high school dark room using black&white 35 mm film with a Minolta 101. His work is now all digital, however the scent of developer and fixer will always hang in the air.
Visual Art / Sophomore Helen Lai is a mechanical engineer who enjoys dabbling in art/animation during free time. She as an unhealthy love for alligators, creepy things, and video games (particularly the concept art and visual design part). Helen also roams under the online handle of ‘dezimaton’.
Visual Art / Graduate Student Marissa Linne is a graduate student studying materials science and engineering. She enjoys being outdoors and near any body of water, lake or ocean. In addition to drawing and painting, in her free time she enjoys rockclimbing, sailing, swimming, and playing tennis.
Poetry / Graduate Student Nikita is a second year Master’s student pursuing Biomedical Engineering. She enjoys reading and likes to pen down her thoughts every now and then. She is also enthusiastic about learning and experiencing new things in life!
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Poetry / Graduate Student Jeff Lowe is a true Michigan resident. He grew up in Southeast Michigan, but he loves being in Upper Michigan, where he attended Michigan Tech as an undergraduate. He is an avid outdoorsman and likes to take advantage of seasonal sports and activities, including beer festivals.
Trebecca McDonald Poetry / Senior
Trebecca McDonald is a civil engineering student who enjoys writing poetry that dares to say the things left unsaid. Trebecca also loves fibercrafts, interior design, and orange juice. And smiling. Hey, it’s journey, not the destination, that matters.
Zander Michigan Poetry / Alum
Zander Michigan is a singer/songwriter from Detroit and an alumnus of this fair university. Upon finishing school, Zander has been actively pursuing his dreams of becoming a professional musician and a vagabond. In September 2013, he released his debut album “Never Going Back Home”. The reception has been great so far, and he’s thankful for the support. Zander has a long way to go, but he will get there. Lastly, a few parting words for those of you who have made it this far through his delightfully informative and inspiring autobiography: Dare to be stylish.
Susan Montgomery Photography / Faculty
Susan Montgomery is the Undergraduate Program Advisor in Chemical Engineering. Her favorite photography genres are nature, classic cars, and stock photography.
AnneMarie Mueller Sculpture / Sophomore
AnneMarie Mueller is a sophomore majoring in Environmental Engineering who intends to save the world, or at least make a dent in it. She enjoys hanging out with her crazy friends, sleeping in, and spending insane amounts of time on art projects completely unrelated to classes she is currently taking.
Visual Art / Freshman Demi Outman is an undergraduate in the College of Engineering, who spends her free time doodling and exploring her artistic vision. She enjoys eating free food, playing Just Dance with her friends, singing TV show theme songs, and hearing really corny jokes.
Drew Pompa Painting / Alum
Drew Pompa is a software engineer and U of M alumni. In his free time, he likes art, technology, and all of the places where they intersect. In his free-free time, he likes to sleep.
Matthew Robertson Poetry / Alum
Matthew Robertson is an engineer, an artist, an explorer, a wishful entrepenuer, a passionate overthinker, and a big, old kid. But mostly he is a dreamer. He wants to be free, he wants to do it all, and he doesn’t want to miss a thing. He is happy to alive; and he doesn’t even know what that is.
Syfith Jeet Singh Visual Art / Senior
Syfith Jeet Singh is a senior in Mechanical Engineering at University of Michigan and he is from northern part of India. Syfith is passionate about art, painting, drawing, nature, science, math and design. If possible, Syfith would like to live n a forest in a castle where he could explore the nature’s mysteries and do his experiments! A bit unrealistic, but you never know. He’s a family guy and love hanging around with friends, watching movies, reading books and singing ‘Rolling in the deep’ by Adele every minute of his life.
Photography / Faculty Mike is a long-time staff member of the College of Engineering’s EECS Department. He likes the outdoors, especially camping and hiking, and will photograph beautiful scenery wherever and whenever it happens. He also loves all kinds of music, has a keen interest in geology and plays ice hockey. To see more of Mike’s work, visit www.mikestander.com.
BPLM 2014 / Issue 4
Vinayak Thapliyal Photography / Senior
Vinayak is a senior interested in more things than he can handle ranging from music to programming. Vinayak’s interest in photography has grown over the last 2 years and he’s constantly amazed by how things we see can look so different through a lens. He’s begun to enjoy travelling more because of the opportunity to take more pictures.
Photography / Graduate Student Yang graduated from U of Michigan with a MS degree in ME. He has already missed the campus life. But hey, it’s a start of something new!
Photography / Senior Yin Yu is a student photographer who tries to see the world through cameras.
Biographies of short story authors are found with their work.
Blueprint Issue 4, Winter 2014