Elysium Literary/Art Magazine 2020 Vol. 19

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2020 9 L1 VO


Cover: A World Flipped upside Down | Elisa Taylhardat | Digital Photography

ELYSIUM Literary/ Art Magazine

Volume 19, 2020 elysiummagazine.com Coral Reef Senior High School | 10101 SW 152 Street | Miami, FL 33157 School phone: 305.232.2044 School fax: 305.252.3454 Sponsor Email: amy@billscott.com Telephone: 305.984.7056 To view archived copies of Elysium since 2005, visit ISSUU https://issuu.com/elysiummagazine310

A Note from the Editor At its core, art and literature encompass the human condition. In the reflection of a glossy photograph, between the pen marks of a poem, we find ourselves and tell our story. At this moment, our comfortable reality has been turned upside down. We are a generation forced to grow up too fast, one of lost innocence, burdened with the shortcomings of those who came before us, yet simultaneously we hold steadfast to a childlike hope for the future. We use our voices to capture the important moments, to amplify issues of injustice, and to connect with those who search for a sense of solidarity, These pages have become a paradise for the bold, loud, and heroic: our own Elysium. In a period of unease, we have created a time for reflection and action. Our pens and brushes give voice to our thoughts and make manifest our will.

Anik Willig Editor-in-Chief

About Us


Published continuously since 2005, Elysium Magazine is an annual publication designed to showcase student creativity in both writing and art. This year’s staff of twenty-two students came from an assortment of academies and represents grades 9-12. Elysium meets every Wednesday after school from October to March, as well as three full weeks in April. Due to unforseen circumstances this year resulting in school closures in March, Elysium’s usual meetings and general production were conducted remotely. All staff members continued to work tirelessly in procuring, selecting, matching, designing, and proofing the magazine from home. To reach a larger audience, all Elysium publications are archived on elysiummagazine.com along with programs and photos from past end-of-year galas held at Books and Books in Coral Gables.

Volume 19 consists of 88 pages created on Lenovo desktop computers using Adobe InDesign® CS5.5 and Adobe Photoshop® CS5.5. Because of early school closings, the staff downloaded one-week trials of Adobe InDesign to their home computers to allow for proofing and final spread creation. The layout staff chose Cormorant Garamond Semibold as the cover, title, and artist credit font, while the body text was fashioned from Raleway Regular. While no physical printing of Elysium is available for this school year, a digital Issuu copy will be made available online to Coral Reef High students, teachers, and the larger community.

Editorial Policy

Special Thanks

To ensure that the magazine is representative of the creative work of the entire school, staff are selected from across the many academies. In October, the editor-in-chief and adviser select the staff based on a personal interview, portfolio, and the student’s ability to evaluate an unknown piece of art or literature. To further ensure fairness, submissions are judged anonymously and identified by only an ID number. The literary staff reviews and evaluates pieces in solitude and later discusses pieces in a group. Selections are based on style, distinctive theme, and overall quality. Finally, the layout staff teaches InDesign to the staff. Layout then chooses fonts and possible covers to aid the staff in creating assigned layouts, designed to integrate with the overall theme and look of the magazine.

We would like to extend our appreciation to Mr. McKinley, Coral Reef’s visual arts teacher, for his artistic guidance and to our principal, Thomas P. Ennis, for his continued support of the magazine. Thank you to Mitch Kaplan who has hosted our culminating Elysium gala at the Books and Books venue in Coral Gables since 2009. We would like to thank all of the students at Coral Reef Senior High for submitting and having your voices heard.

Philosophy This magazine was founded with the intent to showcase the beauty of the relationship between art and literature. What sets Elysium apart is that we represent the entirety of our student body. Additionally, the staff seeks to establish ties within the community, recognize talent, and teach elements of professional design and layout. We believe there is real value in preserving print media.

Awards Columbia Scholastic Press Association: Gold Crown: 2014 Silver Crown 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 Gold Medalist: 2005, 2007-2019 National Council of Teachers of English: Highest National Award: 2008-2010, 2012-2019 National Scholastic Press Association: NSPA Pacemaker Finalist 2006 NSPA Gold Medalist and All-American 2006-2012 (Discontinued 2012)




Ava Albelo* Rio Cosimini Kali Gerrish Sara Johnson Eva Rovira Nia Paz


Ana Guardado* Valentino Bornancini* Sophia Salamanca Lina Oliveira Ulrich Michelle Velutini

LITERARY Ximena Carrera* Caterina Dong* Nathalie Acosta Nicole Alberto Sarah Bautista Samuel Cruz Karla Fidalgo Sabrina Morales Bailey Raymond

*staff editor

About a Woman on the Wall Isabela Alvarado, Poem


From the “Death of Marat” by David, From the Painting “Back from Market” by Chardin Adam Cheguer, Poem


Stranger Nia Paz, Poem


That the Working of Poetry is Limited Caterina Dong, Poem


Compliance Ximena Carrera-Ovalle, Poem


The Mariner Sabrina Morales, Poem


Wedding Vows Ximena Carrera-Ovalle, Poem


Candle and His Light: A Sonnet Kayla Conde, Poem


I Die So I Can Live Eva Rovira, Personal Essay


Cattelan’s Banana Rachael Ricisak, Poem


Redeath Caterina Dong, Poem


Golden Trace Luis Garcia-Sarabia, Prose


Minute Poetry Erik Meurrens, Poetry



Hidden in the Shadows: Jalynn McDuffey Ximena Carrera, Caterina Dong, Andres Rincon, Sophia Salamanca, Interview


On Seeing Van Gogh’s Second Series of Sunflowers Sarah Bautista, Poem


Of Glass and Mighty Empires Fabiana Montenegro, Poem


What Lies Behind Malena Gonzalez, Poem


Como La Flor Grace Chaviano, Poem


I Have Been Kissed by the Sun Fabiana Montenegro, Poem


A Brief Soiree Beneath Injured Moonlight Brennan Woolley, Drama


The Canvas Man in the Sky Anna Oswald, Poem


His/Her Truck Nia Paz, Poem


Golden Child Kami Bumpers, Spoken Word Poem


An Acquired Taste Sophie Hao, Personal Essay


Portraits Nia Paz, Poem


Baptized Leslie Gonzalez, Poem


The Color of Heartbreak Sarah Bautista, Poem


Sarah Lili Wade, Acrylic


Fungidextrous Rio Cosimini, Polymer Clay, Glass, Wood


Mirage Nia Paz, Photography


Deep Breath Valentino Bornancini, Photography


Perspective Valentino Bornancini, Photography


Peace and Serenity, Sunflower Journey Victor Dieguez, Makeup


Il Colore Azul Elizabeth Gonzalez, Photography


Nostalgia Nia Paz, Photography


Ryan Mercedes Franchino, Blue Light and Indoor Paint


Delicacy Valentino Bornancini, Photography


LOUD! Sophia Oprandi, Photography


Silver Moonlight Julie Fontes, White Colored Pencil on Paper


Sao Francisco Xavier Julie Fontes, Scratchboard


Indulging in Sin Alan Davis, Acrylic Paint on Railroad Board


White Muzzle Jalynn McDuffey, Acrylic Paint and Modeling Paste

Dreadful, Self-Portrait Jalynn McDuffey, Mixed Media


Untitled Kaden Houston, Photography


Colors of the Wind Rylee Stallings, Gouache


Reign, Watch the hrone Sara Johnson, Photography


Watching Yadelis Gomez, Pencil


Flowers Ariadna Franchino, Gouache


Hoping Ana Guardado, Digital Art


Agaricus Bisporus Klara Davidson, Spore Print on Scanned Paper


Solemn Serenity Robert Marley, Oil Pastel and Spray Paint


Sunset Drive, Night Drive Vanessa Bouchard, Acrylic Paint


London Rylee Stallings, Graphite


Sweet Flowers and Butterflies Cindy Wang, Chinese Ink and Pigment


Crossing Paths Carlos Hernandez, Photography


The Lowest Level Sarah Fueyo, Gouache


Rose Milk Nia Paz, Photography


Sarah | Lili Wade | Acrylic 10

About A Woman On The Wall Isabela Alvarado A frame made of wood, spray painted gold but now chipped, so that I can see spots of brown beneath the cheap glitter. A portrait of a woman, her hair wild in the wind, her lips slightly parted. Eyes wide, darting to the side. I wonder what she’s looking for. Her neck is long and her shoulders sag awkwardly. If I get closer I can see the mascara under her eyes, red lipstick on her crooked teeth. She looks like the way an apple sounds when bitten in a room of dead silence. Or like a fold between polyester blinds that lets sunlight trickle into a dark room. Like a wedding dress that has been stained by drops of wine and black eyeliner. I think she’d give a terrible hug. I imagine she would have loved to meet you. And she would have loved to hear about your collection of world maps, to flip through your sketchbook. Maybe she and I have that in common. How ridiculous she looks, trapped behind a crystal while fire dances in her eyes. I think what a cruel joke that life has played: constraining what is boundless.


From The Death of Marat by David “From the Painting Back from Market by Chardin� Inspired by

lying in a pool of his own making

Adam Cheguer

the pale blue transubstantiated to a deep crimson red, and the nail lying still on the ground its impression marked on his body, a stigmata for the modern Christ

but a renovation project must first begin with the clearing of the unsightly and obsolete that clutters the lot, so here Judas has already left to till her field and his skin has been smoothed over to serve as the marble foundation to the new nation.

Now behold the final resting place Marat, here is your PanthĂŠon


Fungidextrous | Rio Cosimini | Polymer Clay & Glass



Mirage \ Nia Paz | Photography


i tend to notice the little things about her the stretch marks across her knee a bridge between her past and her present the blatant contrast between dark pink and light pink on her bottom lip the size of her nose which changes with her mood i memorized how many freckles lay splattered across her nose the way her body dips, perfect match for mine the bones of a lovers spine pressed deep against my ribcage locking me in her skeleton i see her but i have no idea who she is a stranger i’ve memorized her every feature i could paint her every detail delicate soft spoken but god forbid i write a poem about her

Nia Paz


Deep Breath | Valentino Bornancini | Photography

That the Working of Poetry is Limited Caterina Dong Inspired by Eavan Boland’s “That the Science of Cartography is Limited” and Laura Gilpin’s “Two-headed Calf” and not only because there are few poems you will remember out of the thousands whose voices have touched your soul words pressed into oblivion and lines traced with salt and when I take you to the north field all you’ll know is the fine-tuned summer evening illuminated by the tired moon lusting for the savoriness of serif typeface and hidden meanings and in some science class I took years ago I learned how every action finds its equal opposite reaction so something good must bloom out of this limitation — maybe it’s that our souls are only meant to be grazed, never wrestled with, but in the meantime — I’ll keep writing and writing.


Perspective | Valentino Bornancini | Photography 18

COMPLIANCE Ximena Carrera Ovalle The first time he put his hand on my thigh, I was sitting at the lunch bench in school. The plaid skirt didn’t cover my knees and left the freckle on my right leg exposed. He was harmless and I was nine, and I didn’t know what it meant when the weight of his hand fell on my lap as we sat waiting for our parents to pick us up. I didn’t move his hand away— I should have. At nine years old what was I to know about the implications of a little boy’s hand on his girl friend’s thigh. He probably saw his father do it, or watched it in one movie or another. I rationalized it to the best of my ability, and let his palm rest where it lay. He didn’t touch me again until junior year, this time in a bustling Spanish classroom. (I thought we were friends— he did not) I don’t remember if I was wearing a skirt; it doesn’t matter.

His hand fell just the same, landing quietly on my thigh. This time, I knew what he meant. And despite my knowing, my preaching, I didn’t move his hand away. I could have—I should have. At seventeen I understood, I knew better, but at the shock of a hand, of fingers sewn together by a vice of virility, I stayed quiet, stood still. The bell rang and I ran with it, wiping my hands on my clothes as if that would make me feel any cleaner, make the burn on my skin any more justifiable. Though this was not the same hand that had touched me all those years ago, I felt that it was. The hands of a thousand generations fell on my lap that day in the courtyard, and again on the plastic chair, and will probably fall upon me once more, because precedent dictates it so, and discomfort allows it.



Peace and Serenity | Victor Dieguez | Makeup

Sunflower Journey | Victor Dieguez | Makeup

Il Colore Azul | Elizabeth Gonzalez | digital photography

The Mariner Sabrina Morales

Man speaks of love as if he has a choice in it as if he dare tell the heart its desires He so clumsily casts his sails, as if he could harness the calamity of the sea. Only this affair drives men to cerulean madness

Love, the greatest affliction the sea that all must fare


WEDDING VOWS Ximena Carrera Ovalle


Nostalgia | Nia Paz | Film Photography



n the morning, the leaves on the trees shine a little brighter, the innocence of morning dew settling on rose petals the sun wraps the sidewalk in warmth as she skips— a hopscotch of fragmented steps— on her way to the purple primary school her pigtails wave in the air as she meets her teacher at the gate, a woman softened by age and the smiles of five-year-olds the little girl clutches her lunchbox in her hands, the peanut butter sandwich her mother made twenty minutes earlier sitting patiently in the box of pink plastic her boyfriend grins at her from the swingset, dimples hugging the freckles on his chubby cheeks she knows she’s going to marry him one day, just like her mommy did in that photo with the white dress and the pretty cake the curls of her best friend’s head fly at her as the girls embrace each other she’s dragged by the hand to the playground, sand crawling its way into the holes of her sneakers where blue laces met metal rings the little boy sees her running across the sand and moves to meet her halfway they both miss the flash of black crawling towards the rainbow colored gate she smiles when he grabs her hand and plants a sloppy kiss on her forehead, just like his daddy does every day before his mommy goes to work


he’s about to tell her about the patch of flowers he found by the slide— the yellow ones with the pretty petals that remind him of her hair— when the sound of fireworks interrupts him it’s loud and she goes to cover her ears just like she does on the fourth of july when the little boy beside her falls at her knees her best friend looks at her for a second, confusion flashing in her eyes before she too takes cover in the sand below her the little girl’s thoughts move like honey as she kneels next to the boy that picks flowers for her every morning, and the red-haired beauty that always shares half her apple slices she doesn’t recognize the game they’re playing —maybe they made it up before she got there— but decides to play along, laying her body next to them she can hear the fireworks going off but can’t see the pretty colors in the sky closing her eyes, she imagines the reds and blues in that she likes so much, a smile painted on her face the small drop of color reaches her spot on the sand, and she lays on the ground as the lights in the sky behind her eyes grow dim, the sound of falling stars echoing in her ears before they too fade away, leaving the little girl sleeping beside her husband and maid of honor, dreaming about the lights that would fire into the sky on her wedding day


Ryan | Mercedes Franchino | Blue Light and Indoor Paint


Ignite the candle kindled once before, And though he idly stands in darkest nights, To light succumbs his wax, ‘til rigid core.

Kay l a Co nd e

Your innocence and fervor, like a light,

The warmth emitted from your scarlet air Is warm enough to make the candle cry The tears of wax he hoped and wished to share, Like those he held from his forbidden bride. Although the candle knows the light he owns, He can’t escape the judgement in the wind. Without the flame his wick doth stand alone, Midst coldest day and sin he can’t rescind. So see, like candles long for light, I do, Like light and flame, my shrouded love, is you.


I Die So I Can Live Eva Rovira



rouched beside a field rouched beside a field on my family’s farm in Puerto Rico, my knees meet the soil, my six-year-old eyes mesmerized with curiosity. “This plant’s called moriviví,” my father explains. “I die so I can live,” I roughly translate. He nods affirmatively and explains the meaning of the name. Lush with life, a simple touch is enough for its leaves to recoil defensively. He brushes its stem; the leaves shy away before reopening with renewed strength. Moriviví’s supple leaves are an emblem of my adaptability to change and an ode to my family’s immigrant roots. We know more than our history of living here and there. We know home as a feeling, not a place, and that sometimes we “die” so we can “live.” Ten years later, memories of this plant’s

lessons resurfaced during my time volunteering in Marmolejo, a rural Dominican village, where moriviví also flourishes in the rugged Caribbean terrain. I’d never traveled alone or lived in a community lacking running water. Marmolejo initially felt foreign: the soil untouched, the undimmed stars patiently waiting to impart their wisdom. The first night, my sleep struggled against the hum of cicadas and yaps of stray dogs; morning arrived restlessly with the roosters’ early crows. While pushing my limits, I found strength envisioning the rudimentary aqueduct we were to build. My father’s lesson in thigmotropic botany whispers, I die so I can live. As moriviví frolics in the eddies of the wind, the volunteer team ventures three miles to Marmolejo’s nearest water source-a waterfall masked by dense foliage.


Surrounded by nature’s intimacy, I gradually uncoiled, intertwining the unfolding horizons before me with the roots of my family’s past.

rich with poverty-defying joy, each carrying within them different versions of the moriviví mantra. Their dogged perseverance amidst adversity teaches me compassion, to savor hard work, and relish tribulations that sprout self-awareness. The fruits of my labor ripen on “water day.” Carmen’s teary eyes are illuminated by the gush of water from unearthed pipes.

Descending the mountainside, I trekked beside a campesina balancing a brimming water-bucket on her head. She walks effortlessly despite the strain on her body. Through my life’s peaks and troughs, I too have strived for a similar equilibrium. I emulate moriviví’s ability to bathe in positivity’s light—fighting to harness daylight against the darkness of shadows. I ask her name, “¿Cómo te llamas?” “Carmen,” she replies, holding history’s tangible burden on her shoulders. Radiating wisdom, she narrates how years earlier politicians arrogated Marmolejo’s water system. Eight years of broken promises for restoration left families walking miles for water; however, the campesinos’ faith never staggered.

I see within them an indecipherable motivation and will to adapt-their optimism imprinting indelible marks on my changing identity. Days pass; shovels break soil; pickaxes carve rock; trenches deepen. My physical exhaustion transformed into happiness induced by fulfillment. I’m surrounded by unsung heroes, campesinos


“It’s been eight years!” she cries, humbling me with her embrace. Notions of time, distance, and materialism have long faded. I practice gratitude for living, for roosters that begin the day, unconventional bucket showers at sundown, and fleeting moments in between. I see myself from a different perspective-intermittently dangling between what I know and what I’ve yet to understand, blurring the lines between speculation and spontaneity. However, I do know this: the future children of Marmolejo will not know who I am but will have water. It gives me purpose to know that the seeds of my work will flourish into someone else’s future. Coming home, I’m lost in my love for the Dominican campo and the contagious happiness of its campesinos. Morivivi looks inside for strength and then brings itself towards sunlight through natural law and sheer innateness- I am the same. I realize that while life may bring misfortune and suffering, it’s ultimately our spirit of resilience that matters. I open my leaves up again, bathe in sunshine, and continue to grow.

Delicacy | Valentino Bornancini | Photography



“LOUD”! | digital photography | Sophia Oprandi

Rachael Ricisak Inspired by “Degas’s Laundresses” by Eavan Boland Canary yellow crescent moon trapped to the wall by some adhesive tape. Unlike the beauty of a dulcet tune, meaning and significance of this piece seem to escape, leaving some viewers with their mouths agape.

“But what really is true art?” we ask ourselves time and time and time again. Is it Vincent van Gogh, Salvador DalÍ, Rembrandt, or Mylne with his pen? Is it something filled with detail, that takes days, weeks, months, and years to complete? Or is it something that prompts conversation and discussion or even a viral tweet? Does trying to find an answer to this question place a limit on the essence of art? Can a masterpiece be as simple as a monochromatic canvas or a painted cart?

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that it’s all up to interpretation, something I might understand more when I’m older. Either way, one thing’s for sure about this banana creation, I’m not spending 120 thousand dollars on it, no deliberation.


Silver Moonlight | Julie Fontes | Colored Pencil on Paper 36

REDEATH Caterina Dong My grandfather died right before I was born. She almost dropped it all to see him one more time But the poisonous seed in her stomach grew and she stuffed it with oranges and bread and fish and pickles and everything he could never give her. There was nothing left for her to do except to suck in and bleed out an entire hour of agony, seventeen times over, his legacy burning a tiny crater tucked into my stomach. Everything to her was black and white The way my eyes pouted obsidian jade and my skin curdled into milk The way poverty followed her like a ghost trailing behind, breathing heavily, almost dying again of a stroke or diabetes or was it both. I wonder if he is buried in the golden fields consecrated with dirty peasants’ spit Or in the sea she once looked over into which she almost tip-toed Never forgetting his steady heart-step I was born in a cold month, during the rebirth of day. She will never let me forget how I almost made two heartbeats into one. That day, I died the moment I was born.


GO O LL D D EE N N TRACE G Luis Garcia-Sarabia

Sao Francisco Xavier| Julie Fontes | Scratchboard

As Jean-Batiste’s hand went to open the metal door, he heard the Control announce, ‘kill

Betty. Now let’s take a look at your prime directives. What is the first one?’ Betty, after listening to what Jean had

switch is “Blue Geometry”.’ He turned suddenly to look at the Control. ‘Betty, tell me, is this one

said without making the slightest movement,

even or odd? After 14 hours of the same routine

answered almost immediately. ‘I am alive. Since

one loses track.’

I am alive the terms survival, health, harm, and

‘Even,’ Betty responded mechanically, without looking up from her control booth. ‘Girl it is,” Jean said to himself as he opened the door and walked inside. *


death apply to me. My scheduled death is in 25,549 days, 9 hours, 23 seconds. Any attempt to kill me before my scheduled death is an attack on my survival, and I may protect my health.’ ‘Very good,’ Jean said with undue


As he sat down he looked at the blank,

appraisal in his voice, a tone similar to

passive face staring at him from across the

when a parent applauds their young


child for picking up a toy after being ‘Let’s begin.’ He spoke loudly, clearing

his throat. ‘Please take the red thumb drive and place it in port number nine.’ The blank face stirred slightly, as a hand reached out to take the thumb drive and entered it into a slot just below the elbow.

told to do so. ‘Go onto the next one now.’ ‘The next one is quite short,’ Betty commented. ‘It simply states, “never lie.”’ ‘Short but very important.’ Jean

Immediately the robot was aware of thousands

told her, ‘If someone asks you “are you

of names, and of what a name was.

a robot,” what is your answer?’

‘Have you read the definition of a name?’


Jean asked her.




‘Select one. That will be your name.’ The robot began scanning the names and considering them, until one caught its attention. The robot felt almost as if… it had heard it before. ‘Betty.’ Jean smiled. He must have already opened the door when he was speaking to the Control. Oh well, he thought, there was always

‘Why?’ ‘Because I am, and always will be, a robot.’ ‘Good job.’ Jean was proud. ‘How about the next prime directive?’ ‘I may not harm, or through inaction, harm another robot or a human being.’ ‘Continue.’ ‘I must obey orders given to me by human

something that made the robot choose a name.

or robot unless such orders should conflict with

Aloud he said, ‘This name is yours. You are now

the previous sentence.’

Betty. You will never meet another robot with


that name as you have already selected it, but you may meet many humans with the name

‘I may protect my own existence and the existence of any friends as long as such


protection does not conflict with the two

you are prepared to enter The World.

previous sentences.'

The World is where humans and

‘Very good. This prime directive is a very

approved robots live and work.

important one. Make sure to remember- high-

You are now an approved robot.

light- do whatever you do that mimics human

Please go through the door

attachments of importance to a thought—’

directly behind me. You will find

‘A question,’ Betty said, slightly surprising

yourself in a hallway filled with 100

Jean, who was getting lost in his attempt of

pods. Pod 3 is activated. Walk inside,

advising Betty. ‘What are friends? Before I

close the door, and press the green button.

‘remember’ this prime directive I must

The pod will then make its way to a facility

understand every word inside it. What are

in The World where you will be assigned a job


and various possessions, including clothes. Good

Jean was really beginning to like this robot.

luck.’ Betty now stood up, and as she did she

‘A friend can be but it is not necessarily someone

learned what clothes were and consequently felt

who has helped your health and has made

ashamed, as she was naked. She hurriedly made

several gestures of goodwill towards you.’

her way to the door. Jean stood up,

‘I have recorded this definition. Should I make it an individual prime directive?’ ‘Why not? Not a bad idea at all.’ Jean

grabbing his cane. He began to make his way to the door through which he had entered. He paused, and then, without looking in Betty’s

certainly liked this one. ‘Let’s move onto the next

direction, said ‘Betty, can I ask you two

prime directive, shall we?’

questions? Not counting this one, of course. The

‘A friend can be but is not necessarily someone—’ Jean cut her off, laughing. ‘I think we have

answers to these will not affect your ‘approved’ status.’ Betty, blushing now, answered with a shy

reviewed this one sufficiently already. Go to the

voice. ‘You may, but be quick and please don’t

next one.’

turn around.’

‘Yes. The next prime directive states that

‘I promise I will not,’ Jean said, without

any entity that harms me with the intention to

moving his eyes from the door in front of him. ‘My

have harmed me is no longer a friend. They

first question is, have I helped you?’

should be considered an enemy. An enemy is an

Her feeling of embarrassment was making

entity or group that wishes to lead me to a death

Betty slow and flustered. ‘Why… yes, you have

before my scheduled death, and according to

helped me.’

prime directive 3 I may distance myself or take

‘Are we friends?’

action to protect my existence. Enemies can

Betty, once again, was slow to answer but

become friends again.’

hurriedly said, ‘Yes, yes we are.’

‘Good.’ After listening to this Jean had

‘Wonderful. Those were my two questions.

managed to regain a serious face. ‘I believe

Au revoir.’ As he slowly made his way out through


his door, Betty was practically running through


hers. The moment the door closed behind, the

‘This name is yours. You are now Cain. You

feeling of shame ended and her face returned

will never meet another robot with that name as

to its original serene composure. She found Pod

you have already selected it, but you may meet

3, calmly walked inside, made sure she closed

many humans with the name Cain. Now let’s take

the door properly, and then, without hesitation,

a look at your prime directives. What is the first

pressed the green button.





‘Betty, you won’t believe this,’ Jean spoke

‘How come?’ Jean froze, confused. ‘What do you mean?’

to the Control, smiling, ‘she chose your name!

‘How come I may meet many humans with

It seems she heard me say it and she chose it

the name Cain? Now that I am Cain shouldn’t that

from the list. Now her name is Betty.’

mean humans can no longer use the name Cain?’

‘Oh, did she? That is amazing,’ Betty

Jean answered pleasantly. ‘Each robot

responded nonchalantly. ‘You have one more,

is given a unique name, a name no other robot

Jean. This one’s kill switch is “Vanguard

can use until the robot with that name dies. Then


the name is available once more. Humans do

‘Just one more? Wonderful. Is he in there

not follow this rule, because it is customary for


parents to name their children after themselves,


establishing a hereditary custom. For instance,

‘Well, let’s get him approved.’

a father may name his child Paul, for he is Paul,

Jean walked through the door at a pace

and when little Paul has grown up and old Paul is

that showed his high spirits, his cane only

dead, little Paul will name his son Paul, after old

touching the floor to make a quick tap, tap, tap.

Paul. Also, all the names available to robots exist

Smiling as he sat down, he said to the robot in

because humans have invented them, and it is

front of him, ‘Let’s begin. Please take the blue

rude to tell someone how to use something that

thumb drive and place it in port number nine.’

you only have because they shared it with you.’

The robot slowly went to grab the thumb drive, grabbing it weakly and entering it nervously into the slot just beneath his elbow. ‘Have you read the definition for a name?’ ‘Yes.’

‘So I will not be able to name my child after myself?’ ‘You will not have a child. You are a robot.’ Jean could not believe it. He decided it was best to leave the topic where it was. ‘I am sure many

‘Please select one for yourself.’

of your questions will be answered by the prime

This time Jean had to wait a few minutes

directives. Why don’t you tell me them. What is

before the robot abruptly opened its mouth and said, “Cain”. Jean looked down at his cane, smiled to himself, and continued with the

the first one?’ Cain was still confused, but he acquiesced. ‘You may be right. Let me see: the first prime


directive reads “I am alive. Since I am alive the

fail. This is the smartest approach, according to

terms survival, health, harm, and death apply


to me. My scheduled death is in 25,549 days,

'You say this because you are human. But

8 hours, 7 minutes, 59— 58— 57—” A frustrated

let's leave the topic. I will continue with the prime

whirring began to sound.

directives.' Cain had managed to mimic Jean's

Jean quickly jumped in. ‘52 seconds. Continue.’ This was not looking good.

imperious tone, along with showing his mastery of the word "patronizing".

‘52 seconds,’ Cain repeated slowly. “Any

'Absolutely.' Jean was glad Cain had said

attempt to kill me before my scheduled death is

that, although supercilious attitude was

an attack on my survival, and I may protect my

unnecessary, in his humble opinion. ‘What is the

health.” ‘Why do I have a scheduled death?’

second prime directive?’

It had asked the question so suddenly it took Jean a moment to realize the robot had

‘Never lie.’ ‘Good.’

stopped reading the prime directive. Jean was

‘But should I not lie if lying is beneficial to my

growing more concerned with every question.


He answered using the best patronizing tone he

Jean was now visibly upset. ‘Lying is never

could muster. ‘It is important for every robot to

beneficial. Lying to preserve one’s health usually

die 70 years after its manufacture date,

only delays the reaction you intended to prevent.

because by then newer, improved robots will

It also makes whatever consequences you

have been manufactured and sent to The World.

attempted to avoid infinitely worse. Move onto

The presence of these robots will be detrimental

the next prime directive.’

to the previous generation of robots’ well-being. In history this caused robots to kill themselves after living in prolonged states of toxic negativity.

‘Why should I? You do not have any authority to order me.’ That was it. ‘No authority to order you?’ Jean roared. ‘You should at least instinctively be

You don’t want that, do you?’ ‘No, I do not want that,’ Cain murmured.

following your prime directives, but you aren’t!

Then he stared intently at Jean. ‘But couldn’t

I'm sorry, but I will not approve you to enter The

those robots be improved and maintained, so


that you would never need to manufacture another group? That seems to me to be an alternative.’ ‘Attempts were made, multiple and varied factors caused them to


"I do not need your approval to enter The World.," Cain said calmly.

‘I will go if I want to.’ ‘Go if you want to?’ Jean shouted with laughter, but he was in fact concerned about how Cain would act. ‘There are four doors in this room. Only one leads to the correct hallway, where only one of 100 pods is activated. Only I know what door and what pod. How will you reach The World without my approval?’ Cain stood up. He immediately discounted the door he had come through, and the door Jean-Bautiste had come through also. That still left two doors, one behind Jean-Batiste and one to his left. That meant

glazed look in his optical sensors,

there were 200 possibilities. Cain grew

by his legs and armpits, and carried

frustrated, and suddenly that frustration turned

him out through the door he had

to anger. ’He lunged towards Jean-Batiste and

come in.

grabbed him by the arm. ‘Tell me which door

‘Regardless of how badly it went, that

takes me–’

robot was the last one,’ Jean thought, as he

‘Vanguard Magnum.

got up and walked out. Passing by the control




Cain froze, and his face went from fury to naïveté. He now had the look of someone under an influence, suggestible and incapable of thinking independently. ‘Lie down.’ Jean had tried to approve

booth he wondered about what he would do now that his shift was over. Maybe he could… he could… what did he do when his shift was over? ‘Jean-Batiste?’ Betty called him, ‘There’s one more thing we have to do.’ ‘Certainly, certainly,’ Jean said, walking

him, he really had, he had given Cain multiple

toward her while trying to remember what it

chances to get on track, but it was obvious

was he did when his shift was over. ‘What is it?’

Cain did not have his prime directives

‘Golden Trace.’

correctly functioning within his core

Jean-Bautiste ran a final smile through

processing unit. That would be fixed, Cain would lose his name, and this same routine

his central processing unit before it shut down. ‘I really do like this one,’ Betty said,

done all over again. Maybe he would even

‘shame his scheduled death is today. I wish

have Jean as his approver again. Or would it

they would let him live a few more days. They

be a she next time? As Jean thought on the

do that every now and then, when they get a

ways this same situation would be different,

real friendly robot who works well with humans.

two men entered the room. They grabbed the

Sometimes I would almost forget he wasn’t

robot, who was lying flat on the floor with a

human like me. It really is a shame.’


Minute Poetry

Erik Meurrens

The tragedy of my youth, and a pain for my tooth, coffee, a timeless tradition, foretold my fated dental perdition.


Indulging in Sin | Alan Davis | Acrylic Paint on Railroad Board



White Muzzle | Jalynn McDuffey | Acrylic paint and modeling paste

H I D D E N I N T H E S H A D OW S :


n this interview, Jalynn McDuffey opens up as a young vibrant artist about her journey in discovering art as a form of self-ex-pression and activism. As she creates art that beautifully portrays emotion and resilience.

Jalynn sets goals, meets them, and grows from every insightful experience. Focusing on the importance of making art that raises questions and touches on taboo topics, Jalynn’s nev-er-ending passion for keeping art alive and meaningful resonates with

all who experience it.


alynn’s various paintings serve as a testament of her artistic skill and activism. Through her art, Jalynn hopes to start conversations on the many issues that the Black community faces, such as racism and sexual

assault. Moreover, these pieces reflect and contextualize the current social and political climate of the United States in which black people are disproportionately subject to police brutality, systematic racism, and an unequal access to resources which creates relentless poverty and racial stigma. In solidarity with the nationwide Black Lives Matter Movement, Jalynn hopes to inspire and educate others on the hardships that the black community faces, while also highlighting the inequities present in America’s current institutions.

Ximena Carrera, Caterina Dong, Andres Rincon, and Sophia Salamanca

An Interview with Jalynn McDuffey


When did you begin creating art and where do you draw inspiration from? I really started making art because it says things no one else does. My art reflects the things I care about. Being in the VPA program has been weird because I was only one of a few Black girls in my program. Even at Ammons Middle School, I was the only Black person in a lot of my classes. Art was only a hobby, but in Coral Reef’s art class I discovered so many black artists that inspired me so much, like Kehin-de Wiley and Kerry James Marshall.

For me, Black artists were just a topic no one ever spoke about. These people are very interesting. A lot of times, you look at a piece and you never really think about the person behind it. The Black Lives Matter movement is one that you seem to be extremely passionate about. Why do you think art is critical in a time like this, and what do you hope to change through art? I hope to change the way people see Black artists. By not knowing Black artists, it removes a whole section of art. We have so much to say about our America. Children’s art, Black people’s art, women’s art, has a lot more to say than a lot of people think. I am very vocal. in my art. I try to keep my compo


sure when I speak, but my art isn’t held back. Art is expression and emotion. If you look at it, the [Black Lives Matter] protests right now are emotion and expression. Art says a lot more than you think it would say; art right now is a mode to get emotion and frustration out. It also speaks up on things that not everyone can speak up on. I use art to pursue activism in my community. And I think to raise activism is to one: get people to ask questions— I want my art to stop and ask the questions— why was this added? Why is this issue so important? And two: to get Black people to know that whatever issues they are going through, other people are going through as well.

Let’s talk about Self-Portrait, a very personal piece. Is this what you want people to see of you or is this how you see yourself? The piece for me was during a very difficult time. I was working on a piece about the pressure Black men face in order to get signed to sports teams in order to afford college. I felt so much stress and it took me a full week just to plan that piece. I spoke to Mr. Mckinley and I said, “I hate this piece, I despise it.” I broke down. He told me to step away and start to work on another piece to get my mind off it. And that was Self-Portrait. The white section was to cover up an old piece I had started on, and in a way to release the weight of it from my shoulders.

Dreadful | Jalynn McDuffey | Mixed Media



I’d describe my art as...


Self-Portrait | Jalynn Mcduffey | Mixed Media


untitled | Kaden Houston | Digital photograThe way my hair moves in the wind freely removes myself from my art— I’m still a human being. This is me, venting about my culture, my friends, my life, letting this pressure blow away. This doesn’t live up to other standards; it lives up to my own. It allowed me to breathe.

untitled | Kaden Houston | Digital photography

What’s your message behind White Muzzle? This was a much more personal piece. Felipe [my friend] took a picture, which was originally black and white, and I was scared because I had never done a black and white portrait before. The piece is about the pressure faced by young Black men who have been mentally, physically, or sexually abused in a community that doesn’t really talk about mental health, and it discusses living with the pressure of feeling like you can’t speak out on your past. The newspaper clippings were statistics on black men being raped. It’s already hard enough to find statistics on sexual assault victims, but it’s even harder to find onBlack [sexual assault] victims. My art tends to focus on the social stigmas against Black people and what they really are like. It’s hard to focus on both of those, but you have to bring them both together— there are always two sides to a story.

Your art is very important to you. What have you learned about yourself through art?

| untitled | Kaden Houston | Photography Growing up, I’ve always been interested in art, but the way I was raised emphasized the idea that art was a waste of money and just a hobby . Artists are often seen as crazy and outlandish for pursuing a career where they may or not be successful, but artists can be found in so many fields.

It’s that there is a talent behind it— art is therapeutic, it’s not something you can always ignore. I entered Reef by chance, but I felt like there was something inside me. Whether it takes two days or two weeks to complete, art shows you that there could be potential you never knew you had; that’s what it did for me.


Spears of honey dressed in the Off-colored golds of a broken sky— Mocked sunshine, stinging bees, sticky syrup— Van Gogh’s sunflowers Are to be found at all times with their faces Drooping, brown seeds of eyes stuck Between self-deprecation and the Green envy of their stems. Bent in their dull vases, these flaxen ladies sit Yearning for the gentle care only Brushstrokes of roses seem to receive. Girls with thorns and crimson petals float in Breezes of cotton-eyed blues, Unraveled roses are coveted for their grace— But why not us? sunflowers impugn. Instead, the unspoken breaths of “love-me”s And “love-me-not”s for these Daughters of the Sun end in “not”s and Knots of twisted hope. The imperfect fuzz and Unequal sizing of their crooked leaves Leave these flowers wilted with a desperate thirst Only requited love can quench, Begging for attention within the depths of Their sunflower souls.


Colors of the Wind | Rylee Stallings | Gouache


of glass & mighty empires. Fabiana Montenegro



Reign| Sara Johnson | Photography

she breaks the same way every time. her heart shatters, practiced colored glass and broken ceramic. you don’t think about how the words you say, and the way you speak, and your heavy steps affect those around you. you wait for her to crumble. to fall, like the romans, and the greeks, and all mighty empires that came before her. she picks herself up. athena’s smug eyes and nike’s victorious smile flash before you. don’t worry. she doesn’t need to learn the same lesson twice.



Watch the Throne | Sara Johnson | Photography


She pulls at her hair and grinds her teeth So that in the morning Her head aches when she opens her eyes. She picks at her cuticles The way a vulture picks at a carcass Only noticing when her lips taste icy steel rather than skin. Restlessness lures her into the dark hours of the night They dance until the sun begins to rise And so her partner runs away But not without signing his name into the crevices below her eyes. She cries tears that burn like forest fires Her silent scream piercing through the air As the cruel drops land on her paper Distorting the graceful lines drawn by a pencil That now lies abandoned on the ground. But they will never see the pain, the vultures, the drained look behind her eyes or the place where the pencil snapped and the line became a furious scratch. Because she wears perfection like a porcelain mask Hiding the chaos that lies inside.


Watching | Pencil | Yadelis Gomez


Flowers | Ariadna Franchino | Gouache

Grace Chaviano

Como la flor, She sang, bouncing around a smoothie of colors, patterns of streets A honey-dripped smile lifting the corners of her lips, a full heart Con tanto amor A city of reflections transforming, melting into A mosaic of marigold, greeting the early arrival of stars a maracuyá-sprinkled sky Me diste tú, A dance, a heart-felt song between her and the moon Passersbys watching, faces dissolving into smiles bubbles of laughter Se marchitó, Played the timeless radio on the corner shop, a whiff of café con leche She moved, skipping past kids playing on la acera, jumping along as the wind’s hello pushed strands of her hair beneath her ears Me marcho hoy Her voice humming softly, joined by the loud greeting of harmonies, endless and endless cars flowing through the streets, a simple motion she rose Yo sé perder A metropolis streaked golden, blending into a serene of coconut canvas, She continued to dance through the patterns and twists and turns of streets, waving goodbye to the sun as it slid behind the sky bursts of giggles, relishing in the mango-stained remainders of sunset tomorrow. Pero, ay ay ay, cómo me duele


i have been kissed by the sun. Fabiana Montenegro if you stay silent and still and listen for the way the moon shines her light, they say you can hear the tender whisperings of the sun and the soft touch of his rays across her complexion. he dies so she can live. she dies so he can live. and again. and again. and again.

is it my bed? are they my sheets? a golden laugh. apollo smirks, knowingly. this is so complex and so real and so honest and so hurtful and so, so unfair. i wait.

i wonder if you can hear the same whisper when you smile at me, or feel the bronzed touch of your hands when you look at me in that odd, intense way.

the moon shines her stolen light.

it’s hard to grasp the solemn fact that i would die for you like the moon does for her sun.

i know i would wait for you.

endless night. artemis sobs and her silver tears stain the white, crumpled sheets


of an empty bed.

and i wait. and the sun never rises. my lips form a cynical smile, and i cry, spiteful and full of hope.

i would do anything for you. again. and again, and again, and again.


Hoping | Ana Guardado | Digital Art

A Brief SoirĂŠe Beneath Injured Moonlight Brennan Woolley

Agaricus bisporus | Klara Davidson | Photography

FADE IN: EXT. A LONE HIGHWAY - NIGHT MUSIC CUE: Moonlight Sonata An expensive looking car drives across an empty stretch of highway. All the world is asleep, except for this lone individual. Soon the car takes an exit, and makes its way to the top of a hill. We see a man in his late 20s, ALAN,step out of the car. He looks at the bright full moon and takes a deep breath. CUT TO Alan opening the trunk of his car. Inside lies a singular HANDGUN. CUT TO A CLOSE UP of the pistol. Engraved on the barrel are the words “The Gun I’m Going To Use To Shoot The Moon.” CUT TO Alan, pointing the gun at the moon. He takes a deep breath and fires. He drops the gun, and falls to the ground as a wave of relief and joy washes over him. FADE TO BLACK. OVER BLACK: “Three Weeks Later” INT. A STUDIO APARTMENT - DAY A door slowly opens, and a woman in her early 20s steps through. This is Alan’s sister, ANNE. She looks around in revulsion. The apartment is disgusting, littered with garbage all across the floor. She descends deeper into the domain, where she finds Alan lying face-first on his couch, wearing sweatpants, the universal sign of defeat. ANNE Do you want to explain where you’ve been? ALAN (lethargically) I’ve been right here


ANNE Why haven’t you been answering any of my texts? ALAN Haven’t checked texts. Phone ran out of battery. ANNE And you couldn’t have charged it? ALAN What would have been the point? You charge it, then it dies again. It’s a vicious game, and the only way to win is not to play. ANNE Okay, what is this about? (beat) You shot the moon, didn’t you? ALAN Yep. ANNE And was it everything you thought it would be? ALAN Even better. ANNE Okay, so you finally fulfilled your dream. I don’t understand why you’re sad about that or how it relates to you cutting off your whole family? ALAN Well, if it makes you feel any better, I also cut off my friends. Anne is not amused. ALAN (CONT’D) Don’t take this the wrong way, but none of that stuff matters to me anymore. Shooting the moon was my purpose was in life. Now that it’s done, I’ve peaked.


ANNE There’s nothing left for me to do here. Why should I bother keeping in touch with people or picking up after myself? It’s not like I will ever achieve the same highs that I already have. ANNE You’re ridiculous. ALAN Some support would be nice. I’m struggling over here, you know? I know that I shot the moon, but it feels like I just shot myself in the foot. ANNE Look I wish I could help you through... Whatever this is, but it seems like the kind of thing you need to work through yourself. She treks back to the door, granting one more sympathetic glance to Alan before she leaves. After she leaves, Alan halfheartedly drags himself off the couch. He slumps over the fridge, and opens it up. The fridge is completely empty. Alan sighs, knowing this means that he will have to go outside for the first time in weeks. He splashes some water on his face, pockets his wallet, and puts on a pair of sunglasses and a hoodie before walking out the door. CUT TO EXT. CITY SIDEWALK - DAY Alan is walking to the store trying to attract as little attention as possible. He doesn’t notice a passing jogger, who bumps into him, knocking him to the ground. Alan goes to pick up his sunglasses, which have fallen off, when he realizes there’s a glare in his vision. He lies all the way down, looking up at THE SUN. It’s as if he is seeing it for the first time. He makes a finger gun motion at the blinding star, and smiles. FINAL FADE OUT.


The Canvas Man In The Sky Anna Oswald While the clouds sail across a cerulean horizon Or when rain clouds bellow across their grey audiences The canvas man in the sky paints With one stroke of his brush His bristles give way to streaks of ecstatic orange, blooming yellow, and coral colored slashes of sky

Across his blue canvas Or when he cleanses his brush in his jar of water Gushing, rapidly cascading waterfalls Roar, their muzzle the riverbeds Their teeth jagged, razor-sharp rocks A whiskered dancer across an indigo ballroom As he colors a midnight blue sky Swirls of royal blue take ripples of Prussian blue by the hands Pirouetting through the gazes of attentive lapis and azures Smiled upon by the milk light of their vigilant host overhead The moon A masquerade ball of glistening, golden stars Countless shining in the garden of A dusty, lavender sky Wearing their cobalt masks while they gape at bustling skyscrapers The canvas man in the sky never stops painting Even when the sun sets and rises And even when it watches the moon do the same For the heavens are merely his gallery The celestial elements merely his paint And the world merely his audience.


Solemn Serenity | Robert Marley | Oil Pastel and Spray Paint 69


Night Drive | Vanessa Bouchard| Acrylic Paint,

his truck Nia Paz in this deafening room, i sit, painfully awaiting our assigned weekend the dreadful sight of your black pickup truck pulling into a driveway that was once ours i despise the way it fits perfectly behind mom’s old toyota a foreign image in a nostalgic frame you pick me up the stench of sweat and dirty tools seeps into my pores my mouth my throat the rust choking me, infiltrating my body, (like the reminder of our childhood memories) an accumulation of iron, steel, and pain withering away inside of my lungs they clank obnoxiously yelling from the back seat their presence a constant reminder with every pothole we pass i answer your dull questions the same ones you asked me last weekend and the weekend before and the weekend before and the weekend before until there’s quiet the childish tools, no longer repugnant, but a melodious relief providing temporary noise to mask the regret and absence screaming in our silence we both sit in the front seat the destination ingrained in your gps but we both wish to be anywhere else but here


her truck Nia Paz

i anxiously await the sight of your gleaming pick up truck i stare at my phone, out the window, at the ceiling i pace, turning back every second to see if you’ve arrived in the step i’ve taken i bite my nails, i twirl my hair, i bounce my leg until i see your headlights pull into my driveway i take out his image and put in yours it fits perfectly you pick me up the smell of lavender and laundry detergent a stark contrast from the scattered pieces of trash along the floor I don’t mind the mess: little pieces of carefree memories that you forgot to throw away a harmless negligence you fill the truck with your voice euphonious memories seep into every corner the details of a story dancing on the edge of your tongue the names I will forget in an hour that mean everything to me right now with each fleeting syllable i fall deeper into your voice until i’m completely covered in your words protected from the outside harm of the traffic next to you, right here, all I feel is safe streaks of lights passing, time slows down (red lights just mean another 45 seconds with you) i wouldn’t mind sitting in this passenger seat for the rest of my life if it kept you beside me even if it meant never getting to our destination kissing at every red light, belting the wrong lyrics to every song the wind brushing its lips across our fingertips would make it all worth it now, I know, we are both here


Sunset Drive | Vanessa Bouchard| Acrylic Paint 73

London / Graphite / Rylee Stallings


GOLDEN CHILD A Spoken Word Piece

Kami Bumpers Come get your Golden Child! Shiny like a trophy, But be rusted on the inside. Always told they’re the future, But they hope to die young Always given the best opportunities, Never let them refuse! Always keep them busy, So on their free time all they can do is sleep. This takes away the fear of them getting F’s “Friends” and “Fun” Get a child that’s all Yours!

Reminder: Never let it out the case, Or it might turn green like the other children. Keeping it in its own bubble is the Best care

A Golden child! Pretty on paper Pretty in person But might develop a rotting handle and a withering plaque, But that’s okay, Just put a little polish to cover up the dirt Alakazam, Good as New! Let the layers build up, Your Child can keep it in

If Golden Child continues to chip due to pressure You might have a bad batch, But still milk it as much as you can As you may know All new things get old And so will your child. When done with it, place on a shelf, No need to polish it anymore, Let it rust and collect dust. It will still be golden just not as shiny Occasionally, look back at it and remember the golden days!

The Golden child is a Rockstar! Keep it on display behind glass doors, But maybe a little tinted so the outsiders can’t see the bruises Show it to your friends Show to your family Be proud of Your Trophy! And anyone who doesn’t awe at its chrome finish is Jealous, They must have a bronze child, no wonder.

A Golden child is a big investment, You must be smart with your shaping technique. Groom it to make you money, Wake it up to study, but never to eat Let it be smart, but starve it of human affection That’s how you get it to do what you want

Make sure to send a review on your experience, And next time around invest in a platinum child! Stronger and more durable But also, softer and easier to manipulate Scratches won’t be as easily seen



� 1 ,,,--

.,,,,.,, t,

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tft n



Sweet Flowers and Butterflies | Chinese Ink and Pigment Powder | Cindy Wang

An Acquired Taste

Sophie Hao


“Why don’t you try some, darling?” my dayi (aunt) suggested as she slid the porcelain plate in front of my baffled eyes. I carefully gazed at the dish: pig ears, a mountain of brown, gelatinous strips with a white, bony spine running down the middle, alien to my familiar french fries. I shook my head, “No thank you, dayi. I’m not that hungry.” When I visited my family’s homeland at the age of ten, I hardly was brave enough to expose myself to new foods during my first night at the Chinese restaurant. My American taste buds were assaulted by the sight of soggy tea eggs that looked as if they were a hundred years old and chicken feet with the appearance of a shriveled hand. At the dinner table, I quietly watched my relatives devour their array of strange foods while I longed for a whiff of McDonald’s. My core painfully growled, leaving a slight burning sensation of emptiness. I couldn’t stomach my hunger’s cry for help, so I desperately turned to my sister. “Annie, I’m hungry.” “Of course you are, silly. You haven’t eaten since you stepped foot in China!” she grinned while covering her mouth full of tea eggs. “I’m too afraid. Everything looks so different here,” I softly responded. “Well, you have to try new things. How would you know french fries were your favorite food if you never tried it?” Staring at the pig ears, I hesitantly plopped a brown sliver into my mouth. Its crunchy texture and savory soy sauce dressing delightfully danced across my taste buds. My eyes widened with amazement and satisfaction, eager to discover a new world of flavors presented to me: silky tea eggs infused in savory bouillon and crunchy chicken feet delicately dusted with fragrant sesame seeds awakened my Chinese taste buds.


“Well, I guess now we don’t have to go to McDonald’s after dinner.” Not only did I understand my family’s desire for the food of our homeland, but I also identified with the couple enjoying their juicy dumplings at the neighboring table and the pedestrians enjoying their egg tarts outside the restaurant doors. They were indulging in a piece of our common culture. I, a Chinese American, acquired the taste of the other half of my culture and was honored to be offered a seat at our homeland’s table. I love the simple, declarative power of this concluding sentence. After we returned to the US, I was asked to tutor Mandarin to three students, and I gladly accepted. As my appreciation for my culture continued to blossom, I incorporated aspects of Chinese culture into my teaching, especially food, to go beyond simply memorizing Mandarin phrases. My mother hauled bags of flour from our pantry to make red bean mooncakes as a gift to the students. I anxiously jumped out of my seat and rolled up my sleeves to bake with her. Stamping the Chinese characters onto the pillowy balls of almond-colored dough not only left a mark on our mooncakes but on my heritage as well. At that moment, I realized that there is no exact word for “goodbye” in the mandarin language; there is only “zai jian,” or “see you later”. Being born in America, I never said goodbye to my Chinese culture, but I ran into it again as if it were a long lost friend. After hours of enveloping the red bean filling into their dough pockets and baking them until they resembled a golden token, I presented to my Mandarin students a tray of mooncakes standing in rows like the terracotta soldiers. The corners of my eyes crinkled as I smiled, hoping they too would acquire the taste of my homeland. “Why don’t you try some?” 79

PORTRAITS Nia Paz Our living room wall was an illusory display of our family. A stranger might have envied our mirage of happiness, equipped with smiles, baseball hats, and entwined fingers. I did not see these photos. I heard them.

“You are worth nothing.� His words stabbed the inside of my skull. Pain seeped in, infiltrating every corner of my being with his male superiority. His obsessive desire with me becoming his son instead of his weak, fragile daughter reinforced his displeasure. My mother shook her head, silently correcting his logic with whispered reassurances once he was out of earshot. The phrases assaulted me so often that believing them became easier than ignoring them. Until suddenly, there was silence. At 2:00 am, I woke up to the sound of a slammed door and a revving engine. I followed the muted cries of my mother until I found myself at her bed. She was lying limp under a blanket, which my hand hesitated to uncover. The light struck her face and revealed dark purple imprints of his fists. I held her as she cried. There is a gap on the living room wall where our family photos once stood. There was no time for replacing old frames with new images. New routines left our lonely camera


on the top shelf, collecting dust. I was a toddler, and then an adult. He took my childhood in the car with him. Nights of muffled shouts behind closet doors turned into nights of noisy silence, accompanied by the faint sound of cartoons and the slush of macaroni. I didn’t mind my solitude; my mother needed to work longer hours to pay rent. Each night, I would wait for her to come home. Miniscule changes appeared in the details of her face. Gradually, the tears turned into sighs of relief, and finally a smile.

He was wrong. As time passed, my mother grew from a discarded shell of a woman into an entire ocean. Her tears amassed into waves, obliterating all obstacles in her path- or rather, our path. My mother, my sister, and I formed an unbreakable bond. Nights alone turned into nights of storytelling, reading myth after myth of the mighty heroine who saves the day. He strangled me with limitations and she deliberately untied them. She tended my wounds and mended my perception of women, ultimately forging me as an empowered heroine emerging from the depths of her shadow. Her strength gave me endless impulses of inspiration, until I burst. I snatched the dining chair and reached the top shelf, blowing off the dust from the camera. These family photos are limited, but I try to remake the time lost with portraits of my mother.

Crossing Paths | Carlos Hernandez | Digital photography With my camera, I rewrite our story. Her face no longer displays his purple stamp, but elucidates confidence. Her lips speak in subtle soliloquies, but the volume of her words leave an impact on anyone lucky enough to hear, revealing that crying is not a weakness, but rather it is a forceful expression. Her palms are firm with courage; her fingertips calloused from rebuilding her life from scratch: buying a new house, finding a better job, being both a father and mother for her two girls. I capture her in this photograph and put it into our dust covered frame. It fits perfectly.

Portraits of my mother expanded into portraits of the women surrounding me. The gap in our living room wall is now filled with collections of women: my friends, my abuela, my girlfriend. I rewrote the stereotypes: dismantling feminine subservience with bright shades of reds and oranges atop eyelids, painting beautiful vulnerability with blue flower-lined cheeks. Each portrait is a self portrait, my voice reflected in my photographs. I still hear these photos. Gentle reassurances embrace me as I enter my living room.

“You are loved.� In my collection of women, is a real happy family.



Leslie Gonzalez

I) Born of blood and doubt. “Are you sure you want to keep her?,” they said. “The first one was so painful.” But Mother decided she wanted me to stay. I was to be her angel, her light. God’s child. II) I lived a thousand moons before I was baptized. That morning, the shaman of the masses performed his ritual: Monotonous and impersonal. Dipped into an ocean of hopes, A river of God’s adoration flowed across my scalp. Onlookers were entranced by the murky waters. Mother crossed her chest, rivers flowing down her own face. “Praise the Lord! Praise Him!,” they chanted. God’s child. III) Many years passed as this river continued its course. And yet there I was, drowning. Drowning in the sacrilegious flood that forced me to pray. Drowning in confusion for the waters had touched my head but God had not touched my heart. Drowning in the hopes that His almighty hand might save me From the pain and violence in this place I was meant to call home. But where was He? Nailed to the wall, swimming in the river, But too far to hear my desperate cries. Was my voice not loud enough to reach heaven? Drowning, abandoned, God’s child. IV) The seasons slowly turned me to a young woman With a hardened heart and bitter apathy, forged as a shield against the outside. By then the river’s currents had weakened to a trickle, Fueled solely by Mother’s insistence. But I would never again be truly bound to Him. He is not my God, not my savior, Not the great protector those sweet waters had promised many nights ago. I was living a godless life under holy pretense, For I had experienced a rebirth of my own. Cleansed of holy water, detached from sin, Baptized for the first time. Never again would I be God’s child.


The Lowest Level / Gouache / Sarah Fueyo 83

Rose Milk| Digital Photography| Nia Paz


The Color of Heartbreak Sarah Bautista (to the one that got away:)

its heart sees differently. only God can paint

let’s go back to that Heavenly night

purple and i’m not God just Me whose blues

when we met eyes for the first time

weren’t flowers but instead ocular showers of sadness

in that dark room illuminated by scarlet sheets

that blended with your bedding to emulate a shade of

and our laptop screens and my rosy cheeks

heartbreak darker than your shadow black hair,

laced with whispers of romance in that

contradicting all i’d learned before. “maybe this

late February. sometimes i still miss the

is art and my middle school crush lied when he

blues of the Forget-me-Nots in your backyard.

tried to warn me black is not a color but a shade!”

it was never my favorite color (you knew that)

and all these years later, i can still hear the paint palette

but i think ceruleans reminded me of our Eden’s sky,

of our lost “thing” rattle against my empty ribcage— yet

an embraced escape from your blood crimson room except i played the Sinners and you were the Serpent. i tried not to pick at the Fruit

i forbid myself to banish you

to my abyss of forgetfulness

(i really did try!) but your hiss held me spellbound because remembering us is and you said it was ok (it wasn’t) and so i listened better than being colorblind. and i guess it slipped my mind that although a head might say red plus blue equals love,

(;it’s so hard to abolish memories of a first love)


To our amazing sponsor... You are an inspiration to every student who walks through your classroom door. Thank you for brightening each Wednesday with your stories, delicious cookies, and evident passion and care for your students. Thank you for taking the time to sit down with each of us individually when first learning layout, for never allowing a student to fall behind the others, for showing us genuine interest in not only our academic, but personal lives as well. You’ve made us who we are today, and taught us to always let our inner quirky selves shine through. In this year alone, you’ve touched our hearts and minds in so many ways. When our staff heard you would be retiring this year, we grieved this loss for future Elysium students. This loss is a great one. In the worst possible circumstances, you modeled perseverance. You held on strong and fast to this magazine, knowing how important a creative outlet would be for your students. Your enthusiasm and dedication to teaching is unrivaled, and it has been an honor knowing you. Right now, we can only hope that your legacy will live on. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

~19 generations of Elysium staffs

E A time of unease, a time of reflection