Issue 13 - Fall 2021
The Nostalgia Issue
Editors In Chief Valentine Carr Niki Hester
Layout by Flawless Writes Aiya AZ Nowell Cai Freeman Kiersten Tate Kimberly Ndegwa Nicole Townsend Niki Hester Santana Teresa-Milagros Perez Valentine Carr
Cover Shoot by Evonne Johnson
Flawless Brown Executive Board President Brianna Jackman Vice President Alexandra Dudley Chair of Sisterhood Jehan Ayesha
Chairs of Flawed Comedy Hawa Kamara Nina Khosla Chair of Stage Rocio Perez
Letter From The Editors Nostalgia means a wistful look on the past, most of the time positive. I think about the past a lot, most often without a lot of fondness. A lot of things in my past have affected the way I see the world around me. The thing is, this issue has taught me about looking at my past in a different light, in a way that makes me re-examine the way that I interact with it. In my life, I've seen a lot of things that have made me question what the past means, and reading this issue's pieces have made me think about how the past has changed all of us and shaped us as people. There have been painful pasts, there have been peaceful pasts, there have been tumultuous pasts, and there have been exuberant pasts. Everyone's past is unique, and everyone's journey is different, and the way we commemorate it says a lot about who we are and our relationship with it, The past, I've learned, isn't something to run away from, especially not with the past year and a half of everything that came with dealing with a global pandemic, It's something to embrace in order to overcome it. The past is something to spend a lot of time sitting with and then rising above as to make yourself a better person than you were then. The past isn't always pretty, but it isn't always ugly either. The key is to find the balance between the ugly and the pretty of the past and learn from it all in the best way you can. This is something I'm still learning myself, but I'll get there one day, and so will you. Sincerely, Valentine Carr For me, this is an era where I am learning to truly let myself lean into nostalgia. Nostalgia means I let myself lean into the things I have loved over the years. Nostalgia means that as I work towards all that comes next, I never forget all the things that I've had along the way. Flawless will always be something that leaves me with the sweetest sense of nostalgia. Over my past few years at Emerson, Flawless has been one of the brightest of spots. This community has shaped so much of the way that I think, create, and lead. This issue gave all of us a chance to look back on everything that we came from, all the things that built us into the person that we are when we walk into our classroom every week for our meetings. I have so much gratitude for my time with Flawless Brown. I have made friends that will be with me forever, I have created things I will be proud of forever, and most importantly, I have known what it feels like to be truly held within my community. I want to thank everyone I've gotten to laugh and cry with throughout our meetings. I want to thank everyone that has read the things that we have created together. And I want to thank eighteen year old Niki, for walking into a sisterhood meeting and never looking back. I leave Flawless after this year knowing that I will have so much to take with me and I will forever be grateful for that. With Love, Niki Hester
give her a proper send off by Valentine 1 Evonne Johnson Submission 3
Tivara’s Trees by Tivara Tanudjaja 8 notes app by Valentine 10 The Collector by Niki Hester 11 Soundtrack of My Life by AZ Nowell 15 Untitled by Deshja Hickman 19 Dear Grandma by Nicole Townsend 20 La Meseta by Sara Valentina Alvarez Echavarria 25 Guessing Game by Jazmine 27
Table of Contents
Autumn Vibes by Kiersten Tate 7
A Path Still Traveled by Santana Teresa-Milagros Perez 29
Table of Contents
If I could have reached you by Valentine 35
Untitled by Carys Hirawady 36
Wonder by Kimberly Ndegwa 38
Myocardium Paralysis by Eli Kowar 39
Soulmates by Kimberly Ndegwa 41
Untitled by Cai Freeman 42
W by Kimberly Ndegwa 46
Present by Aiya 47
Little Cupcake by Ana Coste 49
give her a proper send off! by Valentine i. she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl
but she didn’t— good for her the refusal wasn’t intentional, her soul was just always there, big and loud
i remember her as a baby— so cute, so innocent
she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl
i remember her as she grew up she learned so much about others and herself
iv. then she grew up a little more and started to retreat and started getting down on herself
she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl ii. deacon’s daughter born and raised church girl, every sunday she’d wake up and put on a dress picked out by her mom— freshly ironed— with white stockings, and she had to learn how to cross her legs like a lady, so that way she wouldn’t be improper she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl iii. she loved to sing she sang her little heart out in the church’s children’s choir and at school when she wasn’t supposed to teacher told her to stop
she never wanted to be a bother— she thought she was one and thought she would be if she shared what was going on in her mind but she didn’t know she was dearly loved or, rather, didn’t understand she was she had forgotten she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl v. she never fully mourned the things she lost the people she had lost long after these things happened she lost so much and, finally, her innocence
it made it hard for her to remember she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl vi. she met a man who changed her view of herself and what she could be and how she loved
viii. i did my best to love you little one, small child, big child, adult, but i never gave you a proper send off because you were good it wasn’t your fault all those bad things happened to you
she thought they loved each other in the right way but it wasn’t the right way it was messy
you were the deacon’s daughter, the good girl, the one who had so much ahead of you and i never gave you a proper send off
messy— messy— messy—
my baby, myself, i should have held you more it would have made it easier to love me now and that’s not fair for me to say
that word doesn’t begin to describe it she wanted to block it out of her memory but the thing about that sort of thing is that you can’t always shake off the dust from your shoes and walk away she felt so upset she forgot she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl vii. and then she stopped being a good girl because she stopped being a girl and then she stopped being she because they had no use for that pronoun anymore and they felt bad because they had put her through so much she had been through so much she was never a bad person, she did her best, she was a good girl
without giving you a proper send off i love you. it’s too late for me to say it because i’m someone else now. i’m new. you’re my past. i would look fondly on it if all those bad things hadn’t tainted it. but those bad things didn’t taint you you will always be a good girl you were never, ever, ever a bad person you did your very best and you were a good girl and i can finally love you and let you go.
any time there was a rain cloud in the sky or a single drop of rain, i would run to the window just to see what was gonna happen as the news forecast played in the background. i’d watch the grey clouds swirl and swirl and swirl until my head got dizzy with anxiety and my mom would sit next to me and rub circles into my back cause she knew that whatever she told me wasn’t gonna help me calm down. so i was banned from listening to the forecast for a couple of years. being from colorado, there’s not a lot of natural disasters that happen other than tornadoes or thunderstorms, and lucky for me, i was afraid of both.
when i was a kid, i had this
terrible fear of thunderstorms
it must have been something about the crack of the thunder or the flash of the lightning that made my heart skip two beats, but whatever it was, i never got over it. i still watch for that single drop of rain every now and again that just might turn sinister. there’s no controlling how quickly my hands begin to shake and how many turns and turns my stomach starts to do. i know i have to grow up. but just…why can’t i stay a kid for just a while longer?
Evonne why can’t i beg for my mom to rub circles on my back because no matter what anyone says or does, it has to be her hand and no one else’s? why can’t I sit on that plastic covered couch, staring out into the cul de sac, unable to tear my eyes away from the sky turning dim? why can’t i long for that stupid childhood fear anymore?
i don’t want to be scared of public speaking or heights or dying alone or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. i want to be fearless with a smile beaming from my face that people only see on children nowadays. i want to look up and have that first flake of snow land on the tip of my nose and hear my mother’s soft laughter by my side. i want to be afraid of thunderstorms the same way i was afraid of them then. i want that.
autumn vibes by Kiersten Taté
i live for the days when the trees’ leaves fall slowly, smoothly. i feel joy at the sight of red and orange around me, filling the trees and the ground; a perfect canvas. i love the cool air, embracing all who come in contact with it. it’s a sensation i feel so fortunate to experience over and over again.
T A N U D J A J A
T I V A R A
notes app by Valentine i. i have notes app notes from high school they go way back at least five years songs and poems and apologies and fears—they go back at least five years ii. i journal my dreams in my notes app i’ve had so many wedding dreams— will i get married one day? who’s to say? i won’t have any kids to tell the stories to. sometimes i think about the kid i used to be and how i used to believe in who i could be who i thought i’d be but now that kid is gone and i’m what’s left this shit goes back at least five years iii. i used to write down my days in my notes app after therapy in high school and looking back, it all seemed so bleak i wonder if i would be proud of me if i saw my present self with the eyes of the past goddamn, do these feelings go back five years.
iv. i would write down songs and poems in my notes app i still remember how to sing them “So tell me now where has the time gone So tell me now where have you been Inside my head inside my heart inside the depths of my soul Or just not here at all” i used to feel like i was alone and i wrote it in the songs and now some of the feelings are the same that one goes back five years iv. i wrote to you in my notes app all of you, one of you, everyone, and i remember every word love letters, apologies, greetings i wrote them down in my notes app before i sent them out to you v. i wrote to me in my notes app and i remember every word i hope i remember me five years from now
I’ve always had a sweet tooth, always had a soft spot for the things that make life sweet and soft and sunshiney. I’m prone to collecting, quick to pick up the things that catch my eye. I’m also prone to losing things, but thankfully not prone to forgetting. Finding things to lose is a way of memorializing my life. There is very little I cherish more than the things that I once had.
I once had a sky blue picnic table. I can picture three little heads, three different colors of curls, all pushed together over a pile of flowers, lovingly picked with small pink painted fingers. I don’t remember where I learned about honeysuckle. I do remember telling my little sisters about it, the awe that must have been in my eyes at the promise of the sweetness of the flowers. Mama pointed out a patch of them behind our house that summer. We were always barefoot back then, and she set us loose to turn our toes green in the grass in our search for the little yellow buds. We counted them out, feeling that nothing was more important than fairness, and yet I still pushed a few of the flowers from my pile into each of theirs. I remember sitting around the little blue picnic table, and the fragile softness of the flower petals against the rough color of the plastic. I can hear the triumphant laughs we let out as the sweetness hit our tongue. We conquered a lot together then, and the discovery of sweet things to make our own was among our favorites, the flowers as satisfying as the expired Halloween candy smuggled from the cupboards behind mama’s back, tucked away into our hiding places to be pulled out on nights we stayed up giggling under the covers. I don’t remember how long we sat at that table, if we let the sun set on us waiting for mama to call us back into the house. A part of us may still be there, three different colored heads of curls bent over the small patch of wildflowers. I hope someone can still hear the bells of our laughter, the rising tones of good natured bickering. I hope a bit of the sunshine from our smiles still coaxes that flower patch back each spring.
I once had a story. The first one I remember telling. I can see the way it wrapped around the blank page of computer paper stolen from Daddy’s pile of stuff on the desk in the living room, and the illustration I painstakingly drew across the top half of the page in bursts of yellow and orange crayon. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I can imagine the pride with which I handed it off to my parents. I can picture the way I stared at them as they read, waiting for them to proclaim me a genius and run to attach it to the front of the fridge. I know my grandma later kept it in one of the dusty storage boxes under her bed, beside straight A’s on report cards and newspaper clippings of people she thought I would one day want to learn about. I can see my parent’s handing it to her with the same pride I had before, can see them seeing the person I would become, full of stories and searching for the right words to tell them. I like to think they watch me now, and think back to those sentences. I think a bit of that story seeps into every single one that I write now. I hope that one day, when that aged piece of paper dissolves into the earth, it feeds the same trees that will one day look over my shoulder as I write my last words. I once had a bracelet. Pink and blue string braided together and tied carefully around the summer darkened brown of my wrist. It was fuzzier than it had once been, changed at some point in the endless days of washing hands in art room sinks and playgrounds wear and tear. I don’t remember when it fell off, or the day she first gave it to me, but I remember all the days in between. I remember notes passed in a secret language, the pride we took in writing them, and the conspiratorial glances sent across tables when they were intercepted and then discarded in confusion. I remember glitter dumped on my bedroom floor in the rare midnight hour we saw on one of the various birthday sleepovers we begged our parents for. I remember the way we used to collect odds and ends for each other when we parted ways at the end of the day.
The dirty but magical looking rock I found at the playground near my house, wrapped up in a tissue and presented with pride, and the dingy beaded necklace found in the basement of her church traded the next day at recess. I treasured those prizes we traded more than anything else. I kept that friendship bracelet for years, even after it broke. It lay in it’s spot at the bottom of my jewelry box, among the cheap pieces collected at the mall, and the soft glow of the pieces passed down from family more and more as I got older. Even now we keep each other the way I kept that bracelet. Tucked safely away, but always there when we need it. I hope she keeps me tucked away with that same kind of safety, and more than this I hope she’s not afraid to pull me out and polish the glow we’ve kept alive after so many years. I once had a bookshelf. The kind of bookshelf meant for children’s spaces, meant to fold in and out, meant to hold little more than picture books and dictionaries. I sat it in my room, and banned my baby sisters from putting things on it, and prided myself on the collection I was building. I remember the first chapter books put on it, passed down from Mama’s collection where it was tucked away at grandma’s house. I went on so many trips to bookstores, with friends wandering the aisles behind me. I remember the ones that were just as excited as I was, the ones that waved me down to excitedly whisper about a cover they loved. I grew a special sort of passion in the gaps of those shelves. My love for words came blossoming out of the deckled pages of an aging classic. My love for slow meandering plots came bursting from the spine of the quiet fantasy books lining the top shelves. I hope I never lose the love that bookshelf helped me foster, the excitement that grew to life between the covers I meticulously curated. I hope my words get to grace another young person’s shelves one day, and build that same sort of passion into them.
I once had a yearning, had a need for the biggest and the brightest, even when I didn’t know what exactly it really meant for me. I remember a me who expected nothing less than city lights and high heeled shoes, a me who expected to touch people she would never meet, who thought they lived in a world just waiting for the change that they could bring. I wonder if she looks at the me now, who let the smaller dreams take over, who starts within themself, and feels any kind of disappointment. I like to think there’s a relief there, a me that lets out a breath when they realize the world is not theirs to save, but rather to find a slice of home within. I wait for her to realize the power of healing and community, to realize the importance of community within change. I wait for her to begin to prioritize herself. I wait for her to grow into the me that I am now, and I wait for me to grow into the me that I could someday be.
By Niki Hester
I once had a moment with a lover. A moment cloaked in the deep yellow of the rising sun, so early there was an enduring stillness to the day. I hold those moments preserved in amber. I see the gentle flutter of eyelids coming awake, the hesitance of a smile still holding the last residual bit of dream world in it’s curves. I can feel the beating of my heart, the way it seemed to slow to match theirs when both of us were still in the hold of slumber, the way it beat a little bit faster when I came back into consciousness still held as tightly as I was the night before. I can hear the rasp of a voice relearning speech, shaking off a night of disuse within the whisper of another shy “good morning”. I remember the heat from another body sharing the space beneath the covers, the way the warmth stayed in the apples of my cheeks throughout the day, brought back by the daydreamy newness of a memory still shining with detail. I hope they think back on those moments with that same sort of warmth. I hope I’m rendered in a sense of fondness for the moments of joy no matter how brief, rather than an all too familiar sort of heartache.
Soundtrack of My Life By: AZ Nowell
Begin 2 Luv U - Doug Willis Lightning. A brief, but weighted pause, and then… BOOM. Thunder, rolling around loudly in the sky above our home. The sound shook me to my bones, feeling too loud to be harmless. Panic rose in my chest as I tried to make myself as small as possible on the couch in our living room. For a young girl terrified of loud, unexpected noises, a clap of thunder seemed like the worst thing in the world. Two strong hands picked me up from my curled ball of safety, carrying me out the front door and into the storm. My terrified arms wrapped tightly around my father’s neck as we stood in the middle of our front yard, cold rain falling on our skin, whispered assurances that “everything is okay” falling on my ears. After a while, my eyes slowly unscrewed themselves and I followed my father’s gaze up to the heavens. Another rolling boom echoed out, but for the first time, it didn’t seem so bad. And then, back into the warmth of the bright green house, the fireplace ablaze, and two mugs of hot chocolate waiting for us.
No One - Alicia Keys Change. So much change at once. An overwhelming jumble of sadness, anger, anxiety, and fear crackled on every nerve in my body as I stood in the driveway with clenched fists. The streetlight across the street cast a yellow pallor over the only home I had ever known, now teeming with movers pulling out everything inside and packing it into a truck waiting in the road. In the midst of it all I had been left to my own devices, my mother lost in the chaos. Across the street, a single light was on in my best friend’s bedroom. Taking advantage of the lack of eyes on me at the moment, I ran as fast as my 7 year old legs would take me until I stood right under it. A sense of familiarity in all the newness coming together against my will. After my calling, a face peeked out, haloed by the golden light, and a small hand waved. A simple goodbye, for an indeterminate amount of time. All too soon I was also packed away, whisked off to a life with two new houses in two new cities, each with one less parent than before.
Count on You - Big Time Rush I sat on a pile of pillows between my mothers legs, the smell of hair grease filling my nostrils as ice cold water from a spray bottle slid down my neck. A gentle tug on my hair, tilting my head backward as my mother meticulously put each unruly hair in its place, trying to secure the puff with a hair tie donning two plastic bulbs. At some point I named them “breaks,” as the word “barrette” was too complicated to fit my mouth around. Accurately named, apparently, because there was a snap on my scalp followed by my mother sucking her teeth. “Sorry girlie girl,” she said, patting my head before reaching into a basket overflowing with a menagerie of other multicolored hair accessories and combing the hairs back into place again. In my second household, I sat in a similar position. Another set of “breaks,” clips, hair products, undoing and redoing what was just done a few hours before. This time, with a sharp-bristled brush and a harsher hand unfamiliar with motherhood. I had been cast in the role of the perfect step-daughter, expected to play without a script. My life had been split in two, and it seemed like everyone slipped into their new roles flawlessly — everyone but me. But I was good at pretending.
Rising, Rising - Crywolf We were in paradise — the sun was bright, the ocean was blue, and the palm trees all around us swayed in the most perfect breeze. Everyone around us was enjoying their vacation, and I stood in the middle of it all, fists clenched, as the news fell on my ears. I don’t think anyone noticed. More change. Against my will. Just when I thought I’d figured everything out. The waves crashed in the distance, underscoring my father’s repeated apology. I told him it was alright because, what else could it be? I’d been through one divorce before. At least this time, I knew what to expect. I knew I would take it in stride, as I always did. I was a trooper. I would be okay, eventually. I didn’t have a choice.
I Can’t Keep Up (feat. Will Heard) - Tourist I watched my black shoes splash in the water outside the building of my therapist’s office, cursing at myself under my breath for not grabbing a coat with a hood to shield my face from the rain when I left home. Why had I parked so far away? As the distance grew between me and the glass doors of the building that seemed too tall for the neighborhood, the real emotions I had been shoving down for months began to slip through the cracks in my facade. Once I got back to my car, grateful for the warm and dry interior, I pressed my face into my hands and forced myself to take deep, long breaths. I tried my best to push the emotions back down to that place where my worst thoughts lived, but it was getting harder and harder to keep them there. It was too much weight on my shoulders, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold onto all of it by myself, but it felt like it was too much weight for anyone else to bear. So much change in such a short amount of time. It was a darkness so deep that it swallowed me whole months before, but it seemed like the only person who noticed was me. In a lifetime of hiding my emotions, I hadn’t learned how to let people in. I tried to focus on how beautiful the mountains in the distance were instead of the sadness trying to claw its way out of my chest. The rain clouds had parted by that point, the air clean enough for me to see the snow capped peaks clearly for the first time in weeks. I pushed the feelings deep down into my stomach, started the car, and headed home.
Change - J. Cole The line of the horizon in the distance rose and fell with the slow rock of the ship, and a few puffs of clouds floated lazily above me. The air was damp, but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable. Everything was blue — the dark pool chair I sat on, entirely different from the bright blue sky above me and the deep blue of the sea I had been calling my home for a few weeks. Each breath felt clean, unweighted, carrying salt and placing it delicately on my tongue. I felt refreshed, in more ways than just one. The moment felt completely my own, a moment where I finally was able to focus on myself and the things I wanted. It was interesting that it took me sailing thousands of miles from home to find a kind of peace like this, but I was thankful. Much of my life felt like I was just moving with the tide of life, with all of its highs and lows, unsatisfied and unable to control it, but along for the ride anyway. You would think I would feel isolated, looking out over the water and seeing it extend endlessly in every direction. Admittedly, it did feel that way sometimes. But as I sat there, staring at that point in the horizon where the sky met the water, I felt completely and entirely free. For the first time, I could see how all the loss had built into something beautiful. Not everything was okay, but I was okay.
18 - emawk Change. So much change. Once again, I found myself standing on the side of the road in a new city, but this time the decision was my own. I had just said goodbye to my mother, my best friend, and was watching the uber taking her to the airport turn the corner a few blocks away. I had been holding back my tears, trying to convince her and myself that I was going to be fine without her, but now the anxiety I had been fighting off for a few days hit me all at once. I had been chasing this dream for years — moving to the east coast to go to writing school. Even with all the preparation, it had always been just that: a dream. But now it was real. I had no choice but to turn around, go back into my dorm, and finish what I started.
Me in 20 Years - Moses Sumney I’m sitting at my desk, trying to condense all the changes in my life into a few pages, when suddenly I have a moment of clarity. Suddenly, I’m aware that I’m sitting at my desk, in my own apartment with one of my best friends, finishing up my final semester of college. I’m following my passion, and the feeling of being in control is one that I’m now more than familiar with. I remove my fingers from the keyboard and pause, choosing instead to stare out the window onto the street below. The smell of rain blows through my cracked window, carrying with it memories I’m trying to capture. Everything is different than it was just a few years before, but in the best way. Once again, I find myself on the precipice of another major life transition, but this time it doesn’t scare me. A lot more change is on the horizon, but the good kind. The reins are in my hands, and with them comes a sense of confidence that I’ve become more than comfortable with. I am the way that I am, and that wasn’t an accident. Grateful doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Dear Grandma, When a baby is born, they are so pure. They are so innocent and they haven’t messed up yet. That is what makes them so beautiful. They haven’t endeavored the hardships of life or have been taught the crucial lessons that nobody ever wants to be taught. What makes a person who they are is through the impacts of their friends, family, and community. Their culture and their surroundings make them who they are. That is exactly what happened to me. This happened to me through my very own island which I consider to be a second home. My beautiful Saint Lucia. Specifically, one very special person on that island was my grandmother. The only grandparent that I was, fortunately, able to meet. Mary, that’s her name. She was one of the first people to hold me when I was born and the one to take care of me the first six months of my birth while my parents were sleep-deprived. As I grew older, I would always hear my mom speak Patois. Patois is the Caribbean native language which is similar to old French. She would constantly speak it around the house and I would always ask, “What is that language?” Or comment, “It’s not the standard English or even Spanish I hear others speak.” This was the main reason my mom started sending me to Saint Lucia. She wanted me to become more familiar with my Saint Lucian roots, and so I could see where she called home. Little did I know, I would soon be calling it home as well. When my mother sent me to Saint Lucia for the first time, it was to create bonds with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmother. I was scared because I wasn’t used to this so-called “foreign” culture, which was indeed my own culture. I just wanted to be in America with my fast-food restaurants and endless clothing store options. However, being in Saint Lucia allowed me to open up my eyes. I started to become more thankful for what I had in America because a lot of people not only in Saint Lucia but in other countries didn’t have what I had. So being in Saint Lucia almost humbled me in a way and influenced me to be more down-to-earth.
In Saint Lucia, it felt like the first chapter of my childhood was beginning. The chapter in which I was so naive. I was changing from a pure baby and child, and becoming my own woman. A woman who was still discovering who she was and her cultural makeup and background. The 2 week-long visits to Saint Lucia, turned into every summer, for the whole summer. During these summers, I was finding out new aspects of myself that I never knew existed. I found out that I love the Caribbean Sea with all my heart. It’s very different from the beaches that we have in America. It is the perfect temperature, in which it is not too hot or too cold. It’s this clear blue that is almost as equal to the sky’s color without the clouds. It is so clear that I can see the little fishes swimming along with me. I love tasting the saltiness of the sea. Also, I love the beach where I can collect seashells and build sandcastles. I found out that I love the market where there would be handmade items by a lot of the locals. Also the fresh fruits and the local juices that I would kill for. In that section of the island, there were a lot of tourists and the locals would love that because it gave them the opportunity to front and show off their island. I found out that I love Friday nights where everyone would be together celebrating after the overlong week. They would party and enjoy their rum and beer. They would move their hips and spin each other around to soca music. I love carnival, which was two days straight of the locals dressed up in beautiful, colorful costumes. They went all over the island, blasting soca music while everyone partied and became their own entertainment.
I started to fall deeper and deeper into the roots of this beautiful island and I wanted to soak up everything about it. I discovered even more about my roots and who I was. However, the main reason I was able to do so was because of my grandmother. My grandmother is everything to me because she taught me crucial life lessons, and was one of my number one supporters and cheerleaders. Whenever I would step into her house after my long plane ride from the States, I would be met with photos of my face plastered all around the house. It would include my cousin and I’s baby photos, current photos, graduation photos, achievements, and the occasional family photos. I loved our conversations about her trying to teach me Patois, and me failing at everything because I had no clue what she was saying. Years later and I can only make out words and phrases, not even. I only continued with these lessons because they made her happy, and I would do anything to make her happy. I miss her bakes which were soft, warm, and comforting when I would sink my teeth into the rich and solid bread that tastes like pure flour and sweetness. I miss when she always knew when there was something wrong and asked me in her soft sweet voice, “Are you okay, my girl?” Or, “Is there anything you need, my girl?” Or, “Is there anything I can do for you, my girl?” I was always her girl and nobody else’s. She had this way of having a special relationship with everyone in the family. She made everyone seem like they had a place in this world that was specifically made for them.
I haven’t been to Saint Lucia and I haven’t seen my family in what seems like forever. As I got older, things changed. I found myself not wanting to go to Saint Lucia as often and wanting to travel to other parts of the world. This caused me to strain away from my family. However, I did hold those memories of being on the island with my family members close to my heart. With growth comes an uncomfortable changing period. I miss the rich melanin skin I had when I was in Saint Lucia. I miss the fresh fruits and climbing up a tree to get a mango whenever I felt like it. I miss the fresh coconut water I would drink whenever I got sick. I miss the waterfalls, my cousins, my family, and most importantly, my clear skin. But I miss Saint Lucia because I feel like it was an escape from reality. I was placed on that island paradise for a reason. It was through my family, specifically my grandmother that I saw where I fit in, and I didn’t feel like an outsider from my own culture anymore. I went back to the States as a new person, a new woman. Every year that passed, when I was away from Saint Lucia, my grandmother grew sicker and sicker. It wasn’t until last summer that my grandmother took her last breath. Left my family, left my mother, left me. I would endure one of the hardest days of my life. Sitting in my living room watching my grandmother being lowered into the ground, with me, unable to be there in person. This was due to a vigorous pandemic that was and continues to spread endlessly across the world. My grandmother would never see me win my last high school awards. My grandmother would never see me get ready for prom. My grandmother would never see me put on my graduation cap and gown, and watch me walk across that stage being handed my diploma. My grandmother would never get to add my graduation picture to the wall at her house with the other endless photos of my life. My grandmother would never get to see me graduate college and start my career. My grandmother will never see me get married and have my own children.
As she was lowered to the ground, I realized that I was not only saying goodbye to her. I was saying goodbye to my childhood in Saint Lucia. I was no longer a kid anymore. I was a young woman trying to find her voice and her place in the world. I realized that Saint Lucia helped me figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I will never forget the sweet island breeze and the melanin skin. The sweet songs of Saint Lucia continue to ring in my ears. But most importantly I won’t forget my grandmother. No matter how old I get, I will never forget that I’m her girl. Sincerely, Your Girl
Today I allow myself to miss my soul, or well, my home from this unknown place. Almost as unknown as who will I be tomorrow? How will be the next sunset? Or what is the secret of the rain? I think, write, and live with a melancholy that weighs, an enormous and heavy melancholy, as massive as the clouds that form in the sky from the highlands that stubbornly I miss today. From a gray, monotonous, and cold city I find myself in an endless process of metamorphosis, made out of boldness and expectations that seen impossible to reach, impossible to settle, impossible to end. It doesn’t end because I keep finding the woman I was, I hug her, I connect with her, and I grab her hand; I invite her to watch sunsets that I imagine in the center of the city ignoring its buildings, its traffic, its noise, its sadness, and its lack of color. From this unwelcoming place, I try not to forget, and I repeat to myself over and over again, 6 ° 38′50 ″ N 75 ° 27′38 ″ W to go home and 3,994 kilometers to reduce my fears. But I interrupt myself in the middle of the tedium souvenir product, which I feel under my skin, My zamba¹ and brown skin, which now is pale and dull from a cloudy winter that steals the light and grace of those who are subjected to living it.
La Meseta -The Plauteau Sara Valentina Alvarez Echavarria
I get lost in the details, the memories, the moments, the life that has already passed and that I still feel incapable of letting go. Once in a while, I allow myself to close my eyes to feel and see beyond the chaos, boldness, and vulnerability located in my being center. I allow myself to feel the warm winds of August, the sun kissing my cinnamon skin, and the cold of April touching the tip of my nose. I allow myself to see the colorful kites, the children running in the plaza, and my friends laughing at each other after a couple of polas². I still find myself remembering faces, names, and voices in my attempt to make them eternal, I repeat them and run through my mind, I walk them as long ago I roamed the town, its streets, parks, and monuments. Among so many faces, names and voices, I try to highlight the ones that make me feel the most alive, the ones that hurt me the most, the ones that burn my soul As the midday burning sun in the church atrium. One day not too distant, I hope to return, one day very soon, I hope to be cloud, colors, plateau, and sunset. One day not too far away, I will meet with the North, with the mountains, the birds, the clouds, and the blue sky. I will meet again with the faces, the names, and the voices. From this cold and achromatic city, I embrace the Northern mountain roots that saw my mom giving me life, birth, and name. From this unknown place, I promise to return to my soul, to my home and be.
By: Jazmin Brooks
Before I start just remember this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with you We will be talking about you this whole time Remember this, don’t forget, and let us begin our discussion The inner mechanisms of the mind make it so you gain new memories to replace the old You go through life experiencing and grieving and loving and leaving and meeting and loving and loving and loving People Places Moments Words And you remember it all And then one day comes where you start to forget all the moments and people you loved because you start to love new people and experience new things They become your new old memories It’s an ongoing and vicious cycle and most of us don’t even notice it happening One day you love them and the next day you don’t because you learned to love someone new And you forget it all Now, what is it called when you start to forget yourself? You meet new people and love them and nurture them so much that you forget to love and nurture yourself And what is it called when you stopped loving yourself right when they started loving you? And then they stopped loving you a little while after you started loving them? And what is it called when that becomes a vicious cycle too? And every time it happens you start to forget And remember And forget You try not to mess up like last time because you remember them telling you it was all your fault So, the next time around, you change yourself for them so much and so often and so deeply that you wake up one day and can’t name the face that’s looking at you in the mirror You can’t make out the smile The beauty marks The hair The scar you got as a kid for playing tag during recess because you weren’t looking where you were going You were having so much fun that day Do you remember the last time you had that much fun? Why don’t you remember? Is it because you’ve allowed yourself to only view fun as fun when it’s with the one that tore you down? The one who you met and loved and loved and loved and forgot to make sure that they loved you back just as much And when they leave you’re just waiting for them to come back or for some new love to come and do the same as they did before And that it happened again after that And again And again And again
I need you to think about this for a second Like really think Like more than you do when you obsess about it constantly throughout your day Like you do when you meet someone new to love that’s right for you and you immediately get bombarded with all the intrusive thoughts “They’re just like the rest” “Why did they say that/do that?” “When are they going to get tired of you?” Because like I said before, it’s a vicious cycle You don’t get to just start over because all you can do is kick back, relax, and reminisce on the number the last one did on you Every detail of it too Now don’t get me wrong you’re going to have an amazing time with this new one But you’re also going to have an equal amount of new memories of you in pain as you will in love Just like the last time and the time before that Don’t forget that And I know you won’t Just like that scar on your left knee You had fun that day, remember? You had fun and then you got hurt Sound familiar? Don’t tell me you forgot that too cause I know you didn’t and you never will You don’t forget the pain Just like you don’t ever let yourself forget that one day they will love you and the next day they won’t because they learned to love someone new while you were still loving them At least that’s what you’ve convinced yourself would be the case And you don’t ever let yourself forget it And I would know because this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me Because you are the reflection of everything I’ve forgotten about loving myself while trying to remember everything about my love for them And the pain from that which I cannot shake What is it called when it’s only a matter of time before I forget myself so much that the mirror looks more like a stock photo in a picture frame? Better yet, what is it called when you reminisce on only the bad and the good looks more like a birds-eye view of a city you’ll never visit again? Is the word you’re looking for something like nostalgia? Or is that trauma? By the time that we’re able to tell the difference, we’ll have already forgotten And moved on to new old memories And another round of the vicious cycle will soon begin
A Path Still Traveled
by Santana Teresa-Milagros Perez
It’s never easy to get her to come out and see me. To answer me
when I speak to her. Everything must be perfect; she has to feel utterly safe and cozy. I understand.
So I meet her here, out in the woods, at the edge of day and night, and find her a rock she can dangle her feet off of. I offer her what I know she loves.
She arrives on her own time. I’m sure she’s wantered off the path
we agreed on. Not lost, because if she loses her way on purpose, it doesn’t count.
She’s small when she makes it to me. Smaller than I ever
remember being. When she sits beside me, she puts a small notebook in my lap. It has a company logo on the front and a smeared marker and pencil drawing on the back.
“It’s a ring! This ring my Daddy gave me! He got it from Spain.” She waves her little hand at me, a blue ring on her finger. I smile. “It’s very pretty.”
“I think it’s magic. I drew this and I’m going to write a book about it.” Was that it? Was that all it took? “That sounds like a great book.” “I know! Do you like books?”
Of course I do. I’m dedicating my life to them. “Yes. I like books a lot.” “What are you reading now?” She grabs my backpack and opens it.
She doesn’t find a book to read. Only journals I carry around to remind myself to write something. Anything. I’ve started all of them. I
intended to fill each with its own project, but I’ve barely made it more
than a dozen or so pages into one. Another is further along, but there
are days or even weeks between me filling each page. “I’m not reading a book right now. I like to write my own. We have that in common.” Still. “Really? What’s your book about?”
She looks up at me, and I can’t meet her eyes for long. Hers are so... clear and bright. I’m afraid she’ll see we don’t share that feature. We haven’t in...well since we were one and the same.
“I’m working on a few right now, but they all have magic. And some
things about the real world.” As I trail off, I realize my leg is bouncing
restlessly. I’m struggling to summarize even one out of the many I have. When had my inner world become such a labyrinth?
She pats my knee and stands. Then tugs at my arms. “Let’s walk!” I’m relieved to follow her. “Do you know how your story will end?” She half walks, half skips along the dirt path slicing through the woods.
“Nope! Do you?”
“Always.” I don’t think before I say it. And as I look down to avoid being
tripped by roots or stones, I add, “I have to know everything before I start.” “Okay! Is that fun?” It used to be. “Sometimes.”
“You should only do it when it’s fun.” The command comes so easily to her.
I let my guard down at once. I respond too honestly to her childish confidence. “I don’t write for fun.”
When the path clears of obstacles, I look up, and she’s different now.
Taller. Dressed in plainer clothes. Her hair is loose save for a headband No more pigtails or braids. Smiling doesn’t seem to come so easily to
her anymore. Her eyes are the same shade of deep brown as before,
but the sparkle in them is gone. They’re only dull and dark now. “Then why do you do it?” She walks with a permanent hunch in her shoulders and her hands hiding in her pockets. “Has Dad given you that book about the ten thousand hours rule?” “Yeah, is it true?”
“I don’t know, but I’m already eight thousand hours into writing. Can’t stop now.”
“I get that.” She keeps glancing back at me and we fall into step beside each other. I recognize her. We are much more the same than the joyful girl
she came to me as. There’s still ten years left between us rather than fifteen. Those five years left quite a few scars.
“Do you still like books?” I ask. I look at the path ahead. Not at her. I
know she’s more comfortable that way. “I love them. All I do is read.. I failed a math
test by rushing through it just so I could finish the book under my desk.” I can hear her smile.
I laugh. “Right! I remember that! It was so worth it.” I try to stay upbeat.
I know she needs that from me. Already we’re trading places. Maybe one day I’ll be like she was again.
“What obsesses you?” Right. This was the era of being eaten alive by stories. Consuming them
like a starving creature before I was taken over by muses I seem to have already lost.
“School. I’ve almost got my Bachelor’s. But I want to get published in the
next five years.” We reach a fork. And she stops. I stop a few feet ahead of her. She’s still right in the middle, equally committed and uncommitted to our two poten-
tial paths in life. I’m off to the right, already having chosen. It’s why I bear a bag of journals and not a guitar case.
“So you don’t do music?” I can’t hear her smile anymore. She sounds heartbroken. I understand. Sometimes I feel choked by the grief of taking this turn too.
“No. I still love it. But I couldn’t be forced to do it.” I look back at her. She’s grown again. She’s my height. But she isn’t as broad. The skin of her arms is still unmarked by ink. Her face is still hairless and
splotched with acne. Her hair is a long train of frizz she doesn’t yet
know can be curls. Only a few years separate us now. She still stands with that hunch in her shoulders. I can’t remember when I stopped carrying such a heavy invisible weight around with me.
“That’s where we’re going, right?” She walks to my side
again. And we easily fall into step with each other. “Adulthood is just being forced to do more.” The dark circels under her eyes and
exhausted rasp in her voice, just now cracking and dropping low like mine, make put an arm around her.
I remember her well enough to touch her. For her to be real to me. And I feel as connected to her through her misery as I feel sorry for her. “Yes and no.” I hug her as best as I can without tripping over our feet. “What are you up to now? Still a bookworm?” I ask.
“I am.” She smiles. And for a moment, her eyes look a touch less dull.
She’ll never resemble that joyful little girl. Not by far, but thinking of our shared art rings her back from the brink of despair she teeters on. “I mainly write books though.”
I move my arm down. I hold her hand. She laces her fingers together with mine. “I do, too. Why do you write?”
“Because I feel I have to. If I don’t represent
people like me, no one will.” There’s a trace of old command
that returns as she says it. Her smile has been replaced by a look of determination. I’m just as glad to see it.
“Right. I get that.” I squeeze her hand and give her a nod. Not of
encouragement. She deserves my respect for lasting this long. “Keep at it. I’m sure things willl work out later.” She gives me a look too tired to be considered hopeful. I’m not afraid to meet her gaze. We have dull eyes and dark circles in common now. “Really? How do you know?”
I smile at her. “I don’t.” She looks confused, but she won’t let go of my hand. And she still walks with me. “Is that a good thing?”
“It is what it is.” We reach a bridge with no railings. I bring her to one
side, and we sit with our legs dangling just above the rush of the water. We watch it approach from some dark place deeper in the woods. It
disappears behind us, pouring into a lake that has no edges except for the muddy shore that runs beneath us.
She leans her head on my shoulder. When she hugs my arm, her gentle
grip reminds me of my little sister. Of how she always rested against me when she grew tired in the back of our parents’ car. “What about you? Why do you write?”
I look at her and she’s closed her eyes against the breeze that passes
over the stream. I turn to face the shadows. “Because I have to. Because it’s what I’m good at. Those feel like the same thing.” She hugs my arm tighter. “Do you love it?” She buries her face in the side of my arm as if afraid of what the answer might be. I know I disappointed part of her already with the turn we took.
I shrug my bag off my back and set it beside me. I unzip it with the arm
she’s let me still have and pluck a journal from inside it at random. I lay it in my lap. “I always have. I’m trying to love it again.”
That seems to relieve what tension she was suddenly feeling. She lets go of my arm and looks down at the notebook. “Do you know where we’re going next?”
“Nope.” I open the book and flip through the pages. All filled with my
chaotic scrawl and hardly legible to anyone but us. “That’s up to whoever comes to get me.” I look down the path we came from. I hope when she arrives, she’s gotten the spark in her eyes back.
if i could have reached you by Valentine 18 if i could have reached you when you still had light in your eyes i might have been able to save you. things happened, and some of them were your fault, but some of them weren’t, and there are things you can control and there are things you can’t. but i wish i could have reached you when you still had light in your eyes so i could have helped you. 15 it’s not your fault he died. it’s not your fault that you feel like your brain is broken. it’s not your fault that she left. she might not come back, and you might have to deal with that for a long time but it’s not your fault. don’t blame yourself for these things. 13 hang in there, it’ll be okay. not for a while, but it’ll be okay one day. 10 calm down, take a deep breath. everyone doesn’t need to know what’s on your mind; all the same, don’t stop thinking. don’t stop being yourself because otherwise, you’re going to set yourself up for failure and i don’t want you to fail. 5 new environment, new people— be careful. even though you’re going home at night, you’re going to be with these people for quite a long time. 3 why did you put that bead in your ear? 0 you have a whole life ahead of you. don’t stop. play as much as you can. tell your father you love him, he won’t be there one day— i know that it’s cliche, but it’s true. your sister will leave you, don’t take it personally.
the bad things that happen aren’t your fault— don’t you dare think it’s your fault for one second. you still have that light in your eyes— you’re a baby— you still have that light in your eyes— you’ve barely been born.
f c s
b I S
Wonder By: Kimberly Ndegwa I seen you walking down the street, and wondered would the palm of your hands be moist like hers? the feel of your physique as electric and warm as she was, your hair smooth and silky as I run mine fingers through. Would your chambers smell of warm wood and incense candles? would it have the secret door to that dark room we laid, chatting until darkness seeped through the portal of daylight? would your voice feel like the ocean roaring through my bod? its coarse texture tickling the very fabric of my being, your words taking me through wondrous fantasies and mystical lands that only you would know. I seen you walking down the street, and wondered.
Myocardium Paralysis Eli Kowar
I wonder how it feels to be a child, My childhood snatched from me before I could even open my eyes, Despair and pain working together to keep my responseless heart beating in time. I remember reading the dictionary, While my mother yelled in the background, Teaching me I was unlovable, While I was still learning what love even was.. How does it feel, To be held while you sleep at night? I sang myself lullabies And prayed for my father to come home alright. I can’t remember the last time he picked me up in his arms, Or the last time someone told me they cared. “I love you,” I whisper in the dark. And if I close my eyes long enough, I can pretend the voice isn’t mine. I wonder if I gave my siblings the childhood they deserved, Reading them my favorite stories until they closed their eyes, And feeding them on the tough nights, while my own stomach cried. Staying up on Christmas Eve, making paper chains and Writing letters from Santa for them at the age of nine, Now I sit here writing poetry for an audience I’ll never find. Depression and anger has strangled the life from my inner child, And now he sits on a ventilator, His pulse barely there, like tapping on a wooden desk, While I struggle to paste on a smile. There are moments where it feels likes he’s perfectly fine,
* Like when I listen to an old song, Or eat a treasured food I used to like. But those moments are far and few, As if shimmering mirages in a desert, And I’m good at shattering everything but illusions. How must it feel to dream about a future, Where you could be whatever you like? Long gone are the days I believed I could be anything that came to mind. Dreams of being a two term president Or a floating astronaut in space fading away. My true calling has found me, How could I ever be anything more than a tragedy? Perhaps this is all I’m to be gifted in this life, My misfortune, ironically my only boon Flowing like eloquent lines from a tortured soul That sticks me like a sharpened knife, While I lie and insist that I’m fine. I say “God, I’m old,” Though I’m barely twenty, And don’t plan on making it To the thirtieth year of this marathon. Nostalgia runs through me, Like a burning fever dream, While my hourglass runs empty, And I simply sit and watch, Counting down an invisible clock, Another day, another excruciatingly painful notch, All while I wonder how it feels to be a child Something I never was.
SOULMATES BY: KIMBERLY NDEGWA
“And so, when a person meets the half that is his very own, whatever his orientation, whether it’s to young men or not, then something wonderful happens: the two are struck from their senses by love, by a sense of belonging to one another, and by desire, and they don’t want to be separated from one another, not even for a moment.” -Plato, ‘The Symposium’. Plato says that humans used to have four arms, four legs, and a single head with two faces. We were powerful, fearless, and strong. However, our downfall came with arrogance and vanity when we instigated war against the gods. The king of the gods, Zeus, was scared of this power and decided to split us into two separate parts, condemning us to spend our lives in search of our other halves. We then had two arms, two legs, and one face; incomplete, weak. This is the explanation for why we’re constantly longing for something we don’t know yet. Longing to be complete again. Longing to find that person who is it for us, our soulmate. The quest to find our other halves continues to this day. Some find their soulmates in friendships, romantic lovers, or in family relations. They can be anywhere and that’s the most devastating part. What if they’re on the other side of the world? What if we never get to meet them? My theory is that there had to be a select group of super-powerful human beings. Ones who were so powerful that splitting them into two wasn’t enough. Their souls were taken and split into more pieces, spread all over the world making it harder for them to find each piece. This is why there are those of us who find someone who fills a part of our lives but there’s always another piece missing. These are the loneliest souls. I am lonely as fuck. Maybe that’s why my soul searches... for an adventure through the universe. Searches past the sky and past the stars. Away from the planets and the solar system. Maybe the other pieces of my soul are in different galaxies. Because once upon a time, we were among the biggest and the bravest. We were willing to fight all odds to be free and to be us. The gods didn’t like that, they wanted to keep being worshipped and now here we are chasing the sun. Hoping that somewhere under its mercies, our soulmates are there... waiting and hoping just like we are.
By Cai Freeman
by: Kimberly Wanjiru Ndegwa I stopped using my name. Stopped saying my name. Because it meant too much to me. It held a history. . . of all the people who came before me. All the people I don’t want to let down. I tried to act like I didn’t care. Acted like I don’t matter…like whatever came out of their mouths was fine, As long as they gave me something As long as they called me As long as they acknowledged me. I distance myself from its meaning, because why does that matter if no one is willing to say it right. To let it roll on their tongues. To let it move and flow from the lips with the same sweetness, same texture, the same tone that it was given to me. So I replaced it with a letter. “Middle initial” Is what they call it. Reducing it to a single letter. It’s only a seven-letter word. 7, my lucky number. I don’t remember when I realized it but the 7? The 7 has always been there The 7 has always been a part of me The 7 Is my soul. Wanjiru is the name. I will say it as much as I possibly can Wanjiru, I’ll say it till I physically can’t Wanjiru, I will say it till my soul is set free and nothing can stop me when I say Wanjiru, not just the middle initial.
Present by Aiya
I try to remember what nostalgia is and when I can’t I change my question to get an answer what if nostalgia was a person? for me, nostalgia is an old woman because I’ve lived my life so backwards with rules and regulations no child should have she’s not hot meals or warm hands she’s the sigh after a vase breaks quiet, tired, and sad she’s heavy with remorse and useless thinking wishes gone bad I used to dread the question what do you miss? because the answer was nostalgia was a soft, weary smile that doubted authenticity and never considered presenting what is what
nostalgia lived as an old age that decreased year by year
once we met
nostalgia is none of the treasures I have now she’s everything I missed
e k a c p u C Little a Coste By An