Incite Magazine - February 2024

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The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow Nelson Mandela


Dear reader, I think a lot about time and how quickly it is running. By the time this issue will be released, I will have officially turned 20 and have left my teenage years. They say there is a lot to look forward to in your 20s, and genuinely, I do not doubt it for a second. But, there is also a different charm in our youth — the innocence and naivety, the carefreeness, the optimism and the joy. It is funny — when we are kids, all we can think about is growing up. And now that we are adults, we want to become young again. Whether you contributed to this issue or are simply one of our readers, perhaps you are once again tempted. Perhaps you once again long to return to your youth. One mention of Barbie, the regular programming of Hannah Montana after school, or, our wishlists for Santa, and the room will light up. No matter how different our childhood may have looked, we all tend to be united by a fondness for its memories or at least the idea of it. Unfortunately, it is not possible to turn seven again (I know, what a bummer). Yet, I hope this issue will not become a source of regret or disappointment. Rather, I hope it will serve as a reminder to cherish this part of us and to look forward to many more beautiful moments in our lives. Our youth is us, not separate from us — nobody can ever take it away from us, no matter how old we become. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to the Volume 26 staff and editorial board for working so diligently on what I believe is a profound and emotional issue. Whether our art managers, content editors, or layout editors, thank you for putting your soul into each page of this issue, for sharing our love for Incite, and for taking a trip down memory lane with us. To our dear contributors: I will never not be amazed by how you all are able to take just one word and bring it to life in so many different ways. Truly, as my younger self would believe, it is magical. Without further ado, they say we should not ponder on the past too much, but surely just one look back won’t hurt? I guess there is only one way to find out… Will you join me? Sincerely,


Editor-in-Chief (Arts and Production)

Sana Gupta


Dear Reader, I’m so happy you’ve stopped to pick up a copy of this issue! I like to think that it’s a theme that may relate to everyone in some way or another and I hope that you may find a piece of yourself in this copy of Youth. We’ve all been young; some of us still are, some of us were a long time ago. Unfortunately, once you stop, it feels like you can’t really go back, even if you’re still in that youth right now, without even realizing it. Hopefully, we can think back to a time when we were those bright-eyed little kids who still got excited during the holidays, believed in the tooth fairy, and feared the possibility of quick sand lurking around every corner. Maybe we were a little juvenile, or maybe we faced hardships that made it hard to be as care-free as we wanted. Maybe we didn’t understand what the world was like yet, or maybe we understood too well. And it can be hard to think back on our youths without thinking of those times when we wished we could be free, if we couldn’t be. Or maybe it can be hard to think back on those times when we were free, if we’re not anymore. I’m sure many of us, in one year, five years, ten years, or more, will look back on this time, as you sit here reading this copy, and think, “Damn, I was so young back then.” But it’s so easy not to realize as we live our lives how young we still are right now, no matter how old you are. So maybe, sometimes, even if we’re older than we want to be, or no longer kids, or even if we have bills to pay and responsibilities, or we have work to do, even if it’s piling up around us, we can all pick up a copy of Youth, flip through it and decide to be young once again, just a little longer. Within this issue, I’m sure you will find happiness, heartbreak, tears and laughter and every other one of life’s lessons to be learnt once again. I hope you will take the time to read from these accounts, see these stories and choose to be young once again, with all of us that are reading this issue too. And if you’re still in your youth, maybe you can learn a thing or two from what all of us have to offer. I would like to especially thank our team for all the hard work it took to put this together. Our amazing editorial board, layout team, content editors and art managers have worked diligently to put together a magazine that I am incredibly proud to have my name on. It was an incredibly strong team effort that I hope captures your youth in the way it captured mine. I hope you thoroughly enjoy this blast from the past, with all of its ups and downs. Now, come on, come with me. We’ll jump right in together. Down the rabbit hole we go! Sincerely,


Editor-in-Chief (Content)

Aliyah Sumar



content staff question a child’s dream Dora Xu my pearl Yousif Khoshabab melancholy Kaleb Huaraz Rios this is all i have left to offer Miguel Sandino Sibal red-eye flight Decland Withers the moon will hold you tight Emily Silver silver strands Harmela Celestin numbers Zoya Hasan sunday Madison Grehan make believe Yumna Ahamd alone together Jess Kim governments and grass and other relevant things Jess Kim beginnings without endings Rachel Oseida the princess of 2011 Nicolette Kuzma the chase Syed Taha Ahmed metamorphosis James Huh i remember Suky Zheng pitiful Mara Li twenty-one Manal Effendi the truth about lip-gloss Sydney Skeete every single detail Catalina Costiuc i’m not going pro Esther Han ebonic tint Rami Naamna will the typhoon overtake Dur E Zernab Berki emergence Jasmina Sharma growing pains Koko Sanginga what’s your type? Aliyah Sumar what back to school bag should you have? Aliyah Sumar what is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? Students


8 13 14 19 21 23 24 30 32 35 36 40 41 42 46 48 55 57 60 65 67 69 71 72 79 80 83 84 85 87


art point of view Sana Gupta tv screen and remote Naiha Ali head in the clouds of aging Alexandra Russell i grew Emily Zeng shell and pearl drawings Alexandra Russell into the fishbowl Sabriya Haider people we used to be Yameena Zahid superposition Alexis Hoang spotlight Mahek Marker 8-bit beach walks Mahek Marker reminiscence Alexandra Russell we all wither… eventually Alissa Norenberg lovebug Albany Sutherland continuum Albany Sutherland bad dream, bad dream Mara Li golden sunlight Yeemon an autumn my father remembers Mara Li pretending to be grownups Yeemon walk in these shoes Melinda Meleki launch Aditya Kalra wasp quest Aditya Kalra introspect Sana Gupta sparkle Mahek Marker love me Rhiannon Carr back Sana Gupta kangacruise Aditya Kalra 2008 Sana Gupta sylvian Mara Li reflections Alissa Norenberg bro my hairline (bad haircut) Reyanne Morgan nights like this Alissa Norenberg media on girlhood Alexandra Russell baby face Melinda Meleki grown baby face Melinda Meleki i’m not going pro Esther Han young boy Melinda Meleki narratives Sana Gupta see you soon Esther Lui unwanted memories Mahek Marker photograph Jasmina Sharma untitled Meital Sogaokar what’s your type? Aliyah Sumar what back to school bag should you have? Aliyah Sumar cartoon characters Staff


2 8 10 12 14 16 17 17 18 20 22 24 28 29 30 33 34 37 38 40 42 44 45 48 48 54 56 61 62 63 64 66 68 69 70 73 74 76 78 81 82 84 85 86


What is your favourite TV show from your YOUTH?


Hannah Montana Hedeel Askar Content Editor

Wizards of Waverly Place Misaal Mehboob Content Editor

Avatar: The Last Airbender Mahek Marker Art Manager

Phineas and Ferb

Out o f the Box

Adity aK Art M alra anage r

Parsa Razeghi Content Editor


Melin da Me leki Art M anage r

Gravity Falls

Totally Spies!

Hannah Montana

Sana Gupta Editor-in-Chief (Arts)

Yeemon Art Manager

Winx Club Christina Tam Communications Director

Peyton Whitehouse Events Director

Wizards of Waverly Place Aliyah Sumar Editor-in-Chief (Content)

Scoob yDoo

Rache l Conte Oseida nt Edi tor

Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends

Sowmithree Ragothaman Content Editor

Avatar: The Last Airbender Naiha Ali Layout Director

The Powerpuff Girls Ayesha Umair Treasurer

Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf Mara Li Art Manager








A Child's Dream I am from the streets with bustling cars and bikes on roads, the fumes of exhaust crawling through my nose. I am from the noodle shop next door, hot soup burning my tongue and sticky linoleum floors. I am from the trees and grass, laying down under the sun’s golden sheet and sprinting through the woods.

From the burning summer sand and the waves crashing against stone, From the bookstore across the street, smelling of old books and coffee, From the pattering of rain against the clear glass windows of my room,

I am from the places of my childhood x




My safety was stolen from me, the day I was dug out of my umi’s [mother’s] womb. Housed inside me, the seed of a luti [ faggot] designed for my demise. a seed clogging arteries, a soiled bloodstream, a corrupting sin. For how can I exist being gay and arab? My identities separate in me: the rich oils of Basra [City in Iraq] polluting the purest waters filling Tigris’ river This is truth of Basra and Tigris. two fools fighting to their mutual detriment dueling, thrusting their contradicting blades deeper inside each other. So I swallow my secret. make me invisible to the world, like a pearl hiding is beauty within a mundane shell. I do not wish to be found. They manipulate my innocent gleaming jewel into a cancerous invasive lump that rots the insides of my flesh. I become no one’s son. My life, an unswallowable pill only digestible when my queerness is discarded.


They force their holy hands inside my dirty shell to steal my pearl. Not for its beauty. but to rid me of sin. They don’t understand: You can’t separate the luti from the man. So try and pray it out of me. beat it out of me. kill me. No forces can defeat my queerness. It is a knight, armored in authentic gold defeating the decrepit prayers of the Kanisa. When words beat and bruise my body, my queerness nurtures me like Isa [Jesus], washing away the wounds that grip onto my soft skin. The forceful hands of my Kanisa, who claw their judgmental fingers on my innocent skin, no longer bruise my pearl. For the pearl radiates within me. Delicate and genuine. It seeps into my arteries, pumping life through my bloodstream into my heart. My queerness released and my safety is restored, once I broke the mundane shell. x 15











MELANCHOLY MELANCHOLY The sea sways fiercely before my blue eyes; I see only gray waves. The murky mist gathers over the still horizon; it chokes my vision. A brown boat floats on the water’s surface; a hole within its belly. This same vessel was once a sea captain’s friend; they sailed together, into the unknown. The wind batters me, certainly Zephyr’s doing; it threatens to sink the boat. I stand on the sand watching the boat struggle; why bother to help it? But I walk up and keep the vessel steady; the gale seems to calm down. I turn around and see the village full of family and friends; the sight is so beautiful. I gaze at the endless ocean, now calm and tranquil; it is so familiarly foreign. I slowly sigh as I decide to hop on the unstable boat; it is not comfortable. I try to paddle straight but the boat will not listen; who knows where I’ll end up?x





this is all i have left to offer my favourite was the dream about the sea where we broke curfew and ran down to the shore and we skipped stones and sang melodies of our favourite tv shows growing up the waves looked like starlight; and we danced with each other back and forth and back and forth and claimed all of the night as ours. i meant to say i love you but i remember feeling very scared so i watched my words drown in the tides until eventually they took us with them. and the stars slept as soundly as they ever had and the blues were as deep as they’d ever been painted i wanted to kiss you but i remember being too scared so I waited until we were older and more bitter and eventually too old to skip stones or remember the lyrics to our songs and the thought of no longer loving you was a boat lost adrift to the water but i need you to know i tried i come back to this sea to tell you how beautiful this place is how beautiful it was to swim in this dream. x WORDS by MIGUEL SANDINO SIBAL ART by MAHEK MARKER








Sat across from you Halfway around the world in the locals only restaurant. A party of two at a small table in a back corner You look the slight disheveled look of the few who still pass through

I love you for your newfound freedom unbecoming of all you who stayed in place.

I missed you, Years ago I’d spend every moment I could lost in your eyes, your smile, the way you talked _______

I met an old man when I first came here who said that life takes the sparkle from people’s eyes He liked flirting with young women who backpacked through town Maybe the people there saw through the rich foreigner act From a man who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish after years _______ Your eyes don’t sparkle by candlelight But I like to think your glow came back when you left your life behind. x 23




y oma taught me many things. she taught

me that naivety is not synonymous with bad. that to be simple is a compliment of the highest regard, and that it was ignorance, not curiosity, that killed the cat. she taught me that everything is a metaphor for something else, and that there is always a silver lining. that there is luminescence among chaos and within it, there is art. then there are the weathered and tattered souls that seek to make sense of it all. but above all else, whenever the world became too loud, too angry, too confusing, she taught me to just look up at the sky. with creased linen hands, she would cradle me in her arms and soothe with a lullaby. she would sing to me about the moon:

ēness. she spoke of the moon as a civilized god, turning tides, illuminating, ravaging and recreating balance. a symbol of light in darkness; a calm storm, a warm embrace,


mēness tevi turēs cieši with eyes fixed forward, my oma would weave into creation the most beautiful textiles. stitching into existence intricate tapestries to mount on the walls and graceful folds of satin covering each bed. she adorned me in velvet dresses, tailored garments that comprised the entirety of my opas wardrobe, and suspended lace curtains above every window. the lace curtains were my favorite. 24


she’d keep them slightly ajar, so that just enough light radiated through the stitching to ensure that the house never felt dark. when she wasn’t sewing, she was in her garden and would return inside with baskets of flowers to hang between the lace curtains. she preferred to dry them in the sun since that way they’d begin to take on the appear-


ance of the pages of an old book. i would spend weeks watching the color melt away and the petals go crisp until she took them down and strung new ones. while she would sew, my opa worked in the shed adjacent. i traveled between the two in admiration and when my opa would take breaks to squeeze citrus into mugs, i brought it inside to my oma. she was gone by my 13th birthday, when my walls became loaded with uncertainty. in her absence was a sewing table and baskets filled with articles she made, the lace curtains folded neatly on top. haunted by the hurricanes of yesterday and swallowed by the seas of tomorrow, i sat knees knocked, bruised from running too fast and tripping over my own feet. dewy eyed, i wished upon the full moon for a heart to peer into, to stitch up the pieces of myself that were beginning to separate. i kept her lace curtains hung, letting the dim glow squint through the stitching, illuminating the flowers i had hung. i would lay awake with thoughts stretching across hundreds of rooms. a slim arc of my mind. reminding myself the tides are still turning; reminding myself,


mēness tevi turēs cieši

YOUTH near my home, there was a ravine where city stars

my body put up a fight as i turned into a chalk drawing of

reflected broken tides. i wandered down in winter

a missing person on the sidewalk. brewed madness that

with an absent mess, someone whose eyes, dull and

felt like being emptied, dragged by teeth through winter.

sleepy, only saw but never felt. i was lacking a coat, had purple lips and chewed skin, and i thought they

i leave. tongue chewed, pressed against my front

could fix that. they reminded me of fixing broken

teeth, lips shut, autopilot until i can’t feel the tips of

things until they loaded a gun aimed for the heart,

my fingers anymore. it’s november now and i crawl

and before i knew it, i was hollowing out my mind

out of my window back to the ravine. soggy night-

and offering it to them in my hands. all sensitivity

gown, moonlit moisture dripping from my face like

was left behind, empathy strung up and tied behind

oil and honey. i screamed at the sky, the tides, the

their back. they were the feeling you get when you

empty embraces, screamed to be saved since the idea

realize you don’t know where or who you are and

of heaven didn’t give me comfort anymore. i returned

the hollowness frightened me. we were only 15, but

home like a grass stained child, too young to know

they were cursed with infant wisdom and never once

the difference between smile lines and tear stains,

looked up to the sky. my words became trapped within my throat, knives as i would whisper to myself,

mēness tevi turēs cieši

mēness tevi turēs cieši

i have always searched for the sky in people. some are the afternoon sun, warm until they burn holes through

i was 16 when i met the boy with daggers for eyes. his

your skin. some are the color of day melting into night,

gaze wasn’t dull but rather a storm that thawed into

an angry red, like a knife to the chest, a lust that dissi-

memories of meadows; valleys of virtue. he would

pates once the blood has dried. as the light falls below

stroke my hair and wake up early everyday to watch

the horizon, there are those who are stars that trickle

the sunrise, so i smiled when he said forever. when i

into constellations and fill you up, disappearing just

told him that i loved the moon, he promised his heart

as quickly. when red thaws into blue, some people are

was full with the same light; it was the closest i could

the clouds that bleed purple instead, making way for

get to heaven. we stared at the moon from different

the evening sky. some are the moon, exactly as my

cities and i began cursing its presence, first for the

oma described: beacon of light, creating tides, restor-

distance, then for the heartbreak, the crippled ribs,

ing balance, an old desire planted newly in the high

buried in the uncertainty. he would spit his name in

heat. i knew it was rare to find the moon in people,

my face while leaving blue and purple constellations on my skin but they reminded me of the sky, so i said

but when i did, i understood why my oma

thank you when he carved his initials on my back.

sang. the light was undeniably otherworldly. 26

incite energy that lit up the dismal and was enough to

sometimes i’d wait at the bus stop and pluck the over-

turn tides. it was something special among the sour

grown flowers that weaved their way through the front

taste of struggling, when most things i had felt were

fence to hang above my window, pretending that it was

dull and hollow. it was an old desire burned anew.

my oma who gave them to me. when a family moved in and didn’t touch a single petal, i decided that my

but, even the moon must set and become another

oma wouldn’t mind if i kept plucking flowers. and so

metaphor for something else. the sky is not just the

i’ll keep visiting their house; wait at the bus stop like

sky, but an orchestra of colors. the opening act of a

people did years before and collect bundles of lilac.

shakespearean play. when your head pirouettes into

and i’ll keep searching for the sky in people.

a spiral, you need only look up and see how small you are. because everything is a metaphor for something else, and it feels good to hurt when you use the

and i’ll keep writing poems for people who ask me

right words to describe it. just like the sentiment-lad-

what they mean.

en pages adorned with prose that i write about every person who reminds me of the sky. a glimpse of my

and i’ll keep wishing upon every full moon.

mind and a chunk of my heart with every footnote. mēness tevi turēs cieši just like the flowers i keep hung above my

i remember being wrapped in my oma’s arms.

window. i watch the petals melt into a deep

perched on her leg, crickets singing, everything,

burgundy like dried blood. as the yellowed edges

moonlit. i’m old enough to know the words, but she

seep in, the aging of an old book, i am reminded that

still sings to me.

they’re not just wilted flowers, but a cold november night when my lace curtains were slightly ajar. it was

mēness tevi turēs cieši

3am but the moon was bright enough to illuminate my face as i asked for flowers instead of bruises. be-

somewhere the weather is nice

cause everything is a metaphor for something else somewhere the tides are turning mēness tevi turēs cieši mēness tevi turēs cieši my opa never did go back into his shed and he re-

the moon will hold you tight x

moved everything that my oma had made. their house sat empty for many years, existing in limbo. 27







Silver strands Silver strands The most beautiful woman in the world stands in the mirror Her shaped nails comb through her locs as she counts her silver strands They’re exactly three beams of moonlight that shine through her dark cloud of curls And she protects them with the same ferocity she does me With eyes in orbit and constellations on her skin; she’s the happiest she’s ever been x




Bad dream, bad dream Bad dream, bad dream 31


“Aik, dow, theen, chaar,” I counted aloud as I skipped from each brightly outlined hopscotch square. Its welcoming colours starkly contrasted the muted, grey pavement. One, two, three, four. I loved drawing with chalk because of the colourful dust it would leave behind on my palms, like the lemon-scented fragrance that came from rubbing my fingers on a pine tree’s needles. I lived in an apartment with an exterior coloured beige, though it was once chalky white, Mama told me. Time and smoke had rendered the building into a distant memory of its youthful glow. Today, while I hopped and jumped and leaped and played in the once grassy, now dirt and concrete, enclosure in front of my home, my new dress swished and twirled below my ankles. It was a pretty thing, a cool green colour, like a glimmering sea. I loved the thought of being out at sea, the untamed waves and ferocious winds, the bright blue sky and adventure before my eyes. I had heard Baji describe the sea as akin to ‘freedom’, but I had not understood then. Baji gifted the dress to me when it grew too small for her, and my Mama sewed the aik missing button on its neckline with a gorgeous pink thread. But, what made it truly special was the mosaic of fabrics woven together at its skirt. Mama cut out chaar patches from special items, like her childhood chadar, to make the skirt longer. A colourful array of patches and needlework stitching my family’s past to my future, my new dress was chaar times as special. I paused my game of hopscotch when a shard of glass caught my eye, the fragment almost emitting an incandescent glare at me. A cold shiver swept through my body, and I felt the hairs on my arms stand up. I carefully removed it from the walking path and shook my head in an attempt to clear my mind of the whispered screams, circling, bubbling, erupting - Mama must have missed this one. Once, I had asked Mama when we would fix the broken windows. “It’s as easy as counting all the stars in the sky,” Mama had told me. 32

incite My little voice remains unheard by the peoSomething in her voice, perhaps its slight quivple who search for me, under the canopy of sirens er, or the tremble in her hands, told me that counting them would be hard. I wanted to help Mama fix and screams and despair. Numbers can be used to count the patches our lovely home again, so I set to work and learned to on my dress and the stars in the sky. Numbers can count. be used to count the dead and the missing. NumWhen the heavy clouds of dust and smoke bers can be used to describe me. A single number is would clear, I would point to the tiny, distant stars and practice: aik, dow, theen, chaar. what the world makes of me. Aik, dow, theen, chaar: that’s how long I had Sometimes, though, numbers scare me. to hide. When the jets scream through our skies, lighting the Aik, dow, theen, chaar: that’s my age when I starry nights ablaze, and the sound louder than thun die.x der cracks the once still air, and the blast pounds and echoes in my ears, and the ground thrashes and trees writhe and our homes shatter, and our roofs fall above our heads, and I try to run and run and run to Mama, hoping for one more warm embrace in this world, but WORDS by ZOYA HASAN her fingers have gone cold and my legs are crushed ART by YEEMON under the fiery wreckage, I feel a descending layer of smog envelope me.








A wicker cornucopia, Keswick or Orangeville Where porcelain plates and dolls Sleep next to a rumbling piano. On the road home Chased by a moon of marigold In a sky so black that it is soil Freckled with stars like pebbles, The rising sun Bleaches the night of mulch Into a brisk morning. Clouds obscured by the limbs of trees That are bent like a rusted rake, Orange leaves piled into papery mountains And shriveled cicada shells are littered Across the straw yellow lawn. Two rubber tires next to a swingset— A little black dog Barreling into the twilight Yapping and tapping toes Before curling up in a Norwegian knit. Warm baths and baby advil for my cold, Halloween specials Of Disney shows lullaby me To flannelled child dreams, Wrapped in a scarlet blanket On my Nintendo Smelling of soft soap.

Chased across the football field, A brown rabbit or coyote Comes home from bonfire nights Where cinder sweeps the morning breeze With whiffs of oak stumps, Rugged logs cloaked in ivy. When the brambles lower their hands Below the mud And my shoes blacken with dust He carries me — Fingering through A copy of the broadview anthology Behind a residence building, The concrete stairs coil like pill bugs Crumpled beneath a boot sole. Romanesque brick built the church of vice And consequence — Past the yellow lamps And a devil sun fading Until there is nothing but the dank heat Of warm bodies In a rickety house pulsing with bass. He wears his hair long And we sip butternut squash soup, I pour two sugars in his cappuccino, Lounging in rocking chairs Stopping us from hanging ourselves, Sweating resting in his fleecy bed sheets, Sticky autumn shamefully shared with me. x 35


MAKE-BELIEVE MAKE-BELIEVE MAKE-BELIEVE She talks in her lady voice, with that deep, lilting cadence and confident undercurrent. She lets little details hook on to the ends of her sentences. Lemme get that for you, hon. You’re getting there, sweetheart. She doesn’t think about how long it’s been since she was called those things with the same fond authority. She is the one that gets to do it now. She stands across the room with a glass of wine that tilts in her lady fingers, mostly smooth but slightly wrinkled, with long lady nails clinking against the red. She can handle a half-glass. She can handle ten. If she throws up, she’s irresponsible. There is no one there to wipe her chin. She goes to work and she pays her bills and she shaves her legs and she drinks strong, hot coffee through gritted teeth. She talks to men who drive their cars and build their dressers and don’t cry. The only difference between children and adults is that adults accept defeat. We walk around this weird, different world like we never miss the one that came before it. We don’t talk about the half-second blinks where we see the children standing in each other’s places. Sometimes she breathes a little too deeply, and the shimmering chain on her neck bobs. And I see a little girl smearing lipstick all over her face. Blinking prettily into the mirror. Sometimes she doesn’t press her hand to her mouth when she laughs, and I see a child in bouncing pigtails, screaming ferociously. Unafraid of her echo. We’re not supposed to talk about it, but I know about when we were girls and we watched the ladies on TV, watched them primp their hair and shake hands and kiss people and zip up dresses. I know about when we played house and took care of plastic babies and tasted imaginary tea. I hear our brazen laughter, still feel our princess tiaras, and how we fantasized better, better worlds. I hear our young, squeaky voices lilting into that deep, droning sound. Lemme get that for you, hon. Do you want a cup of coffee? Eventually they just started letting us do it for real. We’re not supposed to talk about it, but sometimes, under bright party lights, in the reflection of wine glasses, in the little smudge of lipstick under her mouth. Sometimes it feels like we’re all still pretending to be grown-ups.x








Alone Together Deserts of sand dunes heave and Topple as fragmented pieces of Skin, uniting the complex mosaic Of your face.

I trace my finger over each peak, Silent as I imagine grains of sand Rolling over and through the divots of Dunes and cliffs off the edges.

“Are you memorizing my face?” “No.” My finger falls to your lashes and I flick them up–and up again– Putting on imaginary mascara and Thinking about how silly hairs on eyelids are. “What are you thinking?” “Top secret stuff.” The tip of your nose reaches for My face and I giggle as My fingers walk the plank to face The wrath of your teeth. “I bet I know what you’re thinking about.” “Really?” “Yes.” “And what’s that?” “Me.” I am weighed down by your body and Sink deep in a sea of warmth. My stomach makes a noise–I don’t think I’ve eaten since noon. I wonder what it would be like to Drown here forever, and if I should Eat a piece of toast after you leave. I smile. “You have no idea what I’m thinking.” x 40


Governments and Grass and Other Relevant Things The wind blows and the Grass bends with no one there To glance again nor Think twice. Each blade–a set of Cells and scars and Childhood memories–bend Unanimously, simultaneously, and Willingly? I don’t know. Is The wind a tyrant and each Unique blade of grass bends By physical force?

Is the wind democratic? A verdict drawn in which most blades Wished to bend and those who didn’t Broke their backs anyway?

Or, did one blade of grass bend And everyone else followed Because other blades of grass are always right and Who cares what you think anyway?

I lie cradled and cuddled, Held up by the blades and Crushed down by the atmosphere. I, too, Bend to belong. I speculate evidence and seek the answers and slaughter the rumours and scream for my autonomy. But what do I know? I’m just another blade of grass. x


YOUTH She didn’t have a choice. With each trudge through the familiar trees, her toes began to numb away. Another tear fell down her face, and her soft sob was not far behind. He was gone, and it was her fault. He was lost out here, and there was only her to blame. The girl let out another hollow cry, barely audible under the torrent of slashing wind. It was her fault. Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. “I’m sorry,” she wept to the empty woods. Never should have opened the door, she thought, not daring to let the words escape her lips. With her next breath, she gagged on the bone-dry breeze as if she had swallowed a mouthful of ash. “I’m sorry,” she whispered again, her eyes now blurry with tears. It was her fault, and she was crying. It was her fault, and he was gone. It was her fault, and there was no one left to help her. The dainty key hanging on its matching gold chain was a dead weight around her neck. How did she think she could do this without him? Tears swarmed across her vision, and in a matter of seconds she lost her footing to the storm. The girl plummeted to the ice solid ground with a smack. Knees, head, and then her shoulder cracked against the earth. The wind ripped across her sunken body, twisting up and scattering her ashen hair over her hollow face. The girl howled in pain. The wind swallowed her screams. Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. With another sob, the girl peeled open her eyes. Her already frozen tears blurred her vision as she began to take in the scene. Murky crimson puddles were spreading out around From the Middle Snow blew through the barrier of dense trees that her, consuming the suddenly scarlet specked snow. Hot guarded the world of the woods. The rough late winter thick liquid seeped down her face, invading her mouth, winds whipped against the naked birch, threatening and leaving its rancid bitter trail on her tongue. A blunt to crack them down. The girl took a clipped breath of aching pain plummeted into the middle of her chest as cold air and it sliced down her throat. She shivered now the teeth of the key punctured into her flesh. The wind more than ever; a grim expression cast over her features rattled her bones, and the girl at once understood true as she glanced down at her threadbare shift. The thin revolt as the inescapable cognizance of her own skeleton lifeless gray linen seemed to threaten falling completely descended upon her. The girl wretched. apart with each subsequent gust. She shuffled her feet In another word he would be here. In another story along across the frozen earth, suppressing a wince as a she would reach out into the blizzard and find his hand damp iciness flooded through her worn leather boots. waiting for hers. But she was here, and her extended The girl dropped her head. She wrapped her arms bloodied hand remained empty, just like the rest of her. tighter around her gaunt frame. A tear leaked down her “No no no,” she sputtered as the infinitesimal dread consumed her. cheek; she was not sure if the wind was to blame. The next wave of air brought was laced with a heavy She needed to find him. 42

Beginnings without Endings

incite metallic tang. All remaining color drained from the hung in the back of her throat: words not quite yet girl’s gray face, as she stared at the carmine wasteland ready to be written. stretching out infinitely beyond her. Her stomach Not that it mattered. For once they both knew what was rolled. Dark red splotches were littered across her dress next. until nearly no plain fabric remained. He countered his head forward, brows furrowed She was wrong, she couldn’t do this. She cursed herself together in question above his concerned gaze. “Okay?” out. How could she have thought she could fix this he mouthed silently in the echoing downpour, and she when she wasn’t even sure what had broken it in the nodded in response. first place? He righted himself with her response, taking a breath A hazy memory of his warm gaze clouded her thoughts before he continued. and a meek cry released itself from her throat of its own “You have the key, I assume?” he asked. volition. She pushed the image away, focusing on her “Of course,” she answered. grave situation. Each new breath brought on a new spell Lavianna removed the slender gold key from her pocket of dizziness. Her vision was going dark, and there was and held it out before him. Both their eyes flicked over nothing she could do but cry. the shiny metal for a moment before lingering on the Her fault. Her fault. Her fault. crimson stone that sat encrusted at the top. A drop of blood enveloped in celestial gold. In a time before Lavianna passed the key over, watching as he produced It had been pouring the first time they met. a matching chain to string the key before handing it Lavianna was shuffling her feet under the morbid back to her. The cool metal burned into her chilled gray sky. Sopping wet, her pale blue cloak had turned fingertips; Lavianna clutched the item closer. a deep navy, soaked through and chilling her to the “Are you ready?” he asked, eyes focused back on her. core. Lavianna pushed out a restrained breath. The She pondered the question for a second, raising up her rain had found its way into her worn leather boots, and gaze to meet his once more. Her heart was increasing her feet were now squishing under her every step. She its pace, and she couldn’t help but wonder what he was had yet to notice the rapidly worsening tremble of her thinking. Did he know what was next? She searched for shoulders, tiring of the heavy clothes hung on her frail an impossible response in his stare. frame. With the next brush of rain and wind her hair They were both in the dark, their future not yet solid. fell from the haphazard bun she had pinned up earlier, Lavianna gave a single strong nod, before turning out leaving the remnants of an unkept braid in its place. to the empty space around them, and inserting the key Lavianna squinted through the sheets of rain, searching into the void. for something she didn’t know was coming. They both listened closely for the tell-tale click, holding When he did arrive, there would not be any introductions; their breaths until they heard the resounding sound. there was never a need for such formalities. Besides, in Lavianna pressed her lips into a firm line, as she order to introduce yourself you had to know who you unlocked the invisible door and stepped inside. were in the first place. And Lavianna wasn’t even sure This, she would say, is how it began.x she knew her own name. Nevertheless, when she told their story now, it was always as if he appeared out of the rain itself. His golden ART by ADITYA KALRA hair was damp, but not wet. His long gray overcoat WORDS by RACHEL OSEIDA merely speckled by a light mist, impossibly pristine. His brown polished shoes seemed to repel the water he waded through across the cobbled streets to her side. She recalled how, as he approached her for the first time, he removed both their coats in one languid motion, and laid his own over her shivering figure. Lavianna would be sure to describe the way her clouded gaze caught his amber eyes and knew that this was the chapter of her story she had been missing. A new act just beginning. Lavianna opened her mouth to speak, but the sentence 43







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The Chase “Yo Amar, where the fuck are you going?,” I shouted—but, like an idiot, Amar failed to respond. I didn’t know what had happened with Josh and Amar. But as I left the bathroom, there were broken glass bottles everywhere and Josh was sitting on his couch with cuts on his arms. My eyes kept going to this broken picture frame of all of us together. The picture had been ripped, leaving me by myself. Josh and Amar were still together but with slight rips in the imWage. I put my half of the photo in a cup of water, watching the ink run, but who cared? He kept saying something over and over again. I tried talking to him, but he said, “I love you, but get the hell out of my house now.” I didn’t want to. He clenched his jaw as he spoke and shook his right leg constantly. Amar and Josh have had fights after drinking, but nothing like this. I said, “Fine,” but he did not hear me. “WHAT THE HELL DID YOU SAY TO ME?” he shouted angrily. I looked at him, slightly annoyed. He was too proud to apologize, so I just left. That was an hour ago. 48


“CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING? SAY SOMETHING! AMAR.” Could someone explain why he is acting like a dumbass, kicking recycling bins and throwing shit at cars driving by? The moon is trying to push through the clouds but failing, leaving us in darkness. The streetlights are helping, but barely. “I’M GOING TO KILL … CAN’T … I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT HE WOULD TALK TO … ‘ER LIKE THAT.” What is he saying? These goddamn cars are so noisy. Josh’s new apartment had to be next to the busiest street ever. Cars are going back and forth. DAMN IT, he’s going to make a fool of himself in front of this shawarma shop. It was vibrant during holidays like Eid. Fireworks for hours! But it’s the opposite nowadays. Thank God he has stopped throwing shit at cars. The guys are big outside the shop. One of them could kill Amar. Please, for the love of God, don’t say anything. 49

The guys are talking in a language I didn’t recognize. Amar kept getting closer. I’m five steps away—don’t want what he did to Josh to happen to me. Josh is the strongest person among us. He protected me in high school. No one messed around with Amar, but these guys will kill him if he pisses them off. One of them is looking straight at us. He’s turning his head and saying something. I can’t figure it out.


The plaza has a couple of cars, old ones like 05 Hondas. They have old convenience stores. I remember when we all practically lived in this plaza, just getting money wherever we could for slushies. Now, the memory feels like ancient history. Oh, NO, NO, NO! Amar is rushing at him like a raging bull to a matador. The guy whom Amar is running at is built like a brick wall. Damn it, I need to jump in and stop it like always. I’m reaching out, trying to grab his hoodie, hat—anything— to prevent him from getting jumped by everyone there. “WHAT THE?” He looks at me with a shocked look. I was the last person he expected to see. “Get off me, man!” With two hands, Amar pushes me to the ground with such force that it shakes my soul. He’s never put his hands on me before. As I lay on the floor, I see him trying to control his tears, but they are pushing through anyway. I want to say something, ask him the biggest question of the night: what the hell happened? For the love of God, just say something, but I’m paralyzed. Amar breaks the silence that must have been ten seconds but felt like a lifetime. “What the hell is wrong with you following me around, you fucking bitch.” As he said this, he was wiping his tears. Before I can say anything, he runs away. I just want the ground to consume me. “Hey bro, you good?” I look up, and it is one of the guys that stood in front of the shawarma shop. “Yeah, I—I am good.” I think he knows I am lying to him. “Yeah, sure bud. Anyway, your friend went that way.” “Oh, um, okay, thank you.” He was pointing at our old high school, so I started to walk there. The high school where my friends and I would run shit. Honestly, it was mainly my friends and not me. Back then, I was scared most of the time. Josh 50

and Amar usually never invited me to parties. When I was there, no one would talk to me. Not even my friends. Josh and Amar always got girls. I don’t know if I want to be with someone as of right now. At times, I think I deserve to be alone. Josh was really honest with Amar’s girls, saying what he wanted to say. That caused tons of fights, but nothing this severe. To be frank, the girls that Amar is into are beautiful when they are quiet. That’s how most people are; it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, just shut up. Not everyone wants to hear your opinions, especially ones about hurting someone. What happened between these two? When I was in the bathroom, I heard glass breaking, and maybe Amar saying something about Josh talking to someone. I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Walking up to my high school, I see my younger self with my friends laughing away, not caring about tomorrow. I wonder if that feeling will ever come back. The school is decaying now; the color on the doors is slowly leaving with each month, and the bricks are ashy from a lack of care for the future. Is that Amar? I start walking closer to him. “Amar, let’s talk, man. What happened.” I call out to him, but not in an aggressive tone. Shit, I see him getting up.

The sun is starting to come up. My legs can’t take another step. I feel that if I sit down, I won’t get up. I hope the numbness will kick in just as it does in all aspects of life. I came to hang out with my friends and now I truly know I am alone. I’m getting near Amar’s street. The houses that are near his street are old. Some of the places are deteriorating, losing the paint on their homes. The doors are cracking and the grass is dull. Amar’s house is the same. The only difference is that our laughter would bring life to his house; no expensive home could ever compare to that. I’m hoping to see Amar at his home. If not, then I don’t know what to do. “AMAR,” I shout. I see him lying on the grass, not moving as if the Grim Reaper 51


“Don’t run, man. I just want to talk.” I feel like I am talking to myself at this God damn point. He always has the jump on me. But I get closer to him with each step. He jumps over the fence with ease. I try to climb the fence but can’t get my footing right. Amar did it so quickly, even while drunk. Where the hell is the opening? At the same time, he keeps getting smaller and smaller in my eyes. Each step makes me uneasy because I might lose my friend forever. I finally find an opening, but he is long gone. I look for Amar on each street, alleyway, and parking lot. Not ready to give up, I start heading towards his house. The wind gives me a chilling feeling for what’s to come.

took his soul. I’m too scared to touch him. Tears are streaming down my face like Niagara Falls. I don’t know what to do. How will I tell Amar’s parents I couldn’t save their child? Only if I had been faster and could jump the God damn fence! I try to pray to any god, Allah, Lord Shiva, or anyone who will listen to me. I am considering calling Josh, but I know he would kill Amar for being this stupid. What should I do? Wait. For a brief moment, I think I see Amar’s finger move slightly. I stare at him with such intense focus that I notice every single feature on his body. I see it again. I cautiously move forward. Getting closer, seeing throw-up stains on his face. I see his eyes open as my hand reaches him and he rises like Frankenstein. He’s refusing to look at me. He whispers, “I am sorry.” These are not the words that I wanted to hear. I wanna know what the hell happened. I want to yell at him, shout at him for making me run after him, but all my anger was suddenly gone. “It’s okay man. That is what friends are for.”


“You a great friend, Damien. Even though I don’t tell you shit compared to Josh, I can’t believe he would talk to her.” Wait, what the fuck did he just say. WHO THE HELL is this girl? I’m going to kill this guy, I swear to god. All this for a God damn girl. My legs feel like they are bleeding. If I could kick his ass right now, I would. “Who is the girl you just—” “Okay. I’m gonna go inside” He gets up so fast that I don’t get the chance to ask him again. The door closes, and I wonder what now? As I get up to go back home, the wind seems to mock me with each breath. I wanted to knock on his door like a madman, but it was pointless; what would I do with an explanation? It’s not like he gave a shit to tell me in the first place. They will be friends again in a week, but look at me, sweaty and dirty. No cars on the street, no one at the shawarma spot, just my thoughts keeping me company, reminding me of how stupid I can be. What do I get for trying to help, being left outside on the dead grass? I keep having this feeling I am drowning with everyone watching me with their hands in their pockets. I stick out my hand, trying to grab onto someone, but no one wants to reach me.x 52









Through my hollowed eyes All colour was sapped from your being Leaving behind lonely streaks Of fading greys and whites As your silhouette escapes my vision It appears wholly unfamiliar Desolate and frigid figure A shadow of alienation The winter seems eternal Snowflakes melt and disappear Into the sullen ground Of a world devoid of light But even in this monotone world We will still remain linked For we are all connected by The singular thread of humanity I am you, And you are me, As everyone is everybody There is no room in my heart for cold A revelation like light has illuminated my soul The heart will always yearn for warmth So I will always choose to forgive We are all humans with wounds Who imprint our steps on the soils of the earth Who trip and fall and stand back up And point our heads to the sky I pray that we find our peace, For peace is always there to be discovered x 55



After a long day, it’s always my favorite thing to go for a walk. Wind in my hair, the evening sun in my face. I went to go pay a visit to my elementary school, funny how things change but so much still stays the same. I spent my whole life in this neighborhood; memorized every nook and cranny. But in recent years, everything seemed to have gone by so fast that it was overwhelming to remember every detail, to relive every memory. It was somehow only yesterday when I had wished to grow up, but also eternities ago when I had last played pole tag (we made up this game — we played it every recess for a whole entire year). The walk to school is still familiar, like the smell of dew on fresh grass after the rain. Still enchanting, as I retraced every step of this path from memory. First it was my mom who had walked us, and then I walked my brother for a year or two; hand-inhand, me half-dragging him, to and back. And before it got paved over I could tell you exactly where the cracks started and ended, where it dipped down into a little valley and sometimes, the kids would jump in the puddles that they’d make. I walked past the bleachers, which were now a shiny, cold silver. Quite the stark contrast from when they were still wooden, painted red-yellow-blue; filled with love notes and hand-carved hearts and covered in old patches of worn, peeling paint. I remember squeezing under to pick the clumps of moss that grew on the rocks beneath them, for a seventh-grade science project. Oh, and next to it — the track; gravel and pavement, encircling a well-maintained field of gorgeously green grass. How many times have I laid down in that grass, thinking that life couldn’t get any better? There were tiny yellow

flowers that grew at its edges, and little red dragonflies that would buzz over them in the summer. I’d caught a few with my bare hands during gym class — kept one in my pocket for a whole day — only to realize that it died when I got home. I walked by the sandbox, where I had won second for triple jump and I think second for long jump too. Track and field had always been a highlight of early spring; spirited cheering, nylon ribbons, colourful freezies under a blazing mid-day sun. As I walk up a small hill, I am once again welcomed by the big open space of elementary joy. How many times have I run across that pavement? Fell on my face? Scraped my elbow, grazed my knee? When it rained there’d be little streams that trickled down, over sand and rock, and I’d imagine little fish in them. There’s the old hopscotch square, the number grid that I had no clue how to use. . And of course, the playground, too — the burn of the metal slide, wood chips in my shoe; laughs as we tried to play freeze tag, and how my hands smelled funny from the rusty metal of the monkey bars. Then there were the trees: aspen, oak, who knows? There was a huge hole in one tree, where we’d mix water, juice, woodchips, dirt and anything we could find, really — to make magic potions and laugh about who would dare drink it. The huge square boulders in front of them had seashells encased in them. How fascinated I was; this must have once been the ocean floor! My personal favorite had always been at the very corners of the huge grass fields. I remember the fence that separated our playing ground from people’s homes, how their gardens were so close. I’d pick fresh mint and flowers and give them to my teachers, watch them smile and shake their heads as I said, “a fresh bouquet for you.” One day by the fence, I remember rescuing a bird that must’ve fallen out of a tree. I arranged a funeral for it, but I got into so much trouble for touching a dead bird. How much time did I spend noticing — investigating these small things — while everyone else played soccer? How much time did I spend imagining a whole other world, living in my own dream? I also started designing at a young age. Autumn was my favorite season because there’d be leaves everywhere. I used them to build humongous forts. Living room, laundry room, bedroom, kitchen; gathering leaves with only my feet and hands, sticks

and stones, I’d built myself a home. Oh, how my friends loved it there — we cooked and we cleaned and made ridiculous “food”, hired servants and gardeners and carried out daily “errands”. It wasn’t until the older kids had always come to destroy it that I’d given up trying to fix what they had damaged. I think that was my first time having a taste of heartbreak. In my later years of elementary school, I moved from fort-building back to discovering things on my own. I often found myself accompanying teachers on their duty walks, or wandering off into an imaginary world. When things got tough at home, I’d run up to the top of the hill, find my beloved log — named caboose — and sit on it, just thinking. It was a very smooth log; not one too big, but its roots took the shape of antlers, thus the name. How much time did I spend on that hill, thinking? What was I thinking? How many times have I watched the clouds float by, and just how far has my mind wandered? I’d taken a walk all over, reliving every moment. The apple trees that grew behind the hill. The little patch of wood where we had played Manhunt countless times. The baseball diamond with its sandy patch and thin, teetering bench. How much had changed? How much had stayed the same? I’ve been in this exact same neighborhood for fifteen years. From elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school, and now — I’m in university. All this time, continuously moving forward, but now, where am I? Have I forgotten everything that I’d once taken joy in? Do I feel shame for remembering all the silly things I’ve done? Has childhood innocence really vanished as I’ve grown older these past few years? How much time do we spend chasing things, and how much of our past do we try to hide? I may not have answers to all the questions, but there is one thing that I do know: pains of the past will stay. Grief and sorrow carve themselves deeper than memories do. But as much as we try to let things go — it isn’t always about forgetting. I think it’s also taking pride in being able to say, “I remember.” x




I remember my mom’s furrowed brow and the corner of her twisting mouth lit by cold streetlights. I remember the smallest crack in her voice over the hum of the car as we drove home. I remember her bitter words. In the end there is no one who will have pity on you. You must understand this. If you are weak in this land, you have nothing. No standing, no legitimacy. Not for us. You have to be strong, my child. Smart. Be invaluable and they will have no choice but to need you. That is how we survive. I remember, then, how her wet eyes watched me in the rearview mirror. I remember all of this as she tells me another story a week later, unprompted. We are wrapping dumplings by the dinner table. Cabbage and pork. Seven years ago, at the hospital where she worked spreadsheets, she the only Chinese employee was called down to translate. There was a boy in the emergency room after a factory accident. She tells me how young he was, how scared, in that moment. Just a boy, with no English and no documentation. No money. She wanted so badly to tell him to stay for care and then disappear. Don’t pay, don’t let them keep you. But she was being watched. They knew she was the one advising the boy. Three times after that she was called to translate again and press him. She was the only one who could. She wanted to spit her refusal at their feet but instead she just said she was busy. She was the only one who could do it she was invaluable for maybe the first time. Pitying, she refused. x 60













Twenty-one different alarms ring in my head . How did I get here? How d i d I l e t t h i s h a p p e n ? N o , n o , I m u s t g o b a c k . T o 1 9. O r , p e r h a p s a n e v e n s i m p l e r t i m e … l i k e 7. W h e n y o u ’ r e 7, t h e r e i s n ’ t m u c h g o i n g o n i n y o u r h e a d , b u t I ’ d l i k e t o think it was a blissfully ignorant age . The age where my only worries were , “Where are my Barbies?” And , by the next morning, the toy fairies would put them back in the toy box. My only commitments were my oh- so-stressful art projects that had to be submitted at some point in my life , I didn’t really care when . When I was done with all that hard work , my angel of a mother would braid my hair and make my favorite sandwich- without the crusts obviously. For dinner, dino nuggets with fries were an absolute must- always with ketchup on the side . Otherwise , it was the worst day ever. There was no way the ketchup could touch my food . And for dessert, my mother freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. My friends and I would sit around the lunch table and talk about our 8 t h b i r t h d a y p a r t i e s a n d h o w w e w e r e a l l g r o w n u p . We c o u l d n ’ t w e a r p i n k a n y m o r e . We w e r e m a t u r e , a n d m a t u r e p e o p l e w e a r p u r p l e . Somehow, somewhere along the way between then and now, my Barbies turned into bills, and weekly art projects turned into assignments worth 40% of my life – sorry, I meant grade . I no longer needed my crusts cut off because I realised it was just part of the bread . No one else would eat it if I didn’t. Somewhere along the way, my braids turned into slicked back buns and pink and purple outfits were replaced with neutral monotone outfits that were more work appropriate . Dino nuggets and fries were no longer on the menu. Baked chicken with roasted potatoes was a low calorie and healthy option to satisfy my hunger. Nothing was ever “for fun .” It was for success, or for survival . There was no one to make sure my ketchup wasn’t touching my food when I was knee deep in overdue assignments and credit statements. There was no one to talk to about my birthday outfits because my birthday fell on a weekday, and everyone had work . No one was going to pack my lunch because my classes, work and assignments soaked up the entire day and somehow, I forgot to eat. Not to mention group assignments and extracurriculars that made me stretch myself so thin , I could blend into the bed covers and no one would find me for days. What I failed to realise down the road is that it won’t always last. One lousy day cannot equate to the beautiful memories shared with loved ones. The days spent sinking into my bed can be followed by road trips that I will never forget for the rest of my life . But some days I could look back on the dino nuggets and sparkly outfits and still find comfort in the smell of the chocolate chip cookies at the bottom of the lunchbox.x


The Trut h Ab The Trut h Ab YOUTH



bout Lip-gloss bout Lip-gloss incite

Please forgive me if I tend to romanticize my butterfly catching days; they were much easier on me. Thinking of then reminds me that I might still love everything I have ever loved: the Strawberry Shortcake cartoons I watched every Thursday night and the old Barbie dollhouse my mom found at a garage sale; the lip-gloss I bought at Justice and every single Lorde album ever released. I’m 21 now, but still find artifacts of myself scattered throughout my room. The pink DS stowed away on the top shelf of my closet, or the ukulele my mom bought me to play at the talent show in 8th grade. I’m sure the Justice lip-gloss is hidden somewhere, tucked away, protected by fond memories in a desk drawer. It’s long expired, its bubble-gum scent something I’ll likely never return to, and yet, I don’t think I could ever discard it. It reminds me too much of giggling with friends I no longer talk to in a mall I no longer frequent with a Starbucks drink I no longer order in one hand, and the lip-gloss in the other. If I were to apply it today, maybe the secrets of innocence and hope I’ve long buried would find themselves back on my lips. Maybe the remnants of my youth would float back to me like lyrics to an old favourite song. Because, ultimately, I still search for the girl I used to be in everyone and everything. Maybe someday I’ll rediscover her stubborn and soft heart. But for now, I’ll sit back, foolishly attempting to develop who I am becoming by basing it on who I used to be. I’ll forget as I always do, that the past is usually faulty, and nostalgia is a bitter liar. x






No need for pen or paper; Your body is the biggest storyteller. That dot of lead on your arm from grade school, Giving yourself “pencil shots,” As if you were in medical school. The family of freckles on your sun-kissed face, Or the sea of stretch marks, those beautiful waves; A reminder that we grow up too fast, Even our bodies can’t keep pace. How about that birthmark that seems out of place? No such thing, not when it’s an angel’s kiss. Acne, something we always run from; Slow down, your teenage years will soon be over, Savour them. Or that reappearing blister From running across the field, A childhood scar that emerged After rebelliously biking down the hill. That bumpy callus from writing tests; Always running out of minutes. A symbol of bravery, The scar from the scariest surgery, Or a sign of hurt, the scar from the darkest of nights. The internal wounds, the ones we can’t see, not explicitly, They tell a story, A personal one, to each one, individually. I once wanted to be perfect, untouched, and simple, But a blank canvas isn’t even worthy of a nickel. An artist spends their nights Working on a full-body art piece. So many features, Painstakingly painted to the last detail. The imperfection and asymmetry Is what makes it a masterpiece. A painting that belongs beside Picasso and van Gogh, One that people would pay to gaze at; The best exhibit in the entire show.x 69




i'm not going pro all kids dream of going pro to be one of the greats like ronaldo, armstrong, williams i can’t wait to grow up but dreams turn into hobbies into stories told about the “good old days” from too long ago is this what it means to grow up? i earned my rite of passage by accepting the life where i’m not going pro i’m finally growing up i became an adult when i wept to mourn the loss of a life that only exists when i close my eyes i hate having to grow up i was sixteen when i watched people live out my biggest dream as i cheered from the sideline when did i get so grown up? x ART by ESTHER HAN WORDS by ESTHER HAN 71


Ebonic Tint Cracks embed the road that the kids in the hood played on fire hydrant blasting water because the heat would be a nuisance sun beaming on the streets – the blissful glee of children’s smiles A smile that any parent would die to protect and so it’s been a while; Since a gun would ring and ricochet through tinted windows While the music blasts, a bullet barely heard, through all the laughter Innocence in the banter devocalized the background, coming into the forefront with swiftful disruption day become night, I sat on my cotton bed with a lunar jacket right after being fed Tucked into slumber by a single mother of three cuz my pops would never be around to enable my youth Either wanted me dead or stuck in a ruse The deceptions he claimed came from generations of hate And coping mechanisms that taught him in the same ideals Hitch on any women, stick to her like a stitch Would want to be around when I’m older and not apologize for mistakes, and instead bewitch my mother and call her a bitch. But as the AM came, I began to count the hours till the PM came Count 3-6, 6 to the 9, 9 to 11 – praying sparks wouldn’t fly: To look out my window and perceive society bleed on the pavement, On the pavement I walk to school on, retracing steps where crimson filled the cracks Previously a neighbourhood fulfilled by black gleam, only to become a tender story to haunt my mind As the kids I’d play with at school would rot on the corner of the street buried without a casket The violence of politicians would revitalize the bullets that got shot in neighbourhoods like mine Demand statistics on the trauma, the melanin and not garner to support those who barely rake pennies in Society as a whole, structurally against my folk and functions as a system for us to murder our kin. Generational trauma reoccurs like a clock that ticks the hour To pray to not get shot – or not do the shooting Were the only choices that some of us were left with Accentuated by my lunar looks and hand grip The decisions that i’m left with, often on my own without the comfort of a fatherly figure at my home With bullets still aimed towards my nose, required to leave a pistol at a hip Trembling at every step i took, my fibres rot from the trauma that my vision carries So I pray to God for protection from what can hurt me To see the sun that beamed once through a visionary. x 72








some pages compiled from some stories I used to read as a child (specifically Alice in Wonderland, Raggedy Ann & Harry Potter), all turned into ... blackout “poetry” ART by SANA GUPTA








Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake?

Will The Typhoon Overtake? W Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? ART by MAHEK MARKER WORDS by DUR E ZERNAB BERKI

Will The Typhoon Overtake? 78


Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? Memories escaped, Blinks and flashes can’t aid

The rivers run too deep within.

Will The Typhoon Overtake? It’s the craze, I sense In being lost — engulfed in the typhoon of forgotten memories

Will The Typhoon Overtake? Yet, my body screams through me Loud in its stillness when he passes by Deafening in its whisper against harsh cries

Will The Typhoon Overtake? I need me Need to see me

Will The Typhoon Overtake? Can you hear me? Get me Answer me,

Will The Typhoon Overtake? Me

When memory’s cowardly protection conceals Can my body be enough of a testament To the pain from which I must heal? The typhoon overtakes—x

Will The Typhoon Overtake? Will The Typhoon Overtake? 79

EMERGENCE Your skin glows a pale soft light, a subtle contrast, against the dark tree from which you sprout.


I would not be so perplexed if you suddenly and violently sprouted wings, the sound of your skin tearing, golden blood dripping, and the most beautiful, blinding sight of new light. Your hands rushing to your ears and mouth to cover your graceful screams, your back curving gradually expanding increasing space between every claustrophobic vertebrae. You must soar. You must grow. Spread your fragile pinions, and leave me. For you shall leave, and I shall stay, As paths diverge, we’ll find our way. Leave me to watch you, and only watch; for your beauty is only meant to be observed, and no other being shall dare interfere. My gentle love. My timeless muse. My light and dark Please, leave me. x










When my cousin was little, She started picking up my English And she’d go around saying my name as hers. Now, I’d be lucky if I could catch her eye.

When will my lonely become mine? Must I hold it? Or does it hold me?

A few years ago, With another cousin, “Toi c’est qui encore?” Would replace her bonjour. I think she just couldn’t place us, But it was less of a question and more of a command. Now, She only answers yes or no to questions. It’s weird, isn’t it? Watching some kids grow taller And the rest grow quieter. There’s one who would have his questions ready Before his greetings. This time, He waited for someone else’s questions. But he’d only give one-word responses. Nothing more but sometimes less. Isn’t it weird?



Can it be returned? Does that make it yours again? Should I keep it somewhere? Or let it go?

3 I’m chasing time. Who am I to be chasing time? I know I could never win. She is boundless. She is above me, Ahead of me, Behind me. Time surrounds me. Who am I to chase time? x




You can’t stop staring at the cute guy down the hall, but are you tw o really meant to be? He may be the perfect guy for you, but there ’s only one way to find ou t...

1. What kind of pet do you have?

2. What’s your dream first date?

A) Dog B) Cat C) Fish

A) Rockin’ concert B) Bowling C) School dance

4. What are you going to wear on your first date?

A) High-top converse B) Animal print cowboy hat C) Your favorite boot cut low rise jeans

If you answered mostly As: Brunette Your type is the classic bad boy. You like them dark, dreamy, and mysterious. They’re not always available when you want to hang out, but they’ll never leave you hanging when you need them. You just can’t beat the great chemistry when you’re together.

3. Where do you like to shop?

A) The thrift store B) Your Mom’s closet C) The mall

5. When was your first kiss?

6. I would love it if my crush:

A) I’m waiting for the right person! B) In university C) In highschool

A) Brought me a coffee B) Held my hand C) Complimented my work

If you answered mostly Bs: Redhead

You adore that classic boy-next-door type of guy; he’s sweet, kind, and compassionate. He’s more of an introvert than you would like, but when you’re feeling like a comfy night in, he’s always ready to sit back and watch a movie with you.

If you answered mostly Cs: Blond

You love a guy that’s more brawn than brains. Sure, maybe sometimes they forget your birthday, or come empty handed to meet your parents, but they’ll always make it up to you in the end. They’re kind at heart, easy to get along with, and that long blond hair makes your heart skip a beat.


o t k c a b t Wha g s h a o u l d b y o u l o o h sc


September is coming and it’s time to go shopping! Which bag are you buying for the new school year?



You could care less about math, you’ll never use it anyways

When you get to school, all you can think about YES is your favourite class



You can’t wait to see your bestie in first period! You two are always matching

You’d rather sit behind the bleachers than on the stands


Practicality is your biggest concern, that’s why your mom always gets you sketchers





You love parties, which is great because you’re always at the top of he invite list


Messenger Bag

YES You’re a little bit of an outcast but you’re okay with it. You got your bag from the thrift store downtown and you’ve been rocking it ever since. It holds everything you need, so you have no idea why your dad says that you look like a punk every time you walk out of the house.

Your favourite colour is pink because it goes with everything you own




You don’t really care too much about school, you know at the end of the day, you’re getting the gold and the girl. Bringing your books is the last thing on your mind and you’d rather be on the field than in your seat. You just bring a football to school because that’s all you really need.



You don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones you do have really understand you

Designer Handbag

You don’t care much about practicality, but that’s okay because your purse goes great with your outfit. You rock all the hot new clothes, from the latest brands. Besides, your purse fits everything you could need: your pink flip phone and your lip gloss.

Rolly Backpack

Practicality is the most important thing to you. As a high achiever, there’s no need for that added weight on your shoulders as you’re carrying all your work around. You rock the wheels and you do it in style. You know with a bag like yours, you’ll be top of your class in no time.




We asked McMaster students: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self? Be unapologetic. Unapologetically weak, loud, cringe, scared, confident, and real. By being unapologetically yourself, you are one step closer to building the muscle of being your authentic self. Stop burning in the limelight like it’s sun! You’re made for this- to be your unapologetic self

Do not be embarrassed about your passions. Love what you love unflinchingly.

You are loved. By family who are proud of you and friends who hold you up. By the stranger who you share an opinion with at an art gallery, and the one who lets you take his seat on the train. By the sun that shines down on the smile you force on a bad day, and the rain that admires how you always turn your face up to meet it. You are loved.

Take risks and figure out the world for yourself instead of taking parents, friends or even “experts” at their word. The rules are meant to be broken.

It is so easy to want to become an adult. But, you can’t get your youth back -- so cherish every toy you play with, all the bright patterned clothes you wear and all the “babying” you receive from those around you.

Appreciate the setbacks you have earlier in your life because they pave the way for you to be greater later on in life.

Enjoy the good days, learn from the bad ones. Accept that change is inevitable and just try to be the best person you can be. Appreciate the people who truly care about you but also know when it’s time to let go. Dreams can give you direction and purpose, but remember that the fun is always in the journey. Stay away from this game called League of Legends.

It not all about you :)

Don’t be afraid to speak up and talk to people! And remember to take care of yourself :)

You are endlessly surrounded by, and you are infinitely capable of, love. Love people without fear, regret, or shame. Above all else, sit within yourself, and foster love for the opportunity to experience life through your eyes. It’s a privilege to be alive, and aging; one that many never get, and that even more lose.

My uncle Ryan once told me “Remember, advice is like a buffet. You take what you want and what’s good for you, and you leave the rest!” I didn’t realize how true that was going to be until I came to university.

JUST GO! If there’s an event you are interested in, just show up. If you’re shy like me, find the details online and keep in mind that ur just going to “check it out”. If it sucks you can always dip! Most of the time one thing will open doors to other cool people or opportunities, so keep an open mind! Remember Nike-- JUST DO IT!

Engage with the world! You’re letting life just happen to you. There is so out there - all you have to do is reach out a little. You’ll find out who you are sooner and more healthily, I promise.

Someone once told me that there’s no point stressing about the future — it’s like living through that event twice.

You’ll grow out of friendships, but doesn’t mean you won’t find new ones.



incite magazine volume 26, issue 1 “youth” Published January 2023 Incite Magazine is McMaster University’s creative arts and writing publication. We

aim to unite a community of creatives by promoting self-expression, collaboration, and dialogue within our university campus and the city of Hamilton. Every aspect of Incite’s writing, graphics, multimedia, and event production is carried out by our

wonderful student volunteers. If you would like to get involved, feel free to get in touch by emailing @incitemagazine


editor in chief (content): Aliyah Sumar

(Content): Aliyah Sumar, Catalina Costiuc, Declan Withers, Dora Xu, Dur E Zernab Berki, Emily Silver, Esther Han, Esther Liu, Harmela Celestin, James Huh, Jasmina Sharma, Jess Kim, Kaleb Huaraz Rios, Koko Sanginga, Madison Grehan, Manal Effendi, Mara Li, Miguel Sandino Sibal, Nicolette Kuzma, Rachel Oseida, Rami Naamna, Suky Zheng, Sydney Skeete, Syed Taha Ahmed, Yousif Khoshaba, Yumna Ahmad, Zoya Hasan (Artists): Aditya Kalra, Albany Sutherland, Alexandra Russell, Alissa Norenberg, Aliyah Sumar, Emily Zeng, Esther Han, Esther Liu, Jasmina Sharma, Mahek Marker, Mara Li, Meital Sogaokar, Melinda Meleki, Naiha Ali, Rhiannon Carr, Sana Gupta, Yameena Zahid, Yeemon

editor in chief (arts and production): Sana Gupta

layout director: Naiha Ali


Ayesha Umair

communications director: Christina Tam

events director:

Peyton Whitehouse

content editors:

Elizabeth Zhou, Hedeel Askar, Hooriya Masood, Mia Saha, Misaal Mehboob, Parsa Razeghi, Rachel Oseida, Sarah Lopes Sadafi, Sowmithree Ragothaman, Yumna Ahmad

art managers:

Aditya Kalra, Alexandra Russell, Alissa Norenberg, Emily Zeng, Mahek Marker, Mara Li, Melinda Meleki, Yeemon

layout editors:

Aditya Kalra, Leanne Cherian, Rhiannon Carr, Rushaida Khan, Sheza Jamil

cover art:

My childhood by Naiha Ali




Youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness. - F. Scott Fitzgerald

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