ITALICS MINE ISSUE 13.1 ART / POETRY / FICTION / NONFICTION
ur ch as c su h e e as C e 13 o , .1 N e l l e Fa w ge l l Yo /W r in k te r 20
Italics Mine showcases the new, creative literary voices of Purc hase College students —majors and non-ma jors alike —th rough print and web. The diversity of the student popu lation is reflected in the pieces we strive to share with the enti re college com mun ity. Italics Mine is a notable addition to the Lilly B. Lieb Port Creative Writ ing Prog ram at Purc hase College. The prog ram’s close prox imit y to the cultu ral life of New York City, its numerou s writers in residence, and its sum mer writ ing prog ram on the French Riviera make it unique amo ng undergraduate prog ram s. It is the only prog ram in the SUN Y system to offer such a major. Spec ial than ks to the Purc hase Coll ege Affi liates Gra nt for thei r generous support in the printing of this issue. The Creative Writ ing Prog ram at SUN Y Purc hase College, in Purc hase, New York 10577, publ ishe s Italics Mine. Opi nion s expressed herein do not necessari ly reflect those of either the mag azine staff or any institution. Foll owin g publ ication, all rights revert to the authors and artis ts. The desi gn and production of this issue of Italics Mine is in collaboration with Com mun ity Desi gn class, school of Art+Desi gn. “Anemone”
Cover Art by Megan Greenfeld
w i n t e r 2015
Maggie McEvoy Christopher Stewart Ajani Bazile-Dutes James Siegel
Kevin Domanski Shoshana Kolodny Angelique Haraguchi
Edyn Getz Kukuwa Ashun Danielle McCormack
Layout & Design
James Siegel Maggie McEvoy
Monica Ferrell Warren Lehrer Catherine Lewis Mehdi Okasi
Community Design Eric Avila Kimberly Bager Dennis Moore Emily Alberstein Micaela Sanna Sharilyn Castillo Alex Apostolides Pernille Karlsen Marissa Lovler Peter Brown
Shoshana Kolodny Kevin Domanski Edyn Getz Whisper Blanchard
Ajani Bazile-Dutes Danielle McCormack Kukuwa Ashun Christopher Stewart
Table of Contents Poetry Ode to the Fish Who Nibbled...
Gillian Lynn Katz
The Body Poem
Stephanie Louise Opper
From Blitzen, the Eighth Reindeer
Thoughts and Memories...
Her Heart Was All She Had
Jiaming “Andy” Tang
Life and Death of Agnes Cunningham
A Short Interview with...
A Short Interview with...
Modern Romance: A Book Review
A Short Interview with...
A Short Interview with...
The Contemporary Sound: A Discussion
An interview with Lydia Davis
A Short Interview with...
All My Hurt
Time is Beauty
Portrait of Elise
Girl with Turban
I ate bad fries
The Annunciation(St. Garf)
Portrait of Kim
Range of Motion
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Photography A Gozo Wonder
A Sinking Sun
The Snack Bar
Side of Road
Portrait of Lydia Davis
In issue 12.2 we incorrectly attributed the photograph entitled "Yellow Boy." The artist of that piece is Daisy Padilla-Gutierrez.
Ode to the Fish Who Nibbled Bin Laden’s Brain BY GIL L I A N LY NN K AT Z
A gray and white striped Scizzortail undulated through his bullet holed head; paused its sinuous swirl, and kissed the mouth for a second. A king angelfish entered through the eye socket from the other direction. italics mine
The angelfish bumped into the brain’s pulpy flesh, nibbled the hanging tendrils
and swam through the blasted out ear canal, back into the Arabian Sea’s dark thunder.
All My Hurt By Jake Lam
guitarist finishes his set on stage. The club clicks, snaps and claps. There are shafts of light materializing through cigarette smoke, exalting any poor souls trapped on the stool before the microphone. He nods, bows, and shuffles off the stage, sneaking quickly out the back door. I watch him. He was a little shaky, nerves quivered in his voice. Everybody has a first time. Whiskey doesn’t taste the same anymore, but I still drink it. The world murmurs around me. I hear my name. My time to shine. I’m standing before these people, this little club. A friend or two (if I can call them that) cheer and shout from the back of the room. I say, “Thank you all for coming tonight. It really means a lot to me. I hope you enjoy this song, it’s been a long time coming.” I bend the nylon and copper strings into the key of D. My hands are nervous now. The kid must’ve left some anxiety on the stool when he broke for the door. How thoughtful of him. My baby’s in tune. I strum D, A7, G. Then, as I start to play. I close my eyes. ***
italics mine 12 “A Gozo Won
de Chel se a Mus r” cat
I apologize; I do not say, because while I may be singing for you, audience, I’m not singing to you. I sing to her. She is my muse. Without her pretty eyes meeting mine on this very stage a decade ago, I would not be before you again. If we hadn’t met at the bar in back, without her commenting on the tremor in my voice that she loved, without me complimenting the sultriness of her red hair, who knows where I’d be tonight. Most of you don’t know that night of passion we had, or the many nights after that. Most of you haven’t turned your hearts from “one night stand” to “the love of my life”. But that’s what I sing to you. Maybe not in so many words. I’ll sing about the rainy days, the bus rides across town to her office and the lonely rides back home, counting the hours until I can see her again. I’ll sing about the cracks in her voice when she was happy, the smell of her nail polish and shampoo (like arsenic and daisies). Her smile. Have you ever been in love, audience? I don’t ask. Have you ever been completed by someone else? Ever needed someone else more than you need yourself? Well, I’ll sing to you how it feels, audience. Maybe not in so many words. And I sing. Now, some of you might have noticed that these are not happy chords. They’re
“I’ ll show you the distant look in her eyes, the little times she pulled away from me or shouldered an embrace.”
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sad chords. Country bluesy chords. They almost hurt to play. And I’ll explain why they hurt, audience. I’ll show you the distant look in her eyes, the little times she pulled away from me or shouldered an embrace. I’ll show you how she took longer nights at work, spent more time away from me and more time with “friends”. I’ll show you how jealous and protective I got, how I grilled her for details of her late nights, and how guilty and monstrous I felt for distrusting her. I’ll help you all feel, my audience, that drop in blood pressure when I caught her cheating. I sing all this, but not in so many words. I sing about my faults, the time I got drunk and took my father’s anger out on her. The time I promised never to do it again, watching a little black scar in her soul grow as she began to fall out from me. I sing about those I slept with in her stead; Jack Daniel, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo. The shame moved her from the bed to the couch to a friend’s house to out of my life completely. I sing because I pushed her away, audience. I sing because I’m coasting from city to city on cheap, sweating buses, walking miles for ninety-nine cent coffee and cheap liquor. I play little dives run dry of good singers, come back to pitying old clubs, hat in hand, looking for a stool and a mic greased in shared pain. I live on other people’s couches, showering in
foreign bathrooms every day. I only call people I need favors from. I can’t go back to Chicago and New York. Chicago has too many loan sharks. New York just has her. I would say the only thing I can trust any more is my guitar, but I just replaced the strings for the fourth time this month. She just doesn’t sound right these days. I sing because it’s what I know. It’s the only thing I can do anymore besides beg, and even when I’m singing, I’m still begging. So I’m here. I’m playing. I’m singing. For you. For her. I’m apologizing, like maybe, wherever
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she is, she’ll hear it. I sing all of this to you. Maybe not in so many words. I sing with the simple, stupid hope that maybe, you can be smarter than I was, that you won’t be who I have become. Because I don’t even want to be me, dear audience. *** The note clears like a lifting fog, I’m done. I think how sappy this song is, but when my eyes open, my ears hear the world around me and not my narrow past and dismal future. I hear clapping, modest cheers from more than just my so-called friends in the back. Some of the ladies are crying. Everyone looks sad. A million moments, feelings, sights, sounds and smells, ten years packed into just under four minutes. All my hurt, one little song. It made people sad. Makes me sad too. I thank everyone again, I move from the stool, my guitar sighs. I take my post at the bar, the bar tender slips me some whiskey, nodding silently. A lady moves up on stage, and I listen to her sing about the lakes of Canada.
“A million moments, feelings, sights, sounds and smells, ten years packed into just under four minutes.”
T S t im ep e i ha s B n i ea e ut La y nd ” i
Seconds Framed BY M A R I A VA L L E
Before I went blind I saw the white rice that went uncooked. Widow sweat, broken bones of stepdads past Syringe wrapped in blue, laid on wet dreams. Remember. I remember street fighters on burrowed fists custom made wrists Numbed capsules; the look of yellow fever
wearing a tight pink blouse, playing hard to get down my throat. Furniture in laundry machines;
roaches got out, ran for the door Marbles were pumping the heart Disciples feeding the flies residing on government beds A crotch with no soul a soul with no cover Defense wounds running out of memory to recall the accident Before I went blind I saw a baby feeding a baby A grandmother bowing to a child with his mother, my mother, on his chain.
semiotics BY ROS A SUG A R M A N
I’m looking at a picture of a long grey sea bleeding into a long grey sky. It could be any sea, but it isn’t. It’s a picture of a sea. Underground my childhood cat has become part of the earth. Grown up through the grass,
I am not the first to note a universal sameness
but I am some of it.
Sally is tickling my toes as I walk through the sprinkler.
FROM BLITZEN, the Eighth Reindeer By Megan Byron
hat kid has it comin’ one day, I tell ya. If it ain’t from me, it’ll be from one of the other six, but we all put a smile on for Donner’s sake. He’s our pal, our brother, and my best friend. We’ve been pullin’ the sleigh together for a few millennia, him and I. We’d usually shoot the shit with the big guy since we’re the last two reindeer of the eight closest to the sleigh. It was great back there. We’d hoot at Vixen’s ass, crack it up with Comet and Cupid, and hope they wouldn’t shit in our faces just for kicks. Donner was always talkin’ about gettin’ hitched with a fine, antlered broad. And when he did, the poor soul couldn’t have been happier. But reindeer do what reindeer will do, and after a few years in, they popped out a little one. They named him Rudolph, after her dad. And they named me his uncle. Obviously ya can imagine the shit that went down when little Rudolph came out with a red nose. Not only was it red, but it friggin’ glowed like a light bulb! I don’t know what sorta birth defect that is; neither did anyone else. Well, you’d think, for Santa’s esteemed flight of reindeer, they’d be little more acceptin’ of their own. But that wasn’t the case. Rudy’s Red Nose was all people talked about for years, until
“Comet, coach of the Reindeer Games for the little ones, and full-time asswipe, let him in.”
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he got old enough to realize they weren’t callin’ him that outta love. He was a pariah. None of the other calves would play with him, because their parents told them not to. He didn’t even get to play in the Reindeer Games, thanks to Comet. What a real asshole. He was being denied a childhood for somethin’ he couldn’t control. Donner and his broad had their antlers in a tangle at what to do about bulls and cows, who’re practically family, exiling their son. I couldn’t bear to see that family in such misery. So when the next Reindeer Games were coming around, it was my idea to rub some dirt on his nose; y’know, to cover it up. The story would be that the defect went away. Kinda like how a male reindeer’s antlers fall off in the winter. The plan actually worked, if you can believe it! Comet, coach of the Reindeer Games for the little ones,
and full-time asswipe, let him in. You never saw such a happy little fella. I felt like the greatest uncle alive! His face glowed when he showed the other calves that he was finally normal. But that shit didn’t last. Before I go on, let me explain exactly what the Reindeer Games are. The Reindeer Games are the main sport up here. This one in particular is for the little ones so they stay fit, socialize, and all that junk. So Rudolph’s goin’ around flyin’ everywhere with the others. Donner and I are watchin’, when all of a sudden, one of them other calves knocks him down into the snow. It’s all in good spirit, but when he lifts his head up from the snow, the dirt came off, and the kids freaked. And the parents? Faggeddaboutit! As soon as it came off, the kids flew down there and started beatin’ on him! Kickin’, spittin’, bitin’; it was like watchin’ a battle! Dasher’s kid was especially brutal. Comet, Donner, and I ran up over there to break it up, but poor Rudy was already banged up good. They nearly beat him to death! Then the other parents started shoutin’ shit like, “Fuckin’ freak!” and, “That little virus is gonna infect our calves!” Donner started screamin’ at them all tellin’ them off. It was chaos, man. I felt so bad. I always put the responsibility on myself for the little bugger gettin’ so banged up, but Donner didn’t blame me. He knew I was only tryin’ to help. After that, Rudolph was permanently banned from playin’ in the Reindeer Games – regardless of
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whether his condition got better or not. That day really messed up Donner. As a lead reindeer, he was always respected by the other folk, but afterwards, he was nothin’ but dirt on their hooves. They were startin’ rumors that his baby juice ain’t right, or how his broad hopped around stables. All in an effort to explain how Rudolph got that nose. I talked to Santa about it, but he basically told the others to ‘play nice.’ They nodded their ugly heads, but kept up with their shit. Not anythin’ like that song or the movies, huh? At this point, he should’ve run away, met up with the elf who wanted to be a dentist, and Yukon Cornelius right? Well, you’re wrong. Them producers just needed a good filler story to explain how he got to pullin’ the sleigh after bein’ in exile. I myself will get to that part in a bit. For now, Rudolph and his mother were in hidin’ while Donner had to go about with his job as a lead reindeer. You think all we do is rest until Christmas, right? No way in hell! No, we lead reindeer have to memorize the travel path for the big day. Over the millennia, it kept changin’ up what with new civilizations poppin’ up every two hundred years or so. It didn’t give Donner or I the time of day to help the poor kid through his most troubled times. Looking back, I really wish we would’ve been around more. His confidence was destroyed. So over the years, Donner and his broad filled his absorbent little head into thinkin’ he was the shit. That had quite the effect on him. He became this haughty little shit; tricked into
believin’ he was better than even the fat man himself! I can understand a little ego boost after what happened, but holy crap. Donner knew he was goin’ overboard sometimes, but like most bulls, he listened to his wife. I guess you can’t blame her too much. If it were my kid, I’d tell him he’s the shit, too. But at least I’d teach him how to fight back. Today’s world is different, though. About seven—was it seven? Yeah, seven. About seven years later, Rudolph is bein’ seen around the place a little more, and folks got used to him. Like how they got used to Cupid comin’ out. A few comments under the muzzle, but it was all fine, until little things started happenin’. That year, the main toyshop suffered a blackout. It stopped production for a good two hours before they found a wire ripped from the box. It would’ve been funnier had the elves not taken it so damn seriously. You’d think those little guys would be a little cheerier, but hell, not a smile on their lips! We weren’t the slightest bit suspicious that Rudolph had anythin’ to do with anythin.’ That is, until the next time it happened. One of the elves, a real sweetheart, ran into him walkin’ out from behind the toyshop. She said he was chattin’ with her when the alarm sounded, indicatin’ a problem in the shop, before she rushed back inside. Shit like that was happenin’ all the time. The lights on the roofs all around Christmas Avenue kept bein’ snatched off. After a while the elves just said, “Fuck it” and left them off. Another incident happened where the
us to say nothin.’ According to Donner, Rudolph knew we were there the entire time. The crazy little bastard wanted us to tell everyone who humiliated him that day, as a warning. Even the pranks on the townspeople were to get back at them for treatin’ him bad. Honoring the bond we share as lead reindeer, we kept our muzzles shut. Donner ended up tellin’ Santa himself, and a few weeks later, Rudolph was rumored to be headin’ the sleigh that year! I asked Donner what the hell, but he avoided the question. So I decided to ask Santa himself. What I found out was un-fuckin’-believable. Santa felt pity for the little shit and justified his actions; callin’ Rudolph ‘pent up,’ and ‘troubled’ and decided to let him up front. He figured he’d let him light the way for the ride; clouds are a bitch to fly through, especially when you’re tryin’ to hide from the world. I sure love the old man, but another enabler is not what this kid needed. Afterwards, I tried to get through to the kid; maybe he was just ‘troubled’ after all, right? Well, I’m a bit of a sensitive bull myself, like uncle like nephew I guess, so when he made a crack about how special his being in the front his first year was compared to my being in the back for millennia, I gave up. Ever since that year, that was about 60 or 70-somethin’ years ago, he’s been ridin’ up front with us. I gotta tell you, I don’t say it in front of Donner, but I’m pissed. I don’t care if it happened all those years ago, it’s still got me goin’!
lead reindeers’ calves lived; in particular, it was Dasher’s calf that endured the shit. Almost every night, after the lights episode, Dasher’s calf would get woken up with a kick to his head. We thought it was calves bein’ calves, until he got a concussion. Dasher was so angry, as any parent would be, and made the decision to move his kid into his stable. Still, no one suspected Rudolph. That is, until another calf was attacked. And I saw the whole thing. It was at night, so I couldn’t quite tell who the calf was. But he or she was just standin’ there, not doin’ anythin’ wrong. Then again, it was night, so who knows what this weirdo was doin’. Anyway, I was with Vixen, and we both saw Rudolph approach this kid. We knew it was him, because his friggin’ nose was glowin’. And then, he just starts maulin’ him! It was awful; blood everywhere. We thought the kid was dead when Rudolph ran from the scene. We came out to help him, but our help wouldn’t have done him no good. He slipped into a coma when he got to St. Nicholas Hospital; a coma that this kid only recently came outta. Later on, I discovered that she, it turned out to be a she, was one of the calves who beat up Rudolph that day. What? What was I doing with Vixen that night? Well, you see, Vixen and I were behind some of the stables- look that ain’t the point here! The point is he was out to get revenge. We were gonna say somethin’ to Santa, but Donner approached us both and begged
To think, all eight of us have been pullin’ that fat man’s ass all around the world, rememberin’ the flight path, deliverin’ the presents to unappreciative little shits, just so some little asshole can maul his way into a promotion, because of his birth defect! You don’t hear any songs appreciatin’ any of us, do you? The only songs and movies that mention us are the ones about that douche! I’m sick of it, for real. Rudolph the Red Nose Asshole. The most famous reindeer of all, my hoof.
“It was awful; blood ever ywhere. We thought the kid was dead when Rudolph ran from the scene.”
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vin M arga re t La
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
For “From Blitzen, the Eighth Reindeer”, I was inspired by the idea to vilid the legend of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Using the idea that celebrities transform into nastier people when the curtain falls, Rudolph became a narcissistic and destructive force who terrorizes the North Pole and its inhabitants. The Life and Death of Agnes Cunningham inspired me after I saw a photograph of an elderly woman wearing a t-shirt that read “YOLO.” Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
For both pieces—besides physically sitting down in the chair and writing—I made sure I had the idea of how to start it off and what my main idea was.After that, it was all up to the characters. What excites you about the artistic process?
What excites me most about the artistic process is not knowing where the story will go. While I may have an idea of what I want to do, stories seem to do this funny thing where they write themselves. My characters will exhaust me with their tales, but I’m lucky to be the one who writes them.
Is there a particular writer/artist you admire? Why?
I admire George Saunders, because it is his work that helped me discover how to write the genre of dark humor; Christie Golden, because her work teaches me how to create fictional worlds that become real; and Koji Suzuki, because his work shows me how to use poetic language without it dominating my piece. What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
On-spot editing. I’ve been told more than once to just write, and not worry about the editing part until after I’m complete, but if I know whether or not something will work, I have to edit it!
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Sedona Vortex BY ER IK G OET Z
sun set on a bull’s eye the water looks and feels like broken glass gills filled to five and five fingers of blood, curdling money, curdled follow the trail of blood to yr heart italics mine
follow the arrow piercing yr lungs turn yr head on its dry, rusty swivel
soft, lotioned spit rags once cleaned yr filthy mouth dirty eyes steady on dirt-worst skies face-down in the path of the future waving limply with the lupines ten sharpened points hang like a pair of dangling braids you would know wouldn’t you know? a doe? a tornado dances through the graveyard
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
The inspiration for this poem was from a memory of a road trip with my friend, and his Great Dane, from New York to Flagstaff, AZ. Once there, we took a drive to Sedona which is supposedly full of swirling energ y Vortexes (ed. note: Vortexes, not Vortices). Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
I have a large capacity for inescapable memories that often keep me up at night. This poem was written during one of these episodes of insomnia as an attempt to work through a memory, while simultaneously reveling in the heightened emotion and coming to grips with its ill effects. What excites you about the artistic process?
I get most excited about personal improvement and evolution. The value I place on a work is mostly based on how it will help make the next one even better.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
My inability to write anything positive or hopeful. I don’t consider myself a particularly dark person, but my work invariably comes out as such. It’d be easy to say that happy endings are cliché, but there are so many artists I respect who can portray the bright side of life without resorting to schmaltz.
I admire any artist who exhibits themselves or their experiences in all their gory, mundane, unflattering details. Edward Abbey is one of my favorite writers and a good example.
Is there a particular writer/artist you admire? Why?
The Lesson By Jonathan Hernandez
nce upon a time, the teacher traveled for miles by foot to visit his student. The teacher hadn’t seen his pupil for some time, for he was a Ronin. He once served a powerful Daimyo, or Lord, but lost favor with him. He was ostracized by his clan for constantly challenging the old ways and hence spent little time in the province where he once lived. When the student saw his teacher again he jumped up and down with excitement. He spent hours telling him about his training and induction into the noble way of the Samurai. The teacher could see that he was happy and was pleased to see that the boy’s adoptive clan was taking good care of him. After greeting one another they walked through a garden flanked by colorful blossoms and thin shoots of bamboo. “Show me what they taught you,” the teacher said. The student demonstrated what he learned; stances, sword drills, and hand-to-hand combat techniques. The teacher smiled as the student showed him those things, but something was missing. “Is that all they taught you?” The teacher asked.
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y ” oo Ja M e s lu n i “ B en
The student was puzzled, wasn’t that enough? So he spoke about strategy and tactics, and quoted from the classics of Sun Tzu. He recited haikus, discussed bonsai tree maintenance, and described the rules of etiquette for tea ceremonies. He spoke on everything he could think of until his mind was blank and his mouth was dry. After he was done the teacher smiled and bowed. He was concerned that the boy’s philosophies were not being trained to the same standards as all his other knowledge. If all the boy had were techniques, customs, and classics, would he ever develop as an individual? The teacher asked the boy another question. “What makes a great samurai a great samurai?” Without a moment’s hesitation the boy answered, “To be brave!” The teacher couldn’t help but chuckle at his innocence. “All samurai are brave. You are brave, are you a great samurai?” The boy paused and thought harder. “Honor?” He guessed, the way all children did when they were given indoctrination instead of education. The teacher shook his head. “All samurai have honor. An honor less samurai is like day without the Sun.” So the boy thought longer and harder. What makes a great samurai a great samurai? Something greater than bravery, something greater than honor. Feeling assured, he answered “To be loyal to one’s Lord.” “And how does one do that?” The teacher challenged.
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“To obey without question.” At that the teacher stamped his foot and shook his head. “No!” The student quickly lowered his head in shame “What if your Lord commanded you to do something dishonorable? Would you still obey? Samurai know that drawing a sword is necessary, but sometimes not fighting is the more noble thing to do.” The student never considered that before. “How teacher? How will I know when?” He asked with pleading, upturned eyes. “Fight with your body and love with your heart, but think with your mind. Yours. Not someone else’s. Not a Lord’s, not even a god’s. The Buddha himself once said that all that we are the result of what we think. What we think, we become. The mind is everything.” The teacher folded his arms across his chest and silently crossed the garden, allowing the boy to sit and dwell on his words. As he walked through the garden he admired the bonsai trees and tried to meditate on the great moment as his Zen teachers taught him. Great ideas were like seeds; if they took root they would blossom. Years later, the teacher was ambushed on a perilous road and murdered by thieves. He had nothing on him but his walking stick, and his dignity. The student grew up and became a masterful swordsman, but he was not popular among the clan. Before acting he always thought, before fighting he always asked why, and when his Lord ordered him to commit atrocities, he refused.
“Great ideas were like seeds; if they took root they would blossom.” He became shunned by his peers and stalked the provinces as a Ronin, just like his teacher. He wandered the land, clearing roads of bandits, fighting the Lord’s men, and tending to the needs of the peasants. He was known as a pariah in his time, however as the years passed, he was also remembered as a great samurai.
D rio e n le ni ” sM oo
Guerrero, MĂŠxico BY M A R I A VA L L E
Forty-three missing students crawl to burn on the outside. Mothers can now see how clean they have kept their bones in this hemorrhage of violence. No government, No drug lord scarecrow can negotiate sorrow italics mineâ€ƒ
or nurture the cactus of penetrating systems
that keep us howling at the moon who drips over our buckets ready to claim back their blood.
‘Modern Romance' A Book Review by Zack Brida
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as your last string of Tinder swipe-rights been left dismally unrequited? Do you crave the type of informed, comedic writing that makes you smirk and titter, while engaging you intellectually? Have you ever confronted a dating quagmire and thought, “Man, if only actor and comedian Aziz Ansari penned a thoughtfully researched dissertation that examined my situation under social, cultural, and technological lenses!” Look no further than comedian Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance, which was published in June by Penguin Press. The former Parks and Recreation star braids his acerbic social insights with meticulous sociological analysis of various dating cultures into a readable dating treatise. Modern Romance simultaneously caters to mainstream wooing anxieties (there’s a chapter dedicated to optimizing your online dating finesse), investigates facets of our culture that are not normally subjected to public scrutiny (did you know Japan is in the throes of a sexual crisis?), and educates readers in the sometimes sordid ways in which we try to find love (Google “Tenga”). Ansari, with assistance from sociologist Eric Klinenberg, writes with astute and charming prose-for-themasses, even in instances where uninspired comedy and flawed
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presentation intrude on an otherwise edifying and enchanting read. Critics and readers alike share one overarching sentiment on Ansari’s treatise: They actually learned something. The comedian’s erudition is hardly surprising; Ansari did a double major in biology and business at NYU undergrad. His romance commentary is not an intimate memoir like Tina Fey’s Bossypants, nor is it as politically aggressive as, for instance, Naomi Woolf’s The Beauty Myth. Ansari does not push for intimacy or an ideological agenda, although he strangely focuses primarily on heterosexual, cisgender relations. Instead, he devotes chapters to proper courtship etiquette (instantaneous nudes are a big no, folks), the gains and pitfalls of online dating, and searching for the proverbial “one,” among other high-brow topics. In case this description makes Modern Romance seem humorless, rest assured, for Ansari’s book brings the funny to an otherwise staid subject matter. “If Tokyo is the capital of the ‘herbivore man,’” the comedian writes about the conspicuous sexual frigidity of Japanese men, “then Buenos Aires must surely be the capital of ‘rib-eye-eatingmaniac”. The best parts of Ansari’s book are not guffaw-inducing asides; however I, too, enjoyed the book most when I “actually learned something.” A chapter in which the comedian explores older generations’ perceptions of love and marriage is cularly scintillating.
Acolytes of Ansari’s stand-up may be slightly disappointed, however, the comedian periodically regurgitates facsimiles of jokes and anecdotes that appeared in his Netflix specials Buried Alive and Live at Madison Square Garden, both of which served as fodder for Ansari’s research. Ansari’s aversion from originality (one hesitates to say flat-out laziness) highlights another facet of his presentation with which fans may take issue: his comedy takes a back seat to his research. In theory, this “just-the-facts-ma’am” approach would ostensibly strengthen the author’s level of scrutiny, but the results are mixed. Jokes often seem like they were tacked onto thoughtful findings as mere afterthoughts. Don’t let this deter you from picking up the novel. Modern Romance is funny; every focus group finding is bound to make you either smirk with delight or cringe with embarrassment. Even when Ansari’s writing is lazy, which it only occasionally is, his piercing, wellresearched insights assume a life of their own. Ansari ultimately comes off as neither an omniscient love guru, who can conjure a repository of bachelors or bachelorettes at will, nor a sensational gut-buster, but rather an intellectually curious academic with a penchant for chuckles. Modern Romance By Aziz Ansari With Eric Klinenberg 277 Pages. Penguin Press. $28.95.
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M ar is sa Lovl
Thoughts and Memories Dedicated to My Father by Jiaming Tang
summer of retail and a long, lonely train ride accompanied by a singular copy of The New Yorker have gotten me to thinking about my future prospects and my father. He’s lying down in the hospital now, having suffered a stroke two months ago in his midtown apartment. The neighbors said the maid found him—a head scratching statement, considering the man never had a maid, and so I came to the conclusion that he had a mistress. To that, I say good for him. I always thought he was a lonely man. When I first visited him in the hospital, he was lying in bed babbling, the white room still and orderly; not a crease anywhere except on his face. He didn’t seem like he belonged, like a lump of orange mud hiding, bashful under a thick blanket of white. Once, when we were younger and my father still smooth-complexioned, he took me to Dubai on a business trip. Outside the plane, the clouds hung low, floating by like soft pearls. Of course, this may be a faulty recollection; the window seat was actually occupied by a corpulent man wearing un-ironed white pants. Still, I strained, moving this way and that, almost standing in my seat in order to catch a momentary glimpse of a bird—maybe an albatross—outside. Unfortunately for me, all I could see was the fat man and his
New York is always more beautiful through the windows of the D and 7 trains. That’s what I always figured. I used to work freelance for The Village Voice, a career I thought I would like because of the opportunity to pry into the lives of private figures throughout the city. Later,
I realized it was the introspective time I enjoyed. Four summers ago, I was working on an assignment I never finished, a threepart editorial about Chinatown and food and sex trafficking, and so I had to travel there a lot, to East Broadway and Flushing and 8th Avenue. This meant I had to take
“He walked me to school ever y morning and his eyes would wander, kind of like how mine do when I visit him now.”
pants and how they twisted and folded and puckered at the seams. His face was oily and lined, bespectacled and insultingly repulsive. I must have been making some kind of a scene then, because my father kept telling me to sit down. Birds don’t fly so high in the sky, he told me. Only people do. “Like mom?” I asked, searching his face for answers. “Like mom.” He told me to sit quietly and watch the in-flight movies. Six hours into the ten hour flight, they stopped and I had to entertain myself with Skymall magazines. I looked at them restlessly, they were so glossy and fresh and my father was sitting next to me—he was so smooth—and I was hungry and time crawled slowly by… My stomach growled, telling me it was time for lunch. My father was lying there motionless, his left eye open and yellow, like clay. I stayed with him for about an hour or so, watching the shadows snake silently across the room, the curtains trembling with light from an open window. The nurse came in every so often, her scrubs looking like gentle waves, her face glowing with a compassionate youth. She asked if I wanted lunch and I said no in spite of my growing hunger. My father babbled, his voice rustling like dead leaves and the nurse’s face hammered back and forth, checking his IV drip. She moved about quickly, with expertise, and I wished I were on a train, sitting next to a window.
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the train frequently and I strongly believe that people don’t look out the windows enough. They miss the vines and the art climbing up red-bricked walls and dark alleys where garments billow like pink and yellow and green clouds, hanging to dry. Trees blew wind into little passersby and children danced on black speckled concrete, holding hands with their mothers. My mother died when I was five. On the day of the funeral, there was a storm, and so we had to bury her amidst a great monsoon encouraged by our tears. My father was standing beside me, wearing a black suit and holding a black umbrella, everything neat and ironed and fitted. He was weeping in a way suitable for a respectable man in grieving, and whenever he caught me looking at him he would quickly wipe at his face and tousle my hair and smile. “Your mother loved you so much,” he said, his lips trembling. I didn’t say anything. I looked at him, and then I looked down at the piece of land that used to be my mother. My face was wet, but I don’t remember crying. “Your mother’s up there now,” my father said to me. He pointed up at the clouds. I looked up with him, and thought how curious it was that she could be in the ground and the sky, both at the same time. “Your mother loved you so much,” he said again, the words dripping out of his mouth. “She loved y…”
The train moved slowly, creeping along like time. There was a bum sitting at the other end of the cart, moaning and wailing, counting his grievances over the steady rumbling. I was on the D train, in Brooklyn now, and the sun was rising. The sky was dipped in a violet gradating up into a soft, lion-colored orange. Trees shifted and windows hung open, one of which didn’t have a screen—an unwise decision I thought, frowning at the thought of mosquitos and other pests. When I looked down at my watch, it was already 5 AM. I wasn’t even close to home—I had seven more stops, seven stops along the sunrise. My father used to get me ready for school in the mornings. He’d change me into my day clothes while I was still half asleep, my eyes rolling, my body hanging limp against his big, powerful arms. “Up you go,” he’d say as he lifted me, holding me up with one arm while he searched for some pants with the other. I’d wake up sometime in the middle of this, because his hand would tickle at my leg and as the fog lifted from my eyes, I’d see his face, rough but smiling. He walked me to school every morning and his eyes would wander, kind of like how mine do when I visit him now. There was never anything to look at. The room was always neat and in order, the flowers I brought were always halfwilting in the corner, the curtains always quivered with the soft, halting breeze, and my father never moved, babbling blankly, buzzing like white noise. When the nurse
“What does that mean, spaghetti and salt?”
man standing limp and untouched, like a scarecrow, except bent over with age. Do other people give things meaning? My father said they do. “People give meaning to everything. See, for instance—” he winced as he plucked out a gray hair. He showed it to me, twisting it between his fingers. “That means you’re growing old.” He held it up in front of him, examining it in the light.“Make a wish.” He puckered his mouth, preparing to blow the hair away. “Dad, that’s eyelashes. People make wishes with eyelashes.” He smiled at me then and for the first time I saw the creases and the tiredness on his face. That night, I cried to myself and to my mother. At the hospital, when I was speaking to the nurse, I saw my father staring from the bedside. His eyes were dark and blank and he was moving his lips, but no words came out. When I was a kid, he used to say to me the sky was the limit and I would think about mother and planes and Dubai, but when my manager, Dave said it, years later, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “The sky’s the limit here at H&M. You could be anything you want here—we don’t
came in, we would exchange pleasantries and sometimes we talked. She spoke softly, gently, and her laughter sounded like the singing of birds. Once, when she was wiping my father down with a cloth, I told her she’d make a good mother and she blushed, telling me she was only 25. As we spoke, my father groaned and his lips moved, parting with drool, staring at us sideways. The first week he was in the hospital, I wondered if he was going to die. The doctor and the nurse both told me he’d be fine and was “making good progress” but I was worried. My father, he used to say my mother would always protect me, even if she was in the sky and that I should never be worried because he would look after me with her—but who was looking after my father when the nurse was gone? After my mother died, my father took over the cooking. I don’t remember my mother’s food and whether it was good or not, but my father told me she was the best cook in the world. “She could make a mean spaghetti and salt,” he said. “Spaghetti and salt?” I thought about it—what does that even mean, spaghetti with salt? The bum mumbled hungrily on his side of the cart. There were five stops left and the sun shone brightly into my eyes, making them water. Pretty soon, the train would be making its way into 86th street, and as I covered the tops of my eyes with my hand, I made out the lone figure of a
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judge.” He chuckled as if he just thought of a joke. “Hell, I started as a part-time worker myself!” He scratched his head, accidentally revealing a bald spot. He made a face. Around me, people were taking notes furiously, digging their pens deeper and deeper into their notepads. They nodded attentively at every word, smiling at every joke and I was sitting there, looking at Dave, not really knowing what to do or say. Just staring at his face—it was round and oily and bespectacled. He looked like the fat man blocking the window on the plane. My father told me never to judge people. “Some of them may have come from lesser circumstances,” he said. “And besides, you never know what other hurdles they may have had to overcome.” His words ran through my head while Dave spoke. But Dave—he was so fat and his pants were straining at the seams, un-ironed and lined, like a maz— For three months, on every Sunday edition of The Voice, there would be a maze on the back of the paper, “For children and those adults with humorous, whimsical spirits.” My editor told me it was supposed to be some kind of ironic joke, because the mazes had no real solutions. I don’t know how it managed to last for more than one edition. It was in the place where my editorials were supposed to go, the ones I never got to finish because I was always on the train, mesmerized by the brilliant displays of Technicolor outside the windows. The shivering trees, the hanging
willows, the sapphire glass penthouses and the boats, cast upon a sea of diamonds—I was thinking then, how nice it would be if time could stop and I could be on the train forever… “We are being held momentarily by the trains dispatcher. Thank you for your patience.” I looked gloomily at the bum on his side of the train. He was snoring now, asleep, a brown lump of clay in the corner. There were two stops left—two more and I was home. I thought about calling the hospital and asking about my father and the nurse (to see if she was there or not), to see if they were okay. I thought better of it—she probably wasn’t there yet—and sat there, counting the seconds roll over, spilling slowly across my arms and legs. I peered out of the window and saw 86th street as it was waking: the songbirds singing on telephone wire, shops patiently waiting to be opened and golden shadows, lengthening across the streets. My father used to have a garden when I was younger. He took great care in maintaining it. He had yellow tulips, leopard colored pansies, and shining marigolds. He would cut them, year after year after the summer to take to my mother’s grave. Yellow was her favorite color, he told me. We’d always visit at sundown and my father would wear his suit and smile, talking to her, the flowers dancing against his lapel. Sometimes he would cry and tell her about me, how well
wearing a motherly expression on her face. He held me up—I was scared to do it alone— and we both did it, rapping our fingers against the painted metal. “Now we’ll have good luck for the rest of this trip,” he said, smiling. The train station was quiet and empty. A cool breeze whipped through the air and all of a sudden, I looked back at the train. The door was closing, and before it slammed all the way shut, I reached in and gave it a tap. A quick, light one. For good luck.
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I was doing in school, how tall I am now and I’d look at the ground, then at the sky, smelling the flowers hiding behind the breeze. Sometimes, when we left, I would glance at my father, and he would be looking back at the grave through the fence, his eyes folded in half and sad looking. A month into his stay at the hospital, I started to read to my father. The doctor said it was a good idea. He said my father was recovering, but he still couldn’t move or speak and sometimes his eyes would look strange, staring up into the lights. One time, the nurse came in while I was reading and she sat down next to us, listening, nodding along, a glowing presence in the corner of the room, her scrubs glistening in the silver light. My father moved his lips, softly, gently “Next stop, 25th Avenue.” And then I remembered when I was younger, when I would be lying down in bed, babbling in my sleep and my father would tell me stories to wake me up. He said mother was watching over us. I looked at the nurse; she was smiling and nodding. I felt my chin tremble and my eyes started to fog up and cloud over. Everything was so bright. The creases on my father’s face blurred with the light and I held his hand “This is 25th Avenue…” I got up and walked towards the door. When we were getting off the plane in Dubai, my father told me I should tap the inside of it for good luck. He showed me how, and the stewardess was smiling at me,
Summer Rain BY ROS A SUG A R M A N
Rain was pounding on the glass like God trying to burst through my window panes. Praying for clarity, I put on my rain boots. The storm had turned to a light shower and then to nothing at all. I stood in the dirty oil stained rivers that ran down the curb but I wasnâ€™t consumed italics mineâ€ƒ
so I pissed in the yard where the neighbors could see me.
Boars BY LOIS A F ENICHEL L
1995: year the weather broke, year Grandfather died, year Mother & Father got into their first argument: these days: Mother is always jealous of Father: these days: Father tells more jokes, makes more people laugh. 1995: year I fell through Motherâ€™s uterus, blood circling my scalp. 1995: year we all became planets.
the city. Your body wrinkled like the balding heads the same when they screamed. Your father was not mine, but they both had stomachs that looked more like boys drowning in lakes than anything else.
of uncles. Your mother was not mine, but they sounded
You were born the same day as I was, only far across
Her Heart Was All She Had BY BR IDGET DE A SE
Characters: jacob- young male, dressed in all black conscience #1- young female conscience #2- young male conscience #3- young female Jacob, a young man in his early to mid-twenties is on a dark, bare stage alone, shaking his head at the ceiling and grabbing at his hair in frustration. Three renderings of his conscience come out on stage to taunt him. Despite being different actors, they all encompass one thought. Jacob occasionally lets these people speak for him, because they are all in his mind.
conscience #1 Every day, you’ll meet someone at their most human, which is to say, at their worst. conscience #2 Every day, you’ll sink to new lows, unsure of whether or not you want yourself to drown. conscience #3 And every day, little by little, you’ll lose parts of yourself. The parts will become an entity of its own, able to move freely in the night as if it were living… we’ll call it, the leftover you. conscience #1 The world is becoming more and more fragmented, more brittle… and soon, there will be nothing left… conscience #2 Not even the people you love the most. jacob I have a story, but I’m afraid to tell you because once I tell you, I’ll have to believe it. But in a fragmented world, storytelling won’t be around for long. In a world where you keep draining yourself of pride and happiness, you’ve got to tell your story while it’s fresh on your mind… or else it’ll become a part of a memory that never existed. conscience #1 When I was younger…not even old enough to believe in something… My mother explained the difference between a dying heart and broken heart.
conscience #2 As a crippling wave of heat took over her frail body, rendering her hopeless, she said… conscience #2 and jacob “The dying heart is unapologetic for its mistakes.” conscience #3 A dying heart still loves, passionately and fair… but a broken heart makes it harder to love. A broken heart has got to make up for what it’s lost, a dying heart can die at its own pace… because it’s lost everything. jacob When I was younger, my mother told me that her heart was dying. It was dying because I broke it so many times. conscience #1 Eyes closed. “Jacob, my boy. My sweet boy,” she said, looking right through me with eyes as gray as misted clouds. “My dying heart is unapologetic for its love of you.” conscience #3 Getting angry. But then I looked at her, confused. I felt the anger building up in me, speaking down to her as if the Devil himself entered my body and thrust what good was left out of me and I said… I said “Hush, you old bitch! There is no such thing as a dying heart. If you’re dying, then you’re dying. And that’s all there is to it.” There is a long pause. jacob I regretted it as soon as I said it. conscience #2 A tear met her cheek and I turned away from her. conscience #1 “I don’t want to hear that shit!” That’s what I said to myself. I said “I don’t want to hear it.” conscience #2 She cried. conscience #3 And cried. conscience #2 But it wasn’t a loud cry. Her cries were never loud. They were quiet yet sharp. conscience #3 Hidden, but present.
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I don’t want to hear it. jacob But crying is the only memory I have left of her. Without it, I lose all of her. conscience #1 She looked at me. Her eyes, red and sad, drilling holes into my head. She said “A broken heart, my son… a broken heart is what I’ve had every day I have loved you. Every day, my heart breaks for you and because of you… And I wouldn’t have it any other way.” conscience #3 I didn’t want to look at her anymore. jacob Sometimes you can break something so bad that it’s easy to put it back together. But I am a beast, and beasts stay broken. I’ve stopped trying to love the person I’ve become. I’ve stopped trying to accept the person I see in my reflection… the monster I see in my reflection. Sometimes the little boy in me is still afraid. He doesn’t know himself like I do. He’s afraid of being contained within a cage that is his own mind because… what if he gets locked in? I used to think I had to be careful with how much I lived. As if life was a wallet full of dollar bills; you don’t want to spend it all in one place. But I don’t think that way anymore because my life has become much more than just the monster in my reflection. My life has become much more than a story… my life is now a bridge that connects me to the next version of myself. Today, I am No One. Tomorrow, I will be someone else. I will be who my mother wanted me to be. A strong-willed man, better than the man who wasn’t there, better than the man I was before she… conscience #1 When I was younger… my mother told me she was dying. conscience #2 But she said she would always love me. conscience #3 And one day, we were in a field of daffodils. Her favorite place in the springtime. The smell was sweet, almost sickly, cutting through the fresh scent of the morning’s dew. I was holding my mother. conscience #1 I held her so close to me that that the imprint of my orange shirt against her white nightgown rendered a faint peach color. jacob She stroked my face and put a flower to my nose.
conscience #2 “I…I…I…” jacob
“You what? conscience #3
“I…love…” jacob A painful silence fell over us, and I knew then that I had lost her. I loved her. I loved my mother like there was no possibility of tomorrow…and then she just died in my arms. She just collapsed onto me. And I clung to her. Jacob gets down on his knees and shrivels up as if he was actually clinging on to something. His words are slowing down now. I clung to her so tightly…so tight that I thought the squeeze would bring her to just one last breath. I wanted her to say she loved me just one last time. I still clung to her… like I didn’t want to let go. conscience #1 I didn’t want to let go. jacob I held my hand over where her heart used to beat, so elegantly and so proud… and I didn’t feel anything. What lay in front of me, as peaceful as ever was an empty angel in my mother’s clothes. I regret everything I ever said to her… except I love you. conscience #1 You see what you did? conscience #2 She’s gone now, Jacob. conscience #3 There’s no bringing her back. Jacob is now visibly distraught. He gets down on his knees and pleads, to no one in particular. jacob But I want her back. Please…bring her back. The dialect of a dying heart is so beautiful… isn’t it? She cannot feel anything; she cannot see anything; she’s not saying anything…but I hear her clearly. LIGHTS FADE. END PLAY.
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A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Whether it be a short story, play or poem, my characters are usually the driving force of the piece. I let them call the shots without knowing what the plot will be. My short play Her Heart Was All She Had, was inspired by an idea I had for a short story that never came to fruition. I felt that the idea of having a character whose conscience speaks for him, more than he speaks for himself, was better rendered in a play than in a short story. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
Before I start crafting a piece, I usually create two versions of my central characters. One version is someone who the readers root for and can relate to while the other version is someone who is despicable. The despicable character is usually introverted and does more thinking than they do speaking. This piece was based on a despicable character that I created, but instead of showing the unlikable side, I decided to show him at his most vulnerable. italics mine
What excites you about the artistic process?
Having the chance to explore themes that I wouldn’t normally face in real life is probably the most exciting part of the artistic process. The characters I create often possess some of the characteristics that I don’t have and lack the ones I do have. I’m always interested in writing about things that make me feel uneasy or uncomfortable because that is when I feel the most cathartic. Is there a particular writer/artist you admire? Why?
I have several favorite authors, but I find the work of Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou quite admirable. There is so much truth to their writing and, as a young writer striving to make something of myself, it’s important that I follow their examples and continue to write truthfully. The truth, not only as it pertains to one all-encompassing truth, but also personal truths.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
My most embarrassing habit as a writer...okay I’ll tell you (the ellipsis was me thinking long and hard about it). I tend to talk to myself a lot... And most of the time, I don’t seem to be aware of who is listening (or maybe I don’t care?) My short stories and plays both contain a good amount of dialogue...So I’m always talking to myself when I come up with ideas to make sure those ideas sounds right. I’ve come to think of my characters as friends... You can talk to your friends....right?
P C or ou t r r t ait n e of y El D is a n e” ie ll
italics mine 50 “Untitled”
M irl il w a i ith Li T a n ur g b
italics mine 52 “Starr y Eyed
St epha nie La
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“Hard Cand y”
Kea ra Mar tin
italics mine 54 “A Sink ing Su
Chel se a Musn” cat
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“The Snack Bar”
italics mine 56 “Side of Road ”
Kay la Dale
Venom BY K AY L A DA L E
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It’s so dirty But it’s you And maybe my venom Is rose petals And yours Is toothpaste Never been opened And yours Is a pig With its back tooth Split open And Maybe my venom Is tasteless Like rose petals And yours Is a pig With its back foot Cut off It’s so Gutless “I’ll kill him” But it’s too late He fell of So maybe My venom Is a back tooth Split open And daddy Drives down the Middle of the Road But that cut On the dead snake Is not a tire track And the hole in my eye Is cold And transparent
Daisy by Jiaming Tang
t was a beautiful day in Sunset Park, one of the best the neighborhood had seen. It was warm and sunny, and there was a light, airy breeze every now and then—a gentle reminder that autumn was coming. I sat at my usual spot, on an old wooden bench at the top of the hill. The bench was shaded by an ancient ginkgo tree, and the golden leaves drifted down with the passing of the breeze. The leaves covered the grass around me, and it looked as if I was sitting atop a pile of gold. Children passed by sometimes, laughing and screaming, running and skipping. They were so young and delightful, those children. That day, one of them approached me. She was an elfish little girl of about nine or ten and her large, curved eyes were an elegant, faded blue. She had a petite, rounded face, and her soft, pink lips were framed by a brassy mane of hair which peeked out from behind her small, pointed ears. She was small, but she stood on the tips of her toes, so we were eye-to-eye. It was a peculiar interaction; she on her tippy toes and me slouched over on that dirty old bench. “Do you want to play?” She asked. Her voice was soft and delicate, like the beating of an angel’s wings. She stared at me as she waited for my response. Her eyes
were so sincere, so firm, so womanly. I sat up straight, pushing my chest out, and smiled at her. “Little girl, what is your name?” She considered this question for what seemed like a long time. She looked down at her feet, which I noticed to be quite bare. A thick layer
“My name? My name is Solomon. But I don’t like my name very much, so I let people call me whatever they want. What do you think my name should be, Daisy?”
of mud covered her toes, and her thin, bird-like legs were covered with scabs and bug bites. It was apparent she thought her legs rather ugly, because when she saw me looking, she became bashful and started pulling at her dress, trying to pull it down to her ankles. Her pulling caused the neckline of her dress to dip down, almost exposing her damp, underdeveloped chest. A small, split ginkgo leaf fluttered down from the tree. It twirled and pirouetted as it made it made its way towards the lush, emerald green grass. “Daisy,” she finally said with a hushed voice, like it was a secret. She looked back up at me with wide, timid eyes. “What’s your name, mister?” “My name? My name is Solomon. But I don’t like my name very much, so I let people call me whatever they want. What do you think my name should be, Daisy?” She seemed surprised by my question. She looked me up and down. She looked at my scuffed black shoes, worn-out after years of tirelessly walking up and down Wall Street. She eyed my black suit that was a little too big on the shoulders, and she snuck a glance at the ratty old belt that peeked out from under my stiff, off-white shirt. She gazed long and hard at my baseball cap, covering a thinning layer of white hairs, and then she looked back down at my shoes. “Aren’t you hot under all that clothes?” she asked. She was bolder now, after her inspection. Her soft, delicate voice took on a firmness that was not there before. I
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laughed. When she saw me laughing, she smiled. It was a warm smile, a beautiful one full of childlike earnestness. “A little bit. Do you think I should take off my jacket?” She ignored my question. “Do you want to play?” She asked again. She was growing restless. “What do you say we play, Daisy?” I asked. She looked down at her feet again. She wiggled her toes in the short, hair-like grass. And without warning, she took off. She ran down the sloping hill, out of the dark shade of the aged ginkgo tree. In the sun, her wild, brassy hair shone brilliantly. It drifted in the wind, swinging against the currents, and danced along with the breeze. Halfway down the hill, she stopped and looked back up. When she saw me, she laughed—a high, cheerful laugh that sounded like the whistling of birds. She beckoned for me to follow her. She cupped her hands around her mouth, as if to shout. “Come on, Sol!” Sol. It sounded so much better than Solomon, especially when she said it. Solomon was too severe of a name. My mother used to comfort me, telling me it was the name of an ancient biblical king. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her words only made me feel worse, as it made my name sound more rigid than ever. Sol was so melodic, so soothing to the ears. “Hurry up Sol! Come on! Come catch me!”
She ran further down the hill, and then she stopped. She began to dance, spinning around and around, laughing and giggling as she spun herself into a frenzy. She was starting to attract a small crowd of people. Frumpy women in modest dresses stopped in the middle of their scenic walks to gasp and whisper at each other. Stern looking men wearing neat tucked-in work shirts shook their heads disapprovingly. Fingers were pointed. Daisy didn’t seem to notice, and if she did, she didn’t seem to care. She was having fun. It was such an alluring sight: a girl, encapsulated by the magical qualities of childhood, oblivious to the cynicisms of adulthood, spinning and dancing and making a fool of herself. She didn’t see the pointed fingers, she didn’t hear the uncomfortable gasps, and she didn’t feel the disgusted looks directed at her. It was a magnificent display of naivety. The park was filled with the scent of flowers and damp, freshly manicured grass. “Let’s spin together, Sol!” She yelled at me between laughs and giggles. I smiled at myself. I had to admit, I was intrigued. I was always a shy, bookish child. I sheltered myself behind books, and when I used to attend school, I found myself focusing entirely on my schoolwork. I had few friends then, and the friends I did have only spent time with me during school hours. After school, they vanished to the park with dirty, older looking girls they could kiss and tell secrets to. I always went home, and I would get lost in the world of
“She was still spinning and laughing, and the white dandelion seeds swept around her, caught in her short dress and her brassy hair.”
literature. I lived in the cold mansion in Jane Eyre, shivering when I met the colder Mr. Rochester. I experienced the bright lights, I danced and jived, and I decayed with the beautifully damned in The Great Gatsby. Still, I longed for intimacy, for friendship. Because my contemporaries were always busy, I found myself playing with children. Unlike my peers, they never judged, never pushed me away, and soon I developed a fondness for the hapless little things. I would go to the park, sit on the wooden bench under the tree, and the children would run up to me, asking me to play. Those days were long gone but now, looking at Daisy—seeing her beautiful, guileless smile, hearing her rapturous laughter as she spun around and around— looking at her drew up memories of those fond, halcyon days. To my surprise, I found myself getting up to join her. I ran down the hill after my spirited companion, engulfed by the warm, radiant glow of the sun. Forced to squint, I looked about around me. The grass simmered, shining vividly against the light of the sun, and only now did I see the blossoming dandelions. I never understood why people disliked dandelions so much. They were beautiful as children—never failing to blossom into a golden lion’s mane and when they reached adulthood they were airborne, riding the wind, flying off to begin lives anew. The dandelions were plucked out of the ground by young children, who blew into them and giggled
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as the park was filled with a myriad of tiny suns. To the left of these children was Daisy. She was still spinning and laughing, and the white dandelion seeds swept around her, getting caught in her short dress and her brassy hair. She didn’t care, not one bit, and when she saw me approaching, she beamed. She took my hand (what a soft, dainty hand she had!) and looked at me with her alluring, faded blue eyes. “Let’s dance.” It wasn’t a suggestion this time. There was no doubt in Daisy’s mind that I was going to dance with her. With a firm grip on my hand, we both started spinning around and around; slowly at first, and then at dizzy speeds. Everything was a blur, everything except my adorable little Daisy. Her hair swung and shifted beautifully in the air, like a lioness hunting on a plain. Her eyes glistened like diamonds under the golden rays of the summer sun and her lips… Oh those lips! Even when she was laughing, Daisy’s lips were curved and pouted like Cupid’s bow, ready to fire into the greedy hearts of lonely men. I never wanted to lose sight of that face, so beautiful, so untouched. I saw nothing else while we were spinning. Everything else around me was a bright cloud of technicolor brilliance. It was ecstasy—pure ecstasy. All of a sudden, I heard a voice call out. “You let go of her right now!” It was a most unpleasant noise, like the guttural shrieks of some cursed banshee. It was construction work outside your home at
seven in the morning. It was uncut nails on the dustiest of chalkboards. The magical world I had created with Daisy shattered, and I let go of her hand to find the source of this horrific utterance (Daisy continued to dance, pulsing around with a childlike intensity). The noise came from a large, baggy looking woman in her middle years, and she stomped towards me with great strength. Like all women past the age of thirty, her face was a leathery mess of wrinkles and sunspots. Her lips were not pink and pouty, they were a dark, winecolored mess of dead skin. Above those unforgivable lips sat the faintest hint of a mustache. Her small, deep-set eyes were neither elegant, nor blue. Instead, they were a dull shade of brown that could only be compared to dung, and her nose was hooked in the front, like a witch’s. When she spoke, her face darkened and twisted downwards, resembling an old rag, and her inexcusable lips parted to reveal a giant set of adult teeth (Daisy’s teeth were so small, so immaculate!). I was horrified. Stunned into silence. I tried to escape as she marched towards me, but when she saw me backing away, her eyes grew wild and she picked up her speed. “Don’t you go away! Stay right there you pervert!” Pervert? Me? Was she talking to me? I looked around to see if there was anyone else she could be directing her words at, but I could find no such criminal. Instead, I found the same group of people staring
tightening her grip on me. “If you try to run away one more time I’m calling the cops. What were you trying to do with that little girl? You fucking pervert!” Stop calling me that. Stop calling me that. I am not a pervert. I took a deep breath and gathered my courage. I began to speak, but the voice that came out of my mouth was small and pathetic. “I didn’t mean any harm, miss. We were just play-“ “Playing? Just playing? Do you realize how old you are? How old she is?” My eyes moistened with tears. Why couldn’t I play with her? Did it really matter if she was a child? We were both happy in that moment. Why break it apart? When she saw my tears, she let go of my wrist. Her face relaxed, and she looked at me for a minute, trying to see if I had something else to say. When she saw that I was silent, she began to speak again. “I’m not going to call the cops. But I don’t want to see you touching that girl ever again. I live around here so I’ll be keeping my eye out for you.” I nodded slowly in response. She left, but the crowd of people remained. They continued to look me up and down with angry, accusatory eyes. Ignoring them, I walked back to the bench shielded by the big old tree, and I sat under the pouring rain of dying leaves. Groups of children ran by, hollering and screaming, but none of them were Daisy. I searched for
at Daisy before. They were whispering amongst themselves, shaking their heads, pointing their fingers at me. I felt my face going red and my hands and feet were sticky with sweat. Why were they staring at me? What was I doing wrong? I looked around for my fairy child, my Daisy, to reassure them that we were having fun, that I wasn’t hurting anyone, but she too, was nowhere to be seen. I looked back at the approaching woman, and I felt fear and disgust rising up in me like a sickness. She had caused this. This fiendish witch, this screeching gargoyle. I took to trembling when we were finally face-to-face. Never had I been so close to such an unpleasant a person before. If she was ugly from far away, she was absolutely monstrous from up-close. I tried to back away again, but she grabbed my wrist. “Coward! Don’t you dare try to run!” Her hands were so rough, so callous. The very act of her touching me sent another shiver up my spine. “How dare you touch her like that! I saw your eyes, those hungry, greedy eyes. What were you planning to do with her? Pervert!” There was that word again. Pervert. Why do people keep calling me that? I never hurt anybody. I wanted to shout at her, I wanted to scream, “No, you’re the pervert! Who are you to talk to me like this? You disgusting excuse for a woman!” But no words came out. I tried to shake her hands off my wrist, but this action only led to her
her, scanning the sloping hills, but she was nowhere to be seen. All I saw were empty patches of grass where the blooming dandelions used to be. After about an hour, I got up to leave. The sun was now covered by a thick blanket of clouds, and I pulled my suit jacket closer together so I wouldn’t feel the breeze. When I reached the edge of Sunset Park, I looked back behind me, expecting to see her dancing and spinning in a field of daisies. I expected to see that thick, brassy hair, soaring up against the wind. I wanted to hear her laughter, so warm and childlike. But she was gone. Would I ever get to see my darling Daisy again? italics mine “
N M ak a r ed is N s a oi L o se vl ” er
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
This piece actually began as an homage to Sunset Park, where I lived at one point in my life. I wanted to capture some of the scenery there and share it with someone for my own egotistical purposes. Unfortunately, my roommate at the time told me it was a horrible piece because it lacked plot, so I added a pervert. The pervert was inspired by one of my other roommates (I lived in a suite). He (my roommate) was not a pervert, but he was frankly very annoying. However, he didn’t see that he was being annoying. They are both people who seemingly have no place in our strict contemporary society. Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
I don’t really have a creative process; just a lot of rereading and rewriting. What excites you about the artistic process?
Is there a particular writer/artist you admire? Why?
Charles Dickens. Because he’s hilarious
I just like to write.
What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
I wear headphones when I write because some mediocre jerk is always outside strumming a guitar loudly somewhere.
Woolen Weather BY R ACHEL A N TONISON
Even through the shiver in my body I find it best to rest bewintered than burned; even after summer seeped from the sky I find more warmth in January despite the cold. This woolen weather tastes much better, feels so safe when there’s more ice than heat. If silver snow did glisten so italics mine
I’d still remain so close and snug; like sweaters filled and coffee’s steam,
hot cocoa and sweetened cream, I find you and warmth begins, and slowly, calmly, I unhinge.
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“I ate bad fri
Xuan Zh ang
The Contemporary Sound: a Discussion with Lydia Davis by Nonfiction Editors kukuwa ashun & edyn getz
italics mine 68 “Portrait of Lydia Davis”
Purchase College welcomed MacArthur Fellow Lydia Davis to campus on Thursday, September 24th. Before hosting a public reading and campus wide Q&A, Professor Okasi’s Editing & Production class had the opportunity to sit down and interview Davis. She answered questions about the intimate literary world, her writing process, and the role that sounds play in her work.
I. The Road to Publication During our interview, Davis explained how her community of fellow writers provided her with the resources to begin the publishing process. She discusses the intimacy of the literary world she belonged to and her road to publication below. Italics Mine: How has your publishing process worked? How did that all start for you? Davis: Well, you see, I had a very different mindset when I was an undergraduate. I didn’t really think about publishing. All I really thought about was: how do I learn to write as well as Samuel Beckett? I had very high [role] models and felt that it would be sort of like [being] a leather worker; how am I going to learn to make the finest thing? It seemed like a really long uphill trek and I didn’t have a plan. I sort of naively thought if you major in English, then that’s the thing you do to become a writer. Now I know that you don’t have to. You could major in biology and still become a writer.
II. On Translations Davis’s work as a translator has influenced the ways in which she analyzes language. Vocabulary in different languages—French, Latin, German—has helped her understand how important sentence structure is to a story.
The way it actually happened for me was that [my] publications first appeared in small press—and little magazines—that were run by friends, or friends of friends. There was a community of people interested in each other’s writing. So they published each other. I wasn’t ambitious to get an agent because I was also working as a translator. I already knew a lot of editors in bigger publishing houses. I think one of them eventually said, ‘I’d really like to try a book of your stories [and]—I think he was working at—Random House.’ I said okay, and he said ‘I’ll hook you up with this agent that I think is very good.’ He did both of those things. Random House rejected the book and eventually I rejected the agent. Before I did that, she found interest for the book from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I was rather passive about the whole thing. I was just working away at the writing. Actually, I wasn’t totally passive; I sent stories out to The New Yorker regularly. I remember that because I still have the polite letters that they sent back. They were very nice letters, but they didn’t publish any. It was smaller magazines. That was partly what I was interested in doing. It wasn’t going to get into the mainstream that easily. But that’s how that worked. It seemed to be good to have this community. That’s what happened with me.
She even noted that the translation of Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way” was a turning point in her career, saying that it “is one of the most important books of the twentieth century.” Davis recommended that we try translating some work from foreign languages that we already know because. “It’s actually a very good exercise for your own writing.” Italics Mine: Do you believe that your fiction has a cadence that is inf luenced by other languages because of your work in translation?
Davis: It’s hard to tell. I haven’t detected it, specifically. It does happen in translating, sometimes, that I actually want to keep a little of the cadence of the foreign language. I noticed this with the latest translations of a Swiss writer. I kept some of the German in that translation—not the sentence constructions—but the actual German words, because I liked the feeling of foreignness, as if someone German is narrating the story. There are just traces of the German in there. I like that a lot in this translation. I don’t detect it in my stories, but I grew up with parents who spoke pretty formal English so my English is pretty formal. I wouldn’t say the vocabulary is formal. It’s not, but it’s kind of neutral. I wouldn’t be likely to use a lot of slang. That’s more family influence than translation.
Italics Mine: When you’re writing, do you ever find yourself sometimes thinking in a different language? Davis: I don’t actually think in French, or another language, but often a single word will occur to me more quickly in a foreign language then in English. There are certain French words that I love; like chickpeas is les pois chiches. Isolated words will come and I like that. In May, I had a strange experience in Zurich, Switzerland. It was on a book tour for a German edition of one of my books, but the reason I agreed to do it was because I wanted to get better at my German. I ended up in Zurich, and went into a restaurant and my German got better. It was pretty good, for things like ordering food, but for some reason I began mixing up French and German. I was starting to order in German, then correcting the order in French, and so on. But the waitress didn’t turn a hair at this because it was Switzerland—they speak French, German and Italian. I didn’t even notice for a while [that I was switching between the two languages]. [The waitress] wasn’t noticing. She wasn’t reacting. As she went away, I realized that I could speak in the two languages at once. I really like that. Fairly often I hear people talking to each other in a mixture of English and Spanish. English phrases will be coming in, and out, in Spanish. And I’m sure that in the same way, people are not really aware of which they’re speaking. I love the idea that we could belong to a polyglot culture where we could all just mix up languages and whatever language was
most useful for that particular phrase would be the one used.
III. Sound and Voice Davis explained why she doesn’t read her work aloud during the editing process. This allows for her to concentrate more on the content rather than the outcome. She addresses the art of fine-tuning below. Davis: I hear everything in my head. I don’t read aloud. Italics Mine: Yeah! Reading your stories we’ve noticed that there is a distinct voice to your work. Can you describe how you refine this through the editing process?
Davis: Well, the first draft I write very, very quickly and I don’t really revise it as I go along. After that, I go through it again, and again, and again. I guess the process is always reading it from the beginning to the end and saying, “Is there anything?” Maybe, before that, I have a general sense. You come away from something you’ve written and you have almost a physical sense of it rather than an intellectual or mental sense of it. It’s really strong here and it’s weak there, or it’s too strong here, too colorful here, or very pale here. There is a physical sense that it needs work or it doesn’t.
Italics Mine: I wonder how that affects editing. In regards to your work, when do you feel like you have a finished piece?
Davis: My stories are very much based on sound as well as meaning. When I read anything, I hear it in my head. I once asked a class if they all did that. Did they all hear it in their head? Did they not? One woman mentioned that she really didn’t hear [stories] in her head at all. I sort of accepted that, but then I later thought: what’s the point of all the work we do with sound as writers? When the reader reads it, if they don’t want to hear the stories, or they just don’t hear them at all, they’re just reading to extract a sense from them. What about all the play of sounds? What happens to that? That’s a really interesting problem.
Cast BY A NDR E W YOON
cast! as buckets of light into space! to travel away through blackness, escaping every watchtick, to come shattering down into song as everybody holds their breath and listens : see all these rocks falling around a dustlamp laughing and dancing, spinning and melting – italics mine
see all this coffee spilled over cotton fluff – a pillow torn apart, a clothes iron pressed against wet carpet –
to where the here now through? alongways again here the why, here again, again – and leave – slashing – now, if. so many shapes in the dustlight fading – as postcards, as shoes, explanations and numbers: papersheets asking,
can’t we all just tell the truth for once?
so crash away to saturn, my love, the buckets have waited long enough
The Body Poem BY LOIS A F ENICHEL L
I. Last night J told me her body was falling apart. I didn’t know how to respond. I know bodies without bones too well but I don’t know how to talk about them. I don’t know how to parse away the skin from the bone of a pig when I’m standing in the middle of a cold barn, more naked than I was when I was born. II. but who fold me in half anyway, then fold me apart, then spit me out like I am the bitter taste of a dead dog.
I am naked with boys who I don’t know,
III. Keeseville, NY is upstate is a place for stained dresses and burnt milk and spoiled prayers, where I spent every summer in a body made for somebody smaller. I’m realizing now that I’m not small, everyday I’m the opposite of small, but these boys still look at me with frightening scrutiny, like I’m a goat who belongs in a bed, and if I’m not pet, not fed, I will give out. IV. Sun hangs across the sky like blood across my underwear. Yours or mine? From which part of the body?
A Short Interview with
What was the inspiration for this piece?
Would I be cheating if I were to respond by writing ‹life›? Can you discuss your creative process in crafting this piece?
It depends on which piece we’re talking here. I have a document that I’ve titled ‘dumping grounds’ and I do my best to force myself to write in this document everyday. Then I go through said document and see if I can glean anything from it. Sometimes it helps if I read a poem I really love, because then I end up feeling slightly competitive, i.e., I want to write a poem as good as this one, if not better. What excites you about the artistic process?
Oh man! Playing around with how words sound and how sentences are structured and with punctuation and capitalization and then taking this play and using it to evoke strong emotions, perhaps. Also, amplifying the imagination until it seems almost horrific. And what is subtly magical. ‘Magical realism.’ Is there a particular writer/artist you admire? Why?
Anne Carson! She’s so versatile. She has a poem called ‘Glass Essay’ and it is this long, meandering, achingly wonderful narrative poem and she has this novel-inverse called ‘Autobiography of Red’ that is much more subtly mythical than it is narrative and personal but both are full of images both subtle and so visceral that they ache. What is your most embarrassing habit as a writer?
I kind of want to ‘cheat’ again by saying: too many to list.
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Xu nti a n tle d Zh ” an g
Vera by Jiaming Tang
f we were to believe in the truthful qualities of history’s greatest artists, then human beings should be considered the most handsome of all God’s creations. We would all have deep-set eyes, straight, Grecian noses, and curly locks of silk for hair. We would have virtuous, dignified traits accompanying our strikingly sophisticated countenances, and bodies devoid of natural sin. Because of our tendency to romanticize the exceptional, these faultless attributes are often ascribed to some of the greatest heroes and heroines in the span of our natural human history. That said, I do not believe that only the best of our human race have been beautiful. Can it not be said that some of our greatest thinkers, our most humane kings and queens, had faces that were ruddy, and noses flat like a disk? Valiance is not synonymous with beauty, and the heroic qualities of even the most exceptional of humans can be attached to some of our most mundane subjects. Now, to demonstrate my point: please draw your attention to our heroine, a fleshy, virile girl named Vera sitting beneath a tree speckled with crimson autumn on the calmest of quiet evenings. She writes in a little notepad bound in leather, her wrists trembling with every empty curve at the tip of her pen.
“What’s that thing sitting beneath the tree?” “I don’t know. Looks like a walrus.” “Kevin, you’re kind of a piece of shit.” “What? It really looks like a walrus. I’m just telling it like it is.” Matt frowned, but not before a chuckle escaped his lips. He was standing with Kevin at the southern edge of Sunset Park, wedged between a hot dog stand and a creaking metal gate. Matt and Kevin weren’t boys of a
thought of an opportunity to experience the same joyful trivialities others are blessed with from birth. She craves nothing more than the idea of an escape from this life of featureless solitude and everyday, she hopes someone would come up to her, sitting and writing beneath that tree speckled with crimson, and free her from a solitary life marked by inertia. Today, liberty seemed especially close to her. She heard the genial whistle of laughter accompanied by the colorless rustle of rapidly approaching feet. Hidden words spilled out of crevices and leapt into the wind, scattering like dandelion seeds caught in a breeze. Untold jokes flowed out of brooks. Empty party invitations were extended from the thorns of a bush. Encapsulated by a noble hope and a chivalrous imagination, Vera began to smile; she felt her heart spiraling outward and seventeen years of solitude vanished within the span of a minute.
One discerns that she is in a state of great excitement: her cheeks are flushed with scarlet, her pale, unruly lips quiver, and her corpulent eyebrows are matted with sweat. Her mind roams, pulsing about violently with the comings and goings of a momentary breeze and, all of a sudden, her face lights up. She smiles and nods, her countenance expressive of an immense pleasure. Unfortunately, this is where the illusion ends. If someone were to creep up to our heroine and peek into her little notepad, they would find it blank—devoid of words and images to further stimulate our curious minds. Her writing was a facade—a futile attempt to draw the attention of affable passersby. But reader, I advise you not to think poorly of Vera. Do not let your disappointment dive into anger. She lives in a world separate from us. Ours is an active world, filled with transitory frivolities; of weekend romances and candlelit dinners by the riviera, of shopping trips to the city with clamorous friends and late night horror flicks with comically fretful roommates. We fear idleness like the plague, but idleness is all Vera knows. It constricts her, forcing her into an empty state of boredom known only to children imprisoned in dental reception rooms. She is restless—agitated to pain from the diurnal peals of gentle tranquility. She gasps for companionship, shaking from the
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particularly bad character—in fact, if you somehow obtained the testimonies of their friends, their parents, and their teachers, you would discover with mild surprise that they were friendly, generous, and well-liked individuals. However, even well-bred men must share in the human rationing of faults, and thusly, Matt and Kevin were plagued with a cruel habit of standing around and jeering reproachfully at strangers. Just last week, while they were loafing about in a Pizzeria on the western recesses of the Sunset Park neighborhood, they encountered with delight a thick-accented African woman eating a hero. She was minding her own business, munching on her sandwich with a routine, robotic regularity, when Kevin poked Matt lightly on the ribs. He was trying to contain his laughter; his brown eyes winking wildly at the poor oblivious woman. Suddenly, he gestured, perhaps a bit too boldly for Matt’s more delicate tastes, towards the woman’s hair, which was wrapped in a long, elaborate-looking bun. Collecting himself, he whispered, “That’s not a bun—that’s a hero!” And with that comment, Matt and Kevin bursted into a clamorous fit of laughter, like a dam unable to hold anymore water. Ironically, their voices were so jolly and pleasurable, their laughter so inviting, that the African woman, upon hearing the boys, began to smile to herself. On this particular day however, Matt and
Kevin were finding themselves plagued by the most peaceful of all our discomforts: boredom. They’ve been roaming along the outskirts of the park since early afternoon, unable to find anything to do. At around mid-day, they gleefully stumbled upon a crowd of stern looking men and women in what seemed like the apprehension of a pedophile, but no arrest was made and the pervert retired to a bench atop a hill. That was the peak of Matt and Kevin’s otherwise colorless day, until later that evening, when they encountered the walrus-like Vera, sitting beneath a tree. “She kinda looks like Rufus from Kim Possible too,” Matt remarked, searching his friend’s face for a hint of a laugh. “Stop! Shit, you’re right,” Kevin exclaimed, snickering between gasps. Matt nodded in the affirmative, obviously proud of the joke. “Hey Matt,” Kevin suddenly whispered, keeping his voice at a low, steady tremor. A cool wind grazed over Matt’s arm, sending a chill through his body. Kevin grinned. “I dare you to go up to her and ask for her number.” “No! What the fuck man, you do it. In fact,” here Matt produced an old, beatup leather wallet from his pocket. A bright-eyed Andrew Jackson peeked out curiously from a creased edge. “I’ll treat you to Japanese if you ask her.” Kevin’s eyes brightened. “You better keep your word for that one, Matt.”
The darkened outline of a tree set ablaze stood firmly against a transitory horizon. It stood, still and unmoving despite the pointed edges of a descending autumn gale. Up in the sky, gazing compassionately down at Sunset Park was the faint contour of a crescent moon, struggling to remain visible against the animated coral of a setting sun. In the foreground, one made out the long, slender form of a boy walking, his hands clawing restlessly in his shallow pockets, towards the fiery tree, beneath which our corpulent Vera rested. She trembled, gasping for liberty; liberty and freedom from this life of placid imprisonment. She was excited—she heard Matt and Kevin talking and looking at
her (though she didn’t hear their exact words), and laughed, her heart fluttering at the prospect of human companionship. Suddenly, as Kevin’s long slender shadow began to take on human features, she began to stretch out, like a flower slowly blossoming. She glanced up, her docile blue eyes meeting Kevin’s. For a brief moment, there was silence. Vera’s heart was too agitated to speak, and Kevin, in all his derisive confidence, simply didn’t know what to say. He noted mentally the complexities of teasing another person—even one as hideous as Vera—after making direct eye contact. How kindhearted, how soulful—how human those bovine eyes seemed! He began to shrink into himself, and was just about to abandon this fruitless business venture, when Vera cleared her gargantuan throat. What an unpleasant noise, he thought. He grimaced inwardly and looked behind him, back at Matt, who was sitting with his arms wrapped around his body on a short, cadaverous bench. Vera cleared her throat again—evidently, there was a glob of phlegm lodged deep within her immense neck—and with a slow, sloth-like rub of the chest, began to speak. “It’s a beautiful evening isn’t it?” Kevin started. He looked around, back at Vera’s red, bloated visage with surprise. There was a warm, robust quality to her voice, like an unyielding streak of summer in the merciless throes of autumn. Kevin, startled by his own inability to speak, began
Kevin started walking towards our heroine, taking confident, magnanimous strides. From the vantage point of any viewer, let alone Vera, his countenance and gait were expressive of the greatest human intention. There was a warmth to the brown in his eyes, a benevolence to his dimpled cheeks, and an inviting charm to his smile; he was truly a wolf in a sheep’s skin! As he got closer to Vera, Matt began to shout childish obscenities at him through cupped hands. A sharp gust of wind descended upon him, and feeling yet another malicious chill through his body—this time it rose the golden hairs on his goosebumped flesh—Matt wrapped his arms around his body and stood, watching, in agitated leisure.
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to stammer. “Y-yeah, it’s very nice today.” “Look at how pretty the trees are!” Vera continued. “It’s like every color from the rainbow escaped from of one of those children’s books and leapt up into the sky. See those leaves—see how they turn from green, to yellow, to orange, to red,” she gestured up towards the sky, “and look at the sunset! The dark violets, the soft blues, the crimson coral—how magnificent!” “Yeah—I guess it is,” Kevin replied, blushing. “And ah!” She thrusted a pale, shapeless arm into a desultory breeze, “This autumn air—doesn’t it remind you of our childhood?” Kevin nodded, pointing his face at the ground. “ I remember when I was a little girl growing up in Milwaukee,” Vera continued, driven to speak from an unplanned eloquence. “There were days my mother couldn’t walk me home from school and I’d take it upon myself to explore. I was so happy then! On one occasion, as I hopped like a bird along a stone path through a bubbling brook, I saw through the misty woods the faint contour of a baby dear. And when I arrived home I told mother and grandmother all about it (unfortunately, they didn’t share in my excitement) and to this day—” Vera paused and made a shameful face. “Oh sorry I’ve been talking so much; I don’t even know your name. I’m Vera.” Kevin raised his head absentmindedly.
He had been staring listlessly at a pair of little brown ants criss-crossing through a short clump of grass. Tired of this portly whale and her dull, overly articulate speech, he made a motion as if he had to leave. He was careful not to seem too disinterested however (lest he bruise her spirit and cause unnecessary hurt), and smiled. “My name is uh,” he looked back at his friend. “My name is Matt Bryson. Two t’s.” “Hi Matt with two t’s, very nice to meet you. Ha—” “Sorry I actually have to go,” Kevin said. “I have pretty strict parents and they’re expecting me before sundown.” “Oh. Then you better hurry it up then,” Vera replied. “It was nice meeting you Matt. I really do hope we’ll see each other again.” “Good-bye.” Kevin walked away, his gait more hurried than usual. Even through the descending darkness, one could make out the hint of a thin, mischievous smile on his face. “Matt’s gonna be so fucking pissed when he finds out I gave the whale his name.” Vera was never quite aware that her conversation was received coldly, for she lacked the foresight to shift her point of view beyond the limits of companionable human discourse. She was oblivious to the impression she produced on Kevin (whom she knew as “Matt with two t’s”); unaware that he had gone away that evening to laugh
would he treat me as if I were a stranger? First impressions are strong and, in some cases, everlasting. Vera had, in her good nature, given Kevin the most heroic of all our natural human qualities. He was forever molded in her mind as Matt, cast in the most magnificent metals of grace and humanity. Though he was undeserving of her idolization, she had given him her worship and to this worship, she was faithful, even to the very ends of that idle autumn. italics mine 81
at her unusual manner of speech. “The whale sounded like she was 78,” Kevin had said, a block away from the park with Matt. Vera didn’t have the advantage of an objective narrative. She had seen Kevin for all he was worth in that brief, one minute of interaction; a kindhearted, abstracted boy with a pleasant dimpled face and long, gangly legs. She didn’t care to form what you and I would call an “informed opinion.” She was gifted the kindness of an attentive stranger and that was all she wished for. The next day, Vera made sure to park herself beneath the same tree. Above her, floating in the autumn air, was the melodic whistle of a distant summer bird. Momentarily jolted from the monotonous cycle of idleness, she no longer felt it necessary to keep up her blank, facetious “writing.” She sat there, timidly searching the park with an expectant smile resting atop her fleshy lips, but Kevin never came. She waited for hours. Much later that night, as the crowning summer moths danced conclusively around the artificial flame of a park lamp, Vera looked up and saw what appeared to be her interested listener from the evening before. But as she got up and walked towards his long, boyish form, she stopped. Though they made eye-contact, the shadowy boy looked away. He hastened up his gait and exited the park speedily. That can’t be him, Vera thought. Why
St epha nie La
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Tonight is the first time that you will ever experience
BY ST EPH A NIE LOU ISE OPPER
a limited number of hours – this thought swishes around in your mouth as you imprint the curves and rigid paths of the numbers on the black-and-white wall-clock into your subconscious. Moving your eyes, you listen to rustling leaves whose shadows dance across your kitchen (you want to call it cyan colored, but you know it’s darker than that) and thank their efforts to entice your senses – perhaps colors will always be colors.
guarded behind fragile glass and wonder: Is the past subject to change? Inside the room, you climb into your kemp, untouched bed and watch as salty, blurry raindrops fall onto a red pillow that matches the red bedspread and it takes you some time before you realize that as time is swirling to a close, he is waiting in the doorframe – waiting for time, waiting for you, waiting for your darkness.
forcing you to pass by the developed memories
Your feet take you to the bedroom,
Grandfather’s Socks BY MIC A H H AV R IL I A K
He’s a black sheep conformist drinking stagnant water and dead flies Simply a sheep in wolfs clothes attempting to stray from the flock. His sustenance is acquired by the means of trust The trust gained in Greenwich originating from gilded cribs He prays day after day to his golden God Morrissey only to be left with Pockets full of green and Skulls full of sand italics mine 84
The Life and Death of Agnes Cunningham By Megan Byron
e were gathering in remembrance of my late grandmother, Agnes Cunningham, on May 30, 2015. Anonymous members of her family came to mourn her life in stiff nylons. She wouldn’t have wanted it this way. We received the call about her overdose a week prior. Trying to write up the events that led to the end of her life in a proper eulogy was a difficult responsibility given to me. What I came across wasn’t something we wanted to admit at her funeral. Grandmother explored her adventurous side more frequently in her last year. We mostly tried to pin it on grandfather’s death two years earlier, but what flicked on in her head to make her ride that year like a motorcycle on an empty highway was never revealed. She experimented with whatever the kids of my generation planted in their bodies. When she first came to me asking for a hit of marijuana, I said I neither smoked nor drank. She told me I should stop being a prude and live a little. Luckily, one of my cousins knew someone who knew someone, and that’s when it all began. Agnes Cunningham refused to decompose in a retirement
“A gnes Cunningham refused to decompose in a retirement village.” italics mine 86
village. She made friends who let her crash on their couches, because she baked these young friends gooey pot cookies. She didn’t call us much after that, but if we needed her for anything, we could just follow her on Instagram. Pictures of my grandmother in strangers’ bathroom mirrors, wearing a shirt that read YOLO, and pouting her red-lined lips received a generous amount of “likes.” When these new friends were also in the pictures, the caption underneath read, #Hangin’witmyhomies. She started to meet men her age whose significant others had also died years before. Her Instagram told all. One filtered photo captured her hand being kissed by an elderly African-American man; the caption read: #blackboyz. In
another, she had her mouth over the stem of a large blown-glass bong in such a way that it looked like she was performing oral sex on it. Not once did she introduce us to any of her beaus. My grandmother was too busy with her social life to care about her family life, especially since she started to attend raves with some girl named Mary Jane. When I told my cousin this, she laughed at me. As varied as my grandmother’s new life was, her sex life was one thing I wish she had kept to herself. One night, my mother finally convinced her to come to dinner with us at Ruby Tuesday’s, but she wasn’t allowed to bring any of her weekly squeezes with her. My grandmother protested this, but eventually caved. She kept busy tweeting pictures of her salad until my mother asked her what was new. “What’s new is this guy I’m seeing, Maddie. He’s the shit, really. Got this dick like an elephant’s trunk.” My father’s salad escaped his mouth with every heaving laugh. My mother stared at her mother with an open-mouthed smile, but her eyes looked like they were about to be coughed from her head. That was a month before she died. We received most of the story of how it happened from her friends, but what parts were edited out is a mystery. The story that seemed to repeat itself went something like this: there was a party at the local university’s fraternity,
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my grandmother heard about this and attacked the opportunity like a leech to a leg. According to a coed, she took two fivedollar bills (most likely from her social security check), rolled them up, stuffed them into her nostrils, and inhaled two thick lines of clumpy cocaine. The next part of the story was told in a hazy, sort of rolled-over way, but the best I can come up with was that mass intercourse took place shortly after. Nothing was definite, and the autopsy showed no signs of alien DNA anywhere in or outside of her body, but knowing my grandmother, she probably used a condom. After crashing at the frat, and multiple attempts to wake her up, Agnes Cunningham, wife, mother, and Omaha resident, was pronounced dead at the scene on May 23, 2015. Soon the anonymous faces pouring into the funeral parlor started to decrease in wrinkles. As grandmother’s casket was lowered into the ground, those wrinklefree faces shouted, hollered, and cried out; throwing flowers and her renowned YOLO tee shirt into her grave. I guess she lived her mantra: YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE.
“The Annunciation (St.Garf)”
Untitled BY M A R I A VA L L E
Iâ€™m glad the cigarette broke before it reached my lips, and instead took on the life of an Aztec beggar who sings songs of the drug lord only he is afraid of. I keep trying to shake his hand, tell him everything is going to be okay But he keeps insisting that they sacrificed his head when he was 5 years old, wrapped it up in tinfoil, placed melon seeds inside, and gave it to him as a toy as if he will never notice that his head is missing. Then he said that when he left home the only thing that followed him was the goat they ate the night before,
around the fireplace, now begging him to take him away,
but he had enough last night, no more room for horned dummies. And then I thought of how I hadnâ€™t had goat for dinner since my 8th grade graduation party, how I was always forced to eat it with my mouth already stuffed with cilantro and sour lemon juice, never liking the taste of the not-so-easily killed, how my aunt forced her husband to kill a baby goat that called out for his mother in order to prove that he was a man, of how I had to get used to the taste of a broken cigarette who got his head chopped off, when he was 5 years old.
Mineritos BY ER IK G OET Z
The Subaru rattles through the glens of Hamilton County. Two skyward gazing hearts on an intravenous drip of cloudy amber savoring in silence the sting of a warm, Methanogenic wind. The morning breath of a puffy, hungover summer. I hope you won’t complain. You hope I won’t complain. We can’t un-see the fire-suppression ponds stocked with dozens of doomed Bluegill Our thoughts turn to matters anti-materialist while our words turn to syrupy jinxes of the future. Needlepoint aphorisms hung on sheetrock made from gypsum mined by nine year old Bolivians. Roads aren’t supposed to bend this way. I’m more than a little lost in this. On the wispy gold welcome mat before the mammoth iron gates. To wipe one’s feet on the last and least forgettable dream or track dirt all over the could-yet-be?
caught and released until their eyes fall out.
The windows stay down.
You really can’t win and you really can’t give up. The more we tell ourselves, the less we want to know, so we tell other people, and they tell us we’re idiots, which is a nice thing to know. A Subaru rattles through the dales of Hamilton County. Two skyward gazing hearts on an intravenous drip of cloudy amber. Two hands baptizing each other in sweat. An artichoke sprouting in full bloom from a mouthful of dirt.
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“Por trait of
C ou rt ne y Dam” niel le
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italics mine 92 “The Kiss”
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Sa ra h K ri tz
italics mine 94 “Range of M
M ar is sa Lovl
Contributors’ Notes Rachel Antonison wrote the poem entitled Woolen Weather because “Sweater Weather” was already taken. Ian(middle name: Douglas) Byrne is a Painting & Drawing major whose works are tailor-made to make himself giggle. With narratives and non-sequiturs, he explores the cruel agony of a comfortable life. After school he will end. Zach Brida is a current Purchase College Student.
Bridget R. Dease was born and raised in Washington DC. She became serious about writing in high school when she attended a prestigious arts school in DC called The Duke Ellington School of the Arts. At Purchase College, Bridget has gone insane. She is currently a junior and has decided to double major in Creative Writing and Anthropology as well as double minor in Playwriting and History. The library is her soul mate. Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are two of her favorite authors. A little advice if you find yourself a little down: Never doubt yourself; you’re amazing. Courtney Danielle is a senior Graphic Design major at Purchase. She is a designer, illustrator, artist and a novice ukulele player. Her works featured in this issue are from her Portrade project: a series of abstract digital paintings inspired by selfies. Loisa Fenichell is just trying to write & maybe also cry a little. She likes walking her dog & rewatching movies. She loves ampersands & uses them a lot & often forgets to capitalize words. She doesn’t know what else to say so she’ll end by saying this: go forth & read Anne Carson’s ‘Autobiography of Red’ & then come back & talk to her about it! Jonathan Hernandez is a Creative Writing major. Before studying writing at Purchase he worked as an IT tech at a school for special needs children. He eventually decided to pursue his
Kayla Dale is a sophomore double-majoring in Literature and Creative Writing. She gets most of her inspiration from her hometown, drawing story material from the photographs she takes in the rustic atmosphere.
Megan Byron is a Creative Writing major, and a junior, at SUNY Purchase. Born in Queens, NY, she discovered her talent for writing during her high school years in Suffolk County, Long Island. Before coming to Purchase, she was the Editor-in-Chief of her previous college’s literary magazine, Evolution. With author George Saunders as her main inspiration, her preferred genre of choice to write in is dark humor. In her spare time, she likes to draw, and enjoys playing World of Warcraft.
dreams as a writer and is working on his first novel which, if published, would be his first professional sale. Erik Goetz transferred this fall to Purchase College from SUNY Broome. He is a third year Creative Writing major. Erik is also an illustrator and the host of Pogo Pogo, a comedy and music show airing Sundays at 10PM on WPSR. Micah Havriliak is currently a sophomore attending Purchase College studying Theater and Performance. He is passionate about music, poetry and anything that helps to creatively express oneself. Some of his favorite writers/musicians are Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain and John Steinbeck. Micah plans on continuing writing in hopes of connecting with others and encouraging their creativity. Gillian Lynn Katz was born in South Africa and immigrated to the United States as a teenager. She has a BA in Literature from Purchase College, and a MA in Writing from Manhattanville College. Her poetry book Kaleidoscope was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her poems have appeared in Inkwell, The Westchester Review, and Epiphany. Sarah Kritz is a Cinema Studies major/Visual Arts minor from New Jersey who enjoys doodling while watching The Office and spending all her free time dancing. As of late she is super pumped to study abroad in Rome next semester with Gregory Peck.Shout out to Italics Mine for promoting awesome art across all media. italics mine
Jake Lam is a Senior majoring in Creative Writing. He enjoys realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, the company of dogs and good music.
Stephanie Landi is a graphic design major at Purchase and enjoys illustrating the strange and unusual. She hopes to continue making art and designs for her career. She also enjoys other types of arts such as music and circus skills. Margaret Lavin is an oatmeal enthusiast, fat camp survivor and is impatiently waiting to be as old and wrinkled as possible. Milai Liang combines Chinese traditional paper cut out with realistic drawing. The contrast of color and texture is designed to work harmoniously with the object. This way of making art shows her personal awareness of being an artist who is influenced by both the western and the eastern cultures. Marissa Lovler is a senior in the Graphic Design program, graduating this coming December, 2015. She has a passion for printmaking, book binding, and fine arts. She hopes to continue creating in the years after college, as well as refine her knowledge of resin casting and all of its possibilities. Keara Martin tracks personal growth, or decay, through time based medium. Her work does not seek to resolve, but to present fluidity in states of processing. Dissonance is depicted in not only subject spoken, but in elements embodying, as two parts of a whole relentless lean back and forth into one another. Hard Candy is one of an ongoing series that will ultimately constitute Keara’s senior project as a sculpture major. Chelsea Muscat has been photographing and filming her beautiful home island in the
Mediterranean ever since she went back with a camera in 2012. Her passion and fascination for the sea and her home will never end. Dennis Moore is a Graphic Design Senior at Purchase. He enjoys exploring work which combines the language of geometric graphic elements juxtaposed against fluid images. He’s interested in time based media and is looking to be involved in working with a motion graphics firm post graduation. Michael Neamonitakis was born in 1995 on Long Island, NY. He received his A.S. Degree in Photography at Nassau Community College and is currently working to receive his B.F.A. here at Purchase. He is a freelance artist who mostly concentrates in the field of Photography Stephanie Louise Opper is currently in her final year at Purchase College. She majors in Creative Writing and Theatre & Performance and minors in Mathematics, Gender Studies, and Literature. Stephanie Louise is also the Managing Director of Red Theater Purchase, the fourth collective of the Red Theater theatre company. She is aware that she does a lot, but it makes her happy. Carpe diem, right? Rosa Sugarman is majoring in Creative Writing, Hair Dying, Chasing Raccoons, and Moody Walks in the Forest. She’s a failed vegan, and your good friend. Xoxo
Andrew Yoon is a composer, pianist and writer currently studying composition under Laura Kaminsky. His recent projects explore the boundary between music and poetry and use crude homemade computer programs to perform chance operations in the creative process. Xuan Z hang is a senior Painting and Drawing major at Purchase College. Her work incorporates narrative elements with aesthetically beautiful imagery. These serene images are gilded, as they carry with them the subtle edge of cruelty that is inseparable from human nature.
Maria Valle is currently a freshman Creative Writing major at Purchase College. She has been writing poetry since she started high school and is constantly looking for new ways to expand her writing. Maria attended New Design High School in New York, where she spent most of her time attending poetry workshops. Her interests, save writing, include music, art and activism work.
Jiaming Tang, 18, is a sophomore literature major at Purchase College. He was born in Fujian, China, but currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. He has no social media to speak of.
ISSUE 13.1 R ACHEL ANTONISON / Z ACH BRIDA / IAN BYRNE / MEGAN BYRON / K AYL A DALE / BRIDGET R. DE ASE / COURTNEY DANIELLE / LOISA FENICHELL / JONATHAN HERNANDEZ / ERIK GOETZ / MICAH HAVRILIAK / GILLIAN LYNN K ATZ / SAR AH KRITZ / JAKE L AM / STEPHANIE L ANDI / MARGARET L AVIN / MIL AI LIANG / MARISSA LOVLER / KE AR A MARTIN / CHELSE A MUSCAT DENNIS MOORE / MICHAEL NE AMONITAKIS / STEPHANIE LOUISE OPPER / ROSA SUGARMAN / JIAMING TANG / MARIA VALLE / ANDREW YOON / XUAN ZHANG