Unspoken - No. III (Fall 2019)

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letters from the team what does poetry mean to you?

Ruby Zheng Illustrator

Meena Alnajar

Abeer Ahmad



"I am the words I carefully select, the voice I loudly project and the thoughts I no longer hide. These parts of me are gifted to me by poetry."

"In poetry, I have woven stories of the past and dreams of the future. Hidden somewhere along honeyed stanzas and words, I have found myself."

Julianna Marr Illustrator "It’s catharsis. It’s connecting with other mangled up beautiful souls like your own. It brings people together in the most marvellous way—it brings you this lovely book!"

Maham Afzaal Illustrator "Poetry, in its essence, is something that has the ability to invoke emotion. That warm feeling you get in your belly when you read something, that to me, is poetry."

Emily He Illustrator "To me, poetry is a way of expressing how I feel not only when life is wonderful, but also when things get challenging. There’s something so beautiful in creating written art in the midst of overwhelming emotions."

Yvonne Syed Promotions Co-Lead "Poetry is my entire heart, a form of therapy and words to change the world altogether. It’s whatever I want it to be. Whatever I need it to be."

"Poetry to me is an expression, a quick glimpse into the mind of the writer."

Amit Nehru Financial Lead "Because words carry so much weight, both independently and in the context of the ideas they convey - I [often] turn to poetry: the art of choosing words. To engage audiences in both what I am trying to say and also the medium of communication."

Karen Chan Promotions Co-Lead "For me, poetry is like discovering another layer of my own thoughts as well as other poets."

Kriti Manuja Logistics Lead "Poetry is basically free therapy. No other medium is able to get my thoughts out better."

self-doubt herstory a painful competition i learned to drown myself questions i ask as i stare at the ceiling for distance the knocking something more diamonds you take me back butterflies the muslim next door

Zarah N Khan Sanya Grover Isabella Papalia Rochelle Rosales Gillian Maltz Matthew Aksamit Jennifer Zhu Yvonne Syed Cathy Nassralla L.A. Star Abeer Ahmad

self-discovery eternity was when i was five learning to write untitled 4:15 AM 7.53 billion people my summer haven ammi beginning, middle, end

Lisa Seun Orenuga Julia Cara Azhar Chowdhury Sabouny J. Marr Sobia Gaek Teng

self-acceptance the wildflower untitled, i guess sapling, i am self the journey E. self-love in all its forms generation cocooned by darkness demons alive with joy why i'm at pride sunflower place your bets its time

S. Lee Matty Flader Labiqah Iftikhar Shelley Rottenberg Anon Cassiana Giardini Zainib Nazir Andrea Borges Fareeda Baruwa Brian Osei-Boateng Jessica Aranyus Kriti h.m. Meena Alnajar Haley Prest

part one


here lie fragments stories torn, broken, shattered their faces cracked their edges sharp careful they cut

herstory Zarah N Khan

a painful competition Sanya Grover

our pain is two tacky outfits discovered before date night time to start comparing, it has to hug you just right! who hurts more – you or me? here is a battle that can’t be beat. our pain is two burning stars trashed onto the sorrow sky find the one that glares brighter pick quick – bull’s eye! who hurts more – you or me? here is a battle that can’t be beat. our pain is two matches laying shrewdly on the countertop check which one is stronger the house ignites, crackle and pop! who hurts more – you or me? here is a battle that can’t be beat. our pain is our pain yours is yours, mine is mine. this battle of comparison, dear friend, is not benign.

i learned to drown myself Isabella Papalia

I thought that if I took your outstretched hand I'd hold it too tight And that the hand, your hand, that was the saver's hand to the drowning girl, would become the hand that holds me under water The dark stormy water that I have been pushed into too many times before The water that has taught me to wear bulletproof, lead life-jackets and a scuba mask that suffocates The water that has taught me to swim away from the outstretched hand To push away from help The water that has tricked me into thinking that I can swim forever To drown myself rather than let others drown me And so, when I pulled away from you, I tried to swim And swim And just keep afloat And with one last breath I'm trying not to drown But all I should have done was take your hand Because as you left, I saw you heading for dry land, for home And now I'm sinking in this storm And soon I'll rest on the river-bed that I have made for myself

questions i ask as i stare at the ceiling Rochelle Rosales who are you when the lights are out? when the streetlights come on and faint stars peek out from the smog sky – who are you when nobody’s watching? all there is in your room is the tick of the clock the empty mirror. are you your reflection? your dim-lit face the features sit unmoving no smiling when the blinds are closed, no smiling when the room is cold. you’re a shiver, you’re a whisper, you’re only thoughts. do you hear yourself? do you know how your own voice sounds, even when there’s no timbre? is this solace, is this solitude, or are you drifting, yet again? where have you gone?

for distance Gillian Maltz You put your red plastic-rimmed glasses on the bedside table. You would always take them off before, we, you know. I don’t need to tell you. “Are they for distance or for up-close?” I asked. I should have known the answer. The answer was in the way you kissed me in front of the stop sign on the corner by my house. Too much tongue. The answer was in the three days of silence. Three days of me tearing at the fabric of our conversations, looking for loose threads. The answer was in the way you put your hands in my hair, golden brown palms leeching on to my skull, sucking on what used to be me. What used to be bouncy and bright and spoke with a furrowed brow, Now sealed like an envelope, waiting for you to open me. To like what you find inside. “Both,” you responded. Close and far away, near and miles gone. Mop of black curls that never looked back when you left me at my front door, Still unopened. You can’t see what you’ve done.

Sometimes I can feel my heart beating in my ears.

the knocking Matthew Aksamit

Stop, I tell it. Not all of us have a shield to protect us from the injustices of life. Most of us lie exposed and abused but you have shelter. You are correct, my heart whispers back. But neglect the fact that ribs are still cages.

something more Jennifer Zhu

I am awake when I am not concerned with seeming like more than I am when I feel no need to prove to others and myself that I am worth getting to know, that I am lovable without pretending to be an image of someone who already is I've seen others who know who they are, you can see a certain peace that lives inside them, they can capitalize their steadfastness to be fulfilled as they are Somewhere inside me away from the need to seem wonderful or good away from feeling that I need to be consistently polite and loud exists a truth of what I want, who I am, and who I can be a person who cares and honors and appreciates what is missing? why do I feel empty? what do I need to do, need to change, need to be in order to become someone who is fulfilled? I am yearning for a vague sense of something more

You are a diamond pining after pebbles Mesmerized by their smooth surface Unaware of how beautifully your own jagged edges glisten How quick you are to underestimate your worth It’s as if the clouds have cast a shadow of doubt upon you But you were born to shine in the light.

diamonds Yvonne Syed

You take me back To where I don’t want to be And you show me every flaw and insecurity Every wrong word Every wrong decision When you take me back, I see them all with alarming precision

you take me back Cathy Nassralla

And we play them out over and over again Every wrong text Every stumble and wrong step With each viewing I crawl further away Away from where I do not want to stay You steal my new moments Those just newly born Those innocent moments, that need nurturing some more To bring me those that I mishandled before And dropped on their heads Now mangled and deformed I want to be here I want to stay To feel like I am good enough to deserve a new day That I’ll be a perfect tenant of the present I can’t know for certain But I can’t afford rent in the past I can no longer shoulder that burden

butterflies L.A. Star

It’s a cloudy day I just can’t stay at home; I don’t want to be alone Even though I’m alone right now, watching people go by ...does anyone notice me? ...will anyone save me from myself? …why am I the person I am? Really, I am not alone, though I sit with no one Just being surrounded by people is enough …Why am I here? I don’t know, but I know that I’m not doing nothing I’m deciding to sit here and open the door Daring to let the butterflies fly out of the cage Splashing paint across the skies of my mind With rainbow wings, all my thoughts float on clouds I might never know where my paint drops But this one sentence, or maybe the next one Might change someone’s tomorrow My freed butterflies, they may inspire you Or at least make you realize that insanity is hidden In the most unlikely of places This is a piece of advice from a master For I have mastered the art of making insanity seem normal Why am I the person I am? That is a question for another day…

the first time i was told i did not belong i was ten followed by a car full of ‘go home’ ‘go home' ‘go home’ but not to the home i had foundon this soil home. miles away in war torn beaten bruised like this heart when it had heard it did not belong

the muslim next door Abeer Ahmad

part two


eternity was when i was five Lisa

When I was younger, I had a strange fascination with power lines. I'd follow their path for hours, and gnaw at the rubber until those sparks set me on fire - because the lines never stopped, you see? They went on and on Forever, and I thought that maybe I could too.

learning to write Seun Orenuga

I think I feel I write I am thoughtful I am expressive I am vulnerable I am learning nouns, pronouns, simile I am learning the magic of hyperbole I am learning to evoke emotion I am learning to put my thoughts into motion I am learning to think critical I am learning to think liberal I am learning to think visceral I am learning to use writing to reflect and unwind I am learning to think of the pen as an extension of my mind.

i want to turn back time and take it back take it back take back all the pieces i let you hold take back all the times i let you in take back all the risks everything i put on the line take back my heart but i can’t so i’m rebuilding my walls and guarding my heart guarding my heart from you from your eyes, your hands from my body that aches to be held i’m building walls high enough to contain the words that spill out of my mouth desperate to be heard i’m guarding my heart from myself and letting time heal

untitled Julia Cara

4:15 AM Azhar Chowdhury

I am comforting and joyous lavender Split apart by electric blues and scarlet reds I am the color that darkens to the light of heart Concurring colour coalescence shifted apart The disjunction I had grasped had me bewildered Calm coruscation met raging fulgors, A show of sparks and fireworks until the gunpowder could not convulse anymore Unlike anything before, a completely broken core Reminiscent of the times I had radiated radically The surrealistic roots placed in me bloomed Trembling, outreached, you broke my columns And the coals that had kept the blood boiling Died along with the illumination you had once held Inevitably, we faded once more into the grey and monochrome.

7.53 billion people on this exotic planet of ours And you chose that person That human right there, in the corner To spend the rest of your life with To share your past, present and future with To sacrifice and commit

7.53 billion people Sabouny

10 other people in the room And you fell in love with that smile When you could’ve fallen for anyone else's Or kept your parachute on Long distance and time difference You’re chasing your dream, and so is she But love has no boundaries Love travels You loved her against reason, against hope, and against all discouragement there could be And then a miracle happened Because so did she Two out of 7.53 billion hearts on this exotic planet of ours You picked that heart, And that heart picked yours Unlike black holes and the string theory, Love is no discovery, Love is no invention Love is observed, Love is powerful And love defies any set of dimensions 7.53 billion hearts on this exotic planet of ours minus 2 You chose that person, That human right there, in the corner And she chose you

my summer haven J. Marr

Trails along the beach, sand between my feet. No better feeling in the world. The sun is setting, there's no way I'm regretting the wonderful moments I've had here. Silhouettes of you and me picking up beach glass. Life is good, I say to myself. Life is good. These beautiful moments in time. Time. It is infinite, yet we never seem to have enough of it. But here, time never seems to be an issue. Mornings are timeless, evenings are everlasting. The slow crackling of the fire makes my eyes slowly flutter, that warm feeling of peace filling up my soul, making me feel at home. This place is home. Home. Home is a place with happiness, freedom, family, and good food. BBQs every night, lemonade everyday. How could you spend your time any other way? I love this place, I do; I love the sunshine of yellow and skies of blue. It might just be the happiest place on Earth. Earth. I love everything in it; the ground, the sky and everything in between. It's overwhelming, there is so much to be seen.

ammi Sometimes, its like my Ammi Loves her plants More than she loves her children That is to say she treats her plants like children She rises with the sun on hot summer days feeds them love and water then pulls out weeds from this garden She does this every summer while knowing winter is inevitable I don't understand how she pours herself Into this soil When in just 3 months It will be too cold for anything to grow I wonder If she's searching for the roots that lead back home In this Canadian soil That does not take to her favourite flowers This soil That cannot produce the sweetest fruits Pakistan is a world's away But she still tries to plant culture in our veins Feeding us her mother tongue That never fits quite right in our unaccented mouths She never wanted us to be ashamed of this soil skin Because she understands Without dirt nothing grows My Ammi is a gardner Who only ever gives To this family I hope She looks at her children And knows She is home.


beginning, middle, end The beginning The sun shone her eyes shut. I swear I could study her face forever. I worshipped every longing look, curve of her hips, every wistful sigh. I felt her love like we can feel the wind. Softly, and sometimes harshly. The middle She liked to keep me in her paintings, her poems, in her artistry. We were a painting unseen. A poem unread. Unknown masterpiece. I grew tired of belonging to her and not enough to myself. The end Clear as crystal and just as sharp, she loved feeling my love, but not me. I can’t find her in my dreams. The smell the look the texture of her. Gone. I don’t look for her anymore. She chips away slowly, piece by piece.

Gaek Teng

part three


the wildflower S. Lee

The cage that once moulded her, finally broke. She could taste the sweetness in her newfound freedom. Unguarded and true, she became Blooming within the cracks of what held her captive before. Beautiful is she, under the moonlight. Realising that all she needed was herself. Fuck the world, and fuck love. She is enough.

we live in a time/ where blood is thicker than paint/ but your earlobe finds peace/ between these yellow teeth/ i’m your san francisco/ i’m his san francisco

untitled, i guess Matty Flader

I am a Sapling, nestled in the haven of earth. It takes effort to embody roots and push through rock underneath to ground myself. But I need to survive, so I reach and stretch and grow deeper; thirsty and starved. Soft and fragile and green my thin stem protrudes peeking out at the wide world. Seen as a thing to be tread upon for I am young. Winter carries weather unknown to my being in the seed. A capsule now degraded, I cannot retreat. March forward, Sapling. But when I am embraced by the warmth of that star so high and feel the coolness of drops of dew, I gain strength and reach up. My arms held out and moving towards that beautiful blue canopy. Some days, tempests strike and snatch willpower But I try I try, I try to keep my head up high for this Sapling will not cry.

sapling, i am Labiqah Iftikhar

self Shelley Rottenberg

It’s hard to find yourself when you don’t know where to look. When your ancestry is an exclamation mark, but this one’s got a hook. So many unanswered questions, there’s so much that is unknown. And there’s not a map to give direction to help guide you home. Being adopted means that I sometimes feel caught in between. The way I was raised shapes who I am, but unfortunately that can’t be seen. People see a Chinese girl and make assumptions based on race. But there’s so much more to my story that you can’t tell from my face. I used to feel lost in my own skin because I did not know where I belong. I thought I had to pick a side of myself, but looking back I was so wrong. I had a slight identity crisis when I started at university. And this was because it was my first exposure to real diversity. But I couldn’t relate in many ways to the people that looked just like me. Because I wasn’t ‘Asian enough,’ as much as I wanted to be. I don’t neatly fit into just one box, instead I’m carving my own way. I’m a bit of this and a bit of that, and now I realize that’s okay. I’m on a journey of self discovery and I don’t quite know where I’m going. But all that matters is I keep moving and continue to keep on growing.

I may not find all of the puzzle pieces that I am searching for. But my sense of self is stronger now, it’s more solid in my core.

the journey Anon

I’m a lost and lonely traveller, searching for a way But every time I see you, my resolve begins to fade. You wave your hand above me, like a magician with his spade My tongue sticks to my teeth; I wish I could be brave: Tell you how I’m feeling, of all the things I’ve prayed. How can I say I love you and yet be so afraid? It’s because I know when the music stops, there’s a price that must be paid. If you say the words first, perhaps I can too, Less filled with regret when I find out what’s due. Whether it be my life or my soul, it would be worth it if you... I can’t finish my thought. What if it’s not true? If this is all just a dream, and I’m left with nothing but rue: I promise I'll always remember, all that we've been through. The strangest twist of fate is that I always knew. I knew - deep down inside - I was better on my own. Facing the wild world, bravely yet alone. Despite everything I feel, I know my chance is gone. Somehow I'm at peace with that, for I am moving on. I'm a lost and lonely traveller, searching all day long. For a place I can call my own, a place where I belong.

E. Cassiana Giardini

Upon the grass my feet will weep Waiting for the day I no longer feel an empty ache deep in where I dwell No living thing has bared the weight of day by passing day The hope has spun down like leaves sinking in the bay Longing for a time before that is gone and gone away Feet that lull in silence, calming what could comeAnd full of Empty that feels as if it's only just begun.

self-love in all its forms Zainib Nazir

My voice comes out in quakes I am a mountain in the wake of everything that is now. Rocks of me have slipped and fell Bits of me have been chipped by Those trying, those wanting to say they were the first ones to ever set on this Everest-me. But alas, I am snow at some heights, and summer when we first meet and when you let go. My paths are ever winding, ever maddening, You’d think I’d be queen of these rifts A sorcerer of these hills But alas, it seems I too, am a mountain in the wake of me.

Generation-a lineage of people that lived before us, the very people who have paved a way for us. We are the generation of today-living in the yesterday, and hoping for a change tomorrow.

generation Andrea Borges

We are the generation of today- Wise, far sighted, efficient, and modern. Or so we say. Why then do we feel our lives are a mess? Incomplete, a rat race-always trying to be the very best. But what has that gotten us? Neither peace, happiness nor success. We are tired, frustrated and always restless. We are the generation of today. We are the generation of today, it is time we learn from our mistakes, Put an end to all our heartaches, and begin anew. Rid ourselves of greed, self-centeredness, and materialism. Today is the day we finally have our breakthrough. Change is not easy. It requires patience, hard work and dedication. But that is what they did- the previous generation. So it is time we leave our own mark in history; Build on the roots, and add to the story. We must raise the bar, and set an example. For we are the generation of todayA lineage of people paving a path for a better tomorrow.

cocooned by darkness Fareeda Baruwa

And when you feel cocooned by the darkness, when you feel yourself suffocating from lack of air, when you feel yourself drowning in the tides of gloom, the shadows grasping and latching onto you, don't forget that the sky is still peppered with stars. The sky is never truly dark for there is still light. And so when you feel hopeless, tumbling through the darkness, don't forget that there is still light, there's always light even if you can't detect it. So make your way out of there, out of the shadows, let the light be your guiding point, it awaits your arrival.

demons Brian Osei-Boateng

Do you know what it feels like to be locked up? No prison cell, but I never broke outta my shell. These demons beat me down any time I fight, By putting me in a box, seeing my family suffer. Powerless when my father left my mother. See I thought if you had dignity, with consistency, You'd have respect from society, And it would release all the anxiety, which would strengthen you mentally, but I was wrong And I dont know about you, but I’m sick and tired of this, So imma persevere. Standing my ground, staring into eyes of fear. Imma battle through the pain, if my eyes tear. So my life will come full circle, call it a sphere. And now I truly believe that, I, feel, free. Free like leaves on trees, flying high on cloud nine. Liberated from my past, and now its my time. I went from feeling attacked, to being a threat. Brushing off negativity, without breaking a sweat. And now I feel so free, To not flee from all the fees that society brings on me, So I can finally leave my own legacy.

alive with joy Jessica Aranyus My feet float above the floor, my doubts fall like rain, and the world spins and dances, a never-ending pleasure that I dwell in. My joy knows no gravity it is a breath of fresh air to me after my personal storm. I am moved to write words of bliss, of eloquent sighs and satisfied sleeps, of vulnerability and crossing the bridge between discomfort and feeling at home. Joy is our right, my virtue. Let it blast through the seasons, in different melodies, harmonies and synchronizations. I am continuously dwelling in my head where I am free. The joy of letting what will be, be.

why i'm at pride Kriti

1. I never knew of the presence of my heartbeat until the eight grade. When I saw her, I dreamt of a different kind of friendship, one where we could hold hands in the field at recess, and laugh together in moments alone I dreamt of moments alone with you 2. I still can't help but flinch at "faggot" and "dyke". Sometimes I'll shiver randomly in the day and I'll know another kid was just shoved further into the closet. I've walked into the Vatican and I've heard whispers of old men. Some dead, some alive, whispering "sinner". Back home, another girl will have been kicked out of her village. The same morning she wakes up next to her love. 3. Spite, tell me I can’t go and I’ll find a way to get there. 4. I danced for the first time For the first time, my feet have left the ground and I have found the people who would catch me. For the first time, I am surrounded by nothing but Love, laughter, happiness and dancing. 5. Affirmations that my sexuality exists outside of porn. 6. For the people that should have been there but were not I see you I want to spread my sight through the city. 7. I’m always there. I don’t think there ever was a moment I couldn’t be there. I carry my pride with me for every waking moment. I want to be with the people, Who carry it too.

sunflowers h.m.

thick, heavy air pulls cicada hymns through the smog rebirth: home is forgotten flower fields. body enveloped in soil. suffocation a friend. summer sips sloth like honey nectar. lethargic heart, sinking and acceptance is a relief. the sunflowers coil around my limbs in invitation, they sing: sleep, my dear friend / return to the earth and i do. forget the world where my body feels unnatural, every step a tribulation laugh in the face of existence instead: “august” i whisper, “i’m ready” and the sunflowers sway in response

place your bets Meena Alnajar

for once abandon your realism lean into idealism for once look at the world as moving forward instead of reverting back to how you have experienced it before we do not get by one step at a time but through leaps forward, falling forward and maybe we land on our face or maybe there’s something, someone that can catch us before the fall hurts us maybe the fall is supposed to hurt us because without it we would wonder if we ever lived at all and so for once say yes to things you cannot predict accept when people want to give you things in ways you thought you never deserved you could add up a million attempts at love and they still never would be love so why are you so quick to throw away the real thing why are you so afraid of making a mistake when it is not a mistake to begin with even if it doesn’t work it is the most human thing we do it is underrated, uncompensated, and at its worst unreciprocated and yet we all chase after the real thing and so why don’t you start running away from all your guesses and towards all the good that could come out of the risk you’re taking gambling on love is not a safe bet but it's possibly the best bet you’ll ever make betting on yourself instead of against is possibly the best act of self-love you’ll ever take and the best part is you’re not in it alone everyone roots for love, so it’s about time you start rooting too

its time Haley Prest

It’s time. The clock will not stop for anyone, or for any reason. Enough repeating to yourself, saying there is a next time. You do not know that. It’s time. To cut all ties with those who hold you down. You’ve been using scissors for awhile now. It’s time. To begin moving forward more than back. Because life has no rewind button. It’s time. To let go of negativity from your life. Because you are worth the freedom that comes with forgiveness. Finally, it’s time. To look in the mirror and love the real you Because there is so much to fall in love with.