CONTENTS POETRY Abigail Mills Emily Eames Kanwal Ahmad Thiago Linck Luke Beverley Safiya Khan Tasbiha Rahman Jennifer Dudley Nina Durham
Catching Sunlight in a Vase | 5 Once Again | 34 To My Daughter | 6 Bus | 12 Crow | 30 I Want to Be Young Again | 14-15 Complicity | 36-37 Chrysalis | 16 Eyes that Speak Oceans | 22 all that I am | 24 Fate | 32 Losing your favorite human | 26 Heart Drop | 28
PROSE Joseph Stokes McKenna Baxter
Juvenescence | 8-10 Needle and Bone | 18-19
VOLUME 32 2
ART & PHOTOGRAPHY Yana Belcher
Cece Finucan Chris Hutagaol Zainab Samsudeen Tony Ngyuen Ash Smith Ian Gates Kylie Robinson Kylee Kennerly Brian Hearsey Sal McMahon Olivia Offutt
Abduction of Europe | Cover Untied | 13 Vacant Story | 23 fragrance at five | 4 Mother with Origami Sakura | 7 Embrace | 11 Morpheus | 17 Don’t Look At Me Diptych | 20-21 Phosphene Ooze | 35 Vitamin D in DC | 25 Rejection | 27 making peace with pieces | 29 Dark Watcher | 31 Red Riding Hood - A Dangerous Meeting | 33 The Generating Stations | 38
MISSION STATEMENT Volition serves to elevate the creative capacity of the Mason community by fostering freedom of expression across diverse mediums.
SPRING 2022 3
fragrance at five | Cece Finucan | Photography 4
Catching Sunlight in a Vase what is joy? catching sunlight in a vase a heavy syrup, dripping from the glass to the honey oak floors “Keep it outside!” but the kids drag it back sticking to their socks, soaking the carpeted stairs hoverflies passed out drunk in the Dandelion as they stagger from bar to bar the Rosebush, the Iris, the Buttercup it’s no problem, everyone sees the contentment in their heavy eyelids butterflies on the iron rail, fluttering pallid wings not sure what to do with the new monarch— he came the first week of March—whose kingly stature and colored robes mean changes are coming birds trim the ends of the children’s window screen jagged snips for an avant garde style sweeping the wiry hairs to bring home to their nests and crochet into a silver blanket what is joy? another day’s come work or play? no matter! daylight overstays her welcome lingering, last to leave afternoon tea at half past seven
| Abigail Mills 5
To My Daughter I may never get to meet you. But you are still so real to me. You even have a name already, A contagious laugh, A fierce personality. You have so much potential. And you are just loved so much. You call me Mama, and it makes my heart jump in a way I can only imagine. I’m your Mama. I sing you my favorite songs until they become Our favorite songs. I dance around the room with you in my arms until you fall asleep. When you wake up, I chase you around the house and your little laugh echoes through the halls. I clean your messy hands and squishy sticky cheeks. I let you fall down when you run too fast or take a tumble. I try to let you learn through mistakes. You always get back up. You get back up every single time. You’re so much stronger than your Mama. You are everything I was too weak to be. I hope I get to meet you. And kiss your flushed cheeks. I hope I get you hold you, And I hope we get to meet.
| Emily Eames 6
Mother with Origami Sakura | Chris Hutagaol | Graphite on Paper 7
Juvenescence Nowadays wherever I go — to shop, to eat, or
I don’t remember any of those lectures because
just hang out — there’s so much choice; shelves
my brain would be fried after listening to her
and shelves of food and racks and racks of
talk with another customer about something
clothing. A diversity that dizzies me out of my
utterly arcane without end.
normal decisiveness, and prices that give me pause even though I can pay them now. And
After the thrift shops, she’d say we needed to
everything looks so polished and immaculate
go to one of the markets — one of the small
as well — a lot of bright white and sleek
grocery stores selling food from the country
countertops. It’s a far cry from the thrift shops
the owner immigrated from. I always whined
I perused in my youth, weathered as much as
and protested because that’s what tired children
their merchandise and cramped between
do, but she’d just wag her finger and ignore my
griping. We’d spend the better part of an hour browsing through foods with names I couldn’t
At least one time a week my grandmother would
pronounce, and sometimes my grandmother
take me shopping in them. We wouldn’t always
would talk with the shopkeeper if she spoke
buy something, but she always spent hours
their language: Russian, Swahili, Vietnamese,
browsing, and when she would find something
Arabic, Farsi. Despite my objections, I liked
she fancied, like a pot in good condition or a
going into those stores. Their loud stuttering
barely used coat, she often haggled with the
air conditioners provided intense, if uneven,
shopkeepers, trying to reduce the already low
relief from the scorching heat, and they
price. Half the time they’d give in after a while
always smelled of spices. And if I behaved my
— probably just to get her to leave — and my
grandmother would buy me a little snack, which
grandmother would give me a lecture on how to
is why samosas are my favorite food to this day.
find the best deal, how to make things last.
Sometimes she’d declare that we needed to
they end up lasting longer than anything I got
eat instead of shop, so we’d go to one of those
from a thrift shop, even though they tear just
Latin-American restaurants. There were lots of
as easily. Where they have pictures of models
menus I couldn’t read. My grandmother spoke
wearing the clothes, looking at you implicitly
Spanish as well, and would order in it fluently,
saying “Yes, you could look like this too.” They
and I’d just say, “I’ll have what she’s having,”
stand in place of the old thrift shops because
which was usually carnitas, or something that
most of the thrift shops had to close down, the
sounded similar, with a glass of water. My
properties all bought up by venture capitalists,
grandmother would hum along with the music
and the ones that are left are too out of the way.
playing. And maybe strike up a conversation
And when I go out to eat with friends it’s at
with another patron, in Spanish, and tell me
an upscale restaurant in those same gentrified
about all the southward trips she took in her
areas, where “foreign food” is from the part of
youth — about places like Acapulco, Costa
Europe that wasn’t behind the Iron Curtain.
Rica, and Montevideo — which I couldn’t place on a map. And she’d lament how some of those
The kinds that describe everything with words
places are worse off today than when she went
like artisanal, with waiters that dress in all
there, invariably transitioning into a rant about
black, long lists of alcoholic drinks, and require
how horribly our country treats immigrants and
a reservation. The ones that are always busy at
how borders are meaningless.
night, raucous with commotion. They’re very lively, but at the same time they don’t feel that
Nowadays when I go shopping for a pot or a
way; everything has an aura of newness and
new pair of jeans it’s at an upscale brand name
polish that verges into being sterile. I still have
store in a newly gentrified area, where the
a nice time though, and the food is damn good.
cheapest pair of pants is fifty dollars on sale, but
And certainly, the places I hang out at now are a
hell of a lot nicer than those of my past: kicking
cooking, and he’d be watching TV, which I
a ball against a dilapidated fence doesn’t really
wanted to watch.
compare to Central Park. That said, I will die defending my hometown’s ice creamery, which
There wasn’t much talking in my house other
was the hangout spot for after school from fifth
than at dinner, but it was constantly noisy with
grade to graduation, and which blows every
their presence that silenced anyone else’s, and
other ice cream out of the water, no contest.
then they had a child and the air was noiser in many more ways. Everything became so
It closed down too.
cramped that it became my only goal to live alone. I couldn’t go to bed as early as I needed
Nowadays my home is a “luxury” apartment
because they let my brother stay up later than
in a renovated building in a renovated area. It’s
I did at that age; bathing him no earlier than
mine and mine alone and every night it’s quiet
a quarter to ten, which was always a loud and
when I open the door, which is something I
tense affair. The kind that you can’t ignore no
always wanted because everyday when my mom
matter how much you want to. I had a temper
picked me up from my grandmother’s house she
as a kid, but it was my brother who made me see
was tired and irritable after a long work day, and
what anger could really be, and I vowed never to
would groan when my grandmother chattered at
get angry again.
her blithely — the same way she groaned at me whenever I wanted her attention. My dad would
When my childhood ended I set out with a
usually call me at around the same time, asking
vision of what I wanted: the opposite of what I
about how I’m doing. And I’d only say I’m fine
had, which I cast off out of hand. I have it all
and my mom says it’s time to go. We’d get home
and my stepfather would be there with dinner
| Joseph Stokes 10
Embrace | Zainab Samsudeen | Graphite and Charcoal 11
Bus yellow exterior and gray insides this moving corner of the world transcends time, and suddenly it is forty-minutes of blissful freedom, jarring each bit of gravel on the highway knocks your head into the window and each intertwined hum pounds escape a little deeper into your head like distant shouting asking how you ended up there but each turn of these oversized tires takes you closer to being left on the side of the road without a direction and at least when the words are getting lost in headache of chronic exhaustion you are not left alone in the quiet to become your own enemy — and then it is 5pm and you are running out of pages, caught somewhere in limbo between logic and fever dreams that make so much more sense than you can vocalize like sticky notes pinned to a cork board waiting to be connected with red thread but you keep getting distracted, trying to sew feelings into recognizable forms if only you had the fervor of a madwoman on her oaken desk to romanticize the journey, breadcrumbs of poetry, dime a dozen like cheap commodities, and yet never enough passion to inject into them anything like this feeling beyond sanity, and sometimes eyes go dry trying to understand where tears come from
| Kanwal Ahmad 12
Untied | Yana Belcher | Oil on Canvas 13
I want to be young again And I know I’m only 22 But I want to be young again I want to have things to look forward to I want to have friends I want parties and secrets and hopeful romances On days that seem like they never end Today the days run like water And the nights, heavy with dread I wake up alone, in a shell of flesh and bone And wonder how, someday, I’ll be dead I want to be young again I want promises of grand things yet to come I want mystery to be joyous and fun like it was And to live life in my skin, not my husk I want to live free and be happy Surrounded by people I love and quiet joy Not sleep alone in a home not my own Just waiting to move or feel lonely, or poor I miss when my money was mine, and buying things didn’t mean I couldn’t eat Where responsibility was a privilege not a burden And when I smiled it wasn’t fake, more for me than for strangers I think a lot of that youth is as fake as memory Less real than it is nostalgic dream I don’t want to move back, I want to go forward But all the stories and experiences of childhood feel lost, not absorbed I’m a shell and my future is broken, and inside that shell is hope and fear The hope keeps me going and the fear keeps me sane but I pray for the day I don’t need them I want to be young again And I’m only 22
| Thiago Linck 14
What does it say when the world looks at you And decides that you’re older than you? That you can’t see a future that is any better than a dream of the past That the things once taken for granted become weights on your feet These are the things that make me say I want to be young again. Nowhere here have I said the word wish. Wishes are reserved for things that can be true. I wish for my paycheck to come on time. I wish for my bank to not scalp me if I’m an hour late. I wish that I might have enough money left to buy myself a little joy this week But I cannot wish to be young again. I can’t wish for that joy, that mystery, that promise of better things to come, to come back Because wishes are for things that can yet be true And I’m too old now for wishing for any of that I’m starting to ramble now Tongue wagging, talking to avoid thinking Talking, talking to avoid feeling Avoid feeling the creak of age in my bones Avoid feeling the shriek of pain in my throat Avoid feeling the heat of rage in my hands I want to be young again Not to be small and weak and foolish But to be fast and confused and worried and able to wonder, all of these without fear I am always afraid. That’s how I know I’m old. When I think of old age it’s confusion, with fear. It’s loneliness. It’s the promise of no more promising things to come
It’s the creak of hating your flesh and the fear of losing your mind That’s how I know, at 22, that I’m old And who is old that can’t say I want to be young again Like in my dreams of never was When being young meant being happy and being safe I want to be young again This year I turn 23 I can’t imagine how that’ll be
Chrysalis Humming soft, humming waves Creature inside Teeming life beneath the liquid Writhing, striving; flashing, crashing. I am a monster swimming in the summer-egg Then I melt to goo, Alive in my own destruction. The walls are converging Like breaths. I am smothered. I am released. Strands of strains lace through my egg-film Like heartbeats. The home-shell radiates within But I don’t want to leave. I want to curl in the warmth of my bed. Yet my tendrils push. It pulses me forth And I press against the walls Of my golden womb In the glory of the sun, I am like a kaleidoscope dragon I stretch my shimmering wings to the light. It is the first of days When the monarch springs forth. Time to claw out of my home-shell. Time to burst like thunder.
| Luke Beverley 16
Morpheus | Tony Nguyen | Digital Painting 17
Needle and Bone Life.
What could be said about life? Life is an anomalous tapestry; carefully yet spontaneously crafted. It can be long, winding, seemingly eternal. It can be fleeting; cut short before it has been lived. It is the culmination of who one is; the amalgamation of a thousand different aspects to create one human. One living, breathing, fragile human. And then, there is death. What could be said about death? Death is the finality of it all; the absolute. It is the pallid, unerring, dreadful foil to the fragile sprightliness of life. It comes in many ways. Quick. Slow. Peaceful. Painful. Loved. Alone. And it stops for no one. Life and death. Two sides of the same coin. Cut and dry. Said and done. But…is there not more than life and death? There is. The Weaver knows better than anyone. The Weaver, though her name has been lost to time, is responsible for the inscrutable overlap between blossoming life and withering death. She is responsible for every second of every memory of every life that comes to be. She is responsible for remembrance. Every person’s life, no matter how short, long, chaotic, or uneventful, is a life
| McKenna Baxter 18
The Weaver witnesses, and a life she must remember. From a person’s cradle to their deathbed, The Weaver watches. She watches an infant’s first tiny cry. She watches a little boy’s game-winning play at a sports event. She watches a young man’s marriage, and soon enough, the birth of his first child. She watches an old man’s quiet death, alone in a cold, sterile hospital room. People wake up. People go to work. People go home. People go to sleep. People talk and kiss and fight and bustle about. It is just another day in their lives. No matter how mundane, The Weaver watches. The Weaver sorts through the endless stream of memories. A little girl’s victory at the school spelling bee she spent months preparing for. An older gentleman’s first successful novel at the age of 78 he had been trying for years to get published. A person’s unforgettable trip to Angkor Wat, a trip they never imagined in their wildest dreams they would take. But through every spelling bee win, through every bestselling book, through every remarkable, life-changing trip, The Weaver sees the same thing over and over as she watches the people. They are born. They live. They die. And when one dies, The Weaver gets to work.
All she needs are the memories she has collected over the years, her trusty, wellused needle, and a bone from the deceased. The memories serve as the tapestry’s design. They tell the tale of the person’s life. Every memory, no matter how insignificant, has shaped the person’s life in some small way. The Weaver is adamant on including it all. The needle serves as The Weaver’s tool for her work. She feels a loom is much more impersonal, and though use of a needle for the task is more tedious, she welcomes the challenge. And the bone…well, the tapestry is imbued with the bone. Bit by bit. And so, The Weaver works. Sweat and blood. Needle and bone. Eyes closed as she weaves, movements fluid as water as the life of the deceased plays over, and over, and over in her mind. She cycles through the shorter lives only a hundred times or so. Some of the longer ones, millions. The tapestry for each person is only complete once The Weaver has finished weaving, and when the last of the bone is one with the fabric. It is a thankless task, but The Weaver needs no thanks. She is pleased with herself for the work she does, quite literally interweaving the intricacies of life and death. The Weaver’s only wish is for a tapestry of her own. But what would it look like? Would it merely depict her innumerable years weaving tapestries for others, and even
more incalculable years simply watching? Or would it be a beautiful assortment of all the tapestries she has ever created? She feels it in her heart that she will not live forever, though it feels like she has. She knows not when, but someday, a new Weaver will emerge to take her place. Perhaps to give her the tapestry she yearns for, the tapestry she deserves. Until then, The Weaver is perfectly content to carry on. No. Not content. Happy. The Weaver is happy. She smiles. It is a dazzling smile, a smile brighter than the pearlescent reflection of the moon in the sea. She closes her eyes as she grasps her needle, a soft, fulfilled sigh escaping her lips. And so, The Weaver works. Sweat and blood. Needle and bone.
Don’t Look At Me Diptych | Ash Smith | Charcoal on Paper 21
Eyes that Speak Oceans I’ve been told I speak with my eyes so sometimes I silence them by staring down or into my lap so people don’t read the pages between my two brown irises that never stop writing.
| Safiya Khan 22
Vacant Story | Yana Belcher | Digital Photography 23
all that I am pen bleeding ink, ink bleeding me, I scribble myself into reality
what I’ve done doesn’t count as what I do; I am more than the stories I’ve been through
is it real if it’s me, or is it me if it’s real? what do I know about how to act, how to feel?
yesterday is gone but its shadow lingers... tracing constellations with blue fingers, the veins beneath still carry blood — crimson ink for a flower bud
what I’ve done doesn’t count as what I do; I am more than the stories I’ve been through a double-edged sword — letting go of the bad is letting go of the good, letting go of all I had and if I had to let go, how to get going, I wouldn’t know how do you trade everything for emptiness? how do you turn off the light and embrace abyss? is it cold in here, or is it just me? my insides or this room: what’s empty?
| Tasbiha Rahman 24
scrawled in its roots, lessons to grow; petals locked by thorns, innocence, a dim glow what I do doesn’t count against what I’ve done; I am more than the stories I’ve just begun
Vitamin D in DC | Ian Gates | Photography 25
Losing your favorite human Is a hurt that’s hard to imagine — A pain greater than most, An experience not worth having. When you are with people, It’s easy to not think about them. When you are alone, Every memory, every smile, every good thing, Comes back into full focus As real as the times they happened. The damage is done. The wounds are present. The pain is real. How do I go back to before? I’d give everything To have my best friend back. It isn’t worth dealing with this loss. A pain that stems from my heart, Through my veins, To the rest of my body.
| Jennifer Dudley 26
Rejection | Kylie Robinson | Charcoal 27
Heart Drop quiet. did you hear my heart drop? nah, please, be quiet. i know you heard my heart drop. shhh! i want silence. let my fucking heart talk. damn, after spending 365 days times 3 i was positive that i got my degree in cardiovascular disease and dr.me was certain that i was safe from heart shocks but you’re the one who called and told me that i don’t even make yo’ heart pump. don’t fucking talk over me. did you not just hear my heart drop? damn, what was i missing? ole’ girl smiling in my face cause she knew we was dissing. i don’t even have a problem with shawty, but nigga this who you kissing? i can’t get a word in now, but you opened up to her for a fixing don’t walk away from me. i know you felt my heart drop. damn, you see the pieces you gon’ even help me pick my heart up? this yo’ mess, but now you standing there stuck. eyes can’t even meet mine boy, if you don’t man the fuck up. since when was yo’ heart struck?
oh, now you silent? too late now. my heart been sunk. | Nina Durham 28
making peace with pieces | Kylee Kennerly | Digital Painting 29
Crow how shall i put this? i am standing on a yellow brick road but i am a crow. moody, attracted to shiny things. i cannot see the trees for the forest, nor in the forest will you always find me. they ask me about my interests and assume about them, i am passionate, but i am a crow. i am attracted to shiny things, and it is never that easy. the road is yellow, like the afternoon sun. it glimmers, and i commit to it. in the glare of the heat, i am midnight gleaming, and i convince you that to follow this road is my destiny. each sunset, the road dims. i tell you, i tell myself, it is meant for me, but i am a crow. i like shiny things. and when the road is for a moment hazy in twilight pixels, i blink and i can see fireflies golden, like stars filling the night sky, and i set off like i have never before, to be overwhelmed by beauty. i ask why i should wait for the road to reappear in all its glory, to walk it because it is steady?
| Kanwal Ahmad 30
they dangle a golden watch before my eyes. they let it tick, and they swing it, steady i am but a crow. i understand money, and i suppose even in youth, i understand time. they ask me about my passions, so i put gold in my teeth and through them, i lie.
Dark Watcher | Brian Hearsey | Photography 31
Fate Fixated by the fear, Curious about the sting, She’s gnawing nervously On crimson fate’s string Dye dribbling down her chin, Rouge matching her own blush, Pastel cotton-candy words Gently bring hers to a hush With a sweet tooth for him And his sugar-coated tongue, A sharp craving begins And red thread is strung His heart, her breath, Catches making a fair trade— Soft giggles paint the night Mixed with honeyed serenade But a single fleeting sunrise Is all a painting grasps— Beyond the sky’s golden palette Awaits the unfastening of clasps Soon, dye drips to blood, Blush, but bruises of pain, Miscommunications blur colors Where words can’t explain Fate’s lace fades, frays, And yet its knots prevail— Brush still beaded with wet paint, An unfinished fairytale
| Tasbiha Rahman 32
And so, fixated by the fear, Curious about the sting, She’s tugging lightly On crimson fate’s string
Red Riding Hood - A Dangerous Meeting | Sal McMahon | Digital Painting 33
Once Again You cry because you were told, get up, get up get up and face the day. But yesterday’s tears mist your mind, a car driven into the lake. You got up yesterday to the same ashen sun and when you stopped moving you cried because nothing and everything happens all at once, all the time. And once again you forgot to breathe. You forgot that some air is sweet and cold just like the water you forgot to drink for three days. Get up, take care of yourself, you were told again and again. I’m up, I’m up, you said from beneath quilted covers. What a difficult undertaking to leave the only place that will always hold you when you cry.
| Abigail Mills 34
Phosphene Ooze | Ash Smith | Conte, Colored Pencil, and Pen on Paper 35
Complicity Should I pay for food? For pretty lights and clothes that fit, for shoes to work in and juice to drink? Or does that make me complicit? To give fuel for a machine that runs fine without me, but is added to by my life’s blood? Am I complicit, if I sell something I make, because another is fueled by it? Is it my responsibility to know all that is and can be done with what I give and is taken? And if it isn’t, then can I truly be called Complicit? Is my life a sacrifice for good when no good can come of it? And if it is, is keeping that life alive and growing the same as being Complicit? Is being complicit intent, or is it action alone? Is being complicit the same as being responsible? Am I responsible? Is it better to be responsible and complicit, or powerless and innocent? Is it better to hope to have the power for change even when you know you can’t (or won’t) use it? Or is it better to have no hope at all, if only to avoid the guilt of being Complicit?
| Thiago Linck 36
What does it mean to be alive in a time when the world is burning? What does it mean to be both fuel for the fire and dirt beneath its flames? What does it mean to have free will and no choice at all except the choice to be Complicit? I just want things to be better, but no matter how hard I try or how much better I get In the end, even if I am small, I am Complicit.
The Generating Station | Olivia Offutt | Charcoal and Graphite on Watercolor Paper 38
STAFF Executive Editor Sally Deen
Faculty Advisor Jason Hartsel
Prose & Poetry Prose & Poetry Editor Sydney Allworth
Randi Roy Jay Sapinski Saba Shaukat Alexis Little Naomi Gordon Trinity Battle Sariya Scribner Joshua Trupo Hanieh Faani Tabrizi Nezhaad
Art & Photography Art & Photography Editor Macayla Smith
Casey Wright Sydnee Jiggetts Arya Thiruvillakkat Trinity Battle Emily Claire Preiser
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Public Relations Public Relations Chair Valerie Larrieu
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