PAPER & THE SEA · THE
Aimen A., Stacey Balkun, Allyson Busch, Joseph Dante, Amarie Fox, Lane Hansen, Eva Hayes, Jared Ipsen, Kelsey Ipsen, Lexi Lavelle, Suren Oganessian, Zoe Riters, Icahn Saelao & Alexis Warrington
2 P& S
Kelsey Ipsen Amarie Fox D E S I G N B Y Kelsey Ipsen & Marc Salesina W E B S I T E paperandthesea.tumblr.com C O N TAC T email@example.com EDITED BY
C OV E R A RT B Y
P L E A S E N OT E T H AT YO U W I L L F I N D T H E AU T H O R S ’ C O N TAC T D E TA I L S O N O U R W E B S I T E .
CONTENTS A Ghazal to the Sea
E D I TO R I A L
The “Moments” Issue BY
KELSEY IPSEN & ICAHN SAELAO | 4
The Twentieth of July BY
F E AT U R E
Little Moments BY
ICAHN SAELAO | 7
AIMEN A. | 16
AIMEN A. | 17
Aubade with Coffee Spoons BY
S TA C E Y B A L K U N | 1 8
To Keep from Falling BY
S TA C E Y B A L K U N | 1 9
Word Dealer BY
JOSEPH DANTE | 20
AMARIE FOX | 22
A Stranger’s Voice (A Spoken Loveletter) BY
In Between Sleeps
P H OTO G R A P H Y
Untitled Series BY
A L LY S O N B U S C H | 3 8
Untitled Series BY
AMARIE FOX | 42
LANE HANSEN | 44
LANE HANSEN | 46
Untitled Series BY
E VA H AY E S | 4 7
Untitled Series BY
KELSEY IPSEN | 53
C O N T R I B U TO R S ’ B I O G R A P H I E S
LANE HANSEN | 26
ALEXIS WARRINGTON | 37
LANE HANSEN | 24
Autumnal Dreams BY
ALEX WARRINGTON | 35
Singing Veins BY
ZOE RITERS | 33
SUREN OGANESSIAN | 31
JARED IPSEN | 29
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KELSEY IPSEN & ICAHN SAELAO
For this issue of PAPER & THE SEA, its contributors were to investigate the idea of “moments” and what that idea inspires within them. From cover to cover, you will find stories of staircases to music, from voices to cherished memories, and relationships that were almost had to relationships that have yet to end. PAPER & THE SEA is whimsical and wistful, tragic and inspirational, and both sentimental and engaging all at once. You may find refuge in these pages or not, but you may find something in here that you were not expecting to find, and it may help you tell your own story of “moments.” Our hope is that readers will find these stories as an opportunity to share theirs in return; and to someday, take part in finding or making connections to people from those stories that they might not have made or known otherwise. — Icahn
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I was particularly interested in the idea of exploring little moments versus big moments and whether a string of seemingly insignificant little moments spun together created something much more meaningful than first thought. I wanted to find pieces of writing and art and create this issue remind people to pay attention to the little things that can make us happy instead of always rushing toward the next big thing, as we tend to sometimes do. — Kelsey •
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F E AT U R E
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LITTLE MOMENTS BY
It has occurred to me that life is lived best when it is lived unexpectedly. Consider for a moment, the idea that life is an accumulation of tiny happenstances that string themselves together to form coincidences; harmonious happenstances, if you will. There are moments that will make us, moments that will break us, legs to walk us, and words to drop us. What can you do really, but accept that sometimes life will give us moments we did not expect or moments we even did not really want in the first place. What one person’s favorite moment could easily be another person’s worst. Maybe there is not much of a difference between my best moment or my favorite moment, or even my worst moment, but I think what difference there is makes life a bit less ordinary and that much more meaningful. When I think of moments, I think of firsts, I think of music, and I think of steps. I think there is something to cherishing firsts, and maybe that sounds young or naive, but I think there is always meaning in valuing first experiences. Without the knowledge of first experiences, we would never learn the things we need to learn, or experience the things we need to experience. Music might make more sense when it comes to moments; if you think about it, music is a collection of many brief notes that come together to create a song. Lastly when I think of moments, I think of steps. After all, whenever you are trying to get anywhere, and maybe it is a literal destination or maybe a state of mind, there are all these steps you have to
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take to get there; and that feeling of arrival is the one satisfaction I have. I guess more accurately, I think moments are a bit of a journey that everyone ultimately adventures through. It is in moments like these when I realize how fast things can change; whether it be a perspective, a song, or a lifestyle, our lives are as ephemeral as the weather.
• Firsts (My Best Moment) Over a year ago, I traveled by myself to a city to which I had no contacts or connections. I admit there was a bit of fear and hesitation behind this adventure of mine, but more so did I feel compelled to make up for some lost time. You could call this decision I made random or haphazard, but is any decision ever truly made on a whim? It took many years of being convinced by myself as well as others that the one ultimate truth in the world is that we are alone. I felt coaxed in having to do things for and by myself because it is something I am just not used to. All of the times I heard the infamous saying of “I hate people” started to take its toll on me. I remember hearing, “this world is full of people that are not worth your time, and to spend any more time on them is a waste”, and I could not tell you why, but I eventually believed it. It was after all of that convincing then did I take leave, and this decision resulted in many firsts.
I visited a city with no plans in particular, but only the hopes that I would meet a few people so I would not feel so alien. What I did not expect though, was that I would meet many friendly people whose cumulative perspectives would instill in me a renewed faith in people. On the first night I chatted with a girl at the front desk of the hostel I was staying at and made the briefest mention of Immanuel Kant and the Categorical Imperative. Moments later, the owner of the hostel had overheard our conversation and excitedly delivered to me a book titled Candide by Voltaire. As the night progressed, my conversation with the girl at the front desk ended, and I opened the covers of the gifted book I received earlier and after reading the first few pages was I captivated by it. To have read this ridiculous story of a man who survived the most brutal of challenges, yet above all else still
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maintained a charming optimism was all so inspiring. Even though there is no way my life could compare to that of Candide, I still found comfort in thinking that somewhere out there are people who taste death more than I have and are still smiling. I stayed up until five in the morning the next night talking with the hostel owner about it and its profound effect on me. His simple act of kindness and delight in conversation led to an insurmountable change in my perspective, and all it took was a book and some time.
I shared a room at the hostel, to which I had reservations of but it did not concern me all that much to be in the presence of one other person. The other man that occupied my room, I discovered, was from Turkey and was in the process of transferring schools to one in California. To my surprise, the school he was transferring to was the very school that I attend. In what has been over a year since that meeting, we have run into each other a total of five times, the most recent one being three days from when this was written; all happenstance.
I could not explain to you why, but there was one day I decided to donate blood while on my trip. Typically when I am nervous, I talk and laugh profusely. The nurse that worked with me was kind enough to humor me in conversation, and I explained to her the context of this adventure. She seemed perplexed, but I remember noticing her expression of confusion, or maybe it was thoughtfulness, quickly change to one of sincerity. I remember the nurse saying to me, “I think it’s really nice that you’re doing this. I guess I can understand that sometimes it’s important to leave things behind wherever you go.” As innocent or nonchalant as her statement might have been, it still inspires me to try my best to let go and to leave some things behind. Whether it was a friendship, a memory, or a pint of blood, it is invaluable and important to do what you can to feel relief instead of regret when saying farewell.
On my last night at the hostel, I had a chance encounter with a girl who knew nothing of me, and probably only saw me as a man who will only be in and out of her world before she knew it. Whether or not she was right, only time would reveal. For all intents and purposes, this girl shook my world in a way that only the most sentimental people would cherish. To think I could make a relationship… a meaningful relationship from someone I would probably never see again was profound. For a moment, she had all of my attention and she showed me what perfection really is; she taught me that perfection is not a thing that lacks flaws, but perfection is a realization of an ideal that is only made possible through them. She showed me something that she really cherished and would never give up. A necklace she literally put hours and blood into so she could create a reminder to herself that romance is real. The first time I held her, I could think of nothing, truly nothing; it was a first in more than one way. The only time I can remember
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having ever stopped this constant reflection and processing and calculation, this girl showed me what it was like to really feel something. Moments like these might be ephemeral in nature, and typically, that would be enough for me to avoid it; but more so than my perspective having undergone a complete reconstruction, this girl showed me courage. For she had also come to this city with no friends or connections. She seemed to express no hesitations in any of her decisions, only confidence. I felt no fear with her because even though she did not see it herself, I could see that she was braver than I have ever been; and in that way, I felt inspired. I saw things in her that I wanted to be, and never before have I looked upon someone and wanted to be them. She was the culmination of all the people I had met in my week of exploration, and never before have I remembered feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be. How chance of an encounter is that?
I returned feeling no regrets and a calmness in me that I am fortunate enough to have held onto. I felt a serenity that lasted longer than I can fathom, and a rejuvenated confidence in myself and in others. I saw this world as timeless, and the words spoken to me that had once discouraged my faith in people were proven as a farce. It was after that week of chance encounters did I realize how much of a folly it was to believe people are not worth your time. Now more than ever do I defy that idea, and if anything, the ultimate truth of the world is not one of loneliness, but of kinship. I firmly believe now that there is nothing in this world that does not result in something else... Little moments string themselves together and can create truly wonderful things; even if some of those moments are sad ones or bad ones or even scary ones, they still have the potential to lead to a culminating event that will shake your perceptions in a way you never thought possible. I heard the most romantic ideas and things I have ever heard in that short week.
• The Monome (My Favorite Moment) Much like my best moment, my favorite moment is one that is entirely comprised of many smaller ones. The exception, however, is that these moments take form of carefully crafted movements instead of encounters. I am fortunate in fact, to be at constant subject to my favorite moment quite often. Like many people, I consider myself very fond of music, and I will concede to admit that writing about music is nowhere near as meaningful as having hearing it firsthand. Really, is there anything that is just as meaningful when read or written than when it is experienced? Feeling the warmth of your first kiss or seeing the sunset appeals to most people’s senses far more vividly than text on a page. It is this dilemma that I am faced with in the description of my favorite moment. However, I recognize
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that challenge of writing about the experience of music, so I will not even try. My favorite part really is the construction and performance of my best friend and his music that leaves me so fascinated.
I am lucky to be in the company of the most talented of friends whose proclivity for finesse and music excels above all other people I have ever met. The first and only thing I could think of in regards to my favorite moment is the thought of my best friend’s music and specifically, the “instrument” he uses to play all of his delicately constructed sounds. Officially dubbed “the monome”, this seemingly simple box with a grid of 256 square buttons has no functionality on its own, and in the wrong hands can easily be thought of as a child’s toy. At the hands of my best friend though, this innocuous object has the ability to steal breaths and use it to give life to itself. This device has neither keys to stroke nor strings to pluck; although perhaps it can tug on the gentlest of heartstrings. Each individual button belongs to a row in a series of buttons that maps a time signature or note of a sampled piece of music. A press of a button, whether intentional or accidental, can begin an adventure of endless beauty. It is when the monome is given life do the buttons flicker on and off in quick succession with an orange glow. It is as if the monome is a small moving city of lights. In an instant, this simplistic box of buttons becomes a pinnacle of lights and music. The lights change and move in
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patterns that parallel with the movement of my friends swiftest of executions. The dexterity of his hand’s manipulate the pace and direction of these lights with such purpose and confidence that some moments hit me with a wave of pure romance. My friend often jokes that my facial expressions to his music are the same as when I see a pretty girl; maybe there is some truth to that. The music itself is so harmonious and to listen with your eyes closed may very well carry you into the sweetest of dreams. There is intentionality of every sound produced that sometimes makes me feel like it was meant just for me. I consider it a great gift to have a friend who puts so much meaning and effort into his music (and everything he does, for that matter). He quite literally inspires me. I am so very ordinary, but to see this box of moving lights accompanied by the sweetest sounds makes me think that maybe I can give life to pen and paper. Maybe watching all of his flicks of the wrist and switches of a button are no different than a swirl of ink or stroke of pen tips. By watching and taking in all of his small little delicate movements, do I too think that I can create something otherworldly.
• The House (My Worst Moment) I was seven.
The world I had known was that of luxury and privilege and the world was given to me at any demand or request. My family had known such wealth that their highest annual income reached 11 million dollars, but little was my mind aware to the avarice that would create within us. My family and I would go on frequent trips, and for my parents who lived a life of poverty, it became their goal to give my brothers and I a life where any possibility we desired could be attained. I think even now, that mentality is still within me, in its own way. I was seven, and life was good.
I remember a day when my mother took my brother and I out for ice cream, and when we returned home, the house was in total disarray. Furniture was chaotically thrown about, there were holes in the walls, and there were red bits of what I wished was paint that traced the ruination. Even now, I find it mysterious that I knew the chaos that was created was at my father’s hands. I do not think my seven year old mind knew that my parents had their disagreements, but once it became apparent, their conflict lit a fire at the innermost chamber of my chest. I realized that it was my father’s blood on the floor and walls, it was my father who had thrown our television across the room and into the wall. It was my father that
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desecrated that house. My mother must have realized it when I did, and it was then that we left the house to find sleep elsewhere.
The next day we returned, and for the most part, the house was put back together. There were still holes in the walls, yet many things in that house remained broken. I learned later that some things cannot be fixed, and there will always be holes you cannot fill. There was so much mending to be done in that home, yet at the time my family thought money could mend everything, even people. They will always be wrong.
That night I slept in my parent’s bedroom, and I fell asleep in the early evening. My eyes opened in my sleep and I remember feeling weightless, suspended in the air. It must have been what dreams feel like, but slowly did I drift away from that world and back into my body. In moments did it occur to me that I was no longer resting quietly in my parent’s bedroom, but I was being carried down the stairs. I was holding onto the person carrying me thinking it was my mother, and wondered where would she be taking me. I remember her holding me so carefully, as if I was a new born child. I felt like I could stay in her arms forever. The image that will be forever immortalized in my memory is that of descending the spiral staircase of my childhood home, staring innocently at the marvelous chandelier that the stairs wrapped themselves around. It was so radiant that night and the crystal glass looked so magnificent as I was carried down those stairs. That moment felt like it happened so slow; each step felt like a tiny memorable moment in its own, and it was not until five very brief moments did I realize it was not my mother that held me in her arms, but a police officer. I counted that night in moments.
At six, her badge glistened as brightly as the crystal chandelier. Seven. My gaze drifted into the kitchen and I saw my father yelling at my mother as she sat at the kitchen table. Eight. I hear glass shatter; I hear a scream. Nine. The police officer covers my eyes. Ten. I thought of my brothers. Eleven. I said, “I want to go back to sleep.” Twelve. The police officer sets me down and looks me in my eyes; she is crying. She told me “you will be okay, don’t be afraid.” I thought, “will you be okay?”, but I did not ask. Thirteen. At the foot of the stairs, my mother hugs me and she is crying too. I take off the necklace I had made at school and I tie it around her neck. She cries even harder.
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My mother says nothing, but takes me by the hand as we walk out of the house. I then realize my brothers were already outside, and that I was the last to leave the house. Of the three of us, I was the only one that saw and heard what happened that night. There are so many cop cars outside. We got into the car and my mother began to drive, still saying nothing as police cars followed. I fell asleep in the car and only recall red and blue flashing lights.
Never during the course of these moments did it occur to me what they would lead to, but now do I realize… My worst moment led to a series of events that led to my parents eventual divorce, the crumbling of the family business, the eventual poverty that I would experience, and the bitter feelings of my father at the actions he took towards my mother. It was the first night where everything changed. Keep in mind all of these moments contribute, in their own way, to the man that writes these very same stories. Is there really that much of a difference between my favorite moment from my best moment? What about my favorite and my worst? I have been counting in moments for as long as I can remember. It is the summation of all of these moments that led to the birth of a romantic and an idealist who faces disappointment at every avenue, but still smiles despite all of the misfortune that made him. These moments led to a man that writes of dreams, of music, of first kisses, and kisses he wishes weren’t firsts. Stories of lonely people that may or may not be himself, and stories of conversations that light the fire of his fabric. I am so very ordinary, but everything I am is a result of all these moments, good or bad, and I am constantly reminded to give thanks to this world of little, fleeting moments. •
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SINGING VEINS BY
You sang along to the songs on the radio, as I dreamt of your veins against mine. It was a strange world, we were on our toes and we had the morning in our fists, shaking it violently to the rhythm or our drumroll heartbeats. Time shook its tail at the finish line and froze for a second that lasted a lifetime, dancing on our crossed fingertips.
We were young and restless, shivering under the summer sun, delving in the silver drops of clouded lining. You twisted your strings and held them beside mine, then you smiled. In those few moments, as my drumroll beat picked up a notch, I could feel my limbs threatening to crack. And I don’t know about you, but I felt invincible. •
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Here are my bones, here is where they rest. My ribcage is a broken element, ringing in my veins and everything else fits in so it harmonizes perfectly. It is like clockwork. He is an ocean; when he rises, he spills saltwater into our hearts and our throats. And he is the humming bee of ten thousand fireflies that don’t buzz when they see him. He takes my heart from my bones, as they whistle to his ocean breeze, and he unties its drumroll beat and teaches it how to sing. He smiles through his eyes and his words. I am struggling to listen to everything he whispers to me through his teeth. There are too many words and too many expressions in those words, and I cannot do anything but wish to grasp every corner of dust that swims past my eyes. He is the words, he is a voice, and he is a singing breath of violent tidal curves that delve in my tone-deaf melodies. The sky is on fire, the clouds are the grey smoke of the burning ashes of what we once called our dreams. But I am falling asleep. He is tracing my heart as he holds it so firmly. He is tracing the ways, and he is singing softly to the crash of the waves. I sleep to the sound of his voice echoing in my ears, I sleep to the sound of his smile; I sleep to the moment ticking through his eyes, into my lungs •
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AUBADE WITH COFFEE
S TA C E Y B A L K U N
This is the pull to always stay on the move. This is connecting dots of cities, maps drawn across the backs of diner placemats.
This is you at dawn, stirring coffee and practicing your goodbyes. This is the long pour of sugar, an attempt to sweeten what is already old.
This is you, magician. You, musician, matador of my heart. This is you, nomad, always on the move. Send me copper pennies. Pebbles from the streets.
Diner receipts. Anything, please, just some small totem of your world. •
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TO KEEP FROM FALLING BY
Last summer, we threw dust into the wind, threw dirt behind us like salt, like bows on bad presents, driving down into canyons, red rifts of earth’s skin broken. Sky broken into the deepest blue of New Mexico. How could a landscape have so much color? How could our hearts keep up with the engine, with so many miles left baking in the noon behind us? It felt as if O’Keefe painted the desert itself, the way each orange and pink echoed off that azure sky. I wondered if we were falling into an ocean, dreaming in pebbles and jasmine. I wondered if hands, clapping, could keep us in this moment for longer, if shoe tapping could confirm that the I40 was home. With the windows unrolled, small winds picked up my
S TA C E Y B A L K U N
bangs and dropped them gently. Yellow signs warned of prairie dogs and nothing in life ever felt so harmless. From the top of a butte we watched the sun move across the land, green and violet, pink and red, dreams of tiger lilies turned into sand. Imagine stained glass. Imagine a fluid landscape held in place by scrub pines as a picture frame —small cacti, mormon tea. Only one flower bloomed, hidden behind a gray rock. Despite the ranger’s warning, I picked it. I stowed a pebble in my pocket, small secret of the sunset desert, where we could only stare as far as far goes. I can’t tell you how far far can go when the air is so empty of height, so full of light and shining. I can tell you how
desperate I was to remember that moment, suspended between day and night, between oceans. We could see nothing familiar in sight, only the sun setting straight ahead, folding into the coastline where I would soon make my home. I let you grasp my hand as we inspected the ice in the cooler, wondered how long we could make it together, always on the run while the phases of the sand shift like moons. We stood on a painted cliff, lips drying out in the slow and constant wind, still like a bicycle in constant motion to hold the continuous stillness. Still as water colors drying on a napkin, bodies pressing endlessly forward into the wind just to keep from falling. •
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WORD DEALER BY
1 They won’t call because you find it hard to smile. Laughing comes easy enough, but only because you don’t know what else to do. You either laugh or keep quiet completely, in hopes they say something about themselves instead, in hopes they look at the painting on the wall. The window is another opportunity, but you’d prefer not hearing about the weather again.
2 They won’t call because you dismantle them like machines. It’s not attractive at all. It always raises a few eyebrows, it’s messy and loud. You could cut more cleanly and be more clinical, but they’d rather have you build new and better things for them instead. You try to remind them how you’re technically more of a breakerdowner than a builder-upper, but they cut you off again. They mention how they’d offer you some ideas, but their schedule is completely booked for the next few weeks and it’s already so late in the afternoon. They turn to the window and finally notice: it’s raining. There’s a family to get to, there are parties to drink at. So you pull a loose string out from their back as they walk away and use it for a doll later on the shelf. They won’t know what you collect in your closet.
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3 They won’t call because you offer no form to pin to the corkboard. You slouch in your seat, you crawl into a ball. You have no God, you have no sexuality, you have no race, you have no gender. There is nothing immediately tangible or electrical about you. You’re a mist. Children sometimes draw you with wings to help explain how you work, believing you can fly higher than the adults that yell at them. But the ground is what you’re used to and you’re not dense enough to try to convert so easily.
4 They won’t call because they know what you’ll say. They talk their tears into vials and give it to you straight from the tap, but they don’t want a test. They know the colors and patterns like their skin, they know their disease. But they don’t want the results on paper. You drain out the glasses when they look towards the window again, memorizing the shapes before you break them with your blood.
5 They won’t call because you’re a reminder. They itch to say things to you, but they know how you’ll keep those words frozen in storage. So many clumsily cut slabs hanging in the cold, when you’re not too busy taking the pieces away. They’re on to you. They don’t know about the closet full of dolls without faces, but they know about your sleeves. They know about the stolen parts tucked away, how you’re always ready to pull them out like guns. The smoke always smells just like their racetrack boyfriend who set people on fire, just like their religious parents who started their hometown’s book burning debacle. But to you, it’s only a musty screen to soak in after the rain. •
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Never would experience unfallen sex, which was reason enough to cry. Still, Benjamin was all smiling in the glen, not even showing the slightest sign of bother, with his breath blowing harsh through my windowpane skin and fogging the blood beneath. Immobilized, I could not even cry out, because I’d forgotten how to touch someone. I had not touched someone in so long and so I just kept my hands to the palpitating earth —either palpitating because I was shaking so or because Night was fondling Earth. Overhead the moon loomed like an avalanche and I thought it would fall down and crush us both to death under its weight. Even still, though, it hung on. Unlike all our friends who were ghosts, the moon remained. Sadly, our friends had all run away, fallen straight off of the edge of earth into the arms of Chaos. All of their molecules had been rearranged; no longer could anyone touch them, they were at war with themselves. Where was William? Where was Bridgette? I wanted to call out to them, press my fingers into their backs, deep until I made a mark, an impression. I couldn’t, though, they were with Urania. They were playing at her feet as children. Oh muse, oh Holy Spirit! Watch over them, care for them.
Earlier that morning at the funeral service, a man had preached in a yellow and pink pinstriped suit about how when we all died we weren’t exactly us anymore. It was our bodies that did all the acting; our brains that did all thinking and feeling. Once we were gone and couldn’t participate in the world anymore or interact with our surroundings, our time was finished, that was that. So
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that was that —we all sunk down into a pool of blessedness as one? In the end we’d all be together, as if we all were going to have a long sleep in the glen? In the parking lot I’d watched the people knitting their arms around one another in pity —for our sad little lives are often pitiable—and wondered if each life was just a grain of sand at the bottom of the sea. That without it— without all the minor lives of the humans and the insects and the animals—the ocean would have no floor and would cease to be an ocean at all. To be one grain of sand amongst the rest! How hard to fathom with a tiny, stubborn human brain. But, it must be nice. All that pressure of being individual gone, washed away. To shake it off and then be able to exhale loudly, because all that burdensome weight was gone for good. No more blonde haired girls, no more blue eyed men, no freckles, no birth marks, no charm, no wit, no need to impress at all.
A cloud passed over the moon, suddenly it was dark and I couldn’t see Ben, only feel his mouth. We were close, but one day we’d be closer—one day he would live inside of my spirit. I’d live inside of his, too. It would be more than unfallen sex; it would be spiritual intermingling blissfulness without confines or barriers. We’d be amongst masses; we’d be lost. We wouldn’t ever recognize or find one another. And that wouldn’t be so terrible. Because why would it? What was lying in the glen, what was skin touching skin? It was only a moment; it was a gift we’d never get back. But it was something we’d had, something we’d experienced, and that was enough. •
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A STRANGER’S VOICE (A Spoken Love Letter) BY
I can no longer remember the name of the place, so worn away is it by the many places I have traveled to and searched my way through. But I can still remember the look of it. The way the sunlight hit the grass, casting shadows against the cracks in the sidewalk, a sea against the cement. And the cornflower blue sky, flawless from horizon to horizon.
The stranger stood before me, as perfectly wonderful as the blue, blue sky. I heard them say hello and my mind raced with all the things my mother had told me about strangers, all her warnings and reasons about why I should never talk to them. But I found myself replying anyway, a smile creeping across my face as I realized that everyone was a stranger at one point in time.
That stranger asked me what my name was and, effortlessly, I found myself telling them. Quietly, as if it was a secret between the two of us, plastering our bodies together, holding our lives in place. And in turn they whispered my name back, tasting it on their tongue, rolling the weight of it around in their mouth.
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The stranger’s voice sounded like a lullaby —an accent unlike any I had ever heard before. The letters didn’t sound like themselves at all. They were fresh breaths of air, the wind through lush summer trees. The vowels were a sigh, a song, a story. Each individual sound became a lament for a lost lover, a poem to a friend living across frightened borders, a plea with the sudden realizations that strike at 3 a.m. Wholly unlike anything I had ever heard before. My own name filled up my ears as though it were created to be music, born to live and exist in the air.
When I was younger someone told me that when a person loves you they say your name differently, as if the letters of your name have more weight in their mouth, mean more, taste better. I thought about this again as I stood looking at the stranger, my own name still ricocheting on the insides of my skull.
I’ve listened carefully to every voice I’ve heard since then. Searching far and wide for the stranger’s accent, but I have never heard it again —even in all of my travels.
Sometimes, at night, when I’m on the summit of sleep, I wonder if maybe I have heard that accent a hundred times over without realizing it. If maybe voices are like food —the first bite always tastes the best. Perhaps the first time you hear a voice is also always the most magical. That first moment always the one that sticks with you the longest. •
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Autumnal Dreams BY
It was autumn when it happened, when she stumbled upon him. With her heart planted firmly in the ground where she walked, her eyes lit with clouds and her smile rimmed with sleep. Her feet flew across the ground. Her hair wove garlands of the wind and blew blood red leaves up into the sky, a sunset long before the hour was right. She found him beneath a blooming tree, his knees pulled up to his chest, the curls of his hair like an army of crescent moons against his skin. His skin; a shade darker than cinnamon and his eyes, when he finally opened them to look around himself, were every color pressed between gold and bronze. She sat beside him, as if pulled in by a tide, and was surprised to find that her body fit beside his like the perfect cogs of a clock. She rested in silence, the leaves on the ground swirling around her folded legs, their blinding colors a companion to her frazzled thoughts. Again as if pulled by a tide she picked up his hand and felt along his wrist for the drumming of his pulse. The noise filled her head and in response the wind whipped harder through the trees that surrounded them, twisting words from the howling and rustling and whining. Inspired by the sound she opened her mouth and let her voice spill out into the space.
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It was then that she realized he did not speak, did not see her or feel her skin pressed against his own. The boy stayed beside her, his hand held in hers; only the movement of his blinking eyes and throbbing veins a sign that he was alive. Yet there was something about him—about his silent lips and dark cinnamon skin—that pulled at her curiosity and dug into her heart. She grabbed both his hands and pulled him to his feet, watching shyly from beneath the curtain of her hair as he walked beside her, his footsteps careful, measured and elegant. And gradually she began to learn everything she could about him. Autumn rose up around them, clutching them like the arms of a friend— a force determined that they would not part. She learned to exchange her words for his careful, rare glances, which became more frequent the longer she spent by his side. As if his body was somehow becoming accustomed to her, becoming used to the smell of her skin and the touch of her hair when the wind blew it across his cheek. As though the world only he existed in was cracking itself open, making space for her body as well. She learned that he was easy to love. And she counted the scars across his body and watched in awe as they aligned themselves with the stars at night and listened to the language hidden in the sound of his breathing, stories told through his sighs and in the spaces following each inhalation as the air reverberated inside of his lungs. She took him to a place where the forest spoke in her ear, tore the thoughts from her mind, and placed them in his hands. Her love, her dedication, spread out before him. And there she began to build a home, a space to keep his secrets safe. She imagined the walls creeping up to meet the edges of their bodies, a place where their thoughts could become words, where she could show him her view of life. The breeze floated down the hallways, filled with every scent of every season and all of the memories she had tucked away inside of them—snippets of her life that she fed into his mind. She imagined their bed, the covers and pillows that captured all of their dreams, sending them between their sleeping bodies so that, even in the night, they could share each other’s deepest thoughts and desires. The home held hands with autumn, its walls covered with the brightest oranges and the floors washed with the yellows and golds of the afternoon sun. She could feel it taking shape around them. She could feel its need for skin, a secure home to call its own, pulling him out of his shell and placing
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him on his feet beside her. She whispered this to him in the moments he spent lost in himself and, slowly, bit by bit, her frantic, heated whispers came to life. His words were slow and hesitant, as if he practiced every syllable, rolling it around on his tongue, before he let it spring forth into the air. His glances became more frequent and, bashfully, he mapped the ringlets of hair that clung to the nape of her neck and smoothed the creases from the backs of her knees and the heels of her feet—the pads of his fingers memorizing every detail. Little by little he learned the pattern of her scars as thoroughly as she knew his. She watched him move through her world, safe in the shadows and protection of their home, and listened to his words wrapping tender arms around her body. And as the wind took the curls from his hair, just as his breath carried the words from his throat, he told her stories—day and night—of places and things she could never have imagined. His voice was like sunlight, dripping rays of warmth hung around her shoulder blades. She held tightly to his hand. Life pulsed beneath his skin, a heartbeat contained in each knuckle. A lifetime, repressed, waiting to burst free. •
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I was slipping through you like falsetto—hungover like harmonies. And when we got there at midnight music spewed from every bar and gushed and dried and bled on the streets—he grows legs and walks during the day, brothers and sisters and extras. And every night when the rainman came you couldn’t sleep you lie awake and wait for the roof to open, rafters and nails and splinters to tear apart—lost in constant constellations. And every song in every street echos the same stupid sentiment and they 1 drink it up and wash it down and snort it up—evangelical endings.
Every time you look hard left out the car window and I tell you the same stories you tell me about the mirrors 2 held up against each other and everything repeats, and it is copied and refracts and blurs.
brothers and sisters and extras
since love first made the breast an instrument Of fiercelamenting, by its flame my heart Was molten to a mirror, like a rose I pluck my breast apart, that I may hang This mirror in your sight
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Sometimes I think I’m gonna grind my tea-stained teeth to dust over the eight mundane concerns 3 or fill my mouth with blood biting my tongue - hoping one day we can hold our mirror up to God and see the vampire’d reflection of ourselves—medicated generation—fluoxetine days and zopoclone dreams.
Cos the Truth is we lose an afternoon or a week or a year 4 and our memories fade—I wanna be your alpha and omega, the one you jump shadows with 5 and steals your sheets and wastes the years and days and afternoons.6
And when you watch the sky I listen to the time tick by and write about our wasted nights. •
like and dislike, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disgrace
blow as deep as you want to blow
endless bottomless empty holes, we fill them with concrete and fossils and bones, cover our past and walk over generations triumphant hoping to touch the sky
and repeat and repeat and repeat
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A GHAZAL to the
The cycle of life on Earth revolves around the sea. Each breath we take, each bite we eat, is all thanks to the sea. It’s easy to forget this when one lives on the land. I only started thinking about it when I moved close to the sea. I walk to the beach again, past the decaying ruins of an army fort of yesteryear, to be close to the sea. Beyond a busy highway the humans labeled “one” past the edge of human civilization and in view of the edge of the Earth lies the sea. The walk is long, through a dark tunnel, down a windy path up sand dunes once peppered with bullets, and down a cliff to the sea. The dunes are carpeted with rubbery ice plant, a foreign invader but then again I am no more native than they are to this area, to this sea.
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My mountain Ararat lies half a world away. How I ended up here is a long story, although I long for the mountain I cannot lie, I’ve grown fond of the sea. Each breath I take quenches a thirst, the wind through my hair never ceases to soothe. Some despise the weather it brings, but for the fog and for the clouds I thank the sea. I taste salt in the air. The waves crash, bringing green kelp from the bay. I am cleansed of my troubles, like a sand castle swallowed by the sea. Violated by humans, filled with waste and poison, I worry for its health. What artifacts will future archeologists find at the bottom of the sea? My name, Suren, is Parthian for strength, its origins an old empire of the Middle East whose memory lies submerged in history, like the canyon beneath this deep blue sea. •
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The Twentieh of July BY
It was on that last night when we became one with the stars.
Laying out our bodies, extending every limb, we looked up to see the reflection of ourselves in the sky.
We were among the constellations that night.
Or maybe I’ve got this all wrong and it was the other way around, where we were the ones being reflected into, only a gateway for the stars to touch this earth. •
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We know these moments like the maps of our bodies. We collect them like photographs and store them in our back pocket. As they become more fleeting, we clutch them tighter. You and I, we hunger for these pieces of time which anchor our souls to one another. We walk the geography of one another’s bodies, roaming free among the paths we laid out. We point out these moments like one would stop and watch the sun setting between two mountaintops.
“Something happens and I’m head over heels. I never find out till I’m head over heels.” —TEARS FOR FEARS. Head Over Heels.
The sun was fading in the western sky as I made my way over to your house. I climbed into your room through an open window. It was perfectly silent as you lowered me onto your bed. The glow from the last rays of summer sunshine made the room all golden. You ran your fingers through my hair and told me you were secretly in love with me. I smiled and pressed my head into your chest, just to hear your heart beating.
“If you want me to stay. If you want me to stay. If you want me to stay, I will stay by your side, I will stay by your side. And I want you to find me, so I’ll stay by your side.” —LIARS. The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack.
We lay next to one another staring at the ceiling of our apartment. You held a restart button, but we couldn’t figure out how to work it. We looked to one another for answers, but found only blinding love. I had let you slip away, through my tightly bound fingers. So I packed and I ran.
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“You really want to stay inside and sleep the light away.” —CULTS. Go Outside.
I sang to you through a shaky voice and got your shoulder all wet as we danced around your studio. You held me tightly around the waist and kept your mouth on mine while I fought hard to stay above the surface. I tried to look ahead. You said it wouldn’t be long now. I couldn’t hold my breath forever.
“I close my eyes to conjure up something. But it’s just a faint taste in my mouth.” —DUM DUM GIRLS. Coming Down.
With my eyes on the mirror, the truth was hard to hide. I would never be done. You were a part of me. Without you, a piece of my soul was missing. My map was burned apart and I couldn’t find the way back home.
“Believer-monologue exemplifies a lust. It’s true.” —BLOOD ORANGE. Sutphin Boulevard.
I settled into your universe. So happy to be in the passenger seat, relieved of the map.
“It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know, a change gonna come. Oh yes it will. It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die.” —SAM COOKE. A Change Is Gonna Come.
Our cheeks were stained with tears. We said this would be the song they would play at our wedding. •
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We drove along that twisty, dark rode for hours, my dim headlights leading the way. Enraged drivers kept two inches behind me, or would fly past at the first stretch of rode. We didn’t care though, we kept right on laughing, probably turning their impatience into another joke in our personal comedy routine. We stopped at a lonely gas station on the I-5 to fill the tank and get some snacks. I’m not sure if the attendant asked or if he just brought it up, but somehow the conversation turned to whether or not the two of us were married. I can still recall Sahab proudly pointing to me and saying, “Yea this is my wife.” Meanwhile I giggled, curled my hair in between my fingers and looked at my feet, certain I was about to blow our cover to this nameless gas station worker. He went on to tell her we were newlyweds, that we had just gotten married. I shook my head in agreement, being that was all I could manage in my giggly state. The lady believed us! She said we looked happy. Satisfied with that we were on our way. We continued driving down the road, until one of us, I can’t remember who now, commented on how bright the stars were, out here away from all the light pollution of the city. We pulled over and turned off the car. These looming, brownish mountains stood on either side of us, but the sky… the sky was an endless bucket of dark, dark blue and bright white, speckles of light. How perfect. We opened my moon roof and stared at the sky. I was nervous. Sahab was not. He kissed me then and for the first time, I didn’t giggle. See I had this thing with him where every time he kissed me, I couldn’t stop myself from giggling. I was the queen of awkward kisses. It was okay though, he told me we’d work through it. Anyway, this time was different. I think I may have started to giggle, but there was something about the way his lip pressed into mine and his tongue made its way into my mouth. Or maybe it was the way he put his hand on the side of my face and traced it down to my neck. Still possibly, it could have been the way he stared at me with those big, brown eyes; every guard down. Whatever it was, I was suddenly at his full attention and everything was very serious. At least until we started talking, cracking each other up. Then, we were on our way again. •
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The “Moments” Issue
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A I M E N A . Aimen A. is a 14-year-old living in UAE. To her art has always been a way to connect with others and establish a kind of relationship that you wouldn’t normally be able to have. As a shy, not so outgoing person, she finds writing, drawing and even photography a very easy way of getting to know people just like herself. She believes that living around art is simply one of the most amazing ways to live.
S TAC E Y B A L K U N Stacey Balkun, 25, lives in Fresno, CA, but her heart is in the south. She believes poetry should be accessible by everyone, and that we all have something to teach and something to learn. Her work has appeared in the Tupelo Press Spring 2011 Poetry Project, as a postcard published by Hoot Review, and in cookbooks and audio recordings across the country.
A L LY S O N B U S C H Allyson is a 17-year-old photographer living in Atlanta, Georgia, currently in her senior year in high school. She grew up skipping between towns and states and soon developed a sense of independence that she tries to translate into her photographs. At the age of 15 she picked up her first camera, aimed it at herself, and never stopped. Starting as a way to figure out who she was, photography quickly merged into not only a hobby but a lifestsyle; it became something she wouldn’t live without, couldn’t live with out, and therefore didn’t live without.
J O S E P H D A N T E josephdante.com Joseph Dante, 25, Florida, is a graduate from Florida International University and is currently a reader for online literary journal Hobart. He writes to unclutter and give away the mess to someone else. He falls in love with fictional characters who should be real people and real people who should be fictional characters.
A M A R I E F OX sorrowandlust.blogspot.com Amarie Fox is a twenty-three year old writer and artist from the southern most part of Florida where it is unseasonably warm most of the year. Demons and ghosts live in her writing, while all the beautiful things and people she loves find their way into her art. Balance is key in all things. Currently, all writing is posts over at Sorrow and Lust.
L A N E H A N S E N carnivalknees.tumblr.com flickr.com/photos/lanebrianne Lane Hansen is a 17 year old from Spooner, WI. You will rarely find her without one of her camera and something to write with. When she creates she hopes to show the world through
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her eyes, because she has found that it makes people more willing to let her see the world through theirs. And that is a truly wonderful thing.
E VA H AY E S evajhayes.tumblr.com Eva is a 22 year-old art student from Melbourne, Australia.
J A R E D I P S E N Jared is a 20 year-old writer from Hamilton, New Zealand. He sings in a band called Barracks.
K E L S E Y I P S E N Kelsey is a 22 year-old from Wellington, New Zealand, currently living in Nancy, France. She likes to write things about how the world around her seems to have lost track of what really matters ages ago and forgot pretty much everything about it. She also draws, takes photographs, and shoots short movies, some of them featuring luggages and music by Érik Satie. She likes cats.
L E X I L AV E L L E jkittens.tumblr.com Lexi Lavelle is 19 years old. She is currently a sophomore at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn studying Communications Design. When she was little whenever she had to make a wish she would always wish for everyone to be happy. When she makes something she just wants it to make someone smile, that's the one thing she wishes to achieve with her art.
S U R E N O G A N E S S I A N Suren is a student at Fresno State, in the Creative Writing MFA program. A Ghazal to the Sea is in the form of a ghazal, an Iranian poetry form in which each couplet ends on the same word, and the last two couplets include the poets name.
Z O E R I T E R S ladyfigg.tumblr.com Zoe is a 15 year-old from North Bay, CA. “I write to keep a feeling of being,” she says.
I C H A N S A E L AO mychestisempty.tumblr.com Etc.: If you could believe it, even though I adore writing among all other art forms, I do not much stock into words. Oftentimes my art, my writing, is a futile attempt that often gets lost, misunderstood, or obfuscated by incorrect wording, poor timing, and disorganization, but nevertheless I hope to someday find a way in which I can truly and holistically
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communicate an idea from one person to the next. I one day wish to discover a method of communication that can transcend poor wording or construction; a method that will someday abolish misunderstandings and narrow-mindedness. Such is the purpose and intent of my art.
A L E X I S W A R R I N G T O N thehardbounddrug.tumblr.com I am Alexis Warrington, age 24, and I reside in California. My writing has become the tool I use to tell my stories, remember my thoughts or spotlight someone or something mesmerizing. It is a place of great dramatics where the tiniest moments equal big thoughts and larger actions. I review books on my blog.
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P& S 路 #002 August 2012 路
Issue number two of Paper & the Sea. Theme is moments.