Penn Review: Winter 2017 (49.1)

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Volume 49, Issue 1 Editor’s Note This pocket edition of the Penn Review will not change your life. It will not tell you the meaning of life or the purpose of great art. If those questions could be answered in 32, or 320, or even 3200 pages, the philosophers of ancient history would have cause for embarrassment. But this issue of the Penn Review is nonetheless special. It is dedicated to the problems of division: to space and confinement, connection and desire, love and anxiety, the walls and bridges of our daily experience. Within, you will find voices of varying backgrounds, ethnicities, genders, and political persuasions­—shades of thought and love and longing. These stories signify. They speak to us. In those moments when our path is barred, when the doors of opportunity snap shut and language itself ripens into passionate poison, we sense the strange geographies and geometries of walls that have confined us all along. I encourage you to consider this pocket collection your own personal crowbar. Turn the pages and allow the words to pry away. Daniel Finkel Editor-in-Chief 1

Editorial Board Editor-in-Chief Daniel Finkel Managing Editors Karis Stephen Victoria Xiao Copy Editor Emma Ibrahim

Design Editors Alex Anderson Isabel Kim

Associate Copy Editors Blaze Bernstein Brad Hong Thomas Myers

Associate Design Editors Sam Claypoole Amy Marcus

Associate PR Director Sarah Cronin Associate Editors Natalie Chao Brooke Emily DiGia Christopher Jackson Lexi Lieberman Rebecca Lieberman Emily F. Mair Meghan Miller Allen Zhu 2

Contents Waves

A. Auslander 5

Moving Histories Dan Morris 6 Morning Ablutions Nina Clements

Drum Major Kirk Gingle



Coronation Isabella Lopez 10 Bedlamites’ First Date Anni Wilson


A Stone’s Throw Away Samina Hadi-Tabassum


l’heptameron Kathleen Zhou Annual Report Naomi Elegant A Mother’s Love Brook DiGia If and Only If—Page 1-2 Emily Mair languages Kathleen Zhou


16 17



A Recovery Brooke DiGia 21 April Snow Samina Hadi-Tabassum


Cleaning Out Dan Morris 23

Maybe Corey Loftus 24 Little Snake Kate Oksas 25 An Elegy On Castile Crystal Anderson


Author & Artist Biographies




Waves A. Auslander Today, I have become liquid noise, and my wet coughs are caught on the wetness outside of me. It is tangible; it is disconcerting— the warm, slow movements of my body work in tandem with the movement of the current, with your hands that fill in the space above my head. Sometimes, I don’t want this closeness; Sometimes, it is frightening for our heartbeats to be pulsed through the same slow-moving waves, electronic impulses meeting halfway and greeting each other with half-sentience, perhaps horrifyingly with understanding. Maybe, in this place, there are no divisions between “you” and “me.” Maybe maybe just maybe, we are a single, slow-moving mass with limbs waterlogged, and we are turning the world. We are breathing in synchronization with the fins of this worldblood. Only jellyfish with their no hearts in the first place could ever begin to explain things to us now. We watch them move in quiet no-purpose and trail their stinging curtains across one another’s backs.


Moving Histories Dan Morris It was only yesterday that we pulled the door shut on the storage unit in Maryville, Tennessee, which held the final remains of the ancestral farm that my mother told me about every year as I grew up, instilling in me the value of knowing my history. We loaded the furniture into the truck in an hour with August’s humidity holding us— a white-paneled door, the dark-stained mantel with mirror, a Hoosier cabinet in decline, six kitchen chairs in need of new seats, reed organ, drop leaf table, chesterfield, two upholstered parlor chairs, among other things. Last night we stopped just shy of Louisville to strip our sweatdrenched clothes off and rehydrate at the motel. Tonight, we’ll stay in Hannibal, Missouri, the old stomping grounds of Mark Twain. And this town has not forgotten. Tomorrow, we will continue on westward, passing through other states that we’ve never seen and ones we have. South of Sioux Falls, I’ll call and accept the job while stopped at a rest stop where prairie dogs make appearances. And the next night, at the motel in Rapid City, they’ll call again and tell me their promised accommodations can no longer be promised, and the reality is the job 6

will not sustain us, and so I will have to decline. We will drive the rest of the way back to Seattle, feeling the loss, the stupefaction of having no other options, and then squeak by for the next year. But tonight, we don’t know what the next week holds. The sky is clear as we drive this rented Penske truck from the restaurant to the Holiday Inn Express where our room cools and where we will sleep with no thought of how any of it will really matter.


Morning Ablutions Nina Clements Go to the sink and wash your hands with ants. They itch, but they’re good for the grit. They are small and brown-black. You have driven across the country with no bath, leaving everyone, the husband most of all. Now, California. Look in the mirror. Ants crawl up your arms to your face, and you scrub again, dirt falling away at last.


Drum Major Kirk Gingle Two by two, four by four, eight and a half by eleven they come, crawling in the crevices. I lick the pavement, and it goes numb, dry taste buds that have known only the touch of limestone. The ants crawl up my nose and down my throat like a marching band (tuba, flute, tambourine), tip-tapping against my esophagus Moonlight Sonata No. 14. And they march on And on And on And on


Coronation Isabella Lopez Castles of bedsheets, fortress of undress Bedposts carved with vehement visitations Knight in shining armor, whispering amor through the armoire Silver never shines in night time

To be a princess, a perfect purgatory

Vodka drips and puddles concrete Sticky stalactites stabbing cranberried rivers Cascade into lemonade lakes A jungle of bodies, plastic proclamations in the underbrush

To be a princess, a famine feast

Cacophonied children gathered into chaos To witness the magnificent mundane


Vines twine between haphazard hands While limitless limbs learn topography

To be a princess, a severe socialization

Pretending princess, a divine delusion The illusion:

There is always a dragon in the dungeon


Bedlamites’ First Date Anni Wilson 12

l’heptaméron (chère marguerite) Kathleen Zhou you are the woman men write odes for. you they wish to subdue. listen: they trill your praises and metamorphose you to red rose. from the castle they will steal you (armaments crossed behind l’amour courtois) hounds will bay and soldiers will roar. this their promise. you think yourself guarded but flattery is an easy lover. remember these men will write violence in your name until their words become brands across your chest and you are stripped of your finery.


A Stone’s Throw Away1 Samina Hadi-Tabassum I feel certain that I am going mad again As he brushes against me on the school grounds Our children playing in the cacophony of screams and cries I cannot go through another terrible time So we sit and talk until the afternoon sun Slips away in our benched voices Talk of absent spouses, laundry, writing, lawns The price of apples, piano lessons, birthday parties Lust is zulm I say to myself flushed To covet another’s husband . . . Imagine standing in a crowded stadium Waiting for the first stone to hit I am doing what is the best thing to do You have to forgive me I wait for him patiently each day On the wooden bench under the maple tree I am reaching for a life And I shan’t recover this time I begin to hear his voice and there is a painful joy that builds up Like the pounding of water under a bridge The call of geese on a cold November morning A catalpa tree blooming for one June night I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been 14

I must find the best kind of happiness So I begin to gather the stones Ready to be carried out to the sea Leaving my children behind on the bank Never to be found

Editor’s note: words in italics are paraphrased from Virginia Woolf ’s suicide note. 1


Annual Report Naomi Elegant If I could see you once from across the room every year, and if you let me smile at you, and you smiled too, that would be enough for me to hold onto until the next time.


A Mother’s Love Brooke DiGia ghosts of blue hands pressed onto fogged glass windows bubblegum smell from the ventilator caked into the carpet sugar fibers beneath my toes it’s like Thanksgiving dinner and the sweet potatoes are too much I’ll smash the china plates and hoard the jagged shards to build you a house hidden beneath my cherry wood table. I’ll burn the turkey until it crisps red, boil the gravy in a silver pot and spoon-feed the meal to you just the way you like down in our pretty little house



If and Only If—Page 1-2 Emily Mair


languages Kathleen Zhou I interpret the silent language, shifty eyes and scalpel pauses. If you were as fluent as I, perhaps you would learn to hide scorn in the crook of your elbow and cache disdain in the shadow of your cupid’s bow.


A Recovery Brooke DiGia You succumbed to the drink again; I put the washing machine on rinse


April Snow Samnia Hadi-Tabassum We gaze in awe as thin sheets of quiet snow Blanket the green grass and yellow daffodils Just an hour ago the sun was pounding Our spring hearts and melting our winter blues Now snow fills the young buds in the bushes Like fields of cotton in Mississippi The print of rabbit feet pressed in sprouting blades Bluebonnets glistening in midday sun The wind whistles through the windows And the burgeoning gray skies set in Bringing in an overwhelming gloom That washes over the house The children watch the tiny specks make their flight Tongues pressed against cold glass And I retreat to the bed in the back While the afternoon hours pass away By dusk the snow has disappeared Leaving no trace of its phantasmal self Instead inside of me there is a lingering feeling Of trying to make sense of what is around me 22

Cleaning Out Dan Morris My sister sifts the contents of the dresser drawers in her childhood room that now contains over twenty years of stuff that our mother has placed there since my sister moved out. I kneel in my room selecting the books I would like to save from all the books that my mother has accumulated over the same twenty years since we stopped calling this our permanent home, but it’s still home, and I refer to it as such and long for it when I’m elsewhere, not just the home but the trees that still grow up around it and the ferns that are forever green and do not change. And my mother now lives in another home down the hill from this home where she must be lifted from bed, lifted from her daily chair, lifted from the dining table. The juncos that appear outside the windows every day no longer grip her heart. All she remembers is our names. 23

Maybe Corey Loftus Maybe today I’ll just sit here Admiring the tiny flints of dust Turned golden by the sunlight The same rays that kiss my skin Maybe tomorrow I’ll return Lying cheek to earth I’ll ask the ant what he ate for breakfast And we will laugh until our outlines fade with the sky Under the moon I’ll close my eyes Perched upon my limbs The owl with the wild eyes Sings a new tune Maybe If I listen hard enough I’ll hear my own song A gentle murmur in the universal hum


Little Snake Kate Oksas Two fingers finding a human pulse A moth beating against the window A moth no bigger Than a watermelon seed I held a little snake too tightly by the throat And killed it My thumbs by its eyes and four fingers fastened on each side underneath Through the yielding cavity above the floor of its mouth I dropped it In surprise because I didn’t know that life was that soft


An Elegy on Castile Crystal Anderson “The inert lifeless mass calls out into space . . .” —“Suite” by John Ashbery A face became more than a face, eyes lingering, cleared of daydreams. He was just here. The recorded silence overrode the noise of the shooter’s fear. The body lay still, as if a protracted pause interrupted the actions his face was supposed to be capable of. The girlfriend screamed, very much alive, broadcasting her grief. He was just here. A child in the backseat, her faceless mewls reaching towards impossible comfort. The black man’s face survived dying.  His name like it should be: a song, layered notes in consonant repose. But those four or five shots plucked the music 26

rapidly from his core. He did not linger as Lincoln, blind and breathing through the night. Quick as King at the Lorraine Motel, he died. Castile: a single iamb released into the world as a mass flebile quavering; as if he, in absence, had continued climbing, transcending his own major and minor confines. Rolling chords of unafraid bodies added his theme to an infinite canon. The music sounded more bereft and round with the passing of each viral bang. In this forte, countermelodies forged themselves, not as the codas we hoped for: the caesura brought about when the dissonance resolves. Unadorned men are alive in this fantasia, their names blowing without differentiation between a segue and chorus. There is a struggle


to remember the differences between dead places, pieces that, when distorted, become echoes. Call and response thrums lower than hearing, a long-term event before the fire.


Author & Artist Biographies Crystal Anderson is an American living in northern England and received her Ph.D. from the University of Manchester. Recently published work can be found in Literary Imagination and Communion. A. Auslander is a Philadelphia native currently in their freshman year at Penn. When not waking up in the middle of the night to write indecipherable snippets of poetry, they enjoy doodling, crying, and thinking about how much they miss their three-legged cat, Jenna. Nina Clements works as a librarian in Southern California. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Brooke Emily DiGia is a freshman in the College who is a writer for Bloomers, has an unhealthy obsession with tea, and harbors a preference for cats over dogs. Naomi Elegant is a sophomore studying history. She loves reading books, eating, and watching Michio Kaku videos on Youtube. Kirk Gingle is an exceptional man born in the Yukon, though his current whereabouts are not well known. Having previously been published in the Prescott Journal, The Indian Inquirer, and Inkblot Literary Magazine, the odds are against him, but not without a fight.


Samina Hadi-Tabassum teaches linguistics at Northern Illinois University. Her first collection of poems, Muslim Melancholia, will be published by Red Mountain Press in 2017. Corey Loftus sings out of tune while she waits for the teakettle to whistle. Isabella Lopez is a sophomore in the College, studying English and Creative Writing. She has an ardent love for romantic comedies, coffee, and dog-spotting on Locust Walk. Emily Mair is a junior working on attaining her BFA. You can follow her on Instagram @emilyfujiemair. Dan Morris lives in the foothills of the Cascades Mountains east of Seattle. His chapbook, Following the Day, was published by Pudding House Publications. His work has recently appeared in The Minnesota Review, Tar River Poetry, and Stoneboat. He is senior editor for the online poetry journal Town Creek Poetry. Kate Oksas is a junior in the College majoring in Biological Basis of Behavior and minoring in Creative Writing. Her favorite activities include hiking and camping with the Penn Outdoors Club and blogging about fun neuroscience topics for the Penn BBB Society’s blog, Brainstorm. She is also involved in Penn’s pre-health fraternity, AIΓ, and enjoys exploring the intersections between writing and science. A Chicagoan at heart, she will always miss her city’s pizza, but nevertheless is grateful for the chance to experience the unique richness of viewpoints that Philadelphia and Penn have to offer.


Anni Wilson is a print-maker working in linoleum. A classicallytrained cellist, she values formal elements of the arts over presentday conceptualism. Her most recent set of linocuts illustrates Ben Jonson’s “The Alchemist” and she is currently working on Middleton’s and Dekker’s “The Roaring Girl.” Her work has been featured in American publications including Penumbra, The Tishman Review, and Prick of the Spindle, as well as internationally. She resides at Twin Oaks Intentional Community in Virginia. Kathleen Zhou is a senior in the Wharton School and regrets it only 40% of the time.


Cover design by Isabel Kim. This issue of The Penn Review was made possible through the generosity of The Kelly Writers House, SAC and PubCo. For more information about The Penn Review, please contact us at or visit our website

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