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WRITERS ROOM AT DORNSIFE is a place for writing, reading, thinking, and being. Here, members of the Mantua, Powelton, and Drexel communities will create a shared story.

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W R I T E R S

R OO M

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FOR EVERYONE WHO HAS A STORY TO TELL

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“There comes a time when you realize that everything is a dream, and only those things preserved in writing have any possibility of being real.”

— James Salter

Dear Reader, When you see people who have found each other, that connection is readable to others—evident in how they are and what they make. In February, Writers Room took a trip to the Parkway for the Free Library’s launch of One Book, One Philadelphia. We were blown away by the music— especially violinist Abigail Fayette’s performance of Rene Orth’s composition, “Miniatures from the Mountain.” The piece’s haunting harmonics, pizzicato bursts, and joyous fiddle tunes brought us to a far place, an earlier time. Listening to Charles Frazier and Jennifer Higdon describe their writing processes, Rosalyn, a Powelton resident brand new to Writers Room that night, told us it was like hearing her thoughts voiced out loud. “I felt like I found my people,” she said. After, we hopped on the bus and wrote—a love letter to some aspect of our evening. Joe, our shuttle driver, left the lights on so we could see as we made our way across the Parkway and back over the Spring Garden bridge. William Maxwell once described seeing a bus appear in a blackout as “a lighted box.” It was like that. We were transported. We invite you to travel with us now.

Rachel Wenrick & Kirsten Kaschock West Philadelphia, May 2016

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TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S

Portraits: Self and Others English 360: War Stories  English 360: Philadelphia Stories

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P O R T R A I T S :

S E L F

A N D

OT H E R S

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S I S S Y NORMAN CAIN One autumn night in 1955 my boys had gone on a pocketbook snatching foray that had gone awry—they ended up in juvenile hall and I ended up spending the afternoons of the uncommonly winter-like fall of that year lonely, leaning against the wall at the end of my narrow one way street. Uncontrollable shivering, teeth clattering, constantly sniffing, wiping watery pupils with frozen fingers. Companionless: marooned within a monotonous Cocoon of Boredom yearning for comrades, missing the rough touch football games, slap-boxing, harmonizing, listening to them fantasize about girls. Then one day, as I leaned against my lamenting wall, I saw a battered car filled with parents and siblings being tailed by a dilapidated truck, whose bed was brimming with a mountain of tattered furniture, sputtering towards me.

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I quickly scanned the faces of the new neighbors as they emerged from the car and then my attention turned to the truck. Through a soot-laden window, I saw a high-cheek-boned cinnamon-hued girl with poverty-stricken eyes. When she departed the truck the expression that obscured the facial features of this tall, wiry girl transformed into congeniality, and she saw me. Her smiling eyes locked with mine—into an eternity. Sissy and I became inseparable, became an acute case of tender pre-teen bonding. We spent the few daylight hours after school leaning against the wall of our one-way street shivering, communicating with united spirits. Cloaked in enchantment, we were cozy in bitter cold, and in the twilight we saw clearly—our kindred spirits were lights, illuminating our impoverished lives. We were oblivious to screeching alley cats, blaring sirens and the boisterous, blustering, brisk autumn wind whose Herculean breath would from time-to-time grace us with swooshing multi-pigmented leaves across our glee-filled faces, conjuring giggles from our adolescent souls. The feeling that overwhelmed us was inexpressible. It was like a flower emerging from a bud and embracing the sun’s brilliance for the first time. We rode cloud nine, heard crashing cymbals unite with the syncopated drumbeats of our resounding hearts. I was not happy that the crew was jailed— only God knew when they would return—but I was happy they were not around to get into my business and tease me. One day Sissy and I saw the pack of wild dogs that had been roaming the neighborhood trash-strewn streets like famished Roman Legions in quest of pillage. They were running down the opposite end of the street. Instinctively we embraced, and tasted the sweetness of our first peck. 3

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One morning I got out of bed and my mother met me at the bedroom door. “Norman,” she said, “there was a fire last night—Sissy got burned up.” Unhappiness gripped me. My soul became a reservoir of tears that never found my eyes. I could not speak, only become the daze that engulfed me. I sat silently at Sissy’s funeral, held in a church near the dead-end wall where our love had blossomed. I can still hear the anguished shrieks that emanated from the scantly-attended funeral in the one-room church heated by an oil stove not unlike the one responsible for Sissy’s death. I spent the remaining portion of the fall and the frigid winter during the daylight hours after school leaning against the dead-end wall with the spirit of my beloved Sissy. * In the Spring my boys returned—rehabilitated. We played stickball. We slap-boxed. I remained silent when they fantasized about girls. The relationship that Sissy and I had was not fantasy, it was the pinnacle of authenticity—sometimes I would stand by the wall and think of Sissy. When my family moved, I would make pilgrimages to the wall. The houses on the street and the wall have since been razed. Weeds have taken their place. Sixty years after her departure only the memory of Sissy remains, only the wall in my mind. I remember Sissy. How tall, lean, wiry—we strode across a kaleidoscopic carpet of fallen fall leaves to our wall, our solace, where we spoke in silence. How gazing into her moonlit eyes calmed the currents of my emotional tides. How we immersed ourselves within magnetized embraces and the sensation of Lollipop-flavored kisses. I remember Sissy. 4

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T H E G R E AT D E B AT E O F

N E I G H B O R H OO D 19 55

NORMAN CAIN One Saturday afternoon me and my friend Bobby was heading back to the neighborhood from the movie where we had just seen two good cowboy pictures, starring Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Bobby said that when he had been in the bathroom in the movie he had heard a couple of the neighborhood gang guys talking about Mr. Wilson and my Mother and this Muslim thing. So I asked him what they say. Bobby said, ”First they say Mr. Wilson and your Mother is the best on the block.” By that, he meant Mr. Wilson and my mother was always helping people. “Then they said ‘the way they got into the middle of Olive Street facing each other was like a cowboy duel.’” I’d been seeing a different kind of religious group in the neighborhood for a while now. Bobby too. They call themselves the Nation of Islam. The men dress in black suits, white shirts, bow ties and shiny black dress shoes. The men are lean and have narrow faces, look like they haven’t eaten in years and none of their women are big and fat. The women wear pure white dresses and white scarves. The Nation of Islam talk about Christianity and smoking cigarettes real bad; they talk about eating pork and drinking alcohol real bad. I can understand the liquor and cigarettes, but I can’t understand why they are against bacon and ribs and pork chops and sausages. And the most important thing is I can’t understand why they don’t like the Christian church. I am a Christian; I’m secretary treasurer of the Sunday school at my Church around the corner from where I live. All the church people say that is an important job for a 13-year old to have. To me, to talk about the church was stupid because God didn’t play. If the Islam guys kept it up, God was going to slay them like it said in the bible when he drowned Pharaoh’s army when they were chasing the Jew people across the Red Sea. But it seemed like they knew all about God and Jesus, because one of them came to our Sunday school class and the teacher let him in. And the Islam guy knew about Moses and Abraham and Sarah and Paul and Silas and anybody else you want to talk about in the bible. 5

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“A cowboy duel?” I asked Bobby. With my mom and Mr. Wilson? “Yeah, a cowboy duel,” he answered me back. “And they said when they shoot, their mouths be six shooters.” Another thing about the Nation of Islam—they sold a newspaper they called Mohammed Speaks. Mohammed is their leader and the newspaper talked about white people real bad—called them “blue-eyed devils.” They bad-mouthed Negro people real bad, especially negro church people. Who they think they is? And another thing, they didn’t have God’s word—that everybody with sense knew was the bible. They had a book called the Koran. And to make matters worse they worshiped a God called Allah. Now I know they must have heard of how God got mad with the children of Israel when they were worshiping Baal, but they still had a false God. The new religion caught on real fast, and once a week one of their big preachers (I guess he was like Father Divine to them) named Malcolm X was preaching on the top floor of the hardware store up the street at 43rd and Lancaster Avenue. Bobby and me walked another block without saying anything. And then Bobby said he had heard that my mother ran away from college in South Carolina to marry my father in Philadelphia and that Mr. Wilson had brought her up in his car. “Yeah,” I said, letting Bobby know by my tone that what he said was true. My mother and Mr. Wilson know each other from way back. Then I went on to tell him how Mr. Wilson’s family and my family were from the same place down South and how each summer when me and my family went down we would see them just like we would see them on Olive Street. “You see them down there?” he asked. “Yeah.” Bobby asked, “What you all do?” I told him how last year when we was down there we stayed at my grandfather’s and he gave my father his car, and me, my brother, and my two sisters went to Mr. Wilson’s family’s house in the country. He was there and my whole family was there and we had a good meal. After dinner my dad sang for everyone. My father—one thing about him is he sings that ol’ timey quartet music, a moaning and groaning gospel at our house every Friday and Saturday night with his South Carolina friends. The songs don’t seem to have any words that anybody can understand—and my cousin James plays his guitar with a rock and roll beat. I don’t like that because neighborhood kids would be in front of my house dancing. It made me embarrassed. But it was something exciting to them and those kids were always looking for excitement.

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Bobby and me passed a Muslim with his black suit, white shirt, and bow tie who was trying to sell us a paper. We kept moving without saying a word. We could hear him talking about Allah and a guy named Fard until we got out of hearing range.

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When we reached Olive Street, Bobby asked, “So… are they going to duel tomorrow?” “I hope not,” I said to Bobby. I was thinking again about how my father with his country time gospel singing and my mother arguing on the street with Mr. Wilson was bringing too much attention to me, and how that would give my friends more ammunition when it came to playing the dozens. I felt terrible when they’d laugh at my clothes and say “You need a haircut with your nappy-head self” or call me a “long skinny string bean.” Another one of my mother and Mr. Wilson’s arguments was more than I could stand. Mr. Wilson was my mother’s old friend; he was also the guy that owned the store that the teenagers danced in front of, and the barbecue restaurant that served those delicious sandwiches, and also a barbershop. And he was in charge of the grown-ups from The Little Belmont Bar who took us to see Jackie Robinson and on ferry rides across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, to Camden, New Jersey. Mr. Wilson had become a Muslim some time back and now he was trying to convert my mother. They would get into heated arguments about the subject and I would always manage to be around to hear all I could about this new religion. Lately, the arguments that my mother and Mr. Wilson had about the Nation of Islam had spilled from our house and into the street. For the past two Sundays in a row, they took to the street and argued about what religion was better: Christianity or Islam. Now I had two things to be embarrassed about—my father and his down home gospel quartet and my Mother arguing with Mr. Wilson in the middle of the neighborhood. * The next day, the day I was hoping would just slip by, Sunday, did come. And more people showed up for the duel then I expected. Salmon, the funny drunkard lounged in a raggedy kitchen chair, a quart of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer at his side, and on his lap a transistor radio that had hazy reception of a baseball game between the Phillies and the Negroes’ beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. A group of crap shooters stood in front of the lot that was their special Vegas casino, decked out in two-tone shoes, tailored three-piece suits, crisp shirts with golden bones for the collars and golden links for the cuffs. Wide brim hats sat rakishly upon their heads. Young boys with splintered, over-the-hill baseball bats held together by weathered black tape stood beside girls with Shirley Temple hair-do’s, frilly socks, and long fluffy dresses. Beside them was the local territorial gang, adorned to the man with yellow and blue reversible jackets with their name “Fabulous Kings” emblazoned on the back. Then a guy all dressed from head to toe in cowboy clothes and riding a large white prancing stallion showed up and rode slowly down the street, hesitating briefly several times to let children stare in admiration. Suddenly the loud roar of 7

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a motorcycle caused the horse to neigh and rear up on its hind legs. The children squealed with delight. The action reminded them of a cowboy movie. Around that time a couple of members of the Fairmount Giants baseball team came on the scene, all dressed up in their red-and-white uniforms. You could smell Sunday dinner-fried chicken, yams, rice, and lima beans coming out of the houses. And you also got a whiff of cheap perfume on the women and Old Spice cologne on the men. Some of the little girls held dandelions to their noses. Every now-and-then somebody brushed up against somebody but nobody got mad. The water-ice man happened to come by pushing his cart. Within an instant, he was surrounded by a crowd who waited impatiently for him to shave a huge block of ice with a metal instrument, place the shavings in a paper cone cup and pour thick flavoring onto the ice. Me and Bobby took all of this in. To Bobby it was probably exciting, but to me—I kinda felt some pride, and some embarrassment. I was worried about the teasing I would get from what was happening, but at the same time I was proud of my mother. She wasn’t afraid. She was just as tough as anybody on the street. It was a great day for a duel. It was warm. Squirrels ran up the sides of the few trees that lined the street and hid in between the buds, and then returned to the street out of the way of people. They knew something was about to happen. The duel took place when my mother came home from church at two o’clock. My mother is short, and real black with a shining face. The way she carried herself, you would say she was God-fearing. You could see some pieces of her hair around the side of the lace cap she wore for communion. This short giant of women was a leader to the other women. They would never speak up like she did. She was the outspoken heroine for the women on the street. Her back faced the stone dead-end wall. Mr. Wilson, the business man, he was a leader too, a man who believed a woman should stay in a woman’s place. He was dressed in his black high-shined shoes, suit, bow tie, small-brim hat, and white shirt. He was tall with a solid fat-free build. His face reflected his belief in everything he did or said. His back faced the mouth of the street. The debaters were about ten feet apart. Both stood erect; their eyes were locked. The battle that was about to start was one of those high noon shoot-outs that me and Bobby saw at the movie the day before. Mr. Wilson started the battle by saying, “Good afternoon, Mrs. Cain” with the confidence of a man who owned a barbershop, corner store, and barbecue restaurant. He hesitated a few seconds, smiled, and continued, “I see you got your white communion dress on today. You know the Nation of Islam women wear white all the time. You are wearing white for the wrong reason.” “And what is the reason why they wear white?” my mother asked. Before he could give an answer she went on to say, “You were raised in the church and you know that down home when communion Sunday came, white is what was worn.” “Well our women, Islamic women, wear white all the time because it represents purity, cleanliness, and innocence.” 8

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“Seems like to me that Christian women represent the same thing and as long as you got a good heart, what you wear don’t matter. You mean to tell me that they wear those white dresses to bed?” The crowd, hanging on every word, got a big laugh at what my mother had just said, especially the women who were happy to see a woman standing up to a man, especially a man as important as Mr. Wilson. At this point the duel went into full force. Mr. Wilson mentioned a guy named Wallace D. Fard. This was the guy who gave the message to The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the leader of the Nation of Islam. My mother said that this Fard guy was not no prophet and the honorable whoever-he-was definitely wasn’t Jesus, and it seemed like to her that they was trying to steal the Christian Story. Mr. Wilson got real mad and his voice begins to rise a bit and he said to my mother, “You would not be able to talk to a man the way that you are talking to me if you were a Muslim woman.” “But I’m not a Muslim woman and never will be one,“ my mother replied. “I don’t know about your Koran talking about women, but the bible talks about women. Miriam was the one who saved Moses from being killed by Pharaoh and Deborah was a Judge. She was a soldier. She was a prophet and brought peace to Israel. If the women in the Bible can be important—that means that women today can say what they want to say.” A murmur went through the crowd like a strong breeze and the people started looking at each other like they were saying, “Did you hear what Mrs. Cain said?” Then Mr. Wilson started talking about prejudice and how Negro people should have their own land in America, and my mother said we still had land down south and reminded Mr. Wilson that his people and her people had a lot of land and Negroes shouldn’t just sell their land when they moved to the north. Then Mr. Wilson brought up something that made me think. First he said they killed Emmett Till. This was something that made me think because Emmett Till and I were the same age, and I went to South Carolina every summer. Maybe I could get killed down there. My mother said that was sad but we got to stick together just like Dr. King and the people in Montgomery, Alabama stuck together so Negroes could ride in the front of buses. The crowd started chiming in with “That’s right.” Mr. Wilson said then that the white man would never be right because he was made by a mad big-headed scientist named Yacub, so winning the Montgomery bus boycott wasn’t nothing. After that statement by Mr. Wilson my mother said that story sounded like a fairy tale. The crowd laughed and Mr. Wilson got real mad again and said, “I can’t reason with you,” and stormed into his house. The crowd sighed, discussed what they had heard and slowly disbursed. Me and Bobby was talking about what had just happened and gave our opinions until an adult told us to shut up because we didn’t know what we were talking about.

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Me and Bobby walked away and talked about how we did know what we was talking about and, once we went back through the whole thing and were agreed, we shook hands. Well, even if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I was determined to find out the truth because I was curious. I want to know why a guy named Abdul Mokum in my class was a Muslim that did not dress in a black suit, and why there was a houseful of Muslims not too far from where I lived that dressed in Arabian clothing. I also was happy that the Nation of Islam guys talked about fighting back. Soon after the shoot-out my mother would say that she shut up Mr. Wilson by asking him if his dead grandparents had been wrong. Anyway, Mr. Wilson soon got away from the Nation of Islam. It was something about him having a barbecue stand that he refused to get rid of. I was not ashamed after that, not of my father singing old time gospel or my mother taking charge in the neighborhood whenever she wanted to.

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T H E

Y E L L O W

DOO R

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY

The hallway is long. As I walk closer to my destination, time is pushing me back further. The walls are beige. The floors are gray and white commercial-grade tile that has been shined to look like glass. There is a young man on one side of me and a young lady on the other side. We are all walking toward the yellow door at the end of the hall. Within this door there is a square window that beckons my presence. It’s saying, “Come, child…come…there’s something you need to see.” I see a lady’s head. She is wearing white with the olden nurse’s cap of yesteryear. In her arms, wrapped in a swaddling blanket nestled against her chest, is a handsome little baby boy. He is my son who I can never touch, never hold, never kiss, never hear coo, or cry. He will never hold my finger or drink my breast milk or do anything a newborn does with his mommy.

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W H AT

I

WA N T

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY Australia is where he lives Backdrop Companion Diamonds Energy will be needed, so he can share the history of his home Freedom Grant Height Ice Cream Joshua knows I exist now, where I was a mystery Kitchen Love Motivation Neighbor Options Patio Queries Rooms Sunshine has ignited the aroma of azaleas and lavender Toyota Writing Voice Warmth Xylophone Yard Zeal

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D E A R

S O N

VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY April 12, 2016 Dear Son, There always comes a time in our lives when we want to know where we come from—who our parents are, what causes us to be who we are. Plain old curiosity. I have decided to write you this letter sharing all of the details that brought you into this world. However, I would really like you to take it all in. You may still have questions. Please feel free to ask. Your father and I grew up in West Philadelphia, in the University City community. We had just begun the summer vacation when I began seeing a neighborhood boy named J. A. Wilson. Actually, I called him Jerry. He was a skinny dude, average height, very fair, who had large brown eyes and who could also sing. He was a member of the choir at a church in South Philly. I sang there and at my church in West Philly. Sometimes, we would sit on my mom’s porch singing “Deep River” or “Come Ye Disconsolate” or Temptations or Four Tops songs. He told me he had been adopted. His adoptive parents were rather elderly. I met them and they were very nice people, but he gave them a run for their money. He was so incorrigible, and he stayed in some type of trouble for dumb things, like calling teachers out or playing hooky. He attended Catto, which everyone in the neighborhood knew was the school for unruly boys. In spite of that, I liked him. We could talk, we had fun together, and we had a lot in common. Plus, I thought he was cute. He was a year older than me. Someone at the YMCA had planned a trip to Coney Island. All of the teenagers from the neighborhood wanted to go. I saved my money from odd jobs I did: hemming dresses and pants, ironing clothes, grocery shopping for neighbors, babysitting. Doing these tasks allowed me to go on the trip. In New York, Jerry and I walked the boardwalk and ate the best Frankfurters. We went for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean and laid around on the beach. I had made my bathing suit and was excited about wearing it. It was a twopiece, colorful striped number. In the water, I began jumping up and down when 13

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suddenly everyone was pointing at me. I never felt my breast fall through the bottom of the bra of the swimsuit. I was beyond embarrassed! For the rest of the trip, Jerry kept trying to console me about the mishap. “Don’t worry about it, no one really saw anything,” he said. But he could not calm me down. He decided that we should take a ferris wheel ride. We began having more fun that afternoon. When we returned to Philadelphia, the consoling continued. But when the summer ended, our relationship ended. No special announcement or proclamation. We were high school seniors, went to two different schools, and went our separate ways with no malice, or sadness. Upon entering the 12th grade, September of 1968, I was 16 years old. It was the normal procedure at all high schools then for students to have a physical examination upon returning to school from the summer. I took the test and passed, whatever passing meant. I was a senior now. I was going to the dinner dance, prom, class luncheon, class trip, graduate and go to college—although college was a distant and delayed thought. I was so happy to be a senior. I would be finishing school on time with my friends. We had over 1200 potential graduates that year at West Philly High, but only 855 would eventually take the pomp and circumstance walk. I loved most of my subjects in school, but gym was my favorite. For me, it was a welcome release. Our teacher, Mrs. Ryan, was Irish with light ice blue eyes and a contagious smile. She always wore a white blouse and a short tennis skirt, white sneakers. One day, with a concerned look she asked, “Victoria, how have you been feeling?” “I feel great,” I replied. It was February of 1969 and it was cold and blustery outside but, for some reason, I was always warm. We wore these horrible, royal blue one-piece gym suits that were like bloomers at the bottom, and they also had a belt. My teacher asked, “You seem a little sluggish, and unable to keep up with the class. Have you been sick lately?” I repeated, “I feel great.” “Let me weigh you,” she said. I stepped on one of those big oldfashioned scales and tipped it at 165 pounds. The gym teacher proceeded to look at my school chart. “You’ve gained 20 pounds since school started,” she said. I had a confused look on my face. Then she said, “I think this weight gain is the reason you are so sluggish. Maybe you should see the school nurse. There can be many explanations for sudden weight gain. If you talk to the school nurse, she may have a better explanation than I do.” At this point, son, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t even know if I had a reason to be afraid. The nurse was used to seeing me because I used to have horrible menstrual cramps that would land me in her office every month. But this time, as I took my school pass to the nurse, I was praying that I didn’t have cancer or some other catastrophic disease. Her office looked like it always did—white and sterile, with a series of file cabinets and a wooden desk and chair with a clock above it. The nurse greeted me. “Victoria, I haven’t seen you in a while. I used to be able to set my clock to 14

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your monthly visits.” She looked at my school health records and weighed me like the teacher had done. She asked, “When was your last menstrual cycle?” “It did come last month,” I told her, “but it was spotty.” The nurse called my mother at work and expressed her concern and felt I should be seen by a doctor. Truth be told, the teacher and the nurse had their suspicions as to what was really wrong with me but back then they weren’t allowed to say it out loud. I was a typical high school girl in 1969. When we went to the doctor, I had on yellow knee-highs that matched the yellow cowl neck top I had made. My penny loafers matched my brown straight skirt. On our way to the Naval Base Hospital in South Philly, my mom didn’t talk to me very much like she usually did. I think we both had a lot on our minds. Neither my mother nor I suspected what the doctor would say after my examination. The doctor was young, but disinterested. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I didn’t like him. He did whatever test he had to do, then he returned to the room where we were. “Mrs. Huggins, there is nothing wrong with your daughter. She is just seven, almost eight months pregnant.” “WHAT?!” my mother shouted as I stepped away from her. “She’s pregnant?” she said in a softer, almost pained voice. The doctor continued, “She’s due April 27.” My mother, still grappling with pregnant, turned to me and asked, “Do you have on a girdle?” “No, mom,” I said. Son, that moment was the first that I knew of you. The way home was worse than going to the doctor. The air in the car was stifling, in February. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. My mother was torn apart because graduation was only four months away. She just kept talking. “How could you do this to me? How are you going to graduate? I should put you and the father under the jail. Whose child is it anyway? Do you want to marry him?” All in one breath, she was shouting at me, this girl who had just turned 17-years-old and who didn’t have a clue. This child was still hearing the doctor say pregnant. Your grandmother was at her end—to the point where she was taking pills for her nerves. Then she got pissed-off and said, “This is bullshit.” She tortured me with, “I can’t feed another mouth. I’m struggling hard enough as it is. I’m not getting financial support from your father.” She was talking to me and asking questions at the same time. “What do you plan to do about this?” Any other time, I would have had a whole lot of mouth. But today, I had no argument, no justification… nothing. I could feel a back-hand waiting to connect with my lips, but I chose not to say a word. After the doctor’s visit my headaches began and they would not let up. I couldn’t tell my friends, my neighbors or even the people who I ran to all of the time. Shame, fear, doubt, anguish and confusion were whirling around in my head and would not leave me. I used to do a lot of errands for the school counselor, Mrs. Rothenberg, and I felt I could talk to her. I hoped she would help me figure 15

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out what to do because your grandmother was through with me, and I think I was at my wits’ end too. In the meantime, I had to tell Jerry. I hadn’t seen your father since August. When I told him that I was pregnant, he questioned whether he was the father but I convinced him that since school had started, I had not been with anyone else. As I mentioned earlier, he had been adopted, so he did not want our child adopted. However, he, a student himself, was not in a position to take care of a child. His parents were much too old to adopt another child. There was no resolution that either of us knew about. When I think about it now, no one ever talked about foster care. I would have considered foster care, but that was never given to me as an option. Your father didn’t have an answer either. Mrs. Rothenberg was sitting in her office with books and papers all over her desk. I asked her if I could talk to her for a minute and she invited me in. I discussed my dilemma and wanted to know about graduating on time with my condition. As tears welled up in her eyes, she said, “I don’t know why you girls always get yourselves in these situations.” But then, she said she would help as much as she could and for me to go to class and come see her tomorrow. I had a headache. To make matters worse, my girlfriend Jan, who lived around the corner from me, had a mother who attended the same community meetings as my mother. Back then, people really frowned on girls who were pregnant out of wedlock. Some families would hide you away; others just made you feel unworthy to breathe the same air as they. When Jan’s mother found out that I was pregnant, she told Jan that she was never to see me, go to my house, or talk to me because I was a bad influence. I wasn’t a bad influence. I was just a girl who got in trouble for not knowing what she was doing. Jan defied her mother. She told her that I was a good person, a good friend, and the last thing she would do is abandon me now, because I really would need a friend now. Jan was true to her word. She gave me moral support... and she never told anyone. That was a friend. Mrs. Rothenberg, with her usual tweed suit, indicated that she could sign me up for a clinic that served young ladies who were pregnant yet still in school. She would assign me to the special school set up for pregnant girls. I would have to keep up with my schoolwork in order to graduate on time. The teachers were told that I was taking classes at a temporary location to handle a medical condition. However, my school assignments were to be turned in on time. Some of my regular teachers actually came to the special school to coach me with my assignments. My science teacher, Mr. Horace, was especially nice to me. He took time to explain the work to ensure that I would get a good grade. The nice thing was that none of the teachers judged me. They wanted me to beat the odds. Son, I hope all of this detailed information is not boring you. It’s just that I felt it important that you know what was happening to me at the time. One day, at the medical center where I saw my doctor, there was a social worker there who talked about adoption to all us girls who were pregnant, and about how we could help a family who couldn’t have children. 16

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Bells went off in my head. I can help mommy. She won’t have to worry about feeding, clothing, housing, or supporting another child. That was the answer. I thought it was a selfless act…an act of kindness toward someone I didn’t even know. But I never thought about how it would affect me. That night, I told your grandmother. She said, “So let it be done.” She had her way out. She never asked me how I really felt deep down inside, was I really sure. She never said, “Don’t do it. We’ll figure something out.” Never once did she suggest another option. One day I went into labor, not understanding why I was in so much pain, your grandmother looked at me and began asking me questions. I told her that I had felt a gush of water come from between my legs. She wanted me out of the house right away. She was afraid if I delivered you at home, that left too much chance for me, and for her, to get attached and fall in love with you. She rushed me to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania down on 34th Street. I was dilated nine centimeters. The doctors and nurses prepped me and an anesthesiologist knocked me out cold so I wouldn’t remember anything. I was told I had a boy. Several days after I delivered you, the social worker assigned to my case was talking with me when I interrupted her, “I want to see my baby.” Shocked, she asked, “Are you changing your mind?” I told her that I wasn’t changing my mind. She began to explain hospital policy and it was against the hospital rules for me to see you. I finally got some backbone and said, “I have not signed any papers releasing my son to you. I want to see him!” She said she would try to make it happen. A day after that conversation, two of my classmates, Marion and Brea, came to the hospital to see me. They had been boyfriend and girlfriend and had always been nice to me. I had known Marion since elementary school, Brea only since high school. As my friends sat down, the social worker walked in and said, “It’s time. Are you ready?” My friends asked, “Ready for what?” I told them, “I am going to see my son.” They were surprised, they didn’t know I had given birth or that I had even been pregnant, but when I asked, “Would you like to go with me?” they both said yes. I had moral support. We walked down a long hallway in silence. As we got closer to our destination, time was pushing me back further. The walls were beige and sterile. The floors were gray and white commercial grade tile that had been shined to look like glass. Marion was on one side of me and Brea was on the other side. We were all walking toward the yellow door at the end of the hall. Within this door, there was a square window that beckoned to me. It was saying, “Come, child…come…there’s someone you need to see.” I saw a woman’s head. She was wearing an old-fashioned white nurse’s cap of yesteryear. In her arms, she was holding a handsome little baby boy nestled 17

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against her chest, wrapped in swaddling blanket. That baby was you, son. The son who I could not touch. Would never hold. Never kiss. Never hear coo, or cry or smile or talk to or hold my finger or drink my breast milk, or anything a newborn does with his mommy. There’s just that yellow door. Son, the only thing they let me do was name you. I looked at the nurse, who held you. I could see you through that window. There you were, so small, very fair, like your father, with brown eyes. With tears in my eyes, I said to my friends, “Doesn’t he look like a five-pound bag of sugar?” We cried for you and for me because you weren’t going home with me to be mine. I don’t recall leaving the hospital, releasing you from my custody, or going home. I only recall the migraine headaches. I could have loved you, but I could not take care of you properly for I was but a child myself. I didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I felt I was being a grown up by giving you to a family who could love you and who needed you. Even though later, I knew deep down inside, I needed you too. I found out, 43 years after you were gone, that my father, your grandfather, had offered to take care of you until I could. Your grandmother told him no. I was not even given that choice. My daddy was good with kids. At school, everyone was happy to see me. I was in my favorite spot, my locker on the mezzanine. Another female student, who was well known around the school, came up next to me. She didn’t speak, or ask how I was, she just said, “I didn’t know you were like that.” My response probably caught her off guard: “The only difference between you and me is that YOU didn’t get caught.” End of discussion. She looked at me and backed away. I went to see Mrs. Rothenberg, the school counselor, the one who had helped me and she said, “I have some good news for you. You have been accepted to Community College of Philadelphia.” I was happy. My counselor hugged me and told me she was very proud of me. I managed to graduate on time. After graduation, your great-grand-mom, Lou Ella, came home from Nantucket, Massachussetts where she worked. I was really happy to see her. One morning, she summoned me to her bedroom to talk. She asked, “How are you doing?” I wasn’t sure why she was asking, but I had my suspensions. I said, “Did Mommy tell you that they took my baby? I saw him, but they wouldn’t let me hold him. I didn’t tell mommy that I saw him. I didn’t figure she would care.” I felt ashamed and like I had disappointed your grandmother and the whole wide world. Hurt didn’t express my pain. The biggest pain for me, son, was not believing in myself. Not believing that somehow, I could have taken care of you. It was your great-grandmom who began talking to me and some of the things she said shocked me. “Yes, your mother told me that you gave your baby up for adoption. They probably didn’t let you hold him for fear that you would become 18

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attached. All I have to say about the situation,” she said, “is that you had no business fucking around!” “Grandmom!” I hollered. She smiled. Then she said, “You’ll be alright. Your baby is probably with a family who can afford to take care of him.” She hugged me and kissed me on the forehead. She wasn’t angry with me, in spite of what she said before. I was happy. Your great-grandmom had been the consoling voice for my spirit. Your grandmother never said a word to me. Son, there was a time when I went searching for you. I really didn’t know where to turn or how to approach the search. I even ran into your father and he asked about you. I’m sure you were as much in his thoughts as in mine. I went back to the adoption home to ask questions which they would not answer. During my search, after I had seen your father the first time, I went looking for him to talk about what I was trying to do. I was able to reach two of your uncles. One of them remembered me even though it had been well over twenty years since he had seen me. All of them apparently had been adopted but as adults they all had gone their separate ways. The oldest brother, I think his name was Bobby, had directed a choir at a local church. He really didn’t remember me until I said that your dad and I, as teenagers, had a child together. Then he seemed to have total recall. I asked how I could get in contact with Jerry. That’s when he shared what I did not expect to hear. Bobby explained that Jerry had a habit of going to the local bar after work, for a drink before going home. He did this religiously. One night, he went to the bar as he always did. He sat down at the bar, ordered his beer, and began a conversation with the bartender. There suddenly was an eruption of noise, and yelling, and gunfire. Jerry turned around towards the noise and was shot between the eyes with a stray bullet. Your biological father was killed as an innocent bystander in 1990 at the age of 39 years old. I tried to get a copy of the funeral bulletin so I would have a picture for you when we met, but because he was not a member of the church where his funeral took place, they did not keep the bulletins. Bobby said that Jerry was married and had a young daughter. He didn’t think that the wife knew about you or me. The last time I had seen Jerry, was, of all places, in the parking lot of the Maryland House when I was on my way to Washington DC. He saw me first, and called out to me. He was still very fair in complexion, still had those large brown eyes, dark brown hair and rosy lips. I think I even recall him having a big smile with space between his upper teeth. He was a nice boy and probably grew into a nice man. We only spoke briefly. The last thing he asked me about was you. Son, I managed to graduate from Community College of Philadelphia. I received a Secretarial Science Certificate and a Liberal Arts Degree. I have attended Phoenix University, Temple University, and Drexel, just taking courses that were of interest to me. In addition, I worked at Internal Revenue Service for 35 years and took many in-house professional courses. 19

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You mother is constantly learning things, even at age 64 when this letter was written. Photography is one of my absolute favorite hobbies. Sewing is another hobby I pursue when I am in the mood. I have written many books of poetry. I sing in my church’s choir and I am a lead soloist. I have had medical challenges in my life

• Breast Cancer Scares to • Double foot surgery to • Two C-Sections to • Neck Surgery to • Pituitary Brain Tumor Removal Surgery to • Double Knee replacements to • Pacemaker

but God has seen me through it all. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” All of my adult life, I have silently celebrated your birthday, April 27. Son, before I am ushered away from this life by angels to paradise, I pray that I will see you face to face. Touching your face and giving you kisses on your forehead has always been my wish. Simply being able to talk to you. Never will I want to be released from your embrace. I will just keep on praying for us and for that day.

Love, Your Birth Mom—Victoria Huggins Peurifoy

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T H E

L O N G

A N D

T H E

S H O R T

ROSALYN CLIETT

12 WORDS Sitting alone in my room on a Sunday morning watching television. The Ministers first, the gardening shows and designer make over, then colors. After I turned the television off, things got very quiet and still. I began to think and thinking leads to feeling. Then it dawned On me, I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. Then the irony hit me, I have two sons by birth, and Three girls I raised as my own, 16 grandchildren and four great Grands, and yet I sit, I live and I’m always home alone. Except for my relationship with a very close friend who said that He would not ever leave me, nor would he ever forsake me. He is my Lord and savior who passionately loves me to life.

6 WORDS Trembling in fear of the unknown Peeking around trees for safe passage Not knowing which way to go I started crying, running and screaming Fearful because of the many sighting I saw her hiding over there! No! She’s near the corner store! Look Out! Run! Hear she comes She seems like she was omnipresent Appearing everywhere at the same time.

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O I - L I N G LAUREN LOWE It’s the door handles I remember from my first trips into Chinatown. Long, slender, cylindrical brass handles. The shine rubbed off in various spots from years of use. I used to rush forward to them, eager to beat my parents to the door. I would reach out, my fingers wrapping around the handle, feeling along the dips and ridges of the surface, and pull. This required a great deal of effort, as the handles sat well over my head. I’d plant my feet about a foot apart, place my free hand against the panels of the adjoining door, and give a single hard yank. The practice proved to be futile—try as I might, I could never get that door open on my own. More than once I missed getting hit in the face by a narrow margin, as the door would swing outwards in a sudden motion with the exodus of unknowing patrons. As many times as I ran up to that door, I had my father open it for me, his arm materializing over my head to do what I did not possess the strength for. The door would open in a smooth swinging motion under the command of his touch. It was always my father who let me into that space. These were the doors to Imperial Inn, my family’s restaurant of choice over the years, as they have known the owners since before I was a thought in anyone’s mind. Imperial has always been a constant—it is a fact that I’ve been going there with my family longer than I can remember, but when I think about the restaurant of my childhood, its memory comes back in odd fragments of vivid detail. Though I know that we often went there for dinner, in my mind it was always noon, always time for yum cha. Perhaps because it was so dim in the main dining room, time seemed to come to a halt when we sat down to eat. The restaurant used to feel so full. There seemed to be an endless stream of people, both patrons and staff, that my father and my aunts had to greet. I would watch them all laugh as I remained seated, my legs swinging to compensate for how they couldn’t yet touch the floor and my fingers rolling chopsticks back and forth across the table. People came over to our round table so often that it was as though it had its own gravitational field. I would get bored of watching the adults interact within seconds. My head stayed 24

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on a swivel, watching the waitresses and their food carts snake between tables. A long stack of big blue tanks against the wall housed lobsters and fish. Up and to the right of the tanks hung a giant stuffed swordfish. Overhead the round tables were chandeliers, their crystals clustered in tight diamond patterns. The room was both divided by wooden arches carved with distinct, Eastern patterns. The same patterned wood accented the wall around the bar and register. In my mind, so much was happening that I could not seem to keep the pieces together. There were carts everywhere, their high metals sides darkened by grease. I was at the mercy of my family’s preferences as they would point and list off names—ha gow, lo bak go, shu mai, lo mai gai, pai gwut—in quick chatter that was at once familiar and unintelligible to me. The waitresses kept up at the same quick pace, placing dishes in front of us with nimble ease. This, this, this, and then they moved on to the next table. Sometimes though, they would pause. They would say hello to me. They would lean in close enough so that I could see the texture of their make up and smile at me, the creases around their eyes deepening while they revealed their teeth in pacifying grins. It is from them that I remember first hearing my Chinese name. “Hello, little Oi-ling!” as they passed by with their carts and patted my cheek. “Oi-ling must be a hungry girl today,” as they snuck extra dumplings—my favorite—off carts and placed them in front of me. “Oh, Oi-ling, so pretty now,” while they delivered a Shirley Temple soda I never ordered. “Hi there, Oi-ling, want to take an adventure?” as I was relinquished by my family into the arms of a bartender and carried back through the kitchen to be given various treats by endeared cooks. It was there that I was christened as Chinese.

At some point growing up, the name fell out of use. My family stopped meeting as often to eat together and they dispersed throughout the country. My parents separated. Imperial Inn ceased to be the place of togetherness I had once regarded it to be. I followed my father around, trying to match his ease of presence as we walked through the neighborhood to go to dim sum—yum cha fell out of use too—on Saturday afternoons alone. I joined the Chinese community group he helped lead. The Suns. I was given a black windbreaker that said Suns on the front in Chinese. I started to wear it whenever I knew I was coming into town, like a badge I could pin on to show I belonged. Most often though, my ability to belong was passed down to me from my father. “You really Joey’s daughter?” people would ask. “Yes,” I would answer, and then I was in. I didn’t wear the windbreaker in school unless I could layer and hide it under another jacket. I didn’t have to remind people I was half-Chinese there. They reminded me. “Do you eat dog with your dad’s family?” people would ask. “No,” I would sigh. 25

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I grew up in two places in two ways—at school, as the Chinese friend, and in Chinatown, as the white friend. No one seemed to know how to reconcile the halves, so I didn’t. After my parents got divorced when I was in middle school, I have only been back to Chinatown with my mother once. For many years, she seemed to give that district of the city a wide berth, as though my father had also taken her access card to the neighborhood when he left her. I did nothing to encourage the idea of a communal space, nothing that suggested to her that I felt she could still belong there. I did not tell her that this was because some days I was unsure if I belonged there. So my junior year of high school, I was surprised when she asked if we might possibly be able to go to dinner in Chinatown for her birthday. She asked with a this-is-what-I-want certainty that her speech’s qualifiers betrayed. I could tell that she had been agonizing over the question of the question for days. We went with my older half-brother, Jack, and my nephew, Kevin. I stayed several paces ahead of them the entire walk to the restaurant. I wore my Suns jacket and kept my hands shoved into the pockets as I searched the faces passing me. Most of them looked like they belonged. Some didn’t. None of them looked like my own. I could feel the tightrope line between neighborhood citizen and savvy tourist thin out beneath me as I walked. “Are you afraid to be seen with us, Lauren?” my mom called from behind. “Are we going to ruin your street cred?” I don’t know how to exist with you in this space any longer, I didn’t tell her. I didn’t say that when she and my father split up that I drew a dotted line down the middle of me and have been tugging at the “TEAR HERE” tab ever since. That judging from the way people kept looking at me, I possessed no street cred to be ruined. That the swagger I carried underneath my Suns windbreaker was nothing more than a thin balloon of false presence—hot air that could be released by the blunt tongs of a fork. That I kept my sunglasses on even as the sun set in the hopes of hiding the slant of my eyes that wasn’t there. That I hoped I had camouflaged myself in enough confidence so that no one in town looked at me and thought, outsider outsider outsider. I said none of that. “You walk too slowly,” I replied instead, and tossed a smile over my shoulder at them without slowing my pace. There was a sparse crowd seated inside. I had heard that the side dining room was up for sale. No one greeted us except for the hostess. No one seemed to remember my mother, but then, no one seemed to recognize me either. Our waitress was a young woman I had never seen before. She placed forks down next to the menus, said she would give us some time to decide, and started to head away from the table. I caught her attention. My mother and Jack watched me as they shrugged off their coats and hung them on the backs of their chairs. I fingered the zipper on my jacket as the waitress turned back and smiled at me. “Could we get tea, please?” I asked. “Oh, of course,” she said, smoothing out the surprise in her voice. “What kind of tea would you like? Black, green?” “Heung-pin,” I said, mimicking the syllables I’d heard from my aunt 26

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before. The waitress raised her eyebrows and gave a small laugh. I felt my face flush with color. After a moment she nodded. “Heung-pin?” she checked. “Yes, please,” I said. “And could I get chopsticks as well?” “You speak Cantonese?” she asked, her brows knitting as she looked me over. “Ah—no, not really,” I admitted with sheepish laugh. “I’m half-Chinese, so I know some words but that’s all.” “You’re Chinese?” she asked. Her mouth dropped open in surprise. I nodded with a grin. A small surge of pride shot through me. “I would never have guessed,” she continued, glancing and Jack, Kevin, and my mother. “You don’t look…” I smiled and looked down. “Yeah, no, it’s not just you. No one ever guesses.” As I’ve gotten older I’ve gone to Imperial Inn less and less. My memories from when I was younger have begun to slip away from me. I can still see the ladies with their carts lean in to play with me, but I can only hear them pronounce the first syllable of my Chinese name, “Oi…” before it blurs and trails off. I ask my father. “Oi-lyn,” he tells me. “Lyn. It’s lyn.” “Are you absolutely positive?” He’s not. He tells me that he’s sure it means true beauty though. He doesn’t tell me to stop getting so worked up, that it’s not a big deal, and that’s how I know this failing of memory is a big deal. My grandmother, who gave me the name, is dead. My eldest aunt isn’t sure. My younger aunt wouldn’t know. My father can’t commit to the knowledge one way or the other. My mother, who swears that she knows, is not Chinese. When I turn 20 she gives me a scroll with my Chinese name written in calligraphy. She pulls this out when I begin to question that second syllable. “It’s ling,” she promises. “It says ling. I asked Mrs. Chin—remember, from Clinique? Remember her? Do you—okay, I was just checking—her husband did this for me. It says, Oi-ling.” I nod at her and let the matter drop, but I walk away thinking that for all we know, that calligraphy could say tree. Or dog. Or lyn. I trust Mrs. Chin though, and so I settle on Oi-ling in my head. She or her husband would have said if it sounded unnatural. Something is missing from the name now without my family’s assurances behind it, but I need some semblance of an anchor. Oi-ling it is. One of my aunts calls my father one Sunday morning and asks if we would like to meet for dim sum at Imperial when she and my cousin are finished at church. My father says yes. We have moved into Chinatown, so it takes us mere minutes to walk to the restaurant. As we make our way there, my father remarks that he sees so many white people, lo-fans, around Chinatown anymore because they’re all moving into the area. I nod and try not to feel as though he’s not talking about me. An old Chinese man hobbling down the sidewalk stares at 27

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us as he passes, his hands folded behind his back and his brow furrowed at our incongruous appearances. My father and I walk step for step. I get ahead of him in some places when space on the sidewalk thins out because of the crowd. When we reach Imperial though, I stop short of the door. I look down at the door handles. They’re well within reach, and I know the door is not as heavy as I once believed it to be. As I am contemplating the door, my father steps in front of me and pulls it open. He glances at me before walking in and gives it a few pushes as he passes to hold it open for me. I keep my hands at my sides and follow behind him.

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T W O :

A N

E R A S U R E

P O E M

EMILY PHILLIPS Few poets answer rare provocations on ambiguity According to the cloistered “Dark” Less was published during the Three Hummingbirds Heat – secret recreation garden pop objects and star culture claim intimate, territorial, personal pronouns unerring every claim private Emily knowing no access to sleep Emily and her euphoric friend Ageless timeless Draws a mirror The transcriber depicts transcends and provides subsequent… a mirror while  Themes of their own time and place disaffect poets 31

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Emily mirrors smugness the interior neglect of our poetry shuttered scoffing at torn, small holes uncovered and noticed! so am I Gnomic “I” of Emily Project on Emily Positioned as THE female Her central seclusion and the damned Master Letters that notorious infighting Decisions will represent samples vast demonstrate ideas Because she exists fascinated  and reflected in our own Fantasies

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VA L DA EMILY PHILLIPS

Valda is my name. My mother was obsessed with letters and the power of shapes and meanings they held. She first thought to name me “verte” which she saw in an article from “LIFE” magazine on Paris, but when she realized it meant “green,” she decided not to. But the “V” shape intrigued her, and she liked the attention it seemed to grab. It reminded her of picture of the Eiffel Tower that was also in the article. Sort of an upside down “V.” “Valda” was, to her, unique. Not “Veronica” or “Victoria” like white girls. “Valda” had spice. A hint of the exotic. Spain. Mexico. Alluring, and intriguing. But I do wear green, nonetheless. Perhaps my mother sensed something in her womb, because I LOVE green. And I wear it every chance I get. Not just in the spring, but in the dead of winter. I don’t care. Of course, it’s hard to find them, because almost all the clothing out there in the stores is black. Especially these days with everyone trying to be so cool. But green. Well, I like it. No. I love it! Green gives me life. Like I said, it’s not a dull color. It puts life in you. In me. Color give you, gives ME life. So, that’s why, when I woke up this morning and the sun was out, but it was freezing cold, I put on green. My green, snuggly sweater. I knew it would stand out, and keep me warm. And that should have been a good start to my day. My motor to rev me up and get me focused. On my writing. But, no, I didn’t. No writing. And that’s what a friend...you know, I was writing each day when what I would mean to do... oh... what my day was. Well, oh, I WAS doing it. Writing. But you know. You break away from... I but actually... it do make... well, when you can write what your day gonna be. It’s positive! Like the color green. Which I wear as much... I wear as often as I can.

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But in my writing. I focus on both. Men and women. Men are leaders and I look at it as, in our community... I’m saying this because men are leaders. I look at our community and I don’t see that in our community and I don’t see it. Don’t see that men are good leaders in our community. One that would be setting examples. GOOD examples. I see... the mental breakdown. It’s a mental breakdown!

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I M P L O S I O N CAROL RICHARDSON MCCULLOUGH 3-19-16 TEN The tall building loomed ahead, a massive structure against a clouded grey sky. Still it stood, no more movement, broken elevators, sisters accosted on the stairwells. Nothing. NINE All the tenants vacated months earlier and the whole thing shut down five months prior. All that activity, movement, hustle, done. EIGHT Poverty and pain stacked up tall in a high rise. So much spread out would be a blight on the fair city so they raised up a monument to concentrate the bad stuff and contain it around 23rd Street in North Philly. But “studies had shown” such a configuration was not helpful to anyone’s growth and development. I thought all the high-rise projects had been done away with years and years ago. SEVEN The phone call came unexpectedly. I’d been so sick I stayed in bed all week only moving from beneath the covers to rush down the hall to the bathroom and back. Taking small sips of Gatorade to rehydrate, all I’d had to eat was pink Pepto tabs. That’s all I could keep down, or in, me. I answered the phone in no mood for conversation. The voice at the other end informed me that my name had come to the top of the housing authority’s list and I needed to meet him at the office to go see the place and then sign the lease. I told him of my sick state and asked if we might postpone until Monday, hoping the weekend might give me a chance to recover. He agreed, and so that next Monday I struck off into unknown territory.

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How was William Penn’s approach to planning a city unique? What were the key elements in his plan? 1 William Penn’s Penn’s Woods colony, 45,000 square miles granted to him in the New World as King Charles’ debt payment to his father, was a unique opportunity to plan a “holy Experiment” where Quakers and others could freely worship in a new society where Natives would be included, respected and recognized to be kin with all creation. Protestants were given the right to vote at 21 and hold political office. He established a Friend’s Public School in 1689 to promote education and vocational training. Penn’s Surveyor General, Thomas Holmes, designed a green country town where each house had grounds on either side for gardens orchards or green fields. Penn directed the creation of parks and “Publik Houses,” community-gathering places on every block. The city design allowed for four squares within the city’s four corner quadrants to be set aside for physical recreation, and a ten-acre Center Square to be used as a House of Public Affairs. Streets were laid out on a grid, with east-west named after trees and north-south numbered. The city’s design was unique in its vision, laid out with a structured plan to bring order to nature, a hybrid of rural and city, with the city central and rural factors more on the edge. Another factor within Penn’s design was the foundation of acceptance and cooperation laid out in the very beginning. Quakers and Lenape shared similar beliefs in the Divinity of all beings. As long as they saw each other as kindred spirits, universal brothers who shared and respected nature and each other, it went well. But as liquor, fraud, corruption and war later entered, the benevolent coexistence where Natives would be led to Christ “by gentle and just measures” broke down. SIX I caught a bus on the corner from my house which traveled a route until it was time to transfer to a connecting bus into a part of the city with which I was unfamiliar. I’d heard about bad things happening in the neighborhood where I was heading. This particular day was sunny and hot. No need for the ever-present just-in-case umbrella I carried. I rode the bus surveying the surroundings which looked typical, row homes on crowded streets, no yards, not much green, bricks, sidewalks, asphalt streets, corner stores. I got off at the stop, walked to the next corner and turned, then took a straight shot three and a half long blocks until I came to a foreboding cluster of buildings with some sort of security guard house in the center. Here we go I thought as I walked up to the windowed door and started my reason for being there. I was directed to the office in another building where I was instructed to have a seat and wait for the man I’d spoken to on the phone to meet me. After a short wait while I read posters on the walls and absorbed the heat of the day, he arrived. 1

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What is the “argument” of Benjamin West’s painting “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians”? What details in the painting are most significant?2 Benjamin West’s painting, “Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, 1771- 1772,” depicts a scene where Penn arrives on the banks of the Delaware with his arms outstretched wide, coming in peace with a small band of Quakers to share the land the Lenape already inhabit, in a mutually harmonious coexistence. They stepped onto the shores with the promise of being “good neighbors.” We see no weapons drawn, no threat of violence; rather both groups are facing each other, gazing at each other with rapt attention. A native woman in one fore corner attends to her baby and small child while on the opposite corner two young white men look on. The colors in the painting are mostly the colors of the natural world- blue sky with puffy white cloud cover, lush green of trees reflected in the green waistcoats and vest of some of Penn’s men and even in the blanket (or robe) of a Native man across on the other side of the canvas. Penn’s jacket and knickers are a drab earthen brown. There are settlement buildings the color of wood in the background. The shore is visible off to the side, but the characters involved in the hearing, interpreting and agreeing to the treaty are most prominent, spreading across the entire foreground setting. The painting represents “The Beginning,” a more harmonious time. It was created just as things were stirring into the even of the Revolution. It harkens back to the more peaceable beginning of the colony. Elements of the earliest technologies- maps, ships, clothe, the written treaty- are seen, along with the prevalence of Nature… to be harnessed and later corrupted into wealth gained at the expense of the original inhabitants… is also visible. But at the moment depicted, we see a pledge of peace. FIVE He got the keys and said, “Let’s go see the apartment.” And off we went, to another building and the first thing was that door. It was thick and metal and heavy. Not your usual welcome home type of front door, but a big grey heavy steel thing that required a struggle to open, and a clank which put you in the mind of a jail cell—or a slave ship—when it slammed shut behind you. Then, over the threshold and into the vestibule, it hit me. Smacked me upside the face, opened my eyes wide, assaulted my nostrils: a stench reminiscent of a deep South highway filling station bathroom with the pool of poorly aimed urine collected on the floor, the scent rising in a hot cloud ignited by the heat of sun high overhead. It made me want to turn and run away, but I soldiered onward. I had barely gotten through the door, yet already I’d been transported into another world.

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What does Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography tell us about colonial Philadelphia? Do you believe his account? Why was Philadelphia sometimes called the “Athens of America”?3 Ben Franklin arrived in Philadelphia fatigued from travel, dirty, poor, not knowing a soul. Over the years he fashioned himself into one of the city’s—and the nation’s—most illustrious citizens, accomplished in many areas, a Renaissance man of sorts: author, statesman, scientist, inventor, diplomat and more, who seemingly rose on his own under the volition of his own hard work. So many things we attribute to Franklin today: he opened the first lending library, started the first fire company; he was civic minded, opened the first public hospital, the first university, and he is noted for the many catchy witticisms and truth bombs written in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. Philadelphia was the place to create himself, free of caste systems or aristocratic limitations. He invented himself here as a young man and developed into a highly accomplished man. He was free to rise here, and he did. What’s not to believe about his account in the Autobiography…? Of course, he was writing, looking back over his life, from the vantage of old age. Today if there were any doubt of the veracity or embellishment, he could just call it a memoir and stay on the safe side. I take him at his word, even though he did forget to mention the slaves he owned who probably helped build his little university… But I digress. Philadelphia developed into a city with a lot to offer. There was access to literature, the arts, scientific invention, natural history preservation, portrait galleries, and classical architecture. The abundance of arts and culture made this city the “Athens of America.” Philadelphia became the capital and center of American civilization, looked upon with wonderment by the world as a neoclassical-styled gem. FOUR “The apartment is on the eighth floor,” the man said. “We’ll take the elevator.” Down the hall, turn, down another hall, Hello to an older man shuffling to make his way wherever, then press the button and wait. Wait, wait some more. Finally the door opens and we go into the tightest, narrowest, shakiest elevator I’ve been on, perhaps in my lifetime. We ride up to the fourth floor, then it stops and the door opens. “This one is broken, so we’ll catch the other one up the rest of the way,” he says. So we exit, turn, walk down a hall, turn another way, walk some more and now I’m thinking it would be a major effort and a long excursion for my son to even make it from his school bus through the labyrinthine path, through the building, and upstairs into his own home, safely. Safety. That would be another issue. To live in that place would be like putting a bulls-eye target on his back as he moved like a carnival duck trying to dodge danger in The Projects’ high tower. And my daughter? As the second 3 HIST 276 Midterm Exam, Spring 2016 with Scott Knowles 40

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elevator creaked its way upward, jolting and leaping, my mind wondered how many young girls (and boys, for that matter) had been accosted, harassed or raped in these slow-assed broken down elevators. I could feel a thick cloud of oppression, and danger, settling over me. THREE The doors opened and we and we walked down the last hall, another scent permeated the hallway. This one was powerful, too. Herb. Weed. Pot. It was so strong, I could have caught a contact high had I lingered. My proposed new neighbors smoked pot boldly in the daytime and didn’t give a natural fuck who might be walking through. Key in the door opens up a semi-sparkling clean apartment. Kitchenette with tiny stove and refrigerator, new. Freshly painted white cabinets. Small, but adequate for my scaled back life. A quarter-turn put me in the so-called dining area, really just an extension of what still should have been the kitchen. Tiny living room-like area. Tinier bathroom. Three bedrooms, you guessed it, small. One like the master bedroom closet I once had in a previous life… But I digress. I took a short quick step into the largest bedroom, which would be mine, and looked out the window to catch whatever view I would have. There was just an unrecognizable barren skyscape which shouted at me, “You’re on the backside of nowhere!” loud and clear. As I surveyed the place I could tell they had tried, had really made the attempt to accommodate me and my small family. They had cleaned up, painted, even given me what looked like brand new appliances. I gave it the quick onceover, knowing I couldn’t be choosy. Once upon a time, tenants were given three different choices at three different sites to select one they found most appealing. Those days were gone. So many families needed so much help, the city could barely keep up. Actually, it couldn’t keep up at all. You either took what they gave you when your name came up or you plummeted back down to the bottom of the list and waited another five years, or more. We had gone through so much, endured so much, come through so much to get to this point. This place. It wasn’t a house, as I’d been led to believe. I only had two children so I couldn’t be given the option of a single-family dwelling. Instead, we’d be stacked like sardines in a can, on pot and piss scented shelves, and this was what my fair city was offering me, and expected me to take before the next needy person on the list grabbed it. As I looked out that window, I made the decision that by no means did I find the offer acceptable and by the grace of God I would find another way. I told the man I appreciated how they had attempted to renovate the place and make it clean and fresh and if there was a way someone could take a mechanical crane device and just pick it up out of the building and airlift it to another location I would take it. But, situated where it was, I told him I could not do it. I said my son is on the spectrum and it would be a struggle for him to even 41

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find his way home. He told me there were special needs kids who lived there. I replied “I’m sure there are, and that’s a shame.” No child, nobody should live like that. TWO When I got back onto the street, I was a little turned around, jolted by the intensity of the whole experience. Three years wait to be let down abruptly, to find out that The City’s help was no help at all was unsettling, disorienting. Before I struck out into gunshot or robbery or whatever the criminality special of the day might have been, I knew I needed to be sure I was headed back into the right direction to catch my bus. I saw a police car on the street, so I approached and asked the officer inside, a young woman, for directions to the bus stop. When she told me, I repeated them with what must have been a confused look on my face, so she said to get in and she would take me there. Another police officer drove up from out of nowhere and asked her if everything was alright and if she needed any help. The backseat had no upholstery, no padding, just metal—hot from the sun still beating down. The distance from the front seat to the passenger area was very short. It took me a moment to calculate the proprioceptive aspect and figure out how to configure my body to get it into that tight spot. I could only imagine the tall young men shoved hastily in the back, lanky legs twisted at an acute angle, head banged on the doorframe, body slammed. Think of Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed during a rough ride in the back of a police car perhaps not unlike this one. Later, I realized that I must have been in a place so bad, and stood out so much, that the officer didn’t want to risk me getting lost alone. That’s deep.

Who was Richard Allen and what role did he play in Philadelphia history? What is the significance of the Weccacoe Playground today?4 Richard Allen was a former slave who purchased his own freedom and became a founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He became a Methodist because he felt their explanation was plain and understandable. He originally worshipped at St. George’s Church. As slave owners and other white parishioner numbers increased, they forced Blacks to give up their seats and go into the balcony. In 1787 when they were harassed attempting to pray at the altar, they walked out and forced their own church splitting into two groups. Richard Allen became the founding minister of the Methodist branch, known as Mother Bethel AME. Absolam Jones led the other branch, St. Thomas Episcopal. Allen’s church, Mother Bethel became known as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad. At one point, Allen was mistakenly imprisoned as a runaway slave, but was released once his manumission papers were produced. He successfully sued the slave catcher for false imprisonment, who was then imprisoned himself when he had 4

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no money to pay the fine. In 1810 Mother Bethel Church purchased property at Queen and Lawrence Streets and used it until 1864 as a private cemetery, called Bethel Burying Ground. This land was just over the Philadelphia borderline proper, as Blacks were not allowed to be buried in the city. As the church struggled to ward off foreclosure, the trustees rented the grounds in 1869 for wagon storage. Instead, when the renter dumped wastes from his sugar refinery onto the graves causing deterioration, the cemetery was then sold to the city. In 1908 a city playground was established and the area was renamed Weccacoe. Today the remains of more than 3,000 slaves and free Blacks from colonial times lie underneath the site of a community center complete with a playground and tennis courts with toilet wastes piped through. The significant question is whether the city will treat this National Historical site as a sacred resting place, or continue to desecrate and disrespect black folk unto death and beyond by allowing tennis matches and playground frivolity to trample along the topside while excrement rolls through what should be a resting place. ONE A thundering boom proceeds the crumbling fall as puffs of grey cloud the morning sky. A tumbling, a caving in, a cloud of dust and debris. Like the childhood rhyme: Ashes ashes, we all fall down. The building implodes as did, I imagine, the lives of former displaced residents, to varying degrees. Where do they all live now? The new housing commissioner once showed up at the place unannounced, in his suit and tie, reverse incognito. Someone told him that if he did not leave he would be shot. He was quoted as saying, “No child, no person should live in a place like that.�

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M Y T H E O R Y C H A N G E

O F

H I S TO R I C A L

CAROL RICHARDSON MCCULLOUGH History is vitalCreated and re-created every day Like a work of art, there is shading and shadows A selective use of pieces to advance or highlight A view of the time History becomes a collection of stories we reverse Vs. stories we vilify and forget When it becomes convenient or necessary to change the script Excavations uncover new facts while generations die off And take their testimonies with them Time passes Documentation is lost/destroyed People who witnessed before the Change Pass Away

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Riots go to their graves, silencing the Narrative And the stage is set to make History, become whatever the Teller wants it to be A Theory: S/He who tells the Story Creates the History And It Changes to the degree that its contemporary Seekers uncover it— And cover it back up again.

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D R E X E L

D R E A M H O U S E

RAHKINAH LAUREL I am at Drexel’s Dornsife Center. It is approximately 7:30 pm. It feels like summertime. While the fluorescent lights in the ceiling are allowing me to read and write genuinely. Beautiful zephyrs are flowing in the environment the temperature is in the mid-fifties. Airy scents of my dove soap with pizza and cheese are surrounding my nostrils. I am writing an eight-minute remix in the English class. I am at my Drexel Dreamhouse which includes approximately eighteen people. Everyone is studying English/Creative NonFiction and we ate pizza for dinner. I am here because I enjoy education, learning and being socially and educationally accepted. I hear a muffler of a raggedy car in the background of the environment fading away. I see all unique people writing, working, and there are beautiful windows in a plush suite with extravagant carpet. Miss Rachel is taking pictures. A chalkboard is directly in front of me, to my right Mr. Norman is reading. Behind me is an empty table of the remembrance of the delicious pizza. The importance of the ice cream and cake-like ceilings are aglow for excellent thinking and writing. I’ve noticed that it is quiet, I am around good people, and I am in college. Shh! Don’t tell everyone.

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B L AC K :

A

P O E M

RAHKINAH LAUREL Black is deep with a harmony of richness that makes me think. Black is mysterious. Black Is good-luck. Black is infinity like space. Some blackness is bold, some blackness is pretty, some blackness is cold like mars. Black is deep with a harmony of richness that makes me think.

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Q U E E N

M E

A

CO L O R

EBONY DRUMMOND We are all Queens Red Queen, Blue Queen, Purple Queen Pink. “What color Queen am I” you ask I am a Blue Queen, cool as the ocean water. Beautiful as the sky above. I am a Red Queen, Like The Fire that Flows through my veins I am a Purple Queen, filled with royalty and elegance I am Pink, loving unconditionally and as Nurturing as a flower to a bee. I am a Green Queen, fresh and durable as The greenest grass. I am a White Queen with a soul Filled with purity, innocence and simplicity Red Queen, Blue Queen, Green Queen, Yellow— No. I am a Black Queen Sophisticated, filled with elegance and grace A black queen with the strength of 10 stallions A black queen who stands for what’s right A black queen who shall mother a civilization And teach them to never compromise what’s in their hearts. A Black Queen, A Black Queen What color are you?

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T H E

G A M E

PAT R I C I A B U R TO N We had been playing the game for a while now. It always started in the same way. I’d be playing with the new toy or pet that Mr. Johnny had brought me when he would call me into the kitchen. This time I had gotten a cute black and white rabbit who I named Miss Tootsie. I had just gotten her a few days ago, but I loved to take care of her and she seemed to follow me everywhere I went. I guess she liked me too. For Easter a few months ago I got some baby chicks. They didn’t live too long, but they were real cute and fun to play with. There was always a lot of new toys, books, or pets to play with. Mr. Johnny, her mom’s new boyfriend, liked to buy me a lot of stuff. I liked the stuff, but not him. But maybe next time I’ll let him buy me a puppy. I missed my own Dad, my brothers and mostly my grandmom. There was nobody to play with round here since she and her mom moved in some months ago. Her mom would be home tomorrow with a brand new baby sister, but she wouldn’t be able to play much ‘cause she was still too little. But right now, here I was… 4 years old and home alone in this scary man’s house. I never did like the house ‘cause it was always too dark and had a long, green hallway leading to the kitchen. I used to imagine skeletons under the bed at night who would come out to get me if I was a bad girl. I was not going to be a bad girl. I picked up Miss Tootsie and started down the green hallway towards the kitchen. She was squirming so much that I couldn’t hold onto her. She scooted down the hallways and ran under the kitchen table. Mr. Johnny had fixed me a bologna and cheese sandwich, potato chips and grape Kool-Aid, my favorite. I was real hungry, but I ate slowly, taking small minced bites instead of big ones. I kept my head down, staring at the scratches on the red, metal kitchen table. “What’s the matter, Patsy? You not hungry?” Mr. Johnny peered at me from across the table. “I don’t know why you always fixing me bologna when everybody knows I only like peanut butter and jelly.” So I take my time… I guess that’s part of the game too. After a few bites, I said, “I don’t like this sandwich; do I have to eat it?” “No you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, you know that. Put your plate in the sink and come sit here with me.”

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I threw the rest of the sandwich in the trash and put the plate on the counter not the sink. Grandmom didn’t like people to put dishes in the sink. When I turned around I noticed Miss Tootsie sitting by my chair and I scooped her up before she got a chance to run again. I felt safe with her in my arms again. Mr. Johnny patted his thigh and told me to come sit on his lap. I didn’t like that too much and I tried to sit sideways, but he made me straddle his lap this time. With a lump in my throat, I clutched Miss Tootsie so tight, I do swear we shared heartbeats and I was trying to put as much distance as possible between me and him. But he kept pressing in closer I could feel and smell his hot stinky breath as he continued to lean in closer… and closer. We started with the usual “Patty-cake, Patty-cake,” then Ears, Eyes, Nose and Mouth games… touchy feely games I didn’t like. But I was getting bored ‘cause it wasn’t much fun anymore. I turned my head and heard a group of birds singing outside the kitchen window. I became absorbed by their presence; I kept watching them, started counting them and playing matching games in my head. I wished right then that I could become invisible or at least be outside flying with the birds… anywhere, but in this dingy kitchen playing ugly games I don’t like. I don’t know how long I needed to watch those birds, but they were so beautiful. Mr. Johnny was fumbling around now, zipping his pants back up when I noticed his other hand was still inside my panties. I was too scared to move and looked back to the birds but they had scattered and gone. Miss Tootsie had fallen or been pushed off my lap during the game and was back under the table again, hiding... I pushed hard against his fat stomach to break myself free and scrambled to my feet… running to find her, “Miss Tootsie, come back.” I hope she didn’t run away. “I’m gonna tell my Daddy on you, you just wait!” I didn’t want anymore stuff from him… and guess what? When we left, I took Miss Tootsie with me, ‘cause she was mine.

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U N T I T L E D

1

CHRIS KENNEDY It’s the raw intensity of the lyrics that matches my rasping voice and tired eyes, sitting alone in the dirty freshman dorm common area. The song repeats automatically. The lyrics, reading like an epitaph, balance me between selfindulgent grief and reserved denial. I want this feeling to end quickly but I don’t want to grieve over a friend that’s still here. The song runs through my headphones: I had a friend who died for something he really loved. I had a friend who stood for none of the above.

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U N T I T L E D

2

CHRIS KENNEDY Internet intelligence interpreting ideals in itemized illustrations. Plus your personality into your periodic habitat instantaneously hound those heaped into haphazard happiness. But the broken boy beaten by better of belligerent “best friends� was bested by an asthmatic beauty. She broke the bounded burned he would board up because she was different. She would smile and he would too. She would ask for his scars. She would flip the monitor on. Yet, young years yearn to add. Given a guaranteed time, he gave up, she grew away.

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T W E N T Y - F I V E S E N T E N C E AU TO B I OG R A P H Y CHANDA RICE 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.

Being abandoned. Growing up abused by grandmother and family. Overcompensating for siblings lost. Being loved. Burying first husband. Burying idea of second husband. Cutting family ties. Not being Anne Johnson. Living on my own. Getting sober again. Looking for Mesha. Loss of Mesha. Receiving Ferd. Play with Ferd. Feeling alone. Waiting for Fridays. Tried to deny I was aware. Tried to hold 9 year relationship together alone. Found myself still losing my Identity. Went back to church. Started class at Drexel. Found out I can still dream. Found out some people never change. Found out I can make it on my own. Walking in who GOD made me to be.

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M A R R I AG E E XC E R P T

A N D

H U S B A N D S :

A N

CHANDA RICE But let’s get back to Momma’s funeral. So as I walked up on her, I could see that they put that fucking dress from out the back of the closet on her and her hair was GONE. They gave her a short curly bush! This American Indian was lying there with an African hair do! I know she was hot. I could hear her saying “I’m NOT no nigger like y’all.” This was one of her constant rants. Yeah, I know, I jump around a lot! “You just hold on and try to keep up with a chick!” It is amazing how the mind is so accurate in remembering shit from the past but forgets shit that happened yesterday. I just stood there pondering, clutching her sleeve. I wondered what they were going to do to me next. I thought of the lies I told her on where the money came from and what I had to do to get it. She knew, she groomed me for the Game. So spiritually I took everything, all the lies and the reasons to lie and put them in her coffin with her! Hell, it was her shit and I was giving it back. “Take this with you!” My dad had to come get me. He had to pry my fingers from her sleeve. This was my first black out and I wasn’t even on drugs at the time! People would have blackouts from drinking or drugs. But it has been known to happen to people under complete duress where they black out from the trauma. All I remember is sitting in the limo and the two songs that came on the radio: “Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan and “Better Days” by Dianne Reeves. This was my insight into what they had planned for me. These songs let me know that I was going to go through some rough times, but I was going to make it. I walked around like this for months in this state of confusion. I was fucked up—I would walk all the way up to Woolston Avenue to the cemetery. When I’d get there I’d just lay there and cry and dig. I must have done that for at least three months.

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M Y

M OT H E R

I S

D Y I N G

SYLVIA ELIAS Slowly. She is as tenacious in her dying as she was in her living. Although now she is comfortable, or can be made to feel comfortable, which in life was nearly impossible. “She’s a survivor,” one nurse said. “As she lived,” I respond. Her hands and feet are like ice. The cold creeps up her legs, but only to her knees, in four days of this final life process. The opposite of birth the hospice nurse says, for in death the circulation diminishes in the extremities first, or in her words “as the soul leaves the body.” Each shift nurse checks her pulse, blood pressure, and heart rate. Her heart rate remains normal, but they can’t detect her blood pressure. Each evening I feel her legs to determine her progress: “Should I go?” “Is death near?” “Should I stay?” “We’ll call you if it’s getting close.” So I go. The drive to my motel takes 20 minutes. It’s late spring and still daylight, but the light is softer. It’s been hard to leave the nursing home, yet I’m afraid it will take forever for her to die. I head to Blockbuster for a video and the grocery store for Vanilla Carmel Fudge ice cream—my nighttime comfort. The nursing home had called me in Philadelphia late Monday afternoon. “Your mother is very close to death. Her skin is mottled and her body temperature is dropping.” From our previous conversations I know these are the signs of dehydration and the general slowing down of bodily functions. “How much time do I have?” “Twenty-four to forty-eight hours,” they tell me. Unsettled, I make disorganized preparations to go. Cancel client appointments, make airline and car reservations, board the dogs. I call friends, sadness and panic gripping me just below the surface; call anytime they say. But even so I feel so alone. Once on the plane I feel the pull inside me to reach the west coast. Yet it’s one of those wondrous days when the sky is clear and clouds aren’t obstructing my view of the ground. The plane passes over the land at what seems like an unhurried pace. I lean my head on the window and drift, watching 59

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the patterns of field and wood, the shades of green and brown, rectangles, squares and the curious perfect circles (which I always imagine are landing fields for ships from outer space). I follow the winding rivers and ruler straight roads, the gentle uplifting of grayish land prickled with green into dark gray mountains and barren crags. Periodically I look at the map in the seat pocket to locate where I am. Usually when I fly, I’m asleep before the plane leaves the runway, but this flight helps me as I can only be where I am. Last time I was here, 10 days ago, I learned she’d had a second bout of pneumonia and was not recovering. She’d been so close to returning to her room at assisted living, but now she was barely eating or drinking. Her body was losing strength and she was losing interest in what was going on around her. But she was calling the shots as she always had. An aid told me how she nagged him until he took her outside in her wheelchair. She sat in the sun, spent a long time looking at the trees and sky, and seemed to listen to the birds. He wondered if she was getting too hot. “It won’t kill me” she said. After this final trip outdoors she went to bed and stayed there. This time when I arrived she only had short periods of awareness. This was unlike my previous visit when we made a collage together, she tried on the new clothes I’d bought her, and sang hymns with Amy, from the Salvation Army, and the other residents. Also, when Terry from the assisted living home visited she recognized her, although not sure from where, and held on to her hand so she wouldn’t leave. She never forgot who I was throughout the three or four years of dementia. Now, delighted I was there, although she wasn’t sure why, she held my hand in hers, her long fingers still lovely, even in their thinness. She stroked my hand, saying over and over, “My precious, my precious.” I had rarely experienced such un-ambivalent touch and words of tenderness. I was shocked at how cold her hands were; I held them trying to transfer warmth from my own. I felt grateful to be here at this time in our lives. Hospice was now her primary care giver. Early in the day she was at her best, smiling and charming when relating with the staff. She’d tell people I was her beautiful Arab girl: “isn’t she beautiful, doesn’t she look like an Arab?” It was clear to me she was liked by many of the staff. They’d come by “Hi Rosie, how are you today?” and tell me of her will and tenacity, her humor and beautiful voice, as well as how stubborn and demanding she could be. I began hearing more stories about her. The preacher, who gave communion to the residents at her assisted living home, told me his favorite Rose story. “She was sitting in the hall and I reminded her we would be celebrating communion soon. She was in one of her stubborn moods and said she wasn’t interested. I said I would say a prayer for her anyway. She looked slyly at me and said, ‘Let me know how it comes out.’” Now in this final visit she is quiet. Initially she is turned towards the wall. Her favorite position the nurses say. Staff and volunteers stop by as I sit with her. Amy was shocked by the change. “Just last week she was up and singing with the group.” She encourages me to join her in singing to my mother. As I softly follow along, my tears flow, chocking back my voice.

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Ted, the pastor from hospice came to talk and I tell him a bit about hers and our lives. I feel like I’m betraying her and yet I also feel compelled to say how difficult it was for her to be her and how difficult it was to be her daughter. When he says a prayer before he leaves, he holds her arm firmly with his hand and says words that resonate with her life and my understanding of her. I lose it again and my tears flow. I develop a routine of staying with her through the morning; taking a break mid-day and returning in the afternoon and early evening. I read, worked, and one day, took off for a movie. It felt irreverent to see a movie while my mother was dying, but not only do I love movies, but they help me come back into my life with a clearer head. I saw The Bourne Identity and as a French mini car careened wildly down a long flight of stairs, I call out “do that again!” along with the rest of the college audience. It was a terrific release! While sitting with her I attend to her needs. Her strength amazed me. She would pull herself over by gripping the rail of the bed. I tuck a pillow along her back to provide support. When she pushes her covers off, I pull them up when she gets cool. I get the nurse for her meds when she seems in pain. Early on she rolls toward me and stays on her side or back until she dies. Now I could try to warm her hands or stroke her arm. I’m careful, as she has minimal tolerance for touch. I don’t know what she is aware of, but I begin to talk to her in a soothing voice. My mother had read and reread the New Testament, searching for release from the suffering in her life. She copied pages of the Bible and prayers in small script on scraps of paper or in tiny notebooks. These writings would veer off in tirades against her enemies or disjointed memories of the past. On my last trip I cleaned out her room and found handfuls of scraps, notebooks and old photos. Her writings disturbed me, even after all the years of knowing she was mentally ill. I throw most of them away. There is one small book that is dedicated to my brother and me. I dedicate (sic) my book to my children who by no fault of theirs were instrumental in my own growth. I wish them to prosper by the contents herin. (sic). Their names are Sylvia Rose Elias 1938 Andrew Paul Elias 1940 who came to my assistence (sic). She loved us and never stopped thinking about us; but I couldn’t get past her pain and paranoia to be with her. The book is written in pencil in a very small print, now smudged with time, nearly impossible to read. I can make out a few phrases, and they are so disturbing I both want to figure out what she is saying and I’m relieved I can’t. My mother’s dementia was a release for now she no longer acted out her paranoid thoughts. It’s as if a paranoid thought enters in one ear and never comes out again. She was no longer pushing me away, allowing me to do things for her. Because of her age she had been living in a senior apartment building in Chico, CA and the woman in the coffee shop across the street recognized something was wrong. She spoke to the lawyer we had used and he called me. That’s when I was able to get her into assisted living. Now I talk to her of letting go, telling her she will find comfort and beauty and a release from all suffering. That she will be with her family who has 61

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preceded her. The Angels will come and lift her to the table of the Lord where her father (who she sat with on the Lower East Side when he met friends for coffee and backgammon), and her mother (now free from her own hurt and despair), her brother Joe (who in his last years rejected her, yet left more than enough money in his will so she is well taken care of), her sister Melvina, (who loved and played with her until she died at age twelve, when mother was four), and baby Constantine (who died soon after birth) look forward to her arrival. They are happy now and are waiting eagerly to be with her again. Every hour or two I tell her of this peaceful release and the joy that awaits her. Now and again she lifts and turns her head slightly, as if she wants to hear more. On Friday, day four, Amy and her three daughters stand at the door and sing a hymn to her. Their voices are sweet and beautiful. It’s a respite for me and I’m grateful and sad. I’d been dealing with an ex-investment banker, who was telling me in his banker’s voice, more than I wanted to know about how, in retirement, he became a hospice nurse. I was becoming territorial and protective; my finger to my lips if people were too loud. In hindsight, four days isn’t a long time. I’ve been with longer deaths; my father and a friend. But it’s like my flight here, no matter what’s going on in me it takes as long as it takes. I’m not sleeping well, and although everyone is kind to me, I’m far from home. But, on this day the panic is rising in me again, she looks frail and closer to death and I need support. I call Hospice and ask if Ted can come by. We talk. I tell him how she lifted her head, seeming to listen, as I told her the Lord is waiting for her. I ask if he would say one of his wonderful prayers over her. I weep with the prayer and seeing her so frail. As Ted finishes he spoke of the afterlife he and my mother believe in. As we talk he was startled when I said something to indicate that people just die. “You believe people just die?” “Yes,” I respond, “though sometimes I call myself a just in case Christian.” He seems stumped. Anyway he says, as he’s about to leave, “Can I give you a hug?” “Oh, yes,” I say. It is just what I need. He puts his arm around my shoulders and I give in to his strength. I’ve already planned where I will release her ashes. It’s a lookout on a butte I pass each day. There is a gully below. There is often a haze in the distance tinged with gray and pastel hues. The mountain range, in the distance, emerges as a darker gray-mauve shadow. The Pacific Ocean is on the other side. There are pines growing on either side on the flat surface of the butte. Between the pines is an open area which is desolate, unprotected, and yet beautiful. The spot I want is there, where a small wispy pine clings to the edge of the cliff. Here it can’t thrive, but it survives. It is my memorial to her. On the sixth day, when I could tell she was much closer to dying, I wanted to give her something more. I found the Salvation Army hymn book. This led to another story. While my mother was still in a wheel chair she decided she wanted the hymn book and wouldn’t give it back to Amy. Finally, Amy said, “I guess you need it more than me,” and my mother held it to her chest as she wheeled up and down the hallway singing. 62

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I tried to sing hymns that seemed appropriate but were new to me. Couldn’t do it. My mother and brother had beautiful voices. I’m tone deaf and flat. I tried hymns I knew: “Onward Christian Soldiers,” “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “Silent Night, Holy Night.” It was a poor attempt and all I could think was mother groaning “Oh, Sylvia, you’re trying, but you can’t carry a tune!” So I read some of the more beautiful hymns as poetry. It was hard to leave this night. Her legs are cold, but it hasn’t extended to her trunk. Again, reassuringly “We’ll call you.” Driving back to the motel I’m anxious and uneasy. I’m worried I won’t be there when she dies, even though I know it doesn’t matter. But it seems important to complete this final cycle. I’ve stayed at this motel before. It’s a lovely place. There are lovely landscaped gardens. The staff knows why I’m here and they ask how I’m doing each day. It makes it easier to come to a motel each night. The next morning I both want to rush in and hold back. When I arrive she’s had her sponge bath, the sheets are clean, and her hair is combed. She’s on her back, the sheets smoothly drawn under her chin. Her mouth is open, her breathing shallow. Stroking her forehead, I tell her she’ll soon be with her family in that peaceful heavenly place. The Angels will gently carry her there. The Lord is waiting. Her family is waiting. I’m near tears. My sadness is so complicated. I cry for the mother I longed for and never had. I cry for my mother and her lifetime of pain. I cry for this vulnerable, fragile, tough woman who is my mother. A week later, when I fly in to pick up her ashes, it’s an unusually overcast day. I’d planned a sunset scattering, but I’m disappointed. I want the usual clear sky with the pastel colored hues the mountains shadowy in the distance. I decide to go anyway and I take the box with her ashes to the bluff. The sun breaks through the clouds behind me as I scrape some of her ashes around the base of the little pine tree and into the ground. Maybe some of her ashes will seep into the soil and nourish the tree while the rest I open to the wind and to freedom.

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I T

I S

YO U R S

JEN JOLLES The letter I found on my bedside table After getting out of bed for the first time in 3 days Somewhere there is a museum of unfinished surgeries Where you can reach inside the exhibits And finally through all the things you’ve been holding onto In the end, there is a 100% chance that one of your own organs will kill you So stop looking over your shoulder Stop acting as if you’ve been thrust into someone else’s life And are writing to be returned to your own This is your life You are not a library book though you have had many homes You are more permanent than that More cool cement hand print More favorite shirt left in the closet for the next owner to love also Stop calling yourself a student When all you’ve been studying all those nights is The geography of some other man’s hell Those nights you played hide and seek with LGE And the words were starting to win Those nights when you were merely the axle at the center of the reel The nights when your mind started to rebel And you begin praying with your fists instead These nights when it had been as long since Something had changed your life You had begun to believe that nothing could be life changing Then on Netflix for the 6th consecutive hour A gunman is hugging a human shield And they tell you he is a coward for this They will tell you he is inhuman for holding a life like this for his own But he holds her 64

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Holds her the same way you hold her The only barrier against everything else His arms are so thick that he could stop the bullets without her The sirens are wailing and he is terrified of letting go And they will tell you this is nothing like love They will tell you that you are either too old or young to understand They will tell you that love has nothing to do with music or poetry Despite the words that firework your brain after waking up beside her They will tell you That every song you loved in high school was just a mass marketing scheme Directed at a million kids just like you And when they tell you this You will avoid these songs for years But your memory is a circuit safety net You can patch it even as you are falling It will be easy to forget that you wrote this To hear every word in someone else’s voice You wrote this Even when the words And the pens And the power runs dry You wrote this It is yours

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R I V E R T I G E R

J O U R N E Y

O N

T H E

B L AC K

ROGER CONVERSE Thirty-three years ago, I took a trip on an old river boat, ninety feet long, called the Tigre-Negro, traveling from Iquitos to Pucallpa along the Amazon and Ucayali Rivers in Peru. I wanted to intimately know those things that were furthermost from what was familiar to me. It is not that I wanted to remove myself from home, friends, work, my past. I wanted to discover who I was outside of those things. I found the wilderness alluring. In January 13, 1983, I flew from Boston, Massachusetts to Caracas, Venezuela intending to explore some of the continent of South America, with a particular interest in the Amazon Basin. As I gradually made my way by road and air, south from Caracas to Iquitos, I learned some of the culture and a very little bit of the language.  I frequently found people—Venezuelans, Columbians, Brazilians, and Peruvians—to be unusually open and willing to share pieces of their lives with me. One of these, a woman named Marlen whom I met at the airport in Iquitos, invited me to stay with her family during my sojourn there. She made this invitation perhaps ten minutes after we’d met. Prior to my arrival in Iquitos I was told about an introductory Spanish course being offered at the Catholic University in Lima, beginning March 10. Lima was on the Pacific coast, across the Andes from the river port city of Pucallpa. The plan was to travel from Iquitos to Pucallpa by river, then traverse the Andes in time to arrive for the Spanish course. I was officially told it would be about fourday boat trip. However, once onboard the Tigre-Negro, the crew said a week. It took twelve days. Despite mosquitoes and miscommunications, I arrived in Lima with two days to spare.   The delay was caused by the boat’s engine, which kept conking, and we would be swept back by the rapid current.  Eventually, my patience grew to restlessness.

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The Black Tiger Wednesday March 4, 1983 6:30pm Now they tell me it’s eight more hours to Pucallpa. Thursday March 5, 1:10am I can’t seem to sleep, so since all the other passengers are, l put my head lamp on to write. If I wore it while they were awake, I feel as though I would have half the boat around my hammock gawking at me with this thing on my head. Earlier in the trip I couldn’t sleep for other reasons. I had a little grudge against this one woman on the boat. Her husband and three small children were with her. One night, she and her husband were having a lot of trouble getting their youngest to sleep, a three-year-old boy. I couldn’t blame the kid. All they had for themselves and the kids was a blanket to spread on the deck to sleep on. Every time they put the child on the floor to sleep he’d burst out crying. I have my foam-sleeping pad with me, and since I was using the hammock, I didn’t need it. I offered it to the father of the child and he took it graciously. When he showed it to his wife and told her that it was from me, she didn’t even look up at me. Every time our glances crossed, she just looked away. I thought she must dislike me for being an American, or looking like I have more money.

[But it isn’t her child crying now.] Part of the reason I can’t sleep is because that steady vibration of the TigreNegro’s engine isn’t present and there are no mosquitos biting. When the engine is off we should be tied to the bank.  And when we are tied to the bank at night there are mosquitos, but there are none and it doesn’t make sense. The explanation is that we are once again in the center of the river with all the other floating debris, drifting downstream at the same speed as we should be moving in the opposite direction. I don’t know what the problem is in the engine room. I think it’s the same old thing. The engine has a bilge pump that is continuously working. My understanding is that the boat is too leaky or seals are gone in the pump. Anyway, I just can’t sleep, knowing that are going backwards. I guess it’s better than being tied ashore and having all the mosquitos from the jungle join us. In case I never get a photo of the captain, I should write a quick description: he’s a short man and stout light brown, curly hair and long sideburns. He looks seafaring. For most of this trip his face has been covered with thick, stubby whiskers. His wife stands a half a foot above him. 67

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2:10am I now know it’s more than just the bilge pump, and we are still adrift. The crew is trying to paddle the Tigre-Negro to the river bank with the gang plank. Actually it’s not paddling, but pushing against the water by pivoting the plank away from the boat against the edge of the lower port deck. Two men are on their hands and knees, holding the plank against the edge of the deck and three are pulling on the top of the plank. It doesn’t seem to be working. If we can’t get the engine running tonight, I don’t want to think about how much longer I’ll be on this boat. 3:00am I underestimated the crew’s tenacity pulling on that unwieldy plank. We’re finally tied to some trees that are overhanging the embankment. It’s a pitch black jungle and the mosquitos are bad, but what bothers me more are the ants. As we drifted broadside into the trees, the crew and I were positioned on the upper and lower decks on the starboard side ready to grab branches to stop our drifting. From the upper deck I grabbed a four-inch diameter tree, which leaned out over the top of the boat, while hands from below reached for trees near the bow and stern. Two seconds after I secured a good grip, my hands were covered with tiny red ants. I could only think about all those bites on my legs. Franticly, I shook them off, but the first mate yelled for me to hold on or we would keep drifting. I took my jacket and wrapped it around the branch to try to protect myself to some degree. The trees glistened as thousands of ants reflected the cabin’s light.     I broke off a large branch, covered with them, that poked through the window into our sleeping quarters and caused the women to scream. More are getting onto the boat other ways. If we release ourselves from these trees we’ll drift and probably won’t get another chance to snag onto something else. I was handed a rope and I tied one end to the tree and the other end to the cross member on the ceiling to which my hammock is tied. Other crew did likewise. Now the boat is secured and I am laying in my hammock, picking off stray ants, hoping that the rope does not make a highway for others to climb onto me while I’m sleeping. They bite but don’t hurt much, but neither did the ones that attacked my legs during my walk a few days ago. 8:45am The Tigre-Negro finally got under way about an hour after I made my last entry. The boat didn’t become overrun by ants and I see no sores forming on my hands and arms. The old bites on my legs are almost completely healed now. I was 68

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concerned about having those that got infected worsen, while I was out here and had no access to medical attention. We supposedly have about five hours remaining in our journey. I haven’t had a complete bath in a couple of days and I’ll be glad to have a hot shower. Some people are already packed. I’ve been more or less packed for the last two days.

[Following the lead of the crew, I found the most opportune time to bath was when we were underway. A small dinghy riding the top of our wake, tied to the starboard side, was always accessible. I noticed crew climbing down from the Tigre-Negro into the boat where they would use a bowl to scoop water out of the river for bathing. They would strip to their skivvies, suds up, scrub, and rinse.] Out of courtesy, I accepted a drink yesterday from one of the passengers, a man in his forties. He made it with some kind of spice and ground wheat. I suspected the water used came from the river, but I weighed the risks and drank it. If those diarrhea-prevention pills are still potent after being exposed to moisture I think they may come in handy. My intestines have started to give me some trouble. The woman I once resented, because I mistakenly misinterpreted her shyness as snubbing, just returned my sleeping pad, and thanked me very much. 9:25am We’re at a village now. I’ve chosen to stay on the boat to study my Spanish, while I have the privacy. Ten minutes ago a couple of porpoises surfaced near the boat. Now, I’ve had several sightings. They have the same bottled nose as the familiar dolphin, but only about five feet long. One of the passengers opened a coconut, which took him ten minutes to hack through the fibrous outer shell. As I write, he just gave me a couple of big pieces! 5pm We’ve been going steadily now for about six hours and there are television towers reaching up in the southern horizon. This is comforting. Finally, I am confident that we will be in Pucallpa very shortly and my stomach feels better. 9:15pm I’m in the Hostel de Peru and unfortunately, not going to see as much of Pucallpa as I would like. The port authority has told me to move immediately on to Lima, because I don’t have a stamp on my passport! I should have gotten one arriving in Iquitos, but running into Marlen made things 69

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a little confusing at the airport. After leaving the plane I met her on the way walking to the terminal building and a man at the entrance of the building handed me a small form. When I gestured to Marlen that I had to fill it out, she said it wasn’t important. I shouldn’t have been thinking about her so much and thought about the fact that I was entering Peru, and I needed my passport stamped. Now I’m in the country illegally! This was revealed when the captain kindly walked me to the port authority after we docked at Pucallpa. I am not sure why he thought I should go there in the first place, because I was already in Peru when I boarded his boat. However, it was providential, because I could have gotten in trouble with an unstamped passport. (I only knew him as “captain” and will have fond memories of our drinking together in Pocapangas’ general store. It was an honor to be befriended by him) When I showed the port authority official my passport, he said (I assume), “Where is the stamp on your passport?!” At this everything started coming back to me; the airplane, Marlen, her saying “It’s not important.” He demanded that I take the next boat back to Iquitos and get my passport stamped. I might have learned a little Spanish up to now but not nearly enough to make him understand my situation. I can’t remember ever being so desperate. The river ride was immensely interesting, but I had no desire to do it again—round trip. I literally begged him to stamp my passport and he unwaveringly said that he could not, because I did not enter the country at this port. However, I would not leave.  I needed his mercy, and finally he relented, and strictly told me to go directly to immigration office in Lima. Now I have to find my way across 13,000-foot-high mountains, through dirt roads with hairpin turns to get to the west coast of Peru.

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W I S H YONIQUE MYRIE It began with a kiss I nearly missed The subtleness of it all tingle My spine Straightened with the wisp Of anticipation Together we will build a nation A notion edge within the realm of fantasy Ignorant of the present reality The 20 years of age separation Collides with questions and confusions If only we were free To exist without being Responsible for our creation If only we could close our eyes and the rhythm of time Comfort us into acceptance of our souls’ desire Then maybe you and me will merge into we If only

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T H E

V O W

YONIQUE MYRIE He woke up that morning on a high--high with purpose, high with ambition, high with life. Planning was of the essence, getting things done was a priority. I heard the speech a million times and I followed the flow of importance. I played the role over and over again, the supportive me, patting his back, cheering him on, seeing the positive amidst the cloud of despair. Today, I called his bluff. Let’s do this, I said. Okay, he said. So we were off, step by step, on this day filled with sunny hope peeping through the cumulus clouds hanging heavy. I struggled to stay side by side, my back aching from the weight of my baby kangaroo, losing sight of the direction he was heading only once, having to wait for 30 minutes until he emerged from his diversion, and then we were on way, somewhere, through the arches of the sculpted Penn, hoisted high with history, searching for an entrance that would lead us in the direction of our lives.

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B U R N I N G

D E S I R E

LAUREN ALTMAN My burning desire is to live a life unburdened. To live a life on purpose, with intent with an open heart and an open mind. To breathe in each moment, to savor every bite of food, to absorb the joy from every interaction, and to spread light wherever I go. I want to heal—not wounds, but minds. Too many minds are plagued by darkness unable to heal themselves, stuck in a downward spiral, sulking and wallowing because staying at the bottom is easier than climbing out of the hole. I want to help these people and their minds crawl out of their comfort zones. I want to stop the negative messages. No more “My body won’t listen to me” Let’s have more “Look at the amazing things my body can do” No more “The world is out to get me” Let’s have more “look at how beautiful this world is” No more “nothing ever works out for me” Let’s have more “look at how many opportunities I’ve had,” and let’s see how manymore I will have.

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T H E

P U R S U I T

O F

M I N D F U L N E S S

LAUREN ALTMAN

FLOW

“Flow is the process of achieving happiness through control over one’s inner life. The optimal state of inner experience is order in consciousness. This happens when we focus our attention (psychic energy) on realistic goals and when our skills match the challenges we face.”5

WAY S TO L I V E A M I N D F U L L I F E6 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Start each morning with a tall glass of lemon water Perform sun salutations and then head out for a run, a walk, or a hike Return home and reward yourself with a cup of tea and a big breakfast Take a quick shower to wake up Cross three things off your to-do list by 10am Get to work Set aside time to rest and recharge Cook a delicious meal; savor and be grateful for every bite Get creative—read, write, draw, paint, play Drink a cup of green tea as you wind down for the night Perform sun salutations before bed Meditate on all that you are grateful for at the present moment Sleep well

5 6

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly According to me

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I N T E R L U D E : L A Z Y / M O T I VAT I O N

Inner Critic7: Stop sitting around, you’re so lazy. Inner Worrier: If you don’t start working now, you’ll never be good enough. You were doing so well! What happened to you? Inner Defeater: Why should you even try? You’re just going to fail again. Inner Coach: It’s okay; you’re resting. You’re allowed to rest after a long, hard day. Inner Invalidator: For six hours though? You don’t deserve a rest for that long. Inner Critic: It’s nearly 11pm and you haven’t done anything. You wasted an entire day. Inner Coach: Okay, okay. Tomorrow with be a new day. Put your energy into the things you love: write, read, learn, make music, draw, cook. Sit less, do more. 2015 was amazing; let’s make 2016 even better.

MONSTER ISLAND Before the world was any bigger than our suburban Pennsylvania home, the 56-mile stretch of I-476, and our little cabin in the woods at the other end of the highway, Daniel and I would push off from the dock in Poppop’s forest-green canoe and paddle across the lake to Monster Island8. The lake sparkled as the cool breeze created small waves in the water and the sun glittered on its peaks. We gently paddled the quarter-mile to reach the island; there was little current to work with or against.

FLOW I want to be out on that dock at sunrise every morning, greeting it with a sun salutation and a cup of tea, writing throughout the morning, going for a midday run or workout, practicing my hoop9 skills in the early afternoon, and winding down with a cup of tea and a book into the early evening.

W H AT ’ S S T R E S S I N G M E O U T ? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Traveling to Old City Not knowing when to go Not having a bus ticket to NY yet Needing to pack Not finishing my homework before the weekend Everything D6 Midterm 7 8 9

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Inner-Coaching® Methos developed by Jane Shure, PhD & Beth Weinstock, PhD It was truly a peninsula, but in the fact that it was on the opposite end of the lake made it feel as isolated as an island. Hooping refers to the manipulation of and artistic movement or danccing with a hoop.

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8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.

Starting a new class next week Not having any info on where it is or what we do Feeling pressure to focus on classes I hate Having massive amounts of homework Hating the gym and hating not going to the gym Hating cooking and hating pre-made meals Stress caused by procrastination Lack of bathtub to soak in Expensive gas bill Lack of cleanliness and tidiness

IDENTITY “I feel like I am more myself now than I was at the beginning of this trip.” Leah and I emphatically agreed with Dave’s honest admission. We had finished our decadent hummus dishes and were content to spend our last few hours in Tel Aviv on this beautiful restaurant patio surrounded by trellises of bright pink roses. I took another soothing sip of my fresh mint tea—a tall clear glass filled with hot water and a long sprig of mint. In fewer than twelve hours we would be boarding a plane to head back to the States, just in time for Christmas. I looked up at the cloudless blue sky and confessed to the two of them, “On this trip, I didn’t feel like I had to be anyone but myself. I was present.”

LIMBO

“If I had to express in one word what makes [creative persons’] personalities different from others, it would be complexity. By this I mean that they show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes—instead of being an ‘individual,’ each of them is a ‘multitude.’”10 This duality has been stretching me thin. I get stuck in the middle, with both sides desperately puling me their way. Should I go to the gym or go back to sleep? I do neither. Should I get to campus early or get work done at home? I do neither. Should I finish my D6 website or should I call it quits and back away from the company? I do neither. I sit in limbo, afraid to step one way or the other off the tight rope. Afraid to commit, afraid to make the wrong choice, afraid that once I dive in, I’ll forget how to swim. My indecision is holding me back. Commit or quit. No more limbo. 76

10

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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MONSTER ISLAND Wheel-topped pallets to bring the canoe ashore were planted around the backside of the island, requiring us to paddle through the canal. Shhhh we gently whispered to each other; the canal was shallow which meant that all the sea creatures were sleeping close to us—if we paddled too hard or spoke too loud, we would wake them up.11 We took up our paddles and rested them across our knees, and we let the canoe coast through the shady strait. Our shhhhs echoed in the rustling of leaves and the soft trickling of water lapping up upon the rocky, rooted shores. A cool breeze drifted through the strait, cleansing the water that suddenly became clear, cleansing our minds that suddenly became clear. We closed our eyes as time slowed down for us.

V I N YASA Inhale12 Exhale Inhale Downward dog High plank Low plank Upward-facing dog Downward dog Inhale Exhale Pull your right leg through your hands Stay strong, rise to high crescent lunge Warrior I Warrior II Reverse your warrior Return to Warrior II Hinge forward Triangle post Return to standing Cartwheel your hands down to the mat High plank Low Plank Up dog Downward dog Pull your left leg through your hands Stay strong, rise to high crescent lunge 11 12

I’m still unsure if that was a rule Dad made upf for us, or one that was enforced by Lake Naomi Cub, like the disallowance of spedboats on the lake. Vinyasa is a method of yoga in which movements form a flowing sequence in coordination with breath. 77

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Warrior I Warrior II Reverse your warrior Return to Warrior II Hinge foward Triangle pose Return to standing Cartwheel your hands down to the mat High plank Low Plank Up dog Downward dog

MONSTER ISLAND We paddled a hard left and pulled up to an open pallet. We waded through the shallow water. We pulled and pushed the canoe into place. We ran barefoot through the trees, inventing mystical creatures hiding in the bushes. I coaxed the shy ones out of their hiding places, and Daniel protected us from the firebreathing pterodactyls overhead. Once we tired out, we hopped back in the canoe and paddled home to our private little beach. When we got back, Mom had tuna sandwiches ready for us to chomp down.

MASTERY They say it takes 10,000 hours to master any one art; here goes hour #1. 13 My fingers are already sore, and I’ve only gone through three exercises. I can feel callouses forming on the pads of my left hand’s fingers. A strain follows from my fingers down the tendons on the back of my hand. My wrist tenses up and aches. The strain starts again at my wrist and trickles its way down my forearm to my elbow. I try to stay on time with the metronome, but my tired fingers flub a note every eight or nine beats. The metronome keeps clicking away… click… click… click… The flubs result in dead notes. When I hit the fret properly, my out-oftune bass buzzes in disappointment.

13

Technically not my very first hour of playing bass, but since I have lost track over the past eight years, I figure I’ll start from here.

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INTERLUDE: PERFECTION

Inner Critic: You’re not good enough. You can’t keep time, you still can’t fret properly. Inner Defeater: Why did you even bother starting? You’ll never be good enough. You’ll never be the best. You’ve been playing bass for the better part of a decade— how are you still so bad? Inner Invalidator: Sure, you have improved immensely since you started, but look how much further you have to go. You’ll never get there. Inner Worrier: Where did this strive for perfection come from? This all-ornothing attitude. It wasn’t how I was raised. Mom and Dad always said, “Do your best.” My best was straight-As with the occasional sprinkling of a B+. Why am I so set on being perfect, of not needing second drafts and rewrites? What’s so sinful about having an eraser or of crossing something out to say, “No, this is better”? I’ve been so scared to write in this journal, for fear of saying the wrong words. Inner Coach: Anything done for the first time is a first draft, never the final. Beethoven didn’t write his Fifth Symphony all in one go. Warhol didn’t paint a perfect Campbell’s can with a single brush stroke. Every artist goes through trial and error. Inner Worrier: So why am I so afraid of the latter?

LIGHT As we walked through Mount Hertzel cemetery, which held the bodies of young Israeli soldiers, Dor turned his face to the sun and professed, “The sun is so energizing.” I smiled, closed my eyes, turned my face up to that fiery ball and hummed in agreement “mmhmm.” Even in the most mournful of places, Dor found a silver lining. As I walk down Lancaster Walk on a bitterly cold January morning, the wind ceases. Suddenly, my cheeks no longer feel ripped and raw; warmth washes over them. I turn my face up to the sun, noticing for the first time that the sky is blue and cloudless. I think back to that day at the cemetery, and hum my gratitude toward the energizing sun.

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BLUEBERRIES Blueberry bushes lined the pathway from our cabin to our dock on the lake. Every August, our small pink fingers reached up towards those plump, round berries, dangling on their frail green branches, waiting to be plucked. Once all the blueberries within our reach were collected into our bowls, Dad lifted us up, and our whole perspective changed. Lush green leaves suddenly surrounded my face—instead of dried yellow stalks—and I could pluck twice as many berries; I could reach the ones that the deer hadn’t beaten us to. Every few summers, Daniel and I tried a green blueberry, even though we knew they weren’t ripe yet, just to taste that bitter tanginess again and to giggle at each other’s sour face.14 I can picture myself out on that dock at Poppop’s lake house, performing sun salutations and drinking tea. On the dock where Poppop taught Daniel and me how to fish when we were four years old. At the lake house which Poppop recently handed down to Dad and Aunt Andie. The lake house which I will one day beg my father to hand down to me.

14

And, I suppose, to better appreciate the fresh fruit that grew in out backyard.

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P OO L / S W I M C L U B : I L L U S T R AT I O N

A

P E N C I L

C.P. ROGERS Bright, bright, bright beautiful sunny days sounds of laughter and playing and music blue water blending with blue sky pool deck, pool gutter, diving boards L-shape of pool with floating rope divider, black lines painted on the bottom of the pool, lifeguard stands accurate and truthful and tell me how could a pool with two diving boards give so much life to an entire town and so many individuals? what is invisible is the community of adults and children who came together here to form teams and friendships and play groups; to teach and to learn swimming skills, dances, games and the pool rules and to celebrate holidays and accomplishments some of the lines are the edges of the pool, the pool deck and the grassy areas   within the pool are lines dividing the swimming area from the diving well and the lines dividing the swimming lanes now, the pool has been filled in, there is no more swim club. It is a dark spot in the town.

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T H E

G R AY

A R E A :

A N

E XC E R P T

MICHAEL KAY I first met Jordan Gallagher when I was in the sixth grade—we were in the same ‘home-room’ class, where we would sit, read, and talk about our motivations in life. Back then, we were young, naive and silly. That kid, Jordan, he had a way with words that hit me somewhere that I liked, he was different. He was like me. The demeanor in which he laughed and joked, even though sometimes the jokes were occasionally turned serious—in the name of teenage angst. I’ve kept in touch with him to this day. Eight years. It was only seven years ago that I first started feeling this way, when I was in the seventh grade and out of ‘home-room’ with the golden Gallagher boy. He, that wonderful piece of history, helped me deal with the strange bouts of distance and hysteria that’ve been the poison in my life. But, surprisingly, he was not the one who pointed my swings out to me. Jordan was constructively the catalyst that made me realize, made me wonder, just what exactly was happening to me. Jackson was the first to bring it up to me. Jackson Shaw, that short brunette who used to come over and listen to Nirvana, he was the one who brought it up. Amidst his musical talent, he performed better than any of us in class. But down the road he realized his passion was overwhelmingly clear for music and not mathematics, although he saw both as art. Man, that kid was my own personal Bob Dylan. Hit me where it hurt—everywhere. Tears swell in my eyes as I think about him, I haven’t said a word to the kid in over a year. Whatever, though, I’m sure he doesn’t mind. I hear he’s making a name for himself somewhere in Los Angeles. He was always a deep, somewhat disturbed guy when I knew him, though initially I was slow to realize that. An abusive father sure will shut a kid up. So it wasn’t until a few years into our friendship that I truly got to know him. It was the six of us: myself, Jackson, Jordan, Russ, Jeffrey, and Brennen, each one closer to the other than the last. Brennen, the little devil, had been my best friend since we were at our neighborhood pre-school. Jeff moved to our 82

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sorry dirt town of Temecula when we were in the fourth grade, he instantly attached to Brennen and I and hasn’t left since. Russ is quite the story, met him in third grade, didn’t see him for a couple of years and then he showed up at our middle school and again started our friendship - he even skipped the eighth grade so that he could graduate with us (he was a grade below us) - now he’s a biologist at USC, but he doesn’t talk to Jackson either. Eight years ago we were all introducing ourselves in the sixth grade, except for Russ of course, we waited a year for him. Other than Jackson, I talk to them all each week. It may seem cliché or ordinary to introduce one’s friends to start a story, but why should I care. These guys embody fame. When fame enters a room you pay quick and sharp attention to it, but then you quickly lose interest. I wish I could say the same about my condition, but for myself and those closely around me, there was no interest to be lost. Jackson was the first to notice. It was odd, though, he discovered it from calling my name. The conversation rings in my ears like it was yesterday. It’s strange, right, the things that we remember. Jackson ran up behind me while I was walking to lunch. We—Brennen, Jackson, and I— had just got out of our English class with Mr. Breglio, hands down the worst teacher I’ve ever had, by the way. “So do you just have really shitty hearing, or what?” Jackson questioned the second he caught up. I guess I hadn’t realized I walked so far ahead of him, I was talking to Brennen. I guess that’s what prompted the question. “What?” I asked. “Dude, I called your name like five times just now.” I looked at him, kind of smiled, and said “I’m sorry man, I just didn’t hear you.” I was lying, though. “I used to think you were some kind of dick, or something,” he explained, “but I just realized that maybe this kid just can’t hear anything.” His hypothesis was flattering, nonetheless. I know, and even at the time I was suspicious, that it wasn’t just my hearing. We had a quick laugh, and went to lunch. The whole thing ate away at my brain for years before I decided to tell anybody. Not the conversation, no. But the reason the conversation happened. I wasn’t, and still am not, embarrassed by what happens to me—otherwise this wouldn’t exist. I’d just rather keep it a secret. But, as teenagers go, it’s hard to keep secrets. And it’s hard to stop rumors, though, this rumor was true. It was a Friday in the spring, a glorious start to a teenagers long awaited weekend. Friday, for us, meant hanging out at my house. A big, one-story house with an entire acre of grass and palm trees for us to run free on. Before the trip home, though, we would grab lunch, and go hangout and play innocent games in the meadow just behind my backyard. Dead wheat, tumbleweeds, dirt, mud, sand—it had it all. Those are the days we’ll never forget. Where decisions weren’t between what beer to drink, but between who would be ‘it’ first, or who would 83

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drink out of the horse corral’s water (usually Jeff, yeah). We’d run around with thorns in our feet through horse stalls and riverbeds, bushes and rocks—it felt how living is supposed to feel. We felt alive. They were all so goddamn happy. Yeah they were. Running through the slush and slop, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps this isn’t what happiness was. I couldn’t help but feel like maybe I didn’t deserve this feeling, that it was meant for someone else but not for me. It was within these trances of thought that I started to die, that I started to wonder why everyone around me seemed so intrinsically happy, while I merely had fun only when they did. Contemplating what it may be like to not have any problems can crush a man’s soul. It’s unrealistic yet in the faces of others it seems so possible. Why are my friends so happy, why are they so careless? That feeling, the emotional isolation that pushes the tears out because nobody will understand, confused me. These waves of dread and depression crushed my innocence, sent me home without any ‘good-byes’, put me to bed without any prayers, these waves ruined me. Too often was I letting the outside world—the faces of happiness that seemed to elude me, the beautiful leaves on the trees that lighted the days up with life that I would turn away from—influence the way I felt. The happy outside world was what was crushing the sad inside me. “Why, though, should I feel so bad for myself when there are soldiers on the battlefield risking their lives,” I thought. They left their families. They left their houses, their homes. They left their wives and daughters, their husbands and sons, their fathers and mothers. For me? For country? Selflessly? I felt as though I could feel a pain similar to leaving the things one cares about. For a while, I didn’t care about anything. Too true is it that it takes as much courage to examine the dark corners of one’s mind as it does a soldier to fight in war. Fear, uncertainty, anxiety, all of it. All of it consumes those who have courage to fight the war in their minds. A war that was lost, for me. I just sat down and watched as they all ran around with smiles on their faces, dirt on their feet, and sweat on their chests. They were always singing songs by The Who and The Beatles—happy passionate songs about life and love, and all that I could make from it was hat my life was not what I wanted it to be, and that I wasn’t even sure I could feel love. Girlfriends came and girlfriends went, I was always trying to feel what they called love, I thought that’s what girlfriends were for. Relationships kept me from being alone at most, though. But nothing kept me from being lonely. I tried and tried again to peg somebody for this. Somebody other than myself was the reason I was so happy-impaired. Jackson, right? Blame him, he was the one who brought this up to you, who led the Trojan horse into your castle. It’s his fault. Even then, in all my hate and anger, I knew he couldn’t have done that on purpose. I knew it was my fault. Jackson would never try to change me for the worse. It was the voices I heard that tried to change me. Voices that I heard when nobody was around, the ones that crept up on me in middle of trying to sleep and 84

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kept me awake. Wicked whispers and sharp shrieks that told me things about myself and my friends that I hated. Things that I tried hard not to believe. The voices, they rattled my brain and sent chills down my spine, coercing me to believe them. For quite some time I was stuck in the first stage of grief—although I was not grieving—I was in denial. Denial that I heard anything at all. Denial that I felt anything at all. Denial that I was grieving. Denial that I was changing Sure, now, looking back, it’s somewhat comical that I didn’t accept it all right away. For kids, though, it’s hard to understand emotional or psychological changes. But even so, my parents were getting divorced, they were in the initial stages back then. I wasn’t naive enough to ignore that fact. Justin, my oldest brother and closest friend, was moving away. He was going to be a huge success at Berkeley. To no avail, he was. Top of his class with a patent under his name and the title for “Best Electrical Engineering Device of 2013”—he’s always been like that. Meanwhile I lived not only in his shadow but also my own. My shadow was named ‘change,’ and I refused to turn around and see it. My life was changing rapidly, and like most teenagers and even those less experienced adults, change was not healthy for my angst. Back then, I just didn’t want to believe that I had any kind of ‘issues.’ A kid has trouble coming to terms with the things he can’t understand, and that he can’t control. Especially when these ambiguous changes are happening to him—in him. It was tough not only for me, but for my friends and family also. Although my family was focused more on their own problems. My problem is one that needs to be delved into. It’s not something I can casually slip out my lips and pretend it’s not something strange for others to hear. Well, at least nowadays that’s the situation. Seven years ago I couldn’t even say it to myself, let alone explain it to somebody. So, that Friday, in midst of all the smiling, sweating, sloppy fun, I felt sad. I felt alone, as if it were Times Square and everybody was walking right through my ghost of a body. Right through my soul. My body hurt from the twisting and turning, the torsion and tugging that made my heart sink to my stomach and my stomach cramp to the size of a lime whose acids operated on the open wounds that covered my insides. I was lost, zoned out into a world that had rejected me unknowingly. The tacit acceptance of pain, fear, loneliness, depression, it all burned like the melting candles on a 9 -branch menorah—for the fire and flame of a 7-branch replica would be laughable in comparison. My best friends and their elation surrounded me, but I couldn’t hear them, I couldn’t relate. Something was eating away at the part of me that tried to be happy like them. It was ghosts, it was the voices. They destroyed the fun that took place around me. I had a problem. At least that’s when it occurred to me that I did.

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V I S I O N A R Y VICTORIA DAUGHEN When the baby fell, I had been looking at my leg. My feet didn’t reach the chalky cement, so they normally were tucked up, a slick mess of sunscreen and summer. I had missed a spot shaving, according to my insightful male coworker. I never stopped watching the pool. When I glanced at the shallow end, the close, the immediate, my ears and mind formed the vision of the depths, beyond. Insight requires more than just what’s in sight. I never saw the missed spot. Maybe because it didn’t exist, or maybe because my concentration was on my periphery instead of my leg. The corner of my eye, the pinnacle of focus yet slightest of sight. That’s how I saw him go down. Go faster! She screamed. I thought it was my boss. It was her voice, definitely. She was catching up behind me, next to me, as I ran. Feet scraped concrete. The water was hard as my foot broke the surface. But it wasn’t the water, it was the base. This was shallow. Why wasn’t he sitting up? It was five inches of water. There was the screaming in my ears again. I was going to fall, to slip. Go faster! Words lost in the rush of my ears, I was now the one who couldn’t breathe as I saw him. Flat on his back, eyes wide open, mouth bubbling still in a silent scream. The only scream I couldn’t hear. Was there a way I was supposed to do this? Just get him out! Plunging downward, the water seemed to sheer off in layers as the liquid seal broke. With his cry, the roaring, rushing, screaming stopped. And I realized there was silence, and I was alone. My boss had just risen from her chair, whistle dangling, eyes stricken. His mother, his father, his aunt stood at the edge of the baby pool. Frozen in shock, they hadn’t moved. He was bleeding. He was bleeding? I handed him to his mother. Just a nosebleed. 86

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I walked back to my chair as people burst into congratulatory chatter. “Do you need to debrief?” beamed my boss, bustling around with paperwork. I shook my head silently. “Let me move my chair so you can see the pool better,” said a father in front, nodding in approval. I nodded, then shook my head, then paused. My vision was a blessing, my focus was a choice.

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M A R R Y

M E

VICTORIA DAUGHEN I was engaged once. It didn’t last. Whether it be from the exhibition of effort, or lack thereof, or just wrong timing, I’ll never know. My father had been upset, since I was so young, but my mother found it endearing. “Hey,” he said, as we rode on the bus. He flipped me a quarter. I looked up shyly and met his eye. In my pocket, I found a piece of candy. We wound up sitting together. I offered it to him, and I learned it was his favorite kind. I still have the ring, in my purple pencil box in the drawer under my bookshelf. It’s back at my parents’ home in the suburbs. I don’t know if he’s ever been to the city. His house was secluded, surrounded by trees. That was his place, this is mine. I was the first girl invited to his birthday party. Then he invited Dominique, to keep me company. His mom gave us Hi-C. I was never allowed to have Hi-C. Steven utilized cupcakes as his means to propose. Was it then he asked, after the party? Or was it on the bus? He pulled the plastic ring, with a shining purple heart, from the icing. To a first grader, it might as well have been Tiffany’s. At six-years-old, I said yes to a lifetime of commitment. Why is it that children are ready, and willing, to love? In my mind, marrying Steven would be an infinity of riding the bus together, the only difference being we now disembarked on the same stop. As children, are we unafraid because we know it is only pretend, or because imaginary is our only reality?

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I N A D R E A M T H AT P O I N T S B AC K A N D M O V E S F O R WA R D VALERIE FOX I am miniature and my grandmother immense She’s somewhere but I’m alone There’s a tire swing in a pear tree There are these lines between people There is a path under the side-porch This path is in the shape of an L

There is a window around the threshold level where nothing happens The path runs on like this I’m seeing it as from above Lines show railroad tracks

crosses stitched through them

A bridge is impassable I have to stay for two weeks It’s pleasant enough, except for church My grandmother underlined verses in her Bible These words become a story that is read at her funeral I wake up

beside myself 89

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VA N I S H I N G

P O I N T S

JACKLYNN NIEMIEC

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E N G L I S H

3 60:

WA R

S TO R I E S

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WA R

S TO R I E S

SYLVIA ELIAS

94

It is impossible to know what war is like from the outside. I say that and then I re-read the NY Times article by Phil Klay (2-8- 14) “After War, a Failure of the Imagination.” “The civilian wants to respect what the veteran has gone through. The veteran wants to protect memories that are painful and sacred to him from outside judgment. But the result is the same: the veteran in a corner by himself, able to proclaim about war but not discuss it, and the civilian shut out from a conversation about one of the most morally fraught activities our nation engages in—war.” Later in his article Klay says: “You don’t honor someone by telling them, I can never imagine what you’ve been through. Instead, listen to their story and try to imagine being in it, no matter how hard or uncomfortable that feels.” I think that is what we’ve been attempting to do in the articles and books we’ve been reading in this course. I have early trauma in my own life and many years of psychotherapy, which has made me a good psychotherapist, able to listen, to empathize, and to appreciate the importance of integrating past experiences and moving out of the past and into the present. But we’re reading about men going into battle, often into the unexpected —initially excited about being in battle, then fearful and often ashamed of being afraid. Some emerge intact, but we’re reading about many who aren’t intact, either with disabilities, physical or mental and the unseen emotional scars. Klay’s article suggests even when soldiers come back seemingly intact, they have stories to tell, which when untold and unheard leave them isolated, separated from the world they live with and in, that is, with us. I think of Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried) telling the same stories over and over from various angles adding and subtracting details as memory shifts and with the need to one day get it right; knowing there isn’t any right. As he moves through 30 years of “memories and imagination”: the brutality of war and the men he knew who died in the service and the girl he loved as a nine-yearold boy, who died of a brain tumor, he realizes he’s trying to save his own life with a story.

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Martha Radditz (“The Long Road Home”) was the most painful book for me to read. The ‘worst case scenario’ happened and Sadr city became a fullfledged war instead of a peace keeping mission. Major Shinseki had warned the administration of this, but they didn’t take him seriously so the troops were not prepared with the equipment they needed. Sadr City became another Vietnam—a war with insurgents we were not prepared for or trained to fight. Since his arrival in Bagdad, General Chiarelli “learned what so many commanders before him learned, and always the hard way: The enemy has a vote.” I think of Lieutenant Aquro trapped in the alleyway in Sadr City seeing a bird overhead, his thoughts returning to the warning his wife had given him: “In every war,” she had cautioned, “there is always a platoon that’s gets pinned down. Don’t let that be your platoon.” Under fire the men were amazingly brave—doing whatever they could to help and protect each other. This included the medics as well as commanders on the ground. I was particularly impressed by the relationship between Thomas Young and Robert Miltenberger. ABC’s Martha Radditz arranged a meeting between the two men 10 years later. Young was totally paralyzed and had become an antiwar activists; Miltenberger had remained guilty over telling Young a story that he wasn’t paralyzed on his way back to camp in the Humvee, but had other men laying on him. They were able to talk and Young said he had nothing to feel guilty about—he knew he was trying to calm him. I think of the pain of the commanders like Gary Volsky who promised himself to bring his men home and felt he had broken his promise when a man was lost, injured, or died. I found General Chiarelli a very humane and compassionate man. He cried when he went through the names of the dead. In the camp Chaplin Pena encouraged the soldiers to cry, to let their emotions run free, but he also knew there was no way to deal with the horror and grief they felt and would never be able to share the reality of their experience with those they loved in their lives. So many of the orders from commanders are far away from the ground battle and who can’t see what is going on, give orders to commanders actually fighting on the ground; orders that are inappropriate. For example, impassable roads in Black Hawk Down, or the coordinates given to Lieutenant Cross which landed his men in the shit field. These orders are wrong and require so many levels of communication that the reality of what is needed is lost. The commanders on the ground are required to follow the orders even if they know they are wrong. This may be military protocol, but it made me very angry—to know lives were lost because there was such poor communication. Finally we are facing what happens to veterans and their wives who have been traumatized by war—what they have seen, felt and done. They dream events over and over. They re-experience what has happened, Emory’s blood in Schumann’s mouth as he carried him to safety, Aieti dreaming over and over about his inability to save Harreleson in flames. They have bouts of rage— frequently directed at their wives. Often men like Schumann can’t believe anything is wrong with him—even with his fits of rage. “he’s weak, a pussy, full of shit.” Although his wife is also

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full of rage, she knows the women have to adapt, and she sees her husband as a “broken good guy” and sticks with him. Golombe’s (who has TBI and PTSD) wife, Cristiana said she was “grieving for the man he was.” The words lonely comes up over and over, isolated, trapped inside themselves, depressed, cut off from the world, full of guilt, shame, self loathing, are some of the words that stay with me. “while the truth of war is that it’s always about loving the guy next to you, the truth of the after-war is that you’re on your on your own.” The army has people working with wounded soldiers trying to get them into programs the army provides, (some are privately run and too short) or jobs or resources. Afraid to tell those closest to them of their experiences—often denying problems they are having to counselors. “you can’t leave the war, you just carry it with you.” Finally Schumann was able to get in a program called Pathway House developed by a vet, now social worker, and separate from the military and providing long care treatment where men explored their lives from childhood on and were able to share and feel their pain. Schumann had the ambivalence he always had about acknowledging he had problems, but “decides to tell everything and finally stop dying.” It created the problems for Saskia and his family of being without money while he was there. A problem I felt strongly about. Although there was the FRG (the sisterhood of army spouses) that Radditz spoke about at Fort Hood which helped families with paperwork, visited when soldiers were injured or died, but there wasn’t anyone to help for injured soldiers wives once they returned. They needed help with finances when their spouses went to programs. It seemed to me there were people to help soldiers try to find jobs, but wives got very little— no one provided counseling, or paid for baby sitters to give them a break, or provided child care while wives worked. This would put an amazing amount of additional stress on a family. As the number of suicides steadily increases General Chiarelli is given the task as to chair monthly meetings on suicide prevention. The numbers of suicides have continued to climb. He tries to convey the urgency of the problem, to convey the importance of the soldier’s mental health. Fewer and fewer people from Washington show up to the meetings and soon Chiarelli retires and doesn’t know if anyone picks up the baton. Do I know more about the experience of war? Yes, I feel I do. There is power in the events that are described and the experiences of the soldiers and their wives. These books didn’t speak from a distance—I often experienced being there with the soldiers and with their wives. It’s not quite like speaking to someone as I sit across from them while I am doing therapy—seeing their facial and bodily expressions, but as close as one can get from reading a book. So many of the orders from commanders far away from the ground battle and given to commanders on the ground actually fighting in the war, for example in Black Hawk Down, or the coordinates given to Lieutenant Cross which landed his men in the shit field are wrong and require so many levels of communication that the reality of what is needed is lost. The commanders on the ground are required to follow the orders even if they know they are wrong.

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G O I N G

B AC K

MARY CAPAROSA “They can take me back any day,” James said, stretching his arms wide until his shoulder blades touched. He rolled his neck back a forth a few times, working out the kinks. When he’s not sitting watching war movies and smoking weed, he’s stretching out his permanently sore muscles. War was not kind to James’ body. “Yeah?” I looked at him from the corner of my eye, “You think you’d want to go back?” I’m not convinced that he has thought this one through. James and I have been friends ever since I started photographing him two years ago. I was doing a project on veterans and he was the very first one that had agreed to sit down with me and talk. When I photographed him the very first time, he was only a year out of the Marines. The life had not yet returned to his eyes. War was not kind to James’ mind, either. Now, though, he’s doing a lot better. His eyes are bright and blue, some of the clearest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. He’s let his hair grow in again. I looked at him then, appreciating the changes that time had made. He was looking out the window, nodding. “I could definitely go back. It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s what I’m good at.” He smiled, full of bravado, “I love that lifestyle, Mary.” When he looked back at me, I wondered if he was trying to convince himself. I can only accept James’ words at face value. I can’t read his mind just yet, but I’ve gotten pretty good at seeing what lies behind them. The War Stories class I took summer term helped me with that. We spent most of the class reading about intimate, behind the scenes looks at the lives and thoughts of veterans. I learned a lot about their everyday struggles, things James had never told me, or maybe just things I didn’t pick up on. The most important thing that I learned is that you never know what is going on behind closed doors, or in the hearts and minds of closed people. James always told me that the military made him more secretive, less likely to trust. “I know you would never hurt me,” he would clarify, his arms wrapping around my waist while we made dinner, “but this is just how I’m trained.” I never knew if his arms were there to protect me or him.

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He’s trained to not speak up with answers first. Like most veterans, he waits to be asked before offering any information. “Hey James!” I walk into his apartment today, greeting the dog and tossing my bag on the couch. I grab the recorder out of my bag and head toward the bedroom. Today I’m going to interview him for the War Stories class. I don’t know quite what I want to write about, but I figure I’ll just let him talk like usual and we’ll see what happens. His dog, Harley turns and looks at me sadly and I wonder why James has yet to respond to my call. My heart beats faster. I don’t know what I’m going to find in his bedroom. All the stories that we’ve read in class flash through my mind. My heart is in my throat as I think the worst. But when I cross the threshold, he is there, head in hands, sitting on the bed. There’s a piece of paper and an official envelope on the floor next to him. I walk to him and pick up the letter. “May I?” He nods, but doesn’t look up. I begin to read through the letter, but I don’t understand it. “James, love, I’m sorry, I don’t know what any of this means.” He looks up, blue eyes sparkling with tears and my fears are confirmed. All of his bravado from the other day is gone. “I have to go back.” He whispered, voice hoarse and strained. “I don’t want to go back.” As I crawl into his lap and stroke his hair that will soon be cut off, I think of the class again. I use the phrase that I have read so many times, the phrase that soldiers say to their wives, their children, and their fellow servicemen. “You’re going to be okay,” I say, even though I don’t know if it’s true. I guess that’s what I learned the most. I learned that when you’re on the complex subject of war, you won’t get all of the talking points right. You may not know what to say or how to say it, but you have to say something. It may get awkward or sad, but in the end, it will be okay. It will be okay, even if you don’t know if it’s true right now.

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K I L L E R

CO M PA S S I O N

MARIA MICK Hatred, aggression, and insanity all contributed to the intense stories of bloodshed we read in this class. We saw men and women get blown up in Iraq in insurgent filmed videos while listening to the chanting prayers (of all things) in the background while the insurgents were recording the explosions. We read about visceral spillage and shooting of animals for no good reason other than needing to blow off steam. The gore and hatred was beyond what I imagined would make up the scope of the class, yet it is not surprising to the reality of war. Instead, what was surprising was those moments of compassion. Those moments stuck with me like Command™ strips stick with a wall. Many of those compassionate moments crept into the material like a mouse sneaking into its hole in the wall, but once I noticed them, they hit me like a brick. For example, in the documentary Two Days in October, we saw perspectives of both the American soldiers and the Viet Cong. In one moment in particular, the Viet Cong soldiers were travelling to find food as they had not eaten proper nourishment in quite a few days. They spotted a monkey in the tree and asked permission to shoot it for food. Their leader said no. He said that the monkey was just trying to survive like they were. Wow. That statement is one that I ponder on an almost daily basis. It would not have surprised me if they were so frustrated, hungry, and anxious that they would have shot the monkey anyway (even just for the fun of it). But they didn’t. This was especially surprising considering that this was the Viet Cong. Granted, they were indeed our enemies as they were killing our men, and American patriotism is quite important. However, those supposed evil monsters saved a monkey. The compassion in that moment gave them character. That group of soldiers put the term humane back into the idea of humanity. Another moment of striking compassion was in the novel The Things They Carried. This still related to the Vietnam War, but on the American side this time. One woman was dancing in a trance and with purpose outside of her essentially destroyed home, containing her deceased family members in its ruin. When the soldiers needed to find amusement later in the day and chose to imitate her in a 99

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disrespectful manner, the machine gunner came over and threatened to harm the soldier if he did not dance “properly.” This was an amazing moment to read. They just faced destruction and wreckage all day and one of them still had enough guts and decency to call the asshole out and tell him to act properly and respectfully in memory of the dancing woman. I really wonder what he thought at the time when he saw the actual girl dancing. Was he in awe? Did his heart swell with respect and admiration? Did he feel pity? Did it remind him of his sister? When we think about war, we get so damn caught up sometimes in the blood, the killing, the weapons, that we fail to pick out these small moments of care and love. (Even think of World War I, when on Christmas 1914, fighting ceased and enemies became friends sharing stories and snacks for the day.) Maybe that is what is wrong with our world as a whole, we don’t take the time to find those moments of hope and peace, let alone contribute to them ourselves. We also read about the “beauty” of war — when the bursting of bombs creates a “beautiful” explosion. Maybe that is part of the beauty of war. However, I believe the true beauty of war is in those select few moments we heard and read about. The beauty of war is those moments of compassion that cause you to think “Dang. I wish I could be like that.” Those instances where you feel your heart expanding in your chest and a feeling of love for all things human surges in. That moment when we realize that they are soldiers, but just like us and feel love, pain, and compassion. They feel the kind of compassion that causes you to be a true hero—by demonstrating a truly genuine, “killer” sense of compassion.

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YO U DO N ’ T N E E D TO U N D E R S TA N D E V E R Y T H I N G NICOLE MOLINO As someone studying behavioral health counseling, I like to think that I have a pretty decent understanding of human nature. Not to say that I can predict a person’s actions, but usually there are some telltale signs regarding why people act the way they do. This notion fits perfectly with my “type A” personality. I like when there are reasonably clear explanations for corresponding behaviors. Almost as if human nature and it’s subsequent reactions would come together like a puzzle. I suppose that sounds a bit sterile from someone that wants to work as a counselor, but in my mind, life makes more sense if there are specific reasons behind problems. In a class about war stories, soldier experiences, and the aftermath of war, of course my views on human nature surfaced. I had a particularly hard time relating to soldiers. I didn’t want to pretend I could understand their grief, or why they accidentally choked their wives in their sleep. While I understand posttraumatic stress disorder on a basic level, that kind of empathy was well beyond my scope of comprehension. I also did not want to sound ignorant by faking an understanding of these veterans’ troubles. To address this point of contention, we did an exercise in class where we wrote about the scariest day of our lives. Remember, I’m into psychoanalysis, so the purpose of this exercise was not lost on me: we were supposed to relate our scariest experience to that of the soldiers’ we were reading about. As I’m thinking and writing about the scariest day of my life, I realize, I don’t understand it either. For reference: The scariest day of my life was when I was driving in the fast lane of a three lane highway, and as I came up over a hill I saw another car was driving head on toward me. There was a divider to my left and two other lanes full of cars to my right. After staring dumbfounded for a second, I jerked the wheel and fishtailed all over the highway. My car completed three zigzags before only tapping the median and straightening out. As I regained control of the car, I looked into my review mirror at the growing pile-up of cars the rogue driver caused. It was a close call. 101

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Remembering this scary experience, I am not scared. I drive almost every day, and I’m fine doing so. But to be honest, I don’t understand that moment at all. I mean it was crazy! I accepted it was insane, and that was the extent of my “understanding” of it. It was not until I analyzed my experience alongside those of the veterans’ that I came to understand war stories in that way. Maybe the soldiers don’t understand their traumatic experiences either. Maybe they accept them as absurd, and that’s just it. In psychology and counseling, acknowledging past struggles is encouraged. This is where my relatively clean-cut cause and reaction theory usually thrives. But I now understand that some instances simply can’t be understood. Maybe you take nothing away from it, except that you’re glad you survived, or that you have a cool story to tell. And that is perfectly okay. Not everything has to have an explanation. Acknowledging that you can’t understand something can be enough.

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D E A R

M O M

JUSTIN D. MONROE Dear Mom, You would never think when taking a War Stories class how much insight you can get. I’d like to share my experience with you, given that Poppy was a marine. We also got to hear the battle-hardened stories he had. When first entering this class I expected it to be a traditional focus on American Wars, and individual perspective within a battle. However, it couldn’t have been further from that. We learned about how war affects all people within a family and how the emotional trauma can sometimes surpass any physical trauma. Some of our first books/movies included Black Hawk Down and Alive Day. These were media depictions I was expecting the whole class to be like. Brutal battle scenes, complicated situations, and injured men. However, there was a hint into where the true direction of the class was going. In Black Hawk Down you start to see the perspective come through. You see in the eyes of the enemy and get a glimpse that maybe the United States isn’t always in the right and that there is two sides to every story. Black Hawk Down was also action packed which I really enjoyed. However, the next book The Things They Carried, gave a much broader perspective. As the man who was in Vietnam retells his tale of the past in the present. I enjoyed how this book explains what it is like to live with what you have done in war. How sometimes you grapple with things you cannot explain and things you did not want to do. This book is particularly striking because it’s the first one to show emphasize on the home front. The Long Road Home was maybe my favorite book. Just because of the blend of action, emotional stress, and home front perspective. A few sections of this book were enough to make my cry. These men are on a peace-keeping mission gone badly. A 360-degree war and non-stop fighting. It’s a powerful book as it even explains the network the wives use in order to keep up to date and try to support one another. Chapter 23 (I believe), is one of the roughest chapters 103

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anyone can read because it goes to all the wives who had their husbands killed. It’s like a nightmare version of the scene in Saving Private Ryan when they go to the mother and tell her 3 out of her 4 children are dead. This book finally made it click to me that this class was not about only the glory moments. The final book and maybe the most profound, was Thank You for Your Service. This book focuses almost entirely on PTSD. Which is a growing problem with these new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many people do not realize how traumatic these wars can be for those involved because of its unpredictable and unavoidable consequences. I found this book to be hard to stomach as men come back from service and can’t function like they did before. They are too beat up from the war. It goes through the shoes of a few people and you start to wonder, will they ever be ok? Will their families ever be ok? Is this a good environment for a child? It is the most eye opening book of them all in my opinion and made for a very deep conclusion to the course. Our instructor did an amazing job of allowing everyone to share their opinions and had a miraculous ability to talk about touchy topics without offending others. I hope one day you could read some of these excerpts as you may gain some valuable perspective into the full circle effects of war. Some people think that it is a hero’s life to come back from war. However, that’s simply not always the case. With love, Justin

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D E A R S COT T , T H E T H E R A P I S T T H AT D I S A P P E A R E D KRYSTYNA REDMOND We were making great strides, I thought, trying to understand why my brain reacted certain ways to situations. Why there were so many ups and downs in my life that seemed to have no purpose but still dragged me through the dirt emotionally each time. I’ll admit, when I was finally comfortable talking to a stranger about my past and my family that’s when you disappeared from the practice. And that hurt, that left me even more confused than before. I’m writing to let you know that I’m okay without your guidance. In fact, I have been able to shine my own light on my life and its various struggles. I no longer see myself as a victim of the world, and I have the ability to accept that sometimes things just happen to people and not everyone is going to react the same way. It might not have been the best topic in relation to those things we talked about, but I took a class on war stories. As you can imagine, they were filled with violence and horrible scenes that I initially reacted to in two different ways: A. they were very hard for me to swallow and made me have flashbacks, or B. I ignored them and pretended they weren’t reality. As I have always done. At the end of ten weeks, however, I am able to confidently walk away from this course with an option C. A recurring theme in the various films and stories we read was how people reacted and dealt with the trauma and negativity that was both inevitable and out of their hands. Fight or flight were the only options. If you remember my homelessness as a teenager and the things that led me to that point, or the things I went through when I was homeless and where I am now, you know that I am all too familiar with fight or flight. Though I was never shot at, I was attacked; though I never had a helicopter destroy the roof of my home, I did have a third party beat me out the door; and while my entire economic system was never burned to the ground, I did have many nights with no food because someone decided I had to pay for it in ways I didn’t want to.

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The people and their stories from this class showed me that there are many options to deal with trauma, and there are many levels of trauma. There is no perfect way to deal with the horrible things in the world, and to think there is something wrong with you because you don’t react the same way as Joe Shmoe is like shooting yourself in the foot and blaming it on the one guy whose gun didn’t work and was able to walk away. My option C is to have an open mind when evaluating trauma. My mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, friends, and foes may have their own opinions on how to handle a situation and that’s okay. Because at the end of the day only you have access to your own perspective, just as the many soldiers did. If one person is able to keep their calm in active battle and another is not, that is okay. Thank you for the time you gave me, and I hope you’re doing well wherever you are. Perhaps next time before you disappear from a patient you could read some of these stories. I think you’d recognize the value in multiple perspectives.

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WA S H I N G TO N A N E XC E R P T

DC

T R I P ,

2 0 1 5 :

NICOLE BALDASSARRE & DOMINICK ARP Nicole: Being completely honest, I almost walked right past the Vietnam War Memorial. Dom literally had to tell me that that was the Vietnam Memorial or else I would have had no idea. I was expecting the wall to be much larger so that it would really stand out against the landscape and have a presence that would be recognizable from afar. However, once we walked “inside” the wall, my opinion completely changed. It was as if there was some kind of gravitational force that pulled me through the length of the memorial. I definitely felt touched while observing the memorial in its entirety from the thousands of names depicted on the wall, to the deafening silence of those paying their respects, to seeing my own reflection in each of the panels on the wall. I think that seeing my reflection in the wall was the aspect of this experience that really drew up some emotions. Dom and I were able to listen in on a group’s tour and learn more about the construction of the wall as well as its purpose from a veteran who was a volunteer tour guide at the memorial. The whole “open wound” concept of how the memorial was designed made perfect sense to me as I walked through it. I felt like I had been wounded, myself, once I came out! We saw people taking pictures of specific names, running their fingers across the wall, and telling stories to their loved ones. From what I gathered, it looked like a father was telling his toddler son about his grandfather whose name was listed on the wall. He even took his son’s index finger and ran it across the length of that specific name. That sentimental, tender moment has stayed with me to this day. Overall, I do not feel as though visiting the Vietnam War memorial was “lifechanging,” in any sense. Admittedly, I probably hyped myself up more than I should have beforehand. But, I do think that it was a great experience for me to walk through this memorial and beneficial to hear more about its history and meaning from the veteran who was giving a tour to a group nearby. It was interesting to hear that over the years they had found more and more remains of those listed on the wall, changing the plus sign by his name to a diamond (plus sign representing missing remains, diamond symbolizing remains that were found).

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Dom: Having visited the Vietnam Memorial several times before this the first thing that really struck me upon entering this time was how much it never changes. It doesn’t matter what day I seem to visit, or who else seems to be there, the wall is always fixed in its place. It is a weird custom distinctly different from the other monuments at the National Mall. There is a trail of guilt and sorrow in the air as you walk down the length of the wound. I find that the more I learn about the memorial the harder for me to go back it becomes. When I was little it was another stone on the checklist around the reflecting pool, but now as a young adult it’s another scar on our nation’s past. One new experience though was learning how to interpret the wall. It is not as linear as I had previously assumed. You actually start reading names in the middle of the wall. The middle represents the start of the war. As you go down the right side you increase in the timeline of the war but you have to understand that this time period is very skewed. The first couple panels represent several years at a time, but as the wall juts further right the time represented gets shorter and shorter. What use to be one slab for three years is now a week with just as many names on it. The wall then picks up on the same day on the left hand side and wraps back in on itself to meet the names of the first to fall. Its angles are set to point at the Washington and Lincoln Memorials. It is below ground level to really symbolize the dividing of Earth. As Nicole talked about above, we got to see some really touching moments between a father and his son. I took a moment during this to reflect on a thought I had during class that week. I thought about the purpose of a memorial. I think it is more than a commemorative statue in most cases. I believe that it is meant to serve almost as a way for soldiers who fought these battles to honor their fellow soldiers or to find some level of closure on a difficult time in their lives. Seeing this little boy and his father helped me to answer the question though of who this moment is for after these soldier’s die. They help the families to understand the weight of their family member’s sacrifice and effort. The new question though becomes, who is the monument for after the family of the soldier dies?

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E N G L I S H 3 60: P H I L A D E L P H I A

S TO R I E S

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A FA N L E T T E R W I S H E R

TO

YO L A N DA

ELIZABETH CAHILL Dear Yolanda, Philadelphia is a silver thimble, your poetry the burnishing cloth in you hands, making the pock-marked landscape shine. Your words, twinned in the grid streets, reveal the city as your maker and muse. I could not imagine a better poet laureate. In “A Love Letter to Philadelphia,” you first beckon the reader into your stepfather Doug’s army green sedan. We buckle up alongside of you and ride through the Philadelphia of your childhood. With theatrical detail, you lift the curtain up onto different scenes, a teenage girl looking smart in a tennis dress struts through The Gallery, a proud woman riding a stallion down Morris street, children on their way to school, the hard rock kids you want to bring with you. Memories and dreams, make me think of long L rides when the mind wanders to marvelous realms.   You turn to snippets of history that put the city into context: railroads, Harriet’s Tribe, black-bottomed beats. Philadelphia has always been a city of freedom, from oppression, and of expression. I, your reader, had one foot in your poem and another in my own Philly stories. Before 215, my area code was 610. Rattling in the backseat of my dad’s truck or sitting demurely alongside my mom on the R5, I too came to the city as a girl, making it my home as a young woman. In “5 South 43rd, Street Floor 2” I romp alongside of you and your companion through my old stomping ground. Risqué Video has since closed, and there are a few more farm to table restaurants, but Makkah Market is still cooking that chicken wrapped pita and $1 samosas. In this piece you drop the violence that punctures the hum of progress. It brings me to the hot summer nights when the streets are sparks from ignition, “One night, a man was shot and killed on this block.” I’m assuming it was summer. Killadelphia is no random moniker. This is a tough city. 110

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My poetry professor talks about creating small doors into big ideas. Just by describing a normal routing “But not today. Today is one of those days to come home from walking in the world, leave the windows open, start a pot of black beans.” Living life, is an act of defiance. Fear should not govern us. Beat on. “Writing w/Strangers A Poetry for the People in Philadelphia” you tell the story of your call to action, and wink to us to follow suit, “I believe there’s a poetry for everyone, and it will lead you to a tribe of your own making.”  Taking initiative as a grad student, building on the work of June Jordan, you founded a grassroots poetry movement in the city! I discovered my “tribe” of poets while living in Oakland CA, not far from Berkley. Your Gay Zurawski, Martin Wiley, Nijme Dzurinko, and Heather Rion Starr were my MK Chavez, Cassandra Dallet, Hollie Hardy, and (the late) Pagan Neil. Wading through footsteps on the wet banks of undergrad, fighting back currents to find a place for poetry has been a major challenge since returning to Philadelphia. I hope by reading more of your work, I will find a comfortable stoop to start out on. Thanks! Your reader, Liz

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R E S P O N S E TO “ A L O V E L E T T E R TO P H I L A D E L P H I A ” YO L A N DA W I S H E R

B Y

ROSALYN CLIETT At the first read, the poem sounded like gibberish, even though a very skillful reader read it, and one who is a Poet herself, so it was no fault of the reader, but of my own. Because of the title of the poem, “A Love Letter to Philadelphia,” and what my expectation was differed so much from the artist, because I too love Philadelphia. So I attempted to read it again, it still wasn’t clear but it was a little better. I realized I had to get past the love I have for her, so after I prayed and sat down in a quiet atmosphere and started to read, I could see there was such a collage of material, such a mixture of elements made her writing complex. But the material Yolanda drew from, I became intrigued by the things that captured her mind’s eye. I realized some of our familiar places and some of the things we’ve seen and our differences. Which reminded me of a message a former Pastor preached entitled, “It’s All in How You See It,” which taught that nothing at first glance is what it looks like. Why, you ask? Because, you have to sift through all of the ism’s and schisms, your fears and opinions which blocks, you from seeing and hearing correctly. So before you take another look, ask God (The Creator) to clear the blinding smoke that you may see and hear, with the understanding. I am very familiar with the different labels that people have tried to brand our city with throughout time, which I refuse to adopt. I call her Philly. And I found her description of Venango Street interesting, and I quote “Venango was a poisonous fruit of word, cassava-sweet, which is a South American plant, when processed right could be sweet if not poisonous.” Then Yolanda continues to uncover the dark side of the city, which I have seen all too often, but that was not my Philly. You see, we were not only in two different places in Philadelphia, but the artist seems to crave something from her that she didn’t seem to get, until she started to hear her beyond her illnesses, her diseased conditions, disorders and weaknesses, and I quote “And then I started to really hear you, beyond pity and promiscuity” once the connection was made with the Creator and not just the creature. 112

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I already told you I call her Philly. Philly is a beautiful city with all her diversities, colleges, and parks. There’s diversity in the people, the food, and in her opportunities, even her seasons. Where I grew up the houses were built in 1925 colonial style homes, and every house had a tree in front of it, displaying her beauty in different shades of green. The beauty of Yolanda is, she not only saw the cancerous cells in the city that burdens her to want to become part of the cure.

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M R .

J O L L I E

A N D

H I S

P O S S E

CARIN KNIGHT SPOTTED EAGLE THE OLDEST BUTTERFLY Be very careful with Teacup Chihuahuas because they can disappear right under one’s nose. Especially, when, they aren’t on a leash. The following happen to me one afternoon… I was walking Mr. Jolly our family teacup Chihuahua when he suddenly disappeared. I looked high and low for him but could not find him for the life of me. I climbed fences and walked several blocks calling his name without any success. Finally I was so bummed out I decided to go to my favorite place in Hockessin, Delaware to walk around in tranquility. Walking at this wildlife refuge always made me happier but this visit was extremely challenging. After a two hour hiatus I decided to drive home. As I was traveling down the road a pseudo-gps voice inside my head suggested I ‘drive a more scenic route’. During Labor Day I particularly noted as I was driving pass a church with no cars in the parking lot but the front doors were wide open. I felt, an incredible synergy as I drove by and decided to turn the car around and go back to the parking lot to investigate. Still very bummed out thought this might do me some good. Later I discovered I was inside the very first Catholic parish in Glen Mills, Pa built 1835… Saint Thomas of the Apostle. I drove up to the front door and parked the car directly at the parish step. It was a very small tabernacle and I didn’t see anyone outside so I decided to go in. I went in marveled at the beautiful antique Tiffany art stain glass windows. I walked up to the first pew and sat quietly until I noted a little book. Opened the book to read the message for that day. Lo! and behold that dates homilies title the following words, reading them suddenly slapped me beside my brain… “SELF FORGIVENESS”! I continued to read the content and instantly became madder than I was before arriving. I thought to myself … I had to lose the dog to be reminded … ‘self-forgiveness?’ Pondering, why the internal anger I felt? Suddenly I felt warmth of the ray of sunlight beaming through the window I sat beneath so I looked up. To my surprise the stain glass image was highlighted with a sunny, heavenly glow… I saw an irradiated Tiffany stain glass angel dressed in red with the sun shining illuminating its face. I looked intensely at the Angel 114

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as I began speaking out loud the following: I stated… “Gabriel—I believe you know where, who and what street Mr. Jolly is at!! and if you wanted to: you, could lead me directly to him”! Didn’t give it much more thought as I was leaving the tabernacle returning to my car. I decided to drive back to the place Mr. Jolly first disappeared. I knock on a few doors in that area; spoke to a few people outside, questioning if they had seen a little dog wandering. No one responded yeah. Then a pseudo GPS voice inside my head said… ‘Lighten up! Go to that local bar a couple doors away and have a wine cooler, which I did. When I entered the establishment a young lady sitting there commented… “I remember you…” she continues speaking “when she was little girl she lived in the same block I live (and stated she) always admired me.” Now I am really bummed out and tell her the story of what had happened in that neighborhood about 7 hours ago. She responded… “people think this is a nice neighborhood but I bet your dog has been sold by now”. Wow I am really feeling emotionally worse after listening. Deciding to leave the bar before drinking, half of the wine cooler. I get back into my car to drive home. As I opened the car door a GPS voice inside my head suggested as I proceeded it coached…” don’t go looking for Mr. Jolly were you went before… don’t speak to the group of children playing in the upcoming streets corner, just make a left and drive forward quietly.” I obeyed… as I slowly drove my car down a street I had never driven or walked during the prior thirty years of living in the region. Stopping the car at the stop sign I began to until the pseudo GPS voice inside my head loudly said ‘BACK UP’ (mind you I am in the middle of the intersection but there are no cars behind me)… so I back the car up… and the GPS voice continued instructing me to “make a right, drive slowly”. So I make the right and at an extremely slow speed I drift down the street almost like I am upon a magic carpet. My head was mysteriously turned towards the right a little. Suddenly out of nowhere… a very corpulent women is opening her screen door and walking out of a house, down her front step with my dog, Mr. Jolly in her hands. ECSTATICALLY! AMAZED at what I was looking at… the GPS voice inside my head quickly continued to instruct me ‘First, to SETTLE DOWN,’ (note my heart was racing about the possibilities) Plus this inner voice was pre-warning me not to engage in all the things my excited mind just wanted to do example… ‘not to blow the horn, not to slam on brakes but quietly pull my car over and park it in front of the house’. Which I did! By that time the lady had walked down the steps and was gently placing the Teacup Chihuahua on the ground. I thought the dog sure looked exactly like Mr. Jolly because of his unique markings but I wasn’t sure. I quietly walked over to the fence around their front yard. The lady was still bent over and hadn’t stood up when I decided to call Mr. Jolly’s name out loud as I stood very close to the fencing. Once I did that that Mr. Jolly let out a happy playful yappy bark and came running full speed towards were I was standing jumping up and down as if to say rescue me. When he came happily running towards the fence I knew that was Mr. Jolly. I grabbed him and pulled him through the fence’s wooden slates. As I was holding him in my arms Mr. Jolly 115

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began licking me with excitement I said to the lady still bending over but now looking at me with an amazed expression… “you, just got this dog less than seven hours ago and he is not mine, he belongs to my family and I loss him and I am taking him back home where he belongs. An Angel named Gabriel told me where he was exactly, the house number, street and who and now Mr. Jolly, is leaving with me”. By that time the ladies husband was standing inside the front door laughing telling his wife “I told you that dog belonged to someone”. I said “yes’ GABRIEL (guess that was the inner GPS voice that had been instructing me) I walked back to my car with Mr. Jolly and we quickly drove away.

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E L E M E N T S MELANIE DANTE 1. Time isolated kinetic motion chaos bonded frenzy static core to stoic edge raw emotion memories discarded dreams ambitions intentions things to do tomorrow not forgotten tho obviously fragmented broken nostalgic debris blight of human potential yesterdays all truly gone today does not exist 2. Fire there is a fire burning etched  metal engraving industrialized tattooed markings demanding some deeply rooted meaning to the emptiness that burns an eternal flame desperately in need of light is the human spirit 3. Ice cold labyrinth frozen electrical impulses 117

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recognize define a connection so cold it burns laser light negative image transposed metal gaze it is frozen into a perfect reflection 4. Space in the space time continuum there is no need to define emotion just as there is no day moving night forward it is always an eternal endless moment in stopped yet repetitive motion which - after each repetition - is redefined by some hypothesis passion vs reason space - the empty space between two points theorized where everything stops for a moment including  breath & heartbeat feel it? there deep within  gut or groin a fight between bile blood then oxygen 5. Elements there is a fire burning deep inside each and every cell feeding off nutrients - consuming oxygen starving the soul oh -  Yes there is  fire burning in the vacuum of the space time continuum contrasting chill  penetrating freeze defining the point of origin deep within the core raw emotion shares jagged nostalgic debris black heart of pure truth stained innocent offering perfumed poison of Narcissus etched eternal revealed distortion emotion bleeds hot yes - Emotion bleeds heavy 118

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dark crevices emotion  burning blinding view into a once frozen labyrinth

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E S S E N C E

O F

Z A D I E

S M I T H

JOANNA LANNING Zadie Smith made a huge impression on me as an individual, as a writer, as a lecturer, as a mother, as a person, who can express simple joy of life as well as humane cognitive dissonance of her compositions. She will remain in my mind as a remarkable personality, passionate for writing, being able to express her unique point of view at many matters. Her relationship with writing is very personal and still not fully discovered. Every little emotion, image or story is carefully captured and expressed by realistic substance of her style. I will also remember her as a bold person, sophisticated enough to manifest her British blackness so distinct from African blackness or North American blackness. During the lecture she testified that her writing is somehow universal, however she mainly writes for the Black audience, because that is her identity.  I believe it takes courage and time to be confident about your own writing, its context, its style, and tone.  Smith is confident about her writing, although she keeps the distance to herself and leaves some room for learning from other writers. Writing is like a journey full of joy, adventures and undiscovered places.  Every piece of written word can be full of hesitations, weaknesses, and pains. A writer always has a feeling when selection of words was too strong or it could have been said different way. Smith derives her inspiration from writers who express their freedom against canons, social trends and common expectations; who can express their freedom by perverse gestures in the traditional cultural and social contexts. She values savage gardens of unconventional and provocative artwork. Then she can draw a clear line how she depicts world in her own compositions. There is no plan in her actions and the way she expresses herself. However, she is not only organized with her thoughts, but also presents herself as incredibly vocal and sensual individual. Her mindfulness and ability to share her experiences with others makes her phenomenal speaker and an interesting writer. Smith is a fast thinker. Her reading was fabulous. Yet again, I have heard the hysterical realism, the patient pity about the men who travel from town to town, from city to city, form village to village and take what they want. No one can stop 120

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them. No one even tries. Realism expressed by fiction. Zadie Smith is made by fiction. She believes that fiction is even better than herself. When you write, there is that naked truth about yourself and the others, which illuminates your best form and becomes the best gift for the readers. Smith claims that “a book is a person’s best self,� because writing it is not self-centered. It is about others; for others. That is why there is more human in her creation. Yet, divine!

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O N

Z A D I E

DIANA HILLENGAS On May 5, 2016 Zadie Smith delivered the sixth annual Drexel University College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Lecture. She read an unpublished short story “Two Men Arrive in a Village” and then answered questions pre-submitted by students and posed by an interviewer on stage. The interview was most revealing when it became clear that some questions were based on assumptions that Zadie Smith does not share. When asked at what age she knew she was a writer, her response was that “writing is a practice, not an identity” and “not a knowledge set but an experience.” She added that “being a reader is an identity that means something to me” and further that while not all readers become writers, all writers have to be readers first. She said we should be open to reading different kinds of things, including things which are outside what we feel drawn towards, because you never know what you may discover. When asked the extent to which her writing reflected her own experience she was quite emphatic that she was not deeply attached to her own identity in her writing. She feels that one of the reasons to write fiction is the “freedom to lie” and to explore being people completely different from herself. When asked what exercises she gave her students she said she just wants her students “to write decent English sentences.” When she speaks of the architecture of a book it gives me a sense that a book is a building with rooms to be explored, and that the experience is likely to be different for each reader. This concept of reading as individual experience was further reinforced by Zadie Smith’s idea of “re-reading” into the “gift” or “inheritance” that is a piece of writing. I take this to mean that re-reading is the act of extracting personal meaning from a writer’s creation. Zadie Smith’s short story was open-ended and she said her writing is openended because of the subjectivity of experience, mixed-up with memory. She also agreed with Toni Morrison that a writer is always writing for someone. She revealed that she is always anxious when writing, and each book is a new experience. She thinks value in writing derives from anxiety in writing but warns that you have to “avoid that tipping point where you don’t write at all.” 122

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Zadie Smith is against generalizations. She will talk about a specific book but not books in general, either written by others or by herself. In writing one book she had a quotation as her screen saver because she found those words freeing. When the interviewer asked for a quote that Zadie Smith found freeing, the reply was that for each book different words are freeing. When talking about the literature that she teaches in her own courses she emphasized that what makes a writer great is different for each writer. As an example she said that Kafka wrote great sentences and Muriel Spark wrote great sentences but they are very different kinds of sentences. The story she read to us was intended as the opposite of a local story —it was trying to be a story for all times and all places. But for Zadie Smith the opposite of specific is not general but rather a choice among specificities. Her two men were said to arrive maybe walking, maybe barefoot, maybe booted, maybe together on a motorcycle ... carrying perhaps machetes, or knives, or swords, or guns... at sunset when the village women were returning from the fields, or the desert, or the snowy mountain slopes, or the river… When asked to leave us with a “bridge of words” Zadie Smith could not think of anything at all, so it was an open-ended lecture.

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T H E

W R I T E R S

LAUREN ALTMAN was born and raised in Montgomery County in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She is a graduate of the Music Industry Program and is beginning her MBA at Drexel University. She plays bass in Plainview, an indie band, and owns and operates D6 Merchandise. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s 2015/16 Writer’s Room independent study. DOMINICK ARP is a marketing major at Drexel University. He was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class. NICOLE BALDASSARRE is a marketing major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories. PATRICIA BURTON is an Art Education major at Temple University and a full time employee at the the Free Library of Philadelphia. She has been active in her Logan community since 1978, developing reading and art programs for over 200 children. Born and raised in Philly, Patricia is a visual artist, the family genealogist, and hopes to write fun and inspiring books for children and youth. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction class. ELIZABETH CAHILL is a finance major at Drexel University. She was a member of Gabriella Ibieta’s spring 2016 Philadelphia Stories. NORMAN CAIN was born in 1942 and raised on Olive Street in West Philadelphia. He graduated in 1964 from Bluefield State College in West Virginia where he majored in social science and minored in English. A retired social worker, teacher, father of five, and grandfather of seven, he is active in several writing groups, including the Best Day of My Life So Far at the Germantown Senior Center. He was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction. MARY CAPAROSA is an English major and photography minor graduating in Fall 2016. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories. 124

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ROSALYN CLIETT is a native resident of Philadelphia who loves to write and do anything creative. “I came to Dornsife to use the computers at KEYSPOT. Writers Room and the side-by-side course Philadelphia Stories are not only exciting, they are stretching me—and both are essential to my destiny.” ROGER CONVERSE is a deacon in the Anglican church and located in Philly from the Boston area for seminary in 1989. He also works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship teaching ESL and Bible intro to international students and scholars at U. of Penn. He has old travel journals that he would like share with those who would like to read them. MELANIE DANTE was a member of Gabriella Ibieta’s Spring 2016 Philadelphia Stories. VICTORIA DAUGHEN studies nursing at Drexel University and is pursuing a Writing & Publishing Certificate. Her work has previously been published by Teen Ink and Pandemonium Press, and she was twice a guest speaker for the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project. She thanks God for the way He works in her life, and she’s grateful for the love and support of her family and friends. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction. EBONY DRUMMOND was born and raised in West Philadelphia. Mother of one son, Ethan Ford, whom she loves and cherishes unconditionally, she works as a public safety officer at Drexel University. She loves to read and write whatever is on her mind. Favorite quote: “Chin up or the crown slips.” SYLVIA ELIAS has an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Powelton Village. “When I was young, reading and writing was difficult for me. The first thing I wrote about was sitting with my mother as she was dying. I know in hindsight many of the details of our time together would have been lost, so I appreciate the opportunity I had to be with her and record my experience.” She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction. VALERIE FOX teaches writing and literature at Drexel University. She is especially interested in the exploration of intersections between artistic endeavors. DIANA HILLENGAS was a member of Gabriella Ibieta’s Spring 2016 Philadelphia Stories. JEN JOLLES is a fan of breakfast sandwiches, long runs and even longer bike rides. She, like her writing, is a perpetual work in progress.

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MICHAEL KAY grew up in San Diego, where he lived with his father and brothers. He has spent two years at Drexel, playing lacrosse and pursuing Environmental Studies but never really having a set major. After this year, he’ll be attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction CHRIS KENNEDY is a surfer from the New Jersey coast. He is a computer science major at Drexel University and is currently working on a short novel. He was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s 2015/16 Writer’s Room independent study. CARIN KNIGHT SPOTTED EAGLE THE OLDEST BUTTERFLY spends time in Indian and First Nations Reservations. Carin began writing poetry in 1989 and has accumulated 597 typed poems. She has written eight children’s books and is currently working on an environmental comedy titled Mr. Jolly and His Posse. She was a member of Gabriella Ibieta’s spring 2016 Philadelphia Stories. JOANNA LANNING is an accounting major at Drexel University. She was a member of Gabriella Ibieta’s Spring 2016 Philadelphia Stories class. RAHKINAH LAUREL attended Morton McMichael Elementary School, University City High School, and Community College of Philadelphia. A resident of Mantua, she was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction class. LAUREN LOWE is from somewhere just across the bridge in South Jersey, but finally migrated over to Chinatown, Philadelphia last summer. Currently a junior English major and a peer reader at the Drexel Writing Center, she is fueled almost exclusively by words, sports, and dumplings (in that order). She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s 2015/16 Writer’s Room independent study and Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories CAITLIN MCLAUGHLIN is from Pottstown, PA. A sophomore English major and a peer reader in the Drexel Writing Center, she is currently the digital communications co-op at Drexel Publishing Group. CAROL RICHARDSON MCCULLOUGH is a transplanted West Virginian who has lived in Philadelphia for two decades and now resides in Mantua. She received a BA in language arts from Marshall University and is a founding member of Writers Room’s advisory committee. She is currently re-writing her life story. MARIA MICK is a veterinary school bound biology major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class.

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NICOLE MOLINO is a behavioral health counseling major at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class. JUSTIN D. MONROE is a Finance major at Drexel University. He was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class. YONIQUE MYRIE grew up in Jamaica, where she developed a sense of uniqueness and a desire to explore. Such exploration took place through writing: “My writing provides me with an avenue to express that which is left unspoken and so I write from my heart.” JACKLYNN NIEMIEC is an architect and is a faculty member in the Architecture program at Drexel University. Her creative interest lies in developing visual methods for understanding and representing space with the added and intangible layers of time, movement, and memory. She believes that the process of drawing is more important than the outcome-revealing one sought to draw in the first place. EMILY PHILLIPS has just transplanted her roots from years of being abroad, traversing many lands and magical territories. She has an MFA in Scenic Design from UCLA and an MA in Art & Museum Studies from Georgetown University. She is currently looking, learning, and listening. VICTORIA HUGGINS PEURIFOY is a retired federal employee. She is a poet, spoken-word artist, author, ghostwriter, photographer, facilitator, student, Uber driver, mother of four, and a grandmother of eight. A native of West Philadelphia, she currently resides in Germantown. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction KRYSTYNA REDMOND majored in International Area Studies at Drexel University. She was a member of Robert Watts’s Summer 2015 War Stories class. CHANDA CHERISE CORLEY RICE is known as Muffy. She is Cinderella living this new life God gave her as she trusts him in each step. She is an overcomer. She was a member of Rachel Wenrick’s Fall 2015 Creative Nonfiction C.P. ROGERS is the pen name of a former nanny and former nurse living in Powelton.

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T H A N K

YO U

This book would not have been made without the help of Jen Britton, Dominique Coleman-Williams, Dan Driscoll, Victoria Durand, Jerry Fuller, Gabriella Ibieta, Jennifer Johnson Kebea, Lucy Kerman, Keith Leaphart, Lauren Lowe, Janel McCloskey, Donna Murasko, Catherine Murray, Bill Rees, Cyndi Rickards, Stephen Ruiz, Cynthia Ann Schemmer, Cyrille Taillandier, Miles Waldron, Scott Warnock, Robert Watts, Amy Wen, and Kalela Williams. This book has been made possible in part by a grant from the DolfingerMcMahon Foundation.

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Editors

Rachel Wenrick Kirsten Kaschock

Designer

Miles Waldron

Layout Editor

Editorial Assistant

Copy Editor

Lauren Lowe

Photographs

Jen Britton

Fonts

Bill Rees Victoria Durand

Montserrat by Julieta Ulanovsky Tryst by Philatype

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Printed in West Philadelphia by Replica Creative Š 2016 University Writing Program All rights are reserved by the artists and authors.

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Profile for Writers Room

WRITERS ROOM | Anthology 2  

Our annual publication of work collected from the 2015-2016 season at Writers Room.

WRITERS ROOM | Anthology 2  

Our annual publication of work collected from the 2015-2016 season at Writers Room.

Profile for pnw27