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Blackout Poetry Debut
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Contents Editor’s Letter & Editorial Board Contributors Featured Writer - Vanessa Cheok, 10B1 Featured Artist - Jessica Ding, 10R1 Twilight by Boris But Roots by Sophie Li Photography Shipwrecked Sighs by Rachel Lee Sleepless Slumber by Boris But 默 by Mona Shi Lost Spoon by May Huang Notebook of Many Tangled Mysteries by Chloe Barreau Artwork & Photography Polygot (Something You Clearly Are Not) by Charlene Phua For Even in Arcadia Do Angels Cry by Susan Maginn A.M by Brigitte Ng Ode to Achlys by Kendra Cui A Blackout poem by Jimin Kang
From the Editor Welcome, humble earthly beings, to the seventh incarnation of Scribbles magazine, Chinese International School’s creative arts anthology. For this issue, we aim to bring something new to the table: the Winter Issue features blackout poetry and for the very first time, a Chinese poem! We are now one step closer to reflecting the diverse, bilingual nature of our school that I’m sure we all take pride in. As you can tell, I’m very excited. I hope you all are as blown away as I was, upon first reading the poems and short stories submitted for this issue. Although (sadly) we were not able to include everyone’s pieces, each and every one of them brought so much joy to my heart. The talents shown in here, especially by some of our younger contributors, really exemplifies the creative arts spirit within our student body. Creative arts has always been a constant beacon of my, and hopefully your, CIS school life, be they musical adventures or unique and often abstract visual arts. I’m incredibly proud of all the work in this issue, as well as in past issues, and am very hopeful that the creative talents in CIS will continue for many years to come. I’d like to thank my team of dedicated and hardworking individuals on the editorial board, who have worked tirelessly to put together this issue. May, Shirley, Doroty and Kate: you guys are amazing. Scribbles wouldn’t be possible without you. I would also like to thank Dr. Faunce, our headmaster, for his invaluable support of the magazine, and the Art and English departments for their continued assistance and insights, allowing Scribbles to grow and become what it is today. We hope you are inspired by the incredible contents of this magazine, as we were, and as always, enjoy. Angela Yang Editor-in-Chief
The Editorial Board
May Huang, 12B2
Kate Wang, 12B1
Angela Yang, 12G2
Shirley Lau, 12G2
Doroty Sanussi, 12B2
Contributors Writers: Adrienne Zhang Alexandra Corr Boris But Brigitte Ng Charlene Phua Chloe Barreau Christy Lau Claron Niu Cordelia Lam Cynthia Huang Diana Siu Erica Qiu Henry Huang Joshua Hung
Justina Yam Katherine Yang Kendra Cui Marcus Wong Mona Shi Monique Chan Oliver Hsu Phoebe Chan Rachel Lee Shana Li Shannon Hu Sophie Li Susan Maginn Vanessa Cheok
Layout Artists: Angela Yang Bonnie Lee Jessica Chan
Artists & Photographers: Alison Choi Alison Wong Amelia Wong Andrew Yuen Angela Yang Anna Ginsburg Anne Lau Anny Teng Cheri Tse Chloe Barreau (Deputy)
Christina Shen Doroty Sanussi
Jacob Wong Jessica Chan Jessica Ding Jessica Eu Justina Yam Miki Chiu Nicole Choi Scarlet Ng Sheila Zhang Trisha Wong Victor Leung Wilhelmina Shih Yasmine Lai
Letitia Ho Mathew Chow
Alison Choi 12Y2
Featured Writer Phantom Limbs Tonight, the sky is too cold for dreaming and everything you Touch is turning into mist. The sides of your cheeks are Bloated with memories and you wonder How much longer you can hang on Before your lips let go. The hollows of your bones Are slowly giving way to echoes. To emptiness. To the slow songs of the cicadas trying to reclaim A summer night already lost. Listen— To the way the cells of your fingers are breaking, Cold against the weeping glass. To the way the phantom wind brings home the Lingering breath of a moon, pale yellow and papered with moth wings. There are days when you cannot look at your own reflection Without seeing a sentient creature peering from beneath your Skin, its eyes burning. A razor tongue. For these nights have Burned your hands with emptiness. With longing. This is to tell you that not everything is about having fists That close into tombstones or hands that fall apart Navigating the tangle of nightmares between One end of the earth and the other. I read a book last night that told me, it’s not about where we come from But where we go from there. Sometimes people can learn to fill the holes in one another That we can’t reach ourselves. So spread your palms wide open and I will weave two thousand cello strings into your hands, Twine them between your fingers like kitestrings, like ribbons Courting the hands of a little dancing girl. I will Run my fingertips along the bridge of your back, Playing the bones of your spine like wind chimes. And at the tip of your tailbone, I’ll set off a firecracker, Hum a quiet lullaby as your chest lights up like a paper lantern And you rise, like a phoenix, into your own skin.
Vanessa Cheok 10B1
The Persimmon Sun The streets here are quiet At five in the morning.
Yesterday, the dusk came hued with the blue of leaving As three pairs of butterfly hands danced around my shirt tails, Fluttering, floating. Too young to know anything but innocence. Too young to know anything But love.
I wonder, how many memories can we spin into possessions, Raw from the aisles of our longing? Once, I heard a story of an artist whose Last masterpiece was a painting of persimmons. Swollen. Tender. So heavy from the rain.
Jessica Ding 10R1
by Boris But, 10Y2
Shirley Lau 12G2
by Sophie Li, 10R2 On Saturday, we took a road trip to the hometown for my cousin’s wedding, chugging down the road and eating it up at 80 miles per hour, eating dust. When we got there my father introduced me to relatives I wasn’t entirely sure how I was related to, shaking hands, smiling— we mingled. My dad’s side of the family speaks in a dialect I can’t understand and so most of the time I did guesswork and tried to smile, accordingly. That’s family, my dad said. I remember that my dad told me to Google the hometown before we left. Said, what was the point of visiting your hometown if you didn’t know anything about it? Google tells me it’s the largest city in China’s central region. That it’s the heart of the province’s politics, economics, culture, and scientific knowledge. That its total population amounts to about 146,000. But Google doesn’t tell you: Your family will be people you have never met, never known. My father tells me: it feels like coming home. ~ After the wedding, my uncle drove us towards the family village. Two hours later, we were there, the sky pale blue, the clouds wispy—the road leading inwards was bumpy and dusty. The day was bright and immensely hot. The minute I stepped out of the car I was sweating.
Anne Lau 10R2
It’s in there, my dad said, just walk a bit more... The road tapered off to a point outside an alley; there were a few rows of houses cobbled together, low-lying, squatting against a backdrop of yellow fields, and if you squinted down the alley you could see the beginnings of more houses at the end and their doors that yawned open. There were sounds of a child sniffling, a dog barking and then nothing, only the flies buzzing. The muggy air made my hair cling to my forehead. I tied it into a quick ponytail, impatient. I followed them inside.
Slanting beams of light turned dust motes in the air yellow. The flies kept buzzing, a wavering movement in my peripheral vision; I kept thinking that I should turn around, the noise was so irritating— Let’s go, my dad said, people are waiting. He made a brusque hand gesture. Come on. Come on. Hurry up. Come on. I nodded. I waved a hand at him and went on. The family village is an assortment of greytopped houses, cement walls, cement flooring. There was a brick pigsty that seemed empty but upon more careful inspection revealed pigs, hump-backed and snoring, and a dog, a yellowblack sprawl in one corner. It looked dead at first but was only asleep. A red-cheeked child sat on one of the doorsteps, squinting; she had black hair drawn tightly into two braids that bounced when my great-uncle swept her up into his arms, the two of them laughing in unison. I said hi, nervously. She didn’t seem to notice. She was—my cousin? The daughter of an aunt who was… a second cousin… or something. She stuck her thumb into her mouth and ran off. My dad said again, Come on. He was standing in front of what seemed to be the biggest and cleanest house. The door was opened but I was still too far away to see much inside it; it was too dark. The only light came from a single bulb in the ceiling. I could just barely see the table and some chairs stacked neatly against the wall. There was an old man sitting in the rocking chair closest to the door—I looked at him, and he looked at me. And he kept looking. He didn’t really see me. He was half-blind, half-deaf. You had to speak really loudly to get him to hear you, my dad had told me on the car ride, and even then it was sometimes a long shot, and— And the old man said, half-blind, half-deaf, crying, he said. He said. He said— ~ —Every now and then you will face a moment of such startling stillness that will take your breath away like nothing ever before or after, an emptiness reminiscent of flies trapped in ember, an emptiness that fills you up all the way to within the marrow of your bones. In that mo-
ment, perhaps what I felt was a kind of indescribable hollowness—like everything had been stripped back, leaving something unsettling— raw. It was a strange sweeping sadness. I wasn’t sure what to call it. I wasn’t sure what to do. Industrialization and modernization had skipped over this land, leaving only carbon footprints and ashes; if you looked hard and far enough you could see the tips of blue mountains, towering chimneys and sluggish smoke. As we drove into the countryside there were so many buildings marked in spray paint with a single Chinese character“: 拆”— meaning, “to be cut down.” There were so many faces staring at us, and so many more that did not look up that all I saw were backs bent over in the fields, working. In the car, we had turned the air-con to its lowest. It was so hot outside. There is perhaps no beauty to preserve, only history; the young grow up and leave, and only the old remain. Do they wish to? Do they want to? To stay here is to accept entropy. To love this place is to cut your own throat. For much of my family this is the only life they know. One day these buildings will be torn down, gone back into the land, “拆” sprayed onto their walls, bright red, and damning. Is this it? Is this all? This “family”—a village of strangers I have never seen before, have never known— ~ —My great-uncle said, crying, “I know this, I know you,” he cried to see his nephews, children coming home. Outside one last burst of sunshine lit up the walls as the day grew darker and older. At some point a dog had taken to barking in raw rough bursts and here I stood, in the land where my family had planted and plowed and worked for generations, and somewhere in the concrete lay the ashes of fires upon which my father and aunts and uncles and cousins had once warmed their hands. I was alive now because of them— I was alive now because of this. Later that day, my father’s uncle took us up into the mountains where the graves lay. We went to my grandmother’s first and burned incense. My dad told me, never mind if you’re not religious, this is family… Bow your head, think about what you’re grateful for, tell all these things to your grandmother’s bones charred into ashes and interred in the earth below. Loving has nothing to do with religion or tradition. He told
me to simply feel. Her photo stared out at me from the top of the stone slab. She had a smile that changed the plane of her face entirely, making her eyes almost disappear from that fierce joy. From here, I could see the village, only a few houses entangled together; I watched my great-uncle stoop low in front of the gravestone, holding incense. The wind quivered and in that moment it was all feeling. In that moment was a suspension of thought. I don’t know much about religion—I don’t know much about faith—for these people the words family and strangers could be interchanged… but at the end of the day I know the words my great-uncle spoke to his brother’s gravestone, to a brother thirty years buried. I still remember them. I’m not likely to forget them. He said: 保佑我们家的健康，我们家的安 全，保佑我们，兄弟。 He said: Brother, keep our family healthy, keep us safe, bless us. I know this. . Before the wedding, my great-aunt had come over to see my dad and I in the hotel. She is a small, wrinkled woman, shorter than I am, with sharp, protruding cheekbones and a smile that dimples deep; she told me once about her brother, my father’s father long dead— we were peeling green beans, our hands were wet from the moisture and hers got wetter, the space under her eyes glistening under the overhead lights. I saw her again at my cousin’s wedding where she gave me laicee money. My dad protested and tried to give it back but she said... she said… 让我给, 让我给—Let me, let me give it. She pressed the red packet to my hands- 50 dollars. I didn’t know a face could hold so much emotion, hers did... she said, 要努力, 要好好学习, 长大让我们全家骄傲, 好吗? She was crying again, her palms rough and calloused, the back of her hands browned by the sun, slightly liverspotted. Work hard, study well, grow up to make us proud.
Angela Yang 12G2
Yasmine Lai 12G1
Nicole Choi 11G2
Jacob Wong 10B1
Doroty Sanussi 12B2
Alison Choi 12Y2
Shipwrecked Sighs by Rachel Lee, 10G1
You once told me that on Tuesday nights, you could feel your neighbourâ€™s eyes Staring through the fragmented foundation of Your bones. When you went To change your glasses prescription, The optometrist said he no longer supplied lens for Those who had started looking at the world In a broken way. Last week, you went to the dentist to extract your Wisdom teeth. You left the room Unnerved, with a swollen jaw and two molars in your Back pocket. The herbalist across the street Recommends that you drink a cup of beetroot juice On days when you need something to Keep you grounded. On Saturdays, you Wear water wings to the poolside because you say Without them, you would drown; But tell me, darling, how have you managed to Stay afloat when your body is Sixty three percent water? Your therapist informs you that in order to Love yourself wholly, you must accept The ring of bruises that Crown your soul but I say thatâ€™s Moonshine. Maybe you need to Whisper into the ears of bluebells and tuck them Into a wreath of stars before you See that even starlight touches the saddest Parts of you. Stand at the edge of the cliff. Blow lungfuls Of salt air into your palms and strip away the Slight trembling from your fingertips. Tie kitestrings around your wrist, one for Each freckle on your nose. Cut the threads From your arms and watch the Lines break, ghosts of stubborn solitude Falling away from you. There is a shipwreck five thousand Finger lengths from your feet where lost souls Leave their waterlogged hearts on The ocean floor. But you are not One of them. You have broken through The surface.
Cycle Shirley Lau 12G2
Sleepless Slumber by Boris But, 12Y2
The night, oh the night, she shook me awakeWhispered in my ear and combed through my mind: “Dreamers dwell in catacombs, leaving their hearts opaque Where prim lilies grow in the shadows – shaking and blind.” The mind chased the tail of a wayward thought As the eyes drew its curtains to a wandering close. Drought of slumber, for the one I sought Was the heart that yearned for some stumbling prose. Toss and turn through my bed sheets, Twist and twirl through your mind. Wipe the sweat off my chest and stir sweet Dreams in your wake. Drowning- I savor the air in my lungs and Hold my breath UnderwaterMy bloodshot eyes bleed into the tears of the sea As my white against black fingers reach out For the frothing bubbles of my life and failUnder the tide I choke and gag as Another wave beats upon my bone-broken back. At that moment, The merciless, relentless behemoth crushe my frail-bodied chest and I sink again. I sink again to the bottom into her maw and I screamMy silence shakes.
Shirley Lau 12G2
Nicole Choi 11G2
Mona Shi, 12Y1 梦中摇曳着一株幻影 是草地上的蒲公英 还是天边那一朵白裙 白鸽飞去 夕阳中的背影 倒映在他墨色的瞳孔里 然而 他用尽这许多墨水 一次 又一次地染黑双手 却依旧无法释怀曾经 是谁 遗忘了回忆 又是谁 不曾学会忘记
Notebook of Many Tangled Mysteries by Chloe Barreau, 10P1
by May Huang, 12B2 It was a childish thing I loved to do, to watch Grandfather spin his spoon In the blue afternoon, For spoons, in their muted scoops of Cereals and soups, Are unlike forks loudly spooling noodles onto metal teeth. Smoothly scooping Plateaus in lemon pudding, Sending thick globs of sweetness Into young mouths, The spoon is the child’s utensil A mirror for the guileless eye, Spectator of only plush playpens and A grandfather’s squarish spectacles. A sorry event, then, when I could do nothing But spectate as the spoon Was blunted by seaside spalls, And blown left by a westward typhoon.
Tap, Tap, Tap My pen greets the paper with calculated kindness, Swaying its hips to the constant beat of a rap, Thumping its body against the tingling fibers. We lay in our designated positions, Taking turns bearing words. Like sweat, the ink Drips, rolls and tumbles Until it is absorbed. I build up scribbles, as if only to hear How I’m lost, letting thoughts clot and rot. Mourning in calculated anticipation, I hold the final words in a moment of silence, Hoping for new life to sprout. I do not dare to look And see what people think of my growing gold. Instead, I sing in calculated softness, Waiting for a young root to break the earth. When the raw, tender leaf digs Its waxy head up from the dark, There will be a wick Ready to reveal that spark; There will be a page Ready to soak in the tumbles of wax.
My grandfather’s spoon, Like all mundane things, Was unfit to parry the blustery winds of time. It was gone in but an afternoon.
Anna Ginsburg 10R1 23
Christina Shen 9P2
Works from: (Clockwise)
Anny Teng, 12R2 Anne Lau, 10R2 Chloe Barreau, 10P1 Cheri Tse, 12Y1 Nicole Choi, 11G2 Alison Wong, 10P1 Yasmine Lai, 12G1 Alison Choi, 12Y2 Victor Leung, 12B1 Trisha Wong, 11G2
Polyglot (Something You Clearly Are Not) by Charlene Phua, 12P1
There’s always a bit of a pause before she speaks, but not because she’s slow - of the many words to describe her, slow is certainly not one he would use. In fact, she is quick. Quick to greet, quick to smile and quick to find errors and fix them, her quick fingers quickly scratching out his carelessness before the teacher notices. “Thank you,” he whispers gratefully in her ear the first time, a scorching April afternoon so different from his home climate it’s bizarre. Quick too to jolt away from the contact, blushing furiously. But there’s amusement glinting in her eyes and she smiles, just barely a quirk pulling at the right corner of her mouth as she whispers back, “No worries,” the foreign words rolling clumsily over her foreign tongue. That is the only time she could ever be considered slow: when she speaks to him in his language. And so she is only slow with him because only with him does she bother to try. Otherwise, she is lazy with his language, mixing vocabulary, dropping verb endings and downright ignoring sentence structure - a bad habit she lapses back into when she’s aggravated or excited. The words come tumbling out of her mouth, her voice rising above hushed whispers, thoughts too fast for translation to keep pace. Gestures, jerky and vague, are a poor supplement. It frustrates her to no end, he knows, to be stunted in this way. He’s seen her with her friends and heard her articulate with pinpoint precision, grace pervasive in her style of speech. His knowledge of her language is nothing to be proud of, negligible at best, but he does not need to be told to know that her grasp of her language is nothing short of sublime. She paints with diction: rich, glowing illusions on stale canvases with finesse that is hard pressed to replicate. Words are her colors, and the empty space her expertise. She is a communicator: an easy conversationalist, an insightful commentator and an excellent quarreler. Words are her playthings and to have his language fall, muffling and harsh from her lips, frustrates her. No, she is not slow, he decides firmly. Contemplative, careful and precise perhaps, but not slow. Contemplative as she searches for the right word for the right situation and careful as she pronounces each syllable, her tongue gently curling around the oddest sounds. All because she revels in precision. Sometimes he forgets and tries to speak to her in her language, stuttering and spluttering though halts and pauses and more mispronounced words than he would have imagined possible and she’ll simply look at him and laugh. He’ll cross his arms with a huff and sulk. “Let us use your language, yes?” she asks mischievously. “Otherwise I fear you will offend someone and be sent
home early.” But she makes it easy to forget the painful blankness of forgetting or the prickle of hot embarrassment that follows every slip in elocution. So he will try and try again and she will laugh each time. There’s always frustration in her hesitation. Sometimes it’s just a split second frown, gone in a blink as she recollects the phrase. Other times it settles like a thundercloud, condensing and lingering. It’s that irrational fear of being beat at your own game and it’s easy for him to see because she reads like a book to his scholarly eyes. She stumbles over conjugation and manages to make even the most basic of words sound exotic, but he understands it all with an ease he shouldn’t have. It is this ease that defines their relationship; implicit boundaries explicitly understood. Theirs is a relationship that does not go past “Pass the paper.” “Lend me a pen please.” “If you don’t stop doodling on my notebook I will...I will...” He grins as she frowns. “You’ll what?” he teases and she glowers at him with a scowl that he finds more adorable than intimidating. He knows she doesn’t hold grudges against him just as he will never bother holding one against her. They are both practical to exasperation. Both much too conscious of the utter futility of trying to find serious faults with one another within the short slot of time allotted to them by school administrations. By theorists that don’t understand that exchange programs of this sort are, in reality, much like uprooting a sapling, jamming it in a different pot of dirt for an hour, and then relocating it back expecting the nutrients from that hour to work miracles on that sapling. They who do understand the fruitlessness of that hour would very much rather enjoy whatever this little piece of whatever may be without interruption. Rather make allowance for their happy bubble of sentences carefully patch-worked together and phrases that leave little wiggle space for misunderstanding than intrude with uncomfortable perceptions of reality. Their ‘perceptions’ possibly not even reality at all. In a classroom where he is but a stranger she the host struggles to accommodate, rose-tinted glasses are a necessity more so than pencil lead or rulers with metric marking (not imperial). He often wonders if she can sense his frustration. She must, of course, because he often thinks they are two squares cut from the same undyingly, unwittingly, unwillingly perceptive cloth, with eyes that see a little too much and ears that pick up repressed thoughts in utter silence. But then again, perhaps not. After all, her frustration stems from not having enough words to voice her thoughts whilst his frustration is from having too many thoughts he must not voice. “Intellectual frustrations,” she laughs when he tells her this in vague terms he hopes she won’t get. But the spark of amusement he’s gotten used to seeing in her eyes has been replaced by something else he can’t quite put his finger on and the smile she offers him, that familiar tug at the corner of her mouth, feels off. He mulls over that interaction later that day, as he does all their conversations, unhealthily picking apart the scene frame by frame as he lies in his borrowed bed, staring at the ceiling. He wonders why she would use the word ‘intellectual’ when to label his frustration so would be to imply that the repressed was his mind when what he meant was his mind was his tongue’s jailor. His tongue, of course, a courier
Shelia Zhang 10G1
for his heart. That’s the bit he hopes she didn’t get but probably did. Like every other language student, she probably understands better than she speaks and he stares at the white plaster unseeingly and wonders if he’s broken the wordless rules that govern their relationship. But it seems they understand each other better than he realized because the next class, nothing has changed. It is still, “Pass the paper.” “Lend me a pen please.” “If you don’t stop doodling on my notebook I will...I will...” “You’ll what?” He grins and sticks his tongue out. “…I will chop off your fingers and stew them for dessert.” His grin drops and the tongue retracts. “Well,” he says, blinking at her in shock, “someone’s been learning new words.” “Yes. I do have access to a dictionary,” she tells him and erases a stray negative sign he’s added by mistake. Her voice is sharp, but teasing and he feels a twinge in his gut that threatens to bubble up, his tongue loose and dangerous in this foreign land, where nothing he says matters and nothing he does is of importance. No, says the mind. Yes, says the heart. I think I love you, threatens the tongue.
Jacob Wong 10B1
For Even in Arcadia do Angels Cry by Susan Maginn, 13Y2
Little lamb, Forget not that the sun rises but sets also; For even in Arcadia do angels cry And the innocence of spring will soon Bleed into darkness. Let me take you to a place called youth Where promises unkept shall keep you warm And despite the slow drain of the river Trickling back into the sea, We all find our way home in the end. To every rustic bleating melody, To every idyll lazing, To every loose dandelion fluttering in the wind, I say, Stand and weep for the fleeting song of memory. The day has quickly passed, So close the worn eyelids, Deprive yourself not of good rest, I will stay to keep you fresh and Experience shall make me shudder by your bed.
by Brigitte Ng, 13R1 ask not what you can do for them but what they have done to you when the baby blue pills release their embrace and the fog dissipates from your perforated mind breathe in the ghosts of cigarette smoke and electric nights stop for a drink (with all your saints) because these stairs only go down ask me in a month and it will be two hundred more grainy coffee-stained mornings tied together like ball chain and misery
Jessica Eu 12R2
Ode to Achlys
by Kendra Cui, 13B2 Thou wand’ring, drifting nomad, cloaked in grey Doth lay with leaden hands thy dull embrace On these peaks. Traveler, leave me not, stay! Thou fillest the air, O soft, silver waif Like misted ether, and weigh down with grey, Sleepy dew the sable leaves. What hidden Myst’ries lie behind this permanent veil? Tall, frail dryads with arms brown and beechen Or Death with scythe raised high, to cut forthwith Through this dull stupor like a howling gale? Take me with you, ever-moving spirit; Leave me not behind, that I might journey With you into eternal slumber. Lift Me into realms where only white I see. But, hark! A piercing wail shatters my dream. Brown wingèd goose, cold and tender, adieu. Make haste and fly towards the Southern Sun, As thou brush this veil apart, and skies blue Reveal. Barren boughs of black and dull green Gaze up. Alas! the traveler is gone.
Angela Yang 12G2
Victor Leung 12B1
by Jimin Kang, 11P1
Victor Leung 12B1
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